After group meetings, some members gather at a tavern across West Broadway in downtown Derry. There’s a nice big booth in the front corner of the dining room there, easily expandable if our numbers demand it. Beer, burgers, tea, cheesy fries, and good craic ensue. This page is our virtual corner booth content.
July 18, 2018: Given that this evening’s session was the delayed flash fiction group — the first Wednesday fell on July 4, and being the patriotic writers we are, we were too drunk to do anything coherent that night — it was a big crowd. The group as assembled at Halligans was: Alex, Dean, John, Don, Jeff, Cathy, newcomers Jennifer and Jim (whom we hope to see again!), Adrian and myself, Tomek. I made a tactical error in sitting at the end of the table, completely cutting myself off from conversations at the opposite end. All I can observe is that John, Jeff, Don, Cathy and Jennifer were quite animated about whatever they were discussing. On our end we covered military service during the draft years, veterans and the Vietnam experience, early childhood impressions (including my favorite, a gory book on shark attacks), verbosity in writing pre-20th century (and its enemy, Ernest Hemingway), Thomas Pynchon, Moby Dick (invoked multiple times, alongside War and Peace), some Irish and other folk music, Adrian’s penchant for Tamias striatus-icide, formulaic lit (e.g., Harlequin Romances), and Dean plugged Dashiell Hammett again. (At least he didn’t bring up Emma Thompson.) All in all, a good time was had by all. Why weren’t you there?
July 11, 2018: Tonight the writing rabble was stunned but overjoyed by the triumphant return of Don! He updated the group about Ferne’s recovery, and a few of us were even able to speak with her by phone. She sounded strong and in good spirits. Don joined Jeff, Kathryn, Lindsay, John, Dean, Alex and Tomek in the Corner Booth. The conversation tonight veered from childhood favorites to Tomek’s odd new glasses to horror stories for 9 year olds to writing techniques (e.g., to outline or not to outline), to why does Microsoft make it so darned hard to find anything anymore to housing inspections. At some point John and Dean were mumbling something vaguely conspiratorial. And John was gearing up for his radio debut tomorrow. Fun was, as usual, had by all.
June 27, 2018: Tonight’s festivities were attended by Dean, Jeff, Dave, Cathy, Alex, Lindsay, John and Tomek. The evening was kicked off with some observations about music and technology, including an unsuccessful but interesting deep dive into ethnomusicological territory, with a side feint into 1950s British Skiffle and Lonnie Donegan. (And we got there from Guns n’ Roses.) We talked some about John’s upcoming big event. We also discussed the Central European Krampus phenomenon, and I (Tomek) invoked the particularly brutal Czech example for St. Nicholas Day (December 6). Then things got kind of personal as folks confessed their hallucinogenic experiences, mostly through brushes with pain killers. Hallucinogens naturally led to politics, and from there we wandered onto the topic of sex in writing and our threshold level(s) for sexual content and the importance of the quality of writing (over the topic). (This, of course, led to snickering about Church Lady Erotica.) And we ended on some memories of former WFOD members, before expressing our hope that Don (and Ferne) can return to the fold soon. Fun was had by all.
June 20, 2018: Tonight’s proceedings followed a particularly helpful and insightful presentation by Ms. LaPierre about query letters at Marion Gerrish. Bravo, and thank you Ms. LaPierre. The crowd assembled at Halligans were Alex, Kathryn, Adrian, Dean, Tomek, Jeff and Lindsay. There was some spillover in the discussion from MGC about characters and story development, writing block, and how to create effective series-oriented story arcs that work as stand-alone books but also work well within the series context. Kathryn shared some extremely trend-driven, jargon-laden book pitches, and we also delved into age readability tests which could be helpful for younger audiences such as Kathryn and Lindsay are focusing on in their writing. Otherwise, we established that none of us knows wines well, Dean claimed that James Cagney used to dance (Yeah, I didn’t believe him either), and Jeff took the opportunity to iron out two characters for a story he is working on. Yes, he writes too. And Alex recounted a story involving the kings of Spain and Portugal that I did not completely hear. Also, I proudly was able to invoke a classic scene in the 1980s horror flick “House II.” As usual, a good time was had by all.
