I’ve just returned from the Rainforest Writers Village Retreat 2013. There are numerous blog posts after a writer’s retreat. If you want to hear about the general experience, check those out. This one is more personal.
At the retreat, panelists explained the difference between literary and commercial fiction—boiling it down to resonance and resolution. My week had a theme that stretched back to the first Rainforest I’d attended, last year.
Both years, I spent the week before Rainforest visiting my brother, his new baby, and his inoperable brain tumor. Surgery removed most, but not all, of the tumor. If they’d continued he would have lost language. They dominated my thoughts at Rainforest. I went for a walk and in a moment of unlikely coincidence, met another writer attending for the first time. We made friends on the path and walked back, agreeing that it’s easy to feel like an outsider. After Rainforest he thanked me in his blog for cheering him up. Only later did I find out his mother had a brain tumor. Can you imagine the conversation we could have had, if we had known? I’m glad we didn’t.
But I knew he shared my feelings of alienation. They should label the nametags of newbies at all writer’s conventions and retreats. Just attending is a huge act of bravery, and most of us aren’t the types to introduce ourselves around.
This year I knew the schedule and expectations, but still sensed people testing each other, trying to find where they ranked in the pantheon of writers. J.A. Pitts gave a lecture on the “Imposter Syndrome” which rang true for many people. It’s hard to see your own accomplishments because you know how you got there and aren’t sure you can add to your successes. I don’t think I’m insecure, until someone asks about my writing, which I’m proud of but don’t like discussing in real life (IRL). It’s a bit like first-time podcasters editing their own recordings. They’re shocked to hear their own voices, but eventually don’t notice it anymore. I’m still hearing the sound of my own voice when I talk about writing IRL, and no matter how relevant it is, it sounds inane to my ear. John Pitts argues that you need to take a stand and say what you have to say. James Van Pelt agreed, saying that writers need three things. The third of which is something worth saying.
I consciously started attending conventions and the retreat in order to step outside the insular bubble of indie authors I’d accumulated on the internet. It’s wonderful, and comfortable, but limiting. At this retreat something that should have been shop-talk, “What agents are you querying?” threw me. This isn’t the sort of thing my circle of indie authors discusses, for obvious reasons.
One person who was confident, and rightly so, was Robert J. Sawyer. Plainly successful in his career, he spoke about turning prose into scripts. Late one night, I saw him sitting on the couch with James Van Pelt on his right hand, neophytes sitting on the floor in a ring at his knee, making an imaginary director somewhere happy at the symbolic postures.
As it got later, we covered many interesting topics. If you want to realize how far you have to go, listen to insiders discuss the minutia of writer’s sartorial choices and who has a shtick to make them memorable. I didn’t know most of the people they referred to by first name.
I left thinking about all the advice given by the pros, and grateful for the new people I’d met. Next year, I’m resolved to seek out anyone new and introduce myself. Bob does a great job of that. Perhaps I can make someone’s time more comfortable. Because these annual events are starting to become milestones by which I measure my progress. And I can see the changes in other people’s lives, a year at a time.
My brother’s son is a year old and saying his first words. My brother’s tumor isn’t growing, according to MRIs. But I couldn’t help thinking of my friend from the last year. His mother died a few weeks before Rainforest and he had to give up his spot.
I hope he’ll be back next year.
My theme was progress. What will yours be?
Last year I attended the Rainforest Writers Village and enjoyed it so much I signed up as soon as registration opened for this year. I will be attending session #1 at the end of February on the Olympic Peninsula in the beautiful rainforest. And I have a plan.
In the month of February, I joined members of the Cloudcity Wordslingers in a wordcount writing contest. Each day we’ve reported our wordcount. In order to improve our consistency, in addition to word count, our speadsheet’s formula includes the chain of consecutive days in the calculated points. This has made me feel incredibly productive. By mid-month, I’d written roughly 22,000 words, so I’m looking forward to spending time editing and submitting.
See all the contest detail on the Wicked Women Writers blog.
Essentially, each woman writer who signs up will be assigned a location, an item, and a disability. She will then record a ten minute audio short story for the contest. The deadline to enter is June 20, 2013.
The men’s Master of the Macabre contest will also be announced soon!
It’s the start of the year and a good time to take inventory.
Publishing: Since this time last year, I’ve been printed in three anthologies and sold two additional stories that will be published early this year. See my Amazon Author Page for updates.
I also provided blurbs to a few other authors after reading proof copies of their novels.
Submitting: I made twice as many submissions in 2012 as I did in 2011. I expect that trend to continue.
With the two rejections I got today (Thanks for the opportunity, Harper-Voyager. Perhaps next time.) I’ve gotten four rejections in January.
That leaves six short stories currently under consideration. Two of those, according to Duotrope.com, aren’t likely to see responses since they’ve exceeded their expected response times by several months and the publishers have not replied to anyone. I’ll likely have to send them out again.
Podcasting: With my partner Rhonda R. Carpenter’s blessing, I stepped away from Podioracket.com’s daily activities to focus more on writing. The podcast has expanded to include articles on independent authors outside Podiobooks.com and is progressing well. I recorded an interview late last year that I expect to air early in the year, and will continue to record specials.
My Parsec Finalist podcast novel Fractured Horizon has received more than 300,000 downloads from Podiobooks.com and iTunes listeners, and I continue to receive donations and fan mail. I appreciate the ongoing interest.
Upcoming Events 2013: I received the wonderful news that my vampire SF story, Better for Burning, received acceptance for the much anticipated BLOOD TYPE anthology edited by Robert S. Wilson. I’ll let you know once that becomes available. I’m expecting to get edits soon.
My private project with Emerian Rich is progressing rapidly now, and I expect we’ll have something to share shortly. Our daring escapade is a fun riff between the two of us, and the experiment will entertain you as much as it has us–if you’re into that sort of thing. We’re certainly branching out! (Sorry to be a tease. Announcements coming soon!)
My two novels are tied down to delivery schedules.
Classes, Courses, Retreats, Crit Groups, and Cons: I will attend Rainforest Writers at the end of February, and should be able to get in a good chunk of writing. Who knows, maybe a third book will be born! I hope so, since I have ideas raging to be written.
This year I joined two critique groups, both of which I’m grateful for. The Cascade Writers group generated a critique group that meets in Bellevue. After running into the kind and dignified Mark Andrew Edwards at both Rainforest and Cascade Writers, I was invited to join the Cloudcity Wordslingers.
In 2012 I attended Rainforest Writers, Cascade Writers, and was a guest panelist at Baycon. Classes included a one-day Hugo House course on plotting and a one-day Clarion West class on using senses in writing. I expect to keep up a similar schedule in 2013.
I attended four author’s readings at the University Bookstore or the SFWA sponsored readings in Redmond, which I enjoyed very much. Hopefully I’ll find time to attend more later this year.
Writers, you may be interested to know about the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award. The submission period just opened for the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award. It is open to all novels that are unpublished or self-published. They continue accepting submissions until January 27th, or when they reach a cap of 10,000 entries. There are many genres. Check out the links for more information.
In previous articles (as well as this one) I’ve mentioned the useful site Duotrope.com for finding market listings and response times. Unfortunately, Duotrope now requires a membership fee. I know alternatives are in the works, but can’t yet make a recommendation. I’m paying on a monthly basis, but will see whether the site is significantly more useful than the free alternatives as each month passes.
I’ve created a list of upcoming submission dates, including the ones I’ve been invited to submit to (which is also a nice change). At some point I’ll offer a copy of my spreadsheet, if anyone is interested in similarly tracking their works against possible markets.
Authors often debate whether it is useful to submit short stories to open submission calls. After all, it takes effort to write, effort to sell, and the pay isn’t great. And if it doesn’t sell to the first market, you have to make it conform to market after market.
I had to ask myself this question this week. I once wrote a 5,000 word superhero short story that was turned down when the publisher chose not to proceed with the anthology. Now, I’ve expanded the idea into 17,500 thrilling words to fit a different call. That will be a difficult length to sell if it is rejected. But I enjoy short stories and there are several real benefits to writing short stories.
First, to motivate writing. Story calls offer themes, guidelines, and deadlines.
Second, to generate a short story for a critique group. Getting a critique of a novel is difficult. It’s better to learn weaknesses in a small piece that can be applied in longer works.
Third, to offer moments of validation. Sales, posts, and contest wins are small moments of triumph on the path to authorship. I just received Honorable Mention for a story in Writers of the Future and that feels good.
Fourth, to provide content for a query letter. Even if your eventual goal is to publish a novel with a traditional press, short stories can help. It does no good to write something if the editor or agent refuses to read the submission. Perhaps these credits will get them to turn the pages a little more slowly.
I have seven short stories or novels under consideration with publishers right now. Writers of the Future is mailing me an Honorable Mention certificate for “Shadow Plagued” to hang on my wall.
Some weeks, that’s enough.
One of the fun things about being a science-fiction writer is speculating about the near and distant future.
My mother asked me whether I’d written a scene in Fractured Horizon before or after the recent spate of publicity for Felix Baumgarner’s space jump. (Note: I know this links to a Red Bull site. Sorry, but they have the footage if you want to see it. I get no money, I’m just offering the link if you’re curious and somehow missed out on the media blitzkrieg.)
The free serialized audio podcast of Fractured Horizon has reached over 275,000 downloads since I released it way back in 2009. It’s safe to say that I wasn’t attracted to the hip trendiness of a space jump. I needed a truly extreme sport, and this was perfect.
My fictionalized account happens in Episode 11:
The Royals’ ability to predict the future let them take incredible risks with complete confidence, but with Kay their sport essentially goes from the safety of a mall rock-climbing wall to scaling K2. Then Orlando takes it way beyond that.
Should I worry whether space jumps will seem so commonplace I’ll need to select a new sport for the long-promised print version? Fractured Horizon had a first pass through the editor, and I’ve made all revisions. It’s quite different from the audio version now, especially since I’ve condensed Devon’s visions so we get more at once and do less ping-ponging between the past and future. If ping-pong isn’t an official term, can we all just agree to make it one? Thanks.
I’d also like to take credit for the popularity of tattoos (Episode 9) and the ombre hair color movement (Episode All-of-Them), especially the pop stars with brightly colored ends. But I won’t. Because I’m modest. Or possibly because none of these people have heard of my book and their colors aren’t related in any way to my character Kay’s hair. But mostly: modesty.
Now I’m off to sell all the short stories I’ve written with near future technology. Because the future is here. Especially 3D printers. Have you seen those? Flexible screens are only a moment away. Same with tricorders. For that, I blame the X-Prize folks.
So how do you progress as a writer over a long summer? I have advice, most of which I even managed to follow. Tell me about your successes.
If you have the time and funds, writers conferences offer several benefits. Like any industry, networking can open doors and give you insight that someone else worked to acquire. Join forces to hear about local resources, editors who are most likely to enjoy your work, and to share an attitude of success.
While this may be a painful realization for writers, who are temperamentally inclined toward scribbling in isolation (fiction writing partnerships are rare and beautiful things) other people have skills, knowledge, and judgments we need to hear. Writing conferences let you become more comfortable in the local writing community. Hear gossip and who’s-who. These insights are difficult to get any other way, no matter how much you use the internet.
Plus, once you get to know people, it can be fun. And you get to be ‘a writer’ for the whole time, with no other hats to wear and no one questioning the validity of that choice. That, my friends, is worth a lot.
I added to the writers conferences I’d attended by going to Vancouver, Portland for the Cascade Writers Workshop. I’d registered late when I heard they were opening up some new spots (Twitter was good for something after all!) and attended the 4-day critiquing workshop.
Submit Short Stories:
If you never send your stories to markets, they can never accept them. Keep submitting. Remember to use Duotrope to find the right publishers and check my old article on publishing short stories.
This summer I met someone who had 22 stories out for consideration and realized that I’m a slow-poke.
I was fortunate to have another story accepted with a small press. They moved very fast, once the story was accepted, and the book Spiders is already available in ebook and print. My story was written at the Rainforest Writers Village:
Genetically-modified spiders are at the mercy of university researchers who milk their silk and venom. The tables are soon turned. Have you ever known a merciful spider?
Yes, it’s horror with some sci-fi flavoring.
Join a Critique Group
Critique groups serve several purposes. They let you put your writing in front of other articulate people who care about writing as a craft. The comments aren’t always right, but you’ll get to hear from several points of view. It also forces you to produce on schedule.
