My Rabbit Hole Summer

Where did the summer go?

Here it is, the beginning of October, solidly into fall, and as I look back at this past year, I feel that I have nothing to show for it. What did I do all that time?

More accurately, I know what I didn’t do. Writing.

I thought about writing a lot. I talked about it even more.  And, I took a number of classes to learn how to become a better writer.  So, I guess, there is that. I did learn a lot through the various classes. Rebecca (Becca) Syme’s class, Writing Better Faster was just what I needed to get me out of my slump.

In her class, I discovered the big reason why I wasn’t writing. I’ve learned that major life-events shut down my creative process.  While I can edit, polish, and get a manuscript formatted, it’s impossible for me to create new words on a new project, meaning getting a first draft done is extremely difficult.

When I think back over other life-events when I wasn’t writing, I remember my sister dying while I was writing my dissertation, which was technical, non-fiction writing, not creative by any means. Because the writing was non-creative and I had a deadline, I was able to bury myself into the task. At the time, I felt like she was always with me, looking over my shoulder as I worked because it as the type of writing she would have done, which were non-fiction journalism pieces. She was really good at it.

Becca’s class was a month-long class and included taking three psychological-type personality tests, which I had done two previously at work and the last through another recent class.  Using those results and meeting with Becca one-on-one through Skype, I discovered there was a logical reason for my so-called writing silence over the summer, in fact for the past year. Where I was activity driven to clean out files, both electronic and paper, clean out and reorganize my bookshelves, go through the stacks of magazines and read piles of articles I’d saved, and other such activities. Another life-event had occurred.

What made Becca’s class special is that she took these test results, which in business was used to see how I fit in with my peers, and she attached them toward my writing. She was able to tell me what my best writing styles and techniques were and how I should use them to become a better writer and/or a faster writer!

For someone who likes to know the why behind anything, I was hoping for some aha moments and I got them. Several in fact. The biggest aha moment was the one I shared above. When I learned that, I stopped beating myself up, and stopped thinking I had been lazy.

Now, I’m better able to plan my schedule based on my new-realized strengths and can easily deal with the other tasks that received major procrastination. I now know how to deal with them.

Are you interested in finding out how you can become a better and/or faster writer? Becca gives classes every other month. And it’s not to late the join the October class that just started.

To join the class, go here: https://www.margielawson.com/product/oct-2018-write-better-faster

If you’d rather be notified about an upcoming class, here’s that link: https://forms.aweber.com/form/54/2064782054.htm

Here’s the link to sign up for her newsletter: https://forms.aweber.com/form/83/26292183.htm

If you’re interested in learning more about my results from the tests I took, I’m willing to share them if there’s enough interest. Just comment below and I’ll write that blog in quick order.

As to my writing: I’m happy to report that over the weekend I finished the first draft of Burning Desire, the second of my Laurel Ridge novellas. And I’m now developing the characters for Arrested Pleasures, the third story in the series.

Woohoo!

Posted in Motivation, Persistence, Procrastination, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Thinking About Quitting

The other night, I was thinking, Maybe, I need to give up writing.

A shocker, yes?

I’ve been writing most of my adult life, having started around the age of 19, but not getting serious about it until 28, when I sold my first magazine article. More than 40 years of writing. Submitting. Getting published in multiple genres and multiple media. And now, owning my own production company.

Why on earth would I even think such a thing?

What would I do instead?

Well, I could read more. Not that I don’t read now, but I don’t read near the same of books I did years ago. And my to-be-read pile is so huge!

I could watch more movies, visit with more people rather than be isolated in my solitary endeavor.

Plus, these days, I feel overwhelmed by the writing tasks: writing, editing, proofing, being a beta reader for others, blogs, website, promotions, saying up to date with groups, finishing online classes that I started let alone implementing the new ideas and methodology to help with my promotions, writing, editing, brainstorming, …

Both June and July were huge busts. My goals taunted me. Daring me to get one done.

I achieved nothing. Zip. Nada. NOTHING.

In fact, I recently copied my July goals onto my August calendar.

How depressing is that?

So, there I was that night, lying there thinking that I needed to quit. Get rid of all my research, how-to, and informational books. Turn my office, which is actually my living room, into a standard living room, and be grateful I got half a dozen titles published before quitting.

