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Streetlight Magazine interviews MWW Director

MWW alum and MWW Plus member Karol Lagodzki recently joined the staff of Streetlight Magazine (www.streetlightmag.com) as an outreach coordinator. Streetlight is a small-to-mid-size literary and arts magazine which started as a print publication in the Charlottesville, VA, area, but has since migrated entirely to the web.

As outreach coordinator, Karol defines one of his roles as providing writers with resources and with references to resources available elsewhere. This includes Streetlight’s own literary contests and opportunities to get published, as well as external resources for improving one’s craft and marketing finished work.

Since Karol enjoyed his first experience at MWW16 so much, he asked to interview me so that Streetlight’s readers could learn more about Midwest Writers and the enduring benefits it offers.

After I attended the Midwest Writers Workshop this summer, I made a vow to write about it. I had gone to other writing conferences, but this one felt different. Warmer, helpful. Permanent. As a dutiful outreach coordinator whose mission is to offer writers opportunities to publish and improve their craft, I reached out to Jama Kehoe Bigger, the long-term director of the workshop.

Jama didn’t disappoint. The warmth and enthusiasm which will envelop you as you read on is the same whether conveyed in writing, from a podium or in a conversation.

Read the interview here.

 

Looking Back, Looking Forward | Message from MWW Director

Hello writers!

Well, here we are. 2016 is over and done. 2017 is beginning.

And, of course, folks everywhere are reflecting on our year and thinking about what the New Year will bring. Me, too.

Here’s what I ask:

Step 1: What Went Well?

Whether you write it down, or just think about it in your head, ask yourself, “What went well?”

It may be hard to remember everything. Especially if you’re not a detailed note-taker or journal-writer.

So, what I recommend is thinking about things by month. “What did I do in January? What went well? What did I do in February? What went well?”

What’s important about this exercise is this: don’t just think about huge successes. Think about the little successes, too.

Maybe you came to Midwest Writers Workshop for the first time… and met a new friend.

Maybe you wrote a blog post you never wrote before… and people loved it.

Maybe you wrote a manuscript and got a ton of new ideas.

Maybe you wrote a query letter or pitched to an agent.

Whatever the case, think about the wins. Big wins. And little wins.

Then, move to step 2…

Step 2: Can I Do It Again?

At this point, it’s natural to think about “What went well.” And follow up with “What went wrong?”

But don’t concentrate on the negative stuff. Instead, think about what went well…and ask yourself, “Can I do it again?”

In 2010, I started writing a daily “Happy Day Moment” on my personal Facebook page.

The reaction from others, the discipline of seeing the positive, the mantra of “living with gratitude” went really well. I noticed it, almost immediately. Then I asked myself, “Can I do it again?” And then, I created a Happy Day Moment Page where I post a daily word of encouragement/support/inspiration.

This is important.

You see, everyone always thinks about what went well, and moves directly to what went wrong.

Resist that urge.

Instead, think about what went well. And then ask yourself if you can do it over and over and over again.

Because if it went well once…

…it can go well again.

So, here’s what I want you to do:

Today, take some time to think about what went well for the year that was 2016.

And then, think about whether or not you can do it again.

And then, tell me about it.

Leave a comment on this blog post right here. Write the comment like this:

Hi, I’m [Name]. And I write [insert]

What Went Well:
[Insert What Went Well]

Can I Do It Again?:
Yes, I can. [And here’s how I plan to do it.]

Go leave the comment now.

Let the good things of 2017 begin.

 

Your writing cheerleader,

Jama Kehoe Bigger, MWW Director

 

 

40th Midwest Writers Workshop given “5 Stars!”

What a way to celebrate the 40th Midwest Writers Workshop! At capacity (happily) six weeks before the workshop! First time establishing a waiting list. First time (sadly) turning away writers desperate to attend.

2013-07-26 10.37.07Participants traveled from 20 states, and according to the word eavesdropped in the Conservatory, the Library, Assembly Hall and all corners of the building, never have so many enjoyed so much.

