Write Angles: April 2019

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The Wind In Your Sails

Some words from your captain/president

It’s spring and today for some reason I am thinking about eggs. Eggs! There are good ones and bad ones; they come before and after chickens; they are delicate and ubiquitous, beautiful in form, mysterious in their inscrutability, and downright miraculous in their function. Eggs are potent symbols in literature, and inspiring poetry prompts! They are both delicious and nutritious. (Also, have you ever given your dog an egg to play with? They get all wolfy. Hilarious.)

I once even had a mystical egg experience! On New Years Day, 2016. I split open a dozen boiled eggs to bring to a party, only to find they were already “bedeviled” —eight of them had double yolks! What an omen that was for the astonishing and divisive year that followed! (And yet, I must add, they were quite delicious.)

For some reason I was thinking about eggs while reading Chapter Four of Gary Durbin’s sci-fi novel, Nano-Uncertainty, which features intelligent little orbs but really has nothing to do with any of the above. However, in a way, cracking the cover of a book is like cracking an egg. You get to all this good stuff inside, for it to take life in your own mind. And cracking open a book is like cracking open a writer. In our club we all know each other as people but until we crack open each other’s books, each other’s writings, we cannot really begin to fully understand each other. We find out how truly diverse and interesting each one of us is, behind our smooth (or brightly colored) exterior.

Meanwhile, the Catholic church always seems to schedule Easter in direct conflict with our monthly 3rd-Sunday meeting, no matter how many letters I write asking them to change it! This year, though, we’re outsmarting the system with technology! For years, people have been asking if we could put our speakers and meetings online, and we’ve finally “cracked the code” thanks to the up-and-running business of another incredibly capable writer and teacher who is also now a club member. So if you need to spend Sunday, April 21 doing egg-related activities, no worries! Thanks to Beth Baranyyou can see the lecture online, at your convenience! Scroll down for details, or just register NOW at this link.

April, what else? Showers! Flowers! Taxes! Endless reasons to write. If you write NOTHING ELSE this month, write a note to the nomination committee (below, in yellow), with the name of that person whose book you read (or want to read) who you think is smart and could really help this club sail smoothly. Even if it’s YOU. And if you get a phone call that YOU’ve been nominated, think seriously about it. If you have to say ‘no’ to the position, please consider what else you could contribute. 

Ask not what your club can do for you, ask what you can do for your club.

I am about to complete my second year as your captain president. There are some who are egging me on to continue. I would be honored to serve another year so that I can continue to shape and strengthen the club (we want to expand our membership, create more connection and community)—BUT life is hinting that it might soon pile more surprises on my plate. I don’t want to end up with egg on my face, so I’d love to find a successor to groom into taking a turn at the helm. Do you see yourself stepping into my shoes? (They’re pretty fabulous…) Call me if you have any questions. 

                                           Sail On,

 —Kristen Caven
 Berkeley Branch Captain a.k.a. President, 2017-2019

 Author, The Souls of Her Feet
 Co-author, The Bullying Anditote
                        
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Planning your Novel: an Interview with Beth Barany

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Today we have an interview with our April Keynote Speaker, Beth Barany.

An award-winning novelist, Master NLP Practitioner, and certified creativity coach for writers, Beth Barany specializes in helping genre fiction writers experience clarity so they can write, revise, and proudly publish their novels to the delight of their readers. Her courses are packed with useful hands-on information that you can implement right away. She runs Barany School of Fiction, an online school for fiction writers, which includes a 12-month group coaching program to help you get published. Beth is also the editor of the Writer’s Fun Zone blog, for and by creative writers, where you can download her free reports on book marketing and novel writing. She’s also the author of books for writers, including The Writer’s Adventure Guide, Overcome Writer’s Block, Twitter for Authors, and Plan Your Novel Like A Pro: And Have Fun Doing It! Ready to embark on the next step in your writer’s adventure? Sign up for her free 5-day Writer’s Discovery Mini-course here: http://bethb.net/discover.

Questions provided by CWC member Cristina Deptula of Authors Large and Small.

