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Tommy Tomlinson at Weatherscreek Writer's Seminar

Updated on September 12, 2010

The first thing Tommy Tomlinson told us when he started his "Opening the Vein" seminar Saturday was that we could all consider ourselves writers. Most of us would have disagreed with him on principle, except that because we’re Southerners we were just a little too polite. I’ll consider myself a writer when I finish the rough draft of my first novel, but he had a point.

All of us drove. It’s how we got to the little cabin in the woods that morning and we are drivers every day of our lives. We are not DRIVERS as in NASCAR, or Indy car DRIVERS or stunt DRIVERS in Hollywood. The fact that we do write and strive to become better at the craft does make us writers and I think that was the point. There is a difference between being a writer and being a WRITER.

Tommy is a WRITER and has been one for decades. That’s how he makes his living. It’s who he is and he tries to improve his game each time he takes to the field. Saturday he shared some of what he knows and what he has learned with fourteen of us at The Farm at Weatherscreek. I am not going to try to repeat everything he told us but I would like to share just a few of the things that struck me as important.

Tommy said that writing is a craft and that it can be mastered. (Maybe, if I live long enough.) He said that as writers you will make mistakes and that you have to be willing to be imperfect. (Got that one down.) He said that with practice you will get better. (Jury’s still out.)He called these three points Tommy's Truth of Writing. I think he was totally on the money. Talent is great but work is the key to any success.

He talked about writing in scenes with a beginning, a middle and an end. He talked about how the narrative should reveal something new, about using action and concentrating on the essence of emotion in a scene. All good and valid points covered exceptionally well by Immartin here on Hubpages. I’ll link the first in the series here, read them if you haven’t already.

Tommy talked about creating a setting for your readers, a sense of time and place. He spoke of finding meaningful details and of a particular line in a column he wrote about the funeral of Susan Smith’s children. He included a line in the article about the smell of freshly mown grass and wild onions on the side of the highway leading up to the cemetery, but he only later realized why it was important to the story.

He talked about the importance of revising and that you had to be almost bipolar to get it right. He said that once the words were lovingly down on the page that you had to be ruthless in the editing process. He showed us a couple of pages in Stephen King’s book On Writing which showed how the revision looked. I have this great book on writing and would humbly add James V. Smith’s You Can Write a Novel as another that most aspiring writers should read.

He said: “The story is the boss.” There’s a ton and a half of wisdom right there in those five little words.

Tommy spoke of the cinematic art of writing, of being a storyteller. He talked about where to get ideas, the need to create a soundtrack for your work and how to spark creativity. He talked about changing the routine of your daily life, changing the route you take to work, taking the time to notice your surroundings, and embracing the world.

The ideas Tommy gave us about looking at the world with a writer's eye, keeping a notebook handy and recording thoughts as they happened were not new concepts to me. Then he mentioned the subconscious being like a great crock pot, a place where ideas cook slowly while you do other things.That was a new analogy. But I do it all the time and I bet you do too. Here's how it worked for me last week.

I was at Chick-fil-A with my grand daughter after school and sat with a cup of coffee, reading on one level and daydreaming about my book on another. I had seen a girl in there the day before and had looked at her with a writer’s eye. I noticed her first because of the Daisy Duke style blue jean shorts she had on, but she also had tattoos. There was a series of small colorful stars, circles, dots and triangles that wound around her legs like the red and white stripe on a barber’s pole. The tattoos started about her ankles and went up, well, I don’t know how far.

It was then that I decided to kill somebody.

Sorry, I just couldn’t resist going all Stephen King on you. The truth is I decided to create a character that looked like this young woman and have her kill one of the other characters in my book. I picked up my ipad and started the scene. I saw it clearly, it hatched, it was born. All I have to do now is open up the vein.

I woke up at seven Sunday morning with the desire, the need to sit at my computer and write. That has never happened to me before. Never. Thanks, Tommy.

This is our class picture. Tommy Tomlinson is the bearded guy in the middle of the photo. I am the guy on the left in shorts. My tweed coat with the brown elbow patches was at the cleaners.

This cabin is a private residence and was the location for the seminar. Participants felt welcomed and relaxed. On top of the excellent information we received, we also got a great lunch. Thanks to Cindy and all the others at Weatherscreek who helped make this seminar a  total success.


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    • resspenser profile imageAUTHOR

      Ronnie Sowell 

      8 years ago from South Carolina

      Thanks for stopping by, Storytellersrus. I have been reading your poems and I think I am not smart enough for poetry! Tommy played the song "The wreck of the Edmond Fitzgerald" for us to show how a true event could be used in a song or a poem. Made me look at poetry in a whole new way-maybe it's not for sissies after all! LOL

      I also thought about suggesting a contest on hubpages to write a short story based on a song. I can't get "Three Wooden Crosses" by Randy Travis out of my head. Help!

    • Storytellersrus profile image


      8 years ago from Stepping past clutter

      resspenser, what a great seminar that was! I appreciate how you recorded it for us. I am working with imagery in my poems, as you might have noticed. I find that images feed on each other; the girl sparked a plot line for you. Awesome! Thumbs up.

    • resspenser profile imageAUTHOR

      Ronnie Sowell 

      8 years ago from South Carolina

      Hello sun,

      Glad you took the time to read my hub. Do check out Tommy's blog. He is very good and is doing some experimental stuff over at The Charlotte Observer that I think would interest you and others on Hubpages.

    • resspenser profile imageAUTHOR

      Ronnie Sowell 

      8 years ago from South Carolina


      Thanks for commenting and reading my hub. If you want to publish a book, write one and see. You never know.

    • sunflowerbucky profile image


      8 years ago from Small Town, USA

      Sounds like a fantastic retreat! Good luck with that vein! I am really good at the idea and excitement part, just not so much at the follow through! Will definitely check out the links, thank you for sharing them!

    • dahoglund profile image

      Don A. Hoglund 

      8 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

      I consider myself a writer although I have never published a book and at my age probably wont. I have worked at jobs with title like editor, reporter, correspondent, policy writer,technical writer. Non bein what I set out to do.

    • resspenser profile imageAUTHOR

      Ronnie Sowell 

      8 years ago from South Carolina

      Thanks Lynda.

      I have felt that rush before but never at seven on Sunday morning! Tommy is a terrific guy and he just finished up a year long fellowship at Harvard.

      Also a special thanks for the extra comment on my book.

      A "pretty good" from you is very high praise. I'm not worthy but perhaps someday--

      Also to everyone:

      Lynda has a book getting published. She let me read some of it-- it's way better than pretty good.

    • lmmartin profile image


      8 years ago from Alberta and Florida

      Thanks for the link, Ronnie, and I wish I could have been there for this seminar. He sounds like a terrific fellow and great writer and teacher. So glad you found that "high" that writing can bring when all falls into place. -- Lynda

      To everyone:

      The novel he's working on in first draft is actually pretty good. I know -- he let me read some of it.


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