Get out from behind that desk and into a Writer’s Conference!

Workshop at Liberty States Fiction Writers Conference

And get to a Writers’ Conference for pity’s sake. It doesn’t matter your level of writing proficiency. Like a health care professional–and for your own mental health–you need to get out there and update those skills. So take a look below for the conferences coming up around the country in May, and remember–the best networking is done in the hotel bar!

MAY 2017

ASJA Writers Conference. May 5 – 6, 2017. Concurrent morning & afternoon panels rated from beginning to advances, some for all levels. Luncheon, keynote speaker, networking. 100+ authors, editors, literary agents, publicists.

13th annual PEN World Voices Festival of International Literature. May 1 – May 7, 2017 at various locations in New York City. readings, performances, and panel discussions for poets, fiction writers, and creative nonfiction writers. “The thirteenth annual PEN World Voices Festival will take on some of the vital issues of the Trump-era, with a special focus on today’s restive relationship between gender and power. Taking place in New York City, May 1-7, 2017, the weeklong festival will use the lens of literature and the arts to confront new challenges to free expression and human rights—issues that have been core to PEN America’s mission since its founding. At this historic moment of both unprecedented attacks on core freedoms and the emergence of new forms of resistance, the Festival will offer a platform for a global community of writers, artists and thinkers to connect with concerned citizens and the broader public to fight back against bigotry, hatred and isolationism.”

Romance Times BookLovers. May 2-7, 2017, Atlanta, GA.

Northern Colorado Writers Conference. May 5 – 6, 2017, Fort Collins CO. The 2017 Northern Colorado Writers Conference will bring back some local favorites such as Laura Pritchett, Trai Cartwright, and Kerrie Flanagan, as well as welcome several new-to-NCW presenters such as Bob Mayer, Jessica Strawser, and Whitney Davis, and several new agents.

Idaho Writers Guild Conference. May 5 – 6, 2017, Boise, Idaho. Meet with agents, editors, and authors. Panel discussions, workshops, and a keynote speaker. Your registration – $195 for IWG members, $225 for non-members.

Gold Rush Writers Conference. May 5 – 7, 2017, Mokelumne Hill, CA. “Writing professionals will guide you to a publishing bonanza through a series of panels, specialty talks, workshops and celebrity lectures. Go one-on-one with successful poets, novelists, biographers, memoirists and short story writers.” Writing workshops in Autobiography/Memoir, Children’s, Fiction, Marketing, Non-fiction, Poetry, Publishing, Romance, Travel, Young Adult.

The Massachusetts Poetry Festival. May 5 – May 7, 2017, Salem, Massachusetts. The Mass Poetry Festival offers nearly 100 poetry readings and workshops, a small press and literary fair, panels, poetry slams, and open-air readings. More than 150 poets will engage with thousands of New Englanders.

Grub Street Muse and the Marketplace Conference. May 5 – May 7, 2017. Boston, Massachusetts. The Muse and the Marketplace is a three-day literary conference designed to give aspiring writers a better understanding about the craft of writing fiction and non-fiction, to prepare them for the changing world of publishing and promotion, and to create opportunities for meaningful networking. On all three days, prominent and nationally-recognized established and emerging authors lead sessions on the craft of writing—the “muse” side of things—while editors, literary agents, publicists and other industry professionals lead sessions on the business side—the “marketplace.”

Hedgebrook VORTEXT Salon. May 5 – 7, 2017: Whidbey Institute on Whidbey Island, about 35 miles northwest of Seattle. Workshops, panel discussions, lectures, open mics, and time to write in poetry, fiction, and nonfiction for women writers.

Columbus State Community College Writers Conference. May 6, 2017, Columbus, Ohio. Workshops in Autobiography/Memoir, Business/Technical, Fiction, Journalism, Marketing, Non-fiction, Playwriting, Poetry, Publishing, Screenwriting. This one-day conference is free of charge.

DFW Writers Conference. May 6 – 7, 2017, Fort Worth TX. Featuring pitch sessions with literary agents, advanced classes, engaging panels, interactive workshops.

