Educating and Inspiring Writers on the Road to Publication Children's Book Writers of Los Angeles
 
 

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  • 29 Mar 2014 1:40 PM | Nutschell Anne Windsor (Administrator)

    Last March 29, 2014, I facilitated CBW-LA’s Novel Writing Bootcamp.

    In our three hour workshop, I covered the following topics:

    I. Introduction

    II. Preparing to Write your Novel

    III. Introduction to the Elements of Fiction

    IV. Elements of Fiction: Character

    V. Elements of Fiction: Setting

    VI. Elements of Fiction: Plot

    alana

    CBW-LA Stationer (Publications Editor) Alana Garrigues manning the Registration Booth

    For the lecture I developed my own way of classifying the Elements of Fiction. I divided each element of Fiction into three levels according their function within a story.

    Today, I thought I’d share with you a short version of my lecture on the Introduction to the Elements of Fiction.

     

    Nutschell’s 3 Levels of the Elements of Fiction (or How a Story Sprouts)

    Abstract concepts are best explained through the use of concrete images, so in the case of story, I’ll be using the analogy of a tree.

    Just as a tree needs three major things for it to grow, so too does a story need three major levels to develop.

     

    LEVEL 1: THE BASIC ELEMENTS OF FICTION (SEED)

    Most life forms begin from a seed. A seed contains all the ingredients for creating life. But it needs a place and opportunity for it to develop.

    The seeds of fiction are contained in its 3 basic elements:

    1.      Character

    2.      Plot

    3.      Setting

    Whether you’re writing a novel or a newspaper article, there are 6 basic questions you need to answer:

    • Who?
    • What?
    • Where?
    • When?
    • Why?
    • How?

    In order for you to answer these questions in a work of fiction, you need 3 Basic Elements:

      1.      CHARACTER = WHO AND WHY

    • Who is the main character of the story?
    • Why does the protagonist respond to the event in a certain way? (character motivation)

    2.      PLOT  = WHAT AND HOW

    • What is the story about?
    • How does the story unfold?

     3.      SETTING  = WHERE AND WHEN

    • Where does the story take place?
    • When does the story take place?

    Once you have Character, Plot and Setting, you’ve answered the six most basic questions.

    The next thing you have to do is to clarify or expound on these basic elements, and you do that using the following elements of fiction:

     

    LEVEL 2: ELEMENTS OF FICTION THAT EXPOUND THE STORY (SOIL)

    Your seed may contain the DNA to propagate life, but without soil, it will remain a seed forever. Soil gives your seed a safe place to thrive in, it provides the proper nutrients and energy for it to grow.

    In the same regard, your story ideas cannot grow without certain elements of fiction to expound or clarify them.

    These elements of fiction move your story forward by clarifying the basic elements you already have.

    1.      Dialogue – stems from character

    2.      Point of View (POV)– stems from character

    3.      Conflict – stems from Plot

    4.      Mood– stems from setting

    5.      Tone – stems from character

    cbwla class

     

    LEVEL 3: ELEMENTS OF FICTION THAT ADD A LAYER OF MEANING TO THE STORY (WATER)

    Soil may supply your seed with nutrients, but without water to transport those nutrients, the seed will simply shrivel up and die.

    In the same way, without a layer of meaning, your story will be dry and dull. Meaning adds life to your story, and so do the following elements of fiction:

    1.      Theme

    2.      Style

    3.      Literary Devices (Metaphor, Simile, Hyperbole, etc)

     

    Each element of fiction contributes to the growth of your story. Knowing how each element works, and what role they play within your story, can help you cultivate your novel to its fullest potential.

    class

     

  • 22 Mar 2014 1:39 PM | Nutschell Anne Windsor (Administrator)

    Last Saturday, February 22, 2014, CBW-LA was lucky to have middle grade mystery maven Kristen Kittscher, author of WIG IN THE WINDOW as its speaker.

    After a short introduction (in which I struggled to read Kristen’s amazing bio from my smartphone’s tiny screen), Kristen immediately launched into the workshop.

    kristen reading

     

    Kristen began by reiterating that voice is a personal element, something that cannot be taught, but can be learned through experience. She set the tone of the workshop by inviting participants to actively explore the concept of voice with her. She asked participants to answer two questions:

    1. What do you think is voice?
    2. What are your fears about voice?

    Participants gave a variety of responses. Some said voice had to do with perspective, or tone or feeling, others said it had to do with personality or knowing the characters very well, while others said voice is specific to the writer.

    They also shared their fears about the concept of voice: having whiny characters or an unreliable narrator, of having to juggle too many voices within the story, and of having too much voice.

    lecture voice

     

    Kristen reminded us that despite our many fears, we do not have to worry about voice. She says:

    “There is something in a person’s voice that is consistent in the background. You don’t have to worry about that because that’s in you already. It’s like worrying about your fingerprints. We want to demystify this idea that there is something outside of you that you need to learn today. Voice is already in you. This is something that only writing solidifies over time.”

    She shared a favorite quote by Neil Gaman:

    Start telling the stories that only you can tell, because there’ll always be better writers than you and there’ll always be smarter writers than you. There will always be people who are much better at doing this or doing that - but you are the only you.”

    undefinedNeil Gaiman

    Remembering this, Kristen says, will help us not worry about our fears too much.

    “Worrying that the audience won’t like it is kind of like worrying that the people won’t like you, which we deal with on a regular basis over and over again, and that we probably should get over, because we are ourselves.” 

    lecture 4

    Kristen chose excerpts from 6 different middle grade books as samples of the different voices across the middle grade genre. Participants were assigned two excerpts each, and paired off with a partner. Each person read their assigned excerpt and wrote down everything they noticed about the group. Once they were done writing down their observations, each person would turn to their partners and share their discoveries.

    A class discussion followed afterward. Kristen wrote down everyone’s observation on the whiteboard and broke each one down for the group. She emphasized that if we put voice outside of ourselves, that’s where the fear comes in:

    “Everything has a voice automatically. It’s just what kind of voice is it? Maybe it’s a boring voice that doesn’t grab you.”  

    lecture1

     

    Kristen shared some fun exercises to further illustrate voice.

    class

    A few participants shared their fun pieces, and some had the class rolling with laughter.

