Tag Archives: literary

The Art of the Story Writing Workshop with Tom Jenks in San Francisco…..

I have not attended this workshop yet – but I will soon because I just got accepted yesterday. Yea! It promises to be amazing! Check it out…

One of my very sweet, and possibly delusional friends, mentioned that if I ever get famous enough for Mr. Jenks to admit  claim he’s worked with me, my name would appear below Kurt Vonnegut. That would not be awful! 😉

The Art of the Story with TOM JENKS

The class will meet every day for four days, with a morning workshop and an afternoon seminar focused on craft. For the seminar, there will be reading assignments and study of works by well-known writers. Each participant will have one manuscript workshopped in class and a second manuscript reviewed for an individual conference with Tom. We will study storytelling and the formal elements of fiction, including voice, point of view, characterization, imagery, plot, and theme. Attention will also be given to scene building, sentence making, and the dramatic movement of descriptive writing.

Enrollment is limited to twelve participants. (Acceptance into the class will be based on evaluation of a submitted manuscript.)

Class Dates:
San Francisco           January 15—18, 2015
San Francisco           January 29—February 1, 2015
San Francisco           February 26—March 1, 2015

Application deadline:

November 15, 2014

To apply or to receive more information:

  • Please send an email to Workshops.
  • The classes often fill quickly, well before the application deadlines, so if you’re interested in a class, we encourage you to contact us promptly.

WRITERS EDITED AND PUBLISHED BY TOM JENKS INCLUDE:

Rick Bass
Richard Bausch
Ann Beattie
T. Coraghessen Boyle
Janet Burroway
Robert Olen Butler
Michael Chabon
Frank Conroy
Don DeLillo
E. L. Doctorow
Andre Dubus
Stuart Dybek
Jennifer Egan
Gail Godwin
Donald Hall
Ron Hansen
Charles Johnson
Min Jin Lee
Bernard Malamud
Anthony Marra
Peter Matthiessen
Jill McCorkle
Arthur Miller
Susan Minot
Lorrie Moore
Alice Munro
Maud Newton
Joyce Carol Oates
Jayne Anne Phillips
Annie Proulx
Kirstin Valdez Quade
Philip Roth
James Salter
Scott Spencer
Robert Stone
John Updike
Kurt Vonnegut
John Edgar Wideman
Tom Wolfe
Tobias Wolff
Richard Yates
Alexi Zentner

If you enjoyed this post, you can read about other workshops here.

Fall for the Book….

Fall for the Book is not so much a writing conference but it is a kick-arse literary event hosted by George Mason University. It’s a chance to meet some amazing writers who will read from their works and talk about their writing journeys. And, by the by, it’s free. Yes, that’s fabulous!

fallforthebooklogo-2014

This year the festival will run September 11th thru 18th. Most of the events are held on George Mason’s campus, but pay careful attention to the schedule, some events are off-campus.

I really consider this more of a reader’s conference than a writer’s conference – but hey, if you are a writer, uhm, you should also be a reader.

The link to the festival’s website is here.

The schedule is here.

The list of presenters is here.

Two things you don’t want to miss:

  • Jodi Piccoult (the recipient of the Mason Award) will speak on Friday, September 12th.
  • Richard Russo (the recipient of the Fairfax Award) will speak on Wednesday, September 17th.

Just in case you aren’t really clear on what the Fall for the Book Festival is, here’s what they say (taken directly from their website):

What began as a two-day literary event in 1999, organized by George Mason University and the City of Fairfax, has expanded into a week-long, multiple-venue, regional festival that brings together people of all ages and interests, thanks to growing community interest and generous supporting partners.

Each year, the festival:

  • Advances children’s education by hosting specially tailored writing workshops or readings for students at the elementary, middle and high school levels and by publishing an annual anthology of student writing in partnership with the Northern Virginia Writing Project and Dominion.
  • Makes literature fun by showcasing literary events in an active, engaging atmosphere that includes skits, dance, storytelling and more, and by introducing young people to living authors whose work they’re reading in the classroom.
  • Connects readers and authors at all levels, offering book lovers the chance to meet and greet their favorite writers and hear behind-the-scenes stories of writing and publishing.
  • Builds community by connecting with senior centers, book clubs, special interest community groups, libraries, bookstores and many others.
  • Encourages cultural diversity by combining common points of cultural reference with forums for discussion of our shared stories.
  • Gives sponsors a chance to support regional programs, and attracts the broadest possible cross-section of families and individuals throughout the area.
  • Fall for the Book, an IRS-recognized non-profit corporation, is governed by a board of directors that meets throughout the year.

