Posts

MWW Super Mini-conference, July 27-28

MWW Super Mini-conference — July 27-28 at the Ball State Alumni Center, Muncie, Indiana. Friday 8:30 am through Saturday 12:30 pm.  A dynamic day-and-a-half with a decidedly different structure—shorter, smaller, less expensive, with a strong emphasis on helping you reach your writing goals.

This MWW Craft + Community super mini is designed for writers of every level in their careers.

Whether you’re a published author or a novice exploring writing for the first time, you’ll find your place here, among teachers and fellow writers in a small group environment. It’s time to grow your network and nurture your identity as a writer. We have mentors to help.

Press the reset button.

At MWW Craft + Community, you’ll experience a day and a half—long enough to get away and refocus your energy on your writing, yet short enough to accommodate your busy schedule. Come enjoy the camaraderie and receive useful guidance!

This “super mini” offers eight in-depth, hands-on interactive, small class size sessions taught by experienced, accomplished, and professional faculty:

  • Holly Miller: Manuscript Makeover
  • Matthew Clemens: Developmental Editing
  • Brent Bill: Writing from the Heart: Soulful Creativity
  • Lou Harry: Nonfiction, Writing About Everything
  • Larry D. Sweazy – Fiction, Writing Your First Novel
  • Barbara Shoup – Think Like a Teenager
  • Lucrecia Guerrero – From Where You Dream
  • Maurice Broaddus – World Building: How to Out-Imagine Your Reader

Our programming focuses on key areas such as craft improvement, genre knowledge, finding critique partners, and forming writing support groups to help improve your writing. Get feedback from experts and friendly peers. Sharing your work and reading your work will allow you to pinpoint sagging plot lines, breaks in character and more. The give-and-take, along with honest feedback, is a win for all.

We’ll have fun activities to help you find a writing community. Writing is a solitary act, a leap of faith in which we work to bring the ideas in our head, our own experiences, our research and our true and imaginary tales to life on the page. Because we labor alone, we need a community of honest supporters who can help us to see what works in our stories and what doesn’t.

MWW Craft + Community wants to give you that community. You’ll return home with new skills and insight into your writing. You’ll return home with new writing friends.

And there’s a space waiting for you.

Secure your spot today.

Cost: $199

REGISTER

[For a statement from our board, read here.]

Writing from the Heart: Soulful Creativity with J. Brent Bill

Online courses provide great opportunities for everyone who wants to learn something. From the comfort of your home, or even the comfort of your jammies, you can learn on your own time schedule and participate in classes that will help take your writing to the next level.
Our newest MWW Ongoing course is Writing from the Heart: Soulful Creativity taught by J. Brent Bill. The course starts March 26 and will be available through July.

Who This Course Will Help

This course is for both unpublished and published authors who wish to write in a way that connects with readers – and themselves – at the deepest levels. Many writers are technically sound and fine thinkers. True connection with readers requires more, however. The secret to making that connection, whether you write fiction or non-fiction, is writing from the heart.

Many of us approach writing by wondering what readers, editors, and publishers want. Instead, this course will focus on what interests us as writers. What things are we most passionate about and do we dare write about them?

This course offers tips and techniques for connecting with your writer’s heart – and discovering themes and concerns that will bring your writing to life.

 

What This Course Teaches

This four-week course offers practical ways for involving head, heart, and craft in writing – with a particular emphasis on tapping into your heart. Each lesson will include opening thoughts by Brent and then lead into exercises regarding that week’s topic.

The course officially begins on Monday, March 26, when the first full unit will become available to all students. Lessons related to the week’s theme will appear on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Units 2-4 will be available on the following Mondays: April 2, 9, 16.

Unit One: Heart and Mind

The first week will explore how we link head and craft with heart. It uses concrete exercises that will tap into what you know – and don’t know you know. We’ll also look at the places where heart and head intersect so that we can produce powerful writing.

Unit Two: Heart and Body

In our second week, we will go deeper in exploring the personal by adding body to heart. We will work with exercises that explore like-heartedness, but not necessarily like-mindedness as a way to connect with readers whose life experiences are different from our own.

Unit Three: Putting it All Together: Heart, Body, and Mind

During week three, you’ll delve into a deep personal experience from the perspective of heart instead of head. You’ll learn how to bring all the senses (physical, emotional, mental) to bear in bringing the story to life.

Unit Four: Going Long and Deep

Week four will pull all the learning from the first three weeks into a longer writing project where you can draw on what you’ve experienced. As with the previous weeks, it will include practical tips and guided exercises.

 

What This Course Includes

Weekly Assignments for completion at your own pace—designed to help you put what you learn into action.

