Message in a Bottle Reading Series

Message in a Bottle Reading Series

On March 19th, the Midwest Writers Workshop launched the Message in a Bottle Reading Series, hosted at the Blue Bottle coffeehouse in downtown Muncie, Ind. Thirty people – young and not-so-young – including Ball State University students, librarians from Warsaw, IN (they woke at 5:30 a.m. to be on time!), a judge, and a few poets turned out to hear Ivy Farguheson, Cathy Shouse, and Kelsey Timmerman read and discuss recent works.

Ivy, a Muncie Star Press reporter, said that there are only two ways she can fully express herself – dancing and writing.  Since there wasn’t much room to dance at the Blue Bottle, Ivy read a work titled, Caribbean Leftovers. Ivy said that writing for the newspaper is a pretty simple formula and she likes to stretch herself as a writer by getting home and writing fiction every night.

Cathy read excerpts from her book, Fairmount: Images of America. At one time little Fairmount, Indiana, was a “cultural capital.” Who knew? Cathy also shared stories about the town’s favorite sons, James Dean and Jim Davis.  James Dean’s cousin was an important source in her research. She often caught up with him at the local café if she had questions.  Garfield was named after Jim Davis’ crotchety grandfather.

Kelsey read Running with Kenyans about an ill-advised attempt to run a half-marathon with world-class Kenyan runners at 8,000 feet in Iten, Kenya. He got lost, and was passed by an old farmer.  We’re still not quite sure how he made it back.

“The event was exactly what we hoped it would be,” said Jama Bigger, director of the MWW workshop. “It was a laidback Saturday morning filled with laughs, coffee, and good stories. We can’t wait to do it again!”

The Midwest Writers are currently taking suggestions for writers to read at the Message in the Bottle Reading Series. Email your suggestions to Kelsey@kelseytimmerman.com.

MWW success stories: Dan Johnson and Lonnie Whitaker

We’re always pleased to pass along the good news of publishing successes from our MWW participants.

DE JohnsonDan Johnson, Schoolcraft, MI (2006 MWW alum), is author of The Detroit Electric Scheme (St. Martin’s Minotaur Books, September 2010) dejohnsonauthor.com. Dan is also our 2010  Friday luncheon speaker, “How I Got Here from There.”

Q: How did you discover MWW and how did it help your writing career?
I found information on the MWW on the internet and attended in 2006. It was the most instructive conference I’ve been to, before or since. I’ve been surprised to find that very few conferences give you the “nuts and bolts” knowledge that new writers need.

Q: Please condense the overall story of your book.
1910 Detroit: Will Anderson, heir to America’s largest electric automobile manufacturer, has been framed for murder. Worse, the woman he loves is in terrible danger, and Will knows it’s his fault. He follows her through the gutters of Detroit, trying to save her and find the killer at the same time. As the evidence mounts, Will gets closer and closer to the truth-a secret that could cost Will not only his life, but also the lives of the people he loves most.

“The surprise ending leaves you gasping and shaking your head at Johnson’s masterful plotting and the menacing tension that forces otherwise good characters to behave despicably. Every bit as powerful as Patricia Highsmith’s Ripley series, this gem of a debut showcases an author to watch very closely.” —Booklist (Starred review)

Q: What is the best advice on writing you’ve ever received?
“Let your characters boss you around.” I’ve heard versions of this advice in various books and classes, but it still amazes me how my characters hijack my story if I let them. When I don’t let them, they fight back. And they always win.

Q: Is there something else people might find interesting about your journey to publication?
My journey to publication was humbling, surprising, and ultimately thrilling. I have a good story to tell about the tenuous thread that leads to being published, and how maximizing your opportunities is essential.

Lonnie Whitaker, High Ridge, MO (2001 MWW alum), is author of Geese to a Poor Market, (High Hill Press, released summer2010).

