Martha Engber is the author of Winter Light, The Wind Thief, a literary novel, and Growing Great Characters From the Ground Up: A Thorough Primer for the Writers of Fiction and Nonfiction. A freelance editor and workshop facilitator, she's had a play produced in Hollywood and fiction, poetry and essays published in Watchword, the Berkeley Fiction Review, Iconoclast and other literary magazines. She received her Bachelor of Journalism degree from the University of Missouri — Columbia before working as a freelance reporter for the Chicago Tribune, St. Louis Post-Dispatch and other national publications. She lives in California with her husband, bike and surfboard.
Growing Great Characters From the Ground Up
As Growing Great Characters From the Ground Up states, character development is the most important facet of any character-based book, because "readers won't follow for long if they find the people you're writing about dull, one-dimensional or unbelievable." After listing the three attributes of a great character, the book takes readers through a step-by-step process that teaches them how to develop characters from start to finish.
"Martha Engber's book, Growing Great Characters From the Ground Up is destined to become a must-have for any writer keen on improving his craft and writing great characters. I highly recommend it. Now I'm off to rename my character."
"Delivers on the title's promise 'a thorough primer' by providing tons of practical advice, memorable examples, and images. Totally helpful and it's actually fun to read!"
"Growing Great Characters From the Grown Up is written as if by a close friend offering up some pointers. Its easy style and readability is a huge plus as one will be inclined to refer to it over and over again."
The Wind Thief
A tale of obsession and redemption, The Wind Thief is the story of two souls who are swept from land to land, one in search of a home, the other in search of a war, and both ever a step behind the peace they seek. Ajay, a young thief from India, is on his way to a better life when he is forced to flee Algiers and subsequently gets lost in the Sahara Desert. He is saved by a strange young woman who believes she can talk to the winds, a gift that will save mankind from an imminent apocalypse only she can stop. Ajay has no choice but to follow her out of the barren wasteland, intending to abandon her once they reach Morocco. Yet when he gets the chance to escape her, he realizes he no longer can. He follows and continues to follow, even when serious dangers loom.
"Miss Engber's prose will sting and tug and pull at your heartstrings no matter how tough you think you are. Because while you're on a journey from the Sahara Desert to Morocco to South America to Jamaica, you're no longer simply a reader, you're a participant."
"If you're not familiar with what good writing looks like, try this book."
WINTER LIGHT is the story of 15-year-old Mary Donahue of suburban Chicago, a kid on the cusp of failure during the brutal blizzard winter of 1978-79, the end of a hard luck, hard rock era sunk in the cynical aftermath of the Vietnam War.
The language of WINTER LIGHT is simple and stark as Mary’s internal landscape. Though a smart, beautiful kid, she’s a motherless girl raised by an uneducated, alcoholic father within an extended family of alcoholics and addicts. Aware that she’s sinking, she’s desperate to save herself and so reaches out to an unlikely source, Kathleen, a nice, normal kid from English class.
Though initially bleak, this story of redemption combines literary with historical fiction and is aimed at anyone who loves classics such as To Kill a Mockingbird and Catcher in the Rye where youths struggle at the abyss of a brutal adult world.
"The story is a ride through Class V rapids that will keep you hanging on white-knuckled till the end. A great read."
“I had to tear myself away from the book to carry on in my own life, that’s how powerful this book is. I just needed to carry on with Mary, everything else was an intrusion! A book that has stayed with me since and I feel that it will stay for a while to come yet!”
What readers have to say:
“Winter Light is a profound, deeply moving, and relentlessly powerful novel that completely blew me away and left me grieving for more. An absolute triumph!”
WORKSHOPS & SEMINARS
of writing workshops and seminars at writer conventions throughout the country. To inquire about booking Martha for a workshop or seminar, contact her directly:
Tel: 408-243-7662 | Email:
Grow a Great Character, Grow a Great Plot
JOHN GOURHAN, SAN FRANCISCO, CA
People aren't simply vehicles for stories, they are the stories. Therefore it's crucial writers take the time to grow great fiction or nonfiction characters people want to read about. In this class, you'll do just that by seeding and growing your own character, whether for a thriller, memoir, biography or other writing venture. Through discussion and writing exercises, you'll learn what makes a character great and how his or her actions create an irresistible plot. Once participants learn the process in detail, they'll have the tools necessary to develop a multitude of other characters.
I truly enjoyed your workshop through the writers' group on Saturday... It made me realize that I simply haven't worked hard enough to develop characters.
