Monday, May 31, 2010

Editorial Tip of the Week: Lost in the Perilous Thicket, Part 2

Last week's tip followed Susan Bell's advice, editing away our prose to "see how the scene plays spare."

There may be a writer who gets it right with the first draft. The rest of us have to look at our work later, preferably when the glow of creation has faded.

It helps to review the smallest book on a writer's shelf: Strunk & White's The Elements of Style. For example, here's one of the reminders in "Section V: An Approach to Style."

4. Write with nouns and verbs, not with adjectives and adverbs. The adjective hasn't been built that can pull a weak or inaccurate noun out of a tight place. This is not to disparage adjectives and adverbs; they are indispensable parts of speech. Occasionally they surprise us with their power.... In general, however, it is nouns and verbs, not their assistants, that give to good writing its toughness and color.

I applied this reminder to last week's strangled sentence:

The intrepid explorer hacking a sinuous path with her sharp and trusty brush hook—a well-worn heirloom from her sainted mother—exhaled soft whispers of shocking profanity with every breath as she severed the stout stalks and sharp brambles that barred her way through the sinister thickets of dank green and crimson weeds.

And came up with this:

The explorer swung her brush hook as she cleared a path. "Damn," exhaled on the down swing. "Bastard!" the blade sliced through the tough stalks, "Yes," a sigh as she turned the hook to lift and pile the fallen brambles to open her way through the thicket. She paused for minute to catch her breath. She stretched her fingers, running them along the time-smoothed grain of the handle; her hand, her mother's hand.

Strunk & White’s Elements of Style at

Friday, May 28, 2010

Spotlighted Literary Events

Wednesday, June 2nd
First Wednesday! Matt Love, Cheryl Strayed, and Bryan Free of Bryan Free and the Doxyhaunt read. Co-hosted by the Oregon Literary Review and Blackbird Wine Shop. Wine-tasting. This show is 21 and over.
Where: Blackbird Wine Shop, 4323 NE Fremont
When: June 2nd, 7-9 p.m.
Cost: Free

Thursday, June 3nd
Spend First Thursday with the IPRC for their first annual Chili Cook Off and Olde Time Auction! All the chili you can taste and free beer and wine. Local chefs will award prizes in categories including Best Vegan, Best Veggie, Best Meat, Best In Show, Hottest and People’s Choice. There will also be a silent auction--almost everything in the IPRC is up for bids.
Where: Indepedent Publishing Resource Center, 917 SW Oak
When: June 3rd, 6-9pm
Cost: $5

June 4th-June 6th
Former owner of Murder By the Book, Jill Hinckley is organizing a benefit for Phil Wikelund, owner of the Great Northwest Bookstore, and Walter Curtis who lived in the building which burned down earlier this month. They are looking for volunteers and book donations.
Where: 3025 SW 1st
When: June 4th & 5th from 10-6, June 6th from 11-2
Cost: Most books $3 and under

Saturday, June 5th
Poet Sage Cohen joins Sharon Wood Wortman for the June Portland Bridge Walk. About a mile long and easy-paced, includes tour of the tower and bascule pit of the Morrison Bridge. See eight bridges in all. Preregistration not required.
Where: Begins at corner of NW Second & Everett (steps of the Northwest Natural Building)
When: June 5th, 8:30 a.m. until lunch (extra $) in Chinatown
Cost: $16 / adults, $10 /children

Welcome to Rain Town, Portland's First Independent Young Adult Press!

Rain Town Press is currently accepting manuscripts! Though they take queries from a wide range of genres, they are particularly interested in dystopian themes, modern realism, coming of age stories, and tales of protagonists finding their true voice/strength/power while facing adversity.

Submission guidelines and the online submission form can be found at Rain Town's website:

Featured Photo Story: The Picture of Innocence

Thirty-six hours ago, a woman died in Val's No Tell Motel. Larry and Barbara had several bad spots in their marriage. Barbara thoughts their troubles were over when he suggested a weekend mini-vacation in Orlando. What he didn't tell her was that the reservations were for the cheapest motel within a hundred miles. The first night resulted in everything she could have hoped for (short of a decent motel.) Great food, sex, and booze in previously unheard of quantities. The second night wasn't quite as good. On Sunday morning, Larry deposited the shovel, hammer, and scraps from some plastic sheeting into the farthest dumpster at the end of the parking lot. As he headed off alone, back to Slidell, he glanced at the woods behind the motel, grinned briefly, and gunned the engine.

Thanks to KEN LUMMUS for translating image to imagery.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Photo Story Prompt: Made Bed

Write whatever comes to you--long or short, fiction or truth.

Tell us what you come up with! Post your story in a comment below or send it to
Happy writing!

Monday, May 24, 2010

Editorial Tip of the Week: Lost in the Perilous Thicket, Part 1

The intrepid explorer hacking a sinuous path with her sharp and trusty brush hook—a well-worn heirloom from her sainted mother—exhaled soft whispers of shocking profanity with every breath as she severed the stout stalks and sharp brambles that barred her way through the sinister thickets of dank green and crimson weeds.

Alas, the poor sentence, its action strangled by verbiage! Severe pruning is needed (unless you're working on an entry for the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest). Some writers are bleeders. For others of us it's like pulling teeth. Either way, getting the words out is only the first step. Next comes editing. One trick is to highlight adjectives, asides, redundancies, clichés, and verbs ending with –ing. And, for a start, let's assume that all the information is necessary.

The intrepid explorer hacking a sinuous path with her sharp and trusty brush hook—a well-worn heirloom from her sainted mother—exhaled soft whispers of shocking profanity with every breath as she severed the stout stalks and sharp brambles that barred her way through the sinister thickets of dank green and crimson weeds.

Now you're ready for an exercise in verbal economy. Susan Bell, in The Artful Edit: On the Practice of Editing Yourself, describes an exercise from theater school and applies it to editing when she suggests we edit away much of our prose to "see how the scene plays spare." So let's keep the original to compare it with the spare version and then edit away:

The explorer hacked a path with her brush hook. She exhaled profanities as she severed stalks and brambles through the thickets. She kept the brush hook sharp; it was from her mother.

The basics are here, bare bones and dull. No dialog, no images. You might want to play with it. I did.
I'll post my version next week.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Spotlighted Literary Events

Saturday, May 22nd
Join Stumptown Underground for ping-pong, pie and the release of their 9th issue, All in the Family. You'll also have an opportunity to compete in Whiffies' 2nd pie eating contest and earn the title of "Pie Champ 2.0."
What: Stumptown Underground Issue Release Party
When: May 22nd, 6 p.m.
Where: Whiffies Fried Pies, SE 12th & Hawthorne
Cost: Free!

Monday, May 24th
Bill Cameron, the author of the dark, gritty Portland-based mysteries Lost Dog, Chasing Smoke, and Day One, is featured this Monday at OWC Presents!—a series of free workshops for and about writers and writing held the fourth Monday of each month at Looking Glass Bookstore.
Where: 7983 SE 13th Ave. (in the Sellwood neighborhood)
When: May 24th, 7 p.m.
Cost: Free!

Monday, May 24th
As the summer after junior year begins, Alton Richards becomes intrigued by his great-uncle Lester, by the game of bridge, and especially by a pretty, shy girl—and struggles to figure out what it all means. Louis Sachar, the bestselling author of Holes, reads and signs his latest novel, The Cardturner.
Where: Powell's Books, Cedar Hills Crossing, 3415 SW Cedar Hills Blvd.
When: May 24th, 7 p.m.
Cost: Free!

Tuesday, May 25th
The zine and experiemental film masters of Deap Leap screen their latest work of microcinema, The Internet is a Terrible Place to Live.
What: Deep Leap Microcinema
Where: Grand Detour, 215 SE Morrison suite 2020
When: May 25th, 8 p.m.
Cost: $3-6

THIS WEEKEND: Ooligan Write to Publish Conference

Oolican 2010 is only a few days away, so here's a line-up of speakers and events to help you get the most out of your conference experience!

