Category Archives: workshops

Weekend Writing Workout: Add a Little Magic

I’ve developed a course called Introduction to Speculative Fiction and there’s a particular brainstorming exercise where students do sub-genre mash-ups to generate stories.

Once when I was teaching the class there was a woman in the front row who spent most of the class scribbling in her journal. She was a contemporary fiction writer working on a semi-autobiographic story. I thought she wasn’t interested in the class and was off on her own adventure. Turns out she had been inspired by the exercise.

She told me later that she had been stuck in her writing and depressed about it. She had been having trouble letting go of parts of the story that weren’t serving it because they were “true.” Even though it was a work of fiction, she was attached to these “truths.”

After our genre exercise, just for the heck of it, she decided to add a magical realism element to her “real world” story. She said not only did  it make her story more interesting, it freed her from this need to stick to “reality.” She apologized after class for spending the whole time working on her story and I said, “by all means, it was a perfect use of the time!”

from Wikipedia:

As recently as 2008, magical realism in literature has been defined as “a kind of modern fiction in which fabulous and fantastical events are included in a narrative that otherwise maintains the ‘reliable’ tone of objective realistic report … fantastic attributes given to characters in such novels—levitation, flight, telepathy, telekinesis—are among the means that magic realism adopts in order to encompass the often phantasmagorical political realities of the 20th century.”


1) SET YOUR TIMER for 10 minutes.

Think about a moment in your life when you had to say good-bye to an inanimate object (a car, a dress, a book, a couch).

Start with the line:  It was time to say good-bye to …

Write without stopping, crossing out, rereading, or editing.

2) SET YOUR TIMER for 12-15 minutes.

Now make the object animate in some way. Give it a magical property. Have it visit you in your dreams. Give it some way to communicate with you.

Start with the line: The (object) looked at me and …

3) SET YOUR TIMER for 20 minutes.

And now write the SCENE between you and the object if you haven’t already.

Start with the line: In this scene …

Write without stopping, crossing out, rereading, or editing.

Have a great weekend!


Filed under weekend workout, workshops, writing exercises

The Ojai WordFest and Writer’s Conference

The Ojai WordFest is just around the corner. A nine-day celebration of Words, Ideas, and Stories in Majestic Ojai Valley, the WordFest kicks off with a BookFair (March 19), includes an “extravaganza” of individually-hosted events, and features a conference of Master Classes for Writers that spans 2 weekends.

I will be teaching three master classes over the course of the event as well as facilitating a day long writing excursion with poet and blogger Gwendolyn Alley, MCing a book launch event, and hosting a few early morning poetry mini-bootcamps.

REGISTER TODAY and SAVE $75 on any Full-Day Master Class!

(Enter My Special Promo Code: Danika | Offer Expires March 8, 2011)


For more information or to Register, visit


Filed under serious play, workshops

The Accidental Novelist Gives Two Purposeful Poetry Readings

It’s been a while since I’ve given a poetry reading, so I’m pretty excited to be heading down to Vancouver, WA and Portland, OR in a few weeks. Not only that, I’m teaching a brand spanking new Imaginary Worlds workshop. This one is for poets. I have another for kids and one for fantasy writers as well.

Thursday, March 25, 2010:

7 PM Poetry Reading @ Cover to Cover Books
1817 Main Street, Vancouver, WA
(360) 514-0358
Contact: Christopher Luna

Friday, March 26, 2010:

7 PM Poetry Reading @ St. John’s Booksellers
8622 N. Lombard St., Portland, OR
contact Nena Rawdah

Saturday, March 27:

4:30 PM Imaginary Worlds Workshop (young adult to adult)
@ Cover to Cover Books in Vancouver, WA (address above)

Imaginary Worlds with Danika Dinsmore: As we grow older, we tend to spend less time looking at our world via our imaginations. In this workshop we will explore the imaginary worlds of our daily lives, discovering new and magical experiences in the “ordinary” occurrences around us. Be inspired by an afternoon of creative writing exercises and lively discussion and leave with a bag of tricks to return to whenever you want to re-enter those worlds.

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Filed under poetry, workshops

Hit n Strum Wraps… on to PitchMarket 2010!

Last week we wrapped on Hit n Strum… for the most part. There are still a few minor scenes that need picking up, but for the majority of our team, it’s time to move on. Other gigs are calling, our spouses and loved ones want to see us, and the volunteer members of the crew are down to their last boxes of cereal.

I have to say this was one of the best things I have ever done in my life and I can’t wait to see how it all comes together in the editing room. Half scripted, half spontaneous guerrilla shoot, and all magic.

HS crew photo

Stunt Day Crew Photo

See the older couple on the far left? Those are the director’s parents. His Dad drove the cast and crew around. And his mom (in the sunglasses) made the crew breakfast every morning during the shoot. I’m gonna miss her.

