Cully Abrell and The Tahitian Room

This past Saturday, April 16, the KWA (Kansas Writer’s Association) used a road trip to hold their monthly meeting. A barn that has been turned into a bar called The Tahitian Room with eclectic garage sale collectibles in Peck, KS was the site.

The host was Cully Abrell, born James Clayton Abrell. He is former actor and screenwriter (with movie credits found on IMDB.COM), who holds a Master’s in Dramatics from SIU (without the benefit of a high school diploma) and was a former professor of Dramatics at Friends University. To call him a character is missing half of his charm. He is an inveterate story-teller.

His wife, Sue, seemed to be more than a match for him and she was the ultimate hostess. (She took pleasure in showing me a 4x Hawaiian shirt that she was tailoring for a friend. It had a black background with an intricate pattern. She also liked my salmon Polynesian lady shirt from

I arrived early and was treated to the best dry Beefeater martini that I have ever had in my life. (And I should know.) He used a twist of red grapefruit in the shaker and placed the glasses in the freezer to chill them before pouring. His back was turned to me while he was preparing them so I couldn’t tell how much (if any) vermouth he used. Other members filtered in; a food and snack table was set up; there were stories of the last time many of the longer-standing members visited; and several great anecdotes.

Despite the ambiance and decor, we did actually have a meeting. The primary theme was on dialogue. Despite the fact that Cully’s main focus had been theater, he provided several examples of the importance of dialogue in fiction. One phrase that he used was “Skip to the next line.” In regular real-life conversation, everything that is said would wind up being boring or unimportant in a sequence in a fictional story. By skipping to the next line, you are getting to the real dramatic meat and pushing the story forward.

Two other comments he made struck me as being key definitions in regard to the craft of writing. He said that Humor was the Unexpected without danger but that Terror was the Unexpected with danger. And finally, Technique is what you do; Style is how you do it.

Cully is 84 and quite deaf but his voice is clear and resonant. His mind is sharper than the proverbial tack. He invited us back for another meeting much sooner than the time KWA was out there 10 years ago.

For the camaraderie, for the insight, and, yes, for the martinis, I couldn’t agree more.


  1. Rosemary Fithian said,

    July 19, 2012 at 3:12 pm

    I knew Cully and Sue many years ago when I taught English at Friends University. It was so good to know they are still kicking. We had some good times.


    • H.B. Berlow said,

      July 19, 2012 at 6:35 pm

      That was a cool gig. Right up my alley. And the man still had a thing or two to pass on to writers in terms of dialogue and character. I hope I get the pleasure again.


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