Summer in Words

Writing Conference

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Summer in Words Writing Conference 2013 schedule

Imagine Write Publish


June 21-23, Cannon Beach, Oregon

Deep as the Ocean

Friday, June 21

8:30-9:15 Registration, Continental breakfast, Opening Remarks, Writing Warm -up

9:30-11Yakety Yak:  Writing dialog that speaks Lauren Kessler

Good dialog speaks.  Bad dialog reads.  Dialog can be the workhorse of prose, revealing character, advancing plot, enhancing sense of place, adding resonance.  Or it can plod along, flatten prose and jam up the works.  We’ll talk about, look at examples of and do an exercise highlighting the crafting, detail by important detail, of compelling dialog.

9:30-11 How High Concept Really Works, Jessica Morrell
High concept is a Hollywood term that refers to a premise that has pizzazz and instant appeal. It also means the story idea is easy to boil down in a sentence or two; it involves high stakes; it’s written in a discernible genre; and while the concept pushes boundaries, it also has wide appeal. We’ll discuss some famous high concept novels and films, creating media buzz, and how you can apply the principles to your pitch, synopsis, and storyline.

11:15 -12:30 Deep into Memoir, Melissa Hart This workshop will help writers to identify compelling topics for memoir and take the plunge into writing deeply-personal material.  Using examples from published books and short pieces, Melissa Hart will cover key literary elements in memoir, as well as ethical and emotional issues to consider when approaching this powerful and rewarding genre. Briefly, she’ll talk about how to approach editors and/or literary agents with a book proposal and a finished manuscripts

11:15-12:30 Considering the Senses, Monica Drake

In this workshop we’ll take time to pause and translate the world of lived experience onto the world of the page paying particular attention to the senses: sound, taste, touch, and how they might launch a narrative, call up a metaphor, demand simile, history, and story. Students will practice “Sound mapping” as a means of recording experience, and will consider how taste and smell might conjure up our earliest memories. These memories may be the basis for memoir, or shape the reality of fiction, building a bridge that invites readers to enter the world crafted by the writer. 

12:30- 2:00 Free time

2:00: 3:15 Setting the scene: The writer as prose cinematographer Lauren Kessler Close up or wide angle, zoom in or pan, the film opens, the story opens.  Through discussion, examples and exercises, delve into the multi-sensory details of scene setting that can make this vital part of your story descriptive and evocative, illustrative and resonant.

2:00-3:15 Captivating Costars, Jessica Morrell

Without captivating secondary characters a story doesn’t contain enough spice, drama or interest. Imaginatively written supporting characters leave their own particular note in the reader’s memory; enliven and propel the scenes that they appear in; and like leading characters, they breathe, hurt, and sizzle on the page.

We’ll cover the most common problems writers are prone to: cardboard, underdeveloped, stereotypical, or indistinct characters that lack physical characteristics or personality. Secondary characters often also require a back story and an agenda in the storyline. But the trick here is to be selective when fleshing out these types by choosing traits and details for the good of the whole story. We’ll discuss achieving balance between main and secondary characters so that the secondary characters are not overdrawn, or so they don’t overshadow or distract from the main events. Finally, we’ll cover the ‘jobs’ minor characters perform such as the sidekick or foil, adding complications and pressures, foreshadowing events; and inserting information about the protagonist or story.

3:30-5:00  Making Waves: Write and Publish Your Essays–This workshop will help writers to craft relevant and surprising short essays for magazines, newspapers, and radio.  Using examples from published pieces, Melissa Hart will cover essay structure, research and interviewing techniques, the use of photos and multimedia to enhance chances of publication, and how to approach editors with a finished piece.

3:30-5:00 Sell is Not a Four Letter Word, Randal Houle

What if you could transport yourself directly to a potential reader any time they came near your book? In “Sell,” we discuss how social media is not only about creating a buzz, but about creating buying opportunities. Tumblr, Facebook and Twitter are especially covered as well as the latest rage, Pinterest. Indie and established authors alike are jumping on the bandwagon, but not all approaches are created equal. Not all approaches result in book sales.

