Friday, September 10, 2021

Query Letters That Work, with Curtis C. Chen

Query Letters That Work, with Curtis C. Chen

September 20 @ 6:30 pm - 8:00 pm

Presented by Vancouver Willamette Writers. All are welcome.

So you’ve written a novel. Great! Now let’s talk about how to sell it. Query letters are still the best way to get an agent (and there’s a specific format that agents expect to see), but the skills used to write a query will also help you with other aspects of book marketing and promotion, no matter how you publish. Curtis will discuss how to feature the important parts of the story without telling the whole story.

How to join
Click the registration link below, enter your name and email address, and you will receive the meeting link immediately. You will also be able to add the meeting to your calendar.

Register in advance for the September 20 Vancouver Chapter meeting: https://us02web.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZEvc-ygqD4iEtAYQl_dS7vST1zCHxsi3E_w

After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the meeting.

Willamette Writers chapter meetings are free for members to attend, and we ask for a $5 donation from guests: https://willamettewriters.org/donations/.

For information on how to become a Willamette Writers member, click here: https://willamettewriters.org/register/individual/

About the presenter
Once a Silicon Valley software engineer, Curtis C. Chen (陳致宇) now writes stories and runs puzzle games near Portland, Oregon. He’s the author of the Kangaroo series of funny science fiction spy thrillers and has written for the Realm originals Ninth Step Murders, Machina, and Echo Park 2060 (forthcoming). Curtis’ short fiction has appeared in Playboy Magazine, Daily Science Fiction, Oregon Reads Aloud, and elsewhere. His homebrew cat feeding robot was displayed in the “Worlds Beyond Here” exhibit at Seattle’s Wing Luke Museum. Visit him online: https://CurtisCChen.com

Kathleen Colvin
Vancouver Chapter Chair
Pronouns: she/her and they is always okay
Willamette Writers
Community. Craft. Career.

Connect With Us:
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Twitter https://twitter.com/wilwrite
Website https://willamettewriters.org/

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This post was generated by Bill Johnson, author of A Story is a Promise, a writing workbook, http://www.storyispromise.com

Wednesday, August 11, 2021

The Outsider As Character Type - Review of The Outsiders

The outsider is an enduring character type in fiction, TV series, and movies.

There are many reasons for this.

When an outsider arrives in a new environment, he or she upsets the current status quo. This naturally generates dramatic questions. What will be the outcome of this upset? Will the outsider replace a current leader? Change the direction of a group?

Another form of this character type is someone within a group who changes.

An example of this is S. E. Hinton's novel The Outsiders.

The POV character is Ponyboy. He's a Greaser. Wears his hair long, carries a switch blade, and fights in rumbles with his gang against others, mainly SOCs, pronounced SOSHes.

He's also a high school freshman who gets straight As.

His family is a brother named Soda who has already dropped out of high school, and an older brother, Darry, who at 20 works two jobs to support his brothers after the death of their parents. Darry also yells at Ponyboy a great deal out of concern that his conformity to being a Greaser might lead him to become a hoodlum. Dally, a wild man and member of the gang, has crossed that line, robbing gas stations and committing other crimes.

Johnny is another young member of the gang and his actions drive the story. Before the story begins, Johnny had been stomped by a group of Socs, well-off kids who drive fancy cars and appear to want for nothing.

The Socs and Greasers are tribal enemies who fight whenever their paths cross.

Johnny enjoys sunsets. He's a sensitive soul but has been born into this Greaser tribe.

At a fair, Johnny and Ponyboy end up spending some time with Cherry, a cheerleader, and another Soc girl, because their dates came to the fair drunk. The girls are impressed by Johnny's love of sunsets, and Cherry has a way of making Ponyboy understand that she has a depth of understanding about life he'd never suspected. She also conveys that just being a Soc does not guarantee an easy life, which is a revelation to Ponyboy.

When a fight with Darry sends Ponyboy out of the house, he and Johnny are cornered by Cherry's angry boyfriend and a few others near a fountain. One of the Socs says he's going to kill Ponyboy by holding his head under water. Johnny stabs and kills the Soc and he and Ponyboy are now on the lam with the aid of Dally.

They have to cut their long Greaser hair to hide out in an abandoned church in a nearby small town.

A fire erupts in the abandoned church. Ponyboy and Johnny rush into the burning building to rescue some trapped young boys.

Ponyboy rescues several boys and gets out, but Johnny is seriously wounded. Pony and Johnny are now celebrated as heroes.

It comes out that Cherry and another Soc are willing to testify that Johnny was just protecting Ponyboy. They are going against their tribe. Pony again must confront the idea that all Socs have an ideal life with no concerns.

The novel ends with Pony reunited with his brothers, but with a deepened understanding of life. He now appears ready to want the better life that Darry wants for him.

The Outsiders provides a wonderful example of the drama that can be created by a built in conflict between tribes and the conflict when a tribal member challenges the status quo.

