LIT: No Mystery
Second book by longtime local writers group shows organic growth.
Thursday, March 31, 2005
In her introduction to Monterey Shorts 2, the award-winning mystery writer Joyce Krieg jokes that the word “FWOMP” is the sound a large, doomed manuscript makes when it hits the floor of a New York publisher.
Considering the way the original Monterey Shorts sold, FWOMP may actually be the sound of another box of big books hitting the floor of local bookstores. After selling more than 2,500 copies of the original 2003 collection, the Fiction Writers of Monterey Peninsula, or FWOMP, have just released a sequel.
Twice as long as the original, Monterey Shorts 2 features two stories from each of the 10 members of the collective. Thomas Steinbeck, local writer and son of John, calls the book “a truly engaging collection of short stories written by authors of talent, perception and wit.”
Encompassing a number of genres and styles, the stories of Monterey Shorts 2 are unified only by the region in which they are set.
“We couldn’t agree on a genre or a theme so we decided on region,” says FWOMP member Mark C. Angel. “We wanted something more cohesive and more marketable. We wanted to be on the same page…or on different pages of the same book, as the case may be.”
More importantly, the stories in Montery Shorts 2 represent the dynamic relationships and character development that have formed within FWOMP itself. This tight-knit writing collective has met to critique and revise each other’s work for five years now, and in the process they’ve created a group bond.
“There’s not much social tip-toeing in our group,” says Angel, whose off-beat stories feature possessed snakeskin jackets and vampires. “We have a really cohesive group.”
“Egos have been pared down over the years,” says Frances J. Rossi, who writes about locals looking for love in Carmel.
“There’s a lot of emotional resiliency here,” chimes in Ken Jones, whose detailed historical fiction is set in Pacific Grove.
“And we wear what we need to on our sleeve,” finishes Byron Merritt, whose writing genes can be traced to his grandfather, the internationally best-selling author Frank Herbert, of Dune fame.
The stories of FWOMP’s other six members—Pat Hanson, Chris Kemp, Mike Tyrell, Shaheen Schmidt, Walter E. Gourlay and Linda Price—are equally diverse, encompassing complex literary fiction, dark fantasy, culture clashes, and children’s stories.
What’s really intriguing about the group, however, is how the five years spent critiquing each other’s interior worlds have resulted in a meta-fictional commune.
This can mean members offering each other advice on a character they feel they have come to know.
“Someone once told Ken, ‘You have to let Woody get injured,’ says Merritt. “And everyone in the group cried, ‘No!’”
“We’ve even started weaving each other’s characters into each other’s stories,” Rossi says. “It’s a very interesting trend—like Lautrec borrowing models from Renoir.”
Clearly, FWOMP is having a very good time and the ease of their relationship as a group is translating on the business end.
“With 10 members, it’s a simple 10 percent in, 10 percent out equation,” explains Jones. “Which is fortunate because we’re not great mathematicians.”
Plus, they are able to minimize costs by keeping expenses such as graphics, lay-out design and marketing within the group—a business model that would appear to all but assure a third volume of Monterey Shorts.
“I think we’re very deliberately not talking about the next one at this point,” Merritt says. “Though I think realistically we will do it, it’s just a matter of time.”
Members of FWOMP will sign books at a reading this Sunday, April 3, from 1 to 3pm at Bookworks Bookstore, 667 Lighthouse Avenue in Pacific Grove. visit www.fwomp.com or call 372-2242.