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Women Veterans Writing Group

posted Aug 10, 2018, 3:48 PM by Bruce Rowe   [ updated Aug 15, 2018, 9:15 AM ]

August Meeting Recap

posted Aug 6, 2018, 4:53 PM by Bruce Rowe

One of our largest groups convened on Aug. 4 and discussed these topics:
  • The "Avenue of Heroes" in Coronado has an opportunity for writers. Vets who have at one time lived in Coronado are periodically featured on banners that hang along 3rd and 4th Streets in Coronado. Writers are needed to write the profiles of the featured vets. More on the Coronado Avenue of Heroes. Contact Ron Pickett at VWG for more info on writing a profile.
  • Writing Groups are encouraged for all who want to improve their craft. Links to groups hosted at local libraries follow:
  • Adam Lottes, owner and creator of The Secret Stash joined us. The site features local authors in four cities, including San Diego, that Adam promotes on the site and through his social media channels. Keep Forever from our own Alexa Kingaard is one featured book. Look for Listen Up! to soon be there too.
  • Alexa was also recently interviewed on the San Diego CBS affiliate. Watch Keep Forever - Sharing her story of PTSD.
  • Shara French talked about her efforts to establish a group for women vets. She says she wants it to be a "safe space" for women to tell their stories. For more info contact Shara at frenchshara at gmail.com.
  • Randy schooled us in the use of the semicolon, including two simple rules:
    • A semicolon should be used only where a period could also be used: in other words, a semicolon should separate two complete sentences.
    • The complete sentences a semicolon separates should be two closely related thoughts.
    • Also - run-on sentences and "comma splices" are fundamental grammar mistakes that can often be fixed with the semicolon. Try to find and correct them, lest your reader question your credibility.
Hope to see you at our next meeting, September 1.

July Meeting Recap

posted Jul 8, 2018, 3:54 PM by Bruce Rowe   [ updated Jul 9, 2018, 5:06 PM ]

  • Alexa Kingaard had a great discussion about her book Keep Forever on The American Veteran Show, July 1. Alexa said show host, Steffan Tubbs, was very interested in the Veterans Writers Group as well. Listen to the show. (Alexa’s segment starts 26 minutes in.) 
  • There will be a celebration of life for Terry Allan Severhill at Miramar National Cemetery at 2:30 on July 16. Terry was a proactive member of the group for many years. He shared his poetry with us and many other writer’s groups in the area. For more information or to RSVP, please email maryseverhill@gmail.com.
  • Our vets read their stories:

o   Rat hunting for nighttime recreation in Vietnam.

o   The VWG’s influence in getting one member to get off his *ss, stop being an aggravation to those around him, and move on.

o   A party, dress whites, and red wine don’t mix well with a young officer’s spill on Admiral Zumwalt.

  • Frank Ritter shared a couple of writing tips:

o   For hyphenation of compound modifiers (e.g., well-written sentence), if you can replace your modifying words with “moss-covered” then be sure to hyphenate. The exception being when the first modifier ends in “ly”, like “sharply honed knife.”

o   When deciding on present or past tense, imagine that the time line of your story is a rope stretching from the beginning to the end. When you are writing any part of the story, first ask yourself where you are in your story, then where this particular part of the story would be located on your time line. If it occurred before your current location on the time line/rope, use past tense.

June Meeting Recap

posted Jun 5, 2018, 8:36 PM by Bruce Rowe

The Veterans' Writing Group met on June 2:
  • Garry and Stacey appeared on a Palomar College Live TV segment to talk about Listen Up!
  • The "Before I Die" global art project invites people to contemplate mortality, including writing poetry about it. Spoken-word poet Ant Black will be hosting workshop and reading events when the project makes a stop in Oceanside. The event is June 15 for the workshop and June 22 for the readings at Oceanside Civic Center. Both start at 6 pm.
  • The Library of Congress is conducting a Veterans History Project. Find out how to participate.
  • The Fallbrook Writer's Read on November 13 will feature our members reading their stories from Listen Up! followed by a panel discussion. And of course, books for sale.
  • Our authors read their work:
    • Dante read a story about volunteering at a Formula 1 race in Long Beach in 1980. He recounted the bone-rattling noise and excitement as the cars roared around the track.
    • Richard continued with another installment of his work about the planning of a robbery of the Ft. Lewis payroll in 1963, getting into the logistics of the plan.
    • Glenn read his op-ed piece about the recent run of mass killings and what might be the root cause.
    • Paul read another chapter of his adventures as a submariner from Solomon Sea. Trying to out maneuver a hurricane proved futile and all aboard were tossed about, but survived. Then the real adventure began when a short dive turned into a near catastrophe when the boat's stern planes jammed.
Author Frank Ritter joined us for a mentoring session on building suspense and tension in our writing. Frank has authored several thrillers, including his most recent The Killing Games. Here's his wisdom on this topic:
  • Before you write, plan out why you need suspense and what it's going to accomplish in the story.
  • Tension creates suspense - to make it work, you can't have suspense without tension.
  • Need opposing forces (think of a stretching rubber band) or motivations in your characters with an unknown ahead.
    • We're all familiar with rival cops from competing agencies, fighting over a plan of action or jurisdiction.
  • The formula is that suspense-building comes in threes.
    • The situation arises three times with a resolution the third time.
    • He used the example of Sonny in The Godfather, who wants to act when sister Connie is abused by her husband. He holds off twice, but the third time he rushes to help her, only to meet his own demise at the hands of a rival mafia boss who had lured him there.
  • Writing two simultaneous scenes in the same narrative is one way to do it. Frank used this technique in his book about the kidnapping of the Pope. The Pope travels the stations of the cross as his pursuers tunnel underneath him to the spot where they'll nab him.
    • Can even use a clock or calendar dates to set a timeline.
  • Also, always set the "credits" of your bad guy first, showing his ruthlessness or cruel nature. That way readers know just what a challenge your good guy is up against.

Listen Up! Book Launched

posted May 25, 2018, 1:25 PM by Bruce Rowe   [ updated Jun 1, 2018, 7:28 PM ]

Our second book, Listen Up! Things I Learned From the Military, is published. Thanks to everyone who made our May 26 launch event such a success.

Two of our authors provide more information about the book in an interview featured on CBS8 TV in San Diego.


March Meeting Recap

posted Mar 12, 2018, 1:42 PM by Bruce Rowe   [ updated Mar 12, 2018, 1:47 PM ]

The Veterans' Writing Group met on March 3:
  • Tom Calabrese is celebrating his 100th story published in the Vista Press coming March 18. Read his latest, "The Deadly Dose." (Thanks for the juice and donuts Tom.)
  • A new book of poetry by one of our members is out on Amazon. See Bridges: Crossed and Yet to Come by Leif K. Thorsten.
  • Joe read a piece he wrote for his community newsletter called "Outside Our Gates" about the growing problem of homeless vets and how we can help. Veterans Village of San Diego organized the first "stand down" as a "hand up" for homeless vets in 1988 and continues to host one annually each July. The National Coalition for Homeless Veterans also continues to host stand downs around the country. Visit the VVSD website for more info on the local San Diego stand down.
  • Garry led a discussion on developing characters in your writing. A few nuggets from the discussion:
    • Write descriptions down (Garry called it your "Character Bible") to maintain consistency in characters throughout your work, including a backstory that explains their actions and personality. This is a working document and may change as you progress through the story and uncover or need other character aspects to make the story work.
    • Capture not just their personality, but physical characteristics like mannerisms, how they move, or tics.
    • Include strengths and weaknesses in your characters.
    • Make note of characteristics of people you know.
    • Show, don't just tell, the qualities of your characters. Reveal them through actions and dialog.
  • Jerry read his story about human communication based on a misunderstanding when he tried to order a simple onion bagel with cream cheese. The young woman taking the order assumed everyone knew what an "everything bagel" was, and that led to a sender-receiver breakdown in communication.
  • Paul read a chapter of his in-progress memoir Solomon Sea. It recounted his early days in the Navy and what happened as he naively tried to invoke his recruiter's promise that he could "choose" his Navy career path.
  • Charlie related his road trip as a young student to meet To Kill a Mocking Bird author Harper Lee, in his story "Listening to the Mocking Bird."
  • Leif read his poem "Signs of Aging", composed as he watched his elderly mother-in-law  navigate a trip to the grocery store.
  • Richard read a bit of his continuing work on a book about the Fort Lewis payroll robbery.
  • Ed Fox of San Diego Veterans for Peace made a few announcements about upcoming events, including an event focused on the 50th  anniversary of the My Lai Massacre and lessons learned. For more information, visit the San Diego Veterans for Peace website.
  • Gail assigned a little homework for the April 7 meeting:
    • Write a character description using what we learned in the discussion.
    • Bring a few interesting and uncommon words that we can use to expand our vocabularies and make our writing a cut above the ordinary.

