Category: The Writing Life








What’s in a name? How to name your characters…

By Midge Raymond,

For Shakespeare’s Juliet, “that which we call a rose / By any other name would smell as sweet” — but for a writer creating characters, a name can be a wonderful opportunity for enhancing character development.

Some writers must have a good character name before writing a the first word of a fictional story; for others, names are a bit of an afterthought. (Or, if you’re like my writer husband, you use the same three character names for every piece until your editor reminds you that some recycling isn’t actually for the best.)

Character names are more important than you might think…for one, having just the right name can offer a sense of context, history, culture, and personality — whereas having an ill-fitting or too-strange name can distract readers.

Here are a few tips for choosing the perfect names for your fictional characters…

  • look for names that aren’t too simple or too weird, unless this is for a very good reason
  • research the origin of the name; give it meaning
  • think about how it sounds in your ear and how it looks on the page
  • consider how the character feels about his/her name
  • use names consistently throughout (first name, or last name) to avoid distracting or confusing readers
  • if you’re writing about someone resembling a real-life person, change the name (as well as other identifying characteristics) to something really, really different

For inspiration and a plethora of name ideas, check out baby-name books, visit the Social Security Web site (where you can search name popularity by year), and search baby-name websites. You could also research the old-fashioned way: Dorothy Parker got her characters’ names from the telephone book and from the obituary columns.

Here are a few writing prompts to get you in the naming mood …

  • Write for 10 minutes about how you feel about your own name. Do you like it? Have you always liked it? Why/why not? What would you prefer your name to be if not the one you have? Has your name changed over the years due to losing or acquiring nicknames, marriage, etc.?
  • Write a list of your favorite names, both male and female. Next, write down characteristics you associate with these names, physical and otherwise.
  • Write down the names of all of your family members and/or close friends. How do their names help define who they are (or not)?

 





Weekly Writing: Film School

By Midge Raymond,

Take a scene from something you’re working on, and put on a film-school hat. As director, screenwriter, cinematographer, musical producer, whatever — rewrite the scene as it would appear in a film, paying close attention to (you guessed it) the actions of the characters, the dialogue, the setting, the sounds. Then take note of what you’ve discovered about this new scene, and incorporate these elements into your project.

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Late summer news & events…

By Midge Raymond,

I just sent out an e-newsletter with late summer and early autumn news and events …

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…and there’s a lot more going on than I realized until I put it all together.

The fabulous Sheila Bender will be in Southern Oregon … I’m reading (with Janée Baugher) and teaching in Port Townsend in September … there’s an all-day writing conference coming up in Ashland in October … I found a very cool online resource for writers … and I’m teaching an online class for the amazing organization Kahini in the new year.

You can check out the latest news here. And, if you’d like to receive news via email, click here to subscribe.

Hope to see you this fall!



Bookstore Geek: Imprint Books in Port Townsend, Washington

By Midge Raymond,

I’ve written about this wonderful bookstore previously, and it’s as wonderful as ever — but now, the store is in a new location under a new awning: Owners Anna and Peter Quinn purchased Imprint Books and, this spring, combined the two stores in its new location at 820 Water Street.

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The new Writers’ Workshoppe and Imprint Books has all the best of both places — a huge selection of books (still creatively organized), as well as fun writerly gifts and toys (from Writer’s Block chocolate to cleverly worded T-shirts and mugs).

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The store is as bright and welcoming as it was in its previous location, and the Quinns continue to host visiting and local writing instructors in a lovely and inviting new workshop space.

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You can check out the workshop offerings here — I’m delighted to be in the lineup to teach two workshops on September 17 (call 360-379-2617 for more information and to register), and I’m in great company with other fall instructors, including Bill Kenower, Erica Bauermeister, Sheila Bender, and many more.

And for those of you with little ones, Imprint Books has a fabulous, child-sized section for kids, a cozy little nook perfect for getting lost in a book or two.

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If you haven’t stopped in already, be sure to visit The Writer’s Workshoppe and Imprint Books when you’re in Port Townsend…and be sure to give yourself plenty of time to explore this fabulous spot for readers and writers.



Creativity for Artists

By Midge Raymond,

Thanks so much to Kara at the Ashland Art Center for this lovely write-up about the Creativity for Artists class I so enjoyed giving a couple weeks ago.

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It was a wonderful class … and of course a class is made great by having incredible students! Thanks to all the artists (painters, photographers, writers, and so many more), I too learned a lot about living a creative life. Click here to read Kara’s post and to get some tips about bringing more creativity into your own everyday life.

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Bookstore Geek: Lyon Books in Chico, California

By Midge Raymond,

Chico, California, is a fun town — not only is it home to Cal State Chico (and hence a great many bars/restaurants and fantastic boutiques), it is home to Lyon Books, one of the most fabulous indie bookstores I’ve encountered in my many years of being a bookstore geek as well as an author.

I was privileged to enjoy Lyon Books not only as a reader but as a presenter (I spoke about book marketing to the wonderful Chico Authors & Publishers Society), and Heather Lyon and the CAPS writers were so incredibly welcoming. The store holds weekly events with a range of speakers, and CAPS holds its monthly meetings at the store. Lyon Books is one of those amazing bookstores that is truly a part of the community.

The store is beautiful and welcoming, with a wide array of new and used books, magazines, gifts, and cards that are thoughtfully arranged throughout the space. Among my favorites is the travel section, which features this globe and vintage suitcase:

If you’re ever in northern California, don’t miss the town of Chico … Lyon Books is worth a visit for all book lovers, but you’ll also enjoy Chico’s quaint downtown shopping, as well as Bidwell Park, one of the country’s 25 largest municipal parks. But do make sure you have enough time (and a good book budget) for Lyon Books!

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See you at AWP in Seattle!

By Midge Raymond,

I look forward to seeing many of you at the AWP Conference & BookfairFebruary 27 to March 1.

I’ll be hanging out at our booth for Ashland Creek Press, EcoLit Books, and Literary Provisions. Please join us (we’ll be in booth #1207 in the North Hall) to check out new books and fun stuff for writers.

And don’t miss these other events before, during, and after the conference …

Wednesday, February 26
I’ll be one of the readers at the fabulous AWP Festival of Language at the Rock Bottom Brewery (1333 5th Avenue, just a couple blocks from the conference center), along with dozens of other authors. I’ll be reading sometime between 5 and 6:30 p.m., and the literary festivities will go on until 10 p.m.

Thursday, February 27
Julian Hoffman, contributor to Among Animals and author of The Small Heart of Things: Being at Home in a Beckoning World, winner of the 2012 AWP Award Series for creative nonfiction, will be signing books from 11 a.m. to 12 noon. (ACP booth #1207)

Jean Ryan, author of the “captivating” (Publishers Weekly) short story collection Survival Skills and contributor to Among Animals, will be signing books at the booth from 1 to 2 p.m. (ACP booth #1207)

Friday, February 28
Mindy Mejia, author of the “beautiful” (Twin Cities Pioneer Press) novel The Dragon Keeper will be signing books from 9 to 11 a.m. (ACP booth #1207)

JoeAnn Hart, author of the eco-novel Float (“a stellar model of eco-literature”—Cape Ann Beacon) will be signing books from 4 to 5 p.m. (ACP booth #1207)

And at 4:30 p.m., I’ll be leading a panel on Book Marketing — From Finding Your Muse to Finding Your Readers: Book promotion in the twenty-first century, with Kelli Russell Agodon, Wendy Call, Janna Cawrse Esarey, and Susan Rich. Panelists from a variety of genres—poetry, fiction, narrative nonfiction, and memoir—will discuss the unique challenges and opportunities of transitioning from writer to published book author. Through specific experiences and using real-world examples, panelists will offer tips for finding one’s natural niche and audience, and how to reach out to readers authentically and generously. Topics include book promotion through conferences, book clubs, social media, awards, blogs, events, and salons. (Room 608, Washington State Convention Center, Level 6)

Saturday, March 1
On Saturday, the Bookfair will be free and open to the public!

At 12 noon, join John Yunker for a panel on The Greening of Literature: Eco-Fiction and Poetry to Enlighten and Inspire, with authors JoeAnn Hart, Mindy Mejia, Ann Pancake, and Gretchen Primack. From mountaintop removal to ocean plastic to endangered species, ecological issues are increasingly on writers’ minds. Authors on this panel discuss how their ecologically themed fiction and poetry engages readers in powerful ways that nonfiction can’t. Panelists discuss writing in these emerging sub-genres as well as their readers’ responses and offer tips for writing about the environment in ways that are galvanizing and instructive without sacrificing creativity to polemics. (Aspen Room, Sheraton Seattle, 2nd Floor)

Sunday, March 2
I’m thrilled to be doing a post-conference reading with the amazing Gretchen Primack on Sunday, March 2, at 2 p.m. at the Central Library in downtown Portland. We’ll be reading eco-fiction (me) and eco-poetry (Gretchen), and we look forward to a lively discussion afterward about the environment and animal protection in the context of fiction and poetry. This event is free, and all are welcome; click here for complete details.