You’ll also:

  • Receive suggestions for reading and other resources for you to go deeper in writing from the heart
  • Be able to chat with Brent in real time (video, audio, and text) during his weekly online office hours (2 separate hour per week)
  • Have access to a dedicated private Facebook page where you can (if you choose)
    • ask questions and engage in discussions with Brent and the other course participants. Brent will check the page daily for questions and comments.
    • share your work based on the exercise and invite feedback from the other course participants

A review (via email) by Brent of up to ten pages of a manuscript in which you’ve put some of the learning from this course into practice.

Cost: $150. Register HERE

About the Instructor

With more than twenty books and numerous articles and short stories published since the 1980s, Brent has learned a thing or three about writing. His book titles include Life Lessons from a Bad Quaker: A Humble Stumble Toward Simplicity and Grace, Sacred Compass: The Way of Spiritual Discernment; and Holy Silence: The Gift of Quaker Spirituality. He’s a writing coach, editor, photographer, and retreat leader.

One reviewer said of Brent that he’s “… a substantial spiritual guide, but never in a flashy way. Think of – oh, perhaps something like Mister Rogers Meets the Dalai Lama.” Brent is a member of Spirituality & Practice’s Living Spiritual Teachers Project.

A MWW alumnus, Brent lives on Ploughshares Farm – 50 acres of Indiana farmland being reclaimed for native hardwood forests and warm season prairie grasses.

Create intricate plots & unforgettable characters with Shirley Jump

MWW Ongoing

If you’ve ever wished for a way to continue growing with your writing all year long, from the comfort of your home, now you can! MWW Ongoing is a series of courses taught by award-winning writing instructors, and everything happens online. From the convenience of your computer, on your own time schedule, you can participate in classes to take your writing to the next level.

Check out our newest MWW Ongoing course taught by New York Times bestselling author Shirley Jump.

The Brainmap: A way to create intricate plots and compelling, unforgettable characters

Shirley Jump’s The Brainmap Technique develops fully formed characters before a single word is written, resulting in a stronger, more powerful–and more emotional story. This 4-week course starts Monday, Sept. 4, with each unit available on the following Mondays (Sept 11, 18, 25). Cost: $75.

Who This Course Will Help

This course is for writers who are looking for a way to plot a unique, character-driven novel. This course will cover all the pre-work needed to develop a compelling, layered character with a full history. From that, the plot will develop, thus building an intriguing novel with a strong emotional hook for the reader.

Editors love books that are character driven and have layered plots. The Brainmap Technique develops fully formed characters before a single word is written, resulting in a stronger, more powerful–and more emotional story. If you’re stuck in your writing, needing inspiration or just want to learn more about developing characters and developing a multi-layered plot, you’ll get the boost you need for this class with this technique. By the end of this workshop, participants will have everything they need to write a character-based plot that has emotional depth, character-driven conflict, and memorable page-turning twists.

What you will learn

  • How to develop a character’s past, family relationships and motivations
  • Use this to develop a character-based plot
  • An in-depth analysis of your character’s behavior and choices
  • A richer, more emotionally based book

The course is broken down into four units. Each unit is accompanied by several handouts that build on the one before. You can start using the information immediately for your current work. But you can start when you are ready. The material will be available to you until October 31. Questions about the material and how it applies to your story will be answered within the private Facebook group.

Unit One will be about getting the basics down. We will start with the basics of who your character is, based on their dominant impression, then why they are in that career. How their education impacted that choice and where it has brought them to at the start of your novel.

  1. Basics of the Brainmap
  2. Brainmap Center
  3. Brainmap Spoke One

Unit Two will take the Brainmap to a deeper level. We will discuss the multiple layers of family relationships and look at how those have impacted your character. This particular section of the brainmap is vital in shaping your character.

  1. Brainmap Spoke Two
  2. Brainmap Spoke Three
  3. Brainmap Example

Unit Three will explore past relationships and their impact on your character. What type of person they choose, how it impacted their life, and where that has brought them now. For those writing novels with a romance thread, this section will form the basis of the romantic conflict. We will also discuss the last two spokes of the brainmap to create a fully-fleshed out character.

  1. Brainmap Spoke Four
  2. Brainmap Spoke Five and Six

Unit Four will pull all those spokes together, developing a plot based on the character, one that derives from their weaknesses, strengths and greatest nightmare. This will allow the student to write a richer novel at the completion of the course.

