Saturday, May 22, 2010

Writing for Chicken Soup for the Soul (OWFI notes from Jennifer McMurrain)

Workshop by Linda Apple

Creative Nonfiction is telling the truth using fiction techinques.

Keep it under 1000 words.

Always have a lesson.

Don't write the average stuff (your wedding day, graduation, etc.)

You need (your ingrediants):
a defining scene
Ah Ha moment

Think a snapshot, not a movie
Stay in the moment

Write about:
A person
A place
An object
An event
An epiphany
A conversation

Connect to the reader's memories by using the senses.

If your writing doesn't move you, it won't move the reader.

Show don't tell:
Physical reactions
body language
facial expressions

Use dialogue to break the montony of telling.

Internalization - Letting the reader in on your soul

Express emotion without getting sappy.

Use humor.

You have the opportunity to give the reader a gift:
A chuckle, hope, or even encouragement.

Recipe for writing for Chicken Soup for the Soul:
Mix ingredients
Write your story
Edit, edit, edit
1,200 word limit, better if under 1,000 words
SUBMIT (you can't get published if you don't submit) to

Possible topics for the May 31st deadline:
Grieving and Recover
My Cat's Life
My Dog's Life

July 31st deadline:
New Moms

August 31st deadline:

December 31st deadline:
Young at Heart

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Bleeding, Scabbed and Scarred by N.R. Masters (OWFI notes by Jennifer McMurrain)

Bleeding, Scabbed, and Scarred: How to Write Ugly Stories that Sell was about writing personal traumatic experiences.

You want to BLEED words onto paper

Basis of what happened
Lot's of it
Everybody is not going to care
Except about the
Drama that happens within it

You can't allow emotions or fear to interfere (what will momma think?)

Make sure your wounds have SCABBED over before you submit.

If the SCAR is still too fresh, trying writing it from another person's viewpoint.

*I missed some of this workshop searching for my bag that I had left in another workshop.

May 2010 Meeting Minutes

Tuesday, May 18th, WordWeavers held their monthly meeting. Marilyn Boone, Denise Jarmole, Sylvia Cranmer, Barbara Shoff, and Jennifer McMurrain were all in attendance.

We talked about Point of View and Jennifer McMurrain gave a workshop on the WordWeavers blog (which everyone is invited to write on) and Facebook.

The OWFI workshops were also discussed. Denise Jarmola, Jennifer McMurrain, Diana Purser, and Rita Durrett all attended. You can find some of the notes posted here on the blog, with more to come. Some of the main points taken away from the conference were: know your genre, know your "publishing" word count (250 x # of pages), get your name out there before you're actually published (blogs, facebook, twitter, ect.), submit to both publishers and agents, and WRITE EVERY DAY!

Officer elections were held: President - Jennifer McMurrain, Vice President - Marilyn Boone, Treasure - Diana Purser.

There is a scheduling confict with the meeting room. As of right now we will meet THURSDAY, JUNE 17TH at 7pm in Meeting Room B (same room as usual).

Saturday, May 15, 2010

The Mystery of Voice by Sandra Bishop (OWFI notes by Jennifer McMurrain)

What is narrative voice?
Personality on paper
Who we’ve been and where we’re going
Being true to who you are

Who uses narrative voice?
Musicians, Authors, Poets, Actors, etc…

Recognizing Voice
Listen to how the words are strung together, the conflicts and repeating themes.

3 Authors with distinct voices
Don McLean (River Runs Through It)
John Steinbeck (East of Eden)
Stephen King (Misery)

Voice is very important to editors
You need to aspire to have voice, it helps you stand out.

A developed voice = long term career

How to Cultivate Voice:
Free Writing – kick your inner editor to the curb
Write letters to people you feel have an authentic voice (you don’t have to send them, just say what you like about that voice)
Journal by hand (harder to fix your “mistakes”)
Listen to the words you use while you speak.
Think intentionally about your personal set of values
Read! Read! Read! – read at least 2 books out of your comfort zone a year
Write! Write! Write!

