Writers’ Mill June 19thminutes
22 writers, including several new members, left their homes on Father’s Day afternoon to attend a Writers’ Mill meeting with local author Ken Baysinger. A fun, inspirational and informative talk was followed by delicious gluten-free snacks from Jean, writerly awards from Karin for the monthly contest, and a fun all-hands-on-deck critique of Matthew’s story. By the end it was clear lots of us could have stayed longer than the usual 2 hours. But the room would be needed for other events, so we finished at 3 and planned to return next month, July 17th, for more inspiration from Wildfire Writer Christie Krug.
Members were asked to introduce themselves by telling what genre we write in. Answers included:
- Novels—contemporary, historical, humorous, mystery, literary, spy stories, romance, amputee fiction
- Memoir—autobiography, family history, fictionalized family history
- Creative non-fiction
- Short stories
Robin didn’t mention it at the time, but zines might be another genre too, and there’s a Portland zine symposium July 9th and 10th, with various events taking place beforehand, including a 24-hour zine challenge June 25th-26th http://www.portlandzinesymposium.org/portfolio/24-hour-zine-challenge/. Find out more at http://www.portlandzinesymposium.org/
Our guest speaker, author Ken Baysinger, writes mysteries which feature local geography, local history, and, as we learned to our surprise, recognizable local characters too. He lives in the place he writes about, and his neighbors beg to be included in his books! We could have listened to him for hours, and notes from his talk are included below.
Awards for June’s Home contest went to:
- First place Sheila with Breath of Life
- Second place Jean with Even A Hermit Crab and
- Third place Karen A-B with Community and Robin with Home Is Where They Never Let Me In
July’s contest, hosted by Jean, is “Postcards from the edge,” with a deadline at the end of Sunday July 3. Entries should be in the form of a postcard exchange—no more than 100 words per postcard, and no more than 750 words total. So it’s short—enjoy your summer activities and jot some notes on a card, then send your entries to judyb at portlandwritersmill dot org. More information at: http://portlandwritersmill.org/contests/current-contest-july-2016/
For those who need to let their stories and poems mature before submission, we have an image online for Karin’s August contest and for September we have Jean’s prompt: “The last time I saw (my brother) was twenty years ago. (He) didn’t look so good.” More information about these can be found at http://portlandwritersmill.org/contests/upcoming-contests/
Lacking a volunteer to lead this month’s critique, Sheila handed around questions and invited members to lead the critique themselves. The questions are posted online at: http://portlandwritersmill.org/23/critique-questions/ And the answers led to discussions of:
- Is myth revisited the same as fantasy?
- Does myth revisited have to follow the original storyline or can it deviate?
- How important is it to acknowledge what readers bring to a story in terms of expectations and prior knowledge?
- How does an opening sentence/paragraph grab the reader?
- How important is a sense of location? Can events happen “nowhere”? To what extent can location be inside the reader’s or the character’s head? And how does writing style determine how much description is needed?
- If conflict makes characters real, what makes conflict real? How important is internal dialog? How does the author make the reader relate to the character’s conflict?
- If the end of a myth is known to the reader, how can an author make it unique?
- How does the narrative voice change the emphasis within a story?
- How does the selection of details allow an author to avoid contradiction and still rewrite a myth?
Matthew particularly wanted to know if there was too much internal angst and what specific things readers would like changed. Please remember you’re welcome to ask specific questions when sending something for critique. And thank you to all for joining in so willingly to make this critique work.
Finally, we discussed the journal. Don’t forget, the deadline for submissions is the end of July—coming soon. If you entered any of our contests from last November to this month, you already have the perfect piece on your computer. Please send your entries to admin at portlandwritersmill dot org (or to RonD and SheilaD) and please remember to give your author name, entry name, and the section where you wish your piece to be included. Stories, poems, chapters, essays, photos, paintings, snippets, and more: Sections are:
- Just for kids
- Just for Inspiration
- Irresistible temptation (April)
- Home and away (June contest was home; this now includes travel, time, etc)
- Switching places (May’s contest was just people switching identity; this section now movement between places)
- Windows (based on March)
- White (based on December: anything related to white – clothing, weather, peace, Christmas…)
- Misunderstood (based on the February, It’s not what you think contest)
- Murder, Mystery and Mayhem (based on November)
The deadline for the journal and the deadline for August’s (image) contest are both around the end of July. The deadline for Joe’s inspirational journal is closer to the end of the year, but please start sending your inspirational pieces to him (JoeM at portlandwritersmill dot org). We have a tentative limit of 10,000 words in total per member for the journal, but this might change (up or down) depending on how many entries we get. Joe has a tentative limit of 3-5 pages (up to 5,000 words) per article. The same pieces can be included in both publications.
Finally, have you visited our Writers’ Mill library? Find it online at http://portlandwritersmill.org/library/ and email SheilaD if you want to borrow a book. Joanne has borrowed “Everyday Life in the 1800s” and Joe has borrowed “The Making of a Bestseller.”
Our next meeting is on July 17th.
- Christie Krug is a much-anticipated return guest speaker, from Wildfire Writing: http://christikrug.com/
- Norman will run the meeting and Karin will take minutes
- Lavonna will lead critiques of Matthew’s and Robin’s pieces.
- Robin will bring snacks but PLEASE CAN SOMEONE OFFER HER A RIDE!!! She lives in Aloha. Just reply to this email or email Robin directly at RobinW at portlandwritersmill dot org.
- And don’t forget, the journal deadline will be fast approaching!
Notes from Ken Baysinger’s talk, June 2016
Ken’s road to writing began early when hi English teacher gave him an F for writing too well (his teacher wouldn’t believe the piece was Ken’s own work and Ken, being stubborn, wouldn’t rewrite it). Writing was replaced by a language of 2-syllable words when Ken joined the Navy, but afterward he took an elective in expository writing at Washington State, just to see if he still had any literary skills. Luckily for his readers, he did. A degree in English led to work in creative advertising, but the white shoes and golf stories didn’t fit, so he moved into other areas. But…
How do you learn to write? By doing it.
- Schools teach spelling (spellcheck saves us), diagraming sentences, etc. but that’s not writing.
- A literate, verbal family teaches the use of language, but not necessarily the written word.
- Sitcoms and twitter… it’s not clear what they teach. And the navy teaches two-syllable words. But writers have to write.
Ken retired from a writing/photography job 12 years ago and entered real estate. Then came the recession and, with time on his hands, he wrote a book. Unfortunately it was a spy/terrorist/environmental disaster novel and after 9-11 he reckoned the terrorists didn’t need any more manuals on how to cause havoc so he wrote El Camino in 4 ½ months. The next 7 months were taken up with letters to publishers etc, and the joy of rejection until Tate responded, said yes, and demanded that he shrink his 160,000 word masterpiece to around 120,000.
Why can’t a novel be longer? Because the price is based on paper volume.
El Camino and Deadly Gold are built around reality
- Geographical reality: You can follow the characters around in your car and find the streets and towns, but perhaps not the specific street addresses.
- Real people: The author changes their names, but people can and do recognize themselves, and don’t mind, even if he’s using them to add humor in dark mystery.
How do you choose character names? Maps, directory listings—anything local can be a source of local-sounding names.
How do you keep track of characters? Uses a spreadsheet.
How detailed should character descriptions be? Does it matter to the story? It’s not wrong to leave something to the reader’s imagination.
- Socio-political reality: real events are referred to and discussed with real opinions.
- Cold-case reality: Ken draws inspiration from cold cases, fictionalizing them and imagining resolutions.
Which comes first: Plot or character? Plot comes first. The outline is like a story synopsis in 15-20 pages. He refers back to it to keep in focus, then rewrite it to solve problems—adding extra characters as needed, and giving higher priority to ones he thought were minor characters before.
- Historical reality: a source of many cold cases and interesting layers of events. Deadly Gold was based on a real historical murder.
How do you relate past events in a present-day novel? Can use past tense and present tense, or different voice/narrative style.
- Legal reality: The rules for remodeling a house, learned from the next door neighbor, become important plot points.
How do you write a series? Try not to give away too much of the previous book in the next one or people might not buy book one after book two.
How do you choose point of view? First person is good for mystery since lots of the investigation takes place in the protagonist’s head.
Why do you write? Is it a hobby? Are hobbies a form of mental illness? Do you enjoy it?
Will there be more books in the series? Yes.