Author Platform and Career Development Bootcamp with Jane Friedman!

An all-day bootcamp to help authors sort through various strategies, tools, and opportunities available

and what makes sense at this point in time for the next stage of their careers  

Midwest Writers board member Dianne Despain (writing as Dianne Drake for Harlequin), who got her start at MWW in 1993 and now has 57 books published, asked Jane Friedman about the Author Platform and Career Development Bootcamp intensive workshop she will teach at MWW19 (Saturday, July 27) this summer.

 

MWW: So first, who, exactly is your bootcamp directed toward?

Jane: It’s for published authors or soon-to-be-published authors (those with a release date) who want to develop a long-term, sustainable strategy for marketing and promoting their work.

Many authors are confused about how to prioritize the many marketing tools and opportunities available-and what makes sense for their particular genre or readership. By the end of this bootcamp, writers will have a clearer idea of what’s next for them-and if all goes well, an action plan with specific and concrete next steps for the year(s) ahead.

MWW: If you could list the top five things your bootcamp will address, what would they be?

Jane:

  • A strong definition and understanding of your target audience or readership. What is your understanding of your readership and who they are? How can you find out? Is there a potential readership you’re missing out on?
  • Optimization of your product (your books or anything else you do) and brand. How well are your books “optimized” to appeal to your target audience? Are you offering a coherent marketing message across everything you do? Are you using the language of readers to help your efforts?
  • Direct reach development. How do you reach readers currently, and what areas need shoring up? What opportunities are available to expand your direct reach? What does your own website, email newsletter, or social media analytics tell you about that reach and where the opportunities lie?
  • Lead generation. What strategies and tools do you use to reach new readers? How effective are your methods? What methods should you try?
  • Using the power of community to help you. What opportunities exist to improve your reach through collaborations, partnerships, and influencers?

MWW: Since you’re known for your nonfiction writing and advice, how will this workshop benefit fiction writers or poets?

Jane: My books and courses help writers from all across the industry. I focus on teaching marketing and business best practices that remain the same regardless of the genre you work in.

MWW: Is there an overall commonality between fiction and nonfiction when planning your career?

Jane: Regardless of what you write, the more you understand your target reader, how to reach them, and how to engage them, the more successful you’ll be at turning your writing into a sustainable business.

MWW (DD): I wrote for Women’s Day, Family Circle, etc. back in the day when they wanted words. The market has changed drastically since then, words counts are lower, pay is much lower, so is there a way to break into the magazine market today and make a living, or do magazine journalists need to seek out other types of writing to make ends meet?

Jane: It’s still possible to make a living as a freelancer, but it’s far more difficult to do so if focused strictly on getting paid by the print magazine market. Most freelancers have to diversify their business model and consider working for a range of outlets, print and digital, and consider work that readers might pay for directly. (Paid subscription newsletters are very popular right now with journalists of all kinds.)

When I first entered the publishing industry twenty years ago, one of the most popular books for freelancers was The Well-Fed Writer, which focused on how writers could get paid a much better rate by pitching themselves to corporate clients and businesses. E.g., there is significant demand for magazine-like content for businesses as diverse as Netflix, American Express, and Warby Parker. Even high-minded institutions like the New York Times and Atlantic have divisions to offer businesses custom content-to help pay their bills. So, if freelancers are flexible about the type of work they’ll do, there is paying work to be found.

MWW: Self-help books used to be all the rage in nonfiction. Are they still, or is there something else out there that’s currently the hot trend?

Jane: In recent years nonfiction sales overall have increased all around the globe. Partly this is due to current events and the political situation-so you’ll see growth in those categories. But personal development (i.e., self-help and self-improvement) continues to dominate, in both the adult and children’s markets. When I was at London Book Fair last month, a representative from Nielsen said she’d studied the words that are most common in the titles of books forthcoming in 2019. They include inspiration, calm, happy, and mindfulness.

In the current landscape, you might categorize nonfiction publishing growth in two ways: there are books that help you learn and understand the world, but then there are books that help you cope with and escape the world. (And some books are a little of both.)

MWW: If there’s one best piece of advice you’d give an aspiring writer, what would that be?

Jane: Be patient with yourself and your progress.

MWW: And similarly, if there’s one best piece of advice you’d give a writer who’s had some success and is finally on the way?

Jane: Be patient in growing your readership.

 

This intensive is ideal for published authors or about-to-be-published authors, whether self-published or traditionally published. 

Get your manuscript pages edited at MWW19

Have a book manuscript in progress? Get help for your first 10 pages!

As part of our July 25-27 MWW19 conference, we’re offering six intensive, hands-on intensive sessions., one of which is Holly Miller’s Manuscript Makeover. Here’s the description:

Manuscript Makeover: All Genres – This interactive intensive is designed for those fiction and nonfiction writers who are ready to take a quantum leap forward in enhancing their writing skills. Participants will send a one-page synopsis and the first 10 pages of a book manuscript in progress. Holly will edit and critique these pages and display them to the class as a way of revealing strengths and weaknesses in the material. Additionally, she will lead the students in writing exercises and offer advice on such topics as creating strong titles and opening paragraphs, learning to self-edit, mastering proofreading, finding the right markets for manuscripts and knowing when and how to go into writing full-time. [Limit 12.]

Holly pic Author-editor Holly Miller says that books are a lot like airplanes–they’re most vulnerable to crashes during takeoff and landing. Her explanation: A story needs powerful opening pages (takeoff) and a satisfying final chapter (landing) if it’s going to convince agents, editors and readers to come along for the ride. Holly’s Manuscript Makeover intensive (July 27th) is one our most popular sessions and will focus on beginnings, endings, and everything in between. With 14 books and 2,500 magazine articles to her credit, Holly knows how to help authors chart a course that will get them closer to their anticipated destination: publication.

Do writers need to have a completed book manuscript to benefit from Manuscript Makeover?

