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WNWG Presents
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WNWG Book Showcases Diversity small book WNWG Presents

The Walrus newspaper, November 23, 2006 print edition

by Brooke Slanina

Posted on The Walrus The Blog by lennycrist on November 29th, 2006
In Noise Feature from 11/23/2006 print issue
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With the holiday season fast approaching, I’m sure you’re all scrambling for thoughtful, original gifts. Maybe you even feel like funding the local economy this year and have decided to buy every present from a local artists, craftsperson, or business. That’s nice of you.

If you read the profile directly next to this article, you will know already that The Wednesday Night Writer’s Group (WNWG to you, mister) has just published a new collection of short stories, entititled “WNWG Presents a Collection of Short Stories from the Wednesday Night Writing Group.” Long title, lacks originality, but at least you know what you’re getting. It’s a good-sized book (190 pages), and it’s filled with stories by four different authors who utilize four distinct styles, so there’s bound to be something that appeals to you.

The book is published by the online company, which allows publishers to produce any amount of books they like. The upside to this is that you can publish only a few books at a time. The downside is that they do not offer editing services, and maybe it’s just the English teacher side of me, but I noticed a few basic errors within the text of this book.

The font size of the book is a large size, which is nice for older readers who struggle with small print, but a bit off-putting for me because I felt like I was reading a book intended for sixth-graders. The big font always throws me for a loop.

My major complaints with the book lie in appearance, and they say you should never judge a book by its cover. While the content of “WNWG Presents…” isn’t the most original prose you’ll ever read, it definitely pushes experimental boundaries of writing. Some of the stories seem a bit rehearsed, like they were ripped off from a writing class prompt, but the authors persevere with such sincerity and passion that it doesn’t matter. After all, these prompts exist to spur writers in creative directions.

The book is divided by author, but it might as well be divided by genre. The first author, Joseph Arrowsmith, writes very folkloric stories. Some of his stories are connected by the same small town of Homily, Kansas. The first story, “Leo’s Gift,” kicks off the book with a plethora of description and flashbacks. The protagonists of his works are almost always males, and the stories are told by an unseen narrator. Arrowsmith works with a nice cadence, playing with words and rhythm to maximize description. “Taps” is a touching tale of a war widow and her young grandson, but “The Prize” is a one-page gem that packs a great wallop in a very small space.

K.W. Koocher’s stories are next in line, and they are sure to dazzle any reader who favors horror stories. “Charlie’s End” and “Down to One” offer gory accounts of an apocalyptic future riddled with zombies. She also tackles gore with the most delightful sense of irony and humor. “Christmas Dinner with Jim and Liz” is sure to get any woman in the mood for cooking another holiday dinner, and “The Positive Power of Preyer” plays on words to tell the tale of a family of religious zealots. She switches between narration and first-person point of view, so her stories offer the most variety of all authors in the book.

Anthony Marchionda, Jr. crafts stories that might appeal most to fans of spy novels. “Secret Agent” plays on the old James Bond adage, and even “Writer’s Cramp,” which garnered him an honorable mention in the Best of Ohio Writers 2005 Contest, employs a similar style. “Animal Behavior” is slightly different as it imagines an exchange of twisted dialogue between a domestic dog and cat.

Lawrence Payne’s section showcases his talent for crafting carefully detailed characters and tackling controversial ethical topics. “An Exercise in Power” examines how far a religious teen will go to campaign for her beliefs; “The Night Weights Heavy” recounts the regrets of a man whose actions resulted in a dead family. “A Drink from the Well of Inspiration” tackles the thoughts that run through a writer’s head as he battles writer’s cramp, and the lengths he is willing to go to escape it.

Each story is accompanied by an individual illustration from Diana Ludwig. Standouts include the pieces that precede “Taps” (a detailed portrait); “Charlie’s End” (a zombie, clad in a patriotic t-shirt, clawing at a chain link fence); “The Strange Prophecy of Nuclear Kittens (a city street shadowed by a nuclear power plant and thick power lines); and “An Exercise in Power” (an angry teenage girl calling a mob of small figures to action). Her drawing for “The Prize” is especially remarkable because of the fantastical detail.
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Overall, the book offered a nice refuge from the rushings of reality. It fit easily into my purse, so I could carry it with me and pop it out whenever I had a spare minute to read. The stories fly by as you’re reading but leave you with strong images that are echoed and jostled by everyday occurrences.

Brooke Slanina

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Diana Ludwig 2411 Belltown Road Clarington, PA 15828   330-530-2659