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How Outlining Saved My Novel

How Outlining Saved My Novel

When I sat down to write the first draft of my first book, I had my protagonist and a handful of scenes firmly in mind. I had a beginning and an ending, and three fun scenes of my character kicking ass and being sassy. I knew who was going to live, who was going to die, who was going to be maimed for life, and a few key points along the way. The rest of the story, I assumed, would work itself out as I typed, flowing from my inner, obviously brilliant, muse.

I was wrong. So very very wrong.

Sixty-thousand words in I found myself in deep trouble. My narrative hadn’t just magically flowed from the goddess of creativity and I’d deviated so far from the main storyline that there was no way to bridge this new convoluted narrative with my originally envisioned ending.

Do you know what could have saved that project from disintegrating? That’s right, an outline. If I would have taken the time to sketch out the measliest plot arch, I would have been able to connect the important dots. Instead I had this: Beginning —> kick ass sassy scenes —> ??????????? —> more kick ass sassy scenes —>End.

Yeah, that wasn’t the best way to begin a project.

Determined not to make the same mistake with my NaNoWriMo 2017 draft I spent most of October pre-writing.

Scene by scene, I plotted the course of my story. It wasn’t an especially literary document, but it did the job. A typical scene entry had a heading, then a few lines and/or bullet points and/or stream of consciousness ramblings that described the main action and goal of the scene. Here’s an example from my outline:

Scene 4: Ashley has her first shift at the Alma House B&B

Show Ashley’s hectic work schedule and financial trouble, as well as her mentor relationship with the owner. Ashley asks for legal advice about Reichenhall and her family’s land, as well as to post an advertisement in the Alma House’s window. At the end of the scene Ashley collides with a stranger who, like Ashley, is a new student at the recently built girl’s campus of the long established Military Boarding School.

Brief, concise, not winning me any awards but exactly the right thing to keep me on track with noveling. Just enough information to remind me about the scene’s content and purpose. Plus, with a complete outline I know what happens next and my writing moved swiftly onward.  

With my scene-by-scene outline in hand I knew exactly where I was headed. I had a map and avoided getting lost in the woods.

This isn’t to say that my story become overly calculated. I had a clear plan to follow but I didn’t follow it to the letter. I like breaking rules, even when those rules are my own, and as I got caught up in the story bursts of inspiration had me scratching off sections of the outline and replacing them with better ideas that came at me out of nowhere in the shower. That’s how it goes.

My outline may barely resemble the finished novel, but I still believe that the outlining was necessary, at least for me. Without a map I wouldn’t have had the confidence to leave the path, to wander in the woods discovering better ways to tell my story.

When it comes to the outlining vs. organic writing debate my only advice is the classic find what works for you. I found that outlining didn’t squash my creativity nor spontaneous inspiration nor the free will of my characters. Writing an outline didn’t kill my muse.

What writing an outline did do is revolutionize my process. This is the first novel length project where I didn’t start floundering mid-way through. I know where I’m headed and  how to get there. I’m making consistent progress on the draft and the end is in sight! Even the pantsiest pantser should give outlining a shot.

If my humdrum scene-by-scene outline isn’t your style, there are many other ways to outlining to try. I plan on doing a future post exploring the pros and cons of each but in the meanwhile here are some useful links to get you started:

Writing a novel is an overwhelming undertaking. Outlining is practical. It makes the task of actually writing less daunting. But is it necessary? No, of course not! The only thing that is necessary is writing. So you do you and I’ll do me. It’s two weeks into NaNoWriMo and I am very happy I did that outlining. What about you?

Happy NaNoWriMo-ing,

Kayla

In case you missed some of our past Wrimo posts and need a little mid-November pick me up:

Kayla Goes to Fall Lit Events Part 3: The Future!

Kayla Goes to Fall Lit Events Part 3: The Future!

Welcome to the third and final installment of Kayla goes to fall lit events. Instead of telling you about cool events that I’ve already been to, I’m going to tell you about the ones that are coming up and why you should get your butt off the couch this fall and get out to the literary community of the great and glorious Twin Cities, long may they prosper.

October 27: Spontaneous s Combustion Vol2. Authors were given story prompts on Oct 19th and had 24 hours to write. The top 15 stories earned a spot in this story showcase. The authors will read their stories and the audience will vote. 6:30 PM @ Magers & Quinn

October 27 – 31: Victorian Ghost StoriesA spooky night out for literary lovers. Costumed actors present dramatic readings of 19th-century ghost stories in the dimly light parlor of the James J. Hill House. Hear from Edgar Allan Poe, Edith Wharton and the Brothers Grimm, as well as lesser-known authors of the period, plus some “true” ghost stories.

October 29: Caffeine and Correspondence. Host Jessica Lindgren provides stationary, writing implements, and postage for correspondence. A fun and social way to revive the dying art of letter writing. 1 PM @ The Coffee Shop NorthEast

October 29 and November 26: Barbaric Yawp – Literary Open Mic Night. Christopher Title hosts this monthly Literary Open Mic event. Bring your poetry or prose and share the company of your fellow writers. 6:30-8:30 PM @ Underground Music Cafe

October 30: Cocktails and Correspondence. A happy hour version of Caffeine and Correspondence. Jessica encourages the cocktail sippers to think of someone who deserves a handwritten note. Two hours dedicated to the fine art of putting pen to paper on the last Monday of every month. Stationary and postage provided. 4 PM-6 PM @ Hewing Hotel Library Lounge

October 31: Countdown to Midnight PartyStart the month with a bang and get a headstart on your word count before most people have even gotten out of bed.  A classic Twin Cities Nano event.  Come before midnight to eat and socialize, but once the clock strikes twelve, Cinderella’s got to write herself into a novel! 11PM-Wed 12 AM @ IHOP near MOA.

Oct 31 and November 16: Talking VolumesMPR’s famous Talking Volumes series has two events left in the season. Ron Chernow and “Grant” on Oct 31st; Dan Brown and “Origin” on Nov 16th. @ The Fitzgerald in St. Paul

November 1: Birchbark Books Reading Series. Heid E. Erdrich, David Lawrence Grant, Linda LeGarde Grover, and Thomas Dillon Redshaw will talk about their books and engage the audience in a workshop. Curated by Michael Kiesow Moore and Ardie Medina, the reading series features new, emerging, and established writers quarterly September through May. 7 PM @ Birchbark Books

November 1-8: Brain Science to Keep You Writing. As we get into NaNoWriMo, get tips on building and sustaining momentum in your writing project. Discover why you procrastinate, distract yourself and find it so hard to write at times. Harness the power of brain science to show up, sit down and write, no matter what. Taught by writing and creativity instructor and author Rosanne Bane. Great way to share ideas and connect with fellow Wrimos. Various times and locations.

