“If you want to be serious about writing, treat it like a business,” says Jordan Fisher Smith, a conference keynote speaker.
Joyce Wycoff, a event board member, says that when a writer attends a conference, “You are showing up for your writing.”
A writing conference is a place to;
hone your craft
make connections, and
establish an action list
“Agents and publishers often say that writers’ who attend conferences are more serious about their craft and are more likely to succeed,” Wycoff comments.
This year’s conference was on the same day as the Women’s March.
Politics was not discussed, but keynote speakers recognized the passion that the marchers expressed.
“A writer is not outside of what is going on,” said Molly Fisk. “People recognize themselves in our writing.”
“Being a writer opens a door,” she continues. “It is permission to think.”
“Art happens when people get together to share their struggles,” Jordan Fisher Smith, commented. “You write because you are called to it.”
Following my current interests, I attended Marketing and Publishing and Guided Critique break-out sessions.
Catharine Bramkamp, a writing coach and social media expert discussed a variety of platforms, member demographics, and analytics. “Know where to spend your time on social media. Be aware of the results that you want to achieve. Keep yourself from getting sucked in, but do enough to have a presence online.”
Bob Jenkins, is a professional storyteller with a PhD in criticism. “Criticism is theanalysis of art; what works and why it works, as well as what doesn’t work and how to fix it,” he explains.
Jenkins delighted his listeners, and the brave souls who pre-submitted writing samples, with dramatic readings of their work. His suggested improvements were striking and gratefully received.
In this first article of the Creating an Electronic Media Kit for Authors series, we’ll talk about the purpose of a media kit and provide a list of questions that you can use to get started making a Question and Answer sheet for your kit.
A media kit — aka. press room, media or promotion packet— is a collection of items that make it easy for someone from the media to do their job. In this case, that job is to write about you and your book. It’s like chefs on TV or YouTube teaching how to make a recipe. By the time they are filming, they’ve already got every item on the ingredient list premeasured and ready-to-to.
Press kits are everything that a media person needs (in resume quality) right at their fingertips. Who might want access to your press kit? Book reviewers, bloggers, literary agents, publishing houses, newspaper or magazine journalists, podcasters, talk show and radio producers or YouTubers… anyone who is a content creator.
Press kits are also dynamic; they change and grow with you and your career. Start with one piece and add to your kit as your awards, accomplishments, and media coverage grows.
Below is a list of 100 unusual questions, categorized, for you to pick and choose from to create a Question and Answer Sheet for your media kit. The purpose of the question and answer sheet is to provide enough information so that a reporter could write a complete piece about you, using direct quotes.
At the end of the post, you’ll find a downloadable PDF of the 100 questions, links to websites with more questions, and a link to my Author Question & Answer Sheet for an example of a completed press kit item.
Around the house – bare feet, flip flops, clogs, fuzzy socks or slippers?
Do you make your bed in the morning or leave it in a rumple?
Do you kill bugs or leave them alone?
Are you a morning person or a night person?
Describe a time when you felt like you were being watched.
What is in the backseat or trunk of your car right now?
If you could eliminate one task from your daily schedule, what would it be?
Name something you dislike doing so much that you’ll pay someone else to do it.
What internet site do you visit the most?
What is your favorite social media site and why?
What is your ideal pet and why?
You’re about to be dropped in a remote spot for a three-week survival test. Where would you go? What three tools would you take?
You are a member of the tourist board for your town where. Name five things to do that would appeal to visitors.
Do you play a musical instrument?
If I looked in your refrigerator right now, what would I find?
What is the craziest thing you’ve done in your life?
Describe a strange habit.
When was the last time you were in a situation that was difficult to get out of? What did you do?
Name some of the things that have the strongest distraction pulls.
What do you do for exercise?
What do you eat for breakfast most of the time?
You’ve won a second home anywhere in the world. Where is it?
Name something you’d like to get rid of but keep putting off.
Tastes / Preferences
What is your favorite love story?
Describe a special or meaningful object that you have in your house.
If you could visit the past or future, which one would you choose? Why?
You can go out to dinner at any restaurant, which one do you choose?
Do you have a coffee shop that you frequent? Why do you go there?
What are your three favorite animals?
What is your favorite spectator sport?
What is your favorite sport to play?
Which holiday is most relaxing and fun?
Pen, pencil or…?
TV, Movies or Binge watching?
It’s a special celebration date. Would you rather go to dinner and a movie out or stay home?
