San Luis Obispo Technical & Business Communicators

April 23, 2012 Event Summary

“Is Creative Writing the Technical Writer's Playground?”

This highly engaging, often humorous, and mesmerizing exploration into the imaginative worlds of SLO NightWriters members revealed to us what it might be like to explore our passions by writing about creative subjects of our choice.

This was a "cross-pollination" learning opportunity for technical and business communicators who have ever wondered, "Do I have strong creative, analytical, research-oriented, or educational writing interests that extend beyond my daily work? Can I possibly redeploy my skills as a business or technical communicator to become a fiction or non-fiction author? Can I keep my day job and pursue writing projects in my spare time, or learn to write as play? Is it a fun retirement hobby? What's new in today's self-publishing world? How should I choose my topics? What markets can I tap? What advice, mentoring, encouragement, and guidance are available to me?"

To help answer these questions, the SLO NightWriters, Central Coast's premier writing organization since 1988, offered time-tested advice and success stories of how its members have done exactly those things. The four-person panel delved deeply into the following topics:

Topic 1: Fiction writing as enjoyment for technical writers

Leonard Carpenter, a technical writer and accounting specialist by day, is the author of the thriller e-book, Fatal Strain; and for eleven books (and counting), Conan the Barbarian’s faithful scribe. With even more fiction on the way, Leonard explained how he employs self-publishing and online-marketing services, such as Smashwords and Amazon's Kindle Prime program, to promote his e-books to his fans. The price points he most often uses on these sites are about $2.99–$3.99.

Topic 2: Fiction as a retirement activity

Anne Schroeder and Susan Tuttle offered several inspiring ideas for creating writing opportunities around travel, history, and documenting the interests and adventures of friends, spouses, or family members. They recommend taking a notepad everywhere, especially to eating establishments, where one can record interesting snippets of surrounding conversation and then combine them into an intriguing story.

Topic 3: The SLO NightWriters as a writing community

SLO NightWriters provide writing encouragement, support, and critique groups; sponsor contests; and showcase authors’ work. See more at

Topic 4: Blending technical with fiction opportunities

Former actor and author Tony Piazza shared several ways in which his unusual blend of acting and scientific experience conspires to produce riveting characters and plots. Tony's sage advice was to draw from real-life situations and people to infuse your stories with realistic details. Details can come from many different quarters — not limited to any one persona, theme, field, or industry. The key is to mix them up in a "creative blender" with just enough realism to make your story seem credible and authentic.

Topic 5: Memoir writing, and researched historicals use technical skills

Anne Schroeder, an award-winning, published author of short fiction, regional memoirs Ordinary Aphrodite and Branches on the Conejo, and a publication-pending historical novel trilogy set in the Central Coast, shared several of her creative character-development techniques. Anne draws on material from her upbringing, day-to-day observations, and travels to craft the tales she weaves into her novels. She suggests building the courage to tackle bold subject matter, but also recommends approaching those subjects realistically by marketing the work to the right audiences. Visit Anne's blog here.

Anne's favorite quote: "Non-fiction is about facts; fiction is about truth." This idea refers to the way fiction enables us to relate on a deep, interpersonal level to many of life's universal experiences and emotions.

Topic 6: Using life experience in writing with anecdotes from Hollywood

Former actor and author Tony Piazza highlighted his thespian experiences with legends such as Steve McQueen, Paul Newman, Clint Eastwood, and Karl Malden and explained how he ultimately transformed those experiences into mysteries such as Anything Short of Murder and The Curse of the Crimson Dragon.

Topic 7: Right-brain writing

Susan Tuttle, award-winning author of Tangled Webs, presented a fast-paced, imagination-spurring activity from her popular e-book series on creativity, Write It Right. A special highlight of the evening, this 10-minute exercise challenged the audience to creatively juxtapose a randomly selected character and a randomly selected quirky characteristic. Afterward, the attendees compared notes on the wildly creative situations they constructed. Visit Susan's blog here.

See below to access some event handouts and resources...

Downloads & Resources

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Download presentation handouts:

Other useful resources:

These are additional recommendations from attendee Gretchen Henkel:

Event Facilitators:

Leonard Carpenter, Anne Schroeder, Tony Piazza, and Susan Tuttle are members of the SLO NightWriters, the premier writing organization on the Central Coast of California. Founded as a non-profit in 1988, its mission is to advance quality writing, promote publication, and expand author recognition in a forum that nurtures a spirit of community for all its members. Members are both published and unpublished; they write literary fiction, genre fiction, poetry, memoir, nonfiction, newspaper and magazine articles, and much more. Many must arrange their schedules in imaginative ways to create their stories, such as during nighttime's quiet hours. Hence the organization's name, SLO NightWriters.

SLO TBC usually holds its events on the 4th Monday of the month from October through June. We generally take a break over the summer and resume in the fall. For more information, please contact us.