Conference Afterglow

Novel Clique + First Tuesday members

I can’t even begin to describe how awesome OWFI 2012 was. There were a number of informative workshops. I listened to Chuck Sambuchino discuss “Perfecting Your Pitch”, attended session where agents and editors fielded questions from the audience, heard what editor Melissa Frain had to say about genre fiction, listened to a paranormal panel discuss the supernatural, and watched Carolyn Wall ‘fall into’ her characters to demonstrate how to discover voice.

WordWeavers Bartlesville + Me

It was wonderful to see the familiar faces of my Word Weaver friends, as well as  meet new people. I had a chance to meet Rebekah Loper, a blogger encountered through the Platform Building Campaign, face to face.

Though, the thing that sets OWFI apart from many other conferences is the opportunity to attend Buzz Sessions with speakers/presenters. My critique group and I (along with a few other attendees) had the opportunity to hang out with agents Lousie Fury, Emmanuelle Morgen, and Jessica Sinsheimer and discuss things like market trends, the benefits of

Agent side of Agent/Editor panel

acquiring an agent, what to expect in an agent/author relationship, and that some agents actually visit blogs as well as search Twitter and Facebook of potential clients before making offers. *waves hello*

The keynote speaker Steven James had me laughing so hard I snorted during the ‘JOY’ part of his speech. Long story short, bad things aren’t a travesty for writer’s, it’s material. He also read snippets of rejections letters, which were funny in retrospect.

On both Friday and Saturday, I had the opportunity to pitch my YA paranormal novels EDGE OF TRUTH and BLINK to three agents. All asked for material. My critique partners also successfully pitched their work to agents.

Novel Clique post Awards Banquet celebration

The conference ended with an Awards Banquet on Saturday. Everyone in my critique group placed in one category or another. My short story ZOMBIE KIBOSH CREW earned 2nd Place in the YA Short Story category (find extended, published version on Kindle or Nook or print).

Overall, I’d say OWFI is an excellent conference and attendees get so much back for the conference cost.

Have you been to a conference lately? Which one and what did you like about it? Or perhaps you’re planning to attend a conference in the future? How did you decide which one?

Make It Worth The Money

My writer’s group is preparing for the Oklahoma Writer’s Federation, Inc. conference in May. We’ve attended this conference for the past two years and continue to be impressed by the professional and well-coordinated event. Conferences are a great way to network with other writers, as well as meet agents, editors, and/or publishers face to face. In an effort to help other writers who plan to attend a conference for the first time or for those who have recently attended one, we decided to put together a series of posts offering advice on what to do before (mine!), during (Leatrice), and after the conference (Dawn).
Here are some things to consider BEFORE attending a conference:
  1. How to know when you’re conference ready. Anyone who wants to learn more about the craft of writing or who wants to meet with fellow minded people who also hear voices or those who have done the hard work of writing, revising, and polishing a manuscript and are ready to seek representation/a publisher. If your serious about your craft, it may be time to start researching conferences.
  2. Professionalism.  Though conferences are a blast, it’s important to behave professionally. Those agents/editors/publisher at the conference have eyes and ears. Don’t give them a reason to dismiss you. Also, it’s important to dress the part. If you intend to be taken seriously as a writer, present yourself as such. Think, business casual to business wear.
  3. Business Cards. Carry them with you. These should be easy to read, contain your name (or pen name), website and/or blog address, email address, twitter account, and any other social media information you wish to include. If you have a tagline which reinforces the genre you write while remaining professional, consider adding it.  You can print business cards at home (I strongly recommend buying business card paper if you do) or find an online source. VistaPrint offers free options, though I recently discovered and LOVE If you chose to outsource, be sure to order them well ahead of time to avoid paying extra fees for expedited shipping.
  4. Workshop/session selection. Workshops are a place to learn how to hone your skills. Chose a variety of topics which will help round out your writer’s toolbox. If you excel in a certain area (or if you can’t help buying/reading craft books on setting, for example) try to a avoid that session, unless something in the description is new to you. Sounds simple, but I’m a sucker for nonverbal cues workshops.
  5. Pitching. There are two basic kinds of pitches. The elevator pitch and the agent/editor pitch. The elevator pitch is your story in 1-2 sentences. This helps in case some one says, “so what’s your story about?” You never know who might be listening, or who might ask. Practice saying your it until it rolls off your tongue and be sure to use a present, active tense. The word “was” in all of its forms has no place in this pitch. The agent/editor pitch is a slightly longer description of your story. Something you can say in 1-3 minutes (like a query) that highlights the main character, his/her goals, what stands in his/her way, as well as when/where the story takes place. Be sure the tone of the pitch matches the tone of your manuscript.
Be sure to check out Letrice’s upcoming post on what to do during the conference and Dawn’s current post on what to do after attending.

What tips, recommendations, or suggestions do you have to help conference goers prepare BEFORE hand?

Keeping the Short in Short Story

(view source)

Ever sit down with the intent to write a short story only to have it turn into a novella? Or even a full-blown novel? In my recent preparation for the OWFI 2012 conference contest, I re-discovered how difficult it is to keep the ‘short’ in short story. This year, I wrote a piece for the young adult short story category which had a limit of 1,200 words. Eeek!

My characters wanted me to write a story slightly outside my genre, they demanded a novel length story (which they deserve at a later time), and they had no desire to live confined within the contest guidelines. I knew going into it, they were going to be unruly. Usually when I write, I’m not concerned about word count.

In order to keep it short, I had to change my mindset. Here’s what worked for me:

  • Let the story title work for you. Choose something creative and short that fits the genre of the short story. For tips on attention grabbing titles, check out this article.
  • Strong, fleshed out characters help hook a readers’ interest. Character development is important, because even though your characters are part of a short story, they deserve full attention.
  • Don’t let backstory side track you, no matter how tempting or interesting. There’s no room for it in short fiction.
  • Stay focused on one plot, one event. The more linear time you try to cover in a story, the more complicated the story becomes which may increase word count. This one might not apply to short stories with a word count above 1,200.
  • Limit the number of characters, for the same reason listed above. More characters equal a more complicated story equals more words.
  • The story must have a complete story arc, no matter how limited the word count. The story must have a beginning, middle and end. Lesann Berry, one of my fellow campaign bloggers, recently wrote a post on story structure.
  • Make sure every word belongs. This applies to all fiction. Vanquish weak words.
  • Every item (backpack, gun, frying pan, etc.) you mention should add value to the story somehow or reveal something about your character. For example, if your character uses a frying pan as a weapon in addition to a cooking utensil, it demonstrates that the character is practical and resourceful. Also, if the character doesn’t aim, shoot, and/or threaten someone with the gun by the end of the story, the reader may not need to know about the weapon.

Do you write short stories? What technique works for you?