Archive for the ‘EpicWrite’ Category:

The “Why” behind Epicwrite

 

In December, 1995 I gathered four teenage writers in our living room and began the wild odyssey that would grow into Epicwrite. Recently, I had the honor of being nominated for the Roslyn S. Jaffe Award for that work, and while the winner has not yet been announced, the extensive application process allowed us to reflect on our reason for being. I thought you’d like the video Epicwrite staffer Ashley Olson produced for us.

Teens Ask “How Do I Get Published?”

And no, it’s not a silly question!

In the Teenage Novelist: Publishing class, I always start by saying, “Read and read and read; write and write and write.” It’s pretty hard to write publishable material if you’re not reading. That sounds like a no-brainer, but I know plenty of people who want to write books, but get all their stories from movies and television. I love movies and television (and we watch a lot of them in Geek Fiction Writing for Teens), but you have to read good writing to write well. Really. If you can’t find time to read, think about swapping out some of your gaming or social media time, or even (gasp!) some of your writing time. I am a big fan of audiobooks, too–for some reason things I hear stay in my head longer. And if I listen and ALSO read the book? YOWZA! (Here’s where to get some free audiobooks.) How many books will you read/listen to this summer? I’m aiming for ten, beginning today.

Don’t forget that we have new classes each week at Bellevue College North Campus, starting Monday! Come take a bunch of ’em. So much fun with such great people. (We’re all a little weird, but definitely great!)

If you’ve got the reading thing down, here are ten steps that will move you along the path to publication.

  1. Get critique

I’ve told before about the first short story I submitted in college–how it came back with a big, fat “C” accompanied by comments like, “Cliche” and “One wonders why the protagonist’s  girlfriend would have any interest in him at all.” I was arrogant enough that my first thought was, “This professor does not know talent!” (By the end of the quarter, though, I realized he kind of had a point.) Critique is hard to hear at first, but good critique is essential to your growth as a writer. In my writing classes I strive to provide feedback that is specific, honest, encouraging and usable.

2. Form a writing group

You need a tribe to keep you going in this crazy endeavor called writing. Find some like-minded friends and get together every Saturday at a coffee shop, bookstore or library to read and critique each others’ writing. If you’re part of Epicwrite, you can also post stories on the Epicwrite Forum for others to read.

3. Take writing classes or workshops from a published author

I would be delighted to see you in my classes, or at Epicwrite, but there are plenty of other opportunities as well. Lois Brandt’s short story class, and Dana Sullivan’s graphic novel class, for starters, but also the teen program at Hugo House in Seattle, and The Greater Seattle Bureau of Fearless Ideas. Additionally, Go Teen Writers is a website for teens run by Stephanie Morrill, who was herself published as a teen. Local libraries also sponsor free writing classes with local authors.

4. Enter contests

Many contests that require an entry fee for adults have a free teen category. Winning Writers has a good list of Resources and Contests for Students and Educators. And don’t forget the prestigious Scholastic Art and Writing Awards. Contests are a good way to learn to write to specific guidelines, meet deadlines, and stay within a word count–all essential skills for the pro writer.

5. Go to writer gatherings

When you hang out with writers, you end up with writers for friends, and you learn what writers do. When what your friends do is publish books, it doesn’t seem like such a strange and difficult thing. There’s no reason to let age stand in the way of your getting involved in the writing community. Check out the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, the Pacific Northwest Writers Association, and the Write on the Sound writing conference, for a start.

6. Meet authors

As well as taking classes from local authors, don’t forget book signings. Check with your local bookstore , with your favorite authors’ websites, and with your library. Your presence at an event is appreciated by authors more than you know. Even very famous authors can find themselves in front of tiny audiences. Buy the book and introduce yourself to the author. Sometimes amazing friendships get started that way.

7. Start a book review blog

Did you know that you can get free books before they are released if you run a book blog? You have to work at gathering lots of followers, and you have to follow through on the commitments you make to read and review the books, but I know of many bloggers who learned their way around the publishing industry this way and went on to publish their own books. Here are a few successful book blogs started by teens: Peace Love Books, The Tale Temptress, IB Book Blogging. (What? You say they are all reviews for the same book? Don’t know what happened there…)

8. Pay attention to who publishes writing you love

Start a list, noting the title, author, date published, publisher, imprint, editor and agent. These last two may take some treasure hunting: Sometimes authors name their editors and agents in the acknowledgments. Other times, you have to do a lot of online searching to track these names down. Over time you will become familiar with who publishes what kinds of books, so that when it’s your turn to submit a manuscript you can do so more intelligently. Start separate editor and agent files as well, because editors and agents often move around as their careers advance and change. You’ll want to keep track of your favorite ones. Agentquery is a good resource for learning more about specific agents.

