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We’ve had a great run at Allyn’s Café over the years. (Special thanks to Allyn and Andrew!) However, for the foreseeable future, we will be moving across the street to the Green Dog Café. We will also be moving to 1 p.m. The rest will stay the same: good food, good company, great writing.

Our next meeting will be Sunday, October 9, at 1 p.m. at the Green Dog Café. Please join us!

Full of Myself

Writer Lee Martin recently posted “Looking Back on the Follies of Youth” on his blog. He challenged the reader to do the same, examining something from the past through the eyes of the child at the time and the adults we’ve become. So I turned the microscope on myself.

I have gotten very comfortable, smug even, in my role as a 58-year-old tutor of high school students. I raised three boys and am a grandmother. I was a straight “A” student; my sons were not. I am ashamed to admit that I’m a know-it-all. I’ve seen it all: just ask me.

Every now and then, I sit across the table from a student, working pleasantly with him or her but thinking “Aren’t we full of ourselves?” Such a student has an aura about her that the expensive tutoring her parents have paid for is unnecessary and inconvenient. That I’m bothering her with my expertise gained through three college degrees, eight books, 38 years either attending or teaching at universities, and hundreds of articles published.

My first published piece was a poem, written when I was in third grade. It appeared in a national children’s publication called Golden Magazine. Riding on my early success, I then wrote my autobiography at the age of 12.

My mother said no one would buy it because I hadn’t done anything important yet.

Harsh words? Yes. Typical of my mother? Don’t get me started. But she taught me early about rejection, about criticism. However, my mother’s denigrating remarks were because she had high (and in all humility, not unrealistic) expectations of me. She was trying to challenge me to achieve my best. I understand that now; I didn’t understand that when I was a pre-teen, teenager, or 20-something. All I understood was that I was never good enough.

Then I became a mother. I had watched my siblings and in-laws with their kids and realized there are many ways to convey your expectations to your children. One way is my mother’s. I tried to avoid that. A sister-in-law told me about something she’d read in which some expert said to focus on how the child feels about something, then go from there. Other parents heap praise on their children for every accomplishment, every action, every “participation” trophy.

I think it is this last situation that creates children who end up with over-inflated ideas of their self-worth and their contributions to society. Many of my students take advanced placement and honors courses, but can’t take a given punctuation example and then apply that to another similar question.

So, as I have watched the students who think they know it all, I have thought how haughty people can seem. As if they’re all powerful. Then I am reminded of an incident in high school when my best friend had a difference of opinion with our chemistry teacher, who was the advisor of the school newspaper, Maroon Reflections. I’ve long forgotten what the disagreement was about. What I do remember, with some embarrassment, is how my friend, two other girls who were on staff of the paper, and I marched into the Chemistry Department office and confronted the teacher. The teacher looked at the four of us and said calmly, “Is this discussion between you and me, or do we need a whole army?” My friend said it was just the two of them, really, and glanced at the other three of us. Here’s my shining moment: as we filed out, I turned and said to my friend, “We’ll be right outside. Let us know if you need us.”

What did I think was going to happen? A fist fight? By the time this teacher could have gotten out of her chair, my friend could have run to the next county. But the bigger thing is that this was a teacher we all liked. I don’t think I ever heard her raise her voice. In retrospect, I think I just wanted to act important, “too big for my britches,” as my grandmother used to say. Maybe I wanted fodder for my autobiography.

So I sit with my students now and remind myself that the mission of most teenagers is to find purpose, to find worth. My job is to help them develop that sense of genuine worth. As a mother and a teacher, my responsibility is to give them roots and wings. Their responsibility is to flex those wings and soar.

We won’t be meeting in May so that those who are mothers, have mothers, love mothers, or have something else to do on May 8 can gather with their loved ones. On June 12 we will be back at it, reading and critiquing!

Just in case we aren’t messed up enough with the time change this weekend (move your clocks ahead Saturday night!), we are meeting an hour early on Sunday, March 13. So on the 13th, we will meet at 1 p.m. at Allyn’s Café on Columbia Parkway.

As always, bring seven minutes’ worth of work to read, $5.00 for the kitty, and your appetite! (Our stomachs will think it’s noon.)

See you Sunday!

We’re a group of friendly, experienced writers who meet monthly in Cincinnati to share our writing. We generally meet on the second Sunday of the month at Allyn’s Cafe on Columbia Parkway. Bring seven minutes’ worth of material to read (plus paper copies, if you wish), $5 for the kitty (more if you want to order off Allyn’s great menu), and a friend (if you like).

Our next meeting is Sunday, Sept. 13, at 2 p.m. I hope to see you there!

Well, the reviews are in and they’re great!

OK, I’ve actually had them for weeks, but I just remembered that I have to send them to Communiversity at UC. In April, I taught a one-day workshop called “Writing to Publish.” We had a great class, with lots of good questions about writing, formatting, and publishing your work.

Here are some of the highlights from the evaluations:

“You learn from a person who actually practices. Thank you. Loved it!”

“I learned exercises to help me unlock my writing blocks.”

“Fantastic! I truly learned so much about the writing market. [Would recommend this class to others] absolutely — so informative and so constructive. Very thorough, I wouldn’t change a thing.”

Your next opportunity to hear my instruction on writing and publishing will be at my Capon Springs Nonfiction Writers’ Retreat. Even if fiction’s your thing, you’ll benefit from the beautiful surroundings and the instruction from Ann Hagedorn and me.

Registration deadline is August 15. Make your $50 deposit through PayPal to reserve your place.

Ready to go? Make your deposit with PayPal:
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Capon Springs Nonfiction Writers’ Retreat
Postponed to Fall 2016
Capon Springs, West Virginia

Join us for a retreat in a fantastic mountain setting, where you’ll receive expert instruction from two award-winning writers: Ann Hagedorn and Wendy Hart Beckman. Learn the strategies and tactics of being a successful nonfiction author. Experience a one-on-one manuscript critique. And enjoy personal time for writing while exploring the exquisite, inspiring surroundings! The retreat fee of $450 includes all workshop instruction, lodging, meals, gratuities, and taxes. Continue Reading »