Monthly Meetings

Our Portland speaker meetings have 75 to 150 attendees. They are held the first Tuesday of each month at the historic Old Church in downtown Portland, 1422 SW 11th Ave. Fellowship begins at 6:30, the meeting starts at 7 and ends at 8. Book signings, silent auctions, or other events are held in the back room after the meeting until 8:30 pm. The Young Willamette Writers’ meeting for grades 5 to 10 takes place in an adjacent room.

The speaker meetings are free to WW members and full time students. Guests of members are asked for a $5 donation, and non-members pay $10. Information on speakers is posted below. Join us on MeetUp to receive meeting updates, and follow us on Twitter @wilwrite.

For detailed information about meetings at our chapters, check out the websites for the Mid-Valley, Salem, the Coast, Southern Oregon, and Willamette Writers on the River in Corvallis.

Speaker schedules can change and we do our best to keep you informed. Questions? Email wilwrite@willamettewriters.com

Why a Bad Attitude Is a Good Thing

Author and speaker Eric Witchey

Eric Witchey

by Eric Witchey

In a few, short weeks, I’ll be standing on the stage and speaking at Old Church again. The idea is terrifying, which seems to surprise people who know me because not only do I seem to love public speaking, I actually do love it. Sadly, my love of public speaking does nothing to keep me from being terrified beforehand. The love only shows up once I see the audience begin to show signs that what I’m saying might help them solve their writing problems. The chat will be about attitude in writing. Will I be talking about my amazing attitude?

Nope. Not mine.

I have a bad attitude about most things in life. I’m a negative person. I’m a fool who puts little black squiggles in a row on a white background until he likes the way they look. I think people who don’t read or write fiction are helping destroy the culture, the country, and the planet. I’m so full of bad attitude that I don’t look at myself in the mirror in the morning for fear of my own negative influence on my day.

Will I talk about your attitude?

Nope. Not yours.

I don’t know you, and I have no idea what your attitude should or shouldn’t be. If I had to talk about your attitude, I’d say something unflattering in order to make sure you know your attitude is worse than mine, which I have established is really bad. Judging your attitude will help me feel better about my attitude.

I will probably talk about my terror. I believe my terror makes me just like all the writers on the planet.

We are all afraid of the blank page, of not being enough for this story, of not knowing something others know, of appearing to be weak in the face of the thousands and thousands of really good writers we know surround us. We are afraid of not finishing, of finishing and failing, of not starting, of having to explain, of not getting the chance to explain. We are afraid of standing up to speak, and we are afraid we won’t get a chance to stand up and speak.

Most writers are neurotic as hell. It’s sort of a prerequisite for the empathy needed to do the job.

Oh, and lest you gloss over the term, I mean neurotic literally and not figuratively. My Google search spit out the definition of neurosis, “a relatively mild mental illness that is not caused by organic disease, involving symptoms of stress (depression, anxiety, obsessive behavior, hypochondria) but not a radical loss of touch with reality.”

Yup. That about covers folks fueled by caffeine and hope who spend their days lining up little black squiggles on white backgrounds. But I’ll be talking mostly about attitude. The old adage that “Attitude is Everything!” is usually spouted by people who want others to think they are succeeding or who want magic to take care of their lives while not bothering to face their actual issues or the issues others are facing. Writing not going the way you want? Well, you obviously have the wrong attitude. Learn some discipline.

Not enough money in the bank account? Well you obviously have the wrong attitude. Learn to attract money.

Someone cheated you and took your house? Well, you obviously have the wrong attitude. Move on or they control your heart.

And on and on.

Judgments come from attitudes. We are fond of judgments, and believing that other people have the wrong attitude is one of our favorites.

Writers, who are engaged in something our self-consuming, commercialized culture already minimizes, unless the effort starts delivering cash into the pockets of non-writers, live their lives in abject terror of the next critical finger that will point their way.

I’m terrified, so I’ll work hard to prepare for the Old Church chat.

Well, he has a good attitude.

Nope. Not a good attitude. I’m sorry, but I don’t believe that terror is a good basis for any activity. Still, I’ll do it in the hopes that what I say will help someone avoid mistakes I have made. I had to make those mistakes in order to be able to analyze what I had done. The analysis lets me describe how you can skip my mistakes.

Oh, well then he has a detail-oriented, can-do attitude that includes good follow-through.

Nope. I have a pathological compulsion, which I can prove with my medical history.

But this talk you’re going give will be about attitude, right?

Yep. But it won’t be about mine. It won’t be about yours.

I’ll talk about how to write fiction that lets us take advantage of that favorite of human pass times, judging the attitudes of others. You see, every really good, powerful character in all of fiction is flat terrified in some way. Think Frodo, Ahab, Anna Kerinina. Consider Harry Potter or Percy Jackson. What about Walter Mitty and the Vampire Lestatte? Name a few of your own favorites. Name their fears. Name their neuroses, if you have the psychobabble jargon to do so. Don’t have the psychobabble? No worries. It’s enough to know that good characters often have bad attitudes.

Think about how we all (I mean, other people) seem ready to judge the successful and failed attitudes of others. Readers are judgmental people just like us…

I mean you…

Uh. No. I mean them… Uh, yeah–those other judgmental people that aren’t us.

A story allows readers to engage in a constant, quiet, often subconscious judgment of the attitudes of the characters on the page.

Well, if that’s true, then we should be able to learn to manipulate the little black squiggles on the page so that they cause the reader to judge, to condemn, to support, to anticipate, and to celebrate based on the attitudes of the characters.

My attitude has nothing to do with it. I wrote today because I can’t quit. That’s not an attitude. That’s a chemical imbalance in the brain.

However, while compulsively scratching my itch, I also worked consciously to help the reader feel the attitudes of my characters. I did that in order to help the reader engage in judgments in support of, and against, the decisions being made by my characters. Those judgments are part of what many writing instructors call “identification.” But thinking about whether the reader identifies with a character doesn’t cause it to happen. Displaying text in a way that triggers the reader’s neuroses causes identification to happen. Getting characters’ attitudes all up in the reader’s grill so the reader can judge them connects the reader to character.

My attitude is terrible. That’s not important to the reader.

The character’s attitude is important, and demonstrating attitude through conscious alignment of the little black squiggles is a tool we can pick up, manipulate, and use to deliver the judgment opportunity to our readers.

That’s what I’ll talk about once I get over my terror. I’ll talk about how to line up the squiggles so the reader gets caught up in judging the characters.


Eric Witchey fishing

Eric Witchey fishing

Eric M. Witchey has made a living as a freelance writer and communication consultant for over 24 years. In addition to many contracted and ghost non-fiction titles, he has sold more than 90 stories, including 4 novels. His stories have appeared in nine genres and on five continents. He has received awards or recognition from New Century Writers, Writers of the Future, Writer’s Digest, The Eric Hoffer Prose Award Program, Short Story America, the Irish Aeon Awards, and other organizations. His How-to articles have appeared in The Writer Magazine, Writer’s Digest Magazine, and other print and online magazines. When not teaching or writing, he spends his time fly fishing or restoring antique model locomotives.

Visit www.ericwitchey.com for more information and come to the meeting, April 7th at the Old Church.

Doors open at 6:30 and the meeting starts at 7.

Jeff Baker – Have I Got a Review for You

Jeff Baker, book editor for the Oregonian

Jeff Baker, book editor for the Oregonian

On Tuesday, March 3rd, at the Old Church in downtown Portland, Willamette Writers welcomes Jeff Baker, The Oregonian’s book editor and friend to writers everywhere.

As the Sunday Arts and Entertainment editor and the book editor at The Oregonian in Portland, Jeff assigns and edits news and feature articles on arts and culture in Portland. He writes feature and book reviews, assigns and edits freelance reviews, and writes an arts and books blog.

Jeff plans to share his insights into the world of book publishing, the large and the local, and the transformation of print to digital. Better yet, Jeff will speak on the arcane art of writing a book review, and will have review copies of books to give away.

Get your questions ready because there are going to be answers. So what is a book review?

A book review describes, analyzes and evaluates. The review conveys an opinion, and supports the opinion with evidence from the book.

Are there any rules for writing a book review?

Don’t be intimidated by famous authors — many have written mediocre books. Don’t review books by people you know, love, or hate.

How do you get started writing book reviews?

Start by doing. Write book reviews for local newspapers. If they don’t have a book review section, start one. If you have a specialty — romance, mystery, dark fantasy — cultivate it, become an expert.

Jeff says: “There are a lot of great young writers now . . . the talent pool is not drying up, and the interest in writing and literature, and being a great writer and a great poet, is undiminished . . . that’s as strong now as it’s ever been.”

Jeff is a University of Oregon graduate and has won awards for criticism, feature writing and sports journalism. He’s taught classes in writing and in Northwest Literature at Portland State University and the Attic Institute and guest-lectured and led workshops on writing and publishing at the Pacific University MFA program, Fresno State University, Clackamas Community College and other schools and writing programs.

And he’s got a stack of books to give away! Let’s crack them open and write a review, tonight, if not sooner! Use the following template to get started. Once you’ve turned out a few dozen in the privacy of your own home, try it with your neighbor’s book, your kid’s book, your own book. And go ahead and break the rules. Even book reviewers have their own style.

The rest is really simple. Send your best reviews to program@willamettewriters.com. We will consider posting them in the members news section of the Willamette Writers website. The website is viewable by the world. The world buys books.

Let’s get the story going. Follow Jeff Baker in The Oregonian: Oregonian.com/jbaker. Come to the meeting on March 3rd. Bring questions. The doors open at 6:30 and the meeting begins promptly at 7:00.

Fund Your Creative Project – Gigi Rosenberg

On Tuesday, February 3rd, at the Old Church in downtown Portland, Willamette Writers welcomes celebrated author and coach, Gigi Rosenberg, who will introduce us to the world of grants, how to research them and even how to enlist the help of friends and colleagues in writing them.

Gigi says: “Even if you don’t end up applying for a grant, you’ll leave the meeting with strategies for planning your next career move.” Want to learn how to take a good idea and transform it into a lively grant proposal? Need to find a grant that might pay for you to take a workshop or fund your next creative project? Have a funding application that needs decoding? Come join us and learn the secrets of successful grant writers and how your career can flourish just from writing the application.

Gigi_Rosenberg_book_coverThis is just the beginning, though. Later in the month, on Saturday, February 21st, Gigi will be running a full two and a half hour workshop for Willamette Writers members, addressing your specific questions, helping you focus your career goals, and most importantly giving you an effective system to locate grant funding for your next project.

And she’s promised to assign homework at the meeting for those attending the workshop on the 21st so you can take full advantage of Gigi’s expertise. Don’t miss out. Grant writing is a skill every writer should wield.

The Old Church doors open at 6:30, and the meeting gets underway at 7.

The Red Carpet Treatment – FiLMLaB

On Tuesday, January 6th, at the Old Church in downtown Portland, Willamette Writers presents a special program devoted to FiLMLaB 2015.

FiLMLaB, now in its 4th year, already boasts an award-winning short film from year one, Alis Volat Propriis, by Portland writer, Haley Isleib. FiLMLaB Coordinator and Exec. Producer Ruth Witteried picks up the gauntlet in 2015 with her eye on even greater glory for a new short film production. Ruth has invited filmmaker Martin Vavra and 2014’s winning writer, Jon Dragt, to take the walk of fame across the Old Church stage and answer questions you haven’t even thought of yet.

If you missed this year’s screening of Jon’s Unwelcome Guests at the August conference, fear not. We’ll view this super fun short at the meeting and also, if time allows, the world premiere of an additional FiLMLaB video.

You’ll be asking yourself, “Could those be my figments of my imagination up there on the silver screen?” They certainly could be.

Ruth is going to make it easy for you. Come to the meeting. Watch the film. Ask questions. Get answers. Write a seven-page screenplay. That’s right, seven pages.

