RoundTable Recap: May 2014


Tales of a First-Draft Survivor

On Saturday, May 10, the Writers’ Community of Durham Region welcomed historical fiction author Barbara Kyle as our guest speaker.  Kyle is the author of the acclaimed “Thornleigh Saga” novels, which follow a middle-class English family’s rise through three tumultuous Tudor reigns, and of the contemporary thrillers The Experiment and Entrapped (a B.R.A.G. Medallion honouree).  With 18 years of writing experience and nine books to her name, Kyle knows what it’s like to struggle with the terror of the blank page—and conquer it.

Barbara Kyle - photo courtesy of Kevin Craig

Barbara Kyle – photo courtesy of Kevin Craig

“I am a veteran of the great war of being an author,” Kyle began.  “In order to create a book that is both compelling and marketable, we writers need all the help we can get.”  So, Kyle offered ten tips to surviving the first draft, while reminding RoundTable attendees to remember that “every writer works differently.”

  1.  Get Dressed:

“When I sit down to write,” Kyle said, “I don’t do it in a ratty old dressing gown and slippers.  I get dressed as if I’m going into the world to work.”  She explained that getting dressed affects the way you approach your work.

  1. Rely on Routine:

Part of the pressure of writing comes from the fact that we work alone, Kyle said.  “We don’t have the benefit of that collaborative vigor that energizes actors, dancers, and musicians.”  But for Kyle, “the good news was finding out that I wasn’t really alone: routine and ritual are my friends.”  Ritual and routine can help keep you calm through the stresses of writing.  Kyle’s day-to-day writing begins at 8 a.m., “invitations to lunch already declined, phone set to go to voicemail.”  For two hours, she works on business: answering emails, tending her social media, etc.  At 10 a.m., she begins editing what she wrote the previous day, but cuts herself off from that around noon.  From noon until four, she spends time writing new material, before heading out for a walk at 4 p.m.  “I have figured out so many problems with plotting and characters while I’m walking,” she confessed.  “I should give special acknowledgments in my novel to Bruce Trail.”  Every day, she strives to write five pages, though the average is between three and four.

  1. Be Serious:

“Never apologize for taking your work seriously,” Kyle urged.  “You can make [your writing] very, very good indeed, but only if you don’t underestimate the work involved.”  There is “an inherent tension” in the phrase “work of art.”  Kyle points out that “our culture tends to elevate art almost to a mythical level: the author touched by genius; work is denigrated, as if a real artist shouldn’t have to work if they have talent.  Nothing could be further from the truth.”  Rather than focusing on “art” or “work,” Kyle suggested writers focus on the word “process:” “Sit down, write, rewrite, rewrite, rewrite, and rewrite.  There’s no other way for us to master our craft.”

  1. Don’t Beat Yourself Up:

It’s been said that you should try to write a little every day.  Kyle suggested that, instead of trying to squeeze in 15 minutes here, or 15 minutes there, “Whenever you can write, make it count: step inside an invisible circle of quality and,” when you have time to write, “do only your best work.”

  1. Read the Good and the Bad:

Kyle pointed out that “when you read a really good book, it’s impossible to see how the author did it because it’s so seamless and you’re so drawn in that the writing and the craft become invisible.”  So, Kyle said, read bad books, too.  “Ask why bad books are bad.  Why are they boring?  Try to deconstruct as you read.”

  1. Take the Time to Think:

“When I’m daydreaming, I’m at work,” Kyle announced.  Daydreaming lets you figure out how to bring your inciting incident forward, how to structure the climax so your protagonist and antagonist come into direct confrontation.  This time of reflection is not a waste of time: you’re working.  Most importantly, Kyle reminded writers not to “censor your thinking—explore everything that comes to you … and keep lots of notes.”

  1. Don’t Expect Your Family to Understand:

After a pause for understanding laughter, Kyle said, “My mother would never dream of calling my brothers at the office to chat, but she’ll call me, because I’m ‘not working.’”  Friends and family don’t understand the concentration or the time required to work on your writing, but “if you take your work seriously, it has a subtle affect on your friends and family.  They will start to respect it—they might grumble about it, but they’ll start to respect it.”

  1. Understand the Purpose of Drafts:

Don’t try to do everything on the first draft.  Most professional authors, Kyle confessed, write at least three drafts.  The first is for getting the facts of the story—for making sure you have a story that “sticks together from inciting incident to climax.”  If you’re worried about clichés—clichéd characters, descriptions, actions—Kyle suggested putting them in bold, so you can find and replace them more easily during a later draft.  During the first draft, “especially do not obsess over words.  Banish the thesaurus from your desk for the first draft.”  The second draft is for deepening and enriching character relationship.  “Never forget that stories are about people,” Kyle said.  “That’s what readers want; readers stay with a book not because of style, but because of the characters.”  You can also enrich setting—and especially weather—and sharpen dialogue in the second draft.  The third draft is, quite simply, a polishing draft.  “This is where you can obsess about words; this is where you can bring back the thesaurus.”

  1. Keep Your Expectations Low and Your Standards High:

Kyle offered two guiding principles that have seen her through more than twenty years of writing.  First, give yourself permission to write something bad.  “That was the most liberating thing I’ve ever done,” Kyle said.  “I knew I could do that.”  Second, everything can be fixed, but it can’t be fixed if it hasn’t been written.

10. Dare:

“Dare to dare.  Dare to write.  Dare to live.”  We let life pass us by when we’re afraid, so don’t give into your fears about writing.  Write.  Embrace the work.  And good luck.

Kyle very kindly offered all RoundTable attendees the opportunity to sign up to her webinar, “Writing Fiction That Sells,” for free.  Thanks, Barbara, for your very kind gift!

 

Other Highlights:

President Sally Moore announced the long list for the WCDR Renaissance Anthology Contest with Sarah Selecky.  The top sixteen entries are:

“Engineered Magic: A Fairy Tale” by Ann Dulhanty

“The Event” by Paige Winkle

“Closing Circle” by Deepam Wadds

“Going Fearward” by Heidi Croot

“Before and After” by Corrie Adams

“Bitter Vision” by Kate Arms-Roberts

“Seeing Signs” by Stacey Paterson

“The Soft One” by Deepam Wadds

“Boxed In” by Dorothea Helms

“Hide” by Jessica Moore

“Black as Sin” by Anne MacLachlan

“The Night Traveller” by Jennifer Sutton

“Pura Vida” by Esther Griffin

“Allergies Stéphanie” by Phil Dwyer

“The Eagle’s Vigilance” by Margaret Alexander

“The Pearl Earbob” by Gwen Tuinman

 

Congratulations to our long list winners!  Sarah Selecky’s final decision will be announced at our annual AGM next month!

Sharon Overend announced that there are still some one-on-one sessions available with agents Sam Hiyate, Ali MacDonald, and Stacey Donaghy.  Contact workshop@wcdr.org if you’re interested in signing up for a 50-minute session with one of the agents.

Cryssa Bazos announced that the next Words of the Season will be held at The Bear: A Firkin Pub, at Kingston Road and Liverpool in Pickering on June 16, beginning at 6:30 p.m.  Spots are limited, so contact events@wcdr.org soon if you want to read.  The event will be MC’d by sports writer Bill Humber.

Dorothea Helms announced that the “cheesy trophy” for our annual July poetry slam has been ordered.  Auditions will be held on July 7 at The Bear: A Firkin Pub at Kingston Road and Liverpool in Pickering.  Prepare your three-minute piece, memorize it, and sign up to slam your way to $100 and a very cheesy trophy!

Sherry Loeffler was at the library table, overseeing our collection of books that members can borrow from RoundTable to RoundTable, as well as managing our Pay it Forward collection.

Our writing exercise this month, “Mining the Past: Historical Perspectives and Settings,” was led by Cryssa Bazos.  Bazos’ work focusses on the seventeenth century, and emphasises everyday people and society. Her stories have appeared in Word Weaver, Canadian Tales of the Heart, and Canadian Tales of the Fantastic. Cryssa is currently working on a historical fiction novel called Highwayman.

We also had a fantastic assortment of raffle prizes, including gift certificates from Blue Heron Books donated by the WCDR; a writer’s goody bag and cookies from the Literacy table donated by Sally Moore; books by Barb Martin and Kathleen Martin; a flower arrangement donated by Dawn Riddoch; and a copy of The Queen’s Lady, the first book in Barbara Kyle’s Thornleigh Saga, donated by the WCDR.

After breakfast, Gwynn Scheltema led our mini-workshop, “Write a Winning Bio and Writer’s Profile.”  By day, Gwynn is a writer and editor for the provincial government and facilitates creative writing workshops and writing retreats through writescape.ca.  By night, she follows her imagination into the world of poetry and fiction.  There will be no mini-workshop in June, because we’ll be holding our annual general meeting, and no mini-workshop in July because it’s the annual Summer Slam.  See you again in September!

Join us next month on June 14 for our annual AGM.  The short story contest winners will be announced, and our guest speaker will be non-fiction adventure author Charles Wilkins.

 

 

RoundTable Recap: April 2014


Curious to know what went on at our monthly RoundTable meeting? Please enjoy this RoundTable Recap (prepared by Susan Croft, in charge of public relations for the WCDR). Also, look for more of these recaps after each RoundTable meeting!

Passion, Courage, and Conviction:


Author, editor, film-maker and movie score composer Chris Alexander delighted WCDR members at the April 12, 2014 RoundTable, discussing topics that ran the gamut from style and voice to enthusiasm and passion.  Alexander is best known for his work as the editor of magazines like Fangoria, Gorezone, and Rue Morgue.  “I liked weird stuff because my dad liked weird stuff,” he said.  “So I was allowed to like weird stuff … I was watching Citizen Kane and understanding it when I was six.”  But Alexander’s obsession and love of the strange and the bizarre did not result in his being ostracized by his peers, because he “was always a bit of a curiosity.  I liked that role.”  He began writing about horror films “out of necessity, because I needed to communicate this love, to write about these amazing films I was seeing.  All I could do was sit down in my English class, put pen to paper and write, write, write, present, and annoy teachers.”  Many of his teachers were concerned by the subjects Alexander insisted on writing about, but as he explained: “I was writing about living, dying, my grandparents, the world that I lived in and how I understood it.  Once in a while you’d get a good teacher who would see that, be astonished by it and encourage it.”

