Wednesday, December 26, 2012

The State of IWC

After two years as president of Indiana Writers' Consortium, it is time for me to step aside and turn the helm over to someone with different talents. Yes, I know that's a cliche, but I'm a sailor so you'll have to put up with the nautical terminology.

IWC is a young organization that was incorporated just over four years ago. New legal entities tend to go through a series of stages on their way to maturity. The first is the formation stage, which is often led by someone with entrepreneurial gifts. In our case, that was Sharon Palmeri, who was instrumental in bringing IWC into being.

The second stage sees the entity setting up the legal policies and financial systems that will carry the organization into the business world. That has been my primary contribution.

When my term started in January 2011, IWC had no budget, a static website, a logo that couldn't be enlarged without losing the resolution, a Facebook page designed for an individual rather than a corporation, and none of the Board policies that the IRS looks for when it audits Section 501(c)(3) entities. As my term ends, all of those issues have been resolved.

During my term, I drafted a number of legal policies. Several conform to IRS guidelines, while others are simply good business practice. In particular, the Board adopted policies dealing with committees, conflicts of interest, confidentiality, gift acceptance (donations), recordkeeping, and whistleblowing. The Board also approved officer and director job descriptions and amended the membership policy.

Under my leadership, IWC adopted its first budget. Although there was little financial history to work with, the 2012 budget proved to be a realistic one. We also created procedures for developing the 2013 and subsequent budgets.

During Sharon Palmeri's tenure as president, she enrolled IWC in Legacy Foundation's Great Lakes Award Initiative, which was designed to educate non-profits on running effective organizations. The benefits of her foresight carried over into my term.

As a result of IWC's participation in GLAI, Legacy Foundation assigned Dennis Banas of Praxis Strategies and Solutions to serve as IWC's mentor for approximately six months. With the help of Dennis Banas and his associate, Kate Bathon, IWC refined its logo and mission statement and adopted a brand statement, all shown at the top of this post.

IWC's participation in GLAI also qualified it for a grant to improve its communications with members and the public by redesigning the website. The Board hired DataMine to do the work, and the newly designed site went online in September.

I created a new blog and tied it into the website, and IWC is posting new material at least once a week. I also created a corporate Facebook page to replace the individual page that IWC had previously used.

Of course, I could not have accomplished any of this without the support and hard work of the officers and directors who served during my term: Katherine Flotz, Jacqueline Huppenthal, Janine Harrison, Thomas Spencer, Judith Whitcomb, Sharon Palmeri, and Cynthia Echterling.

The above litany only covers the new goals achieved during my term. There were also many ongoing events and programs that succeeded largely--or even completely--because of the efforts of others. I would especially like to thank the PoPP Committee (consisting of Katherine Flotz, Jacqueline Huppenthal, Judith Whitcomb, Sharon Palmeri, and Sandra Nantais) and the PoPP judges (headed by Thomas Spencer) for their contributions to our highly successful school program, Jacqueline Huppenthal and Janine Harrison for their work on the annual banquets, and Thomas Spencer for graciously hosting the annual picnic the last two years.

The third stage of a new, healthy non-profit organization is the one that sees it growing in funding, programs, and membership. These are not my strengths.

I will remain active as IWC's secretary and blog master. I will also share responsibilities for website and Facebook management. But I have completed the tasks that made me a good fit as president, and it is time to let someone else captain IWC through the next stage.

So join me in welcoming Janine Harrison to that role.

Kathryn Page Camp
Outgoing President

IWC is an IRS Section 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization whose mission is to inspire and build a community of creative writers.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Holiday Greetings From Indiana Writers' Consortium

Whether you celebrate Hanukkah, Christmas, Kwanzaa, or nothing at all, the holidays can be stressful. So take a deep breath, release it slowly, and feel the tension leave your body.Then concentrate on noticing and recording those big and small incidents that add spice to your stories.

