One of the best author experiences I’ve had is participating in the Oak Hill Young Writers Club author talks. Anything I can do to encourage kids to express themselves though writing, or any art form, is very fulfilling to me. 

    Karen Witham, is one of the adult leaders who gives her time and energy to making the writers club a nurturing and safe place for students to participate. While at the author talks, I have been able to get to know Karen, and learned about her own personal writing. She was willing to share some of her writings with me, and I asked to share this story on the blog. I’m very happy to say she is allowing me to bring her writing to you. 

                 Here is a short story written by Karen called,

                              “The Hot And The Bothered”

                                    ©Karen Witham 2016

    Brimley looked deeply into Beatrice's eyes. Framing her creamy face with his manicured hands, he leaned forward until their lips met and pulled her into his arms, kissing her hungrily.

  "Cut! That's a wrap, folks! A good day's work. Have a nice evening. See you at 7:00 in the morning." The spotlights blinked off and suddenly the set was full of people. 

    Veronica LaMonica jerked free, "Honestly, you oaf! Do you have to eat garlic before our lovemaking scenes? It's disgusting!" She stormed off the set leaving Torn Sheet standing alone. 

    "Yeah, well you're no heart throb either, Ronnie!" He yelled after her. "What a bitch!" 

    The cast of The Hot and the Bothered slowly dispersed for the evening. It had been a long day with several takes, but the next day's show was finally in the can. It had been very tense on the set since Veronica LaMonica and Torn Sheet had both been nominated for Emmy's. If only one of them won, it would be hell to pay for everyone. Cast and crew members hoped neither would win. That way, they could pout for awhile and then get on with it. 

    At home that night, Veronica slipped into a hot tub and hoped to wash away the frustrations of her day. Candles burned around the enormous bathroom as she relaxed with the magic fingers of the jacuzzi. Cucumber slices adorned her eyes, a glass of wine at her fingertips. 

    When the front door slammed, she tried not to react. She knew a confrontation was coming, and frankly, she just didn't have the energy. Her husband entered the sacred ground of her bathroom and boomed loud enough
for all the neighbors to hear, "Do you really have to humiliate me in front of the entire crew? Damn it, Ronnie, don't you have any sensitivity in that self-centered, shrewish body of yours?" 

    Veronica lifted one cucumber to stare into the eyes of her very handsome husband. "Torn, darling, get a grip. I'm sorry if I embarrassed you. It's just so disgusting to kiss you when garlic is oozing from your every pore. Now do be a love and wash my back." 

    Torn Sheet turned to leave the bathroom, and then turned back. "Damn it, woman. You drive me crazy!" With that, he tore off his clothes and dove into the tub. "I'll give you garlic breath!" Taking Veronica forcefully by the 

    shoulders, he kissed her hard on the mouth. She squealed and tried to pull away. Then magically, her arms went around his neck and she drew him closer. He took her there in the jacuzzi, the water rushing around and over
their bodies. 

    Exhausted, they lay back laughing. "You are an animal, my love," she said leaning back against him. His lips touched her hair; his hands gently stroked her breast. 

    "It's you that brings out the animal in me, Ronnie. My God but I love you." 
They spoke no more that evening about what had occurred on the set earlier. Neither could bring himself to discuss the real problem. 

    As Torn grew a little grayer at the temples and small crow's-feet creased his rugged tan face, Veronica felt he'd never been more virile, more appealing. Yet she felt time was being less than kind to her. The aging process only
managed to make her look more matronly. To win the Emmy would cement new roles for her. Once the ingénue roles were no longer offered, there would be character parts in the future that could be equally as rewarding. 

    "Damn it! Why is it so unfair? Torn will be able to play romantic, leading-man roles for years to come." She almost hated him for becoming more attractive with time. She wondered how long it would be before the sweet young things on the set would turn his head, if they hadn't already. The Emmy for him could mean disaster for her. It would only draw more of the chippies out of the woodwork. There were times she wished they were still Lorna Duffy and Howard Weeks back in New York waiting tables and writing greeting cards. 

    The night of the Emmy Awards, Veronica paced their bedroom nervously. She felt her whole future was at stake. Torn, splendid in his tuxedo, took her hands in his and kissed them sweetly. "You've never looked lovelier, my beauty!" He saw the agony in her eyes. "Ronnie, listen to me. It's only a statue. It doesn't mean anything. Please, darling, don't place so much importance on it." 

