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During the June meeting, ECWG member Michael Walborn shared some of what he learned at a recent writing conference. He has written the following so that those who weren’t at the meeting can also benefit from his experience. Thanks, Michael!

As an aspiring writer, constantly learning, I hungered to find the answers to questions I had not even thought to ask. My solution: Attend a writer’s conference, May 1-4, in Oklahoma City. Embassy Suites was to be the site of a writer takeover — an entire hotel, with the interior courtyard lined with tables for agents, publishers, and editors for writers to sell their wares. The information available on writing was tremendous, the learning experience excellent.

Upon signing up for the conference, one of the best things available was the opportunity for an experienced editor to read my manuscript and present her findings. During the next four days, in any of the five conference rooms writers like me could pick whichever workshop they wanted to attend. Workshops ranged from “How to compete with the big publishers” to “How to conduct a murder,” with times available to pitch your manuscript to agents and publishers. I selected a number of different workshops and targeted my information download for the Indie or Independent (Self) Publishing route.

How to Compete with the Big Publishers (Jerry Simmons) Publishers operate under the strict premise of running five to ten thousand copies of a given book for the year in order to generate profit. Independent authors, however, are not bound to such a large printing constraints. Any advance that a signed author receives will be held against the copies not sold. In short, you the author have to pay back money for copies that did not sell. Indie authors should take advantage of big publisher weaknesses in the following areas:

  •  Don’t be afraid to give away free stuff: Your books, etc. Develop your audience.
  •  Use regional markets: Smaller newspapers, smaller radio-stations.
  •  Use regional publishers… Stay out of the big markets.
  •  React quickly to business trends – You the indie author can print 50 copies.
  •  Your book cover should be top notch – Use: E-lance.com & Odesk.com.
  •  Don’t forget digital copies/Ebooks – You keep your rights, too.

Choosing to Self-Publish… Now What? (Darlene Shortridge) – I had my manuscript, albeit bled all over in red ink by the editor, but once my masterpiece had been corrected what then? The workshop with Mrs. Shortridge was filled with superb information:

  •  Editing: Get an editor – if not, you’re just journaling.
  •  Marketing: Best weekend to start with your book – Mother’s Day.
  •  Smashwords: Excellent source for marketing your book. Allow them to distribute.
  •  Layout (of your book series): Put the first chapter to your second book at the end of your first book.
  •  Formatting: Digital/Ebook formatting done for free by CreateSpace/Smashwords.
  •  About Author: Be sure to put information about you in your book.
  •  Business Basics: Copyright with Library of Congress $35.00.
  •  Godaddy.com: Reserve the websites to your would-be titles and your name.
  •  Public Speaking: Do not require a fee to talk to groups; simply ask for a book table at the back of the room.

Your Fantastical Science Fiction or Young Adult Setting (Tara Hudson) – Mrs. Hudson’s talent in writing and ability to relate information was unparalleled at this writer’s conference. Her information was all about creating a “Bible” of information on the setting of the fictional world to be utilized:

  •  Create Characters: Know how they look. Know something about them your readers will never know.
  •  Layout the physics of your universe, before-hand.
  •  Real-Settings: If you use real settings; go there!
  •  Every character in your book must have at least one sentence describing them.

Odds ‘N’ Ends: Other useful pieces of information I obtained with no real category:

  •  From the editors – If you get writer’s block, “Kill someone… Kill that character off in your book.”
  •  Draft2Digital.com – Awesome book publishing service. They make 10% profit (You make the rest). They will convert it to digital copy as well.

Now that you have a ton of useful information; get cracking on that manuscript. I hope the information I ran across at the writer’s conference will be useful. Keep in mind many of these writers and experts I met were very approachable and offered a plethora of advice once asked. Consider too, that those who attend a writer’s conference you may spend one-one time with an experienced author or publisher; by inviting them to lunch or dinner, you can glean whatever information you need. This is the perfect time to be around like-minded people whose goal is to create written works and establish networks of writers, agents, and publishers. I would encourage you to take at least one opportunity to attend a writer’s conference.

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Erato Pio-Clementino Inv317

Erato, muse of erotic poetry

By virtue of last year’s mayoral decree, June is officially Lexington Poetry Month. Various events are planned at book stores, coffee shops, libraries, and other venues throughout the month, including open mic nights, public readings, workshops, and a month-long poetry writing challenge.

For more information, visit the Lexington Poetry Month page at Accents Publishing’s website: http://accents-publishing.com/blog/lexington-poetry-month-2014/. You’ll also find links to a calendar of events and a listing of poets who’ve officially signed up to participate in the challenge.

Last year, more than 75 local poets participated and over 1,000 poems were posted. A number of those were collected into a commemorative anthology, Her Limestone Bones, and another anthology is planned for this year.

You’ve got nothing to lose, so make a sacrifice to Calliope, Euterpe, Erato, Thalia, Polyhymnia — whoever your muse may be — and sign up!

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Perhaps it is because of T.S. Eliot’s famous observation (“The Wasteland”) that April has been designated National Poetry Month by the American Academy of Poets. The energy of the very planet is stirred up as the seasons turn from the extremes of one solstice toward that of the other. Whether you write poetry or not, April is full of inspiration in both the natural and online worlds.

Nothing could be more simple than the A to Z Blogging Challenge, even if you don’t blog. Every day except Sundays, you write something inspired by the corresponding letter of alphabet, beginning with A on April 1 (http://www.a-to-zchallenge.com/).

Even if you’re not a poet, you can sign up to receive daily writing prompts from WordXWord’s 30/30 Poetry Challenge (http://3030poetry.com/). If you’d rather not have those pesky prompts popping up in your inbox every day, you can resolve instead to visit the Writer’s Digest’s Poem a Day Challenge (http://www.writersdigest.com/whats-new/2014-april-pad-challenge-guidelines/) for their daily prompts.

Then there’s NaPoWriMo — the poet’s version of NaNoWriMo (National Poetry Writing Month and National Novel Writing Month, respectively). Find ideas for taking your writing to the next level at http://www.napowrimo.net/

And for you novelists who were too busy in November to pound out your 50,000 words, the good folks at NaNoWriMo offer a month-long writing experience at Camp NaNoWriMo (https://campnanowrimo.org/sign_in). They also run a second camp session during July, so mark your calendars.

No matter what your genre, crack your fingers, get your tools and supplies lined up, and prepare to get some serious writing done in April!

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A couple of blog posts on self-publishing really caught my eye during the last week or so.

Traditional publishing as vanity press

In a recent post (Submit. But don’t say “Uncle.”) on his eponymous blog, Hugh Howey reflects on motivation and some of the demons that drive us as writers. He describes the current (and future) publishing landscape as one shaped by writers and readers together, turning received wisdom about traditional and independent publishing on its head.

Be sure to scroll down through the comments to find Massimo Marino’s vision of the future of POD, where every printed book is a sold book, and the end of the query process, in which literary agents operate like pro sports scouts. (The better and smarter agents are already doing this.)

Professionalism in self-publishing

In a guest post (The Professionals’ Effect) on Catherine Ryan Howard’s blog Catherine, Caffienated, Jean Grainger outlines her own journey to publication. She writes with humor and candor about delusions, pitfalls, and the delicate mix of confidence and humility needed for success. Best of all, she shares her surprising discoveries about the communal nature of self-publishing.

Don’t forget to search through the comments for Stephen Tiano’s observations about self-publishing as a business venture rather than a DIY project. (Images of basement mimeo machines and hand staplers spring to mind.)

The bottom line

Self-publishing is a viable and respectable business model, and authors who self-publish should consider themselves legitimate businesspersons: publishers. They owe it to their business to pay attention to the practices that traditional publishers continue to follow and those that have been abandoned. They owe it to themselves to pay attention to the experience of fellow independent publishers and the wider community of writers and readers. Most importantly, they owe it to their work to approach it with professional respect and integrity.

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stacked booksThere are still a few author spaces available at the Local Kentucky Author Book Bazaar that will be held at Bakery Blessings and Bookstore in Lexington next month. The event runs from 11:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. on Saturday, October 19, and features author presentations, readings, and book signings. Bakery and bookstore owner Jan Sullivan has allowed time and space for 35 authors, including ECWG member Chris Kelder,  to participate.

Bakery Blessings and Bookstore is located at the corner of Harrodsburg and Lane Allen Roads in Lexington. The address is 1999 Harrodsburg Road and the telephone number is (859) 554-6044. The BB&B Facebook page has a schedule of events, maps, and other information.

If you’re interested in participating, contact Jan Sullivan for details and information.

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Something about April seems to inspire writers — maybe it’s the visibly changing seasons (spring or fall, depending on your hemisphere) or the even thirty days. Whatever the motivation, a number of month-long writing challenges offer daily prompts to inspire you.

