Mike Lawson: Writing Thrillers

2011 Midwest Writers Workshop – “What I’ve Learned About Writing Thrillers/Mysteries” – Mike Lawson. Author of six acclaimed political thrillers, Mike will share what he’s learned about the craft. Topics include the need for a strong beginning and how to create one; the pitfalls of writing a mystery series; how to make your stories ring true; how to improve the pace of your mystery/thriller; and some practical advice on of the business aspects of writing such as the author/agent/publisher relationship and lessons learned in promoting books. Participants will be requested to share their experiences.

Patti Digh: From Blog to Book

2011 Midwest Writers Workshop – Nonfiction “From Blog to Book” – Are you a blogger who longs for a book contract? Or have you thought of starting a blog to get a book contract? We’ve all heard of six-figure advances being paid to bloggers to turn their blogs into books. Those stories have spurred many people to create blogs – without having anything to say, or without identifying what they long to say. In this hands-on session, we’ll explore why blogging is a good first step to writing a book — and, conversely, why and how focusing on the book deal splits our focus. We’ll explore where we need to stand to tell our stories, how to open space to tell them, how to interact with a blog audience in a way that doesn’t change our voice, and how to define and clarify the organizing principles of both a blog and book. Many of us write from a place of split intentions: we want to tell our story AND we want the audience to love us. This session focused on stepping out of that split intention. It focused more on voice and writing than on book deals, though a Q&A session during the session opened space for sharing of information on the publishing process.

Libby Fischer Hellmann: Mystery Writing

2011 Midwest Writers Workshop — “Anatomy of a Crime Novel: The Craft of Crime Fiction” – Libby Fischer Hellmann. It is said that writing a publishable novel is 5% inspiration and 95% perspiration. In this hands-on intensive session, you’ll sweat it out by exploring the elements of craft that make a crime fiction novel impossible to put down. Whether you write cozies or hard-boiled, PI or amateur sleuth, you’ll learn how the effective use of plot, narrative, voice, setting, character, dialogue, and suspense can take your work to the next level. The workshop will focus on the practical as opposed to the theoretical, so be prepared for plenty of exercises and discussion.

JT Dutton: Writing the YA Novel

2011 Midwest Writers Workshop – “Writing the Young Adult Novel for the Young Adult at Heart” – JT Dutton. Do you have a vampire in your closet? Werewolves at your door? Or a story to tell about what it feels like to be young and full of dreams? Some novels we read, some we live. Join this intensive workshop to learn how to craft believable teen characters and write the novel you’ve been imagining ever since you first felt swept away by Catcher in the Rye or Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. The workshop will focus on honing the literary elements of Young Adult fiction with special emphasis on voice, character, narrative and pace. Our discussions will not be limited to specific sub-genres of Young Adult but cover the range from romance to edgy. Be prepared to learn lots of interesting new writing strategies.

Friday night Message in a Bottle Reading Event

In March MWW announced our Message in a Bottle Reading Series, held locally at the Blue Bottle Coffee Shop. The event was such a big hit that we decided to schedule one at this summer’s workshop on Friday evening, July 29th following our Great Midwest Writers Write-off Contest.

So, we welcome all participants to bring some of your writing! If you would like to be in the spotlight to read from your work for five minutes, you will need to write your name on a ticket and drop it into our specially designed “Message in a Bottle” bottle during the day on Friday,

Then, after our writing contest we’ll begin our Coffeehouse-style Message in a Bottle Reading with emcees Kelsey Timmerman and Cathy Shouse selecting tickets from the bottle. Lucky winners will read for five minutes. We’ll sip delicious coffee, listen to your works-in-progress, and applaud!

Success story: Veronica Roth

MWW success story!

During our 2009 MWW, agent Joanna Stampfel-Volpe of the Nancy Coffey Literary Agency met with workshop participants for pitch sessions and signed three authors as clients. In fact, Joanne now represents MWW attendee Veronica Roth who writes YA and has contracted a 3-book deal with Harper Collins Children’s books.

