Saturday, July 18, 2015

All Write Now! Conference Notes: Janet L. Cannon on "Building Your Writer's Platform"

When I first heard that the opening group session at the All Write Now! Conference at SEMO was "Building Your Writers' Platform," I thought, Oh, no. not that again.
It's not that I don't care about my writer's platform, I really do. It's just that I've read about that same topic and have heard speakers talk about it several times over the past few years. 
But, I'm happy to say I was pleasantly surprised. 

Whoever said "You can't teach an old dog new tricks," was wrong because I learned a few new tricks, courtesy of technology teacher, Janet L. Cannon, who gave an enthusiastic presentation, supplemented by questions and comments from the audience. 

Here are some suggestions which bear repeating:

* Know your audience

* Expand your public platform -- participate in social media, present workshops, win contests, join clubs, attend conferences/workshops, meet agents/editors/publishers and other writers

 * Expand your circles of interest (e.g., gym, church, volunteer activities)

 * Put your writer’s signature on your e-mails (Note to self: Do this!)

 *Make a plan (short-term, mid-range, long-term)

 * It’s okay to fail; if one way doesn’t work, try something else

 * Have a Plan “B”

 * Post questions and engaging content

 * Respond in a timely manner

 * Publish a small collection of your work

 * Focus, but not on sales; overselling turns people off

 * Use photos and videos in your posts

 * Have color wheels or call-to-action buttons (orange is a stimulating color--I didn't know that!)

 * Build relationships; have a circle of writers and friends (I love that the emphasis was on building relationships and not on "networking")

 * Don’t pay for followers (but it's okay to give away free stuff, like books or samples of your work)

 * Use #Hashtags to increase searchability (but your post has to be public, and don’t use too many #hashtags)

* It's all right to mix professional and personal information on your blog or website because your readers want to get to know you

* Show your personality

 * Your attitude determines your success

 * Always be professional, even if others are not (this was repeated three times)

How about you? Any words of wisdom to pass along about building your writer's platform?

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Notes from Dr. Susan Swartwout on Writing Talismans

Last Saturday I attended the second annual All Write Now! Conference on the campus of Southeast Missouri State University in Cape Girardeau.

The opening keynote speaker was Dr. Susan Swartwout, whose gothic poetry book, Odd Beauty, Strange Fruit, will be available soon from Brick Mantel Books.

During her presentation, Dr. Swartwout spoke with wisdom, grace, and enthusiasm on the topic of writing talismans.

According to the dictionary, a talisman is "something producing apparently magical or miraculous effects."

Dr. Swartwout shared that during her career she was given the talismans of "persistence" and "crap shoot" by two writers, so she wanted to pass along a few talismans other writers can use.

* Write daily. "Don't ignore your muse." No matter if you journal, blog, or prefer another form of writing, find the will, desire, and drive to write every day.

* Write yourself. "Don't try to be your favorite writer." Write what you know, or what you can know, or what you want to learn more about.

* Never stop learning. Read! Reach outside your comfort zone and read works you wouldn't normally read. Enlarge your vocabulary. She quoted E.L. Doctorow, "Start from nothing and learn as you go."

* Spill it! Write as fast as you can. Let your ideas flow honestly. Don't listen to the voice of your internal editor, or your mother, or someone else trying to filter your words on the page. And keep in mind your first draft is your worst draft.

* Take risks. Don't take the easy way by avoiding uncomfortable topics, but also don't overshare. She gave an example of a man who wrote in too much detail about one of his body parts. She suggested keeping a dream journal to record your dreams as soon as you wake up so you can capture the "raw ghosts" wandering around trying to break through your subconscious.

* Write with enthusiasm! She compared writing with enthusiasm to smiling when answering the phone. Write with zest and have fun. The first thing a writer should be is excited!

She wrapped up her talk by suggesting writers use their superpowers for good, because, she said, "Nobody else can do it but you!"

So, how about you? Do you have a writing talisman to share?

Thursday, July 2, 2015

All Write Now! Conference Offers Writing Advice, Inspiration, and Publication Opportunities

I'm excited to be speaking at the Second Annual All Write Now! Conference next weekend, Saturday, July, 11, on the campus of Southeast Missouri State University in the historic Mississippi River city of Cape Girardeau, Missouri.!schedule/cl2i
Courtesy of All Write Now!
Registration kicks off at 8 a.m. July 11 on the fourth floor of the University Center (pictured at left).

