Putting the Meal on the Table

In our Sanibel writing class, I’ve used a cooking analogy to guide our thoughts about creative writing over the five weeks we were together. We started with a recipe and ingredients, mixed things up, and added heat. It’s all a process–sometimes messy, sometimes frustrating, always creative. Then last week, our final week, we put the meal on the table. We brought in one complete, polished piece to read to each other. We listened to each other and wrote comment cards while nibbling chocolate covered strawberries.IMG_0016

We heard about feeding sharks in the Tahitian Islands, the demolition of a neighboring house, a July Fourth celebration that began with an emergency trip to the hospital, and a South African wedding with the slaughter of a cow for the feast. Two people read letters they had written: one to her deceased parents telling them about what life is like now for their daughter and son; and another to a friend lost to death and dementia, updating her on how their gourmet club is doing in her absence.

Here are a few lines from the pieces:

“It was 4:30 a.m. when Roddy woke me up and said, ‘I can’t take it anymore. I have to go back to the hospital.’ ”                                           –“July 4th” by Wendy West

“We missed you, but your presence was felt in all those reminiscences. For the past four years of your life you had no memories. What a horrible disease. At the end memories are all we have and those were taken from you. Rest easy knowing we are remembering for you.”
–“A Dear Jean Letter”  by Bev Forslund

“The old gentleman comes to shake our hands, with a tipsy gait and a toothless grin. His whole right arm, all the way to the shoulder, is covered in dried blood. with flies buzzing around him. The action of slaughtering a cow is quite obviously thirsty work….”
–“An African Wedding” by Maria Bouloux

“The noise was awful. . .ripping, tearing. . .its massive motor making a thunderous roar! Watching from high on a balcony next door, looking down on this raucous mess, I clapped my hands over my ears. The ugly, dirty old house next door–once someone’s much loved white cottage– was being torn down.”
–“1160 Junonia Street” by Maryann Daly

“At a moment’s notice, seven reef sharks swim at a rapid pace within our circle. Smooth, sleek, and hungry, they move at record speed.”
–“Feeding the Sharks” by My St. John

“….But I know you can’t come, as much as I want you to. You’re in another place I know nothing about. I’m not ready to visit you, so the closest you can come to visiting me is in my imagination, as I write this letter.”
–“Dear Mom and Dad” by Lolly Murray

I’ve called this class “The Joy of Writing” like the famous cookbook, The Joy of Cooking, and it has been a joy to write/cook with these inspiring people.


Note this change:  Because I like the idea of finding joy in writing, even when what I write about might sometimes reflect a darker side and even when the process is frustrating, I do believe there is great joy to be found in both writing and reading.

So I’ve decided to call the website, The Joy of Writing. This will better reflect the aim of what I record here. I’ll still use the URL of www.turtlehouseink.com. So all should stay the same for those who subscribe or seek out the site.

I hope you keep coming back to The Joy of Writing: A Home for Writers and Readers.  I always enjoy your comments and e-mail!


“I am more modest now, but I still think that one of the pleasantest of all emotions is to know that I, I with my brain and my hands, have nourished my beloved few, that I have concocted a stew or a story, a rarity or a plain dish, to sustain them truly against the hungers of the world.”
― M.F.K. Fisher





8 thoughts on “Putting the Meal on the Table

  1. Right now, in Winston-Salem, NC, there’s a brand-new festival going on, The Ruby Slippers Fringe Festival. Just for women, they’re trying to cover all the arts—short film, experimental theatre, spoken word, dance. In the lobby they have visual art, and also CULINARY. At one point in my life, I ran sort of a boarding house for young artists. One of them noted that when I was frustrated or angry, I baked bread. Something about the kneading and pounding of the dough, I guess.

  2. Hi, Carol! You’re making me homesick for North Carolina. What a place–a fringe festival just for women, connecting all the arts! I wish I were there to check it out.
    Baking bread…yes. I used to make a whole wheat bread with some sort of starter that I kept refreshing. I need to find that recipe! There’s probably a writing analogy there somewhere. Will talk soon!

  3. Hi Vicky. So glad you’re back to teaching at Sanibel. I know that’s a joy for you. Getting down there is still on my to-do list!

    The memoir and revisions are done; agent queries are out; and I wander around wondering. But this morning I thought of a way to begin the next book. Not that I’m ready to begin it, but at least my head is working again! First it’s the taxes and the yard clean up and unearthing crocus and daffodils from the piles of leaves….and then…well, who knows. Cheers!

  4. Hello, Janet. Good to hear from you and to learn that you are already thinking of your next book. Those new ideas are awaiting you like the crocus and daffodils. Also I wish you well as you find a place for your memoir. That was a big project. Congrats for finishing it!

  5. Vicky/ It sounds like such fun! Would love to hear the lessons from the Joy class. Any way that’s possible? Eva

    • Hi, Eva. Yes, we have had a good class and lots of fun! As for lessons from the class, what would you be interested in? I’ve been thinking of setting up an on-line class through the Loft, but so far I haven’t done that. I’ll be glad to send you a course outline, which lists some of the topics we’ve covered.
      Let me know if you’d be interested in that. Use the contact page to send me an e-mail.

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