Friday, December 4, 2009

Monthly Meeting on December 8!

Our final meeting of 2009 will be on Tuesday, December 8 at 7:00 PM in the Community Room of the Pine Valley Library.

Both beginning and experienced writers are welcome to join us! We bring a poem or a short piece of prose (a couple pages) to share and receive feedback upon. And if you're more comfortable giving supporting feedback than in sharing your work, that's fine as well.

I finished my National Novel Writing Month goal of 50,000 words written in November, and Maureen met her NaNoWriMo goal as well. So we'll have to celebrate this milestone! Our Write-Ins were very helpful in reaching our goals, and we'll discuss planning others in the future. It's fun to work near others and receive encouragement.  Writing is such lonely work, but having others along for the ride is so helpful.

So come along and join us! We love meeting new people who are interested in the writing life!

NOTE: Our weekend retreat has been moved from February to the weekend of May 7. Please re-mark your calendars and start saving your pennies to come! It's going to be a simply remarkable weekend!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Monthly Meeting and Write-Ins

We'll be having our usual monthly meeting (but, with this wonderful group of writers, there's nothing usual about it!) this Tuesday evening, November 10, at 7:00 PM in the Community Room of the Pine Valley Library. Please join us for an evening of sharing and critiquing each other's work.

As at least two of us are involved in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), I have arranged to have three Write-Ins this month on Friday afternoons. So come on by the Pine Valley Library from 2:00 PM-6:00 PM (any time is fine -- you don't have to stay for the whole thing, of course) on November 13, 20, and 27, and write with us. Bring along whatever you may be working on and get away from the dusting that's undone, the lawn that needs to be mown, the dishes in the sink, the leaves that need to be raked, etc. Just come and WRITE!! And cheer us on to the NaNoWriMo goal of 50,000 words this month!

Also, keep the last weekend of February clear. Judith Dupree is planning an incredible weekend of arts and writing at the Pine Valley Bible Conference Center. She is lining up some amazing writers and artists for this conference, and trust me, you will NOT want to miss it! Start saving your pennies, and we'll post more information as the plans firm up.

Keep on writing, Mountain Empire!

Friday, October 30, 2009

NaNoWriMo Begins Sunday, Nov. 1

National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) takes place each November, and 2009 marks Year 11 of this cooperative novel-writing challenge. The goal: write 50,000 words in one month. As of this afternoon, over 100,000 adults and over 35,000 teens have joined the challenge thus far.

The link to the website above allows you to track your progress, receive encouraging e-mails several times each week, and forums and regional groups also exist to help and encourage us along the way.

Doing NaNoWriMo last November was incredible. It was a challenge because my laptop died and I was sharing a computer with my husband which meant I could only write while he wasn't home. It was a challenge because I started five days late but still managed to finish two days early. It was a challenge because I started my novel with no plan, no foresight, and no outline -- a real problem for a linear thinker like myself.

If anyone does join NaNoWriMo, please become my buddy; my name there is SusanneB and perhaps we can have some write-in days/evenings either at the library or at Pine Valley Java.

So come on and join NaNoWriMo -- it will be a wonderful experience and a great way to add 80-100 pages to whatever you're currently working on. Or start something brand new!

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Writers' Workshop Meeting on October 13 at 7:00 PM

Our monthly meeting of the MECAC Writers' Workshop
will take place on Tuesday, October 13 at 7:00 PM
in the Community Room of the Pine Valley Library.
Writers of all ages and levels are welcome to join the group
as we work together to improve our writing
by sharing our work and giving feedback to each other.
So bring a page or two to share with us
and come willing to encourage and critique other writers as well.
For questions, leave a comment or e-mail Susanne.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Ruminate Short Story Contest

Ruminate Magazine of Faith in Literature and Art has extended their Short Story Contest deadline to October 23, 2009. Use the hyperlinks above for contest rules which are also listed here:


-The submission deadline for the prize is midnight October 23rd, 2009.
-The entry fee is $15 (includes a free copy of the Spring 2010 Issue).
-You may submit one short story per entry and it must be 7000 words or less.
-$500 will be awarded to the winner and publication in the Spring 2010 Issue will be awarded to the winning story and runner-up story.
-A blind reading of all entries will be conducted by a panel of RUMINATE readers, who will select 8 short stories as finalists.
-David James Duncan is the 2009 finalist judge, and he will be reviewing the finalist stories and selecting the winner and runner-up. Close friends and students (current & former) of the judge are not eligible to compete. Nor are close friends or family of the RUMINATE staff.
-All submissions must be submitted via our online submission form. We will not accept mail or email submissions.
-You may pay online or mail your payment.
-Winners will be announced in the Spring Issue, March 2010.
-Please remove your name, bio, and any contact info from the file that you submit.
So enter if you like ... and enjoy the process!

Sunday, September 6, 2009

September Monthly Meeting!

The MECAC Writers' Workshop
will be meeting this Tuesday evening, September 8,
at 7:00 PM
in the Pine Valley Library Community Room.
If you are interested, a genealogy class led by Pine Valley resident Ken Storm meets at 6:00 PM, also in the Pine Valley Library Community Room.

Bring along a short piece of writing to share, or just come to listen and offer feedback to the writers who bring their work.

Beginning writers or people interested in learning more about the art and craft of writing are very welcome to attend, and please feel free to bring along any interested friends!

Hoping to see you on Tuesday!

Monday, August 10, 2009

Monthly Meeting This Tuesday!

Please join the Mountain Empire Creative Arts Council's Monthly Writers' Workshop this Tuesday, August 11 at 7:00 PM in the Community Room of the Pine Valley Library.

MECAC Director Judith Dupree will be sharing a scene from her play-in-progress, and other writers will also share their work. Bring along a short work of your own for feedback or come to offer ideas and comments as we seek to inspire each other and hone our craft of wordsmithing.

Beginning writers and those interested in learning more about the art and craft of writing are very welcome to join us, and we also gladly welcome more seasoned writers.

We'll also discuss publishing opportunities plus upcoming writing events in the San Diego area, so don't miss out on this month's MECAC Writers' Workshop!

We hope to see you there!

Writers Day(s) at Sacred Rocks Reserve

Sacred Rocks Reserve in Boulevard is hosting a Writers Day(s) Weekend Friday through Sunday, September 25-27, 2009; MECAC's Director Judith Deem Dupree will be one of the facilitators. Information about the Writers Day event can be accessed on their website here: Sacred Rocks Reserve Writers Day Weekend.

The cost is $49 for the writing component for the weekend, and arrangements can be made for staying on the grounds and for meals for extra cost (see above link), or writers can drive out each day and provide for their own meals.

Sacred Rocks Reserve is a gorgeous venue with a labyrinth, 400-500 year-old oaks, and stunning rock formations. It's the perfect place to inspire poetry, short stories, essays, journal entries, even to work on a novel.

Even if you are unable to attend this Writers Day, Sacred Rocks is a wonderful place to write. Attend your own retreat for an afternoon or for a week -- whatever you need to help you finish writing that book!

Friday, August 7, 2009

Publishing Opportunity

I ran across this opportunity to publish (unpaid as yet) on the blog of San Diego Writers Online. Tyger Birch is requesting submissions of short stories, poems and articles about the art and business of writing for his new project Inquepad Magazine.

So check it out and see what you can send Tyger for his new 'zine:


Submitting for new project is a great way to start getting your name "out there," so send Tyger your best stuff!

Sunday, August 2, 2009


A few days ago the new ReadWritePoem site was formed -- an incredible resource for anyone who loves to read or write poetry.

Here's the link to the new site: ReadWritePoem

On the new site are poetry groups (including critique groups!), friends, forums, a weekly poetry writing prompt, articles by successful (as in published!) poets, and so much more.

So come check it out, and if you do, "friend" me!

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Writing Contests

In looking around the Web for publishing opportunities for our Mountain Empire writers, I discovered an excellent resource for legitimate writing contests.

Unfortunately, many writing contests are mere jokes. We can usually tell a "joke" contest from a legitimate one by the price. The vast majority of "joke" contests are FREE and they prominently advertise this fact. Winning one of these may possibly put a little cash in our pockets but will not be something we can brag about in serious writing circles.

Legitimate writing competitions usually charge a small fee, often $10-$25 for entering. And I found a wonderful source for serious writing contests at the Poets & Writers website. Keep current with the following page for entering writing contests we can be proud of winning: Poets & Writers Writing Contests.