Saturday, May 22nd (Workshop Day)

The State of Publishing with Dennis Stovall, Sarah Berry and Marty Brown
9-10:15, session A

Young Adult Trends and Audience with Sara Ryan
9-10:15, session B

How to Polish Your Manuscript with Vinnie Kinsella
10:30-11:45, session A

Graphic Novels: Publishing and Process with Brett Warnock and Aaron Colter
10:30-11:45, session B

An Agent on Writer/Agent Relationships with Bernadette Baker-Baughman
1:15-2:30, session A

Writers, Conventions and the Web: A Friendship with Bo Johnson
1:15-2:30, session B

Copyright with Michael Clark
2:45-4, session A

How to Find a Publisher with Dennis Stovall
2:45-4, session B

The Dos and Don'ts of Self-Publishing with Ali McCart
4:15-5:30, session A

Social Media and Community Marketing with Greg Netzer, Andi Zeisler and Aaron Colter
4:15-5:30, session B

Sunday, May 23rd (Open House and Author Stage)

11:00- Ursula K LeGuin

12:00- Deborah Hopkinson

1:00- Shannon Wheeler

2:00- Lilith Saintcrow

3:00- Virginia Euwer Wolff

4:00- Chuck Palahniuk

And don't forget to meet and mingle with your local publishing experts at Sunday's Open House--see you there!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Photo Story Prompt: Dock of the Bay

Write whatever comes to you—short or long, fiction or truth.

We'd love to see what you come up with! Post your story in a comment below, or e-mail it to

Feel free to comment on each other's stories and just generally enjoy the process of playing with the written word and the world it creates.

Happy writing!

"Dock of the Bay: People talking and fishing while standing in a jetty. Australia."
© Superepi2000

Monday, May 17, 2010

Editorial Tip of the Week: Use A Different Word

Overusing words is a common affliction of the writer. It can happen to anyone. Some words simply have a knack for getting themselves noticed--repeatedly. Words don't realize that in frequenting the page they are receiving the wrong kind of attention. They don't know that they would be much stronger, much more respected if they only came by occasionally. Your words ought to play hard to get, they should be aloof and mysterious. Don't let the attention hogs of the written word soil an otherwise decent text. We're writing in a language of countless synonyms, take advantage of this.

Obviously, some words are unavoidably overused. Prepositions, demonstratives, articles, and conjunctions will always have VIP reservations throughout your manuscript. No one will take note of how many times they've read the word, "the." Similarly, you can usually get away with repeating nouns, particularly concrete nouns. If you are writing about a boat, for example, you can use terms like "ship" or "vessel" but the word "boat" will still be justified in its recurring presence. If instead of concrete, you are writing about an abstract, like say, "truth," you will want to utilize similar terms so that "truth" doesn't lose its meaning through repetition. As for the stars of the show--the adjectives, the verbs and adverbs--they should always be eclectically distributed. Words most likely to be abused include: "interesting", "good" and "very." Grace Fleming of uses the example "the book was very interesting" in contrast to, "the text was quite motivating." You want to choose words that most accurately depict what it is you mean to say--if you shoot for specific rather than vague, it will be more difficult to overuse words.

There isn't a solid rule about how often a word can appear in a piece of writing, it boils down to instinct and preference. Generally though, if you're going to reuse a word, incidences should be far enough apart that your reader will have forgotten they've seen the word before. Depending on the uniqueness of the word, a page in between is probably an adequate distance.

Word over usage happens. Luckily, there is a cure: your thesaurus. I know, I know, it sort of feels like cheating, but rest assured there is no shame in cracking open that little book of expanding vocabulary, or even in using the one built in to your word processing program. Keep in mind, though, that this too must be used in moderation. There is a delicate balance between artfully incorporating a varied diction and sounding like the thesaurus itself.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Spotlighted Literary Events

Tuesday, May 18th
This week marks the 30th anniversary of the eruption of Mt. St. Helens. Let's think about the volcano--what it meant then and what it means now--with Ursula K Leguin, Gary Snyder and Jerry Franklin as they discuss their personal writing about the mountain and how people relate to nature.
What: The Power of Nature, Mount St. Helens 1980-2010
When: May 18th, 7:30pm
Where: First Baptist Church, 909 SW 11th Avenue
Cost: $35

Wednesday, May 19th
Writers tell tales inspired by the theme "at your service" in under 10 minutes a piece.
What: Back Fence Live Storytelling
When: May 19th, doors at 6pm, starts at 7:30pm
Where: Mission Theatre, 1624 NW Glisan Street
Cost: $14