No, all they need are a one-page synopsis and their book’s opening 10 pages. To succeed in today’s publishing world, a writer has to have two things: A compelling story to tell and the ability to tell it well. The synopsis addresses the first, and the sample pages show the second. Some writers come to Manuscript Makeover with only an idea and a rough draft of the first chapter. They want to know if they should keep writing. Others have finished their books and wonder what the next step is. Then there are the writers who have tried to market their books but with no success. They want to know where they fell short and how to fix the problem.

Why do you limit the class size to 12 writers?

For a couple of reasons. First, I want to encourage a sense of community. After all, we’re all writers even though we may be at different stages of development. Second-and this is personal-the class is really labor-intensive for me as the facilitator. I like to read each manuscript several times, adding notes, making suggestions and editing as I go. I build the class from scratch each time I teach it. I’ve found that 12 is the perfect number.

You open the class to novelists and nonfiction writers. Why not specify one or the other?

Typically, the class attracts more novelists than nonfiction authors, even though nonfiction is easier to sell these days. Regardless of the genre we choose, we’re all storytellers. We have to know how to grab and hold readers’ attention, how to build tension, create dialogue and weave in backstory. Those components need to be in every story we tell.

Where do writers get stuck most often when attempting to revise their work?

A lot of writers don’t know where to begin. In other words, they wonder at what point does the writing stop and the revising begin? Here’s what I recommend: After finishing a draft of a book, print out a hard copy but don’t look at it for three-to-five days. This is a “cooling down” period that puts some distance between the writer and the pages. When ready, read through the printed book in its entirety without a pen or pencil in hand. This is hard because the temptation is to make corrections and scribble notes in the margins. Not until a second reading do you start crossing out words and paragraphs. Line editing is easy-catching mechanical errors, misspellings, redundancies, etc. The challenge is to look at the big picture to see if you’ve over-populated your books with more characters than are necessary, or if your plot is plausible, or if your subplot kicks in at the right point. After making substantive changes to the version in your computer (always save a copy of the original!), give the manuscript another rest before you continue to tweak and fine tune it. This whole process takes at least four weeks…or more.

What are the most common mistakes that beginning writers miss when writing or rewriting a piece?

Probably the biggest mistake is thinking that revising a manuscript is a solo job. Every successful writer I know has a team of trusted readers who read the writer’s work and offer constructive feedback. (If you doubt me, check the “acknowledgements” page in many books. This is where the author thanks all the people who played a role in bringing the book to print.) Pick your readers carefully, and let them know you are open to their guidance and suggestions. That said, don’t feel obligated to incorporate all of their changes. After all, it’s your book!

Are there books or resources about revising that you highly recommend?

Writersdigest.com has several articles and a couple of good webinars that are worth checking out. One is called “How to Revise Your Manuscript: Tips from five editors.” Another of my favorite resources is the website of best-selling mystery writer Louise Penny (louisepenny.com). She has included a section called “Getting Published” that walks authors through all the steps of creating-and selling-a novel. For shorter nonfiction manuscripts, chapter 20 in a book I wrote with a colleague is called “Before you hit the send button.” This is a 20-point checklist to help writers identify possible problems in their manuscripts. The book’s title is Feature & Magazine Writing, third edition, from Wiley-Blackwell publishers.

You can register for Holly’s Manuscript Makeover as part of our THREE-DAY option or ONE-DAY (Saturday only) option. But don’t wait too long as her 12 openings are going fast!

Don’t miss out! Pitch to top literary agent JL Stermer

Literary agent JL Stermer wants to hear your pitches!

JL is adding to her nonfiction list in both YA and adult categories with smart pop-culture, health & wellness, self-help, comedy/satire, fashion, memoir and more. She’s also growing her fiction list (a bit more selectively) and is looking for adult and YA: coming-of-age, humor, dark and edgy stories, and across the board she is excited about new and original POVs from underrepresented voices in both commercial and upmarket projects.

Some of her clients include: How To Be Alone: If You Want To, And Even if You Don’t by Lane Moore (Simon & Schuster, 2018), Are U OK?: A Guide to Caring for Your Mental Health by Kati Morton (Hachette, 2018), Where Am I Giving?: A Global Adventure Exploring How to Use Your Gifts and Talents to Make a Difference by Kelsey Timmerman (Wiley 2018), Again, But Better by Christine Riccio (Macmillan, 2019), Dear Haiti, Love Alaine (HarperCollins 2019).

JL is looking for voices that reflect the world as it changes, stories that share the human experience of life, love, growth, and achievement. And they don’t have to all be serious-having fun is important! Some of her favorite reads include: The Basketball Diaries by Jim Carroll, Redefining Realness: My Path to Womanhood by Janet Mock, Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay, The Rap Yearbook by Shea Serrano, Less Than Zero by Brett Easton Ellis, and A Fighting Chance by Elizabeth Warren.

A born and bred New Yorker, JL has lived in Manhattan her entire life and is a lover of all things arts & culture, people watching, and doughnuts.

JL’s Wish List:

Currently adding to her nonfiction list in both YA and adult categories, JL is looking for: smart general pop-culture, social justice, current events, comedy/satire, fashion, health & wellness, self-help, memoir, essays, pop business, tech, and science. For fiction: commercial adult and YA: coming-of-age, humor, dark and edgy stories, and new, original, under-represented voices. She also loves graphic novels.

MWW board member Lylanne Musselman interviewed JL about her life as an agent and about coming to MWW Agent Fest. 

MWW: Let’s jump right into what writers are eager to know: What questions should a writer coming to the MWW Agent Fest ask an agent who is offering representation? Is there anything that writers should always ask, but may not know to because they’re new to being represented?

JLS: If we were to work together, what would be the next steps for us?

Would I be able to review your agency agreement?

What is your preferred method of communication? (email, phone, email to set a call…)

What kind of timeline do you envision to getting my work out on submission?

When would I be able to announce on social media?

MWW: What kind of fiction and nonfiction projects are you taking queries for? Are you looking for more in one genre than the other?

JLS: My list is currently 80/20 non-fiction/fiction, and I am looking for both adult and YA in both categories.

