Tag Archives: Terry Persun

#amwriting: Interview with Terry Persun, poet and author

Today we are continuing a series of interviews with published authors who are also instructors. They write in a variety of fields, and each approaches the craft from a slightly different point of view. Because they come from such varied backgrounds, I have gained a great deal of knowledge of writing craft from attending their seminars.

As it’s Friday and I often post poetry and flash fiction on Fridays, we are talking with Terry Persun, a poet and novelist who resides in the Northwest.

51eyfcn4pzl-_sx331_bo1204203200_CJJ: You write in three areas, poetry, nonfiction, and fiction. Your fiction work ranges through three sub-genres, Sci-fi/fantasy, mystery/thriller, and mainstream/historical. As are many poets, you’re well-known for questioning the political, spiritual, and cultural status quo.

How does your poetic bent shape your non-fiction and genre novel work?

TP: What an amazing question. I often think about how my poetry helps to shape my novels, but seldom my nonfiction. So let’s start with novels: much of the best poetry is about image, and the same goes for the novel. An image (showing not telling) can create an emotion that will stick with the reader. Poetry allows me to practice that. Even when you’re discussing cultural elements, an image is more important than abstract words like horrific or painful. A poet must know how to show those abstractions. Think about the last time you saw an image of a child in a war zone, it’s much more impactful than being told that there were several women and children killed in the attack. Even which image is important—movie directors know which angle to take. As for nonfiction: I think pacing and word choice stand out the most. In a poem, I can create a line break or a stanza break, similarly with nonfiction I might create a new paragraph or move the article from prose to bulleted copy. Again, an image might be best in nonfiction as well. For example, instead of saying, “Make sure your enclosure is leak proof.” I said, “Using the proper sealing approach will eliminate the concern of having grease oozing out of your enclosure.” Seeing the grease oozing out of something is much more impactual than telling someone to provide better sealing. There are probably many more things that poetry brings to my writing that I may not be completely aware of.

CJJ: You have published five poetry collections. I own one of them, And Now This. These poems resonated with me, as my father was also a WWII vet. These poems deal with the effects of your father’s wartime experiences on your family during the 1960s. Battle related PTSD is also a theme in my forthcoming novel. Reading your poetry made me feel less alone in that experience, and helped me develop my protagonist in the initial stages.

You seem to have an instinctive gift for meter in your free verse. One of my favorite opening passages of all time is from one of the poems in this collection, from the opening poem,

First Memory

I’m standing in the corner,


My hands are not my own,

They’re trembling.

This passage drops the reader straight into your young reality, unapologetically showing the life you had then.  Because they are free verse, the lines don’t rhyme, yet they are poetic and speak to me on a level that the prose in a novel rarely does. I also love the opening passage from another poem in this collection, In the Story of My Father.

What advice would give budding poets in regard to meter and phrasing their free verse?

TP: Language has its own music. Even prose has music to it. It’s my assertion that the best prose can often be broken into poems. In classes I sometimes will take a Hemingway paragraph and create a poem from it. Having said that, the number of beats, the number of syllables, where you place commas or choose to create a complex sentence, all have an effect on the final work. What I advise new poets is to first of all read a lot of poetry—especially the kind you’re trying to write. Notice how much of a breath you need to take, where natural and unnatural breaks might occur (use both), and where can you end a line that leads a reader in a false direction. Poetry infused prose can only make it better.

Doublesight--Terry PersunCJJ: One of my favorite fantasy novels is Doublesight, in which you created a world populated by shapeshifters. Zimp is a wonderful character, and I like how you portrayed her growing into her responsibilities.

You have opened your Doublesight world to fans to create fanfiction in, via Kindle Worlds.

How has the work offered by others in your world affected your view of Zimp’s world, and has it changed your direction in anyway?

TP: That’s a tough question to answer, because anything written in that world changes the way I see it. Once it’s opened to other interpretations, each character becomes deeper and more mysterious. I start to see the character differently and wonder more about him or her. It also lets me see how others view the story, the time period, the characters. I become more interested in the world as others work in it. My hope is that it’s fun and expansive for the authors as well, offering them another viewpoint to explore, another idea to examine. Plus, every Doublesight story uploaded into Kindle Worlds helps to market all the other books in the world. This cross-marketing will eventually help each author gain a new audience for their own books.

CJJ: Your video course is quite extensive, and I’d like you tell the readers what the course entails, and how they can take it.

