First up for my feature of the Viva Scriva critique group is Melissa Dalton, who has been with this writer’s critique group for as long as I have. Melissa is a freelance writer who has focused on Pacific Northwest design and lifestyle since 2008, when she started out as an Assistant Editor at  Portland Spaces (a now-defunct magazine). Since 2012, she has been a regular contributing writer for the design department at 1859: Oregon’s Magazine, where she profiles various aspects of home and commercial design around the state. Other publications include: Curbed, Salon, Portland Spaces, and salt: telling Maine stories, as well as custom publications.

Melissa has an MA in English from Portland State University, and she has studied documentary fieldwork at the Salt Institute for Documentary Studies and Duke University Center for Documentary Studies. When she’s not focused on her nonfiction work, she’s writing fiction that I am eager for you to see. […]

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I wandered over to Powell’s Books recently (a perk of living in Portland) and was delighted to discover Will It Blow? featured in the kid’s section of the store. Elizabeth Rusch (aka Scriva Liz) wrote this nonfiction thriller on Mt. Saint Helens at about the time that she was organizing Viva Scriva in 2006. How did our writers’ critique group get started? Click here to see what Liz has to say.

I had little to do with Will It Blow?, as I recall, because the book was launched in the spring of 2007, when Viva Scriva was getting its sea legs. Still, sitting on the shelves at Powell’s, Will It Blow? felt like family. I felt the urge to kvell. And I so did.


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Sketch by Scriva artist and writer Addie Boswell, 2010

Today is the summer solstice, the official start of summer. The elves at Ooligan Press are turning the manuscript for Seven Stitches into book form, and I get a breather. I’m not exactly sending my muse on vacation. The truth is that she and I are already discussing the next story (she does most of the talking). Still, for the nonce I am deadline free, and I want to use some of this time to introduce you to each member of the current Viva Scriva, the writer’s critique group that continues to nurture, cajole, advise, suggest, sympathize, guide, goad, and otherwise keep me writing and keep me sane. Over the summer and maybe into the fall, I’ll be devoting blog posts to each of these Scrivas, so you can get to know them and their work. You are in for a treat! […]

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This first week in May brings to mind the liberation of the concentration camps at the end of World War II. The Nazis had exterminated an estimated 11 million people because of political or religious affiliations, sexual orientation, or physical or mental disabilities.

Six million of these people were Jews.

Some were members of my family.

I have yet to write about those Holocaust years, although The Ninth Day (companion novel to Blue Thread and the forthcoming Seven Stitches) spirals between the free speech protestors in 1964 Berkeley and the Jewish granddaughter of Rashi in 1099 Paris, in the aftermath of the Crusader attack on the Jews of Mainz. The story touches on survival and guilt, on speaking up, and on the power of song.

The main character in The Ninth Day speaks up as little as possible to avoid stuttering.  She would have admired Aaron, the boy who stutters in Anna Olswanger’s Greenhorn. […]

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Hello, all.

I know it’s been a while, a very long while, since I’ve posted. I’ve been hyper busy on polishing Book Three. Still, I had to share this news, which came to me via a Twitter post from Ooligan Press.

The Oregonian recently compiled a list of 21 little-known must-read books about Oregon. Blue Thread shares the honors with books from many authors I admire, particularly Ursula K. Le Guin. I am blown away.




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Writers read. It’s one of the perks of this particular calling. I get to stack an armload of books by my comfy chair and sample another author’s fare without the slight twinge of guilt because this is, after all, “work.” Included in my recent “work” was reading Barry Deutsch’s Hereville: How Mirka Caught a Fish as part of the #Readukkah reviews for the Association of Jewish Libraries.

Tonight, when I light the Hanukkah candles on a 1970s birch-log menorah, I will reread How Mirka Caught a Fish just for fun. This comic/graphic novel is third in the series about Mirka, who is “yet another 11-year-old time-traveling Orthodox Jewish babysitter,” according to the cover. For those of you unfamiliar with the Hereville series, click here. You’ll know in short order that Barry is a master at writing and illustrating a whopping good tale.

The story combines universal themes of adventure and sibling rivalry with the sort of Old World monsters that my grandmother told me about, the kind that I figure also frightened and fascinated her when she was little. […]

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Rain has returned to Portland. The weather is turning cooler. I’ve taken out my favorite boots, which I’ll don nearly every day until next May, and my red rain jacket, which I’ll wear until the middle of July.

So? What’s with Untitled Companion? The word from Acquisitions at Ooligan Press is hopeful. However, as the sign says on the store that will occupy the first floor of the Janey II, I’ll have to wait a bit longer. The final decision should be made in about another month. That gives the acquisitions folks time to give the manuscript a thorough read and prepare a report to pitch to the rest of Ooligan Press. There will be edits in my future, I am sure. There will also be a title for Untitled Companion, a title that everyone (or at least the press and I) will like.

Decision coming late 2015. I am ready! […]

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Back in January of 2014, I started a race with the construction crew that was building the Janey II, an apartment complex about a block from my place. A sign that eventually went up on the site noted that the building would be ready in Spring 2015. Spring turned into summer, and now it’s fall. The building looks to be nearly finished on the outside, except for work on the eco-roof. Still, I don’t think the building is yet ready for its first tenants.

And Book Three? Well, first off, the title of Book Three has morphed into Untitled Companion to Blue Thread and The Ninth Day. I guess that means I’m not quite done either. The manuscript has been written and revised and revised and rewritten. About the only bits of material that haven’t changed since the winter of 2014 are the names of the three chickens: Yetta, Tillie, and Louise. […]

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We interrupt the epic saga of Book Three vs. Janey II to bring this public service announcement to all of you readers and writers in Oregon. Starting in September, more than two dozen authors divided into teams of eight are speaking for eight minutes per author to support independent bookstores in eight locations across the state. For free (we don’t get paid and you don’t pay to attend). Hence the name Crazy8s Author Tour.

This is the brainchild of Oregon writer George Wright, who put together the original tour in 2012. I was on that tour with George, and I’m delighted to be part of his one. On September 18, I’ll be in Cottage Grove, along with Bill Cameron, Lisa Ohlen Harris, Lindsay Hall, Karen Karbo, Gina Ochsner, Alexis M. Smith, and Ellen Waterston. On September 24, Lindsay, Alexis, and I will join up with Dana Hayes, Susan Hill Long, Cari Luna, Ismet (Izzy) Prcic, and Jody Seay in Salem. […]

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The sign on the crane across the street reads: LINK-BELT. The construction crew is probably focusing on what the crane is hauling up to the roof. As for me, the Book Three writing crew of one, I am focused on the words.

Link. Belt. Link. Belt. That’s exactly the stage that Book Three is in right now. Having finished a first draft, and a second draft, and several partial revisions, I am now ready to put these 70,000 or so words to the Link-Belt test.

Link. Does every scene flow naturally into the next scene? Does every paragraph in the scene flow naturally into the next paragraph? Does every sentence in the paragraph flow naturally into the next sentence? Does every word in the sentence flow naturally into the next word? I leave the letters in every word to Spell Check and the dictionary.

Belt. Even if all the individual links work, what about the story as a whole? […]

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