Events take place at George Mason University’s Fairfax Campus, the festival’s base, and at other locations throughout Northern Virginia, DC, and Maryland.

If you are new here, welcome. This post is one in a series of entries about my experiences at various writing conferences this year. You can read about Tin House’s Winter Workshop here and the Woodbridge Writers Retreat here.

 

One Story’s Debutante Ball…..

One Story is a top-tier literary journal celebrating the best in short stories, novel excepts, confettiand stories for teens (One Teen Story). Once a year, they celebrate the authors coming out with a debut novel who have appeared in their journal  – it’s a big arse Brooklyn-style party and tickets are selling fast.

Not only does this party sound super fun, but the One Story folks are some of the nicest, most accessible people I have met. This an amazing opportunity to have a blast while meeting some of the most influential people in the literary world. Wowza!

The Ball is being held on Thursday, May 22nd, at the Roulette in Brooklyn from 7p – 11p.

The authors being celebrated are….

Tickets can be purchased here – but hurry! 😎

And some pictures from past events can be seen here – just so you have an idea of what to wear. You’re welcome.

Hope to see you there!

A writing contest….

The Time and Place Prize Literary Competition

The Time & Place Prize is a new international literary
award established to provide the two things every writer
requires . . .the time and the placeto write.
Join us in France!
The winner of The Time & Place Prize receives a month-long stay in an idyllic
cottage nestled among the menhirs, myths and mists of Bretagne, France.The Prize includes:
Round-trip airfare to and from Paris, France
plus ground transport to and from the cottage
Room & board for the month of July in a
private cottage in bucolic Brittany
The cottage is equipped with all the tools a
writer needs, including library, computer,
internet access, a complete OED, etc.
Time and place to work on your ideas

The Time & Place Prize

All literary genres considered.
Winner(s) selected by independent, third party judges.
Submissions limited to 5,000 words.
A $25 submission fee will be charged.

The Award TimelineSubmissions for the 2012 Prize will be accepted through November 30, 2012.  
The short list will be posted by mid-February 2013.
The winner will be announced on March 30, 2013.
The winner will visit France for the month of July, 2013.
Submissions for the 2013 Prize will be accepted beginning December 1, 2012.
Visit the website for details: http://www.timeandplaceprize.com/index.html
(And you know the drill, right – I am not endorsing this contest – just passing along the info – if you want to apply, you might want to check out the details first and decide for yourself whether or not to enter. 😎  )

How to find comparable titles for your story…..

Now that I am trying to figure out how
to capture the attention of a literary
agent for The Alligator Purse, I am learning a lot about the whole query/submission process.

One of the things I keep hearing over and over is that writers must be able to compare their story to another book that has done well in the same genre.

This proves that writers understand the market they are writing for and that they understand their genre. Kinda important stuff.

My first inclination was to pick Jeannette Wall’s wonderful story The Glass Castle. The main problem with that would be that the Glass Castle is a memoir. My story is fiction. Ahem.

Thank goodness someone explained to me that is a super huge no-no. I would have looked like a baffoon.

But then who? A friend mine suggested I look at Anna Quindlen’s work. I nearly fell over. But okay. Then I thought really, I am supposed to claim that I am as fabulous as say Anna Quindlen?

Well, probably not.

Actually…
absolutely not.

But what writers should be able to say is that “audiences who love the Memory Keeper’s Daughter by Kim Edwards would also be interested in The Alligator Purse.”

See how’s that’s different? I might not be as amazing as Kim Edwards but we at least appeal to the same readers.

But that’s tricky too because the Memory Keeper’s Daughter was wildly popular. Heck, they even made a movie out of the story.

So, a lot of other writers might be comparing their writing to Kim Edwards.

And, agents might be thinking, “Oh sure, your writing is just like Kim Edwards. You gotta bridge to go with that manuscript?”

I have been told (by someone who would really know) that audiences who buy Pieces of My Sister’s Life by Elizabeth Joy Arnold would very likely be interested in The Alligator Purse.

So, yea for me, someone who reads a lot knew a great example for my story.

The question I can see floating in your thought bubble right now is “Yeah, good for you, but what about me? How do I find titles to compare my story too?”

I’m so glad you asked that.

You read a lot of books in your genre.

Now your thought bubble is screaming, “How do I know what books? There are so many out there?”

Another good question dear thought bubble.

Check out the website called All Readers.

You can put in selection criteria that will narrow suggestions to a manageable number.

And now you are wondering why I am so so smart. Ha. I have an answer for that too. I am taking a class from Caitlin Alexander thru Media Bistro. She was an editor at Random House for over a decade so she knows a little somthin, somthin.

And then I can only say good luck – it ain’t easy. But it is critical.

