I could strangle Angie for scheduling an extra meeting. She knows I have Thai Chi on Tuesdays.
Anyhoo, I have not missed a critique meeting yet and I won’t miss this one. Sophie’s probably anxious for me to help her thin out her characters. She always makes them too fat, with too many unbelievable dimensions. I bet little Clara wants me to help her pin down her ending. Her stories always hang wide open like an abandoned barn door flapping in the wind, which is great for mysteries, but Clara writes romance.
Anyhoo, I’m the first one at the coffee shop. I’m always the first one. I stand in line for my French Roast Decaf Mocha and some tall lady gets inside my personal space.
“Name’s Maggie,” she says, pushing her hand toward mine.
It’s the middle of flu season so I ignore the woman's hand, and then she puts it back at her side where it belongs.
“I’m a writing coach,” she says brightly.
I catch my eyes before they roll. Mama’s always telling me it’s not nice to roll my eyes. The air gets kind of thick so I feel like I have to say something. “I’m Johnnie,” I say. “Daddy wanted a boy, but he got me instead.” The air gets thicker. “Anyhoo, my writing friends and I are about to have a critique meeting—”
“I know,” says the tall woman named Maggie. She smiles bigger than she should with that set of choppers God gave her. “A mutual friend of ours invited me to join your group tonight.”
A mutual friend? Must be Angie. That woman has no filter. I warn the newcomer that it takes more than an invite. She’s got to be voted in, by a majority. We purchase our coffees and head over to the usual meeting spot where the other ladies have already settled.
Maggie presumptuously takes the floor. “As everyone here knows except for Johnnie;” she says, “we are here tonight for an intervention.”
Crazy lady say what?
“We all love and care about Johnnie, but one of her writing habits has become a source of concern.”
Oh, this is going to be good. I let my eyes roll real big so everyone can see. I even let my lips scrunch up like I smell something bad. These people have some nerve criticizing my writing.
Tall and crazy big-toothed Maggie tells everybody to read from a sheet of paper, something about me that they’ve already written. I steam and fume because I realize the ladies have plotted against me.
Little Clara reads first. The paper shakes in her elfish hands. “It happened after our last meeting in August,” she says. “I had taken home one of Johnnie’s chapters to critique. I was so hopeful. I don’t know why I thought this time would be any different.”
I make a quick jerk, like I’m about to spring up and pounce but Maggie towers over me and flashes her big-toothed grin, and I settle back into my chair.
“I was okay when the yoga instructor said it,” continues Clara. “I let it slide when the therapist said it too, but when the beefy nightclub bouncer said ‘anyhoo,’ I’d had enough.
I jump out of my seat. “You’ve got to be kidding. You’re upset because my characters say ‘anyhoo’?”
“We’re here to help you,” says Maggie. “No realistic character would say ‘anyhoo.’ You’re writing would greatly improve if you—”
“I. Say. ‘Anyhoo.’ Am I not realistic?”
Maggie the so-called writing coach explains the problem with ‘anyhoo.’ She coats her voice with honey and says I’m ‘charming’ and ‘unique’ in a way that does not work for many written characters and at most, it would fit one character in any particular story. I settle back into my chair, but I’m still fuming.
The ladies take turns reading their papers, more complaints about ‘anyhoo’. I pretend to listen but I don’t because each complaint is another stab in my back. I have given everything to these women. What gives them the right to treat me like this? I chew on my swizzle stick and try cool down because Mama always says it’s not Christian-like to be mad at people. Maybe I’ll stop using ‘anyhoo’ in my writing. Maybe I’ll never ever say the word again. That would show them.
Anyways, there are lots of other words I can use instead.
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