Thursday, December 22, 2011

2011 Happy Holidays Challenge Now Closed

The 2011 Happy Holidays Challenge is now closed. Thank you to everyone who participated and especially to those who left comments and words of encouragement for the authors.

Look for another challenge to be issued in mid-January.

And from everyone at Westside Writers, may your holidays be happy and 2012 bring you great success in your writing!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Happy Holidays 2011 Challenge Entry #7

From Annie Heart (Washington County writer)

The Perfect Christmas Gift

Growing up there was one day between Thanksgiving and Christmas designated as the day Mom and Grandma shopped for presents. They would leave the house at dawn and return at bedtime full of whispers and excited tiredness.

I grew into the ritual when I could be trusted with secrets and too old to sit on Santa’s lap. I got to join the ritual of sharing space with crowds of eager shoppers surrounded by twinkling lights and red-suited bell ringers.

Then I became a mother creating Christmas rituals for my own little girls –dresses of red and green, ornaments out of reach of tiny hands, bedtime stories replaced carols, gaily wrapped gifts and squeals of laughter and Grandma spending Christmas at my house and the shopping day at the mall to search for perfect gifts.

But Christmas had lost its magic for Grandma. Stiff with old age and arthritic bones she tired easily, and complained that we spent too much, bought too many presents, hurried too much. Endless complaints threatened to spoil the holiday.

I looked at twinkling lights and at Grandma - the day before Christmas - and find her the perfect Christmas gift.

I saw Santa’s Ginger-Bread House and said, “Let’s go talk to Santa, Grandma.” She mumbled something about being silly. I locked onto her bony arm steering her quickly towards Santa and his elves. “We want to sit on your lap and have our picture taken.”

Grandma hated having her picture taken but sat down reluctantly. Santa coaxed a rare smile from Grandma’s puckered, ruby-red lips. Afterwards I helped her from Santa’s knee and I tucked the Polaroid snapshot into my purse to show my little girls when we got home.

Christmas morning I pulled a small gift from a huge pile of boxes and bows. Grandma held it in her hands and shook it, still irritated at being pulled out of bed by the laughter of grandchildren eager to open presents. She gingerly removed the wrapping paper and fixed a puzzled stare at a transistor radio.

I came to her rescue attached headphones, placed them on her head, turned the dial on the side and watched her eyes for enlightenment. This was the perfect gift for Grandma; her favorite pastime was listening to baseball games, but she turned the volume up too loud. Not wanting to remind her of her deafness, I said “Now you can listen to your baseball games, Grandma, even when a storm blows out the power at your house.”

Grandma looked so sweet, sitting in the rocking chair Christmas morning, in flowered housecoat and fuzzy socks, hair flattened from sleep, holding a small black radio with wires in her ears. Her bright blue eyes sparkled behind wire-rimmed glasses and I saw a glimmer of a younger Grandma excited by a present bought just for her. I snapped the camera and she gave me the perfect Christmas gift—Grandma smiled and said “Thank you”.

Happy Holidays 2011 Challenge Entry #6

From Thomas (member, Westside Writers)


Happy Holidays 2011 Challenge Entry #5

From Jane Burch-Pesses

The Santa Claus Myth

“I know he’s going to find out eventually. Of course, he’s picking it up at school. But the older kids can be so cruel to the little ones. If he ruins it for his younger sister…” Mary shook her head.

“Um hum,” Vera said as she continued to make centerpieces for the fundraiser.

“Here he is. Billy, do you want some hot chocolate?” Mary asked.

Once Billy was at table with chocolate Vera said, “So, Billy, is Santa going to bring you lots of goodies?”

“There isn’t any Santa Claus!” Billy said with the passion of a convert.

“Is that so?” Vera ignored Mary’s hostile glance.

“Nobody could go around the world in one night! Your parents buy stuff and put Santa’s name on it.”

“You’re sure?”


“Well, that’s the first part. What about the second part?”

“What second part?” Billy asked suspiciously.

You know you have to pass some tests to become an adult, right? There’s a reason that adults pretend that one kind and generous guy delivers all the toys on Christmas Eve. It’s a test. The first part is when you figure out that’s impossible. Did you figure out the second part?”

“There isn’t any second part,” Billy said uncertainly.

“Lots of kids pass the first part and fail the second part. You’ve seen them at school – the ones telling the really little kids that there isn’t any Santa Claus? Sometimes they even make them cry. You’ve seen that, right?”

Billy said nothing but wore a guilty look.

“To pass the second part you have to become Santa Claus.”

