Fredericksburg Writers Conference

“We put together this conference to help talented writers find an audience and a publisher for their works.”

-Mara Fox

The Fredericksburg Writers Conference, coming up next week – Friday and Saturday, November 2 & 3, at the Hill Country University Center in Fredericksburg, Texas – offers two days of programming for writers in the area who are ready to explore their publishing options. If you’re wondering what the event has in store, here are some highlights from a conversation with Robert Demming and Mara Fox, facilitated by WLT board member (and Fredericksburg-based writer) Marc Hess.

WLT: First things first, what made you decide to host this conference?

Mara Fox: You, as a writer, have choices on how to turn your finished manuscript into a successfully published book. We put together this conference to help talented writers in Fredericksburg find an audience and a publisher for their works. If you are pursuing a route into traditional big-house publishing, you’ll be able to pitch your work to an established literary agent. Or you can learn the tricks that will make your self-published book successful. You can learn from both and choose the path that works best for your story.

WLT: This sounds great. Who will be coming to the event?

Robert Demming: A big problem you face as a writer is finding someone to publish your work. And, like Mara said, there are many directions you can go. To help you choose the path that’s right for you we’re bringing in Jeannie Loiacono, of Loiacono Literary Agency. She is a talented literary agent who specializes in helping first-time authors. You will be able to talk to her directly about the book you are working to get published.

MF: For those of you considering self-publishing we have speaker Eva Pohler, PhD, former professor at UTSA, self-published author, sharing her expertise on “The Road to Successful Self-Publishing.”

RD: Eva is also delivering a keynote address titled “Shameless Self-Promotion.”

WLT: Oh, that should be good. I’ve got to catch that one.

MF: We also have Tom Hutton, MD, award winning author of Carrying the Black Bag,  leading a session on “The Road to Publication at a University Press.”

RD: And the Cooks; newspaper publisher Ken Cook will be here with his wife, author Christina Granados, discussing “Writing for Newspapers and Magazines.”

WLT: That is a big day. And who is the audience that you would like to attract?

MF: Simply said: anybody who is writing anything.

For more specific information and to register go to https://fbgwriters.yolasite.com/ or contact Sally Clark sally@sallyclark.info  Follow the conference on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/Fredericksburg-Writers-Conference-150074461819386

Thank you to Marc, Mara, and Robert!

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Meet the Members: Bobby Horecka

“Get involved. Just do it. Much like those stories don’t write themselves, this organization is exactly as useful as you make it.”

— Bobby Horecka on WLT

A member of the Writers’ League since April 2016, Bobby lives in Victoria.

Scribe: In what genre(s) do you write?

Bobby HoreckaJust about every genre, really. My most pressing project right now is completing a short story collection for my MFA thesis project in the University of Houston-Victoria’s creative writing program. Once that’s finished, I plan to jump back on one of three novels I have in progress. The farthest along falls under the crime thriller heading — it’s completely fiction but based, in part, on a real news story I covered a few years back. For a change of pace, I might tinker a bit on one of the two poetry collections I’ve been building for a few years.

I’ve written everything that’s ever found its way into a newspaper: News stories, features, columns, editorials, ad copy, obits, classifieds, Santa letters… you name it. I worked newspapers large and small across Texas for 25 years—even picked up a few awards along the way, from Texas regional on up to national press groups—before I went back to school to try my hand at something a bit different. My last news post was as field editor for Texas Agriculture (a semimonthly news tab) and Texas Neighbors, a quarterly features magazine. Both were published by the farm bureau in Waco, where I also wrote a weekly news column for the Waco Tribune Herald, dabbled a bit in video for the bureau’s RFD-TV Network shows, and recorded many interviews for their statewide radio news programming. I’ve also ghostwritten speeches, legal briefs, legislation, how-to manuals, proclamations, issue talking points, and formal letters, and have lent my pen to a few election campaigns. I’ve helped research and write a good half dozen scholarly books and articles, and I authored and edited a locally published pictorial history book on the 75th anniversary of a state institution in 2008. Oh yeah: In my free time, I also teach college essay writing and developmental English classes at Victoria College. I’m particularly fond of the narrative essay, and I’d like to try my hand at some book-length literary nonfiction at some point in the future.

Scribe: What author would you most like to have a drink with, and what’s the first question you would ask them?

BHThat’s a toughie. For drinks, it would probably be a toss-up between Ernest Hemingway, Edward Abbey or Joe Lansdale (of course, if I had my druthers, we’d all get together, make an event of it—call it “Midnight in Paris (Texas),” or some such).

