Archive for June, 2014

50th Published Post: So Now What do I Do?

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Sock animal and a C2 doll on my bookshelf.

This is going to be my 50th  published post. Even though this is close to  a post a week for a full year, it appears my first effort launched in September. I received notice of an automatic payment for my URL due in July, so I must have had the blog in mind for awhile before I actually wrote anything.

One of the reasons I started the blog was that I attended the Writing and Yoga Retreat and Linda Epstein, the agent who was one of the two people running the retreat mentioned she checks online presence while she waits for requested material. This made me think, “Oh, maybe I really do need some sort of web page.”  So I bought a URL and then set about learning a bit about setting up a blog site.

Because the manuscript I was hoping to sell at the time  had at least a secondary theme of friendship, and because friendship theory  has always been of great interest to me, I wanted to concentrate on writing about that. In college I did numerous papers on the subject, including my own theory, which I explicated briefly in my novel. I liked the idea of writing about something other than writing,because it seemed presumptuous to think I had something more to say about writing than one of the other 678,9452* other blogs out there addressing writing.

Besides, I’ve always been a bit contrary and wanted to write about something else. Something the rest of the world wasn’t addressing. I googled friendship and found a few websites but nothing that appeared active or addressed the aspects I was interest,ed in.  So I thought I’d be okay.

But like most of my other blog ideas, this one was harder to write about than I thought. I have things to say; the question is, do I want to say them in a potentially public forum where I might be talking about someone who might read the post? It’s in the (remote) realm of possibility.

For awhile, it seemed that everything was saying, “If you write, you need a blog to attract readers.” I took a social media course through the Women’s Fiction Writers Association and it stressed  you needed a place for your fans to find out about you. My thought was, “But I want readers, not fans.” I wasn’t looking for (unlikely) adoration, nor was I looking to become friends via my blog. I mean, I wouldn’t mind meeting  people or even becoming friends, but that wasn’t the main purpose of the blog.

Now I’m seeing more and more articles/blog posts saying that you don’t really need to have a blog, or maybe you don’t need to spend that much time on one. (Here is one about blogging.)  I enjoy coming up with topics, especially linking activities and objects that seem to have little to do with writing to writing. I find blog posting satisfying, if time consuming, and the time it consumes is that in which I should be working on my latest manuscript.

That last is a reason I should stop, but last week I finally had cards made up to hand out to people I meet at conferences and I put this web address on them.

I did manage to write enough columns to have bypassed my previous “record” of four posts, and I do have a second blog which I plan to keep going. The second is a quick weekly challenge that involves eating pancakes, so it has its own reward.

Maybe what I’ll change is the title of this blog. Probably what I should adjust is the focus. Since I am time-limited due to my work schedule, I will have to post this as it is right now and worry about those other changes later–or leave it for Post 51!

Why do you keep blogging? What keeps you from giving up?

*for my very literal readers, this is a made up number and, I hope, an obvious exaggeration.

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The Blue Tongue Project: Finding Inspiration at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science

At first glance this post about The Denver Museum of Nature and Science didn’t seem to have much to do with writing, reading, or friendship, but as I wrote it, I naturally found a way to tie in three of the topics of this blog.

In 2012, I attended the first Colorado State University Alumni Beer Tasting at which we not only sampled innovative small plates concocted with various beers, but also sipped selections from a number of breweries. The participants were treated to a talk on the history and science of brewing by Dr. Nicole Garneau, the chair and curator for human health in the DMNS Department of Health Science. She mentioned an experiment that was being conducted with volunteer visitors to the museum. As I am someone who loves many bitter foods but doesn’t like bitter beers (sours are another matter), I was greatly interested in this research into the genetics of “supertasters.” This was nicknamed the blue tongue project. Three thousand visitors participated in the study, and the results have been published in Frontiers of Integrative Neuroscience. Participating  was fun, interesting, and exciting. What more do you need to be inspired? You could come with ideas for stories set in a lab, or with a character as a study participant.

Having my curiosity piqued energizes me and gives me the inspiration to work on my own writing even if it isn’t a science fiction tale of experiments gone wrong. Currently, the Genetics of Taste Lab is conducting a study on the ability to taste fatty acids. Pretty much all you have to do to take part is show up.

