Writing retreat: Write, read and have fun

I just returned from leading a writer’s retreat at Menucha Retreat and Conference Center east of Portland, Oregon. Seven writers and I spent three days writing, reading and having fun. We spent our mornings writing and our afternoons sharing our work and receiving feedback. In addition, we took walks in the countryside and enjoyed the delicious home-style cooking provided by the friendly Menucha staff. In the evenings, we played card and board games.

Here’s what the participants liked about the retreat:

  • The blocks of time to write. — Janine Robben
  • There’s something about being with other writers that’s inspirational. We got much more done because we don’t have to make the food. — Jamie Caulley
  • A block of time out of my own house where I always get distracted or make an excuse. — Mark Robben
  • I like the social part of it, being with other writers. The structure works — writing in the morning and reading in the afternoon. — Catherine Magdalena
  • Getting out of town. — Ann Sihler
  • I feel like this jumpstarted me and got me back on track. I’d lost steam and momentum. I think I got a new direction. — Dave King
  • Having a deadline. The group of people is so good. Such a great match. — Kerry McPherson

Dave King 4x Mark Robben 4x Playing games 4xAnn Sihler and Kerry McPherson write in the Greenhouse photo by Dave KingNancy Woods and Mark Robben in GreenhouseJanine Robben and Jamie Caulley in Greenhouse

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Writing strong leads: How to hook the reader

Writing strong leads: How to hook the reader(What follows is an excerpt from material presented in the Journalism for Freelance Writers class.)

Do you read every article in a newspaper or magazine you happen to pick up? Probably not. If you’re like most readers, you focus on the articles that hook you and pull you in.

In journalism, the term “lead” refers to the opening of an article. Also called the “hook,” or “grabber,” the lead is in many ways the most important part of an article. It also can be the most difficult to write because it requires the reporter to summarize the content of the article in a way that conveys its tone while enticing the reader.

Leads come in various types, including anecdotal leads, which include a story to illustrate a point, and delayed-suspense leads, which withhold information until later. Whatever the type, effective leads have three traits in common: brevity, clarity and relevancy.

Finding the lead can be the most difficult and time-consuming aspect of writing an article but once nailed down it makes writing the article simpler. In that sense, the lead functions like an outline. Once you determine the opening, the article falls into place.

Journalism for Freelance Writers

Dates: Saturdays, Sept. 27-Dec. 6, 2014. No class Nov. 29.

Time: 2-4 p.m.

Cost: $200/10 weeks

Limited to 5 students

Location: Hollywood district of Northeast Portland, Oregon. Exact location provided upon registration.

Learn the skills professional reporters use to write features, human-interest articles and small-business profiles. Become the freelance writer every editor wants to work with. Learn the dos and don’ts of the publishing world. By the end of the class you’ll have completed one feature article that is 650-800 words in length. Along the way, you’ll learn how to:

  • Find article ideas
  • Carry out research
  • Prepare for and conduct interviews
  • Write leads
  • Organize, draft, revise and polish articles
  • Handle quotes and attributions
  • Meet deadlines and word counts
  • Copyedit and fact check
  • Write headlines, captions and photo credits
  • Apply AP and Chicago style
  • Take photos
  • Work with editors
  • Follow journalist ethics and values
  • Fulfill journalistic responsibilities

To register: Mail payment to Nancy Woods, P.O. Box 18032, Portland, OR 97218. To pay by credit card call (503) 288-2469.For more information: wordpics@aracnet.com or (503) 288-2469.

Upcoming writing classes

UPCOMING CLASSES

The Kickstart Your Writing program offers 3 classes:

  • Kickstart Your Writing
  • Kickstart Your Writing (online)
  • Journalism for Freelance Writers

Details about each class are included below.

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Kickstart Your Writing

Dates:  Sept. 24- Dec. 3, 2014. No class Nov. 26.

Sept. 25-Dec. 4, 2014. No class Nov. 27.

(Choose Wednesday OR Thursday evenings.)

Cost: $200/10 weeks

Limited to 5 students

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.

To register: Mail payment to Nancy Woods, P.O. Box 18032, Portland, OR 97218. To pay by credit card call (503) 288-2469. For more information: wordpics@aracnet.com or (503) 288-2469.

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(Online) Kickstart Your Writing

Dates: Sept. 26-Dec. 5, 2014. No class Nov. 28.

Cost: $200/10 weeks

Limited to 5 students

This online version of the Kickstart Your Writing class can be taken from the comfort of your home and worked on when your schedule allows. All you need is e-mail (no Skype or chat rooms). Students will set weekly goals, post their writing online at designated times, and receive feedback from the instructor and other students.

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.

To register: Mail payment to Nancy Woods, P.O. Box 18032, Portland, OR 97218. To pay by credit card call (503) 288-2469. For more information: wordpics@aracnet.com or (503) 288-2469.

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Journalism for Freelance Writers

Dates: Saturdays, Sept. 27-Dec. 6, 2014. No class Nov. 29.

Time: 2-4 p.m.

Cost: $200/10 weeks

Limited to 5 students

Location: Hollywood district of Northeast Portland, Oregon. Exact location provided upon registration.