November 1-30: NaNoWriMo Twin Cities Write In’s. Various times and locations across Minneapolis and St. Paul. Meet fellow wrimos and slam out a few words at a cafe or resto. I’m a frequent flyer at the Blue Moon write in (Wednesdays during November and year round).

November 1, 17, & 28: The Beautiful Beginning, The Murky Middle, and The Exhausting Ending Write In’s.  Had to highlight these special write-in’s at one of my favorite bookshops. Snacks, wi-fi, writing prompts, and plenty of places to sit. Plus, all month long, there will be a special sale on journals and craft books. Starting the month 30% off, and then the discount will decrease 1% each day to help youcountdownn to the end of the month. Various times @ The Red Balloon 

November 2: Gentrification, Artists, and the “Rediscovery” of American Cities: A Conversation With David Goodwin and Artspace’s Tio Aiken. This will be a great opportunity for activists and citizens to engage the author in conversation about how gentrification works and how residents can become proactive and retain their power within the community. Books can change the world and spaces like this to discuss important books and critical issues are invaluable. 7 PM @ Magers & Quinn

November 5: Autumn Leaves: An Afternoon of Poetry and Music. Featuring Thomas R. Smith, Ardie Medina and the Asiginaak Singers, Michael Kiesow Moore, and Lars Krogstad Ortiz. 2 PM- 4 PM @ Quinn Violins

November 7: Let’s Talk YA with Livia Blackburne, E.K. Johnston & Sara Shepard.  It’s time for the talk– the Young Adult talk.  The St. Paul edition of Let’s Talk YA.  We’ll be chatting with YA authors about their new books, writing, life as an author, and more. Enjoy a panel discussion, Q&A about why we love YA, themed activities, and great company. 6:30 PM @Red Balloon

November 11: MN Publishing Tweet-up. Another awesome tweet-up is happening at a rad bookstore. Common Good Books is one of my favorite places to peruse;  come for the fellow writers and publishing types, stay for the books and coffee! This will be the last gathering of 2017 for the MN Publishing Tweet Up. It won’t be back until Feb. 2018! 10 Am-12 PM @ Common Good Books

November 19: Maggie Stiefvater, ALL THE CROOKED SAINTS. Bestselling author of the Raven Cycle will give a talk, read from her new book, take questions, and sign books. 7 PM @ The Red Balloon

November 25: Indies First: Author Booksellers on Small Business Saturday. The holidays are here and it’s time to shop local and small! A whole crew of local authors for one spectacular Saturday of shopping known as Indies First. This program is held every year on Small Business Saturday and highlights what makes independent bookstores so great by giving authors a way to support their local bookstores. Various locations.

December 2: NaNoWriMo TGIO. Party location and time TBA, but get this on your calendar! Hang out with the Twin Cities wrimos and celebrate everything you’ve accomplished this fall.

Wow, this turned into the longest thing. This is a lot of events…I may not make it to all of them but I’m going to try my darndest! I’d love to hear from you in the comments about events you’re interested in. Please let me know if I’ve missed something.

Peace & Love,

Kayla

 

Kayla Goes to Fall Lit Events Part 2: Twin Cities Book Festival

Kayla Goes to Fall Lit Events Part 2: Twin Cities Book Festival

Welcome to part two of three! If you missed part 1 you can find it HERE and if you want to review last year’s post about why fall is an amazing time of year in the TC book community you can click HERE.

I am thrilled, delighted, elated, positively jubilant to tell you all about this year’s Twin Cities Book Fest. It was rad.

Ok, deep breath, dial down the excitement. It was just that cool, though, I’m telling ya.

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Put on annually by Rain Taxi Review, the self-proclaimed ‘champions of aesthetically adventurous literature supported by readers like you,’ the Twin Cities Book Fest is the largest literary gathering in the Upper Midwest.

The book fest is always awesome but this year it was exceptionally so. I haven’t laughed so hard nor felt such temptation to max out my credit card on books in all of my life. From the rock star authors, to the local lit heroes, to the publishers/magazines/booksellers/vendors I was quite literally dazzled. There were panel discussions, workshops, author signings, and discounted books galore. If you’ve never been to the book fest I recommend prior to the event reviewing the authors and subjects, highlighting choices for each time slot, and making sure you’ll be able to get to the presentations you can’t bear to miss.

Early in the day Al Franken made a big splash promoting his new memoir. Some of my favorite local book vendors had festival deals and specials that were overwhelmingly seductive. And best of all iconic cartoonist Roz Chast, of whom I am a long time fan, was there to talk about her life as a cartoonist for the New Yorker and her new books: Going into Town and Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant? If you’re unfamiliar with her work, here’s one of my favorites:i-cant-believe-i-ate-all-that-kale-for-nothing-roz-chas

Roz flashed her comics on the big screen and narrated them for the audience, with a fair amount of surprisingly brilliant acting. It was hilarious. I haven’t laughed that hard in a long long time. My sides were aching and my seat neighbor, who I did not know prior to this event, was literally slapping my knee and guffawing as I giggled like a drunk baby. We were not alone, the entire audience was in stitches.  

I also sat in on the speculative fiction geniuses Charlie Jane Anders and Cory Doctrow as they took on a discussion that ranged from gamification to Confucian Capitalism to meritocracy to maker culture. It was intellectual, philosophical, and riotously funny. They spoke in depth about diversity of voice in literature. Both authors challenged world-builders to create diverse communities rich with different people and perspectives. This is something I’ve been struggling with as I flesh out characters for NaNoWriMo with competing worldviews. Does diversity of perspective necessitate conflict or can my characters get along? Hmmm….still wrestling with that one but I left the author talk with fresh enthusiasm.  I can’t wait to read their newest books: All the Birds in the Sky and For the Walkaway.

I ran between buildings to catch as many authors as possible but it was raining so my thrifted-forest-green-wide-brimmed-wool-hat became a droopy mess of beaded raindrops. Strangely, the hat garnered me many compliments, but only after it became wet and pulpy…perhaps half-drowned Odin is a look I should wear more often?

