2015/3 — Gary McLouth

By Gary McLouth

I’ve known many, many writers, who share a certain sense of ennui, and disappointment. Some rue their writing experiences in tales similar in tone to recollections of lost loves. Others fret about life’s distractions that steal time from writing. A few don’t discuss writing much, if at all. No writer I’ve come across has actually made good on threats or admonitions to “quit.”

I’ll bet William Faulkner intended to quit a few times, and he probably gave up on a number of efforts we’ll not likely hear about. Faulkner once said that 85 percent of a writer’s work goes unfinished. That leaves a tell-tale balance of 15 percent. Whether that’s believable or not, I trust his guesstimate. Imagine that a writer as talented and hard-working as William Faulkner could say such a thing. Fifteen Percent! Fifteen percent of all the work he hoped to finish at a rate of 100 percent.

All around this room, this den, this office, this… molders the Faulkner eighty-five. I hope the percentage of unfinished work is not higher, though it could be. What’s the point? Well, reading about writers reassures me that I am one, not a Faulkner, just a McLouth. When I sit at my desk, though, I think of Faulkner, hunched over a simple writing surface on his porch. He spends so much time and energy there, that it hurts mind, body and soul. He wants to finish. He wants to finish.

Like a practitioner of any art, a writer shares a range of indubitable duties with his/her peers. Knowing more about writers and writing makes us better artists, we hope, but a degree of camaraderie just high enough to keep us going is acceptable.

The primary job that a writer faces is to tell you a story out of human experience– I mean by that, universal mutual experience, the anguishes and troubles and griefs of the human heart, which is universal, without regard to race or time or condition. He wants to tell you something which has seemed to him so true, so moving, either comic or tragic, that it’s worth preserving.
~William Faulkner, 1962

2014/10 — Gary McLouth

PRESIDENT’S LETTER # THREE from Gary McLouth to the GCWA membership.
October 15, 2014
Are you anxious about participating in the critique groups this coming Saturday? I suspect we all are but for different reasons. Some of us who consider ourselves novices face the fear of exposing our inadequacies to others. Some of us are unaccustomed to showing our work to others who might be strangers. And, others of us can’t wait to have our brilliant work praised by other writers who may know how difficult it is to be brilliant. I’d guess that there’s some of each feeling in everyone, and that we will find ways to mask those feelings. If you show up for the workshop, you’ll see what happens with other writers, and you’ll get insight into your writer-self, too.

It might help us to slip into our writer-selves during workshops. After all, taking direct criticism is not pleasant or even tolerable for some of us. If my writing is taking a hit, am I taking a hit? Well, that depends on whether it’s my writing or me that’s not “quite right for us at this time.” It’s really hard to get the separation established between the work and the self, but it’s got to be done, and we can do it with practice. That’s what a workshop can do, give us practice at giving and taking, provide practice at limning the boundaries between “it,” “them,” and “you.”

As most of you know, we will be meeting in a new venue in November with plans to sign a contract for 2015. Details about the location and mission of the UUCFM appear on the GCWA website, and I encourage you to peruse them.

Why move? For one reason, the executive board has done its duty to further the stability of the organization, and that means a consistent and dependable meeting place. Another reason has to do with securing a facility that offers the potential for expanded internal programming and higher community awareness. In November, we will have the opportunity to experience the new environment. I encourage you to send your reactions and responses to Judy Loose at the GCWA website.

So, we have a couple of challenging monthly meetings ahead of us. I’m anxious to see what happens.

Gary McLouth, President GCWA

2014/8 — Gary McLouth

PRESIDENT’S LETTER # TWO from Gary McLouth to the GCWA membership.

August 5, 2014

The myths of summer—breezy love—lake waters—ocean shores—mountain vistas—world travel destinations—writers conferences—time to read—old friends visit—new friends party—relatives appear from somewhere else, and you’re wondering if you can or should get some writing done. I don’t know about you, but I can rightfully claim that too much has been happening in my life to even think about writing. But, guess what I’m thinking about?

Summer used to be a time for me to disappear into my writing self, whether I was alone or with somebody. Mountain retreats, stuffy city apartments, Amtrak trips and even a visit or two to a writer friend’s cabin fueled the notion that I was working in self-sacrificing, writer fashion. That was then; this is now, and nothing has changed. When I’m not literally writing, I’m writing in my head, if you know what I mean. Seeing, hearing, feeling and tasting the natural and human environment around me constantly challenges me to describe things. Words, phrases, snippets of dialogue flip through my mind, often amid conversation with others. Sometimes, conversation in my head gets mixed up with the dialogue in live progress. Who’s to say creative types don’t exhibit symptoms of schizophrenia?

Which, while I’m thinking of it, gets me to the point of asking how your summer is going, which in turn gives me the opportunity to tell you how my summer is going. That’s if I can tell a story about it that stimulates your interest, and garners your commitment to stay with it until the end. I guess it doesn’t matter what my summer story is about as long as I can establish a context where people do and think things in ways that spike your curiosity and solicit your involvement in their lives. Sounds a little formulaic, but I do believe that writers without readers are accountants.

When readers tell me I write well, it boosts my confidence and shines my ego, but when one asks me why I don’t write “my” story, I don’t know what to say. Everything I write comes from me whether it’s me or not. A major component of “my” story is learning how to write stories. And, a key to writing stories is listening to reactions from readers, and paying attention to what you’re not paying attention to.

For instance, I showed a story to a non-writer colleague of mine a while ago. The story involved a juicy romance and a bizarre highway chase game. What did he get from the story? The name of the highway and the definition of “limited access.” At first, I was dumbfounded, and then I realized he appreciated those accurate, factual descriptions. It was a quick lesson in why the writer has to get the facts right when using material from the real environment.

2014/6 — Gary McLouth

Gulf Coast Writers Association

President Gary McLouth
President’s Letter # 1
June 2, 2014

GWCA Colleagues,

It’s a challenge, a privilege, an opportunity and an honor to be your president. For one thing, I get to practice that hallowed form of expostulatory rhetoric dunned by Facebook, Twitter, Hither and Yon. For another, it reminds me that there’s always something to write when I don’t feel like writing. Deadlines treat writer’s block without prejudice. And, I admit that I’ve extended my deadline on this missive by a number of days. I recall the words of a former boss: “Don’t explain; don’t complain.” Yeah, but…

Our last two meetings have been well organized and thoughtfully programmed. I see this as the signature of our executive board’s ability, and I sense that the GCWA is building momentum as an influential force for the writing arts in SW Florida. It is not by chance that we gather at this fountain, seeking to rededicate ourselves to the service of our muses. I am always conscious of those I’ve learned from and those I’ve admired in my writing life, and I know you’ve gained inspiration from one, or many, on your way here. We owe them our best efforts to be as good to our craft as they were good to theirs. A minute of silence might remind us that we are not here alone.

At this writing, I feel like lighting fires in the smoldering hearts of poets and writers, mounting the plays of dramatists, and burnishing the scripts of film makers. After a life of striking matches, I feel fortunate to have fanned flickering lights of promise from time to time. The Gulf Coast Writers Association gives us all the opportunity to make some light, and striking together, we can glow.

“First in the heart is the dream/then the mind starts seeking a way”
Langston Hughes from Freedom’s Plow, Vintage Bks. 1959