Montclair write group sa.., p.3
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       Montclair Write Group Sampler 2016, p.3

           Hank Quense
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  My lack of patience in revising stories made me waste a lot of time and, I'm sure, annoyed a multitude of editors. Whenever I finished a revision, I always enthusiastically thought it was perfect and I sent it off to a market. The only advantage, a dubious one, of this process is that it led to rapid replies, always a rejection and always a pre-printed form or email.

  Gradually, an alternative method took shape. I noticed the rejected stories always had many problems: in the writing style, in the continuity of plot logic and in the characterization and typos to mention a few. Now, I put the just-finished draft away for a time and then read it again. Once the revision is completed, I put it away again. After an interval, I repeat the process. I continue this process until one of two situations occur. The first is that I don't make any additional corrections. The second is a feeling that if I read the story one more time, I'll throw up. When either of these occur, the story is ready to get submitted.

  Editorial replies:

  When I first started writing, replies came back almost instantaneously. At the time, I didn’t realize that the rapidity of the rejection indicated a lousy manuscript. As my skills improved and my experience grew, the response times increased and began to draw comments from the editors. These increases tested my patience and I groused to myself about the inefficiency of the editors. Eventually, I intuited that lengthy intervals meant my story was a contender for a slot in a future edition of the magazine. Alas, from experience, I learned that a lengthy interval could also mean a sick editor, a bankrupt publisher, or a lost submission. All of these things happened to me more than once.

  In conclusion:

  Now that I've developed patience, my writing processes are much more stable and efficient. Frankly, I miss the antsy feelings I used to get while waiting for an editors reply. I also miss the enthusiasm that filled me as I threw myself into a new, and totally incomplete, story idea. As for revising stories over and over, I can't think of anything else that is quite so dull.

  All in all, I find patience isn't as great as it's cracked up to be. While it may indeed be a virtue, it's still pretty boring and a lack of it can make life more interesting.

  Progressive Unveiling

  By Bing Chang

  It is His will. He plans for His truth's progressive unveiling.

  It is His design. He allows for man's progressive understanding.

  He planted a guiding post of light using His chosen people.

  He planted a seed for His only Son in the Hebrew People.

  He circumcised them to secure their fidelity to His holiness.

  He judged but delivered them from adversities as divine witness.


  For a period of 400 years from eighth to fourth centuries BCE,

  Hebrew prophets from Elijah to Malachi revealed His decrees.

  Jeremiah, Isaiah and Daniel unfolded His truth to be fulfilled.

  Prophecies of Elisha, Jonah, Amos, Zechariah, His words instilled.

  Israelites' faith in God laid the foundation of the monotheism.

  Prophets' revelations of God exemplified the essence of Judaism.


  In this same period, God preconditioned all the gentile civilizations.

  Zoroaster, Homer, Socrates, Plato, Aristotle: elite thinkers of conceptions.

  Buddha, Jina, Confucius, Meng-Tzu, Mozi, Lao-Tzu: great sages of wisdom.

  Worldwide intellectuals flourished and guided leaders of major kingdoms.

  God raised the collective human consciousness under His sovereignty.

  He infused divine knowledge into intellectuals on the meaning of humanity.


  Then came the 400 silent years; God let His people grow on their own.

  Persian, Greek and Roman empires conquered territories unknown.

  Qin and subsequent Han dynasties unified China into a centralized society.

  The Mauryan Empire of India enjoyed peaceful and religious sovereignty.

  Consolidated civilization heightened consciousness of spiritual revelation.

  God primed all cultures to receive His message with a proper condition.


  Then John the Baptist initiated the sacred advent of the Christ, His Son.

  Incarnated Godhead declared God's words and divine wisdom to everyone.

  He performed the ultimate sacrifice by defeating death for man's redemption.

  He fulfilled all Prophets' foretelling and testified the truth with completion.

  Paul's miraculous conversion started evangelization into all gentile nations.

  The longest-lasting Roman Empire adopted Christianity as its official election.


  Now, after another 2,000 silent years, though the Gospel reaches all world corners,

  Assorted beliefs abound, false teachings misinform, theologies pursue all manners.

  What is a Christian's primary responsibility expecting the Christ's second coming?

  Besides staying on track of a Christian living, what mission should he be pursuing?

  Would the ecumenical initiative aiming at the church's unity be a most urgent mission?

  Would the interfaith dialogue to gain the absolute truth be a most sacred commission?


  When men's progressive consciousness understands the true meaning of conscience,

  Men of all faiths can venerate the same True God and rest secure in His omniscience.

  Implied truths hidden in manmade religions can be reconciled with the Scriptures.

  God's grace and His universal love will shine in all faiths, all nations and all cultures.

  Thousands of children of Israel in white robes will stand before the throne and the Lamb.

  A great multitude of all nations and tongues will be saved according to God's program.

  Author Bio

  Bing Chang was an IT managing director for JPMorgan Chase. Since his retirement, he has been trying to learn how to write poems and prose. He hasn’t published anything so far, but is interested in the possibility of sharing my thoughts with readers.