Staying true to your voice
Voice is passion
Let your work go
Write for the sake of writing
Voice believes yes when skeptics say no


There is no such thing as present tense in writing, the minute it happens it’s the past.

Using a passive voice is a sure fire way to kill your story.

Workshop by Sandra Bishop, Literary Agent, MacGregor Literary

Friday, May 14, 2010

Danger at Alamo

Danger at Alamo

“Hey, Lea, wait up!” Allie bumped and dodged her way through the line getting off of the Alamo school bus.

Lea turned at the sound of her friend’s voice. “Hurry up! I’m starved!”

Allie smiled. Lea was always hungry. “Me, too; let’s get to the cafeteria before all of the little kids get in line.”

The cafeteria was quickly filling as the two best friends slid into line behind a lanky young man.

“Hey, Matt, save some gravy for us.” Allie was only half teasing.

“’morning Allie. I’ll leave you a spoonful.”

True to his word, he left enough for the two girls to fix their food and make their way to a table. Soon both girls were polishing off the last couple of bites.

“Feel better?” Allie teased her friend. “I was afraid you were going to fight Matt for that gravy.”

“I do feel better.” Lea leaned back in her chair and looked around the cafeteria.

“Me too.” Allie’s hand reached out for her chocolate milk.

“Allie!” The exclamation stopped the named teen’s hand in mid grasp.

“What, Lea? What happened?” Concern filled Allie’s voice as she started turning to see what could have prompted such a reaction from her friend.

Lea ducked her head and whispered, “Shhh. Don’t look!

“Don’t look where? At what?” Quizzed Allie.

Lea looked up, pretending nonchalance. “Ok, in a minute I want you to look over in that darkened corner by the back wall. It’s a new guy wearing a Texas Rangers T-shirt and dark black hat.”

Allie immediately twisted around to look in the direction Lea had indicated.

“Not now! Don’t be so obvious!” frustration was evident in Lea’s voice.

“Geez, I just wanted to see what you were so excited about.” Allie turned back to her friend and was searching Lea’s face for a clue of what was wanted from her.

“Ok, turn slowly.” Lea watched her friend to ensure that the instructions were being followed. “Do you see him?” The excitement in her voice could barely be contained. “Count to yourself while you look.”

“What are you talking about?” Allie had turned back to her friend with a look that clearly said ‘Are you out of your mind?’

“I know what you’re thinking and no, I’m not crazy. Do as I say. I will explain in a minute.” Lea gave her instructions in such a matter-of-fact way that Allie felt compelled to comply.

“Ok, I looked and I counted. Explain.”

“He is a vampire.” Lea looked at Allie with a smug smile of satisfaction spreading across her face.

Allie turned once again to spy on the person in question.

“Don’t forget to count” admonished Lea. “Some vampires can read our thoughts; so, if you count or think of something complicated, they don’t know what we’re thinking.”

“Where did you get the idea that he is a ….vampire? You know they don’t really exist, don’t you?”

“Sure they do. There’s too much evidence out there. Those books and movies are too real to be completely made up. A thread of truth has to run through all of the myths.” Lea paused just long enough to glance across the room. “Look at him. He is gorgeous, so pale and white. Real people don’t look that white. He is sitting in the cafeteria but he isn’t eating a bite. Vampires don’t eat. They just drink blood.” Lea paused to glance once again at the new student. “Look at his chest and muscled arms. I bet his body is rock hard. Just like someone that is dead. We’re going to find out.”

“We? Keep me out of this!” Allie sounded so emphatic that Lea hesitated for just a second before going on.

“Yes, we,” stated Lea.

“No.” Allie’s weak protest was quickly over powered by the ringing of the bell and scraping of student’s chairs, as the room vacated.

“Bye Allie, see you later.”

Allie made it to her first hour biology class with plenty of time to spare. Her assigned seat was toward the back of the class and that suited her just fine. Today that location would give her the opportunity to work on her unfinished assignment without being obvious. With her head down in concentration she failed to notice the new student talking to the teacher; but immediately noticed when a pale, white figure walked by her seat on his way to the empty desk on the very back row.
Although Mr. Wade had taken roll and was giving page number instructions Allie just had to slyly remove her cell phone from her pocket and text her friend. “u wont guess whos in here!! vampire.”

In a short time Allie’s phone vibrated in her hand. With a quick look she read, “wow! see if he’s smart, vampires are really smart.”

She had just enough time to text, “OK” and slip her cell back in her pocket before Mr. Wade walked past. Her heart began to beat rapidly when he stopped right by her desk. She just knew he had seen her cell and was going to take it.

He didn’t ask for the phone. Instead he paused and turned to address the room. “Class, we have a new student. This is Brian Watson.” A gesture of the hand indicated the boy sitting on the back row, a couple of chairs behind Allie. “Mr. Watson comes to us from Seattle Washington and has won several awards in science fairs.”

Oh my gosh, thought Allie. As soon as the teacher had moved to the other side of the classroom she texted her friend. “he is very smart +u wont guess what else”
Her phone soon vibrated. “WHAT?”

Allie’s fingers couldn’t move fast enough. “came from seattle washington!”
The answer came almost as soon as the send button had been hit. “omg, smart, rain, no sun-- vampires!! what did I tell u?”

Another close call with Mr. Wade motivated Allie to put her phone away and concentrate on class for the rest of the hour. It didn’t seem like very many minutes had passed before the bell was ringing and her phone was vibrating.

It was a new message from Lea, “follow him!”

So, she did. He walked out of the main building, deliberately keeping close to the walls of the building so that he would be in the shade as he strode to the gym. Allie didn’t need to follow any further. She texted her friend as she threaded her way down the hall and into her next class. “gym with u! plus, he walked n SHADE the whole way!!”

“i told u” came her friend’s answer.

Allie was soon seated in her American Literature class. She knew Lea wouldn’t be able to text her from PE. Students had to dress out and didn’t have any pockets for their cells. The fact that they were spending the hour reading to themselves didn’t help matters. That just gave Allie’s active imagination time to run wild.

One picture kept flashing in Allie’s mind. When Mr. Wade had introduced Brian to the class She had looked straight back into red eyes. Allie’s heart raced. In the book Lea had told her about the newly converted vampires had red eyes and that meant they were really “thirsty” for blood.

Something else suddenly had the palms of Allie’s hands sweating. Lea had mentioned speed. Vampires could move so fast that the eye couldn’t see them. What if this vampire had read Lea’s mind? What if he zipped into the shower and drank Lea’s blood because she had figured him out? The police will find her dead and never have a clue. “And then he will come for me!” The words were unconsciously whispered out loud.

The ringing bell helped to ease the embarrassment Allie felt. She snatched up her books and almost ran to meet her friend in the cafeteria, half-way fearing that Lea might not show up. Relief washed over Allie as she spotted her friend. She waived her hand to signal where she was. “You have no idea how much I worried about you” Allie blurted out as soon as the two of them had bought food and found seats. She related her imagined thoughts to Lea while they ate.

Lea sat listening with a look of real fear on her face. “I never even considered something like that. You could be right. We might really be in danger.”

“That’s why I was so scared! I honestly didn’t know if you would show up or not!” Allie looked pleadingly into her friend’s face. “What are we going to do?”

Lea sat in deep thought for a minute. “I’ve got an idea.” She gave her friend a strange look.

Allie had been leaning in to talk earnestly to her friend but now she pushed back and eyeballed Lea suspiciously. “What?”
That word spoke volumes. Allie knew that Lea’s plans often meant trouble for both of them.

“OK,” Lea motioned for Allie to lean in closer so she could talk in a whisper. “You have fourth hour office aide…”

Lea didn’t even get to finish her sentence before Allie protested, “NO! I’m not getting kicked out of school!”

