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Resolve to Write Your Story

Jan 3, 2016

Editing, B&WIn August of 1999 I visited England. Among many other delights, I climbed the famous Glastonbury Tor with a local guide. From the top we viewed green, billowing hills, cozy farms and miles of hedgerows. But the most remarkable sight was a giant, flat-topped hill that dominated the landscape, its ramparts tiered like a green wedding cake. I asked my guide what it was.

“That’s Cadbury Hillfort,” he said. “It’s supposed to have been Camelot.”

BING! A switch flipped in my brain. I had never considered the possibility that Camelot might have been real. I had an idea for a novel.

That was 1999. My novel, Camelot & Vine, was published in 2013.

 

Camelot_and_Vine_Petrea_Burchard

 

There is no reason it should take that long for you.

What was the hold-up? I had ideas for scenes, characters, themes and settings. I was passionate about my story. I even had a Bachelor’s degree in Creative Writing. But I’d never written a novel. So I started and stopped and started over again more times than I care to admit. Everyone can publish these days, but can they cook up a story an audience will want to devour? That is what I was determined to do.

I didn’t have the funds or the time for a Master’s degree, so I threw myself into a learning program made up of what I could afford, time-wise and money-wise. Most of the writing classes I took taught how to write description, create characters, tap into emotions, or edit grammar and punctuation. These are all essential, but I already had a degree in that. I needed a degree in writing a novel. So I read and poked and prodded great novels. I talked to writers about their process. I read books about writing. I continued to write and revise, and the book continued to improve.

 

reading by candlelight

 

From fiction to screenplay to nonfiction, I’ve learned to think of good writing as a satisfying meal. The characters, scenes and settings are ingredients. You can have a whole pantry full of good stuff but if it’s disorganized, or if you don’t have a good recipe, you’ll end up with a sloppy mess like the first draft of Camelot & Vine turned out to be. I could have saved myself time and trouble if I’d known from the beginning how to cook with the ingredients I had, to add spices where they would work the best, and to serve the perfect dessert.

Readers expect certain things from stories, even if they don’t know it. The writer must be ahead of them, leading them through their expectations, while at the same time surprising and delighting them. Or scaring them! Or warming their hearts.

This is what I’ve learned to do, and I want to share it. A few years ago my husband, John Sandel, founded the Script Kitchen to coach writers with their screenplays. I discovered I could apply John’s structure techniques to writing my novel. In fact, these techniques apply to all kinds of writing. Last year we began the Story Kitchen workshop at the Flintridge Bookstore and Coffeehouse, and this January I’ll be leading it on my own. In a safe environment (coffee-adjacent!), we’ll go over the ingredients for baking your book.

 

Flintridge Table long

 

We’ll talk about publishing, promotion and marketing, too, because once you serve up your work, you want people to read it. Through public appearances, blog tours, online sales and off, I’ve learned how to get reviews, meet people in the publishing industry and keep book sales afloat. The publishing industry changes by the minute. It’s an exciting time to be a writer.

We don’t use class time to write or read. Each member of the group emails their work to me the day before we meet, and I distribute it to everyone to read, so class time can be focused on discussion, evaluation and encouragement. Everyone receives as much attention to their work as possible. We have a lot to cover, but we can do it because class size is intimate.

It doesn’t matter where you are in the process. It doesn’t matter if you’re writing a short story, a screenplay, a novel or nonfiction. Whether you have the mere beginnings of an idea, you’ve started and you’re stuck, or you have a draft and you know it can be better, Story Kitchen can give you the tools to finish. And you can apply these tools to all your future writing.

The Particulars:

~Four Weeks, four students, $199, January 20th & 27th, February 3rd & 10th, Wednesday evenings, 6:30-8:45 pm

~Flintridge Bookstore and Coffeehouse, 1010 Foothill Blvd., La Cañada 91011.

~Plenty of parking and easy to get to from the 210 and the 2 freeways.

~To sign up, call the Flintridge Bookstore and Coffeehouse at (818) 790-0717.

Got questions? Email me at storykitchn@gmail.com.

Resolve to write your story in 2016. At the Story Kitchen, I know you have the ingredients. All you need is the recipe.

 

Petrea Burchard

 

Petrea Burchard is a Pasadena-based photographer, blogger, voice-over talent and author. She contributes book reviews to Hometown Pasadena, for which we and our readers are very grateful.

Petrea’s novel, Camelot & Vine, tells the story of a failing Hollywood actress with an honesty problem who finds herself in the Dark Ages, face to face with the legendary King Arthur. Act As If, Petrea’s book of essays about being a journeyman actor in Hollywood, strikes recognition in all performing artists who’ve ever had to audition. Both books can be purchased in paperback or ebook on Amazon.com, or locally at the Pasadena Museum of History, the Flintridge Bookstore and Coffeehouse, and Hoopla! in Altadena. Petrea has published many articles and essays, and her story “Portraits” is included in Literary Pasadena (Prospect Park Books, 2013).

Find more Petrea doings, writings, and photography at PetreaBurchard.com.

 

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Petrea-Burchard-at-library

 

 




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