Thursday, June 28, 2012

Volunteering in SLO County

SLO NightWriter board members are considered community volunteers and include their hours with a community total in SLO County’s Retired Seniors Volunteer Program (RSVP).  

In 2011 we attended the annual recognition ceremony and donated a plentiful basket of SLO NW authored books and writing supplies.  

Visit RSVP for many volunteer options.

Holiday Fun with SLO NightWriters

Each December SLO NightWriters puts on a holiday bash that generally includes a very silly skit – Susan Tuttle and yours truly, moi, are frequently co-authors of said silliness.  

Somehow we manage to coerce other NightWriter members into humiliating themselves.  And, NightWriters happens to be blessed with some actual singing talent!  (NOT MINE!!)

So far, we’ve spoofed a critique group of author greats --Dr. Seuss critiquing Charles Dickens; Rewritten Christmas carol favorites and woven them into a Dickensian-reality-show-musical So You Think You Can Write; Taken off on a West Side Story rumble; and Twisted The Sound of Music into the age of electronic publishing.  

In 2012, thanks to Susan’s commitment and diligence, we’re heading toward a My Fair Lady debacle.  Lets see what happens!  We’ll never make it to Broadway.  We’ll be lucky to make it to YouTube!  But we have fun!

Central Coast Writers Conference 2011

Volunteering at the Central Coast Writers Conference

I look forward every year to the CCWC at Cuesta Junior College in San Luis Obispo!  The conference is held each Fall, on a Friday evening and all day Saturday.  I love it so much, I volunteer!  Checking writers in, I see returning grinning faces and meet writers new to the conference.  

The conference has a great teen program.  It warms my heart to watch those fresh young creative souls, starting their journeys as authors.  Every year I think, where would I be as a writer now, if I had been encouraged at a young age, if I had participated with other more experienced writers and taken concentrated classes in the craft. 

Topics are offered on every aspect of writing are presented by successful authors, publishers, and agents-- poetry, crafting character, genre specifics, dialogue, screenwriting, publishing, finding an agent, social media & electronics and much more.

Breakfast is provided for all and pre-purchased lunches are available.  The food is delish. 

So many details go into making a successful event, many of which take place before we event-volunteers even show up for the day but, once on site, we work hard to ensure that folks are checked in, comfortable, well cared for, fed, and oriented to their classes etc.  As volunteers we do get to attend the sessions and meet the faculty at a great party afterward. 

SLO Nightwriters sponsors and is heavily involved in the event.  I’ve attended CCWC’s since 1998 and I always come away educated, inspired, and optimistic.  It’s a wonderful venue to connect and network!  

Visit for conference information.

SLO NightWriters

I’m proud to be member of, and on the Board of Directors for, San Luis Obispo's SLO NightWriters, the premier writing organization of the Central Coast of California.  

Come join us!  We have writers of every shape and size, genre and skill level.  Published, unpublished, all are welcome!  

Evening meetings are on the second Tuesday of every month, 7pm, year round.  Visit us for free, great speakers, writer camaraderie, networking.  Refreshments are served.  

Check our website for most current meeting location and contact us at

The mission of San Luis Obispo NightWriters 
is to advance quality writing, 
promote publication, and expand author recognition 
in a forum that nurtures a spirit of community 
for all its members. 

  •         Provide venues for SLO County writers to meet and connect with each other in a supportive environment
  •         Extend opportunities to advertise and expand members’ bios, publications, websites/blogs/links, services, and platforms
  •         Contribute education & skill training to NW members and NW website/newsletter readers
  •         Offer inspiration, recognition, encouragement to its members via meetings, contests, newsletter, website etc. 
  •         Present opportunities for peer review and critique via critique groups and workshops
  •         Introduce members and their works to the San Luis Obispo Community via Tolosa Press, Arts Obispo, and other local publications and venues
  •         Serve as a clearinghouse for SLO County, making NW a local go-to-hub for information on skills, writing events, resources, opportunities etc. via website, newsletter, meetings and workshops –
  •     Advance recognition of the Central Coast of CA as a known and respected entity for writer fulfillment and success via NW website/links, book-signings, publicity, events etc.

Critique Groups with SLO NightWriters

I’m delighted to hold the position of Critique Group Coordinator on the SLO NightWriters Board of Directors.  

That means I assist NW members in locating or starting a critique group and provide guidelines for creating a productive and satisfying critique experience.

We’re just about to host the 2nd annual Night of Critique at the August 2012 SLO NightWriters meeting.  

