Looking for ways to turn one story into many? Lou Harry has tips!

Meet Mini-conference faculty Lou Harry!

Lou Harry has written for more than fifty publications ranging from The Sondheim Review to This Old House and from Variety to Men’s Health. His books are as wide ranging, including The High-Impact Infidelity Diet: A novel (Random House and optioned by Warner Bros.), Creative Block (Running Press), Kid Culture (Cider Mill Press) and the novelization of the awful movie Santa Claus Conquers the Martians (Penguin). Collectively they have sold more than a million copies. His produced plays include Lightning and Jellyfish, Clutter or The Moving Walkway Will Soon Be Coming to an End, Midwestern Hemisphere, and Going…Going…Gone: The Live Auction Comedy, recently finishing its fifth year in Indianapolis. A member of the Dramatists Guild, he’s also a member of the Indiana Film Journalists Association and a board member of the American Theatre Critics Association, where he chairs its New Play Committee.

During the MWW Super mini-conference hands-on Friday morning session, Lou will teach “Nonfiction, Writing About Everything.” Yes, Lou will do a quick update on his goal to write a book for every category in the Dewey Decimal System. But, more importantly, he’ll explore ways to spark an interest in subjects you may not have previously thought about. “This workshop,” Lou explains, “will help you work on interview techniques, pitch angles, the search for leads (both the story idea kind and the first paragraphs kind), and ways to turn one story into many.” Lou will also review a targeted pitch letter or up to two pages (double-spaced/12 font) of a manuscript. (Email midwestwriters@yahoo.com with “Lou Harry nonfiction submission” in subject line, postmarked by July 2.)

If you are interested in play writing, Lou is also teaching the session “Creating Life on the Stage – Play writing for the novelists, short story writer, journalist and/or poet.” You’ve told stories. But perhaps you haven’t tried telling stories on stage. Through example and exercise, you’ll look at the differences and similarities between constructive narrative for readers and for actors. You’ll look at basic mechanics, of course, but also explore how to create stories that make sense and belong on stage–whether those come from preexisting material or are created uniquely for the stage.

For our Friday evening activities, Lou will host “Somewhere in This Book: A Live Game Show.” How fun! He’s asking everyone to bring a book–any book–to this event. Could be a novel, a history text, a cookbook, whatever. When a category is called (Say, “A Really Awkward Pick Up Line” or “What Not To Say On a Job Interview”), you have a set amount of time to flip through your book and find a line or two that fits the category–in a serious or hilarious way. Then we find the best choices, narrow down the field, bring some contestants up front for finals, and otherwise have a blast of a time.

Former MWW intern Caroline Delk asked Lou a few interview questions for some advice to the attendees and to help us learn a bit more about him as a writer and faculty member.

MWW: How do you get yourself psyched up for a writing session? Music? Meditation? Crossword puzzle? A full tank of high-octane coffee? Yoga? Or do you just sit down at the computer and have at it? Advice? 

LH: No warm ups. But I do try to start by editing–cleaning up something I’ve previously been working on or putting in changes I made on paper the previous session. That way, I’ve jumpstarted my brain into writing mode.

MWW: Describe for me your “writing space.” Messy? What books are within arm’s reach? Laptop or desktop? Dedicated office, spare bedroom or dining room table?

LH: I’m lucky to have a dedicated office–although it’s also dedicated to my board game collection and to gym equipment that I don’t use often enough. And to the cats’ litter boxes. My desk has piles of papers, not always organized–I’m usually working on a book project, at least one play project, plus multiple freelance pieces at any given time. I try to clean up whenever a story is done but I’m not always successful. Plus, my cats have a tendency to jump onto the desk and slide on papers, creating their own organizational system.

MWW: We’ve heard that a writer shouldn’t ask friends, family, and colleagues to read and make suggestions on a manuscript-in-progress. But we’ve also heard that a lot of successful writers have “beta readers.” What are they; what do they do; do you have one; and how can I find one?

LH: If it’s a new market, my wife will often read a piece just so I can avoid embarrassing typos. Many of my books are written in collaboration so there is an automatic back and forth to help improve the work. When it comes to plays, I always reach a point where I need to hear the work with actors, so I’ll cast it with actors whose work I know and have what I call a living-room read. After that, I may pull together a reading at a local college or bookstore, both of which have been very receptive. The caution is that it’s likely to be friends and family listening–and you are robbing them of the chance to experience it first in a full production. Most of what I learn about what the play needs, though, comes from just listening during the reading. I’ve made the mistake of being the person reading stage directions and that reducing my chance of really hearing the work and picking up the signposts over what’s not needed and what’s still needed.

MWW: Talk about manuscript rejection. How do you handle it? At what point should you give up on a manuscript and move on to the next project?

LH: As someone who has served as an editor, I understand the need to reject 99% of what comes across your desk. Rejection means I either sent it to the wrong market, the market has material too similar already, the timing was off, or the piece just wasn’t very good. Sometimes the form just wasn’t correct. I’ve turned two unsold novels into plays, one of which landed a professional production. Your poem may want to be a short story. Your adult novel may want to be YA. By the time you get a rejection, you should be working on your next piece anyway. After the rejection, try to read it as objectively as possible to figure out why it might not have worked for that market.

 

Come meet Lou!

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To register for MWW Super-Mini, go to www.midwestwriters.org

We have UPDATED the full schedule for the Super Mini-conference, read here.

To review the faculty bios, read here.

Do you wish to write in a way that touches readers and yourself?

That’s the question J. Brent Bill will discuss in his hands-on, small class session on Friday morning at MWW’s Super Mini-conference:

Writing from the Heart: Soulful Creativity – That’s the kind of writing that makes Anne Lamott’s essays, Phil Gulley’s Harmony tales, and Barbara Brown Taylor’s memoirs so appealing. Brent Bill’s own writing has been described by Publishers Weekly as being “Like a neighborly conversation across a kitchen table.” Whether you are writing fiction or nonfiction, you want to write from the heart and not just from the head. This workshop offers tips and techniques for connecting with your writer’s heart and how to put your heart on paper. You will spend time writing, using exercises that will help you uncover the deep themes and concerns that will bring your writing to life. Brent will also look at the practical side of getting such writing published.

With more than twenty books published since 1983, Brent has learned a thing or three about writing. His titles include Life Lessons from a Bad Quaker: A Humble Stumble Toward Simplicity and Grace, Sacred Compass: The Way of Spiritual Discernment; and Holy Silence: The Gift of Quaker Spirituality. He’s also a writing coach, editor, photographer, and retreat leader. A MWW alumnus, Brent lives on Ploughshares Farm – fifty acres of Indiana farmland being reclaimed for native hardwood forests and warm season prairie grasses.

Former MWW intern Amanda Byk asked Brent a few interview questions to help us learn more about him as a writer and faculty member.

MWW: How do you get yourself psyched up for a writing session? Music? Meditation? Crossword puzzle? A full tank of high-octane coffee? Yoga? Or do you just sit down at the computer and have at it? Advice?

JBB: My intention is always to just sit down and get to it. But the truth is I usually spend time checking email and Facebook, going for a fresh glass of ice water, doing some “research” on Google, and the like. The typical writer’s procrastination tools. When I do start writing, I usually write one or two hours straight without much deviating from the actual writing. Having a deadline helps me focus and get right down to the task of writing without having to check email, play solitaire, and so forth.

MWW: Describe for me your “writing space.” Messy? What books are within arm’s reach? Laptop or desktop? Dedicated office, spare bedroom or dining room table?

JBB: I have a dedicated writing office on the second floor of our post and beam home. It has a window overlooking the woods and prairie. Floor to ceiling bookshelves line one wall — stuffed with everything including poetry, humor, religion, books on writing, autographed copies of books, books by friends, miscellaneous nonfiction, miscellaneous fiction, photography books, and more. The other long walls hold two file cabinets, a map chest (where I store my writing and photographic paper and photographic prints), and an oversize desk containing my computer, monitor, two printers, an external hard drive, and a scanner. The walls hold various art pieces, photographs I’ve taken, framed book covers, and other miscellany. In addition to books, the bookshelves also contain such arcane things as Old Quaker Whisky bottles, models of MGs and other cars I’ve owned, Mr. Bill figurines, and fighting Quaker puppet, and other silliness.

MWW: When you hit the wall and nothing is working on your computer screen, how do you clear your head and refresh? Do you power down and go to a movie, or do you just keep pounding the keys? Advice?

JBB: This rarely happens to me. Once I’m in the flow, the words and sentences usually come easily. On those occasions where I’m stuck, I will either go for a walk in our woods and think or I’ll fire up the John Deere 790 and go do some farm work. Certain farm chores involving the tractor allow me to work on two planes at the same time — one paying attention to the tractor work and the other allowing my mind to problem solve my writing issue. They’re both work, but call for solutions from different parts of my brain. My family jokes that I write some of my best stuff whilst on the tractor.

MWW: For writers who are unsure about which classes to attend at the July Super Mini-conference, what criteria should they use in making their choices? 

JBB: One obvious piece of advice is to attend a workshop that most closely aligns with the kind of writing you want to do. A second, and I think just as valuable, is to sign up for a workshop completely outside of your primary interest. I did that when I signed up for my first MWW conference in the late 1980s — a poetry workshop. I like poetry, but had no intention of writing any poetry. The instructor, Mary Brown, was insightful and her exercises and information on writing poetry were very helpful to my writing (and by then I’d written six books). The lessons I learned in that class took my writing deeper in ways that I doubt any other course could have.

MWW: Can you tell us more about what your Friday session will be about? What can writers expect to come away with from it? 

JBB: There’s been an explosion in spiritual writing of late. While the number of mainstream Christian periodicals has declined, new publications have sprung up. My own spiritual writing has appeared in places as diverse as Quaker magazines, AARP: The Magazine, and Sufi Journal. In this workshop, we’ll spend some talking about the kind of spiritual writing participants want to do and then look at possible outlets that would fit their writing.

Come meet Brent!

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To register for MWW Super-Mini, go to www.midwestwriters.org

Scholarship application information (postmarked June 15), here.
_______________________________________________________________
We have UPDATED the full schedule for the Super Mini-conference, read here.
To review the faculty bios, read here.

Writing from the Dreamscape and Other Avenues toward Writing

What will you discover about yourself and your writing when you come to the Super mini-conference?

MWW Board member and poet Michael Brockley shared his thoughts… Writing from the Dreamscape and Other Avenues toward Writing about What You Want to Know

Although I am a poet, I try to put myself in positions to learn beyond the scope of the alchemical secrets we learn in poetry workshops. Humor classes always pique my interest as do sessions on tall tales, flash fiction, translating, writing as a form of therapy and prose poetry. The latter changed my literary life. And to this day, I regret having missed a workshop in Indianapolis which was advertised as an exploration of the role recurring images serve in one’s work.

I am looking forward to this year’s Super Mini-conference in Muncie because it is constructed in such a way as to promote not only writing, but writing about what I want to know. Workshops that feel as if the thing I want to know is within reach. I encourage myself to seek writing insights from sources outside my Pandora’s box because such genre-hopping forces me to write outside of my comfort zone. To reveal to myself this unknown unknown. This makes, for instance, Lucrecia Guerrero’s From Where You Dream so enticing. The possibility of opening a door in my brain that puts me at the threshold of a new direction, something darker or funnier or maybe something that puts me in an unfurnished room in my brain. Maurice Broaddus with his World Building seminar might provide more environmental roughage to nurture my Aloha Shirt Man’s surreal adventures or stoke the apocalyptic world my anonymous second person singular protagonist navigates.

But enough about me. What about you? Do you have a mystery detective who could benefit from ecstatic moments such as might be drawn from Brent Bill’s Soulful Creativity workshop? Maybe your romantic lead has a teenage son or daughter who sounds too much like your favorite rock-and-roll singer who is pushing 50. Thinking Like a Teenager, Barb Shoup’s offering, could jack up the parent-adolescent strife to such an extent that it jazzes your story with a new dimension or new character. For you see, once changes are introduced to your comfort zone you have no choice but to turn the handle on the Unchosen Door, the one you’ve always wanted to open. The light under that door shines with a color you can’t name and the sounds you hear might be grief or joy. Open the door and take a vacation through your dreamscape with your unconscious sidekick. Discover the worlds yet unbuilt that only you can raise. The seeds of writing within your soul await. Think once more in the way you did before you had a driver’s license. When you first began defining love for yourself. Come to the MWW Super Mini-conference on July 27 and July 28 at the Ball State Alumni Center in Muncie, Indiana. Come to begin your first (or your next) novel and leave with the passion to write about everything.

*****

Mike echoes what Brent Bill responded to this question: For writers who are unsure about which classes to attend at the July MWW Super Mini-conference, what criteria should they use in making their choices?

Brent: “One obvious piece of advice is to attend a workshop that most closely aligns with the kind of writing you want to do. A second, and I think just as valuable piece, is to sign up for a workshop completely outside of your primary interest. I did that when I signed up for my first MWW conference in the late 1980s — a poetry workshop. I like poetry, but had no intention of writing any poetry. The instructor, Mary Brown, was insightful and her exercises and information on writing poetry were very helpful to my writing (and by then I’d written six books). The lessons I learned in that class took my writing deeper in ways that I doubt any other course could have.”

Come and discover!

_______________________________________________________________

To register for MWW Super-Mini, go to here.

Scholarship applications information, here.
_______________________________________________________________
We have UPDATED the full schedule for the Super Mini-conference, read here.
To review the faculty bios, read here.

Build a dynamic world for your story to inhabit

During the next few weeks building up to the Super Mini-conference (July 27-28, Ball State Alumni Center, Muncie, IN), we will feature interviews with our faculty members.

If you write fiction, especially world building, you should think about registering for Maurice Broaddus’ Friday all-morning session “World Building: How to Out-Imagine Your Reader.” As Maurice explains, “Every story needs a setting: a sense of WHERE and WHEN it takes place. World building is the process by which we create an imaginary world or build a fictional universe. The workshop will present tips on how to build a dynamic world for your story to inhabit (with in-class writing!).”

Maurice will also teach a session “Characterization Through Dialogue” because characters are at the heart of stories and dialogue helps define characters and drive story. In this workshop, he will help you develop characters, consider word choice, and define their voice through dialogue. His session will present essential tips to improve dialogue and explore how to write dialogue that rings true, deepens character, creates tension, and more.

Maurice Broaddus is the author of steampunk adventures, fantasy and horror, and best known for his short fiction and his Knights of Breton Court novel trilogy. A community organizer and teacher, his work has appeared in Lightspeed Magazine, Weird Tales, Apex Magazine, Asimov’s, Cemetery Dance, Black Static, and many more. Some of his stories have been collected in The Voices of Martyrs. He co-authored the play Finding Home: Indiana at 200. His novellas include Buffalo Soldier, I Can Transform You, Orgy of Souls, Bleed with Me, and Devil’s Marionette. He is the co-editor of Dark Faith, Dark Faith: Invocations, Streets of Shadows, and People of Colo(u)r Destroy Horror. Learn more about him at MauriceBroaddus.com.

Former MWW intern Amanda Byk asked Maurice a few interview questions for some advice to the attendees and to help us learn a bit more about him as a writer and faculty member.

MWW: How will you design your MWW class so participants–from wannabee to published author–leave with great info that will nudge their writing careers forward?

MB: Whenever I prepare a workshop, I approach it from the standpoint of anyone’s writing can be improved. If I’m talking about dialogue or world-building, a newer writer will pick up a lot (and hopefully not be overwhelmed) and a published writer can use either the refresher or look to refine what they already do well.

MWW: If you were hospitalized for three months but not really too sick, whom (and it can’t be a relative) would you want in the next bed?

MB: My buddy J.J. I know he will 1) let me write (because a hospital bed is just an expensive fancy writer’s retreat to me), 2) let me bounce ideas off him, 3) he’ll read whatever I come up with, and 4) watch the same tv shows I watch (and comics I read and games I play). Hope you weren’t looking for anything too deep.

MWW: When you hit the wall and nothing is working on your computer screen, how do you clear your head and refresh? Do you power down and go to a movie, or do you just keep pounding the keys? Advice?

MB: I do the dishes or laundry. Some mindless task that takes a while that will allow my mind to drift and my creative muscle to do its thing. My wife LOVES it when I hit a wall.

MWW: Tell us about your first manuscript sale. What was it? How did you get the news? Did you frame the check or cash it ASAP for fear the editor might have second thoughts?  How did you celebrate? Who was the first person you told? How much time passed before you sold a second mss?

MB: Back in that halcyon days of 1999, I got the news via a letter. That was also back when we had to mail out manuscripts via the postal system. It was my story “Soul Food” for the magazine Hoodz. My first few sales (probably six months or so later), I Xeroxed the checks and then cashed them immediately. I kept the checks on file as encouragement (since I was still hanging up my rejection letters as wallpaper back then, too).

Then, as I do to this day, I have my “cigar moment”: I tell my wife, we do a happy dance, and then I enjoy a tasty beverage of some sort (since I don’t actually smoke). But I think it important to take the time to celebrate a sale since I also have a rejection ritual to mourn a market saying “no” to a story before I suck it up and send it back out again.

MWW: A lot of new writers fear that they can’t possibly be successful in the competitive world of publishing. Shoot down these reasons for their lack of confidence:

  • I don’t live in the “fast lane”- NYC or the West Coast – whatever, I live in Indianapolis.
  • I never took a writing class in college, high school, etc. – doesn’t matter if you have an MFA. It all boils down to the right story to the right market.
  • I’m too old – good, you have life experience to draw from.
  • I’m too young – good, you have more time to learn and make connections.
  • I don’t have a “platform.” (I don’t even know what a platform is!) – platforms are overrated, especially if what you’re writing isn’t aimed at that platform. All that time not building your platform can go into writing your next story.
  • I don’t have an agent – they aren’t necessary for short story sales.
  • My book manuscript has been rejected (fill in the blank) times – my first novel never sold. Neither did my second, third, or fourth. The next ten did though.
  • I’ve heard it’s impossible for an unpublished writer to get a book contract – everyone starts off unpublished.

Come meet Maurice!

_______________________________________________________________
To register for MWW Super-Mini, go to here.
Scholarship applications information, here.
We have UPDATED the full schedule for the Super Mini-conference, read here.
To review the faculty bios, read here.

Build the skills you need to finish that first novel

Are you writing your first novel?

If the answer is “YES,” then MWW Super Mini-conference has a session just for you!

