Wednesday, July 31, 2013

What's Up Weds: Midwest Writers Workshop 2013!

I'm officially back from my month of traveling (dove right back in to vacation planning for the fall, but for now, I'm home!)

What I've Been Reading

I finally, after great effort, made it through Ready Player One. I wanted to love this book--many times, I was close to loving this book. But finishing it on audiobook was a battle, ya'll. Listening to a narrative makes writing weaknesses more glaring, and for as high-concept as this story was, the writing consistently frustrated me. More from an editing perspective. Overall, I liked the book, the premise is crazy-cool, and it was a fun adventure. Minus the repetition, excessive fan-boying (which related to the plot so I forgave it mostly) and rather passive storytelling. Subjective things, but frustrating when you see the potential of how great a book can be, rather than a good story with sufficient writing.

On my trip to Midwest Writer's Workshop, my husband and I listened to Beauty Queens, one of my all-time favorite books, YA or otherwise. Libba Bray is a fantastic narrator. I love this book even more now because of the extra production in the audio. I bought this because my library didn't have it, and I'm so glad I did.

What I've Been Writing

I wrote 2k words on a new story idea in a chunk of time between work and the gym, which normally I might fill with running an errand, or getting to the gym early and killing time on an elliptical. Success!

Wrote some more last night now that I'm back in the groove from July Vacation Extravaganza.

For this week: My goal is to try out writing every day, even if it's just for fifteen minutes or a half hour. I'm going to see if I can write in smaller chunks more frequently. We'll see...

What Else I've Been Up To aka July Vacation Extravaganza

Last Thursday I headed for the bright lights of Muncie, Indiana, to Ball State University for Midwest Writers Workshop. I'd heard great things about this conference, but I admit the pull was chiefly due to fizzygirl's fiendish fangirling. No really, I think she recruited a legit chunk of attendees, several of whom I "know" from twitter and was able to meet. There is definitely a midwest feel to this conference; people are friendly, the writers and staff are there to help all levels of writers improve their craft and learn about the industry. Apparently they make changes every year to make sure they're keeping with industry trends and giving writers what they need. 

The other draw was that I could meet my agent Sarah LaPolla! Sarah and Fizzygirl/Summer met at last year's conference, and this year they hosted a panel about how to make an author/agent connection at a conference. Pictures? Of course there are pictures!

Summer and Sarah share their Meet Cute story :) 
The conference is set up with an optional, additional full-day intensive workshop to focus more on individual manuscripts and editing, along with some genre-specific and industry workshops. The second part is more workshops and panels. I attended a really cool historical fiction session with Barbara Shoup, which confirmed I've fumbled through what works and what doesn't in writing historicals already, and I found her depth of research so interesting. Historical writers love research and I ate it up. 

I learned about using setting to enhance plots, how to develop stronger characters, and what makes a great first line. I think it's almost easier to say what doesn't work in a first line rather than what does. Though a rambling sentence with excessive setting where somebody is waking up will pretty much never be great.

Hank Phillippi Ryan on RT Book Reviews
One of the guest staff, Hank Phillippi Ryan, a newscaster in Boston and mystery/suspense writer, really progressed since I saw her at a free book fair in Wisconsin back in 2011--now magazine covers! 

In the evenings and for lunch I met up with my husband who tagged along with me, which was super cool of him. Our hotel was near a desolate-looking movie theater where he was the only patron one evening for a first-run movie (summer in Chicago area this would never happen, even at the old or cheap theaters). 

Agent Sarah and me!
One of the roundtable discussions we had early on the last day was particularly inspiring; a MWW staff member talked about writing articles, non-fiction, and assorted other stuff as a living, and how inventive writers need to be with their time and how enterprising they can and should be about their career. I had the thought that I'd like to teach a workshop or work on a panel, given how many people asked me questions about the process after they heard I signed with an agent (who was AT the conference, which piqued curiosity even more!). I'm hoping I can help out with RWA's Spring Fling next April and for experience. Maybe I can teach a workshop myself someday. 

After all these writing conferences, I'm definitely pumped to keep on writing. I see this even more solidly as an industry where writers need to continue churning out new material. No more treating each book like a delicate little flower. Ha! Time to press on. 

How was your week?

Head over to Jaime Morrow's blog to visit the other Ready. Set. Write! bloggers!


  1. Glad you had so much fun, and it sounds like it was really interesting. You and your agent look beautiful together :)

  2. I would love to go to a writing conference one day. I can only imagine how inspired you must be to write! I love sitting in on Q&As with writers (the writing department at my university brings in a few writers a semester to meet with us) and getting their advice.

    Good luck with your writing goals for the week. Writing every day is something I've been meaning to implement into my schedule for a long time. I hope it works well for you!

  3. Sounds like you had a blast! And how awesome you could meet your agent IRL! I met Sarah at a workshop a few years ago - very awesome and amazing, she is! Oh - and you now have me wanting to purchase BEAUTY QUEENS on audio! I am not an audio book person, but I have a feeling I'd love this one. :) Love Libba Bray!

