Scholarships Available for Creativity Camp

WOTA is pleased once again to provide scholarships to those interested in attending this year’s Creative Writing Camp, held June 7 – 9 at Langwood Education Center in Grandview, IA, and hosted by the Society of Great River Poets.

Creative Writing Camp is designed to give adults 18 or older a stimulating, instructive weekend in a beautiful natural setting that will exercise the writing muscles and replenish the creative well. Activities begin Friday night with stargazing and story-telling and continue through workshops on Saturday and Sunday that address different aspects of the writing craft.

Registration fee is $15 for Friday, $30 for Saturday, $30 for Sunday, or $60 for all three days. Email SGRP to register now or gather more information; use the form below to apply for a scholarship. Scholarship amounts of up to $60 per person are available.

Though you’re not required to stay on-site, accommodations are included in the registration fee. Choices include an A-frame dormitory-style lodge with twins beds, a central shelterhouse with full kitchen, and campsites with and without electricity. There are plumbed bathrooms with shower and AC in the shelterhouse where workshops take place. Recreational opportunities include hiking, boating, bird-watching, and telling tall tales around the campfire.

To apply for a scholarship, please apply below and provide a brief explanation for what you hope to gain from the camp. WOTA members have first priority through April 30. Applications will be accepted through end of May 2019 and scholarships awarded thereafter on a first-come, first-served basis.


March Madness

Join us for WOTA in the afternoon on Thursday, March 7 from 1:00 to 3:00 pm in room 201 of Musser Public Library. Bring a pen, bring a friend, bring a short work to share.

Then join us again the evening of Tuesday, March 19 at 6:00 pm in the first-floor board room of Musser Library for our monthly meeting. Bring the same work, bring fresh work, bring the same pen or many others. We’ll do writing exercises, critique work, and talk through whatever is on our minds.

March’s word challenge is based on the exercise given to us by Paul Fitzpatrick at last month’s meeting. Find a book on your shelf – open to a random page – scan the page until a word leaps out at you. Then grab pen and paper and write something with, in response to, or around that word – story, poem, memory, whatever. It was amazing to hear what everyone came up with in February, and we’d love to hear what this exercise unlocks in you. Bring copies to share at a meeting, post to our Facebook page, submit here as a comment, or send it to WOTA through the Contact form for posting on the site. May the words be with you!

In other news

Congratulations to WOTA member Dustin Joy for winning honorable mention for his piece “Dan” in the nonfiction category of the Iron Pen contest sponsored by the Midwest Writing Center! The challenge to produce something from a prompt within the space of 24 hours would defeat many, but Dustin clearly rose to the challenge. WOTA actually walked away with two winners, as Misty Urban‘s story “A Many-Chambered Vessel” took second place in the fiction category. Way to represent, WOTA folk!

Congratulations also to member Jason Liegois for publication of his novel A Holy Fool: A Journalist’s Revolt, just out from Biblio Publishing! Check out Jason’s blog Liegois Media for information on book signings and workshops near you.

Thanks to all who came out to support WOTA at our Read Local event at Bettendorf Public Library! It was wonderful to hear such great work from our members, and a special shout-out to Mary Davidsaver for sharing from her novel in progress.

Free 6-week class on writing spiritual memoir

Writers on the Avenue and Trinity Episcopal Church are teaming up to offer a FREE six-week workshop for anyone interested in writing a spiritual memoir.

The class will include guided reflection, discussion of craft, writing time, and sharing works in progress. Writers of all ages, levels of experience, and different faith paths are welcome. We welcome anyone who’s interested in reflecting on and writing about their experience of religion, spirit, spirituality, and the divine. We will incorporate discussion about different experiences of faith as well as writing exercises, generative activities, and workshopping what we’re creating.

The class will meet from 4:00 to 5:30 p.m. in the parish hall of Trinity Episcopal Church, 211 Walnut St., Muscatine, on the following Sundays: February 10, February 24, March 10, March 31, April 14, and April 28.

The class is co-led by Reverend Kathleen Milligan and Dr. Misty Urban. Rev. Milligan has decades of experience guiding Episcopalian churches throughout Iowa and is currently interim rector at Trinity. Dr. Urban is a professor of creative writing and English literature and is currently president of Writers on the Avenue. She has published award-winning short fiction, creative nonfiction, poetry, medieval scholarship, and two collections of short stories.