Good luck! May the Muses be with you!

On another note, it was lovely to see some of our writers turn up at the MECAC booth at Pine Valley Day last Saturday. I gave out a good number of cards with our meeting date, time, and place plus this blog site address, so we hope to see some new faces at our August meeting. Keep on writing!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

MECAC Writers at Pine Valley Days!

The Mountain Empire Creative Arts Council will have a booth at Pine Valley Days this Saturday, July 25!

Stop on by and chat with the good folks of MECAC and check out our special Writers' Area. MECAC also will be hosting a donation Bake Sale with fresh-squeezed Limeade and will be displaying and selling art pieces created by Mountain Empire artists.

So come join the fun and stop by the MECAC booth to chat and check out all that MECAC has to offer! Hope to see you there!

Monday, July 20, 2009

Free Poetry Contest: Deadline August 10

The Alpine Sun posted the following information on July 16:

A $1000 grand prize is being offered in a special poetry contest being sponsored by the Celestial Arts Society. The contest is free and open to poets of all ages. Fifty prizes totaling $5000 in all will be awarded.

Poems of 21 lines or less on any subject in any style will be accepted.

Entries must be received by Aug. 10 and may be submitted by mail to
Free Poetry Contest
701 1st St.
Golden, CO 80403

or enter at

Your name and address must appear on the page with the poem.

To receive a winners' list, please submit a self-addressed stamped envelope with your entry.

(Note: After looking at the website above, this contest looks like a very commercial venture. Enter at your own risk.)

Special thanks to Maureen Brown for alerting us to this contest.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Writers' Workshop Monthly Meeting for July

The Mountain Empire Creative Arts Council's Monthly Writers' Workshop will meet on Tuesday evening, July 14, at 7:00 PM in the Community Room of the Pine Valley Library.

Bring along a short piece to share and receive some constructive comments and ideas for improvement upon your writing as we spur each other on in writing bravely and well!

Writers of all levels are very welcome. Even if you are just thinking about doing a little writing, this group is for YOU!

Come, join us, and let's work together to hone our craft!
If you have any questions, you may contact Susanne Barrett at 473-0085.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Writing and Other Submissions for The Latent Print

The Latent Print is a website for San Diego artists to submit their work for possible publication. I ran across their site when perusing the San Diego Writers Online website, and The Latent Print looks quite promising. You can view their stunning website here: The Latent Print.

They are currently reviewing submissions in the following categories:












Their submissions page will give you all the criteria necessary to publish there. Plus, all submissions remain the intellectual property of the artist, so we may submit the same works for publication elsewhere. It's a great place to start publishing!

Monday, June 8, 2009

June Meeting

Greetings, Mountain Empire Writers!

We will be meeting at the Pine Valley Library at 7:00 PM this Tuesday, June 9. Bring along a short piece to share, and we'll give each other some feedback and support.

Summer is a great time for writing, at least for me as I'm finally finished with home schooling and teaching classes. So boot up your computers, sharpen your pencils, grab some new pens, and let's get started!

See you all on Tuesday night!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Poetry Contest!!!

Ruminate Magazine is an outstanding Christian literary and arts journal that is published quarterly. Judith and I have met several of the editors at Judith's Ad Lib Christian Arts retreats, and their journal is chock full of top-notch writing -- truly excellent stuff.

I received an e-mail today stating that they just extended their Janet B. McCabe Poetry Prize deadline to May 31, 2009. The prize will be judged by the award-winning poet Scott Cairns.

The entry fee is $15, and $500 will be awarded to the winner and publication in Ruminate's Fall 2009 issue of the winning and runner-up poems. Up to three poems per entry may be submitted, and multiple entries are also allowed.

Plus all entries will be considered for general publication in the Fall 2009 issue, and each entrant will also receive a Fall 2009 issue of Ruminate.

I'm going to enter a few poems. How about YOU?

Thursday, May 7, 2009

May's Monthly Meeting!

Come and hang out with Mountain Empire writers and hear what they've been up to lately!

If you feel intrigued by the idea of writing, this is the place for you!

