The Postcard and the Butterfly Effect

From Madrona presenter, Wynn Allen;

I just finished a short story titled, “The Postcard.” While re-reading for edits, I thought
about the story in a broader sense. How writers are often motivated to write from the simplest occurrence. It’s similar to a butterfly flapping its wings and impacting a hurricane, the Butterfly Effect. How one butterfly flying near a strong wind makes one more wing push of air, changing a 73 mph wind into a 74 mph-plus hurricane.

My main character, Elizabeth, is a case in point. She rests on the patio of her Santa
Barbara mountain home. Without a care in the world, she goes through the day’s mail. Opening an envelope from her daughter, she finds a postcard from 1941. Her daughter had been meandering through an antique store when she found the postcard, seemingly for her grandmother 80 years ago. The mystery unfolds, deeper and deeper as days go on. For Elizabeth, million dollar questions posed on a simple two-penny postcard.

An inconsequential activity, meandering through an antique store, creating a dramatic
realization. A very small initial event (butterfly) creating a significantly different outcome (hurricane) than had been intended. Writers are so wonderfully “wired” to experience the inconsequential then produce the consequential. I imagine we’ll hear about similar cases at our seminar.

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Press Release – May Self-Publishing Weekend

For immediate release – April 25, 2018
CONTACT: Tom Trimbath: 360/221-2201

Self-Publishing Weekend:
Getting the Words, the Process, and the Marketing Right

Madrona Workshop Troupe, a resource for writers, will debut its 2018 two-day series with a self-publishing “Weekend on Whidbey Island,” May 19 & 20 in Langley Washington. In-depth workshop topics include:

  • How to prepare a high-quality manuscript;
  • How to choose and work with a self-publisher; and
  • How to develop and implement a successful marketing plan.

The dynamic presenters are Tom Trimbath, author of six self-published books, reflecting travel, culture, nature, and personal finance for frugal folk. Jo Meador holds a master’s degree in creative writing, writes nonfiction, memoir, poetry, and is self-published author of the novel, There is Love. Wynn Allen holds a doctorate in communication, published in fiction and nonfiction, and has years of experience in marketing. The Workshop’s activities include individual consultations, group discussions, and shared meals that will supplement and allow writers to interact with the Madrona team.


Additional information is available by contacting any of the three principals: Tom Trimbath at, Jo Meador at Wynn Allen at

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Popular Publishing

Publishing has become popular, in spite of the traditional publishing industry. A lot has changed in the last two decades.

Typically (or perhaps traditionally), the traditional publishing industry publishes 250,000 to 300,000 titles each year. That’s more than fits in a Barnes & Noble, which carry about 150,000 titles. Those are impressive numbers representing millions of hours spent by writers. Walk into any bookstore, look at all of those books, reflect on the hundreds or thousands of hours that went into each, then reflect on all of the books that are started by never finished – and marvel at the industry of writers and authors.

Also typically, the world changed. It always does.

Two innovations, print-on-demand and ebooks, revolutionized the industry and the art. The advent of high-speed ink jet printers and electronic book readers (aka computers) avoid the industry’s industrial heritage. Instead of a factory, books and their covers can be printed by a device the size of a dishwasher. Instead of driving to the bookstore, many people prefer electronic delivery, skipping the need and cost of paper.

As of 2011, more titles were published by print-on-demand and as ebooks than were printed by the traditional publishers. As of 2017, the self-publishing industry accounts for “over 84% of all print and ebook titles“. The total should soon exceed 800,000 titles.

I happened to self-publish my first book, Just Keep Pedaling, near the start of the revolution, 2002. That year, my scant research shows there were fewer than 20,000 print-on-demand titles published that year. Just Keep Pedaling also was published as an ebook, though some of those formats are already obsolete. I’ve watched the industry grow as I’ve written and self-published six books, produced a series of photo essays, and helped dozens of writers become authors. A lot has changed.

