Committing to the Craft – Conferences, Connections & Contests

One thing that writers love is their cave. It is warm, cozy, and quiet. Coffee, tea, or other favorite libations are always at hand while the mind agitates.

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A single reader can elevate an author into the stratosphere with a kind comment or an Amazon Review. Out of that deep grotto, a connection is made.

Once the first flush of achievement fades, the next questions that authors must ask is how to get more readers and how to improve writing skills?

This January, I attended the second annual Sierra Writer’s Conference. Organized by Sierra Writers and Sierra College, it is a friendly, intimate venue filled with opportunities.

“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.

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Women’s March

Politics was not discussed, but keynote speakers recognized the passion that the marchers expressed.

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Molly Fisk, author of Blow-Drying a Chicken

“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.”

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“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.

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Catharine Bramkamp, author of Future Gold

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 the20170121_202153analysis 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.

Bob’s writing improvement recommendations; ProWritingAid, Ginger Grammar Checker, and Building Great Sentences.

 

The last workshop that I attended was with Mark Weideranders. He is a is a historical fiction author. Several of my next writing projects fall into this category.

20170121_195645robert_louis_stevenson_at_26“History did not record what was going through the mind of Fanny Osbourne, an American art student, when she drew this affectionate sketch of young Robert Louis Stevenson,” began Weideranders.

When writing historical fiction, it is important to let people know what is fact and what is fiction,” says Weideranders.

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Q & A Panel – Mark Weideranders, Mary Volmer, Jordan Fisher Smith and Kim Culbertson

Connections happen with shared experiences;

  • standing in line to get coffee
  • looking through books on display
  • the person you sit next to during lunch break
Poets Quartet performance
Poets Quartet performance

First Sentence Contest

A confidence booster was winning the First Sentence Contest. Below is my entry along with the artwork (on my cell phone) that inspired the words.

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Lucia Stewart Artwork

 

For an introverted author, making oneself mingle goes outside the bounds of the comfort zone. Realizing that many authors share the same feelings makes it easier.

My ‘meeting people strategy’ is simple; smile, make eye contact, and have a genuine interest in the person I want to talk to.

The next time I step outside of my cave, it will be with increased confidence, improved skills, and more people I know in my writing community.

 

 

Additional Resources

Conference books, authors, and writing improvement tools

Download a FREE Conference Journal to discover your conference-attending personality

Additional Writers’ Conferences – Poets & Writers

Literary grants & funding

Writing Contests and Competitions –

Writer’s Digest

The Writer Magazine

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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100 Unusual Interview Questions – Creating an Electronic Media Kit for Authors – Part One

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.

Lifestyle

  1. Around the house – bare feet, flip flops, clogs, fuzzy socks or slippers?
  2. Do you make your bed in the morning or leave it in a rumple?
  3. Do you kill bugs or leave them alone?
  4. Are you a morning person or a night person?
  5. Describe a time when you felt like you were being watched.
  6. What is in the backseat or trunk of your car right now?
  7. If you could eliminate one task from your daily schedule, what would it be?
  8. Name something you dislike doing so much that you’ll pay someone else to do it.
  9. What internet site do you visit the most?
  10. What is your favorite social media site and why?
  11. What is your ideal pet and why?
  12. 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?
  13. You are a member of the tourist board for your town where. Name five things to do that would appeal to visitors.
  14. Do you play a musical instrument?
  15. If I looked in your refrigerator right now, what would I find?
  16. What is the craziest thing you’ve done in your life?
  17. Describe a strange habit.
  18. When was the last time you were in a situation that was difficult to get out of? What did you do?
  19. Name some of the things that have the strongest distraction pulls.
  20. What do you do for exercise?
  21. What do you eat for breakfast most of the time?
  22. You’ve won a second home anywhere in the world. Where is it?
  23. Name something you’d like to get rid of but keep putting off.

Tastes / Preferences

  1. What is your favorite love story?
  2. Describe a special or meaningful object that you have in your house.
  3. If you could visit the past or future, which one would you choose? Why?
  4. You can go out to dinner at any restaurant, which one do you choose?
  5. Do you have a coffee shop that you frequent? Why do you go there?
  6. What are your three favorite animals?
  7. What is your favorite spectator sport?
  8. What is your favorite sport to play?
  9. Which holiday is most relaxing and fun?
  10. Pen, pencil or…?
  11. TV, Movies or Binge watching?
  12. It’s a special celebration date. Would you rather go to dinner and a movie out or stay home?
  13. What is your favorite drink?
  14. Name and describe a living person that you most admire.
  15. You’ve just won an office make-over. What color do you choose for your workspace?
  16. Where was a place you’ve visited on vacation that you’d go back to tomorrow?
  17. What type of coffee do you order most often?
  18. Do you have a favorite brand of tea?

