Awards from Your Besties #WINNING (Or: I Can Haz Award)

You know those days/weeks/months where you need a little pick-me-up?  Well, I got one the other day when my Twitter soulmate, up-and-coming YA author—yes, I said author—she just landed Andrea Hurst agent Vickie Motter (congrats again!)—Cambria Dillon bestowed this “Stylish Blogger Award” upon me.

Here ’tis:

Aw shucks, C! 🙂  Thanks so much!!

Here's Cambria & me at RWA '10. FUN!

Part of the deal is that I have to list seven things about myself—and follow these rules:

1: Thank and link back to the person who awarded you this award. (check!)

2: Share seven things about yourself. (getting there!!)3: Award ten recently discovered great bloggers (*thinking*)
4: Contact these bloggers and tell them about the award. (I always feel lame telling people this . . . so I probably won’t.  Sorry!)

SEVEN THINGS—UM, YEAH, THIS IS HARDER THAN IT LOOKS

  • When I was in high school and in college, I wanted to be a soap opera actress.  On General Hospital, to be exact.  Hence the name of this blog and hence part of the plot of my first manuscript (that may or may not see the light of day—it’s currently in a drawer—well, not an *actual* drawer.  It’s in a folder on my computer.)
  • My favorite number is 8.  Always has been. No idea why.
  • I have a problem: I think I am addicted to the color purple.  I don’t mean the book—although that’s not too shabby.  I mean as in I can name five things in my immediate line of vision that are purple.  (Way more than than if you count the purple pens in my pen cup!)  And that’s just sitting at my desk.
  • I *definitely* am addicted to caffeine.  Because all the writer friends I know—or people who think they drink a lot of coffee—always look at me like I’m crazy.  I mean, two cups of coffee a day and you think you’re addicted?  Honey, please. But I’m trying to cut back a little because I feel like it’s been giving me chest pains lately.
  • See that “I Can Haz Award” thing in the title?  I know I’m a YA author and Internet-savvy and whatever, but . . . I really hate that.  And “Internets.” And I know a lot of my bloggy friends talk this way, so I’m really sorry—but it’s just one of those things that makes me want to rip my eyes out.  Or yours. 🙂
  • I write YA and I’m not ashamed. And, if you’re even reading this far down into the list, that means you probably already know that about me.  But I’m just saying.  I have felt lately like I have to defend myself—and my career choice—to a lot of people.  Even if I’ve only been defending it to them in my head.  And maybe it’s just my own insecurities getting the best of me (probably).  But sometimes I feel like I have to apologize for what I do—or hide it—or downplay it (I do A LOT of this)—and I’m kind of . . . tired of feeling that way.
  • I have tiger’s blood in my veins.  OK—that one’s not true.  But, as I said, this IS harder than it seems.

I’d like to pass this award on to the following fantastic bloggers:

Check ’em out!  These are some of my favorite writing peeps, and they might become yours, too! 🙂

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Pointers from the Pros: Author David Rocklin Talks Visibility & Etiquette

Pointers from the Pros” gives tips from authors and publishing industry professionals on everything from craft to querying to their experiences on the road to publication.  This post is by guest columnist and Write-Brainiac J.M. Lacey.

The August 2010 Scribblers’ Retreat Writers’ Conference in St. Simons Island, Ga., featured a stellar set of professional speakers.

The August 2010 Scribblers’ Retreat Writers’ Conference on St. Simons Island, Ga., featured a stellar set of professional speakers. Author David Rocklin spoke on Friday of the retreat.

His first novel, The Luminist, already in print in Italy (Neri Pozza) and Israel (Kinneret), will make its U.S. debut in the fall of 2011 (Hawthorne).

Rocklin grew up in Chicago and graduated from Indiana University with a BA in Literature. After attending law school, he pursued a career as an in-house attorney and continues to serve as a mediator. He currently lives in California with his wife and children.

