Meet 2016 Keynote Robert Liparulo

Interview I did for 2016 GLVWG “Write Stuff” conference. Original can be seen at  the GLVWG conference blog

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Hi Robert,

We are thrilled to have you join us as our keynote speaker for this year’s Greater Lehigh Valley Writers Group “Write Stuff” conference along with teaching “From Mind to Manuscript: The Making of Your Masterpiece” and “Thrillers and Mysteries: How Knowing the Difference Will Help You Write a Great Story” for the pre-conference workshops.


Would you mind giving a teaser of what you’ll be covering during the preconference workshops and your keynote speech?


Robert Liparulo
: First, I’m excited to be a small part of this conference. I’ve never attended, but have run into people who have and have loved it, all the learning and networking—oops, I mean socializing.

My full-day workshop will be a nuts-and-bolts analysis of what it takes to take your story idea from your head to a published book, in the hands of readers. A lot of books and seminars offer a sort of recipe or step-by-step guide to getting published, but really, it doesn’t work that way. If it did, everyone who’d read one of these books or attended one of these seminars would be published.

Storytelling in a way that involves the publishing industry is an art—way too subjective for cookie-cutter recipes—and everyone attempting it is unique, with his or her own set of skills and motivations and styles and hang-ups and frustrations and moments of brilliance and . . . you get the idea. My workshop will approach the process of writing and getting published—as well as what comes after—with this practical, real-word writing-as-art (i.e., subjective), writer-as-artist (i.e., unique) perspective. Forget the books, forget step-by-step; here’s what it’s like to really do it, in the heat of the battle, what they don’t tell you. I don’t like lectures—they’re boring and the topics of writing and publishing are way too expansive and complicated for one person standing at a podium to address all the issues meaningful to attendees. So while my workshops will have a semblance of structure, and I’ll have important points to address, I’m counting on the attendees to let me know what’s important to them about a specific subject, to make our time time very interactive and meaningful—conversations rather than presentations.

Based on other interviews I’ve read, I understand you started writing poems and then short stories as a kid before you moved into journalism. Could you tell us a little bit about your initial writing adventures?

Robert Liparulo: I was in third grade when I realized I wanted to be a writer—I don’t really know why, and I didn’t know at the time what kind of writer. In fifth grade, I wrote an article about an experimental jet flying across the Atlantic and stopping in the Azores islands, where I lived. My teacher sent it to a magazine, without telling them my age. A few months later, I received the magazine with my published article and a check. I was pretty much hooked on writing articles from that point on.

When I was 12, I read I Am Legend by Richard Matheson. For about half the book, the main character, Robert Neville, tries to get a sick dog inside his home. When he finally does, he spends the night taking care of it. Stroking the dog’s head, he recalls the way things used to be. We come to realize that the dog wasn’t just a dog; it was symbolic of life as it had once been and would never be again: family picnics, movies, relative peace and calm. The last line of the chapter was something like, “In the morning the dog was dead.” I started crying, and I thought, “If words—only WORDS!—can make a pretty tough 12-year-old boy cry, I want to do that.” For years I went around telling people what I wanted to do when I grew up was to make 12-year-old boys cry. (I’ve received emails from both boys and girls who said Frenzy, the sixth Dreamhouse Kings book, made them cry—I had to laugh that I’d finally fulfilled that goal.)

Starting when I was a teenager, I wrote for magazines like Inc., Highlights for Children, New Man Magazine, a lot of entertainment and trade publications. Eventually, with the prodding of my family and some writer friends, I started writing novels.

What advantages and/or disadvantages, if any, have you experienced by first being a journalist and then a novelist?  


Robert Liparulo
: For a long time, I thought, “What am I doing? My true love is fiction; I’m wasting all this time writing nonfiction.” But then, when I started writing novels, I realized how much of what I learned as a journalist translated extremely well to fiction writing, and made me a much better fiction writer than I would have been without that background. Journalism taught me how to research deeply: how to interview people, how to overcome the fear of reaching out to experts, regardless of their fame or expertise or position; it taught me how to find really cool tidbits hidden deep in archival vaults, gems which have not yet made it onto the Internet, but add levels of richness and authority to my fiction. Journalism taught me the importance of brevity and how to achieve vivid descriptions in few words, how to hit deadlines, and write authentic dialog . . . this list goes on and on. I’m convinced now that no writing—whether it be personal letters or software manuals or screenplays—is ever wasted.

With over 1,000 articles under your belt, I understand you were able to interview some of the big names in the publishing world and the music industry. What would you say are some of the most memorable interviews you’ve done? Did you have a favorite? Any interviews stick out that wasn’t from someone with a big name?  

Robert Liparulo
: I have so many stories about my days as a journalist, I probably should write a memoir. From interviewing Peter Cetera, of the rock group Chicago, which ended up with my accidently stranded onstage—between the drummers!—as the band played through an entire concert; to interviewing Bruce Springsteen when I was a teenager. He kept delaying the interview, which puzzled me, until he said, “Are we waiting for your father?”

The authors I interviewed collectively had an enormous impact on me in that they made me see them as human, not as demigods with supernatural powers to tell stories. I’ve always been a reader, and I held authors in such high esteem, I thought, “Surely, there’s something magical about these high-level storytellers; I could never do that.” Meeting many of my novelist-heroes—as pleasant as many of them were—showed me their humanity, that they were ordinary people who dreamed big and worked hard—things I could do!

The author most responsible for my finally biting the bullet and driving me to write my first novel is someone whose name I can’t reveal (he specifically asked to remain anonymous); suffice to say he’s a bestselling novelist with a household name. He found out that I actually wanted to write novels and started calling me every month to ask, “Have you started yet?” After about a year, I started Comes a Horseman just so I could finally say, “Yes! I’ve started!”

Ted Dekker and I were friends before either of us had started writing novels. When he published his first books and was starting to get some heat, I interviewed him for New Man Magazine. Despite having been friends for some time, that interview revealed a side of him I hadn’t known, mostly the way his mind works through stories, piecing them together like big jigsaw puzzles, and the business side of writing, which he grasped better than any other author I’d ever met (to my knowledge). His insights helped me tremendously in completing my first novel and launching my brand.


I understand you like to work 12-16 hours (or more) during the day when writing. What got you into immersion writing? What do you like best about it? How do you juggle work and family…and also just curious…do your characters pop into your dreams at night? 


Robert Liparulo
: I’m not sure what got me into immersion writing, just that it made the most sense to me, to be so into my characters and my story that everything else fades away. That’s the way I want readers to experience my stories. I’ve always thought, “Stories that don’t keep the writer up at night, won’t keep readers up at night.” The only way for me to achieve that state of immersion is through long hours in that fictional world.

Juggling long work hours and family is not easy. It takes a toll. I try to break away for dinner and tucking in the kids, but I’m only half-there. My kids grew up with it, so they naturally accepted my “writing state.” My solution was to set whole days aside just for the family; then they had all of me.

My characters don’t so much “pop” into my dreams, as my dreams are my characters’ dreams. I get so into my characters, I become them, I eat what they would eat, walk like them, talk like them, dream their dreams. I know, weird. When I was writing the Dreamhouse Kings series, I became my main protagonist, a twelve-year-old boy named David. I played soccer with my son and his friends, watched kids’ movies, ordered from the kids’ menu. I’ve spoken to hundreds of schools and always get twelve-year-olds telling me how deeply they related to David. So I guess it worked.


I understand several of your books are in various stages of development for the big screen, including the first book you’ve written and your young adult books ‘Dreamhouse Kings.’ Anything you can share with us?


