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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Tolosa Press – Call For Submissions

Would you like to have your story published in local press? Now you can!


Tolosa Press publishes three community newspapers in San Luis Obispo county: The SLO City News, The Coast News and The Bay News. Tolosa Press prints 30,000 copies that are distributed in more than 600 racks/locations in the county, plus your story will be featured online.

SLO NightWriters is proud to have the members’ stories featured in each issue of Tolosa Press.

We are looking for SHORT FICTION STORIES, with the word limit of 600.

Want to write, but need an inspiration? How about one of these prompts to get you started – use them as the first sentence of your story, or incorporate them as you write along.

  • She had waited twenty years to return it.
  • Spare some change, please?
  • He had kept his mother alive in his thoughts. Too alive, perhaps.
  • He looked at his phone, turned pale, then quickly left the room. She watched him, smiling.
  • What do you mean, you lost the lottery ticket?

Happy Writing!

Tolosa Press Submissions Guidelines

*To be eligible to submit, your NightWriter dues must be current.

All submissions must be the original work of the author. You may submit previously published or submitted material if it was not published locally.


–      Short stories – fiction and creative non-fiction. All themes are accepted, but please keep in mind  that Tolosa Press is a family friendly publication. The publisher prefers pieces that grab the  readers and keep them interested until the end.

Not Accepting:

–      Poetry, Essays, Opinion pieces, Excerpts from novels, “How To” articles.

Submission Guidelines:

–      Send your submission as an attachment, not in the body of the e-mail. Attach as a word  document.

–      Word limit (strict!) – 500 – 600

–      Double space; use readable 12 point font, preferably Times New Roman.

–      Insert a header, which should include: title, your name, word count, genre.

–      Include a two sentence bio and insert at the bottom of your submission, even if you have  submitted before.

Submissions should be sent to:, with “Tolosa Call for Submission” in the subject line.

NightWriters reserves the right to edit submissions. Whenever time allows, the author will have the opportunity to approve changes.

If your submission is selected, the NightWriter Photographer may arrange to take your picture to submit with the article. 

Andrea Chmelik

Tolosa Press Submissions Manager

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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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Monthly Meeting

Tuesday January 13th 2015 5:15pm

Round Tables

We will kick off the New Year with a Critique Round Table featuring Terry Sanville and Mark Arnold, and a Scenes Presentation Table on how to vary your scene structures to make your stories come alive. This presentation will be a prelude to our first Writing Clinic in February 2015, that will focus on scene and scene structure. 

and at 6:30pm

Introducing Our Guest Speaker For This Evening: Doctor Kelly Moreno

A Duty to Betray:  Evolution of a Psycho-Legal Thriller

Kelly Cover.jpg

Dr. Kelly Moreno is a psychologist, forensic examiner, and professor of psychology at Cal Poly State University. San Luis Obispo. He is also a psychologist in private practice and conducts Mentally Disordered Offender Evaluations for the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. He has worked at psychiatric facilities in Wash., D.C., Utah, and California. He speaks regularly at regional and national psychology conferences and has over two-dozen publications on psychopathology and its treatment. He lives with his wife and daughter in San Luis Obispo, CA.  A Duty to Betray is his first novel.

Also starting this month you will be able to sell your books at our general monthly meetings. We will have a table set up for you to display, discuss and sell your books. Please note – SLO Nightwriters holds no liability in this process. All authors participating are responsible for their own money exchanges and for the security of their own funds and books. Your dues with the SLO NightWriters must be current in order to participate.


United Church of Christ (Congregational) of San Luis Obispo

11245 Los Osos Valley Road

San Luis Obispo, CA 93405




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


Spoiler Alert! SLO NightReaders Book Discussion – Bluegrass Baseball: A Year in the Minor League Life

We ended the year with Katya Cengel‘s “Bluegrass Baseball: A Year in the Minor League Life”.

Following four Minor League baseball teams in Kentucky through the 2010 season—the triumphs, struggles, and big league hopes and dreams—the book tells the larger story of baseball in America’s smaller venues, where the game in its purest form is still valued and warmly embraced.

What did you think?

The author has graciously agreed to participate in our discussion, and below is a list of questions for her. Feel free to jump in at any point! Leave your comments below.

1. What were some of the behind the scenes things that surprised you about life in the minors?

2. Did any of the players you followed make it big?

3. How does minor league baseball differ from the majors?

4. What is life like for the families of the players?

5. What inspired you to write about minor league baseball?

Thank you all for participating in our SLO NightReaders Online Book Club! We hope you enjoyed our 2014 selection and wish you lots of great reads in 2015!


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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!


SLO NW Critique Groups With Openings

Below you can find a list of critique groups that are currently open to new members. NW critique groups are a wonderful benefit of NW membership. To be eligible to participate, your NightWriters dues must be current. While we cannot be, and are not, responsible for any outcomes from these associations, we hope they lead to great creative magic and magnificent literary works! If you see a group that you would like to join, or visit to observe, please e-mail Andrea Chmelik at for contact information.



