Mullins, Matt

Building Blocks of Spec Screenwriting: March 21, 2015

There’s still time to register for Midwest Writers Workshop’s ONE-DAY INTENSIVE SESSIONS.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Ball State Alumni Center, Muncie, IN

Cost: $155 (includes lunch)

 One of the four sessions is The Basics of Compelling Cinematic Storytelling” taught by Matt Mullins. His session will run the gamut of the basics of storytelling for film, beginning with the building blocks of spec screenwriting format and style, how to approach it and what to avoid, and then moving on to the core elements of visual/cinematic storytelling structure and content. This includes, among other things, how plots are shaped and how they arc, how characters are constructed and why/how they change, how scenes work, and how/when to use dialogue versus/along with visual exposition.

Matthew Mullins is a writer, experimental filmmaker, videopoet, and multimedia artist. His videopoems have been screened at conferences and film festivals in the U.S. and abroad. His fiction and poetry have appeared in a number of print and online literary journals including Mid American Review, Pleiades, Hunger Mountain, Descant, and Hobart. His debut collection of short stories, Three Ways of the Saw, was published by Atticus Books in 2012 and was named a finalist forForeword Magazine‘s 2012 Book of the Year. And his work in screenwriting has won awards from the Broadcast Education Association. Matt teaches creative writing at Ball State University where he is an Emerging Media Fellow at the Center for Media Design. You can engage his interactive/digital literary interfaces at lit-digital.com.

MWW board member Cathy Shouse caught up with Matt to discuss his intensive session on screenwriting.

MWW: What should those attending your intensive session expect? Should they have an outline or idea for a screenplay? Will they be writing or will you be sharing your ideas?

MM: I’ll be talking about how to write in proper spec screenwriting format and style and I’ll be talking about the basic principles of good storytelling for the screen. So it’ll be mostly sharing ideas. They don’t need to come with an idea for a screenplay or any kind of outline.  If we do any writing it would be simple exercises. But I think it will mostly be lecture and watching short films and clips that illustrate the points I’m trying to make.

MWW: What are some benefits that attendees will take away from the day?

MM: I would hope that they learn the very basics of format/style and get a sense of what’s required to tell a compelling story for the screen.

MWW: How would you rate the level of the class, such as aimed at beginning writers, those who have completed a manuscript or others?

MM: I’d say it’s beginning to intermediate in terms of format and style and beginning to intermediate in terms of storytelling principles, maybe with a touch of advanced in that area.

MWW: With so much pressure to “grab attention,” can you give a hint at something that adds creativity to a story?

MM: Be yourself. Think about what it means to be a human being and how creativity/storytelling/art can comment on that condition in ways that allow us to see life’s ironic complexities. Go for endings where something is lost or gained at the cost of something meaningful (literally and/or metaphorically).

MWW: What are some awards that you have won? Which one holds special meaning for you and why?

MM: Winning the Broadcast Education Association’s Best Feature-length Screenplay Award (for a collaboration with Rich Swingley) meant a lot. We put that script (“Nerdvana” a kind of geek road trip comedy) through twenty drafts. Winning Ball State’s Creative Endeavor Award was also special. It was really nice to have the breadth of my work recognized.

MWW: Is there anything else potential participants should know?

MM: We’ll be talking about format and style. We’ll be watching/analyzing short films and various scenes and discussing how they work from a writer’s perspective.

REGISTER NOW!

Linda Taylor

Building Your Author Platform: March 21, 2015

Midwest Writers Workshop invites you to join us for one of our most popular offerings: ONE-DAY INTENSIVE SESSIONS. 

Saturday, March 21, 2015

8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Ball State Alumni Center, Muncie, IN

Cost: $155 (includes lunch)

One of the four sessions is “Building Your Author Platform” taught by Linda Taylor. MWW committee member Cathy Shouse interviewed Linda about what her session will cover.

MWW: You’ve indicated that in your mini session, you will share the best way to start a platform. Could you give us a sneak peek of what you mean? As long as someone has Facebook and Twitter accounts, posts once in a while about what they have for breakfast (ha) and the followers are growing, isn’t that enough?

LINDA: Unfortunately not. In fact, that’s probably the worst thing you can do. Seriously, who cares what you had for breakfast? The point is to use it strategically, to post regularly, and to be interested in what others are doing, not just sharing your stuff. The first thing to do is figure out who you are as a writer and who your “tribe” is–then go from there, which is what we’ll talk about in the session.

MWW: If someone is not on Facebook or Twitter, are they too much of a beginner to benefit by attending your session? Please describe how you see this working for someone who has not started.

LINDA: Getting started on Twitter is especially easy–so if you haven’t started on Twitter, you will have a Twitter account and start finding some people to follow during the session. I will also show you some ways to make Twitter make sense. That is, you may have tried it but been overwhelmed, which is an easy thing to happen. But there are tools you can use to organize Twitter so that you can see only what you want to see. We’ll be doing that, too!

Facebook is pretty ubiquitous, and many people like to leave it as more about family and friends than professional connections. It’s up to them. We’ll talk about pros and cons. If you’re published, you might want to create a “page” for your book (as opposed to a “profile” which is what everyone has).

Others might be on other platforms–

That’s the point of this session.

MWW: Where can we find you online to see some of the posts you make in various platforms and follow you?

LINDA: How nice of you!

I have my blog (where I write a lot about writing and editing and publishing) at

https://lindaktaylor.wordpress.com/

My professional site is at http://lindakarentaylor.weebly.com/

My Twitter is @LindaEdits https://twitter.com/LindaEdits

I’m also a couple other places, but that’s enough for now.

MWW: Can you give us an idea or two of the mistakes you see people making in this regard and maybe a tip on what to do differently?

LINDA: I think many people believe that building a platform is all about me me me, and they don’t want to come across that way. OR they think that since they don’t have a book published, they don’t need a platform. Wrong on both counts. Instead of making your social media presence about you, make it about others–being interested in what others are doing. And if you don’t have a book yet, even better! This is the best time to start building your platform.

MWW: Do you want to add anything else that would help a prospective student of your sessions?

LINDA: This is a really good place for novices to safely put their toes in the water or to learn a few basic strokes before diving into (like that analogy?) the social media world. This is important for all of us as writers. Even if you don’t ever publish anything, being a part of your literary world is what drives you, keeps you going, and keeps you writing. And that’s why learning these skills is so important for all writers.

REGISTER HERE!

Announcing One-Day Intensive Sessions: March 21, 2015

Midwest Writers Workshop invites you to join us for one of our most popular offerings: ONE-DAY INTENSIVE SESSIONS. This spring take advantage of the opportunity to attend one of four amazing sessions. Choosing which of these dynamite professionals to spend the day with will be a challenge. Look at these helpful sessions:

Manuscript Makeover, Nonfiction, Screenwriting, or Building Your Author Platform. These one-day intensive sessions will be held at the Ball State University Alumni Center, Muncie, IN on Saturday, March 21, 2015 (8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.).

Each session is capped at 20 participants. Cost of each intensive session is $155 (includes a brown bag lunch so the work continues to flow).

So here’s how it works:

1) Register for the mini.

2) If you’re signing up for Manuscript Makeover, you must submit the requested number RECEIVED by MARCH 6, 2015.

3) Come to Muncie, IN on Saturday, March 21 from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. for personalized instruction and a chance to network with other writers.

Payment and registration close on March 16, but if you’re signing up for Manuscript Makeover, get registered NOW, pay, and send your pages RECEIVED by March 6.

Choose ONE of these four sessions:

Manuscript Makeover – Dennis Hensley & Holly Miller

This intensive session is limited to 20 participants who have book projects–either fiction or nonfiction–in progress. The six-hour workshop is led by Holly G. Miller, author of Feature and Magazine Writing and consulting editor to two national magazines, and Dennis E. Hensley, chair of the professional writing department at Taylor University and author of Teach Yourself Grammar and Style in 24 hours. After registering for the class, each participant should e-mail a one-page synopsis–with a working title–plus the first nine pages of his/her book project to Dennis and Holly. Please double-space and format in 12-point Times New Roman font. Holly and Dennis will personally edit all pages to return to the authors at the workshop. In addition, the instructors will display on a screen and discuss portions of each student’s manuscript. Students will receive folders filled with handouts plus their edited manuscripts midway through the day. As time permits, Miller and Hensley will discuss plots, character development, editing techniques, finding an agent, and marketing a published book. The instructors have co-authored seven books–including a series of novels–as well as completed several solo book assignments. Dennis just signed a multiple-novel book deal, co-writing with Diana Savage, with Whittaker House Publishing Company. Don’t hesitate; this workshop always fills up quickly and is offered only once a year.

Shaping the Real World: The Non-fiction Writer’s Tool Kit – Lou Harry

The non-fiction writer’s task is to shape and frame a piece of the world, whether that’s in an opinion column, a travel tale, a review, a celebrity profile, a news story, or a feature story. At this workshop, the Indianapolis Business Journal‘s Lou Harry, recently seen on CBS News Sunday Morning and the author of more than 25 books, helps you maximize the impact of your stories and increase demand for your writing. The Society of Professional Journalists award winner will open up a tool kit collected from penning

hundreds of stories in more than 50 publications, from Writer’s Digest to Variety and from Men’s Health toThe Sondheim Review. He’ll guide you through exercises to improve your interviewing skills, shape opening paragraphs, find your rhythm, and develop a passionate curiosity about any subject. Manuscripts up to five pages can be submitted two weeks ahead of the workshop for critique and use in class. Bring your laptop, your questions, and your open mind for a lively day of working with words.

The Basics of Compelling Cinematic Storytelling – Matt Mullins

We’ll run the gamut of the basics of storytelling for film, beginning with the building blocks of spec screenwriting format and style, how to approach it and what to avoid, and then moving on to the core elements of visual/cinematic storytelling structure and content. This includes, among other things, how plots are shaped and how they arc, how characters are constructed and why/how they change, how scenes work, and how/when to use dialogue versus/along with visual exposition.

The Best (and I Mean BEST) Way to Build Your Author Platform – Linda Taylor

Authors don’t like to think about the importance of building a platform. They want to just write their books and watch them climb best-seller lists. Unfortunately, that’s not the way it works. But building your platform isn’t about tooting your own horn or getting people to buy your book. Instead, it’s about finding your “tribe,” appreciating others’ work, connecting, and being interested in what others are doing. This is important (even vital) for all writers-published or not-because we’re all part of the literary community. In this all-day session, we’ll learn about blogging and tweeting and connecting–all to join the literary community and build a platform in a non-scary way. Come if you’re published; come if you’re not. It’s about “literary citizenship.” Bring your laptop and be prepared for a day of encouragement and hands-on training.

Meet the Faculty:

Holly picHolly Miller is an editor with The Saturday Evening Post and co-author of Feature & Magazine Writing. She and Dennis Hensley have collaborated on four novels and three nonfiction books. Holly’s byline has appeared in Reader’s Digest, Writer’s Digest and TV Guide. She is the author of 14 fiction and nonfiction books. She has won awards from the Associated Press, Society of American Travel Writers and Society of Professional Journalists.

Hensley DDennis E. Hensley, Ph.D., is a contributing editor for Writers’ Journal and the author of eight textbooks on writing, including How to Write What You Love and Make a Living at It. He has written 51 books, including  Millennium

Approaches (Avon), Uncommon Sense (Bobbs-Merrill), and Money Wise (Harvest House). He directs the professional writing major at Taylor University. His 3,000 freelance articles have appeared in Reader’s Digest, Success, People, The Writer, Writer’s Digest, and Downbeat, among dozens of others.

Lou Harry‘s wildly eclectic output includes books on creativity, sports, drinks, movies, life lessons, gadgets, guilty pleasures, voodoo, excuses, crop circles, Santa Claus (and Martians), curse words, parenting, trivia and, this year, squirrels. The co-creator and editor of Indy Men’s Magazine and current Arts & Entertainment Editor for the Indianapolis Business Journal (www.ibj.com/arts), Lou has written for more than 50 publications including Variety, Mental_Floss, and This Old House. While on journalistic assignments, he has profiled CEOs, escorted a spiral-cut ham into a movie theater, took a pie in the face from Soupy Sales, attended Broadway openings, exposed tarot readers, sat on the Full House couch, gotten attached to a Velcro wall, and turned his honeymoon into a travel story. He hopes one day to have a book for every category in the Dewey Decimal System.

Matt Mullins is a writer, experimental filmmaker, videopoet, and multimedia artist. His videopoems have been screened at conferences and film festivals in the U.S. and abroad. His fiction and poetry have appeared in a number of print and online literary journals including Mid American Review, Pleiades, Hunger Mountain, Descant, and Hobart.  His debut collection of short stories, Three Ways of the Saw, was published by Atticus Books in 2012 and was named a finalist for Foreward Magazine‘s 2012 Book of the Year. And his work in screenwriting has won awards from the Broadcast Education Association.  Matt teaches creative writing at Ball State University where he is an Emerging Media Fellow at the Center for Media Design. You can engage his interactive/digital literary interfaces at lit-digital.com.

Linda Taylor has been working in publishing and doing writing and editing for the last three decades. She also loves teaching about social media for authors, editing, and publishing at writers’ conferences and at Taylor University where she is an instructor in the professional writing department.

 

save-the-date

MWW Director says…don’t miss MWW15!

My writer friends,

It’s the first week of a new year and I’m thinking about you. And I’m thinking how Midwest Writers Workshop could give you so many Happy Day Moments.

The days and months ahead are your blank book. You get to decide how to fill those pages, those chapters.

So why not decide to make Midwest Writers Workshop some of those pages?

You know I’m your MWW Director/Cheerleader/Encourager and we have an UNBELIEVABLE faculty for MWW15.  I’ll be working with my programming committee in the next few weeks to develop the AWESOME schedule of sessions, panels, and activities for what could be the THREE most life-changing, eventful days of your writing career…. JULY 23-25, 2015, in Muncie, Indiana.

 

I’m posting here to cheerlead/encourage you to keep MWW15 on your radar.

Save your money. Or how about this: put attending MWW15 on your gift list. Just ask Liz Lincoln Steiner.

Liz twitter Capture

You have 200 days. Six months and 19 days. 143 weekdays and 57 weekend days. 28 weeks and 4 days. 4,800 hours. 288,000 minutes.

Don’t let another year go by without discovering what MWW can do for your writing!

I know firsthand how MWW can be life-changing. So do these folks.

Plan to make this happen.  Make 2015 the most meaningful year of your life. Let’s go on this journey together.

Come. Let’s share some Happy Day Moments! Can’t wait for July!

-Jama

#happydaymoment

**Bookmark www.midwestwriters.org and watch for upcoming information on the schedule and registration. Make sure you’re on our e-mail list!

{photo by Gail Werner Photography}
043_mww2014

New MWW Committee Member: Summer Heacock

043_mww2014The MWW Planning Committee is excited to introduce its newest member–the incomparable Summer Heacock! Although Summer is a relative newbie to MWW, she’s been writing for years, women’s fiction mainly, and her quirky, upbeat, honest blogs and tweets as “Fizzygrrl” have netted her thousands of followers and fans. Summer joined the committee in September. With her, she brings her unique brand of boundless energy, vision, spontaneity, and passion for writing. Please join us in welcoming her into the MWW fold. You can visit her blog at www.fizzygrrl.com and tweet her @fizzygrrl.

MWW: How and when did you hear about MWW? When did you first attend, and what did you take away from it?

 SH: I first heard about MWW on Twitter! The source has become a bit of a legend in my mind at this point. I was tipped off either by Dee Romito (@writeforapples) or had seen lit agent Sarah LaPolla (@sarahlapolla) mention it. I’d been in search of a conference to attend and was pretty intimidated by all things publishing at the time, but MWW seemed like a perfect fit.

My first year attending was in 2012, and I took away pretty much everything a person can take away from a conference. I walked in the Alumni Center not knowing a soul and scared to death, and left with so many wonderful new friends, a notebook full of information to make me a better writer, an award for “Best Tweet of the Weekend,” and a fistful of agent requests, one of which turned into an offer of representation that I accepted. So, basically, it was a dang good time.

MWW: What advice would you give new writers as they seek their first publishing credit?

SH: Wear a helmet.

Or, less ominously, buckle up and prepare for all the feelings. Surround yourself with people who will give you real talk and the feedback you need to hear, not just the things you want to hear. It’s just as important to have beta readers who will tell you what sucks as it is to have ones that tell you what’s great.

The downs are pretty gutting. Everything you are goes into your words, so being rejected by agents or editors or whoever sort of feels like standing there naked in front of the world and being handed a form rejection that says, “Thank you for allowing us to you consider your bits, but your boobies just aren’t a good fit for us at this time. Best of luck to you and your junk.”

But the wins? The days when you get the good emails or the happy phone calls? Those days make all those other days totally worth it. Like, flying high off those for ages.

Although, I’d like to think writerly folk are all a bit masochistic, really. Why else would we willingly do this to ourselves, yeah?

MWW: I’ve got to ask about your huge social media following … how did you do it? (Please answer in 140 characters or less.)

SH: I get into really embarrassing situations that I tend to Live Tweet, I try to interact with everyone, and I find ace geeky GIFs. #Blessed

(Side note: I don’t feel like I have a huge following by any means. But I am consistently shocked there are a few thousand people who are entertained enough to keep hanging around, and I appreciate them all very, very much. This is me snugging them all.)

MWW: What writing projects are you working on now?

SH: Okay, this will go down in my personal history as the exact moment I realized I need an official title for this story. (This also might be the moment Jama realizes she’s made a terrible mistake bringing me on board…)

I’m working on a contemporary Women’s Fiction that has been lovingly referred to as “The Vagina Book.” I’ll…I’ll just see myself out now.

MWW: What is your most head-spinning writing fantasy/goal?

SH: Gosh, like the craziest, geekiest dream?

Okay, let’s go back to like ten-year-old Summer for that one. I have always wanted to do two things: write or act. And my biggest, shiniest dream all through adolescence was to see a book I wrote be turned into a movie that I would then star in because “realistic goals.”(Jama, Summer tells me that this sentence is correct. Although I don’t get “because realistic goals,” but maybe it’s just me. Is it clear to you?)

I’m just saying if David Fincher wants to give me a call and discuss “The Vagina Book,” I wouldn’t let his call go to voicemail.

But, in the real world, my biggest goal, truly? I really, really, really just want to see my words on paper. Real, actual paper with words printed on it that I wrote. That’s it. That’s the goal.

I imagine the first time I hold a book of my own I’ll get a paper cut because the universe is freaking hilarious.

MWW: And finally, what does being part of the MWW Planning Committee mean to you?

SH: So very much. I love MWW in ways I can’t properly express without devolving into a squeaking mess of flailing and tears and sounds only dogs can hear. I love these people. I love this place. I love this conference. I was driving my kids to the park when I got the call inviting me to be on the committee, and I legitimately was tearing up and stuttering through my acceptance. I saved the overjoyed ugly crying for the call to my husband when we got to the park. Like a grownup.

