Why Belong?

The “Writing Life” can be lonely. Sometimes that’s good. I need time to think, time to plan, time to write, review, revise and re-write. All these things work best in quiet isolation. Too much stimulus can be—well—too much. It almost seems stunting at times and I feel a creeping desperation to run and hide.

However, the last few weeks have given me several reasons to celebrate belonging, and to feel grateful for networking with people in general and other writers in particular. I belong to two regional writing groups, Kansas Authors Club and Oklahoma Writing Federation. Each has its own strengths, as well as limitations. Others may find the initial limitations enough to stay away. When they are handled with good humor and flexibility, the benefits of belonging can outweigh those stifling stimuli.

Why belong? Here are a few key reasons.

Like nobody else, writing friends understand what I face with time management, craft development, and the daunting prospect of marketing my published words. In the past month, I have exchanged drafts with some good friends for feedback. As always, my writing friends make fine critique partners. I benefit in two ways from exchanging critiques. First, of course, I learn how the selections I send impact a reader. And second, when I return the favor, I find my own skills of reading “like a writer” are honed ever sharper. The ability to read my own words as an editor might read them enhances my writing.

In the last month two writing friends tipped me onto opportunities to share my books. The first event was the anniversary of a little bookstore in El Dorado called The Next Chapter.

A charming atmosphere with aisles of used books (and a few new releases) made this book signing a delight. It was initiated by a writing friend and colleague in Kansas Authors Club.

The manager of The Next Chapter introduced me to DartFrog which is a gateway for Indie writers to offer books in independent bookstores across the country. Marketing is probably the single biggest challenge for me so I was excited to learn about DartFrog. Perhaps you would like to check it out: www.DartFrogBooks.com.

Another tip from a writing friend and colleague in Kansas Authors Club put me in touch with the Wichita Barnes & Noble bookstore. This local branch is hosting a “Local Author Day” in July. I submitted my suspense novel for consideration to be included and received word that I was accepted. I just filled out the event agreement to be one of the writers featured in Barnes & Noble.

In addition to these exciting events, writing groups host conferences. Over the last few years I have attended several conferences in Kansas and Oklahoma and gleaned many tips from the featured instructors. Beyond regional groups, many genres have national organizations and host conventions for the edification of writers who attend. Most conferences offer writing contests also, which can be a great way to get feedback on your work. I even received personal help adding seals of excellence to my online book covers for award-winning books. A big “Thank You” goes to the staff of Meadowlark Books.

The benefits of belonging number so many, why wouldn’t everyone want to belong? The old adage, “You get out of it what you put into it,” surely applies to writing groups. But when the balance tips to the point you find yourself putting in more than you could possibly gain, burnout is expected. Then it may be time to flee the stimuli and hermit yourself away in a writing retreat. Until that time, I will reap the benefits of belonging as long as possible.

Something for Every Writer

 

The Holiday Inn at Kellogg and Rock Road in Wichita is The Place To Be the first weekend in October 2019.Writers of District 5 of the Kansas Authors Club have put together a fantastic event you won’t want to miss. With over thirty classes—many offered twice for your convenience—there will be something for everyone. Several special activities unique to this conference will ice the cake for your convention experience.

Keynote speaker Paul Bishop from California will be in attendance throughout the entire weekend to share his decades of experience writing crime novels as well as his experience assisting other writers meet their goals. A special opportunity for a few lucky registrants will be a one-on-one conference with Paul to get feedback on the first pages of their current work-in-progress.

Join Clare Vanderpool, Wichita’s own Newbery Award-winning author, for a special catered lunch on Saturday as she reminisces about the special books throughout her life. Tickets for this lunch are available with registration.

The annual literary contest, open to any writer in Kansas, or any member regardless of residence, is accepting submissions until June 15. A category never before included in the annual contest deals with author blogs and/or websites. Don’t delay! Submit your poems and stories at http://kansasauthorsclub.submittable.com .  For complete contest information see: http://kansasauthors.org

A special opportunity for poet members of KAC will be the juried poetry/music event on Saturday morning, Rhythm-A-Ning: A Poetry & Music Event. Poets will read their poems through once while two accompanying musicians and the audience listen; then the same poem will be read through again with the two musicians improvising to the poem. This will result in a spontaneous ekphrastic experience for all; poets, musicians, and audience. Join us in this unique auditory experience! The accompanying musicians are Bill Glenn on percussion and Seth Carrithers on acoustic bass, two well-known Wichita improvisatory musicians.

Poetry selection for this event is via a blinded juried submission process. It is open only to KAC members (statewide or out of state) who will be attending the convention. Your submission is your guarantee you will be in attendance. Though the selection is by juried submission, this is not a contest. No prizes are awarded (except you get to participate!) and a rejection does not reflect on the quality of the submitted work, but rather what works best for the program.Deadline for submission to this exciting opportunity is June 15. Don’t wait too long!

