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!

Tagged Again & Cool Questions

Welcome to Deep-Fried Friday! Yum. I’ve been tagged again to answer some questions, this time by The Midnight Novelist, Karen Rought.

I should warn people generally that I’m that girl who broke the chain in high school. You know, when someone sent out letters and you had to rewrite the whole thing and find seven more people to give it to or you’d have eons of horrible luck. Yeah, I threw away the letter.

Thus, I will never get oodles of good fortune, fifty-six pairs of panties, or the prayers of monks in Nepal because I’m a chain-breaker. Why? Chalk it up to laziness, I suppose.

Plus a good dose of curiosity. After all, I was promised in that chain letter that I would be bereft of joy, never experience the love of a decent man, and my girl parts would shrivel up before I reached age 30. I HAD TO KNOW: Would that all come true? I was willing to offer myself up as the test case, the guinea pig, the rat in the maze, the girl in the padded experiment room. All for the sake of curiosity.

Which is why I am not ignoring Karen’s questions, because they are curious ones. Cool ones. Wonderful questions that I’m happy to answer. So why not?

1. What book or series can you read over and over again without getting bored?

This is a hard question because I eventually get bored with almost anything over and over. That said, I might pick a children’s book. I could read Dr. Seuss’s Horton Hatches the Egg over and over or maybe Owl Moon by Jane Yolen or Animalia by Graeme Base.

If I had to pick adult fiction, perhaps I’d go with C.S. Lewis’s Till We Have Faces — a fascinating retelling of the myth of Cupid and Psyche.

2. If you decided not to be a writer, what would your other dream job be?

I kicked around a few ideas and decided that my other dream job would be Communications Director for the Bayard/Lamb White House. I’d love to stand behind that lectern and explain the common sense approach to governance of the Foxie with Moxie team. Journalists, beware! I am quick-witted and ready to spar.

3. What is the scariest thing you’ve ever done in your life?

Have children. Don’t tell my kids, but I don’t always know what the heck I’m doing.

4. If there was one fad that you could bring back from when you were a kid, what would it be?

Leg warmers. Seriously, how cool were these?

5. Who is the one person that has singlehandedly inspired you the most in your life?

I’m of the “it takes a village” philosophy, so this one is so tough. Can I pick a Bible person? Sure, I could go with Jesus as the ultimate inspiration, but I can’t picture myself living up to the Big Man. But the Apostle Peter: I take heart from him. He had all this passion and a desire for a mission in life and chalked up numerous failures. But he never gave up. He screwed up, learned something, and tried again. That stick-to-it-iveness inspires me to keep going.

6. If you could take a trip to any foreign country RIGHT NOW, which one would you choose?

This answer has been the same for years: Israel. Yes, I know that seems crazy to many. However, having heard and read Bible stories since childhood, I do indeed want to see these places in person. I want to walk where Jesus walked.

7. What is one talent that you’re hopeless at, but you wish you had?

Sports. I’m a rather petite woman, so power has never been my forte. I wanted to be able to serve an ace in tennis or hit a home run in baseball. But I’m not that strong.

8. What TV show are you most addicted to?

After discussion with my husband, it was agreed that I would watch Gilmore Girls every day if it were on and I had time. I love the rich characterization, the brilliant scripts, and the quirkiness of the series. (Admittedly, the last season or two dropped in quality.)

9. If you were stuck on a deserted island, name three objects and three people you would want with you.

Thank goodness I have a family of four. I would take my husband and two children. As for objects, how about a deck of cards, a blanket, and a broad-rimmed hat? That’s a lame list, I  know. But every cool thing I could think of would break eventually or require batteries or an internet connection.

10. If you could be any animal, what would you be?

Black panther. Sleek, fierce, beautiful.

11. What is one trait or physical characteristic that you are proud of/love about yourself?

A few weeks ago, I wrote about describing yourself in Me, in One Word Only. The word I chose was passionate. I don’t have an opinion about everything, but when I do commit to something, I am passionate about it. I would have myself no other way.

Now comes the tagging part, which as I confessed earlier, I stink at. So how about 11 questions, and commenters pick 2-3 favorites to answer? (You can certainly answer more than that, if you wish.)

1. Do you like your own name? Why or why not?
2. What’s your favorite thing to shop for?
3. What was the best concert you attended?
4. What’s the last book you purchased to read?
5. Do you have any phobias? If so, what?
6. If you had to pick a color to describe yourself, what would it be?
7. What’s the strangest dish you ever ate?
8. Do you have a nickname for your beloved? Can you share it?
9. What’s something you did as a teen that your parents still don’t know about?
10. Compare and contrast the use of animals as symbols of deeper conflicts in Franz Kafka’s The Metamorphosis and George Orwell’s Animal Farm. 😉
11. Are you a chain letter keeper or breaker by nature?

So there you have it. Answer away! And check out Karen Rought’s blog. She came up with cool questions because she’s a super-cool writer and worth following. Thanks, Karen!

A note on another fellow writer/blogger: Jillian Dodd has a bet with CJ West that she can get 5,000 comments on his blog. If she does, West will make an appearance on an upcoming MANDay on Jillian’s blog. It’s a friendly bet and I think Jillian can do it. Let’s help her get to 5,000 by commenting HERE.