Patti Writes: A Circle of Light

“Is it time yet?” I whisper loudly. ‘In a stage whisper,’ Nanna would say.

I am poised with the red table lamp, its cord dangling from the outlet between the two kitchen windows, in one hand, and my library book under my arm. In the small bedroom off the kitchen, Ma is crooning gently to Denise, the baby. Ronnie’s silence means he is staring intently at Ma’s lips. Denise babbles. Then a sigh, like at the end of a long hard day at the factory. And Ronnie whispers ‘good night, Mum.’

Soon after, Ma slowly backs out of the ‘kids’ room, silently closing the door to within the width of her hand.

I know not to breathe or the spell will be broken.

Then, I scramble through the open window onto the screened-in back porch, while Ma pours two juice-sized glasses of milk, then assembles our butter and saltine cracker sandwiches. I set the lamp on the box between two low-slung beach chairs. The cord is just long enough, actually, taut, and I switch on the light. My job done, I lie back, book on my lap, and watch the outlines of the houses on Marion Street melt away, and dots of lights appear in their windows. As darkness claims day, the lamp’s bulb creates a bright circle of light, an oasis, big enough to include us, our snacks, and books. I love this.

Balancing our goodies on Nanna’s old wooden tray, Ma enters the porch through the doorways—kitchen door to back-hall to porch door to porch. She transfers plates and glasses to the box and returns to the kitchen. In my mind, I see her stack the tray beside the toaster and begin the search for her book.  

I wait.

She returns.

We establish ourselves in our chairs—scootching around for comfort. It is hot summer in East Boston and sticky humid. “Not a breath of air,” Nanna’s voice says in my head. City sounds are lazy—a dog bark, a car horn, a kid’s laugh, the brief smack-thud of a moth trying to get through the screens.

My mother always claimed she was tricked into agreeing to move to this flat on the top floor of my grandfather’s three-story apartment building on busy Meridian Street. As she told and retold it, she and Daddy stood in the empty kitchen with its brass fittings and grey, double soapstone sinks, and Dad said, “Look Reta, a big back yard for the kids.”

“It was dusk,” she’d say to me. “No screens. Who could tell that our so- called big back yard was actually the neighbor’s?” Our flat had only this back porch, screening added later against the moths, overlooking the back yards of other houses.

 Our building had no back, side, or front yard. But we had this circle of light and reading, reading in the night on the back porch together.

This memory sustained me through entrance exams, essay tests, comprehensive exams, dissertation defense, and even conference papers as I adjusted the microphone and the reader’s circle of light on the podium.


Read here to learn more about Las Vegas Literary Salon’s Elmer Schooley Short Story Prize writing contest. Cash prizes of $300 each to the top three submissions and an opportunity to be included in the contest’s short story anthology of qualifying entries. Download Submission Guidelines here. Short Story Contest submission deadline changed to July 1.

Patti Writes

Here we are. Poetry Month 2022.

This is a poem I “keypunched” when I worked as a keypunch operator at Harbor Service Bureau, Wilmington, CA; circa 1968. Using simple number coding, I punched cargo data from a ship’s manifest into the keypunch cards.The punched cards were then “verified” by another keypunch operator by re-entering the data into the cards I had punched. Once verified, the cards were fed into the computer, which filled an 8 by 4 foot “Computer Room” and ultimately created a detailed cargo print-out for unloading the cargo. 

Clearly, I felt as though the keypunch machine was in charge of my life. When all six of us were keypunching, it was very noisy. Also clearly, any subject can be fodder for poetry.


THE ART OF WRITING SHORT STORIES

Image

As the Las Vegas Literary Salon gears up for its Elmer Schooley Short Story contest with a 2,000 word count limit, we felt this would be a good time to remind writers of some of the conventions common to writing shorter pieces of prose. Remember, the story you submit for the contest must be based on the Elmer Schooley print shown here.

