Lessons Learned at the WD Conference

 

Two words for the Writer’s Digest Novel Conference in L.A: Worth It!

A couple of weeks of craft workshops jammed into two and a half days may be overwhelming, but there was lots of value for $249.

Twenty plus pages of facts, thoughts, post-its to self, and business cards fill my note book so this will be a two parter.

I’ll start at the beginning and give some highlights. All of the speakers have websites and resources you can find through the links I’ve listed.

Keynote quote speaker Jonathan Maberry spoke on importance of being a good literary citizen,

“don’t be a jackass,”

“any completed first draft is a win even if it’s bad because you completed it.” 

1. An Intro to Structure That Empowers Plotters and Pantsers Alike and Your Story on Steroids- Larry Brooks, Storyfix.com gave us slam dunk specifics. There are too many notes to give here, but go to his site for the free downloads. A gem for me was:

“Know the difference between concept and premise. Develop these before writing the story.”

Believe me, I’m a pantser, now in recovery, and this tip helps tremendously:

“Concept: the dramatic landscape of story that is conceptual; the stage, or arena. No character names needed. Write this in two or three sentences.

Premise: the protagonist has to have a conflict to surmount, a quest. Define your story core.”

2-Your First 50 Pages – Jeff Gerke. This author/editor is the Jim Carrey of the writing world who talked about how neuroscience relates to storytelling.

“In publishing everything is decided on your first 50 pages-if even that.”

Writing has to cause the reader to identify with someone/something in the story. Make the protagonist vulnerable or have some kind of need. Engage the readers mind with action, intrigue, curiosity. The brain is looking for danger, surprise, something new, so start with that in the beginning.

Martha Alderson, Plot Whisperer with her graph

Martha Alderson, Plot Whisperer with her graph

3. Martha Alderson, the Plot Whisper. She uses a plot graph to show you how to correspond your novel with the beginning, middle, and end of a plot.

There are four types of scenes: suspense, dialogue, crisis, and twister.

Catch her detailed mini-workshops on YouTube where she shows you how to plot a novel or screenplay.

Every scene should have a setting…goal…sensory details…forward movement…opposition.. and emotion.

There is a difference between the crisis and the climax of a novel:

Crisis-the antagonist wins, protagonist loses. Climax-protagonist wins and learns everything in the middle.

4. Ask the Agent Panel. A list of pet peeves and suggestions:

Misspelled names…using the words ‘fiction novel,’ bad grammar, writers who don’t read the submission rules,…pitching at inappropriate times. 

As if on cue, when the Q & A period began, a woman pitched her book, “Anyone interested in….” Ugh, it wasn’t pretty.

Search for agents by using Query Tracker, Twitters #MSWL (manuscript wish list), or go to the bookstore, look for books in your genre and on the last page under acknowledgements, the agents name is usually listed. I use Poet and Writers agent listing.

One of the agents said she was looking for a YA set in prison. It was like the heavens opened up when I heard this statement. I had to make myself stop wiggling in my seat and wait for a time when I could tell her I had such a novel. During Q & A I said I had the novel she wanted,  she said send it to me.

Then  I asked a question: whether more emphasis was placed  on the query or the first 10 pages. Two out of three agents said the first pages.

I need 50 pages to know if a book is good, but only 1 to know it’s not.”

 

I hope you found something useful for your writing life. Investigate the presenters sites. Plan to attend a conference on writing craft. Invest in your writing.

If you have a specific question that I may provide information for, please ask me in the comment section.

 

 

Writing Conferences

A little siesta to refresh

 

I’m on my way to the Writer’s Digest Novel Intensive conference in Century City, CA for the weekend.

Yes, going to the home of the celebrities. Terrible traffic and exorbitant prices in that city. I can’t afford the hotel costs so I’m couch surfing it at my best friends apartment four cities away.

I’m feeling a little trepidation, a smidgen of excitement.

Will I learn something new, better, meet an agent, meet new friends?

So I’m off with my laptop, notebook and plenty of pens.

No business cards though. Are they even relevant anymore? We’ll see.

Have an awesome weekend!

 

 

Self Love – Poem

Breeze - flickr.com by Lettuce1

Breeze – flickr.com by Lettuce1

 

The morning breeze has secrets to tell you

don’t go back to sleep. ~ Rumi

 

There is something about the very early morning hours of a new day. A portal into the unconscious. I awoke at 3 a.m. and listened to the pre-dawn sounds: a whispering early morning breeze, the house settling, swaying branches.

Thoughts spilled out onto a nearby notepad.

 

Self Love 

 

Unearth your soul

buried under layers of debris

called rejection, abandonment,

trauma.

 

Dig deep

excavate with care

around a fragile treasure,

yours to be found.

 

Keep going

brush away the dirt

until the glow

from your soul appears.

