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Author event – music, books, fun

Come join me! I’ll be presenting RADIO HEAD at Liberty Bay Books as part of Bremerton’s 1st Friday Art Walk.

5:00pm to 8:00pm on Friday, September 2, 2016

409 Pacific Ave,liberty bay Bremerton, WA 98337

Liberty Bay Books is located next next to Hot Java Café. Pacific Ave. is home to an eclectic mix of restaurants, retailers, and art galleries –  a perfect location for an indie bookstore! 

Please shop local! You can purchase RADIO HEAD online at, here.



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Stepping into the spotlight – Interview with Victoria Theodore

I’m excited to announce that Mixtape Methodology published my interview with musician Victoria Theodore, featured in 20 Feet from Stardom. Here is an excerpt:

When Victoria Theodore began taking piano lessons just before her twelfth birthday, one of the first songs she learned was “Overjoyed,” the 1985 R&B single by Stevie Wonder. The song came naturally to her—as natural as the environmental percussion track in the hit’s background, layers of sound emanating from crickets and birds, ocean waves, and pebbles dropping into a pond. “I had just started studying piano,” Theodore recalls, “and since I’m a strong reader, I bought the sheet music and the album.”

They say those who wish to sing always find a song, but Theodore’s choice led the chanteuse to find her mentor. In 2007, Theodore joined Stevie Wonder’s world tour as keyboardist and background singer. She accompanied Wonder and other musical icons around the world, and performed for President Barack Obama and Queen Elizabeth.

“Whenever I perform ‘Overjoyed’ with Stevie, I experience pure euphoria and magic. I think to myself, ‘I’m playing one of the most beautiful songs ever, with the man who composed it. Pretty amazing.’” The song is her personal anthem—her inspiration for creating music, and helping others to find their voice. As Ella Fitzgerald said, “I sing like I feel.”

Theodore’s debut album of original music, Grateful, was released on…

Continue reading at Mixtape Methodology.

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Teen Writer Mentor – Classroom visits!

Let’s talk about writing and books! I’d be happy to visit your book club or classroom in person, or via Skype. I currently co-host a monthly Teen Writers Workshop at a public library, and an annual week-long, filled-to-capacity Teen Creative Writing Summer Camp.


classroom picI love every aspect of writing (both fiction and nonfiction), reading, and editing. My debut novel, Radio Head was released in 2016, and I recently completed my second book, a middle grade roadtrip epic. My short stories appear in Gravel, Skyline, Wordhaus, andMixtape Methodology. My story, Like Father, Like Son was recently named Best of Wordhaus 2015. I’m a Huffington Post contributor, and editor of an outdoor adventure magazine. I am a  member of SCBWI, and a co-organizer of annual NaNoWriMo events in my region.

Testimonial: “Getting Started in Writing” Class Presentation

Memoirs from Teen Writing Camp

Let’s Talk About Writing

Activities for 1st – 7th Grade

  • Create your own custom MadLibs!
  • Write a short story or scene using a visual image as a prompt. I will prepare a personalized collection of items to share with the group. You’ll learn how to use them to create a story or a character outline.
  • How to write and illustrate a story using only three sheets of paper (beginning, middle, end).
  • Play with music! The participants select a favorite song, and the group re-writes it: Choose a new setting, replace the “hero,” turn a tragic, dark song into a happy one–whatever works! Your group will swap out nouns, use antonyms to change the tone, and find synonyms to make the song their own.
  • What does a writer’s life look like? I’ll discuss the process of writing and revision, and talk what it’s like to turn daydreams into stories.

Activities for 8th – 12th Grade

  • Creating a story or novel structure
  • Crafting dynamic, multi-dimensional, believable characters
  • Brainstorming story conflicts and how to resolve them
  • Fun ways to break writer’s block
  • Creating effective Flash Fiction
  • Using story-writing (and music) for self-healing and problem-solving
  • Revision techniques: Polishing your work

Let’s Talk about Music

Radio Head’s protagonist, Shelby Rey, believes she can hear music inside others, just by touching them. Do we all have a song inside, an anthem we can call our own? Rock star Zac Wyatt is an enigmatic lead singer who can play any instrument, but he struggles to write honest, authentic lyrics.

Possible topics of discussion:

  • Crafting a dynamic character, inciting incident, and story problem-your group will use these elements to write a song. I’ll provide a skeleton outline of song-writing structure with prompts. This activity works well as a group, or each participant can write his or her own song independently.
  • Music therapy activities: What we listen to greatly affects our mood. I can provide fun, age-appropriate activities.

Book Clubs

Livelier book clubs also have fun participating in creative writing exercises–no pressure, just adult playtime! Would you rather discuss the text? Download Book Club questions here!

In the Seattle area? I can visit in classrooms and book clubs in person. Email me at RJLacko (at) gmail (dot) com.

RADIO HEAD is available!     Amazon     I     Barnes & Noble     I     Books-a-Million     I    IndieBound    I     Amazon UK     I     Goodreads

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5 Transformational Story Elements

Ready to elevate, expand and breathe new life into your WIP? Jody
, author of The Preacher’s Bride posts about the importance of intense growth in writing skills.

“Of course all of us are at different spots on the writing path.
And what one writer needs to work on will likely be different for another.”
Here are notes from Hedlund’s top five; While brief in description each is
worthy of a writing class unto itself. Read on, and take heed.

1. Strengthening the story:

Believability: Fiction cannot imitate real life; it must transcend it. But motivations must also still be grounded on a logical, progressive, “this-could-really-happen” foundation, even if it’s in a galaxy far, far away.

Complexity: No matter if we write for children or adults, readers long for a story with the kinds of twists and turns that keep them turning the pages. Take the story off the first floor and move it into the labyrinth.

Uniqueness: Reject the predictable and stretch deeper for fresh ideas. Look for ways to push the boundaries, add a unique perspective, and move beyond the familiar.

2. Plotting with greater structure:

Conflict & tension: Adding conflict to every page will increase the tension, pulling the readers’ emotions tighter, making it harder for them to put down our books. Physical and emotional conflicts are cyclical, constantly spinning faster and wider, until reaching a climax.

Three strand plot lines: Weave the strands like braid. Physical
—overcoming major outward barriers or defeating an antagonist. Emotional plot—working through inward issues for character growth. Relational plot—conflict between 2 major characters, particularly critical in

Three Act Structure: Act I: An inciting incident
pushes MC (main character) into a new situation. Act II: MC makes progress toward goal, but complications and higher stakes escalate and threaten to defeat him. Act III: MC experiences setback, climax, then aftermath.

3. Writing by scenes and sequels:

Goals: A scene should play out for a reader like they’re watching a movie. A good rule of thumb: make a scene have more than one reason for being included in the book, preferably multiple reasons. With each scene ask: what are the goals? What’s at stake for the characters?

Transitions: Keep transitions between scenes short—if any is needed at all. Jump-cutting between scenes is a technique that moves us from one scene to the next without any exposition.

Hook: If possible, open the scene with a hook, the critical moment of the scene. Most scenes need very little set-up and whatever is needed can often be woven in. End the scene in such a way that the stakes are high for the MC. Don’t tie it up nice and neat. Make the reader need to keep going.

4. Developing deeper characters:

Physically: Avoid clichéd descriptions. We can’t describe everything. Sprinkle in the things that make the character unique. And then show who the character is through their actions, reactions, and dialog.

Emotionally: Dig deep into a character’s past to find the motivation for their goals and dreams. The more complex and deeper we go, the more realistic our characters will become.

Likeability: In giving our characters problems and adding conflict between characters, it’s easy to tip the scales so that our MC ends up being hard to like. We have to find something redeemable, qualities that readers appreciate, traits that make them heroic—even if in a small way. (This is
an ironic tip; writers often do the opposite—lavishing so many heroic qualities on their MC, ultimately rendering him/her one-dimensional. A healthy balance of positive and negative traits lends believability and likeabilty. -RL)

5. Tightening excess and unnecessary prose:

Backstory: In the first chapter, only sprinkle in enough to ground the reader in the setting. Then throughout the book, add in pre-story information only as needed and only in small bites.

Over-explaining kills the story-flow and treats our readers like ignorant
children. Instead we should weave in any necessary exposition and assume our readers are brilliant adults who will catch on without us having to go into
detail about everything.

Extra wordage: We can tighten our stories by eliminating unnecessary words. For more ideas, read these posts by my critique partner Keli Gwyn: 12 Weak Words We Can Turn Into Strong Ones.

Hedlund’s suggestion for growth? Pick ONE area (from the above list) where you are weakest. Read more about that particular skill. Intentionally practice it in your current WIP. At first adding in the new skill may slow you down and feel awkward. But with a little practice, eventually it will become second nature.

In which of the areas listed above are you weakest? Do you make a habit of intentionally practicing new skills? And if so, how?

Learn more about Jody Hedlund‘s book’s here. (And while you’re at it, check out her blog. Her advice on writing is excellent.)


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