The next morning, I got up and went to the computer to check my e-mail, Facebook, and Twitter updates.

The first message I saw was a post, coming from Spiritual Awakenings that said, “You’ve climbed too many mountains and crossed too many rivers to stop and turn back now.”

Talk about receiving a sign!!!!

Guess I’m not quitting after all.

 

Posted in Failures, Inspiration, Motivation, Persistence, Procrastination, Setting goals, Writing | 7 Comments

Finding Jewels Between Projects

This past weekend, I completed a couple of major projects. Usually, it takes me about a week before I’m immersed in a new project again. After completing any big project, I’ll spend time cleaning off my desk, cleaning out a closet or some bookshelves, watching movies, puttering in my little garden, and doing a couple 1000-piece jigsaw puzzles.

I think these tasks are about clearing out the cobwebs, mentally and physically.

Today, I came across a three-ring binder from my first ever website. I laughed looking at its simplicity and remembered creating it via a web-building software program, which was pre-WordPress and other website builders. I learned a lot about building websites through that easy-to-use program.

Glancing at the notebook pages and quickly removing them to throw away, I found one page that stopped me in my tracks.

My two girls were the best of friends and the worst enemies while growing up, and the page that stopped me had me giggling with a past moment remembered. I believe they would have been in middle school or early high school.

Apparently, I’d read a book by Louise Bates Arness, He Hit Me First, and had laid it aside on the couch. My oldest daughter, Carrie came in and saw it.

“I like that,” she said, reading the cover. “He hit me first. That’s cute.”

“What’s cute,” Kelly, my youngest daughter asked, stepping into the room.

“That he hit me first,” Carrie responded.

“Who did?”

“You did.”
“I did not.”

“You did too.”

“You hit me first!”

“Uh-huh, you hit me first!”

“MOM!!!!!”

Posted in Routines, Writing | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Failures IV: 7 Lessons of Failure as a Writer

People look at me and see success. Published in multiple media, in multiple genres, with various awards. With an MFA and a Ph.D., too, but there have been many failures along the way.

I have failed so many times I’ve lost count, from beginning, middle, and end.

In the beginning, I couldn’t get anything published. I tried big publications, national publications, regional, and small publications. All submissions boomeranged back. Once in a while, I’d get a handwritten note at the bottom of the mimeographed rejection, saying, I like your voice, or Please submit to us in the future. I learned from others these handwritten notes were excellent rejections because they were encouraging, that I needed do as suggested.

Only after a friend read a couple of my rejected essays and said, “This sounds like Erma Bombeck,” did I realize I needed to approach our local newspaper with a suggestion for a weekly or monthly column. Success! A six-month trial became a five-year career start.

Lesson #1 – If you can’t start big, start small.

When I turned to fiction writing, specifically romance, I had a number of magazine articles and short story publications. I was reading a romance book a day, thinking how hard can it be? Over time, I found out. I wrote four books, all getting rejections. Even a published writer friend was amazed at the rejections, saying, “It’s like you’re standing on a cliff with only the back of your heels touching. Why aren’t falling off that cliff?”

The most devastating rejections occurred with an editor writing, “I just bought a book like yours last week.” So close, yet so far away.

At 37, I had been writing romances for nine years. I vowed that if I wasn’t published by the time I turned 40, I would quit.

I turned 40. More small magazine publications, but no books. I was getting closer, though. I was winning awards or placing in contests. I had an agent. Then I lost the agent, and then a second one. They were trying to put me into a publishing box I didn’t want to climb into. They were trying to make me into a specific kind of writer that I wasn’t and didn’t want to become.

At 42, I finally published my first book. Two more book publications quickly followed.

Lesson #2 – Don’t quit. Success will come but in its own time. Quit only if you truly have no more interest in pursuing that endeavor. Ever.  

About that time, I turned to scriptwriting. Producers were impressed with my book publications. While I did option one script to a producer for six months for no money, the option ran out. He wanted to renew for another six months, again with no money. I said no. About every two years after that, he would call me, asking what I’d done with the script. I knew I had a good story. (I’m in the process of publishing that script now.)

In the meantime, I developed relationships with another five producers, all who loved my writing, but couldn’t say yes to my scripts. It became a matter of trying to find the right material. They wanted me to submit anything and everything I was writing.

Lesson #3 – Rejections can be a yes.

One of my first book submissions was a colossal failure. The Senior Editor wrote:

Thank you for submitting BOOK TITLE for our review. We have found that your manuscript does not fit the requirements for PUBLISHER LINE. It is too melodramatic, based on trite misunderstandings among the characters as well as contrived circumstances. Sincerely . . .

So, she tore down the plot and conflict, the characters, the dialogue, and the…wait, there was no comment regarding the setting. Oh, wow, she liked the setting!

I used that setting in another book, with a similar conflict, different plot, different characters, and different dialogue. It sold and was published.

Going back to that rejected manuscript later, I could see that the editor was right.

The writing was horrible.  At least, she saved me from that humiliation. I had mixed tenses, ping-pong point of view, mixed metaphors, wordiness, too much telling, and too many details that added nothing to the story or to the characters. The book was boring.

I should have burned the book, but I didn’t. I started looking at my writing from an editor’s point of view, and that’s when the real learning began.

Lesson #4 – Learn from your mistakes.

Never compare yourself to another writer. Not by their sales numbers, the number of books sold, how fast they can write, how few drafts they have to write, by their having an agent, or being traditionally published.

When you compare yourself to others, you’ll always be a failure.

Ironically, what you don’t see is that others are probably comparing themselves to you and feeling like failures.

Lesson #5 – Don’t compare yourself to others. Ever.

Their journey is not yours. Yes, some get lucky when they are young. Some get lucky with their first book. Some get lucky winning the highest awards. Some get lucky with their self-published book, earning thousands of dollars.

When I published my first book, I was in the right place at the right time. I had a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to talk to an editor, actually being the first writer to talk to this editor, an editor looking to publish romances. He said, “If you know of anyone who has a manuscript, send them my way.”  When I told him that I had one, he invited me to send it.

He rejected it! Then asked if I had anymore. I did, sent one, and he published it.

Lesson #6 – Luck is nothing more than preparedness meeting opportunity.

I’ll never forget a writer who was angry about some contest scores she’d received. When I told her it wasn’t personal, she said, “It’s personal to me!”

I’ll admit that early in my writing career, rejections felt personal. When I started coming back to the rejection and analyzed what was being said more closely, I realized that everything said was true. So, how could it be personal? That criticism was helpful, meant to show me that I had areas that needed improvement.

Lesson #7 – Rejections, failures, and criticism aren’t personal.

Failure means what you’re currently doing isn’t working.

That’s it. Nothing more. Nothing personal.

Step back. Rethink what you’re doing. Rethink the path you’re taking.

Then make a change.

Here’s the real secret. No two writers ever arrive at their level of success by taking the same path. It’d different for each and every one of us.

What’s your story going to look like?

Posted in Failures, Persistence, Writing | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Failures Part III

As I considered my next blog in this series, I came across this article in my mailbox and thought I would inject a small part of it here, between my writings, because Sue Grafton confirms what I wrote about in “Failures Part II,” in that we learn by failing.

Sue is the best-selling and award-winning author of the famous alphabet murder mystery series, with Kinsey Millhone as the protagonist: A is for Alibi, B is for Burglar, C is for Corpse…

Here are Sue’s own words about what constitutes success and why failing is important. The source link for her quoted words is below.

What has made you so successful?

I hope it is because I try to be honest, and I try not to sell anything. I just try to let the work take care of itself. . . .

What advice do you have for newer writers?

My big gripe about newer writers is they’re not willing to put the time in. Somebody’ll write one book and they’re asking me who my agent and my editor are, and I’m thinking, Don’t you worry, sweetheart, you’re not any good yet. Give yourself time to get better. Writing is really hard to master. You learn by failing over and over, but a lot of people don’t care for that, thanks. I always wish new writers the greatest good fortune. It’s a helluva journey—I’ll tell you that.

“You learn by failing over and over.”  She’s also confirming that if we write a good story, the writing will sell itself.

Reading her words, I’m being reminded by an expert that I need to stop trying to sell, that I need to turn my focus back to the writing of the stories.

Guest Column. “W Is for Writer: A 2010 interview with Sue Crafton (1940=2017).” Web blog post. There are No Rules. Writer’s Digest, 31 Dec. 2017. Web. 9 Jan 2018.

http://www.writersdigest.com/editor-blogs/there-are-no-rules/interviews/w-writer-2010-interview-sue-grafton-writers-digest

 

Posted in Failures, Persistence, Selling the Writing, Writing | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Failures Part II

Before I begin, I have to tell you that I had to restart this particular blog at least 20 times. I knew what I wanted to say but was failing every time! Finally, having about six pages of single-spaced paragraphs of various starts and stops, I stepped back and analyzed, realizing I kept segueing off into several other topics of failure. Instead of this blog being a two-part blog, it needs to be three parts or, maybe, even four parts. Yup, more to come . . . but for now, here’s Part II.

My last post provided a list of successful people who failed early in their careers. Did you see it? If not, you may want see it or revisit the list for inspiration. It’s quite an eye-opening list. (Failures: Part I)

But let’s focus on how we fail and how we need to fail in order to learn.

Consider babies learning to walk. They fall down a lot! No baby ever gets up and starts running. They practice.

Kids learn a sport through practice. After school, on weekends, during games, alone, with others.

Most anyone who plays a musical instrument, does so because they practiced. Same with dancers, painters, anyone learning an art, or a trade. They practice. (I say most because there can be the savant that amazes everyone.)

 Failure Is Part of Practice

We learn when we’re frustrated, when we’re unhappy.

Let that sink in for a moment.

We learn when something is hard, when it requires our full attention, our full determination.

We learn most when we fail.

In failure we learn how to do it right. Edison said, “I learned 999 ways how not to create a light bulb.”

So, how does a writer move from failure to success?

  • Keep writing. Finished your first book? Great. Start writing a second one, while you edit the first. Finished your fifth? Great! Start writing the next one, while you edit, polish, submit, or consider making changes on the other three.
  • Be prepared to gets rejections. Maybe lots of them. I can paper the walls of my house with my rejections. Even the best writers still get them. Know that rejections are never personal. Your work just wasn’t a good match (think dating which leads to marriage) for that publication.
  • Enter contests. Placing in a contest is a sign that you’re writing is better than the average. However, different judges could have determined different results. Humbling, isn’t it?
  • Keep writing. Keep practicing.
  • Take classes. I’ve been writing for nearly forty years and I’m still taking class AND learning new things.
  • Get a degree in writing. Getting my BA in creative writing and then an MFA in drama were the best decisions I’ve ever made. One, because I was forced to embrace writers and readings I never would have chosen on my own, and second, the MFA allowed me to get a day job in my favorite passion and that job became fun! That education both broadened and deepened my writing skills.
  • Read everything, especially read outside your genre. Analyze what you read. Stop and think about that phrase you praise.
  • Write and experiment in different genres. If nothing else, try them just for the fun of it. I learned how to write better fiction by learning how to write scripts. I learned how to write better dialogue by writing plays.
  • Find your niche. Most find their niche in a single genre. I finally recognized that my niche is a variety of genres. When I began having success in romance writing, I became bored. I still write romance, but I write fantasy, nonfiction, and other genres, as well. Thus the romance writing is part of the spice again. Variety keeps all genres fun and interesting.
  • Keep writing. Keep practicing.
  • Learn about the business!!! I can’t stress this one enough. If you know the business, you’ll know when someone is trying to scam you.
  • Learn grammar. Yes, learn it. Find an expert who will teach you the rules. Otherwise, be prepared to spend lots of money to line editors who will fix your errors. It’s not a wasted skill. I wasn’t an expert when I began writing, but I became an expert by having to teach others. Seriously, the best way to learn something is to teach it.
  • Read articles, the how-to books, and then ask your questions. Don’t join a forum and ask questions that you could have easily found the answers to.
  • Join writing groups. If nothing else, find a few people and start your own group. There’s nothing more inspiring than meeting with people who talk your language.
  • Find beta readers. People who will read your work and provide honest feedback. Like finding a marriage partner, agent, or editor, it could take a while to find good beta readers. They shouldn’t be relatives or best friends, however, unless they have a degree in English.
  • Become a beta reader yourself. You’ll learn lots by reading the writings of others. You’ll see your mistakes in their work. And you’ll probably discover that you’re writing is better than you thought.

And above all, keep writing. Keep practicing.

If you still keep failing, remember Edison’s lesson of finding 999 ways not to do something. He had to keep changing his process 999 times until he found his success on his 1000th try. Nine hundred-ninety-nine times. Are you willing to go that distance?

Do you have the ability to change up what isn’t working? To put in the hours of practice?

If you do, then you’ll preserve your way to success . . . eventually.

Happy writing!

| Leave a comment

Failures – Part I

So many times, I’ve witnessed students and new writers exclaim that successful writers never failed.

That’s when I would share this list of successful people who failed early in their careers.

When I shared this list with my students, immediately I had their attention. I knew what they were thinking: well, if that person could fail and still be successful, then there’s hope for me!

Everyone, absolutely everyone, unless they are a savant, start their craft as a beginner and will encounter failures.

Yes, there are exceptions, but they are few, and more often than not they will experience failure somewhere else in their career. Or they’ll stop with that one huge successful book fearing failure if they continue. Margaret Mitchell, who wrote Gone with the Wind, was one such person. Truman Capote, of In Cold Blood, was yet another.

Here’s a list of successful people who failed:

  • Dr. Seuss was rejected 23 times.
  • Michael Jordon was cut from high school basketball.
  • Henry Ford went broke 5 times.
  • Helen Keller graduated cum laude from Radcliffe College, became famous author & lecturer.
  • Albert Einstein was rejected by University of Bern on his PhD dissertation saying it was irrelevant and fanciful. (And if not for his wife who typed the papers and submitted them, he never would have been published.)
  • Richer Hooker worked 7 years on M*A*S*H and was rejected by 21 publishers.
  • Babe Ruth struck out 1330 times.
  • Walt Disney was fired by a newspaper for lack of ideas.
  • Beethoven’s violin teacher declared him hopeless as a composer.
  • IBM, GE, RCA all rejected the Xerox machine.
  • Parker Brothers turned down Trivia Pursuit.
  • Bette Davis, Clark Gable, Maurice Chevalier, Shirley Temple, and Laurence Olivier all failed their screen tests.
  • Fred Estaire was cited in a memo by MGM executive after his first screen tests in 1933 that he “can’t act, slightly bald. Can dance a little.”
  • John Grisham’s book, A Time to Kill, was rejected by 28 publishers.
  • William Golding’s book, Lord of the Flies, was rejected 21 times.
  • Pearl Buck’s book, The Good Earth, was rejected 14 times.
  • George B. Shaw’s first five novels were rejected.
  • Mary Higgins Clark’s first short story was rejected 40 times.
  • Louis L’Armour’s first story was rejected 350 times.
  • Stephen King was rejected 41 times before his first manuscript was accepted.

Doesn’t this list give you hope? Sure did me!

Bottom line: The only ones who really fail are those who give up!

Posted in Failures, Persistence | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

The Lettuce Myths

Seriously? A blog about lettuce?

Yup.

It happened because I was trying to write a blog about my bucket list, which morphed into two other blogs. There was no continuity with any of the writing, so I gave up, answering the internal lunch bell, AKA, the stomach growlies that scream, “Feed me!”

I lay a bed of kale in a bowl and got out a knife. Immediately, I heard my mother’s voice: Always tear lettuce. If you cut it with a knife, you destroy its flavor. Yes, she used to say that. More than once. Every time I had to set the table and put lettuce on our plates, she said it. I set the table every other night. We had iceberg lettuce with nearly every meal.

And then, not so many years ago, I had this friend who told me she never eats iceberg lettuce because it has no nutritional value; she only eats the other lettuces. I actually laughed at that one because how can one lettuce have 100% nutritional value and the other have 0%? I found that comment irrational from a critical thinking standpoint and because this was coming from a highly degreed individual. Where had that information come from for it to be parroted so strongly?

After that discussion, I will admit, however, that I began to wonder: do different lettuces have different nutritional values?

I did the research.

Yes, different lettuces do have different trace levels of nutrients, but they are trace levels, as in a hundredth of a percent! I reported back to my friend, but she didn’t believe me. She continues to blissfully buy the more expensive lettuces, choosing to believe the marketeers over the science. I continue to buy iceberg, but I’ll admit that I do add spinach and kale to the mix, when wanting to splurge or add a varying blend of green to my plate.

