• Mar 31, 2014
  • KnoxZine
  • Comments Off on For Halls High School Creative Writing Students Only!
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Dear Creative Writing Students.

I have never been a member of the cool kids’ club. 

My lucky break came one night when I was driving home in East Knoxville and noticed a passed out prostitute on the side of the road. Her feet were in the street. I parked my car in front of her Keds and called for an ambulance. My re-telling of this story led to my first writing gig for an online magazine. I was hooked.

I later went on to write for a few other local magazines. Most of them went out of business. But, I still had many ideas for good stories, so I created my own online magazine. I also produce films.

I’m still not a member of the cool kids’ club and I like it that way.

I look forward to meeting you all on April 10. I’ll be discussing idea evolution. Please skim this article: How to Write 16 Knockout Articles When You Only Have One Whimpy Idea by Stephanie Flaxman. 

Everything else I listed below is just for fun.

Kind regards,



Must Read Classic Literature

  • The Purloined Letter by Edgar Alan Poe

This short story contains an important lesson. (I can’t reveal the lesson because it is the climax of the story.) You can use or be aware of this lesson throughout your life.

  • Crime & Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky

Raskolnikov’s ruminations lead him to murder. His conscience nags at him afterwards. This is a great and important story about human nature.

  • Catch-22 by Jospeh Heller

I read this hilarious war satire when I was 17 and it blew my mind (There’s even a reference to Crime & Punishment’s Raskolnikov early in the book.) Yosarian is an unforgettable protagonist. Please read this book. (Contains adult situations).

  • Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck

This is the most important book in modern literature.

  • King Lear by William Shakespeare

This drama is key to understandngi some types of family dysfunction. Those who don’t play the game of flattery tend to suffer. Legendary filmmaker Akira Kurosawa’s “Ran” (pronounced Ron) is based on King Lear, only it’s set in Japan and involves sons instead of daughters. You will see King Lear dysfunction many times in your life.

Great Books About Writing

This is hands-down one of the best books about how to write anything. This short is book is half autobiography and half writing guide. King’s revelations are brave. This book is available in the Knox County Pubic Library System.


This book has done wonders for me as an individual and as a business owner/content creator. At first, Altucher comes off as a jerk, but once he begins offering his direct and creative advice, you’ll be hooked. Altucher is an enthusiastic and funny ideas guy. He is a believer in maintaining a daily practice of self-care to improve your ideas/creativity. Right now, this book is available for $2.99 on Amazonc Kindle. Subscribe to his

This is a good book about overcoming fear and procrastination.  While the last 1/3 of the book is all fluff, it’s still a worth while read. It’s available in the Knox County Public Library System.

Creative Non-Fiction Storytelling

My First Mistake by Simon Winchester  This funny, creepy, and kind of gross story is an excellent example of a writer’s voice, use of description, and humor. My goal is to someday take this story apart to try to figure out how the writer pulled this off with such panache.

Editing Tips

I read this excellent article at least once a month: 7 Simple Edits That Make Your Writing 100% More Powerful.

Reflections on good opening sentences:

1.This writer’s opening sentence was found in her second paragraph. The two highlighted sentences became her first paragrah in the edited version of this article.

On a regular basis these past seven months I have found myself in situations that I never thought I would be in. In my free time I try to frequent the same places where homeless people do in order to build relationships with some of the people who live on the streets of Knoxville.  Alongside fellow photographer and Amplifier volunteer, Adam Scott, I have made it a habit to interact with our homeless community here in Knoxville. I want to know the people who are not confined by society’s structure and work on the same street I do. I want to share the experiences of those in our community who call the streets of Knoxville home.

Talking to people who live and work on the streets is easy because they are normally the first one to initiate the conversation. Maybe you have been asked the same questions by complete strangers that I have in and around downtown Knoxville. I have been asked for money, food, and help in situations that I know nothing about. Instead of quickly walking away and avoiding eye contact, I pull out my camera.

2. Compare the before and after opening paragraphs:


If you’re a performer, there’s a moment when you’re ready to put your “stuff “out there.  The “stuff” you’ve thought out, sometimes wrote down or sketched out and probably rehearsed one or 100 times; and until that time you share it with others, it’s like a child gestating in the womb waiting to greet the world.  For some of us, the birth of that new “stuff” comes in the form of a rehearsal in front of others or an audition or a work shopping of a piece where you get feedback from your peers.  For others…there’s a more daring form of live birth, one that exposes everyone who’s there to see it to the possibility of complete joy when the delivery is successful and stress free or to the possibility of tragedy and complications…the OPEN MIC.


We are a tough crowd folks, on a good or a bad night.

There is nowhere to hide behind a microphone, especially for a comedian. If you want to see live art in action – to feel everything from joy to pain – a comedy open mic night is the place you need to be.

NOTE: The sentences in the edited version were found near the end of her article. If you don’t like the beginning of your first draft, look at the end of your draft. A beautiful beginning may be waiting for you.


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