October 3-5, 2014


Contributors to WOTS Blog are the Write on the Sound Steering Committee and conference volunteers.


November 20, 2014

Looking Back by Elise Stephens, WOTS Steering Committee 

News: Call for 2015 Presenters

It’s been quite a good run. My legs are stronger and my heart is firmer in my resolve to stay the course. I’m referring proverbially to my 4-year trek with the cohort of the Write on the Sound Steering Committee. I joined the team to make connections in the writing community and I received so much more. 

When I was a first time attendee of WOTS back in 2009, I met the keynote speaker, Brian McDonald, an author gifted at teaching the art ofEliseauthorphoto outdoors storytelling. We later struck up a friendship via email in which I learned careful details and truths from well-written film stories. McDonald later introduced me to the publisher who would accept my first novel manuscript. Life and literature flowed in new ways from that point on. WOTS helped to form that connection. 

Serving on the WOTS steering committee has been a source of fun, encouragement, and deep learning. I understand now what makes someone stand out as a compelling and inspiring voice to encourage other writers. I have seen the insightful and rigorous selection process the committee uses to choose presenters. I have met many authors face-to-face and observed their style, watched their dedication, and, time and time again, I have been touched by the generosity of very successful authors who see themselves as contributing members of a large community that includes all skill levels, not as elite leaders who know it all. The writing world is a beautiful place. No one promises it will be easy, but the elbows you’ll rub have owners who are friendly and willing to help wherever they can. 

I’m resigning my place on the steering committee in order to pursue the writing of more books and care for my family, but I’m not leaving WOTS. This conference is a gem of the Seattle area and I recommend it to all serious writers! 

I am sending WOTS all my love and best wishes for many more years of successful conferences. It has been my great pleasure to be part of it! - Elise


Call for 2015 Presenters


Steve WhiteThe WOTS Staff and Steering Committee thank Elise for all her good work these past four years! We will miss her participation on the committee, but look forward to seeing her at the conference next year.  

The Call for Presenters for the 2015 conference is now open. If you are interested in presenting a workshop or panel discussion, or know someone who might be interested, please take a moment to review our application materials (go to Call for Presenters page).  

Thinking about applying but need some motivation? Here are just a few comments from previous presenters:  

Great conference! One of the best in the area. Your attendees are all informed and engaged, and your staff keeps things running smoothly. 
-Beth Jusino

I love teaching at WOTS, engaging with the attendees, the volunteers and staff.  First rate!
-Clare Meeker

Friendly, easy to work with organizers and staff, well organized, very helpful volunteers, great turnout, energetic, fun and involved participants…and all in a beautiful town…I ABSOLUTELY would love to present again.
-Michael Hauge, author of "Writing Screenplays That Sell" and "Selling Your Story in 60 Seconds" 

Wonderful experience; would come back any time, and will definitely recommend to other writers.
–Robert J. Sawyer


November 3, 2014

Never a Dull Moment

by Mindy Halleck, WOTS Steering Committee


This year’s 2014 WOTS conference was a huge success! The walk to the Edmonds Center for the Arts to listen to this year’s keynote speakerwots 2014 presenter montage, Robert J. Sawyer, was as usual on a perfect Edmond’s fall day. For me, there were many conference highlights this year. One was finally having Michael Hague come teach a Friday workshop. In case you don’t know, Michael is the best-selling author of Selling Your Story in 60 Seconds: The Guaranteed Way to Get Your Screenplay or Novel Read and of Writing Screenplays That Sell, now in its 32nd printing for HarperCollins. His seminar with Chris Vogler, The Hero's 2 Journeys, is one of the top-selling DVDs and CDs on story and screenwriting. When I drove Michael to the airport he commented on how friendly our Edmond’s conference is and what a nice time he had. I, as any responsible steering committee member would, took that as a pledge to return.   

This year there truly was something for everyone. Through the weekend conference topics varied from poetry, and structuring your novel to comedy writing and memoir; Bill Kenower talked about telling ‘The Story of Your Life’, by telling us a poignant story about his. New York Times best-selling author of Hippie Girl, Ingrid Ricks shared her heart wrenching journey and how she’s helping other troubled teens transform their lives through the power of story-telling. And for horror writers (you know who you are), we learned why ‘Fear is Good’ from award winning writer and Director Clark Kohanek – and we had sessions on everything from writing family history to creating villains (okay for some that may be the same class) – and then how ‘Character is Conflict’ from Eric Witchey. There was even a class on ‘Card Tricks for Writers’. There were so many great workshops; I wish I could list them all.

