Author Recap of 2019 and Goals for 2020: Our Journey by Elle Mott

It is about this time each year when I reflect on my past year’s accomplishments as an author.

My memoir pieces and personal essays have been in readers hands since my first publication, back in 2016. A lot has happened in that time as I continue to grow as a writer sharing my stories from my heart, and driven from my life experiences, both good and bad.

As of this time, I have twelve personal essays included in anthologies, two in literary journals, and two in a national magazine. That’s not counting the unpublished works I have shared. Most recently, in September, I wrote an essay which is in the Unbound Display with the Public Library in Cincinnati.

And of course, there is my debut book, Out of Chaos: A Memoir, published with Boyle & Dalton Publishers in August 2018. Last August, was the One-Year-Anniversary of it its release.

Recap of 2019

I have enjoyed meeting you in person and appreciate having been welcomed into a variety of rooms to share my writing and my book.

One of these rooms was in the historical Clifton House in Cincinnati. There, in January I shared with a reading from the last few pages of Part 1 in my debut book. I especially enjoyed the talent shared by other authors as well as area poets, storytellers, and even musicians who played 1920s jazz. A big thank you to Tracy Conner who hosted and invited me to this evening of entertainment.

In February, I participated in the annual V-Day event, locally hosted with Women Writing for (a) Change. I was one of eighteen presenters in an evening of spoken monologues in the fight against gender-based violence. Much appreciation goes to Laurie Hughes who brought us together as a community to make it happen.

A summer weekend found me at the Midwest Writing Workshop in Muncie, Indiana. There, I was especially honored to meet journalist, Michael McColly, as well as Matthew Clemens, one of the writers to bring the TV show, CSI, to its success. Reconnecting with industry leader, Jane Friedman gave me new insight to bring into my writing life and online presence. Ms. Jama Kehoe Bigger is one of the great smiles behind the event planning.

Come autumn, I was in the library rooms meeting readers and other authors. These included the Local Book Fair in Burlington, Kentucky, as well as the First Area Writers Festival and Book Fair with Clermont County Public Library in Ohio.

Last year, I was also an online guest, first with an interview for All Author, and then in a podcast with the editors for borrowed solace literary journal. While these online events are behind us, you can still read the interview and listen to the podcast. Links are available on my Events Page (link, below.)

Blogging my journey this past year has been fun for me. It also gives me ahaha moments of both reflection and inspiration, and I hope it does for you as well. A shout-out thank you goes to my blog followers, especially Justin Centers and Andrew Lutes.

2020 Writing Goals

I like to set goals for the upcoming year rather than making New Year’s resolutions. Some goals I achieve, some I set aside and some roll-over as renewed goals. I suppose that is how life rolls with anything planned. So long as we put in the action, then relabeling it from goal to renewed goal makes sense, at least to me. Whereas, if we had called it a resolution, that would set us up for a feeling of failure. And (I believe) action never leads to failure, but rather to an outcome, if not right away, then when the time comes.

My goals this year involve more writing and an even deeper involvement in my local area community. In my writing, I will continue in the research and craft for my next full-sized book. This is a critical biography of my maternal great-grandmother, Marie (1904-1987). More about Marie is on my Dedications Page (link, below). As I become more involved in my community—helping others, serving on boards, and growing through my writing, I can’t help but to think of this woman who greatly influenced my childhood. I admit it is a lengthy work to unfold. Therefore, my yearly goal is to complete a thorough rough draft.

Another book is also stirring in me to be written. This will be a novella length memoir (much shorter than my debut book.). In this, I will share a recent and current unfolding of events, as if a postscript to my first book. You see, our story never truly ends. There is always room for growth, for new understanding, for relationships to begin or be renewed. I will push forward in hopes to complete this book this year.     

And I will continue to write bite-size personal essays to share with you, my readers.

2020 Community Goals

While writing can and often is a solitude-thing, community is as much a part of my life, bringing it full circle.

In my membership with Tri-State Freethinkers, I have accepted a board position, effective last month and to last two years. In this role, I will be responsible for writing a monthly group newsletter. I look forward to the difference I can make in this community involved, social, academic, and activist group for those in Kentucky, Ohio, and Indiana.  

At the end of 2018, I ended my connection to Covington Writers Group. Professional advice following unrelenting cyber harassment prompted me to enter 2019 without them. This led to my participation with Not Your Grandma’s Writing Bootcamp, a local group which emphasizes creativity over craft.   

