Interview with author Patti Digh

INTRODUCING PATTI DIGHDigh
“I can’t wait to meet Patti, whose most recent book, Creative is a Verb, is full of the author’s fascinating personal stories. Patti inspires readers to get in touch with their uniqueness,” commented MWW committee member Cathy Shouse. “It also offers hundreds of thought-provoking quotes from everyone from Malcolm Gladwell to C.S. Lewis.  I appreciate its refreshing reminder that along with instruction on craft we must learn to effectively tap into the creativity each one of us was born with.”Q: Your Thursday Intensive Session “From Blog to Book” is the first time MWW has offered such a topic. Give us a brief overview and timeline of how your blog turned into a book.

I started writing my blog, 37days.com, in January of 2005, as a response to my stepfather dying just 37 days after being diagnosed with lung cancer. I was asking myself one question: “What would I be doing if I only had 37 days to live?” and writing my stories down for my two daughters was one important answer to that question. Several years after I started writing it, a publisher approached me and asked if I was interested to make a book from 37days. That book, Life is a Verb: 37 Days to Wake Up, Be Mindful and Live Intentionally, was published by Globe Pequot Press in 2008, and is illustrated exclusively by readers of my blog from around the world.

Q: Tell us a little about your background.

I got my undergraduate degree in English, with a focus on contemporary American literature, and my graduate degree in English and Art History, with a focus on the figure of the artist in fiction.

My graduate thesis was on William Gaddis’ masterpiece, The Recognitions, which I consider one of the great American novels (along with Herman Melville’s Moby Dick, Larry McMurtry’s Lonesome Dove [yes, really], and Richard Powers’ The Time of Our Singing).

I imagined I would be an English professor somewhere, but I found myself in Washington, D.C., for 20 years after graduate school, in the business world.  The first book I co-authored was called a “business book of the year 2000” by Fortune magazine. A few years later, I wrote another well-regarded business book.

And then the death of my stepfather sent me on a much more personal path, and I haven’t looked back at that other business voice since. I am fully inhabiting my own voice now, and telling my own stories.

Q: When you started blogging, was your objective to get a book contract and if so, are there specific steps to make that happen?

Absolutely not, and I believe we fall prey to focusing on outcome and not on process far too often. My intention was singular: I wanted to write my stories down for my two daughters so they would know me as a person, and not just as a mom. I wanted to leave behind a record of my being-all of it, not just the tidy professional me, but the messy, confused, fearful parts too.

I had no audience in mind but them, and I believe this singularity of intention ultimately drew readers in great numbers to the blog, ironically. A friend teaches young actors and one of the first things he teaches them is that you can’t play two intentions on stage at the same time. For example, you can either warn Hamlet (if that is the part you are playing), or you can try to get the audience to love you, but you can’t do both and do them honestly. Writing for a book contract is a split intention. Write what it is you long to say instead. Focus on process-using your voice, saying what you long to say-and not on product. Focus on content, and not on form.

Q: Will your MWW Intensive Session be more technology oriented or writing oriented; in other words, what should people expect?

Writing, writing, writing, writing, writing. In general, writers spend more time talking about how to write or what to write or what keeps us from writing than we do actuDigh creative bookally writing. This intensive will take us into process. I’ll also share insider tips on product–what happens in that liminal space between blog and book? We’re going to look at intention, voice, and much more–by writing, by digging into both content and form.

Q: Anything quirky or unusual about yourself inquiring minds would want to know?

My childhood hero was Johnny Unitas (quarterback for the Baltimore Colts), I played Johnny Appleseed in my fourth grade play, one of my favorite recording artists is Johnny Cash, I have a slight obsession with Johnny Depp, and I’m married to a man named Johnny. There is a pattern here. I also love the smell of lavender, and I write a thank you note every morning. And mail it. And I love to laugh.

Jane Friedman’s new book

The Future of Publishing: Enigma Variations is a definitive and comprehensive view on how book publishing will evolve and transform. It analyzes the future of not only authors, but also agents, editors, publishers, bookstores, and reading/literacy in general. If you’ve been curious, fearful, or anxious—or just want to know the future ahead of everyone else (and who doesn’t!)—then don’t miss this excellent and informed perspective.

All for the low, low price of $1.99. Isn’t peace of mind worth that much to you?

Release date: April 1, 2011.

Note on e-book format/compatibility
This book is only available for purchase as a PDF document. However, the PDF can be downloaded, viewed, and read on virtually any device—including your desktop computer, your tablet, your mobile, and your e-reading device (such as Kindle). You can also print out a hard copy from the PDF. If you have any questions, please contact me.

About Jane Friedman

Jane has been on the faculty of our summer workshop since 2003. She was awarded the Midwest Writers Workshop Dorothy Hamilton Award in 2008.

As the former publisher and editorial director of Writer’s Digest, Jane Friedman is an industry authority on commercial, literary, and emerging forms of publishing. She has spoken at more than 200 writing events since 2001, and is known within the publishing industry as an innovator, cited by sources such as Publishers Weekly, GalleyCat, PBS, and Mr. Media. She has been a speaker at BookExpo America, an adviser to Digital Book World, and recently served as a panelist for the National Endowment for the Arts, to review 2011 grants in literature.

 

Jane currently serves as a visiting professor of e-media at the University of Cincinnati, and is a contributing editor to Writer’s Digest.

 

Since 2008, she’s offered advice for writers at her award-winning blog, There Are No Rules, which receives 50,000 visits every month. She is the author of the Beginning Writer’s Answer Book (Writer’s Digest, 2006), and is working on a new book for writers, forthcoming in 2012.

 

MWW Mini-workshop at Brownsburg Library

BROWNSBURG, IN – “How To Ramp Up Your Writing” will be the theme of a Saturday, April 23, mini-workshop presented by Midwest Writers Workshop. The workshop is $10 and open to persons interested in learning more about writing and in furthering their writing careers. It is scheduled at the Brownsburg Public Library (450 South Jefferson Street, Brownsburg, IN 46112) from 9 a.m. to noon. Following an opening discussion, participants will break into interest groups focusing on different writing genres.

Midwest Writers special events coordinator Cathy Shouse of Fairmount will discuss getting a book contract; Dianne Drake of Brownsburg, writing fiction; Holly Miller of Anderson, writing for magazines; Mike Brockley of Muncie, writing poetry. All leaders have extensive writing credits and also are members of the Midwest Writers Workshop committee, a Muncie-based writers’ organization that sponsors a major summer writing conference plus special events throughout the year, including mini-workshops held throughout the state. Drake, a Brownsburg resident and author of 20+ published books, is a special guest for the day. The Friends of the Brownsburg Public Library will provide light refreshments.

Participants will receive $20 certificates toward the cost of attending the 38th annual writers’ workshop, scheduled in Muncie, IN, July 28-30, 2011. For more information, contact the Brownsburg Public Library at (317) 852-3167 or by registering online HERE.

Note: Registration is required. The $10 payment will be taken at the door only on the day of the event. Those who present valid Brownsburg Public Library cards will receive a $5 discount. Seating is limited. Registering early is encouraged.

Agent Swap: JL out – Jessica in

Sometimes it happens. A cancellation. And usually, when it does, it comes a week or so after the brochure for our summer workshop is printed and mailed. And that’s just what happened.

We are disappointed to announce that literary agent JL Stermer is unable to participate in this year’s workshop. However, we are pleased to announce that Jessica Sinsheimer with the Sarah Jane Freymann Literary Agency will join us instead.

Sinsheimer

Jessica Sinsheimer has been reading and campaigning for her favorite queries since 2004. Originally from the San Francisco Bay Area, she went east for Sarah Lawrence College and stayed for the opportunity to read soon-to-be books for a living.

Now an Associate Agent at the Sarah Jane Freymann Literary Agency, she’s developed a reputation for fighting office members to see incoming manuscripts first-and for drinking far too much tea. Her most recent sale was Ripper, a YA/historical/paranormal novel about a Victorian girl who takes down Jack the Ripper–and its sequel.

Always on the lookout for new writers, she is most excited about finding literary, women’s, and Young Adult fiction, and-on the nonfiction side-psychology, parenting, self-help, cookbooks, memoirs, and works that speak to life in the twenty-first century.

Jessica will meet with participants for pitches (you must select her when you register) and she will present a session on Saturday: “Hooking an Agent”.

It’s more likely you’ll get hit by lightning while starring in a Broadway play than get a book deal, some say, and the economy has only made it worse. But from my own experience, and from objective data I’ve assembled, I know that 33 percent of your competition disqualifies themselves immediately-and that another 32 percent make preventable mistakes.

I’ll use pie charts, line graphs, and months of data, to help you learn how to keep yourself out of the bottom 65 percent-and how to make yourself immediately likable to an agent; how to increase the odds of your work getting pushed to the top of the reading pile-and how to increase the chances of an agent falling in love with your work.

You’ll also learn strategies agents use when submitting work to editors, and how to apply those same strategies to your own submission process.

Publishing is a very subjective industry, based on timing, intuition, taste, impressions, synchronicity and luck-but when you use the objective data to your advantage, your odds can’t help but improve.

MWW Writers’ Retreat, 2011 Fellows announced

Nine ‘Fellows’ to convene at Pokagon State Park

The seventh annual Writers Retreat, sponsored by Midwest Writers Workshop, attracted the largest number of entries we have ever received, nearly 100 submissions from as far away as Florida, Michigan, Missouri and North Carolina. Nine novelists emerged at winners of the fellowships and will convene at Pokagon State Park in Northern Indiana, May 13-14. The two-day session will feature critiques, one-on-one consultations and discussions related to marketing saleable manuscripts.

2011 MWW Writers’ Retreat Fellows:

MW King, Peoria Heights, IL

Kate McGinn, Indianapolis, IN

James E. Murphy, Brookville, IN

Kathleen Slayden, Richmond, MI

Sherry Stanfa-Stanley, Waterville, OH

James Taborn, Kalamazoo, MI

Stephen M. Terrell, Camby, IN

Bethany K. Warner, Indianapolis, IN

Katrina Anne Willis, Zionsville, IN

 

Faculty for the event are Holly Miller, Terry Faherty and Dennis Hensley, with Cathy Shouse serving as on-site coordinator. The Writers Retreat is supported by a grant from the Ball Brothers Foundation.

MWW Writers’ Retreat mentor Terence Faherty

MWW Writers’ Retreat mentor Terence Faherty looks forward to publication of two books. Dance in the Dark is his latest mystery novel and The Hollywood Op is a collection of short stories. Both follow fictional private investigator Scott Elliott, an Indiana native living in California and working for a Hollywood security agency. Check out this interview with Terry from The Indianapolis Star.

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!