The Fearrington Writers’ Group is open to any resident interested in writing. Our aim is to:
-discuss the art and business of writing;
-aid one another in composition and publishing;
-share useful information; and,
-give participants a platform for our work.

Many members of the group have shown interest in family history, personal memoir, essays, creative non-fiction, fiction and poetry. The group meets regularly from September through May. The format of our meetings is influenced by input from members.

In general, we attempt to:
-provide useful information for writers and anyone who is thinking about writing’
-encourage members to share experiences from writers’ conferences and workshops;
-provide a forum for sharing your writing; and,
-encourage writing – in any form – for any purpose.

We encourage everyone to write something! There are two subgroups: one for folks interested in poetry (see below) and another one for those interested in prose writing (see below). We are eager to fine-tune our mission and change our meeting format to meet the needs of the group. We encourage any and all comments and suggestions.

Contact Laura T. Jensen at:
Dick Merwarth (Prose Group)
Bill Sommers (Poetry Group)

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Winter Solstice

by Laura T. Jensen

(Published: Chapel Hill News January 2010)

He is truly wise
Who has traveled far
And knows the ways of the world.
            Viking Proverb, circa 800-1000 AD

The sky is a clear blue, the yellow ball hanging there sparkles, like clusters of diamonds, off the snow collected on every tree branch. On legs wobbling with fatigue from a morning spent on ice skates, we snowshoe across a meadow for our first neighborly visit. The air crackles and is so cold my teeth hurt. Friendly doors are opened and we are welcomed with cakes and coffee. There is chatter, hugs and food everywhere we stop.
Hours later, back home we drink Aquavit; the bottle plucked from a snowdrift. The small-stemmed glasses prevent our fingers from warming the liquor. The table groans with food; my stomach growls. We eat cod, potatoes and cabbage. Gathered around a warming fire, we ignore the howling wind and Skål again. This Aquavit is after all, “the water of life.”
Tradition dictates that someone tells a story. We all embellish and laughter bubbles. I speak little Norwegian but it doesn’t seem to matter. I am gathered into the fold.
The tradition of commemorating Winter Solstice continues in many lands to this day. No more heartily than in Norway where a celebration to give thanks (for the coming of spring) with merriment is the norm. Here the dark days are long but tomorrow the days will begin to get longer, and that is what everyone is celebrating. And, why not? At the Summer Solstice it will be light for almost twenty-four hours.
I am in the land of my forefathers to experience this ancient tradition and I am not disappointed.


Thursday, September 27, 2012

The story, Betrayal,  by Laura T. Jensen, was a finalist for the Eric Hoffner Prose Award. It, along with the other award winners, appears in the book, "Best New Writing 2013", and is now available on Amazon.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Book Announcement
W. A. Polf’s recent collection of short stories, "Magical Ballyglass and Other Stories," explores what happens in people's minds when they confront unusual or stressful situations.  The reactions they have, and the choices they make, change their lives.  The seven stories in the collection are situated in a wide range of places, from San Francisco in the 60s and the farmland of California's Central Valley, to New York City and upstate New York, culminating in the title story, which takes place in Ireland.  Bill Polf is a California native who lived in New York City for several decades on the Upper West Side of Manhattan.  He and his wife, Robin Eisner, recently moved to Fearrington Village.  "Magical Ballyglass" is available online through Amazon in paperback for $11.95 and for Kindle at $9.95.  It is also available online through CreateSpace. 