June 13, 2018: This evening we were, in congress, Lindsay, Stephen, Don, Jeff, Adrian, Dean, Cathy, Alex and myself, Tomek. The group began with ABBA and the film Mamma Mia, and from there we discovered (courtesy of Alex) that Björn Ulvaeus co-wrote the musical Chess, and apparently hated pop music. At our end of the table, astonishment at Stephen drinking Guinness led to a prolonged discussion about lagers and ales, while I vaguely overheard a musical discussion fomenting at the other end of the table, venturing from folk to mention of Stevie Ray Vaughan. That conversation somehow graduated to the nature of stories and characters — though with a sidebar quote from Dean attributed to Dick Butkus (“When I played pro football, I never set out to hurt anyone deliberately – unless it was, you know, important, like a league game or something”). At my end of the table, however, after some Mel Brooks banter and requisite adulation for Young Frankenstein, the Millennials firmly took the helm and sat us older farts down to school us in post-nihilistic Millennial pop culture, most notably Rick and Morty. As always, a fine time was had by all. And my planned night of productivity has been shot to Hell as I am now watching Rick and Morty shorts on YouTube.
June 6, 2018: Tonight’s attendees were Alex, Jeff, John, Dean, Cathy and Tomek. The evening began with some huzzahs for John’s recently published book, and some discussion about his upcoming book events. We then touched on music, politics (of course), and then moved into the nature of reading and fashions (how much description is too much?). That brought us to the nature of story-telling in general, including in films and games, which naturally brought us to Yiddishkeit (ייִדישקייט). After meditating on that for some time, we covered super heroes and Marvel Comics, provoking Jeff at one point to embrace his inner Valley Girl and exclaim in all seriousness “Gag me with a spoon!” More politics, and we broke up and wandered our separate ways. A pleasant evening, as always.
May 30, 2018: Tonight was a special session, a 5th Wednesday meeting. We groped around a bit but finally came up with a session on memoirs as our excuse for work before Halligans. Actually, tonight’s working session was spirited and vigorous, and a very worthwhile effort. Thanks to Mr. Quarrell for arranging and MC-ing.
At our usual Halligans corner booth — a new member asked if we always sit in the same seats tonight — we were, in congress: Dave, Debbee, Katharine, Don, Dean, Jeff, Tomek, and Magda. Some of our memoirs discussions spilled over into Halligans, but we quickly veered into cults, the environs of Buffalo NY, the difficult-to-pronounce Seneca names around Buffalo (e.g., Scajaquada Creek and Highway), and Debbee regaled us about her father’s exploits. To be honest, I sat at the end of the table and, for a change, had dinner, and so it was difficult to keep track of what topics were raging at the far end of our table — but conversation did rage there. As we departed, several of us formed a horde to safely deliver group members back to the MGC parking lot.
May 23, 2018: We were (sadly) without Tomek (but congrats Magda!!) so the Corner Booth post this week is limited to what I could catch, being situated at the end of the table rather than the middle where foresight would have put me. But we learned about sibling rivalries, and when they turn to sible wars, and we rehashed the good ole days when kids like me could be shooed out of the house to “go play ’til supper time” (or when the streetlights came on). Kathryn shared great stories of young Calvin and his brothers (that’s a title if I ever heard one) and yours truly rhapsodized yet again about Kelly Johnson’s stupendous contributions to aviation. And they sang a hymn and went out. [dq]
May 16, 2018: Tonight’s discussion at MGC spilled over to Halligan’s — by design, actually — and the group (Jeff, Alex, John, Don, Dean and Tomek) continued to hash out the merits of genres for writers (as opposed to publishers and marketing people). Dean had created a helpful print out, which you should ask him about if you’re interested. Maybe it was the darkened light or maybe the booze, but we were in a philosophical mood this eve and discussed how one’s foibles and less pleasant personality traits really don’t disappear and aren’t cured, but rather they are more fully integrated into our personalities and we learn to deal with them differently. They remain, however, as much a part of who we are as any positive traits, no matter how much we try to bury them or leave them in our past. On a lighter level, we managed to bring up the Hot Shots Part Deux film, Dean managed to invoke Emma Thompson again — which he does on an oddly regular basis — and after tonight, I can never watch Mary Poppins again. Also, at some point Tomek may or may not have confessed to hitting on a Pakistani nurse once in his younger years when in the ER for a car accident, though redemptively this laid the grounds for John telling us a more romantic medical story.
