Meet the WLT Staff: Lindsey Ferris

“I love being part of such an enthusiastic and uplifting community.”

— Lindsey Ferris

Lindsey is the Special Projects of the Writers’ League of Texas. 

Scribe: Tell us about yourself!

Lindsey Ferris: I’m currently a senior at UT double majoring in English Honors and Linguistics. I also have a certificate in Creative Writing. I interned with WLT this past spring and am so thankful to continue to be a part of the team.

Scribe: What’s one book that you couldn’t put down?

LF: I’m a big fan of YA! My most recent read was Twelve Kings in Sharakhai by Bradley Beaulieu. It has an action-packed, multithread plot that leaves readers inspired by the female protagonist. Not to mention, the world-building leaves you starstruck!

Scribe: What do you enjoy in your free time? 

LF: Outside of my literary loves, I love to sing and am a part of a show choir at UT! I also am training for a bike ride from Austin to Anchorage, AK in the summer of 2021 to raise money for cancer research and support services.

Scribe: What is your favorite programming WLT does?

LF: My favorite programming that WLT does is the Summer Writing Retreat. This past summer we held it virtually and it was so nice to grow with writers over a entire month. Seeing everyone’s progress was inspiring and I loved that we were able to provide such a community when many were feeling isolated.

Scribe: What is your favorite thing about WLT as a whole?

LF: The people! Not only has the staff become a second family, but the members are so incredibly friendly. I love being part of such an enthusiastic and uplifting community.

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

LF: I’m honored to have shared my short story “Heavy Pockets” in the Albion Review that will soon be published!

Thank you, Lindsey, and thank you for all the work you do for WLT! 

Meet the WLT Staff: J Evan Parks

“I love getting the chance to hear what everyone’s working on and learning more about every member!”

— J Evan Parks

Evan is the Members Services Manager of the Writers’ League of Texas. 

Scribe: Tell us about yourself!

J Evan Parks: I’m a recent grad of UT. I write short stories, usually speculative fiction or sci-fi, and screenplays. When I was in college, I ran a TV show called Down to Film, check it out on YouTube!

Scribe: What’s one book that you couldn’t put down?

EP: My favorite book of all-time is the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams.

Scribe: What do you enjoy in your free time? 

EP: Watching TV and playing Video Games!

Scribe: What is your favorite programming WLT does?

EP: Our Member Movie Night!

Scribe: What is your favorite thing about WLT as a whole?

EP: The membership, everyone I’ve met has been so nice and so interesting. I love getting the chance to hear what everyone’s working on and learning more about every member!

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

EP: I recently had a short story featured in a zine called Dial Up, it’s being published by a small group called Mobius Strip Club. I’m very proud of it and everyone included.

Also, the final episode of my college TV show career is coming out soon too. Check out Season 19 of Down to Film on YouTube; it’s a great little series and the story my fellow crew-mates and I were able to come up with was really satisfying.

Thank you, Evan, and thank you for all the work you do for WLT! 

Meet the WLT Staff: Kelsey Williams

“Be gentle with yourselves, writers!”

— Kelsey Williams

Kelsey is the Office Manager and Members Services Manager of the Writers’ League of Texas.  

She is a writer and artist based in Austin, TX. Her work has been published in multiple zines as well as the second volume of the I Scream Social Anthology series. Pronouns: she/they.

Scribe: What’s one book that you couldn’t put down?

KW: The most recent book I read was Everything Under by Daisy Johnson — a lyrical, sweeping novel that retells the myth of Oedipus and braids together vivd imagery and emotionally poignant scenes and characters.

Scribe: What do you enjoy in your free time? 

KW: In my free time, I love to write ghost stories and read tarot for self-care.

Scribe: What is your favorite programming WLT does?

KW: My favorite programming WLT does is Third Thursday — if I have to pick! I love that the event used to bring members together here in Austin for a free, insightful panel jam-packed with big names in the literary scene — and now I love that we get to host these important discussions virtually.

Scribe: What is your favorite thing about WLT as a whole?

KW: I love WLT’s commitment to uplifting the writers in the writing community in Texas and beyond — more than once I’ve been able to urge writers to proudly state “I’m a writer!” for the very first time.

