A Little Holiday Perspective

Lisa DunnBy Lisa Dunn
Rock Hill Chapter Co-Leader

Writing is a gift.

From the idea that forms unexpectedly in a writer’s mind to the words that flow onto the page to that feeling of knowing what you’ve written resonates with a reader, it’s a gift.

Like any good gift, writing should be thoroughly enjoyed. In the midst of holiday festivities and throughout the year, every day living, be sure to protect and cherish your writing time. Even if it’s just a few minutes, carve out some time for your craft. Especially if writing grounds you, allow yourself time to indulge in this gift. I’m sure I’m not the only one who feels so much healthier and happier when I’ve gotten the right words on the page. Writing is a gift, one we’re meant to enjoy like a child enjoys a new toy on Christmas morning.

On the flip side, like any gift, writing can be indulged to an unhealthy extreme. Sometimes we run the risk of becoming so engrossed in our writing that we miss other gifts—the fellowship of family and friends, the laughter of a child, the mystery of the stranger in the checkout line in front of us. Resentment can creep in when our fingers haven’t hit the keyboard in days, because, as we all know, Writers write.

Every day, some would add.

The harsh reality is that sometimes life prohibits writing, and while writer’s block can keep a writer from producing words, writer’s guilt can keep a writer from fully enjoying life.

So I find the writing life all about balance. Some days, the words and the writing time come easy. Other days, I have time, but the words don’t come—or words, but no time. This, too, is a gift, this learning that life and writing coexist, that while writing grounds me, I am not defined by how much I write or how good it is.

As you head into the holidays, I hope you will find both time to write and perspective to enjoy life’s beautiful and varied gifts.

Lisa Dunn co-facilitates the Rock Hill Chapter of SCWW. When she isn’t homeschooling her children, she writes novels for Young Adults. Her first two books, Grit of Berth and Stone and Heir of Koradin were published by Anaiah Press in 2015. The final book in the Chasmaria series, Child of Thresh, will release in August 2016. Samples of her current work-in-progress, a contemporary Young Adult titled Commando Grace, won WRiTE CLUB 2016, an anonymous writing contest hosted by D.L. Hammons.  Lisa is on Facebook and Twitter, and blogs at https://waitingforaname.wordpress.com.

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Meet Michelle Buckman!

We’re thrilled to welcome Michelle Buckman to this year’s SCWA conference!  Born in New York, and raised in Canada, Michelle was eventually bounced down south to the Carolinas!  Along the way she only grew more affectionate for her craft, and has penned SIX novels!  We’re so excited that she gave us a little “pre-game” chat!   Check it out!

What did you wish you did better when you first began writing?

I wish I’d known more about the publishing business—how it worked, the different divisions, and how to define my audience more accurately.

One’s voice is as unique as a snowflake, how would you define yours?

I hope my voice is lyrical. (At least that’s my aim.)

Are you a seat-of-the-pants writer or an A-Z outliner?

I always know the beginning and ending of a story before I start writing, and I write those scenes first. Then I write whichever scenes are most clear to me at the time.

Whose works do you personally admire?

Maeve Binchy, and Anne Tyler

What’s your favorite book on writing?

Writing the Breakout Novel workbook by Donald Maass

When do you write best, and in what kind of setting is your ideal writing space?

Week-long writing retreats at the beach. Walking on the beach gets my creative ideas flowing. On a regular basis, I write early morning or late at night when the house is quiet.

Which character of your book(s)/poems have you dreamed about?

I have dreamt about all of my characters. Rachel, from Rachel’s Contrition, was with me night and day. David Rudder in Death Panels is one I tried to ignore, but he wouldn’t leave me alone. Carla, in A Piece of the Sky, strutted around with an attitude, not really wanting to tell me her story. Maggie and Dixie (Maggie Come Lately & My Beautiful Disaster) chattered to me all the time, just like my kids, though Maggie is definitely more reserved.

What percentage of your time is spent on the writing, and how much is spent on the editing?

I write and rewrite each scene until it is the best it can be before I move on to the next. My final revision involves cutting and pasting of scenes to proper placement more than editing. (Keep in mind that I am a professional editor, so editing is a natural part of my writing.)

What is your favorite part of the writing process… coming up with the idea, writing the story, or cleaning it up?

My favorite part of the process is getting to know the character and writing down what she tells me. (Writing)

What is your favorite book title (can be your own)?

My favorite of the books I’ve written is Rachel’s Contrition—my most recent publication.

How many books do you read a month, and what are you reading now?

If I include the books that I’m editing, I read 8 hours a day. For pleasure? A couple per month. Right now I’m reading American Gods (a present from a daughter).

 

Hands down, best advice you can give!?

Read 200 books in your genre. Study the craft. Attend conferences. Network. –In that order.