FANGORIA, a magazine that specializes in reviewing horror films, “was my religion,” Alexander claimed.  “And then there was GOREZONE,” which was more gruesome than FANGORIA—so gruesome, that it was kept on the top of the magazine rack with the pornography.  “I never did drugs,” Alexander said.  “I did FANGORIA and GOREZONE.”   It was in GOREZONE that Alexander found his idol: a columnist called Chas Balun.  His writing wasn’t “academic, dull or dry.  He would use heavy alliteration, taking you down this journey, quickly educating you about this movie, but it wasn’t about the movies.  It was about the journey with Chas.  The first thing I wanted to do was rip him off.”

So Alexander began writing.  Still in high school, he wrote a piece called “Cheap Visceral Thrills,” that was designed and written to be read aloud.  His teacher, recognizing the talent in the piece, put him in front of the school to read it.  “I got a standing ovation,” Alexander recalled.  “That was my first experience using my passion and word play to affect an audience.  Once you get that, you need it again and again and again.”

Slowly, Alexander built a career for himself.  Some of it was based on determination—freelancing, working for four magazines at once—and some of it was, in his own words, dumb luck.  For example, one night while working as a concierge at a Toronto condominium, he called Warner Brothers’ offices and kept dialing names until he got the president’s voice mail, where he left a message promising to do anything so long as they would hire him.  “It was a shot in the dark,” he admitted, “hoping to hit the donkey’s ass.  It hit.”  Working at Warner Brothers’ gave Alexander the opportunity to meet the big names in film and film criticism.

“My day job is now my love and my work,” he concluded, referring to his work as editor of FANGORIA and GOREZONE, “but this wasn’t always the case.  The key was that I believed what I wrote and saw light at the end of the tunnel.” Alexander’s parting advice to WCDR members included: “Brand yourself.  Work around the clock.  Be a practical dreamer—look at people [you admire], follow their model, because however they did it, you can do it too.”

Other Highlights:

WCDR Grants & Scholarships: Jenny Madore announced the 13 winners of the 2014 WCDR Grants and Scholarships. Jessica Moore received the $500 Len Cullen Scholarship, with Gwynn Scheltema and Vicki Pinkerton taking the two $250 Len Cullen awards.  James Dewar and Sue Reynolds of Inkslingers accepted the $250 Inkslingers grant on behalf of Kate Marshall Flaherty, while Ruth Walker and Gwynn Scheltema of Writescape presented their sponsored grant to Connie Di Pietro Sparacino.  Other winners included Kate Arms-Roberts, Sylvia Chiang, Sandra Clarke, Elaine Cougler, Heidi Croot, Anna Gersman, Corey MacLean, and Jay Stewart.  Thanks to the sponsors of this year’s program, and congratulations to all our winners!

AGM & Board Elections: It’s almost that time of year again.  On June 14, we’ll be holding our annual general meeting (AGM), at which time half of the positions on the board will become available.  This year, the available positions are: VP, Secretary, Web Liaison, Treasurer, and Membership.  Jenny Madore has accepted a nomination to run for VP and will be standing for election as Treasurer for another term, and Maureen Curry is standing for Membership again.  We will send nomination forms soon.  If you would like to run for any of these 5 positions, feel free to talk to a board member, or any member about a nomination.  You can also nominate yourself!  Any member is welcome to run for the board. For more information, check out this special announcement.

Workshops & One-on-one Sessions: Sharon Overend announced that there are still spots available in the “Work of Wonder Workshop” with Daniel Scott Tysdal, taking place at Trent University’s Oshawa campus on April 26.  Learn how to make your poetry and prose inspire curiosity in your reader in this full-day workshop!  She also announced that one-on-one 50-minute pitch sessions with our U25 agents are open for registration.  Sam Hiyate will be seeing people in Durham Region on May 9, and Stacey Donnaghy will be hearing your pitches on May 10 in Newmarket.  Ali MacDonald has also agreed to take pitches, but the date and time are still to be determined.  Register early to avoid disappointment!

We would like to extend our condolences to the Flaherty family.  A moment of silence was observed for former finance minister Jim Flaherty, a patron of the arts and a tireless advocate for this region, who passed away earlier this week.

As always, Blue Heron Books was on hand with a variety of books for sale—including a selection of titles by our guest speaker.  Dorothea Helms kindly manned the table.  Sue Reynolds, James Dewar, Corey MacLean, Ruth Walker, and Jessica Moore, Editor-In-Chief of The Lamp, were also in the lobby selling their work.

Sherry Loeffler was at the library table, overseeing our collection of books that members can borrow from RoundTable to RoundTable, as well as managing our Pay it Forward collection.

Our writing exercise this month, “Caption This,” was led by Harrison Wheeler.  Wheeler is an author of speculative fiction for young readers and an illustrator who has taught in a variety of settings (from Nunavut to Japan) to a variety of ages (5-85 years).  His book, Jesters Incognito, is now available.

