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November Meeting Recap

posted Nov 5, 2017, 8:07 PM by Bruce Rowe   [ updated Nov 5, 2017, 8:33 PM ]

Here's what we covered at the meeting. Join us next time for an interesting, interactive discussion and a chance to share your writing.
  • Alexa Kingaard shared that her debut novel Keep Forever will soon be available. The official launch of the book is set for January. More info to come.
  • The Hungry Chimera is "an independent literary magazine that features short fiction, poetry and visual art, as we feel that artistic expression cannot be limited to merely one medium. We established THC in July of 2016 with a mission to feature talented authors and artists in such a way as to accentuate the beauty within and make literature and writing a larger focus in others lives as well as our own."  Go here for guidelines on submitting to The Hungry Chimera.

Guest Speaker - Ed Coonce

Ed is a U.S. Marine Corps veteran, having served from October, 1967, to August, 1969 in Vietnam. He was a radioman and forward observer for an artillery unit.

These days he's an actor and writer (mostly satire and humor), and also creative director at Theater Arts West. He also hosts East Hell Writers (open to all writers, not just vets) at his home in Encinitas, a critiqued read and respond meetup.

Ed said that during his post-service journey he's battled PTSD, losing many jobs and relationships along the way. He credits the arts - and his wife Lucy - for turning his life into what it is today.

Though he's heard the same advice that many of us have about maintaining a disciplined routine for writing, Ed says he doesn't work that way. "Haphazard at best" was the description he gave of his process. "Some things come easy; others not so much," he said, but typically his ideas come in a flash of inspiration when a topic or idea has been simmering in his mind for a bit.

Right now, Ed is at work on a memoir, including his late-60s military tour. He's enjoyed reconnecting with some of his buddies from back then, including gathering up some photos from those days. Photos that are helping to pull his blurred memories back into focus.

He had several rolls of his own photos, but they were stolen just before heading back to the States. He related a story about being at the Da Nang R&R center, prior to boarding the jet for home, when he turned his attention away from his belongings for an instant...and the images were gone.

One reading he shared was called "The Photograph." The emotional piece relates his shooting of an "enemy" soldier. "Bullets are so easy," he read. But as he completes the mechanics of doing his duty and recording the kill in his body count log, he moves to the next step: searching the body. Opening the man's wallet soon reminds him of the humanity of his target, when a photo of the young soldier's family is revealed. We got a glimpse into Ed's mental anguish over the event, and his eventual forgiveness of himself only years later.

One nugget of writing advice: "You can't write unless you read," he advocates, and that means all kinds of authors, genres and styles to gain a well-rounded understanding of the craft.

Thanks to Ed Coonce for taking time to join us for the day and offering his expertise to the group.

Dime Stories

posted Nov 5, 2017, 11:23 AM by Bruce Rowe

The San Diego version of this open mic for writers is the second Friday of every month at Liberty Station. The group offers a showcase for your writing with a forum for "three-minute stories read by the author at live open mics, showcase events, online, and on the radio."

Go to DimeStories online for more information or to submit your story for a future meeting, or go to  their Pt. Loma meetings in Barracks 16, Suite 202, at the old NTC.

Fallbrook Writer's Read

posted Nov 5, 2017, 11:14 AM by Bruce Rowe

Readings are the second Tuesday of each month (except July and December), from 6:00 to 7:30 p.m., in the Fallbrook Library Community Room, 124 S. Mission.

For more information, visit the Fallbrook Writer's Read online, or contact the coordinator, K-B Gressitt, at 760-522-1064 or

Interesting Writing Opportunities

posted Jan 16, 2017, 6:03 AM by Ron Pickett

Winning Writers Newsletter - January 2017

San Diego County Grant

posted Nov 23, 2016, 10:41 AM by Ron Pickett

We have  been advised by Supervisor Bill Horn's office that we are to receive a grant for $5000 from San Diego County.

Thanks Supervisor Horn and Garry Garretson!

Article in The Vista Press

posted Nov 22, 2016, 5:35 AM by Ron Pickett   [ updated Nov 3, 2017, 2:40 PM by Bruce Rowe ]

Read this article in The Vista Press

Veteran's Day Video

posted Nov 14, 2016, 10:56 AM by Ron Pickett

Here's the link to the video that was broadcast from Palomar College last Thursday:

Book: Away For The Holidays

posted Oct 24, 2016, 12:55 PM by Michael Wood   [ updated Nov 3, 2017, 2:45 PM by Bruce Rowe ]

Laugh, cry, and support us by living out these experiences in our new book that can be purchased today on Amazon for only $10.00.
Away For The Holidays - Veterans Writing Group