As to the cutting versus tearing myth, I couldn’t find one source that said anything about diminished flavor, but there were many sites that talked about the myth of cut edges turning brown not being true.

Turns out that both these myths were just that: myths.

Of course, now I’m also wondering, where in the heck do these myths come from? What is any myth’s genesis?

The research continues.

This is where I have a love relationship with the Internet. Researching is far easier now than it was pre-Internet.

So, what myths have you debunked or always wondered about?

Posted in Writing | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

A Village at Work

As a writer, I’m privy to a lot of conversations. A good majority of those conversations come from my characters who converse inside my head. Sometimes they gang up on me, like little kids, demanding, “Me next!” “It’s my turn!” Other times, as I write their journals, they talk about their deep wounds, their darkest secrets they want no one else to know. Other times they make me laugh at the things they say to each other.

As a teacher, I was privy to a lot of conversations. Before class would start, I would overhear two guys boasting about their 1) truck mudding weekend, 2) their beer/sports binging weekend, or hear about 3) their boring weekend where nothing good happened because 1) their truck was on blocks or 2) they were so broke, they couldn’t buy any beer.

I’d overhear young mothers exchanging stories about their kids; or, I’d overhear an older student reveal that she wrote her draft due that day late the night before while in a hospital or hospice room or at the home of a parent because a parent had 1) fallen and broken a hip, 2) suffered a heart attack, 3) or that the end was near.

I overheard many, many heartbreaking stories, ordinary stories, and sometimes the extraordinary story that got many of us involved in conversations well before class started and often become part of the class discussion because of the topic.

As a citizen who enjoys eating out, I’m privy to a lot conversations that swirl around me in the restaurants. My favorite place is a local diner where the tables, as opposed to the booths, are close, reminding me of New York and Chicago, where tables for two are lined up in neat tight, rows, with just enough room for the booth-side occupants to squeeze through to get seated.

On Father’s Day, I took my step-father out to breakfast at our favorite diner. Naturally, the place was crowded. In a corner that had four tables in close proximity, we were hearing each other’s conversations.

In the middle of our group was a family of three: mom, dad, and a young man of college age. The dad was telling the son that he was embarking on a life-altering experience and not to shrug away the wonderful opportunity that he had been given.

The topic: getting a college education.

The initial discussion was about algebra. Dad was saying that even though the son might never use the algebra as he was taught (the equations specifically) that he would be using algebra his entire life to solve other kinds of problems.

It sounded like the son didn’t like algebra and didn’t want to take the class because he didn’t know what he wanted to do. That such classes were a waste of time. The son respectfully listened as his father explained that no class is ever a waste of time, that those first classes are building a foundation for all other classes that would follow.

Go Dad! It was a speech I’d given with experiential understanding as to why they are necessary.

The father continued saying that anyone who has earned a doctorate deserved to be called doctor, simply by the fact that the degree involved a lot of work. Dedicated years. The son was saying he didn’t know if he wanted to go to graduate school, with dad saying even though he didn’t know now, not to blow off the early classes, as they would become important.

And then, the magic happened.

A father at the next table on the other side, spoke up, saying, listen to your dad. He knows what he’s talking about, that what you earn in life is determined by the education you obtain.

Soon, these two families had me and a woman at a fourth table engaged in the conversation, because we had been nodding our heads in agreement.

What I wanted to be able to tell that young man was:

College is not like high school. College attracts people who want to be there.

College is about your beliefs and your values being scrutinized in a way never done before or by people you’re not related to. That college is about turning your life upside down and inside out, which forces understanding of why you believe what you do. For some, it’s a huge transformation because it’s their first encounter of such scrutiny, and where they first realize that their values and beliefs belong to their parents, not to themselves.

College is where you’ll find your people: people who think like you do, who have the same career dreams, who act like you do; meaning, you won’t be the only nerd in the room; now, it’s a roomful of nerds! And yes, we’re all nerds of one kind or another. I’m a writing nerd. There are language nerds, literature nerds, math and science nerds, computer nerds, accounting nerds…

College is where swear words are allowed. I always found it amusing when a student would throw out the first f-bomb and everyone held their breath, waiting for my retort. I would laugh. That’s when the real conversations began to take place, because we professors are after the ideas behind the words.

When the dad had sent the son off to pay the bill, to figure out the 20% tip that needed adding, we asked and learned that the son was 19.

