creative nonfiction workshop


Continuing with the Writer’s Digest 12-Day Writing Plan.

A follower was kind enough to point out that WD also has weekly writing prompts as well. Based on the way I’m fighting, clawing, carving out writing time just for the 12-Day plan I definitely will focus on that next.  In the meantime…

A 12-Day Plan of Simple Writing Exercises

Day 4:  Write a letter to an agent telling her how wonderful you are.


Dear Ms Clappingbotthom,

I strongly believe that what makes an enjoyable memoir or nonfiction essay is not that it’s so unique, but that it’s common enough that it resonates with someone.  Everyone has high and lows, up and downs, good and bad days, and so on.  It’s the story that connects that writer to that reader that’s important.  As the church folk say, “If I could just touch one” is good. This is in my mind as I share my stories.

I’m your classic people person. Never met a stranger. Yes, it has cost me a few times, but I refuse to let those few occasions trump all of the wonderful experiences in this great life I’ve lived.  Yes, my stories may contain sadness, but isn’t that life, and I would certainly be “unique” if I am the only writer who has never encountered grief in some form.

I can’t control misery happening, but I can control how much I talk about it.  Thus, my stories that  I share are not just “The Wonderful Life and Good Times of Dennis Young.”  They are “How I Lost My Wallet on Vacation and Still Had a Great Time.”

The enclosed story “One Night in Oz”, talks about my first visit to New York City as a young teenager, describing the sights and adventures my younger cousin and I lived during that night.


Ok, that was quick and dirty.  I don’t know if that makes me “wonderful” or if I really got into the spirit of the exercise, but I enjoyed writing it nonetheless.

I’d appreciate any feedback, especially from  any agents or those of you who have done query letters before.

Next week’s exercise is going to be a bear: write a 20 line poem about an event in my life.  I think I’ve created, oh, about two poems, in my life!  ‘the hell I’m going to write a poem about my life?



A Christmas tree inside a home.


Wishing every one of you the BEST HOLIDAY SEASON !!!




In spite of the recent tragedies and no matter what your faith or belief is, take a moment and reflect on all of the GOOD THINGS that have, or is happening, to you!




After Christmas I will be working on my end-of-year post, which also marks ONE YEAR since I went live!  Sheesh, seems like only a few short months ago, but on January 1, 2012 My Personal Renaissance went live!  What an adventure it’s been.  I already know I won’t “wax nostalgic.”  I thought about tackling a Christmas tale from my past tonight, but I think not.  Let’s just see where the Muse leads me when I start typing the year ending post..




Once again, ENJOY THE SEASON!!!!!!












2013 – PROJECT #1

Writer's Digest Book Shipment

Ok,  I have an idea for my first official, genuine, bona fide, serious, magazine article.  I’ll be working on it the rest of this month, getting everything prepped for the next step – my Query Letter.  Right now I’ve submitted it for review, and once that’s done I’ll adjust accordingly and get it in the mail.  As it’s the holidays I’ll probably submit in January.  So here we go…jumping into it!

2012 has been all about preparation and training, learning the tools of this trade.  I know that I haven’t learned everything, but now I’m anxious to get rolling.  I know I haven’t wasted any time this year; as a matter of fact I’m in the home stretch of my Certificate Program (Thank You Jesus) and I’m really proud of that.  Basic Training is about done, and in 2013 I’ll be on active duty.

Thank God so far I’ve received good reviews from my instructors, so that’s an extra shot of confidence.  I’m not even worried about rejection, I’ve already had a couple of op-ed pieces I submitted this year turned down.  However, I did get a comment I posted to an article in the New York Times web site recognized by the Editors, listed with others under the “Top Comment” section. I can live with a one-for-three score now.

So next year can’t get here fast enough.  I’ve got my Voiceover plate spinning at full speed also, and as I’ve mentioned  in previous posts I’m still doing my balancing act between the two.  Big things are already under underway for that as well next year, but at this point I’m going to start detailing that in a separate blog dedicated to just voiceover.  An interesting thing I learned from my Publishing class is that almost 100% of the marketing and branding techniques are the same in both fields.  So, a VO blog will be another web life form next year, and Dennis 2.0 will just be about writing.

Oh, before I forget, I’m very happy, proud, blessed, and Thankful to have one of my earlier posts referenced by another blogger, so please check Amaya Ellman out:…

See you next post, definitely plan to get one in before New Year, as I went live with this blog on New Years Day 2012.  One year!!!  Thanks to God!



