Wednesday Writing Prompt

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I feel emotions very strongly. This is something I (usually) love about myself because it helps me to live my life to the fullest. When I’m happy, I’m happy! And even when I’m sad, I like how open I am about my sadness. I don’t believe in bottling things up or shoving emotions down. I think that when we force ourselves to ignore how we feel, we cheat ourselves out of experiencing the fullness of what it means to be a person. Emotions are beautiful, even when they’re difficult.

This week, write a story or a poem driven by emotion. It can be sadness, anger, joy, nostalgia, anxiety, or any other emotion you want. But whatever the emotion is, allow it to drive your characters and your plot.

Happy writing, friends, and don’t be afraid to feel!

– Annie

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Writing Prompt

Through The Eyes of The Greats

In honor of the Frida Festival in Houston this weekend, write a short story through the eyes of an iconic artist of the past.  For the three pages write in first person, past or present, in the voice of Frida or Hemingway or Monet or Rodin or Plath or any other iconic artist.  Try to make their voice honest versus cliche.  Let their strong, and enduring spirit guide the story.

If you attend the festival, be sure to take photos and post them on the WLT facebook!

Cheers –

Amanda

Featured WLT 2013 Agents and Editors Conference Blog

An Interview with Keynote Speaker Chuck Sambuchino

 

The Writers’ League of Texas 2013 Agents and Editors Conference is only a couple months away. This year, WLT managed to nab Chuck Sambuchino, everything extraordinaire, for the Keynote Luncheon. He’s done it all folks — writing, editing, publishing, agents. He’s the go-to guy on tips for success, and I don’t think there’s a question about the business that he couldn’t answer. He’s attending a handful of conferences this spring and summer, so here is your chance to meet him right here in Austin. His presentation, How to Be a Successful Writer in Today’s Marketplace, will be held Saturday, June 22 from 12:15 to 1:30 PM in the Texas Ballroom at Hyatt Regency. Here is a short description about his presentation:

Writer’s Digest Books editor Chuck Sambuchino (Guide to Literary Agents) shares his best advice for writers of all ages and levels of expertise. In this keynote, Sambuchino will discuss how writers can create more stories and content easier than they think, be successful in a changing digital marketplace, avoid the three most common reasons that submissions get rejected, and more.

Registration for the Keynote Luncheon ends June 19th, and you must be a conference registrant to purchase a ticket. These tickets sell out quickly and may not be available during the conference due to limited seating. Don’t be left out!  I can personally vouch for the food on its’ deliciousness and convenience too.  Without further adieu, here are Chuck’s answers to my own questions below!

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First of all, describe yourself in four words.

Chuck Sambuchino: In no order: Writer, musician, husband, sleep-deprived-new-father.

You post in your blog, Guide to Literary Agents, every day. What all do you blog about, and how do you keep this constant flow of information going?

CS: The Guide to Literary Agents Blog is all about agents, submissions, query & synopsis writing, promotion and platform. It covers a fairly broad range of writing topics.

The best way I’ve learned to keep a large flow of content going is simply to let other people provide the content. (This is a fundamental principle of writer platform: “You don’t have to go it alone.”) I invite novelists to guest post on my site and new agents to receive a spotlight. This means that most of the content on my site is actually created by others. All I do is format it and make it look nice.

What do you enjoy about exploring different kinds of writing – humor, playwright, journalist. Is there a particular area you’ve always wanted to try?

CS: I guess this all comes down to the fact that I probably have ADD and am probably the most impatient person I know. That leads me to try different things to challenge & entertain myself. In terms of what I HAVEN’T done, I know that screenwriting is an area I would love to tackle. I have a manager out in LA now, though we have yet to get our first assignment or sale. Perhaps one of these days…

The interesting thing here is that we live in a time of specialization. You’re most valuable if you are “the go-to person on [topic].” That leaves a jack-of-all-trades like myself in a bad spot. But being versed in a broad spectrum of writing does have one good advantage: It makes me a better teacher, and is probably why I get invited to speak at so many conferences. I rarely get asked a question about writing that I cannot answer, and that comes simply from being a generalist.

You tweet, a lot. Why is Twitter and other social media outlets important for what your do?

CS: Social media provides an effective and easy way to reach our followers and readers. When I write a blog post, for example, Twitter is invaluable in letting lots of people know that the post is now live.

