It’s Time to Choose Your Writing Conferences for the Year

At the beginning of a new year, we plan to exercise, set our professional goals, and then often spend the rest of the year backsliding and lamenting how it all went wrong. When it comes to our writing careers though, one thing we can commit to early and guarantee is our participation in writing conferences and retreats. Application and registration season is here now so if you want to snag a spot and grow your craft and publishing knowledge, this is the time do it.

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In several of my writing communities, people have asked for recommendations on the best conferences. That’s a tough question because it’s really about which opportunities will serve your needs at this moment in your career. Over the last five years, I’ve participated in a variety of writing events that have bolstered my skills, fed my flagging spirit, and broadened my network. These are just a few of the vast options available to you as well.

  • Juried Writing Workshops: One of my journalist friends raved to me about a conference in sunny South Florida founded by the legendary crime fiction writer Dennis Lehane. It’s Eckerd College Writers in Paradise and I’m now a three-time recidivist, the nickname we give to multiple attendees. This is a juried conference, one where you submit an excerpt of your novel, short story, memoir, or poetry to be considered for admission.

For the first time, I workshopped my novel-in-progress with eleven other writers and learned the delicate dance of giving and receiving critique. Every workshop discussion is led by a successful, published author and I had the privilege to study with Ann Hood, Laura Lippman, and Lori Roy. Half the day is spent workshopping student manuscripts and the rest of the time you’re attending lectures and author readings. For those of you who want an immersive, deep-dive into character development, scenes, plotting, and sentence-level work for your manuscript, these workshops are invaluable. The best kept secret is that you learn more from analyzing your classmates’ work than you do from the critiques of your own manuscript.

  • Large Writing Conferences: Last year, I attended Grub Street’s The Muse and the Marketplace  in Boston for the first time and will return again in April. It was literary nirvana! While it’s a conference of more than 800 attendees and presenters, I sat in sessions next to bestselling authors and top literary agents and editors. Besides the plethora of sessions on everything from novel revision to book promotion, there were unique opportunities at this conference. For an additional fee, I participated in Manuscript Mart where two literary agents critiqued an excerpt of my manuscript and met with me on-site to discuss it. We ended the conversations with both agents requesting my full manuscript. I also participated in Shop Talk, a happy hour event where I joined two literary agents and two writers for an intimate cocktail reception chat about books and the inner workings of the publishing industry. If you want to hone your writing craft and gain exposure to industry insiders, this is the perfect conference to achieve both goals.
  • Writing Retreats: For the past three years, I’ve traveled to Albuquerque, New Mexico, an area steeped in culture and history, to join more than 70 writers for the Women’s Fiction Writers Association’s annual retreat. Starting before sunrise, we sit on the patio writing on our laptops and conversing, surrounded by lush gardens. We participate in workshops on topics ranging from craft to publishing and the writing life. Published and unpublished writers share the joys and frustrations of this journey we’ve chosen. The informal bonding experience defies description and I marvel at the relationships that develop there. I’ve made lifelong friends in this writing community and these are the people I turn to when I need someone to read one of my scenes, talk me off the ledge when I want to give up, or cheer me on when an agent requests my full manuscript. Retreats like this one are small and intimate enough to nurture you for the long haul and that’s why many of us return to New Mexico every year to re-charge and renew.

Right now, I’m evaluating my options for writing experiences this year. I plan to return to the Muse and to the WFWA retreat but I’m exploring a new juried writing workshop, one where I can study craft with other writers under the tutelage of authors I admire. You really have to think about where you are on your journey and decide which opportunities will help you take your writing and your career to the next level.

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o_mag_nov_realyou0710Nancy E. Johnson is a senior communications leader with an Emmy-nominated, award-winning journalism background. She contributed to O, the Oprah Magazine which published her personal essay. Nancy is an active member of the Women’s Fiction Writers Association and she served as secretary for Mystery Writers of America Midwest Chapter. When she’s not reading, writing or pontificating about politics, she’s running and eating chocolate, sometimes at the same time. The Chicago native is writing her first novel. 

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Let Them Hear Your Voice

By Nancy E. Johnson

The one thing that pops up on almost every agent’s wish list is a book that has “voice.” Rarely do you find a modifier like “edgy voice,” “alluring voice,” or “baby voice.” No, they keep it simple and at the same time make the whole thing fairly esoteric by just saying they want voice. It’s like that “it” quality. You either have it or you don’t.  Never despair though because you can find your unique voice, develop it, and use it to connect with your readers.

