The Future of KWA

Greetings, fellow wordsmiths!  I hope the writing is going well!

I’d like to invite all of you to our August meeting.  Besides having an awesome panel discussion, we are going to review the changes that the Board has agreed on to help KWA continue to thrive.

KWA has been around for 16+ years.  It hasn’t changed much since its inception.  This is a problem – it means we’re no longer serving our members.  Publishing has changed.  Researching has changed.  Writing has changed. Even the ability to meet and interact with other writers has changed.  The world we live in today is not something anyone could have envisioned 16 years ago.

We had several Board meetings in July to discuss how to make KWA relevant.  We kept several questions in mind: What would best serve our membership?   How do we offer our members even more opportunities to interact?  How do we promote our members – and help them learn how to promote themselves?  How do we best utilize our resources?  We took a hard look at all of our offerings to decide what to focus on for our future.

Effective immediately, we will no longer have an Adult Contest and will take an indefinite hiatus from the Scene Conference.  However, we will continue to offer a Youth Contest, as that is unique to our organization. Samantha LaFantasie is now Youth Chair.

Starting in September, the newsletter will become a weekly email with links to articles on our website and member news (book release parties, signings, blog tours, etc.).

In 2014, we will change the monthly meetings.  We will still have monthly meetings, and the majority will remain open (anyone can attend).  However, we will host special members-only meetings with special guests and/or featured topics.  More critique meetings will be added.  We are also going to rearrange the Board, and have only four Board positions (President, Vice-President, Secretary, and Treasurer).  All other Board positions will become committee chairs.

A lot of change, yes?  But wait, there’s more!

K.R. Bartelheimer, our Treasurer, is going to host a regular write-in every two weeks.  Location and time are currently TBD.  Gordon Kessler, our current Ambassador and founding member of KWA, is going to start an affiliate program in the Kansas City area.  We’re not quite sure what that entails just yet, but we are excited to be able to reach more of Kansas.

We do appreciate your patience as we strive to incorporate these changes, and we look forward to hearing from you.

Keep writing!  Lisette

New for Youth!

I’m happy to announce that our first Annual Youth Contest will begin in just a few short days! You have just enough time to polish them entries and get them ready for entry! We’re accepting entries from May 1- June 1, or until we reach 100 entries. We do have a few things up our sleeves which will be announced shortly. So keep your eyes on this site! As always if you have any questions, please email contest(at)kwawriters(dot)org.

~Samantha LaFantasie, Contest Coordinator

For more information on our contest, visit the Youth Writer Contest tab or click here.

Scene 2013 Conference Fast Approaches

Scene 2013If you missed the KWA meeting in February, HB Berlow–president, fills us in.  Discussing the idea of Writers Conferences, HB pointed out that there are “three primary reasons to go to a writer’s conference: learning, networking, socializing.”

A conference is a great opportunity to learn from other writers, to see what has worked.  Their experiences can provide great insight into what can be a very isolating experiencing.  April Pameticky notes that it was a presentation by Malena Lott at a previous conference that really inspired her to pursue and develop a blog.

A conference can be a great tool for networking as well.  It is recommended to have a business card ready and according to HB, “be prepared to talk about something interesting.”

A conference can also be an excellent opportunity to socialize with other writers.  Who else to better understand the isolating experience of wrestling with our muses than another writer?

The Scene Conference 2013 is uniquely designed to afford writers the chance to rub shoulders and learn from each other.  Interested in learning more?  Visit: https://kwawriters.org/scene/

The Creative Life

This article is part of an ongoing series where we feature the skills and talents of our own KWA Members.  Ann Fell’s work blends seamlessly her own experiences with her creative outpourings.  In the following, she attempts to explain exactly how she does this so effortlessly.  We hope you are as inspired as we were.

The Creative Life

I write my life.  Since the age of ten when I wrote my first story and was instantly hooked,  I have been infected with a mysterious contagion for which there is no cure.   Writing stories, poems, novel manuscripts and memoirs has been part of my life ever since.  Yet I don’t live to write.  I live.  And I write.  I write my life.

Through young adulthood, curiosity led me to question things.  Whether any purposeful meaning existed or not, I asked, “What does this mean?  Why am I here?  What am I to do with my life?”

The search for answers helped sharpen my powers of observation until nearly everything held metaphorical parallels to some facet of the human condition.  I watched a moose lunge exhausted through shoulder-deep snow and I learned the dangers of choosing an easy path.  I stood in a downpour and heard the rain plummet from heaven in one step of the water cycle.  And it spoke to me of cycles in life.  I watched a family of ducks chase madly from one point to another and back again and I saw human fads and opinions mirror the whimsical parade of a flock of ducks.  I watched my best friend waste away in a losing battle with cancer and I understood how the growing demands of humanity sap the vitality of our home planet in a similar fashion.  Meadowlarks leapt into the wind so they might gain lift and fly away.  And I learned I could not hide from life.  I must face my own torrential gale of events if I am ever to find the answers to my questions.  Messages from the universe arrived on the dust of a sun beam and the wings of the wind.  As a writer, my task became one of interpretation, to paint in words the messages which I heard.

Too restless to be able to handle writing at my desk for hours at a time, I discovered that “The Writing Life” was not for me.  Rather, “The Creative Life” seemed a better term.  What is a creative life?  Just as a blank page begs a poet to fill it with thoughts which will touch a heart, or a computer screen winks with invitation to a novelist, a canvas beckons an artist to paint images that will coax emotion from viewers.  A chunk of granite calls a sculptor to release the figure trapped within.  An ordinary scene invites a photographer to transform its image into beauty with a camera lens.  A composer looks at a blank musical score and hears a new symphony.  A plot of land begs management that will develop its natural beauty.  An empty house is an opportunity for unique self-expression.  And the minutes of each new day invite me to follow my heart and fill those minutes well so that at dusk, I can say, “I wrote my life well today.”

To answer the any one of these invitations is to live The Creative Life.  By filling empty spaces with an art form of our passions, we bridge the void from the rest of the universe to the human heart.  So I write my life.  I may take to the Flint Hills of Kansas with my camera strapped to my shoulder.  I may arrange a beautiful melody for the participation and enjoyment of a crowd of people.  Or I may fill empty pages with metaphors.  What emerges is truth.  Or fiction.  Or a combination of both.   After all, someone may need the message delivered on this dawn’s breeze.

  After twenty-five years as a teacher and piano technician, Ann Fell returned in earnest to writing two years ago.  Inspired by her family, nature, music, and pianos, she has published articles in KANSAS!, OURS by adoption, The Piano Technician’s Journal, and various newspapers across the state.  Currently working on a book length memoir and a suspense novel, she received awards in three different categories in the 2011 KWA Writer’s contest with samples from these works-in-progress. 

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Thinking Outside the Box

Last weekend, our monthly KWA meeting was all about Thinking Outside the Box, that pesky thing that tends to place boundaries on how we can be successful.  The following brief synopsis was provided by our own H.B. Berlow, the facilitator for the day’s proceedings.  Be sure to leave a comment below explaining how you’ve been successful thinking outside the box!

Why is it that people tell you not to try something different?   Is it because they think you’ll fail?  Or because what you’re trying to do is just so out of the realm of the usual that it almost doesn’t make sense?

Well, that’s why you’re a writer.  Remember: doing something the same way all the time and expecting different results is crazy.

Looking for an agent used to be as easy as getting the latest copy of the thickest book you could find that listed every agent, editor, and publisher known to mankind. The problem is that once it was printed, it was practically obsolete.  Writer’s Market offers an online service for a monthly fee that is updated regularly. In the Digital Age, that’ called Real Time.

But take it one step further. Figure out what books are similar to yours.  Go on to Amazon.com and look those books up.  There is a section called CUSTOMERS WHO BOUGHT THIS ITEM ALSO BOUGHT.  Now, you have more books similar to yours. A Google search will help identify the agents.

You know you need a platform. So, you start with Facebook, then add a Twitter feed, and ultimately get a Website or a Blog. Independently, they will not draw in as large a crowd as you might think. You have to make sure your Blog posts automatically hit Twitter and get onto Facebook. More importantly, you want to have something to say.

But why just post commentary and profound thoughts? Consider the visual components as a substantial way to impress your targeted audience.  Book trailers are a relatively easy thing to create on your own.  Windows Movie Make, your digital camera, and some creative thought and you have just given your audience a tangible visual.  Or a board on Pinterest with captions from your book. Show them scenes and locations. You might even take a photo of a person that resembles your main character.

The most important thing is that technology does not have to be used in a strict and rigid fashion. A typical household will have computers and digital cameras. From there, the possibilities are endless. As long as you network, keep in touch with other writers, musicians, artists, you will be able to expand beyond the box and even beyond your dreams.

H.B. Berlow studied filmaking and creative writing at the University of Miami in the 1980s and was involved in the Boston Poetry Scene in the mid 90s.  He has been a member of KWA since 2007.  He was recently the featured writer on Keyhole Conversations, Writers Who Cook.  His novels, Kansas Two-Step and Quick, are available at Amazon, Smashwords, and Lulu.  H.B. also blogs at The Tikiman Says

It’s Contest Time!

The following information is provided by Samantha LaFantasie, Contest Chair 2012.  You may email questions to contest@kwawriters.org.

It’s August and that means it’s also contest time! For specific rules and submission information for the KWA Poetry and Prose Contest, click here.

In the meantime, there are a few changes that have come this year—starting with a new Contest Chair: Me [Samantha LaFantasie]. I would like to take some time to go over a few things that you should keep in mind.

First, when considering pieces to enter, we want original, unpublished works. That means we want work never seen or even posted on sites, blogs, fan pages, etc–even if you have a book trailer. The idea behind this is because the fairest way to maintain our contest results is to have blind judging.  Our Judges are drawn from both inside and outside the organization, and we prefer that your work be utterly unfamiliar to them prior to making decisions.  This eliminates any favoritism.

If you announce any part of your project either before or after you submit to our contest, please contact us to withdraw your entry.

Second, I want to announce that we have a category for humor. Got a funny story you want to share with us? Take a chance and send it in! You could win up to $50, give some judges a good laugh, as well as be featured in our KWA Anthology.

Third, I’m looking for volunteers for judging the contest. The more the merrier. Judging won’t start till December 31st (contest close date).  If willing, please email me at contest (at) kwawriters (dot) com . List “Judging” in the subject line of your email.

Finally, don’t forget that the final day to submit entries is December 31st (postmark).  As long as it has the stamp of the 31st on it, I will accept it. All others will be returned. Rewards will be given during the KWA Scene Conference in March.

Good luck and please don’t hesitate to contact me with any questions. Feel free to also visit our contest page for more information regarding entries and guidelines to follow when submitting.

Can You Pitch?

Our July Program on The High Concept Pitch really educated members on the Dos & Don’ts of ‘pitching’ our work to readers, agents, and publishers.  HB Berlow led the program.  Then several participants whipped up their own “pitches” on the spot.

The following excerpt is from HB’s article in the August  KWA newsletter.  For full text, access the newsletter as a PDF by going here.

The primary purpose of the Pitch is to convince somebody of importance that your work is worthwhile.

For the professional Pitch, there should be some basic elements for the potential agent or publisher to be made aware of.

Identify the Genre and the time period, especially if it is not contemporary.

Beyond the conflict/basic story, you have to be able to identify exactly what about your novel is different from others in the same genre. A murder mystery contains a murder and the discovery of the perpetrator. Is your story different because of the “detective” or because of the “murderer?” Is there an element, like illness or familial relation that causes this to be unique? This element is the Hook.

There should also be a Comparative. Show how your work is similar to successful works of your genre. You must be careful not to identify it so closely to that greater work so as to avoid sounding too haughty or egotistical.

Even more difficult is the Elevator or High-Concept Pitch.

Whereas the standard Pitch is three or four paragraphs and closely resembles a query letter, the High-Concept Pitch is everything mentioned above…but in one sentence.

There are two reasons why crafting a Pitch is so important. The obvious is that you may encounter someone who could make your publishing dream come true. That will be a rare opportunity but a golden one as well. Make sure you are ready. Additionally, it will force you to focus on your work, identify its absolute essence. We love our work, as we should. Too often we gush over it until it resembles Niagara Falls. It would be better if it resembled a softly flowing brook.

Finally, be enthusiastic and energetic about your Pitch.  Someone who listens to you and recognizes that YOU are not into it will not be into it EITHER.

Samantha LaFantasie put together a great list of internet resources:

http://www.rachellegardner.com/2011/08/what-is-highconcept/

http://www.writersstore.com/high-concept-defined-onceand-for-allfor-all

http://blog.nathanbransford.com/2010/08/what-highconcept-means.html

 

Is Book Country Really that Helpful?

For about a year now, I’ve been trying to do this online program for critiquing unpublished work. It’s called Book Country under the label of Penguin. This is a program that promises that you’ll get honest and supportive feedback on your current WIPs and maybe even pick up an agent or publishing contract.

If only it were that easy…

I know I’m not a perfect writer, and I don’t know of anyone who is, especially the well-known names. So I already know that my writing is a process, and it will continue to grow and improve as I continue to write. With that being said, I have noticed some things about the Book Country experience.

The problem that I’ve been having so far is there are a couple of people who, no matter what you do, give a near form response for a critique. These formulaic responses can also borderline on the personal. There’s no time limit to give a review, so it can take weeks and months before I receive feedback.

Another issue is the star system that they have to rate books. You can earn anywhere between one and five stars–one being very rough draft, to five, being publish ready. Many WIPs I have read barely made it passed the three star mark and have gone on to earn agents and publishing contracts. The stars don’t reset when you upload a new draft of your work, and I’ve found that many people have voiced their thoughts of not wanting to spend time on a critique if the WIP is less than three stars.

The star system is flawed and the reviews are heavily subjective.

The idea of this concept is appealing, and it seems like a really good way to get eyes on your work and get help on improving your story. But there is always that fine print to look at.

It has come to my attention through a few reputable sites that some major publishing houses and agents won’t look at your work or be able to work with you if your work has been placed on a site like Book Country. This makes this program geared towards those who are looking into self-publishing. Look carefully through the Terms of Service. For more information regarding this, visit The Passive Voice.

So, is the feedback honest and supportive? Maybe. I suppose. But then it’s easy to get caught in a vicious cycle of writing the book to everyone else’s standards than your own. Especially when you get some pretty snarky reviews.

My advice is to join a critique group locally and land a few beta readers. This way, you know you aren’t feeling like you’re in the midst of a competition and belittled by harsh criticism. The people you give your work to are more likely to give you the more supportive side of feedback and tell you how to improve your writing— not insult you. Whereas, Book Country is a glorified program set to bring more traffic to Penguin.

Samantha LaFantasie writes fantasy and is currently working through the revision of her first manuscript, Heartsong.  She’s been a KWA member since 2012 and says, “I love writing. It is therapy for me… I get lost in my writing.” Want to read more from Samantha? Visit her blog.

Updating Member News!

It’s that time of year again!  Our member news and biographies need updates.  If you are new to our association, or if you would like to change your biographical information, then NOW is the time!

You can do this several ways: 

1. You can click on the link below and email a brief biographical statement that includes your genre, your author biography, your website and other digital media contacts (like facebook and twitter), and your writing goals.

secretary@kwawriters.org

2. If for some reason, you can’t get the email tab above to work, simply manually email the above biographical information to secretary@kwawriters.org

3. You may attend the June 16th meeting and fill out an information sheet and submit it to April Pameticky, 2012 Secretary of KWA.

We WANT to hear from our members and share their information in our effort to support and encourage each other!

Writing Marathons

A writer rarely has the opportunity to just wallow in the writing, to enjoy it like chocolate covered strawberries.  Most of us feel obliged to our writing, serving the story or poem, and each effort requires a ‘product,’ an outcome that serves a purpose.  Maybe it will be the next scene or chapter, maybe we’re adding to our chapbook of poetry.

I was recently invited on a Writing Marathon at the Bartlett Arboretum in Belle Plaine.  The experience reminded me to take joy in my writing.

Writing Marathons come in many forms, all with the central tenet just to write in a continuous burst with no censoring or internal critiquing.  Digital forms of this include the writing challenges shared on Twitter, where followers across the country stop, drop, and write for a set time.  At its most extreme form, National Novel Writing Month is a Writing Marathon.

For me, however, getting away from my normal writing workstation can really break down a rut, especially visiting a place as lovely and verdant as the Bartlett Arboretum.  Sitting at my home computer makes me feel like I need to get some ‘work’ done.  And writing doesn’t always have to be ‘work.’

A location Writing Marathon can force me outside of my normal expectations, and can make me open that inner writer’s eye and take note of my surroundings.  I’ve also learned that what at first can seem like a fruitless description on the grassy hillside can later inform my description of setting in my latest Work in Progress.  Rather than squishing me into ‘guilt mode’ for wasting time, Writing Marathons are fun!

The format for a location Writing Marathon is simple.  Start with a group of friends, writing materials (I prefer paper and pen to keep things simple), and a location (I’ve been in both urban settings like Oldtown in Wichita, as well as more ‘natural’ settings).  Then simply follow this form:

10 minutes of continuous writing (actually, all ‘writing time’ is meant to be continuous)
Writers share (this should be done with no feedback from listeners. It’s too easy to slip into critique mode, and this has a tendency to squish the freedom of just writing.  Listeners are encouraged to simply say “Thank you for sharing.”)
15 min write
Share
20 min write
Share
25 (or sometimes 30 min) write
Share

For our particular time at the Bartlett Arboretum, writers brought and enjoyed a picnic lunch after our morning of writing.  It became a wonderful time..  Members agreed to share some of what they wrote.  If you would like to see samples from the participants, visit April in Wichita.  I have found that the seemingly random ramblings of my journal later become diamonds to mine for my own poetry.  But a Writers Marathon isn’t just for poets.  Members of our group included a science fiction writer, an essayist, and a playright.  And the material produce reflected our own media preferences.

Future Writing Marathons will be arranged for this summer.  If KWA members are interested in participating, feel free to contact me at aprilpameticky@hotmail.com.