Summer in Words

Writing Conference

Leave a comment

Meet Holly Lorincz and the Scholarship Fund in her name

ImageA scholarship fund has been established to fund a writer who would really benefit from attending Summer in Words. Her name is Holly Lorincz and I know she’s going to be a fabulous addition to the conference. Here’s her biography in her own words. 

“I grew up with cardboard in the bottom of my shoes, fighting with my twin sister, reading in trees, mainlining salmon and venison while not-so-secretly wishing for McDonalds. We were poor. I didn’t know it, not really, not until I realized my lunch tickets were a different color, strobing fluorescent pink indicating free lunch.  In middle school, kids mocked me for being a dork (reading while walking down the hall, wearing a beret) but not for wearing Goodwill Bargains. Well deserved, my friends, well deserved. God, I hated middle school. But I kept reading and writing.

I used my voice to get through college, honored with a full ride scholarship as I competed for the speech team. Then I became Editor of the college literary magazine Perceptions, which thankfully snagged me another scholarship. I earned first an AA in journalism, then a MAT in secondary education/language arts. Never in my life will I regret my time teaching about literature and writing and speaking skills to teenagers. I loved every minute of my time on the stage in front of those kids. Well, ok, there was that one time, but that’s a story for a different time . . .

 Now I’m mother to a charming, six-year-old deviant named Auggie. I’m married to a man who never sits down, a man who has turned movement into an art form, another charming deviant named Andre. And I’m a high school teacher on hiatus. I’ve had to change my identity; I’m not really a teacher anymore. Oh, I like to say I am. I want to be. But I’m on medical leave thanks to some kid sneezing on her essay and handing me a page full of mononucleosis. Today, mono is Chronic Epstein Barr/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, a virus that steals my energy and my mental stamina. This year I turned 40, flew to Indonesia, walked my kindergartner to the bus on his first day of school, sobbed on my resignation letter, and finished writing a novel. 

It’s been one hell of a year. But better than last year, which was spent mostly in bed, often too dizzy to lift my head or too tired to take a shower. Better than last year, which was spent wandering in the darkest recesses of my foggy brain, decrying the loss of my health and more importantly, so I thought at the time, my identity. Better than last year, which was spent watching multiple seasons of tv shows within a week’s span, coming awfully close to suicide, Mad Men urging me on. Oh, yes. A shameful, whiny dark time.

 Auggie saved my life. “Get up, Momma. Play with me, Momma.”  A blog saved my life. “If you do nothing else, get up and get dressed, get out of those disgusting pajamas. Then go get the mail.” A friend saved my life. “Get up. Let’s work on this writing project together.”

 I couldn’t face another year like the last, so I let them save my life. I get up everyday. I get dressed. I call myself a writer. I write. I’m fatigued, nauseated, fuzzy headed, sometimes slurring like a drunk. I write.

 I waved to Auggie as his bus lumbered down the road on that first day of school. I wanted to be in my own classroom, on my own little stage, staring down seniors on the first day of school, handing out copies of Beowulf and writing process flow charts. I taught language arts at Neah-Kah-Nie High School for fifteen years. My greatest love was teaching writing, and coaching the speech and debate team. I earned the Oregon Speech Educator of the Year in 2007, plus two national educator awards from the National Federation of High Schools (2007, 2008). My speech team won the OSAA State Speech Championship three times; I’ve coached six kids to individual State Champion trophies. I started my team from scratch, in a tiny rural area. It surprised me as much as anyone else when the team eventually grew to be larger than the football team. (Those weren’t our best years, actually, since I couldn’t keep track of so many speeches . . . or so many kids. Shhh. Don’t tell.) I was also deeply entrenched behind the scenes of a number of speech tournaments, including the State Tournament. I took my role as a role-model for students and a leader among my peers seriously, working hard to deserve the responsibility.

 Then came the phone call from my doctor. “You have mono. You’re infectious. And your spleen is about to explode. Go home.” Oh my god, I was so grateful to her. To hear that I had permission to go to bed, to relax, to give up the reins for awhile. Seriously

Seriously, I laugh now when I think about how happy I was to be told to leave. Who knew it would be forever?

