Monday, December 9, 2013

Willamette Writers Hosts Workshop by Eric Witchey January 10-12, PDX

Power Writing:

Write Emotionally Powerful Short Stories

Eric M. Witchey

Whether writing scenes, flash, or short fiction to teach yourself techniques for use in larger works, to develop your portfolio, to have fun, or to get some extra money so you can attend conferences to sell your novels, this seminar will demonstrate several story forms and how to use emotion-driven characters to hook your readers and leave an indelible mark on their hearts.

This three-day seminar includes hands-on experience with powerful tools you will be able to use in all your creative writing. Some writers may even walk away with a short story they can put in the mail.

January 10th, 6:00 - 8:00

January 11th, 6:00 - 8:00

January 12th, 9:30 - 3:30 (one hour lunch, on your own)

WW members - $165

Non members - $201 (includes membership in WW)

Workshop held at the Willamette Writers Cynthia Whitcomb House, 2108 Buck St, West Linn, Oregon, 97068.

You can register for this class by mailing a check to Willamette Writers, calling 503-305-6729 and registering over the phone, or by paying with a credit card.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Authors Road Interviews George R.R. Martin

As we’ve traveled the country talking with writers and experts on authors, we’ve come to understand that this remarkable group is first and foremost storytellers. Since earliest times, these are the people in our cave-clans, tribes, castes and social circles who have that special gift to enrapture, instruct and inspire us with tales of myth, truth, daring and insight.

George R.R. Martin is one of the world’s modern storytellers who has for years spun his legends and kept us watching, listening, and reading. He has been telling fantastical tales since he was a child, and his genres are most often fantasy, horror, and science fiction. His mediums have included comic books, short stories, bestselling novels, and episodic as well as epic television programs and series starting with Twilight Zone and continuing to the current HBO blockbuster series, Game of Thrones. And his art has been acknowledged with bestselling worldwide sales, and numerous awards, including his selection in the 2011 Time 100, those people the magazine named as the most influential people in the world.

This last summer we had the great fortune to visit Martin at his writing studio in Santa Fe, New Mexico. We filmed our interview with him in an elegant room with two walls filled with dioramas of miniatures engaged in medieval war, science fiction disasters, and flights of fancy – a fitting backdrop for our talk.

We are so very pleased and proud to share with you our interview with our 38th writer, George R.R. Martin.

And more:

Recently the tables were turned on us as we were the subject of two media interviews. If you’re interested in hearing us, or reading more about us, please check out the following:

On Oregon Public Radio’s, Think Out Loud:

And in a Portland Tribune newspaper, Boom:

And last, to one and all: Thanks for your continued support and encouragement, and our fondest wishes to all for a Most Happy New Year.

George, Salli & Ella

Next Up: Bestselling author and writing professor,

Pam Houston

Thanks for . . .

. . . joining us . . .

. . . on the road!

Authors Road

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Authors Road, Tony Hillerman, as told by his daughter, Anne Hillerman

Once again we traveled to Santa Fe, New Mexico to meet and interview several authors about their work and insights.

This time we lucked out with a two-for-one special: We had arranged to speak with Anne Hillerman, daughter of bestselling Southwest mystery writer, Tony Hillerman (1925 - 2008), and we discovered that she too was an accomplished writer. Like her father, she worked as a journalist in New Mexico and published several books, including two photo books working with her husband, noted photographer Don Strel. One of these books, Tony Hillerman's Landscapes, was their effort to capture the beauty and magic of the same Southwest landscapes depicted in her father's books.

Anne recently published her first fiction novel, Spider Woman's Daughter. The book picks up where her father left off in his 19 mysteries. Anne's novel features Bernadette Manuelito, one of the Navajo police officers working with her father's legendary characters, Jim Chee (Bernadette's husband) and Joe Leaphorn. Published by HarperCollins earlier this month, the book immediately reached the New York Times Bestseller List.

In this interview, Anne talks about her father's start as a journalist, his transition into becoming one of the most famous writers in the Southwest, and his continued impact on writers through an annual conference and writing prizes dedicated to him and his legacy. Stay Tuned: Our next interview is with fantasy, horror, sci-fi and screenwriter George R.R. Martin.

Thanks for . . .

. . . joining us . . .

. . . on the road!

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Jean Auel Interviewed by The Author's Road

More than a century ago, H.G. Wells wrote a classic tale about a time machine and a time traveler who rides it into the distant future to meet the fate of humans, and farther still to witness the end of earth and all living things.

We are pleased to present our interview with another time traveler, Jean Auel. She is a writer who, like Wells, researched history and wrote a series of books that have become our time machine into the distant past where we get to meet the roots of our human species and culture.

She is a tireless reader, a problem solver, a lover of physics and math and dozens of other subjects that catch her fancy. She was also a young mother who had to help meet the financial needs of a growing family. So she went off to work as an upstart woman in the rapidly growing world of technology. It was there she wrote her first book, a training manual for circuit board engineers.

Years later, Jean became obsessed with the idea of trying to write a short story based on a young woman living among others who were different. Very different. But her efforts to spin a story were thwarted with questions. And so she plunged into the labyrinth of research, emerging much later without a short story, but rather a lengthy book about a female character who has now lived with Jean for more than thirty years, and appeared in six volumes read by an estimated 60 million people worldwide.

The Clan of the Cave Bear is the first of her Earth’s Children series, and in 1986 was made into a movie with Daryl Hannah in the lead. Jean’s historical fiction has not only developed a loyal following of readers, but some of her ideas and plot elements have preceded scientific discoveries in strange and wonderful ways.

