Writer's Life, Writing News

Question: What do you wish you could tell all first-time novelists about editing before they start writing?

Answer: I edit at all levels, but my work is mostly developmental editing. Structure, story/character development, and continuity are the focus. First-time authors often feel overwhelmed juggling these components while writing. My job is to help them navigate the process. Here are some tips:

Do Your Research – If you’re just thinking about writing a novel, spend time researching. Determine your genre’s specs and “formulas.” For example, most experts say 80,000 to 90,000 words is standard for many fiction genres. Keeping these parameters in mind will translate to less revising/editing later.

Learn to self-edit – Writing pros will tell you to just lay it all out in your first draft. That’s cool, but do try to catch yourself using repetitive phrasing, run-on sentences, and overly florid prose. You’ll become really skilled at self-editing with practice.

Create a team – Alpha and beta readers are critical to authors’ work process. Find a trustworthy group of folks who will do an initial/secondary read of your WIP. However, resist adding family members and/or your neighbour who used to teach English to your “team.” Trust me on this. 😉

Learn what editors do/what it costs – When it’s time to hire a professional editor, carefully review their websites. Look for transparency in process, fees, and work style. Most freelance editors will do a free sample edit of a few pages of your book. Ask questions!

Collaboration – I view my role as a partner in the process. My job is NOT to tell you what to write, but to make your work product the best it can be.

Freelance editor Nancy LaFever has been editing fiction and nonfiction in most genres for almost five years. A writer herself, she respects the process and appreciates the struggle. Check out her website at www.editorchick.com

Writer's Life, Writing News

Question: How can we boost our creativity?

Answer: Ah, creativity … that fickle Muse! Without getting too much into the inspiration-versus-discipline debate, I often return to (and highly recommend) Elizabeth Gilbert’s 2009 TED Talk “Your Elusive, Creative Genius.” She reminds me that, sometimes, we just need to “show up” – at our desk, at our laptop, wherever we write – so the Muse knows where to find us.

For me, gatherings like the Antioch Writers’ Workshop (disclosure: I serve as Assistant Director, but that’s not why I think it’s great!) and those offered at several local colleges are wonderful places to recharge. Mingling with “my tribe” – folks who don’t think I’m crazy when I talk about listening to the voices in my head – can do wonders for a flagging spirit and an empty creativity well. Of course those are sporadic and not always accessible, so on a more regular basis, meeting with a handful of like-minded writers in a regular writers group, even if it’s online, is a great way to keep ideas flowing.

But we writers tend to be solitary people. The introvert in me doesn’t like to get out much, so I turn to books. I can’t read fiction while I’m writing fiction (at least in the same genre), because I tend to mimic the voice of the author. Fortunately, I also love nonfiction. Whether it’s a classic like William Zinsser’s On Writing Well, Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird, or one of my favorites, Stephen King’s On Writing, I’ve found a good craft book can do as much through the guidance it offers as in the language it uses to stir creativity and give the Muse a place to light.

If I’m feeling philosophical, I love Gail Sher’s One Continuous Mistake: Four Noble Truths for Writers or Dinty W. Moore’s The Mindful Writer: Noble Truths of the Writing Life.

More recently, as I’ve hit a particularly rough patch in my writing life, I’ve found a measure of comfort in an odd little book written by Marcel Bénabou of France’s Oulipo (Ouvroir de littérature potentielle, “workshop of potential literature”), Why I Have Not Written Any of My Books. It’s a parody of sorts, but because of that quirk in me that loves Dalí and all things surreal, it resonates and inspires.

Another, more logical, book I’m finding fascinating these days is Peter Turchi’s A Muse and a Maze: Writing as Puzzle, Mystery, and Magic. I’m a puzzle fanatic, too, in addition to writing, and Turchi explains why.

But in the end, all of us must return to Gilbert’s advice: just show up. Butt in chair, hands on keyboard/pen/crayon, and if we’ve sufficiently primed the well with good words from whatever source – books, videos, puzzles, or stimulating conversation – the brain will find a way to transfer them to the page.

C.L. (Cyndi) Pauwels holds an MA in creative writing from Antioch University McGregor in Yellow Springs, Ohio. Her debut novel Forty & Out, released through Deadly Writes Publishing in September 2014, is a police procedural set in Toledo, Ohio. Her short fiction has appeared in Mock Turtle ‘zine, Over My Dead Body!, The View from Here (UK), and other journals. In 2009, she published the award-winning non-fiction Historic Warren County: An Illustrated History. Sugati Publications has selected two of her essays for their Reflections from Women anthology series, and Sinclair Community College’s literary journal Flights has published several of her pieces over the past few years. In addition to writing, Cyndi’s portfolio career includes book editing (The Enduring Legacy of Kahlil Gibran and The Essential Rihani), teaching as an adjunct at Clark State Community College and at Yavapai (AZ) College, and serving as assistant director for the Antioch Writers’ Workshop. She lives in Yellow Springs with her husband of thirty-eight years, three spoiled dogs, and six chickens. Find her online here.

