December’s meeting was more sparsely attended than usual due to snow and ice, but we still had 13 people celebrating the achievements of 2016 and setting goals for 2017. Some of those goals were goals for our future meetings, so feel free to email your opinions to SheilaD at Portlandwritersmill dot org too add your voice to our plans. This is YOUR group and these are YOUR meetings! We aim to please – and to be “writers helping writers.”
Also, please bring books for the book exchange in January, since so few of us remembered to bring books in December. Let’s enjoy helping each other with reading material too.
The meeting began with members telling us their top writing achievements of 2016, ranging from
- Learning about self-publishing (for coloring books, short story books, poetry books, Writers’ Mill journals and more)
- Writing (memoirs with increasing numbers of chapters, novels, monthly talks for an alumni organization)
- Getting published (and even getting paid)
- Editing (and even getting paid)
- Participating in critique groups
- Putting pieces of writing together to make books (poetry, short stories…)
- Getting online, meeting new authors online, and
- Jinxing the weather by writing emails about how it never really snows in Oregon. (That one was Sheila’s mum, newly arrived from England.)
Moving on, Sheila took the paper goals from the magic box (which she will bring in January so you can all add your goals) and we enjoyed celebrating how everyone has achieved somebody’s goal, even if not their own.
- 7 (out of 13) had participated in our monthly contests by reading, voting and commenting
- 6 had entered the contests
- 6 (not the same 6) had entered contests not run by the Writers’ Mill
- 6 had entries in our annual Writers’ Mill journal, and 3 had entries published in other collections.
- 2 had been paid (writing or editing)
- 3 had worked on flash fiction, 4 on poetry, 4 on research, 4 on childrens books
- 2 had compiled books
- 2 had completed novels and 3 had completed first drafts
- 1 wrote query letters
- 1 started a website/blog
- 7 became more fully engaged in writing
- 1 did Nano (National Novel Writing Month in November)
So, not a bad year. I’m sure the numbers would have been even better had more people been present.
Sheila handed around the usual small pieces of paper for 2017’s goals. She’ll hand out more in January so you can all your goals to the box. Then we discussed goals for the Writers’ Mill, remembering that not everyone has been to every past talk, so some topics might be due to be repeated.
- Joe needs more entries for the inspirational anthology. Send them SOON to JoeM at portlandwritersmill dot org
- 5 would like a talk on how to create and use websites and blogs
- 4 would like to learn how to write successful query letters
- 5 would enjoy a one-month challenge – a sort of private, mini-NaNo, not in June, November or December
- 4 want to learn how to put pieces of work together into a book, including photos and pictures
- 7 would like to learn how to self-publish using Createspace
- 8 want to learn how to successfully submit to magazines (Could this be combined with query letters?)
- 5 want to learn more about childrens fiction
- 5 want to learn about young adult (YA) fiction (Could these be combined?)
- 5 are interested in poetry (see February’s meeting)
- 3 are interested in flash fiction workshops
- 8 want to know more about editing, including style sheets for different types of writing
- 8 want to learn about grammar
- 3 are interested in marketing
- 3 are interested in ’zines.
Next came delightfully Christmassy awards for December’s Ring contest from Robin
- First place Karen with Halo in the Dark
- Second place Lauri with Unmentionable Term
- Third place Sheila with Tree Rings
Upcoming contests (entries to JudyB at Portlandwritersmill dot org)are:
- For January 2nd (a Monday – you have one extra day), “be inspired” by “a dark and stormy night” in 1500 words or fewer
- For February 5th (Sunday), let Carl and June guide your imaginations in 1500 words or fewer(go to http://portlandwritersmill.org/contests/upcoming-contests/ and click on the titles to see where Carl and June have been before)
- For March 5th (Sunday), be inspired by a wondrous picture of a full moon in 1250 words or fewer (same link)
Finally, LaVonna led a double (or even quadruple) critique of 3 poems from Robin and the opening chapter of Minnie’s memoir. Things we discussed include:
- The power of metaphor in poetry – how does a porcupine convey the image of hurting or fearing to hurt?
- The importance of metaphor – everything has a purpose, bird vs plane vs brick.
- How might mixed metaphors work – bird becomes brick.
- Unreliable narrators in poetry – how poems invite us to see the falsehood of labels we place on ourselves
- The importance of word choice – can’t versus refuses
- The implications of words – does the author mean what the words might imply to another? How do we invite the reader to add their own perceptions?
- What happens when the poet inserts his/herself – ownership of the problem inviting readers to relate – personal sentence can sometimes really hit home.
- Do readers perceive the same theme as the writer – do they need to?
- Personal touches might resonate with some readers and simply sound good to others – e.g. King of Nothing, or Writing on a wall.
- What themes might be universal – healing? broken relationships? –sometimes a theme is so universal, if you have to ask you’ll never understand
- How do structure (line endings) and punctuation (commas, periods) alter meaning – for example
- “Lost in long forgotten dream” vs
- “Lost. In long forgotten dream”
- How capitalization creates pauses and implies speakers
- Does poetry need to move the reader beyond recognition?
- What’s the difference between poetry and story – poetry sends reader on their path, so more metaphorical; story invites reader to walk alongside author’s path, so more specific?
- Paths unexplored in one poem (or removed in the editing process) might create a new poem afterward.
Looking at Minnie’s chapter, we discussed
- how naturally occurring scripture references fit the story and the writing, making it more accessible to all readers.
- How an author chooses and defines a target audience, and how a reader determines if they want to be part of the target audience
- Would broadening the audience lose the point of the story?
- How does the author lead the reader to make the right assumptions?
- How does the author choose which bits to keep in a story and which to leave out?
- How does a speaker choose which bits to keep in a story and which to leave out (for a particular audience)?
- Do readers need to know everything about the author from the start of a memoir, or can they learn as the story goes on?
We ended a meeting that covered religion, politics, personal experience, surprising revelations and more, just about on time (almost), and we’re all looking forward to getting together again in January. Remember, no critique in January when Nancy Linnon will speak and lead us in a writing exercise, and none in February when Carolyn Martin will speak and lead us in a poetry exercise. We do need 2 volunteers to be critiqued in March and we need to discuss what to do about April’s meeting, which coincides with Easter Sunday. My preference – let’s ask the library if we can meet on the 4th or 5th Sunday that month. But what do YOU want – this is YOUR group. Email me!