Writers Helping Writers

Our group meets on the second and fourth Wednesdays of each month at the Sierra Vista Public Library. We give each other encouragement, share ideas, and learn the craft of writing together. Knowledgeable people sometimes give presentations on important topics, such as publishing versus self-publishing. There are times we do a round-table writing project: Each person has 5 minutes to start a story, then this is passed to the next person and continues until everyone has contributed to the story. Sometimes we are assigned a writing project to be read aloud and discussed at our next meeting.

May 8, 2024

During our last meeting, my writers’ club creative writing assignment was to create a short story about going from rich to poor. We should include how it was achieved and what we did with it.

Here’s what I composed and shared last night:


My mom often complained that she never won anything, but sometimes Lady Fortune has smiled upon me. I won $50 at a church festival bingo when I was in high school. Not bad for spending a quarter. The weird thing was that I knew I would win when I sat down next to my parents.

I got lucky on the Illinois lottery. I played the same six numbers every week when I worked in Chicago. Once I got five numbers right and received a little over $1,300. This funded a trip to Arizona because I wanted to see the Grand Canyon. Like other family members, I made enough to pay daily expenses and not much more. So I considered this a golden opportunity to do something extraordinary and enjoyed visiting many areas of the state. I stayed with a cousin in Phoenix. This city didn’t appeal to me. Watering lawns in the desert seemed a waste. I loved Tucson and hoped to return someday.

My lottery ticket buying days were soon over. Oh, once in a while I splurged on a $2 scratch-off, but raising two children without any child support made me count every nickel.

When I retired, I created a spreadsheet to calculate what it would cost to move. I considered Arizona, Nevada, and New Mexico. Besides rent, I also looked at the weather. Some places were too costly; others were too dang hot! My list narrowed down to Cottonwood and Sierra Vista because I needed to find low-income housing. I came across the online Cochise Trading Post with ads for reasonable housing and decided to make this area my starting point.

Fortune again smiled at me. I had worried I would end up camping in a tent for months while waiting for an apartment to become available. The second morning at Patagonia State Park, I woke at 5 am. I decided to view Bisbee though I knew it would only be a brief visit. Returning on 90, I looked for somewhere to eat breakfast but didn’t see any sign in Sierra Vista. I stopped at Sunny D’s. The waitress was very friendly and said she loved living in Whetstone. She introduced me to a couple who told me a little about Huachuca City, then gave me directions to drive past the police and fire stations.

I spotted the library and also a post office sign as I turned onto Skyline, where I could see a complex on the hill. Its sign had the low-income logo, so I went inside. To my amazement, an apartment was available! I filled out the paperwork, qualified, and signed a six-month lease at Vista Del Norte. The huge 2-bedroom place even had a washer and dryer! I was absolutely thrilled and moved in later the same day.

The next time I saw the couple at breakfast, I found out I hadn’t followed their directions. They had meant Triangle Apartments which is past the post office. I’m glad I made that mistake, because what I got was perfect.

Within a few months, I joined Friends of the Huachuca City Library. My life has been blessed with wonderful, caring people who welcomed me and also provided encouragement in many ways. So, yes I’m still monetarily poor, but thanks to these friends, I’m rich and oh so content.

March 27, 2024

During our March 13th meeting, my writers’ club decided to have a homework assignment using the following prompts:

“Write about the future and incorporate making breakfast.”

Here’s what I composed and shared during last night’s meeting:


Our new federated government first gave robots to people in assisted living. Now their program encompasses anyone over age forty-four, who are now classified as elderly and forced into mandatory retirement. I’m still adjusting to retired life and don’t want one of those machines invading my privacy. But I must comply with this directive. Not that I have any other choice.

I schedule a video conference call with my daughter, who is stationed on Mars. Two days later, she says, “It’ll be beneficial. I won’t have to worry about you. It will keep you from getting too lonely.” Static lines fill the screen for a moment while her voice still transmits. “A Life Alert policy is ridiculously expensive. It would be too hard for me to return if you fell.” She turns her head aside and nods. “Time’s up. It’ll be fine. Love….”