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

KW: I’m proud to have been able to share my writing with the literary community through events like Aural Literature, I Scream Social, and One Page Salon. I really miss being able to get on stage and share a piece of my heart with like-minded souls.

I’d also like to say to be gentle with yourselves, writers! This is a tough time, and if you’re not writing as much as you would like, try giving yourself the day off and resting.

Thank you, Kelsey, and thank you for all the work you do for WLT! 

Meet the WLT Staff: Sam Babiak

“Our members, and the amazing folks we get to work with, make the WLT what it is.”

— Sam Babiak

Sam is the Program Director of the Writers’ League of Texas.  

Scribe: Tell us about yourself!

Sam Babiak: I graduated from the University of Texas at Austin with a BA in English Literature and a certificate in Creative Writing with honors. I started working with WLT as an intern in 2018 and the rest is history! I love the simple things, like a hot cup of coffee in the morning or the smell of a new book. And most importantly, I have a cat named Chester.

Scribe: What’s one book that you couldn’t put down?

SB: My most recent read is “Hood Feminism: Notes from the Women That a Movement Forgot” by Mikki Kendall.

Scribe: What do you enjoy in your free time? 

SB: No surprise, but I read a lot! I just really enjoy any sort of storytelling, whether it’s a book, tv show, movie, or podcast. Lately, I’ve been determined to get better at cooking so I’ve been exploring new recipes, but the final products are not always great. I’m trying my best though.

Scribe: What is your favorite programming WLT does?

SB: Definitely Project WISE. I grew up in a border town in South Texas and I didn’t meet or hear from a real life author until college. It would’ve meant so much to me to have a presentation from an author (especially one who looked like me!) growing up. I’m so glad we can provide that for students of all ages around Austin.

Scribe: What is your favorite thing about WLT as a whole?

SB: The community! I’ve met so many incredible people through WLT. And especially in recent times, I’ve been reminded again & again why it’s so important to do what we do. Our members, and the amazing folks we get to work with, make the WLT what it is.

Thank you, Sam, and thank you for all the work you do for WLT! 

Meet the Members: Debbie Dunn

I have learned a lot about plotting and storyboarding over the years [from WLT].

— Debbie Dunn

A member of the Writers’ League since 2010 (and former board member!), Debbie lives in Austin, TX.

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

Debbie Dunn: Children’s Literature and Young Adult

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

DD:  I would love to have a mimosa with Donna Tartt and ask about her process. She sometimes takes ten years to write a book and I would love to know if she is a plotter and how often she revises a plot if she has one in mind. Her sentences are beautiful, often quite long and packed with information, so I would also like a short punctuation lesson from her because no one wields the comma, colon, and semi-colon quite like Donna Tartt. (Was that a run-on sentence?)

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

DD: Ummm, I know who I would not be able to be with: Stephen King.

Seriously, I think Tiffany McDaniel (author of Betty) because if she can speak anywhere near as lyrically as she writes, I would never be bored or stressed.

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

DD: I have learned a lot about plotting and storyboarding over the years.

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

DD: I hope to continue writing children’s STEM picture books and one day brave the novel —either YA or adult – that I started writing in an MFA program.

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? 

DD: The Insomniacs written by Marit Weisenberg…it is set in Austin, TX.

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

Not really self-promotion, just a weird fact… my husband and I, along with our daughter, Sydney, lived in Oslo Norway in the late 90’s. Our other daughter, Abbie, who was not born yet, is still mad that we “left her behind” for that journey.

Thank you, Debbie!

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!

Meet the WLT Staff: Becka Oliver

“The work I do at the WLT and the community that we have here in Texas and beyond has helped me stay sane during these challenging months.”

— Becka Oliver

Executive Director of the Writers’ League since September 2013, Becka has over sixteen years of experience working in book publishing.  

Scribe: Tell us about yourself!

Becka Oliver: I’m an Austin-ite by way of New York – where I worked in publishing for many years, including as a literary agent for the last several – and Florida – where I was born and raised and in twenty-something years never encountered a “Florida Man.” At least not that I recall. What I’m trying to say is, Florida is not all that bad.

Scribe: What’s one book that you couldn’t put down?

BO: My favorite book is Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison. My favorite author is Toni Morrison. My favorite human – present company excluded – is probably Toni Morrison.

Scribe: What do you enjoy in your free time? 

BO: What is “free time?”

