Category Archives: Uncategorized

The Northwest Author Series Has Been Permanently Discontinued

Hello loyal fans of the Northwest Author Series!

I regret to inform you that The Northwest Author Series has been permanently discontinued.

The series was created and run by Christina Katz, hosted at the Wilsonville Public Library and sponsored by Starbucks and Lamb’s Thriftway for five years.

Thanks to everyone who contributed and attended.

Please visit to learn about upcoming offerings, books, and news from Christina Katz.

I hope our paths will cross again. In the meantime, write on!


The Northwest Author Series Is On Hiatus for the 2012-2013 Season









The Northwest Author Series Presents Heather Vogel Frederick on Much Ado About Middle Grade: Mastering Setting, Character & Plot

On Sunday, May 6th, The Northwest Author Series Presents…
Heather Vogel Frederick on Much Ado About Middle Grade: Mastering Setting, Character & Plot
Location: The Wilsonville Public Library in the Oak Room
Time: 3:30 – 5:30 pm
Cost: $5.00

Middle-grade fiction is a place where anything can happen, from a voyage aboard a 19th-century whaling ship to a school called Hogwarts, from an espionage organization where the secret agents have whiskers and tails to a spell gone awry that leaves a seventh grader spouting toads. There’s even a farmyard where a pig and a spider are best friends! But when the sky’s the limit, how do you choose a surefire setting, populate it with memorable characters, and develop a compelling storyline that is catnip to editors and readers alike? Come prepared to listen, to write, and to share in this hands-on workshop geared to helping you fuel your creative fire and overcome fear of the blank page.

Heather Vogel Frederick, whose eleven middle-grade novels range from historical to contemporary to adventure/fantasy, left a 20-year career as a journalist and decided it was high time to fulfill her lifelong dream of writing fiction for young readers. Today, she’s the author of two picture books and eleven novels, including Oregon Book Award winner The Voyage of Patience Goodspeed, and the popular Mother-Daughter Book Club and Spy Mice series. Heather’s work spans many genres, and has been honored both nationally and internationally and translated into numerous languages.

And be sure to check out:

Once Upon a Toad (Simon & Schuster, April 17, 2012)

Home for the Holidays (Simon & Schuster, October 4, 2011)

The Northwest Author Series Presents Kevin Sampsell on The Book World: From Reader To Published Author

On Sunday, April 14, 2012
Location: The Wilsonville Public Library in the Oak Room
Time: 3:30 – 5:30 pm
Cost: $5.00
Door prizes: Two copies of A Common Pornography (I’m reading it, it’s great!)

How does the way you approach reading, writing, editing, publishing, and selling impact your professional growth as a writer? Our guide Kevin Sampsell has played all the parts in the book world and will discuss the interplay of these roles in this 90-minute whirlwind tour. Aspiring authors in any or many genres will gain a well-rounded perspective on how to enjoyably immerse yourself in the literary life.

Kevin Sampsell’s memoir, A Common Pornography was published by Harper Collins in 2010. He is the editor of the story collection, Portland Noir and the author of the story collection, Creamy Bullets. Twenty years ago, he started his micropress, Future Tense Books, which has become an influential force among American small presses. A journalist, book reviewer, and essayist, Kevin oversees the coveted small press section at Powell’s Bookstore. He lives in Portland, Oregon with his wife and son, where he is currently working on a novel.

The Northwest Author Series Presents Pamela Smith Hill on For The Love of Research: How To Write Biography

On Sunday, March 18, 2012
Location: The Wilsonville Public Library in the Oak Room
Time: 3:30 – 5:30 pm
Cost: $5.00
Door prizes: Two copies of Laura Ingalls Wilder: A Writer’s Life

“My God, how does one write a Biography?” Virginia Woolf’s daunting question haunts biographers, especially those who write about writers. How do biographers uncover the nature and character of their subjects? What techniques and approaches do they use to move beyond the obvious? Biographer Pamela Smith Hill answers these questions and more. Her practical tips will arm you with ideas to help you research fiction or nonfiction and write more confidently.

Pamela Smith Hill is the author of the award-winning biography Laura Ingalls Wilder: A Writer’s Life. She has written three young adult novels and is currently working on a new Wilder book, scheduled for publication in 2013. She has won an Oregon Book Award, an Indie Excellence Award, and a Willa Award from Women Writing the West. She has taught professional and creative writing classes at universities in Colorado, Washington, and Oregon.

Check out Laura Ingall’s Wilder: A Writers Life by Pamela Smith Hill.

The Northwest Author Series Presents Jeff Baker on Qualities of Critically Acclaimed Books: How To Write for Raves

September 18, 2011
Location: The Wilsonville Public Library in the Oak Room
Time: 3:30 – 5:30 p.m.
Cost: $5.00 at the door

What’s the difference between a good book and a great one? How do editors select books for review, and how do reviewers combine enthusiasm and critical judgment to create a balanced review? The Oregonian receives as many as 500 books per week and has the space and budget to review a small percentage of them. We will discuss the criteria for choosing which books to review and talk about what goes into writing a review. Examples will be discussed, real-world situations will be explored, and any and all questions will be answered. A quiz will be given with prizes for correct answers. If you love literature and have ever wondered what goes on in the book department of a newspaper, this is your chance to find out.

Jeff Baker is the book editor at The Oregonian. He also writes about music and popular culture. He has won awards for criticism, feature writing, sports journalism, and arts and entertainment writing, most recently a first-place award in the Best in the West competition and two awards from the Oregon Newspaper Publishers Association.

Read Jeff Baker at

Follow Jeff Baker on Twitter

Our next speaker will be author, Emily Chenoweth…stay tuned!


Marina’s Notes from Amber Keyser’s How to Use a Critique Group

Writing is a solitary thing, but a writer’s life doesn’t have to be solitary. Use a critique group to bring a piece to it’s full potential.

How to give a good critique:

1)    Read the whole piece once through

2)    Ponder, leave time to think about your overall reaction to the piece

3)    Read the piece again, making notes throughout the story

4)    Organize an overview, outlining the most important point

5)    Use the sandwich technique, say something good, something that needs improvement, then another thing you liked.

6)    Spend time critiquing, critiquing other writers will help you learn more about your own writing technique and help you improve.

7)    Think like a doctor: symptoms, diagnosis, cure (and do no harm)

8)    List stories that you were reminded of when you read the piece

9)    Think of the audience

10) Think about what ideas are not parallel

11) Who, what, when, where, why and how

12) Critique the plot, characters, setting, them, and the rising and falling action arc

*Remember: to criticize: to list faults, to critique: to analyze what works and what does not work, and why, and to offer solutions


On a slip of paper, write down the worst thing you can imagine someone saying about your writing.

Now think about this: a piece is never all bad, anyone who tells you that is wrong

“I am not afraid of critique” –The Writer’s Book of Hope

Characteristics of a good critique group:

  • Similar time commitment to craft
  • Knowledge of conventions of the genre
  • Safe and fun atmosphere
  • Mutually agreed upon structure
  • Respect
  • Commitment to helping others do their best possible work
  • No “odd ducks,” no person that doesn’t seem to fit in
  • No competitiveness

Benefits of a critique group:

  • Different perspectives
  • Motivation
  • Whole new idea/layer
  • Improve craft
  • Redirection
  • Learn what doesn’t work
  • Compare Art process
  • Learn about helpful resources
  • Good Contacts
  • You  can go to conferences together (making them much more fun)
  • Plan retreats (which can lead to a surge of productivity)
  • Validation/encouragement/support when you’re discouraged
  • Legitimizes your work
  • Helps you through writers block
  • Keeps you accountable
  • Ideas for workshops

Receiving good critiques is useful, but giving them is better

Some good Books:

  • Art and Fear: an operating manual for not quitting by David Bayless and Ted Orland
  • Reading like a Writer By Francine Prose)
  • On Writing Well by William K. Zinsser

Example group meeting


Set boundaries

  • Your work is not you
  • Ask for what you want up front


  • Listen carefully and write notes
  • Clarification
  • Say thank you, rather than explaining and protecting your work, let your work speak for itself


  • Take time to think it through
  • Take comments seriously: if it doesn’t work for them, it doesn’t work
  • Writing is a craft, it takes practice

How to start your own: Things to consider

  • How often?
  • Where?
  • When should the manuscripts be submitted?
  • How will the critiques be given?
  • How big a group? (Ours works to have about 7)
  • Can the author speak?
  • Are interruptions okay?
  • Written comments?
  • Emailed comments?
  • How do you deal with new members?
  • Allow re-submissions?
  • Limits on manuscripts?
  • What Genres?