Stuffed Bears, Gongs, and Handerpants…Must Be a Writers’ Conference

Today I am in the Dallas-Fort Worth area for the DFW Writers’ Conference. For today’s Scarlet Thread Sunday, I am stringing my thread through the labyrinth of a conference center as I learn writing craft, publishing, and how crazy my writer friends are when you let a bunch of us occupy the same city.

Here’s just a peek at my weekend so far.

Stuffed Bears. I went with several WANA friends (connected through Kristen Lamb’s We Are Not Alone social media web) to dinner at a genuine Texas barbecue joint. Angelo’s in Fort Worth had delicious BBQ, animal heads all over the wall, and three stuffed bears inside. We stuffed our stomachs first, then took some pics.

Kristen Lamb & Me
Kristen Lamb & Me..in our super-cool Flash & Wonder Woman tees
Ingrid Schaffenburg, Donna Newton & Me
Cowboy-boot-clad writers Ingrid Schaffenburg, Donna Newton & Me
Jess Witkins and Julie Glover with a stuffed bear
With Jess Witkins..and a Bear

Gongs. Gongs are a big part of the DFW Writers’ Conference tradition. On Sunday, they will host their regular Gong Show, which features a panel of agents who listen to query letters and bang a miniature gong when they lose interest. When three gongs sound, the letter reader stops, and the agents explain what made them stop. It’s very useful information to all conference attendees, and the letters are anonymous so no submitting writer feels on-the-spot.

But there’s also the large gong that sounds at the pitch sessions. DFW Con registration includes an appointment to speak with an agent about your finished manuscript. I was first in line–literally, with the earliest appointment available on the first day of the conference. I chatted with the delightful agent for the allotted ten minutes, and then someone banged the gong and conversation time was over. If it’s been successful, you leave the room with a request for pages…and the gong still ringing in your ears. (Yes, my meeting was successful.)

HanderpantsHanderpants. Jenny Hansen, of More Cowbell blog fame, recently posted about a product called “Handerpants.” These are fingerless gloves made from whitey-tighty material. I remembered reading the post and thinking, Who in the world would buy those? Well, now I know.

Because Gloria Richard went online shopping, and the result below speaks for itself.

Handerpants over battery candle
“Glowing Handerpants”–our new table centerpiece

Writers’ Conference. In between the shenanigans, I’ve been soaking up knowledge and wisdom from authors at various stages of the journey. I hope to post in the future about what information I gained from this conference. But suffice it to say that I am an advocate of workshops and conferences. You can gain both practical tips for your writing and inspiration to keep going.

Speaking of inspiration, here’s how last week went with my goals.

ROW80 Update

Reading

Writing/Editing

  • Finish writing GOOD & GUILTY, YA mystery. 
  • Complete first round of edits of GOOD & GUILTY. Paused to get ready for conference.
  • Write one short story.
  • Edit two short stories–one needs a final polish, the other a full edit. No further progress this week.

Additional Goals

  • Exercise twice a week. Twice! Walking.
  • Prepare for and attend DFW Conference in May. I’m here! Count this done.
  • Prepare for and attend Immersion Master Class with Margie Lawson in June.

What interesting memories do you have from writers’ conferences? Do you have a favorite conference? And how did your week go?

Advertisements

British Invasion: Donna Newton Chats about English

Jess Witkins, Me & Donna Newton
at DFW Writers’ Conference

At the DFW Writers’ Conference back in May, I had the pleasure of hanging out with two fabulous Brits, Nigel Blackwell and Donna Newton. Over the weekend, a few phrases they used had to be translated into American English. As George Bernard Shaw asserted, “England and America are two countries separated by a common language.” In a previous post, I pointed out some British words that we Americans don’t often recognize.

But today it is my pleasure to welcome Donna Newton to my blog to help us clear up a few British slang words and phrases that we Yanks don’t have a clue about.

Julie: Welcome, Donna! This blog idea occurred to me after you offered to let another conference goer “bung his bags” in your hotel room. After hanging out with romance authors all weekend, some of us wondered what on earth that could possibly mean. What does it actually mean to “bung your bags”? 

Donna: LOL. ‘Bung your bags’ means exactly what it says…. To bung (put) your bags in my hotel room. Looking at it now, I can see how it made me look like a dominatrix mistress. 

Julie: Keeping in mind that this is PG-13 kind of place, I have noticed that body parts are not always called the same thing in England. What should we know before we travel to England and put our feet in our mouth? (Feet and mouth are the same there, right?)

