Welcome to AWEsome Writers Group!

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Hi. This new site will showcase some writers in the Afton Writers Group and the W. B. Ogden Writers Group of Walton, who live and work in the beautiful Southern Tier of New York, plus some friends from “Elsewhere.”

Please look around at what we’ve posted so far. Our site is new, so come back soon for more samples of our work and discussions about writing craft and the writing life. It’s always challenging, but never unrewarding!

Please note that all posts, images, audio, and other content posted by this site’s authors are copyrighted material unless otherwise specified or attributed. All rights are reserved by the respective authors.

  – Linda Bonney Olin, Site Administrator

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TUGBOAT ANTS

For six months my husband and I lived in the state of Gracias a Dios, Honduras, an area accessible only by air or a long winding river. Our house was basic but adequate. It had been built many years before out time there. A house keeper kept it spotless, but in the tropics houses are kept open to catch every movement of air. It the tropics cockroaches are a fact of life.

ant tugboat IMG_0367My journal on February 19, 2004 in Ahuas.

Tugboat ants

2/19/04

This morning a dead cockroach lay just inside the back door. Now it has disappeared. A flotilla–a large troop of ants moved it front the porch across the threshold to the spare bedroom. Apparently decided it was going in the wrong direction, they moved it back up and over the threshold. The ants were able to control the downward motion and glide it along until the floor was smooth. Getting around the threshold, they moved the whole cockroach like tugs moving a huge cruise ship in a harbor. The cockroach seemed to float across the floor. Every so often, a new fotilla of tugboats appeared to lift and carry it. The last I saw of the cockroach, it was being floated along the wall of the bathroom before it disappeared in the wall.

If the ants can’t move a cockroach, they take it apart and move it piece by piece leaving only the wings.

Another day I watched the ants move a cockroach to the shower which is enclosed by a four inch smooth box. They were able to lift it straight up that smooth surface, although it fell down a couple of times. Then the ants took it across the top and down the other side before disappearing.

Amazing cooperation and determination.

Wouldn’t the world be a better place if we people had that kind of determination and most of all, cooperation. We could move the world!

OLD FRIENDS

Old friends may be young or old in age. Old friends may also indicate that you have known them for a long time.
When I was a little kid, my grandfather was a friend and a playmate. He played silly games with me ever changing rules–mine, of course. An elderly neighbor often came to our farm to chat as my dad milked the cows, or to go fishing in our pond. Sometimes he gave me a fish or two on his way home.

I have young friends who see me in a grandmotherly light; a friend, just a few years into his career as a pastor, who calls frequently to discuss our worlds; friends the age of my children. Their lives are much different than mine—full of babies, children, school activities, work. Whenever I see or talk with them I delight in their lives.

I have two high school and two college girlfriends, whom I’ve not seen in many years, but we maintain a friendship through a round robin letter that circulates among the five of us about every six months. The letters have carried us through meeting men, marriage, children, death of another round robin member, death of husbands, and the joy of grandchildren.

Moving with my pastor husband gave me more old friends. From his first pastorate near Kingston, New York, is the friend who cared for my little daughter when I substituted in the local school district. Living on opposite coasts, we have kept track of one another’s daily activities through modern communications. Today she is here with me to see the changing colors in the Hudson Valley. Friends often see the world in the same way. We are like that.

I joy in my old friends, no matter what their age.

JOAN OF ARC: A WARRIOR WHO DEFIED TRADITION

Joan of Arc has been a fascinating subject for many scholars and historians. Born in an age when women like children were seen but not heard, and peasants lived to serve and follow, Joan, a woman and a peasant, was heard, listened to and followed. The fact that she accomplished these feats between the ages of fourteen and sixteen is even more remarkable. What is also astonishing is that many of Joan’s biographers like Shaw and Twain were men who held a more traditional view of women and yet within their works, you can sense not mere admiration but love and hero worship for this amazing girl who broke with all the traditions society had laid down for her and lead a great army to victory and her people to freedom.

Twain after twelve years of research and six attempts finally finished Joan of Arc and published it in 1895 in Harper’s Magazine under the pseudonym Sieur Louise de Conte. This name uses Twains real initials, Samuel Langhorne Clemens. The character Louis de Conte was suppose to be a member of the minor nobility from Joan’s village who followed her from home into battle, and to her trials, keeping a record of her adventures along the way.

Although fictionalized, Twain’s Joan of Arc is acknowledged by scholars to be not only well written but also historically accurate. Twain uses conversations between Joan’s friends to show how popular she was and to illustrate her personality. In fact, historical documents show that Joan had a sense of humor even when facing a trial for her life. She also showed the vulnerability of any teenage girl, crying the first time she was shot by an arrow, or insulted by the enemy. But she was also gentle, compassionate, filled with the conviction of her mission, and stubborn. Twain brings this girl alive before our eyes without distorting history or the truth.

He does employ literary devices throughout the book such as using a fictional character like the giant soldier called Dwarf. Dwarf deserts the army and Joan to go home and tend to his dying family. He returns after their deaths to seek his own death. Joan forgives him, and he stays to fight by her side. Dwarf is Twain’s symbol for France who abandoned Joan to the British only to later reclaim and venerate her.

I first read this book sixteen years ago and have never forgotten it. It is a wonderful and well-written depiction of Joan of Arc’s short life. Twain’s novel is part of the reason I continue to seek out works about her. It is a fitting tribute to a woman worthy of the title hero.

