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Have I Got a Review for You
Peter Ray Field

On Tuesday, March 3rd, at the Old Church in downtown Portland, Willamette Writers welcomes Jeff Baker, The Oregonian's book editor and friend to writers everywhere.

As the Sunday Arts and Entertainment editor and the book editor at The Oregonian in Portland, Jeff assigns and edits news and feature articles on arts and culture in Portland. He writes feature and book reviews, assigns and edits freelance reviews, and writes an arts and books blog.

Jeff plans to share his insights into the world of book publishing, the large and the local, and the transformation of print to digital. Better yet, Jeff will speak on the arcane art of writing a book review, and will have review copies of books to give away.

Get your questions ready because there are going to be answers. So what is a book review?

A book review describes, analyzes and evaluates. The review conveys an opinion, and supports the opinion with evidence from the book.

Are there any rules for writing a book review?

Don't be intimidated by famous authors -- many have written mediocre books. Don't review books by people you know, love, or hate.

How do you get started writing book reviews?

Start by doing. Write book reviews for local newspapers. If they don't have a book review section, start one. If you have a specialty -- romance, mystery, dark fantasy -- cultivate it, become an expert.

Jeff says: "There are a lot of great young writers now . . . the talent pool is not drying up, and the interest in writing and literature, and being a great writer and a great poet, is undiminished . . . that’s as strong now as it's ever been."

Jeff is a University of Oregon graduate and has won awards for criticism, feature writing and sports journalism. He's taught classes in writing and in Northwest Literature at Portland State University and the Attic Institute and guest-lectured and led workshops on writing and publishing at the Pacific University MFA program, Fresno State University, Clackamas Community College and other schools and writing programs.

And he’s got a stack of books to give away! Let’s crack them open and write a review, tonight, if not sooner! Use the following template to get started. Once you've turned out a few dozen in the privacy of your own home, try it with your neighbor’s book, your kid’s book, your own book. And go ahead and break the rules. Even book reviewers have their own style.

The rest is really simple. Send your best reviews to We will consider posting them in the members news section of the Willamette Writers website. The website is viewable by the world. The world buys books.

Let’s get the story going. Follow Jeff Baker in The Oregonian: Come to the meeting on March 3rd. Bring questions. The doors open at 6:30 and the meeting begins promptly at 7:00.

How to Write a Book Review

Before reading, consider:
  • Preface or Introduction – reveals important information about the author's intentions or the scope of the book. Can you identify any limitations? Has the author ignored important aspects of the subject?
  • Table of Contents - shows how the book is organized; what are the main ideas and how are they developed?
As you read the entire book:
  • From what point of view is the book written?
  • Do you agree or disagree with the author's point of view?
  • Make notes as you read, passages to quote in your review.
  • Can you follow the author's thesis?
  • What is the author's style? Formal? Informal? Is it suitable for the intended audience?
  • Are concepts well defined? Is the language clear and convincing? Are the ideas developed? What areas are covered, not covered? How accurate is the information?
  • Is the author's concluding chapter, the summary, convincing?
  • If there are footnotes, do they provide important information? Do they clarify or extend points made in the text?
  • If relevant, make note of the book's format - layout, binding, etc. Are there maps, illustrations? Are they helpful?
  • Is the index accurate? What sources did the author use -- primary, secondary? Make note of important omissions.
  • What did the book accomplish? Is more work needed? Compare the book to others by this author, or books in this field by other authors.
Writing the Review:
  • Include title, author, place, publisher, publication date, edition, pages, special features (maps, etc.), price, ISBN.
  • Hook the reader with your opening sentence. Set the tone of the review. Be familiar with the guidelines -- some editors want plot summaries; others don't. Some want you to say outright if you recommend a book, but not others.
  • Review the book you read -- not the book you wish the author had written.
  • If this is the best book you’ve ever read, say so -- and why. If it's merely another nice book, say so.
  • Include information about the author-- reputation, qualifications, etc. -- anything relevant to the book and the author's authority.
  • Think about the person reading your review. Is this a librarian buying books for a collection? A parent who wants a good read-aloud? Is the review for readers looking for information about a particular topic, or for readers searching for a good read?
  • Your conclusion should summarize, perhaps include a final assessment. Do not introduce new material at this point.
  • To gain perspective, allow time before revising.
Writing about Fiction:
  • What was the story about?
  • Who were the main characters?
  • Were the characters credible?
  • What did the main characters do in the story?
  • Did the main characters run into any problems? Adventures?
  • Who was your favorite character? Why?
Your personal experiences:
  • Could you relate to any of the characters in the story?
  • Have you ever done or felt some of the things, the characters did?
Your opinion:
  • Did you like the book?
  • What was your favorite part of the book?
  • Do you have a least favorite part of the book?
  • If you could change something, what would it be? (If you wish you could change the ending, don't reveal it!)
Your recommendation:
  • Would you recommend this book to another person?
  • What type of person would like this book?
Here are two excellent resources for additional information on writing about books, films, art, and culture:

"The Slippery Art of Book Reviewing," Calvani, Mayra and Anne K. Edwards, Perfect Paperback, 2008.

"Art Reviews and How to Write Them," Brayfield, Celia, Creative Essentials, 2008.


Thanks to Moira Allen, editor at, for permission to use “How to Write a Book Review,” Bill Asenjo, Ph.D., 2002.


Fund Your Creative Project
Peter Ray Field

On Tuesday, February 3rd, at the Old Church in downtown Portland, Willamette Writers welcomes celebrated author and coach, Gigi Rosenberg, who will introduce us to the world of grants, how to research them and even how to enlist the help of friends and colleagues in writing them.

Gigi says: "Even if you don’t end up applying for a grant, you’ll leave the meeting with strategies for planning your next career move." Want to learn how to take a good idea and transform it into a lively grant proposal? Need to find a grant that might pay for you to take a workshop or fund your next creative project? Have a funding application that needs decoding? Come join us and learn the secrets of successful grant writers and how your career can flourish just from writing the application.

This is just the beginning, though. Later in the month, on Saturday, February 21st, Gigi will be running a full two and a half hour workshop for Willamette Writers members, addressing your specific questions, helping you focus your career goals, and most importantly giving you an effective system to locate grant funding for your next project.

And she's promised to assign homework at the meeting for those attending the workshop on the 21st so you can take full advantage of Gigi's expertise. Don't miss out. Grant writing is a skill every writer should wield.

The Old Church doors open at 6:30, and the meeting gets underway at 7.


The Red Carpet Treatment
Peter Ray Field

On Tuesday, January 6th, at the Old Church in downtown Portland, Willamette Writers presents a special program devoted to FiLMLaB 2015.

FiLMLaB, now in its 4th year, already boasts an award-winning short film from year one, Alis Volat Propriis, by Portland writer, Haley Isleib. FiLMLaB Coordinator and Exec. Producer Ruth Witteried picks up the gauntlet in 2015 with her eye on even greater glory for a new short film production. Ruth has invited filmmaker Martin Vavra and 2014's winning writer, Jon Dragt, to take the walk of fame across the Old Church stage and answer questions you haven't even thought of yet.

If you missed this year's screening of Jon's Unwelcome Guests at the August conference, fear not. We'll view this super fun short at the meeting and also, if time allows, the world premiere of an additional FiLMLaB video.

You'll be asking yourself, "Could those be my figments of my imagination up there on the silver screen?" They certainly could be.

Ruth is going to make it easy for you. Come to the meeting. Watch the film. Ask questions. Get answers. Write a seven-page screenplay. That's right, seven pages.

Or less! It doesn’t have to be seven pages. It can be five or six, or any number up to and including seven. But seven is the magic number because seven pages of script is usually shootable in a weekend—and weekends are when those great Portland filmmakers are free from their day jobs at Grimm and Portlandia.

If you can write a feature-length screenplay in 30 days with the mini-movie method (Spike Lee wrote his first script, She’s Gotta Have It, in a lot less time than that), you can probably write seven pages in seven days and still have a day to rest. Once you get creating, there's no telling what you can accomplish, so make 2015 the year to get ‘er done.

