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Central Valley Writer’s Workshop pays off for Madera writer

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webmaster | 03/15/04

Ken Burris will be using his pen name, Stuart Masters, in his soon-to-be-published western novel, “Cedar Jackson.” He was offered a contract by Publish America earlier this month.

He coined the name from combining those of two of his favorite actors, the late Jimmy Stuart and Tom Selleck’s character Robin Masters from the television series, Magnum P.I.

“I seem to write better when I get into my Stuart Masters mode,” Burris said.

His novel details the experiences of Cedar Jackson, an agent for the Territorial Governor of Wyoming. Jackson loses his memory after being beaten and left for dead. Because of this, he is mistaken for a hired gun. When he recalls who he really is, he is taken out of town ... and told to dig his own grave.

Burris joined the Central Valley’s Writer’s Workshop last summer, when the workshop was created. Since, he has been a devoted member during the workshop’s regular Saturday meetings at the Chowchilla Library. It was during one of these meetings that Burris wanted to sign the contract.

“I felt really elated (at being offered the contract). Three or four years ago I couldn’t pay anyone to publish my book,” Burris said.

Burris said he has since received three or four offers to publish his work.

Members of the writer’s workshop said they have noticed a substantial improvement in Burris’ work over the past several months since the group began meeting.

“I have watched Mr. Burris’ writing and confidence improve,” Central Valley Writer’s Workshop Chairperson Glenna Jarvis said. She attributes the improvement in his work to the unique read and critique method the writers utilize at the workshop.

“The read and critique method is unlike any writer’s workshop in the valley, that I know of,” Jarvis said.

The Central Valley Writer’s Workshop began meeting once a month almost a year ago, and immediately decided to meet every Saturday. While some people have come and gone, a core group of about nine members, including Burris, have endured. The process of read and critique is merciless, but the members firmly believe it helps them polish their work and hone their skills as writers. The workshop is patterned after a much larger organization, the DFW Writer’s Workshop, in Euless, Texas.

Leon Emo, also a local published author, said he, too, has seen a dramatic improvement in Burris’ work.

“I have seen his literary work as a whole improve over the last few months,” Emo said.


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