We’re certain you’ll enjoy this fascinating interview as much as we enjoyed meeting and talking with this prescient and engaging writer, Jean M. Auel.

George & Salli

Our next interview: San Francisco's Poet Laureate,
Alejandro Murguia

Thanks for . . .

. . . joining us . . .

. . . on the road!

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Fresh Brewed Willamette Writers Conference percolates in Portland August 1-4

By Cornelia Becker Seigneur

The WILLAMETTE WRITERS CONFERENCE percolates at Portland's Sheraton Hotel at the Airport Friday August 2 through Sunday August 4, with prep events starting Thursday August 1. With this year's theme "Fresh Brewed," you know the creative adrenaline juices will be flowing. As always, there is a fantastic lineup of speakers offering workshops, and literary and film agents are on tap to hear about your book project.

Ken Sherman, who represents David Guterson, the author of Snow Falling on Cedars, is a featured literary agent.

And, Saturday's key note banquet speaker, Kelly Williams Brown , who shared her book idea Adulting with a literary agent at the 2011 Willamette Writers Conference, and it quickly went to auction. The book was released this year and Williams Brown has been featured in the New York Times, among other publications.

The 2013 Willamette Writers Conference is for writers of all genres and levels. There is truly something for everyone. Come for a day, or two or all three. For more information on the agents attending, visit the website at WILLAMETTE LITERARY AGENTS 2013 OR email the conference director Stefan Feuerherdt at: or the Willamette Writers Office manager Bill Johnson at:

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Kelly Williams Brown to be Keynote at Willamette Writers Conference

“From Here to There: Write Like It’s Your Job”

Kelly Williams Brown started with a blog (now with 140,000 followers), a dream and a manuscript. In 2011 she attended the Willamette Writers Conference, landed an agent, and then watched her book, Adulting: How to Become a Grown-Up in 468 Easy(ish) Steps, sell at auction. It was published in May 2013. In the fall of 2012, Adulting was also sold to Hollywood for a TV comedy (JJ Abrams’ Bad Robot Productions/ Warner Bros TV with a put-pilot at Fox).

Brown will be the Keynote speaker at the Willamette Writers Award Banquet on August 3 at 7 p.m. sharing her experiences and tips. The banquet will be in the Mt. Hood Ballroom at the Airport Sheraton Hotel in Portland. Doors open with a no-host bar at 6:30. Tickets must be purchased in advance through Willamette Writers for $45 per person.

Brown graduated from Loyola University, New Orleans in 2006. An author, journalist, and copywriter, she lives in Portland Oregon.

About Willamette Writers: Willamette Writers is the largest writers’ organization in Oregon and one of the largest in the United States. Founded in Portland in 1965, it has grown to over 1,800 members with branches in Southern Oregon, Mid-Valley, Salem and the Oregon Coast, and the Cynthia Whitcomb Writing House in West Linn. More detailed information is available at or by calling 503-305-6729.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Author's Road Interviews Tom McGuane

Tom McGuane

Writer #34

Most of us have a favorite cowboy movie, one of the greats like Rio Bravo, Shane, perhaps one of the versions of True Grit or the ever amusing, Three Amigos. And of course endless arguments have been waged at high noon in many a saloon over which was best.

But for me, two favorites stand tall above all others. To me, all other westerns wore a black hat when the 1976 classic, Missouri Breaks hit the screens. Directed by Arthur Penn and starring Jack Nicholson and Marlon Brando with a herd of other famous actors, this strange tale about horse thieves and land barons ended all debate for me about what Western was best.

And a few years later, over the horizon loped along the classic, Tom Horn, (“I ain't never ete a bug that big before….”) one of Steve McQueen’s last movies.

And both were written (Tom Horn was co-written) by a real-life Montana cowboy, Tom McGuane. He's a master storyteller and writer who is a Wallace Stegner Fellow, a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, leaden with arm-loads of other literary awards -- and he's in both the National Cutting Horse Association Hall of Fame and the Fly Fishing Hall of Fame.

Come on you scribblers and cowboy wanna-bes, top that!

So it was most exciting and a great honor when McGuane invited us to visit him at his ranch in the wilds of Montana, and to sit in his writing studio to chat with him about his life as a reader and a writer of novels, short stories, and of course screenplays.

And it with great pride that we share with you the results of that chat, and the insights and remembrances that he shared with us on that warm summer day.

George & Salli

Our next interview: Jean Auel

The Authors Road

Thanks for . . .

. . . joining us . . .

. . . on the road!

Friday, June 28, 2013

Ooligan Press to Attend Willamette Writers Conference

by Mary Breaden

Last year, Ooligan Press had the pleasure of attending the Willamette Writers Conference pitch room for a busy Friday. Ooligan Press, for those of you who don't know, is Portland State University's student-run press for students enrolled in the Master's in Publishing program. During the summer months of 2012, I was the co-manager of the press's acquisitions department and managed the press's slush pile.

With slush pile management comes certain tales of woe from both the stand-point of the writer and the acquisitions editor. Writer: Why can't my (unsolicited) manuscript get in the door with any publisher? Slush pile manager: Why does my press never receive any publishable works? Ooligan Press's front-list provides a refutation to this paradigm, for in recent years, all of our increasingly popular titles have come from the slush pile, even Oregon Book Award winning young adult novel, Blue Thread, by Ruth Tenzer Feldman.

