Summer in Words

Writing Conference

Summer in Words Schedule

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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


Author: jessicapage2

Jessica Page Morrell lives in Portland, Oregon where she is surrounded by writers and watches the sky all its moods and shades. She’s the author of Thanks, But This Isn’t For Us, A (Sort of) Compassionate Guide to Why Your Writing is Being Rejected; Bullies, Bastards & Bitches, How to Write the Bad Guys in Fiction; The Writer’s I Ching: Wisdom for the Creative Life, Voices from the Street; Between the Lines: Master The Subtle Elements Of Fiction Writing; and Writing Out the Storm. Morrell works as a highly-sought after developmental editor because if your characters are a bundle of quirks and inconsistencies, or the plot stalls and the scenes don’t flow, these problems need to be unriddled before you submit it to an agent or editor. She also works on memoirs and nonfiction books with a special focus on logic and voice. She began teaching writers in 1991 and now teaches through a series of workshops in the Northwest and at writing conferences throughout North America and lectures to various writing organizations. She is the former writing expert at which was voted as one of the best 101 sites for writers. In 2008 she founded Summer in Words, a yearly writing conference held on the Oregon coast. She hosts a Web site at, and she’s written a monthly column about topics related to writing since 1998 that currently appears in The Willamette Writer. She also contributes to The Writer and Writers Digest magazines, writes a monthly e-mail newsletter, The Writing Life, and a Web log at

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