Friday, January 27, 2012

Programs to Make Your Head Spin and Your Words Spin Gold

by David A. Miller, II

"But I’ve never done this before,” he whined to himself…"interviewing a published author for The Write Stuff Conference.” Short silence.

“However, I’m now a published author too. Yep, I CAN do this.” And he quit procrastinating, drafted four email questions, had a ball…and made a new friend.

And intends to register for all three of Hana’s programs. As soon as he stops talking in the third person singular.

David A. Miller, II (For GLVWG): Your “Ways to Make Money as a Freelance Writer” session hits a nerve. I haven’t pursued it enough, but want to. What are good starting points?

Hana Haatainen Caye: I suggest signing up on a site like or where you can start to build a portfolio, try out different projects, learn what you like to do and can be most productive doing, and what you don’t enjoy. I have to admit that I did a lot of projects I did not enjoy in my early years. Now I know what to stay away from.

Diversifying is also key. If you really want to work fulltime, you’ll have to go in a few different directions. While I enjoy creative writing projects the most, I also throw in some press releases, ad copy, bios, SEO web copy, etc. And, of course, magazine articles.

Also, it is imperative that you keep good records and receipts. Taxes are killers, so you want every deduction you can get.

The workshop will cover many of the ways writers can make a living ‘supplementing’ their royalties or ‘financing’ their WIP.

D: "Fiction Characters Anonymous" (FCA) sounds like sort of a strange session, but really intriguing. I find it easy to write about characters, but scary to consider being one of them. Can you give some examples of previous sessions? Do the characters fight with each other?

H: It can be a strange session. And yes, the characters do sometimes fight. More often, they flirt, depending on the nature of the characters in the workshop. Someone will say something that strikes a nerve and sparks can fly.

The cool thing about FCA is the way a writer can learn a whole new side of his/her character. The first time I did an FCA session, I was in character as well, and decided to scrap the novel I was working on because I truly did not understand the main character.

It is important to come to the session in character, and stay that way throughout. Obviously, you have to know your character pretty well beforehand. But you will be amazed at what you find out about him or her. It’s all about back story and fleshing out your characters. I do this on my own by going shopping as my character, going out to eat, reading something she would like, etc. Perhaps that sounds a bit psychotic, but it helps color my main characters in ways I can’t do just in my head.

For this session, I will not be in character. I will just moderate the group and keep the dialogue going. It should be interesting!

D: "Inspiring Other – The Chicken Soup Way" (CSS) is the ‘why didn’t I think of that?’ session. I have several CSS books on my bookshelf, but never considered writing one. Can you give a few hints for success?

H: The first time I was published in CSS was in 2003 in Chicken Soup for the Grieving Soul. It is amazing how many doors that opened for me, including the reunion with a 23-year-old daughter I gave up for adoption in 1980! The fact is that CSS carries a lot of weight with people, so it is a good thing to have on your résumé. In 2007, I was hired as a freelance editor for Chicken Soup for the Network Marketer’s Soul (through I had the opportunity to rewrite/edit and ghostwrite the stories for that edition. It was a wonderful experience.

Since that time, I’ve presented this workshop at conferences and taught more extensive classes to help people nail the formula that will give them the edge in being accepted and published in CSS and other similar publications. The formula has to be there and I help draw it out of the writers. Three writers who took my class this past summer were accepted for publication within the last two months, which thrills me. I have a story coming out in Chicken Soup for the Cat Lover’s Soul, due to hit the shelves in September. My last story literally took fifteen minutes to write. CSS pays $200, plus ten copies of the book, so that was a profitable fifteen minutes!

Again, it is all about the formula. But you’ll have to take the class to find out what that is! I can’t give all my secrets away in this interview!

 D: Vinegar Fridays is a book I’ve already heard about. I already have a file on the many uses of vinegar. Perhaps you could share a few of the uses (almost) nobody knows about before they buy your book?

H: I love talking vinegar! As a matter of fact, I do it nearly every day on Facebook (Green Grandma’s Vinegar Fridays has its own page).

The book covers a wide range of subjects, from health to weight loss to cleaning to pet care … I even end the book with a children’s story I wrote called, "Soft Feet, Macaroni Salad and a Roomful of Scary Monsters." There are nineteen chapters which includes one with some of my favorite recipes.

Vinegar Fridays didn’t start out as a book. It started as a weekly feature of my blog ( Every Friday for one year, I wrote about vinegar. Thus the title. After a year, however, I simply couldn’t think of anything else to say, so I wrote a poem announcing the conclusion of Vinegar Fridays. There was a slight uproar in the Green Grandma community, so shortly thereafter, I announced I would be putting it all together in a book.

Here are some of my favorite tips from the book:

  • Get rid of pesticide residue and bacteria from your fruits and vegetables by washing them in a solution of 3 TBSP of distilled white vinegar (DWV) in a quart of water.
  • Fabric softeners are loaded with toxins linked to, headaches, respiratory ailments, brain and nervous system disorders, and even pancreatic and other kinds of cancer. Absolutely no one should ever use fabric softeners, in my opinion. It is just not worth it. Simply fill your fabric softener dispenser with DWV and let it do its magic.
  • Soften your feet (and I mean really soften your feet) by soaking them in a footbath of warm water with 1 cup of ACV (apple cider vinegar) added. After 5 minutes or so, you’ll be amazed at how soft your formerly rough heels are!
There are hundreds more in the book, which I will have available for purchase and signing at the conference.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

A Word With Literary Agent Rachel Stout

by Becky Bartlett

Rachel Stout, from Dystel and Goderich, will be at the Write Stuff conference. She's hoping for pitches in Young Adult, Magical Realism, Literary Fiction and Narrative Non-fiction.

Becky Bartlett: What makes writer's conferences better for finding authors than slush piles?
Rachel Stout: Obviously, there are plenty of benefits to actual face time with an author as opposed to a query letter—some people are excellent writers, but struggle at writing the perfect pitch for their work. Meeting people face-to-face not only gives the author the chance to express to me their passion and story, but it also gives the author a better idea of who I am as a person—sometimes despite reputation or list, what matters most in an author/agent relationship are personalities and goals that mesh well together.

B: Are agents just in search of good material or do they enter the process with an agenda in mind?  For instance, zombies are a hot thing right now. Would you take a weak zombie pitch over a strong pitch in a subject that is not currently trendy?

R: While it’s important to stay aware of trends and to recognize good books that stay in line with them, it’s also far from the deciding factor for me. Oftentimes, by the time a trend is covering the shelves, actual submissions have moved beyond it—the process from the sale of a manuscript to the physical book takes long enough that by the time a trendy project is put out, publishers and readers are already focusing on something else. I’m not going to commit myself to a manuscript I’m not passionate about just because it conforms to what’s popular at that very moment.

B: What's the best thing about being an agent?

R: I absolutely love discovering projects I’m really excited about—it’s an amazing feeling, especially when the writer is a first-time author whose talent can now be recognized. There’s nothing better than reading the first few pages, then a few more chapters and then racing through to the end of a submission that you just know is going to be great. The enthusiasm there is a wonderful feeling. Of course, the worst thing is turning people down—there are so many people out there who truly do have talent, but it’s a brutal business in that regard. You can’t take on everyone and when I write in my rejection letters that I wish people luck and want them to keep writing, growing and trying again, I genuinely mean it.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Interview with Randall Brown

by Tori Bond

Do you want to make your fiction pop and sizzle? Would you like to see your work published? Then don’t miss Randall Brown’s workshops Flash Fiction and Submitting Your Short Fiction and Creative Nonfiction at the conference. Randall Brown is a fearless writer, teacher, editor, and publisher of flash fiction. Tori Bond caught up with him for a short interview about writing and publishing short fiction.

Tori Bond: There are many labels for short short fiction: microfiction, sudden fiction, instant fiction, nanofiction, and many more. Do these labels all fall under the category of flash fiction, or do they all have specific story lengths that delineate these categories? Is there a broader description of flash fiction beyond a word count? What distinguishes flash fiction from prose poetry?

Randall Brown: Editors of anthologies and journals often create names to define the kind of very short fiction they are seeking, and these names are often connected to a specific word count. However, most editors also have an aesthetic (for example, a desire for a narrative) that is also part of that definition. Beyond a word count, there are many broader descriptions of flash fiction, with each writer, reader, editor, and publisher bringing to the compressed world of flash fiction their own ideas of what needs to be accomplished within that (small) space. In short, flash is usually under 1000 words, sometimes compressing a narrative within that space and other times finding other ways beyond narrative to make that space mean something to a reader. As to when that "thing" becomes prose poem, I'd say that no one quite knows what distinguishes flash fiction from prose poetry. If it is formatted as one paragraph, justified, then it's probably a prose proem. It also might rely less on narrative prose strategies and more on poetic devices. Literally, I guess it's a poem built with prose (the sentence) rather than with poetry (the line break).

T: You write, read, publish and teach flash fiction. What is it that you love about this form and why do you think it is becoming so popular?

R: I often bore myself after awhile, so flash fiction is perfect for someone who can only tolerate his own writing for a page or so. I think it's popular because it doesn't take (too) long to write and doesn't take very long at all to read. I also think it's a great space to write fearlessly and take risks.

T: As founder and managing editor of Matter Press, and former editor of Smokelong Quarterly, what do you think is the biggest mistake writers make when submitting their work to journals and magazines?

R: Oh, I think that maybe they aren't sure what they're submitting to.

T: Since submitting work for publication seems to be a numbers game, do you have one or two shortcuts to share?

R: I think becoming a submissions reader helps you grasp exactly what the "slush pile" looks like. And I think finding a place that you love makes it more likely that you'll find a "match."

T: I have heard you speak about the importance of writers supporting writers. Can you expand on this?

R: I think that most readers of flash fiction are writers of flash fiction, and I think the best way to be part of that community is to find ways that you can help other writers. Too often, I think writers new to the community think first what this community can do for them, rather than thinking of ways that they can help the community.

T: What is one of your favorite flash fiction writing prompts?