Here are some key points from his program on “Visibility at All Cost”:

  • It is difficult to see our own writing [for what it is] until someone else sees it. When two, three or four people start pointing out the same thing in your writing, you have to seriously look at what they are telling you.
  • With the many avenues open to publish our work and build platform—such as Twitter, blogs, print-on-demand—as the number of writers rise, so does cynicism.
  • The abundance of publishing outlets give rise to self-destructive traits.  “We have the tendency to say the first draft is good,” he says. “[But] writing is rewriting. The first draft is nothing.” He cautions against putting our work “out there” when it’s not ready to be seen and it is not at the level it needs to be. If the work is not ready, the writer ruins it for the next debut author. The goal should not be speed and quantity. The goal should be about quality; finding that emotional capture.
  • When querying agents, target specific representatives for your work. Let the agent know why you chose him/her. The agents want to know you’ve done your homework. Check the Web site Preditors and Editors.
  • You need a sense of humor. When you put your writing into the world, it’s no longer your work. Pick your battles. Working with publishers, editors and agents is a fantastic learning process.
  • Read your work out loud. That is how you catch mistakes.
  • Read all the time. If you don’t read, you’re not writing.
  • Don’t make writing for a living the chase. Your voice will get lost. Live your life and protect the thing you need to do: write.
  • Our first action is we write because we have to. The choice is to write to make others see our work.
  • Never trash yourself as a writer. Others will, so don’t do it to yourself.

J.M. Lacey is a freelance writer and marketing and pr consultant. She is working on a novel to be visible to the world. Visit her Web site and blog.


Pointers from the Pros: Author Jonathan Rabb on “Place as Character”

Pointers from the Pros” gives tips from authors and publishing industry professionals on everything from craft to querying to their experiences on the road to publication.  This post is by guest columnist and Write-Brainiac J.M. Lacey.

The August 2010 Scribblers’ Retreat Writers’ Conference in St. Simons Island, Ga., featured a stellar set of professional speakers.

Author Jonathan Rabb spoke on the Friday of the retreat.

Rabb is the author of the critically acclaimed historical novels Rosa and Shadow and Light, the first two books in a trilogy set in Europe between the wars. The final installment, The Second Son, will be published by Farrar Straus & Giroux early in 2011.

Prior to the trilogy, the Yale and Columbia graduate wrote The Overseer and The Book of Q and contributed essays and reviews to Opera News and the collection I Wish I’d Been There (Doubleday). He won the international Dashiell Hammett prize at the Spanish Semana Negra Festival in 2006 for Rosa, and he teaches creative writing at both NYU and SCAD.

Rabb

Here are some key points from Jonathan’s program on “Place as Character in Historical Fiction”:

On Research—

  • In historical fiction, you have to feel you “own” what you are writing. The author must have strict authority over that world. You only have about 20 pages to capture the reader’s certainty and confidence in your knowledge. Creating this kind of authority requires a lot of research.
  • Don’t trust the Internet for your research. Reach out to academics. Read their books and ask for their help.
  • Read novels written during the time period your novel is set in (if possible). Find material written in the voice of that time.
  • Once you’ve done the research, you must let it go. You are telling a story, and the story has to have its own life.
  • In historical fiction, everyone knows the end. The writers and readers share an intimacy by knowing more than the characters.

Place as Character—

  • Make Place a character. The only way characters can be compelling is if the space surrounding them is a character. Space defines the relationship with a character.
  • Inject something of the characters in the place. Have tension and conflict exist between the person and the space.
  • While we’re careful not to write a character doing something out of character, the same rule works for place. Don’t write something out of character for the place. Don’t invent a left turn for a real street if, in reality, you can’t make that left turn.

 

J.M. Lacey is a freelance writer and marketing and PR consultant. She is working on a place-as-character-driven novel. Visit her Web site and blog.

Pointers from the Pros: Author Vincent Coppola on Pitching Nonfiction Projects

Pointers from the Pros” gives tips from authors and publishing industry professionals on everything from craft to querying to their experiences on the road to publication.  This post is by guest columnist and WB member J.M. Lacey.

The August 2010 Scribblers’ Retreat Writers’ Conference in St. Simons Island, Ga., featured a stellar set of professional speakers.

The award-winning Vincent Coppola spoke on Friday of the retreat.

Coppola’s journalistic career spans more than 25 years—ten of which he spent at Newsweek, where he covered the early AIDS epidemic, the destruction of the Space Shuttle Challenger and the Atlanta child murders. As well, he has written feature stories for magazines including Tina Brown’s Talk, Esquire, Rolling Stone, Men’s Journal, Worth, Redbook and Atlanta.

In addition, the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism grad has written three nonfiction books: The Sicilian Judge: Anthony Alaimo, an American Hero; Quest: A Search for a Soul for Modernkind; and Uneasy Warriors: Coming Back Home: The Perilous Journey of the Green Berets.

Here are some key points from Coppola’s program on “Pitching Nonfiction Ideas to Agents/Editors and Crafting Book Proposals”:

In General—

  • Look for an idea no one has had before.
  • Give people a voice.
  • Writing is more inclusive than feeding our own egos and souls. We can do good and serve a larger cause.
  • Think about what makes you unique to write a story—your background, where you grew up, etc.

