Meetup leader, Balam Abello — write-on meetup writers group in davie florida
April 12, 2016
To Whom it may concern:
I have an important complaint about an arbitrary, capricious, and simply wrong action of Balam Abello taken against me and which I am appealing to the Meetup organization. This action has caused me significant distress.
Balam Abello is the acting and possibly now official organizer and leader of the Write-On group that meets in Davie Florida Tuesdays at 7 PM.
Balam is a dedicated leader with a keen intellect and considerable talent/experience when it comes to writing which what the Write-On group is all about.
From the action I am about the share with you, I think his leadership style is a bit shall we say Imperial. It is an action arbitrary, capricious, and wrong to which he will brook no appeal.
I have asked him to meet with me personally to work out a solution over a cordial cup of coffee as adult to adult, man to man. Balam has neglected to respond to that request as of this writing.
The issue is best portrayed by me sharing the entirety of last Sunday’s email exchange with Balam as well as my Monday morning email to him requesting a personal meeting to seek a mutually agreeable solution.
Before I paste in this “email conversation”, let me state that I do not necessarily want Balam removed from his post. I merely want the banishment of me from this group which is very important to me personally and professionally voided.
Perhaps Balam also should be instructed to have any individual complaining of another first take up that matter with the alleged offender rather than assuming he himself should take on the role he terms and rejects as “Baby-sitter” in this email exchange. Then play judge and jury and issue what I will term an “Imperial edict” not ammendable to reason or appeal”
My relations with other members have always been mutually courteous and cordial in every respect – even friendly. Previously, my interactions with Balam Abello have always been courteous, respectful, and even friendly.
I believe he may have unspoken motives for his action, but I will omit my speculation on them and let our exchange speak for itself: (
(I quote exactly only changing the font and font size to better be able to read it given my visual disability)
Balam’s unexpected email to me which I received early on Sunday morning, April 10th:
After a great deal of deliberation, it pains me to say this to you, but, as of today, you are no longer a standing member of the Davie Writer’s Group, (DWG).
DWG is a writer’s peer review group. Its purpose is to help its members to better their writing skills, and their current writing projects.
It is expected that its members conduct themselves with the utmost decorum and respect towards one another. Members should follow well-defined guidelines, which were established long before I became its acting organizer.
The group’s common good dictates that members help other members with their writing, by making helpful commentaries and suggestions about: content, topic, structure, inconsistencies, grammar and style, etc. In other words, contributions in the form of constructive criticisms, as well as written notes on the hand-outs, is paramount.
Additionally, members should realize that at no time should they interpret critiques leveled towards their work is a criticism of them, personally. Becoming defensive and/or aggressive about it is unbecoming and disruptive.
Please abstain from attending any of our meetings. Of course, you probably have develop friendships with members of the group. If you do so wish it, you can contact them on your own volition. My only concern is the groups wellbeing.
I wish you success with your current and future writing projects.
My response to Balam’s initial response sent Sunday April 10th :
I hope you will reconsider your position.
Despite my belief that a healthy debate of critiques is important to fully understand them and their merit to best be able to incorporate their message into my writing, I am perfectly capable of simply listening to reactions without comment or debate. If that is truly what you want, I can and will behave that way.
I think that will lessen the benefit of those critiques to me, but such is life. I have learned a great deal from these discussions/debates, but if that is what you want I can and will comply.
I do agree wholeheartedly with the purposes of the group. I personally have benefited immensely from both hearing the comments of others on both the work of others and that of myself. My writing has improved considerably as a result of this group.
I have on several occasions gone out of my way to praise written critiques of others which I felt helpful as I did with Jackie and Steve last week. It wasn't the first time.
I also went out of my way to thank Rick some weeks ago for us having a verbal debate on the use of shotguns in "Dana's Big Case". Without that debate (as I saw it) I would not have taken his comment seriously - a comment which - once fully understood - changed my entire book for the good.
Please, Balam, view the whole picture.
I cannot imagine that your concern extends to my verbal critiques of others. Aside from asking occasional clarifying questions my comments in group have always been positive and encouraging.
Indeed, I have heaped praise on the efforts of others when I thought it deserved. Also I have kept my mouth shut on occasions when I had serious problems with work some presented.
