Talking to the committee in my Imaginary Writers' Room

Talking to the committee in my Imaginary Writers' Room

I'd had a rough week, so I went to my reading room and picked up a spooky-looking book, "The Best Supernatural Tales of Arthur Conan Doyle," as "Selected and Introduced by E.F. Bleiler" (Dover Publications, 1979).

My copy of the book fell open to p. 166, "A Literary Mosaic,"  which has a note at the bottom, "Meeting -- blog post, 2017."

That's why Conan Doyle is the chairman of the committee in the Writers' Room of my mind: A committee was his idea in the first place.

I confess that many of the writers at Arthur's imaginary table, helping young Smith with his blocked story, are writers I simply don't know outside the story. Others, such as Edward Bulwer-Lytton, flunk my great-first-sentences test. ( Bulwer-Lytton is to blame for the original cliche opening, "It was a dark and stormy night.")

Sir Walter Scott may show up at future meetings one of these days, based on his position on Arthur's original committee.

But my favorite reason to re-read "A Literary Mosaic" is to find the man who got onto my own committee just by inspiration.

"Och, get on wi' it," said Robert Louis Stevenson. "You mean me."

"A'richt, Louis, she does," said Arthur. "You were on the committee as I wrote it."

"But Louis, you got here first of all the writers," I said. "I might never have started on poetry without your 'A Child's Garden of Verses.'"

"Even before that Sassenach, Milne?" said Louis.

"His poems have never meant as much to me as his stories," I said.

"Oh yes, the Sustaining Books," said Arthur.

"Right," I said, smiling. "Milne's poems made me smile -- yours explained things, Louis."

Louis beamed at me. I'm glad he's back and I love his "grownup" books now.

Arthur smiled and winked.

"So that's why it's so comfortable in here when Arthur and I arrived," said Agatha Christie.

I did a lot of detecting and reading on one special school vacation, and I started reading "A Study in Scarlet" (Arthur's first story about Sherlock Holmes) when one of Agatha's books failed to hold my teenaged attention. I then read through all of the Holmes stories that year. Agatha stayed quiet in the Writers' Room for year, until I found "The Secret Adversary" and "An Autobiography" and began to allow her a seat at the table again.

"But Agatha," I said gently, "I'd read 'The Hound of the Baskervilles" before that spring when you two arrived, as you call it."

"But we're here, Margaret," said Arthur. "And I'm glad you've decided to point out to modern readers that Louis has been here since the beginning -- my beginning and yours."

Daphne Du Maurier and Robert Burns, the other members of my committee, looked at each other, then at me.

"So whose work were you listening to yesterday when you had to test your computer?" said Daphne, "Go on, tell them!"

"It was a film version of 'Rebecca' -- Daphne's best," I said.

"Aye, but last week when things got sae bad," said Burns, "wha was it wrote that rhyming prayer that helped calm ye?"

"Awa' wi' ye," I told him -- Scots for the affectionate kind of "get outta here."

I  looked around the room to make sure the writers all heard me. "It was 'A Prayer Under Pressure of Violent Anguish,' of course," I said. "Just one of Robert's gems."

Burns beamed at me, making Daphne and Agatha look at me with sisterly concern.

"So you all have rights to be here, and I need all of you," I told the committee. "I hope your stories -- and my stories of these meetings -- will help other people open up committee room of their own."

The whole committee applauded that.

I think I'll let them stay around.

Margaret Serious has  a page on Facebook.


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  • These meetings are wonderful! Thank you.

  • In reply to Weather Girl:

    Thank you for the kind words, and for your faithful "attendance."

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