The Writers' Loop

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What’s the Deal with Writers’ Conferences? 

By SUSANNE MARIE POULETTE

Three years ago, I attended my first writers’ conference.  It proved to be all that was promised, and considerably wipmore.  So, if I got so much out of it, why am I registered for a conference in August?  Do I need another one?   Why?

The internet is chock full of articles like, “Ten Reasons to go to Writers’ Conferences,” and “Five Benefits of Attending a Writers’ Conference,” and, well, you get the idea.  Let’s look at the issue from a different perspective and not reinvent the wheel here.  I propose,  “Top Ten Reasons Why You Should NOT Attend a Writers’ Conference.”

10.  Don’t go if you already know everything there is to learn about the craft of writing, or, if you don’t like to learn, period.

9.    Pass it up if you’re an expert on the publishing industry’s process.

8.    Stay away if other writers and authors bore you to tears.

7.    Skip it if you’ve had it up to here with inspiration and can’t take another drop.

6.    Don’t bother if you have tons of positive feedback on your manuscript, and readers are picketing your home until they get a published copy.

5.    Forget it if the last thing you need or want is a one-on-one manuscript critique with a high-powered literary agent, editor, or famous author.

4.    Sit it out if you have nothing more to learn about establishing a platform.

3.    Don’t even think of it if you get creeped out by being around literary agents and editors.

2.    Bag it if you think best-selling authors have no business teaching a workshop on writing.

And the NUMBER ONE Top Ten Reason Why You Should NOT Attend a Writers’ Conference:

1.    Avoid it entirely if you really don’t care about being a successful author.

 

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All kidding aside, I highly recommend taking advantage of writers’ conferences.  In my two experiences, I met literary agents who critiqued my work, encouraged me, and offered fresh ideas to improve my plot and characters. Among a vast array of workshops, I learned about pitching my book to an agent; writing with humor; “show don’t tell;” self-publishing; maximizing platform; query letter writing, and more.  Keynote speakers are typically best-selling authors who inspire and encourage, often telling the stories of their paths to success in publishing. I found that meeting other writers, connecting with authors, sharing ideas, and networking at conferences all provide a wonderful, energizing experience.

On August 15th, I’ll attend the Unicorn Writers’ Conference for the third time.  I highly recommend this conference.   It will be held at Reid Castle, Manhattanville College, in Purchase, NY.  From their website: “Unicorn Writers’ Conference brings together industry insiders to offer rare tutorials on what publishers really care about, including how to market a book, generate publicity, select artwork, write a query letter, improve writing, and negotiate a book deal. Leading filmmakers and bloggers will give tutorials on how to take advantage of cutting-edge technologies and social media services. Countless networking opportunities will be available throughout the day.”


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To learn about Unicorn’s guest agents, editors, speakers, manuscript review sessions, and workshops, check out their brochure: http://www.unicornwritersconference.com/2015-brochure.html  or email at: unicornwritersconference@gmail.com.

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Coming up soon is the Annual Publishing Conference held by Adirondack Center for Writing.  This conference  will take place on June 6th  and 7th  at Heaven Hill Resort in Lake Placid, NY. It will include workshops, literary agents, editors and publicists, with one or two day attendance options.  To learn more, check out their website: http://www.adirondackcenterforwriting.org/events/97.

 

These are just two of a year-long calendar of writers’ conferences that offer a vast menu of topics such as mystery, memoir, biography, children’s, horror, playwriting,  journalism, and non-fiction.  Shaw Guides is an excellent resource for locating a conference of your choice.  Check them out at: http://writing.shawguides.com/

Additional sources for upcoming conferences are:

Writer’s Digest www.writersdigest.com and Poets & Writers http://www.pw.org/magazine.

 

 

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Growing Inspiration

By SUSANNE MARIE POULETTE

I returned from the Break Out Novel Intensive Workshop in Oregon energized with fresh writing tools and recommendations for my novel. A flood of plans and possibilities crisscrossed my brain and each time I looked at my manuscript I thought, “Not yet.” The seeds of the workshop were germinating but not ready to sprout.

0406151229At the same time, I came back with beautiful images of the workshop setting in the Hood River area. Unlike my home in Saratoga County, New York, Oregon was in the full bloom of spring. Their trees flaunted a rich array of greens and pastel flowers of lilacs, hydrangeas, and mixtures of pink blossoms. Golden daffodils and red tulips lined paths along the conference center, and tiny daisy-like flowers peppered large sections of an adjacent park. If my memory serves me—from my childhood days of eating wild raspberries as fast as I could pick them—the banks along the Columbia River just outside our hotel, teamed with budding raspberry bushes. Everywhere I looked, there was color. Everywhere, new life.

At home, the trees were bare and grass was brown, but, alleluia, the snow was gone. Then, within two days, I noticed tiny buds emerging on sprightly branches all across my yard. I gathered up my gardening tools, and headed to my april 2015 004perennial beds to see what was or was not happening. Then I saw it. Just as the writing workshop’s seeds of inspiration were germinating, so was my garden. By the end of the week, my forsythia bushes sprouted blooms, april 2015 009 the chive was tall enough for salad, and the oregano and day lilies were wild with life. Energized by the season’s promises, I now feel ready to transplant my manuscript’s sprouts from head to page.

For me, working the garden and digging hands deep into the soil is no different from writing. Both tasks require careful, thorough april 2015 011planning. I learned this the hard way when I jumped into my first novel without a road map for my plot. Likewise, I jumped into my first garden by planting 36-inch tall cone flowers in front of 12-inch high lavender, another plot without a map. Fortunately for me, drafts are revised and rewritten, sometimes for years and years. (But that’s another story.) While in the garden, most plants can be moved easily and are usually quite forgiving of the change.

Patience is essential in both writing and gardening. Neither job can be rushed. Each needs its own time to develop, grow deeper, and flourish. Writing and gardening both demand tons of weeding and pruning, yanking and tossing what doesn’t belong, what detracts and chokes.

There are libraries of books on gardens with A to Z growing instructions, designs, and worlds of information. There are books on writing fiction, developing the narrative arc and characters, creating tension, and even producing a breakout novel. But in the end, it’s a personal path in both cases. Yes, we refer to the experts and then throw ourselves into the work, filling it with our individuality, creativity, passion, and preferences. Above all, we want others to take notice of our work and feel as moved by it as we do. We want to touch hearts and lives through the voice of our writings and gardens.

Beatrix Potter is one author who enjoyed gardening and found inspiration there for her writing and her painting.  Marta McDowell’s book, Beatrix Potter’s Gardening Life: The Plants and Places That Inspired the Classic Children’s Tales, is a beautiful accounting of Beatrix Potter’s love of gardening and plants, and how that passion came to be reflected in her work.  McDowell told Joyce Neuman of Garden Variety:

“There are many writers who garden and who write about gardening: Henry David Thoreau and Ralph Waldo Emerson, Edith Wharton, Eudora Welty, Emily Dickinson and, of course, Beatrix Potter. Why? Here’s my guess. Writing is a solitary, cerebral pursuit. Gardening is tactile, physical. Writing tends to be indoors, and it is divorced from nature.  All nature is imagined, during the act of writing. Gardening balances that, by connecting the writer to life—plant life, the life in the soil, the insects and animals that the garden attracts and sustains. You can feel alone at the keyboard, but never in the garden.  The garden is also the place to work out writing problems—other problems as well. Emerson said something like “All my hurts my garden spade can heal.”

Beatriix Potter's vegetable gardent at Hill Top, Cumbria, UK

BEATRIX POTTER’S VEGETABLE GARDEN AT HILL TOP, CUMBRIA, UK

You can read McDowell’s complete interview by clicking on the snoozing rabbits in Potter’s garden:

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WE have a little garden,                    
A garden of our own,                                   peter r
And every day we water there
The seeds that we have sown.                                   

WE love our little garden,
And tend it with such care,
You will not find a faced leaf   
Or blighted blossom there.  

~ Beatrice Potter

View and read a bit about the inspiring gardens of famous writers such as Agatha Christie, George Bernard Shaw, Sir Walter Scott, Wordsworth, Roald Dahl, Virginia Woolfe, Beatrix Potter, and more at The Telegraph’s Twelve Wonderful Writers’ Gardens.  Click on Oregon’s hydrangeas visit:

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ENJOY


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Catch a Falling Star?

By SUSANNE MARIE POULETTE

essier 107 ~  NASA

Messier 107 ~ NASA

It was February 7th, the day stars tumbled from the sky and graced those who would take notice. A low pressure system was sweeping from the Ohio Valley to southern New England, washing the sky in dusky gray hues. Hesitant  flurries were ushering in bands of snow, heralding yet another blizzard.  But before Winter Storm Marcus could dump its heavy swath of snow across Connecticut, an extraordinary discovery took place. Sheer crystalline gems alighted on coats, hats, gloves, hair, —  whatever concluded their airy descent; ephemeral favors bestowed on the  mindful and fortunate few.

That was the day my son boarded a plane at Bradley International Airport in Windsor Locks, Connecticut.  We were all thanking our lucky stars that his flight took off before the next in the long chain of snowstorms hit the Northeast.  My son might have missed his flight if he had paused any longer for the magical moments of star-shaped snowflakes sprinkling all about him. He had just time enough to witness the “starflakes” and snap a photo before they disappeared.

star snow flake

Star snowflakes caught on my son’s suitcase.

“What about the notion that no two snowflakes are identical?  Falling stars?”  My son and I considered the curious phenomenon while viewing his star-studded photo; each of us on opposite ends of the North-South compass.

As it turned out, there were many “starflake” sightings in the Northeast during the recent winter storms.  The Weather Channel reported: “As Winter Storm Juno bears down on the East Coast, reports are surfacing of star-shaped snowflakes. At around 2 p.m. ET, weather.com spotted the unique snowflakes in midtown Manhattan. While it looks like magic, there is a scientific explanation behind the phenomenon. ‘If snowflakes stay separated from each other…and if you look closely enough, you can sometimes see the structure of snowflakes with your naked eye,’ weather.com meteorologist Chris Dolce says. ‘There are many different types of crystal patterns and these star-shaped snowflakes are just one example. The dendrite, a star-shape with varying patterns, is the most common shape of a snowflake.’”

By atsperaInstagram

By atsperaInstagram

Kathrine Brooks of The Huffington Post (at:  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/01/27/star-shaped-snowflakes-_n_6555614.html ) reported:

 “The complex ice crystals are part of a natural art-making process that you might have learned about in your grade school science class. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, a snowflake begins to form when exceedingly cold water droplets freeze onto certain particles in the sky, like pollen or dust. The meeting of water and particle creates an ice crystal, and as that crystal falls to the ground, water vapor freezes onto it to produce new crystals –essentially, the six points of the snowflake that make that stunning star shape…Winter Storm Juno descended upon the East Coast this week, bringing with it a mélange of wind gusts, icy temperatures and admirably geometric snowflake masterpieces…Residents of cities like Manhattan reported seeing a mix of star-shaped flakes falling upon them, posting impressive shots of the unique configurations across the Internet…”

Brooks invited readers to get a close-up view of snowflakes by macrophotographer Alexey Kljatov  at   http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/12/03/alexey-kljatov_n_4373888.html.

Alexis

By Alexey Kljatob

So, why all this snowflake talk on The Writers’ Loop?  What does it have to do with reading and writing?  But then, what isn’t reading or writing?

For reading: Throughout and at the end of this post you’ll find several links for more information about star snowflakes, as well as some fun and interesting weather-related information links for adults and children.

For writing:  I don’t think we need to be world travelers, great history buffs, or geniuses in order to write creatively.  Of course that would help.  We take the mundane, ordinary, everyday happenings and look at them from all sides.  Consider the ideas that can come from people watching, overhearing bits of conversations, news articles, obituaries, art, music, friends, nature, children, history, travel, sporting events, or even politics (oh dear). Find some facet that appeals, begs for commentary, or deserves elaboration, and jot down those thoughts.  As a case in (six-) point, star-shaped snowflakes inspire me.  I envision magical, miniature glistening stars streaming from the clouds or trailing a meteorite as it races across the universe…

By STARtorialist  twitter

By STARtorialist on twitter

Author Neil Gaiman says, “You get ideas from daydreaming. You get ideas from being bored. You get ideas all the time. The only difference between writers and other people is we notice when we’re doing it.”  You can check out his response to “Where do you get your ideas?” at: http://www.neilgaiman.com/p/Cool_Stuff/Essays/Essays_By_Neil/Where_do_you_get_your_ideas%3F

I’d like to add advice to Gaiman’s comment.  When you notice that you’re getting ideas, jot them down on the nearest piece of paper before you forget them.

Thoreau on snowflakes

For more information: 

  • Terms used by meteorologists, forecasters, weather observers, and in weather forecasts:

http://www.erh.noaa.gov/er/box/glossary.htm

For children (Not just for kids, I’ve learned a lot from these sites.):

Tycho's Supernova, left, and Nebula S175, right, in the Constellation Cassiopeia Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA

Tycho’s Supernova, left, and Nebula S175, right, in the Constellation Cassiopeia
Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA

  • To read about Tycho’s Supernova, visit:

http://www.nasa.gov/multimedia/imagegallery/image_feature_1713.html