I owe a heck of a lot to MWW, and I’ve done my best to help out however I could over the last few years, but now in an official capacity? I’m working my ‘tocks off to do everything I can to give back to this amazing community.

And not to oversell it, but MWW15 is going to be AMAZING. Seriously. Holy biscuits, guys. Hold onto your butts.

mww14-recap

MWW14 – Recap

MWW14 may be in our rearview mirrors, but a lot of what we experienced and learned will always remain. We invite you to view the photos and videos, which are sure to bring back memories.

With 17 official faculty and several unofficial “Friends of MWW” (waving to Matthew Clemens and Summer Heacock, among others), attendees were faced with difficult workshop choices. Because of the possibilities available, each participant’s experience was different based on the sessions attended, the friends made, and sometimes the friendships renewed. Many had pitch sessions with one of our five literary agents, and others had a manuscript critique—or not.

Our star-studded faculty included William Kent Krueger and Elizabeth Berg, to name just two. Our interns were like elves, helping to complete many tasks. Plus, the agent panel was a must-see that left a buzz in its wake.

We found our tribes—literally—on Thursday evening, which was life-changing, in some cases. And we spent our days talking about “pacing,” “conflict,” and the extent of our “discoverability.”

How could we forget Kelsey’s marvelous stories, Jess Lourey’s novel-writing pyramid, and William Kent Krueger’s wisdom and encouragement? Plus, Allison Joseph’s and John Tribble’s tips on all things literary? Pam Mandel and Amanda Heckert shared insider secrets from editors. The list never ends.

Over lunch, Jane Friedman reminded us that 1) we should know and use our social media stats 2) “Money Ball” fans are their own demographic and 3) There’s nothing like a GIF demo of the Amazon and Hachett debacle to show how that feud hurts everyone.

For our “Evening with Elizabeth Berg” we were joined by many persons from the city who are fans of the New York Times bestselling author.  Some tidbits of the many insights she shared: “Honor your own instincts.”  “Don’t be a derivative.”  “Don’t be imitative.” “They still need good writers.” This advice was more valuable, knowing it came from someone who, after her first rejection, didn’t submit again for 25 years. She also said to hold nothing back in the writing, and shared that in her debut novel, the father was unsympathetic, much like her own father. That book helped Elizabeth to reshape her relationship with her father.

What can we say about Daniel José Older’s banquet speech? His depiction of working as an EMT in New York City was powerful, vivid and gritty. One thing’s for sure, Daniel’s talk not only pushed the envelope, but it spurred many conversations afterward. We think that’s a good thing.  The goal of our planning committee is to s-t-r-e-t-c-h our attendees by including voices, styles, genres, and tones that they haven’t previously encountered. That means spotlighting seasoned writers such as Elizabeth Berg, emerging writers such as Daniel José Older, and future best-selling authors such as the winners of our Manny writing contest.

Last, Nicholas Sparks has nothing on Midwest Writers because we’ve got “The Notebook.” This year’s program notes embody a proverbial treasure trove of information and insights. So when we want to go beyond reminiscing about MWW14, we can grab the notebook. When the snow starts to fly, or whatever winter means to our 234 of attendees who came from 20 states and 3 countries this year, we can relive summer in Muncie.

Don’t get us wrong. We know MWW14 wasn’t perfect—scrambling for chairs at the buttonhole event will be remedied next year—but many have told us they are planning to return in 2015. Yay! The committee is already hard at work to make MWW15 a great one!

 

Welcome travel writer Pam Mandel

We’re just 30 days out from the Midwest Writers Workshop 2014, our 41st conference! Most years, we have some surprise experiences, extra activities, or additional people to announce after the brochure is completed. This year, we have a special guest, Pam Mandel. She’s a travel writer friend of our own Kelsey Timmerman and has signed up as an attendee.

Pam Mandel is a freelance writer and photographer. She has written travel stories for Conde Nast Traveler online, Afar, World Hum, AOL Travel, Gadling, 

Perceptive Travel, Lonely Planet, and several in-flight magazines and custom publications. She’s a two-time Solas Best Travel Writing Award winner and a surviving guidebook author. She was a very early adopter of blogging and social media, embracing new media in 1999 when it really was new and you had to code your own HTML. Her current blog,  Nerd’s Eye View, is ten years old. She’s spoken about social media and its use in travel storytelling at a dozen conferences, including SxSW, TBEX, BlogHer, and the Book Passage Travel Writers Conference. She lives with her Austrian husband in Seattle, WA, and plays ukulele with The Castaways, Seattle’s Loudest Ukulele Band.

We’re thrilled that Pam is attending and are finding ways our other attendees may benefit from her expertise. In the meantime, Cathy Shouse interviewed Pam here:

MWW: Why have you have decided to attend Midwest Writers Workshop and are you making special preparations as an attendee? We’re thrilled to have you, by the way.