            The key is in using an “all of the above” strategy to bring the bookstore to the lap of the reader. Discover what works, what sells and most importantly, how to capitalize on what’s next. Workshop includes: 3 principles of marketing; Creating and maintaining a buzz; Mechanics of Tumblr Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest

5:00-6:30 Free time

6:30 Reception

7:00 Keynote: Persistence: One Part DIY, All Parts Heart, Kari Luna

Did you know that John Green, best-selling YA author, went through two years of revisions with Penguin on his first book? And that Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time got rejected 26 times? The history of publishing is full of overnight sensations, but more often than not, it’s filled with stories of persistence. Writers who, despite the odds, managed to stick with it from the gem of an idea to actual publication – with all of the bumps along the way. So how do you do it? How do you keep going when it seems like you’re not going anywhere? Or when the revision road seems endless? Hint: you have heart. And a complete punk rock attitude.

 Saturday June 22

8:45 Continental breakfast served

9:00-10:15  Deep Point of View Jessica Morrell

10:30- 12:00  Sentence by Sentence, Monica Drake

Writers often believe that it takes a knockout plot or idea to see their work in print. Of course, what you say is important; but you may not realize that how you say it matters just as much. The truth is that the beauty of your sentences and strength of your voice can help take a solid piece of writing from the slush pile to publication.

Stories are built of sentences, and sentences are built word by word. An artfully-crafted sentence can plug directly into a reader’s nervous system, build or release tension and take the action forward. When language is consciously chosen for impact, you can keep your reader on the edge of his or her seat from start to finish––whether you’re writing a personal essay, a piece of fiction or a how-to article. Through a mix of writing exercises, inspiring examples and personal instruction, writers of all genres will learn how to make potent language choices that will bring your great ideas to life and increase your odds of publication.

12:15 Lunch, Keynote speaker Jonathon Evision:  Why do we do this Anyway?

A best-selling author discusses the realities of the writing life including the pressures, deadlines and set backs and yet how writers are called to the page and how telling stories creates a meaningful life.

 1:30-3:00 Free Time

 3:00-4:30 Your Reader, Deep as the Ocean, Jonathon Evision

Fiction, at its best, is not as a monologue, but as a conversation, a collaborative affair. This workshop will explore the give-and-take relationship between reader and writer, as it relates to various elements of storytelling, including dialogue, structure, subtext and theme. We will practice and discuss approaches to involving the reader and using the reader’s intelligence to enhance the depth, texture, and execution of your narrative.

 4:30-6:30 Free time

 6:30 Out loud

 Sunday June 22

9:00 Continental Breakfast

9:15-10:15 What’s in a Title, Jessica Morrell

Too many writers complain that they’re not good at titles. This workshop is going to set you straight on the importance of a title to attract agents, editors, reviewers and readers.  We’ll also discuss how the right title inspires as you’re writing since it encapsulates the many meanings of the work for you before it does it for the reader. We’re going to brainstorm and search for the perfect  kickass title, no matter if we scour  the bible, poetry, rock lyrics, the yellow pages, titles of paintings, John Cheever’s diaries, look under rocks, couch cushions, four leaf clovers, but find a title that kills. Or maybe it lies within the story.

 10:30-11:45 Write Like it’s your Job, Kelly Williams Brown

There is the art of writing, and there is the craft of writing. The former is the higher calling, but mastering the latter is absolutely key for anyone who wishes to publish. And while most of us don’t have the luxury of practicing our writing 40 hours a week, we can still create environments where we are accountable to others, where we choose each word with the reader in mind, and where we craft and hone rather than just create. We’ll discuss how to shape and pitch ideas, what it means to write usefully, and why writing like a journalist is the first step to writing literature.

