Write on Wednesday: Association of Writers & Writing Programs

Last year, in February, I attended the American Association of Writers and Writing Programs Conference. AWP. People had been telling me about this conference for years – that if it ever came close to my geographic area, I had to go. Last year it was in DC. I could stay with my brother in Georgetown, so I registered. The conference welcomed between 12K and 14K people in the Washington Convention Center and the Marriott Marquis Hotel. Just a few more than the 200 plus at the Bay to Ocean Writers Conference at Chesapeake College, in Wye Mills, Maryland that I attended in March.

You have to be a member of AWP to attend the conference. One of the benefits of membership is their bi-monthly magazine, The Writers Chronicle. It’s an excellent writing resource.

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All the sessions I attended were panels  with four to six participants. These folks had impeccable credentials, MFA (Master of Fine Arts) degrees and multiple publications. MFA’s seem to acquire a special language with that degree. I had to think hard about fictive culture, breaking the fourth wall, distant third and character maps. Most of the authors who spoke about fiction, wrote literary fiction. A couple of sessions I attended had authors who wrote Middle-grade and Young Adult fiction, but there was not a Paranormal Romance (or any kind of romance genre for that matter) session to be found.

I did think I was going to get close with the session titled “Writing Female Desire.” But my notes only indicate the title of that session, not that I got anything helpful from it. A week later, I couldn’t remember anything about it. Maybe I bailed and went to lunch.

For the most part the presenters were accessible and self-deprecating and regardless of the topic listed in the program, they talked a lot about their writing process.

Here are some of my favorite take-aways about process:

  1. Write for good friends first and, then, the rest of the world.
  2. Write “your” book, not what is currently in vogue.
  3. “I have a turtle tattooed on my back” was what one writer said about the pace of her process.
  4. If the door is stuck [in the plot of your book], don’t bang your head on it, go around and jimmy a window.
  5. What is the “river” that is pulling your book forward? In other words what is the book really about.
  6. Failure is part of the process!
  7. Be prepared for multiple rewrites of drafts. Not three or four but sometimes as many as forty. (That made me want to take a nap!)
  8. Several presenters had taken 10 years to complete a book, although they may have had other things published along the way.
  9. On the panel about women publishing after age fifty, one of the presenters said the pub date of her first novel was a week before she was eligible for Medicare. The room erupted in applause. This session was packed, standing room only and part of the discussion was how women find time to write with career, kids, family, aging parents, etc. #womenwritingafter50

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All in all, I’m glad I went to AWP last year. It won’t be close to me again until 2022 when it will be in Philadelphia. But truthfully, I get more that is helpful to me in terms of writing craft from the Bay to Ocean Writers Conference at Chesapeake College. And that’s just half an hour away. And at that conference no one turns down their nose at those of us who write romance.

 

Write on Wednesday – March 21, 2018

How to Get to the End – a New Writing Tool

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One of the workshops I attended at Bay to Ocean Writers Conference (sponsored by Eastern Shore Writers Association) was presented by Jeanne Adams. The session was about plotting. I thought I was one of those people who didn’t always know the end of the book I was writing. Jeanne put that notion to rest.

I write Romantic Suspense with a paranormal twist. If you write Romance the ending has the couple getting together. Enough of the impediments to the relationship (that create conflict in the story) are ironed out so the couple has a future. I realized as Jeanne was talking that because I write a specific genre I already had the end of my book, I just didn’t know how to get there when I began plotting. Phew!

Seriously. A big Phew. When I started writing this third novel I knew that Yvie and Marc would get together. I just didn’t know how. But I equated the plot points with the ending. I could have saved myself alot of angst.

This is where the W Plot schematic comes in. It’s based on Michael Hauge’s Six Stage Plot Structure.  Originally used for scripts, the W works for ficiton as well. I’ve used Dara Mark’s plot arc as a tool in the past, but there was something about it that didn’t quite make sense. The W plot clicked for me. Because my novel has twins who each have a love interest I need to use two W plot devices and see how they intersect. My novel is so close to being finished, but I’m going to put the plot points on the W and see how I did. I keep feeling that there are a couple of small scenes missing. This might tell me what they need to be and where they should go.

