It was February of 2000 when I first met Barry Dempster, an award-winning poet and author. He was the instructor at my very first creative writing workshop, and as I recall, there were about a dozen of us huddled into the basement of the Holland Landing Public Library, all keen and eager to learn. Later, Barry, along with myself and two other members of the group, would form a “Tea and Sympathy” group, an ad-hoc writing group that met infrequently. Barry didn’t “get” the mystery genre any more than I “get” non-rhyming poetry, but he came to my inaugural book launch, and the one after that (the latter graciously hosted by one of the Tea and Sympathy group).
I’ve since moved, and so it’s been a good five years since I’ve seen Barry, but I still remember his lessons well. He used to say that good writing was “putting the best words in the best order,” which sounds deceptively simple, but his pet peeve was the use of clichés. In fact, our first lesson was to come up with as many clichés as we could as a group, and vow never to use them again.