Kickstart Your Writing Purple

August/September 2017



▪ Kickstart Your Writing classes start in October
▪ Q&A: Laura Gardwood on book editing
▪ Writing prompt: Fairly tale
▪ Upcoming writing events
▪ A real boy
▪ Stress and creative breakthroughs
▪ Markets: Get crackin’ for September deadlines
▪ Nerdy words: Some words just wanna snuggle
▪ Showcase: “Brother-Cousin and Other Curious Relations” (excerpt) by Steph Lalley
▪ Subscribe to Kickstart for free!
Kickstart Your Writing classes start in October
Q&A: Laura Gardwood on book editing
Writing prompt: Fairly tale
Upcoming writing events
A real boy
Stress and creative breakthroughs
Markets: Get crackin’ for September deadlines
Nerdy words: Some words just wanna snuggle
Showcase: “Brother-Cousin and Other Curious Relations” (excerpt) by Steph Lalley
Subscribe to Kickstart for free!

Kickstart Your Writing classes start in October

Mondays: October 9-December 18, 2017 (No class November 13). 2:30-5 p.m. Hollywood district of Portland, OR. $200/10 weeks

Wednesdays: October 11-December 20, 2017 (No class November 22). 6:30-9 p.m. Hollywood district of Portland, OR. $200/10 weeks

Whether you’re working on a novel or interested in short stories, memoir, essays, articles or other forms of fiction or nonfiction, Kickstart Your Writing offers a supportive environment in which you can work on specific writing projects.

Students set weekly goals, read their work aloud, and receive positive, helpful feedback from the instructor and other students. The exact location is provided upon registration. The class can be repeated.

To register:
To pay by check, send a check (made out to Nancy Woods) to Nancy Woods, P.O. Box 18032, Portland, OR 97218.

To pay via PayPal, send payment to

To pay via Venmo, send payment to

For more information:, 971-255-2049.

What students say about Kickstart Your Writing:

“The class has really helped me make writing a priority and take myself seriously. I was surprised to see how much I responded to having the deadlines of reading in class! Thank you!” — Lisa Serrano

“The class helped me focus on establishing writing goals and meeting them. Nancy is a very knowledgeable teacher as well as a supportive coach. I learned so much from other students in the class. I valued the diversity in this class—different backgrounds, variety of written material and styles made the class interesting and challenging.” — K. E.

Laura Garwood

Laura Garwood

Q&A: Laura Garwood on book editing

Joining us for a Q&A this month is Sacramento-based feature writer, blogger, and book editor Laura Garwood. Garwood has a master’s degree in book publishing from Portland State University and has been working as a freelance writer and editor for 10 years.

Garwood’s hundred-plus book projects include “everything from theology books to a birthing manual for fathers, and from mystery novels to satire,” she says. But she often ends up editing women’s fiction, young adult books, historical fiction, and children’s literature. You may have benefitted from her work when reading Amy Hatvany women’s fiction novels (Safe with Me, Outside the Lines, and Heart Like Mine), These Girls by Sarah Pekkanen, the Sign of the Throne YA series by Melissa Eskue Ousley, But I Don't See You as Asian by Bruce Reyes-Chow, and Best Day Ever by Kaira Rouda. She talked with us about the experience of editing books.

In your job, you work with words, information, and people. Which do you like best?
The intersection of those things is why I like my job so much! I have developed a number of special friendships with colleagues and clients through the years, and some have become like family. And I love the combined art and science of figuring out just the right way to say things, and I often find myself Googling things from a manuscript or technical document because I love learning and history and science. The answer to that [question] may vary based on what I’m working on.

What do you enjoy about editing other people’s writing?
I love collaborating and helping and being let in on something that is special to someone else.

What misunderstandings do writers have about working with an editor?
So many people think I’m there to criticize or judge, when really I’m there to assist and support them in their writing process. I don’t “correct” people’s work; I help them make it the best it can be.

When in the writing process should a book author start working with an editor? Do you ever receive manuscripts that aren’t ready yet for editing?
I work with people before a project is done and after. Sometimes people have hit a wall and need guidance before it’s complete, or they need some feedback before they revise. In those cases there is no “too early.” However, I don’t want to start a line edit while an author is still working on a book—that’s a great way to drive your editor crazy. If I work through a section and then find out someone else has simultaneously been changing it, it’s very difficult to prevent errors and seamlessly combine the versions.

You do different types of editing: developmental or substantive editing, copyediting, proofreading, and manuscript critiques. Which type of editing are book authors typically most in need of?
Every book must be line edited—I even have people line edit my own writing because you can’t truly edit your own work without what’s in your mind impacting what you see on the page. And every book that is heading into publishing needs a proofread, which is a final scan for typos. Not everyone needs a developmental edit, though it is helpful for people who need some guidance on the big picture. Manuscript critiques fall along that same line—they evaluate how a manuscript is working overall.

Does the line between the writer’s work and the editor’s work ever get fuzzy?
I don’t find this much of a struggle. I never want to change an author’s voice, and the author has the final say if we’re working together without a publisher being involved. (A publisher has the final say.) Some people want me to do a certain level of rewriting. Some people don’t want anything changed that’s not technically incorrect. Most people are somewhere in the middle. I simply give my professional advice and people can choose what to accept and use.

What is the most challenging aspect of being a book editor?
People often are surprised at how long editing takes. It requires patience and a certain budget on behalf of the client. Having witnessed projects go terribly wrong, I have had to tell people, “Please don’t go with an editor who claims to be the fastest or cheapest.” That doesn't mean they must hire me, but I do hope they’ll find someone who will take the time to do a good job and value his or her own craft.

What should an author look for in an editor, to get a good one?
Experience, a good demeanor or personality, education (whether that’s a degree, working for a publisher, or maybe both), familiarity with the proper style guide for the project, and knowledge about publishing and the editing process. Being good in English class or using the term “grammar Nazi” as a descriptor does not particularly mean that a person knows how to apply The Chicago Manual of Style‘s rules to a manuscript or that that person will be enjoyable to work with.

Have any projects you’ve worked on make you particularly proud to be a book editor?
I feel very happy and proud whenever a client achieves his or her goals, whether that’s finding a publisher, self-publishing a beautiful and quality book, finishing a challenging revision, or simply enjoying and learning from the process. I feel most proud when people say my editing or advice has really helped them, and that happens often enough that it really fills my tank.

Has the world of smart phones, tablets, and e-readers changed how books are written? If so, what does an author need to do differently now than in the past?
I don’t know that it has changed how books are written, but it has definitely changed how they are published and even formatted. While website content needs to be tailored for its purpose—it should be brief, clear, and readable—most books still tend to follow fairly classic formulas and even word counts. Self-publishing has probably changed things more than electronic devices in the ways that it has given authors more freedom and flexibility.

Writing Prompt

Writing prompt: Fairly tale

What is your favorite fairy tale? Write a remake of it.

Yarn Spinners Sept 21

Upcoming writing events

Local writers can look forward to two great writing events in the coming weeks.

Nancy’s Yarn Spinners, September 21. Nancy’s Amazing Assemblage of Yarn Spinners, Tall Tale Tellers & Big Fat Liars will entertain you and your friends at the Copeland Commons room of TaborSpace, at 5441 SE Belmont in Portland, starting at 7 p.m. Readers include Mark Alejos, Catherine Magdalena, Mizeta Moon, Howard Schneider, Ann Sihler, and Nancy Woods.

Donations are accepted, but if you’d rather get in for free and clap a lot as your contribution, that’s fine, too. Just be prepared to laugh, cry, and everything in between.

Oregon Poetry Association conference, October 13-15. This annual conference will feature two days of workshops, readings, and presentations by Emmett Wheatfall, Ashley Makue, Judith Barrington, and others at University Place Hotel, at 310 SW Lincoln Street in Portland. With events covering fairy tales, visual poems, poetry and ceramics, inspiration, surprise, resistance, poems with science in them, and strong endings, this conference has something for everyone.

A real boy

On her blog, author and writing coach Nancy Woods posts a funny/sad story by student D.L. King on what would make his eight-year-old self a real boy. Scroll down to the August 8 entry to read “Worst Gift Ever.”


Ta-Hehisi Coates

Stress and creative breakthroughs

For The Atlantic essayist and memoirist Ta-Nehisi Coates (author of Between the World and Me), creative breakthroughs result from stress: putting pressure on yourself and practicing over and over, until “suddenly you become something you had no idea you could really be.” He explains more in a short online interview.

Coates didn’t take the stress approach on purpose—it just happened. But his experience suggests that for the rest of us, our writing, too, can improve dramatically if we keep at it. And maybe chaos, confusion, and challenge really are an opportunity in disguise.


Get crackin' for September deadlines

Speaking of challenges, we have four dandy markets for you, all with deadlines in the next month. If you are a woman over age 55, disabled, plagued by apocalyptic visions, or one of the many, many people who have ever worked in their lives, these markets are for you!

The Chaos, a quarterly online journal that publishes nonfiction about personal experience, seeks narrative essays about work. Think tragedy balanced with “the sweet relief of humor,” and illustrating the chaos of life. Submit 1,500 to 7,500 words by September 20.

Eastern Iowa Review, an annual print and online publication that uses a blind submissions process, seeks family-friendly writing in any style on the theme of “The SmartApocalypse: Intelligent Stories of a Real End Time.” They want deep, engaging, realistic work. Grim is okay, compelling relationships are a plus. Need help writing an apocalyptic story? There’s a wiki for it. Submit up to 10,000 words by September 30.

