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How to prepare for a writing festival (and get the most out of it) by Lisa Ohlen Harris

April 18, 2017


I attended my first writing conference in Houston back in 2005. I prepared carefully (though in retrospect, foolishly) by printing out three or four copies of an essay I hoped to publish. I might meet an editor, I thought. That editor might ask me what I write. Surely the editor would want to publish me. And this might happen multiple times.

Oh, brother.

Long-story-short, I brought every manuscript page back home with me from that conference, too wrinkled for anything but the recycling bin. In fact, I really hadn’t prepared for the conference at all. I had prepared to promote myself. That’s it.

I hadn’t read the speaker bios, and I embarrassed myself badly by coming up to American Book Award winner Thomas Lynch and asking him what he wrote and how long he’d been writing. I bought a book by keynote speaker Kathleen Norris but didn’t ask her to sign it because I felt too shy. I learned later that Ms. Norris asked my friend why I hadn’t said hello when I saw her at her signing table one evening. “Is your friend unhappy with the conference,” she asked.

Oh, me. I should have prepared differently. I should have gotten over myself. I should have been thinking about how I could encourage others, not about what I could get for myself.

So here’s my advice on how to prepare for a writing festival or conference:

Prepare ahead:

  • Read the speakers’ bios and highlight those writing in your genre.
  • Find your highlighted speakers’ books in your local library or use the “Look Inside” feature on Amazon to flip through and get a feel for the work.
  • Slide some of your grocery money into a side pocket to spend at the event (save $1 or $2 a day or more in the month before the conference).
  • As you select your workshops, don’t use a Sharpie to mark them—use pencil. And circle at least one option that’s outside your normal interests (you can always sit in the back and slip out early if it’s not a good fit).
  • If you’re the sort of person who has anxiety when facing new situations and the conference is local, drop by the venue and scope it out. Knowing the lay of the land in advance will decrease your anxiety as the event date draws near.

What to bring:

  • Laptop or iPad or pen and paper
  • Money to buy (and have the author sign!) at least one or two books. I typically bring a set amount of “book money” and I freely take chances on books I discover at the event
  • Business cards if you have them (but leave your manuscript at home). Use those cards as an easy way to keep in touch with fellow writers you meet at the event.
  • An attitude of generosity. Bring a cup of coffee to the speaker of your morning workshop. Buy books and bless the bookstore and authors (and yourself). If you do meet an agent or publisher or author in the hallway, just chat. Don’t pitch your book (that can come later, via email).

And on the day of the event, ask not what the writing community can do for you but what you can do for the writing community! Chat with fellow writers about their work. Offer feedback and encouragement. Find out how what other writers are doing for support and ask how you can help. Jot down names, events, book titles, and ideas. The fruit of any literary event is only partly made up of the stuff listed in the program. Making new literary friends and hearing what’s going on in the community is a huge benefit that will only come your way as you reach out and shake hands and listen. The fledgling writer who sits beside you at the morning keynote may publish before you do and help you make connections to their agent or publishing house years in the future. But don’t think about that now. Think about how you can put someone else at ease.  

Do what it took me years to learn how to do, and come to literary gatherings with the goal of giving. Whether you feel like it or not, you’re a member of a literary community. Be generous and do your homework. The blessings will come back to you. You’ll see.  

Lisa Ohlen Harris lives in Newberg and is the author of The Fifth Season: A Daughter-in-Law’s Memoir of Caregiving and the Middle East memoir, Through the Veil. She teaches online for Creative Nonfiction Magazine and mentors nonfiction writers through her editing and critique service.



Early registration is closed, but you can still come to Terroir 2017!

April 14, 2017


We have closed early registration, but you can still come to Terroir. Just show up the day of the event at the Yamhill County Campus of Chemeketa Community College on Saturday, April 22 at 8:30 a.m. and we will register you on-site.

The cost is $60 for day-of registration.

For directions, please go here.

The address:

Chemeketa Community College – Yamhill Campus
288 NE Norton Ln
McMinnville, OR 97128

See you on Saturday April 22!

Meet Playwright Andrea Stolowitz

April 10, 2017


For the first time, the Terroir Creative Writing Festival will feature a playwright, Andrea Stolowitz, who will give a talk titled: The Elements of Drama.

Andrea Stolowitz has seen her plays presented nationally and internationally at theaters such as The Long Wharf, The Old Globe, The Cherry Lane, and New York Stage and Film. The LA Times calls her work “heartbreaking” and the Orange County Register characterizes her approach as a “brave refusal to sugarcoat issues and tough decisions.”

If you’ve never attended a literary festival before, may we make a suggestion? Part of the joy is in discovering how much there is to be learned from other genres and forms of writing. We expect that Andrea’s talk will be of vital interest to writers working in many forms.

Have you taken the plunge? Have you registered yet? Do so today!

Poets speaking at #TCWF17

April 3, 2017

Poets.pngThe Terroir Creative Writing Festival has a long history of supporting poetic voices in the community. This year, the following poets will be at the festival giving workshops and talking craft with writer attendees. For a full list of workshops click here.

Ed Higgins has published poems and short fiction in numerous print and online journals, including recently: Peacock Journal, Uut Poetry, Triggerfish Critical Review, and Tigershark Magazine. Ed teaches literature at George Fox University. He is Copy Editor for the poetry journal These Fragile Lilacs, and Assistant Fiction Editor for Brilliant Flash Fiction.

