Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Do You Know What it Means...

in my head, it is always a little foggy...
It was ten years ago this week that I set out on what, in my head, was the most daring adventure I had thus far embarked upon…

You see, it was ten years ago that, despite all the red flags of meeting strangers over the internet (social media was still in its MySpace phase and wasn’t even dubbed social media at this point in time), I was offered the chance to go to New Orleans and meet up with a handful of total strangers.

Well, physically total strangers. 

Yet I knew these people intimately. Well, as intimately as fake names allowed. Most members used nom de pleums. Mine being CyanSKye, my take on Blue Sky. The name came complete with a pin-up girl on a swing and a theme song. 

Blue Skies, of course.

This was the first time my on-line writing group was to meet.

In person. 

About a year prior to this event I wrote on a website known as Writer’s Café. It was fun and exciting and most importantly, it provided feedback to thousands of would be writers. I sort of weaseled my way into one of the groups there – the Vicious Circle. Where, based on the romanticized life of Dorothy Parker and her contemporaries, the organizer of the group hoped to encourage each member to support one another through honest but non-threatening critique.

Within the year our group had grown and split from Writer’s Café to form its own website changing the name to Vicious Writers.

I would come home from late night shifts at work and anxiously log on to to see what had been said about my latest posting. And through those comments, friendships were formed, encouraged by forum topics ranging from grammar tips (run by Smoking Quills) to a story prompt round robin dubbed Sparks Diner (hostessed by MelStevens and MissVish…)

I was a little skeptical but truly wanted to meet these interesting, diverse people.

My husband was a whole lot skeptical and a very good sport, as this meeting was to take place on his FIFTIETH birthday…

But he is ever the indulgent thrill-seeker and with a little discussion over just how crazy these people were liable to be, he decided to come with my sister and me. 

He questioned this choice almost immediately when, while still on the tarmac, my sister and I raised suspicion with our nearly continuous laughter.

My sister and I reassured the flight attendant that we weren’t really mentally unstable. I am pretty sure he slipped the attendant a couple bucks and the plane took off without further issue.

There is something about New Orleans.

The heat, humidity. The history.

The proximity to the Mississippi. 

Our organizer set our ‘conference’ at the Dauphine New Orleans, in the heart of the French Quarter. (Conference is such a strong word…while we did have a businessy meeting of sorts, it was nearly immediately disrupted by Zombie finger puppets and exotic gifts of Timmy Ho’s coffee direct from Canada.)

We had our rooms there as well. Within a few minutes of check-in, we had exuberantly bumped into three other members, also staying there. There was no awkwardness.

There may have been a little awkwardness. But those Zombie finger puppets are great ice-breakers.
writers, on a balcony
And we quickly learned that our on-line personas were more extensions of our writing styles, enough of our true selves had fueled those posts that it was easy to know the person behind those words.  Quillz was a loving as her critiques, JJ as adorable as his hilarious, well thought out jokes. MissVish had an edge, albeit soft, James was as scholarly as he was mischievous. Nazarea was exotic and sweet.

And Damian, our leader, well, he felt like a brother. Generous, irritating and always hogging the bathroom.

(just a quess…)

Post ‘meeting’ we walked through the Quarter to Café Amelie for dinner.

What do you get when you take eight writers and their guests to dinner in a historic restaurant in a romantic city?

You get hours of laughs, threats of NO pictures of people EATING , and a lengthy discussion over why petit fours are called petit fours. (My favorite being that there are four, so it’s easier to share…)
discussing the finer points of semi vs full on colons...
After dinner we walked through the French Quarter and ended at Café DuMonde for coffee and readings and hat exchange. In one of those Who’s on First routines, we managed to blow through an entire order pad, trying to relay our café au lait and beignet orders to the waiter. 

I feel he was probably drunk.

Or at least wishing he was…
this poor guy...
Coffees served the table settled down and each member took a turn reading a portion of their own writing. Not at all awkward…for the other diners…or my husband….

There was a smattering of applause here and there. 
starting with basics, this is a book...
And some rather loud ducks, if I recall….

The weekend moved forward with multiple excursions, alone, or in various groups. We ended our weekend together in the beautiful bar at the Dauphine for a group picture, minus a couple of folks with other obligations. 
just a few, the rest are there in spirit.
We had been to New Orleans once before, as newlyweds. At that time in my life, everything was exciting and momentous. 

This trip, several years post children, job changes, and Katrina, we found a slightly different New Orleans. It felt a little more difficult to find blues and jazz playing in the Quarter, replaced by karaoke and techno dance. 

We never found our first gumbo shack, but we did find Deanie’s, and the most adorable breakfast spot – Annette’s , run by a sweet lady from Morocco who told us her story of escape at the end of WW2. She claimed to be Alex Baldwin’s favorite restaurant, complete with a photo of the two. But she really won my heart by leaving the entire coffee carafe at our table. The restaurant sized carafe…

And through a twist of fate we were on the shore of the Mississippi as the battleship USS New York made her way from the shipyard to NYC to be commissioned. She was built from steel, salvaged from the Trade Towers.

Yet, while the city felt a little different, deep down, New Orleans was the same. The city will always hold a little mystery, a little magic…

That little breakfast spot is no longer open.

Vicious Writers is no longer a group.

Creative differences, relationship changes…all the things that can befall a diverse group of creative styles.

No matter.

I will always feel connected to this group of talented people. They live all over the world, have drifted into and out of my life.

They encouraged me and gave me the confidence to call myself a Writer.

Happy Anniversary to Each and Every Vicious Writer.

Keep writing, my friends.

Blue Skies. Nothing but...

(I'm back! New Laptop! New ideas! See you again soon!)


  1. Great story, sounds like an amazing visit. I've only made it to New Orleans once with family - had a wonderful time (although I shouldn't have listened to my big sister when she and I stayed an extra day after the grown-ups had driven back to Texas and she told me that Hurricanes were basically Kool-Aid).

    And hmm, today's Inktober prompt is "Swing".

  2. I’m so sorry I joined towards the end of the Vicious Writers timeline. I do know Laura was the one that encouraged me to joining and I’ve met a few friends along the way. But people are people and diversity sometimes doesn’t meld, things happen. But I wouldn’t change it for the world.

  3. There are so many fellow writers I wish I could meet. This makes me even more eager!


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