Wednesday, September 19, 2018

What Kind of a Deadliner Are You?

Yes, the picture of a dead-line is corny, but it got your attention. That’s what real deadlines are designed to do.

When it comes to meeting deadlines, there are three types of people. The first is the beaver, which starts preparing for winter early and is ready in plenty of time. This is the person who completes projects before they are due and can then relax, or the one who registers for a conference in time to receive the early registration discount. Even if the person decides not to register because of other obligations, that decision is made early and deliberately.

Then comes the squirrel. It runs around preparing for winter right up until there is no more food to gather. But when the time comes, it is prepared. This person may stress out by completing a project just before the deadline or may pay a penalty by registering at the last minute. Even so, the squirrel makes its deadline.

The third type is the rabbit. Some rabbits die in winter because they aren’t prepared for the harsh conditions. This is the person who waits until the last minute and loses track of time. When they finally remember to get it done, it is too late. The deadline for the project has passed and it cost the employee a raise or the writer another contract. Or conference registration has closed and the person discovers that there is no squish in the deadline. This person didn’t intend to “wait until next year” but has made that choice by his or her inaction.

Registration for the Steel Pen Creative Writers’ Conference closes on October 15, and there is no squish in it. The beavers registered during the early registration period, and the squirrels either took advantage of regular registration prices or will get it done before the deadline.

Then there are the rabbits . . . Don’t be one.

Go to to register for this year’s conference. If you haven’t made up your mind yet, that is also the place to go for more information. But don’t let inaction drive your choice.

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Can't Afford to Attend a Conference? Apply for a Scholarship!

Many writers’ conferences offer scholarships to needy writers. That includes the 2018 Steel Pen Creative Writers’ Conference, which will be held on October 27 at Fair Oaks Farms just north of Rensselaer, Indiana. The conference offers lunch with keynote speaker Michael Poore, a full day of writing workshops, and multiple opportunities to connect with other writers. You can find more information about the conference at

The application deadline for Steel Pen scholarships is September 15, so don’t wait to apply. You can find the application form at Just scroll down the page until you reach the application. Fill in the information that is visible and scroll down within the application box to continue.

There are two ways for those who don’t need scholarship help to assist those who do. First, you can encourage someone else to apply. Second, you can contibute to the scholarship fund by clicking on the Donate button at the bottom of the page and noting in the instruction box that the donation goes to conference scholarships. This is a tax-deductable donation.

The conference page at is also where paying attendees can register. Regular prices run through September 14, 2018, and will increase by $10 on September 15.

If you are short on funds but aren’t available on October 27, other conferences have scholarships, too. Don’t give up on going until you check them out.

But if you can make it on October 27, give us a try.


The photo at the top of the page was taken during last year’s conference and shows a break-out session on novels in stories.

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Finding Your Writing Community

All writers need support and encouragement. If we want to continue growing as writers, we also need to have our work read by critical eyes. Not critical in the sense of finding fault, but rather an unbiased, realistic assessment of the work designed to help the writer improve. These results are what a writer receives from a good writing community.

Writers’ Critique Groups

Writers’ critique groups are one type of writing community. Here is a list of some of the groups in Northwest Indiana that are open to new members.

Blank Slate Writers’ Group

The Blank Slate Writers Group is primarily a critique group for writers and poets of all types, genres, and skill levels. The group is completely open to the public—it has no dues or membership fees. All writers are welcome. In the past it has had members as young as 10 and as old as 90.

Meetings are currently being held in the conference room at The South Bend Chocolate Company, which is located at 57 Franklin Street, Valparaiso, Indiana. Meetings are held on the first and third Tuesday of each month. They start at 6:00 and go till 8:00 pm.

The Blank Slate Writers’ Group publishes a newsletter twice a month, 3 or 4 days before each meeting. The newsletter contains information about writing (reprints of interesting Internet articles on writing) and a writing prompt exercise. Each member is encouraged (although not required) to write a short story using aspects of the writing prompt as inspiration and to bring it to the meeting for critique.

