Tuesday, April 26, 2016

BEFORE YOU SIGN

guest post by Amanda Cabot


A Contracts Quiz

I know, I know. You weren’t expecting a quiz. This was supposed to be a simple blog post about publishing contracts, imparting information but not asking you to do any work. The problem is that contracts are inherently boring, the ultimate cure for insomnia. The last thing I wanted was for you to fall asleep while reading this, so I thought a four question true/false quiz might help keep you awake.

Let’s get started.

True or False: Agents’ and publishers’ contracts are fair.

Okay, I cheated. The answer to this is “maybe.” A basic precept of contracts is that they’re written for the benefit of the party that drafts them. Since contracts are drafted by agents and publishers, the terms are most favorable to them. I’m not saying that a contract is unfair to the author, but this is definitely a case of caveat emptor. You need to understand everything that’s contained in the contract before you know whether or not it’s fair to you, and if it’s not fair, you need to try to change it. Which leads me to the next question.

True or False: Everything is negotiable.

I’ll admit that I’ve said exactly that, but where contracts are concerned, it’s false. Not everything is negotiable, particularly in publisher contracts. One notably non-negotiable section of every contract I’ve seen is the “warranties and representations” clause. This is the part where you agree that you own the rights to this book, that it’s not libelous, that it doesn’t violate any copyright, etc., etc., etc. This section also stipulates that if the publisher is sued, you’ll indemnify them. In other words, you’re the one who’s on the hook for attorney fees to defend yourself and the publisher.

Another non-negotiable section is dispute resolution. If a publisher specifies arbitration rather than a suit in a court of law, you’re unlikely to be able to change this. Similarly, the dates on which royalty statements are issued isn’t something a publisher will change for you. They have accounting systems, and those systems are set up to calculate royalties for everyone, not just you, on a specific date.

The good news is that many sections of both agent and publisher contracts are negotiable. The key is knowing which can be modified. So, how do you know? You might ask an expert.

True or False: You need an attorney to review the contract.

This is another question where the answer is “maybe.” In general, agent contracts are simple enough that you shouldn’t need an attorney’s review. Publishers’ contracts, on the other hand, are more complex. The questions you should ask yourself before retaining an attorney are:

• Are you represented by an agent? If you are and if this is a standard contract with a publisher to whom the agent has sold in the past, you may not need a separate review. In theory, your agent has already vetted the contract and negotiated away the most onerous clauses. In theory.

• How comfortable are you with contracts? If you aren’t represented by an agent and you’ve negotiated other contracts and don’t fall asleep reading the seemingly mind-numbing clauses (including those critical warranties and representations), you may not need an attorney.

• How much money is involved? The simple fact is, attorneys aren’t cheap, so you need to ask yourself whether the cost of retaining one to review the contract makes sense from a business view. If this is a small publisher paying a minimal advance, you might wind up paying that entire advance – or more – to the attorney. Only you can decide whether the risk of signing a potentially bad contract is worth the expense.

If you decide to hire an attorney, don’t forget that attorneys have different areas of expertise. While they all took contract law classes, that doesn’t mean that they’ve had much real world experience with contracts. And, even if their specialty is contracts, there’s a big difference between contracts for real estate ventures and publishing contracts. If you’re going to the trouble and expense of hiring a professional to review your contract, be certain you’ve found an attorney with publishing contract expertise.

True or False: If your agent has approved the contract, you don’t need to read it before signing.

False. Absolutely, positively false. I was appalled when a New York Times bestselling author who’s also an attorney admitted that she hadn’t read the fine print in one of her contracts and didn’t know that her royalty rate had been reduced. It doesn’t matter what your agent says. You’re the one who signs the contract. You’re the one who’s accountable. You should – no, you must – read and understand every clause in every contract you sign.

The bottom line is that contracts are an essential part of your career as a published author. They define your relationship with your agent and/or publisher. They establish the rules under which you’ll operate, including how to terminate a relationship that goes sour. They may appear to be boring, but, to paraphrase Robert Frost, good contracts make good relationships. Don’t shortchange yourself by signing a poor contract simply because you’re anxious to be represented by an agent or to have a publishing contract. You deserve the best!

Lynn chimes in: 

I am so glad that Amanda has expertise in this area and was willing to share with us. I'm not 'fessing up on my quiz score. Nope, won't do it. Just suffice it to say I am much smarter now than I was before I read this blog post.