“There isn’t any…”

“Right, there isn’t one person who is Santa Claus, because Santa Claus is all of us. Once you figure out that there isn’t anyone out there who will be kind and generous to little kids, then you decide to be kind and generous to them yourself. That’s what makes the difference between a little kid, who believes in Santa Claus and a big kid who keeps the secret and works to make Christmas a special time for little kids. Those mean kids who run around telling little kids that there is no Santa Claus are just little kids in a big kid’s body. They passed the first part of the test but failed the second. It will take them a really long time to become grown ups. You wouldn’t tell a little kid that there’s no Santa Claus, would you, Billy?”

“There’s some kids at school who tell the little kids that there’s no Santa Claus,” Billy deflected.

“That’s really sad. I hope you wouldn’t say something like that to a little kid.”


“That’s great, Billy! That makes you a Santa Claus, too! Congratulations! You’re a big kid now.”

“If you’re done with your chocolate, you could go do your homework,” Mary said.

Once Billy left Mary turned to Vera, “Thank you.”

“I hate Christmas bullies,” Vera said. “How many more centerpieces are we making?”

© Jane Burch-Pesses

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

About Us Updated

We have updated the page which tells who we are and how we work together to improve our writing. Learn more About Us.

Happy Holidays 2011 Challenge Entry #4

From Vannessa McClelland (member, Westside Writers)


“Such a magnificent tree. As good as the one at the Davenport,” Michael said, head craning back, his hair cascading down his back. A five pointed star twinkled at the peak. “Who did all this?”

Nash glanced around the decorated manor, a Whittaker institution for seven generations. “I did.” His mother was in France and his father… the Enron incident took many hostages.

Michael nodded, and Nash wished for an inkling of Michael's thoughts. His expression revealed nothing.

“I used to be happy back then, working for Task Mistress Dolohov.” He faced Nash. “It was my first tree.”

He’d known of his friend’s dismal childhood before working at the prestigious Davenport Inn. He’d been happy. Then, inexplicably, he’d disappeared.

But Nash found him, and followed Michael for months disguised in all manner of ways, even wearing sweatshirts and baseball caps. His mother, the heiress, would have fainted if she’d seen him.

“And now?”

Michael turned for the door. “I should go.”

Nash reached out, grabbed at the collar of Michael’s peacoat. Michael stalled his flight, but didn’t turn. His chin dropped to his chest, shielding his face with a veil of golden hair.

“Why did you bring me here?”

Nash looked down, the tree lights reflected off his leather shoes. “You have to go somewhere, don't you? You can't keep running.”

“You know.” It wasn’t a question.

“Yes.” He’d known for months now. Known that his friend paced the dark streets, mingled with even darker people. He’d seen Michael slip into back alley dives, a ghost of a man, and return rejuvenated. He’d seen his aversion to garlic.

“I felt safe there, at the Davenport.” Michael turned to Nash and the pain in those eyes cast Nash’s resolve into even firmer stuff. “I--I need another safe place. A sanctuary.”

“From the sun?” Nash asked.

“From myself.”

Nash swallowed, but didn’t look away from those plaintive eyes. He ushered Michael to the couch near the crackling fire; two glasses of wine sat on the table as closely as Nash sat next to Michael. In his childhood, Nash had wondered about love and sacrifice and fairytales. He only had his mother and father and children's books as teachers. One contradicted the other. He'd always loved fairytales.

"Nash—" Michael gestured at the glass, "—I can't…"

"I read somewhere that this would work," Nash mumbled, and cut through the meaty part of his palm over the glass. Inconsequential pain.

"You read about…?" Michael's eyes glowed. The blood dripped.

Nash looked him square on. "I've read everything."

"Everything?" Michael asked, giving the glass of bloodied wine a sniff.

"I did. After I’d figured it out." He chuckled with counterfeit bravado. "Somebody had to."

Michael glanced up through his fringe. Outside the snow fell thick through the window panes.

"I'm glad it was you." And Michael smiled, eyeteeth a little longer than before, and took a sip of the wine.

“You’ll stay?” Nash asked. Michael nodded.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Happy Holidays 2011 Challenge Entry #3

From Whitney Zeigler (member, Westside Writers)

Maggie stared upwards into the steel gray sky. The giant oak’s branches were barely visible 20 feet above her, shrouded in fog. Brittle brown leaves fell softly, plastering the lawn she’d just raked clear. She sighed at the futility of it all.

