Stories and dinner at The Writers Cafe

Samantha Buser of East Islip, looks at her

Samantha Buser of East Islip, looks at her notes as the group critiques Samantha's short story. Burgeoning writers are invited to a monthly dinner-and-writing-seminar at Long Island Cooking, a boutique shop/cooking school in Huntington. Over a meal, the group hears from a published author/writing coach, then moves into critiques of each other's works in progress. (Oct.19, 2012) (Credit: Johnny Milano)

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Samantha Buser, 39, of East Islip, hardly touches her Caesar salad as her five tablemates critique her short story, titled "The Anniversary."

"I thought it was really good," John Ferguson, 29, of Jamesport, says of Buser's yarn about a woman who mourns the loss of a young child. "It's much clearer and easier to follow," continues Ferguson, who, like the other writers in the class, had read an earlier draft at a previous session.

Over the next hour, Buser listens attentively as the others take turns dissecting her prose. They praise her "pacing," "language" and "specific images," but also suggest improvements to a story she says she's already "tweaked several million times."

 

NOT THE SAME OLD STORY

Creative writing can be a lonely pursuit. But at The Writers Cafe, the prose you write in private is shared in public with a willing audience of fellow scribes.

Brian Kelly, 32, of Islip, is a playwright whose work has been presented Off-Broadway. He also teaches creative writing classes at Suffolk County Community College in Selden.

A typical cafe session run by Kelly can include writing exercises, known as "prompts."

"I show them how to use active language," Kelly says. There also are homework assignments to read classic short stories by literary giants such as Raymond Carver. But most of the evening is laser-focused on writings the members have emailed to each other and read before class.

The workshop setting is a leisurely dinner (tonight's menu is salad and pasta) inside a cozy restaurant with quaint art on the walls.

 

LITERARY TOUGH LOVE

Although tonight's comments are good natured and respectful, some are blunt.

Carlo Frank Calo, 65, of Babylon, a retired office manager who also is a memoirist and poet, doesn't pull punches when he comments on Buser's story. "There are some things that you added that I really liked, and some things that I didn't like," he says. Then he gives a detailed critique, referring to notes in the margin of a printout.

"We're all pretty serious about improving," with an eye toward getting published, explains Kelly. His ultimate goal is to "develop a dialogue with fellow writers."

Buser seems delighted with the attention to her work as comments wind down and marked-up manuscripts are handed her way. Says Buser: "I love these people."

 

The Writers Cafe

WHEN | WHERE

Monthly at Patricia's Long Island Cooking, 454 Main St., Islip. Next four-session cycle begins in January.

INFO 516-510-1477, longislandcooking.com

COST $200 for four sessions (includes meals)

 

OTHER WRITING WORKSHOPS

POETRY

WHEN | WHERE 10 a.m.-3 p.m. tomorrow at Canio's Books in Sag Harbor

Poet Marvin Bell presents a master class titled "First, Surprise Yourself." It features a two-hour lecture in the morning, and concludes in the afternoon with a reading and critique of two poems by each participant. It costs $100 and includes a catered lunch. Reservations required.

INFO 631-725-4926

 

THE LONG ISLAND WRITERS' GUILD

WHEN | WHERE Almost weekly at venues such as Book Revue in Huntington and public libraries in East Meadow, Bellmore, Bethpage and Levittown. Workshops are free and open to everyone. Bring poetry, prose, a screenplay or work from any other genre to be read aloud and critiqued by published writers. The guild's website lists workshop dates and times. The next is scheduled for 7 to 9 p.m. Dec. 6 at the Levittown Public Library.

INFO 516-623-0892, liwritersguild.org

 

FARMINGDALE PUBLIC LIBRARY

WHEN | WHERE 7 p.m. Wednesdays

The library hosts free workshops moderated by published Long Island authors. Paula Camacho runs the poetry group, and Judy Turek oversees the writers' group. Sessions are open to writers of any age. Bring your works in progress or just sit and listen to others read their work.

INFO 516-249-9090

Carlo Frank Calo, 65, of Babylon, a retired office manager who also is a memoirist and poet, doesn't pull punches when he comments on Buser's story. "There are some things that you added that I really liked, and some things that I didn't like," he says. Then he gives a detailed critique, referring to notes in the margin of a printout.

"We're all pretty serious about improving," with an eye toward getting published, explains Kelly. His ultimate goal is to "develop a dialogue with fellow writers."

Buser seems delighted with the attention to her work as comments wind down and marked-up manuscripts are handed her way. Says Buser: "I love these people."

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