Sunday, July 31, 2011

Highlights of the Midwest Writers Workshop 2011

I first attended the Midwest Writers (no apostrophe) Workshop in 2007. Back then, the only book I'd written was The Smell of Gas (published May 2011) and I only had a few short stories published. This year I was lucky enough to get a scholarship to attend through my day job as a content editor for a career and education website.

MWW takes place in Muncie, Indiana, on the campus of Ball State University. You can tell Muncie is a college town, because all the liquor stores have signs that say "Kegs Kegs Kegs." We got there Thursday afternoon and left Saturday.

Thursday highlights:

Kelsey Timmerman gave the introductory talk...on underwear. He spoke about the perils of wearing charcoal-lined, flatulence-resistant underwear on a plane and the intense itchiness of disposable briefs. Timmerman is the author of the immersion memoir Where Am I Wearing. He went to Bangladesh to find out where his undies came from and ended up with a book on becoming a more conscious consumer.

He also warned us against bathroom-stalking the conference's agents.

Friday highlights:

The first session of the morning was a panel discussion with literary agents Lois Winston, Jessica Sinsheimer, Kathleen Ortiz and Roseanne Wells. Lois Winston is also the author of cozy mysteries including Assault with a Deadly Glue Gun. From the panel, I learned about several fascinating industry blogs/websites:

Janet Reid's Query Shark
Kristin Nelson's Pub Rants
Shelf Awareness
Colleen Lindsay's The Swivet: word counts for all genres

I also learned the 3 C's of the elevator pitch: character, conflict, choices.

Next there was a "Secrets to Getting Published" panel with thriller writer Mike Lawson. From this, I learned the importance of ARCs and discovered The Business Rusch and The Passive Voice. Later, Tit Elingtin and I attended a publicity session with Dana Kaye.

I then got great blogging advice from Jane Friedman. I'm guilty of many blogging sins, including posting on an inconsistent schedule and using Web images without permission or attribution. Since Jane believes one should try to use at least one image per post to add interest, I hereby resolve to try using Flickr Creative Commons and Wikipedia Commons to find images I can use legitimately.

In the evening, we had a pizza party and a writing contest. Neither Tit nor I won the contest and the $100 check, but I did have fun writing 100 words of time-travel fiction from a prompt. Especially since there was a cash bar.

We stayed at the Prairie Creek Reservoir campground in our tent. There was a fierce thunderstorm tonight. We were safe, and somewhat amused, by listening to the rain falling on the tent and the flashes of lightning. The one thing that disappointed me about Prairie Creek was that I didn't see one single snake. One of the reviews I read suggested there would be snakes.

Saturday highlights:

A delicious, if not particularly diet-friendly, breakfast of mixed veggie mini-quiches and donut holes accompanied an informal Q&A session with conference participants in small groups. Tit and I talked with Mike Lawson about thrillers, then talked with Kathleen Ortiz about YA fiction. Later, we talked to Kathleen one-on-one about a nonfiction YA project I did under my other name. Kathleen is easy to talk to.

In between, we attended a session on plot with J.T. Dutton, then a session on perfecting a manuscript's first five pages with Lois Winston.

The drive home took us through Amish country. I saw horse-drawn buggies. Almost all the horses, I noticed, were chestnut. I only saw a few dappled bays in the field.
(Image: Rlevse - public domain)


shah wharton said...

What a fascinating post. I have never had the pleasure of attending such an event and doubt I will while living in Dubai. So thanks very much for these highlights. I'm now about to use some of these links and investigate further. I feel a bookmark frenzy coming on ;D X

Erin O'Riordan said...

I hope you find some of them useful, Shah.

I'll be by WordsInSync later to read your post on Ramadan.