Workshop: Telling the Stories of Conflict

posted Jan 23, 2018, 3:38 PM by Bruce Rowe

Veterans are invited to Conflicted: Telling the Stories of Conflict at Home, Abroad, and in the Heart" that is part of The Writer’s Symposium by the Sea at Pt. Loma Nazarene University. The workshop is Thursday, Feb. 22, from 1-4 pm. 

Justin Hudnall, producer of the KPBS series Incoming and executive director of So Say We All will moderate. Four writers will participate, all who have witnessed or lived through war or racial and cultural upheaval:
  • Kelly McEvers, civilian journalist and co-host of NPR's All Things Considered
  • Brooke King, veteran and author of Full Battle Rattle
  • Al Letson, poet, playwright and Reveal cohost
  • Jeanne Guerrero, investigative reporter for KPBS Fronteras
For more information go to The Writer's Symposium by the Sea website and scroll down to find details on the Conflicted workshop.

January Meeting Recap

posted Jan 16, 2018, 10:19 AM by Bruce Rowe

The Veteran’s Writing Group met on January 6, 2018 in the VANC facility. 

  • Progress on book 2, LISTEN UP! was presented. We reached agreement on the design of the cover. Also, Jan. 15 is the due date for additional work to be considered for inclusion.
  • We discussed common errors that our editors have uncovered during their careful reading of the stories to be included in LISTEN UP!  Those inconsistencies include commas, semicolons, and capitalization.
  • Several members read from their latest work including Dante’ Puccetti, Charlie Wyatt, Shara French, Glen Foss, and others.
  • We decided to take up a collection monthly to defray the cost of using the room. Suggested donation is $2.00.
  • We'll see you next month on Feb. 3.

December Meeting Recap

posted Dec 5, 2017, 11:11 AM by Bruce Rowe   [ updated Jan 3, 2018, 8:09 AM ]

No guest speaker this month, but that gave us a chance to hear many stories from our writers. 
  • Another 400 copies of Away for the Holidays provided to USO San Diego.
  • We're getting close to publishing our second book of VWG member stories, Listen UP! The manuscript is out to story contributors for version checking and edits. Please return by Dec. 8.
  • Randy provided a lesson on the importance of comma placement. He cited a letter written by Alexander Hamilton with the salutation "To my dearest, Angelica" that illustrates this point. There is an ongoing discussion over whether the comma was a mistake or not. If not, it changes a standard greeting to one that possibly reveals a much more intimate relationship between he and Angelica, his wife's sister.
  • On to the stories:
    • Dante shared a new excerpt from his memoirs about his early days in Vietnam... with 362 days still to go.
    • Joe shared a brief quote, but then later in the meeting told us about his "other" life as an actor and assistant director on the film The Stepmother (1972). Look him up on IMDb.
    • Charlie read us the tale of Ram Bam, a rather unwise choice of vehicle he bought to replace another aging pickup.
    • Garry brought some thoughts on slogans for parenting.
    • Vernita shared her story of faith, which has been a source of courage and persistence in the face of many life challenges. The story will become a chapter in a book for women about facing fear and obstacles in life.
    • Lee read new poems, in particular one about PTSD that was a conversation starter for sure.
    • Tom read a bit of his new story "Night Fire." Read it and dozens more of his published works online at The Vista Press.
    • Glenn intrigued us with a few chapters of his fictional account of a chance meeting with the Stringers. The family seemed nice enough, but ultimately might switch the story up from "good Samaritan" to "what did I get myself into?"
    • Randy has five new stories for ListenUp! from his veteran and military students at MiraCosta College. He read one from a woman who went from corpsman to pursing a career in pediatrics.
Join us next month for an interesting, interactive discussion and a chance to share your writing.

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.

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