    "It's important to you, too," she cried. "Don't try to deny it! I just fear winning the Emmy will be the beginning of the end for us. You'll succumb to one of those cute little hard bodies some day. I can't compare to them any
more." Veronica was overcome with grief. Torn knew better than to be baited into this debate. He never won and only succeeded in making his wife more insecure. 

    Later, as the Emmy winners were announced one by one, Veronica grew more grim. At last the nominees were named for the best actress in a daytime series. "And the winner is .. " Veronica closed her eyes, her breath slow and shallow. "Beatrice Chamberlain from The Hot and the Bothered, our own, wonderful Veronica LaMonica!" 

    Could it be? Did she really hear her name? Torn gave her a swift kiss and nudged her in the direction of the stage. The short path to the podium seemed like an endless corridor. Her peers were on their feet applauding
warmly. "They still love me. My God, they still love me!" She was overcome with joy and astonishment. Her speech was grateful and loving, and she was back in her seat before she knew it. Her heart was full. 

    "Best actor in a daytime series ... " she heard the presenter say. In spite of fearing the loss of her husband, she wanted the award for his sake. 

    "Well, folks, it's a clean sweep. Brimley Bartholomew ... Torn Sheet to those who love him. It's only fitting that Beatrice and Brimley win here tonight. Veronica and Torn are the perfect couple on and off the screen." 

    Torn ambled to the podium. He knew only too well of his wife's trepidations. As he got to the microphone, he saw the look of pride and adoration in her eyes. Extending his hand toward her, he said, "Darling, won't you join me to share this." Taken totally by surprise, Veronica was coaxed to the stage to join her husband. Looking out at the audience, Torn said, "I want to thank you all for recognizing my hard work and devotion to my art. And,
more than that, I want to thank my beautiful bride. Without her, I would be nothing." Looking into her tear-filled eyes, he said, "My darling, I am what I am because of you, and I intend to spend the rest of my life making you believe

    Brimley and Beatrice ... Torn and Veronica ... Lorna and Howard kissed unabashedly and walked off the stage arm in arm. 

                                  Hopefully, to be continued…

    Thank you Karen, for sharing your writing with us. I hope we see more of your writing in the future. The kids of the Oak Hill Young Writers Club are very fortunate to have you.  

   Because of our obsession with climbing many of the 4000 foot mountains of the New Hampshire, our travels have brought us to, “The Maia Papaya” again. We were in search of coffee, good food, and humanity, while we planed our next hike. The Maia Papaya did not let us down. Coffee, check, smooth and hot. Good food, check, breakfast burrito to die for. Humanity, check, we were introduced to the newest artist, "Greg Williams", who's work is on display this month and next.

   Meeting Greg was completely serendipitous. My wife and I were commenting on how cool the new artwork in the cafe was, when the owner points to a man enjoying breakfast and informed us that this was the artist. After a short introduction, we asked Greg to join us. It did not take long to realize Greg is a man of many passions. 

   Greg is not only an artist, but owns a Dojo and teaches martial arts. He spoke of his love for teaching and inspiring the students at his Dojo. I could feel his pride when he talked about working with at risk kids. Gregs experience in his youth of living in New Zealand, reminded me of my through hike of the Appalachian trail. We discussed finding ourselves, me on the trail, and he living in New Zealand. His art displayed at Maia Papaya is there to help bring awareness and resources to the heroin epidemic within his community. This, in my opinion, makes him a true human being. He is taking the kind of action that actually helps people, and bring awareness of the problem.

   This man of many talents has also done what many teenage kids dream of. He was a stunt fighter in the movies. How cool is that? This summer has been a whirlwind of experiences for my wife and I, and Greg has been one of the coolest. I hope that he, and his artwork, keep inspiring us all. 

   Anyone wishing to see the artwork on display can go to” The Maia Papaya” on route 302 in Bethlehem, New Hampshire. The Artwork will be on display from August to September.

Oak Hill Middle School

Just a few days ago, I was given the opportunity to speak at the Oak Hill Middle School in Sabattus, Maine. This has been the best experience I have had as a writer so far in my short career. 

It all started when I replied to Melissa Haskell Ayres’ Facebook post asking for authors to join in for a writers talk at her school. It took me many hours of lamenting before I was brave enough ask to be included in the event. After a short conversation with Melissa, she welcomed me to the event. 

