New Class for Nonfiction Writers

** NEW Class! – HOW TO WRITE THE BOOK OF YOUR HEART **

Have you been thinking about writing a nonfiction book? Whether you’ve already started or only have the idea, this class provides the guidance and inspiration to get it written. Learn the secrets of bestsellers and how to implement those elements in your book. Gain an understanding of the writer’s craft and apply strategies to help you organize and revise your work – and get your nonfiction manuscript ready for publication. The motivating instruction, handouts, and in-class writing exercises will provide you with all the tools you need to write the book of your heart.  Santa Cruz area nonfiction writers, this class if for you!

For more information or to register, CLICK HERE.

April 16, 2018 to May 14, 2018

Held at Capitola Community Center from 5:30pm to 7:00pm.  5 weeks.

 

New Class! How to Write the Book of Your Heart

Get inspired to Write the Book of Your Heart.  Photo by Milos Tonchevski.

Instructor Bio: Victoria M. Johnson is a published author and filmmaker. Her published works include The Doctors Dilemma (Avalon Books), the nonfiction work Grant Writing 101: Everything You Need To Start Raising Funds Today (McGraw-Hill), and four other books. Her poetry appears in online literary journals and print anthologies. Victoria is both writer and director of four short films and two micro documentaries. She has presented workshops on writing in the Bay Area; Chicago; Washington, DC; Vancouver, Canada; and New York.

 

New Class: In Praise of Poetry

Join me for this invigorating class where you’ll explore and write several forms of poetry.  From Acrostic to Haiku—from Ode to Triolet—and a few other poetic forms—you’ll have fun while learning and creating.  We’ll look at work by experienced poets and discover how to put some of their techniques and craft elements into practice.  Gain exposure to new poets, forms, and styles, while unearthing your own voice.  This inspiring class is for anyone with an interest in poetry. Novices as well as seasoned poets will find the class enriching and fruitful.

In Praise of Poetry by Victoria M. Johnson

Poetry photo by Trust “Tru” Katsande on Unsplash

 

For more information or to register, click here.

Feb 28, 2018 to Mar 28, 2018

Held at Capitola Community Center from 5:30pm to 7:00pm.  5 Wednesdays.

Any writers in the Santa Cruz, CA area will be interested in this class.

Instructor Bio: Victoria M. Johnson is a published author and filmmaker. Her published works include The Doctors Dilemma (Avalon Books), the nonfiction work Grant Writing 101: Everything You Need To Start Raising Funds Today (McGraw-Hill), and four other books. Her poetry appears in online literary journals and print anthologies. Victoria is both writer and director of four short films and two micro documentaries.  She has presented workshops on writing in the Bay Area; Chicago; Washington, DC; Vancouver, Canada; and New York.

New Workshops For Writers!

Take a Workshop by Victoria M. Johnson

Creative Non-Fiction: Writing That Matters

Apr 12, 2017 to May 3, 2017

Launch your writing career with a non-fiction book on a topic you’re passionate about. The basis of this course is the belief that writers can “make a difference” with their writing. Discover how to use the arsenal of tools and techniques to write creative non-fiction pieces with power, urgency, and clarity.  Students will learn how voice and theme impacts writing that matters.  Whether you write essays, articles, or books, this empowering class will guide you to create strong, inspiring prose on topics that matter to you.

For more information or to register, click here.

Held at Capitola Community Center from 1:30pm to 3:00pm. 4 Wednesdays.

Any writers in the Santa Cruz Area will be interested in both of these workshops.

Take a Workshop by Victoria M. Johnson

Flash Fiction Writing Bootcamp

May 10, 2017 to May 31, 2017

Come learn how to create very short stories, also known as short shorts and flash or sudden fiction. Flash fiction stories have all the elements of fiction and have the power of their longer cousins to transform the reader. Discover tried-and-true techniques, look at great examples, and free your creativity to write your own flash pieces. For beginning writers or pros, this is a fun and motivating class that will help you improve your storytelling skills. Following a lecture each session, students will write new pieces based on the topics covered and prompts to get the creative juices flowing. You’ll also learn editing tips and opportunities for publishing your polished works.

For more information or to register, click here.

Held at Capitola Community Center from 5:30pm to 7:00pm. 4 Wednesdays.

