June 9, 2012

Creative Writing Tools

Paris Writers' Workshop
Guest Lecturer: Jami Bernard, Author and Media Consultant
By Kathryn Kemp-Griffin

I stared at my blank screen and tapped my fingers on the keyboard. I’d been asked to write a post about author and media consultant Jami Bernard, who is here from New York to lecture at the Paris Writers Workshop. I wiggled my fingers some more, spreading them like starfish. Wiggle. Starfish. Wiggle. As with a sport, writing requires warm-up sequences to optimize performance and avoid injury. My hands hovered over keyboard, ready to type 500 words a minute, which was what was required if I was going to make the deadline.

This should be easy. Jami Bernard, an internationally known former film critic who now works exclusively with writers who are struggling to finish and polish their work, has eight books published with major houses — including Penguin, HarpersCollins and Warner Books. She worked with Quentin Tarantino for the biography “Quentin Tarantino: The Man and His Movies,” and she has been on Oprah. She even got to hang out with Superman as the inspiration for Lois Lane in a comic book published by DC Comics, in which Lois is based on Jami’s early career as a reporter, editor and headline writer for The New York Post.

Wiggle. Starfish.

What is so difficult about writing about two not-to-be-missed lectures she’ll be giving during the Paris Writers Workshop? I’m the Creative Writing Program Director at WICE. I write course descriptions and promote workshops regularly, for goodness sakes !

Et voilà. The reason I couldn’t write a word.

You see, that’s not how I know Jami. I know her as a writer and from having been her student. She has also become a friend. She’s more to me than a title highlighted in bold with a list of topics to be covered. She’s more than a catchy get-people-to-come marketing blurb. She was the first person to read my very first line, and all the lines that came after that. By the end of the first chapter of the first book I was trying to write, she already knew what I didn’t. There was no story.

That’s right. No story. At least, not the way I was writing it.

Sound depressing ? Perhaps, but Jami didn’t leave me dangling over the cliff of despair and hopelessness. She held the safety line tightly while she gently coaxed, prodded, and guided me through the mess to find the story that I’d written after all (but couldn’t see). The process felt like a gentle stretch; a slight burning followed by freedom of movement.

Jami Bernard
In the lecture « How To Structure A Good Story : Beginnings, Middles and Endings, » Jami will review the basic elements of structure to help shape your story and make it come alive. You’ll learn how to recognize the « beats » to move your story forward and keep readers turning pages. Good stories don’t just happen. They need careful planning and clear direction so that they unfold exactly as they should, and in the voice in which they were meant to be told.

In the second lecture, « Secrets of Getting Published, » Jami will discuss the role of the agent, editor, and publisher; go over the elements of a perfect pitch; and reveal the ten biggest mistakes that keep writers from getting published. (Thanks to her, I’ve learned how NOT to infuriate agents and how NOT to start a chapter!) Her tips for first-time authors will help you save time and navigate your story to the right agent.  

Sign up for one or both lectures by clicking on the links below. Take the time to come and join us. Your story will thank you.

Monday, June 25 at 3:45 pm

Tuesday, June 26 at 2:00 pm

For information on all the Paris Writers' Workshop afternoon panels/lectures from June 25–28 or to sign up for a consultation with one of our visiting literary agents, please click here.