Category Archives: Rants

You deserve so much better

Savannah Brown

Savannah Brown

Hello from the Dogpatch! Check out this amazing slam poem by seventeen-year-old Savannah Brown featured on Erika Fuego‘s site, where you will find a delightful, eclectic mix of writing and imagery.

“You Deserve So Much Better” is one of those performance art pieces that makes you grateful there are poets in the world. You can see more of Savannah’s performance art videos at:

Thanks to Erika for featuring this video. And go, Savannah!

You deserve so much better.

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A Tale of Infidelity

For all you folks out there who don’t yet know about Mike Allegra’s blog HeyLookAWriterFellow, here’s a post you shouldn’t miss:

Literary Lothario

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Writing Between the Toilet and the Window

My ToiletHello from the Dogpatch!

One time a college I was teaching for sent a photographer to my house wanting to take a publicity shot of me in my “creative space.”

The guy showed up to see where I work—I tidied up my little basement desk and even stuck a dried flower in a vase. He settled for a pic of me sitting in a rocking chair in my living room with a stack of galleys on my lap writing fake notes with a pencil.

“If you smile a little less, your eyes won’t be so crinkly,” he said.

I used to work a lot harder to decorate my writing space. During grad school, I hung giant sticky notes over my desk with important-looking chapter outlines for my culminating creative project. I’d use different-colored Sharpies to scrawl cryptic messages to myself, like “Juanita wouldn’t be afraid of the buffalo.”

Those big sticky notes really made me feel like a writer.

When I moved from the SF Bay area to Bellingham, I ended up with a little daylight basement to use as an office. The sticky notes of course came with, along with pics of cute Liv Tyler that I cut out of magazines and laminated, since Livvie is the closest visual approximation of the Juanita character in my mind.

One day a guy came to fix something broken and asked if the pictures of Liv/Juanita were pics of me.

I snorted. “For crying out loud,” I said. Or something like that. Continue reading


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7 Parenting Lessons From Literature

Hello from the Dogpatch,

Here’s a parenting lesson from 101 Books to which we at the Dogpatch bow down. Major Woofs for this post!

101 Books

Parenting is hard work. I know that’s a cliche, but it’s a well-earned cliche.

Kids are pretty awesome, and they can even teach you a thing or two about reading, but they also have their moments. That’s why, if you want to be a parent, it’s important to make sure you are not a mental whack job.

Mental whack jobs who are parents usually produce kids who eventually become mental whack jobs themselves. This is not good.

Since fiction is often just a mirror of reality, there’s a lot to learn from literary parents, both good and whack jobbish.

Quite a bit, actually. Let’s take at some parenting tips I put together based on lessons I’ve learned from literary parents.

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Fat Prose

In his excellent book on the craft of writing (On Writing), Stephen King presents a diatribe against the unnecessary use of adverbs. He wasn’t as hard on adjectives and I think he should have been. Both are modifiers, which are words and phrases that weaken or even uglifiy what otherwise might be good writing, by adding layers of fat to what was elegant prose. This is certainly not new thinking, yet, lately the use of the word, “so” has grown exponentially as a modifier of the phrase, “Thank You.” It’s no longer adequate to express one’s gratitude to another for anything by simply saying, “thanks,” “thank you,” or even “thank you very much.” It’s come to be expected that a complete “thank you” includes the phrase, “so much,” as in “Thank you, so much.”

On the page the word, “so,” appears innocuous, particularly since it consists of but two letters, but recently it has invaded and cheapened the phrase, “Thank you.” I suspect that “so” initially entered the lexicon as a way to enhance “Thank you,” and/or to take the place of the word “very.”

Part of what bothers me is how much equals “so much?” Is it measured as a percentage of the original Thank you? That would be difficult to quantify, but perhaps not as much, because that original thanks refers to an action done by someone else that engendered the original thanks. Now the word, “so” has become overused to the point where it no longer enhances the original Thank you. And modifying our prose rarely strengthens the text; instead the writer feels the need for a crutch and the result is weakened writing.

Thank you for reading this.


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What a Feelin’!

Happy 30th!

Beals BackbendIt’s been three decades since director Adrian Lyne brought us the film Flashdance. In case you missed it (or were just a playful glint in some hot postman’s eye when it premiered), you can relive the same story structure in Coyote Ugly from 2000, directed by David McNally and featuring a gutsy blonde wannabe singer instead of a gutsy dark-haired wannabe dancer.

In celebration of Flashdance, my favorite-ist film ever, until Jan de Bont gave the world Speed in 1994—here you may be excused if you are now bored out of your skull, but the film Speed beautifully illustrates three-act structure, and you can learn a lot by watching it 50 or 60 times. Plus, whichever way you swing, Keanu Reeves and Sandra Bullock are easy on the eyes—anyway, I put on my well-used Flashdance CD and started dancing around my bedroom in the shirt I’ve been wearing for 48 hours and my long underwear, doing my best Jennifer Beals imitation—or for any of you purists out there, my best Marine Jahan imitation. Continue reading


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The Grapes of Mocking

I had to re-blog this from It is just too hilarious. Thank you, Robert!

Steinbeck Mocks the Publishing Process

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Potty Head

Hello from Bellingham WA on this windy evening. Which brings me to my topic—not the wind but the worry.

If worrying were an Olympic sport, I’d be caption of the U.S. team. If I listed everything I worry about, this blog would get far longer than Rapunzel’s hair, it would take up too much space, and WordPress might crash. That’s how much I worry. Enough to potentially crash WordPress and make me worry about the poor guy named Ted or something, who has to get up in the middle of the night and fix it. Sorry, Ted.

My itty bitty house is surrounded by 100-foot trees, and when the wind blows through the willows (okay, pine trees), I worry one or more trees will fall on my house. Or on my car. Or on me.

I have CSI-like evidence of the potential for this calamity. Continue reading


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Hey there Dogpatchers, Laurel posted a little snippet from the seminar she taught at Chuckanut Writers Conference on her blog. Thought you all might be interested in taking a look at how screenwriting tools can be applied to other genres. Laurel rocks!

Dear Writers

Dear Writers,
I was delighted to again serve on the faculty of the Chuckanut Writers Conference last week in Western Washington. Here’s a snippet from a session I taught on how writers can draw from film storyboarding concepts to create a text-driven version of a storyboard. In this moment, the discussion centered on the three-act structure paradigm.

Let’s turn to our friends the screenplay writers for a moment. It’s some of their tools that we are borrowing and modifying to make our stories. Looking at conventional film structure is useful in gaining a better understanding of story action and plot points.

The conventional three-act structure looks like this:

In Act I, is the setup. The character(s), the action of the story, the problem or question of the story is established.

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Here’s what Laurel’s been up to in the Pacific Northwest. Maybe she’ll give us the low down on how the 2nd Annual Chuckanut Writers Conference in Bellingham, WA, went last weekend.

Dear Writers

Dear Writers,

We got mobbed by the geezer gang at open mic! Here’s who was there and what they read:

Her astrologer determined that CJ Prince would write about sex and death, so no surprise that she launched the night with pieces titled “One Night Stand,” “Hot,” and “Vanity.” After we broke for cold showers, Carol Hunter resumed with a very moving piece on the fallout of the drug war in Mexico. Dianne Meyer shared a beautiful and humorous tribute to a writing friend, “Ethel, When Last Seen.” Vince Laudi offered two protest pieces—”The Gun Lobbyist” and “Our God is Better than Your God”—along with “Coal Train,” a spoken song in search of a melody. Janet Oakley beautifully read “Technicolor Dreams,” published in the anthology A Cup of Comfort for Women.

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