The WWC gave our press a chance to get into a more active role; with agents and other publishers, we waited for the conference's dear authors to walk up and pitch their manuscript. The first pitch of the day was a woman named Karelia Stetz-Water, who I didn't meet because I was lost at nearby Portland Airport trying to get to the conference. But lovely Laura received Karelia's pitch and handed me her proposal for her literary fiction novel, As Though Our Beauty Were a War when I arrived. "Read it. I think you'll love her," she told me with a grin. I read in silence and responded, "I want this."

After the conference--where we met heaps of talented authors--I emailed Karelia and solicited a copy of As Though Our Beauty Were a War. She responded with a characteristic good-nature and professionalism that we would later know her for (writerly dramatics, this one has not, outside of her fiction, that is). I read the manuscript and did not want to stop. I fell into the charms of her main character Triinu, a young girl in the Willamette Valley who was trundling along her path to understanding her body and sexuality with great intelligence among less artistically sensitive classmates. The kindness of Triinu, her nostalgia and impatience for the future was something I could relate to. The author's lyrical grace was a technique that I admired/envied.

During the fall and winter months, Karelia very kindly worked with the acquisitions department to developmentally edit As Though Our Beauty Were a War, which would help the new department managers to pitch the novel to the rest of the press later on in the spring of this year. When managers McKenzie Workman, Drew Lazzara, and Whitney Smyth presented the novel to the general assembly of Ooligan Press, they told us, "Here is a heroine that any reader can love." The book was unanimously accepted. And now, almost a full year later from when we first found Karelia at WWC, the real fun begins!

Here at Ooligan Press, we are very grateful to have been present at the Willamette Writers Conference. Our presence at the conference meant that our program's young publishers would have a chance to work with a novel that truly resonated with them.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

WRITING FROM LIFE, by Molly Best Tinsley

Memoir, like any narrative, requires a strong story line, well-rounded characters, and intense, richly detailed scenes that surround the reader with your remembered world. There are also challenges peculiar to the writing of memoir, and here are some tips for surmounting them.

Memoir is not autobiography. Unless you’re a celebrity, readers need more incentive to engage with your life than simply a blow-by-blow chronology that begins at birth. Memoir requires a sharp focus, a specific topic; it pulls a single thread from your life and sticks with it, letting go of any characters and incidents that don’t pertain. In crafting Entering the Blue Stone, I had to say no to countless threads of family dysfunction—what family doesn’t hide plenty?—in order to spotlight the process of helping my parents navigate the final chaotic decade of their lives.

The author of memoir is the implicit protagonist. Although your inclination may be to hide behind the easier role of witness, it’s important to identify your active role in events, your needs and wants, your strengths and most important, your flaws, in order to bring out your own arc—in other words, how you changed over the course of the story. As the protagonist in Blue Stone, I learned, for example, to accept my inability to fix everything. It wasn’t until I began writing the narrative, though, that I realized how much my own anxiety, rather than my parents’ comfort, had driven my decisions.

Scenes are the power source of memoir. I took copious notes during my parents’ last years—it was my defense against insanity. When it came time to write the experience, I could recreate scenes verbatim. If your memories are less precise, don’t worry. Readers of memoir don’t expect tape-recorded dialogue. With your thorough knowledge of the people in your past, you can trust yourself to recreate the sort of language they might have used and craft scenes of emotional truth, if not verbatim records.

To get past the fear that the real people in your life may object to their portraits in your memoir, examine your motives in writing. Flattery or revenge or even writing just to prove a point—these motives lead to flat characters and one-dimensional stories. If your goal is to recreate a portion of your past in all its fullness and complexity, you will do your characters justice. You won’t need to apologize to anyone.


Molly Tinsley left the English faculty at the US Naval Academy to write full-time. Her story collection Throwing Knives won the Oregon Book Award; her most recent release is the memoir Entering the Blue Stone. Three years ago she donned the editor/publisher hat, co-founding the small press Fuze Publishing ( She facilitates the workshops, Crafting Lively Dialogue and The Second Draft.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Willamette Writers Registration Open

Willamette Writers It's that time of year again, and the buzz is starting about the Willamette Writers Conference. This year's theme is "Fresh Brewed," and it's all about percolating new ideas, fermenting those that we’ve already got to make them even better, and brewing up a unique writing experience. Portland, home to coffee roasters and breweries, is the perfect source of inspiration.

Included this year is a workshop that builds over the course of three days. John Ellis, of Portland Internet Design, will be teaching a Web Warrior series of classes. Whether you're going the traditional route or self-publishing, these classes are all about learning how to get your writing on the web...successfully. John will focus on SEO writing mechanics, increasing site performance, using keywords, and mastering Google+. And yes, he fully expects you to bring your iPad, laptop or smart phone for some hands-on learning.

Other classes include those from popular workshop leaders like Jessica Morrell, Cynthia Whitcomb, Danny Manus, and Larry Brooks, as well as new faces like Seth Jaret and Debra Gwartney.

And the consultants will be there in full force! On the film side, some perennial favorites coming are Luke Ryan, Jacqueline Gault (who is already working with local screenwriters), and returning managers Josh Kesselman and Marc Manus, fresh from the sale of a spec script. For those interested in literary agents and editors, there's a wide and varied range interested in every genre, including Annie Bomke, Linda Epstein, Angela Rinaldi, and John Cusick.

The keynote speaker at the Saturday Night Gala this year is Kelly Willams Brown, the author of Adulting and conference success story. Lunch speakers include Dennis Stovall of Ooligan Press; screenwriter and director Gordy Hoffman, and author Jennifer Lauck.