Five Questions on Plot for Beth Barany

Do most novels benefit from planning? What would you say to someone who writes by the seat of their pants and thinks that outlines stifle their creativity?

Honestly, I think every novelist needs to decide whether or not they want to plan their books. If you work best by allowing inspiration to strike you, then go with that. If you love outlines, go with that. Or if you like to do some planning and some off-the-cuff writing, then go with that. The point about the planning process I teach is to help you find the best process for you. If you’re stuck not knowing where to go with your story, then having a roadmap will help you get going. I have seen this time and time again with people who have taken our “Plan Your Novel” course. Essentially, there is no one right way to write a book; there is only the way that works for you.

What’s your own writing process like? Do you do a full on outline before writing?

I don’t like the word outlining. Ha! That is why the book PLAN YOUR NOVEL LIKE A PRO is about planning, not outlining. For those who want to outline we suggest some tips, but the book is for people who also find outlining boring or hard. I don’t like knowing every single detail about the story before I write it. I like to be surprised as I go, but I also want to have a general direction and understand what my story is about before I start.

Usually I start with a sense of what my genre is and who my main characters are. From there I develop the conflicts of the story. I often go back-and-forth between what kind of story I’m writing, the genre, who my main characters are, and the theme of the story in my planning process. In my writing process I just go. In my editing process I go back-and-forth between being and story and characters and genre and finding the connections between everything.

Is it different when you’re writing YA novels than other types of books? How much does genre influence how you plan a novel?

My planning process has evolved, and it is different with every set of books I’ve written. I wrote my young adult fantasy novels (3-book series) using primarily the hero’s journey as my guide (from the book, The Writer’s Journey by Christopher Vogler.) When I wrote my romances (5-book series) I was using my planning process that I teach. I’m currently working on a science fiction mystery series now and also used my planning process to brainstorm this 4-book series. Those books are more plot driven than anything I’ve written so far. I would say genre influences how I plan and write my novels tremendously. Genre provides the boundaries of what does and does not go into the story. In terms of characters, action, and conflict.

What do you do if you’ve got a novel planned and then a character seems to want to do something completely different? Have you changed plans midstream, and do you redo your outline in that case?

As I said, I don’t do outlines. I do a plan that is essentially a scene-by-scene structure. Usually by the time I’m writing, I have a pretty good sense of who my characters are and where the story wants to go. If characters want to go off in some other direction that I didn’t plan for, I let them. That’s the fun of writing my first drafts. I really can’t judge whether or not a plot works better than what I planned so I just follow my intuition. I follow the plan if it seems to make sense or if it doesn’t seem to make sense, I write it differently. I do not revise my outline. That’s way too much work. When I’m writing, my focus is solely on writing. When I get to the editing process, I tend to do a lot of character and the world exploration. But I don’t revise an outline. I’m only revising the prose.

How do you plan without having your plan show through in the book and having your writing look formulaic?

The plan is like a roadmap. When you’re actually on your trip it looks nothing like the map itself. So when you’re writing, that’s going to take on a life of its own and look tremendously different than any outline or planning notes you have. In terms of being concerned about being formulaic, don’t be. Every story has a structure. You can’t get away from that. Humans deeply understand story because we have been telling a story for many millennia. You could say that every story is based on formula. Of course, the story structures change over time and are even different depending on what culture you’re from. This notion that stories are bad if they’re formulaic ignores the fact that every story has structure—a formula of sorts.

On April 21st we welcome Beth Barany to guide us in planning our novels.

Join us April 21st for story plotting tips and exercises with Beth Barany. We will also have support groups for craft and book marketing, as well as a reading from our featured member, Kacey Carpenter.

April 21st— “Plan Your Novel Like a Pro” with Beth Barany

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Learn the 7 Keys to Story Planning on April 21st in person—or catch the lecture online later!

 

In this interactive lecture, we’ll help you brainstorm the steps to create your novel—from character development to plot structure to story themes and world building—so you can start writing your novel with clarity and confidence.

We’ll do bite-sized exercises step-by-step to help you stretch your imagination and get excited about the writing process.