IWC wishes you happy holidays and a great 2013.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

The Perils of Writing Who You Know

Kathryn Page Camp

We've all heard the old adage: Write what you know. But have you ever had someone tell you to write who you know? Probably not.
Still, many of us do write who we know. Are you working on a memoir? Or writing one of those personal experience articles that keep Reader's Digest and Guideposts in business?
That's fine as long as you keep it truthful. But telling the literal truth isn't good enough. "Uncle Charlie sleeps around" may be true if he travels a lot, but that won't be how readers interpret the statement. So unless you are looking for a defamation lawsuit or an excuse to avoid family gatherings, watch your words.
Even fiction writers tend to write who they know. Fortunately (or unfortunately if you are a defamation lawyer), most of us create characters who are amalgams of different people rather than one recognizable person. But that isn't always the case.
Imagine yourself living in the glow that follows your first published book. Then the sheriff knocks on the door and hands you a summons. Your brother has sued you for defamation.
Oh, you say, that won't happen to me. I only write fiction, and everybody knows fiction isn't true. Besides, I'll have a disclaimer at the beginning of my book saying that any resemblance to any person living or dead is purely coincidental.
That may have been what Andrew Fetler thought when he published The Travelers. If so, he soon discovered that he was wrong.
The novel revolved around a family very much like Andrew's family and an older brother with many of the same characteristics as Andrew's older brother, Daniel. But the fictional parts portrayed the older brother as a cold-hearted traitor. So Daniel sued for defamation, and the entire family took sides.
A federal appeals court held that Daniel had the right to try the case. The similarities were strong enough to let a jury decide whether readers would identify the fictional brother with the real one.*
I don't know how the story ended. Jury verdicts and settled cases rarely result in written decisions, and I couldn't find any newspaper articles about the outcome. But even if Andrew ultimately won the case, he had to bear the expense and stress of a lawsuit and live with the knowledge that his novel had divided the family.
So if you want to write about real people and situations in your fiction, change enough facts to disguise the characters. This requires time and creativity, but it could avoid hard feelings and a lawsuit. And your writing will be better for the effort.
* Fetler v. Houghton Mifflin Co., 364 F.2d 650 (2nd Cir. 1966).

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

October is Closer Than You Think

Save the date of October 10, 2013 for Indiana Writers' Consortium's Fifth Annual Banquet, which will be held at Avalon Manor in Merrillville, Indiana. Karen Kovacik, Indiana's current Poet Laureate, will be the keynote speaker. She will enlighten and entertain you regardless of your genre.

Karen Kovacik was born in East Chicago and grew up in Highland, in Lake County. She's the author of four collections of poetry, most recently Metropolis Burning, and her work has received numerous honors, including the Charity Randall Citation from the International Poetry Forum, the Barbara Mandigo Kelly Peace Poetry Prize, and a Creative Renewal Fellowship from the Arts Council of Indianapolis. In 2004, she was awarded a Fulbright Research Grant to Poland, and her translations of contemporary Polish poetry have appeared in many anthologies and journals, such as American Poetry Review, Crazyhorse and Southern Review. She's professor of English at IUPUI, where she directs the creative writing program. In 2010, her poem "Invisible Movements" won the Moving Forward contest and will be installed along the Indianapolis Cultural Trail.

More banquet information will be available as the date approaches.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

All I Want for Christmas Is . . .

Books, books, and more books.

Here are some books that make good Christmas presents for writers. Most are craft books. Snoopy's Guide to the Writing Life provides encouragement, A Moveable Feast gives us a glimpse into the life of an American writer living in Paris in the 1920s, and Book Proposals That Sell is the best guide to writing non-fiction book proposals that I have found (and I've read a few). The publication dates are from the editions in my own library, so they may not be the most recent versions.

