Thursday, April 10, 2014

5 insights from best-selling authors - by Jami Gold

After nearly two years of sticking with only online writing conferences, I broke down and attended my fourth in-person conference this past weekend, where I presented my “Twitter for Introverts” workshop. I’m happy to say my class went well and I survived my pre-conference panic attack.
In fact, I had a great time at the Desert Dreams Writing Conference, which always exceeds my expectations. Desert Dreams is considered a “regional” conference, with bigger names and more workshops and events. Lucky for me, it’s local.
However, not all of us are so lucky to have easy access to quality writing conferences, so I wanted to share my top takeaways from the conference. I hope you find these ideas as insightful or inspiring as I do. *smile*

#1: Rejections Are Not a “Sign”

Christie Craig, New York Times bestselling author, was the Keynote Speaker for the Desert Dreams conference. Her speech was so inspiring I don’t want to spoil the punch line, but let’s just say that it had to do with the avalanche of rejections she’s received over her writing life.
Sometimes we might look at X number of rejections and take it as a sign. Maybe we’re not meant to be a writer. Maybe we can’t cut it. Maybe we should give up.
She persevered through countless (and I do mean countless—she brought a big box-load of proof) rejections. Not giving up is how she reached where she is today.
If rejections come with a message, it’s simply “not now.” With determination, we can later turn that “not now” into a “yes.”

#2: Be a Storyteller First

Christie also shared why she didn’t give up. Partly it was stubbornness, but a bigger part was knowing that she could tell stories. If we can tell stories, we’ll succeed if we keep at it, because writing can be learned.
Even in the worst-case scenario, where we’re receiving rejections because we’re not yet “good enough,” we can study writing craft and change our fate.
As Mary Buckham pointed out in a workshop, that “changing fate through our choices” perspective powers most commercial and genre fiction. We can absorb that mindset for our own future too.
Christie is a dyslexic high-school dropout. She didn’t have writing skills when she started. But she could tell stories, and that’s what really matters. Everything else can be learned.
By studying, we can change our fate. How cool is that?

#3: Make Settings Earn Their Word Count

USA Today bestselling author Mary Buckham was the featured presenter. She gave an intensive workshop on “Active Settings for All Fiction Genres.”
We often try to minimize our setting descriptions because they’re dry and boring. (She entered the living room and passed the couch to sit on the chair. *yawn*) Mary’s workshop shared techniques for making our setting descriptions work harder.
When we use deep point of view, our descriptions can show characterization, emotion, foreshadowing, backstory, etc. (Her mother’s living room beckoned, as it always did. The comfortably worn-in tweed couch whispered its memories of cushion forts and awkward teenage groping. She headed to the chair instead, just in case her mom hadn’t cleaned the sofa’s fabric since that drinking-night debacle with her brother Billy.)
If our setting descriptions are doing double or triple duty (establishing setting and backstory and characterization, or whatever combination works for the scene), we can use as many words as we need. Mary’s going to join us for a guest post soon (Yay!), but until then, we can learn from her Writing Active Setting book, where she shares tons of examples on how to empower our settings.

#4: Every Character Trait Can Be Good and Bad

Mary presented a second workshop as well: Down and Dirty Ways to Create Stronger Characters. She started by having everyone complete an Enneagram type quiz.
Surprisingly, I turned out to have nearly equal strengths in several traits: perfectionist and achiever (which I think means that I accomplish things despite my perfectionism *whew*), analyzer, nurturer, leader, and peacemaker. Apparently I’m an overachiever in Enneagram quizzes too. *smile*
Her point was for us to learn more about ourselves so we can ensure that we’re not just creating clones of ourselves for our characters. She then shared several techniques for developing unique characters.
One technique was to think of how our characters’ positive traits could be negative, like we discussed last year (where I covered Enneagram Types too). Specifically, she recommended thinking of ways every positive trait has a cost.
For example, if a character is a nurturer, what potential “costs” might that character pay for their trait? Maybe they forget to take care of themselves. Or maybe they’re a busybody who tries to force people to take their advice.
Mary suggested that we ask friends and family to help us brainstorm these “at what cost?” opposite traits. Especially if we just give them a list of traits (without knowing the character at all), we might gain new insights into our character by seeing their list of potential opposite traits.

#5: The “Duh” Insight: Writers Are Awesome

Finally, every author I met was fantastic. Several multi-published, bestselling authors let me pick their brains and shared great advice (including Christie, Mary, Calista Fox, Erin Quinn, Morgan Kearns, and Jennifer Ashley).
The lesson I took away was that no matter our situation, we can connect with other writers and grow our knowledge and our circle of friends. These bestsellers didn’t hoard their expertise. Instead they shared their insights with someone who has a blue streak in her hair. *grin*
I experienced embarrassment (Ack! Spotlight on the introvert!) and thankfulness when many authors stopped me to say how much my blog, beat sheets, and workshops have helped them. (Aww, warm fuzzies.) And I met a great group of women among the attendees (Lisa, Mary, Andrea, Carol, Christine, and a bonus dinner with Ann) and reconnected with a friend from the last Desert Dreams (Rose!).
In short, although the workshops and keynote were wonderful, what really makes conferences special are the people. The interactions with those willing to connect with us often stay in our memory far longer than any one workshop tip or speech insight, especially when we see authors take the time to help each other.
It’s those same connections that make online interactions with writers so special too. Thank you to all of you who read my blog, share your insights and advice, or reach out to me on social media. You. Are. Awesome. *smile*
Which of these was your favorite insight (or the one you want to hear more about)? Have you ever wondered if you should see rejections as a “sign”? Do you agree that storytelling comes first because writing craft can be learned? Do you struggle to make setting descriptions interesting or to create unique characters? If you’ve been to a writing conference, what’s been your favorite part?
Join Jami in her Upcoming Workshops: Build a Website on 4/22, Learn Beat Sheets on 5/8, & Become an Expert in Story Planning with “Lost Your Pants?” on 5/13. Click here to learn more and save money!

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

The Festival of Literary Oddities - Phoenix AZ

Independent community literary magazine Four Chambers Press will be presenting The Festival of Literary Oddities:
Saturday March 22, 2014
from 7:00 to 9:00 pm
Frontal Lobe Community Space and Gallery
1301 Grand Ave.
Phoenix, AZ 85007
The event will feature simultaneous sets from local authors Shawnte Orion, Bill Campana, Jack Evans, Deborah Berman, Heather Smith-Gearns, and MC Tristan Marshell; environmental entertainment from local performance artists Ernesto Moncada, Ashley Naftule, and Joy Young; music from Amy Ouzoonian; and a mutant-pinata themed open mic.

While most literary performances present authors in succession, Four Chambers Press will place three authors around the gallery to read at the same time. This, the magazine hopes, will create a more personalized and interactive experience. As Programs Manager Jared Duran explains, "By presenting the writer as a living, breathing art exhibit, Literary Oddities engages the visual arts world in a way that only human statues and mimes have sought to do in the past--but less creepy and with more sound."

Featured literary performances will begin at 7:30. The open mic begins at 8:30. Admission is free. More information can be found at:

About Four Chambers Press

Four Chambers Press is an independent community literary magazine based in Phoenix, AZ that seeks to give greater visibility to the literary arts and encourage their larger participation in the cultural scene. While literary magazines publish literary work and community literary magazines may get that work from the community, we are publishing work to build community. For more information please visit:

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Resources for writers - by Toby Heathcotte

Oxford American Dictionary and Thesaurus - Modern Language Association style sheet
The Elements of Style by William Strunk
Rules for Writer by Diana Hacker – Cambridge Language of Style
Self-Editing For Fiction Writers: How to edit yourself into print by Renni Browne and Dave King.
Stein on Writing by Sol Stein
The First Five Pages: A writer’s guide to staying out of the rejection pile by Noah Lukeman.
Formatting & Submitting Your Manuscript, Edition 2 by Cynthia Laufenberg and the editors of Writer’s Digest Books
The Writer’s Digest Writing Clinic by Joe Feiertag and Mary Cupito

Publishing – nonfiction publishing – Arizona Book Publishers Association – a guide for Print on Demand - information on self-publishing

Libraries – free books Internet public library

Legal - articles on copyright and other writing-related law to Literary Works and follow the directions.


How to Write Attention-Grabbing Query & Cover Letters by John Wood
How to Write a Book Proposal by Michael Larsen
The Marshall Plan for Getting Your Novel Published by Evan Marshall
   - books and articles on writing – good technique books - Writer’s Digest books on writing

Marketing - one week subscriptions online – also in libraries – local website host for independent authors accepts self-published books on consignment. – places to sell your writing –  (Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America)
– warnings about literary fraud and other schemes, scams, and pitfalls that target writers  – links to other writers’ groups, associations, magazines, media, publishers, services for writers, bookstores, events

Toby Heathcotte, President
Arizona Authors Association

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Arizona Romance Authors at the Glendale Library

Shop local, eat local...why not “Read Local?” With Valentine’s Day and the Glendale Chocolate Affaire approaching, love is in the air and the Velma Teague Branch Library will feature “Read Local Romance:  It’s More Than You Expect!”
Find something new to read and show support for local authors as they discuss and sign their small-press and self-published romances at 2 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 25, at the Velma Teague library, located at 7010 N. 58th Glendale, AZ.
Each author will have approximately five minutes to promote her book, with a group signing afterward. Authors and sub-genres include:

·       Shobhan Bantwal - East Indian romance - 
·       Tia Dani - Time travel romance -
·       Laurel Hawkes - Regency historical romance -

·       Morgan Kearns - Sports romance - 
·       V.S. Nelson - Paranormal romance - 
·       Tina Radcliffe - Inspirational romance -

·       Deena Remiel - Gothic/horror romance -

·       Vijaya Schartz – Fantasy romance -

·       Kris Tualla - Historical suspense romance -

·       Brenda Whiteside – Contemporary romance -

The program is free, and books will be available for purchase and signing. Book prices will vary.

For more information, call 623-930-3431.