FiLMLaB has been a huge success this year so far. The Script-to-Screen competition doubled its entries over 2012, and not only will the winning script be made into a movie, but it will also be shown during the FiLMLaB event after the Friday Night Reception. Judges this year included Erik Bork (Emmy and Golden Globe winning writer/editor of Band of Brothers), Stacy Chattaway (Executive Director of Development at LAIKA Entertainment), Zach Cox (Manager at Circle of Confusion – Walking Dead), Mary Cybriwsky (Manager/Producer at Scooty Woop Entertainment), and Luke Ryan (Executive Vice President at Disruption Entertainment). And just to show that even when it’s over it’s not really over, a new opportunity has opened up. A Northwest production company that features short films in many of its projects wants to see vetted scripts from FiLMLaB, so those from the semi-finalists and finalists (both this year's and last's) will be passed on to them.

So come and get inspired! The conference is three days of learning about the craft of writing, getting excited about writing, practicing writing, seeing great accomplishments in writing, talking about writing, and then...yep. Writing some more.


Friday, April 19, 2013

Beyond Craft... Embracing Greatness By Larry Brooks

Oh what a tangled, slippery-sloped, viper-infested, self-sabotaging path we fiction writers tread. What seems so simple -- because we read excellent stories all the time, and they really do seem, well, if not simple, then at least clear and clean, and therefore not beyond our means -- turns out to be anything but.

The blank page both calls to us and mocks us. And so we fill it up with what we have to offer, arising from the pool of what we know, fueled by dreams we dare not utter aloud... sometimes soured by what, either in ignorance or arrogance or simple haste, we've chosen to ignore. Meanwhile, in spite of all the books and workshops and websites and analogy-loving writing gurus out there, we cling to the limiting belief that there are no "rules." The mere mention of that word causes you to rebel, even conclude that principles and standards are really "rules" with polite sensibilities, and from there we decide that we can write our stories any way we please.

Because this is art, damn it.

Often we don't find that out that what we have to offer isn't good enough until the rejection letter arrives. Or the critique group pounces like Simon Cowell on a bad day. Or when a story coach doesn't tell you what you want to hear. As one of the latter, my job involves telling writers -- frequently -- that their story is coming up short, and why. That the wheels fell off, very often at the starting gate. It's the "why" part that allows me to sleep at night, because I've been on my share of the sharp pokes this business delivers. But like a doctor giving a screaming kid a vaccination shot, I take solace in the hope that once the sting subsides the writer will see the pit into which they are about to tumble.

And you can't write your way out of the pit. No, the pit requires avoidance rather than rescue.

The Trouble with Craft

Craft -- the mechanics and architecture and sweat of putting a story together -- is complex, if nothing else than for its sheer immensity. It's anything but simple. Even in those stories that inspire us, bestsellers and favorite authors and even the classics, we're witnessing the symmetry and fluid power of simplicity on the other side -- beyond -- complexity.

In my work I've sought to put fences around it all, create labels and levels and subsets of supersets and connect those dots in ways that facilitate navigation on that aforementioned path. (My friend Randy Ingermanson is nodding now, as he's doing the same thing, and very effectively, with his Snowflake story development model.) Six core competencies, six realms of story physics, and about five dozen subordinated corners of the craft aligned under those twelve flags.

Trouble is -- just like in love and careers and gambling -- you can get them all technically right... and your story can still fall flat. And that's the thing -- the holy grail of "things" we need to understand -- that separates craft from art. Unpublished from published. Frustrating from rewarding. So without minimizing any of the myriad corners and nuances of craft -- indeed, they remain eternal, consistent and the non-negotiable ante-in -- allow me to simplify. To break it down into three buckets, three qualities, three goals, that any successful story will embody to some extent. Three things about your story... things that readers will, upon finishing your story, notice.

Three essences to shoot for. Three qualities to evaluate about your story plan, and then your story execution. Three things to grade yourself on.

If at least one of those grades isn't an "A," then you're not done.

The Fiction Trifecta

One of the reasons I ask my clients to pitch me their concept and their First Plot Point (and why we ask for a synopsis with those first 20 pages for manuscript consults at the WW conference) is that, almost without exception, I can assess two things from the answer: the writer's understanding of these three critical elements, and the potential for the story to deliver them, in whatever combination, with sufficient power and artfulness. Here they are. No surprises here. But be honest, have you really evaluated your story on these things, regarded alone as criteria? Have you asked yourself what your strategy will be to optimize one or more of these things? Now you can.

In no particular order, because each stands alone as a potential windfall:

Intrigue - A story is often a proposition, a puzzle, a problem and a paradox. When you (the reader) find yourself hooked because you just have to know what happens... or whodunnit... or what the underlying answers are... then you've intrigued your reader. It may or may not have an emotional component to it -- mysteries, for example, are usually more intellectual than emotional, they're intriguing because the clues will always lead somewhere, and we want to know where, even see if we can get their first.

Mysteries, as a genre, are almost entirely dependent upon reader intrigue. Not necessary "dramatic intrigue" within the story itself, but rather, the degree to which a reader is "intrigued" with the questions the story is asking.

But this kind of intrigue isn't limited to mysteries. Sometimes the intrigue is delivered by the writing itself. A story without all that must depth or challenge can be a lot of fun, simply because the writer is funny. Or scary. Or poetic. Or brilliant on some level that lends the otherwise mundane a certain relevance and resonance. Make no mistake, this, at is core, is a form of intrigue.

