Inspiration Abounds at a Writing Workshop: Getting out of our Zone and Into the Rooms with other Writers (Part 3).

As promised from my prior blog post, here is Part 3 which dives into my final day at the Midwest Writers Workshop. I wrote this post for readers who are curious about my journey and for fellow writers who would like a greater insight into the business of being an author. This is my experience and not heavily weighted in note taking.

My all-day intensive session with Jane Friedman was aimed at published authors and my best guess at how many authors came together to hear Jane teach was, oh, about forty authors.

Rather than a variety of break-out sessions in this workshop as before, this was bootcamp with Jane Friedman, an author and industry leader. I’ve been following Jane in her blog posts and social media sharing since the early days of writing early drafts to my memoir, now published. I had first met Jane in person when attending a writer’s conference, here in Cincinnati. For anyone who is aspiring to connect with their readers, I can’t recommend her enough.  

      For starters, she had us break up into small teams, each team to a table. Teams were based on genre or the category we write in. At my table, were three other creative nonfiction authors. Going around the room, we had teams in sci-fi, self-help, inspirational/religion, young adult, mystery, romance, children’s, and a few more.  With much of our work for the day being dependent on writers helping writers, teaming up with authors in our same genre worked well.   

SWOT ANALYSIS

In teams, we discussed the SWOT analysis. SWOT is the acronym for strengths – weaknesses – opportunities – and – threats. I was already somewhat familiar with this business tool, having learned it when in a work-related training at my job place, the public library.

Jane takes this acronym one letter further: SWOTF and no, I don’t think I can pronounce that acronym, although she did, somehow. In SWOTF, the F is for fears. It’s a framework for taking an inventory to identify and analyze the factors which can impact the viability of a project, product, place or person—or an author’s book and outreach to readers.

WEBSITE ANALYSIS

We discussed the importance of having a landing page for readers to discover us and our books. For me and many others, the landing page is our website. Jane asked for three volunteers to share their website. I was the first volunteer. On an overhead projector screen, we watched her go through my website, discussing the strengths in navigating it. From her analysis, I learned where and how I could either improve or change things up. Slowly but surely, you may notice some changes in my website and some, as subtle as they are may go unnoticed.

For one, I removed the huge (huge!) picture that my website template defaulted to when setting it up. This gets rid of clutter and moves you, the website visitor directly into what I want to share.

It was suggested I use a pop-up window for inviting people to subscribe. I might do that. As it is now, it is a bit obscure, found under my Contact and Media Page.

It was suggested that on the menu for my blog, I give a detailed blurb of what my blog is about and why I blog. I plan to do this—once I learn how the techy hands-on work to create that.

I updated my bio as found under the About tab.

OUTREACH and LISTENING

Jane shared the many ways we can engage with readers, from on-line to in person. And taking it further, we discussed how to share and what to share, especially when it comes to a world of strangers on the internet.

Regarding listening, our readers are who we care about. Before anyone read my book, I could describe it, but my words of kudos no longer hold their weight. Rather, it is what readers have to say about my book and their words are the most important tools I have for sharing with those who haven’t yet read my book as to what people think of it.

Going a step further, we discussed who comparable authors are. I kind of already knew this, from when I was looking for a publisher— that’s one of the things publishers want to know—who can we compare you to?  One of my comp authors is Brianna Karp, author of The Girl’s Guide to Homelessness: A Memoir. Jane took us through some online exercises, which in part had us look at what readers of comparable books are saying. This information can be helpful in broadening our outreach.

AND MORE

Jane also shared hidden gems with us, from helpful links to other resources. Again, watching on the overhead projector, we followed along as she took us through tools we can use to amp up our exposure as authors.

Learning from professionals in our chosen craft, whether our craft is writing or another art, is an excellent way to continue our education and improve our knowledge and skills. This means getting out of zone, which is often one of solitude or at best small with only a handful of other like-minded friends. It means showing up to a workshop, convention, conference, or the like and meeting new people.

Look forward to Part 4 of this five-part blog series, coming next weekend. In Part 4, I will share my experience in the logistics of getting into the rooms with others. Then, Part 5 will be a wrap-up.   

To get out of our zone and into the rooms with others is an invaluable way to build upon our strengths. Together, we can create a better community. Please share in the comments any suggestions or experience you have for joining others in a common goal and what this connection can or could mean to you. 

If you like what I write, please subscribe to get notified of new blog posts.

-Elle-

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Inspiration Abounds at a Writing Workshop: Getting out of our Zone and Into the Rooms with other Writers (Part 2).

We can build on our skilled craft and interests. It takes getting out of our zone, which can often be one of solitude, and into the rooms with others to join forces in a shared unity. Recently, I attended the annual Midwest Writers Workshop (July 22-24, 2019), held at the Ball State University Alumni Center in Muncie, Indiana. This is Part 2 of a five-part series as I share what it was like for me to go to this event.

Learning from professionals in our chosen craft, whether our craft is writing or another art, is an excellent way to continue our education and improve our knowledge and skills.   


I was reminded of the privilege of not only being a writer, but of being a very real part of a community who values writing and who also consider the art of writing to be as essential as living and breathing. Midwest Writers Workshop was a full three days with break-out sessions to choose from, led by an array of industry leaders and authors, all so giving in their time and expertise.

Chronicling Social History
Writing Creative Nonfiction with a Social Justice Lens
Michael McColly

I believe I’m not alone to say I was drawn into the sessions led by Michael McColly, author and journalist. He had a full house of about twenty people in his room for each session I attended. In conversational style, we discussed the seriousness in our role as creative nonfiction authors to educate our readers in the social construct of our communities, whether it is to bring awareness of current social injustices or whether it is to take people back in time to when things were different in order to explore how we got to where we are today in our societal norms.