One of my favorite exhibits at the DMNS is hidden away on the third floor. I’m always afraid it is either gone, or I’m lost, when I walk through rooms of stuffed animals to find it. The delight Konovalenko: Gem Carvings of Russian Folk Life sets off in me is well worth the search.

The first time I encountered this room full of carvings and dioramas, I was one of the few visitors. Lately, it has become more crowded, limiting the time I can stand in front of each tableau and marvel at the use of the different stones and the expressions on the sculptures’ faces. I expect these miniature people to stand up and sing bawdy beer songs. It isn’t hard imagining them coming to life after-hours.

There is plenty of other inspiration to be found, especially in the rotating exhibits. Currently on display is MAYA: Hidden Worlds Revealed. This exhibit would be a must for anyone writing about that  culture. The recently completed exhibit, Pompeii: The Exhibition, might have inspired those writing about that event, whether fiction or nonfiction. The overwhelming emotions the replicas of the dead brought up might provide inspiration for a natural disaster story or even pure horror. Remembering the exhibit made descriptions in Rising Fire by John Calderazzo come to life.

Many more opportunities exist at the museum, especially for members. The IMAX Theater is featuring three 3d films this summer. Topics  include D-Day, lemurs, and pandas. The museum offers classes, bird walks, and programs for families, including sleepovers. During the summer, the museum is open some Friday nights during which you can enjoy their cash bar. Why not join and enjoy some new inspiration for your writing? You might even build on a friendship you already possess–or possibly make a new one!

 

 

 

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Crested Butte Writers’ Conference, Really a Conference Like No Other!

This past weekend I attended the Crested Butte Writing Conference which advertises itself as “An Experience like No Other.” More than one of the guest speakers agreed that this was true. One of my friends, and fellow attendees, was a finalist in their writing competition, The Sandy.* I suggested to her that this was a much more laid back conference than others she might have attended. There is no banquet, and although a list of the contest winners was included in the program, and each was featured during a panel, I never  heard an announcement of the overall winner(s). Possibly this information was posted.

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The Princess. A winebar.

There are no dinners provided. Instead, you are free to eat in your room. Many of the available rooms had kitchenettes or full kitchens. Or you could sample one of the many restaurants in the historic town of Crested Butte itself. The conference and most of the hotels are located in Mt. Crested Butte, which is a short  (free) shuttle ride from the actual town of Crested Butte. (You might think of Mt. Crested Butte as the big fancy hotels and ski area and the town of Crested Butte as the hippie area with all the restaurants and funky shops.) One of the nicest aspects of this conference experience is that it currently is small, and even if you aren’t dining with one of the visiting writers, agents, or editors, you very well may run into them while having dinner. Or, as was the case for numerous attendees, you were invited (or tagged along) and had dinner in a large group with many of these same people.

This conference also runs its “pitch sessions” differently than most. Instead of making appointments with the agent/editors or accosting them in the elevator, never letting them have a moment’s peace, and causing many attendees to be both anxious and possibly less open to spending time with other writers, you submit your pitch and first page PRIOR to the conference. The a/e then receive a large document with all the pitches and pages and flag those they may actually be interested in. THEN an appointment is set for you to talk to the person who has preselected your material. I posit that this makes the conference atmosphere less anxious and more enjoyable for all concerned. You might wonder how those who are not selected to pitch feel? This was the second time I attended this particular conference. The first time, there was some sort of mix-up and I missed the deadline to submit. The current system is for you to be notified about a week prior to the conference if you have been given a pitch spot. If you have been, a slip of paper with the time and place is included in your registration folder. I heard nothing, but since I was doing an Advanced Read and Critique session, an add-on (as is the pitch session), I was okay with it.

There are other opportunities during the conference where you might catch an agent or editor’s attention. One is the ARC mentioned above. Another is the “first page read.” First page reads have become more common at other conferences in the last so many years, but the first one I ever participated in was at the conference five years ago. During this, someone reads a mix of first pages to a panel of editors and agents. Although you want to see how your first page is viewed, it is also educational to hear why an agent or editor might stop reading any page. The person who sets up this session mixes in some openings to books currently on the bestseller list and, yes, this does trip up the panel. This year’s panel was nicer than that of five years ago,  and one manuscript was actually requested!

Other, unexpected benefits might ensue. The first day of the conference, prior to the ARC, a man who was attending asked me if I’d attended a few years ago. I said yes and didn’t think too much about it, but by the end of the weekend, I was curious why he remembered me. Had I said something especially obnoxious? He looked vaguely familiar, but I couldn’t think why he’d remember me. I hadn’t read during the open mike night. During the last session I asked him. He remembered a line from my first page read! That alone made me feel good, but the editor from my Advanced Read session had many good ideas to improve my selection and said she wanted to see it when I was done.

I consider a conference a success if I come away with at least one new writing friend. At least one other conference attendee found me on Twitter, and there is that Facebook page referenced below. I have the email address of three more, plus I know I’ll see a fourth at RMFW. One or two others also said they’d be there, and since a number of them are very tall men, I’ll more than likely see and recognize them.

If you are looking for a small, friendly conference were most of the speakers are approachable and the presentations are interesting, this is one you should look into next year!

 

*I currently can’t link to the conference page, but here is the link to the Facebook page. https://www.facebook.com/pages/Crested-Butte-Writers/188744957828306

 

 

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Do Covers Define Genre? What Might You Include on Yours?

Some people know that I’m not fond of the category “women’s fiction,” at least partly because I don’t know what it means. Although I do belong to the Women’s Fiction Writers Association, I’m not convinced I’m a women’s fiction writer. I am female and I do write fiction, but I’d say it was mainstream.

I’ve had a difficult time tracking down novels in that category, or at least novels that aren’t also part of another genre, most commonly a historical novel or a romance. Yesterday I posted a query in a forum on WFWA asking for examples of “women’s movies.” Andrea J. Wegner who has a most interesting looking website, Write with Personality, suggested that women’s fiction is a marketing gimmick to target mainstream fiction to women. Her contention was that the main difference between regular old mainstream fiction and women’s fiction was in the books’ covers.

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This is an interesting idea and worth a few posts. My first thought, though, was to wonder if any of my manuscripts were to be published, what would the covers look like? What three representative items might be on the cover? Picking out representations of your story is an interesting and fun hypothetical exercise for any yet-to-be-published manuscript.

Here’s my thoughts on some of my manuscripts, which are in various stages of doneness.

Man in the Middle:

An old Miss Havisham-type exterior of a house, large and looming with three stories and peeling paint. A cluster of women, including a gaunt, gray-haired woman, a grandmotherly woman with white hair, two or three tall, dark-haired women, a plump blonde teenager and a cross loooking redhead. Somewhere there would have to be the outline of a man who is an above the knee amputee.

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Alternate: the same man, fly tying equipment, possibly with a strand of the redhead’s hair caught in his vice. Those three images could be contained in the outline of the same house.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Trillium:

The obvious image here would be a representation of said flower, maybe with a dollhouse, a whiskey bottle and spilled glass, and a station wagon from the 60s, somehow drawn on each of a petal or at the tip of a petal. At each of the leaves there could be the representation of a woman—an older matronly woman, a middle aged but attractive woman, and a younger but harried looking woman. At the center would be a bald man.

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Alternate image: A Hawaiian shirt, a circuit board, a cabin in the woods with a Wired Hair Pointing Griffin in the doorway.

 

Cuisine of Loneliness: A spilled box of fettuccine. Or maybe the title could be made out of pasta.

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Three dark haired men grouped in one corner. One a chef, another a doctor, the third that same amputee, but older. A balding red-haired man in the opposite corner with a dark haired woman with two Irish Water Spaniels in the middle.

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Alternate: A chef’s toque with a rolling pin flattening it, smashed china, and the skyline of Las Vegas in the background.,

 

The Lack: A wiry blond man sitting on the steps of a large Eastern house with a young girl on the porch next to him, a tall, dark-haired man with a small boy in front of a smaller house with boarded up front windows, a road running between the two and a woman in the middle, possibly with the roadway wrapped around her in a knot.

 

Alternate: A pistol, a tipped over coffee cup with only a drop of coffee left, a half-made wooden bow.

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Do any of these conceptual covers appeal to you more than others? How would you represent your own novels in progress?

 

 

 

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