TP: I believe you’re talking about the “Make Money Writing” course. You can access it through my website or through Youtube. I have taught that class quite a bit and is often standing room only. I’ve been freelancing for 20 years and working with freelancers on the magazine side for another 20 prior to that. I know how magazine editors think, what they need, and how to reach them. I also know how to help a writer find their way into freelancing. In the course, I run through how to decide what to write, the parts of the magazine, the editorial calendar, how to touch base with editors, and the main types of articles they need for their publications. I’ve consulted with several major magazine groups about their editorial packages, as well as how to move copy through their company so that they don’t waist time and end up with the best possible pieces to publish.

CJJ: I’ve attended several of your seminars at the annual PNWA conference and enjoyed them immensely. You’re based in the Pacific Northwest and have taught many classes all over the region. Will you be offering any seminars over the next year?

TP: I will be at the PNWA Cottage in September teaching a course on working with Amazon’s 12+ platforms for writers (go to PNWA.org for the list of classes), then at Rivers of Ink in October where I’ll be one of their Keynote speakers and also teach a class called Use Your Writing as Marketing. In November, I’ll be in Kauai for their annual Writers’ Conference where I’m teaching Self and Independent Publishing, and will be working one-on-one with attendees interested in a variety of methods of publication. I was involved in three other groups/conferences earlier this year. I am always willing to come up with a program if there is enough interest. Just let me know.

Terry, thank you so much for your insights and advice, both here and at the annual PNWA conference.

I highly recommend Terry’s works. His poetry is deep and thought provoking, and his novels are fun and fantastic.  His books can be found on Amazon at:

tpersun_the_mug_shot_pic_b-w_400x400Terry Persun on Amazon Author Central

For any of you who are interested in attending his seminars, or looking into his video course, you can find him at any of these places.

Facebook page:




Twitter: @TPersun







On  Monday, Scott Driscoll has agreed to join us here.

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Filed under #FlashFictionFriday, Fantasy, Poetry, writing

The Writers’ Toolbox: Seminars, workshops, and conferences

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via buzzfeed

One basic tool every author needs in his/her toolbox is the Writers’ Seminar. These are workshops offered by people who have mastered certain aspects of the craft, and are your way to gain more knowledge of the craft.

They are classes, focusing on every aspect of writing, from the story arc to character development. You can also get classes in how to court agents and editors, if the traditional route is your choice, or conversely, advice on negotiating the rough seas of indie publishing. In this craft, there is never an end to the learning process.

But what if you are housebound and can’t get to a conference? Three excellent resources for an intensive online 3 part seminar are Scott Driscoll’s courses through The Writer’s Workshop ($500.00 each, plus textbook, see the website for more information. Length- and quality-wise these classes are the equivalent of a college course–where else will you get this kind of education for the cost of an average 4 day seminar?)

What about actually finding and physically attending seminars and events? That is where you will meet authors, both famous and infamous, known and not yet known.  You will meet people in the industry who will enlighten you and also help you up the ladder to success.

I love writers’ seminars, and attend every one I can afford to get to–and cost is an issue. But there are many budget-friendly seminars out there, many offered by your local library system.

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For me, it’s about being in a community of authors who are all seeking the same thing–a little more knowledge about the craft. Everyone who attends a writers’ conference, seminar or workshop is serious about the craft, and just in conversation with other attendees you can find great inspiration to help fuel your own creative muse.

How does one find these things? Google (or Bing) is your friend here:

A short list of Seminars, Workshops, and Conferences in Western Washington—check websites for the next seminars offered:

  • Hugo House ($60.00 to join-cost per event may vary)
  • PNWA Writers Conference ($65.00 to join PNWA + cost of 4-day conference–can be pricey. With early registration 2015 conference was $425.00 + the cost of room. Continental breakfasts and two dinners were included, and being vegan I brought my own food. Altogether I spent nearly $1000.00, but was able to do so in 2 chunks.)
  • Southwest Washington Writers Conference ($60.00 early registration, 1 day conference) VERY GOOD INVESTMENT!
  • Port Townsend Writers Conference (10 day conference, Tuition ranges from $150.00 for one or two classes to $900 for the full 10-days, includes room with meals==$90.00 per day–a steal!)
  • Northwest Institute of Literary Arts (costs of individual events vary, average seminar under $200.00) (Terry Persun is giving a seminar most indies could benefit from on taming the beast that is Amazon there August 22, 2015 from 9:30 am to 4:30 pm–get to it if you can!)
  • Clarion West Writers Workshop (Specializing in speculative fiction,  offering everything from seminars to a highly respected 6-week workshop for $3,800.00.  Costs vary, average one-day event $130.00)
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via buzzfeed

But what if you have little or no $$ to spare for food much less a conferences? For the love of Tolstoy, check out your local library! They are an unbelievably great, free or exceedingly low-cost resource.

