The Writers' Loop

For Readers and Writers


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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.  

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                      I WAS NOT RESPONSIBLE FOR THIS!

~

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

                                                                                            ©  SM Poulette

 

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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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A Writers Workshop Isn’t All About What Happens Inside Class

By Peggy Morehouse

One of the joys of being a writer is going to writers’ workshops. Your craft improves, your manuscript deepens, you meet other writers, and you have plenty of fun. Although the speaker and the content are my priorities when choosing a workshop, a nice location is an added bonus. I wasn’t disappointed when I attended the Breakout Novel Intensive Workshop hosted by Free Expressions in Hood River, Oregon at the beginning of April. The instructor was literary agent and author of several novel writing books, Donald Maass. Attendees also submitted pages from their manuscript to him and staff editors for critiques. The good news is the instruction and feedback I received will make my novel  more intriguing. The bad news is I have to temporarily delete The End on the last page of my novel, but after a couple of months of revision, I’ll be set to go.

I not only gained valuable information inside the classroom, but found new beauty to weave into my stories in the natural areas around Hood River. Authors like Henry Thoreau and John Muir were masters of nature writing, but their work primarily described the outdoor world from their personal perspectives and experiences. Nature certainly can be  included in fiction when it comes to describing lush settings, but what about how characters interact with oceans, trees, and animals? Can they effect someone’s feelings and emotions? Do they have the power to change someone?

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Take a look at how some of my favorite authors used nature in their novels:

From Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver:

“This was a living flow, like a pulse through veins, with the cells bursting and renewing themselves as they went. The sudden vision filled her with strong emotions that embarrassed her, for fear of breaking into sobs as she had in front of her in-laws that day when the butterflies enveloped her. How was that even normal, to cry over insects?”

From Mudbound by Hillary Jordan:

“When the river takes me I don’t try to swim afloat. I open my eyes and my mouth and let the water fill me up. I feel my lungs spasm but there’s no pain, and I stop being afraid. The current carries me along. I’m flotsam, and I understand that flotsam is all I’ve ever been.”

From Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck:

“As the day went forward the sun becomes less red. It flared down on the dust-blanketed land. The men sat in the doorways of their houses; their hands were busy with sticks and little rocks. The men sat still -thinking- figuring.”

As writer Ron Harton says, “Nature writing is relational. It is about the interconnections, the interrelationships, that form our world. Nature writing binds people to the natural world with words of understanding, respect, admiration, and love.” The way a bird caws can send a message. A still dark river can create a mood. A cloud blocking the sun’s rays can reflect emotion.

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If your character saw this image when he/she gazed at the sky would they focus on the darkness of the cloud, the surrounding sun rays or both.

So I escaped from the indoor world of my writer’s workshop to go into the outdoor world for a little while.  Perhaps I’d find a few hours of quiet, stumble upon an incredible view, or have an encounter with an animal. Maybe I’d have a revelation or a new idea for a story scene. Just like a good novel, stepping into nature is an adventure because you’re never quite sure what it has in store for you.

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Here are a few photos from the natural area around Hood River. How could you use them in your writing especially as they relate to a character?

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Waterfalls divided by a bridge

 

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A tree obstructing the view of a waterfall or did they blend together?

 

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A moss covered tree

 

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Apple Blossoms with snow covered Mount Hood in the background

I strongly recommend the Breakout Novel Intensive Workshop hosted by Free Expressions. Click here if interested in future workshops:  http://free-expressions.com/breakout-novel/

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