Worried, I stare at the blank monitor. She looked so different than my memories. Now she’s so pale and ghostly, maybe even unhealthy. Underground living appears to have a negative impact on her.
I zap a package of frozen bacon and a waffle while my coffee percolates. I still prefer my java made the old-fashioned way. I stare at her senior-year holographic image as I eat.

The assigned robot enters my home the following week, bypassing the security system and startling me awake. “My name is Roxie, and I’m here to do you.”

I think her white frame is frightening. Her face tries to smile. Instead, it looks grimacing.

“I’ve already sorted Gemini and set her to work properly. Your voice commands were quite the muddle. Time for you to be out of that bed. I made a meal for you.”

I sleep in my undies, so I pulled up the sheet to cover my form. “Roxie, please leave so I can dress.”

“Do you want a blue one or a green one?” She reaches inside her chest compartment and pulls out scrubs.

“Just want my own sweats.”

She crosses the room, takes a set from the dresser, and hands it to me. “Pfft. Polyester crap which has and continues to damage the environment. Will you humans ever learn?” She stands next to my bed. “Hurry up now. No need to be shy.”

I slither into the top, then shift to the bedside to pull on the pants. After slipping my feet into mules, I follow behind her.

Roxie inserts a probe into a mug. “Too cold. Just a second.” Blue lightning forks from one of her digits. A whiff of ozone fills my nostrils. “Eat up.”

“Let me fix my coffee first, please?”

“Cup of hot Kahvi right there waiting for you.”

I don’t want it but don’t see my brewer on the kitchen counter. I take a sip. “Yow!” I spew the liquid. “Too hot.”

Roxie’s eyes roll. “You’re making such a mess. Must I put a bib on you?”

Hoping to ease my burning tongue, I dip a spoon into the bowl. I’m unsure what this gray glop is. I gingerly blow on it, then slurp a small bit. Lukewarm. Almost tasteless, yet an earthy aftertaste remains.

Roxie places digits onto her hips. “Get on with it, Missy. We’re already over schedule.”

I frown. “I don’t have any schedule!”

“You do now. Do you want me to spoon-feed you?” She watches over me until every bite is gone.

Once I’m in my living room and Roxie is cleaning the kitchen, I tell Gemini, “Play favorite news channel.” Nothing happens. I turn to the machine. “Roxie, I wish to watch the morning news.”

“It’s no longer part of your daily regime. Time for your calisthenics. Doctor says you don’t follow his orders.” She lays a rubber mat on the carpeting. “Gemini, day 1 routine.”

A workout scene with young, energetic women moving to hectic music appears on the display. I try to keep up. Every time I lag behind, Roxie pinches my butt. I’m gasping and crying by the time this torture ends. I collapse onto the sofa, but she doesn’t allow me to lay there.

“Get up and go sit at the table.”

When I don’t comply quick enough, she uses her claws to grasp my arm and drag me upright. Roxie cuts my hair then shaves off the remainder. Next, she pulls electrodes from her abdomen and attaches these to my bald head. I ask, “Is this an EEG?”

She doesn’t speak until she finishes. “Think about your best memories. Your daughter, your former husband, or your dog.” I feel a sharp tingling at the base of my neck. “You will do as I order. I will know if you don’t.”

At first I cannot recall anything because of the pain. I think, “Didn’t Dr. Asimov say that a robot was programmed not to harm a human?” A sharper blast has me squirming, pissing my pants because of its maliciousness.

I concentrate on the breathing technique I learned in a Lamaze class. I focus on waves crashing to shore, then try to imagine my family. John is tossing a beach ball to Molly. They are playing keep-away from Oscar, who runs and barks with each throw.

Next thing I know, water cascades over my body. I’m too weak to resist when Roxie pulls me out of the tub. Shivering, I clutch a towel to cover my private parts. Her chuckle is gruesome. “Why do humans think their reproductive areas are so important?”

