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.