Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Preparing for a Writers' Conference

ACFW is just around the corner--am I the only one this only recently dawned upon?-- and some of you may be attending for the very first time. Including our own and very beloved Sherrinda! So as the pre-conference jitters begin to rise, you may be wondering how to prepare. And do you REALLY need a full proposal and all those sample chapters?

Let me start with the biggest thing.

You need to get your head wrapped around your story, and you need to ask the Lord where He is leading you. If you see your writing as a calling rather than a hobby (and it certainly doesn't have to be, but be honest with yourself and seek God's heart for your story) then you need to surrender it. Because you were never in charge of it to begin with. Preaching to the choir here... man, why is that so hard to do? I think it's because our passion stirs a desire for control. But if God called you and God equipped you and God saw you through countless hours staring at your computer screen, God is certainly not going to fail you on the follow-through. Which means selling the book is not up to you.

Let that sink in a minute.

Selling your book is not up to you.

I've given some pretty stellar pitches in my day. Not one of them has turned into a book contract. Why? Because I wasn't ready. My stories weren't ready. And then the market wasn't ready. And you know what? I'm thankful. The last thing I want to do is begin what I hope will be a lifelong career, a lifelong dream, on a shaky foundation.

Maybe you're the one who thinks you aren't ready (hello, Moses) and God is saying you are.

Either way, the God who breathed your life into existence is more than capable of orchestrating your steps if you'll just let him.

So be flexible. Seek Him. Trust Him. And marvel at what He does.

Now, let's get down to the nitty gritty.

You'll need...


  • One sheets. If you don't bring anything else, bring a one sheet. This just needs to have a blurb hitting the most compelling points of your book (in other words, we don't need to know about Great Aunt Sally's lifelong dream of candy striping), a short bio about you and your credentials, and your contact info. Most people enjoy making these visually pretty, but it's not necessary. 
  • Business cards. Consider putting a photo of yourself on these so people remember what you look like.
  • Sample chapters. Just bring a couple, and don't expect anyone to actually take these with them. But they may want to see how you write, so come prepared.
  • An outline of your story. No, you don't need this in writing. But make sure you're able to tell someone your characters' struggles and growth, as well as your hook, on the spot.
  • A pitch ready. You can find SO many resources on this, but just know you're looking for your hook-- what brings the characters together in a unique way? Make this conversational and short. You don't have to be awkward about it or hit everything. The goal here is just to have an answer when someone asks, "What's your story about?"
  • To do your research! Pardon my teacher voice for a moment. But these editors and agents are SO encouraging to all of us writers, and truly want to find good stories. It's how they make a living. Do not waste their time by going into an appointment unprepared. Know a little about what kinds of books each house publishes, and know what they're acquiring. Treat it like a job interview because that's exactly what it is. Do not pitch an Amish romance to someone who's clearly expressed they only want to see suspense. It wastes their time, and it basically tells them you aren't invested in the field. I'm always baffled how many people treat editors as if an editor should bend over backwards to figure out their story or to make conversation. No. The industry professionals in ACFW are so generous, but we need to honor that by coming ready. Ready does not mean perfect or that you're not nervous. Ready means you're not ignorant. 😂 If there's one thing you should know in and out, it's your own story. If you can't answer questions about it, that's a huge red flag.
  • To plan some down time. Skip a breakfast and sleep in. Go back to your room in the afternoon. Swing by the prayer room and have Brandilyn pray for you. Find ways to seek out and guard some time for reflection to recharge your spirit. Otherwise, you're in danger of overwhelming yourself.


Above all, just be you. No one cares if you stumble over your pitch. Laugh and start over. No one cares if you forget the main character's name. They know you're nervous. Written proposals can remedy all these things. What a written prooosal can never emulate is the enthusiasm on your face when you share the story on your heart. So get giddy. Find your joy.

And make a few friends along the way. :)

See you all next week!


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Ashley Clark writes romance with southern grace. She's dreamed of being a writer ever since the thumbprint-cookie-days of library story hour. Ashley has an M.A. in English and enjoys teaching literature courses at her local university. She's an active member of ACFW and runs their newcomer's loop. When she's not writing, Ashley's usually busy rescuing stray animals and finding charming new towns. You can find Ashley on her personal blog, Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter. She is represented by Karen Solem.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Reading Quotes for You

Today I thought I'd do something a little different.

I love writing. If you've been around the Alley long you know that. I love talking about writing, but right now I'm doing a lot of writing. So much that I'm dreaming of reading again.

I adore reading...it's not as much work as writing. Today I thought I'd share some fun reading quotes and images. Feel free to post these wherever you like. :-) Consider these my gift to you!





What's your favorite reading or bookish quote?

An award-winning author of twenty books, Cara is a lecturer on business and employment law to graduate students at Purdue University’s Krannert School of Management. Putman also practices law and is a second-generation homeschooling mom. She lives with her husband and four children in Indiana.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

An Interview with Robin E. Mason

We are so excited to welcome author Robin E. Mason to The Writer's Alley to celebrate her latest release, The Long Shadows of Summer! She was gracious enough to allow us to turn the tables since she has been so kind to interview some of us on her blog. Let's get started...



Hi, Robin! Welcome to the other side of the author interview table. We’ll try to be as nice as you’ve been to us ;) Tell us what’s going on with you!

What’s going on with me? I’m trying to find my brain! (I didn’t leave it with ya’ll over in the Alley, did I?) The Long Shadows of Summer, Book 1 in my new series, Seasons, releases in ONE WEEK!

And the million-dollar question: What’s your story about?

Identity. My main character, Mercedes, discovers some things that totally change her life—and her perspective of who she is.

What do you want readers to take away most from your book?

We are who God made us to be, no matter our life or circumstance.

Can you tell us a little about your journey to publication?

I jumped in without a clue. Did everything totally backward! LOL! I published my debut novel, Tessa, for Kindle in March 2014. Then started blogging. Then started following other blogs and sharing—and learning. And then published in print and had book signing events.

I was asked about a sequel, and lo and behold, two places in Tessa pointed right to the second book. And then there was book 3! Thought I’d take a break after that, but NOOOOO, Mercedes started chattering in my head and Seasons was underway without missing a beat!

What was the hardest thing about writing this book?

There are a lot of difficult scenes, but the one that really gets me is when the truth of who she is--who God says she is--really begins to penetrate her psyche.

Can you point to one thing that helped you get it finished and to this point?

Determination? My tight release schedule for one, but mostly because I want to honor God in what I’m doing. When I ask Him what He wants me to do Kingdom-wise, He says write. Serious. I don’t “feel” like I’m doing His work, but if my stories touch one heart, then that’s what it’s about.

What would you tell yourself five years ago (or when you started)?

I’d like to say slow down, think ahead, and have a plan. But my brain doesn’t work that way. For all my (OCD) planning, I still tend to barrel on through…

I would advocate for networking earlier on, I suppose. Attend conferences and writer’s groups—and follow writer blogs. ;-)

Now for some lighter questions! What are you currently reading?

Just did start A Time to Laugh by Marion Ueckermann (Love at First Laugh). And I gotta say, closing in on 60 myself, I CANNOT EVEN imagine!!!

What’s your favorite writing fuel?
Chocolate of course! Also keep cashews or almonds on hand. And I drink tea, iced and unsweet (sorry, Pepper) 24/7. Coffee in the mornings, cinnamon hazelnut, also not sweet.

Do you listen to music when you write?

Nope. Can’t. I start singing and/or bopping along and can’t concentrate on the voices—I mean the characters and story. :)

How do you reward yourself when you reach a writing goal?


Apparently, I just start a new story. That’s been the way of it thus far!

What’s the weirdest thing in your bag?


Oh dear… I have a weird obsession for paper products. I always take more napkins than necessary (when eating out) and stash ridiculous gobs of them in my purse. I don’t understand this need.

Thanks so much for joining us, Robin! We are looking forward to reading The Long Shadows of Summer!

About Robin: Robin E. Mason has been writing since 1995 and began working in earnest on her debut novel, Tessa, in 2013. Meanwhile, she cranked out a few dozen poems, made countless notes for story ideas, and earned her BFA in Interior Design. Ms. Mason lived with depression for many years, and the inherent feelings of worthlessness and invisibility; she didn’t want to be who she was and struggled with her own identity for many years. Her characters face many of these same demons. 

She also writes stories of identity conflict. Her characters encounter situations that force the question, “Who am I really?” Readers who have ever wondered who they are or why they're here will be touched in a very real and deep way. “I know," Mason says. "I write from experience.”

In addition to her August release, The Long Shadows of Summer, her three novels, Tessa, Clara Bess, and Cissy, are available on Amazon, both for Kindle and in print. Mason also has several poems featured in Where Dreams and Visions Live (Anthologies of the Heart Book 1) and a short story titled "Sarafina’s Light" in the Blood Moon anthology. Book Two in her Seasons series, The Tilting Leaves of Autumn, is slated for release in November. 

You can connect with Robin here:








Thursday, August 17, 2017

Finding Discipline to Write

Some people are disciplined. They can get up at 5 am each morning. They go for a jog every day after work. They spend 8 hours, 6 days a week in front of the computer, spinning stories one right after the other.  They are good at doing the hard thing every single day in order to achieve their goals.
 
And then there are those of us who are not quite as adept at self-discipline. We aren’t even good at setting goals, much less attaining them.  We try. We even try hard. But somewhere down the line we go back to our old ways of doing things, garnering no success along the way. In fact, the only thing we accomplish is guilt for failing once more.

I think I’ve found the problem - at least for me and my ever-recurring cycle of one step forward and one step back. It’s nothing new, but it is not always easy to obtain.

Accountability.

I need accountability to be able to sit my behind in the chair and write when I don’t feel like it. I need accountability to lose weight and get on the scale. I need someone checking in on me, asking if I’d met my goals.

If I don’t have that, then I slip back into doing what I always did before. When I get writer’s block or don’t like the blank page, I go watch Netflix instead (in the name of research, of course). Instead of logging my food into My Fitness Pal, I go to the fridge and eat a spoonful of ice cream. One little spoon doesn’t count, does it? It is my reward for doing all that research on Netflix!

The difficulty is finding someone to keep you accountable. I am fortunate to have a mentor this year for my writing. I have learned so much about setting goals and maintaining them. I’ve learned I can do so much more than I think I can when given a little kick in the behind. I only have her for a year, but I am doing everything in my power to learn and grow, praying that the lessons and discipline I learn this year will stick with me forever.

So how do you go about finding someone to be accountable to?

Many times you find someone organically. Maybe in your circle of friends, someone is going through the same thing you are and needs someone to bounce ideas with.

You could always put a call out for a critique partner who writes in your genre. This is definitely something I need to do. It is scary putting yourself out there, but the rewards of finding a good fit would be worth the risk. The ACFW organization has a critique pool and many have found partners within that group.

Network with writers at conferences and online. It could be an experienced writer sees potential in you and takes you under her wing.

Above all, pray about it. Pray that God Spirit within you will spur you toward discipline. I Timothy 1:7 says this: “For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.”

We have His Spirit in us, full of power that gives us this self-discipline. We can overcome our weakness through the strength within us. His strength.

We can sit and write. We can overcome the blank screen. We can write every single day. We can, because He enables us.


What are you doing today to make your dreams come true? 
What are you implementing in your daily life that will help you meet your goals? 

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Sherrinda Ketchersid is a born and bred Texan, preacher’s wife, mother to 4 children, and secretary at public elementary school. With the children grown and out of the house, she weaves tales of fierce knights and their ladies in a time where men were warriors and women had to be strong enough to keep them in check.

After taking time off from writing, she has returned with a new motto in place to spur her on. “Writers write. Everyone else makes excuses.” ~Jack Bickham.  No excuses this time. She is weaving her love of romance with history to bring joy and the hope of love to those who may one day read her stories.

You can connect with her through:

Personal blog: sherrinda.com
Twitter: @sherrinda
Instagram: @sherrinda


Thursday, July 27, 2017

A Recipe for a Fun Booksigning for Authors and Readers

Ingredients:

  • 1 Tray of Goodies for sustenance and luring in potential readers
  • 2 Pens or Sharpies
  • 1 Blank List for newsletter signups 
  • 1 Smile for interacting with customers as they walk by your table
  • 1 Sensational New Outfit -- you have our permission ;)
  • 1 Thank you note per store manager who coordinated said event
  • Bookmarks and Promotional Materials

Directions (for Authors)

  • Before the event, invite all of your local friends and family members.
  • Make sure that retailer's online store is on your website (if they have one).
  • Post the event on your website, social media, and any local publications that have sections for local events. 
  • If (hopefully) the manager has positioned you close to the entrance, people will be curious who you are. Be sure to engage and be friendly with customers you may not know!
  • Combine the ingredients above and ENJOY!
  • If possible, see if you can sign any remaining stock for the shelf.

Directions (for Readers)

  • Share the event on social media and invite any local friends who may be interested in a signed book.
  • Buy a copy or two at the event to give away if you already own one -- or just show up to give the author your love and support.
  • As always, it's incredibly helpful to leave a book review on any online retailers.
  • Know how grateful and full we are because of YOU! 

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Top 10 List of Ways Writers Can Utilize Their Time

I've been participating in a writing sprint this week with a group of writers. We have a leader who is incredibly encouraging and good at spurring us on toward our word count goals. She sent us a link to a past blog post on the Seekerville blog entitled Writers Write. Everyone Else Makes Excuses, by Tina Radcliffe.

In this post, she gives so many encouraging quotes on doing the hard part of writing. Putting your behind in the chair and doing the work of writing. It takes time. It takes sacrifice. It takes discipline.

We all have to find the "thing" that helps us - that motivates us - into writing when it's hard.

Life gets in the way. Your car breaks down. There's a funeral, a lunch date, FAFSA to fill out (can I just say UGH?), hair cuts, and...dare I say it?...toilets to clean.