  1. Create a character who wants something and another character who wants the same thing, or who has reason to oppose the main character’s attempts to get what they want. For fiction this short, there will not be room to develop more than three characters.
  2. Bring the conflict to light as close to the beginning of the story as possible. Make the reader want to read on to find out what happens next.
  3. Consider point of view: who will be telling this story? Will it be told in the first, second or third person?
  4. Choose a place that has significance for you. Close your eyes and pretend you’re walking toward it. What do you see? Hear? Smell? Taste? Touch? Awaken all of your senses to draw the reader into this adventure with you. If you are using an entirely fictional location, free write to figure out the sensory details of that place.
  5. Story is a catalogue of events. (The man planted a garden. He died there.) Plot is a listing of events with causality. (The man planted a garden. He died there when an elk jumped the garden fence and trampled him.)
  6. Make your characters real. Address their internal and external conflicts. Use physical description, speech, and action to make the characters relatable.
  7. What is the subject of your story?
  8. What is the theme?
  9. How does it end? It’s okay to surprise the reader, as long as the ending makes sense within the context of the story. I recently read the top three winning entries in a short short story contest. The contest required a maximum length of 1,000 words. One writer told the story in backwards order. Another writer described what the main character was like before The Thing That Happened, and then described what the main character was like after The Thing That Happened. She never told the reader what it was that happened. Never gave any detail about it at all. But because of the way she described the actions and feelings and even the clothing the main character wore, the reader knows, instinctively, what happened. The third story had a more conventional structure. All of the entries were well under the 1,000 word limit.
  10. Write with wild abandon, and then when you rewrite, write tight. With limited word count, it’s necessary to make every word work.

The above list is not meant as a road map to writing a short story, but merely as a reminder to include these basic elements that will enhance the reader’s enjoyment and understanding of the story you tell.

For additional writing advice, check out this link to entertaining words of wisdom on writing short stories from Kurt Vonnegut:

https://promote.irevuo.net/2022/01/07/kurt-vonneguts-8-rules-for-writing-a-short-story-2/


Click on Elmer Schooley Short Story for more information about the contest.
Deadline for submissions: July 1, 2022


Patti Writes

In thinking about blogging and, thus, about sharing thoughts and ideas, I offer this simple advice to writers and readers:

“What I ask from a book is what I want to write: I book I’d like to read myself.” – James Hillman, The Force of Character and the Later Life


Read here to learn more about Las Vegas Literary Salon’s Elmer Schooley Short Story Prize writing contest. Cash prizes to the top three submissions and an opportunity to be included in the contest’s short story anthology of qualifying entries. Download Submission Guidelines here.

THANKS TO THESE GENEROUS DONORS WHO HELP SUPPORT LAS VEGAS LITERARY SALON

The Las Vegas Literary Salon Elmer Schooley Short Story Prize fund-raising effort is supported by donations from educator, author and artist Ray John de Aragon, and Rosa Maria Calles, artist, playwright, and folklore dramatist. Among the offerings are signed posters of paintings by de Aragon and Calles depicting cultural icons Gorras Blancas and Los Penitentes, and several of de Aragon’s books, most with cover illustrations by Calles. Ray John is a recognized expert on the Spanish colonial arts, traditions, heritage, and folklore.

The 19 x 25 signed posters sell for $50 each; the books are available at prices ranging from $16.95 to $24.95. The books (listed below) are a mix of fiction and nonfiction.

• Images of America: Lincoln – Arcadia Publishing, $21.99
• The Legend of La Llorona – Sunstone Press, (Illustration, Rosa Maria Calles) $16.95
• Recollection of the life of the Priest, Don Antonio Jose Martinez, by Pedro Sanchez, (Original Spanish text translated by Ray John de Aragon – Illustration, Rosa Maria Calles) $16.95
• New Mexico in the Mexican-American War – The History Press, $21.99• The Penitentes of Hew Mexico, Hermanos de la Luz/Brothers of the Light – Sunstone Press, (Illustration by Rosa Maria Calles)$24.95
• Hermanos de la Luz – Brothers of the Light, Heartsfire Books, (Illustration, Ray John de Aragon)$16.95
• Padre Martinez and Bishop Lamy, Sunstone Press, (Illustration, Rosa Maria Calles) $18.95

To purchase any of these items, contact lvliterarysalon@gmail.com, or contact the Las Vegas Arts Council, Gallery 140 (140 Bridge Street), Las Vegas, N.M.

Read more on the two artists who are donating their work to support Las Vegas Literary Salon and the Las Vegas Arts Council.