Donna: The term is ‘foot in mouth’ and we’re not talking about the cow disease. Okay, body parts. Arms and legs are the same regardless of what side of the Atlantic we live. I think you guys call a ‘bum’ a ‘tush’? In fact, what we call a ‘bum bag’, you call a ‘fanny pack’, which is funny because a ‘fanny’ to us Brits is a ‘mooey’ (front bum to put it politely). 🙂

Julie: Another interesting phrase you introduced me to was “pissed as fart.” Around here, “pissed” means angry, but what does that phrase mean in England? And do y’all have any other colorful words or phrases for that state of being? 

Donna: Ah, yes. ‘Pissed as a fart’. 

Somehow, angry as a fart doesn’t sound quite right. Do farts get angry? 

Well, in the UK pissed means drunk and fart means… er, fart. I’m not quite sure why we all think of ourselves as stale body air when we’re drunk, but hey-ho. ‘Pissed as a fart’ means you are really, really drunk. 

Now, other terms. Let me think. Okay. I do have a funny story that happened to me a year or so ago. I was storm chasing with a group of Americans. Now, I must just explain that when you go storm chasing you are advised to go to the toilet whenever the chasing vehicle stops – you never know when it will stop again! So, gas stop = toilet break. Every time we pulled into a gas station and chasers got out to visit the loo, I’d say, “I’ll see if I can squeeze one out’. I repeated this phrase four or five times a day from Monday thru Thursday. Finally one of the girls asked what I meant. I explained that ‘squeeze one out’ simply means to go a wee wee (or tiddle). I then find out that to you Americans, ‘squeeze one out’ means going ‘number two’. I was horrified to think they thought I was doing number twos five times a day for a full four days. That I had one hell of a diarrhea spruge, no doubt. 

There is also the comment “you couldn’t organise a piss up in a brewery”, which basically means you are crap at organising. 🙂

Julie: A few streets from where I live are neighbors with two donkeys in their yard. Sometimes I can hear them braying (the donkeys, not the neighbors) in the morning. What was that phrase you used that included the word “donkey”? And what does it mean?

Donna: Donkey? Oh, you’ve got me thinking now. We say ‘Donkey’s Ass’, meaning you are a fool, but I don’t really use that one. That’s all I can think of.

Oh, was it ‘Donkey’s years’? I use that term all the time. It means absolute ages. Like, “I was twenty-one donkey’s years ago.” 🙂

Julie: What about foods? Where do we Americans go astray with British terms for common foods?

Donna: Ha ha. Oh, this has caused many problems. In the U.S. if we ask a waitress for chips, we get crisps when we really wanted fries.

Your crisps are potato chips.

Jam is Jelly.

Jelly is Jello.

I once asked for a buttered roll. Nobody knew what I was talking about. I explained that it was like the cheese and tomato roll they sold… only without the cheese and tomato in it. That really confused them.

My husband once tried to order a cheese and tomato pizza. Now us Brits pronounce tomato as ‘t’muto’. You guys pronounce it ‘to-mado’. The poor girl on the end of the phone just could not grip what we were asking for until hubby put on a really exaggerated American accent. We got our pizza. 🙂

Julie: What about you? Did you find us Americans to be confusing at times? What phrase or phrases did we use that struck you as odd?

Donna: There isn’t much, really. I think we have had American films and TV for so long in our lives, we just know what you guys are saying. We do have to be careful when talking about cigarettes. In Britain, they are called ‘fags’ for short. We got quite a few looks when my friend once said, “I’m going outside to have a quick fag.”

Julie: Finally…you came to Texas and did some shootin’ while here. Rumor has it that you are a great shot. What does a British lady yell when she hits her target?

Donna aims, fires & hits her target.

Donna: “&@#%! Did I just do that?” I guess I have just lost the title ‘lady’.

I was amazed at how well I shot. Piper took me out on Kristen’s ranch this year – the second time I had ever held a gun. I did okay that time, too. She’s nicknamed me the ‘Spawn of Doc Holliday’.

[For evidence, head to Donna’s blog post about the week’s adventures HERE.]

Julie: What else, Donna?!!! Is there anything else I should include?

Donna: Here are some Cockney rhyming slang terms used in London. They were born donkey’s years ( 🙂 ) ago, but are still used today.