The 10 Most Common Mistakes Writers Make When Creating Characters, & How to Avoid Them
I know, I know. We don't make mistakes when we create our characters. But if we did, I'll bet I know what those mistakes might be. So if you feel the time may come when you'll slip up, ruining that perfect record of careful, thoughtful development that leads to classic, charismatic, bestselling characters, whether for fiction or nonfiction, come to this presentation where I'll throw you not one, but 10 lifelines to help you avoid singing those My Character Done Me Wrong blues.
Thanks so much for your presentation at CWC yesterday. I enjoyed applying your exercises to the protagonist in my memoir, a.k.a, me. You made me think more carefully about how much I love these characters and whether this is where I
should be putting my time and energy.
LYNN GOODWIN , author of YOU WANT ME TO DO WHAT?
Your mission: to pull readers in with nail-biting action while getting them to care about your main character, all by the end of that crucial first page. Impossible? Not at all, so long as you know the trick successful writers use to accomplish the job. In this workshop, you'll learn not only how to find what makes your character tick, but also how to fold that critical information into an unforgettable, action-packed opening.
I've used the defining detail and the questions you taught us to ask about creating our characters for all my subsequent short stories.
PAUL FAHEY, NIPOMO, CA
THE CREATIVE PROCESS
"Where do you get your ideas?" is one of the most popular questions people ask successful authors. But while that process is a mystery to audiences, it shouldn't be to aspiring writers. During this course, writers will learn how to turn a barren horizon into a virtual downpour of worthy writing possibilities. Through discussion, brainstorming, writing exercises and group critique, picipants will learn how to catch, hold and hone ideas into thought-provoking concepts upon which classic stories are based.
I really enjoyed the workshop. You have so much fun energy. The time flew by.
SHARON, CARMEL, CA
Fantasy, Reality, and the Making of Fabulous Young Minds:
How Writing Can Explode the Boundaries of a Kid's Universe
Through this six-session small group summer writing experiences for middle school students, kids will learn to write what they love and in so doing, stretch their creativity to all areas of their lives. We'll do outside-the-box writing exercises, discussion, and critique.
THE REVISION PROCESS
The Art of Rewriting
As Dorothy Parker once said, "I can't write five words but that I change seven." While writing anything can be an arduous task, rewriting can be ten times as difficult and as bewildering. Yet rewriting also allows you the fantastic opportunity to not only improve the story you're currently working on, but your future writing, as well. In this class we'll discuss how to structure and employ various strategies that we'll then practice in class. We'll also talk about: adopting the right expectations; estimating the time necessary for completion; understanding the three levels of editing; breaking the job into manageable pieces; and seeking feedback as part of the process.
Thanks to your workshop, I had a mental rewriting map to guide me and to help me remember all the aspects of the rewriting process. I took a lot home from the workshop (and enjoyed it thoroughly), especially the notion of making rewriting
more systematic, working down through the levels to the last dotting of the i.
DEBORAH RICH, MONTEREY, CA
Editing For Winners: How to Make Your Writing Sharp, Sharper, Sharpest
Whether you're writing a short story, novel, nonfiction book proposal or article, making your copy as clean as possible can make the difference between seeing your name in print and getting a rejection slip. That's because no matter how great your idea, if it's not presented in a professional manner, it may never see the light of day. So if you're motivated to succeed from query letter to final submission, come to this workshop to learn the three levels of editing that will lift your work above that found in the slush pile.
Woot! Thanks for all the help, Martha. The class was a wonderful help.
JANICE SEAGRAVES, author of WINDSWEPT SHORES
SHOW vs. TELL
Enough With Show, Don't Tell Already: What Does It Mean,
Why is It Necessary and How Do We Do It?
Show, don't tell has got to be one of the most oft-spoken phrases in all writerdom and one that dogs determined scribes without mercy. We think we're showing, showing, showing, when really we're telling, telling, telling. So why not tell? Look at all the fabulously famous writers who do. Then again, if we're not fabulously famous and want to be, or if we just want to be the best writers possible, should we really succumb to telling readers exactly what our characters are thinking at all times?
I learned a lot from the experience, look forward to putting all the information to use with my characters, and, most of all, I appreciate your giving your time and expertise, Martha.
ALICE, teacher of PASSIONATE PEOPLE
Flaming Good Dialogue: How to Create Unforgettable Characters Through Exchanges That Singe
You think you've got fantastic, unique, bestselling characters? You'll have to prove that to readers, not only through your characters' actions but also by what they say, how and when they speak almost as important as what words they use. In this workshop, you'll not only learn how to sidestep the most common dialogue pitfalls, including why characters all too often wind up sounding alike, but also how to employ the five techniques that will make your characters unique and eminently believable.
Nothing but rave reviews about your workshop.