There were author signings throughout the day (including Roz Chast and good ol’ Al Franken author of Al Franken: Giant of the Senate by Al Franken…), a raffle of shiny, glamorous prizes that I did not win, and a nifty Poetry Bus with rotating workshops and activities. Upon entry the bus attendant proudly proclaimed: “Whatever you need, poetry has it!” Please look upon the magic of the poetry bus as it glistens in the setting sun upon the hallowed grounds of the MN State Fair and feel a happiness within you that such a thing exists.

kayla j west nortrup twin cities book fest lit events minneapolis saint paul silver sky press

We have a phenomenal lit scene in the Twin Cities. Journals, publishers, writers, and readers. Our community is bustling and booming and profusely incredible. The Twin Cities Book Fest is a great way to get a little taste of all our local community has to offer. Hopefully someday soon Silver Sky Press will have a booth! 

 Stay tuned for the next installment of Kayla Goes to Fall Lit Events!

Here are links to most (but not all) of the amazing people and organizations that showed up to TC Book Fest and made it awesome: insert links

Kayla Goes to Fall Lit Events Part 1: Comic-Con

Kayla Goes to Fall Lit Events Part 1: Comic-Con

Last year I blogged about how fall is the best time of year for book events in the Twin Cities (for a blast from the past click HERE). This year is no exception! Welcome to the three-part series I will be devoting to this beautiful season and our marvelous lit community. Part 1: Comic-Con

Thank you, Midwest Comic Book Association, for bringing us the awesomeness of a Twin Cities comic-con every year without fail. MCBA is an all-volunteer organization. Without those comic book geeks, we wouldn’t have a con. Take a second to contemplate what a tragedy that would be. I love you TC comic book geeks! Never change.

The con is held at the State Fair grounds and is 100,000+ feet of comic book mayhem and goodness, over 200 guest creators, huge variety of comics/collectibles dealers, and free kid activities! Can I get a…

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MCBA will be celebrating 30 years of cons this upcoming spring, so mark your calendars for the sure to spectacular weekend of May 19th and 20th. I haven’t been attending the MCBAcon for thirty years or anything but I happen to be coming up on a decade since my first visit. I know this is going to make me sound old, but the con was a much different scene back then. My first time I brought the then 8- and 6-year-old little sisters. They loved it, one got a flash comic and the other got in trouble. Which is typical.

When I brought my sisters all those years ago they were anomalies. In fact, I was a bit of an anomaly. There were zero children and only a very small handful of young women.

It’s a much more tiny human-friendly event these days with designated kid areas and kid activities: coloring, photo ops, free stickers, all the things kiddies love.  And this year there were just as many women as men. The high rate of costuming made for an ocean of exposed breasts and thighs. Which is why the only pic that is safe for work is my little Batman with the poster-version Spiderman. Every other hero we posed with was nearly nude.

kayla j west silver sky press comic con lit event saint paul minneapolis twin cities

The costumes really were out of this world. I’m talking all out cosplayers, handmade cloaks/weapons/armor, and a legion of storm troopers. I cannot begin to contemplate the level of sewing skills required for the marvels on display. There was a man who looked so much like Hagrid and was dressed so much like Hagrid that for a moment I truly believed that he was there to give me my letter and all these years in the muggle realm truly were a mistake. Sigh. He wasn’t there to give me my letter. But he may well have been the real Hagrid. We may never know.

Because I was a slacker and didn’t prepare until the day of, my kiddo wore batman pjs and I wore a TMNT t-shirt with a red bandanna because Raphael is the best. A Naruto scolded me for dressing the family in contradictory universes. Next year I’ll try to be more on top of it, Naruto, jeez.  

Little bats had the time of her short life. She was toddling around screeching with delight and waving at the fellow con-goers. She made lots of friends. I never made random friends at events the way I do with kiddo in tow. She’s like a magnet for happy, personable passersby. I highly recommended a baby as an accessory to all social misfits. It’s a sure way to make more friends than you can handle.

One woman I chatted with had an itsy-bitsy human tethered to her chest with one of those natural baby carriers. She told me that a few months ago she went to a con out of state and dressed up as pregnant Amy Pond. That lady was one cool mom. I’ll probably never be that cool, but the number one reason I love comic-con is because I get to rub elbows with the coolest, most magical, creative, awesome humans this side of Hogwarts.

As I wandered between the booths – ogling the art, admiring the new graphic novels, making friends, and taking in the novelty of professional drawings of dogs as superheroes – I realized how incredibly important, albeit downright wacky, this festival of comic and graphic books really is. Writers, artists, and fans come together for a day of fun and leave inspired to create new stories, new art, and new cosplays.

I walked away from comic-con inspired and dreaming of the year I’ll have a booth of my own, showing off my art and rubbing elbows with the local creators I’ve long admired.

There was a bit of poignant symmetry this year at comic con. My first year I was living at home, dreaming of college, and taking my little sibs out for a day of adventure. This year I’ve got my own kick ass adult life and the cutest baby in the universe.  Nearly a decade of con-going framed by two vastly different, but similarly inspiring, outings with tiny humans. Happy memories, happy present, and – if the force is with me – many more happy cons in my future.

Stay tuned for the next installment of Kayla Goes to Fall Lit Events!

Peace & Love,

Kayla

 

Here are a few links to some of the awesomeness I experienced at comic-con: insert hyperlinks

Writing Rules with guest writer Katie Zezulka

Writing Rules with guest writer Katie Zezulka

Big news guys!  Silversky Press in debuting our first ever guest post!  Introducing Katie Zezulka, here to shed some truth on the “writing rules” you think you need to follow, but really don’t.  Katie has been writing for 15 years (wowza that is a long time) and spends most of her time in the romance genre, though she also loves a good fanfic piece.  You can find some of her fanfiction here and you can check her out on facebook here.  Bonus, she’s also got a short story in the works that she will be sharing soon.

Now without further preamble, check out what Katie has to say about the Writing Rules!

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You can find rules about writing everywhere. Numerous authors and writing sites have lists of their top ten. They proclaim right and wrong, black and white as if writing isn’t a deeply personal experience. My list of writing rules is a little different because when it comes to writing there aren’t any rules! I am going to give you a list of common (and mythical!) rules and tell you why I don’t think they work.