We also had a fantastic assortment of raffle prizes, including gift certificates from Blue Heron Books donated by the WCDR; a copy of Kathryn Kuitenbrouwer’s book, All the Broken Things; a spot in Jessica Outram’s Sunshine in a Jar workshop; a teapot donated by Christina Vaselevski; a box of Purdy’s chocolates, donated by Sally Moore; Maple Syrup, provided by Auberge des Gallant in Quebec; a “Power Pack” of cartoons donated by our artist for this month, Harrison Wheeler; and a copy of The Lamp Volume III, donated by G.L. Morgan.

After breakfast, Dorothea Helms led our mini-workshop: “Pricing for Profit.”  This slice of Dorothea’s popular, all-day Business of Writing workshop showed participants the business basics of making a part- or full-time living as a freelancer.  Attendees learned what to charge, how to price package deals and, most importantly, when to say no to a job.  Dorothea has had humorous pieces appear in a variety of magazines and newspapers across North America.  She has served on the faculty of a humour-writing conference in the U.S. and runs “Whenever I feel like it” humour writing contests under her brand, The Writing Fairy.  Our mini-workshop next month will be “Write a Winning Bio and Writer’s Profile,” with Gwynn Scheltema.

Our May RoundTable will feature historical fiction author Barbara Kyle, author of the acclaimed Thornley Saga, set in Tudor England.  Register early to avoid disappointment!


MEDIA CONTACT: Susan Croft, PR Coordinator − pr@wcdr.org

PHOTOS: M-E Girard

Note: Please remember to register! We hate having to turn people away, and the mini workshops fill up fast, so registering early ensures that you can get a slot. We are not able to let you in at the door without registering in advance. If you pay by PayPal, verify that you get an email from PayPal confirming your registration. If you don’t receive the email from PayPal, contact Dawn Riddoch at support@wcdr.org and we will look into it. Thanks for your cooperation.

RoundTable Recap: March 2014


Curious to know what went on at our monthly RoundTable meeting? Please enjoy this RoundTable Recap (prepared by Susan Croft, in charge of public relations for the WCDR). Also, look for more of these recaps after each RoundTable meeting!

U25: From Beginning to End

On Saturday, March 8, 2014, the Writers’ Community of Durham Region (WCDR) hosted its first-ever panel discussion, featuring five authors who write for the under-25 (U25) market.  U25 includes writers of middle grade (MG, featuring protagonists aged 8-12), young adult (YA, featuring protagonists aged 13-17), and new adult (NA, featuring protagonists aged 18-25).  The panelists included MG author Joanne Levy, YA authors Lesley Livingston, Deborah Kerbel, and Norah McClintock, and YA/NA author K.A. TuckerThe discussion was mediated by literary agent Stacey Donaghy of the Donaghy Literary Group, who did a fantastic job moderating the Q&A.  While the authors wrote for the U25 market, their conversations applied to writers who wrote for all types of readers and all genres.

For example, Norah McClintock discussed research and accuracy with respect to her crime novels.  “I have quite the library of crime books,” she admitted.  But much of McClintock’s knowledge comes from research for the only non-fiction book she has written: Body, Crime, Suspect.  “It gave me the opportunity to speak to homicide detectives, forensics experts, crown attorneys, defense attorneys.”  Deborah Kerbel added that the internet has made research much easier—especially with respect to setting.  Kerbel’s book Mackenzie Lost and Found is set in Israel, a place Kerbel had not visited until after her book was written.  To set the scene, Kerbel used “travel blogs, videos, photos,” and was “able to put a setting together in my mind … when I found myself there, I felt like I had been there.  I’d seen it all before, so I must have succeeded.”   The most important part of a setting, Kerbel insisted, is to get the five senses involved; find out what a place smells like.  “Talking to people who have been there helps.”

McClintock also speaks to people when she has a specific question in mind: “I don’t want to know ‘is this the way you would always do it?’ but rather ‘Is it possible that something like this could happen?’ and usually it is.”   She added that “People like to talk about their lives.  They’re more than happy to share their experiences and insights.”  But of all this research, how much makes it into the book? “It depends on the book,” McClintock admitted.  Kerbel added that sometimes the best way to incorporate research is to pick and choose what you will describe to make the scene come alive, “so you don’t have to know everything.”

Lesley Livingston talked about writing what interests you.  As a kid, Livingston was fascinated by Greek and Roman myths, and later she became fascinated by “fairy culture.”  “You couldn’t swing a dead cat in Victorian times without hitting a fairy,” she said.  But by the turn of the century, “fairy culture exited, and it was like someone shut a door and I started with that as a starting point for the Wondrous Strange trilogy.”   Livingston admitted that her career path in writing has not been a typical one.  Since her first book was accepted as a trilogy, and she was asked to outline the next two books, nothing she has written has been unplanned.  “I’m not by nature a heavy plotter,” she confessed “and I don’t necessarily advise writing like that.”