Sunday, July 29, 2012

My book, Step By Step, was published last Friday as a multi-format book by Smashwords. The link is:
Laura T. Jensen, Author

Friday, July 27, 2012

Fearrington's own John Keith will be reading from his new book "Canebrake Beach, A Novella and Four Stories at McIntyre's on Friday, August 24 at 2 p.m. Everyone is urged to join him. This latest book is being released in both print form and as an ebook. Remember the date: August 24!
Don't forget to join Forrest Greenslade for the debut of his new book,
Visitations, A Nature-Lovers' Journal. The event takes place on Sunday, August 5 at the Joyful Jewel in Pittsboro. Check out ChathamArtists for more info.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

The Hal Story continues:

After thinking about it, I realized that while there was some basis for a relationship, our differences were too great and I felt that we would both be wasting our time and so I cancelled the date.  I am a very active person and Hal is a couch potato minus.  I felt very guilty about it and often thought of the wonderful conversations and the laughs we shared on the telephone.  So I called him to invite him to share my free movie passes one Sunday about six weeks later.  He agreed to go only if we could have some dinner afterwards.  He arrived thirty minutes late, which is a no-no in the dating world and the entire experience was a big disappointment mainly because Hal was grumpy and preoccupied with a family matter.                                                                                                                        Actually, he was depressed and negative about everything in his life and was more than willing to share these disappointments with me.   He was overbearing, moody and just plain obnoxious. He was critical of my outfit and my hair which I thought was totally appropriate and attractive. I drove home after dinner, and while in my car on the way back I was thinking, “What is this all about?”  “What do I need this for?”  I’m the one who should feel depressed after such a date!!!  He later called to try to do “damage control,”  his favorite expression, and I then  realized that my initial instincts were correct and I should have followed them. Hal said words to the effect that the next move was mine.
    Did I take my own advice?  Of course not!  The red flags  often looked green to me. After some months had passed and I was more into the dating scene, I foolishly contacted Hal again because I thought about him as a person  of quality and intelligence after all,  capable of deep feelings. And he was very lonely.  I remembered our overly long and intense conversations, and wanted to re-connect and try again now that I had more experience.  And so I called him and we began to date more intensively and we spent about two months in a more or less monogamous dating situation.  During that time, I noticed or rather chose to ignore the red flags that were again flapping in front of my eyes.                                                                                                                                   
His relationship with his grown professional children was practically nonexistent and even hostile on their parts.  He whined incessantly about their lack of concern for him and the fact that they rarely called. When they came to visit, they spent the minimum amount of time with him and did so at best, just as a courtesy.  His insistence that he was satisfied with the way he was and unwilling to learn new things was another disappointment.  He constantly repeated stories about his previous two marriages and other relationships that were boring me to distraction, to say the least. He was past-oriented while I was present and future-oriented. He lived in a place that was marginal,  (really a dump) and was planning on moving some day. But frankly, I didn’t think he ever would.  It was mortgage-free and cleaning out the mess in order to sell and pack up, would take the services of an arsonist.  But using words, my forte, in an abrasive tone to me when I only wanted to help him, was the proverbial last straw.
    During one of our recent telephone conversations, actually our last, Hal raised his voice to me in temper over a matter about his health, that he knew he had to address, and somehow was unable or unwilling to deal with effectively.  It was frustration on his part, but he dumped the problem in my lap and I didn’t want to contend with verbal outbursts or potentially self-induced serious health issues.  I decided to end the relationship and I knew that this time, I would absolutely not return because he was not right for me. Above all, he derided me constantly for using multi-syllabic words. I needed someone who was more secure, not depressing, and certainly had enough self-esteem to care about his living accommodations, appearance, and health.                                                                      In other words, Hals of this world, use the gym at your condo and stop whining. You know that  French fries have more calories than yoghurt.
 So, this was the end of a short long-term relationship. It was my turn to do the damage control thing by ending it again instead of prolonging the inevitable. This time, I really, really meant it!! There will be no couples counseling, for sure. So, words which are so important to me, used in a verbally abusive way, was the cause of the breakup.
      Ladies, there is a plethora of worthy gentlemen out there.  Make yourself available, take a risk, look out for the red flags, and don’t be the moron part of the oxymoron.  Go for it!!

