Craft + Community: That’s what MWW21 is all about

Make MWW21 your summer destination

Join us for inspiring four days at Midwest Writers Workshop, July 28-31, 2021. It’s the best kind of writing conference for both aspiring authors and those getting ready to pitch or market finished works.

More than 20 sessions cover aspects of novel-writing, creative nonfiction research, children’s writing, memoir, essays, and new this year – writing comics. Plus breakout sessions, writing prompts, cocktail hours, and chances to read a “first page” for feedback.

Everything is online, but we offer a remarkable level of intimacy nonetheless! You’ll find it a joy to get acquainted with fellow speakers and hear from writers whose struggles are similar to yours. In every session, the mutual support and encouragement you receive (in the chat boxes and in small breakout “rooms” where you can unmute and unload) will keep you motivated and inspired. And there’s a private Facebook group for shared links and book recommendations, questions, and selfies.

Best piece of advice for persons registering for MWW21 in July: Keep an open mind. If you write romance novels, attend a poetry session; if nonfiction is your passion, attend how to create powerful scenes. In other words, plan to stretch yourselves in all sorts of new ways. The best part of being a writer is that you never master it. You’re always learning and experimenting.

Virtual MWW21 is around the corner! July 28-31!

MWW21 is more than instructional and inspiring sessions!

Award-winning author and MWW21 fiction faculty, Angela Jackson-Brown offered this wisdom:

On Thursday, July 29th, the second day of the Midwest Writers Workshop conference, you will have the opportunity to “Read Your Stuff” during our Morning Talkabouts.

Of course, some of you are probably shy or nervous about reading your work out loud. In fact, some of you might even avoid reading your work out loud to yourself. Completely understandable. It definitely feels a little awkward. But it’s some of the best advice you can receive when it comes to reviewing your own work. Reading it out loud lets you physically hear it, a different experience altogether from hearing it in your head. We would urge you to consider pushing through that desire to remain silent and share your work.

Below are some reasons why it is great to share your work. The information below comes from an article written by David Berner of The Writer Shed.

  1. You will catch awkward or unnecessary phrases. When we write, we write in silence, meaning we figure out the words in our head and then simply type them. And when you do this, you tend to create unnecessary phrases and sentences, description that is filler, fluff. If we read the work out loud that “fluff” jumps out at us. It will reveal what needs to be cut.
  2. You find the music in your words. When people say, “that writer writes so beautifully,” they usually mean he/she writes like a poet, a lyricist, and the words flow like the most magnificent of songs. And how do we know we like a particular song? We hear it. It’s not enough to see the notes on a staff; we must experience the melody aurally. Words on a page are no different. Reading out loud will let you know immediately if you are one of the “beautiful writers” or if your story is clunking along like a bad ballad from the 80s. It helps you find the rhythm and pace of your writing, and to ultimately create a memorable melody of story.
  3. You will find your voice. There is so much talk about writers finding their voice, that unique pattern and style that is all yours. Many times, writing workshops tend to overplay voice. But what they do get right is that writers should write enough to discover it, not force it. Let it emerge naturally. Reading out loud can help in this process. The more you hear your words, the more you can identify how your writing voice is developing.
  4. You will find your mistakes. We read silently, in part, through a filter. If we do a lot of reading, our brains skim through anticipated phrases and words. We do not read every single word. But, if we read out loud, we are forced to read every word, and that permits us to discover those grammatical errors, typos, even help us see where that comma is misplaced.
  5. You become a better reader of your own work. If you find yourself writing material that is published or can be shared at many of the live lit experiences popping up all over most cities, reading your work out loud will give you practice. You will hear where you need to work on intonation and pace, where there are words and phrases that look good on paper but are hard to say, and you’ll prepare yourself for troublesome pronunciations. I recently wrote a piece that mentioned a town in Wales. I had seen the town’s name hundreds of times in print, but until I read it out loud, I truly hadn’t known the correct way to say it. Reading out loud fixed that.

Perhaps most important when you’re reading your work out loud and correcting the flow and possible minor mistakes: be kind to yourself. Don’t beat yourself up. You’re taking a courageous step forward to hear yourself and discover your writing voice. That’s not a small thing.

Make MWW21 July 28-31 your virtual destination! Register today!