From PeoplePill: “Rosa Maria Calles, artistic director for Matraka Inc. wrote and produced the thrilling play Cuento de La Llorona…The play … attracted rave reviews from critics throughout New Mexico…the story is told in the form of a spectacular stage play with music, song, dialogue, and dance that captures the very essence of Spanish Colonial traditions, heritage, culture, and history in the Southwest.” From Latinos In the Industry, October 2004, a publication of the “National Association of Latino Independent Producers.” Read more of Calles’ bio at this link https://peoplepill.com/people/rosa-maria-calles

From PeoplePill: “Ray John de Aragón was born in Las Vegas, N.M. It is generally agreed that the most significant biographical link between de Aragón and his work is this fact of his birth and growth to maturity in his native New Mexico. Here is the source of his knowledge and love of his Hispanic culture and traditions, his biological view of life, and many of his characters, whether true life heroes such as Padre Antonio Jose Martinez, who is the subject in many of his writings, or the legendary La Llorona, who is the wailing female ghost of Hispanic folklore.” (Jim Sagel, Ray John de Aragón in Profile) Read more about de Aragon at this link https://peoplepill.com/people/ray-john-de-aragon

Our deepest appreciation to husband-and-wife creative team, Ray John and Rosa Maria.


Please make checks payable to Las Vegas Arts Council with Lit Salon in the memo line. Click here for more information about the Elmer Schooley Short Story Prize.

SEEKING SHORT STORY ENTRIES

WHAT DOES THIS ELMER SCHOOLEY PRINT CONJURE UP IN YOUR WRITER’S MIND?

If you enjoy writing short stories, this is for you. The Elmer Schooley Short Story Prize is a writing competition sponsored by the Las Vegas Literary Salon, made possible by the generous donation from Lorenzo Martinez of four Elmer Schooley prints. The print seen here has been chosen by the Las Vegas Literary Salon to be the subject of short story entries. We’re looking for good writing and creative panache!

Image

What does this image conjure in your mind? Write that in a short story of 2,000 words or less and submit. Three cash prizes will be awarded. Prize-winning stories and qualifying submissions will be those that best reflect the hidden stories behind the image. Qualifying submissions among non-winners will be included in an Elmer Schooley Short Story Prize Anthology along with the top three winners. Authors included in the anthology will receive one free copy of the book. Click on Call for Submissions in the menu to download the Submission Guidelines.

Three of the four prints by this well-known artist will be available for sale as part of a fundraising initiative for Las Vegas Literary Salon. One has already sold for $2,000. The buyer wishes to remain anonymous. For details about the available prints, contact lvliterarysalon@gmail.com.

Elmer “Skinny” Schooley (February 20, 1916 – April 25, 2007) was an American painter and printmaker. He received a BFA from the University of Colorado, and an MA at the State University of Iowa. Schooley was a Professor of Art and Head of the Department of Arts and Crafts, New Mexico Highlands University, Las Vegas, New Mexico. His works are included in collections at the Library of Congress, Metropolitan Museum, Museum of Modern Art, among others.

The image above and the two below are available for purchase. The items are valued from $1,500 to $2,500. Funds raised from sale of the items will go to support Las Vegas Literary Salon projects, including the Elmer Schooley Short Story Prize and publication of an anthology of qualifying entries. A portion also goes to our fiscal sponsor, the Las Vegas Arts Council to support its ongoing efforts to showcase and promote art in all its forms.

LAS VEGAS LITERARY SALON NEWS AND NOTES

CALL FOR READER/JUDGE ELMER SCHOOLEY SHORT STORY PRIZE

The Las Vegas Literary Salon is looking for a reader/judge for the Elmer Schooley Short Story Prize writing contest, which is based on a print Schooley created in his student years. The deadline for entries is June 1, 2022. Entries will have a maximum word count of 2,000. Reading will take place as entries arrive. An honorarium will be offered. Contact lvliterarysalon@gmail.com if you are interested. LVLS will collaborate with reader/judge on a suitable judging rubric.

Elmer “Skinny” Schooley (February 20, 1916 – April 25, 2007) was an American painter and printmaker. He received a BFA from the University of Colorado, and an MA at the State University of Iowa. Schooley was a Professor of Art and Head of the Department of Arts and Crafts, New Mexico Highlands University, Las Vegas, New Mexico. His works are included in collections at the Library of Congress, Metropolitan Museum, Museum of Modern Art, among others.

