Showing posts with label conferences. Show all posts
Showing posts with label conferences. Show all posts

01 May 2019

Lefty Propaganda


Nervous panelist in the Green Room, striving for wisdom.
by Robert Lopresti

As promised two weeks ago, I am providing here a collection of wise words from authors (and a few editors... see if you can spot 'em) who served as panelists at Left Coast Crime back in March.  You may remember that I have done this at past mystery hootenannies. 

As always, if anyone feels I misquoted them I would be happy to correct it.  If you would prefer to deny being there at all, I take all major credit cards.

Regrettably, all the context for these comments were lost in a tragic canoeing accident.  (Turns out moose can't paddle.  Who knew?)  Okay: wisdom commencing.


"This book is set in the 1590s.  Totally different from the 1580s." - Kenneth Wishnia

"This novel is set in San Diego.  There's a lot of beer in it." - Lisa Brackmann

"I think everyone in Scotland is funny.  I just moved to California so I could get paid for it."- Catriona McPherson

"I can't possibly write something serious, because I don't want to read it." -E.J. Copperman

"A first draft is crap by definition." -Laurie R. King

"In my second book I forgot to include a murder." - Cynthia Kuhn

"I avoid people as much as possible."  - Timothy Hallinan

"I picked Mumbai as a setting the way you would pick a lover." -Sujata Massey

"I had a great time writing it because I got to do a lot of research into the Texas taco scene." -Meg Gardiner

"Don't the spaceships always land in Pittsburgh?" - S.J. Rozan

"What could be more noir than Iowa?" -Priscilla Paton

"I wrote a book that many dozens of people read." - G.M. Malliet

"I once got into an argument with George Clooney about Janet Jackson's breasts." - Kellye Garrett

"The way I know that I really love a book is I lose time in it." - Chantelle Aimée Osman

"If you write novellas, write science fiction." - Kate Thornton

"This is actually true.  I got it off the internet." - Ovidia Yu

"It's not particularly funny if someone is behind you with a gun.  But if the gun has a hair trigger and the guy has the hiccups...." -Timothy Hallinan

"I have my thought back." - Judy Penz Sheluk

"I don't want to love your book as much as you do because if I do I'll be blind to what needs to be changed." - Chantelle Aimée Osman


"The subject of furry novels is a thing." - Lisa Alber

"Me and God talk.  We go way back."  - Laurie R. King

"Hit the spellcheck button.  My fifth grader can find it." -Stacy Robinson

"If you get in the 150,000 word range, go do something else for a while." - Kate Thornton

"You never had a blog critic or a Kirkus review like a defense lawyer whose client you're sending to prison." -James L'Etoile

"When you call a police officer and say you want to research guns, you have to preface it in a certain way." - Judy Penz Sheluk

 "I call myself a book therapist." - Zoe Quinton

"Our experiences are all of our senses." - Elena Hartwell

"I'm delighted to still be living in a country that puts a U in humour." - D.J. Wiseman

"There are a lot worse things to believe in than God." -Suzanne M. Wolfe


"Most of the criminals I work with don't read." -James L'Etoile

"I can bang a short story out in eighteen months." - Kate Thornton

"If you're writing about someplace you don't live, make the protagonist a visitor." - Elena Hartwell

"When I started writing police procedurals I found it was very therapeutic, because you can kill your boss." -Robin Burcell

"Then an auditor dies under mysterious circumstances, the best circumstances to die under." -John Billheimer

"If you have someone speaking in an accent in a mystery, call it literary." - Kate Thornton

"I studied comparative religion, which made sense because I am comparatively religious." -Laurie R. King

"One thing I love about writing about small towns is that I can legitimately have cell phones not work." - Elena Hartwell

"You can do research forever, because you don't have to write while you're doing research." - S.J. Rozan

"I lived in England for five years and I did not want to leave.  I was not forced to leave, I might add." -G.M. Malliet

"I was so good at living in California I could have moved to Portland." - Catriona McPherson

"It is really funny to go in a bar with six cops, because they're always going to want their backs to the wall, and there aren't that many walls." - R.T. Lawton



"The only thing better than holding a book is holding a book with your name on it." - Kate Thornton

"You have to be willing to give me your darling and know I will slash it to ribbons." - Stacy Robinson

