Tag Archives: MWW

Will you be at Midwest Writers Workshop?

Midwest Writers Workshop.Today’s post is short, since I’m busy getting ready for the 44th Annual Midwest Writers Workshop. If you’ve been following this blog for a while, you’ve probably heard me sing the praises of MWW, as it’s where I met many of my critique partners and closest friends. No matter what stage you’re at in your career, if you have the time and means to attend a writing conference, I highly recommend doing so.

And if you’re going to be at MWW, please say hi!


Recommended Reads from MWW16

I spent last Thursday, Friday, and Saturday at the Midwest Writers Workshop, where I had a wonderful time networking with authors and industry professionals, catching up with writer friends, and connecting with writers who were new to MWW. It was an amazing weekend, which left me both excited to work on my next project and exhausted from all the activity. Introvert + 3 days of workshops, pitches, networking, and hanging out with friends I rarely see until after midnight = massive conference hangover.

So while I recover, I’m sharing my updated post-conference to-read list. Some of these are books by MWW faculty members, and others are books the faculty recommended.

Beware the Wild.Beware the Wild and Behold the Bones by Natalie C. Parker

Wow, the voice in the opening lines of Beware the Wild is incredible! We read the first two paragraphs in a workshop on voice and dialog in YA, and they were so good part of me wanted to grab the book and read the rest of it right there. I can’t wait to dive into these books. Also, shout-out to the other author who led the workshop, Julie Murphy. If you haven’t read her book Dumplin’ yet, you should.

The Black Hour by Lori Rader-Day

Lori had some interesting marketing techniques, including having a graphic designer friend make T-shirts with a fake crest for the college where this book takes place. She said the setting is based on Northwestern University, and since I’m an NU alum, I love books that take place in the Evanston area. I’ll be looking for those NU landmarks as  read!

Luck, Love & Lemon Pie.Luck, Love & Lemon Pie by Amy E. Reichert

Okay, I may be biased because I’m friends with Amy. But I’m not the only one excited about her books. People magazine reviewed it, and it’s gotten a lot of good buzz in romance/women’s fiction circles. If you haven’t read Amy’s first book, The Coincidence of Coconut Cake, yet, you may want to start there.

The Blood Keeper by Tessa Gratton and The Space Between by Brenna Yovanoff

These were both used as examples in a workshop on first lines, and their openings hooked me. Shout-out again to Natalie C. Parker and Julie Murphy, who are awesome authors and instructors!

I hope there’s something on this list that piques your interest. If you have read-alikes you’d recommend, please share in the comments!

Getting the most out of contests and conferences

Professional networking.

Image by flickr user Ghozt Tramp

By the time you read this, I’ll have submitted my pitch and first chapter for Pitch Wars, a contest hosted by the fabulous Brenda Drake in which selected applicants are paired with mentors to polish their manuscripts and pitches, and then agents read the pitches and request anything that catches their eye. It’s a wonderful opportunity for mentees to learn from people who have been in their shoes, for mentors and mentees to connect with other writers, and for agents to find great books. But I’m going to echo some things I keep hearing from the mentors and past participants: first, being a Pitch Wars mentee will not guarantee that you’ll get an agent right away, nor will not being chosen for the contest mean you’ll never get an agent with that manuscript; and second, the agent round is the least important part of the contest. Pitch Wars is all about making connections and learning from each other. And you don’t have to be a mentee to benefit from the contest. Follow along on Twitter (#PitchWars), cheer the contestants on, and soak up all the advice the participants offer in their tweets and on their blogs. Join in the conversation, and you may just meet your next CP, or your next best friend (or both!).