What is your favorite drink?
Name and describe a living person that you most admire.
You’ve just won an office make-over. What color do you choose for your workspace?
Where was a place you’ve visited on vacation that you’d go back to tomorrow?
What type of coffee do you order most often?
Do you have a favorite brand of tea?
If you had to choose an animal to represent you as an avatar, mascot or spirit totem, which animal would it be?
What makes you run screaming?
If someone gave you a boat, what would you name it?
Describe a personality trait of someone in your family.
If your life was a movie, would it be a drama, comedy, action/adventure, or science fiction?
Are you a summer, fall, winter, or spring person?
You are about to get a tattoo. Where will it go and what will be the design?
Name something that makes you uncomfortable or anxious.
You’re about to live through a natural disaster or other traumatic experience. What kind of disaster or experience is it?
Think about punctuation marks. Which one would you pick to describe your personality and why?
One being the highest and ten being the lowest, rate your happiness level right now.
If you were a salad dressing, what kind would you be?
What is the most important part of a sandwich?
If you were a car, what make and model would you be?
You are a teacher for a day. What is your subject and who are your students?
Tell the story about one of your scars.
Sing in the rain, dance in the streets, hum in the shower or…?
Describe your handwriting.
You are the guest of honor at a large event. When you arrive, the room is already full. How do they react when you come in?
Describe your first crush.
What qualities do you most admire in your friends?
If you were an animal in a zoo, which animal would you be?
Name something that makes you cry.
What types of situations make you angry?
What strikes your funny bone?
Wishes / Thoughts / Dreams
What is the best thing you’ve accomplished in life so far?
Does Prince Charming or the Fairy Godmother exist?
You’re about to get a superpower. What is it and why do you want it?
Name three things that you think will be obsolete in ten years.
If you could be invisible for a day, what would you do?
You’ve just been bitten by a vampire / werewolf / zombie / charmed snake. What do you do next?
Where do you see yourself in ten years?
You remain perfectly healthy and have unlimited financial resources but you only have the next six months to live, what do you do?
You just won twenty million in a state lottery, what is the first thing you do?
What adventures are on your bucket list?
Which talent would you most like to have?
You’ve just been elected President, what is the first problem you plan to solve?
List something you’d like to accomplish before you die.
How old were you when you first started writing?
If you had to describe an author platform in three sentences to a six-year-old, how would describe it?
What year did you complete your first book?
If you could do a book over again, what would you do differently with the story arc, plot, characters, scenes, production or marketing?
What was your favorite scene or character to write?
Have you re-edited and re-released any titles?
Is there a time frame or subject area that you’d like to work with?
Have you traveled to research writing projects? Where to?
After you’ve spent a long time cranking out pages, do you feel energized or exhausted?
In what situations, do you grow tired of reading?
Describe some of your author friends. How do they help improve your writing skills?
After you published a book or two, how has your writing process changed?
What was the best financial investment you made as an author?
What is your definition of being a successful author?
Describe your research process.
What time periods of life do you find yourself writing about the most? (childhood, teen, adult, elder)
What books, articles, or authors influenced you the most or made you think differently?
Do you hide any secrets in your writing that only a few people know about?
What are the most difficult types of scenes to write?
If you could live as one of your characters for a day, which one would it be?
With online search tools and DNA testing, tracing family tree genealogy is easier than ever. What’s a writer to do when a famous or (infamous) skeleton is found lurking in the closet? Write about it, of course!
Canadian author Debbie McClure is known and loved for her paranormal romance books. Louise Rasmussen (Countess Danner from Denmark) has been part of Debbie’s oral family history for as long as she remembers. This year, she published The King’s Consort: The Louise Rasmussen Story.
I asked Debbie if she’d share her process for bringing biographical fiction to life.
“Historical fiction is meant to engage, entertain,
and perhaps even educate the reader
regarding people of history who
intrigue and inspire us.”
~ Debbie McClure
When did you first become interested in Louise Rasmussen?
I was a teenager when my mother told me a remarkable (true) love story about a woman who we might be related to.
Louise Rasmussen, was born in Denmark in 1815. She was the illegitimate daughter of a seamstress. Louise rose to become a ballerina, then married King Frederik VII.
Her story captured and held my
interest for forty years.
How did you know that you were ready to write this book? What were the first steps?
When I was a new writer, that seemed like a huge, insurmountable task, so I wrote two other books first to gain some much needed experience and shore up some confidence. Paranormal romances were fun to write, and during that process I learned how to research the past and weave myriad details into a cohesive story.
By the time I announced my decision to write Louise’s story, my mother was well into her seventies. I asked her whether or not she believed her aunt’s claim that we may be related to Countess Danner. She admitted she really wasn’t sure, but thought it may be true, since her aunt had no reason to say such a thing if it wasn’t.
There had also been talk of some sort of written evidence of that relation in a family bible or genealogical tree. Unfortunately, much of the details about distant family relations had been lost by then. I then asked my mother to write out the names, dates of birth and deaths, to the best of her knowledge, of her father, grandfather, etc.
In going through old photos, my mother came across an old newspaper article about my great-grandfather in Denmark. That article provided some extremely useful information on who he was, his birth and death, and also information on his parents, so this was a wonderful find.
I also contacted a cousin in Denmark who is extremely interested in genealogy and history, and asked her to help. Using the internet and on-line documentation, we were able to trace our lineage back a couple of generations, but that was as far as we got.
I will admit that by that time, the idea of writing Louise’s story became more important than tracing my family’s heritage, so I let that one simmer for a while, knowing I would pick it up later.
Would you take us through your research process?
To begin writing the story, I researched everything I could find on Louise, King Frederik, and her ex-lover/lifetime friend, Carl Berling, and the people they shared their lives with.
I maintained an outline and profile on my computer for each and every person I included in the story, including details about hair and eye color. I also created a separate time-line for events, both historical and political, or events relating to each character’s personal history.
As I often explain to new writers who attend my workshops, outlines are great references when writing anything from fiction to non-fiction. It allows the writer to dip in and add or delete details as needed, or to check in to ensure the story is following the designated time lines and story arc.
I use folders in Word on my computer, but hard copies in real file folders works equally as well. The truth is, whatever works for the writer is just fine. I typically do mine in point form, for ease of reading, adding or deleting points, but again, whatever works. I know some writers who use story boards and photos, but I’m not as familiar with this, so can’t really comment. Whenever I come across a picture or profile I’m interested in, I save it to my computer for easy reference later. Keep in mind that later can be months or years later, depending on the scope of the project.
These are my vision cues, and I reference them often when trying to describe a person, place, or scene in a novel.
My research confirmed that the history books paint Louise much as my mother described. This lady wasn’t well liked. She was considered a crass, avaricious gold-digger. She was ostracized by the aristocracy, laughed at, and publicly ridiculed.
Undeterred, I dug deeper, convinced there was more to this woman than history reported.
Early in Louise’s life, she had a very public affair with the well-known heir to one of Denmark’s most prestigious newspapers, Berlingskes Politiske og Avertissements Tidende (Berlingske Tidende 1936-Present). She gave birth to Berling’s illegitimate child, but was forced to give her infant son up for adoption or risk social and economic disaster. Her heart must have broken, but I believe she did so hoping to give him a better chance at life than she thought she could provide as a young ballet dancer.
After King Frederik VII died, Louise, now the titled Countess Danner, turned part of the home they loved and shared at Jaegerspris Castle, just outside Copenhagen, into a museum to honor him. She also opened part of it to the “poor servant women and children of Denmark.”
Now this was a woman who could have done anything she wanted with the money and home she received at the king’s passing. She didn’t have to give anything back to anyone, but she did. In fact, she dedicated the rest of her life to getting “Danner House” (Dannerhuset), as it is commonly called, up and running.
Something didn’t add up. Did gold-diggers really give back to others so unselfishly?
Research begins to tell its own story. The writer is simply along for the ride. Clues are followed and hypotheses are formed.
So, I continued to dig, and to form my own vision of who Louise was, based on the fact that by all accounts, King Frederik VII absolutely adored her. He was a remarkable man in his own right, and fought for the rights of the people of Denmark, abolished absolute monarchy, and apparently valued and sought Louise’s opinion on many political matters.
After fact gathering and history time-line making, how did you fill in the emotional blanks?
With historical fiction, we can never know exactly who said what to whom, or when. We can’t possibly know what people thought, or how certain events affected them on a personal level, but we can put ourselves into the shoes of those who lived many years ago and imagine.
Historical fiction, or creative non-fiction, if you prefer, does just that. It weaves a fictional story around facts, people, and places that actually existed. It isn’t meant to be a history text book, or even be clinically factual.
“Louise was an incredible woman who learned to follow her own instincts. She gained my admiration and remains an inspiration to woman today who refuse to give up, who rise to the challenges they face in their lives, and who choose to do what’s right over what’s easy,” says Debbie.
Are you planning to return to your family genealogy research?
Now that I’m past the first flush of excitement of publication, I’ve begun working with my mother and family in Denmark again to delve into the truth of our heritage as it pertains to Louise Rasmussen, Countess Danner.
I also recently learned that Louise and Frederik may well have had a female child of their own. Being a girl, this child posed a serious threat to the security of Denmark at the time, and was ostensibly exiled at birth.
If this is in fact the truth, again, how devastating for both Louise and King Frederik.
Historical research can be like hunting for four leaf clovers.
It takes patience, tenacity, thoroughness, and organization. When answers are found and discoveries are made, additional leads can point down endless roads. An outline will help an author decide when enough research is enough.
Then there’s noting left to do but get down the business of writing…breathing life into the story that you’re about to tell.
Danner Legacy Continues
Travelers to Denmark can still walk in the footsteps left by Countess Danner and her King.
Use Voice to Text and Speech to Text programs to increase your writing efficiency and accuracy.
Step 1. Set Your Smartphone up to take Dictation.
Talk to your smartphone anywhere and have it type for you.
*Note: You must have a Google account set-up before beginning this tutorial.
Step 2. Move your Google Docs Text into your Word Processing Document.
Step 3. Edit your Document by Listening to It.
Listening and reading involve different parts of the brain. By converting your writing (or manuscript) into an audio form, you’ll catch different mistakes than you would if you edited it by reading alone.
*For manuscript editing and book processing, I recommend multiple editorial rounds that focus on different aspects. In this instance, I would do the reading edit first then follow it with a listening edit.
In the video below, I show how to set up the Narrator app. in Windows 10, so that it will read your manuscript to you.
Experiment with the rate, pitch, and volume settings to make your robot voice sound the way you want.
Step 3. Record your Robot Message onto your Answering Machine.
Hold your phone close to the answering machine microphone. Play the message in the text to speech app. while recording it on your answering machine.
The Robot to Robot message is a fun way to reduce interactions with telemarketers, but it doesn’t solve the problem of eliminating the calls.
To cut down on your telemarketing call volume, register your land line and / or cell phone number on the National Do Not Call Registry (US Only). It takes about a month before the registry goes into effect.
What happens when a psychotic fat-obsessed killer crosses paths with a tough-as-nails public health nurse, a struggling overworked single mom, and an obese teenager in a ‘Fat Slayer’ program? Eating Bull.
Between gruesome murders and a Voice in the killers head, author Carrie Rubin explores the social stigma and pervasive poor treatment that obese people endure.
Her story revolves around a fifteen-year-old boy who suffers from asthma and other health complications caused by excessive weight.
Jeremy uses food to drown his emotions. Video games are an escape and he is fascinated by his Native American heritage.
He successfully avoids the challenges in his life until a deadly situation arises that causes him to make a stand.
Rubin keeps the action moving. Her characters are interesting and varied. She includes fat inducing food industry facts in a lawsuit sub theme.
About the Author:
Carrie Rubin is a physician, public health advocate, and author. She is a member of the International Thriller Writers Association.
Eating Bull won a 2016 Silver IPPY Award for Best Regional Fiction (Great Lakes).
Rubin lives in Ohio with her husband and two sons.
Underneath: a merfolk tale, is captivating right from the start.
It takes the reader on a journey through secret societies, conspiracy, investigation, parental love, and coming-of-age. [Click here to read an excerpt.]
The author, Michelle Arzú is a graphic designer who lives in Guatemala City, Guatemala. A driving force behind her writing is, ‘what-if’ curiosity about first contact with an intelligent species.
I first found Michelle on Writeon (an Amazon story-lab). Her work in progress (Underneath) was trending like a tsunami. Wanting to find out what the buzz was about, I settled in for a long read and quickly discovered why she had gained so many enthusiastic readers.
Arzú tells a unique story. It’s about an injured merman who washes up on a beach. He is a member of one of New York’s elite families. Confined to a hospital bed, the merman is not talking no matter what anyone tries.
Arzú has a strong narrative voice. She has a solid command of plot structure and pacing and she’s not afraid to think outside of the box.
