Last Quarter For Yakima Writers

As the operator of this and several other websites, I’ve decided I need to minimize the amount of online work I’ve made for myself.  I’ve been using this site as part of a Feature Writing class at Yakima Valley Community College for the last couple of years.  We’ve recently found a new instructor who works for the Yakima Herald and I’ll be taking a break from teaching Feature Writing for awhile.

This will be the last quarter I use this site as part of my feature writing class.  I’ll simply be using this site as a place to link to students’ blogs and for students to have as a resource for their assignments.  There will no longer be student writing posted here.  I found that teaching a class including blogging is filled with technical glitches and eliminating student posts here helps to eliminate the possibility of extra technical glitches that are time consuming for me as an instructor.  Students will still operate and maintain their own blogs.

In the future, when I teach the Feature Writing course and the new Social Media and Online Writing course I will use my own blog,, simply to link to students’ blogs.  After the completion of Spring Quarter I will be closing this site down.

If you know anyone who would be interested in acquiring the site please contact me @

I’ve enjoyed operating and using this site to enhance student learning, but need to step away from the upkeep of multiple websites.

Thanks to all who have participated.


Dan Erickson’s Course

Yakima Writers blog is sometimes used as part of a Feature Writing class at Yakima Valley Community College.

Dan Erickson’s Course:

Course Description: This course focuses on nonfiction article writing.  The course covers a variety of techniques of writing, editing, and manuscript preparation.  The course will also study methods of shopping and selling feature articles.  In addition, students will learn the basic functions of creating and maintaining a blog.

Textbooks and materials for this class may vary from quarter to quarter.

Course Outcomes:

1. Write with the intent of creating publishable magazine/Internet articles.

2. Improve writing and editing skills.

3. Improve research and interviewing skills.

4. Learn how to submit articles for publication.

5. Learn the basics of creating, using, and maintaining a blog.

Course Schedule:

Week 1

Week 2

Week 3

Week 4

Week 5

Week 6

Week 7

Week 8

Week 9

Week 10

Final: TBA


The Art of Feature Writing

An Article About Place

An Article About A Person

An Article For A Target Market

Weekly Blog Prompts

Small Group Presentations

Fall, 2013

It’s fall quarter, 2013 at Yakima Valley Community College.  I’m experimenting with using the Yakima Writers website as a tool for teaching a feature writing class.

I’ve added about 20 names as links under the heading Feature Writers in the sidebar.  These links take you to students’ blogs.

Over the next couple of months, students will be posting some of their work on these sites.  At the end of the quarter, each student will choose their favorite article and post it on the Yakima Writers site.

In the future, I may also post assignments and other course information.  Stay tuned!


This summer I hope to do some updates on Yakima Writers to prepare the site for use with my Feature Writing classes at Yakima Valley Community College.  Check back for progress.


A recent trip to my home stomping grounds in and around Calgary, Alberta garnered a number of new poems. This was one of them. I hope it speaks to you.

In supine repose she reaches out

with verdant arms of brown and yellow-green,

to clasp her bony fingers in sensuous release

with the vertical horizon.

Skies, gray and whole, play ninety degree tug-o’-war

with grass, prickly hay and knobby-need shrubbery -

rough ‘n tumble farm stubble.

Short shacks and weathered barns

pimple her broad back

alive with promise of more.

Suggesting we but see,

she insists upon her miles-wide self.

Sometimes she sleeps and forfeits life,

longing for heaven’s lusty drool.

This long land has much to speak,

her hard, crusted lips pursed

to kiss only those who see her -

and hold their breath.


Four Quick Tips for the Rewrite

I originally posted this article on June 6, 2012 on one of my other sites: The article covers a few basic pointers for rewriting a story. It’s based on my own experiences in rewriting my books and my education in communication.  I hope you find the article helpful. – de

It’s been about a month since I completed the first draft of my second book, At the Crossing of Justice and Mercy.  I usually let the first draft sit four to eight weeks before I rewrite.  This allows me to look at the work with fresh eyes and new perspective.  There are many important factors to consider when rewriting.  Here are four quick tips:

1.  Make sure your story makes sense.  Look for any pieces of information that either don’t belong or are not resolved later in the story and get rid of them or resolve them.  Add information only if it’s needed to help the story make sense, or for emotional impact.

2.  Get rid of little errors.  Whether they are errors of fact, typos, misspelled words, or poor grammar, they must go.  Don’t depend on spell check.  Use your eyes.  Pay close attention to punctuation around dialogue.  It’s easy to forget a quotation mark or comma when your on a  roll.  Be vigilant.

3.  Reduce the clutter.  I always tell my writing students that most writers use too many words.  Many sentences have too many adjectives, adverbs, and prepositions that don’t add anything to the story.  Cut ‘em.

4.  Verbalize.  As you rewrite, look at your choice of verbs.  Change plain verbs to verbs that zing whenever possible.  Often, finding the right verb helps to minimize the words in a given sentence.  Read your work out loud.  In my first book A Train Called Forgiveness I purposefully wrote for the voice.  We don’t speak in long, winding sentences and paragraphs.  We speak in short, simple sentences and phrases.  Keep your writing concise.

Another excerpt from: A Train Called Forgiveness

This excerpt is from the chapter titled “Of Love and Loyalty.”  I was only a teenager when this took place in reality, but I was able to recreate the gist of what happened.  The leader of the group created his own sort of communion.  In this scene the fictional leader, Peter Smith asks for his followers devout loyalty.


In the summer of 1977, Peter held a special meeting.  He came with his Bible, a bottle of wine, and a silver chalice.

He preached about Jesus’ disciples.  He spoke tenderly, with a soft, kind voice.  He spoke of the disciples’ love and loyalty for Jesus, their teacher.

