Sunday, October 31, 2010

Ladies and Gentlemen, Start Your Novels!

From holiday wish lists to turkey wishbones, we'll soon be entering the season of wishful thinking. What is the wish that tops your list? If it's writing a novel, it will take more than wishing to make it so.

Fortunately, November is the month for you! It's National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), when writers everywhere clear space in their calendars to write a novel in a month. The goal is to have 50,000 words written by November 30--and no one ever said they have to be GOOD words! The process is simple. Starting November 1, just get your story down on paper (or computer file) and out of your head. On November 30 (or earlier, for you overachievers out there), submit your finished oeuvre to While no human will read your work, the word count will be checked robotically, and if you've achieved 50,000 words, you're declared a winner! The prize is your own sense of accomplishment . . . and perhaps the merest hint of self-righteous superiority to those who wasted their time on less worthy activities, like sleeping and showering.

Founder Chris Baty says that November is the ideal month for such a creative endeavor, because the weather is often lousy and many workers get a nice fat four-day weekend toward the end of the month. So sign up anytime at (it's free) to get access to some fun forums, tips, and encouragement. There are even some local in-person gatherings happening in Coeur d'Alene, Moscow, Priest River, and other Idaho locales. Click on the "NaNo Near You" tab for more info on local events.

Next, inform your nearest and dearest what you're up to, so that they won't feel abandoned and may even agree to deliver the snack of your choice to your writing lair at regular intervals. If you're feeling extra-committed, try to arrange for somebody else to cook the Thanksgiving dinner this year, so that you can keep writing right up until the moment the turkey hits the table. (True, you might miss out on some of Uncle Harry's jokes--but hey, you've heard them all before anyway.)

And on November 1, start writing. Best of luck! And whether or not you're participating in NaNoWriMo this month, please check in and let us know how your writing is going. We'd love to hear from you.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

TGIF: Happy Halloween & What's Happening

It's Friday again, time to share what is going on in the writing field in our neck of the woods.

Kudos to Jennifer L.
Jennifer Lamont Leo, one of our favorite Writing North Idaho bloggers, was recently named as the 2nd place winner in the Novel Category of the Idaho Writer's League annual writing contest. According to Jennifer, her book, A Most Remarkable Girl, is a romantic comedy set in Chicago during the Roaring Twenties. The novel-in-progress is the first in a trilogy of Prohibition-era Chicago novels she has planned. Quite fittingly, Jennifer forwarded this copy of the graphic she used for inspiration from Chicago, where she is currently visiting family. Congratulations Jennifer! We can't wait to meet your charming flapper!

October 29
Author Sheila Kelly
This evening, author Sheila Kelly, who was raised in Spokane, visits from Seattle to present her book, Treadwell Gold: An Alaska Saga of Riches and Ruin.
Friday, October 29, 7:00 pm.
Aunties Bookstore, Spokane

October 31

The Witches' Spell
Act IV, Scene 1, 10-19; 35-38 from Macbeth (1606) by William Shakespeare

Double, double toil and trouble;
Fire burn and caldron bubble.
Fillet of a fenny snake,
In the caldron boil and bake;
Eye of newt and toe of frog,
Wool of bat and tongue of dog,
Adder's fork and blind-worms sting,
Lizard's leg and owlet's wing,
For a charm of powerful trouble,
Like a hell-broth boil and bubble.
Double, double toil and trouble;
Fire burn and caldron bubble.
Cool it with a baboon's blood,
Then the charm is firm and good.

November 1
Calypsos Coffee Open Mic
Consider heading over to Calypsos Coffee in Coeur d'Alene to check out their Open Mic night this coming Monday, or any Monday evening. If you are interested in sharing your words, just sign up online, or stop by to check it out.
Calypsos Coffee, Coeur d'Alene;
Monday, November 1, 6:00-9:00 pm.