I view conferences in a similar light. There are usually opportunities to pitch to agents, but I think the greatest value lies in making connections and learning from your fellow conference-goers — both faculty and attendees. If you go to a conference with the single goal of getting an agent, you’ll be disappointed if the agent(s) you pitch to don’t request your work, and you’ll miss out on a lot of opportunities to grow as a writer. I’ve mentioned this before, but I met all of my CPs (and some of my best friends) at Midwest Writers Workshop. That conference is where I first began looking at writing as a career, and where I was introduced to the business side of writing. I’ve pitched to agents there the past three years, but I actually got more out of spending time with them informally at meals and in the hotel lobby. Why? Because we got to know each other. We got to talk about the industry and books without the awkwardness of my pitch hovering between us. And I learned which agents I might enjoy working with, because I got a sense of their personalities and communication styles. Anyone I can discuss zombie apocalypses, the NFL, and the yin and yang of gay YA with is someone I’d be comfortable talking about my work and my career with. (And remember, you don’t want to just get an agent; you want to get the right agent for you. Your agent will be your business partner, so you want to make sure you’ll get along well.)

So, even if you don’t get picked for a contest, or the agent you thought would be perfect for you doesn’t request your full manuscript on the spot, you can still get a lot out of contests and conferences. Make as many meaningful connections as you can, and be open to learning from everyone you meet, no matter where they are in their careers.

What advice do you have for contest entrants and conference attendees?

The Benefits of Writing Conferences

Midwest Writers Workshop. In two days I’ll be headed to Midwest Writers Workshop, and I’m really excited to attend craft sessions, network, and pitch my book to a couple agents! Last year, I attended MWW — my first ever writing conference — and it really jump-started my career. The other writers I met at MWW became some of my best critique partners — and best friends — and I’m looking forward to a reunion this year!

For writers who are on the fence about attending a conference, I highly recommend finding one in your area. Here are my top reasons why:

1. Opportunities to pitch to agents and/or get agents’ feedback on your pitch, query, or sample pages. This varies from conference to conference, but even just attending a panel where agents talk about the submission process and what they’re looking for can be a huge help. For those who are just getting started, or are just starting to query, conferences can teach you a lot about the business side of writing.

2. Craft sessions. I do a fair amount of reading about craft, but that can’t substitute for live sessions where you can ask questions and get feedback from both instructors and other writers. Last year, my favorite MWW session was a look at first lines taught be John Cusick of Greenhouse Literary. This year, I’m looking forward to Daniel Jose Older’s sessions on writing the other, since one of my protagonists in my current project (not the one I’m pitching) is very different from myself.

3. Opportunities to network with other writers. So much of writing is a solitary activity. MWW was my first exposure to a living, breathing writing community. From the first minute — walking in from the parking lot, actually — I was talking with other writers, practicing pitches, critiquing and getting critiqued. It was so refreshing to talk with and learn from other writers, and I wound up meeting several of my current critique partners that weekend.

4. Opportunities to meet other writers. I’m listing this as a separate item, because not only did I leave MWW with new critique partners, I also left it with new friends. The people I met there have become some of my best friends. These are the people I will celebrate, commiserate, vent, laugh, and even cry with. People who know and understand what it’s like to be a writer, whether that means working through writer’s block or wading through the slush pile or being a member of the infamous “sub club.” Or, you know, people to talk about normal stuff like moving and kids and new jobs with. (Surprise literary baby shower, anyone?)

So, if you’re trying to decide whether to hit the conference scene or not, I say, do it! It is absolutely worth it. I can’t wait to meet up with the writers I met at last year’s MWW, and am looking forward to meeting new friends and CPs.

I’ll check in next week with a review of this year’s MWW. Until then, happy writing!

And if any of you are going to MWW, be sure to say hi!

MWW Review

I sat down to write this review and realized I’m incapable of expressing how incredible Midwest Writer’s Workshop was without sounding like a squealing pre-teen who just shook hands with Justin Bieber.  In all seriousness, though, this conference makes the top five best experiences of my life.  Here are just a few reasons why.

For starters, the conference had something for everyone.  Whether you were looking to improve your writing, get feedback on your work, pitch to agents, or just network with other writers, there was a place for you at MWW.  Personally, I was most interested in the craft workshops and meeting local writers.  A recent transplant to central Indiana, I knew there had to be other writers in the area, but I didn’t know how to find them.  What I encountered at MWW was a much larger community than I’d anticipated who live within an hour of my home.  More than meeting a community, though, I met people who I hope will become good friends as well as critique partners.

