Preview Mode Links will not work in preview mode

Stark Reflections on Writing and Publishing

Aug 23, 2018

This episode includes a conversation with three guests: Ara Grigorian, Janis Thomas and Julie Strauss. Ara and Janis are the brains and brawn behind the Novel Intensive Seminar and Workshop and Julie was a writer who has attended and benefited from these sessions.

The Novel Intensive Workshop is a hands-on full day collaborative workshop in which writers are able to apply the Novel Intensive Tools and Principles to their current work in progress. Guided by best-selling author Janis Thomas and award-winning author Ara Grigorian, the workshop gives writers an opportunity to share their writing, ask questions, focus on their own and unique challenges, and receive immediate feedback. Hands-on exercises are provided which are designed to help writers hone their storytelling skills.

For this episode's personal update, Mark shares the fact that this week he is embarking on a two day personal writing retreat to a location that is about a two hour's drive from home; while there, he will be focusing on finishing the first draft of a non-fiction book for writers that will be released under his Stark Publishing Solutions imprint. The book shares Mark's what he has learned about the business of writing and publishing in the more than 25 years he has been a writer, a bookseller and an industry representative.

He also shares that he recently secured the audio rights for his novel I, DEATH back from Edge Publishing and plans on posting the project to Findaway Voices, this episode's sponsor.

Mark thanks his Patreon sponsors and then moves to the main interview feature for this episode.

In their conversation, Mark, Julie, Ara and Janis discuss:

  • How the Novel Intensive workshop first came together (Janis and Ara's own "meet cute" style reciprocal teaching relationship which led to the eventual collaborative workshop
  • The way that the workshop was born out of the desire to gather all the things Ara and Janis have learned about writing and then package it into an easily digestible info-filled interactive workshop that other writers could benefit from
  • Julie's discovery of the program via a presentation (a significantly abbreviated and truncated version of the full day workshop) that Ara gave at an annual RWA (Romance Writers of America) Conference and how, half-way through that session, she had that "a-ha" moment which helped solve a dilemma she'd been struggling with on a novel in progress
  • Why Julie plans on returning to some of the same workshops she has already attended for insights and inspiration on future projects, and how Ara and Janis always keep one of their own works in progress in the back of their minds while teaching, to draw similar inspiration
  • How Ara and Janis use the Novel Intensive principles in different ways they adapt into their own distinct writing processes
  • The thing that surprised Julie the most about the way that Janis and Ara teach together and the way that each of the 10 students in one particular workshop had their own unique "a-ha" moments at different times throughout the day
  • The underlying messages of the Novel Intesive workshop, such as "formula doesn't have to mean formulaic" and the importance that a writer fights for fully realizing the emotional moments in the story
  • The use of popular or well-known movies from multiple genres in teaching and highlighting examples of story and character moments through a workshop
  • How it's not about plot VS character, but rather how those two elements interact and play off one another
  • Julie's thoughts on what her investment in the Novel Intensive workshop (both money and time), has meant to her writing
  • The reason why this course is an in-person experience and the value that comes from the intimacy of the group (between 10 and 20 people per session)
  • A series of excellent tips for how writers can apply Novel Intensive techniques to being their own story coach
  • A look at the opening scene in Julie's Prosecco Heart and the way that the Novel Intensive workshop helped her with that novel
  • Forthcoming projects that Julie, Ara and Janis are each working on

After the interview, Mark shares thoughts on two things.

The first is the value of how you can learn something new from re-reading, re-watching, re-listening, re-learning, re-experiencing something.

The second is magic and serendipity that can happen during physical encounters with other writers at workshops, conferences, etc which can be far more powerful than the experience of a digital or virtual one.


ARA GRIGORIAN is the international award-winning author of Game of Love (2015), and Ten Year Dance (2017), his critically-acclaimed second novel. Ara is a technology executive in the entertainment industry. True to the Hollywood life, Ara wrote for a children’s television pilot that could have made him rich (but didn’t) and nearly sold a video game to a major publisher (who closed shop days later). Fascinated by the human species, Ara writes about choices, relationships, and second chances. He is a public speaker, a story coach, and a workshop leader for the Southern California Writers’ Conference, Writer’s Digest Novel Writing Conference, Santa Barbara Writers Conference, and others, including the popular Novel Intensive. Ara is represented by Stacey Donaghy of the Donaghy Literary Group.

JANIS THOMAS is the author of best-selling What Remains True and All That’s Left of Me from Lake Union, as well as three critically-acclaimed humorous Women’s Fiction novels, Something New, Sweet Nothings, and Say Never. Award-winning Murder in A-Minor is the first book in her Musical Murder Mystery series featuring songwriting detective Samantha Wedlock. Janis is a popular workshop leader and speaker, and a passionate writing advocate. When she isn’t writing or fulfilling her PTA duties, she loves to spend time with her kids, sing with her sister, play tennis, and throw lavish dinner parties with outrageous menus. She lives in Southern California with her husband, children, and two crazy dogs.

JULIE STRAUSS is the author of the three stand-alone "Chefs in Love" novels that include Moonstone Heart, Hungry Heart and Prosecco Heart. She lives in Southern California with her husband and four kids. Julie says that she eats dark chocolate and drinks good wine and reads lots of books and regularly speaks in movie quotes. She used to publish romance novels under the pen name Emma Foster, but says she realized that she was way too lazy to keep up two online profiles in addition to all the other personalities inside her head. So she dumped the pen name, and now you can find her at social media places under the persona "Julie Wrote A Book."