Categories: Events

Pick Your Holiday, Bring On the Light

by Ruth Tenzer Feldman
Published on: December 5, 2015
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sun-on-earthIt’s December, according to a popular calendar. In the days deemed to fit within December, there will be a holiday or two for many of us, including Yule, Christmas, Kwanzaa, Hanukkah, and, for some Muslims this year, the birth of the prophet Muhammad.

We Scrivas sprout from a variety of faith traditions, but we share a common location: a spot in the Northern Hemisphere just a bit closer to the North Pole than to the equator. December is dark where we are now, and getting darker. The light is leaving us. And even if we know intellectually that the sun will return, still there remains the urge to brighten our spirits if not our days.

And so, yes, Viva Scriva celebrates during these days of waning sunlight. When we meet for the December critique, we eat chocolate (well, actually, we do that year round), and we exchange gifts. A favorite activity is one that Scriva Liz started. She gleans books from her own shelves, and then gives one book to each of us to enjoy and perhaps pass around. Some of us do the same. The book exchange is fun, of course, but what really brings on the light is the easy laughter and camaraderie that follows.

I could get metaphorical here. I could try for a “deep thought” sentence about bringing the promise of light to those dark places of the mind and soul that both stifle creativity and engender the passions poured out in story.


I’ll simply wish you a December filled with delight.


Dear Wayback, I Knew You When…..

by Ruth Tenzer Feldman
Published on: July 4, 2015
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July 4, 2015

Dear Wayback,

I hope you don’t mind your nickname. The Way Back from Broken is a great title, but I’ve known you since before you even had a title, and Wayback is how I think of you now. The Scrivas are swamped with works-in-progress at the moment, as Liz wrote recently. We all seem to be on a roll, especially Amber. Wayback, you’ll soon have several more of Amber’s works to keep you company on the bookshelves. Still, you’ll always be special to me.

The other Scrivas and I were there at your beginning. Well, not exactly. Amber wrote you into being first. Then the rest of us went over every part of you word by word, coaxing and critiquing, encouraging and suggesting. We watched your characters take shape and your subplots change. We cried at your tearful parts and sighed with deep satisfaction at your deeply satisfying parts. I’d like to say that we Scrivas nourished you until you were ready to nourish us…and soon the rest of your readers.

I hope to take part in your official launches, promotions, and social media buzz. That’s what Scrivas do for each other, with enthusiasm and delight. But this is a letter between you and me, a quiet celebration in the midst of July Fourth fireworks. Wayback, I just want to say that you snuck up on me halfway through your first draft and you snagged my heart.

Thank you.

Sincerely yours,

Scriva Ruth

A Tale of Three Retreats

by Elizabeth Rusch
Published on: September 20, 2014
Comments: 3 Comments

Haven House, Hood River, OregonEvery fall, usually the first weekend in November, the Viva Scrivas gather somewhere fabulous for a weekend writing retreat. (If you’d like to learn more about these expeditions of extreme productivity and bonding, please check out earlier blogs such as DIY retreats, Insider View of a Scriva Retreat, and Gift of Gratitude: Thankful Beads, and posts about the retreats on their personal blogs such as Dreaming of a Scriva Retreat.

In a recent meeting, people began grumbling about how we had skipped our usual June retreat and that we all were starved for writing time and really needed to get a fall retreat on the books. The first weekend in November didn’t work for a few people so we started paging through our calendars.

“Well I could do Saturday the next weekend but not Sunday,” someone said.

“I could do Sunday that weekend, but not Saturday,” said another.

“How about midOctober?”

“Not ideal for me, but I might be able to make a day.”

And so it went, with no weekend being the perfect weekend. Amber suggested a one-day writing retreat at her house on a Friday. Miraculously everyone could make it. Then we thought about doing something close to home another weekend, so people could come and go as they needed to.   Two weekends seemed promising, so guess what we did? We booked both!

In midOctober, we will have four days at my friend Kate’s house in Hood River (Pictured above: a rental she is letting us use at cost).

Willamette Writers Scottland Yard writing roomAnd we will have three days and nights at the Willamette Writers house in West Linn (which by the way, offers six adorable writing rooms for rent all year round; we rented the whole house.)

So instead of one retreat with two or three days, we have three retreats with a total of eight full working days. What looked like an impasse turned into an abundance of writing time.

So if your groups is struggling to schedule a writing retreat, be creative. And think local.

Scriva Liz


by Elizabeth Rusch
Published on: July 20, 2014
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Scriva Amber recently sold her wonderful YA novel THE WAY BACK FROM BROKEN in a two book deal (YAY!) and I asked her what she was going to do celebrate. The conversation went something like this:

Amber: Well, I’m not sure when to celebrate.

Liz: I know. If you do it when you get the offer, what if it doesn’t work out?

Amber: We both know that happens. I don’t want to jinx it.  Maybe when I accept the offer?

Liz: Or sign the contract?

Amber: But that’s just paperwork.

Liz: Yeah, kind of anticlimactic…

But we both agreed that we MUST celebrate these successes because we face so many challenges, frustrations, and yes, even failure along the way.

With that in mind, I want to invite you all (especially Portlanders!) to join illustrator Mike Lawrence and I to celebrate the launch of our first ever graphic novel Muddy Max: The Mystery of Marsh Creek on Saturday, August 2 at the Fremont Fest outside A Children’s Place bookstore at 4807 NE Fremont, from 12 pm-4 pm. Festivities will include:

  • * Tubs of mud for kids to dig through to discover what is in mud.
  • * Squirt guns for kids to test their demudifying skills on mud dunked dolls
  • * Temporary mud tattoos
  • * A raffle of original Muddy Max art

Good dirty fun for the whole family! Join us! Celebrate!

Scriva Liz


Slow Art Day for Words

by Ruth Tenzer Feldman
Published on: April 4, 2014
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On April 12, 2014, lucky people will visit at least one of about 200 art museums and galleries across the globe. Their goal, assignment, whatever you want to call it, is to look at five pieces of artwork for ten minutes each and then meet together with other “slow watchers” over lunch to talk about what they saw. It’s called Slow Art Day, and it will be celebrated here in Portland at the Portland Art Museum.

Slow Art Day has been around for years. According to the organization’s web site, the foundational idea is that when people look at a piece of art slowly they make discoveries. The Slow Art folks feature this quote:

It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see.

Nice enough quote. What intrigues me is the person who said it. Henry David Thoreau, the author of Walden; or, Life in the Woods. Thoreau was an essayist, writer, poet, and a dozen other things, but he was not recognized as an artist. He thought big thoughts, felt deep feelings, and shared himself with us through words.

So, this year I plan to celebrate Slow Art Day by choosing a very short piece of my work in progress…no more than a single scene…and to slow down, way down, ignoring my usual approach to my writing. Just for the fun of it. Just to see what happens. I think of the exercise as the opposite of NaNoWriMo.

My goal is not necessarily to create a better scene, although I hope I’ll gain some insight that will make the scene work better. My goal is to reacquaint myself with the pleasure of writing. Here are the rules I’ve made up for myself.

  • Pick a piece that’s no more than 200 words.
  • Read through the piece ten times during the day, with lots of time in between.
  • Read the piece aloud.
  • Have someone else read the piece aloud.
  • Stifle all self-criticism!
  • Pick one word to change in every sentence, and see how the substitute word lends a different feel to that sentence.
  • Track the etymology of at least 10% of the words.
  • Switch up Romance language words with Anglo-Saxon words and vice versa.
  • Don’t focus on whether any change makes the piece better or worse. Marvel at how each change makes an impact on the piece itself.
  • Enjoy!

Happy Slow Art Day, any way you celebrate it.




Celebrate “Gift Offset Day” This Weekend

by Addie Boswell
Published on: January 24, 2014
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What do these things have in common? None of them were being used!

What do these things have in common? None of them were being used!

What is that?

“Gift Offset Day” is a little made up holiday my husband and I observe on a Sunday afternoon every January. The idea is to clear out the clutter that has accumulated all year long, and to make up for the influx of stuff the holidays tend to bring.

What do you do?

Find the number of items of your age. So, at 35, I need to find 35 items in my house that I no longer use or need to get rid of. You can choose how strict you are going to be with the definition of “item.” In our house one item = a pair of socks = a bunch of unused pens = a shirt = a recliner. We also allow vetos. (Hey! I saw the bottle opener first!) My items will likely come from the bathroom cabinet, the kitchen cupboards, the bedroom closet, and my studio, but if you have a serious clutter problem, you can choose one room (like the garage!) to cull from. Here are some simple rules.

1) Choose a day early in the year. Pick a time when the whole family has two or more hours to devote to the endeavor.

2) Give yourself a time limit. This is especially important if you have someone in the family who is prone to sentimentality and will get waylaid by the process. For kids, set a 30 minute limit and make it a race!  

3) Pile all your items in one place in the house — somewhere you are forced to deal with them immediately (like the kitchen table.) You might photograph your pile for posterity, before boxing and bagging to donate, recycle or trash.


If you’re getting excited about this holiday, you’ll have your own very-good-reason for participating. Think about this: how many new things enter your house every year in the normal business of living and shopping? And how many times every year do you go through the house and take things back out? If the answer is “never” or “almost never” you can imagine that someday you will walk into your basement and realize you have grown a monster. Gift offsets let you face down the monster on a smaller scale every year.

