Thursday, May 29, 2014

Teaching Appointments by Terry Burns

I just returned from the Colorado Christian Writers Conference in Estes Park Colorado. Great conference, I've gone to it for thirteen or fourteen years.

I had a couple of solid days of appointments there and saw some good projects. There were also some others that were not ready to submit and that's okay.

I've been to some conferences that do not allow the scheduling of appointments unless the conferee has a project finished and ready to submit because of the large number of people attending the conference. There are too many people there that really need the appointment to get a submission invited and to pave the way for it.

Other conferences have an attendee/faculty ratio that permits more latitude in the scheduling for conferees that might not be ready to submit yet. This is okay at these conferences and the conferee should be sure to find out what the rules are when they attend. We call these "teaching appointments."

When it is acceptable most agents and editors don't mind teaching appointments, many even enjoy them. I know I do as long as I know right from the beginning that is what it is instead of sitting there waiting for a pitch that isn't coming.

A teaching appointment is a great chance to get comfortable with the process of having a one on one about your project. It's a good chance to test the water on the viability of the project you have in progress which could affect the way you are going with it. With an agent appointment it's a chance to see if you need an agent or if you are ready for one. It's a chance to network and make connections that could be important to you down the road.

Editors and agents have committed time to the conference and we like to see good use made of it. So if you are at a conference that allows such appointments I encourage you to make the most of them if that is the point where you are in your writing.

It's a chance to see that editors and agents don't bite . . . and in fact, want the best for you and your writing and will help if they can.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

7 Life Hacks for Writers by Diana Flegal

Life Hack is a relatively new term to me yet I have been looking for shortcuts and the best way to do things most of my life.

Wikipedia defines it:

Life hacking refers to any trick, shortcut, skill, or novelty method that increases productivity and efficiency, in all walks of life. In other words, anything that solves an everyday problem in an inspired, ingenious manner.

Coined in the 1980s in hacker culture, the term became popularized in the blogosphere and is primarily used by computer experts who suffer from information overload or those with a playful curiosity in the ways they can accelerate their workflow in ways other than programming.

Twitter: @LifeHacker that will offer you a lot of useful information and DIY tips.

MashGeek, a blog curating digital lifehacking articles since May 2011, was founded by Karan Goel to help people become more productive by using technology.[11]

How can writers life hack and what would that look like?

OhLife is a simple email-based journal. It is not a social network or a blog - it's a place for you to privately remember your memorable days. They email you questions like, "How was your day?" and you answer the email which then stores your note.

What if you answered the questions as a character in your WIP (work in progress)?  It would definitely be a way to 'get inside your character's head'. And your answers would be stored and categorized for you.

One of the best and simplest editing tools for an author to employ is to 'read their manuscript out loud'.

People keep swiping your pens? 1000 Life Hacks offers this tip.

How to write long papers from I am curious to know if this would work writing a novella? Worth a try.

Buzz Feed offers some life hacks here. I think #11 is great for most writers home offices. What do you think?

Five Social Media Hacks for more effective branding.

Having trouble managing your time? Here are 6 Tools to Help You Save Time Writing that might help.

I hope you have found some hacks here that will enable you to be more productive and find extra time to spend with your family and loved ones this summer!

Share a shortcut you employ in writing or let us know of an article or site that you have found useful.

Just for fun. Keep scrolling down until you see the bacon pancakes. Bam!

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Eating an Elephant by Andy Scheer

How do you eat an elephant, asks the old joke. One bite at a time.

Much the same way you complete a writing or editorial project: one word at a time.

This past month and a half I've been eating an elephant, editing a 105,000-word novel for a repeat client.

I told him this past fall that my recent day job meant I couldn't edit the book on short notice with a quick turnaround. I could work on it only evenings and weekends.

He agreed and promised to send me the manuscript via installments as he finished polishing the text.

I got the first installment six weeks ago and dug into it right away, sending him the next a day a tracked changes version of the first chapter that showed the level of work I felt the manuscript required. He agreed.

The next evening I invested an hour in the project. And the evening after that. I gave myself a few days off when other events demanded my spare time. Otherwise I tried to accomplish something every day, if only a half-dozen pages.

Fifty editing sessions later, I just sent my client the full, final polished text.

Much as I would have liked to work on it for 10 days from 8 to 5, that wasn't possible. So I did what I could, one bite at a time.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Wearing our heart on our sleeve by Terry Burns

I meet 'em at conferences or communicate with them by email. Authors timidly holding out their treasure to me, not so much submitting for publication as they are looking for affirmation of their self-worth. I recognize it, I've been there. Who am I kidding, I'm still there.

I still need affirmation that what I am doing has value, affirmation that means more to me than publishing or making money. We write in a vacuum, and we need feedback to tell us what we are doing is WORTH doing. Personally I have associations with people who give me that affirmation when I need it.

I try to pass it on. When I interface with writers I try to give them that encouragement even if what they offer is something that is not right for me and the odds say that most of them won't be a good fit for me. That says nothing about the project or the writing, but I get hundreds of good projects sent to me and I surely can't take them all. That means I am looking for ones that are better than good, ones that are exceptional.