Scribe: What is your favorite programming WLT does?

BO: Of course, I love all of the programming we do, but Texas Writes – and the chance it gives me to visit small communities across the state – is probably my favorite.

Scribe: What is your favorite thing about WLT as a whole?

BO: Hands down, the great staff I get to work with every day; the dedicated board members who care so much about our mission; and our lovely and supportive and amazing members who make everything we do worth it.

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

BO: I have 32,000 words (but who’s counting?) of a novel completed and I am committed (committed!) to finishing a first draft by my birthday. (For anyone who wants to send a card or flowers or cake, that’s November 27).

2020 has been a nutty, strange, scary, and unexpected year. I can honestly say that the work I do at the WLT and the community that we have here in Texas and beyond has helped me stay sane during these challenging months. It’s helped me stay connected and engaged and inspired. I am so grateful that I get to do this job.

Thank you, Becka, and thank you for all the work you do for WLT! 

Meet the Members: Allyson Neal

“Writing is truly my passion and I’ll be doing this for a long time.”

— Allyson Neal

A member of the Writers’ League since July 2020, Allyson lives in Sugar Land, TX.

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

Allyson Neal: I mostly write children’s literature and I’ve also written two non-fiction history books about the community where I grew up in New Orleans. I was inspired to become a writer after reading Toni Morrison, Alice Walker, Nikki Giovanni, and Judy Blume in my youth. They’re all great storytellers and I longed to join them in telling stories that would entertain, inform, and inspire.

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

AN: Right now, I’d like to have drinks with Jason Reynolds or Kwame Alexander. They’re both very accomplished children’s book and young adult book authors. I would ask them about what inspires them and how they were able to successfully transition from independent publishing into traditional publishing, which is something that I long to do as well.

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

AN: If there could only be one book, it would definitely be the Bible. The Bible, to me, is more than literature. It contains everything that I need to nourish my Spirit and it has great stories of God’s partnership with mankind that move beyond inspiration and into fueling the greatness of our capabilities to love, forgive, and strive toward a higher calling of being human. So, I would need the Bible to keep me sane and to fuel my hope that I would be rescued and not die on the island.

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

AN: I hope that my writing will take me around the world to share my stories in multiple languages and with children of diverse cultures. I also hope that it allows me to interact with children and to read portions of my books to them. They are the best critics and when they love a book, they are its best cheerleaders.

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? 

AN: In Search of the Blues: A Journey to the Soul of Black Texas by Bill Minutaglio is a book that I would recommend. Black people are now faced with even more disparities with regard to our race and differences. Sharing our stories, our pain, trials, and triumphs is a great way to tear down the walls that separate us from others.

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

AN: I love writing children’s stories! For the past five years, I’ve been collaborating with my daughter in writing the books that I’ve published independently. And, last year, we completed our first chapter book. I had an opportunity to read it to her fourth grade classmates at their school’s career fair and it was so much fun! I read a little bit of the first chapter which included a cliff hanger and the kids were hooked! To experience the joys and pain of the readers was amazing. I also received a lot of great feedback from the kids. Writing is truly my passion and I’ll be doing this for a long time. —

Thank you, Allyson!

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!

Meet the Members: Rachel Barchus

I will continue to write as I breathe.

— Rachel Barchus

A member of the Writers’ League since May 2020, Rachel lives in San Antonio, TX.

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

Rachel Barchus: Personal Essay/Creative Non-Fiction.

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

RB:  I’d have a whiskey with my late grandmother, an aspiring writer who never was published, and ask her, “Why did you give me that blank journal for my 10th birthday?”

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

RB: An instructional manual on how to escape a deserted island. Failing that, The Complete Sherlock Holmes.

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

RB: Creatively, I’ve gained a sense of community by participating in the UnConference and One Page Salon. Practically, I’ve learned skills such as creating pitches/drafting query letters/finding an agent by attending webinars and office hours.

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

RB: I’d like to introduce my personal essays to more readers via my WordPress site. I’ve recently compiled “the best of” into a memoir-in-essay called FIGHT…like a girl. The next leap would be to secure a literary agent and get it published. Regardless, I will continue to write as I breathe.

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? 

RB: El Arroyo’s Mini Book of Signs Vol. One.