Personality

  1. If you had to choose an animal to represent you as an avatar, mascot or spirit totem, which animal would it be?
  2. What makes you run screaming?
  3. If someone gave you a boat, what would you name it?
  4. Describe a personality trait of someone in your family.
  5. If your life was a movie, would it be a drama, comedy, action/adventure, or science fiction?
  6. Are you a summer, fall, winter, or spring person?
  7. You are about to get a tattoo. Where will it go and what will be the design?
  8. Name something that makes you uncomfortable or anxious.
  9. You’re about to live through a natural disaster or other traumatic experience. What kind of disaster or experience is it?
  10. Think about punctuation marks. Which one would you pick to describe your personality and why?
  11. One being the highest and ten being the lowest, rate your happiness level right now.
  12. If you were a salad dressing, what kind would you be?
  13. What is the most important part of a sandwich?
  14. If you were a car, what make and model would you be?
  15. You are a teacher for a day. What is your subject and who are your students?
  16. Tell the story about one of your scars.
  17. Sing in the rain, dance in the streets, hum in the shower or…?
  18. Describe your handwriting.
  19. 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?
  20. Describe your first crush.
  21. What qualities do you most admire in your friends?
  22. If you were an animal in a zoo, which animal would you be?
  23. Name something that makes you cry.
  24. What types of situations make you angry?
  25. What strikes your funny bone?
  26. What’s fun?

Wishes / Thoughts / Dreams

  1. What is the best thing you’ve accomplished in life so far?
  2. Does Prince Charming or the Fairy Godmother exist?
  3. You’re about to get a superpower. What is it and why do you want it?
  4. Name three things that you think will be obsolete in ten years.
  5. If you could be invisible for a day, what would you do?
  6. You’ve just been bitten by a vampire / werewolf / zombie / charmed snake. What do you do next?
  7. Where do you see yourself in ten years?
  8. You remain perfectly healthy and have unlimited financial resources but you only have the next six months to live, what do you do?
  9. You just won twenty million in a state lottery, what is the first thing you do?
  10. What adventures are on your bucket list?
  11. Which talent would you most like to have?
  12. You’ve just been elected President, what is the first problem you plan to solve?
  13. List something you’d like to accomplish before you die.

Writing

  1. How old were you when you first started writing?
  2. If you had to describe an author platform in three sentences to a six-year-old, how would describe it?
  3. What year did you complete your first book?
  4. If you could do a book over again, what would you do differently with the story arc, plot, characters, scenes, production or marketing?
  5. What was your favorite scene or character to write?
  6. Have you re-edited and re-released any titles?
  7. Is there a time frame or subject area that you’d like to work with?
  8. Have you traveled to research writing projects? Where to?
  9. After you’ve spent a long time cranking out pages, do you feel energized or exhausted?
  10. In what situations, do you grow tired of reading?
  11. Describe some of your author friends. How do they help improve your writing skills?
  12. After you published a book or two, how has your writing process changed?
  13. What was the best financial investment you made as an author?
  14. What is your definition of being a successful author?
  15. Describe your research process.
  16. What time periods of life do you find yourself writing about the most? (childhood, teen, adult, elder)
  17. What books, articles, or authors influenced you the most or made you think differently?
  18. Do you hide any secrets in your writing that only a few people know about?
  19. What are the most difficult types of scenes to write?
  20. If you could live as one of your characters for a day, which one would it be?

100-Unusual-Interview-Questions PDF

Click here if you’re curious to see my Question & Answer page in my Author Media Room.

Resources for Additional Interview Questions:

https://jlwylie.wordpress.com/2011/02/12/brainstorm-interesting-author-interview-questions/

http://thejohnfox.com/2016/06/good-questions-to-ask-an-author/

http://chrissypeebles.blogspot.com/p/fun-interviews.html

https://toughnickel.com/finding-job/Off-The-Wall

http://www.howmate.com/funny-questions-to-ask-friends/

http://thewritepractice.com/proust-questionnaire/

http://seanajvixen.blogspot.com/2014/01/the-fun-questions-tag.html

Color and Personality Resource:

What color says about your personality.

You Might Also Like:
6 Elements of a News Release – Creating an Electronic Media Kit for Authors- Part Two

Your Measure as a Person is What You Stand For – Eating Bull – Book Review

Eating Bull ArtWhat 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:

standing-color-croppedCarrie Rubin is a physician, public health advocate, and author. She is a member of the International Thriller Writers Association.

coverEating Bull won a 2016 Silver IPPY Award for Best Regional Fiction (Great Lakes).

Rubin lives in Ohio with her husband and two sons.

Visit Carrie Rubin’s website or find her on Twitter, Facebook or Goodreads.

 

M.N. Arzú – Author Interview

social_media_Underneath

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.

M.N. Arzu
M.N. Arzu

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.

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Click on the image to buy the book on Amazon.

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?

michelle write quote

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?alien-667966_640

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.

