The First Thanksgiving 1621
Painting by JLG Ferris, 1932 in Library of Congress/ Creative Commons license
“Gratitude is a divine emotion. It fills the heart, not to bursting; it warms it, but not to fever. I like to taste leisurely of bliss. Devoured in haste, I do not know its flavor.”
“What if today, we were just grateful for everything?”
Dear Women, Who Write—
Before musing on Thanksgiving, you need to know the next Women Who Write meeting, on Tuesday, November 8, will be at the St. Matthews public library at 3940 Grandview Ave. Louisville, Kentucky 40207. Our usual spot is unavailable. Yes, we know this is Election Day. Perhaps we can bask together in a pleasant aura of having been good citizens.
Thanksgiving is so often romanticized. Some of us remember dressing like pilgrims. Others of us fashioned crayoned turkeys out of our handprints or created “feathered” construction paper headdresses. The occasion has become a cliché of images not reflective of the real event—celebrated as a harvest festival in 1621, one year after the Mayflower landed.
Half of the original passengers on the Mayflower died of scurvy, starvation, and disease during the first year, having survived a “long beating at sea,” on a ship that “fell amongst dangerous shoals and roaring breakers”(History.com). More than 100 passengers landed two-hundred miles north of their destination on November 11, 1620. The rest survived because of the agricultural knowledge of the native Wampanoag natives. Without these indigenous people, the stories we tell would have differed.
Surely there was much to be grateful for at the first celebration of the harvest and fellowship—namely life.
Why is the stereotyped occasion of Thanksgiving pertinent to the writing life? The answer is SCENE. Dinner tables are ripe for storytelling. Food engages the five senses. Tension develops from what is said, and not said. Imperfect people arrive by choice or familial obligation—persons who don’t necessarily share appetites or politics or family history or favorite dishes or a love of football. To writers, the dinner table is a writable feast.
As an example, here is the beginning of personal essay about a family meal, “Dinner at Uncle Boris’ ” by poet Charles Simic—published in the Creative Nonfiction journal.
“Always plenty of good food and wine. The four of us at the table take turns uncorking new bottles. We drink out of water glasses the way they do in the old country. “More bread,” somebody yells. There’s never enough bread, never enough olives, never enough soup. We are eating through our second helping of thick bean soup after having already polished off a dozen smoked sausages and a couple of loaves of bread.
“And we argue with mouths full. My Uncle Boris would make Mother Teresa reach for a baseball bat. He likes to make big pronouncements, to make the earth tremble with his political and artistic judgments. You drop your spoon. You can’t believe your ears. Suddenly, you are short of breath and choking as if you swallowed a big fly.
“Is he kidding?” I hear myself say, my voice rising to a falsetto.”
This month’s prompt (scroll down) invites you to write poetry or prose about the occasion—a memory, an invention, a lyrical meditation. But first enjoy reading Charles Simic’s lively personal essay, “Dinner at Uncle Boris’” here.
Photo by estee-janssens at Unsplash.com
Mark your calendar
On Tuesday, November 8, our monthly meeting begins at 6:30 PM and ends at 8:30 PM, at the St. Matthews branch of the Louisville Free Public Library. We’ll enjoy lively conversation about the writing life, including peer critiques of short manuscripts—poetry or prose. The strength-based peer critiques affirm each woman’s unique writing style while providing helpful revision suggestions. Persons attending the meetings practice strength-based critique skills.
Please submit one of your works-in-progress for our meeting. as an attachment to an email to by noon on the day of the meeting, so we can share your manuscript with attendees. Limit manuscripts to four pages double-spaced, or two poems. This is our way of helping members who yearn to start something new, to share. Persons with longer segments than the 4 pages can send excerpts!
Writers attending in person, also bring 5 copies of your work to our in-person meeting.
Non-members are welcome to attend two meetings before membership.
Louisville Literary Arts’ Writer’s Block Festival is Saturday, November 12 from 8 AM to 5 PM. Women Who Write will have a table from 10 AM to 5 PM at the annual writers conference. The festival is at Ivy Tech Community College in Jeffersonville, IN.
We have two volunteers so far to help staff our Women Who Write table for two hours each. Thanks to Ashley S. and Katie O. for volunteering. When not at our booth, volunteers can shop various vendors, attend panel discussions, workshops, and readings.
This year’s Writer’s Block features six writing workshops led by regional writers and a keynote reading by Claudia Love Mair, novelist and coordinator of the Kentucky Black Writers Collaborative at the Carnegie Center for Literacy & Learning.
The festival builds community and educates writers. It’s always an inspiration! Register here.
MONTHLY WRITING PROMPT
“There are three things that people pick up on the instant they walk into your home on Thanksgiving. They will be able to feel the human energy. They’ll smell the food. And they will see, instantly, the table.”
Write a scene from memory or from your imagination. Meditate lyrically on this annual celebration. Write a personal essay on what Thanksgiving means (or does not mean) to you! Here are some prompts—
- Was there food you (or the protagonist) refused to eat? To what lengths did certain family members go to change your mind?
- Who was the queen or king of the Thanksgiving Dinner? Remember what made them royalty? How did they determine your family traditions?
- Describe a dinner table argument. Put the ‘fun’ in dysfunction!
- Feature a quirky character at the table.
- Write a letter to your younger self about Thanksgiving.
JOIN the WOMEN WHO WRITE NaNoWriMo ZOOM GROUP
Meets 6 to 7:30 PM every on Thursday evening beginning November 10
WWW members signed up for NaNoWriMo are invited to join a Zoom group on Thursday, November 10 from 6:30 to 8 PM. Enjoy a 30-minute writing sprint, discuss our writing processes, and problem solve.
You don’t have to write fiction to enroll in NaNoWriMo! Some of us have jumped on the NaNoWriMo train. National Novel Writing Month is a nonprofit organization that believes in “the transformational power of creativity. We provide the structure, community, and encouragement to help people use their voices, achieve creative goals, and build new worlds—on and off the page.”
WE WANT TO SUPPORT YOUR WRITING LIFE.
Here is our November list of opportunities for writers—
Write for the Women Who Write web blog! Members are invited to submit essay, poem, or fiction (no more than 2,000 words). We’ll read your work in advance and offer revision suggestions if needed.
Publishing on our blog will expand your writing platform since you can share the blog link on social networks. And you’ll help WWW show off the variety of talents within our writing community! Browse our web blog now! http://womenwhowrite.com/our-blog/
Landslide Lit(erary), a Medium.com publication, wants stories, poems, essays, memoir that includes the character or idea of Eve (of Genesis— the mythological mother of us all). Here is the request for submissions due November 30, 2022. See WWW member, Katie Odom’s science fiction short story, “Eden’s Envy.” The co-editors are WWW members, Bonnie Omer Johnson, and Kimberly Crum. No need to be a paying Medium subscriber. Bonnie and Kim will provide a tutorial and editorial suggestions for submitted manuscripts. See general submission guidelines here.
The Third Street Review features visual art and photography as well as fiction, nonfiction, and poetry. “We welcome traditional formats as well as pieces that push boundaries, embrace experimentation, and reflect artistic excellence.” Learn more about submitting here.
The Blue Mountain Review publishes poetry, nonfiction, and fiction, on a rolling basis, for publication in this quarterly print journal. “Blue Mountain Review is a Southern publication, but it draws no boundaries or borders on that interpretation. It seeks pieces that boldly create something new.”
Brain, Child: The Magazine for Thinking Mothers publishes prose that “treats motherhood as a subject worthy of literature.” This online journal is now part of Creative Nonfiction journal. Find out how to submit here.
The Keeping Room is an online magazine for women writers, poets, and artists, interested in “Women’s Wisdom, Lessons Learned, Self-care, Bodies, Relationships, and Community.” Find out how to submit here.
The Cauldron Anthology is a literary journal “embracing the wild feminine.” This literary venue publishes poetry and prose writers who prompts featuring a female from classical stories and mythology. Find out how to submit here.
The Quartet Journal features poetry by women fifty and over. Find out how to submit here.
Here are twenty-six paying markets for nonfiction, fiction, and poetry
Brevity accepts flash nonfiction submissions year-round. Well respected for short creative nonfiction (750 words or less). Hard to get in, but why not try? https://brevitymag.com/submissions/
HERE ARE WAYS YOU CAN SUPPORT OUR WRITING COMMUNITY
Become a member (or re-member)—As a community, WWW strives to nurture your writing life. We hope you choose to join or renew as a member and participate in our monthly meetings, author talks, retreats, and workshops. We will notify persons when they are due to renew. Regular annual membership is $50. Student annual membership is $25. Membership entitles you to discounts on workshops and retreats.
Attend our monthly meetings on the second Tuesday of each month.
Join our leadership team. We need a treasurer who oversees finances, keeps records, pays (our few) bills, oversees the budget, files simple reports, balances our bank statements, helps collect membership dues. We want more than your attention to detail. We want your ideas! Nominate yourself or another member. Questions—write to Kim at .
Visit our Facebook Page and stay awhile—@womenwhowriteky. Help us get to 1,000 followers! Don’t forget to like us and follow us. Also, send us links to your published writing. We will include your writing on our Facebook page! Answer polls. See video interviews of WWW meetings with visiting writers.
Be safe. Be strong. Be peace.
Love your writing life!
Kim, Megan, Alisa, Janet, and Irene