Poetry Critique Group Emerging! Any poet can join. Any poet can benefit from input of a group, regardless of experience. Email and together we can set time and place to meet.

Moderator: Irene Chadwick



Meets in the South County. Critiqued at a fast pace, in a process where members critique each other’s writing electronically, followed by a face-to-face meeting twice a month. Meetings are held 1st and 3rd Saturdays at 10am. Contact moderator for details and directions.

Moderator: Lili Sinclaire



Meets the 1st and 3rd Tuesdays from 9:00 am-12:00 noon (subject to change). Adult and children’s fiction and nonfiction. No genre or skill level restrictions. Meets in Paso Robles.

Moderator: Lillian Brown



New group starts Saturday May 10. All levels and genres, short stories, poetry, novels and memoirs. Work is exchanged one week prior to group meetings. 1500 word limit on submissions. Meets the 2nd and 4th Saturdays from 9:00-11:00 am. Contact moderator for location.

Moderator: Tom Snow



This group was invented to fill a need for a Los Osos/San Luis Obispo group that incorporates writers who generate stories, essays, novels, poetry—you get the picture—writers of any description. Whether or not you wish to publish, we’ll help you with ideas to improve your writing. Led by Sharon Sutliff, we meet on the 2nd and 4th Mondays at 9 AM and usually wrap up in time for lunch. We meet in various locations. Call one of the moderators to arrange a visit, or get more information.

Moderators: Sharon Sutliff and Audrey Yanes


WHAT IF? WRITING GROUP II (Wed. Afternoon Group)

For all writers of fiction and creative non-fiction. Meets every Wednesday in Los Osos from 3:00pm to 5:00 pm. Not a traditional NightWriter critique group. Work is produced in each session, then analyzed according to the objective of the day’s goal. Based on writing exercises designed to jump-start the creative process (gleaned from a variety of published authors), these sessions take writers through the process of writing fiction from inception of idea to the final resolution. This group is for all writers who want to learn the process of crafting a well-told story while developing their own voice and style. We explore such topics as ideas, character, story arc, tone, voice, POV, tension, dialogue, resolution, writing mechanics, etc. There is a small monthly fee involved for this class to cover materials.

Moderator: Susan Tuttle


WHAT IF? WRITING GROUP III (Monday Evening Group)

This group is on hiatus at this time. If you are interested in an evening class, contact the moderator.

Moderator: Susan Tuttle



Lili Sinclaire is considering FORMING A NEW GROUP for ADULT NOVELS in a process where members critique each other’s writing electronically, followed by a face- to-face meeting.

Moderator: Lili Sinclaire

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SLO NightReaders – December Pick

For December, we selected Katya Cengel‘s “Bluegrass Baseball: A Year in the Minor League Life”. Following four Minor League baseball teams in Kentucky through the 2010 season—the triumphs, struggles, and big league hopes and dreams—the book tells the larger story of baseball in America’s smaller venues, where the game in its purest form is still valued and warmly embraced.


 The story begins before the season with national-anthem singing tryouts in Lexington, then tags along with players, staffs, and fans at home, in the office, and on the field, offering a rare glimpse of the unglamorous reality of Minor League ball. From the front-office staff in Bowling Green planning kooky promotions, to a trainer grocery shopping for a team on forty dollars a day, to a new wife coming to terms with her husband’s transitory lifestyle, to a father struggling to make it back to the Majors and a Cuban defector blowing everyone away with a 100-mph-plus fastball these are the people who live to make baseball happen, in all its nitty-gritty glory.

Katya Cengel lives in California Central Coast and was a presenter at the 2013 Central Coast Writers Conference. She has written about everything from retired dancing bears in Bulgaria to the world’s largest machine gun shoot in Kentucky. Her work has appeared in Newsweek, National Geographic and among other publications. A World Affairs Journalism Fellow in 2005, she received second place in the Society of Professional Journalists Green Eyeshade Award in 2006 for her series “Lost Boys, Torn Families”. Her book “Bluegrass Baseball: A Year in the Minor League Life” (University of Nebraska Press), was one of five finalists for the 2013 Kentucky Literary Award.

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Spoiler Alert! SLO NightReaders Book Discussion – The Pope Goes Speed Dating

The Pope Goes Speed Dating is a contemporary romantic comedy set in Australia that explores how the life of a young woman is turned on its head by an unexpected inheritance of a lifelong endowment and a mansion on Bondi Beach—all she has to do is permanently engage the services of her late grandfather’s English butler.

1. Imagine yourself in Summer Pennington’s shoes – would you consider it a dream come true, or a nightmare?

2. Which one of the romances in the book was your favorite?

3. Did you enjoy the Australian setting? Did the author do a good job of transporting you to “the land down under”?

4. Which character did you like the best and why?

5. If you could ask the author a question, what wold it be?

Thank you for reading and don’t forget to check back tomorrow for our December book announcement!


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