Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Opening the Door for Community: Turn the Knob Recap!

Kayla Greenwell
In case you missed it (I'm so sorry if you did) here is the rundown of the very first Turn the Knob Adult Writing Workshop.  The event started a little after noon on Saturday, January 25, 2014 and the participants ranged from already published novelists to creative writing professors to aspiring comic book creators.  Although the attendees had different backgrounds and varying levels of success they all had one thing in common that made this event such a success: a passion for writing.  Keynote speaker Kirk Robinson, an Assistant Professor of English at Calumet College of St. Joseph, spoke of community. It grows as we grow, he said, and it may start very small, but it is always important.  Community is priceless to a writer and that is what this event reflects. When you turn the knob, you open a door and through that door is a community of writers waiting to help you and support you while you achieve your dreams.
Kirk Robinson (center) discussing community. (Picture by Kathryn Page Camp)
After Professor Robinson's uplifting and pen-spurring speech, the group split into the first two sessions.  There was a choice between a poetry session run by Blotterature Literary Magazine Editor Tim Murray, "Why did I get here? The Poetics of All-Inclusiveness"—which I heard from Tim involved hand turkeys—and a fiction session, "It's the Little Things that Getcha: Using Comic Detail to Create Vivid Characters" by Up Jumps the Devil author Michael Poore. Poore discussed giving your characters low impact, humanizing moments to make them more approachable.  "It is in these small moments where you learn the most about your character," he said.
Michael Poore reading aloud during "It's the Little Things that Getcha." (Picture by Kathryn Page Camp)
After these two sessions there was a break for lunch, and Kirk Robinson and Michael Poore talked to the group about publishing.  Professor Robinson discussed publishing for poets and the importance of understanding the etiquette of the journal before submitting.  Both mentioned the golden of rule of reading the journal before sending your work to make sure your work is the right fit.  "You never want to regret being published, and so many people are," they said. In the end, after questions were answered, publishing sounds like a lot of luck and hard work, but hard work that is totally worth it in the end.  Both talked again about community, and how finding those few writers that you trust to cultivate your writing and be honest with you is so essential to your writing process.
Poore and Robinson talking 'bout publishing! (Picture by Kathryn Page Camp)
After this we were onto the final session. This time the participants had a choice between college writing instructor Gordon Stamper Jr.'s "Avoiding Greeting Card Verse: The Hallmark of Writing Poetry" and "The Short and the Short of It: The Art of Writing Flash Fiction" taught by Janine Harrison M.A., M.F.A.  Stamper Jr. said during the break that his aim was to help poets avoid the cheesiness of the hallmark card, unless that was what they were going for. "Then," he said, "more power to you!" Harrison's session focused around the craft of flash fiction—fiction that is 1500 hundred words or less, but is typically 500 words or less. It's harder than it sounds, but if you can master it, it is a powerful form of writing. Every word has a weight to it.

Gordon Stamper Jr. (right) leading "Avoiding Greeting Card Verse." (Picture by Kathryn Page Camp)
We ended the wonderful day of writing and community with more beautiful words from Kirk Robinson, who read his poem "The Design of To-Morrow."  Then the participants each chose a knob to take home as a memory of the day. Hopefully they will continue to work on their writing to submit to the Turn the Knob e-publication that will be go live on March 3, 2014.  Overall it was a fantastic and productive day. It was the perfect example of community.  There was talk of doing an event like this quarterly and everyone left in high spirits with new ideas and smiles on their faces.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Take Your Prescriptive Grammar Medicine

