Of writing retreats and strippers

Got your attention, didn’t I? And truly, the reference to strippers is germane. We’ll get to it in a minute. But first the retreat – in this case, the second annual Creel (an adaptation of Choteau Retreat for Excellence in Literature) gathering outside Choteau, Montana. 

It’s the brainchild of journalists Bill Oram, who covers the Utah Jazz at the Salt Lake Tribune, and Alex Sakariassen of the Missoula Independent, and this year included returnees Aaron Falk (also a Trib sportswriter), University of Utah journalism professor Matthew LaPlante, Jamie Rogers (until recently of the Independent), Camilla Mortensen of the Eugene Weekly , and – through some wonderful stroke of luck – me

The long weekend of critiquing, hiking, and critiquing some more amid some of the best scenery on the planet underscored yet again for me why it’s so important for writers to find community. For me, few things are more inspiring and energizing than talking about writing with other people who truly care about it. My son, Sean Breslin, detailed the philosophy far better than I in a recent blog post of his own:

“… You realize how lucky you are to be sitting at a table with other people who care enough to give up their evenings so they can help you improve your writing, and how much talent and sincerity go into every comment and every critique and piece submitted to the group.”Mmm, Butte pasties

Then there’s the practical stuff. Here’s where we get to the strippers, more particularly, pasties, and not the Butte kind (edible, and pronounced pass-ties, anyway). I’m working on a novel set in the North Dakota oil patch. You can’t write about the patch without including strip bars – at least, I sure can’t. I’d included what I thought was a pretty clever detail, a young woman applying pasties shaped like yellow hard hats to her impossibly large and very fake breasts.

 Someone posed the question: “Are strippers in North Dakota required to wear pasties?”

Ummm. In my very limited experience (for newspaper stories! Really!), all strippers wear pasties. A quick check of the smartphones by the Creel crew revealed just how limited that experience was. No pasties required, at least not in North Dakota.

It seems like a little detail. But my feeling is that getting a detail like that wrong can undermine an entire book. The minute a reader stops trusting you, you’re sunk. So out with the pasties. And thanks, Creel crew, for the addition of bare breasts to my new novel.




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