The 2014 Whidbey Island Writers Conference – October 24-26, 2014

wiwc_headerThe Whidbey Island Writers Conference invites you to bring your passion for the written word to our beautiful island in Puget Sound. Whether you are a beginning writer or a professional, the Whidbey Island Writers Conference is organized to help you further your knowledge in craft, publishing, and marketing.

Saturday-only Registration Now Available for $200! Get to hear Daniel James Brown’s keynote address at the Write Night Party

Conference starts in 11 days

<< Click Here to Register >>

The Whidbey Island Writers’ Conference is one of the most intense gatherings of writers in the Pacific Northwest. We focus on small, intimate classes so that instructors and attendees get to interact personally, so that everyone is able to acquire the information that will best suit their needs once the conference is over. Our unique Chat House format is informal, friendly, and welcoming. Because there are two instructors for each chat house, attendees get a variety of opinions, which makes for lively and informative conversation. The goal is to help attendees feel comfortable working with professionals who love to assist others in their progress toward their own goals. The conference also includes evening events for attendees to read their material, to listen to music, and to interact on a personal level with other attendees, staff, and bestselling authors. Every year, we also present a half-day where attendees are encouraged to ask any unanswered questions they may have. We are here to serve the writing community, and welcome your attendance and participation wholeheartedly. We look forward to seeing you this year.
—Terry Persun Conference Director

Antagonists & Inciting Incidents

Writing workshop by UW’s Scott Driscoll injects drama & tension into your story to mesmerize readers.

Wednesday, October 15 at 7:00pm
at University of Washington Center for Urban Horticulture
All Ages, Bar with ID

Master of story structure, Scott Driscoll focuses this workshop on the inciting incident and the antagonist-protagonist relationship. Antagonists & inciting incidents challenge protagonists. Tension & struggle capture reader attention & dollars. A good antagonist is worth ten thousand readers, and your inciting incident introduces Trouble with a capital “T.” Seems simple, but the trick’s in the details and execution:

• stories start with an event — the protagonist character’s world is disturbed (inciting incident)
• your character objects, and plans a solution (desire quest)
• antagonist and character clash, more trouble ensues (escalating complications)

What’s an inciting incident? How do you spark readers to keep turning pages, wondering what‘s next? The better your antagonist, the more reader tension. Think Hannibal, Spike, Freddy, Joker, Darth.


scott-driscollScott Driscoll earned his MFA from the University of Washington and has taught creative writing for the UW for twenty years.
His literary novel, “Better You Go Home,” was selected as the Foreword Reviews First Book Contest winner earlier this year.

Scott most often writes feature stories for magazines, and profiles for Ferrari Magazine and Poets and Writers Magazine. He has won eight awards from the Society of Professional Journalists, for stories on social issues, education, and general reporting.

His short stories and essays have been published in Image Magazine, Far From Home, The Seattle Review, Crosscurrents, Cimarron Review, The South Dakota Review, Gulfstream, American Fiction, and others.


Wine & Cheese, Brownies & Tea provided. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. for snacks & social. Workshop starts at 7 p.m.

Free & Easy Parking’s Included in Your Ticket!

This event’s hosted by Seattle Free Lances < >. Founded in 1921 as a society of professional writers, Seattle Free Lances welcomes all publishing professionals and writers actively working toward publication.

We support the success of our published members and writers who intend to publish. We meet once a month, usually on the first Tuesday evening, to share stories, seek encouragement, and enjoy the company of our fellow writers.

Buy Tickets

Publishing & Marketing Your Books & Articles

Wednesday, September 17, 2014 at 6:45pm
University of Washington Center for Urban Horticulture
All ages, bar with ID

Marketing Your Books & Articles / Today’s Many Publishing Options

Terry PersunMulti-genre award-winning author Terry Persun discusses the many ways to publish and market your writing in today’s varied and exciting publishing world. An Amazon bestselling novelist, Persun will explain where and how to sell what you write—books, poems, stories and articles. And cover publishing options for all your work—from magazines & newspapers, to online venues & publishing houses. Terry will talk about publishing in all its varied possibilities, and go over some key elements for your success. This is an ideal “big picture” of the current world of selling and printing your writing—from someone who has lived and breathed writing, publishing and marketing for three decades and has stayed current with the art and industry.