Attend How to Get Published with Jane Friedman

MWW Virtual One-Day Conference with Jane Friedman

How to Get Published: Traditional, Self, and Everything in Between

Saturday, March 27, 2021

  • Morning Session (10:30 am – 12:00 pm EST) Traditional Publishing
  • Afternoon Session (1:30 pm – 3:00 pm EST) Self-publishing (and alternatives like hybrid publishing)
  • Cost: $79 early bird; $99 after February 28

In this masterclass with publishing industry expert Jane Friedman, you’ll learn not just the foundational principles of getting a book published, but gain up-to-date insight into the changing landscape of the publishing industry, and how you can navigate your own path toward success. You’ll discover what it takes to capture the attention of a New York publisher or literary agent (whether you write fiction or nonfiction) and how to determine if self-publishing, hybrid, or traditional publishing is the most appropriate path for your next project. Can’t attend the sessions live? No problem. MWW is offering archival video access for three months to ALL registered attendees.

This class will cover the following:

  • Querying like a pro. Your one-page query letter should be short and sweet and pack a punch. Learn what it means to sell your story, and how to avoid problems that plague (and sabotage) writers in this critical document.
  • Whether you need an agent—who they are and what they do. You’ll learn what the standard agenting practices are and why you might want one—and how to make sure you don’t get involved with a bad one.
  • Researching markets (agents and editors) for your work. We’ll look at the major tools and resources for identifying the right agent or publisher for you.
  • Explore traditional publishing options outside of New York. The world of independent publishers—including university presses, small presses, and regional presses—is vast and can sometimes be more challenging to understand than New York publishing, as they all operate a bit differently. Learn how to assess the strength and position of any book publisher.
  • How to decide if you or your book is well-suited to self-publishing—plus the major self-publishing services available, and how to choose the best channels, formats, and distributors based on your target audience and genre.
  • Learn how to decipher “hybrid” publishing arrangements now available alongside the key forms of self-publishing and e-publishing practiced today.

By the end of this class, you’ll have a game plan for getting your book to market in the most efficient and effective way, based on your skills and target readership.

REGISTER TODAY!

About Jane:

Jane Friedman has 20 years of experience in the publishing industry, with expertise in business strategy for authors and publishers. She’s the editor of The Hot Sheet, the essential industry newsletter for authors, and has previously worked for F+W Media and the Virginia Quarterly Review. In 2019, Jane was awarded Publishing Commentator of the Year by Digital Book World; her newsletter was awarded Media Outlet of the Year in 2020.

Jane’s newest book is The Business of Being a Writer (University of Chicago Press); Publishers Weekly said that it is “destined to become a staple reference book for writers and those interested in publishing careers.” Also, in collaboration with The Authors Guild, she wrote The Authors Guild Guide to Self-Publishing.

In addition to being a professor with The Great Courses, Jane maintains an award-winning blog for writers at JaneFriedman.com; her expertise has been featured by The New York Times, The Washington Post, Publishers Weekly, NPR, PBS, CBS, the National Press Club and many other outlets.

Jane has delivered keynotes and workshops on the digital era of authorship at worldwide industry events, including the Writer’s Digest annual conference, Stockholm Writers Festival, San Miguel Writers Conference, The Muse & The Marketplace, Frankfurt Book Fair, BookExpo America, and Digital Book World. She’s also served on grant panels for the National Endowment for the Arts and the Creative Work Fund, and has held positions as a professor of writing, media, and publishing at the University of Cincinnati and University of Virginia.

In her spare time, Jane writes creative nonfiction, which has been included in the anthologies Every Father’s Daughter and Drinking Diaries. If you look hard enough, you can also find her embarrassing college poetry.

 

Join us for a Facebook Live “Conversation with John Gilstrap”

Midwest Writers Workshop presents another installment of our “Conversation with an Author” series.

Join us for a Facebook Live on Friday, October 23, from 4:00 pm ET to 5:00 pm for a Conversation with MWW fave John GilstrapNew York Times bestselling author of the Jonathan Grave thriller series. John will chat with MWW director Jama Kehoe Bigger about his new series (The Crimson Phoenix), creativity, the writing process, revising, and the writing life.

Here’s the Zoom link.

John Gilstrap is the New York Times bestselling author of 23 thrillers (including the Jonathan Grave series), and a new series, the first of which, CRIMSON PHOENIX will be released in February 2021. The Crimson Phoenix series takes his work in an entirely new direction: in it, World War III lasts about eight hours, and when it’s done, the United States is left in ruins. With all the infrastructure gone, and elected leaders unable to communicate with people outside of the bunkers that protected official Washington, it falls to individual citizens to figure out a way to continue living. It doesn’t take long for the weak to turn feral. In one corner of West Virginia, though, a single mom named Victoria Emerson turns out to be the leader that everyone’s been looking for.

“I write thrillers about normal people who get caught up in extraordinary circumstances” Gilstrap says. “I write about fathers and mothers and children who somehow find the will and the wherewithal to suck up the panic and fight on. They’re heroic, but they would never consider themselves to be heroes. Mostly, they would consider themselves to be survivors.”