I’m looking for contemporary projects that can be easily linked to what’s happening in the world today: pop-culture, social justice, underrepresented voices (including POC and LGBTQ) family stories, fish-out-of-water stories, coming-of-age stories and anything that make me feel a real feeling. (Very subjective, I know.) Not looking for sci-fi or fantasy.

MWW: What makes a query stand out to you? Have you ever had a query grab you, but the manuscript didn’t live up to expectations? What does make a manuscript grab you?

JLS: It feels so obvious, but it’s the truth: VOICE. Voice is the equivalent of personality–it’s how you figure out if you like someone, if you want to hang out with them and hear what they have to say. Voice determines if you care about a character and if you can relate to them. Voice is a character’s style and representation. This holds true for both queries as well as for full manuscripts.

I haven’t had a query knock my socks off and then the manuscript was mediocre, but I know that can happen!

MWW: Finally, what are you tired of seeing?

JLS: I’m tired of seeing people who hold themselves back. If you want to write something that is new and out of the box–give it a shot! Be smart about how you’ll fit into a commercial landscape, but shake it up and tell the stories that matter most to you. (I know you’re probably looking for tired tropes and concepts, but I really don’t pay those any mind. If I’m not feeling it, I just move on to see what’s next!)

MWW: Oh, and just for fun…I see you love doughnuts, what’s your favorite kind?

JLS: Anything from The Donut Pub on 14th Street & 7th Avenue in New York City. This is an old school spot that blows any new fancy shops away!

 

Come to the Agent Fest and pitch to JL!

Read more about the MWW Agent Fest: May 10-11, 2019. (Including hotel options)

Register Today! Do this thing.

Click here to register.

Friday 1:00 pm through Saturday 5:00 pm. {$289}

Prepare. Pitch. Publish. #preppitchpub

You want agents. We’ve got agents.

YA writers! Want to think like a teenager? Author Barbara Shoup can help!

Meet Mini-conference faculty Barbara Shoup!

Barbara Shoup is the author of eight novels, including  An American Tune, Wish You Were Here, and Looking for Jack Kerouac and the co-author of Novel Ideas: Contemporary Authors Share the Creative Process. Her short fiction, poetry, essays, and interviews have appeared in numerous small magazines, as well as in The Writer and the New York Times travel section. She is recipient of the PEN Phyllis Reynolds Naylor Working Writer and the Eugene and Marilyn Glick Indiana Authors Award, as well as numerous grants from the Indiana Arts Commission and the Arts Council of Indianapolis. Two of her YA novels were selected as American Library Association Best Books for Young Adults. She is the Executive Director of the Indiana Writers Center and a faculty member at Art Workshop International.

During the MWW Super mini-conference hands-on Friday morning session, Barb will teach “YA: Think Like a Teenager.” When asked for advice about writing for children, Maurice Sendak responded, “I don’t write for children; I write as a child.” This workshop will bring out your inner-adolescent to help you identify and explore universal issues and events of adolescence that still resonate for you and offer strategies for shaping them into novels that appeal to kids today. Participants may send the first two pages (double-spaced/12 font) of their YA novel, and Barb will comment generally on what works and what…doesn’t. Email midwestwriters@yahoo.com with “Barbara Shoup YA submission” in subject line, postmarked by July 2 (or at least by the first week of July).

Barb will also teach a session “Writing Your Life.” Maybe you want to tell the stories of your life for your family, maybe you want to write them as a way of understanding the aspects of your life that shaped you and brought you to this moment. Maybe you want to explore the stories of your life for fiction. “No matter why you want to write about your life,” Barb explains, “this workshop will teach you how to identify the memories worth writing about and offer both exercises and inspiration guaranteed to help you write them down.”

Former MWW intern Caroline Delk asked Barb a few interview questions for some advice to the attendees and to help us learn a bit more about her as a writer and faculty member.

MWW: A lot of famous writers–Hemingway and Michener–always wrote in the morning because they said they were most creative before noon. How about you? When do you write? How long is a typical writing session? Do you take breaks? Are you a M-F writer or does your work spill over into the weekend, wee hours, Christmas, etc.

I write in the morning, before I do anything else. I usually get a couple of hours in before I have to start paying attention to the real world. I write most days, even weekends and holidays. Occasionally, I get lucky and can get away for a few days of nothing but writing, which is heaven. I’ve also done two-week residencies at Ragdale, which is super-heaven. A cozy room, the energy of fellow artists, and a fabulous meal every evening. It can spoil you! On these retreats, I might work as many as fourteen hours a day. The opportunity to work like that for a number of days in a row is especially helpful to a novelist because you live in the book, feel its rhythms, and have these moments when you hold the whole thing in your head and know exactly what you’re supposed to do. It’s amazing!

Part of becoming a writer, though, is figuring out what kind of writer you are and learning to work within the perimeters your life allows. Some people write best at night, some in the afternoon. Some people have obligations that dictate when they can write. Some write in spurts, some every day. Some set a timer and write until it goes off. Some set a word count for each day and write until they meet it. Whatever works is what you should do.

MWW: When you hit the wall and nothing is working on your computer screen, how do you clear your head and refresh? Do you power down and go to a movie, or do you just keep pounding the keys? Advice? 

I tend to try to power through, even when my sensible side tells me that I’m past the point of productivity. I’m not good at relaxation. Balance is not my strong suit. A story is a series of problems to solve, and I get so obsessed that I can’t rest until I’ve solved whatever problem I happen to be facing. I cluster, I freewrite. I make timelines and calendars and maps to help me see whatever I’m missing. I write at the top of the page: Who are you and what are you doing in my story–and let my character answer. I break down a scene I see in my mind’s eye but can’t seem to write into who/what/when/where/why and write about each one of those elements until I write “one true sentence” that finally sets the scene moving.

MWW: Novelist Sidney Sheldon once said he never had a character sit down at a restaurant and order dinner unless he (Sheldon) had eaten at that restaurant and ordered the same meal; he wouldn’t have a character wander the streets of a city unless he (Sheldon again) had roamed those same streets. Talk about research. How do you create a sense of place? Do you go on site, take notes, etc., or do you leave it to your imagination?