  • Snoopy's Guide to the Writing Life, edited by Barnaby Conrad and Monte Schulz (Writer's Digest Books, 2002)
  • Reading Like a Writer by Francine Prose (Harper Perennial, 2007)
  • Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott (Anchor Books, 1994)
  • Ernest Hemingway on Writing, edited by Larry W. Phillips (Scribner, 2004)
  • A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway (Scribner, 2003)
  • Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg (Shambhala, 1986)
  • On Writing Well by William Zinsser (Quill, 2001)
  • How Fiction Works by Oakley Hall (Story Press, 2003)
  • Stein on Writing by Sol Stein (St. Martin's Griffin, 1995)
  • Writing for Story by Jon Franklin (Plume, 1994)
  • On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King (Pocket Books, 2001)
  • Lessons From a Lifetime of Writing by David Morrell (Writer's Digest Books, 2003)
  • Plot & Structure by James Scott Bell (Writer's Digest Books, 2004)
  • Dialogue by Gloria Kempton (Writer's Digest Books, 2004)
  • Characters, Emotion & Viewpoint by Nancy Kress (Writer's Digest Books, 2005)
  • Description & Setting by Ron Rozelle (Writer's Digest Books, 2005)
  • Revision & Self-Editing by James Scott Bell (Writer's Digest Books, 2008)
  • Book Proposals That Sell: 21 Secrets to Speed Your Success by W. Terry Whalin (Write Now Publications, 2005)
There are many other good writing books out there, so comment on this post to add your favorites to the list.

Kathryn Page Camp

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Advice From a Dog

Peggy Archer
For Christmas one year I received a book from my husband called Snoopy's Guide to the Writing Life. Snoopy's Guide... is a wonderful tribute to Charles Schultz, author of the Peanuts cartoons, edited by his son, Monte Schulz, and Barnaby Conrad.
I have always loved the cartoons about Snoopy as a writer. Like us, he faces the challenges of writing a good story, revision, criticism, and advice. Snoopy listens to suggestions and gives them a try. He imitates the masters in his own way. And he never gives up.
I love Snoopy's rejection letters. They make you laugh because, for the most part, no one could top the letters that Snoopy gets from publishers. Like any dedicated writer, Snoopy believes in himself and keeps on going, in spite of rejection.
As a children's writer, I think I may relate a little more to Charlie Brown when Lucy challenges him and Linus to look at the cloud formations and use their imaginations to see beyond just clouds. Charlie Brown sees a ducky and a horsie. Linus sees a map of Honduras, a famous artist, and an apostle in the different clouds. When writing for children we should probably aim somewhere in between.
What I didn't expect to find in this book were the essays and advice from 32 best-selling authors. Some comments:
" matter what method you choose, start with something happening!"--Barnaby Conrad
"...characters are what a story is about--they drive the story; plot and theme come from character, not the other way around."--JF Freedman 
"A story's setting is what puts us there, gives us readers a sense of being in the situation with the characters."--John Leggett
"One of the most difficult decisions an unpublished writer makes is when to take advice and when to ignore all your well-meaning critics and do it your way."--Sue Grafton
Anyone who tells you how to write best-sellers is a sham and a liar. .... I write them with fear, excitement, discipline, and a lot of hard work."--Danielle Steel 
This is a great addition to my library, and a great book for writers of all genres and stages of their writing life. It will leave you smiling, nodding your head as you share the feelings that all writers feel, and gaining insight into the craft and business of writing.

SNOOPY'S GUIDE TO THE WRITING LIFE, edited by Barnaby Conrad and Monte Schulz, Writer's Digest Books 2002, ISBN: 1-58297-194-3.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

This Post is Copyrighted

Kathryn Page Camp
I'm a lawyer, so writers sometimes ask, "How do I copyright my material?"

My answer? "Get it out of your head and onto paper or a computer drive." The minute you put it in tangible form, it's copyrighted.

"But don't I have to register it with the government or something?"

You can. But no, you don't have to. There are advantages to registering, but they are too complex for a blog post. The process can also be time-consuming and expensive, especially if you register multiple copyrights.

Including a copyright notice on the material is enough to keep most people from "borrowing" it. That's because the average person doesn't know the copyright law and doesn't realize that something is copyrighted unless he or she sees a notice on it.