“No, listen. You won’t get kicked out. You won’t even get caught. I can’t do it or I would. You are the only one that can save us from the vampire.” Lea argued her case as if their lives depended on it and Allie’s silence encouraged Lea to continue. “When counselor Reed goes to lunch you disappear into her office for a minute and look at the files on her desk. The vampire is new so you know that file will probably still be out. Write down as much as you can and then get out of there fast!”

Allie let out a long sigh. “Ok, I’ll do it.”

The ringing bell once again heralded action. Both girls headed to their respective destinations. One was to sit impatiently in anticipation of some news about their enemy, the vampire, and the other was nervously dreading the role of detective.
Allie had to grin, despite her fear. Lea was right, again. The file lay on the desk in full view. It was even opened as if Mrs. Reed had been reading it when she was called away. Lea was often right and that was what frightened Allie.

Grabbing a pencil and sticky notepad, she began to write--Bill and Joann Watson, Seattle Washington, 1410 Willow Drive….

The phone rang and Allie froze. Someone answered it in the main office but the scare had Allie’s heart racing. “What else do I need?” she muttered to herself. Turning the page over, one word jumped out at her. “Oh my gosh!”

Allie replaced the file just as she had found it, walked back into the main office and gave the excuse that she needed to make a trip to the restroom. She had to find Lea!

At the first hint of vibration Lea covertly opened her cell phone. “meet u n bathrm now!”

That was all it said. What had Allie found that was so urgent? It didn’t take Lea long to convince her history teacher that she had to go to the bathroom. She was soon flying down the hall to meet her trusted friend.

“What is it? What did you find out?” Lea exclaimed as soon as she entered the doorway and found her friend wiping tears from her eyes.

“I thought I was going to die!” Allie was crying and laughing and shaking all at the same time.

“What’s wrong? Tell me, now!” Lea’s face was distorted with worry at her friend’s reaction.

Allie took a deep breath. “I read the file. Brian is,” she paused as her mind searched for the right word, “unusual. He has no coloring in his skin, eyes or hair. He has to stay out of the sun as much as possible and even regular light hurts his eyes. Lea, Brian is an albino.”

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Denise's OWFI notes


Josh Getzler – Agent

Make sure an agent is a member of AAR

Someone asked how many authors are really selected by an agent through a query letter? So he complied a list of how he found the 30 authors he now represents.

2 were referred

3 former classmates

1 from an online contest

3 met at conferences

4 he knew already

10 referred by other Editors/Agents

7 came from unsolicited queries

In the first 50 pages of your manuscript – do’s and don’ts


1. show that confident writing/ understanding of grammar and voice

2. be engaged quickly in the story

3. what is the book going to be about – the reader should know – not be guessing

4. Who is the protagonist?


Bad grammar or typos

Some of the agents at OWFI we very rigid about word count. Josh wasn’t. The book should be long enough to tell the story. Any longer and it’s wordy and boring. Any shorter and the reader is left hanging.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

OWFI Picture

Diana Purser, Denise Jarmola, Jennifer McMurrain, Rita Durret

Agent Panel Notes by Jennifer McMurrain

Agent’s Panel
Agents attending: Sandra Bishop (MacGregor Literary), Terry Burns (Hartline Literary), Josh Getzler (Russel and Volkening, Inc), and Cherry Weiner (Cherry Weiner Literary Agency)

• Do your homework
o Publisher’s Marketplace (online)
o Acknowledgements

• Query to agents and editors
o 80% of debut authors do not have an agent, so if you’re only looking for an agent then your only giving yourself a 20% shot ~ Terry Burns

• Stick to small houses
• During a pitch sessions what agents want you to do:
o Greet them, Shake their hand, Say hello, Treat them like a person
o Let them know the genre
o Let them know if you’ve been published before
o Then the pitch and word count

