Carrie McCray Memorial Literary Awards

"Life cannot defeat a writer who is in love with writing - for life itself is a writer's love until death." Edna Ferber
An apt description of the woman who helped found the South Carolina Writers Workshop and served on its board. Carrie Allen McCray Nickens had already lived a full and exciting life when she finally took up writing . . . at age 73! She still had works in progress when she died last year at age 94. The SCWW established the Carrie McCray Literary Awards in her honor when the organization began sponsoring the annual conference years ago. Last year the competition was renamed Carrie McCray Memorial Literary Awards.

And now we welcome a new generation of writers who love life. Who are they? Some of them are last year's Carrie McCray Memorial Literary Awards winners. Their works described such varied situations as visiting slaves' cabins in Charleston, living in the realm of psychosis and wars in Vietnam and the Middle East. Memoir, murder, mystery, romance and humor were woven into the fabrics of the plays, poetry, nonfiction and fiction that passed through the judges' fingers and caught their eyes.

Some of the writers are many of you. You are the weavers and tellers of stories that hold evidence of your love for life and love for writing, and that's what the Carrie McCray Memorial Literary Awards recognizes each year. What patterns, colors and textures do you bring to your work? Could it be your piece that catches the judges' eyes this year? Only if you enter.

Submissions for the competition are now being accepted and anyone attending the 2009 South Carolina Writers Workshop annual conference is eligible. There are four categories this year: poetry, nonfiction, short fiction and novel/first chapter. Registrants may submit work in each category, but only one in each. Judging for each section is done by a three-judge panel with a full spectrum of writing interests and credits. More about them later. Complete details for submitting can be found on the SCWW website. Winners will be announced Friday evening during the conference. First Place winners receive $500 and Second Place winners $100. Honorable Mentions are also awarded.

I'm sorry I never had the opportunity to meet Ms. McCray, but with the Carrie McCray Memorial Literary Awards, her legacy and example will be with us for years to come. And in October we'll meet the writers who have their own way of living their life through their writing. I can't wait to meet them!

Contest Entries: Update

We're having some technical issues with the blog. If you've tried to leave a comment for the contest and couldn't, just send your entry in an email to:

We have it fixed. I think. I hope.
Try to post entries as comments. If it doesn't work, send your entry to the email address above.

Weekly Contest #1 (June 29-July 4)

We're starting the contest off with a tough one. Get your pencils sharpened!

Post your entry on the comments and we'll announce the winner, along with the prize, on Sunday, July 5th. If we post your first name and last initial as the winner, please email us at with your contact information.

Here we go!

Take the following paragraph and transform it into the best opening paragraph you can manage. Entries must be no more than 250 words. Posts that go over 250 words will be deleted and not considered for the prize.

Sally Rogers, a tired forty-year old housewife, wiped the counter for the hundredth time. Her kids were so messy! She hated all these chores. She should have followed her dream. Being a showgirl on the Vegas strip was what she wanted from the time she was a little girl. Everyone laughed at her and her made fun of her dreams. If only her mom had paid for dance lessons. Maybe now she wouldn't be a hundred pounds overweight, married to a total slob and living in a rat-infested apartment in Daytona Beach. She had to get the heck out of here. But she needed some funds.

Feel free to add, subtract, alter any details you want as long as the opening keeps the same basic storyline.

Good luck!

Major Announcement: Weekly Blog Contest

We're starting our weekly contest! Each week, until the conference, we'll be having a blog contest. I'll post the weekly challenge each Monday. You'll have until the following Saturday at Noon Eastern to post your entry in the form of a comment to the original post.

On Saturday or Sunday of each week, I'll post the winner (first name and last initial) on the blog. You don't have to be a member of SCWW or be registered for the conference to enter. You can pick up your prize upon registration at the conference. If you're not attending the conference, we will mail your prize to you after the conclusion of the conference.

We have some really cool prizes: signed books, craft books, SCWW merchandise and lots of other unique things.

Here are the rules:
1. You must be at least 18 years of age.
2. If you are a winner, you are not eligible for the following week's contest. Please sit out one week to give others a chance to win.
3. Entries that include graphic sex, violence or profanity, or are not related to the topic will be deleted.
4. All contests will be judged by the Chair or a Co-Chair of the 2009 SCWW Conference Committee. All decisions are final.
5. Conference Chair and Co-Chairs are not eligible to enter the contest.

