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The Grumpiest Lady
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"Are you still planning a writers' group meeting this week?" asked the church secretary when I stopped by with some newsletter copy.

I nodded.

"Well, call Dorina Wetzel* as soon as you get home. She wants to join. She's a journalist who has been writing for 40 years. But . . ." she turned to grimace at me, "I have to warn you: she's the grumpiest lady in town. I've never known anybody so critical and complaining. She's been on my case all morning about this writers' club."

"Oh, no," I groaned inwardly, "we don't need anybody like that." We'd just formed a group of writers from various area churches. Most were beginners who didn't need to be cut down by a professional critic. Though I'd never met her, the thought of Ms. Wetzel in our group terrified me. It terrified enough that I decided not to call her.

The meeting went well and I congratulated myself on not inviting the unwanted member. The tranquility of that decision was shattered by nine o'clock the next morning. "Did you call Dorina Wetzel like I told you to?" asked the church secretary.

"No." I wanted to justify myself but she cut me off.

"You call her right now! She’s blaming me for not giving you the message."

Trembling, I Called
Trembling, I called Ms. Wetzel and explained that the fault was mine. The church secretary had done her job. Awash with guilt, I promised to pick her up for sure for the next meeting.  

It turned out that Dorina Wetzel was as afraid of us as we were of her. A lot had happened in her life since the days of writing for a major city paper. They’d moved far from the familiar city; she’d become seriously ill and undergone heart surgery; and while she was recovering, her beloved husband dropped dead of a heart attack. Alone and trying to rebuild her life, she called the church affiliated with the hospital, searching for people she could connect with. Writers? Yes, if she could connect with anyone, it would be writers.

Not everyone saw the treasure in this woman who choose her words carefully and cautioned against stifling a new writer’s voice by too-ready a criticism. She established a second monthly meeting at her home. Sometimes I was the only one who came. No matter. We worked. She’d hand me a piece to edit, excited about the progress of the author. I saw in it only ways to rewrite, to cut redundancies, improve (I thought) the clarity.

“No. No. NO!” she’d exclaim. “You just killed the author’s voice and made it your own.”

I grew to cherish what she was teaching me as a writer, and to cherish the passionate, intelligent person that she was.

She still grumbled at the church secretary, but I, for one, was glad I’d taken her on as friend. Family, for this grumpiest lady, might just be—a writers' group!  

“Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares” (Hebrews 13:2).

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By Lois Pecce. Copyright © 2013 by GraceNotes. All rights reserved. Use of this material is subject to usage guidelines. Scripture taken from the ENGLISH STANDARD VERSION © 2001.

*not real name

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