The Joys of Formatting

by Sheila Deeth, with thanks to Jean Harkin

Writers Mill Journal CoverThe Portland Writers’ Mill, a writing group that meets monthly at the Cedar Mill library, has just released its third journal. With a beautiful cover designed by the wonderful Patricia Burraston, and lots of great stories, essays and poems from our members, we managed to work it into a really nice-looking pdf file, ready to upload to Createspace. But getting that pdf file to look the way it did took time-and-a-half from several schedules, and left me feeling like a student struggling not to flunk the test.

There is so much to learn when it comes to print formatting; so many great ways to make a book look appealing and professional, and so many simple ways to make it look amateur. I know I shall find myself checking for errors on all the (real, physical, paper-printed) books I read in the future, just because of this experience. But who knows, perhaps the things I learned will be useful to someone else.

Things I have discovered:

  1. Pages of text look better if they line up at the top, even if the bottoms do not line up.
  2. Paragraph indents should be smaller if the page size is smaller. (I missed this. Too late to fix it now.)
  3. If you have to split paragraphs across a page, try to do it with more than two lines on each page, especially if the reader has to turn the page.
  4. If a paragraph ends with only one word on the final line, try to make it two instead.
  5. Move words to the next line by adding shift-enter before them (in Word).
  6. Split paragraphs across the page by adding shift-enter at the end of a line. (Adding a real line-break will insert an unwanted indent in Word.)
  7. Lists look better if they are not right-justified. Text looks better right and left justified.
  8. You can always reduce the paragraph spacing to fit more text on a page. You can even reduce the line spacing too, which might be good when a poem does not quite fit.
  9. Start the first story on the right-hand side of a two-page spread.
  10. Blank space is good. Even blank pages can be good, such as before that first story.
  11. Use a section break after the contents, then start page numbers in section two. Make sure section two starts on that right-hand page with the first piece of text, and with page number one.
  12. Use a new section for each “section” in your contents list (and use different headers in each section. Sadly I ran out of time and couldn’t do this, but next time.)
  13. Headers and footers are great for the body of the book, but you might not want them on the contents and acknowledgement pages. Make sure section two’s headers and footers are not linked to previous section, or you will find yourself wondering why they keep disappearing.
  14. Everything takes time, but editing the Word doc while you read the pdf is a good way to speed things up. Then close the pdf, save your Word doc, and save as pdf again. The pdf reopens automatically and you can continue editing.
  15. You don’t need a backup Word doc for every change, but make sure you have a pre-formatting copy to compare with your final document. Then use review>compare in Word; examine every difference between these two, and make sure you did not accidentally remove any lines of text or words while formatting.

Here’s what I have not discovered yet, but plan to find out and use in the next journal or book I produce:

  1. How do you make Word leave a bigger gap between the text and the footer, without making the footer take up too much space?
  2. How do you shrink the spaces on a line to make an extra word fit in?
  3. How do you make the contents list fit nicely to the edge of the page?
  4. How do you make lists fit nicely too?

I know there is a ton more stuff out there that I really should learn, and I really will try. I’ll talk sweetly to those kind people who have been teaching me, and the next journal will be even better than this one. But this one is truly wonderful, of course. Just follow the link and see!

Sheila DeethSheila Deeth is the author of Divide by Zero, published by Second Wind Publishing, and The Five-Minute Bible Story Series, published by Cape Arago Press. Her animal stories (one of which is included in the Writers’ Mill Journal) will soon be released in the children’s book Tails of Mystery from Linkville Press. Sheila describes herself as a Mongrel Christian Mathematician and has a Master in Mathematics from the University of Cambridge, England. She has lived in the United States for 18 years and in Oregon for ten. Her story of the American West, “Wind and Snow,” was published in VoiceCatcher4.

Jean HarkinWhile raising her family in Iowa, Jean Harkin was a journalist and photographer for a community newspaper and charitable foundation newsletters. She began writing fiction and her first novel when she joined a writing group in Portland in 2007. She has a B.A. in English from Creighton University and an M.S. in Teaching from Drake University. Jean and her husband John moved to Washington County, Oregon, in 2001. Jean’s photographs appeared in VoiceCatcher6 in 2011 and in the Winter 2013 issue of VoiceCatcher: a journal of women’s voices & visions.

The Knotty and Nice of Indie Publishing

Using Social Media
by Theresa Snyder

It takes a community to get the proper attention for a writer’s work and social media helps accomplish that.

Your readers wish to learn about you as a person. They want to feel as if they know you. If you are gentle and engaging, folks will respond. They will assist you if you work together.

Shortly after I posted my first book, The Helavite War, on Kindle, my students suggested that I sign up with Twitter and actively work to market the book. Two of them stepped in and created a perfect profile – branding me as the author, reader, gardener and dreamer that I am.

