Find Your Community

The most impactful thing you can do for your writing (besides finishing what you start) is join a community of writers. No one understands a writer like another writer. We have quirks, tremendous self-doubts, huge highs, and a lot of anxiety about an industry that can be maddeningly unpredictable. A community will provide you the support you need.

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Where can you meet other writers?

Blogs, social media, fan groups, conferences, and retreats are a few places to start. Target groups that write your same age group or in your genre. Be brave and introduce yourself. Pass along a business card. Ask them questions about themselves. Befriend them on social media. Whatever you do, think of reaching out as making friends and not as networking.

How do I find beta readers?

The same people you meet through blogging, social media, fan groups, conferences, and retreats are good options. Ask to swap manuscripts. If you ask someone to spend their time reading your manuscript, the best way to repay them is to do the same. Another option is to find or form a critique group. You may find one through your library or local chapter of SCBWI, SFWA, RWA, or any other reputable writing organization. Contribute to the groups you join, and only commit if you intend to be reliable and active.

What do I stand to gain from socializing with other writers?

The benefits are endless no matter where you are in your career.

For those of you who aren’t published, writers love to talk about books, so be ready for a lot of book recommendations. Some of these recommendations may become a comp title for your own work. Associating with other writers may lead to them asking you to participate in conferences, critique groups, book clubs, and book events. Socializing provides you the opportunity to receive feedback on worthwhile time investments, balancing home and work life, writing and working full-time, recommendations on agents, insight into how to query, what questions to ask when you get The Call from an agent, and so on. Publishing thrives on the whisper network. Most of what you learn will be from speaking directly to other writers.

If you’re published or under contract, you need a community too. You can get advice from others on cover art, social media platforms, building your newsletter list or website, and swag. You may want to know if, when, or how to part ways with your agent, which conferences are worth your time, advice on maximizing book bloggers, how to cope with bad reviews, what to do if your agent retires or your editor moves houses, how to sell on synopsis, and the list goes on and on. Join a debut group. Actively seek out relationships with authors, agents, editors, and bloggers. Maintain those relationships the best you can.

At no point in your career will you be better off without a community. Benefits come from creating reciprocal relationships with your colleagues. This is not “networking” per se. Initially your intentions may be to meet critique partners or gain social media followers. But as you engage with other writers, friendships will form. The same person you introduce yourself to at a conference could be the author you ask a blurb from one day or they may ask you. Interact with the spirit of giving. Don’t take anything without the intent to give back. Show up, be friendly, bravely ask questions, and contribute to building a community where all writers feel welcome.

 

Getting By With a Little Help From My Friends

I completed my first manuscript in six weeks, spurred by the ability to have laser-focus when I have a goal. I think that comes from my half-German side. (My half-Italian side tells me to slow down, take a sip of vino and relax a bit.)

I knew nothing about the craft of writing. Not a thing. But I had an enormous love of reading and felt strongly that I had a story in me that was ready to be told.

Fast forward six years, and that manuscript became my bestselling novel, THE MEMORY OF US. But back then, it was a sorry first draft. I just didn’t realize it.

When I typed THE END, I thought, “I did it! I wrote a book!” Countless rejections later, I realized that I needed help.

Sitting in my house in Texas, exhausted by having just given birth to my fourth child, I had dreams of going to New York – the center of the publishing world – and learning how to make my writing better.

Enter a Google search and a saintly husband, and weeks later, I was on a plane to the Big Apple to a conference called Backspace.

Backspace was ideal for what I as was writing and the access to publishers, agents, and teachers – frankly – made me feel like I’d died and gone to Heaven. That is a whole other blog post.

But I walked away with a bonus that I didn’t expect – new, lifelong friends.

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Eileen, Melissa R., a second Melissa R. and Jeanette were all aspiring writers like myself. Eileen says it perfectly: “Next thing I knew, I was spending the lunch break with women who understood why the compulsion to write can keep you up at night, how finding time to write is always at odds with the day job or car pool, and how it always feels like something’s missing when you’ve gone a few days without touching your manuscript. Little did I know when we exchanged contact info and social media handles, that we would one day be attending each other’s book parties, cheering each other to the finish lines of big writing deadlines, offering up prayers for each other, and exchanging publishing business advice.”

Eileen Palma published first, a wonderful book called WORTH THE WEIGHT. It was a different one than she’d brought to Backspace, but speaking for myself, she set the bar high and motivated me to see my own project through to completion. I learned from her that sticking with the goal will make it happen.

Melissa Roske came to Backspace writing self-described “chic lit”, but was later inspired to write a middle grade book. In her words: “I wrote the first draft of KAT GREENE COMES CLEAN in 2011. It was only 100 pages long, but I knew I had something I could work with, so I did another draft. And another. And another. A billion and twenty-five-thousand drafts later (a slight exaggeration), I started querying agents. Within a year I had representation.”

