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Write On! Wax Your Board!

Encouragement, coaching, and prompts for writers

Did you know that in order to stay on a surfboard in the ocean, you need to wax the top surface to make it bumpy and tacky? Without the wax, the ocean will sweep you off your feet and off your board before you can say, “Cowabunga!” The most popular and trusted board wax is Mr. Zogs Original Sexwax, advertised as, “the best for your stick.” No kidding!

What does this have to do with writing, you may ask, and specifically with writing in the desert southwest, for gosh sake, where there are no waves to catch? Well, I’m about to tell you.

I usually associate wax with smoothness not traction. I also usually associate strong writing with smoothness not traction. I enjoy reading the work of authors who know how to lay down a sick ride (that means awesome), with no washing machines (getting rolled around underwater), or wipe outs.

Since surf wax does the opposite of what I think wax should do, I’m going to investigate the opposite of what I think writing should do. After all, our growing edge doesn’t come from playing things safe, it comes from hanging ten! (Putting both feet at the front edge of a long board with ten toes gripping over the edge.)

Keep in mind that the goal of surfing is not to be a Quimby (an annoying beginner) and grub (fall off the board). The goal is to be a Broski (either man or woman), and catch a bitchin’ (amazing) wave. Just as the goal of writing is not to be a wanna-be whose readers bail (jump off the board) on page one, but to be akaw (cool), keeping readers stocked (engaged and excited) all the way to the final page.

If our writing is too perfectly smooth, it’s like we’ve scrapped all the wax off the surface of our board. It now looks all new and shiny, but has no friction. It won’t hold a reader even in a mild swell. Too much gloss in your writing is like wearing a black tux, white dress shirt, and black tie. All well and good at a celebrity fundraiser, but out of sync in most other places.

So what’s the opposite of high gloss? How do we show up in a black tux jacket, but sporting a pink paisley shirt, turquoise bolo tie, Burmuda shorts, and red Converse Chuck Taylors, while rockin’ the reggae club? (Reminds me of Encino Man. Fun film, by the way.)

Let’s experiment with some writer’s wax. Short phrasing, odd juxtapositions, clear imagery but with unexpected twists. Let’s ditch anything remotely cliché and get tubular! Let’s see if we can wax poetic by adding some lumpy textures and allowing some jagged edges to remain from our initial drafts. Let’s curl our ten toes past the edge of expected grammatical expectations and go for the outside break, the furthest place from the shore where the waves are still breaking.

Here’s the ricos (rich) thing about waxing your board and your writing. You can only have that sick ride if you’ve waxed your stick! Without the surface friction, your gonna go into the soup (the foam, the white water).

Try this writing exercise, just for a page or two. Drop yourself into a genre in which you’ve never written. If you write memoir, try horror. (Let’s hope these two are not too similar!) If you write science fiction, try romance. If you write poetry, try murder mystery. If you’re a journalist, try poetry. Get outside of your comfort zone. Don’t start at the beginning of a story, jump right into the middle of it. Pay no attention to convention, just get stoked, stay radical, and catch that sick wave! Shaka! (That’s the cool thumb and pinky Hawaiian hand wave for hang loose.)

Dear readers, thanks so much for your enthusiastic response to Write On! The blog will continue, but is moving to a new schedule: every first Saturday of the month. Every third Saturday, look for a new post from me: Laureate’s Lemonade, a refreshing mix of poetry and prose. To receive an email when these posts go live, send me a quick note at, with “subscribe” in the subject line. I will not share your email or send any additional emails to you, just the blog post reminders. “Cowabunga!”

Eve West Bessier body boarding in San Diego, California. You can check out her website at:

Top photo: Surfer at Rio del Mar Beach, California. Credit: Eve West Bessier

The views expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Southwest Word Fiesta™ or its steering committee.

Eve West Bessier

Eve is a poet laureate emerita of Silver City and Grant County, New Mexico; and of Davis and Yolo County, California. She served on the steering committee for the Southwest Word Fiesta, and has been a festival presenter. Eve is a retired social scientist, educator, and voice coach. She is a published author, jazz vocalist, photographer and nature enthusiast currently living in Alamogordo, New Mexico.
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We respectfully acknowledge that the entirety of southwestern New Mexico is the traditional territory, since time immemorial, of the Chis-Nde, also known as the people of the Chiricahua Apache Nation. The Chiricahua Apache Nation is recognized as a sovereign Native Nation by the United States in the Treaty of Amity, Commerce, and Friendship of 1 July 1852 (10 Stat. 979) (Treaty of Santa Fe ratified 23 March 1853 and proclaimed by President Franklin Pierce 25 March 1853).

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Mimbres Press of Western New Mexico University is a traditional academic press that welcomes agented and unagented submissions in the following genres: literary fiction, creative non-fiction, essays, memoir, poetry, children’s books, historical fiction, and academic books. We are particularly interested in academic work and commercial work with a strong social message, including but not limited to works of history, reportage, biography, anthropology, culture, human rights, and the natural world. We will also consider selective works of national and global significance.