Most certainly others - particularly yourself - do not hold back. I know your comments are meant to be helpful and you are an excellent and knowledgeable critique for the most part, but your comments are often quite strong. (not really talking about your critiques of my work)
If any part of your proposed action relates to my lack of participating in written critiques of others, please understand that while I do not advertise it, my eyesight is such that I have great difficulty reading the small type most other writers in the group use.
I can focus on something written in small type briefly, but am physically incapable of comfortably reading extensive small type writings.
This is the reason I myself write in large type and read books only in large type. I cope with this handicap very well other than in writing group. I can find large type versions of books readily. I easily can use the zoom on my computer to read emails, posts, and webpages.
I cannot image either that you have concern with my interpersonal interactions with others in the group. Aside from the occasional, well meant, lightly put tease of some, they have been uniformly positive. I had significant success in life more because of my ability to get along with others than either my verbal or analytic skills. I like people.
Privately and quite frankly, I don't hold the highest opinion of one or two in our group, but I think I do an excellent job of keeping that fact to myself. I suspect from your hopefully provisional edict others are not so kind. I find such behind the back criticisms of a person reprehensible and will not engage in such behavior.
I will say privately to you that I often wonder at the reading comprehension of others in the group at times. (again I am not speaking in reference to my own work) I often hear questions that indicate the questioner has not noticed or remembered something one of the writers has written earlier in a piece. I do think a few are on occasion rigid and ill-informed and on rare occasion even intemperate.
Take for the example Lee and his advocacy of frequent somewhat arbitrary use of commas which I find contrary to writing good prose - a position I have often seen taken by well-known writers and teachers of writing.
As I recall, he demanded for me to show him the comma problem he had thrown out verbally the previous group and to which I had spoke. (Perhaps I should not have brought it up. No one is perfect.) Then he threw down my writing of the week on the table and for some reason went into a defense of his age. I had said nothing of his age. This, Balam, is destructive group behavior.
Perhaps, I have rambled too long already.
My essential message is that I will comply if that is what you want. I would like you to revoke your suspension of me which is in effect also a suspension of a blameless Carl who will have great difficulty attending group without the ride and friendship I provide him. Carl, like me, greatly enjoys the group and benefits from the discussions of his work. Carl's writing is a very important aspect of his life.
PS: I hesitated to bring this up, but perhaps I should air this so we can clear the air between us.
You wrote me on Facebook that we needed to have a talk on etiquette and asked for my phone number. I replied by sending you my number.
Later, I added a complaint about being "talked over" in the group by you and two others last week. I now understand perhaps you were exasperated with my proclivity for debate, but Balam you most certainly did cut off my explanation as to why the pre-sworn in fictional Trump was portrayed in a far less burlesque manner than you would have expected from me - and he is portrayed once officially the President. That is not a matter I need to discuss here, but I must say your over-talking rather than waiting for me to finish was not appropriate.
You also may have been annoyed by my private timing of folks last week. While I well understand we had more time because of fewer readers, it was something provoked by your actions in weeks previous where you objected to my large print, few words per page work on the basis of the thickness of my handout. I couldn't help but note that in these recent weeks you have been far more rigid with my time than that of others. Perhaps I am wrong in this perception but I think it is something we both should reflect upon.
It also occurs to me that the politics of my recent writing may be troublesome to other and/or to you. You have publically referred to my interest in the Donald as an "obsession". I know that my concern for what harm this man might do for our country is strong, but I do object to it's characterization as an obsession.
I know that you and I do not share a common political viewpoint, but I respect you and your right to have a different point of view. There well may be Trump supporters in the group that my recent writing upsets that don't express their upset openly but do express their concerns to you. Again I hesitate to propose this possible conspiracy theory of my own. However, if it has any validity, it is not the American way and not appropriate in this or any other forum.
LOL, perhaps I err in debating so long your provisional decision when your given reason for that decision was my proclivity to debate. I hope not.
I have not shown anger or engaged in abuse in this reply. My participation in this group is very very important to me for many reasons as it is to Carl. I wanted to make my case fully to you to allow me to continue attending group as forcefully as I could.
Once again, I will comply with a gag order on debating if you wish. Hopefully, we can continue on in a friendly courteous manner. I now know I will effectively be on probation.
