Sunday, July 27, 2014

Write by the Rails 2013-2014 Achievements

As a chapter of the Virginia Writers Club, we've had tremendous success, thanks to our active, vibrant members.  Here are some of the highlights from 2013 until now.

· Chapter member June Forte launched the Prince William Poet Laureate Program, working with PWC Arts Council, Tackett’s Mill and the Clearwater Foundation. On June 14 at the Poetry & Jazz on the Lake event, two Poets Laureate were named to a two-year term: Robert Scott and Zan Hailey.

· The 2014 VWC Scholarship winner and 8 of 10 Teen Golden Nib Contest Winners 2014 were students from Prince William County Public Schools

· Chapter member Pete Pazmino received the Claudia Mitchell Arts Fund award by the Rappahannock Association for the Arts and the Community ($2,100 for a month-long residency at the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts in Amherst, Virginia)

· Chapter hosted a one-day Rising Writers Workshop for teens and young adults on March 29 using a grant from Prince William County. Presenters included Sara Robinson, Sarah Crossland, Robert Scott, Matt Iden, Katherine Gotthardt, Stacy Shaw, Kelly Harmon, Nick and Stacia Kelly and students and alumni of WSHS’s Center for the Fine and Performing Arts (CFPA) Creative Writing Program.

· Chapter led workshops, gallery readings and book sales at Arts Alive! May 3, 2014 - Prince William County Arts Council at the Hylton Performing Arts Center.

· Chapter members Tee Morris and Philippa Ballantine led two workshops, “The Hybrid Author: Combining Traditional and Self-Publishing” and a master class on social media at the at James River Writers March Writing Show in Richmond on March 27-28, 2014. Pip Ballantine presented “Women in Steampunk” at the Library of Congress in April 2014.

· Chapter president Cindy Brookshire received a VWC Special Achievement Award

· Chapter member Patricia Daly-Lipe won the 2013 VWC Summer Shorts Contest (first place, nonfiction, for her essay, “A Journey into the Heart of Creativity”)

· Chapter member June Forte participated in the Woodbridge Writers Retreat

· Chapter hosted a Write by the Rails “Endless Possibilities” Blog Tour for 8 weeks; 16 members participated; a followup podcast outprocessed the experience.

· Monthly chapter meetings averaged 20 to 25 in attendance and featured a guest speaker, from “Couples Who Collaborate” with Tee Morris & Philippa Ballantine (steampunk) and Nick & Stacia Kelly (urban fantasy) to “Inspirational Writing” with Deborah Tompkins Johnson, author of How Did They Do That?

· Chapter’s open group on Facebook increased from 160 to 257 members; website and chapter news on Virginia Writers Club website were maintained and updated with current information on about open mic nights and readings, manuscript groups, opportunities through Northern Virginia Community College and George Mason University; chapter’s gmail account was monitored and queries were responded to; a regular enews was distributed and 1,000 business cards were shared with members.

· Chapter built community partnerships through active membership and participation in the Prince William County Arts Council (Author Nancy Kyme is council treasurer; poet Katherine Gotthardt served on the board two years and has been succeeded by freelance writer Jasmyn Oliver), the Prince William Chamber of Commerce and the Inter-Service Club Council of Greater Manassas.

· Community outreach included hosting weekly meet and greets at local coffee shops and restaurants in Manassas, Gainesville, Occoquan, Lake Ridge, Woodbridge and Haymarket; reading works in historic downtown Manassas at the Harris Pavilion and The Things I Love, leading a children’s journaling project at The Manassas Museum during the Manassas Civil War Weekend, talking to students about writing at the “Welcome Week Community Corner” day at George Mason University’s Prince William Campus, reading and talking about writing to children in schools during National Young Readers Day or at the afterschool literary club at Featherstone Elementary School in Woodbridge or in ESL class at Elizabeth Vaughan Elementary School in Woodbridge; teaching a one-day writing class to members of the Lifelong Learning Institute- Manassas at the Boys and Girls Club in Manassas; participating in a panel during the "You CAN Do Anything Too" Symposium! sponsored by the Neville Empowerment Network Inc.; helping to judge portfolios at the annual 4-H Presentation Night; leading a poetry workshop during National Poetry Month, participating in the Second Annual Local Author Fair at Bull Run Regional Library, and donating baskets of books to be auctioned to benefit local charities like the Rainbow Therapeutic Riding Center and the American Red Cross.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Poo Hoo

by Dani Rogero

I’ve often wondered what goes through an architect’s mind when he designs bathrooms for office buildings. I once had a government job in a relatively new government building. The halls were long and straight, the offices were all of equal size, floor after floor after floor. In the center of each floor, directly across from the elevators and the kitchen, was the entrance to the men’s and women’s bathroom. The design is common enough: an open archway creates an enclosure for two water fountains, and to the left and right a passage lead to the “€” and “” respectively.

From a certain perspective, you might say the structure is similar to a person’s ear canal. It certainly had the same acoustical effect. Sounds drifting down the hallway, from the kitchen, or from groups waiting for the elevator, gather in the enclave—like an ear—and bounce across the tile and ceramic into the very stalls. While the running water in the kitchen sink could serve as an inspiration, hearing your boss discuss the issues of the day so clearly he could be in the stall with you… well that’s completely counter-productive.

