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December Meeting Recap

posted Dec 5, 2017, 11:11 AM by Bruce Rowe

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 of 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.

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

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