Apple and Pears = Stairs
Dog and Bone = Phone
Jam Jar = Car
Rub-a-dub-dub = Pub
Quid = One Pound
Score = Twenty Pounds
Nifty = Fifty Pounds
Ton = One Hundred Pounds
Adam and Eve it = Believe it
Trouble and Strife = Wife
Ruby Murray = Curry
Hank Marvin = Starving

Julie: Hope all is well in the UK. I’d love to cross the Atlantic and spend some time in my ancestors’ homeland someday. Cheers and all that good stuff!

Donna: Thanks so much for this, Julie. I really enjoyed it. I take these terms for granted so it is funny to see you guys so confused when we use them.

And, it would be so cool for you to come to London. I can show you around!

Donna Newton

Born in Essex, Donna has enjoyed writing stories from the moment she could construct letters into words.

After a varied, and sometimes extremely adventurous job career, which included OK! Magazine and Essex Police, she returned to her first love and embarked on a writing career. With publishing credits writing freelances and commissioned magazine articles, she has now turned her attention, and imagination, to what she is best at – story telling.

She is the wife of one husband, the mother of two children, and counts her laptop among her loyal group of friends. A self confessed adrenaline junkie, when time permits she craves energy fuelled sports that include storm chasing and anything else considered ‘dangerous’.

She proudly boasts finishing the 2010 London Marathon, although will not divulge where she was placed or the time she finished it in.

She teaches with WANA International, is currently plotting her third novel, and is co-writing one of many TV projects with fellow writer Natalie Duggan.

What I Learned in DFW and #ROW80

NYT Bestseller James Rollins & Me

If you did not attend the DFW Writers’ Conference, you may be tired of hearing those of us who did talking about how AWESOME it was. Rather than go on and on about how everything is bigger and better in Texas, even writers’ conferences 😉 , how about some general take-aways?

  • As long as you aren’t stalking or incredibly annoying, you can strike up conversations with agents because they are real people, at a conference to meet writers, and like talking about what they do (see Top 10 Things to Do at a Writers’ Conference). At the 2011 conference, I spoke to one agent — the one I had a pitch appointment with. This time, I walked away with six different agent names to send my work to after personal contact at the pitch session and agent/writer reception. So chat it up! What have you got to lose?
  • When you attend a conference, you are paying for it. Don’t feel obligated to attend a workshop you don’t need or to stay in one that wasn’t at all what you expected. I attended a class that was titled one thing and ended up being something else. (That was not common, by the way.) Ten minutes in, I gathered my stuff and left the room as quietly as possible. The teacher has no idea why someone leaves early — a pitch? a phone call from home? sickness? I wasn’t dissing her; the class simply wasn’t a topic I needed after all. I walked into a class next door and was SOOOO glad I did.
  • You can learn as much from chatting with other writers as you can get from the conference classes. I gleaned so much knowledge from conversations with Jenny Hansen, Donna Newton, Kristen Lamb, Tiffany A. White, Nigel Blackwell, David N. Walker, Jess Witkins, Kait Nolan, Jillian Dodd, Piper Bayard, and others that my brain was tingling with electricity by Saturday night. Asking others about their writing process, publishing plans, and life in general enlightened me in ways that made my trip to Big D well-worth all those hours and money.
  • No matter who you are, you can always learn more. It was marvelous to step into a workshop and see several published authors in the class as well. Taking notes. Learning more. Improving their craft.

What workshops did I attend? In case you’re interested, here’s a quick rundown: How to Pitch to an Agent (Rosemary Clement-Moore); The Changing Face of Publishing (an expert panel); Writing Love Scenes (Roni Loren – incredible); Anatomy of a Book Launch (Laurie McLean-agent, Kristen Lamb, Kait Nolan); Fast Draft (Candace Havens); Inside Publishing (Jill Marsal-agent); Revision Hell (Candace Havens); Writing Emotion (Lori Wilde); Middle Grade and Young Adult Fiction (Laurie McLean-agent).

Bayard/Lamb 2012: Foxie with (literal) Moxie

Links to some FABULOUS posts about the conference from fellow speakers/attendees:

Social Media Jedi Kristen Lamb encourages writers to push themselves in The Comfort Zone is for Pets, Not Professionals.

Romance author Roni Loren summarizes what agents like and don’t like in queries and first pages with What Will Make an Agent Gong Your Pages.

Writer (and my awesome conference roommate!) Jess Witkins discusses lessons learned in Celebrating My Writing Slump.

Jenny Hansen reports progress on her conference goals and teases us about Fast Draft (thanks, Candace Havens) with Bestselling Authors, DFWcon, and the Flu…Oh My!

