Top 10 Reasons To Go To A Writers Conference

I recently attended the Pacific Northwest Writers Association Conference (PNWA18). I had a great experience. Here are my top ten reasons to attend a writers conference:

Cover Writing the Breakout Novel10. Autographs – At PNWA authors can buy a table in the “bookstore” to sell their books. There is an autograph party where you can meet the authors and ask them to sign their books. The week before the conference, a member of my critique group gave me a copy of Writing the Breakout Novel: Insider Advice for Taking Your Fiction to the Next Level by Donald Maass. He didn’t know Mr. Maass would be at the conference, he just gave me the book out of the blue. I took itMaass Signature with me and was happy to see Donald Maass signing at the autograph party.

9. The speaker – This year’s speaker was R. L. Stine. His speech was funny and informative. He started off by reading letters he had received from children and followed up with some great advice. He said to always say yes to everything. He probably meant within reason, but I’ll leave that up to you. After his speech, he did a book signing. My friend Stevie was so excited to get her childhood Goosebumps book signed. It was a choose your own adventure about a mummy. I didn’t know he had done choose your own adventures. Mr. Stine was very kind and let people come behind the table for pictures.

8. Author panel – During one of the desserts, Robert Dugoni lead a hotseat style question and answer session with Donald Maass, Julia Quinn, Cat Rambo, and Christopher Vogler. They talked about how they got started and their careers. Mr. Dugoni did a great job of keeping it fun and lively.

7. Pitch fest pitch practice – This is a great opportunity at the beginning of the conference to meet other writers and hear about the stories they’ve written. Each round table has a coach to give feedback on your pitch, so it will be ready when you get your chance with the agents and editors.

Cover Extraordinary Life of Sam Hell6. Question and Answer sessions in your genre – This is a great opportunity to hear agents and authors talk about working in your genre. I volunteered to moderate the literary fiction section. The three agents who were looking for literary fiction talked about how they find and work with their authors, their favorite recent titles and gave great insider information about the literary journals they read when looking for new talent. Hint: Start reading Tin House.

5. Classes – One of the reasons writers really like the PNWA conference is that it focuses on the craft of writing. There are many great sessions to choose from. I got a lot out of “A Novel in Four Drafts” presented by Lindsay Schopfer and “Words Matter. Writing the Literary Novel” with Robert Dugoni.Dugoni signature

4. The agent and editor panels – This is a very important part of the conference. Finding the agents and editors most interested in stories like yours will help you make a successful pitch. It’s important to research the agents and editors before going to the conference, but even when you’ve done your homework, hearing the agents talk about what they’re looking for specifically gives you a much clearer picture if they will be a good fit for your work.

3. Pitching to agents and editors – Here’s the actual professional work of going to the conference, pitching your novel. If your manuscript is complete and polished, or you will have it polished by next year’s conference, I recommend buying the early-bird tickets as soon as they become available. The ticket is less expensive and comes with two pitch blocks. I think it’s important to have two pitch blocks because there is less pressure and if things do not go well in the first block, you can adjust your pitch and try again. Make sure your pitch is about 90 seconds long so there is time for questions. Include a quick description of your main character, the inciting incident and the crisis of your story, but don’t give away the ending.

2. Inspiration / Filling the well – Writing can be a very isolating and introspective vocation. Spending time with writers at every stage of their careers, listening to their personal stories and the stories they’ve written, and going to the sessions all help to get your creative juices flowing. In The Artist’s Way, Julia Cameron calls this “filling the well.”

And the most important reason to go to a writers conference is . . .

1. Relationships with fellow authors – I have met some amazing people at PNWA. Meeting other writers online is nice, but it is not the same as meeting in person. There’s just no substitute. Make sure to make business cards that not only express something about your novel, but also show your personality. Make sure to include all of your online platform information and hand those cards out to everyone who will take one. Be open and have fun meeting everyone. The joy of going to a writers conference is the concentrated evidence that everyone has a unique story to tell. It’s amazing.

Getting excited? A good place to start is heading over to pnwa.org and becoming a member. Not in the pacific northwest? That’s okay. You can attend the meetings online and the conference is open to everyone. If you would like to find a conference closer to your hometown, I created a map of US conferences to get you started in your search.

Remember to support your local authors.

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Another First: McKenzie’s New Boyfriend

bokeh photography experiment with a wide angle attachment on a zoom lens

Galactic Unions                                                                                                    photo by Maria L. Berg

McKenzie’s New Boyfriend is my second story published by Fictional Pairings. They paired my story with a song called Recover by Second Still. I’m listening to it while I write this. It feels perfect for my story–spacey road trip–and on Second Still’s site it says the album was released on my birthday this year (coincidence?).

This is another first in my writer’s journey because this is the first time I have published twice in the same magazine.

When building a publication history, why the same magazine?