Amanda Cabot is the bestselling author of more than thirty novels including the Texas Dreams trilogy, the Westward Winds series, the Texas Crossroad trilogy and Christmas Roses. A former director of Information Technology, she has negotiated more contracts than she wants to admit and has written everything from technical books and articles for IT professionals to mysteries for teenagers and romances for all ages.

Amanda is delighted to now be a fulltime writer of Christian romances, living happily ever after with her husband in Cheyenne.




Visit Amanda online at any of these social media links:

www.amandacabot.com
https://www.facebook.com/amanda.j.cabot
https://twitter.com/AmandaJoyCabot/ 
http://amandajoycabot.blogspot.com/

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Carbon County Pen & Ink Writer’s Conference April 29-30


The Carbon County Higher Education Center is holding the first Carbon County Pen & Ink Writer’s Conference in Rawlins, Wyo., April 29-30.

Friday keynote speaker is Carrie Visintainer, author of Wild Mama. Saturday workshop presenters include Jeff Lockwood, Tom Rea, Barbara Smith, Dave Throgmorton, George Vlastos, and Rick Kempa. The conference cost is $50 per person and includes the Friday evening reception and a catered lunch on Saturday. Students will receive a $25 scholarship towards the registration and educators are eligible to receive half of a PTSB credit. 

Learn more at www.cchec.org/events/pen-ink-writer-s-conference.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Poems and Storytelling with Lori Howe

Lori Howe is the poetry presenter on the faculty of this year's Wyoming Writers Conference June 3-5 in Riverton. We invited her to share with us some of her thoughts on poetry for those wanting a flavor of what to expect at the conference.

by Lori Howe
 
Storytelling is one of the oldest human desires. Poets, like fiction and non-fiction writers, are storytellers. Poets may use fewer words and shorter lines, and the stories they tell may be creatively woven, but the desire to connect to the reader, to revive a shared human experience, remains the same.

Poetry is alchemy and offering. It is the act of distilling the tactile fullness and meaning of an experience into a mirror that helps others see inside themselves, helps them understand their own experiences more deeply.

For those who live in the wild and beautiful American West, landscape is more than a painting—it is a constant, thriving, and active part of daily life. It is a way of knowing, a vocabulary of survival, a dirt road to travel inward. It is a river running through a canyon, a river running through our deepest selves.

Poets and writers of the West fish this river daily. They walk this road. And they share what they find at the intersections and quiet spots. They give us a map to the landscapes inside us, ones that can’t be reached any other way.

As a poet, I find that I am best able to quiet all the noise and deadlines of daily life and tap into those internal roads and rivers when I’m outside. I might be sitting on my front porch, watching the rain, or lying asleep in my tent, listening to coyotes singing from a distant ridge. I might be on a mountain lake in my kayak, watching a flight of egrets catch the last of Wyoming’s golden, late-afternoon light. Wherever I am, I have learned to listen with my whole body, to pay full attention. If I do, sometimes, the moment filters down, hardens, and becomes a warm gem I carry in my pocket; eventually, it will form the heart of a poem.

When I teach poetry workshops, my goal is to help participants pull those warm gems from their own pockets and turn them into poems. If you have a warm gem, a strong, potent memory, the poem will form around it. Here’s an example poem from my book, Cloudshade: Poems of the High Plains.

En Route to My Father’s Funeral

I leave the Interstate
for a probable future
of map-wrestling
in the weak dome light,
and the Kansas moon stands up
to look at me.

Silvered against it,
I feel a stray atom
from when we were all
still fish
twitch inside my bones.

All highways
head straight across Kansas--
long, quiet stretches,
the darkened arches of roofs.
I imagine the people asleep
in their beds,
and they wrap their blankets tight
inside me, turning over,
breathing deep.

At a pale crossroads,
in an open shop two floors up,
a welder works into the night.
His arc is lonesome in the cool air,
gobbets of fire
like unformed angels
falling.

As a child,
I watched this same
mercurial rain
from my father’s shop—
strange hobby, I’d thought,
for the silent man
who shared my own eyes,
my own wrists—
not knowing his fire
would buy my clothes
and shoes,
come autumn.

In the rearview mirror,
I arch to see the last drops
leap away.
Strange, I tell
The sleeping Kansans,
this aching,
this longing for a life
I swear I never loved.