Be on the lookout for your first chance to win. I'll post the challenge on Monday.

Who do I pick to Critique my Novel at the Conference?

Who do I pick to critique my novel at the conference? That was the question that I faced when I registered for the conference. Figuring out the answer took more time than I anticipated. I bet that I’m not alone in this struggle so I’m going to share my process and the key questions that I asked myself to make the decision.

What do I write?

This one is easy. I write what I love to read – romance. Specifically, I write historical romance. The person I picked to critique my novel needed to know something about what I was writing. They needed to represent, write, or edit romance. This leads to the next set of questions.

What genres do the agents attending the conference represent? What genres do the authors critiquing write? What genres do the editors edit?

These are three related questions. The list of faculty from the conference is available on the facebook group and google is my friend. I googled the names of all the faculty to see what they represented, what they wrote, and what they edited. I picked three faculty members that said they represented historical romance or wrote historical romance.

If I pick an agent, who do they represent? If I pick a writer, have I read their books?

Knowledge is power. You want to pick a faculty member that is a good fit for you. If you look at the list of books that they have sold or written and love the books, then you probably have found a good match for you. If you look at the list of books that they have sold or written and you dislike them, then you should move on to the next person.

Ok, I know that the faculty member that I pick to critique my book is under no obligation to request my work, but I want them to. Picking someone that represents what I write, gives me a better opportunity than picking someone that doesn’t represent what I write.

How did you pick your faculty member?

If the Pronoun Monster Calls, I'm Not Here

I know I promised to spend some time on romance subgenres, and I will, but today, I have something more pressing on my mind. Pronouns.

Yesterday, I was working with an editor who wanted some changes to a manuscript. After looking over her comments and then reading through my work, I was HORRIFIED. The Pronoun Monster should have clobbered me on Page 1. Total explosion of pronouns: he, she, it, her, his----all over the page. I'm embarrassed to tell you how many she found in one paragraph. But the number is burned into my brain and I have to tell you---24!

After the inital shock wore off, I tried to figure out why I'd used so many. One simple reason: LAZINESS. In every case of overusage, there was a better, more active, way to write the sentence. Yes, there are instances where pronouns are required, but if you're using them indiscriminately, i.e. every other word, you're not paying attention. In long passages, where I was caught up in writing, I made this mistake time and time again. After I saw the passages with a reader's eye, instead of a writer's eye, it was easy to spot and correct.

Here are some examples:

Looking in the mirror, she saw the dark, sooty lines of the mascara she’d applied so carefully this morning trailing all the way down her cheeks. (3 Pronouns)

Dark, sooty lines of mascara, applied so carefully this morning, trailed in rivulets down her cheeks. (1 Pronoun)

Her red dress hugged the curves of her hips like a second skin and did nothing to hide the generous swell of her breasts. And the shiny black heels she wore made her legs look even longer. (5 Pronouns)

The red dress fit like a second skin, accentuating the delicious curves of her breasts and hips. And the shiny black heels made her legs look even longer. (2 Pronouns)

The feel of her, so close to him, was electric. He wrapped one arm around her shoulder and let himself enjoy the way she fit so perfectly against his body. Her breath tickled the side of his face and it took every ounce of control he possessed not to wrap both his arms aroung her and pull her as tightly as he could against him. (14 Pronouns) (If the Pronoun Monster sees this sentence, I'm dead meat.)

The tantalizing press of her breasts against his thin cotton shirt sent flickering waves of desire through him. Wrapping one arm around her waist, he tightened the embrace. The two bodies fit together perfectly, as if designed for eash other. Warm breath tickled his cheek, and he fought for control. (7 Pronouns--still not ideal, but much better.)

See what I'm getting at here? Too many pronouns slow down the writing and make the brain feel tired. I encourage you to look over some of your own work and see if this is one bad habit you can fix before it's too late. (I hear him breathing. . .He's coming. . .)

Genre Spotlight: Romance

Here's what Romance Writers of America (RWA) has to say about what defines romance:

Two basic elements comprise every romance novel: a central love story and an emotionally-satisfying and optimistic ending.

A Central Love Story: The main plot centers around two individuals falling in love and struggling to make the relationship work. A writer can include as many subplots as he/she wants as long as the love story is the main focus of the novel.

An Emotionally-Satisfying and Optimistic Ending: In a romance, the lovers who risk and struggle for each other and their relationship are rewarded with emotional justice and unconditional love. Romance novels may have any tone or style, be set in any place or time, and have varying levels of sensuality—ranging from sweet to extremely hot. These settings and distinctions of plot create specific subgenres within romance fiction.

Romance Novel Formats
There are two formats for romance fiction:
Series or "category" romances: books issued under a common imprint/series name that are usually numbered sequentially and released at regular intervals, usually monthly, with the same number of releases each time. These books are most commonly published by Harlequin/Silhouette.
Single-title romances: longer romances released individually and not as part of a numbered series. Single-title romances may be released in hard cover, trade paperback, or mass-market paperback sizes.

If you want to read more, check out the RWA site at

Tomorrow, let's talk about subgenres and how to figure out where to classify your novel.

Registration Links

Here are the links you need to register:

If you plan to pay using your credit card, click here

If you plan to pay by check or money order, click here

The earlier you register, the better your chances to get a critique and/or pitch with your first choice faculty member.If you have problems registering or you need more info, just email us at

The Curse of Overwriting

I've been talking to my friends in the business quite a bit lately. Do you know what they're complaining about these days? OVERWRITING.

It's is a common problem. Lots of writers do it. And it stalls a lot of otherwise saleable manuscripts.

Here's are some examples I pulled from one of my own novels. It's several years old and abandoned in the depths of a file cabinet. It never sold, even though there was quite a bit of interest in it. Part of the reason it's still at my house instead of on your bookshelf is my OVERWRITING. The examples below were noted by several agents and editors alike.

Example 1:
She waited for David to drive away then she shook her head to clear her body of the image of the handsome Marine.

This is what I should have written:
She watched his taillights dissappear. She shook her head to clear the image of the handsome Marine.

Example 2 :
On Tuesday, she’d been thirty minutes late and by the time she arrived, Andrew, her eight-year old nephew, was the last kid waiting.

I should have written:
She’d been thirty minutes late on Tuesday. Andrew was the last kid waiting.

See how those small edits changed the readability and the pace of those sentences? Part of becoming a better writer is learning the economy of words and the power of words. Less is usually more.

If you have an OVERWRITTEN sentence, post it on the comments and maybe our bloggers can help you pare it down.

Your Manuscript & The Velveteen Rabbit

Weeks passed, and the little Rabbit grew very old and shabby, but the Boy loved him just as much. He loved him so hard that he loved all his whiskers off, and the pink lining to his ears turned grey, and his brown spots faded. He even began to lose his shape, and he scarcely looked like a rabbit any more, except to the Boy.
-The Velveteen Rabbit, Margery Williams , Double Day, 1922

Remember this classic? It's one of my favorite books because, in addition to being a wonderful story, it teaches us some very valuable life lessons. And more than one of those lessons can be applied to manuscripts and the writing life. But since this is a blog, let's stick with one of the most important of those lessons.

You can love your manuscript until it no longer looks like a book to anyone except you. Let me explain myself.

Manuscripts take a lot of time and energy. The more work you put into them, the more real the story becomes to you, the writer. But be careful. You can edit, revise, rewrite and change the story until it becomes unrecognizable and unsellable.

Think of your manuscript as a piece of beautiful fabric---enough to make one garment. After much thought, you choose a pattern for your garment. You sew and sew and sew and then you try the garment on. It fits, but there are a few places where it needs to be altered. You fix the hem, maybe take in the waist a bit, and then try it on again. Perfect fit.

Now, if you take the same piece of fabric, make a dress out of it, then you decide it shouldn't be a dress, but maybe a pair of pants. So you rip out the seams and start again. Now that it's pants, they're too short, so you tack some extra fabric on the hem, but it doesn't match the print. so you decide you'll make your pants into shorts, only the zipper you put in the pants is too long. . .

See what I'm getting at here? You can love your manuscript to death. You can ruin it by working on it too much or by trying to make it into something it isn't. I don't mean you should just spit your words out and never revise. I mean you need to learn when you've reached the natural end of a manuscript. You need to know when to shelve it and start on the next one. Not every manuscript will sell. That doesn't mean you're a bad writer. But don't waste time, time you could be working on the new one, to beat a dead horse.