For me, writing is primarily an intuitive process. And I love that about it. Having characters show up or go off in some weird direction is part of the fun. But having something concrete to hang things on will help me get over some rough patches.

Tip: You probably already know about PrintFriendly, but if you don’t…. Pull up PrintFriendly on your browser. Copy the URL from the Michael Hauge’s link and insert it in PrintFriendly to create a printable document. I like having that piece of paper in front of me.

 

 

 

 

 

Women Who Do Too Much

My friend, Diane Marquette, emailed me after I told her I’d forgotten to do something important. This is what she said…

” ‘Women Who Still Do Too Much,’ like ourselves, cannot keep all the plates spinning all the time. Sometimes stuff’s gonna wobble and break. That’s why there’s glue in the junk drawer.

I appreciated the “still” in what she said. I am trying hard to pare down my commitments so I have more time to write. There are a few more things to do for the Eastern Shore Writers Association and the Bay to Ocean Conference, but then more of my time will be my own. Of course, now that spring is here, the garden is calling…but I am writing every day and the plot for the third book in the Caribbean series is pulling together. I’m thinking about starting to post some excepts from the first book in the series.

Saturday we drove to Philadelphia to take our granddaughter to dinner. She was in town for an Occupational Therapy conference. She lives on the west coast and doesn’t get east very often, so we really enjoyed catching up. I love that we have the same chin! She’s a lovely young woman and we couldn’t be prouder grandparents.

Sunday afternoon I attended a meeting for volunteers at the St. Michaels Farmer’s Market. It’s an important institution in our community for those of us who care about where  are food comes from and how it’s grown or raised. I am excited to see how there can be more linkage between the St. Michaels Community Garden (one of my volunteer activities) and the Farmers Market. Many of us who grow most of our own produce supplement at the Farmers Market. I am stumped by summer squash. My zucchinis and yellow squash never survive squash borers.

Veggie signs went up on Talbot Street this weekend. This is a fun fundraiser for the Farmers Market.Other organizations do similar fund raisers. Before Valentine’s Day we have Hearts on Talbot, we have Jack Russel dog signs before the Jack Russel races at Perry Cabin, and silver stars before Christmas in St. Michaels.

 

There’s always something going on in this wonderful small town on Maryland’s Eastern Shore.

Revisions: Writing, BTO & Gardening

Writing

I’m almost finished with my several passes through the first Caribbean book – A Dream Across Time. It will be republished with a new title. The series will be called An Island Tale  and the titles will be An Island Tale – Dream,  An Island Tale – Circle and An Island Tale – Magic. They will be published under my name rather than a pen name – which seemed like a good idea at the time but in retrospect wasn’t. It seems like a lot of decisions in life are like that, but I’m getting a chance for a do-over with this. Not always the case with some life decisions.

I especially wanted to take a look at the dialogue which sometimes seemed to go on longer than it should. There aren’t any real plot changes so I haven’t had to get out my revision towel…yet. In the next couple of weeks the manuscript will go to a copy editor and then move on to CreateSpace for print and Kindle versions. Laura has proposed a cover series which I really like.

I told my Working Writer’s Forum that I would submit something for the April meeting. That will force me to spend some time on the third book – Magic. Those characters are rocketing around in my cranium and need to get on the page.

Bay to Ocean Writers Conference

Last Saturday was the 20th annual Bay to Ocean Writers Conference. We had good weather which is pretty miraculous in that we’ve never had to cancel because of weather. Anny, in the yellow sweater, is the “face” of BTO. She stands out in the cold and greets people as they come toward the building. It’s a welcome for which introverted writers are grateful.

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After ten years, I’m stepping off the organizing committee. Next year I will attend BTO and actually go to sessions. I’m looking forward to that. The day went smoothly, a tribute to the organization of this conference where 200 writers of all stages in their writing life come to learn about the craft of writing, different genres, marketing and publishing issues. We had a few hiccups with registration which wasn’t as organized as I would have liked, but I wasn’t in charge of that. Once we got people through the line, things moved right along.

We had three presenters who had requested AV assistance and they all had sessions at the same time. What are the odds? Chesapeake College had arranged for three tech people to be on hand. So something that might have been a big hiccup, wasn’t.