I have heard Twitter referred to as a cocktail party, whereas Facebook is more like inviting your friends over for dinner. I am less personal on Facebook than most people because I have it set to “public,” meaning everyone has access; I didn’t like trying to maintain two Facebook pages, personal and author (public). I prefer dealing with my friends face-to-face, so having just an author page, which my friends and anyone else can view, is fine with me.

I found Twitter to be my cup of tea. I really enjoy chatting and Twitter is the place for that. I quickly picked up followers and made a slew of friends.

Among other things, I write books about dragons. There are dragon folks galore on Twitter. We tweet and hug and scratch ears on a regular basis; so often, in fact, that one of the dragons drew a picture of me scratching his ear. The dragon folks are a tight group and support each other and the folks they like.

Choose your audience and focus your efforts there. What interests you? What can you share? At first I was at a loss. However, I have a good-sized garden and when I discovered there were people on Twitter who enjoyed flowers, I started to tweet photos of flowers. Soon there were requests for a video tour of my garden and that led to my own YouTube channel. I have found I love to do videos and I try to get one put together each month.

I do shout-outs (#SO) for my retweeters (which gets them new followers), and also thank them in some general tweets at the end of the day. Thus far this works well for me. Each time someone retweets your post, it goes to each of their individual followers. What can you do to show your appreciation to all your lovely retweeters?

When I reached more than 700 retweets a day it became impossible to retweet each one equally. One of my promotional tweets was retweeted so many times that, should each of the retweeters’ followers looked at it, it would have been viewed more than 95,000 times.

I purchased a program called “Tweet Adder,” which automatically spits out tweets based on my specific directions. I have more than 400 tweets in the program. They are not all promotional; some are funny, some are quotes. The program also has the ability to do an auto follow back, something that is really helpful once you pass the 5,000-follower mark; then it is otherwise almost impossible to keep track of who you followed-back and who you didn’t.

Twitter might not be your cup of tea, but it is worth a try if you like to interact daily with folks of a similar mind. I have found a virtual family among the folks on Twitter.

Next time my column will talk about the domino effect.


Theresa SnyderTheresa Snyder is a multi-genre writer with an internationally read blog. She grew up on a diet of black-and-white, sci-fi films like Forbidden Planet and The Day the Earth Stood Still. She is a voracious reader and her character-driven writing is influenced by the early works of Anne McCaffrey, Ray Bradbury, Robert Heinlein and L. Ron Hubbard. This is the second installment in her column for VoiceCatcher about self-publishing.

November Prompt: Intentions

by Carrie Conner

If you don’t know where you are going, you might wind up someplace else.
– Yogi Berra

 “What do you do for a living?” asked the woman at a recent dinner party. The inevitable question – and the almost inevitable comment when I say I’m a writer: “Oh, I’m not creative. I could never be a writer.” Each time I hear this I want to laugh – and cry.

The idea of being uncreative and unable to write is a story this woman tells herself – possibly developed after seeing her second-grade essay bloodied with red pen.

Creating is what our human brains do best. Fed by our emotions, we spin tales out of thin air. In the process of walking from the porch to the mailbox, I can weave a Homeric saga, starring me as the reluctant hero battling the evil mortgage-banking empire in its plot to take over the universe.

The Laboratory of Neuro Imaging at the University of Southern California estimates that we have a thought roughly every 2.5 seconds, or up to 70,000 per day. Unfortunately, most of these thoughts are unconscious, running unchecked like a herd of bunnies, propelled by raw emotion, fearing what we desperately want to avoid.

Obstacles are those frightful things you see when you take your eyes off your goal.
– Henry Ford

Intentions give the subconscious a roadmap, indicating where we would prefer to end up. Consider them a call to action for your unconscious mind. If it’s going to gnaw on something anyway, why not let it mull over the outcome you would actually prefer?

Here is a list of intentions I set down before writing this column:

  • I allow my column to be entertaining and useful.
  • I allow my writing to flow freely with ease.
  • I allow myself to have fun.
  • I give myself full permission to write total &$#@ if that’s what wants to come out.
  • I allow myself to hit my deadline with ease.

Emily Carr said, “Inspiration is intention obeyed.”  It is time to find your inspiration. Write a list of intentions for yourself or one of your characters, and use them, or any part of them, in a work of fiction, non-fiction or poetry.

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An Invitation from VoiceCatcher
Willing to share what this prompt inspires you to write? Each month we might publish some responses to the VoiceCatcher prompts. Contact us to submit the writing the prompt elicits from you.


