Online Class Instructor Q&A: Stephanie Noll

“When you choose a point of view, you are choosing the lens through which you want your reader to see the world you are creating.”

-Stephanie Noll

Stephanie Noll is teaching an online class for the Writers’ League called “Whose Story Is it? Playing with Point of View.” Choosing a point of view shapes how you—and your reader—experience any narrative. This class will give students the tools to determine how to best tell a story using point of view.

12418907_10207882495915523_8038592689268215250_o-1Scribe: Which points of view will you be discussing? 

Stephanie Noll: We will discuss 1st person, 2nd person, and 3rd person limited and omniscient.

Scribe: Why is it important to consider the different points of view a story can use? 

SN: When you choose a point of view, you are choosing the lens through which you want your reader to see the world you are creating. Each POV option has its advantages and shortcomings, so a writer should be clear on which POV they are selecting and how that choice will best support the story they are telling.

Scribe: In the class description, you ask, “What if Gone Girl had been told through a 3rd person omniscient point of view?” What would have happened?  

SN: Part of the success of a novel like Gone Girl is that the writer is asking the reader to consider multiple points of view and determine (or not!) what is reliable. The book is written in a way that allows the reader to draw their own conclusions, and had it been told using the 3rd person omniscient POV, some of that would be lost.

Scribe: Once you pick a point of view for a story, do you need to stick with it? Can you ever change it?

SN: When revising, you might determine that the POV you initially told the story from is not effective. But there are lots of books that vary the POV from chapter to chapter.

Scribe: Are there certain kinds of stories that are better off told through particular points of view?

SN: I think it can help to look at the genre that you are writing in. Young adult novels are often written in the first person, I think because that POV offers and immediate intimacy. Mystery novels or crime dramas seem to use a 3rd person POV–it’s escapist fiction, right? Using that POV really can allow for the author to create a character–one that might even be the fixture of a whole series of books. With literary fiction, it’s definitely anything goes, and I think it’s in that genre where you’ll see writers experiment with POV.

Scribe: What are some of the stories and novels that you’ll be using as examples?

SN: We’ll read excerpts from The Great Gatsby, Gone Girl, and ZZ Packer’s fantastic story “Drinking Coffee Elsewhere.” We’ll take a look at pages from Mary Karr’s Cherry to consider how to use the 2nd person POV, and we’ll look at work by Mary Helen Specht and Ben Fountain when talking about the 3rd person POV.

Thanks, Stephanie!

Click here to register for Stephanie’s class.

Click here for our current online class schedule.


About the Instructor

Stephanie Noll taught the Advanced Craft Workshop in Fall 2016. She studied fiction writing at Texas State University, where she earned her MFA. She is a frequent storyteller at The Story Department, a monthly fundraiser for the non-profit Austin Bat Cave, and has also told stories at Listen to Your Mother, Backyard Story Night, Hyde Park Story Night, and the Tellers. Stephanie has 18 years of teaching experience and works as a senior lecturer in the English department at Texas State where she recently was awarded an Excellence in Teaching award. Stephanie is the director of Old Books for New Teachers, an organization that helps first-year teachers build classroom libraries. She has written a novel about a standardized test cheating scandal at an inner-city Houston high school.


Featured WLT 2013 Agents and Editors Conference Blog

An Interview with Keynote Speaker Chuck Sambuchino


The Writers’ League of Texas 2013 Agents and Editors Conference is only a couple months away. This year, WLT managed to nab Chuck Sambuchino, everything extraordinaire, for the Keynote Luncheon. He’s done it all folks — writing, editing, publishing, agents. He’s the go-to guy on tips for success, and I don’t think there’s a question about the business that he couldn’t answer. He’s attending a handful of conferences this spring and summer, so here is your chance to meet him right here in Austin. His presentation, How to Be a Successful Writer in Today’s Marketplace, will be held Saturday, June 22 from 12:15 to 1:30 PM in the Texas Ballroom at Hyatt Regency. Here is a short description about his presentation:

Writer’s Digest Books editor Chuck Sambuchino (Guide to Literary Agents) shares his best advice for writers of all ages and levels of expertise. In this keynote, Sambuchino will discuss how writers can create more stories and content easier than they think, be successful in a changing digital marketplace, avoid the three most common reasons that submissions get rejected, and more.

Registration for the Keynote Luncheon ends June 19th, and you must be a conference registrant to purchase a ticket. These tickets sell out quickly and may not be available during the conference due to limited seating. Don’t be left out!  I can personally vouch for the food on its’ deliciousness and convenience too.  Without further adieu, here are Chuck’s answers to my own questions below!


First of all, describe yourself in four words.

Chuck Sambuchino: In no order: Writer, musician, husband, sleep-deprived-new-father.

You post in your blog, Guide to Literary Agents, every day. What all do you blog about, and how do you keep this constant flow of information going?

CS: The Guide to Literary Agents Blog is all about agents, submissions, query & synopsis writing, promotion and platform. It covers a fairly broad range of writing topics.

The best way I’ve learned to keep a large flow of content going is simply to let other people provide the content. (This is a fundamental principle of writer platform: “You don’t have to go it alone.”) I invite novelists to guest post on my site and new agents to receive a spotlight. This means that most of the content on my site is actually created by others. All I do is format it and make it look nice.

What do you enjoy about exploring different kinds of writing – humor, playwright, journalist. Is there a particular area you’ve always wanted to try?

CS: I guess this all comes down to the fact that I probably have ADD and am probably the most impatient person I know. That leads me to try different things to challenge & entertain myself. In terms of what I HAVEN’T done, I know that screenwriting is an area I would love to tackle. I have a manager out in LA now, though we have yet to get our first assignment or sale. Perhaps one of these days…

The interesting thing here is that we live in a time of specialization. You’re most valuable if you are “the go-to person on [topic].” That leaves a jack-of-all-trades like myself in a bad spot. But being versed in a broad spectrum of writing does have one good advantage: It makes me a better teacher, and is probably why I get invited to speak at so many conferences. I rarely get asked a question about writing that I cannot answer, and that comes simply from being a generalist.

You tweet, a lot. Why is Twitter and other social media outlets important for what your do?

CS: Social media provides an effective and easy way to reach our followers and readers. When I write a blog post, for example, Twitter is invaluable in letting lots of people know that the post is now live.

The truth is that I don’t tweet much from my personal Twitter @chucksambuchino. I just tweet perhaps 1-3 times a day. But the Writer’s Digest account @writersdigest has so many things to share and promote on any given day that it’s constantly producing tweets.

How did you write over seven hundred articles in ten years? Do your ideas just pop out of nowhere in the middle of the night?

CS: A lot of those published articles came when I was a newspaper reporter, and we had to write about 7 stories a week. Besides that, I also freelanced a lot for magazines and even wrote some articles for instructional books. It all adds up.

For anyone interested in freelancing, I can tell you this bit of good news: Once you hook up with a publication and produce 1-2 good articles for them, then they will likely keep you on as a contributor and farm articles out to you. In other words, once you get going, it’s very likely for you to write 10-20 articles for a magazine or newspaper. You won’t need to generate ideas anymore because editors will do that for you.

Which agency – writing, publishing, editing, writers’ resource – do you think is your ultimate calling?

CS: Writer. I don’t know if it’s what I do best, but it’s what I enjoy most.

How did the idea of Red Dog/Blue Dog come about, and how was it working with your wife, and puppy dog, Graham?

Photo Credit: The Official Red Dog/Blue Dog Blog

CS: I used to dislike dogs. But then a flabby poodle mix, Graham, came into my life and warmed my heart. It was my wife’s idea to “mix dogs and politics” — humorously combining two of my favorite topics. That’s how the book idea was born. The final product is a photo collection of doings doing stereotypical liberal and conservative things. It was very exciting when it came out last summer (2012) and I got to show Graham how I dedicated the book to him. (I think he fell asleep during the explanation.)

The best part about writing that book was being in touch with random people all over the country who wanted to help simply because they, like me, loved dogs. I was amazed at how people I didn’t even know spread the word about the book and helped promote it.