November 3
Humorist Patrick McManus
Perennial Northwest favorite, humorist Patrick F. McManus will present his latest book, The Huckleberry Murders: A Sheriff Bo Tully Mystery. You're always in for a treat when Mr. McManus is in front of a crowd.
Wednesday, November 3, 7:00 pm.
Aunties Bookstore, Spokane

November 4
Author Catherine Gildiner
Author Catherine Gildiner visits from Toronto to present her latest memoir, After the Falls; Coming of Age in the Sixties.
Thursday, November 4, 7:00 pm.
Aunties Bookstore, Spokane

November 5
Pend Oreille Playhouse Open Mic
The Pend Oreille Playhouse Community Theatre hosts an Open Mic event on the first Friday of every month. Sing a song, play an instrument, share a story or poem - or just watch the stars come out!
Friday, November 5, 7:00 pm.; Admission $2
Pend Orielle Playhouse Community Theatre
240 N. Union Avenue, Newport, WA

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Don't Get it Right - Get it Written

Sounds like she read my last blog!

The woman on this video, Marilyn Horowitz, is an award-winning New York University professor, producer, screenwriter, and New York City-based writing coach; and the founder of the Horowitz Center for Screenwriting. She is the author of five books, including How to Write a Screenplay in 10 Weeks, and The Four Magic Questions of Screenwriting. She is the creator of The Horowitz System, a revolutionary visual writing system; and is well known for sharing her mantra with students: Don't get it right - Get it written.

Her motto sounds a lot like one of my mother's pet sayings, "Do something, even if it's wrong." Although both sayings sound kind of counterproductive to me, I guess the basic idea is that any action is better than no action - and that's good advice - especially for us writers.

Horowitz says her mission is to help writers get started, and towards that end, she offers writing tips, classes, and workshops through various online websites and blogs. Her screenplay tips can be found at:, and you can follow her blog, Marilyn's Movie Candy, at:

The Four Magic Questions of Screenwriting
Horowitz's latest book, The Four Magic Questions of Screenwriting, was published in May 2010. According to the book's synopsis: This book will end the agony that plagues screenwriters of all levels-how to structure a script. This revolutionary technique helps writers structure, write, and rewrite scripts with ease. By asking your characters these four simple questions, you will be able to outline your screenplay like magic. This method has been taught at New York University for over ten years, and has helped hundreds of writers create their screenplays fast. The book sells for $22.76 on Amazon.

Free Screenwriting Class
From another blog, Horowitz offers a free screenwriting class, "...that will help you discover, structure, write, and rewrite an industry-ready screenplay in record time." She offers a FREE 20-minute class to help you define your concept whether you're writing a novel, screenplay or non-fiction book or play. A 15-minute consultation with Horowitz will follow in which she will review your project and help you "tweak it" so it is the story you want to tell and is commercially viable.

Four Questions of Screenwriting Seminar
Horowitz is also offering a Four Questions of Screenwriting online seminar on Thursday, October 28, from 6:30 - 9:00 PM. The cost is $59.95. She promises, "You will learn the insider secrets to starting a market-ready movie script in fewer drafts."

I'm thinking of trying her free screenwriting class and possibly Thursday's seminar. Let me know if any of you check out these online offerings.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

The Shilly-Shallying Screenwriter

While on vacation in Montana in 2008, I came across a true story that struck me so powerfully I could not stop thinking about it. The story played in my mind over and over, almost like a movie. And the more I thought about it, I realized it was a movie, and that I had to write it.

Although I was juggling all the writing projects I could handle at the time, I jumped into screenwriting with all the enthusiasm of a greenhorn. I purchased a couple of books; attended several screenwriting workshops; joined Northwest Independent Film & Video Entertainment Society (kNIFVES), a film and video support organization; and invested in the latest screenwriting computer program.

Once I knew just enough to be dangerous, I added the word "Screenwriter" to a few business cards I designed on my PC and took off to do some interviews and research for the blockbuster movie that continued its award-winning run in my head.

Early in 2009 I entered a kNIFVES screenwriting contest just for practice before my big "breakout" project. I turned a piece I had written for an Idaho Magazine fiction contest into a 17-page screenplay. After more hours than I care to admit, I completed my "short" (each page in a screenplay converts into roughly one minute of screen time) with hopeful expectations.

A couple of months later I learned I didn't place. That didn't come as a total shock, but my original bravado had cooled and I found I was suddenly hesitant to call myself a screenwriter with such cavalier abandon. Procrastination became my game; and as everyday deadlines took their toll, my Screenwriter business cards found themselves collecting dust in the back of a drawer.

Then just a few months ago, I received a call informing me kNIFVES was applying for a grant to produce Root Bound, the screenplay I had written for their 2009 contest. Ecstatic, my dream of becoming a screenwriter flickered anew. All I had to do was wait until the middle of October!

Anxious to hear whether or not the grant had come though I attended a kNIFVES meeting in Spokane just a couple of weeks ago. No grant news, but the owner of a Los Angeles production company based in Spokane asked me what I was working on. For some inspired reason I shared my Montana story.

As I related the tale, I felt the tingle of passion spread through me as life blazed once again for the cinematographic masterpiece that used to keep me awake at night.

These days I close the door on my office each morning and tell my husband not to bother me. SCREENWRITER AT WORK! And this time I am unwavering in my determination to see the project through to completion.

Oh, and since receiving news that kNIFVES received the grant to produce my screenplay I just dug out those yellowing Screenwriter business cards - they're going back into circulation.

Notable Quotes
The habit of always putting off an experience until you can afford it, or until the time is right, or until you know how to do it is one of the greatest burglars of joy. Be deliberate, but once you've made up your mind - jump in. Charles R. Swindoll

kNIFVES is dedicated to providing an open forum to all Inland Northwest Film, Video and Live Entertainment professionals, amateurs and enthusiasts to promote knowledge, education, training and networking. Whether you are a budding screenwriter like me or already have some media credits, you'll find enthusiasm and support for your project at kNIFVES. Check them out at

Friday, October 22, 2010

TGIF: Events and an Announcement

Plenty of interesting writing-related events are happening this weekend and the coming week, but first I have an announcement regarding our own Mary Jane Honegger, a regular Writing North Idaho contributor.

As part of their program to advance the filmmaking workforce in Idaho, the Idaho Film Office in Boise recently awarded the KNIFVES (Northwest Independent Film & Video Entertainment Society) Organization a grant to produce Mary Jane’s screenplay Root Bound. The concept of the film addresses complications that arise when a young professional denies his Idaho roots when he is hired by a national television show. The pre-production, filming, and post-production process of Root Bound will be used as a series of learning opportunities for members of the KNIFVES group. Pre-production will begin the spring of 2011 and filming will take place during the summer.

Congratulations to Mary Jane on the production of her first screenplay, and to KNIFVES on their grant award!

And now, following are several upcoming events you may want to check out:

This evening, October 22, Shawn Underwood will be signing copies of her travel memoir, Mommy, Are We French Yet? at Aunties Bookstore.

Other book signings this weekend at Aunties include John Bladek signing his book Roll Up the Streets!, and Rich Faletto signing his book Four-Eleven, both on Saturday.

On Sunday, Portland author Dana Haynes presents his suspense novel, Crashers, at Aunties.

On Monday evening, Jane Porter will present her latest release, She’s Gone Country, also at Aunties.

Also Monday evening, poet and author Philip Burgess will tell a story of Western settlement in his presentation Penny Post Cards – Homesteading Women, at the Coeur d’Alene Library.

Check the times, locations, and other details of these events on the Events page of this blog.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

BEYOND THIS BLOG: The First and "Fourmost" Elements to Include on Your Website

Here's some useful information from for authors and writers who have websites, or are thinking about creating their own website.


In this day and age, web pages are old news - but does your author website live up to expectations? Is it doing all it can to market your books? Check out these four must-haves for any author's web page.

1) Book details. Showing thumbnail images of your covers helps to establish visual recognition if viewers see your book elsewhere. Short summaries of your books will give your readers the gist of each of them and allow them to decide whether they are interested or not. Lining them up side by side on the same page can introduce readers to your other titles if they're not familiar with all of them. Most importantly, make sure you provide links to where all of your books can be purchased online!

2) Book reviews and excerpts. There's no better place for tooting your own horn than your website. Here you can unabashedly boast by posting the most favorable and full-of-praise book reviews you've received in their entirety, or by highlighting blurbs from other authors. For a potential reader teetering on the fence about whether they will enjoy your book or not, these reviews can be very convincing. Another way to hook a potential reader is by giving them an excerpt, whether it be from the climax of your book, or the introduction to a main character, or even the whole first chapter. Chances are, once they start reading, they won't want to stop. For readers who visit your web page because they are somewhat interested in your books, these items will help to seal the deal.

3) Special features. Give your readers access to additional content online, which will make them feel privileged to be your fans. Think the B-side of a DVD. The possibilities of what can be featured online are essentially limitless, but here are a few suggestions of what to include: illustrations or pictures from your book, character bios and back stories (especially if you write a series in which they recur), or a downloadable audio recording of you reading a passage from the book. You can link to message boards for your fans to discuss your work and ask you questions - this is a simple way to find out what they liked and didn't like, and to get suggestions for your current writing. If your genre is more specialized, like nonfiction, you can post links to some of your research, or if you've written a "how to" book, you can film yourself demonstrating. Children's books authors can have related activities on their website, such as printable coloring pages of book illustrations. And of course, if you have a book video, it belongs front and center!

4) Author Info. That's you! If your readers visit your web page, they probably want to find out more about you as a person! Give them more a more detailed bio than they would find on the back cover of your book, and consider rotating quirky questions (perhaps posed by fans on your message boards) like "What was your first car?" or "Who's your favorite author?" under a "Get to Know Me" section of your website. And if you blog, post the link so that your interested readers can follow it! Keep your readers up-to-date with the latest news about you and your books - post any interviews or press releases, and tell them about any promotional events you have coming up. A mailing list that your readers can sign up for will also help to keep them informed about your events, which can help to generate more support at them. Give your readers a place to contact you via email, snail mail, or both. You'll be able to receive feedback, comments, and questions from them - but of course be wary of the lack of privacy on the good old World Wide Web; you may want to get an email address or P.O. Box to be used just for your author correspondence.


This article written by the editors of for the newsletter, reprinted with permission.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Kindle for PC: I'm Lovin' it!

Earlier this summer our son called to tell me a fellow was giving away free goats along Highway 2. Free Goats? Sure. As someone who once owned two adorable pygmy goats, I knew, in this case, free didn’t exactly mean FREE. It meant a continuous supply of alfalfa pellets and, all too often, treks around our acreage rattling a can of those pellets to bribe the little rascals to return home after ANOTHER escape, followed by ANOTHER fence repair.

Free is seldom free.

But recently I discovered something truly free. This may be old news to some, but if not, you might find it useful, and fun.

A week or so ago, while browsing the ebook section of, I noticed a link in the right column that read Available on your PC. So I checked it out, wondering how I could read Amazon’s ebooks without a Kindle.

With digital publishing and ebooks growing in popularity, folks can choose from a variety of gadgets for downloading and reading ebooks. Barnes & Noble offers the Nook. Amazon offers the Kindle. Apple offers the Ipad. And there are others. But, priced anywhere from $139 to $499 and up, I’m not ready to lay down my money for one. (Not to mention the fact that I am still working through a stack of print books on my side table.) But, at times, browsing through an ebook on my laptop, which is fairly small and lightweight, would be handy.

Because Kindle readers begin at $139, I guessed the Kindle for PC would cost a few dollars. Instead, it surprised me to find that Amazon does not charge for the program.

So I clicked a few buttons and downloaded the program and it was ready to receive ebooks. I downloaded sample chapters of a book and tested it. I found that I could make notes in the sidebar as I read, highlight words and sentences, adjust font size, scroll through the book both vertically and horizontally, and change the color of the book's pages. Wow. And I’m sure there are other tricks I have not yet discovered.

So far I have purchased one ebook, a mystery for $2.99. But even if I don’t use it for buying many books, it is a great place to download sample chapters to read at my leisure and discover new books and writers, rather than paging through Amazon’s, sometimes clumsy, Search Inside tool.

And, although you might argue that Kindle for PC is not really free because it is a platform for purchasing ebooks from Amazon, to me, it is certainly “more free” than goats.

Friday, October 15, 2010

TGIF: Ann Rule and other fine authors holding book signings this weekend.

A variety of author events are happening within the next several days. But before we get to the events, I'd like to remind you about an upcoming deadline for authors, November 5, 2010. Pacific Northwest Writers Association (PNWA) is compiling a 2010 Holiday Catalog they plan to distribute via email. Here are the details from a recent PNWA newsletter:

If you are a member of the Pacific Northwest Writers Association (Annual membership, $65.00), you have a great opportunity to promote your book(s) and reach more readers. Back by popular demand, PNWA is putting together a 2010 Holiday Catalog. The catalog will be distributed through our PNWA email list, and to other selected writers' group lists.

Catalog details:
1. You must be a current PNWA member to have your book(s) included in the catalog. To join visit
2. The catalog will be distributed via email the day after Thanksgiving. Reminding families to add local authors to their holiday wish list this season.

Required information for each book listed:
1. Book genre listing (i.e.: fiction, nonfiction, memoir, thriller, fantasy, etc.).
2. A high-resolution (300dip) jpg cover photo.
3. Book Title and Author.
4. Up to 100 words of description (author's website optional).
5. Publisher, ISBN, Binding, Price.
6. Required information should be sent via email to by November 5, 2010 (no exceptions).

According to Kelli Liddane, Managing Director of PNWA, PNWA emails the catalog to approximately 8400 recipients consisting of authors, readers, and various writing groups. If you would like to view last year's catalog, click the following link. (Note: Disregard the page breaks and inoperable links, a result of the pdf format.)  2009 Holiday Catalog upcoming events. Following is a list of author events happening this weekend and next week in the Spokane area. Be sure to check our Events page for details of these and other events.

Today at Noon, author Sam Lien Le will be at Yokes on Indian Trails Road signing copies of his autobiography about his escape from Vietnam, The Spirit Stills the Storms.

This evening at Aunties Bookstore, Susan J. Cobb presents her book, Virgin Territory, a memoir about retiring to Mexico.

On Saturday at 2:00 pm, bestselling author Ann Rule visits Aunties Bookstore to present her latest book, In the Still of the Night: The Strange Death of Ronda Reynolds. The book is a saga of true crime set in Spokane.

Next Wednesday, 5:00 pm, Jan Brett will talk about her latest storybook, The 3 Little Dassies, at the Bing Crosby Theater in Spokane.

Thursday, bestselling science fiction author Lois McMaster Bujold will present her latest novel, Cryoburn, at Aunties Bookstore.

And next Friday at Aunties, October 22, Seatle author Shawn Underwood presents her travel memoir, Mommy, Are We French Yet? Tales of an American Family Living in France.

Have fun!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

BEYOND THIS BLOG: Public Speaking 101

Here's a helpful article I ran across offering practical advice for those planning to speak at a public venue such as workshop, conference, or a book signing and presentation.

How to Sell Yourself and Your Product without Stressing Out

The number one thing that adults fear is a not shark. Nor is it drowning. Nor is it even death. The number one fear is public speaking. But are people really afraid of speaking in public, or are they just afraid of being embarrassed in public? Public speaking may have the potential to humiliate but it also has the potential to draw new interest in your product. Public speaking is necessary for promoting a book and here are some tips to keep your presentation interesting for your audience and stress free for you.

Planning the Presentation

Know your audience. When preparing your presentation, keep the age, gender and background of your audience in mind. If your topic is very specialized but you're presenting to a general audience, don't forget to explain unknown vocabulary. No matter who your audience is, you want to engage them, not bore them.

Know your venue. Bringing a PowerPoint presentation to a place without a projector is probably not going to work out very well. Does this place have a microphone? Does it have a podium? How big is the venue?

Know your time limit. No one likes to be told a presenter is going to talk for an hour and two hours later, he's still talking. Yes, your work is important, but people do have other obligations. Going over a time limit could cause you to lose an otherwise interested audience to constant watch checking and frustration.

Practice! This is the best way to work out the kinks. This will also allow you to experiment with the pitch of your voice and when you're going to pause as well as giving you more confidence in your ability to deliver the material well.

Dress comfortably and professionally. What you wear depends on what type of presentation you are giving, but you should be comfortable in your outfit. Testing out whether or not a new blouse will show sweat stains is best left for another time.

Giving the Presentation

Be confident. Apologizing for being unprepared or having poor speaking skills can sabotage the presentation before it even begins. Stand up straight and if you appear self-assured, your audience will be more likely to take your presentation seriously.

Make eye contact. This is very important. If you have note or cue cards, make sure you know your presentation well enough to not lose your place when making eye contact. Making eye contact with as many people in the room as you can makes you more approachable.

Eliminate filler words and poor speaking habits. "Ah", "uh", "um", "like", "really" and "know what I mean" detract from your presentation and make you look less professional. Audience members will focus more on the distraction of your fillers and not on the content of your presentation.

Slow down. Inexperienced public speakers tend to make the mistake of rushing their presentations due to nerves. Pause after a thought to give the audience time to digest what you've said.

Bond with your audience. Body language says a lot. Warm and inclusive body language goes a long way towards allowing your audience to relate to you and to what you have to say.

After the Presentation

Don't forget about questions... If you've been engaging, there's a strong likelihood that people will want to know more. You have two options for this. If you don't mind being interrupted from time to time, you can ask for questions throughout the presentation. This will likely generate more questions, as the topic is fresh in the asker's mind. However, this can also make it easier for your audience to challenge your points. The other option is leaving time at the end of your presentation for questions. How long you want to leave depends on how long your presentation was to begin with.

…but questions aren't the only option. If you would rather facilitate a discussion with your audience at the end of your presentation, leave more time. Audience members will feel robbed if they don't get to share their opinion. A discussion is also a great way to engage with audience members that might not be able to come up with a topic on their own.

Make sure that everyone can hear. If you decide to engage with audience members, be sure to repeat comments so that everyone in the room is on the same page. Often times, presenters make the mistake of getting into what ends up being a one-on-one conversation with an audience member because the people in the back can't hear.

Stick around. Some people might not be confident enough to ask questions in front of a group. Give these people the opportunity to talk to you. Engaging positively one-on-one is what can get you lifelong fans.

While these tips may vary slightly depending on your topic, venue and audience, one thing is certain: if you believe in your ability to give a great presentation, your audience will too. Public speaking is a necessary part of promotion and being good at it can only help you in the long run.


This article written by the editors of, reprinted with permission.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Five Ways to Make Every Word Count: A Guest Post by Literary Agent Sammie Justesen

As a literary agent and publisher, I see mistakes from hundreds of authors. Certain basic errors mark writers as careless or unwilling to edit their work.

I hope these five tips will enhance your writing repertoire.

Avoid Vampire Verbs

Nothing sucks life from your writing like a lazy verb. The worst offenders are “to be” verbs, such as was, were, are, have been, and is. In most cases you can rescue a weak sentence by using a strong verb to eliminate passive voice. Yes, this takes time, but your writing is worth it, right?

Avoid anemic verbs that describe emotions instead of showing. Vague words like felt, feel, thought, and think inhabit weak sentences. Compare these two examples:

Weak and distant: “I felt so bad I thought I’d never get over that cold.”

Vivid: “My head throbbed, my nose turned red, and I spent three days in bed.”

Other feeble words include: went, looked, and seemed. The sentences below sound like excerpts from a primary reader:

I felt horrible. I felt like walking out.

The girl looked sad. The restaurant looked busy.

She seemed confident. The weather seemed nice.

I went down the street to Claire’s house. I went to bed early.

I thought about going down the street to Claire’s house. I thought about leaving.

You can do better than this! Show specific actions that reflect what each character is thinking, feeling, or doing. A few simple rewrites will rescue your prose from the vampire syndrome.

Adverbs are Sometimes Horribly Ineffective

An adverb changes or identifies a verb, adjective, or another adverb. Perhaps you’re tempted to let adverbs prop up wimpy verbs and adjectives. For example, in the above heading, I used the adverb “horribly” to enhance the adjective. This made things worse. Perhaps I should’ve said: “Adverbs Suck.”

In some cases, an adverb tells (instead of showing) how a character does something, as in: “The woman talked rapidly.” We might revise this to: “She spit the words rapid-fire.”

Banish the following adverbs from your vocabulary: very, really, just, totally, absolutely.

The best policy for adverbs is to sprinkle them like hot pepper. Two or three per page is enough.

Check for Overused Words

Everyone uses pet words and phrases out of habit, both in speech and writing. I recently edited a memoir wherein the author chose one single, bland adjective at the beginning of a paragraph, and then used it in every sentence. He would describe a beautiful lake, his beautiful wife, and a beautiful sunset, all in one block of text. He didn’t notice the repetition. To prevent this syndrome, identify your favorite words and use the “find” function on your computer to check for overuse.

Don’t Repeat Yourself: Cut the Clutter

Thousands of fiction and nonfiction authors, especially those with teaching backgrounds, tend to repeat information as though readers aren’t smart enough to grasp a concept the first time around. Authors find ingenious ways to repeat themselves by saying the same thing twice in different words. These writers focus on one thought and beat it to death. Like a pedantic instructor, they want to use everything they know about a topic, even if the reader already understands.

Annoying, isn’t it?


Twittering helps you practice using vivid words to address a topic with 140 characters. I tweet several times a day, for fun and to market one of my books ( You needn’t be brilliant, or even coherent, on Twitter, because you always get a second chance.

Whether you’re writing a two-word quip, a 140 character Tweet, or a compete book -- Make every word count.


Sammie Justesen is a founding partner of Northern Lights Literary Services LLC, a literary agency representing fiction and nonfiction authors. Prior to opening the agency, Justesen worked for many years as an independent writer/editor for publishing houses such as Mosby, Springhouse, Lippincott, and Prentice Hall. She has published a medical guide, technical articles, poetry, and short stories, and is the author of Speaking of Dialogue, a how-to book for writers. Writer's Digest (the popular magazine for writers) has twice featured Northern Lights Literary Services as one of 25 agencies open to new writers and building a client list.

Learn more about Speaking of Dialogue HERE.
Sammie's website:

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Writing related events this weekend…


Retired EWU professor John Keeble presents his critically acclaimed novel, Broken Ground, which was recently reissued; Auntie’s Bookstore, Spokane 7:00pm


B. J. Campbell and Cougar Bob will have a book signing for Close Call The True Tales of Cougar Bob at Black Sheep Sporting Goods, 308 W. Seale Ave., Coeur d’Alene. Meet the north Idaho native who has packed more thrills into a lifetime than a dozen people and lived to tell about them. His wife, B.J., is the skilled author of these stories as well as other tales of Cougar Bob. 11:00-2:00

J.R. Parker, a 19-year-old author from Idaho, will sign copies of his young adult fantasy novel, Kestrel’s Midnight Song at Auntie’s. 1:30

Betty Hodges, local author, will sign copies of her beginning reader book, Jamie and The Haunted Lighthouse. Auntie’s. 1:30 pm

Play-Makers Spokane is back at Auntie's with a staged reading of short plays, Hit & Run IV: A Staged Reading of Short Plays by local authors Sandra Hosking and Paul Ruch, as well as by playwrights from as far away as New York. Plays range from a drama that takes place in a snow globe to a comedy about a man who finds a surprise guest in his closet. Directors include Anne Selcoe, David McCallum, Toni Cummins, Will Gilman, Kat Malcolm, and Ron Ford. Free admission. 2:00-4:00

A heads up for FRIDAY, OCTOBER 15

Novelist Sara Paretsky to Speak in Coeur d'Alene on Friday, October 15, 7:00 pm

The Idaho Humanities Council is bringing best-selling author, Sara Paretsky, to Coeur d’Alene for the 7th Annual Northern Idaho Distinguished Humanities Lecture and Dinner. The event includes dinner, lecture, Q & A period, and book signing. A special reception to meet with the author prior to the dinner will be held at a private home and is included in a benefactor level ticket. Paretsky will explore in her talk the theme “Truth, Lies, and Duct Tape: Writing in an Age of Silence,” based on the title essay of her 2007 best-selling collection of essays. The event will begin with a no-host reception at 6:00pm at the Coeur d’Alene Resort. Dinner will begin at 7 p.m., with Paretsky’s talk to follow. Hastings will be facilitating book sales and book signing after the lecture. There are two ticket levels. The general ticket ($45) includes admission to the dinner and lecture. The benefactor ticket ($100) includes admission to and preferential seating at the dinner and lecture, and access to a private reception with Paretsky in a local home prior to the event. Tickets are available by calling 888-345-5346.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

To Italicize or Not to Italicize: that is the question.

To italicize a word is using a double edged sword. Doing so makes the author look snobbish to some readers and like he is looking down on the reader, a big no-no. Not to italicize a foreign word is to destroy the choice to use the word.

If a word or phrase has become so widely used and understood that it has become part of the English language — such as the French "bon voyage" or the abbreviation for the Latin et cetera, "etc." — do not italicize it. Often this becomes a matter of private judgment and context. For instance, whether you italicize the Italian sotto voce or French soup du jour depends largely on your audience and your subject matter.

1. Emphasis. When you want a word or phrase to stand out. Ex. “I told you not to go.

2. Word reproducing sounds. Grrr! Bzzz! Include to exclamation point.

3. Foreign words not understood by the general public. Ex: Guten morgan! “Au revoir meant forever,” she thought. “Be-gen-ee-tah”, said the Apache warrior.

4. Names of vehicles. The Orient Express, the Titanic, Endeavor but not makes of vehicles like Mercedes Benz or Ford Mustang.

5. The first time you introduce a foreign phrase but not again if you use it often.

6. Titles if they can stand alone, yes to book title, a story, TV show. Not italicized are books in a religious connotation. The Bible is not italicized nor the titles of chapter within it but it are capitalized. Smaller texts such as short stories from an anthology, journal articles, and episodes of television shows are examples of titles that cannot.

7. Some scientific and technical writing does but check in-house criteria. This medication is to be administered to the patient BID.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Hey, I wrote that!

“What a good thing Adam had-----when he said a good thing, he knew nobody had said it before.” Mark Twain

Plagiarism is passing off someone else’s work, ideas, thoughts, opinions, theories, statistics, facts, drawings, or paraphrasing as your own. There are two common forms of plagiarisms

1. Duplicating another’s words or phrases, etc. without identifying the speaker or author, with or without quotation marks.

2. Using and selling another’s ideas by paraphrasing or rearranging them without noting sources. Ignorance of the laws is not a valid defense.


The devil is in the details however. According to copyright laws established in 1989, works are now protected with or without the copyright symbol; they are considered intellectual property. As long as the material can be shown to belong to someone else, it is considered plagiarism. Copyright laws do not protect facts considered “common knowledge.” Common knowledge is defined loosely as information generally known, e.g., Roosevelt was the author of the New Deal. Copyright laws can be in effect up to 75 years after the death of the author. There are many variants of the length depending upon how old the work is, in what country it was published and who owns the copyright.

A gray area is “public domain.” This often means intellectual property that “belongs” to the public (Lord’s Prayer, the Big Apple but not the King James version of the Bible) and therefore can be used freely and copied. There are variations of law depending on copyright laws in different countries as well as patents and trademarks. It is best to check with an attorney if you are uncertain.

The punishments vary depending upon the venue and the amount of material copied. The more you copy and use, the greater the punishment. Most cases are considered misdemeanors bringing fines between $100 and $50,000 and can include up to one year in jail. Generally, your offense is considered a felony if you earn more than about $2,500 from the plagiarized work. Penalties are severe.

There are several ways to protect yourself from prosecution of plagiary. Understand what constitutes plagiarism. When taking notes from various sources for your writing, clearly identify anything that is not in the public domain or not in your original words and thoughts. Keep all your notes, electronic, recorded and penned, in several backups in various venues. Date all your work. Back up your computer files using different names every time you work on it: essay plagerism-1, essay plagerism-2. This will give you a paper and time trail to strengthen your case should you be charged or you wish to charge someone else with plagiarism.

An excellent resource on public domain items: http//

DISCLAIMER: This post does not constitute legal advice.

Friday, October 1, 2010


Book signings:
Annie's Bookstore, Spokane; Saturday, Oct. 2
Dick Jensen, Spokane Set in Stone, 1-3 pm
Sam Lien Lo, The Spirit Stills the Storm: From Tyranny to the American Dream, 1-3 pm

Flathead River Conference, Oct. 2-3, Kalispell, MT. Check web site for information:

Open Mic, Pend Orielle Playhouse, 240 N. Union, Newport, WA, Friday, October 1
Join musicians and others; read your poems or a story

Harrison Third Annual Oktoberfest, Saturday, October 2, 1-7 pm
Harrison City Park. Explore the area, look at the fall leaves, get inspiration for a poem or a story.

Pick apples or pumpkins at an area farm and write a short story about it.

"Mary Arkwright Hutton: The Early Years"; Athol Library, Tuesday, Oct. 5, 6:30 pm, free. (Also Tuesday, Oct. 12., 6:30 pm) Mrs. Hutton worked tirelessly for women's suffrage in northern Idaho and Spokane. She was a boarding house owner in the Coeur d'Alene mining area and the influential, controversial wife of Hercules Mine owner Levi Hutton.