Upcoming literary events

TUESDAY: Dan Rather, January 31, 2017 @ 7:00 pm – 8:00 pm. WSU Nutter Center, 3640 Colonel Glenn Hwy #430, Dayton, OH 45324. For more than 50 years, former CBS News anchor and 60 Minutes correspondent Dan Rather has been the embodiment of the intrepid broadcast journalist. From the Kennedy assassination—where he was the first to break the news that the president had been killed—to the Indian Ocean tsunami, he has covered every major story of our time with distinction and a fierce dedication to hard news. More.

THURSDAY: Kickoff for Breaking bad writing with Breaking Bad and Katrina Kittle (5-week workshop). February 2, 2017 @ 6:30 pm – 8:30 pm. Oakwood Starbucks, 2424 Far Hills Avenue, Dayton, OH 45419. One of the most critically acclaimed series ever produced, Breaking Bad unfolds like a great novel. Much about the craft of fiction can be learned from studying this five-season, ground-breaking, multi-award winning show. Each night of this five-week course, we will view and focus on an iconic scene from the show, and will use those scenes to dissect and discuss the brilliant use of dialogue, character arc, symbolism, foreshadowing, character voice, and amazing lessons in plot—how to start and finish a scene, how to end a “chapter,” and more. You are not required to have watched the series, but you will benefit more fully if you have. LOCATION: Oakwood Starbucks, 2424 Far Hills Avenue, Dayton, OH 45419. DATES: Thursdays — 2/2, 2/9, 2/16, 2/23, 3/2, 6:30-8:30 pm. Price: $165. More.

LOOKING AHEAD: LitSalon: Tim WaggonerFebruary 12, 2017 @ 4:00 pm – 7:00 pm. Home of Kate Geiselman, AWW Acting President. Tim Waggoner, author of more than 30 published novels in the fantasy, horror and sci fi genres will chat with Dayton Daily News editor Ron Rollins. Tim’s publications include his own original work as well as television series tie-ins and feature film novelizations, so he will offer insight not only into his own writing life, but into these unique areas of fiction writing. Learn more about Tim and his achievements at www.timwaggoner.com. $20.00 per individual or $35.00 per couple. More.

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Writer's Life, Writing News

Question: Does poetry matter in modern America?

Answer: “In an age where fingertips can conjure information javelined at us as quick as lightning, and it’s still too slow — the relevance of poetry’s immediacy for its condensed storytelling abilities, is a large part of the appeal that today’s reader-on-the-go finds attractive. For the poet: the ability to seize upon a current event, fashion into art and deliver back to the public while the topic is still fresh. For the reader: to be able to ingest a high-quality gourmet meal in one sitting, put their hands behind their heads and feel completely satisfied. Same is true for a painting, photograph or song — because of its brevity, one can revisit and be wonderstruck as often as one’s time allows. If Time is one of humankind’s most precious commodities, then (as the arts are concerned) one could consider poetry as one of Time’s most valuable distributor of goods. Poetry delivers. It delivers fast and hard. Therein lies its power.”

T.J.’s first book of poetry, Mid-Life Chrysler (God, I love that title) just hit shelves:

Check it out on Amazon.

Writer's Life, Writing News

Dayton poet T.J. McGuire does his writing in a walk-up attic nicknamed the Rock Room (click the image for a larger version):

It’s where he’s been crafting his upcoming chapbook Mid-life Chrysler from Alabaster Leaves Publishing. Stay tuned for an interview with T.J. when the book comes out. Thanks for sharing, T.J.!

You can also check out some of T.J.’s work here: Flights (Issue 4 2016) and Mock Turtle Zine (Issues 8-14 and audio recordings). T.J.’s poems have also appeared in Slippery Elm.

Writer's Life, Writing Events, Writing News

Q: What advice do you have for aspiring novelists?

A: “1. Start early. Life intrudes and, as it did with me, pushes your dream to the back of the line. 2. Find a mentor and/or a writing group. Once you connect with good feedback and direction, your writing grows exponentially. 3. Submit, submit, submit. It’s the only way to get published. 4. Relish the process, including the rejections, which help you grow. 5. Reward yourself for every step along the path. Wine and chocolate work for me! 6. Read widely and often, especially the work of authors whose work is accomplished. Enough said.”