Jim would have made her laugh at herself. And then he would have leapt into a pile of leaves, scattering them everywhere.

God, how she missed him. Especially with Christmas coming.

Maggie could hardly believe he’d been gone a year already. The weight of the silence pressed heavily upon her. Wrapping her heather gray sweater tightly around herself, she hung up her rake and gardening gloves and went inside.

Determined, Maggie backed the car out of the garage and headed south. She remembered how much Jim enjoyed their frequent drives into the surrounding countryside, and sensed he was with her in spirit, as she headed out on this new journey.

Maggie pulled into the parking lot 20 minutes later and leapt out of the car before she could lose her courage. She plodded into the concrete, one-story building with children’s paintings in the lobby. As she rounded the corner, 20 dogs erupted in a cacophony of barking, each vying for Maggie’s attention.

She looked carefully at each dog, leaning down to pet and speak with them. At the very end of the row, a tri-color border collie lay on his bed, curled in a ball, disinterested in all the fuss and excitement. Maggie squatted down in front of his kennel and held out a piece of cheddar cheese. The dog’s ears perked up and the tip of his tail began to wag ever so slightly.

“Hey, boy,” Maggie said. “What’s your name? How did you end up here?” She slowly reached out a hand and gently scratched his fuzzy head. He looked up at her then, and their eyes locked. Maggie saw his intelligence, and he saw how much she needed him. The border collie nimbly got to his feet and licked Maggie’s hand.

The next day, Maggie and Max the border collie raked leaves together in the backyard. Max dashed about madly, chasing squirrels and falling leaves. Finally Maggie raked the last leaf into the pile and hung up her rake. Max took a running leap and dove into the file, barking excitedly. He climbed out, shaking leaves from his thick coat. Max looked back over his shoulder at Maggie mischievously, tongue lolling out in a doggie grin, eyes shining brightly.

Maggie laughed out loud. “I think you’ve been very naughty this year, Max…but Santa may still bring you some cheese.”

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Writers Digest: The 90 Top Secrets of Bestselling Authors

Bestselling authors share their tips and secrets on Writers Digest.

Happy Holidays 2011 Challenge Entry #2

From April Whidden (member, Westside Writers)

Goody Claus and the Christmas Purpose

Tippy, tippy, tap. Little elven feet exploded on tabletops, whirling and twirling to the rhythm of a tambourine. Weekend dads posed with their kids as reporters clicked cameras. The North Pole was busy this time of year. Mrs. Claus – Goody to her friends - smiled for a quick shot and then excused herself to ‘bake cookies’.

Inside the office, Goody kicked off her shoes and slid out of her Spanx. She surveyed the room. Even in this sanctuary toys were stacked ceiling high. She reached for a cookie, thought better of it, and turned away. Even her Spanx needed Spanx. A growling noise caught her attention and she turned to see her husband sleeping in his favorite chair, a concerned wrinkle across his brow. “Poor dear,” she said, covering him and kissing his cheek. With only two weeks till Christmas he had been putting in long hours, and it was beginning to show.

Goody sighed, remembering simpler times. Dolls for girls. Trains for boys. Coal for the naughty. Nowadays everyone wanted dolls that peed and trains that moved. And Elves didn’t make batteries. Santa had to outsource that job to China.

And kids today…one toy wasn’t enough…they had lists! And now with the population tipping at seven billion… Goody furrowed her brow. She wasn’t good at mat, but she knew there were not enough elves in the Arctic to accommodate that load.

“That’s it,” she said, flopping into the computer chair. “I wash my hands of this. Santa’s exhausted and I’m fat. We’re moving to Belize.” Goody flipped on her husband’s computer and fantasized about her new life. She had spent the last 200 years baking, smiling, and feeding reindeer. Maybe now she could work out, play Bunco, and watch Oprah. She could find her purpose.

She was googling ‘things to do in Belize’ when an odd blinking light appeared in the corner of her monitor. Alarmed that she had broken something, she almost roused Santa. Then she noticed it was a message. A magic, coded message!

Dear Santa,

I no u r buzy but can I plz have a doll for xmas. I need some1 to luv me.

Mary Dryer

Goody shook her head as an image of Mary Dryer popped into her memory. A dark-haired beauty with large eyes. A child who wanted just one doll for Christmas. Goody groaned as Google summoned up pictures of a Belizean beach.

“Well, darn it,” she said, rolling the chair to the doll shelf across the room. She searched until she found the perfect one: a cuddly darling that didn’t pee. “You will be well loved,” she said, giving the doll a kiss and sending it to the sleigh.

Goody watched as 100 linking lights filled the monitor.

Santa yawned. “Good nap. Anything interesting happen while I was out?”

“Yes. You got yourself a new assistant.”

“I did? Who?”

Goody stood, dusting crumbs from her gown. “Why, me of course. I just found my purpose.”

Happy Holidays 2011 Challenge Entry #1

From Michael Fairchild (member, Westside Writers)


That naughty and nice list business is nonsense. Santa began as a saint, and saints love everyone. Me? I'm Sir. Claws, the cat who guides him through the night, just as I did when he was Bishop Nicholas those many years ago.

We received a troubled child signal as we were finishing Portland. A very intelligent six year old trying with all her might to believe in us.

"Cat," the big man said, "can you look into this?" I know, you're going to ask how we manage all this in one night. I asked Einstein's cat, and didn't understand a word he meowed. I've settled for calling it magic.

I entered the house and was met by a lovely Persian. "My mistress wants a Young Doctor Kit, an elaborate and expensive thing, educational as it is entertaining. Her single mother, can barely afford a few small gifts."

Maryann had whined, pouted, and wheedled finally exploding in a temper, "I hate you and Santa."

To which her mother, patience expended said, "that young lady is why you're not getting what you want. Try being nicer next year."

It was a strained Christmas eve in the little house. The mother was shocked at herself, knowing it was the pressures of life that had caused her to snap. Maryann, recognized the same, vowed to be better, and, to keep her belief in Santa one more year. Her mother let her set out cookies and milk, and wrap herself in a blanket to wait.

We heard a crashing sound in front of the house. "There's a car on the sidewalk," Maryann told her mother who came out of her bedroom.

A man opened the car door and fell. Then picked himself up and shuffled toward the door. "He's drunk," the mother said.

"He's sick," Maryann said. "And he's a policeman."

Her mother pushed her aside and blocked the door. "Help...," he said.

"Call 911. And he doesn't need cookies," her mother said pushing away the tray Maryann held.

"Yes sugar please," the man said, stuffing cookies into his mouth.

As his condition improved, Maryann said, "you need juice."

"You're a very smart girl. You know about diabetes."

"No," the girl said, "I just know."

"Thank you, I pulled a double shift so those with families could be home, and forgot to eat. I'll go now.

"No you won't," the mother said. "You need real food and rest. A look passed between the adults that made Maryann wonder if her other wish might come true.

The girl went off to bed with her cat to purr her to sleep. The adults became acquainted over scrambled egg whites, then slept, he and on the couch, she in her bed. I followed the mother, and as her eyes became heavy, gave her the memory of finding the super deluxe Young Doctor Kit on eBay for practically nothing.

"Excellent work, Sir Claws," Santa said. "Dr. Wendy has saved her first life."

Monday, November 21, 2011

Friday, November 11, 2011

Michael Henry's Book Now Available

Westside Writers congratulates member Michael Henry on the recent publication of his Christmas romance Six Hearts Under the Christmas Tree.

About Six Hearts Under the Christmas Tree:

Veronica and her best friend, Katrina, seem to be on top of the world. Having forged a wildly successful partnership in Katrina's music career, they finally get to live like they always dreamed of as kids. Sure, there's the crazy ex-boyfriend of Katrina's that Veronica has to pay off, and Veronica is about to marry an otherwise ideal man she doesn't love, but really, no one's life is perfect, is it? The answer, each of them thinks, is to find the exact opposite kind of guy that they usually date and marry them. Which is a great theory...but Christmas has other plans. When they meet two highly successful men in a similar dilemma, they think they've found the solution to all their problems, but why does everyone think that they're each with the wrong man?

Now Available At:


Barnes and Noble


Westside Writers 2011 Happy Holiday Challenge

Westside Writers, a writing critique group that meets in the Reedville area of Hillsboro, issues the following challenge to other Washington County writers. Create a piece of short fiction, post it on your blog or ours, and read some other local writers' work. Don't forget to leave the author a comment letting her know you read the piece and what you thought of it. Here is an easy way to view challenge submissions: just click here.

Enjoy and Happy Holidays from everyone at Westside Writers!

Here are the details:

What: Create a piece of short fiction (500 words maximum) with a happy theme centered around Christmas or another holiday of your choosing.