WHAT DOES THE SCHOOLEY PRINT SHOWN ABOVE CONJURE UP IN YOUR WRITER’S MIND?

The Elmer Schooley Short Story Prize is a writing competition sponsored by the Las Vegas Literary Salon, made possible by the generous donation from Lorenzo Martinez of five Elmer Schooley prints. The print above has been chosen by the Las Vegas Literary Salon to be the subject of short story entries. We’re looking for good writing and creative panache!

What does this image conjure in your mind? Write that in a short story of 2,000 words or less and submit. Three cash prizes will be awarded. Prize-winning stories and qualifying submissions will be those that best reflect the hidden stories behind the image. Qualifying submissions among non-winners will be included in an Elmer Schooley Short Story Prize Anthology along with the top three winners. Authors included in the anthology will receive one free copy of the book. Click on Call for Submissions in the menu to download the Submission Guidelines. The prints will be available for sale as part of a fundraising initiative for Las Vegas Literary Salon.

This fund-raising effort is future supported by donations from educator, author and artist Ray John de Aragon, and Rosa Maria Calles, artist and folklore dramatist. More about them on the Las Vegas Literary Salon website soon. Among the offerings are signed posters of paintings by de Aragon and Calles depicting cultural icons Gorras Blancas and Los Penitentes, and several of de Aragon’s books. He is a recognized expert on the Spanish colonial arts, traditions, heritage, and folklore.

COMING IN MARCH: NEXT GEN RETURNS

These students of West Las Vegas High School teacher Anthony Lopez participated in the Salon’s first open mic event and then made a solo act return as presenters for the Next Gen event a couple of months later. Their poetry is fresh, original, thoughtful, and creative. They’re coming back with new material and new participants. Shown in this photo are Maya Sena, Christian Lopez, Josephine Morales, Dominic Garcia,
Viviana Rivera and Joshua Sandoval. We are expecting twenty presenters this go-around.


UPCOMING EVENTS
Scheduled 4th Sunday of every month at 4 p.m.
Venues to be determined
, times subject to change

• March – Next Gen poetry reading featuring high school students
• April – Poetry Open Mic (Working collaboration with NMHU student Aman WInkle)
• May – Featured Author Event TBA
• June – Book Fair sale of books with a focus on LOCAL AUTHORS
• July – Writing Historical Fiction, Patti Romero
• August – Featured Author Event TBA
• September – Hispanic Heritage Month (If you are interested in being a presenter, contact lvliterarysalon@gmail.com)
• October – “Readers Theater” Featured Authors – Patti Romero and Sharon Vander Meer
• November – Open Mic Essays and Poetry: Being Thankful
• December – Book Launch (This assumes we will receive sufficient qualifying short stories for the Schooley writing contest to create a book.)

THANKS TO OUR FISCAL SPONSOR AND BEST CHEERLEADER – LAS VEGAS ARTS COUNCIL

TAPESTRY NOW AVAILABLE

The Las Vegas Literary Salon team says THANKS! The response to our book launch featuring Tapestry: Tales, Essays, Poetry was amazing. We were busy greeting everyone and failed to count noses, but the guesstimate was forty attendees, twelve of whom were writers represented in the book.

We also want to thank Jan and Frank Beurskens for allowing us to use their venue ­– Stella’s – ­for the event. It was perfect. The setting, the historic vibe the building gives off, comfy seating, and a welcoming spirit. The building continues to be a work in progress, but it is clearly going to continue the Estella’s legacy of being a place where folks want to gather.

The Lit Salon also extends warm thanks to our writers and anyone who contributed – and continues to contribute – to the success of Tapestry. If you have the book already, please don’t skip over the acknowledgements. Take note of the folks who made the Las Vegas Literary Salon’s dream of an anthology of local writers come true.

As has been noted, this is a fund raiser for Las Vegas Literary Salon, so continued sales are important to our ability to achieve our mission of providing a safe space for writers, readers, and thinkers to meet, talk, and exchange ideas about writing and the written.

This will involve providing a platform for writers to exchange ideas about the art, crafts, excitement, and responsibilities of writing; to offer programs in publishing, writing, editing, book design, and other writing related topics; to support writers of all ages and abilities. 