If you have never written a novel, still feel lost on how to go from brilliant idea to The End, or always hit that sagging middle and lose focus, this event will help you dream up exciting ways to torture—er, challenge—your characters all the way to the resolution of the story.

This mini-workshop, “7 Keys to Story Planning,” is a mini-course Beth offers at her online school, The Barany School of Fiction, which she runs with her husband Ezra, who is also a novelist.
 
Which means: if you can’t make it to our meeting, you can still see the lecture!
 
Beth will be providing a coupon to all who attend so that they can access the lecture for free at any time. If you can’t make the meeting and would still like to see the lecture, sign up for the course here. Half of the $17 fee will be donated to the Berkeley Branch of the California Writers Club. 

Register for the online version of Easter Sunday’s workshop.

Thank you, Beth!

About Beth Barany

Beth BaranyAn award-winning novelist, Master NLP Practitioner, and certified creativity coach for writers, Beth Barany specializes in helping genre fiction writers experience clarity so they can write, revise, and proudly publish their novels to the delight of their readers. Her courses are packed with useful hands-on information that you can implement right away. She runs Barany School of Fiction, an online school for fiction writers, which includes a 12-month group coaching program to help you get published. Beth is also the editor of the Writer’s Fun Zone blog, for and by creative writers, where you can download her free reports on book marketing and novel writing. She’s also the author of books for writers, including The Writer’s Adventure Guide, Overcome Writer’s Block, Twitter for Authors, and Plan Your Novel Like A Pro: And Have Fun Doing It! Ready to embark on the next step in your writer’s adventure? Sign up for her free 5-day Writer’s Discovery Mini-course here: http://bethb.net/discover.


But Wait, There’s More!

Get Marketing Support, Get Your Craft Questions Answered, and Network with Other Writers…

Preservation Park

Be sure to arrive early on the day of our meeting, to participate in the Craft and Marketing support groups. These are interactive conversations where you can talk to other writers to resolve the issues in your writing and your writers career. Make the commitment to be join us every third Sunday; your writing career is important and you deserve this. Non-members and guests can audit any of our critique & support groups before joining. 

Enjoy the buzz of our networking time from 2-2:30 p.m. Have some coffee and make some great connections!


MEETING SCHEDULE

12:00–1:00 – Craft Support Group
 1:00–2:00 – Marketing Success Group

 2:00–2:30 – Writer Networking
 2:30–3:00 – Welcome, Raffle & Club Announcements

 3:00–3:15 – CWC Featured member 
 3:15–4:00 – Keynote Beth Barany

Meetings are $5 for members, $10 for non-members*

  • Coffee is provided, bring cookies and treats to share!
  • Admission includes 1 free raffle ticket; bring a few bucks to purchase additional tickets at $1 each or 6 for $5. Support the club and win a book written by our club authors!

*Empty pockets? Ask about our sponsored guest program at the door. We are committed to supporting writers.

1204 Preservation Park Way, Oakland, CA 94612

Our meetings are right off 980 in downtown Oakland, at beautiful Preservation Park. Just off 12th Street, naturally you can get there from the 12th St. BART station. Those with limited ability can use the parking lot off of MLK Way; otherwise there should be plenty of FREE parking within the park and on surrounding streets.

Say you’re coming on Facebook!

SAVE THE DATES!
Our Forthcoming Events:

  • April 3 Setting that Works! A workshop with John Byrne Barry
  • May 19 The Working Writer: Day Jobs as Writing Inspiration Panel Discussion with Paul Corman-Roberts, Peggy Dougherty, and Thaddeus Howze
  • June 16 Member Showcase at a bookstore near you!

Interview with Victoria Zackheim, Author of The Bone Weaver and This Sunday’s Guest Speaker

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Victoria Zackheim

Victoria Zackheim, our keynote speaker for Sunday’s meeting.