Melissa’s agency is Marsal Lyon Literary Agency. So when I had serious interest in my manuscript from Jill Marsal at that same company, it was Melissa whom I turned to with questions. She was so encouraging and forthcoming with her advice, and I signed with Jill – who is still my agent – a few days later.

Like me, Melissa Romo writes historical fiction. I was immediately enchanted with her experiences of living in Europe and her fascination with a little-known part of Polish history that definitely made for great storytelling. With much marketing experience under her belt, she chose to publish BLUE-EYED SON independently, hiring an editor on her own and even holding a contest among artists to pick a winning – and gorgeous – cover for her novel. She is currently working on its sequel.

Jeanette Schneider had the most magnificent start to a book about a barista, and I hope that one day she will revisit that story. But she had bigger plans, like saving the world in her spare time, so her writing took a turn toward creating a successful website/movement called Lore and Little Things. She writes compelling and honest pieces about women’s issues and started a popular segment called Love Letters – where women write letters to their younger selves and tell them what they wish they’d known then. Her soon-to-be-released book, LORE: HARNESSING THE PAST TO CREATE THE FUTURE, is a work of non-fiction, and I’m certain it’s going to be huge.

We all took such different paths to publishing, and while I’m certain that they would have all gone and done big things regardless, I know how their friendship through this process (and beyond) continues to be so meaningful to me. Thanks to social media and travel schedules that sometimes put us in the same city, we’ve been able to keep in touch.

This is my way of saying that you must find your tribe. Surround yourself with other authors who will lift you up, teach you something, cry with you in your failures, celebrate with you in your successes. Writing can be such a solitary path, but it doesn’t have to be that way. And I would suggest that it is immeasurably better if you walk it with friends.

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unnamed Camille Di Maio recently left and award-winning real estate career to be a full-time writer. She’s been married to her husband Rob for twenty years, and they enjoy raising their four children. She has a bucket list that is never-ending, and uses her adventures to inspire her writing. She loves finding goodies at farmers markets (justifying them by her support for local bakeries) and belts out Broadway tunes whenever the moment strikes. There’s almost nothing she wouldn’t try, so long as it doesn’t involve heights, roller skates, or anything illegal. Her debut novel THE MEMORY OF US became a bestseller, and was followed by BEFORE THE RAIN FALLS. Her third book, THE WAY OF BEAUTY will be released on May 1.

On Teaching

“He who can, does. He who cannot, teaches.” –George Bernard Shaw, Man and Superman

We’ve all heard this phrase before, often times in jest. I’ve spent most of my life as a teacher of some kind, from working at a tutoring center to teaching high school algebra and even homeschooling my kids for 11 years. In fact I’d guess that most people have taught in one form or another many times, whether at church or school or within their own families.

There is currently a severe teacher shortage across the nation. It’s no secret teachers don’t get paid much and are often underappreciated, but the shortage is so bad there are salary wars and schools scrambling to get anyone in the door so they have someone to sit in the classroom, no matter their credentials or lack thereof. There are also many college incentive programs and scholarships for those pursuing teaching to help counteract this education crisis we’re facing.

Why the abandonment of teaching? Some of the greatest minds in history were also teachers: Aristotle, Galileo, Mozart, Isaac Newton, Albert Einstein, Marie Curie, Stephen Hawking. They didn’t just research or study. They didn’t just write and publish. They also taught.

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In recent years a lot of the teaching I do is about writing at either conferences or schools. Though far from an expert, my brief experience and study of the writing craft is sometimes valuable information for others, and I enjoy encouraging aspiring authors to keep learning and moving forward. After all, I was in their shoes just a few short years ago, and it was the help of other authors who encouraged me to do the same.

Writers are some of the most giving people in the world, often sacrificing their time and expertise to teach and help those who want to write as well. But I often notice that at a certain point in their careers, some authors will stop teaching or interacting with aspiring writers altogether. I am 100% behind the idea of protecting one’s time and energy, something that becomes much more precious the busier we get. I am no stranger to saying no when I can’t help, but I think that amongst all the no’s, there should be an occasional yes. It would be a sad thing if those who can teach, just do.

I am in awe of those writers around me who give so freely to aspiring authors. They teach and they support and they uplift and they encourage. I would have quit this writing gig years ago if it weren’t for people like them. As we enter writing conference season, I would encourage everyone to thank those teachers and editors and behind-the-scenes helpers you run into for what they’ve given so freely, solely motivated by their love of writing. I’d also encourage authors to find an opportunity to say yes, especially if it’s been a while since you’ve taught others along their writing path.

