This past weekend, I attended my second DFW Writers' Conference. It was better than the last one. Or maybe I was better. I think with a big event like this, you need one run for practice before you get the hang of it.
Here are some things I learned:
Donald Maass (a) is a colossal nerd, and (b) has a name that ends in "SS" not just "S" as I keep wanting to type it.
He's the best kind of colossal nerd - a fantasy fan and gamer who loves that stuff and wants to share his love with other people. He's also an incredibly nice guy who will go out of his way to make you feel welcome and valued in any conversation. And he has a wicked-sharp sense of humor.
Jonathan Maberry (a) is a really awesome guy, and (b) has only one "Y" in his name despite my urge to type in another every damn time I write it. (No H, either.)
He is also a colossal nerd, both in nerdiness and size. Seriously. Jon Maberry will mess you up. He's huge. In a fight of Jon Maberry and a full-grown Kodiak bear... I'd bet on the bear unless the spread was really crazy. But I'd check the odds, just in case. And he's also warm and friendly and loves to share geeky stuff.
Literary Agents are really nice people.
This year, I volunteered to wrangle an agent (i.e. act as a guide, gofer, and chauffeur). I'd imagined the job would be kind of difficult, but that it would be worth it for the networking opportunities.
Instead, it was one of the easiest things I've ever done, and more than worth it for the networking opportunities. Margaret Bail, of the Inklings Literary Agency, is incredibly friendly and easygoing. She was great to work with, and about as low-maintenance as I could have imagined. And she wants to see my book when it's finished, which is awesome.
What I got for my (minuscule) trouble was the chance to hang out with other agents at dinners and lunches, where I learned a lot about the publishing business and made connections.
So if you're with the DFW Writer's Workshop and you're attending next year's Conference, be first in line to offer to wrangle an agent. It's the opposite of traumatic, and it's a great opportunity.
Keep track of your schedule.
Again, this is kind of obvious in retrospect. I did a great job keeping Margaret's schedule straight. I plugged all her events into my Google calendar, which fed me alerts all day. But I forgot to put my OWN events in the calendar, so I missed my Saturday critique session. Oops.
Don't be shy. Les Edgerton says so.
And really, don't be. Talk to people. Almost all writers are wallflowers who are each secretly hoping someone else will initiate conversation, and the agents ACTUALLY CAME TO THE CONFERENCE to talk to you. They did it on their own time, too. They are here for the express purpose of listening to you talk about your book so they can decide if they'd like you to submit it.
Thanks to Kirk von der Heydt and the rest of the Conference Committee for a great conference. Thanks to all the agents, editors, and speakers. Without you, the conference would be a hollow shell of itself. Thanks to everyone who made it a fun, educational weekend full of opportunities. And good luck to everybody. I hope this conference results in some book deals.
I look forward to seeing you all next year. And if you could each bring roughly .3 friends, that'd probably be good.
Well, don't literally bring a fractional person. 1 in 3 of you bring one friend. Or something like that.
-- David Goodner, DFWWW Member since 2012 *(This essay originally appeared in slightly longer form on The Astounding Mr. Goodner's Amazing Electric Widgets blog. Check it out, because it's good fun!)
We’d like to congratulate workshop members George Goldthwaite and Melissa Lenhardt for representing us so well at the Frisco Library. They both brought home the prize for Henery Press’s First Chapter Contest. The kicker: Only one person should have won, but the judges couldn’t narrow it down. Apparently when deciding between a DFWWW member and a DFWWW member, the choice is clear.
The good news for these two doesn’t stop there.
The Durant Public Library has asked George to be their feature author speaker for the Spring Brown Bag Luncheon. If you live up north, catch him on Thursday, April 24 at the Donald W. Reynolds Community Center and Library. If you can’t make it, don’t worry. You can hear him speak at The DFW Writers’ Conference as the Gong Show's incredible baritone emcee.
And as for Melissa, she recently published a short story with The Western Online entitled Bal Masqué. It’s fantastic piece, but we especially love Melissa’s initial impetus for writing it. Her late father loved John Wayne westerns and Lonesome Dove, and this one is for him. We’re awfully grateful that we get to enjoy it too.