 Obviously, I had no idea how bad my symptoms would get, that many of the symptoms seem to be permanent. I’ve learned how to pace myself, to parcel out my energy like it’s the last salt grains in the world. I’ve also learned I can survive without being known as a teacher or leader. I can be a writer. A novelist. I left Auggie on that bus and came back to my desk, started writing a book. Some days I write one sentence, some days one paragraph, some days I’m willing to pay for the energetic ten page burst. Some days I edit, or think, or read, or (cough) watch Law and Order. My creative juices have always been lavished on students; I don’t regret that at all, but I have to admit I am loving writing for myself. I don’t have the energy to share any of the creative juice, I guard it jealously. Recently I’ve had two poems published in a local literary magazine, won 19th place in the annual Writer’s Digest poetry competition, had over 3500 hits on my new blog, and finished writing my first fiction novel, Smart Mouth.

 I am getting better. If you see me on the street, holding Auggie Mar’s sweet little hand, I look normal, act normal. Well, depends on how you define normal, but I look healthy. I can sustain a conversation now. I can maintain focus longer, I know when to stop pushing. And my writing is getting better, stronger. The universe has stolen my paycheck but given me time to practice clouding up a page with ink.”

Despite Holly’s illness she’s planning on teaching a writing camp for teens at the Hoffman Center which is in Manzanita, Oregon.  We are holding a raffle which will benefit the Hoffman Center, Holly’s class and the Writer in the School program in Portland.

I see my role in life to inspire and help writers.

Could you please help me?

Donations can be made through PayPal and by sending them to Summer in Words, P.O. Box 820141, Portland, OR 97282-1141


Leave a comment

Meet Cathy Lamb

Cathy Lamb writes a lot. And like many authors, she traveled a bumpy path to success. She’ll be talking about those bumps and will be leading an interactive workshop on building characters at Summer in Words.

I first met Cathy years ago when I started teaching writing at local community colleges. I know immediately that she was going to make it because she was mastering the basics like pacing and dialogue, but she also had a sort of “I need to write” gleam in her eyes that is so necessary for those days when the words just don’t jell or something goes awry. Visit her blog here.

Q: You and I talked once about the difficulty of inhabiting a character who is much different from you–say one who like Stevie Barrett in Such a Pretty Face who has lost 170 pounds or Julia Bennett in Julia’s Chocolates who has been abused.  Could you offer some advice on how to imagine fictional people much different than yourself on the page?

 A. Can I offer advice on how to imagine fictional people that are completely, wildly, utterly different from myself? Go to Pioneer Courthouse Square and sit there. Watch people, eavesdrop, study people. Or, try the Hawthorne district. Or Washington Square. Tell stories about others in your head. Pretend you’re them. It’s wild what you can learn about your characters, or use in your characters, by people watching. I can go to downtown Portland and my mind is on fire for days, it’s smokin’ hot.  Also, get a journal and write. Draw a picture of your character, as best you can, then start writing down every little thing about her that comes to your head. Do this with a decaf mocha in your hand from Starbucks. I swear those things make me think better, and I need all the help I can get with this menopausal fuzz in my brain.

Write down what your character likes to do, who she doesn’t like or is threatened by, what she cooks, how she walks, where she lives, how she decorates her home, her idiosyncrasies, habits, worries, write down all the problems she might have had in her life and go deeper and deeper into those problems. Most often, when people have huge problems as adults, you can pin point things that happened to them as kids that helped this problem take shape. There’s something there. So, in your characters, go for it. Why is this person the way she is? Why does she cry? Why is she so angry? Why does she have a short fuse? Why does she let people walk on her? Why is she a loner? Why is she so scared? Where did her sarcasm come from,? Who hurt her, why did they hurt her? Why hasn’t she set up better boundaries for herself? Why did she just kick box that guy? Why does she drive so fast? What made her start singing outside?