Donna Newton makes me kick myself in How to Hook an Agent…The ‘SOO’ Publishing Way. How has this Brit managed to shoot so much stuff when I (a born-and-bred Texan) have yet to meet my goal of firing a real gun?!!

Jess Witkins, Me & Donna Newton

I also posted on Friday about What’s Next? The Hybrid Author, which was partially culled from my conference experience.

(I guarantee I forgot someone else’s wonderful post; I may update this later.)

One last pic: Me & Tiffany White

Enough already. Here are my ROW80 goals and progress report!

  • Log 5,000 words per week on young adult novel, SHARING HUNTER. This should result in a completed first draft. DONE.
  • If first draft is finished, edit once through SHARING HUNTER. I started revising, using the notes from my class with editor Tiffany Lawson Inman and tips from Candace Havens’s Revision Hell workshop.
  • Work on pitch and synopsis for DFW Writers’ Conference (taking place May 19-20). Did it! Pitched. Need to send my queries.
  • If I get all of that done, edit through THE YEAR OF FIRSTS, my middle grade novel which is in second draft form and has been gathering dust for a few months. Waiting on 3 tasks above.
  • Read one writing craft book. My choice this round is Christopher Vogler’s The Writer’s Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers. Took a break from this goal until after the DFW Writers’ Conference.
  • Read through March/April issue of The Writer’s Digest. I can’t find the March/April issue, so I started working through the issue that just arrived in the mail.
  • Take course from Tiffany Inman Lawson on 77 Secrets to Writing YA Fiction that Sells from the Margie Lawson Writers Academy. Slowly catching up!
  • Read 10 books keeping to my At-Least-3 Reading Challenge for 2012. On track. I have read six books so far: The Killer Inside Me; Getting Rid of Bradley; Graceling; The Man Who Was Thursday; The Heart-Shaped Box; One of Our Thursdays is Missing. Reading Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children.
  • Post ROW80 updates on Sundays. Keeping up.
  • Exercise three times a week — length of time to be determined. Skipped Zumba. May I count the four hours of helping with our church youth’s group car wash on Saturday? I know I burned some calories there.

So how’s your ROW80 week? Be sure to cheer on fellow writers HERE.

And if you are interested in attending the DFW Writers’ Conference in 2013, they are offering a super early-bird registration price of $225 (early-bird is $295) until June 1. The conference will be held May 4-5, 2013 at the Hurst Conference Center. I will be there!

Howdy from Big D and #ROW80

Inspired by Kristen Lamb and Jenny Hansen, I’m vlogging from Dallas today, where I am attending the DFW Writers’ Conference. I have been blessed to meet some of the fabulous fellow writers who have been my cyberpals and encouragers for over a year now. Here’s a quick hello:

And now for the weekly ROW80 update:

  • Log 5,000 words per week on young adult novel, SHARING HUNTER. This should result in a completed first draft. I wrote 6,555 words on Monday and Tuesday and completed the first draft of SHARING HUNTER!
  • If first draft is finished, edit once through SHARING HUNTER. I’m waiting until I return from the DFW Writers’ Conference this weekend. While it’s tempting to try to get through an edit, I’d rather hold off that pressure and use my time to prepare for the conference.
  • Work on pitch and synopsis for DFW Writers’ Conference (taking place May 19-20). I pitched this weekend. I give this experience a thumbs-up.
  • If I get all of that done, edit through THE YEAR OF FIRSTS, my middle grade novel which is in second draft form and has been gathering dust for a few months. Waiting on 3 tasks above.
  • Read one writing craft book. My choice this round is Christopher Vogler’s The Writer’s Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers. Took a break from this goal until after the DFW Writers’ Conference.
  • Read through March/April issue of The Writer’s Digest. Now I can’t even find the magazine. *facepalm*
  • Take course from Tiffany Inman Lawson on 77 Secrets to Writing YA Fiction that Sells from the Margie Lawson Writers Academy. Working on the second assignment and plan to hit this hard next week, as it will help with edits for SHARING HUNTER.
  • Read 10 books keeping to my At-Least-3 Reading Challenge for 2012. On track. I have read five books so far: The Killer Inside Me; Getting Rid of Bradley; Graceling; The Man Who Was Thursday; and The Heart-Shaped Box.
  • Post ROW80 updates on Sundays. Here I am!
  • Exercise three times a week — length of time to be determined. I went to Zumba twice this week, but one of those sessions was 1 1/2 hours instead of the usual 1 hour, so I feel pretty good about this.

I will check back with my fellow ROW80ers next week once the conference high dies down a bit. Y’all have a great week!