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

26 April 2014

Daddy's Girl Weekend



by John M. Floyd



Sounds like the name of a drive-in movie from the 1960s, right? Not this time. The Daddy's Girl Weekend I'm referring to is an annual writers' conference hosted by my friend and prolific mystery novelist Carolyn Haines. Carolyn was kind enough to invite me to be on the "faculty" for this year's DGW, which was held several weeks ago in Mobile, Alabama. Here's a link to the conference info.


Since the Gulf Coast isn't far from our home, my wife joined me for the trip--we drove down on the afternoon of Thursday, April 3, and spent three nights and three days at the Riverview Plaza Hotel in downtown Mobile. It rained most of the time we were there, but at least it wasn't cold: I've had quite enough of the Winter of 2013/2014. Until recently, I suspected that the weather gods had confused Mississippi with Minnesota.

As for the conference itself, I thoroughly enjoyed it, and--as I do at all events like this--met some truly interesting folks. One attendee was a former writer for Saturday Night Live and the screenwriter for many of the Eddie Murphy movies; one was a New York Times bestselling author of "cat mystery" novels; one was a cardiac surgeon who'd just sold his second medical thriller; another was an author, agent, and ordained priest; several were former bookstore owners; and so on and so on. I've often heard that writers might be weird but they're always fascinating. And one of the best things about DGW is that it's a readers' as well as a writers' conference. As any Bouchercon attendee will tell you, having fans there makes a big difference.

The time passed quickly. Each night after the final session my wife and I went out for some great meals (usually seafood), and during the daytime hours at the conference I was a member of four different panels, I was moderator of another, I was interviewed by a lady from Suspense Magazine, and I signed and sold a lot of my books, all of which was fun. I also learned some useful things about writing and marketing. Actually, I don't think it's possible to spend several days in the company of dozens of other writers and NOT learn something useful about either writing or marketing or both.

In my case, and on the off-chance that this might be helpful to others as well, here is some of the information I came away with:

E-predictions

One of the panels I attended included the founder of a publishing company that deals in both printed novels and e-books. He mentioned to the group that although all of us realize that electronic publishing is here to stay, it is not necessarily "the way of the future." In fact he said sales and e-sales have recently begun to level out, and that it appears that e-books will not completely take over the publishing world as was once predicted. Disagree if you like--this was one man's opinion--but he insisted that the traditional novel will remain with us, side-by-side with its e-counterpart, for the foreseeable future.

To most of us who were present, this view was not only interesting but encouraging. I love my iPad and I enjoy e-books--especially when traveling--but it pleased me to hear an expert in the field say that the old-fashioned printed novel will still be around for a while.

Untangling the Web

In another session, a lady who spoke about blogging and social media happened to mention a place called Weebly.com, which provides a free, easy, and effective way to build a personal or business web site. This captured my attention, since for twenty years now both writers and readers have been telling me I need my own site. Deep down, I knew they were right, but I just never got a round tuit. I had several reasons not to take the plunge: on the one hand I didn't want to find and hire a webmaster and I didn't want to then have to sit around and wait for him or her every time I decided changes needed to be made to the site; on the other hand, I damn sure didn't want to take the time to learn how to design the whole thing myself. Besides, slacker that I am, I've always just pointed folks to my page at my publisher's site.

But I had to agree that this sounded good. Bottom line is, when we returned from the conference I Googled the Weebly program and decided to give it a try. As a result, I put together my own web site in a matter of hours, and at no cost. It's nothing flashy and is still a work in progress, but it's functional and I'm satisfied. If you have time, visit www.johnmfloyd.com and take a look.

Curses--foiled again!

The third piece of information that stuck with me wasn't something I didn't already know, but it's something that all of us occasionally need to be reminded of. A person who worked for a publishing company told the group that writers shouldn't be overly discouraged when their novels or short story manuscripts get rejected. She pointed out that publishing is a business. We writers tend to forget that. Publishers have employees just like other companies, and have payrolls to meet. When they decide to pay a writer an advance and produce a novel, they have to be reasonably certain that enough of his or her books will sell to exceed the amount they spend. Similarly, when a major magazine buys a story, the editors need to be confident that that story will help them sell copies, not only of that issue but of other issues in the future. If these things don't happen, that publisher or editor or product won't be around very long. The decision-makers are right when they say it's nothing personal.

Does it hurt when we're rejected? Sure it does. But rejections should prod all of us to persist and work harder. If this whole writing gig was easy, anyone could do it.