When: The deadline will be 11:59pm (Pacific Time) on Wednesday 21 Dec 2011

Who: Any resident of Washington County, Oregon or participant of a writers group that meets in Washington County, Oregon

Why: To have a bit of fun and share some of your writing with other Washington County writers and visitors to our blog (

How: Submissions can be made either by: 1) adding your story to your blog or website, then sending a link to that post or page to Please include a statement that you either live in Washington Co or attend a writers group in Washington Co, Oregon. OR 2) Email your submission to with a statement that it may be included on our blog (, include any identifying and copyright information you wish to have included on the blog post with your submission (name, web address or Twitter/Facebook/etc profile/name).

NOTE: Westside Writers may decide not to include your link or story if it doesn't meet any criteria listed in this post or if it violates our Taboo Topics as discussed on

If you have any questions, please comment or email

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Membership Currently Closed

As of 10 November 2011, Westside Writers is closed to new members. We will update this blog when we are ready to accept new members.

In the meantime, may we suggest Parallel Play at the Main Branch of Hillsboro Public Library? You might also find other groups looking for new members on Willamette Writers online discussion forums.

Next Meeting Dates

Westside Writers will not meet again in November since the fourth Thursday is Thanksgiving. We wish you Happy Thanksgiving, however you observe it.

Our next meeting will be on Thursday 8 December.

We will also decide if we will be meeting on 22 December at the meeting on the 8th.

DYI Word Clouds

Ever want a word cloud for something you've been writing or reading? Wordle is an online tool that just does that.

Thanks Vannessa!

And just for fun, here's one for my 2011 Fall Challenge entry.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

LINKS: Publishing Leads & Idea Generator

Duotrope is "an award-winning, free writers' resource listing over 3575 current Fiction and Poetry publications. Use this page to search for markets that may make a fine home for the piece you just polished."

Need a story idea? Check out the Plot Scenario Generator.

Quick Guide to "Show, Don't Tell" and Rebuttal

Jan Fischer-Wade provides a quick guide to "Show, Don't Tell" and lists words to watch out for. It's a great starting point, but as Cheryl Sonnier points out on her blog there are times when passive voice or construction works well.

Walters: Open Poetry Reading

Poets and lovers of poetry alike will enjoy these evenings of readings in the WCAC gallery. This event has become such a favorite at the Center that it has been granted its own night! Readers and listeners are welcome to enjoy works by established or yet to be discovered talent. A sign-up sheet is available prior to the event, so come early and get in the queue!

This is a free event!

Tuesday November 8, 2011
7:00 PM - 9:00 PM

Walters Cultural Arts Center
527 East Main Street
Hillsboro, Oregon

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Fall 2011 Challenge Now Closed

The Fall 2011 Challenge is now closed! Thank you to each writer who participated and also to those who left comments and encouragement for the writers who submitted. We at Westside Writers enjoyed the challenge and hope the other participants did as well. We also hope readers enjoy the pieces of flash fiction.

Westside Writers hopes to issue another challenge in Mid-November. Watch this blog for more information.

And, always, keep writing!

Fall 2011 Challenge Entry #8

Swan and Fish by Alanna Steeves (Washington County)

I am a swan.

I tell myself that because I want to believe it. Lilly White says she believes it, too, but It’s hard to say you’re beautiful when everyone around you sees in red.

Nothing down here can compare to the world of the Red Rose Casino, not the steel gray buildings that fund it, not the blue sky that existed before it. Here in this town, most live for it.

The world of the casino blinds people to everything else. The screen doors with guards that say “you can look in, but don’t touch the fuchsia curtains,” the blue of the bruises on skin of those who don’t pay, the yellow of the eyes who can’t stop themselves anymore, the black of the flies as they flutter around a body left for dead.

Lilly White says there’s nothing better than living in the glitz and glamour of the Red Rose Casino. Hers is a fast world of men, drinks, and money.

Hers is a world of lies.

People say I’m imagining things; that seeing that world makes me paranoid, but they haven’t seen what I have.

I see the blue and the flies and the eyes and the dead.

I see how the red chokes you slowly and smothers you with desire. Most that make it up to that world never come down to the real one again.

I wonder, can they really be as happy as they say?

Despite my distaste for that world, I did not ask questions. It was not my place to. It was not until Lilly White was found dead in her pretty silver party dress that I began to break.

My friend is now a dead silver fish.

