Friday, October 26, 2012

Write Now: Things I Learned at the SCWW Writer’s Conference

Things I Learned at the SCWW Writer’s Conference

Please hold your questions or discussions until the QA part of the class.

I was in Ethan Gilsdorf’s Workshop titled “Nine Commandments of Highly Effective Authors” and I really wanted to hear what he had to say. 

When Ethan mentioned you should be writing because you want to write and not for the possible money, one of the attendees really took offense to this. The gentleman thinks he’s going to be the next John Grisham and maybe he will be, but he was invading our time with this highly talented author. He kept interrupting Ethan to return to the whole money thing. At one point I just wanted to jump and say we didn’t pay to hear you speak, but I am a Southern woman and we’re not supposed to do those things. I am so thankful Ethan gave us a handout and I will be making my writing goals for next year, which is Commandment 8. Some of the others I already do, but I plan on implementing them all.

Ethan is the author of Fantasy Freaks and Gaming Geeks, his memoir about what one mad discovers through his journeys through one fantasy world after another.

They did give us a handout on Conference Etiquette, I think holding your questions or comments until the end of the workshop should definitely be added.

When talking with Ethan later that afternoon, I promised him I would put this first. He was wonderful getting back to his conference topic, but I believe the man interrupted him six times.

Patti Callahan Henry is as awesome in person as she is as an author.

I have long admired her books. I just finished Coming Up For Air, all I can say is read it.

I received one of the best compliments about my own writing, when it was being critiqued by George Singleton, and he asked me if I had ever read any of Patti Callahan Henry’s books because my work had a similar flair. I thought I could die right then. (I was a teenager in the 80s, at least I didn’t go all totally and awesome).

We had the opportunity for a Q & A session with Patti. I loved hearing about how star struck she was when she first met Anne Rivers Siddons, She said she couldn’t even speak legibly as Siddons smiled and signed King’s Oak for her.

Authors are just people too. They write. They tell their stories. They’re just like the rest of us, they just happen to be published.

Matthew Frederick’s Small Steps to Big Books

I went into this conference thinking that he would be breaking down how to write a novel. It is so intimidating to think of stringing 90,000 words together. But this was not his focus.
The focus was the things you can do as you write your novel. Publish a short story or a poem. Write an op-ed piece for your local newspaper, write a letter to the editor about something that bugs you, write something and see your name in print.

Blog, tweet, Facebook – but remember it is not all about you. If you are a blogger, be faithful with your schedule. Be careful with your content and make sure it is worthy of reading.

Matt is the author of a series titled 101 Things I Learned… This series grew from a lecture that he would give his architecture students. Everybody is an expert at something, you just have to find your niche.

Matt’s books are 101 Things I Learned in Architecture School, 101 Things I Learned in Film School, 101 Things I Learned in Culinary School, 101 Things I Learned in Fashion School, and 101 Things I Learned in Business School.

Matt wrote these books to generate income so that he can focus on his novel.

Of course this made me think about a book my brother and I have been talking about for years. After seeing Matt’s success, we will be shopping it around soon.

Agents want your book to the best it can be.

I had the opportunity to pitch my novel in progress to two agents. At first I was intimidated, but they were both wonderful. They gave me some wonderful suggestions for my novel and some valuable advice about the query and pitch once the novel is finished and ready for me to begin searching for an agent in earnest.

I went to the slush fest for Romance and Women’s Fiction. You could bring your query and first page or two pages of your novel in for the class and agents to see.

There were many talented writers, each with a great storyline. Most were engaging and they all needed a little work, but that is what we were there for. The agents on the panel were Mitchell Waters and Rachel Eckstrom. They showed us what was good about each query and made suggestions for improving them. They also told us if they would have continued reading after the first two pages or stopped before that.

Their advice:
You have to get an agent’s attention.
Be courteous, not obnoxious.
Know that when an agent suggests changes, it is to make your novel better.

General Things I Learned
Meet with other writers. They are your people, your tribe. They can help you. Writing is often a solitary endeavor and these people will understand how real your characters are to you.

Attend writer's conferences.

Seek the opinions of others, but also realize it is your work. Just because you listened, doesn't mean that those are things you need to change.

Published writers are people too. They started where you are. They understand.

I had a wonderful time meeting other writers. At dinner on Saturday I found myself sitting between Patti Callahan Henry and Lydia Netzer. I met Barabara Claypole White and I am looking forward to her novel, The Unfinished Garden. I could gush for days, but I'll save that for my personal journal. If you're looking for something wonderful to read - I suggest the books of the authors mentioned in this post.

On Sunday, I will be featuring my Mom's Boo Pudding for Halloween.