Wednesday, July 27, 2016

More Notes from the All Write Now Conference: Tiffany Schofield and David Armand

Here's another installment of my notes from the All Write Now! Conference earlier this month.

During a morning session Five Star Publishing representative Tiffany Schofield gave a presentation on how writers can challenge their characters.

Her presentation included a discussion on some of her favorite recent reads and how the authors challenged their characters.

Here are some notes from her presentation:

* Readers get invested in characters.

* Read twice as much as you write.

* Step out of genre.

* Keep a journal/note what stood out as a reader and jot it down.

* For character development, describe setting.

* For pacing, balance dialogue and narrative.

* Writers can take some liberties in historical fiction, but history buffs will call you out if you make a mistake.

Challenge your characters' boundaries (physical, emotional, spiritual, societal, and literary).

* Push through; challenge the norm.

* Question the status quo.

* Without failure, there is no growth.


During lunch, keynote speaker David Armand spoke about his writing journey from an adopted son in Louisiana to a college professor at Southeastern Louisiana University.

His memoir, My Mother's House, opens with the image of rotten peaches, bruised fruits left on the floor to rot. He felt the peaches represented his life as being discarded and bruised, but still bearing fruit. 

His remarks were inspirational and focused on how books saved him and made a difference in his life. Through books and writing he was able to live his grand dreams.

He recommended the book On Writing by Stephen King as one of his favorites

He also suggested writers:
* Do the work.
* Believe in yourself.
* Take the seeds from an image to create a story.

He closed with a line from the Robert Frost poem, "The Road Less Traveled."

Although his remarks were brief, they demonstrated how reading and writing can change lives.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Notes from All Write Now Conference (Part II): John Rudolph on "Don't Call the Lawyers: Understanding Publishing Contracts"

One of the most informative sessions at the AWN Conference was John Rudolph’s presentation on “Don’t Call the Lawyers: Understanding Publishing Contracts.”

It was apparent that Mr. Rudolph, an agent with Dystel and Goderich Literary Management, is skilled on his topic. Here are a few tips he shared with the standing-room-only crowd:

* Hiring a lawyer might cost more than what an author makes on a book.

* Pay attention to who pays for ancillary materials (photos, indexing).

* Unless you’re dealing with a movie studio, don’t give up movie rights.

* Author should have approval over copyedited manuscript.

* Unless you accept a flat fee (work for hire), you own the copyright.

* Reserve the right to an audit and ask for an accounting statement at least once a year.

* Plagiarism and lawsuits are rare but expensive.

* Limit as much as possible the first look at next book option.

* Define Out-of-Print status.

* Agent commission should match original agreement with agent.

* Any rights not expressly covered by contract belong to you.

* Areas to negotiate: Advance, Royalty, Territory.

Remember, the publisher wants you to succeed. A contract is an act of good faith, not an adversarial relationship!

Monday, July 18, 2016

Notes from All Write Now Conference: Perfecting Your Pitch with Jill Marr

Sioux reads her winning pitch while Jill Marr listens

For the next few posts I'll share some notes and observations from the All Write Now! Conference last weekend at SEMO in Cape Girardeau, which was an amazing experience by the way.

The first event of the morning was "Perfecting Your Pitch" with literary agent Jill Marr.

During the session, Jill described what she considers to be the makings of a successful elevator pitch.

Jill stated the best elevator pitches can be done in about 60 seconds, so her first word of advice was for writers to keep it short and focused.

For fiction, the focus should be on your project, rather than yourself.

Here are some specific tips on pitches. Pitches should be:

* Concise (be brief)

* Clear (no acronyms or jargon)

* Correct (appropriate audience)

* Compelling (hook to ask for more)

* Conceptual (stick to high level, don’t give too much detail)

* Customize (be ready to improvise)

* Conversational (keep it flowing, not stiff)

Also, be sure to include: character, situation (inciting incident), objective (goal), opponent (antagonist), disaster (climax - blackest moment in time).

* For nonfiction, the focus is more on yourself. Why you are proposing this project? What is your personal story?  

When pitching, know your title and genre. Have two options in your head. Be prepared.

Jill has an issue with pitches starting off with a question; it usually doesn’t always work for her. 

After her talk, about a dozen brave souls volunteered to give their pitches to the entire audience. 

I was not one of those brave souls. Call me chicken, but I'm not one to volunteer to get up in public and read. But I did use what I learned during this session to polish my pitch for later that afternoon.

To encourage the audience to participate, Jill offered as a prize for the winner a ten-page critique.

My observation of those who gave pitches was that the best were concise, focused, and memorable.

The one selected as the winner was Sioux Roslawski’s. (Yay, Sioux!)

Sioux (pictured above) visited our critique group and shared her pitch last Tuesday, so I had a hint at what she was going to say.

When Sioux practiced her pitch to our group we blown away. Still, her pitch was fresh. To sum it up, I’d say Sioux’s manuscript is wickedly funny.

After this session I revised my own pitch so I'd be prepared to pitch my project later in the day.

And I'm happy to report that when I pitched my project to Jill she had positive comments. She loves my title and subject matter. She gave me her card and asked me to send the entire manuscript after I've polished it. She told me she'd rather have it polished than quick.

Hope this post is helpful to anyone who plans to pitch to an agent or an editor.

For my next post I'll share some notes from John Rudolph's session on publishing contracts.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Pitch Perfect at the All Write Now! Conference

Next weekend several members of the Coffee and Critique writers' group will be heading to the SEMO campus in Cape Girardeau for the Third Annual All Write Now! Conference.

A few of us have signed up to pitch projects to agents or publishers. At time of registration, we were allowed to select two members of faculty to present our pitches to during the conference.

I signed up for Jill Marr from the Sandra Dijkstra Literary Agency or Tiffany Schofield from Five Star Publishing. I won't know which one I'll get selected to pitch to, but I'll be happy to discuss my project with either lady.

Several years ago I pitched a work-in-progress to an agent who invited me to query her after I finished my project, which, for reasons I won't go into, is still incomplete.

Keeping the "practice makes perfect" motto in mind, some of our critique group member are going to be perfecting our pitches before our Coffee and Critique meeting next Tuesday.

That leads me to the purpose of this post. Please feel free to respond to these questions.

Have you ever pitched before?

What were the results of your pitch session?

What advice do you have for someone giving a pitch?

Specifically, what dos and don'ts  do you have to share?

Curious minds would like to know.

Mysteries of the Ozarks, Volume V - Interviews with Lonnie Whitaker and Dr. Barri Bumgarner

Here is the second installment of interviews with contributors who have stories in Mysteries of the Ozarks, Volume V , from Ozark Writers, I...