Friday, September 10, 2010

Expanding Horizons with Local Writers

Tuesday night, I spent a fair portion of the evening surrounded by new friends and collogues – mostly writers in training. This made the second local writers group meeting I attended and the first with this particular organization. Without question, I could see an immediate difference between the two groups, despite the fact that every member of the first also attended the second.

I thought it might be beneficial to express my impressions, since I had never attended any form of local writer’s association until late last month – and given that I’ve been on this quest to publish a novel for long enough – it’s high time I should extend my reach beyond my own keyboard.

The first group, Panama City Writers’ Association, is a loose critique organization dedicated to discussing and reviewing whatever topics come up during the meeting itself (unless something is planned ahead of time). For the last 10 or 11 years, this group of writers gathers to talk about whatever is on their mind at the moment. Since this was the very first one-on-group meeting I ever attended, I really had no idea what to expect. After a bit of introduction time with the new guy (me), we spent a portion of time talking about everything from character development to the best way to grow oranges. The topic varied widely from writing to non-writing in a loose and (dare I say it) unorganized fashion. I suppose I anticipated more structure than this particular group offered. Though, the people were certainly friendly enough and more than willing to listen to my rambles about the latest setbacks with my WIP.

The second group, Gulf Coast Writers, is a very different organization of people. Run by a college professor and membered by established writers (some novels, some short stories, some articles), the session on Tuesday was divided into distinct moments of agenda. First the standard meet-and-greet, followed by a fairly good discussion about “books on writing” in which many members around the table presented their latest and favorite tomes on creating prose.

The remainder of the hour and a half session focused on critique of one and two page works from various attendees ranging widely in style and goal, from the beginnings of a short Halloween story to the query letter for a finished thriller novel. It’s had to say if they were willing to simply put up with my critiques or actually had a vested interest in my comments, but the atmosphere induced me to speak my mind - which was quite a shock for me since I’m more noted as a wallflower.

Through these groups, I learned of a local writer’s conference later this month. Although I doubt I will be able to attend due to previous engagements, I might have been able to arrange going to the one day seminar had I known about it months ago – something I would have learned if I were braver and adventurous enough to join these groups before now.

All in all, I’d have to say it has been an interesting experience to see other aspiring authors face-to-face from the local community - to know that I’m not a complete island on this ocean of the authoring adventure. I will most likely return to both of these groups and continue to do so for a time. I have much to learn and perhaps this will offer another avenue to educate myself. Perhaps I’ll even brave bringing in some of my own work for critique – now that’s a scary thought!

Q4U: Have you looked for and/or joined any local writer groups in your area? You might be surprised what you find out, if you’re willing to take the plunge.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Off Week

Well, as much as my loyal fans (both of you, LOL) will be disapointed, I haven't much to write this week.  Truth be told, that "real life thing" has been a bit of trouble over the past several days, and I haven't made much time for writing - including here, unfortunately.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

The Wild Centaur

It’s Wednesday! That means it’s time for another mythological monster. This week: the centaur.

Centaurs are a hybrid creature, a mix of human and equine anatomy. Early depictions of centaurs showed man-like forms with the hind quarters of a horse attached at the waste of the man. It’s no wonder that in later images, and in the most common modern view, this original form migrated to the body of a horse with a man’s torso attached at the equine withers, where the horse’s neck should be. This forms, from the front, a man-like image with the horse’s lower body representing what would be normal human legs.

Like many of the mythological creatures, the exact origin is unknown. The first accountings appear around the Bronze Age and continue through the Roman Empire period of Europe. Some scholars believe the idea of the centaur comes from a non-riding culture seeing men on horseback for the first time. There is some evidence to support this theory. Homer, the author of the Iliad and Odyssey poems, simply calls them “pheres” (or, “beasts”) which could indicate the mythological monster as easily as it could mean savage men riding on beasts. Pindar was the first known author to describe centaurs as an unquestionable combination of man and animal in a single form.

Stories range from poet to poet, but generally, the centaurs began life as decedents of the Greek gods. In one specific variation, Centaurus (the son of Ixion and Nephele - sun and rainclouds) mated with Magnesian mares to produce human/equine offspring while his brother, Lapithus, became the father of the Lapiths race of men.

The most famous story in Greek myth involving centaurs is the war between the half-men and the Lapiths people when the centaurs, on the day of the king’s wedding, made off with their human cousin’s women. The Lapiths would hardly stand by and let this happen, so the two warred with the centaurs losing the battle.

Female centaurs are found first in 4th century BC and are considerably less common than accounts of their male counterparts. Still, they have been found rarely in the poetic record, including Ovid, who mentions a centauress that commits suicide after her husband is killed in the Lapiths war.

Interestingly, the Lapiths tribe of Thessaly, who were the mythological kinsmen of the centaurs as shown above, was described to be the developer of horse-back riding within the fertile crescent of the Mediterranean. It’s said their horses were the descendents of the original centaurs.

In many stories, centaurs represent the untamed, wild spirit of man and animal unified into a single natural force. Sometimes, they are wise and teach mankind - such as Chiron, the great tutor of heroes such as Achilles, Jason, and Heracles. Other times they are bloodthirsty and crave battle, as in the account of the Lapiths war. They are sometimes seen as a metaphor of the struggle between the carnal mature of men against civilization.

One thing is certain. The centaur is a well known mythological creature in modern times. Not a fantasy reader alive doesn’t have an already slanted view of what this being looks like, from Harry Potter to Spell for Chameleon.