Carrie ConnerA friend once asked Carrie Conner why she writes. “Because I have to,” she said. “You mean like publish or perish?” he asked. “No,” she said, “It’s more like … breathing.” Carrie has spent 20 years as a staff and features journalist and freelance copywriter for a variety of publications and companies. One day, while interviewing an emerging novelist about her new book release, she realized she was done writing about other people’s accomplishments. She’s currently putting together a yet-untitled collection of short stories and a screenplay.

Leave the Dishes: Making Art While Raising Children

Start Making Art Again
by Claudia F. Savage

Making art takes dreaming as well as time. But when I turned 38 and had my daughter, River, all writing methods fell away. I was frantic and exhausted. I owed it to myself, and to River, to find a way to continue my artistic life despite the challenge of raising her. She needed a mother who was her fullest self — and that woman had to figure out how to write.

“Leave the Dishes” is a column about how to create amidst the chaos, including advice from other artists who have made it happen and help from organizations that want to support that effort. I’ll be interviewing mother-writers, mother-visual artists, and organizations throughout the Pacific Northwest and beyond. For now, let’s start with what began to work for me:

Deep Attention — in Quick Bursts
The poet Li-Young Lee once told me he came back to poetry after bathing his boys before bed, watching the light come through the trees in a window above them. He felt this attention, this noticing, was more important than any other work he was doing at the time. Sometimes, it is not about making work as a mother-artist, but just allowing yourself to experience unhurried sensation. Stopping the constant rush for just a moment. I often feel a poem begin when I look at my 2-year-old’s sunlit hair. Encourage your child to touch the petals of a daisy on walks. Touch them with her. Point out the birds rising from a neighbor’s rooftop. Watch how their dark wings contrast with the sky. And, to capture those thoughts …

Notebooks, Notebooks Everywhere
Don’t just carry a notebook with you, place notebooks everywhere you are during the day (in the stroller, the diaper bag, your purse, next to your bed, the car, and in the kitchen). Being a mother means that artistic ideas are quickly replaced by crying children. Don’t worry about the topic, just get it down. One day I wrote the following lines after nursing my daughter:

I thought your eyes would be blue.
Sliced sky over the breakfast table.

This reminds me of the most important shift that happened to me when I started to …

Work Smaller
You know you’re not going to write a 700-page novel or fill a gallery when you have an infant. But, maybe you were once prolific and your inability to write even one poem a month makes you feel like an utter failure. For me, I decided that I had to work smaller since the best time I could work was during my daughter’s naps. At the end of the day I was so tired I could hardly eat dinner. Nikki McClure’s beautiful book, Awake to Nap, was done specifically during her son’s naps. Many artists talk about this tactic. At first, River’s naps were so short I only got out one or two lines every other day. A poem took weeks for a first draft. Then, I realized that I could work smaller on multiple pieces at once, coming back to each one as I felt inspired. This was a departure for me, but it felt easier, especially once I started to …

Exile the Editor to Fiji
Sleep deprivation and stress can make the internal editor huge. It’s a good idea to exile her until confidence in your new art-making ways returns. I’m not talking about no longer critiquing your work. I’m talking about exiling that voice that doesn’t allow you to create in the first place. The one that tells you everything you make is terrible. For the first year of River’s life I made the decision to just focus on generating. I filled notebooks with two-line pieces, sketches, and non-fiction rants. Sometimes, the work was a reminder that I was having a hard time. Once I wrote:

I write in secret on the couch. Pretending to remember the garlic on the grocery list. Got that? Yeah. Milk? Yup. I am bloodless. A husk.

Once River started sleeping a bit more at night, I began to trust myself to edit some of the pieces I’d made. But, before that happens for you, let the editor have her pina coladas far, far away. And focus instead on a way to …

Develop Routine or Ritual
So, what do you do with all those jotted down sketches and lines from a given week? Try to develop a routine or ritual around some kind of completion. For me, my time was one hour on a Saturday morning. Often I was so exhausted I just stared at my notebooks, but, eventually, I started to crave that time when I could compile my disparate things from the previous week’s notebooks into something. It was a good time to assess how I was doing as a writer. Which strategies were working (that notebook in the bathroom got soaked from the duck toy) and what was surprising (did I actually write a line after a 3 a.m. feeding?). And, finally …

Forgiveness and More Forgiveness
If nothing gets done that week or that month, you will be fine. Forgive yourself. You will come back to it if you just focus on making space for yourself. Remember that whatever you make during this time of childrearing should be celebrated. There is nothing more powerful than rediscovering yourself on the page, for yourself and your children. However you make it work is good.


Claudia F. SavageClaudia F. Savage has been a chef for people recovering from illness, a book editor, and a teacher of poetry to young women in Appalachia, ranchers in Colorado, and urbanites in Portland. Her first book, The Limited Visibility of Bees, was named a finalist for the New Issues Press Poetry Prize. Her poetry and interview credits include CutBank, Nimrod, The Denver Quarterly, VoiceCatcher, Iron Horse, The Buddhist Poetry Review, and Bookslut. Her published chapbook is called The Last One Eaten: A Maligned Vegetable’s History. Savage is a member of the poetry/music duo, THrum, whose album is forthcoming in spring 2015.

