Thursday, October 2, 2014

A Path Toward Living Well, by Peter Field

On Tuesday, October 7th, at the Old Church in downtown Portland, Willamette Writers welcomes local author Sage Cohen, who will talk with the membership about how writing well can be a powerful practice toward living well.

Says Cohen, “Writing has taught me how to think, how to navigate emotion, and how to be a mother and a friend. But most importantly, writing has taught me who I am. Words are the best company I’ve ever found in the mosh pit of the heart—and in the trenches of life." She proposes that anyone who writes, whether it's poems, essays, fiction, or even business writing, has the opportunity to cultivate courage and find their most authentic way forward.

Writers strive to unlock truths with language. Ms. Cohen says she has come to appreciate that the high point of the writing life may be those decades spent "fumbling with the key" – before crossing over to that imagined arrival point.

"It is the striving that refines us as humans and writers, and every so-called success is just another foothold into the mystery. We may pause an extra beat to take in the view, pat ourselves on the back, and feel the gratitude for how hard we’ve worked. And then it's time for the next step. And the next."

This kind of momentum in writing can actually prepare us to navigate the universal human challenges. "When we are faced with unimaginable grief, confusion, loss and heartbreak," she advises, “we writers can simply write it down, and see what words come after that. We can trust the words as companions. They don’t have to be perfect or even good. They just have to land on the page, as we land in our lives. One foot, one word, after the other."

This is what makes a writing life.

Sage plans to discuss how the craft of writing can be a path of transformation. "Together, we will reconsider the challenges, rejections and limitations that every writer faces, as opportunities to grow more sure, strong and capable in life and in craft. We will explore how a commitment to writing well can be a powerful path toward living well."

Sage Cohen is the author of Writing the Life Poetic (2009) and The Productive Writer (2010), both from Writer’s Digest Books, and the poetry collection Like the Heart, the World (2007) from Queen of Wands Press. Her poems, essays, short stories and how-to articles have appeared in Rattle; Poetry Flash; Hip Mama; The Night, and the Rain, and the River; Cup of Comfort for Writers; Writer's Digest Magazine; Poet's Market and Writer's Market.

Sage holds a BA in comparative literature from Brown University and an MFA from NYU. Since founding Sage Communications in 1997, she has been writing marketing and ad copy for global and national high-tech, healthcare and financial services companies.

More about Sage Cohen’s writing can be found at She also offers strategies and support for divorcing parents at (now she tells me).

We hope you'll join us on Tuesday, October 7th, at the Old Church at 1422 SW 11th Avenue in Portland. The meeting starts at 7:00 p.m. and the doors open at 6:30.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Intro to Screenwriting Offered at PCC

Bill Johnson teaches an introduction to screenwriting through Portland Community College. The course will cover how to format and structure a screenplay, marketing, contests and outlets of the finished script, including writing a query to an agent, manager, or producer. Students will work on the opening scenes of a screenplay and learn how to write a movie script.

CRN: 14553

SW Port / WILSON / 116 07:00 PM-08:50 PM, Mondays, 06-October-2014 thru November-3rd-2014

Tuition: $69.00 Fees: $10.00


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

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.

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 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

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.


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.


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.