Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Random Notes from 7th Annual LDStorymaker Conference

Marion Jensen alias Matthew Buckley needs to write for television--the guy is a comic genius--total deadpan with killer jokes. He did the welcome and introduction.
Next I attended Laura Rennart's--How to Ace the Audition. She said to have an elevator pitch memorized focusing on Who? What? Where? and Why should I care? What is the unusual detail that sets your story apart? Get at the HEART! The elevator pitch is something that you can tell someone about your book in under three minutes. She was great. FOLLOW SUBMISSION GUIDELINES and do your research. Don't send a thriller to someone who doesn't publish thrillers.

Next I attended Josi Kilpack's session on getting the most from booksignings and launching parties. I've been friends and an admirer of Josi for about six years. I've attended several of her awesome book launch parties and hope to do the same thing when my next book comes out. Which I hope will be before I die. Everyone keeps asking me and well that's all I can tell you for sure. Anyway Josi sends out about 350 postcards even to those who couldn't possibly come to the party, but it's a way of creating an event with your book and letting everyone know where they can get one. In other words don't forget to include online ordering information. Make sure that you know what else is going on in the community and to not schedule the party at the same time. Josi does her launch parties at a local independent bookstore in her community.

Then I attended Jeff Savage's session on villains. Jeff is one of the best presenters that I know. He is professional. He is courteous. He is generous with advice. And most important he is funny. The main thing I learned is that I need a more menacing and clear villain in my work in progress. But that the villain has to be believable and basically like the hero--they should have clear motives.

By this time on Friday 4:00--I was really tired. Still recovering from the lingering effects of pneumonia, I was drifting a bit during Stephanie Black's session on techniques for mystery/suspense writers, but she is really good also. Stephanie's book just took the Whitney for the best suspense of 2009. I haven't read it yet, but it looks really creepy doesn't it? I learned that she loves Jack Bickham, so I've resolved to read what he has to say. One of my favorite quotes from her session is "Every character should want something, even if it is only a glass of water." Kurt Vonnegut.

The keynote speaker for Friday night was David Wolverton/David Farland highly successful writer and teacher. They honored him with a lifetime achievement award Saturday night at the Whitneys. At our dinner table I sat by some friends, Anne Bradshaw, Jolynne Lyon and Amber Smith. We discussed how much better the food was at this conference than one we'd been to that was not a storymaker conference, but I won't mention any names.

Saturday: One of my wip (works in progess) is to write the story of a friend of mine who has had a very interesting life so I attended a session by Mary Greathouse on writing memoirs. She has a lot of great sites to go to and good information. It was geared more to those who want to write family histories, but I still found it helpful.

Sarah Eden: A storymaker whom I've never met--we're a very large group now--was hilarious. My goodness she has a lot of energy. She is not a fan of the old time greats, like Charles Dickens, at least in how they have pages and pages of description that isn't necessary to the story. She showed us how detail could be used to show character and so forth. How details should be appropriate for the character, to use and example she put up a scene where two guys are working out in the gym and discussing their outfits and the periwinkle walls. She had contests to have the group fix the passage. One changed the gender, one change their sexual orientation, and one changed the wording, but kept the scene. It was fun and telling.

Stacey Anderson: "The Santa Letters" has done a tremendously good job at self-promotion and taught us how to do the same. Lots of what she does, I realized I'm just not cut out for. I have a hard time putting myself out there. But there were things I could do and I tried to focus on those. One good idea was to send out News releases to the media-- not press releases. She worked for a newspaper and knows that most press releases get tossed. Look for ways your story can be made into news. She sent her book to some influential people--like Laura Bush and got a personal letter back from her. She could do that because her book related to drunk driving. Mine--well they are suspense. I'd have to come up with another angle. Many of my friends and I help each other with blog tours and social networking. Those are things I can do.

Ok, by this time I really wanted to go home. I still wanted to visit a bit more with my mother in Orem, but at 2:00 I had an important meeting with the senior editor Kirk Shaw at Covenant--my publisher. I'd never met him before so of course was just a bit nervous since I wanted to pitch my next book to him, well as luck would have it, he sat down in the open chair next to me at lunch. This made the meeting with him easy and worthwhile. He gave me lots of encouragement and some good ideas on how to get this next book published. It's a mystery set in Yellowstone National Park.