J. E. Irvin is the author of The Dark End of the Rainbow, and she’s celebrating the launch of her new mystery/thriller The Rules of the Game on Friday, January 13 at 7 p.m. at Montage Cafe in Greenville.

Writing News

My literary calendar on DaytonLit.com is empty through the end of the year, but January’s already filling up. Here are three of the coolest events coming next month:

1) Point of View Mini-Workshop with Rebecca Morean. Sunday, Jan. 15, 2 p.m.
Hosted by the Antioch Writers’ Workshop, this free event will teach you tips and best practices for using Point of View to enhance your stories, novels, essays, memoirs and other works… and connect with your readers. Led by novelist, essayist and short story writer Rebecca Morean. Learn more about Rebecca at www.ramorean.com

2) OUT OF TOWN: Meet Veronica Roth, Thursday, Jan. 19, 7 p.m.
The creator of the Divergent series will be at Joseph-Beth Booksellers in Cincinnati. She’ll be in conversation with “First Draft” podcast’s Sarah Enni, discussing her newest book, “Carve the Mark”. Everyone who purchases a ticket for the event will receive an autographed copy of “Carve the Mark”, and 100 lucky audience members will be randomly chosen at the event to meet Veronica and Sarah and get their pictures taken with the author. For tickets and more information, please call the store at 513-396-8960. More.

3) Dan Rather, Tuesday, Jan. 31, 7 p.m.
For more than 50 years, former CBS News anchor and 60 Minutes correspondent Dan Rather has been the embodiment of the intrepid broadcast journalist. From the Kennedy assassination—where he was the first to break the news that the president had been killed—to the Indian Ocean tsunami, he has covered every major story of our time with distinction and a fierce dedication to hard news. He’ll speak at the Wright State Nutter Center. More.

Help decorate a brand new library

Dayton Metro Library is running a contest now through Jan. 9. Anyone can vote on the art that will inspire a newly-commissioned piece to adorn the future Southeast Branch (near Belmont High School). Click here to vote for your favorite of five pieces that are in the Dayton Art Museum’s permanent collection. The piece that wins will be the inspiration for a brand new work of art.

Writer's Life, Writing Events, Writing News

A finished book is deceptive. It’s neat and tidy and all bundled up with a beautiful cover. What us struggling artists don’t see are the hours of doubt that went into its creation.

The hours of doubt are hidden in every work of art. As creators, we either learn to work through those doubts, or we crumple up the sheet of paper and toss it in bin — giving up entirely.

When Stephen King was writing Carrie, he did exactly that. He typed up three pages. Then, he realized he didn’t like the story; he didn’t like the main character; and he worried he didn’t know how to write from a woman’s point of view.

So, he threw his pages away. When he got home from work that night, he found his wife Tabby had rooted through the trash, read the pages and fallen in love with them. “You’ve got something here,” she said. “I really think you do.”

King would go on to finish the novella. It got rejected by 30 publishers before landing at Doubleday. King’s $2,500 advance was enough for him to put a down payment on a Ford Pinto and move his family from a trailer into an apartment.

The hours of doubt nearly destroyed a book that went on to sell more than a million copies and launched the career of one of America’s most famous writers.

Our task is learning how to suffer through those hours. There is no question they will come. The only question is whether we can rise to meet them.

This week’s top literary events

MONDAY: Ohio Spirits. October 17, 2016 @ 6:30 pm – 8:00 pm, Dayton Metro Library – Northwest Branch, 2410 Philadelphia Dr, Dayton, OH 45406. Author Jim Kleefeld will bring antiques and artifacts and share tales about The Golden Lamb, The Mansfield Reformatory, the Franklin Castle and other local places where people have reported strange and ghostly occurrences. More.

MONDAY: James Balog. October 17, 2016 @ 7:00 pm – 8:00 pm, University Of Dayton Kennedy Union Ballroom, College Park Avenue, Dayton, OH. A decorated photographer, avid mountaineer, and climate change researcher, Balog is the founder of the Extreme Ice Survey (EIS), the most wide-ranging photographic study of glaciers ever conducted. All UD Speaker Series events are free and open to the public. No tickets required, but seating is limited and on a first-come, first-served basis. Parking is available in B and C lots only. Parking in any other campus lot requires a permit. More.