I offer this poem because it is a good example of how one small moment can become what I call a warm gem and go on to become the heart of a poem. The warm gem this whole poem formed around was seeing the falling sparks from a welder’s torch in the night air. I carried that sight around with me, and eventually, the rest of this poem built itself around those sparks. We all have those seemingly simple moments that can help us tell the stories we need to tell, and say the things we need to say.

In the writing workshops I’ll teach at the Wyoming Writers, Inc. conference, and on my Wyoming Humanities Council workshop tour this June, I’ll offer writing prompts created specifically to help us pull those gems out of our pockets and build poems around them.

---

Lori Howe holds an M.F.A. in poetry, and is a doctoral candidate in Literacy Studies at the University of Wyoming. She has been teaching creative writing workshops with all kinds of writing populations for the last ten years, at the college level and in communities around Wyoming.

She is the editor in chief of Clerestory: Poems of the Mountain West (clerestorypoets.org) and the author of Cloudshade: Poems of the High Plains (Sastrugi Press, 2015), Voices at Twilight (Elm Books, 2016), and is at work on the educational text, Stories from Earth: Literature, Millennials, and Teaching Writing that Matters. She teaches creative writing workshops with underserved writing populations across the state of Wyoming and serves as a leadership team member for the Wyoming Writing Project, a chapter of the National Writing Project. Her current writing project, the novel Heaven of Olives, is set in rural Andalucia, Spain.

Lori will present three workshops at the upcoming Wyoming Writers Inc. 42nd Annual Conference June 3-5 at the Wind River Hotel and Casino in Riverton, Wyoming. Learn more at www.wyowriters.org/conference





Tuesday, April 12, 2016

FOR THE LOVE OF A LIBRARY

group post

It's National Library Week and we're celebrating at Writing Wyoming by sharing memories of our favorite library/libraries. 

For the Love of a Library
by Lynn Carlson: 

At the corner of 5th and Main, in Lusk, Wyoming, sits the Niobrara County Library. It was built in 1919 with the help of funds from Andrew Carnegie, a Scottish-born philanthropist. My paternal grandmother, Nellie Snyder Griffith, was one of the women who pushed for the project. When women like that decide to do something, you can bet it gets done.

When I was a little girl, I lived across the street from this big brick building and I didn’t know or care about any of its history. What I cared about was that I could cross over 5th street with my two sisters—looking both ways, of course—and climb up the big semicircle of stairs.

I could push open the giant door and enter a warm-in-winter and cool-in-summer space that smelled like ink, leather and furniture polish.

I could disappear into the stacks, squat down next to the shelves in the children’s section and run my finger along the spines of books until one of them said, “Me—pick me!” Books with names like Ozma of Oz, By the Shores of Silver Lake, The Hidden Staircase and The Adventures of Pippi Longstocking.

I could stretch out on my belly on the floor and look at books with photographs of chimpanzees, metal bridges or amoebas.

I could be quiet and sit in a corner and run my fingers over the smooth pages of magazines.

Best of all, I could select a book and slide it over the tall wooden desk to Mrs. Tyrrel and she would thunk a stamp on the inside of the front cover. Then I could hug my treasure to my chest and go back home and tuck myself inside a new world.

Growing Up There Were Three Libraries in My Life
by Tom Spence: 

The first was the “bookmobile,” a library in a van which periodically visited Mountain View School on the western boundary of Fort Collins, Colorado. There I chose books deemed by the itinerant librarian/van driver, to be too “old” for me. She was probably right, but the books for my age were too simple, and illustrated. I believed words without pictures made me a serious reader.

Later, I prowled the stacks of the Laramie (Wyoming) High School library hoping to meet the girl I wished for a girlfriend, and as a ruse I looked at random titles and did obligatory research.

The third library was the Carnegie Public Library, if memory serves, on Grand Avenue and 5th Street. I did not expect to meet a girlfriend there, so I did my homework, and looked into the magazines: Outdoor Life, Field and Stream, Popular Science. There, after football or wrestling practice, I waited for my father to come from work at the cement plant to drive us home to the country. My sister would have dinner on the table.

My true appreciation of libraries came later, slowly, when I realized that the collection and collation of words, kept in a building, under a roof, and available, was an everyday wonder. And now I fall in love with every librarian who keeps and catalogs, guards and promotes the various manifestations of our printed language, and our right to use it.

Libraries in My Life
by Art Elser:    

I grew up in a very rural area, farms and woods. I do not remember being read to as a child. My father was a man who believed in utility, so there were not many books in the house, a set of Twain and one of Dickens, which were never taken down and read. I started grade school in 1941, and our three-room school had no library.