What if I can’t find 35 (or X) items?
This really can’t possibly be a problem for anyone in America. I promise you. Try harder.

What if I find 200 items? 

Yippee! Way to enter into the spirit of the holiday! Your age should work as the minimum, but there is no maximum.

And how does this relate to writing exactly?

Maybe it doesn’t. But if you’re like me, you can’t start on a new project, or a new year, in a messy space. I think old stories and drawings can have the same “cluttering” effect as actual stuff. So choose old drafts, dead pens, and that printer you’ve been meaning to sack. Sometimes clearing out your office is just what the editor ordered for getting back to business.

World Building Meets the Real World

by Ruth Tenzer Feldman
Published on: October 4, 2013
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Florrie-crop-lo-resThe woman in this photograph had a real name and lived a real life that I have yet to learn. In my enthusiasm to build the world behind my historical novel, Blue Thread, I named her Florence Steinbacher (“Florrie”) and made her the never-seen best friend of Miriam Josefsohn, the main character in the story.

When the Blue Thread story was over, Miriam was ready to melt back into my brain, but Florrie was not. Maybe it was because I still had her photograph. Maybe it was because she was part of the backstory for a companion novel, The Ninth Day, which is told by Miriam’s granddaughter. Maybe it was because I didn’t have the creative energy to jump into writing the next book, but I wanted to keep crafting narrative.

Whatever the reason, Florrie sprang to life. She took over my blog on July 11 this past summer and posted four times a week through Sept. 27. Florrie continued to tell us about her best friend “Mim” from 1912 (when Blue Thread ended) through 1950 (14 years before the start of The Ninth Day). Florrie’s blog posts turned into about 36,000 words. You can download her story as a free e-book or a pdf when you sign up for my mailing list (with no obligation to actually read my infrequent newsletters!). Florrie would like all that attention.

Here’s what I’ve learned in the process of letting Florrie have her head (or mine):

  • Following a character through several decades, in memoir style, is easier than building an entire world for a particular era. The real world of events gives us plenty of material to supplement the fictional world of the characters’ lives.
  • World building tools work on the macro level as well as the micro level. In a post about world building, Cat Winters suggested giving your character a birthday party. What gifts would (s)he get? What would be served? How would (s)he react? In my world building, I gave Florrie (and, through Florrie’s eyes, Miriam) World Wars I and II, and the Russian Revolution, and the Berkeley fire of 1923, and chronicled their reactions.
  • The real world seems ready to embrace the fictional world we writers craft for our characters. At least one blogger, for example, “interviewed” Mary Shelley Black, the fictional protagonist of Cat Winters’ In the Shadow of Blackbirds. In Istanbul, Nobel laureate Orhan Pamuk has constructed a real museum to house artifacts from his novel, The Museum of Innocence. Go see all 4,213 cigarette butts touched by a fictional character. And Florrie, I must admit, still has a Twitter account.

What will come of all this world building within the real world? Will technology and imagination conspire to inextricably entwine reality and fiction? Does anybody care? Hello, out there….

While I wait for an answer, Florrie is content with her compilation of blog posts, and I’ve started to build the backstory and world for my next full-length narrative.





Congratulations, Ruth!

by Melissa Dalton
Published on: April 9, 2013
Categories: Celebrations, Events
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Comments: 2 Comments

“Ruth Tenzer Feldman won the Leslie Bradshaw Award for Young Adult Literature for “Blue Thread,” published by Ooligan Press, a student-run program at Portland State University.”


Read about Ruth’s win (and her fellow winners) at the Oregon Book Awards last night here.

Crazy Eights and the Wider World

by Ruth Tenzer Feldman
Published on: October 3, 2012
Comments: 1 Comment

When Portland-based author George Wright pitched a crazy idea to me a while back, I had no clue how sane he was. George wanted to put together a tour in which eight Oregon authors would visit eight independent bookstores in Oregon in eight weeks from September into November. Not every author was expected to show up at every gig. There would be 28 of us sharing the load.

Two days later I was officially part of the Crazy Eights Author Tour, and I had signed up for three events: Baker City (September 14), Cannon Beach (September 22), and Redmond (September 28). I’m not a part of the next event, which is scheduled for this Thursday, Oct. 4, at 7 p. m. at Broadway Books, in Portland. I plan to be in the audience, though, because I am now hooked on hanging around authors who for the most part do not write for children or young adults. The notable exception for Crazy Eights, I think, is April Henry, whose book, Girl, Stolen, was a finalist for the 2011 Oregon Book Award in the young adult category.