It was a long day and I was tired when I got home. I’d already told the husband I wasn’t cooking so we ordered pizza which is something we hardly ever do. Two in the morning I was up hunting for antacids. But that pizza sure tasted good going down.

Gardening

The weather here is very cold and windy, but we escaped the snow the rest of the east coast had on Tuesday. We got lots of rain and frigid temps. The daffodils are down for the count.

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I won’t know about other things (like my camellia) until things warm up. I had raked the leaves (which provide winter insulation) out of my garden beds when we had those mild spring-like days. I knew that was risky, but because things were just starting to poke out of the ground I could actually rake the leaves. If that chore gets put off, I have to “rake” on my knees with my hands.

When I sit at my keyboard I look out over a couple of big silver maples. I asked my husband to make me another birdhouse to hang on one of the trees. We hung four birdhouses earlier this year. He had made then several years ago and I finally got around to painting them. The holes are for small birds. I like the bright spots of color both in winter and summer. The one in the lower left corner was a craft birdhouse that finally fell apart. I kept it for the colors which I tried to replicate.

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We gardeners are always hopeful, and the lilac that I see from the window at my desk is in bud. Time will tell if the buds survived the cold of the last few days. If they did, the lilac will be full of fragrant blooms in another two months.

Bay to Ocean Registration Officially Open

Registration for the 20th annual Bay to Ocean Writers Conference officially opened today. At 6 a.m. I sent out a MailChimp email to our list of over 1000 who may be interested.

Here’s the link for the BTO sessions. I spent months pulling faculty together with the help of my committee, Ann Wilson and Loriann Oberlin. Then I began asking, nudging, bullying presenters for the information we needed and put it on the website.It had to be ready to go by today.

This year a new speaker on the topic of memoir is Glen Finland.

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Her book, Next Stop: An Autistic Son Grows Up, about helping her young adult autistic son cope with being out in the world has won multiple awards. Memoir is just one of the craft topics available at the conference. If you are a writer or have been thinking about writing, this conference has something for writers of every level. There’s always something new to learn.

Registration is through EventBrite (handled by ESWA Treasurer Charlene Marcum) and yesterday I registered my husband just to make sure that worked. It did! Phew! That’s always a relief.

This conference wouldn’t happen without the hard work of people who’ve done specific jobs for a number of years. At this point it’s a pretty well oiled machine, but it’s very exciting to be involved in the 20th year of this conference.

 

ESWA and BTO

In between pulling up tomato plants and planting some fall kale, arugula and Hakurai turnips, I’ve been at the computer a lot.

Last weekend my husband and I organized an Eastern Shore Writers Association meeting at the Queen Anne’s County Library in Stevensville, MD. We had two ESWA members who presented their book selling techniques. It was really interesting and inspiring. Sharon Brubaker talked about some of her guerilla marketing techniques for selling her books. All terrific information. Kenton Kilgore, talked about tricks for us introverts to use when dealing with the public. I resonated to his statement that you know if you’re an introvert because being with a lot of people drains your batteries.

That’s certainly true for me. I’ve learned over the years to present a positive, outgoing personality, but the real me wants to hide in the closet. If I know what I’m talking about, am prepared with a presentation, I’m fine. When I was on Oprah years ago, as an expert on therapy with stepfamilies, I spent the night in the Chicago hotel room reading somebody else’s book about stepfamilies. Just wanted to make sure Oprah didn’t ask me a question I couldn’t answer. Now that was just neurotic. Note: she didn’t. I wasn’t nervous. I was prepared!

We’ve organized another ESWA meeting on October 8 at the Easton library. This one will feature editors of ESWA’s literary magazine, The Delmarva Review, who will answer questions from people interested in submitting.

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The other big project I’ve been working on is The Bay to Ocean Conference website. It’s 99% there. Registration for this conference begins October 1 and we always sell out. I sent out the page with the sessions to all the presenters so they could take a look and a couple found mistakes which I corrected. Getting presenters for all thirty sessions is always interesting and challenging and that process begins the day after the conference. We have some faculty who are so good, we invite them every year. And we aim for at least a third new presenters. This is BTO’s 20th year which is really exciting. Take a look.