The truth is that I don’t tweet much from my personal Twitter @chucksambuchino. I just tweet perhaps 1-3 times a day. But the Writer’s Digest account @writersdigest has so many things to share and promote on any given day that it’s constantly producing tweets.

How did you write over seven hundred articles in ten years? Do your ideas just pop out of nowhere in the middle of the night?

CS: A lot of those published articles came when I was a newspaper reporter, and we had to write about 7 stories a week. Besides that, I also freelanced a lot for magazines and even wrote some articles for instructional books. It all adds up.

For anyone interested in freelancing, I can tell you this bit of good news: Once you hook up with a publication and produce 1-2 good articles for them, then they will likely keep you on as a contributor and farm articles out to you. In other words, once you get going, it’s very likely for you to write 10-20 articles for a magazine or newspaper. You won’t need to generate ideas anymore because editors will do that for you.

Which agency – writing, publishing, editing, writers’ resource – do you think is your ultimate calling?

CS: Writer. I don’t know if it’s what I do best, but it’s what I enjoy most.

How did the idea of Red Dog/Blue Dog come about, and how was it working with your wife, and puppy dog, Graham?

Photo Credit: The Official Red Dog/Blue Dog Blog

CS: I used to dislike dogs. But then a flabby poodle mix, Graham, came into my life and warmed my heart. It was my wife’s idea to “mix dogs and politics” — humorously combining two of my favorite topics. That’s how the book idea was born. The final product is a photo collection of doings doing stereotypical liberal and conservative things. It was very exciting when it came out last summer (2012) and I got to show Graham how I dedicated the book to him. (I think he fell asleep during the explanation.)

The best part about writing that book was being in touch with random people all over the country who wanted to help simply because they, like me, loved dogs. I was amazed at how people I didn’t even know spread the word about the book and helped promote it.

Has anyone ever butchered your name?

CS: A thousand times, yes.

And technically speaking, I myself butcher my name. Its true Italian pronunciation is Sahm-Boo-KEY-Noh. The letters “CH” in Italian make a “hard K” sound. There are still the hardliners in my family that pronounce it correctly and the ones like me who kind of Americanized it and pronounce it phonetically. It’s best to just not get me or any family members started on this topic, especially after some wine…

What is the most important advice you’ve received as a writer?

CS: I’ve sat here at the computer for five minutes now trying to pick the absolute BEST piece of advice, but I can’t quite choose one. So let me just offer up a random good one that I heard a while back. A screenwriter once said “If you’re writing a spec and you’re not having fun, then something’s wrong.” What he meant by this is that, as a writer, you will take on plenty of boring assignments strictly for paychecks. But there will always be that fiction you write for fun, without any guaranteed financial payoff. And when you’re writing that fiction or poetry simply for the love of it, try to have fun. Otherwise, what’s the point?

Alright, I couldn’t resist! I read that you were a cover band guitarist. Which songs have you always wanted to learn, and what are your favorites to play? Any Beatles?

CS: I can play “Let it Be” and “Eleanor Rigby” on the piano and often do. I remember speaking at your conference in 2008 and playing piano at 2 a.m. in the hotel lobby one night while people kept stumbling in after a long night.

If I had to pick my favorite songs to play, I would say “Mr. Brightside” was always a blast with the band, and that “Livin’ on a Prayer” always gets a crowd going bananas.

As far as songs I’ve always wanted to learn how to play, I’d say “Sweet Caroline” simply because everyone wants to hear that song, and perhaps “Cliffs of Dover” on guitar by Eric Johnson because it’s possibly the most beautiful instrumental rock song of all time.

What do you want writers to take away from your Keynote Luncheon?

CS: That anything is possible if you set your mind to it and work hard. If you have the passion and make the time, you can write anything. I also want to show people that there are simple things they could be doing every day to be smarter, more effective writers.

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Chuck Sambuchino is an editor and a writer. He works for Writer’s Digest Books and edits the Guide to Literary Agents as well as the 2013 Children’s Writer’s & Illustrator’s Market. His Guide to Literary Agents Blog is one of the largest blogs in publishing. He was recently included in a FORBES Top 10 list of Social Media Influencers in Book Publishing.