Instructor BioVictoria M. Johnson is a published author, poet, and filmmaker. She is the writer and director of four short films and two micro-documentaries. Avalon Books published Victoria’s fiction debut, The Doctor’s Dilemma, in 2011 (A 2012 Bookseller’s Best double finalist). McGraw-Hill and General Publishing Group published her in non-fiction. In 2012 Victoria entered the indie publishing arena with a collection of romance short stories and in 2014 a how-to book on fiction writing techniques. Her poetry appears in online literary journals and print anthologies.

Upcoming Workshops for Writers & Poets

TWO CLASSES Starting Soon!

Take a Workshop by Victoria M. Johnson

Any writers and poets in the Santa Cruz Area will be interested in these workshops.

Social Media For Authors And Poets

March 7, 2017

social media class by Victoria M. Johnson

Social media has become a crucial element for authors and poets in promotion and branding, finding opportunities, and fundraising. But those new to social media may not understand what platforms are best for them and what they can do once they are up and running. Some don’t understand the benefits of social media at all while others have opened accounts but don’t know what they’re doing there. This class will showcase a variety of social media platforms: Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn, YouTube, websites and more! Though the class focuses on writers and poets, all artists will benefit from this exciting workshop.

For more information or to register, click here.

Held at Capitola Community Center from 1:00pm to 4:30pm. One Day Only.

Flash Fiction Writing Bootcamp

Mar 15, 2017 to Apr 5, 2017

Flash Fiction Workshop by Victoria M. JohnsonCome learn how to create very short stories, also known as short shorts and flash or sudden fiction. Flash fiction stories have all the elements of fiction and have the power of their longer cousins to transform the reader. Discover tried-and-true techniques, look at great examples, and free your creativity to write your own flash pieces. For beginning writers or pros, this is a fun and motivating class that will help you improve your storytelling skills. Following a lecture each session, students will write new pieces based on the topics covered and prompts to get the creative juices flowing. You’ll also learn editing tips and opportunities for publishing your polished works.

For more information or to register, click here.

Held at Capitola Community Center from 5:30pm to 7:00pm. 4 Wednesdays.

Instructor Bio: Victoria M. Johnson is a published author, poet, and filmmaker. She is the writer and director of four short films and two micro-documentaries. Avalon Books published Victoria’s fiction debut, The Doctor’s Dilemma, in 2011 (A 2012 Bookseller’s Best double finalist). McGraw-Hill and General Publishing Group published her in non-fiction. In 2012 Victoria entered the indie publishing arena with a collection of romance short stories and in 2014 a how-to book on fiction writing techniques. Her poetry appears in online literary journals and print anthologies.

 

Balancing Act for Writers

Do you ever feel like you are standing on an unsteady surface trying to balance what’s in your heart versus what’s in your brain? I know you do! I can’t be the only who feels this way sometimes. I believe this balancing act is especially tricky for writers because we deal with matters of the heart (emotions) in our writing and we also think (analyze and create) while we’re writing. Some of us have a demanding internal editor looking over our shoulder and we need to find ways to keep that editor away while we’re spilling our hearts out. I say, shake that editor off and keep going… keep writing. Who was it that said write with your heart and edit with your brain? I don’t remember, but these are wise words. They suggest a great way to keep your balance.

balancing act for writers by Victoria M. Johnson

Photo by John Salvino

I teach writing classes a few times throughout the year and one thing I impress upon my students is the idea of not censuring the muse and completely freeing their creativity. They accomplish this by giving themselves permission to write a crummy first draft. It takes practice but eventually they stop editing as they create. It’s a wonderful thing to get to that point and results in deep explorations, wonderful surprises, and more writing. Of course our first drafts need editing eventually, but the brain can work that out later. In your first drafts let the heart say what the heart wants to say. It’s a balancing act that we as writers can learn and enjoy rather than struggle with.

 

 

The Mirror by special guest Thaïsa Frank

“Here is the question: If you could talk to your 16-year-old self, what would you say?  What advice, warnings, or encouragement would you give your younger self?”

 

The Mirror

Whenever I think of being sixteen, I have an image that doesn’t seem (at first) like the right image for this article because it’s all about appearance. But here it is:

It’s early spring in Pennsylvania: Because of a bout with measles, I’ve lost weight. And–as if my whole body has emerged–my hair, previously unmanageable, has become a long sleek pageboy. I spend hours (and hours) in front of my mirror, admiring the profile I always wanted.