In 2002, my first book cost about $400 to publish and I received about a 20% royalty. Soon, the self-publishers realized they could offer more and charge more. My next books cost about $1,000, which continued to be a bargain compared to the $15,000 some authors would spend traditionally self-publishing. Eventually, Amazon realized they could drive traffic to their site by offering more titles; so, they bought Createspace and Kindle. Now, authors can publish their books for free and receive as much as 70% royalties. Why pitch to traditional publishers and pay the associated costs of postage, printing manuscript excerpts, and waiting months for a likely rejection when you can use word processing and templates to publish at your leisure?

Writing a book is an accomplishment that should be celebrated. Publishing can be just as large of a task. Self-publishing requires the writer to become an editor, designer, illustrator, publisher, marketer, and publicist. Madrona Workshops cover a wide array of those topics in one or two day events. Come by and learn the skills you need, or the skills you want to delegate. We’re informal (it’s an island thing), supportive (we’re writers, too), and curious (what is your project and where will it take you?) Check the schedule and agenda for more details. Got question? Contact us. We’re happy to help.

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Dipping into the Ink

From Jo Meador, Madrona instructor, MFA, a writer with experience in fiction and non-fiction, ranging from insightful storytelling to technical descriptions of databases. 

“Dipping into the Ink” is my way of summoning all of the resources in my psyche to focus on the writing process, that is, to create, expand, develop and produce my work in published form. Or, that is the way I would have characterized my daily employment a year ago. A time when getting published was all I could think about, all I strived for.

Fast forward to April 2018. Ink has flowed freely down the river of life. Experience has chimed in to scold me about my limited reach, an ill-defined understanding of what would satisfy my soul. Even back in the chaos of the 2017 past, in the heart of my hearts, I actually did want to be read. Not in a feverish celebrity sort of way, but I wanted to be read by a community broader than islanders or the small cadre of friends who read my book.

In fact, the question of audience had rarely entered my mind. The term audience represented to me a means of limiting my story, of constraining what I had to say about the topic of the book and directing it toward a smaller focus. My mental audience consisted of the sum total of persons who had reviewed the manuscript, in groups or not, over the fifteen years of its draft life. Yet, because I ignored the question of audience, I did not have charge of where my work was targeted by the publisher and by the editors and reviewers, who were not always kind.

In our first session of the year, the Madrona Workshop Troupe presents a day to explore the life of presenting your work, from inception to publishing to marketing.

Want to learn more from Jo? Our next workshop is April 21. Looking forward to seeing you there.

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How Bright is that Candle

From Wynn Allen, Madrona instructor, Ph.D., an author with years of experience in domestic and international marketing, communication education, entertainment, and writing;

“Your book is written, maybe almost finished. Great…BUT…if potential buyers don’t know your book is out there, they can’t buy it! “How bright is that candle under the basket?” is an old adage and still a good question. Over the past several years, e-books and print-on-demand books continue to out sell traditional publications, and the outlets are expanding. Traditional publishing is not dead, but now writers who want to become authors have more choices, many more choices…and more demands…to succeed. For most writers the toughest part of the option to self-publish is marketing and it’s too often the most-neglected. The Madrona Workshop Troupe is here to guide and support you!”

Want to learn more from Wynn? Our next workshop is April 21. Looking forward to seeing you there.

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Full day of Writing along…

Thanks for joining us on Veteran’s Day for a fabulous writing workshop.

Reported by students are several stories on the way and reawakening the writing muse. Look here for future adventures in writing in 2018.

Have a happy and idea-provoking holiday!

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Modern Self-Publishing

Do you know about those rare books that are valuable because they had limited production runs? I wrote a book like that. It was called Modern Self-Publishing. I don’t think copies will sell for much in the collectibles market, but if you have a copy, it’s rare. Modern self-publishing is so dynamic that modern self-publishing can’t keep up with it. Write, publish, distribute, and it’s already out-of-date. That’s why this weekend’s session will be as varied and dynamic as ever.

Modern Self-Publishing has become so common that there’s less of a reason to make the distinction since I first used it in 2002. It represents two ways to publish: print-on-demand, and e-books.

