Friday, August 16, 2013

Have Flip Flops, Will Travel

There's a new gang in town and beware, they just look sweet and inexperienced. But, trust me, they are a lot older than they appear and they are a force to be reckoned with.  They're the Roadhouse Writers and they're simply fabulous.

My story starts on a Tuesday morning, two weeks ago.  I'm at my gal pal Loie's house, having coffee while Modpodging my Keds with three other fabulous women who are also cutting and pasting.  Nothing unusual for us.  We do this from time to time.  From behind my shoulder comes a swoop of the Red Lion and the words "HERE, this is for YOU" as she places the newspaper ad she's clipped for me down in between the "stuff" on my corner of the table.  Why, it's another "Lois" and, be still my heart, this one's offering a writing "bootcamp", calling to action those who love flip flops.  So, first of all, I'm flattered and delighted that my friend Loie validated my love of writing classes (maybe she thinks I really need them?) and then, I'm all eyes for the tabloid  clip that is now sitting on my empty scone plate. I'll go anywhere as long as I can wear flip flops.

By that very same afternoon, I found myself with a fait accompli.  All signed up for Lois Cahall's "Bootcamp in Flip Flops" and raring to go.  How could I have resisted?  Lois was a local gal gone BIG and she came back to town just in time.  I needed bootcamp very badly but had no idea how very much I did at that time. I sent my payment, got a nice note from Lois and polished my flip flops.  How bad could it be, and even if it were, the opportunity to meet new writer friends and to actually see the inside the Roadhouse restaurant, overtook any doubts that would have prevented me from following this impulse.

I've just completed my nine hours of bootcamp.  Day One.  Six of us seated at a table in a dark and somewhat stuffy, otherwise empty bistro.  We looked like we had all assembled for a mutual friend's memorial service.  Our future teacher told us to be there at 9 A.M. sharp and so we were.  But where was she?  We took the time to introduce ourselves.  I wrote their names in my notebook so that maybe this once, I would actually remember them before the last day of class.  Cursory introductions.  We've all been writing,  We all knew that it was just a matter of hours before the "real" introductions would come.  They always do. We'll go from "Hi, I'm Lynn and I live in South Yarmouth" to visceral, gutty stuff that brings tears and tissues to the table.  Alas, I have digressed (I rarely use that expression so indulge me)......Five minutes after the sharp starting time, Lois Cahall entered the room and the new pages of my life started to turn.

I came to the conclusion by the second day, that Lois is a gal who likes grand entrances.  She is a teller of stories so it's hard to tell if she is telling the truth about her delay or if she simply cannot help herself when it comes to an audience of potential admirers.  I'm not sure I like her at the end of the first day.  She had us go around the table and introduce ourselves.  Long introductions that were both who I am and who are you.  She probed and drew conclusions.  She interspersed lots and lots of details about her own life in ways that most women, were they at a social event, would have found cause to visit the ladies room and not return.  It seemed that for every detail she got from the new students, she had the need to "top" that and everything else and we, the group, weren't quite sure why. But, she was open and honest.  No, I'm not going into details.  Words that are spoken or written in such a circle stay withing that circle and that is the essence of why it is safe to write, if only as an exercise for healing a wound. Openness and honesty are key.

By Day Two, we had completed the three hours of introductions and we were starting to discover why we had spent a third of our tuition on this exercise in the first place.  Not sure if it was intentional, but it seemed that Lois gave us "identities" on that first day that we were determined to prove wrong on Day Two.  The stories now found ways to jump off our pages and wow!  She was a tough task-master but she did succeed in getting to the viscera and we all accepted the challenge.  Off to the slaughterhouse we went and there we remained. More life stories from the teacher.  We slowly accepted her authenticity and embraced the fact that she also was a woman in a group of women.....tissues for issues.  More life stories from the students and time to blow their covers.  No "ordinary" group of six were we.  We're all sworn to secrecy but each of us deserves at least one chapter in a future beach read.

Day Three brought pages to the table that were amazing.  Some of us got huge smiles from Lois who delighted in having brought it all home.  Some got hugs. We all got lessons. From not so sure I like her to I love this adorable woman.  She's a keeper.  A new friend.  All the qualities.  Sincerity and honesty.  Cheerleader in sexy summer wear.  Lovely inside and out.  But then, so are my five new friends.  Talented writers.  Experienced in the art of life and willing to share in spoken and written words.  Sincere, open, honest.  No coincidence that we were together.  It all worked so well.  Writing groups have to click or they don't work.  Group members have to trust each other or they won't write.

Each and every time I take a class, I learn something.  I hope that one day, the cumulative efforts will pay off and I will have all the skills that I need to write effortlessly.  Maybe one day, I will take the information I just learned about writing a pitch letter to an agent or a magazine editor.  I'm not sure that will ever happen but for now, I'm writing for the pure pleasure of it and I know that the "Roadhouse Writers" will stick together and continue to share what validates each of us.  Secrets are safe but I will tell you this......Lois was a full ten minutes late to the last class.  She'd love nothing better than my saying this....

"Lois Cahall, you're such a NAUGHTY girl!!!!"

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