Haiku Contest – a followup……

Some time ago, many of you voted for me – thank you again – and I won Rachelle Gardner’s Haiku contest which earned me a free 30-minute consult and review of my first five pages with a real-live literary agent at Books & Such.

The only thing was, uhm, I didn’t really have five whole pages written. Yet, that is. Ooopps.

image from clipart.com

When I won the contest, I shot off an email explaining the “project” that I had in my mind to Rachelle. I had planned to share my blog about living in India with her with the hope of eventually turning that blog into a memoir about personal growth and gratitude.

Her response?

“Remember, you get 5 pages and 30 minutes. Be very careful with what you send me.”

Fair enough.

The truth is/was that, while I have a boat load of material written about India and I believe that a lot of it is pretty good, writing about India isn’t that appealing to me right now.

I was fortunate enough to have one of my stories about India published on Robert Lee Brewer’s blog in the Life Changing Moments Series. The story was longish, so he split it into two parts. I was thrilled. I was going to appear twice on his blog. Yeah!

Part I got positive feedback and quite a few people clicked over to my blog after reading the first entry. That was really great.

Part II – not so much.

Part II got zero comments.

Part I was all about the adventure – fun with girlfriends, pretty jewelry, temples, and laughter. Part II was about how I saw myself as an indulgent tourist in a world where so many suffered.

It was heavy on the heavy.

And, after Rachelle’s caution, I thought, “yea, maybe people just don’t want to hear it.”

After that revelation, along with some encouragement from my writers group, I decided it might be time to actually take on writing a novel.

I asked Rachelle for some extra time and began writing The Alligator Purse.

Last week, I met with Rachelle on Skype. It was an exciting experience. And, I was nervous as hell.

But I learned A LOT.

I had never met with an agent before – a fact that I am sure was crystal clear to her. And I am so glad that first agent meeting is behind me.It was like going to the principal’s office.Only worse, really. It was like being called to the principal and being asked to explain how the world began and why it mattered. All while wearing your grandmother’s underwear on your head.

A large part of the problem was that my manuscript is not finished. Heck, it’s barely started – I am in the middle of Chapter 4. So, when she asked me the plot, I stammered.

I know how I want the story to go  and I actually have most of it plotted out – however, I have never really articulated or defended it.

No time like the present, huh?

The truth of the matter is that if you are going to ask an agent to represent your story – you better be able to articulate and defend/explain it. You should also probably have a good handle on the storyline.

Yes, that probably would have been fabulous to realize before hand.

You also need to really understand these terms:

Theme – the impact of the story or what the message of the book is. Some examples of theme are: racism, family secrets, unrequited love, etc. The theme is what people will talk about when the book is back on the shelf. It is why the reader will care.

Plot – the major events in the story. It is how you tell the readers why they should care. It’s what happens to whom.

I wasn’t sure that I should tell the whole story to Rachelle.Maybe she should be surprised along the way.

Rookie Mistake.

She wanted to know the details. She said you keep secrets on a book jacket but not in a query.

As you have very likely gathered, I made a lot of mistakes in that meeting. But all to my benefit. I learned so much.

And eventually, quite accidentally, I explained my plot and defined my theme.

Rachelle was quite generous and spent nearly a full hour with me. At the end of our conversation, she answered a slew of questions – including some on the synopsis I am writing for another agent.

I don’t feel like I was a total failure. Rachelle had a lot of nice things to say about my writing and my voice and she has no doubt that I will write a novel and that it will be good. Realistically, it was highly unlikely that Rachelle was going to ask to be my agent – at least not in the light of day, when I wasn’t dreaming it  – so I really had nothing to lose in our interaction. It was a teachable moment for me.

So, learn from my mistakes, dear blog reader. Wait until you are ready to query. My best advice would be to at least have a synopsis written before you contact anyone. That way you will have articulated the plot on paper and will have thought it out thoroughly. And do not wear your grandmother’s underwear on your head.

Oh yea, and practice answering your skype call at least 6 times. Because apparently 5 practice tries might not be enough. And you might leave an agent, who is willing to donate an hour of her time to your unfinished manuscript, waiting.  For at least 10 minutes. Of course, I would never do that – I just want to caution you against the possibility of it all.

And none of this is to say at all that I regret entering that contest. It was an amazing experience.

First of all I won. So there. (and if you voted for me – thank you again)

Second of all, it got me moving on writing an actual novel and I am thrilled about that!

And, finally, when I am ready, I will start querying but I will have done (all of ) my homework first. 😎

PS. I just found another great website – Novel Writing Help.