WEDNESDAY: Breaking bad writing with ‘Breaking Bad’ class kickoff with Katrina Kittle, $165. October 19, 2016 @ 6:30 pm – 8:30 pm. Starbucks, 2424 Far Hills Ave, Dayton, OH 45419. One of the most critically acclaimed series ever produced, Breaking Bad unfolds like a great novel. Much about the craft of fiction can be learned from studying this five-season, ground-breaking, multi-award winning show. Each night of this five-week course, we will view and focus on an iconic scene from the show, and will use those scenes to dissect and discuss the brilliant use of dialogue, character arc, symbolism, foreshadowing, character voice, and amazing lessons in plot—how to start and finish a scene, how to end a “chapter,” and more. Wednesdays through 11/16/16. More.

WEDNESDAY: Open Mic Story Slam, $5. October 19, 2016 @ 6:30 pm – 9:00 pm. Wiley’s Comedy Joint, 101 Pine St, Dayton, OH 45402. We follow The Moth story slam rules. 5-6 minutes, true stories, told in the first person and related to our monthly theme. October’s theme is Campfire Stories. Tell us your story about camping, outdoors, fall or sitting around the campfire. No story to share, bring a friend, grab a drink and enjoy great true stories told live by other folks. Cash bar. More.

THURSDAY: Readings for National Day on Writing. October 20, 2016 @ 1:00 pm – 3:00 pm. Sinclair Community College Library, 444 W 3rd St, Dayton, OH 45402. Hear readings from Flights, Sinclair’s literary journal (from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m.), and hear selected readings from the Dayton Literary Peace Prize fiction and non-fiction finalists (from 2 p.m. to 3 p.m.). More.

THURSDAY: Celebrate National Day on Writing. Tweet why you write with the hashtag #WhyIWrite\Dayton on Twitter.

THURSDAY TEEN EVENT: NaNoWriMo Prep. October 20, 2016 @ 3:30 pm – 5:00 pm. Dayton Metro Library – Brookville Branch, 120 Blue Pride Dr, Brookville, OH 45309. Determined to give National Novel Writing Month a try? This Katrina Kittle workshop will give you a clear roadmap for your novel!

SATURDAY: Dayton Ghosts. October 22, 2016 @ 2:00 pm – 4:00 pm. Dayton Metro Library – Northwest Branch, 2410 Philadelphia Dr, Dayton, OH 45406. Join us as author Karen Laven recounts her experiences while researching local haunted places for her book Dayton Ghosts. Karen is also the author of Cincinnati Ghosts and Other Tri-State Haunts and has also authored or co-authored nine books. She has also been an actress on stage, TV, cable, and in feature films. More.

Not a subscriber? Sign up for my weekly email. Why do I send these? Because I want to help grow Dayton’s literary scene. I want to support our local writers and encourage our young artists. I can only do it with your help! Got an event you’d like to promote? Please submit it here.

Writing Events, Writing News

12 photos and 3 takeaways from Dayton’s first Write On! Christian Writers Conference
The welcome sign at the first annual Write On! Christian Writing Conference. The conference was held at Apex Community Church.
The welcome sign at the first annual Write On! Christian Writers Conference. The conference was held at Apex Community Church.
Kim Villalva welcomes everyone to the first annual Write-On Conference.
Kim Villalva welcomes everyone to the event.
The world's first-ever DaytonLit.com booth!
The world’s first-ever DaytonLit.com booth!
Event volunteers busy getting lunch ready.
Event volunteers busy getting lunch ready.
Authors and writers networking at the event.
Authors and writers networking at the event.
Getting to know one another.
Getting to know one another.
Keynote speaker Lorie Langdon talks about her long journey into publishing.
Keynote speaker Lorie Langdon talks about her long journey into publishing.
Katrina Kittle offers up wisdom on writing description.
Katrina Kittle offers up wisdom on writing description.
Kim Villalva thanks all the volunteers who helped make the conference possible.
Kim Villalva thanks all the volunteers who helped make the conference possible.
Lunchtime.
Lunch time.
Bookmarks I made as giveaways at the conference.
Bookmarks I made as giveaways at the conference.
Goodie bags and raffles at the conference.
Goodie bags and raffles at the conference.

My top 3 takeaways

1) Stick with your vision. When Lorie Langdon and Carey Corp finally landed an agent for their book, Doon, they were ecstatic. Based on feedback from the agent, they started working on a rewrite. When they re-submitted the book, the agent suggested they change the relationship between the two main characters from friends to “frenemies.”

The authors put their feet down, parted ways with the agent, and stated the querying process all over again. It took 85 more query letters before they found another agent and eventually sold Doon in a 4-book deal. Persistence matters.

2) It’s never too early to start marketing. That means getting a website BEFORE you’ve finished your book, says Molly Jebber. Jebber’s carved out a strong niche in Amish historical romances. Publishers today, she says, rely on authors to have and execute marketing plans. That means blog tours, social media, book signings, workshops and more. And it’s never too early to start.

