The Write on the Sound Blog is written by Write on the Sound Steering Committee members and volunteers.
June 6, 2013
To Teach, To Love
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.
Write on the Sound Steering Committee member
May 3, 2013
The Writer's Craft
Tone, Mood, Theme, & Style
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.
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)
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.
Write on the Sound Steering Committee member
April 4, 2013
Plant your plan
With 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
Steve 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.
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
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!
Chairman Write On The Sound Steering committee
November 8, 2012
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.
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 exciting 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.
Write on the Sound Steering Committee member
September 28, 2012
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!
Chairman Write On The Sound Steering committee