Emotional Resonance - When a story moves you, which so many great stories do, it's because we feel it. It makes us cry. Laugh. It makes us angry. It frightens. It's nostalgic. Important.

Les Miserables isn't the classic it is -- book, stage and now screen -- because we must find out "what happens. No, it works because it makes use cry. John Irving's Cider House Rules is a modern classic because it pushes buttons, makes us choose, forces us to behold the consequences of our choices. Same with The Davinci Code, another modest success. Every love story, every story about injustice and pain and children and reuniting with families and forgiveness -- name your theme -- is dipping into the well of emotional resonance for its power.

Vicarious Experience - reader, meet Harry Potter. Go with him on an adventure to a place you'll never experience otherwise. Or Hans Solo. Or James Bond. Or Sherlock Holmes or Merlin or some alien with an agenda. The juice of these stories isn't the dramatic question or the plucking of your heart strings as much as the ride itself. The places you'll go, the things you'll see, the characters you'll encounter, the things you'll see and do.

Of course, emotional experience can be a ride, as well -- a story about falling in love, or getting fired, or winning the lottery -- and when that happens you've been given an E-ticket on the Slice of Life attraction. These stories strike two of these Trifecta chords by making us feel the experience of falling in love, or feeling loss or simply walking a mile in shoes that seem compellingly familiar.

The common factor here is this: something compelling about the story.

That may seem obvious. But the truth is, and sadly so, it doesn’t translate to pervasive among yet-to-be-published stories.

This sought-after compelling nature resides in various realms of the human experience – intellectually, emotionally, or on some other level (usually the result of a combination of these three gold standards). An allure that resides beyond the tricky or original or otherwise "interesting" nature of its concept.

Your concept, however tricky or original or interesting, isn't compelling until it lands on one or more of those three powerful forces: intrigue... emotional resonance... vicarious experience. A story about aging backwards, about going to another planet, about a secret code... about something conceptual... isn't enough.

Until you juice it with some combination of the Trifecta elements. Until that happens, that's all it is: a concept. And in this business, concepts are commodities.

Which is why a "compelling premise" is only one of the six realms of story physics.

It functions as the stage, the landscape, upon which these truly powerful essences can emerge to transform a story into magic.

Or better stated... into art.

When these three essences become the goal, the criteria of your concept and your craft, then you have a real shot. Because now you're risen above a bevy of concepts -- rehashed, reheated and retreaded -- crowding the inboxes of agents and publishers out there.

They're not looking for the next great "idea." Or even the next great voice.

They're looking for the next great story. And intrinsic to that definition you'll find The Trifecta... three compelling story essences that are waiting to make your story work.

And when it does, it really is art, after all.


Larry Brooks is a novelist and the author of two bestselling writing books, both from Writers Digest: "Story Physics: Harnessing the Underlying Forces of Storytelling" (2013), and “Story Engineering: Mastering the Six Core Competencies of Successful Storytelling” (2011 ). His latest novel, "Deadly Faux," will be released by Turner Publishing in October 2013, as well as his five-title backlist, which includes a USA Today Bestseller ("Darkness Bound," 2000) and a Publishers Weekly "Best Books of 2004" ("Bait and Switch," 2004). He is also the creator of, named Writers Digest Magazine’s “101 Best Writing Websites” for the past two years.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Using Twitter, A Short Guide for Authors New to the Twitter-verse

by Bill Johnson

Twitter is a website ( that allows people to join and post messages of 140 characters. When you join (it’s free), you can both ‘follow’ others and have ‘followers’ who receive messages you send (this message passed 140 characters with the word followers).

Twitter began as a way for people in a business to send messages (“meeting time changed to 1:30”), but it quickly became a way for people to send ‘tweets’ to friends, acquaintances, or anyone who signed up to follow a particular person.

Which made it of interest to writers looking for a way to promote books, events, blogs on writing, or just to stay in touch with other authors.

Willamette Writers, as an example, follows 2,015 people and has 2115 followers. I use the WW twitter account to send out announcements about WW meetings, activities, and events. But WW started at zero followers.

How do you gain followers?

If you’re a member of Willamette Writers interested in promoting yourself, click on the list of WW followers and find fellow authors to follow. A percentage of people you follow will, in return, follow you back.

(I suggest people limit this to 30 new followers a day. Past a certain point, you’ll get an automated pop up from Twitter saying you’re overdoing it. If you violate too many of Twitter’s guidelines (posted on their website), they will suspend or cancel your account.)

The Willamette Writers bulletin board has a new feature; you can post your name and twitter handle (the WW handle is @wilwrite; my handle is @bjscript) to ask people to follow you. It’s at

If you want followers who have a specific interest, say science fiction conventions, you can look up Orycon in the Twitter search function and follow Orycon’s followers.

Personally, when I get new followers who are writers, I try to find a message of theirs I can ‘retweet’. This means I’m passing along someone else’s tweet, so it’s going out in their name, to my followers. Now that I do this, I pick up 10-15 new followers a day.

You can also, if it’s appropriate, copy and paste someone else’s message into a tweet that you send out, so the information goes out in your name. For example, you might pass along the name of the winner of the Oregon Book Award for fiction.

Once you join Twitter, you’ll find that all some authors do is send out messages (sometimes hourly) promoting their books. I do promote my book (A Story is a Promise & The Spirit of Storytelling), but I also make an effort to pass along information of interest to others writers. Folks I feature for retweets include Jane Friedman (helpful tweets on the world of publishing and self-publishing), Porter Anderson (Porter attends writing conferences and posts about events and workshops), and Grammar Girl (posts about writing).

