The Ventura County Writers Club was founded in 1933 by four writers in the Ojai, California area. Since then the club has grown to more than 150 members and holds regular monthly general membership meetings. In these meetings persons prominent in all areas and genres of the literary field speak on sources for ideas, enhancing creativity, and getting your work published. Click here for Membership Information...
July 2014 Meeting
Being a Backpack Writer: Learn to Make Locations Live
Our July 8 speaker, Sarah Howery Hart, a VCWC member, magazine writer and murder mystery novelist, will share her experience in adding authenticity and impact to her work. Her workshop, “Backpack Writer” will include everything we need to know to be well prepared for fact checking, information gathering and absorbing the essence of setting. A comprehensive workbook will be included.
Have you ever gone to jail for the sake of perfecting the details of your story? Taken a stroll through a cathedral-style labyrinth? Hopped a 1950s prop plane to go explore a military island facility? Or slept all night on the floor of an outbound train?
Sarah has done all those things while working on her murder mysteries—Catch ’n Release: The Game and the sequel, Ring Master—and her magazine articles and short stories. She thoroughly enjoyed these experiences and many others, even jail. And, she says, the quality of her writing improved because of them.
Her career as a freelancer includes writing for publications such as The Writer magazine, the Alaska/Horizon Airlines inflight magazine, Ojai Quarterly, and Ventura County Star. Through those experiences and her past work as executive editor of the national magazine Your Wedding Day, Sarah discovered the joys and necessity of emerging from behind the desk to do research, conduct interviews, and even complete the writing itself “on location.” But working out of a backpack effectively and efficiently requires planning and strategy. At our July 8 meeting, Sarah will reveal her secrets.
Her tips include advice on:
- What to pack, in addition to the usual writer’s gear, to enhance any type of writing. (Why should a nonsmoking writer bring a pack of matches? Why a small plastic ruler; why a flashlight and a travel pillow?)
- How to pack it. (Why hang that small flashlight from a loop on the outside of your pack, rather than pack it inside?)
- Which backpack is best? (Why finding the words “rip-stop nylon,” “military grade,” and even “water-repellent” on the label will become your goal, although we Southern Californians seldom see a drop of rain.)
Sarah will also share how becoming a “backpack writer” leads to more powerful writing, including the secrets to:
- Determining exact locations to enhance fiction and nonfiction writing, and how your packed contents can facilitate having “good times,” regardless of the setting.
- Using those strategically selected items to aid in writing descriptions that make readers believe they’re really there.
- Using the six senses for crafting dynamic descriptions, and which backpack items can help you do that.
- Writing higher quality interviews for nonfiction books and articles, and using your backpack items to find the even better “story behind the story.”
Sarah will conclude by discussing how being a “backpack writer” and getting out of the house to do the actual writing can also make writers better at their craft.
The Play's The Thing
The One-Act Play-writing competition of the Elite Theatre Company in Channel Islands Harbor opened on March 1, 2014 and will close on June 30. The annual competition culminates in a One-Act Festival in January. Tom Eubanks, for ten years the Elite’s Artistic Director, was a VCWC member (1988-1994). He served VCWC as president, first vice-president, and helped start a novel workshop. Of the theater’s play contest he says, “I look forward to receiving [VCWC] members’ scripts in the near future.”
Now in its 21st year, Elite Theatre Company is one of a few Ventura theaters that feature new works from North American playwrights. For the last six years, a previously unproduced and unpublished work has been included in their Main Stage season.
Submissions are also open for full-length plays for the 2015 World Premier. This year’s World Premier, The Art of Something, follows two other Eubanks plays at ETC and two one-acts at other Ventura County theaters.
The Art of Something opens April 25 and runs through June 1. At the milestone age of 50, Arthur Jones, L.A. private eye, writer, painter, husband and father, is suffering the early stages of a mid-life crisis, a failing 29-year marriage, and agoraphobia: he sees the time left to reach his dream squandered by his profession that sinks him intimately into the lives of his clients. “Abnormal” is “normal” in the life of Arthur Jones.
The regular general admission ticket price is $18. Prices are $15 for seniors and students; military, $12. The theater is at 2731 S. Victoria Ave, Oxnard. For more information, go to www.elitetheatre.org.
June 2014 Speaker
Pitch Like You Mean It - Laura Brennan to speak at Ventura County Writers Club June Meeting
Pitch. Query. Logline. Bottom line. What do these terms have to do with each other or with being a writer? Hint: How well you handle the first three can impact the fourth.
If only a writer’s life were all about writing! If you’ve ever been at a loss for words to talk about what you do or the project you’re working on, you are not alone. “Most of us are terrible at talking about our work,” says Laura Brennan. “Pitching is just a skill most of us were never taught.”
At the June 10 general meeting, Laura Brennan will present “Talking 101 for Writers.” Whether you’re pitching yourself, your novel, your pilot or your business, Laura can help you find the right words. Last month Laura brought her pitching workshop to The Writer’s Junction in Santa Monica. Eileen Funke, co-owner, said this: “In addition to being the queen of pitching, Laura is a natural teacher… Any opportunity to learn from her is not to be missed.”
Laura also teaches workshops on breaking story. “On Staff” mimics the writers’ room of a one-hour TV series, giving people the experience of being on a television staff and letting them make their rookie mistakes in a safe environment—one where their job isn’t on the line. Former students have gone on to staff jobs on such shows as Revenge, Eureka, and Related.
She consults with writers and production companies on developing and pitching their projects; pilots she has worked on have sold to ABC, NBC, SyFy, and USA. Her short stories have appeared in several anthologies, including Hell Comes to Hollywood (a Bram Stoker Award nominee), Last Exit to Murder, and the upcoming Live Free or Ride. But it hasn’t all been blood and guts: her web series, Faux Baby (www.hulu.com/faux-baby) explores the lighter side of parenthood.
For our screenwriters, Laura’s appearance couldn’t be timelier. The Great American Screenwriting Conference and Pitchfest (https://pitchfest.com/) runs June 20-23, in Burbank. This three-day event brings together writers, agents, managers, producers, investors and other industry professionals. On Pitch day, writers get five minutes to tell an agent or producer who they are, what they’ve got and why it needs to be made.
“Talking 101 is very hands-on,” Laura says. “Everyone will leave with at least one logline, for either themselves or a project, or for both. We'll talk about setting up people's expectations, speaking to your strengths, and turning a logline into a query. Come prepared to roll up your sleeves and pitch!”
"Laura teaches you to sell fire in hell." Nikki Toscano, Bates Motel, former student.
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