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BFL          While working alone on a long project like a novel, it’s easy to feel lonely, disconnected from readers and isolated from peers. The best antidote I know for this malaise is a literary festival. And even though I’m not feeling particularly lonely, disconnected or isolated at this time, I am nevertheless looking forward to the annual Brattleboro Literary Festival, which takes place Thursday through Sunday, October third through sixth of this year.

Brattleboro, Vermont, is a literary town. It is home to at least four independent bookstores, despite a population of only 12,000. In addition, it’s home to the Brooks Memorial Library, a full-service resource for stories and information in all formats, from the old-school hardcover to the on-demand digital download.

Rudyard Kipling and Saul Bellow both lived in the hills around Brattleboro, hills that continue to be heavily populated by writers of all genres and styles. The area has a strong creative economy, and the literary arts thrive here, especially during the festival, when writers from away come to town.

As always, there are more readings than it is possible for any one person to attend, so I always pick and choose carefully. It’s tempting brattto attend only readings of fiction, but I’ve learned that hearing poets read aloud illuminates their work, allowing me an almost magical understanding of language. I also like to hear from at least one non-fiction writer. These researchers often tell the story of their research, a story that reveals their passion and perseverance, which is inspiring. And of course, I love to hear fiction, too. This year, I’m looking forward to hearing Megan Mayhew Bergman, Sophie Cabot Black, and Christopher Castellani. I haven’t yet decided between Patrick Donnelly, Amy Dryansky or Patricia Fargnoli. In addition to readings, there are panel discussions, workshops and other literary events – like so much candy.

Despite careful planning, I know from prior experience that no matter how carefully I schedule my days, I may not make it to all the readings I aim to. I may fall into an interesting conversation, wander into a different reading, change my mind at the last minute, or become engrossed by the books for sale at the River Garden, where publishers and book vendors display their wares.

Saturation is another possibility, and something I’ve experienced before. After listening to several wonderful readings followed by Q and As, I don’t want to hear another word. I just want to go home – and write.

In addition to the festival, Brattleboro is home to several good restaurants and some purveyors of fabulous local foods. If feasting on words leaves you hungry, stop in at any of the eateries along Main Street, Flat Street or Elliot. And if you want to see how food and drink are made, check out the Grafton Village Cheese Factory and Sapling Distillery, both less than a mile north of town on Route 30.

dll2013Deborah Lee Luskin read at the Brattleboro Literary Festival in 2010, when her award-winning novel Into the Wilderness was published.

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Friday Fun is a group post from the writers of the NHWN blog. Each week, we’ll pose and answer a different, get-to-know-us question. We hope you’ll join in by providing your answer in the comments.

QUESTION: If you could attend any writers’ conference, retreat, or workshop, which one would it be and why. OR, if you could design one just for you – the perfect conference/retreat/workshop that doesn’t yet exist except in your head – what would it be like … and why?

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Lisa J. JacksonLisa J. Jackson: Such a great question! Hands down my favorite writers’ conference is New England Crime Bake held each November in Boston. Ooh la la, do I love this small con that offers a little bit of everything for readers and writers of any type of mystery. I don’t know another local con where I can mix, mingle, and chat with big name authors and agents – and put faces to the names of the folks I chat with on writers’ loops.

As for creating my own retreat – perfection would be a cozy house on a beach. I think 8 or so fellow writers would be a great number; we’d each have our own sleeping space and plenty of options for where to spend hours writing. Then a large gathering area to eat and talk about our writing. I could be any time of year – definitely have a fireplace in the winter, though! Walking along the beach is the most rejuvenating activity I’ve found, and I enjoy it year-round (although I don’t do it nearly as often as I want to!).

hennrikus-web2Julie Hennrikus: I love the New England Crime Bake too, and have gone to it every year but the first. It is exhausting, but inspiring. And I do like that it is small. I am going to Bouchercon for the first time this weekend, and will report back. It is a HUGE mystery/crime fiction conference, geared more for fans than for writers (from what I understand). Adding the Writers Police Academy to my must do list–hear great things!