9. Submit to magazines, journals and anthologies

Make sure you’re writing more than just the Great American Novel. Write poems, stories, articles, and essays. There are many publications that seek work from teens. And there’s no rule against teens submitting work to publications not specifically for teens.

10. Self-publish

But don’t be hasty about it. One advantage of traditional publishing is that so many eyes have looked at your book before it is released to an audience. By the time a publisher has released your book, you have revised it many, many times, it has been through a difficult and competitive selection process, and you have revised it even more. If you decide to self-publish instead of going the traditional route, you’ll want to get a lot of competent critique, revise the living daylights out of the manuscript, and then take it by people in-the-know like a bookstore owner, a librarian, or a professional editor. Have a different set of eyes than yours do the final copy-editing, as well. Also, have an idea of how you will market your book. If you’re good with social media and have a large following on your social networks, this will help a lot. Smashwords, and Createspace are inexpensive options for self-publishing. (Cheapest Createspace printing option is here.) Teens I know who have self-published beautiful books are Maya Ganesan and Logan Fenner.

I’d love to see you in one of my classes!

Go Where the Longing Is

20150408_113351Perfectionism is a thief of time. I used to be plagued by this wily thief—I’d let it into my mind and give it full access. There it would scold and prod and criticize. And I would go slower and slower as my muse slogged toward mirages of excellence. After all, isn’t excellence what we are after?

It took me a long time to learn that excellence and perfection are not the same thing. Excellence is full of imperfection. We cannot begin with a finished product. And any creative work is a work in progress, even when it is finished. It’s not that the completed work is “bad,” but that we’ve chosen to capture it and hold it at that one moment—to bring it, just then, to the world.

Art is about longing. The goal is to go where the longing is. The other day I read a friend’s account of his wife’s slowing due to Alzheimer’s—how she becomes more distant day by day. I wept when I read it, and I wept as I wrote a response. After that I didn’t feel fit for anything but to play the violin. I notice that music responds to sadness because it creates longing, the same way writing does. Is it because when I open myself to the longing, I know that there is something to long for? Not wealth, or even happiness, but something undefinable? That I will spend my life trying to describe some small piece of it? And that the effort is its own feast?

That is what I want to offer the world.

To offer is not to guarantee reception. I offer because it is in me to offer—because the act of offering is its own celebration. I play, I sing, I write for the still, small voice within me. That it is imperfect is inconsequential. I do it because it opens me to the Mystery. I could say I don’t do it for awards and acclamation, but that’s not because I disdain those things. I create because when I am fully in creation I can’t do anything but create. I give myself to the act of creating in all its imperfection. This is what it means to be alive.

Come be imperfect this weekend! It’s not too late to register for the Full- Bodied Novelist. Use the discount code FBNRETREAT75 to save $75. The retreat cost includes lodging, meals, classes, a massage, and a one-on-one consultation on your manuscript.

Meet our massage therapist, Rene Pinkham on the retreat page, just below the event description.

The Violin Diet

Katherine violinWith the Full-Bodied Novelist Retreat coming up this weekend, I’ve been playing the violin again. There is a connection, so stay with me here.

I usually let months go by without my music. I play only to prepare for performance, thinking I need an “excuse” to play. But lately I have played for the sheer joy of playing with no audience but the Universe. I work on a piece that is hard for me, but attainable, or I just make something up. I let the music come up from my feet; I close my eyes and listen to the strings, letting my fingers find their way. It makes my neck hurt, using these muscles I haven’t used in a long time—but the muscles remember how to cradle the instrument, how to make it sing.

After I play, I sit down to write, and I’m open enough for the wind of word and emotion to blow through me. I’ve needed that. I’ve also found that I don’t eat as much on days when I play. I’ve satisfied some deeper hunger.

What do you do that is physical? That takes your entire concentration? It might be running or gardening or painting. Do it. A little every day. Even if you’ve let it go for a long time, find that thing you used to do that you are longing for and give yourself to it until you are back in your body. Then write.

It’s not too late to register for the retreat! Use the discount code FBNRETREAT75 to save $75. The retreat cost includes lodging, meals, classes, a massage, and a one-on-one consultation on your manuscript.