As to questions:

Hemingway: When are we going fishing? (Because I truly dug his boat.)

Abbey: What inspired that cabrito scene in The Fool’s Progress? (I can’t read it without belly laughing and I’ve read it every couple of years since I was 20.)

Lansdale: I can see Hap as [Lansdale’s] alter ego pretty easy, so was there a particular person who inspired Leonard? (Leonard Pine is probably one of my favorite characters in fiction right now.)

Scribe: If you were stranded on a deserted island, what book would you want to have with you to keep you sane?

BHOther than How to Build a Seaworthy Vessel from Nothing But Sand and Twigs, I’d probably go with any of the following:

Abbey’s The Fool’s Progress: An Honest Novel; Elmer Kelton’s The Man Who Rode Midnight; or Lansdale’s shorts collection, Sanctified and Chicken Fried.

(Give me all three, maybe a couple more, and “stranded” would probably become “permanent address—do not disturb.”)

Scribe: What have you learned from your association with the Writers’ League?

BHThat I haven’t made near enough use of it. I’ve focused primarily on my studies since I joined, and now that those studies are about to end, I’m kind of kicking myself that I didn’t do more. I can’t help but wonder where I might be now if I had. Take, for instance, this very Howdy Do.

If that qualifies me to pass on anything on from this, I guess it’s this: Get involved. Just do it. Much like those stories don’t write themselves, this organization is exactly as useful as you make it.

Scribe: Where do you see your writing taking you (or you taking it) in the future?

BHI was asked quite nearly the same thing by my thesis advisor a few months back, and I think my answer is probably as good now as it was then: If, in a year or two, I’m living the high life on some foreign beach in a hammock, spending my days cashing royalty checks, I certainly won’t complain.

But if, more likely, that writing of mine simply lands me my degree and brings me closer to a teaching job someplace where I can continue to write and work with others to help them chase their own beach dreams, I don’t think I’d be too disappointed either. I’ve rather enjoyed my teaching gigs so far, and I don’t know if it’s simply the gray hairs talking or what, but I think I might finally be getting to a point where I have a thing or two I can pass along. Can’t say it’s much more than just a thing or two, but perhaps it’s a couple of things they won’t have to waste time figuring out on their own.

Not much more you can ask for when it comes to teaching someone else. Not really. Other than staying in Texas to do so. I’ve kinda grown attached to her after 45 years.

Me taking writing somewhere? Fat chance. There are far more gifted wordsmiths than me who are far better suited for such tasks. I’ll happily let them.

Besides, writing has already taken me more places than I ever expected to see (from DC to California and eight foreign countries, to be exact). Way I figure it, that’s not half bad for some runt farm kid from South Texas. Plus, I don’t think my ride’s over just yet, either. The more I write—I mean seriously write, unbound and unleashed—the more I realize that I have a lot more stories tucked away than I ever realized.

Scribe: Here at the Writers’ League, we love sharing book recommendations. What’s one Texas-related book that has come out within the past year that you couldn’t put down?

BH: Skip Hollandsworth’s The Midnight Assassin—Most of us know Skip for those often wrenching and quirky stories he finds for Texas Monthly magazine (“Midnight in the Garden of East Texas” springs to mind as a good for instance. Richard Linklater later used it as inspiration for his film, Bernie, starring Jack Black and Matthew McConaughey). In this book, Skip presents the following premise: In the wake of several grisly murders in the newly formed Austin township—murders no one ever truly solved despite putting the Pinkerton Detective Agency on the job (the wrong Pinkertons, it turns out)—is it possible that England’s infamous Jack the Ripper killings got their start here in the Lone Star State? Skip makes an intriguing case that, in fact, they did. 

Scribe: Is there anything else about you that you would like to share with the world? An opportunity for blatant self-promotion! 

BH: Looking forward to meeting a few new faces and hopefully start making some appearances in print again soon. I miss seeing the old byline. That book of mine ought to be done by December of this year, and hopefully, it’ll do more than just fulfill a degree requirement. If you get a chance, check out my blog, “On boots and bars and motorbikes…” (https://bootsbarsmotorbikes.blogspot.com) or visit my new website, Outlaw Authorz, home to what will hopefully be my literary empire someday (https://outlawauthorz.com). Or not. We’ll see about that, too, I suppose. But what use are dreams if you don’t dream big, right?