His first humor book, How to Survive a Garden Gnome Attack, was released in Sept. 2010 and has been featured by Reader’s Digest, the New York Times and AOL News. The film rights were recently optioned by Sony and director Robert Zemeckis (Back to the Future). His second humor book, Red Dog/Blue Dog: When Pooches Get Political, is a humorous photo collection of dogs doing stereotypical liberal and conservative things. It has been featured by Political Wire, USA Today, and the Huffington Post.

In addition, Chuck has also written two other writing-related titles: the third edition of Formatting & Submitting Your Manuscript, and Create Your Writer Platform.

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About the Blogger

Hannah Bowman

Hannah Bowman was an intern for the Writers’ League of Texas from June 2012 through December 2012. Currently, she’s featuring writing instructors and literary agents for the Writers’ League blog, Scribe. She enjoys playing piano, writing stories, playing tricks on her mother, and dancing. She will be graduating from the University of Texas at Austin in May 2013 with a Bachelor’s degree in Anthropology and English. Hannah’s hoping to build her short story collection in the coming months, and start a career in nonprofits after a couple years of service work.

Writing Prompt

A Story in Vignettes

 

I have many fiction friends who are incredible writers and incredible readers.  I keep them up on poetry, they keep me up on fiction.  A friend of mine recently demanded I read Susan Minot’s short story ‘Lust.’   It blew me away.  The form felt so effortless, but I know how skilled Minot must be to have accomplished such incredible style and prose.   I am currently writing a non fiction essay, reading Minot’s story inspired me to model it after ‘Lust.’  I have not been able to find a body for my essay and believe it may find it through the exercise of vignettes   The story inspired me in many ways and I hope it will inspire you for this weeks exercise.

First read ‘Lust’ and pay attention to the form, to the seamless shifts in story and tone.  She does all the changes without introduction or explanation.  Once you have sunk into the short story, try to write a story modeled after this form.  Pick a word of inspiration, like Demise or Infatuation, and tell as many vignettes connecting to the title as possible.  This week may not produce a work you stick with it, but it should remind you that we have to be as good (if not better) of a reader as we are a writer.

Cheers.

Amanda

Third Thursday Wrap Up

October’s Third Thursday Wrap-Up

Author’s Guide to PR and Marketing: On Your Own, But Not Alone

By Lexie Smith

Marketing your book is like life. Ultimately you’re responsible for how you live your life, but you don’t have to live it alone. Unless you want to, in which case you’ll have a quiet life and even quieter book sales.

You need other people to help market your book, but you don’t need advanced degree in glad-handing. October’s Third Thursday program provided a quick marketing primer from panelists author Ernest Cline, writer and publicist Jennifer Hill Robenalt, author and writers’ resource blog maven Cynthia Leitich Smith, and author Jo Whittemore.

Here’s a quick breakdown of ways you are on your own, yet not alone.

You’re on Your Own

The reality of the publishing industry is that you are responsible for marketing your book.  Your time, your money, and your self are investments you must make to promote your writing projects.

Time

  • Time to network online and offline with readers, potential readers, librarians, writers, event organizers, etc.
  • Time to create content for marketing and networking (social media posts, media packets, etc.)
  • Time to learn about the publishing industry

Money

  • Money for marketing education—ebooks, books, coaching, classes, conferences, etc.
  • Money for website development – At the least you need to buy your domain name (something like YourName.com ) for about $10/year. There are lots of free tools you can use for your website and marketing.  (Including blog platforms, Facebook and Twitter.) Eventually, you’ll want to spend some money on the design of your website and hosting for your site.
  • Money for a publicist or marketing team—Once you’ve done all you can do, you may want to take your marketing to the next level and hire a professional.

Your Self

  • You bring a unique energy and tone to your work. Only you can bring those same things to your marketing efforts.
  • You know your work better than anyone else, therefore, you will have ideas that other people may not.  (See the FAQ about the DeLorean Ernie used on his book tour.)
  • You are more passionate about your project than anyone else will be.
  • It takes time to develop your writing voice, it also takes time to develop your marketing style.  Experiment with different things to find out what works for you.

 

You’re Not Alone

So, you have to spend your time, money, and your self selling your book. Isn’t it enough that you wrote the thing? Not if you want people to buy your book. Thankfully, you have many resources available to help you learn about and execute marketing.  Avail yourself to opportunities in person, online, and in print.