A copyright notice consists of either the symbol © or the word "copyright," the year, and your name. For example, the notice for this post might say © 2012 by Kathryn Page Camp.

If you are worried that someone will steal your idea, registering won't help, anyway. You can't copyright ideas.

If you are worried that someone will steal the words you use to express your idea, then registering can help prove they are your words. But unless you are J.K. Rowling or J.D. Salinger, your words aren't likely to be a prime target for theft.

Still, your book could become the best seller of the century, and you should register it when it gets published. In fact, the publisher will probably do it for you.

Until then, weigh the time and money you would spend on registration against the likelihood that someone will steal your material. Only you can decide whether it's worth it.

For additional information on copyrights, go to

My website includes a longer article on copyrights as well as other legal articles of interest to writers. You can find them under the "Legal Resources" tab at

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Kate Collins Book Signing

IWC member Kate Collins will be signing books at Books-A-Million at Southlake Westfield Mall in Hobart, Indiana on Saturday, November 17 from 2:00 to 4:00 p.m.

Kate is the author of the popular Flower Shop mysteries about florist Abby Knight.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

A Midwestern Irish Comedian Explains Humor, Time, and Space: An Interview with Michael Poore

Janine Harrison
When you descend the staircase into his "man cave," you'll likely note the collage of cartoons hanging on the wall before his desk first. Cartoons of John Scratch from his debut novel, Up Jumps the Devil. Cartoons of his wife, his step-daughter, his pistol-sporting grandmama sitting upright in bed. Once a cartoonist for the Ohio University Post, Michael Poore has drawn these images himself. On the adjacent wall, you will see unlikely characters who've been demonized--literally, eyes whitened, horns added--figures ranging from Albert Einstein to the Brady family's faithful maid, Alice. His past Twitter profile pictures. On a bookcase shelf on yet a third wall, you'll observe a stack of overdue videos (much to his wife's chagrin and, oh, by the way, I am she) on topics as diverse as the history of the U.S. space program to noodling. You have now entered his writing world.
My husband's fiction is reputed for its humor. I decided to ask him not only about its use but about other modes that dominate his literary landscape.
Q: You have been referred to as a "humorist." Please discuss your use of humor in writing.
The Midwestern Irish are a peevish and intemperate lot. We're born smartasses.
Then consider our subject matter: Earth in the 21st century. I mean, if you peek out your front door and cast a clear eye on your own neighbors and buses and text messages and cats with Facebook pages and those huge machines that suck up leaves and the way people wear pants and work puzzles, doesn't it make you want to slam the door, pull down the shades, and sit in the corner giggling to yourself, "My's all just a big sick joke."
This has been the Irish perspective--an outside-in perspective--for centuries. The world gives us absurdities, and we take that as a challenge. The world gave us priests, we responded with faeries. The world gave us Germans, we answered with Joyce. Computers came along; we exported the wolfhound, a greate and fantastickal beest.
I'm serious. A straight approach to anything requires consistency...and I can't seem to find that pulse. I'm a big fan of Pinterest because of the elaborate and inconsistent portrait it paints, re: its many creators. It's a kraken of braids and threads of commercial interest. Baking, books, LOTS of wine and sexual imagery, church stuff, witchcraft, hats, caves and woods and dark stars and cow embryos...if this is what our psychology looks like, what response is more appropriate or searching than comedy? In Tagalog, in fact, the word for "comic" and the word for "underworld" are the same (I made that up, but it's still sort of true).
Q: Please discuss your dual fascination with time and space. How do you feel that these elements interact within literary and genre texts?
I am most interested in what I'm writing when I'm dealing with time. What fascinates me most is the way time gets away from us in tiny hour, a day, then ten years. How our lives divide into chapters, and how we become different people, and step into and out of roles and ages.
I'm especially drawn to the idea that parts of our past become distant enough that they are like foreign countries, populated by people and situations that have unraveled. I think that's the history teacher in me...I see our lives as histories, with battles and art forms, inventions and treaties, dark ages, a Renaissance if we're lucky, or a long and delicious decay. Our childhood becomes our personal mythology, our memories become a cosmology that collapses on itself.
My favorite stories span years and years, and my favorite device, the truest device, I think, is the story-within-a-story. That draws on the literary side of my palette, I suppose. It's character-driven. On the other hand, you can't very well write a fifty-year span of time without having a lot of things happen (a story, to semi-quote Michael Martone, is a bunch of stuff that happens), and that lends itself to plot. Which people like to classify as "genre."
The trouble is, with so much time, in that kind of story, you wind up with a lot of...ordinary plot. And that can be tedious. Which is where that Irish comic fascination with the absurd and the grotesque come in. Like the character in Shadow of the Vampire who plays an actor playing Dracula: the character has invited Jonathan Harker to come to Transylvania and sell him property in London so he can move there and drink English blood, and he is distraught over how to provide for his guest. He speaks with sadness and uncertainty about how to go to market and select cheeses or when to have the bedding changed...mundanities which become gripping and exquisitely human because they are being fearfully discussed by a man who hasn't been human for four hundred years. Here's this dark creature, terrified by the prospect of, you know, shopping. And at the end of this speech, you're thinking, "Damn, man...having guests is dangerous!"
I think this kind of lens attracts readers, even literary readers, in this day and age. Rather than reading from a "normal" perspective looking out at the grotesque, we identify more personally with monsters. Looking, as monsters must, from the outside in. And I would argue that our racing media culture has made us a world of outsiders. Our screen names and avatars inhabit a dreamworld on the other side of a looking-glass where we can never actually go. That's an absurd and grotesque reality, and it favors grotesque fictions.
That's why my characters tend to be people like the Devil, or a man who is always getting struck by lightning, or ghosts or taxi drivers faking their deaths. These are comic situations, and their heroes are outsiders. Horror and eternity are easier to come to grips with than the ordinary absurdity of our real, daily 21st century lives. So that's where we begin as a writer. Start with some kind of Frankenstein...and have him slouch toward Walgreens with his secret hungers and his debit card.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Time to Write