Other than that, I’ll see you at the next waterin’ hole. Write on (or, for my biker friends, RIDE on) and stay safe!

Thank you, Bobby!

If you’re a Writers’ League member and you’d be interested in being interviewed for our Meet the Members feature, email us at member@writersleague.org for more information. It’s a great way for other members to get to know you and for you to share a bit about what you’re working on!

Community Member Guest Post: ACC Creative Writing

“Taking a creative writing class represented a bit of a risk for me – I hadn’t written much of anything that wasn’t business-related in 25 years – but also a chance to try something new.”

-Summer Rohrict

Community membership in the Writers’ League of Texas allows businesses and organizations to support our programming and services. It’s also a great way for our community of writers to learn about the many valuable and varied services, programs, and opportunities available to them.

The Creative Writing Department at Austin Community College offers a wide variety of creative writing classes, each limited to 15 students. Summer Rohricht is a student of the program, so Department Chair Charlotte Gullick invited her to share her thoughts on what the experience was like for her.

Summer: “About two years ago, I decided to make a priority of exploring some areas of interest that I had largely ignored while I was working full time. I did some research and eventually enrolled in a creative writing class through the Continuing Education Program at Austin Community College.

“Taking a creative writing class represented a bit of a risk for me – I hadn’t written much of anything that wasn’t business-related in 25 years – but also a chance to try something new. It offered me the challenge I wanted but without all the investment and pressure of a master’s program. Basically, the class provided a level of structure but also fit with my lifestyle.

“I did have some concerns, however. Since I was not working toward a degree, I worried that I would be “on the sidelines” – that I would be treated like I was more of an auditor of the class than a “real” student. I was also curious about how my writing skills would calibrate with the other students as I understood there would be a mix of continuing education students and those who were taking the course as a required credit in their Associate or Bachelor degree programs. I also assumed there would be those who were already somewhat accomplished in their craft and others who were just beginning. I wondered if I would be bored – or behind. And, not having a finished body of work, I was basically middle aged and starting from scratch – was that going to be “ok”?

“As it turns out, my worries were unfounded, I have genuinely enjoyed the classes I’ve taken, and my writing continues to improve and evolve. In each of the classes, I found the content – a mix of reading, writing, analysis, critiques, and lecture on the more technical elements of writing – extremely engaging. Even more importantly, I have appreciated how each of my professors was able to create a supportive environment where a diverse group of students felt secure – excited even – to share their work and provide insights and feedback to each other. The instruction in each of the classes was delivered in a manner that seemed to resonate with a variety of learning styles and at a pace that kept the classes interesting but left no one behind. One of the aspects I found particularly engaging was that my professors were willing and able to speak extemporaneously to questions that were off topic but relevant to the class discussion.

“The classes have fulfilled me and fueled my passion for writing. I am genuinely grateful for the experience and so happy I took the risk!”

Thanks, Summer and Charlotte!

For more information about fall courses, click here, and to learn more about enrolling through continuing education, click here. Or you can call or email the department chair, Charlotte Gullick, at 512-913-4479,cgullick@austincc.edu

Are you a business or organization interested in getting involved?

Community Membership is a great way to connect with the Writers’ League’s membership base and share news and information about writing-related services and events. For more information on Community Membership click here or call our office at (512) 499-8914.

What We’re Reading Now: THE WHICH WAY TREE

The Which Way Tree

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

by Elizabeth Crook

Published in February 2018 by Little, Brown and Company

Reviewed by Amanda Moore

In the middle of the night on a small farm in rural Texas, a young girl is attacked by a panther outside of her home. Her mother runs to her aid and is tragically killed by the panther in a brutal and vicious manner. Traumatized by the events of that night, Samantha Shreve develops a deep-seated obsession for revenge and uses every opportunity to hunt and kill the wild animal.

The Which Way Tree is a fascinating and captivating tale told primarily from the perspective of Samantha’s half-brother, Benjamin Shreve. As a young boy living in the late 1800’s, he witnesses the panther attack and other questionable incidents that occur close to his home. Years later and now seventeen years old, Benjamin is asked by a local county judge to give a written account of these incidents.

Benjamin’s descriptions of his experiences and the actions of other characters are surprisingly mature and insightful. He demonstrates honesty and integrity in his caretaker role as a brother, but he also experiences the normal fears and concerns of an adolescent.  Throughout the novel, he recalls his constant state of distress as he tries to prevent his sister from engaging or provoking the animal that freely roams the countryside. Samantha’s obsession overshadows her concerns for her personal safety and that of her family. Readers will undoubtedly recall other literary tales of revenge and obsession including that of an infamous white whale and the captain who pursued it in Herman Melville’s Moby Dick.

Through the eyes of the narrator, readers will observe the challenges and hardships of living on the Texas frontier and the unique relationship between a brother and a sister. Benjamin not only tries to protect his sister from a violent individual who crosses their path, but he also tries to care for her well-being even when he disagrees with her choices. It is a well-told story that explores the different emotions of the human experience – fear, compassion, courage and hope.

Amanda Moore is an attorney and writer living in Austin, Texas.  She won first place in the Texas Bar Journal 2015 Short Story Contest and was asked to return as a judge in the annual competition for two consecutive years. She has been a member of the Writers’ League of Texas since 2014.  Amanda is an avid reader and book aficionado.

Interested in writing reviews? Current WLT members are eligible to write reviews and can send an email to kelsey@writersleague.org.

Have a book you’d like us to review? We review books by Texas authors, as well as books that are set in or about Texas. Email kelsey@writersleague.org for instructions on sending a review copy.

What We’re Reading Now: I’M NOT MISSING

I’m Not Missing

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

by Carrie Fountain

Published in July 2018 by Flatiron Books

Reviewed by Tony Burnett

In her richly-sculpted debut novel, I’m Not Missing, Carrie Fountain deftly details the tumultuous lives of Miranda Black and her best friend Syd. These two competing personalities are drawn together by the similarities of their daily existence – Miranda and Syd were both abandoned by their mothers, raised by their fathers, and confused by it all. Though the genre of I’m Not Missing is considered by its author to be young adult, as an older adult I found the novel to be moving and hopeful. With two award-winning books of poetry to her credit, Fountain uses her finely honed literary talent to take this complex and emotional tale to a wide audience.

Miranda Black is a high school senior, struggling, albeit successfully, to achieve admission into an Ivy League university while questioning whether or not it’s the right path to take. Her mother left in search of religious fulfillment before Miranda was in middle school. Her father, a NASA engineer, struggles with the complexities of his daughter’s puberty and the emotional baggage left by a mother who is allowed no further contact with the family by the leader of the religious cult she joined. Meanwhile, Miranda’s best friend Syd has a mother who abandoned her family with no explanation and no forwarding address. Syd’s father then creates an unbearable living situation by bringing home a girlfriend who detests Syd and makes her life miserable.

Though the narrative has a limited number of characters, multiple complex plot lines are deftly interwoven by Fountain’s excellent storytelling. The story is part domestic suspense, part romance, part family saga, and even a little horror perfectly packaged as a young adult novel. Miranda handles her myriad of trials valiantly and maturely for her age — she questions herself and her motives for wanting to leave her home town of Las Cruces, New Mexico, and struggles with her attraction to the young man she believes to be the nexus of her disappointment and humility.

Fountain writes with passion and compassion, humor and heartache, and a conviction that immerses the reader in the narrative. You will experience the story as if you were Miranda and Syd’s classmate. I lost myself so deeply in this book that I hated to see it end. Fountain ties up her complex plots cleanly and unexpectedly, leaving the reader no doubt that there is hope in relinquishing control of society to the youth of today.

Tony Burnett is the managing editor of Kallisto Gaia Press, a 501(c)3 literary press supporting poets and writers at all stages of their careers by paying those we publish. 

Interested in writing reviews? Current WLT members are eligible to write reviews and can send an email to kelsey@writersleague.org.

Have a book you’d like us to review? We review books by Texas authors, as well as books that are set in or about Texas. Email kelsey@writersleague.org for instructions on sending a review copy.

Meet the Conference Faculty: James Melia

“I don’t differentiate between ‘debut’ or not when I’m considering a work.”

-James Melia

Every year, the Writers’ League of Texas brings a faculty of close to thirty agents, editors, and other industry professionals to Austin for its Agents & Editors Conference. As we look ahead to the 25th Annual A&E Conference, taking place June 29–July 1, 2018, we’re happy to share Q&As with some of our faculty here.