Go into your character’s head and sit there for awhile. Ask her all sorts of questions. Honestly, she will answer back, and then, after you sketch and write and think and think some more, and maybe cry and wail, you will have a character that is completely different from yourself.  A really, utterly cool character that you can work and live with for months while you’re writing your novel.

And, just so you know, ALL of my main characters have something of me in them, yep, they do. So put something of yourself in your characters, too.

Q: Could you describe how you make choices about structuring your books? Is it organic, do you make decisions such as where to place flashbacks as you go along?

A. I love that word, organic. I heard it about five years ago in relation to writing books, and it confused the heck out of me and I thought about it endlessly until I understood it. When I found my answer as to why stories must be “organic,” I can’t tell you how much it  helped me.  Organic writing means that all of your characters, their issues, their actions, their problems, the flow of your story, the descriptions, the character arcs, they all have to be real to the plot, real to the people. True and honest and sincere. They have to come along with the characters naturally, they must not just arrive as if from Pluto. The author can’t force it, they have to know their characters so well, that the problems that come up, the problems the characters experience are an intrinsic, believable part of their lives.

However.  Yes, even though I try to write organically, there is definitely some practical cutting and pasting that goes along with organizing a book. Especially with my book Such A Pretty Face, which was a monster of a book. There was a lot of back and forth between Stevie Barrett’s early childhood, mid – childhood, and adulthood. I had to hook the reader with what happened to her as a child in the first chapter, then fill in the blanks as the novel progressed, leaving cliff hangers here and there, questions unanswered, and tension as I went. I wanted to feed the back story slowly, carefully, so as not to overwhelm the modern story and to keep the reader reading, and wanting to know what happened in Stevie’s past.  I wanted her past, and how I weaved it into her present, to be – here’s the word – “organic” to the book, in that the flashbacks flowed naturally in and out of modern times.  A trick here is transitions. If something in Stevie’s life happens – her own nightmares or flashbacks, then that could be a good time to fill in a bit of back story.

So, it’s organic and it’s practical writing. Both. Blended. Shaken and stirred. A couple of ice cubes….

Q: It seems to be that when writing about the topics you’re drawn to–love, loss, healing, redemption, or finding a place in the word– that it’s necessary to portray finely tuned emotions and emotional subtext. Do you have any tips for would-be authors on how to achieve this?

A: Yes. Take your grief, your loss, your loneliness, your pain, your anger, your frustration,  your tears, your hopelessness, your despair, and write some bang up scenes for a book with it. If you’re going to experience all that stuff, ya might as well write about it, right?  Also, LISTEN to other people, read the paper, read tons of books, develop deeper relationships, really think about emotions, analyze how different  people would feel in different situations, analyze how you would feel. Some of the best scenes I’ve written, I’ve written after I’ve been upset about one thing or another. You don’t have to be feeling vengeful to write a scene about revenge. However, if you’re feeling ticked off, well, it might be the time to sit down and write that scene where your character is furious and throwing things. Had your heart broken? Write a scene on anger or rage or loss, that brokenness will come out and your writing will feel real. Feeling lonely? Write that lonely scene or write the scene where your character is crying or grieving. Use your own emotions to enhance and improve your writing and to make your characters more rounded, complex, layered, relatable. Don’t be afraid of dropping your own emotions into your writing, even emotions you have buried for years or decades, your writing will be more sincere and authentic, more touching, if you do so.

Q: How do you manage to mix heart-wrenching scenes and topics along with humor in your stories?

A: Well, some of the scenes in my books are, as you say, heart wrenching. So, to lighten the mood, and to do a switch – back with readers’ emotions, I often deliberately put in a funny scene right afterwards. I don’t want the heart wrenching scenes to become too depressing for the reader.  I think both types of scenes drive a book well, and when they’re next to each other, the juxtaposition fuels the storyline and how much a reader will care about your plot and your characters.  Plus, it’s life, isn’t it? Some days are beautiful, funny, laugh filled, some days are terrible and filled with tears.