“I was a working-class kid among the Ivy League elite.”

—Coppola (He was one of three out of his graduating class hired by Newsweek.)

On Book Proposals—

  • A bad idea is worse than none.
  • Why is this idea unique? Argue and explain why the concept is special. If your viewpoint is not original, you have to convince someone why it’s going to be a bestseller like the similar book(s) that is (are) out there.
  • A nonfiction book proposal typically runs 35 pages. The proposal shows the publisher/agent you are a good writer, that you’ve done your research, and that you have a good grasp of the story.
  • Sections:
    • 1) Seduction.
      • Why this person, event, movement.
      • Why this is a story.
    • 2) Audience.
      • Who is the audience? There has to be an identifiable readership.
    • 3) Detailed outline.
      • Chapter by chapter. This is your selling proposition. If the proposal is accepted, the book is ready with the chapter synopses.
  • Submit a real sample chapter. This is where you really seduce the publisher/agent.

On Agents—

  • Agents are flooded with book proposals. But there are hungry agents—young agents who will look at a manuscript.
  • There is always room for a good story. If you have a story, can tell a story, you will be successful.

J.M. Lacey is a freelance writer and marketing and PR consultant. She is working on a novel that gives voice to two unique subjects. Visit her Web site and blog.

Pointers from the Pros: Anna DeStefano on the Character-Driven Story

Pointers from the Pros” gives tips from authors and publishing industry professionals on everything from craft to querying to their experiences on the road to publication.  This post is by guest columnist and SWO member J.M. Lacey.

I attended the August 2010 Scribblers’ Retreat Writers’ Conference in St. Simons Island, Ga., which featured a stellar set of professional speakers.

Anna DeStefano, a nationally bestselling and multiple award-winning author of classic romance for Harlequin and Silhouette and contemporary paranormal romantic suspense for Dorchester Publishing, spoke on Saturday.

Here are some key points from her program on “The Character-Driven Story”:

  • Character comes first, then the plot. Why? Readers have to connect with your characters through emotion. True storytellers will make the reader care about the character rather than the situations the character finds him/herself in.
  • Agents and publishers need to connect emotionally with your story. If they can’t connect with your characters—ergo your story—they will pass on your manuscript.

  • Really understand your character in the planning process. Story and character are the same thing. Every time an event changes in your story, the character has to change. Create experiences through your character for the reader instead of telling the reader what the character is actually doing.
  • In the planning stages, start with your Inciting Incident. This happens early, where the character is drawn into and committed to the story—whether it’s a problem, obstacle or tragedy.
  • Next, map out your Black Moment. For example, is the character still struggling with the same thing at the end? This is the emotional dynamic, the lesson.
  • Finally, create the backstory that will take your plot to a new level. Developing the character’s backstory and past will help you move forward in the creation process, but this doesn’t mean to reveal the character’s past to your reader. This will come out in your character’s experiences (see point three). Get the character from the inciting incident to the black moment.

  • Put some thought into why the characters in your story are doing what they are doing, before they do it. Understand your characters as well as, if not better than, your plot.
  • Figure out the emotional conflict from the beginning of the story. At mid-point, throw in more obstacles. At the end, the character needs to make a decision.

  • Make every scene count. In each scene, your character should have a motive, goal and conflict. Otherwise, you are wasting space. The conflict should escalate. Create tension to drive the reader to know more about the conflict.

DeStefano concluded by prompting the audience to think about the difficulty in changing our plot if a publisher asked us to do so. If we have developed strong characters that we know well, changing plot shouldn’t be an enormous challenge.

OVERALL TAKEAWAY

Character is plot, and plot is character.

J.M. Lacey is a freelance writer and marketing and PR consultant. She is working on a character-driven novel. Visit her Web site and blog.


Conference Corner: Southeastern Writers Association

Interested in writing?  Want to come see me?  I’ve got just to conference for you: the Southeastern Writers Association conference.

THE 4-1-1

The 35th annual Southeastern Writers Association conference will be held June 20-24 in scenic St. Simons Island, Ga.

The full conference fee is $395, and it includes:

  • Up to three manuscript evaluations
  • One-on-one critiques with instructors
  • Entry into up to 15 contests (in fiction, poetry, nonfiction, inspiration, humor, romance, juvenile writing—children’s through young adult—science fiction and fantasy)—cash prizes for winners!
  • Access to all workshops, evening speeches, and open mic night
  • A one-year membership to SWA

WHY YOU NEED TO REGISTER NOW

While registration is open until the conference takes place, you’ve got just one more week to take advantage of the manuscript evaluations and contest entries—the deadline is April 1.

WHY SWA?

Held at the beautiful Epworth by the Sea in St. Simons Island, Ga., SWA’s annual conference is the perfect place to soak up some rays along with some writing knowledge from seasoned professionals.

As well, at $395 for a four-day conference, SWA is a steal.  Check around; most other conferences and writers’ retreats charge extra for manuscript critiques and contests.

ADDED BONUS

Did I mention I will be teaching a workshop on journalistic writing?  Come heckle me!**  To learn more about my workshop, click here.

Go easy on me!

I LIKE YOU AND EVERYTHING, BUT WHO ELSE WILL BE THERE?

This year’s presenters include:

To learn more about these presenters, click here or click on the presenters’ names above to see my interview series featuring several of them.

For more information about the Southeastern Writers Association conference, please see their registration page as well as my recent post.

Again, you must be registered by April 1 in order to gain full access to all this conference has to offer, so reserve your spot today!

**Actually, while I would love to see you, I’d rather you didn’t heckle me!

SWA Presenter Spotlight: J.M. Lacey

As I announced in December, I will be teaching a workshop on journalistic writing at the 35th annual Southeastern Writers Association conference in June 2010.

To gear up for that, I am featuring some interviews and spotlights with this year’s presenters.  For more SWA Presenter Spotlights, click the appropriately-named category in the right-hand sidebar.

Next up is professional freelancer J.M. Lacey.


ABOUT THE PRESENTER

Professional freelancer and former news reporter J.M. Lacey has over 14 years of experience working for both corporate and non-profit organizations, which includes serving as past Marketing and Public Relations Director for the Bangor Symphony for over four years.

The classically-trained (in music and dance) former actress writes literary and women’s fiction, poetry and articles focusing on education and music, women’s issues, business, human interest, social development, the arts, health, fashion and Victorian homes and lifestyle.

For more about Lacey, please visit her Web site.

THE INTERVIEW

RS:  How did you get into writing?

JML: I can’t say for sure if I discovered writing or if writing discovered me. I started writing at age six and haven’t stopped since.

After several poems, short stories and a few novels over the years, I’m still writing. I expanded into the commercial writing field a year-and-a-half ago, which commands talent for superb writing and creativity. I’ve been very successful at this latest endeavor.

RS: What keeps you writing?

JML: Hunger. But not for food, even though I love food. I can’t stop writing.

As every writer understands, writing is like breathing. If I don’t write, I cannot live. I’ve had gaps in my life where I wasn’t writing so much, and I felt like I was always gasping for air.

Once I realized this, I had no choice. I have so many ideas, characters and plots that burn through my brain that I have to get them out in the open on paper so my head doesn’t explode.

I know that probably sounds funny, but I’m inspired daily. There is so much inspiration in people—who they are, what they do, what they talk about—and so much inspiration in things I see in the world around me, that it practically begs to be written in some form. I can quickly and easily form someone’s entire life story as I see it simply by the way he smiled.

A couple of other things [that keep me writing] are encouragement and disappointment.

I am encouraged when I’ve written something that others see in print and they give me a thumbs up. But I’m also encouraged by disappointment. Yes, I might argue with a rejection letter or an e-mail from someone who clearly doesn’t see a great writer when she’s in front of him!

No, in all seriousness, rejection and disappointment pushes me to be better than I am. I am always exerting myself to be the best I can be and, then, to exceed that.

I’m not perfect, but I strive for it and learn from my mistakes along the way. I’ve become a better writer for it.

RS: What do you do when you’re not writing?

JML: Feed the cat. Laundry. Feed the cat again. Think. Study people for ideas. Think some more. And then I go out with my girlfriends and go shopping, eat food, catch up on all the latest newsy stuff. I like old movies and might watch one or two on a rainy Saturday afternoon. And naturally, I read a lot.

I attend the symphony frequently and take two of my nephews (ages 10 and 11) with me, since they still like the symphony. I play the piano and sing a bit of Italian opera. I have another nephew that’s too young for the symphony, but he’s intrigued by the piano, so we’re working on teaching him that for now.

J.M. Lacey

RS: What draws you to literary fiction?

JML: Just about everything I read as a teenager was among the great classics in literature. Jane Austen, the Brontë sisters, Henry James, Louisa May Alcott and Thomas Hardy, to name a few. Then there’s the poetry of Emily Dickenson, Shakespeare and my favorite, Tennyson.

This is what I absorbed in my brain growing up.  Sure, I read some teen stuff like Nancy Drew, but it was the classics that stuck with me. I have always been drawn to in-depth thinking.

I enjoy the drama of the lives in literary novels. The stories are pure and told well. I’ve always felt that a good story should involve the reader, not move so fast and give away so much that the reader feels he went on an overpriced ride at the fair only to throw up at the end.

The reader needs time to absorb the story, fall in love with (or distrust) the characters and go on this mindful journey with the characters. Literary fiction allows for deeper thought, like meditation. And when one turns the last page in such fiction and reads the last few words, it should make you sad to leave that world behind, and yet it will remain with you.

Love the story or hate it, great literary fiction stays with you.

RS: What are you currently working on?

JML: I’m working on the revisions for my current novel that I will seek representation for within the next few months, pending any dangling modifiers and misplaced commas. All I’ll say about the story: A LOT of music adorns the pages.

I have also recently completed some short stories and entered contests, but I plan to pitch other stories to literary magazines for publication. Some nonfiction articles have been published in a local magazine, and I’m pitching national magazines with other ideas as well.

RS: What’s one genre or type of writing in which you’d like to dabble but haven’t yet—and why?

JML: Science fiction. Mostly because such a genre would shock everyone that knows my writing.

But seriously, I am, I admit, a Star Trek and Star Wars fan, and I also love The Twilight Zone. I know nothing about writing science fiction, but I’m not afraid of risks, so it might be a risk I decide to take some day. Stay tuned!

RS: What book(s) currently adorn your nightstand?

JML: What book doesn’t? I read so much now I can’t keep up. I just finished Marrying Mozart by Stephanie Cowell, and that was a very interesting fictional take on Mozart’s life just before he married. It really read like an opera to me.

Right now I’m reading Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford. I’m impressed with his knowledge of the Chinese and Japanese cultures, and his background has a lot to do with this. I enjoy how the main character looks back to his childhood while he searches for what he lost and revisits his moral dilemmas he faced at that time. This is a book that draws me in to the story and the characters. I’ve felt anger, laughed and sighed as I continue to read through this. I have a feeling that when I get to the end, the story will stay with me.

RS: Name an author that helped shape who you are as a writer and how he or she had that effect on you.

JML: L.M. Montgomery. She wrote all of the Anne of Green Gables books and Emily series, among others. My favorite book of hers is The Blue Castle. I was so enraptured by her books that I visited Prince Edward Island several times (the setting for most of her books). I have also read Montgomery’s published journals.

I am drawn to her struggles and determination. She wrote like she breathed. Her difficult life was artfully expressed in her novels. And she was very passionate. Not just as a novelist, but as a woman. She made a lot of sacrifices in her life and that shaped her writing.

Her first novel, the first Anne book, was published in 1908, when Montgomery was 34 (I’m a year behind her, which inspires me to push for my deadline). When I think about her struggles, her passion, her determination—in a lot of ways, I feel I’m very much like her. She lived by her motto: “never give up,” and she was a successful author. I’m determined to not give up either, and, eventually, that will pay off for me.

No wonder Montgomery set most of her novels here!

RS:  Can you give us a quick teaser about the course you’ll be teaching at Southeastern Writers Association?

JML: I’m teaching one class called: “Writing for Businesses.”

Want to get paid a lot for a small amount of your time? Sounds like one of those “sounds too good to be true” ads, doesn’t it? But it isn’t.

Commercial writing is very lucrative and a great avenue to venture into, especially for someone who really loves to write and wants to get paid a lot of money. You learn a lot working for different companies with a variety of needs, so your knowledge expands.

Commercial writing is different from, say, magazine writing, because the wait isn’t as long, the competition is not as tight and the pay is much higher. You can negotiate with the corporate world, unlike the magazine world. You can establish longer-term relationships with businesses, too, assuring frequent paychecks.

In this course, we’ll touch on the basics—how to get started, how to market yourself, what to write and for whom, what to charge and ethics. If we have time, I’ll talk about the business of business writing, such as negotiations, contracts and copyright.

This course is designed for ones who are currently writing for businesses or have played with the idea, but haven’t yet taken the leap. The course is also for ones who want to keep an open mind about other writing possibilities. Even if it’s not THE path a writer wishes to take, at least he/she will walk away with some new ideas.

THE PLUG

For more information about the Southeastern Writers Association conference in June, please see their registration page as well as my recent post.  Don’t wait to sign up—and you must be registered by April 1 in order to participate in contests and manuscript evaluations, so reserve your spot today!


To learn more about the workshop I’m teaching, click here.