Crested Butte Writers Conference

2012 Sandy Writers’ Conference

Many of you know I placed second in the Sandy Writers’ Contest two years ago. (That’s me in the photo, I’m the one in the middle with the red shirt.) I also had a fabulous learning experience at the Crested Butte Writers Conference, which sponsors the contest. I wanted to let you know, I received word from the contest administrator that 1. There are only six more days for you to enter this year and 2. There are few entries in almost every category!

This contest is so worth your while. It doesn’t cost much for the opportunity to have professional and semi-professional judges critique your material. Of course, if you get to the final round, you will have an agent or editor read it and, if you go to the conference, you can pitch to that agent or editor.

The 2012 Sandy Final Judges are:
Romance – Sue Grimshaw, Editor at Large & Category Specialist for Ballantine & Bantam Dell
Mainstream Adult Fiction – Kevan Lyon, Agent at Marsal Lyon Literary Agency
Suspense / Thriller / Mystery – Kat Brzozowski, Assistant Editor at Thomas Dunne Books
Fantasy / Science Fiction – James Frenkel, Editor at Tor / Forge
Children’s & YA – Mary Kole, Agent at Andrea Brown Literary Agency

So will you enter?

Things to Give Us Hope

A friend sent this to me the other day as a link labeled “Something to bring us hope” and it did. This is a wonderful article on the need for paper books and it’s well worth your read. Many thanks, Carolin!

Another item to give you hope and encouragement: you all have heard me speak many times on the Crested Butte Writers Conference and my experience there last year. I learned so much – about writing, but also about myself. Well, I just discovered that Theresa Rizzo, the amazing founder and organizer for the Sandy Writers Competition and the Crested Butte Conference is also not published. Her post this week and this video shows her spirit, beauty and wisdom in the face of all she’s experienced and gave me so much hope and strength, I had to share it. Here’s the video, but I’d have to say her blog on the topic is even more worth the read:
And on in a nonsequitur, I’ve been meaning to share @podtribebooks twitter account with you all. In their own words: PodTribe is a publisher and online retailer of eBooks featuring an exclusive network of authors primarily based in Asia.

How have you been uplifted this week?

Crested Butte Coverage Continues and Other Goodies

Just when you thought I was done, head to Janet Lane’s site. She has blogged on part of James Scott Bell’s talk that I didn’t touch on here.

And speaking of conferences, contests and other alliterations, check out these opportunities:

The WriteOn Free Online Conference will take place August 10-12, 2010. It will be attended by HOSTS of agents and authors. For the complete schedule, go to the WriteOn website.

The 2011 Missouri Writer’s Guild Conference will be in St. Louis this year. Marcie Posner from Folio Literary Management and Kristin Nelson from the Nelson Literary Agency are just two of the many agents in attendance. I’m delighted to say one of the Masters Class presenters will be Jeannie Lin from All That You Desire. The conference will be on April 8-10, 2011, so save your pennies.


I just heard about this tonight, or I would have posted all of this together:

The 2010 Montezuma All-Iowa Writers’ Conference will be held in Montezuma, Iowa at the Montezuma Community School on Saturday, September 18 from 9 – 5, with registration starting at 8:30. It’s an all-day event where you can learn writing tips, get advice on how to choose a publisher and learn new ways to market your work. Iowa authors scheduled to attend and inspire include: Donald Harstad, Shirley
Damsgaard, Kathy Bacus, Leigh Michaels, Tamara Siler Jones and Kali Van Baale. Admission is only $25! If you have ever dreamed of writing a book, this is a must-attend event. Email debwrite [@] for more details or look them up on Facebook at Our Front Porch Books Publishing Company.

Details and a registration form will soon be available at Many thanks to Tammy Jones for posting this information!

Day 3: Janet Lane on Free Range Characters

This talk wasn’t just about characterization, but how proper characterization can become indistinguishable from plot.

Janet suggests plotting stories using Inner and Outer story questions, advice most of us should be familiar with by now, but we’ll go over it using the plot from Avatar because everyone’s seen it by now. Right?

The Outer story question is a specific, tangible action-oriented goal and the character must strive for (or against) it. In Avatar, the Outer Story question is: Will greed destroy Pandora?

The Inner Story Question must be stated as a question, involves the character’s need, each character has his or her own inner question that is resolved in yes/no fashion by the story’s end with a resolution that is satisfying to the protagonist. The inner story question DRIVES the Outer Story.

Avatar’s Inner Story question: Will Jake sell his soul and betray Neytiri and the Navi to walk again?

Now, how free are your characters? What are their turning points?

It’s only a turning point if someone acts. Most turning points are at the beginning of Act I and 2. (Sometimes there’s one in the middle to act as a buttress to your story arc.) Who drives the characters’ decisions?

In Avatar, the first Turning Point for Jake is when he abandons the scientists and the NAVI and joins the Colonel and the “Greed” team. He is motivated by his desire to walk again. The second Turning Point is when he defies the Colonel and the team and fights for the NAVI. He is motivated for a variety of reasons including love, revenge for the Colonel’s lies and the death of the NAVI, their spiritual center and the death of Sigourney Weaver’s character.

What are your story’s Turning Points and what are the character’s motivations for turning? In other words, who is driving the story? Are external events doing it, or are the changes brought about by your character’s decisions and motivations? Who is in charge of your character arc?

Another way of looking at motivations, is to examine what the character wants, why he/she wants it and why they can’t get it, their worst fear (which should probably revolve around the inciting incident) and how they accept the call to action.

See how this works for Jake: He wants to be accepted, believes “he’s just another dumb drunk”, he cannot get what he wants because he hasn’t yet claimed his life, his worst fear is that his naysayers are right and that he’ll never be more than a broken ex-marine, but then his twin brother dies, giving him an opportunity to fit in again. He accepts the opportunity and travels to Pandora. Do you see how most of that happens off screen?

Many thanks to Janet Lane and her exceptional handout sheets. I would never have been able to reproduce this for you without them. Make sure you check out Janet’s site as she was able to post on the part of the conference I arrived too late to see. This is my last blog on the Crested Butte Writers Conference. Thanks for joining me; we will now return to our regularly scheduled programming. ;D

Day 3: Holly Payne on Alternative Publishing

Holly Payne’s story began with a tragic accident and I’m not talking about her book. I’m talking about her life and the drunk driver who nearly ended it. Afterwards, she wove her tale of an Amish boy in need of forgiveness through her own need to forgive and arrived at “Kingdom of Simplicity”. She found editorial interest for “Kingdom,” but no publishers. As the 15th Anniversary of her accident loomed closer, she felt driven to publish the novel on that anniversary. Thus, Skywriterbooks was born.

Holly did more than self publish. She created her own editing, coaching and small press company and these are her thoughts on self-publishing:

• Never use a vanity press. All they do is print your work. No editing or marketing is involved, and you are your own warehouse. In short, your money pays for paper and ink. There are a variety of ways your money and work can gain greater results.
• Read “The Well-fed Self Publisher. It was Holly’s guide in creating Skywriters and I imagine would be an enormous help for anyone who goes for self publishing, let alone going the extra step to create their own imprint.

• If you do self-publish, consider Lightening Sources. They’re a print-on-demand (P.O.D.) service and they will list your work in the publishing catalogs of, Barnes & Noble, Ingrams and public libraries. There is no need for warehousing with P.O.D., but if you’re sure (i.e. you have orders) you can sell more than 500 copies , then print more than 500 as this will help offset the cost of printing and you’ll receive a financial bang for your book. (Thought I was going to say “buck,” didn’t you?) Printing in paperback is cheaper, so ask yourself how important is it to see your work in hardback. Selling 1,000 copies on your own marks you as a success, since 93% of all books published sell less than 1,000 copies. Is that a kick in the head or what?

• Ask for blurbs and reviews and sent out advance reading copies (ARCs) six months in advance of the book’s publication.

• Have friends go to Barnes & Noble, Borders, Rainy Day, etc. and request the book from the store. This generates tremendous word of mouth because the stores TALK.

One of the many things Holly learned from her experience was, “You’re not, in the end, selling a book. You’re selling an emotion, an inspirational experience. What is it?”

Aside from the words: “I want to see your first 50 pages,” I thought this the most profound thing said at the entire conference. If we are not sure of the emotional power and focus behind our book, how will anyone else recognize it? That’s why today’s somewhat unrelated question is: What is your book’s emotional point?