Thursday, February 17, 2011


Award-winning author Ellen Waterston is the founder and director of Central Oregon’s premier writing conference The Nature of Words (TNOW). Ellen’s topic was “Finding Home in Fact and Fiction”. She began her presentation by commending the Guild for its role in promoting and supporting writers of all genres in Central Oregon. Ellen said her appearance was as a writer whose goal is to assist other writers through the Nature of Words activities. She said those involved with the organization are active in local schools as well as the Deer Creek Correctional Facility. TNOW offers creative writing programs for students and adults. She talked about the Rising Star writing competition, which has just been opened to adults as well as young people. This year’s subject is “Healing”. For details about TNOW, go to the website

Ellen went on to say that while her day job may be fund raising, she is first of all a writer, and as such, she starts over again every time she faces a page. She writes in all genres. Her latest book Where the Crooked River Rises is a compilation of personal essays based on her true experiences living on the High Desert of Central Oregon. Her previous book of poetry, Between Desert Seasons, was a winner of the Women Writing the West WILLA Award.

Ellen spoke about the differences between fiction and non-fiction, and said that some of her best poems are not non-fiction but come from her own life experiences. She advised that we note what’s around us, and translate what we see and know into stories, essays and poetry. Through associations with those in our lives, many hidden and unspoken truths are revealed, which can become creative non-fiction. She advised us as writers to tell the story we came to tell. She further suggested that we try writing in all the genres. Each writer uses language differently, but she encouraged us to practice telling our story in the three main genres, fiction, non-fiction and poetry. Ellen spoke about writing prompts, which strengthen our writing muscles. She advised that we observe situations that unfold around us, jot them down and turn them into stories in whatever genre we choose. Stories are everywhere and need to be told!

Ellen strongly advised writers to get out of their own way, to produce words that will startle not only ourselves but also our readers, and above all, keep the readers engaged. She said when writing prose; avoid “ing” words, as they tend to slow things down. In poetry as in prose, make every word count. One of the biggest challenges for a writer is to refresh the language, keep the reader involved and again, engaged in the story, poem or essay. Ellen talked about descriptions of a person or landscape, and said a person can be part of the landscape, as well. Personal essays can be on any topic, and are an excellent way to share our own stories. Ellen distributed a list of writing prompts by several famous authors. She gave participants an exercise using the prompt “Memento” based on something on our person. She then analyzed and complimented each one on their effective, well-chosen words.

The Guild is most appreciative of Ellen Waterston’s presentation, her excellent advice on the topic of writing, and for sharing portions of her books with us. Above all, we thank her for encouraging all of us aspiring writers not to give up! Ellen’s website is

Thursday, February 24—Author and publisher Pamela Hulse Andrews who will speak on the topic “Online Publishing” (Redmond Library)
Thursday, March 24—Author and Guild member Jo Ann Senior, whose presentation is “Understanding Persuasive Strategies” (COCC Redmond Campus, Bldg 3)

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