“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.

October events

Join us for an afternoon with WOTA on Thursday, October 4 from 1 to 3 p.m. in room 201 at Musser Public Library! We’re launching an afternoon meeting for those who can’t make Tuesday night or just want more WOTA in their life. Bring a pen, bring a friend, bring a short work to share.

We’ll meet again on Tuesday, October 16 in the board room of Musser Public Library for our regular monthly meeting. Business starts at 5:30 and the fun at 6. We’ll participate in a writing activity, share short work, and then anyone who wishes can stay for the critique group, where we discuss longer works in more detail.

If you’re looking for some inspiration this month, write a piece using these words: pumpkin, headless, shadowy, surprise.

As always, writers of any genre, any age, and any level of experience are welcome to WOTA meetings. There is a membership fee for those who want the WOTA perks (like discounts on books, access to grants and scholarships, etc.) but inquiry meetings are free.

And if you’re starting your holiday shopping, remember that books make great gifts! WOTA anthologies are available for sale on Amazon and from your favorite WOTA member.

See you soon, and happy writing!

September Meetings & Events

We’re excited to announce three ways to mingle with writers this September!

Join local writers in room 201 of the Musser Public Library on Thursday, September 6 between 1 and 3 p.m. This is an inaugural afternoon meeting designed to create a forum and supportive space for those who can’t make the regular Tuesday night meetings—and anyone who wants more WOTA in their lives.

riv to riv coverOn Saturday, September 8 join us at Muscatine’s Second Saturday as we add area authors Tom McKay and Mike Bayles to the mix of music, food, crafts, and fun on display on downtown 2d street. Stop by between 4 and 8 p.m. to greet Tom and Mike, buy and sign books, check out the new poetry anthology, and find out more about WOTA.

Then join us for our regular monthly meeting on Tuesday, September 18 from 6 to 8 p.m. in the first-floor conference room of Musser Public Library. You’re welcome to attend the business meeting, starting at 5:30, to help us plan upcoming events. Writing exercises and activities will start at 6, and those who are interested can stay for a longer critique workshop after we all share work. Bring a pen, bring a friend, bring a short work to share. See you there!

New Anthology Now Available!

Writers on the Avenue is delighted to announce the publication of our latest poetry anthology, From River to River: Thoughts on Life in the Great Bend. This beautiful collection of poetry, interspersed with captivating photography and original art, captures the natural beauty, seasons, and philosophical introspections of artists and poets who have been shaped by life near the Mississippi and the unique region known as the Great Bend.

riv to riv coverThe collection includes winners and favorites from WOTA’s 2018 poetry contest, featuring prize-winners in the adult, teen, and youth categories; contributions from WOTA members; and poets young and old, aspiring and accomplished, including poems by Salvatore Marici, Mike Bayles, Dennis Maulsby, Dustin Joy, G. Louis Heath, Anna Counter, and Misty Urban.

To get your copy, find the book on Amazon or contact us. All proceeds benefit WOTA’s efforts to support writers and encourage the literary arts in and around Muscatine, Iowa.

August Word Challenge

Join Writers on the Avenue for our August monthly meeting on Tuesday, August 21 in the first-floor conference room of Musser Public Library, 408 E. 2d St., Muscatine. The business meeting starts at 5:30, and your input is appreciated; the writing portion, including exercises, sharing work, and the critique group, commence at 6:00 p.m.

If you’re looking for a writing prompt, the July group generated this list of words: peace, ferris wheel, penmanship, overboard, score, vacation, exhilarating, release, wing, county fair, spendthrift, exit, and jehosaphat (if you don’t have use for mild expletives, you can overlook this last).  Can you tell it’s fair season? Remember to bring copies to share. Also, feel free to post your work here to share — we always love seeing what people come up with!

Come out to Muscatine’s Second Saturday in August and stop by WOTA’s table on 2d street to browse books, chat with local authors, and find out more about what we do. Hope your month is full of inspiration!

July meeting & more

Please join us for our monthly WOTA meeting on Tuesday, July 17 at the Musser Public Library’s new digs at 408 E 2d St. in Muscatine, right across from beautiful Trinity Episcopal church. We’ll meet in the board room on the ground floor and I imagine we’ll all have great fun in the swivel chairs. The business meeting begins at 5:30 to plan upcoming events and such; the writing fun starts at 6:00. Bring a friend, bring a pen, bring a short work to share.

If you’re searching for inspiration, we generated the following words for the challenge. Work them into a poem, story, memoir, screenplay, microfiction, collage, song, or whatever form you wish: ICE CREAM, FOLLOW, PENALTY, CORPULENT, APPLE, TOMATO, FLOOR, ELECTRIFYING, ANTICIPATION, HUMIDITY. Don’t ask me why there’s a food theme to this one. Just go with it.

As our writing exercise for the June meeting, we experimented with ways to make our writing more descriptive. The tips that Misty shared and the exercise she suggested are available at her blog, The Writing Well, for those interested.

Keep writing!

Poetry Contest Winners

WOTA is thrilled to announce the winners of the spring poetry contest. Please join us in congratulating these outstanding poets:

Adult winners:

1st: “Summer” by Richard Thurston
2d: “Panorama” by Rick Bierman
3d: “Empty Basket” by Mike Fladlien

Honorable mentions:

“And the Winner Is . . .” by Vicky Dovenspike
“You Know It’s Spring When . . .” by Dan Moore

Teen winners (age 13-17):

1st: “America” by Jake Peterson
2d: “She gazed onward” by Bailah Bognar
3d: “Wintertime” by Kate Mayerhofer

Honorable mentions:

“A Love of the Game” by Madison Heisch
“Halloween” by Delaney Holbert

Youth winners (under 5-12):

1st: “Thanksgiving” by Kevin Ciss
2d: “The Month Poem” by Clio Vogel

Winning poems and selected entries will be published in the forthcoming anthology FROM RIVER TO RIVER. Thanks to everyone who entered for giving us the opportunity to read your work!

Scholarships Available to Attend Creativity Camp!

Come get your biannual dose of inspiration at Creativity Camp, held this year from Friday, June 15 to Sunday, June 17 at Langwood Education Center in Grandview, IA. Full details will be available soon on the Society of Great River Poets website, but here’s the skinny:

Workshops will cover everything from plot, the short story, and using your senses to water color painting, yoga, and more. There will be plenty of opportunities for break-out writing sessions, strolling through the woods for inspiration, and even paddling on the pond. Day workshops will be followed by shared meals and the chance to share stories around the campfire.

Accommodations are available in a rustic lodge, with shower and plumbed toilet facilities. There are also hookups available for campers  (extra $10 charge). There is a kitchen, including refrigeration, available in the main lodge for your food.

Cost is as follows: Friday $15, Saturday workshops $30, Sunday workshops $30, or three-day package for $60. You are invited to apply for a scholarship of up to $60 to attend workshops (lodging and food provision will be your own responsibility). Please note that this is an adults-only weekend; participants must be 18 or older.

Apply for a scholarship here, or send an email with questions. Priority will be given to dues-paying members of WOTA and SGRP, but anyone with an interest in cultivating their creativity is welcome to apply. Successful applicants will be notified by May 30. Hope to see you there!