That’s when Dad turned to Mom and said, “He’s not your little baby boy, anymore.”

Yup, the magic of a village was happening that morning in one small diner in one small town.

Posted in Education, Motivation, Setting goals | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

Conferences, Retreats, & Write-Ins: Oh, my!

A number of my writing peeps are blogging about the our recent Retreat From Harsh Reality, a weekend where we as an organization, Mid-Michigan Romance Writers of America, put on an annual writing retreat.

I don’t want to repeat all of their accolades and what we did specifically; so instead, I’ll answer those questions that writers often ask:  How is a conference different from a retreat?   What is a write-in?

Both writing conferences and writing retreats desire to make money for their organization, or at the utmost minimum, pay for the expenses, such as was my goal last fall when I put together our organization’s Halloween weekend write-in retreat.  Otherwise, what’s the point?  Write-ins can be free or they can involve costs depending on their location or whether they are sponsored.

Conferences

These are formal affairs.  Dress is generally business casual.  There is always one main speaker, a noted professional of rank and success, which is a draw for the conference.  This individual becomes the plenary or featured speaker, sometimes providing a workshop or two.

Additionally, there will be other speakers:  published writers, agents, editors, sometimes publishers, and they provide workshops or sometimes speak in a panel workshop or panel event.

Smaller conferences may offer a day of speakers, where the audience stays seated and the speakers come up front.  Other conferences offer several workshops at the same time, forcing the attendees to choose from two more different workshops.

A common theme for all conferences is where members of the sponsoring organization offer workshops in their field of expertise.

Some conferences are specific genre focused, such as fiction writers or poets.  Other conferences invite writers of all genres to attend and then offer multiple genre tracks of workshops, such as fiction track, non-fiction track, writing for children track, and so on.

I’ve attended small conferences of 100, with the biggest having over 3,000 attendees.  Costs are in relationship to the size of the conference, its location, its speaker headliners, and the number of meals provided.

Generally, at the bigger conferences, only a few main meals are provided with attendees finding restaurants for the rest of their meals.

Retreats

These are less formal events, but they still provide some structure.  Jeans are appropriate.  More often than not, there is a speaker.  It could be someone from within the group sponsoring the retreat or it could an invited professional, whose expenses are being paid.

Depending on the event location, some or all meals can be provided.  The retreats provide writing time for the attendees or free time where they can meet for brain-storming or discussing the business of writing.  Some retreats providing workshops in the morning, writing time in the afternoon, and sharing time at dinner.

A retreat at a bed and breakfast, or one with a great vista location and themed with a great writer, such as the weeklong retreat honoring Virginia Woolf, A Room of Her Own Foundation for Women, in New Mexico every year can provide the camaraderie for those who don’t belong to a writing organization that meets locally or regularly.

Write-Ins

These are events where the goal is for participants to get away from day-to-day responsibilities and to spend their time writing.  While you’re all together physically, you’re working individually.

I’ve been at twice-weekly write-ins at various eateries, such as Panera Bread, Grand Traverse Pie Company, Starbucks, or other locations that cater to writers, while I was living in Kalamazoo.  We would meet for a few hours in the evening after work and then again on Saturday morning.

Last year, I hosted a Halloween weekend write-in at a nearby bed-and-breakfast, Lily Hill Farm in Paw Paw, where we brought in our own food and we came together at meal times.  Otherwise, we were spread throughout the spacious farmhouse working alone, whether in our rooms or at various tables in the main rooms.

Also, I’ve participated in virtual write-ins, such as are sponsored by the Capital City Writers Association through their Finish the Damn Book program.  As a member, while it isn’t feasible for me to travel an hour one-way to participate, I am able to participate online, quite easily.

***

These write-ins can be as long or short as you want.  They can cost nothing, cost little, or cost much more, depending on your need or desire.

I’ve always wanted to do an Ernest Hemingway Key West Retreat for a week, taking someone with me.  Or go to Mackinac Island for a few days alone or with another writer, or taking the train across the country while writing.  Lately, renting a castle in England sounds like a fun write-in event.

What about you?  Do you have any favorite writing retreat locations?

Insecure Writers Support Group Badge

Posted in Inspiration, Joy of Writing, Motivation, Writing | Tagged , , , | 8 Comments