Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Willamette Writers Authors at Orycon38

Three Willamette Writers members will be featured on panels at Orycon38, a regional science fiction and fantasy convention November 18-20th at the Portland Marriott hotel.

Karen L Azinger is the author of the medieval epic fantasy The Silk & Steel Saga. For fans of Martin's Game of Thrones comes an action-packed fantasy with stunning female leads.

William Hertling is the author of Avogadro Corp, A.I. Apocalypse, The Last Firewall, and The Turing Exception. His most recent novel is Kill Process, a techno thriller about our modern surveillance society.

David D. Levine is the author of novel Arabella of Mars (Tor 2016) and over fifty science fiction and fantasy stories. His story “Tk’Tk’Tk” won the Hugo Award, and he has been shortlisted for awards including the Hugo, Nebula, Campbell, and Sturgeon.

Diana Gill, an executive editor at Tor/Forge/Tor Teen, will be at the conference speaking on panels.

For more information visit Cost to attend is $60.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

"Unlock your Creativity" with Eric Witchey

Are you unsatisfied with how long it takes you to edit a chapter? Do you have trouble meeting deadlines, or polishing your work to perfection? Join us at the Old Church this November 1st for a creativity discussion with award-winning author Eric Witchey.

Every writer has a production pace at which they are most comfortable, but few writers are satisfied with their pace. Some need to speed up in order to get more material out and hit deadlines. Others need to slow down in order to find deeper richness in their characters and prose. However, most end up defaulting to their natural pace.

That's where Eric Witchey comes in. The author of over 100 short stories, 4 novels, and many non-fiction and ghost titles, Witchey knows how to dive into creativity. He has been recognized by Writer's Digest, Writers of the Future, Short Story America, and many other organizations and his writing How-To articles have appeared in The Writer Magazine and Writer's Digest Magazine, among others. E

Learn More at

Friday, September 30, 2016

Broadway Books Announce a Pre-Halloween Celebration

Broadway Books is pleased to announce a spooky pre-Halloween celebration featuring several contributors reading from the new anthology City of Weird: 30 Otherworldly Portland Tales on Tuesday, October 25th at 7 pm.

Edited by Gigi Little and published by Portland’s own Forest Avenue Press, City of Weird conjures up what we fear: death, darkness, and ghosts; hungry sea monsters and alien slime molds; blood drinkers and game show hosts. Set in Portland, these thirty original stories blend imagination, literary writing, and pop culture into a cohesive weirdness that honors the city’s personality, its bookstores and bridges and solo volcano, as well as the tradition of sci-fi pulp magazines.

Curated by Gigi Little and including such authors as Rene Denfeld, Justin Hocking, Leni Zumas, Suzy Vitello, and Kevin Sampsell, this collection is quirky, often chilling, at times surprisingly profound -- and always perfectly weird.

This event is free and open to the public. Find out more at

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Science Fiction and Fantasy Convention Orycon November 18th - 20th in Portland

Have you registered for Orycon yet? It's only a month away. Get your membership now and save. It's only $60 for a full weekend of fun. Panels, Dances, Art Show, Dealers, Costume Contests and a Hospitality suite(free food!!). You won't get a deal like this anywhere else!

Oh, and did we mention we have childcare and children's programming. ... See More

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Literary Agent Fiona Kenshole Speaks to Willamette Writers

On Tuesday, October 4th, 2016, at the Historic Old Church in downtown Portland, Willamette Writers hosts literary agent Fiona Kenshole. She’ll speak about Understanding Children’s and YA Markets.

Fiona is a literary agent with the Transatlantic Agency, exclusively specializing in children’s books, from debuts to film deals. She is an accredited member of the Association of Authors’ Representatives, representing picture books through young adult. Fiona enjoys the editorial midwifery and career management part of being an agent, especially nurturing the creativity of her clients. She maintains close relationships with editors and publishers in New York, London, and Toronto, and film producers and agents in LA.

Join us at the Old Church on October 4th on the corner of SW 11th and Clay to learn more about the dynamic world of YA and the children’s book market from a literary agent. Doors open at 6:30 pm and Fiona speaks at 7 pm. The meeting is free to members of Willamette Writers and $5 for guests.

Learn more at

Friday, September 2, 2016

Enlisting an Audience Into a Cause, notes on Florence Foster Jenkins

The set up for this film is that Florence Foster Jenkins (played by Meryl Streep) is a wealthy patron of the arts who also believes she has a talent for singing opera. Based on a true story, the film set in 1944 shows how Florence's husband, played by Hugh Grant, maneuvers to protect her from the reality of what the public would think about her singing, let alone music critics.

