I joined a writer’s group in college.
Most of the other members were older,
but for a time, I seemed to fit right in.
Our meetings were held on Sundays
in their glamorous off-campus homes.
(They would never have fit
in my single dorm room.)
Mark was the de-facto “president,”
an intellectual snob with a nasal voice.
He eventually started dating one
of our members, Leah,
who was basically just like him
in a female body.
Brett was the gentle vegetarian,
a good cook, kinda cute.
Wrote the kind of poems
you don’t really know how to respond to.
Painted morose portraits
in off-putting yellows and greens
and aspired to be a lawyer.
Sven was the cool, funny guy,
a hipster before there were millennial-era “hipsters.”
Bald, thick plastic-rimmed glasses, goatee.
I probably liked his writing best,
And I think it was similar to mine,
but his stories seemed more sophisticated somehow,
and so did he.
Francine was the beautiful poet.
Her works were inspired and effortless.
All the guys were madly in love with her,
but she had some bland Indiana boyfriend.
At that time I was trying to work out
what it meant to be
a Northwest Indiana “Region Rat.”
We were working-class people
whose dads worked at the steel mill
and were laid off from time to time.
I often felt different from all the kids I was meeting
who were from rich Indianapolis suburbs.
So I wrote stories about teens from my hometown,
and because I liked the movie Pulp Fiction,
all my characters cursed a lot.
Once I hitched a ride back home from Mark
in his vintage Volkswagen Beetle
and he seemed keen to gossip about the others,
analyzing their writing styles and their flaws.
He asked me if I honestly wanted to know
what he thought of my writing.
Not really, but I didn’t want to seem afraid.
He told me, voice dripping with condescension,
“You’re pretty good at what you do,
but I’m afraid it’s all you can do.”
One of our newest members, Sylvia,
approached me with evidence
that Francine had been plagiarizing her poetry.
Not just an unintentional phrase
but entire poems—famous ones, too!
Ones that we all studied in our English Lit classes.
Elizabeth Bishop was one of her victims, I think.
I don’t know how we didn’t see it before.
As one of the founding members,
I decided to take the matter in hand.
I emailed Mark with the
At the next meeting,
while I bored a hole in her skull
with my eyes,
Francine read a piece
that she explained symbolized
She talked about it like it was an eating disorder
and not a massive failing of integrity.
She was praised for her honesty.
Then they stopped inviting me to things.
I spent the rest of that year
stalking around campus,
lonely and bitter.
Fantasizing about the day that I would
be signing books,
and they would all spontaneously combust
I wrote wildly experimental works
just to prove that I could do more.
I started a new writer’s group
that met in the Union,
and we behaved more like an actual
than a group of sixth-grade girls
with a secret, elite slumber party invite list.
I know that Mark and the rest thought
that my group wasn’t nearly as good
as what we had had before.
They did their own thing, and I did mine.
My true friends back home
supported me as well as they could.
Padraig prank-called Francine,
accusing her, “I know you’re a plagiarist!”
then hung up the phone.
I outwardly objected to such immature antics,
but I loved that he did that.
And here I am,
years and years and years
decidedly not famous,
no revenge for me.
But no one’s ever heard
of them either.
And I’m still writing.
I’m pretty good
at what I do.