30 Jan

Writing Conferences: Don’t Be "That Guy"

Posted in Conferences, Tips, Writing

You know exactly what I’m talking about, because we’ve all seen That Guy in action.  You may have even met That Guy, or *gasp* been That Guy.  (If the latter is true, STOP.  Seriously, right now.)

When might you have encountered this rare specimen?

•  Sitting next to you on a cross-country flight, That Guy says: “Oh, you’re a writer?  I thought about writing a bestseller once… you know, like in my spare time.  I’ve got this killer idea.  Maybe you could ghostwrite for me.”

•  During the Q&A session at a conference, That Guy says to an agent: “I’m writing a book on the mating habits of Komodo dragons.  What kind of book deal could you get me?”

• When you’re a publishing intern reading slush and answering phones, That Guy calls saying: “Everyone who’s read my book loves it.  Even my lover/warden/kid/pet goat.  It must be the Best Book Ever and you’d be a fool not to publish/represent it!”

That Guy isn’t always a guy; in fact, about 50% of the time it’s a girl.  That Guy isn’t necessarily a bad writer, either.  That Guy might even get published someday if he/she/it stops being so That-Guy-ish.

So, how do you avoid being That Guy?  Two words: common sense.  Seriously.  It amazes me how many writing and publishing hurdles can be navigated if you use your noggin.  Actually, that’s kind of true in life too.

More importantly, how do you avoid the temptation of punching That Guy in the face?  I still haven’t figured this one out.  But I’ve discovered that watching this video helps.


30 Jan

Writing: We Are All in this Together

Posted in Community, Conferences, Reading, Writing

Benjamin LeRoy, of Tyrus Books, gave the closing keynote for the Writer’s Digest Conference.  While most of the sessions at this conference focused on craft or the business of writing, this keynote was pure inspiration.  Here are some clips from the speech that struck a chord for me. 

“Books allow us to see the world through someone else’s perspective.”

This is one of my favorite things about writing, or reading for that matter.  Books let us “try on” different lives and experience things we would never be able to do otherwise.  As I’ve mentioned before, story-telling is a uniquely human behavior and something that we all have in common, regardless of racial or cultural differences.  Thus, not only do books allow us to adopt different perspectives, but the very act of telling stories unites us. 

“When you take up the pen, you are documenting who we are as people.”

There is something about writing things down that everything seem more real.  As a teenager, whenever something happened at school, I had to write it in my journal, otherwise it was like it didn’t matter.  And if it didn’t matter, then it didn’t feel completely real to me.  In some ways, I still believe that.  As I’ve grown and studied literature, I’ve learned that even written words that are not factually true can ring true on an emotional level.  In many ways, fiction can feel more real that fact. 

“We are all in this together.”

As writers, it’s so easy to get caught up in things like “platform” or “getting published” but the truth is, writers and publishing professionals are on the same team.  As best I can tell, agents and editors are in this game because they love to read great writing and they believe books are important.  Writers get to supply the material.  As LeRoy explained toward the end of his talk, writers should create the best stories they can–stories that engage them–rather than trying to chase trends.

This sounded great in theory and I wanted to believe it–really, I did.   Still, doubt nagged at me so during the Q&A, I asked the following question: 

“Considering how the market is saturated with books about sparkly vampires, and considering how most human beings have the attention span of… say… a small rodent, how do we find readers for our engaging–though perhaps not quite so flashy–books?”

To which, LeRoy smiled and replied: “I don’t know.”

And this was when it all clicked for me.  Throughout the weekend, we’d heard about all the different ways that the publishing industry was changing.  eBooks.  Social media.  Blogs.  POD.  The problem is, it’s not the writing or the publishing that’s actually changing, it’s the reading.  Writers and publishers are just trying to keep up.  Sooner or later, everyone who loves books (writers, agents, editors, publishers, and anybody else) is going to have to figure out how to deal with changes in the reading industry.

This is why it’s important to remember that we’re all in this together.  We may not be able to turn back the clock or un-invent the eReader, but we can find new ways to connect with our readers and with each other.  And that’s a start.


28 Jan

SCBWI Conference this Weekend

Posted in Conferences, Kid Lit, Teen Lit

SCBWI Conference NYC

I can’t believe it’s almost Friday already and I’m heading to another writing conference.  Not like that’s a bad thing, but I feel like I haven’t fully digested the last one yet.  I haven’t posted all the recaps I wanted for the last conference and now here I am about to go to another.  But fear not, friends.  I have a couple more WDC recaps lined up for this weekend (set to post while I’m busy conferencing), and then next week I’ll share all the inspiring and exciting things I learn at SCBWI.

Also, I have tons to say about the James Scott Bell session on Revision from the Writer’s Digest Conference, but I want to try out what I learned on my own manuscript before I post about it.  After all, it’s one thing to summarize what a speaker says at a conference, but it’s a whole other story to put the method to work on your own writing.  Stay tuned because I’ll have more on Revision soon.

Finally, remember that sooper-seekrit project I mentioned?  It’s been making good progress and I’ll be unveiling it soon.  In the meantime, I can tell you that I’ll be collaborating with Ghenet from All About Them Words and we’re really excited for this project.  Stay tuned… things are happening!


27 Jan

Two Words about Social Media: Don’t Panic

Posted in Blog, Conferences, Social Media, Twitter, Web

One of the sessions I was super-excited for at the Writer’s Digest Conference was the Social Media panel.  After all, over the last year or so, I’ve become almost addicted to fairly comfortable with connecting to readers and writers through blogging or twitter or other webby things.

I’ve been to plenty of conferences with panels on social media and I find they always run into the same glitch.  The speakers are super-talented and the audience wants to hear what they have to say.  The trouble is, the panelists and audience are speaking in different languages.

I didn’t do an empirical study, but here are a few things I observed during the session:

  • Very few young whipper-snappers in the audience, tweeting the panel from their iPhones.  (OK, I guess I’m a whipper-snapper but I didn’t tweet from my phone because I’m morally opposed to phones that do more than work like phones.)
  • Hardly any people clicking on their laptops (fewer than what I noticed at other panels, in fact).  A lot of people taking notes by hand.
  • When the moderator asked how many people in the audience had a twitter account, only a few people raised their hands.
  • When the moderator asked how many used social media to interact with industry professionals who would be at this conference, no one raised their hands.  (I almost raised my hand, but then I was embarrassed because no one else did.  Remember, I’m shy.)
  • Based on a lot of the questions that came up in Q&A, most of the people at the session were just starting to get their feet wet in the world of social media.
  • As the discussion and Q&A progressed, I noticed more and more writers around me looking like they were about to have a nervous breakdown.

Despite these obstacles,  I was blown away by the awesome I observed from both the audience and speakers at the session.  This session had everything to be an incredible opportunity.  Writers hungry for information were present and motivated to connect with some of the leading industry professionals in the field of social media.  Both sides of the equation were there, but it seemed like there was one crucial piece missing in the middle.  What it needed was some way to bridge the gap.

How do we solve this problem?  Personally I’m a believer in baby steps.  When people get overwhelmed with too much information, they end up shutting down altogether.  The idea is to help them take one tiny step outside their comfort zones.  Once they’ve grown comfortable with that, they take another step.  And so on.

This is where you come in.  Think back to when you were new at all this social media stuff.  For some of you, it could have been last week; for others, it was back in 1989.  The point is, somehow or other, you learned to get comfortable with it and to make it work for you.  All sans meltdown.

I want to know: If you had one piece of advice or one small step you’d recommend to a newbie, what would it be?

Here’s mine:

From The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy


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