Before the meal, my mother read a story she had written about an incident from their childhood. I enjoyed looking around the room while my mother read to see her siblings nodding in agreement and even interrupting with exclamations of veracity. They were transported to another time and place.
The conclusion of my mother's reading met with applause and thanks. When she said she had copies for everyone, delight shown on all their faces. Hers was a gift that was the right size, color, and appreciated.
We write, write, write to perfect our craft...to reach our goal of publication...to have an impact on the world. Yesterday reminded me that all writing matters, not the size of your audience.
I thought of that yesterday while listening to fellow writers during a public reading. Eight of us read and the sampling of work included snippets from two memoirs - one about a woman growing up in Tahiti, a children's story, a suspenseful short story, two humorous pieces and excerpts from two novels - one a Sci-Fantasy.
Before I'd 'married into' my two writing groups, I would have never picked up a book of Sci-Fantasy. Now I can't wait to hear what my friend Ed's characters are doing, and I have a greater appreciation for the genre. Listening to Pat read the stories about her mom, the South Sea Islands are no longer flat dots on a map but vibrant colors, sweet tastes and sensual movements and language. It's good to be regularly fed with something other than what we typically write or read.
A friend of mine reads only romance novels. There's nothing wrong with them, and with its many sub-genres she has plenty to read. But for me, reading in just one area would be like eating nothing but potatoes. I like them and can fix them a slew of ways . . . but they're still potatoes.
The 'family' of my reading group also tempts my taste buds. Because we actually read and discuss books, (I know of book clubs that don't do either!), I'm led to read books outside my normal reach on the bookshelves. I've grown as a writer, a reader and a person because of it.
As we look toward the New Year, I issue two challenges:
1. If you don't share your writing or reading with anyone, either a group or even just a friend or two, give that a shot this year. See what new worlds open to you.
2. Grab a book either in a genre or on a topic you've never thought to explore. You might be surprised where it leads you.
Oh, those words at the beginning? The sauerkraut soup is kapusniak. Oplatki is a wafer we share when exchanging blessings for the coming year. The wigilia is the meal and traditions of Christmas Eve. And pierogi are pockets of dough . . . stuffed with potatoes.
In an effort to offer our membership those same amenities, The Quill will undergo some changes. While our monthly newsletter will continue to promote your successes in “Member Chatter” and provide timely information about our annual conference, as of January 2012, The Quill will no longer be strictly conference oriented.
But in order to make those changes, I need to hear your ideas on what you’d like to see in The Quill. What kinds of craft issues would you like to see addressed? What kinds of contests are you interested in? Do you know someone who is a contest hound who would make a great resource for The Quill? Do you know of someone who would be a great columnist but might need a little arm-twisting? Or would you be interested in writing a monthly column?
If you’re a gardener, you know there are always to-do-lists, and, for many of us, the holiday season is no different. After talking to several SCWW members, the general consensus is they’d love to see more Quill articles on ways to sell yourself and your manuscript, on craft and contests.
As you make your lists over the next few weeks, think about what you’d like to see in The Quill. How would you make it better? What could we add to The Quill that would help you blossom artistically and publish? Most importantly, what do you need to grow?
Please Email your ideas to email@example.com.
Many thanks, and have a wonderful writing season.
BELISE BUTLER, Columbia II Chapter
LINDA COOKINGHAM, Surfside Chapter
MONET JONES, Columbia III Chapter
JIM MCFARLANE, Greenville Chapter
VIRGINIA SCHAFER, Columbia III Chapter
KIM BOYKIN, Rock Hill Chapter - second year of two-year term
MARTHA GREENWAY, Camden Chapter - second year of two-year term
KIA GOINS, unaffiliated - returning for a two-year term
TIBBY PLANTS, Surfside Chapter - returning for a two-year term
GINNY PADGETT, Columbia II Chapter - returning for a two-year term
Lots of people believe in magic of some sort: ghosts (check the statistics on this), the supernatural, aliens (maybe not the same as magic), the magic of sleight-of-hand—even as adults we often can't figure out how a trick is done. I always believed that we humans are more than we appear, that hidden inside us are wondrous abilities, indeed, magical abilities.
We all have the power to view the world in magical ways. Artists create images, sculpture, performance, music, and stories through which they share their magical vision with others.
Perhaps we have forgotten the power of believing. Sometimes reminders of our own magic come from unexpected places.
My daughter and three-year-old granddaughter stayed with my husband and me for six weeks while my daughter, an actor, performed for Atlantic Stage here in Myrtle Beach. While they were here, I learned something about magic.
Since my daughter worked most nights I put granddaughter to bed. t so, and two bedtime songs. Needless to say, I quickly ran out of songs.
One song became her favorite: “Puff the Magic Dragon.” I printed out the lyrics because I didn't remember them. But something was missing from the story. Remember: Jackie Paper stopped believing in Puff, so Puff didn't come play with him. It was too sad. Children believe in magical things. So I added another verse:
If you believe in magic and miss that rascal Puff
Then he will come visit you if you believe enough.
Just say his name out loud and he'll come out his cave
And be your friend forever and never, ever leave.
After I had sung the song a thousand times, I discovered something. I found truth, which could also be called magic.
We writers must believe in our own magic: our ability to tell stories. The magic only happens when we believe we can do it, and we take time to pursue the dream.
My wish for all you writers: let the dragon into your lives. Believe in yourselves and your power to create. Learn your craft, network, write, revise and submit.
There are many magical moments in this year's Petigru Review. Thanks to all who submitted and shared their magic with the world. It is available on Amazon.
I heard a radio interview with Steve Jobs on the day after his death. No doubt you will ask, “What does being an aspiring writer have to do with talk from a celebrated entrepreneur?” I suggest that any writer who wants to make an impact in the publishing world has to help people do what Steve Jobs did – see things differently.
In January, 1986, the association where I was working provided IBM desktop computers for all operating departments. I found that it made many of my routine tasks go faster, but it didn’t do much to liberate my imagination. Remember this was back in the days of clunky, bulky machines using MS-DOS, which even at its best was not a helpful tool for the inexperienced user.
About three years later, I moved on to a job elsewhere. On my first day at work, I found an odd-looking box on my desktop. When I started using it, I learned that the Macintosh was indeed a different way of doing things. I learned over time to start visualizing my work tasks differently, thinking in terms of text, graphs, and images as an integrated whole. In other words, the aforementioned Mr. Jobs, was right: If a computer helped you see things differently, it might change the way you did things, not just the speed with which you did them.
That’s what’s creative about “creative writing.” There aren’t that many great original plots around. I mentioned to my students that The Odyssey is a tale that has been retold many times. When I mentioned O Brother, Where Art Thou? (perhaps the most recent example), the looks of surprise on their faces was a reward of the kind that teachers live for.
Different singers sing the same song in unique ways. That’s something even those of us who aren’t particularly original can do: we can make a song our own anthem and by doing that help others to hear it differently. While I conceded that there’s been much great sci-fi writing over the years, and while I find it sometimes to read Harry Turtledove, I don’t have the skill to create an entirely new world. I find it’s enough of a challenge to my writing skills to take an old story and express it in a new way.
Find a familiar song and make it your own. That’s one of the greatest rewards of any creative endeavor.
PS: And I should add that I loved the Real Time Query appointments. A great way for attendees to pitch, but to also leave there with hopefully a more effective query.
Elections will take place at the November 19th Board Meeting.
Of course the conference couldn’t have been as successful without the efforts of Kia Goins, Conference Co-Chair, (volunteer, vendor, sponsor coordination and ace all-round problem solving) and Kim Blum-Hyclak, Silent Auction Chair. They worked like Trojans to make Conference 2011 an enjoyable, informative, seamless and financially-viable endeavor.
Then there are the 20 volunteers that gave up a good portion of their conference time to insure that attendees were comfortable and on time to their specific sessions and appointments. This was accomplished with smiles and enthusiasm. In addition, there were many behind-the-scene chores shouldered by these members. Good volunteers are the oil that makes the gears of an organization turn smoothly, and this weekend our conference machinery operated with premium-grade WD40TM.
Here’s a big thanks to each member of our faculty members who took time away from their busy lives to share their knowledge and expertise. They didn’t make a great deal of money, had to rearrange their work schedules and dealt with the annoyances of travel in order to be with us. We were fortunate to snag them.
I have a quote from an email I received this morning. “I sat beside a writer from NY Saturday night and I asked him how he discovered our conference. He found it online, a site that reviewed conferences in the USA and ours was listed as NUMBER ONE!”
Also, I spoke with an attendee an hour ago who said, “I am busy putting to work some of the things I learned this past weekend. I expect better results than I’ve had.”
On Sunday morning, an 18-year-old man stopped to pass on his thanks to SCWW and our annual conferences. He said he had been attending them since he was 15 years old and owed his writing career to SCWW.
And lastly, a lady paused at the door as she was leaving the conference when I asked her if she’d enjoyed her weekend. She placed her hand over her heart and with a blissful expression sighed, “I have been inspired.”
If you couldn’t be with us this year, start planning to attend the 22nd annual SCWW Writers' Conference, November 2-4, 2012. I’ll see you there.
Did you manage to shift your schedule and can attend sessions on Friday? You can add it to your previous registration by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. Please, don't start a new registration. That costs the organization needless fees.
Or, did you sign up for a basic conference package and now you really want to add meal tickets? Again, don't start a new registration, just email email@example.com.
You signed up for an appointment with a faculty member. You're anxious to know who and when you'll meet, right? Well, this year we'll be sending out appointment time information the week before the conference. Appointment times will be emailed out, starting Friday. Please, keep in mind we sold 100 critiques alone, so it's impossible to send out all of the emails in one day. But, everyone should have their information by Monday. If you don't, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Keep in mind that appointment times and faculty cannot be changed, unless there was an error on the part of SCWW. Also, unlike previous years, you MAY NOT swap times or appointments. Only the attendee listed on our appointment schedule will be allowed in. Reselling of appointments is prohibited.
No, we're not referring to the Sparks’ novel by that title. We want to tell you about our conference notebook; it will be your guide for our conference weekend, October 21-23.
The Table of Contents will help you use the information more effectively, along with a map of the Hilton Myrtle Beach Resort and the menus for our meals. The notebook features front and back pockets to hold transparencies for slush piles and handouts from sessions. Of course, you’ll want to bring your own notebook to take notes. They’ll fit together perfectly.
In the conference notebook, in addition to the schedule for sessions and activities for the entire weekend, you’ll also find bio pages of our faculty with their photos so you’ll know what they look like before you go into your appointments or be able to recognize them on the elevator and mealtimes. There are instructions for the Silent Auction and SCWW Board of Directors bios and pics. Please introduce yourself to us; we want to get to know you.
Faculty Silent Auction Donations
David Coe – 50 page critique; books
James Frenkel – 50 page critique; books
Toni Plummer – 30 page critique; books
Jessica Regel – 50 page critique
Stephanie Sun – critique of query letter + 1st three chapters of a manuscript
Jon Sternfeld – 50 page critique
Eddie Schneider – (2) critiques, 50-75 pages + 1 page synopsis
Melissa Jeglinski – 25 page critique to be submitted by the end of November
Mollie Glick – books
Matt Frederick – books
Sarah LaPolla – critique of query letter + 1st Chapter
Sorche Fairbank – books
Chuck Sambuchino – books
Andrew Gross – books
Stephen Barr – 75-page critique
Silent Auction Proxy Bidding
Have you heard the news? There’s new and exciting activity with this year’s Silent Auction. The first is what is on the auction tables. We have 3 amazing get-aways: Three Oaks in TN, The Lazy Spring Ranch in WY and The Hilton Myrtle Beach Resort in SC. We have after-conference faculty critiques ranging from 25 pages to a query + the first three chapters. See above for a complete list of bid lots.