Meggie Tolkland
If you'll forgive me for sounding like an old coot, during my 30 years of professional writing, I've learned one truth.
The good news? Anybody can become a great writer, talented or not.
The bad news? Becoming a great writer takes prolonged hard work and discipline.
This blog is ostensibly about finding time to write, but it's really about making writing your top priority. If you can't do that, writing's not for you. But if you can't live without the worlds in your head, it's easy to make time, regardless of how busy you are.
Start now. I can't overemphasize the urgency of this advice. Writing a first novel will take at least a year. Most writers claim you won't sell your first novel; I did, after revising it in places 30 to 40 times. Either way, selling a novel may take years. The production process is similarly slow.
This epic process, though, still breaks down into little steps. If time seems tight, create a goal to write 15 minutes a day. After a week, increase that to 20 minutes a day. After another week, write 25 minutes a day. Then, if you miss a day, tell yourself, "Oh, well. In four days this week, I made up the equivalent of one day last week, so I didn't miss any time at all."
  • Take your laptop with you, and write during kids' rehearsals and practices.
  • Waiting at the doctor's office? Write.
  • Before I drift to sleep, I tell my kids I visit my "imaginary world"--really, the staging ground for my next book. If an idea is awesome enough, I jot it down with a pencil and pad I keep in my bedside table.
  • While you're driving, concoct writing ideas, and scribble them at stoplights.
  • When you sit before a keyboard, type on your manuscript, and stop for no reason. If you experience writers' block, ask yourself what your problem really is. Here's a secret:
Writers' block doesn't exist. The most frequent culprit is perfectionism or fear of failure. Don't be scared. Have you memorized Shakespeare's entire catalogue? Of course not. Shakespeare wrote a gazillion words, some sublime, some clunkers. People, if you write a lot, you'll improve your chances of creating soaring prose. You need practice to improve, and with practice, your first drafts will improve.
  • If you procrastinate writing, pick another pastime. If you don't experience the urgency to write and the conviction you're destined to, you won't endure the countless rejections all professional writers inevitably experience. Or--be realistic with your goals. Maybe your goal isn't to write the Great American Novel; perhaps it's to entertain your family, itself a high and worthwhile endeavor.
But be your own best friend. If you miss a few days, simply resume your good habits, and congratulate yourself. You're making your dream come true, something most people never do.