The 2015 FiLMLaB contest winner will see their short film debuted at the Willamette Writers Conference in August at a free event that will be open to the public. Getting the chance to see your work come to life on the big screen is priceless, but there are many other perks to winning, not the least of which is the opportunity to work with a director and be on set while your story is filmed. Check the FiLMLaB Blog at for the latest information on contest rules, script limitations and guidelines, or on Facebook at FiLMLaB, and Twitter @WWFiLMLaB.

Mark your calendars for the membership meeting, January 6th. We roll out the red carpet at 6:30 folks, and the celebrity sightings start soon thereafter.

The Experiment Begins

If you're scratching your head, wondering how to get started with a short film script, join us the following Saturday, January 10th, for a two-hour workshop with director Martin Vavra and screenwriter Randall Jahnson. This is your chance to explore short script writing and short film structure with two of the Pacific Northwest's filmmaking luminaries.

What are the fundamental differences between a feature length script and a short script, aside from the obvious page count?

Veteran screenwriter, teacher and producer, Randall Jahnson (The Doors, Mask of Zorro), is going to tap his storytelling experience to assist Willamette Writers members in learning the fundamental rules of short script writing and how to avoid common pitfalls.

Martin Vavra will share his behind-the-camera experience as a director, producer and editor to provide a nuts and bolts perspective on what happens to a script when it leaves the writer's hands and enters production.

Winning 2014 screenwriter, Jon Dragt, and FiLMLaB executive producer, Ruth Witteried will be on hand to answer questions about the contest and, yes, you do get a credit in IMDb if your script wins.

Location: Robinwood Station (3706 Cedaroak Drive, West Linn)

Time: 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. See for more information.

Registration for WW members is $15 and $20 for non-members. Watch the weekly announcements for additional details, or follow the news at


Small Press-a-palooza
Peter Ray Field

December 2nd Holiday Meeting:  

Small Press Panel Discussion*

Abbey Gaterud of Ooligan Press will be on the panel. See info below.

On Tuesday,  December 2nd, at the Old Church in downtown Portland, Willamette Writers welcomes a trio of small press dignitaries to our year-end meeting.

Award-winning Seattle author Terry Persun (“Guidebook to Working with Small Independent Publishers”), and Jared John Smith, Portland author of Rabbit (Pink Fish Press, 2014), take the stage for an informal discussion about the brave new world of small press publishing.

Do you want a route to publication that doesn't include the New York Big 5?  Terry Persun opens our discussion with an introduction to the world of independent publishing.  “There are only a few large, corporate publishers and literally thousands of small independent publishers alive today.  For authors looking to get their books published, these small publishers offer a great opportunity.

Terry Persun, who
  will be presenting at Small Pressapalooza.

Terry’s Guidebook to Working with Small Independent Publishers (Pink Fish Press, 2012), presents the pros and cons of small press publishers.  “Whenever I gave a talk or workshop about working with small, independent publishers, there was standing room only in the hall.  Afterward, many attendees asked if there was a book explaining what I'd gone over and I could never find one.  I wrote [the guidebook] from my class notes…”

Jared John Smith's Rabbit is about J, a male American folklorist, aged twenty-seven, collecting ghost stories across states for freelance pieces.  Along the halfway point of a 4,000 mile road trip through humid forestry and dry canyons, J meets with his homeless, mentally-ill father for the first time since age five.  There are musings on sizes of stars and fragile creatures, the deaths of rabbits; mostly, it is a frantic hunt for family and its definition.

Jared John Smith submitted his first query letter at the age of fifteen. He wrote several books, operated a blog, and graduated from a university with an acronym entitling him to say, "I majored in English Literature. After a failed pitch attempt to a round of agents at a literary conference, he set out on a road trip to meet his homeless father. 

We have a surprise honored speaker at this evening's meeting. Abbey Gaterud is the Publisher of Portland's Ooligan Press, a not-for-profit general trade press that publishes books honoring the cultural and natural diversity of the Pacific Northwest. Abbey is a dynamic speaker and also teaches PSU classes in book design, editing, production, and marketing. The press is affiliated with the Portland State University Graduate Publishing Program -- there are only seven other places around the nation where one can get a Master’s degree with an emphasis in publishing. Ooligan Press is also hosting the January "Write to Publish" conference at PSU. A list of books published by Ooligan can be found at

For even more tales of the small press insurgence, check out the November/December issue of Poets & Writers Magazine (, where eleven small-press authors and their editors tell the stories behind their successful publishing partnerships. 

We hope you’ll join us at the Old Church on Tuesday, December 2nd.  Bring your questions, get some answers. 

As always, the doors open at 6:30 and the meeting gets underway promptly at 7:00 pm.  And don’t be alarmed if someone in a red suit shows up to play the pipe organ…

* Renda Dodge was unable to make this evening's presentation.


The Writer's Passion

by Peter Ray Field

Photo of author Karen Karbo.On Tuesday, November 4th, at the Old Church in downtown Portland, Willamette Writers welcomes celebrated Portland author, Karen Karbo, who will talk with the membership about getting to what only you can say.

Karen says: "We're talking about voice, but also about developing the ability to locate topics that resonate with you, topics in which you [the writer] develop an interest, even a passion." Cultivating passion is key because it makes your writing life so much easier, even blissful. "In a world exploding with information and 24/7 narrative, the story we all want to hear is the one that's never been told before, or never been told in the way only YOU can tell."

Karen will propose a few simple methods for discovering your abiding passions, what is interesting and meaningful enough to delve into, and what leaves you cold. "The clearer we are about what speaks to us, the easier and more powerful our writing life will become," Ms. Karbo says. And "trying to game the market is futile.... but sometimes your muse can be cajoled into finding things of interest that also interest others."

Karen Karbo is the author of fourteen award-winning novels, memoirs and works of non-fiction including the best-selling "Kick Ass Women" series. Her 2004 memoir, The Stuff of Life, was a New York Times Notable Book, a "Books for a Better Life" Award finalist, and winner of the Oregon Book Award for Creative Non-fiction. A recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship in Fiction, Karen's three adult novels have also been named New York Times Notable Books. Her short stories, essays, articles and reviews have appeared in Elle, Vogue, O, Esquire, Outside, The New York Times,, and other magazines. Karen was also one of 24 authors recently chosen by Amtrak to participate in their inaugural Amtrak Residency program (

The New York Times declared Karen’s second novel, The Diamond Lane (Hawthorne Books, 1991), "one of the best books of 1991", and Hawthorne has re-issued the book with an introduction by Jane Smiley, who writes: "... the convoluted relationships between art and commerce, truth and fiction, love and rivalry, wit and sadness that Karbo explores in THE DIAMOND LANE have not changed. This novel still feels knowing and audacious and up-to-the-minute."

Whether you're a fiction or non-fiction writer, a poet or memoirist, Ms. Karbo says "Everything that works in literature is emotionally autobiographical. It's true across genres." We’re going to be talking about working from the inside out, because “nothing is more powerful than a person speaking straight from his heart and guts about a topic he finds meaningful. That authenticity is the only thing that has a chance of cutting through the chatter.”

For more information on Karen Karbo, please visit We hope you'll join us at the Old Church on Tuesday, November 4th. As always, the doors open at 6:30 and the meeting gets underway promptly at 7:00 pm.


A Path Toward Living Well

by Peter Ray Field

Photo of poet Sage Cohen speaking at the Old Church.On Tuesday, October 7th, at the Old Church in downtown Portland, Willamette Writers welcomes local author Sage Cohen, who will talk with the membership about how writing well can be a powerful practice toward living well.

Says Cohen, “Writing has taught me how to think, how to navigate emotion, and how to be a mother and a friend. But most importantly, writing has taught me who I am. Words are the best company I’ve ever found in the mosh pit of the heart—and in the trenches of life." She proposes that anyone who writes, whether it's poems, essays, fiction, or even business writing, has the opportunity to cultivate courage and find their most authentic way forward.