Writer’s Craft: Dotting Your Ts and Crossing Your Eyes

Writing Groups: A Chance to Talk Shop
by Trista Cornelius

In my experience it has been common to advise aspiring writers to join, or create, a writing group. And although I’ve belonged to two, I only recently started wondering about their purpose. I had always assumed it was to critique works in progress. It turns out, however, the reasons for joining (or not joining) a writing group prove to be as diverse as the many different forms writing groups can take.

Priscilla Long, in her book The Writer’s Portable Mentor: A Guide to Art, Craft, and the Writing Life, describes her group as a writing-practice group. Another writer told me she thinks of her group as a support group, drawing solitary artists out of their caves for an evening of camaraderie.

Laura Stanfill, founder of Forest Avenue Press, sees writing groups as essential for moving an idea on the page to an idea existing independent of the writer.

I remember learning in graduate school about “writer-based prose” and “reader-based prose.” First drafts (writer-based prose) are usually written in a language and style familiar to the writer herself but not so relatable to anyone else. Revision moves a draft to reader-based prose which aims to make the text accessible to a wider audience.

A critique group gives you a real audience to revise for, and readers to respond to your work, revealing where your manuscript shines and where it might fall flat.

In critique groups, writers often share printed copies of their drafts, or email documents ahead of time to read. Laura’s group, however, meets monthly to read work aloud to each other. Listening to a draft “takes a different type of writing muscle” than reading works on the page, Laura says. “Listening frees me from the mechanics and lets me experience the story as its own thing.”

Getting feedback on your writing, however, does not always require a group or meeting in person. Although Susan deFreitas  author of Pyrophitic (Afternoon Shorts (Book 2),  has been in writing groups in the past, she now relies on “trusted friends” for feedback on her work. “I believe, first and foremost, in sharing the work with people who get the intent – who understand the world the piece wants to be a part of.”

Each of her critique friends reads a different style of writing. Her husband, for example, reads her speculative fiction, while a friend who excels at creative nonfiction reads that kind of work from Susan.

This makes a lot of sense, especially if you write in a particular genre and style, or know what specific audience you want to reach with your work. Any practiced writer or avid reader can give a general audience response to a text, but you might need a poet to engage the finer details of your poem, or a devoted reader of flash fiction to further sharpen your condensed story.

Cari Luna author of The Revolution of Every Day, has never been in a writing group. She had plenty of workshop experience throughout her education but has decided writing groups are not useful to her now. Cari said shorter works “fall out of me” now and then, but for the most part she writes novels. Showing “parts of a novel rather than the whole is unhelpful, and getting feedback on the first draft of a novel is absolutely disastrous.” She does not show anyone her work until it’s complete and already in the second draft. At that point, like Susan, she has a “number of trusted draft readers” to share her work with, and she reads their work, too.

Perhaps the most important thing to consider about a writing group is something both Cari and Susan mentioned. They described “trusted friends” who read their work. Who are the writers and readers in your life you trust to be supportive of but also honest about your work?

Although Laura’s group critiques each writer’s piece with the aim of making it better, she points out that “bringing work to a group of peers turns your particular voice, your story, into a shared experience with those other writers.” For her, that community matters as much as, if not more than, getting feedback on a draft.

Laura’s right. Looking back on my writing group experiences, I’ve always been eager for feedback on my drafts to help me see the strengths and weaknesses of my work. Although this has taught me a lot, I realize now that the gathering of writer-friends to talk shop and commiserate about a solitary craft has kept me motivated over the long haul.

If you need to give your work time and privacy, but you would like to join a writing group for the camaraderie, there’s no writing law that says every member must share her work with the group. You could contribute to discussions, respond to prompts, and build friendships all the same. Or, you could join with others for a non-critique group to keep the writing muscles limber but protect your fledgling work from an audience before it is ready.

If you have decided to start a writing group, you now get to decide how your group will work. Will you meet in person? Will you meet weekly, monthly, or quarterly? Where will you meet? For how long? Are you all writing in the same genre, or does that matter?

For a couple of years now, my writing group has done a little bit of everything at our once-a-month meetings. While we eat a potluck dinner, we talk shop, catching up on writing news since the last time we met. After dinner, we write on a prompt for ten minutes; then each writer reads the free write aloud, but we don’t critique. Lastly, we critique drafts that have been emailed ahead of time, or short drafts are read aloud. This takes about three hours, often includes chocolate, and always leaves us rejuvenated and recommitted to the writing craft.