    One of the things Kristen taught was the group was that one of the things that middle grade writers should be wary of, is using adult comparisons to describe an object.

    To put participants back in the middle grade mindset, Kristen asked them to call out some memories from their childhood. A freewrite followed immediately afterward where participants wrote about a childhood memory. One tip Kristen gave in case participants got stuck was to write “I remember…” and finish the sentence with a childhood memory.

    class2

    Towards the end of the workshop, Kristen shared her own personal journey to publication, along with tips and techniques on how to develop voice.

    Here are a few of Kristen’s most inspiring thoughts:

    “One of the most important things you need to do to get back to voice, is to not criticize yourself yet. Don’t look analytically at anything. When you’re feeling stuckundefinedthe beauty of writing is that nobody’s there in your room and nobody’s gonna see it. The other thing is that you don’t have a finite amount of material in you and it’s over. You can keep going and keep creating things. “

     

    “A lot of people ask me how long did it take to write your book, and I don’t think I know the answer to that question. Because I would remember coming up with that idea, and then I took up golf, and then I played with my puppy and hung out with my friends. I feel like we call it time, we talk about having time, but writing has nothing to do with time (although it does take time). But we are making choices all the time about how to use it, and most of the time we’re worried. It has more to do with fear….It probably would have taken me nine months if I hadn’t wasted so much time. But I don’t like to think about it as wasting, but some of it was that I wasn’t in the right mindset. And the way to get yourself in the right mindset is to just practice over and over again, have rituals and just keep writing and keep on doing these exercises…”

     

    “I like giving a voice to kids, giving them fancy words, because their emotions are bigger than what they can express. Part of what we’re doing in writing for children is giving names to things, and to do it in the way that it captures that wonder or excitement or confusion, but helping them give a name to it.”

     

    “Kids see complexity, too. Even if the language is simple like in Linda Irvin’s Hound Dog True, the language is simple but the feeling behind it isn’t simple at all. If you can tap into those emotions and feelings, you’re never going to be out of date…Just take the things that you remember and find the equivalent. Like if you remember using blackboards, ask kids what they use nowadaysundefinedmaybe a smart board with wires…”

     The workshop ended with a Q & A, and a book signing session immediately followed. We even had a short photo shoot so we could have a souvenir of our fun workshop.

     

    group

    All the participants came away inspired and ready to write, thanks to Kristen’s wonderful workshop.

  • 11 Jan 2014 8:18 AM | Nutschell Anne Windsor (Administrator)

    CBW-LA’s third Kickstarting Your Writing Career Workshop last January 11th, 2014, was divided into five parts:

    I. Reflection: Where Are You on the Write Path?

    II. Reflection: What Do You See at the End of the Write Path?

    III. Publishing 101

    IV. Tools to Kickstart Your Writing Career

    V. Making a Commitment to Your Writing Career.

    kickstarting writing 1

    In Part 1, participants were asked to reflect on their writing past and present. They had to answer the following questions:

    1. Who are you?
    2. What kind of writer are you?
    3. When did your writing journey begin?

     

    In Part 2, the following questions challenged participants to look ahead into their writing futures:

    1. Why do you want to be a writer?
    2. Where do you want your writing to take you?
    3. How will you achieve the kind of writing career you want?

    kickstarting writing 2

    In order to achieve their writing dreams, participants first had to come face to face with publishing reality.

    In the third part of the workshop, they were introduced to the publishing process and the key paths to publication: Traditional Publishing, Self-Publishing and Other publishing options such as In-Progress publishing, Blogs and Websites, Fanfiction and Crowdfunding.

    In Part 4 of the workshop, participants were given a list of tools to kickstart their writing careers. Worksheets also helped participants develop their mission-vision, as well as list down their writing goals. They were given templates to help them get started on a five-year writing career plan, as well as templates to get their schedules and goals organized.

    With the many publishing options now available, all writers need to do is to figure out what kind of writing career they desire, and commit to it.

    The final portion of the workshop encouraged participants to take their writing dreams seriously by fully committing to it. Committing to being a writer means keeping true to the “write” path and keeping the promises they’ve made to themselves. These promises can be as simple as finishing a draft or trying their best to get published.

     kickstarting writing 3

    Workshop participants wrote the following words down as part of their personal writing contract:

     

    I am a writer.

                  I will commit time and patience into achieving my writing goals.

                  This year, my biggest writing goals are:

    • List down your biggest goal/s for each role you plan to fulfill: Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur

    I will do everything in my power to have the writing future I envision.

                    I will become an author.

     

    Once they’d written the words, they signed and dated their writing contract and asked fellow attendees to sign as witnesses.

    Participants left with tons of handouts, worksheets, templates, a renewed passion for writing, and a sense of how to take their writing to the next level.

  • 26 Sep 2013 3:22 PM | Nutschell Anne Windsor (Administrator)

    Workshop Description:

    The Write Stuff:
    A Children's Picture Book Workshop

     Cassandra Black Signing

    Do you have the right stuff to write children’s books? Have you written a story you’d like to see published? Or are you at the beginning stages of an idea? Need ideas on how to market?

    Join Cassandra Black, author and publisher of chapter book Twinkle The Only Firefly Who Couldn't Light Up,third edition, Fun Jokes For Young Folks, and picture book When I Wish Upon for our next meeting where we will explore who you are as a children’s author, why you’re writing children’s books, knowing your target audience and how to market your book in this fun, interactive and informative workshop.

    Cassandra Black

    Author Cassandra Black

     

    Speaker's Bio:
    Cassandra Black resides in Los Angeles, California where she was born and raised. Cassandra has worked with children ages 5 to 17 for many years in the non-profit sector and loves writing stories for them that reflect their real-life situations. Black began her writing career at age 12 when she wrote stories and articles for a kids’ magazine called “Young People Today.” She was the first writer/reporter for the magazine to score a celebrity interview with then hot television star Todd Bridges from the hit television show, "Different Strokes." Ever since, Cassandra has enjoyed the creative process of writing and the power that words can have. Along with creativity, she holds an Associates Degree in Cinema, a Bachelor’s in Marketing and a Masters in Business Management. Cassandra’s dream is to see Twinkle go world- wide and be made into an animated movie in all languages so that children around the world can enjoy, learn and grow from this story.