I don’t argue about putting on the blue scrubs and meekly follow her to the kitchen. Another meal is waiting. Same gray gruel and the Kahvi that is definitely not coffee. Once done, calisthenics follow then another round with the memory machine. Roxie finally allows me to rest for two hours then prods me awake to repeat this diabolic process.

Day after day passes. My skin hardens and turns pasty white. I soon haven’t any memories of life before Roxie arrived. I’ve become an empty husk. One day I’m too weak to get out of bed.

Roxie’s words are meaningless. “Gemini, order transport. Tell headquarters this one is ready to become a robot.”

March 13, 2024

During our February 28th meeting, my writers’ club decided to have a homework assignment using the following prompt:

“Write from a wall’s perspective and incorporate American Flag”

Here’s what I composed and shared during our first meeting in March:


The room is so still and quiet. I remember when it was filled with children’s voices and laughter. But that happened long ago.

Across the room there’s a cream statue with a bright red center. The elderly woman lights a candle then a stick of incense. She kneels on the floor in her daily ritual. Her mumbling words incoherent to me.

I was once whiter than that statue. I was given a bath every spring. Sometimes they painted me. Now I’m forgotten; gray, dingy, and streaked with smoke.

She picks up her cane then uses it to push herself to stand. Unsteady, she collapses into the nearby recliner. I wait until she snores and drool drips down her chin.

I call across the room. “Niche, did she say anything new?”

He hacks and coughs, trying to clear the remaining cloud of frankincense which envelops him. “Youff! Yes. She begged to be taken to heaven. Yack! Now that her younger brother is dead, she feels she has no one left in this world.”

A tiny chunk of my plaster falls as I shudder. “Wonder what will happen to us?”

The next day someone rings the doorbell, knocks at the door, then uses a key to unlock it when the white-haired woman doesn’t wake. As a woman with gray-streaked hair enters the foyer, she calls, “Aunt Mary, It’s Janie. I brought you a casserole.” When there isn’t any response, she puts her dish on the coffee table, crosses the room, and pulls up the shades. “Aunt Mary.” She gently shakes the napping woman’s shoulder. “Would you like a cup of green tea?” When Mary nods, Janie goes into the kitchen. She returns with a tray after the teapot sings and has a roll of garbage bags under her arm.

In a querulous voice, Mary asks, “What are you doing here? How did you get in?”

“I promised Dad I would come clean your house twice a week. He gave me his key.” She smiles. “Thought you might enjoy a cheesy broccoli casserole.”

“Who are you?”

Janie sighs. “Aunt Mary, I told you. I’m Janie. Eugene’s middle daughter.” She swipes a mess of sardine tins, tuna cans, and cracker crumbs from Mary’s end table into a bag. She spoons food onto a plate and sets this next to her aunt who pushes it away.  “Don’t need no mollycoddling.”

“I remember when I hated broccoli.” Janie sits on the sofa and fills a plate. “Your Jimmy double-dogged dared me to eat your cheesy broccoli soup. I tried it and liked it.” She takes a bite. “Though it’s not your soup recipe, it’s similar. You don’t have to eat it if you don’t want.”

She remains quiet as she finishes her meal then picks up her dishes and goes into the kitchen. Janie returns with cleaning tools and supplies. She carefully moves the five American flags from near the niche and places the stack on the couch. “When I come this Saturday, I’ll bring some of that new Woolite product then hand wash these if that’s all right with you. I’ll also do your lace curtains.” When Mary doesn’t respond, she turns and sees her napping.

Janie talks to herself as she dusts and mops. “Tsk. Dang shame for Auntie’s house to be in such shape. Dad warned me, but I never imagined it to be this bad. I know Bill will argue with me, but he’ll come around when I mention all her men lost in the world wars. Uncle Jim and Jimmy in the first one. Then she lost Gene, Bud, and Frank when their sub got torpedoed in the second.” She sighs. “So sad Auntie didn’t have grandchildren. I’ll bring all of mine and put this place to rights. Maybe it will cheer her up.”