To begin with, April is National Poetry Writing Month — NaPoWriMo for short. Even if you are not big on poetry, many of the prompts at the official site would work for any genre, even non-fiction.

April is also when the A to Z Blogging Challenge takes place. Again, the prompts and challenge are great motivation for any kind of writing.

Then there’s the 30/30 Poetry Challenge, which invites participants to contribute a poem a day for the month of April. Daily prompts are provided, and the great thing about this challenge is that you can subscribe by e-mail and get the prompt sent to your inbox each day, whether you contribute or not. Heck, whether you write poetry or not, for that matter.

With all this inspiration in the air, there’s absolutely no excuse for you not to do a whole lot of writing this month. If you know of any other writing challenges or prompt-fests, please let the rest of us know!

(So get writing!)

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In the January/February 2013 issue of Poets & Writers magazine, J.T. Bushnell has a fascinating article about description and how it operates on the human brain. He explains and illustrates the neural mechanisms that allow concrete words to engage the reader in ways that abstract words cannot.

As interesting and compelling as the science is, Bushnell’s points make perfect writing sense even without it:

“By description I mean the concrete, the things we can observe with our five senses: sight, sound, smell, taste, touch. I do not mean simple adjectives. I do not mean descriptions such as ‘The weather was glorious.’ Glory is an abstraction, a category of word that George Orwell calls meaningless. By itself, the word glorious is useless because it can’t show us anything concrete. It can’t show a white-hot sun perched overhead, or a sky so hard and blue that a fly ball might shatter it. It can’t show a pitcher’s shadow puddled under his cleats, or heat rising from the ground in shimmering corrugation. It can’t produce the smell of hot aluminum bleachers, or the lubricated slide of a sweaty armpit, or a sunburn tightening the skin on the back of your neck. It can’t let you taste the sweat on your lip when you go too long between slugs of cold beer. Only concrete description can do that.” (p. 50)

Glorious might be how you, the writer, feel about the day, but that’s because you experience all those other things in your mind as you write: the sun, the sky, the shadows, the sweat. Your job as writer is to tell stories in such a way that the reader experiences what you have experienced. You want someone to read your description and think, What a glorious day! without having been told to think that.

Bushnell also quotes novelist Richard Bausch on the matter:

“‘There is so much more in an image because that is how we experience the world, and a good story is about EXPERIENCE, not concepts and certainly not abstractions. The abstractions are always finally empty and dull no matter how dear they may be to our hearts and no matter how profound we think they must be…. So, in revision, get rid of all those places where you are commenting on things, and let the things stand for themselves.'” (p. 50)

It always comes down to that in the end – the abstractions we use are so dear to us, so deeply reflect our experience, that we are loathe to relinquish them. But therein lies the key: our job as writers is not to reflect our experience to the reader but to recreate our experience so the reader may experience it her/himself.

If you have trouble figuring out how to do this, take a page from Hemingway: look for places where you’ve written statements about emotion and replace them with images. For example, replace “the outfielder was dejected” with “the outfielder tossed his glove without looking back to where it fell.” Give it a try and see where it takes you.


Bushnell’s full article (pp. 48-56) is not available online, but most libraries carry Poets & Writers. Back issues can also be purchased at the magazine’s website (http://www.pw.org/magazine).

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The first monthly meeting of the Creative Arts Roundtable will be held this Tuesday, January 8, from 7-8:30 p.m. at the Central Library in Lexington. Artists in all media are invited to network with other creative folk and discuss ways to promote the arts and support creative activity in our community. Local writer and filmmaker (and ECWG member) Chris Kelder will facilitate. See this flyer — CREATIVE ARTS ROUNDTABLE — for more information.

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In the spirit of NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), here are a couple of interesting posts on story lines and plotting. (If you know of others, please let us know about them in the comments.)

The first, from Roz Morris of Nail Your Novel, talks about how most stories can be broken into four parts, even if there are only three acts. (Hint: the second act has two parts.) This can be a useful device for both plot planning during the writing phase and for plot analysis during the editing phase.

The second, by Bill Boyd, The Literacy Advisor, is essentially a summary of Christopher Booker’s The Seven Basic Plots, which looks at plot from the reader’s point of view. Since our audience is pretty much made up of readers, this can be a great way to think about our writing. It could help some of us get past those stuck places we all seem to run up against from time to time and might even inspire some to venture down a different road in the next story.

Whether you’re engaged in the madcap frenzy of NaNoWriMo or churning along at your own pace, what kind of resources or tools do you use to plot and frame your stories?

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