Saturday, August 20, 2016

FREE RANGE POETRY presents Leanne Gabrel, Barbara LaMorticella, MF McAuliffe

Monday, September 12, 2016
Northwest Branch Library
2300 NW Thurman Street

An open mic will precede featured poets.
Sign up at 6:15 pm. Reading 6:30 pm – 7:45 pm.

Leanne Grabel is a poet, memoirist, illustrator and semi-retired special ed teacher and language arts teacher. In love with mixing genres and media, Grabel has written and produced numerous spokenword shows, including “The Lighter Side of Chronic Depression”; “Anger: The Musical”; “Badgirls”; and “The Little Poet.” Grabel's books include Brontosaurus; Lonesome & Very Quarrelsome Heroes; Flirtations; Short Poems by a Short Person; and most recently, Assisted Living, a collection of rectangular illustrated prose poems. Grabel has just completed an anthology of 35 years of graphic prose poems, The Circus of Anguish & Mirth that will be published in 2017. The summer project is turning Brontosaurus into a graphic novel.

Barbara LaMorticella watches the clouds from a cabin outside Portland. Her poetry has appeared in many anthologies, including the Pacific Northwestern Spiritual Poetry Anthology; Intimate Kisses; Not a Muse; and most recently (2015) Raising Lilly Ledbetter: Women Poets Occupy the Workspace, and She Holds the Face of the World, the 10th anniversary anthology of the journal VoiceCatchers. She won the Holbrook Award for Outstanding Contributions to Oregon Liberary Arts and the first Oregon Literary Arts fellowship for Women Writers. Her second collection of poems, Rain on Waterless Mountain, was a finalist for the Oregon Book Award.

MF McAuliffe has worked formally and informally as a house-cleaner, political pollster, teacher and librarian in schools and colleges in South Australia, Melbourne, Los Angeles, and Portland, Oregon. She also co-authored the poetry collection Fighting Monsters, the limited-edition artist's book Golems Waiting Redux, and the novella, Seattle. The Crucifixes and Other Friday Poems will be published this fall. In 2002 she and R. V. Branham co-founded the Portland-based, multilingual magazine Gobshite Quarterly. In 2008 they co-founded Reprobate / GobQ Books, where she continues as commissioning editor.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Notes on Suicide Squad

When a big budget Hollywood film fails to satisfy, the underlying problem is often skewed story mechanics. Suicide Squad is a great example.

The foundation of what I teach is that a story creates movement, and the movement transports an audience. So a film or story that doesn't begin by going somewhere starts with a problem. The language often used to describe this kind of storytelling is a need to introduce characters. The flaw in this logic is that generally, the story doesn't begin moving forward until after all the introductions.

An example of how a film with a large cast can be done well is L.A. Confidential. It's a story about illusion, reality, and identity. Because that's introduced up front, and all the major characters have issues around identity, the opening scenes of the film both introduces the story and sets it into motion.

None of that happens in Suicide Squad. I had no idea what the story was about until deep into the film. The plot was something about a witch and her brother destroying the world and taking over. I always have the same problem with this type of scenario. If the world is destroyed and humanity wiped out, what's left to take over?

That said, at least those in the Suicide Squad have something to do now, battling faceless enemies for an obscure reason until they reach what Syd Field calls Plot Point Two, that moment in a story when all seems lost. In a typical Hollywood film, this is about 90 minutes in. At PPII in SS we finally get a suggestion for a story, that the evil doers who have survived to this point are more moral than the normal people who brought them together and command them.

That's fine, and if it had been introduced in the opening scenes of the film, the story and all those character introductions would have had a context and served a purpose. Think of a version of Rocky where you don't find out that Rocky is a nobody who wants to be a somebody until 90 minutes into the film. Think of Harry Potter (the novels, not the wretched first two movies) where you don't find out for hundreds of pages that both Harry and the Dursleys want to fit in.

The first two Harry Potter movies are wretched because like SS, all the effort goes into introducing characters and locations and it's not until deep into the films that a story emerges.

Not introducing what a story is about until PPII is a common problem for big budget Hollywood films that fail to find an audience. I actually saw a Hollywood remake of a Japanese horror film that didn't set out the point of the story until the last line of dialogue.

What this translates to for the actors involved is that since they aren't given characters to play (characters motivated by some internal purpose), the actors are left to pose in their scenes. I feel great sympathy for actors in such films, although in this case I assume they are well-paid.

All this isn't to say there isn't some fun along the way in Suicide Squad, or that a few of the characters don't make a strong impression, it just that the film never gains traction. It just slogs along.

A small point, one of the evil witches is killed by a fairly small explosive device, which could have been delivered a multitude of different ways.

And that's a big problem when the mechanics of a story transporting an audience fail: everyone in the audience has time on their hands to think about silly plot issues. Mystery Science Theater 3000 would have had a field day with Suicide Squad. The funny comments would write themselves.

The film does demonstrate another issue I come across in scripts with a multitude of characters, the writer/director ends up playing traffic cop, expending a great deal of energy just to make sure all the right characters have something to do at the right times. Bringing in studio executives to try and fix story structure problems (that they don't understand) generally create a bigger muddle of mixed tones and dialogue that never fixes the underlying problems.

I'm assuming Suicide Squad has enough of an audience that we'll see more of these characters. Hopefully the current writer/director will be promoted and someone else brought in to direct the sequel.


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.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Judith Arcana Hosts Poetry Show on KBOO

Starting this month, Judith Arcana will be hosting a monthly poetry show on KBOO community radio (90.7FM in Portland, 104.3FM in Corvallis/Albany, 91.9FM in Hood River - and everywhere else on this poetry-loving planet by clicks to the station’s website).

The show, POETRY AND EVERYTHING, will air on the 4th Monday of every month, 10-11pm Pacific time.

Guests will be Portland poets, nearby poets, faraway poets, pairs of poets, groups of poets, maybe even some folks who are not poets, all reading and talking about poetry - and everything.

The first show is: Monday, July 25, 10-11pm.

Harold Johnson, Portland poet/novelist/musician/artist/teacher, whose two recent books are CITIZENSHIP and THE FORT SHOWALTER BLUES, will be the guest on this first show.

Tune in, listen up, join us ... Harold and I will be reading and talking about poetry - and everything.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Willa Schneberg Hosts Poetry Workshop at Willamette Writers Conference

On Sun. August 14th, from 3 - 4pm, Willa Schneberg will be discussing "How to Publish the Full Length Poetry Manuscript" at the Williamette Writers Conference at the Sheraton Portland Airport Hotel. If you can't attend the whole conference, you can sign-up for Sunday only. Here is the link to her presentation:

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Chelsea Cain and Jane Friedman Keynotes at 2016 Willamette Writers Conference

Jane Friedman has 20 years of experience in the publishing industry, with expertise in digital media strategy for authors and publishers. She's the co-founder and editor of The Hot Sheet, the essential publishing industry newsletter for authors, and the former publisher of Writer's Digest. In addition to being a professor with The Great Courses and the University of Virginia, she maintains an award-winning blog for writers at, which receives more than 180,000 visits each month.

Chelsea is the author of The New York Times bestselling Archie Sheridan/Gretchen Lowell thriller series (Heartsick, Sweetheart, Evil at Heart, The Night Season, Kill You Twice, and Let Me Go), and the Kick Lannigan series (One Kick, and the upcoming Kick Back). Her Portland-based thrillers, described by The New York Times as "steamy and perverse," have been published in over 30 languages, recommended on The Today Show, and appeared in episodes of HBO's True Blood and ABC's Castle.

Stephen King included two of her books in his top ten favorite books of the year, and NPR named Heartsick one of the best 100 thrillers ever written. According to Booklist, "Popular entertainment just doesn't get much better than this." Both of Chelsea's series are in development for television.

Willamette Writers conference is August 12-14th at the Portland Airport Sheraton Hotel. For information about the cost to attend and registration, visit

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Want to Get Published? How To! (And How Not To!)

Want to Get Published? How To! (And How Not To!)

July 5 @ 7:00 pm - 8:00 pm

On Tuesday, July 5th, join the Portland member meeting at The Old Church, in downtown Portland and learn from Tod Davies, editorial director of indie Exterminating Angel Press and author herself, to discover the FIVE ways to avoid rejection…and the FIVE ways to make sure you are rejected!

Want to Get Published? How To! (And How Not To!)

Want to get published? Want to create good relationships with publishers? Of course you do! Join Tod Davies, editorial director of indie Exterminating Angel Press and author herself, to discover the FIVE ways to avoid rejection…and the FIVE ways to make sure you are rejected!

In a highly interactive, lively (even, we hope, raucous) talk about reaching out to publishers, Tod will spell out those ways to get the advantage in your court. And the ways you can lose the whole game before you even start playing. About Our Speaker – Tod Davies

Since 2008, Tod Davies has helmed indie Exterminating Angel Press, a proud member of the Southern Oregon Literary Alliance (SOLA), and the Cascadia Publishers group. EAP publishes books that question dominant cultural stories in entertaining and accessible ways, including Mike Madrid’s The Supergirls: Fashion, Feminism, Fantasy, and the History of Comic Book Heroines, and her own The History of Arcadia series: Snotty Saves the Day, Lily the Silent, and The Lizard Princess. As well as publisher, she’s been just about everything you can be as a writer (and everything you need to be to support being a writer): screenwriter, indie film producer, radio host, and author. She wrote the film Three Businessmen, co-wrote Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, produced Revengers Tragedy, starring Eddie Izzard and Chris Eccleston, and documentaries for the UK’s Channel 4. She’s spoken about, and taught, writing and producing at many venues over the years. If there’s one thing she knows, it’s how to build relationships in creative communities. And she’ll share that knowledge on July 5th.

For more information on Tod Davies and Exterminating Angel Press, please visit

As always, the doors open at 6:30 and the meeting starts at 7:00 pm.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

David Levine Fan Guest of Honor at Westercon69

David D. Levine attended his first SF convention in 1977. It was X-Con 1, the first con in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and the next year, at X-Con 2, David found himself co-head of Gaming. Since then he's attended over 120 conventions and has worked at many of them in some capacity, most often Publications but also Tech, Programming, Fanzine Lounge, and even Chair. Many people know him for his fannish theatrics, including as a member of the Not Ready for Sidereal Time Players and Whose Line Is It Anyway.

He created the 1990 Portland Westercon's pioneering website, set up and ran the websites for OryCons 17 through 26 and Oregon Science Fiction Conventions Inc., and still maintains (including the Sue Petrey Fund and Jo Clayton Fund pages) and the OryCon and OSFCI mailing lists. In recognition for all of this work he received an OSFCI Lifetime Achievement Award in 2013.

In addition to running conventions, David has co-edited a long-running paper fanzine, spent two weeks at a simulated Mars base in Utah, made and worn costumes, served as officer and board member of several fan organizations, gamed, filked, created fan art, and even sat behind a dealer's table a time or two. He's also a Hugo-winning SF author. Learn more at his author site and fannish activities site.

Learn more about Westercon69