Wednesday, January 8, 2014

New Year New Writer Insight

One of the joys of teaching a writing class now and then is meeting aspiring writers and encouraging them along the way. My Story Sparks each month is about encouraging people to seek their life paths, find their bliss, step over the rough spots and make new roads. Perhaps my novels are about that journey as well. I'd like you to meet Jess Flower, an aspiring writer who attended Beachside Writers a few years ago. I thought it would be fun to see "the rest of the story" about how this young writer keeps himself writing.

What are you passionate about when it comes to writing?
First, I'm passionate about story. How do I want the story to go? What do I want to happen? It's that thing that flares in your heart when you're reading a book, watching a movie, or hearing someone spin a tale that says, "Oh! What happens next?!" It's also that little spark that ignites when something in the story…maybe…doesn't go right, and you discuss it with friends later saying things like, "You know what would have been really good," or "Here's how I think that should have ended." Story is king, right? Second, I'm passionate about character. If something is wrong with my characters, I get almost depressed. The book I'm writing right now is a great example. I love my two main characters. Then I thought, "Well, I had better give my hero some friends. You know, like Harry Potter has friends." Ugh. My worst mistake. I spent so much time trying to manufacture these characters, that they quickly became wooden and unbelievable. I just didn't like them. I wouldn't hang out with them. I would find an excuse to get away from them. So I erased everything and just started over with the two that I loved and went from there. Finally, I'm passionate about getting something important that I have personally learned into the writing. This part is pretty easy for me, because it is almost natural. Writing is cathartic in a way -- isn't it? We write sometimes to work things out in our own souls. The Reverend in my book Daisy Hill had some major faith issues, because…well…I did.

The parts of Daisy Hill I was introduced to reminded me of a good western. How would you describe your genre?
I'm a goofball when it comes to genre. I never know what to say. My stories are listed under a different genre on every conceivable website! Daisy Hill (and my first book that will stay hidden in my desk drawer, thank you very much) was a thriller. But I don't think that's even accurate because there are only a few parts that are "thriller-esque." However, even my YA book (or Middle Grade) that I'm working on now has some thrilling moments in it. Even a lot of my short stories tend to have a little creepy element to them. Daisy Hill has a nice little romantic section in it, but it's not a romance for sure. Then again, almost always there are paranormal elements to my writing as well. Like I said, I'm a goofball when it comes to genre.

Do you write full time or have a day job, too?
I have a day job. I'm an account manager for a staffing/recruiting company by day and a ninja writer by night. The goal is to write full time, though.

That's a great goal. I didn't quit my day job until I'd had published more than ten novels.  Needed that day job! As a new writer, what do you find the most frustrating?
Honestly, the whole catch 22 of it. You can't be published until you're noticed. You can't get noticed until you're read. You can't get read until you're published. I always knew it was a long haul, and I've heard the statistics….blahblah. However, I have a firm belief that I can do it given the opportunity. So finding the right people at the right time that will like my writing is the most frustrating -- probably because it is something that I can't control. Eesh. That's an ugly thought!

That is an ugly thought! But you do still have things you do control. Like sitting down to write, right? Do you ever have writer's block? What do you do about it?
Boy is this going to be an unpopular answer. (He gulps.) I don't believe in it. Trust me, I've had times where nothing is coming to me. The well is dry. The muse is silent, sleeping, or hanging out at Sizzler. I sit down to the keyboard and suddenly I want to do anything but write. For me, it's not writer's block. It's laziness. I just don't want to do it. Facebook, Twitter, or a kitten video on YouTube pulls me away. It's not the "muse's" fault. It's not God sucking my creative juices out of my head because I didn't do something right. It's just me not wanting to dig in and go for it. So how do I deal with it? I force myself to write something. Anything. Even something completely different. Just enough to get the gears turning, the fingers clicking, and the rhythm cranking. I almost always find myself cranking back into the story at hand after that. Last resort (and full disclosure) -- music will really get me out of a lazy jam. The Wailin' Jennys produced quite a few moments in Daisy Hill when I was staring at a blinking cursor.

What harpies (negative voices) keep you from writing or sending your work out or self-publishing or meeting with editors and agents at writers conferences? I honestly still remember your workshop on harpies and have exorcised my fair share of them since! Many of us creative "types" hear those same terrible thoughts: Your work is drivel. You'll never be good enough. No one wants to read it. It's not as good as YOU think. It will just be another rejection. They are all lies. Knowing those are lies has honestly helped me more than anything. I try to read as much as possible. There is garbage out there. And it got published. I know I can write circles around that stuff. So if that junk made it…so can I.

Jane teaching at Beachside
How did we get connected?
I went to a Beachside Writer's Conference put on by Bob Welch and you in Oregon. It was my very first writing conference and I wasn't sure what to expect. What I received was some really fun exercises, amazing workshops, and I made friends with people who all were going after the same thing! Talk about an encouraging! One of the evenings we all read aloud from one of our works, and you were nice enough to give some helpful feedback and encouragement about my selection. I have hounded you, bugged you, pestered you, spam emailed you, and Facebook blitzed you ever since! Thank you.

What advice do you have for aspiring writers?
The best advice that I have ever heard was from Stephen King. "Read a lot and write a lot." Perfect. You may read some really bad stuff that inspires you to do better. But I've also read some amazing pieces that made me honestly say, "I will NEVER be able to do that." But you know what? The latter almost inspired me to write more than the former. I wanted to at least try to be as good as that. Finally, this is something I plan to do for my own career, so I'll advise the same: We can't give up. Ever.

Thanks for joining me today in this New Year of 2014. How can people connect with you or track your writing career?
My website -- though it is very new.
I'm also on Twitter & Facebook.
And of course my first ebook, Daisy Hill is available at Amazon and Barnes and Noble (currently only $0.99).

Thanks again for hosting me!

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Counting down to Beachside Writers Workshops

Beachside Writers Workshops are designed for people who simply want to write better. They are for all sorts of beginning and intermediate writers, from those who aspire to have a book published to those who simply want to write an engaging family memoir. Our goal isn’t to crank out published authors (though we have had plenty). Our goal is to affirm you as a writer, inspire you to be better and feed you so much great food that you’ll want to come back for seconds — and many have. About a third of our students have returned for one or more workshops. A handful have attended six or more.

See what others have said about their personal experience at the event.  Testimonials are at the bottom of the post.
...if you're considering joining us at Beachside, here's a tentative schedule.

Visit the website for more information

Beachside 2014

All sessions in the the gymnasium unless otherwise noted.


6:30 p.m. Registration, settling in, munchies and saying goodbye to real life for the weekend.

7:00 p.m. Who we are: Ever-so-brief introductions from Jane, Bob and you.

7:30 p.m. Session 1: “What I’ve Learned About the Writing Journey Since Last Year.” (Jane and Bob)

8:20 p.m. 10-MINUTE BREAK

8:30 p.m. Session 2: The Annual “Surprise, Surprise” Writing Assignment.

9:00 p.m. Session 3: Readings: Bob and Jane offer exclamation points of inspiration with words from their respective books.

9:20 p.m. Campfire s’mores out back in the covered (and Plexi-glassed) picnic area.

10:00 p.m. Wipe that gooey marshmallow off your face and shuffle into the night for a night of surf-accented sleep.


7:00 a.m. Village Bean coffee shop opens half a mile north of the Yachats Commons.

8:00 a.m. Coffee, hot chocolate, tea at the Commons amid talk of bad nights of sleep, burned marshmallows and other writers’ laments.

8:20 a.m. Breakfast is served, courtesy of Ann Schar and her able-bodied assistant, Sally (“She Who …”) Welch.

9:00 a.m. Session 4:
Researching and Writing your Family History.” Jane. Gym. You've got a great family story. Your brother doesn't remember it that way and your sister thinks no one will be interested but this story will not let you go. How do you decide what your story is really about? Do you have a book or an article or even a series? Do you have a memoir or a novel or a non-fiction research project? Whatever you have, where do you start? Drawing on the work of public historians and her own methods of research and writing, Jane will provide you with next steps to get that story off your back and onto the page.

Five Steps to Changing Your Writing Life.” Bob. North Room. If you want to finish this year in a different place than you started, what’s a process that can help get you there? Welch shares five steps that will help you gain perspective on escaping any writing doldrums you might be experiencing and set sail for more glorious horizons beyond.

10:00 a.m. 10-MINUTE BREAK

10:10 a.m. Session 5:
The Wonder of Print on Demand.” Roger Hite. South Room. Recent trends in POD book publishing technology, including success stories from the May-September 2013 Memoir Workshop.

Nine Points to A Novel.” Jane. Gym. What makes a great story, one that readers remember and that helps them discover truths for their lives? Jane shares the three components she thinks are critical along with the three top things named by novelist Joyce Carol Oates and theologian and novelist and non-fiction writer Frederick Buechner. Helping participants claim those nine elements within their work is the theme of this workshop. 

The 10 Best Things I’ve Learned from Writing Nonfiction Books.” (Please note, Jane could only come up with nine points.) Bob. North Room. With 17 books to his credit, Bob shares nuggets of wisdom he’s learned along the way. They range from “No matter how hard you think it will be, it will be harder” to “It’s not only about the final product, but the journey, too.” Bottom line: Non-fiction is more triathlon than sprint, but can be deeply satisfying.

11:10 a.m. 10-MINUTE BREAK

11:30 a.m. Session 6: Writing Assignment #2.


1:30 p.m. Session 7: 
A Round-Robin of Writing and Editing Tips.” Jane. Gym. Tips from two bestselling authors and Jane’s own in this fast-paced workshop meant to help you write a 75,000 word novel (in 30 days); or cut 20,000 words out of a manuscript that's too long (in a week); or do final clean-up in your manuscript so it's ready to send for self-publishing or when that agent/editor you meet with at a conference says "I'm interested in your story. Send me the first three chapters." 

The Active Verb: The Unsung Hero of Writing That Rocks.” Bob. North Room. For years, Welch has emphasized what he calls “painting with words,” often with a strong emphasis on metaphors and similes. Now, for the first time, he highlights the oft-overlooked verb — and how using active, not passive, ones can pump new life into your prose.


2:40 p.m. Session 8: Writing Session #3

3:30 p.m. Session 9:  Genre Groups: This final half an hour of the day will be spent with people funneling into what we hope to be at at least six special-interest groups. During this time, you’ll just get to know each other a bit and talk about where you might want to go with a one-hour meeting of your genre group on Sunday. Self-publishing buffs, for example, will use this half-hour to meet again with Roger Hite for more hands-on-(the-mouse) experience in going the POD route. Possible other groups: Memoir writing, sci-fi, essay/blog, non-fiction, historical fiction, contemporary fiction, poetry and children’s books.

4:00 p.m Relax. Dinner on your own.

7:00 p.m Session 10: Reading aloud from your work. Optional. Five-minute limit, strictly enforced! Sign up at the registration desk starting!Saturday morning. Given a two-hour time limit, if we have more than 20 people sign up we will use a lottery to choose who gets to read aloud. (Either that or hold a marathon rock, paper, scissors contest.)

9:00 p.m. End of the day. Whew.


7:00 a.m. The Village Bean opens.

8:00 a.m. Coffee, hot chocolate and tea at the Commons.

8:20 a.m. Session 11: 
I Would if I Could... but I Can't.” Jane. Gym. Ninety-nine percent of the people who say they want to write a book never do. They would if they could...but they can't. Or so they tell themselves. Jane leads this session celebrating those who step over the barriers of I can't and enter the world of I did! She'll identify the creative ways writers sabotage themselves and offer practical solutions to move forward with whatever project you'd write if you could knowing that — you can. 

Daring to write with emotion.” Bob. North Room. Maya Angelou famously said, “People will forget what you said. People will forget what you did. But people will never forget how you made them feel.” It’s good advice for authors. Join Bob Welch as he challenges you to be vulnerable as an author to awaken emotions within your readers.

9:20 a.m. Oregon Coast Brunch. Honoring of the Fourth Annual “Metaphors Be With You” contest winner by Mari or her sister Mary from Mari’s Books.

10:00 a.m. Session 12: Wild Card Session. Over the years, Jane and Bob have sometimes found themselves frustrated by a lack of flexibility in the schedule. Thus, we’re building in a session where we can go where you all want to go!


11:10 a.m. Session 13: Genre Groups. Roger’s POD group will meet in the South Room and other groups will huddle wherever they choose. (Yes, you can even take a walk and, thus, have “a moveable feast” of learning.)


12:15 p.m. Session 14: Final questions for Bob, Jane and Roger (15 minutes); final thoughts from each of you. (Thirty seconds each to tell the key lesson you’re taking home with you.)

1:00 p.m. Group photo at the Yachats Commons sign out front. (Weather permitting!) Goodbyes (sniff, sniff.)


“I have never experienced such a workshop where I was pampered, validated for who I am, inspired and invigorated.” — Carole Linneman, 2013
“One of the most meaningful, memorable weekends in my entire life … Bob gave me one of the most precious gifts anyone has ever given me: validation as a writer! ” — Cara Zane McKenzie, Eugene
“What an amazing opportunity for a complete, sensory-focused writing experience. Everything about this weekend was stimulating and inspiring. This Texas girl shall return!” — Caitlin Allbright, Austin, Texas
“Each year the Beachside Writers Workshop is like an inspirational kick in the pants for me. Bob and Jane leave you feeling like you can write and should be writing your stories. The instruction if fun-filled and practical, and the food outrageous.” — Kirk Kneeland, Eugene
“I immensely enjoyed every moment (especially the French silk pie!).  I sat quietly in the back and just soaked up as much info as I could, completely out of my comfort zone. However, it’s good for me to get out of my comfort zone. It builds character.” — Jeanne Schneider, Eugene
“If you long for encouragement to write and need a place that offers that along with great people at all skill levels, great teachers, great food, and great laughs, then look no further then this writing workshop.” — Jessica Burich, Austin, Texas
“I was impressed by the mingling of presentation topics for fiction and non-fiction writing, and the blending of your two styles. I was encouraged, inspired to write, and impressed with your variety of examples and excerpts. Bob and Jane both led us and listened to our writings, and skillfully guided the discussions, yet knew when to let the students lead.” — Marilyn Von Seeger, Coburg
“Not only do we get two great writers giving us fiction and non-fiction pointers in a comfortable and small setting, we are treated to gourmet meals and snacks. Great  to network with others  struggling to find the motivation, tools,  and confidence to become better writers. Well worth the price!” — Judie Hansen, Eugene
“Fun, informative, humorous and functional … I was inhaling facts and food at nearly the same rate!” — Jean Glausi, Eugene
“With signature warmth, wit, and wisdom, Bob Welch and Jane Kirkpatrick share an engaging chemistry as instructors. Previous Beachside Writers Workshops clarified my goals as a writer and  gave superb advice central to my growth. Insights gleaned continue to fuel my passion for writing. Whatever your reason for writing, give yourself a gift: attend this workshop.” — Michelle Koehn, Eugene
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