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

RB: Here’s the pitch for my WordPress site, “Literary Facts:” As a personal essayist, I try to elevate life experiences—comfortable and un—to the literary level. Like a word choreographer, I aim to make facts dance. https://wordpress.com/view/literaryfacts.wordpress.com.     

Here’s the pitch for my memoir, FIGHT…like a girl: It’s Sandra Cisneros meets Anne Lamott meets David Sedaris. In the style of Saeed Jones, my memoir-in-essay is a series of vignettes that capture my fight to find home—at the whim of a gypsy mother, at the hands of a raging father, in the forsaking arms of a lifelong husband. This journey spans five decades, with Texas as the epicenter that ripples to other parts of the country and beyond.

Thank you, Rachel!

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

“I used to be such a closet word-lover. Then, I took a fiction class at Austin Community College and realized, there a lot of people like me here. A whole world devoted to crafting stories slowly revealed itself to me.”

-Sol Wooten

Community membership with WLT 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. Sol Wooten is a student of the program, so Department Chair Charlotte Gullick invited her to share her thoughts on what being a writer means to her.

Sol: Imposterism is real. When I was invited to write this post, it instantly raised its horned head. Was I even qualified to talk about being “a writer” in Austin? My resume said, “Nope. Maybe after that MFA you’ve been going on about. And a published collection. And when writing gives you a livable wage.” But I decided to hush my snarky inner-resume. I write all the time. I am a writer. So, here’s my personal list of what that involves:

  1. Getting to know your local writing community. I used to be such a closet word-lover. Then, I took a fiction class at Austin Community College and realized, there are a lot of people like me here. A whole world devoted to crafting stories slowly revealed itself to me. I began sharing work at the monthly Literary Coffeehouses at Malvern Books and attending the Third Thursday panels that WLT puts on at BookPeople. Through the help of the Creative Writing Department at ACC, I attended the Texas Writes in ATX event and learned firsthand from influential writers. I’ve also had the great pleasure of interning with American Short Fiction and discovering what goes into creating a quality literary journal. You should be warned: With this level of involvement comes constantly adding to a never-ending list of things to read according to respected professors, literary heroes, peers, writing blogs, and library shelf browsing…
  2. Establishing a long-term relationship with coffee shops. Ritual has become increasingly important for my writing and work. On the toughest days when I want nothing more than to hit “STOP” on my morning alarm, having an established routine (wake up at 7am, get out of the house and away from the bed, insert coffee with coffee shop vibes, begin writing) has made all the difference in my productivity. An added benefit is the dialogue and strange human quirks I gather, many of which often find their way into poems and stories.
  3. Rejection letters. The writer who has never experienced rejection is missing out. There’s something about the tenacity it takes to receive letter after letter of “your story/poem/essay just wasn’t the right fit for us” that helps affirm your identity as a writer. At some point, you become mostly immune to the self-doubt that ensues each time you receive one of these rejections and learn to celebrate the not-so-flat-out-rejections that say something about the quality of your work and how you made it to a certain journal’s short list of what-might-have-been.
  4. Writing, writing, and more writing. One of the most challenging parts of writing is also one of the most necessary: consistency. Unlike some of my writer friends who appear to have the self-control of Olympic gold medalists, I often need external structures to move me to grow and produce. My hack has been to commit to learning and practicing by taking at least one online or in-person creative writing class at ACC each semester. Now, previous professors and fellow students have become irreplaceable mentors and trusted feedback-gifters.

The result of these confessions of a wannabe writer? My writing is sharper, I’m taking more risks, and my desire to continue through the writer’s labyrinth—riddled with sacrificial submissions and sphynx-like identity questions—is more resilient. That said, becoming a writer is not all monsters and riddles. I think the (non-monetary) payoff is definitely blog-worthy. Writers get to develop greater insight into the human experience, play with language in all of its simple complexity, and create characters and made-up worlds that matter, or share a particular way of understanding this world. Not to mention the unrivaled cocktail of good endorphins that are released when you extend the boundaries of language to capture something beyond what you were previously capable of—the shining product of all your yesterdays spent wrestling with this wily craft.”

Thanks, Sol and Charlotte!

For more information about spring 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.

ArmadilloCon 41 (August 2nd-4th)

“The Workshop is a great place to learn about the craft and to meet other writers. The convention is tons of fun, and the writers who attend the workshop find that they have a built-in cohort throughout the weekend. Writing is a long game, and that’s why it’s important to find your community.”

