Growing up Superman was my favorite superhero. He could fly, he was freakishly strong, he had super cool breath and he had heat vision. No other superhero could top him. Superman did not need a utility belt, or magic ring. He had all his powers contained in him. Superman, son of Jor-El, was unmatched and indestructible.
In 1978 Superman, in the form of Christopher Reeves, came to the Americana Complex movie theater in Detroit, and I was one of the first ones in line. I recall inhaling popcorn, as I watched, Gene Hackman, ( a.k.a. Lex Luther) drape Kryptonite around Superman’s neck. Lex then effortlessly pushes the weakened Man of Steel into a pool of water. Superman is reduced to a simple human with great hair. It crushed me to see my hero almost suffocate in a watery grave.
I joined a writer’s group in Toledo a few weeks ago and my first meeting was last night. My good friend, Kelley and I showed up a Biggby’s coffee shop to be apart of this scary group.
The amazing smell of lattés, cappuccino, espresso and anything coffee mugged us as we walked in the door. Before I knew it my wallet was missing $10.00, we each had a cup of foam and whipped something in our hands and we were seated with our new friends.
The small group of writers sat politely as each pulled out a piece of their work. The process is simple but intimidating. One by one we get to present our work to the friends, who were strangers before the coffee incident. We read a piece of work and discuss it. We express what we like, what we don’t like and what could be changed. Simple right?
Lex Luther sat very calm and politely chatted with Superman before he attached the Kryptonite anchor.
We read a few passages from soon- to-be novels, some powerful poetry and then it was my turn to present. I presented the excerpt from the first chapter of “Growing Up Black in White.” While they each examined my work, I excused myself and surrendered my $5.00 coffee to the toilet. I assumed by the time I returned they would be done reading. I was wrong. I looked down at my copy trying to look busy, but I couldn’t help but notice the pen of the women who sat across from me. The pen moved at Superman speed across my work as it stopped frequently, very frequently, to make a comment or correction. I felt naked and exposed. My gift, this thing that makes me feel superhuman, was exposed to its Kryptonite and I felt weak.
Pens finally stopped and I prepared myself for the verbal assault which never came. The suggestions were good. “Move this sentence down here to build the suspense, capitalize this word, cut out this phrase. this line is confusing.” They liked what I wrote and their suggestions were good, sound and constructive.
After Superman struggled in the pool for what seemed like hours, Lex Luther’s busty blonde assistant, jumped in and unhooked the Kryptonite necklace. Superman emerged from the water and with each step he got stronger. The writing group is good, a necessary step in my process to be better. Like Superman, with each step I will get stronger.