Summer in Words

Writing Conference

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Marian Pierce teaching dialogue workshop

Marian Pierce will be teaching Finding Your Characters Through Dialogue Workshop on Sunday, June 27

Marian Pierce has an MFA from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, where she was awarded the Paul Engle Fellowship for excellence of prose style in fiction. Her stories have appeared in Portland Monthly magazine, GQ, STORY, The Mississippi Review, Puerto del Sol, Confrontation, Scribner’s Best of the Fiction Workshops 1997, and Creative Writer’s Handbook (3rd ed). She won the 2009 Wordstock Fiction Competition, and is a previous winner of the Frederick Exley Fiction Competition, sponsored by GQ.  She has received fellowships from Literary Arts and the MacDowell Colony, and was shortlisted for the 2008 David Wong fellowship at the Univ. of East Anglia for an author writing about the Far East. She teaches creative writing at Marylhurst University and online for UCLA, and also works as a science editor and yoga teacher.

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Manuscript Evaluations

Manuscript Evaluations: Please submit up to twenty pages of fiction, nonfiction, or a screenplay and a one-page synopsis. Submitted manuscripts should be unpublished works in progress and must be double-spaced with one-inch margins for fiction and using standard screenplay format. Your name should appear on each page. If the piece you’re submitting is excerpted from a longer work, we suggest you send the first 20 pages or please make sure the excerpt is self-contained. The cost is $40 and includes a meeting with Polly Campbell (nonfiction) Bill Johnson (screenplays), Jessica Morrell (fiction, nonfiction), or Marian Pierce (fiction).  Manuscripts must be received by June 1. Mail manuscript and fees to: Jessica Morrell, P.O. Box 820141, Portland, OR 97282-1141.

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More on registering

Registrations are coming in for Summer in Words

(please remember that space is limited because

of the facilities we use)

Here’s a breakdown of costs:

Registration, payment, & cancellation policies

You may pay by check or money order, U.S. funds. A $100 payment is required to register for the full 3-day conference, but you are welcome to pay in full to register also. Participants are considered enrolled once payment is received and verified. Balance due by June 19th.

REFUND POLICY: Conference registration refunds, less a 25% processing charge, may be obtained before June 1, 2010. Please note: registration fees WILL NOT be refunded after June 1. SIW reserves the right to cancel workshops due to low enrollment without penalty, its liability limited to a refund of registration fees. Fees for individual consultations will not be refunded once the material is read. There are no refunds for cancellations less than 15 days before the event.

Please check the appropriate box:

_____Friday workshops $85 ____Out Loud $10

_____Saturday workshops $85

_____Saturday workshops, lunch& keynote $105

_____Saturday Lunch & Keynote $20

_____Sunday sessions: $45

_____3 days workshops, including keynote speaker, lunch, and Out Loud: $215

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Bill Johnson, teaching at Summer in Words

Back by popular demand, Bill Johnson will teaching two workshop at Summer in Words.

Bill Johnson is author of A Story is a Promise and Deep Characterization, a writing workbook. He’s the office manager for Willamette Writers, a non-profit writing group based in Portland,

Oregon, with over 1,500 members. Bill has led workshops on writing around the United States. He reviews popular stories to explore principles of storytelling at his  website

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Summer in Words Schedule

Summer in Words Schedule, 2010

June 25-27

Center for Contemplative Arts, Manzanita, Oregon

Friday, June 25

8:30-9 Registration /Continental breakfast

9:00-10:15 Narrative Drive in Fiction and Nonfiction, Jessica Morrell

Everyone loves a good story. And the best are embedded with many elements that make it a page turner because readers care what happens next. Narrative drive is that story force, and it means that everything contributes to forward movement. Narrative drive increases tension and suspense, makes the story intrinsically entertaining and loaded with conflict and compelling details. You’ll learn how to identify narrative drive and put it to work in your own stories.

10:30-11:45 Finding Focus Polly Campbell

There are millions of stories to tell, but your job is to tell one at a time. Anything else will result in a jumbled, meandering mess. A story with a tight and clear focus will serve as a compass for the reader, directing him or her through complex topics and insightful prose. For you, the writer, a focus serves as a road map leading you in the right direction toward the story’s ultimate purpose. A clear focus makes the piece both easier to write and easier to read. In this workshop, Polly Campbell will explain why a tight focus is a critical element to any piece of solid writing and she’ll show you how to develop a clear focus for any story.