Until now, I’ve had a utilitarian idea of what writing groups should do: critique and improve. My group will attest that I am usually the one to cut the chit-chat and keep our noses to the grindstone. However, looking back on the years of our meetings, I recognize the importance of community. Other professionals have hallways, breakrooms, and water coolers to talk shop. Writers have writing groups for a chance to discuss current issues, share new ideas, and further the writing craft.

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Punctuation have you perplexed? Seeking wise counsel on how to be grammatically correct? Send your questions for Trista to the VoiceCatcher website editors. If she selects your question to answer in a future column, you may receive a bonus: a free copy of a VoiceCatcher print anthology!


Trista CorneliusTrista Cornelius writes VoiceCatcher’s bimonthly column, “Dotting Your Ts and Crossing Your Eyes,” about the writer’s craft. This is the third article in her series about proofreading. Trista is currently on a leave of absence from Clackamas Community College where she has been teaching writing, literature and food studies. Follow her writing, reading and eating adventures here.

VoiceCatcher Nominates Five Authors for the 2015 Pushcart Prize

The editors of the Winter and Summer 2014 issues of VoiceCatcher: a journal of women’s voices & visions are proud to announce their nominees for next year’s Pushcart Prize.

From the Winter 2014 Issue
How to Survive the Loss of Your Best Friend” by Diane Averill
Messages” by Mary Mandeville
After the Ice Storm” by Linda Strever

From the Summer 2014 Issue
Carnage” by Heidi Beierle
Under The Tongue” by Cindy Stewart-Rinier
What Cape Avila Was Like” by Linda Strever

According to the Pushcart website,

The Pushcart Prize: Best of the Small Presses series, published every year since 1976, is the most honored literary project in America.

Since 1976, hundreds of presses and thousands of writers of short stories, poetry and essays have been represented in our annual collections … The Pushcart Prize has been a labor of love and independent spirits since its founding. It is one of the last surviving literary co-ops from the 60’s and 70’s.

Meet Our Nominees
Diane AverillDiane Averill has published three full-length books of poems: Branches Doubled Over With Fruit, Beautiful Obstacles and Among Pearls Hatching. Two were finalists for the Oregon Book Award in Poetry. She has been published in several anthologies and many literary magazines around the country. She also has published two chapbooks. Diane is a graduate of the MFA program at the University of Oregon. She taught in the English Department at Clackamas Community College from 1991 until she retired in 2010. She was awarded an Oregon Literary Arts Fellowship.

Heidi BeierleA resident of Portland, Oregon, Heidi Beierle works as a community planner, specializing in bicycle tourism and active travel options. Her creative work has appeared in High Desert Journal, Journal for America’s Byways, Herbivore Magazine, and Alternatives Magazine.

Mary MandevilleMary Mandeville is a 50-something mother, partner and chiropractor who woke up one morning about five years ago with the unshakable need to write a book. She doesn’t have a fancy MFA, and, up until now, had never been nominated for a Pushcart prize, but has spent much of the past several years writing like a woman possessed. She participated in the Attic’s year-long Atheneum program. Around work and parenting, she puts words on the page almost every day. Her memoir is in progress.

Cindy Stewart-RinierCindy Stewart-Rinier holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Pacific Lutheran University’s Rainier Writing Workshop. Her work has appeared in CALYX Journal, The Smoking Poet, Crab Creek Review, Ascent, and Naugatuck River Review – and she’s hoping that the third-time’s-a-charm rule proves true with this Pushcart nomination. A pre-K teacher by day, she also loves teaching poetry writing workshops for the Mountain Writers Series in Portland, Oregon.

Linda StreverLinda Strever’s poetry collection, Against My Dreams, was released in fall 2013. Her poetry credits include CALYX Journal, Adanna, Floating Bridge Review, Crab Creek Review, Nimrod, Spoon River Poetry Review, Beloit Poetry Journal and others. Winner of the Lois Cranston Memorial Poetry Prize, she has also seen her work be a finalist for the New Issues Poetry Prize, the Levis Poetry Prize and the Ohio State University Press Award in Poetry. Her forthcoming novel, Don’t Look Away, will be released in fall 2014. She has an MFA from Brooklyn College.

The Knotty and Nice of Indie Publishing

My First Year
by Theresa Snyder

I started my life as a published indie author on May 1, 2013. It has been an all-consuming project ever since.

There is no blueprint telling how to become a successful indie author. Like childrearing, it does not come with a manual. Everything is trial and error. What works for one author may not work for another.

My goal last year was to post all twelve of my completed books to the Kindle store on Amazon. I accomplished that plus one more, thirteen in all. I also did so much more and met so many wonderful folks along the way.

I’d like to detail my journey thus far. Each step is important – each step helps build a bridge closer to the readers who I hope are awaiting my stories.