Julie Demoff-Larson
They call themselves grammar Nazis. You know who you are and we know you are watching. No matter what the words may be written on or what form it is presented, these masters of language will judge your writing by the errors you failed to recognize even after your fifth edit. Don’t get me wrong, we need these readers to point out the comma splices, run-ons and dangling participles. Well written grammar represents professionalism and an astute understanding of the function of language. In academics, this is called prescriptive grammar and grammarians that follow this line are strict when it comes to the use of form and function in the English language. However, stringent rules don’t always lend to creativity in writing, but in order for writers to play with form they must first understand the rules.
I personally wrestle with grammar. Sometimes it has me in a headlock, but if I can break free and get a grip on it then the outcome is usually worth the effort. My problems with grammar stem from a lack of formal training. In high school, months were spent discussing, reading, and acting out Macbeth and endless vocabulary review, but never once was diagramming sentences introduced. It is now, after almost five years into my education, that I find my footing is a bit more stable when I am writing.
When writers understand the form and function of a sentence there is a confidence that comes through in their work. And when the rules are understood, then they can be broken. The writer can then experiment with the form to create tone, humor, and pace.  Descriptive grammar, the practice of looking at language through social observation, tends to define the creative writer’s understanding of language.  Observation is relative to distinguishing what is appropriate and inappropriate use of language, which is key for the creation of compelling characters. Without observation, the risk of creating stereotypes and inauthenticity is greatly increased, but through it time, place, and realistic characters are developed. Descriptive grammar, unlike prescriptive (sounds like taking medicine), is relaxed and therefore accepts variants of language found in regional dialects, social class structures, and various age groups. Observe people and you find that how we speak is not proper English grammar. So, let loose and don’t worry about the grammar Nazis.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Winter Block? Some Brain Boosting Tips!

Peggy Archer
Why does the new year have to start in winter?! It’s cold outside, at least in northwest Indiana. Your brain seems to want to hibernate with the bears instead of sparking those creative juices. If you’re feeling less motivated this season, here are some suggestions that might help you out of that slump.

Open the curtains and let the sunshine in! Sunlight can increase the body’s production of serotonin, which lifts mood and increases alertness and energy. If it’s gloomy outside, turn on more lights. Make your work space sunnier by choosing bright colors in your room.

Get up from your desk and move around. Take a 5-minute break once an hour and stretch. Walk into another room. Take a brisk walk outside to the mailbox, or go out to feed the birds. Frequent small bursts of physical energy lessen muscle tension, can get you out of a slump and clear your thinking.

Daily exercise, even 15 to 20 minutes a day, gets your blood flowing and increases energy by maintaining good levels of oxygen in your body.

Warm up! Put your hands around a hot cup of cocoa or hot tea. Put on some warm fuzzy socks or a cozy cardigan. Find your comfort level to help you stay focused and motivated.

Find something to laugh about. Laughter stimulates both sides of the brain. Laughing reduces stress hormones, resulting in enhanced attentiveness and brain function.

Keep a bottle of water at your work station and take a drink every now and then. Staying hydrated helps maintain energy. If water is not your thing, drink flavored water or tea. Tea is loaded with antioxidants and provides other health benefits as well.

Make sure you eat breakfast. A cup of coffee just won’t cut it. Whole grains and fruits will do more for you than a quick caffeine or sugar boost that will wear off in a couple of hours, then leave you in a slump.

Eat a snack. A healthy snack every couple of hours can help keep your blood sugar level and your energy up. Try an apple with peanut butter, string cheese, or a cereal bar for a carb-protein boost.

Finally, try something new. According to Gregory Berns, M.D., a neuroscientist at Emory University in Atlanta, when people do something new and different it releases a motivating chemical in your brain that gears you up to do more.

So say good-bye to winter block, and get your energy flowing! 

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NOTE: This post originally appeared on Peggy’s blog ( IWC thanks her for permission to reprint it.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Self-Publishing: Library of Congress Control Numbers

