Tag Archives: workshop

Navigating the Changing Book Industry — what writers should know to sell their book

woman-w-face-n-hands-1000Doris Booth, founder and agent with the Authorlink Literary Group and Authorlink.com, presented a workshop at the DFW Writers Conference, May 2, 2009 entitled:

Navigating the Changing Book Industry

— an insider’s view of what writers should know

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Notes from the DFW Writers Conference Agents' Panel, May 2009

On May 2, 2009, the DFW Writers Conference (sponsored by the DFW Writers’ Workshop) hosted a Question and Answer Session with a panel of literary agents. Agents  on the panel were Doris Booth, Sally Harding, Al Longden and Dr. Uwe Stender. The following are highlights from my notes during the session. It is by no means a complete transcription of the session but there were a number of interesting points brought up that indicated some of the focus of subsequent workshops. I’ve added a few of my own personal comments and observations.

Harding: YA (Young Adult) is over bought. She’s looking for classic epic fantasy with a fresh take for the U.S. and U.K. markets.

Stender: Selling non-fiction today requires “a big platform.” He went on to explain an author needs to be a celebrity, preferrably with his or her own show; a popular blogger; or have a degree from a major university to get his interest in a non-fiction manuscript.

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Nature Writing: the value of journaling for writers

Use specific sense-based words & avoid abstract words like "beautiful" in your descriptions

Use specific sense-based words & avoid abstract words like “beautiful” in your descriptions

Now this is irony (unlike the song “Ironic” by Morissette)! My first post-lunch (a vast hoard of potluck foods and beverages from the Richard Hugo House volunteers and Costco) workshop was canceled, however, the workshop I wanted to attend at the start of the day replaced it. It’s enough to make me believe in being medieval (see the earlier post about Medieval in P.A.).

The Nature Writing workshop was presented by Susan Zwinger, a second generation naturalist, nature writer and avid nature journalist. Her journals are works of art by themselves with not only her lovely handwriting, but sketches, paintings and collage.

She emphasized that nature journals are useful to all types of writers, fiction and non-fiction. The point of a nature journal is a) learning to see deeply, with all the senses and b) collecting observations and details about our natural world that can add texture to our writing.

Here are some of Susan Swinger’s tips for keeping a nature journal:

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Ordinary People: a writing exercise to capture characterization

Try writing Flash Fiction vignettes from different viewpoints and moments in the character's life

Try writing Flash Fiction vignettes from different viewpoints and moments in the character’s life

Writer and teach Margot Case offered a brilliant workshop at he Richard Hugo House Write-O-Rama workshop entitled Ordinary People. We read excerpts from “Robert Kennedy Saved from Drowning” by Donald Bartheleme, Sixty Stories.

I’d tried The Dead Father by Bartheleme, but found it at the wrong time and had never tried Donald Bartheleme again. What a mistake! I’m hot footing it to the book store to find more of his short stories.

Essentially, “Robert Kennedy Saved from Drowning” is written as a series of vignettes supposedly from Robert Kennedy’s life by various people’s viewpoints. It’s similar to a collection of Flash Fiction.

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Memory Babe: a writing exercise inspired by Jack Kerouac

Try finding the Resonant Detail in your descriptions by using evocative sense memories.

Try finding the Resonant Detail in your descriptions by using evocative sense memories.

Wow! The beat goes on! Molten meltdown of mental memes send me searching shelves for slender volumes.

I’ve tried reading On the Road by Jack Kerouac three times in my life. I forced myself to finish it last time. But apparently I was reading the wrong Kerouac or the wrong format.

My 1st choice for second period of the Richard Hugo House Write-O-Rama was overflowing. So continuing the medieval mind theme for the day (still taking things a signs and portents), I’m at the Jack Kerouac class — Memory Babe with Deborah Woodard as our instructor.

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Pare It Down: a workshop on strong writing

Try using single syllable words to focus your writing. It can make it stronger and more dynamic.

Try using single syllable words to focus your writing. It can make it stronger and more dynamic.

My first Write-O-Rama workshop was “Pare It Down” with Anne Leigh Parrish. A workshop to get us to write simply and therefore strongly. Think Hemingway. Not one of my favorites. Not as pathetically macho as Mailer, but too focused so-called “masculine” values for me.

The idea was to choose strong words;  words of one syllable. If we couldn’t write with monosyllables, we were to go back and edit replacing polysyllabic words with monosyllabic ones.

Exercise: Pretend to write a letter using words of only one syllable.

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Being Medievel in P.A. About Write-O-Rama

In one of those “Be Careful What You Wish For” parables, I’ve spent most of this year being terribly useful. Shortly after I started working on my NaNoWriMo revisions in February, I was hired to fill-in as Interim Executive Director for an area Chamber of Commerce during a particularly nasty internal dust-up. (Bit like the The War of the Roses except with local business people and the local newspaper acting as the bad lawyer who eggs everyone on with a touch of Primary Colors: A Novel of Politics.) What was suppose to be part-time proved full-time (although not all the time was paid) and on top of that I spent time with an area design firm (where I discovered I couldn’t work in a fishbowl with my boss bellowing into phones next to me and the only view a sliver of sky and branch through a slit window near the ceiling).

Needless to say, writing time was limited. My blogging time was nil.

After doing an 8-week hell gig following the Chamber of Commerce, I desperately wanted to get back tow writing. I’d been reading a number of self-help books for some research (no, really, I’ve got a character who’s a self-help, woo-woo junkie). I’d just finished Deanna Davis’  The Law of Attraction in Action: A Down-to-Earth Guide to Transforming Your Life (No Matter Where You’re StartingFrom) — and decided “What the heck. I’m feeling good, let’s try give it a whirl!”

Now let me emphasize I’m a scientific method kind of gal. No healing mantras, aura diagnostics or just think positive and it will happen for me. But my mom always used to say, “Be careful what you think because you’ll attract it to you.” And I was ready for a bit of optimism. My husband had been laid off just the week before 12 days short of his 13th Anniversary with the company. And I’d been working with a couple of clients who were driving me a little nuts.

So I started working on my writing and focusing on how good I felt when working and how I great it felt when I was with other writers sharing stimulating ideas. I began focus all the good feelings writing to the idea of finding new writers to meet and getting a book out the door in 2009. Out of the blue an email arrived from the Richard Hugo House announcing the winter Write-O-Rama was the following Saturday!

Richard Hugo House in Seattle offers a home to writers and readers of all types through events, performances, classes, a library, residencies and more.  They have a huge zine library (they say the world’s largest at 20K publications, but it’s extremely slim in SF (let alone media fan zines) where zines were born in the 1930’s) and cafe with stage and an auditorium. And like all art non-profits, they can certainly use donations right now.

The Write-O-Rama is an entire day of 1-hour writing workshops by some notable area authors from a variety of fields that anyone can attend by getting (or making) donations of at least $45US. Of course, they’d like you to raise more if possible.

Of course, I was having some trouble justifying taking off for Seattle for a day of writer’s workshops no matter how noble the purpose and reasonable the cost.
Having just finished Ms. Davis’s book, I decided to be medieval in P.A. and take the arrival of the Write-O-Rama email as a sign. (In case you haven’t read it, there’s a terrific book called Medieval in LA by Jim Paul. The lead character has up to the start of the book had a modern mind, meaning he doesn’t believe in facts and reasoning as opposed to signs and portents of a medieval mind. But after an accident on a plane to L.A., he decides for one weekend he will being medieval and make decisions based on “signs”. Well written and it definitely makes you think about your choices.) I decided it was a sign I should go to the Write-O-Rama.

I had to either get written pledges for donations in 1 day or cough up the $45US myself. I decided to put Ms. Davis’s beliefs to the test. Now Ms. Davis doesn’t believe that the Laws of Attraction means you simply “put it out into the universe” or “want it with all your heart.” Nope. She believes that once you focus on what you want with laser-like intensity, your mind tells you what action to take next. My mind decided I should email a three friends who supported my writing efforts with the link, an explanation of the situation and asking that if they were thinking about buying me a holiday gift, they make the gift a donation pledge to Write-O-Rama in my name by 5pm PST that day.

At 4:45pm, knowing that 2 had donated but not knowing exactly how much, I pledged $20 for myself, emailed a friend in Seattle about getting together afterwards, and filled the car with gas. The friend in Seattle suggested I spend the night so I made a reservation at the Apple Genius Bar (hey, if I’m going in to the big city, I might as well take advantage of the opportunity to get those files transferred from my old iBook) and packed a bag.

To cut a long story short, I arrived at the Richard Hugo House to find that my total donations online were $80 in 5 hours. It proved the emotional and mental boost I needed.

Am I still skeptical of Ms. Davis’s methods? Well, one of my friends has offered to pay my tuition to a select writer’s conference in her town where editors and agents meet with writers to review proposals. And the friend is giving me crash space and carpool as well.

I’m welling over with gratitude to my friends and optimism about the New Year. (And pulling out projects to edit starting January 1st!)

How were the workshops? The short answer – Fantastic! The long answer – Keep reading. I’m going to run posts all this week about the event overall and the ones I attended.