"I'm exactly like my hero except she's young, tall, and has hands big enough to hold a gun right." - T.K. Thorne

"After  every first draft the flame goes out." -James L'Etoile

"You see those people wearing shirts that say I Love New York and it tells you they are not from New York." -Vinnie Hansen

"I'm a psychotherapist.  I heal by day and kill by night." - Bryan Robinson

"A short story needs to have one point and your reader needs to get it right through the heart." - Kate Thornton

"Morris dancing is next, right after the sex." - Jeffrey Siger

"I think there probably is humor in heaven, or earth wouldn't look like this." - Ovidia Yu

"I have the right to remain silent."  - R.T. Lawton

17 April 2019

Meet Me In Vancouver


by Robert Lopresti

I had a great time the last weekend of March, celebrating Left Coast Crime in Vancouver, British Columbia.  Ran into some past and present SleuthSayers there: R.T. Lawton, Brian Thornton, and Thomas Pluck.  Also old friends like S.J. Rozan, Kate Thornton, Ilene Schneider, and Pam Beason.  Even better I got to make new friends: Dara Carr, Cynthia Kuhn, and T.K. Thorne, among others.

But enough name-dropping!  Let me talk about the highlights of this four-day gathering of 400+ mystery readers and writers.  Naturally that includes panels.

One thing that was new to me: the panels were only 45 minutes long.  That is short.  To my surprise, I thought they worked pretty well but it definitely throws the panelists and the audience into the lap of the moderator.  If that august personage decides to spend the first five minutes reading the bios straight from the convention program, and then five more explaining his/her understanding of the panel topic, and then decides her/his questions are clearly more interesting than those of the audience, well... it can be painful.  One writer was told by an attendee: "I went to your panel.  I wish I had heard you instead of the moderator."

To give you some idea of what goes on, here are just the panels I attended:
Editors
Humour
International Settings
Law Enforcement Professionals  
Liars' Panel 
Music
Religion
Researching the Perfect Crime
Setting as Character
Short Stories and Novellas
Writing Villains

I was happy to serve on the Ecology Panel with Sara J. Henry, Dave Butler, Mark Stevens, and Gregory Zeigler.  I had suggested that topic but I felt like a bit of a fraud, since the others had written serious tales about water theft, over-development, illegal marijuana growing, etc. while my book is a comic crime novel about the Mafia trying to save the planet.  Ah, well.  We had fun.

S.J. Rozan with annoying fan
The Lefty Award Banquet was a treat.  Each table of ten was hosted by two authors and I was lucky enough to grab S.J. Rozan as a partner.  Like good hosts we brought extra wine and some tchotchkes for our guests (organic seed packets for Greenfellas; chopsticks in honor of Rozan's Chinese-American detective Lydia Chin).  We must have had a good time because our table was the last to leave.

There are two other big events.  At Speed Dating pairs of authors rush from table to table, giving their elevator pitch to groups of readers.  I have been on both sides of this dating spectrum and I can tell you that it's more fun to listen to forty different speeches than to give the same one twenty times.  The other event is the New Author Breakfast where all those who were published in the last year get to give an even briefer explanation of their book.

But let's talk about some little events.  There was a series called One-Shots, in which authors got to talk for fifteen minutes about some topic.  At the Toronto Bouchercon I did one of these about how my library caught the thief who had robbed over one hundred libraries.  Only about four people showed up.  This is not surprising; the events were not well publicized and tucked far away from the main rooms.

So this year I was ready.  I printed up ten posters (8.5x11) announcing the subject and the location.  I left them on the swag table where writers leave book marks and other paraphernalia.

It worked.  All the posters vanished and about twenty people showed up.  So if any of you plan to do a one-shot at a convention, remember that it pays to advertise.

The next day there was supposed to be a one-shot about author events from the bookseller's point of view.  People showed up for it but, alas, the bookseller, was not able to attend the convention.

Terri talking books
But what luck!  My wife was there.  Terri has worked for a decade at the best bookstore between Vancouver and Seattle, a shop that holds more than 300 author events every year.  So she gallantly stepped in and gave the attendees a lot of helpful tips.  When she signed up for LCC she had no idea she was going to be one of the speakers.