I also have a general rule: if someone retweets one of my tweets, I retweet one of theirs.

Being retweeted greatly increases the reach of Twitter. I have 3,485 followers. If I send out a tweet that is retweeted by someone with their own list of 3,000 followers, my tweet has now reached 6,000 people.

But… and it’s a big butt… the more followers someone has, the faster those short tweets accumulate and pass out of sight. So, if I follow one person who follows me, and we send each other one tweet a day, we’ll each see our tweets all day. But when I send out a tweet to 3,000 people, who also have their own lists into the thousands, I’ve found that a promotional tweet with a link gets 30-60 hits.

logo of Bill Johnson's A Story is a Promise website
You can see the value, then, of tweeting something that is retweeted. That’s why I post tweets about articles on writing I have posted at my website at

You can also post live links in a tweet, or include a photo (which counts against your 140 characters). Here’s an example of a recent WW tweet,

Registration information about the 2014 Willamette Writers conference Aug 1-3 PDX is available at

(Feel free to tweet this announcement).

If you’re counting characters, you’ll notice this is longer than 140. Twitter will automatically shorten a link (as long as it includes the http://www).

Of course, for most of us, jobs, responsibilities, family, movies, and sleep take up much of our days. The great solution to that is a program called Twuffer ( Twuffer is a free program that allows you to schedule tweets in advance. I can schedule a tweet to run, say, at 3 am and another at 6 am, when I’m normally asleep (or abnormally awake; or Abby Normal, to YF fans).

You can also add a Hashtag to a tweet; that's a complicated name for using the pound sign, #. For example, if you are doing a book promotion on Amazon, you could add the hashtag #Kindle or #FREE or #Mystery. Anyone who types in the word Mystery in a search will more easily find your tweet. In 2011, WW used the hashtag #WWCon11 to help people attending the conference 'find' each other on twitter. This year we're using #WWCon13.

Twitter allows you to post a profile, which can include a link to a website and a photo or logo. If you're an author, it's important that you have a quality head shot or a good image of a book cover. What you post in your profile will help others find you. I have come across profiles so vague or cryptic, I wasn't sure if it was a profile for an author. Sometimes you can be too clever.

Once you start putting yourself out there in the twitter-verse, be aware you’ll get followers offering to get you thousands of new followers for $100 or less. Avoid this. You get computer generate ghosts (for more about this, Google the topic). You’ll also find yourself being ‘followed’ by people with services they want you to buy (you don’t have to follow them back) or people offering sexual services (you can block unwanted followers).

You can send a DM or direct message to people on twitter if you want to comment on someone’s tweet or introduce yourself, but DO NOT send DMs to strangers promoting your novel. Your account will soon be suspended or cancelled for sending out spam.

If you follow someone and discover it’s not the right fit for you, you can easily unfollow folks, but avoid following and unfollowing large numbers of people in the same day. It violates Twitter’s guidelines. You can use a program called ManageFlitter ( to find and unfollow people who rarely tweet or who don’t follow you back.

Personally, I unfollow anyone who tells me what they had for breakfast. If I wasn’t there, I don’t care.

You will come across people who have 50,000 plus followers. I would probably marry someone sight unseen to have access to that list, but that’s a topic for another day.

Twitter is not the be-all, end all for book promotion, but it is a tool that has its place, especially with a program like Twuffer to help with scheduling. And, there are many other tools (use Lists on Twitter to organize followers) and apps like Hootsuite ( that allow you to easily track what's happening with your tweets and followers.

Twitter can seem daunting from a distance, and time consuming, but using a few simple tools can make it a more productive experience.

Good luck, and happy tweeting.


Bill Johnson is the author of A Story is a Promise & The Spirit of Storytelling, available on AmazonKindle for $2.99 and on Smashwords. He teaches workshops to writing around the US. He is currently the office manager for Willamette Writers, a group in the Pacific Northwest with 1,650 members.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Should you pitch to more than one title at a time?

The Pros and Cons of simultaneous and multiple submissions

by Roy Stevenson

In today’s competitive freelance writing arena the practice of submitting simultaneous query letters to magazine editors has become necessary to survive.

Traditionally, freelance writers would send out a query letter or email to a magazine and wait to hear back from the editor. After a few weeks when the editor sends a rejection email, or doesn’t bother responding (which is the norm today—more and more editors simply don’t have the time to send out rejections), the writer then sends out the same query letter to the next magazine editor on his list, and waits again to hear back from that editor. And so on.

This process takes months or years before the writer has exhausted his list of potential magazines, or finally gets lucky and has an article accepted.

This process is clearly set up to avoid the discomfiture of having more than one editor pick up the story, and old school writers doggedly stick to this system, fretting and worrying about what they would do if more than one editor wanted their article.

This system is simply not practical in today’s market for freelancers trying to earn a living, and I think the spectre of having more than one editor pick up a story is simply a non-issue. I think freelancers should be sending out simultaneous queries for every story. Using simultaneous queries has resulted in a 90% acceptance rate for my articles!

With my system, I send my query out simultaneously to as many magazines that I think my article would be a good fit for. I do this by creating extensive distributions lists with the editor’s names and contact details for all the magazines in the genres that I write for. This includes magazines in all other English-speaking countries. The number of magazines on my various distributions lists ranges from five to seventy five, and includes magazines in England, U.S.A, Canada, New Zealand, Australia and South Africa.