I recently learned about two local writing groups and am going to see which fits me best. Adding these meetings into my schedule isn’t easy, but I think it’s necessary.
Write and Edit
Consensus agrees that the best thing you can do as a writer is persevere and practice. Set a schedule for yourself. Keep a minimum word count per day. Sit down and write every day. Edit. Submit.
Do I believe that all those saying that are following through? I do not. I know this summer put me behind schedule, but at least I have a schedule and know where to pick up again.
Now, it’s time for me to get back to the 1,200 comment edits left on my newest novel.
Tags: Short Story
Genetically-modified spiders are at the mercy of university researchers who milk their silk and venom. The tables are soon turned. Have you ever known a merciful spider?
Yes, it’s horror with some sci-fi flavoring and has received some decent reviews.
After creating my mega-sized blog post about Baycon, you might not think there’s anything left to say. I even sent my mother to the post when she asked how my trip went. However, in the days since the convention I’ve realized a few more things need to be added.
The Wickeds seems to be selling well. Baycon was my first chance to hold a print copy. I know the editor worked very hard on all the stories and to format the book for print. Somehow, my story lost italics. Since it started out as the content winning entry in a podcast, italics should indicate sound effects and character thoughts. If you are buying the book for my story, it may make sense to wait for the eBook version.
There are also a couple other blogs posts about Baycon worth visiting. I must mention the blog of Philip E. Carroll, because I feel such gratitude for his kind words. In part, he says about me, “I found out that she was not only a brilliantly clever writer, she is wonderfully human, approachable and interesting.” Anyone who reads this has my permission to plaster that all over the internet. I think it shows Philip’s generosity of spirit.
I spent much of Baycon in the company of Emerian Rich, who first convinced me to attend Baycon. Her extensive blog, written around the tweets she made during the course of the long weekend, is entertaining and thorough.
If you decide to purchase a copy of The Wickeds, despite my warning about the formatting for my story, then I suggest you let me know. I’d gladly send you a book plate autograph.
I had a great weekend attending panels in sunny California!
The blog is in two sections, first is my personal experience. Panel names are in bold for easy skimming. Beneath that, section two contains general tips for conventions.
All my panels went spectacularly.
My first panel was the Character Slam Book. Emerian Rich led the class, gave away free notebooks and worksheets, and talked about creating consistent character profiles and location layouts for authors and RPGers. We had several dozen participants, who seemed very engaged. Like any good co-host, I added my two cents and asked Emerian leading questions.
A big thanks to the men and women who danced with me in the Regency Dance. You were all very kind–even if I did learn that I don’t know how to Viennese Waltz. It was completely different from the waltz I had learned.
At the Writers Workshop all three submissions had potential and I wish the writers well. I don’t think we were too rough on them. I remember being on the other side of the table two years ago.
I jumped into the Hunger Games BOF only a few minutes late, despite being double booked, and the conversation was lively. We even had time to expand the talk into the question of children in movies, violence, and the upcoming Ender’s Game film.
The Post-Apocalypse Fiction panel was packed. Even after we stole chairs from other rooms people sat on the floor. The other panelists were fascinating in their knowledge of survival techniques. I took away a nice list of fiction to check out in the future.
I gave a Sci-Fi Reading of Pirate. We had a another great turnout, and other than the door resisting our efforts to keep it closed, the reading was ideal. I even got some nice laughs. However, my performance was nothing compared to author Cliff Winnig. He acted out his story with photos, accents, and the largest leap I have seen an author make. Check him out for a reading if you get a chance.
While I was at the Con I had the pleasure of meeting one of the editors of the magazine that published “Pirate”, Philip Carroll. I’m not used to meeting people from the internet in real life, so that’s one great reason to attend these conventions.
This completed my marathon schedule for Saturday. I squeezed in dinner, games in the game room, and got to relax during the Masquerade, Klingon Slave Auction (people are so brave!), and a portion of the Burlesque.
The following day, Sunday, started with me sitting on the pool deck to finally get some California sun. I found that I didn’t want to watch the Iron Editors tear into everyone’s submissions just before giving a reading myself.