Learn the skills professional reporters use to write features, human-interest articles and small-business profiles. Become the freelance writer every editor wants to work with. Learn the dos and don’ts of the publishing world. By the end of the class you’ll have completed one feature article that is 650-800 words in length. Along the way, you’ll learn how to:

  • Find article ideas
  • Carry out research
  • Prepare for and conduct interviews
  • Write leads
  • Organize, draft, revise and polish articles
  • Handle quotes and attributions
  • Meet deadlines and word counts
  • Copy edit and fact check
  • Write headlines, captions and photo credits
  • Apply AP and Chicago style
  • Take photos
  • Work with editors
  • Follow journalist ethics and values
  • Fulfill journalistic responsibilities

To register: Mail payment to Nancy Woods, P.O. Box 18032, Portland, OR 97218. To pay by credit card call (503) 288-2469.For more information: wordpics@aracnet.com or (503) 288-2469.

Writing class starts September 18, 2013

 Kickstart Your Writing class starts September 18

Whether you’re working on a novel or interested in short stories, memoir, essays, articles or other forms of fiction or nonfiction, the Kickstart Your Writing class 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 class runs Wednesdays, 6:30-9 p.m., September 18-November 20. The class is held in the Hollywood district of Northeast Portland, Oregon. The exact location is provided upon publication. Cost is $200 for the 10-week class. To register, mail payment to Nancy Woods, P.O. Box 18032, Portland, OR 97218. To pay by credit card call (503) 288-2469. For more information: wordpics@aracnet.com, nancy-woods.com, (503) 288-2469.

Writing classes: How they harm and help

“I haven’t written for two years,” the woman told me over the phone. She’d called to ask for information about my upcoming writing class. “I’m so discouraged,” she said. Turns out, a previous writing teacher had ripped her writing apart.

Unfortunately, that wasn’t the first time a writer told me she/he stopped writing because of a teacher’s caustic remark. I’m a writer and a writing instructor, so I know what it’s like to be both. I understand what works in the classroom and what doesn’t.

Ripping a student or her writing apart doesn’t work. Why? Because, in my experience, most writing problems are solved by writing. If an instructor’s remark stops a writer from writing, chances are, that student will never improve.

The solution isn’t to avoid pointing out aspects of a student’s writing that isn’t working. The solution is to point out what works and what doesn’t in a classroom environment in which the student feels safe to do both.

Writing class: Kickstart Your Writing class starts April 17, 18

Upcoming classes

Kickstart Your Writing:
Wednesdays: April 17-June 19, 2013
Thursdays: April 18-June 20, 2013
Time: 6:30-9 p.m.
Location: Hollywood district, NE Portland, OR. Exact location provided upon registration.
Cost: $200/10 weeks. Choose Wednesday or Thursday class.
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.
To register: Mail payment to Nancy Woods, P.O. Box 18032, Portland, OR 97218. To pay by credit card call (503) 288-2469.
For more information: wordpics@aracnet.com  (503) 288-2469, nancy-woods.com

Bagging Blyines: Marketing Nonfiction Writing Class

Here’s information on my new class:

Bagging Bylines: Marketing Nonfiction Class

 Dates: October 9-December 18, 2012. No class Nov. 6, Nov. 20 or Dec. 4.

Time: 6:30-9 p.m.

Location: Hollywood district of Northeast Portland, Oregon. Exact location provided upon registration.

Cost: $200/8 weeks

Registration deadline: Oct. 5, 2012

Class is limited to 5 students 

Learn the secrets professional writers know about how to get published. Maximize the chances your articles, essays or memoir excerpts will sell. Students will read their writing aloud and receive feedback, with the goal of revising the writing to fit specific markets. Individual attention will be given to each student’s marketing goals. Students will find publications that fit their writing and learn how to analyze magazines and keep track of submissions.

For more information or to register: (503) 288-2469, wordpics@aracnet.com. Payment may be mailed to Nancy Woods, P.O. Box 18032, Portland, OR 97218. To pay by credit card, call (503) 288-2469.

Writing classes start January 18 and 19, 2012

Upcoming classes:

Kickstart Your Writing

Wednesdays, January 18-March 21, 2012

(or)

Thursdays, January 19-March 22, 2012

Both classes meet 6:30-9 p.m. in Northeast Portland, Oregon. Exact location provided upon registration.

$200/10 weeks.

Registration deadline: Jan. 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 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. Kickstart Your Writing students have gone on to be published in Chicken Soup for the Soul, The Oregonian, salon.com, Oregon Humane Society Magazine, and Hood River News, among other publications.

To register for either class: Mail payment to Nancy Woods, P.O. Box 18032,Portland,OR 97218. To pay by credit card call (503) 288-2469.

Writing classes start October 5, 6

Writing classes:

Kick Your Writing Out of the Nest: Thursdays, Oct. 6-Dec. 15, 2011 (No class Nov. 24.) 6:30-9 p.m. Northeast Portland, OR. $200/10 weeks. You’ve spent hours honing your writing. Don’t let it languish in your computer or drawer. Do something with it. Kick it out of the nest. Whether you want to send your funny essays to magazines, submit your short stories to literary journals, or post your writing on a blog, now is the time to get started.

Kickstart Your Writing: Wednesdays, Oct. 5-Dec. 14, 2011 (No class Nov. 23.) 6:30-9 p.m. Northeast 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.

 To register for either class: Mail payment to Nancy Woods, P.O. Box 18032, Portland, OR 97218. To pay by credit card call (503) 288-2469. For more information: (503) 288-2469, wordpics@aracnet.com, www.nancy-woods.com.