Has anyone ever butchered your name?

CS: A thousand times, yes.

And technically speaking, I myself butcher my name. Its true Italian pronunciation is Sahm-Boo-KEY-Noh. The letters “CH” in Italian make a “hard K” sound. There are still the hardliners in my family that pronounce it correctly and the ones like me who kind of Americanized it and pronounce it phonetically. It’s best to just not get me or any family members started on this topic, especially after some wine…

What is the most important advice you’ve received as a writer?

CS: I’ve sat here at the computer for five minutes now trying to pick the absolute BEST piece of advice, but I can’t quite choose one. So let me just offer up a random good one that I heard a while back. A screenwriter once said “If you’re writing a spec and you’re not having fun, then something’s wrong.” What he meant by this is that, as a writer, you will take on plenty of boring assignments strictly for paychecks. But there will always be that fiction you write for fun, without any guaranteed financial payoff. And when you’re writing that fiction or poetry simply for the love of it, try to have fun. Otherwise, what’s the point?

Alright, I couldn’t resist! I read that you were a cover band guitarist. Which songs have you always wanted to learn, and what are your favorites to play? Any Beatles?

CS: I can play “Let it Be” and “Eleanor Rigby” on the piano and often do. I remember speaking at your conference in 2008 and playing piano at 2 a.m. in the hotel lobby one night while people kept stumbling in after a long night.

If I had to pick my favorite songs to play, I would say “Mr. Brightside” was always a blast with the band, and that “Livin’ on a Prayer” always gets a crowd going bananas.

As far as songs I’ve always wanted to learn how to play, I’d say “Sweet Caroline” simply because everyone wants to hear that song, and perhaps “Cliffs of Dover” on guitar by Eric Johnson because it’s possibly the most beautiful instrumental rock song of all time.

What do you want writers to take away from your Keynote Luncheon?

CS: That anything is possible if you set your mind to it and work hard. If you have the passion and make the time, you can write anything. I also want to show people that there are simple things they could be doing every day to be smarter, more effective writers.


Chuck Sambuchino is an editor and a writer. He works for Writer’s Digest Books and edits the Guide to Literary Agents as well as the 2013 Children’s Writer’s & Illustrator’s Market. His Guide to Literary Agents Blog is one of the largest blogs in publishing. He was recently included in a FORBES Top 10 list of Social Media Influencers in Book Publishing.

His first humor book, How to Survive a Garden Gnome Attack, was released in Sept. 2010 and has been featured by Reader’s Digest, the New York Times and AOL News. The film rights were recently optioned by Sony and director Robert Zemeckis (Back to the Future). His second humor book, Red Dog/Blue Dog: When Pooches Get Political, is a humorous photo collection of dogs doing stereotypical liberal and conservative things. It has been featured by Political Wire, USA Today, and the Huffington Post.

In addition, Chuck has also written two other writing-related titles: the third edition of Formatting & Submitting Your Manuscript, and Create Your Writer Platform.


About the Blogger

Hannah Bowman

Hannah Bowman was an intern for the Writers’ League of Texas from June 2012 through December 2012. Currently, she’s featuring writing instructors and literary agents for the Writers’ League blog, Scribe. She enjoys playing piano, writing stories, playing tricks on her mother, and dancing. She will be graduating from the University of Texas at Austin in May 2013 with a Bachelor’s degree in Anthropology and English. Hannah’s hoping to build her short story collection in the coming months, and start a career in nonprofits after a couple years of service work.

Wednesday Writing Prompt

‘What I Want To Be When I Grow Up’

Since Writers’ League of Texas is based out of downtown Austin, we are thinking a lot about the upcoming Formula 1 Race.  Traffic, anyone?  This made me wonder, how many of our readers wanted to be race car drivers when they were little?  Or a fireman, or a veterinarian, or a circus clown?  I wanted to be a rockstar.  I am just dating one now, does that count?

This week, go back in time to your childhood hopes and aspirations.   Write out five different things you wanted to be when you ‘grew up.’  From those five things, chose 1 to live out and 1 to write about.  If one of the dreams was to be a professional tap dancer, this week take a dance lesson.  Or if one was to the President, this week volunteer at an event happening at the Capital.