For complete details: http://kansasauthorsclub.weebly.com/news-for-all-members/rhythm-a-ning-a-poetry-music-event

Of course there will be the awards presentations. Youth awards are scheduled on Saturday afternoon, and adult awards are split between the Saturday banquet and the Sunday luncheon.

Another first for KAC is a trolley tour sponsored by the city of Wichita. Sign up to take a trolley on a guided tour of several scene locations featured in the historical novels of member Michael Graves. Travel in style with Graves to downtown Wichita for insights and commentary on location by the author of  To Leave a Shadow and Shadow of Death.

During each cluster of classes a panel of presenters will share different topics with ample time for taking questions. Want to learn more about blogging? Don’t miss the blogger panel Saturday morning. What about the rehabilitative power of poetry? Come learn about the poetry program at the Douglas County jail Saturday afternoon. Have you submitted your books to a previous contest only to watch another writer receive the award? Sunday morning learn tips from past winners about what they think helped their writing.

There will be workshops for everyone. Are you interested in research techniques for historical novels or biographical tales? Don’t miss Michael Graves, HB Berlow, or David Nichols.

Are you working on a memoir? Mike Hartnett will share his journey writing a memoir in his workshop.

What about historical romance? Check out Tracy Edingfield.

Suspense novels or thrillers? Paul Bishop, Curt Bohling, HB Berlow, Mike Graves and Tracy Edingfield.

Interested in juvenile or YA writing? Don’t miss Clare Vanderpool, Claire Caterer or Tracy Dunn.

Are you a poet at heart? April Pameticky, Kevin Rabas, Ronda Miller and Diane Wahto.

Journalism? Dan Close

All workshops are open to writers of all ages and all genres, with presenters sharing ideas that could be applied to any writing effort. Each workshop possesses appeal for every one of us.

Registration for this fantastic writing convention is now open.

Details: http://kansasauthors.org.

Hotel reservations: KS Authors Club

We hope to see you in October in Wichita!

Letter to a Young Writer

I received an invitation to write a letter of encouragement to a grade school student who dreams of writing. Perhaps these thoughts are relevant to writers of any age.

Dear Joslyn,

Your teacher told me you dream of being an author. That is awesome! You have taken the important first step toward achieving your dream. The support of my fifth grade teacher launched my dream long ago and I appreciate her more than words can say. Perhaps you also will correspond with your teacher for the rest of your life.

Do you love to read? When I was your age I did. I still read a lot. I love the way I can escape to different times and places through stories others share.

If you haven’t already started, I encourage you to keep journals of your activities, your experiences, and—most important—your thoughts and feelings about everything. The more you write, the better your writing will become. It’s one of those things where “practice makes perfect.” Our alphabet and the written language derived from it are perhaps the most important invention of humanity. Used with skill, words possess the power to change the world.

Today it is easier than it has ever been to see your work published. No longer do you have to convince agents to represent you and offer your manuscripts to publishers. At the same time, because of the ease of publication through online sources, anything you publish will have A LOT of competition. To attract readers, learn to make your work stand out. Take your writing seriously. Study the intricacies of our language and its rules of grammar. Learn the basics of storytelling.

How do you do this? English classes will get you off to a good start. Beyond school, how-to books on writing are easy to find. I took special creative writing classes as early as high school. And when you finish high school, there are university tracks which offer intensive training in creative writing.

You could join a writing club. These groups bring writers together and they welcome members of all ages.

Enter writing contests. Many contests welcome submissions by students. A couple of contests available in Kansas are Kansas Voices and the annual literary contest sponsored by Kansas Authors Club. Submit your stories and poems as often as you can. After the winning writers are selected, contest judges often offer suggestions about how writers can improve their craft. Don’t resist revising and re-writing your first drafts.

If you are bold, you could attend workshops and conventions to learn more about writing. It is invigorating to surround yourself with others who share your passion.

Seek a variety of activities to understand how other people view life. Pursue adventure. Crave new experiences. Engage in life. Watch people and listen to their speech patterns. Collect friends and get to know them inside and out.

Allow yourself to feel deeply the entire circle of emotions. Learn what it’s like to love intensely, to laugh with abandon, to rage helplessly, to fear powerful adversaries, to feel your heart break with sorrow, and even to despair with little hope. Write it all down, sparing nothing.

Careful observations as you experience life could lead to unique twists in your stories that make them stand out. Use your experiences to feed your imagination. Create new worlds and write them to life.

You have set out on an exciting journey.

Be proud that you have taken the first step toward your dream, but don’t be surprised if life dictates a few detours. Embrace them also. Farm them for scenes, characters, places, and conflicts. And never stop writing. It’s a long road and a lot of hard work to see your dream come true. You may get discouraged, but don’t give up. Every step of the way is worth it. Someday you may touch a needy heart. Someday—maybe soon—you will make a difference and help change the world with your words. There is nothing more important.

Good luck to you and Write On!