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

Portland-Area Resources to Support, Inspire, and Embolden Your Writing Endeavors
by Trista Cornelius

We live in a literature-rich town offering opportunities for readers and writers nearly every day of the week all year round. So, I asked a few writers about their favorites, did a little research of my own, and pared it down to a moderate list to get you started.

The most passionately recommended resource for writers was readings. Every writer I talked with said, “Go to readings!” Not only are you supporting the work of fellow writers, you are broadening your literary horizons by experiencing different voices, writing genres and styles, and immersing yourself in contemporary literature. You are also sitting next to other readers and writers inspired enough to be at an event in spite of crazy weather, a hard day at work, or hermit tendencies.

Next-most fervently suggested resource: local bookstores. Obviously, you can buy the books you love here while also supporting the local arts economy, but you can also connect to your local reading-and-writing community: aka rub elbows with other lovers of literature to talk craft, recommend favorite titles and authors, and be the kind of reader you want for your own work. Broadway Books is my personal favorite, and Annie Bloom’s Books hosts many events.

The rest of what Portland has to offer writers could be its own book (and should be a book if any of you feel ambitious enough to write it). Hopefully Powell’s has long been on your reading-and-writing radar for its shelves of books and opportunities to meet authors from near and far. You probably know of Literary Arts for its Portland Arts and Lecture series, but visit its website to learn about classes, free readings, and more. A few other resources for you to explore:

  • Independent Publishing Resource Center (IPRC): for five dollars an hour, you can scan, copy, bind, cut, and even letter press your way to publication. Watch a video tour of the space on their website and visit the “information desk” link for an overview of what IPRC can do to help you get your words (and images) to your audience.
  • Reading Frenzy is not just a bookstore but “an independent press emporium” that provides independent and alternative literature and art. To spark your imagination and see what other artist-writers have brought to life, peruse the shelves at Reading Frenzy. You can also visit the “detours” link on their website to get an idea what they stock on their shelves and display on their walls.
  •  Visit the Multnomah County Library to check out everything from novels to zines. They have also culminated a page of links to Portland-area resources for writers here: “Local Resources for Writers.” The Central Library downtown offers the Sterling Room for Writers, a “relatively quiet” place for writers to focus on a project with large tables to spread out the work and outlets to power your writerly gadgets.
  • Soapstone, Oregon Writers Colony, and Willamette Writers are all examples of organizations supporting writers with events, conferences, retreats, readings, and more. Sign up for newsletters, follow them on Facebook, or attend one of their events to learn more.
  • Both Cari Luna and Susan DeFreitas mentioned the Unchaste Reading Series, which is definitely something to know about because it is for “women reading their minds.” You will find interviews, events, and opportunities on their website.
  • There are so many more resources and opportunities to explore, like LitHop and Late Night Library.

If you’re overwhelmed by Portland’s abundant literary wealth, begin by exploring a couple of resources each week or each month, depending on your writing and life schedule, until you find a few that feel like the right fit for you. Bring a writer-reader friend along with you to an event and spread the wealth, both for fellow writer-readers and to help support these artist-centered resources that open their doors (virtual or actual) to the writing community in Portland, which Cari Luna accurately described as “incredibly inclusive and supportive.”

As you engage in this literary scavenger hunt, please post comments here with recommendations of other places and sites that serve writers well. We would love to know about your favorite writerly places and spaces.

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This article concludes Trista Cornelius’ column for VoiceCatcher, “Dotting Your Ts and Crossing Your Eyes.”  The column comprises 24 articles about the writer’s craft and the writing life, specifically geared for the VoiceCatcher community. The editors deeply appreciate Trista’s commitment to authoring the longstanding column, as well as her talent, skill and willingness to share her knowledge and experience. Thank you, Trista!

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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 article, you may receive a bonus: a free copy of a VoiceCatcher print anthology!


Trista CorneliusTrista Cornelius authored VoiceCatcher’s longstanding monthly column, “Dotting Your Ts and Crossing Your Eyes,” about the writer’s craft. 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.

Share Resources and Celebrate Successes – No. 2

This column celebrates the publication successes of our VoiceCatcher authors. We hope you enjoy their work and find their comments on each publication helpful as you research where to send your own work. As soon as you are published, please let us know by using the format below, so we can include your success and any tips in a future posting. Email your information to editors(at)voicecatcher(dot)org and use the subject line: “I’m published.” (Note: Substitute the symbols “@” and “.” for (words) when you address your email, please.)   – The Editors

From Jean Harkin who earned her bachelor’s degree from Creighton University eons ago. Jean now lives in Washington County, Oregon. She is a member of Writers’ Mill group that meets monthly at the Cedar Mill Library, and writes fiction. Her novel Promise Full of Thorns is awaiting publication. 