My first library experience was in high school. I grew up wanting to be a pilot—lots of military airplanes flying over our house during WWII. Then I discovered that our high school library had books written about flying, great pilots, and about the colorful barnstorming era between the two world wars. I think I read every book on flying in that library. That's when I fell in love with books. So that library led me into reading books for my several careers that included being a USAF pilot, an English teacher, a senior technical writer and manager, and, after retirement, a poet. So many books, so little time.


I                                                 Pickler
by Jennifer Top:

Call me a romantic, but it really was love at first sight when I walked into Pickler Memorial Library at what was then Northeast Missouri State University (now Truman State University). The original building, like almost all the buildings on the small, picturesque campus, was done in red brick. When they expanded the library, they left the exterior walls in place to become rustic interior walls, still lit up by the sun via massive windows and skylights in an open atrium three stories high.

There was a staircase that spiraled around the elevator shaft, and something about that staircase in that configuration made each flexing of my leg muscles seem . . . important. Going up, anyway. Coming down was like bobsled practice as my feet recklessly skipped down the steps and my hand skimmed the rail or the glass walls of the cylinder to counteract the centrifugal force.

One semester I was a TA for my favorite literature professor, and while putting in some of my work hours I innocently perused the sticky notes scattered around his desk. The phrase “Women in Love” caught my eye, so I dug around a little more and also saw “Sons and Lovers.” The titles alone had my attention, so, off I went to Pickler to find out what they were all about.

I found them in the computer system and made my way upstairs, each strand of muscle fiber urging me onward. I found a lot more titles for DH Lawrence, and after a few minutes I was skipping back down the stairs with a stack that included those titles plus Lady Chatterley’s Lover and a thick collection of poems. The student worker checking me out at the front desk smiled knowingly (or so I thought later), then asked politely if I needed all these for a class. I replied with a rather self-conscious “no.”

Ironically, perhaps, I rarely went to the library to do homework. I went there instead for mini-vacations (sadly it was many years after I left before the library became even more amazing and installed a Starbucks). My obsession with Lawrence never really died, either. Back then I knew his spot on the shelf by heart, so often I would stop by and pick up the book of poems that I’d since turned in. Then I would grab a comfy chair by the railing in the center atrium area overlooking the old brick and wonder where life and love would take me.

La Grange, Illinois
by Judy Schulz:

When I first climbed the grey cement steps, I had to lift each foot high in ascending the treads, the kind of lifting you felt burn in your thighs by the time you reached the top.

The dark oak doors were thicker than my arms put together and required more strength than I had to open them by myself. Mom took me. As I rushed in under her arm, I could hardly wait to take a breath. Nothing, nothing welcomed me more than that first deep drawing in of air through my eager nostrils: pages out of old books. That’s what it smelled like to me and the aroma was like a magical elixir to all ills that spread out over the rooms encompassing towering shelves of horizontal bindings all lined up and systemized for anyone to approach, for anyone to touch and take home and savor the turning of pages as a new story captured them for as long as it lasted.

Mom allowed me to take home a tall stack of volumes; she knew of but did not acknowledge my nightly flashlight-under-the-covers routine. She knew that even if I constantly lost my roller skate key, I would never lose a book. Berry’s Peter Pan, Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland, Kejelgaard’s Big Red, Sewell’s Black Beauty, so many joyful experiences filled my mind and heart. These characters befriended me then and others have continued to throughout my life.

Many years passed before I realized that this place meant the same to many, many others. How strange to think I alone had discovered this kingdom. The Carnegie Library, built with a $12,500 grant in La Grange, Illinois, in 1903, was my haven and refuge from grade school through high school graduation in 1964.

When I returned to La Grange after college, when I began to take my own sons to the public library for the adventure in the early 1970’s, the Carnegie building was gone—lost to modernization and expansion in 1968.

It didn’t smell the same….

Library Scavenger
by Susan Vittitow Mark:

It must have been my senior year in high school when I was given a scavenger hunt assignment for information at the University of Dayton Library. My eyes went wide when I walked in. So big! I thought I'd died and gone to library heaven. I think there were six floors, one devoted solely to the Mother Mary (Catholic college).

I went from floor to floor, navigating the maze of stacks, awestruck by how much it contained. I ended up going to the University of Dayton and studying history. At one point, I lived directly across the street from the library in "off-campus housing," better known as "the UD Ghetto."

