Improv Garden Writing Salon

Improv Salons

Improv Garden Salon

Improv and writing

Open up the flow of words with improv garden writing games and exercises. Different than the typical writing salon, the improv garden version adds a comical twist and garden-related. An improv salon, encouraged at places like Berkeley Word Party Meetup group, is a “fun, loosely structured way to generate stories and ideas” and is quite popular.

Saturday, October 25th, a few members of the High Desert Branch of the California Writers Club (HDCWC) met in a lovely garden. John and Karen Kane, a husband and wife improv team from led the group in warm-up word games. Following the word games, I asked the group to write a sentence focused on any word from the games and somehow connected to a garden. Blogger and HDCWC member Rusty LaGrange refers to this one-sentence writing game as Chained Sentences.

What does improv have to do with writing? Plot, characters and dialogue of a game, scene or story are made up in the moment. Improvisation is a great tool for writers block.

Fran Sorin recommends tips like surrender, imagine, and work your creativity muscles. Fran says to let go of control. It’s a great opportunity to laugh at yourself. I love her imagine statement to create scenarios that are goofy, paradoxical, real. That’s what we did at last Saturday’s improv garden salon. Yes, the chained sentences were a mix of goofy, paradoxical, and real – and hilarious.

The word game that John and Karen taught the improv garden salon group required listening and staying in the moment. Focusing on what the other person was saying was the only way to get through the game.

Incidentally, Fran Sorin is a gardener and garden designer. I have a hunch that she would have loved participating in our Improv Garden Salon.

Garden inspired writing

A Pink and Yellow Rose in Autumn

Improv Garden Writing

Pink and Yellow Rose in Autumn


Walking through or sitting in a garden inspires a writer with ideas, color, sounds. Standing near tall rosebushes in Karen’s garden in front of her house, I closed my eyes to focus on sounds. First, I wrote down my thoughts. Then, I decided to capture the sound on video. You can hear the wind. Watch as the roses wave in the wind:

Ah. Fascinating. Beautiful.

We had fifteen minutes of quiet garden time to write down what inspired us. Afterwards, we met again at the picnic table on the back porch and share our inspiration.

Improv writing may be focused on any topic you choose. Gardening is what I chose because I love it. Gardening provided inspiration, and improv helped us to build some creativity muscles.


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Women’s Escape to Catalina Writers’ Retreat

file0001149784476Several others have already weighed in with their opinion of the first women writers’ retreat.  What many of you may not know is the story of how this all came to fruition.  It started with a conversation between two members of the High Desert Branch of the California Writer’s Club.  They were discussing how other responsibilities often kept them from pursuing their true passion, writing.

“Wouldn’t it be great if we could go away to an island where we could write without all of the distractions?” one of the women mused.

Apparently, one of them realized that it is possible to go away to an island, and the Escape to Catalina was conceived.

This women-only weekend was a truly unique experience because it was planned for each of the participants to also be one of the presenters.  There were five women, and this translated to 5 sessions that ran from 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 hours long.  Each presenter was allowed to choose her own subject which, in retrospect, could have been a recipe for disaster with no one overseeing the overall plan.  Instead of a disaster, the instructional sessions, which included lots of writing, fit together nicely.  It came together so well, one would have thought much more time went into the overall organization.

The first evening was spent learning about the anatomy of a story and all of the components that need to be present in order for a story to come to life.  The second day’s first presentation was about character development and what was required to truly bring them to life on the page.  The instruction in creative non-fiction which followed helped us all realize that non-fiction writing didn’t have to be boring and technical as we learned how to write a recipe as creative non-fiction from the example of a grilled cheese sandwich recipe that was embedded in the description of the first time a future chef climbed onto a chair in her mother’s kitchen to make a sandwich.  A subsequent session spent on voice and style was time well spent because as writers, we need to find our own voice so that we will stand apart from other writers.  The conference closed with Blogging 101, which included excellent instruction about building and maketing your blog.

Between all of these sessions there was time to explore and/or write.    It’s been nearly a month since the return from our weekend retreat, and I am still carrying around the notebook full of notes and ideas that came together from that weekend.  In fact, I began the outline of my NaNoWriMo project during that weekend.  Perhaps it was the presence of  my local area’s NaNoWriMo coordinator that helped to propel me toward that goal.

I am very glad that I was able to escape with my fellow female writers to Santa Catalina Island.  It was time well spent, and I returned feeling refeshed and with my muse reawakened.  The real challenge will be to prevent it from slipping back into a coma now that we have returned to the demands and distractions of daily life.

**Patti  can also be found at where she tries to limit her blogging to stocking a pantry, budgeting, and recipes.  She isn’t always successful.