She finishes her work. Lighting a candle, Janie kneels. “Sacred Heart of Jesus, please hear my prayer. Aunt Mary has suffered too much grief. May her last days be filled with happiness. May she find joy in my family. Amen.”

I wait until she leaves. “Niche, do you think ‘put to rights’ means we’ll have baths and paint again?”

“Dunno for sure, but think it does.”

February 28, 2024

During our meeting, we decided to have an in-class writing assignment. A member provided us with the following prompt:

“So there I was completely surrounded by elephants”

We were given 5 minutes to write something, then each person read their brief story. I wonder what I might have come up with if I’d had more time. Here’s what I wrote:


So, there I was completely surrounded by elephants. My camel reared as the enormous beast blasted it with water. I firmly gripped the reins as she somewhat stepped backward. Bruiser came nearer, trumpeting his anger. My blasted mount defecated. Holding on for dear life, I prayed I wouldn’t end up like a chuck steak, pounded and hammered into a thin strip!

December 13, 2023

When my writing group met last month, we were asked to write a Christmas story for this meeting. I had written a short memoir about Christmas several years ago and thought I would just share it with our members. I wanted to focus on my fourth novel. But…this bizarre story popped into my mind. I tried to ignore it, but it wouldn’t go away. Subconsciously, I guess I wanted to prove to I can write something other than historical fantasy. LOL


Christmas Day – Age 13

Dear Diary,

This is Tina. Well actually my name is Christina, but my parents call me Chris which I really dislike. My troubles began about six months ago. You could say it started with the onset of puberty. Suddenly, I craved carbs. Cake. Donuts. Pies. Potatoes in any form. I went from slightly plump to a tubby blob within weeks.

Yesterday was the worst one ever. Mom spent all day rolling out dough, lathering it with melted butter, then spreading a mixture of cinnamon and brown sugar. Expecting ten people for breakfast, she made three large pans of sweet rolls, two loaves of raisin bread, and a coffee cake. The aroma of it baking made my mouth water. Irresistible! I snuck out of bed last night. I was only going to have one roll. Nibbling, one led to another, then another. Before I realized what I had done, every delectable bite was gone!

Mom’s tear-streaked, disappointed face told the story. She didn’t chastise me. Instead, she said, “What can I do? How do I feed thirteen people in an hour?”

“How about your delicious baked apple pancakes?” I rummaged in the fridge for the bag of McIntoshes. “There’s enough here for that. I’ll peel and slice while you make the batter.”

Christmas breakfast was awkward, though Mom didn’t tell them what I’d done. It was our relatives’ comments that upset me. Each one saying, “My, you’ve really put on weight,” as they hugged me. I did not need to be told this! How cruel of them to make such a remark.

We attended church after everyone left. Once home, I sat on the floor next to the decorated tree and broached a subject that had bothered me for months. “Mom, Dad, why am I so different? The other kids tease me. Why don’t I look like either of you?”

Dad is 6 feet 4 inches with sandy brown hair and green eyes. Mom is almost as tall with straight brunette hair and hazel eyes. Curly platinum hair with blue eyes, I stand at less than 5 feet.

Dad looked at Mom then cleared his throat. “You’ll soon have a growth spurt. I was only a little over your size when I started high school. I suggest you ignore their teasing, and they’ll soon stop.”

Mom only nodded. Diary, they are good people, but I just don’t fit in. Today is my birthday, and I hoped for more. More of what I cannot say.

Independence Day – Age 14

Dear Diary,

I am so confused. Nothing seems to make sense. My voice has deepened and sometimes cracks. While I have grown, it was only three inches taller and not any slimmer. Mom gave me an electric razor to shave my legs when my menstruals began last year. But now my cycles have stopped. Today, I used the razor, not on my legs, but on my face! Afraid my long facial hairs would be visible by the light of the fireworks.