Readers may join in discussions that examine a variety of genres from poetry to fiction to non-fiction as well as to experience excitement, joy, and enlightenment. Read more about our ambitious but doable agenda here.

Tapestry is available on Amazon. More important, it’s available right here in Las Vegas from Paper Trail on Bridge Street and Books of the Southwest at FrankieAnnTiques on the Plaza. The Las Vegas Arts Council, our fiscal sponsor, also has books on hand for purchase.

Tapestry is worth the price – $10.99 – and an excellent gift idea for Christmas giving. If everyone is all sold out, never fear! I have copies.

Now for a wee bit of housekeeping. One of our guests on Dec. 5 left behind this cozy coat. If you know who it belongs to, email lvliterarysalon@gmail.com so we may return it to its owner.

Thanks to those of you who offered to become a part of Las Vegas Literary Salon. You have been added to our mailing list. To avoid our email to you going into your spam folder, please add our email, lvliterarysalon@gmail.com to your approved list.

Last, but by no means least, thanks Mary Rose and Bob Henssler for all your help in preparation for and implementation of the launch event, and to Patti Romero, whose thoughtful suggestions helped along the way.

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Photos: Bob Henssler

INTERVIEW WITH LAS VEGAS, NM POET LAUREATE KAYT PECK

Award-winning author, playwright, poet, screenwriter and successful grant writer Kayt Peck sat down with Mary Rose Henssler recently for an interview. Kayt is the current Poet Laureate of Las Vegas, N.M., and will be the featured guest at the Literary Salon Visit with the Author, at Gallery 140, 140 Bridge Street, Las Vegas, N.M., on Sunday, Oct. 24, 2021, at 4 p.m. In our interview, we discussed writing, among many subjects, and that part of the interview is excerpted below.

Kayt Peck

MRH:  You were studying speech and communications. At what point did you start knowing that writing was your life?
KP: Before I could write I would go into my dad’s office and make up stories on his typewriter. I was just pecking away, but the stories were in my head. Yeah, I always wanted to write.

MRH:  And at what point did you start writing fiction?
KP: Probably junior high. It sucked, but I wrote it. And my degree – I had a weird degree – it was called a functional degree, and I had a major in speech, and what amounted to a triple minor in journalism, psychology and education. That’s because they tried to push me into that. Actually, I finished everything except my student teaching to get education certified, but I didn’t want to teach. That’s something they – if you’re a woman at that school you had to go into education or medicine or something. I had no desire to be a teacher. I’ve been told I’m a good one.

MRH: What is your writing kryptonite? Something that protects you from just everything and lets you write?
KP: That’s a good question. Writing kryptonite. Passion. I have pretty much–I have developed the craft. I can write about anything. I make a living largely writing grants, so I can write about anything. But when it comes to fiction, when it comes to plays or now screenplays, it has to be something I am passionate about. And if I truly have passion about something there’s no such thing as writer’s block.

MRH: Now, you believe in writer’s block, but you don’t get it?
KP: I do sometimes, but it’s short lived. It’s when I’m tired. It’s the body saying ‘shut up.’ I do get it sometimes. Natalie Goldberg has some great exercises to get you past, you know, over the hump. I think it’s a story she wrote or my writing instructor in college may have told me this story about someone who was in a writing class and couldn’t write. Just couldn’t get past it, so the instructor said, “Okay. Just pick a street.” She did. “Pick a building.” She did. Couldn’t write. The instructor finally said, “I want you to go to that building. Go up ten bricks, three bricks over, and start writing about that brick.” And that broke it. Have you ever read my tagline on my email? ‘Writers are like magic wands. They can create anything.’ And you know, we really do. It’s not just on the page. Writers create everything when you come down to it, the things that happen in the world, the things that humanity creates, it has to start with words. Everything has to start with words. It has to start with communication. That’s why I was so fascinated by interpersonal communication.

MRH: When you were in the Navy, I know the bombing of the Murrah Building in Oklahoma City had a tremendous affect on you. What other experiences with the Navy had a great affect on you, good or bad?
KP: Probably the most important writing I have ever done in my whole career was when I was recalled to go to Strategic Command to help write the VIP documents when Admiral Childs was developing a plan for the stand down from the Cold War. So, I helped write the documents he used for key legislative committees to convince them to follow his plan.

