Minutes 201508

Writers’ Mill Minutes, 16th August 2015

Twenty people attended August’s Writers’ Mill Meeting and enjoyed a wonderful presentation from former Oregon poet laureate, Paulann Petersen.  Paulann, who has written many books and run many workshops, promised to coax, cajole and nudge us into writing, using a Springboard writing activity, as detailed below. She certainly kept that promise and we had a fantastic meeting.

In other events… after wonderful gluten free foods, drinks and home-grown tomatoes from Jean…

Contest Results:

Nellie handed out awards for the just-finished contest:

  1. Cold Case, by Jean
  2. Melody, by Matthew
  3. Message in a Bottle, by Sheila

Other entries were Dreamer by Joe, Hopeless in Seattle by Karin, Little Joe and the Buried Treasure by Sheila, Minstrel Magic by Judy, Prologue by Karen, The Hidden Gift by Jennifer, and Wine Hour by Jennifer. Find them all, reread and enjoy, at http://portlandwritersmill.org/contests/2015contests/current-contest-august-2015/

Upcoming contests:

Jean introduced the next contest (deadline September 6th – entries to judyb at portlandwritersmill dot org or judybnotes at gmail dot com), entitled Book-Spiration, hosted by Sheila http://portlandwritersmill.org/contests/1879-2/

  • Think of a book (or movie, or… )
  • Change a word (or two, or…)
  • Write your new title: e.g.
    • 20,000 Leaks Under the Sea — NOT written by Jules Verne (20,000 leaks under the sink perhaps)
    • Atlas Shrunk — NOT written by Ayn Rand
    • House of 7 Cats — NOT written by Nathaniel Hawthorne
    • Tequila Mockingbird — NOT written by Harper Lee
    • Huckleberry’s Fin — NOT written by Mark Twain
    • Oliver’s Twixt — NOT written by Charles Dickens
    • Five Hundred Acres — NOT written by Jane Smiley
    • The Dog On The Train — NOT written by Paula Hawkins
    • The Habit — NOT written by JRR Tolkien
    • Pride and Pancakes — NOT written by Jane Austen
  • Then write your story, essay, or poem inspired by this. No more than 2,500 words.

For those needing longer to write, we have “Scare Me” hosted by Beki, deadline October 4th, and “Murder” hosted by Matthew, deadline November 1st. So WRITE !!!!!

Journal News:

Sheila handed around the clipboard, asking for volunteer editors, and inviting those who want to be involved in formatting and uploading books to give her their names. If you weren’t there or didn’t get chance, and would like to edit or learn about formatting, uploading, etc, please contact SheilaDeeth at gmail dot com or Sheiladeeth at portlandwritersmill dot org.

Journal Deadline:

The deadline for submissions is the END OF THIS MONTH so… if you’re working on several potential entries:

  • Choose one
  • Finish it
  • Then look at the rest.

Don’t miss your chance to be published in this possibly prestigious journal of literary, light-hearted, illuminating, legendary words.

Current section titles are:

  • Holes (may be replaced by Loss)
  • Hideaway (may be combined with Holes)
  • In the News
  • It’s a Mystery (may be split into Strange Tales, Murder, and/or Kid’s Corner)
  • Under the Bed
  • Unexpected Gifts

Notes from Paulann Petersen’s Talk, August 16th 2015


Paulann began her talking by asking what the word “imagery” means to us – after all, it’s something we use in almost all our writing. Imagery is…?

  • The space where we find our ideas
  • Pictures
  • Imagination
  • A metaphor
  • What else … ?


Paulann reminded us that, while modern humans may be dominated by the sense of sight, we still encounter the world through five (maybe six) senses. As writers, if we want to draw our readers in, we should not neglect any of them:

  • Sight: What we see
  • Sound: What we hear
  • Touch: The tactile feel, say, of a smooth desk surface with an even smoother trim
    • Plus the feeling of air over our skin, heating, cooling
    • And self-awareness; the sense of ear-rings pulling on our ears
    • Plus, maybe, a sixth sense of spatial awareness, closely related to touch
  • Taste: The tongue map only covers four flavors, but we combine and elaborate on them using the sense of smell
    • Sweet, salt, sour, bitter (and maybe savory)
    • Sweet is the one on the tip of our tongues.
  • Smell: our response to esters, chemical scent compounds
    • This is the first, primordial sense.
    • Smell can evoke a human response/memory before we even think about it
    • Bypasses the cognitive functions of the brain – maybe even causes déjà vu.
    • Closely connected with taste, as many flavors are indistinguishable without a sense of smell.

Of all the senses, taste and smell might be the most potent. But how often do we forget to include them in our writing? Whether it’s poetry, prose, memoir, chapters, or creative non-fiction… all writing will be stronger if all the senses are involved, with the exception perhaps of technical writing.

Springboard Writing Exercise

The exercise takes place in two parts:

  • Brainstorming – free-writing, priming the pump – use scrap paper, so the pages can be scattered around, visible to the writer during part 2.
  • Writing – in a notebook or journal, so you can return to it and improve on it over time.

Part one (we did this before snacks)

  • Paulann asked us to jot down the names of people in our lives who were/are larger-than-life: family, friends, neighbors, teachers… In this stage, we jot things down, like taking notes but more random. If an idea comes to mind, add it to your page. Write fast and furious. If something distracts you, seems off the wall, comes from nowhere, welcome it and still write it down – it just might be your muse sneaking in through memory, creativity, imagination…
  • Choose one person from your list.
  • Write down some defining physical characteristics.
    • Sets of threes – appearance
    • Walk
    • Clothing
    • Voice
    • Etc… I would have taken better notes but Paulann does a great job of needling the muse so it sneaks in and makes you write fast and furious
  • Think about what most attracts you to the person
  • and what you don’t like about them – what annoys you
  • What events do you remember…
  • Then, after inviting us deep into memories and imagination, talking us through more things we could write down, and setting our muses free, Paulann deliberately distracted us:
    • She read a poem to us, got us talking about the poem, and reminded us; if something flies into your mind during this, write it down!
    • We noted the use of imagery in the poem
    • We looked at dramatic strategy – how the poem was built around a single line fulcrum/tipping point
    • We saw how an abstract idea has so much more force when it appears after the image has been set up, because now the reader/listener has some basis for imagination.

Part 2 followed after snacks and further distractions:

  • Spread your pages of notes where you can see them.
  • Title your piece with the character’s name or title.
  • Pick a good strong image from your notes as your springboard and start writing
  • If you stall, look at your notes again and find another image; then keep going.

With this as our inspiration, everyone wrote, even those of us who are usually reluctant to write “to order.” The exercise was fun, allowed us to delve into memories and ideas we might not have explored before, and resulted in some really great pieces of writing, just waiting to be polished – for the journal perhaps? We met Jean’s grandson, Mary Jane’s teacher, Sheila’s granddad and more…

Then we paused – a break in the action – a promise that there will be more. So keep writing! Keep rewriting! Keep jumping from those springboards. And thank you so so much Paulann Petersen.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *