ANWA Part 2:
The second presentation I went to was led by Jon Lewis. His impressive bio states in part, “Jon (J.S.) Lewis and Derek Benz are co-authors of Scholastic, Inc.'s GREY GRIFFINS, a YA fantasy series that has captivated readers with fast-paced tales steeped in archaeology, linguistics, mythology, and cosmology. Since publication of their first book in Spring 2006, the authors have teamed with legendary game developers, WizKids® to produce a ground breaking Trading Card Game based a game played by the characters in their books. They are also working with Hollywood Executive Producer, Mark Gordon (Grey's Anatomy, Saving Private Ryan, The Patriot, The Day After Tomorrow) on a film property based on their exciting series. The authors are also in development on a series of graphic novels based on their books, as well as an animated series. Both authors grew up in the heartland of America, and currently reside with their families in a Phoenix suburb.”
Jon geared his remarks to those that want to make a living by being a writer. He said, “Writing is a business, not an art.” He stressed the need to understand trends in books, and commented that marketing was as important as writing. When Jon started writing, he sent out 300 queries and got back 3 that wanted to represent him. He encouraged us to never pay for an agent’s services and to stick with agents based in NY. Jon is not an advocate of self-publishing.
In his books, he creates character sheets that describe his characters. The sheet will contain such pertinent information as the characters height, weight, hair color, skills, weaknesses, etc. before he writes the story.
He pointed out the importance of starting your story strong. If the agent or publisher isn’t interested quickly, the manuscript will land in the slush pile. He recommended that we obtain a copy of The First Five Pages by Noah Lukeman.
Jon explained that we should make, “outrageous statements in Query Letters to grab the reader’s attention immediately.” He stated that the synopsis of the book needs to be as exciting as the book itself.
Jon gave us helpful hints for book signings to get to know the book buyers at the stores. “At every store, take everyone’s business cards and send them a thank you note later.”
Finally, Jon encouraged us to have a presence on the web.
Kathryn Jenkins, the Managing Editor for Covenant Communications, was the keynote speaker and addressed us after lunch. She addressed the concept of “Line upon Line,” which is a play on words between the process of writing and scriptures found in Isaiah and 2nd Nephi. She walked over to a piano and played the first line to, If You Could Hie to Kolob, an excellent song by the way.
She then explained that the 1st line of writing was to understand that writing is a gift from God.
Kathryn then walked back to the piano and played the 2nd line from If You Could Hie to Kolob. She asserted that the 2nd line for us to learn is that “Every life has lines. Some lines are expected, and some aren’t. Life is the stuff of fiction.”
The 3rd line she stated is, Imagination. How we see life in a unique way. “Sad is the child that never had an imaginary friend,” she counseled.
The 4th line is Process, the process that we use to put our imagination into words. She said that we needed to read a lot. She asked us to develop a process that works for us. She was very emphatic that we need to write every day. “If you want to write, work at it,” she taught.
5th – Dare to take risks. Write what hurts. Dare to write beyond the lines.
And finally, 6th – Love what you write.
She then went back to the piano and played a beautiful rendition of If You Could Hie to Kolob from start to end. She was gracious in her encouragement, and believed that if we wanted to write, that we could.
As a final note, if you’re ever sitting down with her, ask her about the trip she made to Disneyland with her friend Peggy.
The next presenter that I was privileged to listen to was Heather Madder. I thought that she was going to speak about Marketing, but since Jon had already covered that in his discussion about writing YA books, I was pleased that she spent a fair amount of time going in a different direction.
Her bio states: “Heather Madder is the author of Walking on the Ceiling: The Practice of Overcoming Barriers and Creating a Life of Freedom, along with several audio CDs.
She was the creator and co-host of the internet radio show, "On the High Road" that provided spiritual solutions for everyday problems weekly to 100,000 listeners worldwide. She has also been a regular guest and contributor to various other stations.
Heather's work is dedicated to the spread of truth, however, the majority of her time is spent figuring out what to make for dinner and getting her children to do their chores. Her favorite hobbies are biking in the early mornings, staring at her handsome husband, and talking about how her children are the most awe-inspiring people on the planet.”
Seriously Heather, if you know how to get your children to do their chores, any tips you want to throw my way would be greatly appreciated.
She explained that our limitations as a writer are self-imposed. She had us write: I am a writer because… and then we had to fill in the blanks. She then discussed stumbling blocks we sometimes run into as writers. Responses included lack of time, inability to be analytical at work and then flip the switch to be creative at home, to the typical doubts and fears of, “What if my writing isn’t good enough?”
Speaking of spiritual genetics, Heather commented, “God is a creator, as his daughter or son, then so am we.”
She asked us what we hoped to accomplish with our writing. Reponses were varied from, “I want to offer hope to those that don’t have any,” to, “I want to entertain through writing.” She said that all reasons to write good material was a positive thing. She said that our stumbling blocks, like doubts and fears about our abilities are lies whispered into our ears by the adversary.
She continued with, “For every lie that creates suffering and bondage, there is an opposite truth that creates peace and hope.”
Heather was very motivational and sure that everyone in class, like me, left her discussion feeling better about our desire to put pen to paper, or fingers on a keyboard as the case may be.
Before I discuss the last presentation I went to, I need to comment that Kerry Blair was also a presenter. I was unable to attend her class, but I did hear others speak very positively about her presentation, and I hope to have the chance to hear from her some time in the future. On her website she discussed scents and oils that Tristi Pinkston sells. She described them as, “Chocolate for the skin.” That is amazing imagery, and I have no doubt that she is a fantastic writer and presenter.
The last discussion of the day that I went to was “The Slush Pile is for Sissies,” by Kathryn Jenkins. As mentioned earlier, she is the Managing Editor of Covenant Communications. She is warm, funny, and very engaging as she speaks. She gave us several helpful hints to avoid the slush piles of publishers.
1. Know who your publisher is, and what they are looking for. She shared how some obvious didn’t understand that Covenant Communications was an LDS publisher, and they sent in rather un-LDS material.
2. Understand what the submission guidelines are and then follow them.
3. Know how soon the publisher responds. There are fewer faster ways to get into the slush pile, than by incessantly hounding a publisher about whether or not they have looked at your manuscript.
4. The submissions editor has about 10-15 minutes to look at your manuscript. It needs to really want to make them read more from the get go. Otherwise, into the slush pile it goes.
5. For electronically submitted manuscripts, we need to know what formats the publisher uses. If they can’t open our file, it doesn’t matter how good it is.
6. Write an effective Cover Letter. Tell why your book is first or best. Take as much time on the cover letter as you would on a chapter. If you’re in a writing group, let others read your cover letter before you submit it.
7. Number your pages.
8. If sent electronically, send it all in one file.
9. Write something fresh and new.
10. End each chapter with a hook that forces the reader to want to start the next chapter.
11. Write compelling characters.
12. Don’t reuse the same adverb too frequently. It frequently can become a frequent irritant if you do…
13. If you are using a regional dialect, use it sparingly.
14. Control your exclamation points! About one for every one hundred thousand words is probably sufficient.
She then discussed with us how to write a better book. “Broaden your horizons. Experience different aspects of life, and pay attention to the life that is going on around you,” she said.
Kathryn explained the importance of writing exercises. “Some times you need to write without the expectation of getting published.” She then went through several writing exercises with us. She gave us a starter sentence of, “As soon as he walked into the room he knew that his life was changed forever.” We then had to finish that thought. I wrote, “He almost heard a wicked witch cackle, ‘You’re not in Kansas anymore, Dorothy.’ Mold covered the walls in a hideous display…” That’s as far as I got before it was time to go on to the next writing exercise.
She gave us scenes that we needed to write including writing about coming to this conference from the perspective of our briefcase or purse. Those responses were all very humorous.
The ANWA Writers’ Conference was a wonderful experience. My thanks to all those that took of their time, tremendous talent, and patience to guide and instruct us. I was richly blessed by attending. I made new friends, and am looking forward already to attending next year’s conference.