This process tends to work based on Florence funding a Verdi club of society matrons who are mostly partially deaf and partly along for the free lunches she provides (heavy on the potato salad). Her husband bribes the occasional small paper music critic, and some well-known opera people of the time are happy to accept her donations in return for keeping their opinions about her singing to themselves and instead praising her love of opera and her passion to sing.

All seems lost when she rents Carnegie Hall for a performance attended mostly by serviceman and one big New York paper music critic.

The underlying story point I want to make is that the film enlists the audience to feel invested in Hugh Grant protecting Florence's idea that she is an accomplished singer. Once the audience is drawn in to care about this, the drama of the story becomes (to the degree a viewer enjoys this kind of film) intensified.

Enlisting the audience (whether viewer or reader) in the cause of some story character is one of the prime functions of storytelling. Yes, in this era of anti-heroes, an audience can be lead to care about all kinds of outcomes for all kinds of characters, but in many stories the goal of the storyteller is to enlist the audience in the outcome for a main character.

Fail at that, or fail to enlist the audience as quickly as possible, and a story is unengaging, uncompelling.

In most cases, readers and viewers move on to become enlisted in a more compelling narrative.

Its a very basic question I have as a reader/viewer, do I care what happens next to this person?

Following, an early film by Christopher Nolan, is a fiendishly clever thriller that doesn't ask us to care about the main character. The film will probably never appeal to large audiences (or even many small ones) because the story never asks us to care what happens to the main character.

Every storyteller writing for a general audience should be able to answer the question, why should my audience care about what happens to my main character?

When I ask struggling storytellers this question, they often have no answer. Which is a big reason they are struggling.


To read some of my longer reviews of popular movies, check out my writing workbook, A Story is a Promise & The Spirit of Storytelling, available on Amazon's Kindle and Barnes and Noble's Nook.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Writing Literary Fiction, Notes on The Small Backs of Children

I teach that genre fiction is a roller coaster ride, while literary fiction asks, 'why do people ride roller coasters?'

That said, the underlying mechanics of storytelling are the same for both types of fiction. The opening pages to Lidia Yuknavitch's The Small Backs of Children demonstrates this.

The first chapter is titled The Girl

First line...

   One winter night when she is no longer a child, the girl walks outside, her arms     cradling a self, her back to a house not her own but some other.

The Prime Directive of a first sentence of a novel is that a reader is pulled forward/drawn forward to read a second sentence.

Breaking down this opening sentence...

   One winter night when she is no longer a child...

A clever way to ask, why is the story starting now with this girl who is no longer a child? What happened to her when she was a child (this potentially relates to the title of the book).

   ...the girl walks outside, her arms cradling a self.

Wonderful, mysterious language. I'm intrigued. How/why does she cradle her self. This suggests a story about self.

   ...her back to a house not her own but some other.

But if she's outside this house, the question is, why? Does her self she carries not identify with this house?

   It is a year after the blast that atomized her entire family in front of her eyes.

Powerful image, intriquing question. Who killed her family in such a fashion? Why? How did she survive?

   She is six.

This is something concrete about the girl. Notice it came after the more intriguing language.

Struggling writers often begin a story with a collection of concrete details that have no context. They quickly become a burden a reader must carry forward until the details serve some story purpose.

First I'm led to want to know more about the girl, then I get a small piece of that information.

   It is a house she has lived in with a widow woman who took
   her in – orphan of war, girl of nothingness.

We're getting more concrete information here, but it also conveys questions: what war? Why is she a 'girl of nothingness?'

Yuknavitch's first paragraph has a lyrical expressiveness, a full command of language. Her writing conveys she is a storyteller in command of the story she is telling.


   But that night has never left is an unrelenting bruise.

Can this unrelenting bruise heal? Note how the phrase frames the question clearly.

   It's blue-black image pearling in and out of memory forever. Nor
    will it ever leave her body, the blast forever injuring her spine, a sliver of metal
    piercing her and entering her, so that all her life she will carry that
    moment between her vertebrae.

If her wound was uncomplicated, something that would heal, something that could be left behind, it would risk not marking her as a character who could carry the dramatic weight and force to carry the story forward.

She is a deeply wounded character, the kind of character a novel needs.

Next lines and new paragraph...

   And then her mind moves to the moment of the blast,
   the singular fire lighting up the face of her father,
   her mother, first white, then orange and blue, then black,
   then nothing, her head swiveled by the force of the
   blow away from them. This does not frighten her.
   what used to be nightmares transformed into color and light,
   it is with her now. Lifelong companion. Still life of a
   dead family.

Again, wonderful, lyrical language that also offers more detail about what happened to the girl.

A wonderful opening to The Small Backs of Children.


To read some of my longer reviews of popular movies, check out my writing workbook, A Story is a Promise & The Spirit of Storytelling, available on Amazon's Kindle and Barnes and Noble's Nook.