Terry Persun writes mainstream fiction, science fiction, fantasy, suspense, mystery, romance, and other genres. He has won two awards for his mainstream fiction, and one award each in the historical and science fiction categories. He also writes novels, short stories, poetry, and nonfiction for work and pleasure. Terry has spoken at schools and colleges, writers conferences, and at libraries and bookstores across the country. He does private consultations and coaching for writers at all stages in their careers. You may get a free book of your choice at his website,

Wine & Cheese, Coffee & Tea provided. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. for snacks & social. Workshop starts at 7 p.m. Free Parking’s Included in Your Ticket! This event’s hosted by Seattle Free Lances. Founded in 1921 as a society of professional writers, Seattle Free Lances welcomes all publishing professionals and writers actively working toward publication. We support the success of our published members and writers who intend to publish. We meet once a month, usually on the first Tuesday evening, to share stories, seek encouragement, and enjoy the company of our fellow writers.


Amazon executive to speak Tuesday, 6/3 about “Maximizing e-Book Sales”

On Tuesday, June 3 Seattle Free Lances welcomes Dan Slater of Amazon

Wine, Cheese & Tea provided. Doors open at 6:15 p.m. for snacks & social gathering.

daniel slater amazon“Maximizing e-book sales” Workshop starts at 7 p.m.

At least 85 percent of your eBook sales will be through Amazon, a powerhouse company based right here in Seattle. On Tuesday evening, June 3, Amazon executive Dan Slater — the top guy at Amazon’s Independent Publishing Division — will give a presentation on maximizing your sales efficiency at Amazon.

Tickets available now at Stranger Tickets.

About Dan Slater
Daniel Slater joined Amazon to grow its digital text programs, and oversaw the digital content initiatives of 60 major publishers for Amazon Kindle. Currently, he oversees Independent Publishing and Author and Vendor Relations for Amazon Kindle. Pre-Amazon, his career trajectory included over a decade working at Simon & Schuster, then Penguin, followed by a position at a leading publishing IT solutions firm. Daniel earned a dual BA from Cornell University and an MBA from Duke University.


Meeting location: University of Washington Botanic Gardens, 3501 NE 41st St Seattle, WA 98195. For directions, click here. Free parking at the Botanic Gardens.

Location support by co-sponsor UW Botanic Gardens, Seattle WA


Proposed slate of officers for the 2014-2015 season

The Seattle Free Lances Executive Board hereby proposes the following slate of candidates to serve as officers of the SFL board in the 2014-2015 season. A ballot will be arriving in SFL member inboxes soon. Please respond no later than May 28. Thanks!

President: Mark Hennon has been a member of Seattle Free Lances since 2008 and has served on the board since 2009. He writes science fiction, urban fantasy and non-fiction. He works on business and personal computing, with an emphasis on Apple desktop, laptop and iPhone security.

Vice President: Kelsye Nelson is CEO and co-founder of, an online marketplace where writers can find the people they need to publish successfully. She formerly served as Mensa newsletter managing editor, managed marketing for Hedgebrook, and recently completed a literary fiction novel. She currently serves as an advisor for the University of Washington Digital Publishing program.

Secretary: Abigail Carter is the Seattle-based author of The Alchemy of Loss: A Young Widow’s Transformation and co-founder of, an online publishing marketplace. She can be found on Facebook and on Twitter (@abigailcarter) and on her blog, She also leads a local writing group and serves on the boards of non-profits Hedgebrook and The Healing Center. She will be moving from the position of treasurer to secretary, as Claire Gebben is not seeking the Seattle-based author of The Alchemy of Loss: A Young Widow’s Transformation and co-founder of, an online publishing marketplace. She can be found on Facebook and on Twitter (@abigailcarter) and on her blog, She also leads a local writing group and serves on the boards of non-profits Hedgebrook and The Healing Center.

Treasurer: Lydia Dews is an attorney with more than 12 years of trial and mediation experience. She’s working on a stage play, a modern romance, and a novel about children of diverse backgrounds and challenges overcoming disabilities and associated stigmas. A former military investigator and an avid seeker of empowering principles, Lydia has taught other professionals the tools essential for courtroom presentations using a variety of formats and technology to engage audiences.

Ten Things You Must Do BEFORE You Publish!