Tribe, a print anthology scheduled for publication March 8 (International Women’s Day), seeks prose, poetry, prose poems, memoir, personal narrative, and fiction about any aspect of the lives of older single women. The writing should have an original, clear, and authentic voice and leave the reader with a buzz of emotional recognition, “an ache that stays … for a while,” says editor Lois Peterson. Submit by September 30.

Johns Hopkins University seeks short stories by and about people with disabilities for a free e-book to be published next March. “Disability” is defined broadly, to include physical, mental, emotional, cognitive, or sensory impairments. Submit 500 to 7,500 words by October 1.

Nerdy Words

Nerdy Words: Some words just wanna snuggle

By Ann Sihler

People always are asking me the right way to write something: Is it “stream bank” or “streambank”? “By-product or byproduct”? “Decision making,” “decision-making,” or “decisionmaking”?

The answer relates to the natural progression of how new compound words form. The general process is that compound words start out life as two words, as in “boy friend." But if a term like “boy friend” really enters the language and is used a lot, sometimes its two words snuggle up to create a single word: “boyfriend.” There may also be a hyphenated in-between stage, as in “boy-friend.”

The result of this process over decades or centuries is hundreds if not thousands of new compound words, from “bloodhound” to “bedtime”—and hundreds or thousands more two-word phrases that may be somewhere in the process of becoming a compound word. (That doesn’t always happen, though. We certainly have said “post office,” “coal mine,” and “comic strip” a lot in our history, but they haven’t become “postoffice,” “comicstrip,” and “coalmine.”)

Whether two words end up snuggling might depend on your audience, and the field you’re writing in.

For example, a tech company probably prefers “online” because its readers use that term all frequently and it’s well established in their field. But a daily newspaper, which has more general readers less familiar with technology, might write it as two words: “on line.”

The same goes for “stream bank,” “by-product,” and “decision making.” In a specialized field, such as habitat restoration, manufacturing, and city administration, respectively, they might appear as one word. But a magazine or a website intended for the general public might write them as two.

As a writer, you don’t always know whether terms outside your field of expertise commonly are written as one word or two (or hyphenated). And the dictionary may not be helpful, as it often does not reflect current usage by insiders in a specific field.

Thanks to the internet, though, you can search for “stream bank”/“streambank” to find out who’s writing it as one word and who’s writing it as two. Then make your best judgment.

If you are submitting your work to an editor, he or she will make sure that your writing matches that publication’s preference, considering its audience. If you don’t have an editor, it’s up to you to decide whether the two words should snuggle.

Either way, remember that, even if they don’t snuggle right now, they might in the coming years, decades, or centuries. Or not. Language is a fluid thing.

Student Showcase

“Brother-Cousin and Other Curious Relations” (excerpt) by Steph Lalley

Steph Lalley has been writing memoir since adolescence, but not for publication or with any vocational goals in mind. Working with Nancy Woods in a Portland Community College Community Education Write That Draft writing course, Lalley learned that conventional wisdom is true: The only thing that makes you a writer is writing. “It is imperative to just sit down, do it, and get disciplined to see progress and be prolific,” she says.

The following excerpt comes from Lalley’s memoir about family life after her widowed mother married a relative’s ex-husband, effectively transforming Lalley’s boy cousin into her brother.

As long as I can remember, I’ve known I was tainted. Growing up Irish Catholic, attending parochial school, all in a fairly conservative pocket of Northern Appalachia, you can’t expect differences to be forgiven. Differences that imply your father was a dangerous, dirty, derelict ne’er-do-well. Differences that suggest your mother may have left her moral compass behind at Girl Scout Camp and never bothered checking back for it. No ma’am, these provocative “differences” simply will not do. It’s “bless their hearts” this and “our thoughts and prayers to them” that in the church parking lot, but standing in the check-out line at Gerrity’s or at the sign-up booth for pop-warner cheerleading, those harpies couldn’t have been more pleased to make my mother and I feel unwelcome and small.

All this resulted in a constant, painful and concentrated bee in my bonnet, a stinging sensation at nearly all times in my young mind ― your people, all this that you come from, is bad. Am I bad? It was a simple but real worry for a kindergartner. They adorn you in so much “rah-rah, be sweet, pink ribbon, lace bow, sugar spice oh so nice, but be quiet, congenial, sit down, fly right” from little where I am from, particularly for the little girls, that the idea of not living up to that somehow paralyzes. Though I didn’t have a precise or sophisticated notion of all that’d gone on with my family, who they were(n’t), and what they’d done, I knew the folks in charge had done something unsavory and that action was required. So I decided ―

I will do it. I will fix this. I will be good! I must be good...

Ever since, I’ve endeavored at goodness with very little success.

It’s lucky young people rarely understand that the likelihood of things turning out the way they want them to is pitiful low.

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A Nancy Woods production

Thanks for reading Kickstart, which is a publication of Nancy Woods—author and writing coach.

If you have any comments about the newsletter, feel free to email them to Nancy or her newsletter sidekick (aka editor) Ann Sihler.

Nancy and Ann
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