"I write so that my handful of pebbles, cast into still waters, will create a ripple."

Thursday, April 26, 2012

California Casual--Is Rudeness the New Rule?

In California, we have a different way of doing things.  

. For us, RSVP are four random letters that appear on the bottom of invitations, indicating nothing. An invitation means that someone is having an event and seeks your commitment. If you're naive or new to our way of doing things, you should understand that no one holds you to your promise.

As everyone in California knows, an invitation is a mere technicality. The game plan is to throw it on the counter and fuggetaboutit! No worries. The hostess will give you a ring on the day before the party to see if you’re coming. You can decide then.

Weddings, intimate dinner parties—makes no difference.

According to my friend, no-shows are very common in Santa Barbara. Yes, even for dinner parties. People respond "yes" and then wait to see if something better comes along. She blames the practice on the "Biz (the film industry.) And it gets worse the closer you are to Hollywood.

Makes sense. Why waste your time at a "B" dinner in your honor if you can tag along to an "A" event and gawk at the movie stars. Even the concept of "A" and "B" comes from California. Remember the old Disneyland ride ticket books? Who wouldn't rather ride the Matterhorn than the train?

So I live in California. Time to bring this around to me.

I have a writer’s critique group on alternate Tuesdays. This group is new and just beginning to jell. Like any newborn, it needs attention. It helps to know who will be there. I requested that everyone RSVP, and they did. As of last Friday six plus me made seven. Yeah!

Tuesday morning the house is clean. Snacks are ready. Husband is fed and out of the house. And the calls start coming in. One member has a sore throat. One is still in jammies. A third one has slept late and can make the last half. The others are no-shows. And that’s when the idea for this blog starts.

As a new writer, for three years I used to drive 70 miles round trip every other Monday to attend a critique group that started at nine. I scheduled my life around that group! The moderator was a retired grade school teacher who ran that group like her classroom. I was terrified of getting “the look” if I walked in three minutes late.

No coincidence that in the years I belonged I wrote a bazillion short stories and essays and submitted them to markets all over the US and Canada. Had thirty acceptances (a 1/23 ratio. Not bad for fiction in the era before e-publishing.) I wore out three Writer’s Market books in the process and won ten awards. Wrote two novels. I quit the group when members started writing travel stories and essays and I was the only fiction writer left.

Point is, that critique group launched me. That’s what I hope to do for the newbies in my group.

Clearly the fault is mine. I need to develop “the look”. Tough love. Next week we’ll revamp the rules and get down to business. As soon as I finish writing this, I’ll dig out my cousin’s wedding invitation from the junk on the counter and send my RSVP. She even included a stamp.

Hope it’s not too late.

Anybody have a similar experience or want to add to the discussion? Here's your chance.