Category Archives: Wordsmiths Newletter

Limerick Corner

Here’s something new for us all to play with. Craft a limerick and send it to the editor ( for the next issue of WordSmiths. It’s just 5 little lines of fun, and it’s a lot of fun to craft. So put on your thinking caps and start rhyming those lines. Be sure to put “Limerick” in the subject line.

There are no themes, no rules, other than it has to fit the standard limerick format.

Here are three that fell off the pen of Janice Konstantinidis to start us off (send your photo with your poem if you’d like):

A cunning young gopher named Willie,
Thought all human beings were silly.
He waited his chance
Behind a large branch,
Then dug as he pleased, willy-nilly.

A crocodile crossing the Nile
Stopped as he swam, with a smile.
The pharaoh he’d chewed
Was really quite rude;
The croc thought the meal quite worthwhile.

Said Billy the wasp to a flea,
I think you’d taste nice in my tea.”
The flea said to Billy,
In a voice that was shrilly,
I don’t think I really agree.”


From Our Wordsmiths Newsletter – 4 Questions Agents Ask At Pitch Sessions

You’ve gone to a writer’s conference and have signed up to speak face-to-face with an agent. How do you prepare? What questions will you be asked, besides the obvious: What is your current book about?

Here is some sage advice from picture book writer Lisa Katzenberger, who has had some interesting—and surprising—questions thrown at her over the years of her career:

1. Are you working on anything else?

This is one of the standard questions at a pitch session. Agents want to know that you have staying power, that you are serious about writing and that you are not just a one-book wonder. If you don’t have anything else on the writing stove, you just might not be ready for publishing. It is rare for a first manuscript to be published; we learn by doing and each book will be stronger that the one before it.

2. Who are your favorite authors?

From your answer, agents will learn two things. First, who has influenced you, your themes, your style. Do you read modern authors, or only older ones who might not be publishable in today’s market? Secondly, your answer indicates if your are as passionate about reading as you are about writing. A stumble on this question might indicate you dream about writing a book but haven’t done enough reading to understand what makes a good story. Rattling off a list of authors you adore shows you appreciate storytelling, and the lessons you picked up will spill into your own narratives. Make sure you include authors who are hot in the current market along with your sentimental favorites.

3. What kind of writer are you?

This is a wonderful open-ended question. Often agents want to know if your story is character, plot or theme driven. It an be genre-specific. But it can also lead to discussions of writing discipline, consistency, themes explored, etc. How do you describe yourself as a writer? What are the themes you explore, who is your audience, do you envision a series of stand-alones or have you created a world around a series character?

4. Where did this story come from?

Consider not only the trigger that started the idea, but also the deeper layers of where did this story come from inside you. What are the themes of the subplots? What emotions are you trying to convey to your readers? What made you have to tell this particular story?

You may or may not ever be asked these specific questions, but answering them for yourself will help you learn about yourself as a writer and become more thoughtful about the stories you write.

Call For New Ideas

Dear NightWriters –

In response to our annual satisfaction survey, one particular request resonated with us. It was a call for new ideas, new leaders and new activities. The board’s response was a unified, loud and clear “YES!” Yes, please!

We would love to see more members joining our board! This is what it’s all about – bringing new ideas to the table, putting a plan of action in place and having a sufficient team to execute it. You all have a set of skills that is invaluable to our organization. Each one of you knows someone who is unknown to us, and that someone might be just the right person for our team.

Some of the tasks are simple and don’t require too much time.

Social Media:

I would love to have a team of social media contributors. If you use Facebook and Twitter a lot and come across interesting content that your writer peers could benefit from, then you can share it with the NightWriters. Our blog is currently being underutilized because I simply don’t have enough time to contribute more. If you are interested, contact me at


Our editors Susan Tuttle and Elizabeth Roderick would welcome contributors to the newsletter. You can provide them with material monthly, or just once in a while. For more details please contact Susan at, or Elizabeth at


If you are proficient in web design and have ideas (and time) to give our website a facelift, we’d love to hear from you! Give our webmaster Janice Konstantinidis a shout at


While most of our publicity at this time happens via social media, there is a number of local newspapers, radio shows and other outlets in which we would like to advertise. Often it’s nothing more than adding an event to the calendar on their website.