Monday, May 3, 2010

Notes from speakers

Notes from agent panel
1. To find what agent deals with works most like yours go to Publisher’s Market Place web site, book store and look at acknowledgment pages.
2. Query both editors and agents and don’t forget to try the small houses.
Notes form Nancy Robinson Masters on writing about personal experiences
1. If you write when you are still “bleeding” you will allow emotion and fear (what will my momma think) to show through your work.
2. You will have too much of the basics
B= “what happened”
L= lots of it i.e. “I hate him…”
E= everybody isn’t going to care
E=except you
D=drama, too much of it
3. So allow yourself scab and come to terms with the scares before you write about an experience with the idea that you can help someone else get through it.
Notes from Christina Katz
1. Get known before the book deal. Writing is a craft, the cultivating of skills, determination.
2. Sell not only works but self.
3. Participate in continuing education
4. Self promotion: platform. You are 100% responsible for the outcome.
5. Put efforts in promoting to those that would want it.
Notes from Jane Friedman
1. Use Writers Digest .com She blogs on the industry at There Are No Rules (

2. Come up with your own “name”, one you can live with.
3. Use Google and get your own url. Plan to keep it at least 5 years.
4. Have a professional identity ex. “writer Momma”
5. Get a tagline ex. “if I can do it, you can do it” or “make the most of what you have to offer”
6. Have an email signature: Use the above 2 plus email and phone #
7. Have a short bio. Ex. “She escaped form the law but not to worry, she isn’t a fugitive, she’s a writer.”
8. Have a mission statement. Short and sweet. Ex. “Helping writers go from beginner to a book deal.”
9. Have a professional or near professional head shot made. Use it…face book etc.
10. Keep any testimonials in a file for easy access.
11. Build a website Word one idea per page a. bio b. your first book c. your second etc.
12. Create a buzz on the page but keep the best of what you have to offer off of the web…make them pay.
13. Check out other author’s web pages.
Notes from K D Wentworth
1. Listen to FRED (your inner self)
2. Be interested in everything. READ
3. Keep original copy
4. Keep word list for interesting titles
5. Just open dictionary and pick random words ex Stranger Station, Dream Snake
6. Words are not the story. You can use lots of words to tell the same story. Pick the best
7. Good book to have: Creating Short fiction-Damon Knight
8. Write 3 pages a day…next day you can keep or throw away.
9. Write what you love. Listen to your small voice.
10. Write down a question and try to write 20 answers “How will John get out of locked room. 1st will be obvious but then imagination will kick in.
11. Dwight Swain-Techniques of the Selling Writer.
12. Give yourself permission to write badly. Bad writing can be fixed but you can’t fix what you don’t write.
13. If you get stuck go do something repetitive and boring to let FED talk but keeps the “editor” busy. Editor is the side of your brain that wants to fix all the sentences, spelling etc.
14. Take advantages of moments of serendipity. Ex. Was going to title River King but box stopped the typing at River Kin and that gave direction to the whole story.
15. Give your character a lot of trouble
16. Protagonist: person having the most trouble with situation and had the most to lose.
17. Who wants something and why can he have it—main character.
18. Pick the right main character. If you pick the wrong main character they have nothing at stake and you have a hard time ending it.
19. Descriptors: self absorbed, cattiness, queen of hell
20. Have a notebook with 5 sections. A. characters B. Running plot summary C. made up words, places etc. D. FRED notes E. research
21. Characterization isn’t just a description—least important part. Get qualities like self-absorbed, hot tempered, thoughtful etc.
22. Estqablish age but NOT obvious. Too uch description becomes hurdles. Reader wnts own look. Get it in early. Mannerisms, attitudes, speech patterns but don’t repeat yourself a lot.
23. Good dialogue uses rythem, different ways to put words together.
24. Avoid kids as protagonist unless active. Avoid killing off unless really important.
25. Avoid unconscious gender bias (women talking and thinking like the author, a man. Run it by a person of opposite gender.
26. Avoid unsympathetic main character. The reader wants the main character to win.
27. You don’t want the reader or the EDITOR to think “I don’t care what happens to those people”
28. No bad person thinks they are bad
29. Make sure they have reasons for doing what they are doing
30. Do not have passive main character, done to not does it.
31. Who has the power? Who had freedom to act? Main character.
32. Know these about your character Ask yourself about main character. A. what does he most want B. What does he most fear. C. What does he most love D. What does he most hate? Ex. Most wanted to be human and most feared his alien body.
33. You can have up to 10perspectives but make sure your main character is in every other scene at the least.
34. 85,000 to 110,000 words, 250 per page. Format to that formula.
35. Example of making characters different: alien would never use contractions.
Notes from Esther Luttrell
1. If you write at the same time everyday you will train your subconscious to be ready to write.
2. Don’t feel bad when you hear of writers putting out 5-6 books at a time. They write a 50 page draft and give it to promising writers to flesh out and then he takes it back and finishes it.
3. Write ending 1st.
4. Cast characters as they are born—people you can see and hear in your head so your made up character doesn’t sound like you. Ex Oprah, Barbara Walters, John Wayne etc.
5. In names be careful of favorite sound. Ex mmmm Mike, Mark, Mona, from Montgomery, Maine. Too much!! Too similar. Readers get confused. Make them so different that there is no confusion.
6. Good characters are not totally good or bad.
7. People we love to hate had a motivation for what they did. Villain must be shown for what they are—multi-faceted or multi layered.
8. People lie all the time but often don’t think they are lying.
9. Conversation between two people in room don’t need conversation interrupted by “she yawned” “he scratched”
10. Let heart speak. Use lots of active verbs but not a lot of adverbs or adjectives.
Notes from Deborah LeBlanc
1. Must move a fast pace…Rev it up
2. Plot = ticking bomb ex. Speed. Not worried so much about specific character but about the fact that the bus is going to blow. Keep it ticking until it is ready to blow!
3. Character= make me care from VERY beginning
4. Don’t tell too much back story up front! Don’t explain how the watch is made before you tell the time.
5. 1st sentence must make one pay attention and read second. Ex. “Neither one of them Moved” “After soaking a towel with 3 gallons of gasoline he tossed the cigarette” “She walked around the house 3 days with a blood soaked shirt.”
6. Microwave society. Shorten chapters but leave them on cliff hangers! Gives more chapters and psychological feeling of getting more for money. Also gives reader feeling of shorter amount of time needed to invest but cliff hanger won’t let them put it down.
7. Cliff hanger doesn’t have to be huge until you get to climax. DO fill in blanks later.
8. Use shorter sentences, even fragments. Just like people speak.
9. Characters: Give enough info to get imagination going but not exact. Toothless=old, a tie dyed pixie with bangs=young girl,
10. Names: Spark interest or have meaning. Pork chop-“so ugly his mother tied a chop around neck so dog will play with him.”
11. Show, don’t describe: rolling and unrolling paper=nervous
12. Keep notebook of traits. They invest you in story until you get to end.
13. Use a little dialect but just a little and be consistent. Pick recognizable characteristics and just pick a small sample. Don’t confuse or slow down story trying to decipher words or meaning.
14. Rules: 1.Keep it real—how do people really talk. Ease drop in Dr. Office, post office when people are on cell phones etc. Keep notes. 2. Keep it tight—move fast. 3.Make it count—include only important facts. Don’t preach!
15. What is scary? The hidden, the potential for what is in the unknown. It is all in the anticipation!!
16. Make your readers experience your pivotal scenes!! Sights, smells, feelings, sounds and taste if applicable.

Notes from Terri Burns
Publishing is not a selection process. It is a survival process. 80% don’t make the cut. You are competing against only 20% if you make it that far.

1. Pick out a persona and figure out how to project yourself
2. How do I become EXCEPTIONAL? Must happen in 1st 10 pages.
3. If you have a place where the reader can go to bed then that is a dead space and needs to be fixed.
4. First write the book and edit it then DIRECT it. Make it unforgettable.
5. Agents and publishers want to know you have a strong platform. Start building a data base.
6. Sell sheet: Short author bio or credentials, short blurb, platform into
7. 1/3 to ½ page of credentials. Any experience. Ex published in statewide anthology. Any short work, articles etc.
8. Find comparables “I write for the same people that read this writer.
9. Everything can be single spaced except the writing sample.