If I am really a swan, then let me fly away from this place.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Fall 2011 Challenge Entry #7

From Laura Roberts (Washington Co, Oregon)

I live in a tree house with superheroes as my next door neighbors. Organizing them to fight evil is my mission in life. Every morning I wake up and eat my sugary cereal in my purple bowl with my blue spoon. Next to my bowl is my favorite swan cup filled with apple juice. I catch the morning news by turning on the cartoon channel before I walk out my screen door to work. Jump roping to work I’m paranoid that villains will try to kidnap me with a spin jump. At work its utter chaos of managing egos but luckily I have my coloring book with my fuchsia crayon to distract me from the stress. Skipping back home I can’t wait to have my happy face pizza with a glass of milk. Milk makes my body strong so I can fight the bad guys. In the evening, with the lights off I love seeing the sky smothered with stars. Connecting the dots to create a new imaginary friend is my nighttime ritual. Before I close my eyes I talk to my best friend, Pluto. He lives far away but I know he can hear me. Yes, his feelings are still hurt that he isn't a planet but maybe he will forgive everyone in a couple million years. Now, I say goodnight to the tree and all the creatures of the world.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Fall 2011 Challenge Entry #6

From Bonnie Gorshe (Beaverton)

As she opened the kitchen door the shriek of cicadas pierced her eardrums like darning needles. You could hear them inside but not like this. He’d built a solid house. She’d give him that. She pulled a few grocery bags filled with what was left of her life out to the screen porch where they would be ready to go the minute the taxi came.

She wanted the driver to hurry up. She was never left alone for long. Her eyes grew weary of searching the road, so she looked around the sad garden she’d tried to start. The poor fuchsia had died immediately, its pink dancing girls withering from disappointment.

They’d met in a body shop where she was getting a fender straightened and he was putting a hoist on his jeep. He was a quiet man, but attentive. As an ordinary looking girl she loved being told her face was like an angel, her neck like a swan. His words sounded like lyrics from a corny old song but she found it endearing. “In my house on the prairie a body can be free. I’ll take care of you. Just the two of us.”

And it was just the two of them, day after day after day, in a house filled with guns and supplies to last a decade. They were surviving a war that wasn’t happening. The man she had married wasn’t just quiet, he was paranoid. This life was going to smother her.

A plume of dust announced a car coming down their road. She gathered her grocery bags. But it wasn’t the taxi, it was his jeep. She ran the bags back into the house and hid them, then phoned to cancel her ride. He would leave again in about a month. She would wait.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Fall 2011 Challenge Entry #5

From Michael Fairchild (member, Westside Wrtiers)


State Police Captain Lars Howard held the door of The Old Town Bar and Grill while two men carried in a third, blood oozing from a gaping wound. "Put the body there and screen it," he ordered.

"He was Robert, I'm Michael, this is Allen," one of the carriers said.

"Explain your relationship," growled Lars.

"We are, were, partners. He was unloading our moving van in front of our new store, The Fuchsia Swan," Michael said. "I was in the back of the shop, and ran out when I heard the shot. Allen was down the street getting us lunch."

"Where were you? And did you hear the shot?" Lars asked Allen.

"I'm too upset to drink anything," he answered.

"He must have heard it, we met at the back of the truck," Michael added. "Robert had been unloading his gun collection. He was paranoid about moving to a small town. Afraid some hillbilly would break in at night and smother him in his sleep, or shoot him in the back."

"I don't think his mother will care that he's dead," Allen said. "She didn't like him any more than we did. He was ruining our shop before we even got a chance to open it."

Toby, the owner of The Old Town Bar, inserted a napkin into the Agatha Christy he'd been reading. "Captain Howard, I suggest you place Allen under arrest," he said.

Later that evening, having handed the case, complete with confession, on to the district attorney; Lars Howard returned to the Old Town Bar for an off-duty beer and a plate of fried clams. "It was elementary," Toby said. "Allen answered the questions incorrectly, showing that he was temporarily deafened from discharging the weapon within the confines of the truck."

Friday, September 30, 2011

Fall 2011 Challenge Entry #4

From Whitney Zeigler (member, Westside Writers)

She just had to know.

No, she didn’t, she told herself. She couldn’t click on his profile because the temptation to contact him would be too great.

Her hand clutched the mouse in a death grip; her finger hovered over the right click button.

“Gah!” she groaned and rested her forehead against the cool LED screen. I’m an idiot for even considering it! What am I thinking? Her right index finger dipped ever so slightly toward the button, then jerked away as if seared.

She was dying to know what he looked like now and whether he was married. Paranoid, she wondered if he’d already checked out her profile and knew everything about her, even the name of her cat, Fluffers. She would just peek, she told herself.