He compared us, his followers, to the disciples.  He compared himself to Jesus.

Suddenly, Peter raised his voice.  He became angry, enraged.  He shouted loudly concerning Judas, the betrayer.  He clenched his fists, shook his hands.  Peter shouted, “In the end the betrayer dies.”  He warned us never to betray him.

Peter claimed to be a messenger, sent by God.  He swore his never-ending love to all who’d follow.  He threatened painful death to those who’d betray.

He raised his arms above his head, palms toward the sky.  He claimed he was MIchael the Archangel.  He promised paradise to those with patience.  He claimed he was the light in the darkness.

Everyone clung to his words.  Eyes filled with tears.  Their savior had come.

I sensed something wrong, something dubious.  I silently questioned Peter’s claims.  Something didn’t feel true.  I was the son of a minister.  I went to Sunday school.  I knew the Bible stories.  This wasn’t one of them.  Yes, I was only a kid, but I knew right from wrong.  This was definitely not right.

The ceremony continued.

Or was it a performance?

Peter took the silver cup and filled it with wine.

He started with those closest to him, those in power, Jared, Milt, Russell.  Each pledged absolute loyalty to Peter.  Each took an oath to uphold the goals of Paradise Farms.  Each drank from the cup.

Peter moved from row to row, member to member.  He made each member repeat after him: “My loyalty to you will follow me unto death.”  Each member drank from the cup, and Peter said, “Child, you are mine.”  He made the women kiss him on each cheek.

Every member over 16 years old pledged absolute loyalty to Peter Smith that night.  I thanked God I was only 14.

In closing, Peter said, “You’ve shared the cup.  You’ve shared my blood.  We’re eternally bound.  Remember this oath.  Go in silence.”

* * *
A Train Called Forgiveness is available at Amazon, Ibis Books, and in the Yakima area at Inklings Bookshop and the Yakima Valley Community College Bookstore.

conservatory, cellists and the blessing of un-cool

“…the glory of art is in receipt more than critique.”

Good friend and fellow blogger, Barbara Lane, has directed me to some very cool online places for inspiration, laughs, and encouragement. One site that has particularly seized my attention is Art House America. It is the brainchild of record producer, Charlie Peacock and his wife, Andi Ashworth and is staffed by more than a few stellar writers, Barb being among them as an intern. A few months ago, blogger Jennifer Strange submitted a piece entitled “Pride and Play”, which outlined her life as a classical violinist. The piece struck a chord (groan) with me. What follows is a fleshier version of my response to it.

Brava! I, like you, have lived on the edges of un-cool. I was just acceptable enough to be part of the horde of “normal” kids but too artsy and quirky to dwell among the immortals. By the time I got to high school, I was popular but certainly no A-lister. My insistent intensity wed to a host of personal oddities denied entrance among the luminaries. Who cares? I thought. I had plenty of friends and hangers on, enough to get me through the harrowing hell that high school can be. My feigned demeanor as a Bohemian philosopher-poet, indy-intellectual-wannabe coupled with low blood pressure worked against me. I was a good faker, though, and learned to converse well among those of the socialite nosebleed section.

Being a musician helped. The sense of humor bought some street cred, too. These discoveries, although transient and unstable, at least provided me sufficient groundwork upon which to build a shaky cabin of self-esteem. But, unlike many of them, I was no male debutante-in-training. Instead, I was a gangly singer adopted by a blue-collar brewery worker and housewife into a 900 square foot bungalow in oil ‘n redneck rich Calgary, Alberta.

I’m especially grateful that none of the above provided enough of an obstacle to obtaining a full scholarship to Mount Royal College Conservatory where, as a Vocal Performance major, I studied art song, oratorio, opera and the dreamy female cellists in the symphony. And, since most of our professors were symphony musicians, we would get free tickets to almost anything they played – from Faure to Brahms, Shostakovich to Prokofiev, Schoenberg to Beethoven. It was all so heady and…cool…well, except for the part where my buddies and I would fight for the best seats high above the orchestra where the best sight lines were for staring down the daring, black gowns of the cellists in question. But I digress.

I can think of no reason to regret the loss of elitist membership in favor of the sublime connection to the world’s great music. Moreover, music was the backdrop for my awakening to Christian faith after graduation from high school. For this, and your piece reminding all of us of the uniting and redemptive power of music, I can be forever grateful. Besides, why do they always get to decide what’s cool?

Yours in recitative, R

Accepting New Writers

Yakima Writers is still looking for, and accepting new writers.  You don’t have to live in Yakima to be considered, but we would like to focus on Northwest writers.  If you write poetry, prose, fiction, or nonfiction we hope you’ll consider writing for us.  It’s a great and friendly place to share your work.  You keep all the rights to your work.  In the future we hope to develop the site further and increase our presence among social media.  It could become a great place to get your writing noticed.  Please contact Dan Erickson at if you’re interested in posting your work on our site.

A Short Break for Balance

Originally posted on

I’m a firm believer in the intentional act of writing.  I write almost daily.  I write in a variety of styles.  I write as a form of therapy, a way of purging negative emotions and dealing with deep hurts.  But too much of anything can lead to trouble.

It’s important for a writer to balance his or her writing with other activities.  This includes both responsibilities and relaxation.  Keeping our lives, our families, our careers in order is an essential part of the writer’s life.  If you shirk responsibilities in favor of writing, you might wind up writing about topics you’d rather avoid.  Taking a short break from intense writing is good practice.  Take a few days to spend more time outdoors: explore, exercise and enjoy life.  Continue to write, but it’s okay to post shorter pieces.  It’s also a challenge to be more concise. Our downtime is where we get energized and develop new material.  So, take a short break for balance.