Print-on-demand is such a common way to print a book that it’s hard to distinguish from traditional printing.The new technologies were adopted by writers and scoffed at by traditional publishers, until the traditional publishers saw the profitable business model they’d initially overlooked. The ability to print one copy of a book, rather than having to commit to printing thousands, drops the cost of publication to effectively zero. The cost of each book is higher, but the financial risk is much lower – and publishing is a financially risky business.

E-books were a natural consequence of word processing, desktop publishing, and print-on-demand. Word processors are sophisticated enough to directly feed into various publication processes. Someone realized that, rather than just printing and selling the printed book, they could also sell the file and do so at a much lower cost. When they were introduced there were few standards, poor copyright control, and uncertain distribution networks. Now,  e-books are so ubiquitous that they’ve standardizing on prices, file formats, and delivery mechanisms.

I published my first book in 2002 as a print-on-demand title and in various e-book formats. Since then, I’ve written five more, and produced another five. I began teaching about the process so frequently that I compiled my notes into a book. Unfortunately, the industry is changing so quickly that my edits couldn’t keep up with reality. I took that book out of print.

Modern self-publishing is a great enabler for writers. A writer can directly connect with readers without having to negotiate with agents, editors, and marketing. Fewer filters means truer voices.

While being a great enabler, modern self-publishing also requires a modern writer to be aware of some traditional tasks like editing, cover design, marketing text, pricing, and of course writing. There are more tasks than in traditional publishing, but there are fewer people standing in the way with big NO stamps.

We’ll go over the:

  • technology
  • basic process
  • parts of the book
  • expenses
  • potential income
  • market
  • publisher selection
  • ancillary benefits.

Key to the process is the self-awareness that most writers possess. What are your goals, skills, talents, resources, and constraints? Understand those aspects of your self, and better understand how to customize the process for you and your project.

Getting your words to your readers has never been easier. Not easy, but at least easier.

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Writing For The Internet

Writing is writing. What could be different about writing for the internet? True. You can use the same writing skills online as Mark Twain did on a typewriter – and Mark Twain would probably be one of the first writers to jump onto Twitter if he was alive today.

Writing for the internet starts with the same goals of most writers and authors: gain exposure, reach an audience and a community or a market, spread a message, and if the writer is lucky, maybe even make some money. That last one is tough, but that’s always been the case.

  • Style has changed. Adhering to various manuals of style isn’t as appreciated as producing something that can be searched, found, and shared.
  • Being concise is much more valuable thanks to shorter attention spans and the visual limitations of screen sizes. Book authors get to create tomes that are hundreds of thousands of pages long, but on the internet they can expect to find readers labeling the works as tl;dr (too long; didn’t read.) Get a slice of that message across in 2,000 words, or 500 words, or even 140 characters and more people will read it.
  • Give up on the idea of controlling formatting. Elegant fonts, page layouts, and professional headers and footers are lost on devices where the reader can grow, shrink, and change the color of the text. What are you reading this on: a monitor, a laptop, a tablet, or a smartphone? I don’t care because I don’t try to optimize for any platform because there are too many platforms and devices. Relax. Keep it simple.
  • The formats that matter are headlines, images, links, and hashtags; all things that lead to searching and sharing. Be too common, and the words get lost in the crowd. Be too uncommon, and never be found. Write about something others care about, make it easy to share, and reach farther than most authors did thirty years ago.
  • Then, after you’ve introduced the world to your words, pull up the analytics and truly learn what resonated with readers, and what was there mostly for self-satisfaction.

It’s possible to devote an entire weekend to getting past the fear of social media, practicing phrasing, choosing the right keywords, finding the right community, and learning how to efficiently write once in a way that can be shared often. For the portion of the afternoon devoted to writing for the internet we’ll review the techniques, the reasons behind them, and hopefully play with real examples that can be launched after you get home.

Want an example of what you can bring? Try writing something like this blog post (~400 to 600 words), and then think about key phrases to share, descriptive topics that aren’t too common or uncommon, and then how to edit it down to half that size, and down again, and eventually down to the 140 character limit of a tweet. Even if you don’t use social media much, your readers probably do.