We are pleased to have Larry D. Sweazy returning to Midwest Writers Workshop for the Super Mini-conference this July 27-28 at the Ball State Alumni Center, Muncie, Indiana. Larry is an exceptional instructor, warm, friendly and encouraging to everyone.

He is the award-winning author of thirteen novels, including the Lucas Fume Western series, the Josiah Wolfe Texas Ranger series, as well as the Marjorie Trumaine mystery series. His books have been translated by major publishers in Italy and Turkey and he has published over seventy nonfiction articles and short stories. Writers in his previous MWW sessions had this to say:

“Larry Sweazy was great and very informative.”

“He had enthusiasm, courtesy and knowledge and a great personality”

“Larry was excellent. The exercises were a little scary but very helpful and fun.”

“He did a great job! He made things clear and was approachable, accessible and valuable.”

We asked Larry to tell us about what he will teach at the Super Mini.

MWW: You’re offering a hands-on class Friday morning. [Here’s the full description.]

Fiction: Writing Your First Novel – Here’s the big secret about writing first novels: The hardest part writing a first novel is finishing it. Great ideas tire out. Real life gets in the way. Doubt over takes the dream. In this interactive workshop, Larry D. Sweazy will share proven tips and help you to build the skills a new writer needs to finish that special first novel. Topics discussed will be time management, building a toolbox, finding support, writing tips, and most importantly living life as writer–even if you’re not published. Participants may send in two double-spaced pages for a brief critique, and should come prepared to write in class.

Can you tell us more about what that class will be about? What can writers expect to come away with from it?  

LDS: Writing a first novel is a luxury. Most writers don’t realize this until it’s too late. There’s no deadline, no editor waiting at the other end, no marketing department, no critics, no expectation of a follow-up novel in the next year. There’s more freedom for a writer writing a first novel than any other, but yet it’s the most difficult to finish. Doubt is a constant companion. Fear resides at the end of every sentence. Most first novels are abandoned. Maybe they’re picked back up later, and maybe not. The love affair with the first novel is tumultuous.

I hope to give writers a few practical tools that will encourage them to finish that first novel, help them realize where they are in the journey so they can get on with the work of being a writer, and start their next novel. We’ll discuss time management, overcoming excuses, how the publishing industry works, and hopefully, everything in between. We’ll also get to some writing exercises and critiques to round out the experience of being a new writer.

MWW: You’re known these days as a mystery writer (your third Marjorie Trumaine novel, See Also Proof, released May 1st) but you’ve also written many westerns. Was it difficult to switch genres? Do you feel having written westerns gave you a different approach to mysteries?

LDS: That’s an interesting question, and one I hope that can be instructive. I’ve written a lot of stories that were neither westerns or mysteries. I’ve published ghost stories, literary stories, action adventure stories, and some nonfiction work thrown in, too. I love writing westerns and historical fiction, and I also love writing mysteries. But more than anything, I love writing stories. I think the story should pick the genre, not the other way around. So, to answer your question, yes, I think my writing experience affects everything I write. I like to write with a large palette, and anything that serves the story is fair game. We’ll discuss genres in both of my classes, the good, bad, and the ugly, as well as some traps to avoid along the way.

MWW: We’re looking forward to your Saturday morning wake-up session with Matthew Clemens. You’ll be talking about “What’s Your Dream?” Can you give us a bit of a preview by telling us a little about your dream? 

LDS: I knew I wanted to be a writer from a young age, so the dream was simple: Be a working writer when I grew up. But my journey was not as simple. Getting published was not easy, and staying published is not easy. Sitting down in the chair day after day, year after year presents daunting challenges along the way, but the dream has never changed for me. I still want to be a writer more than anything else.

larrydsweazy.com

Follow on Twitter: @larrydsweazy

www.facebook.com/larrysweazyauthor

PRAISE FOR MARJORIE TRUMAINE SERIES:

“The more you get to know Marjorie Trumaine, the more you will want to know her.” –Reviewing The Evidence

“A riveting and expertly crafted story…. I couldn’t put this book down. It’s one of the best mysteries I’ve read in a long time, and I look forward to more in this engaging and powerful series.” -DAVID BELL, award-winning and bestselling author of Somebody I Used to Know 
“A dark, complex mystery with well-developed characters deeply rooted in their small-town rural setting. Larry D. Sweazy gives mystery readers a rich, satisfying read.” -KAT MARTIN, New York Times-bestselling author of Against the Wind

“Marjorie is the kind of gritty heroine, playing the cards she was dealt with pragmatism and intelligence, who will keep readers engaged in this series.” -Killer Nashville

“Brimming with atmosphere and filled with well-drawn characters, See Also Deception is bound to delight mystery readers everywhere. Marjorie Trumaine rings as solid and true as any heroine ever created.” -SUSAN CRANDALL, bestselling author of Whistling Past the Graveyard

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To register for Larry’s session, “Fiction: Writing Your First Novel,” go here.

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To review the full schedule for the Super Mini-conference, read here.

To review the faculty bios, read here.

Manuscript Makeover offered at Super Mini-conference

While MWW is working hard on its newly-minted nonprofit governance and its board recruitment (read our statement here), we’re also keeping in mind our mission to help writers reach their writing goals. This Craft + Community “Super Mini” is a dynamic day-and-a-half with a decidedly different structure-shorter, smaller, less expensive, and designed for writers of every level in their careers.

It offers eight in-depth, hands-on interactive, small class size sessions taught by experienced, accomplished, and professional faculty. One faculty member is Holly Miller. We caught up with Holly this week and asked her for a preview of her “Manuscript Makeover” class. Read portions of our conversation below…
 
Author-editor Holly Miller says that books are a lot like airplanes–they’re most vulnerable to crashes during takeoff and landing. Her explanation: A story needs powerful opening pages (takeoff) and a satisfying final chapter (landing) if it’s going to convince agents, editors and readers to come along for the ride. Holly’s Manuscript Makeover class at the Super Mini-conference will focus on beginnings, endings, and everything in between. With 14 books and 2,500 magazine articles to her credit, Holly knows how to help authors chart a course that will get them closer to their anticipated destination: publication.

You call your morning workshop “Manuscript Makeover,” but is it really possible to redo a manuscript in three and a half hours?

At the beginning of the session I always promise participants that they’re going to know a lot more at noon than they do at 8:30 when we start the class. It’s my job to deliver on that promise. Everything that happens in those three and a half hours will relate to the manuscripts that they sent me–no generic lectures, I promise! My goal is that they’ll have enough feedback to know exactly the next steps they need to take to move their manuscripts a notch or two closer to publication. In addition to the time we have together as a class, I’m going to meet with each writer one-on-one for 15 minutes in the afternoon to go over their pages line by line.

Do writers need to have a completed book manuscript to benefit from Manuscript Makeover?

No, all they need are a one-page synopsis and their book’s opening 10 pages. To succeed in today’s publishing world, a writer has to have two things: A compelling story to tell and the ability to tell it well. The synopsis addresses the first, and the sample pages show the second. Some writers come to Manuscript Makeover with only an idea and a rough draft of the first chapter. They want to know if they should keep writing. Others have finished their books and wonder what the next step is. Then there are the writers who have tried to market their books but with no success. They want to know where they fell short and how to fix the problem.

Why do you limit the class size to 15 writers?

For a couple of reasons. First, I want to encourage a sense of community. After all, we’re all writers even though we may be at different stages of development. Second–and this is personal–the class is really labor-intensive for me as the facilitator. I like to read each manuscript several times, adding notes, making suggestions and editing as I go. I build the class from scratch each time I teach it. I’ve found that 15 is the perfect number.

You open the class to novelists and nonfiction writers. Why not specify one or the other?

Typically the class attracts more novelists than nonfiction authors, even though nonfiction is easier to sell these days. Regardless of the genre we choose–mystery, memoir, romance, biography, thriller, personal experience, etc.–we’re all storytellers. We have to know how to grab and hold readers’ attention, how to build tension, create dialogue and weave in backstory. Those components need to be in every story we tell.

As a teacher, what is your greatest challenge when you face a room full of writers with various skills, interests and needs?

My biggest challenge is to keep them motivated after the workshop is over. Too often they leave with good intentions, but then they get sidetracked by obligations at work or at home. Their manuscripts suddenly occupy the back burner. So, this year I’m going to try something new. The writers in my class will have the opportunity to book a half hour of my time for some time in the fall. There will be a modest fee, and not every writer will want or need to take advantage of the offer. If they do, they can choose when and how to use the time. They might decide to send me a few revised pages, or we can talk via phone about problems they’ve encountered since the July workshop. The important thing is to keep up the momentum…to keep on keeping on. As I said earlier, you need two things to succeed as a writer–a good story to tell and the ability to tell it well. But there’s a third requirement, and that’s perseverance.

Register here for Manuscript Makeover.
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To review the full schedule for the Super Mini-conference, read here.
To review the faculty bios, read here.

MWW Super Mini-conference, July 27-28

MWW Super Mini-conference — July 27-28 at the Ball State Alumni Center, Muncie, Indiana. Friday 8:30 am through Saturday 12:30 pm.  A dynamic day-and-a-half with a decidedly different structure—shorter, smaller, less expensive, with a strong emphasis on helping you reach your writing goals.

This MWW Craft + Community super mini is designed for writers of every level in their careers.

Whether you’re a published author or a novice exploring writing for the first time, you’ll find your place here, among teachers and fellow writers in a small group environment. It’s time to grow your network and nurture your identity as a writer. We have mentors to help.

Press the reset button.

At MWW Craft + Community, you’ll experience a day and a half—long enough to get away and refocus your energy on your writing, yet short enough to accommodate your busy schedule. Come enjoy the camaraderie and receive useful guidance!

This “super mini” offers eight in-depth, hands-on interactive, small class size sessions taught by experienced, accomplished, and professional faculty:

  • Holly Miller: Manuscript Makeover
  • Matthew Clemens: Developmental Editing
  • Brent Bill: Writing from the Heart: Soulful Creativity
  • Lou Harry: Nonfiction, Writing About Everything
  • Larry D. Sweazy – Fiction, Writing Your First Novel
  • Barbara Shoup – Think Like a Teenager
  • Lucrecia Guerrero – From Where You Dream
  • Maurice Broaddus – World Building: How to Out-Imagine Your Reader

Our programming focuses on key areas such as craft improvement, genre knowledge, finding critique partners, and forming writing support groups to help improve your writing. Get feedback from experts and friendly peers. Sharing your work and reading your work will allow you to pinpoint sagging plot lines, breaks in character and more. The give-and-take, along with honest feedback, is a win for all.

We’ll have fun activities to help you find a writing community. Writing is a solitary act, a leap of faith in which we work to bring the ideas in our head, our own experiences, our research and our true and imaginary tales to life on the page. Because we labor alone, we need a community of honest supporters who can help us to see what works in our stories and what doesn’t.

MWW Craft + Community wants to give you that community. You’ll return home with new skills and insight into your writing. You’ll return home with new writing friends.

And there’s a space waiting for you.

Secure your spot today.

Cost: $199

REGISTER

[For a statement from our board, read here.]

Writing from the Heart: Soulful Creativity with J. Brent Bill

Online courses provide great opportunities for everyone who wants to learn something. From the comfort of your home, or even the comfort of your jammies, you can learn on your own time schedule and participate in classes that will help take your writing to the next level.
Our newest MWW Ongoing course is Writing from the Heart: Soulful Creativity taught by J. Brent Bill. The course starts March 26 and will be available through July.

Who This Course Will Help

This course is for both unpublished and published authors who wish to write in a way that connects with readers – and themselves – at the deepest levels. Many writers are technically sound and fine thinkers. True connection with readers requires more, however. The secret to making that connection, whether you write fiction or non-fiction, is writing from the heart.

Many of us approach writing by wondering what readers, editors, and publishers want. Instead, this course will focus on what interests us as writers. What things are we most passionate about and do we dare write about them?

This course offers tips and techniques for connecting with your writer’s heart – and discovering themes and concerns that will bring your writing to life.

 

What This Course Teaches

This four-week course offers practical ways for involving head, heart, and craft in writing – with a particular emphasis on tapping into your heart. Each lesson will include opening thoughts by Brent and then lead into exercises regarding that week’s topic.

The course officially begins on Monday, March 26, when the first full unit will become available to all students. Lessons related to the week’s theme will appear on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Units 2-4 will be available on the following Mondays: April 2, 9, 16.

Unit One: Heart and Mind

The first week will explore how we link head and craft with heart. It uses concrete exercises that will tap into what you know – and don’t know you know. We’ll also look at the places where heart and head intersect so that we can produce powerful writing.

Unit Two: Heart and Body

In our second week, we will go deeper in exploring the personal by adding body to heart. We will work with exercises that explore like-heartedness, but not necessarily like-mindedness as a way to connect with readers whose life experiences are different from our own.

Unit Three: Putting it All Together: Heart, Body, and Mind

During week three, you’ll delve into a deep personal experience from the perspective of heart instead of head. You’ll learn how to bring all the senses (physical, emotional, mental) to bear in bringing the story to life.

Unit Four: Going Long and Deep

Week four will pull all the learning from the first three weeks into a longer writing project where you can draw on what you’ve experienced. As with the previous weeks, it will include practical tips and guided exercises.

 

What This Course Includes

Weekly Assignments for completion at your own pace—designed to help you put what you learn into action.

You’ll also:

  • Receive suggestions for reading and other resources for you to go deeper in writing from the heart
  • Be able to chat with Brent in real time (video, audio, and text) during his weekly online office hours (2 separate hour per week)
  • Have access to a dedicated private Facebook page where you can (if you choose)
    • ask questions and engage in discussions with Brent and the other course participants. Brent will check the page daily for questions and comments.
    • share your work based on the exercise and invite feedback from the other course participants

A review (via email) by Brent of up to ten pages of a manuscript in which you’ve put some of the learning from this course into practice.

