HSW May 2021 Newsletter

Next HSW Meeting 

Saturday May 8th at 10 am via Zoom. 

Guest Speaker is David Corbett!


The Compass of Character: Creating Complex Character Motivations

Photo of David CorbettThe central question for any character—what does she want—needs to be realistically complex to create a truly memorable depiction. In this workshop, award-winning author David Corbett (The Art of Character, The Compass of Character) will guide participants in an examination of the four key counteracting forces tugging the character’s willfulness in different directions: Lack, Yearning, Resistance, and Desire. This understanding will inform the uneasy truce the character has established between pursuing the promise of life and protecting herself from the pain of life at the story’s outset, and how the misfortune or opportunity that launches the action destabilizes that equilibrium, creating the character’s internal struggle.

Our May 8, 2021 meeting will be taken up mostly by our workshop on character. Seven years ago we had David here in person for a weekend workshop, and he got rave reviews from our members. Don’t miss this.

From the President:


Are you working on anything else?
This is one of the standard questions at a pitch session. The agent wants to know if you’re a one-trick-pony or someone she can rely on to crank out at least one book per year. The first time I was asked this question, I didn’t have an elevator pitch ready for my work in progress. I fumbled through a description. I later wished I’d just said that I’m not working on anything else.
However, at a writer’s conference a couple years later, I pitched a mystery. When the agent asked me what else I was working on, I changed gears and gave a quick blurb on a thriller. She requested both manuscripts.
Who are your favorite authors?
The agent wants to see if you’re a reader. Most writers are voracious readers. How else can you learn how a story is put together? It also shows that you’re up on the marketplace.
If you write in a particular genre, the agent wants to see that you know the genre and aren’t writing something that’s already been done. Imagine telling the agent you’re writing a book about a boy enrolled in a school for wizards and being unaware of Harry Potter.
It’s effective if you can name older and newer titles, showing your reading has breadth.
What kind of writer are you?
There’s no set answer to this. You can take the conversation in any direction. Here’s a time when you can show your understanding of the writing process and discuss elements such as character-driven vs. plot-driven stories.
Ask yourself why you write in a certain genre? Whether you’re in front of an agent or not, this is a topic you should consider. Why do you write? This can also open up areas for discussion with the agent.
Where did your story come from?
Here’s another open-ended question which you can take in many different directions. The agent wants to see what drives you. Is the story based on a personal issue? Some crisis you’ve experienced?
I once had a book review in which the reviewer said that one of my novels was “coming-of-age noir. Not for children.” I had never thought of exactly that description and when I read it, I instantly thought that the review captured something deep down in me that I wasn’t aware of even as I wrote the book. Yes, the main character is a teen, but I hadn’t realized how film noir had influenced me to make a story with far greater adult ramifications.
It’s this kind of understanding about the basis of your novel that the agent wants to hear about.

Coming In June

Guest Speaker TIM MALEENY

TIM MALEENY is author of the award-winning Cape Weathers series of mysteries and the bestselling comedic thriller JUMP, which The Boston Globe called “hilarious” and Publishers Weekly described as “a perfectly blended cocktail of escapism.” His short fiction appears in several major anthologies and has won the prestigious Macavity Award for best story of the year. Booklist says, “The Cape Weathers mysteries are smart, snappily written, energetic mysteries starring an engaging hero.”

The second son of an organic chemist and a registered nurse, Tim grew up in New Jersey surrounded by his parents’ books, shelves crowded with pulp adventures and paperback mysteries from the thirties and forties. He started writing crime fiction when he moved to San Francisco near Chinatown, a city with a great noir tradition and a neighborhood that inspired many of his early stories.

Tim currently lives at an undisclosed location in New York City with his remarkable wife, Kathryn, and their two kickass daughters, Clare and Helen. When he’s not procrastinating by doing excessive research on exotic poisons, famous art heists or deadly sea creatures, Tim is working on his next novel, a screenplay, and a book for young readers.

Find out “What’s so funny about murder and mayhem?” in an article written by Tim for CrimeReads about the art of blending crime and humor here.

Listen to Tim discuss his irreverent writing style with Authors On The Air host Pam Stack here.

Listen to a podcast of Tim discussing his early writing here.

Tim is published by Poisoned Pen Press.
We’ll talk about the publishing landscape and how Tim broke into the world of mystery novels. Tim is really skilled at working humor into tense situations but still maintaining the drive of the narrative.
Matt will interview him for the first section then open to members’ questions.

Visit Tim’s web site.

2021 Writing Contest Begins May 5, 2021

This year’s contest features three categories.

SHORT STORY (2,000 to 3500 words) – For the 2021 contest, all short stories should adhere with the theme of “The West.” This is a general theme and can apply to any genre so long as it is set in the West somewhere and at any time. The idea is to possibly produce a book of short stories by High Sierra Writers to sell. (Writer’s permission will be needed, but publication is not mandatory nor guaranteed.) More details will be in the guidelines.

FLASH FICTION (up to 500 words) – Flash fiction often contains the classic story elements: protagonist, conflict, obstacles or complications, and resolution.

CHILDREN’S STORY (1000 to 2000 words) – Stories in this category should apply to children between 6 and 10 years old. Consider the guidelines of Children’s Highlights magazine in your submission. 

Entry fees will be $10 for Children’s Story (non-HSW members are $15), $15 for Flash Fiction and Children’s Story (non-HSW members are $20) for each story submitted. You may submit up to 2 in each category.

Prizes are $100 1st, $50 2nd, and 1 year membership for 3rd ($25 value) for Short Story and Children’s Story; $50 1st place and $25 2nd place. 

Entries must be in by October 15, 2021.

Guidelines and other details will be on the website by May 15th. 


Looking for a group of writers to read and critique your work? Willing to reciprocate? Then we might have a group for you.

Please check out our Critique Groups page for more information. You must be a paid member to utilize this benefit.

Contact Linda, your Critique Group Wrangler, to join a Reno-based group this year! lynda.r.bailey@gmail.com. 

New Book Release!

High Sierra Writers has quite a few published writers in the group. We have a page featuring the various books grouped by author under genre. These are under HSW Writers link. As our authors release new books, we’ll feature them.

In April, Maria Palace published her paranormal suspense novel, Chapter Thirteen. It is available on Amazon at this link.

Chapter Thirteen is a paranormal suspense/thriller about an old woman who will do everything in her power to reclaim the life that was taken from her and the young journalist who holds the key to her success or failure.

Maria was the HSW novel contest winner in 2019 with this book. While she didn’t ultimately publish with the company who agreed to read the book for the contest, she did land a publisher and it is now out! Please check out her book, read if it sounds like your cup of tea, and review. Support your co-writers. 


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