"Fill your paper with the breathings of your heart." ~ William Wordsworth

The Writing Life Too

And if you're reading this, it means you're not writing.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

The maker of a sentence launches out into the infinite and builds a road into Chaos and old Night, and is followed by those who hear him with something of wild, creative delight. Ralph Waldo Emerson

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Summer in Words Writing Conference 2013 

Imagine Write Publish

Registration begins March 15

June 21-23

Cannon Beach, Oregon

Find updates here

From Planet Published:

From time to time I like to give shout outs to new authors, especially those I know and have worked with. Today I've heard great news from Mellisa Ousley about her upcoming YA trilogy. It's called the
The Solas Beir Trilogy and the first book Sign of the Throne will be out in October.  I was lucky to meet her and work with her last summer when she attended Summer in Words.

Melissa is the third author I've heard from recently who landed a book deal after attending Summer in Words in 2012 and working with me....you cannot imagine how happy this makes me. I've asked for her permission to tell folks about this and she graciously said yes, "Truly, without your help and Summer in Words, this would not be possible."

Here are the details:

Good afternoon Jessica,
I hope you are doing well. Thank you again for your guidance on my writing and for hosting the Summer in Words conference. I'm so grateful for your help because I believe it made my writing stronger and helped me make some critical connections in the Oregon writing community.
I'm pleased to share that I received an offer from Gazebo Gardens Publications to publish my YA trilogy, and have signed on with them. The first book will be coming out this fall, probably in October. I'm really thrilled. It's a smaller press in the Seattle area, but I am enjoying working with them. It's nice to have that personal touch, and I feel like the publisher is enthusiastic about and invested in my writing. I have a feeling I will learn a lot in this process and am so grateful for all the guidance I've received so far. It's a good fit. I'll be posting more details soon on my web site and on Facebook. We are still working on a book tour plan, but the publisher will be featuring my book at her booth at the PNBA Tradeshow in Portland, so that is exciting!
Best wishes to you!
All my best,

Keep writing, keep dreaming, invest in the craft 

P.S. More updates coming your way at www.summerinwords.com
P.P. S. Be sure to check out Melissa's gorgeous site

Monday, February 25, 2013

Quick tip:

Avoid using went as a verb. As in Jill went toward Jack. 

Sunday, February 24, 2013

 Meet Maryka Biaggio

I'm always thrilled when writers I know get their first book published. Especially when I understand how many drafts and hard work went into this success.
 Maryka Biaggio is a former psychology professor turned novelist with a passion for historical fiction. Her debut novel, Parlor Games, was published by Doubleday in January 2013. Twenty-eight years after launching her academic career she took the leap from full-time academic to scrambling writer and now splits her time between fiction writing and higher education consulting work. Her fiction has won Willamette Writers and Belles Lettres awards. She prides herself on crafting carefully researched and realistic fiction. She travels extensively, is an avid opera fan, and enjoys gardening, art films, and, of course, great fiction. She lives in Portland, Oregon, that edgy green gem of the Pacific Northwest.
  Q: It seems to me that writing about historical figures in a fictional format is especially challenging. I’d love to know why you chose to write about a notorious woman from the past.