MRH: You feel that was the most important writing you ever did. Do you feel that way about any of your fiction? Do you feel that your fiction has an impact on the people that read it?
KP: I think so, yes. I think this latest book, especially. The fantasy series. I really need to get into a different market for that, because I think that series… You know, Harry Potter changed the world. I think everything I’ve written–sometimes it feels like I’m not writing alone so everything I’ve written there’s been a trigger. I don’t write just for fun. It’s fun to write, but there’s something. There’s a kernel. A truth I need to say, or an observation I need to say. I told you the story of why I decided I needed to write Broken. The Ladies Room, I had to do.

MRH: That was a very powerful book.
KP: And you know, I couldn’t really tell the story of what it was like to start an organization in the Texas Panhandle, because nobody would have believed it. It was horrible. But I needed to get that flavor, that experience out to people. And do you know, I’ve done well selling that book out at the flea market, when I tell people what it’s about, that’s the one they want–straight people. And I’m amazed how supportive they are when I tell them what the book’s about. The fantasy trilogy? That was important to me, and it hasn’t hit where it’s supposed to yet. I probably needed a different publisher for that. When I write, I let the story drive the length and the pace. And even though I like fantasy, Tolkein was so verbose. The story’s good, but I enjoyed the movies more than the books. I’m waiting to see what happens with Chokecherry Jelly (screenplay). I entered it into two contests and I’m not entering it into any more until I see what it does. It costs money to enter screenplay contests. (Chokecherry Jelly won both contests.) (Someone) wants to produce it, but it’s a long ways from concept to production on a movie.

MRH: Unless you want to do it yourself.
KP:  There’s so much I want to accomplish, and picking and choosing, because I realized, you know, I’m not going to live that much longer. In the scheme of things, ten or even twenty years isn’t that long.

MRH: If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?
KP: It wouldn’t be my writing self; it would affect my writing self, but I would go back earlier. Because when I was a kid growing up, somehow I knew it wasn’t me that was screwed up. Well, I was screwed up, but I think I would go back–I waited until I was older to–I’ve written forever. I’ve got manuscripts even I forgot I had written. But it wasn’t until I got in my fifties where I started saying, “Yeah, let’s put it out there.”

MRH: So you wrote, but you didn’t send it out anywhere, until you were in your fifties?
KP: I would do some, but I wasn’t real serious about it. I was serious about helping other people accomplish their dreams, because that was the subliminal message that I had, was that my talent wasn’t supposed to be used for me. So if I could, I would go back to even before pre-writing and tell child me, “It’s okay to be ambitious. It’s okay. You’ve got a gift. It’s okay.”

MRH: So that was a pretty powerful message that you were getting from the people around you.           
KP: Oh yeah. That I wasn’t supposed to use my talent for me. And it took me a long time to even recognize that’s what it was doing. I think that’s why I got into grants, because it was okay. I told myself at the time it was a great way to practice my writing skills and still make a living. Now, I look back at it, and if I had put it where I really wanted to, by now I’d be in clover.

MRH: What did you do with your first advance?
KP: What advance?

MRH: Your publisher doesn’t give an advance. What did you do with the first check you got from your writing?
KP: Put it back into the writing. Or into publishing. All of the stuff I make off my books I put into Dreamcatcher Books or I put it into the marketing. So I’m trying to think if I used it for anything else.

MRH: What was the best money you ever spent as a writer?
KP: Getting a computer. That really opened things up.

MRH: You wrote your first books on a typewriter?
KP: Mmmhmm. Speaking of investment, I tried to make an investment. When I was in my twenties, I thought okay, I want to be a writer, I want to do publishing, so what am I going to do? So I started a little magazine called The Coldwater Holdout. Which is apparently kept in a couple of museums in Oklahoma. Which is kind of fun. And my dad had bought, when I was a baby, a whole life policy which he turned over to me when I turned twenty-one, and I left it for a while and I thought, ‘You know what? I need some money to be able to do this magazine.’ So I cashed it in. Now, this is one of the ways–I should have divorced him then–so, I made the mistake of putting the money in the joint bank account. Kevin bought a motorcycle. Spent my magazine money on a motorcycle, so that was a short-lived–I think I did it for six months. It was so much fun. I’ve still got it somewhere. I ought to let you see it. The Coldwater Holdout was fun. I might have been able to stay in publishing. But you know, I don’t regret the newspapers I worked for, either.