Voice can be difficult to define. I believe it’s the unique, original way that you and only you put words together. It’s also your outlook on the world and human nature that serves as your fingerprint in literature. A few years ago, I participated in a literary idol contest where three successful authors judged an excerpt of my novel-in-progress while I tried to play it cool with a blank face. Once they got past the first paragraph and then the second, I remembered to breathe. Young Adult author David Yoo described my writing by saying “that’s an assured voice.” I bit my lip and conjured up sad memories, which is my little trick to deflate my euphoria in moments where it might be inappropriate.

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Sometimes it’s easier to recognize talent in others, so be on the lookout for voices that captivate you. When I first read “The Mothers” by Brit Bennett, I was blown away throughout the entire book. The Greek chorus of church mothers who spoke as one wore the sass and all-knowing tone familiar to anyone who has spent time around seasoned black women, especially those on the usher and deacon boards.

A girl nowadays has to get nice and close to tell if her main ain’t shit and by then, it might be too late. We were girls once. It’s exciting, loving someone who can never love you back. Freeing, in its own way. No shame in loving an ain’t-shit man, long as you get it out your system good and early. A tragic woman hooks into an ain’t-shit man, or worse, lets him hook into her. He will drag her until he tires. He will climb atop her shoulders and her body will sag from the weight of loving him. Yes, those are the one we worry about.

 Now don’t tell me you didn’t just slap your laptop or throw your phone across the room after reading that passage. It’s fresh and bold and original. Also, this serves as a great example of how you can give a collective group of people a rich, narrative voice on the page.

I felt a similar connection when I read “A Man Called Ove” by Fredrik Backman. In the passage below, you can picture and hear this stubborn, crochety man and get a glimpse into his worldview. The “voice” of Ove rises from every page of the book.

“Now you listen to me,” says Ove calmly while he carefully closes the door. “You’ve given birth to two children and quite soon will be squeezing out a third. You’ve come here from a land far away and most likely you fled war and persecution and all sorts of other nonsense. You’ve learned a new language and got yourself an education and you’re holding together a family of obvious incompetents. And I’ll be damned if I’ve seen you afraid of a single bloody thing in this world before now….I’m not asking for brain surgery. I’m asking you to drive a car. It’s got an accelerator, a brake and a clutch. Some of the greatest twits in world history have sorted out how it works. And you will as well.” And then he utters seven words, which Parvaneh will always remember as the loveliest compliment he’ll ever give her. “Because you are not a complete twit.” 

You, too, can find your voice as a writer, but it takes practice. Other writers who have read my pages describe my voice in fiction as raw and visceral. That was never intentional on my part. I never studied voice or tried to channel it. My voice continues to reveal itself naturally, but I still think I’m in the throat scratching stage. In my early days of writing, I’d try to mimic my own literary idols, marveling at their turns of phrase and wordsmithing, hoping I could co-opt just a sliver of their shine. That formula fails every time. Only when you put your authentic self on the page time after time will your distinct voice emerge.

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nancyNancy E. Johnson is a senior communications leader with an Emmy-nominated, award-winning journalism background. She contributed to O, the Oprah Magazine which published her personal essay in the November 2015 issue. Nancy serves as secretary for Mystery Writers of America Midwest Chapter and was a finalist in the Women’s Fiction Writers Association’s 2016 Rising Star Contest and one of the winners of Writer’s Digest’s “Dear Lucky Agent” contest. When she’s not reading, writing or pontificating about politics, she’s running and eating chocolate, sometimes at the same time. The Chicago native is writing her first novel.

 

 

Top 5 Branding Tips For Your Next Writers Conference

You did the research. You found the perfect writing conference where you’ll be immersed in a community of people who are as obsessed about writing as you are. It’s a perfect blend of sessions on craft and the business side of publishing, but if you’re like me, you’re feeling excitement and just a bit of dread.

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This week, I’m attending GrubStreet’s The Muse & The Marketplace in Boston. Now I’m no novice to the conference game, but this will be my first time meeting with agents to discuss excerpts of my novel manuscript. This can be daunting, so I’m sharing my top five tips for how you can prepare for and make the most of branding yourself at your upcoming writing conferences.