    Keep up the awesome productivity! And have a great week!

  4. Sounds like an awesome time! And yay for meeting your agent. I think that's awesome considering how far most live from theirs.

    I'm going to have to get Beauty Queens soon. I hear so many good things!

    Good luck writing this week!

  5. Sounds like such a great time!

    I know what you mean about wanting to love a book but only feeling 'meh' about it by the end. I had that happen to me a lot this month.

  6. That session on writing historical fiction sounds fantastic. I bet it was awesome meeting your agent! I want to read Beauty Queens and lately I've been on an audiobook kick that I might need to check out the audiobook from the library instead.

    Good luck writing this week!

    Have a great weekend!

  7. I'm glad you had such a good time at your confrence. I'm going to a writing conference this coming weekend here in Oregon. I'm actually a volenteer at the confrence and this will by my fifth year going. But I'm still excited to go and see a bunch of my writing friends.

  8. The conference sounds awesome!

  9. Oh, that's so awesome that you got to meet Sarah. She seems so fun! And that conference sounds like it was really informative and helpful. I really need to try and make it to a conference that has workshops (as much as it scares the pants off me).

    I think you raise an interesting point with the audiobook of READY PLAYER ONE. I wonder how many of us would benefit from reading our stories aloud to catch some of those writing weaknesses? Like you say, they tend to stand out WAY more when vocalized. I'll have to remember that when I finish my WIPs. You're making awesome progress on your new WIP. I think writing even a little bit most days is great because it helps with keeping your momentum.

    Have a great week, Stephanie! :-)

  10. I've heard so many great things about that conference, I need to make it out there next year! Sounds like you had a lot of fun and it's great you got to meet your agent :)

    Writing everyday is a great goal, every little bit helps. Happy writing!

  11. Glad you had such a great time at the conference and it's left you feeling inspired. Have a great writing week!

  12. I haven't read BEAUTY QUEENS but all I hear is great things, so it's definitely on my list :) Sounds like you had an awesome time at the conference (and I really enjoyed all the snippets you tweeted, so thanks!) I'd love to go to a conference, but they're not really popular in my neck of the woods i.e. the English countryside. One day, maybe!

  13. I had no idea The Midwest Writers Workshop existed. I might check it out next year. Thanks for sharing

  14. The conference sounds fantastic. I'm glad you had such a good time.

    I must read BEAUTY QUEENS as I adore the agenda Doyle books.

    Good luck snatching those odd 15 minutes for writing. I need to do that more.

  15. The conference sounds like so much fun! I haven't read Beauty Queens, but several people have told me it's a must-read. (Must add it to my towering TBR pile)

    And congrats on squeezing in some writing in "errand" time. Talk about time management skills!

    Hope you have a fantastic week! :)

  16. I've never really considered how a flawed narrative might be even more obvious in an audio book. That makes sense though. I guess that's why they always say to read your WIP aloud when revising. I read a lot to my son, and I find certain books almost painful to read out loud because the narrative just doesn't flow. Interesting observation!

    That's very cool you got to meet your agent, and the conference sounds amazing!

  17. A good piece of query advice is to read your query out loud. Reading aloud helps you hear rhythm and repetition. I suppose the same can be said for your novel--maybe it's easier to hear the flaws than read them? I'll have to think about that one. :)

    Wow--sounds like you made the most of conference season this year, Stephanie! I'm glad you've had a great experience, and got to meet up with your agent. I look forward to seeing you around at WriteOnCon! :)

  18. Glad you had a great time and are back to writing again.

    I too have trouble writing every day; mainly, Tuesdays and Wednesdays because my other half is home. This week I tried waking up at 4 AM while he was asleep hoping to remedy this. It did. So I'll probably keep this schedules from here on. :)

  19. Ah, I know how you feel about books that you wished were different/better and wanted to love! I think that's more frustrating than just disliking something. Glad you finished the book though and that you got to revisit a favorite. I love Libba Bray's Gemma Doyle trilogy and am looking forward to reading The Diviners, but I haven't checked out any of her contemp/satirical stuff. Beauty Queens seems like it'd be a laugh though!

    The writing conference seems so fun and informative! That's next on my list of things-I-must-do (Comic Con was on this year's list)! So cool that you got to meet Twitter friends (always fun!) and your agent! Randomly, I love the bright blue in Summer's hair! Your July has been just as busy as mine (or more so)!

  20. Sounds like an awesome conference. I'd love to be able to go to a conference someday, if it's close enough, the price is reasonable and on budget, and it doesn't include Saturday.

    I've been having a lower productivity output by my standards since camp has been in session, but I'm still writing every day and hoping to become more prolific by the fall.

  21. Wowowow! You went from one awesome conference to another. Love it. I've heard how awesome Midwest Writer's Workshop is and one day I hope to get there! It must have been a blast to meet Sarah.

  22. That's cool you got to meet your agent. Not every writer gets to. I like the idea of writing everyday. I've been able to do it on vacation, but when I go back to work next week I don't know if I can manage.


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