Cost: $150. Register HERE

About the Instructor

With more than twenty books and numerous articles and short stories published since the 1980s, Brent has learned a thing or three about writing. His book titles include Life Lessons from a Bad Quaker: A Humble Stumble Toward Simplicity and Grace, Sacred Compass: The Way of Spiritual Discernment; and Holy Silence: The Gift of Quaker Spirituality. He’s a writing coach, editor, photographer, and retreat leader.

One reviewer said of Brent that he’s “… a substantial spiritual guide, but never in a flashy way. Think of – oh, perhaps something like Mister Rogers Meets the Dalai Lama.” Brent is a member of Spirituality & Practice’s Living Spiritual Teachers Project.

A MWW alumnus, Brent lives on Ploughshares Farm – 50 acres of Indiana farmland being reclaimed for native hardwood forests and warm season prairie grasses.

Successful mini-conference at Brownsburg Library

We’re glad nearly 70 writers attended the MWW mini-conference, “Getting Serious About Your Writing,” Saturday morning, February 10, 2018, at the Brownsburg Public Library, Brownsburg, Indiana.

Attendees heard three multi-published authors, Nina Sadowsky, Dianne Drake, and Kelly O’Dell Stanley, share craft techniques, current publishing trends, and inside secrets through their opening addresses, instruction sessions, and a Q&A panel. Read Loretta Polaski’s article featured in March 2018’s Sisters in  Crime, Guppy Chapter newsletter, First Draft.

Welcome attendees!

Dianne Drake

Nina Sadowsky

Authors’ books available!

Nina Sadowsky

Kelly O’Dell Stanley

Dianne Drake

Breakout Session

Deepening Conflict in Your Novel with Shirley Jump

MWW Ongoing is a series of courses taught by award-winning writing instructors, and everything happens online. From the convenience of your computer, on your own time schedule, you can participate in classes to take your writing to the next level.
Check out our newest online MWW Ongoing course taught by one of our favorite instructors, New York Times bestselling author Shirley Jump. Once you register, you can do the exercises at your own pace, take any time online! The first unit is available now and the second on comes open on Monday, February 26. Shirley has great stuff for all those working to improve their novels. And her interactions on the Facebook private group with those who sign up are such a bonus.
Deepening Conflict (available now) is for people who are struggling to increase the conflict and tension in their scenes. If the book is feeling flat, or editors and readers are saying there isn’t enough conflict, this course will help. This online course will cover the difference between conflict and tension, how to create conflicts that aren’t just arguments, and developing conflict from your characters. Conflict is what keeps the engine of the plot moving, and keeps the reader turning the pages.

Shirley will cover the basics of both external and internal conflict. Learning the difference between these, how they interrelate, and how they impact the novel, is vital. You will also get to know your characters better through this process—what their fears are, what their needs are, and what roadblocks are in their way. If you are in the middle of a book and feeling stalled, this course will help you get the novel back on track. By the end of this course, you will have the tools you need to create more powerful scenes.

What This Course Specifically Teaches

  • Basics of conflict—what it is and isn’t
  • Determining internal and external conflict from the characters and plot
  • Deepening conflict on every page
  • How to analyze novels and scenes you read to pinpoint the conflict

The course is broken down into two units. The first is available now and the second is available Monday the 26th. Each unit is accompanied by several pdf handouts that build on the one before. You can start using the information immediately for your current work. Shirley is already interacting with students and answering questions within the private Facebook group. (Her recent post: “Today’s discussion topic: Think of a movie you recently saw. What would you say the main character’s external and internal conflicts were?”) The course will be available until May 31, so join any time!

UNIT ONE: Available Now

Unit One will be about getting the basics down. We will start with discussing what conflict is, how to find it in a scene, and what the difference is between internal and external conflict. Students will be asked to look at their own work and determine the main characters’ internal and external conflicts.

  • Goal Motivation Conflict
  • GMC Analysis Worksheet
  • Plotting Basics
  • Conflict: What It Is and Isn’t

UNIT TWO: Available Monday, February 26th

Unit Two will take conflict to a deeper level. We will go over the difference between tension and conflict, analyze conflict and tension in scenes, and see how well-placed hooks can build in additional tension for the book.

  • Conflict: The Missing Link
  • Tension vs. Conflict
  • Pacing Your Novel

About Shirley Jump
When she’s not writing books, New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Shirley Jump competes in triathlons, mostly because all that training lets her justify mid-day naps and a second slice of chocolate cake. She’s published more than 60 books in 24 languages, although she’s too geographically challenged to find any of those countries on a map. Visit her website at www.ShirleyJump.com for author news and a booklist, and follow her on Facebook at www.Facebook.com/shirleyjump.author for giveaways and deep discussions about important things like chocolate and shoes.

Cost: $75 / Register here!