May 2017 Meeting & Comp

How’s that song go from Camelot? It’s May! It’s May!

It’s May, time for your imagination to flower! Be inspired, owls.

When – Saturday, May 20 at 1 PM        Where – Cardinal Cafe, Stillman Valley

Our Topic:

Life experience and your writing… We’ve all heard “write what you know” at least once, but that advice is unrealistic and limiting. Imagination is a broad place and the reality of creating among its many diverse planes is that we shouldn’t limit ourselves to what we know. What we must do is examine our experiences, see into them, and apply what we observe, experience, and feel to our characters and scenes to enrich and enliven them. It’s what we bring as individuals to any idea–our own, a prompt, a competition–that makes it unique. We’ll explore and discuss this more at the meeting. Don’t miss it!


Kayla Dean’s blog article: How to Enrich Your Writing with Your Experiences


OWLS’ 2017 Short Story competition. Topic or theme: Heroes aren’t made. They’re born. Open to fiction and poetry. Just $10 per submission or FREE with paid OWLS membership. Entries due by August 31, 2017. Visit the OWLS Content Entry page for length requirements, details, and entry form. Contest open to all writers.

Please share meeting, competition, and membership details with writer friends, groups you know, or even on Facebook or other social media. Help us spread the word about OWLS! Guests are always welcome at meetings.


March 2017 Meeting Details

When – Saturday, March 25 at 1 PM
Where – Cardinal Cafe, Stillman Valley, IL

Our Topic:
Theme and Character – Better Together
You feel your story or novel is going great, yet there’s something missing. Something deeper. A higher purpose or at least a purpose! Writing is meant to entertain, inform, and very often, with subtlety and finesse, it teaches. Ideally, it teaches through the characters with such shrewdness, readers are only barely conscious of being shown anything of import at all. Almost without exception (yes, there are some…there are always exceptions), theme is presented through the behaviors, thought processes, and choices of characters. This month we’ll revisit that old chestnut, theme, and explore its association with character.

K.M. Weiland to the rescue! Click here: The All-Important Link Between Theme and Character Progression.

Short Story Seminar, Part 4
Thought we forgot about you, right? Oh no! We did sadly neglect to provide you with a reminder about progressing to your rough draft. But honestly, if you’re taking this process seriously, you were eager to leap into that, weren’t you? Therefore, we’re going to think positive, and feel confidant that you’ve been hammering on the first draft of your short story, poem, or non-fic composition. Now, officially, your rough draft (or first draft) submission deadline is: April 1, and we’re NOT fooling!
Before then, however, we want you to consider how theme plays in your project. Is it even playing at all? Did it stay home, confined to a dog crate, not allowed to come out and play? Well, put it on a leash (theme needs regulating and control, after all, so it doesn’t run fat, muddy paws all over everything) and bring it on out. Without that hairy companion to shed its downy fluff, your tale is quite possibly an empty lark and your characters likely shallow and samey, start to finish. So, what’s next, BEFORE you send us that draft? This WORKSHEET (<— just click and print), that in your mind should be titled: How MY Character(s) Help Develop MY Theme. read your draft, fill out the worksheet. Where do things stand so far? Did you come up full and delicately themed? Or did you come up empty, and realize that your draft is falling short on this character-depth and substance issue? Between now and April 1, annotate that draft, make margin notes (you can use the Comments feature in MSWord to do this “in the margins”), identify what’s missing in your character development and progression, and brainstorm ideas about how you can fix it in the next draft.
(Poets: An outstanding poem is more than just pretty words and word-painted images, there’s an underlying message communicated too–for example, think about how one may love winter’s visual beauty, which comes from harshness, causing hardship for those who cannot escape it–flora, fauna, homeless humans…)

Excited? We are too! See you Saturday!

March Meeting Change

Due to several daunting conditions, I have concluded that tomorrow’s meeting will need to be postponed until March 25. The first issue is that our Stillman Valley location, Cardinal Cafe, is holding an event tomorrow where they are hosting local vendors until 2 PM and have invited customers to come dine and browse. Regrettably, this would make our meeting there nearly impossible. (Although I’m fairly certain we’d all have a good time looking over the vendors’ wares!) I’d thought a great alternative meeting place would be the new coffee house in Byron but they are currently closed for vacation.

And a few other, smaller issues threw a few more wrenches into the machinery.

So, to overcome all these negative tidbits, it seemed that rescheduling the meeting to March 25, 1 PM at Cardinal Cafe, would be the most promising.

I hope it won’t inconvenience anyone overmuch and that you’ll be able to join us next week. Between now and then, look for another message regarding topic and an update on the Short Story Seminar.

We’re also pleased to welcome two new OWLS members, Kennece Coombe and Karen Fackler. Glad you could join us!

Please share this date change with anyone else you know who may have been planning to attend and members of In Print or other writers groups where folks may have an interest in attending.