An Interview with James Melia

James Melia previously worked at Doubleday before joining Flatiron Books, where he edits and acquires upmarket commercial fiction, narrative nonfiction, and pop culture. Notable books he has edited include The People We Hate at the Wedding by Grant Ginder (an Entertainment Weekly Summer Must-Read), James Rebanks’s The Shepherd’s Life (which was named one of the top ten books of the year by Michiko Kakutani), and Marc Maron’s Waiting for the Punch. In 2018, James will publish Ron Stallworth’s memoir Black Klansman, the basis for the forthcoming film produced by Jordan Peele and directed by Spike Lee.

Scribe: How would you describe your personal approach to working with an author?

James Melia: Each author (and book) is different. I will say that editing a book is an incredibly personal experience between author and editor​. It’s what I love most about my job. Before we move on to marketing and publicizing the book, it’s just this special thing you and the writer are working on — bouncing off ideas, drafting new chapters, trying a new perspective or tone. Whatever the work might need. My job as an editor is to be the author’s biggest fan, but that also comes with wanting the work to be the best it can possibly be.

Scribe: What do you look for in a debut author?

JM: ​I don’t differentiate between “debut” or not when I’m considering a work in terms of what I’m looking for content-wise. I want whatever I’m reading to totally grab me​ and get my heart racing. There is no better feeling than opening a manuscript and knowing by the end of the first page that you have something special in your hands, something you just want to push into the hands of others and say, “Here. Take this. Read it now!” That’s what I’m always looking for.

Scribe: If you could give writers one piece of advice, what would it be?

JM: ​If you’re not enjoying the writing of it, people probably aren’t going to enjoy reading of it. Follow your instinct and passion.

Scribe: Has there been a project you took on because there was something special or unique about it, even though it wasn’t like projects you usually take on?

JM: ​I’m still pretty young in my career, so I’m pretty game for new challenges. But, I did discover a novel through Instagram once.​

​It was self-published, and I just clicked the link on this stranger’s bio and started reading the book. It immediately drew me in — sort of a millennial Brett Easton Ellis. I’m lucky enough to work for two great publishers that let me buy it, and just this past week the New York Times Book Review ended their review of it with the demand of, “You must read this now!” I think it’s important to think outside the box and test the limits just a bit, now more than ever. The book is called Into? by North Morgan. Follow the Times’ advice and read it now!

Thanks, James!

Click here and here to read our 2018 A&E Conference agent & editor bios.

Click here for more information on the 2018 Agents & Editors Conference, a weekend long event in Austin, TX (June 29-July 1) that focuses on the craft of writing, the business of publishing, and building a literary community.

Meet the Conference Faculty: Vivian Lee

“Ultimately, I am here to protect the author’s voice—what I fell in love with in the first place.”

-Vivian Lee

Every year, the Writers’ League of Texas brings a faculty of close to thirty agents, editors, and other industry professionals to Austin for its Agents & Editors Conference. As we look ahead to the 25th Annual A&E Conference, taking place June 29–July 1, 2018, we’re happy to share Q&As with some of our faculty here.

A Brief Interview with Vivian Lee

Vivian Lee is an editor at Little A, Amazon Publishing’s literary fiction and narrative nonfiction imprint. Her list includes Matthew Salesses’ The Hundred-Year Flood, Viet Dinh’s After Disasters (PEN/Faulkner Finalist), Harold Schechter’s Hell’s Princess, Naima Coster’s Halsey Street, and Natalia Sylvester’s Everyone Knows You Go Home. She graduated from the University of California, Irvine with a BA in Literary Journalism and from the New School University in New York with a MFA in Creative Writing (Non-Fiction). For Little A, she is interested in language and character-driven literary fiction dealing with relationships and identity. For nonfiction, she is looking for personal memoirs, investigative journalism, and anything in popular science. In both genres, she is interested in the intersection of race/class/gender/ethnicity (etc).

 Scribe: How would you describe your personal approach to working with an author?

Vivian Lee: Of course, every author and every story is different, so different approaches work for different writers. However, one thing never changes: this is a partnership. I am always deeply honored whenever a writer trusts their work with me and so I take what I do very seriously. Even before acquisition, I talk to a writer to make sure we’re on the same page: does my vision for this book vibe with the author’s vision? Ultimately, I am here to protect the author’s voice—what I fell in love with in the first place—while also making sure the language, the characters, the plot, and the tension are all there to make it the best book it can be.

Thanks, Vivian!

 

Click here and here to read our 2018 A&E Conference agent & editor bios.

Click here for more information on the 2018 Agents & Editors Conference, a weekend long event in Austin, TX (June 29-July 1) that focuses on the craft of writing, the business of publishing, and building a literary community.