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My Takeaways From The Unicorn Writers’ Conference

By Susanne Marie Poulette

unicorn 004

It was another great conference this year.  Kudos to Jan Kardys, and all the dedicated organizers and staff of the Unicorn Writers’ Conference!  Now, my takeaways, as promised:

♦ Stephanie Evanovich gave the keynote address. She’s as funny in person as she is in print, a first class comedian with a drama background, and what a hoot.  Stephanie told about her path to publication, much faster than the typical book launch, but nothing to do with the surname she shares with her aunt, Janet Evanovich.  Although she hasn’t suffered the throes of years of rejections like so many of us, Stephanie made it clear that she understands the frustrations of trying to snag a book deal. Her message was one of encouragement.  She urged writers to persevere, to have confidence in their writing and in their voices, and resist giving up in the face of rejection.  She cautioned against reading one’s own reviews.  Stephanie EStephanie cited an example of a criticism made to her about point-of-view, saying that it threw her for a loop (my words, not an exact quote, but that’s the idea).  I admit that I had the very same experience in a writing group, that sent me reeling, but also sent me researching extensively.  I learned that some comments can be well meaning and helpful, but they can also be incorrect and derail the writing process.

Stephanie said each reviewer has their own opinion, and we can’t please them all.  The important thing is to keep writing and growing as a writer.  She gave big girl pantiesa great example of a poor review when someone apparently got caught up in a Tangle of Names.  The confused reviewer wrote that “Evanovich” should stick to writing about her long-time protagonist, Stephanie Plum—who, by the way, is the star of her Aunt Janet’s series.  So much for reviews, eh?  I do want to add that I just picked up Stephanie’s latest book.  I have this annoying habit of laughing out loud while reading, (it annoys others, not me) and this book doesn’t help me break that pattern.  If you like a good laugh, you’ll enjoy Big Girl Panties.

 

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

♦ Beena Kamlani is a senior editor at Penguin Viking, an award winning author, and professor.  Due to a review appointment, I attended only the first half of her workshop on editing. How I wish I could have heard more.  I’d love to pop downstate to Hunter College and take her editing course.  She speaks beautifully about the art of writing. I’ll share my snippets:

Memoir: Never overextend the readers, let the book reveal your story, bit by bit. Immediacy is important, let readers drink it in, in the present tense. Make them see what you saw, and let your feelings for what you saw speak to them.

Fiction: Drop breadcrumbs for the reader and follow through with a reason for everything. Don’t reveal too much all at once. Dramatize, don’t tell everything. All dialog has to have a reason, but what characters don’t say is as important as what they do say. It heightens interest when the reader doesn’t know. Think about what makes you turn the page. Don’t refresh the reader’s memory, trust the reader to remember, and continue on with your story.

Click on the book for a video of Beena Kamlani describing how a developmental editor works with an author on the path to publication:

♦ Lane Heymont, literary agent and author, presented “World Building,” that is, creating settings.  He described the infrastructure of a story, creating a consistent society with norms, culture, and rules.  Setting needs a history to give the sense of its existence.  It should be realistic, using the five senses to build a unique world, but it has to make sense.  Share the world of your setting throughout the book, not all at once, and get to the action right away.

Lane suggests making a setting sketch and provided a downloadable handout for those who attended his workshop.  Since it’s out there on the web, it may be fair game if you want to take a peek: http://laneheymont.com/blog/.

 

Reid Castle, Unicorn Writers' Conference, August, 2015

Reid Castle, Unicorn Writers’ Conference, August, 2015

♦ Eliza Shallcross, author, editor, and copywriter with 30 years of experience, presented “Book Copy as a Marketing Tool.”  Before this workshop, I didn’t have a clue about “book cover copy,” or any of its numerous components.  Apparently, book cover copy services ( good tongue twister?) are part of the traditional publishing process, but I wonder how many self-publishing authors are aware of all the marketing factors involved in cover copy.  So what is it?  It applies to all types of books, hardcover, mass market paperback, trade paperback, and eBook. It’s everything that goes on a book’s front and back covers, and flaps.  It’s the artwork, title, tag line (short teaser), author’s name with photo and biography, quotes from reviews, story description, and more, all within word count limitations.  The book cover itself is the marketing tool, appealing to the reader and growing the author’s readership. Eliza Shallcross provides individual editing and copywriting services. You can find her at: https://www.linkedin.com/in/elizashallcross.

_pearls_of_wisdom

Sorry, but I’m hoarding the pearls of wisdom from my two excellent one-to-one manuscript review sessions (first 40 pages).  All kidding aside, the reviews were invaluable, and I’m hard at work making revisions based on their suggestions. The Unicorn Writers’ Conference provides these affordable, 30-minute sessions with agents, editors, and speakers.  I hope you can attend this conference and the review session opportunities next year.

© S M Poulette

 

 

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Does Oops! Have a Plural?

By Susanne Marie Poulette

The writers’ conference was great, and I’ll have takeaways for you in my next post.  But first I want to share my Genre Dinner experience.  It was a new event this year, on the Friday evening before Saturday’s conference.  What a wonderful idea, dining with other attendees who also write in my genre.  There were two snags, however, and they’re kind of funny, at least nowThey were definitely not funny at the time.

First, my book doesn’t really fit into any one, neat, specific genre. Since I grumbled about this in my last post, I’ll spare you the details this time.  So, there I was, in Rye, NY, thinking my biggest hurdle was to find the appropriate genre table once I arrived at the hotel dining room.  I was wrong.  Finding the hotel was the problem.  road-signs-confusionHey, I’m just a country girl from Saratoga County, foothills of the Adirondack Mountains, and apparently, completely incompetent at driving in Westchester County.  It’s a beautiful place, but I wouldn’t want to drive there…again.  Let me put it this way, Charlie had a better chance of getting off the MTA at the Scully Square Station, than I ever had of getting off the Hutchinson River Parkway.  I thought that  I’d be the one who’d never return. Suburban-looking roads suddenly transformed into parkways that launched me on a continuous loop, orbiting around several towns—I lost count—and a couple of counties, and the state of Connecticut.  I have a lovely Connecticut police officer to thank for excellent directions to get back to New York, and also a fabulous bellman from the hotel where dessert was being served at my genre dinner. After a few panicked calls to the hotel, the concierge sent their bellman to lead me back on the straight and narrow.  I wasn’t too embarrassed, after all, I’m from the foothills of the Adirondacks.  (Please imagine a shoulder shrug.)

Part Two.  Oh yes, there’s more.  When I finally arrived at the hotel, about two weeks late for dinner, I learned that there were two dinners going on: one for writer-attendees like me, and the other, for faculty, including agents, editors, well-published authors, and let’s just say, some big names in publishing. banquet-large

I found the dining room, but the tables weren’t marked by genre.  I figured the writers must have grouped themselves in some other way. I spotted an empty place at a table and thought, what the heck, I could fit in with romance or sci-fi writers, or whatever they turned out to be. After my hour-long expedition of circling the county map with my blood pressure ready to blow its fuse, some gory werewolf talk would be relaxing.  I laid claim to the open seat and found my way to the buffet to scavenge through the leftovers. The conversation at the table was wonderful!  These were some truly erudite people, and a bit over my head some of the time.  Okay, most of the time.  In speaking with the man seated next to me, I asked if he was published yet.  That’s why writers go to these conferences, to relocate their manuscripts to a publisher’s desk.  So I thought it was a fair question, until I coaxed the answer out of this nice, unpretentious man, who had published six novels and teaches writing courses. Oops. th (2) I focused intently on buttering my roll, thinking that something didn’t feel right.  Then someone from across the table asked me which workshop I was going to present on the next day. Oops again. Wrong table?  It gets better.  After dessert and coffee, and an organizer’s speech with instructions to the faculty, I hit me. I wasn’t at the wrong table. I was in the wrong room.

 

Epilogue

I sat for that dinner with three well-published authors and one very accomplished editor.  I thoroughly enjoyed their conversation, and their company.  They were most casual and gracious and understanding when I explained that the only thing I would present the next day was me!  I think I even got a chuckle out of them.

Westchester County really is a beautiful area, and I’m sure that if required, I could learn to drive there and like it. The local folks I met there were friendly and helpful, and made my visit a pleasant one.  

So after all this kicking and screaming all the way into the techno age, I will finally relent and give up the ghost, er, I mean—that last bastion of navigation independence—my MAPS.  I’ll activate my GPS app.  Yup, I’m giving up my maps for apps.  

sign over

                      I WAS NOT RESPONSIBLE FOR THIS!

~

Please watch for my Unicorn Writers’ Conference takeaways in the next post.

                                                                                            ©  SM Poulette

 


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Brain Picking, Genre Picking

By SUSANNE MARIE POULETTE

puppy all aloneIt’s a little lonely here at the Writers’ Loop without Peggy!     Readers, please let me know if you’re still out there.

You can do that by allowing me to pick your brain. Then, I’ll ask you to post a comment.  Here it goes:

I’m gearing up for the Unicorn Writers’ Conference next weekend (You can check it out by following the UpComing Events link on the sidebar.). On Friday, I’ll attend a Genre Dinner, my very first.  Apparently, it’s a working dinner and a great time to network with writers in my genre.  I’m looking forward to the experience and meeting new contacts. But here’s the catch: my novel crosses and blends so many genre boundaries that it doesn’t fit neatly or even sloppily, into just one category.  This prompts me to wonder which genres are most appealing to the readers of this blog.

book shelves

So, you can help me, if you will, by letting me know which, if any, of these fiction categories appeal to you: Women’s Commercial, Coming-of-Age (Adult), Nostalgic, Magical Realism, Pop Culture, or Humor. Would you mosey toward any of these shelves in your library or favorite bookstore?  Where would you linger?  Which genre might you pluck from the rack, snoop through, and/or peruse its dust jacket or back cover?  Any chance that you’d want to read the whole book, or…purchase it?

My next research survey is pretty straightforward, but it comes with a disclaimer: I will not be held responsible for food cravings or excessive salivation in the analogy that follows.

Now, my question. When one calls up Pizza Lean-to and orders an extra large (pizza 2guessing that one has the munchies for pizza) it’s usually custom made just for you.  You can get almost any topping that your little heart, or tummy desires, even anchovies.

And what about fiction?  If you could call up, oh, let’s say, Harper Collins Publishers, and order a novel written just for you, what toppings, what ingredients would you want?  Which elements of fiction would your novel have: mystery, humor, history, romance, fantasy, sci-fi, crime, western, _________?  (That last one’s a special-order-fill-in-the-blank, just for you.)  Would you order another werewolf, more shades of erotica, or maybe a novel that warms your heart, lifts your spirits and makes you smile?  Just wondering.  Please let me know.

And sorry, no; I’m not taking any pizza orders at this time.  You might want to try Pizza Lean-to.

I hope you’ll post a comment and let me know your opinion.  I’ll be so grateful. Thanks in advance!

SMP