    Workshop Summary:

    Cassandra Black came more than prepared for the workshop. She even brought her own table cloth and posters, as well as giveaways in the form of bookmarks and cute pencils. She explained that her many book signings had taught her to always be ready for author event emergency. The workshop hadn’t even started, and we were learning already.

    preparedCassandra's Set Up

    After introducing herself and telling us her about her journey to publication, Cassandra began the workshop by asking us to reflect on some important questions. She explained that in order for us to write the right stories, we must know the answers to these questions by heart.

    Why are you writing? Is it a hobby or a future career?

    Who are you?

    v  What are your personal experiences?

    v  What expertise do you bring to your subject?

    v  What are you passionate about?

    v  What is your writing style?

    v  What is your ultimate goal or dream?

    What is your genre?

    Who is your audience?

    v  Who are you writing for?

    • You?
    • Your kids?
    •  Your students?
    • The world?

    v  What is your demographic?

    • Age
    • Location
    • Home life
    • Challenges
    • Appearance

    cassandra black

    Why your book?

    v  What sets you apart from other  authors?

    v  What sets your story apart from the others?

    Why this story?

    v  What is your message?

    v  What do you want the reader to get from it?

    v  Why should we buy your book?

    Cassandra Black lecture

     

    Author Cassandra Black and CBW-LA

    Cassandra encouraged us to really reflect on our answers and to write them down as these are questions that we would be asked over and over again during our careers as writers.

    The discussion on audience, genre, and story was punctuated by several creative writing exercises, which Cassandra created. The exercises were designed to help anyone out of a writing slump, and to get a writer’s creative juices flowing.

    The first exercise was a madlib game. Each group was broken up into smaller teams, assigned a story to complete. The resulting stories were hilarious and over the top, and definitely helped break the ice.

    madlibsCBW-LA Attendees playing madlib

    The second exercise was equally fun. In our workshop packets, Cassandra had placed a list of random words. The challenge was to use all these words in the order they appeared, to create our own stories. She gave us time to come up with our own tales and had us all share our work. We all came up with completely different stories, no matter how many common words we shared. Cassandra said that this was proof that only we could write the stories we were meant to write.

    Having experienced both traditional publishing and self-publishing, Cassandra also shared the pros and cons for each. She answered everyone’s questions patiently and gave some tips on how to find the right illustrator, if we wanted to self-publish.

    For the final part of the workshop, Cassandra asked the attendees to pair up for a mock interview. In each workshop packet, Cassandra had placed a list of questions which often come up whenever an author is interviewed.  We discovered many talented authors that evening, as each attendee took turns being both radio show host and author interviewee.

     interview

    CBW-LA Attendees Interviewing Each Other



    As usual, each attendee got a copy of the author's workshop as part of their fee. To end the workshop, everyone lined up to get their books signed by Cassandra.

    Cassandra Black Signing

    Cassandra was a wonderful speaker, engaging and lively and everyone went home feeling inspired that evening.


  • 17 Aug 2013 4:33 PM | Nutschell Anne Windsor (Administrator)

    Workshop Description:

    Creating irresistible worlds is the main strategy we have as book writers to compete with entertainment modes that move at the speed of speed.  And snagging a young reader’s interest is all about the world you bid them enter, one they will co-create (as we writer’s know, in our civilization’s past, video games were called “imagination”). 

    Why should they enter the world you’ve made for them?  The ancient storytellers –mythmakers dialed in to the art of getting their audience to make the leap...and you can be, too.

    Reece Michaelson and Pamela Jaye Smith, authors of THE JOURNALS OF PETRA VOLARE-- SCROLL I: FROM THE SHADOWS, a book with a new archetype for girls, share their ABC’s for creating irresistible worlds for readers.

    Learn more about the book here: www.petravolare.com

    Read an interview with the authors here: http://www.thewritingnut.com/ramblings/spotlight-week-interview-authors-pamela-jaye-smith-reece-michaelson/

     

    Speakers’ Bios:

     author Reece Michaelson 1

    Author Reece Michaelson

    When Reece Michaelson decided it was time to generate a new archetype for girls, she knew the one person who could help make it fly was Mythworks™ consultant Pamela Jaye Smith. With her considerable background in applied mythology and esoteric teachings, Pamela had provided  insights on the mythical underpinnings of an original series idea Reece pitched to noted SciFi scriptwriter/executive director Rockne S. O’Bannon (DEFIANCE, ALIEN NATION, FARSCAPE, SF ONE)  which resulted in an irresistible idea that snagged O’Bannon’s interest, and the subsequent pilot script was bought by ABC/Touchstone. As well, having been mentored at NYU by some of the great icon-creators of our time, including Arthur Laurents (WEST SIDE STORY) and Stephen Schwartz (WICKED), Reece could see that Pamela Jaye's sense for combining education with spot-on storytelling would help nail the most iconic aspects of the tale.

     


    author pamela jaye smith

    Author Pamela Jaye Smith

    Pamela Jaye Smith is a writer, international consultant and speaker, and award-winning producer-director with over 30 years in the media industry, from feature films to music videos, commercials to documentaries. She is the author of INNER DRIVES, THE POWER OF THE DARK SIDE, BEYOND THE HERO’S JOURNEY, and  SYMBOLS.IMAGES.CODES: The Secret Language of Meaning in Media. As well as in-person classes here and abroad, Pamela teaches online on Mythic Themes, Archetypes, and Symbols for a number of venues. She is the founder of MYTHWORKSand co-founder of the Alpha Babe Academy and Mythic Challenges. She has presented workshops for the Children’s Book Writers of LA in 2011 and 2012.

     

    Workshop Summary:

    Based on the ancient Greek mythology of Icarus, the boy who flew too close to the sun, THE JOURNALS OF PETRA VOLARE SCROLL 1: FROM THE SHADOWS is a story about a budding young inventor named Calice. The book steeped in mythology and as such was the perfect example for co –authors Pamela and Reece’s workshop.

    authors with their book petra volare

    Pamela Jaye Smith and Reece Michaelson on their Book Petra Volare

    Creating irresistible worlds is the primary goal of any writer or content creator. In order to craft tales that engage their audience, they must use timeless world-making tools. These story-crafting tools were well known by the ancient storytellers--the mythmakersundefinedand are still useful in today’s writing process.

    Pamela and Reece explained the ABC’s for creating irresistible world for today’s readers.

     A – Access an Applicable Myth. (Or Access several)

    B – Burn and Crash vs. Crash and Burn: reverse causality.

    C – Cadence.

    D – Drives: Inner Begets Outer.

    E – Etymology: be a detective.

    F – Field notes.

    G – Go out.

    H – Hire Pamela Jaye!!  (not kidding!)  Alternate: Hallucinate.

    I – Inquire of main character:  “What’s YOUR favorite myth/mythic Archetype?”

    J – Journaling: accessing characters’ innermost secrets.

    K – Kaleidoscope journaling – use a single event [think “Roshomon”]. 

    L – Legends vs. Myth vs. Folk Tales.

    M – Map the world.

    N – Name the Nobody.

    O – Orphans: why they’re so potent (and prevalent in KidLit).

    P – Pay attention to patterns in contemporary media.

    Q – Questify everyone’s role.

    R – Reverse Engineer: unravel and reweave your applicable myth.

    S – Symbology: infuse your story.

    T – Trailer:  conceive your book’s trailer.

    U – Ultimatum: tool of the gods/goddesses.

    V – Value Add:  make a Teacher’s Guide.

    W – World Making Through Mythic Cover Art.

    X – XENA: Watch old episodes.

    Y – YouTube Field Trips.

    Z – Zeus Ex Machina….or, Zip It Up! 

     attentive audience

    Attentive CBWLA participants


    One of my favorite parts of the workshop was when Pamela discussed the differences between Legends, Myth and Folk Tales.

    According to her, Legends are stories about people/things that happened but gain a higher status. The stories are based on truth but over time become grander and more metaphorical in nature.

    Folk Tales are stories told by locals to get everyone in line with the local customs and beliefs of their village. They teach kids and newcomers how to behave in a certain way within their culture.

    Myths are universal truths dressed up in local lore, and  can be used to add a depth of meaning to one’s writing. The best myths are true on several levels:

    1. Geological
    2. Geographical
    3. Physiological
    4. Psychological
    5. Sociological
    6. Historical
    7. Astrological
    8. Cosmological
    9. Astronomical


    authors pamela jaye smith and reece michaelson

    Pamela Jaye Smith and Reece Michaelson 

    Pamela also suggested using Symbology to infuse one’s story, since symbols have a built in pattern that humans can subconsciously pick up.  Finding the main symbol in your storyundefinedwhether it’s a symbol for a character, an element (like earth, water, fire or air), or even architecture will add a layer of meaning to your work.  For example, high ceilings actually heighten creativity just as low enclosed spaces dampen them. So placing a character in a cave vs placing him in a cathedral will bring about different meanings to the scene.

    Pamela and Reece also shared a list of valuable resources that writers can use in order to learn more about myths and symbols.

    After a Q & A session, the workshop ended, and everyone lined up to get copies of their books signed by authors.

    Pamela and Reece were very generous with their time and knowledge. They answered all of the participants’ questions about their own manuscripts and even brought cookies for everyone to share as snacks! They also proudly wore the CBWLA pins which we had given them during their entire workshop.

    speakers with officers

    Authors Reece Michaelson and Pamela Jaye Smith ( proudly wearing their CBWLA pins), 

    with CBWLA Officers Nutschell Windsor and Tiffani Barth, 



    Their workshop can only be described as outstanding and we are truly lucky to have had Pamela and Reece as speakers.

     pamela jaye smith and reece michaelson with cbwla

    Authors Pamela Jaye Smith and Reece Michaelson with CBWLA

  • 20 Jul 2013 9:16 AM | Nutschell Anne Windsor (Administrator)

    Last Saturday, July 20th, 2013, CBW-LA had the pleasure of having YA Author Carmen Rodrigues as its workshop facilitator.

    Carmen studied creative writing and theater at Florida State University and got her MFA in Creative Writing from the University of North Carolina Wilmington. She is the author of Contemporary Young Adult novels NOT ANYTHING and 34 PIECES OF YOU, and is currently working on her next novel CARRY YOU WITH ME, due in the Fall of 2014.

    carmen rodrigues

     

    YA Author and CBWLA Speaker Carmen Rodrigues

    Carmen wanted the workshop to be more of a conversation and less of a lecture, so she asked each participant to introduce themselves and share a little bit about the kind of writing they’re working on.

    With the ice broken, Carmen then proceeded to the presentation portion of the workshop.

    In his book ON WRITING, Stephen King describes watching his uncle drag this big toolbox full of tools to repair a window. His uncle took out one screwdriver from among his many tools and proceeded to do his work. Once he was done, he replaced his screwdriver and hauled the big toolbox back to the shed. Stephen then asked his uncle why he needed to bring such a big toolbox when he just need one tool. His uncle replied that he brought his whole toolbox with him because he wanted to make sure he had everything he needed on hand, in case he found something else that needed fixing along the way.

    carmen rodrigues and class1

    YA Author  Carmen Rodrigues at her CBWLA Workshop

    Taking her cue from Stephen King, Carmen introduced to us the concept of The Writer’s Toolbox. As writers, we all have our own toolbox. When we start off, our toolboxes are empty, but as we learn more and develop our skills, it becomes filled with our tools.