And I’m excited to say I am on a steering committee, Gifted Writing Hands Collective, to bring a writing workshop to high-school students and community members. With the guidance of writing mentors, it is to encourage people from different backgrounds to share their perspectives as we bridge divides and allow for healing, both individually and communally. This event is modeled after the Community of Stories, which was an annual event through the School for Creative and Performing Arts, Cincinnati (2014-2018). Tentatively, our event will happen this April.   

It is Our Journey

I will continue to share my journey with you in my blog and I hope to meet you at an upcoming event. Now, I’d love to hear your thoughts, your predictions and questions. I’m here for you and your comments are always welcome. Thank you all for being in my reading circle. Together we can continue to make life better, both individually and as a community.

Website Page Links:
Events
Memberships
Publications
Dedications

Closing out this blog post, I have a Thank You Video to share with you. When you have a few minutes, I hope you pause in your day, reflect on your accomplishments and goals, breathe some fresh air, and find a quiet moment for this video.

If you like what I post, please join my reading community by subscribing to get blog post updates  . Link here.

-Elle-

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Act of Remembrance: Our Fight Against Homelessness

In a candlelight vigil, we named more than one hundred people who died in 2019 from the effects of homelessness. The youngest of these was only two years old. Cities across America observe the annual National Homeless Persons Memorial Day each year in December, the month with the shortest daylight hours. On the early evening of December 20, I joined others at Washington Park in Cincinnati. Led by The Greater Cincinnati Coalition for the Homeless, we remembered these people; people whose lives were cut short. 

Here in Cincinnati, advocates are joining forces through grassroots efforts, lobbying, and educating the public, all with the ultimate goal to eradicate homelessness. Housing should be available and affordable to everyone.

Cincinnati is not alone in this activist movement. A YouTube channel, Invisible People, has an ongoing vlog which shows the personal stories of people across America; people who either go to work or who are looking for work and who do not have a place to call home. They are living out of their cars, in tents on the streets, or in shelters one night at a time when available.

People who don’t know where they’re going to spend the night struggle to receive needed services like medical treatment or counseling. And they are often forced to stay in places that are unsafe or make their illnesses worse. As a result, the life expectancy of people facing chronic homelessness is far shorter than for those who are stably housed. This tragedy emphasizes our need to make further progress to end chronic homelessness and take additional steps to protect people and families when they are homeless.

For us as a community to connect with people who are at risk for, or are experiencing homelessness, our awareness of this issue and our preventive action will help in the fight to eradicate homelessness.

Why are people and families homeless?

One strong claim is that our cities have a lack of affordable housing. In my commute home from work by bus a few days ago, I talked with a woman who has become a familiar face for me. She told me her housing takes 80% of her paycheck. She is not alone in this unfairness. Our cities need to make housing affordable for families who depend on low wages to survive. We need to prevent another death of a two-year old.

Other reasons that people experience homeless vary widely. Those of us who are securely settled in mainstream society, with a good income, home, and family or other support network have it easy. Others aren’t so fortunate. Loss of a job (many jobs are “at-will”), a landlord not renewing a lease or closing their apartment building and evicting everyone are realities which prove devastating. Natural disasters from tornadoes to floods can uproot people, leaving them homeless. These are but a few reasons; reasons which run the gamut.

One such time I was homeless occurred in late 2001. Here, below, is an excerpt from my memoir, Out of Chaos.

It’s a community thing.

Looking at reasons why homelessness happens will help in our preventive efforts. And by helping those who are experiencing homelessness, we will open doors to viable opportunities for them. This support for each other helps our community as a whole. It’s a community thing and together we can make our communities a safe and secure place to live.  

A few ways we can make a difference:

Contact nonprofit organizations in the community which raise awareness of homelessness. Many have events and fundraisers.

Volunteer where you can, from soup kitchens to shelters.

Donate. Community organizations which help the homeless most often accept monetary gifts, food, clothing, and hygiene items.

When shopping, think of those who are without. When you have a coupon for “buy one-get one free,” donate that freebie. When you buy your tube of toothpaste or package of socks, grab an extra one—donate these or hand it to a homeless person. That toothpaste can help prevent tooth disease. Warm socks or gloves can make a life-or-death difference on a chilly night.

Take a friend with you and walk the streets where homeless folks are prevalent. Talk to these people—get to know them as people—and do what you can, whether it’s giving them a warm coat or clean dry socks, buying them a cup of coffee, letting them know where help is at, or offering to give them a ride to a free health clinic or a shelter. Maybe, they need a bus ticket home to family—can you help? Listen to them, as each homeless person is an individual with individual needs.