 11:45 Wrap-up, Raffle Drawing



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Meet Kari Luna

Kari Luna has seen the world from behind a Hammond organ, through the lens of a commercial camera, and from the top of a Swiss chalet. She has been, and still is, a professional copywriter, creative director, musician, yoga teacher, whimsicologist and now, teen novelist. Her savvy, “never say die” style of persistence comes from years of playing in garage bands, owning her own freelance business and getting used to the hustle. Her debut novel, Image, comes out July 11th on Philomel/Penguin. She’s currently working – with punk rock persistence and great heart – on another one. Dive into her world at


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Meet Melissa Hart

Melissa Hart is the author of the memoir, Image(Seal, 2009), which Kirkus Review called “a quirky narrative of artfully reconstructed memories.”  Her essays have appeared in The Washington Post, The Los Angeles Times, Hemispheres, The Advocate, High Country News, Orion, and Woman’s Day.  She teaches at the School of Journalism and Communication, University of Oregon.


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Meet Monica Drake

Monica Drake is the author of two novels, Clown Girl (2006) and The Stud Book (forthcoming, April 2013). Her short stories and essays have appeared in The Sun, Northwest Review, Beloit Fiction Journal, The Three Penny Review, and other places, in print, on line, and occasionally in performance. She teaches at the Pacific NW College of Art, where she is about to launch an innovated BFA in Creative Writing program Fall of 2013.
 She’ll be teaching two workshops at Summer in Words 2013 on Friday and Saturday. Image

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Lauren Kessler

Lauren Kessler is teaching two workshops at Summer in Words 2013. She’ll be teaching on Friday, June 21.

Lauren Kessler is the author of seven works of narrative nonfiction, including her latest, Counterclockwise: My Year of Hypnosis, Hormones, Dark Chocolate and Other Adventures in the World of Anti-Aging.  She is also the author of My Teenage Werewolf: A Mother, A Daughter, A Journey Through the Thicket of Adolescence, Pacific Northwest Book Award winner Dancing with Rose (published in paperback as Finding Life in the Land of Alzheimer’s), Washington Post bestseller Clever Girl and Los Angeles Times bestseller The Happy Bottom Riding Club – which David Letterman, in fierce competition with Oprah, chose as the first (and only) book for the Dave Letterman Book Club. Kessler appeared twice on his late-night show. She is also the author of Oregon Book Award winner Stubborn Twig, which was chosen as the book for all Oregon to read in honor of the state’s 2009 sesquicentennial.

Her journalism has appeared in The New York Times Magazine, Los Angeles Times Magazine, O magazine, Utne Reader, Ladies Home Journal, Woman’s Day, Prevention, The Nation, and She is a national speaker and workshop leader. She directs the graduate program in multimedia narrative journalism at the University of Oregon, and lives in Eugene with her writer husband, her three brilliant and faultless children, five chickens, two cats and a truly worthless rabbit.

ImageYou can find more about Lauren here.


1 Comment

Summer in Word Alumnus

Hi Jessica,

I attended your Conference last summer at Cannon Beach. I just wanted you to know how much I gained from it. I thought your teaching was so encouraging, and I’ve recommended your books many times to friends, lecture attendees, and clients. All your guest speakers were so inspiring, too. I was fascinated with Chelsea Cain’s success, and I did a study of all her books to see what she was doing right. The other person who had a profound effect on me was Cathy Lamb. Sometimes you’re just ready to hear things, and her emphasis on a daily word count made the whole concept finally sink in. I started writing 2K words a day, with the result of having three books in my Tala Chronicles, a paranormal romance series, accepted by a small, independent publisher. The first one, The Wolf’s Daughter, will be released soon.

My cozy mystery novella, The Celtic Crow Murders, is available for free Kindle download on Feb. 16 and Feb. 17. The website is I had published it about five years ago, but I rewrote almost every sentence in the past year, although the plot is the same. Fortunately, people can learn a lot in five years, and I think the quality is better than the original.

So thanks again for a wonderful conference. I hope I have the opportunity to attend another one in the future.


Patricia La Barbera

Mark Your Calendar: June 21-23

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6th annual Summer in Words

Jonathon Evison                                

ImageJonathon Evison is the author of the New York Times bestselling novel 
West of Here, All About Lulu, which won the Washington State Book 
Award.  His latest novel is The Fundamentals of Caregiving. 
In 2009, he was the recipientof a Richard Buckley Fellowship 
from the Christopher Isherwood Foundation. He lives on an island
in western Washington.