Posts Tagged WFWA

A Short Series on Various On-line Workshops

IMG_1759Since I stopped regularly blogging at the end of 2014, I’ve taken numerous online writing courses/workshops from a number of sources. Possibly my thoughts on some of the classes would be of interest or use to other writers. I will present each class in chronological order and follow up with a post on which I found most helpful and why.

Early in 2015 I did a workshop with Donald Maass through the Womens’ Fiction Writers Association. Improvements were made in the platform used for this workshop last year so it was a little easier to keep track of what you’d read by whom. Mr. Maass did manage to comment on most people’s assignments, too. Each year has a slightly different focus, so it is worth retaking each year.This is the information directly from the WFWA website:

Some manuscripts sparkle and gleam. What not only catches the eyes of agents and editors but holds them in thrall all the way through? What signals “commercial” to industry types? How can you give your project that radiance without compromising its integrity?

Topics will include:

High concept elements that don’t feel cheap.
Why readers really fall in love with protagonists.
Story worlds we don’t want to leave.
Entertaining versus illuminating.
Voices we hear versus voices we ignore.
This is a hands-on workshop with five writing assignments spread over two weeks. Presented by New York literary agent and teacher Donald Maass, author of Writing the Breakout Novel, Writing the Breakout Novel Workbook, The Fire in Fiction and Writing 21st Century Fiction.

Registration open from February 15 through March 10.

This year’s workshop runs from March 14-March 26. The cost is a reasonable $45 but you do have to first belong to the association. Dues for that are $48.

Here is the link to join: http://womensfictionwriters.org/about.php

 

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Recommending WFWA as a Great Information Source.

I just read a long and interesting blog post on types of critique groups. I especially appreciated this post because one of Anne R. Allen’s three main points of advice is to “consider the source” when you are deciding what weight to put on specific comments. For years, I’ve been loathe to enter writing contests and ask for a critique, for this very reason–I don’t know who is doing the scoring and making the suggestions. Is it an elderly woman who writes poetry for her cat or a twelve year old writing space opera? To me, it matters. Of course, either of those two could give very sage advice, but it might not fit the type of story I write.

I needed some sort of visual, didn’t I?

My post today isn’t about critique groups or writing contests, but about the large organizations writers belong to. I’ve recently joined the Women’s Fiction Writers Association. My favorite part of this group is the Industry News they send out to members every Sunday. This digest includes links to blogs and articles on publishing, craft, agents, marketing, and other topics. Quite possibly this digest alone is worth the cost of joining this association. (I suppose, in the interest of “full disclosure,” I should mention that a post from this blog was referenced a few weeks ago. It certainly increased my readership, if only for that week.) The blog on critique groups mentioned above was one of the suggested reads yesterday.

If you happen to write something that might be called women’s fiction, you might consider joining this organization. Started only last year, there are already close to 350 members, including agents such as Donald Maass and a number of published authors. The group is planning a retreat for fall of 2015 and has offered numerous online workshops.

I also belong to the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers. I’ve belonged to this local/state group on and off for years. They offer workshops in the Denver area and on the Western Slope, as well as online. Other resources include a blog and a monthly newsletter, plus a yearly conference, which is being held Sept 5-7 this year. According to an email sent this morning, there are only 49 slots left for the conference.

RMFW offers critique groups both in person and online. I attended a few meetings of a local group through RMFW a number of years ago, but the process they used didn’t work well for me. I do believe a woman who was in attendance at the first meeting I visited has gone on to be a well-known fantasy writer, so obviously the critique method works for others. The WFWA is in the process of setting up more online critique partnerships or groups.

There are numerous other local, state, or national writing organizations that provide different services. What writing organizations do you belong to? What do they offer, and which would you recommend?

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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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Better off French? The writer and French children’s Literature.

A friend of mine has a 1-year old whose father is French. When N. was pregnant, I bought Pamela Druckerman’s Bringing Up BeBe for the parents-to-be. I thought it might have some good advice and I wanted to know if it mirrored J.C.’s experiences. I’d read an excerpt in the NYTimes and thought the “method” sounded promising. I have since borrowed back the book to read. I don’t have any children, but I enjoy reading on different subjects. As a writer, you never know when information will come in handy or present an idea for a story.

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The son of N. and J.C. Photo by his mother.

All in all, most of the techniques described make sense, partly because, other than being served Camembert at 18 months, the style of parenting appears much like what my mother and other of my parents’ generation would have espoused. It sounds as if French children are far more internally motivated and less demanding of attention than their typical American counterparts. Now, there are caveats. Druckerman herself says what she describes applies mostly to parenting in Paris and, possibly, mostly to a particular socioeconomic class within Parisian society. Although she cites experts and other works, the book is based mostly on observation, not hard research.

What struck me as the reason I might be better off French was the short section on French children’s literature. Druckerman writes of American children’s literature, “…there’s usually a problem, a struggle to fix the problem, and then a cheerful resolution.” She adds, “… every problem seems to have a solution, and prosperity is just around the corner.” (p. 162) French stories, she says, start in a similar vein with a problem and struggle to solve the problem, but the solution doesn’t seem to stick for long and often there is no personal transformation or growth. Her interpretation of the less-than-perfect ending? That life is complicated, and no one is completely good or completely bad.

Of course not all American adult or children’s stories follow this format, but it seems there is a constant demand for growth and change in the characters; at least that is a criticism/question that often arises in critique sessions. Offhand, the only modern French novel I can think of that I’ve read is The Elegance of the Hedgehog. Certainly to me those characters were unlikeable, although I suppose they did change. With this as my only example, I don’t know how well adult French literature follows the model Druckerman describes in children’s books, but I know I would like to be free to write unlikeable characters who don’t necessarily find salvation by the end. And does the ending have to be happy? Most of my endings are more or less neutral, which some might see as “unsatisfying,” although the author Mark Spencer called one mauscript heartbreaking. (Yeah, yeah, it was as part of a class I paid for.)

What I  desire is the ability to write “reality” without having to be considered literary. I don’t think my writing is insightful enough,”deep” enough, nor is the prose exceptional enough for that tag, which leaves “women’s fiction” the only category available to me. I’m not sure my writing meets the  standards for this nebulous genre/category, defined at findmeanauthor.com as tapping “into the hopes, fears, dreams and even secret fantasies of women today.”  The Women’s Fiction Writers Association exists for those who write about “stories about a woman’s emotional journey.” Other than the fact that women are the main characters, I still don’t see how this is different from what was once called mainstream fiction, and that’s why it might have been easier for me if I’d been French!

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