On Writing Conferences and Courage

Mondays are hard. But a Monday after a writing conference is especially difficult.

This past weekend I attended my first SCBWI SpringMingle Conference. After a whirlwind weekend of writing tips, trends and inspiration, this is how my brain feels:

Butterfly BrainSeriously, how can I be expected to function as a productive member of society with my little gray cells in this flittery fluttery state? *Sigh*

Anyhoo…there’s something else I want to discuss. Briefly. Before I have to drag myself out of bed and back to the mundane details of my weekday, workday existence.

During a fabulous presentation on her Fairytale Life, Illustrator Ruth Sanderson casually mentioned that she has a fear of public speaking (something you never would have guessed while listening to her). In fact, she wants to throw up every time she has to get up in front of an audience. But she gets up there and speaks anyway.

I think someone somewhere once said that’s the true definition of courage – when you fear something, but you do it anyway.

While I don’t fear public speaking, I have plenty of other fears to keep me awake at night. Most of them are pretty standard, silly little things. Some feel like gargantuan beasts that like to sit on my chest in the wee hours of the morning, sucking away all the oxygen in the bedroom. One of my most horrible, terrible, pressing fears is the next book in my Star Wars Fangirl Trilogy.

To be clear, I’m not saying that I have a certain fear that I’m transforming, by the amazing alchemy of writerly magic, into an inspirational topic for my next book. Nope. That would be healthy and productive. What I mean to say is I’m afraid of writing my next fangirl book.

There. I said it.

Sometimes We Strike Back is a darker story than NSLA. The narrative voice of this novel has some serious anger management issues. There’s suicide. There’s GLBT issues. The bullying gets far, far worse and my main character gives in to the Dark Side.

Oh yes, this story scares me. And yet I have to write it. I do.

What fears are you challenging yourself to overcome this year?

photo credit: zenonline via photopin cc

Advertisements

Empathy – An Essential Tool in Life & Writing

This video is aimed at professionals in the health care industry, but I think it’s a wonderful reminder for each and every one of us. Fair warning: It makes me cry every time I watch it.

I’m posting this video for two reasons:

  1. The world always needs love…and more empathy!
    • Imagine what a wonderful world it would be if everyone looked at their fellow humans this way. What if that grocery store clerk who seemed rude is actually fighting through a migraine headache? What if that guy who cut you off on the highway is actually rushing to the hospital to hold his newborn for the first time? What if that waiter who messed up your order just learned his fiance is cheating on him with his best friend? Most of the mundane stresses and annoyances that suck the joy out of our daily experiences would pretty much disappear with a liberal dose of empathy.
  2. This video perfectly depicts my favorite way to build fictional characters; it’s how I walk around looking at the world every day.

Which is not to say I’m some omniscient being who casts my eyes upon mere mortals and immediately KNOWS what is happening in their lives. Nope. I make it all up. Walking through life in my little writerly, Walter Mitty-esque bubble, I assign the most outrageous, twisted, heart-wrenching stories from the darkest depths of my imagination to perfect strangers.

Some people might believe this practice to be rather sick and wrong. I believe it’s the perfect way to build a huge arsenal of complex characters.

What do you think? Am I the only one who does this? Or is there anyone else out there who endures a long checkout line by dreaming up weird and wild stories for everyone else in the line?

2014 Dahlonega Literary Festival – March 8-9

According to 11Alive news, this weekend is going to be absolutely gorgeous – sunny with highs in the upper 60’s – a glorious Spring day. In fact, Saturday is predicted to be a perfect 10 on the WIZometer.

Woo hoo!!! This will be a FABULOUS weekend for the Dahlonega Literary Festival.

Books

Even though I’m recovering from knee surgery – still unable to drive or walk without crutches or navigate stairs – words cannot fully express how much I’m looking forward to actually getting outside of this house and being around people who love books.

The lineup of authors is absolutely stellar this year! Here’s my own personal highlights:

  • Joshilyn Jackson – Anyone who reads my blog knows that I shamelessly hero-worship Joshilyn, but did you know her most recent novel (Someone Else’s Love Story) and the prequel short story (My Own Miraculous) are set in Dahlonega?? Both works are wonderful and amazing. Read them up!
  • Mark Braught – One of my favorite SCBWI illustrators. This guy is an incredible inspiration….and I should mention his illustrations were used on merchandising for the first Harry Potter movie.
  • George Weinstein – When I bought/read George’s first novel, Hardscrabble Road I was a little nervous to read it; afraid the subject matter might be depressing. The MC’s life seemed so desperate and dreary! Guess what? I fell in love! Completely, hopelessly in love. I can barely wait to dive into his second novel, The Five Destinies of Carlos Moreno.
  • Cassandra King – After listening to an NPR interview with her, I purchased Moonrise and thoroughly enjoyed the story. It’s a modern Southern Gothic with a heavy dose of inspiration from du Maurier’s Rebecca.
  • Deanna Raybourn – She writes a-MAZE-ing novels about romantic, mystical creatures, but I loved her most recent historical novel – A Spear of Summer Grass.

NOTE: The first person who walks up to me during this festival and says, “May the literary Force be with you” will win a FREE copy of my novel (NSLA, NSFA).

Here’s the full DLF Schedule (taken from their website):

Saturday, March 8th 
*All Programming at St. Luke’s unless otherwise noted

9:15-10:00:

  1. Creating Characters That Readers Care About (Rm. 103/105) – Panelists: Raymond Atkins, Michael Bishop, Kim Boykin, Terry Kay, Cassandra King, Erika Marks, George Weinstein
  2. Writing and Illustrating Children’s Books, a mini-workshop with Mark Braught (Rm. 106) (also featuring Patsy Henry and Ed T. Payne)

10:15–11:00:

  1. Dahlonega in the Spotlight: Someone Else’s Love Story, A Book Talk with Joshilyn Jackson (Rm. 103/105)
  2. Writing Fantasy and Science Fiction, a mini-workshop with Alex Hughes and James R. Tuck (Rm. 106)

11:15–12:00:

  1. Glimpse of the Past: Incorporating History Into Fiction (Rm. 103/105) Panelists: Delilah S. Dawson, Cassandra King, Charles McNair, Erika Marks, Deanna Raybourn, Denise Weimar
  2. Writing Fiction: Regional Authors Share Their Experiences (Rm. 101) Panelists: Jim Booth, Sue Cass, Alison Reeger Cook, Mitch Doxsee, Mike Herron, C.D. Mitchell, Madelyn Shepard, Bill Stuart
  3. Character Drawing with Mark Braught (Rm. 106)

12:30–1:30 – Lunch with the Author (at area restaurants–attendees responsible for their meals)

2:00–2:45:

  1. Fantasy for Everyone: The Many Realms of Speculative Fiction (Rm. 103/105) Panelists: Michael Bishop, Delilah S. Dawson, Ann Hite, Alex Hughes, James R. Tuck, Jadie Jones
  2. Truth Be Told: Writing Non-Fiction (Rm. 101) Panelists: Susan Lindsley, William Rawlings, Kent Kammermeyer, Dennis McKenna, Carroll McMahan, Fiona Page, Carlotta Russell
  3. Writing Poetry, a mini-workshop with Kathryn Hinds, also featuring Jeff Newberry (Rm. 106)

3:00–3:45:

  1. From Chuckles to Belly Laughs: Hitting the Right Note with Humor (Rm. 103/105) Panelists: Raymond Atkins, Kim Boykin, Jackie Cooper, Joshilyn Jackson, Terry Kay, Charles McNair, James R. Tuck
  2. Stonepile Writers Reading (Rm. 101)
  3. Writing Mysteries, a mini-workshop with Deborah Malone (Rm. 106)

4:00–4:45:

  1. On the Edge of Our Seats: The Element of Suspense in Fiction (Rm. 103/105) Panelists: Alex Hughes, Susan Lindsley, William Rawlings, Deanna Raybourn, George Weinstein, Saundra Kelley. Julia McDermott
  2. Southern Poetry Anthology Presentation and Reading (Rm. 101)
  3. Preparing Your Manuscript, a mini-workshop with April Loebick, Managing Editor, University of North Georgia Press (Rm. 106)

5:15–6:30Author Meet-and-Greet, Open to the Public, Community House

7:00 Saturday Night Live: Dinner at Don Pollo’s
Buffet dinner for $17.99 plus tax, or order from the menu. Six of our featured authors will read short selections.

Sunday, March 9th 
*Programming held at Community House

12:30–1:15 – What is Southern Fiction, Anyway? Panelists: Raymond Atkins, Kim Boykin, Jackie Cooper, Terry Kay, Cassandra King, Charles McNair, George Weinstein

1:30–2:15 – The Role of Setting in Fiction – Panelists: Michael Bishop, Mark Braught, Alex Hughes, Susan Lindsley, Erika Marks, William Rawlings, James R. Tuck

After the Festival Fun for Writers:

3:00–6:00 p.m – Write-In (Starbuck’s next to UNG campus) How would you like to meet with other aspiring writers to discuss issues, offer support, share ideas, and even play a game or two? Word Wars and Word Challenges will be part of the fun.

photo credit: Thomas Hawk via photopin cc