Thursday, April 29, 2010

Pikes Peak Writers Conference 3

What I'm reading: The Player's Proposal, by Angie Daniels

Quick apology - we were without Internet for a good chunk of the day, and I'm making sure I get this post up in case it goes out again. That means I don't have time for any illustrations. Sorry.

Moving progress. We went to the Post Office yesterday, where we were told our mailbox keys would be ready. No curbside delivery here, so we'll have to schlep to a bank of mailboxes at the end of the street. The half-mile or so wouldn't be too bad, but the return trip is uphill all the way. We'll see how much exercise we want.

At any rate, the Postmaster (that's how she introduced herself, not as Postmistress, so I guess that's correct) was well aware of our arrival and knew exactly where we lived. Her house isn't far from ours, it turns out. She proceeded to fill us in on the neighbors, several of whom are from Florida. Her husband, as a matter of fact, does construction work there for a good part of the year. It took about 20 minutes before we were finished with advice, which included checking for antlers in the yard because the deer like to lie under the trees, and to make sure any bird feeders were hung out of the reach of bears.

Welcome to small-town, country living. Can't wait to get back to working on my manuscript. Plenty of character fodder!

Now, back to the Pikes Peak Writers Conference. Remember, these are simply recaps of what was presented, and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of management.

The next workshop I attended was on Small Presses, presented by Kate Gale, head of Red Hen Press. She addressed the changes in publishing, and how few small presses are left—indeed, how many mid-size presses have survived. She suggested that those writing non-fiction and memoir look into University presses, because they have the requisite stability to stay around.

She also recommended small presses as places for authors to reinvent their careers, giving the example of an author with a 3 book deal at a major publishing house whose sales were in the 30,000 book range, who was dropped. She spoke about the effort required for a small press to stay afloat. She personally hand-delivers galleys for review to all the major review publications.

For small presses, the issue is distribution. Red Hen's books are distributed by the University of Chicago Press, which gets them into more bookstores.

Other changes she mentioned: Production has become easier with the advent of electronic transmissions. Also, publicity is in flux, changing rapidly. Authors are expected to promote, especially via Social Networking.

Her plan for being published:
1. Write regularly
2. Editing is a 6 step process:
1. You write
2. Get feedback from a writing community
3. Get professional editing – but any editor who charges more than $1.50 a page to read/edit your work is ripping you off.
4. Selection Editing (getting a publisher to accept the work)
5. Content Editing
6. Copy editing

She left us with the following advice: You want to be a player, not a taker.

Friday's dinner speaker was Jodi Thomas, who had the crowd laughing until it hurt. She also gave another workshop Saturday, and I'm combining her words of wisdom here. She spoke of her road to success, and what it was like trying to become an author. I didn't think to bring my notebook (thoughtfully provided by the conference organizers), and I was laughing too hard to write, but a few of her comments stuck with me. One was particularly memorable because it's a question every author hears. She said when she is asked, "Where do you get your ideas?" she's tempted to respond with, "Where do yours go?"

Although she studied writing, she said she has yet to grasp the comma. So, when she turned in a manuscript, she included two pages of commas, telling the editors that when they put them where they belonged, her work would be the right length.

Another time, her editor told her the manuscript was too short. Jodi tried to lengthen it, but she felt her writing was already tight and there really wasn't anyplace to add anything more. She was bemoaning her predicament when her son asked what the heroine's name was. She said, "Mary." He said, "Make her Mary Elizabeth." And sure enough, that was enough to give her the magic page count, and she never told her editor what she'd done.

She spoke of the discipline required to succeed. You don't have to be better than the person at the top; you only have to work harder than the person who's at your level, competing for your own slot. "A successful writer is willing to do what a non-successful writer is not willing to do." She spoke of 3 kinds of writers: Wishbones, Jawbones, and Backbones. Wishbones want to write; Jawbones talk about writing someday, and Backbones write the book. You can't wait until you have nothing else to do to start writing.

Other advice: "Write what you like to read. If you want to know your reader, look in the mirror."

"The day you stop taking critiques is the day you're as good as you're going to get."

And she said, "Writing is just like reading, only it takes longer."

Tomorrow we'll have our usual Friday Field Trip. And, rumor has it, that our belongings will be delivered some time during the day. Next week, I'll have more workshop recaps, including one on Micro-tension by Donald Maas.


Mason Canyon said...

Sounds like it was a helpful conference. As for small-town living, you will have a never-ending supply of characters to include in your writing. Some will be so unbelievable you won't use them because you'll think no one would ever believe. :)

Thoughts in Progress

Elizabeth Spann Craig/Riley Adams said...

Oh, the discipline! Yes, I think that's the most important part, really.

This sounds like it was a great conference, Terry.


Terry Odell said...

Mason - we got a taste of the writing fodder when we were up here house hunting, and it can only get better.

Elizabeth - I agree, you have to make the commitment. Of course, I'm not doing all that well, spending too much time on moving stuff and not enough on writing.

Debra St. John said...

Thanks for continuing to post the conference recap.

Good luck using all of that new fodder in a book!

Ray said...

I would love to live in a small town, but we need to be near doctors and my wife can't travel. Both Millie and I have multiple specialists to see from time to time. We still maintain an apartment in Galax, VA in the Blue Ridge Mountains, but it is only to hang on to the dream. Millie can't comfortably travel anymore. We used to go there two or three times a year.

I really envy you.


Terry Odell said...

Debra - I've already started. :-)

Ray; I know what you mean. We're only about 20 minutes from a new hospital (and there's a fire station with a "flight for life" even closer).

Carol Kilgore said...

Q: How do you know you REALLY live in the mountains?
A: When you awake to find a bear on your deck.

Mary Elizabeth! I'm going to remember that one.

Terry Odell said...

Carol - yep, a new trick for page count. Length of character's names!

Terry Stonecrop said...

Great post. Thnaks again. Love this quote:

"Write what you like to read. If you want to know your reader, look in the mirror."

Also, your town sound as if it has lots of grist for the mill.

Terry Odell said...

Terry - or, as one of my crit partners used to say ... 'mist for the grill'

Mary Ricksen said...

Gosh I wanna go to one of the conferences. Some Day!!
I'm glad you had a great time Terry!

Jemi Fraser said...

Great post! Sounds like a really interesting conference :)

Maryann Miller said...

This series has been so helpful, Terry. Thanks for taking the time to recap all the workshops for us.

Terry Odell said...

Mary, Jemi, Maryann -- yes, it was great. Conferences are wonderful places to ignite the writing fires. I enjoy recapping -- more next week.

Deni Dietz said...

>3. Get professional editing – but any editor who charges more than $1.50 a page to read/edit your work is ripping you off.

"Ripping you off" is a harsh comment, and I totally disagree. However, you get what you pay for and there are some free-lance editors who will edit for $1.50 per page. As an editor perusing submissions, I always know when a particular free-lancer has "edited" a manuscript. She likes run-on sentences and tends to suck the life out of a character by telling rather than showing. One of her gushy website testimonials says that she made the non-pub's book "perfect."

No manuscript is perfect.

Not even mine :)

Terry Odell said...

Deni - as I stated in the post, I was merely quoting what was said. The speaker had her own opinions and didn't hesitate to voice them.