Archive for September, 2009

Reasons to Write: Write to Relax

By Christina Katz

Do you feel calmer and more centered after writing? I know I do. Maybe I’m just a wound up ball of Christina Katznervous energy and the only way I can loosen up is by channeling that creative urge into a discipline like writing. Maybe I can’t really loosen up unless I have a pencil in hand or a keyboard at my fingertips. Maybe I am just too intense!
Although, to cut myself a little bit of slack, when writing is what you do every day, it’s easy to forget that you ever wrote to relax. The typical cause of this type of amnesia is usually deadline pressure and other professional obligations, which interferes with the playful joy of just splashing around in the creative process without a worry in the world- typically the kind of experience that brought many of us to writing in the first place.
I am certainly not exempt. When the deadlines are running high, I sometimes forget that writing and relaxing go together like lolling in a hammock goes with summer. Yesterday, after a couple of days of feeling out of sorts, I sat down and cranked out an article that was almost due.
Afterwards, I remarked to my husband what a great mood I was in…and then I noticed why. I was in a great mood because I had just finished a period of concentrated writing. It did not matter that this was an assignment that I have every month. It did not matter that the material I was writing has already been well traversed by my pen. I completely enjoyed composing the article and polishing it for publication.
Yet it was only because I forgot how much I like to write that I enjoyed it so much. Like most things, the harder you try to keep the feelings the same as they once were, the more elusive the pleasurable ones become. Actually, the more you insist on things staying exactly the same, the less you can really grow as a writer.
So if the process of writing isn’t as relaxing as it once was, you might want to reunite with a long-lost friend, that antique among writing devices, the pencil.  And since we’re talking about pencils, we can’t go much further without also bringing up the pencil’s best friend, a good electronic pencil sharpener.
I am writing this column on a yellow legal pad with a newly sharpened pencil, while sitting on the floor of my carpeted office, with my back against the floral-pattern couch, listening to the whisper of graphite on paper. The rhythmic movement of my hand across the page making a sharp point dull soothes whatever savage beasts I might have been wrestling with only moments ago.
In fact, if you were to bring up one of the beasts by name in this moment, I would shrug it off: Beasts, what beasts? Shhh. I’m writing. By the time my pencil is made dull, I’ll forget that I ever had a negative thought, a neurotic impulse, or a bad habit. None of them will have mattered one whit. I will be as close to at peace as a ball of nervous energy can come.
You might be tempted to try and bottle that feeling of blissful release. To try and replicate it every time you sit down to write. But don’t. You can get hooked on your own compulsive urges. They can wreck things that otherwise work beautifully. Don’t. Just forget the results you hope for and feel the whirl of the motor as you sharpen up that pencil.

 Writer Mama by Christina KatzGet Known Before the Book Deal by Christina KatzChristina Katz 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.

Christina will be speaking in Eugene, Oregon on October 1st

Mid-Valley Willamette Writers Meeting
October Speaker

Get Known Before the Book Deal, An Author Platform Checklist
6:30 p.m. – 8:45 p.m.
Thursday, October 1st
Eugene, Oregon
Tsunami Books
2585 Willamette
Eugene, OR  97405
Mid-Valley Willamette Writers Workshop
Power Up Your Platform For the Internet Age
A 3-hour Workshop by Christina Katz, Author of Get Known Before the Book Deal
Cost: $49.00
Saturday, October 3rd
1:00 – 4:00 p.m.
The Market of Choice
67 West 29th Ave.
Upstairs classroom

To register contact JoJo Jensen at:

Writing for Radio: What Do You Believe?

Laura BridgwaterBy Laura Bridgwater
This September, in honor of the annual rite when elementary children return to class and pen essays about what they did on their summer vacation, consider writing your own essay. But instead of describing a holiday, write about what you believe for the international radio project, This I Believe.

Ranging on themes from atheism to war, the This I Believe project gives writers the opportunity to share essays on the radio. Essays should be 500 words or less (about three minutes when aired) and reflect your daily life philosophy.