And very new this year, we’re offering Proxy Bidding! Members unable to attend the conference may place bids on silent auction lots through a designated proxy bidder. Below are the guidelines for taking advantage of this new opportunity.
All bids must be placed by a member attending the SCWW Conference Members wishing to place bids by proxy should notify Silent Auction Chair, Kim Blum-Hyclak at email@example.com no later than noon on Friday, October 21, with the following information:
Contact information: phone number, address, email
Name of designated proxy bidder
Members attending the conference and serving as a proxy bidder will submit a proxy bid sheet which will be in the conference notebook. All items must be paid for by 1:00 Sunday, October 23. Items won through proxy bid must be paid for through the proxy bidder and proxy bidder is responsible for taking and delivering the auction item. SCWW will not ship any auction winnings.
Vendors and Sponsors
Fiction Addiction – bookseller for the Conference
Henry Wren Publications
Finishing Line Press
Dancing Lemur Press
Drop by these sponsors tables and thank them for supporting SCWW.
At the conference you will meet other SCWW members, published authors, editors and agents. You will also meet conference volunteers. Volunteers are SCWW members who are help to staff the conference. You’ll see volunteers practically everywhere you go during the conference. They will check you in at the registration desk, or sell you a t-shirt or Petigru Review at the Book Nook, or they’ll check your badge at meals. Say hi, they are really nice people and they’ll be glad to meet you.
Volunteers will easily indentified by the blue and green “Volunteer” buttons they will be wearing. If you need help with anything, from directions to a particular location or the answer to a question, just ask. If that volunteer doesn’t immediately have an answer to your question, he or she will find Carrie, Ginny or Kia and get you an answer as quickly as possible.
Have any questions about the conference? Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Hope to see you soon!
We are excited to welcome several new vendors as sponsors of the South Carolina Writers’ Workshop – Postertext, Dancing Lemur Press, Finishing Line Press and Spalding University.
Personally, I’m excited about the way Postertext turns literature into art. (Click on the names of our vendors to go to their websites.)
Dancing Lemur and Finishing Line are small presses where some of our members may find their next publishing home. YA and science fiction literature are the focus at Dancing Lemur, while Finishing Line is an award-winning chapbook publisher.
Located in Louisville, Kentucky, Spalding University’s MFA program was named one of the top ten low-residency MFA programs by Poets and Writers magazine.
We’re fortunate to have several vendors returning as sponsors of our conference: Fiction Addiction, Henry Wren Publications, USC Press and Glimmer Train. Returning vendors are special to us because it tells us that we’re doing something right. When vendors or attendees join us more than once, it speaks to the reputation of our event and SCWW.
Fiction Addiction is selling our faculty and member books during the conference.
You can look forward to finding some Glimmer Train publications in your conference bag as well as a selection of Glimmer Train publications in our silent auction.
Members of USC Press and Henry Wren Publications will be on hand to answer any questions you might have about the services they offer.
Each year, SCWW depends on the time and talents of its members to plan and host the conference. We also rely on SCWW members to staff the event so that all of the attendees and faculty members have a great time.
So much of what SCWW does as an organization is the result of the volunteers, whether board members, chapter leaders or the person who runs the critique room at the conference.
I want to take a moment and say “Thank you to our vendors for believing in us enough to donate to our cause. Thank you to our Board for giving your time and talents to the business of running this non-profit. Thank you to the volunteers for spending your weekend helping host our visitors and friends at the conference.”
Prepping for an upcoming conference can be traumatic for an author, especially one who has issues with logic. Like me.
Last year, my first SCWW conference, I hadn’t even achieved South Carolina residency yet. Sure, that’s not a requirement. But a tiny part of me felt like I was cheating on my home state of Pennsylvania when I slipped into my car in the wee hours of the morning to slink off to visit my new paramour, the SCWW.
Logic isn’t my friend.
Luckily, this time, I can attend with a clear conscience. I broke up with Pennsylvania and moved to Greenville. Nearly a year later, my relationship with The Palmetto State is as strong as ever.
But, I digress. We were about to discuss conference prep.
We all know the basic battle plan for attending a conference with an unsold manuscript in possession. Some of the more important points are:
1. Know your story. Be prepared to sell it. Have your query ready. Memorize your elevator pitch.
2. Dress comfortably but professionally.
3. Have your classroom supplies ready. Bring notepads, pens and pencils, maybe a voice-activated digital recorder.
4. Choose your courses with thought. Think about what you want to take away from the conference. What are your weaknesses? Grammar? Marketing? Clueless about formulating a professional query letter? Focus on your needs, but don’t be afraid to mix it up a little.
5. Step outside of your comfort zone. We’re authors. We understand the introvert tendencies some of us experience. Make friends. Make contacts.
Pretty straightforward information, but always worth repeating, don’t you think?
Especially for a scatterbrain such as myself. I know the rules. Honest. But when it comes to applying them, logic often fails me. So let’s explore my brain in pre-conference prep mode. Consider it an exercise in how not to prepare.
Know Your Story.
I know my story. I can describe it to you. Do you have a half an hour? See, this girl, she has to come home to help out her father…
Okay, I know my story. And I’m working on the short version. I promise you that. It’s the elevator pitch that frightens me. How do you sum up a hundred thousand words in one sentence? This is the question that keeps me awake at night. And queries? Don’t even get me started on queries. My first novel went through about seven different queries before I finally found one that stuck. The first one will someday be featured on several agent sites to demonstrate what not to do when trying to entice an agent.
