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Author: Toby Heathcotte

As a local author and current president of the Arizona Authors Association I have often heard Toby Fesler Heathcotte’s name but it wasn’t until recently that I heard her speak. What a treat.

She was the October speaker at the Desert Foothills Library¬†Writers’ Connection group.¬†Toby was once a drama and speech teacher at the high school level and then taught creative writing at a local community college. She now writes full-time and has quite a list of books including books for drama teachers.


Toby introduced us to her books and used a series based (The Alma Chronicles) on reincarnation as examples to show us how to create suspense in fiction and narrative nonfiction. She stressed the need to develop the stakes for characters, decide on point-of-view, and using pacing and description to keep readers on the edge of their seats. She also suggested reading and studying Dan Brown’s books for how he writes suspense.

Her suggestions included having at least one item of tension on every page and to leave questions unanswered for the characters and the reader; at least for awhile.

If a character or scene seems to get stuck try writing it from a different point-of-view to open up your mind.

Toby’s books include Out of the Psychic Closet: The Quest to Trust My True Nature which I am currently reading. It is her memoir and self-help book for those interested in or tested by their own psychic abilities.

You can find Toby’s books, biography and blog connection here.


National Novel Writer’s Month

Spend time with any group of writers this time of year and you are sure to hear “NaNoWriMo” mentioned at least once. Some of the speakers will be cursing the very thought and others will be filled with excitement about this phenomenon.

NaNoWriMo is short for National Novel Writer’s Month. Every year about this time thousands of writers around the world join an Internet frenzy to write a 50,000 word novel in just 30 days.

Think that’s too short or too fast? A number of Wrimo’s have gone on to publishing success. Two of my favorites are Water For Elephants by Sara Gruen and The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern.

NaNoWriMo started in 1999 when a group of San Francisco Bay area writers decided to challenge themselves to write as freely and quickly as possible.

Since then they have developed a Web site where Wrimos sign up to be a part of the frenzy. There they can find pep talks, forums on all genres and writing questions imaginable. There are municipal liaisons who plan pre-NaNo parties and write-ins throughout the month. There is also “Thank God it’s over party.”

Chris Baty, the head founder has written books on how to prepare and endure the 50,000 word goal. No Plot? No Problem? is a fun and helpful book for all writers who want to get the job done.


I’ve done NaNoWriMo off-and-on over the years. I haven’t gone back and edited or tried to get any of the novels published. I may participate this year.

I’m sure you are asking “Why bother?”

I have many reasons for doing this:

It frees up my writing and quiets that inner critic.

It gets me excited about writing every single day.

I enjoy the write-ins. Making new friends and the energy is amazing. I learn a lot from fellow WriMos.

Although I don’t consider myself a novelist (I write historical non-fiction) it is fun to try, and maybe one day I will decide to go on with a story. In the meantime, I enjoy the free and open-minded spirit that NaNo ignites.

Here’s where to sign up. I suggest every writer try it at least once. What do you have to lose?