Now the nervousness really started to kick in. I had just volunteered myself to speak in front of middle school kids for an hour of talks. I was going to have to step up to the plate and show my stuff. Nothing in my carpenter career was going to be of use to me now, but my recent stage performances as a musician would be paramount in helping me through this. 

I was hoping the kids would have lots of questions and I wouldn’t have to rely on prepared material too much. Just in case though, I made an outline of the things I thought were most important in writing. 

After following Garmina’s mechanical voice instructions, I arrived at the school. Melissa found me at the front desk and led me to the other authors. I was introduced to Gail Van Wart, April Wood, John Hodgkins, Jane Harvey-Meade, and Keith & Theresa Evans. Keith, Theresa, and Melissa were the founders of the Oak Hill Young Writers Club.   I had not met these authors before, but they greeted me warmly and we made small talk until it was time to go to our assigned classrooms. 

I was brought to a good size room and left alone to await the kids’ arrival. There I was standing alone with no other person to prompt or guide me. I thought to myself, ‘Dear God, what have I gotten myself into?’ The bell rang and kids started to fill the room; and I do mean fill. There were so many kids that a third of them had to stand along the walls. A little relief came as I saw some teachers enter the room. At least I wouldn’t be totally alone. 

After the room completely filled, one of the teachers said, “you’re on.” I did my best to hide my deer in the headlight eyes. I jumped right in introducing myself and asking for questions. The cricket chirps were a good indication this was not going to be a question and answer kind of talk. I quickly went to plan B. I picked up my keyword outline and jumped in. That outline was the biggest butt saving thing I have ever done. I went through the talking points I had on the sheet and got a few questions. Just as I was running out of material, the bell would ring, and the whole process began again. 

I cannot speak for the kids, but I think it went well. I have to give them credit. They were listening to an old guy talk about writing. This was not an activity they had chosen to come to, and they had multiple authors to see over the next hour. I was amazed at how well they kept it together to listen to me for 20 minutes. I don’t think I would have done as well in my middle school days. As with any large group, there were a few kids who were interested in writing and they asked most of the questions. My hope is that some of the things I had to say may stick with the kids. 

After the final bell rang, the authors settled into the cafeteria. Several of the kids from the writing club came and visited with us. They asked questions and did interviews. I wish I had their ability at that age. I was very impressed. One of the students passed her writing on to me to look at. This was an honor I was not expecting. After looking at her work I am jealous of her ability. She will be schooling us before she realizes it.   

Melissa had a last surprise for us. She presented each author with a beautiful journal, a young writers club pen, and a gift certificate to a local restaurant. This was icing on the cake. 

Thank you Young Writers’ Club, Oak Hill Middle School, and especially Melissa for this experience. I hope your writers’ club will catch on with other schools in Maine. I believe we need to give kids more outlets for self-expression besides phones, and computers. This is not limited to writing. So many of the arts need to be promoted; painting, sculpture, theater, photography, music and of course writing. 

      I am adding Norway Savings Bank to the list, 'friends of ‘The Flame’. I have been a long time member of the Norway Savings Bank. For those of you who are local to me, this means right back to the days of Brunswick Savings. 

     On a recent visit to the bank, I was of course talking about my book. One of the tellers said she would love to read the book and did I have any copies. I said I did and returned a short while later with a signed book. Everyone at the bank was supportive and encouraging. 

     The branch manager approached me and told me that Norway Savings Bank supports local artists. She then offered me a prominent place to display my book for the other customers to view. 

      I was over the moon and quickly went home to create a small wooden display box. The next day after the finishing oil was dry, I brought it to the bank. True to their word, I was allowed to put the book display in a good spot. 

    Thank you Norway Savings Bank for supporting me and many other local artists. You are truly friends of "The Flame". 

     Just two days after the book went live, the editor and I took a hiking trip to the AMC Madison Hut in the White Mountains of NH. Even as I write this post, my exuberance since the moment the book launched has not diminished. I, much to my wife's chagrin, talked about and promoted the book at every opportunity. 
     Two of the kindest people we met, Knock On Wood & Honeybuns, agreed to have this picture taken at the hut with the book. They too are on an adventure - a thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail from GA to ME, just like I did years ago. I will now be following the blog of their journey. 
    Thank you very much Knock On Wood & Honeybuns. You're great people!