After creating an enticing query letter, I send it out to every editor on that list. Then I sit back and wait for an acceptance email. Inevitably my story idea—if halfway decent— will resonate enough with an editor somewhere around the world for him or her to accept my story for publication.


Roy Stevenson is a professional freelance travel writer based in Seattle, Washington. With more than 800 articles published in 180 regional, national, and international magazines, newspapers, in-flights and online travel magazines, Roy is one of the most prolific travel writers in the U.S.A. His website is aimed at helping travel writers with their marketing.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Authors Road Interview with Patricia C. Wrede

For Salli, it was a book and an experience many years ago. For me, it was the image of a mother reading aloud to a daughter, the two of them laughing and marveling over a fun and magical story. The book was Dealing with Dragons, and the author was the prolific and very talented writer, Patricia C. Wrede, the enjoyable subject of the interview we now bring to you.

It was a comfortable and colorful late summer day when we visited the Twin Cities of Minneapolis/St. Paul. Patricia welcomed us into her home, a place enchanted with wise cats, whimsical artifact collections, and an extensive book collection that would rival many small town libraries.

A passionate storyteller, and dedicated to her art and craft of writing, she had much to share during her interview, including her early love of myth and fantasy, and the surprise turn of events when her first book was published before she had planned it. But after we left and were driving back to our campsite, one comment she made resonated with us and seemed to explain much of what we’d been searching for on The Authors Road. “Writing,” she said, “is imperfect telepathy.”

And that, for us, hit the nail right on the head …

The Authors Road

Thanks for . . .

. . . joining us . . .

. . . on the road!

Monday, February 11, 2013

Finding Perfect Pitch, by Jill Kelly

When I finished polishing my first novel in 2009, I was eager to pitch it at the WW conference, so I wrote the pitch out and rewrote and rewrote it. Then I signed up for Leona Grieve’s pitch practice workshop to get prepared. Leona’s advice was far better than any I’d gotten off the web, and I could see my pitch was too long and too complicated, had too many minor characters, too many names, too much information. No wonder I had trouble keeping it straight when I pitched it to myself. Worse yet, I hadn’t done the research I needed to on the agents.

This was important because I couldn’t fit my book into a category: it was women’s fiction, but not standard chick lit. It was a romance but unconventional. It was literary fiction by style but not by subject. So although 
I believed in my book, I went into my three appointments with little confidence.

They were disasters! I felt timid, beholden, and what’s worse unprepared. Usually I’m great at one-on-one conversations but with each meeting, I felt less and less like I knew what I was doing there. I was just relieved when it was over.

Two years later, I’ve completed a second novel and I do the research and I pay for three more pitches. I am determined to have a difference experience, if not a different outcome.

So…I don’t write out a pitch. I figure out two things I want to say. First, I describe the opening chapter in a couple of sentences: 60-year-old woman on the run goes into a bar in New Mexico, meets a cowboy, and agrees to marry him. Doesn’t tell him about the psychopath on her trail or the detective she’s in love with at home. Second, I ask for what I want: an agent to champion the book and its older characters.

My appointments were Saturday so all day Friday I pitched to anyone who would listen. I pitched in line for meals, in the bathroom, waiting for workshops, in-between workshops. I pitched to 70 people at least. I was pumped.

All three of my appointments were easy, comfortable, fun. All three agents wanted to read. One sent me a contract. This week we sold that novel, Fog of Dead Souls, to Skyhorse Publishing. 


Jill Kelly is a writer, freelance editor, and writing couch in Portland. Her memoir, Sober Truths, was an Oregon Book Award finalist. She recently self-published her first novel, The Color of Longing, and a how-to book, Sober Play: Using Creativity for a More Joyful Recovery. 

Monday, February 4, 2013


Willamette Writers is soliciting entries for the 2013 FilmLab's "Script-to-Screen" short film scriptwriting competition. We seek writers with the ability to tell a compelling story quickly and cinematically, while adhering to a theme and a practical eye towards real-life movie production. Unique to scriptwriting contests, the Script-to-Screen Competition grand prize is this: we will produce a short film based on the winning script! The winning writer will have the opportunity to meet and collaborate with our production team, attend the filming- in short, to experience the collaborative process of filmmaking! The resulting film will premiere at the 2013 Willamette Writers Conference in August.

Guidelines: Scripts are limited to 7 pages, in standard screenplay format. Stories should unfold within one principal location and feature nor more than four main characters. Writers are encouraged to incorporate this year's Conference theme celebrating the Northwest's "Fresh Brewed" coffee, breweries, and/or creative spirit. Scripts will be judged on their writing, adherence to theme, and on the practicality, given time and budgetary constraints, of producing the story- in other words, how well will this story translate from the script to the screen?

Submission period: Scripts must be received by Willamette Writers no later than Friday, March 15, 2013 to be considered.

Entry Fee: $25 for general public, $20 for Willamette Writers members.

Screenwriters, storytellers- this is your chance to realize the dream of having your work produced and splashed onto the big screen for the world to see- don't pass this up!

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Sequels, a blog article by Jessica P. Morrell

Scenes are the bricks or building blocks of fiction. They’re based on conflict and change. Each scene moves the story forward (or sometimes backward). They happen in real time, blow-by-blow, often sizzle with excitement and contain twists and surprises, and readers lean in close, wondering how each scene will resolve.