May 9, 2018: Tonight, some brazen usurpers occupied the actual corner booth and so the WFOD group — Adrian, Dean, Lindsay, Don, Cathy, Jeff and Tomek — were exiled to a regular table. At least our lovely and talented regular waitress still managed to find us and tend to us. Don revealed that he just barely missed out on a Carter Family fate, coming from a musical family with ambitions. I vaguely caught scraps of a conversation raging at the other end of the table focused on the depth and breadth of hamster intelligence. Stephen’s “Hamster of Delphi” comment from two weeks previous was invoked. Lindsay confessed she doesn’t have any pets now, to general shock. Earlier, she shared some of her career ambitions. Gardens, food shopping preferences and Trader Joe’s were also discussed. (There’s one in Nashua, really?) Cahy also mentioned a childhood incident when she splattered herself with fresh tomato.
Dean had to settle for Bushmills whisky tonight though he was surprisingly animated. Dean brought up a 1975 album, “Trio” by Emmylou Harris, Linda Ronstadt and Dolly Parton which opened a flood of musical discussion, including one member’s confessed secret crush on Linda Ronstadt — leading to another present member stifling memories of his childhood crush on Crystal Gayle. Towards the end of the evening, perhaps inspired by the long string of Old Fart stories oft spouted at our end of the table, Dean suggested another WFOD subgroup dedicated to memoirs. This is worthy of further consideration; we’ve already had two members working on memoirs, one of whom is getting published soon. We enjoy sharing stories with each other — why not write ’em down? You know, like a writers’ group might do?
May 2, 2018: In attendance tonight were Jeff, Cathy, Dean, Don, John — John! — myself (Tomek), and a newcomer, Dave. The evening began with Don and Tomek completely unable to name two New York hockey teams. Topics covered included the diabetic diet, spiritus, how old cars (and apparently farm machinery) are disposed of in New England, old relationships, how Dean translated a job at a manufacturer in Massachusetts into his programming career, and Tomek mentioned how he told a couple nosy neighbors last week that the large contractor garbage bags he was loading into the community dumpster were filled with body parts. Don also revealed that he convinces his wife to join him on writing research missions to exotic locales by disguising them as romantic get-aways. Dave discussed past jobs and his writing ambitions. And to my surprise, I caught Dean enjoying Fleetwood Mac’s “Never Going Back Again,” playing on Halligans’ sound system.
April 25, 2018: It should be mentioned that the scene began with seven of us (Dean, Alex, Stephen, Lindsay, Don, Cathy, Tomek) filing into our usual corner — the Corner Booth, after all — and our beloved waitress showing up, pointing at each of us and reciting from rote memory what each of us would likely be ordering. Writers are creatures of habit, apparently.
So the company was slightly constrained and I placed myself strategically between a conversation that wandered into the diverse and divergent (and lethal) variations in religions, and another conversation that (happily) veered into film noir bouncing off Roger Rabbit and Blade Runner on the way. Saddened that I didn’t get an opening to mention how much I admired Bob Hoskins as an actor, I held up my end in that angle of the conversation, while turreting around to fire a “no such thing as ‘protestant’ or even ‘catholic’ let alone ‘christian’ since there are so bloody (really!) many variations…” blahblahblahsameoldshit.
But the consideration of film noir (which I italicize only because that’s what at least one or two of the BigShot manuals of style – PMLA and Chicago maybe? – say you’re supposed to do with foreign words) was fun because it gave me an excuse to dredge up my admiration for Billy Wilder (Double Indemnity), but things took a different turn so I came up dry on The Third Man, not to mention Big Sleep and Maltese Falcon. Speaking of The Big Sleep, I recently read a letter in the TLS concerning the death of the Sternwood’s chauffeur. The lore has it that no one knows why this guy was killed (there’s a scene fairly early in the movie where Marlow and some cop or other walk by a shot of the Sternwood’s car being hauled out of the bay). The lore says nobody on the movie shoot including Hawks knew why the chauffeur had been whacked, and they asked Chandler, and he claimed he didn’t know either. Well the letter-writer to the TLS pointed to chapter and verse of the text, explaining the whole thing. And that’s why I love the TLS. (No, I am not going to tell you why the chauffeur went to sleep with the fishes.) And if you don’t know who Marlow or Chandler or Hawks were… well shame on you. But you can go to the TLS website and find the letters from a week or two or three ago, and find out. While you’re there poke around – TLS is great stuff. – DLQ
[Tomek addendum] Conversation also managed to veer into Godzilla versus King Kong territory, and at one point a political affiliation was compared to sexual orientation — or rather, being mistaken about either. (That was brought about by one seated member, unnamed for privacy purposes, vehemently denying he was a Republican, though he was disgusted by both parties.) The discussion at the Don-Cathy-Tomek end of the table somehow meandered into serial writers who make a living at the craft, with their strength being in sheer volume rather than quality. I confessed that the self-published novel Cathy had somehow dredged up from Amazon last summer which I had vowed to review for the group — I will not name it publicly here — I simply couldn’t stomach. I slogged through several pages, but could go no further. However, I did note that this author had managed to publish a gazillion similarly-themed books, and had a loyal following. Indeed, she’d made $2.99 off me as well.