Thank you to all the remarkable instructors, like Larry Brooks who took a 5 AM flight from AZ to teach, and then flew out again that night, and to Bill Johnson who delivered one-on-one manuscript critiques on the third floor amidst the other daily activities of a buzzing community in a dedicated arts center. None of the center’s routine is slowed by the descending crowd of writers as they go about their busy day while the writers gather, encourage one another, cultivate knowledge and new writer friends. It’s all part of the magic of the Edmonds Write On The Sound Writers’ Conference. Never a dull moment.

During my Round Table Session on blogging I shared a quote that got a few chuckles:

‘A blog post is like a miniskirt. It has to be short enough to be interesting, but long enough to cover the subject’ which is a widely used spin off of the original. The original quote is from Winston Churchill — 'A good speech should be like a woman's skirt; long enough to cover the subject and short enough to create interest.'

And I think the essence of that quote addresses a good writing conference; long enough to cover the subject and short enough to create interest.

RTS by MHalleckI can’t sign off without mentioning (okay, shameless plug) that all those writers’ conferences are paying off: My debut novel, Return To Sender was released one week after the conference.

See you next year!

To share a few comments from attendees;

 “Fantastic event…very useful information from all the sessions (I attended).”


“Couldn’t wait to get home and start writing! Very inspiring!”


“I’ve been coming for years and I always leave feeling inspired to keep writing.”


“…well organized…better than others I’ve attended.”


“Great variety of workshops.”


“The work (the planning committee) puts into this shows in the quality of the presenters and the presentation (of the conference).”



September 10, 2014

Michelangelo Was a Doodler!

by Paula Rae Brody, WOTS Steering Committee

Michelangelo was a doodler!  And to get to where he needed to be, he designed his own scaffold!  A great artist or an apprentice needs the foundation to build and connect design and inspiration.  Creativity grows or slowsPaula Rae BrodyPaula Rae Brody.  Write on the Sound, now in its 29th year, has provided the building blocks for so many.  When WOTS began, it was during the venerable days of big publishing houses.  Times have changed.  If Michelangelo were painting the Sistine Ceiling today, he’d probably do the fresco on the floor, then project it to the ceiling using computer-vision technology or a paint-spraying drone.   With this year’s slate of presenters to Write on the Sound, welcome to the 21st century. 

Write on the Sound offers something for everyone, includes everyone.  Yes, there are the professional writers, working daily, following a plan, an erector set of direction and purpose.  And then there are those who enjoy the fire of creativity, finding the word, running rampant with a sentence, fingers almost acting on their own, wanting to pass to another generation, your memories, your imaginative stories and ideas.  You can find and follow the trails here at Write on the Sound 2014.

Remember when you were in school?  Remember when the penny dropped and you finally understood why history has anything to do with today?  Revisit that experience in any one of our more than thirty presentations.  I remember when Bharti Kirchner presented a few years ago.  I remember her saying “Really know your characters.  Do they drink Coke or Pepsi?”  Maybe it’s just me, but I thought that was wonderfully revelatory.  And where else would I have even been stimulated to think like that?

I remember when Philip Athans presented a seminar on Science Fiction.  Science Fiction, I thought?  It was incredible.  What creativity.  What inventiveness.  It’s all writers, all writing.  Call it science fiction, call it poetry, call it memoir.  It’s ideas!  It’s experience!  It’s advice!  It’s sharing ones knowledge with those of us eager to bite down on that kernel of insight.

Being in a writer’s community for forty-eight hours will change you.  Your conversation grows, branches out, planting seeds to be nurtured and showcased.  You’ll get excited, grasping the possibility of what you can do.  Remember, your writing is yours.  You have your way of expressing yourself.  You have your style of wording.  It’s all good.  It’s all valid.  It’s right for you.  What’s wonderful about Write on the Sound, is that you are surrounded by 250 other attendees, all excitedly expressing their truth.


See you the first weekend in October.



August 25, 2014

Time to Start Thinking of Fall

by Sylvia Youngberg, WOTS Steering Committee

 fall window displayIt’s the end of August, that time of year when students start thinking about the return to school. How about you—any yearning to move forward in your writing? You have a story; it’s unique and interesting, so how do you want to tell it? With your pencils sharpened and poised, start your school year by joining us at the Write on the Sound Conference, October 3-5, 2014. 

Maybe you are a writer who is just beginning to formulate your ideas and need some direction; maybe you are looking for a writing group to keep you inspired and disciplined through the difficult phases of writing; maybe you’ve completed your manuscript and need to know how to pick a good editor or agent; perhaps you are ready to publish and need to learn about the choices of format and how to decide which format, electronic or print, is appropriate for you; or maybe you are ready to market your work and need to know how to get started. Write on the Sound has a class for you. We have hand-picked thirty award-winning local and national writing professionals, all authors and teachers who will show you how to organize, develop, complete, evaluate, and publish your manuscript. They will offer strategies for capturing and holding onto your readers by more fully developing your characters, deepening your plot, or building suspense. They will focus on form as well as content, and elegance as well as effectiveness. Find out what editors and agents look for when evaluating your manuscript so you can get your work published. Finally, pick your publishing format and marketing strategy to complete your work. 