I moved all of my dresses to the rear of the closet today. I much prefer wearing baggy sweatshirts and jeans. I guess I had better learn to like the name Chris!

August 2nd

Dear Diary,

Writing in you seems such a girlish thing to do. Today, Mom took me to a specialist who described me as an intersex. The female doctor suggested hormone shots, but I don’t want to be subjected to those. So, I guess I must resign myself to being a boy named Chris.

Labor Day – Age 16

Dear Diary,

I avoid my classmates as much as possible, even eating my lunch inside the janitor’s closet. Sophomore year has been even worse than last year. Last week, I asked Mom and Dad if I could be homeschooled, but they refused. They don’t understand the cruel taunting I receive every day. I hate it here!

Books have become my best friend. I go on many adventures through them. Men have kept journals for ages, so this isn’t really a girlish thing to do, and you’ll be coming with me.

Yes, it’s time for me to venture forth. Something is calling me northwest. Every day the need grows more urgent. I’ve stuffed my backpack with black-and-red-checked flannel shirts, two pairs of wool socks and boxer shorts, plus additional overalls. Yesterday, I bought steel-toed hiking boots. I have saved over $2,000. Hope this is enough to get me wherever I need to go. Thankfully, I could get a NEXUS card to enter Canada using my driver’s license. Unlike a passport, I didn’t need my parents’ permission. They don’t understand and I guess they never will. The disparity in our looks has increased, and I now think they are not my biological parents.

I bought a throw-away cell phone for any emergency. All that’s left for me to do is write a note to them. I’ll sneak out after they’re asleep.

Dear Diary,

I rode a bus from Fargo to Winnipeg yesterday. The border guards accepted my card without any question. I arrived there mid-morning and was surprised by the size of this city. Though it wasn’t yet lunchtime, the crowded streets made me decide to continue my journey. I took another bus and got off in Neepawa. Small enough, it looked a promising place to remain for a day or week, then I’ll head north again.

September 15th

Dear Diary,

I’ve heard, “parley-vous Français?” so many times since I entered Canada that I went to Walmart today and bought a tablet. When I returned to the hostelry, I downloaded the Duolingo app because it was free. I spent three hours using it and love its game-like aspect. I’ve changed my mind and will remain here several weeks, so I can learn more French.

October 1st

Dear Diary,

I asked the desk clerk about internet service in rural areas. He said, “Strigo Mobile is probably the best one.”

I checked online and liked their information, so I ordered a SIM card and mobile device which should arrive here in two days. I purchased their yearly prepaid plan too. Then went back to Walmart and splurged on a better android phone. Now I must curb my spending before I need to find a job.

October 8th

Dear Diary,

I haven’t shaved in over three weeks. I think my beard makes me look older. After binding my breasts, I loaded my belongings into my backpack then departed. Before leaving Neepawa, I invested in a black cattleman’s hat, bedroll, and tent.

I followed Route 5 north then west. Nature’s beauty abounded during days of Indian summer. Red and gold leaves shook and fell with the breeze. Chittering squirrels gathering acorns were everywhere I looked. After several days of walking while using Duolingo, I reached Saskatoon.

Tomorrow, I’ll follow 16 northwest. If I can reach Edmonton before the snows, maybe I’ll be able to land a job.

November 1st

Dear Diary,

No luck working at any of the ski resorts. Not even as a waiter. One manager took pity on me and suggested I apply at the large mall. I did and accepted a position as the department store Santa.

Christmas Day – Age 17

Dear Diary,

I’ve been too busy to write anything here. I truly enjoyed participating in the parade on November 18th. When was the last time I liked being among other people? I honestly can’t say.

I’m so glad I took time to learn French because I was able to understand each child’s wish when they sat on my lap. I like this city. People are friendly and accepting. Is this what happiness feels like? Never in my life did I dream that I’d enjoy being Chris Kringle! It’s been a wonderful experience. This place feels like a pair of warm, fuzzy socks. So comfortable!