  • False rule: If you want to improve your writing, write every day
  • Actual rule: Write when you can, and you will get better

You don’t need to write every day to be successful. I attended a conference a few years back and the speaking author, Anne Ursu, was asked if she writes every day. She responded no. She said some days, if she didn’t feel like writing, she would do other needed things, such as cleaning or laundry. That way, when she had inspiration, there was nothing stopping her.

That spoke to me. I completed NaNoWriMo and I did write every day that month, but I remember one day when I wrote maybe 60 words in half an hour. That is two words a minute people.

I can’t tell you how many times I have sat staring at a blank screen because I had nothing to say. It would have been more helpful to do the chores that needed to be done. That way, when the words were flowing from my fingertips I wouldn’t have to stop to wash the dishes or throw in a load of laundry.

This isn’t to say you should never sit there and make yourself write. That will happen more than you want to admit, but occasionally real life rears its head, so don’t beat yourself up. You can always write tomorrow when you might not have the urge to toss your computer out the window. Also, maybe life and kids make it so you are lucky to write once a week. Then simply write once a week. Don’t feel bad, you are already writing so much more than most people do.

You are a better writer every day you write, not only when you write every day.


  • False rule: Never use a verb other than “said” to carry dialog and never use an adverb to modify the verb “said”
  • Actual rule: Don’t let your dialogue tags do all the work

Okay, this one has some logic behind it, but it is a simple, lazy way of preventing you from being lazy. Here’s what I mean.

“Don’t you dare walk away from me!” she screamed angrily.

“And don’t think you can tell me what to do,” he laughed back.

Now read this one.

She stomped her foot angrily. “Don’t you dare walk away from me,” she said.

Turning around he smiled at the sight of her standing there with a scowl and her hands planted on her hips.

“And don’t think you can tell me what to do,” he said.

The humor in his tone made her glare.

The idea is that when you use “said” you have to use actions as well. You have to show that she is angry, rather than just saying it. That leads to better writing. Show not tell and all that good stuff.

This is one of those rules that, once you understand it, can be broken. Of course, there are conditions to breaking this rule. The main one being keep your characters busy. Keep them moving and gesturing while they talk.

She stomped her foot angrily. “Don’t you dare walk away from me!” she raged.

Turning around he smiled at the sight of her standing there with a scowl and her hands planted on her hips.

“And don’t you think you can tell me what to do,” he retorted, the humor in his tone making her glare.

The second and third versions are basically the same except for the dialog tags. Keep characters moving and your writing can be great without using said a dozen times each page.


  • False rule: You need an outline before you start writing
  • Actual rule: Do whatever it takes to write the first draft

Here it is, the pantser vs planner debate. As a pantser I can guarantee whoever made this rule must have been a planner. I’m sure of it.

When I go into a piece, I do it with an idea, a few characters, and perhaps a setting. Nothing drawn out and nothing written down. Just bits in my head. A lot of the time I start with a scene somewhere in the middle and work from there. That works for me. I tried planning one year for NaNoWriMo and by the time I got to writing the story it wasn’t long enough and I got bored. I simply didn’t care about it anymore. As a result, I never finished it.

If you pants your work you should be prepared to do massive revisions not needed by planners. Your timeline might not add up and you might realize who your character is halfway through. You might even decide to chuck half the novel and rewrite it.

In the end, if having an outline works for you do that. If you want to go in with a single line of speech that is fine too.


  • False rule: The first draft of a book – even a long one – should take no more than 3 months, the length of a season
  • Actual rule: The first draft of a book should take as much time as needed – as long as you FINISH

The fact of the matter is a book is going to take however long it takes. Not everyone has the time to devote to writing an 80k word manuscript in 90 days. Also, not everyone writes in the same way.

The point of this rule is to not get hung up on things, but I would rather spend more time on something and have it be something I am proud of.

Still, always remember if you never finish a first draft you will never have a story you can do anything with. Spend the time you need shoveling sand in for the first draft, but you do need to finish shoveling if you’re ever going to build the castle. Make that the goal rather than giving yourself a timeline.


  • False rule: Work on one thing at a time until it is finished. Start no more new books
  • Actual rule: Be careful that voice, character, setting, etc. are unique to each story. Make sure nothing blends from one story to another

Like all rules, this one has a method to the madness. First off, it encourages you to finish what you start so you won’t have 3 dozen stories saved on your computer like some people do, cough me, cough cough.

Another thing it does is help prevent your characters and settings from bleeding together. If you have three stories going on at once that means at least three main characters and three different settings. You want each of your characters from different stories to stand out and be individuals. With so many main characters things can start to get fuzzy. It can be hard to keep straight which story has a woman seeking her dream job and which has a woman doing everything she can to hide from a traumatic past.

But sometimes I need a break from a story so I move on. Other times I am stuck and want to actually accomplish something, so I go to a story I do have ideas for. Or maybe I just wrote a really hard, heartbreaking scene and I need something light-hearted to distract me.  Find the right balance for you, Work on as many things as you feel you can, trying your best to actually finish what you start.

Final words of caution. It can be dangerous to follow every little plot bunny that hops by. Make note of plot bunnies for other stories somewhere, and only go deeper if you really have to. Also, you should avoid jumping around too much. Don’t work on more than one story in a day, and certainly don’t hop around during a single writing session. My advice is to take a break with something new when you need it, but never forget where you were. Always go back to your work in progress because nothing is more heartbreaking than writing for years and having nothing finished to show for it.


  • False rule: Write in the 3rd person unless a really distinctive 1st person voice offers itself irresistibly
  • Actual Rule: Tell the story how you think it needs to be told. No one knows it better than you do

It is easier to tell a story in 3rd person. You never have to worry about the reader not knowing things because the main character doesn’t know them. Still, sometimes, to find the right way to tell a story you have to try different angles. I have one piece I have rewritten twice, or maybe it was three times. I tried it in 3rd person and then in 1st person from two different characters.

My issue with this rule is that sometimes it isn’t clear how best to tell the story. Unless you play around with it you could miss something amazing.


  • False rule: If it is boring to you it is boring to your reader
  • Actual rule: You might need a beta reader to determine if your story needs some extra spice

You will reach a point where you wonder if your story is boring, or if the emotional scenes fall flat. You wrote it. You have read it countless times. Don’t even try to guess how many times it has played in your mind, because it is probably a million. You know who is going to die and that the shy kid in the back is going to save the day. You know the villain shows his heart of gold by the end, and you know who gets the girl. You are too close to guess how someone else is going to view your story. Good news! Beta readers are here to help with just that. Find a beta who reads your genre and let them take a look. Only by handing your story to a few pairs of fresh eyes will you know if it needs a little more zing.