In the early 1990s I tried without success to get my books published in the traditional manner. The agents and publishers did not know whether to place them in adult or in young adult (YA) as they seemed to be both. Back then there were no Harry Potter or Twilight books to show that a YA book would be read by an adult as well as a teen. Tired of receiving rejection slips, I gave up. I told myself I was writing for the fun of it. All that changed when my writing group suggested I put my books on the Internet for sale as e-books.

My writing buddy, Bill, suggested I buy a writing program called Scrivener and he offered to format my books into Mobipocket e-book files (MOBI) for Amazon. Amazon is not the only place to post your e-books, but it is a place to start as Amazon is one of the larger publishers of e-books. If you have even the least bit of knowledge of the Internet, setting up an account with Amazon is fairly straightforward and posting to that account relatively easy.

I do, however, have suggestions. After all, that is why you’re reading this, right?

Make your final manuscript as clean as possible. Formatting an e-book is very different from a regular printed book. If you are unsure about how to correctly format your book, have someone do it for you. Due to amateur authors putting out less-than-satisfactory, poorly formatted volumes, indie books have been given the bad rap of being inferior. Get a good group of beta readers and have them carefully comb through your book.

Do not do your own cover unless you are a graphic artist. There are folks out there who will do a cover for you for under $100. It looks more professional and will sell more books for you. Remember, the cover is your book’s first impression. See my attempt at doing a cover for my book, James & the Dragon, and the artist Sarah Hyndshaw’s version. I bet I don’t even have to label which one is which.James and the Dragon by Sarah HyndshawJames and the Dragon by Theresa Snyder (1)

Look at other authors’ book descriptions, bios and publicity shots before you create yours. Remember you are creating a brand for yourself. It should look clean and be engaging.

And last in my short list, remember that all Amazon sites are not connected. If you set up your information on Author Central for America, you also must set it up for the U.K., Germany, France, Japan, Australia and so forth.

My next column will cover social media.

Theresa SnyderTheresa Snyder is a multi-genre writer with an internationally read blog. She grew up on a diet of black-and-white, sci-fi films like Forbidden Planet and The Day the Earth Stood Still. She is a voracious reader and her character-driven writing is influenced by the early works of Anne McCaffrey, Ray Bradbury, Robert Heinlein and L. Ron Hubbard.

Join Us Thursday, October 23, 2014

 Join VoiceCatcher for the Last Reading of 2014

 Thursday, October 23, 2014
6:30-8:00 p.m.

Rain or Shine Coffee House
5941 SE Division St.
Portland, OR 97206

Come early to grab a drink or bite to eat from
Rain or Shine’s special menu for the event.

Top row: Helen Sinoradzki, Donna Prinzmetal, Linda Ferguson Bottom:   Kate Comings, Jennifer Foreman, Tanya Jarvik

Top row: Helen Sinoradzki, Donna Prinzmetal, Linda Ferguson
Bottom: Kate Comings, Jennifer Foreman, Tanya Jarvik

Meet our poets, prose writers and editors who will wrap up our 2014 reading series with style!

Prose co-editor of the Winter 2015 issue of VoiceCatcher’s journal, Helen Sinoradzki moved to Portland 17 years ago and plans to stay for the rest of her life. She has been a bookseller at various independent bookstores for more than 20 years and currently works for Powell’s Books. Before that, she taught English at Ithaca College and the University of New Mexico-Los Alamos, and worked as a technical writer at Los Alamos National Laboratory. With the help of the amazing writers at Pinewood Table, she completed a memoir, Thursday’s Child, and is searching for a publisher. She has published narrative nonfiction and short stories, most recently in the print edition of Crack the Spine.

Donna Prinzmetal is a poet, tutor and psychotherapist. She has taught poetry and creative writing for more than 25 years to adults and children. Donna often uses writing to facilitate restoration and healing in her psychotherapy practice. She also tutors and coaches middle and high school students, and edited the Young Voices section of VoiceCatcher’s journal in the last three issues. Her poems have appeared in many magazines including Prairie Schooner, The Comstock Review, and The Journal. Her first book, Snow White, When No One Was Looking, was published with CW Books in May.

Linda Ferguson’s poetry, fiction and essays have been published in many journals such as The Milo Review, VoiceCatcher: a journal of women’s voices & visions, The Saranac Review, Square Lake, The Santa Fe Literary Review, Fiction at Work and Cloudbank. She has won numerous awards for her poetry as well as the Perceptions 2013 award for nonfiction. She also teaches writing classes for adults and children.

Kate Comings received a bachelor’s degree in English from University of California, Santa Barbara. She has been a single mom and is a retired medical transcriptionist. An enthusiastic amateur photographer, she also writes almost every day and is working on a series of novels set in Portland, Oregon. She lives in Northeast Portland with two dogs. She is the author of Playing in the Apocalypse, a memoir about the riots and bank burning in Isla Vista.

Jennifer Foreman lives and works in Portland, Oregon. She works for the county with the elderly and disabled populations and writes quirky personal poems in her spare time.

A longtime lover of words, Tanya Jarvik lives in an eco-village in Northeast Portland. She has several alter egos, one of whom is an advice columnist.

 Thank you, Rain or Shine Coffee House, Portland, Oregon, for hosting this event.

October Prompt: I Read the News Today …

by Thea Constantine

Never before have we had so much access to so much media with so little effort. It’s actually harder to avoid the news than it is to find it. Television and the Internet stream and broadcast local and international news 24 hours a day in every language imaginable. All this input can result in anything from outraged muttering, eye-rolling and cursing at people you’ve never met, to finding yourself tearing up or cheering on total strangers living halfway round the world.

These images and sound bites that assault our senses daily can provide a rich source of material, a transformation of the Five Ws to something deeply personal. Here are two great examples, the first by VoiceCatcher author and poet Shawn Aveningo, the second by Los Angeles poet Brendan Constantine:

Binders Full of Women

… and they brought us whole binders full of women.
– Mitt Romney, US Presidential Debate, 2012

It wasn’t until after the attack
I discovered the binder. Forty-seven

girls drugged, stripped, photographed,
raped. Page 48 sits empty, waiting

for the photo they took of me. Greek
Council enforced crackdown on hazing,

but for this, Sigma Chi had no such
policy. Buried beneath public

philanthropy and brotherhood, lie
bones of broken sisters, shattered souls,

shards of shame – a mosaic whose mortar
weakened year by year, one woman bravely

blowing the lid off the coffin.

– Shawn Aveningo, VoiceCatcher: a journal of women’s voices and visions, Summer 2014 issue

A Little Black

The children of Juarez have run out
of red crayons. There’s so much blood

in their eyes; the bodies of mules
dumped in their schools, hand & heads

by the road, blood in pools, blood
in stories of blood. Before I know it,

I’m planning my own crime, the worst
a poet can commit: to steal suffering,

call it mine. How vivid, I think, what
a strong detail on which to build.

I open my computer, the great self-
making book of our age, search for

more of the story, for the words, run
out of red crayons. I find children

out of red in Pakistan, in Haiti, no red
left in Afghanistan, none in Georgia.

The children of Sierra Leon have gone
through pink to purple, in Myanmar

they’re down to brown. I thought I had
something to add. I have nothing to add

but a little black, the color of the line,
color that consumes all others.

–2011 Brendan Constantine
This poem appears in the book Birthday Girl With Possum (2011 Write Bloody Publishing)

 Both pieces evoke a somber, dark mood, but as anyone who views the morning news is well aware, there are all kinds of absurdities out there just begging to be teased out by the right pen. That’s just the standard stuff, too. Many presses feature a “News of the Weird” column chock full of some of the strangest truths around. I recently clipped a story about a man right here in Portland who tried to strangle his lover using his dreadlocks – you really can’t make this sh*t up, but you can sure have a whole lot of fun with it.

See if you can find a few stories that call to you this month. October’s a wonderful time for weird – and if you’re feeling generous, please come back and share.


TThea Constantinehea Constantine is a writer and certified AWA facilitator with PDX Writers. Her short stories have most recently appeared in In Focus, the quarterly magazine of the PEN Cyprus Center; Stellazine; Roving Writers; “On the Yellow Line,” a weekly column for Street Roots; and an original serial for the online magazine The Black Boot. Her work has been included in a number of anthologies. She just won 1st Place Short Story in the maiden edition of the Watercress Journal. She is currently at work on her first novel, Stumptown.

Botany by a Natural Talent: Meet Mary McCarty

by Yolanda Wysocki

Mary McCarty was the featured artist in the Winter 2014 issue of VoiceCatcher: a journal of women’s voices and visions. Seeing Mary’s drawings, I was delighted by the skill, excellence and the wonderful restraint in use of color. I was curious to learn more about the artist who created them. Although she has taken numerous art classes throughout her life, I was surprised that Mary never went to art school. Meeting in Starbucks one summer afternoon, we chatted about her journey and the well-earned successes she has experienced recently.   –Yolanda Wysocki

Yolanda Wysocki: What got you started in art?
Mary McCarty:  In fourth grade, I had rheumatic fever, and in those days – I am pushing 80 – you were on complete bed rest. I was allowed one visitor a week. I couldn’t even listen to most of my radio programs because they thought excitement was bad for you. My sister-in-law showed me how to draw simple pictures, so mostly I drew dresses for my dolls but that’s how I started. When I was nine, I couldn’t believe it – my parents were very strict – but my mother let me paint this scene on the bathroom wall with swans and water lilies in oils. Then I was always doing something with my hands. I knit, weave, spin; I’ve done pottery … you name it, I’ve done it. As an adult, I was the artist for two tool companies. I taught classes for them and traveled with them; I demonstrated uses for their tools in booths at national shows.