Q: How did you end up coming from Missouri to attend MWW and how did it help your career?
In early 2001, I sold a 500-word story (my first) to a regional magazine and the process hooked me–I wanted to learn the tricks I imagined my journalism friends knew.  I started searching online for a workshop and found MWW.  It’s the same distance from St. Louis to Kansas City as it is to Indianapolis, so the distance didn’t seem too bad.  I spoke with Jama and signed up.  The lineup in 2001 was terrific. I signed up for a critique session and drew Karl Largent.  He told me that writers write, but authors get published, and that I was an author.  At the end of the session he challenged me. “You’ve got the ability–the question is what are you going to do with it?”  That 30-minute session was a turning point.  As the cliché goes:  when the student is ready, the teacher appears.

Q: What is the overall story of your book?
In 1955 Rita Sanders leaves a cheating husband and returns to her childhood home in the Missouri Ozarks.  She lands a job at a honky-tonk on the outskirts of a bible-belt village owned by a retired navy petty officer, and her religious mother disapproves. With the reappearance of her estranged husband, the prodigal daughter discovers there is more than one snake in the garden, as her husband and mother conspire against her for custody of her son.

Q: What is the best advice you’ve received to help your writing career?
“Never have your protagonist running quickly when he could be sprinting.”  Again, Karl Largent at MWW.  That became my starting point for learning the craft of commercial fiction and tight writing.  As a reminder, my business card has a quote from Mark Twain: “When you catch an adjective–kill it.”

Q: Did you learn anything interesting on this journey to publication?
I had to learn how to make moonshine to write one of the chapters. Just because I grew up in the Ozarks doesn’t mean that’s one of my talents.

Q & A with author Shirley Jump

Shirley Jump

Q: Young Adult fiction seems to be popular right now. What can you tell us about your next YA title?

My next YA book, The Cellar, will be out in the spring from Houghton Mifflin Graphia. It’s basically zombies with “Romeo and Juliet,” and has a little more of a love story (and older characters) than we had in The Well. It’s still got the Shakespeare theme, and this time the horror comes from the zombies next door who want to turn the heroine into a zombie and keep her forever.

Q: In addition to YA, you write romance and women’s fiction. How important is it to continue to explore new genres, including at workshops?

I read across all genres, and write in other genres when I’m not writing my primary genre, romance. That’s how the YA came about…I just happened to have a book I’d been working on, just for fun, that ended up being another genre for me to write. I think ALL genres can teach you about great pacing, strong storytelling, increasing stakes and all the tools of the trade that make for a great book. And, in my opinion, it never hurts to learn about other genres. For one, many of the storytelling techniques are the same and you can bring those lessons across to your own writing, and for another, you never know where you might end up in a few years. So having that knowledge in your back pocket, so to speak, can be handy.

Q: Please give us a sneak preview of the topic you will be addressing at the closing banquet for MWW 2010.

I’ll be talking about Secrets to Success–basically how to take everything you learn at a conference and how to use it to create success from that day forward, as well as how to keep being successful even in a competitive publishing environment.

Q & A with Tracy Richardson and IBJ Publishing

Q&A with Tracy Richardson, Luminis Books:

Please provide a brief history of your company.

Luminis Books was founded in October, 2008 by the husband and wife team of Chris Katsaropoulos and Tracy Richardson. Chris has over 25 years of experience as a publishing executive and Tracy’s background is in sales and marketing. Our first titles were released in late 2009 and early 2010. We publish literary fiction and YA fiction that is wise and meaningful.

Please give some examples of books you have published.

We recently published Summer Sanctuary by Laurie Gray who is also participating in the Buttonhole the Experts session and the panel “Choosing How to Publish.” (Purchase Laurie’s book here.) We’ve also published Precarious by Al Riske, Fragile by Chris Katsaropoulos, and Indian Summer by Tracy Richardson.

Please give an overview of the way you work with authors.

We will work with authors directly or through agents. We generally pay a small advance against royalties and pay royalties as a percentage of sales. As a small independent publisher, we work directly with the author in a very cooperative manner during the editing, revision, and design process. We see the author as part of the Luminis team and continue to work cooperatively during the marketing and PR phase of the book’s launch. Our backlist continues to receive full support.

What are you looking for now and how are your books distributed into the marketplace?

Luminis books are distributed through Midpoint Trade Books and are available through all online channels. They are also available through big box and independent bookstores.

Luminis Books publishes thought-provoking literary fiction as well as young adult and middle grade fiction that explores the intricacies of human relationships.

We look for beautifully crafted prose above all-writing that is compelling and thought-provoking, stories that provide glimpses of insight, while at other times challenging readers with concepts that prompt a moment of reflection to discern. We do not publish genre fiction in the following categories: thriller, romance, sci-fi, or chick-lit. We will consider mysteries and historical fiction that have a depth of meaning and go beyond the boundaries of typical genre fiction.

Q&A with IBJ Book Publishing:

Some of us have read and enjoyed the Indiana Business Journal for years. Please describe this new division of IBJ and provide a brief history and description of the services you provide.

Coming to the Buttonhole the Expert session is Patricia Keiffner, Director of Production for IBJ Media. She oversees the Art/Production Department. She has been with the company for 15 years. She has been instrumental in creating two prominent divisions within IBJ Media – Custom Publishing and IBJ Book Publishing. Custom Publishing focuses on marketing and business collateral and has been very successful, especially with small businesses and non-profits throughout the state. IBJ Book Publishing helps independent authors seeking self-publishing services and solutions. We partner with our authors. Every book we produce is totally custom. We work with many large printing companies, as well as, Print-On-Demand printers. We offer Book Coaching, Editing and Marketing Services including a marketing binder; a press release template; a website advertisement; a book launch announcement ad in the IBJ and Indiana Lawyer; a media contact list and a direct link to your site from IBJBP.com

Please give some examples of books you have published.

We publish an array of books including, but not limited to: Art; Business/Self-Help; Children’s Books; Cookbooks; Directories; Handbooks/Manuals; History/Political; Military; Novels and Travel. Every year we publish a small cadre of books in order to dedicate more time and provide personal service to our authors.

Please give an overview of the way authors are compensated and/or the fees they might pay for some of the basic services.

We can design a 6 x 9 paperback, 4-color cover over a black and white text interior with up to 240 pages and print 1000 books for $4,500 or $4.50 for each book. We can design a 6 x 9 case bound with a 4-color dust jacket over a black and white text interior with up to 240 pages and print 1000 books for $9,000 or $9 each. Authors maintain 100% ownership. IBJ BP does not collect royalties from book sales. This allows authors a bigger share of their profit. The author sets the price of their books and is responsible for all marketing and sales.

For those unfamiliar with the IBJ publishing service, how would writers benefit from them?

IBJ Book Publishing will guide authors through the process, ensuring their book publishing experience is a rewarding one. The greatest contrast between our company and other self-publishing companies is our one-on-one customer service. When an author publishes with us, they will meet with our staff as often as necessary. They do not have to communicate with us through a computer.

TAKE ADVANTAGE OF THE NUMEROUS, INFORMATIVE SESSIONS MWW IS OFFERING for 2010!

Meet Literary Agent Suzie Townsend

Townsend

 

We caught up with Suzie and asked her a few questions about her 2010 MWW presentation THE DREADED SYNOPSIS… (Part II, Friday, July 30)1) Why do you think the synopsis gives writers so many problems and do you find confusion about length is common?

The synopsis is evil. Everyone hates them. Writer’s hate them because they’re so hard to write. The question of what to include and what to leave out is especially hard because a writer is so close to their own work. Length and tone can sometimes also be a source of confusion because sometimes editors or agents will ask for different specifics in a synopsis if they have a specific purpose in mind for it.


2) How important is being able to write an effective synopsis to a writer’s career?

