22 February 2015

Writing Workshop: Creating Character Names

Names are something that I’m fascinated by in literature. What makes a good name? How did famous writers come up with the names in their books? How can I make the names in my own books better? I enjoy talking about them and reading about them; I have whole lists of cool names in my idea notebook waiting for stories to match them with.

So I’m super excited to be teaching a writing workshop all about how to make up great character names! Here’s the info:

A character’s name is often the reader’s first introduction to that person—so getting character names right is important!  Join Nimrod International Journal for a mini-writing workshop entitled  “The Power of Names: Tips and Strategies for Creating Character Names in Fantasy and Science Fiction” on Saturday, March 14th at The University of Tulsa.

Some of the topics covered will include

  • Real world names vs invented names
  • Resources for finding diverse names from around the globe
  • Ways to keep names in your work era-appropriate—from the German Middle Ages to Victorian England to the American 1920s
  • How we know Voldemort is the villain—why names sound “good,” “evil,” and more
  • Ways to get the “feel” of your names right—and keep them consistent
  • Exercises to get name ideas flowing

“The Power of Names” will be held March 14th from 2:00 p.m. – 3:30 p.m. in the Meinig Recital Hall of The University of Tulsa’s Lorton Performance Center at 550 S. Gary Place in Tulsa. The workshop will be taught by Eilis O’Neal, Nimrod’s Editor-in-Chief and author of the young adult fantasy novel The False Princess. The event is free and open to the public, but space is limited and registration is required. To register, call or email Nimrod at (918) 631-3080 or nimrod@utulsa.edu with your name, address, phone number, and email.

“The Power of Names: Tips and Strategies for Creating Character Names in Fantasy and Science Fiction” is one of the events associated with The Big Read grant awarded to Northeastern State University by National Endowment for the Arts. The Big Read is a program designed to restore reading to the center of American culture. It provides competitive grants to support innovative reading programs in selected communities, all centered around a specific title, in this case Ursula K. Le Guin’s seminal fantasy novel A Wizard of Earthsea. Other events include a keynote address with fantasy author Jim Butcher, author of the Dresden series, film screenings, book club discussions, and more. For more information about the full roster of events, visit The Big Read site.

If you have questions about “The Power of Names,” contact Nimrod at (918) 631-3080 or nimrod@utulsa.edu.

I’m doubly excited because of the connection to A Wizard of Earthsea. Names are so important in that book, so it was neat to be asked to make up a workshop that connected to it.


If you’re in or near the Tulsa area, I hope that you’ll join me at the workshop!

13 October 2014

Upcoming Writing Workshop

Like many writers, I have a day job in addition to writing books. Happily, mine happens to have a lot of writing synergy: I’m the editor of Nimrod International Journal at The University of Tulsa. Nimrod publishes two issues of short fiction and poetry a year and has been around since 1956. (The journal, not me. I’ve only been with it since 1999. Which is still nearly a third of my life. Which is a little scary.) Aside from publishing the journal, we do several writing/reading related programs throughout the year. The biggest one is our Conference for Readers and Writers, and it’s coming up on October 25th.

AW 36 Front Cover

Fall/Winter 2014 issue

The Conference is a day-long writing workshop, and it’s really fun. Especially since we now bring in fantasy and science fiction authors in addition to our poets and literary fiction authors. (Basically, I go through my shelves each year and decide which author I love that I would like to meet. Being the boss has some perks.) I’ve had a fantastic time getting to meet and learn from authors such as Peter S. Beagle, Kelly Link, Patricia C. Wrede, Sharon Shinn, Rosemary Clement-Moore, and Gail Carriger. Seriously, getting to hang out with Peter Beagle was amazing. And I only teared up a little when he signed my copy of The Last Unicorn.

This year, I’m really excited because Malinda Lo will be joining us. I discovered Malinda through her first book, Ash, which is a retelling of Cinderella with a lesbian romance. It reminded me of Robin McKinley—a high bit of praise from me—and yet was also all its own. Her three books since (Huntress, Adaptation, and Inheritance) have also been awesome, and she writes some of the most interesting and thought-provoking blog posts in YA lit. She’s also the co-founder of Diversity in YA with author Cindy Pon, and if you don’t follow them on Tumblr and elsewhere, go do it now. I’m stoked to meet her, and I’m totally planning on sneaking into her class, which is going to be on the Five Foundations of Fantasy Worldbuilding, for as long as I can. (Which is sometimes not that long, because I’m the one who deals with All The Things at the conference. But still: EXCITED!!!!)


The conference is open to the public, so if you’re in the area of Tulsa, OK, you should attend. (And by “the area,” I mean any drivable distance. We have folks come in from several states, and they assure me the drive is worth it.) It’s a busy day, but a relaxed one, and a warm and welcoming environment. We have writers of all age levels and experience levels. I’m especially proud of this, because it makes it a good place for young writers who haven’t ventured out to conferences or conventions before to get their publishing world feet wet.

We start out the day with two panel discussions. I moderate one—a Q&A session where the audience gets to ask our panelists any questions they have about publishing or editing. This will be the third or fourth year I’ve moderated it (I was super nervous the first year, but I think I’ve hit my stride by now). Then we’ll have group classes about writing fiction, poetry, memoir, and performance of literature, in addition to YA fantasy.  We’ll also have a class on paths to publication, including agents, small presses, and self-publishing. And you can submit your work and sign up to have a critique session with one of the editors of the journal. Plus readings and book signings and lunch and snacks and getting to hang out with awesome authors. I ask you: How can you go wrong?

The conference price is $50, but we also have scholarships available that lower the cost to $10. Anyone can apply for a scholarship, though we especially recommend them for students and teachers.

So that’s what I’ll be doing on October 25th. (And it’s why I’ve been kind of quiet on my social media the last month or so—organizing a conference like this is tiring!) I hope I’ll see you there!