What I did with my summer vacation, part one


Sorry I missed posting a blog this last week. I promise to be more attentive from now on.

roman writer

I spent three days flitting about the halls of the Sheraton Hotel near the Portland Airport feeding off the high of 700 other writers. Every August the Willamette Writers (of which my sis, Cynthia, is the prez) throw a fabulous writing conference. I love sitting at breakfast (we have a huge banquet room with tables that seat about eight each) sipping coffee and deciding which workshops to try. There were about 100 to choose from, everything from Murder Scene Walk-Through to How to Write a Great Movie Opening — classes for poets, novelists, graphic novelists, playwrights, memoirists, nonfiction writers, and screenwriters. The buzz at this event is a thrilling combo of nerves, curiosity, and joy.  I learned about how to give a better reading, new ideas for internet publicity, avoiding gender clichés in character development, and figurative language. All very cool.  

I taught my own workshop on some of the pieces from my NOVEL SHORTCUTS book: finding the core of your story, pinpointing the crosshairs moment in the whole book and the mini-crosshairs in each chapter, listening to your ghosts (those seemingly irrelevant  thoughts that haunt you when you’re composing a scene), culling the poetry (an off-shoot of the Shortcut to the Scene exercise), tips for what to do when your writing stinks, and tricks for getting to the end of your draft faster. I loved choosing strange art to put up on the overhead projector, playing some of my favorite writing music for one of the in-class exercises (Chocolat and The Others), and making my students do weird things like imagine what clip would be shown if the movie of their novel was up for an Oscar for Best Picture.

I have great editors and a wonderful agent already, but conference-goers who are still looking can sign up to pitch their books or scripts one-on-one to the editors, agents, and producers who are flown in for the event. There were about 40 here this year. I just love seeing the pitchers anxiously awaiting their turns. (And I love that I don’t have to pitch my own stories anymore, except to my agent. Hee hee.)

On Saturday night there is always a banquet. Our speaker this time was NY Times Bestseller Chelsea Cain who cracked us up with tales of her quirky past and inspired us by telling the story of breaking out with a multimillion dollar three book deal. The Kay Snow writing awards were handed out and I must brag—my niece Siobhan won first place in screenwriting. (In the spring I will tell you more about this national writing contest. I know some of my blog-readers should absolutely enter.)

 One of the things I learned at the conference this year was that bloggers should post TWICE a week, so I’ll be posting “What I did with my summer vacation, part two” very soon.


10 Responses to “What I did with my summer vacation, part one”

  1. The First Carol Says:

    I agree it was a fantastic experience. And what a kick to meet both of your sisters (or are there more?). I took Cynthia’s class on great openings and as happened last year, her screenwriting tips sent me leaps and bounds ahead in my novel writing development. Oh, and thank you for autographing your book for me I’m almost done. Cheers!

    • Laura Whitcomb Says:

      You’re so right. I think Cyn’s screenwriting classes are great for novelists, too. I took her six week class twice during the 80s. (Oh dear . . . that made me sound old.)

  2. PDXsays Says:

    If anyone uses the word “quirky” one more time regarding the description of literature, writing or literary figures, I am going to reinstitute “E-everythingunderthesun,” everythingunderthesun.COM” and “hi-fi” back into the language.

    May Charles Schulz RIP

    • Laura Whitcomb Says:

      Oops. Didn’t mean to anger you, PDXsays. I think I used the term “quirky” correctly, and I don’t think I over use it. It was not in reference to Chelsea’s writing, but to her unusual/charming history of growing up on a hippie commune, reading Nancy Drew under the table to avoid long division, finding an old school chum (stoned) as her bus boy. I just thought the blog was getting a little long. I’m afraid I’m one of those people who likes to make people happy so, sorry to have annoyed you and have a “le mot juste” day.

  3. PDXsays Says:

    As wordsmiths, it is important that we be aware.

    There is #serious overuse of this word. It has becomes meaningless.

    You would be capable of that kind of iteration alone. The lit community at large is called on it.

    Don’t be afraid of a strong reaction. Blog posts *should* get a strong reaction to be effective. Else, they are just PR with no traction. Social media killed the press release.

    A 700-word blog post is not an big deal; a 700-word comment is.


    Teresa Boze

  4. PDXsays Says:

    Oops.. over edited – “You would *NOT* be capable.. ect.”

  5. Wendy Says:

    As an aside – in my line of work (school psychology specializing in Autism and Asperger’s Syndrome) the word ‘quirky’ is used informally to describe an individual exhibiting Autistic-Like Behaviors shared by many individuals with Asperger’s Syndrome, with the unspoken shared understanding that the behaviors are seen as charming or endearing rather than annoying or maladaptive.

  6. Wendy Says:

    I like “supercultures!”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: