This year’s Write Stuff writers conference will be entirely virtual. We’ll have J.D. Barker, Tim Esaias, and Harrison Demchick as our presenters. All workshops will be recorded, so wherever you live–in whatever time zone–you’ll be able to attend. Learn more about this year’s conference here: https://greaterlehighvalleywritersgroup.wildapricot.org/page-1859773.
Noah Ballard is a good guy. A nice guy. Raised in NJ, Noah traveled to the Midwest to attend the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. Upon earning his degree, he returned east to work for the Emma Sweeny Agency. Now, he’s settled close to home and family at the literary agency, Curtis Brown, Ltd. in NYC.
But this good guy will go loco with a few simple words. Playful – Pleasant – Predictable.
Don’t say these words. Don’t do it. Because he’s a nice guy. We don’t want him to go loco—not yet.
Let him go “good” loco over your amazing manuscript. Noah is looking for thrillers, upmarket fiction, and noir contemporary. He wants provocative authors. He’s in the “now” – so nothing from last season, smarmy, or outdated. Hook him in the opener by a cute little Corgi with bloody paws. Give him characters with bright green hair and tattoos of ancient Sumerian gods. Thrill him with a chase scene, taking him backwards, the wrong way, through the Chunnel – oh wait, that’s been done before. But he’s cool if you do it again; with panache and no – ‘ly’ words. Challenge his intellect with a Kobayashi Maru scenario, then add a few RKO twists and turns.
Look, this isn’t his first rodeo. He’s been all over the country and the world, presenting at conferences, workshops, and generally enthused about writing and publishing. His agency represents bestselling authors and Pulitzer prize winners, so he’s not easily manipulate by trends. He longs for the underserved voice. He particularly dislikes when authors try to school readers. His advice: don’t start any piece of writing with the definition of a word. Give him a good story that’s honest and relatable. Give him vigorous dialogue. Speech, he reminds us, is what characters do to each other. It’s just as interactive as punching a villain in the face. Above all, Noah wants to be different after he reads your powerful book. He’s picky, street-wise, tough.
He’s even quit smoking.
Noah will be taking pitches at the 2020 GLVWG Write Stuff Conference™ on Saturday, March 14 (advance registration required). When you query or pitch to Noah:
- Do … be polite and respectful.
- Don’t … try to shock or disgust him.
- Do … be confident.
- Don’t … stalk him (you won’t get published and it’s illegal).
- Do … provide a query with just enough info about your finished manuscript (and you) that will make him ask for sample pages. Think of queries as a window display and agents as window shoppers. You want the agents to come in and buy from your shop.
And oh yeah, he lives in Brooklyn. You don’t mess with people from Brooklyn. They go bad loco over tepid literature.
To read more about Noah Ballard, click on the following links:
Bernadette Sukley, Write Stuff Writers Conference™ Flash Literature Contest Organizer and Chairman of the 2016 GLVWG Anthology, ‘The Write Connections’, has been researching, writing and editing for over 25 years. Her work has been featured in national and international publications. Her focus is human interest, health and lifestyle. She’s also written and edited guides, pamphlets, columns, stories, and novels. She’s published two novels (A Saving Hurricane, Find Me a Woman) and a nonfiction book (Made in Pennsylvania) within the last eight years.
We introduced Ben Wolf our Keynote Speaker for the GLVWG Write Stuff Conference™ , March 21 – 23, 2019, in our WordPress Blog – January 14. On Thursday, he kicks us off with Into the Deep: An Advanced Study of Speculative Fiction. On Friday, he’ll engage conference attendees in a discussion on The Three Pillars of Storytelling. Saturday, Ben will conduct seminars on Backstory: Your Secret Weapon to Engaging Readers, and Writing Flash Fiction that Sells.
Don’t miss his keynote speech during Saturday lunch, Writing Through Adversity.
GLVWG member, Joe Fleckenstein, took some time to ask Ben a few questions.
In an interview with Geeks under Grace in 2014 you mentioned that you very much favored Frank Peretti’s writing and, in fact, you read his book The Oath at least a half dozen times. That’s saying something. What was it, specifically, that you admired in Peretti’s writing that you found so enthralling? Would it be fair to say there’s a similarity to some degree between Peritti’s style and what is to be found in your Blood for Blood?
Frank Perett’s writing captured my imagination at an early age. In part, it was some of the first “grown-up” fiction that I was exposed to, so the level of intrigue, drama, and even violence in his stories grabbed me and didn’t let go. The main reason I read The Oath so many times is that its high concept is brilliant, yet simple, and it is flawlessly executed. I can’t say much more about it without giving away a major plot point, so go read it and you’ll see what I mean.
With regard to my own writing, Blood for Blood did feel Peretti-esque, I think, in some ways. It has a dark feel to it (like much of Peretti’s work does, especially his earlier works), and I think I deal with that darkness in a unique way which is something Peretti does frequently as well. My latest novel (at least at the time of this interview), a sci-fi/horror story called The Ghost Mine, sways less toward Frank Peretti and more toward Robert Liparulo’s style of thriller storytelling. I’d say that in recent years, Robert Liparulo has usurped Frank Peretti as my favorite author.
Splickety, the flash fiction magazine you edited, is scheduled to close down. To what do you attribute the closure? Has the interest in flash fiction peaked? What’s the future for flash fiction? Are you personally finished with flash fiction?
I will always love and continue to write flash fiction stories, and flash fiction has such fantastic value as a tool to learn how to write better fiction. The closure primarily comes as a result of me realigning my priorities in publishing. For years, I ran Splickety to offer new authors a path to professional publication. Those publishing opportunities with Splickety helped me develop a career teaching at writers conferences nationwide and freelance editing for other authors.
Over the last year, I realized that though I had succeeded in the conference scene and in freelance editing, I was doing a poor job of pursuing my own personal dreams of becoming a multi-published, full-time author. So I took a hard look at what I would need to do in order to move toward that actual goal of writing full-time, and I realized that had some considerable changes to make in order to get that to happen. Unfortunately, shutting down Splickety is one of those changes.
Your proclaimed genres are Christian and horror. Christians say “love thy neighbor as thyself” and “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” How do you rectify these positions with a character bent on, say, using a stiletto on someone’s kidney? Will the real Ben Wolf stand up?
This is a great question, and I’m so glad you asked it. How do Christianity and horror go together? I’ve given a lot of thought and had a great many discussions about this over the years. It’s a complicated discussion, and there is no one right answer, but I’ll give you my thoughts on it as succinctly as I can:
A read-through of the Bible reveals plenty of horrific things happening–both natural and supernatural. People are brutally killed, demons torment humans, God opens up holes in the ground to swallow people whole and sends serpents to bite them and strikes people down for touching the ark of the covenant–the list goes on from there.
Are these “good” things? Not really. But the authors of the Bible included them for a reason: to show how horrific life can be, specifically with the intention of drawing a comparison between a life walking with God and a life separate from God. As I said, this is a huge discussion, and I don’t want to ramble on forever, but suffice it to say that horror as a genre or as a feature in any other genre (I’m working on a dark fantasy series as we speak, for example) is an excellent tool that an author of any stripe can use to their advantage to convey a message and tell a great story. And furthermore, I am not the same as my characters; I have a mind of my own, and they’re fictional beings. So they can stab kidneys with stilettos all day long, but it really gives no indication of who I am as a person.
Sidebar: One of the sessions I’ll be teaching at the conference is an extended presentation on Horror and how to wield it effectively. We’ll have plenty of time for discussion about this topic in more detail there, so I encourage any interested folks to sign up for the conference so we can delve deeper into the darkness together.
At the upcoming GLVWG conference, you may expect to have a variety of aspiring writers in attendance. There will be writers who do explicit sex, a few who do YA, those who do pieces with a religious bent. No doubt, others too. Do you have a common set of recommendations, advice, or taboos you might pass along to this varied group?
Yes. The key thing that I’ve learned over the last year is that you MUST know your audience. You must know what they like to read and what they expect to find in the books they read.
A lot of writing advice out there states something to the effect of “write the story of your heart and find an audience for it.” There’s a counterculture of primarily independently published (aka self-published or “indie”) authors who start by identifying their preferred audience and then writing books that will energize and excite that audience.
Many of those indie authors are making six figures a year writing. I know a handful of them, and I know a couple who are making seven figures a year using this strategy. So if your goal is commercial success, then choose a ravenous target audience in a genre that you’re interested in writing, read a lot of best-selling books in that genre so you can identify what elements readers are looking for, and then craft a story that will satisfy readers’ appetites accordingly.
Every wannabe writer at sometime in his or her life will think about using an agent. What is your experience with agents? There will be agents at the conference. Do you use an agent? The same agent for the different pubs? Experiences with agents are always of interest. What’s yours?
I’ve had two agents thus far, and now I am technically agent-less. A good friend of mine is a top agent in the industry, and he has informally offered to send anything out for me whenever I want him to, but right now, I’m focused on indie publishing because it is likely going to be the quickest and most lucrative path for me.
Please note that this is a decision I came to based on a lot of publishing experience (I spent seven years chasing traditional publishing and not getting anywhere) and working with two agents prior. I’m not at all saying it’s the right path for everyone–some of my closest friends are traditionally published authors who are making a living off of their writing.
The key thing to understand when working with an agent, at least from my perspective, is that no one will ever care more about your book than you. Therefore, you are in most ways the best person to sell it. A good agent should have connections to the folks you want to get your book in front of, and a great agent will have a solid understanding of your genre and the readership for your writing as well as some sales ability. Truly excellent agents are rare, just like top-notch folks in any industry, and thus they’re harder to land.
At the end of the day, the only thing any author can control is the work that they themselves do on their writing and on their career. So work to achieve new levels of productivity, quality, and imaginative storytelling so as to improve your chances whichever route you choose to take.
Tell us about your human side. You write a lot about blood. Does the sight of blood bother you? When you give blood, do you watch the needle go in or do you look the other way? Could you butcher and clean a chicken?
I’m on the fence with blood. A little blood here and there in real life is fine. A lot of blood and I do start to get queasy. I’m not big on needles, but I got a tetanus shot and a blood draw a few weeks ago, and I watched the whole time. In crisis situations, I tend to handle trauma pretty well, so I would think that if someone’s life were on the line, I could probably throw up real quick and then do whatever I could to help the person in need. I also practice Brazilian jiu jitsu, so I’m comfortable choking people and manipulating their joints.
With that said, I’m generally a peacemaker rather than a person who seeks out physical confrontation. Though I can probably hold my own in such a conflict, I would prefer to avoid it. Butchering a chicken doesn’t sound like the worst thing ever, and animal blood doesn’t gross me out quite so much. I field-dressed a pheasant once, and I don’t really eat vegetables, so in the apocalypse, I guess I’d find a way to do what I had to do in order to survive–chickens or otherwise.
We, of GLVWG, will be looking forward to seeing you in person and to hearing you speak about one of our common, favorite topics: writing.
I’m really honored and excited to have the chance to join you!
Ben is the founder and owner of Splickety Publishing Group, the publisher of three flash fiction magazines. He has edited, written, and/or published over 100 published works and has taught at 40+ writers conferences nationwide.
Ben currently has one novel on the market, The Ghost Mine, a gripping sci-fi/horror novel sure to thrill you and chill you late into the night. Ben has also published a children’s book and will be publishing the first books of a nine-book fantasy series in early 2019. You can find his books on Amazon.com.
Ben and his wife Charis Crowe (who sometimes is his presentation partner) live in Iowa with their children. Charis is also presenting at the conference, and you can read Charis’ interview on our WordPress Blog – February 27.
Article by Joe Fleckenstein
Joseph E. Fleckenstein, active GLVWG member for nine years and club treasurer for two years, has published over 35 items. The list includes technical papers, online courses, and 22 short stories in ezines and print magazines. In 2015 CRC Press published his technical book Three Phase Electrical Power. His novel The Kurdish Episode will soon be available at Amazon. Additional bio particulars are available at his website www.WriterJEF.com.
Article by Albert Tucher
Tia Mele, agent for Talcott Notch Literary Services, will be at the GLVWG Write Stuff Conference™ on March 23, 2019, to take pitches from conferees for women’s fiction, romance, YA and MG on a first come, first serve basis.
To sign up for a pitch session, follow the instructions on the registration form. Your actual appointment time will be assigned after registration is closed, and will be attached to conference materials upon signing in.
GLVWG member, Albert Tucher, had a chance to ask Mele a few questions.
If I were to meet you at a conference, what is something you would tell me about yourself that would be intriguing?
I love math! I do algebra problems in my free time because I find it really relaxing, and I went up to calculus in high school and took pre-calculus in college. People think it’s strange because I was an English major who took a bunch of math classes throughout my college career, but I just love numbers and solving problems mathematically. It’s probably not surprising that on those “which side of your brain is dominant” tests, the result is always that I use both sides equally.
What drew you to becoming an agent?
I learned what an agent was when I started writing seriously right after high school, and I was looking into how to get published. I saw agents as being a little like fairy godmothers, and I wanted to be a part of making author dreams come true!
When you get a submission, how far into it do you get before you know this one is not for you?
Sometimes I only get as far as the query, because the submission will be in a genre I don’t represent. If it is in my wheelhouse, I read the whole query and first ten pages before making a decision.
What are the current trends in publishing that you think we should know about?
I don’t want to call diversity a trend because I think it’s here to stay, but diversity is huge in publishing right now. Diversity is one of those ‘trends’ that you can follow because it isn’t going to disappear by the time you finish your book. I’ve noticed a lot of YA fantasy over the last few years. With the successes of Simon Vs. The Homosapien Agenda (Love, Simon) and To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before in film, I’ve heard a lot of editors say they’re looking for swoony, sweet YA romances across genders and sexualities, which I have always loved, so I’m especially excited for this trend.
What do aspiring authors do in seeking an agent that drives you crazy? In other words, what should we avoid doing?
Please don’t send mass queries (putting a hundred different agents in the subject line, or cc/bcc’ing us on the email). Do follow the guidelines on our website for submitting your query. Also, your query should tell me about your book. I get a lot of queries that are mostly about the author or the writing process, and don’t tell me about the characters or plot. I try to emphasize relevant biographical information in queries. Your bio should tell an agent your writing background (if you have one, it’s not a requirement to be published!) and what makes you the best person to write the book. For example, if your book is about a ballerina, you should tell me that you did ballet for ten years, but not that you have twenty-seven dogs.
What is your favorite place in the world to visit? (Mine is the Big Island of Hawaii.)
Oh, man, this is a hard question. I’ve been so lucky to visit some amazing places. I think I have to go with two: Paris, France and Nashville, Tennessee.
And finally, tell us what you’re specifically looking for as an agent.
I’m looking to build my list with middle grade and young adult projects in any genre. I’m especially interested in dark middle grade and contemporary YA. Please send me your LGBT+ stories, as well as stories featuring visible and invisible illnesses, especially relating to mental health. I like everything from deep, terrifying thrillers to sweet, heartwarming romances. Sports plots are always interesting to me, especially if they involve baseball or softball. Dogs are a huge part of my life, so I’m all for dog-related stories as well.
I’m seeking limited adult projects in women’s fiction and romance.
In non-fiction, I’m looking for anything sports related, especially baseball, football, or basketball. I’m also open to cookbooks from chefs who have a following from a blog or channel.
Article by Albert Tucher
Albert Tucher came to writing late, after twenty years spent pursuing an operatic singing career. Always busy, Albert could never get to the point where he could give up his day job as a librarian. So, he started writing novels and sending them out to agents.
See what Albert is up to on his blog at WritersResidence.com.
Article by Susan Golden
Donna Galanti writes thrillers for kids and grownups. She is the author of the bestselling paranormal suspense Element Trilogy and the children’s fantasy adventure Joshua and The Lightning Road series. Donna is a contributing editor for International Thriller Writers the Big Thrill magazine, a writing contest judge at nycmidnight.com, and regularly presents as a guest author at schools and teaches at writing conferences. She lived in England as a child and was stationed in Hawaii as a U.S. Navy photographer.
GLVWG member, Susan Golden, asked Donna a few questions.
If I were to meet you at a conference, what is something you would tell me about yourself that would be intriguing.
In high school in the 1980s I was obsessed with Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings and dressed up as Aragorn (what I envisioned he would look like at the time). Of course, no one knew who I was in my cloak and boots. I am a fantasy reader and writer at heart.
What have you learned from the mistakes made in marketing a product?
Not realizing that I am marketing myself first, in many instances. People often want to connect to you as a person first, so they can then be drawn in to your product. Also, it’s key to build a subscriber list and a cheerleading team before you market a product so that it already has momentum to sell when it’s available.
What is the difference between marketing and selling?
With marketing, it’s important to remember that this is about being focused on what the consumer needs. Find their need and fill it. With selling, this is really all about focusing on sales, and how to increase numbers and product.
Do you have a favorite or suggested reading regarding marketing?
The Social Media Examiner is a good blog to follow to keep up with social media marketing trends. I also follow Neil Patel who has great podcasts with marketing tips through his Marketing School program.
Based on your experience as a contest judge, what are the biggest mistakes made in submissions and what advice would you give authors when selecting and submitting works in contests.
I see many of the same mistakes made over and over in submissions. I see overuse of exclamation marks, situations that are not believable, too much dialogue and not enough action/reaction/setting, too many characters and names, all telling and no showing, and head hopping. With fantasy, I see a lot of made-up lingo, places, names that bog down the story and pull me out of it. I would suggest when submitting short works, to make it simple. Have 2-3 characters we can connect with and care about. Add in sensory details to enrich the story and add in action/reaction between characters to show us about them and their motivations.
What is the greatest lesson you have learned from your experience in moving from fledgling author to success?
I wish I’d learned about how to write a book before writing my first book. I took writing workshops after I finished that first book and it required going back and fixing a ton of things! However, I don’t regret the learning that took place afterwards because it taught me how to write a better book from the beginning. Keep learning your craft and keep filling your writer’s toolbox. And remember that this writing business is not GOING to be easy – it’s going to be worth it! Visit my Writers Corner for inspiration, advice, and resources on writing.
What one thing would you like to relate to the audience?
As authors we get out of our comfort zone when we write, but we must also publicly get out of our comfort zone and into a new community comfort zone – online and in person. Through doing this, I’ve networked with all kinds of professionals in the publishing industry that have helped me get an agent, get a publisher, get blurbs, get exposure and more.
How to start?
- Join a writer organization, general one or genre-based. Search online by your region. “writer’s organizations” + “region”.
- Attend writer meetups. Search http://www.meetup.com and create one if none available.
- Follow and connect with authors you admire.
- Check out the Writer’s Digest 101 Best Websites for Writers and pick a few to follow and engage with.
- Connect with other debut authors. Search online for “Debut Author” + “Year” your book releases. You can band together to do shared promotion.
- Connect with readers before your book comes out. Book bloggers are your friend. Follow them online, comment on their blogs. Ask them to review your book, do a cover reveal, or a giveaway.
- Position yourself as an expert and share what you know. Giving a talk in-person or being on someone else’s blog instantly positions you as an expert.
- Build a subscriber list. A subscriber list is your direct line to your readers, whether a blog or newsletter list. It’s the only community list you own. What if Twitter or Facebook went away? How would you reach your community? Through email.
- Start with who you know. Tip: run a Rafflecopter contest and have entrants follow your newsletter or blog for extra entries.
Donna will be available at the GLVWG Write Stuff Conference™ on Saturday, March 23, 2019 to provide marketing advice for conferees on a first come, first serve basis. To sign up for a consultation session, follow the instructions on the registration form. Your actual times for the consult will be assigned after registration is closed, and will be attached to conference materials upon signing in.
Article by Susan Golden
Article by Susan Monroe:
Danielle Modafferi, CEO of Firefly Hill Press – LLC, a small independent publishing house who strives to find, publish, and market exceptional works of novel-length fiction, specifically in the Young Adult and Romance genres. Danielle will be attending the GLVWG Write Stuff Conference™ March 23, 2019.
Firefly Hill Press specializes in stories that feature heroines who are not afraid to save themselves – no damsels need apply! Our stories feature love and obstacles that enhance our protagonists’ journeys but in no way defines them. We like to believe that we reclaim the term “happily ever after” and illustrate how it is a unique pursuit and triumph to each character and her goals.
Susan Monroe had the chance to ask Danielle a few questions.
If we were to meet at a conference, without using anything from the bio, what would you tell me about yourself that would be intriguing?
I have a pretty inexhaustible travel bug and have trouble staying in one place for too long! I started Firefly Hill Press as way to build a digital on-the-go company and pair it with my LOVE of books and writing. I have had the privilege of living all over the United States, in Paris, and in London and am always keeping my eyes peeled for my next destination and inspirational publishing location! If anyone has any good suggestions of what should be next on my list, come find me and let me know!
As an agent, you work with writers, hopefully, long-term, but who are strangers to you at first. Do you look at more than the work submitted to determine that relationship?
Absolutely! Since my company is small by design, I only take on authors with whom I hope to build a career and a future. Of course, it has to be an author whose work I believe in and am enthusiastic about, but more than that, I hope to foster a professional and working friendship with my team. Writing is hard and sometimes requires brutal honesty from both parties. I need my authors to know that those critiques come from a place of love and desire to make their work the best that it can be and the only way that happens is if trust is fostered between us. It is a pretty integral part of a successful working relationship, in my opinion.
Writers often say they became writers because they have to write. What drew you to becoming an agent?
Actually, I too started as a writer. I wrote and published a Young Adult Dark Fantasy novel titled The Girl in the Glass Box back in 2016, which is a fairy tale reimagination based on the Grimm’s version of Snow White. I earned my MFA in Writing Popular Fiction from Seton Hill University in 2014 and during my time there learned how exciting the publishing side of the industry is. Additionally, I come from a background as an English teacher, so I feel like publishing is an awesome opportunity for me to fuse teaching, coaching, and my love of writing with my interest in the ever-changing landscape of publishing.