I think you owe it to your readers to make sure that everything about the world of your novel is as authentic as it can be. So I read everything I can get my hands on about whatever I need to know to make the story real. I watch movies; look at catalogues, photos, newspapers, and recipes; listen to music from the time. 

These days, with the wonder of the internet, you can do the research for a novel without visiting the places you’re writing about. But it is a great gift to be able immerse yourself in your characters’ world–and I’ve been fortunate enough to be able to do that with my work. Standing where my characters stand, seeing what they see, I understand the boundaries of their existence in a visceral way. Being in the real world of a novel-in-progress enriches my imagination, and brings deeper, more sympathetic understanding of my characters’ struggles.

MWW: We’ve heard that a writer shouldn’t ask friends, family, and colleagues to read and make suggestions on a manuscript-in-progress. But we’ve also heard that a lot of successful writers have “beta readers.” What are they; what do they do; do you have one; and how can I find one?

My only rule for when and how to ask for feedback about your work is to be sure that you ask someone who is capable of understanding what you are trying to accomplish, capable of being objective, and knows enough about how stories work to be able to make useful observations. (This usually, but not always, excludes your mother and/or your best friend.) That’s all a beta reader is, really. I have several–some writers, some serious readers. I might ask them to read a novel-in-progress if I’m stuck and feel like I can’t see the novel clearly any more. More often, I wait until I finish a draft.

I also belong to a small writers’ group that meets every other week. Each of us brings whatever we’ve been working on since we last met–a story, an essay, a chapter of a novel. The regular meetings provide a kind of discipline: I don’t want to waste the opportunity for their input by not having something to bring. Ongoing critique of a work in progress often offers insights that shortcuts the process.

It’s important to develop your own personal community of writers, whether you communicate with them online or in person. Go to writers’ conferences, take classes, attend readings and other literary events, and keep an eye out for people who seem to be on your same wavelength. Invite them for coffee, talk about writing. In time, you’ll find the readers you need to help you see where your manuscript is working and where it needs improvement.

Come meet Barb!

To register for MWW Super-Mini, go here.

We have UPDATED the full schedule for the Super Mini-conference, read here.

To review the faculty bios, read here.

Looking for ways to turn one story into many? Lou Harry has tips!

Meet Mini-conference faculty Lou Harry!

Lou Harry has written for more than fifty publications ranging from The Sondheim Review to This Old House and from Variety to Men’s Health. His books are as wide ranging, including The High-Impact Infidelity Diet: A novel (Random House and optioned by Warner Bros.), Creative Block (Running Press), Kid Culture (Cider Mill Press) and the novelization of the awful movie Santa Claus Conquers the Martians (Penguin). Collectively they have sold more than a million copies. His produced plays include Lightning and Jellyfish, Clutter or The Moving Walkway Will Soon Be Coming to an End, Midwestern Hemisphere, and Going…Going…Gone: The Live Auction Comedy, recently finishing its fifth year in Indianapolis. A member of the Dramatists Guild, he’s also a member of the Indiana Film Journalists Association and a board member of the American Theatre Critics Association, where he chairs its New Play Committee.

During the MWW Super mini-conference hands-on Friday morning session, Lou will teach “Nonfiction, Writing About Everything.” Yes, Lou will do a quick update on his goal to write a book for every category in the Dewey Decimal System. But, more importantly, he’ll explore ways to spark an interest in subjects you may not have previously thought about. “This workshop,” Lou explains, “will help you work on interview techniques, pitch angles, the search for leads (both the story idea kind and the first paragraphs kind), and ways to turn one story into many.” Lou will also review a targeted pitch letter or up to two pages (double-spaced/12 font) of a manuscript. (Email midwestwriters@yahoo.com with “Lou Harry nonfiction submission” in subject line, postmarked by July 2.)

If you are interested in play writing, Lou is also teaching the session “Creating Life on the Stage – Play writing for the novelists, short story writer, journalist and/or poet.” You’ve told stories. But perhaps you haven’t tried telling stories on stage. Through example and exercise, you’ll look at the differences and similarities between constructive narrative for readers and for actors. You’ll look at basic mechanics, of course, but also explore how to create stories that make sense and belong on stage–whether those come from preexisting material or are created uniquely for the stage.

For our Friday evening activities, Lou will host “Somewhere in This Book: A Live Game Show.” How fun! He’s asking everyone to bring a book–any book–to this event. Could be a novel, a history text, a cookbook, whatever. When a category is called (Say, “A Really Awkward Pick Up Line” or “What Not To Say On a Job Interview”), you have a set amount of time to flip through your book and find a line or two that fits the category–in a serious or hilarious way. Then we find the best choices, narrow down the field, bring some contestants up front for finals, and otherwise have a blast of a time.

Former MWW intern Caroline Delk asked Lou a few interview questions for some advice to the attendees and to help us learn a bit more about him as a writer and faculty member.

MWW: How do you get yourself psyched up for a writing session? Music? Meditation? Crossword puzzle? A full tank of high-octane coffee? Yoga? Or do you just sit down at the computer and have at it? Advice? 

LH: No warm ups. But I do try to start by editing–cleaning up something I’ve previously been working on or putting in changes I made on paper the previous session. That way, I’ve jumpstarted my brain into writing mode.

MWW: Describe for me your “writing space.” Messy? What books are within arm’s reach? Laptop or desktop? Dedicated office, spare bedroom or dining room table?

LH: I’m lucky to have a dedicated office–although it’s also dedicated to my board game collection and to gym equipment that I don’t use often enough. And to the cats’ litter boxes. My desk has piles of papers, not always organized–I’m usually working on a book project, at least one play project, plus multiple freelance pieces at any given time. I try to clean up whenever a story is done but I’m not always successful. Plus, my cats have a tendency to jump onto the desk and slide on papers, creating their own organizational system.

MWW: We’ve heard that a writer shouldn’t ask friends, family, and colleagues to read and make suggestions on a manuscript-in-progress. But we’ve also heard that a lot of successful writers have “beta readers.” What are they; what do they do; do you have one; and how can I find one?