Or less! It doesn’t have to be seven pages. It can be five or six, or any number up to and including seven. But seven is the magic number because seven pages of script is usually shootable in a weekend—and weekends are when those great Portland filmmakers are free from their day jobs at Grimm and Portlandia.

If you can write a feature-length screenplay in 30 days with the mini-movie method (Spike Lee wrote his first script, She’s Gotta Have It, in a lot less time than that), you can probably write seven pages in seven days and still have a day to rest. Once you get creating, there’s no telling what you can accomplish, so make 2015 the year to get ‘er done.

The 2015 FiLMLaB contest winner will see their short film debuted at the Willamette Writers Conference in August at a free event that will be open to the public. Getting the chance to see your work come to life on the big screen is priceless, but there are many other perks to winning, not the least of which is the opportunity to work with a director and be on set while your story is filmed. Check the FiLMLaB Blog for the latest information on contest rules, script limitations and guidelines, or on Facebook at FiLMLaB, and Twitter @WWFiLMLaB.

Mark your calendars for the membership meeting, January 6th. We roll out the red carpet at 6:30 folks, and the celebrity sightings start soon thereafter.

Small Press-a-pa-looza – Terry Persun, Jared John Smith, and Abbey Gaterud

On Tuesday,  December 2nd, at the Old Church in downtown Portland, Willamette Writers welcomes a trio of small press dignitaries to our year-end meeting.

Award-winning Seattle author Terry Persun, author of Guidebook to Working with Small Independent Publishers, and Jared John Smith, Portland author of Rabbit (Pink Fish Press, 2014), take the stage for an informal discussion about the brave new world of small press publishing.

Terry_Persun_in_Thailand

Terry Persun

Do you want a route to publication that doesn’t include the New York Big 5?  Terry Persun opens our discussion with an introduction to the world of independent publishing.  “There are only a few large, corporate publishers and literally thousands of small independent publishers alive today.  For authors looking to get their books published, these small publishers offer a great opportunity.

Terry’s Guidebook to Working with Small Independent Publishers (Pink Fish Press, 2012), presents the pros and cons of small press publishers.  “Whenever I gave a talk or workshop about working with small, independent publishers, there was standing room only in the hall.  Afterward, many attendees asked if there was a book explaining what I’d gone over and I could never find one. I wrote [the guidebook] from my class notes…”

Jared John Smith’s Rabbit is about J, a male American folklorist, aged twenty-seven, collecting ghost stories across states for freelance pieces.  Along the halfway point of a 4,000 mile road trip through humid forestry and dry canyons, J meets with his homeless, mentally-ill father for the first time since age five.  There are musings on sizes of stars and fragile creatures, the deaths of rabbits; mostly, it is a frantic hunt for family and its definition.

Jared John Smith submitted his first query letter at the age of fifteen. He wrote several books, operated a blog, and graduated from a university with an acronym entitling him to say, “I majored in English Literature. After a failed pitch attempt to a round of agents at a literary conference, he set out on a road trip to meet his homeless father.

We have a surprise honored speaker at this evening’s meeting. Abbey Gaterud is the Publisher of Portland’s Ooligan Press, a not-for-profit general trade press that publishes books honoring the cultural and natural diversity of the Pacific Northwest. Abbey is a dynamic speaker and also teaches PSU classes in book design, editing, production, and marketing. The press is affiliated with the Portland State University Graduate Publishing Program — there are only seven other places around the nation where one can get a Master’s degree with an emphasis in publishing. Ooligan Press is also hosting the January Write to Publish conference at PSU. A list of books published by Ooligan can be found at http://ooligan.pdx.edu/all-books/.

For even more tales of the small press insurgence, check out the November/December issue of Poets & Writers Magazine, where eleven small-press authors and their editors tell the stories behind their successful publishing partnerships.

We hope you’ll join us at the Old Church on Tuesday, December 2nd.  Bring your questions, get some answers.  As always, the doors open at 6:30 and the meeting gets underway promptly at 7:00 pm.  And don’t be alarmed if someone in a red suit shows up to play the pipe organ…

* Renda Dodge was unable to make this evening’s presentation.