Away for The Holidays is a collection of stories written by veterans in the Veterans Writing Group San Diego. Each shares a story of celebrating holidays--that time of family, food, friendship and relative safety-- far from those they love. Their stories are heartwarming and heart-rending, funny and frightening as they recall Christmas’ spent on the battlefields of World War II, Vietnam or Kandahar. For the civilian reader, these under-the-helmet stories reveal the everyday sacrifices, camaraderie, and pride of our military. For those who have served, these stories will bring back memories of being young and away from home for the holidays. Authors include Jack McDaniel, Terry Severhill, William Swanson, Charlie Wyatt, Dolph Brostrom, Shirley Turner, Glen Foss, Richard Hayward, Jerry Watson, Bud Parson, Robert Caudill, Thomas Calabrese, Dante Pucetti, Garry G. Garretson, Chuck Rabel, Ron Pickett, Joe Snyder, Terry Moon, Ramon Garcia, Stacey Thompson and Jack Autrey.

What do they say about the book?

The Writers Guild Foundation is thrilled that our Veterans Writing Project alumni continue to share and inspire others through their stories. We are proud that the Veterans Writing Group San Diego County has taken the lessons and mentorship from the program and produced a moving anthology of diverse voices and experiences.     Katie Buckland, Executive Director, Writers Guild Foundation

 Away for the Holidays is more than just a good read. It offers a window --several windows — into the experience of the modern veteran. The book’s many, very different veteran writers, each with their own experiences and perspectives, tell honest, eloquent, and moving tales of what it’s like to be who they are: Americans who served their country.  Sometimes funny, sometimes heartbreaking, always ringing true --You should read this — you’ll be glad you did.  Robert Ben Garant,  screenwriter, author, producer, director, actor, comedian and mentor.

Serving in the military is an experience that defines a person.  Young people usually start their careers in their teens or early 20’s, while still developing who they are and searching for answers. These experiences can be in combat or just interacting with other young people in a barracks, ship or aircraft.  Either setting, it defines who they will be the rest of their lives. I strongly recommend Away for the Holidays, by the Veterans’ Writing Group San Diego, if you want to understand the experiences of a Veteran.  This is not TV, but reality as seen through the eyes of mature Veterans reflecting on their unique experiences as a young service member.  Colonel Rocky J. Chavez USMC (ret)   California Assembly Member, 76th District

Our founder, Gail Chatfield: Front page news

posted Oct 19, 2016, 8:16 AM by Michael Wood   [ updated Nov 3, 2017, 2:42 PM by Bruce Rowe ]

Technically incorrect. Gail was featured in the San Diego Union-Tribune's Lifestyle/People section on October 16th, 2016.

She talks about why the group was started, why it is important for veterans to write their stories, and the release of a our anthology; "Away for the Holidays."

October 16, 2016, 6:00 AM

Gail Chatfield’s father was a Marine who served in World War II, but he died when Chatfield was a teen, so she never heard any of his stories about his time in the service. She found herself fascinated by the stories of other veterans her father’s age, though, and eventually co-founded the Veterans’ Writing Group San Diego County.

“We want to bring together people who love to write and guide them through the writing process. … ,” she says. “The writers in our group share the experience of having served in the military, and we strive to give them a safe and understanding environment to write their stories. Although we are not a therapy group, many of our members find the process of writing therapeutic.”

Chatfield, ... is also a writer who’s authored a book about the experiences of the men who served where her father did on the Pacific front. She and her husband also own and operate Chatfield Air Ambulance, Inc., which provides air transportation to healthcare facilities. She took some time to talk about the writing group, why she finds it important for veterans to share their stories, and the anthology the writing group is releasing at the end of this month, “Away for the Holidays.”

Q: What is your role with the Veterans Writing Group? 

A: As co-founder, I lead the group, book mentors, find opportunities for open-mic events, help our writers find publishing outlets for their work and bring the bagels and coffee.

Q: How did the group get started?

A: I was leading a writing group at the (VA San Diego Healthcare System) when I was invited to attend the Veterans Writing Project weekend retreat, an annual event put on by the Writers Guild Foundation (WGF) in Los Angeles. At the event, I met John Maki, a retired Marine from Oceanside. We were so impressed with the format of having professional screenwriters and authors mentor writers in a creative atmosphere that we wanted to do something similar for the robust veteran community in San Diego. We outlined a plan, booked a room at the Oceanside library, and put out flyers and notices in the local newspapers inviting veterans who wanted to write to come join us.

Q: When did the group start?

A: We started in June 2010 with sheer determination, enthusiasm and absolutely no funding. We do not charge veterans to participate and receive no outside funding or donations. We rely on volunteers and the kindness of the Veterans Association of North County, which provides us a meeting place free of charge.


