June 2016 Inside: ▪ Writing class starts July 6▪ Bridget Bayer releases guidebook on street fairs▪ Publishing success: Jamie Caulley and Ann Sihle

Kickstart Your Writing Blue

June 2016


Writing class starts July 6
Bridget Bayer releases guidebook on street fairs
Publishing success: Jamie Caulley and Ann Sihler
Writing prompt: Quitting
Market tip: The Poeming Pidgeon
Take a personal leap by using the secondary “I”
Nerdy Words: Gotta know ‘em
Student showcase: “Sabbatical” (excerpt) by Mark Robben


Writing class starts July 6

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 fun, supportive environment in which you can work on specific writing projects. Students set weekly goals, read their writing at designated times and receive feedback from the instructor and other students.

The next Kickstart Your Writing class will take place Wednesdays, July 6-September 7, 2016, 6:30-9 p.m. in Northeast Portland, OR. The address will be provided upon registration. Cost: $200/10 weeks. Class limited to 5 students.

You can register here, or contact Nancy Woods, 503-288-2469, for more information.

Street Fair cover copy

Bridget Bayer releases guidebook on street fairs

Former Kickstart student Bridget Bayer knows street fairs. In her work as a community organizer, Bayer helped found and organize the Mississippi Street Fair in Northeast Portland and helped train and manage more than 1,500 volunteers for community events. Eventually Bayer decided to write a guidebook to aid businesses and community groups in planning, organizing, and staging street fairs.

After much preparation and a couple years of focused work on the project, she self-published Street Fairs for Community and Profit last December. The book is a hands-on operational guide not just to creating street fairs, but to strengthening community, developing more effective leaders, and connecting with diverse local neighborhoods.

Now Bayer’s task is to market her book, which she does using her website, an email newsletter, public talks, postcards, Facebook, LinkedIn and Google Plus, Yelp, Yahoo, Google, Twitter, Instagram, and plain old business cards.

Bayer has lived in Northeast Portland for the past 23 years and describes herself as most at home in multi-cultural communities (probably because she grew up in Detroit). During the past 15 years she has done plenty of non-fiction writing through work: promotional messaging, grant writing, and non-profit organizational manuals. Street Fairs is her first book, which she worked on in a Kickstart writing class in 2014. She plans to write two more books, to create a three-part series on community economic development. Bayer joins us this month for a Q&A on her writing and self-publishing experience.

Where did you get the idea for your book, Street Fairs for Community and Profit?

I have lived and breathed community development in Portland, from building and running my own small businesses to working with at least 20 business associations. Over time, I realized that not only does a street fair help brand neighborhood districts, it also strengthens the community through the planning process. Business and property owners and local residents who meet on a regular basis, over a period of time, find common ground, learn about each other’s interests or needs, and generally support one another. Over time, a cohesive, integrated community is formed with people helping others do well.

Community building is at the crux of my book. Street Fairs does help planning groups put on large events, but it also coaches people on communication skills that naturally develop supportive groups. I have been very successful working one-on-one with community groups in Portland. I want to be able to explain the value of street fair planning—and share techniques—with groups in towns and main street communities throughout the United States.

How long did it take to write the book?

It took one year or 12, depending on how you count it. I started helping business and non-profit groups host large events and street fairs in 2001. Taking copious notes at meetings and as an event organizer and self-proclaimed “tracker,” I’ve been writing the material for this book for 10 years. My first attempt to put it into book form was March 2013. In April 2015 I quit my job as the manager of Historic Parkrose, a community non-profit focused on revitalizing the commercial corridor on NE Sandy Blvd between 100th and 122nd avenues. It was a relief to stop working on other projects and finally pull all this information together from years of work and write it down.

How did your Kickstart experience help you?

The peer group format made it inviting and not so intimidating to share my beginner writing. Despite the very rough draft state of my writing, other readers were encouraging and liked my style, if not the actual writing. Having other writers cheer me on helped build my determination to see it through. Nancy’s comments were the most valuable! Like the name of the class, it kicked me into gear to put copious piles of information into a book. I also realized the amount of time required to produce something valuable for users.

What was most fun about writing the book?

My husband and I recently moved onto a floating home on the Columbia River. I committed to working five hours minimum each day to writing the book, and after that I rewarded myself with walks along the shore, biking along the dike, paddling, and even swimming in the river (on really hot days!). Our environment is a little like a resort, and at the least, feels like a vacation home. Those rewards drove me to work hard so I would totally enjoy playing afterwards.