RESOURCES:

(Cincinnati area)
Link to Greater Cincinnati Homeless Coalition at https://cincihomeless.org/
117 E. 12th Street, Cincinnati, Ohio 45202
(513) 421-7803
This coalition has a wealth of information in how you can actively help the fight against homelessness as well as how to help those in immediate need.

Link to Invisible People at https://invisiblepeople.tv/
This established vlog and website shares the individual stories of persons nationwide who are experiencing homelessness, as well as the policy changes that are being sought.   

News Clip of the candlelight vigil I participated in (2 minute video), courtesy of Channel 9 News in Cincinnati.

Please share in the comments of how you keep active in the fight against homelessness.

If you like what I post, please join my reading community by subscribing to get blog post updates. Link here.

-Elle-

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Old and New Traditions: Season of Gratitude

What is Thanksgiving Season for you? This Thanksgiving found me continuing my tradition to help at a homeless shelter. It also gave me a new tradition; a time to be with family for our first holiday dinner together in 29 years. Yes, my life is vastly different in a (very) good way than before I set roots here in my community. And keeps getting better. For me, it is a time of gratitude, in traditions old and new.

(Old Traditions)

Thanksgiving 2019 at Tender Mercies.

Yesterday, Thanksgiving, and same as the last few Thanksgivings, I joined friends to serve dinner to the residents of Tender Mercies in Cincinnati. Tender Mercies is a supportive and transitional housing environment in our Over-The-Rhine neighborhood in Cincinnati, not far from my Northern Kentucky home. We served dinner to not only the residents, but also others who came in for a warm and friendly dinner. In all, we served, oh in a rough guess, about 100 people.  

This home is but one of several shelters in our greater area. Many shelters have certain strengths to reach and help persons with specific needs. This particular place states their mission as:
Tender Mercies transforms the lives of homeless adults with mental illness by providing security, dignity, and community in a place they call home.”

These residents, each in their own way thanked us for their dinner. And once dinner was served, I stepped outside to smoke, where a resident joined me for a few minutes in a shared moment of what life is like for each of us.

Though these folks were grateful, I thanked them for:
—inviting us into their home
—for letting me give back to my community
—and for a spirit of heart-felt connection.

(New Traditions)

A selfie of my brother and I, Thanksgiving 2019.

*Spoiler Alert:

If you haven’t read my memoir yet, but plan to, then this here is an update or an added chapter to the “end of the story.”  I suppose our story never truly ends. There is always room for growth, for new understanding, for relationships to begin or be renewed.

I volunteer at Tender Mercies periodically to help in their dinner hour. Returning on Thanksgiving, I was greeted by residents who I’ve come to know; some, even if only by their smile, and some by picking up where we had last left off at in our chit-chat.

Earlier in my day on Thanksgiving, I shared it with my baby brother and only sibling. (I think of him as a baby brother although he is nearing 50 years old.) Knowing my brother is, well, is a new thing, different from the familiar faces in my volunteering. My brother recently left his home in Southern California to stay with me, here in Northern Kentucky. The last holiday my brother and I spent together was Thanksgiving 1990. I’ve had no holidays with relatives since that time in 1990.

I had been his long-lost sister. My debut book and published memoir is aptly titled, “Out of Chaos.” No longer living in chaos, life is bright and often new. Or, as with my brother and I, a chance to renew life. Thus far, we are not reliving what got us to this point. Rather, we are creating a new point. My story of chaos has ended. Our story of a renewed life is continuing to unfold. For this, I am grateful.

Resources

As we move into a new day after Thanksgiving, there are ongoing needs in our communities.

Link to Homeless Shelter Directory of Helping the Needy:
If you are in other parts of America and need a resource to point you where help is needed, this website is user friendly. It opens with a map of the United States—click on your state and from there, find out where to go and who to contact.

Link to Tender Mercies (Cincinnati, Ohio).

Tender Mercies: Here in a video, residents share their stories. (Five-minute viewing). Link to it at https://youtu.be/3BjG2L0u_5E

Link to “Your Family.” I have no experience in using this resource, nor do I know of anyone who has. You may find this website useful if you are looking for a lost loved one, as I was once the long-lost sister to my baby brother. It provides a bulletin board for postings and links to further resources.

Happy Thanksgiving Season, my friends.

I am so very grateful that you are in my circle of supporters, allies, and friends. Together. we can create a loving community for everyone; family, friends and new friends, alike.

What are your Thanksgiving Season Traditions and why? Is there a new Thanksgiving Tradition you hope to start? Please share in the comments.

If you like what I post, please join my reading community by subscribing to get blog post updates. Link here.