The time is now to plan to attend Write on the Sound in October and get the direction and resources you will need to move your writing forward.  Recover those old manuscripts and decide which one to finish this year or simply start a new one. Registration is still open, but many popular session fill quickly each year. Go to the "Conference Schedule" page on this site and click on the Registrations link today. 

“Reading maketh a full man; conference a ready man; and writing an exact man.”
- Francis Bacon, Of Studies, 1625.



July 31, 2014

Top Reasons NOT to Attend WOTS This Year, or What Are You Waiting For?

Posted by Kim Votry, WOTS Steering Committee


KimVotryKim VotryThe word “procrastination” has a negative connotation, but I don’t think putting something off is always a bad thing. I like to say that I’m “waiting for the right time.” Some people procrastinate registering for Write on the Sound, and maybe there are some legitimate reasons. Here are a few that run through my head:


  • I’ll get distracted by all the energy of the conference. This is a big one. I call that energy IDEAS. They’re deadly! They might distract me from my current project and make my head explode with creativity.
  • I’m an introvert and I might have to talk to someone. Great news, though: lots of writerly types are also introverts. So I can be comfortable in their company, whether I chat it up or not.
  • I might get stuck in a workshop that’s not in my genre. This is totally annoying. It reminds me of when my husband, who’s a cyclist, decides to go to the gym and lift weights. He calls it cross training and claims it makes him stronger. So if you’re a novelist and end up in a poetry session, just grab that weight and see if it can make you stronger.
  • I’d rather use the time to actually write. I will book a retreat NOW, but in the meantime, I will join you at the conference and sign up for some hands-on sessions.  
  • I only write for myself and don’t need to “work on my craft.” I have a similar justification for not feeding the flowers in my backyard. I’m the only one who sees them, so why on earth should I aspire to make them gorgeous?
  • I might discover that what I’ve written needs revision. Ugh. I hate that. Again I think of my garden; when I fertilize, the plants grow big and lush, and I’m constantly pruning and cutting back. It is beautiful because I put in all that hard work – writing is the same!
  • All I need is my little table in the closet and I can get that novel written. Wouldn’t that be nice—to be completely self-sustaining? To have no need for inspiration from others? But this isn’t true for most of us! At WOTS, the muse parties and brings all her friends! Every aspect of this conference—the incredible view of water and mountains, the camaraderie, the challenge of learning, and the encouragement, enthusiasm, and insight—will inspire and feed you – I know it does for me.

Whatever your excuse, don’t procrastinate too long. The Write on the Sound conference fills quickly. If you’ve been “waiting for the right time,” this is it!



July 2, 2014

There's exciting news afoot!

Posted by Mindy Halleck, WOTS Steering Committee

Mindy Halleckauthor Mindy Halleck

First, in October I’m excited to welcome to the WOTS conference one of my all-time personal favorite instructors, Larry Brooks. Larry is the author of several books, including his Writers Digest bestselling Story Engineering, Mastering the Six Core Competencies of Successful Storytelling.” He will be presenting his workshop, “Primed for Success: How to Knock Your Story Out of the Park” as part of the pre-conference workshops on Friday, October 3.

Larry’s exciting news?Story Engineering” is being published in China. In July he is flying to Beijing, courtesy of the Chinese publisher, to help with the rollout, attend press events, and give two writing workshops; one of which is for a gathering of literary professors from China’s top universities. I’ve always been an admirer of Larry’s work so it’s no surprise to me that he’s now garnering international recognition. I’m just grateful he’s taking time out of his schedule for our cozy conference here in Edmonds after he returns.

More exciting news! Clark Kohanek, who will also be teaching at WOTS this year (his workshop is “Emotional Breakdowns—Set Ups and Pay Offs,” presented on Saturday, October 4) is currently at the Jerome Indie Film Festival promoting his short film, Good Behavior. Jerome, AZ, is known as “America’s Most Vertical City” (is literally a mile high) and is the “Largest Ghost Town”-– It was once a thriving Arizona mining camp between the late-1880s and early 1950s, but is now a bustling artistic 1-ab-return-to-sender-final-nucommunity. What a great place for a film festival. It was an exciting weekend for Clark and two of the actors who also attended. At the WOTS conference, Clark can tell us all about what it’s like to be a writer and director of a film that was selected to premiere at a film festival.

