Follow by Email

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

A New Year's E-mail to my First Writing Teacher and a Dunkin' Donuts Exchange About Writing in Coffee Shops

I took my first writing course at Wesleyan's Wasch Center in the Wesleyan Institute for Lifelong Learning (WILL).  WILL was started by my good friend, Karl Scheibe, an emeritus professor of social psychology at Wesleyan and the founding Director of the Wasch Center.  The course was "Legacies in Words: An Introduction to Memoir Writing."  My teacher was the learned, enthusiastic lover of writing, and wannabe writers, Ms. Sheila Murphy.  Sheila is married to Russ Murphy, an emeritus professor of Government at Wesleyan.  She taught writing for over four decades in the public school system.

Here's a link to the course description, in case any of you are interested in taking such a course, if it's ever offered again by WILL, which I expect it will be, or somewhere else where you live.  (The readers of "Bobs blog" are all over the world.  The Google blog system keeps track of where each "hit" on the blog comes from, what the most frequently read blog posts are, and other interesting information.)

Sheila is the ideal writing teacher.  She writes well, she loves reading, she loves sharing her enthusiasm for good writing, and she loves her students in the way good teachers do.  (I'm beginning to tear up as I think back about Sheila and her course, which I took starting the day before my last day as a practicing lawyer.)

Periodically Sheila and I exchange emails.  She is most generous and kind in her supportive comments about the writing I do for "Bobs blog."  But, like any good teacher, she always gives me a useful pointer, in her own, inimitable, kind and gentle way.  The most recent message informed me that the teacher in her thinks, as she reads my stuff, "edit, edit, edit."  Of course, she adds, that's probably not thought to be so important in blogging.

I don't see it as in any way a violation of any norm of privacy to share with you my reply to Sheila.  Please be assured that my dramatization of the interaction I had with the Dunkin' Donuts workers last night is not in any way meant to imply that I think I'll ever write anything like the "Harry Potter" books.  As a writer, I'm always telling myself imaginative stories about the interactions I have with other people and the experiences to which I give myself access by taking risks with my life which I wasn't taking when I practiced law and assigned more value to making payroll, making money, than having amazing and interesting experiences and writing about them.

So, here's my email reply, just a few minutes ago, to my first writing teacher, to whom I can never repay her for what she gave to me in validation, encouragement, and inspiration.

thanks, sheila. 

blogging could involve more editing but i choose fast and breezy over tortoise-like and air-brushed.

i'm also experimenting on Facebook with mimicking and creating my own version of a kind of urban slang expressive language.  for example: 

"@sheila thnx 4 ur thotz 'bout dat' ritin' a' mine.......eye luv 2 rite but chuze not 2 b = editin' my stuff, yo'....lmfao"

that sort of thing.  a black FB "friend" once asked me why i used so many "yo's" and when i explained about my experimentation on FB, he understood and withdrew his (implicit) criticism.  it probably helps, also, that i now go to a black baptist church.  by the way, i take it as a point of pride that one of my Anonymous Commenters once wrote, "Bob Dutcher hates white people."  i don't, but i do love black people and black music and black culture.

as i once mentioned to you, Good Teachers are NEVER forgotten, always LOVED by their former students.

you may be amused, as i was, by the following interchange last night, here at Dunkin' Donuts on south main in middletown, where i now get free wi-fi and a warm place to write. (i no longer buy anything there but the workers don't seem to mind.  now that i'm making no money, i spend as little as possible, to conserve resources.  think warren buffet, who has a fortune but eats at outback steakhouse in omaha and still lives in his small house.) 

DD worker (about 18 or 19): We're closing so you'll have to leave. (It was 10 to midnight.)

Bob D.: Okay, sorry.

DD: No problem.  (He continued sweeping and went out through the south side exit to do something in the parking lot.  I finished up what I was working on.  I pack up my laptop, my briefcase, and move towards the same exit.  The blue-shirted young man who was the night manager, and the sweeper are holding the inside glass door to the little entryway open to re-enter the store.  We go back and forth the way people do when all are trying politely to let the others pass through the doorway first.  I indicate my insistence that they pass through first.  They do.  The sweeper guy smiles at me.  I smile back and then....)

Bob: Did you know that "Harry Potter" was written in a coffee shop in England?

DD worker: (with a little smile forming on his mouth) Yes.

I smile back, turn towards the parking lot, and walk to my car.

best wishes for a happy new year, and namaste,



  1. Bob,
    I think it's great that you are following your passion for writing, as well as writing in interesting places (I happen to love Dunkin Donuts for writing),but the very least you could do is buy a cup of coffee. Afterall, you're getting free wi-fi and a warm place to write. Quid pro quo otherwise you give the rest of us writers a bad name.

  2. Dear Anonymous (1-3-12 @ 6:18 a.m.),
    Thanks for your Comment and understandable suggestion about buying something to pay for my keep.
    I used to buy a croissant every morning and eat it with raspberry jam I'd bring from home. I don't like the coffee at Dunkin' Donuts. Every morning I have a few cups of strong Cafe Verona from Starbucks. I buy the beans, grind them, and drip it at home.
    Now that I'm not working, I'm feeling intense pressure, internally and from my wife, to reduce expenses as much as possible, to stretch our savings as long as possible, with the addition of Social Security, which I'm eligible for when I turn 62 on January 22, 2012.
    As it turns out, the kids at Dunkin' Donuts don't object to my sitting here, soaking up the heat, the wi-fi, and the conversations taking place around me during the mornings when I'm here. At night, it's empty after dinner until closing. One can even use the wi-fi after closing because the signal is so strong and the system is on 24/7.
    Your recommendation is a reasonable one, but consider this. Am I not giving Dunkin' Donuts free advertising, and a positive endorsement (except for the lousy coffee), by publicizing my preference for their facilities over McDonalds? As it turns out, as I said in my email to Sheila Murphy, my blog is being read all over the world, in many countries where I don't know a soul. I think Dunkin' Donuts has franchises all over the world, where they're fattening up the population the way they're doing here in the U.S. See today's NY Times article about how the U.S. Coast Guard has increased the average weight from 60 pounds to 85 pounds, for purposes of determining the weight capacity of boats and vessels.
    Perhaps if I DON'T financially support Dunkin' Donuts, they'll go out of business around the world. And, if that happens, perhaps the average weight of Americans will return to a healthier 60 pounds, which is my own weight. If that happens, won't my decision NOT to support the donut-pushers be the more moral stance? As we say on Facebook, lmfao.
    Happy New Year and may your average weight reflect what you dream it is,

    Bob Dutcher

  3. P.S., Anonymous: I'm just wondering. Did J.K.Rowling buy coffee when she was on welfare writing "Harry Potter" in the British coffee shop where she liked to write? Now I'm not on the dole, but I'm not earning any dol-lars, at least by way of earned, non-passive income, so perhaps you'll think that's not a pertinent analogy. Again, as we say on Facebook, lmfao.