When you get a submission, how far into it do you get before you know this one is not for you?
Truthfully, it’s pretty early on – within the first page or so. But out of respect for the writer and the submission, I generally read through most of what is sent to me, even if I know it’s not for us. There are so many things to be told from the first paragraphs: writing style, tone, craft, content themes, and so on. So, I always tell writers that if they are continuously submitting and they are not receiving any promising responses, to consider revising their beginning and perhaps starting the manuscript at a more active point in the story. I see so many manuscripts that just begin in the wrong place. Not to say that the stories are bad or deficient, just that they begin before the “real beginning” of their story should start.
What are your personal peeves when it comes to submissions?
Ooh, when writers clearly have not done their research and are just blanket canvasing their manuscripts to anyone and everyone regardless of genre or submission guidelines. It shows a total disregard for the process and for my time as someone considering this manuscript. For instance, if you are sending me a horror, sci-fi, erotica manuscript, clearly you do not know much about our backlist and what we currently represent. It is just time consuming and a bit inconsiderate.
What trends in the publishing marketplace attract your attention? (Such as, what genres are hot? Where is electronic publishing going?)
Wow – I am LOVE-LOVE-LOVING the resurgence of chick lit and the Rom Com. As a fan of these types of stories myself, I love the hopefulness of these stories and even more so, I am loving the trend that these stories are becoming more female-story-centric. Life is hard and stressful and difficult. Watching the news is NOT FUN (understatement of the year!) and people are becoming bogged down with the heaviness of everyday struggles, which is why light, fun, uplifting literature is really making its way back into the publishing arena.
In terms of what’s coming for e-publishing? Hmm… the hot topic on everyone’s lips for the past few years has been a skyrocketing in popularity in audiobooks. I am really eager to see the technological innovations in this area and am looking forward to more texts becoming more accessible in an audio format. For me personally, audiobooks (and podcasts!) make commuting so much more tolerable. I would love to see maybe even more authors reading their own work? I know it sounds crazy because, of course, the narration needs to be well done, but a big trend in marketing and publishing has been an increased accessibility to authors through social media and live streaming video feeds. No longer are authors these creatures who are holed up in their dark cabins in the woods pumping out pages in their solitude – they are interactive with their communities and readers have become increasingly responsive to it! That aspect of publishing has been really exciting to watch and to be a part of.
Danielle Modafferi earned her Master of Fine Arts degree in Writing Popular Fiction from Seton Hill University. Since then, she incorporated Firefly Hill Press in 2014 and has been passionate about discovering and sharing incredible fiction through publishing ever since! She is a: Professor of Writing, Practicer of Random Acts of Kindness, Connoisseur of Cheese, Petter of Puppies, Professional Napper, and Lover of all things Harry Potter. Follow her on Instagram and Twitter @danimod115
You can also follow Firefly Hill Press on Facebook.
Article by Jerome W. McFadden
GLVWG author, Jerry McFadden, had a chance to ask David a few questions.
Jerry: If I were to meet you at a conference, what is something you would tell me about yourself that would be intriguing? Pls do not use anything from your bio.
I have double-jointed elbows!
Jerry: Who are your favorite authors and why?
A.W. Tozer — He said that a really good book should be read slowly, and often cause you to pause in your reading, to meditate and pray; that’s what his books do for me. C.S. Lewis — He taught me to think more deeply about my faith. Alton Gansky — With his novels, he always seem to write himself into a corner, then resolves his impossible plots by pulling a rabbit out of his hat!
Jerry: There are times when people relax at home – they read, crochet, and color in the Mandela pattern books. What are your favorite pastimes, other than reading?
Watching old movies — and I mean O-L-D — early talkies!
Jerry: What are the common traps for aspiring writers?
Trying to write books as your earliest attempts at writing, instead of articles, short stories, etc., etc.
Jerry: If you wrote a letter to your younger self, what would you say?
The more you write, the more you’ll get published.
Jerry: How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have? Do you have plans for them?
Probably a half-dozen. I hope to finish most of them, though a couple are real dogs, I have to admit — so I probably won’t ever get those done!
Jerry: What age did you start writing? What was your favorite genre at that time and why?
I started in earnest in high school, and liked to write short stories, probably because I didn’t think I’d ever be able to finish a full novel.
Jerry: What kind of research do you do and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?
I don’t know — I start researching after beginning a book. How do you know what to research until you know what you’re writing about? I research on and off all through the book writing process.
Jerry: What one thing would you give up to become a writer?
I really should give up more of my free time — and I’m going to have to if I want to get some of those unfinished projects done.
David will be at the The GLVWG Write Stuff Writer’s Conference™ on March 23, 2019 to speak about Publishing Contracts, the Author-Editor Relationship, The Dreaded Outline, and Edition Your Own Material.
To read more on David, visit:
- Nonfiction writing blog: www.FromConceptoContract.com
- Author/publisher website: www.DaveFessenden.com
And don’t forget to visit his Amazon Page for books he’s written.
Article by Jerome W. McFadden
Jerome W. McFadden’s stories have appeared in various magazines, e-zines such as Flash Fiction Offensive, Eclectic Flash Fiction, and several anthologies – River Tales , Over My Dead Body, Trails End, including Hardboiled: Crime Scene, Once Around the Sun, A Christmas Sampler, A Readable Feast, and Let It Snow. Jerry has also been a prolific contributor to the BWG Author Roundtable series.