-Elle-

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Autumn and Book Fairs and Unbound

With the promise of crisp days on the horizon, a sense of nostalgia welcomes me into this autumn season. It seems a variety of holiday bazaars, indoor craft sales, and book fairs are plentiful for the taking this time of year.

Home Sweet Home: Getting Festive

People are getting into the festive spirit and are looking to buy craft items, baked goods, and stock up on homemade treats. They are looking to find perfect unique holiday décor, gifts, and simple pleasures for when cooped up inside on cold days.

Many of these events are a traditional fundraiser for schools, churches and synagogues, charities and other nonprofit organizations in the community. Even public libraries find that by supporting local authors with a book fair, it encourages people to keep coming back to the library.

Nostalgia suffuses social media, from online shopping to Instagram to Facebook. It provides opportunities for communities, which for logistical sakes can’t be offered year-round. It gives us an opportunity to meet the people who handcrafted these items, home-baked these goodies, or who wrote the book that you are dying to read. 

Last fall, I shared my then just released book, Out of Chaos at the annual book fair held at the public library in Burlington, Kentucky. This fall, I look forward to reconnecting with readers.

Let’s Go (to a book fair)

I have two scheduled book fairs this fall. If you are in the area, I hope you will stop in and get to know the authors in our community. If you are outside of the greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky area, I hope you will visit the book fairs near you.

Attending book fairs far surpasses any Amazon shopping experience. You know, the feel of holding an actual book, the smell of ink on paper, and the sound of pages turning. And, it is about the personal connection to meet the author and to hear in their own words why they wrote the book or what it is like to share their story with you. It’s just too good to pass up.

Other great reasons to get to the next book fair are:

  • Book fairs offer a terrific assortment of books to choose from for yourself or as a gift.
  • Often, books are offered at a reduced price from the bookstore sticker price.
  • It is a meaningful way to support these authors and let them know you care.
  • It is a welcoming opportunity to make new friends with people who, likewise share a passion for reading.
  • You can get a signed copy of a book– that excitement of actually meeting an author and having them autograph their book for you.

All-in-all, book fairs can be an important role in developing the habit of reading books, in garnering community connection, and to spread culture, education and knowledge. It changes our outlook on life and widens our domain of learning.

If you can, please join me at these soon upcoming book fairs:

First Area Writers Festival
Saturday, October 5, 2019 (12:30-4:30 p.m.)
Miami Township Branch of Clermont County Public Library
5920 Buckwheat Avenue in Milford, Ohio.

Local Author Day and Book Fair
Saturday, November 9, 2019 (1:30-3:00 p.m.)
Boone County Public Library, Main Branch
1786 Burlington Pike in Burlington, Kentucky.

Visiting the Unbound Display at the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County.
(Elle Mott)

Unbound and other Events:

Unbound: A Display of Reentry Stories
Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County, Main Branch
800 Vine Street in Cincinnati, Ohio.

This Unbound Project allows voices and stories to be heard, and promotes a deeper understanding of the obstacles that so many of our neighbors face as they return to our communities [after incarceration].

Sometimes the Joy of Reentry Comes Slowly: Forty-seven Birthday Candles, written by me, is found among the diverse and brave collection in this display. Unbound is currently available for viewing—visit the library for viewing.

Unbound Display (partial view) at the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County.

If at any time you are wondering where I will be next in my writing journey, you can find out by visiting the Events tab on this website. I appreciate every opportunity to connect with readers.

Other recent news in sharing my book are:

Podcast Guest with borrowed solace literary journal.
In their Author Feature, I talk with the journal’s editors about creative nonfiction. My essay “When They Came” was published in their inaugural issue two years ago, September 2017. This thirty-minute podcast went live earlier this month. From the Events Page here on my website, you can link to listen to it.

Guest with the All Author Blog.
Here, in an interview style, I share my passion for writing. It went live last summer. Again, visit my Events Page to link to their blog post.

Resources:

Fairs and Festivals: An online advanced search tool to find events in your area.
https://www.fairsandfestivals.net/

First Area Writers Festival
Miami Township Branch of Clermont County Public Library
https://www.clermontlibrary.org/event/writers-festival-10-5/

Local Author Day and Book Fair
Boone County Public Library, Main Branch
https://boone.libnet.info/event/1791885

Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County
Blog Post: Unbound: Writing and Art from Cincinnati’s Returning Citizens
(Kelly Sheehy, 9/27/19)
https://blog.cincinnatilibrary.org/Blog/unbound

My Events and Author Appearances
https://ellemottauthor.com/index.php/contact-information-media-requests/appearances/

Please share in the comments of what you enjoy most about going to book fairs in your community. 

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

-Elle-

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Rubber Ducks Fight Hunger

Rubber duck races are used in family-fun fundraising events by organizations worldwide. This event is a fun way to get involved in the fight against hunger; a problem that inflicts our communities and is well, not fun, but downright scary to many people who find themselves in dire need. You, too, can get involved and help raise awareness in this ongoing challenge.

At the warehouse for The Freestore Foodbank, Cincinnati, Ohio.

HOW IT WORKS

People, like you and me, donate money to the community organization who is putting on the event. In exchange, we get a rubber duck for the race. Behind the scenes, before the event, volunteers put a bar code sticker on the bottom of each rubber duck. These bar codes tell who paid for the duck. Donated monies go to the fight against hunger. Sponsors (big corporations, usually) donate prizes for winning ducks. This is an incentive to purchase a duck. Although, I question why we need an incentive to help those in need.  

PREPARING FOR EVENT DAY

Last weekend, I was behind the scenes in this effort. Me and many other volunteers showed up at their warehouse, putting those bar code stickers on the bottom of the ducks. Cincinnati’s Rubber Duck Regatta is the largest race in the northern hemisphere.

According to Game-Fundraising, a resource for fundraising, The Freestore Foodbank is one of Ohio’s largest food banks serving 20 counties in Ohio, Kentucky, and Indiana. They distribute 27 million meals annually through a network of 450 community partners including food pantries, shelters, community centers and more.

ON EVENT DAY

These rubber ducks are then dumped into a waterway. The first rubber duck to float past the finish line wins the top prize as sponsored by an area business.

Here, in the Cincinnati area, the 25th annual Rubber Duck Regatta will happen tomorrow, Sunday, September 1, on the Ohio River off the Purple People Bridge. People will watch the race from both sides of the river, some in Kentucky and some in Ohio. Those on the Kentucky side of the river will gather at Newport on the Levee; and those on the Ohio side of the river, at Sawyer Point Park. Rubber ducks will race toward the Serpentine Wall.

AFTER THE EVENT

Rubber ducks are pulled out of the waterway or river with fishing nets. Each rubber duck has a buoy to keep it afloat. Of interest, the same rubber ducks are used worldwide. When one community is done racing the ducks, the ducks are shipped or trucked to the next location for their next race. (Wow! These rubber ducks sure swim a lot, working hard in their fundraising efforts.)

In Cincinnati and the greater area, this is the largest fundraiser for The Freestore Foodbank. Each duck purchased (at $5) and raced provides 15 meals for a child or family in need. (Wow! $5 goes a long way.) It is also a big help to offset to the cost in preparing power packs, which are given to children who are on the Free Lunch Program. I’ve had my hands in these Power Packs, having volunteered to help put these together.

We can be a real part of our community.  I hope you will consider supporting the Rubber Duck Race in your area. It is a family-fun way to think of others and to help those in need, ultimately helping the whole community.

Please share about the Rubber Duck event in your community. You can drop your comments below, in reply to this post.

Resources

Cincinnati area: http://rubberduckregatta.org/

To find out more about Rubber Duck events in other communities– in your local area, visit the website for Game Fundraising or call 1-800-779-RACE.

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 (Conclusion).

Attending my first writer’s workshop was a leap of bravery for me, intermixed with excitement. Since then, other events for me have followed. Here, in the final part of this blog series, I’ll give you 10 tried-and-true benefits for getting out of our zone of solitude and into the rooms with others who share in the same great passion.

The first workshop I had ever attended was in the spring of 2015, when in the early days of writing my memoir. Most recently, I was at a three-day writing workshop with Midwest Writers (July 22-24, 2019). And it was the furthest away from home that I’ve ever traveled for such an event. Yet, well worth it, in that it broadened my awareness, courage, and inspiration as a creative writer.

Time and again, the emphasis at these events have been to expand our individual skill-set in creativity. Whereas, what to write is up to each individual. A question that came into my blog during the posting of this series centered on questioning the trust in and working relationship to others also at the event (I’m paraphrasing the exact comment/question). However, this concern seems nonexistent to me. If anything, the support shared among writers increases the power in my words.

