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Hansen: The death of fiction in Laguna

February 19, 2014|By David Hansen | By David Hansen
  • Writer Terry Black of Mission Viejo reads during the last DimeStories event held at the Laguna Culinary Arts. The group is moving to Costa Mesa.
Writer Terry Black of Mission Viejo reads during the last… (David Hansen, Coastline…)

Short story fiction died recently in a Laguna Beach wine cellar.

The city quietly lost another part of its artistic culture when the fiction writers group DimeStories relocated to Costa Mesa. Its last monthly meeting was held Feb. 9 in the wine room of Laguna Culinary Arts.

The reason? Well, like all good fiction, it's somewhat complicated, nuanced and dependant on your point of view.

Known nationally for its three-minute short stories and open mic readings, DimeStories started in San Diego in 2004 and then branched out to Laguna in 2008.

The local group never grew very large — maybe a couple dozen at most — but there was always a loyal core of writers. Most of them lived outside of Laguna, which was part of the problem.

They didn't like fighting Laguna traffic.

"I'd say at least half or more were commuting in and they struggled with parking," said Laguna resident Michele McCormick, a former group leader. "It was just really challenging to get into Laguna. These were the people who were advocating moving it to Costa Mesa. They felt it would be much more accessible and possibly have a greater outreach to more folks in Orange County."

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The group drew people from San Clemente, Huntington Beach, Santa Ana and Lake Forest, among other cities.

Meredith Resnick of Irvine was the first leader of the Laguna chapter. While she agreed traffic was sometimes tough, there were other challenges.

"It takes a lot of concerted and creative energy to keep the group running and also keep it relevant and current," she said. "I started it because I felt like I really wanted a community. But some people don't come for the community. They come to have people tell them their work is good. It's that simple."

Full disclosure: I participated in the Laguna DimeStories shortly after it started. I did it largely for one reason: to improve my public speaking skills.

But it didn't work.

After nearly a year of reading my stories, all white-knuckled and croaky, I was worse than when I started. It was humiliating.

However, what I did learn was the value of keeping a story to three minutes — or about as long as this column.

"People bring different things," said Resnick, who often worried about how to keep the group viable. "I wanted to meet other writers and make friends who were writers and do stuff together.

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