R: I like taking five to ten words from a poem I like and using them in a flash fiction piece.

Randall Brown is the author of the award-winning flash fiction collection Mad to Live (Flume Press 2008), a collection recently reprinted as deluxe version by PS Press, 2011. He teaches at and directs the MFA in Writing Program at Rosemont College. He is founder and editor of Matter Press and its literary magazine, The Journal of Compressed Creative Arts. He holds an MFA from Vermont College and a BA from Tufts University—along with an M.Ed. and a B.S. in Education. His essay on (very) short fiction appears in The Field Guide to Writing Flash Fiction: Tips from Editors, Teachers, and Writers in the Field (Rose Metal Press 2009), a Book of the Year finalist. His blog FlashFiction.Net is one of the foremost resources for fans, editors, writers, and teachers of flash fiction. His work has been published and anthologized widely, both online and in print.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Deciding on That Agent/Editor Appointment

by Donna Brennan
2012 Write Stuff Chair

At the 2012 Write Stuff conference we have a great line-up of agents and editors ready to listen to writers pitch their books. Five agents, in fact. And two editors. But since you only get one appointment, how do you, an aspiring author, decide which agent or editor would be the best one for you to pitch to. Here are some pointers.

First, read the bios of all the agents and editors coming to the conference. Their bios include a list what type of books they represent or publish. It also says if they are especially interested in a particular genre or if they handle non-fiction. Be sure to take note of what they are not interested in.

Next, go to their company’s website. Browse the pages to find out about the agency or publisher. Do they represent or publish a lot of books in your genre or field? View their client list. Read the blurbs on their books. Do any of these descriptions resonate with you?

Carefully consider which agents or editors seem the best fits for you and your book. Then write down your first and second choice on your registration form. But be sure to register as soon as possible, as these appointments go fast.

But what if you don’t get an appointment with the agent or editor of your choice? Or what if two or more really appeal to you?

Well, you’ve been to their website. Did you check out their submission guidelines? Are they open to query letters?

First, of course you should prepare and do your best for the appointment you do get. (We’ll have a blog post in the coming months that will help you do just that.)

Second, know that agents and editors will be at the Welcome Banquet, breakfast, and lunch, available to talk with conferees. Don’t go hunt them down or give them your whole pitch, but if you see them, mention that you didn’t get a chance to meet with them and ask if you could send a query letter. Be prepared, if they ask, to give a (very) brief description of what your book is about—about one or two sentences brief. Be prepared to go into a longer description if they ask, but keep that one short, too.

If they say to send the query, go for it! Be sure to follow any and all guidelines on their websites about querying. And be sure to mention that you spoke with them at the conference.

Even if you don’t get a chance to talk with them, you can still send a query. When you do, mention that you were at the conference but didn’t get an appointment with them.

An alternate plan would be to query them before the conference. Mention that you will be there but didn’t manage to get an appointment with them. Maybe they’ll be interested enough to make an effort to speak with you in person at some point during the conference. But don’t be pushy. Let your writing speak for itself.

And be sure to come back to this blog to read all our agent and editor interviews.

Friday, January 6, 2012

2012 Write Stuff Conference

March 15 – 17, 2012

Welcome to the 2012 Write Stuff Conference Blog! This is the place to get the latest information on our upcoming conference and to read interviews with presenters, agents, and editors.

The 2012 Write Stuff Conference is packed full of exciting and informative sessions taught by a very talented list of presenters. We also offer two pre-conference workshops designed to help you attain the next level in your writing.


Our keynote speaker this year will be award-winning suspense writer James Scott Bell. Jim, a former columnist for Writer’s Digest, has written more than 30 books, many of them bestsellers. His information-packed books on the craft of writing—Plot and Structure; Revision and Self-Editing; and The Art of War for Writers—are well-used resources on the bookshelves of many writers.

Pre-Conference Workshops:

Our first pre-conference workshop will be taught by James Scott Bell. A Los Angeles native, Jim draws on his skills as a former trial lawyer, adjunct writing professor, and actor to teach his Novel and Screenwriting Intensive. This day-and-a-half workshop, designed for the serious writer, uses analysis of film clips, hands-on exercises, and other techniques that enable you to improve your work-in-progress right in the seminar. Jim will teach you what works, why it works, and how to make it work for you.

Our second workshop is taught by Gayle Roper, an award-winning author of more than 40 books. She is a popular speaker at conferences and events around the country. Gayle put together a special workshop just for us. It’s called Ten Crucial Questions to Ask Yourself About Your Novel. Gayle will help us to scrutinize our own novels, looking for areas to improve, making our novels rise from merely “okay” to truly “publication-worthy”.


Registration opens January 15 to the general public (January 10 for GLVWG members). Registration forms are available online or in our brochures.

You can access our conference website through a link on GLVWG’s home page, Brochures are being mailed out to GLVWG members and those who attended the 2011 conference.

Be sure to stop by this blog often for any updates and to read interviews of our presenters, agents, and editors.

If you have any questions you can contact me, Donna Brennan, conference chair, at

Hope to see you there.