For more information on spiritual memoir, visit for reflection, writing exercises, resources, and a reading list. The class will make use of Elizabeth Jarrett Andrew’s book Writing the Sacred Journey.  The only required materials are pen, paper, an open mind, and a willing spirit.

The class is free, but space is limited. Use the contact form below to reserve a seat, or contact WOTA with questions.


Read Local w/WOTA

As part of Bettendorf Public Library‘s terrific Read Local series, members of Writers on the Avenue will read from the latest anthologies, share works in progress, and answer questions about craft and the writing life on Wednesday, February 13 from 7:00 to 8:30 pm.

This event is free and open to the public, so we hope you’ll be there for moral support!

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January meetings

Happy new year, writers! There are two opportunities to meet up this January:

WOTA in the afternoon will meet on Thursday, January 3 from 1 to 3 pm in room 201 of Musser Public Library. Bring a pen, bring a friend, bring a short work to share.

We’ll have our monthly evening meeting on Tuesday, January 15 with the business discussion starting at 5:30 and the writing starting at 6. We have folks on deck to lead us in writing exercises and share work for longer critique, along with the usual sharing of short work. Hope to see you at one or both meetings!

If you’re up for a challenge, we generated this list of words at the holiday party. Use them in a poem, song, story, essay, whatever-you-like and share with us: flamingo, riotous, generate, elaborate, parrot, bright, Christmas, resolute, entertain.

Hope your 2019 is full of inspiration!


Warm your heart with some free books!

To spread holiday cheer, WOTA is offering the Kindle version of our recent anthologies for FREE this December.

Get your copy of Winter Holidays in the City of Pearls between 12/6 and 12/10: These twelve poems, stories, and short essays celebrate food and family, reflect on holidays past, and explore the meaning of the season. A great way to get in the holiday spirit!

Between 12/11 and 12/15 you can lift your spirits with the inspirational artwork, poems, and stories of Climbing the Hill of Life: Writers of all ages and from all walks of life share messages of hope and wisdom, offer healing for the troubled heart, and celebrate the simple beauty of the everyday.

From 12/17 to 12/21, enjoy a free copy of From River to River, and savor its beautiful photographs and moving poetry along with your cup of hot cider, cocoa, or tea: Let these lovely contemplations on nature and life warm your heart while a toasty fire warms your toes.

May all your days his holiday season be merry and bright!

December Events

WOTA in the afternoon 12/6

Join us on December 6 for WOTA in the afternoon! We’ll meet from 1 to 3 pm in room 201 of the Musser Public Library in Muscatine. Bring a short work to share & be prepared to talk writing.

Holiday stroll 12/7

Then stop by the WOTA table during downtown Muscatine’s Holiday Stroll on Friday, December 7. There will be much to enjoy all along 2d Street, but you can find WOTA (and our books!) in Trinity Episcopal Church, 211 Walnut Street, from 5 – 7 pm during the annual soup supper. Stop by for soup, buy books for everyone on your gift list, and enjoy a little holiday cheer!

Holiday party & open mic 12/18

Instead of our regular meeting, we’ll have a holiday party and open mic at 6:00 pm at Trinity Episcopal Church, 211 Walnut St. in Muscatine, just across the street from our usual meeting space. Bring a short work to share and sign up to read, sing, chant, or slam for 2-3 minutes. Books will be for sale there, too. This event is free, family friendly, and open to the public, so encourage all your friends to come and help us celebrate everything WOTA has accomplished in 2018. See you there!

“The Director:” A Short Story by Mike Bayles

Sunlight from the windows fell upon Jack as he sat in front of the corner store. Settling dust danced as gold flecks, as he waited for something magical to occur.

A bell jingled, and the door opened, letting in a breeze. He let two ladies pass him. He nodded at them as their two stooped figures passed, and listened as their footsteps on the wood floor echoed through the store. Although sure they meant no harm, he decided to keep an eye on them.

He couldn’t help himself, to want to keep all the dreams to himself. The store owner, who looked old enough to be his father, appeared behind the register and shook his head. Each aisle played out a scene, as if he and the ladies were in a show. Maybe we are, he thought, although unsure of how to direct the action.

