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September Meeting

posted Sep 29, 2019, 3:35 PM by Bruce Rowe   [ updated Sep 29, 2019, 3:47 PM ]

Welcome to two first-time attendees.
  • VWG participating in California Center for the Book program, supporting 18 Community Conversations with Veterans initiatives at 20 library locations across California. Library staff members will create community partnerships and engage veterans, their families, and the community.
  • Join us at Fallbrook Library Writers Read where VWG will be featured with stories. Date is November 12.
Authors Read
  • George read his piece about "once a fighter pilot, always a fighter pilot" where he landed a helicopter on the deck of a ship. This despite having NEVER piloted a helo before.
  • Tom said he isn't much of a poet, but read his great poem about being a risk-taker and taking chances.
  • Charlie read another story from his collection about the cars he's owned. This time about "Dammit," which he bought when his budget was just $100. And named by his niece who'd heard Charlie curse the balky machine.
  • Vernita read "Don't Judge Me" about first being scrutinized as one of the first women - and women of color - aboard ship. And later, for wounds not visible, but physical and real.
  • Bob read about combat troops and God, and his solemn duty of praying over dead comrades as he wrapped them for transport back to the states.
  • Daphne read a story about her experience as the only black child at her school. It was one of getting her education, but also educating others about herself and her culture.
  • Garry read "Beach Boy to Buff Driver" about B-52 missions.
Tip for learning to write dialog  - watch movies with closed-captioning on. Also will show you screenwriting directions. (Thanks to Tom Calabrese for this one.)

The Power of A Story @ Cal State San Marcos, September 23

posted Aug 18, 2019, 2:46 PM by Bruce Rowe   [ updated Aug 18, 2019, 2:47 PM ]

Bringing healing and hope to military personnel, vets and family by sharing stories for insight and understanting.

August Meeting Recap

posted Aug 18, 2019, 2:39 PM by Bruce Rowe   [ updated Aug 19, 2019, 7:33 PM ]

Ron started with an update on our "action teams" that are working on these new initiatives: publicity/social media, scholarships, grant writing, collecting aging vet stories, and book three, Stories That Need to Be Told. The goals are to expand the group's reach and mission through these efforts.

August 21, VWG will be presenting to three libraries about setting up a veterans' writing group similar to VWG.

Our writers reading:
  • Charlie - Contributing to the Cold War: A wise crack gone bad on a trip to East Germany
  • George - Attache Business: No escaping a long series of toasts by the Chinese representatives, even trying to dump it in a nearby potted plant
  • Joe - A Coming of Age: Recounting his Navy boot camp experience at NTC San Diego
  • Robert - Spectors of the Age of Aquarius: Sweet and sout - like ketchup 7 mustard - of the Vietnam era
  • Maria - The Black Madonna: Praying a Manda to coach combat vets with the aim to prevent suicide, and following through
  • Paul - from his memoir, The Solomon Sea: As a ship approaches the shore, a misunderstood command seals its fate of breaking up on a coral reef
Book recommendation, particularly for women who've served - A Piece of My Heart: The Stories of 26 American Women Who Served in Vietnam, edited by Keith Walker

Next meeting is September 21 @11 am. Join us then at VANC in Oceanside.

Sayings we owe to Shakespeare

Gary Sinise at Temple Bat Yahm on August 25 in Newport Beach

posted Aug 7, 2019, 9:31 AM by Bruce Rowe

Gary Sinise appearance in Newport Beach

July Meeting Recap

posted Jul 23, 2019, 11:52 AM by Bruce Rowe   [ updated Jul 23, 2019, 12:01 PM ]