The welcome address and introduction of the faculty begins at 8:30.

At 8:45,  Dr. Susan Swartwout, Professor at Southeast Missouri State University and Editor/Publisher of the SEMO University Press, will give the opening keynote address.

The opening group session starts at 9:15 with Janet L. Cannon, Technology Instructor, who will address the topic of  "Building Your Writer's Platform"

The luncheon keynote speaker will be New York Times best-selling author, Angie Fox.

Throughout the day, breakout sessions will cover a wide range of topics, such as: fiction, poetry, prose, personal essays, newspaper writing, children and YA, romance, networking, book cover design, and much more.

Breakout speakers include:
Eileen Dryer, New York Times best-selling romance author.
Dr. Allison Joseph, Associate Professor and Director of SIU-C Creative Writing Program
Bob Miller, Editor of Southeastern Missouri News
Margo Dill, Children and YA author and editor
Ellie Searl, Publishta and book designer
Catherine Rankovich, author, editor and teacher
Donna Volkenannt, writer, editor, and teacher

Afternoon pitch sessions feature the following publishers:

Amphorae Publishing Group, (which includes Blank Slate Press, Walrus Publishing, and Treehouse Publishing Group), with Kristina Blank Makansi, Lisa Miller, and Donna Essner

Brick Mantle Books/Open Books Press, Pen & Publish with Jennifer Geist

Deadly Publishing, LLC, with Sharon Woods Hopkins and Bill Hopkins

Rocking Horse Publishing, with Robin Tidwell

Conference co-chairs Mary Rechenberg and Donna Essner have done an excellent job planning and organizing this special event, along with Marcie Upchurch, who interviewed speakers for the blog; Laura Luttrell, who served as contest coordinator; and Janet L. Cannon, who designed their spectacular website. These women and everyone else involved with this conference are definitely first-class professionals!

The All Write Now! conference also features door prizes, contest announcements, and a mystery grand prize.

For complete details, visit the All Write Now! Conference website.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

News from the World of Publishing . . . THE HAPPY LIFE OF PRESTON KATT by J. J. Zerr

Congratulations to Jack Zerr, one of my critique group writing pals!

If you look closely at the photo on the left, you'll notice three things:

The smile on Jack Zerr's face
The logo on his tee-shirt that says, "I love the smell of jet fuel in the morning."
The copy of his latest novel, "The Happy Life of Preston Katt."

Recently Jack generously handed out copies of his novel to members of the Coffee and Critique writing group, and I read my copy right away.

Zerr's military fiction novel, which opens on the Island of Oahu on December 7, 1941, is the story of Seaman First Class Preston Katt's heroic adventures during World War II.

As the story unfolds, we learn about the daily grind of Navy life, as well as Katt's struggle with guilt and insecurities and his strong and sustaining faith.

As a Navy combat aviator and Vietnam veteran, Zerr writes with authority and compassion. His vivid writing, strong characterization, and attention to detail make The Happy Life of Preston Katt a compelling read.

If you would like to read my complete review of Jack's latest novel, visit the Coffee and Critique blog.

Friday, May 29, 2015

Exciting News and A Literary Controversy: Flannery O'Connor Gets Her Own Postage Stamp!

Image from US Postal Service
I was excited to read the news that Mary Flannery O'Connor, one of my top three favorite short story writers, is getting her own postage stamp. According to a report in Crux, the 93-cent stamp will be released on June 5.

Also according to Crux, the image is based on a black and white photo of O'Connor taken in 1945 when she was a student at Georgia State College for Women. The background image is peacock feathers, a signature symbol of O'Connor and representative of the birds raised on her home in Georgia.

The image the artist used of O'Connor has already created controversy.

According to an article in Entertainment Weekly, another favorite short story writer, Joyce Carol Oates, tweeted earlier this week that she doesn't think the stamp resembles any photos she has ever seen of O'Connor and wonders if the artist who created the stamp had ever seen an image of O'Connor or read any of the iconic writer's work. 

While I agree with Oates that the image doesn't resemble any I've seen of Flannery -- most photos I've seen show her wearing dark glasses -- I think the image is flattering.

And I will be in line next month to buy my O'Connor stamps.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

I'm Back with a Quick Deadline Call for Submissions for Veterans and their Families

If you've been wondering where I've been for the past two months, I'm still around, although I haven't been spending a lot of time on social media this winter.