Lynn Otto holds an MFA from Portland State University, facilitates two poetry critique groups in Newberg, is an advisory editor at Triggerfish Critical Review, and works as a freelance copy editor. Recent poems are in Compose, Driftwood Press, Eyedrum Periodically, Centrifugal Eye, Young Ravens Literary Review, and Sequestrum.

Barbara Drake’s books and chapbooks of poetry include Driving One Hundred (published in 2009 by Windfall Press), Love at the Egyptian Theatre, What We Say to Strangers, Life in a Gothic Novel, Bees in Wet Weather, and Small Favors. She is also the author of a memoir, Peace at Heart: an Oregon Country Life, from Oregon State University Press, and Writing Poetry, a widely used college textbook, in print since 1983. Her writing appears in numerous literary magazines and anthologies. Peace at Heart was an Oregon Book Award finalist in 1999. Barbara is our festival founder and will not be giving a talk this year, but she will be on hand to talk about craft with attendees.

Are you ready to jump-start your creativity? Register for the festival today!

Nonfiction writers speaking at #TCWF17

March 27, 2017


Do you love real details, real stories, and crafting them for readers in a way that preserves this realness? This year’s festival features four writers doing just that, writers who are coming to the Yamhill County Campus of Chemeketa Community College on April 22 to share what they know with you! For the full list of workshops click here.

Sean Davis is the author of The Wax Bullet War, a Purple Heart Iraq veteran, and a community leader in Northeast Portland. He is the American Legion’s 2015 winner of the Legionnaire of the Year Award and the recipient of the Emily Gottfried Emerging Leader, Human Rights award for 2016.

Harry Fuller had a professional career in TV and Internet news. Birding became his escape, then his passion and finally, an obsession. Fuller once wrote for big corporations. Now, he writes for himself and the birds. The rewards are not monetary. The more people know and admire birds, the better the chance that we will aid their survival.

Emily Grosvenor is a journalist, essayist, Kickstarter creator, and social media maven who created our series of WordStudio workshops and runs our media outreach. She’s a contributor to Sunset, AAA Via, The Atlantic, Good Housekeeping and others. Follow her on Twitter @emilygrosvenor.

Michael N. McGregor is an award-winning professor of nonfiction writing and a former director of the MFA in Creative Writing program at Portland State University.  His book Pure Act: The Uncommon Life of Robert Lax was shortlisted for several awards, including a Washington State Book Award.  He writes and teaches biography, memoir, fiction and personal essay.

Kathleen Dean Moore, Ph.D., is a philosopher, climate activist, and writer, the author or co-editor of thirteen books.  Her 2016 book, Great Tide Rising, is a finalist for the Oregon Book Award. Bill McKibben calls her most recent book, Piano Tide: A Novel, “savagely funny and deeply insightful.”

Have you registered yet for the festival? Early registration is cheaper than day-of, so do it today!



Novelists speaking at #TCWF17

March 20, 2017

If novels are your jam, we have a line-up for you! The following novelists will be coming to McMinnville on April 22, 2017 to speak about their craft and hold workshops. For a full list of workshops, click here.

Sean Davis is the author of The Wax Bullet War, a Purple Heart Iraq veteran, and a community leader in Northeast Portland. He is the American Legion’s 2015 winner of the Legionnaire of the Year Award and the recipient of the Emily Gottfried Emerging Leader, Human Rights award for 2016.

Anna Keesey received her MFA from the University of Iowa. Her work has received awards from the National Endowment for the Arts and Houghton-Mifflin’s Best American Short Stories. Her novel Little Century (2012) earned a “Discover Great New Writers” award from Barnes and Noble and the Janet Heidinger Kafka award from the University of Rochester. Keesey teaches at Linfield College.

C. Morgan Kennedy is an author of contemporary romance, futuristic, and steampunk novels. In her day job, she is a marketing and business development professional for smart building technology. She also writes The Melting Pot: Stories with Diversity & Multiculturalism column for Night Owl Reviews’ The Booklover e-magazine.

Daniel Wilson is a Cherokee citizen and author of the New York Times best seller Robopocalypse and its sequel Robogenesis, as well as seven other books, including How to Survive a Robot Uprising, A Boy and His Bot, and Amped. He earned a Ph.D. in robotics from Carnegie Mellon University, as well as Masters degrees in artificial intelligence and robotics. His next novel, The Clockwork Dynasty, will be released on July 4, 2017. Wilson lives in Portland, Oregon.

Have you registered yet for the 2017 festival? You can do so here. 

Steve Duin to give keynote address on Portland comics scene at Terroir 2017

March 15, 2017


Writer, Oregonian columnist, author and comics expert Steve Duin will be giving a keynote address at the 2017 Terroir Creative Writing Festival.

Duin, who collaborated with comics artist Shannon Wheeler on Oil and Water , a graphic novel about the Deepwater Horizon oil disaster, will be speaking about the Portland comics scene and how to write a graphic novel as a non-comics artist.

Duin is an award-winning columnist for The Oregonian and writes the Metro blog for the paper.

His talk will illuminate the current hubbub of activity and production in comics and graphic novels in Portland, considered to be the center of the industry at present.

Duin, who was previously scheduled to give a workshop, replaces Lidia Yuknavitch, who regretfully cancelled her visit due to scheduling conflicts.

Have you registered for the festival yet? Registration is open!