– Rebecca Schwarz

 

Coming this summer is Austin’s great science fiction and fantasy writing conference, ArmadilloCon! The con is celebrating its 41st anniversary after years spent supporting and engaging with up-and-coming speculative fiction writers. ArmadilloCon features a one-day writing workshop with professional writer guests like Rebecca Roanhorse and Dan Tolliver who critique and edit the attendees’ works. The deadline to submit manuscripts before registering for the conference is June 14, and this year’s con writing workshop falls on Friday, August 2nd, the first day of the 3-day conference. We spoke with this year’s ArmadilloCon writing workshop director, Rebecca Schwarz, and are happy to share the conversation here.

An Interview with Rebecca Schwarz

Scribe: What inspired your decision to direct the ArmadilloCon Workshop?

Rebecca Schwarz: I came up as a writer through the workshop. I attended as a student for three of four years. After I began publishing short stories, I was asked to teach and did that for a few years. Stina Leicht and Marshal Ryan Maresca had been running it during that time. When it was time to pass the torch, Stina asked me if I would like to step up. Since the workshop was such a big part of my development as a writer, I was honored to be entrusted with it.

Scribe: Who is the audience that you would most like to attract?

RS: The workshop is geared for beginning to intermediate writers who are interested in writing speculative fiction, which generally encompasses science fiction, fantasy, and horror. Workshop participants can submit up to 5,000 words of either a short story or the first chapter of a novel. For the purposes of the workshop, our definition is broad, anything with a speculative element is welcome.

The morning has panels on craft, some writing exercises and collaborative activities. In the afternoon students break out into small group critique sessions. Each critique group is led by two professional writers. This workshop is a great place to not only work on craft, it is also a great place to meet and make connections with fellow writers.

Scribe: Which part of the conference has been the most interesting or exciting for you in past years?

RS: This is the third year that we have provided a Sponsored Seat program for writers of color. (The workshop page has more information about the sponsored seats and a link to the application form.) Diversity is vital to speculative fiction–a genre centered on exploration and encountering the Other. Over the past three years, the sponsored seat program has grown as well as the general attendance. It has been wonderful to see all of the different voices and visions from writers of all kinds gathered together at the workshop.

Scribe: In what ways has the science fiction and fantasy writing community grown through this workshop?

RS: This will be the workshop’s 21st year (and the convention’s 41st!) and having a long-running workshop focused on science fiction and fantasy writing has served as in incubator in central Texas for the genre writing community. You can check out the faculty on the Workshop’s page for just a taste of some of our amazing local and regional Texas writers. We’ve kept the cost of the workshop low, so writers from all walks of life can have a workshop experience. Those who enjoy and benefit from this sort of workshop can come back year after year. This is just my third year and one of my favorite things is seeing repeat students improve–stretch their wings in their writing, and eventually start getting published themselves!

Also, because we maintain low teacher/student ratio in the critique break-out groups, we assemble a faculty of between 12 to 24 teachers each year. This year both the Guest of Honor, Rebecca Roanhorse, and the Toastmaster, Marshal Ryan Maresca will be teaching along with the rest of our amazing faculty. The faculty generally participate in the convention and the entire weekend is a time to commiserate about writing, share industry information, and bond.

Scribe: As a writer yourself, what is your best advice to aspiring writers?

RS: Keep writing, keep trying to improve, and keep it fun. Writing is a long game. There are a lot of skills in play and it can take a long time to develop and hone them.

Scribe: What are the most significant takeaways from ArmadilloCon?

RS: The Workshop is a great place to learn about the craft and to meet other writers. Honestly, critique groups are not productive for every writer and this one-day low-cost workshop is an excellent way to find out a bit more about what kind of writer you are. The convention is tons of fun, and the writers who attend the workshop find that they have a built-in cohort throughout the weekend. Like I said, writing is a long game, and that’s why it’s important to find your tribe. Personally, the workshop and the convention are a time where I can visit with old friends and make new connections within the community. It fuels my writing for the rest of the year.

Thanks, Rebecca!

 

You can find more details about timing, events, and pricing of the ArmadilloCon workshop here.

To submit your unpublished work for the conference, go here.