Aisle One, Cornucopia. His thoughts turned to harvests and bounties, and banquets at The Community Center. He thought of making them his waitresses and maids.

Aisle Two, Piquaint. His thoughts turned to that missing spice in his life, tart, but sweet, something to spice up his bland diet of life.

Aisle Three, Fedora. Hats, hats hats, he wanted something to speak for him. A baseball cap didn’t seem right, although it was the start of baseball season. He needed something more, and a fedora would be the right thing.

Aisle Four, Specialty. A statue of a blue elephant, a crystal figure of a hummingbird casting rainbows, a three-legged card table, an unopened deck of fifty cards.

Aisle Five, Feathers. Feathers of reds, feathers of blues, dark feathers and light feathers, all contained in a cage.

He followed the women as they went from aisle to aisle, as if marionettes on a string, smiling, and talking among themselves. He was pleased; the scenes were playing out just as he wanted. In a moment of excitement, he said hello to them, but they ignored him. He had forgotten that he was not supposed to be part of the scenes. Something inside of him took great pleasure as they went through each bin, and something inside of him was scared. Wouldn’t he be a little less if they bought and took away one of his dreams?

A ceiling fan strobed the pale light streaming from an overhead fixture. Two statues of gargoyles at the end of Aisle Three stared, as if getting ready to pounce on him. He took a handkerchief out of his back pocket, and wiped a bead of sweat of his forehead. He felt as if someone was watching him, everyone. He had moved back into town after his mother died, hoping to live unnoticed, but everyone was watching him.

A hand rested on his shoulder, and he gasped. “Can I help you?” the owner of the store asked.

“No, I’m fine.”

The owner gave a look of concern, and pointed at a chair. “Sit here while I get you a glass of water.”

He brought back the glass. Beading drops of condensation felt cool to the touch, but when Jack took a sip, he only tasted air. “This is strange,” Jack said.

The owner chuckled. “Nothing’s as it seems.”

Jack shook his head. When the ladies approached the store, he jumped up, and headed to the door. The owner grabbed his wrist. “Afraid of losing your dreams?”

Jack shook his head.

The owner pulled a thick, leather-bound book of the-shelf and dusted off the cover. Up front, the ladies disappeared. The title, The Town That Was No More.

The owner proceeded to read a story about a drought and a factory closing, about a farm and city that died. Jack wiped a tear from his eye. “All of this seems so long ago.”

Dazed, he wandered around the store, gazing at shelf after shelf, each now empty. He stopped and gazed at the owner, who looked sad. “These were not your dreams,” the owner said.

“Then what?”

“That’s up to you.”

The room spun around as Jack sat on the chair. Near the ceiling, he saw his face aglow, looking at his figure sitting on the chair.

“What do I do now?”

“You must find new dreams.”

The figure of the owner faded into the sunlight, and a gust of wind blew the front door slammed open. The bell let out a sharp ring as it crashed to the floor.

Jack blinked his eyes, and found himself across the street in a playground where he played as a child. The emerald grass glistened, as if spring, but he felt a chill in the air. The figure of a girl he knew approached and disappeared. He raised his hands and touched his face, only to discover it had wrinkled.

He looked around to notice that all the houses were gone. A curtain of clouds to the east lifted, showing an open land, in his mind, the start of another scene.

November doings

There are a few ways to enjoy WOTA from now through the end of the year!

Afternoons with WOTA

We’ll continue meeting on the first Thursday of each month from 1-3 p.m. in room 201 of Musser Public Library. These are informal and relaxed sessions to share work, tips, advice, and inspiration. Bring something to share! The next two afternoon meeting dates are November 1 and December 6.

Evening meetings

Join us on the third Tuesday of the month for a business meeting starting at 5:30, open to all dues-paying WOTA members. Starting at 6 p.m. we have a writing exercise, share work, and then stay for a critique group after. The November meeting will be held on 11/20 in the first-floor board room of Musser Public library.

Keep your calendar open for our December meeting on 12/18. This will be a holiday party held across the street at Trinity Episcopal Church, and we’ll also host an open mic that is open to the public. Bring something short to read aloud and enjoy food, fun, and the accomplishments of another great year.