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.

Voices from the Snake River Plain is here!

Voices from the Snake River Plain is a collection of short stories, essays, and poems written by Bonnie Dodge, Dixie Thomas Reale, and Patricia Santos Marcantonio. Edited by Jennifer Sandmann, the anthology includes tales that range from humorous to haunting, poignant to tragic. Sometimes the stories rise out of the landscape and from dreams. Sometimes they reach into the past, or into the future, but mostly, the stories echo the human heart. Many of the selections have been printed in other publications or have won writing awards. With a foreword by Diane Josephy Peavey, author of Bitterbrush Country: Living on the Edge of the Land, this is a book you will want to add to your collection.

Voices from the Snake River Plain was made possible in part by the Embodiment Grant of Boise.


ISBN 978-0-9627690-1-6

$15 plus tax, shipping & handling

To order contact Bonnie.

Question of the Month

I have a recurring nightmare. In this dream I am all dressed up in my Sunday best and am in the barnyard. There are no people around, only farm animals and me. I am slopping the hogs and scattering grain to the chickens while spouting my beautiful words. I am ridiculous in the dream and always wake feeling useless, unappreciated and depressed. It is a horrible feeling.

I don’t know what the dream means. Maybe I am afraid that I am out of touch with or a misfit in my surroundings. Maybe I feel out of touch with my readers. Maybe I am afraid that if I do not get my words into the hands of a reading public that I will never have an audience. I do not know but I do not want the dream to come true.

So I have vowed to do something every day related to writing or marketing my words. Some days I might only mail a letter or post card, other days I sit at the computer and pound the keys all day long. Or I might pick through words and delete or replace more than I started with. But I do try to do something everyday related to writing or marketing my stories. And I am determined to get my words to a reading human audience.

We, The Other Bunch, are in the middle of preparing a collection of stories, poems and essays for publication. The collection is called Voices From The Snake River Plain. Watch for it this fall, it is almost ready to go to the printer.

Dixie Thomas Reale

Question of the Month: What are the benefits of a critique group?

A young lady recently asked, “Why do you belong to a writers’ group? What value do you get from it?” I did not have to think long for an answer. The two primary values that immediately jumped to mind were: I find the obligation (I owe a certain number of words to the group by a certain date) keeps me writing when I might otherwise goof off or find excuses to not write. Without that obligation, if I am feeling intimidated by the blank page, other distractions get in the way. The refrigerator that has needed cleaning for a week suddenly becomes a health hazard, the lawn needs mowing, the floors need mopping, the rug needs vacuuming, the walls need scrubbing, and the list goes on and on.
The second value of a writing group is the constructive criticism, the feedback I get from other members of the group. “This phrase doesn’t work.” “Why did you use that word?” “When your character says ‘this phrase’ I don’t like him/her. You need to change ‘this phrase’ if you want me to like your main character.” or “That’s a cliché.” It is amazing how we, as writers, read right over our own mistakes and do not see them. But our critique buddies do.
There are myriad benefits I’ve gotten from The Other Bunch, in addition to keeping me producing and providing constructive criticism. I have gotten encouragement, pep talks and an occasional kick in the pants when I’m feeling blue, untalented or ready to give up and flush my manuscripts down the nearest commode.
I have gotten ideas from the other writers in the group, inspiration, story nuggets, and mental roadmaps to help solve this or that writing problem. Just by reading another’s writing and seeing how she solved a particular difficulty often helps me see what I’m doing wrong, how I can wade through a problem, get around it, fix it.
We have brainstormed, given one another inspiration and project ideas. Bonnie suggested to Pat years ago, when we first formed The Other Bunch, that she should write a collection of Hispanic fairy tales and Pat got busy and eventually published Red Riding in the Hood with Farrar Straus and Giroux.
Because of its name, people often mistake my collection of short stories Squirrel Pie and Other Morsels for a cookbook. At Thousand Springs Festival in September 2008 a woman commented on the recipe for squirrel pie that she assumed was in the book. When Bonnie saw my frustration over the woman’s misunderstanding she said, “If people want a cookbook give them a cookbook. Then next time somebody thinks it’s a cookbook you can say, that one is not but here is a cookbook.” I have been toying with that idea ever since. I have a huge collection of other people’s cookbooks. If I buy cookbooks maybe if I write a cookbook someone will buy mine.
Jennifer recently suggested that one of my child characters was very strong and she would like to see a whole series of kids stories using her as the main character. Her suggestion reminded me — I have countless fragments of vivid but brief childhood memories that I’ve been wondering what to do with. These memories are really just images and impressions much too limited to support full adult short stories but would make dandy children’s stories. Jennifer’s suggestion flipped on a switch in my head. I’ve recruited my siblings to help me recollect elusive events and now I’m gathering those memory fragments into an idea file for potential children’s stories.
That is just a sampling of what The Other Bunch has done for me. A critique group can help and inspire you, too. So join one ASAP (as soon as possible)! If you can’t find one to join, form your own. You will be glad you did. You might check with the Idaho Writers League (a link to their web site is included on this page) for directions to a group.

Dixie Thomas Reale