Fortunately, the reading I did for the Horror Reading Panel went well. The other readers were also fabulous, including Emerian Rich, Laurel Ann Hill and Jay Hartlove. And a big thank-you to the listener who came up and bought a book from me in person.
That afternoon on the pool deck more than 15 people joined me to talk about the genius of Joss Whedon at the Whedon BOF. I enjoyed this panel the most. Maybe because it was so relaxed, or perhaps I just liked getting to organize things, but we found a shady spot with couches and chairs and discussed absolutely all of Joss’s works. People’s passions were amazing. And where else could I share all the minutia I’ve learned about Joss’s works and the recent Avengers movie?
A friend of mine that I only see when life sends me to California found an hour to steal me away from the hotel. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have left the hotel all weekend.
The Wicked Women Writers panel had some women who seemed seriously interested in the group. I gave my grittiest reading. Emz recorded the panels, so hopefully audio will be available soon. To my surprise, I found that I was the most soft-spoken of our bunch. I don’t think of myself as quiet, but waveforms don’t lie. Thanks to the other ladies for letting me sit in front of the mic.
I have to admit, I snuck out of the Horror Addicts panel to visit the Regency Dancing, but I was there for the beginning and end. We sold several copies of The Wickeds and I signed them happily. IMPORTANT NOTE: This weekend was my first opportunity to hold a print copy, and I discovered my short story had been printed without italics. Since it originated as a podcast with both sound effects and thoughts, this makes a big difference. I’ve notified the publisher.
I danced until midnight, went to bed, got up again and wandered the halls in the wee hours. I hadn’t had an appetite all day, so I hadn’t eaten much, but I figured I needed to find some food. I found a friend, no food, and he seemed busy so I returned to my room in failure. Ate a bag of chips from the airplane, then fought mild stomach ache the rest of the night. I’d picked up some weak bug, I guess.
I didn’t have time for anything con related. I checked out and flew home.
The Con Experience – Con Tips
If you’re a writer unfamiliar with conventions, check out other blogs that give general tips on using your time and planning. Here are my tips that may not be listed elsewhere:
If you have books you want to sell, carry copies with you. Remember to also have change.
Even better, go into the dealer room and ask a likely bookseller if they’ll sell copies on their table. We left our books with the wonderful people of Basement Books on Friday, and picked up unsold copies on Monday morning.
Be friendly. People at the conventions are there to be social. And they love the same things you do, so conversations shouldn’t be hard. I discovered familiar names and faces.
I’ve also heard a lot of authors say just sitting in the bar lets them mingle. I haven’t mastered that yet. Perhaps I don’t know enough people, or maybe they think it will give the wrong impression if they come up to a woman sitting alone at the bar. If I’m sitting at the bar at a Con, I’m inviting you to join me. (Unless you want to tell me that, “sometimes wedding rings are just for show.” But that guy was with another of the conventions at the hotel and not typical.)
Don’t hang out in your hotel room. Nothing new will happen there. Go to the green room, or hospitality room, or party floor, or whereever else you can go to relax. Even if you’re not used to crowds. I’m working on this one.
If you can afford it, call it a vacation and get a hotel room, whether or not you’re local. You’ll enjoy the convention more. As an author, you won’t have to carry all your books with you all the time, either. You can restock from the room.
Wash your hands, lots, and carry hand sanitizer. You’ll spend a portion of your day shaking hands as you meet people, and when people come from all over, so do germs.
I probably learned more than that, but this post is already too long for a casual reader. Let me just thank anyone who attended one of my panels, or said a kind word to me in passing or at the Horror Addicts table. I hope to go again next year.
I may have more conventions in the future, and likely several closer to my home in Seattle. I’ll let you know where I’ll appear next.
Finally, if you’d like more photos from the convention check out my author’s page on Facebook, or if you’re interested in Baycon follow their Facebook group. And if you found me through Baycon please, please say hello. Leave a comment here, on Facebook, or on twitter for @hroulo!
Tags: Baycon 2012, Character Slam Book, Cliff Winnig, Convention tips for writers, Emerian Rich, H.E. Roulo, Horror Addicts, Jay Hartlove, Joss Whedon, Laurel Ann Hill, Philip Carroll, Regency Dance, The Hunger Games, Wicked Women Writer's