How did you make the decision to self-publish?

A stunning amount of time was spent in actually producing the book. I interviewed graphic designers, editors, and publishers and, after deciding to self-publish, even marketing support people. I was stunned at how little information or support was available that would inform my decisions on publishing choices and the myriad of decisions that follow. It seemed that self-publishing was easiest, but in actual fact it was probably more difficult because I ended up making decisions without very much information. While I focused on my end result, a printed book, there were many other outcomes I could have considered, and probably would have with experienced support.

I am an entrepreneur by trade and a manager by nature. It’s pretty easy for me to be self-motivated. Creating “to-do” lists and following a self-described process are familiar to me. Even so, publishing is complex, no matter how simplified a template. There were many variables that I didn’t think about before initiating an account with CreateSpace. Even after taking advantage of all the help tools, in person and on help screens, I found myself wondering if I’d made the right choice for the cover, how an ISBN number makes a difference, whether I should purchase a barcode, which references to include, etc. While I might consider self-publishing again, it would only be if a pro helped me through the printing and publication processes.

What advice do you have for someone who wants to self-publish?

Get advice from someone who knows what to ask, knows how to pitch a publisher or agent, and is experienced and/or connected to the industry you want to reach.

Where did you get the images you used in the book?

I took almost all my own pictures.

What has the marketing experience been like?

It seems that marketing myself and the book is endless. I spend at least an hour each day online. No matter how much I do, it seems like I could always do more – and better! I’ve attended workshops in person and webinars online plus taken classes to become more knowledgeable and efficient, but I’m constantly amazed that I know very little.

What is the most important thing you learned from writing and publishing your book?

That I love to write! I love the lifestyle. I attack my computer each day when writing and usually have to force myself to stop after four to five hours because of tiredness in my hands, shoulders, and sciatica. I hope to become a better writer and follow where that leads someday.

Where can someone buy the book?

Anyone can find Street Fairs on my website, on Amazon or CreateSpace online, or locally at Broadway Books on NE Broadway or Powell’s Books on Hawthorne and Powell’s City of Books.

Do you have any upcoming book signings or talks?

Yes. I’ll be speaking at Popina’s in Hollywood (2030 NE 42nd Avenue, Portland, OR) at 5 p.m. on August 23. The topic is “Street Fair Outlines”—the basic who, what, when, where, and how questions every event planning committee needs to ask.

Cirque cover

Publishing success:

Jamie Caulley and Ann Sihler find homes for their work

June was a bumper month for Kickstart students. Cirque, a literary magazine for Alaska and the Pacific Rim, accepted Ann Sihler’s short fiction, “Wildlife Spotting,” for its June 21 issue. And Jamie Caulley got word that her informative article, “Tai Chi: Prevent a Fall with This Ancient Exercise,” will be picked up by the website Northwest Boomer & Senior News. You can read Caulley’s original article as a post on Providence Health & Services’ blog To Your Health.

Congratulations, Jamie and Ann!

Writing Prompt

Writing Prompt


“It was June 4, 1979, the first time I went on stage. I didn’t know I could do it but I knew I couldn’t not do it. I quit everything in my life and this was the one thing I couldn’t quit.”

--George Lopez (comedian)

Have you ever refused to quit? Do you know someone who gave up for the right reasons? Write about “quitting” or “not quitting” and deciding which to do. Write from your own life, someone else’s or make the whole thing up.

Snap, bam, awesomesauce!

In her recent blog post, author and writing coach Nancy Woods considers it a writer’s professional responsibility to wade through the new words in our language, from “deets” to “mayhaps.”

The result? Awesomesauce, bae!

Poeming Pidgeon

Market tip:

The Poeming Pigeon seeks poems about music

Everyone has a song in their heart, but have you written a poem about a song? Or about a symphony? Or a playlist? If so, submit your poem fast (by June 30) to The Poeming Pidgeon, which is preparing its fourth theme-based issue of literary poetry. Past themes have been birds, food, and ganja.

The Poeming Pidgeon is a publication of the Poetry Box, a Portland-based website that celebrates poetry and visual art.

Nerdy Words

Nerdy Words: Gotta know ‘em

By Ann Sihler

Long ago, when I was training to become a teacher, a skilled and well-respected high school English teacher caught me off guard when I was observing her class one day. She was trying to teach some aspect of grammar, but her students were resisting.

She pointed to where I sat in the back of class.

“I’m sure that Ann, who is at the university studying the most up-to-date teaching methods, will second that learning correct grammar is key to becoming a good writer,” she said.

All the kids’ heads swiveled toward me.

“Er, well …” I stammered. The problem was, I actually was abreast of the current research, and it showed that studying grammar had no effect at all on a student’s ability to write. Instead, what did improve student’s writing was an exercise called sentence combining, in which students practice taking two sentences (“It was a dark night.” “It was a stormy night.”) and combining them into one (“It was a dark and stormy night.”).

The teacher looked at me, eyebrows raised, waiting for a response.

Not wanting to embarrass her, or to launch into an unsolicited explanation of sentence combining, I fudged.

“You do have to know your grammar,” I said finally. “And of course lots of writing practice helps, too.”

Reflecting on this years later, I think my answer was accurate. Although grammar won’t make you a good writer, you still have to know it because, unfortunately, people too often judge writing simply on its correctness, instead of its freshness, clarity, insight, honesty, or originality of ideas (not to mention things like its sound, pace, and rhythm). It’s like dressing up for a job interview: in most cases how you look doesn’t have much to do with whether you’re qualified for the job, but you must dress nicely to demonstrate your respect, your understanding of the workplace culture, and that you are serious.

In the same way, while writers are busy learning what good writing is and how to do it, they also have to learn correct grammar, spelling, and punctuation. That’s what the Nerdy Words column is here for. We will be back next month with more tips on how to write correctly, in addition to writing well.

Natalie Serber

Natalie Serber

Take a personal leap “from one man’s heart to another” by using the secondary “I”

By Kathy Eaton

Writers have been schooled in the axiom “show, don’t tell.” But to Portland author Natalie Serber, a story becomes far more interesting when writers reveal thoughts inside their head. She uses what she calls the secondary “I” to go deeper, asking questions like “How did the experience shape or change me?” “What was at stake?” and “What were the costs?”

Serber explained her ideas about the secondary “I” at the June Willamette Writers meeting in Portland, where she said it could help a writer follow Tolstoy’s advice to take a personal leap “from one man’s heart to another,” through art.

According to Serber, a writer uses the primary “I” in creative non-fiction to describe place, provide sensory details, and include dialogue and conflict when telling a story that often begins with an event archived in one’s experience. By inserting the secondary “I,” the writer ultimately transforms the story, seeking truth versus merely reporting it.

Serber distinguished the primary “I” as showing (scene) and the secondary “I” as telling (connecting scenes and ideas). Tools for the secondary “I” include introspection, intrusion, meditation, imagination, reflection, speculation, and interrogation. She encouraged writers to use these tools, noting that by inserting elements of irony and humor a writer won’t slow the story’s pace.

Want to know more about Serber? Check out her website or read one of her two books, Community Chest and Shout Her Lovely Name.

Student Showcase

“Sabbatical” (excerpt) by Mark Robben

During his eight years of taking Kickstart classes, Mark Robben has written travel essays, fiction, and memoir, including a manuscript on his days as a firefighter. The excerpt below is from a recent short story he wrote about a woman seeking a change in her life.

Claire sighed.

She could hear her disapproving father, his harsh, judging voice saying, “You only go ‘round once.” He would have been the first to condemn her if she had been more wild, though. There was no winning with him. She yearned for a sea with no horizon. Was there such a thing?

She had met Charlie the summer after graduation. Though five years older, he was still vigorous and devoted . . . in his way. Charlie had had his carefree days and a score of trysts before her. Nowadays, his first love was his career as a geneticist, with its charms of prestige and celebrity that swathed him as effectively as the limbs of any seductress. After his vocation, Charlie’s next loves were his Airedale, named Gene, and his beloved stamp collection.

Welcome to fourth place, Claire thought. Is there a ribbon for that? There must be a Certificate of Participation proclaiming “If You Had Fun, You Won!”

Claire wasn’t certain anymore if she had had fun.

The girls, Alyssa and Emma, were out of college and launched in their careers—Alyssa a project manager for a startup, Emma a resident in oncology. To them, their mother was like an old prom dress, a thing once pleasing, attractive and indispensable, but now a castoff of the past.

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 Ann Sihler.

Scribbles loops newsletter