My original plan this year before the pandemic was to host a live writers conference here in Malmö, Sweden, in October. I had speakers and everything all lined up – and then I had to cancel it all, of course.
But my main speaker, Jennifer Dornbush, was still excited to do some teaching with me, so we made a pivot in our plans and decided to host a 1-day virtual writers conference called Writing with Hollywood in Mind on July 25, 2020. To give people a taste of what the conference will be like, we are hosting two free webinars of the same name. The next one is Saturday, July 18. Click the link – I’d love to see you there!
From a Cabin in the Wood featured author is DT Krippene. DT is a contributing author in the recent BWG’s paranormal anthology, Untethered. A man buys a house for a price that is too good to be true, until he discovers the bizarre strings attached in “Hell of a Deal”. He’s also contributed articles for the Bethlehem Writers RoundTable with “Snowbelt Sanctuary”, and “In Simple Terms”.
A native of Wisconsin and Connecticut, DT deserted aspirations of being a biologist to live the corporate dream and raise a family. After six homes, a ten-year stint in Asia, and an imagination that never slept, his annoying muse refuses to be hobbled as a mere dream. DT writes dystopia, paranormal, and science fiction. His current project is about a young man struggling to understand why he was born in a time when humans are unable to procreate and knocking on extinction’s door.
Writers have an abnormal predilection for planting themselves in a chair like a lone desert cactus, surrounded by nothing but sand, and wait for the words to rain. How is that even remotely natural?
After a writer’s conference last year, I took some time to reflect on what I’d learned, what I’d heard before, and why the hell I was still writing.
Our keynote speaker was NYT Bestseller, Bob Mayer, a former Green Beret who wrote the Area 51 series, as well as 70 other titles in fiction and non-fiction. We listened to advice on the standard elements of plot, story structure, character, the importance of tight narrative, and dangers of going off on tangents that don’t move the story. Anyone who has read my article from last year, ‘The Perils of Captain Tangent – a Pantser’s Writing Journey‘, knows I have an issue with side stories that end nowhere.
Bob shared a harsh lesson given to soldiers wanting to be Army Rangers, one easily applied to writer success. “Everyone stand up, look at the person on the right, then look at the one on the left. Only one of you is going to make it.” He reminded us that only five-percent of all writers ever finish a book, that five-percent get to the point of publishing the book, and five percent of those people ever get anywhere with it. In simpler terms, earning enough to buy a case of Yuengling beer is like winning the lottery.
For writers who’d never heard it before, the eagerness visibly drain from their faces. Reality bites. For me, the message I took away had less to do with sobering statistics I already knew, or the writing process I’ve been refining for years.
Growing up, I had an imagination fueled on nuclear ether. I tried to harness the chaos of that imagination by penning it on paper. A bit intense when gripping a pen, my fingers cramped within an hour. I got a D+ in high school typing class, unable to master a typewriter without buckets of whiteout and erasable bond paper. It would take access to a modern word processor and the ability to backspace and delete with impunity, before I struck up the nerve to start writing again many years later.
Thirty-plus years traveling for corporate America offered ample opportunities at boarding gates, on flights, and hotel rooms to write. While living overseas, I landed a non-paid gig writing articles for a local travel magazine. It was fun, and I acquired a small fan base.
Back to last year’s conference, they asked, “Why are you writing, and what’s your goal? How passionate are you about what you’re doing?”
Hell of a question. What do I want to be, besides thirty-years younger? I remembered a book I’d read about rebooting life when the distraction of a workaday world subsided. It asked similar, tough questions like, what gave me passion in my younger years. What was it I dreamt of as a kid?
The answer: I enjoyed times alone inside the chaotic ether of my imagination. After rendering to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, I wanted to mine that creativity and put it in words.
The stories came easy, but understanding the mechanics of plotting and structure was a different breed of cat. I can quote the basic laws of chemistry, but dangling participles was something I learned on the fly. My first 300-page attempt was a laughable exercise that encouraged (I am a writer, I am, I am, I am), and depressed me (Dear Occupant, thank you for your submission, but …). Not having a pedigree that comes with a Fine Arts education, I had a steep hill to climb.
The journey took me on a rediscovery of subjects I’d glossed over in secondary school, like grammar. The proper use of commas was enough to send me to the nut house. Thankfully, Word spell check kept me from giving up entirely. I networked with authors and joined writer groups. Surviving a critique process from fellow writers is not for the weak-hearted.
I went to conferences to learn about the business of getting published. Rejection by the hundreds required the skin of a stegosaurus. With the prolificacy of traditional and indie publishing (an unending tsunami of content in Bob Mayer’s words), being published today is akin to the lone salmon swimming downstream against the horny hoards going the opposite direction during spawning season.
“Old dogs must learn new tricks”, Bob Mayer said. Exhuming a passion, buried for decades in a lead-lined box of adult obligations, can be one of the hardest things in a person’s life. It felt good to hear a professional corroborate what I had to learn on my own.
