NC Christian Writers Conference 18

Last week I attended a writers’ conference in Liberty, N.C. put on by Serious Writer (www.seriouswriter.com) Going to a conference can be a big commitment as well as an extra expense–especially for struggling writers. What are some reasons for attending a writers’ conference?

  1. To meet other writers. Why is this important? We writers spend our working hours alone and a lot of time just in our own heads. To meet others who also have this strange way of living is refreshing and encouraging. As C.S. Lewis put it: “Friendship is born at that moment when one man says to another ‘What, you, too? I thought that no one but myself . . .'”
  2. To meet people in the “business.” You know, editors, agents, publishers, and, did I mention other writers?
  3. To attend workshops that will help you better your craft.
  4. To have your questions answered. To learn what your questions should be in the first place.
  5. To hear other people’s stories. You know, other writers.
  6. Encouragement. I had to force myself to make some appointments to pitch my book, but I’m glad I did. I don’t know yet what may come of the appointments, but I did get some positive feedback.
  7. Worship. As Christians, we should worship God in whatever we do. Attending a conference with other Christians makes this easier and is a good reminder of Who we’re working for.

I’m already looking forward to next year. What about you? Have you been to a writers’ conference this year? Making plans to go soon?

Advertisements

Books on Writing

I read several books on writing last year and have quotes from these scribbled in notebooks and other various places. In all of them, I have found some kind of encouragement (in spite of the inevitably dark humor; most be a writing thing?), as well as helpful suggestions.

bird-by-birdThe first I read was Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life. I’ve had this book for awhile and read bits of it here and there, but when I decided to get serious about writing again, I got it out and read straight through. On plot: “Plot grows out of character. If you focus on who the people in your story are, if you sit and write about two people you know and are getting to know better day by day, something is bound to happen.” This resonates with me, not only as a writer, but also as a reader. I have found myself bored in the middle of book, not because of the plot or the story idea, but because I could not care about the characters. Character is king.

Then I finally read Stephen King’s On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft. Another one that I started once upon a time, but never finished. Sentences and paragraphs to quote abound but two of my top ones: “Amateurs sit and wait for inspiration, the rest of us just get up and go to work.” And, “In many cases when a reader puts a story aside because it ‘got boring’, the boredom arose because the writer grew enchanted with his powers of description and lost sight of his priority, which is to keep the ball rolling.” I struggle with adding description to my stories, preferring to “keep the ball rolling”, so this one amuses me.

art-of-war-for-writersNext was a book by James Scott Bell, The Art of War for Writers: Fiction Writing Strategies, Tactics, and Exercises. (Something else I’ve noticed about many of these writing books is their rather wordy titles. Authors trying to get their word-count in? Or, perhaps, writers are just naturally loquacious?) Bell has several books out on writing, and I feel I need to be collecting these.

I reviewed Betsy Lerner’s The Forest for the Trees: An Editor’s Advice to Writers in a previous forest for the treespost. (September) This book is unique as Lerner has been an agent, an editor, and a writer, so she is able to share her perspective from all three of these roles. I shared several quotes from this book already, but here’s another one: “For the writer who truly loves language, a trip to the copy editor is like a week at a spa. You come out looking younger, trimmer, and standing straighter.” Not sure we all feel that way, but I get the point.

My most recent read was by Bret Lott, Letters and Life: On Being a Writer, on Being a Christian. More quotes on the importance of characters rather than lengthy descriptions. “I saw, suddenly and fully, that a story was about the people involved. I bret-lottsaw that embellishment brought to the table an unwanted intruder: the author.”

And: “What I saw in his (Raymond Carver) work was that in my own, I had to be the last one heard from in this pile of words I was arranging, and that humility was the most valuable tool I could have, because the people about whom I wanted to write mattered so very much more than the paltry desires of the writer himself. They mattered so very much more than me. My job was to get out of the way.”

I have several more writing books on my tbr list and just picked up a new one from the library. How about you? Read any good books on writing lately? Which ones have inspired you or just made you laugh? Which would you recommend?

 

 

 

Carolinas WordFest Saturday October 15, 2016

20161011_121008-1

Interested in reading and writing? Want to learn more about writing? Would you like to meet some local writers? This Saturday in uptown Charlotte will be the Carolinas WordFest. Being a new member of the Charlotte Writers’ Club, I am excited about this event and am looking forward to meeting others in our community who are also interested in writing.

From their flyer: “Writers are a creative lot. We appreciate how reading and creative writing can feed the soul, and about a year ago, we let loose our imaginations. The result: Carolinas WordFest. The festival is a celebration of some of North and South Carolina’s finest writers with free, interactive programming designed for all ages and literary tastes. It is a smorgasbord that invites you to become engaged, sample something new and enjoy something familiar. Come. Be inspired. Have fun!”

This is a free event for all ages. For example, I will be spending time at ImaginOn helping children put their stories down and creating their own books. There will also be musical story telling in the afternoon which kids of all ages should enjoy.  Other events will be held in First Ward Park, Spirit Square Knight Gallery, and in the Main Library. For a list of all events: https://carolinaswordfest.com/about/schedule-of-events/

There will also be a chance to hear and meet different authors from the Carolinas. For a detailed list of the authors: https://carolinaswordfest.com/writers/

What’s an event without food? A few food trucks will also be around, so come on out and have some fun with your local writers!

 

The Forest for the Trees: An Editor’s Advice to Writers–Betsy Lerner

forest for the trees

Writers, Agents, and Editors! Oh, my! Different animals that work together to bring forth stories, articles, and books.  As a writer, I know I need to understand what agents are looking for (as well as publishers) and how exactly editors can be helpful to my writing. It is easy when you are struggling to be noticed and published to see these animals as the enemy that must be overcome and appeased, but it is much better to look at them as those who are working in the same game that you are, and who are wanting to help you achieve excellence in writing.

In the July/August edition of Poets & Writers, I read an article by Betsy Lerner in which she discusses being a writer, an editor, and an agent (all titles she has held and can proudly claim). She discusses the three different occupations–their differences and yet how they work together.

Enjoying the article, I found her book, The Forest for the Trees at the library and brought it home. The chapter titles themselves were intriguing: “The Ambivalent Writer”, “The Self-Promoter”, and “The Neurotic”; to name a few.

Working as an editor for many years, Lerner has a great understanding of writers and their many neuroses and phobias. I found myself laughing at something in every chapter; and though she is probably using humor deliberately, I’m afraid she is also very serious.

Among my favorite quotes:

“Try to remember that the time before you publish is the only time you will ever work in complete freedom. After you’re published you will be forced to contend with the shockingly real voices of critics, agents, editors, and fans. You never get to be a virgin after the first time, and more to the point, you never again have the luxury of writing in total obscurity. But like the married person who bemoans the loss of freedom from her single days, the published author who longingly recalls her past obscurity is a little hard to sympathize with. Though you may suffer from loneliness after you’re married, it’s bad form to complain about it to your single friends.” (“The Ambivalent Writer”, p. 29).

“Some of the most gifted writers I’ve worked with were also the most self-sabotaging. Lack of discipline, desire for fame, and depression often thwart those whose talents appear most fertile, while those who struggle with every line persevere regardless.” (“The Natural”, p. 33).

“Whoever you are, whatever your bizarre behaviors, I say cultivate them; push the envelope. Becoming a writer never won anybody any popularity contests anyway. And most writers couldn’t win one if they tried.” (“The Neurotic”, p. 101).

“Like finding a tennis partner whose ability is a notch above your own, you will play better if your partner’s game challenges yours. All you really need during those long years when rejection may get the better of you is one friend with whom you can share your work, one fellow writer with whom you can have an honest exchange.” (“Rejection”, p. 169).

This is a book I know I need to read more than once–for enlightenment, wisdom, and encouragement. Not only does it help to give me a better understanding of myself as a writer (and my fellow writers), but even more it gives me insight on those creatures known as editors, publishers, and agents.