Those interested in attending a meeting should contact Tom Saine at and he will add your e-mail address to the newsletter mailing list. The newsletter has information as to dates and location of meetings.

Highland Writers’ Group

Highland Writers Group is a group of Northwest Indiana and Chicagoland region professional writers who meet on First Saturdays at Grindhouse Cafe, 146 N. Broad St., Griffith, IN, and Second Saturdays at Blackbird Cafe, 114 Lincolnway, Valparaiso, IN, both at 3:30 p.m. For more information, email us at and visit us on Facebook ( and Twitter ( Keep on writing!

Magic Hour Writers

Magic Hour Writers provides information, support, and critique for those who write for children. It meets the second Wednesday of the month at 6:30 p.m. at Rosati’s in Schererville, Indiana. Dues are $10 a year.

For information, check out or email Jacqueline Huppenthal at

Write-On, Hoosiers, Inc.

The Mission of Write-On, Hoosiers, Inc. is to offer education, friendship, and assistance to fellow writers, and to promote the excellence of writing in all its forms.

The Purpose of this organization is to provide support, education, information, and friendship to fellow writers.  Our Goal is to encourage as many Indiana men, women and children as we can to strive to reach their full writing potential.

In addition, through our website, blog, and special programs and speakers we strive to expose the talents of our Indiana writers.

We meet from 6 P.M. to 8:30 P.M. the 1st and 3rd Thursday at the Merrillville branch of the Lake County Library from January through November.

Contact:  Sharon Palmeri  - 


Writing conferences are another place to connect with other writers. You can make new friends who provide encouragement and support, or you may connect with an established critique group or form your own. The networking that occurs at conferences can be invaluable.

If you are looking for a conference to attend, check out the 2018 Steel Pen Creative Writers’ Conference, which will be held on October 27 at Fair Oaks Farms just north of Rensselaer, Indiana. The conference offers lunch with keynote speaker Michael Poore, a full day of writing workshops, and multiple opportunities to connect with other writers. You can find more information and register at this link:

But whatever means you use, we wish you luck in finding the perfect writing community.

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Don't Be a Know-It-All

All of us are acquainted with at least one know-it-all. Rather than getting personal, here are a few well-known ones from literature:

·       The Caterpillar (Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll)

·       Mr. Collins (Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austin)

·       Miss Haversham (Great Expectations by Charles Dickens)

·       Gilderoy Lockhart (Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J.K. Rowling)

·       Rabbit and Owl (Winnie-the-Pooh by A.A. Milne)

Then there is this know-it-all type from real life: the writer who doesn’t attend conferences because “I don’t learn anything new.”

While many conferences cover similar material, that isn’t a negative. After all, those elements that make a novel great don’t change. The same is true for creative non-fiction. And if you want to make money from your book, you need to know how to market it.

Few conferences have the time to cover all the crucial elements, but it is no surprise that the subjects overlap. But just because the conference you attended last year had a session on the same topic, that doesn’t mean you won’t learn anything new. Every presenter has something different to offer.

Consider two sessions on characterization. Even if they are identical (they won’t be), you can expect to get something fresh from the second one. Whether you are writing a new book or continuing to work on the same manuscript as a year ago, your craft should be constantly improving and your characters becoming rounder. That means you will be looking at them with different eyes than you used a year ago. If not, you aren’t growing as a writer.

Nobody likes a know-it-all, and few people want to be one. So admit your ignorance and attend a writers’ conference. But which one?

I’ve got the ideal choice for you . . . Now I sound like a know-it-all. Obviously, no particular conference is perfect for everyone. Still, you should consider the 2018 Steel Pen Creative Writers’ Conference, which will be held on October 27 at Fair Oaks Farms just north of Rensselaer, Indiana. The conference offers lunch with keynote speaker Michael Poore and a full day of writing workshops. You can find more information and register at this link:

I hope to see you there.