When I first submitted to Fictional Pairings, I had two stories that I thought might work. I chose the shorter and more obviously sci-fi because I thought it was a best fit. The moment I received my acceptance letter from Fictional Pairings for BAM-AG Home, I shot off an email saying that I thought I had another piece that would be a good fit. I asked if they might be interested and how long I should wait before submitting again.

Why did I do this? Because I love the musical pairings with flash fiction. It is a great fit for me and I think it will grow. It also shows a growing readership that your first piece was so good that the magazine wanted another.

Like I said in New #LitMag+, finding the right place for your stories can feel elusive, so once you find a good match, I recommend submitting more than one best fit.

#Writerslife: The Key To Persistence? Celebrate every accomplishment.

An Urgent Note On The Floor

My short story “An Urgent Note On The Floor” was published in Sick Lit Magazine today. This marks an exciting milestone in my writing journey. Though I have had a flutter of publication recently, this is the first of my published stories that is long enough to leave the flash fiction category and fit in the short story realm.

I hope you’ll give it a read and let me know what you think.

Happy Reading and Writing

 

 

More Fun Discoveries – #LitMag+ The Sequel

 

I received another acceptance letter this morning! The story I submitted to Speculative 66 called “The Scout” will be published April 6th. As I mentioned in previous posts, I enjoy writing challenges and having to write a story in such a small and specific word count is a great exercise.

The story they are publishing is a pared down version of a story I wrote a while back that a friend from my critique  group really likes. I thought of her while I reworked each word because I wanted to make sure she will still feel the same when she reads it.

After I submitted, I looked through my writing and found two more short pieces I had created through a writing exercise. I was in the mood and thought I would submit again in the future, so I worked them to fit the 66 word format. What made the exercise even more enlightening was that it was easier to edit the word count down than to build it back up once I had gotten to the core of the story.

ink-blot-logo Today, while enjoying the Wednesday Twitter chats: #writerslifechat, #creaturechat, and #storysocial, Allison Maruska was happy that she had a story up at The Drabble.

The Drabble publishes stories of 100 words of less. They have a great page that defines Drabble and they choose strong, interesting stories. I hope it will become a home for one of my very short stories. If you love  microstories, give them a try.

 

 

 

New #LitMag+

fictional pairings

Tomorrow on Fictional Pairings  enjoy the music they pair to “Your New BAM-AG Home”

Almost every writer dreams of getting published. Most likely, that dream is the scene that comes after (and does not include) the effort involved in reading and researching hundreds of literary magazines, writing queries and perfecting submissions, only to receive rejection after rejection after rejection.

Finding the right place for your stories can feel elusive, but there is hope. New online magazines are cropping up and you can find them if you search diligently.

I recently happened upon some interesting online magazines that are right up my alley. Why do I call them #LitMag+ ? Because they offer something extra.

Fictional Pairings

As a musician as well as a writer, I am very excited about Fictional Pairings, an online magazine that pairs music from bandcamp.com with fiction and poetry.

My very short sci-fi story “Your New BAM-AG Home” is coming out tomorrow at Fictional Pairings. Please give it a read and enjoy the other stories and poetry with their musical pairings. I can’t wait to hear what they think my story sounds like.

The Evening Theatre

This magazine of the dark and macabre, premiering this month, will be setting up its issues like a theatrical performance with an opening act, a comedic interlude, a headliner, etc. I really like the premise and can’t wait for the firs issue.

Twistedsisterlitmag

For those of us that find our writing leaning to the dark and twisted, it can be hard to find a fit for our stories. Twisted Sister proudly lists their contributors on their Freaks and Wierdos page. I hope to join the ranks soon.

Speculative 66

This online magazine presents a fun challenge: to write a story in exactly 66 words. I feel inspired to give it a try. I enjoyed many of the stories in the current issue.

Have you been exploring new magazines to submit to and have some to add to my list? Please share in the comments. You can also add your finds on twitter #amsubmitting

Hope to see your work in the world of #LitMag+

Today We Write! #PNWA16

pnwa16 program

Last weekend I attended my first writers conference, The Pacific Northwest Writers Conference in Sea-Tac, Washington.  I learned so much at this conference that I decided to write a few posts about it. To start with, enjoy reading about my favorite events at the conference.

When I talk about moderating a session I mean, I took the opportunity to volunteer to help as needed and was assigned to moderate some of the session. That means that I got to meet and introduce some of the speakers. It was stressful at first, but went very smoothly thanks to Jennifer Douwes and D.C.C. Mealy. They kindly welcomed me, answered my questions and showed me the ropes.

My favorites from the conference:

The featured speakers (dessert/dinner)

The first night, Robert Dugoni was the featured speaker. I read his book My Sister’s Grave in preparation for the conference and really enjoyed it, so I was excited to hear what he had to say before he even started. His speech was moving (I was shocked to hear he had recently had a stroke) and inspiring (the twists and turns of his writing life). He repeated  two main themes. First, “It’s just stuff” which I took to mean, don’t write to obtain things but to write the very best book you can every time. Second “Hello, writing my old friend” which to me said, though life has its twists and turns and roller coaster ups and downs, a love for writing doesn’t go away.