Finally, I am beautiful. And I love being beautiful.  I can even stand my mother’s anger as she looks at my face.

Almost every night I climb out my bedroom window to meet my boyfriend.

Almost every morning I apply eye shadow a few blocks before school.

I also have a secret life under my bed: Books, journals, fashion magazines, make-up.

In my house there’s always yelling and screaming. Sometimes it’s my mother yelling at me and throwing things. Often it’s my parents yelling at each other. Their voices are so raw I hear the scrape of their hearts.

I am wracked by guilt about both of them:

For my mother, who can hardly get a meal on the table.

For my father, who is frightened of everything.

And for both of them, who wanted to be writers, and who hate me because I’m turning out to be that sort of animal.

I don’t want to be a writer. I simply am, against my will, writing my first story at eight, winning prizes at twelve. I have allowed myself a public life as a fiction writer because both of my parents once wrote poetry.  When I’m alone, I write poetry, too.

My secret life under my bed consists of eye shadow, fashion magazines, and an electric razor since my mother, although not a feminist, forbids me from shaving my legs.  There’s also the life of a beginning writer, hidden like a rat with a stolen egg:  Journals where I record my parents’ fights. Books my mother doesn’t understand and that my father (an English professor) resents because he doesn’t quite grasp. (Kafka and Wallace Stevens are next to the eye shadow.) There’s also my own poetry.

My parents expect me to major in English and become a lesser version of my father–going on to teach high school but not for long, because I’ll stop working after I get married.  As for me, I know–without really acknowledging it–that I’ll become a writer.

When it’s time to go to college, I defy all three of us. Instead of English, I major in philosophy of science and learn the incantations of symbolic logic.  I’m less in love with camouflage (I shave my legs in broad daylight and no longer hide my books).  But I remain separate from what everyone–including me–thinks I should be doing. Philosophy helps me understand the breadth and limits of language: but–and to my annoyance–I often read it as a writer, thinking about the limits of language and treasuring a passage in Hume where he leaps out of his philosopher-persona to describe sitting by the fire in his dressing gown. Nothing I’m doing quite fits and I most enjoy staring out the window.  But when I study philosophy in graduate school, I re-read William Blake and decide that philosophy has limits.

I quit school and become a proofreader. At Sports-Illustrated we work until four in the morning and get drunk on scotch.  I ride the subway home to save cab money and defy anyone to bother me. I live in a walk-up in the Village, read my poetry at literary events and start to study Zen. Zen feels right for many reasons, but one important aspect is cultivation in silence–the bedfellow of creative language.

Eventually, I become a therapist–a long road where I help people like my parents feel happier, which begins to ease my guilt about them.  Eventually I teach in graduate writing programs, where I help people who (again like my parents) want to write–except they’re willing to learn from me.

Teaching eases my guilt even more. And one day I realize that I’ve become what I always knew I was, yet for many reasons tried not to be. It happens when I’ve published three books: I’m a writer. After all.

It’s been a zigzag path, interrupted by forays into fashion, and (via the women’s movement) forays away from fashion. It’s been reading Heidegger for a solid week in graduate school and emerging on West End Avenue stoned on his notions of existence and time.  It’s been telling Tarot fortunes at parties, expounding about modal logic.

The path has also been about relationships–some that reified the pain and guilt I felt about my parents and some that were gifts.  Some that held me back and some that pushed me forward.  I also became the mother of an extraordinary son.

So what would I say to this sixteen-year-old, admiring her profile in the mirror, with a copy of Metamorphosis under her bed? I would say almost nothing: Because her tumultuous, painful, ecstatic zigzag path is taking her where she needs to be.

There are two things, though, I would want to tell her:

First: Trust yourself even more than you do. Trust your secret forays into fashion. Trust the books under your bed.  Trust sneaking out the window to see your boyfriend.  Trust the way you hear the ache in your parents’ fights. Trust your forbidden journals. And trust your elaborate camouflage.

Second: Thank you. Thank you for being brave enough to enjoy your image in the mirror. Thank you for your rebelliousness.  Thank you for being true to your path.