Conversation was occasionally interrupted by the Bruins trouncing the Maple Leafs, invoking annoyed, if respectful silence on our part as the whole bar jumped to its feet. In the midst of the film noir discussion, we dwelled for some time on older films, and I was able to reminisce about an odd James Cagney memory. Dean also expressed his astonishment that his father apparently loved Mickey Spillane’s Mike Hammer (forever Stacy Keach in my mind) — though he forgave him since he introduced a young(er) Dean to Dashiell Hammett. Dean also observed that he was mesmerized by Fred Astaire’s dancing. Near the end, conversation strayed towards my imminent move, a I whined a bit about living in a transition phase now, with all my beloved books packed away in boxes.
And somewhere in the mix, we descended into our favorite Leslie Nielsen quotes and moments. On the whole, a very satisfying night. — TEJ
Follow up: The ride home from Halligan’s this night was miserable with a downpour that cut visibility to nil. I was stopped on my winding, twisting home road by about a dozen local police, and had to take a wandering alternative route home. Upon reaching home I mentioned to my wife that there had been an accident blocking the road, when the scene suddenly popped up on the local TV news not as an accident but some dramatic capture of an unnamed suspect, about which the local police have been mysteriously silent since. Whatever he (or she) had done to warrant all the attention, I do know he/she was thoroughly drenched when apprehended. — TEJ
April 18, 2018: During our formal proceedings Cindy had given an excellent and thought-provoking overview of her recent experience at a writers’ workshop in Italy. Towards the end of this discussion, Dean had asked before we departed for Halligans whether we thought such workshops could really teach creative writing. There was some debate around the quality of some of the feedback Cindy had received, though on the whole she was pleased, or at least had found some feedback helpful. After some of our usual banter at Halligans, we returned to this topic. Dean and I concluded that while such functions can indeed teach and help students improve the technical mechanics of writing (e.g., grammar, syntax, style, etc.), writing is ultimately one of those innate skills that one is simply born with. Discussion on this point was fairly intense, though. — TEJ
April 4, 2018: Tonight’s corner booth discussion was a bit hard on the buns, since they took away the seat cushions. But we persevered. In attendance were Dean, Jeff, Don, Fern, Cathy and Tomek. The conversation took a little while to warm up, but swerved from cults and mind control to romantic era writers and why Mary Shelley wrote Frankenstein, to whether modern sci fi and horror derive from the same literary roots (i.e., potentially Frankenstein), through modern notions of social organization, with a few sidebars on pyramids, dictators and religion; finishing with story and narrative. The latter part of the conversation was nicely complemented by some very nice but out-of-character jazz, indicating some rebels had seized control of Hallagan’s sound system. The religion portion included a fun bit about Lily Dale, NY the current surviving HQ for the Christian spiritualist movement. Fun was had by all.
April 2, 2018: While the Write Free or Die (WFoD) group was strictly speaking not involved with tonight’s incident (April 2, 2018), being the usual meeting time for the New Hampshire Writers Project (NHWP), nevertheless, authorities have not ruled out further charges involving the group.
Police arrived on the scene at T-Bones Restaurant on Crystal Avenue in Derry, NH at about 8.00 p.m. ET and promptly arrested one C. Don Huntemann of Londonderry for inter-planetary indecency. Bail was set at $100,000. A bystander interviewed at the restaurant, identified only as Fern, was observed exclaiming she would not post bail this time.
When reached for comment, Deputy Director of Engineering at NASA’s Jet propulsion laboratory Scott Colloredo remarked, “You know, we’re trying to be on the cutting edge of scientific exploration in space, and this Huntemann guy goes and ruins it for everybody. There’s no excuse for this kind of astral smut. I hope my Grandma doesn’t see this.”
Similarly, Senior Research Scientist at SETI Dale Andersen reacted with revulsion, declaring Huntemann’s story cosmically obscene. “The magazine put out by the Carl Sagan Center certainly doesn’t have a centerfold,” he added.
Mr. Huntemann was remanded into custody pending further investigation.