January 2017 Meeting +

When – Saturday, January 21 at 1 PM

Where – Cardinal Cafe, downtown Stillman Valley

Discussion Topic: Short Story Submissions & Formatting

Some writers consider themselves novelists only; others believe their work is more suited to writing short—stories, poems, profound journals, light humor. The truth is, even if you’re a novelist you can learn a lot from writing short works. Doing so is intense; limited space forces you to measure every word and action. This month we’re going to jump ahead a little and explore how getting a short story/poem/anecdote published works and how doing so can build an author’s platform. This process is part of both goal setting and getting legs under you that will be noted by the next editor or agent you approach.

Pre-meeting Reading – This month’s articles are focused on general information. Some of you are doubtless already familiar with this information; others may not be. We’ll address some of this in the meeting and connect it to our seminar challenge. Click to read:

Get your head–and words–in the game!  Avoid Submission Mistakes
Formatting a fiction manuscript: Proper Manuscript Format by Shunn
Formatting poetry submissions: Poem Format by Shunn
What is an author’s platform? A Definition, What All the Fuss is About

Short Story Seminar Breakdown

Part 2 Details:
Part 1 asked you to work out the following: 
Main Characters, Main Conflict, Central Event or Moment, and Setting. For Part 2, focus on developing an outline of the main story movements or actions based on those part 1 elements. Your outline can be formal, informal, a paragraph–whatever works best for you. Your goal here is to create a summary of your pending story in a progressive manner that you can use as a contemplation vehicle and guide as you begin to write. Consider what we’ve read and talked about that’s important in a short story as you craft this important step. (If you need a refresher on any of these items, refer back to the invitation email with links and information. Poets and journalists, remember that these exercises can help you too; consider the information and adapt to your area of interest…and go for it!) Submission deadline for Part 2 is February 11.

  • Write a short story, practicing what we discuss in the seminar segments, beginning with basic elements and culminating with a workable, strong story draft. Through the coming months, OWLS will guide you through the short story development and creation process with relevant articles, meeting discussions, and feedback. We’ll help you set reasonable goals, hold you accountable, and offer support along the way. When the seminar series is complete, you’ll have a story/poem/anecdote worthy of final polish, and with some determination, the potential for submission to contests, journals, and anthology calls–or at least the experience and methods to do it all again with a specific purpose in mind.
  • Not a short story writer? read on…
  • Whether you’re recording life’s anecdotes through journaling, composing epic poems, or feeling determined to write a great American short story, you can benefit from this seminar series. We mention journaling and poetry here, alongside fiction, because all types of writers will take away an important understanding of the “short writing” process and gain insight into what makes short-anything appeal to readers and wow them in the end.
  • Missed the deadline for Part 1? No worries! Check your in box for the email inviting you to participate and jump in any time. Then, get determined and hit the part 2 deadline. You can do it! Start 2017 the write way.

And the winners are…

It’s time for The Only Story Competition results at long last. Please join us in congratulating

Gabrielle Moticka

Her story, “It Eats Away,” has been awarded First Place.

Tricia Wagner

Her poem, “The Music of Egyptian Spheres,” has been awarded First Place in the Poetry category.

Bill Mathis

His story, “Vern and Frank,” has been awarded Second Place.

Rachel Bradt

Her story, “Eternity Kills,” has been awarded Honorable Mention.

OWLS Drafts Bylaws

Sarah and I are excited about how much OWLS has grown and changed since we first discussed the possibility of starting a writing group on a rainy day in the parking lot at Tinker Cottage. Since then we’ve been planning and doing, generally winging it, as we work to grow the group and bring writers great content and resources. earlier this year, we expressed our goal to make OWLS a more formal organization and secure its not-for-profit status. Part of that plan involves developing bylaws. Now, we’re still “young” and sure to undergo many more changes, but we’ve put our heads together to draft a document for adoption–basic bylaws that allow room and provisions for growth and change as we gain members and activities.

For members’ review in anticipation of an agenda item and motion to adopt at our October meeting, here is the review draft of the bylaws for the Ogle-Winnebago Literary Society:

Meeting: September 2016

OWLS September Meeting ~ 

When – Saturday, September 17 at 1 PM
Where – Cardinal Cafe, downtown Stillman Valley
Discussion Topic: Emotional Scenes & Unreliable Narrators. Many well-known stories and novels feature unreliable narrators, that is POV characters who, for one reason or another, misguide the reader with false information, sometimes even due to the character’s own faulty memory. There are plenty of reasons for the narrator to be unreliable, from the purposeful deception to emotional avoidance of truth, or pure, natural imperfection. What if rather than perfect recall, we allow our POV characters to carry the same flaws of memory we all live with?
Pre-meeting Reading – Click to read: Writing an Emotional Scene? You Could Have an Unreliable Narrator
And: False Memories in Fiction: How Emotional Scenes Can Create Unreliable Narrators
October Teaser: All stories and novels take place across time. A minute. An hour. A day. Or even whole lifetimes and centuries. How do writers manage timelines? Decide when big events should happen and how much living goes on in between? In October we’ll explore this writing challenge and ways to manage it.

