Proverbial Advice

Susanby Susan Ferguson
WOTS Steering Committee

When doing some research, I stumbled upon several interesting proverbs and reflected on their global universality.  Proverbs, whether from Africa, Asia or England, are pithy sayings, often allegorical, that give advice based on common sense or practical experience.

  • “A tree is known by its fruit” is of Zulu origin, and means you should judge a person by his deeds not his words.
  • “The old horse in the stable still yearns to run” is of Chinese origin and means older people still have things they want to accomplish.
  • “Even a small star shines in the darkness” is of Finnish origin and means all people have worth.

Registration for the 2016 Write on the Sound Conference opens at 9:00 a.m. on July 18th. The proverb that comes to mind is “the early bird catches the worm”.  This year’s conference offers writers a tremendous lineup of presenters whose expertise will help you hone your craft. Each session can accommodate a limited number of people and the sessions fill up fast.  If you wait to register, some of the sessions you want may already be full.

“The early bird catches the worm” is of English origin and means those who act quickly will have an advantage.  The proverb was first recorded in John Ray’s “A Collection of English Proverbs” in 1670 as “The early bird catcheth the worm.”

So, be the early bird that “catcheth” the worm and register for the conference as soon as you can. After all, “Life is short, art is long” (of Greek origin and means it takes a long time to perfect one’s craft and there’s a short time in which to do it).

Hope you have a great conference experience!


Susan Lehne Ferguson is a writer who savors getting lost in her work.  A former lawyer, Susan has written a screenplay that was optioned, and a book called “Lopez Island”, published by Arcadia Publishing. Susan is President of EPIC Group Writers, has considerable editing experience, and is a graduate of Sarah Lawrence College, Rutgers School of Law and the UW Writing Certificate Program. Susan is at work on a historical novel called “Follow the Condition of the Mother”, the story of four generations in 1750-1840 Charleston.  She lives in Edmonds with her husband, and enjoys their large, eclectic family.

Three Ways to Get More from Write On The Sound

J_Otnessby Joanne Otness
Former WOTS Committee Chair


Make 2016 the year to add something new to your WOTS weekend. Whether you’re a regular attendee or this is your first conference, you may be looking for something extra to add to your conference experience.

WOTS offers a variety of 75-minute workshops on Saturday and Sunday covering topics from memoir writing to building an author platform. But here are some added possibilities.

—Enter the WOTS writing contest
—Submit your manuscript for a one-on-one critique
—Attend a longer workshop on Friday pre-conference day

First— the writing contest. Consider this year’s writing contest theme, “What I Know Now,” and accept the challenge of producing a short writing sample for sharing publicly. Allowing others to read your work can be an intimidating step in your writer’s journey. Maybe you suffer from fear of success, fear of failure, an urge to keep your writing your own personal secret (raise your hand if any of these apply to you!) But here’s a chance to have your work read by experienced contest judges— published authors with a wealth of knowledge and the desire to help. A little scary? Yes. A lot helpful. Yes!

Second— manuscript critique. Gulp. This opportunity offers a one-on-one meeting for a manuscript evaluation. What can you gain? Some hands-on experience in taking your writing to the next level and thinking about your work as if you’re submitting for publication. You may be stuck in the first part of your project or perhaps have lost confidence in it altogether. Encouragement and advice from an experienced author/teacher helps!

Third— Friday pre-conference workshops. Add an extra day to your focused writing weekend and sign up for one of the four workshops offered on Friday. Each one is a chance to expand your writing skill.
This year’s topics:
Deep Editing Power and Writing Fresh Body Language
Crafting Your Personal Essay
Living Dialogue
Craft and Confidence

WOTS started as a one-day conference and has expanded to a three-day offering. Take advantage of it!


Joanne Otness lives in Edmonds, WA and served for 8 years as an Edmonds Arts Commissioner and Chair of the WOTS Steering committee. Joanne was an international flight attendant with travel assignments around the world. She loves travel, dogs of all shapes and sizes, gardening, the arts, and double-tall Starbucks lattes. Team writing as Molly Charles, she has co-authored two novels. She’s drawn again and again by the allure of the Hawaiian Islands—the setting for Passion Flowers, coming soon from The Wild Rose Press.

A Room of One’s Own

judith worksby Judith Works
WOTS Steering Committee


Every writer I know has a special place to write: the kitchen table, a local coffee house, a studio, or like me, my own room. Over several years I’ve made a spare bedroom into a personalized space with objects to spur creativity. Yes, it has a desk and file cabinet, a PC and a printer, and of course a chair. And an old jam jar for pens and pencils, and an overflowing wastebasket. Dictionaries fill the space behind the computer: French, Italian, even an old Latin one I ran across; my well-thumbed Thesaurus, The Chicago Manual of Style, The Oxford Dictionary of Phrases, Sayings and Quotations, and The Oxford Classical Dictionary. They are supported by pink and red marble bookends from a shop in Florence, Italy. The bookends, like all the rest of the “junk” in my office reflect my life and the subjects I write about: I blog travel stories and write the occasional travel article for the local on-line paper, and both my memoir and novel are set in Italy. The new book I’m working on is partly set in Italy also.

Behind my chair is a large bookcase. It holds novels I don’t want to part with, like Memoirs of Hadrian by the marvelous Marguerite Yourcenar, guidebooks from Italy and other countries I’ve visited, histories, memoirs, museum catalogs, family photos, books written by my writer friends, and odds and ends like a bust of Dante I ran across some years ago.