Our upcoming monthly Writers' Workshop meeting will be
Tuesday, May 12 @ 7:00 PM
in the Community Room of the Pine Valley Library

Beginning and experienced writers are encouraged to attend. We'll be sharing our work and discussing pertinent topics related to the art and business of writing.

If you have any questions, leave a comment here or call Susanne at 473-0085.

Friday, April 17, 2009

April Is National Poetry Month!

Even if poetry isn't your "thing," the opportunities afforded by National Poetry Month can still broaden our exposure to poetry of different eras, genres, and forms. I've discovered some wonderful resources at, the most extensive and well-known site for serious poets. Here I have found The Poem of the Day which obviously sends me a new poem to my inbox each day, mostly by emerging and contemporary poets that I've very much enjoyed (if not completely understood). Other poems and information about poets, both contemporary and canonical, are available here, and it's simply a wonderful site.

Also on this web site is the link to NaPoWriMo - National Poetry Writing Month. The challenge: write a poem a day for the month of April. Tipping its hat to the vastly successful NaNoWriMo - National Novel Writing Month each November in which participants are successful if they write 50,000 words of a novel, the NaPoWriMo project has plunged me back into composing poems on a daily basis, and even to play around with rhyme, a new venture for this "free verser." There's even a forum on the site set aside especially for those writing daily poems: NaPoWriMo.

Also in the spirit of National Poetry Month, I've joined TwiHaiku where one can use Twitter (140 characters) to write the classic Japanese poetry form of haiku: five syllables for the first line, seven syllables for the second line, and back to five syllables for the final line. It's quite fun and exposes one to a great deal of haiku from people all around the world ~ some even are posted in foreign languages. The TwiHaiku format even allows reviews of haiku, so that one can review other poets' haiku and receive feedback on one's own. Pretty cool stuff, that.

So if poetry really, truly isn't your "thing," may we suggest reading a poem a day rather than writing one? Appreciate this condensed form of writing in which every syllable is chosen with such deliberate care. And perhaps try writing a poem or two. It can't hurt, right?

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Writers' Workshop Meeting for April

The Mountain Empire Creative Arts Council's Writers' Workshop is meeting on

Tuesday, April 14, 2009 at 7:00 PM

at the Pine Valley Library's Community Room.

Everyone interested in writing is encouraged to attend.

Beginning writers are very welcome!

If you are bringing a piece of your writing to share, please bring just ONE page, two pages at the very most, so we have time to give feedback to everyone.

We look forward to seeing you there!

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Writers' Workshop Meeting Tuesday Night!

Attention Mountain Empire Writers!

Our monthly Writers' Workshop will meet this Tuesday, March 10 at 7:00 PM in the Community Room of the Pine Valley Library. This will be our first meeting after the extremely successful Writers' Workshop with Dean Nelson last month, and we hope that many local writers will join us for our monthly meetings as a continuation of Dean Nelson's workshop.

Judith Dupree has kindly agreed to facilitate the group this month as Susanne Barrett will be out of town with her family. Judith is an accomplished, published writer with a passion for sharing writerly gifts with the community (and is the co-editor of Pine Valley's monthly missive, The Valley Views), so Tuesday evening's meeting promises to be a wonderful and encouraging experience.

Beginning writers are warmly welcomed to attend our monthly meetings as are more experienced wordsmiths. If you like, you may bring along a short (1-2 pages) piece to share and receive feedback on. If you don't feel quite ready to share your work, then you may offer feedback to writers who do bring their work for review. Providing copies of your writing for the group works best so that everyone can read along and mark suggestions for the author.

We hope that you can join us for a meeting of minds and pens this Tuesday evening!

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Back Country Messenger Writing Contest

The Back Country Messenger is hosting a writing contest for all ages. They will be accepting submissions in two categories:

1) Short Stories in the genre of Fiction, Nonfiction, and Fantasy

2) Poetry

Entries must be received no later than March 12, 2009.

The age categories are as follows: up to 8 years of age; age 9-12; age 13-15; age 16-19; and age 20 and above. Winners will be presented at an Awards Ceremony on Wednesday, March 18 at 7:00 PM at the Mountain Empire Community Center in Campo. Refreshments will be served and other awards will also be presented. Prizes include cash, retail store give-aways, and more.

Some of the entries will be published in the Back Country Messenger and all will be published online. All entries will receive a critique of their work along with suggestions for developing better writing skills if needed.

Entries may be submitted to:
BCM Essay and Poetry Contest
PO Box 71
Campo, CA 91906

(Entry forms are available on page 9 of the March 2009 issue)

or may submitted via e-mail to:
(electronic entries are preferred)

Please include your name, address, phone number, age category, and writing category on all entries.

You may click on this link to the website: Back Country Messenger for more information, and go to Writing Contest Link.

(Our thanks to Jess Goodman, a regular at our monthly meetings, for alerting us to this local contest.)

Monday, February 23, 2009

MECAC Writers' Workshop with Dean Nelson

If you were not one of the 23 writers who attended the first all-day MECAC Writing Workshop on February 21, you missed a gem of an experience. Dean Nelson, founder of the journalism department at Point Loma Nazarene University, presented a workshop that appealed to writers of all sorts: beginning writers to published authors, poets to novelists. My twelve pages of notes and two pages of original writing attest to the quality and practicality of this workshop.

The day started with bagels and coffee, fruit and granola bars, as attendees meandered into Conference Room "A" at the serenely beautiful Pine Valley Bible Conference Center. MECAC Director Judith Dupree informed the audience about our little arts council before introducing Dean, the author/co-author of thirteen books and countless articles and stories, many of which span the fifteen years he freelanced for the New York Times. Despite his daunting writing repertoire, Dean disarmed us immediately with his humor and his relaxed style. We were somehow immediately at home with him -- which is easy for me to say as I'm a former student and colleague, but I think everyone felt the same camaraderie, the kinship that comes with being on the same journey, even if Dean is much farther along than we are.

Dean started out the workshop by exploring with us the idea of "Why We Need to Tell Stories" and what "story" means to each of us. He discussed the two levels of meaning in good writing, a surface level and a deeper level that goes beyond the plot itself. He mentioned Madeleine L'Engle's idea that stories help us in naming -- in making sense of our chaotic world. Stories help us to live life creatively and without fear. Good stories, Dean informed us, point to something larger than themselves and contain intrigue for the reader, doubt about the outcome, character(s) with the potential to change, an emotional payoff, and sufficient attention to the craft of writing (concrete and significant detail, convincing voice, accuracy in research, striking (not cliche) figures of speech, etc.). Dean told us of two ways to improve our writing: 1) Write more. 2) Read more ... and read the good stuff. He reiterated what I tell my writing students: "Reading crappy books doesn't help with writing." Avoid preaching, Dean reminded us. Let the story unfold. Stick to the craft and trust the reader. Most importantly, writers bear witness.

In order to illustrate his points, Dean took us through a story he wrote for San Diego Magazine entitled "Flashback to Bruges." He read it aloud to us as we followed along on copies, marking as he read. We looked for shifting levels in the story, where the tension started building and how it was resolved, the universal import of seemingly insignificant details, the use of humor to release tension yet allow it to build to a higher level, the juxtaposition of marriage and grace, the mere suggestion of menace, the portrayal of characters, etc. It was a concrete learning experience as we dissected a great story, examining its inner workings and figuring out what made it tick.

After lunch in the Dining Hall during which the workshop participants had the opportunity to become better acquainted over soup, sandwiches, and salad, we returned to the conference room to examine some practicalities and do some writing. Dean started the afternoon session by assuring us that yes, we are going to write crap, but that even writing crap is a point of departure to better writing. He outlined the clustering technique and freewriting as ways to get beyond the blank page/computer screen, and we did some of the exercises together. He then gave us an indirect writing assignment with a choice of two topics: 1) Describe an object without telling what it is, or 2) Describe an incident from the last 24 hours without revealing what really happened. After writing for twenty minutes, we were to gather into small groups to read our sketch aloud, the listeners suggesting our subject matter.

To close out our day, Dean then opened the workshop for questions about writing, especially our problem areas. Writers weren't at all shy about asking about improving dialog, the value of blogging, the importance of journaling, and the lessening or absence of the self-publishing stigma. Dean also recommended his favorite writing books: On Writing by Stephen King, Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott, Zen and the Art of Writing by Ray Bradbury, and If You Want to Write by Barbara Yuleland. Closing the workshop, Dean mentioned how several well-known writers got their start in writing: Stephen King was a sports writer. Anne Lamott wrote restaurant reviews. Hemingway and many others were journalists. Dean finished by reminding us to get comfortable with rejection; writing is a marathon, not a sprint. To practice being a wordsmith. And to remember the vast difference between "I want to be a writer" which involves a romanticized, idealized role of a writer, and "I want to write" which demonstrates a compulsion to write, something within that needs to burst out.

By 4:00, we were standing up and stretching, saying our goodbyes to each other and to Dean, and tidying up the conference room. About five of us stayed behind to share some short pieces of writing with each other and gain some helpful feedback.

We at MECAC and all participants in the workshop extend our thanks to Dean for presenting us with a practical and encouraging day of digging deeper into the craft and soul of writing. Thanks, Dean, for making the long trek up the mountain to teach us how to improve our work and to feed our inner compulsion to write. Dean's advice continues ringing in my ears two days after the conference, and I feel encouraged to master the frustration and to put in the long hours that the literary gods require in order to improve my writing. As Dean reiterated and as I tell my students frequently, writing is hard work. But learning how to shape words into meaningful narrative that affects another person's mind and soul is somehow worth the slaving over the writing pad or keyboard. It's what makes the hard work worthwhile.

MECAC hopes to provide another writing workshop this year, and until then we strongly encourage local writers to attend our monthly writing workshops the second Tuesday of each month at 7:00 PM in the Pine Valley Library.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Writing Workshop with Dean Nelson This Saturday!

To all Mountain Empire and San Diego Writers:

The Writing Workshop with Dr. Dean Nelson of Point Loma Nazarene University is fast approaching! The pertinent facts:

Saturday, February 21, 2009

9:00 AM to 5:00 PM

Pine Valley Bible Conference Center, 8668 Pine Creek Road, Pine Valley

Cost: $40, including lunch in the Dining Hall

Please register with Susanne Barrett at (619) 473-0085 or before Friday, February 20. This workshop is filling fast, so don't delay!

We look forward to meeting so many writers in our area and to learning much from Dean regarding the art of writing. Dean is a writer of national stature, so this workshop is an opportunity not to be missed by writers or those interested in learning more about writing.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Traveling in Colorado

Susanne Barrett

To Kathryn, who encouraged me to write again....

Hemmed in
by flat-topped mountains,
our motorhome only a tiny ant
crawling between, among
vast brown expanses of grasses,
peaks crowned with snow,
gray-green pines shielding the over-modest land.

“Pass with Care"
advises the square white sign
alongside the deserted two-lane --
wisdom given not only for highway travel,
I think.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Monthly Meeting on February 10!

Mountain Empire Writers --

Don't miss out on our monthly meeting this TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 10 at 7:00 PM in the PINE VALLEY LIBRARY COMMUNITY ROOM.

Bring a short piece of writing to share if you like, or just sit back and listen to what our own Mountain Empire writers have been working on.

Beginning writers are very, very welcome. If you're not sure you qualify as a "writer" but would like to learn more about writing, this is the place for you! Please come.

We'll be discussing our upcoming all-day writing workshop on Saturday, February 21, from 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM. You can access details by clicking here: Writing Workshop

We hope to see you there!

Writing Quote of the Week

"Poetry is an echo asking a shadow to dance."

-- Carl Sandburg, Poet (1878-1967)

Excerpt of his work:

At a Window

Give me hunger, O you gods that sit and give
The world its orders.
Give me hunger, pain and want,
Shut me out with shame and failure
From your doors of gold and fame,
Give me your shabbiest, weariest hunger!

But leave me a little love,
A voice to speak to me in the day end,
A hand to touch me in the dark room
Breaking the long loneliness.
In the dusk of day-shapes
Blurring the sunset,
One little wandering, western star
Thrust out from the changing shores of shadow.
Let me go to the window,
Watch there the day-shapes of dusk
And wait and know the coming
Of a little love.

Carl Sandburg

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Trip to the Heartland, Part II

(Part I is printed in the post below this one)

Judith Deem Dupree

It happens soon enough. "Welcome to Dupree -- home of 550 people and one old grouch." It's a decidedly home-made sign, tongue in cheek, the kind of off-road humor you don't see along the freeways. We hoot with pleasure; it looks promising.

The town is minimal, with signs of a livelier past. At the Post Office we are directed to the Court House, for this is the county seat. The staff person is waiting for us; a quick phone call had alerted her to these strangers with their quirky mission – to "claim their town." She grins. It's not an everyday event, someone dropping in from the mainstream of life, from the fast lane. We are welcome, and we end up buying a book on Ziebach county and its small-town histories. She directs us then to the newspaper office – a regional weekly – and we are photographed for a front-page feature! The volunteer editor and her husband are our kind of down-home folk; we chat delightedly and leave reluctantly.

Time for that cuppa and something sweet to wash down, to commemorate this small coincidence of names and maybe, some time long past, genes still buried beneath this soil.

The cafe is like any very small-town cafe. Dim, a bit down-at-the-heels, redolent with ham and eggs at this late morning hour. We settle in, skirting the long table that consumes the center. Three old fellers are draped over the chairs, owning their usual spots. They eye us, friendly enough.

It is more than I can resist. My coffee cools while I explain our visit, and hubby picks up the pace. We all banter back and forth for a spell, I inquiring if their table is "the liar's club," and they guffawing with obvious pleasure and agreement. They swap memories, interrupting and correcting each other easily. We learn more history, the written and unwritten kind. We inhale it all, swallow it with the bear claws and coffee. Yes, Our kind of folk, decidedly.

Reluctantly, we wave our farewells and climb back into the van, wanting to hang out a while yet. But they have their lives, and their life, and we are not a part of it. We take a few more pictures, hanging out the window, and slowly ease onto the blacktop. I look back until it's only a dot on the map again. Why do I feel a sudden twinge of homesickness?

This tiny burgh is not our home town. It is probably not even a part of my husband's ancestral roots, as far back as can be determined. But it doesn't matter. It is a bed-rock part of who we, the two of us, and we, all of us, are as a people. It is a part of home and family and what that means to us, a sense of who we are that we must tuck away beneath the trappings we wrap ourselves in.

With no fanfare, and despite the incongruities and disparities – between their stinging black brew and our Starbucks way of life – we did go home. Something shifted inside, and we found room for a chunk of reality we'd both needed. A slice of community, of history, of neighborness that gets lost in the rush of existence that is America today.

We have learned nothing "of substance", except the fact that we are all related, not by birth-names, nor geography, but by living. I think, in a way, that we are lost – or never quite found – unless, until we make this kind of stop, this kind of discovery, somewhere along the back road of life. A memory of something we never knew, waiting to be renewed.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

"Trip to the Heartland" by Judith Dupree, Part 1

Judith Deem Dupree

South Dakota . . . the prairies stretch to infinity, disappearing in a far blur of dust. We ride the ribbon of asphalt without talking. There is something quieting about this land; perhaps it is a respite that we are experiencing – a letting go of expectation.

Always, in our long drive, I have watched the fields and hills appear, fill our windshield, and disappear behind us. I wait for each variance as it comes. A curve of furrow, a sudden rise and plummet of earth, the jagged rip of a seasonal stream gone dry, a long claw of erosion. The way a stand of trees braces the skyline. Farms hedged in against the whine of wind, their encircling trees ever bowed, even in the now-still air. These are the pictures that race across my field of vision . . . a kaleidoscope of earth-tones that draw me on.

And now I let the landscape carry me past, unheeding – not from boredom, but, as I say, with a sense of rest. The very flatness and sameness so often despaired of seems more a gift than a frustration. Like life, I guess. We are so often engrossed and compelled by the ups and downs -- the dramatic, the traumatic, the demanding, startling, or stimulating. It is sameness that we really live in, that we come back to from whatever highs and lows life shoves us through – or which we plunge into willingly. Dailyness. This earthscape is like our dailyness. It rests me.

We are watching for a name on the map; we've made a detour from our pilgrimage to Mt. Rushmore to find this "dot" on the matrix of wavy lines.

Dupree, SD – My husband's surname. It has intrigued him for years that this small settlement on the edge of "nowhere" bears his name. When he first suggested we go to Rushmore on our trip, I knew, right away. It was the pull back to tenuous roots that really drew him, not the famous faces. The unknown, the "nobodies" like him who perched atop this stubborn soil so long ago and left little but this family name behind – that was the pull.