    Along with some of her favorite quotes on writing, Carmen shared the tools that make up her own Writer’s Toolbox:

    1. Your Readers - Find five readers and apply the rule of three. If you take workshops with more readers than you have fingers, then apply the rule of five.
    2. The Delete Button - I have written many 65,000 word novels and yet I have never published one.
    3. The Works of Others - When I’m stumped I read-- not for enjoyment but to steal from someone else’s genius.
    4. Workshops - Writing happens alone. Revision happens with readers. Where better to find them than at a workshop?
    5. A Coat of Armor - Writers need to be criticized. They need to be rejected. It’s in this criticism and rejection that you will push forward towards some of your best writing.

    And just to inspire us even more, Carmen read from her own book 34 PIECES OF YOU. She also encouraged us to ask her questions that we might have, not just about the writer’s toolbox, but about revision as well. Her answers to all our questions were full of wonderful tips, insights and gems of wisdom.

    carmen rodrigues class pix

    YA Author  Carmen Rodrigues with her CBWLA Revision Workshop Class

    Once we were done peppering her with questions, Carmen steered us toward the workshop portion of the day. She gave us several writing prompts, actual creative writing exercises that we could use in our own revision process. She asked us to pick one exercise from the list she had given, and gave us 15 minutes to apply it to our own manuscripts.

    Time flew, and soon some participants were sharing what exercise they had chosen and how they had applied it to their own works.

    To end her presentation, Carmen gave us a list of books that we should read in order to know how elements of writing such as proper exposition, point of view and narrative voice are done correctly.

    As she signed copies of her book, Carmen even made it a point to spend a few minutes with us so we could ask her anything we wanted about writing.

    Carmen was a wonderful and inspiring speaker, and we were certainly lucky to have her facilitate our workshop.

    carmen rodrigues with cbwla officers

     

    YA Author  Carmen Rodrigues with the  CBWLA Officers (Photo by Kate Conrad)

  • 22 Jun 2013 6:20 PM | Nutschell Anne Windsor (Administrator)

    Often, the only kind of writing we do is related to the book, short story, or article we’re working on. Sometimes we need a break from our work. We need to have moments when we write just for fun, or for the purpose of learning how to write itself. This is when creative writing exercises come in handy.

    In an effort to encourage its members to constantly work on their craft, CBWLA held its first ever Writing Day Anthology Workshop last June 22nd, 2013. The whole day was dedicated to practicing various writing exercises designed to help attendees improve their writing skills.

    Our main goal for creating this workshop, however, was to give our members the opportunity to gain publishing experience. I specifically designed the creative writing exercises so that at the end of day, each participant would have two pieces ready for publication in our first CBWLA Anthology. In September 2013, we plan to release the anthology through Amazon's Kindle Direct Publishing, as well as through its Create Space program.

    Since we only had one day, we focused on four short literary forms: essay, flash fiction, poetry and picture book.

    I. FREEWRITING

    The workshop began with a freewriting exercise to warm up everyone’s writing muscles. Shutting out their internal editors and forgetting all rules of grammar and punctuation, attendees wrote nonstop for 5 minutes.

     

    CBWLA Anthology Workshop attendees 2

    CBWLA Writing Day Anthology Workshop Attendees Doing Freewriting Exercises

     

    Their writing muscles loosened, we proceeded to a guided freewriting activity in which everyone used the question “How do you feel about writing?” as a guide for the second freewriting exercise.

    Author Melissa Donovan said this about freewrites:

    Freewrites can also be used to bring creative, colorful language into prose. Strong images and rich language generates work that is more literary in nature and if done well, it’s a lot more fun to read. It will help you generate words that show rather than tell and make your story or essay come alive more easily in a reader’s mind.

    The ten minute guided freewriting exercise was a treasure trove of inspiration and ideas. I asked participants to unearth the gems in their pieces by underlining or highlighting the words, phrases and sentences that called out to them; words they found meaningful or beautiful.

    I gave  a short talk on the literary forms we would use that day (essay, flash fiction, poetry and picture book), along with tips and techniques to help them in the next activity. Choosing one of these four forms, participants used the gems they harvested in their freewriting exercise to write their first anthology piece.

    Handouts were also provided so they could refer to them as they wrote their “On Writing” pieces.

     

    CBWLA Anthology Workshop lecture

    CBWLA Writing Day Anthology Workshop Attendees

    The 50 minute writing time was filled with the sounds of scribbling pens and clacking keyboards. While attendees focused on creating their first anthology piece, I quietly went about preparing for the next part of the workshop: Lunch!

    Snacks were provided throughout the day, but lunch was still a welcome event for the attendees. They got to eat a hearty meal and make new friends with other writers.

    CBWLA Anthology Workshop snacks

    Breakfast and snacks provided throughout the day

     

    Although lunch only lasted for 30 minutes,  attendees returned to their workstations and ready for the next round of activities.

     

    II. STORY SPARKERS

    Story ideas are generated by our experiences, and emotions, but their mostly generated by our five senses, particularly by things we might see. We might get story ideas from things we read in the newspaper, a photograph or painting , or an event we witness live or see in the news.

    In the next exercise called “Shopping for Ideas”, I asked attendees to pick several pictures from a box. These were pictures of shops they might encounter as they travel.

    Using the shop pictures, participants came up with several story ideas.

     

    shopping for ideas box

    Shopping for Ideas Setting Box

     

    And to help them out further, I distributed two other types of story sparkers: the Conflict Cards and the Character Archetype Cards.

    conflict archetype cards

    Conflict Cards & Character Archetype Cards

     

    Since they already had the setting based on the shop cards they got earlier, participants now had the option to pick characters they could put into that setting, using the Character Archetype Cards. They could also use the Conflict Cards to come up with problems their characters might encounter in their stories.

    Ideas beget ideas. So after 15 minutes of jotting down story ideas, I asked participants to share one with the rest of the class.  Everyone came up with intriguing and fascinating story concepts.

    I asked them to pick one story idea which they really liked, and to choose the literary form (flash fiction, poetry, picture book) they’d like to use for their next piece. Using their handouts as a guide, the attendees were given an hour to write their second piece for the anthology.

    In order to make sure that the writers have chosen the best form possible for their anthology piece, I gave them two final exercises.

     

     

    CBWLA Anthology Workshop attendees3

    CBWLA Writing Day Anthology Workshop Attendees Writing Away

    The Point of View exercise required them to pick an alternate point of view for their second anthology piece. If they wrote their stories using the third person POV, they would have to rewrite it to first person, or second person and so on.

    The attendees re-read the two versions and picked which POV worked best for their anthology piece. Afterward, they moved on to the final writing exercise on Voice.

    The Voice exercise was designed to make sure their anthology piece had the right voice or tone. I challenged the attendees to rewrite their piece using a different tone. For example, they could rewrite their piece as if everything about the story infuriated them, or broke their heart or scared the hell out of them.

    Once the attendees had picked the voice that best suited their stories, they immediately set to revising and editing their two anthology pieces.

    The minutes flew by really quickly and soon it was time for the writers to submit their works. While co-officer Tiffani went about collecting the anthology pieces on a flashdrive, I collected the works of those who used pen and paper instead of their laptops.

    With their pieces all in, the attendees could finally breathe a sigh of relief.And to end the wonderful writing day on a high note, we all posed for a class picture.

    CBWLA Anthology Workshop Class pix formal

    CBWLA Writing Day Anthology Workshop Class of 2013 (Formal picture)

    The day certainly went by so fast. Attendees barely noticed the hours fly by because they were so busy doing what they loved best: writing.  They left the room, already looking forward to the next big anthology workshop--and asking us to organize a launch party for the anthology in September.

    CBWLA Anthology Workshop class pix informal

    CBWLA Writing Day Anthology Workshop Class of 2013 (Informal picture)

     

  • 25 May 2013 10:09 AM | Nutschell Anne Windsor (Administrator)

    Last May 25th, 2013 CBWLA was fortunate to have one of its own, Author Samantha Combs, as its workshop presenter.

    samantha combs

     

    YA Author Samantha Combs

    YA AUTHOR SAMANTHA COMBS' BIO

    I am a Southern California author with six published books; the Global Ebook Award-winning debut title: SPELLBOUND, EVERSPELL, and GHOSTLY, all YA paranormals. My Middle Grade horror, THE DETENTION DEMON is out, along with two adult horror collections, TEETH AND TALONS and WAY PAST MIDNIGHT.  WATERDANCER, a new YA fantasy, comes out in Sept. I enjoy writing YA paranormal romance and supernatural fantasy, but I also dabble in the horror and sci-fi genres as well, and writing for the Middle Grade audience.

    When I'm not writing, I enjoy spending time with my husband and two children, and my guilty pleasures include reality television, the Food Network channel and shoes. I truly believe I can accomplish anything if I have the right pair of shoes.

    I love writing and I am in awe of the technological advances of our lives. Ereaders and similar gadgets are bringing the written word to a generation that might never have discovered books otherwise and every time I see a kid pick one up to read something it fills me with joy to be a small part of that process. If a child can connect with literature because he or she did so electronically, a connection still was made. I am excited to see what our world has in store for literature and excited to be along for that ride.

    http://samanthacombswrites.blogspot.com/ 

    samantha combs audience

    Samantha Combs at the CBWLA Workshop on Queries, Blurbs & Loglines

    Samantha’s talked focused on three things which every writer has to write at some point: Queries, Loglines and Blurbs.

    QUERIES

    She began her workshop by defining what a query was and giving us various techniques that writers can use to formulate their own query, along with very helpful examples to illustrate each technique.

    She also shared with us her own tried and tested formula for writing a query, which involves answering the following questions:

    1. Who is the protagonist and what is their goal? (Motivation.)

    2. What is keeping the protag from achieving that goal? (Conflict.)

    3. How will the protagonist overcome this problem? (Plot.)

    4. What happens if the protagonist fails/what choice does the protagonist have to make? (Stakes, and why the reader should care.)

    samantha combs YA Author1

     

    Samantha Combs at the CBWLA Workshop on Queries, Blurbs & Loglines

    Samantha broke down the three paragraphs that are essential in a query (the hook, the mini-synopsis and the writer’s bio) and explained what important details to include in each one.

    She also gave us a helpful list of the Do’s and Don’ts  of a Query:

    -Skip rhetorical questions. No “what ifs?”

    -Don’t name too many characters

    -Don’t describe your book as a theme (about peace and love)

    -Don’t clutter the query. You don’t want to tell the whole story….leave ‘em wanting more

    -Spell check, proof, revise and edit. This will be more important than the actual book

    -Don’t mention other manuscripts.

    -Don’t grovel, beg or plead

    -Do research the agent and mention something proving you researched them; Did you meet?

    -Do address the query to a specific agent and spell their name correctly. Also get their gender correct

    -Do state the title of your book

    -Do mention word count and genre of book

    -Do advise why you are approaching this particular agent

    -Do be professional and respectful

    -Do have many, many people read the query before you send it

    CBWLA workshop with samantha combs3

    Samantha Combs at the CBWLA Workshop on Queries, Blurbs & Loglines

    BLURBS

    When dealing with blurbs, Samantha encouraged us to think of the dust jacket of our favorite book, or the description line for a lifetime movie. From these examples, we can gather that a blurb is designed to entice, tease and ultimately make the audience buy the story.

    According to Samantha, a Blurb is used for the following things:

    Book cover

    Press releases

    Interviews

    Bloggers

    Publisher’s site

    3rd party seller sites: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, All Romance, etc.

    She gave us examples of blurbs taken from her own books in the Spellbound Series.

    samantha combs YA Author2

     

    Samantha Combs at the CBWLA Workshop on Queries, Blurbs & Loglines

     

    When writing a book blurb, she gave us the following reminders:

    * A good blurb will only introduce one character in an intimate way.

    • Introduce others via the experience of the main protag – always keep focus on MC
    • This way, the reader develops a bond and learns to root for your MC. Make the reader care what happens to them.
    • Focus on one specific conflict, not theme.
    • If your theme is strong, it will shine anyway

    * Appeal to universal human emotions, even with less than human protags

    • Don’t be flashy; be concise and write with restraint. This impresses publishers
    • Subplots need not apply.
    • Never give away the ending; coyly suggest with precise, gripping language
    • Pick exact verbs instead of spineless ones like “seem” or “being” or “may”

     

    CBWLA workshop with samantha combs2

    Samantha Combs at the CBWLA Workshop on Queries, Blurbs & Loglines

     

    LOGLINES

    After condensing 300 our manuscript pages to 3-4 paragraphs, we now have to whittle them down further into two sentences which comprise the logline.

    The logline is sometimes called a pitch or a tagline.

    Samantha gave us examples of loglines based on popular movies, asking us to guess which movies each described.

    Afterward, she gave us another helpful formula for creating loglines:

    1. Give the main character an epithet: vengeful divorcee, bitter amputee, struggling aspiring author
    2. Identify the MC’s main mission and what he stands to lose if he fails
    3. Brainstorm words and phrases that conjur up images of your book
    4. Pick 25-30 that sound the most compelling
    5. Now pick 5-8 that sound even MORE compelling
    6. Now use them to fashion a tight, 25 word pitch


     CBWLA workshop with samantha combs1

    Samantha Combs at the CBWLA Workshop on Queries, Blurbs & Loglines

    Samantha wrapped up her workshop by saying that there is no right or wrong way to really write queries, loglines and blurbs. But however we write them, we should put the same passion into our few sentences that we put in our 300+ manuscript pages. Most importantly, we should edit, edit, and edit.

     She ended with these words of wisdom regarding the stories we write: “If you believe in them, someone else will too.”

    samantha signing books

     

    Samantha Combs signing books after the workshop

    Samantha was a wonderful speaker. She spoke in a fun, engaging manner, sprinkling funny comments and jokes throughout the workshop to keep us all entertained. Her explanations were easy to follow, and the examples she gave were very helpful in understanding the material.

    Her workshop on Queries, Blurbs & Loglines was a definite hit, and many of our members left with valuable information, and heaps of inspiration to use in their own writing.

     

     

  • 30 Mar 2013 11:06 AM | Nutschell Anne Windsor (Administrator)

    March 30, 2013 (42nd  CBW-LA meetup): Blogging Workshop with Arlee Bird

    On the 30th of March, 2013, I had the immense pleasure of meeting in person awesome blogger and A-Z Blogfest founder Arlee Bird.

    Arlee and I became bloggy buddies, thanks to his famous A-Z blogfest. I had no idea that Arlee lived in L.A.  Luckily, I found out about this fact, thanks to my fellow CBW-LA officer Alana (also a prolific blogger), who had interviewed Arlee for her local newspaper article.

    I asked Alana to invite Arlee to do a workshop for CBW-LA, and Arlee kindly agreed.

    Arlee’s workshop focused on how blogging builds author platform. Lee began the workshop by introducing himself, and talking about his origins both as a writer and a blogger.

    arlee bird the writer

     

    Blogger and A-Z Blogfest Founder Arlee Bird

    His parents were professional jugglers, and soon he and sister became part of the act. His family spent their summer vacations touring and performing in front of crowds.  Lee developed his love for stories through the many intriguing folks he and his family met, thanks to juggling.

    juggling jackson modified

     

    The Juggling Jacksons, Arlee, his parents and his sister

    When Lee decided he would try out blogging, he decided on the title Tossing It Out, as a reference not only to his roots as a professional juggler, but also as a reference to his love for juggling words.

    During the workshop, Lee encouraged us to think about why we writeundefinedwhether it be for fun, for self-expression, or for publication. He said that our answers will also define why we blog.

    Lee answered the following questions during the course of his workshop:

    What Is A Blog?

    Why Blog?

    What Is Platform?

    How Can Blogging Help Establish Platform?

    Is Blogging Enough?

    Are the “Internet Time Sucks” Enough?

    How Do I Start My Blog?

    So I’ve Got a Blog--Now What?

    arlee bird and cbwla

    Blogger and A-Z Blogfest Founder Arlee Bird speaking to CBW-LA members

    Lee defined author platform as:

    Ÿ  Who you are

    Ÿ  What you can do

    Ÿ  Where you can be found

    Ÿ  Who your audience or customer base is

    Ÿ  What you have done

     

    Through blogging, we are able to establish our author platform by:           

    Ÿ  Building relationships

    Ÿ  Displaying our abilities

    Ÿ  Sharing our news

    Ÿ  Creating a community via our interaction with other bloggers

    Ÿ  Establishing credibility

    Ÿ  And building our SEO skills

     

    Lee discussed other social media venues where we can expand our following/author platform such as Twitter, Facebook, Triberr and Google Plus.

    Lee also spoke about What Not to Do when blogging, such as tell people too much about our lives, get into fights, or leave comments on other people’s blogs that we might later regret.

    In the second part of the workshop, Lee talked about the Blogging from A to Z April Challenge. He explained what the challenge was, and how he had come up with the idea.

    arlee bird why i began tossing it out

     

    Lee explained the benefits of joining the A-Z Blogging challenge. Not only was the challenge fun, it would also encourage discipline and creativity, since we would have to write up posts matching a specific letter for each day. The A-Z challenge would also help us network and get noticed, which would help our author platform.

    Lee cited several of our bloggy friends as prime examples of the A-Z’s success:

    Damyanti used the A-Z as a spring board for her works of fiction and later published her entries in an ebook entitled A-Z Stories of Life and Death.

    damyanti book modified

    Blogger Doris Plaster, inspired by her A-Z posts also published Home Sweet Nursing Home: An A-Z Collection of 50 Word Stories on Aging and Healthcare.

    home sweet nursing home by doris plaster

    We mentioned how Ninja Captain Alex Cavanaugh’s army of thousands of bloggers help him promote his Cassastar Series, and support him on his many challenges. (We also discussed theories on how Alex is able to balance blogging, writing, performing in a band, working and attending to his family, citing being an alien or a wizard as possibilities. :) )

     

    Mini Alex and CassaStorm modified

     

    Lee patiently answered a lot of questions on blogging and social media. He ended the workshop by encouraging the attendees to go home and start a blog tonight.

