Where do writers get their ideas?
My friend April Henry was inspired to write her novel Learning to Fly by news stories about panic and confusion in the aftermath of a chain-reaction car accident on an Oregon freeway. Her recent Girl, Stolen had its roots in the true story of a blind girl kidnapped while sleeping in her parents’ car.
On October 7, I’ll be taking a one-day workshop taught by author Kathleen Alcalá (The Flowers in the Skull, Mrs. Vargas and the Dead Naturalist) on how to transform thought-provoking headlines into stories — and how to go a step beyond to create your own headlines (a.k.a. story titles).
The workshop will be in Seattle’s University District. You can find more information on the Clarion West website. There are still spaces open.
If you write fiction, there’s a fabulous opportunity in the next few weeks to join with writers from around the world who are forming an online “shadow workshop.” It runs in tandem with the Clarion West Writers Workshop in Seattle June 17 though July 27.
During the six weeks that the workshop’s in session, participants in the “shadow” group will be pursuing their individual goals for writing (such as outlining a novel, writing to achieve a daily or weekly word count on a current project, editing a completed piece, or submitting work to agents, editors, and publishers). The shadow project is called the Clarion West Write-a-thon, and each participant, in addition to writing, can raise money to support the Clarion West and its scholarship program. (Note: I’m a member of the “shadow workshop” and of the Clarion West board.)
For more information about the Write-a-thon and experience of being a shadow participant, please take a look at this post by author Nicola Griffith. She talks about the experiences of writers in last year’s Write-a-thon.
To sign up as a participating writer, see the Clarion West Write-a-thon page. You’ll find directions for joining the shadow workshop, including creating a profile page with a short excerpt from your work. You do not need to be a Clarion West alumnus to participate.
Not writing this year? You can still be involved — as a Write-a-thon sponsor. To make a tax-deductible contribution to support Clarion West through one of the “shadow workshop” writers, scroll down to the very bottom of the Write-a-thon page to see the growing list of writers who have signed up to participate.
The cat was sitting peacefully on the table, a dish of fresh strawberries by her paws.
I snapped the picture.
A minute later, the crash: Glass bowl in pieces on the patio pavers, strawberries among the shards. Cat, still sitting peacefully on the table, now facing me.
“So what?” she seemed to ask.
As I crawled around under the table, carefully picking up the pieces of glass, I was thinking about the importance of the first line of a story, or the first page of a book.
Do you start with the peaceful cat and berries? With the defiant cat among the broken glass and spoiled fruit? Or with the broken bowl and berries, no perpetrator in sight?
Yes, it’s the fourth week of the Clarion West Write-a-thon, and every domestic disaster is fodder for fiction. I’m working on the second of my three pledged short stories (which is not about strawberries). Clarion West Board Chair Kelley Eskridge has challenged the 142 people writing to raise funds for the organization to each bring in an additional sponsor, via PayPal or check, this week.
Will you become my next sponsor? If you’re local, I’ll bring you the next bowl of strawberries from the garden. Before the cat gets it.
Is there a speculative fiction writing project you want to get finished? Started? Submitted to a magazine, agent or publisher?
If so, I want to invite you to join the writers of the Clarion West community for the 2011 Clarion West Write-a-thon (June 19 through July 21). It’s a great way to challenge yourself to meet your writing goals — while raising money to sustain one of the nation’s foremost programs for speculative fiction.
People have used the Write-a-thon to start novels, to experiment with new writing techniques, to complete works-in-progress, and to polish and submit stories for publication. Last year author Michael Swanwick wrote flash fiction pieces that featured his donors as characters — and we expect there’ll be more such playfulness this year.
If you join the Clarion West online forums (http://clarionwest.net/forum), you can report on your progress and talk with other Write-a-thon participants.
Here’s how to get involved:
- Register for Write-a-thon and create your profile page. Use the profile to tell people about yourself and your Write-a-thon goals, and post a short excerpt from your fiction.
- When the Write-a-thon starts on June 19, ask friends to visit your page and donate to support your writing goals and the Clarion West program.
- Start writing! You’ll have until July 21 to meet your goals.
You’ll find complete information on the 2011 Clarion West Write-a-thon at http://clarionwest.net/events_page/write_a_thon.
Our goal this year is to involve 100 writers, attract 270 donors, and spark the creation and publication of some outstanding fiction. Please join us!