PM: I’m excited about the opportunity to trade ideas and stories from the trenches with a bunch of new-to-me writers. I tend to stay in a rather travel-writing-centric bubble but that’s not necessarily the best strategy for facing the challenges of being a working writer–you don’t get as many new ideas when you’re all solving the same puzzles. So I’m looking forward to learning about how others find their way.

As for prep, mostly, I’m fretting about July in the Midwest. I’m not sure I have the right hair product for that kind of humidity.

MWW: What are a couple of ways that freelancing as a travel writer has changed since you began in the 90s? We’ve heard through the grapevine that you “can get a technophobic human blogging in about 20 minutes.” How can that be true?

PM: Heh. It IS true, and it’s because tech has evolved from super-complicated programmers-only tools to ones that anyone who can wrassle a document in Microsoft Word can use. (Okay, with large documents, Word is no picnic, but you get my meaning.) I wrote code by hand when I started out. While I still get under the hood sometimes, it’s not because I have to. I can prove this statement, by the way. Last year, at another conference, in the ten minutes during which another presenter was talking, I sat and helped a student launch a blog. Seriously. I’ve done this three years in a row. It looks like a magic trick, but I don’t even drive, I let the student do ALL the work.

As for how travel writing has changed . . . wow. Here’s a really cool thing that’s happened–anyone with an Internet connection can now share a travel story. The downside of this is that anyone with an Internet connection can now share a travel story. This means there are a million stories about Paris, Dar es Salaam, Honolulu, Perth . . . so it’s more critical than ever that writers take a strong point of view, have a unique voice, and check their facts. Because that’s how you stand out these days.

MWW: Speaking of blogging, which camp are you in–the one saying that the time has passed to start a blog or the one that says every writer needs a blog? And why?

PM: Yes. No. Both. It depends.

Once upon a time it was easy to be found when you started a blog, it was easy to organically develop a readership. If you built it, they came. Those days are gone. You have to strategize. But “the platform” is a critical element of marketing now. So yes, you should be online.

That said, if you REALLY don’t want to blog, I don’t think you should. I love social media, it comes naturally to me, it’s not a chore. If you’re not going to commit yourself to your blog, don’t bother. You’ll just have a dead blog.

This doesn’t mean you have to churn out stuff all the time, I know a fairly successful writer who updates his blog once a month, not much more than that. But his blog is a live thing, it’s not some static place that was last updated six months, a year ago.

In short, if you’re going to blog, go all in. Otherwise, don’t bother. Build a static website and leave it at that.

Elizabeth Berg: MWW Community Event

Midwest Writers Workshop

Features Author Elizabeth Berg 

for Special Presentation, Public Invited

Berg, ElizabethAcclaimed, bestselling author Elizabeth Berg will be the guest speaker during a special program at this year’s Midwest Writers Workshop (MWW) on the Ball State University campus. Berg’s presentation is set for 7 p.m. Friday, July 25 in Pruis Hall. The program is open to the public. Admission is free, but registration through Eventbrite is recommended. (Those registered for MWW14 are already registered!)

Eventbrite - ELIZABETH BERG  Behind the Page: An Intimate Look at a Writer's Life

Berg will speak about her life as a writer, starting from when she was five years old up to the present, when, even now, she says, “she is still five, really.”

The author of more than 20 novels, her latest Tapestry of Fortunes, Berg says she’s always felt the urge to write, and was just nine years old when she submitted her first piece of writing—a poem—for publication. It was rejected, which “hurt her feelings,” and that is why she waited 25 years before submitting her next piece. By then, as a mother of two young children, she sent an essay to Parents magazine. It was accepted, and the rest is history.

She credits her 10 years as a registered nurse as a kind of school for writing. Taking care of patients taught her about human nature, she says, particularly “about hope and fear and love and loss and regret and triumph and especially about relationships—all things that I tend to focus on in my work.”

Berg is often described as a storyteller with the ability to find the extraordinary in the mundane and to connect with readers by understanding what’s in their heart. It is often said that curling up with a Berg book is like spending time with an old friend. Entertainment Weekly has said, “Berg’s writing is to literature what Chopin’s études are to music—measured, delicate, and impossible to walk away from until their completion.”

Many of Berg’s books have been on the New York Times Bestseller list. Durable Goods and Joy School were both selected as one of the American Library Association’s best books of the year. Talk Before Sleep was shortlisted for the Abby (American Bookseller’s Book of the Year). Open House was an Oprah’s Book Club Selection. In 1997, Elizabeth won the New England Booksellers Award for her body of work.

Her book, The Art of Mending, was a choice for South Dakota’s “One Book.” She was made a “literary light” by the Boston Public Library, has been honored by the Chicago Public Library, and was given the AMC Cancer Research Center’s Illuminator Award for shedding light on breast cancer resulting in increased public awareness and concern. She adapted her novel The Pull of the Moon into a play, which has twice been performed in Chicago to sold-out audiences. Her article on a cooking school in Positano, Italy, which appeared in National Geographic Traveler magazine, won a NATJA award (North American Travel Journalists Association) and has been nominated for a Lowell Thomas award, results pending. Her books have been translated into 27 languages.

Her next book, The Bird Lover, is scheduled for release in the spring of 2015.

Since its founding in 1973, MWW has been devoted to providing writers of all stages in their career the opportunity to improve their craft, to associate with highly credentialed professionals, and to network with other writers. This is the first year that MWW is offering one of its conference’s events to the entire community. It is pleased to invite the general public to welcome the delightful Elizabeth Berg to Ball State.

Following her keynote address, many of her books will be available for purchase and she will have a book signing.

– Janis Thornton

Elizabeth Berg poster

Interview with Daniel José Older

Older PhotoDaniel José Older is a Brooklyn-based writer, editor and composer. Following the release of his ghost noir collection, Salsa Nocturna,  Publisher’s Weekly declared Daniel a rising star of the genre. He facilitates workshops on storytelling, music, and anti-oppression organizing at schools, community organizations and universities. His short stories and essays have appeared in Gawker, BuzzFeed Books,Salon, The Chicago Sun Times, The New Haven Review,Tor, PANK, Strange Horizons, and Crossed Genres among other publications. He’s co-editing the anthology,  Long Hidden: Speculative Fiction from the Margins of History, and his forthcoming urban fantasy novel The Half Resurrection Blues, the first of a trilogy, will be released by Penguin’s Roc imprint. His first YA novel, Shadowshaper, comes out in 2015. You can find his thoughts on writing, read his ridiculous ambulance adventures, and hear his music at ghoststar.net/ and@djolder.

MWW intern and agent assistant Sarah Hollowell interviewed Daniel José Older:

MWW: You’re running an intensive session in Part I of the workshop called “Young Adult Literature and the Mechanics of Plot.” Are there any themes that you consider to be unique to YA, or more commonly found in the genre?

DJO: In YA, we’re looking at very specific kinds of crises–the turning point is so often that complicated moment when a young person takes the first step toward adulthood. It’s ripe for literature because it’s always such a truly intense, emotional time and the struggle to take that step, whether dramatized by dragons, cancer, or a breakup, is truly a momentous one.

MWW: Your first session of Part II is about writing the “Other,” an important topic that has been getting more attention with the rising cry from the literary world that #WeNeedDiverseBooks. What do you think is the biggest mistake writers make when trying to write outside their experience?

DJO: Both in these discussions and in our story-craft, we too often ignore power. Power is a fascinating, dynamic, and complex topic that really can only strengthen our writing, but folks dip and dodge around the nitty gritty of it. Why? Because it’s uncomfortable, it’s hard to talk about. It’s messy. And we’re not taught to analyze power with much depth, rarely in high school and college, almost never in MFA programs and writing workshops. But power is what makes conflict great, and conflict lays the backbone of story. To really get real about writing about the “other” requires us to get uncomfortable.

MWW: On a similar vein, you have a session on using worldbuilding as a vehicle for addressing social justice themes without being preachy. How do you combat criticism that says books shouldn’t be used for social justice, preachy or not?

DJO: Oh! I ignore it.

MWW: Your last session is on the ever-changing world of speculative fiction. Are there any types of speculative fiction stories that you are just tired of seeing and reading right now?

DJOTired of seeing white men save the world. Tired of seeing the One Special Chosen One narratives. Tired of same-ol’ stereotypes of folks of color. Tired of the idea that a single, simple move will solve all the world’s problems. Tired of heteronormativity. Tired of women only being written as passive, quirky, or hyper-sexual. Tired of lazy worldbuilding. Instead, I’m excited for all the counternarratives and new motifs the world has in store as we open up new spaces for unheard voices.

During Part I of the workshop, Daniel will be teaching Young Adult Literature and the Mechanics of Plot.

<ONLY A HANDFUL OF OPENINGS REMAIN! REGISTER SOON!>

During Part II, he’ll be teaching: Fundamentals of Writing “the Other”; Context The Changemaker: Using Worldbuilding To Address Social Justice Themes; and Writing Speculative Fiction.

Interview with blogger Erik Deckers

Deckers, ErikErik Deckers is a professional blogger, whose column appears in several Indiana newspapers. He also is a travel writer, a ghost writer, public speaker, social media marketing pro, and a very funny man. (For a taste of Erik’s humor, visit his blog, laughing-stalk.blogspot.com.) In addition, he is president of the Indianapolis-based Professional Blog Service and co-author of Branding Yourself: How to Use Social Media to Invent or Reinvent Yourself, No Bullshit Social Media, and The Owned Media Doctrine. Erik has been blogging since 1997 and encourages any writer interested in building a following to consider building an online presence through Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, but especially via a blog. According to Erik, an author’s blog is the hub of the personal brand — a home base where the authors’ readers can find them, get to know them, buy their books, and keep up with their new releases.

MWW committee member Janis Thornton was in touch with Erik and asked him to reveal a bit more about himself, his workshop, and what his blog workshop participants can expect.

MWW: Who should attend your class, and what sort of prerequisite web and social media experience will they need?

ED: The course is designed for anyone who wants to promote their writing and to build up their readership, whether you already have a blog or not. It helps if you at least know how to use a web browser, have one working finger (or one of those cool computer systems that tracks your eye movement), and understand the principles of social media.

I do recommend that you have a Twitter account, and if you want to get started early, set up a free blog at Blogger.com, WordPress.com, or Tumblr.com. Learn the basic mechanics of how to publish a blog post and embed a photo. Those things aren’t necessary to taking the class, but I won’t be discussing how to do it. They’re very easy to figure out though.

MWW: What do you say to writers who are hesitant to start their blog for fear they won’t maintain it?

ED:  DO IT NOW! WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU?!

Sorry, got carried away. That’s not what I say to writers.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with starting a blog and letting it fail. How many stories are unfinished on your laptop somewhere? You’re allowed to have those and, in fact, it’s almost encouraged because it means you’re working and trying to create. But how many stories are still in your brain because you’ve never started them because you’re afraid you won’t finish them? Don’t you regret having those untold, unrealized stories? I’d much rather start a story and not finish it, than never try it at all.

It’s the same with blogging: it’s perfectly okay to start a blog and then not update it very frequently. It’s perfectly okay to start a blog and let it die. It’s not okay to refuse to start because you’re afraid of failing. Remember, we’re writers. The whole point of writing — which is also our biggest fear — is taking a risk and sharing our ideas.

Your blog lets you do that. You’re not writing for posterity or to give the scholars something to study in 100 years (that’s what our notebooks are for). This is to share fun ideas, quirky thoughts, works in progress, notify people when your next book signing is, and so on. You can build your readership and fan base, and find out what your readers want from you.

MWW: What are some of your favorite author blogs and why?

ED:  I’m a very eclectic reader when it comes to author blogs. Ryan Brock and Metonymy Media (www.metonymymedia.com) is a good one. Ryan is a friend and competitor, and I love reading his outlook on how storytelling is the most important part of effective business writing. Doug Karr is another friend who writes a marketing technology blog (www.marketingtechblog.com); since my job is social media and content marketing, his is a big one for me. And I read Cathy Day’s Literary Citizenship blog regularly.

MWW: When did you first realize you could write well enough to make it your career?

ED:  I never actually realized I could write until I was 29. But I was that annoying guy in college who got A’s on papers he wrote in four hours. I just thought everyone could do that. Writing had always been a part of my work as a marketer, and I always wanted a job where writing was one of my responsibilities. But it wasn’t until I was 42 that I finally had my own business where writing was the sole activity of my career.

MWW: Besides writing books about blogging and social media marketing, you are a syndicated humor writer. Have you always been funny or is being funny a trait that even the humor-challenged writer can cultivate?

ED:  Ooh, nice segue into Friday! (I’m teaching a class on humor writing that day.)

I’ve always been funny, although throughout my life, not everyone realized it. But I learned I’m funniest when I write. So I’ve spent years and years, not just studying humor, but studying the psychology of humor. And thanks to the work of other humor thinkers and researchers — Dick Wolfsie, Victor Raskin, and even my dad, a psychology professor and humor researcher (no, really!) — I’ve managed to steal all the best information, and will be teaching it during Part II on Friday at the workshop.

Basically, humor has a formula, and if you can master this formula, you can write humor. Humor is not about jokes — the “two giraffes walk into a bar” kind of thing — but it’s about surprising your audience, getting them to recognize the elements of your joke, and even lying to them. And I will be sharing five of them on Friday.

MWW: What sorts of fun can your blogging workshop attendees look forward to?

ED:  I may or may not do any of the following:

* Tell jokes

* Have candy

* Tell the one big secret to successful blogging

* Tell dirty jokes (okay, I won’t do that)

* Tell a funny thing I know about Kelsey Timmerman

* Tell the story of how my knowledge of blogging got me fired from a job

* Give away a copy of my book.

MWW: Is there anything you would like to add?

ED:  My Friday session is called “Five Secrets to Writing Humor,” but I’m going to actually do six or seven, BECAUSE NO SCHEDULE CAN TELL ME HOW TO LIVE!

Sorry, I keep doing that shouting thing.  But still, six or seven secrets. (I’m just sayin’ …)

MWW: Thanks, Erik!

Erik is conducting an all-day intensive workshop called,Build Your Author Blog during Part I. The workshop is billed as part tech, part marketing, part writing; and judging from the sense of humor Erik reveals in his answers, it’s also bound to be 100 percent fun.

Erik will also deliver the Thursday evening opening keynote address.