A Galaxy Far, Far Away By Pamela S. Thibodeaux

It’s a whole new planet, an odyssey where you’ll discover creative and wondrous things, an adventure weaved amongst dreams and reality, a journey into the unknown, the unfamiliar, the exciting.

It’s the world of a writer’s conference!

Some of you understand what I’m saying, some of you think I’m nuts and some of you will get the fever to attend one of these from reading this article. I say GO FOR IT! It is one of the most stimulating things you will do for yourself and your career. Many writers feel they are not ready or far enough along in their career to attend, but I’m telling you, if you can, GO.

Some of you feel they are too expensive…and many are, but don’t think of it as an expensive mini-vacation, though vacation is an oxymoron since you will be meeting people, networking, learning, sharing what you know…there’s hardly much time to rest! Think of it as an investment in your career, an investment in yourself, sowing seeds of learning that will one day produce a great harvest of talent, experience, knowledge and, hopefully, sales of your own work. And remember, the expenses are tax deductible.

The Golden Triangle Writer’s Guild conference held Oct. 18-21 in Beaumont, Texas was the most exhilarating event I’ve attended to date. Of course, I had only attended 3 conferences in the last 10 years before this one. Don’t misunderstand me, all of them were wonderful but this one topped the charts for me. Maybe it was the length of the conference, the variety of workshops, the various people, perhaps the autograph party and the fact that there was a book room where attending authors’ books were sold during the entire conference (and by the grace of God I happened to be one of them). Heck, maybe it was just time for me to get away from everything I hold near and dear and enjoy myself, just for me. My husband, parents and children showed up to surprise me on Sat. evening and all got a kick out of watching me interact with the other attendees.

It is a wonderful and exciting time for writers in various stages of their career to share experiences and occasionally just talk with others who understand the pressures, pleasures, pain and sometimes plain, unadulterated craziness that accompanies the mixed blessing of a creative imagination. What’s even better is that you can talk with authors, editors and agents and they all know where you’re coming from. They understand as no other human being does (except another writer of course). They’ve been there, done that and many times will help you even when unaware that they’re helping!

Now that I’ve shared with you some of the excitement of the conference, let me share some of the lessons I learned.

Marcia Preston, Editor of ByLine Magazine (a magazine for writers) shared with us the 5 C’s to structuring fiction short stories: Character, Conflict, Complications, Climax, Conclusion. Ms. Preston elaborated on these topics to give us a better understanding each. She also touched on tips for writing short stories such as; limit of time, space, background, action (must hook the reader immediately!), dialogue, pov, show don’t tell. Sound familiar? Basically, the same steps that apply in novel writing can be used in writing a short story -or vise-versa- only in condensed form (usually less than 4,000 words). Check out ByLine @ www.bylinemag.com it is an enlightening and informative magazine!

Multi-published author Robert “Dick” Vaughn touched on overcoming writers block and building characterization. He gave us 5 sure-fire ways to stop the block (or as some might say, entice the muse). 1). Rewrite yesterdays work. 2). Prevent WB from setting in…if it’s been a while go back to the last thing you wrote. 3). Don’t write in a linear fashion…one chapter at a time. If you’re working on one chapter and a scene or idea for some incident later on in the book is bothering you, write it! He compared this idea to a cross word puzzle…once you have enough words (scenes) filled in all around, some will just fall into place. 5). Unlock the creative process by writing something, anything! Go back to your earliest memory and write it. This is an exercise to stimulate your creative energies so that you can focus on your story once again.

If you’re having trouble coming up with a new idea, Mr. Vaughn gave us an exercise to get started: Make a chart 6x6x6; 6 names (3 male, 3 female), 6 geographic locations, 6 occupations then make connections between the names, locations and occupations. He suggested you give these some thought and be creative. Give them flair but not too exotic. Interesting names and exciting locations mixed with fascinating occupations and you have dynamite characters. Once you know who your characters are then you can start writing their story. He reminded us that your book is a series of incidents that your characters react to and all you have to do is record their reactions. Your characters need (and should have) control of their destiny to a certain degree. However, if they insist on flying way off course…well, you can always kill them off and start over. :)

And the Agents Said….
The agents shared with us the various genres they represent as well as giving some very sound advice to unagented authors. The advice ranged from never pay an agent (remember if he/she is any good they will not need upfront fees) to how to get started or get by without an agent and how to determine if an agent is right for you. Each shared their own experiences as well as ideas on how to best present your work to them either in a relaxed, informal setting (such as a conference) or on paper. All of them advised authors to check with AAR (Association of Authors Representatives) regarding the status/reputation of any agent you are interested in or are talking to. You can do this by visiting the website at: www.aar.online.org.

