Three DFW Writers' Workshop members have received outstanding reviews from several publications this month.
Horror Underground on Russell Connor's GOOD NEIGHBORS:
A lot of books and authors are compared to Stephen King, especially fiction that showcases the dark side of the human condition. Good Neighbors is easy to compare as such, but I think that Connor’s writing has enough of its own voice that it doesn’t need the comparison. Click to read the full review.
Austin American-Statesman on Melissa Lenhardt's STILLWATER: A JACK McBRIDE MYSTERY:
Melissa Lenhardt of North Texas lays the foundation for a dangerous, romantic and seedy world with the first in a series, “Stillwater: A Jack McBride Mystery”...You want to know what is going to happen and how it’s going to go down. Click to read the full review.
Portland Book Review on Harry Hall's THE PEDESTRIENNES: AMERICA'S FORGOTTEN SUPERSTARS:
(The Pedestriennes: America’s Forgotten Superstars) is very easy and enjoyable to read. Most people will have very little knowledge or awareness of endurance walking, but should find this book to be interesting and even amazing. Click to read the full review.
Harry Hall’s book, The Pedestriennes, America’s Forgotten Superstars, ($20 Dog Ear Publishing) has picked up a third major writing award, as it won an Honorable Mention in the Life Stories category for the Writer’s Digest Self-Published Book Awards.
Hall’s prizes include promotion at WritersDigest.com and $50 worth of Writer’s Digest Books.
Previously, The Pedestriennes manuscript won a prize at the 2012 Mayborn Literary Non-fiction Conference, which put Hall in the Mayborn Author’s Guild. Earlier this year, Pedestriennes earned a bronze medal through Independent Publishers (IPPY).
Hall is a long-time newspaper reporter and columnist and is a member of DFW Writers Workshop. He has also taken courses in the University of North Texas Mayborn Journalism School.
“Writer's Digest discovered something we already knew,” says DFWWW President Brooke Fossey, “Harry Hall is a talented author, and he's been sharing this with DFW Writers' Workshop for years. It's thrilling to see him finally find the recognition he and his books deserve.”
by: A. Lee Martinez. DFWWW Member since 1995
Writing isn’t as simple as putting down words on paper. If it was, everyone would be doing it, and at times, it feels like everyone thinks they can. If we’re talking about sitting in front of a keyboard and typing until you have a few pages, then, yes, everyone can do it. There’s a difference between doing it and doing it well.
Asking why is that difference.
Let’s stick with fiction for the moment. Much of this applies to non-fiction as well, but it’s easier to focus on one right now. Fiction is, generally, a series of scenes that string together to form an overarching story. All basic stuff, you might think, but you would be wrong.
The Why (capital W from this point on) is Why this scene must exist in the first place. Your initial answer will probably be wrong. You will no doubt think of story points and character motivations and getting the plot moving to its next stage. That’s important stuff, but it is NOT your Why.
The Why is all about what we’ll call emotional intention. I should be feeling something in your scene, and that feeling should be what you want me to feel. New writers (and even experienced writers) can be so invested in moving the pieces on the board and pushing the plot forward that they forget that writing fiction isn’t about conveying mere facts.
“John woke up in the morning. He went to the store. He bought some eggs. He came home and had breakfast.”
That’s a boring story. Not just because it’s a boring story but because there’s no emotional weight to it. Even if we change it up by adding a zombie apocalypse or messy divorce, it still doesn’t have any intention.
“John dragged himself out of bed. He trudged to the store and bought some damned eggs. He cooked them alone, in his kitchen, thinking about her.”
The Why here is obvious. John is having a bad day. He’s tired. He’s barely motivated. And I, as the reader, know that this isn’t a happy scene or funny or exciting. It’s sad. I may not know the details, but the weight is there. The intention isn’t screaming, but it is palpable.
“John jumped out of bed. He ran to the store, treated himself in some extra large eggs. Singing their song, he cooked the eggs in his kitchen, thinking about her.”
The Why is completely different here. It’s full of positivity and energy. John is still alone. We still don’t know anything about Her, but we don’t need to. We sense the emotional weight of this scene just by how we choose to tell it.
Nobody cares about the details. Characters are not playing pieces on a board, and stories are not a series of checklists. They are about emotional intention, and, yes, even ambiguity is a perfectly acceptable goal for a scene if done on purpose.
So don’t write what happened. Write Why it happened, and that Why should almost never be because John ran out of eggs.
I attend the DFW Writers Conference to mainly help like so many others. I've worked the pitch session for some years. I tell bad jokes to the overly nervous writers waiting to pitch their works to agents and editors. And I usually catch a class or two. I didn’t attend to pitch anything, just hang with friends and maybe talk to an agent or two about the industry if the opportunity presented itself.
