Thursday, April 28, 2011

Thankful Thursday: For Workshops

Today, I'm thankful for being at a one-day writer's workshop as part of the Pikes Peaks Writers Conference.

I hope I can get my writing your life groove back in the afternoon session. I'll focus on the goal, motivation and conflict in the morning.

I love attending workshops. They motivate, focus and provide new ideas. Add in meeting new people, who write, and it's awesome.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

What 700 emails taught me

Recently, I visited family in Georgia for a week. My son and I had a fun time. He met plenty of cousins, great aunts and grandma's friends. As my father said, "There will be baby viewings daily." And, there were.

I didn't anticipate time to write during the trip.

My inbox surprised me though. Despite my efforts to keep in touch via the iPhone, I accumulated more than 700 emails. I deleted some emails during the trip, but others were kept to take a closer look at when I had time to read blog posts on a larger computer screen.

While reviewing a week's worth of emails, I discovered:
  • I can live without 30 of those email subscriptions being delivered to my inbox daily. I canceled them.
  • I need to use my Google Reader more. It would streamline my reading process.
  • I don't need to keep most of the emails that I do. I should read, digest and trash them. Recently, I deleted about 45 percent of my email files. While it was purely a stupid mistake, I survived. Since then, I question do I really need this file before labeling and archiving it in my mailbox. 
  • I spend a lot of time reading about writing, instead of writing. 
Ouch. That last one hurt.

I'll end on that note, so we can all return to our writing.

Monday, April 25, 2011

It's simple advice

I follow Christina Katz ~ The Empowered Writer's blog.
On Sunday, she shared a picture of a binder filled with papers and dividers. It is a sneak peak of her new book The Writer's Workout.

She wrote:
If you are creative every day, this is what can happen in a little over a year.
 It makes sense.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Thankful Thursday: Failure

We can't succeed every time. I wish I could get published every time I email a submission, but I don't.

Sometimes we fail. The pain stings, but you can try again.

I received an email last week from Tiny Lights: A Journal of Personal Narrative. The News and Notes included a link to winners of the personal essay contest.

There was also a link to an article about writers envy and this video on Famous Failures.

 Tiny Lights editor Susan Bono shared this information on the winner's page:
An email from one of the contest judges took the words out of my mouth: "This selection seems to me the best in years, the best I can remember. The themes seem familiar: loss of parent, loss of child, loss of innocence, loss of virginity, discovery of wonder; but the quality of the writing, precision of language, metaphor, music, it was all exceptional. How can everything be exceptional?"
 This reminded me that we have common themes, but the writing makes the difference.

I didn't enter this contest, but hope to do so next year. The video is something to keep in mind as I write. If I get a rejection, a no response or a "who do you think you are" response, I'll just continue to study the craft and write.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Good point about memoir

Author Glen Retief talks about some factual errors he found in his manuscript.

One key point he made:
The moral: read even a memoir written in complete good faith like it’s a mix of truth and inadvertent fiction.

Guide to Literary Agents - 7 Things I've Learned So Far, by Glen Retief

Write Brain: A Conference Primer

Plan. Pace. Ask. Breathe.

Those words of advice came from Pikes Peaks Writers President Chris Mandeville during a Tuesday Write Brain session. The writers group hosts free workshops on a variety of topics. This month, the program focused on next week's Blaze the Write Trail conference.

The conference from April 29 to May 1 in Colorado Springs offers more than 80 workshops according to veteran attendee Charlie Rush, who offered loads of advice. PPW Conference Director Bonnie Hagan also joined the panel to inform the group of newbies wanting to know more about the conference.

The trio covered the key topics like pitch appointments with editors and agents; how agent and editors will be intermingled with attendees at meals; how read and critiques work; and workshop content.

They hit on other topics like meals; bathroom locations (including a secret bathroom that may not have large lines); bookstore locations; and areas where attendees can congregate without disturbing workshops.

Bonnie said, "We work very hard" to offer a friendly and professional environment. The Write Brain session is part of that strategy. It was an opportunity for conference attendees to educate themselves about the event and ask questions. PPW also has a special add-on day of longer workshops on April 28. One session on this day is all about pitches. The conference also offers an orientation for attendees on Friday and Saturday.