Writers strive to unlock truths with language. Ms. Cohen says she has come to appreciate that the high point of the writing life may be those decades spent "fumbling with the key" – before crossing over to that imagined arrival point.

"It is the striving that refines us as humans and writers, and every so-called success is just another foothold into the mystery. We may pause an extra beat to take in the view, pat ourselves on the back, and feel the gratitude for how hard we’ve worked. And then it's time for the next step. And the next."

This kind of momentum in writing can actually prepare us to navigate the universal human challenges. "When we are faced with unimaginable grief, confusion, loss and heartbreak," she advises, “we writers can simply write it down, and see what words come after that. We can trust the words as companions. They don’t have to be perfect or even good. They just have to land on the page, as we land in our lives. One foot, one word, after the other."

This is what makes a writing life.

Photo of poet Sage Cohen speaking at the Old Church.Sage plans to discuss how the craft of writing can be a path of transformation. "Together, we will reconsider the challenges, rejections and limitations that every writer faces, as opportunities to grow more sure, strong and capable in life and in craft. We will explore how a commitment to writing well can be a powerful path toward living well."

Sage Cohen is the author of Writing the Life Poetic (2009) and The Productive Writer (2010), both from Writer’s Digest Books, and the poetry collection Like the Heart, the World (2007) from Queen of Wands Press. Her poems, essays, short stories and how-to articles have appeared in Rattle; Poetry Flash; Hip Mama; The Night, and the Rain, and the River; Cup of Comfort for Writers; Writer's Digest Magazine; Poet's Market and Writer's Market.

Photo of poet Sage Cohen signing a book at the Old Church. Sage holds a BA in comparative literature from Brown University and an MFA from NYU. Since founding Sage Communications in 1997, she has been writing marketing and ad copy for global and national high-tech, healthcare and financial services companies.

More about Sage Cohen’s writing can be found at She also offers strategies and support for divorcing parents at (now she tells me).

We hope you'll join us on Tuesday, October 7th, at the Old Church at 1422 SW 11th Avenue in Portland.

The meeting starts at 7:00 p.m. and the doors open at 6:30.


Write What You Hate

by Peter Ray Field

On Tuesday, September 2nd, at the Old Church in downtown Portland, Willamette Writers welcomes local author Bill Cameron, who will talk with the membership about his approach to character development.

Bill Cameron is the author of the gritty mysteries “County Line” (Tyrus Books, 2011), “Day One” (Tyrus Books, 2010), “Chasing Smoke” (Bleak House Books, 2008) and “Lost Dog” (Midnight Ink, 2007) – featuring irascible Portland homicide cop Skin Kadash. In a starred-review of the 2012 Spotted Owl Award-winning “County Line”, Publishers Weekly said, “Contemporary sharp-edged noir doesn’t get much better than Cameron’s mournful novel featuring ex-cop Skin Kadash.” Library Journal called it … “A perfect fit for Archie Mayor and William Kent Krueger fans.”

Photo of author Bill Cameron speaking at the September 2014 Willamette Writers meeting in Portland.Bill plans to discuss his approach to character development by sharing anecdotes and specific techniques he uses to dig into characters “who are the most difficult”. “Character development”, says Cameron, “is not about likeability, or relatability, or sympathy – it's about empathy. As writers we must understand not only a character’s traits, interests, needs and desires, but what they value and how they see themselves. We must be capable armchair psychologists, recognizing in our characters not only what they recognize in themselves, but what they’re incapable of recognizing in themselves. And we need to do this for all of them, heroes and villains alike. If anything, the characters we find the most loathsome are the ones we must work hardest to understand and to portray fairly.”

New York Times Bestselling Portland author Chelsea Cain described “Day One” as “an utterly engrossing page-turner.” In the Vancouver Voice, Carolyn Schultz-Rathbun said, “The body count is positively Shakespearean, but in Cameron’s vision of P-town’s dark underbelly, love really is strong as death. Maybe stronger.” “Day One” was a finalist for the 2011 Spotted Owl Award for best Northwest mystery.

“Chasing Smoke” received a starred review from Library Journal, and Booklist declared, “it engages the reader on an emotional as well as literary level.” “Chasing Smoke” was a finalist for the 2009 Spotted Owl Award. “Lost Dog” was nominated for the 2008 Rocky Award and was a finalist for the 2008 Spotted Owl Award. Cameron’s short story, “The Princess of Felony Flats,” was nominated for the CWA Short Story Dagger 2011.

Cameron's short fiction has appeared in Portland Noir, Spinetingler, the Killer Year, and First Thrills anthologies, as well as on Lit 103.3: Fiction for the Ears. In 2011, a pair of Skin Kadash stories appeared in the anthologies West Coast Crime Wave and Deadly Treats. A new Skin Kadash short story, “Daisy and the Desperado,” will be part of the Bouchercon 2014 Murder at the Beach anthology, with Dana Cameron editing.

Bill lives in Eugene, Oregon, and is an eager traveler and avid bird-watcher. He likes to write near a window so he can meditate on whatever happens to fly by during intractable passages. He is co-chair with L.J. Sellers of the 2015 “Left Coast Crime” conference (, to be held at the Doubletree Lloyd Center in March.

Bill tweets at He’s a member of Friends of Mystery, Sisters-in-Crime, and International Thriller Writers, and serves on the Board of the Mystery Writers of America. For still more information on Bill Cameron, please visit

We hope you’ll join us at the Old Church on Tuesday, September 2nd. As always, the doors open at 6:30 and the meeting gets underway promptly at 7:00 pm.


Why I Love My Small Press Publisher

by Peter Ray Field

On Tuesday, July 1st, at the Old Church in downtown Portland, Willamette Writers welcomes local author Stevan Allred, who will talk with the membership about the publication of his collection of linked stories, A Simplified Map of the Real World.

Published with Portland's own Forest Avenue Press, A Simplified Map of the Real World launched Forest Avenue Press' fiction catalogue in 2013 and was named a #1 book on the annual Powell's Staff Top 5 list. "Working with Forest Avenue Press was the best thing that could have happened to me and my book", says Allred. "Every part of the process – editorial, book design, marketing – was collaborative. I couldn’t be happier."

Established in 2012 by Laura Stanfill, Forest Avenue Press' mission is to publish "quiet novels for a noisy world". In the inaugural year, Stanfill edited and compiled the bestselling local anthology, Brave on the Page: Oregon Writers on Craft and the Creative Life. In 2014, in addition to receiving an Oregon Literary Arts Award, Forest Avenue Press published the anthology of short fiction, The Night, and the Rain, and the River, with local authors Jan Baross, Gail Bartley, Steve Denniston, Jackie Shannon Hollis, among others. Also in 2014, Forest Avenue published Dan Berne’s The Gods of Second Chances, with Kate Gray's Carry the Sky coming in the fall.

Ms. Stanfill: "For the first time in my creative life, I don’t have to wait for someone else to open the door. I’ve opened it myself, for Stevan, and for Dan and Kate, and for all the Oregon writers we'll publish in the future."

Stevan Allred’s A Simplified Map of the Real World contains fifteen linked stories that chart a true course through the lives of families, farmers, loggers, former classmates, and the occasional stripper. In the richly imagined town of Renata, Oregon, a man watches his neighbor's big-screen TV through binoculars. An errant son paints himself silver. Mysterious electrical humming emanates from an enormous barn. A secret abortion from three decades ago gets a public airing. Intimate boundaries are loosened by divorce and death in a rural community where even an old pickle crock has an unsettling history—and high above the strife and the hope and the often hilarious, geese seek the perfect tailwind.

The book features illustrations by Laurie Paus, a bookseller at Elliott Bay Book Company in Seattle, as well as a hand-drawn Faulknerian map and "story trees" that diagram the connections between the characters.

Allred began working on A Simplified Map of the Real World in 2004. "I knew early on that the stories would be linked, that I would set them all in the same small town, Renata, and that this would be my chance to build something like Faulkner's Yoknapataphaw County".

