ON WRITING: CUYAHOGA LIBRARY’S INDIE AUTHOR CON & SHOWCASE–Part II

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My last post concerned the Cuyahoga Library’s Indie Author Con and Showcase on October 13th, but there was way too much information to convey in a single post. So here, as promised, is Part II of my post about the con. Enjoy!

Legal Issues for Self-Published Writers

This segment of the con featured Jacqueline Lipton, founder of Authography: a company dedicated to sustaining authors with legal and other issues. She also teaches writing courses online, writes the Legally Bookish column for the SCBWI bulletin, has received awards for her fiction novels, and holds multiple degrees. Her upcoming book, Law & Authors, will be published in 2019.

“Write what you need to write, and worry about the legal stuff down the track.”

I know many authors worry about the legal ramifications of what they write, because they are afraid of accidentally committing a legal blunder, so this simple piece of advice felt very reassuring. It’s not necessarily that you won’t make mistakes, but that you mustn’t let the fear stop you from creating. If you are worried, you can seek legal advice by having a lawyer look over your work or by using some other legal resource, but the important thing is to not let fear stop you. Fear is the enemy of creativity.

In the interest of passing on some of what Ms. Lipton shared at the conference, I am sharing the photos I took of her slides (with her permission), as well as notes I took of the Question & Answer session afterwards.

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Q&A:

What are the issues using quotations?

–Ms. Lipton explained that much of what you may want to use may be considered Fair Use, but because Fair Use is so uncertain, traditional publishers will want legal permission. This is a site you may consult for more information. authorsalliance.org

What about issues concerning more than one person using the same Pen name? Is it a copyright or trademark issue?

–If you or someone else uses the same pen name, you do not need to do anything. Others may have the same name, but it does not tell you anything about the underlying work. If someone is using your pen name, because they are copying your work, it’s a copyright issue anyway.

What is the definition of a Trademark (in greater detail)?

–Trademark concerns work a particular market (narrowly identified). Ex: The For Dummies series, etc.
Problems occur when you look closely affiliated with the other market. The main question asked concerning Trademark is, How likely would consumers be to mistake one product from the Trademarked product? Ex: orange arches compared to McDonald’s yellow arches for hamburger restaurants.

That completes my summary of last month’s writers’ conference. If you have any particular legal questions, I suggest you consult a lawyer or other official legal resource, but I hope this summary proves useful in a general sense.

I will post again next week, but I also wanted to tell you of an upcoming event. I am very honored to have been invited to participate once again in the Massillon Library Local Author Fair. The Fair takes place on Saturday, November 10th from 11am – 2pm, and features many talented local authors! I will be reading from my work, as well as have a table with some materials from Literary Cleveland to give out. If you are able, please stop by, listen to some cool authors, visit their tables, and maybe pick up a book!

*Permission to post photo of flyer kindly granted by Cuyahoga Library

***permission to summarize this session for the blog kindly granted by Jacqueline Lipton.
**permission to use photos of her slides generously granted by Jacqueline Lipton. The photos themselves were taken by myself.

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ON WRITING: CUYAHOGA LIBRARY’S INDIE AUTHOR CON & SHOWCASE–Part I

Two weeks ago, on the 13th of October, Cuyahoga Library‘s Parma-Snow branch hosted a free Indie Author Con and Showcase. Cuyahoga Library is a pillar of Northeast Ohio’s literary community, with multiple programs and facilities supporting writers and bibliophiles of all stripes. However, I realize not everyone is lucky enough to live within driving distance of this fantastic library system, so I want to share some of the information I took away from its most recent conference. Since there is a lot to convey, I split the information between two posts.

Truly, one of the things I love best about cons is meeting new people with the same interests as myself, as well as reconnecting with others I have not seen for some time. It’s invigorating to be surrounded by creative people, and I always leave more inspired than when I arrived. When the conference started, the first panel of guests were representatives of different local writing organizations. I will link to them below, along with short descriptions.

Find Your Writing Tribe

Sisters in Crime

–This group meets monthly at the Twinsburg Library, primarily for female writers of crime stories, both fiction and non–although male writers are also welcome. They periodically organize field trips for members. In the past, they have visited the Medical Examiner’s Office as well as the Natural History Museum. At meetings they may have guest visitors, such as a poison expert giving a talk or a visit from a cadaver dog. In November, a judge will speak to them about criminal procedure and trials.