The image at the top of this page is by John Tenniel and was one of the original illustrations for Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll. It is in the public domain because of its age.

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

How a Writers Conference Changed My Life

Patricia Skalka

A writers’ conference can be transformational. For those attending the 2018 Steel Pen Conference on October 27th, the magic will occur in one way or another. I know that from personal experience.
Two years ago, I had the honor of presenting a program at the 2016 Steel Pen.  It was a great session, but my most vivid memory from the event was the luncheon. Sitting in a room filled with book lovers, I listened to the keynote speaker talk about the intrinsic value of the literary community.  That was the first time I’d heard the term and it has stayed with me – in fact, I share the concept and the cause with others whenever I have the opportunity because it’s so vitally important. Whether we are readers, writers, librarians, or book sellers, each of us plays a role in nurturing this world.  What an honor and responsibility!
Of course, there are other reasons to take the time out of a busy schedule to spend a day listening to experts talk about writing.  If you’ve been to other conferences, you will have already heard much of what will be said at this year’s event, but – and it is a big one – there’s an excellent chance you’ll learn something new, and that one thing may be the nugget of information that changes everything for you. I know because it happened to me.
I’d hit a wall with my work – despite a career as a professional non-fiction writer and years of struggle as a mystery writer, I didn’t have an agent or a publisher. Since I wanted to take the traditional route, there seemed to be nowhere to go. In fact, I was ready to toss the manuscript for my first book when I attended a local writers conference and sat in on a session about independent and academic publishers. Until that day, I had never considered this a serious option.  Long story short, I decided to give it a try. Within a year, I had a publisher and within two years I had signed a multi-book deal for a mystery series. Recently, a Hollywood studio reached out to me about the possibility of optioning my work for TV. If I hadn’t gone to that conference, there’s a chance that none of this would have happened.
A good series appeals to both publishers and readers.  In some ways, it’s easier to write a series than to move from one stand-alone novel to another. In others, it’s more challenging.  At this year’s Steel Pen Conference, I’ll share what I’ve learned about the process.  During my presentation, I’ll discuss the elements that go into creating a good series and talk about both the factors you need to consider before you start writing book one and the potential stumbling blocks you’ll encounter as you proceed with book two and the others that will follow.  We’ll even go through the steps needed to build a solid and saleable series. This craft session is for those who are thinking of writing a series, working on the initial story, or moving beyond the first book. See you in October.
Patricia Skalka is the author of the ongoing Dave Cubiak Door County Mystery Series published by the University of Wisconsin Press: Death Stalks Door County; Death at Gills Rock; Death in Cold Water, winner of the Edna Ferber Fiction Award from the Council for Wisconsin Writers; and Death Rides the Ferry. “A first rate series,” says Kirkus. Previously a nonfiction writer, Skalka published in Reader’s Digest and other national print and online magazines. She is a member of The Authors Guild of America, Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime (President of the Chicagoland Chapter), and Society of Midland Authors.