  • Bring business cards. This may seem basic, but it’s essential. There’s nothing worse than networking with an agent or editor who asks you for a card and you have to give the lame excuse that you forgot to bring yours or they’re in your other bag that you forgot to bring. It’s your call on whether or not to include your photo on the card. Some may say you’re over-the-top and cheesy to have your picture there, but luckily I don’t care what some say. I’ve learned over the years that we meet so many people at networking events that a photo can be a good way to trigger someone’s memory about meeting you.
  • Research agents and editors beforehand. Just as you’d personalize a query letter, you want to do the same when you meet face-to-face with industry insiders at the conference. There’s no need to research everyone. But if there are a handful of agents you’re targeting who will be there, read their website bios, check their Twitter feeds and look up articles or blogs they’ve written. This will give you a feel for their literary sensibilities and preferences for the kinds of projects they seek to represent. Then when you meet, you can demonstrate your knowledge, showing you’ve done your homework.
  • Prepare to answer: “What’s your book about?” I guarantee at least five people will ask you that question. Other writers, authors, agents, and editors will express interest in the story you’re writing. The last thing you want to do is give them that wide-eyed blank stare and then run from the room screaming in terror. Prepare a succinct, elevator pitch version that summarizes your book.  It should be as intriguing as back flap copy, but try not to sound robotically rehearsed. As counterintuitive as it seems, it takes some rehearsing to pull off that natural flow. 
  • Use the buddy system of networking. Okay, I have to admit I stole this one from my writing friend, Julie Dalton. She’s the one who invited me to attend the Muse for the first time. Her idea is brilliant. If you have a friend or member of your writing community who’s attending the same conference, share information about each other’s books: key themes, summaries, hooks, and more. Also, make sure you’ve read at least a few excerpts of your friend’s book so you have a sense of the story, tone, and style. Then when you’re together chatting with agents, promote your friend’s book! Sometimes it’s easier to be effusive in praise of someone else’s work. If your assessment of your friend’s book is genuine and specific, agents and editors may appreciate that third party endorsement. 
  • Hang for the after-hours schmoozing. I know. Your feet hurt. Your brain hurts. So does your throat from all that talking you did all day. You’re emotionally spent. You’re tired of selling yourself and talking about your book. Still, stay up for another hour or two for the industry cocktail parties, receptions and dinners. These are additional opportunities to meet other writers and industry professionals who can share valuable wisdom, ask you to submit pages of your book for review or introduce you to someone else. What you don’t want to do is leave that conference kicking yourself, wondering what magic may have happened if only you’d crawled out of the hotel bed to shake one more hand and tell one more person about your incredible book.

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nancyNancy E. Johnson is a senior communications leader with an Emmy-nominated, award-winning journalism background. She contributed to O, the Oprah Magazine which published her personal essay in the November 2015 issue. Nancy serves as secretary for Mystery Writers of America Midwest Chapter and was a finalist in the Women’s Fiction Writers Association’s 2016 Rising Star Contest and one of the winners of Writer’s Digest’s “Dear Lucky Agent” contest. When she’s not reading, writing or pontificating about politics, she’s running and eating chocolate, sometimes at the same time. The Chicago native is writing her first novel.

 

Overcoming Writer’s Envy

I envy you.

Or at least I may have in the past. There. I said it. It’s true. As much as I try to stay in my writing lane and sincerely cheer for my colleagues when they write 2,000 words a day or land agents and book deals, there’s this pernicious, bottom dweller part of me that sometimes covets your successes.

We do this to ourselves all the time. Whether it’s a smaller waistline, a bigger bank account, more letters behind our names or recognition from our industry, we’re often looking at other people and measuring our own worth against theirs.

Four years ago, I attended my first juried writing conference, an experience that validated my writing chops, an opportunity to study with a best-selling author and talented writers. At the end of the weeklong intensive workshop, our author instructor selected the work of one writer (not me) as the best-of from the class and included an excerpt of her novel in the literary journal for the conference.

I was bitter. And petty, too.

I googled this writer often over the years to see what she’d accomplished or had not, and for a long time, nothing came up in my searches, which gave me the false hope that I had time to catch up. Then one day I saw her name embossed on her gorgeous book, published by Penguin Random House, on the new fiction shelf at Barnes & Noble. That familiar pang of envy stabbed me. Over the next few weeks, I learned that her novel was featured in the New York Times Book Review and O, the Oprah Magazine. More angst for me.

Then, I bought her novel and actually read it. I loved it. Really. No snark. No shade. She’s a phenomenal writer and storyteller. She deserved the honor she received at that conference years ago as well as the Kirkus starred review and write-up in Elle. Her journey is not mine and there’s more than enough room in this industry for both of us to soar and shine.

