Friday, May 25th, 2012
I have my preliminary Balticon Schedule…yay! The Con God’s were clairvoyant when they scheduled me lightly this year, knowing in advance that my foot injury would flare. So, lucky, lucky me: I’m only on three panels.
The cool thing is: I’ll be at the Con all four days, thanks to other commitments, so I’ll be around (either at the Broad Universe Information Table or in the Con Suite if you want to come hang out) pretty much from dawn to dusk every day.
And I’ll have books if anyone wants to purchase and not pay shipping fees. Yay!
Here’s my schedule:
5:00 p.m. – Swords & Sorcery – Salon B (50 minutes)
How Has It Evolved, panelists contrast New Swords & Sorcery to that of earlier decades.
9:00 a.m. – The Back Story – Salon B
The experiences authors had that inspired them to write the novels they wrote.
9:00 a.m. – Readings by Brand Gamblin, Mur Lafferty and Me. – The Chase Room
1:00 p.m. Broad Universe Reading – Salon B
Includes Readings by: Jean Marie Ward; Danielle Ackley-McPhail, Roxanne Bland, Emilie P. Bush, Elaine Corvidae, J. R. Blackwell, Trish J. Wooldridge, T.J. Perkins, S. J. Tucker, and me! Six-minute readings Rapid Fire readings from some amazing women/authors.
5:00 p.m. – Publishing Nightmares – Pimlico Room
Self explanatory! I’m moderating this one…
8:00 p.m. – Teen Writers Collaboration – Parlor 1041
Teens put their heads together to write a fantasy short story.
Stop by and say ‘hello!’ if you’re around.
Thursday, May 10th, 2012
Before I left for my writer’s retreat I set some pretty ambitious goals. When I got there, I wrote them down on a wall poster and hung it in the room where I did most of my writing.
(You’re seeing an early version of it here in the pic to the left. By the end of the retreat, I’d finished many more items than indicated in the photo.)
When I completed a task, I made an “X” in the box to the left of the task and moved on.
Other members of the group also wrote their goals on the easel pad and hung it, and as we worked, we were surrounded by these wall posters of what we wanted to accomplish. (It was gratifying to see that I wasn’t the only one who’d listed projects that should have been done months — if not years — ago.)
It was interesting to see the different styles by which we all worked. My list had no priority order, and I chose the easiest/quickest items to complete first and cross of my list. For me, it was motivating to see items checked off, and I built momentum as we went along.
Another member prioritized his list, then started from the top, working on each item in 30 minute intervals. Once 30 minutes passed, he added a tick mark to the item and moved on to the next: his method for avoiding writer’s block or getting discouraged by the length of time one item might take.
Another member just started from the top of her list and worked her way down.
When we rented the cabin earlier this year, we’d planned to work on card tables in our own rooms, but the “great room” of the cabin was so spacious (and contained a fire place!) that we decided to work together at the large dining table.
I wasn’t certain how that was going to work at first, and it felt a little bit like being stuck in “study hall” in high school, but it worked splendidly. We were quiet and industrious, with the occasional question tossed out to the group. I liked it better — and got more work done — than our previous retreat (though I enjoyed that retreat very much, too).
During the previous retreat, we lived and worked in separate rooms, dormitory style, and only saw each other for meals (at which time we weren’t allowed speak to each other).
I found this retreat much more enjoyable, even if we tended to spend too much time (IMO) socializing at meals. As a group, we’ve already decided to rent again at this location next year.
I find the benefits of “communal” retreating to be:
- Having the camaraderie of like-minded, motivated people who are on hand immediately to bounce an idea off of or ask for a quick critique
- The “immediate” presence of other writers encouraged me to write, even when I didn’t feel like it.
- By the same token, the presence of other writers discouraged web surfing, excessive solitaire playing and general cat waxing. (In fact, I didn’t goof off AT ALL…and didn’t feel deprived, either.)
Another thing I learned: Don’t take too much stuff.
All of us over packed, including on food. “Starving Writer” would certainly have been a misnomer for us.
Beyond food, we brought a printer, extra cartridges and reams of paper which we never touched, as well as office supplies, some writing prompt books, and other things we never used. I brought two novels to read. Although I read voraciously at home, I found when I tumbled into bed after writing all day I was too tired to read more than a page or two. I’ll leave those at home next time.
We did coordinate supplies: a “you bring this and I’ll bring that” kind of coordinating, but I think we’ll do more of that next time.
On the last day, I packed up my goals poster and brought it home. It’s now hanging on the wall over my desk. There’s nothing like staring at a list of “unfinished projects” to keep you moving. When I’m done with it, I’ll likely grab a new easel sheet and start another. And although I’ve got a ton more things to do than what’s on the list, I like the “finite” feel of the limited size of the wall poster.
Along with the poster, I’ve got an electronic “to do” list of things I need to accomplish now that I’ve returned. Many items on that list take the form of: “Send suchandsuch project to suchandsuch venue.” I’ve done a few of those tasks already, but I’ve more to do: all related to manuscripts completed on retreat (which might not have gotten done if I hadn’t gone away).