Writing Trends: Hummers and Hybrids

As an aspiring author, it's important to keep a keen eye on the "NEW" bookshelves in both bookstores and libraries. By keeping your reading list current, you're keeping your finger on the pulse of the market. Just as in fashion, there are trends in the book world. If you're writing a book you intend to sell, especially if it's one you've had on your desk for a while, you need to make sure that manuscript would be marketable in today's world.

Don't delude yourself. Reading someone else's work, even if it's similar to yours, WILL NOT pollute your writing. It will enrich it. Don't get me wrong---you should never copy or plagarize in any way. But you should read the kind of books you write. Note the elements that pop up in every title. And then note the new trends---new styles, new types of characters, etc.

Take the romance genre for example. Gothic tales filled with brooding heros, dark dungeons, and isolated castles were all the rage in the 60's and 70's. The eighties were all about sucessful business men, the boom of the comtemporary romance, and money. Lots and lots of money. We we all watching Dallas while we read Jackie Collins. And remember all those great Judith McNaught novels? And who can forget Jayne Ann Krentz's eighties books? The last few years have been all about the paranormal. And paranormal likely wouldn't have sold in the days of Boy George and WHAM!. And even if it did, it would have been to a smaller audience. Who knows what the newest trend will be?

Ever notice how lots of best-selling authors start writing different kinds of books, even after major successes? Sandra Brown now writes romantic suspense---not short categories. Brenda Joyce is concentrating on paranormals instead of historicals. Even established authors have to follow trends sometimes.

Sometimes, writing for pleasure is a different game that writing for commercial success. Sure, you should write books you would like to read. But don't kid yourself either. Be honest with yourself when you reflect on WHY you write. And if you're writing to become the next top-seller, you need to know the market inside and out. I'm not suggesting that you "write for the trend" because you may be too late to catch it. What I am suggesting is that you read widely and figure out the baseline of your genre. Once you know that, you can easily spot what's new and hot and marketable.

Writing a manuscript fitting the expectations of today's reader goes a long way in getting it published.

In short, nobody wants to buy a Hummer right now. We're all thinking about Hybrids and MiniCoopers. Make sure your book is not a Hummer. Who knows when they'll be back en vogue?

Thank You!

Just a quick note to thank all the Chapter Leaders who traveled to Columbia today for the Board Meeting. We really appreciate your willingness to attend. We also appreciate all the feedback, questions and suggestions. This is YOUR SCWW and I think I can speak for the entire board when I say we want to make it the Best Writers' Organization possible.

Please feel free to call or email your Board Members when you have questions or suggestions.

Thank you again and we look forward to seeing all of you at the conference.

Registration Links

Here are the links you need to register:

If you plan to pay using your credit card, click here

If you plan to pay by check or money order, click here

The earlier you register, the better your chances to get a critique and/or pitch with your first choice faculty member.

If you have problems registering or you need more info, just email us at

A Writer's Journey

I’m in revision hell now. If I’m being completely honest, I’m not even revising. I’m rewriting. In the first 10 pages, I’ve kept one line of my manuscript. That’s right one line. Sigh. When I wrote the novel, I knew that my first draft was bad. I knew that my characters needed work. I knew that it would take me months to get it in a viewable-by- human-eyes-other-than-mine state. I was right. Even longer sigh.

My name is Vikki Perry and I’m a member of the Columbia II chapter of SCWW and I’m getting my historical romance ready to be critiqued at the South Carolina Writers’ Conference. If my math is correct, I have 132 days to remake my novel into something that I wouldn’t mind an agent or editor seeing, to remake my novel into something that has potential to catch their eye and make them think, I want to read more of this. One hundred and thirty-two days is a very short period of time in which to turn a really horrible first draft into a manuscript worthy of their consideration. Fear. Anxiety. Absolute terror. I feel all of these things, right now.

Can I finish my revisions in time? Can I avoid making my characters unlikeable idiots? Can I pick the right agent or editor choices for critique purposes? How do I talk up my novel without making the agent mad? Should I even try? I don’t know the answers to these questions and I may not find them, but for the next few months, I’m going to be blogging about how I’m preparing for the conference. I would love to hear what you’re doing as well, so leave a comment and tell us about your process.

Are you revising your novel for the conference? What are the problems that you are facing?

I'm guessing that many of you who plan on attending the conference are in the query stage of your writing career. More and more agents are converting to email only queries and submissions. It's very important that you consider the professionalism aspects of this process.