Then at the mixer I caught a glimpse of
Shilo Harris, a war veteran who had been burned over thirty-five percent of his body, walking towards me. I'd seen his picture on the website. Since I've led such a sheltered life in regards to traumatic injuries, and being shy by nature, I was nervous. How should I act? What would I say? What should I talk about, and more importantly, what shouldn't I talk about?
As he got close to the table where I stood, I nodded and said a timid hello. He stepped up and introduced himself with a firm handshake. The joy of being alive filled his voice and shone from his face as we talked for over an hour about his service, family, fishing, how he's helping vets. Nothing seemed off-limits. He made me feel like we'd been friends for decades.
The next day as I watched him saying goodbyes at the conference, it was obvious I wasn't the only person he made feel like a friend.
It's amazing how he's overcome such tragedy, such severe injuries. How he's so optimistic, so happy, so exuberant. How he's helping others, especially vets.
Back at the hotel, as I waited for friends, someone poked me in the back then hid on the opposite side like a kid. I turned and there he was, Shilo Harris smiling. He introduced me to his three sons, all good looking boys. We talked for a several minutes, then he was gone.
How many speakers would do that to someone they'd met once? And how many people has he met on tour? To him I wasn't just a blurred face in the crowd. I was a friend
This year's DFW Writers Conference brought something unexpected: the blessing, honor and privilege of meeting Shilo Harris, a hero, an inspiration, a man who helped me see past the physical. Serendipity brought us together, aligning an unfathomable number of events, events neither one of us could control, events as simple as a long drink line, events as complex as securing conference keynotes.
I admit, I'm not a deep thinker. I seldom reflect and I avoid philosophy. I also tend to live in the moment. Things happen then I forget and move on. Essentially, my field of view is narrow, like I'm wearing blinders.
That said, where do I take this from here?
Will my meeting Shilo Harris be like the exercise equipment in the corner of the room, pushed aside, collecting dust, or will I use the meeting to improve myself, like so many others he's touched, helped, given hope? More importantly will I try to escape my comfort zone to become more like Shilo Harris by helping others inside and outside of the writing community? Is anyone truly changed by meeting someone once? If there is a desire, an emptiness, a hunger in their soul for change, to overcome.
The DFW Writers Conference and the DFW Writers' Workshop have helped expand my comfort zone and brought many new friends into my life. A multitude of writers' workshops and conferences are built on mutual support, friendship, helping others, being helped. How much we help and how much we are helped depends on us.
Can I change? Most definitely. Can we change the world? You bet. How do we do it? By charging out of our comfort zone, taking off our blinders, and taking action.
I pray that my path will cross Shilo's again and that I will become a better person for having met him.
To learn more about Shilo Harris go to http://www.shiloharris.com/
-- Eric Dixon, DFWWW Member Since 2008
Originally published July 23, 2015
By Brian Tracey
With ThrillerFest, a week-long New York City writers' conference, still in my rear view mirror and DFWCon just ahead, I've discovered everything I knew about writing conferences is wrong.
Like many writers, I approached my first conference with my perfectly practiced pitch and my carefully crafted manuscript just knowing that soon I'd be signing with the agent who would make all my dreams come true. Wrong. Wrong. Wrong.
After the devastating discovery that I, in fact, had no idea how to write, I became certain that the key to conferences was a focus on craft. I then packed my conference schedules full of classes. Point of view. Plotting. Character. Structure. I took them all. Craft. That was what it was all about. Still wrong.
It’s taken countless conferences from The Big Apple to The Big D, some serious trial and error, but I’ve finally figured it out.
Conferences are about finding your tribe.
It took several years before I noticed something about the people at these conferences who I'd met and grown to know along the way. They’ve become important to me. Very important. On the surface, they're not like me. Politically, religiously, racially, sexual orientation, you name it. We are different. There is, however, one characteristic that transcends it all. Something so personal, so profound, so intimate that all of those differences wash away. These people are writers.
And because they're writers, they know. They know what it's like. They know how it feels. They know the experience of having voices in their heads that won't shut up until the words appear on paper or on the screen, words that are sometimes rejected, bashed, and abused. Mostly, if not surprisingly, they want to tell you what it is like for them and they want to hear what it's like for you, even if they've already sold three hundred million books or they've yet to sell one. Because they know.
I hope you find your agent at DFWCON. I hope you improve your craft. But more importantly I hope you choose to reach out and go find your tribe. Because when you land your agent and when you improve your craft (and those are unlikely to occur in that order), your tribe will be there to cheer you on and help carry you to the next stop in this insane journey that those voices have driven us to take. They will do this because they’ve been there or they are there or they will be there.
They do this because they’re writers.
-- Brian Tracey, DFWWW Member since 2012