And more exciting news! My novel, Return To Sender will be published this autumn by Booktrope Books. I had to sneak that news in . . . you know, because I’m excited. It really does happen. Keep writing. It took me ten years to finish this novel. So, keep at it. Dreams are always worth pursuing. See you in October. It’s going to be a great conference.



April 9, 2014

Resolution for Results

Posted by Sandra Walker, WOTS Steering Committee


January seems like yesterday, with a list of resolutions that included write each day, expand the author platform, study business requirements for a writer. Did those plans slip beneath a pile of papers, as the first quarter of 2014 melted in the messy snow and rain? Have the winter weeks passed quickly with only sporadic writing?

April is here, ushering in colorful spring flowers. The air is infused with the fragrance of hyacinths and narcissus. By July, bright summer days will arrive. And then the best: the annual Write on the Sound Conference opens the autumn season in delightful, picturesque Edmonds. Highlight the calendar on the first weekend in October.

Now is the time to focus on two terrific resolutions with specific, reachable goals: submitting your manuscript for critique at this year's conference and entering the WOTS Literary Contest.

Set a three month schedule. List weekly goals and fill the rainy spring days writing consistently through April, May and June. In July delve into the re-writing and polishing of the manuscript. Committing to detailed writing sessions will enhance confidence to request a professional critique, one of the top benefits at the WOTS Conference. By using the spring season and beginning of summer, the written pages will be developed to register for a critique on July 28. Online registration opens Monday, July 28, and the limited critique times often fill on the first day.

To build author recognition, prepare the second resolution as you catch the energy in longer daylight and milder days. Write a contest entry based on the theme: CATCH. The general term, CATCH, offers many unique directions for the contest categories, which include fiction, nonfiction and poetry. Contest entries are due August 29.

Benefiting from a private critique discussion and participating in the contest guides an author to be more involved in the WOTS Conference. Immersed in a full weekend of choices, the three days give tremendous rewards, more so because of the six months of preparation. With goals established in the spring quarter, and met by summer, the start of the last quarter of 2014 will launch an exciting, successful writing climax to 2014.



February 27, 2014

Did your New Year's resolutions include any of the following?

Posted by Joanne Otness, Chair, WOTS Steering Committee

Robert-Sawyer-22014 WOTS Keynote Robert J. Sawyer This year I'll start my book.

This year I'll finish my book . . . edit my book, learn more about writing, connect with writers in the community, enter a writing contest, get a manuscript critique, meet many published authors  . . .

Good news! You can take a big step forward in your writing goals by attending Write on the Sound in Edmonds, Oct. 3-5th, 2014.

The WOTS committee has already started planning the fall conference. Our group of committed volunteers spends hours reviewing workshop proposals, investigating websites and reaching out to the writing community to achieve the best possible mix of presenters for the conference. Our search includes local authors (including local travel celebrity Rick Steves in 2012 and 2013) and presenters, as well as a mix of instructors from a broader writing base.

This year's keynote speaker, Robert J. Sawyer, is reason enough to attend. An internationally known and much respected science fiction writer, he'll share his compelling insights on Saturday, Oct. 4th, at the Edmonds Center for the Arts. Single tickets will be available for this event and Sawyer will also join us for the public reception Saturday evening.

We've chosen CATCH as the 2014 contest theme, and manuscript critiques will be offered throughout the weekend. Longer Friday afternoon workshops, an author's reception, and an on-site bookstore are all part of the mix.

So join us. We're working hard to make this a great conference. 2014 can be the year to pursue your writing dream.

Write on the Sound, October 3-5th, 2014 - Frances Anderson Center in Edmonds, WA, Presented by the Edmonds Arts Commission



October 23, 2013

And that's a wrap

Posted by Joanne Otness, Chair, WOTS Steering Committee


FrancesWOTS Presenter Rick WOTS presenter Rick Steves and City of Edmonds Arts and Culture Manager, Frances ChapinThe Write on the Sound steering committee met this week to debrief our 2013 conference, held annually the first weekend in October. After a year of planning the conference happened on another bright, sunny Edmonds’ weekend. Forgive us for patting ourselves on the back, but we consider this year’s event a literary success!

As usual the attendees gave the conference high ratings. To quote a few: . . . high quality . . . varied and current, something for everyone . . . relevant topics . . . great networking . .

The committee tries for that mix when selecting workshops. Included are fiction, non-fiction, poetry, craft, and industry news. Our sessions piqued the interest of beginning writers as well as more experienced published authors.

You could also have attended classes on historical research, copyright law, travel writing, or formatting your ebook and many more. New this year—and creating a lunchtime buzz—were varied ‘table topic’ discussions.