MRH: What do you regret?
KP: Not a damn thing.

Kayt Peck will be the Literary Salon’s featured guest on Sunday, Oct. 24, 2021, at 4 p.m. at the Gallery 140, 140 Bridge Street, Las Vegas, N.M. Refreshments will be served. Please wear a mask and observe social distancing.

Author Kayt Peck’s published works.

Article written by Mary Rose Henssler whose work includes playwriting, scriptwriting, poetry and prose. She also enjoys drawing, painting, printmaking, photography, and being outdoors.

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Photos: Courtesy Kayt Peck

Writing and reading go hand-in-hand

Writers write. Right?

One would think so, but it’s surprising how many writers are inveterate procrastinators. Every bit of advice about writing boils down to putting one’s behind in a chair and banging away at your word processor, be it a computer or an old fashioned pencil.

  • Serious writers write
  • Traditionally published authors work as hard at getting an agent as they do at writing books
  • Serious writers write
  •  Indie and traditionally published authors learn how to promote their own books with confidence
  • Serious writers write
  • Author platforms are crucial
  • Serious writers write 
  • Authors read nearly as much as they write 
  •  Serious writers write

And don’t depend on family to edit your work, unless that is their profession and they are generally heartless when it comes to reviewing your article, or essay, or book. My ever-patient husband has been my biggest supporter and kindest critic (as in being no critic at all). He is not my editor. According to him everything I write is “fine.” Yikes. The worst word on the planet for a writer. “Fine.” A writer wants to be “thought provoking,” “hilarious,” “a thorn in someone’s backside,” “extraordinary,” any and all of the superlatives you can imagine. “Fine,” I didn’t think, quite cut it. And then I looked at synonyms for fine:

  • excellent
  • first-class
  • great
  • outstanding
  • quality
  • superior
  • prime
  • supreme
  • wonderful

So I guess I’ll take “fine” from my husband, who really, when I think about it, is a discerning and highly intelligent man. He’s still not my editor.

Over the past several years I’ve had the opportunity to talk to writers of varying levels of success. These wonderful interactions have taught me a lot about what it means to be a writer.

Write tight. Whether you are writing an advertisement or penning the Great American Novel, less is more. Good writing is often a matter of making the most of a few well-chosen words.

Do your homework. (Research). Writers have an obligation to their readers to be credible. Works of fiction with shaky plots and weak characters turn readers off. Nonfiction books with incorrect information turn readers off. Period. End of story.

Write. To be successful, writers must write. It sounds simple, but making time to write is difficult if you are not intentional about putting words on paper (or computer), which is why most authors have a schedule and stick with it come what may.

Be interesting. Create a compelling story with strong characters, drama, conflict, action and a satisfying conclusion.

Be creative. There are many ways to write about the same subject. Love. Hate. Death. Life. Fear. Happiness. Truth. Lies. You name it and it has been written about, and that will continue. How does your creativity and innovation bring new life to these concepts? That’s the story you want to tell.

Read. Yes. Read. Read a lot. Read different genres. Read nonfiction, poetry, history, fiction. Read. Read. Read. As famed author Stephen King said, “If you don’t have the time to read, you don’t have the time or the tools to write.”

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Next up: In celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month (Sept. 15 – Oct. 15), the September 18 Las Vegas Literary Salon will feature two of the writers who will be published in Tapestry: Tales, Essays, Poems. Ray John de Aragon and Sylvia Ramos Cruz will talk about their work, the craft of writing and their writing journeys. Read more here and register to attend. The event begins a 2 p.m. on Zoom.

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NOTE: If you are interested in being on the Las Vegas Literary Salon planning team, contact lvliterarysalon@gmail.com. We’re also interested in guest posts from writers about their writing journeys, the craft of writing, book reviews in any genre, posts about reading. If you have a guest post idea, let us know.

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Coming in October: Las Vegas Poet Laureate Kayt Peck will be our featured author at an event full of surprises, which may include hot cider and spooky treats! Hopefully by then in person gatherings will be possible. Stay tuned. Either way, Kayt will be talking writing and poetry and publishing.

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November launch of Tapestry! Details to come.