Edward R. Murrow originally broadcast these essays in the 1950s. Years later, National Public Radio (NPR) revived the project. NPR broadcast contemporary essays for four years until April 2009. From Helen Keller’s 1951 essay about her vision of faith to Penn Jillette’s contemporary contribution “There is No God,” essays show the diversity of what it means to be human.

Luckily, local public radio stations are unrolling the welcome mat for this project. Recently, some of the 900 public radio member stations launched a This I Believe initiative. Local stations want to hear what their local listeners believe.

Stations requesting This I Believe submissions include WHYY in Philadelphia, WRNI in Rhode Island, KUHF in Houston, WVXU in Cincinnati, WPSU in Pennsylvania, and the public radio station where I record commentary, KUNC in Colorado.

To find out if your local public radio member station is broadcasting these essays, tune in or check out their website for details. To find a local public radio member station near you, click on the station finder on NPR’s website.

To help you start your essay, check out these writing guidelines on the This I Believe website, where you will also find a submissions page. Additionally, you can listen to and read recently featured essays and essays from the 50s.

Two anthologies of these essays are also available at most public libraries and bookstores. Look for This I Believe: The Personal Philosophies of Remarkable Men and Women and This I Believe II: More Personal Philosophies of Remarkable Men and Women.

Just don’t spend all of your time reading these compelling and brief pieces. Save time to write your own because these short essays are a good way to test your radio writing potential.

Laura Bridgwater is a writer, teacher, and radio commentator. To listen to or read a transcript of her commentary, visit KUNC FM 91.5. She can be reached at

Christina’s Fall Schedule of Events: September 2009 – October 2009


The 3rd Annual Writer Mama Back-to-School Giveaway
September 1-30, 2009

View the complete list of giveaway items.
Come on by and win some books!

The Northwest Author Series Presents:
Laura Whitcomb on Novel Shortcuts: Speed Depth in Fiction Writing
Created & hosted by Christina Katz
September 27th

Award-winning young adult author Laura Whitcomb of Wilsonville kicks off the 2009- 2010 Northwest Author Series at the Wilsonville Public Library. Her presentation, “Novel Shortcuts,” takes place in the Oak Room from 3:30 – 5:30 p.m. Tickets are available at the door for $5.00 or $3.00 for seniors/students. No advance registration is required.
More info

Willamette Writers Mid-Valley Chapter Speaker
Get Known Before the Book Deal: A Platform Development Checklist
October 1, 2009
Tsunami Books

2585 Willamette St., Eugene, Oregon
6:30 – 7:00 Social time
7:00 – 8:15 Speaker
8:15 – 8:45 Questions and books signing
Open to the public; tea, coffee and cookies provided

E-mail JoJo Jensen at

October 3, 2009
Three-hour Workshop
Willamette Writers Mid-Valley Chapter
Power Up Your Platform for the Internet Age

1:00 – 4:00 p.m. Cost: $49.00 in advance
Location: The Market of Choice — upstairs classroom
Eugene on Willamette Street
67 West 29th Ave
Eugene, OR 97405

E-mail JoJo Jensen at

October 11, 2009
Wordstock Festival of the Book
Get Known Before the Book Deal: A Platform Development Checklist

4:30 – 5:45 p.m.
Location: Oregon Convention Center
More Info

Fall E-mail Classes Begin October 7, 2009
Classes with Christina & Highly Qualified Instructors!

The Northwest Author Series Presents:
Kati Neville on Test Market with Self-Publishing : Get Your Book Ideas Reader-ready
Created & hosted by Christina Katz
October 18th at the Wilsonville Public Library

From 3:30 – 5:30 p.m.
Tickets are available at the door for $5.00 or $3.00 for seniors/students.
No advance registration is required.
More info


Invest In Your Writing Career Today
& Reap Greater Rewards Tomorrow!
Writing and Publishing The Short Stuff
Especially For Moms (But Not Only for Moms!)
Class Begins October 7th
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: $250.00
More/Register at