For the last five years or more I’ve been managing the membership database for Eastern Shore Writers Association. It’s cumbersome because it’s more than just an Excel spreadsheet. New members have to have their emails typed into two different lists on MailChimp in addition to the Excel spreadsheet. New members also get a welcome email, a welcome letter mailed along with a copy of the most current Delmarva Review. That requires a trip to the post office. A renewal letter goes out in mid-July but the renewals dribble in. If people pay on PayPal the receipt goes to the treasurer who has to remember to forward the information to me. If something comes in the mail mail, it has to be sent to me or scanned and emailed. In addition to the data base, I publish a quarterly digital membership directory to the members. Phew! This was getting to be a half time job.

Yesterday the treasurer went to the mail box and asked the postmaster to look into the fact that we hadn’t gotten any mail for weeks. Turns out the ESWA mail had been put in another mailbox. Now I’m waiting for those new members and renewals and hope I can get the member directory ready in time for emailing it out on Oct 1.

In this system, there are lots of places for things to go wrong, for data to be misplaced. So at the last ESWA board meeting I recommended that the organization subscribe to Wild Apricot which is membership software for organizations. The board agreed, but now my job is to handle the transition. It’s a steep learning curve, but my goal is to get this completed by the end of the year. At that point new memberships and renewals would be automated and the chance for errors significantly lessened. The membership directory would be compiled by the software. Emails can be sent out to different groups, etc. The software does many things. The trick will be learning to use them. I go off the ESWA board at the end of December, so I’m hoping the next person who handles membership will have an easier time. We are, after all, volunteers.

Once these projects are completed, my goal is to get back to writing the third book in my Caribbean series. But before that a table of green tomatoes in the garage is waiting for me to make green tomato chow chow. That will be a blog of its own.

 

 

A Writers’ Conference and Wood Chips

2017 will be the twentieth year of the annual Bay to Ocean Writers Conference. I’ve been involved for ten years and Laura Ambler about that long. I’ve been Speaker Liaison for a number of years and have been training someone to take over the job.

The Speaker Liaison committee met this week to begin looking at the presenters we’d like to invite. We have some people who’ve supported the conference for many years, are terrific presenters and get asked back almost every year. We also try new people and new topics. Keeping up with the changes in the publishing industry is a challenge as every writer knows.

Some people complain there are too many good sessions to choose from. We think that’s a good thing. Others have said why do you have some of the same topics over and over again. They are probably talking about craft topics such as point of view or dialog or creating conflict. We don’t have the same person do the same topic year after year, and we don’t have the same topics every year. But I think writers can always learn something new – or get that part of the presentation your brain didn’t register the last time.

Actually, part of my philosophy of life is that there isn’t any situation or person from which I can’t learn something. Sometimes it’s something about myself and sometimes it’s how to do something. It probably drives any workmen we have in the house nuts because I hang around and ask questions. I’d like to try my hand at plumbing, but probably not in this lifetime. And I don’t attempt anything electrical.

The last few days of cooler weather prompted me to call Bartlett Tree Service and see if I could get a load of wood chips. They’re free, but you never know what you’ll get. It depends on what they’ve been cutting. When my husband helped me put the tarps down he asked if the pile was going to be the size of the house. “Don’t be ridiculous,” I said as I headed off to help weed at the Reading Garden at the St. Michaels Library.

When I returned the mulch had been delivered. The pile was the size of a small house.IMG_1550

We borrowed a second wheelbarrow; my husband filled them and I moved them to the back of the property and dumped. We were an awesome team. Shoveling the chips strains my shoulders and I don’t mind the schlepping. More steps to my pitiful FitBit account. The husband doesn’t like the schlepping because he’s tall and has to lean over the wheelbarrow handles. The pile was quickly reduced to the size of two VWs.

What did I learn from this pile of mulch? That I should pace myself and remember that I’m not thirty any more. The husband told me he’d learned that already  – about thirty years ago.

Update: The pile is now gone. It’s in barrow-size smaller piles around the property waiting to be spread out. That can happen bit by bit, and the only remnants of that huge pile are a few chips that escaped the tarps. All told I figure we’ve moved at least thirty cubic yards of mulch this spring – fourteen cubic yards purchased and one free load the size of a small house.