Kelsye Nelson

On Tuesday, May 6 Seattle Free Lances welcomes Kelsye Nelson of

Wine, Cheese & Tea provided. Doors open at 6:15 p.m. for snacks & social gathering.

“Ten Things You Must Do BEFORE You Publish!” Workshop starts at 7 p.m.

In this Tuesday evening workshop, Kelsye Nelson of presents ten things to propel an author to a successful writing and publishing career. Agents and publishers now scrutinize a writer’s online presence, website, social media, network and community when deciding to take a chance on a new author. A strong author platform is especially important if you publish independently.

Starting from scratch? No problem! Let Kelsye illuminate your path. Already have an author platform established? You’re ahead of the game! Come pick up some new tips on how to optimize your online presence and get the most help from your real-life community. Kelsye’s a wiz at this. Will it cost a bundle? In fact, with the free tools and resources Kelsye covers, it isn’t hard to building a respectable author platform with minimal investment of money and time.

BONUS: At Tuesday’s workshop, Kelsye will also shares insights on how she raised $9,800 on KickStarter last month to fund her non-fiction book project — and attracted an agent at the same time!

Tickets available now at Stranger Tickets.

About Kelsye
Kelsye Nelson is CEO and co-founder of, an online marketplace that connects writers to publishing professionals. She authored “The Breakup Girl” series and “Book Lush,” currently represented by Gordon Wornack at Foreword Literary. She led marketing efforts at Hedgebrook, TransACT and Headsprout, and was v.p. of growth & outreach at Brown Paper Tickets.

Kelsye’s a board member of the University of Washington Digital Publishing Program and Seattle Free Lances. She served as board member of the American Marketing Association and as editor-in-chief of ToteMs, a MENSA newspaper. She earned a BA in Writing and Art Activism from Evergreen State College and did graduate work in Publishing Arts at Antioch.

60,000 people follow Kelsye on Twitter (@Kelsye). Connect with her at


Meeting location: University of Washington Botanic Gardens, 3501 NE 41st St Seattle, WA 98195. For directions, click here. Free parking at the Botanic Gardens.

Location support by co-sponsor UW Botanic Gardens, Seattle WA


Who’s Who in SFL: Meet Stefan Marmion

by Allie Draper

stefan headshotOne of Seattle Free Lances’ youngest members, actor-turned-writer Stefan Marmion has been writing for as long as he can remember. From his first short story in kindergarten about the adventures of a T. Rex to his current Nineteenth Century Post-Rapture Demon Western, Stefan’s projects have been many things: a chance to relax after a long day of work, the freedom to imagine new and alien landscapes, and the opportunity to do something worthwhile – to create. It’s important, Stefan says, to know how to “banish that specter that hangs over you judging your work” and get words on the page. He writes every time he gets the chance, on his lunch break at his restaurant job or in the evenings after a long day’s work. Meet Stefan Marmion – a newcomer to the writing scene with much to offer as he discusses what writing means to him, his latest project, and the value he sees in organizations like Seattle Free Lances.

Q. Have you always been interested in writing? Was there a moment that stands out to you where you recognized your interest, or was it something that happened gradually?
A. I’ve always had an interest in writing, even from before I could write. My mom still has a story that I wrote when I was in kindergarten. It was about a young T. Rex and his father going to the park and fighting other dinosaurs. Truly exciting material. There was one point in this story — I consciously remember this — where I wanted the young T. Rex to ask his dad if he would take him and his friends to the park. I wanted the young T. Rex to ask, but I couldn’t figure out how to form a request. I remember very vividly sitting there at the dinner table, desperately trying to figure out how you would even phrase a question with written words. After significant deliberation, I realized that this sort of wording was beyond my grasp, and I had to change the little dinosaur’s request into a demand that his father take him to the park. The whole tone of the story shifted, and then eventually the dad died in the battle with the other dinosaurs. That probably wasn’t related, but I remember feeling guilty that I’d written the father dying. I felt like it was my fault because I couldn’t figure out how to phrase a polite question from his son, and now the little T. Rex’s last words to his father were a rude demand. It was quite a harrowing experience, let me tell you.

More to your question. It wasn’t until roughly two years ago that I’d decided that writing was what I wanted to do with my life. I’d always written short stories and the like, but it never really crystallized as a possible profession until then. I’d tried my hand at college, then tried to make my way as an actor after that. It took years to figure it out, but writing is very much the right path for me.