So what do you do to make the most of your time, and feed your writerly self? Everyone has to decide for themselves. No one can do it for you, because only YOU knows what will work for YOU.

I decided to complete the exercise Tina suggested in her post, and this is what I came up with - in no particular order.

Top 10 Ways to Utilize Your Time

1. Use a diction app and dictate a scene on your way to work, or while doing dishes, ironing, etc.

2. Listen to a craft book or podcast in the car while going to work or hauling kids to school.

3. Carry a Moleskin notebook in your purse to write down ideas for your story, prompts for short stories, or blog post ideas.

4. If you get stuck in your story, move on to another project. (I stole this from Tina because it is so helpful.)

5. Stay up 30 minutes later to write. (I get up at 5 am already....can't go earlier!)

6. Read a chapter of a craft book at lunch.

7. Email a chapter to your Kindle so that it is there when you are in a waiting room, carpool line, etc. Highlight things that you need to change.

8. Alternate cooking nights with your husband so you have more time to write.

9. Make a date with yourself once a week and go to the library, coffee shop, or park to write free from responsibilities at home.

10. Purchase a cute timer or use the one on your phone to write in 30 - 60 minute increments. Then set the time for 15 minutes and clean a toilet or make the bed or do a load of laundry. Then get back to writing.

Nothing on my list is new. Many have already figured out the best way to get the most out of their day. But some of us need reminders that we can carve out extra time, and every minute we garner gets more words on the page.

What things have you found to help you carve out time and up your word count? 


***************************************************


Sherrinda Ketchersid is a born and bred Texan, preacher’s wife, mother to 4 children, and secretary at public elementary school. With the children grown and out of the house, she weaves tales of fierce knights and their ladies in a time where men were warriors and women had to be strong enough to keep them in check.

After taking time off from writing, she has returned with a new motto in place to spur her on. “Writers write. Everyone else makes excuses.” ~Jack Bickham.  No excuses this time. She is weaving her love of romance with history to bring joy and the hope of love to those who may one day read her stories.

You can connect with her through:

Personal blog: sherrinda.com
Twitter: @sherrinda
Instagram: @sherrinda



Thursday, July 13, 2017

Present Over Perfect

If you could see my house right now—the overflowing number of Birchbox samples and Lord forbid, my closet—you might think I was completely carefree. And unorganized. (The latter of which would probably be true.)

But in reality, the notion of perfection has always been an inner dialogue for me, and sometimes, it can become paralyzing. So that I could throw the fiftieth hairspray sample away, but would if I needed it next week? And the mountain of shoes accumulating in my closet probably does need attending, but where would I even start? The Pinterest image in my head is too far away from reality, and so I just . . . don’t.

Been there?

The problem is, when the stakes are higher, so is the fear. (See where I’m going with this?) So that maybe you’ve got your first real deadline from a publisher, or an agent, or maybe you’re just bound and determined to meet your own deadline of finishing your WIP before a writing conference this year.

So you sit down at your computer, and one of two things happen. Either you spend countless time staring at the blinking cursor, or you madly dash toward an arbitrary word count, just to get those pages filled.

And either way, you come away dissatisfied. Unsettled. Because all your striving . . . well, it just wasn’t enough.

What if there was another way? A better way?

Lately in my writing, God has been teaching me to wait on Him for cues. We all say we want to wait on Him, and that’s fine and dandy until we need twenty more pages for our word count goals. But I’m learning that I could sit down for hours, writing away for the sake of achievement, all the while, spinning in circles. I can let fear of the unknown and rejection paralyze me from writing at all (--Is that where you are today? Because I’ve been there too.).

Or, I can wait on Him.

I can invite His presence into my story, and move when He moves. I can wait for those organic AH HA! moments to fall into place. And the funny thing is, I’m realizing I’m vastly more productive when I do.

Today I want to encourage you to be present over perfect. Because perfection and striving will leave you dangerously reliant on your own strength. Become more aware of the monologue inside your own mind and heart. What standards are you holding yourself to, and how do those align with the Spirit of God? Has your perfectionism become a stumbling block to the greater things God has called you toward? Are you so afraid of being imperfect that you’re afraid to move at all?


Let me hear from you! How do you manage to stay present with God rather than focusing on perfection?



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Ashley Clark writes romance with southern grace. She's dreamed of being a writer ever since the thumbprint-cookie-days of library story hour. Ashley has an M.A. in English and enjoys teaching literature courses at her local university. She's an active member of ACFW and runs their newcomer's loop. When she's not writing, Ashley's usually busy rescuing stray animals and finding charming new towns. You can find Ashley on her personal blog, Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter. She is represented by Karen Solem.