1. Create a professional email address. Most agents that receive your queries have never met you. Your email is their first introduction to you. If your email address is "smutwriter at" or "thenextfaulkner at", you might not be taken seriously. Keep it simple and real. Something like joesmith at

2. Make sure you read all submission guidelines carefully. Some agents want your synopsis as an attachment, some want it pasted into the body of the email. Some don't want one at all. If you don't follow the rules, there's a high likelihood your email will just get deleted. Don't take that chance. Attachments can be tricky, for lots reasons like viruses. If there are no specific instructions, it's better to paste the requested material into the body of your email.

3. Pay attention to any directions regarding your email's subject line. Many agents have their email accounts set up to filter queries. This requires certain keywords are included. If you follow directions, yours will go into the right folder. If not, well, then it goes straight into the trash bin.

4. Make sure you also check out the rules on multiple submissions. Most agencies have databases where they record submissions. If they prefer writers don't submit more than one manuscript at once, or to more than one agent on staff at once, DON'T EVEN CONSIDER IT. This is the kiss of death. They will realize it. You're not being clever and you'll likely NEVER get representation with this agency.

5. Be patient. Agents have existing clients, deadlines to meet, and conferences to attend, and book signings and then there's the. . .Get it? Agents are really busy people and they don't want to be pestered. Especially if you're not one of their clients. Keep it cool. They will respond and if they don't, well frankly, they're not interested.

Getting it published isn't ALL about the writing. Sure, you have to be a good (or maybe great) writer to snag a deal, but you also have to be someone that agents and editors can work with---high maintenance clients, especially ones that can't follow simple rules, are not what they're looking to sign.

What's your Genre?

This shouldn't be a trick question. While there are some of cross-over authors that can, and sometimes are shelved in more than one place in your neighborhood bookstore, you really NEED to know where your manuscript fits into the big scheme of things. Most cross-overs, like Diana Gabaldon, are big sellers making the use of space profitable.

Why is genre-labeling so important? Think about it this way: A bookstore has a finite amount of shelf space. They want to stock it with titles that will sell, thus making that space profitable. If you're predominatly a horror reader, and you go to this section and don't find what you're looking for, you might pick up something similar. The bookstore has made a sale and you've tried a new author or a new title. If everything is all jumbled together, you may or may not find something that fits your taste. And that's bad for merchants and authors.

If you're in the process of trying to sell your first book, this is an especially important question. You want to make sure you can answer the above question without a lot of waffling. Agents and editors want to know where you fit. If you don't know what you write, and you're not able to pinpoint it in a sentence or two, the agent or editor surely can't tell you. And it's nearly impossible (if not totally impossible) to sell your book to someone who doesn't represent or acquire your genre. It's not that they don't like you or even that they're making any judgement of your work. They simply don't deal with your kind of book. Not to mention it wouldn't be in your own best interest to sign with someone who doesn't know your market.

Let me give you an example: I.M. Gonna Beanauthor has a critique appointment with Stellar Agent who represents only mystery. Beanauthor writes fantasy. The critique is a waste of time for both people. Stellar can't speak to the marketability of the book and Beanauthor gets no valueable feedback. If Beanauthor had done a little research and a little reflection on his work, he might have chosen someone better qualified to critique him. And Stellar Agent might have found an author that better fit his agency.

How do you figure out where you fit? It's simple. Read. Read widely from several genres. Figure out what the common thread is in each one. Then it's an easy question to answer. Just because two people fall in love in your book, it isn't necessarily romance. And just because there's an unsolved murder, it doesn't mean it's a mystery. Consider all the elements of your manuscript and then call it. Call it something! And be able to explain your label.

Once a week for the next few weeks, I'll focus on each major genre, one blog at a time, so that you can consider all this before you choose your faculty critique.

Icebreakers and Dealbreakers

Most people come to conferences with one goal: to get published. While some of you are conference veterans, others will be attending a conference for the first time. Conferences are great places to meet other writers, connect with industry professionals, and learn how to become a better writer. But it's vital that you know what's expected of you and how to handle yourself. It can be a little intimidating to sit at the dinner table with a famous author or deal-making agent. And do editors 'edit' everything a person says in their heads?

It's also important to respect other writers---no matter where they are in their publishing path. Even if you'd never read their book, it's not cool to bash them. The manner in which you conduct yourself at a conference can follow you---for better or worse---for years in this business.

So, here's my advice: Treat everyone with respect and diginity. Don't assume you are a better writer than anyone else. And remember, agents, editors, and publishers make their living in this industry. It's not a hobby for them. So be professsional. Always.

Here are some ideas for ICEBREAKERS:
1. To a writer: "How did you decide to become a writer?"
2. To a writer: "What writers inspire you most?"
3. To a writer: "What other conferences have you attended?"
4. To an agent: "What interesting trends are you seeing in the market?"
5. To an agent: "I just read a book you sold. What hooked you on it?"
6. To an agent: "What's your biggest pet peeve when it comes to submissions?"
7. To an editor: "What sells you on a book?"
8. To an editor: "What do you read for pleasure?"
9. To an editor: "How many authors do you typically work with at a time?"
10. To a publisher:"How did you become a publisher?"

It's always okay to just chat, too. Not everything has to be about books. Try asking about the flight to the conference or who they're rooting for in the World Series (which will take place the weekend after the conference). They're people too, you know.

On the flip side, there are some things you NEVER, EVER, EVER want to utter at a conference.

Here are some of the dreaded DEALBREAKERS:
1. To a writer: "He'll never rep you. You're wasting your time sending him a query."
2. To a writer: "Show me your synopsis and I'll tell you what's wrong with it."
3. To a writer: "You're wasting your time on that story. No one would ever buy it."
4. To an agent: "If you don't represent me, you'll regret it someday."
5. To an agent: "You're a nice guy, but you're not important enough to represent me."
6. To an agent: "I'll call your room later and we can discuss my book further."
7. To an editor: "How much did Ima Great Author get as an advance for her last bestseller?"
8. To an editor: "Can I have your cell phone number so I can call you when I finish my book?"
9. To an editor: "How horrible were the critique submissions you got for this conference?"
10. To a publisher: "Did you bring your checkbook with you? You're going to love this."

And as usual, stay away from politics, religion, or anything else that's likely to offend or upset others. Keep away from personal questions. Unless you know the person you're speaking to, don't delve into their personal lives. Business is business. You're attending the conference to become a better writer, not to solve the world's problems.

It's also a great idea to check out your favorite agent or editor's blog, website or interview. Usually they give great insight into potential conversation starters.

Equity in Book Signing

This year's conference will be a little different when it comes to the Book Signing we traditionally have on Saturday evening. In 2009, ONLY faculty will be included in the signing. I was responsible for organizing the event in 2008 and I saw several things that made me think about the best way to approach it in 2009.

Now, wait, before you tell me how unfair this is, let me explain the logic behind the decision.

Most of the authors that participated in the book signing last year fell into several categories: newly published, self-published or published with a small press. By putting them into the same time slot, and in the same room, with more established and well-known authors, I felt I'd done them an injustice. People were flocking to the known, best-selling authors and simply chatting with the non-faculty authors on their way to front of the line. I think this did several unfair things to our non-faculty authors.

1. It killed confidence. It's not easy to be new in this business and being in a signing with people like Lee Goldberg and Michael Connelly does nothing to ease new author jitters. It was loud and crowded and hard to talk to people who might be interested in your book. Plus, the potential reader already had his goal in mind: A personalized signed copy of The Brass Verdict.

2. This conference is for writers first and readers second. Let's be frank---The room was filled with wanna-be authors. It's hard to get their attention onto your book when they're scouting out their dream agent and trying to get tips from established pros.

3. It did nothing to highlight the accomplishments of non-faculty authors. Let's face it, this is a hard business to break into and you don't want to be completely overshadowed by the veterans. Your project, be it a novel or a board book, is unique and special and worthy of attention---specialized attention that was impossible to get in such a crowded place.

So, what's the solution?

This year, for a modest fee of $100 (most of which goes straight to the hotel), you can get your very own AUTHOR TABLE. It will be yours for the duration of the conference (Friday-Sunday). You can man the table as little, or as much, as you want. You can sign books, give out bookmarks, and hawk your book(s). It's a great opportunity to meet new readers and you won't be competing with NYT#1 Bestsellers. It will give you a chance to SHINE.

We want to celebrate each accomplishment of our members and I think this is an excellent way to do it.

Opium or Heroin or It's all about marketing

My mom, a law-abiding citizen, unless you count a speeding ticket in the late seventies, loves Opium. Did I mention she's a doctor? As in helps people to get well?