Stevan lives in Estacada, and teaches creative writing at The Pinewood Table. For more information on Stevan Allred, please visit and for information on Forest Avenue Press, including manuscript submission guidelines,

We hope you'll join us at the Old Church on Tuesday, July 1st. As always, the meetings start at 7:00 pm, and the doors open at 6:30.


Risky Business

by Peter Ray Field

On Tuesday, June 3rd, Willamette Writers welcomes local author, Jessica Morrell, who will talk with the membership about using risk to create compelling, larger-than-life surrogate warriors, bad ass anti-heroes, believable antagonists, and quirky, memorable cast members for your story.

Jessica notes: "When people pick up a book, they’re not interested in reading about the guy or gal next door, unless that person is as mysterious as midnight, secretive as a Cold War spy, and has an over-sized freezer tucked in the back of the garage. For a family of one. No, readers want to read about story folk who they'll likely never meet in real life and sometimes don't dare to."

Risk can mean writing about not-quite likeable protagonists and anti-heroes, sympathetic antagonists, and villains who are fascinating and complicated. It can mean writing about people with terminal illnesses, mental health disorders, or character defects that appall. It can mean knowing what's screwing up your character. Jessica will also talk about how a character's back story illuminates the front story, reveals emotional needs and motives, and foreshadows change or character arc, and how today’s characters encapsulate a complex humanity in ways we've never seen before.

Terrorist attacks, drone strikes, the 24-hour news cycle and plugged in, nonstop technology have changed the way people see and experience the world. Americans and people around the globe no longer feel safe. Coupled with the rise of the internet and social media also means the world is becoming increasingly complex and difficult to understand.

And, oddly, what's wrong with a character is often the X-factor that makes him or her believable, relatable, and fascinating. When a character is off his meds or out of kilter it brings a dose of tension to the story. What’s going to happen when the meds completely leave his system? Or when his scary Uncle Bubba comes calling demanding the money stolen from him to buy street drugs.

Jessica Page Morrell understands both sides of the editorial desk–as an editor and an author. 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. Her forthcoming book No Ordinary Days: The Seasons, Cycles and Elements of the Writing Life will be published in fall 2014. Her work also appears in anthologies and The Writer and Writer's Digest magazines. Morrell founded and coordinates three writing conferences: Summer in Words, Making it in Changing Times, and Claim Your Story. She is a former food columnist and restaurant reviewer, has been creating columns about the writing life since 1998, and is a popular speaker at writers’ conferences throughout North America. Morrell lives in Portland, Oregon, where she's surrounded by writers, and watches the sky in all its moods and permutations.

We hope you’ll join us at the Old Church on Tuesday, June 3rd. As always, the meetings start at 7:00 pm, and the doors open at 6:30.


The Hierarchy of Story

by Peter Ray Field

Photo of author Jennifer Lauck. On Tuesday, May 6th, Willamette Writers welcomes local author, Jennifer Lauck. After 30 years of non-fiction writing, Jennifer takes on the novel and will share what she calls The Hierarchy of Story, a pyramid similar to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.

A New York Times bestselling memoir writer, Jennifer will share how her analysis of plot, character and structure helps keep her focused in the midst of her creative process and how she’s discovered that these building blocks can also apply to creative non-fiction. The Hierarchy of Story covers the seven basic plotlines, the seven major character archetypes, three part, four part and five part structure systems and even scene as reduced to the seven basic elements.

Jennifer is in the final edit of a novel project titled When God was a Man set in 1913 Italy. Her book traces the transformative journey of a young woman who was set to live an obedient, cloistered life in service to God only to see her whole path change once she discovers she is part of an ancient tradition of women warriors who must, as part of their lineage, speak out and take action on behalf of oppressed women and girls.

The book Jennifer is promoting after her talk is Knitting Yarns, edited by Ann Hood and published by Norton Anthologies. Knitting Yarns highlights a terrific group of writers who also knit and includes Anita Shreve, Barbara Kingsolver and Ann Patchett. Part of the collection is Jennifer’s essay, The One Year Marriage, which explores couples therapy and the painful end of a very difficult union riddled with a lack of self-confidence and mental illness.

Jennifer describes herself as a reader, until she was seventeen years old and her high school Honors English teacher recommended she become a writer. Jennifer enrolled in journalism classes in college and was further encouraged by another mentor, Klaus Scherler. After college, she became an investigative journalist in Montana, Washington and Oregon, working in TV news a reporter and then a producer. Jennifer left TV news in the 90’s and began investigating her own life and memories in a series of memoirs. She published the New York Times Bestseller, Blackbird (Washington Square Press, 2001), Still Waters (Washington Square Press, 2002) and Show Me the Way (Washington Square Press, 2005). Jennifer’s most recent memoir, Found (Seal Press, 2012), “…wraps up a fifteen-year quest to knowing myself, which ends when I find the woman who gave me life but was forced to put me up for adoption. In finding my mother, I found what had been missing from my life -- an identity!“

Jennifer has a BA in Journalism from Montana State and her MFA in creative writing from Pacific Lutheran University. Jennifer lives in Portland, where she’s raising two kids and teaches five classes a week as a Senior Fellow at The Attic Institute.

Join us at the Old Church on May 6th. You'll leave inspired with new insights, great ideas and a unique perspective on story for your own writing project and process.

As always, the meetings start at 7:00 pm, and the doors open at 6:30.


On Tuesday, April 1st, at the Old Church in downtown Portland, the Willamette Writers welcomes Northwest author Bill Kenower, who will share with the membership his insights on overcoming any writer’s worst enemy: fear.

According to Bill, if you love to write and have a story you want to tell, the only thing that can stand between you and the success you’re seeking isn’t craft, or a good agent, or enough Facebook friends and Twitter followers, but fear. Fear that you aren’t good enough, or fear the market is too crowded, or fear no one wants to hear from you.

"Writing a book, or a short story, or even a poem can sometimes feel like a long and lonely journey. Every writer, from an experienced novelist to a beginning playwright, could use someone who understands this journey and who can provide both a compassionate ear and a clear voice when we are uncertain if this journey is worth taking."

Photo of author Bill Kenower speaking at the March 2014 Willamette Writers meeting in Portland. Whether it's fiction or non-fiction, interviewing or speaking to groups, Bill is interested in the intersection of creativity and everyday life. "Everyone is the author of their own life; some of us write that life with a pen."

A long-time resident of Seattle, Bill leads a monthly discussion devoted to the joys and fears of the writing life. "Participants talk about why we write, not how...and the answer usually provides the clearest path to where we most want to go."

One of Kenower's workshop participants had this to say:

"Every time I attend, I leave with greater clarity about why I'm writing and how to put all those other questions about audience, marketing, query letters, and so on in their place. Bill Kenower isn't just a great storyteller who knows how to match his stories to the free-flowing conversation. He's also a fabulous coach who somehow manages time after time to get all the participants to share their own stories and insights in ways that build on one another."

Photo of author Bill Kenower signing his book at the 2014 Willamette Writers meeting in Portland. William Kenower is the author of Write Within Yourself: An Author's Companion, (Booktrope Editions, 2013), a collection of essays and stories to remind writers and all creative people why we must make the things we love to make. Bill is also the Editor-in-Chief of Author magazine, an online magazine for writers and dedicated readers. He writes a popular daily blog for the magazine about the intersection of writing and our daily lives, and has interviewed hundreds of writers of every genre, from Yann Martel, to Amy Tan, to William Gibson. He also hosts the popular online radio program Author2Author, where every week he and a guest discuss the books we write and the lives we lead. To learn more about Bill Kenower, go to

"Real writing never begins until the fear ends," says Bill.

We hope you'll join us on April 1st at the Old Church to find out how to end it sooner rather than later. The meeting starts at 7:00 pm and doors open at 6:30.


The Emotional Beat Sheet

by Peter Ray Field

On Tuesday, March 4th, at the Old Church in downtown Portland, the Willamette Writers welcomes local author Clark Kohanek, who will share with the membership his thoughts on 'the emotional beat sheet'.

