Friday, December 31, 2010

Great Local Resources for Writers’ Research

Libraries Linking Idaho
The LiLI Databases (LiLI-D) are online services providing full-text articles from magazines, professional journals, newspapers, and reference books free to all Idaho residents.

A comprehensive genealogy database of census, birth, marriage, death records and more. Brought to you by the Kootenai-Shoshone Area Libraries. Only available for use in your local KSA Library.
Access census records from 1790-1930, search through over 1.9 million genealogy and local history articles, find information on people and places described in over 20,000 family histories, and browse through Revolutionary War and Freedman's Bank records.
Remote access available. Contact your local KSA Library for log in and password information.

Whatever your goal, LearningExpress Library's resources will help you succeed. Each of our Learning Centers offers the practice tests, exercises, skill-building courses, and information you need to achieve the results you want—at school, at work, or in life. Looking to land a job? You'll find an entire Learning Center dedicated to helping you get the one that's right for you.
Novelist Plus

The site includes Recommended Reads, Author Read-Alikes, Book Discussion Guides, Book Lists, Award Winners, and much more for children, teens, and adults. With over 150,000 fiction titles, 50,000 nonfiction titles and over 4000 custom created articles and lists for your reading pleasure.
Remote access available. Contact your local KSA Library for log in and password information.

Go to this source and sign in for an account:
Happy New Year from all of us at writingnorthidaho! We hope you have a productive, successful, fulfilling 2011.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Travel Writing

Are you interested in becoming a travel writer? Most writers say, “What is there not to like about travel writing?” Here are a few web sites to help you understand the trials, rewards and how-to’s of such a choice.

The first web site is by Laura Duniston who is in her words a perpetual globetrotter and travel writer. She has written for such exclusive travel magazines as “National Geographic Traveler,” “Get Lost,” “Hemisphere,” “Lonely Planet” and “Thomas Cook.” She tells us exactly what the life of a travel writer is like. Duniston says she travels anonymously with her travel photographer husband so as not to influence the treatment she receives in restaurants or hotels. She also says she spends many days in a drab hotel room in some city she does not like, glued to a chair facing her computer and on deadline.

The second site gives an article by Phil Philcox on the specifics of writing travel articles. He takes a unique approach for finding buyers for his articles. His slant is to contact off-beat trade magazines like cattle ranching, dry cleaning or printing businesses telling the editors he is going to be visiting (country.) Would the editor be interested in an article about the costs, difficulties and successes of dry cleaning in New Zealand or buying dyes in India or whatever relates to that magazine’s business interest. You will not get rich this way but it would offset some of your travel expenses as long as you do not mind working part of your vacation.

The third site I previewed and liked is about how to get freelance jobs as a travel writer. It gives you the bones of the operation, how to get started, where to look for assignments but not much about the negatives of travel writing.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Motivation -- The Rocking Chair Test

How do we as writers become motivated? Books on how to write say that reading has the most impact. We are what we read. Successful authors tell us the most significant impact will be to write every day. Both motivate us. Reading shows us how clever phrases, tightly crafted plots, a good story line and an extensive vocabulary combine to provide us with a wealth of tools to feed our creative brains. Writing daily produces the same results.

However, what if you are not motivated to write? The people who say they wish they could get going in their writing are not willing to put forth the effort required to be considered writers. What happens if we wait for an idea and no idea surfaces and inspiration doesn’t strike?

Take the rocking chair test. Sit in a rocking chair and look back on your life. Examine all the things you accomplished and the rewards you received from those activities. Then look at your life as if you had not achieved your goals or accomplished what you wanted. Relate this to writing. Have you set goals for writing and strived consistently toward them or are you waiting for motivation?

Mark Twain could have been talking to writers when he said, “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”

Paraphrasing John F. Kennedy, “If not (your name), who? If not now, when?“ Nike made a fortune selling tennis shoes with the tag line “Just do it.” They were right. “A determined person will do more with a pen and paper, than a lazy person will accomplish with a personal computer.” Catherine Pulsifer

Friday, December 24, 2010

History of The Pencil

On Fridays we post weekend events that are of interest to writers. Since there are none this weekend, I thought you may be interested in some trivia.

The pencil is one of the oldest and most used writing utensils. The forerunner of today’s pencil was devised by the Romans and Greeks who used flat pieces of lead on papyrus.

In the 1400’s, graphite (Greek meaning graphum “to write”) was discovered and mined in England. Graphite is one of three forms of pure carbon, diamonds and coal the other two. Graphite was cut into square rods which were bound tightly with twine. Late in the 16th century, a method of gluing strips of wood around graphite was invented.

Initially, the centers were square making it difficult to use any pencil sharpeners. Round graphite pencils came into use during the early 1800’s. By the 1840’s pure graphite mines were depleted so inventors including Henry David Thoreau developed forms of graphite mixed with clay and sometimes water; they were still referred to as lead pencils. An aside is Henry David Thoreau’s father, John, operated the biggest pencil factory in the United States. Henry worked there many years. Erasers were first attached to pencils in 1853.

Today’s mechanized method seems simple.
1. A block of California cedar is cut into slats.
2. The slats are stained and grooves cut into one surface.
3. A graphite clay mixture (“lead”) is put into the grooves and a second slat is bonded to the
4. The slats are sawed into individual pencils.
5. The individual pencils are painted.
6. A ferrule is crimped onto one end followed by an eraser.
7. Pencils are stamped with the company’s name and hardness of the graphite mix (1 is the softest, 4 is the hardest.)

Some famous authors who used pencils are Thoreau (of course), Hemingway, Kerouac, Nabokov, Steinbeck and Francis Scott Key.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Purdue Online Writing Lab or OWL

Many universities and colleges have websites that provide support and information about how to write, answers to grammatical questions and how and where to do research. Most are aimed at undergraduate students and writing for a college level class assignment. However, there are always times when we non-collegiate writers need backup references or answers to questions. is one of the best sources I have found. According to the introduction, OWL provides “global support through online reference materials and services.”
Their main divisions are:
*Writing and teaching writing
*Grammar and mechanics
*Style guides which includes formatting and style guides for APA and MLA 2000

The research section tells you how to conduct research (interviewing, surveying, observing and analysis) as well as how to evaluate your sources of information. If you have questions on where to put the quotation marks (inside or outside the period), look for dependent clauses, dangling participles or if a sentence needs a comma, the grammar and writing section can help you.

I have used other university web sites but find I go back to OWL. Instead of reaching for my style books or grammar books, I click on this bookmarked site and find the answers quickly.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

A Special Gift of Inspiration

It is Christmas Eve and you just sat down with a cup of coffee, glass of wine or eggnog. The fixings are chopped for tomorrow’s turkey dressing, the fresh cranberries are cooked, the table is set and all the presents are wrapped. Your mind stops spinning and begins to contemplate the family members who will be sitting at the table Christmas Day….

I was stumped for a topic for today’s blog, hence the following email exchange between my daughter and me.

“Hi Sweetie,

Can you think of anything wonderful to write as my blog to be posted Dec. 19, the week of Christmas? I thought of the legend of the spider in the Christmas tree or mistletoe but neither one seems right (or write). I can’t think of anything Christmas-y and writing related. Seems kind of weird to write about punctuation or how to plot stories.

Thanks! Love, xxoo, MOM”

“Hi Mom,

For the Christmas blog you should write about how a great gift would be a letter written to a loved one to tell her how much you love her, like you did for all of us on our birthdays. We treasure your letters.

Love, A”

What Angela is referring to are letters I wrote to my husband, daughters, their husbands and each grandchild during 2009 on their birthdays. I told each how grateful I was that he or she was born. Not surprisingly, it was easy. I was thankful for one who has such a good sense of humor, intelligence, and caring. For another was his ability to see all sides of a situation and come up with an agreeable solution and the love he displays daily to my daughter and their children. To a three year old, I wrote how excited we were when she was born, how fun it was to read her books because she was so quietly in my lap, how much she resembles her grandfather and how impressed I was with her developing artistic skills. My husband’s letter could have pages about why I was glad he was born! Love displayed daily, wonderful children, a secure life, and lot of exciting adventures were just a few things I noted.

The letters were about a page long, some shorter than others depending upon the age of the recipient. I started each one with “I am writing this letter to you on your (x)th birthday to tell you how glad I am that you were born.” I was with only one person as he read his letter so I do not know the exact reaction of each person but reports were that each letter was appreciated.

It does not take much to convey “I love you.” Hopefully, we say it every time we talk to our loved ones. A special letter or simple note written for Christmas 2010 could be an extra gift your family will cherish throughout the New Year.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

TGIF: Scrumptious Writerly Tidbits

Despite what the newspaper circulars are screaming in bold type, there's still plenty of time (well, maybe not plenty, but enough) to stock up on fabulous books to give as gifts. Or keep them yourself, thinking ahead to those long winter evenings best spent with one's nose in a book. In any case, come out and support some local authors while you're out and about this weekend. Here's what's happening around the Inland Northwest literary scene:

On Friday, December 17, Jane Fritz will sign copies of her book Legendary Lake Pend Oreille at the Cedar Street Bridge Cafe in Sandpoint (corner of First and Cedar) from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. (208-263-3573)

On Saturday, December 18, Patrick McManus will visit Auntie's Bookstore, 402 W. Main Ave., Spokane, from 1:00-3:00 p.m. to sign copies of his books, including his latest, The Huckleberry Murders, and the paperback release of The Double-Jack Murders. (509-838-0206). Michael Marsden will sign copies of his book Sam d'Bear at Hastings in Coeur d'Alene, 101 Best Ave., from 1-4 p.m. (208-664-0464). And Carolyn Nunemaker, author of Spokane and the Inland Northwest During World War II, will appear from noon-3 p.m. at Hastings on Wellesley, 1704 W. Wellesley, Spokane (509-327-6008)

And here's something for anyone who enjoys a good tale. On Sunday, December 19, DiLuna's Cafe (208 Cedar, Sandpoint) will host A Christmas Storytelling Company, an evening of Christmas songs and stories to warm your heart and make you smile. The event begins with dinner at 5 p.m., followed by the show at 6 p.m. Tickets are $10 for adults and $6 for kids under 12, plus the cost of dinner and beverages. For info or tickets, call 208-263-0846 or e-mail

Stay warm!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

How Do You Spell "Critique"?

[This is a guest post by Sandpoint writer Anita Aurit.]

I love my critique group. They are instrumental in my growth as a writer and I wouldn't write on a regular basis if they didn't inspire me to do so. If you're not as enthusiastic about your group, may I suggest you consider using our spelling of critique?

C - Contribute pieces for critique. A successful critique group contains people who write on a regular basis (letters to the editor, newsletters, or novels, it doesn't matter; it is the act of writing that is important).

R - Read! A writer who does not read is like a chef who refuses to eat or taste his food.

I - Invest the time. Read each piece before the meeting and get your piece to the group at least a few days prior to the meeting.

T - Table the urge to ghost-write. Critiquing is suggesting.

I - Illuminate. Explain your comments. "It doesn't work for me" is not a valid critique.

Q - Quell the urge to defend your writing. Listen and ask questions. If you are busy defending your plot point or use of commas, you will miss valuable suggestions.

U - Understand that writers are emotionally attached to their work. Handing over a piece for critique is like handing over your baby. Be gentle and gracious. Don't coo over the baby and say how sweet it is. Don't mete out harsh correction either. Be gracious and gentle when offering guidance and suggestions and you will raise writers of excellence.

E - Enjoy the process. Listen, learn, and use what you determine to be the best advice.

This is how my group spells critique. However, spelling is not an exact science. You may have a slightly different view of the spelling of critique and I encourage you to use the one that fits you best. Writers can differ about spelling, just as Artemus Ward and Chaucer did. Ward said, "It is a pity that Chawcer, who had geneyus, was so unedicated. He's the wuss speller I know of."
Anita Aurit's interests are diverse and so is her writing repertoire. She has published short humor in the Saturday Evening Post, an article on fantasy football for women in an online sports magazine, and travel articles. Her devotionals have been published in The One Year Life Verse Devotional and in the Judson Press publication, The Secret Place. She has written an award-winning children's play, The Care and Feeding of Caterpillars, as well as several short, made-for-video productions. She is currently working on two nonfiction books and is toying with the idea of making the next book a novel.

Anita's day job is as a business consultant and mediator. She and her husband, Mark, an Internet software engineer, share their northern Idaho home with three "fur children," all of the Siamese purr-suasion.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Deep snow and deep thoughts

Did you know that shoveling snow can increase your creativity? Physical exercise--especially a repetitive activity that requires more muscle than thought (like shoveling)--increases blood flow to the brain and frees your mind to wander and roam.

So instead of resenting the snow piling up on your sidewalk, look at it as an opportunity for some creative idea incubation. Dig, lift, grunt, toss. Dig, lift, grunt, toss. As your muscles work, give your brain an idea to chew on and see what happens. (But be careful out there! Don't let your mind wander so far from what you're doing that you create a hazard for yourself or anybody else.)

One such "shoveling meditation" you might want to ponder as the year draws to a close is the state of your writing life. How did your writing go in 2010? Was this the year that you made that initial leap from non-writer to writer? Did you achieve any specific writing goals that you'd set for yourself? Did other priorities take precedence over your writing? What would you like to do differently in 2011? What would you like to keep the same?

Did you attend any conferences, classes, or workshops or join any writing groups in 2010? Did you enjoy it and/or learn from it? Will you attend the same event again, or maybe choose something else in the future?

How is your craft coming along? What genre(s) did you write in? Would you like to stay there, or switch genres, or both? Maybe you improved your vocabulary and syntax, and now you'd like to work on plotting or character development or research skills.

Did you market any of your work in 2010? How did that go? Are there new markets you'd like to pursue? Did you enter any writing contests?

Give some thought to your personal writing practices. As you look back over 2010, do you see any patterns? Do you tend to do your best writing in the morning, afternoon, evening, or in the middle of the night? Did you write very little in the summertime but start churning out stories in the fall? Why do you think that is, and how can you take advantage of that pattern in 2011?

Soon your muscles will be tired and your brain will be full. Set down your shovel, come inside for a hot drink, and congratulate yourself on a clean sidewalk and some clear ideas on where you'll take your writing next--or where it will take you.

Friday, December 10, 2010

TGIF: The Write Gift

Today is the perfect day to let Santa know what you want for Christmas.

Technology keeps changing the game for us writers. Although nothing has yet been invented that can fill that first blank page or give you more hours until deadline; there are many items, both new and traditional, that will aid in your task.

Gone is the gobbledy-gook of the old text-to-speech software. New Speech Recognition software promises up to 99-percent accuracy, and upgraded versions enable you to use voice commands to control your computer. What a great holiday gift - create, dictate (documents and email) and edit THREE times faster than typing!

Dragon from Nuance Communications seems to be a good choice, with prices ranging from $75-$200. SpeechMagic, Tazti, Sonic Extractor, and e-speaking are others you might check out. And just so you know, Windows 7 and Windows Vista come with a built-in speech recognition system. Wow!

Here are a few more ideas in case you're still not quite sure what to ask Santa for Christmas. My thanks to fellow blogger Jennifer Rova for starting this list. If you have other ideas, be sure to add them!

New computer
Upgrades for computer - wireless adapter, external hard drive, etc.
Kindle or Nook
Voice Recorder (A voice recorder pen is the latest thing!)
Padded laptop carrying case
USB Flash Drive
Flash Memory Card

Essential Tools
Waterman pen
Business Cards
Bed desk
Portable lap desk
Colored file folders
Colored recipe cards (for those plot points)
Ream of computer paper
Book holder

Extended Learning
Certificate for online writing class
Gift Certificate for Barnes & Noble, Hastings, etc.
Gift subscriptions to a literary or writing magazine
2011 Writer's Digest or Children's Digest
Books- The Think's Thesaurus, Sophisticated Alternatives to Common Words

Relax & Get Those Creative Juices Flowing
Gift Certificate for a massage
Electric coffee cup warmer
Single coffee cup machine or espresso machine
Gift Certificate to coffee shop

Just for Fun
Magnetic Poetry
Art glass paperweight
Sterling pencil charm
Tray or holder for reading glasses
Customized mouse pad
Custom door hanger (Writer at work!)
Book ends
Magnifying glass

Custom Writer's T-shirts
I'm not day dreaming, I'm planning my new novel
Shhh...writer at work
I collect rejection letters
In my write mind
Careful or you'll end up in my novel
Some of my best friends are fictional
Writer's block is a figment of your...uh...

Writer's Basket
Coffee/Coffee mug

You'll find hundreds of online gift resources, and many stores carry these items. Merry Shopping! - Tools for serious readers, good quality gifts including lap desks, book holders, bookends, and more. - Shirts, office supplies, customized items, business cards, coffee mugs, calendars, letterhead, tablets, etc. - Fun writing gifts with a Victorian flair like a quill and pen. - Quirky little trays for glasses and writing tidbits.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Internet Welcomes Poets

He who draws noble delights from sentiments of poetry, is a poet though he has never written a line in all his life. - George Sand

I consider myself to be a connoisseur of poetry. I love its rhythm and rhyme; and I enjoy the pre-meditated structure, meticulous phrasing, and scattering of deliberate words designed to touch my emotions.

Poetry is an echo asking a shadow to dance. - Carl Sandburg

During the holidays, I often spend hours finding poems, or excerpts from poems, for each of my guests to read before our meal. Through the years I've collected a small library of poetry books that I can choose from, but more commonly, I would traipse off to the library and spend many hours glancing through dozens of books in search of the perfect poems.

Boy have things changed. The Internet is a goldmine of all things that wax poetic. Just type in the word and you'll hit the mother lode.

While searching for Christmas poetry recently I discovered the work of dozens of poets I've never read (or even heard of) by searching the Internet. Thousands of poems at the click of a mouse - what fun! If you enjoy poetry, are researching a specific poet, looking for how-to information on writing poetry, searching for inspiration, or seeking a place to post your own musings, give it a try.

You'll discover many free poetry websites offer news and feature articles on the art of poetry. They list poetry blogs, books, videos, audio, podcasts, programs, and contests. Most include biographies of famous poets, lists of well-known poems, and the history of poetry. You'll also find information on how to publish a book of your own poetry; and valuable resources including poetry terminology, poetry tips, and how-to articles. Check out these websites:

Many poetry websites allow visitors to post their original poems. Be sure to take a look at Poetry Soup. Post your poems and then take at look at their latest Soup news, notes, blogs, events, and articles.

I hope you'll enjoy the following poem I discovered when looking for Christmas poems.

Poetry is the opening and closing of a door, leaving those who look through to guess about what is seen
during the moment. - Carl Sandburg

A Christmas Poem* - Jane Merchant
My grandmother sat
On Christmas morning
Mending overalls.
A tall tree glittered,
A hen was roasting,
And the room was merry
With dolls and balls,
So why was she mending
The air is magic
On Christmas morning
And it isn't a time
For doing chores.
We had given her
A brooch that glittered
After anxious searchings
Of ten-cent stores
So why was she working
At everyday chores?
I didn't know then
But I learned much later
That Christmas magic
Goes through and through
The fabric of living
Love, threading her needle,
Made mending
The Christmas-thing to do.

*Printed by permission from

Monday, December 6, 2010

Slash Your Way to Success

Learning to write concisely is an art. It takes a keen eye, an open mind, and a sharp knife. But once you trim the excess, the clear-cut message you pen will evolve into the concise, easy-to-read style of writing appreciated by both publishers and readers.

I learned the importance of making every word count while writing articles for a newspaper. The message from my editor echoed loud and clear, "You cut the words or I will."

At first, it was difficult to slash my way through my carefully constructed words, but as I progressed, I became skilled at eliminating them with the ease of a hired assassin.

Just last week, those editing skills came to my aid when I entered the Folgers Coffee essay contest. The assignment: write a 200-word essay on what is the best part of wakin' up at home for the holidays with Folgers Coffee.

Words flowed as my idea took shape. Then I hit Word Count. Oops! I geared down. My second draft hit the mark - 212 words. That's when I really went to work.

It took several hours, and many rewrites to perfect my entry. Conveying a compelling story in 200 words is not an easy task. But, finally it was done. I had 200 words on the nose.

Then disaster! After I copy-pasted my entry onto the Folgers Coffee entry blank, I gave it a final read and noticed my last two words had disappeared. After several tries, with no success, I realized their computerized entry form counted my essay differently. According to them I had 202 words.

Now, the cuts bled as I hacked away at the meat of my story. Dispirited, I quit working on it for the day. The break helped, and first thing the next morning I noticed a simple phrase I could change. The magic number 198 finally appeared when I hit Word Count.

I hit SEND. Then I completed two more entries - each with 198 words.

Most writing books have a chapter on the importance of writing concisely, and there are dozens of Internet articles on the subject. Each offers constructive advice on ways you can strengthen your writing, eliminate redundancies, and deliver compact, interesting material.

I recommend following their advice, but meanwhile, don't forget one of the simplest tools for learning to write concisely is to write under the restriction of a word-count. Hone your knife and give it a try.

Friday, December 3, 2010

TGIF: Good Reads for Winter and Gifts

With the arrival of several inches of snow as we move into December, North Idaho has turned the corner into winter. But the roads have been plowed and there are plenty of upcoming writing-related events to consider attending. Support our area authors and take advantage of these great opportunities to stock up on books as Christmas gifts for friends and family.

Dust of Snow
by Robert Frost

The way a crow
Shook down on me
The dust of snow
From a hemlock tree

Has given my heart
A change of mood
And saved some part
Of a day I had rued.

Here is an overview of upcoming events:

At Aunties Bookstore this weekend Joan Kopcyzinski discusses her memoir, Lies, Spies and Psychosis, and Cheryl-Anne Millsap autographs copies of her essay collection titled Home Planet: A Life in Four Seasons. Also this weekend, you can meet the children featured in the Faces of Hope 2011 Calendar, which benefits children with autism through the Issac Foundation.

Next week (December 8) poet Robert Wrigley will talk about and read from his latest collection of poems, Beautiful Country. Then on December 10, David Michaelson will sign copies of his award-winning cookbook, The Burntwater Cook’s Kitchen Guide, followed that evening by author Michael Marsden presenting his new novel, Sam d’Bear.

Also coming this month are signings by Seattle journalist Candace Dempsey, children's author Aunt Kimmie Bebo, historian Buddy Levy, and bestselling humorist Patrick McManus.

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

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Beyond This Blog: Your Ideal Reader

Following is an article excerpted (with permission) from Randy Ingermanson’s popular newsletter, Advanced Fiction Writing, which provides an abundance of useful information for writers. Enjoy.

Your Ideal Reader

When a publishing house considers your novel, one of the first things they ask themselves is, "Who's going to buy this book?"

One answer they won't even consider is, "Everybody."

Every book has a natural audience. When a publisher tries to market your book, they're going to target that natural audience.

This is true, even when a story has extraordinarily broad appeal. The Harry Potter series was massively popular, but even so, plenty of people didn't read it.

I know lots of readers who heard about it and just shrugged and said, "So what?" I know others who read the first chapter and didn't get it and stopped. I know others who read the first book and then quit.

I'm going to bet that very few of them were 11-year-old boys. The ideal reader for the first Harry Potter book was an 11-year-old boy.

True, lots of other people liked the book. Zillions of adults. Zillions of females. But we're talking here about which group loved it best. That group was the set of boys Harry's age.

Why think about these "ideal readers" when they obviously aren't the only readers for a book?

Simple. Every publisher has a limited marketing budget. Their game plan is to market your book to the people most likely to love it. Then those early adopters will market it to everyone else via word of mouth.

Word of mouth is the best thing going in marketing fiction. The smart marketer tries to get word of mouth going by starting a "brush fire" -- igniting interest in those people most likely to love the book.

If you're writing a novel, then one of the things you must do to get it published is to identify your target audience. Publishers will insist on knowing this information. The better able you are to tell them, the more likely they are to buy your novel.

How do you identify your target audience?

Start by imagining your ideal reader -- one person -- who is "most likely" to love your book. This doesn't mean that other people won't like it, but we're going with the probabilities here. Think of the one person in the world who will love your book most. Now answer these questions:

* Is this reader male or female?
* What age is this reader?
* What ethnic group does this reader belong to?
* How much education does this reader have?
* What does this reader do for a living?
* Where does this reader live? Which country? Which state?
* What is this reader's goal in reading a novel?
* What is this reader's deepest yearning in life?
* What does this reader fear most?
* What is this reader's most dangerous secret?
* Who does this reader admire most?
* Who does this reader hate the most?
* What matters most to this reader -- sports, clothes, politics, religion, love, fun, cars, career, drugs, money, or something else?

You may find it helpful to give your ideal reader a name and hometown. (My ideal reader is named Bob and he lives in San Diego.)

Now take your answers to the above questions and write up a one-page document named "My Ideal Reader." Pretend he's a character in your novel and write up his backstory and describe his life, focusing on his hopes and fears, his loves and his hates, and the reasons he likes your kind of fiction.

That's all. You might find it helpful to print out your document and tape it on the wall and read it every day before you start writing. It'll keep you focused on the reason you write.

Remember this. No matter how narrowly you define your ideal reader, there are thousands of people in the world who are a lot like him. There are millions of people who are fairly similar to him.

If you can define your ideal reader, you can write a novel he'll love, and your publisher can find a way to market to him.

Award-winning novelist Randy Ingermanson, "the Snowflake Guy," publishes the Advanced Fiction Writing E-zine, with more than 23,000 readers, every month. If you want to learn the craft and marketing of fiction, AND make your writing more valuable to editors, AND have FUN doing it, visit

Download your free Special Report on Tiger Marketing and get a free 5-Day Course in How To Publish a Novel.

Friday, November 26, 2010

It's Black Friday - Don't Forget Your Notebook

I hope you enjoyed Thanksgiving and are ready to jump into the holiday season with both feet - both as a shopper and as a writer. Today is Black Friday - the day American shopkeepers look forward to going "into the black" on the books. With stores opening at 3:00 AM this year, and thousands of bargains out there, it's a terrific day to support our drooping economy and grab up some super deals. But don't leave your pencil and notebook at home. With jostling crowds, limited specials, frazzled clerks, and tired shoppers, the day (and the season) holds great promise for writers. Jot down notes on an overheard conversation, the vision of an exasperated shopper, a poignant scene, or your insight into the lack of manners in today's society. Just keep your writer's ears and eyes open and you'll discover limitless bargains on the kind of details that add strength, depth, and character to your writing.

Oh, and if you're traveling, keep that notebook handy. You're in high cotton!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Jump-Start Your Writing With Internet Contests

Practicing writing doesn't have to be boring, and the internet is rampant with writing opportunities. I've been getting into the habit of Googling "writing contests" every once in awhile, and I always find something that sparks my creativity. If you check out the Folgers Coffee contest (Great prize - a trip home!) be sure to take a peek at the Missoula band that won their 2010 Jingle Contest - they're great!

Folgers Coffee Home for the Holidays Essay Contest - Share your Holiday Story in a 200 word, or less, original essay answering the question, "What is the best part of wakin' up at home for the holidays with Folgers Coffee?"

Folgers will award five contest winners, plus up to three family members or friends, travel to and from their destination. Entries will be evaluated based upon their relevance to Folgers Coffee theme, creativity, and clarity of expression.

Entries are accepted from October 1, 2010 at Noon to November 30, 2010 at Noon. For more submission information:

The First Line Writing Prompts for 2011 - The purpose of quarterly magazine The First Line is to jump start the imagination - to help writers break through the block that is the blank page. Each issue contains short stories that stem from a common first line; it also provides a forum for discussing favorite first lines in literature. The First Line is an exercise in creativity for writers and a chance for readers to see how many different directions we can take when we start from the same place. There is no entry fee for submissions to this quarterly magazine.

Spring 2011: "Sam was a loyal employee." Submissions due February 1, 2011.
Summer 2011: "We need to talk." Submissions due May 1, 2011
Fall 2011: "Edwin spotted them the moment he stepped off the train." Submissions due August 1, 2011.
Winter 2011: "It had been a long year." Submissions due November 1, 2011
For more information:

Affordable Insurance Essay Contest - The Affordable Insurance Company is sponsoring an essay contest (200-350 words) open to anyone who has a true story to tell about how any type of insurance policy made a big impact on their lives and financial well being. Judging criteria: Importance of insurance coverage: 50%, Creativity: 30%, and Grammar: 20%. There will be cash awards. Deadline for online submissions: Monday, December 13 at Noon. For submission information:

Monday, November 22, 2010

Sharpening the Axe. Never Stop Learning Your Craft: Guest Blog by Spokane Author T. Dawn Richard

The other day I was at the farm where I keep my horse. One of the workers there passed by me on his way to the barn and in way of conversation told me he and the owner had plans to transfer some cows from one pasture to another.

"How many cows, er, cattle, er, cows?" I asked.

He answered with a kind smile, "You know the rule. Never ask a cowboy how many cows he has, how many acres he owns, and never pet his workin' dog."

I had been schooled. And no, I didn't know the rule. More like a form of cowboy courtesy I guess and a little funny I'd never heard it because this wasn't (pardon the pun) my first rodeo. I've been around horses most of my life, and growing up in Montana it seemed everyone had a farm. But this was the first time I'd heard the expression.

Writing is much the same. We can spend years learning the craft, but then there's that moment when you hear or read something that will improve your writing and you wonder - why haven't I ever heard that before?

While I believe there is no better teacher than practice, there are a few books I have in my own library which I have found to be invaluable as teaching tools when learning to craft a story, book, or screenplay.

One of my very favorites is a book called Save the Cat by Blake Snyder. Be sure to check out Blake Snyder's Beat Sheet. While the book was written for screenwriters, it works just as well for novelists. And it's a very fun read.

Another book which should be on every author's shelf is Make Every Word Count by Gary Provost. This is an older book and as far as I know, no longer in print, but you can find it on Amazon. It's a great reminder that every word, every sentence, and every paragraph in your writing must do the job it's meant to do.

The First Five Pages by Noah Lukeman is one I give to friends as gifts. Without strong first pages, it's doubtful any agent or editor will be encouraged to read your entire manuscript. This book is written for the novelist, but screenwriters will also benefit from learning the importance of opening with strong images.

My last recommended read for now is Syd Field's The Screenwriter's Problem Solver. Are you stuck? Does your writing need something but you just can't identify the problem? This works both for the screenwriter and the novelist. It's a detailed step-by-step troubleshooting tool that takes the guesswork out of what should be changed, added, or deleted from your work.

So, I'll leave you with this - something a very wise man told me when I was learning everything I could about writing, but not putting much on the page. "While learning is good, don't be so busy sharpening your axe that you don't have time to chop wood." So true.

Keep up the writing!
T. Dawn Richard

Spokane author T. Dawn Richard is a full time writer and author of the May List Mystery Series. Her first book in the Amateur Sleuth series, Death for Dessert, was published in 2003, followed by Digging up Otis, and A Wrinkle in Crime. Dawn completed two screenplays in 2009 and has several other projects in the works.

Her books are available on

Friday, November 19, 2010

TGIF: Local Books for Holiday Gifts

It’s a great time to begin stocking up on books signed by area authors for Christmas gifts to friends and family. Below are book events happening in the North Idaho area taking place this weekend and the coming week:

This evening at Aunties Bookstore in Spokane, inspirational speaker Therese Marszalek discusses her book, From the Wilderness to the Miraculous, in which she describes how the reader can persevere through difficulties and find God's path out of all uncertainties.

Saturday evening at Aunties, local musician, d.j. and music producer Kenny Knight signs copies of his memoir, Unknown Rock Star.

Sunday afternoon local authors will be on hand to autograph and sell their books for an event titled Stories on the Mountain, a meet-the-author gift fair taking place at the historic Pleasant View School in Post Falls. Three authors will read excerpts from their work during the event: B.J. Campbell will present her book, Cougar Bob; Michael Marsden will present his book, Sam d'Bear; and Nancy Owens Barnes will read from her book, South to Alaska.

Next week, a mother/son holiday book signing featuring two of Sandpoint's beloved teachers, Marianne Love and son Willie Love, will take place at Vanderford’s Books. Marianne Love is the author of three books, including the most recent, Lessons with Love, in which son Willie contributed. Marianne was an English teacher at Sandpoint High School for many years, and now her son is a teacher at Sandpoint High School. Enjoy meeting these two well-known local writers.
Vanderford's Books, 201 Cedar St., Sandpoint
3 p.m. to 5 p.m.

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

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Gender free writing

Gender free writing is a hot topic these days. The English language is androcentric because for centuries it has been evolving in a society dominated by men. Men made the decisions and the laws; they were in charge of the government, the work force, education and religion. They shaped the course of history and were the subjects of history with relatively few exceptions.

Sex versus gender identification has developed through the onset of women’s studies classes and the continuing force of feminism. There is a difference between an individual’s sex (biological) and the person’s gender (a social construction based on sex). Our understanding of “to be a man” is different than “to be a male.” To be a male denotes having a chromosomal makeup of X and Y while females have only X. To be a man is to exhibit socially desirable traits usually associated with males (trust, strength, ability to get the job done, powerful, etc.). Are not these traits also desirable in the female of the species?

Sexism in the English language may be difficult to recognize because it is so embedded in our speech. Advocates of gender-neutral language are making an impact that started most recently in the business environment. More women perform jobs formerly thought as being handled only by the males of the species (airplane captain, ranch foreperson, automobile designer). “Man” is reverting into the context of a sexual male and not a generic word for mankind or humans.

What does it mean to have a gender-neutral language? Gender-neutral terms apply to “someone” and “anyone” versus just to a woman or a man. Continuing to use sexist language supports bias and implies irrelevant gender classification and negative stereotypes. Thinking only women can be nurses and only men can be electricians is outmoded.

Business manuals and job titles are pushing this change. “Best man for the job,” “workmen,” “waitress” and “freshman” are being replaced by “best person for the job,” “workers,” “server” and “first year student.” Instead of “The programmer should use his laptop for…” try using “The programmer should use a laptop until the end of the month.” Instead of “Men must store their tools in their lockers,” substitute “Workers must store their tools in their lockers."

For pronoun use, “s/he” is going out of favor. Instead, alternate “he” and “she” throughout the article or manual. An author may choose to use a single pronoun throughout but should then include a disclaimer stating that the article is intended to be gender neutral.

  • Use plural nouns
  • Substitute one, you or us
  • Write Dear Professor, Dear Editor, or Dear Loren Thames instead of Dear Sir or Madam
  • Do not stereotype roles or jobs
  • Research in-house guidelines and follow them
  • Edit your work specifically for gender bias

I can hear you saying “But…” If your novel is set in an earlier time, use the common practice for pronouns and language that matches the era and the locale of your work.

Monday, November 15, 2010

How to increase your 20%

The average American has a vocabulary of 10,000 words, more heavily divided in favor of words read versus words spoken. Magazines like Harper’s and Atlantic Monthly assume their reader has a vocabulary of 20,000-25,000 like that of college students. Newspapers write to people with a third grade level of education (and they wonder why they are failing). One thousand words make up 80% of words used in common speaking and in writing American English. The other 20% differ widely depending upon education and vocation. As writers, we should constantly be working on expanding our vocabulary. I intend to, really intend to work on it, daily, starting tomorrow, unless I am writing in which case I cannot take time to increase my vocabulary. Or can I afford not to?

There are many exercises to increase our average recall vocabulary and vocabulary recognition in a context. Studying the dictionary is the least effective and reading is the most effective approach. Read all genres at all levels. Sit with a dictionary, notebook and pen beside you. Circle the words in the dictionary that you have to look up. Write them in your notebook. When you look up more words, your eye will catch the circled or highlighted word which reinforces its meaning and you will have a greater chance of using it later.

Get in the habit of using your dictionary and thesaurus together when you study. Buy a good dictionary and not a pocket version. Invest in one that will help you understand the phonetic spelling versus one of those that prints an “e” upside down followed by some gibberish with accent marks. Buy a word-a-day calendar and put it where you will use it every day for instance beside the bathroom sink, coffee pot or your favorite chair. Build a list of new words that you review 15 minutes a day. Familiarity with a word aids in being able to recall it more easily when writing or speaking. Make three sentences in your notebook using the word in various contexts or tenses.

Playing games like Hangman and Scrabble, work crossword puzzles or find-a-word puzzles are fun ways to broaden your stock of words. Subscribe to a “word-of-the-day” delivered to your computer inbox or iPhone where a word, its pronunciation, definition and origin are displayed. I use Merriam Webster’s Word of the Day. Sometimes they email obscure words that only writers of medieval novels about outer Siberia would use but the word origin is always interesting.

Additional ways to increase your vocabulary are to study the roots of words, which are mostly from Latin and Greek, and understand prefixes and suffixes. Develop lists of synonyms and antonyms from your new words list in your notebook. Try your hand at the “Word Power” section of Reader’s Digest magazine; go to the library and peruse old copies. Play games on the computer that are word puzzles. Use these new words in your writing.

Two fun books are Random House Webster’s Word Menu by Stephen Glazier and The Bibliophile’s Dictionary: 2,054 Masterful Words and Phrases by Miles Westley. The former is part thesaurus, part dictionary, part glossary, part vocabulary builder, part logophile’s phrases, part easy browsing and wholly delightful. The Bibliophile’s Dictionary includes atypical but not obscure words with definitions categorized by subject that you might use to enliven your writing.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

TGIF: Prompt: Get Busy & Write

Looking for something to do this weekend? Why not follow Jennifer's advice and get into the mood of writing by simply writing. Writing prompts offer cheap, easy entertainment; and, who knows, a prompt just might inspire you to write a fantastic story that lies hidden within.

While looking for inspiration online earlier today, I found one prompt that suggests writing about, "Who's at the zoo?" I pictured the giraffes I watched at the San Francisco Zoo just a couple of months ago. I remembered being entranced by their graceful, slow-motioned walk; their towering height; the arc of their necks; and their peaceful demeanor. Maybe I could write an essay - maybe a poem. Then another prompt caught my eye, "What's under my bed?" Oh great, from graceful giraffes gamboling on green grass to dirty dust bunnies promiscuously procreating under my bed.

Well, the writing prompts aren't working for me this time...all I was inspired to do was quit writing and go dust under my bed. But, I bet you'll have better luck. Give it a try!

Stories on the Mountain - A Meet-the-Author Gift Fair
Start your Christmas shopping early by attending the Meet-the-Author Gift Fair at Pleasant View School in Post Falls on November 21. Local authors will be on hand to autograph and sell their books, and three authors will read excerpts from their work during the event. B.J. Campbell will present her book, Cougar Bob; Michael Marsden will present his book, Sam d'Bear; and Nancy Owens Barnes (one of our fellow bloggers) will read from her book, South to Alaska.

All local authors are invited to participate in the Gift Fair, but space is limited. If you would like to participate, contact B.J. Campbell as soon as possible:

Sunday, November 32, Pleasant View School
18724 West Riverview Drive, Post Falls, ID
Program: 2:00 - 4:00 pm
Gift Fair: 2:00 - 5:00 pm

Be sure to check out other writing related events on our Events page.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Strong characters and strength of characters

A recent blog talked about good books for writing. It got me thinking about what makes a book satisfying and memorable. Obviously excellent writing and an interesting theme are on the list but a strong character is what makes a great book.

Hamlet in Shakespeare’s play by the same name has become world renown. He was a character with many flaws. He displays revenge in thought and deeds, and insanity, which Shakespeare uses to advance the play to its tragic end.

Sherlock Holmes is one of the most believable protagonists in recent literature. He seems like he should be a real person. Even though the location and time of Doyle’s stories are foreign to us, Arthur Conan Doyle lays the plot enabling us to follow Sherlock in his efforts to solve a crime. We can admire Sherlock’s uncanny ability to reason out a problem and solve the mystery. The same could be said for Miss Jane Marple.

Catcher in the Rye is banned in some cities and touted as one of the best coming of age novels in others. The author has made Holden Caulfield a combination of youthful exuberance and ignorance. We receive glimpses of the man he is to become by his intolerance of “phonies” and cheer him on. We cry when he does.

Scout and Atticus Finch are a memorable pair of characters. To Kill a Mockingbird is told from Scout’s perspective but Salinger cleverly depicts the prejudices toward black people in south through his marvelous protagonist, the father, Atticus Finch. We loved him for his standing up as a moral leader and teaching his two children courage and compassion along the way. Boo Radley, although a minor character, was so well drawn in our minds, that we felt like he was our neighbor instead of Scout’s.

Tarzan and Superman spurred the imagination of young children and filled our lives as adults with pleasant memories. Uncle Tom in Uncle Tom’s Cabin, although appearing a quiet, conforming character displayed strength when he would not tell where the brave, run away, female slaves were hiding. Tom was pivotal in bringing to the forefront the horrors of slavery and the injustice to another human being. Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer are still teaching us lessons today.

Two fictional characters you may not have thought of are Dick and Jane of learning to read textbooks in early elementary school. The author did not tell us much about these siblings but they gave a lot of us a pleasant start to reading on our way to writing.

Lucy Pollard-Gott has written a fascinating book on the topic of memorable fictional characters, 100 Best Fictional Characters; Ranking the Most Influential Characters in World Literature and Legend. It is an engaging book where each chapter is devoted to a fictional character. Not only is it interesting, it makes the reader think of strong protagonists and antagonists. The real exercise is to contemplate what made those characters unforgettable and transfer that to our writing.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Are writing prompts of value?

It never seemed of value to me to take advantage of writing prompts. I have dozens of ideas in my brain waiting for transfer to the written page. Another writer cannot think of an ending to a book or how to integrate a subplot. After reading a plethora of web sites on writing prompts, I can see the advantages.

Authorities say writing prompts can meet various needs for both new and experienced writers. For new writers, it gets them into writing mode by producing a subject immediately without having to think up a topic. “I saw a bumblebee…” should send a writer off into any number of scenarios such as killer African bees building a hive, a child in danger or nature at its most interesting. Experienced writers can use the same prompt to write in a new genre. We can create a science fiction story based on bees as the main characters, a children’s story or a nonfiction article on how to treat bee stings.

The goal when writing in response to a prompt is not to end up with a grammatically perfect, ready-to-print essay or story. I don’t have to use spell check or write full sentences. The goal is to give me experience writing. The goal is to take me outside my comfort zone and into a different genre; the goal is to force me to write. The goal is to enhance my writing skills with no competition or stress associated; the goal is for me to learn. Stress free. No consequences. Forgiving. It is as fulfilling as a piece of Godiva chocolate.

The web site gives a writer excellent prompts for all genres. The author, Mary Deal, categorizes prompts by genres: romance, mystery/suspense/thriller, science fiction/fantasy, historical fiction, horror/dark side, and fairy tales/folk tales/tall tales. She lists specific ideas for each category. This allows a writer to use the concrete ideas as the beginning of a story, the theme or opening sentences. It takes the burden off of thinking what to write so that you can write.

Web sites suggest using pictures as writing prompts. Does the Eiffel Tower make your creative thoughts flow? Or does an email showing pictures of cowboy stars like Roy Rogers or Gene Autry generate an idea? Maybe a picture of the damage of earthquakes in Christchurch, NZ tips something in your brain. Bookmarking web sites related to writing prompts or keeping an ongoing list on your desk can spur you to follow through. We often hear the excuse, “I don’t know what to write about.” Your problem is solved. Well-established authors tell us to write every day. They do not say you have to work on your now five-year-novel-in-the-making. They say write!

Remember the book and movie Julie and Julia about a young woman in New York who challenged herself to cook one recipe every day for a year out of Julia Child’s cookbook, Julia Child and Company? Maybe that is the prompt we all need to improve our writing: decide to use a writing prompt every day for 365 days and see if it helps our creative flow and expands our writing abilities. We do not have to write for an hour but the results of fifteen minutes may surprise us.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

TGIF: It's open season . . . on books!

Here in North Idaho, some of us hunt for deer and elk. Others stalk the next fabulous political thriller or historical epic. It's no secret that most writers are also avid readers. But constantly buying books has an alarmingly slimming effect on the wallet, especially in this current economy. That's where used-book sales come in. To refresh your memory, here are five reasons to love a used-book sale:

(1) It’s like a treasure hunt. You never know when you’ll stumble across the book or author that will change your life—or at least brighten a few of those dull winter evenings that will be upon us soon.

(2) You can experiment with unfamiliar genres or unknown authors without shelling out major bucks. Whether your choice turns out to be a hit or a miss, your investment has been small, and no matter what, the funds go to a worthy cause.

(3) You can study the competition on the cheap. Want to write mysteries? Bring home a whole bagful of them and analyze what makes each story succeed or fail. (And unlike library books, you can underline, highlight, and scribble in the margins.)

(4) At a used-book sale, you’ll mix and mingle with like-minded people—your “tribe”—which is great fun until you notice someone reaching for the exact same volume that you have your eye on. In which case,

(5) You’ll sharpen your competitive book-browsing skills and enjoy the thrill of the chase when you bag that favorite book before anyone else does.

If you’re a used-book enthusiast, you're in for a treat this weekend! Check out these sales, all taking place on Saturday, November 6:

The East Bonner County Library Book Sale, 1407 Cedar St., Sandpoint, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., 208-263-6930

The Friends of the Library Fall Book Sale at the Hayden Library, 8585 N. Government Way, Hayden Lake, 208-772-5612

The Priest River Library Book Sale, 205 High St., Priest River, 208-448-2207

Also be sure to click on the Events tab above to learn about area book signings and other events.

Happy hunting!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Beyond This Blog: For the Love of Words

Had I taken a different path in life, I think I could have been quite happy as an etymologist (which is, of course, one who studies words. Once when I mentioned my interest in etymology to a friend, she thought I wanted to study insects. Um, eww. That's ENTomology.) All my life I've fallen in love with certain words, just because of how they sound or the way they roll off the tongue when you say them, or even how they look on a page. "Flourescent" is one. "Tangerine" is another. There's no logical reason for my love of these words; they simply make me happy. So I was gratified to stumble upon a blog called, which is described as "a playground for the love and enjoyment of words." Here I've found my tribe! Blogger Monica Welch not only explores the origins of certain words or sayings, she's an astute observer of how words and language are used--and abused--in modern culture.

For example, if you're a writer who values finding fresh ways to say things, you've gotta love a blog that points out the empty phrases that we're all guilty of using from time to time. (Do the phrases "it is what it is" or "at the end of the day" bring a blush to your writerly cheek? They should!) And the reader comments are worth reading, too. If you're a lover of words, you'll find a kindred spirit in Come join the conversation.

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.