I am part of another group blog, the Wicked Cozy Authors blog. This year I was invited to join their retreat (which they did last year as well) at a house in Old Orchard Beach. It was just terrific. (I blogged about it here.) Not only did we write, we had great conversations about careers, about what we brought to our group endeavor, and an impromptu Scrivener class.

headshot_jw_thumbnailJamie Wallace: So far, the only conference I’ve been to is the fabulous Muse Conference hosted annually by Boston’s Grub Street. I have attended twice and both times walked away exhausted (as Julie said), but also inspired and informed. Although the conference has grown tremendously since it began, it still has a very grass roots feel that makes me feel more at home than I imagine I would be at, say, a big New York conference.

I asked this question because I received an alert about next spring’s Iceland Writer’s Retreat. I have no intentions of running away to Iceland for five days, but the idea of it was so romantic that I couldn’t help daydreaming.

My perfect writing retreat would be a guilt free one. Like most of my fellow writers here at Live to Write – Write to Live, I have many responsibilities beyond my writing. What I would love more than anything is a retreat that didn’t leave me feeling selfish for taking time away from my daughter, my beau, my work, or my cats. (Yes, I feel guilty when I have to leave my cats.) If I could find a way to steal a couple of days all to myself without worrying about anyone or anything, that would be bliss.

Diane MacKinnon, MD, Master Certified Life CoachDiane MacKinnon: I, too, think New England Crime Bake is an awesome conference. It’s fun, informative, and everyone there–authors, agents, and publishers–are all very down-to-earth.

I did go, once, to an amazing writing workshop (that felt like a retreat). I plan to go again one day. It’s The Self as the Source of the Story Writer’s Workshop that Christina Baldwin does every year out on Whidbey Island, in Washington. Many years ago, when I first started writing again after many years of just longing to do it, I met Christina at a medical conference and saw her flyer about this workshop. It happened to be on a week when my husband and I were both off and my stepchildren were away on an exciting vacation with their mom. I asked my husband (who is not a writer) if he would consider going with me. He said he would, then sent in a writing sample as all the participants had to do. He participated fully in the retreat, which was so wonderful. But the best part about the retreat was that the pace of life we lived that week was so much slower than our normal daily lives. We met twice a day for two hours to hear lectures about different writing topics, and we had plenty of time to write, run, and relax. There were 16 people in the group and we all ate lunch and dinner together. We also spent 36 hours together in silence, which was a powerful experience. On the last day we read out loud to each other. During the day of silence words just poured out of me. I still am amazed at how wonderful that whole week was. Sigh. One day I’ll go again.

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On the Premisesa good place to start is a resource for fiction writers. It’s a PDF and web-based magazine published 3 times a year. The stories in the magazine are those that have won in the contests set up by the editors. You can read or download back issues here.

So, On the Premises is always running a contest – a ‘regular’ one and a ‘mini’. I learn a lot from the editors suggestions/hints/tips for submissions as well as the feedback they offer once a contest closes. They also share entries.

And they offer a free critique if your story places in the top 10; and have a reasonable fee if you’d like a critique if your story didn’t make the top 10.

blue ribbonDid I mention the staff is generous in helping writers?

  • As of -last- Monday, their newest ‘regular’ contest, Contest #21, already had 36 entries. Submissions are being accepted until Sept 27. It’s looking for 1,000 to 5,000 words on the premise described here. There is no entry fee and prizes are: 1st: $180, 2nd: $140, 3rd: $100, Honorable mention: $40 (and sometimes they’ll do up to 3 honorable mentions).
  • The new ‘mini’ contest, Mini-Contest #21, is now open to entries until August 30. No entry fee. Prizes are: $15 for first, $10 for second, $5 for third, and honorable mentions get published but make no money. This contest is seeking a 20- to 40-word (yes, that’s only a maximum of 40 words) story that starts and ends with the exact same word. Oh, and that word can’t be used anywhere else in the story.

To enter either contest, use this page to submit your entry (and to get the details/guidelines for both contests).

In addition to its website, On the Premises is also on Facebook, and has a blog. The blog doesn’t have a recent post, but that’s intentional. In the latest newsletter, the co-publisher mentions that the content on the blog is solid and they find it more beneficial to put time into the monthly newsletter.

I find the monthly newsletter to contain useful writing-related information every time, and look forward to seeing it in my Inbox.

This month’s newsletter, for instance, talks about using misdirection in a story — and also about how when submitting to a contest, to make sure your story doesn’t simply end, but that it actually wraps up the story line.

You can subscribe to their newsletter through this link.

Note: I’m not being compensated for this post. I personally enjoy On the Premises and felt you might like to know about it, if you didn’t already.

I’ve submitted stories in the past, but did not get published. I plan to submit to the mini contest this month, though! Nothing to lose and publication to gain. Are you with me?

Lisa J. Jackson Lisa J. Jackson is an independent writer and editor who enjoys writing short. She loves writing about NH people, places, and activities. She writes fiction as Lisa Haselton, has an award-winning blog for book reviews and author interviews, and is on the staff of The Writer’s Chatroom where she gets to network with writing professionals on a weekly basis. You can connect with her on FacebookTwitterLinkedIn, and Biznik.

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ITWplain           My first novel was published three years ago, my second novel is not yet published, and my third novel isn’t yet finished. So when I was invited to join a panel of Vermont Authors at this year’s Bookstock – a three-day literary extravaganza held in Woodstock, Vermont – I didn’t see the point.

I told my friend, author and marketing maven Beth Kanell, that Into the Wilderness was currently only available as an ebook. The hard copy has gone out of print, and frankly, I didn’t see the point in spending a summer Saturday working if I didn’t have any books to sell.

Beth said, “Go anyway! Talk about your next book! Keep your audience interested.”

Beth Kanell, author photo

Beth Kanell, author photo

I did a 180, and accepted the invitation with enthusiasm.

Beth’s right, of course. I have readers – some of whom regularly ask me, “When’s the next book coming out?”

I tell them, “I don’t know. Stay healthy – and stay tuned.”

So even though a part of me wants to do nothing but hole up with my imagination, another part of me knows that it’s good to practice my lame social skills. And it’s always a thrill to meet my audience. In fact, it’s good to be reminded that there is an audience, and I’m not just writing novels as a form of personal exorcism. And it’s also good to practice dressing up and speaking in public. Because I know once the next book does hit the shelves, I’ll have to dress up and travel to promote it.

Marketing my work and my self is not my favorite part of being a writer, but meeting my readers has been an unexpected pleasure. Nor is audience building the only reason to attend this literary festival. It’s also a chance to meet other writers.

Bookstock_Logo-3-125-e1364325761425            At Bookstock, I’ll be part of a panel of three writers of Vermont fiction. One of them is my neighbor Castle Freeman, Jr. whose Go With Me is one of those absolute gems of narrative fiction. He and I are carpooling, and I’m looking forward to talking shop on the drive. The other writer on our panel is Steve Delaney, a veteran journalist whose voice was familiar one on Vermont Public Radio for many years. We’ll be completely unscripted as we talk about writing in and about Vermont. Should be fun.

I’m looking forward to arriving early and staying late, so I can hear some of the other writers whose work I know and admire (like the poets Donald Hall and Galway Kinnell) and to hear the work of writers I don’t know (like Joan Wickersham, a National Book Award Finalist). There will be over twenty regional writers at this fifth annual literary event. And just as I’ve jumped on to the local food bandwagon for all its nutritive, socio-political, and environmental benefits, I’m a great believer in local stories – and local audiences. It’s great to have a home base, and I’m looking forward to becoming reacquainted with mine.

Bookstock runs for three days, starting on the morning of Friday, July 26, and ending late Sunday afternoon, July 28. My panel goes on at 1 o’clock on Saturday. If you come to the festival, please stop and say hi.

photo: M. Shafer

photo: M. Shafer

Deborah Lee Luskin’s novel Into the Wilderness has been called a “love story to Vermont” and recognized by the Vermont Library Association for its “sense of place.” Readers most frequently say, “I didn’t want it to end but I couldn’t put it down.” It has been hailed as “a fiercely intelligent love story” and “a perfectly gratifying read” and was awarded the Gold Medal for Regional Fiction by the Independent Publishers in 2011. The book is currently available in electronic format.

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I’m adding another ‘thank you‘ to Jamie’s to those of you who participated in the recent NHWN poll. Great feedback.

Onward! In April, I wrote about a 24-hour short story contest I find to be fun, stressful, inspiring, challenging, entertaining, and a great exercise for my muse. Do you see the ups and downs in that last sentence? I have a lot of emotions when writing for a contest, assignment, or a client. And I like that. If I didn’t have a mix of emotions, then I’d take that as a sign I’m too comfortable. Growth comes from pushing into the ‘uncomfy zone,’ not from the same ol’ same ol’.