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This change in me didn’t happen overnight. I had to repeatedly remind myself why I write. I love the beauty of language, the rhythm of it, the texture of words on my tongue and the way they fit seamlessly on the page. I love a story that makes me think and empathize, one that transports me to new worlds, challenges me and leaves me breathless throughout and awed by the end. That’s magic and I get to create it every time I sit down at my laptop to write a new chapter of my novel. That, and not the external validation, is what inspires me to create.

I’ve often dismissed those who say do what you love and the money will follow. But, they’re right. Well, no money yet, since I’m still writing my first novel. However, focusing on my craft has paid off with national writing honors, and after my third year attending that writing conference, the leaders selected my novel excerpt as best-of and featured it in the journal. I just had to stay focused, hone my craft and recognize that my only competitor in this writing game is me, no one else.

Shifting my focus from self to others helped, too. When writers reach out to me to commiserate or to offer feedback on a page or a chapter or an entire novel manuscript, I say yes as often as I can. There’s joy in the magnanimity of the writing community and what you give is reciprocated. I’ve developed friendships with writers who have introduced me to agents and editors, read my work, asked me to blog or serve on panels, and kicked my butt when I hit a creative slump.

After a few months, I emailed the author I’d envied to congratulate her on her success. She responded by saying, “Don’t stop (writing)! If you ever have questions about the publishing process, let me know.” Her second novel will be released later this year and I couldn’t be happier for her.

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nancyNancy E. Johnson is a senior communications leader with an Emmy-nominated, award-winning journalism background. She contributed to O, the Oprah Magazine which published her personal essay in the November 2015 issue. Nancy serves as secretary for Mystery Writers of America Midwest Chapter and was a finalist in the Women’s Fiction Writers Association’s 2016 Rising Star Contest and one of the winners of Writer’s Digest’s “Dear Lucky Agent” contest. When she’s not reading, writing or pontificating about politics, she’s running and eating chocolate, sometimes at the same time. The Chicago native is writing her first novel.

 

Novel Writing Lessons from the Movie ‘Fences’

 Did you ever ride on the back of a garbage truck as a black man in 1950s Pittsburgh? Or narrowly miss a shot at playing baseball in the Major Leagues? Probably not. I didn’t either. However, when you sink into the leather seats of the theater surrounded by darkness except for the lighted screen and the held breaths of other moviegoers, you’re transported into the world of trash collector and would-be baseball star Troy Maxson. The movie Fences based on the Pulitzer Prize winning play by August Wilson offers a master class in how to craft a novel.

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Make your characters multi-layered and complex.

In the movie, Maxson, played by Denzel Washington, is charming and playful, yet he can also be cruel, his caustic monologues often making his younger son flinch and his wife turn away. He wants to protect his boy from the disappointments of a racist America, while also fearing that his son will shine in ways he never could. Even as he pushes away those closest to him, you never doubt how fiercely he loves in the only way he knows how.

Our first instinct as writers is often to go with one-dimensional characters who are good, bad, happy, sad, bitter, or sweet. You get the idea. The characters we create in our fiction should be just as complex as Maxson and the rest of us. Even the baddest of bad guys in thrillers can have a soft spot, something that makes him smile, someone who renders him vulnerable and puts a dent in his armor. It’s often those redeemable, human qualities that make the character come alive on the page and grab us in unexpected ways.

Deepen characterization through dialogue and details.

Fences uses the boisterous voice of Maxson to show the quiet desperation of a man who picks up other people’s trash all day, comes home and whacks a baseball hanging from a tattered rope in his backyard, makes love to his wife in a cramped little house and then does it all over again the next day. Those are the kinds of details that bring authenticity to our stories and richness to our characters.

In one of the most poignant scenes of the movie, Maxson’s wife Rose, played by Viola Davis, sheds her quiet demeanor and delivers one of those lines that makes you tremble and forget to breathe:

“You not the only one who’s got wants and needs. But I held on to you, Troy. I took all my feelings, my wants and needs, my dreams…and I buried them inside you. I planted myself inside you and waited to bloom. And it didn’t take me no eighteen years to find out the soil was hard and rocky and it wasn’t never gonna bloom.”

How powerful is that? In that one piece of dialogue, we learn so much about Rose. She’s a strong, long-suffering woman who’s had to swallow her own dreams for the sake of her family. Let’s think about how the dialogue in our own novels not only advances the story, but also helps the reader understand who the character is at her core.