Pitching Practice: Write Six Queries in Six Weeks
With Christina Katz
Prerequisites: Permission from the instructor
In this writing class, pitching is all you do. Each week, you will study a successful writer’s query and create your own list of steps to follow. You will receive a three-page worksheet weekly, which will provide helpful ideas and checklists to help you systematize your query writing process and increase your productivity.
Cost: $250.00
More/Register at

Platform 102: Grow Your Specialty Into An Online Platform
With Christina Katz
Prerequisites: Platform 101 or Permission from the Instructor
Frustrated with online platform development? Picking up where Platform 101 left off, this class helps you position yourself as a seasoned professional, who isn’t afraid to let the world know what you have to offer. Take your writing career to a more professional level with a blog, Web site, newsletter, and cover the basics of social networking. By the end of our six weeks, you will have a clear vision of your platform, and a plan for first and future steps. By the time we are through, you will be ready to launch the book-worthy presence that agents and editors require.
Cost: $250.00
More/Register at

Writing for the Web
With Jennifer Applin
Prerequisites: None
These days virtually every business and industry needs to have an online presence. With a growing trend in Internet marketing, e-commerce and online publications, the need for creating well-written web content is more important than ever. If you are looking to make a name for yourself, and a living, writing for the web, then this course can help you. Students will learn how to develop a writing style that is suitable for the web; provide a variety of services (online articles, website content, blogging, editing, etc.); establish a fair rate and avoid scams; find paying assignments and secure steady accounts.
Cost: $250.00
More/Register at

Personal Essays that Get Published
With Abigail Green
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: $250.00
More/Register at

Poetry for the People
With Sage Cohen
Prerequisites: None
Have you always wanted to write a poem but didn’t know how to begin? Maybe you’re already writing poetry and want to connect with your muse more often, or brush up on your poetic prowess? Poetry for the People takes poetry off of its academic pedestal, making it accessible to and enjoyable for everyone. Six lessons with six assignments completed in six weeks.
Cost: $250.00
More/Register at

The Scoop on Writing Profile Articles: Piecing Together the First Draft Puzzle

By Lori Russell
Lori RussellWriting a feature article can feel like tackling a 2,000 piece jigsaw puzzle. Where do you begin? What goes where?
Every puzzle comes with a photograph of the final goal on the front of the box. While the final version of your article has yet to be revealed, you already know where you are headed.
You have already limited your topic in your query letter. You have focused your research and your interviews. You have written your first paragraph (lede) and an outline based on your query to your editor. In that outline, you also have begun to tackle the organization of your article and the transitions between paragraphs. Now, it is time to tell the story as clearly and simply as you can.
When I tackle a puzzle, I begin by putting like pieces together-those with the same pattern or color in one pile, the edge pieces in another. The same can be done when writing a first draft.
Paragraphs, made up of sentences with related information, are the building blocks of writing. When connected, they create your feature story.
Some writers write paragraphs by working through their outlines in order, others proceed more randomly. Do what fits your style and helps you dive into the story the quickest.
I prefer to begin with whichever paragraph is easiest for me to write. Depending upon the topic that may be the background information, a particular quote or even a rough ending to the article.
Wherever you begin in your outline, select a major point and express it in a sentence or two. Add any evidence or details that you picked up in your research or interviews. If you have a transition sentence, put it at the end of the paragraph. If you don’t, you can add one in a later draft. If you don’t use the quote or anecdote that you had planned, circle it on your outline. You may use it elsewhere in the piece-or not at all.
When you have expressed a major point from your outline in one or two paragraphs, move to the next.
Do not worry about style at this point. Don’t rush to the thesaurus to look up a word. Both of these distractions will break what writers reverently refer to as flow-that creative right-brained space where words and connections come nearly without effort. 
Keep it lean. Don’t assume you can carve 3,000 words down to 500 in the next draft. While you may be able to, it will cost you time. Feature articles take plenty of time to write as it is.
Choice is one of the most important tools of a writer. You choose what goes into your article and what does not. If you find your draft ballooning in size, review your query letter and your focused outline. Stick to what you promised to write and your puzzle will take shape.  
This month’s assignment: After reviewing your query letter, a copy of your publication, your notes and your outline, write a first draft of your feature article. 