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

How to Make Sure an Editor Meets or Surpasses Your Expectations

Tiffany T. Cole, Copy Editor

My first experience working with a copy editor was terrible. I gave her my short story, and a few days later, she gave a completely rewritten story back to me. I expected the editor to leave comments explaining the changes she’d made, but there were no comments or markups. It didn’t even feel like the story was mine anymore, and I was so upset I refused to work with an editor for years.
Now that I’m an editor, I’m grateful for that experience because it taught me the importance of understanding and respecting an author’s expectations. It also helped me to realize why I had such a terrible experience with that editor. I didn’t ask myself what I expected from an editor nor did I discuss my expectations with the editor.
After figuring out your budget, one of the most important questions you need to ask yourself is “What do I expect from an editor?” Furthermore, you need to answer that question thoroughly before you start your search for an editor. If you hire an editor assuming your expectations are the standard, like I did years ago, and the editor edits your work in such a way that doesn’t meet your expectations, even if the editor did a great job you’ll still be disappointed. By not writing out your expectations and discussing them with an editor, you do both yourself and the editor a disservice.
Below are common expectations as well as my advice for each expectation:
Expectation: I need an editor to help me develop characterization and plot.
If you need developmental help, you’re looking for a heavy copy editor, a substantive editor, or a developmental editor. Otherwise, part of my duties as a copy editor is to keep track of characterization and plot to make sure everything is consistent, and if I notice that something is inconsistent or seems off, I red flag it and offer suggestions to fix it. Not all copy editors offer suggestions, so if you want your copy editor to do so, it’s best to ask.
Expectation: I want the editor to explain all changes outside of basic grammatical and style guide changes OR I don’t want explanations for changes.
I’ve worked with authors who were very hands off and didn’t want me to explain any of my changes. With track changes on, they could see what changes I’d made, and if they didn’t agree with a change I’d made, they could easily reject the change. Furthermore, they found the comments where I explained my changes overwhelming and preferred I only commented if it was absolutely necessary. Others want me to write a comment explaining my changes whenever I make substantial changes to a sentence, paragraph, or scene because they want to understand why I made the change in order to learn from it.
Regardless of which you’re more comfortable with or your reasoning, you should tell the editor ahead of time so they deliver an edit that works best for you.
Expectation: I only need a light grammatical edit.
First, you have to be honest with yourself about if you truly only need a light edit. Many editors will ask for a sample of your work before they start editing it, and whether they provide a complimentary edit or not, from that sample they can tell what type of edit you need.
Usually, when authors come to me saying they only need a light grammatical edit, it’s because their book has already been edited and they just want a second set of eyes to go over their book one final time before they get the book formatted. If all you need is a light edit, a proofreader is who you’re looking for, but most copy editors are capable of completing a light edit.
Expectation: I want to meet in-person or schedule a phone call/video call to discuss my book.
Some authors are comfortable with all conversations, from start to end, taking place through e-mail. Other authors don’t feel comfortable unless they can talk to the editor consistently, usually before the start of the edit, after each round of revisions, and when the edit is completed. If you will need any type of call or in-person meeting to feel comfortable, that is an important conversation you need to have with any editor you’re considering working with.
As long as the meetings are to discuss the book and/or my edits of the book, authors can schedule a complimentary 60-minute meeting with me. For meetings about marketing or building an author platform, authors get one complimentary 60-minute meeting. After that, it’s $60/hour for meetings that are not about editing.

This is not, by any means, an exhaustive list of all the expectations you might have. Your list might contain completely different expectations, and that’s fine. When you’re searching for an editor, present your list to them and ask if they can meet those expectations. If they can’t, that doesn’t make them a bad editor—just not the right editor for you and your book. Keep searching for the editor that can meet your expectations.
Let’s say you give an editor your list and they tell you they can 100% meet your expectations. Before you send them money, the best way to see if their editing style matches your expectations is to ask them to provide an edit of a sample of your book. Oftentimes, 1000 words from the middle of the book is a good choice. If they agree to edit that sample, you can make sure the edit reflects your expectations. If you’re considering more than one editor, it’s also a good plan to give them all the same sample and see how they compare.
I hope this article helps you find an editor who will meet or surpass your expectations! If you want to learn more about how to find an editor for your book, you can come to my panel, “How to Find the Right Editor,” at the 2018 Steel Pen Conference on October 27, 2018, at Fair Oaks Farm Conference Center. You can learn more about me and my services at
Go to to learn more about and register for the conference.
Tiffany T. Cole graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature from Purdue University Northwest and was inducted into the Alpha Iota Nu chapter of Sigma Tau Delta, an international English honors society. She has over five years of copy editing experience. She’s worked with small publishers, Purdue University’s award-winning newspaper, professors, and authors.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Meet an Agent and Get a Critique at Steel Pen