Robert Liparulo
: Hollywood is a unique beast. Lots of ups and downs. Everything revolves around financing, which comes and goes. Even studio executives at the highest levels can no longer simply “make it happen.” Second to that is trying to reconcile differing creative visions. The producer who bought the rights to Comes a Horseman, Mace Neufeld, who made all of Tom Clancy’s movies, apparently spent millions developing scripts, which never satisfied him; he’s a brilliant visionary and filmmaker, so I trust his opinion. But for now, the project’s in limbo. With some of the movie adaptations, I have the contracts to write the screenplays myself, along with a couple originals, both of which come with their own obstacles and headaches. This is the kind of stuff I’ll address in my session on working with Hollywood.


What inspired you to write for both adults and young adults? Does your audience affect how you present the story? Why or why not?


Robert Liparulo
: I was happily cruising along writing thrillers for adults when my publisher called to ask if I’d ever thought of writing for young adults. I think what got him thinking about it was, in part, my novel Germ had struck a chord among younger readers, mostly high-schoolers. I immediately thought of the Dreamhouse Kings story, which stemmed from a series of dreams I had when I was eleven. It felt like a story for young adults, middle-schoolers. I jumped at the opportunity, and the series became my best-selling books to date.

I knew from the start that I didn’t want to “write down” to a younger readership. I knew from my own kids and talking to many young readers that they are a lot smarter than many writers, many adults, give them credit for. And nothing drives them crazier than writing that’s dumbed down. So I decided to write the Dreamhouse Kings the way I would write an adult story, with two exceptions: one, my protagonists would be young, so readers could relate to them; and two, I wanted a topic I felt would be more interesting than the high-tech shoot-em-ups I was used to writing. The Dreamhouse Kings, which is a spooky time-traveling adventure, fit that bill perfectly.


So….do you have a usual go-to to get the creative juices working if and when you’re stuck?


Robert Liparulo
: What inspires me most is excellent art. Doesn’t matter what form it takes—literature, film, music, paintings, statues; anything that’s done extremely well (to my mind). I have a few go-to movie soundtracks (Last of the Mohicans, anything by Clint Mansell, for example), movies (Lord of the Rings, Jaws, Memento), literature (a piece about hell by James Joyce, any Elmore Leonard or Cormac McCarthy novel) that get me in the mood to write the best I can. I keep a coffee table book with the works of Michelangelo on my desk. Not that I’ll ever achieve such excellence, but I can try.


What would you say has been the best piece of writing advice you received? Also, what writing advice do you tend to give others?


Robert Liparulo
: Neil Gaiman told me the best advice for any writer: “Finish things.” Too many writers start a story, only to abandon it for whatever reason—they get bored with it, or get stuck, or get sidetracked by a story they like better or think would be more attractive to publishers. Finish everything you start, even if only for practice. That’s the type of writer publishers want, ones who finish. Know your story well enough to know it’s something you want to see to its completion, or don’t even start it.
Besides that, I tell new writers to trust themselves, their instincts. We are a generation raised on story. It’s in songs, commercials, games; we know story—its structure, what works, what doesn’t. Run with that, write your story without constantly analyzing and critiquing/criticizing it. Trust your abilities to tell a story, go for it.

The right research can add incredible depth to a story. What is your favorite way to research and what would you say has been the most interesting thing you’ve researched to date? What kind of writing project was it for? 

Robert Liparulo: I always interview experts. They will tell you things you can’t find anywhere else, and you can ask follow-up questions that flesh-out the topic in ways that help you develop an authoritative voice in your story. I start with people on the periphery of the topic and ask them to whom I should speak next, which usually leads to someone a little closer to the heart of what I want to know, to a better expert. I think of research as concentric circles; I’m always moving closer and closer to the center.

I’ve researched so many fascinating topics—gene splicing and designer viruses for Germ, satellite laser weapons for Deadfall, electronically-enhanced soldiers for Deadlock, exoskeletons for The Judgment Stone, wolf-dogs trained to incapacitate targets for Comes a Horseman—it’s difficult to pick the most interesting. Probably the most interesting result of some research came when I was looking into a society of people preparing for—with the intention of helping—the antichrist when he appears. This was for Comes a Horseman. I’d been interviewing experts, largely people with religious affiliations, who’d been tracking these people, keeping an eye on them. I was getting closer and closer to experts who truly knew meaningful facts about them and their activities, when I received a call at about three in the morning. An electronically modified voice said, “Stop looking for us.” Just that. Well, I didn’t want to find my dog nailed to the front door and I already had a lot of useful information, so I stopped. But I did work into the novel the things I had discovered about them—including using the electronic voice-changer over the phone.


Last question for now, what’s something no one has asked you in an interview but you wished they had?


Robert Liparulo
: Ooh, I’ve given a lot of interviews and most interviewers try to throw in something unique, so I’ve been pitched some doozies, including what’s my favorite ice cream (chocolate-peanut butter) and, believe it or not, “whitey tighties or boxers?” (“boxer briefs” seemed like a safe answer). (Your questions, by the way, have been refreshingly specific and knowledgeable—thank you!) Contrary to my ramblings here and elsewhere, I’m a pretty private person, so I don’t think there’s anything I’ve been dying to say. But I will tell you about the question that most caught me off-guard. The interviewer was especially insightful and had found something about me I didn’t know was even out there. He said, “You write unusually emotional scenes, very powerful and realistic, involving people dying or seriously injured. When you write them, are you tapping into what you felt when your sister died in a car accident?” This was a live radio interview, and I paused . . . and paused, then stuttered out something unintelligible. But the guy (however uncouth he may have been) was onto something I had never thought about. For the record, I had never consciously recalled those feelings while writing, but I realized then that subconsciously I most likely had drawn on those awful feelings.
Sorry to end the conversation on a downer, but there it is. And isn’t that what writing is all about, baring our souls?


Thank you again, Robert!  

Robert Liparulo: Thank you! Looking forward to the conference!
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Former journalist Robert Liparulo is the best-selling author of the thrillers Comes a Horseman, Germ, Deadfall, Deadlock, and The 13th Tribe, as well as The Dreamhouse Kings, an action-adventure series for young adults. He contributed a short story to James Patterson’s Thriller, and an essay about Thomas Perry’s The Butcher’s Boy to Thrillers: 100 Must Reads, edited by David Morrell and Hank Wagner.

He is currently working on the sequel to The 13th Tribe, as well writing an original screenplay with director Andrew Davis (The Fugitive).

When not writing, Liparulo loves to read, watch (and analyze) movies, scuba dive, swim, hike, and travel. He lives in Monument, Colorado, with his family.

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Tammy Burke, GLVWG member, 2011 conference chair and past president, has published over 400 articles in daily newspapers, newsletters and regional magazines and is in the revision stage for her first YA fantasy adventure book, Uriah’s Window. When not writing, she works in the social service field, fancies herself a student of the fantastic and mundane, and is a fencing cadet and marshal in the Society of Creative Anachronism (SCA).

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How to take over the World

  
 Even if you have never watched “Pinky and the Brain” you can guess that three flamingos and a pair of Capri pants generally won’t allow you to take over the world… But I will say it CAN be used to your advantage. If we go by the premise that it’s smart to control your people what would be some or one of the best way(s) to do that? 

One underhanded way that also provides a sense of freedom of thought or choice, perhaps safety or a “call to action” IS  by controlling WHAT your people are talking about and HOW they are talking about it.  WHEN is also a good deal too. 