Q. What are your current writing projects? Any plans for publication?
A. I’ve been working on a novel for the past year. It’s my third attempt at the craft. I started two sci fi novels before that, and I got about 75,000 words into each of them, but neither of them really meant anything to me. I’d written a lot, but I hadn’t really said anything, if that makes sense. My current novel, though, is really working for me. If I had to put it in a genre, I’d call it a Nineteenth Century Post-Rapture Demon Western. So, fantasy-slash-historical fiction? It takes place in the Old West after the biblical apocalypse. In any case, I’m really happy with where it’s gone and where it’s going. I finished the rough draft back in November, I’ve gone through two more drafts, and I currently have another writer reading through my manuscript. We traded manuscripts. I’ll get it back, and then I’ll go through another draft or two until I’m happy with it. After that, I’m going to send it out to agents and publishers, see where that takes me. I wouldn’t quite say I have plans for publication, since a lot of that process depends entirely on factors that are out of my hands. But I’m going to do everything I can to see that it happens.

Q. What’s the most enjoyable thing about writing for you? What’s the hardest?
A. The most enjoyable thing? Definitely the freedom that writing gives me. Regardless of what’s happening in my life, whatever bills I have to pay, however my restaurant job is going, I can always retreat into the world of writing. There’s no escape quite like writing, for me. Creating worlds and building characters, pitting them against alien challenges and trying circumstances… Every time I stand up from my desk after writing, I feel like I’ve done something. Even if no one ever sees what I’ve written that day, I can go to bed knowing that I’ve created. And that’s really it: creating makes me feel more powerful and satisfied than anything else. It’s freedom, really. That’s the only way I can describe it.

The hardest part is definitely editing. I can sit down and pump out a 10,000 word story no problem. That’s super fun for me. But editing? Revising? Rewriting?? Ugh. I recognize that it’s a necessary part of the writing process, but sometimes it’s so incredibly difficult to motivate myself to do all of that work. There comes a point when I’m just sick of looking at a story I’ve written, but even then I know I’ve still got so much more editing to do before I can move on to my next project.

Q. Do you have any advice for other aspiring writers? Any strategies you’ve found to be particularly useful, ways to navigate the complicated world of the 21st century author?
A. I am not nearly prolific or successful enough to be qualified to give other writers advice, haha. But if there’s one thing I’d say, it’s this: keep writing. I’ve had friends ask me how I can write every single day, often for hours at a time. They tell me that every time they sit down to write, they feel like everything they put to paper is awful and a waste of time. They try so hard to get a sentence or paragraph sounding just write, and they spend all of their time brooding over how it sounds terrible. I tell them: keep writing anyway. Push through that terrible writing and keep making more writing. It doesn’t matter whether those words are good or not, no one’s going to see them anyway. No one is ever proud of their first draft. I write so many terrible sentences, but I write it out and I move on to the next scene. I’ll fix the garbage in the editing process. But if you can push through and just do the terrible writing (knowing that you’ll get back to it later), then your momentum is unstoppable. If you banish that specter that hangs over you judging your work, you’ll never stop writing.

Basically, stop caring if your writing is good. Just keep writing. Go back and make it good after you’re done with your first draft.

Q. What inspires you?
A. Many things. Many, many things. A really arduous day at work inspires me to write, because every word I commit to paper is one step closer to never having to wait another table again. A drive through the mountains during a rainstorm inspires me to write, because I want to share with others that beautiful, transcendent feeling that scene gives me. Reading inspires me, because I want so much to be like those who write. Pretty much everything I see inspires me to write in some fashion.

Q. How do Seattle Free Lances and writers’ groups help you as an aspiring author?
A. Seattle Free Lances has helped me tremendously. The speakers always teach me so many things, but more importantly the contacts I’ve made through the group have propelled me more towards my goals than anything else. Someone once told me that the formula to becoming a successful writer is simple: write, read, and meet other writers. The first two I accomplish on my own without effort, but if it weren’t for Seattle Free Lances then I would be completely in the dark as far as the third criteria goes. I’ve met a number of writers who I talk with on a regular basis, who I share my work with and receive critique from. These are people that I would not have met otherwise, and because of that I’m very grateful to be a part of this group. Everyone thinks of writers as having only two friends: their word processor and a bottle of whiskey. While those two are definitely great companions to have, the experiences and friendship of other writers has proven to be an invaluable resource.