When panic is a good thing………

Apparently we will be talking about the big “S” word next – synopsis – because a real-live literary agent just asked me for one for The Alligator Purse. Yikes.

So I am a little panicked – but I am also all sorts of motivated.

That’s good, right?

This is where you nod your head wildly in agreement. Thanks.

When I got the email, I waited an entire 15 seconds before writing back (didn’t want to seem desperate), politely thanked her for her interest, and asked if I could have a little time to write, uhm I mean, tweak it. That was on the outside. On the inside, I felt like this poor woman.

Sadly, I am minus the adorable shoes and the cute up-do. Yes, I might really be screwed. 😎

I wanted to scream – “that is amazing – but are you serious?” And then, “what exactly do you mean by that?”

So I am guessing that writing and submitting a synopsis might be a tad of problem if you have not finished your book yet – but maybe it won’t be – we shall definitely see.

Here is what I know so far…

If you want to write and submit your work, you will definitely want to consider investing in the Writers Market. It’s basically a listing of who is buying, what they are buying, and how they want it served up on the page. If you are thinking “that would save me a heck of a lot of time,” you’d be absolutely correct.

But the Writers Market also has helpful articles and a glossary of literary terms. So I went to my literature bible and looked up synopsis. I kind of thought I knew what it meant – but this might be a big deal so I wanted to be sure.

According to WM, a synopsis is “a brief summary of a story, novel, or play. As part of a book proposal, it is a comprehensive summary condensed in a page or page and a half, single-spaced.”

That is what I thought. But it kinda, sorta sounds like you need an ending. Dear heavens. Now what?

Well, Rachelle Gardner is a literary agent with Books & Such and she wrote this post about crafting a pitch. It covers 11 essential questions that should be answered when an author is trying to sell her book.

Then, I found this…The Novel Synopsis at Fiction Writers. Whew. I have also heard that you do not want to give away the ending of the book.

I don’t know if it addresses everything, but this is where I am going to start.

Right now.

So, bye bye.

And, yes, I will post my synopsis when I am done. Just promise not to laugh at it.

I mean it, Pinky Swear it .

Arse in seat………..

Apparently, that is the way to get a book written.

Plant your arse in a seat and click away at the keyboard.

Arse in Seat

Just in case  you don’t remember every detail of the life that I chronicle here, I’ll take a sec to remind you that I am  writing a novel called The Alligator Purse. You can read chapter 1 here, if you like.

For the past three years, I have focused on non-fiction (aka this blog). And, then. Well, then I joined a writing group that encouraged me to try my hand at fiction. Now I am drinking the Kool-aid and have taken on a full-fledged novel.

That was brave, right? I know.

What was I thinking, right?

I know. Believe me, I know.

But now I am thinking, maybe some of you want the Kool-aid, too. Maybe some of you are writing a novel for the first time. Or maybe just an article or a short story – because maybe you are smarter than I am and maybe you don’t want to overwhelm yourself all at once – right before school gets out and the kids are home a.l.l. d.a.y.

I know, what was I thinking?

But maybe it would be fun not to write this novel all by my lonesome. I mean, sure, I will write the book with my own ideas and story ideas. But maybe, just maybe, we can skip down the yellow brick road together.

So, I will tell you what I am doing along the way and what works and what wasn’t so great.

Here are my first thoughts…

Arse in Seat Modus Operandi

The first thing I can tell you is that you must put your arse in a seat. And type. A lot. And then. A lot more.

That woman in the picture is not me – but she makes me want to highlight my hair again. Not all blond on the top like hers, but you know soft-subtle highlights.It’s summer after all…

Erghhhhh. See how easy it is for me to get distracted. Arse in Seat. Arse in Seat. Not Distracted. Arse in Seat.

Anyseat, I am starting my fourth chapter – I am at about 6,000 words. A typical novel runs about 75,000 words. Yes, I have a l.o.n.g. way to go.

My entire story is not completely plotted out, although I am pretty sure I know 5 or 6 major story events that must happen and how I would like the book to end. But the only way I am going to find out the details in between is to write them. (That, and drink more Kool-aid, possibly spiked with Vodka.)

Writers Groups

I will continue to go to my writers group mostly because I love them dearly and they serve yummy snacks. But also because they encourage me to write. And they tell me when I am not doing a great job – in a kind, loving way – but they let me know when something isn’t working. Plus, I am accountable to them. They expect me to submit chapters on a regular basis.

We meet once a week during the day when my kids are at school. That works well for me.

Take notes here – you want to be sure to find a writers group that has most of its members submitting work on a regular basis. You want to surround yourself with serious writers, who are writing.