All in all: A huge success. It was a blast, and I’m ready to go again.
Thursday, March 3rd, 2011
Things are a bit crazy around here as I’ve bit the bullet and signed up for a writing class with mega-agent Don Maass on the 24th of this month.
Don is considered a top-tier agent, and he represents quite a few fantasy writers I love to read, so I’m pretty stoked about him teaching local enough (4-hour drive) to attend his seminar.
It’s a day-and-a-half workshop, to which I’m required to bring my completed manuscript. (No problem, as all my faithful readers will know that I’ve got one ready to send off to agents and have planned to do so this year.)
But I’m a bit angsty since three weeks doesn’t seem like enough time to get ready for the seminar, which is attached to the Write Stuff Conference hosted by the Greater Lehigh Valley Writers Group.
Luckily, I’m prepared. I have a routine I follow when I’m off to a conference. I’ve actually presented this material to writer’s groups, so if it sounds like I’m lecturing…it’s because I am. 🙂
Here’s what I recommend:
Before the Conference
- Think about your expectations. What do you want to get out of it? Knowing your expectations helps you plan what you’ll do while you’re there. Do you want to meet other local writers? Do you want to pitch your novel to an agent? Or do you want to learn about craft, careers and the industry? You don’t have to choose, you can do it all…but scheduling of panels may prohibit this. So, prioritize your goals and plan accordingly.
- Get an advanced copy of the conference schedule and look over your desired sessions.
Highlight and number where you want to be, the time and the room numbers, or copy this information to your planner. This will save you time at the conference, allowing you to network, join impromptu sessions and, maybe, get some writing in, too.
- Will you be able to pitch your book to agents and editors? Do you want to do so? If so, research the available candidates. Will there be someone present who represents the genre you write? Prepare a pitch according to that agent’s specifics.
- Hit the social networks to see if any of your online acquaintances will be going, too. Tweet, blog and post to boards and arrange a meet-up.
- If you’re going somewhere non-local: research the area: what restaurants are available? Are there any local landmarks or monuments you could visit? What about hiking, skiing, or other sportly adventures? (You could make this trip all about the conference, but hey, if you’re going somewhere new, you might as well learn a little about the area. Consider it research for your next book.)
- Check your writing “gear.” Make sure everything you need is in the bag you’ll take along: laptops and cables, a thumbdrive, your favorite notebooks and pencils, gum, mints, etc. (Check even if you’re meticulous about putting everything in it’s place–you never know.) If you’re attending any writing sessions, add a thesaurus and/or dictionary and your current work-in-progress. If you’re meeting up with fellow writers, you could also take a finished work you could use in an impromptu writing session.
- Formulate a list of questions you’d like answered. These could be related to the panels you want to attend, about presenters at the conference, about writing craft, about pitching your book, publishing in general (or specific), about, well…anything. Write them down and carry them with you so that you won’t forget to ask.
What Should You Bring?
- Your printed list of questions.
- Any research material you accumulated about the conference or the location.
- Business cards.
- Something to take notes with: your laptop, a notebook and pen, etc. (I always carry both: there will be times when a laptop will be inconvenient.)
- If you’re pitching, bring whatever the agent or editor prefers (and in the style they prefer it in): your query letter, a synopsis, the first five pages of your novel, etc. It’s doubtful you’ll need your entire novel printed out: no agent is going to want to lug an entire manuscript (times 100, or how many writers he meets) back to his office. If an agent is interested, he’ll give you his card and tell you to mail it.)
- Bring any giveaway table items that you can leave in designated areas: (book marks, flyers, brochures for writing-related services or your local writers group, etc).
- Any personal items you can’t live without for a few days or which will make your hotel room your home away from home: MP3 Player, cell phone, teddy bear, photo of your spouse, etc.)
Next time: What to do at the conference.
Tuesday, October 27th, 2009
I’m back from retreat at the Holy Cross Abbey in Berryville, Virginia. This was the view from my window in the early morning. Isn’t it gorgeous?
If you’re looking for an inexpensive location to get away to for “recharging” your writer’s batteries, I can’t recommend it enough. The Abbey built the retreat house specifically to lure people to the grounds, ostensibly for religious retreat, but not necessarily. My face-to-face critique group chose the Retreat House location primarily for writing.
One wonderful aspect of the Retreat House is a rule of respectful silence.
No talking is allowed at meals, no visitations are allowed in rooms, and guests are requested not to talk when meeting in the halls. In fact, it’s encouraged not even to meet the eyes of others or to nod or greet each other, as one aspect of retreat is meditation, and a simple acknowledgment of another’s presence could possibly interfere with his or her thoughts.
This silence created the perfect atmosphere for writing.
If that doesn’t excite you, the scenery might. Holy Cross Abbey is located in the Shenandoah Valley, surrounded by mountains and hundreds of acres of pastureland. I spent a few afternoons soaking up the sunshine, banging away at the keyboard, listening to the cows low.
I sound like a commercial, don’t I? I can’t help it. I’ve had a fabulous week on retreat, and I’ve got all kinds of ideas kicking around in my head now. I can’t wait to get started.