2018 Steel Pen Guest Agent: Kaitlyn Johnson of the Corvisiero Agency

Here is one more great reason why you should join us at the Steel Pen Conference on October 27th at Fair Oaks Farms. In addition to the friendship, writing education, support, and great speakers traditionally found at our conference, 2018 will be the first year that we will offer critiques of manuscript pages by literary agent Kaitlyn Johnson. This exciting opportunity allows you to hear an industry expert's ideas how to write the perfect synopsis and meet one-on-one with her to receive feedback on your first two pages.

Who is Kaitlyn Johnson?

Ms. Johnson has a BA in Writing, Literature, and Publishing from Emerson College. She served as a copyeditor for codeMantra and the Accent Press as well as a conference assistant for GrubStreet, Boston. She now serves as a junior editor for the New York boutique Corvisiero Literary Agency and a freelance editor for her own company, K. Johnson Editorial. 

She is currently looking for upper middle grade, young adult, new adult, and adult books. She loves fantasy works, including urban fantasy, and time travel. She also will consider general romance, contemporary romance, and any historical fiction other than Henry the VIII, the American Civil War, or Greek gods and myths. In addition, she welcomes queries on LGBT stories in all of the above genres.

What Ms. Johnson does not accept are chapter and picture books, horror, thrillers, suspense, or mystery books, along with romantic suspense. She does not work with novellas, poetry, short story collections, or plots heavily dependent on religious themes or motive.

However, while at the conference, she will review any two-page material that you wish to submit.

Steel Pen's Manuscript Review Process

Attendees have the option of three different reviews of their work. Ms. Johnson will provide critiques of the first two pages of a manuscript while Ms. Harrison and Ms. Suson are offering five-page reviews of manuscripts and poetry collections. All pages must be submitted to the Steel Pen committee by October 1st with "Manuscript for Review" in the subject line. Pages should be formatted according to industry standards, including double-spacing, 12-point Courier or Times New Roman font, and headers with author/title and a page number. Appointments will be set up the day of the conference and scheduled on a first come, first serve basis.

Ms. Johnson will meet with the authors for ten minutes each during the conference to offer advice on improvement. Although neither IWC nor Ms. Johnson guarantees any further review after the conference, she has the option to request more pages from you if she is interested in your work. The cost of this conference extra is $25 and the opportunities are limited to ten participants. You can find out more about her at

Ms. Suson will review five fiction pages per attendee along with a one-page synopsis of the larger work. She will provide a one-page feedback and offers ten-minute review sessions with each author. If for some reason you can't attend the conference, she will send the feedback to you, either via email or physical mail. Opportunities with Ms. Suson are limited to the first ten applications and the cost is $15. She is a traditionally published author in the thriller genre and a professional editor. Although she will be glad to read anything but poetry or picture books, her expertise includes science fiction, fantasy (all forms), thrillers, mysteries, and historical works (fiction and nonfiction) at all age levels. You can find out more about her at

Ms. Harrison will review five pages of poetry or creative nonfiction (e.g., memoir, essay) with a one-page synopsis for larger works or five pages of individual poems or short creative nonfiction prose. She offers a one-page critique and a ten-minute review session per submission. If for some reason you cannot attend the conference, she will email or physically mail the feedback to you. Opportunities with Ms. Harrison are limited to the first five applicants and the cost is $15. Ms. Harrison is a published poet, creative nonfictionist, and fiction writer and was also selected to serve as the 2017 Highland (IN) Poet Laureate. She has over a decade of college creative writing teaching experience and currently instructs creative and freelance writing at American Public University. You can find out more about her at

So make sure you are on the right path for success. Spaces are limited so go to the Steel Pen website and sign up today for your manuscript review. Either way, we look forward to seeing you on October 27th at the Fair Oaks Farm Conference Center!