As you can see, all of these are simple tasks, yet added together they can become overwhelming. The board members are volunteers. We do what we do in our free time. We welcome new participants with open arms.

Come join us! Our board meetings are held every first Sunday (the upcoming one

July 5th) from 1-3pm and we meet at the same location as our general monthly meetings (United Church of Christ, 11245 Los Osos Valley Road, San Luis Obispo), in the building opposite to the Fellowship Hall. Feel free to join us, ask questions, bring new ideas and some new energy!

We look forward to seeing you and hearing from you!

With thanks,

Andrea Chmelik

SLONW Vice President

From Our Wordsmith Newsletter – Tips For The Writer With No Routine

Some writers are neat. Organized. Controlled. Disciplined. They have a set routine, they write at the same dedicated hour of each day, for the same number of hours each day. They have pages-long outlines they work from, neatly organized charts and graphs and index cards that keep track of all their story details.

But that’s not all writers. Some of us are messy. Uncontrolled. Undisciplined. We have no routines. We spend hours searching back for details we forgot to put on a chart or graph. We write whenever and wherever the muse strikes, not at pre-appointed times, for as long as the muse graces us with her presence. An hour, a morning, a day.

Which is better? Which is best? There’s so much advice out there about the value of getting up an hour early to write, or staying up an hour longer, and doing it on a consistent basis. And even more advice on outlining your story and working from that outline to keep you focused and on track.

But is this really a better/worse situation, or simply two different ways of working? For many writers, like Ernest Gaines and Anne Perry, routine frees their creativity. They need the structure, the organization. Their minds work best in a confined atmosphere.

But equally as many writers are stifled by routine, writers like Erin Entrada Kelly. Like me (your intrepid editor), if she tries to stick to a writing schedule, she worries more about the passing minutes than the story. Like me, she writes when compelled to write, when the words are there, no matter what time of day, or where she is. If you’re like us, if No Routine is your routine, here is some advice to help you along:

1. Never stop writing, even if in your head. Write with your brain and imagination when you’re not at the keyboard or with pen and paper. Creative ideas are all around you. Cultivate the skill of people watching; they’re weird, fascinating creatures. If you do that, you’ll never run out of ideas.

2. Be Ready. Make sure you have a notebook and pen with you at all times, for when lightning strikes. How many times did a brilliant idea occur to you that you thought you’d never forget? And then you forgot it before you even got home…

3. Be productive. When you’re not writing, read. One feeds the other.

4. Don’t out-talk your ideas. Routine-less writers tend to over-talk their great ideas, which dilutes the need to write them down. Spend less time talking and more time writing it down to work out the kinks. Make it yours. Don’t let the idea play itself out in talk before you have the chance to sit with in in front of keyboard or notebook.

5. Find your own footing. Everyone has his/her own way, and you need to find what works best for you. Advice is great—until it doesn’t work. Don’t think you “have” to do what other writers do. What works for you is the best way.

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From Our Wordsmiths Newsletter – Spotlight On…Charlie Perryess

This month, Mike Price interviews Charlie Perryess. Meet your fellow SLO NightWriter!

csptoon perryess

Charlie Perryess

Who are you?

I’m CS Perryess, also known as Chet, Chester, and Charlie. I mostly write young adult stories, though I occasionally dabble in middle grade and adult. I’ve had great success with short stories and articles making their way into magazines and anthologies, but thus far, my novel-length manuscripts are homeless. I spend a lot of my time writing, editing, reading, and narrating audiobooks.

Who is your greatest inspiration?

Greatest? That’s an unfair question! Muz, my amazing mom comes to mind. Ellen, my wonderful wife, inspires, as does my uncle Ron. In the literary world: Bradbury, Green, Plum-Ucci, Renault, Trueman, Levithan, LaFevers, Chaltas…and on to infinity.

Do you have a blog?

I do. It’s called Wordmonger ( It’s my weekly opportunity to indulge myself in the wondersof language. Each brief post considers an etymology, a collection of related words, maybe anagrams or funky spellings, or whatever language-related topic tickles my fancy.

What is your favorite book, movie, or play?

My favorite book changes as I change. Most recently, David Levithan’s Every Day has made it to the top of my list. I think it’s the perfect allegory for adolescence. Before that it was Carol Plum-Ucci’s What Happened to Lani Garver, which not only pulled on my heartstrings, but inspiredone of my eighth graders to say, “This book changed the way Isee the world.” What more can an author ask?