Over the last few weeks I’ve come to know poets and journalists. I’ve met with creative types who write memoirs, articles, essays, fantasy-zine novels, zany romance novels, historical fiction, and nonfiction–all for the adult market. All of these folks share with me a passion for words and an urge to communicate a certain truth (sometimes factual, sometimes not). I’ve come away from the experience energized and refreshed.

Don’t get me wrong. I am very much at home within The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, and I am particularly excited about the upcoming programs in SCBWI Oregon. I doubt that I would get as much as I do from critique with Viva Scriva if I were the only person in the group who wrote for children or young adults.

Still, it feels good to step into the wider world of writers every once in a while. It generates creativity from a different angle, and excites those little gray cells in a most satisfying manner. What sane writer wouldn’t want that sort of craziness?

A Writer’s Dates

by Sabina I. Rascol
Published on: October 1, 2012
Categories: Basics, Events, Writing Process
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This fall, I’m looking to rev up my dating life.

I’m not the only Scriva wanting to do so. Even attached Scrivas are looking to set up more dates, regular dates.

WRITING dates, that is.

I’ll discuss broad categories of writing dates (and some variants) below: THE CLASSIC, THE MORE-IS-MERRIER (remember group dates, with people going out as part of a group to get acquainted in a comfortable, low-key way?), and THE SOLO.


THE CLASSIC Writing Date
The advantage of writing with one other person is that it’s straight-forward, easy to arrange. You talk with the one person and it’s done. And, because the other person is counting on you, you both make it happen. You may set up a standing date, meeting each week at a regular time—and maybe place—so there’s even less to think about. Some of the at least occasional writing-together permutations I know of within Viva Scriva are Addie writing with Melissa, Amber with Liz, I with Nicole, sometimes with Addie…

I started writing with Nicole in 2006, when she moved to Oregon and was looking for a writing buddy. She’s the one who later invited me to join her at a newly-forming critique group [see Liz’s early post about the forming of Viva Scriva]. For the longest time, Nicole and I met Thursday evenings at the same fun cafe in Portland’s Pearl District, sometimes sharing soup I’d brought along as both of us plugged away at our novels. Then her second son came along, later the need for her to go back to work, so our writing dates became intermittent.

At the beginning of this summer, we started to write Monday evenings, but find we need to reconsider possibilities as fall schedules shift and solidify. Addie too expressed interest in making some cozy writing times happen, once we get a better sense of what these cooler months will hold.

(variation) THE TAG-ALONG
I’ve joined Addie and Melissa in the past on some of their writing dates, exploring a fun range of Portland’s cafes with them. This was their set writing time that they graciously opened up to me. I call this kind of writing date the Tag-Along, which I guess can be considered a variation on the Classic or an incipient, starter form of…

We’ve had all-Scriva writing days sometimes called mini-retreats [such as one exactly a year ago at Ruth’s], rather rare but precious times when all the Scrivas gather at somebody’s house to write. This may be for a long morning or afternoon-into-evening, usually with a meal to wrap things up and allow us time to talk.

(variation) THE OPEN HOUSE
A variant of this, so far mostly a possibility we’ve thrown around in the past, is the Open House, where one of us writes at home at a regular or set time, a pot of tea on the stove, ready to welcome whichever Scrivas choose to join in. Snacks are welcomed, a bite together afterward optional.

THE SOLO Writing Date

Then there is the solo writing date (somewhat like the Artist’s Date from Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way). The Solo is an inalienable time and place where a writer goes for a regular writing session. Liz is a pro and shining beacon of solo writing dates, fueling up with eggs for breakfast before heading to the library one day a week for undistracted writing. Michelle began following in her footsteps [see her blog post as she started this journey]. Because the Solo writing date takes place outside your usual milieu, it, like dates with others, is more likely to happen and allow for good writing.

What are the advantages of writing dates?
-You know it’s going to happen. The things we write down and commit to do with others and/or at a regular time tend to happen, versus the good things we just intend to do at some indeterminate point.

-For all writing dates but the Solo, you connect with your peers. Writing dates feed you even after they’re over, helping you not feel lonesome during the rest of your writing time, when most likely you are writing alone.

What are the disadvantages? And some recommendations
-You can visit for too long. It’s a good idea to limit chat to the very beginning and/or end of a writing session. Nicole and I aren’t always very good about this, though we sustain that the talk is an important part of the writing process. Topics include what we’re reading; our works-in-progress or future projects; goals, dreams, and opportunities; work and how that supports our writing.

-The writing date might not be the right length of time for you.
In that case, you can come just for the time that works for you, if that’s shorter than the other person plans to write. Or if you need more time, see if you can splice the writing date with solo writing time before or after to make it a better fit for you. That way, you can keep going if you’re on a roll.

So how about it? Single, happily married, or in between, you too might want to rev up your dating life. Your WRITING dating life, that is.

-Sabina I. Rascol

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