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.

The Northwest Author Series: Third Season!

2009-2010 Northwest Author Series
September 27th
3:30 – 5:30 p.m.
Wilsonville Public Library
Hosting the kick-off of the third year of the Northwest Author Series
Featuring YA Author, Laura Whitcomb on Novel Shortcuts.
More info

Getting Your Poems on the Page: Writing Titles

Sage CohenBy Sage Cohen

Because it is the first thing a reader sees, the poem’s title sets the stage for the drama that will unfold. It lets your readers know how to enter the poem and gives them an idea what kind of poem it will be.
A poem’s title can define a time period, “Civil War” (yours truly), a season, “Winter” (Marie Ponsot) or a moment in time, like Frank O’Hara’s “The Day Lady Died.” Or it may establish a specific location, “Cannon Beach At Sunset,” or a more general one, such as William Stafford’s “Over the Mountain.” It can let us know who the poem is about, as in Ron Koertge’s “Cinderella’s Diary” or name the extended metaphor that will be explored, as in Billy Collins’ “The Lanyard.”
Timing is important when choosing a title. You don’t want to start (or more importantly, finish) too soon. Writing a poem can feel much like trying to steer a runaway car. You think you’re headed to the supermarket, but then suddenly the poem gains momentum in some other direction, and you’re heading at breakneck speed into that empty lot where Jason Phillips beat up your brother in second grade.
For this reason, I recommend not worrying too much about what the title might be when you start writing a poem. Let the journey of the poem unfold. You may end up editing the supermarket entirely out of the final poem, making the title “Aisle Two, Bulk Cashews” completely irrelevant. Once the poem has revealed itself and is fully formed, that’s the time to think about finalizing your title.
The good news about choosing an ill-suited title early in the poem-writing process is that it can serve as an itch that keeps you scratching until you’ve discovered more about what the poem truly wants to be. In other words, when a poem closes a door, it opens a window! Sometimes, the wrong title can lead us from what looks like a dead end through a porthole into some topic or theme we might not have otherwise discovered.
Wondering how to title a poem? Not sure if the title you chose is working well?  Ask yourself these questions to explore the range of possibilities available to you and keep experimenting until you find the one that fits best:

  • Do I want readers to know exactly what this poem will be about after reading the title? 
  • Do I want them to know who is speaking, or what time period is covered, or where the poem is located?
  • How would a more abstract title–one that represents a key theme of the poem–work? (As in “The Weight” by Linda Gregg, a poem that intimately studies the relationship of two horses) 
  • Is there exposition in the poem that could be cut and replaced with a title? (Then you could just dive into the poem without having to explain the context of the action.) Tu Fu does this well in “Alone, Looking for Blossoms Along the River.” 
  • Would the first line work well as a title? (Sometimes the title serves as the first line of the poem. Sometimes it repeats the first line of the poem.)
  • Would the last line work well as a title?
  • Is there a phrase within the poem that captures the essence of what the poem is about? 
  • How can I use the title to shed light on or add depth to the poem-saying something that takes the reader a little deeper than the poem does on its own? 

The more you experiment with titling your work, the better you’ll know your own style, strategies and the range of possibilities available to you in every poem.

Writing the Life Poetic by Sage CohenSage Cohen is the author of Writing the Life Poetic: An Invitation to Read and Write Poetry (Writers Digest Books, 2009) and the poetry collection Like the Heart, the World. An award-winning poet, she writes three monthly columns about the craft and business of writing and serves as Poetry Editor for VoiceCatcher 4. Her poetry and essays appear in journals and anthologies including Cup of Comfort for Writers, The Oregonian, Oregon Literary Review, Greater Good and VoiceCatcher. Sage holds an MA in creative writing from New York University, co-hosts a monthly reading series at Barnes & Noble and teaches the online class Poetry for the People. She has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and awarded a Soapstone residency. To learn more, visit

See Ya in NYC!