Here are the “rules” you need to follow. Do what it takes to get yourself to write. If you want the TV on playing a movie on repeat for 3 days (me) great. If you want to write while listening to opera wearing some headphones to block out the real world, go for it. Face a blank white wall or stare out a window. Use a typewriter or a pen and paper. Write love stories or horror stories or children’s board books. Write every lunch break or maybe just Saturday morning while the kids watch cartoons. Wear a Santa hat or just your underwear. Use the word said or the word shouted. Write from any point of view. Write from EVERY point of view. Take a week to write a story or a decade. What matters is that it works for you. Nothing more and nothing less.

Thanks for reading our first guest post!  And a huge thank you to Katie for writing it!  Keep writing friends, we believe in you!

 

Kayla is Back with Thoughts on World Building

Kayla is Back with Thoughts on World Building

Hi everybody, Kayla here, anyone remember me? It’s been ages since I’ve been on the blog, sorry about that. But not really that sorry since you lucky ducks have had extra awesome Brooke posts in the meanwhile, and it doesn’t get much better than that, am I right?

This summer I put a hold on structured writing projects and took a break from blog deadlines so that my creative energy could focus on the launch of Mama Terra Gardens. That’s right people, I’m successfully self employed now!

Fortunately I am in a seasonal business and now that fall temps are moving in to kill the plants I get to scale back the garden design/install business and scale up the writing.

That means jumping back into revisions of Witch Girl right where I left off; world-building and the pursuit of making it feel real.

I know what you’re thinking – world-building is for writers of elf-dwarf fantasy and alien universes populated with space unicorns.

But guess what? It doesn’t matter if your protagonist is surviving high school or surviving a quest to Mordor – your story needs a well built, diverse world to be believable.

If you are writing a story then you are building a world.

And if you’re building a world, THEN BUILD A WORLD and make it a good one. A world is diverse, fascinating, real. A world is not a few towns, it is not one accent, it is not one race. That is what makes world building so downright overwhelming and why most writers shy away from fantastical worlds and beasts and socio-economic-political discords.

But world-building is also a lot of fun. As readers we love being transported to impossible, incredible places filled with characters we want to meet or be or strangle. And as writers there is nothing better than making a world come alive in your head and in your heart and then finally upon the page.

So yes, world-building can feel overwhelming, afterall a world is overwhelmingly diverse, but it doesn’t have to drive you crazy. You don’t have to pin down every far flung detail all at once (that’s a good way to drive yourself bonkers). Here’s a simply two part formula that works for me.

One: Start by identifying the core element in your story

The core element might be the main theme, the main character, or the BIG IDEA/AHA moment. The core element is the central beating heart of your story. It is the reason you wanted to tell this story in the first place and it is the reason you stick to this story when the going gets tough and the world building gets tricky.

Two: Spiral out

Once you have that core element, spiral out. Build upon the central idea with relevant details. Then build upon those details. Spiral outward until you have the bones of a world. Spiral out still further until you have the flesh. Your central idea is the pulse and your job is to give it a body.

I started Witch Girl with my main character powerfully alive and ready to live. It wasn’t difficult for me to build a world for my sassy protagonist Skara – teenage orphan/refugee turned runaway/tree-house-building/freedom-fighter. Her character was dynamic, her plot demanded setting and props and side-kicks. First I had my character and then I built  a world for her to inhabit.

Not every writer begins with character but the best worlds begin with a core idea/theme/character and spiral out from there. Building upon the big ideas with colorful, vibrant, sensual details that make the world real.

As you spiral out here are some things to consider:

RESEARCH:

Trust me, as you spiral out from your core idea the key is research. Research, research, research, research. Ok, once more so you know I’m serious, RESEARCH! You have to know everything you can know about a few things before you can even begin to layer in all the complexities of a world. Of course making things up is the goal, but you need to build the meat of your world on a skeleton of true info so people will understand and believe. Most writers of fantasy love non-fiction. They love military history, linguistics, obscure texts on petticoats… They love this stuff because it helps them write believable make-believe.

RELEVANCE:

Don’t get overly hung up on research. I mean…a petticoat is a petticoat and I’m not very interested in them. A big part of world building is choosing what details to focus on and when. Trust your readers, they can extrapolate quite a bit from a small tid-bit. That’s why I recommend keeping your core element in mind at all times and spiraling out from there. If the details are relevant to the core element they will push the narrative forward. Don’t slow your readers down with the irrelevantMost of the time we don’t need to know (or care to know) the weather patterns and pollen counts in the village two rivers over.

DIRECTION:

Even with your core element in sharp focus world-building can still feel daunting. Afterall, you could spiral out from any given element in hundreds, thousands, nay, infinite directions! The choices I made at this point of infinite possibility were mostly just about what I wanted personally, and that is a legitimate way to make a choice as a writer, don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. If you want to write about petticoats then knock yourself out and don’t let the likes of me get in your way. So what do you want to talk about? Loss, love, birth, death, kissing? Or maybe the practical details of your world get you excited – family groups, funerary rites, currency, technology, recreation, food… I love writing about food. Do you have any idea how many speculative fiction books I’ve read where nobody ever eats anything? Too many. I personally would love to know what people eat in space or if werewolves are gluten intolerant. Also, why does everyone eat ‘stew’ in questing novels and what is in the stew?!?

Spiral out in the directions you find most interesting (and relevant). Then Research, refine, expand. Steal from the real world. Steal from Napoleon’s battle tactics. Steal from your parent’s year book. When it comes to world building, inspiration is literally all around you.

In summary, there’s a pretty simple formula that makes world-building less overwhelming. Start by asking yourself: What is the beating heart of this world I am making? What is the why? And then spiral out from there.

Best of luck on your world-building quests! I’d love to hear from you in the comments about your literary journeys into worlds beyond.

Peace & Love,

Kayla

 

 

Writing Takes Courage

Writing Takes Courage

This year I did something really crazy.  I published my first e-book.  It’s a short story titled “Expiration Date” you can find it here .  The first few hours after officially putting this story out there to the world I was excited.  I am officially a published author – self-publishing e-books is so simple – yay go me.

Then fear set in.

Why did I just do that?  What if the story wasn’t ready?  I know my story could have been better, I should have waited.  What will people think when they read this?  What if they think I’m weird?  What if they don’t want to read anything I write ever again?  What if they laugh at the typos I didn’t catch?  What if what if what if!

What’s funny is I’m not afraid of the criticism of strangers, we live in a judgemental world, and I know some people will hate my story and be mean enough to tell me about their dislike in a rude way.  I know I’ve done it before.  It’s easy to forget that behind every story good or bad there is an author who worked super hard and loves that story and feels heartbroken every time somebody insults it.  If I’m an author and forget this, how much easier is it for those that don’t write to forget this.

Much worse than a stranger’s criticism is the thought of having my close friends and family read my story.  These are people who know me, who I see on a regular basis.  I’m not worried about their insults, I’m worried about their hidden thoughts.  They may tell me my story is great while laughing at me on the inside.   What if they think I’m incredibly immature because of my ideas, or think my romance scenes are pathetic, or overall are just disappointed in me and think it’s cute that I’m interested in this writing thing but don’t think I’ll ever become a “real author”.

I know, a lot of those thoughts are a little dramatic, but I’m a writer, being dramatic is what I do.  

I wish I had a magic solution to this problem of fear.  I think all authors and all artists struggle with it.  Sadly, I don’t think we will ever get over our fear completely, but it never hurts to throw a little reason into the fear tornado either.

So next time you are afraid of what people will think of your writing, remember these things:

  1. Not everybody is a writer – They will be proud of you just for trying, and they won’t see all the flaws as clearly as you do, because it’s not how they are wired.  Just like if you don’t play sports you can’t tell an ok player from a great player, or if you don’t paint you can’t see the flaws in an artists technique the same goes for writing/reading.  Non-writers won’t notice the flaws in your story so don’t stress about it.
  2. You can learn a lot from failure – I published this book as an experiment, and in some ways, it’s good if I fail – because I can learn from it.  I intentionally didn’t spend an excessive amount of time on this story because I wanted to get it out there.  If you are going to fail, do it fast so you can get closer to success.
  3. Your friends and family love you – if the people in my life are going to secretly judge me behind my back then I haven’t picked very good people to share life with.  Knowing my friends and family they probably won’t have a single negative thought about anything because they love me and will be blinded to errors in my story by that love.
  4. This story doesn’t define you – This is my first published work!  If it stinks and gets terrible feedback that doesn’t say anything about me as a person or a writer.  I am always growing and changing, so what I send out into the world on one day cannot define me the next.  Just as the outcome of your first t-ball game doesn’t define what sort of baseball player you’ll be, neither does your first book.

I’ve been using these arguments to work up the courage to shout from the mountaintops that I’ve published an e-book and I’m charging money for people to read it because I take myself and my art seriously.  But the fear is still there.

That’s the thing about fear – it’ll always be there.  At some point, we have to have the courage to kick fear aside and do what needs to be done.

This whole post I’ve wanted to make excuses for my work in case it’s bad, but that’s not how you sell a story.  I loved writing this short, I think it is a fun and exciting tale that will leave you thinking. So I’m going to stand up for it.  This is an awesome story that I think you should read!  So feel free to buy it here, here and here 😉

Stay Amazing my Friends,

Love, Hate and Guilt

Love, Hate and Guilt

Summer has been crazy. You might have noticed Kayla and I have been a bit behind on our blog posts and for that we sincerely apologize. We do have some super exciting things coming up including a guest post and a “How To” on writing female characters! While getting these posts edited I was digging through my blog drafts and found this beauty that suffered the pitfalls of the editing spiral. I have rescued it from that dangerous whirlpool just for you all, feel free to applaud.

We’ve posted a lot of writer advice lately, which means it was high time for some fun, and what is more fun than talking about story elements that we love and story elements that we hate and story elements that we shouldn’t love but do. Not sure which is more fun to discuss, so here are my top three loves, hates and guilty pleasures when reading books.

Loves

1.) Romance: I love a good romance, where the characters are perfect for each other, when they pine after each other, help each other, rescue each other, and are better because of each other. There is a very fine line here where the romance gets too cheesy, or too unrealistic or just plain desperate, but when it is done right it is amazing and gets me every time.
2.) Fantasy: One of my favorite things about reading and writing is how it gives us all the ability to live lives we never will, or never could, live in the real world. When I read I want to be transported to a storyline that I couldn’t experience outside the pages of a book. Fantasy is the easiest way to do this, so I read a lot of it. But it’s not the only way. There are lots of good realistic fiction and even nonfiction books that can do the same. But the fantastic elements such as dragons and wizards and unicorns are always my favorite.
3.) Humor: I love unexpected humor in a book, those funny characters that brighten up a really serious scene, or books that don’t take themselves too seriously and allow their characters and worlds to be caricatures instead of real people. Fred and George Weasley from Harry Potter, The Martian, and pretty much every book I’ve read by Janet Evanovich are like this. With these books I’m not looking to gain some deeper knowledge about the world, I’m getting a quick and easy read that is an awesome adventure. This is also a good reminder to me as a writer to lighten up a bit. We don’t all have to write the next great American (or any other country) classic. Sometimes we can write purely for entertainment leaving behind all of the rules and just having fun!