LH: If it’s a new market, my wife will often read a piece just so I can avoid embarrassing typos. Many of my books are written in collaboration so there is an automatic back and forth to help improve the work. When it comes to plays, I always reach a point where I need to hear the work with actors, so I’ll cast it with actors whose work I know and have what I call a living-room read. After that, I may pull together a reading at a local college or bookstore, both of which have been very receptive. The caution is that it’s likely to be friends and family listening–and you are robbing them of the chance to experience it first in a full production. Most of what I learn about what the play needs, though, comes from just listening during the reading. I’ve made the mistake of being the person reading stage directions and that reducing my chance of really hearing the work and picking up the signposts over what’s not needed and what’s still needed.

MWW: Talk about manuscript rejection. How do you handle it? At what point should you give up on a manuscript and move on to the next project?

LH: As someone who has served as an editor, I understand the need to reject 99% of what comes across your desk. Rejection means I either sent it to the wrong market, the market has material too similar already, the timing was off, or the piece just wasn’t very good. Sometimes the form just wasn’t correct. I’ve turned two unsold novels into plays, one of which landed a professional production. Your poem may want to be a short story. Your adult novel may want to be YA. By the time you get a rejection, you should be working on your next piece anyway. After the rejection, try to read it as objectively as possible to figure out why it might not have worked for that market.

 

Come meet Lou!

_______________________________________________________________

To register for MWW Super-Mini, go to www.midwestwriters.org

We have UPDATED the full schedule for the Super Mini-conference, read here.

To review the faculty bios, read here.

Do you wish to write in a way that touches readers and yourself?

That’s the question J. Brent Bill will discuss in his hands-on, small class session on Friday morning at MWW’s Super Mini-conference:

Writing from the Heart: Soulful Creativity – That’s the kind of writing that makes Anne Lamott’s essays, Phil Gulley’s Harmony tales, and Barbara Brown Taylor’s memoirs so appealing. Brent Bill’s own writing has been described by Publishers Weekly as being “Like a neighborly conversation across a kitchen table.” Whether you are writing fiction or nonfiction, you want to write from the heart and not just from the head. This workshop offers tips and techniques for connecting with your writer’s heart and how to put your heart on paper. You will spend time writing, using exercises that will help you uncover the deep themes and concerns that will bring your writing to life. Brent will also look at the practical side of getting such writing published.

With more than twenty books published since 1983, Brent has learned a thing or three about writing. His 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 also a writing coach, editor, photographer, and retreat leader. A MWW alumnus, Brent lives on Ploughshares Farm – fifty acres of Indiana farmland being reclaimed for native hardwood forests and warm season prairie grasses.

Former MWW intern Amanda Byk asked Brent a few interview questions to help us learn more about him as a writer and faculty member.

MWW: How do you get yourself psyched up for a writing session? Music? Meditation? Crossword puzzle? A full tank of high-octane coffee? Yoga? Or do you just sit down at the computer and have at it? Advice?

JBB: My intention is always to just sit down and get to it. But the truth is I usually spend time checking email and Facebook, going for a fresh glass of ice water, doing some “research” on Google, and the like. The typical writer’s procrastination tools. When I do start writing, I usually write one or two hours straight without much deviating from the actual writing. Having a deadline helps me focus and get right down to the task of writing without having to check email, play solitaire, and so forth.

MWW: Describe for me your “writing space.” Messy? What books are within arm’s reach? Laptop or desktop? Dedicated office, spare bedroom or dining room table?

JBB: I have a dedicated writing office on the second floor of our post and beam home. It has a window overlooking the woods and prairie. Floor to ceiling bookshelves line one wall — stuffed with everything including poetry, humor, religion, books on writing, autographed copies of books, books by friends, miscellaneous nonfiction, miscellaneous fiction, photography books, and more. The other long walls hold two file cabinets, a map chest (where I store my writing and photographic paper and photographic prints), and an oversize desk containing my computer, monitor, two printers, an external hard drive, and a scanner. The walls hold various art pieces, photographs I’ve taken, framed book covers, and other miscellany. In addition to books, the bookshelves also contain such arcane things as Old Quaker Whisky bottles, models of MGs and other cars I’ve owned, Mr. Bill figurines, and fighting Quaker puppet, and other silliness.

MWW: When you hit the wall and nothing is working on your computer screen, how do you clear your head and refresh? Do you power down and go to a movie, or do you just keep pounding the keys? Advice?

JBB: This rarely happens to me. Once I’m in the flow, the words and sentences usually come easily. On those occasions where I’m stuck, I will either go for a walk in our woods and think or I’ll fire up the John Deere 790 and go do some farm work. Certain farm chores involving the tractor allow me to work on two planes at the same time — one paying attention to the tractor work and the other allowing my mind to problem solve my writing issue. They’re both work, but call for solutions from different parts of my brain. My family jokes that I write some of my best stuff whilst on the tractor.

MWW: For writers who are unsure about which classes to attend at the July Super Mini-conference, what criteria should they use in making their choices? 

JBB: One obvious piece of advice is to attend a workshop that most closely aligns with the kind of writing you want to do. A second, and I think just as valuable, is to sign up for a workshop completely outside of your primary interest. I did that when I signed up for my first MWW conference in the late 1980s — a poetry workshop. I like poetry, but had no intention of writing any poetry. The instructor, Mary Brown, was insightful and her exercises and information on writing poetry were very helpful to my writing (and by then I’d written six books). The lessons I learned in that class took my writing deeper in ways that I doubt any other course could have.

MWW: Can you tell us more about what your Friday session will be about? What can writers expect to come away with from it? 

JBB: There’s been an explosion in spiritual writing of late. While the number of mainstream Christian periodicals has declined, new publications have sprung up. My own spiritual writing has appeared in places as diverse as Quaker magazines, AARP: The Magazine, and Sufi Journal. In this workshop, we’ll spend some talking about the kind of spiritual writing participants want to do and then look at possible outlets that would fit their writing.