What I love about Oceanside ...

Oceanside has beautiful beaches and great places to get a cup of coffee like the Succulent Cafe. The city hosts music, film and literary festivals, which are such important parts of any community. The Oceanside Library has been very helpful to our group as I am sure it is with others. Not surprising, Oceanside is truly supportive of Marine Corps community and that gives the city a worthy patriotic vibe. 


Q: How many members/participants do you have in the group?

A: Our group is quite diverse. We have veterans from World War II to Operation Iraqi Freedom/Operation Enduring Freedom, all branches of the military and ranks. Our monthly meetings have about 12 to 15 attendees, but since we began, we have had over 120 writers join us. They get the help, confidence, or skill that they are looking for and move on to the next phase of their writing journey. And that is what we hope they do: get inspired, find their voice, and take the time to write their stories.

Q: What happens during a meeting?

A: We try to have a professional mentor discuss writing, we may do a writing prompt, but always spend time doing read-and-critique. For the past several months, we have been working on our very first anthology based on one of our writing prompts to describe holidays spent away from home while in the service. The stories were heartfelt and heart-rending and certainly worthy of a wider audience. We have 22 authors and poets represented in the book, appropriately entitled “Away for the Holidays,” which will be released the end of October.

Q: How has the group evolved in the time since it began? (changes that have been made, etc.)

A: When we began, we focused on the writing. We still do, but we now incorporate opportunities to read at events around the community. We’ve participated in open mics at coffee shops from Encinitas to Escondido. We are pleased to be the special guest at Writers Read at the Fallbrook library on Nov. 15. We have also been featured in PBS’ Veterans Coming Home project.

Q: Have you noticed any changes in people because of their involvement in the group?

A: We had one Vietnam veteran who attended the meetings for several months without saying a word or sharing any of his writing. Then, at one meeting, he volunteered to read one of his stories. He was very uncomfortable reading in front of us and his voice was shaky and hesitant. However, he challenged himself every month to write down and share his innermost thoughts. He paid us a great compliment saying that he could never have done this without the support and understanding from a group of his peers who had “been there and done that.” 

Q: Where did your interest in veterans’ stories come from?

A: My dad was a Marine on Bougainville (Papua New Guinea), Guam and Iwo Jima in World War II. Sadly, he died when I was 15, so I never heard any stories of his time in service. Many years ago, my husband and I attended the Iwo Jima veterans’ reunion banquet at Camp Pendleton, and I was pleased to meet many veterans who, like my father, were in some of the most horrific battles on the Pacific front. The stories they shared, albeit 60 years later, of courage, humor and camaraderie fascinated me and I thought that if I enjoyed listening to them, others may want to hear them as well.

Q: What’s one of the stories from the writing group’s upcoming anthology?

A: I’m proud of the quality of all the stories but one stands out to me because the author has been so successful in pursuing his writing career. Ramon Garcia was one of our first members and … his talent has taken him far in the entertainment industry. Ramon’s story, “Hiding from the Monster,” is raw, expressive, and insightful into the challenges, chaos and camaraderie that was Kandahar.

Q: Why is it important to you that veterans write their stories?

A: Because their stories are unfiltered, real and we would know nothing about military life or war without their voices being heard. And they have the best stories full of interesting characters.

Q: What have you found challenging about running this group?

A: The biggest challenge is to keep the group focused at times as they love to share, but I don’t find that a bad thing.

Q: What’s been rewarding about your work with the group?

A: I have made some terrific friends and heard some incredible storytelling. I am pleased that their enthusiasm for writing has produced this book.

Q: What have you learned about yourself as a result of this work?

A: That like the veterans, I can accomplish the mission.

Q: What is the best advice you’ve ever received?

A: Believe there is good in the world and be the good.

Q: What is one thing people would be surprised to find out about you?

A: I worked in the entertainment industry with positions at the American Federation of Television and Radio Arts (AFTRA), the William Morris Agency and nearly a decade as the personal assistant to Farrah Fawcett.

Q: Describe your ideal San Diego weekend.

A: An ideal weekend would be walking the beach and the Guy Fleming Trail at the Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve, dinner at the Poseidon in Del Mar, and Netflix at home. Sunday would be church services at the La Jolla United Methodist Church, enjoying ensalada de carne asada on the patio at (Casa) Sol y Mar’s in Carmel Valley and watching the latest must-see movie at the theater.



Twitter: @lisadeaderick

Copyright © 2016, The San Diego Union-Tribune

How to Turn on Your Writer's Brain and Write Faster

posted Aug 17, 2016, 6:57 AM by Ron Pickett   [ updated Nov 3, 2017, 2:44 PM by Bruce Rowe ]


By Steve Coombes on June 23, 2015 Articles, Improve Your Writing


Did you know your brain works in two speeds?

