Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Willamette Writers Author Series Features Crispin Young


Willamette Writers Author Series:

Crispin Young


The Willamette Writers Author series continues with Crispin Young speaking about her novel, Heart of the Current</b>.

From Amazon:

Annie is having one of those days: two hours late to work, hung over, and grouchy. As a video game designer, she is used to creating perfect worlds, but lately she's noticed a darkness creeping in to hers. She feels her life spinning wildly out of balance. Just as she is beginning to wonder how much more she can handle, an emergency broadcast alert tells her that America is under nuclear attack. As she frantically plans her escape, she wakes up in Tahldia, the strangely familiar world from her video game. When a scarred and grizzled knight, Hakayatas, saves her from a zombie attack, Annie has no choice but to team up with him to discover her destiny.

The Google+ Hangout interview with Ann can be found on the Willamette Writers YouTube page.

Born and raised in Texas, Crispin Young grew up on a steady diet of video games, comic books, cartoons, and watching Star Trek with her dad.

In 2001, she wandered off to the northwest in search of adventure, and received her degrees in Journalism and Environmental Studies from the University of Oregon.

One night when she was a college freshman, she looked up at the thick blanket of stars above her campfire and saw the characters of Tahldia clearly in her mind. The memories and creative inspiration of that evening followed her like a shadow through the next eight years, evolving and growing into an enormous, bittersweet trilogy.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

As Above, So Below, And Plot Above All


As Above, So Below, And Plot Above All

by Bill Johnson

This movie offers a good example of what happens when a movie is mostly plot with very little story. Story, in most successful Hollywood films, revolves around a character who embodies some issue of human need, with the character set in motion to resolve that issue by a story's plot.

As Above, So Below takes just a few moments to introduce something that drives the main character, a young woman, who has conflicted feelings about her father's suicide, and seconds to introduce the young man who helps her and his unresolved guilt over a younger brother's death. Then it's off to the crypts under Paris and about 30 minutes of a group of people trying to find a hidden chamber. There are a few 'boo' moments, but mostly its just more of the same as minor characters die in turn.

Toward the end of the film, the young woman comes across the hanging body of her father and she reconciles with him by hugging his hanging corpse. Her helper, also in a few moments, reconciles with his dead younger brother.

What drives these characters is resolved in seconds, leaving in its wake people walking through tunnels, crawling through tunnels, or running through tunnels, with the minor characters dying at a predictable rate.

The Descent, a film about some women cave diving, showed how this kind of plot could be in the service of a story.

It's oft repeated that a film generally needs to have a main character the audience chooses to feel invested in or care about. Films can violate that if they offer something else. As Above, So Below doesn't.

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Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Mystery Author Bill Cameron Speaks about Character Development September 2nd, PDX



On Tuesday, September 2nd, at the Old Church in downtown Portland, Willamette Writers welcomes local author Bill Cameron who will talk with the membership about his approach to character development.

Bill is the author of the gritty mysteries "County Line" (Tyrus Books, 2011), "Day One" (Tyrus Books, 2010), "Chasing Smoke" (Bleak House Books, 2008) and "Lost Dog" (Midnight Ink, 2007) - featuring irascible Portland homicide cop Skin Kadash. In a starred-review of the 2012 Spotted Owl Award-winning "County Line", Publishers Weekly said, "Contemporary sharp-edged noir doesn't get much better than Cameron's mournful novel featuring ex-cop Skin Kadash." Library Journal called it ... "A perfect fit for Archie Mayor and William Kent Krueger fans."

Bill plans to discuss his approach to character development by sharing anecdotes and specific techniques he uses to dig into characters "who are the most difficult". "Character development", says Cameron, "is not about likeability, or relatability, or sympathy - it's about empathy. As writers we must understand not only a character's traits, interests, needs and desires, but what they value and how they see themselves. We must be capable armchair psychologists, recognizing in our characters not only what they recognize in themselves, but what they're incapable of recognizing in themselves. And we need to do this for all of them, heroes and villains alike. If anything, the characters we find the most loathsome are the ones we must work hardest to understand and to portray fairly."

Bill tweets at twitter.com/bcmystery. He's a member of Friends of Mystery, Sisters-in-Crime, and International Thriller Writers, and serves on the Board of the Mystery Writers of America. For still more information on Bill Cameron, please visit http://bill-cameron.com/.

We hope you'll join us at the Old Church on Tuesday, September 2nd. As always, the doors open at 6:30 and the meeting gets underway promptly at 7:00 pm.

Meeting Information

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Bill Johnson Offers Workshop at Write on the Sound

Write on the Sound (WOTS) is a unique, high quality, affordable conference focusing on the craft of writing. Over 30 workshops and panel discussions are presented for all levels and interests, including valuable information regarding today's publishing industry. A limited admission of 275 attendees makes WOTS the perfect place to spark your creativity, share ideas and network with other writers.

Now in its 29th year, WOTS attracts presenters and participants from all over the Northwest, the U.S. and from abroad. Plenty of free time is available to explore the picturesque community of Edmonds, located right on the Puget Sound.

This year's conference highlights are:

* Pre-conference full-day and half-day workshops and sessions
* Over 30 regular conference workshops and panel discussions
* Manuscript critiques
* A writing contest (this year's theme is "Catch")
* An evening with film critic Robert Horton on Friday October 3rd
* Keynote speaker Robert J. Sawyer on Saturday October 4th
* Round table topic discussions during Sunday October 5th lunch hour
* Presentation by illustrator and author Robyn Chance on Sunday October 5th

Willamette Writers members Bill Johnson and Clark Kohanek will be teaching workshops. Bill's workshop is the problems that arise when an author make's a novel's main character an extension of the author's issues in life. Bill will also be doing manuscript critiques as part of the conference.

Registration

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Nye Beach Writers Series Presents... Sandra Stone

Nye Beach Writers Series Presents...

An Evening with: Sandra Stone author of Cocktails with Brueghel at the Museum Café

August 16, 2014 - 7pm at the Newport Visual Arts Center

$6 admission, students free

Sandra Stone is a visual and conceptual artist as well as a poet, playwright and author of literary fiction and nonfiction. She has received many awards, and more than 35 commissions from major architectural firms to create art for both public interiors and the landscape. She describes her work as "creating metaphor for space through architectural concepts, context, and literary text." Her books include Cocktails with Brueghel at the Museum Café; her plays include POof, An Imperfect Place to Dispose of Files; Yes, Out; and What Everything Is.

OPEN MIC The Writers' Series open mic will take place following intermission. Audience members are encouraged to read, sing, or recite original work for up to five minutes. Open mic slots are available to the first 10 writers who sign up. No pre-registration required.

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Four novels and a single-author collection of stories are finalists for the Endeavour Award. The 2014 Award will be the sixteenth year for the Endeavour, which comes with an honorarium of $1,000.00. The winner will be announced November 7, 2014, at OryCon, Oregon's major science fiction convention. The finalists are: "King of Swords" by Dave Duncan (47North), "Meaning of Luff," a collection of stories by Matthew Hughes (Create Space); "Nexus" by Ramez Naam (Angry Robot); "Protector" by C.J. Cherryh (DAW Books); and "Requiem" by Ken Scholes (Tor Books). The Endeavour Award honors a distinguished science fiction or fantasy book, either a novel or a single-author collection, created by a writer living in the Pacific Northwest. All entries are read and scored by seven readers randomly selected from a panel of preliminary readers. The five highest scoring books then go to three judges, who are all professional writers or editors from outside of the Pacific Northwest.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Author's Road Interviews Cara Black



By our very nature, we are storytellers. And most of us have experienced going to someplace new and hearing a story we thought would make a great poem, short story, novel, maybe a movie. Perhaps we’d note it in our journal, re-tell it to a friend, and sometimes go that one more step and draft the story.
Our latest interviewee, bestselling mystery writer, Cara Black, went all the way. It required several years, dozens of classes and critique groups, reams of drafts, but she managed to write a novel about a mystery in her favorite city, Paris, solved by her heroine, Aimée Leduc and Aimée's friends.

Since that first novel Cara has managed each year to add a new, compelling mystery centered in different neighborhoods (arrondissements) inside The City of Light. She’s now published her fourteenth novel in the bestselling series, and she is working on mapping out her future works.

We were thrilled when she agreed to meet with us in her home overlooking San Francisco. And we were even more excited when towards the end of the interview she shared a literary surprise that spans across the series of her novels.

But have no fear, this isn’t a spoiler alert. You have to watch the interview to learn what it is.

George, Salli & Ella

Next Up: Bestselling popular science writer (and lecturer), Mary Roach

Thanks for . . .

. . . joining us . . .

. . . on the road!

Monday, July 7, 2014

Remembering a Story's Details



In the July 2014 issue of Discovery Magazine (Hold That Thought, p 30-33), scientist Elizabeth Phelps, a past president of the Association for Psychological Science and a psychologist at New York University, is interviewed about memory. She speaks in the article that recalling memories shows activation in two parts of the brain. Recalling details about ‘physical locations and layouts’ activates the posterior parahipocampus. When we recall the feelings associated with memories, ‘we see more amygdala involvement.’

In tests, Phelps found that ‘we’re set up to capture time and place.’ That makes it easier to recall such details, an evolutionary advantage.

When I work with struggling authors, I often find a focus on those details and much less a focus on the feelings of characters. I believe the way our brain functions makes it easier for new writers to come up with those details. Such a focus risks becoming tedious, however, reducing a story to a series of descriptions of events. I call this writing style ‘watch the movie and write down the details.’

A bigger problem with this style of writing is that readers often access a story’s characters through the feelings events generate. To leave out those feelings denies readers a prime entry point into a character’s inner life and goals. This is especially true when a main character becomes a kind of automaton, recording visual details.

To help such writers, I have them write out beside each paragraph the feelings of the main character in the scene and how the events of the scene impact and change that character’s feelings. If those feelings don’t change, nothing has happened in the scene to impact the character and, generally, not the reader, either.

The subtle trap here is that those situations and places might evoke feelings in the author, which makes them symbolic to the author and meaningless to the reader, evoking nothing (except perhaps irritation).

All hugely successful stories are journeys of feeling for readers, supported by details of time and place. If you’re telling a story, take care to convey those feelings in a way your readers can share the story journey.

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