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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?



Writing Together

I can’t believe it has been almost two months since I wrote on this blog. Traveling took up part of that time. a touch of laziness some more, and just not being “in touch” the rest.

I attended some writer’s talks, and took notes, but I haven’t felt like putting them on here. So we shall see if I have my “writerly” self back.

Friday Night Writes at Dog-Eared Pages Used Bookstore continues to inspire. This past Friday the speakers were author Tia Dani. Now, before you get all up in the air about that sentence; Tia Dani is actually a team of writers. They say they write everything; no sticking to one genre for them. They have been working together for about ten years but had many years of friendship before they put their common pen to paper. Their given names are Chris and Bev.

I am partially through their paranormal book Death Unseen. It is set in Arizona and a great read.

The energy between these two writers was evident the moment I walked in the room. Where one left off the other one quickly stepped in. Which is how they write. Back and forth with the latest file on both of their screens and Skype forming the link.

A few of the suggestions they made for writing as a team were:

*Treat it like a business

*Their friendship is always the priority. If problems arise and become to hard to handle the business can fold. The friendship won’t.

*They keep a chapter-by-chapter log of things that are going on and things that need to be remembered. It’s a timeline, hints, plot, and character descriptions all in one.

Even though I don’t plan on getting a partner the energy from these two was inspiring. (If you want to write hang out with writers.) There was an added bonus: Chris and I quickly realized we are from the some part of Kansas. Matter-of-fact we could be related. I was, of course, anxious to get home and check on this but I haven’t had time to do much digging.


15430058The family home in Fowler, Kansas. My great grandmother on the left. My mother on the right with four of her siblings in between.


I did find my mother’s 1941 yearbook from Fowler, Kansas. And there on the same page is Chris’ father. You can find this on my other blog here.

Is “It’s A Small World” nagging at the back of your mind yet?

When my ancestors came to Kansas they came from Illinois. Her’s came from Indiana. About the time the families settled in those areas some of my family married people with her surname. Some work needs to be done but I won’t be at all surprised if we are cousins.


Here’s an old paper I found from the town of Fowler, Kansas.

Speaker: Michele Venne

Dog-Eared Pages Used Bookstore put on another helpful Friday Night Writes program.

This week the speaker was Michele Venne: school teacher, tutor, yoga teacher, horse trainer and the author of seven books ranging from poetry to yoga tips to romantic thrillers which are contemporary and futuristic. She is currently editing the second in a trilogy of books set in Montana.

Michele stressed that writers don’t have to write with the goal of publication. We all have reasons we write and it pays to take time to figure our your own reasons for writing. She had us write a few paragraphs from a prompt she gave us and then asked us to think about how we felt and to come up with a couple of sentences on our own reasons for writing. For her, writing is a way to understand herself and humanity and to share that understanding with others.

Understanding why you write will help to bring you focus in your writing and help you get past the slow times often called brick walls.  She suggests writing by hand to make the connection between fine and gross motor skills and creativity.

Keep writing. You have to have something to edit and then to submit. if that is your goal. Use beta readers and editors. She had six readers for one book and they all made different changes.

Things to help you keep writing: someplace different to write, keep a journal, jot ideas on note cards, good nutrition and plenty of sleep and exercise, a full well of ideas and inspiration, daily writing, knowledge, patience and self-care. Networking and spending time with positive people whether they are writers or not is important.

006 Celebrate every step you reach in your goal of becoming a writer. Celebrate a first rough draft, a second draft, a final edit. You can also celebrate a finished poem or just a good day writing.

Michele’s website is http://www.myjoyenterprises.com. You can learn more about her and her books there. The books are also available through Amazon and now at Dog-Eared Pages Bookstore. You can also find her blogs at: michelevenne.wordpress.com and michelevenneyoga.wordpress.com.



Speaker: Rodney L. Cobb

During the summer months Phoenix Writers Club draws on the vast knowledge of its own members. I spoke in June on research for writers and this month Rodney L. Cobb, artist and writer, spoke on public speaking.

Rodney has worked as an editor, writer, urban planner and land use lawyer. He was an editor for “Land Use Law and Zoning Digest” for 17 years. He has just completed writing a book on the elements of drawing and painting.

Rodney suggested that all writers will eventually need to promote themselves and their books. Public speaking is an important part of promotion.

He said that your experiences in life, although they may seem humdrum to you, are unique and you should cash in on them through your writing.

A speaker should have good eye contact and be engaged with the audience. He should simplify what he is saying and do his best to show instead of just telling.  Don’t take yourself too seriously. Lighten up and share yourself with your audience.

Finally, remind the listeners what your book will do for them and where and how they can find a copy. DSC_0089

Rodney L. Cobb at Phoenix Writers Club, July 2014.


Speaker: Krista Cantrell

Friday Night Writes at the Dog-Eared Pages bookstore had another great guest speaker on Friday. Krista Cantrell, M.A., works with dogs, cats and horses as a cognitive

behaviorist, healer, and nationally published author. Her books include Tao of Puppies: How To Raise a Good Dog Without Really Trying,

Catch Your Dog Doing Something Right: How To Train Any Dog In Five Minutes A Day,and Housetrain Your Dog Now.scan0009_crop

You can learn more about Krista and order her books here.

That said, I wish every one of my readers could have heard Krista’s talk. She had us envisioning other worlds and taking

the time to ask questions about Everything. She stresses that we use power words – words that have an impact on the

story. To always have surprises. When she reads a line she starts asking questions. What did the hand look like? What type of

fabric was used? What was behind the curtain? Why were the fingertips purple? Why? What? Who? Where? The questions went on and on.

I can’t even begin to explain the energy and ideas she shared with all of us.

I forgot to take my camera so instead of a photo of Krista I’m introducing you and her to my own magnificent dog: Maggie. She is a rescue

that the Humane Society thought was an Australian Cattle Dog. However, Maggie kept growing and at about 8 years old weighs around 70

pounds. We’ve decided she is actually a Louisiana Catahoula Leopard Dog, at least in part. I love to tell people we have a catahoula. They

always say, “A cata what?” Now why is that? How did Maggie end up on the streets of south Phoenix lost, dehydrated and covered in ticks? How does she feel about

dressing up in costume and visiting Tombstone, Arizona? What is she thinking?

All the questions.

Thank you, Krista, for opening my writing to so many more possibilities.





Speaker: Megan D. Scott

Megan D. Scott is an entertainment lawyer who’s goals are to help writers and others in the entertainment field to protect themselves. You can learn more about her practice here.

Megan is out to change the public’s view of lawyers and her bubbly personality is a great start. One thing she repeated over-and-over was, “Plan for the highest level of success.” You could be the next J. K. Rowling and you want to have yourself and your work covered correctly from the beginning.

She discussed contracts, copyrights and what to do to protect your work. She also stressed that even though some sites on the internet offer free artwork or photography it may not really be copyright free. The best way to be safe is to do it yourself. Good faith isn’t good enough in the legal world.

The best part of hearing a speaker like this is it makes one aware of the possibilities. You might not ever be in need of the protection or reach a level where others will be out to get you but it is always best to be aware.

A selfie with Megan and the listeners.