One-day mini-conference | Reaching Your Writing Goals

This mini-conference will give your writing a boost!

Midwest Writers Workshop is offering a mini-conference, “Reaching Your Writing Goals,” on Saturday, November 3, 2018, 10 a.m.-3:30 p.m. (includes lunch) at the Ball State Alumni Center, 2800 W. Bethel Ave., Muncie, Ind.

Authors presenting at the mini-conference are Kelsey Timmerman, Annie Sullivan, and Sarah Schmitt. The program includes talks about getting published, participation in break-out groups, a panel question-and-answer session, and book celebration for Kelsey’s newest release (Where Am I Giving?), Annie’s debut novel (A Touch of Gold), and the new paperback of Sarah’s novel (It’s A Wonderful Death). Books will be available for purchase and signing.

Cost for this day mini-conference is just $60.

Reaching Your Writing Goals

10:00-10:10       Welcome, introductions

10:10-12:40       Authors (Kelsey Timmerman, Annie Sullivan, Sarah Schmitt) share their Path to Publishing

12:40-1:00        Working sack lunch/fellowship

1:15-1:45          Breakout #1

Kelsey Timmerman: Finding and Telling True Stories — An overview of brainstorming, researching, and interviewing techniques Kelsey has used to write 3 books.

Annie Sullivan: How to Hook an Agent: Everything from Strong Query Letters to First Lines — Landing an agent starts with getting their attention and not letting it go. Discover how to keep agents reading your work and requesting more!

Sarah Schmitt: Plotting Boot Camp — All good stories have one thing in common: a strong plot. This presentation simplifies the plotting process and helps focus a writer’s vision of their current work in progress. Participants will engage in a group writing activity that can then be used as a tool for their own projects.

1:45-2:15           Breakout #2

Kelsey Timmerman: How to Write a Book Proposal — To land an agent and an editor for your nonfiction book, first you need to write a proposal.

Annie Sullivan: Worldbuilding: How to Build the Foundations of Your Fantasy or Sci-fi World — Learn to create fantasy worlds that will sweep readers off their feet by incorporating small and large details into your work.

Sarah Schmitt: Character Development Workshop — Does your character’s eye color matter? Does he or she resent authority? Why? Character development is imperative for any story. This hands-on workshop will look at how a character’s past influences their actions in the present and where inspiration can be found to create a character as unique as you are.

2:30-3:00       Reassemble as a group in Assembly Hall; Q&A with the panel

3:00-3:10       Explain MWW resources (future mini-conferences, etc.)

3:10-3:30       Invitation to purchase books and have authors autograph them.

Fellowship/community time

REGISTER HERE

FACULTY:

Kelsey Timmerman is the New York Times Bestselling author of WHERE AM I WEARING? A Global Tour to the Countries, Factories, and People That Make Our Clothes and WHERE AM I EATING? An Adventure Through the Global Food Economy. His newest book is WHERE AM I GIVING? A Global Adventure Exploring How to Use Your Gifts and Talents to Make a Difference. His writing has appeared in places such as the Christian Science Monitor and has aired on NPR. Kelsey is also the cofounder of the Facing Project, which seeks to connect people through stories to strengthen community. He has spent the night in Castle Dracula in Romania, played PlayStation in Kosovo, farmed on four continents, taught an island village to play baseball in Honduras, and in another life, worked as a SCUBA instructor in Key West, Florida. Whether in print or in person he seeks to connect people around the world.

Annie Sullivan is a Young Adult author from Indianapolis, Indiana. Her work has been featured in Curly Red Stories and Punchnels. She loves fairytales, everything Jane Austen, and traveling and exploring new cultures. When she’s not off on her own adventures, she’s teaching classes at the Indiana Writers Center and working as the Copy Specialist at John Wiley and Sons, Inc. publishing company, having also worked there in Editorial and Publicity roles. You can follow her adventures on Twitter and Instagram (@annsulliva).

As a former K-8 school librarian and youth services profession for a public library, Sarah Schmitt has always enjoyed pushing books on unsuspecting teens. Now, as a YA author, she gets to write those stories. Focusing on serious issues facing teens with her hallmark brand of humor, Sarah has taught at The Indiana Writer’s Center and presents interactive workshops at middle and high schools throughout Indiana and beyond. She has serviced on the selection committee for both the William C. Morris YA Debut Award, Young Hoosier Book Award for Middle Grade and Teens Top Ten. When not reading or writing, Sarah can be found crocheting or trying to prefect the perfect shave ice flavor formula. She lives with her husband, two kidlets, and a ninja cat near Indianapolis, Indiana. You can follow her on Instagram @sarahjschmitt.