End story: Our cup runneth over. Come (metaphorically) drink with us any Wednesday night at 7:00 pm at The Simmons Center in Euless. Because we think there may be something in the water…
All we can say to that is: Yes indeed, Ms. Owen is one of ours. You can’t have her. But if you must, you can have her book. All you have to do is click here to make it so. And if you want to know a little bit more about Kate, check out the author interview she did for Babblings.
All good stuff.
I’m not talking about the shiny new idea that tempts you while you’re slogging through the Act II doldrums. I’m talking about the writing equivalent of staying up all night memorizing reagents for your Chem final while your roommate, the Radio TV Film major, watches movies for her homework.
Whatever this thing is, it’s shorter than what you write. It’s simpler. It has less parts. So you ask yourself, “How hard can that sci fi short story/romance novel/sitcom script be?”
When I signed on to write a contemporary romance novella (Passionate Persuasion, available now at any ebook retailer for the low, low price of 99¢), I thought: Only twenty thousand words? Only one plot line? That will be easy.
The muses laughed.
Not because my books share shelf-space with Twilight, or because I’ve won the Romance Writers of America’s RITA® award. (Do you like how I worked that in there?) I know that writing romance is just as challenging as any other genre.
But it turns out that writing short and streamlined is hard.
Keeping it short: Shorter may be easier on your carpel tunnels, but it’s not necessarily a rest for your “little grey cells,” as Hercule Poirot would say. Every word has to count.
Think about writing a Tweet describing a funny encounter you had at the grocery store. In 140 characters, paint a picture of what happened. Now make it entertaining, with some kind of satisfying take away. There’s a knack to making more with less.
Keeping it simple but satisfying: With a small number of words to get the job done, you need a very straightforward through-line. I learned from watching Top Chef that if you throw in too many ingredients into one dish, nothing stands out. And who wouldn’t prefer a well-cooked meal of bacon and eggs than poorly prepared Eggs Benedict with reconstituted hollandaise sauce? (Now I’m hungry.)
Simple, like short, takes a lot of discipline. It doesn’t sound difficult--just come up with a great idea and don’t smother it! But then I ran into the next thing.
Keeping it what it is. Writing a realistic story is not easier just because it has fewer elements (i.e., mystery and supernatural) to juggle. In fact, as much as I love to write sexual tension and romantic banter, I found it very challenging to keep the tension high when all I had to work with was the characters and their baggage. Normally when energy sags, a ghost shows up, or the intrepid girl detective gets hit on the head. Heroine getting on too well with the love interest? Gosh, I hope he’s not secretly a vampire.
Genre plots supply complicating elements. But in a contemporary romance, the conflict has to come from the hero and heroine’s situations, psychology or backstories. The hard part is not keeping the couple apart, it’s making sure their primary conflict isn’t stupidity. (I imagine a literary story has it’s own unique problems within the constraints of reality.)
All characters need realistic and relatable motivations, of course. But in the limited space of a short story or novella, you don’t have the luxury of more plot elements or extra chapters or surprise vampires. (Well, maybe surprise vampires.)
The answer to “How hard can it be?” then is, “The same amount of hard as anything else.” Writing is a challenge but (hopefully!) rewarding, and every project—short, long, genre, literary, whatever—has unique challenges. So go conquer them!
--Rosemary Clement-Moore, DFWWW member since 2005
photo credit: Kathleen Tyler Conklin via photopin cc
Spring break, college basketball, St. Patty’s Day, Mardi Gras....
March is a busy month, but don’t let it keep you from some amazing literary goings-on in the metroplex.
On March 11, The Dallas Museum of Art is hosting B.J. Novak (most notably from the show The Office). He’ll be presenting his topic “Crafting Comedy,” and will also read from his debut short story collection. Did you know he graduated from Harvard? Neither did we. Tickets are $35. Click here for more info.
SMU is hosting a LitFest March 18-22. The annual three day event is to be held on the SMU campus, and will include author readings, student conferences and book signings. All events are free and open to the public. Click here for more info.
Wordspace and Poetry Slam is hosting Brando Chemtrails in Dallas on March 21. He has an eclectic resume (Slam Nuba National Championship team member, author, performer). For $5, you can hear his genius in person. Click here for more info.
Finally, the piece de resistance, on March 27th Carve Magazine puts on the Dallas Literary One Night Stand. From 7-9 pm you can mix, mingle, listen to some readings from local literary magazines, and participate in Q&A. Best part – it’s free (excluding the spirits). Click here for more info.
photo credit: thefoxling