From Raggedy Ann to the Halls of Creighton: One Writer’s Journey,” Creighton University Magazine, Fall 2014.

My essay was accepted by the Creighton University Magazine the day after I submitted it, but it was 14 months before being published online. In the meantime, the communications director was quite responsive to my many inquiries.

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From Carolyn Martin who is blissfully retired in Clackamas, OR, where she gardens, writes and plays with creative friends:

To the songbirds who spurned my feeder,” Songs of Eretz Review.

 The editor is a well-read, semi-retired M.D. He responded within two days with specific comments on the poems he declined. He offers authors two possibilities for publication: A spot in his daily Review (See link above) or an appearance in his e-zine. He estimates it will take him about three months to decide if a piece he gives a “first pass” to will make it into the latter. He is holding his first contest with a December 31, 2014 deadline. It’s fee-based, but offers a $500 first prize.

Just So You Know,” Star 82 Review

The editor responded quickly and publishes a simultaneous print-on-demand version of each online issue. The layout of this publication is quite unique.

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From Cristina L. White who writes fiction, nonfiction, memoir and plays:

Her most recent book, Sex and Soul: A Memoir of Salvation, has just been released by Letter Pen Press.

Doctor Snap,” a story about big-time therapy from a pint-sized gal, was published in Gay Flash Fiction.

This is online only, welcoming flash fiction and poetry which is GLBTQ friendly. Response time was quick (about three weeks), and the editor was direct, easy to work with, friendly.

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Penelope Scambly Schott’s new poetry collection, How I Became an Historian, was published in October 2014 by Cherry Grove Press.

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From Tricia Knoll, a VoiceCatcher journal and website contributor as well as one of our poetry mentors:

Her chapbook Urban Wild was just released by Finishing Line Press.

 “The Woman in the Pink Knitted Hat” appeared on the Voices Project in November 2015. Earlier it appeared in Portland’s street tabloid, Street Roots.

Five of Tricia Knoll’s poems appeared in July 2014 on Catch & Release — the literary blog of Columbia: A Journal of Art and Literature.

 I didn’t have any special relationships with the editors here. My advice is submit, submit, submit, and read past issues to see what a publication is printing.

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Related posts:
Poetry in Bytes: submitting to online poetry publications
An Invitation to Share Resources, Celebrate Success
Share Resources and Celebrate Successes, No. 1


Oriana Lewton-Leopold: An Important Conversation

by Yolanda Wysocki

Oriana Lewton-Leopold in her studioOriana Lewton-Leopold is an artist included in the summer 2014 issue of VoiceCatcher: a journal of women’s voices and visions. After completing an interdisciplinary Bachelor of Arts degree from Hampshire College in Massachusetts, Oriana took painting and drawing classes at the New York Studio School and was an exchange student in Germany that same year. She then moved back home to Portland where she married, had a baby in July of 2014, and also completed her Master of Fine Arts in Visual Studies at the Pacific Northwest College of Art (PNCA).

Oriana’s art school background weaves its way throughout our conversation and is apparent in the language she uses as well as how she approaches her work. Although she still considers it valuable to think about what and why artists make the choices they do – and she does think there are reasons behind all creative choice – she is finding herself moving away from the rigorous explaining and defending of her work as required in school. “I think the studio practice is far more important than all the thinking and writing and talking we did,” Oriana says. “It influenced our work but now that I think about it, I don’t remember some of what I said about my paintings, so it wasn’t as important as it seemed at the time. But I do think the work is more interesting when artists think and can talk about what they are doing.”

When I Love You Close, by Oriana Lewton-Leopold

When I Love You Close, by Oriana Lewton-Leopold

Oriana explains it further for me. “In school we start out with theories and meanings and fit our work into them, but in my last bodies of work – like the Manet and Rihanna paintings – I began by saying, ‘I love looking at these Manet paintings and love the tradition of artists copying other artists’ work and I love this pop star. What would happen if I juxtapose these images?’ It was only after the work was completed that I saw different meanings, made new connections and saw it differently.”

It seems this process is typical for Oriana. She often begins by perusing different mediums, looking for images that strike an emotional chord with her, and then copies them into her sketchbook. Sometimes she uses a repetitive image in her paintings. Oriana compares it to a musician liking a particular chord and wanting to hear it again in different contexts, maybe next to a saxophone or put in different combinations. She will recreate the image in different sizes; explore how it changes meaning if put next to this image as opposed to a different one, or she will put another image over it.  Can she evoke the same emotion in the painting when it is buried? She would like her audience to ponder similar questions, but likes when others create their own stories. “Putting my paintings out there is about placing my work in the context of a larger conversation about art and life. And I think it’s an important conversation.”

Don't Won't Two, by Oriana Lewton-Leopold 2013

Don’t Won’t Two, by Oriana Lewton-Leopold 2013

Her current work combines the idea of performance (What is real? What is performance and when does one become the other?) with interests in hysteria (her MFA thesis topic), dramatic moments and similarity of gestures in completely different situations. Talking about her Blackfish Gallery show in December 2014, Oriana says, “I want people to find my work challenging, both the content and formal aspects – composition, painterly choices, powerful gestures that evoke emotion, and to make different connections. I like to create questions and a little discomfort in the viewer. But I don’t think my work excludes people without an art school background. Everyone may not have the same ideas about the work that I did but I hope it is visually compelling to draw people in, whether it’s a powerful figure or colors that work well together or something that draws viewers in.”

Yellow Bird by Oriana Lewton-Leopold

Yellow Bird by Oriana Lewton-Leopold

Dilemmas: Our conversation took us to subjects all artists have to address at some time in their creative lives … how to combine what the market wants with their own interests and the ideas they want to explore.

“When I was at Hampshire they encouraged us to do exactly what we were interested in and not pay attention to what consumers want. I found that very valuable but it didn’t leave any room for how to earn money from my work. I look at beautiful, well-executed work – and there is great value in that and that seems to be what most people want to buy. I tried working on realistic portraits for a while thinking they might sell but I had no interest in them so I stopped. It’s a challenge. Eventually I would like to sell my paintings, teach, and have shows in different parts of the world. I would like not to be working in restaurants for the rest of my life, especially now that we have a baby, I think about all of this but I also have a broader perspective. I don’t feel I have to do my best work now; I will improve tremendously over the years and I will be so much better in 20 years than I am now. Looking at life in a larger context takes off some of the pressure.”

Family: Being surrounded by a supportive family allows her time to work, as well as care for infant daughter Anouk, as she prepares for her show. Our conversation was occasionally interspersed with baby Anouk making her own needs known.

“I couldn’t be doing what I’m doing without my family’s support. My mom and sister help take care of the baby when my husband and I are working, or dad will pick up our dog, Hux, for some exercise and love. They’re really supportive. My husband is also a really talented artist, and chef too. Nathaniel got his Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in painting.”

When asked about possible collaboration: “We have really different styles; I’m very stream of consciousness and very gestural and he is very detail-oriented. We haven’t collaborated yet, but we’re are intrigued by each other’s way of working so we may collaborate some time in the future.”  She then points to their baby and laughs, “We did collaborate and we created a masterpiece.”

See Oriana Lewton-Leopold’s exhibition, Hushing the Crowd, December 2-27, 2014
at the Blackfish Gallery, 420 W 9th Ave., Portland, OR 97209 | 503-224-2634
Gallery Hours: Tuesday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m

Oriana Lewton-LeopoldOriana Lewton-Leopold is a painter based in Portland, Oregon. She received her MFA in Visual Studies from PNCA in 2012. Her work has been exhibited in New York and Portland, most recently at Blackfish Gallery, where she is represented. More of her work can be viewed on her website.


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.

The Knotty and Nice of Indie Publishing

The Domino Effect
by Theresa Snyder

Writing guest posts on blogs are a worthwhile way to attract an audience to your writing. Once the post is published, you and the person who owns the blog can Facebook the post, Google+ it, or Tweet it. If you are lucky, your connections become like dominoes.

Carla, a well-known author in Italy, gave me my first opportunity to write a guest post. Through the article I posted on Carla’s blog I met Max, who lives in Italy. Max liked what I wrote and clicked on the Web link provided. He has become one of my most devout and supportive fans.

Max belongs to a group called Effortless English (EE) which is composed of English-as-a-second-language (ESL) students who follow a program developed by A. J. Hoge. Hoge’s method of teaching English is to have students read authentic English material – books written for young English speakers.