No, you are happily married, she scolded herself. But it doesn’t hurt to look…see what you’re not missing out on. Her face turned fuchsia as she recalled their last night together. They’d eaten dinner at their favorite restaurant, a French bistro called The Swan. After imbibing a bottle of cheap wine, fortified with only appetizers because they couldn’t afford an entrée, they’d lurched around the corner to his apartment.

She closed her eyes and sighed, remembering his tickling touch that raised goose bumps on her arms. Their bodies illuminated by moonlight from the skylight above. The slow, awkward start to their love making spiraling into a desperate grab for flesh. The need to consume one another after years of tortured friendship.

Afterward, she had counted the number of stars in the Big Dipper to ease her feelings of giddiness. Crushing her fist to her mouth, she had smothered a giggle. And then with a few words, he had smashed her bliss to bits.

Her finger trembled over the mouse.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Fall 2011 Challenge Entry #3

The Swan and the Lake - By April Whidden (member, Westside Writers)

Carlton took one final glance at the fog-covered lake, screening his chest against the wind with one hand and tossing his partly smoked Winston into the water with the other. The lake was dead. Not a single life form took refuge there. Haunted, some said. Most likely by the ghosts of loose women, he thought. A rare smile snaked its away across his gaunt face, pulling at his jaws so tightly it hurt.
“Penelope will feel right at home here.” Carlton shivered as he remembered her perfect body turning from alabaster, to fuchsia, and finally blue as she succumbed to the smothering. “Good bye, darling.” he said, fingering the flask in his pocket that would soon erase her memory.
As he turned he was startled by a sound: a wailing, low and sweet as a baby’s coo. Carlton turned back to see something emerge from the waters, a small, white image against the murky backdrop. It slithered, winding its way forward yet causing no ripples, until it rested at his feet.
Is that a…? Carlton blinked and looked again. Sure enough, perched by his bare toes was a beautiful swan.
Where had it come from? Carlton raised his eyes above him, then lowered them to the ground for a hint as to its origin. His teeth chattered but the wind had subsided.
The swan stood, shaking water from its feet and Carlton heard the jingling of a collar around its neck. It was a pet. Of course! He had only been paranoid. Carlton wiped the sweat from his brow and stooped to give the bird a pat.
The soft wailing returned, blanketing Carlton. It was the last thing he heard. Both his hand and his heart stopped cold as he read the lone word etched into the swan’s collar:

Monday, September 12, 2011

Fall 2011 Challenge

Westside Writers, a writing critique group that meets in the Reedville area of Hillsboro issues the following challenge to other Washington County writers. Create a piece of flash fiction, post it on your blog or ours, and read some other local writers' work.

UPDATE: Here is an easy way to view challenge submissions: just click here. Don't forget to leave the author a comment letting her know you read the piece and what you thought of it! Enjoy!

Here are the details:

What: Create a piece of flash fiction (200 words minimum, 300 maximum) that incorporates the following six words in the text: SWAN, FUCHSIA, PARANOID, SMOTHER, SCREEN, and BODY. Any part of speech, usage, or tense of the word is acceptable. NO, the words do not need to be used in a single paragraph or sentence; just somewhere in the body of the story.

When: The deadline will be 11:59pm (Pacific Time) on Wednesday 12 Oct 2011

Who: Any resident of Washington County, Oregon or participant of a writers group that meets in Washington County, Oregon

Why: To have a bit of fun and share some of your writing with other Washington County writers and visitors to our blog (

How: Submissions can be made either by: 1) adding your story to your blog or website, then sending a link to that post or page to Please include a statement that you either live in Washington Co or attend a writers group in Washington Co, Oregon. OR 2) Email your submission to with a statement that it may be included on our blog (, include any identifying and copyright information you wish to have included on the blog post with your submission (name, web address or Twitter/Facebook/etc profile/name).

NOTE: Westside Writers may decide not to include your link or story if it doesn't meet any criteria listed in this post or if it violates our Taboo Topics as discussed on

If you have any questions, please comment or email

Friday, September 9, 2011

Upcoming Meetings

Our next regular meetings are scheduled for 22 Sept, 13 & 27 Oct -- all Thursdays and starting at 6:30pm.

On 10 Nov we will have our annual meeting and will NOT meet on 24 Nov since it is Thanksgiving.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Next Meeting 8 Sept

We will not be meeting on 25 August.

