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Building Your Author Platform: March 21, 2015

Midwest Writers Workshop invites you to join us for one of our most popular offerings: ONE-DAY INTENSIVE SESSIONS. 

Saturday, March 21, 2015

8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Ball State Alumni Center, Muncie, IN

Cost: $155 (includes lunch)

One of the four sessions is “Building Your Author Platform” taught by Linda Taylor. MWW committee member Cathy Shouse interviewed Linda about what her session will cover.

MWW: You’ve indicated that in your mini session, you will share the best way to start a platform. Could you give us a sneak peek of what you mean? As long as someone has Facebook and Twitter accounts, posts once in a while about what they have for breakfast (ha) and the followers are growing, isn’t that enough?

LINDA: Unfortunately not. In fact, that’s probably the worst thing you can do. Seriously, who cares what you had for breakfast? The point is to use it strategically, to post regularly, and to be interested in what others are doing, not just sharing your stuff. The first thing to do is figure out who you are as a writer and who your “tribe” is–then go from there, which is what we’ll talk about in the session.

MWW: If someone is not on Facebook or Twitter, are they too much of a beginner to benefit by attending your session? Please describe how you see this working for someone who has not started.

LINDA: Getting started on Twitter is especially easy–so if you haven’t started on Twitter, you will have a Twitter account and start finding some people to follow during the session. I will also show you some ways to make Twitter make sense. That is, you may have tried it but been overwhelmed, which is an easy thing to happen. But there are tools you can use to organize Twitter so that you can see only what you want to see. We’ll be doing that, too!

Facebook is pretty ubiquitous, and many people like to leave it as more about family and friends than professional connections. It’s up to them. We’ll talk about pros and cons. If you’re published, you might want to create a “page” for your book (as opposed to a “profile” which is what everyone has).

Others might be on other platforms–

That’s the point of this session.

MWW: Where can we find you online to see some of the posts you make in various platforms and follow you?

LINDA: How nice of you!

I have my blog (where I write a lot about writing and editing and publishing) at

https://lindaktaylor.wordpress.com/

My professional site is at http://lindakarentaylor.weebly.com/

My Twitter is @LindaEdits https://twitter.com/LindaEdits

I’m also a couple other places, but that’s enough for now.

MWW: Can you give us an idea or two of the mistakes you see people making in this regard and maybe a tip on what to do differently?

LINDA: I think many people believe that building a platform is all about me me me, and they don’t want to come across that way. OR they think that since they don’t have a book published, they don’t need a platform. Wrong on both counts. Instead of making your social media presence about you, make it about others–being interested in what others are doing. And if you don’t have a book yet, even better! This is the best time to start building your platform.

MWW: Do you want to add anything else that would help a prospective student of your sessions?

LINDA: This is a really good place for novices to safely put their toes in the water or to learn a few basic strokes before diving into (like that analogy?) the social media world. This is important for all of us as writers. Even if you don’t ever publish anything, being a part of your literary world is what drives you, keeps you going, and keeps you writing. And that’s why learning these skills is so important for all writers.

REGISTER HERE!

Announcing One-Day Intensive Sessions: March 21, 2015

Midwest Writers Workshop invites you to join us for one of our most popular offerings: ONE-DAY INTENSIVE SESSIONS. This spring take advantage of the opportunity to attend one of four amazing sessions. Choosing which of these dynamite professionals to spend the day with will be a challenge. Look at these helpful sessions:

Manuscript Makeover, Nonfiction, Screenwriting, or Building Your Author Platform. These one-day intensive sessions will be held at the Ball State University Alumni Center, Muncie, IN on Saturday, March 21, 2015 (8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.).

Each session is capped at 20 participants. Cost of each intensive session is $155 (includes a brown bag lunch so the work continues to flow).

So here’s how it works:

1) Register for the mini.

2) If you’re signing up for Manuscript Makeover, you must submit the requested number RECEIVED by MARCH 6, 2015.

3) Come to Muncie, IN on Saturday, March 21 from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. for personalized instruction and a chance to network with other writers.

Payment and registration close on March 16, but if you’re signing up for Manuscript Makeover, get registered NOW, pay, and send your pages RECEIVED by March 6.

Choose ONE of these four sessions:

Manuscript Makeover – Dennis Hensley & Holly Miller

This intensive session is limited to 20 participants who have book projects–either fiction or nonfiction–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 book project to Dennis and Holly. 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 manuscripts midway through the day. As time permits, Miller and Hensley will discuss plots, character development, editing techniques, finding an agent, and marketing a published book. The instructors have co-authored seven books–including a series of novels–as well as completed several solo book assignments. Dennis just signed a multiple-novel book deal, co-writing with Diana Savage, with Whittaker House Publishing Company. Don’t hesitate; this workshop always fills up quickly and is offered only once a year.

Shaping the Real World: The Non-fiction Writer’s Tool Kit – Lou Harry

The non-fiction writer’s task is to shape and frame a piece of the world, whether that’s in an opinion column, a travel tale, a review, a celebrity profile, a news story, or a feature story. At this workshop, the Indianapolis Business Journal‘s Lou Harry, recently seen on CBS News Sunday Morning and the author of more than 25 books, helps you maximize the impact of your stories and increase demand for your writing. The Society of Professional Journalists award winner will open up a tool kit collected from penning

hundreds of stories in more than 50 publications, from Writer’s Digest to Variety and from Men’s Health toThe Sondheim Review. He’ll guide you through exercises to improve your interviewing skills, shape opening paragraphs, find your rhythm, and develop a passionate curiosity about any subject. Manuscripts up to five pages can be submitted two weeks ahead of the workshop for critique and use in class. Bring your laptop, your questions, and your open mind for a lively day of working with words.

The Basics of Compelling Cinematic Storytelling – Matt Mullins

We’ll run the gamut of the basics of storytelling for film, beginning with the building blocks of spec screenwriting format and style, how to approach it and what to avoid, and then moving on to the core elements of visual/cinematic storytelling structure and content. This includes, among other things, how plots are shaped and how they arc, how characters are constructed and why/how they change, how scenes work, and how/when to use dialogue versus/along with visual exposition.

The Best (and I Mean BEST) Way to Build Your Author Platform – Linda Taylor

Authors don’t like to think about the importance of building a platform. They want to just write their books and watch them climb best-seller lists. Unfortunately, that’s not the way it works. But building your platform isn’t about tooting your own horn or getting people to buy your book. Instead, it’s about finding your “tribe,” appreciating others’ work, connecting, and being interested in what others are doing. This is important (even vital) for all writers-published or not-because we’re all part of the literary community. In this all-day session, we’ll learn about blogging and tweeting and connecting–all to join the literary community and build a platform in a non-scary way. Come if you’re published; come if you’re not. It’s about “literary citizenship.” Bring your laptop and be prepared for a day of encouragement and hands-on training.

Meet the Faculty:

Holly picHolly Miller is an editor with The Saturday Evening Post and co-author of Feature & Magazine Writing. She and Dennis Hensley have collaborated on four novels and three nonfiction books. Holly’s byline has appeared in Reader’s Digest, Writer’s Digest and TV Guide. She is the author of 14 fiction and nonfiction books. She has won awards from the Associated Press, Society of American Travel Writers and Society of Professional Journalists.

Hensley DDennis E. Hensley, Ph.D., is a contributing editor for Writers’ Journal and the author of eight textbooks on writing, including How to Write What You Love and Make a Living at It. He has written 51 books, including  Millennium

Approaches (Avon), Uncommon Sense (Bobbs-Merrill), and Money Wise (Harvest House). He directs the professional writing major at Taylor University. His 3,000 freelance articles have appeared in Reader’s Digest, Success, People, The Writer, Writer’s Digest, and Downbeat, among dozens of others.

Lou Harry‘s wildly eclectic output includes books on creativity, sports, drinks, movies, life lessons, gadgets, guilty pleasures, voodoo, excuses, crop circles, Santa Claus (and Martians), curse words, parenting, trivia and, this year, squirrels. The co-creator and editor of Indy Men’s Magazine and current Arts & Entertainment Editor for the Indianapolis Business Journal (www.ibj.com/arts), Lou has written for more than 50 publications including Variety, Mental_Floss, and This Old House. While on journalistic assignments, he has profiled CEOs, escorted a spiral-cut ham into a movie theater, took a pie in the face from Soupy Sales, attended Broadway openings, exposed tarot readers, sat on the Full House couch, gotten attached to a Velcro wall, and turned his honeymoon into a travel story. He hopes one day to have a book for every category in the Dewey Decimal System.

Matt Mullins is a writer, experimental filmmaker, videopoet, and multimedia artist. His videopoems have been screened at conferences and film festivals in the U.S. and abroad. His fiction and poetry have appeared in a number of print and online literary journals including Mid American Review, Pleiades, Hunger Mountain, Descant, and Hobart.  His debut collection of short stories, Three Ways of the Saw, was published by Atticus Books in 2012 and was named a finalist for Foreward Magazine‘s 2012 Book of the Year. And his work in screenwriting has won awards from the Broadcast Education Association.  Matt teaches creative writing at Ball State University where he is an Emerging Media Fellow at the Center for Media Design. You can engage his interactive/digital literary interfaces at lit-digital.com.

Linda Taylor has been working in publishing and doing writing and editing for the last three decades. She also loves teaching about social media for authors, editing, and publishing at writers’ conferences and at Taylor University where she is an instructor in the professional writing department.