  Squeeze, Release and Smile

  By Rosanna Cappelluti

  At the bottom of my junk drawer lies a yellow stress ball with a smiley face. Its inviting smirk teases to be squeezed yet doing so conjures up contradictory feelings. Why would anyone want to squeeze and potentially harm, a smiley face? Wearing a smile on your face, as I have done, doesn’t come without its drawbacks. Though well intentioned, it can sometimes be mistaken for disrespect, despite feelings of anxiousness or embarrassment. Hence, bittersweet memories arise as a result from studying this jovial ball as I: squeeze, release and smile.

  I once had a boss who had such intense power struggles that he felt insulted by my constant positive outlook on the tasks at hand. After all, what was so amusing about photocopying? I quit that job after only three days, his fifth employee within two weeks, and only got paid for two because he compared my cheerfulness to a lack of work ethic. I stood up to a bully that day and should have felt proud but instead I felt guilty for putting on a happy front.

  Years later, I would be working in yet another hostile environment surrounded by the likes of the aforementioned boss. Feeling unappreciated and stuck, I spiraled into a dark world of anxiety attacks. Emotionally drained, I would come home and take my frustrations out on my loved ones, further alienating myself from the people who brought me the most happiness. Yet most of my coworkers never suspected such havoc occurring within me as I greeted them daily with a good morning grin.

  Squeeze, release and smile.

  Smiling can also backfire in the dating world. On the hit TV show “The Bachelor” Ben Higgins asks one of his top three ladies, “You smile a lot; is it to hide behind your true feelings?” Used in this context I find that comment offensive because it picks at her appearance as if he had just called her “overweight.” Would it have been acceptable for her to reply, “You’re gloomy a lot; is it because
you feel sorry for yourself?” Both statements are uncouth, yet one would never suspect his comment as such because it is shielded by the word “smile.” Ultimately, he sent her home and I believe her laughter was the motive behind his decision.

  Similarly, I recall being told that I was “too nice” to date, presumed by the belief that I would never stir the pot or speak up about what I wanted. It’s a comment that has forever scarred me because I have seen over the years how it has been accurate in many instances I faced. For example, there was the crush that put his arm around his girlfriend minutes after he had flirted with me; the same crush that took his “friend” to the prom even though he considered me one of his “best” friends. And still another boy I was smitten with who told me he had found his soulmate and waited anxiously for me to give him my blessings. In all these instances I acted blasé while unintentionally giving them free access to play with my heart. However, I also found a prejudice to that comment that touched upon the core of my personality and for that I’m glad I never changed for any boy simply because he was too scared to accept me for the sincere and loyal partner that I always was and continue to be.

  Squeeze, release and smile.

  I was raised to be kind and thoughtful towards every person I meet and I am proud of my parents for nurturing me with such great values. Now that I am a parent myself, I am even more cognizant of how I behave towards others but try to demonstrate the difference between being compassionate and standing up for myself. For instance, I would encourage my son to be polite and uplifting while delivering a brilliant presentation shortly after a boss had taken his frustrations out on him. But on the other hand, I would dissuade my son from exhibiting an attitude of complete tolerance if a girl should break his heart.

  Each one of us deals with emotions differently but don’t confuse smiling for weakness. Grinning through an unpleasant situation takes great character and composure and is an admirable quality to possess. I do regret smiling in certain situations that were clearly unfitting: the mean boss, the hostile work environment, the player crushes. But I will never apologize for trying to be the better person because even though there are many ways this gesture can backfire, there is no greater pleasure than to receive a smile by someone from whom you least expect it. In the movie “Under the Tuscan Sun,” Frances Mayes (played by Diane Lane) meets her grumpy next door neighbor who never reciprocates her smiles or good mornings; never that is, until one day when he does.

  It is moments like those that solidify the importance of cheerfulness and for that reason I will continue to smile despite the days I’m being squeezed.


  (back to the Table of Contents)

  House for Rent

  By Nancy-Jo Taiani

  (Publishers note: Nancy not only write this story, she did the illustrations. Nancy also did the autumn leaves painting that graces the front cover of the Sampler.)

  Found among the trash and treasures when we first took over the summer lake house, was a simple birdhouse with a small round opening. It was easy to miss at first exploration, hidden as it was beneath the work bench. It was covered with dust and its bottom lay apart on the floor.


  I washed it off, fitted the bottom in place, and decided to brighten it up with a coat of paint before welcoming a feathered family. It was late in the day and we were not staying, so I parked the birdhouse on a cement house ledge that held a pillar of the deck inplace, making a mental note to bring paint next time we came.


  We returned after two weeks, following a spell of wind and rain. I found the birdhouse on the ground at the foot of the pillar. Its bottom and top had come apart in its fall.


  With a sigh, I picked up the pieces, and was astonished to find a small,broken nest within the house. Though there were no eggshells, still I felt sad that I had not fastened the house to the pillar. Either the wind, or my neighbor‛s orange cat, Morris, must have brought it down and shattered the hopes of a bird couple.