YW: So art has been part of your life for a very long time.
MM: Yes, but I never really made much money at it. I raised four children by myself, so to earn money I became a psychiatric nurse, and later an administrator of a retirement home. I have always done art but mostly for myself.

YW: When did you start doing these detailed drawings?
MM: I signed up for a watercolor class about four years ago, and was told to bring a photo of something I wanted to paint  – I brought a photo of a sunflower  –  and to draw it the size I would paint it. I had never done details in my watercolor painting before, but surprisingly I knew exactly how to make the proportions, every detail, do the shading … it was like magic!  Everyone else had gone on to watercolor but I spent the rest of the six-week class still drawing that sunflower; I was thrilled with the new realization that I could draw!  All my paintings before were nice, nothing exceptional, but this was magical, like a gift that was waiting to be used.

By accident, I discovered a way of shading. All my shading is done with tiny circles … it was natural for me to do it that way. Then, after doing a few drawings, it started feeling like they needed a bit of color so I started adding bits. Every time I put some color in it, I get terrified, afraid I will ruin it. I am working hard to improve.

But I just followed my instincts. It became my signature style but none of this was planned or thought out. Now people recognize my pieces and remember me.

Chinese Lanterns by Mary McCarty

Chinese Lanterns by Mary McCarty

YW: How long does a drawing take?
MM: It takes 40-60 hours. I go to the Portland Nursery or Fred Meyer and buy a plant. I always feel sad because I know this plant is going to give its life for art. I take it apart, looking for all the details. I have learned so much about every plant I have ever drawn. I really enjoy that part of it as well.

YW: What is your favorite drawing you have done?
MM: I did a very large narrow one of Chinese lanterns. It’s the only one I have ever done that I have never felt any need to do anything more to it. I really wish I could have kept it.

YW: You sold that one?
MM: Yes. Early on I decided that everything I did I would sell. Anything I really, really want to keep I put a higher price on it (laughter).  The only three I wouldn’t sell are the sunflower the very first drawing I ever did, and the ones that were chosen for this book, Strokes of Genius.

Double Geranium by Mary McCarty

Double Geranium by Mary McCarty

They accepted two of my drawings including “Geranium” … I’m so excited. When I found out, I didn’t know whether I should laugh or cry.

YW: Will you be in the Art of the Pearl coming up?
MM: No I was in a small gallery downtown; the owner loved me and she said to me, “Mary you could really be a hit here in the Pearl if you made your work a little edgy.” (laughter) Now how do you make a botanical drawing edgy? What do you do, make a little skull on it?


Zinnias by Mary McCarty

Zinnias by Mary McCarty

YW: You’ve been in numerous shows and the city of Tualatin recently bought one of your drawings, Zinnias. You take your art very seriously. Some people do it for the meditative quality and pleasure it brings them, but you take it more seriously than that.
MM: Yes, I do. For some reason I feel I was meant to do something with this drawing gift. It is such a joy and pleasure. It was like someone handed me a present and said, now do something with it. I want my drawings to be as beautiful and detailed as I can make them.
I am very fortunate. I have found something I love. I have 20/20 eyesight, a very steady hand, and at my age I am very lucky. I am very grateful; it’s such a pleasure and a joy that people like my work. You can always do it for yourself, but there is an added pleasure when you can share it and someone enjoys it almost as much as you did when you were creating it. I love it when they really look at it, and start noticing the little details.

My collectors don’t want me to, but I do want to make a change in my drawings; I don’t know what yet but I’d like to experiment again; it’s been a long time.

(YW: On our way out of the coffee shop, we pass a shop window with antique children’s clothes hanging in the window.)
MM: Those would make great drawings, not everything works in black and white but these would. I wonder if the owner would let me come and draw these.

(YW: I could see the wheels turning )


Mary McCartyMary McCarty’s art has been in numerous juried shows including Celebration of Creativity in Beaverton, Oregon; Portland 5; and the Hood River Gallery. She has won many prizes including Art Splash, Best of Show. Her work was chosen for a highly competitive book of drawings, Strokes of Genius, coming out in November 2014. McCarty also juried into the Bush Art show in Salem, honoring the work of David Douglas, the first botanical artist of the Northwest.

Yolanda WysockiYolanda Wysocki works as a life/transformation coach. Her background has been in counseling and social services for more than 25 years. She went back to school for a second bachelor’s degree when she was 51 years old. Seven years and three schools later, she completed her art degree, a lifelong dream.