Sunday, May 23rd
Join Nancy Linnon in a Writing as a Spiritual Practice workshop to explore ways we can use writing about the self, relationships, and our spiritual lives to grow in awareness and to enrich and deepen our daily life. Nancy Linnon, a former journalist for U.S. News & World Report, has published in Creative Nonfiction, Yoga International, and Los Angeles Review. To register, contact Nancy Linnon.
When: 1-5 p.m.
Where: The Garden Sanctuary in Multnomah Village
Cost: $70

Save these dates!
Writers in The Schools (WITS) residencies culminate as students from Marshall, Roosevelt, Lincoln, Jefferson and Franklin high schools read their poems, prose and comic arts at galleries, cafes and libraries.
May 18 - 6:30 p.m.
Midland Library/large meeting room, 805 SE 122nd Ave.
May 20 - 7:00 p.m.
Ladybug Organic Coffee Co., 8438 N Lombard St.
May 21 - 7:00 p.m.
Portland Art Museum/Marion L. Miller Gallery, 1219 SW Park Ave.
May 26 - 6:00 p.m.
Talking Drum Bookstore/Reflections Café, 446 NE Killingsworth St.
May 27- 7:00 p.m.
BiPartisan Café, 7901 SE Stark St.
Cost: Free!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Photo Story Prompt: Turn on the Globe

Write whatever comes to you--short or long, fiction or truth.

We'd love to hear what you come up with! Post your story in a comment or send it to

Feel free to comment on each other's stories and enjoy the process of playing with the written word and the world it creates.

Happy writing!

Photo by Rosie M-M

Monday, May 10, 2010

Editorial Tip of the Week: A While vs. Awhile

Let's take a moment, or maybe a while, to consider the difference between awhile or a while.

You've reached the place in your novel where the dentist tells the hapless protagonist, "This will only hurt for a little while." You've written "a little while" as a simple noun phrase: while is the noun that's modified by two adjectives, "a" and "little." (Yes, according to The Chicago Manual of Style, the indefinite article a is a limiting adjective that "points to nonspecific objects, things or persons that are not distinguished from other members of a class.") So, even if you decide to remove "little" from that phrase, a while would still be a noun phrase, with one adjective and one noun.

Because you're aware that the reader's time is precious and patience limited, you decide to tighten your prose. But how? If you type "This will only hurt for a while," your noun phrase will become a prepositional phrase, beginning with "for" and still followed by a limiting adjective and a noun. No problem. But if you change "for a while" to "for awhile," you risk distracting any reader who has an eye for grammar—and you want your readers to focus on the scene itself. Your innocent change has converted a noun to an adverb and, as Paul Brians, in Common Errors in English Usage, explains:
When “awhile” is spelled as a single word, it is an adverb meaning “for a time” (“stay awhile”); but when “while” is the object of a prepositional phrase, like “Lend me your monkey wrench for a while” the “while” must be separated from the “a.”

So your grammarian reader, whether irritated or indulgent, will see this phrase as "for for a while" and pause, in spite of your intention to move that scene forward.

Try out the following options:
This will only hurt for a little while.
This will only hurt for a while.
(Where while is a noun meaning "a period of time.")
This will only hurt awhile.
(Where awhile is an adverb meaning "for a time.")
And then let your ear decide. 

Friday, May 07, 2010

Indigo's Day of Workshops

It's true, we're beginning to offer non-writing workshops for writers to help them navigate the editing and publishing worlds. Please join us on Saturday, May 15, for our first day of workshops featuring:

Breakthrough Writing Playshop
10:30 a.m.–Noon
Instructor: Susan DeFreitas
Cost: $45*
This inspiring workshop will help you break through the constraints of left brain logic and into the fascinating chaos of the deep creative or intuitive mind. We’ll incorporate a series of prompts garnered from found images and objects, quotes, Surrealist-style writing exercises, and more, drawing on layering techniques designed to unhinge habitual patterns of meaning-making and arranging, with the goal of jogging the subconscious mind into loosing its gems of association through intriguing and unexpected combinations of words and images.

All participants will leave with a series of free-writes that may serve as seeds for future pieces and creative dynamite aimed at breaking through current writing blocks.

Susan DeFreitas is a writer, editor, multimedia artist and poet who enjoys the way different art forms can influence writing. She has an interdisciplinary degree in Arts and Letters from Prescott College for the Liberal Arts and the Environment; her prose-poetry natural history (influenced by classical music) was recently published in Southwestern American Literature.