Literary Cleveland

–This writers’ organization hosts multiple events, both free and low cost, at various locations throughout the Cleveland area. They have published a chapbook of Cleveland stories, and will take part in the Cleveland Humanities event; they also host members-only mixers, and offer monthly poetry workshops and general writing classes. They also organize a free writers’ conference called INKubator annually at the Cleveland Main Library. Membership is $50 annually.

Skyline Writers

–A writing group that meets monthly at the Parma branch library for kind and helpful feedback. Interested parties can go to one meeting without submitting, then after they may sub a 3,500 word manuscript for critique by the group.

Literary Akron

–Literary Akron is relatively new organization dedicated to promoting writing and appreciation for literary arts in the greater Akron area. They have been working behind the scenes to bolster a number of smaller efforts around town and are planning a formal launch of the organization in early 2019.**

In the meantime, they may be contacted via email at Literary.Akron@gmail.com

Northern Ohio Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators

–This local group aims to support authors and illustrators of children’s books, focusing on community and craft.
Northeast Ohio Romance Writers of America

–This organization requires membership in Romance Writers of America, although interested parties may attend two meetings for free. They meet one Saturday a month year-round (except in July) from 10am – 1pm. Other benefits include online workshops (membership not necessary), a Spring writing contest, and an annual members-only retreat in November.

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Hybrid Authors: Best of Both Worlds
(Mary) Kathleen Glavich & Abby L. Vandiver

This second panel of guests featured two prolific authors kind enough to discuss their personal journeys via combined traditional and self-publishing. While a traditional publisher has more control over content since they are investing financially in the work, self-publishing authors exclusively control their content while assuming any financial risks.

Mary Kathleen Glavich has written over eighty religious books since 1972. While she’s published traditionally–and still does, on one occasion a publisher broke their contract with her; she decided to publish the book herself. She enjoyed the complete editorial control she had over content and cover choices, and has since self-published some of her previously out-of-print books as well.
Abby L. Vandiver has published twenty books in the five years since she began her writing career. She began self-publishing as a way to generate revenue and get her work known, before transitioning to the traditional publishing model. In 2017, she made the Wall Street Journal’s Best Seller List, which attracted both a traditional publisher as well as an agent.

Her first book, however, was a manuscript she had written years earlier, that her daughter found in the garage. When Ms. Vandiver decided to publish, she did not want to go through the process of traditional publishing, including the waiting period for a manuscript to become a published book. She also did not want to spend money for a vanity press. She discovered she could publish her book, without cost to herself, through Amazon.*** The first two months, she had no sales, so she analyzed the best seller list and made some adjustments. Then she sold five books–still without cost to herself. She invested $25 (EREADER NEWS TODAY, now priced higher)for a promotional package, which resulted in selling 525 books!

Every book after that became a best seller in her category, through independent promotions and FaceBook.

Although she started as a self-published author, she was approached by an agent for her second book, and now has traditionally published books as well. She spoke at length about the Amazon publishing model she used, as well as the difference between traditional versus self-publishing.

At this time, Amazon takes about 70% of royalties for discounted books (.99 cent model). However, if the book costs more (not discounted), the model is reversed. Amazon also pays for each page read on borrowed books and lets you sell at your own price, although it does not allow you to publish in other formats. She suggested the discount .99 cent model as a great way for self-publishing authors to market their books, by getting their name out there and read; the discount model can be profitable.

During the Question and Answer session, both authors agreed on the necessity of establishing an author platform through social media and a website. Mary Kathleen Glavich also suggested using other local promotional media such as tv, radio, and newspapers. Abby L. Vandiver suggested promotional FaceBook parties with other authors, Twitter groups, and creating virtual box sets with other writers–utilizing their combined marketing resources. She also advised asking other indie authors for suggestions, as they are generous and love to share their expertise.

Part II of this post involves legal issues for self-published writers and will (hopefully) be up next week. I hope you found this helpful, and–if you don’t already do this–support your local libraries!

*Permission to post photo of flyer kindly granted by Cuyahoga Library

**Description courtesy of Scott Piepho

***I do not know if this Amazon publishing model is still current. I would suggest further investigation if you are interested.

POEM: Elegy for the Circus

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“ELEGY FOR THE CIRCUS”

 

No more clowns, corpse-white skin,

blackened eyes, and red leaking lips,

to frighten infants with ludicrous stunts

and thickly painted cracked faces

 

No more weeping elephants, tears cutting lines in rough skin

No more grey-skinned babes separated from mourning mothers

 

No more tigers pacing cages too small for predators meant to run,

to race, to track down prey, to rip flesh between their teeth

 

No more lions teased with the heads of their masters

thrust into hungry mouths, teased with the illusion

of freedom and a hot meal with a beating heart

 

No more X-square feet per animal, less than zoo standards,

less than any wild beast was meant to live in, to pace in, to die in,

 

No more creatures forced to perform

before children dripping ice cream and disinterest

 

 

 

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For those of you fortunate enough to live in Northeast Ohio, there are two writing events tomorrow (October 13th) in the Cleveland area.

Literary Cleveland’s October Poetry workshop takes place from 10:30-12:30 at the Cleveland Main Library, led by poet Kisha Nicole Foster.

Indie Author Conference and Showcase takes place from 10am- 4pm at the Cuyahoga County Library’s Parma-Snow branch.

Both events are free, which is INCREDIBLE. I’ve attended both events at different times in the past and readily vouch for how inspiring and helpful both are. Unfortunately, they overlap, so you will need to choose which event you want to attend this year.

If you can take advantage of these events, please do so. They are well worth the drive!

 

*It should come as no surprise that I’m not a fan of circuses, and so this prompt from last year’s National Poetry Writing Month really inspired me.

**image courtesy of PublicDomainPictures.net via Creative Commons License

CURRENT EVENTS: NE Ohio Writing Events and Groups

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Since I am lucky enough to live in the literary-friendly state of Ohio, I have access to an abundance of writing groups, open mic events, workshops, and free writing cons. For those of you who may be in the area, I’ve compiled a short list of things you may be interested in. Unless otherwise indicated, all of them are free. You’re welcome.

Saturday, June 9th is Literary Cleveland’s poetry workshop from 1030am-1230pm at the Cleveland Main Library. This event takes place the second Saturday of each month. Bring 10-15 copies of your work to share if you would like feedback (if you only have one copy, the library will print copies for you). You are also welcome to just observe. I always learn something when I attend, though unfortunately this month I won’t make it to Cleveland.

Wednesday, June 20th is Latitudes Open Mic (poetry) from 7pm-9pm at Compass Coffee in Akron. Latitudes meets once a month. Organized by Stephen and Theresa Brightman, the featured reading will be by Greg Milo, author of Rebooting Social Studies, followed by an open mic.

Thursday, June 21st is Ekphrastic Poetry from 5pm-8pm at Bluff Blue Door Gallery in Akron. I’m not sure what this event will be exactly, but the featured poet is Stephen Brightman. I recently attended an Ekphrastic poetry event featuring his poems as reactions to the Jun Kaneko exhibit at the Akron Art Museum; it was amazing. So I’m sure this event will be fantastic as well!

Thursday, June 28th is when The Write Stuff meets from 6pm-8pm at the North Canton Public Library. This writing group meets on the fourth Thursday of every month. Their expressed purpose is helping local writers grow in the craft by offering feedback on shared work as well as sharing experiences with each other. They frequently hang out at T.D. Tailgate Grill afterwards for general chitchat and snacking.

Friday, June 29th is Poetry Night from 6pm-9pm at the Akron Nervous Dog. This event takes place on the last Friday of each month. The poets are scheduled ahead of time; it’s not open mic, but it’s always a lot of fun. Plus they make great (vegan version) London Fogs.

In August

Saturday, August 4th is the free INKubator Con from Lit Cleveland from 830am-5pm at the Cleveland Main Library. They usually have an open mic event either during lunch or after the con. You should register for the con ahead of time by going to the website for Lit Cle and clicking on the event.

Also for most of June and July I’ll be at the Ohio Shakespeare Festival on Friday nights. Volunteering to help with something you love is always rewarding, even if you are just handing out flyers or ushering people to their seats, but as an extra added bonus you can stay after for the show! Ohio Shakespeare Festival performs at Stan Hywet Hall and Gardens during the Summer and at Greystone Hall during the other parts of the year. They are an amazing local professional group of actors, and you should definitely go see them!

I also suggest you visit the page for the Writing Knights writing group and press. They have multiple events every month, so it always pays to check them out!

I will continue my weekly post for a couple more weeks, as I do penance for my abysmally late post about the Western Reserve Writers’ Con last month. What can I say? My transgression has brought out the lapsed Catholic in me. Until next Friday, have a lovely week!

 

ON WRITING: The 35th Annual Western Reserve Writers’ Conference

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Last month, I was lucky enough to attend yet another free writers’ con in the literary-friendly state of Ohio! The South-Euclid Lynhurst branch of Cuyahoga library hosted the event, organized by the talented and lovely author Deanna Adams. Although free, registration was required, and as part of that registration participants were entered into a drawing for a free critique. There were several winners…myself included! But I will get more into that later.

As someone who takes advantage of the literary bounty that is Ohio, I try to volunteer to help out when I can. So on Saturday, April 28th I showed up early to help set up. There really wasn’t much for me to do, as most of the preparation was done ahead of time. So I handed out pamphlets, along with a fellow volunteer, and directed participants to the free pencils, name tags, and complimentary breakfast goodies. One of the nice things about volunteering to help out with something you love, besides the joy of feeling like you are giving back, is that you get to hang out with other people who are passionate about the same things you are. So I was thrilled to discover several writers that I admired had decided to attend after all. It just made me happy.

Once people had settled into the big meeting room, there was a Welcome to the Conference overview, followed by the keynote speech given by literary agent Elizabeth Kaplan. Soon after, everyone went to different rooms depending on which sessions they were interested in. I stayed in the “big room” for The Seven Universal Plots talk by Claire McMillan. I had heard of similar theories about storytelling before, but I wasn’t familiar with the details. It was really interesting.

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Then it was time to go to my personal editing session! The only problem was that this year I had a poetry collection, not a prose manuscript. So a few weeks earlier, instead of submitting x-amount of pages from a current manuscript, I asked for help with my organization of the collection. The lovely Laura Walter agreed, and I must say her input was fantastic. I am a firm believer in the value of feedback and good beta readers. However, writers groups are good for general feedback, and beta readers are usually reserved for when a work is finished or mostly finished. I think the more feedback you get, the better, and while family and friends may want to help, you can’t always trust them to be honest since they may try to spare your feelings. A professional look at your work is invaluable.

Next I attended the presentation by Jacqueline Marino: Writing the Personal Essay. She gave a talk on how to use pictures and photographs to create something personal with tension. Photos of people in motion, doing something, were encouraged. Then we completed a short writing assignment, which some people chose to share. I was inspired by how so many created moving first drafts in such a short amount of time.

After lunch, which I brought from home and during which I met some interesting people, there was a first page critique in the main meeting room. Three panelists–literary agent Elizabeth Kaplan, author Claire McMillan, and Rene’e Rosen– listened as the first pages of various manuscripts were read. They would raise a hand to indicate where they would stop reading and then give feedback about why, what worked for them, and what didn’t.

After a short break, I attended the last breakout session. The last presentation I attended was 15 Tips for Writing a Play by Kelly Boyer Sagert. It was interesting, though not what I expected. I thought it would be about the technical aspects of writing a script, but it was more about ideas and examples of how the presenter came to create and sell her work.

Other than the actual presentations, the best part of the con was being around other writers. Not only did I reconnect with old friends, but I met new ones that I hope to see for years to come. Also, there’s so much inspiration simply from being with creative people, I can’t help but soak up all that energy and creativity. It’s invigorating!

While there were many more workshops and classes available than I could attend in the time allowed, I hope this short summary of events helps you and hopefully encourages you to attend the next conference.  Who knows? Maybe I’ll see you there!

*My sincere apologies for the lateness of this post. Life intervened–along with technical difficulties, but I will endeavour to create additional content in the next few weeks to make up for my tardiness. Thank you for your patience and understanding.

Current Events: New Year’s Resolutions for 2018!

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I know you must be weary of reading other people’s resolutions for the new year. They are inherently selfish posts aimed not at you–the reader, but rather written for the benefit of the author: a public affirmation of their intentions for the new year. There’s something special that happens in a person’s brain when they write their goals down. The act of writing makes the idea concrete and mandatory. Combine that with the possibility of public accountability, and you have a recipe for (at least some measure of) success.

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So, in the tradition of utterly selfish writing, I am announcing my goals for the coming year. In the spirit of honesty and accountability, I did not accomplish all my goals this past year–mainly getting a literary agent. I did accomplish others though–such as reading more non fiction and poetry. I had a table and read at a local author convention, and by preparing and printing my own materials to sell I discovered I loved publishing my own work. It was empowering. Can you guess what my New Year’s Resolutions are for this coming year?

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1. Publish a book.
I want to publish my work. Although I have blogged and written for the past ten years, I have yet to publish a complete book. I still have my unpublished science-fiction manuscript, which I honestly love and think is pretty damn good. However, I am more heavily into poetry at the moment, and I still write quite a bit of flash fiction. I have a backlog of stories and poems, so I’m not sure if I want my first published book to be the novel or a collection of my shorter works. I may do both.

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I’ve considered ordering a small amount of print books (to sell in person), as well as making the work available by POD or as an ebook. My local library also has options to publish for free (Self-e), although I doubt that would give me print options. I’m also still open to the traditional publishing route, but, in the meantime, I am working toward self-publishing. Either way, I’m getting at least one book out this year.

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2. Market my book.
I’ve already worked on my “brand” this past year by setting up a more professional author site, as well as matching social media accounts and even business cards. I generally try to attend as many writing conferences and workshops as possible, although this year I was sadly unable to make some of them due to a family emergency. My writing blog is informal, but my author site functions as a resume with sample writing for prospective publishers.

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So when I say “Market my work” I’m talking about marketing the book I plan to publish this year–which will involve public appearances. I’m extremely nervous when speaking in public, so this is something I’ve been working to overcome for awhile. Hopefully, I will improve with practice.

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3. Learn to make one origami form with a dollar bill.
I know this one has nothing to do with writing, but I’m terrible at origami. It’s something I’ve wanted to learn for awhile. I don’t need to learn a bunch of complicated forms, just a simple one that I can do well. I want to do it with dollar bills because I can use it for a craftivism project involving play money. Also, if I leave a tip with paper money, it might be cute.

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I’d love to hear what your resolutions are, if any, for the year 2018! If you’d like to share, please let me know in the comments below. And Happy New Year!
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**due to the holidays, my posts will be scheduled slightly off from the normal two weeks. My apologies. Happy holidays!

 

National Novel Writing Month: Prep is KEY (unless you don’t have time)

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Each November begins the literary mayhem known internationally as National Novel Writing Month–affectionately referred to as NaNoWriMo. Aspiring novelists throughout the world take the challenge to write a 50,000 word rough draft novel. The rules are simple: you can’t start the actual prose before midnight on the first of the month; you must finish by midnight on the thirtieth; and the plot should have a beginning, middle, and end.  Of course, you could always participate as a NaNoWriMo Rebel, which lots of people do, in order to ride the creative energy of all the writers working through November.

All you need to do is sign up to be a participant at the NaNoWriMo site and enter your wordcount each day. In return, you get access to chatrooms, fun writing tools to keep track of your word count and how close you are to your goal, and (if you “win”) some prizes donated by site sponsors! One of the prizes this year is three months of free Evernote!

So, you could be a plotter (someone who likes to plan out their novel) or a pantser (someone who writes without an outline–seat of the pants) or someone firmly in the middle. I tend to like a loose outline so I don’t lose track of where I’m going, but there’s no firm rule. Just do whatever works for you.

And remember, the goal is to write a ROUGH DRAFT NOVEL. So the main goal is QUANTITY over QUALITY. After all, the idea is to stop procrastinating whatever story you want to write and just get it down, because you can’t edit a blank page. Editing is for AFTER November. So give yourself permission to write badly, let loose those creative spider monkeys, and see what they turn up!

Every year I have participated, I have completed my goal, so I thought I would share my strategy. It might work for you. If it doesn’t, feel free to do your own thing!

  1. Plan out your daily wordcount goal.  There are thirty days in November, but I know that it’s much harder for me to write on weekends than weekdays, so I plan to write only on weekdays. This translates to writing 2,300 words each weekday (instead of 1,667 every single day). This way, if I get sick or fall behind, I have a nice buffer; plus anything I write on weekends is a bonus! I plan to write every day, but it’s nice to have a break when/if I need one.
  2. Back up your writing OFTEN, at least once a day. You can do this by copying and pasting into emails or saving on two different online places; I use Evernote and GDocs. Some people even write their novels out by hand or print each night. Whatever works best for you is the right thing.
  3. Have an outline. I’m not talking about a huge deal, just maybe a sentence for each chapter you plan to write. I usually plan one thing for each day I’m writing. This year, there are twenty-two weekdays so I am creating a loose outline with twenty-two bullet points. I have a beginning, put something in the middle, and the end, and then I fill in the points between.
  4. Don’t be married to the outline. Be prepared to shift your goal as your characters and plot do things you didn’t expect. You can always tweak the outline and make small notes so you don’t forget important plot points, but really–just have fun with it. Being surprised by what your brain puts on the page is half the fun!
  5. Learn to be okay with writing badly. Hemingway said that the first draft of anything is shit. That said, this is only a first draft. If you love it, you can edit it AFTER November. If you don’t, maybe you can salvage something from it for other stories. No matter what happens, you’ve stirred up your creative juices, and that’s a GOOD thing!

Have fun this month, and happy noveling! If you want to follow my progress and be writing buddies on the NaNoWriMo site, my alias is ganymeder. Good luck!