If you didn’t attend WOTS this year, you missed an outstanding keynote address by Benjamin Percy. His mesmerizing voice and fascinating publishing journey were inspirational and a hit with the audience. Run, don’t walk, to pick up the audio recording of his current book, Red Moon, as he is the narrator. But fair warning: it may keep you up all night!

As one participant noted, “WOTS is a weekend of total immersion with other people who are passionate about writing. How can you go wrong?”

I agree. So make a note on your calendar now, because 2014’s conference is right around the corner!


P.S. Here’s an insider tip for anyone wanting a jump-start on next year’s literary contest theme. CATCH us in Edmonds for Write on the Sound, 2014.



July 10, 2013

Preparing for Write on the Sound

Posted by Kim Votry, WOTS Steering Committee


Having attended multiple Write on the Sound conferences, the best single piece of advice I can offer is to TRAVEL LIGHT.

I used to bring my own travel mug for tea, snacks to ensure I didn’t get hunger headaches, and a sweater in case I got cold. I hauled around my laptop, extra pens, a book or two: I tried to stuff into an over-sized bag everything I could possibly need to make myself comfortable for the weekend.

Now I know better. I bring a notebook and two pens. Period. Granted, I do dress in layers, but most rooms are warm, not cool. I also carry my phone in case I get a great photo op with a favorite author, or want to post a “live-from-the-conference” update to my social media sites.

The difference is energizing: rather than feeling like an over-burdened airport traveler, constantly checking that I remembered pieces of luggage and paraphernalia from under and around my seat, I feel like a light and breezy student (before the days of 50-pound backpacks) moving easily through two days of favorite-subject seminars.

Traveling light helps me stay in the present moment, soaking up the incredible insight and education offered by the impressive array of presenters each year. This year, I have to say I’m most excited about the craft workshops, like Pumping Up Your Plot (with Bill Dietrich), Writing Suspenseful Plot (with Maria de Lourdes Victoria) and The Virtuoso Sentence (with Priscilla Long, author of The Writer’s Portable Mentor: A Guide to Art, Craft, and the Writing Life).

I always recommend a session or two on the business of writing, such as Market While You Write (with Beth Jusino) and Finding an Agent (with Alice Acheson), and, if you’re really serious about taking your writing up a notch this year, a Friday workshop. Imagine yourself in a 4-hour session with writing professionals who really know their stuff--what a marvelous opportunity!

I have never yet been disappointed by a keynote speaker at the WOTS conferences. This year’s speaker is Benjamin Percy, whose writing has been described by James Lee Burke as “a meeting of Shakespeare and rick ‘n’ roll.” I can’t wait for this gifted writer to share his enthusiasm and passion for the writing life with us.

So travel light to the conference this year. Be open to new ideas and perspectives; be prepared for surprise, delight, and laughter. No matter what workshops you attend, the best part about the WOTS weekend is spending time with other writers. Travel light and soak up the energy!


June 6, 2013

To Teach, To Love

Posted by Cindy Bruce, WOTS Steering Committee


Ask any teacher when the new year begins, and chances are they won’t say January 1st. In time-honored author and teacher Jesse Stuart’s autobiography, “To Teach, To Love,” he refers to Fall as the time of year “when the leaves turn” and we return to our classrooms to instruct and inspire young minds to live lives of satisfaction and joy.

My annual inspiration for many years has been the Write on the Sound Writers Conference in October. I come to renew my vow to learn something new each year to take back to my classroom. And, I come to energize and remind myself of the role good books and memorable authors play in the lives of young people. From the time I was seven, when anyone asked me my name, I would simply say, “I am a writer.”   That was due to the inspiration of a first grade teacher who taught me to write poetry and allowed all of us generous hours in the school library to explore and imagine. That was over 30 years ago, and the excitement of hearing authors and reading new books continues to inspire and instruct my own work as a writer and teacher.

I joined the steering committee for the conference seven years ago when I moved to Edmonds. I wanted to give to the community in some way, and naturally my interests led me to this group of people who manage to organize and execute an amazing conference year after year after year. There is an art to writing, no doubt, and there is also an art to planning a well-balanced weekend that will reach the interests of a variety of people who come to the conference. They range from avid readers eager to hear some of their favorite authors to published writers always ready for inspiration.

There is something for everyone at the conference. The first years I attended, long before I was on the committee, I would focus on a particular genre one year, and the next I would create a weekend with as much variety as I could squeeze into three days. Both approaches afforded me plenty of options for speakers, and I took copious notes along with taking home a generous amount of handouts from each session.

In addition to the authors, the Edmonds Bookshop provides literally a bookstore within a room for the conference where the authors display their latest books for sale. It is always within possibility to purchase and get autographs along with a personal visit with an author if that is your desire.