By his own experience in writing, McColly explained in detail that our narrative reflections speak volumes to our readers, bringing issues out of our own cultural experiences to create a historical account. These issues are often ignored, overlooked, or are considered too controversial to bring to light. Yet, we have a story to tell and we must tell it, uncovering misinformation and unveiling immoral efforts.  

McColly succinctly states (quote) “….we can use our skills to inform, educate, inspire, and hold people in positions of power accountable for their failures to act.”

My own nonfiction writing often centers on what it’s like to be down on our luck and how we can help others and overall our communities. McColly has shown me that I am on the right path and that I mustn’t let go of my passion to encourage others to see a different way of living, whether through empathy or action or both. He and others have taught me skills in research, descriptive characterization when writing and so much more. I will go on to use these tools in my personal narrative essays.

Research:
The Truth That Makes Your Lies Believable
Matthew Clemens

This break-out session gave me insight for the development of the work I am doing to bring my second book alive. You see, Clemens is a fiction author with several mystery and crime books. He also works in collaboration with one other writer to bring the TV hit show, CSI to its success.

With animation to his energetic gait in facing the classroom, Clemens shared that for his fictional stories to ring true, even though they aren’t true, he first does research. He visits locations and cities in which places in his stories will resemble or accurately portray. He talks with people as he goes about his day-to-day activities. By experiencing people and places, he is then able to give credence to his narrative stories.

The book I plan to bring you next is a biography of my maternal great-grandmother, Marie (1904-1987). For those of you who read my memoir, Out of Chaos, you may recall she was an interwoven and integral person in my true story. Marie was a changemaker in a time when women were typically homemakers. Clemens has shown me I must dig deep into the events which shaped our society during the era in which she lived.

Additional Highlights

Switching gears from the depth found in McColly and Clemen’s sessions, Ashley Hope Perez presented the light-hearted Get Inspired: Find Time to Write and Be Happy. Under her guidance, our class explored how to overcome obstacles in our writing life. Obstacles fall into two categories, emotional and logistical, and can vary for each writer.

Aside from Michael McColly, Matthew Clemons, and Ashley Hope Perez, many other authors were among us to share their expertise. One was Dianne Drake, who gave a presentation which centered on her career with Harlequin Romance Books. Drake’s presentation closed out my second day of break-out sessions. Come evening hour, we all gathered in the assembly room for keynote speaker, John Gilstrap, award winning author of thriller novels.

On my schedule for the next day, my final day, was an intensive bootcamp with industry leader and author, Jane Friedman. In next week’s blog post, I will dig in and share about my time with her.

To get out of our zone and into the rooms with others is an invaluable way to build upon our strengths. Together, we can create a better community. Please share in the comments any suggestions or experience you have for joining others in a common goal and what this connection can or could mean to you. 

If you like what I write, please subscribe to get notified of new blog posts.

-Elle-

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Inspiration Abounds at a Writing Workshop: Getting out of our Zone and Into the Rooms with other Writers.

Together, we can build upon our skilled craft.

Do you sometimes find yourself all too comfortable in your zone, wondering if it’s worth it to do something different? I can assure you that yes; it is worth it and much more. Writing in solitude—or from my easy chair with my pet birds chirping and cheering me on—can and often seems to be the norm for me. However, it is well worth it for us to get out of the usual solitary routine by joining forces with others in a shared unity over our creative potential.

Recently, I attended the annual Midwest Writers Workshop (July 22-24, 2019), held at the Ball State University Alumni Center in Muncie, Indiana. After my return, I attended the next scheduled meeting with a local writers group I am in (“A Private Writing Circle”). In our meeting, I was encouraged to do a five-part blog series to explore and share my experience in this workshop.

Today is Part 1 of this series. Next weekend and then the following few weekends, I’ll post again, moving from Part 1 to Part 5. Here’s what to look forward to in the coming posts:

Part 2: Details from the workshop sessions (or “break-out sessions”) in which I gained valuable insight from Michael McColly, author and journalist, from Matthew Clemens (CSI TV crime show writer), from Ashley Hope Perez, young adult author, and from others.

Learning from professionals in our chosen craft, whether our craft is writing or another art, is an excellent way to continue our education and improve our knowledge and skills. 

Part 3: My bootcamp experience as taught by industry leader and author, Jane Friedman. This was an all-day intensive session for authors and couldn’t have been more enjoyable had it not been presented by Jane Friedman.

Part 4: The logistics of getting out of our zone or easy chair and into the rooms with others. This will include some basic how-to in registration, lodging, and more.

Part 5: An overall scope of the benefits in attending a workshop or a conference or seminar. If you go with an ear to listen, there will be speakers who seem to be talking directly to you. Some have overcome great obstacles to succeed.

We, too, can find the courage to succeed! 

Attending Midwest Writers Workshop

In essence, my attendance at this workshop reminded me of the privilege of not only being a writer, but of being a very real part of a community who values writing and who also consider the art of writing to be as essential as living and breathing. Of the themes I noticed which kept being voiced by attendees and presenters alike, is the need for diversity and to use our writing tools to make a real positive change in our communities and with the people who make up our home towns.

Throughout the event, I was ever meeting new people, and often exchanging contact information with new friends made. One such friend was excited to hear me reach out to her a few days out from the close of the event. I smiled when reading her reply email, “my first table buddy.” 

In the days following the workshop, I couldn’t help but notice a renewed spirit in me; an appreciation for this greater writing community. It is something that nurtures me as a person and helps foster the written work I create.

I look forward to sharing more with you. Look for Part 2 next weekend on this blog. For now, please share in the comments as to what it is like for you to get out of your norm. Also share any questions you may have that you’d like me to answer as I explore this five-part series.

If you like what I write, please subscribe to get notified of new blog posts.

-Elle-

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