One of the great thrills of my life was the day Max contacted me on Facebook to say he was lying in bed reading the first book in my science fiction series. What a rush! A total stranger reading my sci-fi book in Italy.

Max introduced me to AJ. AJ invited me to appear (virtually) on his Internet show, broadcast from San Francisco. That interview is permanently available on the Internet. We both retweet it on occasion. The two interviews I have done with the EE folks have been viewed more than 1,000 times.

My friend Damyanti, in Singapore, is another example of the domino effect. She reviewed my fantasy book, James & the Dragon, on her blog. She contacted me on a Monday to say it was posted. On Wednesday she contacted me to say some of her readers were leaving comments on the blog. She said I could hop on and answer them.

When I went to the site, I saw that most of the comments were on how intriguing my dragon, Farloft, sounded. I decided to answer their comments in the persona of Farloft. The readers on her blog ate it up and Farloft had a blast.

On Sunday, Damyanti contacted me again to say she was posting a new review and would miss Farloft. She suggested he should have his own Twitter account.

The dominoes really toppled that evening as people from all over the world kept me up until midnight, insisting Farloft get his own Twitter account, Facebook page and blog. I tried to discourage them. All I could see was more work, trying to maintain two sets of everything. After two days of heated debate I gave in and said Farloft could use my account the last Friday of the month. That day a star was born.

Farloft is a mouthpiece for my books, a way to advertise without being intrusive. He is loved so much that folks create and post fan art and they ask his advice because he is a very old and wise dragon.

One domino topples another. The next step you take in marketing your books in the indie world might just be the one that takes you over that tipping point into sales and success. Take advantage of all you can because you never know which domino might topple next.

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 third installment of her column for VoiceCatcher on self-publishing.

December Prompt: It’s beginning to look a lot like “Eat a Red Apple Day”

by Thea Constantine

December is the height of the holiday season. With Christmas, Hanukah and Kwanza, there’s something going on for almost everyone. We are well aware the holidays have provided a wonderful setting and inspiration for countless stories and poems throughout the ages. But maybe we are just a wee bit tired of the same old, same old?

Time to take a second look. A quick search on the World Wide Web brings up a wealth of unusual celebrations for you and your characters to participate in come December.

More than twenty are totally dedicated to food, including: National Fritters Day, December 2; National Cotton Candy Day, December 7; National Noodle Ring Day, December 11; National Bouillabaisse Day, December 14 (or the second Sunday of the month), and National Lemon Cupcake Day, December 15. All five take place within the first two weeks. Choose between National Roast Suckling Pig Day or Bake Cookies Day on December 18, if you haven’t exhausted yourself on National Chocolate Covered Anything Day on December 16.

I am partial to the ones where the festivities are not too cut and dried, such as December 4’s Wear Brown Shoes Day or the very next day, Bathtub Party Day. It is anyone’s guess how to celebrate December 8, which is Take it in the Ear Day. If all else fails, you can return to gorging, as that is also National Brownie Day. For the musically talented there is Violin Day, December 13, and for those who prefer crafts, there’s National Make Cut-out Snowflake Day on the 27th.

To my knowledge, no one has begun a coming of age novel with the family seated around the table on Card Playing Day, December 28, or busily sipping soup on the 29th, which is Pepper Pot Day. Why not be the first? There are endless poetic possibilities on the 19th. Even Mary Oliver seems to have forgotten Look for an Evergreen Day.

If it all seems like too much, remember December 30 is National Bicarbonate of Soda Day.

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.

Walking the Talk: Meet Sculptor Carole Murphy

by Yolanda Wysocki

Carole Murphy’s work appears in the 2014 Summer issue of VoiceCatcher: a journal of women’s voices and visions. Carole embodies creativity; she is energetic and evolving, creating and collaborating in many arenas of her life, changing her world, impacting many artists. She is not only a sculptor but also a teacher. She is completing her term as president of Pacific Northwest Sculptors, and is organizing the remodeling of a building in Northwest into 30,000 square feet of artists’ studios, expected to be available in December 2014. Here are snippets from our conversation:

Becoming, 2004

Becoming, 2004

Looking at her early sculpture, I was amazed when Carole told me she had never taken art classes. When she was 40 she decided to get a degree in psychology, based on the work she had been doing. Later, realizing she didn’t want to keep working in the field, she asked herself what she wanted to do instead. “I always thought I could sculpt, but was afraid to discover I couldn’t.” She decided to work at sculpting for an hour every day. Slowly, while she ignored all resistance, the art eventually started to flow. Going deep into the process, she would sculpt for twelve-hour stretches, ignoring all bodily needs! She has been at it for 23 years now, never imagining her life turning out like this.