Writers Retreat Workshop. May 6 – 13, 2017, San Antonio, TX. Featuring Author and Instructor Lisa Cron (Wired for Story, Story Genuis), Thriller novelist Daniel Palmer (Delirious, Forgive Me, Mercy (with his late father Michael Palmer) ), Mystery and thriller author Reavis Wortham (Red River Mystery Series, and in 2017 Sonny Hawke series), Author and Instructor Les Edgerton (Bomb, Hooked (WD), The Bitch), Author, Instructor and Editor Carol Dougherty, Author, Instructor, Editor, and Program Director Jason Sitzes, and more agents, editors, and authors.

Mokulē‘ia Writers Retreat. May 7 – 12, 2017 in Waialua, Hawaii at Camp Mokulē‘ia, Oahu. Offers workshops in fiction and nonfiction, readings, one-on-one consultations, publishing panels, yoga sessions. The retreat is led by North Shore native Constance Hale, the author of Sin and Syntax, the editor of more than two dozen books, and a journalist whose stories about Hawai‘i appear on CD liner notes, as well as in publications like The Los Angeles Times and Smithsonian magazine. Hale invites a mix of writers, editors, and agents from both the islands and the mainland to lead various workshops and appear on panels.

Novel-In-Progress Bookcamp. May 7- 13, 2017: West Bend WI. 6-day, residential workshop-retreat for writers in all genres working on a novel or creative nonfiction book. Workshops in Autobiography/Memoir, Fiction, Horror, Humor, Mystery, Non-fiction, Publishing, Romance, Science Fiction/Fantasy, Young Adult. Registration is limited to 30 people.

Lakefly Writers Conference. May 12 – 13, 2017: Premier Waterfront Hotel & Convention Center in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. Workshops, talks, and a bookfair for poets, fiction writers, and nonfiction writers. Keynote speaker is Nickolas Butler. Many speakers and presenters.

Seaside Writers Conference. May 14 – 20, 2017: Seaside Assembly Hall in Seaside, Florida. “The Seaside Writers Conference is an annual gathering of creative writers from all over the nation, and features award-winning writers in poetry and fiction and screenwriting who will offer a full week of intensive writing workshops, one day seminars, school outreach programs, and social events.” Many authors, agents, editors.

Writing By Writers Methow Valley Workshop: May 17 – 21, 2017, Winthrop, WA. Faculty: faculty includes Ron Carlson, Ross Gay, Pam Houston and Lidia Yuknavitch. Tuition: $1,650 (before November 1) $1,750 (after November 1) includes one four-day workshop, admittance to all panels and readings, and all meals (dinner on Wednesday; three meals Thursday through Saturday; breakfast and lunch on Sunday) and lodging for four nights.  Alumni of the first Methow Valley Workshop in May 2016 will receive a $100 discount.

Nebula Conference and Awards Ceremony. May 18-21, 2017, Pittsburgh, PA.

Pennwriters Conference, May 19 – 21, 2017, Pittsburgh, PA. Friday evening keynote Jonathan Maberry; Saturday afternoon keynote Chuck Sambuchino; and 20+ authors, literary agents & editors, writing industry pros. Costs: $375 for 3-day registration. One-day registration available $185.

Creative Nonfiction Writers’ Conference. May 26 – 27, 2017: Wyndham University Center in Pittsburgh. Master classes, craft discussions, publishing talks, pitch sessions, and readings for creative nonfiction writers. In just three days you can meet one-on-one with a literary agent or publishing consultant, get concrete advice from professional writers, hear what different kinds of editors are looking for, and hone your skills in an inspiring small-group session. You’ll also meet and mingle with writers from across the country who share your excitement about the writing process.

Thanks to Shaw’s Guides, Poets & Writers, and Publishing, and Other Forms of Insanity for this information.