Most writers may be familiar with the beat sheet for scene, character and movement, but many miss the emotional beats that help take their characters through their emotional arc. Part of the battle is knowing where to start a character’s journey – emotionally speaking - and chart it through the story consciously.

Says Kohanek: "The Emotional Beat Sheet is based on the premise of the story, juxtaposed with the character's journey, and guided by the comment the writer is trying to make about the human experience."

In 2005, Clark's horror/comedy The Undertakers was a Nicholl Fellowship Quarter Finalist and Clark has just completed a trilogy of supernatural thrillers called The Blood of Angels that deals with a secret society of fallen angels who battle with circus magicians and gypsies for the fate of humanity. Clark worked as a consultant on the Armenian comedy "My Uncle Raphael" and wrote "Contained", a micro-budget sci-fi thriller that has made it into the studio system, and wrote the first draft of John McAfee's story, called "Running in the Background".

"There are a thousand ways to begin a script, or to revise one. The emotional beat sheet is just a wonderful investigative and story-driving tool for writing screenplays or novels."

The emotional beat sheet helps the writer with her story by establishing a series of emotional transitions, reflections and turning points that tease out hidden conditions and constructs altering awareness of issues in the process that compels the character forward.

Example: Premise - poverty leads to crime.

The arc of the main character may start in a place where they're emotionally naive but have power and wealth. Then something happens, fair or unfair, causing them to lose their wealth and power and turn to a life of crime to regain their position. During this process, their previous naivete is wiped away and replaced with A: an awareness and possible compassion for the poor/victims, B: they become broken by the process and cynical, they withdraw, C: Embrace this new role and become ruthless, D: fill in the blank. It all depends on what the writer hopes to achieve by the comment.

The Emotional Beat sheet tracks and manages the story by clearly defining emotional set-ups and pay-offs, reversals, betrayals, achievements.

Clark Kohanek is a freelance illustrator, storyboard artist, writer and director. He has worked with Oscar Award winning actor, writer and director, Tim Robbins, on his feature film "The Heretic" and Showtime's "Possible Side Effects." In addition, Clark has created conceptual art and storyboard work for "Another Night at the Museum" with Ben Stiller; Megan Whalen Turner's Newberry Award winning "The Thief" for Disney/Bruckheimer, and a sci-fi spec for Bryan Singer.

For more information on Clark Kohanek, please visit his website at

We hope to see you on March 4th, at the Old Church. Doors open at 6:30 and, as always, the meeting begins at 7.


This Ain't Rocket Science

by Peter Ray Field

On Tuesday, February 4th, at the Old Church in downtown Portland, Willamette Writers welcomes local author Dana Haynes, who will share with the membership his battle-tested techniques for getting to “The End”.

"Don't let it get out, but writing is as much a craft as it is an art," says Haynes. "With a few simple techniques, you can make your writing more productive and -- equally important -- more fun. If you ever get to a point that writing is a chore, like emptying the cat box, your novel is in trouble.” These tricks will keep the process fresh and fun, give you momentum, and help you get to those all-important words, “The End.”

"The best advice I can give," says Haynes, is "sit down and write. Seriously. It's as simple as that. There is no better way to improve your writing than writing." Dana Haynes spent 20 years in Oregon newspaper newsrooms, split evenly between weeklies and dailies. He won awards as a reporter, columnist, and editor. A native of the Pacific Northwest, he now serves as communications director for Portland Mayor Charlie Hales.

Haynes' first thriller, Crashers, was released in 2010 by Minotaur Books, a division of St. Martin’s Press. It won the Spotted Owl Award from Friends of Mystery as 2010?s best mystery or thriller written by a Northwest writer. His first screenplay, an adaptation of Crashers, made it to the semifinals of the prestigious Nicholl Fellowship in 2005. Breaking Point, the sequel to Crashers, made its debut in 2011.

Now comes Ice Cold Kill, the breakout thriller for Daria Gibron, the ex-Israeli soldier and spy who first appeared in Crashers. In Ice Cold Kill, Daria Gibron is a woman with a deadly past and an uncertain future. Living in exile in the United States after years working as a Shin-Bet agent, she's a thrill junkie who can’t resist taking the occasional freelance job as an operative. It's a habit that has left a trail of corpses behind her—and high-powered enemies who have sworn revenge.

Booklist describes it as… "[A] strong, complicated plot as believable as any real-life terrorist threat. Daria is destined to become a favorite in the growing arsenal of female thriller leads. She combines brains and experience to craft unbeatable strategy, and she has the requisite combat skills to quash any agent in her path as well as a witty, moderately well-adjusted (under the circumstances) perspective that’s sure to charm."

Daria's adventures continue later this year in Gun Metal Heart (St. Martin's Press, August 2014).

To learn more about Dana Haynes, please visit or dana.haynes on Facebook.

We hope you'll join us on February 4th at the Old Church. The meeting starts at 7:00 pm and doors open at 6:30.


Completion in Community

by Peter Ray Field

On Tuesday, January 7th, at the Old Church in downtown Portland, Willamette Writers welcomes local author Jill Kelly, who will share with the membership her long-lasting experience with a community of writers.

Photo of author Jill Kelly Jill is a writer, visual artist, creativity coach, and freelance editor. A long-time college professor of literature, she has been writing and publishing since 2002. Her memoir, Sober Truths: The Making of an Honest Woman, was a finalist for the Oregon Book Award. In 2013, she self-published two books: her first novel, The Color of Longing, and a non-fiction book on creativity for those in 12-Step programs called Sober Play: Using Creativity for a More Joyful Recovery. Her second novel, a thriller titled Fog of Dead Souls, is due out from Skyhorse Publishing (New York) in March 2014.

Jill has been leading writers in community for 13 years, an experience she credits for much of her productivity, even though her first critique group was very discouraging. It took a writer’s retreat on Whidbey Island to get her going again and she was determined to recreate the power of that communal experience in Portland.

Four times a year, members of her community organize a week-long retreat focused on quiet writing. The support of other writers dedicating their time to their own writing projects is critical to the retreat’s success. To further support her community, Jill opens her home to women writers every Friday she’s in town for a day of communal creating.

Weekly meeting means daily writing, and these community members have produced results. In the last six years, Jill has completed five manuscripts and nearly 200 poems and has a fourth novel in mid-draft. In the last four years, the writing support group has brought five other books to market. Two members have self-published novels. Another has a chapbook of poetry with a second in the works, and one has a self-published and a traditionally published book of advice to professional clergy.

In her presentation, Jill will clarify the differences between a critique group and a community group, answer our questions about how to start your own community, how to sustain it, how to run a retreat, how members ‘graduate’ and how new members enter the fold.

Jill signed a contract with the Harvey Klinger Literary Agency in New York to represent her novel Fog of Dead Souls, which she pitched at the 2011 Willamette Writers conference to three agents. All three asked for pages and Klinger agent Andrea Somberg responded quickly with an offer of representation.

To learn more about Jill Kelly, please visit

We hope you’ll join us on January 7th at the Old Church. The meeting starts at 7:00 pm and doors open at 6:30.


Willamette Writers Holiday Meeting

by Peter Ray Field

On Tuesday, December 3rd, at the Old Church in downtown Portland, Willamette Writers will host an informal gathering of the membership and invite each member to bring a new or gently used book to donate to our Books for Kids program. Or consider a donation by cash or check. All proceeds will be used to buy books for the program and every donation comes with a chance to win a fabulous door prize – writing time at the Cynthia S. Whitcomb Writers House, DVDs and other prizes so fabulous we can't even announce them yet. Photo of Peter Field

We'll have a resource table with information on Willamette Writers programs such as Books for Kids, the Willamette Writers Conference (new venue next year at the Doubletree in downtown Portland North); Young Willamette Writers; and something new for 2014 – a series of workshops dedicated to various elements of writing led by local (and some less local) luminaries, to be held for a small group at the Cynthia S. Whitcomb Writers House.