Enigmatical, 2013

Enigmatical, 2013

Having started in realism and wax, she was judgmental about abstract until she began to understand it. “Working in abstract gives me much more freedom; realism was a tighter way of working. Before I was trying to represent and duplicate; now I try to show what it feels like, what it’s about, the essence, and hope it speaks to others” She rarely works in realism anymore.

You have a vision and then ask yourself, how are you going to get there?

That is the essence of how Carole works. The starting point may be an idea, image, dream, or simply the look of a piece – she has no shortage of ideas – then she starts to play. “Whatever is going on inside – whether it’s joy or the ecstasy of being, spaciousness, or some detailed introspection – also shows up in the piece,” says Carole.

Her studio has several rooms with numerous shelves full of found nature objects and items that students brought her. It’s not hard to imagine how she manages to have 25-30 pieces developing at the same time. There is plenty of inspiration and possibility to feed her imagination, curiosity and creativity here, and everywhere she goes.

The Dragon Flying

The Dragon Flying

But it’s not just play; she is always learning, researching, stretching, and experimenting. Hearing about aerated cement online, she decided to try it and has been playing with it ever since; or pouring white cement into balloons, painting recycled paper clay, molding it, and seeing what it – and she – can do. When a piece seemed to call for a metal coat, she searched until she found a process that incorporates a metalizing gun that melts steel (at 6,000 degrees), so she could spray it onto her pieces.

“That is what you have to do to keep the sculpture alive and evolving. It’s the process that is so exciting.”

Walking around her studio, I see her students’ work takes up at least one wall. Carole expresses as much energy and enthusiasm for her students’ work as she does about her own.

Carole said, “I’m not interested in students going where I want them to go; I start with whatever they bring or are interested in and then I help them into that space beyond where they think they can go. I ask them where they stop liking it, or it feels wrong, and then help them work through it … same thing I do for myself. You have to be tuned into the piece and inside yourself to the place that knows, and everyone knows. Once you go to that place you never forget it. You can always access it again. It’s very important that I listen to what they want.”

A Devastating Turning Point
I wondered about the source of her abundant energy and optimism, her enthusiastic involvement in the art world, and asked her about it. Carole responded:

“I had been going through a really hard time that had lasted for years. The love of my life took his own life. After five years of mourning that encompassed my life, I was grasping for anything that could offer me a way out of it. I thought perhaps a change might offer me an exit door. I moved to Portland, Oregon from Vermont, with no relief.

Holding Preciously, 2014 "Within us all lies the beauty and the dance."

Holding Preciously, 2014 “Within us all lies the beauty and the dance.”

“Emotionally, I fell down once again and decided that I wasn’t going to get up this time, that I wasn’t going to hope for anything, any more. Giving up all hope doesn’t sound like a positive thing to do in this culture. But giving it up was the best thing I could have done. When I stopped hoping for tomorrow, I was left with only today, and my past.

“I found myself looking at who I was in the past. My past was riddled with what I have come to call ‘suffer well’ chips. I had been adding them up and subconsciously calling myself a good person because I had suffered so well. I had acquired quite a mountain.

“Having let go of the future by giving up all hope, I then let go of the past by letting the mountain of ‘suffer well’ chips leave. In response, I started waking up in the morning to ecstasy for no other reason than being alive.”

Finally, Last Words to Artists
“Just Play. Do it and play. Artists often work alone in our studios, but I say collaborate, cooperate, support each other. If you work together there will be more art; if you make more art, then there will be more call for art. Connect to others and make it happen. Art is about changing the world.”

And Carole walks her talk. Her life is art.

Carole MurphyCarole Murphy’s sculptures have been shown nationally in such places as the Maryhill Museum; the Coos Bay Art Museum; the Museum of Contemporary Craft, Portland, Oregon; New Mexico Gallery in Santa Fe, New Mexico; the Robert Paul Gallery in Burlington, Vermont; KGB Gallery in Scottsdale, Arizona; and Brueton La in West Hollywood, California. Moving from bronze figurative realism, Murphy’s art has morphed into a more organically fundamental aspect of form using cement, steel and mixed media. Carole also writes poetry and essays and is presently writing a book. Find more at her website.

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.

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.