My biggest conference fear is that the following conversation will occur.
Random Agent: So what’s your story about?
Me: Huh? What?
R.A.: Your story. The entire point of you being in my presence. What is it about?
Me: It’s a book.
R.A.: Yes. Kinda figured that.
Me: It’s really good.
R.A.: Mm hmm. Excuse me. I have to go throw myself from the roof.
Me: Have fun?
Be Prepared To Sell It.
In my mind, that means one thing. Snazzy business cards. And when it comes to business cards, my idiocy emerges and I need the intervention of friends to return me to sanity.
Me: I think I found a business card design I like. Want to see?
Friend: Sure. (Views link to business card image) There’s a banana on this business card.
Me: Yes. It’s a very cute banana.
Friend. You hate bananas.
Me: I hate eating bananas. I like dancing bananas on business cards, though.
Friend: You’re an idiot. What does this have to do with your writing?
Me: I’m sure there’s a banana somewhere in the book.
Friend. Again, you’re an idiot.
Dress Comfortably But Professionally.
Exchanges like this are not productive when trying to decide on appropriate conference attire:
Me: What do you think of this skirt?
Friend: It looks good on you.
Me: Do you think I can wear my combat boots with it?
Friend: No. No combat boots.
Me: How about this dress? Does it make me look fat?
Friend: No. I think it’s a great choice for the Keynote Address Dinner.
Me: The skirt is longer on this. Definitely a combat boot kind of dress.
Friend: For the love of all that is holy, do not bring the combat boots.
Me: They give me an air of quirkiness.
Friend: They give you an air of Odor Eaters. Those things are ten years old and smell like death.
Have Your Classroom Supplies Ready:
Go to Target and spend an hour trying to decide between a neon pink Hello Kitty theme or a notebook that looks like a tropical garden just exploded from its recycled material innards.
Feel bad about leaving behind the giant wooden pencil I’ve owned since kindergarten.
Choose Your Courses With Thought.
This means you shouldn’t accidentally wander into the conference room hosting the Morticians of America Annual Meet and Greet and Crematorium Emporium.
This also means that the crumpled course list you’ve been nervously twisting and untwisting in your hands has another, more important, use.
Step Outside of Your Comfort Zone.
Last year, I was a wall flower. An unemployed wallflower who selected the Basic Package and somehow managed to leave the conference without realizing she’d been awarded a Carrie McCray Memorial Literary Award.
This year I’m volunteering. That, my friends, is a step outside of my claustrophobic box of isolation.
Okay. Clearly, I’m exaggerating my mindset as the 2011 SCWW Conference approaches. Well, a little bit. I really am logic-impaired, and really do have a Hello Kitty notebook that is trying to wriggle its way into my bag of conference supplies.
The real point I’m trying to make, all kidding aside, is this: Don’t overthink it. But don’t underthink it, either.
You’re a writer forging into territory where some pretty impressive names in the publishing industry will be lurking. It’s smart to be at the ready, just in case you manage to catch the ear of your dream agent or editor.
Don’t wander the conference rooms with three printed copies of your full manuscript, attacking editors and agents at will. But don’t be afraid to think positive. There’s nothing wrong with having a flash drive handy with samples of your work, ready to print out in the Business Center just in case you get that miracle moment where an agent begs to see the evidence of your brilliance. More than likely, if you get an invitation to submit your work from an agent, you’ll be emailing the requested material once the conference ends. But a writer can dream.
Don’t sweat the attire. But don’t wear your twenty-one year old Chuck Taylor All Star sneaks and a ratty pair of acid-washed jeans that looked great on you in 1986. Be comfortable, but be mindful of the image you project to publishing professionals.
Pick the classes that appeal to you and your particular writing niche. And be prepared to take notes. Don’t let all the free-flowing information go to waste. A year after my original SCWW Conference experience, and I still often peek at the notes I took to refresh my memory about a certain point.
Have the kind of fun that doesn’t end up with you doing the Macarena on the hotel bar with a lamp shade on your head.
The most important advice I can impart is this: Reach out. I emphasize this because I am too often compelled to blend into the scenery. Interacting with real humans is infinitely more stressful to me than creating fictional characters. Thing is, even the most introverted, shy person at a writing conference has the easiest conversation starter at their disposal. Look around you. Find a kind face. Walk up to them and say, “Hi! So what’s your book about?”
Everybody there will have an immediate answer for you.
Solidarity, brothers and sisters. Embrace the opportunity to connect with the milling crowds of people who know just what it’s like to have the one job in the world in which it’s perfectly okay to respond to the voices in your head. You won’t be sorry.
J.M. Kelley's debut novel, Drew in Blue, is a contemporary romance available from Lazy Day Publishing. Drew in Blue was nominated for Best Contemporary of 2010 by The Romance Reviews, and is a TRR and Night Owl Reviews Top Pick. Drew is available for download from Amazon, B&N, All Romance, and OmniLit. J.M. dabbles next in the paranormal realm with her short erotic romance, Laws of Attraction, included in the Lazy Day Publishing anthology, Indulgence: Tales from the Cirque Romani, available via Amazon on October 19th. For information and news, please visit www.jmkelleywrites.com.
When the Board meets in November and we evaluate the financial success of the conference against our annual expenses, there may be difficult decisions to be made. Rest assured that your Board of Directors works diligently to produce the best results for SCWW to serve her membership in the most advantageous way.
Thank you again...and register for the conference! I'll see you there.