The most unsettling seat was definitely the middle stall of that bathroom, the acoustical apex of the loo, where whispers from the hallway reach your ears like a freak exhibition in physics. Who can concentrate on the matters at hand when you’ve got half the office’s voices echoing directly over your head? To make things worse—to really give you a complex—is the idea that if you can hear them, they can hear you. Call it insecurity, call it fanaticism, but when you let rip (…no, not that) the tell-tale tampon wrapper, causing every man in the office to fear a PMS outburst, you turn to the fine arts of stealth bathrooming. Given massive quantities of toilet paper, you can even pee silently.

At least it’s not as bad as those horrid college days when the sounds you make in the john were the least of your problems. Let’s recall the rows of dorm toilets, raised on their tile platforms to maximize the flood damage in case of a clog, the doors crudely labeled with sticky-notes: “pisser, pisser, shitter, pisser, shitter.” The days when your shoes, elevated nine inches higher than the rest of the floor, were on display under the properly labeled stall, letting everyone know what business you were up to. The days when you could step out of a stall and very likely trip over a drunk hall mate, stumble drunk into your resident advisor, or bound half-dressed into someone’s boyfriend (or, on a regular basis one fall term, a guitar player from The Kinks).

In dorm toilets, it wasn’t sound, but silence that struck fear into your hall mates. Silence would make them brush their teeth a little faster, skip 4 steps of their 9-step face regime, all to escape the twitching size six-and-a-half brown tasseled Bass loafers silently peeking out from stall number five, “shitter.”

Maybe it’s me— More to the point, maybe it’s women. Men don’t seem to have sound issues in the bathroom, a cruel lesson I learned during my stint as an editor for a small manufacturing company. The business consisted of a warehouse & production plant full of huge machinery, with a tiny one-story addition for office space. I had a ridiculously small cubicle at the back of the offices, furthest from any natural light. I was in a corner and had two “real” walls, effectively cramming me into a nook directly outside the men’s bathroom.

There were other bathrooms in the plant of course. But this was a small one, with only two stalls, off the beaten path—it was most definitely a “shitter.” If the acoustic tricks of “the ear” design were bad, hollow plaster walls, tile floors, and metal pipes were far worse. From the ugliest grunts, the longest farts, to bare butts squeaking on porcelain seats, the working man’s shitter was a veritable megaphone from the inside out.

I was startled at the occasional “Woah” echoing from inside those walls, which I can only assume meant a poor fellow came dangerously close to blowing an o-ring and was lucky to be alive. A flimsy ¾ wall partition shielded me from the men’s room door, and served as my only protection from putting a man’s face to his sounds.

Obviously, I’m missing something. There’s camaraderie among men when it comes to bathrooms. When two men passed each other entering or exiting the megaphone, I often heard the exchange of a simple “hey”—one a bit anxious, one a bit encouraging—that revealed a moment if you will, that let those two men relate in a shared experience. Women might translate this exchange as, “Glad everything came out ok. You look thinner, refreshed,” with the response, “Thanks, you go on in now and take care of yourself. You deserve it! Good luck.”

Maybe it’s a lack of emotional depth in other areas, maybe it’s the fact that they can pee standing up, but bathrooms seem to bring men closer together. A male co-worker told me a one time, “Hear you’re going with Joe and Wayne to Missouri to pitch the new training contract, congratulations!” I was completely caught off guard. What meeting did I miss? When was I put on that team? “I just saw Chuck in the men’s room. He told me all about it.”

You see, women never experience the notorious men’s room business meeting, when it’s possible that our hard-ass retired Marine Colonel and vice-president of the company, “Chuck,” happy and jovial after a serious sit-down long enough for him to peruse an entire issue of the Marine Corp Gazette, could get chatty with whoever happens to be at the sink washing his hands. I can see it now. Both men emerge from the stalls, adjust their belts, and heave a satisfied sigh. They catch each other’s eyes and, smiling, give a knowing nod that relays this unspoken dialogue: “I’ve killed men before,” says Chuck. “I know,” says his subordinate. “You’re all right, son. I’d shit in the woods with you any time.” They are men, and they have bonded.

Perhaps I am indeed jealous of men for their ability to go to an office bathroom without worrying about what pops, plops, shudders, squeaks, and pbllllllllp’s; jealous of the high powered business deals that I’ll miss until I work for a company that adopts a unisex bathroom policy; upset that I wear a tell-tale 9½ shoe.

Women across the country, even the world, deal with this issue, and it comforts me to think that the Queen of England occasionally takes a copy of The Mirror into the loo. Perhaps we could make women’s bathroom phobias a national awareness issue. Martha Stewart could be our spokeswoman, and write a book on empowering women through fearless bathroom etiquette.

I guess when you really think about it, bathrooms are not the enemy. The fact is, everybody poos. Anyone who says anything different is full of…

Wednesday, July 2, 2014


Rhythmic curves display a woman.
Her silent cries, lay, last words spoken....

To him

Sightless lies, dressed up as truth.
Imprisoned by his prisoned youth
Yet she waits.....

For him

Seething at the brim,
Running from her own skin,
Betrayed again and again......

By him

Dark of night now greeted by the sun.
Nurtures revelations that what's done is done.
She is Elevated with or......

Without him

By: Heather Stevens