I’ve published a few short stories, but have yet to find a market for the five books I’d written. A wonderful agent tried to market two books I wrote a few years back, but no takers. It amazes me that she still answers my emails after those first attempts. Her advice to me – keep writing.
Don’t have to ask me twice. Hell, I can’t help myself. When I’m not writing, I’m thinking about writing. I lost count how many times my wife caught me pacing a room with a blank look, lost in a scene inside the kaleidoscopic pandemonium of my imagination, when I should be cutting the lawn.
I just finished my sixth novel. Given the commentary from trusted beta readers, I still have some work to do. It isn’t because the story sucks. It’s about making it as good as it needs to be. I’m getting closer.
I’ll end it here. I have a story to edit. Have to make my own rain.
Oh, and the hyperactive muse who won’t let me sleep at night, is egging me to start a new idea.
Hmmm – wonder if I can do both at the same time?
Stoke the campfire and get ready for some chills and goosebumps when you open this paranormal addition to the award-winning Bethlehem Writers Group's "Sweet, Funny, and Strange" anthologies.More info →
Diane Sismour has written poetry and fiction for over 35 years in multiple genres. She lives with her husband in eastern Pennsylvania at the foothills of the Blue Mountains. Diane is a member of Romance Writers of America, Bethlehem Writer’s Group LLC, Horror Writers Association, and Liberty States Fiction Writers. She enjoys interviewing other authors and leading writer’s workshops.
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There are hundreds of writing conferences across the country every year, all vying for our attention. The promise of intriguing workshops and spellbinding keynote speakers up the ante, agents and editors add promise, and do not forget the networking opportunities. Although good writing is the objective, in an era when “who you know,” is as important as “what you know,” need I say more. So how do you choose which events are best for you?
To get the most for your money, there are small conferences providing an array of workshops on craft and the business of writing, without the expensive speakers, or sit down dinners. The incidentals of a nomad on the road are costly. Find a venue within driving distance to avoid hotel stays, and remember to pack plenty of snacks and beverages. Your local writing group or library can help guide you to the events in your area. The Shaw Guide to Writer’s Conferences and Workshops has wonderful information on a huge variety of conferences, workshops, retreats and events all around the world. Another is fabulous source is the Romance Writers of America website. For non-romance writers, RWA members are inclusive and the conference workshops are more about craft and business than romance.
Workshops by outstanding speakers can make a difference in how the information translates to your writing needs. These sessions are usually not part of the general registration and are often times pre-conference workshops, requiring additional fees. However, some people are just better teachers and are worth the charge. They communicate concepts in interesting ways that translate to the “ah ha” moments we all love feeling when a connection is grasped.
I do recommend saving for one big conference to enjoy all the pomp and glitter. Ogle at the incredible authors at the literary signings and go to every extra activity you can find. Not only is this an amazing way to make your muse sit up and take notice of what fun can be had, but after falling asleep from exhaustion every night, you’re too tired for nerves to interfere at the agent/editor appointments. Okay, maybe a little anxious, but remember that they are the same people who passed you the sugar that morning, and you had no problem chatting to them about everyday life.
A few important facts to remember: Figure out your objectives and stick to them; go to workshops targeted to move your writing forward, or inform on a subject you’re curious about pursuing. Bring business cards; you’ll make lots of contacts and a few new friends. Realize many of the people you meet may sit across from you at the pitch table; edit your verbal thoughts everywhere. Most of all have fun and relax; you are paying to attend.
Good luck and Happy Writing
Writing conferences rock.
Mostly. Whether you’re a writer or reader or both, I can recommend that you attend one or several each year. You can learn a lot—and have fun doing it.
This year is one of my busy ones for conferences. Since I write both romances and mysteries, I belong to a lot of writing organizations and attend conferences that specialize in both.
This year, I’ll be attending Malice Domestic, featuring mysteries, in May, in Bethesda, Maryland, and the Romance Writers of America annual national conference in New York City in July.
In addition, I’ll be at the California Dreamin’ conference held by local Southern California Romance Writers of America chapters in April, and California Crime Writers, held by local Mystery Writers of America and Sisters in Crime chapters in June. These two conferences are both held every other year locally to me—and they’re always the same year!
So, this is one of those years that I’ll attend four conferences. I enjoy doing that, partly because it’s a wonderful way to network both with other writers in the genres I love and with readers, too, who attend.
Sometimes I participate by giving talks or being on panels. Not so much this year, although I think I’ll be on a panel at Malice.
There are a lot of other conferences, too, that I sometimes attend. Some of the mystery-oriented ones that I’ll miss this year are Left Coast Crime and Bouchercon, both excellent conferences—but I unfortunately can’t attend them all!
And yes, in between all of those conferences I need to get some writing done. Travel now and then with family. Attend local chapter meetings of some of those organizations. And, of course, take care of my dogs.
So it appears that 2019 has started out busy and will only get busier.
And you? Do you attend book-related conferences? Which do you like most?
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She thought marriage would be sex, laundry, and a mortgage.
Girl, was she wrong.