Like a 2-speed blender, your brain takes “ingredients” from outside and mixes them into your current stream of thought. Just like the blender, each speed has a distinct purpose. But only one will help you write productively.

Nobel Laureate Daniel Kahneman wrote about these differences in how we think in his book, Thinking, Fast and Slow.

In “fast mode,” your brain processes information rapidly — even automatically. It’s fast mode you use when driving your car, reading emotions on someone’s face, or instantly making familiar mental connections.

Here’s an example of fast mode thinking you can try for yourself. Read the first word out loud, then mentally fill in the blank on the second as you read that one aloud:

Wash. So_p.

Did the word soap come instantly to mind?

However, if I give you a different set, what word do you think of now?

Eat. So_p.

Same three letters in the second word, but chances are you would rather eat soup than soap, right?

These are examples of priming. If you’re now eating soap, I apologize for priming your diet with the first example. But most who read this will have already reset their brain to “eat soup” from the new priming word.

There’s great science here you can master to enhance your writing. Only you won’t do it while your brain is operating in fast mode, bouncing from thought to thought.

You see, fast mode is designed to help you process familiar tasks quickly and easily. Instinctively. Such as scanning your inbox to see which emails you can handle without much thought. Or throwing in a load of laundry.

We tend to jump into fast mode thinking because it’s the easier path.

However, tasks which require more focus and mental effort use your brain in an entirely different way. It takes focused effort to simply enter this more purposeful “slow mode.” But the payoff in productivity is worth it.

Turn On Your Writer’s Brain

Becoming a better writer starts with actually getting words down on paper or into your computer. That takes the focused effort of slow mode thinking. And for many of us, that doesn’t come easily — because maintaining focus on a creative task like writing takes work.

Here’s the good news. Just like you can build stronger muscles through regular exercise, you can improve your ability to focus through regular practice, not to mention write faster.

The key is eliminating those fast mode distractions. You don’t have to go in for a day-long, head-down marathon session at your keyboard. In fact, that can be counterproductive as your mind needs the mental relief occasional distraction brings.

Instead, shoot for a half hour.

How many words could you write if, for the next half hour, you just write? And do nothing else but write? Probably more than you’ll write if you’re simultaneously checking the news or weather.

Two tried-and-proven methods for getting into the zone for a solid block of focused writing productivity include the Pomodoro Technique and famed copywriter Eugene Schwartz’s timer trick.

The Pomodoro Technique

Named after a kitchen timer in the shape of a pomodoro (Italian for “tomato”), university student Francesco Cirillo used a tomato-shaped timer to improve his studying habits by focusing for set periods of time.

At first, maintaining focus for only 10 minutes was a challenge. But through continued practice, Francesco developed the ability to maintain uninterrupted focus in 25-minute blocks with breaks between for less productive tasks like cleaning up his desk, grabbing a cup of coffee, or checking voice mail.

Try the Pomodoro Technique yourself:

  • Get a kitchen timer or use an app on your phone or computer.
  • Set the timer for 25 minutes (you may need to build up to this amount of uninterrupted work).
  • Focus exclusively on your writing project.
  • When the timer rings, stop and take a break.

There’s much more to the complete Pomodoro Technique, including work planning, work reviews, and managing breaks and interruptions. You can download The Pomodoro Technique by Francesco Cirillo — detailing the entire method, including worksheets for using it best — for free from

The Gene Schwartz Timer Trick

Even simpler than Pomodoros, but just as effective for famed copywriter Eugene Schwartz, was his 33:33 timer trick. You might call it the butt-in-seat, mind-on-task method.

Gene would pound the ‘3’ key on his kitchen timer four times to set it for 33 minutes and 33 seconds and hit start. During that time, he would sit at his desk and only allow himself to do three things:

1.   Drink coffee.

2.   Stare at the wall.

3.   Write.

Once the timer went off, he would get up for a short break then return to write some more. In five sessions each morning, he would accomplish more than most writers do in a full day.

Try Gene’s Timer Trick yourself:

  • Set your timer to 33:33 (or another regular block of time).
  • Write — or sit — until the timer goes off.
  • Take a 5-minute break.

Again, allow your mind to focus. Avoid interruptions. Even if you have writer’s block, don’t do anything else except write (or drink coffee) until your break. Soon your mind will learn to focus on writing whenever you set your timer.

Choose one of these techniques and practice on a regular basis. Before long, you’ll be able to quickly switch your brain to slow mode, in turn making you a faster, more productive writer

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