For example, learning under the guidance of author and journalist, Michael McColly, I came to understand that as I develop the book I am currently working on—a biography of my maternal great-grandmother, a changemaker during the mid-20th century—I need to not only describe what she did, but also describe in detail what society was like during this era. McColly can’t write these words for me. It’s up to me. In my smaller publications, I often write about homelessness and how we can help others. McColly can’t describe what it is like to be homeless any more than I can describe the AIDS epidemic in America and in Africa in which he journals about from his personal experience. However, coming out of his classroom, I can understand how to write to reach readers when describing my own experiences and interests.

If you missed the prior posts to this blog series, you can link to them here:
Part 1 It is well worth it for us to get out of the usual solitary routine by joining forces with others. Here I share about my attendance at the Midwest Writers Workshop (or MWW, for short.)
Part 2 Break-out sessions with industry leaders and authors, Michael McColly, Matthew Clemons, and others.
Part 3 All day intensive session with Jane Friedman, author.
Part 4 Logistics of getting to a writer’s workshop and what to do when there.

10 tried-and-true benefits for getting out of our zone of solitude and into the rooms with others who share in the same great passion:

1. You will meet other writers.

(I know, duh, right?) Yet, this is the place to meet lots of people who are at varying stages in their writing careers. Wherever you are on the road to success, you will meet others who have been there before and who are ready to help you. I find that writers as a group are very supportive. If you make an effort to say hello and to sit next to people you don’t know, it is easy to meet others who can help you take the next step in your writing. It is also an opportunity to share your own experience, strength, and hope with others.

2. You will get energized.

It’s revitalizing to be with other people, all excited about the same thing. Like a pep rally from high school, when with others with the same goal, you can’t help but get the desire to write more or better than you ever have before.

3. You will feel good.

It is a motivational booster to be with others in unity. My entire experience in attending MWW, from traveling from home (and learning to drive a late model rental car) to meeting new people to seeing new sights was eye-opening for me. Any new experience which brings positive awareness amps our endorphins—it is a feel-good thing.

4. You will learn something.

Part of the reason I write is that I enjoy reading and gaining knowledge. We are hardwired to get excited about learning new things and writer events are full of ideas and insights about the craft. Sessions can be just as interesting as college classes—the only difference is that there are no tests.

5. You will find practical information for immediate use.

No matter where you are in your writing path, you will gain some nuts-and-bolts knowledge that you can use to make your writing better. Workshops can vary in their goal. My attendance at the yearly workshops with the School for Creative and Performing Arts came with a focus to bring community members closer together through the writing craft. Whereas, the focus at the MWW event was to expand our skillset for writing.

As varied as our writing is from writer to writer, so are the focus at these events. You could learn how to write for magazines and journals, how to use dialogue or create a story arc, how to develop a social media presence, how to zero in on your specific genre of writing, how to learn a new genre of writing, and the list goes on. You could gain feedback on your current manuscript. You could learn about the publication process or how to put together a query package when seeking publication. (Preparing my memoir for publication consideration involved writing a synopsis, a marketing plan, and defining my readership, and more.)  

6. You may gain new readers.

And you may discover writers to follow. On day one at the MWW conference, I browsed the swag table, complete with books for sale from other authors also attending the event. While I appreciated having a spot to display and sell my book, all the more fun, was to find the author behind a book I bought. I kept asking around if anyone knew who Carol Michel was (the author of the book I bought.) On the final morning, I sat down at a table and introduced myself to the gal next to me. Guess who she was? Yep, none other than Carol, the author behind my new great find.   

7. You may find a new market for your writing.

Conferences attract writers from many walks of life. Some of them will write for markets that you haven’t considered yet. They might know of a journal or other publication seeking the kinds of things you write. They may know of a publisher who is looking for a book like yours. And you may be able to pass on what you are aware of, to help others. (It’s a community thing.)

8. You will improve your professional effectiveness.

Like other professionals, from doctors, salespersons, schoolteachers, and others who attend continuing education conferences, so too, is this our way to learn more. Joining other writers at these events are an excellent way to for us to continue our education and improve our knowledge about our craft. If you are serious about your writing, then your attendance at such an event will prove that you are committed to your chosen profession.

9. You will make new connections.

Connections could be in the way of editors or agents who show up looking to meet up-and-coming authors. Connections could be newfound writer-friends that you will see time and again at future events. Exchanging business cards and email addresses is great way to not have to say “goodbye” but instead, to keep in touch. And be sure to do just that, by visiting their Facebook page or dropping them a note through email or even mailing them a card if you have their mailing address.

10. You will get inspired.

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 in order to succeed. They may be able to give you hope or encouragement or that little push that you need. Either way, you will find the courage to keep on writing.

