Writing about talking, talking about writing

Thumbnail image for al-martinez-sketch.jpgThere has been an explosion of writers in Topanga to the point of total saturation, a sudden upswing of the writer population in comparison to the number of real people.

One can compare it if one were old and cynical to the red crab migration on Christmas Island where once a year thousands of the ugly little creatures, maybe even millions, mass inland and head for the sea to do whatever it takes to spawn even more crabs. The journey is painful. They are run over by cars, stepped on by fat people and probably eaten by tourists and impoverished locals.

It is not quite that bad in Topanga. To the best of my knowledge no writer, not even a big, juicy food writer, has ever been eaten by a producer or publisher whose numbers are also increasing, but not like that of the writers.

Our library hosted a gathering of writers here recently and I was told the place was packed. I didn't attend because I was home, what else?, writing. That's what writers are supposed to be doing, even those who just create squibs for mother's day greeting cards.. They don't eat, shower or even brush their teeth. They just write. "I love you, mama, ev'ry day but wish there a better way. Enjoy the diabetic cookies!"

Five years ago when I created the Topanga Writers Workshop there were no writers organizations in the canyon, just individuals with laptops tucked under one arm looking for work at stores or restaurants along the boulevard. I was stopped by a man who, due to my haggard appearance, assumed I was a writer. He pointed to a punctuation mark he had drawn and asked if I knew what it was.

"This?" I said. "Yeah, that little sucker," he replied. "That little sucker is a semi-colon." "What's it for?" "For breaking up thoughts," I said, "or for catching red crabs on Christmas Island. Drop it on the ground and the crabs come a-running. Well, a-crawling anyhow."

My Topanga Writers Workshop meets on Saturday. Its members write, edit and rewrite until each submission is complete and professional and their fingers are bloody. Members of The Topanga Writers Group meet on Sundays, I think it is, and feast on wine and potato chips. They also read their work aloud and hear praise that compares the quality of their writing to that of John Steinbeck or Guy de Maupassant.

I know very little about the third writers organization in Topanga, except that the members wear uniforms, carry side arms and write haiku poetry. They parade every third Sunday of the month and publish a tract called "Haiku for Dummies." It contains no semi-colons.

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