Next year Left Coast Crime will be in San Diego.  I recommend it.  In two weeks I will be back with a collection of words of wisdom I gathered at the con.  Here is a sample.  Perhaps you can  guess which  famous writer declared: "Me and God talk.  We go way back."



23 July 2018

Why Workshops?


by Steve Liskow

I loved teaching. If it were still about interacting with the kids and helping them grow and develop--as opposed to getting them ready for a pointless standardized test that keeps getting dumbed down and is only used to gauge a teacher's performance instead of the kids it pretends to test--you'd still find me in the classroom, funky tie loose and sleeves rolled one turn below my elbows, 183 days a year. But it isn't and I'm not.

That's why I still conduct writing workshops. Sure, I get paid almost enough to cover my gas to and from the event, but the truth is I still have a major teaching jones. It took me a long time to learn this stuff, so I want to help other people learn from my mistakes.

When I turned in the key to my classroom for the 33rd time, I knew how to write a decent sentence and even a passable paragraph. But I didn't know how to tell a good story. That's harder than it sounds. You probably have at least one friend or relative who can mangle a knock-knock joke or put everyone to sleep telling about something that happened to them, don't you?

Once my writing collected enough form rejection letters to make the point, I went back to what my adviser on my sixth-year project (A novel, by coincidence) told me years before. He directed me to the paperback racks in the local drug store (If you're under about forty, you may have to Google those terms) and read the first chapter of ten or twelve books at random.

 "Don't read Austen and James and Conrad," he told me. "Read Arthur Hailey and Irving Wallace and Jacqueline Susanne and Mickey Spillane. Read Michener (He hated Michener). Figure out what they do in those first few pages that you don't. You don't have 'first-chapterness.'"

Plumbers, carpenters and electricians all train apprentices. So do doctors and teachers. People take dancing lessons, music lessons, golf lessons and painting lessons. We know that one-on-one training works. How do fish learn to swim and birds learn to fly? You can buy a bunch of books and read them, but a good writing workshop is even better.

Many writing conferences offer sessions by writers who are also excellent teachers. They may even feature a one-on-one manuscript critique. At the New England Crime Bake, Kate Flora analyzed an early version of my own Blood On The Tracks and turned problems into opportunities. At the Wesleyan Writers Conference, Chris Offutt looked at an even earlier draft of that same book.

When I met him over coffee (We both wanted beer, but we were on campus), he said, "You write excellent dialogue, and you probably know it. But that's both good and bad."

"How can that be?" I asked.

"Well," Offutt said, "it's good because it is good. But it's bad because you know it, so you try to make that dialogue do too much of the work. Have you ever done theater?"

At that time, I was acting, directing, producing or designing for four or five productions a year.

"You need to learn to write better exposition and description. Even plays aren't just the dialogue. The other stuff is the context that gives it meaning. And that's even truer in novels and stories."

My bookshelves sag under the weight of fifty or sixty books on writing, including a few on dialogue. None of them ever said that. The fifteen-minute chat helped more than all those books.

Now I pay it forward. I have five workshops scheduled through mid-November, and I'll share handouts with examples, both good and bad, and leave lots of time for people to experiment with them and ask questions. We do group activities, too: creating characters, punching up plots and premises, sharpening dialogue. Every time we encounter a problem (Which I often recognize in my own stuff, too) we figure out how to fix it. Mistakes are the best teachers I know, and I'm still learning every time I teach.

Most of the venues invite me back, which is great, but I don't do it for the money. Fortunately.

I do it because I still love it.

03 August 2013

Writers on the River


by John M. Floyd

"I'm away from the office right now--leave your name and number and I'll call you back."

That answering-machine message, thank goodness, isn't one I use anymore. Mainly because my only office these days is my home office, and also because I seldom venture too far from it. After all the globetrotting I did in my job and in the military, I now try to avoid any trip that might take me beyond the boundaries of my zip code. Imagine Paladin's card with the words HAVE GUN WON'T TRAVEL on it. (Also imagine Paladin unemployed but stress-free.)

Today, though, I am traveling--or, more accurately, I'm already there. While you're reading this, I'm participating in a two-day writers' conference in Vicksburg, Mississippi. (Only fifty miles west, but still away from wife and home and easy chair and mystery DVDs.) Here's a link to the conference info.


