Tag Archives: stories

Idaho Writers Tell Ghost Stories in New Anthology

Check out what we have planned for September and October.



How much detail should I include when writing a story?

This can be a tricky balance.

Generally obscurity in writing is deadly for the average writer. Sure I remember in literature classes in college — I often had to look up obscure references to places, people and even customs of the past. I did the research so I could talk about the authors intelligently in class discussions, or on examinations given by sadistic professors. Understanding the minutiae of authors lives added another level of understanding to an already thick tapestry of meaning in stories written by giants like Joyce, Shakespeare, Twain or Faulkner.

College students may grumble about the research but they do it because they know the effort will add to their understanding and should even improve their grade.

However, the average reader is not going to bother looking up many, if any, unexplained references in a story by an acquaintance from Small Town, Idaho. Nothing personal, that is just the way it is. Remember time and distance have made many details in stories by the greats unclear or ambiguous. If the reader is going to fully understand the story he needs to be aware of the particulars.

At the same time, including too much detail is just as fatal. Imagine reading ten single spaced pages of minute detail enumerating every step in a search through archives located in the basement of a library for specifics of life events of a historical figure. Who cares? Only a fellow researcher, certainly not the average reader of fiction. If you have to include details of the fictitious search cut it down to a paragraph or two.

You have to find the right balance in your stories. It lies somewhere between writing simply the name “George” and writing “George Washington, born in Westmoreland County, Va., on Feb. 22, 1732, signer of the Declaration of Independence, commander in chief of the Continental army during the American Revolution, first president of the United States, father of the nation, husband of Martha, step father to” . . . You get the idea. But remember only you can decide which details to include. After all, it is your story.

Dixie Thomas Reale

Talking with Connie and putting memories down on paper

Concepcion Santos

Recently, I returned home from visiting my mom, Concepcion Santos or Connie to her family and friends. At age 86, she is fragile yes, and a little forgetful, but still funny and full of memories.
Sitting in her room or taking a drive, we talked about those memories.
She talked about how she and my late father eloped to Raton, New Mexico. They met at a dance, where he played guitar.
About her days as a cook at the Colorado State Hospital. She didn’t drive so we took turns picking her up from work. I remember my father turning off the engine and we’d hear to the screams from the inmates.
She talked about how her grandmother, who had lighter skin, used to powder her up so she would not appear too dark.
When we passed by an old railroad station, she recalled working at a nearby laundry as a young woman during World War II. She and other female workers would run to the station and wave at the soldiers passing on the trains.
My mom, who admits she is very nosy, told the story of hiding behind the hedges in our front yard to check on a wild party going on across the street. The next day a neighbor and she chatted about the party. The neighbor said it was wild because someone was crawling around in our front yard.
She talked a lot about my father and with such joy that I half expected him to walk in the door carrying his big smile and lunchpail.
With pride, she talked about how my grandfather used to write plays, although he had to make his living working in a steel mill.
In stories and books, I have written several memories told to me by my mom and dad. I only wished I could have written more before my dad died. The stories become the makeup of my characters, and give me inspiration for other stories.
As writers, we probably seek writing ideas all around us. But I suggest you also look back home to the people who have lived a full life.
They have beautiful, sad, poignant and joyous stories to tell. We just have to listen.

Question of the Month

Is your story autobiographical? Is it about you?
It doesn’t matter whether a story is memoir or fiction, every author has heard the question. Is it autobiographical? Whenever people ask me, I always answer, not necessarily. But everything an author writes is filtered through his/her individuality, senses, and experiences. Each decides what is important to say and what needs to be left unsaid. Every author lives in a particular time and place and his/her stories are seen through that lens.
There are critics who snidely remark that such-and-such author has only one story to tell, as if that is bad. I think every author has ultimately one story to tell, the story of him/her self. Each writer returns again and again to their own personal territory — their childhood, spirituality, and values. A writer is recognized by his/her voice but also by a personal landscape where he/she lives, and identifies him/her self.
Stories can be dreamed up entirely or composed of bits and pieces of memories of personal incidents or borrowed from friends, family members or acquaintances. Either way the choice of what events to include, personalities of the characters in the story, and what order the action takes is the author’s choice. So all of your novels and even a collection of short stories is ultimately about you! But probably not in the sense that the questioner intended. Not necessarily is a good answer.

Dixie Thomas Reale

New Anthology in the Works

If you heard Bonnie’s interview on The Writers’ Block, you know that The Other Bunch is getting ready to launch a new book. This book is called Hauntings from the Snake River Plain, and will include essays, poems, fiction and nonfictional Idaho ghost stories. Beginning June 1, 2011, you will be able to submit your Idaho ghost stories for possible inclusion in this anthology. Check back often as we work out the details.

Journey Stories Writers’ Workshop

On September 18, 2010, the Jerome Civic Club is sponsoring a writers’ workshop at the Jerome Public Library. Bonnie Dodge will lead the workshop, which will focus on nonfiction immigration and migration stories to/within America. The workshop is in conjunction with the Smithsonian Institution’s exhibit “Journey Stories.”

Random Readings January 30, 2010

The publishing world is changing daily, it seems, and there’s a lot of interest in the area of non-traditional forms of publishing. As “Writers Working for Writers,” the Idaho Writer’s Guild is proudly launching a new series called “Random Readings” on Saturday, January 30th from 1-3 pm at The Cabin, in Boise. Featured writers will share their experiences, from writing to publishing.

Here’s what you can look forward to: authors will read from their books, with commentary. Afterwards, there will be time for asking questions and sharing thoughts about the nuts and bolts of a variety of publishing processes. Not-to-be-missed refreshments will be served.

Southern Idaho residents Bonnie Dodge, Dixie Thomas Reale and Patricia Santos Marcantonio wrote and published “Voices from the Snake River Plain.” A collection of short stories, poems and essays, the book has been described as “a small treasure….we learn there is beauty in the landscape around us and people with stories to tell.” Some of the tales by these award-winning writers include a jackalope, an old Mexican ghost story, haunting landscapes and a road trip with Louis L’Amour and Zane Grey.

Val Robertson was the former president of The Couer du Bois Chapter of Romance Writers of America, and the founding and current president of the Popular Fiction Association of Idaho, which produces the Murder in the Grove mystery conference. She is also the organizer of the Boise Speculative Fiction writer’s support group. Her debut novel is entitled “Blade’s Edge.”

Also from Boise, Ken McConnell is both traditionally published and self-published. A Software Test Technician, Ken wrote and published “Starstrikers” in 2008. His first novel is “a military space novel that takes place between two galactic civilizations.” He also wrote “Null Pointer,” a mystery novel about a programmer sleuth.

“Random Readings” will take place in the Jean Wilson Reading Room, on the basement level at The Cabin, 801 S. Capitol Blvd, Boise. Admission is free. For further information contact Diane Graham at diane@idahowritersguild.org.