The following is a list of the workshop presenters and descriptions of their workshops for West Virginia Writers 2014 Summer Conference. (You can find registration information at our Conference Page.)
The Wounded Hero and Other Archetypes: Writing Middle-Grade Characters with Depth. Archetypes don’t have to be stereotypes – on the contrary, they can appeal to the readers’ primal psyche, making your story irresistible. In the archetypal role of Mentor – too bad it doesn’t come with a costume. Workshop leader Belinda Anderson will explore the archetypes of middle-grade literature, focusing on the Wounded Hero. The wounds can be interior – think of Harry Potter, the orphan. Sometimes the protagonist must cope with exterior wounds – Auggie in the much-acclaimed Wonder. (One agent actually used the phrase “wounded narrators” in describing the books she represents.) The Wounded Hero doesn’t have to be somber – you’ll meet a protagonist who doesn’t let her circumstances stand in the way of her constant wise cracking. Prompts will help participants give depth to their characters. The workshop is designed so that participants can develop a new story, or a manuscript already underway.
Manuscript Checklist. Workshop leader Belinda Anderson wants you to go forth with your best page forward! She’ll outline and explain a unique manuscript checklist, based on the most frequent problems she sees while critiquing fiction and nonfiction for clients. Presentation is paramount -- it's as important to your manuscript's success as the content. Here’s a chance to learn what’s important, why and how to make the fixes. Questions are welcome.
Writing Groups of Related Poems. Using examples from several contemporary poets, we will discuss ways in which one subject or one form can be looked at in different ways to create a set of similar poems. Attention will be paid to the current poetic fashion of “project books” or “sequences of poem.” In these books all the poems deal with one subject – e.g., Ellen Bryant Voigt (Kyrie, about the 1918 influenza epidemic); Brian Turner (Here, Bullet, a veteran writes about the Iraq War); Louise Gluck (The Wild Iris, poems in the voice of flowers); Ron Rash (Eureka Mill, about farmers moving from their land to work in the cotton mills of North Carolina); and others. Ideas for creating sequences will be provided with short writing prompts.
Gathering the Storm: Putting Together a Poetry Manuscript. This workshop will focus on approaches to putting together a poetry manuscript. Using suggestions from several different poets as well as my own experience as a poetry editor, we will develop a working list of “ways and means” and “do’s and don’ts.” Workshop participants are invited to bring some of a manuscript of their own to discuss, as well as questions to pose about the process of “gathering the storm” of a pile of poems into a publishable book.
LAURA TREACY BENTLEY
Writing Your First Novel: The Journey of a Hybrid Writer. In this interactive workshop, Laura will share her stumbles/strategies/discoveries in creating her first novel The Silver Tattoo from start to finish. Since her work (poetry and fiction) has been traditionally published and, more excitingly, published via Amazon, she has experienced the pros and cons of both worlds. You will explore the nuts and bolts of novel writing, research, arc, pacing, revision, agent acquisition, more revision, the submission process, harsh realities, passion, stubborn persistence, and ultimate joy. Laura will be referring to two classic guidebooks for novelists by screenwriter Robert McKee and novelist Meredith Sue Willis.
Building Blocks (of good stories for screen and graphic novels) – 90 minutes. This workshop will focus on the basic building blocks used to develop and construct stories for cinema and graphic novels (but really relevant to any storytelling writing). Unlike some writing genres, screen and graphic writing generally demands having an ending before you start, and then building backwards from there. In this workshop Boyd will identify and explore the primary story element, i.e., character, back-story, commitment, opposition, situations (scenes), settings (environment), etc. Similar to the key to successful filmmaking, writing good scripts, "Is all in the pre-pro," says Boyd. Formatting styles and available writing software will also be discussed, but like most entertainment writing, it’s all about the story.
Graphic Novels. Most writers transition from comics to film, but Danny Boyd did the reverse, finding writing graphic novels a faster way to create much bigger stories on significantly smaller budgets. Approaching the graphic novel as "cinema on the page," he will cover the basic components of graphic narrative creation/construction, and present a general overview of this growing medium. Formatting styles and available writing software will also be discussed.
Improv Your Creativity, Improv Your Writing. Utilizing the techniques of comedy improvisation, attendees will learn how to jump start and maintain their creativity. Comedy improv requires getting out of your own way, being in the moment, and quieting your inner critic. If you have trouble doing any of these, this workshop will show you how to use the skills of improv to recharge your muse, focus your creative efforts, and challenge that cranky critic. We will discuss such improv concepts as "start anywhere", "take risks", "be spontaneous", "be brave", and "trust your instincts". We will cover the "rules" of improv comedy and illustrate how to incorporate this instruction into your creative process and make it part of your daily life. Through a variety of fun and interactive exercises and improv games, we will explore the world of improvisation and discover what it has to offer you and your creativity. Laugh and learn. Watch for when the "ha-ha" becomes "A-ha!". Regardless of what you write, this workshop will provide you with tools to help you keep your creativity flowing.
*Wear comfortable shoes as the workshop involves several games and exercises that involve moving around and being active.
Writing for the Inspirational Market. The market for inspirational stories is bigger than ever and growing. This workshop will explain the kinds of inspirational markets that exist and what they’re looking to buy, along with where to sell your inspirational fiction and non-fiction.
How to Write a Romance Novel. This session will guide you through the steps of plotting, writing, marketing, and selling your romance novel. Tips will also be offered on all the new romance publishing opportunities available to writers.
Spoken Word Spoken Here. An approach to creating poetry for the sound of it, understanding the premise that poetry is a spoken word art. Interactive tips and techniques for writing poetry from an acoustic perspective.
Journey To The Center Of Your Mind. Imaginative and engaging participatory group exercises leading into individual interpretations and descriptions of personal journeys. Where did you come from? Where did you go?
Flashbacks and Backstory. Flashbacks offer many pitfalls. This is because even the best-written flashback carries a built-in disadvantage: It is, by definition, already over. The scene you are detailing in your flashback isn't happening in story time. It happened sometime earlier, and so we are being given old information. And like old bread, old information is never as fresh or as tasty as new bread. Let’s learn when to use a flashback, what its purpose is, and how to get into and out of one. Then we’ll learn the natural progression of backstory.
Outlining Your Novel. There are two kinds of writers: outliners and seat-of-the-pantsers. Most writers begin as a pantser and then migrate toward outlining as they get more interested in getting organized. Let’s learn all the aspects of outlining so the process will work for you and your personal tastes. Let’s find what an outline is, how it works, what to include in it and when, and how to turn it into a tool rather than a crutch. When we learn the outline is helping us organize the story, we’ll find the process more rewarding and result thorough.
Creating strong characters to tell your story. (a subset of his broader workshops on playwriting)
Selecting and reading your work. In this workshop, Joey will put his skills as an acting teacher to work. You will learn how to read your work with a presentational mind.
The art of the knights and dragons style fantasy genre. Research, characterization, and bring your own voice and ideas to a well-traveled genre.
Non-Fiction Book Proposal. Non-fiction books (anything from memoir, pop culture, true crime and self-help) are sold to publishers on the basis of a proposal which is a 20-50 page document pitching the book’s content and marketability and is supplemented by sample chapters. You write the proposal before you actually write the book. The workshop will cover these parts of a proposal: overview (the basic idea), market (who will buy), competition (similar books), platform and promotion (how it will sell), author (about you), table of contents, chapter summaries and sample chapters.
Publicity & Marketing: Sell Y. To sell a book to a publisher and to sell copies of your book to readers, you have to be able to promote it! Whether you self-publish or have a publisher, you must toot your own horn loudly and often. This workshop will give several dozen very practical, easy to follow tips and ideas ranging from how to write a press release, who to contact at media outlets and how to build a "platform".
Songwriting. What inspires a song and what comes after the inspiration? In this workshop, learn how to structure a song. Dave will demonstrate examples of song structure followed by Q&A.
Creative writing. Learn the basics of creative writing from gathering ideas to drafting the story.
From Your Page to Their Page: Publishing Your Poems. In this workshop, learn how to research publications, prepare your work to send out, manage your submission process, and much more. Understand more about literary journals, and how they work, book opportunities, and other ways to get your poetry out into the world.
Break Dance: Discover How Line Break Works (or Doesn’t) in Your Poems. Many poets, of all skill levels, find line break among the toughest aspects of writing poems. And yet the perfect line break can make your poem come alive in surprising and important ways. “The line, in poetry, has been called a ‘unit of attention’.” (Kim Addonizio) Meaning is not only in the words—the meaning of individual words and also their sounds—but meaning in the shape of a line, a shape that is inherent in a poem, if we pay attention. Learn how to break for meaning, music, and more.
Kids, Tweens, and Teens: Developmental Stages. Writers for young people need to know characteristics of developmental stages. How does motivation, view of adults, needs, and understanding of the world around them change from childhood to adolescence? In a writing exercise, participants will recall a significant event at two different ages and explore how developmental stages apply to their memories.
Coping with Grief and Trauma: It’s Not the Same for Children and Adolescents. Many picture books, chapter books, and novels address issues of grief and trauma in the life of the protagonist. Participants will learn how children and teens view and deal with grief and trauma differently than adults. A writing exercise will provide an opportunity for participants to recall an experience of grief or loss as a child or teen.
How to Deal with Complexity in Plots. Creating intricate plots with multiple story lines, multiple characters and multiple layers can be very challenging, and can quickly muddle up a story to the point where it becomes too difficult to follow. In this workshop/class, we will discuss ways to approach creating a rich, complex plot without overburdening a reader. Examples from recent movies and books will demonstrate what to do/not do, and several short writing exercises will be used to address this specific problem. Dr. Sloan will utilize his personal writing experience and his professional background as a scientist and analyst to discuss fun, engaging approaches to complex plot formation. We will also talk briefly about how to talk to others about your complex book in a way that will make them want to read it.
How to Write with a Significant Other (and Survive) Writing as a couple, or in a partnership, can be as fun and rewarding as it can be stressful and contentious. David (an analyst and novelist) and Naomi (a former English teacher) will use their unique personal experience working on a novel together to illustrate what did and did not work, and will suggest ways to use writing to strengthen, not stress, a relationship. Participants need not come as a couple, but we will include partnering writing exercises as part of the class.
Memoir and Imagination: Creative Non-fiction from Blog Posts to Personal Essays. The story you know best--and the story you can write the most powerfully--is your own. As a genre, the personal essay finds its potency by tapping into emotions that are universal with experiences that are deeply individual. This workshop will help you use your full palette of writing skills--characterization, setting, pacing, dialogue, theme, figurative language--to paint your personal stories in shades of humor, poignancy, irony, and ultimately truth. This workshop is not about how to neatly wrap up life's difficult experiences in five paragraphs or fewer. Rather, it's about how to claim the uniquely embarrassing, perplexing, inconsistent, and hilarious parts of our lives in order to give each other wonderful stories. Whether your chosen medium is blogging, journaling, family letters, or the personal essay, as you write about your life in new ways, you will see your life through new eyes.
It’s Not Your Grandpa’s Mountain Story: What is Today’s Appalachian Literature? In this session we will explore Appalachian writing and how the genre has evolved, while still staying true to traditional roots and themes. What makes a story “Appalachian?” Are the expectations changing? What are the traditional themes of Appalachian writing and how do contemporary books, such as Crapalachia by Scott McClanahan, fit in? I will speak from my experience as an editor of the Appalachian Anthology of Writers. I hope this session will be an open discussion and sharing of ideas, as well as favorite authors and titles.
Whose Story is it?: Exploring Perspective and Narrative Distance in Fiction. In this session we will explore the idea of perspective and narrative distance in fiction. Every writer knows how important Point of View, but even once the POV has been chosen, the work is not done. Sometimes the most obvious character is not the one to tell the story. Exploring multiple perspectives can be very beneficial and eye-opening, even if the experiment never shows up in a final draft. We’ll also look at the technique of using multiple perspectives in a novel or (more rarely) a short story.
Writing the Story Only You Can Tell (Memoir). This workshop hopes to answer the zillions of questions you have when writing your memoir. Should you use real names? Should you fictionalize your story? Should you use first person or third person? Where do you begin your story? Where do you end? When should you file for a copyright? Can you get sued for saying bad things about other people? What about good things? And what, exactly, should be included, and how do you know which life experiences belong and which ones don’t? Be sure to bring your own questions as well.
Pass the Tissues. This workshop discusses character emotion and how to control it. We will dissect examples in published works to find out exactly how a writer can manipulate a character’s emotion to create an equal reaction in the reader. This workshop also discusses how climatic points within a manuscript must be detailed so that no character emotion is missed—yet, the way those details are presented decide if the emotion is melodramatic or if it hits the reader deep in the gut. This workshop is appropriate for writers of all levels.
RHONDA BROWNING WHITE
Short Stories: She May be Little, but She’s Tough. Why is it that a story that appears short and sweet is so often difficult to craft? Discover the liberations and limitations of short fiction that is often a breakthrough to publication. Intermediate skill level.
Cut It, Cut It, Cut It! Self-Editing for Writers. Take your writing from Blah to Hurrah! by following these simple steps that can help you transform tired, overworked prose to a tight and polished manuscript you’ll be proud to submit for publication. All skill levels.
Beginnings and Endings: Hit ‘Em Coming and Going. From the first paragraph to the last sentence, it is a writer’s job to engage, enthrall and entertain the reader. Learn how to create tension in a story and keep it through the last breathless page. All skill levels.
False memories/confessions created by erroneous forensic analysis. Memories are constructed. Memories don't exist until they are called upon and are built on the fly around an existing belief framework. Change the underlying belief framework and you can change ones memories. In this workshop we will discuss how claims made by forensic scientists impact how individuals recall events.
Crime Scene Reconstruction and the Investigative Process. Imagine trying to solve a puzzle in which the pieces were constantly changing shape. Crime scene reconstructionists work in this world on a regular basis. In this workshop we will discuss the cycle of divergent and convergent thinking used by at least one investigator in his efforts to reconstruct an incident. We will also look at the intellectualization of the process as a defense mechanism to deal with the stress of possibly being wrong.
Trial Review: A WV murder trial in review. In 2014, Professor Wheeler testified in a WV murder trial after 9 months of preparation. Using this trial as a case study, explore the justice system from the eyes of the expert witness. Is the court room where scientific reasoning is bludgeoned by the power of rhetoric?
Awaken the Child Within. Learn how to use past memories to create scenes. Patricia Wiles will lead exercises to help us recall scenes and emotions from childhood that we can use to enrich our stories.
Children's Writer's Journey. This workshop will cover the basics of writing for children, presented in an outline similar to the hero's journey. Great for beginning writers.
Natalie Sypolt, Renee Nicholson and Eric Fritzius. Discussion on how technology has been incorporated into writing. Join us to discuss information about building and maintaining a web presence, the use of social media, podcasting (audio and visual), and self-publishing electronically.