Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Save the Date for the 2017 Steel Pen Creative Writers' Conference


Mark your calendar for October 28, 2017 to attend the next Steel Pen Creative Writers’ Conference. We have a new venue this year, so join us at the conference center at Fair Oaks Farms just off I-65 near Rensselaer, Indiana.

Why the new venue? The Radisson Star Plaza in Merrillville, Indiana was perfect for the last two years, but it is being torn down. Unfortunately, by the time we found out that we needed a new venue and had a chance to look for a replacement, all the suitable venues in Lake and Porter Counties were already booked. While that is a disappointment, it is also an opportunity to attract participants from the Lafayette and Indianapolis areas.

The conference facilities at Fair Oaks Farms provide a comfortable setting for this year’s conference. They are in the same building as the public restaurant, which means that Steel Pen participants and IWC members who consign their books to the bookstore will have the benefit of a larger purchasing audience.

We are pleased to announce that Catherine Lanigan will present the keynote speech during lunch. She is the bestselling author of nearly forty published fiction and non-fiction titles, including the novelizations of Romancing the Stone and The Jewel of the Nile. She will also present a workshop and sign copies of her books.

The conference schedule will be similar to last year, with educational opportunities for creative writers at all stages in their careers. The Committee is also working on attracting editors and agents to participate in a panel and meet with participants one-on-one. The day will end with a cocktail hour for networking, after which participants can make their own dinner arrangements with friends and colleagues.

Potential presenters should be on the lookout for the request for proposals. If you don’t receive anything by the middle of February, you can contact us at steelpenconference@gmail.com. Use the same e-mail address for any other questions about the conference.

Additional information will be posted at www.inwriters.org/steel-pen-conference as it becomes available.

So don’t forget to mark your calendars for Saturday, October 28, 2017.

We hope to see you there.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Using Social Media as Inspiration


Facebook and other social media can be big time wasters, and we need to make sure they don’t distract us from our writing. But they can also be inspiration. This works at least two ways.

First, that funny or tragic story that your college friend tells may give you an idea for a novel or an article. Even the seemingly dull postings can lead to something more interesting. What about a story of two friends who meet and marry because they like the look of the homemade meals the other photographs and shares on Facebook? Hopefully that would be humor, but it could be tragedy if one is a rabid vegan and discovers that the other was only pretending to be a vegan but is really a meat-eater.

But social media isn’t just a source of story ideas. It can also inspire and motivate you to write and to write well. For example, here are several of the recent quotes found on Facebook writing sites.

·       “Be sure not to discuss your hero’s state of mind. Make it clear from his actions.” Anton Chekhov (quoted on The Writer’s Circle page);

·       “If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.” George Orwell (quoted on the Grammarly page).

·        “Novels begin, not on the page, but in meditation and day-dreaming—in thinking, not writing.” Joyce Carol Oates (quoted on The Writer’s Circle page); and

·       “Want to Meet a Great Writer? Look in a mirror.” (From the Grammarly page.)

Both Grammarly and The Writer’s Circle also contain links to helpful articles. You can find both sites by searching for them on your favorite social media. One caution, however. These sites have multiple posts each day, so they can become distracting if you let them. But if you have the self-control to be selective, they can be quite helpful.

Social media can be a distraction from writing. Turn it into a help rather than a hinderance by using it to get inspiration.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Creativity, Your Chakras, and You

by
Dr. Anastasia Trekles

Like a lot of people today, I like yoga. I actually like it a lot, and have been practicing actively nearly every single day (and sometimes twice a day) for over ten years. It’s the best form of exercise I’ve been able to find, as it makes me stronger (much stronger than I was with traditional weightlifting and cardio) and helps me focus. When you’re going through a yoga class, it’s tough to think about anything else – otherwise you’ll fall down! Yoga is both exercise and a means to help you forget about your problems, even if it’s just for a little while.

So what does yoga have to do with writing? Obviously, we need to concentrate when we write, and sometimes that means overcoming things that get in our way. The dreaded writer’s block comes in many forms, but even if you don’t practice yoga, its teachings can give you tools to help overcome your obstacles.

Take, for instance, the chakra system, which yogis believe governs how our bodies and minds work together to eventually help us connect to the “divine,” or whatever spiritual force you might believe is out there (you definitely don’t have to be a Hindu to be into yoga or benefit from the principles behind it). Even if you aren’t sold on the idea that our bodies have anything but blood and lymph and such moving within us, the concept of the chakras can teach us a lot about ourselves, our habits of mind, and how our bodies can help us tap into thoughts and feelings. That is, if you keep an open mind!

