The Volcano Erupts

A minor earthquake at 8:32 a.m. on Sunday, May 18, 1980, caused the bulging and weakened north side of Mount St. Helens to collapse into the largest landslide ever recorded. The gas, steam, lava, and pulverized rock that it exposed, exploded toward Spirit Lake. Then a column of ash rose 80,000 feet into the air.

Our home at the time in Centralia. Notice the brown sky.

I was twenty-five at the time and worked as an assistant manager at a drugstore in Centralia, less than seventy-five miles northwest, as the ash falls. But the winds were blowing east that day. Friends as far away as Indiana sent pictures of their cars covered with dust. Those of us in Centralia watched the awesome display of nature’s might from vantage points around town.

As the day progressed we learned that entire forests near the volcano had been leveled, homes and bridges were swept away in the resulting flood and over fifty people died.

But in Centralia that day, no ash fell.

The following Sunday was when Mount St. Helens came to Centralia. At 2:30 a.m. the mountain erupted again.

My wife and I were asleep, along with our infant son, but some time before dawn the phone rang. My wife picked it up. “Hello?”

The street in front of our home at 9:00 a.m. on May 25, 1980

“Lorraine, do you have any windows open?” my mother asked.


“Close them. Mount St. Helens erupted again and we’re getting covered with ash.”

While Lorraine secured the house, I went outside. Standing on the covered porch with the lights off the darkness was so total I couldn’t see my hand in front of my face. With my foot I felt for the steps. It felt like snow falling on me.

After a few steps onto the sidewalk, I returned to the house before getting lost.

It was well after nine in the morning before there was enough light to take the pictures seen here. We escaped the worst of the mountain’s fury, but those of us who were there will never forget that May.

How to be an APE

An introduction to a career as an Author, Publisher and Entrepreneur

Kyle Pratt speaking to the Lewis County Writers Guild

In one of his recent books, author and venture capitalist, Guy Kawasaki, characterized writing in the modern digital age as becoming an APE, an Author, Publisher and Entrepreneur. After reading his book, titled APE, I concluded I already did the things he described. Since I liked the acronym I’ve continued to use it.

Kyle Pratt speaking to the Lewis County Writers Guild

So, when the Lewis County Writers Guild asked me to speak at their recent meeting I titled the talk, How to be an APE.

This is how the meeting was described on the guild’s Facebook page;  

You’ve finished the book, now how do you get it into the hands of readers without spending a fortune? It’s a matter of distribution and marketing. There are ways to distribute your book around the world without spending a penny. Marketing will cost, but it doesn’t have to cost much. In this introduction we’ll examine low cost ways to do both.

As you can see from that description much of the time was spent discussing how to market a book without going broke. This is a continuing problem for indie and hybrid APEs.

A Meeting with Robin

I enjoy talking with students interested in a writing career.

Kyle Pratt and Centralia High School senior Robin McGrew

I spoke on the topic writing as a career in the digital age at Centralia High School back in November. On Thursday, I met with Robin McGrew, a senior at the Centralia, at The Station Coffee Bar in Centralia. Robin is thinking about writing as a career. We spoke for nearly an hour during which I told her that writing is a tough career to get started in, but I love it. I advised her, as I do with all novice writers, to connect with an effective critique group and hone her craft.

Robin, I hope you get an “A” on the assignment, and I wish you the best of luck as you start on your career. 

Planning for the Conference

We’re already planning the next Southwest Washington Writers Conference.

Julie Zander, Scott White and Andy Skinner

Julie Zander, Scott White and Andy Skinner

The rains came down hard and steady today, but still I ventured to downtown Centralia for a meeting at The Station Coffee Bar & Bistro across from the Fox Theatre. It seems to be something of a hangout for local authors. Lately, I’m there at least once a week to meet with other authors. Planning for the 2016 Southwest Washington Writers Conference bought me out on this rain soaked day. Over warm drinks, I met with fellow writer Julie Zander, Andy Skinner from the Lewis County Historical Museum, and Scott White of the Historic Fox Theatre Restorations.

Much of the planning for our local conference is done. New York Times bestseller author Jennifer Lauck will be the keynote speaker and will teach three workshops. Bestselling author and Christy Award winner Leslie Gould will teach a workshop called “Romancing Your Novel.” I will be teaching a workshop with bestselling author Carolyn McCray on indie publishing. Several other workshops will be announced soon.  

Planning today centered on finalizing the schedule, getting the registration page of the website ready and approving the new logo. We hope to have everything up and ready by the end of the month. For more information visit the Southwest Washington Writers website and, if you’re going to be in this area on September 17th come by and visit. It’ll be a fun day!

Concert Night

As an author much of my time is spent in my office writing.

So, when I can, I like to get out and interact with people. One of the ways I do that is by attending the concerts of the Pacific Northwest Chamber Orchestra.

The area I call home is Lewis county, Washington state, a largely rural area of farms and timber. The largest town is Centralia, 16,000 people, where the concerts are held. All the performers are local music lovers.  These talented individuals should be paid for the performances they provide to this community, but they aren’t. They pay to be members of the organization, and their concerts are free. Wow, what a fantastic way to give back to the community.

Last night, for their second performance of the season, the theme was show tunes. For almost two hours the PNCO played arrangements from Les Miserables, Pirates of the Caribbean, Star Wars, James Bond, Titanic and Fiddler on the Roof. They closed the night with the theme from the Pink Panther.

I look forward to their next performance in June.

Jennifer on Character Creation

Unlike many authors, Jennifer is an extrovert.

Author Jennifer Vandenberg works the crowd.

She denies it, but at a recent character creation workshop, I watched her work the room like a professional speaker. She listed fifty traits on the whiteboard. These ranged from age, gender and height to hobbies, hometown and favorite holiday. Then she went around the audience asking them what that attribute should be. After doing that for two characters she guided the group into basic plotting using the man and women they created.

Author Jennifer Vandenberg on character creation

Everyone laughed and learned as we created zany characters and plots in one, very brief, hour.

Besides being an excellent speaker and writer Jennifer Vandenberg describes herself as geology student, National Park ranger, secretary, tax preparer, swim instructor, school aide, library assistant, children's bookseller, merchandise supervisor, property curator, volunteer, farmer, and blogger. That resume sounds like it comes from an extrovert.

No matter what she says she is, I recommend her books and workshops. 

A Book for Bill

Nearly ten months ago I sold the first copy of Braving the Storms.

Kyle Pratt and Bill Radtke on March 20, 2015 with a check for the unnamed third book.

That was before the book even had a name. I had gone to deliver copies of Through Many Fires and A Time to Endure to my friend, Bill Radtke. I told him he could have them, but he wanted to buy them. That was back on March 20, 2015. As we talked he asked me about the third book in the series.

I told him most of the book had been plotted and I had written about 15,000 words.

Kyle Pratt and Bill Radtke ten months later with Braving the Storms.

As Bill wrote the check for the first two books he said, “I’m going to add extra for the third book.”

I shook my head. “You don’t have to do that. I’ll make sure you get a copy when it is released.”

He insisted on paying me for the unnamed book right then.

I had the good sense to get a picture of him handing me that check and wrote about it here.  

Today, almost ten months later, I’ve completed the 77,000 word, 258 page novel, and delivered his copy of the now named book. Bill, I hope you enjoy your copy of Braving the Storms.

Back in School

I had the chance to go back to school this week.

Author Kyle Pratt speaking at Centralia High School

Ten years ago, I taught at Centralia High School, near where I live now in Lewis County, Washington state. However, life and other opportunities drew me away, and I haven’t been back since. I still know many of the teachers though, and last week, counselor Jim Parker asked me to come back on Tuesday and talk about writing as a career.

So, you like working for minimum wage

Author Kyle Pratt speaking at Centralia High School

I did actually start with that, but as a joke. Okay, maybe it wasn’t entirely a joke. Many authors have to have a regular job to support their meager earnings from writing. Only a few make the big money. I don’t make a fortune, but I’ve been fortunate, to earn a living writing books that I enjoy.

The Internet, print-on-demand, ebooks, and audiobooks are changing the world of writing. I spoke for nearly an hour, and in that time explained how, as a mid-list indie author, I run a small publishing company, and use all those formats to distribute my books.

Amazon, Kobo, Smashwords and Apple, iTunes are all my business partners. It’s fun, but it is also a full time job.

Students asked questions before, during and after I spoke. I’m sure some of them were late for their next class. I had a great time and hope to speak with students again in the future.

My Local Conference

The 2015 Southwest Washington Writers Conference is over.

Marketing expert Veronika Noize and Kyle Pratt at the 2015 Southwest Washington Writers Conference

Seattle has conferences for writers, and so does Portland, but until last year this area lacked that level of education and networking. The first year of the conference, I both presented and helped with the organization and operation. This year I just helped. While both conferences were a success, this year attendance rose and the operation ran smoother.

The morning of the conference we came in early to complete final preparations. Julie Zander soon discovered the main auditorium was locked. She got it open just in time for me to turn on the projector, computer, adjust the lights and test the microphone. I finished as the first few people walked in.  

Authors Kyle Pratt and Jennifer Shaw Wolf at the 2015 Southwest Washington Writers Conference

As with last year, we had both a Keynote address and a mini-keynote. Jane Kirkpatrick, author of more historical fiction books than I care to count, provided the keynote. She spoke on the skills a writer needs to develop and often needs to discover within. Scott Eagan gave the other keynote. As an agent, he spoke on what his profession could and could not do for a writer. He spoke well, but as a purely indie writer, I’m not looking for an agent.

This year attendees had their choice of twelve workshops on everything from writing poetry, to editing and marketing. Melanie Dobson spoke on putting romance into genre writing. Unfortunately she brought a Mac to an all Microsoft facility. Again, I was called upon, and together with Melanie we melded the two operating systems in time for her class.

Authors Lisa Burnette and Jane Kirkpatrick at the Southwest Washington Writers Conference

I attended the Writing for Young Adults and Story Structure classes by Jennifer Shaw Wolf. I think she did both presentations well, and I learned things in both. However, I looked forward to the class with Veronika Noize on Marketing. I missed it last year because our presentations were at the same time. I’m an author and have little interest in marketing, but as an indie writer, the responsibility falls on my shoulders. She had many good ideas which I look forward to trying over the next few months.

Both years the conference has been organized by a few members of the Southwest Washington Writers Guild. As I mentioned, I’ve been a part of both efforts. We’re already planning the event for next year and I’m looking forward to it.