Earlier this year, after scrubbing my kitchen and bathroom floors, I was so out of breath I had to sit down and rest. Around the same time, my Internet service provider "upgraded" their system and threw my program speed and capability for a loop.

Frustrated with not being able to easily do what I used to do both physically and on line, I took some action.

I joined a local fitness center and began a nutrition and exercise program, and my husband figured out what was wrong with my laptop.

Now that I have more energy and my computer is behaving itself, I hope to blog more often.

I wanted to begin with this call for submissions because it's for such a good cause and there is no fee to enter.

Here are some details:

For all military personnel, Veterans, and their families:
Call for Submissions for Proud to Be: Writing by American Warriors volume 4
Deadline: June 1, 2015
No fee
Prize: $250
Categories: Short fiction, Poetry, Interview with a Warrior, Essay, Photography
Writing must be by veterans, military-service personnel or their families.  Include the connection in your short bio.

You can find more information by clicking on this link from Walrus Publishing.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Dr. Richard P. Johnson's Workshop for Writers "Enliven Your Writing with an Understanding of Clinical and Spiritual Psychology"

On Saturday, Feb 28, I was among the more than two-dozen writers who attended Dr. Richard P. Johnson's workshop sponsored by Catholic Writers of St. Louis and hosted by All Saints Catholic Writers in St. Peters.

The topic of Dr. Johnson's workshop was how writers can enliven their writing through an understanding of clinical and spiritual psychology. 

Dr. Johnson is the former Director of Behavior Science at a large teaching medical center in St. Louis. 

You can also find further information and explanation in his book, Discover Your Spiritual Strengths.

Here are some notes I jotted down.

Writers and psychologists are kindred spirits -- both are observers of people. 

For writers, using accurate words to describe behaviors is vitally important.

Personality: The core of individuals; what makes them unique. 

Dr. Johnson's six Christ-centered functions of personality are:

1. Believing. What you think life should be like. “Beliefs are the mother of your actions and behaviors.” 

2. Perceiving. Where you place your focus. We take in data - physical, mental, emotional, and also spiritual. (body, mind, and spirit).

Transcendence - visible and invisible. How are you perceiving that which is invisible?

3.  Thinking- the meaning you make from your evaluations or assessments, We have an estimated 60K thoughts each day; we are constantly thinking. Thoughts create feelings.

4. Feeling. Feelings have a great purpose. They are the automatic emotions that flow from our thoughts. How your personality creates your emotional life

5.  Deciding. The choices we make in our lives are based on our feelings. Make choices as to what we are going to do: strategies, goals, objectives, FREE WILL.

6. Acting. Behavior, what we actually do. Actions move things, hearts, minds, and souls. Actions cause change; we change as a result of action.Some action is outward; most is inward.

He also discussed Spiritual Gifts and Attitudes: 

What are spiritual gifts? They are the essence of the person. 

What is attitude? Patients with healthy attitudes responded rather than reacted. 

Responding is something thoughtful

He passed out a list which displayed the above six functions of personality with corresponding Spiritual Strengths (virtues), Disturbing Compulsions (fears) and Instructive Shadows (absence of virtues).

Virtues are expressed as spiritual strengths received through the grace of God. For each spiritual strength or virtue (light) there is an instructive shadow (darkness) expressed in the absence of that virtue.  We use our compulsions (fears) to try to get out of the shadow.

For example: The spiritual strength of  HOPE, the absence of hope is some measure of Despair (from disillusionment to hopelessness). The corresponding compulsion is Presumption (taking things for granted). 
Spiritually healing patient expressed themselves through their: VIRTUES

What is a virtue? Manifestation of Christ in them

“Virtus in media stat” In the middle stands virtue.

Virtue motivates our behaviors, from the Christ-centered perspective.  

Shadow (the absence of virtue) is the fear that comes from darkness. Something is missing.

Compulsion: When our whole being is fearful.

 As authors, we try to describe the human condition. He suggested we use the model for fleshing out  our characters to go beyond the physical, mental, and emotional dimensions to the spiritual. For fully fleshed out characters, consider using the character's virtues.

After Dr. Johnson's presentation, Cathy Gilmore from Catholic Writers of St. Louis led participants in a brief exercise to apply what we learned. I was amazed at the creativity expressed during the readings offered by several writers. 

I left the workshop with a happy heart and a desire to learn more about spiritual strengths to use in my writing--and in my life!