Saturday, August 20, 2016

New Literary Journal for Christians



Got this in the mail the other day from the editor of a new literary journal, Greater Sum, and thought I'd pass it along:

Hi, Linda. I got your contact information off the WOTS blog. If you're not the right person to contact, please accept my apologies. 
First of all, bless you and your chapter for fostering what is sometimes an overlooked art form. As an editor and a Christian I'm sometimes dismayed at how little encouragement writers of faith get from the faith community. Like the visual and performing arts, writing can and should be a great ministry for the glory of God. 
That's why we recently started a new literary journal called Greater Sum. Greater Sum is a journal of prose and faith meant to help cultivate and encourage the (growing) community of Christian writers with specific emphasis on fiction and creative & narrative nonfiction. While there are outlets for Christian creative writing—especially poetry—there simply aren't many active journals publishing Christian fiction & nonfiction. We want to fix that. Writers are a tremendous asset to the church, and story is one of the great art and teaching forms. 
I'm a decade into a career as an editor, but most of my work has been direct with authors or for organizations. I get tremendous joy out of helping writers one-on-one and through the classes I teach at libraries, conferences, seminars, etc. But it's time to do more with my experience in publishing and editing, and I'm excited to help foster contemporary Christian prose writers. 
I hope you'll pass on our information to your writing group if there are writers actively seeking publication, and I will happily answer any questions you or writers have. Our website is www.agreatersum.com. Thank you very much for your time.
--
Marcus Corder
Editor
Greater Sum: A Journal of Prose and Faith
www.agreatersum.com

According to the site, the journal isn't set to pay for articles yet. This is its debut year. But after reading several secular literary journals, I'm hoping this one does well.
~~~~~
BTW: Looking forward to seeing everyone next week. Billy and I are leaving Monday, combining our vacation time with the conference time. This is the first year he'll be helping at the conference, too--at least preconference. I've volunteered us both to be bag stuffers Wednesday morning, then Wednesday afternoon, we'll be setting up our shared table in the marketplace. If you get there early, look for me!




















Monday, August 15, 2016

Open Sesame: Getting Your Book Idea Through the Publisher’s Door

Another spot-on post by our fearless president, Janice Thompson~~~



You’ve written your book. Edited it. Run the chapters through your critique partners. The time has come to shop the story idea to publishing houses, but you don’t know where to start. I would love to share a few tips from my journey. I know what it feels like to have the door slammed in my face, but I know the bliss of watching it swing wide. I’ve published nearly seventy books now, so I’m thrilled to say my “Open Sesame!” approach is paying off. I feel sure it will work for you, too.

Seven Sure-Fire Ways to Get that Publisher’s Door to Open:

ONE: If you’re working without the assistance of an agent, make sure you have a copy of the Writers Market Guide. You can sign up online for up-to-the-minute information about publishing houses (what they’re looking for, how to submit, etc.). The Writers Market Guide is the writer’s best friend.

TWO: Query the correct editor. This might sound like a given, but many writers have a more haphazard approach. They send a “Dear editor” letter, then wonder why the book is rejected. The editor wants (and needs) to be acknowledged. You’re writing to a person, not an entity.

THREE: Write the best possible book proposal. If you don’t know how to do that, consider taking our fiction course. In that course you will receive the tools you need to put together a killer proposal, one sure to wow any editor.

FOUR: Make sure your synopsis and sample chapters are the very best they can be. Polish them until they shine. Remember, this is the first sample of your writing that the editor will see. It’s important to put your best foot forward.

FIVE: Beef up the market analysis section of your proposal. In this section you will list other books (already published) that are similar to yours. Tell the editor what sets your book apart from those on the market. Why will readers be drawn to your book?

SIX: Editors are looking for authors with a platform, so make sure you list every organization you’re a member of, as well as your publishing credits, blog address, former speaking gigs, and so on.

SEVEN: List the ways you plan to market your book. The editor will be looking for a go-getter—someone who’s willing to blog, do interviews, speak, participate in book-signings, etc. These days, authors are responsible for most of the marketing on their book, so you’ve got to be willing to go the distance. Let the editor know up front that you’re excited about the prospects.

I’ll leave you with one final tip: Be positive, but don’t be pushy. Editors love upbeat authors, but they don’t have a lot of patience for overly aggressive ones.

That’s it for this week, writers! Before long you’ll be standing at an editor’s door, using those magic words: “Open Sesame!”


Sunday, August 7, 2016

Conference Prep

pack
Going to the conference? Already wondering what to pack? Here's a check list for you:
1. Pack a mental image of the people you want to connect with. If this is your first conference, you're going to be meeting a lot of friends you currently know only in cyberspace. Before my first conference, one of my cyberpals admitted he'd gone to his friends' Facebook pages and downloaded a close-up shot of them so he could recognize them when he saw them. That sounded creepy at first, but it's still a great idea to study the images so you'd know who's who. If you are planning to pitch to agents and editors, be sure you know what they look like, too. That way, if you have one of those wonderful elevator happenstances, you can take full advantage.