Lunchtime affords time to catch up with “like minds” to sit and spread out schedules and talk about what you’ve heard and enjoyed so far and how you’ll spend the rest of the weekend. And, it’s a time to validate ourselves as writers as we talk with others about our beloved craft.

The keynote speakers are featured at the Edmonds Theater on Saturday afternoons. They are chosen with care and can always be counted on to give a memorable performance. Later on during the weekend, you have an opportunity to interact with them in a small group setting as well.

Our planning sessions are in full bloom right now, just as all of Edmonds is blooming with spring flowers. By Fall the brochures and individual schedules will be ready, all of the authors rehearsed, and the committee will be prepared to help and assist to make the weekend a memorable and rewarding one for participants. When the leaves turn, the Write on the Sound Conference will arrive and a new year for writers will begin.


May 3, 2033

The Writer's Craft: Tone, Mood, Theme and Style

Posted by Mindy Halleck, WOTS Steering Committee


Writers often are confused, even overwhelmed by the terms of our writer's craft.

Terms like tone, mood, theme, and style can be daunting but must be understood in order to create a compelling story. Let's look at some basic clarifications regarding these puzzling terms.

TONE  refers to the writer's attitude toward his/her story and how through that attitude filter, they convey their story. Their tone assists in creating a mood/atmosphere for the narrative.

MOOD is the overall feeling or ambiance that a piece of writing creates within the reader's mind. Mood is successfully created through the combination of setting, theme, voice and tone. Think of the difference between Snow Falling on Cedars and Fried Green Tomatoes, both layered with distinctively different tone, mood and complex themes.

Mood and Tone are not interchangeable terms, although variations of the two words may on occasion be considered as such. The tone of a piece of literature can be many things, including cynical, snarky, ominous, and humorous.  Think, Mark Twain, whose political satire, social commentary and humor created his legendary tone.huck finn

Twain, a master of irony, wit, and satire, uses all his finely honed skills in the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Twain generously sprinkled irony, humanity, humor (among many sophisticated themes) into the plot, like this example from chapter 31:

I felt good and all washed clean of sin for the first time I had ever felt so in my life, and I knowed I could pray now. But I didn't do it straight off, but laid the paper down and set there thinking—thinking how good it was all the happened so, and how near I come to being lost and going to hell. And went on thinking. And got to thinking over our trip down the river; and I see Jim before me, all the time, in the day, and in the night-time, sometimes moonlight, sometimes storms, and we a floating along, talking, and singing, and laughing. But somehow I couldn't seem to strike no places to harden me up against him, but only the other kind.  Read more on Twain (31)

Conversely, think about Bram Stoker's (1847-1912) Gothic novel, Dracula, which despite the language of yesteryear oozes unforgettable, edge-of-your-seat MOOD and tone.natgold me

I stood in silence where I was, for I did not know what to do. Of bell or knocker there was no sign. Through these frowning walls and dark window openings it was not likely that my voice could penetrate. The time I waited seemed endless, and I felt doubts and fears crowding upon me. What sort of place had I come to, and among what kind of people? What sort of grim adventure was it on which I had embarked?

Theme is often referred to as the 'moral of the story', but that's an oversimplification that is often erroneous. Theme doesn't always have to be moral, for example; a 'moral of the story' theme would be 'cheaters/thieves/liars never win' but then a story with a theme not so moral would be 'cheaters/thieves/liars always win' – in both cases, you have theme.

Some stories contain sophisticated themes like morality or redemption, while other stories have none, or a dreadfully shallow one.

Popular themes include; Greed is bad, Greed is good, Love conquers all, Love stinks, Bad guys can't change, Redemption, and so on. A great example is Shawshank Redemption's overall arching theme; the power of hope.

Theme, when used properly is an ingredient in all storytelling that will remain with the reader far longer than character quirks, zig-zaggy plots, dazzling setting or snappy dialogue.
Style is the whole enchilada! It encompasses not only the author's panoramic story-view, tactical choices such as POV and narrator, but also deliberate choices of words, punctuation, grammar, sentence and paragraph length and structure, rhythm, imagery, chapters, titles, tone and theme, etc. In the process of creating a story, these careful selections meld to become the writer's voice, his or her own distinctive recipe for style.

At the October 2013 WOTS conference we have several writing masters who will share more on these elements of craft.


April 4, 2013

Plant Your Plan

Posted by Sandra Walker, WOTS Steering Committee


flowers-cherry-blossom-backgrounds-powerpointWith longer daylight, an occasional temperatures reaching 70° F, we're passed the Spring Equinox and we are headed for longer, warmer days. More than the calendar date, a meander through the yard assures us that spring is arriving. Enthusiasm rises to exuberance when we're greeted with delicate white snowdrops, purple crocus, bright yellow daffodils, planted in October.

Autumn: dry brown leaves chattered in the wind and squirrels raced to bury their winter needs as digging in the garden felt cold and damp, the back ached, and chilled fingers cramped yet discipline completed the task. Months later, on a warm spring day, those discomforts are rewarded with flowering spring bulbs.

Like planting bulbs, autumn is a terrific time to plan.

Begin a new writing year. When the weather beckons us to stay inside, what better time to sit at the desk, or in coffee shop writing. And what better time to be inspired by the vibrant WOTS Conference!

The Conference is held in the Frances Anderson Center, a former school, centrally located in Edmonds. The comfortable three-story building is not an impersonal hotel or convention center. Limited enrollment, about 280 attendees, allows one to focus without being jostled by crowds.

Arrive early and enjoy morning coffee, a continental breakfast, a friendly casual conversation with people who share your passion for the printed word. Make new friends, meet for lunch with classmates, and expand into new subjects, perhaps poetry, science fiction or mystery writing. Delve into courses in character development, dialogue, e-publishing, and more. Indulge in a broad range of writing instruction, publishing direction and an opportunity for a personal critique. Be influenced by dedicated fellow writers, and motivated by presenters who encourage, challenge, and excite.

During a session break, relax, wandering around the heart of historic Edmonds, listening to the fountain gurgling in the center of town. And nature can inspire and stimulate, from views of the glacier-frosted Olympic Mountains to the white caps gamboling over Puget Sound.  Stroll the sandy beaches, hear the seagulls cackle, the ferry horn call across the water.

Autumn is a lovely nurturing season. Plan a highlight to your writing year by attending the Write on the Sound conference this October.



February 27, 2013

Zigzagging to Build Suspense

Posted by Elise Stephens


Steve-White-2Steve White’s workshop on how to build suspense in your fiction was not only fun, it blew my mind. I’ll share a few of my notes and an example that Mr. White used in his class. For more about Steve’s tips on building suspense – check out his blog

Zigzagging- the term "zigzagging" comes originally from Jerome Stern in his book Making Shapely Fiction.

You know you need to torture your character, but if things just get worse and worse the reader will get bored. The idea is to mix downturns with positive reversals. 


A guy wants to kiss his sweetheart. She turns away. He leans forward. She looks at him, but he's afraid to try again. He thinks someone is coming and he's lost his chance. Oh no it's just the wind. Now she's nervous but he feels bolder. The church bells ring. They look up, then suddenly their lips meet.

Tension is created by this rhythm.

I’ll show my work from the in class exercise we did. I used a scene from my novel I’m working on.


Brainstorms zigzags that could be placed between one event and a subsequent event in your story.

My Scene:

Calvin and Martin look for the Hidden Road

•         Calvin and Martin in car, looking for hidden road. (Good)

•         They miss the road and they are low on gas. (Bad)

•         They park the car and walk on foot. Martin thinks he saw something.(Good)

•         Turns out what Martin saw was a rabbit hole, not a trail. Sun is setting, it's getting dark. (Bad)

•         Calvin sees the road. They discover the old road and gate. (Good)

•         It's so dark there's no way to search for surveillance cameras. (Bad)

•         "We're in this together. For better or worse, Martin says. Calvin feels better though he can't explain why. (Good)

•         In the forest Calvin hears electric buzzing. An electric fence? A camera? (Bad)

•         Martin offers to walk ahead of him to protect him. Calvin decides they’ll walk shoulder to shoulder. (Good)

I hope zigzagging helps you as much as it helped me understand suspense! Good luck!



January 30, 2013

Rick Steves PBS Program "Europe: A Symphonic Journey"

Posted by Joanne Otness, Chair, WOTS Steering Committee


Ferry3Photo Credit: Ken Pickle Travel the world--experience Edmonds! Watch for the one hour PBS program "Europe: A Symphonic Journey", produced and written by Write on the Sound presenter, Rick Steves. You'll see the Cascade Symphony Orchestra performing at Edmonds Center for the Arts and be taken on a musical tour of Europe, starting with some scenic footage of Washington State—including Edmonds, home to the Write on the Sound Conference.

Rick Steves is known for his traveling adventures across Europe, but did you know he lives and owns his business in Edmonds? Wander down Fourth Avenue and you'll see a red brick building that houses Europe Through the Back Door Travel Center—including a welcoming public library complete with comfortable armchairs and a cheery fire, plenty of travel books (for browsing and for sale) and an army of knowledgeable staff to help you with your travel plans.

Rick Steves took time away from his busy travel schedule and presented a workshop at the 2012 WOTS conference. Attendees heard how Rick started in the travel writing business and how he developed his personal brand to international success.

For a taste of Edmonds, and the world, don't miss "Europe; a Symphonic Journey" on your local PBS station.
We hope to see you traveling to Edmonds on October 5 and 6th for the annual WOTS conference!



November 8, 2012

27th WOTS Conference a Success

Posted by Mindy Halleck, WOTS Steering Committee


The 2012 Edmond's Writers on The Sound (WOTS) conference was a huge success. It's exhilarating to celebrate our collective passions and artistic endeavors in a city of autumn colors – a city abuzz with activity; writers walking, talking, writing or watching the sun set over the Puget Sound.

SunriseView of Puget Sound from WOTS Plaza Room, taken by Mindy Halleck. 

In 2011 I was traveling (Australia) and so missed WOTS for the first time in 10 years, so I was excited to be back at my favorite community conference. This year there were first time attendees, and sage writers from Colorado and beyond, even several that traveled to Edmond's on Amtrak. It's fun to meet writers from other tribes.

As I did a couple years ago, this year I attended one of the pre-conference workshops on Friday. And like a couple of years ago, I'm so glad I did! The longer workshops are a great opportunity to really roll up your sleeves and get some work done on your manuscript and harvest some skilled guidance from instructors who walk their talk and have been where you want to go.


This year the workshop was with Robert Dugoni; again a day filled with insights, epiphanies and laughter and some great 'page turner' tips from a New York Times Best Selling author. At the conclusion of the Friday workshop I said to a friend that if the conference ended there I'd be happy with the knowledge I gained from Robert Dugoni.

But happily, the conference was just kicking off.

There were so many great classes over the weekend that it's hard to know what to comment on, for example; it was Bobexciting to have a class on travel writing taught by travel guru Rick Steves. Generally Rick is a key note or something lofty like that given he's a local celeb, but this year he was an instructor and to hear his take on the actual art and life of a seasoned travel writer was a special treat.


The October weather was gorgeous, the Key Note, Carla Neggers was funny and delightfully inspirational, there were even ghost stories via local ghost buster and paranormal guy Neil McNeil, and most important, there were friendly faces and a school of 200+ compatible souls in unity that descended on the city of Edmonds for a glorious fall weekend of inspiration.



September 28, 2012

Get Ready for 2012 WOTS

Posted by Joann Otness, WOTS Steering Committee


With the annual Write On The Sound conference fast approaching, I’ve given thought to what makes it a sell-out event each year. WOTS is not the only conference in the Pacific Northwest, but it is certainly one of the best.

Most writing conferences you attend will offer new information, excite you with writing ideas, and give you a chance to network with other writers and workshop presenters—so what makes WOTS unique?

Glad you asked! Several factors add to our distinctive flavor. Take the small town setting in beachside Edmonds, WA combined with a manageable size (250 attendee limit), and an impressive variety of workshops. Now toss in the friendly, non-competitive conference atmosphere.

That’s right: no agents, editors, pitch sessions in sight.

Don’t get me wrong. There are plenty of workshops on the business of writing, plus a writing contest, and even add-on critique sessions with industry professionals. But WOTS is not a place to pitch your manuscript in hopes of a quick sale.

Many in the writing community, have heard the “bathroom stall” horror story. You know, the one where a writer offers her manuscript to an acquiring agent at a conference by sliding it under the adjoining stall (presumably not intended as TP). You won’t find that aggressive behavior here!

WOTS is professional, friendly, and packed with information to help you on your own writer’s path. Come to learn, not to sell, and to enjoy a weekend networking with others sharing your interest in producing the best writing you can, for whatever purpose you intend.  There may be a new idea, a bit more information about the ever-expanding world of social media or discovering (or rediscovering) the art and joy of putting words to paper.

Hope to see you in October—if not, there’s always next year!































































































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Conference Information

Looking forward to its 30th anniversary, Oct 2, 3 & 4, 2015, this unique and affordable conference for fiction, nonfiction and poetry writers offers over thirty sessions specifically focused on the craft of writing, information regarding marketing, publishing and industry trends, plus workshops on specialty writing topics. It is a fantastic opportunity to network with fellow writers and presenters from all around the Northwest, U.S. and abroad.

Contact Us

Write on the Sound Writers' Conference (WOTS)

Frances Anderson Center
700 Main Street   
Edmonds, WA 98020

Information: 425-771-0228 | This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.">This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

The WOTS Conference is easily accessible by public transportation. Please check websites for current transportation schedules.

By Bus:  Community Transit   
By the Sounder: Sound Transit
By Train: Amtrak