Jerry has also won honorable mentions in Writer’s Digest Magazine annual national fiction awards, as well as in several regional writing contests. He received a Bullet Award for the best crime fiction to appear on the web. Two of his short stories have been read on stage by the Liar’s League London and Liar’s League Hong Kong. You can find his published short story works on Goodreads.
Article by GLVWG’s Charles Kiernan:
Charles Kiernan first introduced Dr. Larry Schardt in a previous article on the GLWVG Conference Blog, February 10. On a mission is to plant seeds of love and happiness wherever he goes, Dr. Schardt will coach writers how to put a positive spin on rejection, and harness it toward writing success at the Write Stuff™ Conference March 24, 2019.
Charles asked a few questions of Dr. Schardt.
Charles: Tell us your history, family, and hobbies.
Thanks for asking about life . . .
Hobbies . . . My main hobby is people. I love being with people, connecting, and celebrating life. Other hobbies I love are: Walking, skiing, reading, writing, learning, teaching.
Family . . .I am the oldest of nine, with many nieces and nephews. I am blessed that our family gets together regularly. We are all so different, but we recognize and respect each other for whatever quirks and OCDs we have . . . with Love!
History . . . My love of fiction began as a child, with bedtime stories for my eight younger brothers and sisters. Stories turned to writing in my teens, with poems and shorts inspired by love.
Throughout my career I wrote copy for articles, brochures, grant proposals, and endless reports. I also wrote and co-wrote several textbooks.
My early career began as a conservationist. Later I became the coordinator for a community service organization (Community Partnerships Resource Conservation and Development Council). My love of people and desire to pay it forward continued to grow.
My thirst for knowledge and love of people was enhanced once I took on a second career teaching at Penn State, 26 years ago (while still working as a coordinator).
Writing, speaking, and teaching are my full time jobs now.
Five years ago, I joined Kathleen Shoop as co-facilitator of the Mindful Writers Retreats, where I am blessed to get together (several times a year) with incredible writers to focus on our craft without interruption for out time at the retreats.
Focus . . . To continue to learn and grow my life with happiness and teach others through example.
Charles: Where does your moniker and exclamation of “Rock and Roll” come from?
It’s my way of sharing the positive in life. Rock and Roll is a state of mind. Greeting people and wishing them “Rock ’n’ Roll!!!” is wishing them blessings of all that is good, good, good, and beautiful in life. No matter what kind of music moves you, it’s all . . . Rock ’n’ Roll!!!
Charles: You are an avid Facebook blogger. What is your purpose behind these blogs?
My daily Facebook blog is a way of thanking life and paying it forward.
Every post is an endeavor to connect with friends, appreciate the infinite everyday blessings of life, and learn ways to share positive spirit, happiness, and hope . . .
I get to start every day with a positive thought and then give and share that thought.
Whether it be a quote, story, proverb, anecdote, or some other way to appreciate . . . I am blessed to begin the day thinking about friends and celebrating the beauty of life.
In the words of Tom Peters . . . “Celebrate what you want to see more of.”
More . . . Giving . . . Gratitude . . . Personal Responsibility . . .
With Success . . . Happiness . . . And . . . Peace and Love
Charles: What are the central themes behind the work you do?
Encouragement . . . Happiness . . . Success . . . Hope . . . Peace, Love, and Rock ‘n’ Roll!!!
Charles: For aspiring writers, what are the common traps?
Allowing excuses to stop you from writing and reading. Write every day.
Another trap is getting discouraged by rejection. If we all got discouraged by rejection we wouldn’t have, Lord or the Rings, Harry Potter, Chicken Soup for the Soul, or Led Zeppelin!
Charles: If you were to write a letter to your younger self, what would you say?
Live the three secrets for Happiness and Success That Rocks . . . Take responsibility for your own life . . . Appreciate everyone and everything . . . Give for the greater good.
Work to improve yourself every day and in every way.
Rock more . . . Don’t waste time on worry and useless emotions . . . Be the best you can be . . . Be sincere . . . Listen to people . . . Open your heart . . . Enjoy love and live . . . Make the world a better place and serve others.
With . . . Peace, Love, and Rock ‘n’ Roll!!!
Dr. Larry Schardt encourages and incites you to achieve your writing goals and live a life that rocks. Larry knows what it is to live without peace and joy. His struggles in life led him to research the science and art of happiness and success. Happiness enhances creativity, crushes mediocrity, and frees your mind . . . enabling you to become the writer you are meant to be. Larry’s passion is people . . . He cares about your joy and wants to guide you to the path of achieving your maximum potential. For over 35 years, Larry’s presentations on writing, leadership, and happiness have motivated audiences across the United States (from Alaska to the US Virgin Islands). During that time Professor Schardt has taught at multiple universities and is currently at Penn State.
Through his workshops and classes he teaches secrets and tips to improve your writing, find your muse, and continue your personal growth. Larry’s daily Facebook Blog to entertains, encourages, and motivates his readers to live a life of Success That Rocks. You can also follow Larry on his uplifting Twitter link @LarrySchardt.
Larry has several stories in “Chicken Soup for the Soul” books and is an award winning author. His daily Facebook blog inspires, encourages, and motivates. For the past five years, Schardt has co-facilitated the highly successful Mindful Writers Retreats. Rock your world with . . . Success That Rocks!
Article by Charles Kiernan:
Charles Kiernan is the proud author of two, entirely unpublished, middle-grade fantasy novels. He is better known as a storyteller—as in, stand up in front of a crowd and tell them a tale. He has also pawned himself off as Mark Twain to the unwary, but with no success to literary agents.
