The Maryland Writers’ Association created the Writers’ Round Table Program to encourage writers, poets, playwrights and authors through monthly articles and activities.
The Notable Maryland Author articles and associated Fun With Words writers’ prompts are the centerpiece of the program. Each month, The Maryland Independent and other newspapers in the state will feature a Maryland Writers’ Association article about an author. Marylanders are encouraged to read the articles and try their hand at the writing prompts each month.
Author: Upton Sinclair
“I aimed at the public’s heart, and by accident I hit it in the stomach.” — Upton Sinclair
Genre: Social expose – Dedicated to finding and exposing living, working or social conditions that are dangerous for people to endure, but are in place because of selfish, powerful or evil people who are unconcerned or because no law prevents the practices. Writers of social expose bring the dark deeds into the daylight so that concerned citizens (individuals or organizations) can make the necessary changes or improvements.
A partial reading list includes “Lanny Budd” series of novels (including “World’s End” and Pulitzer Prize-winning “Dragon’s Teeth”), “The Jungle,” “The Autobiography of Upton Sinclair” and “The Brass Check.”
Upton Beall Sinclair (Sept. 20, 1878 — Nov. 25, 1968) was born in Baltimore, but his family moved to New York when he was a child. When he was a teenager he began writing brief bits for newspapers and magazines. Sinclair was a prolific writer.
He is known for his affiliation with socialism and for writing “The Jungle,” published in 1906. It was his sixth novel and was an expose of the awful working conditions of the Chicago meatpacking industry. His intent was to show how socialism and unions were the answer to poor living, working, and social conditions. Most readers focused on the depiction of unsafe food production creating an uproar that resulted in the major changes to national regulations on food preparation. “The Jungle” made him nationally famous.
“The Jungle” earned Sinclair enough money to establish the Helicon Home Colony, a socialist community in New Jersey. The community only lasted about a year.
Sinclair remained committed to social causes and to exposing the dangerous effects of capitalism in realistic fiction, essays and various other writings. In 1915, he moved to California, where he ran unsuccessfully for public office several times, including for governor. While there, he wrote “The Brass Check,” a systematic and incriminating critique of the severe limitations of the “free press” in the United States. In it he described the yellow journalism techniques created by William Randolph Hearst. In 1953, Sinclair moved to Arizona where he continued to write books, finally completing “The Autobiography of Upton Sinclair.”
Fun with words
Maryland Writers’ Association invites readers to have fun writing a social expose. Using just 100 words, write a social expose account where your character endures a living, working or social condition that would be changed, if only a specific person or group were aware of it. Pick your character, identify the issue and select the group the character feels will help.
Readers can submit their responses at the website www.marylandwriters.org/Notable_Maryland_Authors by the 25th of the month to receive an MWA Writers’ Round Table submission certificate. Selected prompts will be published next month. Other information can be found at www.mwawritersroundtable.org.
Last month’s reader selection
In September, readers were asked to write a personal adventure account where your character accomplishes a significant goal in a harsh environment (water, land, air, space) after overcoming harsh obstacles.
Here are some regional selections:
The cool kids ditched him in the desert 53 miles east of Bakersfield at twilight.
Hayden Chase, jacket swiped, phone stolen, hoped they played some dumb joke. But the sun sank along with his hopes. In the east, a Harvest Moon turned hot sand into cold silver.
Couldn’t he keep the moon at his back and struggle west? Over that much scrub? A year from now, hikers would find his skull, sun-hot, a Mojave tarantula nesting inside.
Make every step count and he would make it.
Stop burning moonlight.
He stepped off, his elastic shadow pointing the way toward Bakersfield.
By Lawrence P. McGuire
Sun’s struggling awake. Spring? Hardly, it’s still -40º. I’m going anyway. Pistol — check, food — check, water — check, matches — check. Favorite creek. Wind plowed the snow exposing snow’s mate, the ice.
Seventy mph against my back, open parka, spread parka taut, sailing, embracing speeds forbidden these cross-country skis. Lunch, collapsing trapper’s cabin. Must get home before dark captures me. Face to face — screaming wind, darkness, stumbling, tripping, falling.
Go to sleep and it’s all over. Cursing you wind, village lights, yet so distant, exhaustion, crawling.
Go to sleep and it’s all over. Home, it’s midnight, thanked the assembling search party, sleep.
By Ron McFarland
Uhl guided his horse through the dense virgin forest of Western Maryland. “I can think of a saltier term than ‘virgin’ to describe this jungle,” muttered Uhl.
Titian Uhl had been hired by the recently incorporated Baltimore & Ohio Railroad to find and survey five possible routes from Cumberland to Fort Duquesne at the Ohio River headwaters. He’d dispatched his fourth mapping yesterday then rode again heading west this morning.
Wiping his brow, Uhl thought, “I don’t envy the poor wretches coming after me to try and build this thing. They should have called it the Baltimore & Cumberland and stopped there.”
By Jon Ketzner