From Wikipedia:
Opium (poppy tears, lachryma papaveris) is the dried latex obtained from opium poppies (Papaver somniferum). Opium contains up to 12% morphine, an opiate alkaloid, which is most frequently processed chemically to produce heroin for the illegal drug trade. The latex also includes codeine and non-narcotic alkaloids, such as papaverine, thebaine and noscapine. The latex is obtained by lacerating (or "scoring") the immature seed pods (fruits); the latex leaks out and dries to a sticky brown residue. This is scraped off the fruit. Meconium historically referred to related, weaker preparations made from other parts of the poppy or different species of poppies. Modern opium production is the culmination of millennia of production, in which the morphine content of the plants, methods of extraction and processing, and methods of consumption have become increasingly potent.

Okay, not THAT Opium. I'm talking about the perfume. You know the one. The spicy, seductive scent by Yves Saint Laurent.

Two very different things with the very same name. What's the angle? Simple, really. It's all in the marketing.

The perfume's name draws us in with the promise of something exotic, hypnotic, something that will make you feel as if you're  floating on a cloud, experiencing another more pleasant reality. It's the high without pesky addiction or jail time. And the perfume version doesn't destroy entire countries. See Afghanistan.

The point is this:  It's all in how you package a product.

Keep this in mind when you're spinning your latest project. Editors and agents often complain that they love a query letter or a synopsis, but when the partial manuscript winds up on the desk, it's a very different project. Make sure your entire submission package has the same vibe, the same style. If you make changes to the manuscript, make sure they're reflected in your other materials. While query letters and synopses demand a certain uniformity in style, you can still craft them to mirror the style of your manuscript.

You won't win any favor by sending an agent or editor something very different from what was requested.

How would you like to order some Opium and end up with an illegal narcotic? Make sure what you send to agents and editors is exactly what they ask for and what they expect the project to be.

Questions About Registration

We thrilled that so many of you are excited about the conference and have already registered. I wanted to take a few minutes and answer some common questions we've been getting.

1. Who should I choose for my critique?

First, figure out what stage your manuscript is in. If it's finished, or nearly so, consider meeting with an editor or agent. If it's not, consider meeting with an author. Authors have a lot to contribute when it comes to craft. While agents and editors have their finger on the pulse of the market and help you assess marketability.

Secondly, figure out what niche or genre your manuscript fits into. Don't waste your time or that of a faculty member with a 'bad fit.' Yes, someone may be a deal maker, and you might be tempted to meet with thembecause of their reputation. But that's not neccessarily in your professional best-interest. Schedule a critique or pitch session with a faculty member that knows your genre.

2. Can you guarantee I will get one of the people I chose when I registered to critique me?

While we'd love to promise this, it's impossible. Rest assured, we'll do everything in our power to make sure you get one of your three choices. However, we can't guarantee it. If we can't place you with one of your top choices, we'll make every effort to schedule you with someone who is qualified to critique your genre.

3. Can I take classes different from those I registered for one I get to the conference?
Sure. The only exception are those classes that limit attendee numbers. Unless there's a class limit, you're free to shop all the classes and find the one that fits you best.

4. Will T-Shirts be available at the conference if I didn't order one when I registered?
We will print a small overage and they will be available at the Book Nook. We advise you to get there as soon as you can since we'll only be printing a few extra.

Keep the questions coming and I'll do my best to answer them.

Starting tomorrow, I'll be blogging on what defines certain genres and how you can decide where your manuscript fits.

Registration is OPEN!

It's that time again! Registration for the 2009 SCWW Conference is now open. The schedule as well as faculty bios and critique information is posted on our website,

Please use the following links to register.

If you plan to pay using your credit card, click here

If you plan to pay by check or money order, click here

The process is pretty self-explanatory, but if you have questions, or if you get stuck, please email me at and I'll be happy to help you. I'm also available by phone at (803) 671-1664.

After you register, you will receive a confirmation email. It's a good idea to print this and bring it with you to the conference.

In the coming weeks, we'll be blogging about All Things Conference, so be sure to add this blog to your favorites list. We want you, and your manuscript, to be ready for all the opportunities the conference presents. So if there's a topic you'd like to see a blog post on, shoot me an email. And I'll find the perfect blogger. We'll also have some guest bloggers, including faculty members.

We're really excited about this year's line-up and we can't wait to see you all at the beach!