  I nailed the roof back on, refitted the bottom and put the nest material back in the box. Since some bird was already interested in the home, I decided not to paint it, but considered tying the box to the same pillar. The ledge of the pillar was only a yard above the ground—low enough to attract Morris, perhaps for a second time. So instead, I secured it with wire to a hook on the bottom of the overhanging deck


  Then I joined my husband by the shore. After a swim I spotted a swallow gracefully swooping over the lake. He was a handsome sparrow-sized bird with a black beak and a white breast. Iridescent feathers on his back broke the sunlight into various shades of blue that blended out to his black wing tips. He landed on a branch of the straggly tree rooted at the water‛s edge.


  Looking back at our house, I saw his mate sitting on the pillar’s ledge where the birdhouse had been. She sat with head bowed, wings hanging limply at her sides. The male tree swallow, for that’s what he was—swooped over to her, chirping, but she remained the picture of dejection. He returned to the tree and called to her again.

  Still she did not move.

  “Look!” I said to my husband, “She wants the box and her nest. But it wasn’t safe there.”

  “Tell that to her,” he said.


  The male flew toward the house again. This time he passed the birdhouse. He

  flew by it again and again. Then, landing on the perch, he tilted his head to look inside.


  He called to his mate. I was certain he was saying, “Look, Sweetie, here’s our home. Come up here and take a look.”

  Sweetie did not budge.

  The tiny male flew back to the tree and made repeated sweeps toward the birdhouse, calling excitedly all the while, “Sweetie! It’s our house! It’s up here! We can build another nest!”


  Sweetie turned to look at him. She shrugged her wings but made no move to leave off her mourning.

  “I hope she changes her mind,” I told my husband. “They’re so pretty. I’d love to see them raise a family here.”


  The male continued his swoops and chirpings. I admired his grace and the iridescent flash of his feathers. But the female would not change her mind. With what I interpreted as a last sigh, she lifted off the ledge and flew past us toward the other end of the lake.

  The male followed.

  They did not return to our house that summer though I did occasionally see the male’s graceful acrobatics over the lake.


  In March, I repainted the birdhouse and added a sign, “For Lease. Cozy,

  convenient, safe from cats. Ready to move in.”

  Then I again fastened the house to the bottom of the deck. What a thrill it was to find, when we returned after the April rains, that a tree swallow family had taken up my offer.


  By Martha Moffet

  The young man, his face and arms dark as toast, leans against the railing of the sixth floor condo and looks out over the empty ocean. It is so hot in South Florida that almost all of the building’s residents have fled, flying north, or, he imagines, going abroad. The glass doors to their terraces are shuttered with hurricane panels.

  Despite the heat, it is the busiest time of year for the young man’s employer. The building’s balcony supports are crumbling, and the entire façade facing the ocean may have to be rebuilt. His T-shirt reads “Concrete Art.”

  The beach is not empty. Two women walk to the edge of the surf and stand ankle-deep where the waves unfurl and empty into a lagoon, its water still as a pond. They talk for a few moments and wade in, through the lagoon and over the sand bar until the water reaches their shoulders. Then they turn and face the beach, their heads rising and falling with the gentle waves. “Old,” mutters the young man, turning back to his work.

  Jane glances back at him. “He’s not paying any attention to us," she says, stripping off
her swimsuit and tying the floating straps around her wrist. Marnie barely hears her as she, too, takes off her suit and sinks into the tepid water.

  This is an old tradition. Every year she and Jane wait for the snowbirds to leave so they can cast off their clothes and swim free, almost the way they cast off their inhibitions and talk, their private conversations drowning around them.

  “Oh, heavenly,” Jane sighs, thrashing to celebrate her freedom and creating eddies in a tall wave that lifts them up high. “This is the time of year when the air and the water feel exactly the same.”

  “Such a bother to suit up, just to walk from the building to the water,” Marnie says. She does gentle jumping jacks, feeling colder water bell up to her crotch, then falling into a blissful float beside her companion.

  Marnie talks quietly about her latest tests and treatment. Jane nods, asking an occasional question. Then Marnie asks Jane about her children. Rachel, Jane’s oldest, lives in California with her screenwriter husband and two children. Jem, her son, lives in Manhattan. He is HIV-positive, but so far has remained healthy, If his wild adolescence had not been past by the time the newer, careful lifestyle—with its emphasis on safe sex—was introduced, Jane thinks he would not have exposed himself so recklessly. Marnie is not so sure.

  “It’s true that you rarely hear gay men regretting that kind of wild abandon, if they had a time like that in their lives,” Jane concedes. It’s as if it were their great moment of freedom, and they can’t repudiate it.”

  “Who could?” asks Marnie.

  The women keep talking, and the sun advances. The young man shifts to another floor and glances down at them again, this time seeing the bright bathing suits floating behind them like Portuguese men-of-war. “Oh, ladies!” he says aloud, as he tests another concrete support.

  The sun is past its meridian now and right in their faces. Jane feels a burn across her forehead. “Have we had enough?” she asks. Marnie turns to reel in her swimsuit and points: “Look! Look out there. The line of the horizon really is a line. It’s dark blue, like ink, as if someone took a pen and drew it.”

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