I’m sure I am not the only one who has said we’re living in an age of bread and circuses… I think the more disconcerting thing is our circuses are becoming more polarized.   “My circus is ordained by consciously rational human beings and your circus is the epitome of asinine kool-aid drinking baboons.”

It continually makes me wonder, “Are we the newest version of Rome?”

 Copyright terms of use 

Thought bullets for perhaps another article 

  • Our country is set up more like Rome (a Republic … “and to the Republic for which it stands “)  than Greece (a democracy) 
  • Though personally I think we’re more an oligarchy 

Random Pinky quote:    
“I think so, Brain, but can the Gummi Worms really live in peace with the Marshmallow Chicks?”


I have a lot of Facebook friends who have been quite vocal regarding political philosophies and (I’m sorry) agendas from both the left and the right. It is irritating to see so many examples of Godwin’s Law ….  

Basically it’s a clumsy attempt of controlling what your people are talking about and how…or to shut them up. Perhaps at one time it held the appropriate shock value;  however, today it is a ruder version of “you’re a stinky boo-boo head” and makes the ‘voicer’ look intellectually challenged. 

  

Random Pinkie quote:  “I think so, Brain, but Zero Mostel times anything will still give you Zero Mostel.”

I spent some time looking up definitions for fascism, corporative fascism, socialism, democratic socialism, communism, capitalism….and the various similarities and differences between them. 

* ^ Definitions are very important to swing the masses.  Either get your people to use the correct word or change the definition. ^ 

Along the way I’ve found interesting reads (and some not so much)…many having spin in one direction or another. I suppose that’s normal because we as humans have subjective opinions which can be tolerated in various degrees based on reasonable parameters and audience. 

Some examples (and I picked to break out fascism because…. You got it, Godwin’s Law. Nazis … Socialism or fascism?  Fascism.  ….and BTW  I loved the riddle answer incorporated in the above link.

Anyway some of what I’ve read:

  • Fascism is best described as a merging of corporate and government interests. In simpler terms, it’s when corporations have taken over the government.”
  • Fascism “descends from the Latin ‘fasces’, the bundle of sticks used by the Romans to symbolize their empire. This should clue you in that Fascism attempts to recapture both the glory and social organization of Rome.   Most generally, “a governmental system led by a dictator having complete power, forcibly suppressing opposition and criticism, regimenting all industry, commerce, etc., and emphasizing an aggressive nationalism and often racism.” 
  • The only official definition of Fascism comes from Benito Mussolini, the founder of fascism, in which he outlines three principles of a fascist philosophy. 

Personally, I find it valuable to be presented similar information from widely different viewpoints. I find it provides a better pool of information to draw one’s own  conclusions and preferable to accepting a glass of whatever blindly from one of the circuses.

* ^ Of course it’s also helpful when countering those troublemakers trying to upend your  endeavors on controling subject matters and spin, because of course, the best defense is a good offense. ^

Random Pinkie quote: “I think so, Brain, but Lederhosen won’t stretch that far.”

During my search I found this college presentation illustrating the concept of CONTROLING your people…through what information is channeled to the population, how and yes, even when. It is using an incredible medium, the press. 

The lesson’s name is: Mainstream Media as a Weapon of Social Engineering and War

It’s long but it provides an insight not generally shown. If you go to the PDF form there is a list of source materials which you can fact check for yourself. I haven’t gotten there yet. I have watched about 30 minutes so far and felt it deserved a share as it provides food for thought. 

Random Pinkie quote: “I think so, Brain, but why would anyone want to see Snow White and the Seven Samurai?”

It is never a bad idea to read up on your news outside your own country’s spin to see what the rest of the world’s spin is. It can be be informative and useful.

Unfortunately, I am misremembering the source I was given by one of my profs in a political science class; however, here is one link to international articles written outside of our country. 

Random Pinkie quote: “Well, I think so, Brain, but if Jimmy cracks corn, and no one cares, why does he keep doing it?”

Might be a good instruction manual for any “Brains” out there.   

 

^ Oh and the flamingos with the Capri pants? If your people are talking about that they may not be talking about something you don’t want them talking about. Remember Bread & Circuses. ^

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* ^ sarcasm font ^ (as in tongue-in-cheek)

Also please feel free to comment… The only thing I request is … please don’t flame. Consider this good practice to be able to finesse an argument. :-) 

HEY! Change your attitude. 

Yeah? Just how much of a difference does that make? Well, I’d say it’s extremely key. 
  As a writer I get to do a whole lot of creating unsolvable dilemnas for my poor mistreated characters and figuring out how to let them “muck” through whatever problem/crisis/tragedy until they discover the impossible solution. It’s interesting to note that, in my humble opinion, many fiction books have their protagonists find a solution only after they shift their paradigm and find that “outside of the box” idea. Even more interesting? You see it in real life as well. By changing one’s paradigm, your way of thinking, basically having an attitude adjustment things tend to change. So why is that? And does it have any reason why we are hard-wired for story? (Yeah writer…  double team things) 

Earlier today I posted on my Facebook wall: “It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood. 

“Is ALL well in the world? No, like many there’s people I’m worried about and/or situational irritants abounding. It’s a small pocket of truth teaching a small child that yes there are things you cannot control and all you can do is send your prayers up BUT that which you do have control, do the very best you can. And that philosophy will serve you all of your days. 

I just need to boil that philosophy down to a quick one-liner for the list.”

Why did I write that? Suffice to say that I worry about those near and dear to me but I can’t always do anything about it. For someone who likes to be in control, it’s a bit torturous but tying myself in knots wasn’t doing anyone any good. Least of all myself. Yes, I can use the feelings of frustration, inadequacy, guilt, regret, sorrow, anger, etc. and transfer them over to my poor sobs in my manuscript and emotionally deepen the story but when I’m not writing then what? [Yes, Kathryn, I’m a storyteller because things happen…]

I fence…or dance…or take a walk…  I read this article recently for how to deal with upsets with an ADHD kid and first suggestion was to take a walk and talk because it’s near impossible to stay upset when you are in motion. My reaction was what? But say you are walking down the sidewalk on your cell phone and your friend gives you bad news. What do you do? You stop. Guess we are hard-wired for certain things.  

But I say we are hard-wired to change too. Why? We change our reality every day. And yes, some of it is merely by our actions. Repeat with me “I am the architect of my own fate.” True to a degree but there is more.  

Going a little deeper our subconscious mind has a great reality changer. It uses this cool tool called a reticular activating device. Yes, pretty RAD. (ha-ha) It’s that RAD that grabs your attention to whatever it is you’re focused on. Think being in a crowded room and hearing your name being called and frequently being able to identify the caller before you look up. How did you hear it over all the commotion? Your brain is on high-alert for certain things. So all those coincidences? Maybe they are not so coincidental. It could be your RAD sifting through the whatever terabyte of information your brain is bombarded with and brings your attention to your pet project, your new goal or even a sucky attitude that everything blows. 

Backing up a little … Thinking about how much stuff the human brain ignores and I’d wager our outside stimuli realities aren’t even the same. You and I could be at the exact same place and the exact same time and experience two separate things. And even if we experience the same catalyst our emotional/mental/spiritual difference may easily impact us or not in totally different ways. 

It gets better. Did you know your memories of an event aren’t from the event itself but more on what it was the last time you remembered it. Again we change our personal reality as time marches on. Granted it’s usually little by little but the thing is our reality is pretty fluid.   