The second night there was a sit down dinner with a panel of featured speakers, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. I had read The End Game by Catherine Coulter in preparation, but she wasn’t there. What did happen was Robert Dugoni posed unrehearsed questions to C.C. Humphreys, Steven James, Sheila Roberts and Gerri Russell. Most of the questions were about their writing process and careers. I really enjoyed the variety of personalities and viewpoints. There was a lot of banter and laughing and the vegan entree was even edible. What a night.

The Importance of a Strong Synopsis

I was worried about moderating this panel because it was first thing Saturday morning, directly before my pitch block, and I would be introducing four agents and collecting and reading all of the synopses. Luckily, the agents were happy to introduce themselves and were game to pick and read the synopses. Whew!

Like at dinner, the variety of personalities and viewpoints made this a great panel. I loved the discussion that arose from each synopsis read and the variety of the examples. It really drove home the point that everyone’s story is different.

Ask An Expert: Thriller/Mystery

I’m very glad I volunteered to moderate this panel. Though it took a little while to get the questions rolling, I thought the questions asked spurred a great discussion. Editor Anna Michels (pronounced Michaels)  of SourceBooks brought a great perspective from the publishing side to balance the two experienced and interesting thriller authors: Award winner and previous nuclear engineer Mike Lawson (I’m enjoying reading House Secrets) and New York Times bestseller and Jeopardy! champion Boyd Morrison. When I was researching the panel to prepare to introduce them, I was excited to see that Boyd and I have something in common–We both worked for NASA.

My uncle got excited when I told him Boyd writes with Clive Cussler. He says he’s a huge Cussler fan. Now he knows he’s a Boyd Morrison fan as well.

Take a month to save a year

Royce Buckingham‘s presentation held a very useful message. Not every idea we have is our best idea. Even the most prolific writer can’t write every idea they have. Save yourself time and test your ideas before you throw yourself into writing them. Tell your story ideas to people you think could be your audience/market. He mentioned pitching your story at parties as if they are the latest blockbuster movie you just saw. See which idea people get the most excited about and write that one. He recommends talking to at least 100 people before you get started.

Dancing with the stars: How to Connect with Celebrities for a Book Blurb

Chelly (pronounced Shelly) Wood also had some great, unexpected advice. Her presentation was about how supporting charities you are passionate about can help you network and enhance your author platform. I love this idea and am surprised how eye-opening it was.

Her message is that you don’t have to work for the charity, or donate a bunch of money (unless you have a bunch of money to give away), you can show support in other ways. You can promote charities on your website and social media to make others aware. You can volunteer for an event. You can donate (small) percentages of sales, etc.

Her further message is building your platform is all about asking what can I do for others. Get creative: Can you promote a local business that is related to something in your book? Can you invite a guest blogger who writes about something interesting in your book, not specifically the craft of writing? Or offer a guest blog for them?

Chelly designs doll clothes and gives away free patterns at ChellyWood.com

 

Was going to PNWA16 worth the time, money and stress? Absolutely and here’s why:

  • Meeting other writers

  • Pitching to agents and editors

  • Learning more about the craft

  • Building a better author platform

  • Putting the work in perspective

I’m going to write more about this next time. Don’t forget to follow this blog and sign up for my monthly newsletter. You know, free fun stuff for you!

You have so many links to follow and great writers to read from this post, I think you’ll be plenty busy. If not, below are links to other people who attended and wrote about the conference.

What other bloggers are saying about pnwa16:

Joe Beernink

Connie J. Jasperson

Renee N. Meland

Kisa Whipkey

Yurtlandia

 

Anyone else want to share their conference experiences (any writers conference)? I look forward to hearing from you.

Happy Writing and Reading!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Published! Oh, the joy of the first acceptance letter.

Cover Art for October Issue of Five On The Fifth

Artwork by Erin Baird used with permission of Five on the Fifth

As the gross jelly-blob predicted, October continues to be fun, gross and creepy. Why you ask? Because fun, gross and creepy can describe my flash fiction story, “My Collection”, that the editors of Five on the Fifth kindly chose for their October Issue!! I was delighted by the variety of stories and styles they chose. And for you short fiction writers, they are accepting submissions for November.

This is an exciting day for me. Two of my friends put the event of being published in great perspective. One said, (paraphrasing) A stranger, someone who has never met you, liked your words enough to want them, and the other posted, “It’s one thing to publish your own work, quite another for someone else to see its merit!“. It feels good to finally get an acceptance letter and see my name with other authors. And the timing couldn’t be better, because at the end of the month, I receive feedback on my novel from my first readers. Hope this success feeling is strong enough for the work ahead.