We welcomed two first-time attendees:
  • Robert is a Marine who served in Viet Nam. He enjoys writing short stories
  • George is a former Navy pilot and also a Viet Nam vet. He also flew for many years doing low-level pipeline patrols in the Southwest. He's working on a memoir.
Ron announced story requirements and due dates for our third book: Stories That Need to be Told. We look forward to seeing your stories.
  • Length of about 2,500 words
  • Edit them first with apps like Microsoft Word tools or Grammerly so they are in better shape prior to our final edits as we assemble the book
  • Active members of the group will get priority for publishing, but all entries are welcomed
  • Ideas or outlines due by end of August - the sooner the better
  • Draft stories due by end of September - the sooner the better
  • Include a signed Contributor Agreement with your submission (find file below)
  • Submit stories to Ron for assignment to group editors
Ron has added our group to Meetups

Writers reading:
  • Ron wrote a "fanciful" account of flying with A-bomb onboard his single-seater plane, though he used to train for such an event by loading up a bomb and taxing to the catapult. But that's as far as it would go.
  • Bobby read a two-way poem - "A new way of life" - one that can be read forwards or backwards - between a warfighter and spouse.
  • Paul read more about his adventures from The Solomon Sea. This one about precious water for washing onboard a submarine, and how his much-anticipated bath was interrupted by a General Quarters call, to the delight of his crew mates.
  • Robert read a story about the anxiety of shipping out to Da Nang as an 18-year-old, then a peaceful, spiritual experience with local monks inside a hollowed out peak.
  • George told about a return flight to Viet Nam, flying a U.S. congressman to the country later in the 70s. And how animosity still was in the air.
  • Luz continued reading her "The Invisible Wound" story about her battle with PTSD over a sexual assault by another Marine while serving. The heavy impact was made greater by the Marine Corps preaching of "family" among sister and brother Marines, with parallels to incest adding to the trauma.
Next meeting is August 17. Join us then at VANC in Oceanside.

June Meeting Recap

posted Jun 24, 2019, 10:27 AM by Bruce Rowe   [ updated Jul 1, 2019, 2:22 PM ]

We started with a discussion of priorities for the group and possible new activities to spread the mission further. Members, whether you were able to attend or not, are asked to rate priorities and provide input.
  • Our main writing topic was active vs. passive voice. The key to remember:
    • In active voice, the subject of the sentence is doing the action (The first man up hit the golf ball 250 yards.)
    • In passive voice, the subject is receiving the action (The golf ball was driven 250 yards by the first man up.)
    • In general, active voice is a much more engaging way to tell the story
    • But...sometimes passive voice can be the best way to tell a story or the right writing style for certain genres.
  • VWG will help lead an event at the Moreno Valley Library Mall Branch about starting a Veterans Writing Workshop June 22 and then read from our book on June 29, both events starting at 3 p.m. Go to the library calendar for more info.
  • Oceanside Public Library will lead a discussion on "what it means to be American today" on Saturday, July 6 at its Mission Branch Library, 3861 Mission Ave. Group leaders will lead an intensive writing workshop following the discussion. American Creed @ The Library for more info or register here.
  • Readings:
    • A brief Westpac tale
    • Remembrance of a mother
    • More submariner adventures from The Solomon Sea
    • Getting into a fix riding a bull named Brownie, all in the name of raising funds for UNICEF
    • Excerpts from a memoir, awakened by a PTSD therapy program and family memories
    • Baby, the '57 Bel Air convertible dream car
Join us next month on Saturday, July 20 at VANC Oceanside: 9:30 a.m. women's group, 11 a.m. full group. 

                      Wonder if you should join us? If not now, when?

May Meeting Recap

posted May 22, 2019, 10:04 AM by Bruce Rowe


Poetry reading and feedback. Discussion about future direction. One option is to start with a tutorial about the many forms of poetry, to help writers determine if poetry is right for them, or to give poets knowledge of their options.