Meet our massage therapist, Rene Pinkham on the retreat page, just below the event description.

Summer Writing Classes for Teens!

Writers Collaborate

“Katherine brings life and excitement to what she teaches and interacts with me and the other students in a truly honest, personable way.”

–Samantha Meuller, BCCE blog.

Another reason I love my life: Every summer, I spend a month with several dozen glorious teens who write for the joy of it. Different classes every week. Many take several; some take every one. We laugh, create a lot, and I am privileged to know them. If you are a teen, or have a teen in your life, we’d love to have you join us!

 

Bellevue College Summer Teen Program

Week of June 29, M-Th
Teenage Novelist: The Novel in a Nutshell   NEW!
Geek Fiction Writing for Teens  
Week of July 6, M-W
Teenage Novelist: Scenes and Dreams   
Teenage Novelist: Live-Action Writing  
Week of July 13, M-F
Teenage Novelist: Plotting and Scheming 
Teenage Novelist: Re-visioning the Novel  
Week of July 20, M-Th
Teenage Novelist: Novel Intensive  
Teenage Novelist: Publishing 

 

 

Mists of Enigma

And of course, don’t forget EPICWRITE, our four-day live-action writing summer camp for teens, taking place at Camp Ramblewood in Sequim, July 9-12. (Epicwrite is not affiliated with Bellevue College)

Writing the Hidden Story

SpyI love those “aha!” moments when a character sneaks up on me–and I suddenly realize I’m not writing the book I thought I was writing. It might mean big changes, but it invariably makes a deeper and more authentic story than the one I started with. This is just as true for memoir as it is for fiction

As I prepare for my fall writing classes, “Writing the Hidden Story” and “Poetry and Healing,” at Bellevue College, I’ve been contemplating what leads to “aha!” moments.

The keys are sinking, blinking and linking.

Sink

A hidden story is subterranean. To get there, close the door for uninterrupted time. Sit in a comfortable position, slow your breathing, and focus on a scene. “Going in” feels like literally sinking down, down, down. Keep going until you begin to see through the eyes of your character (or your younger self, as the case may be.) Where are you located in the setting? How do you feel emotionally? How is your body responding? More than once I’ve been surprised to find my palms clammy and my breath quickening as my character takes me to a difficult encounter. When I begin to write, the words that come out are strikingly full-bodied and true. I’m often astonished, later, that I wrote them.

Blink

This would seem to be the opposite of sinking—but it’s not. Malcolm Gladwell, in his book Blink talks about world-changing decisions that were made in microseconds. To “blink” is to capture and use that fleeting thought at the edge of your subconscious. One way to do this is to write a series of questions and answer them as quickly as you can. Examples are “Who would I like to read my book to?” and “What must I never write about?” We did this in a writing class by “becoming” our characters and asking each other surprise questions. When a student asked my character, “What are you most afraid of losing?” I blurted, “My brother.” Up to that point, the brother had played a significant, but not key role in the book. “Blinking” led to rethinking.

Link

What if you are writing a character and a story so different from you and your world that they seem to have no connection? This happened to me when I wrote The Legend of the Valentine, whose protagonist, Marcus, is a black child in the South at the height of the Civil Rights Movement. Since I’m northern, female and white, I strongly questioned whether I had a right to write the story. Finally, a wise education director at the Bessie Smith Cultural Center in Chattanooga challenged me to sink into my 8-year-old self and see Marcus across the classroom. Only after “being” that younger self with her curiosity, biases and naïveté could I begin to link my own experiences to Marcus’s. I did know what it was like to have a storytelling grandmother, and to face a bully, so I sank into that, and Marcus came to life.

 

Here are some fall classes and writing events. I’d love to see you there!

Writing the Hidden Story

Thursdays beginning September 18 at Bellevue College, North Campus (Note that the print catalog description is incorrect and describes the Plotting and Scheming class instead of Hidden Story.)

Poetry and Healing

One-day workshop, Saturday, September 27 at Bellevue College, North Campus

Epicwrite in the Park

One-day Live-Action Roleplaying and Writing event Saturday, September 20 in Carnation.

Epicwrite Overnight, “Nefarious Nemeses,”

October 10-11 at Cornet Bay Retreat Center, Whidbey Island

TEENWrite: Advanced Fiction Writing

Tuesdays, October 21-December 16, location TBD. Teens and college-age, limited enrollment, apply with a writing sample. Deadline: September 26.

An Interview with Author Lois Brandt + teen writing with Lois at Bellevue College

Lois Brandt, Writer, Seattle

Photo by Meryl Schenker

One of the cool things about taking teen writing at Bellevue College, is working with a published author. Lois Brandt (who is certifiably awesome) teaches Writing Short Stories in the Teenage Novelist program. Students rave about her classes, which have included the “Write a Novel in 30 Days” class she usually teaches in November (to go along with NaNoWriMo) and “Editing Your Manuscript.” Lois is a prolific author of short fiction, and her new book, Maddie’s Fridge is coming out in September!

Teenage Novelist: Writing Short Stories

7/21/2014 – 7/25/2014 OR 8/4/2014 – 8/8/2014

Every story has a beginning middle and end, but how do you write stories that make your readers lean forward to find out what happens next? In this short story class students learn characterization and plotting. We will create memorable characters and chase them through a 2000 – 7000 word story. Once our stories are drafted we learn to edit and polish. Each student will leave the class with at least one completed short story. All genres are welcome.

Interview with Lois Brandt

1.       What were you writing when you were a teenager?

When I was a teenager I was writing a novel set in the Civil War. I was particularly interested because my Mom and Dad’s families fought on separate sides, so I wrote about a family that split down the middle. Two brothers wanted to fight for the South and two brothers for the North. The viewpoint character just wanted the family back together.

2.       You have a book, Maddie’s Fridge, coming out in September. What did you say or do when you found out it was being published?

To be honest, I broke into tears. Maddi’s Fridge is a story that has been in my heart since I was about ten. Stories and events stick inside my head until I give them voice on paper. In this case, I couldn’t forget the day I found out my best friend had no food in her home. This wasn’t a temporary “Mom and Dad were too busy to shop.”  They had absolutely no food and were days away from their mom’s payday. A discovery like that changes your world. It did not make the news (“American family has no food”), but it changed forever the way I looked at people with less money or resources. These are our friends and neighbors who are struggling for food, housing, and jobs. What do you do when your best friend is in trouble? Maddi’s Fridge tells that story.

3.       What are some of your favorite things about working with teen writers?

Teen writers are brilliant. I say that in all humility. I am awed by the ideas that teens come up with and where they take the writing prompts and exercises I give them. They are also quick to learn and willing to try new things. Some write with brilliant voices, others have unique ideas and/or characters. All bring something interesting to the class.

4.       What advice do you have for teens who hope to be published?

The first is a caveat: Writers are about writing. Yes, we want to publish and yes, all of us are at this very moment trying to get paid for our work.  There is this whole business side that we really have to pay attention to.  But for now, write.  I have a game I play with myself. If someone asks what I do, and I’ve met my daily writing goal, then I allow myself to say I write. If I have not writtin, I say my other profession — teaching. If I’m extremely frustrated (missed a writing day), I list my profession as cat sitter. If you want to be published: write. The more you write, the better you’ll be. The better you are, the greater your chance of publication.

 

What Happens Next?

 Week 1, July 14-18

Teenage Novelist: The Novel in a Nutshell

Teen Poets: Dancing on the Razor’s Edge

Teenage Novelist: Talking To Your Characters

 Week 2, July 21-25

Creating Graphic Novels (Dana Sullivan. Waitlisted)

Young Writers’ Workshop (Waitlisted)

Teenage Novelist: Writing Short Stories (Lois Brandt)

Teenage Novelist: Scenes and Dreams

Geek Fiction Writing

Week 3, July 28-August 1

Teenage Novelist: Plotting and Scheming

Teenage Novelist: Revisioning the Novel

Teenage Novelist: Publishing

 Week 4, August 4-8

Teenage Novelist: Novel Intensive

Teenage Novelist: Writing Short Stories (Lois Brandt)

Teenage Novelist: Live-Action Writing

 

And don’t forget August 10-13

Summer EpicWrite Camp!!!  (not affiliated with BC)

REGISTER FOR EPICWRITE

Character Mashup–“Maybe Dats Your Pwoblem, Too”

This poem, by Jim Hall, is one of my favorite mashups, and I often read it in Talking to Your Characters and in Teen Poets at Bellevue College.

 

To see Jim Hall’s take on his poem, as well as the entire poem printed out, go here.

Another game to try! Do one OR MORE of the following:

1. Create a mashup poem of your own, mixing a fairy tale character with a celebrity, or a superhero with a politician, or anything else you can think of. Post the poem in the comments.