What genre do you like to write?

I say I write YA, but to be truthful, I tend to write in the non-existent space between middle grade and young adult. My stuff is regularly labeled “too gentle” for the teen audience, but it tends to address themes and concepts that most 4-6th graders aren’t quite ready for.

Tell us about your favorite story/article/essay that you have written.

My favorite is probably the one I’m most engaged in at the moment (the subject of the next question), but a manuscript that won some awards without ever being published is Wayne’s Last Fit, the story of Grady, a freshman who has to caretake for his disabled senior brother, which involves an embarrassing new-age metaphysical treatment method. Other embarrassments in his life include working with his nutty self-styled gypsy mom, trying to keep his passion for playing the squeezebox a secret from his peers, and navigating his first romance.

Tell us about your latest project.

I’ve just finished the first draft of a novel about a kid who lives in a cenotaph (a crypt built to memorialize someone whose body is elsewhere). He’s been abandoned by a flaky mom and ends up finding his niche in the world through an unlikely group of misfit pals and a lovely and temporary art form called Land Art.

Do you have a day job?

I’m pleased to say that after 34 years of teaching (mostly middle school, and a great gig), thanks to a decent retirement system, I am now officially without a full time day job.

How does your family support you in your writing?

My loving wife Ellen puts up with all the time I spend in literary pursuits, she encourages me when I decide there’s some retreat or workshop I need to attend, and is an endless source of wacky “Hey-you should-write-a-book-about-X” ideas (though I must admit to ignoring her ideas because I have more ideas in my head than I can address in a lifetime).

How does NightWriters help you?

My critique group is a religion. I’d be surprised if I’ve missed more than three meetings in the last 15 years. Sidonie, Christine, Anne, Steve, Lorie and countless other great folks over the years are the reason I keep writing.

How do you handle rejection letters?

I feel very fortunate to have submitted short works first. By the time I was putting two years of my life on the line in a submission, I had become pretty thick skinned. I handle rejection letters by figuring out who to send it to next.

Tell us something surprising about yourself.

I spent a year living remotely, milking goats, re-assembling ancient chainsaws, and using them (and I still have all my appendages).

Besides writing, what are your other hobbies?

If I can get somewhere on my bike instead of by car, I do. I also enjoy baking, playing guitar and bass, hanging out with my wife and all the dogs she saves, and trying to keep our little house from falling down around our ears.
Thank you!

Mike Price

Mike Price


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From Our Wordsmiths Newsletter – Keeping Your Work Safe

It’s happened to all of us. We’re merrily typing along when wham! The program freezes. Or shuts off. And we’ve lost the last half hour or so of work. This is unbelievably frustrating, but it’s a tragedy when we lose more than that, when our entire database crashes. Or a fire melts the computer. Or there’s a break-in and it’s stolen. Or a flood or earthquake destroys our files.

Here are some storage options to make sure you never ever lose your manuscripts. The following information is Mac-specific, but there are equivalent systems in place for PC users.

1. Time Machine:

A good place to start, but don’t rely on it exclusively. It’s only as good as the last time you connected the external drive to the computer and ran the software, so you have to be on top of doing that regularly, like every day. Plus, if there’s an earthquake, flood or fire—or theft—you’ll lose that external drive too.

2. Time Capsule:

A wireless external hard drive for Macs with 2-3 TB (terabytes, not gigabytes), Time Capsule works with Time Machine to wirelessly back up all your Macs automatically. The downside is the cost ($299 for the capsule) and no protection from earthquake, flood, fire or theft.

3. Dropbox:

An extremely easy-to-use online data storage service, Dropbox will give you 2 GB of storage for free, enough for most of your text documents. (I use Dropbox for all my writing. I simply access whatever file I need, work on it on my computer, then save it back to Dropbox. That allows me to always work on the most recent file, whether I’m on my desktop or laptop.) You can upgrade to the professional version for $99/year, which gives you 100 GB of storage. If you do photography also, you can upgrade further to 200 GB for $199/yr.

4. Google Drive:

This one works on the same principle as Dropbox, though it gives you 5 GB storage with the free version. It’s cheaper than Dropbox if you upgrade, $4.99/month, which saves you about $5/month. It’s a bit steeper learning curve, but the result is the same: safe, off-site storage. But you need to get in the habit of saving to Dropbox or Google Drive and not to your computer.

5. Smug Mug:

Especially for photos, this sharing site is superior to sites like Snapfish and Shutterfly. It allows you to store high res versions of all your photos and create folders for friends and family to view and download as high res pics, not thumbnails. The basic plan is $40; the power plan, at $60, allows you to upload all your HD videos.


by: Susan Tuttle

Adapted from a blog by Meghan Ward


From Our Wordsmiths Newsletter – Highlights from Ursula K. Le Guin

Highlights from Ursula K. Le Guin

On November 19, 2014, Ursula K. Le Guin was honored at the National Book Awards. Below are some excerpts from her inspiring and insightful acceptance speech.

I think hard times are coming when we will be wanting the voices of writers who can see alternatives to how we live now and can see through our fear-stricken society and its obsessive technologies toother ways of being, and even imagine some real grounds for hope. We will need writers who can remember freedom. Poets, visionaries—the realists of a larger reality.

Right now, I think we need writers who know the difference between the production of a market commodity and the practice of an art. Developing written material to suit sales strategies in order to maximize corporate profit and advertising revenue is not quite the same thing as responsible book publishing or authorship.

Yet I see sales departments given control over editorial; I see my own publishers in a silly panic of ignorance and greed, charging public libraries for an ebook six or seven times more than they charge customers. We just saw a profiteer try to punish a publisher for disobedience and writers threatened by corporate fatwa, and I see a lot of us, the producers who write the books, and make the books, accepting this. Letting commodity profiteers sell us like deodorant, and tell us what to publish and what to write.

Books, you know, they’re not just commodities. The profit motive often is in conflict with the aims of art. We live in capitalism. Its power seems inescapable. So did the divine right of kings. Any human power can be resisted and changed by human beings. Resistance and change often begin in art, and very often in our art—the art of words.

I have had a long career and a good one. In good company. Now here, at the end of it, I really don’t want to watch American literature get sold down the river. We who live by writing and publishing wan —and should demand—our fair share of the proceeds. But the name of our beautiful reward is not profit. Its name is freedom.”

For more interesting info, tips and inspiration see our December newsletter!


President’s Message: Setting Examples

Just in from Australia – Happy Father’s Day Pop! Next was a call from Portland, OR, wishing a Happy Day and much love. It sure warms a father’s heart to hear from his daughters. My daughters grew up knowing their dad as a photographer. They were steeped in the life of lights, camera, action as well as the work that comes before and after the razzle-dazzle. I took them with me to drop film at the lab and they saw me sorting rolls of negatives to be
matched with prints. Being surrounded by male and female photographers, art directors and clients was the norm for them.

Along the way film changed to pixels and prints became digital files. Our children absorb who we are and what we do. We believe they are not paying attention, only to find years later that they had stored it all away for possible use at a future time. We show them by our example how we view and deal with life and other the people around us. Both of my daughters have moved on into their own professions and yet both are photographers as well.

While reading Origin, a biography of Charles Darwin, I was quite taken with a section describing one of Darwin’s sons asking his father a question. The boy explained that he’d been at a friend’s house and the friend’s father had no fossils to work on. Darwin’s son had grown up thinking that all fathers did what Darwin did. In nature it is called imprinting and
takes place by inherited instinct. Humans in advanced societies have, by and large, lost our trust in such instincts.
We are the role models for our children by what we say and do, how we act and, yes, also by what we write. They may not grow up to follow our path, but they will have been shaped by our example in how they approach their own path. These are important matters that should not be left to chance. As parents to the characters we create in our stories we must strive to help them grow into the needs of the story itself. We need to act in a very precise and conscious manner.
Every trait and sense each character displays must be a real and true part of them. If a reader thinks some action a character has taken does not fit, you will lose that reader. How has the character developed a particular way to think and act? What will their responses be in a situation?
An important lesson I have taken away from Susan Tuttle’s “What If” writing workshops is that a writer must know every detail concerning one of his or her characters: Who they are; how they think; what drives them; how they will react to stimuli in any given situation; are they educated or grown up in slums with no chances to advance themselves?
Even if these things do not come into the light of day in your story, it is important that you know them.

NW Wordsmiths June 2013