Next Meeting

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Sept 14th- Meeting Cancelled
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Oct 12th- Navigating the World of Writers Conferences (speaker Diana Lund)
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Nov 9th- The Secret to Becoming a Best Seller (speaker John Rehg
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Dec 14- Christmas Party (more details coming soon)

Friday, July 31, 2009

Anhinga: The Third Day


DO YOUR HOMEWORK! I can't tell you how many times I heard that remark during this workshop/conference. Anne Hawkins, (left) a literary agent, gave some excellent advice on finding an agent, querying an agent, and working with an agent. I'll be updating our web blog with more sections for publishing based on what I heard from Mary Anna Evans and Anne, and several others.

Peter Meinke is a gem! Our very own laureate had some great advice, which I've passed on periodically. Poetry can strengthen your prose. Hemingway, Fitzgerald and Faulkner all wrote poems, as have Oates and Updyke. Rhythm, imagery, and sound--elements of poetry, can help you in your writing. (It also works the other way, for those of you who are poets!)

Finally, returning to the publishing and marketing side, it's important to realize that the process should not be traveled in a serial fashion, performing one step at a time (book, synopsis, query letter, get agent, come up with marketing plan, etc.), but rather simultaneously. While you are writing you should be preparing your synopsis, a query letter, a marketing plan--I know, it seems overwhelming to me, too. But it makes sense, if you don't want the whole thing to stretch out for decades! (Okay, maybe a slight exaggeration.)

Another great day topped off by a dinner with new friends from Columbus Ohio, Ocala, Sarasota and High Springs. More great news to share at the next meeting!

Tomorrow's a wrap,
John

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Anhinga: The Second Day

Great second day to the workshop. Listened to Rick Campbell, who heads up Anhinga Press, which publishes poetry, analyze some poems. He shied away from having us write anything, which disappointed me. But I learned a lot from what he showed us in his analysis (of his and others' poetry). Plus his sense of humor was fantastic.

I then attended Roxanne St. Claire's class on plotting and pacing. That was enjoyable and she brough along a 'plot board' to demonstrate how she works on her books. This reminded me of Julie Czerneda at Necronomicon last year, who uses a similar technique. She reviewed things that killed pacing, plus several standard plot outlines.

The big event for the day was the conversation with Charlaine Harris, which attracted a crowd of almost 200 (about double the number of workshop attendees). Once the fans started asking about their favorite characters I decided to leave, as I don't have cable tv and so am not familiar with her stories.

I'll take some pictures tomorrow and post them. I think this is more a conference than a workshop, unless you were in one specific fiction track, but I've learned a lot from some of the people here, and have met some good people, too. Peter Meinke, the poet laureate of St. Pete, is a warm and wonderful person. I'll hear more from him tomorrow, and am looking forward to that. The editors panel was insightful, even with some very rookie questions being thrown at the four editors/publishers on stage. Three of the four were literary; I'll bring back information on the fourth, a small independent publisher in High Springs who is expanding from Romance into all genres, and was publishing about 25 books a year but is hoping to double that this year (or go higher).

Later,
John

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Anhinga: The First Day

Okay, here's an example of a new gadget I'm using that I hope will improve my 'saves' of workshop and conference information. It's called a digital notepad, and I can show it at the next meeting if anyone is interested. (Though not to interfere with the presenter.) I write the notes down and they are saved electronically, and I then upload them to my computer. Here's my first page from today, to give you an idea of what it looks like. (I can save in several formats, I chose jpeg for this one to be able to upload it here.) It's blurry here but in pdf and at larger size it's clearer.



A short day, starting with registration at 1pm or, for most people, pick up your packet time. I did stop by early and met April Fitzgerald, the FWA leader in Gainesville who is a fantastic person. I've seen several other FWA members here (from around Florida) in addition to April. Total attendance I would estimate at roughly 100.

The initial panel consisted of the three ladies in charge, and they spoke about how they lived the writing life. Very different styles from each of them, which should tell you that there's no one way to write, so be wary of those who want you to conform to one view of successful writing.

I'm attending mostly for the poetry, as I hope to have a collection published next year (I won't have finished the last poem probably until December). The 'name' that got me here is Peter Meinke, the poet laureate of St. Petersburg. My first workshop, however, was with Lola Haskins, who has 8 books on poetry published and teaches in a low residency MFA program and is also a writing coach. What I found interesting was the manner in which she built her poems, which she calls 'Streamlining,' and a technique she sometimes uses where she writes the poem out in a single line, finding that by the end of the line the ending will sometimes suggest itself.

Several attendees told me about Bev's workshop, which she'll be doing for us in November, and from the excitement they displayed I know it will be a good one.

There was a mixer in the evening which included the guest of honor, Charlaine Harris. Though I didn't get to talk with her, I did meet Roxanne St. Clair, a romance writer from Melbourne. Her 23rd and 24th books are coming out this year! Another great person, who was a bit chagrined that I wasn't attending any of her workshops, which she said were not just about romance, but writing in general. Okay, maybe I will jump tracks a bit here!

After the mixer we were treated to a ride to the historic district where restaurants awaited. I'm finding more people who have been here before, and I think that speaks to the quality of the workshop.

Looking forward to tomorrow,
John

Blogging from Anhinga Workshop - before the start

Hi all!

I'm going to blog from the Anhinga Writers Workshop this week, and hope you will follow along and ask any questions if you want me to find out more. Registration begins in about an hour and a half, but I've already met the 3 ladies who are running it, Bev Browning, (who visited us in May), Mary Anna Evans, and Diana Tonnessen. As I find at all these things, everyone is very nice and welcoming.

While I ate an early lunch, several people sitting nearby came up to introduce themselves. They are from Tennessee and are returning for the workshop a second time. (Maybe more, but they mentioned they were here last year, when it was under the Rawlings title.)

I'll set up the FWA room shortly and make sure all the supplies are there. I brought some extras in case of need or if something wasn't ready when Chrissy sent them.

I'm really excited about this, and can't stress enough how valuable it is to get to a workshop to help strengthen your writing skills and expand your contact list. I know it's difficult, especially during this economic downturn, but later I'll put together a list of the opportunities in our state, as that can reduce travel expenses. That's why the Margie Lawson workshop just prior to the state FWA conference in the fall is so valuable. It's short (1 day), cheap ($50 member price), and will be packed with great information. (Ask Sam - he can vouch for it!)

Okay, stay tuned, I'll begin posting in the evening after each day's work is complete.

Keep writing and dreaming!
John

Monday, July 13, 2009

Don't Murder Your Mystery, Don't Sabotage Your Submission

Roerden, Chris. Don’t Murder Your Mystery. Bella Rosa Books, 2006. Don’t Sabotage Your Submission. Bella Rosa Books, 2008.

This month, I look at two editions of the same book. Don’t Murder Your Mystery won the Agatha Award for best nonfiction book of 2006 and has been a finalist for the Macavity Award, the Anthony Award, and, under its new title, Don't Sabotage Your Submission was a finalist for ForeWord Magazine’s Book of the Year award. Writing professors use these books in their classrooms. Award-winning authors swear by Ms. Roerden’s advice. Best-seller Charlaine Harris recommends them. With credentials and kudos like those, I almost don’t need to write a review at all.

Why the two titles? Don’t Murder Your Mystery was written specifically for mystery authors, and its sample passages are drawn from mystery novels. Roerden broadened her focus when she updated the book; passages are now drawn from a variety of genres including mystery, romance, and thrillers. The changed focus demanded a new title. Because Sabotage is essentially a new edition of Murder, this review treats them as the same book.

The book is divided into ten “Parts," which are further divided into chapters. Part One covers the various players in the writing business—screeners (those who read your manuscript before it ever gets to an editor or agent), agents, publishers—and you, the writer. Roerden discusses motivations for each—what makes a screener stop reading, what forces drive the decisions of agents and editors, and why writers write. Part Two introduces the art of self-editing. The remaining eight Parts cover various categories of manuscript problems. Roerden explains how “First Offenders” like bad opening hooks and tension-killing prologues can strangle your story in it opening pages. “Killing Time” covers errors in pacing, and so on.

In each chapter, Roerden provides a diagnosis of a specific problem and suggestions for how to correct it. Over 200 examples from published novels illustrate effective use of the techniques she teaches. To make the examples clearer, she frequently takes a good passage and makes it bad, then discusses exactly why her version is worse than the original.

I found the book to be incredibly painful to read. Not because Roerden’s writing is anything but readable, not because the examples are anything but illuminating, but because as I read each chapter, I discovered new reasons why agents reject my manuscript after a partial read. With the exception of the chapter on Prologues and the one on shifting point of view, there wasn’t a mistake that I hadn’t made. The good news, of course, is that all of these mistakes can be corrected and thanks to Chris Roerden, now I know how to do it.

Whether you have written a mystery, a romance, or some other genre, or a literary novel, Chris Roerden’s book can help you improve a lackluster manuscript into something that will catch the eye of agents and editors.