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       Montclair Write Group Sampler 2016, p.1

           Hank Quense
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Montclair Write Group Sampler 2016
Montclair Write Group Sampler 2016


  Published by Strange Worlds Publishing

  Copyright 2016 Hank Quense

  All Rights Reserved.

  Thank you for downloading this free book. You are welcome to share it with friends. This book may be reproduced and distributed for non-commercial purposes, provided the book remains in its complete original form. Thank you for your support.

  ISBN 9781310046711

  First Publication 2016









  Author Listings

  About This Book


  (back to the Table of Contents)

  By Hank Quense

  The beginnings of the Write Group are lost in the mists of the past and go all the way back into the last millennium. The legends say that in the beginning a small band of plucky writers gathered in the Montclair Library to form a support group and to comment on each others' work.

  From this humble start, the Write Group grew. And grew. And grew. Today, it has over four hundred members. Every week, these members get an email that lists the activities scheduled for that coming week. These activities may include poetry meetings, support group meetings, memoir meetings, novel writing meetings, one-act plays and a host of other activities. The total activities each month often exceed thirty.

  As the membership grew, naturally some of the members moved out of area and the state and even out the country. These vagabonds stay in touch with the group and sometimes join a meeting via Skype.

  The odd thing about the Writing Group is this; there is no one in charge! There is no president or board of directors, or even dues. It just functions really well through the efforts of volunteers such as the eighteen Write Group members who worked on this Sampler and whose efforts made it possible.


  (back to the Table of Contents)

  This book didn’t happen by accident. It required a lot of work by a lot of people performing a lot of tasks. Voluntarily! These volunteers and their assignments are listed below.

  Project Director:

  Hank Quense

  Submissions Managers:

  Nancy Taiani:

  Niraj Shah


  Donna O’Donnell Figurski

  Rose Blessing

  Keith Biesiada:

  Mirela Trofin

  Dilis Burke

  Paula Maliandi

  Erin Roll

  Nancy Taiani

  Joel Foulon

  reg e gaines

  Ron Bremner

  Copy editors:

  Martha Moffet

  Helen Lippman

  Dilis Burke

  Barbara Witmer

  Formatting & Production:

  Hank Quense


  Strange Worlds Publishing

  The cover was designed by Gary Tenuta, a cover artist who creates all the Strange Worlds Publishing covers. Visit Gary’s website by following this link:

  The autumn leaves painting on the cover is called Autumn Breeze and is an original work by Nancy Taiani. Nancy says the leaves are as diverse as the writing in this edition of the Sampler.

  Nancy-Jo Taiani lives in New Jersey with her husband of 38 years. She enjoys painting, writing, gardening, and hiking in the spare time left from advocating for the environment and social justice.

  Nancy-Jo's watercolor and acrylic paintings have been exhibited in various venues. Her books, Healing Father John - A Journey of Contrariness, Connection and Change, about her relationship with a charismatic and capricious priest and A Night of Power: A Ramadan Story, an illustrated book to introduce 7 to 10 year-olds to the Muslim holy month, are available on


  (back to the Table of Contents)

  Red Scare in Newark

  By Helen Lippman

  Sixty-one years ago, in the spring and summer of 1955, the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) held hearings in Newark. Harold Lippman, a Newark physician, former Army captain—and my father’s younger brother—was one of more than thirty men and women hauled in for questioning.

  Like my uncle’s three children, I was a red-diaper baby. My parents belonged to the American Communist Party throughout my childhood, and in 1955, I committed a treasonous act of my own. I was seven.

  During a sleepover at my best friend’s house, I defied my parents, passing on my rudimentary understanding of what they had taught but forbidden my sister and me to tell: the countries everyone thought were bad were really good because people there shared everything equally. We had no idea why that was deemed by some to be a bad thing. All we knew was that to talk about it could bring us ruin. My indiscretion so terrified me that I never said a word about my family’s Communist beliefs for the next twenty years.

  I didn’t know about my uncle’s brush with HUAC until someone read from a transcript of the hearing at his eighty-seventh birthday party in 2002. McCarthyism and the Red Scare had long since lost their grip on the country, but I was still shocked by the boldness of Harold’s testimony nearly half a century earlier.

  When told by an HUAC investigator that “we were reliably informed you were the chairman of the doctors’ cell of the Communist Party in Newark,” he calmly replied, “I didn’t say that,” then reprimanded his interrogator for posing more than one question at a time.

  “Are you withdrawing all other questions?” he demanded when asked whether he was a member of the Communist Party. After multiple reassurances that this was indeed the case, Harold took another tack: “Then I must decline to answer on the grounds that the very existence of this committee is a violation of the fundamental doctrine of separation of powers upon which our democracy is based…”

  He went on to assert that HUAC was violating Article III of the Constitution, as well as the First, Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, Eighth, Ninth and Tenth Amendments. When he began ticking off the provisions of the First Amendment, the committee chair interjected, “Just say ‘the First Amendment.’ We know what it contains. We are lawyers, and you are a doctor.”

  That quieted Harold not at all. He continued his litany of reasons not to respond, including a “fundamental American right” to be left alone. When it became evident that further dialogue would only yield more of the same, the interrogators dismissed him and called the next witness.

  My uncle’s picture appeared on the front page of The Newark Star-Ledger soon after, along with photos of three Newark teachers who also testified. All three pleaded the Fifth and lost their jobs. Not so for Harold, as there was no one to fire him. He was a self-employed general practitioner with a constantly crowded office on Newark’s Elizabeth Avenue, committed to caring for city residents even when they couldn’t afford to pay.

  Like most Americans subpoenaed by HUAC, Harold was accompanied by and was allowed to confer with an attorney. But the lawyers were forbidden to address the committee and could be cited for contempt of Congress for failure to abide by the House rules. Witnesses who refused to answer questions put before them or to name names faced contempt charges and possible imprisonment as well.

  But the infamous blacklist was a far more common and insidious consequence.

  Hollywood’s blacklist achieved notoriety in 1947, when ten prominent screenwriters and directors were banned from working in the entertainment industry. Within a few years, the names of dozens of actors, writers and musicians were added to
the list. The Red Scare continued throughout the 1950s and, although a precise number of those affected is impossible to come by, an estimated ten thousand Americans lost their jobs—and their livelihoods.

  After the teachers were fired, Newark’s seven thousand city employees were ordered to sign loyalty oaths and fill out questionnaires about present and past affiliations. No sooner had the forms been handed out than the city council did an abrupt about-face. The requirement was tabled, according to The New York Times, because the council member who had initiated it objected to asking staffers about their participation in any of the organizations on the US attorney general’s “subversives” list.

  Newark academics were targeted, too, as were tenants. The state supreme court upheld a decision by Newark College of Engineering to fire a faculty member who refused to sign a loyalty oath. Rutgers University announced automatic dismissal of any faculty member belonging to the Communist Party and forced out three professors. The Newark Housing Authority threatened to evict two tenants who refused to swear they did not belong to subversive groups.

  Harold Lippman, meanwhile, practiced medicine in Newark for decades. Shortly after the birth of his grandchildren, he wrote them a letter describing his experiences in World War II, when he landed at Omaha Beach in Normandy one day after D-Day and served as a medic. He was awarded a Bronze Star, a Presidential Unit Citation and a Combat Medical Badge, among other commendations. When he died in 2005 at eighty-nine, Dr. Lippman received a military burial at Tahoma National Cemetery in Kent, Washington—a fitting farewell for an American who loved his country and worked tirelessly to make it better.

  Portrait of the Station, Frankfurt, 2013

  By Rose Blessing

  The arriving Deutsche Bahn train noses itself into the gleaming gray and white embrace of the Frankfurt airport station platform area with a whoosh and a squeal. Train doors smoothly swish and click themselves open. Passengers wrangle suitcases, backpacks, tickets, coats and children out of the train and then file across wide strips of polished white tiles. Shrieks of braking trains follow the arrivees up the ridged steps of escalators into a cavernous main hall.

  An arch of glass and steel hugs this upper level; morning sun peers in. Travelers, some streamlined, some hindered by luggage as heavy as themselves, scurry to and from the corridors that lead to local city trains, the airport or the parking lots. Knots of people fall out to embrace each other, kiss cheeks, shake hands or bow, as nationalities and relationships demand. Cell phones illuminate bent faces.

  Elevated squeaks and baritone beats of varying languages, as in a James Bond movie scene, ricochet about the station. Above the clunk-ka-thunk of rolling luggage floats the musical, elaborately enunciated German language, crunched by loudspeakers, reverberating from the curved ceiling and seconded by a British English translation. The posh disembodied voices announce the arrivals, departures and postponements of trains to and from the great cities of Europe—Munich, Paris, Rome, Amsterdam—in matter-of-fact tones, as if such travel were an everyday occurrence.

  Awesome Is the New Okay—and Other Obsequious Responses

  By Ethel Lee-Miller

  Although I appreciate the sleekness, efficiency, and rapid pace of texting, RUOK? ETA5. ATM. LOL, I am still loyal to the old-fashioned method of talking on the phone. The phone is my friend. I use it for actual conversation, to give or get information. If I can’t place an order online, or have not received an item, I pick up the phone and call.

  And here is where I have discovered that there are qualities I possess that are awesome.

  I’m tracking down a missing order from … well, it doesn’t matter from where the item was ordered. What matters now is it’s supposed to be at my home and it’s not.

  I am on the phone with a customer associate whose script allows for some deviation. When Sean tells me his name and that he will help me, he also responds to my, “Hi, Sean, how are you today?” (I want to get results and know building relationships is important).

  “I’m cool,” he replies. I’ve got a live one here.

  We establish that I’m looking for my promised package and that yes, he can, and WILL help me with that.

  “But first,” Sean says, “let me just bring this up on my screen. Your name?”

  “Ethel …” I hear the click click clicking of his keyboard.

  “Ah, here we are. Address?”