For example, the Tumwater, Washington branch of the Timberland Regional Library system has several upcoming seminars offered by author and writing coach Lindsay Schopfer, at no cost to the attendee– the library has hired him as a bonus for the aspiring authors among their patrons. These seminars are not fluff–Lindsay gives good, solid, technical classes for serious authors, so if you are in this area check out the schedule and try to attend.

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via buzzfeed

Check out your local library, and see what is available for the starving author!

Now that you know what is available in my area, check your own area and see what you can find. You will be amazed at the wide variety of good one-day conferences, multi-day events, and continuing education courses that are available. While most have some cost attached to them, the author who is determined to improve within the craft and who has little or no money can find something that will fit his budget just by doing a little research at the local library.


Filed under Publishing, writer, writing

Epiphany, and the Writers’ Conference

PNWA 2015 My Books in the Bookstore


A sudden revelation.

A moment in time where suddenly you understand the why of a certain thing. For a writer this can mean the plot suddenly unthickens and we know what we need to do!

This often happens when I am in traffic and completely unable to put said revelation into practice, but hey, we go with what we have, right?

I had several such moments of glory while in Seattle at the PNWA 2015 Writers Conference this last week. Fortunately I was able to immediately put my chicken-scratched notes into a more readable form via the little Android tablet, and these flashes of knowledge will soon be causing some positive changes in my current works-in-progress.

Over the next few months a lot of what the speakers and teachers had to say will filter through my mind and into this blog, but first I need meditate on it until I know what their insights mean to me on a practical level.

Better You Go Home Scott DriscollI attended two seminars offered by Scott Driscoll, who cuts right to the chase and explains his ideas clearly. One was on understanding your characters’ values and how the evolution of those core values fundamentally drives the story, and the other was on the inciting incident. Those two seminars dovetailed beautifully, and I had my first “I know what I need to do” moment after leaving the one on identifying and understanding the values (or ethics) your characters hold dear. If you ever get a chance to go to a seminar offered by him, I would recommend you do it.

Another speaker whose seminar really motivated me was offered by Bill Carty, on the intersection of ‘poetry and the everyday’ as a means for generating our own poems. (Yes, I have a dark side–I write poetry when no one is watching.)

I listened to my good friend, Janet Oakleyspeaking on a panel about bringing the past to life, when writing historical fiction. That too had an “ah hah!” moment.

Bharti Kirchner gave a seminar on the five essential elements of a short story, and she is an intriguing speaker. As you know, I am a strong proponent of writing short stories as exercise, to develop your writing chops, and I came away from that class knowing how to organize my thoughts so that a short story will remain short, and not accidentally turn into a novella or an epic trilogy.

Doublesight--Terry PersunI wanted to attend the seminar on using language with intention that was offered by Terry Persun and his daughter, Nicole Persun, but I had a conflict and had to choose which class served a more immediate need, so I was unable to attend it. But all is not lost–I will be purchasing the download of that seminar. I had several wonderful conversations with Terry and he will be writing a guest post for this blog, perhaps on that subject.

Instead of that, I attended a class offered by Lindsay Schopfer on identifying the sub-genres of science fiction and fantasy so that when a book is published you can best identify your intended target audience. This is absolutely critical because when you go to publish, your publishing platform will always ask you what your “BISAC code” is. BISAC is an acronym for Book Industry Subject and Category subject headings, which are a mainstay in the industry and required for participation in many databases.

The Beast Hunter, Lindsay SchopferKnowing if you are writing Epic Fantasy or High Fantasy is critical when it comes to marketing your book to the proper audience, as die-hard readers of each sub-genre have strong feelings about what constitutes their favorite genre. Thus, there are certain tropes readers of those genres will expect, so proper labeling is critical if want your target audience to read your book.

Being able to immerse myself in learning the craft is absolutely wonderful, and I look forward to this conference every year. This year William Kenower  offered the final seminar of the event. Bill is an intriguing, energetic speaker who gets his listeners involved in what he teaching. His seminar on reconnecting with your confidence was quite appropriate for me, as I sometimes  listen to my inner critic and forget the joy I have in writing.

my sisters grave robert dugoniOther people spoke, Andre Dubus III and Robert Dugoni-two men with vastly different experiences and different styles of writing, and yet both had something to say that moved me in one way or another.  J.A. Jance, Nancy Kress , Elizabeth Boyle and Kevin O’Brien were on a panel that was fun to listen to.

If you are serious about writing, I highly recommend that you seek out and attend writing conferences. A great deal of good information can be found on the internet, but there is something about the networking and actually talking shop with the other authors that fires creativity and keeps the creativity flowing through the veins.

I suggest that you actively google writers’ conferences in your area, and see if you can find one that is affordable and offers sessions by respected authors in a wide variety of genres, and who are welcoming to authors who intend to go indie as well as those who hope to be traditionally published. It will be money well-spent.

An intriguing thing happened at this conference during the book signing event. A highly respected agent (who shall remain unnamed) stopped by my table and looked over my books. He picked up Tower of Bones, and leafed through it, checking out the cover and the graphics, and also the maps. Pausing, he asked if I was indie published, and I explained I was, through a publishing group, Myrddin Publishing. He then paid me the highest compliment ever–my books were “highly professional.”

That interaction proves how important it is to put your best work out there. When you do that, you can be proud to play on that not-so-level playing field.


Filed under Books, Humor, Literature, Publishing, writer, writing

But let’s talk about books for a while

I noticed something this weekend–I’m obsessed with books.  No, it’s true! Apparently, and I have to agree, it’s all I can think of to discuss. Not only that, but my friends are all obsessed with what they are reading, too.

What a surprise!

So what have I read lately that really rings my bells? Several things, actually, in a wide range of genres.

Sleeping Late on Judgement Day Tad WilliamsI just finished the third book in Tad Williams’s Bobby Dollar series, Sleeping Late on Judgement Day. Wow, my favorite bad angel, Bobby Dollar, finally gets a break. I love the twists and turns of William’s prose, as his hard-boiled angel gets down to the dirty business of cleaning up the mean streets of Heaven. He uses ordinary words in an extraordinary way, but never commits the sin of dropping the reader out of the story.  THIS is why I read his work.  I highly recommend this book to all those who like a bit of a hardboiled-detective twist to their paranormal fantasy. It is a smart, well-crafted journey into the human condition, set in an environment guaranteed to keep things interesting, and peopled with unforgettable characters. I gave it 5 full stars on my book review blog, Best in Fantasy.

Better You Go Home Scott DriscollI also read Better You Go Home, by Seattle area author, Scott Driscoll.  This is not fantasy, it is literary fiction and a medical thriller. Chico Lenoch is an intriguing character. The tale is told in the first person, which I usually find difficult to get into as a reader, but didn’t in this case. Also something I usually find off-putting but didn’t in this case is the way Chico occasionally ‘breaks the fourth wall’–he sometimes addresses the reader directly. It works, because you are in his head the whole time and it feels perfectly natural. Driscoll is a professor at the University of Washington, and is work is both literate and intriguing. This is not genre fiction, instead it is written for mature, dedicated readers who want substance in a book. No fluff here, just good solid craftsmanship. I also gave it five full stars in my review.  But let’s be real–I don’t go to all the trouble of reviewing books I don’t love.

Doublesight--Terry PersunThen, in July I read a fantasy by another local author, Terry Persun: Doublesight. This was the most intriguing twist on the old shapeshifter theme I had ever read. Wholly human or wholly crow depending on what form she is in, Zimp is a great character, both endearing and aggravating. At first, she is weak and allows a less qualified, but more aggressive clan member, Arren, to make decisions for her. This book is as much about personalities and the need to remember their own commonality as it is about the great evil that threatens their kind. Each individual is sharply drawn, and has presence, struggling for their own place in their society while their world faces calamity. Zimp and Lankor, who is a doublesight dragon,  struggle to do what they know is right, in the face of treachery and occasional bad judgement.

The MArtian Andy WeirMy mind is still blown by The Martian, by Andy Weir. This is hardcore science fiction and may well be the best book I read all year. Mark Watney is hilarious. He is the sort of man who gets through life by finding something positive in every disaster, and mocking the hell out of everything that is negative. A horrendous storm destroys much of their base, and his team is forced to abort their mission.  During the emergency evacuation of the Ares 3 landing site, he is severely injured in an accident that appears to have killed him. His body is unretrievable, and unaware that he is still alive, he is left behind. His companions begin the long journey back to Earth, grief-stricken at his sudden death. However, Mark is that rare breed of human, an astronaut, so of course he is extremely resourceful. He does what he has to in order to survive his injuries, and then figures out exactly what he must do to stay alive until the next mission.

I definitely read a mix of self-published and indie authors, but I like authors who take chances with their work, and who eschew the hamster wheel to hell of the Big Six publishing giants, who mindlessly chug out sequel after boring sequel. Tad Williams writes like an indie, rebellious and defiant. Scott Driscoll is also ‘a bit out there’ in the approach he takes in writing Chico’s story.

I love my job!



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