  1. Weaknesses and Strengths
  2. Worst Nightmare

About the Instructor

New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Shirley Jump spends her days writing romance so she can avoid the towering stack of dirty dishes, eat copious amounts of chocolate and reward herself with trips to the mall. She’s published more than 60 books in 24 countries. Look for her all-new novella in the anthology ASK ME WHY (with Marie Force, Virginia Kantra and Jodi Thomas), as well as her Sweet and Savory Romance series, including the USA Today bestselling book, THE BRIDE WORE CHOCOLATE, and her Fortune’s Island series, starting with AND THEN FOREVER. Visit her website at www.ShirleyJump.com for author news and a booklist, and follow her on Facebook at www.Facebook.com/shirleyjump.author for giveaways and deep discussions about important things like chocolate and shoes.

Register Today!

Click HERE to register.

And be part of the community in the private Facebook Group!

Novel to TV series | Screenwriter Nina Sadowsky | MWW17

Midwest Writers Workshop 2017 is offering a NEW Part I Intensive Session on “Screenwiriting,” and we’re pleased to welcome screenwriter and novelist Nina Sadowsky.

This class will provide an in-depth overview of writing for film and television. A mixture of lecture, in-class exercises and screenings will give the participants an understanding of how material is pitched, developed and produced in Hollywood as well as tips for successful screenwriting.

Spots to Nina’s intensive session are limited and we expect this one to fill up fast.

Register now!

A New York City native, Nina R. Sadowsky is an entertainment lawyer (in recovery) who has worked as a film and television producer and writer for most of her career.  Just Fall, published by Ballantine in March 2016 is her first novel, and is now in development as an original series for STARZ. She has written numerous original screenplays and adaptations and done rewrites for such companies as The Walt Disney Company, Working Title Films, and Lifetime Television.

She served as President of Production for Signpost Films, a film financier and foreign distributor, where she worked on such projects as the Academy Award nominated “The House of Sand and Fog,” starring Jennifer Connelly and Ben Kingsley. Prior to joining Signpost, she served as President of Meg Ryan’s Prufrock Pictures for over five years. During her tenure, Prufrock landed first look feature deals with Fox 2000 and Castle Rock Entertainment and an overall long-form television deal with Polygram/Universal Television.

Sadowsky served as executive producer for the hit film “The Wedding Planner,” starring Jennifer Lopez and Matthew McConaughey for Intermedia and Sony, produced “Desert Saints,” an independent film starring Kiefer Sutherland which premiered on Cinemax, and has served as executive director for numerous other films.

She is also currently serving as adjunct faculty at USC’s School of Cinematic Arts program, teaching both writing and producing. Her students have been the recipients of many awards and accolades including best scripted series at the College Television Awards and inclusion in the Cannes Film Festival Shorts Corner. Sadowsky is also currently serving as a mentor for the Humanitas Prize’s New Voices Program, and is a member of Humanitas’ Woolfpack, an organization of women writers, directors and showrunners.

MWW: What’s it feel like to have your debut novel being adapted for a television series?

NS: It’s thrilling that we sold Just Fall to STARZ, particularly as premium cable allows creators to push the limits. I’m especially excited that the network wanted me to write the pilot as they felt the work was so particular to my voice. As far as I know, the title will remain the same. And I wish I had a timetable, but I don’t!

MWW: You’ve said the opening scene of your psychological thriller was inspired in real life when your husband was lying in bed with one arm flung over his head. You imagined him dead, just for a moment. Why do you think people like yourself, a happily married woman and a mother, write and read dark, crime-filled stories?

NS: Actually, I am a mother of a 21 year old daughter and a 18 year old son and stepmother to other kids (one girl, one boy) now 22 and 20 years old. And the incident you correctly describe happened shortly after we blended the two families (the kids were all teenagers then).  Blending the family created all kinds of tensions between my husband and I that we never anticipated.  We believed “love will beget love” and were gobsmacked when our rosy predictions weren’t fulfilled. It got me thinking about all the couples who throw themselves into love and marriage and then have to get past the romantic idealism and slog through whatever real life throws at them.  In writing Just Fall, I wanted to take those very ordinary, universal feelings and inflate them to a thriller level.  As to why I like to write or read about crime, it comes from my desire to understand human nature.  Why we connect with other people. Why we don’t. Why societies create norms of behavior and what it means to an individual to step out of those norms. When is it right to do the wrong thing? Wrong to do the right thing? I’m trying to make sense of the confusing moral world that surrounds us and I think readers are too.

MWW: What are some ways your work as a film and television producer have influenced your novels? Might novelists benefit from learning screenwriting techniques in your course at MWW as well?

NS: I’d say the biggest influence is in the way I start any scene. I close my eyes and I think about what each production department would need to do in order to bring a scene to life. What are people wearing? What’s the quality of the light? What does the location look like and how do its details reveal something about the characters in the production design? These questions help me envision any scene for a book or a screenplay in a way that serves the narrative.  It’s my philosophy as a film maker that every inch of the frame should contribute to the story, so I think similarly about writing a scene in a book. Every element should be meaningful to furthering character, plot, theme and/or story. And I definitely think novelists can learn from screenwriting techniques. While film and television have highly codified and specific structures, good storytelling is good storytelling!

MWW: Just Fall seemed to be about taking risks as a writer, from the overall structure, to the sentence structure, to setting description, to characters that behave in unexpected ways. Do you have a tip or five on why authors wanting to break in or break out should take risks?

NS: Truth be told, when I started Just Fall, my sole hope was to finish it. It was a personal exercise borne out of the personal marital tension I was wrestling with as well as some frustration with the film and TV business. Because my expectations were so minimal, I felt very free. I played with structure partly because I wanted to shuck off the highly rigid structures of film and TV. I also wanted to play with structure as a way of revealing character, as opposed to solely using it to advance plot.  I subverted the stereotypes common to the thriller genre like the “damsel in distress.” I describe the writing of the novel as sort of a “howl,” one that came from a very deep place. No one was more shocked than I was when I exposed the book and very quickly found myself selling it to Ballantine/Random House!  I think one must always take risks.  Writing for the “perceived market” or writing something to which one doesn’t feel authentically connected is in my mind a mistake. Be bold or go home!

MWW: Tell us something distinctive about your writing process?

NS: I create an index card for every scene or chapter with a one line description about the scene. This reminds me to keep the main thing the main thing when I go to write.

MWW: As an adjunct professor in screenwriting at UCLA, what mistakes do students make? Besides reading Just Fall, is there a craft book you recommend your MWW students read in preparation for your course?

NS: I love SAVE THE CAT, which is a great primer on structure. Also when writing for film and TV one must adhere to proper format (if no other reason than improper formatting pegs you as an amateur). And if my students can read Just Fall before the course, I will be able to discuss how we approached its adaptation for TV.

MWW: Anything you would like to add?

NS: I’m looking forward to the MWW!

Quick hits:

1) Plotter or pantser (no pre-planning)?

A bit of both. I start usually with a theme and a visual and then begin to work up characters. I rewrite myself constantly, rewriting the last day’s work before I start on the new day’s work. And outline only once I’m deep into the first draft.

2) Critique group/hired editor or go it alone?

I have a couple of trusted readers, but my brilliant editor at PRH is the one I rely on the most.

3) Scrivener writing software, Microsoft Word or other?

Microsoft Word

4) Early bird or night owl?

Best in the morning, but can write all day and night if on a deadline!

5) Fast, messy drafter or slow and methodical?

Fast. Gut it out. Don’t obsess on every word. Writing is rewriting!

 

NOW AVAILABLE from Ballantine/Random House
Just Fall

COMING SOON also from Ballantine/Random House

The Burial Society

www.ninarsadowsky.com

https://www.facebook.com/nina.sadowsky

https://twitter.com/sadowsky_nina

Build a Better Plot with Shirley Jump | MWW Ongoing | Starts March 27

Our aim at MWW Ongoing is to bring you the highest quality of online courses. Shirley Jump’s 2-week course, BUILD A BETTER PLOT, is next up and sure to benefit all fiction writers, no matter your genre or writing experience. Registration is open now and the class starts MONDAY, MARCH 27th. 

 

About the Instructor
New York Times and  USA Today bestselling author Shirley Jump spends her days writing romance so she can avoid the towering stack of dirty dishes, eat copious amounts of chocolate and reward herself with trips to the mall. She’s published more than 60 books in 24 countries. Look for her all-new novella in the anthology ASK ME WHY (with Marie Force, Virginia Kantra and Jodi Thomas), as well as her Sweet and Savory Romance series, including the USA Today bestselling book, THE BRIDE WORE CHOCOLATE, and her Fortune’s Island series, starting with AND THEN FOREVER. Visit her website at www.ShirleyJump.com for author news and a booklist, and follow her on Facebook at www.Facebook.com/shirleyjump.author for giveaways and deep discussions about important things like chocolate and shoes.

Here’s our Top 10 List about Shirley:
From 2006 to 2012, Shirley taught a monthly Real Life writing group at Barnes & Noble, and she has taught dozens of online courses since. She has extensive information to share.

 
If high energy and positivity, combined with a down-to-earth approach, is your thing, you will really appreciate Shirley!

 

Some writers just ask more questions than others and Shirley is one of the most open writers with sharing her secrets with her students.

 

If you like structured lessons to review later, Shirley is the handout queen and each one is like a mini lesson.

 

Plus, she loves rescue animals, and has also honed herself into an athlete who competes in triathlons.

 

A journalist from the age of 11, Shirley learned to write full-length fiction through writing and it didn’t come easy. So she has developed techniques and resources to help others do the same. Just call her the “novel whisperer.”

 

She’s read about every writing craft book there is and brings all that knowledge to her classes, which means you may learn of more resources to delve into after this class.

 

In 2010, her keynote speech, “The Quitting Story” kicked off Midwest Writers Workshop Part 2 and she developed an immediate following there. She has known struggles, and seen triumph. (Ten manuscripts were rejected before that first sale.)

 

Along with the instructional sessions, Shirley will actively engage through our private Facebook page specifically for this class.

 

With 67+ books published for multiple publishers in her career, Shirley’s help in nailing the concept of GMC in this course, (Goal, Motivation and Conflict,) will not only positively impact your current story but all your future stories as well!

 

We’re so very pleased that MWW Ongoing is offering the opportunity to learn online from Shirley. At just $75, it’s a bargain. This will be interactive with the chance to see clear cut examples. Shirley sometimes invites students to provide ideas from their works in progress. With a short amount of the student’s information, Shirley is able to shed light on what isn’t working in a story–or simply knows ways to make the writing stronger.

* * * If you’ve ever wished for a brainstorming session with a published author with a talent for turning stories into publishing contracts, you owe it to yourself to register for Shirley’s class!

REGISTER HERE!

MWW17 welcomes back thriller author John Gilstrap

Midwest Writers is delighted that John Gilstrap is returning to teach at MWW17!

John is the New York Times bestselling author of the Jonathan Grave thriller series. Two of the first three in the series were nominated for ITW’s prestigious Thriller Award, and for Private Eye Writers of America’s Shamus Award. His novels include Friendly Fire, Nick of Time, Against All Enemies, End Game, Soft Targets, High Treason, Damage Control, Threat Warning, Hostage Zero, No Mercy, Nathan’s Run, At All Costs, Even Steven, Scott Free and Six Minutes to Freedom.  Four of his books have been purchased or optioned for the Big Screen.  In addition, John has written four screenplays for Hollywood, adapting the works of Nelson DeMille, Norman McLean and Thomas Harris.  He will co-produce the film adaptation of his book, Six Minutes to Freedom, which should begin filming in 2017.

During  MWW17, John will teach a Part I Intensive Session “Adrenaline Rush: Writing a Thriller,” a day-long seminar on the construction of intelligent commercial fiction. What makes for a strong plot? How do you take cardboard characters and give them life on the page? Through lively lectures and writing exercises, students get a peek at the skeleton that gives structure to the stories that keep us reading long into the night.

We caught up with John recently and asked him about what he’s teaching for MWW17.

Tell us “Three Things You Should Know” related to your intensive, “Adrenaline Rush: Writing a Thriller”:

You’ll look at writing a different way at the end of the class than you did at the beginning

 

You should come prepared to do some writing exercises.

 

You should let me know if there’s one particular topic that you’d be disappointed if we didn’t explore.

 

Do you have a tip for writers who are feeling stuck on a manuscript? How do you get yourself unstuck?

Don’t walk away from it until you’ve written your way out of the corner.

 

Try switching over to pen and paper. That’s what I do and it always gets me unstuck.

 

And what are your answers for some just-for-fun questions?

Mac or PC? PC

Early-bird or night-owl? Night owl

Scrivener or a different writing software or plain old Word? Plain old Word

Coffee or tea? Coffee!! (I hate tea. It always reminds me of the times I was sick as a kid.)

What are your Part II sessions?

  • Worst Advice Ever: Write What You Know – The real trick is to write what interests you.  This session presents strategies for getting in touch with experts who can help you, and where to find answers to your most perplexing questions.  Hint: Knowing a little bit is fine. The rest is about faking it.  We’ll talk about that, too.
  • Bangs and Booms 101: What Writers Need to Know About Firearms and Explosives
  • Buttonhole Topic – Presentation Skills for Authors

Register for mww17 today!

***

Praise for John Gilstrap and the Jonathan Grave Series:

“Gilstrap is one of the finest thriller writers on the planet.”  – Tess Gerritsen
“Gilstrap is a master of action and drama.”  – Gayle Lynds
“Rocket-paced suspense.”  – Jeffery Deaver
“A great hero, a really exciting series.”  – Joseph Finder
Read more about John and his writing in this article in Publisher’s Weekly. 

***

Check out John on social media!

Facebook: johngilstrapauthor

Twitter: @JohnGilstrap

Website

MWW friends & past faculty in anthology: Not Like the Rest of Us

ANNOUNCING …

Indiana Writers Center has a publication for the book lovers on your holiday gift list! Not Like the Rest of Us: An Anthology of Contemporary  Indiana Writers  features stories, poems, and essays more than 75 Indiana writers, including MWW past faculty and friends:

Kelsey Timmerman, “The Labors of Our Fathers”

Cathy Day, “Not Like the Rest of Us: A Hoosier Named Cole Porter”

Philip Gulley, “The Hoosier Identity”

Barbara Shoup, “Working a Jigsaw”

Eugene Gloria, “Alfonso Street”

Karen Kovacik, “Assemblage: Lake County”

David Shumate, “Bringing Things Back From the Woods”

Kevin Stein, “The Tragedies”

Lucrecia Guerrero, “Rings”

Michael Martone, “Contributor’s Notes”

Susan Neville, “Jubilee”

Jill Christman, “That’s What You Remember [An Essay in Third Person]”

Mark Neely, “Extremist Sonnet”

Sean Lovelace, “Elvis Presley Visits His Red Harley”

 

This is a great read for the coming wintry days. Now at a special holiday price! Purchase copies for your friends (and one for yourself)!

 

Q&A with Larry D. Sweazy

MWW welcomes mystery author Larry D. Sweazy!

Sweazy Larry2Larry is the author of 12 novels, including A Thousand Falling Crows, See Also Murder, Vengeance at Sundown, The Coyote Tracker, The Devil’s Bones, and The Rattlesnake Season. He won Western Writers of America Spur awards for Best Short Fiction in 2005 and for Best Paperback Original in 2013. He also received the 2011 and 2012 Will Rogers Medallion Award for Western Fiction for the Josiah Wolfe series. He was nominated for a Derringer Award in 2007, and was a finalist in the Best Books of Indiana literary competition in 2010, and won in 2011 for The Scorpion Trail. He has published more than 60 nonfiction articles and short stories, which have appeared in Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine; Boys’ Life; Hardboiled; Amazon Shorts, and several other publications and anthologies. He is a freelance indexer and has written back-of-the-book indexes for more than 850 books in 19 years, which served as inspiration for the Marjorie Trumaine mystery series.

Larry is teaching an intensive session for Part I on Thursday, July 21, 2016.

It’s A Mystery

Some mystery novels are gritty and dark, while others are light and funny. No matter what type of mystery novel you are writing, all of them have basic elements that require attention and skill. This class will be part lecture, part workshop, with plenty of room for discussion with multiple award-winning author Larry D. Sweazy about characterization, plot, setting, fair play, writing a successful mystery series, and much more. 
MWW committee member Cathy Shouse interviewed Larry about what he will teach at this summer’s conference.
MWW: What does it feel like to have such a complimentary, starred review by Publisher’s Weekly for See Also Murder? … “[A] terrific first in a projected series… The characters are superbly drawn, and the prairie–its flatness, winds, and critters–is an evocative character in its own right.”
LDS: It’s always a good day when an author gets a great review like the one in  Publishers Weekly. It means the book might get a little extra push into the world and make it easier for readers to find. This review was especially gratifying.  See Also Murder, and the series as a whole, was a huge risk for me to write. I had previously published paperback Westerns, a naturally perceived male-dominated genre. My main character in this series is a middle-aged woman who lives on a North Dakota farm in the mid-1960s. My publisher, Seventh Street Books, took a huge leap of faith, too, with the series idea and me. The fact that Marjorie has been well-received helped to validate that risk and what I have believed all along: There are no limitations to what a writer can, or should, write about. No one should ever tell a writer that they can’t at least try to write something outside of the box. If I had told myself that I couldn’t write in Marjorie’s voice then I would have shortchanged myself as an artist, and, most importantly, the readers who have enjoyed her stories.
MWW: Please provide some details for the intensive class on mystery writing that you’ll present Thursday. What kind of information will you provide? Will there be writing in class? 
LDS: I learn the most in classes that are interactive.  I like a little bit of lecture, learning from the experience of the instructor, then applying the lessons, and finally, talking about what we have learned. I hope to balance those elements in this class. Yes, there will be writing. Students should be prepared to work, but I also know that everyone has some burning questions that they want to find the answer to, so discussions are important part of my classes. We all have something we can learn from one another.
MWW: Give us a thumbnail sketch about how you landed in the mystery genre. With so many different sub genres, how would you describe yours and how is it faring in popularity these days?
LDS: I’ve always read and loved mysteries, even though I got my start in the Western genre. If one thinks about it, there are plenty of mystery elements in a Western. There’s usually a crime of some kind, which in turn demands a law enforcement character to set the wrong back to right. My first five novels were Westerns, then I published a modern-day mystery (set in Indiana), a few more Westerns, then to where I am now, which is writing all mysteries. I would argue that a majority of my novels have been mysteries. They were just shelved in a different section. I think the mystery genre is as healthy as it’s ever been. Readers seem to have an insatiable appetite for murder, mayhem, and ultimately justice, which is the reason we read mysteries in the first place.
MWW: What has been your most memorable career experience, or just the award you are most proud of?
LDS: That’s an interesting question. I’ve been lucky with awards and good reviews. I’m happy that I get to write every day and that readers seem to enjoy what I do. I recently received a letter from a reader who read my books while she took care of her elderly mother. My books, she said, provided an escape and some much needed entertainment from a dreary and hopeless situation. To know that your work moved someone, took them away to a different place, and gave them a little relief from reality is what writing and storytelling is all about. I’m proud to know that I did my job as a writer for that reader. Honestly, that’s as good as it gets.
MWW: What would you say to those on the fence about coming to your intensive, those who are perhaps nervous about their skill level or how much value an in-person class can offer them?
LDS: I attended this workshop over twenty years ago. I remember what it’s like to be starting out. What I remember the most about my early workshop experience is that it was encouraging and safe. I was surrounded by people who wanted to see me succeed. I had something in common with everyone there–the aspiration to become a writer and to improve my craft. The faculty was approachable and generous, willing to share their knowledge no matter how successful they were. Making the commitment to come to a workshop like MWW is huge, not only financially, but emotionally. Perhaps it’s the first time a person has put their dream out for public view, or shared their work with a room full of strangers. It can be scary, but it can also be a gratifying and instructive experience to get honest feedback, and to see a path that will allow the dream to become a reality. It did for me.
MWW: Anything else to add?
LDS: I say this all of the time. Dream big. Work hard. Never give up. Do those three things and you’ll be surprised at what happens. What are you waiting for?
Follow on Twitter: @larrydsweazy

MWW16 Registration Now Open!

Room to grow!

If you’ve been part of Midwest Writers Workshop in recent years, you know all about our growing pains. With our ever-surging enrollment we’ve often had to cap registration early, shoehorn extra chairs into classrooms, and designate quiet corners in noisy spaces for writers’ one-on-one appointments with editors and agents.

So, this year we’re taking a giant leap to the next level where the operative words are “NEW” and “MORE.” Let’s start with the “NEW” ….

LA Pittenger SCLA Pittenger loungeOur NEW workshop home is the L.A. Pittenger Student Center on the campus of Ball State University. The familiar adage “location, location, location” certainly fits this sprawling facility with its extra parking slots, classrooms, Starbucks, food court, lounge areas, and—would you believe—a bowling alley! It also puts us in close proximity to what the locals call “The Village,” a casual cluster of restaurants and watering holes within steps of the Student Center. Writers can socialize as much or as little as they choose. The adjoining campus (typically quiet in July) is a great place to wander, soak up the sun, or check out an exhibit at the Owsley Art Museum or a program at the new planetarium (both free!).

 

Now for the “MORE” ….

The additional space is enabling us to accommodate MORE writers, faculty, editors, agents, and workshops. We have the largest faculty we’ve ever had: two faculty for middle grade (NEW), two faculty for women’s fiction (NEW), four faculty for mystery, three for young adult, up and coming star of writing the online essay; PLUS nonfiction, poetry, inspirational; PLUS Scrivener, social media tutoring, PLUS six agents and two editors. We’ve put together a schedule that balances keynote talks on both the craft and business of writing, hands-on learning, panel discussions, and opportunities for manuscript evaluations, query letter critiques, professional head shots, and tax/business consultations. We’re now able to offer 10 Part I intensive sessions and 45+ sessions for Part II on Friday and Saturday. We’ve made it extremely tough to decide which ones to attend!

Amid all these changes, one thing will remain constant: Hoosier hospitality. Our planning team works hard to create the kind of friendly environment that gives new and veteran writers room to grow. Whether you’re a “regular” who makes Midwest Writers Workshop an annual event, or a first-timer who has decided—like us—to take a giant leap this year to the next level, we look forward to welcoming you on July 21!

Register today!


Registration powered by RegOnline


Your first 10 pages evaluated! Register now!

This is what Midwest Writers does: we provide writers with opportunities to improve their writing.

So, take advantage of THIS opportunity!

Get the first 10 pages of your manuscript evaluated by TWO professional authors and editors.

MWW October 10th “Manuscript Makeover for FICTION” session with Holly Miller and Dr. Dennis Hensley still has openings.

If you write any kind of fiction (young adult, contemporary, romance, literary fiction, women’s fiction, middle grade, fantasy, science fiction — really, we can’t list them all) — except mystery and we offer a separate Manuscript Makeover for that, see below — then sign up for this one-day intensive session.

MWW-16Manuscript Makeover is limited to 20 participants who have fiction projects–either novels or short stories-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 project to dnhensley@hotmail.com. 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 manuscript midway through the day. As time permits, Holly and Dennis will discuss plots, character development, editing techniques, finding an agent, and marketing a published book.

The instructors have co-authored seven books together-including a series of novels as well as completed several solo book assignments.

*****

Here’s what others say about their MM experience:

Rod Huron:

Wow!  Am I glad I came to the MWW Manuscript Makeover.  Dennis and Holly enabled me to see what I had missed before.  Their help was sensible, practical and needed.  Glad I came.

Kassie Ritman:

You could spend weeks, even months pouring over countless “how-to” books covering every detail needed to successfully publish your manuscript–or–you could spend a day at the Midwest Writers’ Manuscript Makeover!

Like most writers, I tend to be quite solitary in nature. So I was shaking in my lucky boots last spring while I clicked the “send” button that signed me up!

Arriving, day-of, my knees were still knocking as we all introduced ourselves and exchanged pleasantries. I was both shocked and surprised by the variant levels of career achievement of the writers surrounding me. There were beginners (like me) and there were seasoned, working pros, genre hoppers and even those who were already represented by agents! The most amazing part was realizing (only one hour into the workshop) I really wanted to skip lunch! The feedback on my own work in progress was priceless, but seeing excerpts and hearing the critique of other writer’s works was absolutely golden. Their samples started discussions about pitfalls I knew I had lurking in my own manuscript (perhaps several chapters down the story-line). I also learned what I was doing well which was a sorely needed boost to my trembling ego!

I really, really, enjoyed the day! I’m still corresponding with another one of the participants, and we have been beta reading and peer coaching each other. Even though we write in totally different genres, it’s been a super experience!

Wendy Hart Beckman:

I participated in Holly Miller and Dennis Hensley’s Manuscript Makeover in March 2015. Even though I have published eight nonfiction books, I knew I could still learn a lot from this pair of talented writers and presenters! My Makeover experience was even better than I’d hoped, because I am currently in the middle of a project, writing with a co-author for the first time, and my co-author was able to attend with me. As I expected, the day was full of great instruction and grand inspiration!

REGISTER HERE!

October 10, 8:30 am – 3:00 pm

Ball State Alumni Center, Muncie, IN

Let’s talk about ROI—Return on Investment. If you choose to invest in your writing career by attending the Manuscript Makeover workshop, here’s what you’ll get in return:

  • The opening 10 pages and the synopsis of your novel will be double-edited by two professional writers who have written, between them, more than 35 published books.
  • You’ll receive feedback from other participants in the workshop, many of whom comprise your target audience.
  • Your working title will be discussed and compared with the titles of current bestsellers.
  • You’ll complete a “blooper quiz” (no grades, we promise) that will sharpen your line-editing skills.
  • You’ll be given a folder filled with handouts that have been custom-prepared to help you move your manuscript closer to publication.
  • You’ll leave the workshop knowing exactly what your next steps should be.

Who should attend Manuscript Makeover? You’ll find the workshop helpful if you identify with one of these three situations:

  1. If you’ve barely begun a book project and are unsure if you should continue;
  2. if you’ve completed a book-length manuscript and wonder if it’s ready to be sent to an agent or editor;
  3. if you’ve completed a book-length manuscript and have attempted to market it but without success.

This is a busy day, but it’s also a fun day. Everyone is on a first-name basis because as different as we are, we have a lot in common: We’re readers and we’re writers, even if our words have yet to be published!

Two other MM sessions also have a few openings!

“Manuscript Makeover for MYSTERY” Led by Terence Faherty

Terence Faherty is a two-time Edgar nominee for the Owen Keane series, which follows the adventures of a failed seminarian turned meta-physical detective. He is a two-time winner of the Shamus Award for his Scott Elliott private eye series, which is set in the golden age of Hollywood. His short fiction has won the Macavity Award from Mystery Readers International. His latest book,  The Quiet Woman,  is a romantic mystery set in Ireland, with a ghost.

“Manuscript Makeover for NONFICTION” Led by Hank Nuwer

Hank Nuwer is the author of 26 books, 22 in nonfiction. His thousands of nonfiction articles have been published by Harper’s, The Nation, Saturday Evening Post, GQ, the New York Times Sunday Magazine, Fraternal Law, Diablo (city) Magazine, Boston Magazine, Indianapolis Monthly and many more.