If you are wondering how to find a writers group – try this:

1. Meetup – this site is great for all sorts of meetups (groups of people who like doing the same thing with other people) and there are tons of writing groups listed.

2. If your town has a university – call the English Department and see if have any writing groups.

3. Try your local library. They usually coordinate book clubs and might be willing to coordinate a writing group as well.

4. Take a writing class – many writing groups come from students who took a class together.

5. Simply ask around – I am amazed out how many aspiring authors are out in the world putting pen to paper. You might be surprised at who is interested in starting a group with you.

Beta Readers

My writing group is awesomesauce and it’s amazing that they are all writers. But that means they read a story differently than someone who is primarily a reader. Writers are more technical. They know the jargon and they will spew it out at you when necessary.

Beta readers are just people who like to read. They can tell you if your story is marketable because they will tell you if they would pass your book on to a friend when they are done with it.

The only thing you have to be careful of with beta readers is that they will tell you what they want to happen next. You have to remember that you are driving the story line. You determine the plot. They tell you if what you have already written works.

I asked my beta readers two things…

1. To promise not to share my chapters with anyone else. I told them if they know of someone who would like to be a beta reader, I would happily add her name to the distribution list. But I need to know who is getting what and when.

2. To be perfectly honest. I absolutely want to hear what works and what they like. But, more importantly, I want to hear where they get stuck – what doesn’t make sense. I want to know what piques their interest and makes them want to read more. And I absolutely want to know what questions they have – so I make sure to answer them all.

Writing Classes

I have signed up for two classes – both through Writers Digest.

The first one is this one that starts tomorrow. It’s called the Agent One-on-One Pitch Slam. During the course, I will work directly with Paula Munier on the first ten pages of The Alligator Purse.

The second class begins mid-June and is taught by Mark Spencer. It is an Advanced Novel Writing Course. You have to have 10,000 words written at the beginning of the course and the plan is to get you to 50,000 by the end of the 8-week session. Gulp.

My arse will need to be in a seat quite a bit.

Other Resources

Next week, I will also meet with Rachelle Gardner. She hosted this contest and, holy koolaid, I won. The prize is half an hour with her. Reviewing my work.

I won this contest because I took a chance and entered. There were tons of great entries and I just got lucky that my friends love me enough to vote for me.

Web Presence – aka Platform

This is a word that sends most novice writers right back under the blankets. I don’t know a lot about all of this but I do have a blog, another blog, a twitter, a facebook, and a pinterest account. I also reserved www.TheAlligatorPurse.com so that no one can take it before I become wildly successful and try to snag it too late. I also reserved my full name as a url so that I can start working on my name as my brand.

Luckily for us newbiews, there are lots of folks who know a lot about building a platform. You can read this post from Jeff Goins blog sharing information from platform guru Michael Hyatt.

Notebook

For Shakespeare’s sake, keep a notebook with you or at least something you can write down your ideas on. Trust me on this one. You are going to have a moment of sheer brilliance at the most unexpected time and you are going to be so confident that you couldn’t possibly forget it. Then you are going to start noticing other people’s hair color and “poof”, your idea will be gone. Lost 4-evah. So write it down the minute you have it.

I wrote about this in an article called Believing We Have a Story To Tell on Writer Unboxed because I have learned it the hard way. Too. Many. Times.

Own It

This is the most important thing – so it probably should have gone at the top – pretend it’s there okay?

You must own the fact that you are a writer. When you are at a cocktail party and someone asks you what you do, you must answer confidently, “I am a writer.” Do not explain that you are not published. Do not explain that your mother loves your work. Dear heavens, please do not explain that. Do not explain that it’s really more of a hobby.

YOU. ARE. A. WRITER. period. You Write. Therefore. YOU. ARE. A. WRITER. If you are not actually writing, remember the Arse in Seat axiom.

That is all for now. Because in a moment of extreme weakness, I signed up for a class and have 10,000 (quality) words due to a published author who will critique my work in two weeks.

I am going to keep my arse in this seat until I no longer feel like this…..

Disclaimer #1: It is important to note that the Arse in Seat Model does not work for all disciplines. For example, if you are hoping to compete in a marathon of more than mere words, you must get your arse out of the seat.

Disclaimer #2: This picture is also not me. I do not wear heels and I do not dress in all white – not even after Easter. And my floor is very honestly not that clean. Never will be.

Two Book Reviews……….

Happy New Year dear blog readers!

I know I have not posted in a while – but I have been busy reading. You can see my latest book reviews over at A Reason To Read or by clicking the links below. Enjoy!

The Literary Ladies Guide to the Writing Life by
Nava Atlas….

and

    The Wayward Life and Times of a Dipsy Doodle Dandy By John Peaker