____________________________________________________© 2012 Thaïsa Frank

The Mirror by Thaisa Frank

Thaïsa Frank’s Bio:

Enchantment is Thaisa Frank’s third collection of short fiction and includes two semi-autobiographical novellas as well as thirty-three stories. Her most recent novel, Heidegger’s Glasses, takes place in the mythical haven of an underground mine during WWII, the safety of which is threatened by a courageous worker in the Resistance. It was published in 2010, reissued in paperback in 2011 and sold to ten foreign countries before publication.   She is also the author of Sleeping in Velvet and A Brief History of Camouflage, both on the Bestseller List of the San Francisco Chronicle. Thaisa has received two PEN awards and is a three-time Northern California Book Award nominee. Her stories have been widely anthologized–the most recent of which are in A Dictionary of Dirty Words, Harper/Collins Reader’s Choice and Rozne Ksztatly Milocsi.  She has published critical essays on writing and art and wrote the Afterward to Viking/Penguin’s most recent edition of Voltaire.

Thaisa Frank majored in philosophy of science and studied writing alone, turning down fellowships and working as a copy-editor, ghostwriter, and psychotherapist. An interviewer once claimed she also once was a psychic reader; but this was just a rumor, started by one of her characters.  Visit her website at: www.thaisafrank.com

The Mirror by Thaisa Frank

Thaisa Frank

 

What Writers Can Learn From American Idol

In case you haven’t heard, American Idol is a popular reality program on TV. While watching recently, I realized there are some comparisons with the show and writing. Here’s what writers can learn from watching American Idol:

1. Many of the people who want to be singers have absolutely no talent. Watch the audition episodes if you don’t believe me. While those contestants deserve kudos for having the courage to give it a shot, they are clearly not ready for the big leagues. They thankfully get weeded out rather quickly. It’s the same with writers. Many people who claim they want to be writers lack patience, which appears as a lack of talent. I’m not saying that to be mean. You know people who boasted they whipped out their novel over their two-week vacation. Everyone thinks they can write a novel and there are those who send out their work before it’s ready. The publishing system weeds out most of them.

2. If you believe the contestants in their backstage interviews, successful singers sing to improve their craft. They didn’t just drop out of a turnip truck. They practiced the art of singing. Hmm… surely you’ve heard the phrase, writers write. Writing is how writers practice and improve their craft.

3. Idol contestants, through the course of the episodes, also take risks, they challenge themselves with their song choices, and they listen to the experts brought in to offer tips. Writers should take risks, too. Write outside your comfort zone once in awhile and see what happens. It never hurts to bring in experts of your own, either by going to a conference or workshop or reading an article or a writing book. Then put what you learn into practice. See item #2.

american idol for writers

IMPA Awards

4. It’s obvious that singers need more than talent. Just as with writers, they need that something extra to make them stand out. I think it is creativity, a unique voice, and self-knowledge that give both singers and writers that spark.

5. Cream rises to the top. It really does. Just as you watch one contestant after another sing and you think they’re pretty good, one comes along who knocks your socks off and you’re surprised and you’re thrilled. Suddenly the other singers don’t seem all that good anymore. Readers want to be surprised and thrilled, too. It’s not enough to write a good book. You have to knock their socks off.

6. When judges say you have no artistic ability or you should quit, you need to shake it off and persevere. Three of the most popular American Idol contestants did not win on the show! Jennifer Hudson went on to win an Oscar for her singing and acting in Dreamgirls. Chris Daughtry came in fourth but has the third highest record sales of any Idol contestant. Clay Aiken has starred on Broadway and enjoyed multiplatinum success with his debut album. What if these contestants had given up after the judges sent them packing?  And get this, Hillary Scott, now a lead singer for Lady Antebellum, tried out for American Idol, twice, but didn’t even make it past the preliminary rounds to be on the show!  What if she had quit before she got started?  As you may know, Lady Antebellum has numerous hits, platinum singles, and kicked butt with 5 Grammy Awards at the 53rd Grammy’s.

What the American Idol contestants can teach us writers is that no matter what happened on the show, they continued to pursue their dream. Just as some of them will never have a hit record, some of us will never get published. But in this day and age we have options. Singers can upload their songs on iTunes or YouTube. We writers can self-publish or e-publish. Let America decide, rather than a few judges or editors.