Hates

1.) Love Triangles: These have not only been overdone, but they have been overdone poorly. Not only are love triangles unrealistic – what person in their right minds spends all of their efforts fighting over a person who can’t properly reciprocate their feelings of devotion – but they kind of make the feminist within me mad. It is almost always a girl in the middle of a love triangle with the males fighting over her like she is property. Newsflash, if you can’t pick one man, then probably neither of them is who you really want to be with and you can find someone better. Cut your losses and move on, you are better than this. Sorry, that got kind of ranty. I have read a few books that had done love triangles in a way I can tolerate, but in most cases I dislike them and have even stopped reading books because I saw a love triangle developing (I also hate these because the plot will revolve around the triangle and a love triangle does not a plot make). I know some people find love triangles romantic and wonderful and that is totally fine, they are just not for me.
2.) Descriptions that Don’t match Actions: This relates to characters in a book and how they are described. I really, really hate when a character is described as being super smart and thoughtful, but then spends the whole book making stupid choices. Or when characters are said to be confident, but then spend the whole book questioning their choices. I understand characters can change, but in the stories I’m talking about there is no progression. They are just described one way and then act another. I recently read this one book, that had this amazing plot and storyline and pretty much every element I love in a book, but the main character was described completely in contrast to how she acted. She was said to be a thoughtful, rational person who had been super sneaky and spent the past five years going full Mulan and posing as a soldier in the king’s army. But then, when her story began she immediately began making rash decisions and stupidly revealing herself as a girl to everyone she met. A character who had successfully lied about who she was for five years would not have made those choices! Grr, inconsistencies.
3.) Suspense Driven Plots- with no suspense: Ok, this is hard to summarize, but I went through a long streak this winter picking books that had this problem. It goes like this, a new boy moves into town he is mysterious and maybe a bit dangerous. The heroine is inexplicably (and I mean inexplicably) drawn to him he pushes her away at first but little by little she chips away at him. The whole time she is aware that something is off with him, he can do things regular people can’t do. And even though she knows he is bad news she continues to pursue him anyway. Then at the very end, when she finally gets a little self-esteem and demands to know what is going on, she discovers that her love interest is a werewolf or vampire or alien or fill in the blank. Now, I am aware this is a story trope, and on the surface it’s not too bad (besides the female character usually being a super obnoxious mary sue). My real hatred of this story is it takes the entire book for the heroine to figure out the male is a mythical character, but if the reader has done so much as look at the cover or, heaven forbid, read the back of the book they already know this. So, the reader is forced to endure endless pages of the female wondering what this male character is when they already know! It is supposed to be suspenseful and dramatic, but when the reader knows they are reading a vampire novel it is just boring and annoying. If the author had done this whole dance in the first three chapters of the book that would be fine, we could move on and enter into an interesting story right away instead of wasting an entire book just setting up the premise that a human and a fantasy being have fallen in love.

Guilty Pleasures

1.) Attractive Characters: I have probably been brainwashed by Hollywood, but I really enjoy reading about characters who are attractive. Even if a character is described as less than sexy, in my mind I always picture someone pleasant looking. I don’t love when everyone is described as perfection with super model builds, but I don’t mind when every character in a story is appealing with nice hair and a pretty smile. I know characters are supposed to be flawed, realistic and relatable and all that jazz, but I’m superficial and I like pretty things. Feel free to judge me.
2.) Happy Endings: I am a sap for a happy ending, even in a story that doesn’t need one. I also looove a good epilogue. I don’t want to be left hanging to imagine what happened to the characters after the book ends, I want to know how the author envisioned their happily ever after. I understand when books have sad or even neutral endings and I don’t hate it (unless the author does it literally for no reason besides shock value) and I can even enjoy a tragic ending when it really adds meaning to the story, but I almost always prefer a happy ending.
3.) Sequels, Sagas, and Series: These aren’t really bad things, they are just becoming a new norm, especially in YA fiction, which makes them sort of cliche and of course can get over done. But when authors write a good book, with great characters and keep coming up with different plot elements that work I love love love series. Once I am attached to a character I never want a story to end, and I would pretty much read about those characters mowing their lawns if that’s what the author wrote about.

What about you? What story elements do you love, hate, and hate to love? Tell us about them in the comments below.

Stay Amazing my Friends,

5 Lies Authors Need to Stop Believing

5 Lies Authors Need to Stop Believing

As writers we all doubt ourselves from time to time.  Writing stories is hard, messy, overwhelming and overall insane.  Imagine if pregnant moms had to piece their babies together by hand, every cell, every bone, every organ and get it all in the right place – that is essentially what we as authors do.  I would totally go for growing a book in my belly and having it come out perfectly formed 9 months later.  Hmmm….interesting alternative universe idea right there.

Anyways……

Because the writing process is so difficult we start to doubt ourselves.  Can we really do this?  Are we good enough?  And we begin to believe lies about ourselves and our writing.  I am here to tell you these lies need to stop!  You, dear author, are amazing.  Your story is amazing and you can do this.  

Here are the five doubts and lies you need to stop believing so you can start loving yourself and your writing.

1.) You’re Only a Real Author/Writer if You are Published:  This lie could not be farther from the truth.  Listen to me.  If you write (once a year or once an hour) then you are a writer.  You are an author if you write.  Even the dictionary says so.  

 Stop saying you are an “aspiring author”, stop putting down your stories.  Be proud of who you are, what you write, and where you are in the writing process.

 2.) To be a successful writer you need a degree:  This is a real insecurity for me.  I don’t have any formal education in writing, and sometimes that creates a lot of self-doubt.  After all, I’m competing against other authors who have master’s degrees in creative writing, and others who know all the grammar, structure, and styling rules inside and out.  I was educated on the taxonomy of invertebrates #lifeskills.    The only way to combat this self-doubt is with a serious reality check.  You do not need to be formally educated in something to be successful at it.  Were your parents formally educated in raising you?  No?  You turned out pretty okay (I mean I assume so since you are reading my blog).  Was Oprah formally educated in running a talk show?  Was George Washington formally educated about how to start a new country?  Was your cat formally educated on how to be the cutest thing in the whole wide world?  No, no, and no!  A formal education is great, but it doesn’t equal success.  Do you know how many writers have a formal degree but spend their days sitting at a desk job?  Me neither, but I bet it’s a lot.  More important than education is drive.  If you have the drive, determination, and grit you’ll make it.  The skills will come.  What matters more than your knowledge is your character. NOT the characters you create, but you.  Beautiful, wonderful, amazing you!  If you want this you won’t let anything stand in your way.  Still don’t believe me?  Check out these successful authors who all made it in the publishing world without writing degrees: Harper Lee, Michael Crichton, John Grisham, Danielle Steele, Mark Twain and Charles Dickens.

3.) You’ll Never Finish:  As I’ve mentioned before, writing books is a lot of work.  It can feel like an insurmountable hill.  There will always be edits to make, things to improve.  It can start to feel like you won’t ever be done with your story.  This isn’t a lie I permanently believe, but it is one that can really discourage me in moments of weariness.  The finish line can seem so far away that I can’t see the path that will lead me there.  The good news is we don’t need the whole path right now.  We just need our next step.  Not the big next step, the small one.  If I write this sentence, what sentence comes next.  That is it.  Word by word, line by line, page by page you will build your book and you will finish.  It might take 1 year, it might take a lifetime.  I promise it will be worth it, don’t give up.  You’re almost there.

4.) You can’t write because your writing isn’t good enough:  This lie is similar to the lie we tell ourselves about a degree, but can be so much more crippling.  That feeling of fear you get as you stare at the blank page, hating every word you try to put down, comes from this lie.  Every writer experiences this, and do you know what that means?  Every writer hates the way they write.  We are all in the same boat with this one and I have three notes of encouragement for you.  