 

Lift gently,

bring your essence forth,

cradle you

in warm hands.

 

Hold close,

a luminous life force,

resplendent and 

uniquely yours.

 

Breathe deep,

promise yourself

never to ever

bury yourself again.©

 

What secrets do the morning breeze bring to you?

A Time to Dance- Book Review

 

Classical Dancer in the style Bharatanatyam- gettyimages.com by elkor

Classical Dancer in the style Bharatanatyam- gettyimages.com by elkor

 

Can you believe it? We’re in the middle of summer already. Days shoot by like the unseasonably hot temperatures recently experienced in Southern California.

A lack of air conditioning and a very warm house makes for evening reading on my porch swing while I occasionally swat at mosquitos or my dog, Chip, who tries to jump up to join me. His 35 pounds of muscle sway the swing enough to give me vertigo. When that happens, I take my book inside and read from 10 p.m to midnight, when it’s cooler.

This is my summer reading list and I’m two books into the pile with one, “The Ice Cream Queen,” a third of the way read.

Research for a current work in progress had me digress into three other books, so my ambitious 10 books to read in 12 weeks of summer has suffered a bit.

But on to the first book: 

A Time To Dance by Padma Venkatram. YA/Adult Fiction

This is the author’s third book. Her critically acclaimed novels Climbing the Stairs and Island’s End were both ALA/YALSA Best Book for Young Adults, NYPL Book for the Teen Age, Kirkus Best Book of the Year, among several other awards.

My skin tingles as I step into the music,

give in to the icy thrill of pleasure

that spreads through me whenever I dance,

the pleasure of leaping into a cool lake on a 

sweltering day.

Veda is a teenager passionate about Bharatanatyam, an ancient classical Indian dance. She wins competitions, lives dance and sees a bright future following this passion although her parents want her to chose another occupation, which causes her some conflict and mimics the conflict that her romantic interest faces.

After an accident, Veda’s leg is amputated below the knee. Adjusting to a prosthetic is not only painful and humbling, but emotionally crushing. When she struggles to dance again, she faces ridicule from schoolmates, stumbles, and physical pain. An opportunity, as an instructor of dance for young children, illustrates the development of Veda’s resilience, character, and her adaptation to a new reality.

The main character’s are likable, realistic in reactions, portray traditional parents and a gentle, inspiring grandmother. What I especially enjoyed were the inclusion of traditional dress, foods, and the prayer rituals.

Each chapter is constructed as a poem, some one page others three or four pages. The writing is poetic, filled with imagery and as rhythmic as the classic dance which Veda studies. If this novel had been written in narrative, it would have been much shorter than 300 pages. It is a quick read and worth the time.

This book is under $10 on Kindle.

Recommendation: Add it to your library.

Caveat Emptor – Poem

flickr.com- by Marsmettin Tallahassee

flickr.com- by Marsmettin Tallahassee

Remember when I began cleaning out and donating books? Well, that’s when I found a 2008 journal, lumpy from two 8 x 11 sized papers folded in fourths. I had written my first poem on those papers at a workshop.

Denise Chavez, author of Face of An Angel, Loving Pedro Infante, Last of the Menu Girls, and two others, was the instructor of the first writing workshop I attended. Her instruction, her demeanor, and her passion were poetry in motion.

The first day was about getting in touch with our senses. We sketched, found our own talismans, went outside for a walk, and wrote.

On the second day, Ms. Chavez directed us to a small dictionary which sat in the middle of the desk. The task was to open the book at whim, and with closed eyes blindly select a word.

My word was in Latin. Thankfully, “Caveat Emptor*” was defined in English. This word was to serve as a prompt for a poem. I wrote it down, put it into my journal and forgot about it for six years. With a little revising, here it is:

Caveat Emptor

 

He was the lie from hello to goodbye.

The master of mask, the emperor of illusion,

carrying a pedestal,

a singular prop.

 

Musical words floated from his mouth

under her feet, skirt, arms

gently lifting her up

resting her body atop a velvet chaise

sounds lulling her into the 

magic of romance.

 

Eyelids heavy with love dust,

obscuring the red checkered flags

the blinking yellow caution lights,

deep potholes covered in webs

until she sank, deep into the

fantasy of love. 

 

Two years later,

the lies, the facts tore

away the veils,

revealed the reality, spun

her into agony

 

until the door slammed behind him,

stirred her awake from the

illusion of love, where she

could plainly see

 

the words “Caveat Emptor”

written on the back

of his shirt. ©

 

 

*ca·ve·at emp·tor
ˌkavēˌät ˈempˌtôr/
noun
  1. the principle that the buyer alone is responsible for checking the quality and suitability of goods before a purchase is made.

    In other words, “Buyer Beware.”

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