Charles was featured on GLVWG Write Stuff Blog this past September, Charles Kiernan: Mark Twain impersonator, traditional storyteller, and writer
He is also coordinator for the Lehigh Valley Storytelling Guild, Pennsylvania State Representative for the National Youth Storytelling Showcase, Pennsylvania State Liaison for the National Storytelling Network, recipient of the 2008 Individual Artist Award from the Bethlehem Fine Arts Commission, and grand slam winner at the Lehigh Valley Story Slam, November 2017.
He is proudest of his blog on fairy tales, Fairy Tale of the Month, which he has been writing since December 2010.
Article by Idelle Kursman
GLVWG member, Idelle Kursman, introduced Charise Crowe, January 27 on the GLVWG WordPress Blog. As a follow-up, Idelle took some time to ask a few questions of Charise, who will be co-presenting with her husband, Ben Wolf, at the Write Stuff Conference™ March 21 through 23.
Idelle: If I were to meet you at a conference, what is something you would tell me about yourself that would be intriguing? Please do not use anything from your bio.
If we met a conference, you would probably start the conversation. I’m notoriously shy when left to my own devices, but I do love meeting and talking with other writers. If you asked about my hobbies, I would say that I crochet, I love to cook, and I’m trying to learn the ukulele–with mixed results. If we talked about politics I would say that everything swings on a pendulum, and remember to be kind, and that I have very well formed thoughts about our inevitable AI. overlords. If we chatted about life, I’d encourage you to take more time for yourself, focus on joy, and spend time in the sun.
Idelle: Who are your favorite authors? Why were they favorites?
I’m a Hogwarts kid, so of course I love the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling. My current favorite authors are Neal Shusterman (Scythe and Thunderhead are particular standouts), Lev Grossman (The Magicians Trilogy, with a TV series that really does the books justice), Scott Westerfeld (The Leviathon Trilogy was fantastic), and Jon Ronson (The Men Who Stare at Goats and The Psycopath Test) Shusterman, Grossman, and Westerfeld are all YA/New Adult authors who put their characters in imaginative far-flung worlds while keeping their character’s feet on the ground. Ronson is just a personal favorite. I love his style of Gonzo journalism and the ridiculous situations he gets himself into. He’s described himself as being high-anxiety and so his bravery in insane situations is something that I’m a bit envious of.
Idelle: What are common traps for aspiring writers?
Vanity publishers. If someone is asking you for thousands of dollars to publish your work and you’ve 1) never heard of them, 2) never heard of their authors, 3) can’t find any of their books for sale/they won’t put you in touch with any of their authors…. Run. Run far, far away. Having a “tribe” of writers with varying levels of experience and expertise is crucial for avoiding pitfalls in publishing.
Idelle: How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have? Do you have any plans for them?
I think the first book I wrote is doomed to sit and collect dust forever. And that’s okay. I have a YA Steampunk manuscript that needs a solid edit. I might look into doing something with that one towards the end of 2019. We’ll see. Currently in my head I have an idea for a remake of Brave New World and an idea for medieval series that focuses more on the common folk than the wealthy ruling class.
Idelle: What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?
I do tons of research. Usually weeks/months before even starting a project. And once I start the research just continues. When I write fantasy, I like to base my people groups and cultures off of a real world example. I also like to focus on characters that have some sort of disability, so there’s a ton of ever-evolving research I do for that as well. I’m kind of a spreadsheet nerd. I keep an Excel file as my “Story Bible”. My current W.I.P. Excel file has… 14 tabs. I need it to keep everything straight!
Idelle: What is one thing you would give up to become a better writer?
I’m actually in a season of reevaluating this. I’m tweaking some lazy habits to devote more time to writing and trying to be more mindful of my time management. I practically hibernate in winter, and we live in Iowa. Can I give up Iowa? I’d love a warmer climate. I would definitely get more work done.
Idelle: If you wrote a letter to your younger self, what would you say?
I would definitely fill it with spoilers. “Don’t do this!” and “You’re gonna regret that!”
But mostly I would tell myself that, really, I am good enough. I am strong. I’d tell myself to not pretend to be someone I’m not just to make others happy. Because doesn’t that mean the other person doesn’t *actually* like me? Who needs that? What a silly waste of time. I’d tell myself to keep going, to work harder, and to always, always act with love.
Oh, and to invest in Bitcoin. Really missed the easy meal ticket on that one.
Idelle: How would you counsel a writer who is having trouble making sales?
That’s a tough one. Sometimes a beautiful book can earn very few sales while a seemingly dumpster-fire becomes a global best seller.
Books that sell really well have a host of similar qualities, but the biggest one (in my opinion) is this: they meet a need. They meet a huge need.
If your book isn’t selling well, have you set it up correctly? Is there an audience for what you wrote? Are there other books in your genre? Do you have a title and a cover that fit the idea of that genre? Is your back cover copy engaging, does it make a reader ask enough questions that they must open it to page 1? Do you have the right social media presence? Are you partnered with other authors in the same genre?
There’s a lot of ways a book can “fail”. You wouldn’t ride a bicycle on the Autobahn, and you wouldn’t try to climb Everest on a motorcycle. Are you on the right road and are you approaching it the right way? Have you given yourself the right tools to find success? I’ll be teaching a class on a lot of this–so if you’re unsure then I hope to see you there!
Idelle: If someone wanted to find a job in the writing field or with a publisher, what advice would you give that person?
Marry someone established in the field! (haha, just kidding!)