    Thanks to his workshop, many of our members were inspired to begin their own blogs and join the A-Z:

    Lucy Ravitch http://www.kidsmathteacher.blogspot.com/
    Chontali Kirk chontalikirk.blogspot.com
    Michael Cahill http://nouveauscarecrow.wordpress.com/
    Kate Conrad http://katloveswriting.blogspot.com/
    Christina Romero http://amamhc.blogspot.com/

     

    And of course, our members who already had blogs, discovered ways to gain more followers and make more connections online.

    Samantha Combs www.samanthacombswrites.blogpost.com
    Alana Garrigues http://writercize.blogspot.com/
    Jennifer Carson http://jennifercarson0423.wordpress.com/

     

    Our big thanks to Arlee Bird for coming out and speaking to CBW-LA

    If you'd like to know more about Arlee, check out his many blogs:

    http://tossingitout.blogspot.com/        Tossing It Out

    http://wrotebyrote.blogspot.com/         Wrote By Rote

    http://afarawayview.blogspot.com/       A Faraway View

    http://psalmsunday.blogspot.com/         A Few Words

    http://www.a-to-zchallenge.com/         The Blogging from A to Z Challenge Blog

     

     

  • 13 Oct 2012 9:02 PM | Nutschell Anne Windsor (Administrator)


    Speaker Chris Lynch, Author of One-Eyed Jack

    Speaker Bio:

    Author Christopher J. Lynch is a Southern California native living in Los Angeles. A member of our group, CBW-LA, Chris has written articles for various newspapers and magazines, as well has various short stories.

    His hobbies include cycling and mountain climbing. He recently trained and led a group of blind individuals to the summit of Mount Baldy, the highest point in Los Angeles County. A documentary film is being made of the adventure. www.baldyfortheblind.com.

    In May of 2012, Christopher J. Lynch finished the first draft of his debut crime novel “One Eyed Jack.” By June 13th, he had it revised, edited, formatted, and published as both an e-book, and a “Print on Demand” on both Amazon and Barnes and Noble.


    Since then, he has enjoyed brisk sales, received rave reviews, done four author signings, and had it placed in Pages Bookstore, Small World Books, Apostrophe Books, and Frog Books. He also produced a video trailer and has done numerous guest blogs, author interviews, and promo pieces. How did he do it all in such a short time? He self-published.

    Christopher J. Lynch will share his experience and talk candidly about the self-publishing route and what it means to the writer of the 21st. Century.



    Workshop Summary:

    Chris was a wonderful speaker. He offered us a no-holds barred presentation on the ups and downs of self-publishing and gave us a lot of helpful tips and tricks, which he had to learn the hard way.


     Some of the questions Chris answered included:

    ·What is traditional publishing versus self-publishing?

    ·Is self-publishing right for me, or for my book?
    ·What are the benefits of self-publishing?
    ·What are the downsides to self-publishing?
    ·What is POD (print on demand)?
    ·What are the steps necessary for self-publishing?
    ·What are the costs involved?

     


    Workshop Highlights:

    Is Self Publishing For You?

    Cons:

    - Major bookstores (B&N) - and even some “indie” bookstores - will not carry self-published titles.

    - If you are selling on consignment to bookstores, you will have to get a sellers permit and resale certificate from the franchise tax board.

    - You may not be eligible for some book awards.

    - The “New York Times” and many other mainstream publications, are reticent to review any self-published book.

    - Some blogs may not review self-published books.

    - You will have to pay for your own editing, formatting, cover design, etc.

    - All promotion, bookkeeping, sales, etc.  is on you – You are a business!

     

    Pros:

    - Time: Your completed book can be available as an e-book in under 8 hours, and a print version in about one day.

    - Creative Control – This can be both good and bad.

    - You can set the list price (minimums for e-book and POD).

    - Higher royalties.

    - If successful, you can always get an agent and a publisher and go the conventional route.



     

    Where do you begin? An e-book from manuscript to product.

    - Step one: Finish the damn thing!!

    - Step two: Revise...Revise...Revise.

    - Step three: Have your manuscript professionally edited…by a reputable editing service.

    - Step four: Your cover is the first thing a customer sees - and it will only be a thumbnail on-line. Again, pay the pros. Only a front cover will be needed for an E-book (more on converting it to a full cover with spine and back for a POD).

    - Step five: Formatting from mobi, to epub to pdf can be hell, so it’s worth it to get a professional to do this for you.



     

    Why do a POD, if e-books are all the rage?

    - It doesn’t cost you much more.

    - It broadens your sales.

    - Many people still like holding a physical book.

    - You are going to have to do lots of in-face promotion (book fairs, signings, libraries, etc.)  and you can’t sign an e-book.

     

    How the steps to do a POD differ from an e-book

    - You will need to have your original, revised and edited manuscript, formatted into a different size (typically, trade size paperback).

    - Companies like Ironhorse formatting can do this: Pricing: 20 to 45K words – $40

    - You will have to have your e-book front cover made into a full cover with spine and back (app. $50.00)

    DO NOT…I REPEAT DO NOT, HAVE THIS  FINAL STEP DONE UNTIL THE BOOK IS FULLY FORMATTED AND YOU KNOW THE EXACT PAGE COUNT!

     



    Sales, the “driver” of all business

    Three ways you will sell your book:

    - On-line

    - Consignment through bookstores

    - Private sales

     

    The truth about self-published book sales:

     - The average self-published book sells about 100-150 copies across all formats and venues.

    - Some don’t sell at all.

    - Don’t count on all of your family and friends - especially your F/B “friends” - to buy your book

    - Sales require endless promotion: reviews, blogging, social media, author events, book fairs, swag…and some luck. It takes a lot of time…and some money.

    - It’s a crowded marketplace

    “The good news is, anyone can self-publish a book.”

    “The bad news is, anyone can self-publish a book.”



     

    Author Chris Lynch with CBW-LA Officers

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