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.

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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.

Meet the Conference Faculty: Jeff Silberman

“This past year I also helped two authors become television writers and executive producers for series based on their books.”

-Jeff Silberman

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 Jeff Silberman

Jeff Silberman is a new horizon hunter. He began his career as an entertainment attorney and navigates the film and television worlds as well as publishing. His interests are wide, his passions run deep, and the books he represents cut a wide swath: narrative non-fiction, memoir, science and technology, history, social issues, sports, the animal kingdom, literary fiction, upmarket fiction, and more. He seek s books that in some way leave us different than we were before, and he works closely with all of his authors.

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

Jeff Silberman: I work closely with all my authors, from the conception of an idea to unearthing how that idea actually becomes a book; providing editorial notes and suggestions from characters and themes in narrative books to arguments and solutions in policy an prescriptive books; crafting marketing plans, and creating opportunities in film and television for both scripted and unscripted projects. (This past year I also helped two authors become television writers and executive producers for series based on their books.)

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

JS: A compelling idea or premise, a unique voice and talent, a good heart and mind, and a personal connection.

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

JS: Follow your heart. Live your dream.

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?

JS: All the time. Take me somewhere I haven’t been,

Scribe:  Tell us about a recent book that you worked with–you know, brag on one of your writers!

JS: The Blood of Patriots published this past fall and also received 9 offers for film and television rights before it published. Set in Alaska, it is the true story of Bill Fulton, a diehard Army vet who did a lot of off the books missions during his Army career, and after his discharge opened up a surplus supply store and fugitive recovery business and wound up going undercover for the FBI to infiltrate a right wing militia group plotting to kill judges and law enforcement officers. It is both wildly funny and deadly serious.  Seemingly a total testosterone story, but written by a woman – Jeanne Devon. Jeannie’s writing was so compelling, so smart,  so funny, and so easy to read, that though she had never written a page for television before, she is writing a one hour pilot script and will executive produce the series with Bill.

Thanks, Jeff!

Click here to read our 2018 A&E Conference agent 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: Rachel Orr

“I love to discover authors and illustrators who have a strong, earnest love for their work and have many stories in mind, as opposed to a one-hit wonder.”

-Rachel Orr

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 Rachel Orr

Rachel Orr is celebrating her eleventh year at Prospect Agency, where she represents both authors and illustrators in projects ranging from picture books through YA. She previously worked for eight rewarding years at HarperCollins Children’s Books and uses those editorial skills to help prepare her clients’ work for submission. Her clients include Kit Alloway (the Dream Walker series), Samantha M. Clark (The Boy, the Boat and the Beast), Cori Doerrfeld (The Rabbit Listened), Emma Wunsch (The Movie Version), and Kim Zarins (Sometimes We Tell the Truth). Rachel lives in Hoboken, New Jersey, with her husband and two young children. She has no spare time, but, if she did, she would spend it dancing, running and reading, of course.

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

Rachel Orr: Every client works differently, so I usually tailor my approach to the specific needs and desires of the author or illustrator. However, in general, I tend to work very closely with my clients, specifically during the editorial stage. This is something I really enjoy, especially given my experience of working as an editor at HarperCollins Children’s Books for eight years. I also like developing personal relationships with my clients. Again, it’s not necessary—many writers and illustrators prefer their space, and that’s fine—but I do find that good communication is helpful. It’s also useful to know what is going on in their lives, which can better help me to help them. Plus, it’s another aspect of the job that I really enjoy. Many clients have become good friends of mine.

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

RO: I love to discover authors and illustrators who have a strong, earnest love for their work and have many stories in mind, as opposed to a one-hit wonder. This is especially important at Prospect Agency, since we’re looking to foster a client’s entire career, rather than a single title. Knowledge of the industry is always a plus, as is an ability to balance a positive attitude with realistic expectations. Publishing is still a business, after all—for better or worse—and I’ve found that the clients who are most successful are those who have come to terms with that fact, while also staying true to their craft. Most importantly, I’m looking for someone who is willing to do the hard work that it takes to succeed.

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

RO: Along the lines above, I would say being aware of the market without writing to it. I realize that it can be tempting to follow trends, but when writers intentionally do so, those stories almost always comes across sounding derivative. Not comparing oneself to other writers and illustrators—no matter what stage or your career you’re in—is another piece of advice that I would give to anyone. Everyone’s publishing journey is unique, and while it’s fine to have aspirations, wishing to be in someone else’s shoes is hardly ever a healthy attitude.

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?

RO: There are some illustrator clients whose work is vastly different than the more commercial art I tend to be drawn to. But there was something so striking about their art that I just couldn’t resist!

Scribe:  Tell us about a recent book that you worked with–you know, brag on one of your writers!

RO: Well, of course, I can’t wait for the launch of the debut middle-grade novel The Boy, The Boat and the Beast (Simon & Schuster/June 2018) by Austin’s own Samantha M. Clark.  I remember reading the manuscript for the first time and absolutely falling in love with it. So I was thrilled when Sam and I visited the S&S offices recently and were surrounded by publishing professionals who loved the book just as much as we do! I’m also very excited for Cori Doerrfeld’s picture book, The Rabbit Listened (Dial/February 2018), which is a beautiful—and important—book about grief. I’ve represented Cori for over a decade now, and she has published many wonderful stories, but I’m hoping this will be a real break-out book for her. On the flipside, I’m looking forward to another client’s author-illustrator debut with her book entitled Underwear (still to be announced. Stay tuned for that!). It’s about, well …underwear. It’s completely not a serious book, but it is 100% completely kid-friendly and will cause many giggles to ensue, which makes this an important book in its own special way, too.

Thanks, Rachel!

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