Denouement

On the Sunday that ended the DGW conference my wife and I drove back home (it was still raining, all the way), and when we got here I couldn't help feeling a bit like the traditional story character, returning to his routine after his mythical adventures, a little older and wiser than he'd been beforehand.

I just hope they invite me back next year.



21 July 2012

On the Road Again




by John M. Floyd


Last weekend was a little unusual.  I didn't mow the lawn, I didn't doze off in the backyard swing, I didn't attend a sporting event that included our four-year-old grandson, and I didn't watch a single Netflix movie.  What did I do?  Well, I think you'll be proud of me: I went to a writers' conference.

The truth is, I've never been particularly fond of conferences.  There are exceptions--I've thoroughly enjoyed the Bouchercons I've attended, and I'm planning to go to this year's event also, in Cleveland--but in general I've viewed most writers' conferences in the same way that I viewed sales meetings in my business days: they were a nice way to get together and have refreshments and see everybody, but they didn't often accomplish a whole lot.  All in all, I'd rather be working than talking about working, and I'd rather be writing than talking about writing.  Besides, literary conferences are usually far-flung, and I'm no longer enthused about the idea of traveling.  The half-zillion miles I logged with the Air Force and IBM have made me perfectly content to stay within my own zip code.

But I've decided I might've been a little too hasty.  The conference I attended on July 13th, 14th, and 15th has made me rethink my position on the matter.

Hop along to Cassity

About six months ago I was fortunate enough to be invited to be one of five "featured authors" at the second annual Turner Cassity Literary Festival this past weekend.  Sponsored by the local Cultural Arts Center, the three-day festival is a gathering of writers and readers from all over the southeast and beyond, held in a rambling century-old home on tree-lined Campbellton Street in Douglasville, Georgia.


My wife Carolyn and I left home early last Friday (the 13th!?) to drive the four hundred miles to Douglasville, a small town about twenty miles west of Atlanta.  The weather wasn't the best--we were greeted with the same kind of afternoon/evening thunderstorms we had left behind in Mississippi, and even when it wasn't raining the humidity made us feel right at home--but it was a great weekend anyway.  The food was good (and plentiful), the accommodations comfortable (and conveniently located), the conference site beautiful (and appropriately "literary"), the people friendly (and smart), and the subject matter . . . well, the subject matter involved what you might expect: an appreciation of the writing of others and the improvement of your own.

The unusual suspects

The guest lineup of authors consisted of three poets (Dan Veach, Annmarie Lockhart, and Alice Lovelace), one novelist (Patricia Sprinkle), and one short-story writer (guess who).  Each of us taught two ninety-minute workshops and held individual critique sessions on Saturday, and then participated in readings and signings and Q&A's on Sunday.

I knew I would have a good time with Patti Sprinkle because we think the same way, she and I.  Not only do we both write fiction, we both write mystery fiction, and we had already swapped a number of e-mails over the years.  I wasn't so sure about the poets.  (As I think I've mentioned before, both here and at Criminal Brief, I'm not a poet and I noet.)  But I was pleased to find that I liked the poets and their work.  Dan Veach, I discovered, is not only a talented writer and illustrator, he's the editor of Atlanta Review--and the two ladies are gifted poets as well as outstanding speakers; Annmarie delivered the kickoff speech and Alice the closing address.  Both presentations gave me goosebumps . . . and remember, I'm too uncouth even to understand most contemporary poetry, much less enjoy it.

Friends and countrymen

On the first of our three rainy nights in Georgia, I found out that one of the attendees--actually, the wife of the head fred--had graduated a year behind me in high school, back in Kosciusko, Mississippi.  (Tell me it's not a small world, after all.)  I hadn't seen her in more than forty years, and after we caught up on which of our classmates were still alive or in rehab or out on parole, she and my wife hit it off and spent much of the conference talking about everything from grandchildren to politics to quilting projects.  I also met some delightful and interesting "aspiring" writers, and began what I hope will be longtime friendships.

When Carolyn and I finally arrived back home Monday afternoon, I told her the same thing I mentioned to you at the beginning of this column: I now have a different view of that weird phenomenon we call writers' conferences.  I still think it's more fun to just sit down and write--no question about that--but now and then, if the time's right and the stars are aligned correctly . . . it's also fun just to talk about writing.

I'm hoping they'll invite me again.

A word to the wordsmiths . . .

What are some of your favorite writers' conferences?  Which, if any, do you attend regularly?  Do you choose conferences based mostly on genre?  Location?  Cost?  Featured speakers?

Also, who's planning to go to this year's Bouchercon?

Save a seat for me.