Next, the second choice of five is to live it out via a short story, at a very hightened time of your career.  If the dream was to be a Marine Biologist, write about discovering a new species of coral.  Or if the dream was to be a Disney Princess at DisneyWorld, write about your first day on the job in mid July.

Have a chat with your inner child this week.  He/She is way more fun, anyway.


Third Thursday Outtakes

The WLT had another great Third Thursday “Build Your Buzz” panel on Aug. 19. Publicists/marketing mavens Marilyn Carter and Lisa Lawrence joined author Chris Barton for “Your PR Team.” Here are some quick outtakes (note the list of resources at the bottom of this post!):

  • Tips for developing your marketing plan:
    • Who’s your audience?
    • What’s your product (book)?
    • What’s your objective/purpose?
    • What’s your elevator pitch describing you and your book?
    • What media and information channels can Continue reading

Post-Conference Doggerel

The just in from WLT member John Vanston!

The 2010  Writers’ League of Texas Agent Conference

If “sold out” is the measure.
Of a meeting real success,
Then the recent writers conference
Gets A–Plus on the test.

There were editors and agents,
Who gave writers sage advice?
Their words of wit and wisdom
Were worth more than twice the price.

The editors were Horowitz,
DiTiberio, and May,
McCabe, and Mary Colgan.
All gave advice for us to weigh.

There were seventeen experienced agents
Too many here to name,
But each one had suggestions
To lead us all to fame.

They addressed books for senior readers,
For kids and young adults.
Each one has rules to follow,
To get profitable results.

For those who took the boat ride,
They saw hoards of Austin bats.
In addition to watching flyers,
There was lots of time for chats.

To join tacos with our twitters,
Was a truly tasty twist,
And the horsd’oeuvres in the evening
Were impossible to resist.

At our luncheon, Calvert Morgan
Gave us all ten helpful hints.
He didn’t speak in jargon,
But with lots of common sense.

There were many rapt attendees
Who write books of every sort,
But the common bond between them,
Is they write straight from their heart.

For all of us who’ve volunteered,
To join the writers ranks,
We must give Cyndi and her crafty crew
Our very grateful thanks..

Remembering Liz

Author and longtime WLT member Suzy Spencer pays tribute to Liz Carpenter, Ann Richards, Molly Ivins, AND the Writers’ League of Texas in this piece on her blog, “Remembering: Grand Dames and Why I Love the Writers’ League of Texas”:

This past Saturday, Liz Carpenter died from pneumonia at age 89.  For those of you who may not know Liz, among many, many accomplishments, she was Vice President Lyndon Baines Johnson’s press secretary when President John F. Kennedy was assassinated.  She wrote the words Johnson spoke to the nation immediately after Kennedy’s death:

This is a sad time for all people. We have suffered a loss that cannot be weighed.  For me, it is a deep personal tragedy.  I know that the world shares the sorrow that Mrs. Kennedy and her family bear.  I will do my best.  That is all I can do.  I ask for your help and God’s.

She was also a rebel-rousing, loud-talking, quick-witted yellow dog Democrat.  For those of you who may not know what that is, it’s a Texan who will vote for an old yellow dog over a Republican.

Read the whole piece here.

Inspiration: Cecilia Ward Jones

We’d like to congratulate WLT member, Cecilia Ward Jones, on her publication in P&W and the ripple of inspiration she’s created. And if you haven’t done so already, pick up an issue of P&W’s “Inspiration.”

Bella Just a Hobby

Inspired by Celia Ward Jones' "Why We Write" in the current P&W "Inspiration" issue.

“Bo’s Café Life” is a comic strip about the writer’s life. Bo is an aspiring novelist who spends his time in a café writing and talking to other writers who are also on the quest to get a book deal. It has an ensemble cast of diverse characters – ranging from a Chinese aspiring novelist to a Bollywood screenwriter – and they use humor to expose the highs and lows of being writers. It is a funny but honest look at the writing life.

Like what you see? Click here to see more of “Bo’s Café Life.”