By Julie McDonald / For the Chronicle
A speech from a Wall Street Journal bestselling author of over 30 novels. A master class taught by a writer who has sold 5 million copies of his books. A selection of 18 workshops by authors published in Washington and Oregon. Networking with other writers.
All of this and more can be found Sept. 9-10 at the eighth annual Southwest Washington Writers’ Conference at Centralia College. All conference proceeds benefit scholarships provided by the Centralia College Foundation.
The nonprofit conference’s keynote speaker is Jeff Wheeler, an Idaho author of more than 30 young adult and fantasy novels that have sold more than 5 million copies.
During her masterclass on Friday, September 9, Wheeler will teach “Worldbuilding 505: Stop Living in Your Head and Start Writing the First Chapter” and “The How of Creativity.” Writers will learn how to develop settings that become characters in the story using ingredients such as magic, politics, culture, geography, economics, and religion and how to exploit the opportunities for tension that each brings to Table. It will also teach writers how to practice and develop their creativity.
In the afternoon, a panel of both mainstream and independent authors – Lindsay Schopfer from Olympia, Kyle Pratt, science fiction and post-apocalyptic author from Chehalis and novelist Debby Lee from Centralia – will join Christopher Werner from Seattle, Editorial Director of Brilliance Publishing, an Amazon Company, to discuss “Bringing Your Stories to Life: The Ins and Outs of Publishing.”
On Saturday, Wheeler will deliver a keynote, “Your First Million Words.”
“I found on my journey that I had to write and pitch my first million words before I had practiced the craft enough to be successful,” Wheeler said.
At Saturday’s conference, attendees can choose three from 18 workshops taught by professional writers from across the Northwest. Topics cover screenwriting, marketing, websites, historical fiction, novels, memoirs, mystery, powerful prose, anthology writing, short stories, and book covers.
Wheeler will present two workshops. In “The Five Questions (aka Wowing the Editorial Board)” he will teach you how to make it easy for editors and editors to say yes to your manuscript using five questions and answers that Jeff uses whenever he pitches a book or a series.
“Even if you’re a freelance writer, knowing the answers to these questions can help improve the story before it’s even written,” he said.
His second workshop will focus on “Understanding Amazon”, the gorilla in today’s publishing world. It will help writers understand the independent publishing market, the difference between Kindle Direct and Kindle Unlimited, how royalties are paid, and what it’s like to work for an Amazon Publishing imprint.
Best-selling author James D. Shipman, an Everett attorney and mediator, will teach “Historical Fiction Writing: Bringing the Past Alive.” A Union soldier fighting in the Civil War. A social worker helping Jewish children escape from the Warsaw ghetto during World War II. Prisoners leading a revolt at Auschwitz concentration camp. They are all real characters brought to life through the pages of Shipman’s novels. In his workshop, he will discuss research methods, trips to historical places, interviews with people who have historical knowledge, and the process of creating a historical novel.
Schopfer, an award-winning author of four novels and professor of creative writing at South Puget Sound Community College, will lead two workshops at Saturday’s conference: “Investing in Your Writing Career” and “From Body Language to Fighting.”
In his morning workshop, he will discuss how authors benefit from investing in the writing business without breaking the bank, finding freelancers and choosing promotional options.
Her second workshop focuses on pacing, balancing character reactions and descriptions of events, and selecting the best words to immerse readers in the story.
“The action scenes are some of the most exciting and intense moments in our stories, but they can be tough to pull off,” he said. “Too little detail and the reader will not be engaged; too much, and the action will be lost in a sea of unnecessary detail.
Julie Bonn Blank, author, web designer, and marketing professional from Forest Grove, Oregon, will lead two workshops: “Get Your Books in Amazon’s Top 10 in Your Category” and “Build Your Platform with Your Best Site website”. The first workshop will focus on pricing and promotions to help books compete in the marketplace. In her second session, she’ll share the components authors need in their websites, which platforms to avoid, how to build the best websites affordably, and how to drive traffic to your site.
Pamela J. Vincent, speaker and author of 21 self-published books from Eagle Creek, Oregon, will host two sessions – “Got a Film Idea? Screenwriting 101: The Basics” and “75 Ways to Sell Your Book Successfully”. During her first workshop, she will introduce writers to the film industry and how to push scripts in front of early readers, formatting tips and tricks, and the three-act structure.