Please visit my website:

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Oxymoron: Having a Short Long-Term Relationship

    Words are my life!  I adore words such as serendipity, plethora, and dearth. I  use them in conversations and I go giddy when I see them in print.  As a retired literacy specialist, I recall the days when I made a respectable living by teaching children and adults to use our language correctly and creatively.  I especially encouraged the use of colorful words.  Why say that something or someone  is “nice” when magnificent, gorgeous, heavenly, etc., could elevate your piece of writing to a more literate level, not to mention  produce a higher grade from your teacher.  A good vocabulary is a sign of  achieving more than just a minimal education.  In my present status as a peppy senior seeking a prince for a LTR (long term relationship) implying exclusive dating, my past training has paid off in many ways.
    After a lot of time spent in the dating world as a result of visiting my two favorite internet dating sites, I encountered more potential datees in addition to some authentic duds.  The word “frugal” comes to mind very often because I find that many of my potential squires are very economical.  They never met a coupon they didn’t like.  One of my dates took me to Sweet Tomatoes on the very first date and was not shy about using his coupons.  For those unfamiliar with the establishment, it is  a salad buffet beyond compare and there are free refills on the soups and desserts.  Basically, this establishment is glutton heaven.  My date proceeded to have five cups of soup,  all of them  of different after consuming two plates overflowing with salad.  Obviously, his pot belly needed stoking.  Adding to his appeal, while he drove a late model luxury gas guzzler and intimated that he was financially secure, he made no apologies and even suggested a walk on the beach in lieu of lunch, even though the rain was pouring down.  Lunch was to be a substitute for a game of tennis and then we planned on going to a movie afterwards.  Of course, after he spent so much time eating, we missed the start of the movie.  We then drove back to our respective homes. End of a “perfect” gluttonous and frugal date. Foolishly, I consented to other dates with Mr. Tomatoes and they were also dictated by his budgetary restrictions.  I am not a gold digger, but puh-leeze, be a sport!   A free movie at your clubhouse? Mr. Tomatoes talked a great deal about his lack of success with the dating scene. Small wonder! And talk about not following your own advice.
    Then there are the guys who recently broke up with their significant others.  Red flag! They date you, but their hearts are longing for a reconciliation with their exes.  They even go so far as to participate in “couples counseling.”  This is not marriage counseling but a new phenomenon.  Usually, I am told, three or four breakups occur, but they continuously go back to a failing, unfulfilling relationship for security and some claptrap about “the devil you know, etc.”   So, they date you  several times, and lead you to believe that you could be the one, and suddenly with no warning.... no more calls. You are left wondering what you did wrong and  in addition, you are consumed by a feeling of low self-esteem. Suddenly, Mr. Wonderful is no longer on the internet dating sites and doesn’t show up at singles groups. Somehow, the word gets out that Mr. Wonderful is indeed back with his ex and extremely happy once again, until the next big blowup, which is destined to occur.   My first question these days therefore is something like, “When did you break up with your girlfriend?”  No point in wasting time. Put faith in your natural instincts and intuition.                                                                                                        
    Be sure, moreover, you place full faith and credit in your innate ability to assess character.  Stick to your guns and take no prisoners. If a guy sends up signals in the form of red flags, don’t plow through hoping they will go away because they just don’t.  I know what I’m talking about because I made my mistakes due to my extreme neediness and a desire for a meaningful relationship.  Hal is a case in point.  I first met him on JDate and after e-mailing back and forth, we finally spoke on the phone.  We discovered we had a lot in common:  backgrounds, age, and a passion for football.  Hal still worked but despite his business deadlines, we arranged a coffee date.  He was far from my ideal but I agreed to a dinner date with him for the following week.
Madelon Sheff (Maddy)
Please visit my website at:

Monday, May 21, 2012

Tuesday, April 17, 2012


(Published in A Long Story Short as story of the month June 2011
visit their website at:
The motor coach rolls to a stop, edging itself into the end of a line of busses parked in the muddy lot. Off goes the engine. The ensuing quiet belies the group of us scattered in seats in the coach.           
“Ladies and gentlemen, it is now Noon. We will depart promptly at 3 p.m. Please don’t be late,” says Marie, our tour director. Most of us just nod; a few mumble. It is, by now, a familiar routine.
            She walks slowly up the bus aisle, handing out brochures. Before anyone asks, she points out the restrooms, where we can purchase a cup of coffee, and where the gift shop is located. We all move quickly and quietly down the steps of the bus and make our way toward the sidewalk.
The day could not be more fitting. Everyone wears raingear; several of us clutch umbrellas. The fog is so thick it has spread a thin film of moisture on the grass and the trees. Following Marie’s lead, we walk toward a bronze statue the brochure says depicts “the spirit of brave youth ascending from the waves.” Droplets of water hang suspended from the overhanging trees as we stand in front of the bell tower. We just look; no one speaks.
Some of us are here just because. Some have come to visit the fallen and with directories clutched in damp hands, they search for names. Some are history buffs. Others aren’t sure why they are making this trip but know they could not be nearby and not come. You and I hold hands. I feel a lump in the back of my throat. There is beauty here in the relatively undisturbed French countryside. The geography and the few nearby villages remain much as they were.
Some shed tears, some are giving thanks, many pray. We, along with the others, walk among the more than 9,000 who are gone forever. Stars of David and crosses all face toward home. Even in the Garden of the Missing, flowers are laid in appreciation. At the top of the windswept bluff, overlooking the long flat beach, we stand in silent awe. The beach below stretches to the ocean far in the distance. The jagged harbor is visible because it is low tide. We can see vestiges of ships and armaments, green with moss or brown with rust, as they lay embedded in the dark sand. The fog now drips. We walk slowly, stopping to read names and dates, as we make our way to the small chapel. You seem to be searching for something, a long forgotten name, perhaps. I see your eyes fill. You squeeze my hand.
Suddenly the damp air holds a tune. The bells sounding in the tower are mournful as they left a melody to the sky. Hats are removed, hands cover hearts, heads are bowed, and several people drop to their knees. There are no dry eyes as the bells sound taps.

Author: Laura T. Jensen

Monday, April 2, 2012

Writers Meeting May 19th

Don't forget, we will have our last meeting (before our summer break) on May 19 at 1 p.m. in the Gathering Place. Come one come all. And, bring your latest writing to share. If you want to read aloud to the group, please call or email me so I can put you on the list. See you in May.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Up Up and Away

(Published 2008 San Francisco Writers Conference Anthology, Building Bridges; Women Who Write 2009 Contest, 3rd Place Short Prose; published 16th Anthology Calliope)

Night in the desert is huge. The uninterrupted sky goes on forever, its inkiness dotted with stars that look like tiny blinking Christmas tree lights. The moon hangs low in the sky, crescent silver surrounded in a gleaming halo. The air is so cold we produce little hovering clouds as we exhale. There is no breeze. It’s as if the earth is holding her breath waiting for the dawn.
Our truck races down the dry riverbed spreading a cloud of dust engulfing the trucks that follow. The only sound, besides the engine noise, is the clank of the under­pinnings hitting the rocks as we bump along. The truck heater is broken and we clutch mugs of steaming coffee hoping the warm liquid will ease the shivering.

Dawn comes swiftly in the desert -- one minute it is black, the next moment brings a red glow and then abruptly the sky turns brilliant yellow. Jeff, our self-anointed captain, floors the accelerator. We must arrive at our meeting spot before the sun does. He comes to a halt and by silent agreement, the other trucks move along side. We form a line and our headlights illuminate a small portion of desert. The dust settles as we silently climb down from the truck, hands stuffed in our pockets. We are on a Navajo Reservation in Monument Valley and we know we are on hallowed ground. There are spirits everywhere. The Medicine Man pointed out his house and warned us to avoid it.

We are so small here. Many of these giant cliffs erupt 1,000 feet from the desert floor and have names --East and West Mitten, Mitchell Mesa, Totem Pole, and Train Rock. These massive building-like natural structures black now, will, as the sky lightens, turn red.

We all have jobs and we get to them in haste. We must be well along in our preparations before the rising sun brings heat to the day. Heat will force us to abort our mission. Only cool air will provide lift.
Our eyes become accustomed to the light from the sky and we turn off the headlights. With ballet-like precision we unload the trucks and begin to spread out the seventy feet of multi-colored nylon. We work as a team and there is little need for conversation. We are careful not to walk on the fabric as we stretch it along the desert floor. The wicker gondola rests on its side. Ropes litter the earth; one is tied to the bumper of the truck.
The stillness is broken when one group turns on a fan, followed quickly by another and then another. Pretty soon the air is abuzz. Two of us hold open the mouth as the fan sucks the cold air from the desert and forces it into the throat. Two tons of air ripples the nylon and the shapeless forms begin to take definition as the sun shows her face at the edge of the horizon. The burners are lighted and with a rush the envelopes fill. The dessert glows with the light of the seven-foot flames as they push hot air into the expanding balloons. The first balloon stands upright. Then the next, the next, and soon all twelve sway gently in the morning air. Those of us at the top of the balloon hold a crown line to steady the balloon and we begin our walk towards the basket as it slowly rights itself. The strength of the heated air inside the balloon rips the rope through our hands and we are happy for the thick gloves. The sight is magical and a soft cheer sends our message to the desert – we’re ready to fly!
Lined up like racehorses at the starting gate, the baskets tug at our hands begging for release and we struggle to keep them earthbound. One by one pilots select passengers who scramble over the leather-padded rim of the basket. When all pilots complete their pre-flight checks, Jeff rings a cowbell three times. One pilot yells, “Hands off” and the first balloon lifts from the desert floor. Another clang of the cow­bell signals the next balloon, then the next, and the next until all twelve are aloft. For those of us on the ground the sight of the ascending mass is breathtaking and almost indescribable. The previously lifeless forms now take shape: a cat face, a cupie doll, a tiger, and a champagne bottle. The multitudes of colors are all ablaze against the backdrop of rocks so large they look like mammoth skyscrapers dotting the dawn-drenched desert.
As the sun pierces the cloudless sky, the balloons begin to float away. The only sound is the whoosh of the gas as it heats the air inside the balloon. Each find their own direction, following a stream of morning air that scatters them further and further along heaven’s unseen highway.

By the luck of the draw, I am ground crew. I jump into the truck, the “chase vehicle,” and keeping my eyes glued to the blue-stripped balloon piloted by my husband, I begin my pursuit. I am alone in the truck. Today my husband, who has yet to solo, pilots the Blue Max; an official pilot in charge accompanies him. The third person in the basket is a young man just along for the ride.

I live in New York City and like many City dwellers, have no driver’s license. It’s been years since I’ve been behind the wheel of anything more than a golf cart yet here I am, bouncing along the vast expanse of Monument Valley chasing a drifting balloon. Other chase trucks are doing the same dance and we glance sideways to avoid hitting each other. I drive in a vacuum. I have no way to communicate with the Blue Max and question the rationale behind the owner’s decision to eliminate the customary two-way radio.            

The sun is now up and begins to warm the air. I fumble for my sunglasses as I hurry east directly into its glare. My balloon has picked up speed in an unseen column of air far above and soon disappears between the thumb and the hand of the East Mitten. I gasp – it looks like the balloon might get stuck, the space appears so small. It passes through but is then lost from my sight. With no road to follow I just drive, dodging a cactus here and a boulder there. I have no concept of speed or location. I pass within inches of the base of the Totem Pole, a spire 300 feet high. I look straight up and see only sky. A quick glance at my watch tells me I’ve been driving for nearly an hour.