The winners of the Carrie McCray Memorial Literary Awards will be announced at the Friday evening banquet of the SCWW Conference, October 21-23. If you have not already done so, it’s not too late to sign up for “The Method, The Market & The Muse” which features top agents, top editors and top authors and held at the Hilton Myrtle Beach Resort.
Hope to see you at the Conference.
The excitement is building. The thrill of discovery hanging in the air. It’s getting closer every day.
The 21st Annual South Carolina Writers’ Workshop Conference is less than four weeks away.
I’m getting excited. I can’t wait to meet our attendees. And I can’t wait for you to meet our outstanding faculty members.
We’re enthusiastic about our silent auction; did you see Kim Hyclak’s post from this past Saturday? Scroll down and check that out. There are a few terrific trips on the menu of items for this year. I hope to win one of those great getaways, so get ready for a little competition if you plan to bid. Let’s not forget to mention our faculty member’s post-conference critiques up for auction. How can you beat a top agent or editor reviewing your work and offering insight?
As you start packing your bags and planning your schedule, I have a few additional reminders to help you get the most out of your weekend.
1) Bring your questions. But try to avoid being too specific: “I’m writing a suspense, romantic epic poem and my main character May is waiting tables in Abilene, Texas, and encounters her brother Roy who died twenty years ago? What should I have her do next? Should she tell him about their mother’s kidney transplant? Or should Roy tip her big before he leaves since he finally won Powerball?”
2) Prepare ahead of time. You don’t have to read everything by or about every faculty member or review every website they’re mentioned on. I’ve mentioned this before, but I once met a conference attendee who read at least one chapter of a book by every published faculty member. I thought it was a great idea and have employed that technique ever since.
3) Practice your elevator pitch, just in case you get that frightening question we all dread but secretly can’t wait to be asked: So, what is your book about? You’ll hear it a lot over the weekend; hopefully you’ll have a great answer.
4) And have fun. Conference weekend always goes by so quickly that I never know where the time went. Relax, enjoy meeting some new friends and have a great time. The conference is always a fun and we really want you to enjoy yourself.
See you in October!
SCWW needs representation on the Board from every area of our state. Steve Gordy, Chapter Liaison, has emailed all chapter leaders and asked that each chapter nominate at least one qualified member to run. I followed up that email with an application to share with those members who are interested. If you are an unaffiliated member, please email me for an application and send completed apps by October 31 to email@example.com. Here are some pertinent facts to keep in mind as you consider service on the Board of Directors.
There are six required Saturday meetings/year, about three or three-and-a-half hours in duration. Only two excused absences/year are permitted.
Each board member is expected to be a committee chair or committee member.
This is a working board. Be prepared to follow through on your commitments on your own between meetings.
Each chair has its own SCWW email account. Please monitor it closely.
Please respond to all email and phone calls pertaining to SCWW within 48 hours.
I will be returning as president again next year; we have a secretary, Quill editor, and Petigru Review editor. We'll be looking for a treasurer, membership chair, chapter liaison, grants chair, contests chair, vice president, conference committee members. If any of these positions interests you in particular, I suggest you email the board member who holds that spot now and ask them about their responsibilities and time obligation. (See the latest Quill or www.myscwww.org for board members and their email addresses.
If you have any questions, email or call me -- 802-738-9062. I look forward to working with you.
Remember our annual general membership meeting at the conference. I'm excited to see familiar faces and make new fiends.
Three Oaks, TN: Three Oaks is a mountaintop retreat atop the Cumberland Plateau, near Sewanee, TN. It's situated in a hundred-acre wood of streams, meadows, forest trails and peace. It sleeps 2 in the queen-sized bed in the bedroom; 2 more in the pull-out bed in the great room. Three Oaks is perfect for a writer's private retreat or an intimate get-away for a couple. Offer is 5 days to be used within the year. Visit Three Oaks to see what else this cozy guest house has to offer.
The Lazy Spring Ranch, WY: The Lazy Spring Ranch is located in Shell, WY, a delightful community of 50 at the western base of the Big Horn Mountains. The house is 4200 ft. above sea level, surrounded by a working cattle ranch and majestic mountains. The house has 6 bedrooms and can sleep up to 12 or 14. The Lazy Spring Ranch is a perfect spot for a writers' workshop or mini-conference or a family get-away. The offer is for 5 days in September 2012. Visit Lazy Spring Ranch to see what else the mountains have to offer.
The Hilton Myrtle Beach Resort: 2 nights at the beautiful resort where the SCWW Annual Conference is held. Enjoy the beach, the pool, fine dining and golf.
Arcadian Shores Golf Club, associated with The Hilton Myrtle Beach Resort - a round of golf for 4
Faculty Critiques are in! I don't have their pics, but you can visit SCWW for those and the kind of work our faculty is looking for.
Melissa Jeglinski, agent, 25 pages to be submitted in November
Eddie Schneider, agent, (2) 50-75 pages + 1 page synopsis
Jon Sternfeld, agent, 50 pages
Stephanie Sun, agent, query + 1st three chapters
Jessica Regel, agent, 50 pages
Stephen Barr, agent, 75 pages
Sarah LaPolla, agent, query + 1st chapter
Toni Plummer, editor, 30 pages
James Frenkel, editor, 50 pages
David Coe, author, 50 pages
Photos Paintings Prints and Posters and Home Decor
And of course Books! Over 200 books will fill baskets, bags, boxes . . . and whatever else we can find, to satisfy every reader's interest.
So come support the 2011 Silent Auction. The money generated by the auction provides needed funds to help SCWW provide Chapter workshops, the High School Writing Competition, the Carrie McCray Memorial Literary Awards and next year's conference.
See you at the beach!
Conference Faculty Member
One of the workshops I’ll be giving during October’s SCWW conference will be on structuring story arc and pacing your novel -- the official title is “Writing Isn’t a Race: Pacing and Story Arc.” Obviously, I’m not going to cover exactly the same material in this post, because that would leave us with nothing to do in October but sit around and stare at one another. And after the first hour or so, that can get kind of weird.