A record-breaking 235 participants crowded into the Alumni Center, July 25-27, to listen, talk, write, share, pitch, question, eat, drink, laugh, challenge, commiserate – and, yes, sleep once in a while. Something special marked this 40th annual workshop that might be difficult to put your finger on, but anyone involved knew it was happening. “…very encouraging,” invigorating,” “awesome,” “5 stars!” “the best,”  “thrilling experience,” were just some of the comments which pointed in this direction.

From the new hands-on Tech Intensive Sessions to the wild Jeopardy game to the history celebration to the Message in a Bottle to the Buttonhole the Experts, and to all the useful and informative sessions taught by a superbly talented faculty, MWW13 jammed highlights galore into three exhausting days.

MWW Jama award foto - with inscriptionAfter the great energy and advice from Hank Phillippi Ryan’s banquet speech, another special highlight was the presentation of the Dorothy Hamilton Award to MWW director Jama Kehoe Bigger. The award, named for the co-founder of the workshop, is given selectively to a person associated with the workshop who exemplifies Dorothy’s strong personal interest in writing and assisting other writers in their careers.  The standing ovation for Jama confirmed this year’s choice was on target. (And she was also a bit overwhelmed when several long-time participants/friends created Jama’s Fan Club!)

Kudos from our participants…

  • “Great conference – great place to re-energize your enthusiasm for writing and to build relationships with writers and those in the publishing business.”– Stephen Terrell
  • “At every step of my writing process – from book idea to rough draft to final draft, to publishing, author platform, to agent representation – MWW offers help and people who know and love writing.”– Sandy Kachurek
  • “The Midwest Writers Workshop is a magnificent way to meet our peers and gain knowledge to perfect our craft. The authors and the staff are extremely generous with their time and knowledge. Having bestselling authors share their experiences and knowledge is awesome to the extreme. It’s like spending two whole days with the best possible mentors.”– William Markly O’Neal
  • “This conference is the best thing that could have happened to a ‘new writer.'”– Brittany Means
  • “Each year I attend I find there are ‘magically’ the exact classes I need for the stage I happen to be in with my writing at that moment.”– Carla Gillespie
  • “This is the best conference I could have attended. Friendly people, knowledgeable faculty, personalized options (like manuscript evaluations). This conference has helped me form new goals and equipped me with skills and resources to reach those goals. I feel much more prepared for the writing process – from first drafts, to revisions, to queries, and beyond – because of this conference.”– Kristen Metz
  • “This was my first conference, and I loved all of it. Everyone was welcoming. I made great contacts and even got two requests for full manuscripts. This conference is packed full of everything an emerging writer needs to step right into the world of publishing.”– Anne W. S.

Kudos from our faculty…

  • “As we say in Sisters in Crime, you write alone, but you’re not alone. Nowhere is this more gloriously apparent than the super-charged powerhouse of writing skill-the Midwest Writers Workshop.  From tentative newbie to experienced oldbie (!) -we all learned something useful, we all shared something special, we all made new friends, we were all inspired and – absolutely – we are all looking forward to the next time. A true triumph-and a must-do for anyone who’s  intrigued by the world of writing.” – Hank Phillippi Ryan (Mary Higgins Clark, Agatha, Anthony and Macavity award winning author, President of National Sisters in Crime)
  • “I left the Midwest Writers Workshop as a stronger writer…and I was on the faculty. I can only imagine what it does to attendees.” – Lou Harry
  • “The Midwest Writers Workshop 2013 lived up to its reputation as one of the best conferences in the country and certainly the best value. Any writer looking to learn the craft of writing, discover the tricks and tips to getting published, and meet a wonderful and accessible group of writers and agents, would be crazy to pass up this conference. MWW undoubtedly provides the best bang for the buck!” – D.E. (Dan) Johnson (The Detroit Electric Scheme; Motor City Shakedown; Detroit Breakdown; Detroit Shuffle, St. Martin’s Minotaur Books)
  • “The Midwest Writers Workshop remains at the top of my list of favorite conference experiences. The focused curriculum, helpful staff, and welcoming participants all make this one of the best organized writing events I’ve yet seen.” – Brooks Sherman, FinePrint Literary Management

Check out our videos! (produced by Matt Shouse)

Read more about the fun of MWW13!

Jane Friedman‘s luncheon presentation: Audience Development for Writers: Your Life-Long Career Investment

Cathy Day: BSU + MWW: or “How I Spent My Summer Vacation”

Kelsey Timmerman: Midwest Writers Workshop Video

Summer Heacock: The Fizziest Midwest Writers Workshop Wrap-Up You’ll Ever Read

Sarah Wesson: “Calm Down. Write a Book.”: What I Learned at the 2013 Midwest Writers Workshop

Check our Photo Gallery and tag yourself on our Facebook Page!

So we’re patting ourselves on the back. And for just a while, basking in the bright light that was #mww13 before we move onto our 41st MWW, July 24-26, 2014.

A Workshop, A Manuscript, A Book

Or Why Attending a Writers Conference Can Help Your Career….

Or How I Became One of the First MWW Success Stories ….

By Jama Kehoe Bigger

I never pitched an agent. I never wrote a proposal. I never wrote a query. I never mailed the manuscript to the publisher. I never submitted any sample writing, any biography, any synopsis.

I never followed the professional protocols for turning a manuscript into a book.

And yet, one day I received a phone call from an editor at Fleming H. Revell publishers. An editor I had never met. A publishing house I had never submitted to.

“I love the first chapter and the chapter The Date, and we want to publish your manuscript,” he said.*

What? My manuscript? My untitled manuscript?

Not your typical path to publication.

But a pathway made possible because of my trips through Midwest Writers Workshop.

It was 1976 and I was a 20-year-old college student with a desire to write and an idea for a book, an English major at Ball State University. That summer, an (accidental?) bumping into a friend-of-a-friend, a casual conversation about writing, a mention of a writers’ conference (in my very city, at my very university), a leap of faith, a saying “yes” to a new adventure, all led to me sitting in a classroom in Ball State’s Carmichael Hall, listening to author and humorist Tom Mullen talk about writing for the inspirational marketplace.

I had found a mentor.

Life-changing. That’s what Midwest Writers was.

That class, that creative environment, that support and encouragement from faculty and committee and participants was like water and sunlight and nourishment. It made me grow.

I was hooked on the importance of a writers’ conference, the value of Midwest Writers Workshop.  For the next few years, I registered and signed up for classes in nonfiction and poetry. I learned to be a better writer, listening, asking questions, taking notes. I kept growing.

I found writer-friends. And become part of the MWW community.

Then in 1979, the inspirational writing class I attended was taught by Floyd Thatcher, an editor with Word Publishing. He was friendly (just like Tom and all MWW faculty seemed to be!), offered keen advice on tightening my writing, and believed in my story.

Very rough first draft, which went on and on and on for pages before the "story" (action) began.

Very rough first draft, which went on and on and on for pages before the “story” (action) began.

Eventually, after rewrites and rewrites, I summoned enough courage to mail my (unnamed) manuscript to him. When he called and said, “I was moved by your story, but it’s not quite what our company publishes,” I almost dropped the phone. Until I heard his next sentence. “But I hope you don’t mind, I mailed your manuscript to another editor I know.”  Then I did drop the phone.

A few weeks later, Victor Oliver, editor at Fleming H. Revell, called.

I had found an editor.

And I had found a publisher.

And I became not just a writer, but an author.

This path of mine to publication, this walkway was created with stone after stone.  Courage. Registering for the workshop. Courage. Asking for advice. Courage. Revising editing improving. Learning. Courage. Sending out my words. Courage and hope. My story.

The Dive 2

Final (and published) revision of Chapter 1

Attending MWW was my right first step out of the sometimes secluded life of writing and into a community that was chock full of resources, connections, inspiration. And above all, friendships.

Then Came a Miracle1I could go on and on about the impact Midwest Writers had on me every year that I attended. After my book was published, I became a presenter, then a committee member, and then director. In some capacity, I’ve been part of MWW for 37 of its 40 years.  MWW is part of who I am. And I am grateful.

What will your Midwest Writers story be?

(In the spirit of Literary Citizenshipget the book, read the book, review the book.)

* This call came two weeks before I got married. It was a very good summer!