Balam’s response to my initial response to his unexpected email. Received Sunday Morning April 10th:
CHM: Sadly, I seem to have misfiled or otherwise lost Balam’s second email which was a reply to my first. Hopefully, Balam will be willing to share with us its exact contents. Let me reconstruct its message as best I can short of getting a subpoena for the release of that email.
Balam’s tone dramatically changed from “firm but cordial” to “hostile and abusive”
Even in the salutation I was now Charles instead of Charlie
Among the accusations he made were that:
I was selfish and did not even bring a pen to group to make corrections/comments on the work of others. He explicitly said in effect that I wanted a free ride. That is, to have my work reviewed while not helping others with their work.
This despite just in my second email to him I had written to him of my difficulties in reading the small type (small and hard to read for me) others use and thus physically could not provide typo/grammar/spelling comments.
I had also offered that I did listen intently and usually offered comments.
As you can see and my reply I later offered to write down my verbal feedback already given if he so demanded.
Despite this, this second email, he went on to accuse me of at times sleeping in group when others are reading their work aloud.
As you will see in my reply, I responded that there was one week when I dragged myself to group. though sleep deprived and may have dozed at times that one week. I didn’t say, but I had done so my friend, Carl, with no other means to get there could attend.
I am after all over 70 years old.
In his response Balam also coldly (and I must say heartlessly) accused me of trying to get sympathy and “manipulate” him by bringing up Carl - a good man and good friend with significant physical limitations into the picture - at all.
He also stated he was tired of “baby-sitting” the group for me and that numerous members of the group had complained to him that my behavior at group – specifically my tendency to debate critiques of my work – was disruptive. He further went on to say that at least two members had stopped attending specifically because of my presence
I believe it was at the close of his email when he responded to my earlier statement that: I and my work had benefitted greatly from group feedback and that had on several occasions thanked the group and specific individuals for their helpful feedback.
He responded to my concern with the following and this I can quote from memory accurately:
“If you need an editor, go out and hire a professional”
Hardly a comment consistent with the purpose and goals of the group he had quoted to me at length earlier in his reply.
There were considerably more negatively phrased words in his reply, but my mind is accurate but not photographic. I sincerely hope Balam will share with you and me this second email just as he sent it to me.
My response to Balam’s response above to the second and absusive email Balam had sent in response to mine. This sent Sunday April 10th:
I WANT TO CONTINUE WITH THE GROUP.
(NO I AM NOT SHOUTING. CAPS WERE ON WHEN I STARTED THIS REPLY, AND I DON'T WISH TO TAKE FURTHER TIME FROM MY EDITING FOR THE DAILY NEWS TO FIX THIS TO ADDRESS THIS ISSUE THAT SHOULD BE A NON-ISSUE.)
THE OTHER AREAS I ADDRESSED NEED NOT BE ADDRESSED NOW OR AT ANY TIME IN THE FUTURE. THEY ARE SUBSIDIARY ISSUES TO ONE SINGLE OVER-REACHING ISSUE.
YOU SAID I AM TO DEFENSIVE TO COMMENTS ON MY WORK AND FIND THAT UNACCEPTABLE.
I SAID I WILL OBSTAIN FROM GIVING ANY DEBATIVE REACTIONS TO ANY SUCH CRITIQUES PERIOD. I WILL EFFECTIVELY ROLL-OVER AND PLAY DEAD. I WILL IN THE FUTURE NOTE ANY COMMENTS AND SAY ESSENTIALLY NOTHING IN RESPONSE BUT THANK YOU FOR YOUR FEEDBACK.
WHAT FULLER COMPLIANCE COULD YOU WANT?
EVERYTHING ELSE I WROTE BACK TO YOU IS EITHER SUPPORTIVE THAT I WAS HAVE OTHERWISE BEEN A GOOD MEMBER OR SOME PRIVATE ASIDES TO SHARE MY FEELINGS AND IN ONE OR TWO CASES HURT FEELINGS. THESE HAVE NO RELEVANCY TO THE MATTER AT HAND.
i SAID I WILL RESPOND TO YOUR EXPRESSED CONCERN. WHAT MORE NEED I DO. ARE THERE UNSPOKEN ISSUES WITH MY CONTINUED ATTENDENCE?
I WANT TO CONTINUE WITH THE GROUP. I WANT MY DEAR AND BLAMELESS FRIEND, CARL WHO LACKS EASY TRANSPORTATION TO BE ABLE TO CONTINUE TO EFFORTLESSLY ATTEND.