Veronica’s first book, Divergent, has been on the New York Times Bestseller List at #6 for three weeks!

Interview with novelist Mike Lawson

With our summer workshop fast approaching, we wanted to give you an opportunity to learn more about our faculty. Introducing Mike Lawson — political thriller novelist …
Lawson

Q: What was it like to switch to a writing career after 30 years of other employment?

I write full time now – meaning four or five hours a day.  Before I was published, I worked ten or twelve hours a day (on the good days) and was responsible for the maintenance of reactor plants in U.S. navy ships at half a dozen naval bases on the West Coast. To say the job was intense is an understatement, and the consequences of failure were enormous.  By comparison, writing is a walk in the park, and every time I hear writers whine about how they “suffer” for their art and complain about the ardors of writing, I have to wonder if they ever had a real job. (Like being a mother or a teacher – those are real jobs) I LOVE to write – it’s like having a hobby I’m getting paid for.

 

Q:  Your MWW Intensive Session also includes working with agents, book promotion and other publishing business topics. How will the session help authors who don’t write thrillers? (It’s been said every genre needs to know how to write page-turners.)

I think you hit on it. Regardless of the genre they write in, I think unpublished writers and even writers searching for a new publisher or agent, may benefit from my experience on the “business” side – dealing with agents, editors, publishers, contracts, marketing, etc.  Second, I think good books, regardless of the genre, all have certain things in common, such as well-crafted characters, a believable and fast-moving plot, and a style that keeps the reader engaged. Writing is so subjective that my opinion on these topics may not resonate with everyone in the class, but I’m hoping it will be beneficial to others whether they’re writing mysteries, romance, young adult, or whatever.

Q:  Were writers’ conferences an influence on your career? If so, how?

I’ve found writing conferences beneficial in a number of ways. I’ve met booksellers who’ve promoted my books not only because they like them but because, thanks to the conferences, I’ve established a personal relationship with them. The same could be said for critics I’ve met at conferences.  I’ve obviously learned from other writers at conferences by listening to what they had to say on a particular subject. I’ve met big-name writers and when my publisher asked them to “blurb” the next book, I again think that having a personal relationship with them (translation: a drink in the bar) helped. And lastly, conferences are fun!

Q:  What are three tips for those who might be career-changers looking to break into writing novels as you’ve done?

Tip number one – the biggest tip – is: Be persistent. Getting published is about having talent – and talent is something so subjective there’s no point in trying to define it – being lucky – and there’s nothing you can do about luck – and lastly, being persistent – which you can do something about and which means you keep trying until you finally succeed. (It took me a long time to get my first book deal.)

Second tip: Read. I’m always astounded when I meet writers who aren’t readers, particularly writers who don’t read in their own genre. You can learn more from reading good writers than almost anything else if you think about what the writer is doing as you read.

Last tip: write every day, even if it’s only for fifteen or twenty minutes. Like anything else, you get better at it the more you do it, and no matter how busy you are, you can carve fifteen or thirty minutes out of your day to write.  I wrote my first two novels in half-hour blocks of time on the ferry I used to take to commute to work.

Q: What else would you add for the MWW participants?

Well, I guess I could add a whole bunch of stuff, but I’m saving that for my sessions at the conference.

 

Lawson cvrMike’s recent novel is House Divided, which will be released July 2011.

 

“A great novel from a great author! Lawson goes for broke in this Machiavellian thriller, where Washington power brokers take on elite super spies with one rather perplexed Joe DeMarco trying to outwit-and outlast-the carnage. Equal parts funny, clever and cool, this book will make your heart race and your mind ponder.” -Lisa Gardner, New York Times best-selling author of Live to Tell

“Lawson’s House Divided is a non-stop thrill ride. The author has created a disturbingly real Washington D.C. and peopled it with eerily familiar characters. He writes with wit and verve and displays a shrewd understanding of bureaucratic irony. Thoroughly enjoyable. The political thriller of the year.” -John Lutz, New York Times bestselling author of Urge to Kill and The Night Caller

Q&A with publicist Dana Kaye

Meet Dana Kaye of Kaye Publicity

 

We’re pleased to have a publicist join our 2011 MWW faculty!

Dana KayeAfter graduating from Columbia College with a BA in Fiction Writing, Dana worked for a few years as a freelance writer and book critic before deciding to move to the other side of the press kit. She signed her first client in February of 2009, and by the end of the year, she represented 30 authors.

 

Q:  What exactly are the services your business offers?

I work with authors to expand their name recognition, build their brand, and increase sales. I do this through booking radio/TV interviews, obtaining print media coverage, executing social media campaigns, scheduling book tours, and occasionally, guerilla marketing. There are 3-month, 6-month, and year-round campaigns depending on the project. I prefer working with authors year round because I can continually shape their brand and find new opportunities for them. I currently represent mostly crime fiction authors, but am also looking to expand my client list with literary fiction and creative nonfiction.
Q: What are some reasons an author would hire a publicist instead of relying on their publisher and their own efforts?

Most in-house publicists have dozens of books on their list each month. There simply isn’t enough time/budget to give each book attention. I work to fill in the gaps left by the in-house publicist. Additionally, an in-house publicist works for the publisher. I work for the client. I have more freedom to take risks and experiment with new marketing techniques.

Q: What are some of the topics you will cover at MWW?

In my first session, I will teach authors how to position themselves in the market. Agents and editors are concerned with platform and how the book will be marketed. I’ll show aspiring authors how to build their platform so they’re more marketable to agents and editors.
Q:  Who are a few of your clients and how have you promoted them?

I worked with Mike Lawson, one of the featured authors at the MWW, to increase his online presence. I booked dozens of blog reviews, increased his web presence, and set up his Twitter account. I also work with Marcus Sakey Two deaths(2010 MWW faculty member), Jamie Freveletti, and Bryan Gruley. Running coverWith each of them, I played up their unique platforms to obtain coverage in “off market” publications. For example, Hanging tree cvrBryan’s Starvation Lake series is set in Northern Michigan where hockey is a way of life. We obtained coverage on a handful of hockey blogs as well as Blue Line radio.

 

Q: What are some tips for authors attending the conference?

Treat the conference as a learning experience. Don’t be so concerned with meeting the agents and delivering the perfect pitch. Strike up conversations at meals or in the hallway, you never know who you’ll meet and what you’ll learn.

 

 

Follow Dana: Follow us on Twitter

Q&A with tax specialist Gary Hensley

Meet Gary Hensley, tax specialist

Q: How did you begin working with MWW on accounting and tax topics and how does your advice at conference refer specifically to writers?

My brother, Dennis Hensley, is a committee member and many years back he suggested to the committee that one or two lectures on the “business side of writing” would add “something different” to this writer’s workshop. Since then, I have made several appearances at MWW offering two or three separate interactive sessions on the best procedures for writers to follow regarding their business accounting and tax preparation. I focus on the critical tax schedules and available tax benefits of working as a self-employed writer.

Q: What are the top mistakes you see writers making with their accounting records and tax return preparation?

The number ONE mistake is not thinking about the “business side” of your writing activities all year long — not in early April when the crush is on to file “last year’s” tax return. The number two mistake is delegating your business affairs to your tax preparer and hoping he or she has specialized knowledge about your profession. Remember:  tax preparers only work with what you give them. The writer needs to supply complete and accurate information regarding education costs, travel expenses, business-related equipment purchases, and all other expenses. The professional writer should be able to review the completed return for completeness and accuracy and spot any missing items on the final Schedule C. Finally, document, on a contemporaneous basis, all your expenses.

Q: What tips do you have for people to do that might be helpful in preparation for your MWW sessions?

Write down your business or tax questions and bring them into the sessions. Although I will stay on track and deliver the information needed in each session, I respond to specific attendee questions during and at the end of each session. I can promise that I will NOT be reading dry sections from the Internal Revenue Code. I will be focusing on the critical tax schedules and the rules for maximizing deductions and providing handouts and website references. It really pleases me to see prior attendees return to my sessions with new and “more involved” questions which flow from their growing professional achievements.

Q:  Do you have any success stories and/or stories of interest about how the sessions have benefitted writers in past years?

I see the immediate relief of anxiety from attendees in the sessions when they get specific answers to their most perplexing questions. I see them smile when they are shown how to maximize their business deductions. I have received post-workshop emails confirming the value of the sessions at tax-filing time.

Q:  Is there anything else you would like to add?

The most popular session deals with your status as a writer:  are you a professional in the eyes of the IRS or do you write just as a “hobby”? This session is a “must” for all writers!  I would classify it as a “foundation” class. Writers work hard for their income. My goal is to let them keep the lion’s share of that income.

Q:  What is your professional background?

I just completed six years as a field Revenue Agent for the IRS (auditing individual and business tax returns). Prior to that, I was an auditor with the Michigan Department of Treasury. I have also worked with local and national CPA firms and Ford Motor Company. I was a classroom instructor in taxation and accounting at a local community college for over seven years rising to the rank of Associate Professor. My articles on this subject have appeared in Christian Communicator, Writers Journal, Writer’s Digest, the Christian Writers Guild blog and other publications. I hold BBA and MBA degrees from Saginaw Valley State University.

Meet publicist Dana Kaye

We’re pleased to have a publicist join our 2011 MWW faculty!

Dana KayeAfter graduating from Columbia College with a BA in Fiction Writing, Dana worked for a few years as a freelance writer and book critic before deciding to move to the other side of the press kit. She signed her first client in February of 2009, and by the end of the year, she represented 30 authors.

Q:  What exactly are the services your business offers?

I work with authors to expand their name recognition, build their brand, and increase sales. I do this through booking radio/TV interviews, obtaining print media coverage, executing social media campaigns, scheduling book tours, and occasionally, guerilla marketing. There are 3-month, 6-month, and year-round campaigns depending on the project. I prefer working with authors year round because I can continually shape their brand and find new opportunities for them. I currently represent mostly crime fiction authors, but am also looking to expand my client list with literary fiction and creative nonfiction.

Q: What are some reasons an author would hire a publicist instead of relying on their publisher and their own efforts?

Most in-house publicists have dozens of books on their list each month. There simply isn’t enough time/budget to give each book attention. I work to fill in the gaps left by the in-house publicist. Additionally, an in-house publicist works for the publisher. I work for the client. I have more freedom to take risks and experiment with new marketing techniques.

Q: What are some of the topics you will cover at MWW?

In my first session, I will teach authors how to position themselves in the market. Agents and editors are concerned with platform and how the book will be marketed. I’ll show aspiring authors how to build their platform so they’re more marketable to agents and editors.

Q:  Who are a few of your clients and how have you promoted them?

I worked with Mike Lawson, one of the featured authors at the MWW, to increase his online presence. I booked dozens of blog reviews, increased his web presence, and set up his Twitter account. I also work with Marcus Sakey Two deaths(2010 MWW faculty member), Jamie Freveletti, and Bryan Gruley. Running coverWith each of them, I played up their unique platforms to obtain coverage in “off market” publications. For example, Hanging tree cvrBryan’s Starvation Lake series is set in Northern Michigan where hockey is a way of life. We obtained coverage on a handful of hockey blogs as well as Blue Line radio.

 

Q: What are some tips for authors attending the conference?

Treat the conference as a learning experience. Don’t be so concerned with meeting the agents and delivering the perfect pitch. Strike up conversations at meals or in the hallway, you never know who you’ll meet and what you’ll learn.