The Writer’s Digest Conference:  The Business of Getting Published is designed to guide any author through the new dynamics of today’s publishing world.  This three-day event takes place Friday, September 18 – Sunday, September 20, 2009, at the New York Marriott Marquis, on Times Square in New York.

Use my conference discount & get $50 off:
Code = KatS8

Complete program information, including speaker bios, special events related to the conference and registration is now available here.

The Fiction Writing Workshop: Point of View

By Kristin Bair O’KeeffeKristin Bair O'Keeffe

When I ask a student, “In which point of view is this story written?” I often get a blank stare, a long “uuummmmm,” or a wrong answer with a question mark tacked onto the end (for example, “First person?”).
When making decisions about point of view, you must consider two important questions:

From whose perspective is this story going to be told? (In other words, whose story is it?)

Who is going to tell the story?

The Breakdown
First Person: an “I” (or sometimes a “we”) tells the story; everything in the story is filtered through that narrator
          Example: The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
           1.   This is Holden Caulfield’s story. No doubt about it.
           2.   Holden is the first-person narrator. He is the “I” in the story.
Advantages: strong sense of intimacy; constant opportunity for characterization; a strong voice that draws readers into the story
Challenges: a first-person narrator walks a fine-line between interesting and self-indulgent; readers might doubt the narrator’s interpretation of events (thus creating an unreliable narrator); readers can only climb into the head of the narrator
Second Person: the protagonist (or another main character) is addressed by using “you” (This creates the sense that the reader is the “you.”)
          Example: Bright Lights, Big City by Jay McInerney
          1.   This is the main character’s story. (Yes, he remains named throughout the book, but he is most definitely the “you.”)
          2.   The narrator is the main character talking to himself. (He’s a little screwed up so this direct address using “you” makes sense.)
Advantages: a sense of immediacy and urgency; fun to write and read; readers feel included
Challenges: if readers don’t like or don’t relate to your main character, you might lose them; some readers are uncomfortable if they feel they are being addressed directly; hard to sustain readers’ interest over many pages
Third Person: an outside narrator tells the story using “he,” “she,” and “they”
          Example: Loving Frank by Nancy Horan
          1.   This is Mamah Borthwick Cheney’s story.
          2.   A third-person narrator tells the story but via Mamah’s perspective.(We see what other characters do, but don’t get into their heads.)
Advantages: more leeway to move around a story; opportunity to observe the protagonist from the outside; ability to get into the heads of your secondary characters (if you choose to); able to create a more complicated world; more objective than a first-person narrator
Challenges: less intimacy; temptation to include too many characters; a narrator who accesses the thoughts and feelings of too many characters
Caution: It’s Not Just About Pronouns
At first glance, it may seem that changing the point of view of your story is as simple as changing the pronouns, but it’s not. Deciding on a point of view requires you to consider many aspects of a story, including information to which the reader has access, voice, attitude, language, and which scenes to include (among others). Take your time here, and when in doubt ask yourself: Who matters most? 
October 2007 Family Fun MagazineKristin Bair O’Keeffe’s debut novel, Thirsty, will be published by Swallow Press in 2009. Since moving to Shanghai, China, in 2006, Kristin has been chronicling her adventures (and misadventures) in her blog, “Shanghai Adventures of a Trailing Spouse.” Her essays and articles have appeared in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Poets & Writers Magazine, The Baltimore Review, San Diego Family Magazine, and The Gettysburg Review. She teaches fiction and nonfiction writing and is the curator of Out Loud! The Shanghai Writers Literary Salon. To learn more, visit

RSS RSS Subscribe to Writers on the Rise

  • This Blog Moving to as of December 30, 2009… December 27, 2009
    We’re moving! Writers on the Rise archives have been here for years. I hope that WordPress will let the archive live on for a good long time. However, it’s time to move on, bittersweet as change may be. Please come and find me at my new digs: And while we’re both thinking of it, […]
    The Writer Mama

RSS RSS Subscribe to WOTR Comments


Christina Katz's Facebook profile
September 2009

Blog Stats

  • 303,619 hits