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:

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:

For information on how to become a Willamette Writers member, click here:

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:

Kathleen Colvin
Vancouver Chapter Chair
Pronouns: she/her and they is always okay
Willamette Writers
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This post was generated by Bill Johnson, author of A Story is a Promise, a writing workbook,

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.


For more essays about the craft of writing, visit my website at

To find A Story is a Promise on Amazon, use this link,

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


Conference Registration:


Early bird until May 31 $249

June 1 onward $299

(become a member)


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: