Monday, May 24, 2010

Workshop Review: Yard Gnome Army Fiction Bootcamp

I don't know about you, but I've been through a few writing classes. As a writer, it's essential that you continue to hone your craft. Never assume you're "there," or you'll be shocked to find out your writing isn't as good as it can be. The problem is that some of those books and workshops end up confusing you more than helping you. Like the whole show v. tell thing--it took me forever to get it.

Recently I took a workshop that blew my mind away. It boiled down all those essential writing elements into terms that not only were understandable but fun! It was on-line so I didn't have to drive and sit in a stuffy classroom, had a collaborative forum so I was able to interact with the whole class and the professor (made a ton of friends, by the way), and learned more in that class then in all of the other classes/books combined! What class is this you ask? It's Bram Stoker nominated author Jeremy Shipp's Yard Gnome Army Fiction Bootcamp.

I don't evangelize for people often, but this class was phenomenal and Jeremy truly is an amazing and kind person. I was able to put a short story and my novel through the ringer. I am happy to say that the short story is in the finals for an anthology contest and an agent is currently reading my novel. Don't worry, he will have another class starting soon. He will begin registering the last week of may. To get more info email Jeremy here.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

WLT Agents Conference

I've been anticipating going to this for a long time. For those who haven't ever been (like me) the Writer's League of Texas has a lot of information on how to pitch your story in a face to face interview with a prospective agent among all the other information they have for acquiring said agent. They also send out a great newsletter with a lot of information that writer's will find useful if you are going to the conference, how to prepare for it, and even how to act while there. I'm not a very social person so it takes me a great deal of effort to meet and speak to people in person. Even for those not going, the information the WLT has in their newsletter is helpful.

I hope to see some of you there, and when I'm done (at the end of June), give a full report.

In other news, summer fast approaches and school is almost done. Time to find summer work for us teachers. I think I'm going to look around for a summer-time editing job at a local newspaper. Any suggestions for a writer/physics-chemistry-game design teacher?

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Bay Area Writer's League Conference

Hey everyone!

In case you havn't heard I will be presenting a workshop on how to network at the Bay Area Writer's League Conference in Houston June 11-13. The theme this year is "Keeping Writer's Afloat." You can learn more about it on their website.

The Writer's League of Texas is also having a conference the end of June. I won't be able to make it this year, but it is another great conference. Get details here.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Tax Tips for Writers

Hey writers, did you know that you can claim a good chunk of your writing expenses on your taxes? It's true. If you are actively pursuing a career in writing (which means submitting, not boundless reams of paper hiding out in your home office), then you can claim all expenses associated with that pursuit.

I've been doing this for a couple years but just recently realized most writers don't know that they can. The trick is to treat it like a business. I have a separate checking account for all of my writing expenses. My copywriting, short stories, and other related payments are deposited into this account. From this account, I purchase all office supplies, books on writing/publishing, workshops, conferences, even travel expenses and meals while I am at meetings (there are special restrictions on how much you can claim for meals). I also claim my hosting fees for my author site and the cost of backing up my files on a remote server so I never lose my genius work!

To do this without getting in trouble again you have to treat it like a business, keep accurate records (receipts, receipts, receipts!), and to keep things totally legit, have a separate account for those transactions. Agent Rachel Gardener had a great post about taxes on her blog, with more in-depth info on resources and websites.

**OFFICIAL DISCLAIMER*** I am not a CPA, nor I have I ever wanted to be, impersonated as such, or otherwise claimed. This is not professional advice and you can't sue me if the IRS comes after you. You really should go talk to a CPA and find out what you can/can't claim and how to go about it.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Tick Tock...Writing time

What time of day do you write and for how long? I’m nosey and always wonder how other writers do it. Every writing magazine I read talks about the novel writer who has made it big and mentions their writing regiment of four to five hours a day. Must be nice. So what did they do prior to making it big? Weren’t they real people with daytime jobs?

My writing time is precious. I try to write at times when I know no one will bother me. But finding that time has become more and more difficult lately. Not too long ago, I attended a workshop where the writer said the only time she could write was at four in the morning. All around me, people were shaking their heads, certain that the woman was crazy. But I got to thinking about it—four in the morning does have a certain charm to it, an appeal that drew me. Both of the most important people in my life (husband and daughter) are a sleep then, and therefore, cannot interrupt my stream of thought with constant questions like: Where is the peanut butter? Besides, I’d already been getting up at five to write. What’s one more hour?

For awhile, this process worked great. I am far more creative and alert in the morning than any other time of day. But lately, I’m starting to find it a struggle to get out of bed. This is due to my daytime job as a teacher becoming crazy with the end of the school year approaching. So my question for all of our loyal followers is: When do you write? What time of day is it? And how do you juggle your family, work, and social life--assuming you’re lucky enough to have one?

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Tis the Season for Writing Competitions!

‘Tis the season for writing competitions!

When I started getting serious about writing a few years ago, I found that the hardest thing to accept was the loneliness of it. Writing is a very solitary existence. After all, at the end of the day, it’s just you and the keyboard duking it out. What I really wanted was feedback on my writing. So like many others, I started searching for a group, and luckily found one on-line that I enjoyed. This particular group was made up of people from all walks of life who weren’t looking to get published, but enjoyed the art and release of writing. There were also lots of members that weren’t writers at all, but just readers. They’re advice was the most valuable of all! Unfortunately, MSN stopped hosting it’s group sites, and this great little community disappeared.

I turned to entering writing competitions for feedback on my writing. After all, most of the competitions I entered were being judged by seasoned writers or other professionals in the field. What harm could it do? And I certainly did get lots of advice!

The problem was that a lot of the feedback from the judges in these competitions were very contradictory. One judge liked my narrative voice, another would hate it. My dialogue didn’t sound real to one critic, and to another it sounded entirely realistic. The genre wasn’t to this evaluator’s taste, while the other critiquer thought it was great.

I remember one contest I entered where my entry got ripped apart and returned to my mailbox practically whimpering in pain. This judge must have been having a total “holier than thou day” or got a new package of red pens he/she wanted to try out. I’d never had anyone comment so harshly or loudly on my work. After I had a good cry, (complete with hissy fit) I poured a glass of wine and took a step back to ask how valid were the comments made by this person. Some of them were valid, but not all. I realized I might have entered my piece in the wrong category of this particular contest, too. Interestingly enough, I entered the same ten pages, without making any changes, in a different contest and took first place.

And that brings me to the joy of entering a writing competition. When you place as a finalist or win, what a great feeling! As writers we get so little praise for what we do. Those moments of victory are like drops of water in a dry desert, and we need to lap them up. Most writing judges are good about finding positive things to comment on, too. Even if you don’t place or become a finalist, positive praise can do wonders for your self esteem and how you view yourself as a writer. As RuPaul, one of my favorite celebrities says, “If you can’t love yourself, how the hell you gonna love somebody else?”

As a growing writer, all this feedback—negative and positive—was key in making me realize how subjective this business is. I think that’s the most important thing to remember when entering a writing contest of any kind. When you write out the check to enter your ten-twenty pages of your manuscript or short story, you’re paying for one person’s opinion. That’s all. Whether you accept this opinion or not is up to you.

You can learn more about Mary Ann Loesch at