All agents and publishers are the same way, we all know the numbers and the unfortunate part of our job is having to pass on projects simply because something else works better for us. That's where the heart on the sleeve comes in. Too many writers take it personal. It not only fails to be the affirmation they are seeking but it is rejection.

That's just not the way to look at it. There's nothing personal about it, unless they get back to you and say something tacky in which case you should consider the source. It's just business. We are all picking the best offering we can find for a limited number of slots and even some good projects just aren't going to fit. It takes time to match up just the right project at just the right place in front of just the right person at exactly the right time. At any given time a project may only fit at one place in the whole publishing industry and it can be hard to make that connection. Later it may only fit at one place but now that place is different. It takes patience and perseverance.

And that affirmation we need? We have to learn where we can get that . . . and should not be surprised if we don't get it from people who are just busy conducting business.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Book Signings and American Idol by Diana Flegal

Displaying Divine Momemts Cvr Yvonne.jpgI participated in my first book signing last night at the Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writers Conference at the Lifeway Christian Conference Center outside Black Mountain, NC. I am now a published author. Woot!

Last year I was one of many people asked to contribute a personal story  into a compilation of 50 inspirational stories of God's amazing presence in our lives. Our Divine Moments.

When I was told the presentation of the books to us would be made last evening and that there would be a book signing to follow, I was torn. American Idol was airing at 8pm and I did not want to miss it. Caleb Johnson - an Asheville hometown boy is one of the two finalists. 

I figured I would stand with the others as Yvonne Lehman announced our names and I would then head for the fellowship room where one of the few T.V.'s was located instead of hanging around. As I was walking for the exit, we were all besieged by people who had purchased our book and some wanted my signature. I have to admit it was a lot of fun and I lost track of time.

I made it to the T.V. in time to catch the last performances of the Idol  contestants.

I don't think I am going to let this go to my head. :-) But I do want to tell you all. It is a great book. The contributors have written some very inspirational stories and I am looking forward to spending Saturday morning in my jammies reading them all.

Thank you Yvonne Lehman for offering us all the opportunity to share our personal stories of when God showed up in our daily lives.

Note to self: Remember to bring a pen to the next book signing!


Key Details by Andy Scheer

I came away from five hours at the car show with three particular photos. Each was a detail shot, taken from an unusual perspective.

Yes, I also took a good number of conventional photos of the three hundred vehicles at the Veteran Motor Car Club of America show this weekend at the Abbey in Canon City, Colorado.

But I wanted more than just conventional shots. I wanted images that captured the essence of three special cars. A single shot that could show what made each unique. Much the way a novelist, with a well-drawn word picture, captures a character.

I chose my cast carefully. None of the usual suspects that fade into the background as just one more 1957 Chevrolet or 1930 Ford.

In the swap-meet lot sat a faded red 1937 Hudson Terraplane coupe. I caught a break. Its position on a trailer forced me to take photos from a low angle—the best perspective to accentuate its art-deco grille.

That perspective also served me in capturing the “goddess of speed” hood ornament on a 1939 Packard. Kneeling, I could isolate the chrome sculpture against the sky—and with some adjustments, contrasting cumulus clouds. There's more to learn about Packard Motor Cars. But I think this image conveys the sense of stylish luxury.

That photo didn't happen on the first try. But I knew I was close, so I kept shooting, changing one detail at a time. Finally the tenth image communicated what I wanted to say. I'm grateful for digital technology. There's no extra cost of materials to make one more attempt, only a small investment of time.

I wanted an image that said late 1950s American luxury barge. The white 1959 Cadillac didn't quite work. The owners had the trunk open, keeping me from isolating the fin and rocket-exhaust stoplight. But a few rows over sat a wine-red 1957 Chrysler 300C, with equally glorious tailfins. Even if I'd had room, I didn't want a shot of the entire car, just that one trademark image that sums up not only this car, but the entire era.

Communicating the essence of a car, or a person, doesn't take a thousand words. The secret lies in isolating that essential detail.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Pitches and you have questions? by Linda S. Glaz

With conferences just around the corner (some have already started), a lot of folks have been asking about proposals and pitches.
We’d like to offer a pitch contest in the next few weeks.
But we’ll like to get some feedback first:
-what are you most concerned about in your proposals?
          -sample chapters
-what kind of questions do you have about your pitches?
          -how much to include
-any other questions you’d like to have addressed if we tackle this topic for you. We thought it might be fun to have an interactive day where you can offer a pitch or question, and get answers from some of the professionals at our agency OR from other readers who might have opinions on the topic.
Shoot us some questions you have and we’ll see about setting up a time and date to tackle the toughest ones out there!

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Meet me in the mountains by Terry Burns

It's that time again. Each year right after Mother's Day we come up to the YMCA retreat center in Estes Park Colorado for the Colorado Christian Writer's Conference. It snowed on us on the way in yesterday but the sun is out today and the mountains are stacked with snow, the trees are flocked and it is beautiful. This morning the sun is out and the air is crisp but it is going to be a great conference.

Marlene Bagnull is the conference director and it officially starts tomorrow, with some early bird sessions this afternoon, but if you live in the vicinity, walk-ins are welcome. It runs through Saturday. There is a strong faculty of editors, agents and professional writers. I'm doing a workshop entitled "Writing in Obedience" based on the writing book by the same name that Linda Yezak and I just finished.

I've worked mainstream conferences and Christian conferences, and there is a world of difference.At a Christian conference the attendees are so much more open and helpful. They focus as much on spiritual revival as they do on the writing itself. They are very refreshing.

Writers tend to write in a vacuum. Those around us don't really understand the process or our need to do it. Going to a conference can not only be a learning process but gives us a chance to interface with people who "get us." People who understand. Before I became an agent I tried to get to a couple of conferences a year. I do many more than that now, of course. But conferences should be a part of any writers writing strategy if they are serious about it.

Want to know more about this conference? Go to for details, and if you live in the area, it's not too late to join us. 

Favorite Quotes and Phrases Gathered by Diana L. Flegal

I thought I would share a few favorite lines I've recently read, heard online or someone repeated.

The picture to the left? My favorite new addiction. :-)

Heard on twitter this week:  Wendy J Smith @LuvMyboxerEllie You can tell a lot about a woman’s mood just by her hands, for example: if she is holding a gun she’s probably angry.

Quitting is not an option. We are created to be goal oriented.  Joyce Meyer

Sometimes I feel useless but then I remember I breathe out carbon dioxide for plants.

There are no bad emotions. My feelings express what's going on inside right now. —Cecil Murphey

God's a meddler. He meddles in your life and your neighbors and others He wants to bring close. C.S. Heinz in Made to Pray

"It's impossible to throw cold water on a dream birthed in the fire of God's Revelation." ~ Matthew Barnett.

I'm a realist and I KNOW there is some writer out there who has broken every rule there is. But, bringing up every last exception is a confusing way to teach and a fabulous way to make your heads explode. Kristen Lamb on her blog on the whys and why-nots of writing flashbacks

Wouldn't you like to be known as a dealer of Hope? I would.  note from blog post of Dr. Ryan Fraser

Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.' Jeremiah 33:3

So many factors must come into play to allow your work the opportunity to move forward: Passed Over by Linda S. Glaz

Don't waste this perfect storm in your life. It would be a tragedy if you came out of it only half broken. Pastor Nick Honerkamp

I stopped to smell the flowers once. It was awful! #GrumpyCat

Caleb Johnson, Asheville native, is one of the final three in American Idol!

Some of these made me chuckle- others provoked thought and encouraged me. Feel free to share your one liners with us. And happy Over the Hump day!

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Take a Walk by Andy Scheer

After an intense session at my desk, I finished assessing the manuscript.

What’s next on my list?

Doesn’t matter. It’s time to talk a short walk.

One lap around the building, and another around the building next door, and my mind felt cleared for the next project.

And maybe more creative. According to study by the Stanford Graduate School of Education and reported in the New York Times, a “brief stroll, even around your office, can significantly increase creativity.”

Weather too bad to walk outside? Walk inside. According to the study, it doesn’t matter.

“It really seems that it’s the walking that matters,” says Dr. Marily Oppezzo. “I think it’s possible that walking may allow the brain to break through some of its own, hyper-rational filters,” said the report in the Times.

I never thought of myself as “hyper-rational,” but taking a walk does help clear my mind.

How about you?

Monday, May 12, 2014

What is our responsibility? by Linda S. Glaz

So what is our responsibility on social media?

Being opinionated, as I am, and a former debater, which I loved, I have the inclination to want to argue and tackle all the topics that arise on my facebook page. And having a few good friends who are like-minded, it happens quite often. And I have no doubt it happens on other medias as well, Twitter, etc.

What is my responsibility as an agent/author when confronted with the opportunity to argue into the wee hours?

I keep a private friends and family page. I announce once every month or so (in the event new ‘friends’ have found my page) that it is a personal page, not a professional one. And that my opinions are there strictly for friends and family. AND that I am a very opinionated person. If this doesn’t frighten them off, then they’re welcome, if they see problems, hopefully they pass.

But even for our friends and family, we have some responsibilities, don’t we? I know a couple times I’ve crossed the line of opinionated to obnoxious, caught myself doing it, and apologized. That’s right. Apologies do still exist in the human actions/reactions. Just because we have the right to speak out, doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the correct thing to do. When confronted with a topic that really puts a tack in my heel, I try to logically spell out my reason for taking an opposite stand which is tough because I lead with my emotions. I know…I know…debaters argue with logic. I try, I do. But my emotions tend to get in the way from time to time. So shoot me.

I’ve read some responses to articles online, to other folks’ comments, etc. and I have to admit, I’m never ready for the poison that comes so easily from a person’s mouth when they don’t have to face the individual they are taunting. The hatred is overwhelming at times. From Christians and non-Christians alike. Words we would never use when face to face fly off the keyboard faster than phony money at a mafia convention, and I’m left to wonder, would people really say this when confronted with the other person?

What is our responsibility on social media? We can certainly have our own opinions, but shouldn’t we still remember to treat others the way we want to be treated? Old motto, but corny? I don’t think so.