Tag Archives: writer’s conferences

IWSG

InsecureWritersSupportGroup2It’s time for Insecure Writer’s Support Group! “Time to release our fears to the world – or offer encouragement to those who are feeling neurotic.” If you’re interested, check out the link. We post the first Wednesday of every month. Visit as many new blogs as you can and learn from and share this journey with others and please leave comments, support each other. Our words might be exactly what someone needs.

Alex J. Cavanaugh’s co-hosts today are Hart Johnson, Chemist Ken, Candilynn Fite, Terri Rochenski, Clare Dugmore, and Lilica Blake!

Writing is a solitary life and writers tend to like this. Still, the most introverted among us still crave the encouragement of others, especially other writers. This leads us to seek out writing communities; classes, MFA programs, conferences, conventions, and retreats geared to artists. My critique group has attended or created our own share of those things. Recently, I accepted an opportunity to give back to a writing community that has been good to my group and me. At the time, I was full of excitement and motivation. Then I stepped into the role and the magnitude of what I’d taken on hit. Now the emotions were more like fear, trepidation, and at times bordered on panic.

What had I been thinking? I was not up for this. I didn’t have this level of experience to help plan a writing conference. How does attending a bunch of them qualify you to do this? (It doesn’t.) I had developed a bundle of nerves and convinced myself this organization that I loved had just made a horrible mistake placing their trust in me. Who was I? A lowly writer with a degree and some sales to show for it. Did this qualify me to put together a large event? (No.)

OWFIbadgeFast forward a year of amazing lessons, a discovery of self, and a realization of the strength of our organization, Oklahoma Writer’s Federation, Inc. We have an amazing conference planned for May 1-3, just weeks from now. All the hyperventilating and second-guessing and soul-searching is behind me. (I hope.) The conference will be the best fun ever. Like with all things, team related, I have people to thank. My OWFI President, Christine Smith-Jarmola, is a ball of writer energy. She came into this with ideas and ran with them. The board supported all efforts to right the ship any time rough seas hit. Thanks for all you did this year to give us the conference we all want. My girls, Novel Clique, who kept me vertical when panic set in. Hugs and chocolate are coming your way.

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Oklahoma Writer’s Federation, Inc.

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Introducing C.D. Jarmola

One of the reasons to attend conferences is the talented people you meet at them. I am always humbled by the people I meet and their talent. Today’s interview is with Christine who I met at Oklahoma Writer’s Federation, Inc. (OWFI), an annual conference my critique group attends. She is not only an author but a director who puts on productions at a local university. Her delightful mystery is a fun trip down the cozy trail.

murder book coverTell us about Murder Goes to Church.

Murder Goes to Church is a fun, cozy murder mystery located in a South Georgian vacation Bible school. Chrissy Chronister, an unwilling amateur sleuth  is thrown into a murder investigation when the victim dies in her arms. What makes this mystery different from the billions out there, is all the clues are uncovered by Chrissy because of the mischievous things her eleven month old son, Lukas, gets into. Whether it is tipping over trash cans or crawling under church pews, his antics get Chrissy in situations that normal people with normal manners never would, and there she finds the secrets that someone has killed to keep quite.

When did you know you wanted to be a writer?

Not as a child. Not as a teenager. It wasn’t until after I had my son, Darku, who by the way is the inspiration for Lukas, that I decided to write a book. I loved reading cozy mysteries and felt that would be such a fun life. Maybe I watched too many Murder She Wrote episodes. So I wrote a book. Sent it to an editor. She said no, and I put it on the shelf. Some fifteen years later, I picked it up and read it again and thought, hey this is actually pretty good. So I rewrote it. And then wrote some more.

Do you write in one genre or many? How do you pick the genre for your books/stories?

I originally planned to write murder mysteries as they are one of my favorite genres to read. But then I started reading YA books and then they were my favorite genre. So my second book to write, Do-Overs was to be a YA book. It wasn’t until I had finished it and was working through it in Bill Bernhardt’s writing workshop that it was pointed out to me that Lottie, my main character was over 18, so it wasn’t YA. Fortunately the publishing industry recently invented a whole new genre, New Adult, just so Lottie Lambert would have a place on the bookstore shelves. My most recent story, Jairus’ Daughters, is YA.

What’s the toughest thing about being an author? The best thing?

The toughest thing is not losing my motivation when all I seem to get is rejection letters. We’ve all heard famous authors say how they received hundreds of rejections before they sold their first book, but still with each rejection it’s difficult to not give up on the writing career all together and go get a real estate license. But then there is the best thing and that is when someone says they read something of yours and they loved it. Just this morning the receptionist at the doctor’s office introduced herself and told me she loved Murder Goes to Church. And last week I got an email from a man in Saudi Arabia telling me he was touched by my story in Chicken Soup for the Soul: Angels Among Us. That was the highlight of my month.

Tell us about the story you placed in Chicken Soup for the Soul.

Finding My Way is a very short, but true, story of my first trip to Europe by myself. I was young, very naïve and very lucky that God was watching out for me.

What is your next book project?

I just finished the first draft of Jairus’ Daughters. It is a YA book about Brenna Birdsong who finds out on the day she gets her first period that she has the ability to heal one person even from the brink of death. The problem is she can only heal one and how does she decide who. The idea started as more a sentimental book, but it didn’t stay that way. It turned into an espionage adventure with hostage situations, spies and all sorts of counter intelligence working to but keep Brenna safe and exploit her power.