Explore universal truths that connect with readers.

The books I enjoy most have something important to say about the world, not in a preachy sense, but in a way that makes me say “aha” and helps me understand humanity through a new lens. Fences explored loss, racism, squandered chances, abandoned hopes, fatherhood, manhood, suppressed dreams and more. Maxson delivered a simple truth when he described how he’s survived over the years by “taking the crookeds with the straights.”

Our novels should be more than a series of acts and scenes that entertain, but do little else. Universal truths are ones that help us make sense of life and allow us to see ourselves in the characters we root for on the page. Again, while we may not look like Maxson or have his life experience, we know what it’s like to lament over unfulfilled dreams and we understand the toll that merely surviving takes on us and those we love. Don’t give your readers a sermon, but tell a story that builds empathy, one that connects on a visceral level with their own wants, needs, joys and struggles.

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nancyNancy E. Johnson is a senior communications leader with an Emmy-nominated, award-winning journalism background. She contributed to O, the Oprah Magazine which published her
personal essay in the November 2015 issue. Nancy serves as secretary for Mystery Writers of America Midwest Chapter and is an active member of the Women’s Fiction Writers Association. When she’s not reading, writing or pontificating about politics, she’s running and eating chocolate, sometimes at the same time. The Chicago native is writing her first novel.

The Sweet Agony of the Opening Line

Crafting the opening lines of my novel frustrate, terrify and excite me all at the same time. I know those are the first words someone will read and I want them to be perfect. Words that resonate. Words that intrigue. Words that invite. As writers, we’re often told that our beginning is the hand we offer the reader. So, we knit words and phrases and re-knit them again and again in hopes that they’ll entice readers, beckon them to take a 300-page journey with us and the characters we’ve imagined.

A few years ago, I prioritized professional growth over fear of humiliation and entered the first page of my novel-in-progress in a Writers’ Idol contest. It was anonymous and my belly churned, not knowing if my manuscript excerpt would be one of the ones read. Heat crawled up my neck to my face when I heard the first words of my novel in the warm, raspy voice of the woman chosen to read each entry.

 

Raindrops slapped the saints, their rainbow-speckled faces pressed against the glass windows.

All three judges raised their hands to signal they would stop reading my book right there as soon as she uttered the last syllable of my first line, and it was even more mortifying that one of the judges was esteemed crime fiction author Dennis Lehane. Not even a voice bathed in honey and brandy could camouflage the stench of what I’d written. My opening line stunk like sweaty gym socks.

I was really trying to say that rain fell on the stained glass windows of the church the day of the funeral. Why didn’t I just say that? Instead, in an attempt to be writerly, I crafted a nonsensical line and got dinged publicly for it. With the distance of a couple years, I can now say I’m grateful for that experience and have thought about it the fifteen, maybe twenty times I’ve rewritten the opening to my novel-in-progress.

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On some Saturday mornings, I walk through the aisles of New Fiction at Barnes & Noble and select books randomly to read the opening lines. Be forewarned that this is a dangerous hobby because well-crafted opening lines will often inspire you to empty your wallet and buy the book. That’s the whole point, I guess. Here are a few opening lines I’ve noticed in recent years that compelled me to keep reading:

Mister hit Josephine with the palm of his hand across her left cheek and it was then she knew she would run. – Tara Conklin, The House Girl

They partied in Pleasantville that night, from Laurentide to Demaree Lane. They unscrewed bottle tops, set the needle on a few records, left dinner dishes soaking in the sink. – Attica Locke, Pleasantville

We didn’t believe when we first heard because you know how church folk can gossip.—Brit Bennett, The Mothers

Lydia is dead. But they don’t know this yet. – Celeste Ng, Everything I Never Told You

Your father picks you up from prison in a stolen Dodge Neon, with an 8 ball of coke in the glove compartment and a hooker named Mandy in the back seat. – Dennis Lehane, Until Gwen

I wish I’d written each of them. What those opening lines have in common is they each leave a question in my mind. They tell me enough, but not too much. I’m curious. I’m anxious to learn more, to know what happened and what will happen next. Our beginnings set the tone for the reader’s experience with our work, a signal that she’s in the capable hands of a masterful storyteller.

That thrill of anticipation running under my skin when I read the opening of a new book is what I want readers to feel someday when they read my novel. I’m sure that’s your goal, too. So, we return to revision mode once again to make sure that opening is exactly right.