Come meet Brent!

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To register for MWW Super-Mini, go to www.midwestwriters.org

Scholarship application information (postmarked June 15), here.
_______________________________________________________________
We have UPDATED the full schedule for the Super Mini-conference, read here.
To review the faculty bios, read here.

Build a dynamic world for your story to inhabit

During the next few weeks building up to the Super Mini-conference (July 27-28, Ball State Alumni Center, Muncie, IN), we will feature interviews with our faculty members.

If you write fiction, especially world building, you should think about registering for Maurice Broaddus’ Friday all-morning session “World Building: How to Out-Imagine Your Reader.” As Maurice explains, “Every story needs a setting: a sense of WHERE and WHEN it takes place. World building is the process by which we create an imaginary world or build a fictional universe. The workshop will present tips on how to build a dynamic world for your story to inhabit (with in-class writing!).”

Maurice will also teach a session “Characterization Through Dialogue” because characters are at the heart of stories and dialogue helps define characters and drive story. In this workshop, he will help you develop characters, consider word choice, and define their voice through dialogue. His session will present essential tips to improve dialogue and explore how to write dialogue that rings true, deepens character, creates tension, and more.

Maurice Broaddus is the author of steampunk adventures, fantasy and horror, and best known for his short fiction and his Knights of Breton Court novel trilogy. A community organizer and teacher, his work has appeared in Lightspeed Magazine, Weird Tales, Apex Magazine, Asimov’s, Cemetery Dance, Black Static, and many more. Some of his stories have been collected in The Voices of Martyrs. He co-authored the play Finding Home: Indiana at 200. His novellas include Buffalo Soldier, I Can Transform You, Orgy of Souls, Bleed with Me, and Devil’s Marionette. He is the co-editor of Dark Faith, Dark Faith: Invocations, Streets of Shadows, and People of Colo(u)r Destroy Horror. Learn more about him at MauriceBroaddus.com.

Former MWW intern Amanda Byk asked Maurice a few interview questions for some advice to the attendees and to help us learn a bit more about him as a writer and faculty member.

MWW: How will you design your MWW class so participants–from wannabee to published author–leave with great info that will nudge their writing careers forward?

MB: Whenever I prepare a workshop, I approach it from the standpoint of anyone’s writing can be improved. If I’m talking about dialogue or world-building, a newer writer will pick up a lot (and hopefully not be overwhelmed) and a published writer can use either the refresher or look to refine what they already do well.

MWW: If you were hospitalized for three months but not really too sick, whom (and it can’t be a relative) would you want in the next bed?

MB: My buddy J.J. I know he will 1) let me write (because a hospital bed is just an expensive fancy writer’s retreat to me), 2) let me bounce ideas off him, 3) he’ll read whatever I come up with, and 4) watch the same tv shows I watch (and comics I read and games I play). Hope you weren’t looking for anything too deep.

MWW: When you hit the wall and nothing is working on your computer screen, how do you clear your head and refresh? Do you power down and go to a movie, or do you just keep pounding the keys? Advice?

MB: I do the dishes or laundry. Some mindless task that takes a while that will allow my mind to drift and my creative muscle to do its thing. My wife LOVES it when I hit a wall.

MWW: Tell us about your first manuscript sale. What was it? How did you get the news? Did you frame the check or cash it ASAP for fear the editor might have second thoughts?  How did you celebrate? Who was the first person you told? How much time passed before you sold a second mss?

MB: Back in that halcyon days of 1999, I got the news via a letter. That was also back when we had to mail out manuscripts via the postal system. It was my story “Soul Food” for the magazine Hoodz. My first few sales (probably six months or so later), I Xeroxed the checks and then cashed them immediately. I kept the checks on file as encouragement (since I was still hanging up my rejection letters as wallpaper back then, too).

Then, as I do to this day, I have my “cigar moment”: I tell my wife, we do a happy dance, and then I enjoy a tasty beverage of some sort (since I don’t actually smoke). But I think it important to take the time to celebrate a sale since I also have a rejection ritual to mourn a market saying “no” to a story before I suck it up and send it back out again.

MWW: A lot of new writers fear that they can’t possibly be successful in the competitive world of publishing. Shoot down these reasons for their lack of confidence:

  • I don’t live in the “fast lane”- NYC or the West Coast – whatever, I live in Indianapolis.
  • I never took a writing class in college, high school, etc. – doesn’t matter if you have an MFA. It all boils down to the right story to the right market.
  • I’m too old – good, you have life experience to draw from.
  • I’m too young – good, you have more time to learn and make connections.
  • I don’t have a “platform.” (I don’t even know what a platform is!) – platforms are overrated, especially if what you’re writing isn’t aimed at that platform. All that time not building your platform can go into writing your next story.
  • I don’t have an agent – they aren’t necessary for short story sales.
  • My book manuscript has been rejected (fill in the blank) times – my first novel never sold. Neither did my second, third, or fourth. The next ten did though.
  • I’ve heard it’s impossible for an unpublished writer to get a book contract – everyone starts off unpublished.

Come meet Maurice!

_______________________________________________________________
To register for MWW Super-Mini, go to here.
Scholarship applications information, here.
We have UPDATED the full schedule for the Super Mini-conference, read here.
To review the faculty bios, read here.

Build the skills you need to finish that first novel

Are you writing your first novel?

If the answer is “YES,” then MWW Super Mini-conference has a session just for you!

We are pleased to have Larry D. Sweazy returning to Midwest Writers Workshop for the Super Mini-conference this July 27-28 at the Ball State Alumni Center, Muncie, Indiana. Larry is an exceptional instructor, warm, friendly and encouraging to everyone.

He is the award-winning author of thirteen novels, including the Lucas Fume Western series, the Josiah Wolfe Texas Ranger series, as well as the Marjorie Trumaine mystery series. His books have been translated by major publishers in Italy and Turkey and he has published over seventy nonfiction articles and short stories. Writers in his previous MWW sessions had this to say:

“Larry Sweazy was great and very informative.”