Sequels are the transitions that happen after the scenes. Sequels are focused on the aftermath and ramifications of a scene. When especially intense scenes happen, especially if a scene ends in disaster, setback, or failure, characters need a chance to sort through their emotions and thoughts. Often what comes first in a sequel is the POV character’s raw feelings like anger or despair. As in real life, once the character calms down, he or she is able to more objectively understand what has happened. From this understanding the character reaches a decision or new goal.  Sequels are important for shaping characters and motivations.  Thus the structure for sequels are emotion, ruminating, decision or goal.

For example, a couple who just started dating go out for dinner, drink more than they planned to and end up in bed together. Or perhaps they confess too much, reveal too much.  What takes place during the dinner or in the bedroom is unplanned and a game changer. The next day comes tough realizations and decisions. Does one of them back off the relationship? Is one scared by the depths of his/her feelings? Do they realize that they’ve made a big mistake?  

Or a scene can take place at a funeral. Often while at a funeral  characters might feel numb, or overcome by grief, or are desperately struggling to keep it together.  Afterward, in the sequel a character or characters have an opportunity to sort through their emotions Will they feel regret, relief, or anger? What will these feelings lead to? If someone was murdered this could lead to revenge. If someone died too young, perhaps the mourner wants to take more risks in life so then boldly asserts him or herself. Which then leads to a new scene.

Not every scene needs a sequel, especially near the climax or in fast-paced genres like thrillers. Typically stories that feature a lot of emotional risk such as romances or coming-of-age stories will contain more sequels. While sequels often feature analysis of what just happened, it’s important that it’s just not a rerun of the past events. Somehow the sequel must also be externalized. This means the character cannot sit around weeping or thinking alone in a scene—put the sequel into action. The character can call a friend or start working furiously, struggling to brush away unwanted emotions. It’s also important that sequels don’t go on too long. If you’re story feels too slow, make sure if every sequel is needed or if they can be tightened.

Sequels can also be about the physical impact of the scene—perhaps your character needs to bind a wound or force her breathing and heart rate back to normal. Horror stories use sequels to milk the suspense and fright factor. The character can call a friend or realize she’s in danger and start packing, madly tossing clothes and items into a suitcase. A private investigator can call in for backup and strategizing on taking down the bad guy. 

Without sequels fiction is a series of actions wham bam zipping around. Thus sequels help pacing, space out the action, add pauses in the action. It also helps with the buildup and easing off of tension. Sequels are also a great place to slip in back story via thoughts or flashbacks. Remember too that as in real life, we come to know characters better when they fail and pick themselves up again. This picking up and dusting off occurs in sequels. 


Jessica Page Morrell is surrounded by writers. She is the author of  Voices from the Street published by Gray Sunshine, Between the Lines: Master The Subtle Elements Of Fiction Writing published by Writer's Digest Books, and Writing Out the Storm, Collectors Press. Additionally in July 2008 Bullies, Bastards & Bitches: How to Write the Bad Guys in Fiction was published by Writer's Digest Books; Dear Bad Writer, How to Avoid the Rejection Pile was published in 2009 by Tarcher-Penguin.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Authors Road Interview with Audrey Niffenegger

  Authors Road
One of the highlights of our time in the Windy City, Chicago, was a visit with Audrey Niffenegger. A successful novelist with a popular film adapted from her work, The Time Traveler's Wife, Audrey is also a graphic novelist, artist and professor in the MFA program of the Columbia College Chicago. But in addition, we were fascinated to learn that in the course of her research for her second novel, Her Fearful Symmetry, she also became a tour guide in London's historic Highgate Cemetery, and that one of her works, Raven Girl, is being adapted by the Royal Opera House into a ballet premiering this year.

In this informative interview, Audrey talks of her start as a writer, her development in graphic arts, and how her professional life brought both these mediums together. She closes this interview with a few of her favorite examples of "book art," and how our separate art genres are melding to form something new and dynamic. We are sure you will find it as fascinating, relevant and instructive as we did. 

And last, we wish you all a Most Happy New Year!   
 The Authors Road

Thursday, January 10, 2013

On finding a story's ruby slippers by Hallie Ephron (

So what do ruby slippers have to do with writing a novel?  Think of it as a plot device -- like Hitchcock's MacGuffin -- something that represents both the protagonist's and the antagonist's goals. It's the thing that they are each willing to do almost anything to obtain or protect or destroy.

In The Wizard of Oz, Dorothy wants to get home; she needs the ruby sipper (though she doesn't realize it) to get there. The with wants the magic powers that the ruby slippers contain, but she has to kill Dorothy to get them. Single object; competing goals

Each time I develop a plot, I try to find the story's "ruby slippers" -- a single object that either embodies (Dorothy's ruby slippers) or represents (Katniss Everdeen's mockingjay pin) what both the villain and the hero will risk their lives to obtain or protect. Sometimes it's easy to identify -- priceless diamond necklace, or an inheritance, or an incriminating photograph that both the hero and the villain want. Sometimes it's an object that symbolizes a goal, the way Katniss Everdeen's mockingjay pin represents freedom and the survival of her people. 

In Never Tell a Lie, the "ruby slippers" are Ivy's unborn baby. In my new novel coming out in April, There Was an Old Woman, it's a house. I'm still trying to find the ruby slippers in the novel I have underway, but so far it looks like it's a ring. I'm thinking maybe the setting should have a few rubies in it.

Hallie Ephron tries to keep her readers up nights. Never Tell a Lie (starred PW review) was adapted for film. In There Was an Old Woman, a woman returns her childhood home, only to find a hoarder's nightmare; her elderly neighbor may hold the clue to how it got that way.