AT THE BOTTOM OF THE RIVER

At the Bottom of the River
At the Bottom of the River is a marvelous collection of ten tales. With lyrical grace, Jamaica Kincaid takes us on a trip through childhood in the Caribbean. This book vibrates with the physical presence of the sun, the sand, the sea, and the mountains of that region.

The stories are about mothers, fathers, and the love with which they bind their children. The tales speak of the differences between men and women and the magic and mystery that is nature itself.

Kincaid’s stories are streams of consciousness with which she draws the audience into a world of movement and color. Her first story Girl is an amusing very short tale of a mother’s instructions to her daughter on doing simple tasks. There are household tasks: how and when to wash clothes, sweep the house, how to set the table for a family dinner, and how to set the table for dinner with an important guest.

There are also social tasks: the type of smiles you give to people you like, the type of smiles you give to people you like completely, the type of smiles you give to people you don’t like, how to walk and dress like a lady, and how to talk to men. Interspersed with these instructions are the mother’s repeated warnings to the daughter not to become “the slut you are so bent on becoming.”

My Mother is a fantastical short story composed of several vignettes. Each vignette contains a bizarre mother and daughter tale always narrated by the daughter and always told with a mixture of fear, reverence, and love .

In one vignette the mother suffocates her angry but repentant child only to restore her to life. After this they are careful to always speak lovingly to each other. In another sketch, mother and daughter change from human to reptilian aquatic creatures, the daughter slithering obediently behind her mother. In several of the these sketches the daughter tries to surpass her mother but is never able to do so. In the last two we see why. “…..we merge and separate, merge and separate; soon we shall enter the final stage of our evolution.” They are becoming the same person.

The final story At the Bottom of the River is a beautiful tale of love and anguish. It is about the beauty and power of nature, the love of a child for her mother, and the ultimate awareness of self.
The author asks, “Is life, then, a violent burst of light, like flint struck sharply in the dark?” If this is so, she must try to exist from one day to another. She then tells us how much she was loved as a child, how much she loved herself, and how much her mother loved her.

But we can’t live protected by our mothers forever. We must grow up and experience life and all the beauty and sorrow it brings.
I have read this book several times and expect to do so again. For me, it is a tour of home, and a reminder of what it meant to be a girl growing up in the Caribbean. For others, it will be an adventure, a glimpse of another life rich in the rhythm and music of a different voice and culture.

Judith Woolcock Colombo: Author of, The Fablesinger & Night Crimes

PAULA.

“Listen, Paula. I am going to tell you a story so that when you wake up you will not feel so lost.” Thus begins Isabel Allende’s brilliant chronicle of love and family. This marvelous book, begun at the bedside of her comatose daughter, is written in the clear musical prose of the author who gave us the remarkable works: House of the Spirits, Eva Luna, and Daughter of Fortune.

Allende wrote this book filled with life and magic to remind her dying daughter of who she is and how much she is loved. The book starts when the family does. “A robust Basque sailor disembarked on the coast of Chile with his mother’s reliquary strung around his neck and his head swimming with plans of greatness.” What follows is a beautifully written history of a family of loving, eccentric and erratic individuals.

The authors’ voice reflects her love and insight into this strong willed family. She parades them through the pages of her manuscript so that Paula may know the people whose blood runs through her veins. We meet Allende’s strong and gentle grandfather Tata, her magical and psychic grandmother, Meme, her outrageous stepfather, her brothers, and her Uncle Salvatore Allende the Chilean President. This is a story of a family scattered to different corners of the world by exile but united by love.

Intertwined with this tale of her bizarre and alluring family, the author pens another. This is the story of a mother’s vigil at the bedside of a dying daughter. In haunting language, Allende describes coming to realize that her 28-year-old daughter will not wake up but will die a victim of porphyria, a rare blood disease. This book moves us as we experience, through the author’s prose, a mother’s anguish and her everlasting love for her child.

Although the subject matter is grim and sorrowful, Allende uses her powerful and mesmerizing prose to soften the grief of a dying child with an alluring story of family and love. We not only grieve Paula’s death, but we celebrate her life along with her family.

As always, I enjoyed reading Allende. Her non-fiction is as alluring and spell binding as her novels. Her women strong and enduring.

Judith Woolcock Colombo: Author of, The Fablesinger & Night Crimes

IN HONOR OF WOMEN’S HISTORY MONTH ON IT’S LAST DAY.

I have been sidelined by oral surgery, but I didn’t want Woman’s History Month to pass without acknowledging it in some way.

I have been blessed with many positive female role models throughout my life. As an author and avid reader, it stands to reason that some of my heroes would be fellow writers, or historical figures.

Below are reviews of three of my favorite books. Paula and At the Bottom of The Riva are by two of my favorite authors, Isabel Allende and Jamaica Kincaid and are about strong women. The other is Joan of Arc by Marc Twain.

Joan was the chosen champion of my preteen and early teen years. I had no Xena or Buffy growing up, and Super girl was from another planet. My cultural heroes, although I admired them, were mostly male, except for the old hags or witch women and they were a bit evil. I sort of liked my namesake Judith from the Bible, but she didn’t defeat her enemy by riding into battle but through seduction and deceit. I preferred Joan’s way. She wore chain mail, had a sword, and charged through enemy lines on her horse.