Make yourself available. Join critique groups and offer to beta read. Attend as many conferences as you can. Give constructive feedback. Offer to bring that super-awesome professional a bottle of water or a cup of coffee. Offer favors with no expectation of repayment. Be a friend. Ask yourself, “If I was in their shoes, what would I need?”
I met one of my absolutely favorite people at a writer’s conference. (Well, several, actually. Hi, Ben!) She was working in an entirely different stratosphere from little, lowly me. It took time to develop that friendship–she was used to people having interest in her job but not really in her as a person. During one conference, we were in a group and she got saddled with someone who wouldn’t take a “no, thank you” for his manuscript and just kept pitching. And she just couldn’t pull herself away. I glanced at my watch and said “[Friend], weren’t you supposed to have a call 20 minutes ago?” And we politely excused ourselves. At the next conference we were at, I hadn’t seen her all day. She came up to me after dinner and demanded to know where I had been–she’d been getting cornered all day and needed a friend to help rescue her from those situations.
I saw a need I could help fill. That’s 99.99% of making industry connections.
If you get a no or a yes, accept it with grace. Recognize that these people are people. They are there to help you, but if a publisher/editor/agent says no, don’t keep hounding them. That’s won’t make their answer any better!
Article Written by Idelle Kursman
Idelle Kursman was born and raised in Providence, Rhode Island. She earned her Bachelor’s degree from Boston College and her Master’s from William Paterson University. She has a loved one with autism and after watching the movie Taken five years ago, she felt compelled to write a novel about human trafficking. Since she loves thrillers, especially if it is a book she cannot put down, she sought to give readers this experience in her debut novel. At the same time, Idelle seeks to raise awareness for autism and the international human trafficking crisis. She lives with her family in New Jersey.
You can find Idelle on her website: https://idellekursman.com/, and social media links.
Article by Donna Brennan:
Stephanie Kehr is a Junior Agent for the Cyle Young Literary (C.Y.L.E). She currently lives in Northern Virginia and serves on the publishing board of Illuminate YA Fiction, an imprint of LPC Books. She’s an adventure lover with a special place in her heart for travel and culture. Although she grew up reading books, writing and representing them became an accidental passion.
Stephanie will be taking pitches during the GLVWG Write Stuff Conference™ March 23, 2019, and is looking for skillfully crafted stories that stir the soul and sharpen the mind. In fiction, she’s seeking young adult, middle grade, historical, children’s picture books, romance, fantasy, inspirational, and authors with strong platform, unique ideas, and diverse characters. She also represents non-fiction, including religious genres.
NOTE: To sign up for a pitch session, follow the instructions on the registration form. Your actual times for your pitch will be assigned after registration is closed, and will be attached to conference materials upon signing in.
GLVWG veteran member, Donna Brennan, caught up with Stephanie to ask her a few questions.
DONNA: Your agency places a lot of emphasis on platform and discoverability. How important is platform to you versus a well written book with an engrossing story?
Our emphasis on platform does seem to intimidate a lot of authors – but it’s really not as scary as it looks. The publishing industry is changing, and with it, platform has become more and more important for authors to have in order to sell their books. Platform isn’t a request to “be famous,” it’s simply a venue used test your product, and see if people are interested in what you have to say.
For non-fiction authors, I do require some form of platform. However, fiction allows me to be a little more lenient—and I look primarily for solid writing talent and storytelling skills. Across the board, I’m looking to be impressed. It’s hard to turn down a book that’s incredibly done.
DONNA: Many authors have a full-time job and/or family responsibilities; they need to fight their overburdened schedules just to find time to write. What are some tips you can offer regarding what platform building tools they should try to squeeze in, and how could they go about doing that?
I tell most of my authors just to start with Twitter—it’s a great platform with a fantastic writing community. If you’re a non-fiction writer, find creative ways to test your content by posting on blogs or by writing articles for magazines. It’s easy to draw small pieces from your book and rework them into a post, newsletter, or even talk about them in an Instagram story. It’s a lot more productive to find one avenue that works for you, and focus on that. Find the best way to create community.
DONNA: In one of your blog articles you wrote about the importance of authors being confident—both in themselves and in their work. But I know many authors who, although they might have confidence in other areas of their lives, seem very vulnerable where their writing is concerned. What advice can you give to these authors?
Know why you write your story. I see so many authors struggle—bouncing from one piece of writing advice to another, and applying these to their manuscripts, without really taking the time to figure out for themselves why their book isn’t working. Advice from other authors, agents, editors, and professionals is fantastic—but at the end of the day, you know your book better than anyone.
One way you can work to gain confidence in your writing is simply to spend time with it. Save pieces of encouragement people have given you, and read over the chapters or scenes you’re most proud of. Work so hard on your book that you can’t help but be confident in it.
DONNA: What advice or encouragement can you offer to authors whose work has been rejected—not just once, but multiple times?
Keep going! Let rejection motivate you to submit more. There are so many reasons an agent or editor might reject your manuscript—sometimes, simply because it isn’t a good fit. Research the industry, agents, and become your own advocate.
DONNA: I know your faith is an important part of who you are, and one of the types of writing you seek is inspirational—or Christian. Can you give a brief description what is meant by this category? How important is it for authors to mention God or faith for a work to be considered inspirational?
Absolutely! It’s becoming less and less important for Christian authors to mention God or faith in their fiction to be considered “inspirational.” A lot of Christian publishers are looking simply for books that show good morals and character, and aren’t “preachy” or trying to sway readers one way or another. Think about “show” vs. “tell” and apply that to Christian literature. We’d rather be shown how God can impact a story, rather than told.
Article by Donna Brennan: