Trends in Writing, The Arts, Regional Events, and High Desert Living

Posts tagged writing

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.

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!


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.


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:

How can I…?

Innocent Labor

Innocent Labor

After lots of hard work, re-writes, and hysterics the finish line is almost in sight. The release of my book, Innocent Labor is right around the corner.

I’m so excited I want to scream…then cry, usually followed by the need for a glass of wine. Don’t judge me, I’m a writer. Being an emotional basket case is part of who we are. I saw it on Facebook so it must be true.

It’s interesting now that I’m releasing a book, I’m being asked “How does a person write a book?” A couple years ago, I was the person searching for a mentor and answers to my questions.

Over time, I’ve learned everyone, myself included has a different writing style. I don’t know if there is a guide for the “Ten Steps of How to Write” (I’m sure it’s been written, but I’m always asked for specific answers and not general guidelines). However, I believe everyone is different and should find their own way to allow their muse to speak.

This isn’t to indicate you shouldn’t implement a few rules to control the chaos that is your creativity. My first priority was to always carve out time to write (Best Advice Ever). If I didn’t schedule that time, the magic didn’t happen. When I was lucky the ideas would churn around in my head while I went about my daily tasks. The words and scenes pushed me out of bed, the characters becoming so real I’d forget they lived in my head and not in reality.

What's in My Head by Cynthia (aka MrsPeel) Love the words inside the silhouette here!But I couldn’t depend on those magical moments to write a book. It’s like waiting for a cool day during the summer months in the High Desert. If you want rain, you’ve got to make it happen. Dig deep within yourself. Watch movies similar to your story, make notes about the feelings a particular scene invoked. Go outside, describe what you see, feel, and smell. Even researching information can help form ideas, propelling characters forward in the story. (Again, great advice I received.)

Oh yes, the writing process can be an indescribable rush when a story has the writer clenched in its grasp.

I’m also the kind of writer who prefers music playing in the background rather than television while I’m writing. Creating a playlist to match the vibe of what I’m looking for in my story helped build a connection with my characters and the scenes. I’d close my eyes and picture what I was trying to put into words; the music taking me to that place emotionally where I wanted to take the readers.

But remember, writing a book is just the beginning. In addition, there are revisions, rewrites, professional editing, critique groups, book blog tours, marketing, networking, and creating a presence on social media.

Writing and re-writing.  authors.  writer quotes.  goals.  advice.  wisdom.  life lessons.

The Beautiful Part..

Writing can be a daunting task. And becoming a self-published writer can sometimes seem overwhelming. However, the feeling of satisfaction of having a completed and professional literary piece that you have created cannot be denied.

Would I do it again? Indeed, I would.

As a matter of fact, I’ve already started on a second project and I’m ready for round two.

For more information or to get to know Just a HD Mom you can connect with her on Twitter @MGEdwardsWrites and Facebook

Making Fall – High Desert Blogging Writing Contest Winner

photo 1Making Fall by Cristen Velasquez won third place in the September 2013 writing contest at Congratulations, Cristen!

Making Fall


Seasons haven’t always brought me warm and fuzzy feelings. They’ve brought other things, though. Winter in Houston means a nice marriage between humidity and cold. It buries itself in you no matter how many layers you might be wearing and stays there until you take a hot shower. Spring brings rain, and bugs follow the rain. In Texas, we get water bugs. They’re like roaches, but bigger and they fly at you. Summer brings heat that always breaks a record or two, and for a fair-skinned person like me, a good burn or two comes along for fun. Then comes Fall.

Fall isn’t really a season around here. It’s more like two and a half weeks where the acorns make dents in your hood and you find small leaves and flowers blown onto the floor board. Scorching heat goes further south and you start risking the outdoors without three layers of sunscreen. The humidity fades away for a moment and you start wearing boots for fun, since you’re technically still using the air conditioner, but want to look the part anyway. If you have the same level of baking skills that I do, you’ll buy the pre-made cinnamon roll dough at Trader Joe’s and let everyone believe you made them yourself. Water, a couple cinnamon sticks and an orange peel make a wonderful simmer pot and make an apartment feel a little more like home.

Sometimes, I forget to really enjoy the seasons. Life passes me by all the time and I often wonder where it went. My newborn daughter turned into a sweet natured ten-month-old who knows how to crawl and get into Mommy’s things now. It’s easy to bypass the pumpkin patch by year after year until one day you realize you haven’t been to one since you were a kid. The first year of marriage goes by, then the second, and then halfway through the third you notice you’ve never even decorated before. I’ve decided recently to slow down. I found simple recipes and ideas on Pinterest and I’m actually doing them. I’ve decided to start making memories.

As I mentioned before, simmer pots are perfect for challenged homemakers like me. You throw a couple things in a pot and suddenly it smells like a holiday is on its way. Marshall’s has beautiful crystal vases and decorative platters that are perfect for fall foliage. If you’re into do-it-yourself projects, making your own decorative foliage is simple – find dried leaves, pine cones, acorns, and anything else that you think fits, add an essential oil that you like, and you’re all set! Homemade wreaths are actually quite easy and fun to make and I’ve even been paid to make extra ones for friends!

Spending money on fall decorations, even inexpensive ones, can seem frivolous to a family on a budget, but it’s worth it. We don’t see the trees change color or feel the breeze pick up speed. There isn’t a crisp chill in the air. The atmosphere completely relies on what you make out of it, even if you do happen to live in a place where nature is more declarative of the seasons. We choose to create Fall. I want my children to have good memories of every season, even the one that lasts for two and a half weeks. I want my daughter to remember kind words spoken over Trader Joe’s cinnamon rolls. We will wear scarves, even if the air conditioner is on. There will be tantalizing Halloween candy just low enough for her to sneak some when I’m not looking. The cookie jar will be full. Hot chocolate will happen. If we don’t do it for them, no one else will. Yes, it’s definitely worth it.

Happy Fall!


Cristen is married and mom to a one-year-old daughter.  Having a passion for making a difference in the lives of youth, she writes and also speaks at youth and women events.

photo 4

A Blogger’s Interferences

Angie's Facebook PhotoWhat can a blogger do when faced with impossibilities that hinder blogging? Frustrations like major computer problems can be a major setback. Sometimes you just have to wait. Put blogging on hold when circumstances do not allow for posting.

Recently my computer started freezing up. A friend was so kind to work on it for me though he recommended that I purchase a new computer. Blogging became impossible. The computer continued to freeze up after 20 or 30 minutes. There was the possibility of going to the library but no time in my schedule to do so. Friends would offer to let me use their home computers. Half an hour occasionally might be fine, but blogging takes more than thirty minutes per week. There was nothing to do but wait until I could get another laptop, an investment I consider necessary for a person who is serious about blogging. Off to Black Friday computer sales I went with my daughter and son-in-law and my tiny-tot granddaughter.

I was reminded of an important lesson during my few weeks of slacking in blog posting. When events happen that you can’t control and that you can’t back up to do differently, you have to face the inevitable. You must deal with the reality of your situation and go forward. Do something inspiring. For instance, I chose to participate in the annual November fiction and nonfiction writing. Although a goal of 50,000 words I didn’t reach, I did accomplish a decent word count for my next book about blogging.

Technical computer difficulties, busy schedules, holidays or vacations may cause your blogging to come to a halt. You can ask others to submit guest posts for you during this time. If you have a network of consistent bloggers, ask for their assistance. Accept the change that has set you back, and look for ways to become creative. Read books. Listen to music. Meet people. Visit with friends. All of these can inspire you. Once you’re back to blogging, you’ll be ready to inspire others.


To Blog or Not to Blog

High Desert Bloggers group

High Desert Bloggers Meetup

Should every artist, author, entrepreneur, and work-at-home mom or dad have a blog? Since beginning this blog network  in the High Desert of southern California, I could easily give you my own opinion. However, let’s see what others have to say concerning the “to blog or not to blog” enigma. 

Ruth Ann Nordin with the Self-Published Authors Helping Other Authors, an excellent blog on writing, publishing, and book promotion, doesn’t believe you need a blog. She gives three reasons: it’s time consuming, she believes most readers don’t read blogs, and it takes a long time to build a following. Nordin gives good advice for authors and writers who are considering blogging. I do agree with her that blogging takes time. Maybe the author’s audience are not her/his readers. However, an author can direct blog posts to those who do read them. Not receiving much traffic or comments on your blog? Consider using Attracta, the world’s leading Search Engine Optimization service that can help your website attract more relevant traffic.

Randy Susan Meyers from The Review Review asks the question, “Should you blog if you’re an author?” Meyers’ answer: “Yes. If you have something to say.” Meyers lists several writer blogs you can learn from.

Dr. Susan Giurleo, a psychologist, did an online marketing experiment for her therapy practice. Her article on to blog or not to blog is encouraging for those who don’t have the time or inclination to blog regularly.

If you’re a stay-at-home mom or dad and are interested in working at home and blogging, Caron Beesley shares information on how to start a home-based business. She is a small business owner, a writer, and marketing communications consultant. Also helpful is an SBA article on how to start a business blog.

All of the above bloggers and authors offer helpful advice on writing and blogging. If you benefit by reading their articles, I’m sure they will appreciate you leaving them a comment on their blogs.

My opinion? Every author should have a blog. Entrepreneurs should have a blog. Artists usually don’t like writing. Their world is art, not writing. But they can join an artist blog network.  If an individual doesn’t like computers and hates blogging, that’s okay. There is a solution to bloggers who need a blog but don’t want to do the blogging or don’t have time: invite guest bloggers or set aside one day each week to write blog posts and schedule them. I say – blog.


Add Blogging to Your Writing Craft

High Desert Bloggers, Bodacious Bundts, Hesperia

High Desert Bloggers, Bodacious Bundts, Hesperia









The craft of writing covers several genres. Is blogging considered one of those genres?

Genre Styles

Each genre includes multifaceted styles. Take poetry for instance. Listening to Poet Mary Langer Thompson speak to High Desert California Writers Club in Apple Valley, CA yesterday made me aware of a particular fact about types of poetry and the people who create the craft. One style rhymes. Another doesn’t. Some poets create lines quickly. Other poets fall into the gotta-think-it-out category (I’m one of those).

After Mary talked about renowned artists and their histories, she distributed art cards with various paintings to the group of writers. Several (the quick group) read poems they had written in yesterday’s class. I was impressed by the quick group at how they could craft such poetry that portrayed specific messages from the poets to the audience.


Perception is interesting. When you first observe a painting, you see one thing. Wait a day or two or until an object catches your eye, and your perception will change.

Purple Iris

Purple Iris from My Spring Garden











What I saw on the art card that was handed to me while Mary was teaching our writers’ group was a field of many blue irises, one white iris, green stems, a fiery bed of desert dirt – and gold California poppies. Anyone else might have seen gold irises. But in my own garden I recently pulled up a bed of blue irises because the aphids (and probably cats walking through) destroyed them. They had turned ugly, and I wanted to be rid of them. On the other side of the garden now there is a large patch of vibrant California poppies.

California Poppies with Raindrops

California Poppies with Raindrops










While I’m typing this blog post at a Starbucks, I’m looking outside at a bunch of gold irises in a rock bed. Ah! The art card. Blue irises. A single white iris. GOLD IRISES. Why couldn’t I see that yesterday? Two reasons. One, the gold irises were in the back of the iris field. Two, the gold flowers looked smaller than the blue and white irises. Mostly, though, I could envision those gorgeous California poppies. Later I looked on the back of the little card. Irises. Yes, the gold ones were irises. Reality has a way of changing how we perceive things.

The Craft of Blogging

Is blogging considered a genre in the craft of writing? Absolutely! Like poetry, there are different blogging styles. Let’s name a few.

  • Conversational
  • Informative
  • Political
  • Art blogs
  • Music blogs
  • Lifestyle blogging
  • Brand blogging
  • Review blogging

Which style of blogging do you prefer? I invite your comments. You may think of another blogging style not mentioned in the above list.

If you are a writer, incorporate the craft of blogging into your genres. The art of writing has been accomplished with pencils, pens, manual and electric typewriters, wordprocessors, computers, and digital writing devices. Can’t part with your old manual typewriter or feather pen and quill? That’s okay. There’s an art to them as well. Keep the old, but learn the new. Connect the dots from old to new. Blog about your talents of typing 50 words a minute on your old-faithful manual typewriter. Add another blog post on feather pen and quill history of writing.

Writing is a craft that never gets old.

High Desert Bloggers Meet at Adelanto Starbucks

Bloggers like to meet and network at coffee shops.

A latte or blended coffee drink helps the blogging mode to kick in. Our bloggers wouldn’t necessarily need that extra kick, though. All we need is to meet up and network, discuss what we’ve been blogging about or our blogging plans, and creativity starts flowing.


High Desert Bloggers, Adelanto Starbucks

High Desert Blogger Joan and I met at Starbucks in Adelanto Saturday, August 4th. Joan is a gifted poet with three published books and a new one, Strength of the Small, to be published in September 2012. Joan is a beautiful person and inspiring to blog and talk with. Besides writing poetry, Joan blogs to inspire. Take a moment to visit Joan’s blog and receive your inspiration from this talented lady.

The blogging meetups motivate us every time, and today is no exception. I have begun a book about southern hospitality and entertaining but have become so busy with the day job and necessary daily living responsibilities that the book has been put on the shelf. While listening to Joan sharing about publishing Strength of the Small through, I was reminded of my decision to publish through that website.

If you’re interested in learning how to publish a book, visit It’s easy to set up an account and publish. It helps to speak with someone who has already been through the publishing route. Have publishing questions? Ask them in the comment section here, or you may ask Joan in the comment section of her blog.


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