3) Use a sense on every page. Katrina Kittle led an excellent session on description. In it, she said she goes through every page of her books to make sure there’s at least one visual element and some other sensory description on every page. That gives readers the sense of being physically dropped into the world of your story. That’s what you want, Kittle says, citing a quote from E.L. Doctorow: “Good writing is supposed to evoke sensation in the reader — not the fact that it is raining, but the feeling of being rained upon.”

This year’s other speakers included Kathleen Rouser on productivity, Teresa Slack on dialogue, Linore Rose Burkard on self-publishing, Tamera Kraft on researching for historical novels, Gerald E. Greene on social media, Tina Toles on poetry, and Carole Brown on characterization.

It’s great to have such a wonderful event in our back yards, and I’m looking forward to seeing what the Dayton Christian Scribes cook up next year.

Writing Events, Writing News

We all have at least one secret thing we want to do. It’s that tiny little flame we’re tending when we daydream. It’s the lives we wish we had; the things we’ll do after we’ve gotten rich, bleached our teeth and purged our lives of stress.

“Every man dies; not every man really lives,” William Wallace writes. We’re not really living if we keep our secret things submerged. I want to dig them up, show them to my wife, my friends, my children. I want to write my secret book; not the book I think will sell. I want to live my secret life, not the one our culture says I must.

Look at your secret thing (that book you want to write, that audition you want to take). Look at the stone wall that stands around it, and figure out how to tear it down. You’re the only who can because you’re the one who built it.

‘Writing talent is as common as dirt’

Dayton horror writer Tim Waggoner just posted an excellent piece on what it takes to make it as a writer. Dubbed Writing dreams and harsh realities, he offers up some tough love to aspiring writers.

“I’ve encountered hundreds, maybe thousands, of students over the years who had enough basic talent to have a good shot at establishing a writing career,” he writes. “Almost none of them have, though. Talent is only potential, and it’s worthless unless it’s developed, focused, and applied.”

Check out the rest here.

This week’s top literary events

Visit the homepage for more information and links to all of these events:

WEDNESDAY: Ridley Pearson, September 21, 2016 @ 7:00 pm – 8:00 pm, Books & Company, 4453 Glengarry Dr, Beavercreek, OH 45440. RIDLEY PEARSON will introduce Lock and Key: The Initiation, the first book in his middle grade trilogy on Sherlock Holmes.

WEDNESDAY: UD Speaker Series: Lawrence Lessig, September 21, 2016 @ 7:00 pm – 8:00 pm, University Of Dayton Kennedy Union, College Park Avenue, Dayton, OH. A Harvard Law professor and New York Times bestselling author, Lessig first became known for developing the very foundations of internet law and running for president.

THURSDAY: Bust Out of Your Writing Rut!, September 22, 2016 @ 6:30 pm – 8:00 pm, Dayton Metro Library – New Lebanon Branch, 715 W Main St, New Lebanon, OH 45345. Author Nancy Christie will help participants identify objectives, overcome self-imposed barriers and get out of their writing rut.

THURSDAY: Kevin Sands and James Ponti, September 22, 2016 @ 7:00 pm – 8:00 pm, Books & Company, 4453 Glengarry Dr, Beavercreek, OH 45440. KEVIN SANDS will introduce Mark of the Plague, a sequel to the beloved The Blackthorn Key and JAMES PONTI will introduce Framed, the first in a new middle grade series.

THURSDAY: PechaKucha Dayton, September 22, 2016 @ 7:30 pm – 8:30 pm, Gosiger Inc, 108 McDonough St, Dayton, OH 45402. PechaKucha 20×20 is a simple presentation format where speakers show 20 images, for 20 seconds each.

***SATURDAY***: Write On! Christian Writing Conference, September 24, 2016 @ 8:30 am – 5:00 pm, Apex Community Church – 5200 Far Hills Avenue, Dayton, OH 45429. Presenters include Katrina Kittle, Linore Burkard, Lorie Langdon, Gerald E. Greene, Teresa Slack and more! Look for my DaytonLit booth if you end up going!

SATURDAY: History, Mystery, Mayhem & Murder Walk at Woodland Cemetery, September 24, 2016 @ 5:00 pm – 7:00 pm, Woodland Cemetery and Arboretum, 118 Woodland Ave, Dayton, OH 45409. A spooky walk that includes tales of Dayton’s own bank robbers, counterfeiters and murderers.

SUNDAY: Kyle Kondik, September 25, 2016 @ 2:00 pm – 3:00 pm, Books & Company, 4453 Glengarry Dr, Beavercreek, OH 45440. KYLE KONDIK discusses his book, The Bellwether: Why Ohio Picks the President.