Inspiration from Unlikely Places

Inspiration comes from unlikely places in the form of ears going ping, ping, ping and your fingers tingling as you reach for a pen or keyboard.

Cherry Mattias, DVM, and I attended the Writers of KernSpring conference yesterday. Writers of Kern (WOK) is a branch of the California Writers Club serving Bakersfield and its surrounding communities. WOK provides a forum for published and aspiring writers to share ideas, hone their craft and encourage one another.

The yearly conference held in Bakersfield, California brought together poet Matthew Woodman, mystery icon Anne Perry and Victoria Zackheim, and Bakersfield Californian columnist Lois Henry.

All of the presenters, who are what you’d call professional writers, have thought deeply about the subject of voice or persona. With the exception of Lois Henry they speak of their love of their craft.

What unified the three disparate speakers was an insistence on writing honestly and from the heart. Victoria Zackheim, a playwright, novelist, and writing teacher pushes her students in the UCLA Extension Writer’s Program to go deeper and deeper in writing the personal essay to heal the raw patches in one’s own soul. Anne Perry, author of 80 novels with 27 million copies sold, stated readers instantly spot insincerity. Zackheim and Perry are fast friends and speak daily, brainstorming plot ideas and spurring each other on.

I’m sure I wasn’t alone in wishing I could be part of these conversations.

Matthew Woodman, who teaches writing at California State University Bakersfield, skillfully presented a session on how to adopt a voice particular to a poem, drawing on the work of Carl Jung’s archetypes and the contemporary adaption of Jung’s ideas in the work of Carol Pearson. Voice and persona are airy ideas that sometimes feel ethereal. I was impressed and pleased at Woodman’s skillful explanation, illustrating the concepts with poems, one of them his own.

I read a lot of fiction, a lot of crime fiction as well, and I sometimes forget how much I enjoy poetry’s concise evocation of feeling. I seem to need 300-350 pages to tell a story and here was Woodman’s poem in sonnet form updating the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice in Los Angeles.

Lois Henry, who reports and writes and twice-weekly column for the local newspaper, claims to hate writing. Winner of major awards for journalism, she’s pressed often to collect her columns into a book. She can’t imagine anything worse than writing all day then going home to write in the evening, to paraphrase her remarks. A breezy and fresh voice in the afternoon of the conference, she focused on the nature of her craft which is to entertain and inform her readers with crisp, accurate, and economical prose.

Cherry Mattias, DVM, my co-founder of the Bakersfield Sisters in Crime chapter, is a beginning mystery writer. We were there to not only learn from the presenters but also to drum up support for our fledgling mystery writers’ group. The group of about 75 eager attendees represented the range of the writing craft: creative non-fiction (memoir writing), romance, science fiction, local history, poetry—from beginners to seasoned professionals.

Sadly there were few mystery writers.

Nonetheless, it was an interesting and worthwhile day spent with engaging presenters which made me rush home to my computer to start writing my sixth Dave Mason mystery.

Check out my new eBook on Finishing Your First Mystery . Don’t fall prey to self-doubt and the Why Bother syndrome.
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2 Responses to Inspiration from Unlikely Places

  1. Joan Raymond says:


    Thank you for sharing your thoughts on our Spring Conference. It was wonderful to meet you. I’m sure there are a lot more mystery writers out there who would benefit from your group.

    I look forward to keeping in contact with you for future events to benefit both of our writing clubs.

  2. Mar, it was so good to meet you. Then reading your comments on our conference was “the frosting.” I’m delighted that you enjoyed the conference our entire Board and volunteers worked so hard to provide. I look forward to getting to know you better and hope you’ll visit our monthly meetings — or join. And, just so you know, WOK’s mystery writer population is probably greater than the number who attended the conference.

    Hugs and thanks, xoA

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