Changes in the status quo of a family, clan, or tribe fuels many novels. It embeds conflict into the fabric of a story's world.

Hinton's The Outsiders is a novel that has spoken to different generations of young people trying to find their place in the world.

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For more essays about the craft of writing, visit my website at http://www.storyispromise.com

To find A Story is a Promise on Amazon, use this link, https://www.amazon.com/Story-Promise-Spirit-Storytelling-ebook/dp/B004V020N0/?geniuslink=true

Wednesday, May 12, 2021

Welcome to Information about the Willamette Writers 2021 Online Conference

At Willamette Writers, we are passionate about the community, craft, and career of all writers.

This year's conference will be completely online via Zoom! That means you get a front row seat for all of our keynotes, workshops, panels, and events!

We’re making it even easier for you to pitch to your selected agents without having to worry about missing out on workshop programming, by offering pitching and critiques July 29th and 30th, and our workshops and panels on July 31st and August 1st.

Our keynote speakers will be New York Times best-selling Young Adult and Sci-Fi author, Daniel José Older, and PEN/Bellwether Prize winner for socially engaged fiction and Portland-born author, Heidi W. Durrow.

Conference registration gains you access to sign up for Master Classes: 6 hour focused classes led by a curated group of revered authors! 

Registering for our conference will also enable you to pitch your ideas to a stellar lineup of agents who want to hear from you! Our Advanced Manuscript Critiques will enable you to submit your work in progress ahead of the conference, and meet with your chosen industry professional at the conference for an in-depth critique of your manuscript.

We thank you for being part of our community, and can’t wait for you to join us this summer! 

Find out more at 

https://web.cvent.com/event/a70db577-3c3e-4e7f-85f0-c178f9000b10/summary

 

Conference Registration:

Members:

Early bird until May 31 $249

June 1 onward $299

(become a member)

Guests:

Early bird until May 31 $324

 June 1 onward $374

Additional opportunities:

Master Classes: Members $199, Guests $274

Pitches: $25

Advanced Manuscript Critiques: $75

 Register here:

 https://web.cvent.com/event/a70db577-3c3e-4e7f-85f0-c178f9000b10/regProcessStep1


Saturday, December 5, 2020

Concrete Plot, Subtle Story Notes on The Queen's Gambit

 a review by Bill Johnson

A cornerstone of the a story is a promise concept is that a story creates movement and the movement transports an audience. Simply put, if a story isn't going somewhere from its opening lines, it fails to create the effect of a story.

Plot often operates to set a story into motion around a central question and sub questions. Each chapter in a novel can be a clearly defined step along a plot line. It's a concrete way of understanding the ground a story is covering.

A beginning of a novel also needs to set a story in motion. This can be subtle or obvious, but it needs to be done to convey meaning to the action. You resolve a plot, you fulfill a story's promise.


In The Queen's Gambit, eight year old Beth's parents die in a car accident and she ends up in an orphanage. To keep the children docile, they are given tranquilizers. Beth is afraid and alone. She hides one tranquilizer a day to help her sleep at night. Noises at night were setting her mind racing.

Then she realizes an old black janitor (this is Kentucky) in the basement is not playing checkers but a different game. He rebuffs her request to teach Beth chess but finally relents. In a short time, she is consistently beating him.

An older girl, Jolene, (twelve) tries to introduce Beth to sex play, but Beth now lives in her head, playing chess.

When the orphanage is ordered to stop giving the children tranquilizers, a desperate Beth tries to break in to a locked station to get more. Caught, she is not allowed to visit the basement for a year. No chess.

Since the author has made it clear that Beth is utterly driven to play chess, the question becomes what will happen next? To find out, readers must continue. Again, the plot creates concrete problems to be overcome.

When Beth is adopted by a woman with a husband who seems to be permanently traveling on business, Beth can now play chess and read magazines about the game. Since her adopted mother uses tranquilizers and alcohol to get through her days, Beth can sneak a supply of tranquilizers to help her sleep at night.

When the absent husband makes it official he's not coming back, Beth's adopted mother is now short on money ... until Beth wins a chess tournament and a cash prize.

As Beth plays and wins in bigger and bigger tournaments, Beth's mother introduces Beth to alcohol. The two become more like housemates than mother and adopted daughter. And Beth now has two drugs that help her sleep at night.

When Beth's adopted mother dies, Beth has to work her way through a period of heaving drinking, a plot complication that threatens her ability to play chess on a high level.

As Beth wins bigger and more prestigious competitions, she now accepts some help learning the fine points of chess from more advanced players.

Beth becomes the American chess champion, but this sets up the ultimate goal/plot destination for Beth, can she beat a Russian grand master and become a world champion?

Each section of the plot has clearly defined goals and questions.

To win against the Russians, Beth accepts the help of the best American chess players, but she quickly learns what they can teach her before she moves on. Beth is also introduced to sex, but sex to Beth is about as interesting as having tea and toast for breakfast. It barely registers in her life. It's not chess.

Beth finally meets the Russian world chess champion in competition and loses that match, her first major set back.

Beth realizes she has to give up drinking if she wants to beat that Russian. Jolene, who had graduated from the orphanage, helps Beth learn to exercise to keep her body fit so she can better focus.

Beth also comes to realize she wasn't just playing the world champion; she was up against all the former Russian world chess champions who helped him win matches by studying moves of opponents.

Beth can have a chess second funded by a religious group, but Beth refuses to issue a statement in support of Christianity. She's now going to Russia with a non-chess playing assistant supplied by the U.S. government.

Arriving in Russia, Beth begins beating the lesser players, but she also goes for a walk and discovers a park where old men play chess.

In a climactic battle, Beth fears that she can't win if she's alone playing the Russian and his helpers. At that point she gets a call from a former teacher, and he along with others help Beth plot her next moves.

This is a subtle story point, but Beth is no longer playing alone in her head. She's part of a larger community now, a first for her.

With the help of others steadying her mind, Beth beats the Russian and becomes world champion.

At the end of the novel, she returns to the Moscow park and the old men playing chess. They gather around her, showering her with love and affection.

That lonely, frightened child now feels she is part of and loved by a larger community.

Compared to the plot, this is subtle, but it is the thread that weaves the plot together and gives it a deeper meaning. Beth goes from being alone to part of a larger community.

That offers fulfillment to the story.

I recently read a science fiction novel by someone who had read Promise. Her novel had a concrete plot, with escalating complications, but I had to read to the end of the novel to find out what the story was about.

Until that final chapter, I didn't have a clue.

It's possibly the writer didn't know until she wrote that final chapter. If that was the case, it meant she needed to use that understanding to convey a story from the first page of the novel.

I've read many novels by unpublished authors that withheld what a story was about to create a big reveal. Unfortunately, it was hard to care.

Walter Tevis begins The Queen's Gambit with a frightened, lonely orphan because the fulfillment of the story is that she ultimately finds a new family.

One reason I use a breakdown of a Hollywood movie to teach story mechanics is the failure to generate a story that works with a concrete plot is often deadly. No reason to care about what happens to the main character.

In Promise, one technique I suggest is the 0-5-10 technique. Zero is obscure, five is obvious, ten is suggestive.

Struggling writers write toward zero, being obscure about what a main character seeks to fulfill.

Asking someone to be obvious about what a story is about is a path to understanding how to set in motion a powerful story.

In the latest edition of Promise, I explore how great writers create at ten on that scale.

For too many writers, that concrete wall of plot creates an illusion of storytelling in the same way movies used to use fake storefronts to suggest a town.

Walter Tevis understood the difference between story and plot.

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The Queen's Gambit also airs on Netflix as a mini-series. 

Monday, October 19, 2020

Creating, Pitching and Producing, Meet Lars Kenseth


Lars Kenseth will be joining Willamette Writers for the first time live from Los Angeles to discuss his varied career as a cartoonist for the New Yorker, writer for TV and show creator for a new series recently acquired by Amazon. He’s also looking forward to giving practical advice and answering members’ questions.
 

Lars Kenseth is a cartoonist and writer whose work has appeared in Barron’s, Playboy, MAD, Esquire and The New Yorker. A TV writer by day, his credits include Chuck Deuce (Adult Swim) and Norm Macdonald Has A Show (Netflix). Currently, Lars is developing I Hate Mondays, an animated comedy for Amazon. He’s a 2016 Sundance Institute Fellow and a long suffering acolyte of the New York Jets.

Lars wisely lives in Santa Monica with his wife Liz and their two feline slaves, Omelet and Honeybear.

Learn more about Lars at http://larskenseth.com/about-me

To see some Lar's cartoons at the New Yorker, visit here
https://www.newyorker.com/contributors/lars-kenseth

He's on Twitter @larskenseth

This meeting is on Monday, November 2nd, 7 - 8 pm, to avoid the Tuesday election.

Learn more about Willamette Writers and about becoming a member at
http://www.willamettewriters.org

This Portland/Salem Chapter meeting of Willamette Writers happens on Zoom. Details about joining the meeting are below.

The meeting host is Debby Dodds.

You are now able to receive the link in advance for our Chapter meetings. Click the registration link below, and you will receive the meeting link immediately. You will also be able to add the meeting to your calendar.

Register in advance for this meeting:
https://us02web.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZElde2rqDMjGtPpMZ15Et1N9Zqm-Am_1DMq

This is not the meeting link, it is the registration link. After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing the link to join the meeting.


 


Saturday, July 4, 2020

Heavenly Birth Insurance (Show)


Bill Johnson's play Heavenly Birth Insurance was produced as part of the Short+Sweet Theater Festival in Dubai. The play was directed by Nikhil Mittal and produced by Emotive Productions.