Subscribe to John’s YouTube Channel
Like him on Facebook
Follow him on Twitter

 

Join us on Friday, Oct 23rd at 4pm ET for this fun discussion!

 

Join us: MWW + Finish Strong for 2020

What a year 2020 has been, right?!

We’re heading into the last three months of the year. How does that make you feel? Are you where you want to be with your writing goals?

It’s a good time to dust off your writing goals for 2020 and see how you’re doing. Even in the midst of this pandemic year, what have you achieved that was on your list? In what ways have you exceeded your goals?

Have you fallen behind in some areas?

No matter where you are with your goals right now, the #1 way to finish the year strong is to Decide to Do It. Make a decision.

As the holidays approach, it will be easy to get caught up in everything except writing. Sometimes, we just assume that we won’t get much done at this time of year. But what if you decided this year will be different? You’re still going to enjoy your holidays, and you’re going to carve out some time for writing.

We can help you  carry out your goals during this time of hustle and bustle by giving you accountability partners.

That’s why MWW wants you to join our private Facebook group, Finish Strong. It works like this. You decide what you want to accomplish by the end of the year. Are you going to go for it with NaNoWriMo (write a novel in the month of November)? Is a book list calling to you that will make your writing stronger?

Whatever it is that you want to accomplish, let’s help one another get there.

We’ll post some inspirational information at least once a week, to help you keep on track. If you want to share your goals, that’s fine. If you want to share what is working for you, others may benefit. Those who have questions on how to achieve their goals will be able to ask the group and see if someone can help. To be honest, this event will take shape based on who signs up and how they are able to participate (or not participate, if they only want to read the official posts).

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again; one of MWW’s greatest assets is its talented participants. Here’s another virtual opportunity to stay connected during this wild and crazy year. Feel free to share with your friends. Anyone can register.

All you need to do is sign up. Imagine how great you will feel when 2021 rolls in if you Made the Decision to Finish Strong for 2020.

You are not alone in this writing journey.

Register HERE for Finish Strong for 2020.

Join us for a Facebook Live “Conversation with Annie Sullivan”

We love it. Yes, MWW loves when writers succeed. When they leave our conferences crafting better sentences, improving clever plots, developing stronger characters. When they leave with friendships and a community of writing supporters and encouragers.

Yes, MWW loves to celebrate writers.

And now it’s Annie Sullivan we celebrate!

Join us for a Facebook Live on Wednesday, September 23, from 7:00 pm ET to 8:00 pm for a Conversation with Annie Sullivan, as MWW congratulates her on the release of her third young adult novel, A Curse of Gold.

MWW Director Jama Kehoe Bigger will interview Annie about her sequel to A Touch of Gold, about plotting, about editing, about MWW, and about all things writing.

Hear about curses and queens. Pirates and kings. Gods and magic. Hear about the final saga of a princess cursed by Midas’s touch, a vengeful Greek god, and a dazzling kingdom in the balance.

Annie Sullivan is the author of the young adult novels A Touch of Gold, Tiger Queen, and A Curse of Gold. She lives in Indianapolis, Indiana, and she loves fairytales, everything Jane Austen, and traveling and exploring new cultures. When she’s not off on her own adventures, she’s working as the Senior Copywriter at John Wiley and Sons, Inc. publishing company, having also worked there in Editorial and Publicity roles. She loves to hear from fans, and you can reach her via the contact form on this website or on Twitter and Instagram (@annsulliva).

Join us! MWW Agent Fest Online 2020

MWW Agent Fest Online 2020: November 18-21, 2020

Wednesday 9:30 am, ET through Saturday 5:00 pm, ET. {Cost: REDUCED! $199}

Our 2019 MWW Agent Fest was a big success! What attendees said:

To have one-on-one time with an agent is invaluable. The agents were all great and attentive. The conference was packed with useful information and opportunities.

A caring, professional organization for debut authors as well as accomplished authors.

A great and welcoming event with enthusiastic people and agents ready to give you real feedback.

I love how relaxed it was. The agents were friendly and engaged and it did wonders to calm my nerves. I really felt that they wanted to see me succeed.

So helpful! Really tangible and practical advice.

 

This year’s Midwest Writers Workshop Agent Fest will be held online (using video conference technology). We have designed an online version of MWW Agent Fest that offers opportunities to pitch, plenty of instruction, networking, and the sense of community that makes MWW so special.

Here’s an opportunity to pitch your book directly to vaunted agents in search of new voices! Advocate for your book in a high-energy environment, and you might just become another MWW success story. Connect with literary agents who are actively searching for the next big thing across all genres including fiction, nonfiction, young adult and more. During the Agent Fest Online 2020, you’ll have a chance to meet agents one-on-one and capture their attention with the basic concept of your book.