11:45-1 Free time

1:00-2:30 Compelling Details in Nonfiction Polly Campbell

Writing that inspires, engages, and excites readers is found in the details. Without them writing clarity is compromised and the piece goes from dramatic to drab. Choosing just the right detail ― picking the perfect flower to mention out of a garden of dozens ― is the key to creating a powerful piece. Too many details weigh down the writing, but a few select, well-placed ones add energy and vibrancy to your piece. In this workshop writer Polly Campbell will show how to uncover the details that will give your piece meaning, and explain how to use them to evoke emotion in the reader long after she puts down the page.

2:45-5:00 Pacing Larry Brooks

Pacing is a function of planning.  Whether your plan emerges from a pre-writing process or an organic drafting process, or some combination of the two, everything depends on knowing what’s coming next, and why. Pacing is also the great equalizer of fiction — everything else in the story can be stellar, but if the pacing is off it probably won’t sell.  Because if the pacing is off, then chances are the structure of the story isn’t working as well as it should.  This workshop will illuminate the classic four-part structure for storytelling that allows writers to optimize pacing through an understanding of major story milestones, how to set them up and pay them off, where they are inserted in the sequence, and what makes them effective and accumulative when they occur.

6:30-9 Out Loud

Participants read works-in-progress

Saturday, June 26

9:00-10:15 Nail the Ending Jessica Morrell

Endings do not merely conclude a plot, they nail it. Story endings are where the full-tilt boogie, all-out emotions, struggles, battles and resolutions take place. Endings are also where subplots are tied up, story questions are answered, and the future is suggested. The ending must also stem from the protagonist’s nature, and his or her deepest self should be exposed in these final moments. We’ll discuss endings in memoir, your options for fiction endings, and devices to best avoid.

10:30-11:45 Writing the Dramatic Truth, Bill Johnson

A story character embodies a dramatic truth when he or she has something  he/she feels compelled to resolve. In Good Grief, a young widow must overcome her grief at the loss of her new husband. In The Lovely Bones, the bones of a family are broken when a young girl is murdered and all the characters must find ways to go on in life.  In this workshop, writers will be offered examples of dramatic truths from popular fiction, and guided to express the dramatic truths of their characters.

12-1 Staying Afloat in a Turbulent Sea: Righting the Craft Lunch and keynote by Jennie Shortridge In 21st century publishing, content is still king. Writing craft is, and will always be, crucial to your publishing career, as four-time bestselling novelist Jennie Shortridge can attest from both her own journey and experiences in the often-confusing world of publishing. How do you “right” your craft? Jennie will provide insights and offer tips for constructing relevant, publishable writing.

1:15-3:00, Spirit of Storytelling Bill Johnson

Writers are often urged to write what they know, but this can lead to characters that are an extension of the author’s voice and values. This workshop is meant to help writers understand how to create story characters who have a deeply realized inner life separate from the author’s inner life.  We’ll cover how to understand why a particular story speaks to an audience, so the author can avoid writing stories designed solely to transport themselves in a shiny new fantasy Ferrari while leaving the audience in a stalled farm tractor stuck in a ditch on the side of the road.

3:30-5:00 The Art of Arc: Get those flabby middles in shape! Jennie Shortridge

Many yet-to-be-published writers struggle with weak, rambling, going-nowhere middles in their fiction and nonfiction. You start with a bang and end at the sweet spot, but your middle lacks focus, purpose, and narrative drive. Yes, you know about story arc, but do you know how to effectively build it in your story? Come prepared to reshape and enliven your story structure with a variety of methods, tools, and construction techniques.

Saturday evening free time

Sunday, June 27

9:00-10: Building Your Skills in Writing Q & A Bill Johnson, Jennie Shortridge, Jessica Morrell

10:15-12:15 Finding Characters Through Dialogue, Marian Pierce

Do you recognize what makes dialogue good (tension, brevity, distinctive style of speech) but have trouble writing dialogue yourself? In this workshop, you’ll gain confidence in learning how to “hear” characters and give voice to them through their speech. You will be required to complete a listening assignment to bring to class on June 26th, and we will then use this assignment as a basis for bringing characters to life through their dialogue.

12:15 Closing remarks and Raffle