Impress Your Editor—All of Them
1–2:30 p.m.
Instructor: Kristin Thiel
Cost: $45*
If someone’s opinion is important enough for you to share your manuscript with that person, it’s equally important that you prepare your manuscript to its best before you hand it over. Learn how to ready your manuscript for your writing group. Save time and money by following a few simple tips before you hire an independent editor. Support—don’t sabotage—your manuscript before the acquisitions editor or agent finally slices open your promising box of twelve-point Times New Roman.

Kristin Thiel has been an editor for almost a decade, and sharing her own writing with other editors for longer than that. An excerpt of her writing is an example of what to do right in the reference book Don’t Sabotage Your Submission: Save Your Manuscript from Turning Up D.O.A.

Publish Before You Publish
2:40–4:10 p.m.
Instructor: Andrea Deeken
Cost: $45*
If you have dreams of becoming a published author but don’t know where to start, this is the class for you. Submitting to contests and journals is a great way to begin building a platform for your writing that can easily be carried over into further publication. Learn the basics of how and why to submit, as well as the kinds of submissions to avoid. There will be time set aside for free writing and feedback. All skill levels welcome.

Andrea Deeken has studied writing for almost fifteen years and has been an editor since 2005. A veteran of submitting to contests and journals, she has won first place in writing contests sponsored by Richard Hugo House and Portland Pen and Pie. Her work has most recently appeared in The Bear Deluxe.

*Attend all three workshops for just $100. Each class is limited to nine students. All classes will be held at the Indigo office, 519 SW 3rd Ave., Fifth-floor conference room, Portland, Oregon.

Take advantage of these great prices to add to your knowledge base and to get to know our editors! Visit for more information. E-mail to register.

Ali McCart to Speak at Ooligan's Write to Publish Conference


Ooligan Press presents Oolicon: Write to Publish Conference 2010
The goal of Write to Publish is to demystify the publishing industry for writers. During this two-day conference you will learn the skills you need to transform your writing from a creative endeavor to a published work.

Our workshops will help you understand the world of publishing, from finding your audience to copyright law. On the first day, Workshop Day, you will gain insight into:
• Polishing your manuscript
• The agent/writer relationship
• Finding a publisher
• Self-publishing a manuscript (Taught by Indigo's Ali McCart!)
• …and many more!

On day two of Write to Publish, you will have the chance to rub elbows with industry professionals at Open House Day. Take this opportunity to make valuable contacts and maybe even pitch your idea to a local publisher. Open House Day will also feature Chuck Palahniuk, Ursula K. Le Guin, Shannon Wheeler, Deborah Hopkinson, Virginia Euwer Wolff, and Lilith Saintcrow, who will share their experiences with the publishing industry.

Write to Publish 2010 is about empowering you as a writer so you are one step closer to getting published.

Visit for further information and to register.

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Spotlighted Literary Events

Date: May 8th
Portland women writers from the VoiceCatcher anthology read at St. John's Booksellers.
Where: 8622 N. Lombard St., Portland, OR
When: 2:30 p.m.
Cost: Free!
For more information visit VoiceCatcher's Web site.

Date:May 18th, 7pm
Reading Frenzy welcomes Anne Elizabeth Moore, author of Cambodian Grrrl: Self-Publishing in Phnom Penh. The book is a collection of six essays inspired by Moore's work with the impoverished and brilliant women of Southeast Asia.
When: May 18th, 7 p.m.
Where: Reading Frenzy, 921 SW Oak Street
Cost: Free! Including free beer from Ninkasi Brewery.

Date: Now
Don't let the lazy days of summer melt your brain! Summer registration for writing classes and workshops at The Attic is going on now. A variety of topics are offered to stimulate anyone's inner muse.
When: Varies, check out the schedule and class listing
Where: The Attic, 4232 SE Hawthorne

Date: May 21-23
Richard Hugo House hosts its first writers’ conference: Finding Your Readers in the 21st Century. In addition to traditional publishing models, we’ll look at ways writers can promote themselves and their work directly to their readers, and offer hands on practical workshops on basic tools of the writing business from creating a pre-pub platform to building your own Web site.
Where: 1634 11th Ave., Seattle, WA
Cost: $300For more information visit the conference Web site.