With the next rendition of the contest coming this Saturday, and based on survey feedback, I thought I’d delve into some tips for writing a story or article with a deadline of a day or less.

These tips can also be applied to blog posts, interviews, and more.

  1. Know the assignment. If it’s a contest, be familiar with the rules. If it’s a client project, make sure you’re clear on the deliverable. If it’s an article, blog post, or interview, know the key points to be covered.

    Brainstorm on the screen or on paper

    Brainstorm on the screen or on paper

  2. Write out initial thoughts – brainstorm. Turn off your internal editor (easier said than done sometimes, I know) and start freewriting ideas. Make lists, mindmap, scribble, draw, whatever it takes to get initial ideas downloaded from your brain. Use a timer, or write until you run dry, whatever works best. For me, a timer keeps the internal editor from speaking too loudly.
  3. Step away. Turn the paper over, minimize the window, close the laptop, walk away from your desk, or close your eyes. I find it helpful to change gears completely and go for a walk, have a snack, listen to music, read e-mail, or anything that doesn’t relate to the project. The mind is still turning ideas over, and likes to do so when you aren’t paying close attention.
  4. Come back with fresh eyes. Read through your notes. Highlight the items from your brainstorming that catch your eye and cross off the ideas that are too typical. What else leaps to mind now? What strikes you as interesting, original, or fun? Shift perspectives — if you’re the reader, which of the items, which focus/approach, would be most interesting or refreshing?
  5. Pick one idea. Yes, just one. Which one floats to the top of the list? Start with that one. (You can always go back to the list later if you need to.)
  6. Free write.  Write on that one topic you’ve just chosen without worrying about what you don’t have. Assignments can need research, quotes, pictures, or other background material. Don’t worry about that now. Write your story/article/blog post with what you know at the moment. You’ll know where you need to insert details later. Leave a blank line, capital letters (XXX), or symbols (???), if you need to. Most important, is that you write without worrying about spelling or word count.
  7. Repeat step 3.
  8. Write your second draft. You know the topic now; your muse is partnering with you to get the story written. Fill in the blanks.
  9. Repeat step 3. A great time for a treat because you’re almost done.

    Deliciously cool key lime pie

    A treat — Deliciously cool key lime pie

  10. Read with an editor’s eye. Clean up the grammar and punctuation. Get within your word count. Give your story / article / assignment a nice polish.
  11. Sleep on it. Similar to step 3, but, it’s the final stretch. The words are on the page and fulfill the guidelines. You have time to relax and let the piece simmer.
  12. Make final revisions and submit before your deadline.

And my favorite step — 13. Celebrate the milestone. I do the “whoot whoot” and fist pump the air and/or do a happy dance. It’s a great feeling knowing a task / assignment / contest entry / what-have-you has been completed and submitted.

It’s like using the fine china or crystal today instead of waiting for “a special event”. Celebrate the moment, the accomplishment. The piece didn’t exist in any form 24 hours (or less) ago, and now it’s done, dusted, and submitted.

Now for the next project!

If you have specific questions, please ask.

Lisa J. JacksonLisa J. Jackson is a self-employed writer and editor. She loves writing about NH people, places, and activities. She writes fiction as Lisa Haselton, has an award-winning blog for book reviews and author interviews, and is on the staff of The Writer’s Chatroom where she gets to network with writing professionals on a weekly basis. You can connect with her on Facebook, TwitterLinkedIn, and Biznik.

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I’ve been involved as a chat moderator with a fabulous online place called The Writer’s Chatroom (TWC) for the past 5+ years and I wanted to tell you more about it. It’s usually mentioned in my bio, but we have a fabulous line up of guests through September and it’s a good time to share.

Most Sunday evenings we have a ‘celebrity’ chat from 7-9PM. And I say ‘most’ because once a quarter we take a Sunday for a live critique chat, and occasionally we have a live prompt chat, and every now and then we have an open chat.

Celebrity chats are akin to bookstore events – you know, where you go to a bookstore to see an author and ask him or her questions. TWC Sunday night chats are moderated and chatters get in a queue to ask questions of the author, publisher, editor, freelance writer, short story writer, publicist, whatever-type-of-writing-professional we have in the hot seat —  from the comfort of their own homes.

Last night, I moderated mystery writer Hy Conrad – most known for being one of the original writers for the TV show Monk, and now for writing the novel series based on the same character. But he has other works too, including a fun book he co-wrote with Jeff Johnson called Things Your Dog Doesn’t Want You to Know.

We have international chatters who sign in each Sunday to meet new authors as well as chatters covering all the US time zones. It’s always a good time, and there’s usually a giveaway from the guest at half-time.

Every Wednesday evening is an Open Chat from 8-10 PM EST. There is usually a topic of conversation for the first hour and then free conversation for the second hour. What’s more fun for a writer than to talk shop with other writers, right?

The chatroom also has a discussion board forum for connecting with other writers when the chatroom is closed. There are conversations you can participate in and if you’re looking, for example, to find a critique partner, this is the place to go.

generic_101BestSitesThe Writer’s Chatroom has been listed in Writer’s Digest 101 Best Websites for Writers 5 times. Our reach continually expands, and we get multipublished authors, as well as NYT best sellers, too. Here’s a list of our past guests. I bet you’ll recognize a name or two.

Here’s a look at our July line up. You can see the full schedule here.

The Chatroom is a fun place for writers of all genres and of all levels along their writing journey. On Sunday nights, I’m there under my pseudonym Lisa Haselton, just so you know.

If you stop in, make sure to say ‘hi’ and tell me you read this blog. I’d love to show you around and introduce you to people.

Lisa J. JacksonLisa J. Jackson is an independent writer, editor, journalist, and chocolate lover. She loves working with words and helps businesses with theirs. She writes fiction as Lisa Haselton, has an award-winning blog for book reviews and author interviews, and is on the staff of The Writer’s Chatroom where she gets to network with writing professionals on a weekly basis. You can connect with her on LinkedInBiznikFacebook, and Twitter

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If you write about your community, or if you’re a mystery writer, a great resource (if you have it) to gain insight and make contacts is to take advantage of a local citizen’s police academy.

Last fall I participated in a 10-week program in my current town. I’ve also participated in 2 prior academies in a town and city I lived in before. The experiences and connections are priceless.

I’ve found that academies are generally offered in the fall, but depending on the size of the community(ies) the academy is focused on, there could be multiple offerings during a calendar year. A neighboring city offers them twice a year, for instance.

Start with the Web: visit your local police department’s (PD) website to see if there is an academy. If you don’t find any information, give the department a call on its business line and ask.

Procedures vary, of course, but I’ve always had to go to the PD to fill out an application. Each time it has been a regular job application that wants high school, college, areas of study, job history (complete with start and end dates and hourly wage) – you know the type – 4 pages with lots of boxes to fill in. Applying can be intimidating if you over think it. Filling in the basics is good enough, since you are not applying for a job.

You also have to sign a form allowing the PD to perform a criminal background check.

Academies are generally capped at about 30 people, depending on the size of their conference room I think! But, most academies like to offer hands-on classes and want to keep the classes manageable. The last academy I attended only had 11 participants. The earlier academies had 30-35 participants. It’s great to have a small class because it gives everyone more time for hands-on work (there is usually a lot of show and tell) and also more time to ask questions.

All academies I’ve participated in have been no cost to participants, are offered one night a week for 8-12 weeks, and run for 2.5-3 hours each evening. It’s common for participants to volunteer to bring in goodies each week to go with the PD’s offering of coffee, water, and candy – one academy always had Dunkin’ Munchkins on hand.

During the weeks of the academy, you will meet officers at all levels of experience: newbies as well as those ready to retire. You’ll meet beat cops and detectives, lawyers, child advocates, emergency responders, volunteers, clergy, and more. You’ll learn various behind-the-scenes procedures and processes, and sometimes, if you’re lucky, get to participate in ride-a-longs with an officer on duty.

Gun Jam 6-8-02I particularly enjoy learning forensic processes (small towns don’t have a lot to work with), meeting canine officers and seeing how they work, and I love going to the shooting range for target practice. (That’s me during my 2002 class.)

Citizen police academies give you a different perspective of your community and can add depth to your non-fiction or fiction writing.

Have you ever attended a citizen police academy? 

Lisa J. JacksonLisa J. Jackson partners with businesses seeking to express themselves with words. She loves New Hampshire and is completing several 5Ks in 2013 as a way to get off the couch and away from the screen. She wasn’t a runner until now, and is thinking that someday she wants to complete the Alcatraz Triathlon. You can connect with her on LinkedInBiznikFacebook, and Twitter

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I like to enter writing contests now and again, and in general prefer not to enter any that have a fee. I tend to like money coming to me for writing rather than away, which I’m sure you can relate to.

But there’s a short-story contest that caught my interest a few years ago that I like to enter, even though it has a fee. It’s the Writer’s Weekly 24-Hour Short Story Contest and it’s put on 4 times a year. The fee is $5 to enter.

There are a few reasons why I like this contest:

  • There are more than 85 prizes available
  • Top 3 prizes include cash amounts of $300, $250, or $200; and publication. Incentive!
  • It’s limited to 500 participants — 17% of total participants can win something (but, not all 500 submit by the deadline)
  • I don’t know the topic or word length until the bell rings – no stress over the prep :)
  • All participants have the same 24-hour period in which to write and submit
  • The rules are spelled out in detail and communicated on the website, in a downloadable PDF upon registration, and again at the start of the contest
  • Even though a prompt is the base of the contest, you don’t have to use it verbatim
  • There’s a lot of writing freedom
  • No specific genre
  • Encouraged to think outside the box
  • Tips are shared (i.e. it doesn’t impress the owner to have a character with her name or location in your story; put a title on the story; put your contact information at the end of the submission, and so much more)
  • If I end up not submitting, I don’t feel guilty over the $5 spent
  • I have time to write a draft and then step away from it (usually sleep on it), and then refine the piece before submitting
  • There are more than 85 prizes available (oh, am I repeating myself?) That’s a LOT of opportunity to win something!
  • It’s been around for quite a while
  • It’s always on a weekend (Saturday 1PM EST to Sunday 1PM EST)
  • The contest date It’s always announced weeks in advance, so I can schedule the time
  • When winners are announced, a summary of all entries is shared – common themes and endings – as a learning tool
  • It’s fun!
  • It’s a great break from ‘regular’ writing
  • I’ve placed in the contest a few times – and continue to strive for Top 3 at least once. :)
  • It’s good exercise for the muse
  • It’s a milestone to look forward to
  • Winners are announced when promised (generally within 6 weeks)

Okay, so that’s more than a few, but I haven’t come up with any reasons not to enter. There’s really nothing to lose, and only some spur-of-the-moment writing-to-a-prompt experience to gain (at a minimum).

My method for tackling the entry is: read the prompt and word count limit as soon as the e-mail arrives. Scratch out initial thoughts. Go out for a walk or get lunch and think about the prompt – think about what the ‘typical’ responses might be (the 1st 6 or so that come to mind should be ignored or twisted into something new). Do a free write without worrying about spelling or word count. Pull the nuggets out from the free write. Write a ‘real’ story. Step away from it. Read it. Step away again. Tweak it. Sleep on it. Make final revisions and submit a few hours before deadline.

This past weekend was the Spring contest. The Summer contest is going to be on July 13, and is now open for sign ups. Yep, I’ve already reserved my seat.

Do you have a favorite contest, or one that you find worthwhile? I’d love to hear about it.

Lisa J. JacksonLisa J. Jackson makes a living helping businesses express themselves with words and writing about NH. She has decided to complete several 5Ks in 2013 as a way to get off the couch and away from the screen. She drinks iced coffee year-round, and needs a stash of Peppermint Patties in the fridge at all times. You can connect with her on LinkedInBiznikFacebook, and Twitter

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me_signingWriting can be a solitary life, right? Even when working in a noisy cafe, I can encapsulate myself as I focus on my work – be with/around people, yet still alone.

So when I purposely join a group of writers for a couple hours or more, it’s a bit of a emotional overload. I go from my own thoughts to learning about other writers, what they’re passionate about, what they enjoy reading and writing, and what they are currently working on.

And at those times, I wish I was a sponge and able to absorb *everything* and review it later. I do the best I can, of course, and scribble notes when I have the chance.

I attended a full-day writers’ conference on Saturday and am still recovering. I got there early and met several people right away.

  • A neurologist who writes about addiction and recovery; he blogs and speaks to people who need his expertise – turning medical terminology into layman’s speak. And he’s 2/3 of the way through a book on the same topics he speaks about.
  • A career-long technical writer adjusting to writing historical fiction and finding it challenging to shift away from linear writing with rules to the freedom that fiction allows.
  • A newly published author who was attending the conference for the second time. Last year, her book was in process and after last year’s workshops and networking, the book has been published with a second scheduled with a publisher.
  • A local radio personality who enjoys meeting people and coming out from behind the microphone is now transitioning into the writing world.
  • An almost-MFA-graduate who was there to practice pitching a YA fantasy novel and to hopefully find leads into teaching opportunities.

Andres Dubus III was the keynote speaker. I’m not familiar with his work, but after hearing him speak, I want to learn more about his work. He was very down to earth and direct. I found it refreshing and motivating.

The workshops I took gave me new ideas for works in process and works not yet drafted. My workshops focused on characters, YA (young adult) & MG (middle grade) fantasy writing, and using maps as stories.

I also got to network with people in my area. It’s so nice to find local-to-me writers interested in getting together for coffee, or better, a writing group. It’s hard to find each other when we’re at home hiding behind our screens!

Bottom line is that I came away from the conference exhilarated with an abundance of information to evaluate. I recorded the workshops, but not my conversations, and it’s usually the conversations that have the priceless ‘nuggets.’

Back to my sponge analogy: after days like this, if I were a sponge, I could wring my thoughts into a bucket and take time to see what I captured. As it is, I usually need food to re-energize, and then quiet time to let everything settle — keeping a notepad and pen nearby to write down the thoughts that bubble to the surface.

Do you take time the same day to capture your ideas/thoughts after going to a workshop or conference? Or do you give yourself a day or more to let things settle?

Lisa J. JacksonLisa J. Jackson makes a living helping businesses express themselves with words and writing about NH. She has decided to complete several 5Ks in 2013 as a way to get off the couch and away from the screen. She drinks iced coffee year-round, and needs a stash of Peppermint Patties in the fridge at all times. You can connect with her on LinkedInBiznikFacebook, and Twitter

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There is a phrase in theater–the actor’s nightmare. It is when an actor is about to go on stage, and can’t remember what play they are in, their lines, and/or their blocking.

For writers, I think the nightmare is doing a reading of their work. It is a combination of the audience, reading aloud, and the vulnerability of reading their own work. If it is a work in progress, that can be even tougher. Last weekend Sisters in Crime New England hosted a series of readings called March Reads. Members read five minutes of their work–either published, or in progress. No critiques, just applause. You couldn’t ask for a better audience than other writers, and these are really supportive events. It made me think about what people without that sort of practice opportunity can do to prepare for a reading.

Here are some tips:

  • Find out how long you’ve got. If you don’t know how long you have, pick a five minute piece, and a ten minute piece. Or two five minute pieces.
  • When choosing a piece to read, aim for a minute less. Leave people wanting more.
  • There aren’t rules. You don’t have to start from the beginning. And you don’t have to read straight through. Pick a piece that entertains.
  • Bring a friend. In the audience. And/or on the panel.
  • Practice. Mark up the piece. Remind yourself to take breaths. If you are doing a introduction, consider writing that out as well.
  • Ask for help. Are you reading a new piece? Ask your partner/friend/child/workmate how it sounds. Pay attention to their reactions, and take it into consideration. Are they bored? Chose another piece. Do you stumble? Fix or, or chose another piece..
  • When given the opportunity, read. Practice may not make perfect, but it does make it easier.

I will be doing a reading on Thursday, April 18 7pm at the Trident Booksellers and Cafe on Newbury Street. Happily some other people will be joining me, which makes it much easier.

*************

J.A. Hennrikus is the Executive Director of StageSource. She is a mystery writer. Her short story, “Tag, You’re Dead” was published in Level Best Book’s anthology THIN ICE. “Her Wish” is in Level Best Books’ DEAD CALM. And “The Pendulum Swings, Until It Doesn’t” will be in BLOOD MOON in November 2012.She is a social media fan, and tweets under @JulieHennrikus. Her website is jahennrikus.com

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