Joanne Levy explained how to incorporate a message in a book without making it sound preachy.  “I wrote [Small Medium at Large] without wanting to put a message in it, but we learn from everybody … that’s the key to not being preachy: don’t intentionally put a message in it, but make it so the reader can learn from the characters.”  This is particularly important in the YA and MG markets, as authors will sometimes make the mistake of assuming that young readers are looking for simplistic stories.  McClintock added that “I know kids who hate reading and I think they will read a book that reflects in some way some of their true life experiences.”

Once a book is written, it’s time to decide who will publish it and how it will be marketed.  Deborah Kerbel and K.A. Tucker swapped stories about the differences in the Canadian and US YA markets.  Kerbel, whose books are published in Canada, said that her editors “cleaned up a lot of the grittiness; in my last book, my character swore in French, and they cleaned that up, too.”  The reason for this, Kerbel believes, is that Canadian publishers rely very heavily on library and school orders, and librarians and school staff will hesitate before purchasing books with dark or gritty topics.  Not so, K.A. Tucker says, of the US market.  “I wanted to delete things,” Tucker said, “but my editor wouldn’t let me do that because that was the character and it wouldn’t have felt true to the story.”  Lesley Livingston chimed in, saying “Write non-swearing that sounds like swearing.  If you have the emotions in the actions, then the words don’t matter as much.”

Levy’s experience was similar to Kerbel’s, as Small Medium at Large was originally written as a YA novel, and consequently had some “older” jokes.  In rewriting, many of these had to be removed because they were inappropriate for her younger, MG audience, and McClintock pointed out that kids are watching the same shows as adults—and even some that adults “aren’t watching because they’re too squeamish.  Do they want to read about that happening to people like themselves?  I don’t know.”

K.A. Tucker, who originally self-published her NA novel, Ten Tiny Breaths, before it was picked up by Simon & Schuster for a 4-book series, talked a little about social media and public relations.  “It’s absolutely critical to have that social media presence,” she said.  “It’s time consuming, difficult, and draining, but readers love being able to interact with the authors.”  But, Tucker warned, “don’t become subsumed by it.  The most important thing is the writing.  Yes, it needs to get out there, but social media can become an addiction and the work has to come first.”

The moral of U25?  Five great authors agree: You can do anything you want in your writing, so long as it serves the story.

 

(For a complete photo gallery of U25, click here!)

Other Highlights:

Just for U25, the WCDR extended a special invitation to young writers from Grade 8 to age 25. Several young people were in attendance on March 8th–at the crack of dawn on the first day of March Break, no less!–which prompted literary agent Ali McDonald of the Rights Factory to tweet “Most teens I’ve seen come out for a writing event! Awesomeness.” The young guests received a swag bag containing a variety of fun U25 gifts, along with information about a contest specifically for them, the WCDR U25 Writing Contest sponsored by Inkslingers!

Meaghan McIsaac, author of the MG novel Urgle, was a special guest of the U25 Panel RoundTable, and the WCDR was thrilled to have her attend the meeting and experience this special event.

Ruth Walker and Gwynn Scheltema of Writescape came up to the podium to draw the name for the U25 early bird registration prize. Barbara Martin won the U25 sponsor gift valued at $550. The WCDR would like to thank Writescape for sponsoring U25 and providing them with this wonderful incentive to attend the RoundTable meeting!

Blue Heron Books was on hand with a variety of books for sale—including a selection of titles by our guest speakers.  Just like they did for the February RoundTable, Rich and Dorothea Helms kindly manned the table. The WCDR would like to send their positive thoughts to Shelley MacBeth during her ongoing recovery.

Sherry Loeffler was at the library table, overseeing our collection of books that members can borrow from RoundTable to RoundTable, as well as managing our Pay it Forward collection. The WCDR library also contains a few books by the U25 panelists, so please drop by Sherry’s table next month!

Phil Dwyer urged WCDR members to submit their stories to our annual contest.  Sarah Selecky’s prompts can be found either on her Twitter feed (@SarahSelecky), or you can sign up for daily prompts on her website to have them delivered straight to your inbox.  Remember that contest entries must be based on a Selecky prompt—but if you have a story that just happens to fit the prompt, feel free to use it!  See the WCDR website for contest informationThe deadline for the WCDR Short Story Contest [with Sarah Selecky] is March 23, 2014, and you can’t win if you don’t enter!

There was also had a fantastic assortment of raffle prizes, including gift certificates from Blue Heron Books donated by the WCDR; an assortment of books donated by U25 panelists Norah McClintockJoanne Levy and Deborah Kerbel; a variety of novels donated by agent Ali McDonald of the Rights Factory; and a copy of The Lamp: A Journal for Graduate and Professional Students, donated by Susan Croft. All of our visiting young writers received a ticket to a U25-only raffle, and each left the RoundTable with a prize. The WCDR would like to thank U25 Silver Sponsor Penguin Random House for the slew of books they donated to the U25 raffle for the young guests!

After breakfast, Panelist Lesley Livingston led a workshop just for visiting young authors, and Laura Suchan facilitated the mini-workshop:Mind Mapping Your Writing.”  Mind mapping is an easy to learn tool that helps you brainstorm, organize and outline thoughts in a visual way rather than in sentences.  It offers a method of organizing, generating and structuring ideas and thoughts around a central word.  For the purpose of writing, mind mapping has many applications including query letters, articles, novels, character development and plot structure. Laura Suchan is Director of the Oshawa Community Museum where she has been balancing budgets and writing business plans for more than 20 years. Laura was project manager for several oral history projects and continues to teach oral history and memoir writing.

Instead of blue pencil sessions, WCDR members had the opportunity to sign up in advance for 15-minute pitch sessions with agents Sam Hiyate and Ali McDonald of The Rights Factory, and U25 moderator Stacey Donaghy of Donaghy Literary Group.  For those who did not get the chance to pitch their books, there will be one-on-one pitch sessions coming soon!

The WCDR has so many people to thank for participating in the U25 Panel, and they’ve listed them all here!

The April RoundTable will feature horror author Chris AlexanderRegister early to avoid disappointment!

MEDIA CONTACT: Susan Croft, PR Coordinator − pr@wcdr.org

PHOTOS: Kevin Craig and M-E Girard

Note: Please remember to register! We hate having to turn people away, and the mini workshops fill up fast, so registering early ensures that you can get a slot. We are not able to let you in at the door without registering in advance. If you pay by PayPal, verify that you get an email from PayPal confirming your registration. If you don’t receive the email from PayPal, contact Dawn Riddoch at support@wcdr.org and we will look into it. Thanks for your cooperation.

RoundTable Recap: February 2014


Curious to know what went on at our monthly RoundTable meeting? Please enjoy this RoundTable Recap (prepared by Susan Croft, in charge of public relations for the WCDR). Also, look for more of these recaps after each RoundTable meeting!

February is for insights into writing sex and romance!

Eve Silver talked dirty at the February 8, 2014 RoundTable, covering sexy topics ranging in “heat” from sweet to pornographic. “No matter what you’re writing, romance enhances the story,” Silver declared. “Some people are writing for themselves, and that’s a worthy aspiration. Some people don’t care about being published, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Some people are business people who want to turn writing into money, and wise business people know that writing romance helps.” In 2012, Romance was the top-selling genre in any book market.

The Romance Writers of America says there are two basic elements in a romance novel: a central love story and an emotionally satisfying and optimistic ending. “You may not want to have a romance novel as your novel,” Silver admitted, “but you may want to incorporate elements.” Approaches to romance in today’s market run the gambit from “sweet heat,” where things happen behind closed doors or off the page, or you can go all the way to the other end of the spectrum: porn. There is a difference between “sex” and “romance.” Sex is the physical act: “part A in slot B. Romance is about how putting part A in slot B makes your characters feel, grow, makes your plot change.”

“Make it about the love,” Silver urged, “the relationship and the emotion—that is what your reader wants: they want to remember that feeling of falling in love … 50 Shades of Gray made all those people fall in love with [E.L. James’ characters]. It appealed to a readership.” Silver said that she “always tries to read as a writer and ask ‘why is this successful?’ Maybe I can’t appeal to that same readership, so I have to look at it and analyze it and ask what is the author doing right?”

Ten simple tips to keep the romance Real:

1. Your hero and heroine should be undeniably attracted to each other from the beginning. “They can be on other sides of a conflict, but there has to be that spark.”

2. Remember that the characters are not together all the time, but they should never be out of each other’s thoughts.

3. Draw things out. Don’t let your characters act on the attraction right away—or, if you do, don’t let it be completely satisfying for them.

4. Don’t be afraid to tease your readers; bring the characters together then pull them apart again. “Make it internal conflict that pulls them apart,” Silver said. “Don’t make it coincidental.”

5. Respect your reader. Make sure you put as much effort into the romantic and sexual scenes as you put into the rest of the story. “It’s not about turning people on, though that’s part of it. It’s about turning them on in their head.”

6. Decide what you’re comfortable reading and what you’re comfortable writing. They won’t always be the same thing. What words are you comfortable using? What actions are you comfortable doing with these characters? “That said, push yourself. You might be more comfortable writing certain things than you think!”

7. Respect the genre you’re writing in. Choose the words that work with your story, but be careful. “Rise above clichés” and what you may have read in 1980s romances. Read current books to find out what euphemisms have evolved in the industry.

8. Less is more. Try to stay away from a step-by-step description of the physical actions. “Describe the smell, the touch, the taste. Put all five senses in.”

9. Keep it real, but keep it sexy. Avoid things that so defy logic that the reader will stop and roll his or her eyes. “How many times have you read the virgin heroine whose first time was perfect? There’s no fumbling, no awkwardness—that’s a cliché and unrealistic.” Also, try to hone your dialog and keep it real, too.

10. “Be brave. Do not write while you think about your mother-n-law or father-in-law reading it. Just write. Just do it.”

RoundTable attendees praised Eve’s talk via social media. Some were still blushing the next day. But one thing is for sure: Eve spoke with authority. She delivered a tonne of insight not only into incorporating romance into any piece of writing, but also into the business side of things.

Other Highlights:

As always, Blue Heron Books was on hand with a variety of books for sale—including a selection of titles by our guest speaker. Rich and Dorothea Helms kindly manned the table, and our best wishes go to Shelley MacBeth as she recovers from her car accident. Corey MacLean, Ruth Walker, and Kathleen Martin were also in the lobby selling their work.

Sherry Loeffler was at the library table, overseeing our collection of books that members can borrow from RoundTable to RoundTable, as well as managing our Pay it Forward collection.

Ruth & Gwynn from Writescape at the podium

M-E Girard talked about the upcoming Books & Bevvies evening, and announced the early bird registration prize for the upcoming U25 Panel that will be held at the March RoundTable. The prize is provided by one of our sponsors for the event, Writescape. Advance registration is open, so be sure to register for the U25 Panel before February 28 to be eligible to win Writescape’s sponsored prize! Come out to hear authors who write for the under-25 market speak about craft in a discussion moderated by literary agent Stacey Donaghy. We’d like to encourage local teens and early twenty-somethings to join our wider membership in learning more about what it means to “be a writer.” Pitch sessions with agents will be available that day, and there will be a sign-up sheet for one-on-ones with industry professionals.

Phil Dwyer clarified where Sarah Selecky’s prompts could be found: either check her Twitter feed (@SarahSelecky), or sign up for daily prompts on her website to have them delivered straight to your inbox. Remember that contest entries must be based on a Selecky prompt—but if you have a story that just happens to fit the prompt, feel free to use it! See the WCDR website for contest information. The deadline is March 23, 2014, and you can’t win if you don’t enter!

Jenny Madore spoke about the WCDR Grants and Scholarships program. This year, we have more than $3600 to give to members writing at all levels and, like the contest, you can’t win if you don’t submit. For more information, check out our Grants and Scholarships page.

James Dewar led an exercise in mind mapping using the Grants and Scholarships prompt: “The light that shines inside you,” and showed members how to break the prompt down to get inspiration from each word individually. For example: the word light conjures images of physical light (like a light bulb or candle) or metaphorical light (like inspiration or “the light of God”). Be creative! Writing samples for the Grants and Scholarships can take any form and be in any genre.

We also had a fantastic assortment of raffle prizes, including gift certificates from Blue Heron Books; a copy of Kathryn Kuitenbrouwer’s book All the Broken Things, a spot in Jessica Outram’s memoir workshop “Beyond Memoir: We Write Who We Are,” a copy of Descant Magazine, featuring Sharon Overend’s Journey Prize-nominated short story; a selection of teas donated by Christina Vasilevski; and a box of Purdy’s Valentine’s Day chocolates.

After breakfast, Sandy Campbell led a mini-workshop on “Getting Sex on the Page.” It was a great follow-up to Eve Silver’s presentation! Under the pen name Gwen Campbell, Sandy’s the author of fifteen novels, and has recently signed a five-book deal with Ellora’s Cave.

Our March RoundTable will be the U25 panel: come out to hear 5 great authors who write for the under-25 market talk craft. Register before February 28 to be entered into a raffle for a Writescape-sponsored prize worth more than $500! Young authors from grade 8 through age 25 are more than welcome to attend for the member price. Find out more about U25 on the March RoundTable page.

FEB 2014 WCDR RoundTable PP.

 

MEDIA CONTACT: Susan Croft, PR Coordinator − pr@wcdr.org

PHOTOS BY Kevin T. Craig

Note: Please remember to register! We hate having to turn people away, and the mini workshops fill up fast, so registering early ensures that you can get a slot. We are not able to let you in at the door without registering in advance. If you pay by PayPal, verify that you get an email from PayPal confirming your registration. If you don’t receive the email from PayPal, contact Dawn Riddoch at support@wcdr.org and we will look into it. Thanks for your cooperation.

RoundTable Recap: January 2014


Curious to know what went on at our monthly RoundTable meeting? Please enjoy this RoundTable Recap (prepared by Susan Croft, in charge of public relations for the WCDR). Also, look for more of these recaps after each RoundTable meeting!

 

The WCDR kicked off 2014 with Short Story Contest judge Sarah Selecky, who listed her top 10 dos and don’ts for contest entries at the January RoundTable.

Selecky began her discussion of what makes a great short story by talking about two brains—the “top brain,” aka the brain in your head, and “the belly brain,” aka instinct. You have to rely on both to get a great story since, unlike a dancer or a sculptor, who can leave language and thought behind and get into the physical aspects of their art, writers must both forget language and work with it. “Don’t overthink things,” Selecky said. “This means clearing your mind and going to your page without any assumptions … You know the story, and it feels good to write it down. It’s not effortful, it’s the best thing in the world.”

Selecky likened the place a story comes from to a person remembering their first phone number. Everyone can do it without thinking; you just know it.

“What gets me really mad,” Selecky said, “is when I read a story and I can tell it’s written from that first-phone-number place, but I can’t take it because the writer’s technique just isn’t there.” So, to help people planning to submit to the WCDR Short Story Contest, which Selecky will be judging, she provided a top-ten list of technical things not to do:

  1. Try not to write the beginning of your story the same way everyone else does. The three most common ways of starting a story are: with a dream, with an alarm clock going off, or with a sentence like “It was a grey February day.”
  2. Don’t “bedazzle” your dialog tags with fancy verbs. Use said or, where appropriate, asked. The important part is what the character is saying.
  3. Don’t make your character look in a mirror so you can describe him or her. Whatever the detail is that is driving you to the mirror, try to find another way of describing it.
  4. Don’t write long, descriptive passages about the landscape.
  5. Make something happen. “You can write with detail an observation so accurate that it aches, but if nothing happens to your character, it’s not a story,” Selecky said.
  6. Avoid weird or clever descriptions in place of he or she.
  7. Use adverbs sparingly and with respect.
  8. Do not use unconventional fonts like Comic Sans or Papyrus. Selecky says she has “strong opinions about fonts in submissions, and if you’re using a font to lend atmosphere to your story, stop it.”
  9. Honour and follow the submission instructions.
  10. Remember that you must feel surprised by your own story—ideally, every time you read it.

(These top 10 tips are also available on Sarah Selecky’s website.)

A writer’s job is to transfer emotion to his or her readers. To do this, you have to “write through the emotion.” “If you try to write an emotional scene dispassionately, there’s a problem,” Selecky stated. “If you don’t feel strong emotions, your reader won’t either.”

 

Other Highlights:

As always, Blue Heron Books was on hand with a variety of books for sale—including a selection of titles by our guest speaker. Janet Stobie, Thelma James, and Corey MacLean were also in the lobby selling their work.

Blue Heron Books table in the lobby

Sherry Loeffler was at the library table, overseeing our collection of books that members can borrow from RoundTable to RoundTable, as well as managing our Pay it Forward collection.

Sherry at the library table

Cryssa Bazos announced that there were only three (3) spots left for those wanting to read at the upcoming Words of the Season event, which will take place on Monday, January 20, 2014 at The Bear (located at Liverpool and Highway 2 in Pickering). The evening will begin at 7 p.m., and you’re welcome to come by and cheer on fellow WCDR members as they celebrate the chilly season in poetry, prose, and song.

M-E Girard talked about the upcoming Books and Bevvies meeting, and announced our upcoming U25 Panel that will be held at the March RoundTable. Come out to hear authors who write for the under-25 market speak about craft in a discussion moderated by literary agent Stacey Donaghy. We’d like to encourage local teens and early twenty-somethings to join our wider membership in learning more about what it means to “be a writer.” Pitch sessions with agents will be available that day, and there will be a sign-up sheet for one-on-ones with industry professionals.

Phil Dwyer reminded WCDR members to sign up for Sarah Selecky’s daily prompts, and to check the WCDR website for contest information. The deadline is coming up in March, 2014, and you can’t win if you don’t enter!

Jenny Madore spoke about the WCDR Grants and Scholarships program. This year, we have more than $3600 to give to members writing at all levels and, like the contest, you can’t win if you don’t submit. For more information, check out our Grants and Scholarships page.

Ruth leading the writing exercise

Dawn Riddoch announced—for those who hadn’t noticed—that the WCDR has a new look for its e-blasts: The Buzz will be replacing the old daily emails, and is a quick way to find out everything you need to know about the WCDR and its members. (Note: If you’re not a member of the WCDR, you can still sign up for this free newsletter by entering your email at the top of the website sidebar!)

Our writing exercise this month, “Keeping it Brief: the Art of the Short, Short, Short Story,” was led by Ruth Walker, who had more than 100 writers trying to write a story short enough to fit on a postcard.

We also had a fantastic assortment of raffle prizes today, including gift certificates from Blue Heron Books; three copies of Sarah Selecky’s book, This Cake is for the Party; a spot in Jessica Outram’s memoir workshop, “Beyond Memoir: We Write Who We Are;” The Writing Fairy donated a copy of the Guide to Writing Contests; and the 2014 WCDR Short Story Contest balloon arrangement.

M-E Girard led our mini-workshop, “Agent Queries: it Starts Long Before Pressing Send,” which was packed with helpful tips and tricks. The workshop was sold out! Next month, the mini-workshop will be “Getting Sex on the Page,” led by Sandy Campbell. Be sure to sign up in advance!

Every month, a slideshow is displayed during the RoundTable meeting. Members are encouraged to submit slides for upcoming workshops and writing-related events. If you weren’t able to take in the information, or weren’t present at the meeting, you can still see what’s going on by accessing the slides as a PFD download. January 2014 WCDR RoundTable Slideshow

Our February speaker is Young Adult adventure and romance author Eve Silver. Register early!

 

MEDIA CONTACT: Susan Croft, PR Coordinator − pr@wcdr.org

PHOTOS BY Kevin T. Craig

Note: Please remember to register! We hate having to turn people away, and the mini workshops fill up fast, so registering early ensures that you can get a slot. We are not able to let you in at the door without registering in advance. If you pay by PayPal, verify that you get an email from PayPal confirming your registration. If you don’t receive the email from PayPal, contact Dawn Riddoch at support@wcdr.org and we will look into it. Thanks for your cooperation.