Agenda for the VWG Meeting:

  • Selection of a representative from the VWG at the Memorial Day Ceremony on 5/27 at VANC. Paul Curtis will represent our Group.
  • Listing of writing contests and other writing opportunities to be posted on the website
  • Replacement for "very" in writing - a list of alternatives to avoid using and provide more concrete descriptions
  • Discussion about the time line for the next book, tentatively titled Stories That Need To Be Told
  • Excel of past meeting development topics and a request for feedback about future development needs and suggestions
  • Reading, Feedback and suggestions by three authors (Tom Calabrese, Rahn Harding, Charlie Wyatt, and Dante Purcetti)

Please visit this website to see a list of publishers looking for poetry submissions: AuthorPublish. Try to submit one of your stories prior to our next meeting! Need some ideas? Check with Ron.

SAVE THE DATE - Next VWG meeting, June 15

April Meeting Recap

posted Apr 23, 2019, 12:04 PM by Bruce Rowe   [ updated Apr 24, 2019, 12:07 PM ]

Steve Dilley from Veterans Art Project joined us. VetArt's mission is to provide free bronze casting and ceramics classes to veterans, their families, and veteran's advocates. The organization has studios locally in Vista and Fallbrook.

Ron shared a list of writing tools:
  • Boomerang Respondable for Gmail: 

    Emails that get read and responded to? Must be magic.

  • Hemingway AppComplex sentences, beware. Highlights your words and sentences and suggests simpler words, omit verbs, and make sentences less complex.

  • GrammarlyIt’s okay to be lazy when you’ve got Grammarly. (But remember, good writers break the rules.)

  • Portent Content Idea Generator: If you write a lot of headlines, bookmark this page ASAP.

  • Headline Analyzer: Not a visually appealing website. But it’s worth it.

  • Dejargonizer: Designed for science writers, but can work for you too.

February Meeting Recap

posted Apr 8, 2019, 10:45 AM by Bruce Rowe   [ updated Apr 8, 2019, 10:54 AM ]

“When you have exhausted all possibilities, remember this—you haven't.” -Thomas Edison

 Notes from Garry Garretson and Shara French

Hank Phillippi Ryan, author of the bestselling novel Trust Me, was the guest for our February 23 meeting. Via videoconference from her home in Boston, Hank discussed her tips for writing and publishing success, from lack of confidence and self-doubt, to just powering through!

Fighting that lack of confidence is key. What if Tess Gerritsen and Stephen King quit writing because they thought they were not good enough? The story goes that King threw his manuscript of Carrie into the trash. His wife dug it out, and well, the rest is history. Sorry for the cliché, but King is now a major success story.

Perseverance was a recurring theme in her talk as well. She said keeping a promise to herself to write at least 500 words a day is one of the most important elements of her success.


The hardest part is just before you start. Allow your inner voice (brain), to come out and tell you things. Listen to that inner voice. Visualize the story. Is your character doing, acting, saying things that fit that character?

Hank went on to say that writers should expect a lousy first draft, but to keep moving on. A good technique is to think, “I am not writing a book.” Think about writing one page at a time: 250 words. This could help to power down the anxiety level and feeling overwhelmed. At 250 to 300 words per page (12-point font), a 55,000-word book should be about 200 manuscript pages. A 100,000-word book would be about 400 manuscript pages.

Beware of and prepare for the 150-page slump or block. Hank called her mother one day to vent about being stuck. Her mother was blunt with her advice: “Well my dear, you’ll finish it if you want.”

Hank said everyone has doubts. To overcome them, get a change of scenery. Take a break for a couple of days. Come back to your work fresh. Read your work as if you sent it to a friend. Love your book again and again. At moments of doubt, think back to memories of how you fell in love with your book.

More tips from Ryan:

  • There is no right way to write your book; no secret. Try different things, learn what does not work.
  • Do and write what makes you happy.
  • Use extra tools: sketch, white board, story board, try it and you will find out what works for you.
  • Learn to be alone and embrace it. Treasure that time. Imaginative concentration is where mysterious connections begin. Sit, or rest in the world of your book. Your brain knows more than you give it credit for. Search it for ideas.
  • Don’t always keep away from the real world, inspiration comes from everywhere. Observe the world, take notes.
  • Editing is crucial to getting your best work out. Do not skip a problem area in your work. Face your writing problems and fix them.

She also addressed criticism. Expect it, learn from it, but do not let it stall you. Do not underestimate how you take criticism. Take in what you need and discard the rest. Pat yourself on the back

Characters and Organization

Have the character create the story. Read out loud often. Ask yourself, how do people really talk? Are their words genuine? Do they fit the character’s personality? Why are they saying that? What is their intent? Try to align intent with the character’s personality. How would the character talk? Show your character’s actions along with words.

Finally, a good character history needs a good back story, but don’t put it all in the book. Why do they do what they do? Get to know them personally. The dialogue must have intent, it gives the written words more authenticity. “It’s not how ‘you’ the author talks, it’s how your character talks,” Hank emphasizes.

To organize your story, and for consistency and flow in your writing, make lists: birthdays, character’s age, alphabetize, scene order, events, dates, etc.

Listen to your inner voice. When re-reading your work and you find a glitch or something doesn’t look right, face that problem, and fix it then; don’t let it go. Not fixing a problem could cause more problems in the creation of your story. And, do not rush. Love yourself and love your work.


Can just be timing. What is happening in the world? The market? Wrong agent? A career can begin with rejection letters. Listen objectively to suggestions. Listen, and be open. Hank’s first book was rejected. The rejection letter was very nicely written. They said we like your book, but we want you to re-write the whole thing! She did and the rest is history.

Finally, Hank’s last few tips were equally important as the beginning writing process:

  • Determine your process, things that work for you. What time of day are you at your best? Where do you write? Home? Library? Cafes? All the above.
  • Make your own deadlines. Target amount of words per day and keep your self-promise.
  • Enlist family support. Let them know, for instance, a specific time of the day is for your writing. MAKE TIME!
  • Read, advise, research and understand your writer’s world.

Make a Plan

All you need is one good idea each day. Write 540 words a day. Give your book a title. When your manuscript draft is finished, wait one week and re-read this first draft as if you are reading it for the first time. Above all, it is a wild and crazy ride!  Share, listen, create, innovate, celebrate, persevere, have courage and care about your work. And you will be saying, “I just published my first book!”

Good luck!


Hank Phillippi Ryan has won five Agatha Awards, as well as the Anthony, Macavity, Daphne du Maurier, and Mary Higgins Clark Awards for her bestselling mystery novels. She has written eleven novels and has co-authored several other works. Hank has 34 Emmys, 14 Edward R. Murrow Awards, and has received dozens of other honors for her ground-breaking journalism. I am reading her latest novel, “Trust Me.” And trust me, it’s good!

December Meeting Recap

posted Dec 3, 2018, 11:16 AM by Bruce Rowe   [ updated Dec 5, 2018, 9:44 AM ]

Ron shared a summary of the Seven Basic Plotlines for any story, then gave a 5-minute writing prompt for people to write the plot of their life. 

Winning Writers is a good resource for writers and poets. Sign up for their newsletter and they'll send you updates on the best free literary contests where you can submit your writing.

December readings:
  • Kris read a poem: Eternity Came at a Torrid Pace
  • Sarah's story was about the car as a "memory vessel"
  • Lawrence read his Christmas jazz poem
  • Maria shared "Che," recalling a young crush that never developed into anything more
  • Charlie read his "Saving Thanksgiving" piece
  • Harry read his 1975 poem "I'm the One Called Doc", a tribute to the corpsman, which can be found posted in Marine and Navy facilities to this day
  • Tom read a preview of his upcoming story for Vista Press, "Del Mar Dana: Birthday Battle"
  • Ron told tale of new house, based on a true story of natural sounds - and supernatural sounds - in a house in Colorado
Note: Future VWG meetings are moving to the 4th Saturday of the month. Join us for the next meeting on January 26, 2019. Women's group at 9:30, full group at 11:00.

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