Categories: Blogging, High Desert People, High Desert Writers | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Take a Garden, Some Improv, Some Friends & Add a Duck

Improv garden Group sees Ducks Fly Over

Ducks Flew Over the Garden

While you’re gearing up for the National Novel Writing Month Contest — NaNoWriMo, as it’s lovingly called — you can challenge yourself with clever ways to manage your Muse. If you find it tough to get started in the mornings, and your coffee is letting you down, try a word prompt game. It’s easy and anyone can play.

Gather a collection of unrelated words — go easy and pick five words to start — then write a paragraph quickly using those words. This exercise gets the creativity pumping. Your Muse will beg for more but only try one more exercise and leave the Muse agitated. It might get distracted and leave you alone while you create a contest-winning masterpiece!

Improv is a great way to challenge yourself as you break any writer’s block. If you have a group of 5 to 8 friends who want to cheer you on, they can participate in another exercise. Recently, High Desert California Writers Club members joined  improv group leaders John and Karen Kane of I6 improv troupe at a Garden Improv Writers Salon, held at the Kane home.

Among several games, “Chained Sentences” seemed to be the favorite. Chained Sentences is a group game where you each improvise by writing one sentence on a clean sheet of paper. You only have a minute to think. Write it down and pass it to the person on your right. Our theme was — what else? — garden improv. When you receive the next sheet from the left, quickly read the prior sentence and create one of your own. Write it down and pass your sheet as the next one comes to you. If you have eight friends you will receive 8 sheets with 8 sentences. On your last sheet (it should have your first sentence at the top) write a nice “moral of the story”, even if it’s maniacally silly or morbidly gruesome. Then try to stop laughing … bet you can’t. The creative juices are flowing!

Here’s a sample of how Improv sentences created a bazaar story idea:

The duck flew over the garden at dawn looking for breakfast. All he could find was a garden of Cadillacs draped in banana leaves. The wind blew, the dust funnels were dancing in trees. “None of this even looks close to being duck food,” he muttered to himself — until he caught sight of a truck labeled “Hostess” driving slowly by on the road that led past the gardens. Shih Tzus and wiener dogs chased the ducks with peanut butter ice cream dripping from their mouths. “All I want is a Twinkie!” said the king duck. Alabaster was the King of the Mallards and was the largest duck. Mostly from eating Twinkies.

Our participants laughed and agreed that garden parties, improv, writing salons, and such are all good  ways to make friends and generate some new ideas.


If you like what you see here check with our High Desert Bloggers for more ideas to come.

Categories: Comedy, High Desert Living, Uncategorized | Tags: , | 2 Comments

Less than a week before we hit the trail through NaNo Land


Plot bunny

With only just six days to go, are you ready to hit the trail through NaNo Land?


As promised I’m back with more NaNoWriMo trivia, helps and hints.


NaNo Challenges are traditions that help the writer reach their 50,000 work count goal. At any point along the trail you may encounter one of the following:


  • The Traveling Shovel of Death – this is a challenge to include at some point a shovel into your story. More often than not the shovel will be used to bury or bludgeon someone – but not necessarily so.
  • NaNoWriMo Anagram – this challenge asks you to name a character using an anagram of letters in NaNoWriMo. For example, I named a character “Orwin Mano”.
  • Word-a-day Challenge – usually a thread on your regional forum where a new word is listed every day and you must work it into your story that day.  Many participants return to the forum thread and post the sentence.
  • Word Sprints – this challenge also known as “Word Wars” can be done at a Write-In (more on that later) or online (Via forums, Facebook, Twitter). A time limit is set, 15 minutes or more, and the challenge is to see who can produce the most words during that time period.
  • Guilt Monkeys – the Guilt Monkey comes to us thanks to the founder of NaNoWriMo, Chris Baty. Guilt Monkeys will nag you to finish your daily word counts. Here’s how it works – your ML gives out numbered envelopes at random that contain the Guilt Monkeys. To track the movement of the Guilt Monkeys there is thread to post on (Which Monkey was passed to who and why.)You can pass the Guilt Monkey off to another WriMo if you:
    • Reach your 50,000 word goal
    • Compete in Cauldron of Doom Challenge  (you do not need to win),
    • Win a Word Sprint,
    • Make a donation to NaNoWrimo.


If you don’t want to burden others with your Guilt Monkeys the MLs have a foster home for them until they can be adopted by someone in need of Guilt Monkey love.


  • The Cauldron of Doom – this is a difficult challenge that comes to us from Lansing MI. In this challenge the participants must complete 1250 words, in 20 minutes (I’ve seen various word counts for this challenge.)
  • Plot Bunnies – as John Steinbeck said, “Ideas are like rabbits. You get a couple and learn how to handle them, and pretty soon you have a dozen.” Plot bunnies are really cute and cuddly but you have to be cautious with them. They can lead you to some really wonderful vista of ideas or into a box canyon of despair.

You’ve been working on your novel and now you are stuck – where do you get help? The following are great places to go:

  • Write-Ins – NaNo public gatherings. For a Write-in WriMos gather at public place such as restaurant or coffee house and write. It’s that simple. During the event challenges may be issued, prizes awarded and suggestions make.
  • NaNoWriMo Forums – there are lots of threads with wonderful suggestions
  • Adoption Society – one of my favorite forums.  On this forum you will find abandoned titles, characters and plots looking for a good home.
  • The Dare Machine – If you want add a twist to your story then mosey on over to the Young Writers Program home page ( and try out the Dare Machine. Push the button and do what it says, for example “have one of your characters go missing for a chapter”.
  • Inner Editor Containment Unit – This also come to us from the YWP. Draw a box with a big red button. Now imagine your inner editor – what does she/he/it look like? Sound like? Now push the button, you inner editor has now been removed from your head and into the IECU for the next 30 days and will be kept occupied proof reading the NaNo Website. December first they will be returned to you.


See you at the trail head on November 1st!


Categories: Books, Community, High Desert Writers, Writing | Tags: , , , | 2 Comments

National Novel Writing Month Twelve Days and Counting

Twelve days until the adventure begins.

Twelve days until the adventure begins.

With only twelve days left until NaNoWriMo begins things are starting to heat up in NaNo-Land. If you haven’t decided to join us on this year’s word round up it’s not too late.

First some definitions so we are speaking the same language:

WriMo – noun, a person who participates in NaNoWriMo

YWP – NaNoWriMo for K – 12 students, where they set an appropriate word goal for their age and skill level.

Planner – a WriMo who plans out their novel, amount of planning varies with each individual

Pantser – a WriMo who just starts writing on Nov. 1st with no idea of where they are going and just let the story happen.

So what do you do during the remaining days until 12:01 AM Nov. 1, 2014?

  1. Sign up for NaNoWriMo or YWP-NaNoWrimo.
  2. Set up your Novel on the site
  3. Join a region, we’re USA :: California :: San Bernardino
  4. Check out the region’s Google calendar to see if there are any events you want to attend and add do your personal calendar
  5. Attend the NaNoWriMo Kick-off and information event on Oct 25, 2014 the Fieldheim Library in San Bernardino
  6. (Pantsers you may skip this one) Prepare for writing
    1. Character charts
    2. Plot outlines
    3. Research, as necessary.
    4. Get up at 11:45 PM on Oct 31, 2014 and stand by.
    5. At 12:01 AM Nov 1, 2014 head out on the trail and start writing.

Remember High Desert WriMos were are gathering at High Desert Book Oasis on Nov 1 to celebrate and encourage each other as we start down the dusty trail toward 50,000 words by 11:59 Nov 31, 2014.

Next week – defining plot bunnies and other NaNoLand denizens.


Categories: Books, High Desert Writers, Writing | Tags: , , , | 4 Comments

Pink Fuchsia for Autumn Gardens

Drought tolerant Fuchsia

Pink Fuchsia Plant

Pink Fuchsia is fit for a princess’ garden with its jewel-like bead-stems that dangle. Imagine its beauty if it had appeared as Anna’s and Elsa’s favorite flower. A pink and purple jewel in ice. Our daughters and granddaughters would have fallen in love with the flower beauty, don’t you think?

My little granddaughter, introduced to Frozen by me, loves Frozen as many girls do. Watching a movie isn’t my favorite thing to do because I tend to fall asleep somewhere in the middle. Frozen? No way did I fall asleep. I loved seeing the movie with my sweet little one-year-old love. She’ll be two next month, and she already knows the names, Elsa and Anna. Let it go are also three words she is very familiar with and loves to sing.

A friend who has been making the cutest little tote bags made a couple of Disney bags. She made a darling pink Frozen one for me to give my little precious for her birthday or for Christmas.


Anna and Elsa

Frozen Tote Bag

Now when I plant more Fuchsia in my garden, I’m sure that Anna and Elsa will be lingering close in my mind as I imagine fancy pink dangling Fuchsia bouquets in ice. However, the plant may not thrive so well in winter though it does grow well in Autumn and in drought tolerant gardens.

Fuchsia in Autumn

My Garden’s Pink Fuchsia


I think I’ll go out and look for more Fuchsia to plant in the garden. Before I do, I’m going over to link up to the fun Pink Saturday where there’s gorgeous pink surprises to behold. See you there!

Categories: Gardening | Tags: , , , , , | 1 Comment

Autumn Basket Giveaway by High Desert Bloggers

Autumn Basket Giveaway by High Desert Bloggers

Pumpkins and more for Autumn Basket Giveaway in November

Autumn is an exciting time – cooler weather, pumpkins, candy corn, holidays, pumpkin pie, pecan pie! That’s not all. It’s nearing NaNoWriMo time. High Desert Therese Moore is encouraging all who want to write a book in 30 days to join her for the November writing event.

There’s more. Bloggers at and are inviting people in the High Desert to enter their Autumn Basket Giveaway(s). The number of baskets to be given away depends on the amount of donations by bloggers and businesses. The more the donations, the more the baskets, the more the winners. Grab this chance to get your business blogged about FREE of charge. Entries can be made at by including your name and email address into the subject line of your email. Winners will be chosen by the email addresses sent in. Winners will be announced on Saturday, November 15th.

Items related to NaNoWriMo, Autumn, bloggers’ blog interests, and businesses participating in the giveaway(s) will be added to the baskets. Imagine the fun of winning one of these seasonal gift baskets.

Nina Amir’s book How to Blog a Book will be among the basket items. Nina lists eleven ways to use your blog to become an expert on her website. She offers coaching and training as well.

Now, before you leave this website, go to our email address,, and sign up for this fun fall giveaway. Be sure to insert your name and email address into the subject line.


Categories: Blogging | Tags: , , , | 3 Comments

Desert Writers Escape to Catalina Island

Guest Blogger: Brenda Hill, Newberry Springs


Catalina Island Writers Retreat

Brenda Hill at Catalina Island Retreat


What a fun time, and insightful learning experience for five California writers. Santa Catalina Island was the perfect choice for the first Writers Escape Weekend.

Writers hailed from different parts of the country. All authors shared many diverse genres. Workshop subjects included short story, fiction, creative non-fiction, character/plot development and blogging.

When we first arrived on the magical shores of Catalina, we could walk to our conveniently located weekend hide-away, The Catalina Lodge.

One of the advantages of Catalina is very few cars, only golf carts and bicycles. We explored the nooks and crannies of this magical island by foot from sunrise to sunset, then again in the evening to marvel at the nearly full hunter’s moon illuminating the boats in the bay. I took a refreshing swim at the local beach each day.

Brenda Hill's Catalina Harbor Photo

Catalina Harbor


Catalina Island, CA

Sunrise on Catalina Island

We feasted on gourmet coffee, authentic Mexican specialties, and fresh Mahi Mahi. The golden sun was warm. The ice cream was a cool refresher.

One night we enjoyed a starry night “at home” in our cozy courtyard. Cheese, nuts, fresh fruit, and wine was the perfect writers picnic under an almost full hunters moon.

Another highlight of our retreat was a  tour through the museum. The rich natural and social history of the island is fascinating.

Leaving this unique place is always bittersweet for me. All of us would have enjoyed at least one more day of sun, fun, fellowship and learning.  While dolphins danced near the deck of our ferry, our merry little group of writers planned our next writers retreat.

Avalon, CA Ferry

Catalina Ferry

Look for the details of the Spring Writers  Escape, perhaps to Big Bear, on this blog. We would enjoy hearing your comments, suggestions and ideas. 



Brenda Hill is the author of Success, Your Path to a Successful Book,
Our Love Affairs with Food and Travel, and blogger at

Categories: Day Trips, So Cal | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

NaNoWriMo is coming! Are you ready?

I'm participating are you?

I’m participating are you?

NaNoWriMo is coming! NaNoWriMo is coming!

What is NaNoWriMo?

The creators of NaNoWriMo define it as: “National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) is a fun, seat-of-your-pants approach to creative writing. On November 1, participants begin working towards the goal of writing a 50,000-word novel by 11:59 PM on November 30.”

It is a fun roller-coaster ride. You rise to the top creating your novel and watch your word count soar. Then you plummet in to the dark canon that is thinking written yourself into a corner or you’ve falling behind on your word count only to find you start to rise again.

If you’ve ever thought, “I could do better than this guy.” Then NaNoWriMo is for you.

If you’ve ever thought, “I’d like to write a story, someday.” Then NaNoWriMo is for you.

If you’ve ever thought, “I’m not creative, writing scares me.” Then NaNoWriMo is for you.

As the Municipal Liaison (ML) for the San Bernardino Region of NaNoWriMo I invite you to join me on this adventure toward completing your first novel.

As a member of the NaNoWriMo community I challenge you to join me because:

  1. You never know what you can do until you try.
  2. You’ll make some new friends, online and at community events.
  3. You’ll have fun.

For more information and to sign-up for NaNoWriMo go to

Once you’ve created your account mosey on over to the regional page an introduce yourself.

Comment to score some cool NaNoWriMo sway from yours truly.

Tess DeGroot AKA Victorville-Tess Municipal Liaison for San Bernardino region.







I can also be found at:

Categories: Books, Community, High Desert Writers, Writing | Tags: , , , , | 3 Comments