While the list is not complete, discussions are underway with Jennie Shortridge, Clark Kohanek, Eric Witchey, Dana Haynes, and Larry Brooks. Hopefully, we’ll have the details nailed down by the December meeting.

An additional table will be available for all members to display information about services and books.

Finally, our new FiLMLab coordinator, Mary Andonian, will introduce us all to the 2014 FiLMLab competition and screen the winning 2013 film, “Inspiration”, by Barbara Thomas.

We hope to see you at the December meeting. Bring a guest! Admission is free! It’s hard to believe we can squeeze all that into one hour, but the meeting still starts at 7:00 and ends at 8:00.

Photo of Jenny Schrader and Joan McBeth
Joan Macbeth and Jenny Schrader manage the raffle.


An Overnight Success Thirteen Years in the Making

by Peter Ray Field

On Tuesday, November 5th, at the Old Church in downtown Portland, the Willamette Writers welcomes local author Maryka Biaggio, who will share with the membership her experience publishing her debut novel, Parlor Games (Doubleday, 2013).

Photo of Maryka Biaggio's novel, Parlor Games Parlor Games has been described by as a "double-stranded narrative [that] bounces back and forth between the extortion trial of turn-of-the-century con artist May Dugas, a crafty blackmailer, and the international escapades that led to her arrest."

Debut novel hardly means first novel, though. As editor Richard Todd has said: "No musician would ever think of relying on talent. Musicians practice. That's the way they get good." Biaggio’s practice started with her first novel, A World of Chances, based on her grandfather's life story and criticized as merely "good enough for a family history."

On to book two. After a year of research and writing, In Eden We Shall Meet won a Belle Lettre prize for a chapter excerpt. Maryka pitched it at the WWC, sent out query letters and, again, little interest.

What to do but write another book? Two years later, she completed Prelude to Night, rewritten after her own writing group said the voice "just wasn’t working."” Still, the agents weren’t ready to buy it. Sigh. Then, in 2009, Ms. Biaggio stumbled on the story of an adventuress who survived on her wits and wiles. She thought to herself “This could be a winning book.” In April 2010 Maryka signed on for Cynthia Whitcomb’s “Cruising the Waves.” She wrote and read, refined the writing, and read some more. She discovered the writing software “Scrivener,” which facilitated research and efficiency. She registered for the WWC in 2011, drafted her fourth one-page query letter and…success! Nine agents interested! Two publishers! A year and a half later, Parlor Games was published (Doubleday, 2013).

Rebecca West once described the act of writing as "a nauseous experience," and Paul Theroux said that placing words on paper "is pretty crummy on the nerves." Biaggio put in thirteen years, wrote half a million words, and learned countless lessons. But she says it was all worth it. Come to our monthly meeting and hear Maryka explain how she “discovered what she didn’t know” from her fledgling writing efforts to publication and beyond.

Maryka Biaggio is a former psychology professor with a passion for historical fiction. Visit her website at

We hope you'll join us November 5th, at the Old Church in downtown Portland. As always, the doors open at 6:30 p.m. and the meeting begins at 7:00.


The Challenge of Writing Historical (and Obscure) Events

by Peter Ray Field

October 1st Meeting Speaker R. Gregory Nokes

On Tuesday, October 1st, at the Old Church in downtown Portland, Willamette Writers welcomes local author, R. Gregory Nokes, who will speak to the membership about the challenges of researching obscure historical events and of contriving believable scenes in historical accounts.

Nokes, author of two recent histories of largely unknown events in the Pacific Northwest, will focus in part on the challenge writers face in obtaining accurate information about obscure historical events. Using his own writing in particular, Nokes will look at the importance of old newspapers, historical societies, museums, archives, and on-line sources, such as Wikipedia and He will also talk about finding people who should know, or might know, of particular events. For an important section of his 2009 book, Massacred for Gold: The Chinese in Hells Canyon (Oregon State University Press, 2009), Nokes contacted two elderly women who initially refused to talk with him, but eventually revealed information that provided the critical foundation for the book’s massacre narrative. Massacred for Gold was rated a Top Ten book in the Pacific Northwest by The Oregonian in 2009 and is now in its third printing.

At the beginning of research, Nokes counsels to discount nothing: "consider everything you hear and are told, no matter how problematic. Inevitably, research turns up contradictory information, and then cross-checking comes into play." Sometimes the information isn’t hard to get, just hard to see. It was the nearly overlooked mention of a slave in Nokes’ own family genealogy that led to his new book, Breaking Chains: Slavery on Trial in the Oregon Territory, released earlier this year (Oregon State University Press, 2013).

Mr. Nokes will also discuss how he creates a believable scene which has a substantial ring of truth and brings the reader into the historical event. Says Nokes: "Creating a believable scene in non-fiction history is significantly different from a fictional scene for obvious reasons. In a fictional scene, if you want someone to trip coming up the stairs, or include the noise of a leaky toilet in the background ... you just write it. But in a non-fiction scene, you can't wholly invent such details. The reader will know there’s no way you could know the toilet leaked ... unless you had actual knowledge."

You can address possibilities and probabilities based on your own observations, however. "If you know two men met, and you know where they met, and you know why they met, you can put the reader in a plausible scene that could well be true, so long as you make clear it’s a possible account."

R. Gregory Nokes is a native of Portland but spent much of his career elsewhere. He was a journalist for 40 years, including 25 with The Associated Press, during which time he traveled to more than 50 countries on news assignments. He has lived in Argentina, Puerto Rico, New York and Washington, D.C. He was a foreign correspondent in Latin America, and covered the State Department during the Reagan administration. He traveled with four presidents on their foreign trips. Nokes spent the last 15 years of his news career as an editor and reporter with The Oregonian. Following his retirement, he began writing and lecturing on events in Pacific Northwest history. He lives with his wife, Candise, in West Linn.

For more information on R. Gregory Nokes, please visit and You can also find him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter at @GregNokes.

We hope you'll join us October 1st, at the Old Church in downtown Portland. As always, the doors open at 6:30 p.m. and the meeting begins at 7:00.


What Fiction Writers Can Learn From Screenwriting

by Peter Ray Field

On Tuesday, September 3rd, at the Old Church in downtown Portland, the Willamette Writers welcomes local author Johnny Shaw, who will share with the membership his thoughts on what screenwriting can teach fiction writers.

Shaw, a California native and graduate of the UCLA Film School, has lived in Portland for the past nine years. He says, “In screenwriting, any scene over three minutes is considered a long scene. Economy is essential in a medium that at its best tells a lot of story in a short amount of time.“ And, at approximately one minute per page, that isn’t a lot of time.

How does that notion apply to fiction? And what other lessons can fiction writers take from the screenwriting form?

Johnny Shaw suggests there are numerous cross-over values and breaks down key elements of screenwriting: story structure, scene construction, character development, and dialogue. He plans to show how specific techniques and ideas for writing movies can be applied to writing fiction.

Johnny has a unique perspective on the shift from one medium to another. After a twenty-year career as a playwright and screenwriter, Johnny decided to try his hand at writing a novel. The result was his first novel “Dove Season” (AmazonEncore, 2011), a Spinetingler Award nominee and the winner of the Spotted Owl Award for Best Debut Mystery. His second novel “Big Maria” (Thomas & Mercer, 2012) made a number of “Best of the Year” lists and has been short-listed for the Anthony Award.

Johnny Shaw was born and raised on the Calexico/Mexicali border, the setting for his debut novel, DOVE SEASON. Although he has been writing for over twenty years, it took that same amount of time for him to finally revisit and explore the people and places of the Imperial Valley, California and the Desert Southwest.

He returns to the area in his new novel “Big Maria”, a raucous adventure set in Blythe, California and Arizona's Chocolate Mountains. Johnny also acts as the editor-in-chief and is a frequent contributor for the online fiction quarterly ‘Blood & Tacos’, a loving homage to the men's adventure paperbacks of the 1970?s & 1980?s.