Kathryn Page Camp
Do you want to sell your self-published book to libraries?* Get a Library of Congress Control Number.
The Library of Congress has a Preassigned Control Number Program (PCN) that is available to U.S. book publishers and includes self-publishers.** The publisher must maintain an editorial office (which can be your residence address) in the U.S. where someone (you) is available and capable of answering “substantive bibliographic questions” about the book. In general, “substantive bibliographic questions” means questions about the author, edition, and subject matter of the book and whether it contains references and indices. These are all questions an author should be able to answer about his or her own book.
Before applying for a PCN, the self-publisher must register online with the Library of Congress and provide the location information mentioned above. Registering also means that you agree to put the U.S. city of publication on the title page or copyright page of each book entered into the PCN program.
Once you are registered, you can apply for a PCN for your book. This is also an online process. There is no fee, but once the book is published, you must send a copy to the Library of Congress.
Under the PCN program, you may not publish the book until you receive the Library of Congress Control Number. The published book must list both the U.S. city of publication and the control number.
Certain books are not eligible for the PCN program. They include:
·         Books that are already published,
·         E-books (although you can request a PCN for a hard cover or trade paperback version of the same book),
·         Mass market paperbacks (but, again, you can request a PCN for a hard cover or trade paperback version of the same book), and
·         Most manuscripts under 50 pages (excluding children’s books).
For more information on which books are not eligible, see
You may be asking what the difference is between a mass market paperback and a trade paperback. Although there is often a difference in printing quality (mass market paperbacks are generally printed on cheaper paper), the main difference is size. A mass market paperback is one that is approximately four inches by seven inches. Trade paperbacks are larger: usually at least five inches by eight inches. In my experience, most self-published books are trade paperbacks.
Once the Library of Congress receives your book, it may select it for inclusion in its online catalogue. Because of its limited resources, however, most PCN books do not make it. Even so, having a Library of Congress Control Number increases the chances that a library will consider adding the book to its collection.
You can learn more about the program and apply for a PCN at
* For purposes of this post, “self-published” refers to any book paid for or subsidized by the author.
** The Library of Congress also has a Cataloging in Publication program that provides more extensive cataloging data on the book. However, this program is not available to self-publishers or for any book that is paid for or subsidized by the author.
Kathryn Page Camp is a licensed attorney and full-time writer. Her new book, Writers in Wonderland: Keeping Your Words Legal (KP/PK Publishing 2013) is available from and other retailers. Kathryn is also the author of In God We Trust: How the Supreme Court’s First Amendment Decisions Affect Organized Religion (FaithWalk Publishing 2006) and numerous articles. You can learn more about Kathryn at