I invite you to fall in love with my dream come true: The Mayhem: Roan's Story. You can order a paperback at To buy the e-book on Kindle, go to
The book is also available at Northwest Indiana's public libraries. Alternatively, readers can enter to win a free copy on Goodreads at and at

My mentor told me, "Writers always help each other," and I invite you to e-mail me at can also friend me at, connect with me on LinkedIn, and on Twitter @MeggieTolkland. You can also sign up for my free newsletter at

Meggie Tolkland
Dangerous romantic fantasy


Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Another Successful Banquet

Another year, another successful banquet.

IWC held its fourth annual banquet on October 2. This was our second year at Avalon Manor in Merrillville. The food was delicious and overly abundant, so it's nice to know that Avalon donates the leftovers to a local shelter.

Author Michael Martone highlighted the evening with an enlightening and entertaining talk that kept the audience guessing. Professor Martone began by asking the audience members to keep their cell phones on and text him during the speech. The texts didn't come, however, because we were mesmerized by his comments on what makes a good story.

The evening concluded with an open mic. Thanks to all the talented writers who participated.

Here are some more pictures from this year's banquet.


Friday, October 19, 2012

And the Winners Are . . .

Congratulations to Shelby Englehardt and Kevin Bradley, who are the winners in the book drawing. Shelby will receive autographed copies of A Pebble in My Shoe by Katherine Hoeger Flotz, The Mayhem: Roan's Story by Meggie Tolkland, and Torqed by C.D. Echterling. Kevin will received autographed copies of Up Jumps the Devil by Michael Poore and In God We Trust by Kathryn Page Camp. Both Shelby and Kevin will also receive a copy of From the Edge of the Prairie (2011), which is a collection of poems and short stories written by members of the Prairie Writers Guild. Two IWC members, Jacqueline Huppenthal and Judith Lachance-Whitcomb, contributed to the collection.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Drawing Deadline Extended

In order to give more people the opportunity to participate in our book drawing, we have extended the dealine through October 17, 2012. See the previous post for more details.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Welcome to Our Web

"'Will you walk into my parlour?' said the Spider to the Fly."

In the poem by Mary Howitt, the spider lures the fly into its web and traps the fly. We at Indiana Writers' Consortium want to lure you into our web, too. Unlike the fly, you are free to leave at any time. But we hope you won't want to.

Please use the link on the right to enter and explore IWC's redesigned website. The website address is the same, but the blog address has changed to You can also access it from a tab at the top of the website.

Discover who we are by reading the About page, then check out our authors, find a speaker for your next event, and browse through our bookstore. Visit the Events page or click on the link on the right-hand side of any page for information on attending our upcoming banquet. If you like what you see, go to the Membership tab to discover the benefits of belonging and to join IWC, or scroll to the bottom of any page and make a donation.

To lure you in, we are giving away autographed books written by IWC members and issues of literary journals that include works by IWC members. To enter the drawing, use the Contact page to send us a comment about the site. Be sure to provide your e-mail address so we can get in touch with you if you are a winner. We won't sell your e-mail address to spammers or any other third party. And if you do not want us to use it for IWC's own newsletters and announcements, just say so. It will not affect your chances of winning.

This drawing is not open to IWC board members or their immediate families.

We will announce the winners on this blog on October 1.

Even if you do not want to participate in the drawing, please leave a comment letting us know what you think about the website.

So welcome to our web.

Kathryn Page Camp
Indiana Writers' Consortium

IWC is an IRS Section 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization.