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

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.

Meet thriller author Mike Lawson

With our 2011 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

What Others Say

Faculty Testimonials

The Midwest Writer’s Workshop was not only well-organized, but it was a lot of fun! The writers were all so enthusiastic and willing to ask questions, which I love because that’s what I’m there for. I would definitely come back, if they’d have me, of course.  Joanna Stampfel-Volpe, Agent, Nancy Coffey Literary & Media Representation

It was a joy for me to be on the faculty of the 2006 Midwest Writers Workshop. This expertly-managed event was located in a stunning facility and offered a broad spectrum of helps to both professional and aspiring writers. I should have come when I was just starting out. — Susan Meissner, inspirational fiction author

Midwest Writers Workshop is by far the friendliest conference I’ve ever taken part in. The open environment and gracious organizers ensure that every writer arrives feeling welcomed and leaves feeling inspired. The instructors there genuinely care about the attendees and go the extra mile to help someone in need. I wish every writer could enjoy the heart-felt support and expert instruction that this event offers.Jane Friedman, past Executive Editor, Writer’s Digest Books

I learned as much outside of the sessions as I did attending formal presentations. There were so many talented folks in attendance that even in the most informal of settings, I was learning something. I have suggested to my students that they seriously consider attending next year’s Midwest Writer’s Workshop. It ranks among the best writing conferences I have ever attended. Peter J. Welling, author & illustrator of children’s books

The Midwest Writers Workshop is one of the best organized conferences that I have had the pleasure of working with. Jama Bigger and her crew of volunteers kept the flow going and included some wonderfully unique events that kept the attendees and the faculty entertained throughout the event.  — Gordon Kirkland, humor author

Alumni Testimonials

I found the Midwest Writers Workshop team to be encouraging and welcoming. While I’ve attended larger writing conferences, MWW is the one I have found most helpful and to which I have returned. I benefited from the 2010 conference by meeting the agent I later signed with and by interacting with and learning from respected faculty. I also made helpful connections and was honored with a Manny Award. Finally, I have made friends with other writers on the publishing journey, and that has made my life richer. — Lori Lowe, Indianapolis, IN

The 2010 MWW was a wonderful experience. It was my first writing conference and far exceeded my expectations. The hands-on programs were outstanding. Like a brisk morning walk, they stimulated your writing and inspired you to do more. The sessions on the business of writing were enlightening and full of practical advice. But for me, the most important aspect of the conference was the incredible networking opportunity it provided. The speakers were very accessible and willing to spend time between sessions talking with aspiring writers. Over coffee or just stepping outside for some fresh air, fellow writers shared their trials and triumphs, dark moments and inspirations. I was able to meet and establish relationships with fellow writers from around the Midwest and beyond, and those relationships are now growing into a writers’ circle. I also developed relationships with several speakers with whom I have stayed in contact. In the long run, it is those relationships that the Midwest Writers Workshop facilitated which will endure throughout the year — until I can make it back for the next Midwest Writers Workshop in 2011. – Steve Terrell, Camby, IN

The Midwest Writers Workshop was the perfect place for a beginner to learn the trade as well as the ins and outs of the publishing world. Whether you are new to the writing world like myself, or have been writing and publishing books for years, I strongly urge you to put the Midwest Writers Workshop on your calendar for next year. The biggest mistake attendees made was not attending the Intensive Workshops.  The wealth of information learned more than paid for the workshop itself. In addition to the over forty different classes offered, participants are allowed to bring five pages for evaluations with a respected author, agent, or publisher. If you happen to have a manuscript finished and ready for pitching, there were four agents on hand in which to pitch. The Midwest Writers Workshop is an informative workshop no matter which genre you are currently writing in, even if you do freelance writing for magazines. Muncie, Indiana is the home state for the workshop located in the Ball State University Alumni Center with easy access to classes. Next year’s workshop is already on my calendar. — Robin Olson

The conference was an excellent experience, well worth the trip from Kansas. Because of the Thursday intensive sessions and my manuscript meeting during Part II, I have a novel that seemed destined for trunkdom back on track. Terri Coop

This is the workshop I mark on my calendar each year. It’s intimate, informative and reasonably priced. The accessibility of the faculty to help with problems or to give advice is second to none. The intensive class sessions provide a treasure trove of ideas and information. The agent pitch sessions are extremely popular and give writers a real-life look at the business side of writing. To find out how great this workshop was – just ask any attendee. J. D. Webb, author of mysteries

Alumni News

Toni Cantrell‘s book, The Gazebo, was released April 2011 from Belfire Press. Toni has three other novels in print, Strangers and Pilgrims and If Ever That Time Come with Author House and Absentminded by Voni Ryan (co-author Violet Ryan) also from Belfire Press. Another co-authored novel with Bea Simmons was published in July, 2011, and Voni Ryan’s collection of short stories in December, 2011. This prolific author credits much of her confidence and success to attending the annual Midwest Writers Workshop for the past several years.

Michael Ehret is now editor-in-chief of the Jerry B. Jenkins Christian Writers Guild in Colorado Springs, CO. He is also a twice-monthly blogger with Novel Journey and the ezine editor for the American Christian Fiction Writers.

Lori Lowe has signed a contract with agent Dr. Uwe Stender, whom she met for a pitch session during the 2010 MWW. He is now representing her nonfiction book.

Tricia Fields also attended Midwest Writers Workshop in 2010 and in September won the Tony Hillerman best first mystery award for her book, The Territory.

Maurice Broaddus, a MWW 1993 alum, had his debut novel, King Maker, released last fall from Angry Robot/Random House, the first of an urban fantasy trilogy set in Indianapolis. He has also founded an annual conference that discusses spirituality and genre fiction. He edits a now annual anthology called Dark Faith (Apex Books) and his fiction has appeared in over two dozen markets. “I just wanted to let you know that one of your local alumna is doing pretty well,” he says.