Tag Archives: Northwest Author Series

Hannah’s Notes on Kevin Sampsell’s Presentation on The Book World: From Reader To Published Author

Photo courtesy of http://dianeprokop.com/.

Kevin Sampsell, author of the quick and entertaining “A Common Pornography” came to the Northwest Authors Series this month to discuss how to approach reading, writing, editing, publishing, and selling your work. Unlike many preconceived assumptions, you don’t have to be an avid reader to begin a career in writing. Kevin Sampsell wasn’t; in fact, he first started his writing experience by creating “cheesy pop songs as a kid,” and now he is a published author. His most important piece of advice – one that is often a superficial motive for aspiring authors – is that you should not worry about money or what society wants you to write about, to write to the best of your potential and to enjoy what you work on, write about what interests you.

Here are a few informing tips from the question and answer session:

Writing memoirs and nonfiction help you to connect to your readers.

For Sampsell, he did not entirely know what was going to happen at the end of his memoir. Although not knowing can be frustrating, it is less boring, you don’t skip any important parts, and you – as the writer – are allowed to go on a journey with your characters and your readers. This can apply to all works of fiction and memoirs.

When working with larger publishing companies such as Harper & Collins, it is best to hire an agent. However, for first time authors, if you are working with a smaller company it is easier to do it directly.

If you are writing about a specific subject, you probably don’t need an agent and can just publish it directly. If you do want to get an agent, Google is a good place to start searching.

While working on his memoir, he did not worry about getting legal protection. He suggested that you should talk to relative for proof that the stories are real and as long as you are writing the truth there is not a lot to worry about. However, this varies case by case. It is also a matter of hurting the feelings of relatives and friends, which may or may not be more costly than a legal case.

He also never worried about copywriting issues and has never registered any of his titles. Because of computers, it is easy to prove that he was the original author.

Find authors who are writing about similar subjects and contact them if you have questions about the publishing process. It is always great to create connections.

If you have any questions for Sampsell, see his publishing website futuretensebooks.com or his own site: kevinsampsell.com.


Hannah’s Notes on Pamela Smith Hill’s Presentation on For the Love of Research: How To Write Biography

For the month of March we were joined by author Pamela Smith Hill who discussed researching and how to write a biography. Hill herself has written the award-winning biography Laura Ingalls Wilder: A Writer’s Life as well as three young adult novels. Currently, she is working on another book on Wilder, scheduled for publication in 2013. In an extremely organized and helpful presentation, Hill gave us tips that are vital for any author who wishes to write a biography, or even those who need research for any genre they are working on.

Hill began her presentation with Virginia Woolf’s question: “My God, how does one write a Biography?” The most important aspect, arguably, is that biographers must have a personal connection with their subjects; there must be some common interest so that you are – as Hill said – “living two lives simultaneously.” For Hill, her connection with Laura Ingalls Wilder occurred when she visited the Wilder home in 1965, where she was shown that writing, which seemed to be an impossible future, was in fact very achievable. From the personal connection, biographers must feel a unique and compelling story to tell, but it must also be told from a new perspective.

Research is the largest and most important step of writing a biography and Hill gave us a presentation on exactly what should be included and where to find it:

Firstly, your biography should be based on research, not on previously held assumptions. Also, keep an open mind when doing research and throughout the entire process of writing the biography.

There are four research categories, each with their own advantages and disadvantages: books, interviews, location, and of course, the internet. For all of these categories, it is important to weigh the credibility of your sources very carefully; especially in books, where the date of the publication can obscure facts and perspectives.

While doing book research such as through newspapers and magazines, look for obscure publications because they have the possibility of getting you closer to the people and places.

For interviews there are several different methods in which to conduct an interview. Email is very quick if you have just a quick question or two, but still don’t wait until the last minute. Be sure to think in context and include any additional information that they may need. Personal interviews may be less flexible but are still a very effective way of getting research.

The most glamorous category is location research, but it is also the most tedious. There is always the possibility of not getting results, and there is also the possibility of getting an incredible amount of results. If you go after you have written but before you publish, like Hill did, you can compare what you have written to reality or disprove it.

On the other hand, archival research is not so glamorous and involves a lot of time and effort. It is not always reliable because memories can change and interviews are often a large component of archival research.

Internet research is great for obtaining the details that help make a scene come to life. Yet, as we all know, the internet is not always the most reliable place so be extra cautious when using these sources and remember that it is perfectly acceptable to let your readers know when your research is contradictory or inconclusive. And always make sure that you keep good records of notes.

Hill’s last piece of advice for researching and writing biographies was to read biographies. Just as poets read poetry and fantasy writers read fantasy. As you work on your biography, you will become “a biographer, a tourist, and an intruder.”

The Northwest Author Series Presents Bill Johnson on A Story Is A Promise: The Essential Elements of Storytelling

February 26th, 2012
Location: The Wilsonville Public Library in the Oak Room
Time: 3:30 – 5:30 p.m.
Cost: $5.00 at the door
Door prizes: Two copies of A Story Is A Promise

To set a character into a world where their desire for redemption or courage or healing or understanding is tested cues an audience to pay attention to a story’s promise. As plot obstacles grow larger and strike characters with more force, they compel deeper revelations about what drives characters to resolve what’s at stake. In this presentation, you’ll learn how storytelling is a promise and how to uphold this important commitment to your story readers.

Bill Johnson is author of A Story is a Promise and The Spirit of Storytelling workbook. He has taught writing workshops around the country and has read manuscript submissions for literary agents. He explores principles of storytelling through reviews of popular movies, books, and plays and is a screenwriter and award-winning playwright. Johnson is currently office manager for Willamette Writers, a Pacific Northwest non-profit writing group with 1,700 members.

Purchase the fourth edition of A Story is a Promise from the author’s website: http://www.storyispromise.com/

Playwright Shelly Lipkin Speaks at the Wilsonville Public Library on March 16 From 3-5 pm

Developing characters and dialogue for a play

How does a play differ from a film? Text! Films mostly tell their story using visuals, while a stage play tells it’s story with dialogue. How is that dialogue created? Is it simply two people talking? Compelling characters present their ideas, their needs and their subtext though dialogue that must be engaging and convey the author’s message. A tough balancing act of idea vs. emotion. In this seminar we will explore the process of constructing text that brings a character to life.

Shelly Lipkin, PlaywrightShelly Lipkin is an actor, director, playwright. He was Co-Artistic Director of Cygnet Productions from 2000 to 2003 where he co-authored, produced and starred in Vitriol & Violets – Tales From The Algonquin Round Table which won the 2004 Oregon Book Award for Drama. His second play, Sylver Beaches, was also nominated for an Oregon Book Award. Shelly teaches acting, directing & play/screenwriting at The Art Institute of Portland, Clark College, Northwest Children’s Theatre and Lakewood Theatre. He is a member of Portland Center Stages playwright’s workshop PlayGroup.

Cost is five dollars at the door.

Writer’s Digest Books has been kind enough to provide door prizes for the event, which attracts writers and readers across the genres. Everyone who attends will be entered to win two out of three of the following:

FREE – Subscription to Writer’s Digest Magazine for one year
FREE – Subscription to Writersmarket.com for one year
$25 – Value to purchase Writer’s Digest Books!

The next Northwest Author Series features award-winning poet Sage Cohen on April 21 at the Wilsonville Library from 3-5 p.m.