 

Interview with author D.E. Johnson

DE JohnsonD.E. (Dan) Johnson, a graduate of Central Michigan University, is a history buff who has been writing fiction since childhood but had to hit his midlife crisis to get serious about it. His first novel, a historical mystery entitled The Detroit Electric Scheme, was published in 2010 by St. Martin’s Minotaur Books. The Detroit Electric Scheme was named one of Booklist’s Top Ten First Crime Novels of the Year and also won a 2011 Michigan Notable Book Award. Motor City Shakedown, the sequel to The Detroit Electric Scheme, was named one of the Top 5 Crime Novels of 2011 by The House of Crime and Mystery, called “extraordinarily vivid” by The New York Times, and won a 2012 Michigan Notable Book Award. Dan’s third book, Detroit Breakdown, was published in September, 2012 by St. Martin’s Minotaur Books. It was named to the best crime novels list for 2012 by multiple publications. Book four,The Detroit Shuffle, continuing the adventures of Will and Elizabeth into the world of political corruption, will be published in fall 2013 by St. Martin’s Minotaur Books.

MWW committee member Linda Taylor interviewed Dan for this week’s newsletter.

Linda: You say in your bio that a “midlife crisis” got you started writing. Many of our attendees are in their midlife. What encouragement can you give older writers about following their dreams even at this time of life?

Dan: Like most MWW attendees, I was one of those kids who thought about trying to be a professional writer, but by the time I was ready to graduate from high school I had become convinced by my elders that it wasn’t practical. (BTW, even in my fifties I’m not saying that it is, but we don’t do this because of practicality.) I spent 25 years doing work I didn’t enjoy, and even though the rest of my life was grand, I was miserable.

My wife and I had always told our girls to try to live their dreams. I was the example of the one who never did. Finally, at 47 years old, I stopped working for two years and dove headfirst into writing. I knew I had a limited window, so I worked like crazy, hoping I could get a good book contract before I had to find another job. As it worked out, I was offered my first book contract by St. Martin’s Press about a year after I started looking for a job. (And it was a good thing I had found one, because that six-figure advance didn’t materialize like I had planned!)

It’s never too late. That’s one of the beauties of writing. We can do this until our minds are so feeble we can’t pick up a pencil. Perhaps by then software will be able to read our minds so that our senseless ravings can be saved for posterity.

Linda: You also say that when you began writing you took classes, read everything you could find, and wrote for hours every day before you hit upon the automotive history crime genre that you write. When did the light bulb go on for you about what you should write about?

Dan: The light bulb turned on one book too late. For some reason, I had a religious satire in my head that had to get out. (And this is from a person who had to get a book contract in two years!) Okay, I know it was a poor choice, but we probably all have a book to get off our chests before we can write something marketable. It turns out I thought I was funnier than I am.

I tried to sell that book and had some interest from agents, but no one was interested enough to give it a try. After a couple of months of depression, I went back to the drawing board. I love history and historical fiction, and I love good crime fiction. I set as my goal writing historical crime in an “E.L. Doctorow and T.C Boyle meet Elmore Leonard and Dennis Lehane” kind of way. (And then Lehane went and started writing historical crime too. Copying me? Someone should investigate.)

Linda: At MWW, you’ll be teaching about writing unforgettable characters and point of view. Who’s your favorite character in your books and why?

Dan: I have to say Elizabeth Hume, my protagonist Will Anderson’s ex-fiancee. Elizabeth has a pretty severe character arc through the books, starting as a heroin addict in The Detroit Electric Scheme and becoming a women’s suffrage leader by Detroit Shuffle (book 4, publishing Sept. 3). She and Will both grew up in privileged households and have had to learn a lot of hard lessons. She’s tough as nails and has even had to kill a few men along the way. It’s been fun to write a really strong female character, or maybe I should say a female character who has grown very strong.

I learned a lot about her writing Detroit Breakdown, because I had to write half the book from her perspective. It gave me a chance to really delve into her mind, which gave me a lot of insight into her character. It’s amazing how much these people will tell us if we listen carefully.

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My first MWW was in 2006, two months after I left my job to pursue writing. It was, hands-down, the most useful conference I’ve ever gone to. I learned a great deal about writing and about the industry. I went on to become a MWW Fellow in 2008, where Terry Faherty helped me hone the beginning of my first book, which sold four months later. MWW is the best writers’ conference there is!

Dan’s Part II sessions include:

  • Characters You Can’t Forget – Who have you met in a novel who still seems like a friend-or an enemy? The author who created those characters had a plan and executed it well. Dan will show you how to create believable and compelling characters that draw readers into your stories. This workshop will put you on track to create characters your readers won’t be able to forget.
  • Publishing in a Brave New World Panel: Sarah LaPolla, Roxane Gay, Barb Shoup, Jane Friedman, D.E. Johnson
  • POV – Who’s Telling This Story? – Point of view is one of the most important decisions a writer has to make and can be one of the trickiest to handle. This fast-paced workshop Dan will not only provide the tips and tricks, he will have you writing from a unique point of view before the hour is out.

Interview with agent Amanda Luedeke

Agents love to come to Midwest Writers–they love the personal touch of our conference and we love giving our attendees the opportunity to pitch their projects.

Luedeke AmandaAmanda Luedeke is an agent with MacGregor Literary. One of her defining skills as an agent is her understanding of marketing and promotions. Before agenting, Amanda worked as a social media marketer and a copywriter at a marketing agency in Fort Wayne, Indiana. There, she worked with Vera Bradley, Peg Perego, Benjamin Moore, and other major national clients. Amanda represents CBA and general market literary fiction, romance, paranormal romance, women’s fiction, YA, science fiction, fantasy, horror, steampunk, African American fiction, and non-fiction of all genres.

Interesting side note–Amanda is a graduate of the Professional Writing program at Taylor University where she studied under Dr. Dennis Hensley, who is on the MWW committee and teaches Manuscript Makeovers at the workshop. MWW committee member Linda Taylor interviewed Amanda for this week’s E-pistle.

Linda: We are always so thrilled to have agents at our conference to hear pitches from our attendees (and they’re thrilled as well)! The MacGregor Literary agency offers guidelines for queries and submissions. What makes your heart sing when an author sits down in front of you at a conference? How do you like authors to prepare for their pitch?

Amanda: I like it when an author has really thought about how to position and explain their book. Many times, they either provide too much detail (in which they hook me with their opening lines, but then they get sidetracked explaining the subplots or side characters) or not enough and I have to drag it out of them (meaning they sit down and say something like my book is about a girl with a secret . . . I don’t know genre, audience, length OR hook based on this information). I’m always impressed when an author can identify their book’s market (“My book will appeal to everyone” is NOT a valid answer!), and what makes it unique in comparison to other books in the genre. And of course, it helps if they know a bit about me. It’s usually not a good pitch experience if the author hasn’t taken the time to research my agency and what I represent.

Linda: Often people don’t really understand what an agent does. When you show interest in a manuscript, what happens next?

Amanda: I ask for them to send it to me as an email attachment. Now, believe it or not, the chances of them actually following through are slim. Some authors convince themselves that I wasn’t really interested while others let life get in the way. But if I ask to see the project, rest assured that I really want to see it. If after reading it, I like what I read and think I can sell it, then I’ll get on the phone with the author and we’ll see if we’re a good fit. You should NEVER sign with an agent you don’t feel comfortable with. Never.

Linda: You have a wide range of interests–but how does the CBA (Christian) market impact that? Do people need to write in an overtly “Christian” way in order to pitch to you? Is there anything in particular that you say no to?

Amanda: If someone pitches me a YA Fantasy novel, then I treat it like a YA Fantasy novel and expect it to deliver on reader expectations for that genre. Likewise, if someone pitches me a Christian novel, I expect it to deliver on the expectations for that genre. But just because I work with Christian titles doesn’t mean that everything I represent has to reflect that. In fact I prefer that it DOESN’T. There’s nothing worse than a book that’s trying to ride the fence between Christian and mainstream.

Now, for the record I am a Christian. But the only genre that I shy away from because of that is erotica. I’m okay with some levels of steaminess, but I draw the line there.

Linda: What sets you apart from other agents?

Amanda: I’d say it’s my background in marketing. I spent some years at an agency outside of Chicago launching blogs, websites, Facebook Groups, Twitter accounts and more on behalf of some pretty major clients. Consequently, I’m not afraid of marketing or promotions, and I’m certainly not intimidated by the word “platform” that we hear from so many publishing professionals. I love helping my authors get a handle on marketing, because at the end of the day, marketing helps your sales, and your sales determine what kind of a career you’ll have.

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If you’re interested in making a pitch to Amanda (or any of the agents), you must register ahead of time. Specify which agent you want during the online registration process. You’ll hear from us as we set up each agent’s schedule.

Remember that these are 3-minute pitch sessions, and you can leave a workshop you’re attending and then return to it after your pitch. There is no cost for these pitch sessions, but you MUST register for the agent you prefer. Each agent will meet with a limited number of participants (and some agent slots are nearly full), so register soon.

Amanda’s Part II sessions (Friday and Saturday) include:

  • Queries That Work. Get your foot in the door by learning how to construct a query letter that an agent will actually read. With experience in writing marketing and sales copy for national brands, Amanda unpacks what it takes to write a query that not only gets read, but demands that the reader ask for more.
  • Agent Panel Q&A: Sarah LaPolla, Victoria Marini, John Cusick, Amanda Luedeke, Brooks Sherman:Topics: The 3-minute pitch, query letters, etc.