Monthly Archives: January 2013

Dear Dogpatch Readers,

Check out this great discussion from Limebird Writers!

Limebird Writers

“Description is an opinion about the world. Find a place to stand.” Anne Enright

Sometimes you hear a quote, or a simple of piece of advice, and everything suddenly falls into place. The above quote did that for me. Of course I was aware that descriptions need opinion in order to bring them to life, but it wasn’t until I read that quote that I really internalised what that meant. It isn’t just about adding an opinion to description, it’s about recognising that description IS an opinion.

Whose opinion should it be though? If you are writing a memoir piece, or an article then the opinion can of course be yours, but in fiction it should usually be the opinion of the character whose point of view we are with at the time (although there will be times where it is more appropriate for the opinion to be that of…

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Filed under Craft

Pack News

Welcome to another year in the Dogpatch! 2013 marks our fourteenth year as a writing collective and second year as a group blog. Here are some quick updates from members of the Pack:

mug-shot21Going forward, Eamon will publish on this site under his pen name, Wes Pierce, the name under which he writes and submits.

SAMSUNG DIGITAL CAMERALaurel Leigh is really happy to be a member of the Dogpatch Writers Collective, which has outlasted her dental work, a couple cars, and most of the pairs of shoes she owns. She invites you to join her at Village Books in Bellingham the last Monday of each month for writers’ open mic. As emcee, it is her mission to make you feel welcome at open mic as well as let you sleep on her sofa if you travel more than 1,000 miles to attend. (Be advised: Her dog may sleep on your feet and snores.) She will again teach Knockout Editing and co-teach Writing Children’s Literature for Western Washington University’s Continuing Education in the spring and will guest teach a Pitching 101 session at the Chuckanut Writers Conference in June.

jill-hoffman-e1331589180324Jilanne Hoffmann is busy revising a picture book trilogy in preparation for pitching at the SCBWI regional conference (Asilomar) at the beginning of March. She will also be applying for the Squaw Valley Writers Workshop held this year in July. Jilanne has a few other marshmallows browning over the coals; maybe someone will catch them before they fall off the stick and into the fire.

david-marx-e1331588906101David Marx will provide updates when he returns from his “fishing” trip.

He’d better come back with a ton of words on the page.

Dogpatch Historic DistrictDogpatch Writers Collective is seeking occasional guest bloggers to write posts about steering the writing craft. Please reply to this post if you are interested. We will need to know the topic of your proposed post and that you have an active blog.

To all of our readers and fellow writers, thank you for reading and best of luck with your projects in this new year!

—David, Jilanne, Laurel, and “Wes”

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Filed under Pack News

Cate Perry on Hooking

Dogpatch Writers Collective welcomes guest contributor Cate Perry.

Angela sat on the edge of the hospital bed, letting the news sink in: Her own heart was a ticking time bomb.

Now that I’ve got your attention, allow me to take a step back and tell you Angela’s life story in 100% exposition. She was born on May 7, 1985. She had blonde curly hair that turned brown over time. She never caused her parents any trouble. Now she works as a receptionist for Happy Days Travel Agency. Every day at breakfast, she eats an apple and blah, blah, BLAH!!!

We’ve all heard the bleak news about slush piles. Agent panels at writers’ conferences around North America tell us 95% of their submissions are crap, while 5% are decent enough to read past the first couple pages. And when we hear this, we simultaneously ask ourselves the same, pleading silent question: Would my work merit that 5%?

When I started as an intern for a literary agency five years ago, I got to answer that question for myself. Moreover, I got to see the 95% who got rejected and why. Continue reading


Filed under Craft, Publication

Cecile’s Writers in The Hague

Dogpatch Writers Collective salutes Cecile’s Writers in The Hague. We hope you all go there—virtually at least. Cecile’s Writers is a quartet of talented writers that has launched a literary journal called Cecile’s Writers’ Magazine, publishing work by intercultural authors. Check out their awesome blog as well as submission guidelines at

Props to this hardworking group—Sofia, Samir, Vanessa, and Cecile—for expanding the conversation within the world writing community and working to offer a platform for other writers to showcase their work. 

As the writing god Steve Almond would say: Carry on, comrades!



Filed under Publication

Composting 101

Symptoms Problem Solutions
Story has unpleasant odor. Not enough air due to overwrought word choice or compaction.

If there is an odor of ammonia, too much pure crap is standing in the way of the real story.

Strip the pile of its dense, soggy materials and replace with crisp, crackling prose to soak up excess bulls#!t.

Turn the pile, add fresh material, and move narrative elements around to aerate.

Cover pile (put in drawer to rest) until inclement weather subsides.

Story is rich and warm only in the center. Failure to build heat/tension. Pile is too small. Narrative elements are missing.

Insufficient conflict.

Not enough air. See first symptom.

Lack of nitrogen. Rich material is superficial. Go deeper.

Make pile bigger. Identify missing narrative elements.

Add water by sticking a garden hose into the center in several locations.

Turn the pile to aerate narrative elements.

Mix in nitrogen, otherwise known as conflict.

Add or remove backstory.

Toss and start over!!!!

Story temperature exceeds 160°F. Not enough air, lack of carbon, prose is turning purple. Turn the pile to aerate.

Mix in 2 parts Hemingway for every one part bad Faulkner.

Large, undecomposed items remain in the story even after considerable time has passed. Ya got some clunkers there. Read to friends and remove sections that make them grimace.

Shred clunkers before adding new material.

In the middle of the night, rodents, coyotes, and raccoons lurk in the shadows near the story, waiting for a chance to raid the juicy bits. Your prose is attracting aggressive nocturnal elements. This is usually a sign that the writing is going well. Animal-proof your work area only if this bothers you.



Filed under Craft

Too Much In the Sun

Dear Writers:

The behavior of couples in coffee shops is endlessly fascinating to me. There’s the match/e-harmony/zoosk/ coffee dates, all pressed and dressed and cute and eager, one of them hoping for 25 years of loving matrimony, the other angling for 25 minutes in the sack; the omg-we’re-soooo-in-love-and-haA_small_cup_of_coffee[1]ve-pet-names-for-each-other-that-seriously-annoy-everyone-else-as-if-we-all-haven’t-had-our-own-schmoopie-at-one-time-or-another cuddly pair; the “study” dates, where he’s clearly enamored with her and she thinks of him as her practically-a-girlfriend-who-happens-to-be-really-good-at-chemistry or vice versa; the been-together-too-long-and-could-barely-stand-each-other to-begin-with ones, and my personal faves, the too-quirky-for-a-category couple. Of course, I eavesdrop on them all, because you can pick up really good dialogue to use in stories, plus I’m nosy as hell.

The last pair I observed had difficulty agreeing on where to sit. She unloaded her coat, ample purse, phone, bagle, napkins, and latte at a table by the window, but her mate protested:

Him: Not that table.

Her: But I already put my stuff down.

Him: But do you remember, how we were sitting there and the sun got in my eyes?

Her: Yes, but the sun isn’t shining.

Him: But do you remember how it was?

Her: Uh-huh.

[Repeat the “Do you remember” “Uh-huh” bit a few times with increasing plaintiveness on his part and increasing annoyance on hers.]

Her: Okay, but like I said, the sun isn’t shining.

Him: But it will be eventually.

Gotta love a guy who can efficiently anticipate peril, get being upset done with in advance, and get his gal to sigh loudly, scoop up her coat, purse, phone, bagel, napkins, and latte and relocate to another table four feet away to avoid a problem that hasn’t actually happened and by the look of the sky ain’t gonna. Continue reading


Filed under Craft, Notes from the coffee shop