Johnny received his MFA in Screenwriting from UCLA and over the course of his writing career has seen his screenplays optioned, sold and produced. As a playwright, his stage collaborations with actor Jaime Arze, “Natural Acts” and “A Good Kind of Crazy”, have been performed throughout Los Angeles.

For the last ten years, Johnny has taught screenwriting. He has lectured at both Santa Barbara City College and UC Santa Barbara. He is the owner of Johnny's Used Books, formerly a brick-and-mortar bookstore in Los Angeles, now entirely online. Johnny lives in Portland, Oregon with his wife, artist Roxanne Patruznick.

For more information on Johnny Shaw, please visit his website at

We hope to see you on September 3rd, at the Old Church. Doors open at 6:30 and, as always, the meeting begins at 7.


font size="+1">The Ruthless Red Pen: Ten Critical Tips to Revising Your Manuscript

by Peter Ray Field

On Tuesday, July 2nd, at the Old Church in downtown Portland, Willamette Writers is pleased to welcome local author Lori Lake, who will share with the membership "Ten Critical Tips to Revising Your Manuscript".

If you're polishing a manuscript just in time for the Writers Conference in August, you'll want to catch the July meeting with prolific author Lori Lake. Lori is the author of ten novels published (so far) and two books of short stories. She's edited two anthologies, including the Lambda Literary Finalist, "Milk of Human Kindness." Lori has received numerous awards for her work, including the Ann Bannon Award for the novel "Snow Moon Rising."

Tactic #10: Use Strong Sentences. Lori advises: “Passive language equals the death of good prose. Become aware of your sentence starters… seek out and cut forms of "to b". Never, ever walk. Lori suggests, "…stride, pace, tread, stroll, saunter, amble, slog, trudge, plod, shamble, shuffle, lurch, stagger, wobble, waddle, sidle, slink, mince, tiptoe, wend, rove, traipse, hike, tramp, march, wander, roam, meander, ramble…"

Lori’s rationale for revisions:

"Develop a fresh eye for your project. Determine what methods work for you personally for a future, repeatable, orderly process. Correct all – or as many – weak aspects as possible. Ensure balance in plot, structure, perspective, and in action vs. rumination, in scene-making vs. exposition, and in satisfying revelation of the climax."

These tactics are useful for whatever form or genre you work in. Lori’s website provides nearly four dozen articles on technique and craft, a weekly writing quotation, links to writing resources for aspiring and published writers, a section on lesbian writing "Herstory," and the most comprehensive listing of LGBT publishers on the Internet.

Lori was born and raised in Portland, and double-majored in literature and political science at Lewis & Clark. Lori says: "I started writing seriously in 1986, and spent a good deal of time trying to get published." Lori has been writing full-time since 2003 and moved back to her Oregon birthplace in mid-2010 after a 26 year absence.

Her latest novel, Jump The Gun: Book 4 in The Gun Series, will be released in mid-June. When Lori's not writing, she's teaching writing craft, working on her new house, curled up in a chair reading, or at the local cinema with her sweetheart. She loves to hear from readers and writers and can be contacted through her website.

We hope to see you at the meeting July 2nd, at the Old Church. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. and the meeting begins at 7.

For more information on Lori Lake, please visit her website at


The Transformative Core of Writing

by Peter Ray Field

On Tuesday, June 4th, at the Old Church, the Willamette Writers welcomes local author Naseem Rakha, who will speak to the membership about her recent writing residency at the Grand Canyon.

Author of the award-winning, The Crying Tree, a novel Publisher's Weekly has described as a "…complex, layered story of a family's journey toward justice and forgiveness [that] comes together through spellbinding storytelling," Ms. Rakha says, "Writing, at its core, can be transformative—life changing for both readers and the writer."

Naseem Rakha experienced that most recently as Artist in Residence at the Grand Canyon, where she spent the entire month of February writing and exploring the subject of place and its place in defining human experience. Naseem will share her writing and photos from the canyon, and speak about how breaking away from the obligations and routine of the "taffy" generation brought her to a new place with her writing.

“My experiences related to the canyon have been on the order of a spiritual awakening which has left me as porous as the canyon's sedimentary strata, where rain water cleaves and carves and emerges later as beautiful clear springs.”

Naseem, from Silverton, Oregon, is an author and journalist whose stories have been heard on NPR's All Things Considered, Morning Edition, Marketplace Radio, Christian Science Monitor, and Living on Earth.

The human capacity to forgive the unforgivable has long intrigued Naseem. She has witnessed it in her work as a teacher and consultant for Native American tribes, as a mediator in the clean-up of the nuclear sites that created the Nagasaki bomb, and as a reporter covering state-run executions. Naseem describes Grand Canyon National Park as her "soul spot" and a source of creative inspiration. During her February residency, she continued work on a project of canyon-inspired poems, and began her second novel.

Ms. Rakha's first novel stems from an encounter she had with a woman at a peace rally in 2003. The woman had just visited an inmate on San Quentin's death row – an inmate who, twenty-one years earlier, had been convicted of killing the woman's daughter. "For years, she had lived for this man's death, believing that his execution would end the pain of her loss. What she found, however, was that after ten years of waiting and hating, she had to give it up. She wrote the man and told him she forgave him. That arc, from the most desperate kind of anguish to reconciliation and even love stunned me, and compelled me to explore this journey through The Crying Tree. I wanted to confront the question of forgiveness. What does it look like, what does it take, and what can it possibly give?"

For more information on Naseem Rakha, please visit her website at and

We hope to see you on June 4th at the Old Church. Doors open at 6:30 and the meeting begins at 7.


Different Paths, Same Journey

by Peter Ray Field

On Tuesday, May 7th, at the Old Church, the Willamette Writers welcomes Northwest authors Jennie Shortridge and Erica Bauermeister, who will speak to the membership about the paths they follow to reach their creative destinations.

Ms. Shortridge and Ms. Bauermeister, Seattle novelists and writing group partners, have each published acclaimed and bestselling novels. Bauermeister, whose latest novel, The Lost Art of Mixing, follows the lives of characters she first brought to life in The School of Essential Ingredients, has been roundly praised for the poetic acuity in her prose and attention to sensory detail.

Shortridge casts her stories — among four best-selling titles, her latest, Love Water Memory — with emotionally rich characters and voracious dialog.

Says Shortridge: "I may be the more method-actor of the two of us. I start by "researching" my characters, delving into their pasts and families and desires and wounds, finding a way into each of their voices that feels authentic to me. When I begin a story, I know the characters (though I get to know them much better through writing them), the situation they find themselves in at the beginning, and the end. Everything else fills in over the next year or so of writing, some of it from my own experiences, some from what's happening in the world, and some merely from what happens to cross my path on that day, or week, or month."

According to Bauermeister, who writes interconnected short stories, her writing "almost always begins with an image, or two or ten..." She doesn't even write each individual story or chapter from beginning to middle to end. "The characters and stories all grow up together, and I often shift between one and the other in the writing of them, depending on my mood that day."

Bauermeister: "For the first two books I began with a structure (8 students and their teacher in a cooking school/ 7 women who challenge each other to do something scary), but even that loosened up with The Lost Art of Mixing, which found its own structure later in the game. For me, the fun is not knowing. I love watching how the images bloom into stories, and the stories grow connections."

While their overall approaches to writing differ, they each have a keen ear and sharp eye for detail, and imbue their characters, settings, and language with truth and emotion in their own ways. Come hear these two writer friends share and discuss how they capture telling details and commit them to the page.

For more information on Jennie Shortridge and Erica Bauermeister, please visit their websites at and

We hope to see you on May 7th at the Old Church. Doors open at 6:30 and the meeting begins at 7.


Unleashing Your Story

by Peter Ray Field

On Tuesday, April 2nd, at the Old Church, Willamette Writers welcomes local author, Jen Violi, who will speak to the membership about "unleashing your story".