We’ve assembled a dynamic roster of top-tier agents to participate in our Agent Fest Online 2020. We have four days of valuable sessions; no matter what you’re writing — fiction or nonfiction — the sessions will help point you in the right direction. Writers of all genres are welcome.

The cost for our MWW Agent Fest Online 2020 experience has been reduced to $199. No more choosing among breakout sessions. Attend ALL 18 sessions live or watch recorded sessions for up to one month later. You can even rewatch sessions you find particularly helpful. You’re getting more sessions for less money, and you can attend in your PJs!

Our online conference features:

  • Opportunity to pitch to three of our remarkable faculty of agents and editors who know their stuff, providing information for aspiring writers to help move their writing forward.
  • A total of 18 sessions, via Zoom video conferencing. The sessions include a variety of content from agents and editors that feature lectures with vital, informative, enjoyable discussions that build your skills as a writer.
  • Private Facebook Group for camaraderie and to build connections with other attendees and faculty.
  • Can’t attend all the sessions live? No problem. MWW Agent Fest Online 2020 is offering archival video access to ALL attendees for ALL sessions and the content from other faculty members, allowing you to audit other sessions at your convenience during Agent Fest Online 2020 and for the following four weeks.

We also have a Query Letter Critique Team — an opportunity for a one-on-one consultation!

Our faculty includes: (Read their bios & wish lists)

  • Jennifer Grimaldi, Charlberg & Sussman
  • Jolene Haley, Marsal Lyon Literary Agency
  • Eric Myers, Myers Literary Management
  • Latoya Smith, LCS Literary Services
  • Abby Saul, The Lark Group
  • Alice Speilburg, Speilburg Literary
  • Amy Stapp, Wolfson Literary
  • Cherry Weiner, Cherry Weiner Literary Agency
  • Shannon Kelly, Associate Editor, Abrams

You’ll meet one-on-one (via Zoom) with three agents. Each pitch lasts eight minutes, composed of a 4-minute pitch and a 4-minute response/discussion from the agent with feedback.

Sessions:

  • Working With Your Agent – Eric Myers, Myers Literary Management
  • Agents/Author Conversation – Agents Cherry Weiner and Latoya Smith and author Larry D. Sweazy
  • The Nonfiction Book Proposal – Alice Speilburg, Speilburg Literary
  • The Do’s and Don’ts of Querying Agents – Amy Stapp, Wolfson Literary
  • Working With An Agent – Latoya Smith, LCS Literary Services
  • Building Your Author Platform to Elevate Your Career – Jolene Haley, Marsal Lyon Literary Agency
  • Ask the Agent About Publishing – Cherry Weiner, Cherry Weiner Literary Agency
  • What an Editor Wishes Every Author Knew – Shannon Kelly, Associate Editor at Abrams
  • 360 View of the Path to Publication – Jennifer Grimaldi, Charlberg & Sussman
  • Agent/Author Conversation – Agent Alice Speilburg with author Angela Jackson-Brown
  • How to Create a Believable World in SFF – Jennifer Grimaldi, Charlberg & Sussman
  • You’ve Got A Book Deal, Now What? – Latoya Smith, LCS Literary Services

Evening sessions: (Wednesday, Thursday, Friday)

First Page Read – Love It or Leave It, “Okay, Stop” –This is a chance to get your first page read (anonymously — no bylines given) with our attending agents/editors commenting on what was liked or not liked about the submission. Get expert feedback on your incredibly important first lines and know if your writing has what it needs to keep readers’ attention.

You Will Get:

  • Immediate feedback on the merits of your book directly from agents working in that genre or category.
  • Actionable advice on perfecting your pitch, and/or ways to improve your storyline or nonfiction premise.
  • The opportunity to land representation and start on your path to a publishing deal.

Keys to Agent Fest Success:

  • Do your research. There are eight agents and one editor attending and some will be a better fit for your writing than others. Be sure to study the list of faculty and target those who handle your genre or interest.
  • Practice makes perfect. This is your chance to sell your book, so write it out, practice it and perfect your pitch. Use a stopwatch so you can keep time—and their attention!
  • Get expert advice. To help you prepare, we have Zoom sessions with willing volunteers where you can practice. You can hone your pitch and get more comfortable with presenting live. You’ll also gain the confidence you need to make a great impression.
  • Read this blog post by our MWW friend Jane Friedman —How to Pitch Agents at a Writers Conference.

By Saturday afternoon, you will have added more tools to help you move forward on your writing journey.

Secure your spot today. Registration Now Available!

 

Accept the 90 Days to Your Novel challenge – with Sarah Domet

Meet fiction author Sarah Domet!

Sarah Domet is the author of The Guineveres, originally released from Flatiron Books/Macmillan in October 2016. It received starred reviews from Booklist and Library Journal along with praise from O Magazine, People, Elle, Real Simple, Harper’s Bazaar, and The New York Times Book ReviewSouthern Living voted it one of the Best Books of 2016 by Southern Authors and Bustle included it on their list of 2016’s best debut novels. Sarah is also the author of 90 Days to Your Novel, and her short fiction and nonfiction have been published and anthologized in numerous places. Sarah holds a Ph.D. in literature and creative writing from The University of Cincinnati, and she currently teaches in the creative writing program at Ball State University.

Sarah’s MWW20 sessions include:

  • 90 Days to Your Novel Challenge – A line has been drawn in the sand. Come prepared to cross it and to accept the 90 Days to Your Novel challenge. This session will help you arm yourself with a deadline, some good writing habits, and an outline in order to imagine, structure, and complete a draft of a novel in 90 days.
  • You Finished Your Manuscript, Now What? – Completing your manuscript is only half of your job as a novelist. This session will address the necessary next steps toward publishing and promoting your work.
  • Character + Yearning = Plot – This session will explore how understanding your character–and your character’s yearning–serves as the crucial foundation for the plot of your novel.
  • Panel: Outliner or Pantser? [Tracy Clark, Sarah Domet, Sarah Aronson, Moderator: Angela Jackson-Brown]

 

Sarah Domet - MWW20
Sarah Domet – MWW20

Angela Jackson-Brown, Midwest Writers Workshop board member, interviewed Sarah for this faculty Q&A.

MWW: Often times writers have a “do as I say, not as I do” approach to writing. What is some advice that you give to your students, that you wish you did more of in your own writing? 

SD: I always tell students to let go of perfectionism in the first draft of anything–just write and have fun with it. Enjoy the process. Revel in the pure joy of language. Follow the energy of the story to unexpected places. Whatever you do: keep writing. The sentences and pages will add up. I do feel I could follow this advice a bit more. On occasion, I find myself reworking the same paragraph/page/scene over and over again, and usually this is a sign that I’m stuck. I’m a big believer in the idea that the first draft of anything is simply a process of trying to figure out how to tell a story.

MWW: In your novel The Guineveres, you have four characters who share the same name. How easy or difficult was it developing their individual voices? What are the techniques/strategies you used to make sure each character resonated off the page?

SD: Voice is everything in fiction. I always tell my students that once you find your voice, you find your story. Part of narrative voice is discovering who is telling the story, of course. But perhaps equally important is figuring out who the imagined listener of your story might be. In The Guineveres, the turning point for me was figuring out just who was listening. Why were these girls telling this story in the first place? In the end, the answer surprised me!

In general, I find it useful for writers to think about this question: Why do I want to tell this story? If you can answer this question clearly, then you can often tap into your characters–and their motives–in more authentic ways.

MWW:  What are the main takeaways you want conference attendees to walk away with after taking your workshop?

SD: I hope attendees walk away with confidence in their voices and with concrete plans for finishing, revising, or submitting their work.

[Support Midwest Writers Workshop by purchasing MWW20 authors’ books with Amazon Smile! Click here.]
Join Sarah and the MWW Community to help you move forward with your stories! Check out this awesome schedule — and you get access to ALL 23 sessions!

Register for Virtual MWW20 here today!

Lori Rader-Day presents An Autopsy of a Novel – MWW20

Lori Rader-Day is the Edgar Award-nominated and Anthony and Mary Higgins Clark award-winning author of The Lucky One (February 2020), Under a Dark Sky, The Day I Died, Little Pretty Things, and The Black Hour. She lives in Chicago, where she is co-chair of the mystery readers’ conference Murder and Mayhem in Chicago and the national president of Sisters in Crime. [Support Midwest Writers Workshop by purchasing The Lucky One with Amazon Smile! Click here.]

Her short fiction has been published in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, TimeOut Chicago, Crab Orchard Review, Freight Stories, and in the anthologies Dia de los Muertos (Elektrik Milkbath Press), Unloaded 2 (Down and Out Books), and Murder-a-Go-Go’s (Down and Out Books). Bestselling author Jodi Picoult chose Lori’s story as the grand prize winner of Good Housekeepings first fiction contest in 2010.

She studied journalism at Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana, twice–but eventually gave in to her dream and studied creative writing at Roosevelt University in Chicago. Now a resident of Chicago for almost twenty years, she has a favorite deep dish pizza (Lou Malnati’s) and is active in the area’s crime writing community.

Join “Happy Hour with Lori” – Monday (July 20), Wednesday (July 22), Friday (July 24) from 3:00 pm to 4:00 pm. as she discusses An Autopsy of a Novel.

Lori will walk you through her entire process for writing her novels. MWW20 session participants are encouraged–not required–to read The Lucky One prior the conference. Lori may need to talk about some spoilers to tell this story. Reading the book prior to the sessions will help a great deal not to have the twists ruined and to see how she worked them through.

Moderator Jama Kehoe Bigger will ask Lori – DAY ONE:

  • Where did the idea come from?
  • How did she create the plot?
  • At what point did she determine her characters?
  • Can we see her synopsis?

Since we hope most of the audience will have read the book, Lori will stop and ask for your feedback on decisions she made when writing the book. She can describe a problem that came up and ask you what you would have done to solve the problem. This will lead to lively dialogue! The purpose of this Happy Hour with Lori is to encourage writers to read books critically; to help workshop participants understand the steps involved in creating a publishable novel; to build community among MWW patrons; and promote literary citizenship by supporting an author and his/her work.

Moderator Jama will ask Lori – DAY TWO:

  • What did her outline look like?
  • How rough was her rough draft?
  • Talk about the editing process. How much input did her editor give her?
  • Who chose the title?

Moderator Jama will ask Lori – DAY THREE:

  • Did she have any control over the cover design?
  • What kinds of obstacles did she encounter along the way?
  • Did she have beta readers?
  • How many drafts did she do?

COUNTDOWN: ONE WEEK!

Join Lori and the MWW Community to help you move forward with your stories! Check out this awesome schedule — and you get access to ALL 23 sessions!

Register for Virtual MWW20 here today!

Q&A with Lori Rader-Day

MWW Director Jama Kehoe Bigger caught up with Lori about her writing and her friendship with Midwest Writers Workshop.

Lori Rader Day - MWW20
Lori Rader Day – MWW20

MWW: Introduce yourself and tell us about your latest novel/creative project.

LRD: Hi, everyone! I’m Lori Rader-Day, a Midwest Writers Workshop alumna and award-winning crime fiction writer. I’m also the national president of Sisters in Crime, and you can consider that a commercial. My latest published book is The Lucky One, which is a psychological thriller about a woman who was kidnapped as a child (and returned safely) and is paying back her good fortune by helping find cold case missing persons–when she sees a face she recognizes on the site and it’s her kidnapper, never brought to justice. My latest project, not yet published, is a historical crime story set during World War II at Agatha Christie’s summer house, Greenway, in Devon, England.

MWW: We’re all creating new routines for ourselves in the midst of COVID. What does dedicating time to your craft right now look like for you?

LRD: To finish my recent revisions for that last project, I had to dedicate so much what we call “butt in chair” time that I might have injured myself. Who says this job isn’t a physical one? This was hours a day every day for most of the quarantine, which gave me something to focus on. Now that I’m done… well, let’s just say I might start writing my next book sooner than planned.

MWW: What role has Midwest Writers Workshop played in your personal path to publication?

LRD: Midwest Writers Workshop was the first writing conference I ever went to. I had no idea who I was, what kind of writer I wanted to be, but I had so much fun. When I went back the next time, I had a clearer idea–but I was wrong, because when I went to MWW’s fellow retreat (RIP) one year, I found out I was a crime fiction writer. I didn’t know, but the wise people at MWW made sure I left with a better idea of the story I was writing and what I would need to do to get it written. That book was published as my third novel in 2017, but the scene I wrote at the retreat is still in the book.

MWW: Why would you encourage writers–of any age or any experience level–to participate in Midwest Writers Workshop?

LRD: I send a lot of people to MWW because I think it’s a welcoming space with great teachers. I think any age of writer could find some fellow writers to hang out with, and any experience level will find some classes to fit their needs.

Lori’s waiting to meet you for Happy Hour!

“Creative Research” and how to decide what works with your story

Meet MWW20 faculty member Kelcey Parker Ervick

Kelcey Parker Ervick is the author of three award-winning books: The Bitter Life of Bozena Němcová, a hybrid work of biography, memoir, and art about a Czech fairy tale writer; Liliane’s Balcony (Rose Metal Press), a novella set at Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater; and the story collection For Sale By Owner (Kore Press).

She is co-editor, with Tom Hart, of the forthcoming Field Guide to Graphic Literature: Artists and Writers on Creating Graphic Narratives, Poetry Comics, and Literary Collage, which Rose Metal Press will publish in 2021.

She has received grants from the Indiana Arts Commission and the Sustainable Arts Foundation. Her stories, essays, and comics have appeared in The Believer, The Rumpus, Colorado Review, Passages North, Quarterly West, Booth, Notre Dame Review, The Common, and elsewhere. She has a Ph.D. from the University of Cincinnati and teaches creative writing at Indiana University South Bend.

Kelcey Parker Ervick MWW20
Kelcey Parker Ervick – MWW20

Kelcey’s MWW20 sessions include:

  • The “I” And The “Eye” In Nonfiction – How to strengthen your memoir by developing a persona and writing from a clear and consistent narrative perspective.
  • Searching and Researching: How To Write What You Don’t Know – How to take your memoir to the next level by making connections to history, politics, science, and culture.
  • Scene Magic – Kelcey will take you step by step through the writing of a compelling scene, then we will break those scenes down to identify the key parts so you can do it again (and again) on your own.

Lylanne Musselman, Midwest Writers Workshop board member, interviewed Kelcey for this week’s faculty Q&A.

MWW: Your award-winning book, The Bitter Life of Bozena Němcová, is billed as a biographical collage. How did that come about? Did you start writing with that idea in mind?

KPE: Bozena Němcová is a fairy tale writer whom I first encountered when I bought a book of her fairy tales for my daughter in the Prague Castle gift shop. I then learned that she is everywhere in Prague: there are statues and plaques and books and theater productions inspired by her. She is even on the Czech equivalent of the $20. (Imagine: a woman! on paper money!)

Long before it was a book idea, it was just me wondering: Who is this person? Why is she so important here? And why have I never heard of her before?

In my quest to find answers, I was so dazzled by everything I came across, and all my notes and quotes seemed to be in conversation with one another. So, I decided to tell the story of her life through actual snippets of her fairy tales and (amazingly frank) letters, gossip and recollections by her friends, radio interviews, and even things Kafka wrote about her in his letters. So, it became a “biographical collage.”

MWW: One of your sessions for Virtual MWW20 is “Searching and Researching: How to Write What You Don’t Know.” Writers are often told to only “write what you know” so what teaser can you give us about this session without giving too much away?

KPE: “Research” sounds so dull, but it isn’t! And it can add so much to your writing.

For example, I learned that one of the (rather disturbing) Frida Kahlo paintings that was originally owned by the historical characters in my book Liliane’s Balcony is now owned by Madonna, who uses it as a test litmus of friendship: “If somebody doesn’t like this painting,” she said, “then I know they can’t be my friend.”

Actually, that’s a terrible example because although I REALLY wanted to include that research tidbit, I couldn’t make it work in the story, so it’s not in the book!

Anyway, in this session I’ll provide strategies and fun examples of what I call “creative research” and how to decide what works with your story. Then I’ll offer a list of specific ways you can apply and incorporate your discoveries into your writing to add depth, detail, and humor.

MWW: What is your writing process like? Do you have any set rituals? 

KPE: In 2018, I started making a drawing or painting each day, and I’m now in my third year of doing it, and it has transformed my writing life. I have a different, less precious, relationship to painting than writing, so it is a way for me to create more freely and have fun. I post most of my daily doodles on Instagram, where it’s fun to connect with other readers, writers, and artists. The whole experience helped me think differently about how I write and the stories I tell. Weirdly, making visual art has helped me find my “voice.” (The Rumpus published my visual reflections on daily art-making in 2018 and again in 2019.)

I also like having at least two different projects going at once. This way, if one project isn’t going well on a certain day, there’s always another to work on.

Another part of my process is stepping back from a piece and writing ABOUT it: Why am I writing it? What am I trying to say? How would I describe it to a stranger? Writing about and reflecting on these questions can help me move forward and provide focus when I go back to drafting.

MWW: Can you share any details on what you’re working on right now?

KPE: I’m working on a couple of different projects. Both are illustrated narratives. One is inspired by my great-grandmother’s life in Belfast, Ireland, working as a flax-spinner making tablecloths for the Titanic, which was being built in nearby shipyards, while dreaming of taking it to America.

The other is an illustrated memoir about being part of the first generation of Title IX, the law best known for creating equal opportunities for girls and women in sports. Like my literary idol, Vladimir Nabokov, I was a soccer goalie who wanted to be a writer. Unlike him, I was a girl. As I tell my story, I share stories of women athletes and writers who paved the way.

Join Kelcey and the MWW Community to help you move forward with your stories! Check out this awesome schedule — and you get access to ALL 23 sessions!

Register for Virtual MWW20 here today!

Sarah Aronson is all about about exploring those three I’s!

Meet MWW20 faculty member Sarah Aronson

Sarah Aronson began writing for kids and teens when someone in an exercise class dared her to try. Since then, she has earned an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts, and published three stand alone novels: Head Case, Beyond Lucky, and Believe, a young MG series, The Wish List (Scholastic, 2017-2019) as well as the picture book biography, Just Like Rube Goldberg (Beach Lane Books), illustrated by Robert Neubecker.

When Sarah is not writing or reading (or cooking or riding her bike), she is talking to readers about creativity, writing, social action, and of course, sparkle power! She loves working with other writers in one of her classes at  the amazing Highlights Foundation or Writers on the Net (www.writers.com). She currently serves as PAL coordinator for SCBWI-Illinois-and the SCBWI-IL initiative, Read Local. Warning: She overuses exclamation points. When she gets really excited, she makes funny faces and talks with her hands. She lives in Evanston, Illinois.

Sarah Aronson - MWW20
Sarah Aronson – MWW20
Sarah’s MWW20 sessions include:
  • Get to Know Your MG/YA Novel – Sarah will present her philosophy on the stages of revision, beginning with reimagination and how writers can discover their most authentic voices. She will look at the three I’s: Inspiration, Intuition, and Intellect. She will offer her best tips, as well as anecdotes for every stage of revision–from concept to word–that are guaranteed to amplify voice and give you the confidence you need to dig deep into your novel narratives. She will provide a hand-out filled with exercises you can use to help you embrace the power of play.
  • Panel: Outliner and Pantser? [Tracy Clark, Sarah Domet, Sarah Aronson, Moderator: Angela Jackson-Brown]
  • To Move Forward, Look Back – Explore backstory to reveal new opportunities for revision and reimagination. In this lecture, Sarah will look at three kinds of back story-your story’s origins, your characters’ past, and your emotions and reasons for writing-as tools for discovery and revision. Writing exercises included.
  • No More Subpar Subplots – Are you stuck in the muddy middle?  Worried that your novel sags and drags? Or are you just plain lost? Perhaps you need to ramp up your subplots!  In this seminar, Sarah will break down the art of writing compelling secondary characters and subplots, and help you increase the conflict and pace your novel. Come prepared to do some writing exercises and self-editing. Warning: this process may lead to the death (or creation) of brand new characters!

Gail Werner, long-time friend of Midwest Writers Workshop, caught up with Sarah recently and interviewed her for this Q&A.

MWW: Can you tell me more about your background and how you got into writing young adult fiction? Someone you knew dared you once to give it a try, right?   

SA: Yes! Before I was a writer, I was a physical therapist, and for a long time, I taught a variety of exercise classes. After one spinning class, someone dared me to try writing. This didn’t completely surprise me. I had grown up loving and performing theater, and if you ask my mom and dad, I have always been a very persuasive story teller. So, I went home and found my children reading. (Rebecca was reading Esperanza, Rising, and Elliot was reading Bunnicula–for maybe the 100th time!) I don’t think I really thought much about it. I decided to try writing my favorite kinds of books–books for young readers–took out a pen and paper and started writing!

(I admit: I thought it would be easy. It wasn’t!)

After a few false starts, I met editor, Deborah Brodie, who liked my voice, but not much more! She suggested I get my MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults.

Since that experience, I’ve published nine books for kids with one more under contract. I love talking about craft–and working with writers to help them find their stories. Every day, I am inspired by so many writers in the children’s literature community. We have great readers and an important mission: to give every child the opportunity to see themselves in stories that end with hope.

MWW: One of your MWW20 sessions–“To Move Forward, Look Back”–is on the topic of exploring backstory as a writer’s tool for discovery and revision. What do you think are the key purposes of backstory, and why is backstory important to good character creation?

SA: Backstory is all about the WHY–and the why is the key to understanding our characters’ motivations and desires that propel the story forward. No story begins on page one. Our characters’ past experiences form their worldviews–and that helps us imagine what they will do when faced with obstacles. Our backstories are important, too! They help us understand what our stories mean to us–and also mine for personal details. It’s going to be a fun session!

MWW: What do you love most about writing for kids and teens? On the flip side, what is the greatest challenge? 

SA: I love hanging out with kids! I love thinking like a kid. Childhood is a time of discovery and growth–both physical and emotional. My favorite books are the books I read when I was young. Getting into the mindset of a young person or teen is both rewarding and incredibly challenging! As an adult, I have a lot to share. But books aren’t teachers. Story is still the boss.

MWW: Can you share details about what you are working on right now? 

SA: I just finished editing my upcoming picture book called Brand New Bubbe.

Other works in progress include a middle grade novel that begins when the protagonist gets kicked out of camp for reasons she will not disclose. Because her parents are busy, they send her to her grandmother’s house for two weeks. It’s a story of family and friendship–my first story that takes place in Chicago. I’m also working on a mystery as well as a picture book about the history of Paint By Numbers. I like working on more than one project at a time–they are all in different stages. My writing process is all about the power of play. It’s about exploring those three I’s: inspiration, intuition, and intellect!

Join Sarah and the MWW Community to help you move forward with your stories! Check out this awesome schedule — and you get access to ALL 23 sessions!

Register for Virtual MWW20 here today!