The seven chakras, very simply summarized, are as follows:

1.     The root chakra (“Muladhara” in Sanskrit) governs your instincts and connection with the physical body and earth below, and is located at the base of your spine.
2.     The sacral chakra (“Svadhisthana”) governs passion, emotions, and creativity, and is in your pelvis and hip area.
3.     The core chakra (“Manipura”) governs personal power, identity, and ego, and is in your solar plexus.
4.     The heart chakra (“Anahata”) governs love and compassion, and is in the center of your chest.
5.     The throat chakra (“Visuddha”) governs authentic voice, truth, and originality, and is in the neck and shoulders.
6.     The third eye chakra (“Ajna”) is all about clear thought, vision, and moving beyond the physical into the spiritual realm. It’s located right between your eyebrows.
7.     The final chakra (“Sahasrara”) can be thought of like a crown on the top of your head – the “thousand-petaled lotus” as it is sometimes called. It is all about unity with that force beyond ourselves (the word “yoga” means union, after all), peace, and going beyond your own ego and limitations.

Put into practical terms, exercises that help you align these key points in your body can help you clear your mind, spark creativity, and put you in the mood to write. Don’t believe it? Before you start your next writing session, try sitting on the floor in a simple cross-legged position, and just move your torso around in a circle for a minute. Big circles or little ones make no difference – do whatever is comfortable and feels good for you (this movement should feel very liberating!). Make sure to go the other direction at some point, and breathe deeply as you move.

This will help you connect to your hips, pelvis, and stomach area, the second chakra and the home of creativity. It’ll literally “get your juices flowing,” and if that’s not enough for you, try some of the other poses noted by the Chopra Center to help you activate your creativity. You can also try some of the advice offered by Katrina Pfannkuch, who offers a lot of ideas about creativity and all of the chakras in her blog.

Once you’ve spent some time moving that second chakra around, your hips might feel a little looser, you might be able to breathe a little easier, and maybe, just maybe, you’ll be encouraged to get past that hurdle that’s kept you from the next leg of your writing journey. For some of us, it might seem like a stretch, but your body and your mind are inherently connected, and what affects one, affects the other. Writing may be an exercise of the mind, but it needs your body to be on board in order for you to get the most out of it. So, give it a try! You might be amazed at what a few minutes shaking your hips might be able to do for your creativity. 

__________

Dr. Anastasia Trekles is the new president of Indiana Writers' Consortium. She is also a clinical professor and the Director of Learning Technologies at Purdue University North Central in Westville, Indiana. Dr. Trekles has an extensive background with educational technology, including design and pedagogical strategies as well as the effective integration of various technologies into teaching. Her specialty area is instructional design for online learning and technology integration, and in addition to providing professional development and mentorship for other faculty, she has taught a wide array of undergraduate- and graduate-level courses in these areas, both in-classroom and via distance education. Additionally, Dr. Trekles holds a BA in English, and has taught undergraduate courses in writing for Web and electronic publications. 

Dr. Trekles is the author of the textbook, Putting People First: Human Issues in Instructional Technology, and has spent much of her career working toward understanding and teaching others how to employ universal and accessible design practices into online learning materials. In her spare time, she enjoys nature, photography, charity work with animals, and writing fiction.

She also recently published the first of a planned series of novels focusing on the mysterious and magical world of "M'Gistryn", entitled Core.This book is available at Amazon.com in both print and electronic formats. More information is available at http://www.zelda23publishing.com.


Wednesday, December 21, 2016

A Bookish Holiday Greeting


Today’s blog post is a reprint from December 25, 2013.

 
* * * * *

 
In case you have trouble reading the titles of the books in the picture, they are:

 
  • How Fiction Works, by Oakley Hall
  • Around the World in Eighty Days, by Jules Verne
  • Plot versus Character, by Jeff Gerke
  • Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austin
  • You Can Write a Mystery, by Gillian Roberts
 

  • Here Lies the Librarian, by Richard Peck
  • On the Banks of Plum Creek, by Laura Ingalls Wilder
  • Little Women, by Louisa May Alcott
  • In the Company of Others, by Jan Karon
  • Decision in Philadelphia, by Christopher Collier and James Lincoln Collier
  • Amazing Grace, by Kenneth W. Osbeck
  • Your God is Too Small, by J.B. Phillips
  • Snoopy’s Guide to the Writing Life, edited by Barnaby Conrad and Monte Schulz

 

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Keeping Track of Submissions

by
Kathryn Page Camp
 


 
It won’t surprise anyone who knows me to hear that I’m a very organized person. Unfortunately, I’m also a forgetful one. So when I started submitting articles to magazines, I developed a submission chart to keep track of them. You can see a copy of the chart at the head of this post. You have my permission to copy it for your own use and to distribute it to your friends for their personal use.
As you can see, the six columns show the submission date, the article title, the publication, the address, the result, and any additional  notes. ATS1 and WC1 are codes I wrote inside the return envelope in case the response didn’t identity the publisher. This was a suggestion from someone who had received several form rejections and couldn’t figure out who had sent them. I don’t always remember to use a code, but so far I haven’t received any anonymous responses.
When I submit books, I create a separate chart for each one. I modify the form by putting the working title of the book at the top and leaving out the Article column. Everything else remains the same. You can also do this for articles and short stories that you submit multiple times, perhaps as reprints.
If you intend to submit reprints—or even if you don’t—you should also keep track of the rights you have sold so that you don’t try to sell rights you don’t currently have. I didn’t realize this immediately, so once I had created a rights chart I needed to locate and fill in the past information from other records. Fortunately, I was able to find everything.  
 
As you can see, the columns show the manuscript title, the copyright owner, when sold and to whom, which rights were sold and which were retained, and when the rights reverted (if ever). If you sell first rights, for example, that publication has the bought the right to publish the item first. If you resell it in the meantime and the second publisher wins the race, you have violated your contract and may find yourself blackballed. As with the submission chart, you may copy the rights chart for personal use and distribute it to friends for their personal use but may not sell it or distribute it commercially.
You shouldn’t sell all rights to an article, short story, or poem without an adequate payoff, and some people refuse to do it even then. I have never sold all rights on an already completed work. The few times I have sold them, I received an assignment to write something new and was well compensated for it. For books, traditional publishers expect a temporary assignment of all rights by contract, but don’t sign away the copyright and make sure you have a reversion clause that gives you the rights back when the publisher stops printing physical copies and/or e-sales drop below a set threshold.
If you want to stay out of trouble with publishers, you must know when and where you submitted and what rights you sold. Develop your own charts, use mine, create an electronic report, or do whatever works for you.
But make sure you keep track of your submissions.
_________
Kathryn Page Camp is a licensed attorney and full-time writer. Writers in Wonderland: Keeping Your Words Legal was a Kirkus’ Indie Books of the Month Selection for April 2014. The second edition of Kathryn’s first book, In God We Trust: How the Supreme Court’s First Amendment Decisions Affect Organized Religion, was released on September 30, 2015. You can learn more about Kathryn at www.kathrynpagecamp.com.





Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Read the Guidelines

by
Kathryn Page Camp
 
 

You’ve finished that poem or a short story or non-fiction article or book and are ready to submit it. You have talked to friends, searched the Internet, studied the current edition of Writer’s Market, reviewed the publication collection at your local public library, and complied a list of potential markets. So what do you do next?
Read the submission guidelines.

Why?
First, reading the guidelines helps you eliminate publications that are not a good fit. Even if Writer’s Market says a particular science fiction magazine accepts stories between 5,000 and 10,000 words, that information can become quickly outdated. Maybe the magazine recently decided it can publish a greater variety of stories if it limits them to 4,000 words or less. The writers’ guidelines on the publication’s website are the best source for current information. Reading them will keep you from wasting your time, and possibly your money, submitting to markets that don’t buy what you have to sell. No matter how hard she tries, Georgia Washington is never going to convince Romance, Inc. to publish her novel.

The second reason for reading the guidelines is to ensure that your submission gets noticed in the right way rather than the wrong one. I try to follow the guidelines in every detail for this simple reason: if I were the editor, I would assume the departure means the author isn’t good at following directions and will be hard to work with. I won’t submit anything that I would discard if I were the editor.
But that creates a dilemma. If I follow the guidelines, won’t I look like every other submission that comes in? How do I stand out from the crowd?

My response is simple: I write the best query letter I can, focusing my creativity on the hook and the book description. Some writers respond by departing from specific parts of the guidelines, and it may work with some editors—but only if the departures are thought through first. If it will make you sound unprofessional, don’t do it.
What if the guidelines say to submit a hard copy to “Fiction Editor” at a physical address and you submit to a named editor by e-mail? Obviously, if you met the editor at a conference and were given permission to submit that way, you should do it. Some people recommend seeking out the name of the current editor and submitting directly to that person. If you do, make sure you send your manuscript to someone who is involved in the acquisition process. Even then, you run the risk that the person will see the use of his or her name as an end run around the process outlined in the guidelines.

Then there is the issue of simultaneous submissions. If the guidelines prohibit them, I usually put that publisher on the bottom of my list and submit there last. But on the rare occasions where I have ignored that part of the guidelines, I’m honest about it. My standard closing line is “Thank you for considering this simultaneous submission.” If they are going to ignore my submission, fine. But at least I won’t be blackballed if two publications end up vying for the same manuscript.
Whether you follow the guidelines is your call. If you can color outside the lines in a way that screams “innovative” or “creative” rather than “lazy” or “novice” or “not good at following directions,” then go ahead. But it’s still a risk.

Do you have any interesting experiences from the one time—or one of many—when you didn’t follow the guidelines? If so, we’d love to hear them.
_________

Kathryn Page Camp is a licensed attorney and full-time writer. Writers in Wonderland: Keeping Your Words Legal was a Kirkus’ Indie Books of the Month Selection for April 2014. The second edition of Kathryn’s first book, In God We Trust: How the Supreme Court’s First Amendment Decisions Affect Organized Religion, was released on September 30, 2015. You can learn more about Kathryn at www.kathrynpagecamp.com.