But in preparation for discussing the nuts and bolts of story arc, I thought it might be helpful to define a couple of terms. I write fantasy, and like so many in my genre, much of my work is serialized. I have written two trilogies and a five book sequence. Most recently, I have written the first two books of a new historical fantasy series, and am now working of the first books of at least three other series. Part of this is the market -- in fantasy and science fiction, mystery and romance, young adult and middle reader, series are all the rage. The market is looking not just for a single book, but for the next money-making franchise. And while all of us want to be true to our creativity and write the best books we can, we also have to look at this as a business.
This is not to say that you can’t get published writing a stand-alone novel, or that you have to write a series in order to survive in the current climate. But any writer -- whether an established professional or an aspiring author still looking for that first big sale -- needs to understand where his or her work fits in the market. The answer to the question “What are editors and publishers looking for?” depends on what sort of book you’re writing. Actually, more to the point of this post, it depends on what kind of series you’re writing.
Let’s define some terms. In my genre, we call every multi-book sequence a series. But as you’ll soon see, not all “series” are created equal. Specifically, we need to distinguish between two terms: “true series” and “extended story arc.”
A true series is a sequence of connected books with recurring characters, in which each narrative pretty much stands on its own but has ramifications for the next book (or for previous ones if the author goes back and writes a prequel or two). A perfect example of this would be the Harry Dresden books by Jim Butcher. For those of you not familiar with the Dresden books, this is an urban fantasy series featuring a wizard who is also a private eye. Each book has its own mystery, its own plot, its own set of unique characters. But there are also recurring characters, chief among them Harry himself, his sidekick, and his love interest. And the subplots that revolve around these recurring characters run like threads through all the books. There are other examples, for those of you who haven’t read Butcher’s books. C.E. Murphy’s Joanne Walker series fits the definition, as do Faith Hunter’s bestselling Skinwalker novels. If you’re looking for an example from another medium, think of a TV show like BONES. Again, there are recurring characters and subplots, but each episode works on its own. A viewer could watch on any given night, and get the gist of what’s going on. The books I’m writing now, including my historical fantasy series, The Thieftaker Chronicles, which I’m writing under the name D.B. Jackson (the first book, THIEFTAKER, will be released in May 2012) are true series.
An extended story arc, which is what many big-name fantasists write -- George R.R. Martin, Terry Goodkind, Robert Jordan -- is quite different. The phrase “extended story arc” basically means that you're telling one epic-length tale (usually with several related sub-plots) over the course of several books. Not only do characters recur in these volumes, but they are working toward the same basic goal throughout the sequence. Ironically, the extended story arc became popular in fantasy after the publication of J.R.R. Tolkien’s LORD OF THE RINGS, which came out in three volumes. I say ironically, because LOTR is not a true story arc. It was originally written and intended as a single work, but was split into three volumes for marketing purposes. For this reason, the three books don’t hold together well as single volumes: THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING has no satisfying ending; THE RETURN OF THE KING has no effective opening; and the middle volume, THE TWO TOWERS, has neither. But while the severity of these problems is somewhat unique to LOTR, nearly all extended story-arcs suffer from similar issues to some small degree. Since the overarching conflict is not resolved until the final volume, it can be difficult, although not impossible, to make each book truly stand alone. On the other hand, because each volume is actually part of a single larger story, the books are far more interdependent, and many readers love this aspect of the form. Again, if you’re looking for a pop culture equivalent, think of a daytime soap opera, or my daughters’ current prime-time favorite, PRETTY LITTLE LIARS. A viewer could try to watch an episode mid-season, but chances are he or she would be somewhat lost. Similarly, with extended story arcs, it can be hard to pick up readers mid-arc. Extended story arcs are what I wrote for my first three series, and they have been a staple of fantasy for several decades.
My take on the market right now is that extended story arcs are less viable than they used to be, even in fantasy, where they are so deeply rooted in the literary tradition. Publishers are wary of them when they're proposed by young authors, and they’re only slightly more receptive to them when they’re proposed by established writers. Why? Because they demand a contractual commitment of several books. If I go to an editor with an idea for a four-book extended story arc, that editor knows that she has to buy all four books or none of them. There’s no middle ground. Her publishing house can’t publish two of them and then stop if the books don’t sell well, at least not without really ticking off those readers who bought the first two books. A true series, on the other hand, gives publishers far more leeway. I can still go to that editor with a proposal for four books, but in this case each book stands alone. The editor can buy two books and see how they do before committing to two more.
I would never tell an aspiring author to write to “the market,” whatever that means. The fact is that the market is far too fluid, and book turnarounds are far too slow. Cannibalistic Troll Erotica might be all the rage right now, but who’s to say it still will be in a year, when your great new take on CTE is ready for publication? Instead, I tell aspiring writers that they need to write the books they’ve imagined, the books that they care about. Creativity is too fickle to be taken for granted. Write the book that’s inside you; follow the characters who are speaking to you.
That said, though, you should also understand that some projects are going to be easier sales than others. If you have a three or five book extended story arc burning a hole in your chest, by all means, write it. But if you can write a true series instead, that is going to be the more viable project from a commercial standpoint. Generally speaking, publishers are far less willing to offer contracts for several books at a time than they were a decade ago. That means less security for writers. Yet it can also present opportunities. Conceiving a project that can be marketed one or two books at a time might well make you a safer bet for a publisher. And in these difficult times, that might be exactly the advantage you need to break through.
In October, we’ll discuss the pacing and structure of your projects. In the meantime, think about story arcs and serialization, and figure out which one is best suited to your current work.
The first year I went to the conference I had written about 65 pages of my novel. It was nowhere near ready to sell, but I met with an agent who gave me invaluable recommendations on developing my main character and testing my voice. She told me where I had a good hold on my content and where my plot was weak. I started attending a SCWW critique group and received invaluable guidance. The second year with the same manuscript in tow and 300 pages into it, I met with an agent and did a pitch. I honestly got more from the pitch than the agent this go round. She told me flat out that my plot wasn’t marketable and what I’d have to do to develop it. “Dig deeper,” she said over and over again. “Dig deeper into your plot.” I went home, came back year three with the same manuscript, all three agents recommendations incorporated and sold the book.
I have already received in return every penny I ever put into an SCWW Conference. I think it all depends on what you’re expecting from the agents when you come to the conference. Are you expecting to sell a book or hoping to get professional insight into your strengths and weaknesses. I certainly got what I wanted out of it.
I encourage people to attend the conference and take advantage of the expertise that is all around you. Speaking first hand, it’s not just among the agents. You can gain tremendous insight from your fellow writers who are climbing similar mountain trails, some on the path ahead of you and some just beginning. Reach out and lend a helping hand. Listen and learn.
Conference Faculty Member
Literary agents are lucky folk.
In fact, I’d say we’re spoiled. It’s our responsibility to march around, shouting into the air, telling anyone who’s willing to listen (writers, mostly) what it is that we want (Military history? Illustrated memoir? History of the armoire?), and then those listeners and writers try over and over again to give it to us.
And the questions come up especially often in shouting distance of a conference…“What are you looking for? What do you want?”
Luckily, part of me knows the answer to that question.
I know that I want memoirs from people whose voices aren’t exactly what you’d expect from their stories…humor from the downtrodden, humility from the lopsidedly gifted, etc. Weird books by and about weird people who come from places that onlyseem normal (please allow me to shamelessly plug my client Jared Dillian’s upcoming memoir of bipolar disorder on the Lehman Brothers trading floor, the wicked and wonderfulStreet Freak).
I know that I’m a sucker for unrequited love…in life, yes (alas!), but also in between the covers of a book, and I know that I’d thank my lucky stars if I could find a contemporary young adult novel with zero paranormal activity and oodles of longing, my own littlePaper Town(s).
I know that I want author/illustrators who think (or perhaps understand!?) that less is more when it comes to picture book texts and illustrations (check out Press Here if you like excellence!)
I know that I want ghost stories where the writing’s haunted, too.
I know that I want a comic novel with a dreadfully serious plot.
But I also know that last week, after 25 years of doing everything in my power to avoid math (because my brain sucks at it), an article on Gawker about scientists allegedly disproving the possibility of time travel sent me on an entirely unanticipated math binge, which led me to the text of a lecture delivered by David Hilbert to the International Congress of Mathematicians at Paris in 1900 about the 23 most pressing mathematical problems facing the 20th century, and now I’m weirdly obsessed with finding a quirky math novel…maybe something about a kid who lines up his 23 most pressingreal life problems (the bully, the unattainable girl, the increasingly distant best friend, etc.) against the 23 most pressing mathematical problems that his University Professor parents are fixated on (the compatibility of arithmetical axioms, etc.), none of which our hero understands, but all of which he’ll try to compare hisown problems to in a search for parallels.
That’s a pretty specific craving, I realize, but my point is, up until a few days ago, I most definitely didn’t know that I wanted a novel with a bunch of math in it. But now I do, and the more I think about it, the more it seems to me that what Ireally want is something that I didn’t know I wanted. For instance, I tend to clam up pretty seriously around paranormal YA, but odds are there’s a writer out there who’s taken the exhausted genre and reinvented it in a thousand ways, and that’s what I want—a writer who takes enough risks in his or her writing to give readers what we didn’t know we wanted.
Seriously, though, no jokey middle grade novels where farts play a central role in the story. I will never realize that I wanted that.
This is the last entry in my series on Building a Solid Weekend. These blogs have not been meant as a strict curriculum for your conference experience. Rather, I hope I’ve provided you with some guidance on how to structure your time at the conference.
The sessions below are a combination of how to get your manuscript noticed and writing options you may not have considered.
For those of you who are looking for more choices in their writing life, this is for you. We have sessions on how what you already know might turn into a paying writing assignment.
If you’re ready to send your manuscript in to an editor or agent, we have some of the best in the industry to help guide your efforts at query letters as well as sessions on what editors and agents are looking for from new authors.
Above all, we're looking forward to seeing you in Myrtle Beach in October!
Branching Out – Something for every writer
Friday 9:00 –
(1) Know Your Audience: Writing Articles for Magazines, Newspapers and
Websites – Chuck Sambuchino
(2) The Business of Publishing – Jessica Regel
Friday 1:30 –
(1) Being An Expert Pays: Turning Your Expertise Into a Writing
Career – Matthew Frederick
(2) Avoid the Slush: Everything You Need to Know About Agents Before You
Write That Query Letter – Chuck Sambuchino
(3) Nuts and Bolts: Deadlines, Word Counts and Other Things That Drive Us Nuts and Make Us Want to Bolt – David B. Coe
Saturday 9:00 –
(1) Making it to Print (of Sorts): What Does It Take to Get a Review (And Other Media Attention)? – Bill Starr
(2) SLUSH FEST: Literary and Upmarket Fiction – Jon Sternfeld and Stephanie Sun
Saturday 10:30 –
(1) SLUSH FEST: Young Adult & Children’s Titles – Alyssa Henkin and Molly O’Neill
(2) From Employee to Expert: How to Turn Your Job Into a Book – Matthew Frederick
Saturday 1:30 –
(1) Running Away from Home for Profit: Learning the Tricks of Travel Writing – Bill Starr
(2) SLUSH FEST: Science Fiction and Fantasy – Eddie Schneider and James Frenkel
Saturday 3:00 –
(1) Imaginary Worlds: The Differences Agents Consider Between Young Adult and Adult Fiction – Sarah LaPolla
(2) What Editors Want: Professional Writing Practices – Chuck Sambuchino
(3) It’s All in Your Head: How to Get Across High Concepts in a Query – Jon Sterfeld
(4) SLUSH FEST: Mystery and Thriller – Sorche Fairbank and Toni Plummer
(5) I’m Published – Now What? – Bill Starr
Sunday 9:30 –
(1) Out of this World: An Inside Look & Tips of What It Takes to Get a Science Fiction or Fantasy Agent – Eddie Schneider
(2) SLUSH FEST: Romance and Women’s Fiction – Melissa Jeglinski and Jessica Regel
(3) SLUSH FEST: Memoir and Narrative Non-Fiction – Stephen Barr and Bernadette Baker-Baughman
(4) Panel: Agent Vs. Writer (Who’s An Editor) – Sorche Fairbank and Chuck Sambuchino
However, what has impressed me most is each one's accessibility - their willingness to put us at ease before we meet with them. Reaching out to us in these congenial ways should help us relax, be ourselves, and present our work and concepts to their best advantage. Think having a cup of coffee with a new friend as opposed to waiting for an appointment to have a root canal.
So THANKS, Faculty Bloggers, for welcoming us into and preparing us for our critiques, pitches, and real-time queries. We look forward to meeting you too.
Conference Faculty Member
Whenever I am invited to a writers conference, a familiar internal dialog kicks in. Do I really want to travel again? Where to? Will being gone for three or four or five days put me too far behind?
I, and most agents, get far more requests and invitations for conferences than we could possibly manage in a given year. I have to choose carefully. The downside to attending conferences is that they take time away from the office, or from what little free, non-publishing time I have. Add to that the fact that flying has become more and more a hassle, especially now that we moved to New York’s Hudson Valley. And what about the cost to my signed authors? Am I giving up a weekend that could or should be spent helping them with their projects?
But the upside, oh, the upside. . . When I say yes to a conference, I know the rewards will be many. Still, a number of considerations factor into my decision to accept.
Location - A selfish reason, perhaps, but location matters. Coastal South Carolina in late October – perfect! Kudos to SCWW organizers for knowing just how tempting that sounds. I love nubby, cozy sweaters and suede boots, but I’m all too aware that it will only get colder and bleaker for the next four months. A bit of sunshine and warm breeze will be exactly what’s needed come late October.
Sometimes a conference invite appeals to me because it’s a chance to see one of my own authors. Because so much of book business is conducted over phone and email, it’s a rare treat to get to sit down with an author of ours to share food and drink, meet some of their family, toast to their continued success, and plan for the next, even better thing. While I don’t *yet* have a South Carolina writer on board, two of my authors will be at the conference with me. I also contacted my beloved Georgia authors right away to let them know I’d be attending SCWW.
The Faculty / Speaker Roster - One of the first things I look at is who else is attending. Of course I look for agent and editor friends and acquaintances, but I also look at the keynoter and authors who are presenting as well. Keep in mind, we agents have our rock stars too. In the past twelve months or so I got to hang with Alice Hoffman (swoon!) as she knitted something green and lovely for a gift; I learned from Chuck Palahniuk why one should never slice off the point of a wedge of Brie cheese (at least not while in France); and I, the fabulous Meg Tilley, and a handful of others exchanged our shoes and any shyness for a low Japanese table, chopsticks all around, and a heaping pile of sushi while in the Pacific Northwest. I have no doubt that MJ Rose and others at SCWW will also rock my world in some fine way.
Reputation - Nothing is worse for an agent than a poorly organized conference, and word of sub-par organization easily and quickly spreads among agents and editors. Before accepting a conference invite, I ask past attending faculty what they thought of the conference, from accommodation to schedule to quality of attendees to ease of travel to and from the local airport. SCWW’s stellar reputation won me over in an instant.
Number and Focus of Attendees - I know you’ve been waiting for it, so yes, agents who go to conferences are hoping to find new clients there, and the size and focus of the conference matters. I am no exception; I’m hoping and indeed looking for that next great connection with a potential new author. It doesn’t happen every conference or even every year, but those times it does, the magic can be is immediate. The book is right, timing is right, it’s near ready to go; I bond with the author instantly. However, more often than not, when I sign a conference author, it happens months or even years after the conference ends. Sometimes it is the same book they pitched, but substantially polished or reworked (hopefully you’ll leave the conference full of ideas and advice for needed edits), other times I sign on a completely different book altogether. Sometimes I hear from an author I didn’t meet directly; they were in the back of the room, learning, listening, and when finally ready, they contacted me. And occasionally it’s not an attendee I sign on, but a referral from an attendee. Conferences have long shelf-life benefits for everyone.
There is one more reason I accept conference invites, but it’s far more subjective, and rather internal. I take the time to go to conferences because people trump electrons or pieces of paper any day. I spend untold hours every month sending out rejections; during busier times it’s a Dear Author form rejection. With 8,000 - 10,000 queries a year, I often do not have time for anything else. So it’s incredibly humbling and gratifying to be reminded at conferences that behind all the story ideas, behind all the pitches, proposals, and book ideas, are people. Enthusiastic, talented, interesting people. It keeps the humanity in what I do, and even if I don’t find / sign a single attendee at a conference, I return to the office refreshed and recharged, having been witness to so much collective creative energy. I’m reminded that I wouldn’t have this awesome job if it weren’t for writers like you. So a heartfelt thanks to you all for showing up, for giving me a chance to help, to acquire, and to remember that people are at the heart of any story.
See you in the South!