Charlie, Bonnie and Chris detailed how the year-round planning process will come to fruition next week. They packed a lot of tips in two hours. Some of the tips I liked included:

From Bonnie:
  • All pitch appointments are Saturday.
  • Remember editors and agents are human and are approachable.
  • This is a face-to-face query.
  • If an agent requests your work, ask questions about how to submit it.
  • Don't badmouth an agent or editor or get into an argument over a disagreement. 

I used to watch American Idol during the auditions. Remember those rejected singers, who came out cursing and waving their fists at Simon, Randy and Paula. Don't do that at conference. Charlie, Bonnie and Chris all emphasized publishing is a small world. No one wants to be the "did ya hear about the writer ..." story.

Bonnie continued with:
  • Don't monopolize conversations.
  • Don't pass out manuscripts.
  • Learn your elevator pitch. 
  • Know the answer to the question, "So what is your book about?"
  • Say Thank you and be courteous.

From Charlie:
  • He cautioned writers on two points for pitch appointments — don't pitch unless your manuscript is complete and don't burn bridges. He said he pitched an agent that was right for him, but his manuscript wasn't finished. 
  • You are not alone. He said 42 percent of the more than 300 conference attendees are newcomers. 
  • Ask questions. The PPW staff are more than happy to help.
  • Have fun. Make new friends.
  • Plan which sessions you will attend. If you are early in your writing journey, you may want to consider a workshop on dialogue over a program on how to write a synopsis.
  • Drink lots of water. Colorado can be dry.
  • Don't drink too much at the bar. You don't want word getting around of your behavior.

From Chris:
  • Take an index card or business card to pitch appointments, so you can write down how to submit your work.
  • Be prepared for the pitch appointments with information about your work and be conversational. She said some agents ask writers to skip their notes and tell them about their manuscript.
  • Celebrate every request to "send it." 
  • Dress professionally. A pitch appointment is an interview.
Oh, and don't forget, turn off your cellphone.

After all that, are you ready to Blaze the Write Trail?

Monday, April 18, 2011

Agents to follow

One way I learn about literary agents is through the Guide to Literary Agents blog by Chuck Sambuchino.

Last week, the blog focused on Sambuchino's picks for the best literary agent's sites for the Writer's Digest's annual 101 Best Websites for Writers. It will be published in the May/June 2011 issue.

The Guide to Literary Agents shared them here

If you missed the list, these are the agents who made it:
    I was happy to see agents I already follow on the list and to find a few new ones. If you don't want to follow another blog, these are great to bookmark and search for information on an as needed basis. All these agents provide valuable information in their archives on the writing craft and the business side of the getting published.

    Friday, April 15, 2011

    Great character questions

    This one has me thinking about my characters this morning.

    The Blood-Red Pencil: The Character of the Character: "There are many ways to show the character of the people in your stories. One way to set them apart is through things associated with them – ..."

    Thursday, April 14, 2011

    Thankful Thursday: @NathanBransford

    Nathan Bransford continues to be a valuable resource for writers. The literary agent turned author dishes out helpful advice via his blog, Tweets and website.

    I receive his blog posts by email. Last week despite a very long day, I couldn't stop reading his blog on Virtual Witch Hunts. He wrote about a self-published author's response to a review. Many of us wrote about this situation, because it was a good reminder of what not to do.

    Bransford took a different angle on the subject. He focused on the "virtual mob" that took to Amazon and trashed the author's book. I loved his last line — "Let's not kid ourselves that a lesson was taught, other than to remind us, yet again, that the Internet is a terrifying place to make a mistake."

    Bransford's website also has a list of Publishing Essentials such as How to Write a Novel or How to Write a Synopsis.

    If you don't follow him on Twitter @NathanBransford, on his blog or his website, you are missing something. He has a fresh perspective on the writing business.

    His middle grade novel Jacob Wonderbar and the Cosmic Space Kapow is available in May. I've pre-ordered a copy for my niece (and my sister, who works in a school library). I anticipate the book will be entertaining.

    Wednesday, April 13, 2011

    Are you willing to get published?

    "You are always a writer," Author Denise Vezey said whether you are published or not. She spoke at the Springs Writers workshop at Woodmen Valley Chapel on Monday. This is the second time I've attended the group and I'm hooked.

    She talked about her own experience as an author of children's picture books and nonfiction. She shared the ups and downs of being in a writer's group and finding a mentor. She provided key tips on book proposals.

    She listed 10 things writers must be willing to do to become a published author.
    1. Willing to do the work to create a great proposal?
    2. Willing to be disciplined and work alone (with God of course).
    3. Willing to embrace the writing process.
    4. Willing to attend seminars and conferences to become a professional.
    5. Willing to have your work critiqued.
    6. Willing to be different, find your unique, God given writing "voice."
    7. Willing to be humble and realize if you aren't able to get a specific message out, God will find someone who can. 
    8. Willing to take your life experiences and broaden them so others can learn and relate. 
    9. Willing to do public speaking.
    10. Willing to accept it is God who ultimately opens and closes our writing doors.
    I could write a blog post on each point. Number 8 resonates with me as I continue to rework finished sections of my Memoir in Progress and develop a new outline.

    Vezey began her writing career as a speaker. It began small with a bible study. Later, she spoke to larger church groups and other organizations. Before she knew it, she had an audience for her work.

    Her experience is unusual for authors — she doesn't have an agent and every proposal she has pitched landed her a book contract. She worked hard to harness her voice onto paper and improve her craft.

    Her professional writing adapted in recent years to changes in her personal life. She smiled and focused on the positive.

    Her presentation gave me a lot to think about for my own work. Everything on the list is doable. Now, I need to do it.

    Tuesday, April 12, 2011

    A map for your setting

    Draw a map for your setting and it can tighten up your writing.

    Will Write for Cake: Hey, How'd That Happen?: Mapping Out Your Setting: "At the end of January I received the edit notes for my midgrade novel, CHAINED, so I've been working on those a lot lately, after giving the..."

    Monday, April 11, 2011

    You can find it in bookstores

    That's what I told my friends and family recently. "You can find it in bookstores." I just had to say it, because well, sometimes, you wonder if you'll ever be able to say it (or ever say it again).

    I wrote a story last spring for my writer's group in Del Rio, Texas. I looked up topics on the Chicken Soup for the Soul website. I wrote about my dog Eddie. I read it to the Del Rio Creative Writers at one Wednesday meeting. I revised it and submitted it by the weekend.

    Then, in May, on my birthday and one day after my son's birth, I received an email saying my submission was being considered for publication. Now, on April 12, you or I can find Chicken Soup for the Soul: My Dog's Life with my essay in a bookstore or on Amazon.

    There are 101 stories inside — funny, fuzzy, sad and kind stories about how dogs play a role in our lives. I was excited to discover  a cyber buddy Peggy Frezon also has a story A Little Sister for Hudson in the book. Her book Dieting with my Dog is available for pre-order. We initially connected via Twitter. She is @peggyfrezon.

    I have two asides here. One — it doesn't hurt to pick up topics from anthologies or contests. If you submit your writing, you might get published. Two — connect with people on Twitter. You can make real connections.

    I'm a dog person, so I'm glad my story I'm Not Crazy, I Just Have a Dog was published.

    Here's Eddie. He's a poodle, Pomeranian mix. He looks peaceful, but many days he's quite barky.
    I admit it was fun to get copies of the book delivered to my door. I want to have that scene replayed at the Jensen household one day for my memoir-in-progress. For now, I'll enjoy having a story published in a book that's in a bookstore.

    Thursday, April 7, 2011

    Thankful Thursday: Google Alert

    Oh, how I love my Google Alerts.

    Why have one? Well, it provides a lot of information in my inbox without having to spend hours "googling" for it on my own. It's a free virtual assistant (well in a very limited capacity).