DGMW, IMHO PJS WFM. OTOH… *

In three weeks I’ll be finished with classes, and then I’ll have about two months off before a summer course I’m teaching starts. In the interim, I’ll be diligently attacking my work-in-progress, becoming the full-time writer I lust to be all year. Now, there’s a couple ways I can approach this. I could stay home and work from my own office, or I can pack up my laptop and head to the library or one of the many local coffee bistros. But leaving home would require assembling myself enough to face that public, and isn’t the whole allure of working from home the fact you can do it in your pajamas? (Though I rarely do it in full make-up, ribboned pigtails, and clingy Union Suit as Miss Bibliophile above. Then again, she must make a habit of not straying very far from that beanbag, as it appears she has an extra apple for nourishment and that bowl it’s sitting in looks suspiciously like what they slide under your bed-ridden self in a nursing home.)  Not that working in your pjs doesn’t have its charms.

It’s nice to be able to shuffle from bed to desk, sipping your morning coffee (or tea in my case) while you contemplate your next plot point en déshabillé. There’s a certain freedom in shutting out the outside world so you can fully enter your own, focusing only on the story thus allowing its characters and setting become all the more real. If you approach it with enough preparation, making large-pot food such as soup, chili, and stew, buying enough food you can eat with one hand such as fruit, string cheese, and anything in a bag, and making sure your sig other and family members are well-warned that this book-writing gig is definitely a thing and you mean BUSINESS, then you may be able to pull it off. But you and they, must be fully vested and on board, because you don’t want them giving you the stink eye when you amble into the kitchen at three PM wearing sleep shorts and a t-shirt sans Maidenform, still flushed from that just-finished ass-kicking scene. Or if it’s way past dinner and you suddenly realize that Pop-Tart you just ate was your lunch,  and the reason the cat is kneading her claws into your leg is not because she loves you, but because you last fed her twelve hours ago. And that’s only because your bedtime has lately been coming with the sunrise, perfecting the art of sleeping upright and fuck-all to “so-called” circadian rhythms.  Truth is, it’s a bitch to admit you’re only the axis to your virtual world, and people can get a bit tetchy if you spend two weeks in your pjs and only leave your office to forage. So what’s the flip side?

Wake up at 6 AM, shower, dress, eat, and be at your desk by seven. Treat it like the job it is, with stretch and coffee breaks, a regular lunch, a walk in the afternoon or early morning to clear your head enough to reflect and reorganize, and with a quitting time reasonable enough to get a good night’s sleep. I’ve done it both ways, as both have their own unique advantages. At times I’ve needed the liberty to work free-form, and at other times I’ve needed the structure to focus. The thing is you have to do what works for you, and if your way isn’t, then perhaps you have to explore an opposite method to know why.

What do you think?

*Don’t get me wrong, in my humble opinion, pajamas work for me. On the other hand…

The Stink of Spring

Spring, thy name is hyacinth! Why, you can’t even pass a supermarket, convenience store, discount joint or firehouse without noticing the noble flower, potted in spring-colored foil and perfuming the air with its scent. What you see pictured here is bloomed bulbs of Easters gone by, tucked between two trees in my yard. It’s the stink that keeps on giving.

And then, there’s this other little delight that I discovered between the slates up to my front door. Where the hyacinths were once force-bloomed and purchased from a grower, these little violets are nature’s own, carpeting my yard in a profusion of purple wherever there’s grass. But these teeny guys decided they wanted to push up between the walking slates, and who am I to say. They’re the real homies, after all.

Happy spring, and breathe deeply, aahhhhhh….

Spring Sinkers

Potholes in New Jersey is a better harbinger of spring than robins, than croci, than those marshmallow peeps poppin’ up at the corner grocery.  Those pervasive little asphalt assassins never fail to creep up on you around every bend and over every hillock, disguised like shimmering little macadam birdbaths until you hit one and bam! there goes the hub cap, spinning away like a frisbee.

On my way home tonight I counted no less than thirty-seven of the replicating little suckers. And that didn’t include the ever-widening fissures that form due to the expansion from the left-side/right-side paving, the winter erosion of the softer shoulder, the gully driveways develop as it cracks away from the road and of course, the always wonderful frost heaves. And that was just on my side of the road. Which, oddly enough, quickly becomes your side when you swerve into my lane to avoid them.

But if all this isn’t bad enough, the cure isn’t much better. How many of you have driven smack into a fresh pancake of cold patch, that municipal quick-fix of asphalt the town boys tamp down with shovels and their own boots, to shut up the one irate taxpayer that doesn’t quit calling until it’s fixed. Ahh…the lovely ping-ping-ping of loose tar as it plies itself to the undercarriage of your car. You’ll be scrubbing that off until nigh on August. Soon those road patch patties will be as ubiquitous as dandelions, and just as hard to get rid of. Because if you’re betting on highway dollars on high to get them gone, you can just forget it. The bank is broke, and staying that way for a while.

For the meantime, take your comfort where you can get it. After the winter we’ve had here in Jersey, just seeing the road means it’s only a matter of time until we’re burning our bare feet crossing it. And that, my dears, could only mean a day at the beach.

Take me away, please!

Greenwood Lake, NY

Today I ventured from home and hearth up to Greenwood Lake, NY.  It’s a beautiful seven-mile long lake that straddles the border of New York and New Jersey, and the view you see here is what I saw out the window of the restaurant we lunched at. The hills go right down to the lake and are now covered in snow, as is much of the town from the two feet that were dumped on it last week. But I couldn’t help thinking how gorgeous those hills would be decorated in fall colors or in the full thrall of summer. There’s a swimming beach across the lake as well, which I’d dive right into, given the chance. And I’d sure like to catch the sun setting (or rising) over those hills, trailing light and shimmer across the water. And let’s not forget the hot summer nights spent over a beer at that bar, listening to music, trading stories with the locals. Ah, sounds like the life…

So why am I ruminating on this? Because life is thrusting changes upon me, and I’m trying to find that sweet spot that’ll alleviate some of the scratches I’m sure to come away with. Part of that is looking forward to environs and opportunities new and hopefully pleasant, as well as something that’ll guide me towards the inspiration that writers are always looking for. Right now I’m working on a project that may either come to everything or absolutely nothing, and it’ll require a lot of work and research and faith in my abilities. Am I up to it? In my heart of hearts I believe so, but rare the writer that doesn’t occasionally think they’re just faking it, that they’re pretenders, that at any minute they’ll be exposed for the fraud they are. Is that really me? Do I really believe it? Or am I just looking for some adulatory stroking, a reaffirmation of just how fabulous I already know I am?

Does it matter? Because would either reason leave me less deserving? I don’t think so. By nature, writers are a prickly lot, part artist, part introvert, part exhibitionist, intensely clamoring for attention then wary when it’s received. Am I really that good, or are you just being nice? Tell me the truth–do you REALLY like it?

Again, does it matter? Because we both know you’re going to do it anyway. Writing’s a lot like cooking–the process is long and messy, and sometimes–a LOT of times–you get burned. But if you do it right the results can be delicious.  Which of course, just make you do it again and again.

Write me–I mean Call me–er text me!

Those familiar with this blog know I also teach college, both undergrad and graduate, and this past weekend I finished reading a grad student’s thesis. It’s a young adult urban fantasy, quite inventive, and intrinsically reflective of the everyday life and culture of modern youth (as long as that youth is also a witch, a werewolf, or a supernatural of the author’s own fabrication). The piece was written by a young adult, though not as young as the protagonist, but still young enough to be fully vested in the reality she was presenting. And because of that, I was struck by one thing  which has definitely changed since I started writing many years ago–how much our plot devices have been changed by our modern devices.

Think about the plot of the underground classic Rocky Horror Picture Show–a young couple’s car breaks down on a back road in 1975. They have to walk to a house so they can phone for help, thus entering into strange environs where hijinks ensue.  But everyone has a phone now, so they’d just call AAA or Roadside Assistance and wait in their car until the tow truck arrives. Or in 1969, when Claire of Dragonfly in Amber needs to find a copy of the Fraser’s deed of sasine. She must travel to Scotland and ask a county clerk to research it for her.  These days, she would simply do a Google search, and locate the county website, communicate through the county portal or email the clerk directly. And how long would a modern Jane Eyre have to wait to find out about the mysterious Mr. Rochester? Seconds via another Google search, or maybe go right to LinkedIn or Facebook or Twitter, or even TMZ or eOnline, hoping whatever trash-talk site of the week has covered he and his latest arm candy, the big player that he is. So how do we work around these new solutions to old plot twists? How do we throw the wrench into the mystery or the romance, tossing a roadblock into the long, complicated trail that leads to our story unraveling?

Damned if I know. But what I do know it’s got to be more than just the phone’s battery dying, the lack of hotspots or WiFi, the profile erased, or any other iteration of deus ex machina. It’s going to take a work-around of creative proportions.  Maybe the tow truck arrives is haunted, the deed of sasine has been destroyed in a conflagation, or Mr. Rochester is actually a woman. It doesn’t matter. Just as long as it’s so fresh the pages start turning by themselves.

 

Waiting for ‘have written’

screen-shot-2013-09-09-at-17-46-26I really don’t have anything to bitch about.  I’m finally deep into this work-in-progress, the characters are getting human and quirky,  the plot’s clipping along, and I’m pretty sure the people who have taken an interest in it won’t be disappointed. But here’s the thing: I’m still a slave to my day job, I still have family responsibilities that voraciously command my time, and I’m involved in a couple of professional organizations I wish I had more time for. Then there’s the fact that the deeper I get into this book the more the damn thing follows me around. Like today when I was in the shower and the whole thing decided to coalesce. I mean fuck! I’m in the shower! You know what a royal ass pain it was to hurry out and get to my notepad before it was sucked away by my severely-overworked brain cells? I think I managed to get it all down, but still!

Doesn’t help I’ve put myself on a deadline. No, it’s not from the publisher this time. It’s positively my own. I think I work best that way–assinchair assinchair assinchair. Every single solid free minute not already spoken for is devoted to the act of writing–early mornings before work, complete weekends, after dinner, and late into the night. Sometimes I just sit stare. Other times the words flow like wine. I get up only to stretch my legs and refill my tea mug. Consequently my wrists hurt, my eyes feel strained, my back aches. As I write this I have a shooting pain in my thumb. I have Post-it notes all over my laptop. My bulletin boards can’t fit one more scrap of research and notes.  The hard copy of my synopsis is folded over on page four and I still have seven more pages to go. My phone needs charging. My stapler’s empty. Tea’s cold. I have a stack of bills yet to pay. My TBR pile’s getting out of control. I need chocolate. Fritos. Mint chocolate chip gelato. I’ll end up having yogurt eaten over the sink. I have an invitation to a new bar opening in town on Saturday and I still want to go. Roman Holiday‘s on TCM tonight and I still want to watch it. I’ll probably do neither. Still, still, still.

Still, I write. Sometimes so badly my Composition students would probably split their sides laughing. Sometimes so wonderfully I astound myself, thinking I’ve subconsciously plagiarized. Either way I’ll write.

My Midwinter escape

jan-beach-11-4Yes, this is what the beach looks like in the winter, and being a Jersey Girl from the Shore, it’s a sight I’ve seen many times. Still, it’s no less strange, seeing snow on the beach, and it’s something that I’ll probably not see soon nearly as much as I’ve seen in the past. We’ve put the old homestead up for sale since the ‘rents have passed on, though if you live in Jersey, you’re never too far from the coastline. It’s where I grew up and it’s what has sustained me all these years, but change is good, and I’m looking if not for greener (or sandier) pastures, but different ones.

Like where? Well, I’ve always loved the mountains. My father’s side of the family comes from the Catskill region of New York State (though their roots are in Iowa and South Dakota). I have friends in Vermont, and having only been to the Rockies once, I’d like to see more of them. My sister is contemplating moving to a house on a lake, and at least if I swam in it (which is a given), I wouldn’t have to think about sharks. Not that I worry too much when I swim in the ocean, but it’s one less thing I have to worry about.

Anyway, we still have the beach house a bit longer so here’s one more pix. It’s a hell of a lot better media than I’ve been gawking at lately anyway.

jan-beach-11-26

Seriously Snark

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