My junior year, I did my major research paper on Gamal Abdel Nasser, the second president of Egypt. I became intimately acquainted with the bound journals floor. They were rolling stacks, controlled manually by turning the handles on the endcaps. I always wondered whether I'd get inadvertently squished by another researcher wanting the next set of shelves, but there were very few students up there.

In those pre-computer days, I'd peruse the green-bound 1950s volumes of the Reader's Guide to Periodical Literature before heading to the stacks for the popular magazines of the times. I didn't just find the articles I was seeking -- I got a feel for the entire era. "Drive more because each mile costs less!" proclaimed one ad.

Another time, I sat on the floor with an article that reassured the reader that a nuclear war would be much like a conventional one, except the craters would be bigger. Just duck beneath your dashboard if you're in your car and see the flash, and you'll be fine.

The search for sources is different today with databases and online access, but the discovery, the sense of wonder is the same. It's why I love libraries.


Libraries: All life long
by Deborah Nielsen:

When I was a kid, I spent a great deal of my free time at the East Branch of the Carnegie Library in Cheyenne. It was located on the south side of Cole Shopping Center. That little library was one of my favorite places. When I was very young, Mom would take me to story times and I would sit on the floor with other kids enraptured by the story and the pictures. Afterwards, I’d have to check out some books. When I was old enough to get there on my own, either by walking or bicycling, I’d check out a pile of books and then struggle to pack them all home. During the summer, I would take part in the summer reading competition. (As an adult, I still do that.)

The East Branch closed in 1969 when the new Laramie County Library was opened at 2800 Central Avenue. I was sad to see my favorite library close but came to like the new library just as much or more. I was a regular patron from the time it opened until it was closed in 2007.

Our new, award-winning library building was opened at 2200 Pioneer Avenue in the fall of 2007. Its exterior walls are windows. I love the light and airy feeling they give the building. In addition to the books, the new library has a coffee shop where I get an occasional cup of tea; meeting rooms where I’ve gotten together with fellow writers; and the large Cottonwood Room, which is used for cultural events such as book readings and signings by popular authors, writing classes, the annual RSVP program, and concerts, among other things.

I can’t tell you how much money the library has saved me over the years. I’ve read many best-sellers for free instead of having to buy them. I’ve had access to research books that I wouldn’t have been able to obtain otherwise. And I’ve enjoyed many activities that probably wouldn’t have been available had it not been for the Laramie County Library’s staff.

The library has given me so much over my life that a few years ago I decided to give back and volunteer to help out with some of the events that the library puts on. I’ve enjoyed working with some of the library staff, various local authors and the public.

We are very lucky here in Laramie County. We’ve had an excellent library for many years. It’s been supported by the county commissioners who provide the funding and by the community who authorize the taxes that keep it running and provide for new buildings when necessary. Libraries are a valuable resource. Support your local library. Be a patron. Be a volunteer. Explore the stacks and find a good book to read.


Yeah, what Deborah said. 
Let's all give thanks for the libraries in our lives,
and work to ensure their future.



Tuesday, April 5, 2016

John Calderazzo: Notes on Writing "Accident"


by Susan
I was beyond excited when I found out John Calderazzo was one of the presenters chosen for the Wyoming Writers, Inc. 42nd Annual Conference coming up in Riverton June 3-5. I had the great joy of working with John in a small group setting and found him to be an incredibly insightful teacher -- gentle, but not afraid to push us. When our time with John concluded, we each wrote to him about "Why I Write." From mine:
I write to find that red­hot core, that “aboutness.” John, I cannot look at a piece now without hearing your voice: “What is this about?” You never let me off the hook. You never let me play around the edges and skirt the subject. You forced me to put myself in my own stories.
Working with John took my writing up a level. I am forever grateful for that time I had with him, and I'm looking forward to learning more from him at the conference workshops.

We asked John if he would share some of his work and his thoughts on writing with us. He has provided the short nonfiction piece, "Accident," and his notes on writing it. Both were originally published online in Brevity. We hope this will give you a taste of what you might learn from him in Riverton.

Accident

by John Calderazzo

Not really looking as I crank the engine and start downhill for town, I tilt my head out my window in a rush of wind to take in winter stars and sweep away the fumes from a petty argument at home.  My escape velocity: not fast enough, but faster than I should be going.

Right away I pass a pickup and a jeep parked oddly on the road.  My headlights wash over a car upturned in a field and people trotting towards it.

I pull over on stiff grass.

In a wavering of flashlights: no dents or shattered glass. But hurrying through mashed down weeds and settling dust, I see the car bottom up, naked in the glare of strangers and the Milky Way, a flipped turtle, legs flailing.  In the passenger seat a woman hangs upside-down.

She pounds the dash with a fist and wails at the dumbstruck sky, “What have you DONE to me?”
She’s unbuckled, lowered, and pulled out, crying.  Then a man crawls from the driver’s side, his left hand bleeding, his right holding a bottle sloshing with something clear, vodka or gin.  He stands and slings it into the dark.  A far off thump.

“You tried to KILL me!” she yells from where she’s sitting now, a jacket heaped over her, then a child’s comforter.

Hot metal ticks.

I smell dripping gasoline and duck fast to check the back seat.  “IS THERE ANYONE ELSE?” I call out.

“NO,” she calls back.  “But where’s my shoe?  I’m COLD.”

The stunned man is suddenly mumbling at my side, “Gotta get that shoe . . . .”  Then lurching towards the car he tries to light a cigarette.

“HEY DON’T!” I shout and dive away, rolling.

In my mind’s eye: WOOF!  A pillow of orange heat blowing him back.

Soon enough he staggers up and starts to wander in a circle.  “That shoe . . . .”

We stand around and watch.  I think about an eyebrow I might no longer quite feel, the woman’s face shining wet in flickering firelight.

Finally, sirens in the distance.

From just uphill I hear our two dachshunds, bodies tensed at the backyard fence,
snouts lifted straight up, sky howling, as they tend to with coyotes and every ambulance that sprints out from town.  I imagine my wife coming out to stand beside them, then looking down at all the lights and thinking, OH JESUS IT’S HIM.

So I take my leave.  Driving home, I tilt my head into cool night air and wonder if that upturned woman, as she hung briefly in the dark, noticed how much space there is between the stars and how quietly they burn.

John Calderazzo

John Calderazzo on writing "Accident"

A funny thing happened to me a few years ago as I sat in the back row of a beginning creative writing class taught by a Colorado State University graduate student of mine. He’d invited me to observe him so that I could write a letter of recommendation that spoke to his teaching skills. So I sat in the back, in silence, taking notes and doing whatever he asked the class to do. Which on this afternoon was to write a poem that grew out of some very good sound exercises he had just run us through.

Once, in my twenties, I considered myself a poet, and I’d even published a chapbook from those intense and confused young man days. Then I decided that prose was my bag, the natural register of my writing voice. First it was fiction and then, overwhelmingly, nonfiction, and I had been writing magazine pieces, essays, and books ever since. “Ever since” meant a good twenty-five years.

So I have to say that I was shocked to see, and then feel, the poem that I dutifully started morph line by line and image by image into something that I could feel with my entire body. It was like watching a muscular stallion clop tranquilly by, then climbing on and taking off with him over the countryside, leaping ditches and flying towards the horizon, even though I barely knew how to ride. Scribbling very fast, I wrote right past the bottom of my legal pad and onto the desk top—well, maybe I put another sheet of paper down first (I’m writing nonfiction here, after all). But it sure felt like I’d flown off the page.

The next morning I was up before 5, writing more poetry. Same thing the next morning and the next . . . and now, a couple of years later, I have a poetry manuscript, culled from about 200 new poems, that I’m about to send out. I am still shocked by this.

But I’m not shocked that, along the way, a few of my poems came out sounding like narrative nonfiction. I mean especially some of the ones in which the “I” is “really” me and the facts are all verifiably true. This was almost the case with “Accident.” Based on an incident that occurred about two weeks before I sat down to write, I conceived it as poem. All the facts were true except one: the overturned, gasoline-smelling car never burst into flames. In my poem I made it do that because that was exactly what I thought might happen at the time. So if I wanted that car to burn, it would burn.

But when I decided to see what the piece looked like in paragraphs and then decided to make it nonfiction, I had to douse those poetic flames, so to speak. Thus the phrase, “In my mind’s eye . . .”

And thus this nonfiction short-short for Brevity.

-----

John Calderazzo helped build the undergraduate and M.A. Creative Nonfiction writing programs at Colorado State University where he has won a Best CSU Teacher Award and many other honors. He also teaches scientists around the U.S. how to communicate with the public by using traditional story telling skills. His essays, poems, & stories have appeared in hundreds of publications, including Audubon, Georgia Review, High Country News, Orion, and North American Review. His books include Writing from Scratch: Freelancing, a poetry chapbook, a kids science book and, most recently, a collection of linked travel essays, Rising Fire: Volcanoes and Our Inner Lives. He has won a 2012 Traveler’s Tales travel-adventure gold medal for an essay about getting bitten by a dog in Bhutan, and his work has been cited in Best American Short Stories and Best American Essays.

He will conduct workshops at the Wyoming Writers, Inc. 42nd Annual Conference in Riverton, Wyoming on June 3-5, 2016. Learn more about the conference at www.wyowriters.org/conference.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

LET'S GET SOMETHING STARTED

post by Lynn

What are you trying to get started this week?

Me, I’m trying to get some work done on the poems, stories and essays I’m editing for a Recovery Anthology.

I'm trying to whip out a blog post.

I'm trying not to lose sight of several essays that need another go-round of revision.

Oh, and I’d really love to have a flash of insight to spark some completely new writing.

That’s all.

I’m trying to do all the pieces that make up my writing life. And I could use a little inspiration, because my energy has fizzled.

I just can’t seem to get started, on anything.

So I turn to my mentors--those writers and creative folks who have marched through this kind of fog before, many times. I reach for their wisdom and find…

JUST WRITE
What I try to do is write. I may write for two weeks, “the cat sat on the mat, that is that, not a rat,” you know. And it might be just the most boring and awful stuff. But I try. When I’m writing, I write. And then it’s as if the muse is convinced that I’m serious and says, “Okay. Okay. I’ll come.” 
 - Maya Angelou 

Yeah, Maya’s right. Start anywhere and go somewhere.

The key part is to have patience.

The hard part is to have patience.





DON’T GET AHEAD OF YOURSELF
Convince yourself that you are working in clay, not marble, on paper, not eternal bronze; let that first sentence be as stupid as it wishes. No one will rush out and print it as it stands. 
 - Jacques Barzun 
A memory surfaces, of my friend Debra. She is in the delivery room, holding her newborn daughter, Lily. Debra looks up at me, and instead of the look of love and bliss I was expecting, I see panic.

“What?” I ask, thinking there is some horrible news from the doctor.

“What if...” Debra can barely get the words out. “Oh, my God, Lynn. What if she wants to get a tattoo?”

We all tend to get ahead of ourselves sometimes. As writers we imagine the response (or lack thereof) from readers. We wonder how to publish and promote. We design in our minds the book covers that will entice the reader to pull our book from the shelf. All that is important. All that comes later, after we write and revise.

The trick is to stay right here, right now, with one project, one sentence, one word even.


TRUST THE PROCESS
Ideas will set each other off like firecrackers in a bunch. It is simply a matter of somehow igniting the first of them. From then on, things take care of themselves.  
- Richard Armour 
I know this to be true. Over and over, I’ve started with a single phrase, written it down on paper, and watched as it gathered its friends. Pretty soon, there’s a party going on.



WRITE, RIGHT NOW
The way to get started is to quit talking and begin doing.  
- Walt Disney 
You’re right, Walt. I’m going to quit talking and get to work.

But hey--first I get to cross “write blog post” off my list!


What about you? What are you trying to get started?


Tuesday, March 22, 2016

How to Pitch to an Agent or Editor

The Wyoming Writers Inc. conference, coming up in June, offers the opportunity to pitch your work to agents and editors. We invited Tiffany Schofield, who will attend the conference virtually via Skype, to offer a few tips.

Tiffany Schofield
Guest post by Tiffany Schofield
Senior Editor, Five Star Publishing (Cengage)

To pitch, or not to pitch…that should never be the question! Always embrace the opportunity to pitch to an editor!

As Senior Editor of Five Star Publishing, I’ve attended various conferences over the past five years. The highlight at each conference has undoubtedly been the pitch sessions between authors and editors. The format for these sessions have varied depending on the conference. Some conferences offer round table discussions with an editor/agent, some offer a 15 minute one-on-one pitch session, and others might offer a short, five minute session, sometimes referred to as speed-dating for authors and editors. Also, with today’s technology, video conference sessions are also an effective presentation opportunity.

No matter the session style, I hope these topics below will help prepare you for a home run in your pitch session. Batters up!

Know your sub-genre and word count.
I can’t tell you the number of times I have sat with an author for a pitch session and they were not completely sure of their story’s genre or its length by word count. 

Most great fiction stories contain several genre themes such as mystery, romance, suspense, and others. However, you should carefully consider your story and narrow down your genre elements to the strongest theme. Is your story dependent upon a crime or mystery that needs to be solved? Then, it’s probably a mystery. Does your story have a few mysteries along the way, but focuses mainly on the budding or struggling romance and how the characters handle that relationship? Then your story is probably a romance. Perhaps your story is equal parts mystery and romance and therefore would be considered a romantic suspense. 

Word counts are important to most editors because they have specific publishing spots to fill with predetermined expectations for novel length to fit their publishing needs. Page numbers aren’t as helpful because page counts easily change depending on the font size you select. Be sure you have examined your project closely for its genre and word count before going into a pitch session so you’ll be ready to hit a homerun.

Tiffany (center) with James Crownover and Sherry Monahan
at the Western Writers of America conference where James
received two Spur Awards for his debut novel he pitched to
Five Star at a conference.
Have your elevator pitch ready.
Think of your pitch session much like a television or internet advertisement. If those ads don’t catch the attention of a viewer in the first 15 seconds, they’ll be eagerly reaching for that "skip ad" button. This will happen to you in a pitch session as well, if you try to present a book report instead of a catchy hook for your project. Plan ahead to create a gripping and concise explanation for your story that can be presented in 30 seconds or less. Include what makes your story stand out above others, perhaps a real person or event from history that your story is based on. 

Above all else, be sure to include what type of reader would be interested in your story with recognizable industry names (for example, “my story is great for fans of Larry McMurtry’s Lonesome Dove or Mary Doria Russell’s Doc). This gives the editor an immediate feel for your story’s genre style and/or possibilities within their own publishing program and shows them that you have a firm understanding of other writers in your genre style. After you have established your elevator pitch, then you can delve into some of the particular points/themes of your story.

Carpe diem, (or instead, Carpe conjicio)! Seize the pitch!
No matter the style or length of the session that you’ll be participating in, it’s always a good idea to have your own list of questions to ask an editor. At some sessions, your pitch may be completed before your allotted time is up, or perhaps you’ll find that the editor isn’t actually looking for a project in your specific genre style or story length. You can still make the most of your time! Take advantage of this excellent opportunity to ask an editor specific questions about their publishing programs, publishing industry trends, do they think there are certain genres that are format-sensitive in the market, tips for working on your pitch, or what they do to support their writers with promotional endeavors during the publishing process.

What might an editor ask you during a pitch session?
Some common questions editors might ask you during a pitch session—
  • Who are your favorite authors?
  • Are you working on any other projects?
  • What was your inspiration for this story? 
  • Do you belong to any writing organizations (local or national)?
  • What kind of writer are you?
Now, this last question is not a trick question to lead you into answering "a bestselling writer," but instead, offers a broad perspective on you and your stories. Are your stories character-driven? What kinds of themes do you like to explore in your stories? At what speed do you complete stories? Do you write multiple stories in different genres, or do you like to write mainly in one genre style and take your time meticulously researching items for your story while writing.

Mode of delivery
Lastly, it is always important to ask for clarity on how an editor likes to receive a submission. Most editors prefer electronic submissions, but others may still prefer hard copy submissions. Some might want a full manuscript, others only a partial submission. The best thing to remember is to ask each editor their specific requirements for submission. With busy schedules, editors can easily lose track of submissions if they are not received in the required format and process.

I hope this information has been useful and has you gearing up for the perfect pitch at the Wyoming Writers Conference. I hope you’ll be able to knock it out of the park!

Tiffany Schofield, Senior Editor, joined Five Star Publishing (Cengage) in 1999. Five Star has published many Spur finalists and winners, was the Lariat Award winner in 2013 and named Best Western History Book Publisher (2015) by True West Magazine in 2015. Five Star is looking for various subgenres of frontier fiction stories that are set in the pre-1920s American West. For submission guidelines, email FiveStar@cengage.com.

The Wyoming Writers, Inc. conference will be held this year in Riverton at the Wind River Hotel and Casino from June 3-5. Tiffany will be accepting pitches at the Wyoming Writers, Inc. conference via Skype. Agent Elizabeth Wales and publisher Louella Turner will be there in person. Learn more about them at www.wyowriters.org/conference-faculty. If you are signed up for the conference, you may email vicepresident@wyowriters.org to schedule a pitch session with one of them.