Because I believe that those who can do, teach.

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Ilima Todd was born and raised on the north shore of Oahu and currently resides in the Rocky Mountains. She never wanted to be a writer even though she loves books and reading. She earned a degree in physics instead. But the characters in her head refused to be ignored, and now she spends her time writing science fiction for teens. Ilima is the author of the REMAKE series (Simon Pulse/Shadow Mountain) and is represented by Lane Heymont of The Seymour Agency. When she is not writing, Ilima loves to spend time with her husband and four children.

The Non-Nerd’s Guide to Comic Con

51cwj7rjrvlWe are thrilled to welcome today’s guest (and previous contributor) Kathryn Purdie and congratulate her on the release of her second book Crystal Blade. 

So you’ve never attended a comic con, but suddenly this year’s event sounds intriguing because the ridiculously attractive star of your favorite CW show will be there. So you crack. You buy yourself tickets to three days of . . . otherness . . . and now you’re getting cold feet. You’ll be entering the unknown Land of the Nerds, but you’re a cool kid. How will you fit in? And what exactly will you do at said comic con other than stand in a long line waiting for a picture and autograph with your too-gorgeous-to-be-living TV idol? Don’t sweat it. With my help, we’ll have you donning fairy wings and superhero tights in no time. (Kidding, not kidding.) So take a deep breath and read up. Here are your basic comic con survival skills:

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  • Accept you’re a nerd. If you define a nerd as a person willing to spend good money on celebrity sightings and dress-up, then guess what? You’ve already done that by buying tickets to this madness. Own your inner nerd! Be the nerd! Embrace the nerd! A secret truth: nerds have more fun. Moving on . . .

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  • Dress up. Comic Con is basically Halloween on steroids. Who doesn’t want to see that? Now you can either spend your time gawking at all the grown-ups walking around in questionably form-fitted pleather and rolling your eyes at them, but secretly wishing you’d also spent the last year bedazzling your own costumes, or you can just swallow your pride and commit to the experience. When in Rome, right? Having said that, don’t feel pressured to have the best costume in Hall A. Chances are you haven’t planned well in advance, so keep it simple. Be another Star War’s Rey, among a sea of Reys, or throw on a Superman t-shirt. In the very least, you’ll get some nods for effort from your better-dressed cosplaying clones. But if you put a little more effort into it, you’ll likely become a celebrity yourself! Everyone will want to chat about your costume and take pictures with you. Case in point: a year ago, my author friend, Ilima Todd, went as the wall from Stranger Things. She wore a 70s patterned blouse with a painted-on alphabet and a string of Christmas lights woven throughout—a simple, but super creative costume! 14225593_661261700716344_6988909043799797441_nThat was the first year she dressed up, and it ended up being her favorite comic con…all because she dared to cosplay!
  • Talk to strangers. Fans work for months on their costumes. They love compliments and being asked to pose for a picture. But please be respectful! Comic cons are filled with signs saying “cosplay is not consent” for a reason.
  • Make a plan. Comic cons are held in HUGE venues sardine-packed with Klingons, vampires, and gorgons, waiting in long lines to meet the same celebrities you are. But there is so much more to do! You can attend panels and hear special guests nerd out over their love of all things Tolkien, Marvel, or Doctor Who. Additionally, celebrities are often interviewed or on panels themselves, where you can listen to them speak for more than the ten seconds you’ll get with them one-on-one in the cattle call of the autograph lines. But if you don’t plan ahead, you might be too distracted by Captain America’s real shield or a fan’s stunning replica of R2-D2 and miss out on some of the best con events. Bonus: attending a panel is a nice escape from the crowds and a chance to rest your aching feet.

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  • Good shoes are a cosplayer’s best friend. Okay, so your Nikes aren’t period accurate to the 1920s mobster getup you’re wearing. Let it go. Your feet will thank you later. Remember those huge venues I mentioned above? That means you’ll be doing a lot of walking and queuing up for autographs and events over these three days. Happy feet make happy con-goers!
  • Bring a friend. Your first comic con will be an unforgettable experience. You’ll be sure to tell people all about it later, but sharing it with someone during the con is even better! So find the Luke to your Leia, the Thing 1 to your Thing 2, and remember two nerds are better than one.IMG_1757.jpg

I hope you’ve gone from tentative to pumped up, all by the workings of this magical article. 😉 If you happen to be at this year’s Salt Lake Comic Con, be sure to come and say hi! You can look me up on the panel schedule at http://saltlakecomiccon.com/. I may be wearing my Imperial Russian ball gown.

Maybe people will think I’m Anastasia.

Works for me!

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dfc83-webedit-11editedKathryn Purdie is the author of the YA fantasy, BURNING GLASS and CRYSTAL BLADE (Katherine Tegen Books/HarperCollins). She lives near Salt Lake City, Utah, with her husband and three children. Kathryn is a trained classical actress who studied at the Oxford School of Drama and was inspired to write her debut trilogy while recovering from donating a kidney to her older brother. Find her online at kathrynpurdie.com.

Why You Need Your Writing Community

Why You Need Your Writing Community

When I first started writing, I didn’t know anyone else who was a writer. I had no one to bounce ideas off, no one who could read what I wrote and give me real feedback, and no one who really understood what being a writer meant. I was alone.

Then I went to a couple writing conferences, met other driven writers, and became close friends with several of them. I became part of a writing community.

What have I gained from being associated with a community of writers?

  • I have a place to ask questions about writing.
  • My writing friends give me so much support to keep working toward my goals.
  • They motivate me or give that extra push to write when I don’t want to.
  • We empathize with each other when things don’t work out.
  • There is so much knowledge to glean from other writers—everyone is usually happy to share.

You know the saying “It takes a village to raise a child”? Well, it also takes a village to write a book. I can’t imagine writing a book without the help and support of other knowledgeable writers. Writers give helpful critiques, give ideas to fix plot problems, encourage you to keep going when you want to quit, and cheer you on throughout your process.

Of course, it should go without saying, that in order to have others help and support you, you must do the same for them. When you offer critiques, people are willing to give critiques back. When you are kind and supportive, others will be that way toward you.

Finding your writing people can take some time. You have to find those whose personalities and writing styles mesh well with yours. Be patient and keep meeting new writers until you find a good match (or ten!).

Writing is a solitary activity, but with a community of writers, you are not alone. We rely on each other. We grow together and lift one another. We help each other keep going when it’s hard (is it ever not hard?).

Whether you’re a beginner or have been at it for a long time, having a writing community in your life can make all the difference. And you never know, you might make some of your closest friends along the way.

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Wendy Jessen is the author of more than 500 articles—family-oriented articles on familyshare.com and book reviews. She recently started a website for something she is passionate about–helping victims of sexual abuse find hope and healing. Wendy is the mother of 6 spirited children ranging in age from 5 to 15. In the throes of writing a few books (fiction and nonfiction), she finds ways to procrastinate which usually involves scrolling through social media. Wendy often stays up way past her bedtime reading, loves kid-free date night with her husband, family vacations, and kids’ bedtime, aka, the human version of whack-a-mole.

When You Write Fiction

When you write fiction, you are engaging in the art of empathy. Deep empathy. You wholly step into each character’s psyche and see the world from their perspective. You get into the minds of characters who are like you and characters who are not. Given the events of last week, that ability has never been so important.

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When you write fiction, you make sense where there is none. You take existing chaos (or create your own) and then bring order to it bit by bit until, by the end of the story, the world makes sense again. You take the loose threads of an idea and weave them together into a tight technicolor tapestry. You fit together even the smallest pieces of the puzzle until everything is exactly where it needs to be.

When you write fiction, you can write your way through despair and into action. You can include all people in your books, making theOther familiar rather than foreign. Humanizing the Other. Normalizing the Other. Making the Other just like anyone else until there is no such thing as the Other anymore. Until we are All One Tribe.

When you write fiction, you create the world you want to live in, if only in your mind, if only for a while. You escape to that world every time you sit down at the keyboard or take pen to paper. Your readers revel in that same escape with every turn of the page.

That escape feels of utter importance right now. With so many people feeling uncertain and unsafe, giving readers that escape is one of the best things we can do as writers. Reimagine our world as a place that values all lives equally. A world that values kindness. A world that values the truth.

When you write fiction, you can reinstate Hope, fill the world with Light, eradicate Hate with every stroke of your computer keys. You can fight against the normalization of Hate by writing about it with outrage and keeping it abnormal, out of place, and unacceptable.

When you write fiction, you can normalize love, acceptance, diversity, and inclusiveness. Anything is possible. Everything is possible. You can change the world one story at a time, one book at a time, one reader at a time.

One writer at a time.

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img_2359_1Jen Meyers is happiest when she’s creating—characters, novels, coloring books, salsa, sweets, sweaters, art, etc. She has worked as a professional actor, singer, and artist (among other things), and she writes fiction because she’s totally in love with making things up for a living. She is the author of the Happily Ever After series, Anywhere, the Intangible series, and co-author of the Untamed series. She also creates totally inappropriate self-affirming sweary coloring books (which make her ridiculously happy). Find her on Twitter and Instagram as @jmeyersbooks or visit www.jmeyersbooks.com for more information about Jen and her books.