By now I was late to the final workshop I would be attending, Dave Wolverton's. He gave great advice on making our books more successful--one was to strike an emotional cord. People love books that will make them laugh and make them cry. Another was to broaden your audience. He told us how he made a character with a German name who had a Japanese heart. The book was very successful in Germany and in Japan. I was so tired though, I ended up leaving early, saying goodbye to a few friends out in the foyer and I was on my way back home--geared and ready to WRITE!

I love to write and am happy to feel like I'm getting back in the game.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Good-bye San Francisco



Our daughter has lived in San Francisco for the last 16 months and last weekend we visited for the third time. I'm not sure I'll ever go there again because she'll be moving soon, but we had a great time. We did lots of touristy things, like saw Wicked, visited three museums:The Museum of Modern Art, The Legion of Honor, and De Young. I'm not sure which was my favorite--parts of each stood out. I loved the ceramics in the Legion of Honors and the old time masters works, like Giovanni, Rembrandt, and even the Impressionists Monet and Manet. I realized how much I've forgotten from the days that I packed my hefty Art History book around the USU campus studying for Professor Michael Bull's comprehensive tests. By the time we visited De Young we were so tired we couldn't give it the time that it deserved. It may be my favorite. They had a gorgeous display of Amish abstract quilts and minutes before they closed we went to the lookout tower and looked out over the impressive city and bay.

It was our 31'st wedding anniversary. Last year I wrote a blog about my husband called 30 years of Nice. He's never lived that down from his brother Larry who loves to tease him about it. But now I could write another one called 31 years, but I'll let last years suffice.

The best part of the trip of course was spending time with our daughter and seeing how well she navigates the world. She confidently rides the city on her mo-ped. Maybe the best thing about being married for 31 years is having fabulous adult children to visit and now two beautiful grandchildren. All in all life is pretty darn good.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

A Confession? or This is not an endorsement of WalMart


Everyone who knows me well, knows I do not shop at Wal-Mart. Up until a few weeks ago, I hadn't spent any money at a Walmart in at least five years. I actively avoid Wal-Mart because I believe it is better to support the little local stores. I don't like big-box stores on principle, and was especially upset with WalMart when they built a second store in our not-so-large valley. So what broke my record of not stepping into a WalMart? I'll tell you. We were between a rock and a hard place or that is in great need--the ox was in the mire. We were visiting our son's family in Avon, Colorado--yes if you've noticed the irony here--we live in Avon, Utah. We're hoping our daughter can find a town to live in named Avon as well so that we call all be connected in a strange sort of way.

Anyway back to my tale, we wanted to go swimming with our grandkids at this really cool recreation center. We hadn't known ahead that we needed to bring a suit. There are exactly two stores that sell swim suits in Avon, one is Sport's Authority, right beneath our son's condo, and the other is Wal-Mart. My husband is more avidly against shopping at WalMart than I am, so we headed down to see what we could find. Being the time of year it was we found a couple of racks of suits that were all on sale. Great, we set out picking out suits to try on. I found a handful of suits that I thought might fit me. I squeezed into the first one and couldn't get it on. I tried the next, and the next, and the next. Every single suit made me well aware of the pounds I have put on in the last few years. Fat seemed to ooze out of the suit and hid nothing! I immediately vowed to begin the elusive diet once again. The suits were made for people who actually swam. The suits were made for athletic people and not just grandmas who wanted to bounce around with their grandkids. Mick found a suit easily. I mean how hard is it to find a pair of baggy shorts to wear? But after our children called and asked what was taking us so long, I admitted that we were going to have to go look at WalMart. I found the racks and racks of suits made for women like me and women much much bigger than I am. These suits were made for women who wanted to keep the fat hidden from view. I chose a couple to try on and suddenly felt slim again. Instantly was gone the desire to starve myself back into thin again. I looked pretty darn good after all. I quickly chose two suits for less than the price of one at the other store and threw in a pair of swim shorts I could wear and headed to the check-out. Yes, I did feel a bit guilty. I was now an official hypocrite. But it was so worth it. We had so much fun kicking in the pool with our two grandkids and our son and his wife. We got to see what a wonderful little family our son has. Sometimes compromising values is worth it. Right?