Even our “beyond ourselves…outside our own heads” reality is kind of wonky, particularly if you look at basic quantum physics with its wave-partical duality (how about that for an oxymorin). Anything and everything is possible until the time an observer locks everything into one place, one reality purely by observing.  

http://youtu.be/DfPeprQ7oGc  

And not that you need to know this but every time I think of that it makes me think perhaps we have more control than we know and maybe magic and science are two sides of a coin…and it’s a very thin coin.    
But skipping back to one more physicality thought… How we are “wired” impacts reality. Take a rare condition of Syneshesia as an example. This cross-wire of senses causes people to experience things like hearing a color or tasting a number. I imagine that would be a strange way to experience reality and one that would be hard to describe.

And that gets me to stories. Studies have shown that experiencing a reality is more than just living it. You can gain many benefits of the same experience simply by story. Perhaps we are hard-wired for stories because we, on some level, yearn to have others “get” us and/or yearn to understand others. Take it one step further and perhaps stories are a way to experience a common reality, a shared one that we all know…. like one of our cultural shared foundations found in fairytales.  

A nice little ramble yes? Well I’m working on my reality right now and shaking all the pieces into place… I think. 

To loosely tie everything up… all that make-believe as children, the imagination, the infinite possibilities? All that helps. By having an open mind which is more resilient, less crystalized, more able to find those impossible solutions, you get your own personal doorway to a happier reality. So if someone says change your attitude, that might be the best advice you’ll ever get but as always it’s up to you to do it. Oh, and you have the ability to change reality, or at least your own. 

What do you think?

 

Birding the Scarecrow and Coveting the Shine

raven

A bird flew through me today…a big black raven.  It scooped up all my resolve, gulped it greedily and left me with an empty space within.
I never realized walking around with a non-sensible void, of nothing, feels weightier than the somethings.
Maybe gravity oozed in and filled the gap when I wasn’t looking. It’s colorless, tasteless, noiseless, right?

I need to find that bird and perform the Heimlich maneuver. Make it eject what it took.
But I don’t think it took resolve.
Was it hope? What is hope? Besides, you know, a nice little four letter word starting with an ‘H.’

Knock off the super ‘E’ and we’re all ‘hopping’ around waiting for that silent something more which changes Action into Faith.
Then Faith into Action. Maybe it’s like a shiny two-sided coin always spinning.
Maybe the bird took the coin and what’s remaining whistling on the inside is the centrifugal motion from spinning.

But why would it take it? Unless the coin got spent… maybe an expensive worry or six…and the winged tax collector came to collect.
Seems I’d be aware of that though, wouldn’t I? What about representation? Have I been hustled into the debtor’s waiting room?
Don’t tell, only hide, be quiet inside. And get that darned bird!

Unless I need to become the bird. Fly free and as fast as I can, feel the sunlight on my wings and scream in delight.
But how can I unless I cast off that which anchors me fast. Perhaps that elusive Gordian knot was painted into illusion.
I could shift my paradigm, couldn’t I?

With all the aspects of personality, we are the sum of our parts…perhaps sometime our parts refuse to be summed.
Seems like a tedious eventuality. Could we not be interchangeable within ourselves?
Or have I expelled myself far from the garden of well-being?

Perhaps I could just be a freaky little girl pondering if she should be a scarecrow or a bird protector.
Or perhaps I see too much and it’s just a play on words. I could just be raven-ous for change.  Then would it matter what I chose?
I think I’ll write some silly verse and mull…. Oh look, I did.

→Happy Friday the 13th←

A Day at the Museum – Egypt

There is quite a bit to see at the University of Penn Museum of Archeology and Anthropology. I’ve been to this museum a few times but the last visit previous to this one, has been years.  I’ve said over the years I could happily get lost for days in a museum and I was hoping maybe the kids would like to see…at least some of the galleries. There ARE three floors and 100s of thousands is artifacts. Did they make it through the whole museum? No but they made it through most of it before they rooted themselves to some chairs. So no, I didn’t get to read all the plaques because … well, I had kids with me. Best solution? Take LOTS of pictures of both the artifacts and the plaques then see if I can piece the story together.  And I’m such a nerd girl sometimes so it seemed like the perfect time to do an iMovie or three.

I have the first one posted here. It’s of Egypt. It was the kids’ favorite and between the Lower Egypt gallery, Upper Egypt gallery, the Armana gallery and the Artifact Lab where you can watch conservation happening, there were plenty of photo opps.

My favorite gallery? The Roman/Greek/Etruscan and I’ll have an iMovie based on the pics we took soon.

Anyway, hope you enjoy!

Other links of interest:

http://www.penn.museum/sites/expedition/beth-shean-columns-in-lower-egypt/

 

 

 

Meet Gabriela Pereira, Creative Director and Instigator of DIY MFA

Reposted from GLVWG conference blog

by Tammy Burke
gabriela3 headshot
Welcome! It is so exciting having you as one of our presenters for this year’s “Write Stuff” conference. It’s always intriguing meeting someone like you who thinks “outside the box” and what a fascinating concept creating the DIY MBA for other writers is.

I suppose the first question I’d like to ask is if you can tell us a little bit about DIY MFA. In your words what exactly is it? What was its inspiration? Where do you see it going or evolving? Greatest joys…greatest challenges?

Gabriela Pereira: DIY MFA is the do-it-yourself alternative to a traditional MFA in writing. This was an idea that came to me as I was sitting in graduation to receive my own MFA in Writing. I was reflecting on the amazing experience I had had in the MFA program, but I knew many other writers were not so fortunate and couldn’t get an MFA, despite being very serious about their writing. How could I help these writers get some of the benefits of an MFA if they couldn’t go to school, I wondered. This idea stuck with me and I ended up writing a post on my small personal writing blog about a do-it-yourself concept for an MFA. The response was HUGE. People started coming out of the woodwork left and right and leaving comments. This told me that I was definitely onto something with the idea so after testing the idea some more, I put that personal blog on hiatus and started blogging full time at DIYMFA.com. The rest, as they say, is history.

Do you have a favorite technique you share with serious writers?

Gabriela Pereira: I’m a big fan of setting limits in our writing. It sounds counter-intuitive, but when you set limits or add constraints, you actually become more creative. Having endless possibilities in front of us is a great way to kill our own creativity because to keep options open we end up never committing to one direction. The minute we close a door on one possibility, we’re committing to walking through another door, instead of standing at the threshold wondering which way to go.

Whenever a writer is stuck in that endless-option limbo, I recommend doing a quick creativity reboot, using one of the tools at the DIY MFA site. It’s called the Writer Igniter and it’s like a slot machine for writers. When you hit the “shuffle” button, it gives you a character, situation, prop and setting to help you start your story. This app was inspired by those flip books for kids where you mix and match the heads, bodies and feet of different animals to make different combinations. I reworked the concept for writing and the Writer Igniter is now on of my go-to tools whenever I’m stuck on an idea.

The reason it works is that the prompt is specific enough to force writers to pick a direction and run with it. At the same time, the prompts are open-ended too, so they allow for endless different stories that can grow out of the same combination. Just don’t get caught in the trap of hitting “shuffle” over and over until you get a prompt you like. I allow my students only one do-over and then they have to write.

I love the idea of the Oracle (Outrageous, Ridiculous And Crazy Literary Exercises) as your writer’s toolbox. The name and idea just seems whimsical and non-intimidating. It seems like adding that element of fun while learning or working is a natural strength for you. Can you tell us a bit about the Oracle? How you came up with it? Maybe an example of how it’s helped you.

Gabriela Pereira: Once upon a time, before I was full-time running DIY MFA, I taught writing courses throughout New York City. For those courses, I needed to have writing prompts, ideas and other treasures at the ready to help get my students excited and writing. Since my background is actually in design—I was a toy designer in a past life (yes, it was awesome, no it was nothing like the movie Big)—I love using unconventional tools to inspire people. I found this old wooden chest in my parents’ house and started storing all my creativity tools in it. The name ORACLE is tongue-in-cheek, of course, because the exercises are hardly the nectar and ambrosia of the gods, but just silly activities that I’ve collected over time.

I see the term instigator used to describe you…would you mind telling us a little bit how you got that moniker?

Gabriela Pereira: Ah, yes… my title. I made it up. Personally, I find titles kind of ridiculous. Like when a tiny start-up consists of the CEO, CFO, CTO and everyone is a c-level executive… who exactly do these so-called chiefs manage? It’s all rather silly. With DIY MFA I thought I’d poke fun at the whole title thing, because honestly, the people who matter know that I’m the head trouble-maker in charge. And since the whole point of DIY MFA is to turn the traditional MFA system on its head, “Instigator” sounded like a good fit.

I have to admit I am curious …one of the workshops you designed “Smell this Story, Eat this Poem” was selected by 826 National to be included in a lesson plan anthology “Don’t Forget to Write.” Could you tell us a little bit about it and how did you come up with such a cool name?

Gabriela Pereira: “Smell this Story, Eat this Poem” was one of my favorite workshops to teach. It’s a five-week course with each week focusing on one of the five senses and using it as a springboard to write poems or short pieces of flash fiction. Originally this workshop was called “Writing Through the Senses” and I used it to teach adults, but when I got the chance to teach it at 826NYC (a wonderful writing organization in Brooklyn) the program suggested changing the name to make it more fun for kids. Teaching this workshop at 826 was a blast and perhaps among the most rewarding experiences I’ve had as a writing teacher.

I’m a firm believer that writing teachers MUST take writers seriously and challenge them to their highest ability, whether they are in first grade or in a graduate MFA seminar, whether they are 6 or 86 years old. This is the philosophy that I embrace with my own students. That elementary school kids were able to discuss the sophisticated poems from this workshop syllabus and create their own stories and poetry to boot is testament to how well this philosophy works. When the class concluded, the folks at 826 National selected it to include in their lesson plan anthology. This was a huge honor for me because it was real validation of my teaching techniques and philosophy, but after the amazing five weeks working with the students in the class, the publication was really just the icing on the cake.

Speaking of workshops, could you give us a little teaser on what you’ll be covering in the two workshops “Creating a Stronger Outline for a Stronger Story” and “The Seven Steps to Stronger Middle Grade and YA Novels” which you will be teaching at the conference?

Gabriela Pereira: The outline workshop is all about creative approaches to outlining and ways to use planning techniques and tools so that you can make your story the best it can be. I myself am not a huge fan of outlines—at least not the traditional techniques we’re taught in grade school. Instead, I’m a much bigger fan of visual techniques that help me get a handle on my story at a glance. In this workshop I’ll also share my “secret sauce” outline formula and explain how in writing 3+2=1. And at the end, I’ll discuss what to do with an outline once you have one.

The Seven Steps workshop is among my favorites to teach because I get to geek out over Middle Grade and YA. As a writer in the MFA program I wrote primarily MG, with some YA woven in for a change of pace, so my first true love in literature was writing for young people. The Seven Steps workshop walks writers through the step-by-step process you need o get a story out of a rut and back up and running. While this workshop uses examples from children’s books, really any writer who needs to give a story a fresh start will benefit from this session

As someone who writes Middle Grade and YA what would you say is most important to impact the young reader? Do you think it’s different than with adult genres?

Gabriela Pereira: I think it’s a fallacy that writing for kids and adults is somehow different. Sure, there may be a few limitations in terms of content (you wouldn’t want an explicit scene in a middle grade novel) but the core elements of story are always the same. Stories always boil down to character and plot. If you have an amazing character that readers want to root for, and if the plot and story make sense and build up the right way, that’s all that really matters. The fundamentals of story are universal, no matter who the reader is, or what genre you may write.

Also, I’d like to add that young readers are much less willing to put up with writerly BS than an adult would be. While an adult reader might stick with a story through the boring parts because they feel they “should” finish it, kids are WAY too smart for that and they won’t put up with this sort of nonsense. This means, if you can write for kids and teens, you can probably write for anybody. That’s why I believe writing children’s books is among the noblest arts, and I think most writers should try their hand at it at some point in their lives because they will be better writers for it.

And last question… anything new on the horizon for you?

Gabriela Pereira: Yes! I just signed a few months ago with Writer’s Digest Books to turn DIY MFA into a full-length book. I can’t tell you how excited I am about this. Now I’m deep in the throes of writing the manuscript. All fun things.

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As an FYI, Gabriela just did a podcast episode called the “Writing Conference Survival Guide” and gave us a shout out. Below is the link if you’d like to check it out:
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Gabriela Pereira is the Creative Director and Instigator of DIY MFA, the do-it-yourself alternative to a Masters degree in writing. She creates tools and techniques to help writers get the benefits of an MFA program without going to school. Gabriela earned her MFA from The New School and has taught both online and at national and international conferences. When she’s not teaching or working on DIY MFA, she enjoys writing middle grade and teen fiction, with a few “short stories for grown-ups” thrown in for good measure. To learn more about Gabriela and DIY MFA, visit DIYMFA.com.

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Tammy Burke, GLVWG member, 2011 conference chair and past president, has published over 400 articles in daily newspapers, newsletters and regional magazines. As a journalist and also with helping with the GLVWG “Write Stuff” conference she has interviewed a wide-range of literary agents, publishers, authors, state and local government officials, business and community leaders, everyday folk and celebrities. Currently, she is in the revision stage for her first YA fantasy adventure book, Uriah’s Window, the first in an intended series. When not writing, she works in the social service field, fancies herself a student of the fantastic and mundane, and is a fencing marshal in the Society of Creative Anachronism (SCA).

Meet Alexander Slater, Literary Agent from Trident Media Group

Reposted from GLVWG “Write Stuff” conference blog

by Tammy Burke

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Hi Alex,

We are thrilled to welcome you to this year’s GLVWG’s “Write Stuff” conference which is in its 22nd year. Your expertise both internationally and domestically makes you such a wonderful addition to our conference faculty.

Alexander Slater: Thank you! It’s an honor to be here.

So… Can you tell us what your favorite thing about being an agent is? What is your least favorite thing?

Alexander Slater: My favorite thing about being an agent is being blown away by outstanding fiction that millions of people deserve to read but haven’t yet. I truly can’t think of a least favorite thing.

How would you describe your ideal relationship between an author and yourself? What are your expectations? And what “sparks” you most when working on a project?

Alexander Slater: My ideal relationship would be one with an author who respects my time as much as I respect hers. I look for clients who are hardworking, creative, and willing to fight for their work as much as I am. I want authors who have something to say in a new and amazing away, writers who have faith, and writers who can teach me something I did not expect. What sparks me most is usually a story that insists I keep turning the pages, and language that makes my mind crackle. I am continually surprised by how many writers there are, so I’m looking for a partner who knows why her voice deserves to contribute.

Any pet peeves?

Alexander Slater: I do not seek relationships that are one sided, or that prohibit free and open communication. I’m looking to expand and promote an author’s business, and having the space and trust to do so is essential.

What elements would you say are necessary to give a book and its characters a chance to rise above the rest and be well-remembered by its readers? Do you remember what YOUR first memorable story was and why?

Alexander Slater: It seems like every book is a miracle – so many things have to go right for something to make it to publication. The elements that permit this are constantly changing; trends, style, etc., come and go, but the elements that remain necessary, to me, are truth and heart. If a book has characters that feel alive, it will be remembered and cared about. If the story connects with a reader on deep level it will stick with us. The story has to keep the reader turning the pages, not because there’s a cliffhanger in every chapter, but because the author is making us feel less alone.

How would you explain the key differences between middle grade and young adult fiction?

Alexander Slater: Age. Everything other than that falls into other sub genres, for example, dark middle grade, and “clean teen” young adult fiction.

It seems it’s not just kids reading middle grade and young adult for enjoyment. What are your thoughts about what draws such a broad readership?

Alexander Slater: I think reminiscing has a lot to do with it – escapism into the often more dramatic and formative years perhaps. I think it’s fun to read middle grade and YA, and it might be as simple as that. However, the arguments that these books aren’t or can’t be morally complex feel way too dismissive to me. We can learn a lot from all types of stories.

Out of curiosity, can you share one fly-on-the-wall item about what it’s like attending such a leading international event like Bologna’s Children Book Fair?

Alexander Slater: You feel like you’re in a hive of passion. I would sit in the Agents Centre and have conversation after conversation about contemporary literature, and what can be more thrilling than that?

I don’t know if you ever get the time but what do you like to read if you’re reading for enjoyment only?

Alexander Slater: I do try to carve out the time, and when I do it’s usually crime fiction, or southern gothic fiction, or narrative nonfiction like the work of Jon Krakauer.

And finally…what advice would you give for an aspiring writer? What about one looking for representation?

Alexander Slater: I would tell an aspiring writer to write every day. Understand the importance of community, and share your work often. If you’re looking for representation, do your research and seek out the best fit for you. And then keep writing.

Thank you again, Alex! We look forward to seeing you soon.

Alexander Slater: Thank you!
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Alexander Slater joined Trident Media Group in 2010. After two years as an assistant, he spent two years as an agent representing the entire agency’s Middle Grade and Young Adult titles in the Foreign Market, attending the books fairs in Bologna, London, and Frankfurt. Alex is now building his list domestically, while keeping his focus on these areas. He has sold rights and worked such prestigious authors as R.J. Palacio, Louis Sachar, L.J. Smith, and many others.

Currently, I’m looking for Middle Grade and Young Adult projects, specifically those with original, strong, and diverse voices. I like books that work within a contemporary realistic setting and have an edge to them, with darker or dangerous themes. I have been saying recently I’m looking for Coen Brothers-esque fiction. That being said, I am also on the lookout for contemporary romance and coming-of-age in the style of Jenny Han or Rainbow Rowell. Also, cross-over appeal is ideal, since the best children’s books are rarely written for an audience of a specific age.
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Tammy Burke, GLVWG member, 2011 conference chair and past president, has published over 400 articles in daily newspapers, newsletters and regional magazines. As a journalist and also with helping with the GLVWG “Write Stuff” conference she has interviewed a wide-range of literary agents, publishers, authors, state and local government officials, business and community leaders, everyday folk and celebrities. Currently, she is in the revision stage for her first YA fantasy adventure book, Uriah’s Window, the first in an intended series. When not writing, she works in the social service field, fancies herself a student of the fantastic and mundane, and is a fencing marshal in the Society of Creative Anachronism (SCA).

Ever and Again the Brigadoon House Haunting

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Yes. That creepy old house as..,again. You know, that place where sometimes there’s a “door” and sometimes not. And you don’t realize you shouldn’t be or you don’t want to be…there….until it’s too late.

Does that happen to you?

I never know at first.

The first floor always looks friendly and warm and nice and it even looks different each time so I don’t recognize it.

The second floor, well, it starts to let me know with eerie places that pulse with a warning and the attic…I don’t go in there.

At my bravest I might peer inside before I slink away from the malevolence pervading from that place.

Except once. I don’t like to think about that. I got hit in the shoulder then and it still hurt after I woke up.

But today I was happy chilling in one of my bedrooms in my grandiose house. Heck. Grandiose mansion. I was reading or writing when Alicia, the daughter of a childhood friend, stopped by.

We chatted about a lot of things before she
asked just how many bedrooms I had in my gorgeous new place.

“Three,” I said.

“Are you sure?”

I laugh, “Of course! Would you like a tour?”

So we go from room to room chatting about the house’s decor and its charm. We poke through my posh living room and kitchen before we venture to the staircase.

I have a grand staircase! How cool is that?

We go upstairs and into another bedroom. Four. I didn’t realize I had four. Back to the hallway and I grab another doorknob. Bedroom #5?

It’s a bathroom. And with shivers needling across the backs of my arms, I shut the door. No. Not this place again.

“Is there a problem,” Alicia asks.

I shake my head. I have the right to occupy my space. Be fearless.

Exactly why do I find this place so creepy? Why do I always question that when I’m here.

I thought it was the ambiance of clutter and dirt and disrepair. But the place looks clean…it looks habitable this time.

There’s also a heavy presence which hates others occupying ITS space. But the air…it might not be as light as downstairs, but it doesn’t feel oppressive. More like waiting.

Be brave.

I continue the tour.

After a few more rooms we step into an L-shaped sitting room with hundreds of colored glass lanterns in various shapes hanging from the ceiling. They are all lit up. It gives the room a warm almost magical look but the room tastes like old smoke and regrets.

I don’t like the dirty blue-glass ashtray sitting on the large circular dark wood table. The table triggers an almost-memory. I can’t place it but I’ve seen that table before.

Alicia and I take a seat on the dark leather couch. I look at the cork board overhead and I notice faded old pictures pinned of people I don’t know.

This is my place now. Perhaps I should take them down.

Muttering — I can’t make out the words but maybe I shouldn’t try — come from the table. No one is sitting there.

Alicia grabs my hand. Her eyes are huge and round.

“Don’t worry. I’ll shun them,” I say.

(What exactly does that mean?? Did I know when I said it?)

I breathe Reiki-style at the table. “Leave. Take the attic but you can’t stay here.”

I’m able to see the attic through the walls of the room. I should’ve not been able to. It defies the laws of nature but I’m more struck to see the attic cleared of all the junk.

Did someone come in and do a major housecleaning? There is furniture in there. Like 60s, 70’s styled. But no crumbling old boxes. No dust. No scurrying movement. No holes in the walls.

I’m tempted to venture in. No. I told whatever it was to stay in there. I will stay out. For now.

I turn back at the hanging lanterns and I get the impression of a young woman, a sad young woman.

Then I hear a child singing. I am pulled away, eyes open to a window overlooking a familiar snowy scene.

Yep. Our resident 8-year old is up. I reach for my phone. 7:30? (Ugh) I shoo him downstairs.

So in-between shushing him so others can sleep and writing this I’m left with the feeling I should know the answers behind that house.

Is there an answer or is a dream just a dream?

Meet David E. Fessenden, literary agent from WordWise Media Services

Reposted from the GLVWG conference blog

By Tammy Burke

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Hi David,
We are delighted to have you join us for the 22nd annual GLVWG “Write Stuff” Conference. With your twenty-something years of experience with editorial management, in addition to your writing, speaking, consulting, and also representing — you indeed wear many hats and obviously bring a lot of knowledge for our conferees to enjoy. Welcome!

If I might say your blog “Concept to Contract, Tips on Writing the Christian Nonfiction Book” is a wonderful resource. What was the inspiration behind it? How does it tie in with your book “Writing the Christian Nonfiction Book?” Any new topics coming up soon?

David E. Fessenden: The blog/website (www.fromconcepttocontract.com) is an outgrowth of my book, Writing the Christian Nonfiction Book: Concept to Contract. That book, in turn, was the result of 20 years in book publishing, and is sort of my magnum opus. I sometimes say, “It’s everything I know about writing—and more!” Some of my blog posts are borrowed from the book, but others are things I wish I had included in the book.

Speaking earlier of hats, you list the different “ones” you currently wear (editorial coach, publishing consultant and academic literary agent) in your blog. I’m sure you find enjoyment wearing all three but if you had to choose a favorite “hat” which one would it be? And why?

David E. Fessenden: I really like all of those roles, because in each of them, I am helping authors craft their message and get it published. If I had to choose the one I like best, it might be literary agent. And don’t be scared off by the “academic” label. I am representing some academic authors, but I am trying to work with authors of more popular material as well.

One of the things you’re currently looking for is fiction, either historical or speculative sci-fi/fantasy. Anything in particular that you would like to see? Anything that you probably would not be interested in?

David E. Fessenden: Well, the “speculative” label opens up a lot of possibilities, so I am willing to look at just about anything. However, I would like to point out that the “post-apocalyptic/dystopian” story has been overdone. And in historical, the pioneer West 1800s is overdone as well. Also, I tend to shy away from romances, simply because I personally have no appreciation for them, so I don’t think I can judge them fairly!

Do you think it’s important for a nonfiction manuscript to have a story arc? Also, can you give an example or two of nonfiction that you’ve read which made you question what you knew?

David E. Fessenden: Yes, I would say that a nonfiction manuscript should have a “story arc,” in the sense that it should follow a pattern, a standard structure, such as: “1. Identifying the problem; 2. Introducing the solution; and 3. Implementing the solution.” And that is a story arc, in a way, isn’t it? It has to follow a formula without being formulaic. That is, admittedly, a hard thing to do, and I think it’s why so many authors go into fiction. (Then they discover that fiction is harder to write than real life, because fiction has to make sense!)

When pitching or querying, what are things that tend to impress you and, on the other hand, what would tend to “make you shake your head?”

David E. Fessenden: I am impressed by significant media appearances and web presence, coupled with a compelling idea, presented well. The kinds of things that make me shake my head are lame arguments, usually in the form of clumsy use of statistics: “This book is for married people. Did you know there are X-million married people in this country?”

Reading how WordWise Media Services evolved from a manuscript critique and editing services for aspiring authors into a literary agency made me think of serendipity reaching out a hand as if it was meant to happen that way. Could you give us a “fly on the wall” tour on what makes the company a ” Diversified and Publishing Enterprise?” And what makes it stand out from other agencies?

David E. Fessenden: Wow, that’s a question better answered by Steve Hutson, the founder of the company! But I think Steve would say that his decades of experience in writing, editing and publishing have given him a good handle on the current publishing market. I think what makes WordWise stand out is our commitment to fresh, new authors and a diversity of publishing contacts.

You have an impressive topic range for your speaking engagements. They all look great! Do you personally have a favorite one? Also, do you have one that gets called on more often than the others?

David E. Fessenden: The one that is the most fun to present is “That Reminds Me of a Story,” about using anecdotes in you writing. I like it because it gives me a chance to tell stories! The one that seems to be the most popular, however, is “A Fly on the Wall in a Publishing House,” which gives an insider’s view of how a publishing house acquires a manuscript.

I understand your recent whodunit book ‘ The Case of the Exploding Speakeasy’ reflects your love of Sherlock Holmes and history. Out of curiosity, when did you first start reading stories about Sherlock Holmes? What do you like best about the character or that genre?

David E. Fessenden: I was staying overnight at my in-laws’ home and looking for something to read before going to bed. I happened upon a book of Sherlock Holmes stories by Arthur Conan-Doyle. This started a life-long love of the great detective, and I read every one of the Sherlock stories many times over. It struck me, however, that one character in the stories was given a raw deal by Conan-Doyle. Mycroft Holmes, Sherlock’s older brother, was described as having the same powers of observation and deduction, but to an even greater degree. He was such a fascinating character, yet he appears in only two of Conan-Doyle’s stories, and is just mentioned in passing in one or two others. It occurred to me that I might be able to write a story myself in which Mycroft appeared. And so began my first major foray into fiction. I stumbled around at it, and felt very discouraged at times, but over the years, various experiences of mine found their way into the novel. Thirty years later, I finished and published it.

The part I like best about my characters is the old man/young man interaction between Mycroft (the story is set in the 1920s, so by now he is almost 80) and Dr. Watson’s son, Thomas, who is just starting his career as a newspaper reporter. This clash of generations allows for some lively and humorous dialogue and action.

And last question… if you were to give three “pearls of wisdom” to an aspiring writer, what would they be?

David E. Fessenden: First, write every day. Second, don’t throw anything away, just keep it organized. Third, learn how to rewrite and edit yourself.

Thank you again, David, for taking time out of your schedule to do this interview. I’m looking forward to meeting you at the conference!

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David E. Fessenden is a literary agent with WordWise Media Services and an independent publishing consultant with degrees in journalism and theology, and two decades of editorial management with Christian publishers. He has written six books and hundreds of newspaper and magazine articles. His first novel, The Case of the Exploding Speakeasy, was published in the fall of 2013. His blog on writing is http://www.fromconcepttocontract.com.

I am looking for fiction in the areas of historical (no romance, please) and speculative (sci-fi/fantasy). I am looking for nonfiction in the areas of academic/semi-academic (thoughtful and thought-provoking) theology, biblical studies, church/social/cultural issues, and reference.
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Tammy Burke, GLVWG member, 2011 conference chair and past president, has published over 400 articles in daily newspapers, newsletters and regional magazines. As a journalist and also with helping with the GLVWG “Write Stuff” conference she has interviewed a wide-range of literary agents, publishers, authors, state and local government officials, business and community leaders, everyday folk and celebrities. Currently, she is in the revision stage for her first YA fantasy adventure book, Uriah’s Window, the first in an intended series. When not writing, she works in the social service field, fancies herself a student of the fantastic and mundane, and is a fencing marshal in the Society of Creative Anachronism (SCA).

Meet Patricia Nelson from Marsal Lyon Literary Agency

reposted from GLVWG conference blog

by Tammy Burke

http://greaterlehighvalleywritersgroup.wildapricot.org/Resources/Pictures/Patricia_Nelson_MLLA%20headshot.jpg

I want to thank you for taking time out for this interview. With your background in literature along with your experience in the publishing world our conferees are certainly getting a well-informed resource with you. It is my delight to welcome  you aboard to our 22nd annual GLVWG “Write Stuff” conference.

Patricia Nelson: Thanks so much for having me!

I was wondering, in your opinion, how much does talent play into good writing and how much is it a learned skill that anyone can pick up?

Patricia Nelson:  The myth of the solitary genius who sits down at his or her computer and writes the Great American Novel by sheer instinct is just that–a myth! But that doesn’t mean it’s easy to pick up the skills to write a publishable book. In my view, writing is like any other craft: a person develops their talent by putting in a whole lot of time. In this case, that means reading and writing as much as possible. Maybe (probably!) your first book won’t land you an agent or a book deal, but if you write another book, and another–reading widely and working with a critique group for the whole process–chances are good that eventually your skills will grow and you’ll be able to produce writing at a level that you couldn’t when you were starting out.