After all of that, realize that writing for the internet is also a way to earn income as a writer. But, be ready to write for SEO (Search Engine Optimization), readability, and networking.

Writing may be thousands of years old, but it is also continually evolving. Scribes needed to know how write in clay. Now, we write in electrons. What’s next?

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EDITING: The Critical Stages of Honing Your Draft

In our earliest phases of writing, we are prone to think that “editing” is nothing more than proofreading our draft for correct spelling, good punctuation and usage, and completeness of thought or idea. In fact, this first cut at editing, which we are well qualified to do ourselves, is a quick intro to the editing processes that will govern our writing.

Before you share the draft with anyone else, you must edit it yourself. How much editing you do is based on how confident you are in your editing skills. The further away from that first draft that you move, the more errors will be introdu


ced into your final paper. To this end, professional editors offer their talents for a fee. Before you negotiate that fee you should understand the levels of editing that you are paying for.

Proofreading in its simplest form is checking for spelling errors, misapplication of punctuation marks, word usage and form issues (think verb tenses), and sentence construction. Paragraph construction is also at issue with proofreading, but this is the point that it intersects with copy editing.

Copy editing should be executed by you in your first draft, but it will also be done by the publisher of your work. Your review assures that your piece says what you want it to say in the most effective way. Your publisher assures that your piece fits into their marketing profile as far as content and reach. Copy editors may often resize your piece by omitting a few lines or sentences. Your main concern (and why you should always proofread your own work as well as the proof sheet from the publisher) will be to assure that those omissions do not affect your message to the reader. In a personal example, two sentences omitted from an article on data management resulted in the article reaching the opposite conclusion from what I was advising. Unfortunately, I had been “too busy” to read the proof from an editor I trusted.

Content editing is a strange animal for me. I was a content editor for years as a consulting editor for Data Resource Management (demise, early 90’s – pre digital publishing). My job was to critique articles submitted to the journal, validate topic as relating to our audience base, and assure that the arguments actually supported the thesis. This particular topic was a job for a subject expert,  but the overall task is comparable to how your high school teacher rated your compositions. [I also graded high school compositions].  I say it is strange for me, because recently when I submitted my novel to a publisher they claimed to do content editing, but what they really meant was what I call “fact checking.” So be sure you know what you are paying for.ogre


Fact checking is part of the copy editor’s job at the newspaper. They check the facts in your work to assure that trade names are not infringed upon, that you have not misrepresented any persons or companies, or slandered anyone with unfounded “facts.” It is in fact what is being done today to scrub our political conversation on a daily basis. There are writers who specialize in fact-checking for criminal and judicial novels rich in detail.

Developmental editing is a complicated subject to tackle with a summary description. It aims at the constructs of your draft, how the subject is framed and developed, and how it targets the audience. Whether you write fiction or nonfiction, essay or short stories your work must be presented in a manner that keeps the reader’s interest. I have made this subject a little easier to address by laying out the constructs of story and genre in three earlier blogs on the Madrona Workshop Troupe site.

10/13/17  Getting Things Done
10/16/17  Weaving A Story
10/20/17  Cloaking Story in Genre

More to say about Developmental Editing in the next blog.









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A Little Bit Of Help

Trimbathcreative's Blog (Tom Trimbath)

It only took me a couple of minutes.” It would’ve taken me about half a day. Dropping my bicycle off at Bayview Bicycles was an excellent example of the value of expertise. I rode across America, so some know me as a cyclist, but my bicycle would cringe. Just because I ride it doesn’t mean I know how to take care of it, at least not efficiently. I appreciated his work and his attitude so I did the modern thing and Liked his Facebook page, and posted a short testimonial on my Timeline. (I would’ve done the same on Twitter, but the business doesn’t have an account.) It was a small gesture, but hopefully helpful. Then I saw what someone posted about me. Wow.

It can take courage to ask for help. There’s a vulnerability and an admission of being human. Being human runs counter to some…

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