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nancy

Nancy E. Johnson is a senior communications leader with an Emmy-nominated, award-winning journalism background. She contributed to O, the Oprah Magazine which published her personal essay in the November 2015 issue. Nancy serves as secretary for Mystery Writers of America Midwest Chapter and was a finalist in the Women’s Fiction Writers Association’s 2016 Rising Star Contest. When she’s not reading, writing or pontificating about politics, she’s running and eating chocolate, sometimes at the same time. The Chicago native is writing her first novel.

 

Unshackling Our Creativity As Writers

I envy the writers who’ve always been free. The ones who eschew the market constraints of the publishing industry. The ones who don’t check the bestseller lists before deciding what to write based on what may sell. The renegades who smash the guardrails of genre and predictability to carve out literary roads of their own.

The first draft of my novel-in-progress drives me mad sometimes as I revise the climax, fill plot holes, and psychoanalyze my protagonist while second-guessing the story itself. I believe in it but wonder if anyone else will. Am I trolling in familiar tropes? Is this one of those “big books” that will catch the attention of agents and editors? I often long to climb into the minds of writers who shrug off convention to write without boundaries. I wonder if I’ve given myself permission to create without restraint.

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If you want to read a novel that tackles the issue of race with equal parts tragic and comedic genius in a Richard Pryor and Chris Rock type mash-up wrapped in literary elegance, then check out The Sellout. Last month, Paul Beatty became the first American to win the coveted Man Booker Prize for that novel. The book is unabashedly unconventional and so is he. Eighteen publishers rejected his novel and a friend once told him he must write for weirdos, an assessment he dug in a way because it meant you needed unique literary tastes to dig his work.

There’s something reckless and unafraid about the way Beatty handles weighty issues of racism and tribalism, yet he has such expert command of language that you recognize right away you’re in the hands of a literary master. In interviews he’s given, Beatty talks about writing five pages and then revising multiple times and not being able to move beyond those pages until he gets them right. Knowing he labors over every word and doesn’t effortlessly crank out award-winning novels gives me solace. Still, I’m jonesing off his mojo, reading his work and trying to understand how he grew into his fearlessness.

The other creator I’ve been obsessed with lately is Tony Award and Pulitzer Prize winning Lin-Manuel Miranda. Ever since I experienced the musical, it’s been all about the Hamiltons for me. He took a man often glossed over and usually forgotten in the history books and breathed new life into his story, his legacy. Just like Alexander Hamilton, Miranda brings fresh ideas and innovative thinking to everything he touches. A traditionally told musical about the early years of our country with white men in white wigs portraying the founding fathers would have been passable, but probably not provocative and transformative. Think of the limitless creativity of Miranda who imagined telling the story through hip-hop music with all the swagger of men and women about to change the game through the vessels of African-American, Hispanic and Asian actors. Now that’s revolutionary.

In every literary pursuit, there are conventions of the genre. I know that the type of novel I’m writing should be around 80,000-90,000 words and since this is my first one, I plan to stick to those guidelines. Miranda, however, wrote a nearly three-hour musical that critics warned was too lengthy, but he chose not to shorten it and advises writers to trust their instincts.

Another lesson Miranda teaches us is to open our eyes to see our stories in new ways. Sometimes, we have to go deeper into our characters’ lives to fully understand their histories, their motivations, the desires that consume them and the flaws that cripple them and ultimately make them human. If we wrote about Hamilton in our fourth grade social studies class or for American History in high school, we’d likely spin the tale of a founding father who established our economic system that led to our current banking structure. That’s true, but it doesn’t explore the nuance and the complexity of the man. Miranda told the rich story of a scrappy immigrant from a broken home, a brilliant man whose ambition and stubbornness would be his triumph and his downfall.

Slowly, I’m unshackling myself as a writer, learning the rules of the craft and the business of publishing so I can break a few along the way. Not to be different, but to give myself the freedom to create stories and characters that surprise and delight me. Stories that may never sell, much less win awards, but ones born of my full creativity and imagination.
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o_mag_nov_realyou0710Nancy E. Johnson is a senior communications leader with an Emmy-nominated, award-winning journalism background. She contributed to O, the Oprah Magazine which published her personal essay in the November 2015 issue. Nancy serves as secretary for Mystery Writers of America Midwest Chapter and is an active member of the Women’s Fiction Writers Association. When she’s not reading, writing or pontificating about politics, she’s running and eating chocolate, sometimes at the same time. The Chicago native is writing her first novel.