In Person

  • Local writers groups can provide feedback on your projects and moral support. Search online for these groups. (Check the Organizations for Writers page on the WLT site.)
  • The Writers League Third Thursday programs in Austin provide loads of information from a variety of panelists and the chance to connect with other writers.
  • Classes, workshops, and conferences offer learning and networking opportunities. (Including WLT workshops, like the PR Boot Camp Jennifer Hill Robenalt taught.)
  • Join forces with other authors to help promote each other’s books. (For example, Jo Whittemore is a member of the Texas Sweethearts and Scoundrels at TexasSweethearts.com.)
  • At some point you may want to hire an agent and/or a publicist to help you. CynthiaLeitichSmith.com has some good resources to help you with that when you’re ready.

Online

  • Search for genre specific writing groups online. Members can help you with all stages of writing, including marketing.
  • Educate yourself about marketing by enrolling in an online class. Check WritersOnlineWorkshops.com from Writer’s Digest.
  • Subscribe to a few blogs that include book marketing and promotion in their topics such as Jane Friedman , Cynthia Leitich Smith  and Dana Lynn Smith.
  • Look on websites of authors you like for information about the site (who designed or built it), email them and ask what they did to help them market the book.

In Print

  • Check your local library or bookstore for books on book marketing.
  • Consider books about small business marketing.
  • Look at the books you like. Scour the books for any reference to any person or thing that helped them market the book; look in any nook and cranny you can think of in the book: acknowledgements, about the author, book jackets, preface.

The idea of marketing your book may be daunting, but our panelists showed that it can be done and it can even be enjoyable.  Stay tuned for November’s Third Thursday Wrap-Up about launching your book. (Subscribe to the WLT blog feed here and sign up for the WLT newsletter here  to get updates about upcoming events and other useful information.)

Lexie is a WLT member who enjoys connecting people with information through LexicalLight.com, BloggingForWriters.com and 64mascots.com. A University of Texas graduate, she taught middle school English and, until recently, homeschooled her children. She lives in Round Rock with her husband, five kids and two rescued Boxers.

Wednesday Writing Prompt

‘What I Want To Be When I Grow Up’

Since Writers’ League of Texas is based out of downtown Austin, we are thinking a lot about the upcoming Formula 1 Race.  Traffic, anyone?  This made me wonder, how many of our readers wanted to be race car drivers when they were little?  Or a fireman, or a veterinarian, or a circus clown?  I wanted to be a rockstar.  I am just dating one now, does that count?

This week, go back in time to your childhood hopes and aspirations.   Write out five different things you wanted to be when you ‘grew up.’  From those five things, chose 1 to live out and 1 to write about.  If one of the dreams was to be a professional tap dancer, this week take a dance lesson.  Or if one was to the President, this week volunteer at an event happening at the Capital.

Next, the second choice of five is to live it out via a short story, at a very hightened time of your career.  If the dream was to be a Marine Biologist, write about discovering a new species of coral.  Or if the dream was to be a Disney Princess at DisneyWorld, write about your first day on the job in mid July.

Have a chat with your inner child this week.  He/She is way more fun, anyway.

-Amanda

The Writing Superhero List

This American Life just reaired a 2001 segment called “Wonder Woman,” about Zora, the girl who wanted to be a real-life superhero. That started me to thinking: What would a writing superhero look like?

Starting at the tender age of 13, Zora started keeping a list of everything she needed to do to become a human superhero by 23. Among the highlights:

  • Martial arts
  • Chemistry
  • Hang Gliding
  • Helicopter and airplane piloting
  • Wilderness survival
  • Evasive driving
  • Demolitions
  • Knife throwing.

Zora lived and breathed by that list for years, and finally completed it right at 23. Then she had to figure out how to incorporate her superhero skills into a career, since there’s not exactly a job for superheroes in the real world (yet). That led Zora to the CIA, which ultimately turned her down, but she settled for the next-best thing: working as a private investigator. (You can listen to the full clip here.)

That little spark has inspired me to draft my list for becoming a writing superhero. And so what if I’ll be a few years beyond 23 when I’m done? It’s never to late to start! I’m starting my list this week. Item #1: Sit down and WRITE!

Meanwhile, I invite you, dear readers, to  join in the fun and share highlights from your own list! What would you have to do to become a writing superhero?

Maybe instead of the A Team or the X-Men, we can all be the W Team!!!

Posted by Cyndi Hughes