Archive for January, 2009

Live Self-Promotion Class with Christina Katz

Christina KatzSelf-Promotion Round Table
With Christina Katz
If you have a book coming out or a service or class to offer, you’re going to need to kick up some interest in what you do first. People are always asking to “borrow” my brain to help them brainstorm ideas for promoting themselves and their books. But when it comes to brainstorming, we all know that several brains are better than one. So I will facilitate this round table discussion to help participants increase their visibility for all the right reasons.

In this three-hour brainstorming session, you’ll drum up ideas that will lead you to a clear-cut plan for promoting yourself and all that you offer. Bring with you a one-paragraph description of your mission, a short bio summarizing your expertise, and a list of any self-promotion you’ve already accomplished (better yet, read my new book, “Get Known” prior to the workshop). You will leave with more ideas than you can possibly carry out, including a few you might not have come up with on your own. Plan to have fun and connect with like-minded writers.

Location: The Wilsonville Library
Dates: Saturday, January 31, 2008
Cost: $99.00 for three hours (introductory price for January session exclusively)
More/Register at

Reasons To Write: Write for Pleasure

Christina Katz

By Christina Katz
I had been teaching writing for about a year when I noticed something about writing for pleasure vs. writing for publication. Both intentions seemed to produce equally strong results for my writing students. In fact, when comparing writing assignments between the two classes, I often felt students in my writing for pleasure classes were producing superior results compared to my writing for publication students.

There was only one problem, and it was a big one. The difficulty came when it was time to match the strong writing with markets that would pay. My writing for pleasure students were ill prepared for the kind of strategic thinking needed to treat writing like a business. They were more often prone to magical thinking, which is fun, but tends to yield scant results. The magical thinking went like this: I wrote well therefore I will get published.

Unfortunately, putting wonderful words on the page won’t guarantee publication. An eloquent writer needs a whole list of professional skills to become a professional writer who can find the best publication opportunities for his or her work. Does this mean that writing for pleasure is a waste of time?

Definitely not! Writing for pleasure can help you flex many muscles as a writer. Here are just a few examples:

Strengthen your voice: When you write for pleasure you can let your voice rip. A conversational tone will assist you not only when you are writing for enjoyment, but also when you are writing on assignment or for pay. A knack for writing in an informal tone will carry over to whatever writing you do. And when you have a deadline, leaning into your voice to get a first draft down on the page can really help you get the job done. When you can’t seem to find your voice, forgo the computer and try writing by hand. Even if that means rewriting what you’ve already drafted with a keyboard.

Discover meaningful topics: What are you going to write about? When you can’t come up with fresh material, writing for pleasure can help you uncover ideas you might otherwise miss. A writer is only as prolific as her next topic. If you feel blocked, get out a piece of paper and start writing a letter to a close friend. Spill your guts. Tell your friend everything you want to say. This is a sure-fire strategy for making sure you never run out of material. Just make sure the “friend” is someone you trust, so you won’t censor.

Explore structure organically: If you struggle to make smooth transitions in your writing, writing for pleasure can help you get out of your own way. When you write quickly, without the self-consciousness that can come from anticipating your editor’s red pen, you will naturally create smooth transitions. Once you get the hang of trusting yourself and just letting one paragraph dovetail into the next, your words will flow. When in doubt, set your writing aside to cool off a bit. Then tweak for strong transitions.

Uncover deep thoughts and authentic beliefs: Say something fresh. Epiphanies and surprises are key to writing success. Readers really don’t want to hear the same old, same old. Say something you didn’t realize you thought. If it’s a surprise to you, chances are good that it will also be a surprise to the reader. If you focus on telling your specific truth, you’ll avoid the posturing, big words and overly formal language pitfalls that dog beginning writers. You’ve got something to say, so say it!

Enjoy the process: I don’t know about you, but the pleasure of writing was a primary reason I wanted a career as a writer. Writing can be cathartic. Writing can be an escape. Writing can be an exploration. Writing can be so many things. Why limit yourself to the drudgery of only writing because you have to, when you can also write simply because you love to write?

Writer Mama by Christina KatzOctober 2007 Family Fun Magazine is the author of Get Known Before the Book Deal, Use Your Personal Strengths to Build an Author Platform and Writer Mama, How to Raise a Writing Career Alongside Your Kids (both for Writer’s Digest Books). A platform development coach and consultant, she teaches writing career development, hosts the Northwest Author Series, and is the publisher of several e-zines including Writers on the Rise. Christina blogs at The Writer Mama Riffs and Get Known Before the Book Deal, and speaks at MFA programs, literary events, and conferences around the country.

Writing for Radio: Listen and Learn

laura-bridgwaterBy Laura Bridgwater

My first love affair with National Public Radio (NPR) began when I started graduate school in my twenties.For that first year, I commuted an hour and a half through a national forest. During those drives down desolate Florida byways, it was just me, a few cows, maybe an alien or two, and the voices in the dark on my local public radio station. That’s when I heard Bailey White, a school teacher from Georgia who told stories about living with her quirky, elderly mother. I didn’t live with my mother, but I was a school teacher from the South, and I related to her commentaries.

After graduate school, my husband and I moved to Colorado, where I drove white-knuckled in the snow and fell in love with the voice of Baxter Black, a self-described cowboy poet and former large animal veterinarian. Even though I had no intention of ever helping a cow deliver a calf in the middle of a blizzard, I enjoyed knowing about a world that I drove past regularly.

Not all of my radio affairs happened in the car. When I left teaching to stay at home with our first daughter, I kept the radio on in the kitchen through middle-of-the-night feedings, breakfast, snack, lunch, and dinner. I listened to Marion Winik and Sandra Tsing Loh, two women who shared candidly about parenthood.

I like to think that I’ve found an NPR commentator for most stages of my life. I know these writers made me feel connected during times of isolation, whether it was a lonely drive, a new home, or becoming a parent. Fortunately, these days with Internet access, I don’t have to move across the country to listen to my favorite ones. I click on NPR on my laptop almost as often as I turn the knob in my automobile.

In my current stage, I’m a freelance writer. In 2008 I began recording commentaries for my local public radio station, KUNC. With NPR’s 22 million listeners and almost 800 affiliate public radio stations, chances are good that you, too, have a public radio station that might be interested in what you have to say. (To find your local public radio station, go to and enter your zip code.)

Commentaries are simply essays in script form. If you want to break into public radio, start by tuning in. Listen and learn. All of the above commentators also have books of their essays available at Amazon, so with a highlighter in hand, you can study their writing. Then one day you might find yourself driving down the road to the sound of your own voice. Hopefully, it won’t be because you are talking to yourself, but because your voice is being broadcast over the airwaves.

Laura Bridgwater is an award-winning writer, teacher, and radio commentator who loves to pen funny essays, bad poetry, and grocery lists. She lives in Fort Collins, Colorado, with her husband and Tax Deduction #1 and #2. When she isn’t busy driving Mom’s Yellow Taxi Service, she freelances for newspapers, magazines, blogs, and online publications. Laura can be found as an active member of Northern Colorado Writers and commentating at KUNC. In 2008, she won first place for humorous personal essay writing from the National Federation of Press Women.

The Scoop on Writing Profile Articles: Anatomy of a Profile

Lori RussellBy Lori Russell

I am a curious person by nature and I love a good story. Give me a one-on-one conversation with someone and I’m in my element listening carefully and asking lots of questions. Most begin with “Would you tell me more about…” or “Why?”

Because people fascinate me, it is not surprising that when I began writing nonfiction, I was naturally drawn to profile articles. A profile article explores the background and character of a person, group or business. Whether the focus is on a news angle or a single aspect of the subject’s personal or professional life, a profile gives the reader a greater understanding of the subject through the lens of his or her personal interests, career, and educational and family background.

Some may call me a snoop, but my professional moniker as a profile writer gives me a legitimate reason to contact total strangers and ask them about their lives and their interests. Everyone has a story and profile writers help tell them to the world (or at least to the readers of the magazines and newspapers they write for). You can, too. Here’s the basic structure of a profile article:

Bait, hook, lead-whatever you call it
Your profile article starts with an intriguing beginning that draws your reader into your story. Like with good fiction, a profile lead grabs the action and puts the reader in the middle of it. It can be an anecdote, pure information, a description, a quote, a question or a comparison. The lead can flashback to what the person’s life or a business was like in the past or what is happening in the present.

Unlike news articles, profiles do not need to answer the standard questions of who, what, when, where, why, and how in the first paragraph. Also known as a “nut graf,” this paragraph explains who your article is about and why this person is interesting. In a profile, it is usually found following the lead.

Building a Great Body
The body of a profile article, whether organized thematically or chronologically, weaves background material with details and quotes. In a narrative profile, you may want to include comments from additional or secondary sources such as family, friends or colleagues. In the Q & A format, your interview is only with the subject.

Wrapping it up
Unlike news articles that conclude when all the info has been presented in an inverted pyramid form, profile articles-like essays and fiction-need closure. An easy way to wrap up is with a circular ending, which refers back to your lead or the article’s subject or thesis. Another easy way to end is with a descriptive scene or a summary statement. An interesting quote from your subject will leave his  voice in your readers’ heads long after they complete the article.

Subjects for profile articles are everywhere. This month as you move through your days, make a list of the interesting people you meet or already know. Then ask yourself: “What careers, hobbies or experiences do they have that others might want to know about?”

Lori Russell has written profiles about people, their passions and their places for more than a decade. Her nonfiction articles have been published online and in magazines and newspapers around the country. She is a contributing editor for Columbia Gorge Magazine, a regular contributor to Ruralite magazine and has co-written the “In the Spotlight’ column for WOTR for the past two years. She is currently enjoying a writing residency teaching memoir writing to high school students through Columbia Gorge Arts in Education, an organization that brings professional writers and artists to the public schools. Learn more at Story Behind the Words, Lori’s new blog.

Getting Your Poems on the Page: Writing Images–Show Vs. Tell

sage.gifBy Sage Cohen

A poem’s job is to bring a story viscerally to life. In making a poetic scene or a narrative palpable for readers, descriptive images are often far more engaging than statements. This truth has been distilled to a golden rule of poetry that echoes through classrooms everywhere: Show, don’t tell.

Let’s take a look at what show vs. tell means by considering different ways to communicate the concept of “weakness”:

Telling: “I felt weak.”
Showing: “I could barely lift the spoon to my mouth.”

The first example explains to the reader how the speaker feels. The second example gives some specific details to bring the concept of “weak” to life. We can see where weakness lives in the speaker’s body in this moment. When you “show” with images, you offer the reader a visual, tactile, sometimes auditory reference, rather than a conceptual one. Because weakness might look and feel completely different in your body than it does in mine, images can help you more effectively articulate your own experience. They can also help move a poem from vague to specific, making it a lot more interesting.

A good question to ask yourself every time you make a declarative statement in a poem is, “What would happen if I described this instead of naming it?” The best way to find out is to experiment with injecting images and see what feels right.

Now it’s your turn! Rewrite the following statements to “show” instead of “tell”:

Her hair was a mess.
I hate the smell of roses.
He couldn’t wait to see her again.
The preschooler wasn’t ready to leave the playground when recess was over.
You always change your mind.
The moon is full.
I refuse to give up.

Getting a feel for the art of the image? Good! Try using this technique next time you draft a poem. Replace three “tell” statements with “show” images. Notice how that changes the experience of the poem. Bring this exercise to every poem you write, and you will soon be writing language that leaps off the page.
October 2007 Family Fun Magazine

Sage Cohen is the author of Writing the Life Poetic: An Invitation to Read and Write Poetry, forthcoming from Writer’s Digest Books, and the poetry collection Like the Heart, the World. Her poetry and essays appear in journals and anthologies including Cup of Comfort for Writers, Oregon Literary Review, Greater Good and VoiceCatcher. Sage holds an MA in creative writing from New York University and teaches the email class Poetry for the People.

Write Short and Get Published E-class

Christina KatzWriting and Publishing The Short Stuff
Especially For Moms (But Not Only for Moms)!
With Christina Katz
Class Begins on January 14th
Prerequisites: None
Finally, a writing workshop that fits into the busy lives of moms! You will learn how to create short, easy-to-write articles-a skill that will make it easier to move up to longer, more time-consuming articles when you’re ready. Try your pen at tips, fillers, short interviews, list articles, how-tos, and short personal essays-all within six weeks. Now includes markets!
Cost: $199.00.
More/Register at

The Fiction Writing Workshop: Beginnings

Kristin Bair O'KeeffeBy Kristin Bair O’Keeffe

Welcome to The Fiction Workshop. Each month in 2009, I will offer strategies and exercises for writers working on novels and short stories.

Whenever my students start a new fiction project-whether it’s a short story or a novel-they ask, “Where do I start? Where do I begin?” Usually the shiny nub of an idea has been taking shape in their heads for a while, but as the potential of the story swells before them, they get overwhelmed even before they get one word on the page.

“Start in the middle of something,” I say.

Inevitably they tilt their heads, narrow their eyes, and raise their eyebrows as if to say, “You’ve got to be kidding.” This is not what they expect to hear. They expect to hear, “Start at the beginning.” And many want to hear this. After all, the urge to start a story at the “true beginning” (you know, the day the main character is born even though the book is about a murder that takes place when she’s fifty and has nothing whatsoever to do with her birth) is great, but I suggest restraint. Instead, grab and hold your reader’s interest by dropping them into the middle of something.

One of the best examples of this is the opening chapter of Kiran Desai’s brilliantly crafted novel The Inheritance of Loss that won the 2006 Man Booker Prize.

“All day,” the first chapter begins.

Those two simple words-all day-deposit us quite neatly into a specific day during which many things have obviously already been unfolding.

And then there’s Jonathan Safran Foer’s ground-shuddering novel Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close that begins, “What about a teakettle? What if the spout opened and closed when the steam came out, so it would become a mouth, and it could whistle pretty melodies, or do Shakespeare, or just crack up with me?”

The first time I read this book (and I’ve read it at least three times since), I couldn’t wait to find out more. “Who the heck is speaking?” I asked myself. “And what kind of questions are these about talking teakettles? And if the narrator is the kind of person to ask about talking teakettles, where exactly is he taking us?”

With this unusual line of questioning and a very intriguing narrator’s voice, Foer plops us into a story we want to know more about, a story we want to keep reading.

And that’s the goal, after all, to create a story readers want to keep reading. So in the next few weeks, take a look at the opening of that novel or short story you’ve been toiling over. Where does it begin? In the middle of something or way back before something interesting is actually unfolding? What happens if you change the beginning? Try it. See what happens.

Personal Essays That Get Published E-class Begins January 14th

abby-green-2009-headshotPersonal Essays that Get Published
With Abigail Green

Class Begins on January 14th
Prerequisites: None
The popularity of reality shows, blogs, and tell-all books proves that it pays to get personal these days. Whether you want to write introspective essays, short humor pieces, or first-person reported stories, your life is a goldmine of rich material that all kinds of publications are pining for. Personal Essays that Get Published will teach you how to get your personal experiences down on the page and get them published. Students will learn how to find ideas, hone their voice, craft solid leads and endings, reslant their work for different markets, and submit their essays for publication.
Cost: $199.00
More/Register at

Understanding Personal Essays: What’s An Essay Anyway?

Abigail GreenBy Abigail Green

Writers are often told, “Write what you know.” And what subject can you possibly know better than yourself and your own life? That may be why many of us choose to write personal essays. Essays give us the opportunity to examine our own thoughts and feelings, to reflect on our experiences, and to tell stories about the people and places in our lives.

Of course, a good personal essay must be of interest to a larger audience. Ideally, it should also impart some sort of insight or wisdom to readers. Otherwise, it will read like a navel-gazing journal entry. More on that later.

Personal essays vary widely. They can be short or long, serious or humorous, and may be on virtually any subject imaginable, including health, parenting, politics, travel, or current events. I’ve read personal essays about a father’s beloved toolbox, learning to hang glide, losing a breast to cancer, adopting a child, getting a tattoo removed, rafting down a river in Asia, and even losing a car’s gas cap.

Essays may include personal anecdotes, dialogue, factual reporting, or a combination of these. They can be found in magazines, in the op-ed section of a newspaper, and on any number of Web sites. The one thing all personal essays have in common is that they are nonfiction and written in the first person, from the author’s perspective.

As I mentioned before, all good essays manage to make the personal universal. For example, you might recount a story about your family dog, but there’s got to be something in your essay that other people can relate to. Not everyone knows Sparky, but nearly everyone can relate to the unconditional love that only a pet can offer.

This elusive “universal truth” stymies a lot of essay writers. Unfortunately, there’s no magic formula for finding it. Rather, the universal truth usually reveals itself only through the process of writing, revising and rewriting an essay. (Tip:  Studying the work of skilled essayists like those in the Best American Essays anthologies is a great way to learn by example.)

In the coming months, this column will take a look at different types of essays found in all sorts of consumer magazines and newspapers, such as Newsweek’s “My Turn” department, Parenting’s “Mom’s Eye View,”  and the New York Times’ “Lives” and “Modern Love” sections.

While this column is not intended to serve as a market guide, we will examine some specific markets known for publishing essays. That’s because as a freelance writer who’s been publishing essays for years, I have found that it’s much easier to craft an essay for a particular market than it is to write a piece and then try to find a home for it.

The bad news about personal essays is that they are not easy to write-or to sell. The good news is that essay markets are abundant, and so is an essay writer’s material.

Abigail Green is a freelance writer in Baltimore. Over the past 12 years, she has written for national, regional and online publications including AOL, Bride’s, Baltimore Magazine, Cooking Light and Health. She blogs about the lighter side of pregnancy, parenthood and potty training at Diary of a New Mom. She teaches Personal Essays that Get Published, a six-week e-mail class.

Platform Building E-class for Beginners

Christina KatzPlatform Building 101: Discover your Specialty
(Formerly “Targeting Your Best Writing Markets”)
With Christina Katz
Class Begins on January 14th
Prerequisites: None
Identifying your writing specialty is one of the trickiest and most necessary steps in launching a writing career today. This class will help you find your best audiences, cultivate your expertise, manage your ideas, develop marketing skills, claim your path, serve editors and become portfolio-minded. You’ll learn how to become the professional you’ve always wanted to be and, most importantly, how to take your writing career more seriously.
Cost: $199.00.
More/Register at

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  • This Blog Moving to as of December 30, 2009… December 27, 2009
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