Gearing Up for Write on the Red Cedar 2015

In less than three weeks, I will be speaking at Write on the Red Cedar, a writing conference put on by my amazing writing group, Capital City Writers Association. The line-up includes the incomparable Donald Maass; authors, editors, and journalists like Kristina Riggle, Elizabeth Heiter, Natalie Burg, Lori Nelson Spielman, Chad Allen, Louise Knott Ahren, Kelly Rogers, Alyssa AlexanderDarcy Woods, Tracy Brogan, and my own husband, Zachary Bartels; indie publisher Tricia McDonald; and agents Nikki Terpilowski, Katharine Sands, and Ann Byle.

Today I answer nine questions about my own writing experiences and advice over on the Write on the Red Cedar blog

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1. What is the best writing advice you ever received?
Not long ago, I saw a little clip on YouTube of Anne Rice talking to aspiring writers and one of the lines that stuck out to me was, “Write what you want to be known for.” There is so much temptation to write what we think will sell. My own contacts through almost thirteen years of working in publishing are in a particular subset of the publishing world: Christian books. It is tempting, then, to write something with which I know my own publisher or another Christian publisher would find success. But I have never felt called to write the type of book I help to market as a copywriter. What I want to be known for is something else. So, while the road is rougher and feels like it’s all uphill, I have chosen to write novels that fit better in the general market than the Christian market.

2. What is the worst writing advice you ever received?
I have never been able to follow the pervasive advice to write every day. I can do it for a time when I’m drafting (I managed to keep it up for most of November as a participant–and winner!–of National Novel Writing Month in 2014) but once I type the last period of a draft, I can’t turn around and start writing the next novel the next day, even if I already have an idea of where I’m going with it. I need days off to let my well fill up again. I’m a believer in the need for Sabbath rest, both weekly and seasonally. Our culture is so harried compared to so many around the world, and I try, as much as I am able, not to let myself get sucked in completely.

To read the rest of this interview, click here!

5 Reasons You Need to Attend a Writers Conference

On Saturday I attended the first ever Write on the Red Cedar writing conference, hosted by a relatively new writers group in the area, the Capital City Writers Association. The featured speakers were writer, blogger, and literary agent guru Chuck Sambuchino and literary agent April Eberhardt. Both were friendly, gracious, funny, informative, and accessible. In fact, everyone was friendly and fun to be around. It was a great group of both established writers (like Lori Spielman) and beginning writers.

But why go to a writers conference? Why spend the money? The time? I’m glad you asked. Here are 5 good reasons:

1. Network. Writing may be something you can do alone, but publishing and getting your book into the hands of readers is not. Even if you self-publish, you need a network of people who can help you along the way with everything from editing and cover design connections to endorsements and book reviews. So much of publishing success lies in who you know. So you need to get out and meet people.

2. Hone your craft. Working in isolation can make us fall into lazy writing, even bad writing. Yes, you can read books (like this one) but it’s also helpful to get jolts of focused advice in one-hour portions. I went to a workshop once that was about where to start your story, with much of the class focused on just the first sentence. It was extremely helpful.

3. Make new friends. I know you have friends, but having friends who are fellow writers is awesome. Writer friends spur you on, cheer for you, complain with you, and know what you’re going through. They read your drafts and give you constructive criticism. They go to the next writers conference with you. They are special.

4. Learn insider tips and tricks. When you go to a conference attended by professional writers, editors, agents, or anyone else involved in the Industry, you get priceless insider information about how publishing really works on the ground level. I gave out a lot of such information at both Breathe, where I was a speaker, and Write on the Red Cedar, where I was an attendee.

5. Meet agents and/or editors. Nothing can substitute for positive in-person interaction between a new writer and an agent or editor. Cold calls and queries just don’t carry the same weight as a handshake and a great conversation that will make you real and memorable. Not every conference or retreat has agents and editors attending, but even if they don’t, people you meet there can lead to meeting agents or editors in the future. You never know who someone else has connections with.

If you’re just starting out on your writing journey, I can’t recommend good writers conferences enough. Just being around that many other people committed to improving their writing and helping each other along the way is energizing and encouraging.

You Have Been Chosen

On Sunday we had my son’s fifth birthday party with his crazy little friends at Impression 5 Children’s Museum. Calvin wanted a Toy Story theme, and so I made these little cupcakes for dessert.

Oooooooooooo!

For the uninitiated, these are my best effort at making a bunch of Pizza Planet aliens from the claw machine. Observe…

As the writer seeking publication or even representation, it’s easy to feel like one of those little alien squeaky toys, waiting in a sea of other aliens–er, writers–for some mystical outside force to pluck us from obscurity. We long to be “chosen.” Some, like Woody, will search out another, more indie avenue. Others, like Buzz, will be chosen without even having waited at all (those lucky-ducky writers who are at just the right place at the right time and know the right people).

But most of us are aliens. Waiting and hoping.

But while you’re busy waiting, be busy writing more, revising again, making everything you create as creative and as strong as possible. So that when The Claw closes around you and draws you up above the crowded masses, you will be ready to take full advantage of that “better place” to which you are going.

And here’s hoping your agent or publisher is nothing like Sid.