  I tell. And he says, “Awesome.”

  At first I think he has some Tucson living in his life experience, or dreams of escaping another winter of where he is currently hunkered over his desk in Minnesota, or Canada, or New Jersey. But with each subsequent request—phone, order number, size—he tells me, “That’s awesome.”

  Gone is okay, thank you, or got it. It’s awesome. Is he of the generation where parents praised every nuance of their child’s life with escalating compliments?

  “You ate all your dinner. Great!”

  “You picked up your clothes. Good work.”

  “You brushed your teeth. Wonderful.”

  “You breathed in and out? Awesome!!”

  By the time Sean has tracked my order, I am just about ready to believe this product is awesome, he’s awesome, and I’m awesome. He promises me it will be at my doorstep tonight at 6 p.m. Great. We bid adieu. And there is an almost instant follow-up email confirming our conversation and resolution to my problem. I can’t resist a reply. AWESOME!!!

  Not only am I awesome but also I suspect my processing, communication skills, and taste in food are approaching perfect. My husband and I like to eat out a lot. We can cook. And we do cook. We alternate cooking simple, nutritious meals for each other.

  Some evenings we agree. “Let’s just go out.”

  We live in Tucson where multiple restaurants are vying to fulfill our appetite wishes. Burgers, wraps, steak, patio dining, pasta, Thai, Italian, Southwest, organic, gluten-free, or carb-laden. We’ve got it all. Each of these establishments is nearby, quick, not too expensive, and usually employs youngish servers. Almost all employees in Tucson are youngish in comparison to our “maturing” ages.

  Lately it seems no matter what we order, we’re told that it’s “perfect.” The first time I heard that my order of pumpkin spice soup was perfect, I thought it was the chef’s special. But my scallops, side of broccoli, and house salad were perfect, too. “Perfect” brings my choices, my wants and food desires to a level that makes my taste buds tingle.

  But I cannot help leaning towards cynicism at this obsequious treatment. Did the servers all take the same server training course? Were they told, “Ditch that boring ‘okay,’” or the more bland response, a simple nod?

  Server, if you are really into it, diversify your acknowledgment. Pull up that mental vocabulary file from your high school class or college application. Make my choice “sparkling,” “delicious,” “inspired.” Yes, it’s a compliment to my good judgment. But there is also an implied contractual agreement in progress here. The establishment must plan and cook, and you, Server, must place that turkey, cheese, and lettuce wrap in front of me with a flourish. You must live up to this expectation, so that when I take that first bite, I’ll close my eyes, lean back in rapture and breathe, “Perfect.”

  Author Bio

  Native New Yorker and retired New Jersey teacher and counselor, Ethel Lee-Miller now resides in Tucson, AZ. Beginning her writing career in New Jersey included being a charter member of The Write Group.

  She is the author of Thinking of Miller Place: A Memoir of Summer Comfort, relating her idyllic childhood with her identical twin. A reprint of Thinking of Miller Place includes a new cover, updates on “the Finns,” and Reading Group Guide. Seedlings—Stories of Relationships is a humorous, yet finger-on-the-pulse-of-relationships collection of short stories.

  Ethel also shares her experiences through public speaking presentations, Odyssey Storytelling, and coaching services for emerging writers.

  She is active in the Arizona writin
g community—as Tucson representative for the International Women’s Writing Guild, hosts Writers Lunch and Writers Read, and is founder of The Eastside Writing Room, an interruption-free haven for writers.

  Aaron in Memoriam: From Trashman to Mayor

  By Sue Fine

  (Excerpt from memoir in progress: Confessions of an Executrix: A Collection of Essays and Letters to My Late Father )

  Dear Dad,

  Did I ever mention that when I was 13, I realized you were not immortal? Don’t worry about answering. I know I never did.

  Your mortality. I mentioned it at your memorial service, the one we had over your dead body. I know. You wouldn’t have allowed us to have the service.

  You’d have said, “Too much fuss, too complicated, I don’t want you to do that, OK? OK!”

  That last “OK” was always your final word in a conversation when you decided something was out of the question.

  Who spoke?

  Mark’s lover, Philip, was the emcee—Mark whom we knew since I was in high school, before he came out. Mom was the first person he told. I was jealous that he didn’t tell me. Our dear Mark was one of so many who fell victim to the AIDS epidemic in the ‘90s. Knowing Philip has been a link back to Mark, whose absence takes on form in the space between Philip and me like a missing piece of a puzzle.

  Gerry spoke first. Of course, he arrived on “Gerry Time.” I don’t know if you or Mom invented that term, but it has stuck with those you left behind. I don’t have to remind you that Gerry is someone who needs 25 hours in a day and eight days in a week to accomplish half the good deeds he sets out to do. He was one of your dearest friends. He always offered to help you. He would schedule an hour and a day—for instance, Tuesday at 3 pm—to set up your new flat screen TV, but the Tuesday might become a Thursday and the 3 p.m. an 11. You would say, “Well, Gerry said he’d be here tonight, but of course that’s in Gerry time, so who knows.”

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