April Meeting & May Update


When – Saturday, April 16 at 1 to 3 PM

Where – Meg’s Daily Grind, Alpine & Guilford

Discussion Topic – Resources & References, benefits, uses, and cautions

Pre-meeting Reading – Is the Thesaurus Your Friend? by KM Weiland, Hint to Writers: Using the Thesaurus with Caution by Jennifer Blanchard, and Historical Research for Fiction Writers by Catherine Lundoff       Where can I get some? Some of the resources we’ll discuss in the meeting are available here: Writers Helping Writers


Please Note:

MAY MEETING UPDATE OWLS has been invited to participate in the Lake Summerset Writing Gals May 21 writing retreat at Lake Summerset’s lodge by the lake. This falls on our regular meeting day. There will be writing/editing time in the morning, a brief break for lunch, and then we’ll hold our OWLS meeting at the lodge, afterward, there’ll be more writing time or discussion or whatever keeps you feeling creative. OWLS members, friends, guests, and all writers desiring to log some writing hours are invited to attend. More details, including RSVP requirements for admission to the Lake Summerset community, will be included in the May meeting announcement.

CALL FOR ENTRIES –  OWLS 2016 Writing Competition, The Only Story*, open to fiction and poetry. Just $10 per submission or FREE with paid OWLS membership. Entries due by August 20, 2016. Go to OWLS’ website Contest Entry page for more details and entry form. Contest open to all writers. (* You may interpret the topic [This is the only story I’ll ever tell.] in creative ways. It could be the only story you, as the author, will ever tell; it could be the only story a character will ever tell in their life or the only one about a special topic–for example a grandfather sharing just one story about going to war with his grandson. Use your imagination but make it clear that this is somehow someone’s “only story.” You are NOT limited to using first person point of view.)

March Meeting Recap

What a great day! An enthusiastic band of writers gathered at Cardinal Cafe in Stillman Valley where we began the meeting with a discussion about creating scene arcs that use emotion to resonate with the reader. From this month’s pre-meeting reading,  KM Weiland’s article:

You may be surprised to learn this secret is not scene structure (in the classic sense of goal / conflict / disaster / reaction / dilemma / decision), although it’s closely related. Like the integers of structure, this secret is all about creating a scene arc. But this particular arc isn’t the physical one of plot, which we find in the shift from positive scene goal to negative scene disaster. Rather, this an emotional arc.

Of course one cannot discuss emotion in a scene without noting that those emotional moments are all about the characters. As Peter Selgin says in By Cunning & Craft:

What readers of fiction most want to learn about is people. Not ideas, or philosophy…. Novels and short stories fascinate us because, as Flannery O’Connor put it, they show us, “how some folks would do.” That’s what fiction does best, why it gets written and read. Call it an enlightened form of gossip.

People are not fiction’s main subject: they are its only subject. Ahab, Don Quixote, Leopold Bloom, Holden Caulfield, Scarlett O’Hara, Miss Jean Brodie, Hamlet–we remember the characters in fiction like real people we’ve grown to love, fear, or despise. They fascinate us.

Through our meeting discussion we explored examples of emotional arcs from classic and contemporary literature, including how a character’s starting and ending emotions in a scene can reveal strengths, weaknesses, determination, or collapse, and in the process set the tone for the next scene or even one several chapters on. The discussion was full of examples, questions, and observations. I think we all learned something we can use in our works in progress. There was a clear consensus that unless you’re writing in a distant, objective point of view, emotional arc and using it wisely gives scenes and characters much more purpose.

Back to KM Weiland:

Q: What is a Scene Arc?   A: Emotional Shift

I pondered quite a few titles for this post, trying to get down to the heart of the concept. Originally, I just wanted to call it the “principle of opposites.” After all, isn’t that what a shift is all about? It’s about moving from one thing (in this instance, an emotion) to another. If there is no movement–if there is no contrast–then there is no shift, and certainly no arc.

The whole article is worth reading if you haven’t already. As she says at the end: “If you can create powerful scene arcs, one after the other, throughout your book, you can be 100% certain of giving readers a compelling reason to keep turning page after page. Try it out!”

After we thoroughly explored the technique topic, including how it could apply to poetry, we went round the table and introduced ourselves, giving everyone a chance to talk about what they like to write and/or their current projects. We had a few new faces at the meeting and were very pleased to welcome a couple new members.

I hope you’ll join us at the April meeting in Rockford at Meg’s Daily Grind at Alpine and Guilford.

Of special note is a change of location for the May 21 meeting. We’ll be joining the Writing Gals at Lake Summerset (in the lodge by the lake) for a retreat that day. Tentative plans are to come early and write in the morning, then break for lunch and have the OWLS meeting in the afternoon. More details to follow!