Oh, and that’s their CAR… the one we used in our stunt. They were pretty good sports.

Reporter Glen Schaefer from the Vancouver Province was there on Stunt Day. CLICK HERE for the great article he wrote about our shoot. Very nice spread.


In addition to getting back to editing my latest feature script, I’m the Program Director for PitchMarket 2010, a professional networking and pitching event happening here in Vancouver on March 6th and 7th. CHECK IT OUT! It’s going to be great. Register now, cuz the first 50 registrants get extra special bonuses you won’t want to miss.


Filed under film biz, pitching your script, screenwriting, workshops

Inside Story on the Inside Passage – Part Three

NOTE:  It is harder to blog on a cruise ship than I anticipated.  Internet Access is not only expensive, it’s spotty. This entry was written during my cruise, but I didn’t get a chance to post it until I got back.


Today we’re in Ketchikan, Alaska, our first stop on the journey. There are three cruise ships docked here, dwarfing the town. It’s a lovely spot, isolated and friendly. They obviously cater to cruise ships because there’s no shortage of art, clothing, jewellery, and tourist attracting goodies. Ketchikan_20090831_0042

I asked a local how she felt about it and she said she liked that it brought more people into town. The only way anyone can get here is by boat or plane, the mountains and glaciers are impassable, so I can see how for many months out of the year, it could feel a bit lonely.

The only thing she doesn’t like, she said, was when tourists from the U.S. ask her if they take American dollars there.  Doh!  Sadly, she explained, it happens more often than you might think. Yes, Alaska IS part of the U.S. folks.


Yesterday afternoon we started some of the real workshop work. Dara has a PhD in mythology and uses myths to get to the heart of the Feminine Heroic. According to Dara, and I wholeheartedly agree, one of the reasons we have become so dissatisfied with contemporary films is that they have become unbalanced, over-stressing the Masculine Heroic – the external journey.

The masculine heroic journey is about the ascension to greatness, the individual staking claim, standing up to power structures, etc. The Feminine Heroic is about the internal transformational journey, going deeper into the place we call “soul.” And just as our own abductions into the underworld are essential for personal growth (i.e. our “dark years” – points of grief, sadness, depression), so these abductions are vital in creating authentic characters and stories that stay with us.

Dara’s lecture was supplemented by Deb’s writing exercises. Deb uses a combination of exercises to recall personal stories and physical sensations (i.e. where on our bodies do we feel our memories). As you can imagine, sharing these stories was quite emotional for several of us. Did I mention that we each got a pack of klenex at the start of class? I think everyone had theirs open by the end of the day.


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Filed under serious play, truth and beauty, workshops

Inside Story on the Inside Passage – Part Two

I’ve never been on a cruise before. If I had been given a choice of vacations, it’s not the one I would have picked. And ironically, this was the year I was going to go to Burning Man. A cruise to Alaska is about as far away from that as I could get. Dara Marks thought it was funny, Burning Man vs. The Feminine Heroic (the name of her workshop on the cruise).


To tell you the truth, I find all this to be a bit surreal. Right now I’m sitting in the deck chair of a moving city, levitating above the ocean, staring out as the Canadian coast rolls by. When I’m in the belly of the ship, I feel like I’m inside an enormous hotel and easily forget we’re moving. I mean, there’s a casino, a library, a huge theatre, cinema, and miles of long halls that remind me of The Shining.

I’m in an inside cabin; not the original plan. The group did some trading around of rooms yesterday and I just said put me anywhere, I’m easy. If I ever in my lifetime take another cruise, I will not book an inside cabin. I realize some people get sick watching the world move by, but I get claustrophobic in a windowless room. So, a note of caution if you ever book a cruise and you’re at all uneasy in small spaces.

In any case, it was so dark and disorienting when I woke up this morning that when I hit deck 10 and saw the coastline, I started to cry. Okay, I tend to cry at the drop of a hat these days being pre-menopausal and all, but it was just so stunning. So much wild, untouched land. I was reminded, once again, that I’m part of something much larger than myself.

We all met up for the first time last night. Fourteen women workshop attendees and our fearless leaders: Dara Marks and Deb Norton. As we each introduced ourselves, Dara handed us a present: a workshop binder, journal, pens, crayons, coloured markers, and chocolate – all inside a beautifully decorated gift bag. We’re loving it already.

Most of us are over 40, but we’re not all writers. We have a few brave visual artists along for the ride. And even as writers, we have differing backgrounds. Dara’s background is in story development for screenplays and Deb is a playwright and theatre actor. The title of the course is Engaging the Feminine Heroic and the idea is not to negate the masculine side of story-telling, but to understand the differences and how to use them together for a fuller, deeper, richer story.

More on that later… right not it’s time to do my homework. 🙂



Filed under adventure, serious play, workshops