This much I know, from reading: The land was once ruled by France, then Spain, and is replete with tales of explorers, fur traders, and gold miners. And it is soaked in the blood of the Sioux, who lived along the adjacent Cheyenne River. Many of the current residents on this reservation we skim through are descendants of these early settlers A bit further south, or west, are names that echo – like the funereal toll of a bell – through our national history: Little Big Horn . . . Wounded Knee . . . Custer.

And so we draw near, and take notice once again of what this land says about itself.

It grows "kinder" now – less barren, more "peopled," both past and present. Remnants of ancient outbuildings and blank-eyed houses sag beneath the relentless sky. Farm yards, some choked with the machinery of the seasons, abut the occasional dirt roads – clusters of trees and hulking shapes that rush into focus and instantly become someone's life story. I want to stop at each and beg a cup of coffee and find the shape of their history here.

(Part Two will be published next week)

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Opportunity: Writers Symposium by the Sea

This year's Writers Symposium by the Sea promises to be a real treat. Taking place on the gorgeous campus of Point Loma Nazarene University on February 2-6, 2009, this year's theme is "Writing Beyond Boundaries." Some of the speakers scheduled are Christopher Buckley, Brian McLaren, and Luis Alberto Urrea. You may read more information and make reservations by clicking here: Writers Symposium by the Sea. The reservations are very reasonably priced at $15 each, so attendees can pick and choose whom they would like to see.

From the Writers Symposium by the Sea web page: "There are lines surrounding each of us -- lines that demark life and death, hope and despair, spiritual and material, old ways of thinking and new ways of thinking. The writers in this year's Symposium make us consider what lies beyond those borders. And if we can think differently about them, maybe we can live differently, too."

Dr. Dean Nelson, who will be facilitating our all-day Writers' Workshop later in February (see next post below), is the man behind the Writers Symposium and specifically asked us to put out the word. Judith and I have attended symposiums in the past, seeing such writers as Donald Miller, Anne Lamott, Kathleen Norris, Calvin Miller, and Frederica Mathewes-Green. The writers are Christians for the most part, but they are truly writers of excellence from whom we can all learn, no matter our beliefs.

If anyone hears of other opportunities for our writers, please let me know and I'm happy to post them here.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Calling All Writers!

We have a real treat for all Mountain Empire writers and those interested in learning more about the craft of writing. Dean Nelson, Director of the Journalism Program at Point Loma Nazarene University, will make the trek up the hill to lead us through a special writing workshop. You can read more about Dean and his work by clicking right here.

Date: Saturday, February 21, 2009
Time: 9:00 AM to approximately 5:00 PM
Place: Pine Valley Bible Conference Center
Cost: $40, including lunch. (A limited number of scholarships are available if cost is prohibitive)

Both Judith Dupree and Susanne Barrett of MECAC have known Dean for years and promise that he will lead a wonderful workshop, helping us to learn a great deal about the art of storytelling and the craft of writing. And his dry wit makes Dean a great deal of fun to listen to as well.

If you have even a smidge of an interest in writing, this workshop is for YOU! And don't feel as though you must be a "writer" in order to come; beginning writers are welcome, even encouraged, to attend.

So please make reservations with Susanne at or by calling her at 473-0085. Space is limited, so make reservations soon!

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Welcome Mountain Empire Writers!

As I thought more and more about our local writers, it seemed only fitting to create a blog for writers' workshop, separate from the MECAC blog. We're still part of the Mountain Empire Creative Arts Council, but we writers like to post our work and we didn't want to "muddy up" the already-established MECAC site.

So here we are.

If you have a *short* excerpt from a novel or story, a *short* essay or portion thereof, a poem, etc., that you would like to post here, please e-mail me at

We have some wonderful adventures coming up in February, so please come join us at our next monthly meeting:

Tuesday, January 13 at 7:00 PM
Pine Valley Library Community Room

Beginners and those just interested in learning more about writing are welcome to attend as well as writers who are more seasoned and are in search of venues for publication. Come one, come all!

Welcome to our brand-spankin'-new blog!