I know you probably get this question often but what was your inspiration to become an agent? Was it always something you wanted to do?

​Patricia Nelson:  I always knew that I wanted to work with books in some capacity. When I was in high school I imagined that I would be an editor. Instead, after college I ended up going to graduate school, and for a time pursued a career as an English professor. There were aspects of teaching college students that I loved: helping talented people develop their writing, championing creative thinking, and figuring out what individual students needed and giving them the support system to grow and take risks. But ultimately, after getting the chance to teach many amazing, life-changing books, I realized that I really wanted a career on the other side of the literary world, where I could have a role in helping great books get made. As soon as I discovered agenting, I knew it would be a perfect fit for me.

What would be your ideal working relationship with someone you’ve either signed on or would like to sign on? Could you give an example of what that person could expect from you and what your expectations would be.

Patricia Nelson:  I look for clients who are professional and dedicated to pursuing writing as a career – talented people who work hard and are persistent and goal-oriented. Because I want to partner with writers for the long-term, not just one book, I’m looking for people who have lots of ideas and who are in it for the long-haul as well. I aim to bring that same professionalism and commitment to my relationship with clients – I’m in frequent communication with them and work together with them at every step of the process, from revision, to submission and sale, to developing next projects, etc.

Do you have any pet peeves when someone is querying or pitching? On the other hand, do you have things that tend to impress?

Patricia Nelson:  I’m always impressed with a concise query that gives me a sense of character, plot and stakes in a few short paragraphs–and even better if you can infuse it with voice that makes me excited to dive into the sample pages! I’m also a big fan of queries that include comparisons to a few recent published books, which helps me know what kind of tone to expect and where you imagine yourself fitting in the current market.

On the flip side, my pet peeves include: comparing your book to runaway bestsellers like HARRY POTTER (to assume that kind of success reveals unrealistic expectations); saying your book “will make a great movie” (I’m more interested in it making a great book); genre categorizations that suggest a lack of basic understanding of the market, e.g. “I’ve written a realistic sci fi-fantasy young adult/middle grade romance novel with crossover appeal” (hard for me to know how I would pitch that project). I also have an acute and irrational hatred for the redundant phrase “fiction novel” (just say “novel”!)… but that one certainly wouldn’t be a big deal if I otherwise loved the sound of the story! 😉

More stories about different cultures and lifestyles, I believe, are important and beneficial to society on many levels — two of the top reasons being the opportunity for greater understanding and, well, more stories! I am curious though…what would you say makes for an exciting story in multicultural and  LGBTQ fiction? Would you say this fiction requires something more than only having a minority protagonist and/or other characters? 

Patricia Nelson: Great question! Part of what I’m looking for with any novel is specificity – characters that are so well-rounded and layered that they feel like real people. Well, real people are diverse, in all sorts of ways: gender, race, ethnicity, sexuality, religion, body type, family background, social class, etc. So I want to see that portrayed honestly and authentically in the books that I represent. When I say that I’m looking for diverse books, I mean that I’m actively looking for novels where a character’s “diverse” identity is a part of the story insofar as it shapes who they are as a person. But just like race or sexuality is only part of a person’s story in real life, I’m looking for that complexity in novels as well. I am explicitly looking for diverse characters who populate all kinds of unique and captivating plots in all genres that I represent.

What would you predict for this market in 2015 and what would you like to see?

Patricia Nelson: Every genre right now is a tough market–when you look on the shelf, keep in mind that every single book there got published because numerous people in the industry along the way loved it ​ and couldn’t imagine it not being out there in the world. With that in mind, when I’m reading queries and submissions I’m really just hoping to find books that bowl me over with how amazing they are. Books with fresh voices, unique premises, and complex characters making tough choices. Books that make me have to pause to collect myself because I’m crying, or laughing, or surprised, or curious, or even in awe of one perfect sentence. There will always be space in even the toughest market for those kinds of books, so that’s what I’m looking for.

I understand some of the other things you are looking for include upmarket women’s fiction, romance (contemporary, historical, and New Adult), and accessible literary fiction.  I was wondering… how would you explain the difference between literary fiction and accessible literary fiction?

Patricia Nelson:  By “accessible literary fiction” I mean novels that pair impressive writing and strong character development with a page-turning plot–books that are both masterworks of craft and the kind of stories I can’t put down. Think THE INTERESTINGS by Meg Wolitzer, THE MIDDLESTEINS by Jami Attenberg, or POSSESSION by A.S. Byatt: all beautifully-written books I read obsessively and then shoved into the hands of friends. I’m not the best person to represent literary fiction in which the writing is significantly more important than the plot–although I do think those kinds of books have an important place in the literary landscape!

And last question…If you were to share one of your favorite stories as a child, what would it be and why?  Is it still a favorite? And what do you like to read now if you get to read for pleasure only?

​Patricia Nelson:  Just one childhood favorite?! That’s tough. Can I cheat and pick both a middle grade and a YA? On the middle grade side, I read Judy Blume’s JUST AS LONG AS WE’RE TOGETHER so many times that my copy fell apart, and looking back, it has many traits that I still love in fiction for all ages: complicated friendships, nuanced family dynamics, lots of hijinks, and a relatable, emotionally honest story. When I was a little bit older, I got completely hooked on Tamora Pierce’s SONG OF THE LIONESS series, which is still very close to my heart: an amazing female protagonist, lots of adventure and romance, and a fantasy world you can just fall into in your mind.

As for what I read for pleasure now: all kinds of things! In addition to reading being generally my favorite thing, it’s also important for me to keep up with the current market in genres that I represent, so even much of my pleasure reading isn’t really just for pleasure. Honestly, my to-read stack regularly threatens to overtake my house.

I guess that was more than one.  Anyway, thank you again, Patricia!

Patricia Nelson:  Thank YOU for your thoughtful questions!

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Patricia Nelson is an agent at Marsal Lyon Literary Agency. She started at Marsal Lyon in early 2014 as the assistant to Kevan Lyon, and has previously interned at The Angela Rinaldi Literary Agency and in the children’s division at Running Press. Patricia received her bachelor’s degree from the College of William and Mary in 2008, and also holds a master’s degree in English Literature from the University of Southern California and a master’s degree in Gender Studies from the University of Texas at Austin. Before joining the world of publishing, she spent four years as a university-level instructor of literature and writing.

And my wish list:

I represent adult and young adult fiction, and am actively looking to build my list. On the adult side, I’m looking especially for upmarket women’s fiction, romance (contemporary, historical, and New Adult), and accessible literary fiction. I’m also looking for all genres of YA, including contemporary/realistic as well mystery/thriller, horror, magical realism, light science fiction and character-driven fantasy. I’m always interested in finding exciting multicultural and LGBTQ fiction, both YA and adult. In general, I love stories with complex characters that jump off the page and thoughtfully drawn, believable relationships.

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Tammy Burke, GLVWG member, 2011 conference chair and past president, has published over 400 articles in daily newspapers, newsletters and regional magazines. As a journalist and also with helping with the GLVWG “Write Stuff” conference she has interviewed a wide-range of literary agents, publishers, authors, state and local government officials, business and community leaders, everyday folk and celebrities. Currently, she is in the revision stage for her first YA fantasy adventure book, Uriah’s Window, the first in an intended series. When not writing, she works in the social service field, fancies herself a student of the fantastic and mundane, and is a fencing marshal in the Society of Creative Anachronism (SCA).