 

Lori Rader-Day presents: Point of View, Your Story’s Foundation

Lori Rader-Day presents: Point of View, Your Story’s Foundation

“MWW Author Program with Lori Rader-Day” – Saturday, September 29, 2018, Kennedy Branch Library (1700 W. McGalliard), Muncie, Indiana, 2:30 pm – 5:30 pm. Program includes Lori’s discussion: “Point of View, Your Story’s Foundation”; an interview with Lori and Q&A; and a celebration of her newest novel, UNDER A DARK SKY.  Come and learn! Come for the community! Come be a literary citizen! {Just $25 — FREE copy of Under A Dark Sky included with registration!}

Program Schedule:

2:30-3:30 pm – Lori presents: Point of View, Your Story’s Foundation
Point of view isn’t just a she said/I said decision. Where you place a story’s point of view will decide how the story can be told, the tone and voice it will have, and how your reader will experience (and enjoy) your work. In this discussion on the importance of point of view, we’ll talk about the impact this one element has on all the others, including character, setting, theme, and more.

3:30-3:45 pm – Short break

3:45-4:45 pm – Interview and Q&A: ask her anything! Pick her brain for all kinds of writing advice.

What about  character?
What about setting?
What about theme?

4:45-5:30 pm – Autograph party!/fellowship

 

[Ball State Bookstore will have all four of Lori’s books for sale.]

Lori Rader-Day’s debut mystery, The Black Hour, won the 2015 Anthony Award for Best First Novel and was a finalist for the 2015 Mary Higgins Clark Award. Her second novel, Little Pretty Things, won the 2016 Mary Higgins Clark Award and was a nominee for the Anthony Award for Best Paperback Original. Little Pretty Things was named a 2015 “most arresting crime novel” by Kirkus Reviews and one of the top ten crime novels of the year by Booklist. Her third novel, The Day I Died, was an Indie Next Pick and is a nominee for the Mary Higgins Clark Award and the Barry Award. She studied journalism at Ball State University and now lives in Chicago.

Praise for Lori’s just released novel Under a Dark Sky:

“A brilliant concept, brilliantly told! Under a Dark Sky is a novel that you simply can’t put down…” -Jeffery Deaver, international number one bestselling author

“Lori Rader-Day is a modern day Agatha Christie: her mysteries are taut, her characters are real and larger than life, and her plots are relentlessly surprising. Under a Dark Sky is a stellar addition to her award-winning catalog. The closed door mystery echoes the claustrophobic atmosphere of Christie’s And Then There Were None, and there are enough breakneck twists to captivate modern readers. A dynamite late summer read!” -Kate Moretti, New York Times bestselling author of The Vanishing Year

 

Register here! Just $25!

{Limited space}

New online course! Show Not Tell with Shirley Jump

MWW Ongoing

Midwest Writers just experienced a successful Super Mini-conference, July 27-28, and while we’re planning our next events, we’re also continuing our mission to help writers improve their writing with our online courses.

MWW Ongoing is a series of courses taught by award-winning writing instructors, and everything happens online. From the convenience of your computer, on your own time schedule, you can participate in classes to take your writing to the next level.

SHOW NOT TELL is our latest MWW Ongoing course taught by one of our popular instructors, New York Times bestselling author Shirley Jump. It’s a two-week course with lessons, strategies, and exercises to strengthen and provoke emotion in your writing. Cost: $75.00 — course begins August 20!

SHOW NOT TELL is for people who are struggling to make their writing come alive with powerful characters, emotional storylines and memorable reads. If you are struggling to get readers to connect with your book, this course will help. This course will cover the difference between show and tell, how to find the telling in your manuscript, and the best ways to create more emotion on the page. Showing brings words to life and creates living, breathing characters.

Shirley will cover the basics of show not tell, including the key words to watch for, and the reasons for telling instead of showing in a manuscript. She will talk about pacing and backstory as well, because both are impacted by show not tell, and are integral to a well written book. By the end of this course, you will have the tools you need to create more powerful scenes and more evocative characters.

What This Course Specifically Teaches

  • Basics of show not tell
  • Determining where the telling is in your book
  • Changing telling to Showing
  • Creating more powerful characters and adding more emotion to key scenes

The course is broken down into two units. Each unit is accompanied by several handouts that build on the one before. You can start using the information immediately for your current work. Questions will be answered within the private Facebook group and in one Facebook live chat.

UNIT ONE: Available Monday, August 20th

Unit One will be about getting the basics down. We will start with discussing the difference between show not tell, how to find the sections of your work that are telling, and the basics of converting telling to showing. Students will be asked to look at their own work and revise to show more (feedback will be given in the private Facebook group).

  • Show Not Tell
  • Devil is in the Details
  • Passive vs Active
  • Enriching Your Descriptions
  • Scene Analysis

UNIT TWO: Available Monday, August 27th

Unit Two will take show not tell to a deeper level. We will discuss when to tell instead of show, how show not tell relates to backstory and pacing, and how a few key words can make a huge difference in a scene. Students will again look at their own work and revise to show more, with feedback in the private Facebook group.

  • Tension vs Conflict
  • Construct a More Powerful Scene
  • Scene Analysis
  • Before and After Backstory

And Join the community in the Facebook Group!

About the Instructor

When she’s not writing books, New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Shirley Jump competes in triathlons, mostly because all that training lets her justify mid-day naps and a second slice of chocolate cake. She’s published more than 60 books in 24 languages, although she’s too geographically challenged to find any of those countries on a map. Visit her website at www.ShirleyJump.com for author news and a booklist, and follow her on Facebook at www.Facebook.com/shirleyjump.author for giveaways and deep discussions about important things like chocolate and shoes.

REGISTER HERE!

OMG! Guess what the Super Mini-conference faculty is offering!

Too often workshop participants get fired up about their writing while attending conferences, but then their enthusiasm dissipates when they go home and are confronted with job and family obligations. But, guess what?! The faculty members of the MWW Super mini-conference (coming in 2 weeks — July 27-28!) are presenting an opportunity aimed at keeping the momentum going after participants head home.

SPECIAL OFFER FROM FACULTY!

The offer: Super Mini attendees can buy one hour of a workshop faculty member’s time to be redeemed before October 30. How that hour is used is completely up to you and the faculty member. Possibilities might include the faculty member reading and/or editing a query letter, book proposal or five manuscript pages. Feedback can be via email, phone, Skype, or face to face (if geographically possible).

The cost: $50 for one hour of the faculty member’s time, payable in advance at the Super Mini-conference. This is designed to motivate you to produce something that you can show the faculty member by the imposed deadline. The deadline is firm. If you buy the time but don’t arrange for the consultation by Oct. 30, you forfeit the fee. There are no extensions.

The purpose: to keep YOU writing!

COUNTDOWN: TWO WEEKS! STILL TIME TO REGISTER!

 

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.

  • Maurice Broaddus
  • Brent Bill
  • Matthew Clemens
  • Lucrecia Guerrero
  • Lou Harry
  • Holly Miller
  • Barbara Shoup
  • Larry D. Sweazy

 

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.

Spreading the Word: A One-Hour Look at What MWW Can Do For You

Join us for this one-hour look at what MWW can do for you!

Saturday, July 7, 2018

1:30 p.m. to 2:30 p.m.

Kennedy Branch Library

1700 W. McGalliard Road

Muncie, Indiana 47304

For forty-five years Midwest Writers Workshop has nurtured aspiring and accomplished writers, helping them to improve their craft and achieve their publishing goals in a welcoming community. In this one-hour informational session members of the MWW Board of Directors will not only share what they have to offer writers, but also hope to hear from writers about what they’d like to see offered in the future.

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!

_______________________________________________________________

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.

Writing from the Dreamscape and Other Avenues toward Writing

What will you discover about yourself and your writing when you come to the Super mini-conference?

MWW Board member and poet Michael Brockley shared his thoughts… Writing from the Dreamscape and Other Avenues toward Writing about What You Want to Know

Although I am a poet, I try to put myself in positions to learn beyond the scope of the alchemical secrets we learn in poetry workshops. Humor classes always pique my interest as do sessions on tall tales, flash fiction, translating, writing as a form of therapy and prose poetry. The latter changed my literary life. And to this day, I regret having missed a workshop in Indianapolis which was advertised as an exploration of the role recurring images serve in one’s work.

I am looking forward to this year’s Super Mini-conference in Muncie because it is constructed in such a way as to promote not only writing, but writing about what I want to know. Workshops that feel as if the thing I want to know is within reach. I encourage myself to seek writing insights from sources outside my Pandora’s box because such genre-hopping forces me to write outside of my comfort zone. To reveal to myself this unknown unknown. This makes, for instance, Lucrecia Guerrero’s From Where You Dream so enticing. The possibility of opening a door in my brain that puts me at the threshold of a new direction, something darker or funnier or maybe something that puts me in an unfurnished room in my brain. Maurice Broaddus with his World Building seminar might provide more environmental roughage to nurture my Aloha Shirt Man’s surreal adventures or stoke the apocalyptic world my anonymous second person singular protagonist navigates.

But enough about me. What about you? Do you have a mystery detective who could benefit from ecstatic moments such as might be drawn from Brent Bill’s Soulful Creativity workshop? Maybe your romantic lead has a teenage son or daughter who sounds too much like your favorite rock-and-roll singer who is pushing 50. Thinking Like a Teenager, Barb Shoup’s offering, could jack up the parent-adolescent strife to such an extent that it jazzes your story with a new dimension or new character. For you see, once changes are introduced to your comfort zone you have no choice but to turn the handle on the Unchosen Door, the one you’ve always wanted to open. The light under that door shines with a color you can’t name and the sounds you hear might be grief or joy. Open the door and take a vacation through your dreamscape with your unconscious sidekick. Discover the worlds yet unbuilt that only you can raise. The seeds of writing within your soul await. Think once more in the way you did before you had a driver’s license. When you first began defining love for yourself. Come to the MWW Super Mini-conference on July 27 and July 28 at the Ball State Alumni Center in Muncie, Indiana. Come to begin your first (or your next) novel and leave with the passion to write about everything.

*****

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

Brent: “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 piece, 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.”

Come and discover!

_______________________________________________________________

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 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.