Outside of networking, the craft sessions taught me not only about style but also about the business side of writing.  Shout-out to Hank Phillippi Ryan, whose sessions helped me think about my book in a new way, and helped me nail down that one-sentence log line.  Thanks also to John Cusick, whose presentation on first lines was my favorite of the conference.  The examples came from some of my favorite books, and I loved getting an agent’s feedback on the first line of my novel.

Finally, many thanks to the scores of other writers who let me practice my pitch on them, offered feedback, and shared their pitches with me.  It was so neat hearing about everyone else’s projects!

Okay, this is starting to sound too fan-girly for me, so I’m going to end here.  Great job, MWW committee, faculty, and attendees!  I can’t wait to see you again next year.

Midwest Writers Workshop Preview

In a few days, I’ll be headed off to my first writer’s conference.  I chose Midwest Writer’s Workshop for its relatively low price and close proximity to home.  I won’t have to worry about hotels or plane tickets or restaurants.  However, the ease of all of my organization so far has made the whole conference seem vague and, well, not really that big a deal.
But it is a big deal.  I’ve never been surrounded by hundreds of other writers before, all with the same (or similar) goals and ambitions and frustrations that I have.  I’ve had my pieces workshopped, and I’ve taken a few creative writing classes, but it has never been anything like this.  This is basically a writer’s camp, but preparing for MWW is nothing like preparing for the summer camps I attended as a kid.  No need for bugspray, sunscreen, or secret hoards of snacks.  (Well, okay, maybe the snacks, though they won’t need to be hidden under a mattress.)  Here is what I know about preparing for writer’s conferences so far:
  1. Bring business cards.  Be ready to trade them like the once-coveted Lion King cards and (no joke) Torah cards I brought to Jew camp.  But this time, instead of looking for the rarest cards or the ones with the biggest names, my conference networking will be all about finding the right matches.  I’ll be looking for people who are working on projects that are similar to mine, or who may be interested in what I write, or know someone who is.  I’m not looking for a book deal here (not that I’d turn one down, of course), just for some advice on how to go about landing one when I start querying at the end of the year and some contacts to whom I can send said queries.  If I’m a successful trader, my business card collection at the end of the week will be full of those people.  And, if you’re one of those people, introduce yourself!
  2. Have an elevator pitch ready.  Or at least some form of an elevator pitch, even if you’re not actually pitching.  People will ask what your book/short story/poetry collection is about.  My usual “I don’t like to talk about my writing until I’ve got a draft done” won’t cut it.  First, because I have a draft (which needed an overhaul of the setting and several plot adjustments; read: a complete re-write); and second, because that’s just not professional.  I could get away with saying things like that when writing was a hobby, something I dabbled in for fun.  But now that I consider myself a professional writer, I need to be ready to talk about my work.  And not just ready to, but eager to.  I need to be as enthusiastic about my book out loud as I am in my head.  Because no one wants to hear a weak, mumbled synopsis of the twelfth “work in progress” someone’s talked about that morning.
  3. Have a plan.  Know which sessions you want to attend, and which speakers/authors/agents you want to talk to.  Also, be prepared to deviate from the plan if a great conversation is keeping you from a session or if meeting one of the speakers makes you decide to go to her talk instead of the one on your original agenda.
  4. Take notes on everything.  When someone gives you a business card, write down where you were or what you were talking about so you’ll remember which card goes with which person later.  Take notes on what the speakers say in their sessions, even if you think you’ll remember it later.  There will be so many things that you’re trying to remember, from that tip about setting to when that session on dialogue is to how to get to the meeting room to where you parked your car.  If someone gives you some great advice at lunch or in line for the restroom, find a tactful way to jot that down, too.  I’ve always been a compulsive note-taker, so hopefully this won’t be too hard for me.
  5. Have fun.  You’re going to be overwhelmed by all of the agents, the “real” authors, the people whose work makes yours look like an attempt to prove the infinite monkey theorem gone wrong.  Don’t be intimidated by them.  Learn from them.  They’ve been in your shoes, and they may have some of the best advice you’ll get.
Any other pre-conference tips?  Or are any of you going to be at MWW?  If so, be ready to swap business cards with me!