CANDIDLY I CANNOT FATHOM THIS SECOND EMAILS CONTINUED BANISHMENT WHILE THINKING APPROACH. PLEASE, EXPLAIN.
SINCERELY AND COURTEOUSLY,
BALAM’S TERSE AND UNWAVERING RESPONSE TO MY EMAIL ABOVE RECEIVED SUNDAY APRIL 10:
I want to acknowledge I read your email.
You bring up many issues, which I cannot address at this point in time.
For now, please abstain from attending the meetings. Upon my return, we can take up this issue again.
Thank you for your cooperation,
(CHM: I assume Balam the return to which Balam refers above is the six week or two-month trip abroad he plans to start the end of May.)
MY RESPONSE TO THE LACK OF FURTHER RESPONSES TO DATE FROM BALAM. (I had waited till Monday for him hopefully to be more objective) I SENT THE FOLLOWING ON MONDAY MORNING APRIL 11:
“4-11 16 8:28 AM
I hope this day finds you calmer and more open to compromise.
My work day was destroyed by your “out-of-the-blue” email yesterday morning and the subsequent email exchange that ensued. This at a time I particularly needed to be focused on my work.
Carl and I met personally last night for an extensive discussion.
Carl had reviewed the entire exchange of emails. Carl agrees that your proposed actions and your emails supporting those actions are an arbitrary, capricious, and intemperate over reach of your authority.
He thought it unfortunate that he too would be deprived of the forum which has been very helpful to the elevation of his craft though he un-debatably is blameless.
From the first, Carl suggested you and I have cordial meeting face-to-face, mano a mano, adult to adult – perhaps over a cup of coffee at a Starbucks - to discuss this issue and come to a mutually agreeable solution.
I think he is on the money, and would like to meet with you soonest.
I hope you are agreeable and can meet with me sometime today or before the group meeting tomorrow.
Carl further pointed out that lacking such a meeting and a mutually acceptable compromise, I have a Constitutional right to confront my accusers.
If you are not willing to meet and work this out amicably, I will have no choice but to take counsel on my legal options in this matter.
I don’t believe that either of us would want to incur the time and expense of depositions from you and other group members which inevitably would be an early step in any such procedures.
You have my email. You have my phone number. When can we meet?
Sincerely and courteously.
There has been no response to this last email I sent to Balam early on Monday morning.
I therefore am filing this complaint with the Meetup organization.
Since I cannot reasonably expect an immediate reply, my friend Carl and I will attend tonight’s meeting just as we both have – missing only the occasional meeting – for more than a year.
I sincerely hope Balam lets this matter drop.
If not “I will serve” him with this complaint and offer to read it as my reading to the group of the evening instead of my work on my latest novel.
If that is necessary, I will abide by the consensus of the group publically stated and remain or leave as that consensus dictates.
If Balam continues to resist a compromise and will not allow a public reading of my charge against him, I will likely leave but bring this well documented complaint to my attorney for a civil rights filing. I may or may not prevail. In the court’s eyes this may be a trivial even somewhat frivolous matter given the bigger problems of law and order in our world of today.
However, with the filing of the suit, I will have a right to demand depositions of Balam and all the members of the group (perhaps current and former) to among other things determine if the Balam’s allegations of complaints and departures of members of the group because of my presence is indeed a valid one.
I regret and do not take likely the inconvenience and expense (primarily to me on the latter) this action will inflict upon members and former members of the group when subpoenaed to be deposed.
However, I will not let my civil rights be trampled upon by over reach of Balam Abello. And de facto my friend, Carl Felix, a potentially great play write and disabled stroke victim with no other easy means of transportation to the group. (which is something like fifteen miles from his home.)
The interruption of my work for a living – particularly bothersome at a time I have been working toward a tight deadline is enough.
I have not been able to concentrate to finish the necessary editing for publication that could bring me significant compensation as well as attention by the public.
What has turned into a time and soul consuming “appeals” process and my very upset state of mind by it have prevented me from doing any editing work since I received Balam’s unexpected email.
This editing is a job that was well advanced, and I had every confidence I would be able to complete on Sunday April 10. Then I got Balam’s email.
Charles H. Meyer, Margate, Florida - April 12th 2016
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