    For writing, I track a variety of topics. I have an alert for a specific medical condition that relate to my memoir:  Locked-in Syndrome and brain stem strokes. I have one for specific writing jobs. I have one for contests and submission possibilities.

    I also use it for personal topics. I have one for my subdivision, so I can keep abreast of information about my community and the bankruptcy proceedings currently under way. I have one for my city, so I can read multiple stories from multiple news sources.

    At a former job, I helped my boss set up a Google Alert, so we could see what people were saying about his travel business online. The business thrives on reviews, so it was important to see what folks were saying — good and bad.

    When I apply for a job, I create an alert for that company. This way, I can learn more about the business.

    You can use Google Alerts to:
    • Find information about a specific topic for your book. 
    • Keep track of current events.
    • Monitor what is being said about YOU on the Internet.
    • Cultivate contacts in a specific field. Through alerts, you can find blogs about your area of expertise. Once Google has created the list, all you have to do is search through the ones you want to contact.
    • Check out what's happening in the city where you plan to visit on summer vacation.
    On the Google Alert page it provides an easy form to fill out.
    You fill in a search term. Decide what you want, how often you want it and where it should be delivered to — your email address.
    The beauty of the Google Alert is that you keep the alert as long as it is useful to you. Google gives you the option to manage your alerts at any time. So you can delete them when you are finished. Found more than enough information on vampires, then delete that Google Alert.

    If you haven't discovered them, you should check Google Alerts.

    Wednesday, April 6, 2011

    Style changes

    Hi:  My name is Stacy and I'm confused about style.

    Am I alone?

    Huffington Post reported that the Associated Press changed its style. The AP Style Guide is a journalist's bible. I continue to refer to my style book.

    For the most part, the style guide makes sense. During my newspaper days, I learned the style evolved as a way to shorten dates, etc. to make it easier to set type — when they set type. For example, using Feb. 14 uses less space and time than spelling out February 14.

    I'm not old enough to remember setting up type days, but I do remember how we cut out rows of copy and then pasted them onto pages.

    I remember an old machine used to type headlines, but you couldn't see what you were typing.

    I remember the bulky, room-sized machines used to make half tones of photographs.

    I remember trying to figure out what name I would use after my marriage based on what would fit into a regular news column. Well, there were other factors, but how it looked in the news column was a major consideration.

    Now, all of this is done with a computer and software. It still takes skill, but the process is streamlined.

    "Language evolves" the AP noted in its Tweet about the style change.

    The AP decided to remove the hyphen from e-mail. Now, journalists will be typing email.

    The article also gave details about a previous change back in 2010 — one that I missed. The AP discontinued using Web site. Now, the official style is website.

    I'm not going back through my blogs to correct it. My spellings will serve as another reminder of "I remember when ...."

    Monday, April 4, 2011

    Looking for memories

    This week, I'm visiting my family in Georgia.

    While the family man-handles Baby Enzo, I plan to look for some family photos to snag (with Mom's permission, of course).

    I digress. Just wanted to show you why everyone wants to hold him.

    After attending this program about leaving a legacy for your family, I thought photographs would be the perfect way to jog a memory and write family stories. We'll see how much I can remember or how much my mom is willing to share.

    I have wanted to write a story about my Pa (grandpa Tom) since 2000, when I heard Rick Bragg speak at a newspaper conference. Bragg talked about his book All Over But the Shoutin'. Bragg made it seem so easy.

    I still have the notebook I used to take notes about my Pa from a few folks. Then, my late husband was diagnosed with an aneurysm and a few months later a procedure resulted in a brain stem stroke, which left him mute and completely paralyzed. Needless to say, I dropped one story to live another that remains my memoir in progress.

    We'll see what my scavenger hunt produces this week. I'm hoping for good results. Happy Writing.

    Saturday, April 2, 2011

    Great idea: One sheet

    I tucked this blog post away for future conferences. The one sheet could be helpful in the planning stage of your writing.

    What will you put on your one sheet?

    The Write Conversation: What is a ONE SHEET Anyway?: "For those of you getting ready for a big writers conference you may have heard about the need for a One Sheet. This tool is also known as a ..."