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Thank you, Michelle for taking the time to chat and to share.

Here’s where you can find out more;

Underneath, a merfolk tale – excerpt

Amazon

Follow M.N. Arzú:

Author Website & Mailing List

Amazon Author page

Facebook

Twitter

More work by this author: The Librarian – Book Review

 

 

 

The Librarian, A First Contact Story – Book Review

A fresh new voice in First Contact science fiction.

Jane and Nick have been married over a decade. They are comfortable in their routines and they trust each other implicitly.

Jane is at home watching a movie while her husband (a sociologist professor) does a day hike in the mountains near Seattle. He’s late returning home and Jane is starting to worry.

She is unprepared for the knock at her door. A man in uniform tells her that she has to come with him immediately. It concerns her husband.

Nick has been called. Suddenly, he’s a lot more than he ever imagined. It is imperative that he speak to Jane before he answers that call, even if it is through a hazmat suit and a thick wall of glass… His time is running out.

first contact

 

Arzú gives her story a conclusion that is as surprising as it is pleasing.  It’s a short but satisfying read. And it’s a great introduction to this author’s writing style. If you’re like me, you’ll follow her and look forward to what ever she writes next.

Click on the image below to get the scifi short story by M.N. Arzú (on Amazon).

 

social_media_TheLibrarian

Follow M.N. Arzú:

Author Website & Mailing List

Amazon Author page

Facebook

Twitter

Author Interview

More work by this author – Underneath excerpt, a merman tale

 

 

The Age of Adaline Movie – an endearing romance.

The Age of Adaline is a story about a young woman who stops aging in 1937. The theme – immortality or the fountain of youth – is twisted in ways that make this tale unique and different.

The film has a beautiful cast, lovely costumes, dramatic music, and moody cinematography. Its ‘Twilight Zone’ style narration gives it an additional level of tension and mystique.

On the night of the accident, Adaline goes into a state of hypothermia. This stops her aging process. The narrator describes this in a long-winded technical fashion, but it gives the viewer a sense that something scientific and otherworldly has happened.

“She can be killed, but she will never die of natural causes or succumb to the usual ravages of time… (It’s sort of a vampire film minus the bloodsucking.)” – Matt Zoller Seitz of RogerEbert.com

The story is set in San Francisco. We see how times have changed from the 1930s through present day; for the city, in women’s clothing styles, culturally, and for Adaline.

Adaline is deeply lonely. She moves to different apartments, changes identities, and experiences the loss of many pet dogs – the only true friends that she keeps.

Adaline has a single long-term relationship – with her daughter who now looks like her grandmother. Then, she meets Ellis.

If you are familiar with my stories, you will understand why this one sucked me in and captured my heart. I enjoyed The Age of Adaline so much that I wanted to dive in deeper, crawl around inside the character’s heads. So it was disappointing to learn that the movie is not based on a book!

I satisfied my desire by writing a continuation of Adaline, Ellis, Flemming, William, and Kathy’s story.

The Age of Adaline joins my list of favorite, memorable love stories; The Sound of Music, Hello Dolly, Overboard, Titanic, Somewhere in Time, Fifty First Dates, and Never Been Kissed.

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Extras:

Deleted Scene – Flemming Gets Lost

Deleted Scene – Gas Leak

Making of and Bloopers

Omniscient Narration – Interview with Director Lee Toland Krieger

Interview with Michiel Huisman (Ellis)

astore
Adaline Stuff & Other Romantic Movies

  

Gifts for Authors

author presents

Pile-o-presents day. Remember the anticipation from the night before? Flutters in the stomach and a jump-up-and-down, I-just-can’t-wait-another-minute feeling?

I still have those when I learn something new that is going to advance my art or story craft.

Cheryl B. Klein’s book, Second Sight An Editor’s Talks on Writing, Revising, and Publishing Books for Children and Young Adults contains a broad collection of techniques that fine tune the art of writing. These editing tools are universal – you don’t have to be a children’s or young adult author to benefit from them.

voice defined

Second Sight paints pictures in the mind’s eye…and is entertaining to read. “I am a narrative nerd,” says Klein.

voice unique

With each topic (delivered as a transcript from blog posts or lectures given at various writer’s conferences) Cheryl provides examples of how it was used in publishing projects. As an editor for Arthur A. Levine (a Scholastic Inc. imprint), she gives glimpses into the workings of the editorial mind that are as valuable as the mechanical and organizational techniques.

Topics Include; Author / Publisher / Editor Relationships, Creating Empathy for Your Characters, Hooks, Flap Copy, Chapter and Story Arc Maps, and Action vs. Emotional Plots.

editor relationship

Manuscript editing has always been a dreaded chore. Now, I’m almost as excited about editing as pile-o-presents day. This book is a gift to writers everywhere.

___________________highlights

Click here for my entire collection of editing and marketing books.