Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Write Thanksgiving Right

Kathryn Page Camp

It’s worth reminding ourselves how important it is to get the details right when writing about historical events. So this Thanksgiving week, I am reprinting parts of my November 26, 2014 IWC blog post titled “The Rest of the Thanksgiving Story.” Since I am only using parts of it, I made a few modifications to make the post flow more smoothly.
* * * * *
I wanted to add a picture of the first Thanksgiving to this post. Unfortunately, the only ones I found that were clearly in the public domain were also historically inaccurate. The photo at the head of this post is a good example. The clothing and feathers are all wrong, and the position of the two groups, with the members of the Wampanoag nation sitting on the ground and the Pilgrims standing, implies that the Pilgrims were the dominant race. Since a white woman is handing out the food, the picture could also imply that the Pilgrims provided the feast and the Native Americans were simply recipients.
As writers, we should be careful not to make the same mistakes.
When I think of the first Thanksgiving, I think of friendly Native Americans bringing their knowledge and skills and provisions to feed the starving Pilgrims. Without that help, the Pilgrims would have perished.
I’ve read comments on the Internet complaining that people today think the Pilgrims and the Native Americans merely shared a meal together, or even that the Pilgrims were the benefactors rather than the beneficiaries. I can’t say whether those complaints are valid, but it hasn’t been my experience. I learned at school and at home that Squanto and his tribe taught the Pilgrims how to survive, and my children learned the same lesson.
That’s one of the reasons I like Thanksgiving. It’s the one time of year when we remember the Native American participants as the generous people they were. That’s a lot better than the frequent stereotype of half-dressed warriors burning homes and scalping “innocent” white settlers.
Those of us with European ancestry have many reasons to be grateful to the Native Americans.
So when you write about the first Thanksgiving, make sure you get it right.
The picture at the head of this post is by Jean Leon Gerome Ferris and was painted sometime around 1912-1915. It is in the public domain in the United States because of its age.
Kathryn Page Camp is a licensed attorney and full-time writer who writes adult non-fiction as Kathryn Page Camp and middle-grade fiction as Kaye Page. Writers in Wonderland: Keeping Your Words Legal was a Kirkus’ Indie Books of the Month Selection for April 2014, and her first middle-grade historical novel, Desert Jewels, was released in August 2017. You can learn more about Kathryn at

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Save the Date

Save that date for the Fifth Steel Pen Creative Writer’s Conference. The conference will have a Halloween theme, but the sessions will cover all genre and the only horror will be your own when you discover how much you don’t know. Or, worse, when you realize you’ve missed the registration cutoff date.

Next year’s keynote speaker will be Michael Poore. He is the author of the novels Reincarnation Blues (Del Rey, 2017) and Up Jumps the Devil (Ecco, 2012). His short work has appeared in Agni, Southern Review, Fiction, and Glimmer Train, and in anthologies, including The Year’s Best Science Fiction and The Best American Nonrequired Reading 2012.

Mike has his own brand of humor, and his books fit well with a Halloween theme. If you want to find out how, you’ll have to come to the conference, read his novels for yourself, or both.

The 2018 venue is the same as it was this year, and it was rated highly by all who attended. So join us at the Fair Oaks Farms Conference Center just off I-65 near Rensselaer, Indiana.

The call for proposals will be sent out at the beginning of the year, and registration will open in late spring or early summer. So keep your eye out for those announcements.

We hope to see you on October 27, 2018.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Still Excited about Steel Pen

Emily Baginski

On October 28, I attended the Steel Pen Conference. I was able to learn more than I expected!
The keynote speaker, Catherine Lanigan, was so amazing to listen to. Her story was motivational and inspiring to continue going down the path of becoming a published author. I even was able to have her sign my copy of one of her books!
The first breakout session I attended was about the do’s and don’ts when it comes to designing a cover for your book. Not only did I learn how to create a successful cover, I was given sites to visit that would be helpful and make the process a bit easier. In another workshop, I learned that poems and even songs have a deeper meaning. We evaluated a song and learned a deeper meaning with it. Now here I am, listening to songs, looking up representations and definitions to learn the “hidden” message/meaning.
With all of the learning side, I also was able to connect with many talented people! Familiar faces appeared at tables and being able to catch up with them was great, especially at a place where we share a common interest. Since the majority of people were older than me, I was able to ask, learn, and gain guidance on what I should and shouldn’t do in college. Next year’s conference was announced and knowing how much I learned this year, I am excited to see what next year brings.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

We Nailed It!