Dynamic and dazzling, Evan Fogleman advised us that a good agent will focus on three aspects of your career: Editorial contact, Business development and Career development and that, as authors, we should focus on these also. His agency handles most fiction, some non-fiction (especially geared to the women’s market) but no poetry, westerns or children’s books. They accept email queries. For more info visit the site at: www.Fogelman.com, or email foglit@aol.com orinfo@fogleman.com.

Lively and professional, Kim Leak, also an agent in the Fogleman Agency spoke briefly about some do’s and don’ts of approaching an agent. Example, don’t query on loose-leaf paper in long-hand and do be professional at all times!

Down-home and charming, Bob (Robby) Robison was a real treat. His greatest piece of advice was to Use Common Sense! He suggested that we try and write something different and unique “where no one else has been digging for gold” and that we try and think ahead of the publishers. He said we should make sure both our work and ourselves are ready. In other words, have it complete, believe in it and promote it (and yourself) in every area you can! He handles a variety of work except poetry and children’s books and accepts submissions containing a synopsis (1-1 &1/2 pgs), the 1st 100 pgs of your ms, author bio and (always) SASE. Contact him at: Bob Robison & Associates, Literary Agent 2977 Nautilus Dr. Nashville, TN 37217.

Gracious and kind, Katharine Sands of the Sarah Jane Freyman Agency in New York (Contact Info: 59 W. 71st Street, New York, NY, 10023) informed us that her agency is known as a “boutique” agency, meaning they only represent writers not like others who may also represent actors, sports figures, etc. She suggested that your query should contain the 5 most interesting things about you and your work and should answer the question as to why the world needs this book. For example, if you write legal thrillers you may say something like “readers who enjoy John Grisham will love my book because….” But remember, show passion for your work in the shortest time possible (2 or 3 sentences!) She also said that most agents don’t mind multiple submissions because they are all looking for new writers and if one agent shows an interest in your work, don’t be afraid to tell the one you’d prefer working with that “so-and-so” is interested also. However don’t do this just to get their attention. AAR agents are an intimate group and almost always talk to each other. Remember finding that next best-selling author is how they make their living!

Of course, I can only share with you what I learned in the workshops I attended. There were a variety of workshops for all kinds of writers (script, playwrights, poets, romance, mystery) covering a multitude of subjects (synopsis, research, plotting, collaborating, dialogue, heroes, POV). You name it and you could very likely attend a work shop on it!

As wonderful as the work shops were, what was even more beneficial were the times between workshops and the late night chats with other writers; laughing, talking, sharing dreams and ideas. This alone makes it all worthwhile! For me, one of the greatest things about a writers conference is the resulting motivation. Nearly everyone I talked to was anxious to get home and get writing. It was a wonderful and enlightening time. I’m grateful to GTWG for hosting it and hope to attend again next year!


Author Bio: Born May 19, 1961, Pamela Thibodeaux is the mother of four children (two by blood and two by marriage) ranging in ages from 17 to 22. She works part time as a full-charge bookkeeper.

Pamela has been writing for several years and is a member of Coeur de Louisiane and RWA. As a member of Coeur, she won the 1999 “Diamond In The Rough” award, the “Ruby” award in 2000, and is currently serving as Contest Chair and Publicity Coordinator for the organization.

Pamela has a short story Angel of the Day (November 2000) and an Inspirational Article entitled: Perfect Love (Feb. 2001) published in The Romantic Bower Ezine at: www.theromanticbower.com. Pamela has also written a novel, ‘Tempered Hearts’ published by Writers Exchange Epublishing.

If you would like to send us an article, email: beth@author-network.com

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