Very. Editors and agents use synopses to generate in house excitement for a project that will help get more people behind the project and the author – which is so important at all stages of the publication process. Film and subrights agents also often ask for a synopsis when they’re looking at purchasing rights to a manuscript.  And as an author’s career progresses, they’ll need to write a longer synopsis and book proposal for later projects.  Since that’s more in depth, it’s much harder to write especially if an author doesn’t have a basic synopsis to start from.


3) Do you think there are “secrets” to writing a good synopsis and will you be sharing specific tips?

I don’t know if they’re “secrets” per say, but there are rules and an easy formula to “demystify” the synopsis writing process. 


For people who have an appointment with you and for those who are considering registering for one, please share what you are currently looking for. Also, please mention a couple of your clients and their most recent books.

For adult fiction, I’m currently looking for a really great urban fantasy or paranormal romance series with a strong voice and characters I can fall in love with (Patricia Briggs or JR Ward are two of my favorites).  In YA and Middle Grade, I’d love to find beautifully written literary projects with a speculative twist (like How I Live Now or Before I Fall or When You Reach Me). I’m also looking for an author/illustrator who does quirky and unique picture books.
 
Some of my clients with books out:
Hannah Moskowitz, BREAK (Simon Pulse 8/2009), INVINCIBLE SUMMER (Simon Pulse, forthcoming)
Nicola Marsh, MARRIAGE: FOR BUSINESS OR PLEASURE (Harlequin, 2/2010), OVER TIME IN THE BOSS’ BED (Harlequin, 6/2010), THREE TIMES A BRIDESMAID (Harlequin 6/2010)
Lisa Desrochers, PERSONAL DEMONS (Tor, forthcoming)

Interview with poet Debra Marquart

 

 Marquart
Q. Give us the scoop on some of your many achievements, since we don’t have space for them all!A.  Most recently, I received a Literature Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts (2008), and my latest book, a memoir titled The Horizontal World: Growing Up Wild in the Middle of Nowhere, was awarded the PEN USA Creative Nonfiction Award (2007).  It also received the “Elle Lettres” award from Elle Magazine (2006), and an Editors’ Choice commendation (2006) from the New York Times Book Review. In 2005, I received a Pushcart Prize, and I’ve also been the recipient of the Shelby Foote Prize for the Essay (2003), the John Guyon Nonfiction Award from Crab Orchard Review (2003), and the Mid-American Review Nonfiction Award (2003).

Q. For your 2010 MWW intensive, you ask writers to bring photographs. What can we expect in that workshop?

A. The static quality of photographs provide writers with an opportunity to stop time, to look around, to note the details in a way that is never afforded us in real life.  For this reason, the photograph becomes a kind of warehouse of memory.  In this session, we’ll begin to take an inventory of that warehouse of memory and detail by asking participants to bring two photographs-old or new, formal or informal.  We will be doing some freewriting and sharing within the intensive workshop.  The hope is that participants will leave the session with good starting drafts of writing that can be explored further after the conference ends.

Q. You’re a professor of English and a teacher in two MFA programs. Explain how your writing evolved and how your MWW intensive could help writers in any genre.

A. Because my initial approach to a life in art was as a musician, my first interest in writing poetry really began with my interest in song lyrics.  Then I migrated to a love of and practice of writing poetry.  Song writing and poetry writing are very different, however.  At the very least, they do share a common interest in the music of language (attention to sound), as well as a compaction and precision of language in the form of description, detail, metaphor, image.  For any writer-whether one writes fiction, nonfiction, mystery, romance-the study of poetry can be an immersion in language-intensive writing.  Each word in a poem weighs a great deal and does a great deal of work for the larger poem.  This is certainly true with prose as well, but the poem is a kind of crucible where all these considerations become more acute, immediate, and apparent.  For that reason, the study of poetry (reading as well as writing) can be an enormous help to all writers-a kind of joyful boot camp of language/image/metaphor/symbolism.