I've been told I'll conduct two sessions this morning--one on writing short stories and one on marketing them--then I'm supposed to be the speaker at lunch, then this afternoon I'm scheduled to repeat the morning session, and then I'll take part in a panel discussion and a book signing. I have a feeling that tonight I'll be ready to prop my feet up higher than my head and shift my brain into neutral for a while. Actually my brain will probably be in neutral during the day as well; maybe nobody'll notice.

Conference call

Truth be told, I've been looking forward to the conference and I feel fortunate to have been invited. It's being run by a good organization and has become an annual event that draws aspiring and established writers from throughout the South. (Everyone seems to know by now that a writer can't open his or her car door in Mississippi without bumping into another writer. Our literary history includes Faulkner, Welty, Willie Morris, Tennessee Williams, Grisham, Shelby Foote, Carolyn Haines, Thomas Harris, Richard Ford, Stephen Ambrose, etc. – there must be something in the water, down here. Either that, or there just isn't much else to do.) Anyhow, as with any conference, it's a chance to see old friends again and to meet new ones, especially some authors that I might have read but have not yet had a chance to get to know.

I'm also aware that many of the attendees will be poets and writers of nonfiction. As a fiction writer, I always enjoy meeting those folks, but I admit to being a little intimidated by them. I've always felt that authors of poetry and nonfiction are more perceptive and more serious and more, well, dedicated than I am. After all, most contemporary poetry is so profound I can't even understand it, and writing nonfiction seems more like work than play– sort of like the term paper that you know you have to finish by Monday or you'll flunk the course. In other words, I respect those writers but I can't really relate to them; I feel as if I'm the little kid with the lollipop and the cowboy hat in the amusement park and they're the adults who make sure everything works and runs the way it's supposed to. (But, since we're being honest here, it's also the kids who have the most fun.)

Dreamers Anonymous?

As for the authors of fiction--whether they're short or long writers of short or long fiction--I find them not only interesting but helpful. I've gotten a lot of great information from fellow fiction writers, both in and out of the classroom environment, and if you've ever taught school, or night courses, or even conference workshops, you know that the instructor sometimes learns as much from the students as the students learn from you. The bottom line is, it's just fun to meet and visit with others who like the same kinds of things you do, whether it's in a seminar or on a cruise ship or on a barstool. Writing has always been a lonely pastime, and I believe no one understands fiction writers except other fiction writers.

Which brings up several questions. What kind of writers' conferences have you attended, or do you attend regularly? Have you found them worthwhile? Too long? Too short? Too expensive? Do you prefer main-tent presentations where everyone attends, or smaller concurrent sessions geared to specific topics? What do you think of "fan" events that include readers as well as writers? Do you ever pay extra to schedule individual one-on-one sessions with editors? Publishers? Agents? If so, have you found that to be productive? Do you prefer genre conferences like Worldcon or Bouchercon, or those that feature all flavors? Do you get tired of SleuthSayers who ask too many questions?

Great Expectations

One more thing, regarding writing conferences/workshops. A few months ago I received an e-mail from the Gulf Coast Writers Association (a well-run group, headed up by my old friend Philip Levin) asking me to come down to the Coast and conduct a two-hour fiction-writing seminar. I replied with an e-mail saying I'd be happy to come and thanks for inviting me, and included a question of my own: What would you like for me to cover? I said I could discuss any of several topics: plot, characterization, POV, dialogue, style, manuscript formatting, marketing, etc.– just let me know. Well, several days passed, and when I'd heard nothing back from them, I checked their web site. Imagine my surprise when I found this announcement there: "John Floyd will be at the Biloxi Public Library on Saturday, February 23, 2013, to teach a fiction-writing workshop from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m." It listed the street address and the price of attendance and added, "Topics John will cover are: plot, characterization, POV, dialogue, style, manuscript formatting, and marketing." Whoa.

I wound up covering all those things, and all within the two-hour time period. For the fifty or so students in attendance, it probably felt a bit like drinking from a fire hose, but we did it, and they seemed to like it, and we had a good day. It did teach me, however, to be careful what I propose, when I agree to a session like that. You know what they say about best-laid plans.

Thankfully, I shouldn't have that kind of problem today in Vicksburg. They told me I could talk about anything I want to.

Maybe I'll cover mystery movies …