And, sometimes you get both emotions in one day, or one hour. I have readers tell me all the time they laughed and cried reading my books, and I just love to hear that, I really do. Women need to laugh, but women also need a good cry sometimes.

Q: Sushi or pasta?

A: Pasta. Are you kidding?  Bring it on. Would someone actually choose sushi over pasta?Q: What books are on your nightstand?

Q: What books are on your nightstand?

A: Watermark, The Snow Child, The House of Velvet and Glass, Miracles on the Water.

Q:What’s next for you? A: I am writing my next novel, due in December, currently hammering out 2000 words a day. I am trying to blog more.  I am trying to watch more sunsets, read more books, take more quiet walks, and elevate my day dreaming to new heights.

Q: What is something few people know about you?

Hmmm….well, I have two sisters who know EVERYTHING about me….but let’s see…I would love to have a beautiful garden, but I don’t really like to garden. I am obsessive about my work. Every word must be right, every sentence structure perfect, every character arc detailed, but I am not obsessed with anything else in my life and in no other part of my life am I a  raving perfectionist like that. I like to be alone. I have to be alone for a period of time every day so I can think freely or I get real edgy… sorry, no fun secrets to share. My life as a mother of three teenagers/talented bathroom cleaner is quite predictable…

Happy reading to all.

Leave a comment

Last Call

Last call (May 17) to receive the group discount at the Hallmark Inn for the Summer in Words Writing Conference. It’s a one-of-a-kind program for training writers at every skill level, from unpublished to professional, and offers help and inspiration to writers in every phase of their careers.

(Reservations for the conference accepted until June 12)
Why attend Summer in Words?
We consider writing a calling not a hobby.

The Summer in Words Writing Conference is an intimate, workshop-intensive event for serious writers of all genres who wish to either begin a novel, work towards perfecting their memoir or novel-in-progress, (while also learning to write short fiction), or focus on their craft while revising toward publication. The Summer in Words Writing Conference will provide not only the ideal location, but a perfect mix of professional and experienced faculty dedicated to teaching writers the pragmatic craft and market skills they need to be successful.

The Summer in Words Writing Conference is for aspiring authors and writers exists to: 1) teach participants advanced craft and technique 2) enable participants to learn the inside of publicizing their writing, a necessary skill in today’s marketplace, 3) combine the advantages of a larger conference with that of a small group workshop; and 4) provide a setting conducive to accomplishing all of the above (the endless blue of the Pacific as a backdrop).

The faculty: Sage Cohen, Chelsea Cain, Jessica Glenn, Cathy Lamb, Jessica Morrell, Naseem Rakha, Bruce Holland Rogers

Where it Happens: The Hallmark Inn & Resort
Located in midtown of charming Cannon Beach, Oregon. It offers premium lodging in a beautiful oceanfront resort. Hallmark Resort-Cannon Beach overlooks the sentinels of Haystack Rock and Tillamook Lighthouse is within view, it creates a splendid backdrop for spectacular vistas and stunning sunsets

Haystack Rock:
Towering 235 feet above sandy Cannon Beach, Haystack Rock is the third largest monolith in the world. This popular attraction shelters a marine garden at its base, which is home to marine creatures in tide pools open for gentle exploration by the public.

Leave a comment

Tick tock…

If you’re staying at the Hallmark Inn & Resort, register by May 17th to receive the group rate at 1-888-448-4449. The Hallmark has a variety of rooms and amenities including 2 indoor pools and overlooks Haystack Rock and the Pacific.

Registrations for the conference will be accepted until June 12.


Meet Jessica Glenn

This year our Summer in Words conference line up will include a talk about book publicity by Jessica Glenn. (Saturday, June 16)  It’s such and important topic these days especially when more and more writers are traveling the independent publishing route. And that road can be long, rutted and winding.

ImageJessica Glenn works as a book publicist through her agency Mindbuck Media. She loves authors and books and helping authors sell books. Glenn’s also a bit of a Renaissance woman and is involved in social activism, writes, gardens, raises kids, cooks, and is about to appear on this season’s Masterchefs. So you might want to meet her and find our what Gordon Ramsey is really like. You could also ask her about her thing for squirrels.

Q: It seems that you have a lot of interests and passions. This makes
me wonder how you chose publicity and working with authors in

A: Having a lot of interests and passions is definitely a defining characteristic of my personality. I started off as a freelance writer mostly writing content, which is great for people interested in everything plus it made me discover how much of a research junkie I am. From freelance writing, I moved to writing and strategy for INKEDblog (A&E’s website for INKED, the reality television show about tattoos) through employer Electric Artists Marketing Services in NY.

As I worked on the INKEDblog project, I learned how marketing is affected by community alliances and discovered my ongoing love affair with interactive web 2.0. After that project ended, I started my own marketing company to use what I had learned with Electric Artists.

My personal interests are mainly artistic and political, so naturally, many of my clients fell into those two categories. After about two years, I realized that a lot of what seemed most effective for campaigns was PR plus web 2.0 strategy rather than traditional marketing. At that point, most of my clients were authors or doctors because of my interest in the arts scene and because of my association with OHSU as a board member and treasurer for the Richmond clinic serving uninsured and under insured patients.

While I’m still dedicated to healthcare reform, these two groups did not have enough in common and I decided to work exclusively with authors three years ago.

My varied interests still serve me well even in this very niche position because one thing books have in common is divergent subject matter. Every book I work on starts with hard research in the subject and genre so that I start a campaign with an authentic knowledge of the subject matter. And this keeps work fresh and interesting.

Q: What are your thoughts on the current revolution in publishing?

A: Whenever I start to answer this, I realize it’s impossible not to step on someones’ toes. That said, I’m not one to avoid controversy… Candidly, I am ecstatically grateful that I am able to work in this industry at this time. Every morning when I sit at my desk, I am able to bend the rules, change the rules, break the rules, create the rules. Because of interactivity, I am able to invent new ways to contact people and new paths for readers to feel personally invested in the books and authors they love.

There are many people who are very unhappy at what they see as the fall of the local bookstore. I love our local independent bookstores. That said, as a matter of principle, I like innovation better. I don’t like clinging to something because it is part of my tradition, I like the thing that is most environmental, efficient and enjoyable. I see stores like Powell’s doing some very smart things such as their print on demand printer where people will be able to order a book and have it printed and bound right there in the store. Brilliant.

To the others I say: Evolve! Innovate! Come up with some good ideas! One obvious one I still haven’t seen is having Indy bookstores contact publishers directly for ebook sales links. Then with a simple app, customers can come in, scan the book they want in the bookstore, and upload it to their reading device without waiting in line and the profits go to the BOOKSTORE. That would require no shelf space, no inventory, etc. Yet, people would still be able to be part of a community and be in a communal space.

Q: What’s your number one bit of advice for writers about publicizing
their books?

A: DON’T FORGET THAT IT TAKES A MINIMUM OF 6 MONTHS TO PUBLICIZE A BOOK. Authors (and sometimes publishers) come to me all the time either with a book coming out in a month, or a book that came out a month before. I can (begrudgingly) squeeze the publicity into 3 months, but if the book has already been released, don’t believe any publicist who says it’s worth it to spend a bunch of money on a resuscitation campaign.

Q: What are the major mistakes you see writers making when it comes to
book publicity?

Authors don’t make good publicists, period.  The biggest mistake is pushing for an early release date because it seems like everything taken so long already and the author just can’t wait to get it out to the world! Another one is authors sending out their own press releases to every media outlet in the universe. Another one is purchasing any service which has the word “blast” in it. And lastly, if authors insist on doing their own publicity (which I understand is financially necessary in some cases), buy and read a book about how to do book publicity. There are some great ones. Then, use a pseudonym for the publicist name. As unfair as it is, people aren’t as inclined to believe a glowing recommendation of a book from the writer of that same book…

Q: Pasta or sushi?

A: All of the above and everything else! Cooking is another interest: I’m a contestant on the current season of Fox’s Masterchef and I love to gossip about other contestants so let me know if you want the dirt.

Q: What’s on your night stand?

A:Sex, drugs and rock and roll. So to speak.

Q: What’s next for you?

A: I’m really enjoying my work with international authors. I’ve had two from the UK and I have a new author from France (US ex-pat) with two books coming out in the next year. Fun stuff.

Leave a comment

Chelsea Cain’s series joining FX line up

ImageChelsea Cain, bestselling thriller series is in development with FX to transform her books into a television series.  Heartsick involves a serial killer who is in a relationship—of sorts—with a police detective Archie Sheridan. Trouble is, the serial killer is a female, named Gretchen Lowell, a fresh twist on the serial killer plot. And their relationship is based on her kidnapping and almost killing him. Not exactly the stuff of romance. Heartsick is being adapted by Mikko Alanne (5 Days of War) and produced by Geyer Kosinski (Magic City).

She recently tweeted: “FX, of course, is home to Justified, Sons of Anarchy, and American Horror Story. They make great TV & buy fake blood in bulk.”

Cain will also be the keynote speaker at the fifth annual Summer in Words Writing Conference which runs from June 15-17 at Cannon Beach, Oregon. Here keynote address is How to Murder For Money.

Leave a comment >

I would hurl words into this darkness and wait for an echo, and if an echo sounded, no matter how faintly, I would send other words to tell, to march, to fight, to create a sense of hunger for life that gnaws in us all.

~Richard Wright,

Leave a comment


Time is running out  is a terrific device to use in most storytelling. Creates tension and suspense–necessary ingredients. But in our lives, not so cool. Therefore this reminder that time is running out to receive the group rate at the Hallmark Inn in Cannon Beach.

Fabulous place with forever views of the Pacific. Please reserve your room now and send along your registration while you’re at it.

1 Comment

Meet Bruce Holland Rogers

    Stories by Bruce Holland Rogers have twice won the Micro Award for the best story under 1,000 words published in English during the previous year. Some of his other honors include two Nebula Awards, two World Fantasy Awards, and the Pushcart Prize. His fiction has been translated into over two dozen languages, including, rather improbably, Pashto and Klingon. He teaches fiction writing in a low-residency MFA program at the Northwest Institute of Literary Arts.

Q: Just for the record, how many short stories and poems have you written at this point in your career?

A: Early in my career, I kept careful track of each publication, but in the last decade or so, I’ve barely managed to keep up with my mailing records. I do hope to go back and make an accurate record of more recent publications. I must be up to something like 500 stories now, many of them VERY short.   Q: Why short fiction and short, short fiction?   I’ve always had a hard time settling on one genre, one tone, one relationship with material, so part of the answer to your question is that short fiction allows the writer more freedom to constantly change focus. That’s because short fiction isn’t commercially important, so no one’s especially paying attention to the fact that I haven’t settled predictably into writing one kind of narrative. With novels, there’s a better chance for commercial success, but also a greater chance that you’ll make enough of a name for yourself that readers are disappointed if, say, you stop writing about the detective they love and write an unrelated suspense novel or even something as wild as science fiction or a quiet literary novel. I jump genres and ambitions from one work to the next, and no one is bothered.

Q: How would you describe the current market for short fiction?

A: It’s a very diverse market. The strongest part of the market is science fiction and fantasy, where there are still a fairly large number of monthly magazines paying “professional” rates. Of course, those rates haven’t gone up much since the 1960s, so even in the healthiest genre, short fiction is a difficult way to make a living.   At the same time, the market is fragmenting in all sorts of ways that I approve of. The Internet made it possible for me to distribute my short-short stories directly to paying subscribers. Now ebooks are squeezing more and more of the middlemen out of the literary transaction. Amazon is in the process of destroying the old model of publication, but Amazon is also creating momentum for readers paying writers with as little intermediation as possible, which means that Amazon itself may become the middleman that the marketplace no longer needs. Writers are increasingly selling directly to readers, and that can only allow for more success and diversity for writers in specialized markets, such as short fiction.   In all, then, I would say that the market for short fiction is somewhere between poor to explosive.   Q:  love the accessibility and creativity of your shortshort subscription program. How did it come about?   A: It seems to have its origins in an apocryphal tale. I read in a book about marketing that in the early days of the Internet, a man offered to send a limerick a day, for a year, to anyone who sent him a dollar. According to this story, the man ended up with 100,000 subscribers.   I liked the idea of an email subscription to my stories, so I set the price low and first structured the subscription as a pyramid scheme: If I had one subscriber, I’d write one story a year. If I had ten subscribers, I’d write four stories a year. I hoped that this scheme would get people who wanted more stories to urge friends to subscribe. It worked. When I got to the point of two stories a month, I figured I was close to the limit of what I could produce to my satisfaction. I capped production at three stories a month, and the price has been ten dollars a year for most of shortshortshort’s history. Ten dollars is low enough to make the subscription an impulse buy.   The total number of subscribers rises and falls according to how much time and energy I have available for publicizing the service. At the high-water mark, I had about 1,000 subscribers. These days, I’m at about half that.   I’d like to make a big push for subscriptions to get up to 2,000 paying readers. That would be enough to make my writing self-sustaining, though I’d probably keep teaching for a while even if I achieved that. I enjoy teaching.   The idea of having a writer supported by 2,000 fans, each paying $10 a year, is the sort of thing I was talking about in reply to your question about markets. This isn’t at all a traditional view of “the market for fiction,” but it is a model that I think we’ll see increasingly.

Q: What’s your best advice for creating a short story that lingers in the reader’s imagination?

A: Rudyard Kipling had it right in the refrain of his poem, “In the Neolithic Age”: There are nine and sixty ways of constructing tribal lays/ And every single one of them is right!   It’s hard for me to come up with “best advice.” So much depends on the writer, the writer’s interests, and the individual reader. My advice boils down to “Write the story you would want to read, and write it well.” That last bit is tricky. There is so much to learn about how to write well, how to figure out what words, in what order, will ignite the firecracker or open the rose in the reader’s mind.   To a writer who wants stories to linger in the imagination, I’d suggest a course of survey and dissection. Survey literature to find many examples of stories that linger in YOUR imagination. Then, line by line, look at the story not as a reader, but as an analyst of effect. How does the story work? What does the first sentence establish? Why does the story start where it does, and not somewhere else? I think writers learn through a process of imitation an analysis. How-to books, books on the craft of writing, can help the writer to become more analytical. Some writers don’t need that step. They are able to wring the essence out of fiction they love and take to doing the same thing themselves. They may not think of this as imitation, but it is. No writer learned to write, except by example.   There are many ways that a book, a teacher, the criticism of “test readers” can move the writer closer to writing a memorable story. But these are aids to the main task of reading, enjoying, analyzing, and imitating.

Q: What is your biggest challenge as a writer and how do you face it?

A: life?   There aren’t enough hours in the day. I don’t make enough money, and most of the obvious ways to make more from my writing involve doing a lot of things other than writing. In writing and in life, I feel pulled in many directions. The biggest challenge is to just keep the faith, to keep on keeping on, to write as if my writing were the most valuable thing I could offer the world. It may not be, but I face life’s challenges by believing that it is.     Q: Pasta or sushi?

A: Sushi, by far.

Q: What’s on your nightstand?

 A: A stack of books of poetry, which I read for pleasure and for inspiration. Billy Collins. James Tate. Italo Calvino. Also a novel that I was enjoying, but then stopped reading because other things distracted me, like my lessons in Japanese. The novel is A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian.

Q: What’s next for you?

 A: I’m in the process of getting the rights back to various out-of-print titles, so next, in addition to the writing I keep doing every month, will be the publication of these older books as ebooks. Also, I have collaborative projects combining fiction and nonfiction planned for Japan, Finland, and Hungary, though each of these projects relies on getting a grant. Still, why not aim for the stars?

Leave a comment


Just a quick note:

Someone asked about the registration fee today. The $100 is a down payment required to hold your registration. The total for the conference is $265. Single day rates available.