 

When did you realize you were a writer?

Was there a time I wasn’t a writer? I officially felt like a professional writer when I was published in Writer’s Digest, giving advice to other writers in one of the best-known writing magazines.

What’s one of your favorite literary quotes?

Shakespeare: “All the world’s a stage, And all the men and women merely players.” 

 

How did your environment or background shape your writing?

Moving to the south at twelve allowed me to shape an outsider’s point-of-view about the south, and yet grow up intimately enough in this environment to write about it authentically.

What other writers, if any, would you compare your style with?

Funny question. Of course my favorite writers are those I try to emulate, which are the ones I most love.

 

Where are your ideas born? Do they just pop in? Does something normally inspire them?

I am usually inspired by a person I see or a new story, or by an issue with which a friend is suffering.

Give us a writing prompt!

Tonya lifts one nail-bitten hand up to shield her eyes from the morning sun as she stares across the road at the dilapidated garage in her best friend’s backyard, but it’s not the drooping eaves or the cracked window that has her attention.

If you could have dinner with two other writers, living or dead, who would they be? Why?

Maeve Binchy, partly because that would have meant lunch in Ireland. I was in Ireland three weeks before she died. I wish I’d attempted to see her.

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Meet Morri Creech!

We welcome, Morri Creech, Pulitzer Prize finalist and South Carolina native, to our 2016 conference!
A little bit from Morri on writing:
“I’m definitely a seat-of-the-pants writer. I like to sit down with no idea about what form or subject the poem will take. I like the poem to tell me what it wants to do.”
“I write better in the evenings, when the duties of the day are behind me. I don’t need ideal surroundings. I write in the living room with my six year old and her friends playing around me. I write well in chaos.”
” Judas from “The Testament of Judas.” He pops up in dreams from time to time.” (When asked which character’s he’s dreamed about.)
“When I was young, I actually wanted to be a stand-up comic.”
“If I had it to do all over again, I would be a songwriter.”
“I have been moved to tears by Keats’ “Ode to a Nightingale” and, most recently, “Sublimaze” by Gjertrud Schnackenberg. William Trowbridge’s “Million Dollar Winners” and the King Kong poems by William Trowbridge are hilarious.”
We cannot wait to learn more!  If you haven’t signed up for conference, do it today!
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What Book Promoters Are Looking For: The Author Press Kit

 

Jodie Cain SmithBy Jodie Cain Smith
Columbia II Chapter Member

My first phone conversation with the Director of Public Relations for my local library system surprised me. I introduced myself, told her the title of my novel, and of my interest in scheduling author events with the local libraries. Instead of asking what my book was about, her first question was, “Do you have a press kit?” “Yes,” I told her, then asked, “Would you like me to email it or bring you a printed copy?” She chose the latter and a face-to-face meeting.

That one phone call brought a critical element of book marketing into the spotlight:  In order to sell books, we must sell ourselves. Readers buy into the worlds their favorite authors create, but promoters often use the author’s world to sell books. A press kit does that.

From site to site, author press kits vary, but the best, most interesting ones allow a promoter to see inside the author’s life. Several months ago, after consulting with my agent and scouring my favorite authors’ websites, I created my press kit, which includes:

  1.  All current contact information including all social media links. (Duh!)
  2.  Media clips and files. This may be a video or audio reading, an interview or author chat, a book trailer, links to online or PDF articles regarding you and your work, and/or any other media that brings you and your work to life.
  3. Photos. Include family photos, current and past project research photos, cover art, and photos that inspire you.
  4.  A look behind the curtain. Don’t just cut and paste the same bio you send to every publisher and media outlet in your universe. Include those interesting tidbits that make you unique. On my friend’s Shaun McCoy’s website, I learned that along with being a writer, he is a damn good chess player, a former Mixed Martial Arts fighter, and a professional pianist. Now, there is a complex individual who would surely bring something interesting to the fictitious conference I’m promoting.

Also, don’t forget to:
1. Prominently display your press kit on your website with a button labeled PRESS KIT.
2. Keep your press kit updated. Check contact information, bio, and links to ensure accuracy.
3. Maintain easy access to your website or Webmaster in order to make updates.

So, with my shiny press kit and two copies of my novel, I sat across the table from Ms. Public Relations and began my pitch. The meeting was a success. Events should be scheduled soon and my novel is being added to the library collection.

For most of us, the small press, indie, and self-published authors of the world, this is what success looks like:  Selling yourself and your work to one library, one bookstore, one media outlet at a time. A press kit will make the sale easier. And because no author actively promoting herself or her books has time to reinvent the wheel, check out mine atwww.jodiecainsmith.com. Use it as a template. Now, go forth and rule the literary world.

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