2. Pack a smile, a hug, and a firm handshake--and keep them close to the top, so you can grab them at a moment's notice. Of course, you probably couldn't chisel that smile off your face if you wanted to. This is an exciting time. I'm just warning you, next time you need this trio this much will be at a family reunion (well, if you have a family consisting of over 600 members).
3. Pack a spare memory--and I don't mean for your computer. If you're anything like me, the minute you find yourself in the position you've been dreaming about for a year, absolutely everything you've prepared is going to fly out of your brain through your left ear. If you can't keep your wits about you, at least have a spare.
4. Pack your wits to keep about you.
5. Pack your rhino-hide. If you're getting ready for any kind of interaction with an agent, editor, or mentor, be prepared just in case what you hear isn't what you were hoping for. And remember not to take anything personally. These folks are on your side, and any information they give you is for your benefit.
6. Pack your woot! just in case you do hear what you were hoping for.
7. Pack your grace, humility, and love if you're a finalist in one of the contests. Win or lose, you'll need them (and if you win, you can always whip out your woot!).
Oh, and don't forget the practical things--you know, clothes, shoes, deo, etc. I don't mind playing the role of mom. "Don't forget your toothbrush!"
packingSo, here are some more things you may want to consider about packing:
1. Clothes. (Yes, clothes. Stating the obvious is part of my charm.) The conference is in August this year, and August in the South is warm (again, stating the obvious) but the hotel/conference rooms may not be. If you tend to chill easily--and I don't mean attitude--pack something to wrap up in.
While I'm on the subject of clothes, I want to reiterate something I've said often before an ACFW Conference. This is a big deal for a lot of folks. We're all professionals--we need to remember that and dress the part. You don't have to have a wardrobe of three-piece suits and straight skirts that require infant steps in order to move from point A to point B, but slacks and nice blouses/shirts work.
The banquet Saturday night is a formal affair, which doesn't mean you have to dress in an evening gown (you can if you own one), but definitely glam up as much as your budget allows.
These days, we're allowed a costume night, when each of us can dress as according to our genre or characters. If you're participating in this, don't forget all the components that make up your costume. And don't forget to bring your camera.
Oh, and if you're one of those people I admire, envy, and wish to high heavens I could emulate (but gave up trying years ago), pack your workout clothes. The hotel has a gym.
2. Shoes--the comfortable kind you can race around in. My preference, since I hate shoes, is the kind I can slip out of easily so I can sit at a table barefooted (which reminds me, I need a pedicure).
Did I tell y'all what happened to me last year? I tried the stride of Lauren Bacall, but looked like Lucy on Vitameatavegamin. Then, just seconds before a mentor appointment, I realized the toe of the sole had curled toward the heel of the shoe, which made rushing to my appointment nigh unto impossible. I yanked both shoes off and ran barefooted from one end of the Hyatt Regency to the other. Moral of the story: take an extra pair of comfortable shoes.
Of course, since there are special dress-up days, you'll need special dress up shoes. I, however, have served my time in stilettos and platforms, so I'll stay with my low-heeled shoes. The ones that have the soles glued on tight.
3. Perfume--Don't pack that, or if you do, don't plan to wear it to conference classes, appointments, meals, banquets, book signings, etc. Since there are people who have allergies, it's best not to inadvertently send someone into a sneezing frenzy just as the speaker is delivering the punch line.
4. Hairspray, etc. If you're flying--and this is the first time you've ever flown--you may want to be careful what you pack in your carry-on. I'd totally forgotten the regulations about bottled/canned items and MSB and I both wound up with our hairsprays being thrown in the trash during the security check.
I'd always heard to take a carry-on that holds enough things to tide you over until the airlines located your luggage in Kyoto, Japan. But what I didn't realize is that so many things we use daily can't be carried on planes anymore. So, study the regs and know what is allowed and in what sizes.
I hope this helps someone, even though these are things travel-savvy adults already know to do. But it gives me something to write about. 

businessBy the way: are you ready for your interview at the ACFW Conference? Do you have your query letter, proposal, a quick and coherent description of your book and why you think it'll fit with the folks you're pitching to? Do you have your elevator pitch down pat? Do you have a pitch partner who calls you at odd hours and orders, "Spit it out!" to catch you off guard, just like running into your favorite agent or editor would.
I imagine you do--if you've finished your novel, pitching it may be the primary reason you're going to the conference. If you aren't prepared, get a move on--times a'wastin'!
But even if you're not pitching, you should have a business card to hand to anyone you want to connect with. Name and contact info are the very least you should put on the card. Identify yourself as an author--or if you're an editor attending the conference to find clients, identify your editing business. A picture of yourself is always nice, but not necessary. Your brand, if you have one, or the genre you write in. It's not too late to design and order these. I'm sure folks have their preferred on-line store they order from, but I'm fond of Vistaprint.
Do you have a new release? Or a soon-to-be released? How about something to promote it while you're at the conference? A postcard, a bookmark, or maybe a pen. Or maybe there's something else you can create, something that's inexpensive yet will still remind the recipients of you and your book. Definitely consider its size and weight while you're deciding what promo item to design. Make sure it's travel-friendly.
Last year, there were over 600 in attendance. That isn't just 600 writers, although that alone is worthwhile because it's 600 potential friends to turn to when you need them. But it's also 600 potential readers, 600 potential promotion helpers, and 600 connections to even more potential readers and promotion helpers. It's a huge group of people you can choose mentors from or you can be a mentor to. It's an opportunity to receive or pay forward or pay back. It isn't a time for shyness. If you've spent the money to get there and stay there (The Omni ain't cheap!), then make the absolute most of every minute you are there.
The best part, to me, of the conference is memory building and friendship developing. Cyberspace is wonderful and cyberpals are invaluable, but when space is diminished to a hug away and cyberpals take on flesh . . . there's nothing better. Moments to treasure. So, yeah, take advantage of the opportunity to get your name out there. Be creative, be prepared. But also expect to be blessed beyond imagining.
Which reminds me. I need to take a huge stock of tissues and my waterproof mascara. Anyone who cries as easily as I do shouldn't be caught without them.
So. There ya have it--the entire spiel. If I don't see you before the conference, I hope to see you there! 


Monday, August 1, 2016

Elevating your Elevator Pitch

Janice is covering for me this week, and since our meeting this month focuses on getting us ready for the ACFW Conference, her piece on elevator pitches is perfect!



You’re wrapping up the best book you’ve ever written. It’s all you can think about. You can’t wait to go to that next conference to meet with an editor or agent. However, you realize that your face time will be brief. How will you pitch your novel in a way that will garner the attention it deserves? Simple. Start with a great elevator pitch.

The term “elevator pitch” refers to a summary that can be delivered in the length of time it would take to go from floor to floor in an elevator. Imagine you’ve stepped into an elevator with the ideal editor for your project. You’re on the first floor of the hotel. He presses the button for the tenth floor. In the length of time you travel from the first floor to the tenth floor, (approximately thirty seconds), you can present him with a summary of your book that’s sure to wow him.

How, you ask? Well, let’s peek into the world of movie summaries to find out. Think of your favorite recent film. Something drew you to the theater to see it, right? More often than not, it’s the movie’s elevator pitch (plot summary or preview). Something in the movie’s promo materials reached out and grabbed you—the plot, the characterization, the premise, the theme. You were hooked. And that’s exactly what you want with an editor or agent. In order to hook them, you’ve got to start thinking of your pitch as your book’s promo piece.

Many writers—even great ones—struggle to condense their story into a brief paragraph. How do you go about it in a way that does justice to the story? Use the Triple S Method: Study succinct summaries. Sign onto a site like www.moviefone.com and choose a movie, any movie. Next, click the word “Plot” and a new page will open. On that page you will find a paragraph—usually four or five sentences in length—that shares the movie’s storyline. This is the blurb meant to woo you—the viewer—to the theater. Study it. You will see that it contains:

a). A great hook (a grabber)
b). A tight synopsis (clear and to the point)
c). A high concept (something that sets it apart from every other movie out there)
d). A relatable moment (something compelling that speaks to people)

All of this is done in about five or six clear, understandable sentences.

Now, imagine your book is a movie. You’ve been given the task of writing a one paragraph description for moviefone that will appeal to viewers. What will you write? It’s got to have a great hook, but also has to tell enough of the story to make the viewer sit up and take notice.
That’s the ultimate goal, isn’t it? To make the editor sit up and take notice of your book idea? He’s looking for writers with high concept ideas who are personable, polished and prepared. So, hook him. Say it in as few words as possible, and most of all . . . make him care.


Saturday, July 23, 2016

Deep Point of View

Kathrese McKee helped us all to dive into Deep Point of View at our July ACFW gathering. She began her presentation with two caveats:
  1. WARNING: this material may temporarily spoil your pleasure in the fiction you read. Sorry.
  2. This presentation will only give a beginning understanding about this topic. If you want more information download the booklet (written by Kathrese) entitled, “Mastering Deep POV,” please go to www.wordmarkeredits.com.
Her engaging presentation continued with a brief review of Point of View followed by a demonstration of a shallow point of view passage from Louis Sachar’s Sideways Stories From Wayside School

Kathrese then provided us with an extensive and detailed list of guidelines for achieving Deep POV such as: avoid phrases like: she thought, she wondered, she wished or she remembered. McKee encouraged writers to sink deeper and said this would create a more engaging story. 

