writing

Writers in the Grove News: Local Pen Pals

News - Writers in the Grove - News Time Article on Local Pen Pals April 2017 Forest Grove Oregon - CoverAt the beginning of this school year 2016-2017, a local parent and volunteer with the nearby Gaston, Oregon, elementary school contacted Writers in the Grove about a local pen pal program. Many members volunteered to correspond with the children at the school, and it has changed lives on both ends of the mailbox.

Words bring old and young writers together in special partnership” features the unique program of connecting local writers with local elementary students for a pen pal program, and includes interviews with several of our members.

Gretchen Keefer had a question for the sixth-graders at Gaston Elementary School: What are you thankful for?

She wrote to them as part of the pen-pal relationship between Gaston Elementary and her Forest Grove writing group, hoping the question would give the students something to write back about.

Turns out the students had never thought much about thankfulness, said their teacher, Thea Hiersche.

But after taking the time to list all the things they love in life, they were “amazed,” said Hiersche. From there, the class “started the conversation about how we, as a thankful community, could help others who don’t have as much.”

Keefer’s writing prompt ended up inspiring a donation drive for Doernbecher Children’s Hospital in Portland.

That’s how words can turn into ideas that turn into actions. It’s also how old-fashioned letters can provide inspiration and writing help to young students — and joy to their grown-up writing partners.

“Just seeing these older people gathered around the table — none of them can wait to open the letters as soon as we get our stacks,” said Mary Jane Nordgren, a member of the writing group. “It really warms the hearts of everyone.”

This wonderful project could not have happened without the dedication of Sheila Harter. She has worked overtime to volunteer her services as “pony express courier” to collect letters from both groups and exchange them every week.

You may read the full article on the Forest Grove Times News site, and check out our pictures of the articles below.

News - Writers in the Grove - News Time Article on Local Pen Pals April 2017 Forest Grove Oregon (2) News - Writers in the Grove - News Time Article on Local Pen Pals April 2017 Forest Grove Oregon (3)

Writing Tips for Organizing and Planning Your Writing

There are two aspects to the concept of organization for writers. There is the organization of your writing environment, be it your working space or virtual space you write in such as the type of computer, software, even the way your writing is backed up. Then there is the organization of the actual writing, keeping track of characters, plots, story lines, names, places, etc., and structuring the end result into something readable as well as publishable.

Discussing this with a few Writers in the Grove members, we realized that while the two concepts were separate, they were actually inseparable. As one pointed out, the spark of an idea can happen anywhere and you must have a system in place to jot it down and ensure it isn’t lost between the grocery store moment of inspiration and the moment you can finally lean into your computer and start writing. Throughout the writing process of a project, the project is with you, wherever you are, whenever your imagination catches fire. A well-structured habit system combined with well-maintained tools and access points for preserving those thoughts help you through the entire process, right through to the point of publishing.

So we decided to offer this short collection of writing tips by others for organizing and planning your writing to embrace both aspects, helping you be organized within your writing environment, physical and virtual, and in the writing process.

Writing Organization Tools and Environments

One tool that our group embraced that changed more than a few writing lives is Scrivener by Literature and Latte. Available for both Windows and Mac, Scrivener is what you use to write your story before you move it to publishing programs and tools, though Scrivener will publish directly to various ebook and print formats. Scrivener is your idea holder, notebook, character development tool, and story line planner. It helps you write your book or whatever is on your writing list. We highly recommend it and have an ongoing series to help you learn Scrivener better.

Some helpful articles on using Scrivener to organize your writing include:

How To Organize Your Non-fiction Book – The Future of Ink: This article offers six core tools and methods for organizing your book: piles, folders, cards, Evernote, and binders. The author also mentions Scrivener as it is highly capable of embracing piles, folders, cards, etc. The article offers tips for organizing your writing in general, time and space for writing, and more tips to help you keep on track of the writing. These apply to fiction as well as non-fiction. (more…)

Prompt: Write a Story Twice

The prompt this week is about writing for the audience, keeping their experience in mind when sharing your experience in words.

When writing to relate an experience, how do you tell the story? If it happened “this way,” do you have to write it that way or can you be creative with the storytelling process. How do you modify it, how do you adapt the story from reality to storytelling? Does it need to have the ring of truth or be the truth?

It depends. It depends upon your goals as a writer and your audience. What does your audience need to know to make your point? Are you making a point? Are you going for a joke? Are you testifying before the court? Are you teaching them something? What elements do you keep, which do you omit, which do you emphasize, which do you unemphasize?

Everything we do is colored by our experience, then adjusted for our audience. The choices in words, phrasing, and storytelling technique dictates what influences as you tell the story.

In the 1970s, Fuji Film took on its rival Kodak to create a new range of print and slide film. They researched customer’s experiences with film and film processing and found that the main complaint people had when picking up their film after processing was that the colors weren’t as intense. “You should have been there, it was so colorful.” The researchers found that memory intensified over time. Comparing a photograph of a sunset, it would look the same, but in the one to three weeks from taking the picture to having it developed and in their hands, human memory intensified the colors. Fuji amped up the colors in their film to make it match the human memory.

Writers need to do much the same. Intensify the scene and characters to enhance the moment. As author William Faulkner said, “In writing, you must kill all your darlings.”

A story too bare may not hold the attention of the reader, but watch out for diluting the story with too many tangents and extraneous details.

From The Riverside Reader by Joseph Trimmer and Maxine Hairston came more information to help with our prompt. In summary, it stated that writers of narrative essays must be concerned about how much they tell their readers. Because an essay is based upon experience, few readers will know the entire backstory by that point in the story, nor should they. Do they need to? How much should they know and when they should know it is a constant struggle for fiction writers.

The ability to identify major and minor details in the writing as critical to the storytelling differentiates from the real life experience. When we experience an event, we have a knack for confusing dates, names, and the sequences of events, and we have the unalterable belief that simply “just because something happened to me, you are going to be fascinated.” This doesn’t always hold true when writing the event. We must pick and choose what we include as well as what we remove. We might play with the chronology of the event, restrict the backstory, change the characters or blend them together, even change the scene to make the reader’s experience a more enjoyable one as well as increase the tension and drama of the story.

According to Writers in the Grove member, Diana Lubarsky, “What is truth? Sometimes you got to make it up.”

The Prompt: Write a Story Twice

The prompt was to write a story twice. Have a different audience in mind for each telling.

Write a “true” story,” something that happened to you. Write it for two different audiences such as a child, grandchild, prissy mother, controlling mother-in-law, students in a class, a newspaper reporter – you choose.

Compare the two. Does the tone of voice change? Do the words change? How?

The Writing Exercise Instructor

So what do you do when the prompt of the day to write a 100 word sentence gives you lemons? What I do is not make lemonade, but rather to pick on the teacher. This is my complex sentence:

At the beginning of the class, she said to simply write a single sentence of 100 words, she then paused after her bold statement, with a wry smile and her signature dancing eyes behind those modern style corrective lenses, highlighted the teacher, the do-er, the know-er requesting a task from the writing group staggered around the make-shift tables, her contained zest for the mere notion of the writing prompt danced about visibly thus belying the fact her ideas could not stay internal as she said to the group to go start writing before she bowed her head to her computer terminal and began her own exploration of just what the writing prompt meant to her.

118 Words

It’s NaNoWriMo Time: How To, Tips, Techniques, and Survival Advice

NaNoWriMo Flyer.November 1, 2015, at midnight is the start of NaNoWriMo, the National Novel Writing Month.

The goal of NaNoWriMo is to write 50,000 words (and complete a novel) in 30 days.

Sound impossible? The numbers divide down to 1,666 words a day, typically 60-90 minutes of writing.

To participate, you may do so actively or passively. This can be a solo experience or a highly social one. You can connect online and/or connect in person through the many local activities, events, and write-ins where people gather in a social space to write and get to know each other.

Here is how it works.

  1. Before November 1, sign up on the NaNoWriMo site. There is no fee. It’s free. By registering, you will get email notifications and notes to cheer you on throughout the month, and be able to track your word count daily.
  2. At midnight, October 31, you start writing.
  3. Each day, you report the number of words you’ve written. If you are using Scrivener, it’s easy to update this information daily. I’ve included tips on how to track your writing below.
  4. If you wish, participate in the regional forums such as the one for Washington County, Oregon, and consider attending some of the many local events throughout the month. NOTE: There are also prep events online and locally worth attending.

That’s it.

NaNoWriMo typically features over 310,000 participants on six continents. Many educators work with their students to participate during November as well as throughout the years. (more…)

Unlimited Health and Resources Were Available – Who Would I Be?

The following is by Diana Lubarsky, one of our active and prolific members. It is in response to the prompt, If You Had Unlimited Resources.

Spiral of clock.With all the funds I’ll ever need in my pocket, and health and conflict gone, I see myself shedding the skin of survival mode. I slip my thin, healthy young woman’s body from my yacht onto a kayak and peddle gently across the tepid Caribbean waters under a perfect blue sky. A gentle sun warms my back. No longer in survival mode, I am free at last to write of stars and sun, mountains and ethereal beauty; the sights I’ve been privileged to see; the God woven fabric of life.

But soon, I am bored. Inhaling beauty all day is like eating only sugar. My stomach aches. My gaze focuses beyond the magnificent harbor where I lounge, toward the teaming city; a place of dreams and despair, of fortunes lost and lives gambled.

At night I leave my silk shawl behind, scrub my face, don sackcloth, and enter the gates of the destitute. This is where I belong. Birthing babies, bandaging wounds, bringing hope … neck deep in sweat and blood.

Although the majesty of mountain peaks and orchestral music sing to my heart, the first cry of a slimy new born taking its first breath in my arms replenishes my soul.

I have learned, wealthy or not, I am a healer.

What is Scrivener?

Scrivener - Corkboard Example - Lorelle VanFossen for Writers in the GroveScrivener by Literature and Latte is software for writers. It’s tagline is “Outline. Edit. Storyboard. Write.”

Some of the members of Writers in the Grove recently purchased it based upon my advice, and they’ve asked me to present a workshop on Scrivener basics soon. In the meantime, to help people get started, this is an introductory series on how writers can, and should, use Scrivener.

What is Scrivener?

Scrivener is software for Windows and Mac. It is designed for professional writers to ease the process of researching and writing. It is used by professional (and not) writers, authors, script writers, poets, teachers, researchers, and anyone with a writing project.

Microsoft Word or its equivalent is used by most people to “write.” It is a word processor. It processes words. You can style and format them, making them pretty, and even write great papers and novels, setting up table of contents, chapters, page numbering, and indexes.

For a writer who writes many things, or is working on a book, working with a Word document is like writing on a never ending ribbon. Navigation is a nightmare. Finding things is horrid. It’s easy to get lost, repeat yourself, and just lose track of what you are doing.

Think of Scrivener as your pre-production writing tool, the tool you use before you get to Word. (more…)