Her debut novel, The Librarian, was chosen as a Writeon staff pick in August of 2014 (currently available on Amazon). It’s a short story about a woman whose husband – a college professor – has been apprehended by the military because he’s suddenly become highly radioactive.
Wanting to know more about the person behind the magic pen, I asked Michelle if she’d answer a few questions. I know you will enjoy learning more about this creative story teller…and you’ll be glad that I introduced you to your next good read!
Do you have a typical writing schedule?
I’m a night owl. However, Nanowrimo has taught me that any fifteen minutes in the day are valuable, so I’ve learned to write at lunch time in the office. You will never catch me writing in the morning, though.
As a graphic designer, what aspects of your work do you most enjoy? Do parts of it spill over into your writing?
I love challenging projects, and I love to see my work displayed on billboards in the city, or printed somewhere other than the office. Designers work on deadlines, so that has helped me to be disciplined in writing my stories. I’m lost without deadlines.
What is the best advice you have ever received about writing?
Let me tell you a little story about the worst advice I ever received about writing:
When I was about twenty, I had been writing for four years and an older friend told me I shouldn’t start writing until I knew what I was doing. Until I had life experience. Thinking that made perfect sense, I didn’t write for the next six months, and I can honestly tell you something died inside of me. Finally, my brother asked me why I was following advice that was obviously making me unhappy. I returned to writing the next minute.
So, the best advice?
Everything else will come with time.
What kinds of activities do you like to do when you aren’t working or writing?
I love gaming, especially Zelda and recently Splatoon. I’ve been known to get lost in a good story, be it books, or a TV series.
First Contact themes: What influences contribute to your interest in this topic?
My favorite theme in stories is a double identity. Spy stories, princes as commoners, superheroes, fairy tales, and of course, aliens. What I love the most is the reveal part, when the secret is told. First Contact stories have that element of the unknown. They are filled with what if’s and have all the ingredients for everything to go wrong fast.
Unfortunately, there aren’t many first contact stories where the aliens don’t want to invade us. I decided to write about that. I love the whole idea of aliens hiding among us.
Investigation captive / study scenarios: What books, TV shows or personal experiences shaped your skill in creating these tense, edgy scenes?
I’m a diehard fan of the TV show Roswell (1999 – 2002). That’s basically teenage aliens without a clue about where they came from, hiding in plain sight. They run from the FBI a lot!
Over the years, I’ve picked several ideas from different places, from cartoons like Batman the animated series, to dramas like ER, and then I add my own logic to it. Would the military really shoot the only enemy captive and source of information they have? If you know you’re going to a hostile planet, what precautions would you take?
And of course, research. There is a lot of US jurisdiction stuff you wouldn’t believe. It’s a tangle when it comes to first contact scenarios, not to mention the medical/biological questions. At some point, you realize you need to focus on the characters and the scene, but if you mention details, they better be the right details.
Describe the series of decisions that led you to independently publish your book(s).
I’ve written a lot of stories over the years, always thinking of them as a hobby, something to share with friends. But when I finished The Librarian, I knew I had something I could publish. The problem was that the story has less than 20K words, which was a hard sell. Everywhere I looked they wanted either shorter than 7k or longer than 50k.
So, I started researching self-publishing. Being a graphic designer I could do the cover and interiors. Fortunately, I have an American friend who edits my manuscripts. No matter how good my English might be, it never compares to a native’s English.
Now that I have Underneath, A Merfolk Tale with over 100k words, I’ve also looked into the long process of searching for an agent and selling the manuscript. Since I’d still have to market my book (the hardest part of the whole process for me) and have to wait for months, if not years, to find someone willing to invest in me, I’d rather take that route myself. I might never sell thousands of books, but at least I’m in complete control of everything.
Writeon: What aspects of working in a ‘read-as-you-write’ forum work well for you? Does it create challenges? Over time, has the way you use the site changed?
The best thing about “read-as-you-write” is that you learn how to do cliffhangers. If you want people to come back next month when you have the next part, you better leave them wanting.
Feedback is a double-edge sword: some people tell you how good your work is, and some will tell you how much you’re messing things up, and to fix it a certain way. Somewhere in the middle of that scale, is valuable insight that makes your story better.
The thing is, you will never please everyone, and not everyone will tell you what’s wrong with the story (either because they don’t really know, or they don’t want to offend). The real challenge is to know your story well enough to keep it from getting hijacked. Take the suggestions that make sense, and leave everything else behind.
Thank you, Michelle for taking the time to chat and to share.