Q. What are your favorite books? What’s on your reading list right now? Any recommendations?
A. I’m not nearly as voracious a reader as I once was, sadly. This is largely in part because I spend so much time writing nowadays, which is a good thing. I still read, just not as often as I’d like. I’m currently reading through Conrad’s Heart of Darkness for a third time, and afterwards I plan on finishing up Stephen King’s The Dark Tower series. Intermixed with this will be plenty of short stories, mostly horror. I have a bookshelf full of paperback short story collections. I’ll throw one of them at random in my back pocket on the way to work and usually crank out a short story over my lunch breaks.

If I had to recommend anything, I’d say classic horror and the subgenre of weird fiction. I’m talking 1890s-1930s classic. I devour that stuff like its candy.

Q. What are your plans for the future?
A. My plans are ridiculously nebulous. I wish I could say where I see myself in five years, but I honestly have no idea. I’m just going to keep writing, keep reading, and keep meeting other writers, and hopefully that will take me somewhere that I want to go. I love writing, so wherever that takes me can’t be a bad place.


For archived “Who’s Who in SFL” write-ups, click here.

Meeting Recap: Waverly Fitzgerald Discusses Story Shape

By Elisa Page

Waverly Fitzgerald illustrates a braid story shape

Waverly Fitzgerald illustrates a braid story shape

Waverly Fitzgerald, writer, teacher, editor, and author of the Barking Dog mystery series, spoke to Seattle Free Lances on Tuesday April 1st about the importance of figuring out the structure of your story. Often structures are so instinctive or second-nature to us as writers that they are hard to pick out, but it’s important to figure out our structures in order to guide our writing, said Fitzgerald. Those who dislike rigid structure and prefer to simply let the words flow needn’t worry. “These structures are just formulas, skeletal structures for your writing. You don’t have to follow them religiously.”

Fitzgerald admitted to an affinity for utilizing story structure to regulate and inspire her writing: “I like poems and books that have structure, because the structures are a starting point for you to pour your words into the form.”

Staying true to her role as a teacher, Fitzgerald began by having audience members tell a neighbor a story in five minutes. She then called for types of story structures people heard, which illustrated there are essentially two kinds of stories, one in which the character goes on a quest, and the other when a stranger comes to town. But regardless of where a story falls within these two categories, it’s important to include the following: give readers answers to their questions, include an epiphany, and then, “the downhill slide”, as Fitzgerald jokingly called the slower-paced wrap up following the climax. On a big pad of easel paper, she drew a staircase and emphasized the importance of pace on each individual level.

The braid model involves two different characters or plot lines that weave in and out with each other, forming a “braid” of interweaving. Usually these interactions are chronological, but Fitzgerald noted that this form can work for past/present stories or, as another example, memoir. She emphasized that both perspectives for the braid need to be equally engaging or else the writer runs the risk of losing the reader’s interest in one thread of the story.

The collage structure looks similar to the braid form in that it utilizes contrast and plays with echoes and resonance throughout the story, and is also constantly moving. It works with nestling scenes next to each other in the piece with the goal of having many distinct snapshots forming one cohesive picture. This works well in short stories. “It’s a fun way to invigorate your writing if you’re stuck in a rut.”

For those suffering from writer’s block, Fitzgerald advised the “hermit crab” method, that is, stealing the form of some other kind of writing, a method named for the way the hermit crab steals shells and takes up residence. She suggested looking at things like dictionaries, advertisements, obituaries, recipes, and even warning labels on cleaning products for inspiration.

As additional help for triggering the flow of ideas, Fitzgerald shared with the audience the structure of a triptych, named after the method in art of dividing a work into three sections. Think of a concept (betrayal was the example she gave) and come up with three different scenes in one’s personal life that illustrate that concept. Often writing from personal experience can be extremely inspiring and help writers build moments from their memories into great writing.

Further frames include the faucet method, often used in journalism, which provides the reader with a few drops of relevant information (facts about the subject matter, background information on a character, etc.) at the beginning, then follows up on those points periodically in small, digestible spurts throughout the piece.

Eleanor Owen speaks with Waverly Fitzgerald

Eleanor Owen has a follow up question for Waverly Fitzgerald

Another story shape is the circle story, in which the writer starts at the end and works back to the beginning, a form that works well for instance in murder mysteries (in which Fitzgerald is well-versed) and historical pieces. Another kind of circling structure is the thematic, or lyric, essay, which circles around a central theme, concept, or place by looking at the various angles and approaches that can be explored without becoming redundant. Moving from circle to square, she mentioned the frame structure, which simply put is a story within a story.

Having filled quite a few sheets of paper with helpful illustrations of these various structures, Fitzgerald concluded by telling her audience: “Intrigue your readers with your structure,” a piece of advice that offers great utility to those who wish to write successful stories.

April 1: Shape your Story for Spring

waverly fitzgerald smDoors open at 6:30 p.m.

Wine, cheese, coffee and tea provided.

At the Tuesday, April 1, SFL meeting, Waverly Fitzgerald, a writing teacher with eight published mystery novels, will explain types of story shape — including braids, collage, the traditional narrative arc, the circle, the frame, the faucet, and the lyric essay — and how to choose the right structures for your stories.

The shape of your writing can change your story and its effect on readers. Whether it’s short or long, fiction, non-fiction or memoir — find your story’s best shape at this workshop.

Waverly Fitzgerald has written fiction and nonfiction books, in addition to numerous essays, articles and blog posts. She teaches for Richard Hugo House in Seattle and for Creative Nonfiction online. Under the name Waverly Curtis, she’s co-written (with friend Curt Colbert) three humorous “Barking Detective Mysteries,” starting with Dial C for Chihuahua.

Waverly also writes essays about finding nature in the city, and has received support for this work from Artist Trust, Jack Straw, Hedgebrook and the Whiteley Center. The Center for Urban Horticulture’s a perfect place to get out of the house on a spring evening to hear Waverly Fitzgerald!

Order tickets online at The Stranger. Free parking.

Location support by co-sponsor UW Botanic Gardens, Seattle 3501 NE 41st St Seattle, WA 98195. For directions, click here.

Who’s Who in SFL: Meet Helen Szablya

by Claire Gebben

helen szablyaSeattle Free Lances member Helen Szablya has a smile for everyone she meets, and wit and wisdom in never-ending supply. Born in Budapest, Hungary, Helen is an award-winning author, columnist, translator, lecturer, and former publisher of Hungary International, a newsletter for Americans about business in Hungary. She holds two university degrees, and has lived in five countries under seven different political systems. The number of her English language publications exceeds 700 articles and five books, many of which have won awards. With her husband John, former Professor of Washington State University, Helen presented hundreds of lectures on Hungary and co-authored papers in the areas of energy affecting human culture and on translating/​interpreting. Five days before her husband’s death in 2005, the couple was awarded the Order of Merit from the President of the Republic of Hungary. Helen needs every inch of her wit and wisdom — and energy — for more than her writing career. She has seven children, sixteen grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

I’m impressed that you’ve lived in so many different countries. How many languages do you speak? Can you write in all those languages?
I speak six languages. I can write in all those languages, but not for publication, for that only in English or Hungarian. However I do translate from all those, but only into English or Hungarian. I grew up bilingual Hungarian and German, but for the past 58 years I have lived in English-speaking countries. I started French when I was six years old and English when I was twelve. We started Latin in school also when I was twelve. We had an excellent teacher who actually made us speak the otherwise dead language. I translated some very interesting texts from Latin, for example a math book published in 1752 in St. Petersburg, Russia and the Emperor Ferdinand the 5th’s letter to the Shah of Iran. Unfortunately, Latin translations are mostly diplomas or birth/marriage certificates, not too interesting. When we started learning Russian I was fifteen. Our teachers of German, French, Italian, etc. were “re-educated” in three weeks to teach Russian instead. I finally received a degree in foreign languages and literature with a major in Russian and minors in German and French at Washington State University. I challenged both those minors, meaning I only had to do the exams. I also have a degree in Sales and Marketing Management — from the time when the subject was brand new — from The University of British Columbia. It was organized like a forerunner to the Executive MBA. You had to own or manage a business in order to qualify. I owned my import business Centennial Agencies in Vancouver, BC. Every year they admitted 60 men and ONE woman. So I had to wait two years to get in.

Did you always want to be a writer?
I always wanted to write. Before I even went to school I invented my own bedtime stories. I started writing in third grade. However, if I would not have lived in such “interesting times,” I was destined to head my family’s Drugstore-Cosmetic Products Empire. There were three girls in our family and I was the oldest. No boys. So there was no question about it. I had to succeed my father. Despite knowing this, I always had the secret desire to become a writer. None of this materialized at first because circumstances got in the way. When you read my recent book My Only Choice: 1942-1956 Hungary you will know everything about my life up to that time. Then you will learn that after the Soviets and the Communists “liberated” us from our businesses, factories, and houses, separated us from our fathers and nationalized our schools, I knew I had no chance of expressing my opinion freely. I knew I had the ability to write, but in those days only propaganda was published, for everything else you were imprisoned.

Luckily, we made it to freedom in 1956, when I was only 22 years old. Not all hope was lost. I already spoke English, so this was not a problem, but one of my sisters was still in Hungary. I could not write as long as she was there because I would have been blackmailed through her. Then, (maybe I should write that story, too) she and her family escaped from Hungary to Canada – through Ethiopia. Now I was free to express myself and fight for the freedom of those who were the victims of communism – with my pen. Until that time, my husband Dr. John F. Szablya P.E. and I lectured widely, together and separately, everywhere they asked us to speak, but we never put anything into writing.

My first article (“To My Husband on Father’s Day”) was published in 1967 in the Our Sunday Visitor, distribution at the time: 500,000. This same article was also published later in Hungarian and German. Since then I have written over 700 articles, many of them award-winning. I was always a freelancer. With seven children you cannot be anything else. However, freelancing fits into family life beautifully. You can write when your children take a nap, later when they go to school. Housework can be done when they are home and you can teach them how to do it. This also gives you the advantage that they can simply take over when you have to go out.

I have written my best articles (mainly opinion pieces and inspirational articles) when I became really angry, or when I cried by the time I finished writing them. These articles sold immediately. The story of our escape with a four- and a two-year-old, and a 10-day-old born during the 1956 Hungarian Uprising against the Soviets, was published first for the 20th anniversary of the Uprising. We were captured twice. The baby was three weeks old by the time we made it to Austria from Budapest (only 200 miles).

What is my message? Extreme right and extreme left are equally horrific. We have to do everything to avoid extremists ever returning to power. This message was relevant in most of my writings, even if only subtly.

Have you written in any other genres, such as fiction and poetry?
I have written poetry as a teenager in Hungarian and in French – just for myself. A book I co-wrote with Peggy King Anderson was young adult historical fiction, but that too was based on true stories, only the characters were changed to protect the innocent. This was a book about an illegal Boy Scout troop in Hungary during the 1956 Uprising against the Soviets. Scouting was illegal in Hungary from 1948 to 1990 because they dared to teach freedom and democracy to young people. Courageous leaders kept organizing illegal meetings. Some ended up in jail for two-three years because of their activity. That book earned first prizes from the Washington Press Association and from the National Federation of Press Women.

With my daughter-in-law Marcey Painter Szablya, I wrote an oral history drama Hungary Remembered about the Hungarian Uprising against the Soviets for the 30th anniversary of that event, in 1986. The genre of oral history drama was developed by my oldest daughter Helen A. Szablya and her first husband, Barry Meiners, for the National Endowment for the Humanities in 1979. They wrote and performed the history of Baltimore: Baltimore Voices based on 7,000 pages of oral histories collected by the university.

Hungary Remembered was researched, written and produced by my daughter-in-law and me. I was the project director coordinating four universities. The project was hosted by Seattle University. For this we received the George Washington Honor Medal from the Freedom Foundation at Valley Forge, the Gold Medal of the Arpad Academy in Cleveland, and a major grant from the Washington Commission for the Humanities (WCH). I was interviewed by Voice of America and it was broadcast world-wide in 42 languages. After this project I was Inquiring Mind lecturer for the WCH traveling all around Washington State lecturing about the 1956 Uprising against the Soviets. My other topic was: Women in Marxist Countries.

Do you enjoy translation as much as writing your own books?
It is a totally different experience. When you write your own book you have to invent the story, or remember it. When you translate a book, it is someone else’s story. What is very similar is that you have to “live” both stories. When either writing or translating, I was so much into the story that if the door bell rang, I had to orient myself first as to where I was and what was happening before I could answer the door.

I don’t read a book before I start translating on purpose, so I’m forced to keep translating because I want to know what is happening. That works very well. I love translating because it is easy for me. Between English and Hungarian I just read and type. Occasionally I look up a word whether there is a better way to express something, but normally I just fly through the pages when it is a literary work.

I also translated my own book The Fall of the Red Star and the oral history drama, Hungary Remembered into Hungarian. Then, I would just read the paragraph and re-write it in the target language (in this case Hungarian) because it was my own story. The book was published in Hungary in 1999 when Hungary was the honored guest at the Frankfurt International Book Fair (in Germany) and my book was exhibited there in both languages. In Frankfurt, I was also on a panel about the Hungarian Uprising of 1956.

The oral history drama translation was also performed in Hungarian by the Vancouver BC Canada Hungarian Theater and they brought the show down to Seattle. It is marvelous to listen to your own words spoken by the actors and see the reaction of the people at the same time.

What has changed for you in journalism?
EVERYTHING. I was President of the Washington Press Association 1987/88 and on the Board of the National Federation of Press Women, when we had the 50th anniversary of NFPW. We all received a commemorative mug which showed an inscription when filled with hot liquid. It read: “From hot type to high tech.” That says it all.

Would you call My Only Choice: 1942-1956 Hungary a memoir? What inspired you to write it?
I would definitely call it an autobiography and memoir. It is our true story. “I lived it. It happened to me!” are the most powerful words in any language. I wrote the first draft between 1977 and 1979. I just had to write it; I had no choice. I wanted it to be told for the whole world to know about the victims of Communism. For Americans it was hard to imagine that they had been helping Stalin, a dictator, who was Hitler’s equal, but surpassed Hitler because he outlived him and Communism is still alive in many places, along with the human rights violations. We had to talk and write for many years to make it believable. Now it is well documented and the concentration camp stories are being recorded, but we have to do it fast because we, who were eye-witnesses may die out before we deliver our full message.

That was also why I decided to translate Mind Twisters , Dr. Ernest Töttösy’s book into English. That book was nominated by Kirkus Review among the 100 best books of 2013. Originally it was published in 1987, but I made it available again through Amazon. The book is the autobiography of the eight months during which the Communists made an international lawyer schizophrenic with a truth serum in prison, then brought him back again. During that time he had a so-called “show trial,” like many did in the early 1950’s in countries under the Communists, as well as during several time periods in the Soviet Union. What is different about this book is that Dr. Töttösy remembered everything while under the influence of the drug. Normally victims do not remember anything about their ordeal.

What was your recent international book tour like?
Fantastic! Hungary is finally exposing the horrors survived during Communist times. The regime-change happened through a (bloodless) velvet revolution, so no one was held accountable for anything about the horrors of those 40 years of Communism. We did several book presentations with Dr. Zsuzsa Hantó, a professor of history and sociology who had edited a book in which my story was also included. We presented that book, Haramiák és Emberek (Bandits and People) a Hungarian book and also My Only Choice: 1942-1956 Hungary an English book. People were buying both, although the audience was Hungarian only. I talked also at the American International School, where they just finished reading my book The Fall of the Red Star.

Do you have any tips for SFL writers about the international publishing market?
Do it with through CreateSpace. Your work will be available immediately, world-wide, in print on demand, and in e-book form. You can choose the option of having it available at other booksellers, libraries and universities as well and you can order any amount of copies for book signings or other events. They will deliver anywhere. Many people read English in the world. I talked to a Hungarian Honorary Consul who ordered the book in Brazil and got it in 3-4 days. She called me immediately when she finished reading it and said I should get the Nobel prize for it.

What else would you like to share about writing and publishing that I’ve neglected to ask?
Write about what you feel passionate about, and what you know well. If you use a foreign word make sure the spelling is correct, or do not use it at all. For Americans those misspelled words will not mean anything, while native speakers will think you do not know what you are doing. The marketing part of selling your book and the PR are much more difficult and require more writing skills than merely writing the book. Translation is expensive. Unless your publisher pays for it, you should either do it yourself, or ask for a grant for the translation and have it done by a professional.


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