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

The State of the IWC

Janine Harrison
NOTE: With the beginning of a new year, IWC looks back on its accomplishments in 2013 and forward to its plans for 2014. We are already working on several 2014 events, including a creative writing workshop in partnership with Books, Brushes, and Bands for Education; the spring Eat & Exchange series; and the 2014 banquet, which will be paired with an afternoon conference. While the text below refers to a Saturday luncheon, we are excited to announce that the 2014 banquet will be held on a Saturday evening, following the conference, rather than as a luncheon. Be sure to reserve October 11, 2014 for that event.
What follows is President Janine Harrison’s 2013 banquet speech, which highlights IWC’s accomplishments and promise. That banquet—with Indiana Poet Laureate Karen Kovacik as its keynote speaker—was another example of IWC’s success.
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     Within the past two weeks, I was asked, “What is your vision for the IWC?”  As the organization began, the collective response of Indiana Writers’ Consortium Officers and Board of Directors might have been, “To achieve 501c3 status” and later, something akin to “get the group off of the ground.”  We have since achieved those objectives and, in considering our goals, I would now have to answer, “It is to become increasingly relevant not only to creative writers and writing organizations throughout Indiana but also in the context of the global community of writers in the 21st century.”
     My best friend, Jackie, came over for dinner and a movie on Saturday night.  Just as I was about to press the play button on the remote control, she recounted a quick story about a post-apocalyptic British TV series entitled “Outcasts” that she’d recently watched. In it, representatives of the Earth, the best of the best— nuclear physicists, Nobel Prize Winners, child prodigies, and the like—had been saved, transported to another planet, so that humankind could carry on.  One character introduces these geniuses one by one to a newcomer and when a poet laureate is introduced, the newcomer responds, “Oh.  I didn’t know that anyone still wrote poetry.” 
     Granted, this is sci-fi, but it does make one pause for thought.
     Purdue University Calumet began hosting a yearlong One Book/One University event last academic year, and this year’s selection is Nicholas Carr’s The Shallows, in which he discusses how the Internet is affecting our brains.  Carr argues that the Internet is causing users to become increasingly distracted and that, in turn, we are less able to concentrate on serious reading.  He posits that someday, we will live in a “post-literary society” in which only an elite few read books in print.  He predicts that someday e-books will have social media integrated on a page-by-page level and that instead of reading being a solitary and reflective experience, it will be an activity that people do to fulfill belonging needs.   Oh, the horror!
     It seems, folks, that we writers are becoming increasingly marginalized.  Goodness knows that with government cuts to arts funding over the past decade, and with emphasis on informational texts in lieu of literary texts in grades 6 through 12 in the Common Core curriculum, that sidelining is being reinforced in very real and tangible ways.  It may lead some writers to wonder:  How are we to remain vital in this changing world?
     We creative writers know that in a global environment entailing mass economic disparity and strife—only exacerbated by such events as government shutdown, civil war in which a government drops chemical bombs on its own people, the ever-present threat of Al-Qaeda-related terrorism, and other universal and personal atrocities—that writing is needed, possibly more than ever before. Needed to give voice, to help readers feel less alone and less afraid amidst the daily chaos, whether through confirmation of experience and connection or escapism and disconnection.  And even if the Indiana Writers’ Consortium can contribute only to fostering a community of wordsmiths and to maintaining literature’s significance at a grassroots level, then at least we have done something to assist the creative writing discipline as a whole.  And isn’t that what life, in part, is about?  Striving for betterment however possible?
     This year, the IWC has not only become increasingly active, but we have also laid groundwork for the future.  We have continued to host three annual events.  First, the networking picnic, which was held at the Spencer House in Lowell.  Second, the dinner that you are currently attending.  Both events have reached their fifth anniversary.  The third, the Power of Poetry Project, in its fourth year, involves bringing poetry into select Indiana elementary schools in the form of poetry lessons and a contest, culminating in an awards ceremony and journal of winning entries.  A representative of the Legacy Foundation, an organization from which we have received mentorship in multiple forms as well as a grant specific to this project, announced to other not-for-profit executive directors at a recent First Friday Coffee, “The IWC does so much good work with so little money!”  It was wonderful to hear!
In addition to these projects, we have accomplished the following:
1.     We established an Eat & Exchange Series to be run annually each spring, involving roundtable discussions of different writing topics—ranging from sub-genre specific to business of writing—facilitated by members for both members and non-members at cafĂ© venues, twice per month.
2.     We added a member benefit that will allow qualified writers to run creative writing workshops through the IWC at various locations throughout Northwest Indiana.  The IWC will be responsible for facility rental and advertising.  Applications for this benefit are accepted quarterly.
3.     We partnered with Purdue University Calumet to lead a creative writing event on campus in conjunction with One Book/One University.
4.     We formed a Strategic Plan Committee and drafted a Three-Year Strategic Plan, recently approved, in which membership recruitment, fundraising, member benefits, increased activity and visibility, professional development, and professionalism are highlighted. 
5.     We formed a Membership Recruitment Committee and completed phase one of annual recruitment, and are now in the throes of planning phase two. 
6.     We partnered with the Chesterton Public Library and held a book fair in combination with their end-of-summer reading event at the European Farmers Market.
7.     We gained our first intern, a Purdue University Calumet student, who has worked fifteen hours per week this semester and proven invaluable in the area of public relations.
8.     We developed a Bylaws Review Committee and have worked to revise our bylaws, created in 2008, so that they are more reflective of our needs as a now established and growing entity. 
Looking to the future, we are:
1.     Applying for a grant that would allow us to hire a fundraising consultant.
2.     Partnering with Books, Brushes, and Bands for Education to produce an annual adult creative writing workshop, targeting adults in need of a creative outlet, adults who yearn to give voice to their ideas and experiences.
3.     Beginning a twice-annual members-only reading event to allow our members increased public exposure.
4.     And, possibly our largest endeavor to date, in the beginning stages of planning a half-day Saturday creative writing conference with a keynote luncheon speaker for October 2014 with the goal of extending it to a full-day conference in two years’ time.
Finally, within the past week, we elected new officers and board members whose terms of service will begin on January 1st of 2014.  They are:
Julie Larson, our new vice president
Judy Whitcomb, our new treasurer
And Jackie Huppenthal and Katherine Flotz, both former officers, as directors. 
A hearty congratulations to all of them, and a sincere thank you to the officers and board members who volunteer their time and work tirelessly, without whom the Indiana Writers’ Consortium could not exist! 
     If you are an Indiana Writers’ Consortium member, thank you very much for your support.  I hope that you see value in your membership and will continue to support us and perhaps even take a more active role.  All Board meetings and committees are open to members.  If you are not currently a member, then I hope that you will see us as “up and coming,” and consider giving us a chance.  Our group is valuable in that we not only provide benefits to our members, but also strive, as a service organization, to benefit the community, which, in turn, benefits members in often unexpected and gratifying ways.