Friday, October 17, 2008

Writing Group on Pause

I'm taking off for a road trip to Texas, so the writing group will be on hiatus until November 5, 2008.
Photo courtesy of Randa Clay at

Monday, October 13, 2008

Las Vegas Author Appearances and Book Festival

Although it might appear that the only thing to do here in Sin City is gamble and visit “gentlemen’s” clubs (we can talk about euphemisms in another post), we Las Vegans actually do read. And not just Keno tickets, either.

This Saturday, October 18, 2008, at 8:00 p.m., Joyce Carol Oats will be speaking at the UNLV Student Union Ballroom, courtesy of our local think tank, Black Mountain Institute. Read more about her appearance at BMI’s website:

Calling all dog lovers! John Grogan, author of Marley and Me and Bad Dogs Have More Fun, will be speaking/signing books at the Henderson Pavilion on October 26, 2008, 1-2:30 p.m. (While I was searching for information on Grogan’s appearance, I found a new Vegas book blog, – check it out!)

The Vegas Valley Book Festival will be held November 6-8 at various locations. Read about the event at The event is free and includes sessions from the Henderson Writers Group. Michael Chabon will give the closing keynote on November 8, 2008, at 6 p.m. at the Clark County Library.
Photo courtesy of Sanja Gjenero at

Do You Eat With That Mouth?

What’s your stance on using bad language in your writing? Is it totally off-limits, or do you consider it on a case-by-case basis?

Last week, my writing group had a spirited discussion about the granddaddy of all swear words, the F-Bomb. It’s ubiquitous these days; everyone from little kids to the vice-president finds a way to work it into conversation. Personally, I like to use it like pepper: sparingly and only in certain circumstances. Especially when I’m writing for a general audience, I prefer to stay on the PG side of things. (In case you didn’t know, a PG-13 film is limited to one or two instances of the word; any more, and the film generally gets an R.)

Bad language can turn readers off and limit your audience, but in some instances, swearing can feel unavoidable. Soldiers in the middle of a war, for instance, are unlikely to be using “darn” and “golly.” This illustrates profanity’s effectiveness in characterization. For example, do all of your characters over 40 speak like church-goers? What about a female octogenarian who swears like a sailor?

Like several of my friends, I was raised to believe that swearing indicates a lack of intelligence and creativity. The only time I dropped the F-bomb around my dad, he turned to me and said, “I send you to school for this?” To this day, I mind my verbal P’s and Q’s in public—behind closed doors, all bets are off.

Besides discouraging me from swearing, Dad’s other cornerstone of guidance was that I should never take a job as a cocktail waitress. Dad was a bartender. As I reached the end of my teens, he told me, “I catch you packing a tray, and I’ll break your legs.” Clearly, some sentences don’t require profanity to be memorable.
Photo courtesy of Duchessa at

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Autumn’s Colors & Other Prompts

Ah, autumn, when the temperature cools and the trees give us their version of fireworks. Does fall remind you of anything? If so, perhaps you can use that on our first prompt--and if fall leaves you cold, then move on to the next one. Take ten minutes to write about....

--When Elizabeth went for her daily walk, she enjoyed the crisp, fall air. The trees dressed in their colorful leaves reminded her of….

--Delores thought she had tried everything, but she was still about to be evicted. On the brink of homelessness, she decided….

--Have you been published? What was the experience like?

--Herbert insisted on eating the same breakfast every morning, much to the annoyance of his wife, Gertrude. She finally asked him, “Why on earth must you always eat….”

--Are you mechanically inclined, or does the difference between a Phillips head and flathead screwdriver confound you?
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Thursday, October 02, 2008

You're Fired & Other Prompts

Have you ever been fired? Or fired someone? Maybe you can draw on that experience to write about Harold and Lester. Take ten minutes to freewrite on any of these prompts:

--Harold stomped out of the office, slamming the door behind him. Now that Lester had fired him, everyone would know….

--Elaine lifted her champagne glass to toast the new bride and groom. She wished she could stop thinking about the conversation she’d overheard between….

--Would you ever consider becoming a vegetarian? Why or why not?

--Who is your favorite author? Why do you enjoy his/her writing so much?

--The dilapidated shack looked like….
Photo courtesy of Marcel Hol at