Last year, members brought 250-500 words to read at the microphone and received feedback from a panel of critiquers. The panel pictured here consisted of: myself, three critique group leaders, Barbara Wolcott, Susan Tuttle and Lorie Brailler; and two NW women skilled and seasoned in the art of critique, Laurie Woodward and Anne Schroeder.

The work presented was varied in genre—a screenplay, first chapters of novels, a children’s picture book, a novel summary, even a college entrance essay! 

Critiquing is an art, but not limited to an elite few.  We can all can listen and provide helpful feedback from our own unique point of view, honing our assessment skills as we grow and learn.  

The beauty of a critique group is the varied perspective that it offers. We each perceive things differently and bring an assortment of strengths and skills to the table. It’s all about supporting the writer and the work to their highest potential. Reviewers need to stay positive and constructive while considering the specific needs of the genre.  

More on Critique Groups to come in a future post.   

Part I  - Critique Group Process Guidelines
Part 2 - A Useful Critique

A Workshop with Catherine Ryan Hyde 

On April 24-25, 2010 I attended an intensive workshop on Self-Editing with Catherine (Pay it Forward and 17 other novels, to date.)  

You’d think it would be grueling after 16 hours, but honestly, I left feeling energized and inspired.   

Seven of us met in her Cambria studio with our first 30 pages of a work-in-progress, and we dove right in to an in-depth critique for all.  

Catherine read the material aloud (noting that we’ll hear it the way it presents on the page and not the way we would dramatize it for our audience – true and so beneficial.)  

Each of us received a good solid hour and 45 minutes worth of devoted attention from the room.  We covered everything from the broader issues of substance:  Did the piece start where it needed to?  Were we hooked?  Were there points of confusion? -- to sentence structure, grammar and punctuation, and many topics in between.  Any and all questions were posed and answered.  

Catherine’s studio is delightful, the pace of the process moved comfortably, and while we writers were seriously focused, the ambiance was blissfully casual.  The enthusiasm was high, the pressure was low.  

Catherine’s expertise is abundant and she is a supportive and generous teacher.  She periodically offers workshops and says she is open to requests for them on a variety of topics.  

Catherine can be reached via her website,  

Award Winning Young Writers of SLO County! 

In April of 2010 and 2011, I joined a group of teachers to serve as judges for the San Luis Obispo County Office of Education "Writing Celebration" competition. 

Student entries are from grades 1-12 and are submitted in 4 categories: Poetry, Personal Experience, Expository and Imaginative Narrative. 

The first level screening occurs at the school district level with approximately 600 entries sent to the county level to be judged. 

An award's ceremony is held for the winners at Laguna Middle School in SLO in May. Medals and certificates are given to the first place winners.  Honorable mentions are also awarded.  

It's a privilege to read this work!!  There is some amazing young talent in our county!

San Luis Obispo Books and Authors Faire

Here we are representing SLO NightWriters at the 2010 San Luis Obispo Books and Authors fair in the Mission Plaza, making books authored by NightWriter members available for sale.  Joining me here are local SLO authors and wonderful women, Anne Schroeder and Ruth Goodnow with her sweet Corgi, Rosie.
Why Write?

Me:          I want to write a movie.
My Mom:  What about?
Me:          I have no idea.

That’s how it started, 25+ years ago.  I had no characters conceived, no scenes fleshed out, no topic or genre.  I just knew I wanted to write.  

For years, tapping out fantasy saved me from the hell of an excessively bureaucratic job – up at 5am to write, two hours everyday before work.  I got cranky if I missed a morning.  

Now, a 32-year veteran of said bureaucracy, I find I’m grateful for some of the structure I picked up there.  Business writing is a terrific foundation for fiction -- clear communication, crisp sharp phrasing, indisputable rationale, a solid structure of argument, concise presentation, proper use of language and punctuation (still a challenge.)  

Just switch out the big-wig bureaucrats for some monsters.  Executives or vampires, it all has to be laid out with compelling logic and lead to a satisfying conclusion. 

Finding an agent and getting a screenplay produced are no small feats.  So, why not write the novel version - I asked myself.  As it turns out, that's not so easy either.    

But, there’s something about the creation of life, a whole new world where I am ruler and meter of justice.  It’s exhilarating.  It’s fulfilling, addicting!  

Years later, here I am at the keyboard.  Most every morning, up at 5am to write.  I still get cranky if I go too long without it!