2. Write a poem from the perspective of a particular celebrity, fairy tale character, superhero, politician, historical figure, etc. Post it in the comments.

3. Record yourself or a friend performing the poem and post the link in the comments!

Don’t miss our upcoming Teen Writing classes at Bellevue College, beginning July 14. There’s enough to keep you laughing, creating, hanging out with other writing teens and sitting in the sun (yes, I like to go outside) for a whole month! (And if that sounds like bliss to you, the way it does to me, we want to meet you!)

Some writers like to sign up for back-to-back classes, so they can immerse themselves in their creative process all day. This isn’t supposed to be like school and it won’t be. (Ask one of the writers who comes back year after year after year.)

 Week 1, July 14-18

Teenage Novelist: The Novel in a Nutshell

Teen Poets: Dancing on the Razor’s Edge

Teenage Novelist: Talking To Your Characters

 Week 2, July 21-25

Creating Graphic Novels (Dana Sullivan. Waitlisted)

Young Writers’ Workshop (Waitlisted)

Teenage Novelist: Writing Short Stories (Lois Brandt)

Teenage Novelist: Scenes and Dreams

Geek Fiction Writing

Week 3, July 28-August 1

Teenage Novelist: Plotting and Scheming

Teenage Novelist: Revisioning the Novel

Teenage Novelist: Publishing

 Week 4, August 4-8

Teenage Novelist: Novel Intensive

Teenage Novelist: Writing Short Stories (Lois Brandt)

Teenage Novelist: Live-Action Writing

 

And don’t forget August 10-13

Summer EpicWrite Camp!!!     (not affiliated with BC)

A Wizard, a Rock Star and an Alchemist Walk Into a Parallel Universe

Addison Alchemist

And here’s what to do if you find yourself in such a situation:

A) If you are the wizard

  1.  Realize that this is probably your fault.
  2.  However, if you are a somewhat unstable wizard, seek similarly unstable companion-wizards. A consortium of this kind tends to wake up sleeping orcs, which will alleviate boredom.
  3.  Once you’ve got a suitable wizarding cadre with the requisite number of wicked creatures in pursuit, go find a rock star.

B) If you are the rock star

  1. Sigh and say, “Oh, no, not again.”
  2. However, if you are a demon-slaying rock star you must act nonchalant, so that any demons you encounter can be lulled into unwariness. Tell the demons you are a country singer. Tell them you play the fiddle and just made a Faustian deal with their boss.
  3. Realize you want out of the deal. Start looking up alchemists in the Yellow Pages (since you are in a pre-technological era.)

C) If you are the alchemist

  1. Search your pockets for the Elixir of Life, which you realize with dismay was left in a previous parallel universe at exactly the moment you had located it.
  2. Begin your life’s work over again. Plunge into despair when you remember the long centuries searching for the Elixir. Question the purpose of your existence.
  3. Notice that you are being followed, nay energetically chased by a demon-slaying rock star, several demons, a conclave of eccentric wizards and at least twelve orcs. Begin to be vaguely happy, then solidly optimistic, then delirious with joy.

 

If this is not the way your weekends usually go, consider signing up for EpicWrite, taking place May 17 and 18 at Camp Huston.

 

 

Summer EpicWrite

Epicwrite--From the Ashes

At EpicWrite, you come as a character you create and follow the Hero’s Journey in a giant outdoor role-playing game. After each stage of the journey, you stop and write what happened to you. At the end, everyone has a story—you are in their stories and they are in yours.
EpicWrite: From the Ashes – How does a protagonist recover after everything has been completely destroyed? How do they get back up when their world is turned upside-down?

REGISTER NOW! REGISTRATION CLOSES JULY 27

Epicwrite director Aaron Bond says:

“We are back in full force!
Summer EpicWrite will be called “From the Ashes” and will take place at Camp Ramblewood at Sequim Bay State Park! Our dates are August 10th-13th starting at 3PM on the 10th.”

Mists of Enigma
We will not be able to provide transportation to this event, you will likely have to take the ferry.

OUR BOFFING REGULATIONS HAVE CHANGED: You MUST read our new regulations (http://epicwrite.org/boffing/) if you want to bring a Boffer or wish to participate in any Boffing.
BE SURE TO REGISTER (http://epicwrite.org/register/), you WILL NOT be able to register any later than TWO WEEKS before this event!”

http://epicwrite.org/register/