A writer who is trying to utilize Deep POV should be careful to avoid naming emotions: love, hate, like, or fear, and concentrate on conveying emotions through action, physical reaction, thoughts, word choice and sensory details, setting and dialogue.

Kathrese finished our time together with an opportunity to apply what we had learned. She gave us a passage from Tara Ellis’ novel: Infected: The Shiners, and each of us had an opportunity to re-write the passage choosing first or third person and reworking the Point of View to be Deep POV. A number of writers bravely shared what they had written and it was fascinating to see the different directions each writer took the piece. 

~~~~

Kathrese McKee is an author of YA fantasy, and she is the treasurer and official photographer of the WOTS chapter of ACFW. You can find her novels, Mardan's Mark and Healer's Curse on Amazon.



~~~

Special thanks to Anthea Kotlan for covering for me this past week. What would I do without my friends?














Saturday, July 16, 2016

Does the Critique Have Merit?

Recently, on a LinkedIn thread I subscribed to, a woman posed a question to the rest of us pertaining to a critique she'd received from her group. Apparently everyone agreed she needed to deepen her character's POV. She said she followed their advice, but she wasn't happy with it.
This tells me one of two things: either she writes in a genre where the omniscient, or at least a more distant POV, is required (and yes, there are some genres that work best with a distant POV), or she doesn't quite know how to deepen it effectively.
She wanted to know what the rest of us thought, and I was surprised by the vehemence of the responses. "Don't let anybody tell you how to write your book!"
You're kiddin', right?
If you know me, you probably won't be surprised by this: I jumped in with an opposing view. Yeah, yeah, I know--someday I'll learn to keep my mouth shut. Anyway, I said that, in some genres, the deep third person POV has become expected by readers and publishers alike, and it wouldn't hurt to work with it some.
Apparently my response threatened to strip the veneer off the "We Are Perfect" award bestowed only upon those who write. I tell ya, they crawled all over me like fire ants on a hot dog. Eventually, I did everything but apologize for living and bowed out of the discussion. (I'm yellow that way, I guess. Though I don't mind presenting an opposing view, I hate fighting over it.)
Where on earth did authors get the idea that because they could string a few sentences together, they have obtained some sort of artistic nirvana and deserve to be worshiped? We're authors--not gods. We haven't been endowed with special wisdom. We're not better than anyone else. The idea that these folks wouldn't even consider a criticism bugged me.
Perhaps some of us need a lesson of humility.
The best way to approach any criticism of your work, either through a critique group/partner, contest judge, or an editor, is open-mindedly. Does it have merit? Is it worth experimenting with?
Critiques in general hurt. But once you've calmed down, study your work through the eyes of whoever offered something constructive. Do they have a point?
One of the editors looking at The Cat Lady's Secret suggested I pull a character out. After loosely skimming the manuscript, she wondered whether the cat lady's role in The Cat Lady's Secret was really necessary to the story. I'm not sure where she got that. Pulling the cat lady out would've done serious damage to my novel; it would've changed it entirely. That's major. I refused.
Deepening a POV isn't major.  Repairing structure, changing sentences, moving this paragraph from here to there--none of these are major. Cutting certain scenes may or may not be major--who knows? Try it and see if it makes the novel better. Keep in mind, many of the things suggested aren't intended to change the story, but to enhance it.
The lady who started the LinkedIn thread at least tried the suggestion. She approached it right. I wonder how many in that group would've pitched a fit. Their attitude, "the author is always right!" seems to answer that for me.

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Achieving Deep POV

Kathleen Y'Barbo couldn't make the meeting this month, so our own Kathrese McKee will be filling in. She'll be teaching the secrets of writing in a deep POV.  If the concept of going deep confuses you, or if you're just looking for ways to improve your POV depth, you don't want to miss this.

Kathrese is the award-winning author of Mardan's Mark and Healer's Curse, The third in the Mardan's Mark series, Mardan's Annointed is coming soon.

About Kathrese:

As a Systems Engineer for EDS, I never guessed I would become a writer since my work was designing systems, coding, and testing. But in every assignment, I wound up supplying the writing muscle for the projects, too. I wrote design documents, technical specs, user documentation, change notes, and more.

Drawing nearer to my true interests, I taught middle school Reading and English as a Second Language for four years. Since I stopped teaching, I've devoted my time to blogging and writing Young Adult fiction. I'm an active member in the Writers on the Storm chapter of American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW). My other interests are photography and music.

Kathrese is a fun speaker, so I hope everyone can make it to the meeting!

Saturday, July 16, 11:00 - 1:00, at Lupe Tortillas, on I-45 in The Woodlands!