Liberty States Fiction Writers 2017 Create Something Magical Con Registration Opens Sept. 1

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Want to Write? Love to Read?

Mark your calendars for

the 8th annual Create Something Magical Conference.

Whether you’re indie published, traditionally published, not quite published, or simply love to read, in all and all genres of fiction writing, we have something for you. Join us on March 18-19, at the Renaissance Woodbridge Hotel in Iselin, NJ

2017 for a magical event!

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See Liberty State Fiction Writers for more info!

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Methods for your madness

990488Most writing follows a certain form, whether fiction or nonfiction. Newswriting and creative non-fiction are fact-based, humor amuses, biography chronicles a life. Fiction tells an invented story, whereas, genre fiction adheres to certain inherent strictures, ie, mysteries leave clues, romance relates a developing relationship, horror shocks, fantasy world-builds. Readers expect when they pick up a thriller or an autobiography or a true crime that it’ll follow whatever form’s intrinsic to that genre, but what if you want to define what you’re writing even further? This is what I call writing for context, or putting that extra level of specification into your writing–for clarity, for authenticity, to strike the right mood. Shall I explain?

Historical fiction is one of the best examples. Aside from not including an HD TV in your Victorian drawing room, certain phrasing and references will lend you writing more credibility, as well as anchor your reader in the era. The best way to get this is to read works not so much about the time of which you are writing, but from the time. For example, from the 18th century, Jonathan Swift or Henry Fielding, 19th century, Charles Dickens or Mark Twain, early 20th, Sinclair Lewis or F. Scott Fitzgerald.  Pay attention to the cadence of their dialogue, their use of phrasing, their historical references, the position of their wording. He was a hale fellow, or Shall we meet at half-past seven? will lend a certain credence to your writing. Now, no one will expect you to construct your exposition with thees and thous, but if you’re writing about 18th century Quakers, you might expect to see a few of those whiskered words in their dialogue.

Another example is writing in the first person. I find this type of writing gives you the most license to experiment. Take the novel The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon. In this novel he writes from a the perspective of a 15-year-old with Asperger Syndrome. He includes the protagonist’s tics and phobias, sprinkling the narrative with logic and math, numbering his chapters with only prime numbers. By writing with this context in mind, Haddon places us firmly in the character’s mind, and makes the experience resonate long after we put the book down.

There are many examples I could go into to illustrate this principle, but basically, it’s almost like Method Acting, or maybe even a little bit like time travel. As soon as you sit down to write, put yourself into the mind of your character, in both time and setting, and let it lead you down its little garden path. If it’s engrossing enough, your minions will soon follow.

 

Writers! Seek out your own!

IMG_0114In past posts we’ve explored from preparing for a writing project, confronting the blank page, priming your plot pump, getting past your slumping middle, to wrapping it all up and sending it out the door. But what if you’ve got the will and the way, but you still can’t get your motor started? And what if you’ve got it started, but can’t figure out how to shut it down? Or what if you’re stuck in that sagging middle, and it’s got you so daunted you want to hurl the whole kit-and-kaboodle against the wall? Then maybe it’s time to give both the laptop and the sheet rock a break, because you know what they say: when all else fails–retreat!

No, my dear writers, I’m most certainly not saying you should quit. Five noogies to the head for even considering it! What I’m saying is perhaps you need a change of venue, to step out of your everyday and try a different milieu. Where would you go? Why don’t you try these…

1. Writers Colonies – If you’ve got the wallet for it, writers colonies or residencies are about as close as you can get to literary nirvana. Usually in a picturesque location or town, at a college or camp or hotel, they give you uninterrupted time to write, plot or just stare off into space. Many come with social activities so you can network with fellow writers, some even come with stipends, others you have to qualify for. Check the wonderful website Agent Query for their list of colonies and residencies.

2. Writers Conferences – Every writer should attend at least one a year. I certainly do, have for years, and if you just happen to be in New Jersey in next March , you might want to take a look at Liberty States Fiction Writers’ “Create Something Magical” Conference. It’s for one day, but take the weekend and bookend the schmooze, panels and workshops with some serious writing time. Writers Conferences can range from an afternoon to a week-long series of events, many of them grouped by genre, such as the Romance Writers of America in the summer, or the Backspace Writers Conference in New York this November. Full of workshops, editor/agent appointments, panels, readings, book fairs and the chance to meet some of your favorite authors, if you don’t come out energized and ready to attack the page, then perhaps you’re in the wrong business. Again, here’s another look at Agent Query, and their rundown of upcoming conferences.

3. Book Expo America BEA is one of the premier industry events if you are any way connected. If you’re a bookseller, agent, editor, librarian, educator, book club member, writers’ organization officer or published author you can’t afford to miss it. Held over three days in May, last year in Chicago, but next year back at the Javits Center in New York City, anyone who is anyone in the industry is there. After one hour trolling this convergence of Every Publisher in the Free World, if you don’t feel like closing down that WIP to get in the game, then stay home on the porch. You ain’t gonna be runnin’ with the big dogs.

4. College Literary Festivals – Held by the English Department at a college or university, these usually weeklong events hold readings and signings for writers and readers alike. If you’re alumni, this is a good way to connect with your old professors who no doubt have a line on the writers attending, so you never know who you can meet. I go back to my alma mater twice a year for their festival held during their MFA residencies, meeting many of the visiting writers. I even had dinner with Francine Prose one night, though being one of twelve at her banquet-seating table, I doubt if our conversation went past pass the salt.

5. Create your own – Batton down the home hatches and take off for the weekend, to a vacationing friend or family member’s house, to a off-season cottage by the lake or ocean, to a campsite up in the mountains, or even a bargain-basement afternoon with the laptop or legal pad at the library or Barnes and Noble cafe. Perhaps even send the kids off with the spouse to the zoo and stretch out on the back porch, a glass of your favorite libation at your side, letting all those ideas in your head bounce off the trees, the alleyway, the horizon. It doesn’t take much, just a firm commitment and the time to percolate, and perchance, of course, to dream.

The Writer Entitled

img_13631Dear Deadbeat Writer: Who do you think you are?

You get up at the crack of noon, saunter to your desk wearing nothing but your PJs and that smug expression, munching on multigrain pretzels and bouffe from Trader Joe’s. While the rest of us actually BUILD something, you’re hoisting your feet atop your desk to “ponder” and “plot,” your baby-soft fingers tapping the laptop with Call me Ishmael, or It was the best of times, it was the worst of times or other such blather. Instead of putting those keys to work by shaving some stock and buying on margin you’d rather “create,” not even bothering anymore to print your “genius” and pack it into a respectable manuscript box to ship off USPS. Even ink and paper are too much trouble for you anymore! Now we’re all about “attachments,” and “uploads,” and “streaming,” even calling “creative” such linguistic aberrations as blogs and podcasts and tweets. And in your ennui, you can’t even bother to bind your books anymore, leveling them to some ethereal creation called an e-book, packing them on a virtual bookshelf while your compensation floats through cyberspace to directly deposit itself into your bank account.

Oh it’s the life, fooling us all, and getting money, it appears, for nothing.

Be warned: we are so onto you.

My Midsummer Night Meander

5MN1Been working hot and obsessively developing  another project the last few weeks. When I do this I so live in my head I’m apt to leave lights on or subsist on string cheese and blueberries because I can eat them with one hand. Because of that I’m giving myself a pass tonight to let my mind wander.  I have too many topics rolling around the fertile landscape of my brain to settle on one, so I’m treating you to a virtual sampler of each. Think of it as the Jones version of the Olive Garden’s Tour of Italy,” except not about chain restaurant Italian food or really anything to do with food at all. Please don’t ask me to explain…

~ Why is it harder to write in the summer when it should be easier? Okay, I”m a college professor, right? And I “theoretically” have the summer off (except for the summer class I’m teaching, which really is cake next to my usual load). So my brain should be my own (mostly), and I should be able to sail through what I’m working on, producing so many pages a day I’d best keep a fire extinguisher near my desk. Wrong! Phuque moi! Could it be the sun shining through my window? The fact I have no schedule? The lure of the beach? Distraction by a shiny object? Or I’m still trying to get to know my characters? Hmm…I going to have to think about that one. Where’s the string cheese?

~ You can lose weight on summer fruit. (All right; I lied about the food reference, but here’s living proof I write by the seat of my pants.) I live in the heart of the South Jersey farm belt, and you can’t drive more than a couple of miles without either passing a farm or a farm stand. This morning I happened to visit the latter, where I purchased tomatoes (early, but there’s nothing like a Jersey tomato!), cukes, blueberries (another iconic Jersey crop), cantaloupe and peaches, both yellow and white. Lately I’ve been gorging on berries and melons and cherries, instead of the usual snacky-type foods, and in the past month I’ve lost seven pounds! Of course, this may have something to do with the 1725 calories I’ve been allowing myself to eat, the half-hour of daily exercise, and the frequent swims in the ocean BUT! I have had more than a couple Bacchanalia events and let me tell you, the Yuengling hasn’t been lonely!

~ Beer tastes better in summer. That’s all I got. Any other commentary on that topic would be redundant.

~ Socks suck in summer.  I haven’t worn a pair of socks since, oh…probably early May. I hate the fricking little cotton casings anyway–hate the way they bunch up under your instep, hate the indentations they make on your shins, hate how the heels always wear out when the rest of the sock can go for another 10,000 miles. But MOST of all I HATE folding them. Hate! Hate! Hate! Just sayin’.

~ I love the sound of birdsong at dusk. The sun has set, the western sky is stained red, outside a soft breeze is blowing and you can finally shut off the A.C. and let in some fresh air. You venture out on your porch or you open your car window, or maybe you’re out for a walk and there in the bushes, the trees or on an overhead wire is a whip-poor-will or a mockingbird or who knows what kind of bird, only that their song is lovely, a tiny gratis pleasure on a soft summer night. What else can you possibly need?