“He had enthusiasm, courtesy and knowledge and a great personality”

“Larry was excellent. The exercises were a little scary but very helpful and fun.”

“He did a great job! He made things clear and was approachable, accessible and valuable.”

We asked Larry to tell us about what he will teach at the Super Mini.

MWW: You’re offering a hands-on class Friday morning. [Here’s the full description.]

Fiction: Writing Your First Novel – Here’s the big secret about writing first novels: The hardest part writing a first novel is finishing it. Great ideas tire out. Real life gets in the way. Doubt over takes the dream. In this interactive workshop, Larry D. Sweazy will share proven tips and help you to build the skills a new writer needs to finish that special first novel. Topics discussed will be time management, building a toolbox, finding support, writing tips, and most importantly living life as writer–even if you’re not published. Participants may send in two double-spaced pages for a brief critique, and should come prepared to write in class.

Can you tell us more about what that class will be about? What can writers expect to come away with from it?  

LDS: Writing a first novel is a luxury. Most writers don’t realize this until it’s too late. There’s no deadline, no editor waiting at the other end, no marketing department, no critics, no expectation of a follow-up novel in the next year. There’s more freedom for a writer writing a first novel than any other, but yet it’s the most difficult to finish. Doubt is a constant companion. Fear resides at the end of every sentence. Most first novels are abandoned. Maybe they’re picked back up later, and maybe not. The love affair with the first novel is tumultuous.

I hope to give writers a few practical tools that will encourage them to finish that first novel, help them realize where they are in the journey so they can get on with the work of being a writer, and start their next novel. We’ll discuss time management, overcoming excuses, how the publishing industry works, and hopefully, everything in between. We’ll also get to some writing exercises and critiques to round out the experience of being a new writer.

MWW: You’re known these days as a mystery writer (your third Marjorie Trumaine novel, See Also Proof, released May 1st) but you’ve also written many westerns. Was it difficult to switch genres? Do you feel having written westerns gave you a different approach to mysteries?

LDS: That’s an interesting question, and one I hope that can be instructive. I’ve written a lot of stories that were neither westerns or mysteries. I’ve published ghost stories, literary stories, action adventure stories, and some nonfiction work thrown in, too. I love writing westerns and historical fiction, and I also love writing mysteries. But more than anything, I love writing stories. I think the story should pick the genre, not the other way around. So, to answer your question, yes, I think my writing experience affects everything I write. I like to write with a large palette, and anything that serves the story is fair game. We’ll discuss genres in both of my classes, the good, bad, and the ugly, as well as some traps to avoid along the way.

MWW: We’re looking forward to your Saturday morning wake-up session with Matthew Clemens. You’ll be talking about “What’s Your Dream?” Can you give us a bit of a preview by telling us a little about your dream? 

LDS: I knew I wanted to be a writer from a young age, so the dream was simple: Be a working writer when I grew up. But my journey was not as simple. Getting published was not easy, and staying published is not easy. Sitting down in the chair day after day, year after year presents daunting challenges along the way, but the dream has never changed for me. I still want to be a writer more than anything else.

larrydsweazy.com

Follow on Twitter: @larrydsweazy

www.facebook.com/larrysweazyauthor

PRAISE FOR MARJORIE TRUMAINE SERIES:

“The more you get to know Marjorie Trumaine, the more you will want to know her.” –Reviewing The Evidence

“A riveting and expertly crafted story…. I couldn’t put this book down. It’s one of the best mysteries I’ve read in a long time, and I look forward to more in this engaging and powerful series.” -DAVID BELL, award-winning and bestselling author of Somebody I Used to Know 
“A dark, complex mystery with well-developed characters deeply rooted in their small-town rural setting. Larry D. Sweazy gives mystery readers a rich, satisfying read.” -KAT MARTIN, New York Times-bestselling author of Against the Wind

“Marjorie is the kind of gritty heroine, playing the cards she was dealt with pragmatism and intelligence, who will keep readers engaged in this series.” -Killer Nashville

“Brimming with atmosphere and filled with well-drawn characters, See Also Deception is bound to delight mystery readers everywhere. Marjorie Trumaine rings as solid and true as any heroine ever created.” -SUSAN CRANDALL, bestselling author of Whistling Past the Graveyard

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To register for Larry’s session, “Fiction: Writing Your First Novel,” go here.

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To review the full schedule for the Super Mini-conference, read here.

To review the faculty bios, read here.

5 tips for pitching to agents: Jessica Sinsheimer

Jessica Sinsheimer, with Sarah Jane Freymann Literary Agency, shares 5 tips for meeting agents.

SinsheimerJessica Sinsheimer has been reading and campaigning for her favorite queries since 2004. Now an agent at the Sarah Jane Freymann Literary Agency, she’s known for #MSWL, ManuscriptWishList.com, #PubTalkTV-and for drinking far too much tea. Always on the lookout for new writers, she is most excited about finding picture books, YA, MG, upmarket genre fiction (especially women’s fiction, romance, and erotica, as well as thrillers and mysteries) and-on the nonfiction side-psychology, parenting, self-help, cookbooks, memoirs, and works that speak to life in the twenty-first century. She especially likes highbrow sentences with lowbrow content, smart/nerdy protagonists, vivid descriptions of food, picture books with non-human characters, and justified acts of bravery. You can follow her on Twitter at @JSinsheim.

Jessica had a great time as a member of our 2011 faculty and said, “I’ll return any time!” So, welcome back, Jessica, to MWW17!  We asked her for tips for pitching to her . (Hint: She said the tips apply to all agents.)

5 Tips: 

Remember, agents are not robots.

I always appreciate when people acknowledge that I’m a person. Usually an undercaffeinated person who’s happy to meet lovely writing people, but a person, nonetheless, and an introvert at that. A simple “Hi, how are you? Hey, you’ve got five cups of tea there–my daughter loves English Breakfast” will go a long way toward making me like you and set you apart from the last meeting. It takes about 20 seconds and keeps me comfortable, present, and open to your work. Keep in mind that I interact with thousands of writers a year. I want each interaction to be as human, pleasant, and present as possible.

 

Think conversation, not monologue. 

Here are the things I’m most likely to ask, so you can prepare: 1) Where did you get the idea? 2) What experience do you have with the topic? 3) Who is the ideal reader for your book? 4) How is this different from other works in your genre? 5) What are your favorite books? 6) What do you do in your spare time?

 

Do your homework.

Research, research, research. It will not only ensure that you’re prepared, but calm your fears of awkward silence. Find out not only what’s on my  ManuscriptWishList.com  profile and #MSWL feed, but also some of my recent projects, especially the ones similar to yours. Read one, if you can–or, if you must, 🙂 read the free samples online. Find interviews I’ve done (just Google “Jessica Sinsheimer interview”). Visit the agency website. And knowing things like my favorite caffeinated beverage (coffee, tea, or coffee in tea–thank you, dirty chai latte), weekend activity (yoga, kayaking, and reading), and fluffy animal (I’m partial to orange cats and samoyeds) can help, too. These are all things you can use to fill any silence, so you don’t have to worry.

 

The agent and writer can be friends. 

Remember that we want to help you. Agents need writers, too. Don’t go in feeling like you’re pitching investors. Instead, think of it as a conversation about great books with a friend–it just happens to be your book, and an agent.

 

Be calm and pitch on.

Don’t be nervous. I know it’s scary, but I’m seriously 5’2″ and like to keep people around me feeling good. You can listen to the   Manuscript Academy podcast   to hear how I interact with writers and agents–that’s on iTunes and Soundcloud, and totally free. You’ll probably be less scared when you hear how peppy I am. If you want to practice, you can get plenty of one-on-one feedback on your query and first page with the new Manuscript Academy Ten Minutes With An Expert program–starting April 12, you can have ten-minute conversations one-on-one with agents and editors from home. See ManuscriptAcademy.com/ten

*** Exciting news! 

Jessica is bringing her popular the  PubTalk TV  to MWW17. On Saturday, July 22, 2017, from 3:45-4:45, she’s live streaming a session on-site with Summer Heacock (MWW planning member extraordinaire and debut author of The Awkward Path to Getting Lucky), Roseanne Wells (agent with the Jennifer De Chiara Literary Agency), and Monica Odom (agent with Bradford Literary Agency).

NYT Bestselling coming to MWW17 | Angie Thomas

If you’ve ever wanted to meet a debut novelist who started on the bestseller lists right out of the gate, come to Midwest Writers Workshop in July!

Since The Hate U Give released in February, Angie Thomas has been super busy! It turns out an extensive book tour and giving tons of interviews will do that to a person’s schedule.

But recently, we caught up with her in London and she gave us a quick email interview.

Angie Thomas was born, raised, and still resides in Jackson, Mississippi as indicated by her accent. She is a former teen rapper whose greatest accomplishment was an article about her in Right-On Magazine with a picture included. She holds a BFA in Creative Writing from Belhaven University and an unofficial degree in Hip Hop. She is an inaugural winner of the Walter Dean Myers Grant 2015, awarded by We Need Diverse Books. Her debut novel, The Hate U Give, was acquired by Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins in a 13-house auction and was published on February 28, 2017. Film rights have been optioned by Fox 2000 with George Tillman attached to direct and Hunger Games actress Amandla Stenberg attached to star. Follow Angie on social media:  Twitter: @acthomasbooks / Website:  AngieThomas.com

MWW: Your debut novel, The Hate U Give, was sold at auction with 13 publishers competing for the highest bid, and interest worldwide. Did that prepare you for the success you’ve had since its release? How are you feeling and what are you thinking after 6 weeks at #1 on the New York Times Bestselling list?

AT: I was totally not prepared for this. It’s surreal and a dream come true.

MWW: You’ve said that you thought about this story for a few years and I know you were in a creative writing program at college. What helped you the most in writing a compelling story?

AT: The thing that helped me the absolute most was to decide to write it for myself and no one else.

MWW: When you come to Midwest Writers Workshop this summer, you’ll talk about your debut and also about diversity in books. Do you have a few tips for writing a diverse book that resonates?

AT: (1) Remember that not every story is your story to tell, and that’s okay. (2)  Diversity is not a trend. Approaching it this way dehumanizes marginalized people. (3)  If you’re writing an identity outside of your own, sensitivity readers are a must.

MWW: Your agent, Brooks Sherman, is returning to MWW. What’s an insider secret on how to impress him? Or what is a no-no?

AT: He doesn’t like issue books, but great books with issues. Also, he’s the coolest Slytherin you will ever meet.

MWW: How do you know Becky Albertalli, who is also coming to MWW17?

AT: Becky and I consider ourselves soul mates – we share the same agent, same editor, same publishing house, same film producers, and sometimes the same thoughts despite our different opinions on Oreos.

How about some quick thoughts:

MAC or PC?

PC though a MAC may be in my future

Pantser or plotter?

A bit of both fortunately and unfortunately.

Early bird or night owl?

Night owl for sure

Scrivener or Word software?

Just got Scrivener and love it!

**** 

Speaking of Scrivener, MWW17 has you covered this summer. Dee Romito is returning to present “Getting to Know Scrivener” Part I Intensive Session – a full day’s instruction on the amazing writing software everyone’s talking about.

The Scrivener software is inexpensive (under $50), although there is a steep learning curve. Many people agree with Angie that the software is well worth the effort to learn. Let MWW help you speed up the process with our one day intensive session.

4 Ways to Love Scrivener, by Dee

Get organized.

Keep all your chapters, scenes, research, and links right at your fingertips. It’s all in one place!

Move around quickly.

With a simple click, go from Chapter 1 to Chapter 20 to plotting notes to research. No more scrolling or opening multiple files.

Multiple ways to work.

Write in the editor, or switch over to corkboard or outline view quickly and easily.

Go for your goals.

Set a word count goal for your manuscript and current session. You’ll see it keep track and change color as you get closer to your goal. 🙂
Come and meet Angie, Dee, and the rest of our fantastic faculty this summer!

Register now !