Victoria Zackheim wrote The Bone Weaver, and edited six anthologies, including the bestselling The Other Woman, and her most recent: FAITH: Essays from Believers, Atheists, and Agnostics. She teaches creative nonfiction in the UCLA Extension Writers’ Program and is a frequent speaker and instructor at writers’ conferences and organizational events in the US, France, Mexico and Canada.
She will be our keynote speaker at this Sunday’s meeting, on the topic of adapting your work to stage and screen. So you may wonder, what does she know on this topic? Well, she adapted her first anthology, The Other Woman, to a play that enjoyed a simultaneous reading at more than twenty theaters nationwide. Her newest play, Entangled, adapted from the memoir by Lois Goodwill and Don Asher, is now under development, with readings in California theaters. She adapted Caroline Leavitt’s novel, Meeting Rozzie Halfway, to a screenplay, as she did with Anne Perry’s international bestseller Southampton Row. Victoria’s screenplay, Maidstone, is in development with Anderimage, in collaboration with SJ Murray. Victoria wrote the documentary film, Where Birds Never Sang: the Story of Ravensbruck and Sachsenhausen Concentration Camps, which aired on PBS nationwide. We look forward to her sharing her expertise on adaptations.
She is interviewed by Cristina Deptula of Authors Large and Small.

Intereview with Victoria Zackheim

How do you know when your book is something that could be adapted for film or theater?

When you’re writing, do you SEE the action? Can you visualize the characters moving about, sitting on trains, crossing the meadow? Is it a story that moves through a classic arc for characters and story? Can it be adapted with minimal dialogue and maximum action?

What has to be different in a screenplay/script versus a novel? And what do you do with your lovely descriptions of setting?

In a screenplay, the audience can see the action, facial expressions, body language, sunsets and hurricanes. In a novel, these must be described. As for those lovely settings…show them! That’s what cinematographers do so well.

How did you decide to edit anthologies? Did that experience help or inform your play writing?

I created one anthology almost by accident, The Other Woman, and discovered something magical. As the essays arrived from the twenty authors, I began to see a play unfold, a conversation between five women, verbatim, taken from five essays. That experience WAS my playwriting. The second book-to-play was done as the request of a theater director…also an act of love.

You’ve turned an anthology into a play? How did that work? I think of the Vagina Monologues with speakers representing a variety of characters, was it something like that?

Eve Ensler wrote all the parts in The Vagina Monologues, whereas I used the essays of five women represented in the anthology. The process I used is, I realize, unusual and unique…and I’m happy to discuss this during our event!

Where and how do you learn to write for film and stage, and where do you go to get your novel or memoir adapted and produced?

My screenwriting began quite by accident: I overheard a story and absolutely had to turn it into a film…which is happening now. Today, it’s nearly impossible to get any book published without an agent. My agent has sold all of my anthologies, now numbering seven. As for a writer getting a memoir or novel adapted to film…I honestly don’t know! I come to…me!

Join Victoria Zackheim at our Sunday meeting, where she will speak on taking your work from print to performance.

She will be joined by featured member Leena Prasad. As always, members should come at noon to participate in the craft and marketing workshops. Click the link above for further details.

A Few Words about Haiku Poet Leena Prasad

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Leena's Photo

Leena Prasad writes to find comfort in her foibles and her triumphs, to take snapshots of her thoughts and emotions, to explore the beauty and the ugliness of the world, to leave a legacy… and, most of all, to connect by finding resonance with her readers.

Leena will be our featured reader on Sunday before Keynote speaker Victoria Zackheim. Here’s a little bit about her:

Born in India, Leena grew up in Louisiana, lived in San Francisco for 15 years now lives in El Cerrito with her husband and soon-to-be-born daughter! She has a full-time professional career in Computer Science which feeds her intellectual life and has allowed her to live the life she wants. She enjoys writing and art as a way to explore her creative spirit. Leena has written a book on urban art, a neuroscience column, scripts for short films, profiles, blogs, and much more. She likes to explore all genres of writing from facts to fiction to poetry.

Leena says, “We are all poets. We just need to remind ourselves and practice practice practice to fine-tune how we express our poetry.”

CWC members, Leena is interested in:

  • Getting together to send out submissions
  • Critique groups, and
  • Promoting each others’ works

Check out Leena’s FishRidingABike.com writing portfolio, and buy haiku book, not exactly haiku.

Write Angles: March 2019

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The Wind in Your Sails

I woke up one morning and thought: What if I woke up one morning knowing we only had twelve years to save the planet? What else could I do that I’m not doing now?

At the CWC Berkeley board meeting this month, there were five talented writers sitting around the table going through the painstaking business of keeping this club going. As I struggled to get to the end of the agenda before we all had to rush off, this agitated inner voice yelled, “If we only have twelve years to keep global warming below 1.5°c, why am I bothering with this? Is this the best use of my time and energy?” Everyone stared at me. I guess I had kind of said it out loud?

Then someone else said, “I was just thinking the same thing.”

There was a rush of emotion in the room, and for a minute we all considered putting a “closed until the world is saved” sign on the CWC website, so we could turn our full attention to climate activism. But then someone mentioned Thomas Paine, and someone else mentioned the Prague Uprising, and before we knew it we were having another meeting to discuss the role our local and statewide club might play in changing this dangerous course of history. 

Jack London’s a libris

Sometimes as writers we do our best work with a deadline. Let’s work under pressure, together. Someone suggested the name “Wolf Pack Writers” for our club’s new writers action group, inspired by Jack London’s love of nature and activist writings. How can we encourage our members to work individually and together on creating understanding and action around this unfolding climate catastrophe? Billions of past decisions created this crisis. What if the writers in our club could help all of our our readers and leaders through the billions of decisions we must make now? 

Here come the lyrics. I wrote, once, about the “Seven C’s of the CWC” and here are seven more for humanity: through conservation, connection, and community, we can fight problems created by consumption, convenience, consumerism, and conveyance. In the next twelve years, every planetary traveler will need the encouragement of our motto, “Sail On,” in some form or another, to persevere through desperate times and keep focused on the human strengths that can transform society and stabilize our home planet.

Kristen Caven is author of The Souls of Her Feet 

Watch for announcements on how to get involved. In the meantime, please leave a comment about the writing YOU are doing to help calm the climate.

We’ll see you at this month’s events!

                                           Sail On,
Kristen Caven
Berkeley Branch Captain a.k.a. President

4/3 WORKSHOP: “Setting that Works” with author John Byrne Barry

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How Memorable Setting Can Advance Plot, Reveal Character, Echo Theme, and More!

April 3rd 6-8 p.m.

WeWork 2120 University Ave. Berkeley

The best setting is more than a pretty, or gritty description. It’s lean and strong, because it’s working two or more jobs—pushing your story along, helping us get to know your protagonist better. Join us for Setting That Works on April 3rd at WeWork (2120 University Avenue, Berkeley).

In this hands-on workshop, John Byrne Barry, author of Wasted: Murder in the Recycle Berkeley Yard, and Bones in the Wash: Politics is Tough. Family is Tougher, will review the different ways setting can strengthen your story, and lead a writing exercise putting what we learn into action.

Topics Covered at April 3rd Workshop

  • Studying the different ways setting can strengthen your story.
  • Do writing exercises putting what we learned into action.
  • Capturing the essence of a place in a few short sentences—a strategic snapshot, not a wikipedia entry.
  • Drip-feeding description into your story so it doesn’t slow the momentum.

Get Your Tickets Now

Workshop Led by John Byrne Barry

John Byrne Barry
John Byrne Barry

John Byrne Barry writes novels, designs websites and book covers, and leads bicycle tours in San Francisco. He is author of two “page-turners with a conscience”—Wasted: Murder in the Recycle Berkeley Yard, and Bones in the Wash: Politics is Tough. Family is Tougher, which won the 2015 Best Book award from the Bay Area Independent Publishers Association (BAIPA). His third novel, coming in 2019, is an assisted-suicide family thriller, tentatively titled Why I Killed My Father. Learn more at johnbyrnebarry.com.

Ticket Info for this Workshop

Advance tickets for members are only $15. If you wait until the day of the workshop, member tickets are $20.

Advance tickets for non-members are $30, but if you wait until day-of the tickets are $40. If you are not a member, you can purchase tickets at the member price, and buy a membership at the workshop.

GET TICKETS NOW

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