Our next regular meeting will be on Thursday, 8 September at 6:30 at 21785 SW TV Hwy Suite P, Hillsboro, Oregon. If you have trouble finding the office, please call 503-259-2685 for assistance.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Thursday 28 July 6:30

We will be meeting on Thursday 28 July at 6:30 at 21785 SW TV Hwy Suite P, Hillsboro, Oregon. If you have trouble finding the office, please call 503-259-2685 for assistance.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Thursday 14 July 6:30

We will be meeting on Thursday the 14th July at 6:30; berets and escargot optional.

Vive la révolution!

Friday, June 24, 2011

An Open Invitation

Do you run or are you a member of another writing, critique, or marketing group located in Washington County, Oregon? If so, please leave a comment so we can add you to our list of other local groups. We know finding the right group can be a challenge and are happy to help!

Also, are there any writing events in Forest Grove, Hillsboro, Beaverton, Tigard, Tualatin or the other communities in the county? It sure would be fun to go to some readings of other local author's work and support our fellow Washington County writers!

Digital Book Publishing Models to the Rescue -- WIRED

Some new techniques on self-publishing electronically from WIRED magazine.

Thanks for the link, Mike!

July Meetings

We are planning to meet on 14 and 28 July at the usual time and place.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Writing vs Critique vs Marketing Groups

In reading up about successful writing groups, I've learned that there is a definite difference between a writing group and a critique group though often these two phrases are used interchangeably by newer writers. First some definitions:

Writing Group -- Think of this as a support group for writers. Members might be new to the field or new to a genre. Or they may have been writing for years. However, these groups focus more on actually writing and may spend part of their meetings writing as a group, and yes, this can mean everyone contributing to a single piece of work as well as everyone working on their own work in communion with their fellow writers. Sharing of work happens but generally comments are of a supportive nature (what works) and seek to spur the writer on and nurture the muses. For some these groups can be an antidote to the "lonely life of a writer."

Critique Group -- Again, while experience may vary from starting out to already published, members of these groups tend to be interested in making their work better. They regularly submit their work to the group for comments with the hope that the work will not only be praised, but that members will point out issues and areas needing improvement. A good group will stay focused on improving the author's story by looking at plot, scene, voice, character, flow, and maybe even some punctuation, grammar, and spelling.

Marketing Group -- Sometimes called a Networking Group, these groups are focused on pooling information and resources to help writers send queries or make a piece more marketable. Members share leads on agents, contests, and publishers. But probably most helpful is supporting each other as rejection letters arrive or, better yet, responding to revision letters. And with the increase in self-publishing, these groups will grow increasingly important since writers will have be their own marketing department.

Each group serves a different purpose and like much in the world, actual groups do not adhere rigidly to any given category. Some members may be looking more for support while others critique. As groups work together for months and years, some members may be wrapping up a project and preparing to shop it around while others are still trying to work the kinks out of a novel or play.

No group is categorically better than another -- they serve different purposes. The key is finding the right group for you and your writing needs.

So what kind of group is Westside Writers?

Westside Writers is a critique group with a bit of support thrown in for good measure. In time, we'll probably talk more about marketing, but currently members are still working on making projects better. We are a fiction group though members work in a number of genres. Some are writing novels; some, short stories; but all have novels planned for the future.

The bulk of our meetings is spent on critiquing each others work, but we always check in to see how the stories are progressing. We also share information about helpful websites, conferences, and books we've come across.

However the key ingredient is that Westside Writers is all about helping an author improve the piece being discussed using positive suggestions. But at the end of the day, we recognize that the author has final say on what changes are made to the work.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Meeting Update, Thursday, 9 June, 6:30pm

We will meet at 6:30pm on Thursday the 9th of June.

Our next meeting will be at 6:30 on Thursday 23 June.

Location information

Mapping Assistance

I have tried to create a map to help you find our meetings. However, I've had little luck working with either Google or Yahoo Maps.

I managed to download a satellite map from Washington County's online mapping tool Intermap and added an "X" and "7-11", but it still seems pretty difficult to read. Plus I'm almost be willing to swear that the satellite data is a bit dated. You can view it here.

I may try and draw a map in the future or if anyone has any other ideas, please let me know.

Also, let me know if this map helps any.


Friday, May 13, 2011

No Meeting

We will NOT be meeting on 26 May. Our next meeting is scheduled for 9 June. The time will be announced.

Monday, May 9, 2011

12 May Meeting

Our meeting scheduled for Thursday, 12 May, will start at 6:30pm (instead of the usual 6pm).

Friday, March 25, 2011

April Meeting

Our April meetings will be on the 14th and 28th.

New members and interested persons are encouraged to stop by.

If you have trouble finding us, call 503-259-2685 and ask for Westside Writers.