Do you have a character you can’t let go of? One you know you will have to write about again?

I must confess, I have a crush on Al Dansby from Do-Overs. There will definitely be a sequel on that one. Did-Overs? Maybe I need to spend a little more time working on a title for that.

Are you a plotter or a seat of the pants kind of writer?

I’m a here’s a problem now what would happen if that really took place kind of writer. With both Do-Overs and Jairus’ Daughters I started with a problem. In Do-Overs it was what would happen if I could instantly redo a mistake at anytime? How would that affect my life? With Jairus’ the thought was if only I could heal one person I’d never ask God for it again. Or would I? From those questions I invented characters to “act out” the stories. Instead of an outline I attempted to write a one-page synopsis before writing the book. Just as if I were telling a friend about a book I read. Then I write by the seat of my pants. Many things from the original synopsis don’t appear in the book. But one thing I most definitely have to have before I start is the ending. It’s like my plot point on the horizon that I have to know where I’m to drive the story to.

Last two–just for fun…

Favorite chocolate?

Any and all. Especially with nuts. Oh, and white chocolate is not chocolate.

Flip flops or bare feet?

Flip flops in every color imaginable.

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Post Conference High

There is nothing like a writer’s conference to give a writer a natural high. Spending time with writers and agents in an arena where it’s all right to discuss nothing but writing and writing related things is as good as it gets for us. I don’t have to defend my interest in a random person in a restaurant. My fascination with the way someone walks or the conversation at the table next to us (as interesting to me as the one at my own) is acceptable to everyone else in the conference world. They get it. I don’t get weird looks. No one calls men in white coats to bring jackets or nurses with medication to make me catatonic. My particular weirdness lets me fit in with everyone else. Phew!

OWFI is an awesome conference which is why we attend every year. It offers so many opportunities to attendees. The contests, the presenters, the agents, editors, publishers, authors, and the importance of opportunities to pitch to those publishing officials cannot be underestimated. This conference is a win for Novel Clique every year. This year was a blast. We enjoyed time with agents; Louise Fury, Jessica Sinsheimer, and Emmanuelle Morgen, at a buzz session on Friday night. We were also lucky enough to pitch to these ladies who made that nerve-wracking experience so easy and pleasant. It was an excellent adventure that I recommend to every writer truly seeking publication.

What conferences do you attend? What is it about them that gets your writer’s juices flowing?

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Evil Let Me Count Thy Ways

I’m reading The Queen by Steven James. He’ll be a speaker at OWFI which our group attends every May. This is the most recent in a series and only intending to read one of them I became hooked. (Isn’t that the point?) The thing that has struck me with this latest book is different from the others I’ve read by him. Maybe I’m just noticing it because I’m also reading Bullies, Bastards, and Bitches. However, I’ve been really drawn in by the assassin. Bad guys are usually drawn in two ways: all bad or bad but with underlying reasons that allow us to at least understand how they became “bad”.

Steven drew this character with the black and white of the mathematician’s mind. Ordinarily, I would not guess this would be effective. However, this character’s world is clearly painted for us with the parameters that he has conceived as acceptable. He can kill easily with little concern and no guilt. However, he will not kill women and children and will not allow the killing of women and children. This is a matter of importance to him when he is framed for the murders of a mother and child.

He easily dispatches a deputy to allow himself to escape authorities but then the hero’s bravery in attempting to save that deputy draws him in. Rather than leave the agent to die of hypothermia on the river bank, he calls 911 AND retrieves the body, wraps it in a tarp, and leaves it beside the road for medics to find. Of course, he does this right after murdering the trucker whose truck he then commandeers for his getaway.

The contradiction of the black and white world he lives in makes this assassin more human on the page than some protagonists are. In spite of the evil he does, I find myself cheering when he does things that are redeeming, such as saving the agent.

One of the reasons I like reading craft books and novels simultaneously is it’s good to see craft applied in what you’re reading. James has certainly mastered the principles of a villain of worthy adversary for his main character.

What have I learned from this?

Make your villain worthy of your protagonist’s respect and vice versa. There is a degree of gamesmanship at work with these two roles. The best stories will pit the two against each other. Only with that mutual respect can the game really play out well for the reader.

Make your villain a worthy opponent. Your protagonist is smart and talented, good at what he does. The villain is his equal and in some cases more. He must push your protagonist to the limit. The two characters drive each other and the action forward.

Villains need as much dimension as any other character. There is more there than just a bad childhood. Does the villain struggle with esteem issues or is his ego out of control? Educated? Not? How does that impact how he interacts with the protagonist? What drives him on? What will stop him in his path? This is the primary question for your protagonist. If he wants to stop this guy, he needs to know the answer. That means, you-the writer, need to know.

Give your villain a history. He can be a man of mystery to the reader but not to the writer. Regardless of whether you’ll use any of it in the book itself, write a history of your shadow character. This way you know why he does the things he does. You will know where he draws the line and why.

I don’t know why James’ assassin has a thing about killing women and children. I don’t need to know. The mystery of it fascinates me. The only person who really needed to know was Steven James. Reading The Queen, it’s obvious, he does.

How do you make sure your villains are multifaceted?

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