The walls are covered with personal items that call to mind events from my life: A lovely watercolor of the Arch of Titus in the Roman Forum by Edmonds artist Pam Harold, a poster from The Hermitage museum in St. Petersburg, a woodcut of a snowy scene that my husband bought from the artist in a tiny town in Japan, and a painting on parchment of Jesus washing the feet of the apostles that I bought in Addis Ababa, an icon from Bulgaria with Mary wearing red shoes, tribal art from Ghana and New Guinea and a fierce-looking puppet from Sri Lanka. I’ve vowed not to buy any more treasures, but they all serve to inspire me to pour another cup of coffee and put fingers to the keyboard.

What inspires you and where do you write?


Judith Works served as a legal adviser for the United Nations in Rome, Italy before retirement. Between regular trips abroad she now volunteers for local literary and arts organizations. Her memoir, Coins in the Fountain, describes the highs and lows of expat life during ten years in Italy. Her novel, City of Illusions, set in Rome, tells the classic tale of the Old world clashing with the New, but with a modern twist.

The Power of Conferences

Shirin BridgesOriginally published March 18, 2016 on GooseTracks
(posted on WOTS Blog with permission by author)
by SHIRIN BRIDGES

As many of you know, I’m enthusiastic about conferences when I teach, calling them the only publishing short cut there is (if you’re not Hollywood celebrity or British royalty). I’m about to pick up this refrain again in An Author’s Guide to Publishing at Stanford, and Publishing Bootcamp at the Mendocino Coast Writers Conference. And I got to thinking, how can I prove what I claim?

I decided to diagram some of the relationships I’ve developed because of retreats and conferences—either by meeting somebody directly at a conference, or because somebody who was met by someone else at a conference was eventually introduced to me. I think you’ll find it heartening to see how many previously unpublished authors got incorporated into this publishing web, and how many times cash and services changed hands.

https://youtu.be/C8b8rhoO69s

Now, bear in mind that this is only a small subset of all the wonderful connections I’ve made through conferences and retreats, both in the U.S. and abroad. I really do believe that retreats and conferences can enrich and propel your writing career as it has mine.

So saying, check out these upcoming West Coast offerings. But be brisk—some of these registrations are closing soon!

Napa Valley Writers Conference, July 24-29; Mendocino Coast Writers Conference, August 4-7; Willamette Writers Conference, August 12-14; Write On The Sound, September 30-October 2

Happy writing, retreating, and conferencing!


Shirin Bridges is the head of Goosebottom Books and a member of the 2015 WOTS faculty

Getting the most out of WOTS

Gebbenby Claire Gebben
Author and 2015 WOTS Presenter

The Write on the Sound (WOTS) 2016 Conference Schedule was announced last week, and as I pore over the terrific list of options to be offered Sept. 30-Oct. 2, I’m tantalized and excited. What a great line-up!

Keynote John Moe, writer and, for five years, the radio-show host of American Public Radio’s Wits will address writing about humor, and the dark side, of our human natures. Friday’s Pre-conference in-depth sessions feature choices on editing and fresh language, the writing craft and the personal essay. Saturday and Sunday feature nine different time slots on everything from writing with emotion to scene plotting to memoir to villains and vixens to publishing platforms and the business of writing. There are sessions for every genre, from nonfiction to science fiction, writing for children and young adults, novels, poetry, and freelancing.

With so much to choose from, how do we get the most out of WOTS? Ten years of attending writer’s conferences has brought me these tried and true pointers:

  1. Don’t try to do it all. It’s a jam-packed conference, but you don’t have to do absolutely everything. Tripping from one session to another without pause can diminish the experience and your ability to recall what you’ve been learning. Factor in a break once in a while. Plan to go for coffee with a writer friend, or take an hour stroll in charming downtown Edmonds.
  2. With nine time slots Saturday and Sunday, ease the pressure a bit by picking just two or three must-do sessions, classes that hit the sweet spot regarding your work. You’ll feel more relaxed if you’re confident you’ve planned properly to make the conference worthwhile.
  3. Choose at least one session about a topic outside your area of expertise. I added this pointer to my list based on a mistake – I went to a short story class at a conference, only it turned out to be a class on how to assemble and submit a short story collection. I picked up all kinds of information in that session. Going outside your comfort zone can bring you some of your best ideas.
  4. Go to the author signings on Saturday evening. There are published authors there willing and able to talk with you. They’re a wealth of resources. Ask them about their publishing experiences, what worked for them, what they didn’t know going in that they wish they’d known. And remember, that will be you one day. Watch how they present themselves, pick up dos and don’ts for future reference. (Plus, the appetizer buffet is truly delectable.)
  5. Talk to other conference attendees. WOTS is one of the friendliest writing conferences I’ve attended, a perfect opportunity to meet and share industry tips and draw support from other writers.
  6. Relax and have fun. Writing can be a lonely profession. This is your chance to get out and meet people, celebrate writing and other writers.

–Claire Gebben


Presenter at WOTS in 2015 on writing family stories, Claire Gebben’s novel The Last of the Blacksmiths (Coffeetown Press, 2014) is based on the true story of her German blacksmith ancestor, who immigrated to Cleveland, Ohio in 1857 to pursue the American dream.