By now, other chase trucks have located their balloons. A small circle forms as the balloons settle gently to the earth. The skill of the pilot makes the landing appear effortless but those on the ground struggle with the ropes to ensure no balloon escapes. They have all put down together and I head towards them, hoping to spot the Blue Max. It is not there. I search the heavens for the blue balloon but see nothing. I stop the truck just outside the slowly forming circle. Jeff ambles over and asks, “What’s up?”
A small tsunami begins to form in my stomach as my concern mounts. Embarrassed to admit I’ve lost my balloon, I blurt,

“Not much. By the way, do you have a set of binoculars I can borrow?”

“Sure,” he says and heads towards the gathered group.

He returns with the binoculars and after a quick thank you and before he can ask any further questions, I put the truck in reverse and press the gas pedal. The wheels spin in the sand and the more I gas it the more they spin. I’m stuck. The sound of whirling tires attracts attention and several people head my way.
“Need some help?” one asks.

I climb down from the truck. I stand in silent humiliation and mounting anxiety while several of the men begin to push the truck from the riverbed. The desert floor finally releases the tires and the truck lurches forward, up and over the edge of the gulch to more firm ground.

Jeff, wearing a Viking-like helmet befitting his status as Captain of this balloon assemblage, takes me aside.
“Laura, why are you driving? Where’s the Blue Max?”

Although his voice is calm, he looks annoyed. Before I can answer, he fires another question:

“Where’s your radio?”

His private talk with me is overheard and mumblings begin as several of the group move toward their trucks. A search team is formed as it becomes clear that the Blue Max is lost.

The sun is high enough now to drench us in its light and more of the area is discernible. If it were not for my growing panic, I could enjoy the dramatic emerging view as the magnificent mesas become visible. All I can think of is the missing balloon. My eyes sweep the sky, first left, then right and then left again. Suddenly, so far away I momentarily think it may be a mirage I see, just this side of Monument Pass, a small blue speck. The dust column from the advancing search team rises quickly and is so thick it nearly obliterates the red rocks and the blue speck.

I wait in silent anxious dread as I stand slightly apart from the group. I don’t know what to do. My husband is missing and I feel totally helpless. I am keenly aware that our crew has done something wrong by getting lost and that I’ve done something wrong by losing them. Although my husband and I are not ballooning novices, this group of experienced balloonists has made it clear that our blunder is enormous. As I wait in growing fear all my thoughts are centered on my missing husband.

The minutes tick by like hours as I watch the swiftly moving dust cloud advance towards the distance mesa. Soon they are so far away I can no longer see the vehicles. Along with the swirling dust, tears blur my vision. I begin to sweat and remove my jacket. I can see my heart pounding through my tee shirt. I’m thirsty -- my water bottle is on the front seat of the truck. Does the Blue Max have water? My legs buckle and I sit down hard in the dirt, burying my face in my hands as I breath through my mouth trying to calm myself. I have no idea how much propane is aboard the Blue Max. If they drift too far they could use up their supply. If they can’t keep the air inside the balloon heated and the envelope deflates, no one will be able to see them in this vastness.

Those who are not out searching mill around me, concern etched on their faces. The traditional champagne toast that ends a balloon flight has been eliminated. No one has uttered the Balloonist Prayer, the official end of every flight:           

May the winds welcome you with softness
May the sun bless you with its warm hands
May you fly so high and so well that God joins you in laughter
And sets you gently back into the loving arms of Mother Earth.
(Author Unknown)

It is not appropriate to celebrate as the unknown fate of the Blue Max hangs in the warm air. A few speak softly to one another; most of us are silent as we wait.

Suddenly a nearby radio erupts with static and a garbled voice shouts,

“It’s the Blue Max, there are three in the basket. We need help, they are deflating,” is the message from one rescue truck to another.

I realize I’ve been hold­ing my breath as air gushes from my lungs. Whatever humiliation I felt at our blunder is immediately erased. Jack is safe.
Author: Laura T. Jensen

Monday, March 26, 2012

Welcome to the Fearrington Writers Group Blog. Stay tuned for original poetry and prose by our members.