During her afternoon workshop, “75 Ways to Sell Your Book Successfully,” Pamala will teach writers how to discover their niche, find where their readers hang out, and understand their readers’ needs to better reach them.
“You have to foil, foil, outlast every other book on the market,” she said.
Wendy Kendall of Edmonds, author of mystery novels, blogger and podcaster, will lead two workshops – “Writing Novellas” and “The Art of Mystery”. She will discuss the structure of short stories, which are defined as short novels or long stories, which publishers seek them out, and how to market shorter books.
“The short story is growing in popularity with editors and readers,” she said. “We will also discuss the opportunities and challenges of the writing craft that novels present.”
In her second workshop, she will teach how to construct a better detective story, thriller or suspense. She will talk about different genres of mystery and the essential ingredients for a good mystery.
“It’s only one word, but it’s the most important word – why,” she said. “This leads to the question that all mystery readers want answered…. Answer this question about your protagonist and antagonist and pave the way for deeper, richer, and better writing.
Seattle-based poet, author, and award-winning memoirist Carolyne Wright will teach “Bringing Lives to Life: The Alchemy of Memory.” During this interactive workshop, she will discuss exploring life experiences, journal entries, family history and reflections to write memoirs or expand the inner lives of fictional characters and give everyone a unique voice. .
“Writers of all genres use and transform memory in their work,” she said. “Through this creative alchemy, we will transform memories, observations and ideas into stories, bringing lives to life through our writing. Our writing can be poetry or prose.
Heidi Gaul, a nonfiction writer from Albany, Oregon who has contributed to 11 “Chicken Soup for the Soul” anthologies and 10 “Guideposts” books, will teach “A Cup of Soup.” She will discuss the skills needed to successfully write and market a short, inspirational piece of non-fiction. She will look at the importance of verb choices and word count, which arc will hold readers’ and editors’ interest, and how to make a story more accessible to a wide audience.
Mary Stone, author of Castle Rock and retired teacher from Lower Columbia College, will teach “Power Pack Your Prose.” She will discuss the importance of word choice, strong verbs that grab readers’ attention, and kicking out superfluous words to improve writing.
“It works wonders for writers who want to write tight and pack a punch,” she said.
Many readers judge a book by its cover, so learn the “5 Keys to Professional Book Cover Design” from experienced designer Kathy Campbell, who creates captivating covers for Gorham Printing in Centralia and runs a freelance graphic design business at Olympia. She’ll explain how to design a professional, eye-catching cover and the five crucial key elements for a cover that sells books.
Alan E. Rose, an award-winning Woodland author of three novels and a short story, will teach “Plotting Techniques for the Beginning Writer: Finding the Story You Want to Tell, Then Deciding the Best Way to Tell It.” He will discuss story structure, plotting to achieve desired effects, and the concepts, tools, and techniques that help the writer find the story. He will discuss story spinning, plot and stage construction. He also coordinates WordFest Northwest, a monthly gathering of writers and readers in southwest Washington.
Seattle-based writer Alle Hall will help short story and non-fiction writers find a place to publish for a wider audience in “Get Published: How to Find a Home for Short Stories, Essays, Poetry, or KidLit.” She will discuss writing good query letters, finding journals that accept fiction and non-fiction short stories and poetry, tracking submissions, and recovering from rejection.
“I first published in the kind of little magazines that only subscribers and maybe their families read; then in more notable publications; and finally, internationally known journals and the coveted book market for a first literary novel — at 57! she says.
Finally, four independently published authors will present “What I Wish I’d Known: Four Independent Trench Veterans.” Ellen King Rice, Johanna Flynn, Lee French, all of Olympia, and Connie Jasperson of Tenino will share writing tips and advice for writers at all stages of their careers, whether newbies or former pros, freelancers or traditionally published. Topics include setting up business documents, selling online and in person, identifying the potholes that litter the marketing road, and preventing pitfalls in the business end of writing.
Rice has won awards for his environmental thrillers. French, owner and co-founder of Clockwork Dragon, an independent co-op and small press producing fantasy and science fiction anthologies, is a USA Today bestselling author of more than 50 novels, short stories, and short stories. Flynn’s debut novel won the 2020 Nancy Pearl Award for Best Contemporary Fiction. Jasperson is a published poet, blogger and author of nine fantasy novels whose work has appeared in numerous anthologies.
Julie McDonald, personal historian of Toledo, can be contacted at [email protected].