We aren’t supposed to brag about our own conference, so we will let the numbers do it for us. Of the 70 people who attended the Steel Pen Creative Writers’ Conference on Saturday, 24 filled out the general evaluation. Of those 24, all said their likelihood of attending again was either good or excellent, with the excellents leading 17 to 7. Here are some of the written comments:

·       Great price, great presentations. Loved it!

·       It was great! Lots of work and truly appreciated.

·       Thank you for the high level of organization.

As with anything, there are opportunities for improvement, and we appreciate those comments, as well. The biggest problem was that one of the rooms was too small, and we already have some ideas on how to resolve that issue next year.

The facility at Fair Oaks Farms also received rave reviews. That’s good, since the Fifth Annual Steel Pen Creative Writer’s Conference will be held on October 27, 2018 at the same place. We will provide more information about next year’s conference in the November 15 blog post.

But back to this year. The highlight was the keynote speech by Catherine Lanigan, who provided inspiration to keep writing even when we’ve been told we aren’t good enough. She also presented a session on writing romance and gave tips for navigating the business side of the writing profession no matter what your genre.

As already mentioned, one of the three rooms was too small. It was supposed to hold up to 24 people, which might have worked if the Committee members had been good judges of which topics would capture the smallest audiences. For those sessions that met in the Boardroom, the classes were cramped but also intimate, as you can see from this picture of the novel-in-stories workshop presented by Melissa Fraterrigo.

Finally, the networking was wonderful, as was the food. The last photo shows the appetizers available during the cocktail hour.

Tune in next week for a personal testimony about the conference.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Creating Suspense in a Static Environment

Louis Martinez

A story must be written before a reader can experience it. This means that by the time you get the tale in your hands, what happens is already set in stone. The story is published. What is said is final.
This has unfortunate implications for the creation of suspense. Stories told in novels, or other similar mediums, do not have the benefit of a dynamic environment; a place where things can happen which neither the reader, nor the writer, could have anticipated. Novels are static. Everything that happens in the story is decided beforehand. The plot is predetermined. What you read is what you get.
With that said, it can be reasonably assumed things will turn out alright in the end. It may not be exactly what the reader wanted. A favorite character may be dead, or an important battle lost. However, in the end, a reader is usually safe to expect some sort of satisfying conclusion because the events are set in stone. The reader is not influencing the outcome, so what do they have to worry about? Nothing. Not really.
So then how do we create suspense in such a static environment? How do we make the reader feel tense? How do we make them feel worried? Is it even possible? Perhaps, and perhaps not. The answer may ultimately depend on the reader, although there are some things we can do to give us writers an edge.
I’ve heard and read lots of strategies one may employ to create suspense in a world where the events have already been written, and I’ve seen three main themes reoccurring. To create suspense where none inherently exists, one can make the events of their written world urgent, unpredictable, and undesirable.
Be urgent. Make it known to the reader that the protagonist’s objective is time-sensitive. Thus, when compounding variables impede their progress, worry may build in the reader’s mind about whether the protagonist will be able to succeed in time, or if it will be too late. Even though it can be reasonably assumed that something will work out in the end, make sure the reader knows that events may not unfold perfectly if the protagonist doesn’t rise to the occasion on time.
Be unpredictable. This is probably something every writer should try to achieve. The reader may not find your story enjoyable or enticing if they can predict everything that’s going to happen a page ahead. This is even more crucial if you’re trying to create suspense in the reader’s mind. If things are happening to the protagonist which they never expected, their sense of worry for the fate of the characters and the world will be increased. You don’t want the reader to be ahead of your story. You want your story to be ahead of the reader.
Be undesirable. This accounts for the reality that a reader can reasonably assume things will work out in the end. Yes, they probably will. If they don’t, then that just implies in the reader’s mind there that will be a sequel. In such an event, if there is no sequel, then you leave your reader dissatisfied with the results of your story. Things must end. Every story needs a conclusion, and your story won’t work if the reader doesn’t walk away satisfied with the results.
So then how do we confront the reality that every story must end, and that end has to be satisfying in some way? How do we create suspense when the reader knows everything will be alright when all is said and done?
Simple. Give the protagonist what they asked for, but not what they wanted. Make the results satisfactory, yet undesirable at the same time. If you’re looking to create suspense, you probably shouldn’t end your story with “and they all lived happily ever after.” No, they didn’t. They lived, and they had to learn to accept what happened. They weren’t happy about it, but they’re happy it’s over and done with.
Another method I feel compelled to share is to give the reader a broader awareness. That is, share what the antagonist is doing when the protagonist is not around. This can emphasize what is at stake in the reader’s mind by revealing to them what consequences there may be if the protagonist fails.
When considering this strategy, I urge you to ask yourself, does this really help the story? Isn’t the protagonist going to prevail in the end anyways? I ask this because I always find it breaks immersion when we’ve been following a certain character almost exclusively, and then we briefly see another perspective, seemingly just for the sake of creating suspense. If such a switch in perspective is to be employed, I would advise it to be a consistent element of the story. Otherwise, it just feels contrived.
I used to think there was no such thing as suspense in a predetermined story. And honestly, I still wonder sometimes. Maybe there isn’t. Maybe the suspense we create for our reader is just a false sense of uncertainty; an illusion to keep them guessing. Whatever the case may be, creating suspense is a difficult job in a written world, and I hope my take on things helps to set you on the path toward crafting that gripping tale.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

The Wrong Question

“[A]sk not what your country can do for you—ask what you can do for your country.” These words were spoken by President John F. Kennedy at his January 20, 1961 inauguration. They were applauded at the time and have become one of the best-known quotes in American history. But even though people still give those words lip service, how many of us really agree with them?

Today’s generations (yes, all of them) have become self-centered. Before we do anything, we ask, “What will I get out of it?” Or we think we can have or be anything we want without working for it. But the truth is, what we get out of anything depends on what we put into it.

That also applies to membership in organizations such as Indiana Writers’ Consortium. Some members complain because IWC has been cutting back on its programs, and other refuse to join because they don’t see the value of membership. But whose fault is that? No nonprofit organization can survive without a committed membership.

Although money is always an issue, time is a greater one. The “Eat and Exchange” series has no overhead, but it faltered this year because nobody had the time to organize it. We put out a call for volunteers and got no response. Our call for people to fill Board positions met with the same lack of enthusiasm. People ask, “what can IWC do for me” rather than “what can I do for IWC.” So they get out of it what they put into it.

Let me get a couple of things straight. This blog post is my personal opinion and doesn’t speak for the organization. And IWC is not dying. We still run a vibrant conference, and I expect that to continue. But if you want more, you have to get involved.

To rephrase President Kennedy’s words: Ask not what IWC can do for you—ask what you can do for IWC.

You won’t regret it.


The photograph of President Kennedy was taken on February 20, 1961 by a member of the White House Press Office. It is in the public domain because it was created by a federal government employee as part of his or her official duties.


Kathryn Page Camp is a licensed attorney and full-time writer who writes adult non-fiction as Kathryn Page Camp and middle-grade fiction as Kaye Page. Writers in Wonderland: Keeping Your Words Legal was a Kirkus’ Indie Books of the Month Selection for April 2014, and her first middle-grade historical novel, Desert Jewels, was released in August 2017. You can learn more about Kathryn at

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Excited about Steel Pen

Emily Baginski

With the Steel Pen Conference coming up, I’m eager to see what it will be like. Since this is my first conference in general, I have to admit I’m a bit nervous as well. I’m 20, unpublished, but intrigued. Being around a variety of people will be exciting. Also, I looked at the panel of guest speakers and can’t wait to learn and hear what they have to say. Having the privilege and advantage to attend a conference like this will give me experience and guidance for when I take the next big step to getting published.
As the day gets closer and closer, I’m starting to gather my thoughts and questions I want to possibly ask. Along with this, I have checked out the Facebook page and looked up the workshops that are being offered. The one I am most interested in is the Cover Design 101 workshop. I’m a creative person, and learning how to make a successful cover that is appropriate for my work will help make sure I don’t go overboard with design.
Meeting people is also something I’m excited for. Networking is a big thing I’ve learned in college, and the conference will offer me this opportunity as well. Overall, I’m excited to see what the conference will teach me. College can only teach you so much. This will be an experience that can’t be taught in a classroom. 

If you haven't signed up for the conference yet, beat the October 15 deadline by registering at