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As any follower of my blog can tell by now, I tend to dwell on the GOOD THINGS in life.  I’m not untouched by BAD THINGS, I’m just uncomfortable talking about it.  What I keep hearing is that Bad Things, aka CONFLICT,  is considered  an integral part of writing.

Of course, you can’t have a novel without conflict.  Same for movies.   The hero has to struggle, overcome, or succumb, but there is conflict.  You set up the dominoes, giving each one a descriptive name,  and in Chapter One you knock over the first one.  Life is like that, and when Bad Things happen – the domino labeled “Conflict” falls –  I often wonder where and when the first one fell.  The worst dominoes are in the Deja Vu moment of  my life, the movie I’ve seen before and I know how it ends.  My  dog escapes and the one yard he choses to dig up happens to belong to the neighbor I  already have problems with. I hear the clacking sounds they make as they fall  and I think  the usual “oh, no, it can’t be happening again!”

Sometimes , if I’m smart enough, I can try to intercept one of them  before it falls.  More often than not, I sit in slack-jawed awe and watch them fall towards me, beat the crap out of me, and continue down the line.  I  look out the window and see the dog hauling ass to my neighbor’s yard.  “Sonofabitch DID happen again!”

So let me see, El Conflicto is a permanent travel partner, and if I’m writing  about life then it makes sense to at least recognize him in my writing.  Damn, that’s a hard pill to swallow.  Let’s see this example: I went to the park.  Met a movie star.  Had a nice conversation.  Told her I’m interested in writing screenplays.  She provided a contact, and  I live happily ever after. I’m not a starving screenwriter, I’m pretty content. Now I want to share that life changing experience.

And the conflict is…????????

Need to do some more thinking about this.    Discovery Moment here:  easier for me to write about conflict as a subject.

Maybe I need to get a better grip on what is conflict. Get beyond conflict = The Poseidon Adventure.  Try to determine in my example what  bad domino tumbled the one labeled “Chance Encounter Leads to Success”  ?

So what have I been writing?

Since I’ve devoted most of my writing to class assignments instead of the blog, I’ve been debating whether to post anything to the blog.  That was the mental debate I had in a previous post.  Thanks to some kind words from a couple of followers, I think I’m ok with at least putting samples out here, especially as I don’t plan to publish any of them later.What I’m writing right now is for class anyway, and it’s already been critiqued.  Note that I didn’t say it was perfected!!!!

So for your reading pleasure (!) here’s a little sample from one of my classes.  Critiques are welcomed, BTW.




The recorded bugle startles me awakeThe cover flies up and I’m out of bed before it settles back down, just like in the cartoons. It’s time to get up, and I have to hustleThere’s shower, then my roommates and I have to clean up the room for inspectionBlankets folded and sheets tightRun a white handkerchief over everything before the CAB gorillas give our room the white glove inspectionMake sure my helmet is polishedThen get in formation for the march to breakfast, bracing myself for the firing of the cannon, the raising of the flag and pledge and the National Anthem, the morning scripture from the chaplain, the morning marches, then exercise, then assemblies, lunch, then more marching, more assemblies…


What I was, and what I was not…

It was the summer of 1970The dying days of Peace and Love but still a lot of social turmoil going onLegally, the Civil Rights Bill was only six years old; socially it was still a work in progress. Old habits and notions don’t disappear according to a calendar. I, along with many of my schoolmates was very involved in the local civil rights activitydespite my stepfather’s disapprovalWe attended the rallies and marched with the grownups. While my stepfather complained that I should be studying instead of marching, and told me that if I was arrested I was “on my own.” I was opposed to the Viet Nam war, and at just over 100 pounds with the eyesight of a bat, the possibility of seeing military action didn’t appear to be in the cards.  


When reveille played that morning, I was entering my senior year in high schoolI was not in a real military unit, I was in a unit named “Keowee City,” and we always formed up right next to that damn cannonThis was not on a base somewhere in Viet Nam; I was at The Citadel, just down the street from my home in Charleston, South CarolinaI was one of the first African American students in the state to attend the weeklong Palmetto Boys State summer camp, sponsored in each state by the American Legion.


I was NOT even thinking of “pioneering” anything, although I knew that I’d be among one of the “firsts” that seemed to be a part of every news report during that timeThe first Black person to do thisThe first woman named to a board.  You had no problem picking out our faces in large group picturesThings were definitely opening upI never thought (and still don’t think) of putting myself in the same class as those little elementary school kids who braved the angry crowds to become the firsts at their schoolsThey were the heroesMe, I just heard the words “summer camp.”  


According to the American Legion’s web site

The program was designed for “young men to learn about the American system of government and politics by participating in a mock governmental system.”   Everyone would have theopportunity to run for elected offices, from city council to governor“Citizens” were nominated by their high school teachers and guidance counselors, then interviewed and selected by the local American Legion chapters to represent them.


According to Mr. Wineglass…

… the Vice Principal, and the letter my parents received, that’s how it was in 1970. It was Mr.Wineglass who recommended me to the African American chapter serving the Charleston area, and his word was good enough for them to waive the interviewIt was not going to be the last time he played a positive role in my school life, stepping up where my stepfather fell shortI was one of the students you see all over the yearbookMost Likely to SucceedMost Certain to Get Beaten Up by Drunks. Clubs, writer for the school paper, student council, one of the founders of SBC – the Students for Black Culture  (approved only after we convinced our principal we were not planning to be the junior varsity team of the Black Panther partyHad my ass handed to me when I tried out for the football team, thinking I could transfer my success as a superstar receiver in touch football over to the real thingThis American Legion thing was right in my wheelhouse. Air-conditioned civics lessons, the only sweat coming from playing games, and for the first time a whole week away from home by myself, at the Citadel no lessWe were not talking vacation Bible school at the church’s educational annexI could handle a week of this.


Since it was free, my stepfather grudgingly gave his approvalMy mother signed the approval formMy grandmother cried and praised GodMy friends promised to come see me sometime during that week. Mom, Mr. Wineglass, and Miss Harrison, the French teacher and our SBC advisor, each gave me the “representing us” talk.  


As far as I knew every Black adult who was the first knew this, and every young Black kid who was the first was told thisEyes were upon you, and stereotypes, even the ones you have aboutothers, would be reinforced or die based on what happenedI think it’s timeless and reachesacross all cultures – you represent our family, our tribe, our village, our city, our people, our state, our nation…make us proud.


This was not like in sportswhere a team could be the first to accomplish things such as winningback to back to championshipsEvery team has an equal chanceHere, we’re talking inequalities.These were firsts accomplished against forced limitations, against forced separations, imposed upon others based on class, caste, color, anything that makes one group different than another.With that, separation comes expectationsYou can’t be as smart as, as good asand as tough as  any other groupI was to remember this, and at least be aware that some people would be sure to remind me of that. The words from the adults to me were the exact opposite – I was to remember that I was good enough and smart enough to be there. be continued


Nose to the Grindstone

Lots of good stuff happening here.  Haven’t been posting because I’ve been busy. Excuses, excuses, excuses!!

Knee-deep, no make that vocal chord-deep in getting my Voiceover plans in play.    I’m just dedicating every second to that now.  My voiceover blog development is time-consuming… but once it’s done then I can enjoy the fruits of that particular labor.  I’ve also signed on with, and busy getting new demos created.  I’ve got a profile page there, but every resource out there, including Vince, my VO instructor, recommends having your own site.

Term Paper Galore

Finished up another writing class.  Got some practice in on writing travel guides and people profiles.  My Creative Nonfiction workshop is going great!!  As fate would have it, I had papers due for both classes at the same time, and I did my best to prevent that from happening.  It ended up where I couldn’t get my interview done until the same week my other paper was due, so…BOOM.  Flashback to college term paper marathon sessions, caffeine fueled courtesy Coke Zero.

My attempts to get pictures of the super moon a few weeks ago was a disaster!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  Total disasters!   Took two cameras with me.  I drove around about a half hour before moonrise to find the best view of the east.  I never realized there were that many damn trees around here.  I did find a good spot, and when the moon came up it was as impressive as advertised.  HOWEVER, through the lenses…another story.  I found a second spot, and about a half hour after rising it was still pretty huge, but the camera view was totally different.  I know there were probably some techniques I could have used, if I knew them, but I had forgotten to look them up, and was lucky to remember the whole thing was going to happen that night.

I couldn’t and won’t let another week past without a post.  Hell, I worked just as hard to get this set up as I’m doing now on the other projects.  Keeping this plate spinning, and now  I’m getting the other two plates balanced!

Dancer with spinning plates - Kandy, Sri Lanka...

See, it can be done!!!  Just takes practice!