After praise for her debut novel, "Putting Make-up on Dead People" (Hyperion Books, 2011), Ms. Violi has wrangled through several drafts of her second, offered writing retreats and workshops, and worked as a developmental editor and mentor/coach.

"It's Time to Tell Your Story" lies at the heart of Jen's work. "My biggest passion is story – writing them myself, finding healing in them, and helping others to unleash them." At the April 2nd meeting, she plans to create a story sanctuary for all of us – a time to share and listen and honor the power of story.

What does it mean to share or tell your story? Why might now be the perfect time? Jen plans to address these questions (and more) through presentation, interaction, and audience involvement (and yes, you can try this at home).

Originally from Pittsburgh, PA, Jen has lived in Ohio, Arizona, and New Orleans. She says Portland is the first place she's lived that truly feels like home. "I love it here – the green, the caffeine… the sense of possibility." She got rid of her car and does a lot of walking, so you know she really means it.

And she knows about possibilities, having worked as a campus minister, a kindergarten teacher, an admissions counselor, and press and marketing associate and adjunct faculty at Tai Sofia Institute in Maryland.

It therefore seems fitting that she'll use the stage at the Old Church to share her own journey in finding her voice as a writer and letting that loose. What she's learned about how knowing herself also lets her know the best (and worst) she has to offer as a writer. Intermingled with the sharing will be opportunities for some fun writing and reflecting and interacting for the membership.

As Jen writes:

It's time to use your voice, to loose your voice, to tell the story you were born to tell. It's time to tilt your head back and let your throat open and for colors and flowers and lizards and gems and tidal waves to pour out.

It's time, which means now, not tomorrow, or next year.

The world needs your unique, unrepeatable voice.

The world needs your story.

It's time to tell it.

For more information on Jen Violi, please visit her website at or on Facebook/jenvioli-the-business.

We hope to see you on April 2nd at the Old Church. Doors open at 6:30 and the meeting begins at 7.


The Joys and Sorrows of Creative Writing

by Peter Ray Field

On Tuesday, March 5th, at the Old Church in downtown Portland, Willamette Writers welcomes renowned science fiction, fantasy and horror author William F. Nolan, who will speak to the membership on the joys and sorrows of a lifetime of creative writing. With more than 85 books to his credit, plus over a hundred scripts, articles and short stories embracing a dozen genres, William F. Nolan is an official Living Legend (voted that honor by the International Horror Guild in 2002). When he accepted the award, Nolan said "it was better than being a dead legend." He further posits that he's "just a hardworking man doing the best he can ... and if you're around long enough, you'll eventually get attention."

Born in Kansas City, and educated at the Kansas City Art Institute, Nolan is best known as co-author of the seminal science-fiction novel Logan's Run with George Clayton Johnson in 1967. Nolan has written non-fiction, short stories, science fiction, poetry, film, and television, and hundreds of pieces for many publications, including Rogue, Playboy, Dark Discoveries, and Nameless. "I get excited about something and I want to write about it."

As a noted pulp historian, Nolan is a recognized expert on Black Mask, Dashiell Hammett, and Western scribe Max Brand (a pseudonym for prolific author Frederick Faust). Nolan has edited six collections of Faust tales, written Max Brand: Western Giant, and is the author of the biography King of the Pulps: The Man Who Was Max Brand. Nolan's historical anthology, The Black Mask Boys, is the key work on the legendary magazine - and he's written three books on Dashiell Hammett (one forthcoming from Knopf), plus several pieces on the early fiction of his longtime friend, Ray Bradbury (The Martian Chronicles; Fahrenheit 451). Noted publisher Hippocampus Press will be releasing a compendium of his writings on Bradbury this spring, called Nolan on Bradbury, edited by august critic S. T. Joshi (The Weird Tale; H. P. Lovecraft: A Life), and featuring contributions from filmmaker/author Jason V Brock (The AckerMonster Chronicles!; Simulacrum and Other Possible Realities), John Tibbetts (The Gothic Imagination), Greg Bear (Blood Music; Darwin's Radio), as well as new pieces from Nolan, Bradbury, and Joshi.

Today, Nolan lives in Vancouver, Washington, with an apartment full of books, pulp magazines, and stuffed animals. He's a prolific editor of collections and anthologies, recently with colleague and friend Brock, which include stories from new writers and esteemed fellow authors such as Bradbury, Richard Matheson (I Am Legend; The Shrinking Man), George Clayton Johnson (The Twilight Zone; Star Trek), Richard Selzer (Mortal Lessons; Down from Troy), and others (most notably in the award-winning The Bleeding Edge, and The Devil's Coattails, both from Cycatrix Press).

Nolan has also developed a comic book series entitled Logan's Run: Last Day, released in 2010 from Bluewater Productions, and developed others for them, including Tales from William F. Nolan's Dark Universe and Sam Space.

Nolan states: "I began my fiction career [thirteen novels and 185 stories] too late for the pulps, but I did have letters printed in Planet Stories and Famous Fantastic Mysteries - and I grew up reading Argosy and Weird Tales."

On the question of realizing your ambitions, Nolan says, "... you have to keep working. People want to become Stephen King over the weekend. It takes ten years or more, writing every day, learning character and structure, to become a writer. I wrote over 200 stories before submitting anything. It takes patience. You have to sit for the long grind and work at the craft."

"If you want to write, you write. There are no excuses. Read a lot, and write a lot. Read across the board, from the classics to the comics, and write every day. Do that, and if you have any talent you'll eventually break through."

We hope to see you at the meeting on March 5th at the Old Church. Doors open at 6:30 and the meeting begins at 7:00 p.m. For more information about William F. Nolan, please visit his website at



by Peter Ray Field

On Tuesday, February 5th, the Willamette Writers monthly membership meeting will return to the Old Church with a special program devoted to the 2013 Willamette Writers FilmLab “Script-to-Screen” Contest.

Last year, Willamette Writers held its first ever Script-to-Screen and Short Film Contest, which saw short film and script entries from around the country. The winning film finalists were screened at last year’s Writers Conference in August, and the winning short script, Haley Isleib’s “Alis Volat Propriis”, was professionally filmed and edited just in time for screening at the Conference.

Willamette Writers Conference chair, Stefan Feuerherdt will be joined by Ms. Isleib and director Christopher Alley (from NBC’s “Grimm”) for an open discussion about their experiences and a screening of the film.

If you’re asking yourself, “How hard can it be to write a short-film’s worth of pages of action-packed haiku that will translate visually to an international marketplace, and adheres to three-act dramatic structure?” This is your chance to ask. What do you think, Haley? “It’s fun.”

And film is expensive, isn’t it? What is the benefit to the filmmaker to have their short film screen at the Conference?

Stefan: “All screenwriters want to see their work come to life on the big screen. FilmLab Script-to-Screen gives our writers that chance.”

What was it like putting the film together on such a tight schedule?

Christopher: “It was … fun.”

Keep that in mind, folks. The FilmLab Script-to-Screen Contest is FUN. Not only is it fun to write the words FADE OUT on the last page, it’s positively liberating. And now, with all the bugs worked out (thanks Stefan), this second year of FilmLab is sure to be even more exciting. And FUN!

Stefan: “The contest is simple. Anyone can enter (except members of the Willamette Writers Board). Each script must adhere to strict guidelines for length and theme, and will be evaluated not only on the quality of writing, but also how practical the script will be to produce within a limited time and budget.

Remember, the winning Script-to-Screen entry will be professionally filmed this summer, and premiere at the 2013 Willamette Writers Conference in August.

The FilmLab event at the Conference is free and open to the public. Fill it with your friends and family and manipulate the voting process shamelessly… I mean, the FilmLab screening audience decides the overall winner of the Short Film contest, and the winning film’s writer will receive a pass to the remainder of the Conference, as well as a meeting with a visiting Hollywood producer. You could be next!

So come and find out all the gory details, and have FUN. We hope to see you at the meeting on February 5th at the Old Church. Doors open at 6:30 and the meeting begins at 7:00 p.m.

For more information about the Willamette Writers FilmLab, please visit the website at