Every time I join forces with other writers, I come out of it renewed and refreshed with benefits far outweighing what I can accomplish all by my lonesome. It takes action to get out of my zone of solitude and into the room with others. This action, time and again, is my reminder that I am 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.

What about you? Have you attended any events with others who have a shared interest? If so, what can you confer from these benefits? In the wrap-up to this blog series, I hope you too have gained a greater love for your potential as well as the inspiration to be found and created with others.

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 4).

I love writing workshops. I love the awesome speakers, the swag bags, the great connections, the food, and getting to know others—all of it. However, most people I know can be like me—a bit uneasy when it comes to, well, to just getting out and doing it.

How do you sign up? What do I do when walking into a session? What should you wear? What, exactly, should we do during break time? And doesn’t it cost money?

Well, here, in Part 4 of this five-part blog series, I’ll show you what it is like for me and how to make the most of your time there.

This blog post series explores my recent attendance at the Midwest Writers Workshop (July 22-24, 2019), held at the Ball State University Alumni Center in Muncie, Indiana (or for simplicity sakes, MWW.) In part one, I expressed the gratitude found in going to a workshop, conference, convention, or the like. In parts two and three, I shared about the break-out sessions when at this event with MWW.

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.

Pre-Attendance

You can find out about upcoming events, workshops, conferences, conventions, and the like by doing an internet search. Best yet, it’s often easy to hear of these events from your friends and other people you hang out with.

When you learn of an upcoming event, do some research. Find out what this get-together is about, where it is, who will be speaking, and if there are sessions, which sessions you’d be interested in.

With MWW, I was already following Jane Friedman’s blog and had already met her in person. When I got word that she would be teaching at this event. I dug in and learned more. Wow! — the break-out sessions to choose from with the presenters offered what I needed for advancing my researching and writing skills in the current book I am now working on. And yes, I was down for a full day with Jane Friedman.

In prior events I’ve attended, one was the Writer’s Digest indie-lab, right near me in downtown Cincinnati (September 29-30, 2018). I chose that one for its close location and for one of its speakers, Amy Collins who has been an integral part of my book marketing. One thing awesome about it was that on the first morning, Amy and I met for breakfast— it was a time to get to know each other outside the centered scope of my book.    

I also went to the annual writing workshops with the School for Creative and Performing Arts (or SCPA), also here in Cincinnati. Those were once a year in the spring up until they were recently discontinued. I went to each one except the first one. It was awesome in that it joined community members with their students for an intensive weekend of creativity. And it was free, only requirement being to pre-register. Following each workshop with this school, our works from the weekend get-together were compiled into a published anthology. When I first attended, it was in perfect timing for my writing career—that was in the spring of 2015, when I was in the early days of writing my memoir.

Once you know you want to go and what parts of it especially interest you, it is time to sign up. Nearly all events, whether it is a workshop, conference, or convention have an online registration form for you to complete and submit. Do this as soon as you can. The hosts of these events most often want to make the registration process easy-friendly and will include who to contact with questions. Don’t shy away from emailing or calling if you need more information or help in this process. They want to see you at their event!    

Getting to It

Attending MWW involved a different mode of transportation for me. I couldn’t just hop on a city bus or in a taxi and go. When first signing up, I wasn’t even sure if my old and ugly pick-up truck would get me three hours down the highway.

But, as the saying goes—where there’s a will, there’s a way. I had registered nearly three months before event day which gave me time to figure it out. As the time neared, my pick-up truck became a goner. In Plan B, I made arrangements with a rental car agency. Now, for those of you who know my story, my driving a late model car was going to be a brand-new thing for me. (Ask me about hitchhiking and I can tell you about that part of my past, but driving, well, I’m not much of a driver.) A good friend went with me to get the rental car and then gave me a crash-course in driving. By the time I returned the car, I had not only learned so much at the workshop but also how to work a key-less car.

As far as lodging went, MWW posted hotel suggestions right on their registration page along with discounts. Here, I did more research. And more. In the end, I settled on a different place- a motel with lower rates, no frills, and high reviews found online. And it gave me a two-night reduced rate. I left home on the morning of the workshop, checking in to the motel later that day. I checked out of the motel on the morning of my final day, the day with Jane Friedman. Each night I was too tired to even think about a swimming pool at the higher-end hotels.

For events further from home, again, look into the travel options to decide if you’d rather drive or fly or perhaps even carpool. There may be discounts available for airplane flights, either on their website or through a certain membership you have. AARP got me a discount on my rental car. I think AAA offers discounts too. Research to find what works for you.   