  • The more you write the better you’ll get.  You might have a 6th-grade education and an idea to completely rip off your favorite novel.  Write that.  Write it terribly, write it shamefully, write it so awfully that it doesn’t even make sense when you reread it.  Then, keep writing, the next story you attempt will be better.  You will start at the bottom, but it will get better from there.  The only way to get better is to practice.
  • You don’t have to do this alone.  Do you ever read the acknowledgments section of books?  I always love reading that part, because it reminds me that every author needs a team.  No author writes, “I’d like to thank myself because I did all this on my own, oh and maybe my cat, she’s cute.”  No, often they have so many people to thank they can’t include all the names.  They have editors, beta readers, cheerleaders, mentors, publicists, and so much more.  You don’t have to bring your story to the finish line on your own.  Find your team.
  • You have a biased viewpoint about writing.  You can only read books written by other writers.  It is physically impossible to read something that wasn’t written by someone. That’s hard.  This means that we are only exposed to the champions of our field.  We read these completed works and think there is no way I can ever do that.  But, reading published books and thinking you are terrible in comparison is like these Olympic swimmers thinking they are awful compared to Katie Ledecky.swimming    We see that they are in the pool at the Olympics, they just see the bubbles from Katie’s feet. We need to remember that most of the people who read our books don’t also write.  They are just readers, on the sidelines.  As writers we are all in the Olympic pool, and that’s pretty darn amazing.

5.) My Story Doesn’t Matter:  Sometimes it can be hard to see how one story in a sea of books could actually be worth writing.  There is no book shortage, there aren’t even any truly original ideas for stories out there anymore.  Why spend so much time and effort just to add one more story to all the noise?  This lie and the following train of thought steals the joy you get from writing, and all the hope your story possesses.  Even in a world full of stories, yours matters.  You are a unique individual and even if you wrote the exact same plot as another thousand stories, you would tell it differently and your version would have value.  Your story might struggle to make it farther than your computer, it still has value.  You might be the next J.K. Rowling, that story matters too.  You might write a serious piece about the political climate of our world, that matters.  You might write werewolf romance novels full of bad puns and teen drama, that matters too.   Your story matters because you matter.  

Writing is hard, but it’s your passion and mine.  So, we soldier on, stop believing the lies, and write write write.

Do you have any lies about writing you are sick of hearing?  How do you boost your writer confidence?  This feels like a place to insert a sappy quote, but I think this post is sappy enough.

Stay amazing my friends,

Books & Beer

Books & Beer

There’s an old writing maxim, often attributed to Ernest Hemingway, that will forever wed the worlds of beer and books: Write drunk, Edit sober. 

A recent Twin Cities event dared to re-imagine that old quote: Write sober….Market drunk.

Ladies and gents, may I introduce you to the Books & Beer Pop-up Bookstore. Love books? Love beer? Love meeting local authors? This is the event for you.

Mid-May I popped in to see the pop-up (hey, you’ve read this blog long enough to know some amount of shameless word play is to be expected) and an impressive line up of Minnesota authors were in attendance. Now, most (not all) writers of literature are painful introverts but the authors at this event were chatting happily over their pints, promoting books, and acting unnaturally extroverted. I think the beer had something to do with it. Hence the new maxim: Write sober, Market drunk

Some Kayla trivia of the day, my favorite things start with B. Baths, bikes, books, blog, beer, baby, oh yeah and Brooke of course. I could go on (but I won’t, you’re welcome). This seemingly incongruous event combined three of my favorite B’s in one awesome literary evening: Books, Beer, and Baby.

The baby was, of course, optional. Husband and I both wanted a beer, and a babysitter – yes, another favorite B – could not be obtained on this particular evening.  But we were not the only parents desperate enough for a creative book-beer pairing to venture out of doors with an infant/toddler. No indeed. Three tiny humans under the age of two were in attendance and Lake Monster Brewing  had a child play area set up. Way to be inclusive Lake Monster! Sweet babies, please take from this experience a love of books and do not grow up to be drunks.

With dark beer in hand and husband/baby in tow, I browsed the long tables and mingled with  Minnesota authors who had set up shop. It was an awesome experience and I took home an important lesson: Drinking local is fun, reading local is awesome.

Our  community is home to so many talented folks. I met fantasy novelists with epic trilogies for sale, youthful poets, and writers of every genre imaginable. I was duly impressed. It was inspiring to see local authors, many self-published or published with small, local presses, confidently promote their books. Many offered friendly words of encouragement when they found out I too was a writer. I am happy to know that when my book is ready I have a warm, open-hearted community to share it with.

Readers and writers connecting, personally and intimately over a brewksi, is not a common occurrence. We often connect over the internet while remaining isolated in reality. But for most of human history storytellers were part of the village. They were community members, just like their listeners. They weren’t celebrity stars who lived far away in a Manhattan tower – inaccessible, unknowable, glamorous – they were your neighbors, regaling you with tales over fermented beverages. The more things change, the more they stay the same. Human nature hasn’t changed. We still love connecting over fermented beverages. We still love stories, particularly when we know the teller.

Go to Paris, Rome, St. Petersburg, New York or any other literary hub and you’ll find café bars where great writers, past and present, started their day with a caffeine hit and moved on to something stronger. Perhaps Lake Monster is destined to be the next Les Deux Magots. I for one hope beer and books become regular and happy bedfellows in our literature community.

The Books & Beer Pop-up Bookstore created an atmosphere where writers and readers could enjoy good books, good drinks, and the company of fellow booklovers and I can’t wait for the next event later this summer. Stay tuned on SS Press and I’ll let you know when it’s happening.

If you’re in need of a book to pair with your favorite beer, check out the local authors who participated in the Pop-Up:

PARTICIPATING AUTHORS:
Kimberlee Ann Bastian
Kate Bitters
Julien Bradley
Scott Burtness
W.S. Datko
J.D.Delzer
Anthony Eichenlaub
Jeff Falkingham
William Fietzer
Angeline Fortin
Kara Jorges
Kim Kane
Briana Lawrence
Catherine Lundoff
Patrick W. Marsh
Annie Meehan
Kenneth E. Olson
Dave Oppegaard
Marcie Rendon
Sam Richard
Ozgur K. Sahin
Jeff Smieding
P.V. Tkach
Tony Writ