I chose May Dugas, the protagonist of Parlor Games, for a number of reasons: I was fascinated by the Pinkerton Detectives’ description of her as “the most dangerous woman in the world”; she did not shrink from adventure or peril; and I thought a first-person account would both challenge me and, if I succeeded, provide a fascinating glimpse into May’s world.
 Q: What is your first step in the process of crafting a historical novel?
I always start with a character who has led an interesting life. If I believe the story has a good arc, I plunge into the research and writing.
 Q: Can you describe your research methods, particularly how you find direct sources?
For Parlor Games I started with a Chicago journalist’s self-published pamphlet. Although he based his narrative on the first-person report of the Pinkerton Detective who pursued May, his account was riddled with internal inconsistencies. So I searched online for newspaper articles of the time and found enough to develop a reliable time line. I wrote to the State of Michigan and obtained a transcript of May’s Menominee trial. I also searched passport and travel records at the National Archives in Washington, DC, for accounts of her travels. I interviewed the foremost expert on May Dugas, who lives in May’s hometown, Menominee, MI.
 I also traveled. For instance, I searched the National Archives in Washington, DC, for May’s passport and travel records. In Chicago I studied buildings that were in existence when she frequented the city. I had traveled in China in 1985, not too long after it opened up to outside visitors post-revolution, and I drew on that experience in portraying May’s sojourns in the bustling cities of Hong Kong and Shanghai. A professional meeting had taken me to Mexico City in the 1990s, so I was familiar with its sights and the surrounding geography. I arranged a trip to the south of France while I worked on the novel. I paid the requisite fee to enter the exclusive gambling lounge at the Monte Carlo Casino, where I was able to soak up the ambience of the scene—the beautiful, inviting decor, the serious expressions of the gamblers, and the shuffling of chips—just as May did during her visits there.
 Q: Since your characters actually lived once how do you find the right voice for the POV character?
As I read about May and her adventures I tried to unearth some sense of her personality, her motives, and the nature of her interactions with others. I imagined how she might tell her story. Once the first line of the novel came to me, I felt I had gotten inside her (at least a version of her that made sense to me), and I was off and running.
 Q: What is the toughest part about being a writer for you and how do you get past it?
The most difficult challenge for me is infusing tension and conflict into my writing. Once I have a good 50-100 pages, I request critiques from a few professional reviewers (including Jessica Morrell). Sometimes it’s hard to hear their feedback because it usually means I need rethink and revise a fair amount. But I always end up feeling it’s for the best.
 Q: What is your best advice for someone who is frustrated at not being able to break into publishing?
Writing regularly and persistently is the single most important way to improve your craft. Focus on learning, not on publishing. In this environment, you need to write well and tell a good story. If you constantly strive for a well-told tale, you can be published.
 Q: What’s your best writing advice in ten words or less?
 Read with a writer’s mind and hone your internal critic.
 Q: Sushi or pasta?
Butternut squash ravioli finished with sage fried in olive oil.
 Q: What books are piled on your nightstand?
1)      Webster’s Dictionary—you never know when you might encounter an unknown word.
2)      Artful Sentences: Syntax as Style by Virginia Tufte (I confess, I’m a grammar and usage geek).
3)      Always a novel—right now its Mrs. Tom Thumb by Melanie Benjamin.
4)      A notebook for those times when the elusive passage I’ve been seeking pops into my head at 2 a.m.
 Q: What’s next for you?
I’m working on a novel about a child prodigy writer—a real person born in 1914—whose life went terribly awry.
 For more information about Parlor Games, visit www.marykabiaggio.com

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Bitter truth # 8

Someone is always going to write better than you.
Find it here

Friday, February 22, 2013

Must read: Jess Walter How I  Write

You can find it at The Daily Beast here
You'll also discover why he's one of my favorite writers, not to mention I might need to add him to my secret boyfriends list.
His advice for writers:  "Be patient. Be bold. Be humble. Be confident. Don’t give in to the speed and surface banality of the culture. Don’t give in to jealousy, commerce, or fear. Do charity work, or coach kids, or be a Big Brother or Sister, or something. Whatever it takes to get out of your own head and avoid authorial narcissism. And whatever you do, don’t ever take advice from authors."

Meanwhile, keep writing, keep dreaming, have heart

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Quick Take: Add moonlight

I just finished editing a manuscript for a client. There was much to admire in the story, particularly her use of natural elements--seasons, wind, plants, water, moonlight, darkness. She mentioned in an email that she planned to begin her rewrites on the full moon. Since it's a book with magical realism, that seems fitting.

Have you incorporated the moon into your stories? For thousands of years humans have been gazing at the night sky, at that huge and ever-changing pearl. Can the mood affect the mood in your story? Make things happen (think lunacy)?

“The night walked down the sky with the moon in her hand.” ~ Frederick Lawrence Knowles

Monday, February 18, 2013

"For me, writing a novel is like having a dream. Writing a novel lets me intentionally dream while I'm still awake. I can continue yesterday's dream today, something you can't normally do in everyday life."~ Haruki Murakami

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Write From Your Soft Parts

A column about writing about love and relationships is here.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Join me:

I am is going to be a guest again on Susan Rich Talks tomorrow (February 12)  Be sure to tune in 9 am PT on www.w4wn.com. 

We're going to be talking about Deal Breakers--tips for staying out of the rejection pile and how not to drive an editor crazy.

Good stuff. Also we're going to laugh a bit because  after all, we all make mistakes.

Friday, February 08, 2013

More Neil Gaiman

"Each person who ever was or is or will be has a song. It isn't a song that anybody else wrote. It has its own melody, it has its own words. Very few people get to sing their song. Most of us fear that we cannot do it justice with our voices, or that our words are too foolish or too honest, or too odd. So people live their song instead."

Thursday, February 07, 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.

Email wilwrite@willamettewriters.com for details or call 503-305-6729 or visit:


Willamette Writers
2108 Buck St
West Linn, OR   97068


Wednesday, February 06, 2013

"I love punctuation. It's like a little family, each with their own personality." Mary Ruefle

Monday, February 04, 2013


"A world in which there are monsters, and ghosts, and things that want to steal your heart is a world in which there are angels, and dreams and a world in which there is hope." ~ Neil Gaiman