Packing

Survival Kit: Print out and take with you any registration receipts, agendas and the like. Also take a notebook for notetaking and pens or pencils. If you take your lap top computer or tablet, also take your charger for it. Your phone charger as well, needs to be in this survival kit. 

Clothing: The fewer items you can take, the less bulky packing will be. Anywhere you can mix and match will work well. Be sure to pack a sweater for layering as temperatures can swing and vary in different parts of the country as well as in different rooms at the same event. 

Not sure what to wear—whether to dress up or not? If the event you’re going to is an established one, browse their website or other social media page, perhaps from their prior events and find pictures to see what people are wearing.

When attending MWW, I dressed up more than my usual day-to-day attire, if only because it is a good feeling for me. You see, on my library job, I do work that puts me in between public floors, which can be dusty and dirty. Switching from jeans at work to dressy pants is my reminder that I’m getting out of my zone and doing something great.  

Another thing for the survival kit is to include your business cards and if you have a published book, then, that too.  

Check-In

Upon arrival at MWW, I knew from their website that parking was free right out front of the alumni center where it was being held. Most often, the registration process will let you know ahead of time as to where to park. If you are unsure though, contact them before arriving to find out the parking logistics.

Once parked and first walking in the building, there is most likely a welcome table. That has thus far always been so for me in the events I’ve attended. Here, you can introduce yourself and the person who greets you will likely make you feel welcomed. That person will give you a packet of important papers and other goodies for you to help yourself become acquainted with the layout.

At MWW, I was right away greeted by the event host, Jama, and from her, I knew I was in the right place. I knew her name and picture from registering on their website.

Meals

Again, the registration process will likely have informed you which meals, if any. that the event includes. Where meals are included, this is a great opportunity for meeting new friends. So, I recommend staying off your phone—while it can seem intimidating to be in a room where you don’t know anyone, and a phone is an easy distraction, engaging with people instead leads to much greater things. Even if your goal is as simple as having a five-minute conversation with one person over the lunch break, that’s better than being a wall flower.

Presentations and Sessions

If the event has several sessions to choose from in each time block, I suggest choosing a topic that interests you and of which you have yet to learn more about.

Don’t limit yourself to familiar speakers. There’s time in between sessions to say hello to those familiar faces. Instead, meet new leaders and listen to ideas unfamiliar to you. Our investment in time and money is our opportunity to expand our horizons. 

Talking to Speakers and Panelists

Talking to the people presenting at the event, especially when they’re surrounded by a gaggle of fans can also seem intimidating. But making these connections is crucial to our networking. Industry leaders tend to pop up at several different events, so the next time you see them, they will no longer be strangers. This was the experience I had with Jane Friedman at MWW after first meeting her at the Writer’s Digest Conference.

And don’t just go after the well-known speakers. If someone spoke eloquently and is lesser known, these people generally have more time to talk to you and can be fountains of knowledge.

Networking

When you see “Break” on the agenda—well, it’s time to get to know others, even through a casual meet and greet. Making conversation with strangers can seem awkward at first. However, unlike where you’re thrown together in a room with little or no context, this workshop or event gives you one topic you already have in common—the event itself. This is also a good time to ask for their business card and to offer yours.

To start chatting with someone, it’s as easy as starting off with a question about what sessions they attended or what speakers they liked the most. From there, it feels more natural asking that person what he or she does for a living and why they are also there.

Most people at these workshops or events are there to mingle with like-minded individuals, so don’t be afraid to chat with others and make connections.

Social Media

Don’t underestimate the power of using social media (live tweeting, following the event hashtag and liking posts) during the event. This “social currency” can keep you connected after returning home. Some of my bonds with fellow writers and well-known authors are strengthened through online means which keep us connected well after the event. 

Post-Event

Reach out to those who you met. Ask how they are doing with what they learned. Shortly after attending MWW, I emailed a fellow memoir writer. In her reply email, she exclaimed “Oh, my first table buddy.”  

And talk about the event. Whether you’re on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram or have a blog, show your love for a conference online. Personally, I have enjoyed writing about this conference and what I learned. If mingling in person days afterwards, share your experience with attending the event. Encourage others to get out of their zone of solitude and into their community.

I hope this blog post series is helping you. I returned with so many ideas and concepts swimming around in my head, meant to be processed. Sharing with you has helped me gain focus. Reaching out to those I met at MWW has strengthened my connections and has given me more opportunities to be there for others. It’s a community thing. Together we can make our communities great.

Look for the final part in this blog series coming at you in a week from now. It will be an overall recap. If you have any feedback pertaining to this series, please let me know in the comments and I will try to include those in Part 5.   

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 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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