Writing Events

Book Writing Webinar

Guys, a quick heads up.  Jeffrey Davis is doing a webinar about writing a book on Wednesday and there are only 50 spots available. So if you're at all interested, get on it.

Here are the details:

THE BOOK DIAMOND: The 4 Essential Elements to Create a Book That Matters

A free webinar with Jeffrey Davis

Wednesday, March 26, 2014 Noon-1:30 pm EST

There's room for only 50 people.

Register here now.

Jeffrey is doing this webinar as an introduction to his upcoming Your Captivating Book Mentorship Program which I am promoting. You're going to be hearing more about this program from me in the upcoming weeks and I want to tell you why I've chosen to promote it.

1.  Most importantly, because Jeffrey is a writer, creative consultant, and knowledgable person about all aspects of writing and the publishing industry.  He holds the creative process in profound awe and communicates that reverence to everything he does.  Jeffrey is a man of passion and integrity, two of my highest values.

2. I'm rethinking and changing the way I do things.  It is not at all clear yet what that will look like (though rest assured this blog is not going anywhere), but for now I am not planning to offer any classes or programs until next fall at the earliest(I do still offer one-on-one services).  So when Jeffrey invited me to promote his program, I leapt at the chance.  It's a way to offer you guys group mentorship with a friend I deeply believe in.

Your best intro to Jeffrey is to grab a spot on this webinar.  Look for his guest post soon, but in the meantime, you might want to sign up to hear more about him.

And have a great weekend.

Report From AWP 2014

If you were on Twitter this weekend, you probably saw #AWP14 trending.  If you were on Facebook, you no doubt noticed a lot of photos from Seattle (the Space Needle! Chihuly Glass! Pike Place Market!) and people quoting various writers.  And if you read last week's newsletter/most recent post, you know that I was one of the many writers who attended three full days of panels, readings and an enormous bookfair at AWP in Seattle.

When I say many, I mean many.  I heard estimates between 11,000 and 13,000.  The official AWP website says "over 10,00" and also that it is the largest literary conference in North America.

I believe it.  Events were held at the Sheraton (the official conference hotel, where I stayed, one of a gazillion hotels that housed us), the huge convention center and the convention center annex.  I've never been on so many escalators in my life.  There are events all day long and into the evening at these venues, as well as numerous off-site parties, readings, and get-togethers at night.

AWP stands for Association of Writers and Writing Programs, and the organization is comprised of 50,000 writers, 500 college and university programs, and 125 writers' conferences and centers.  (I'm quoting from the website.)  Many of these programs and centers exhibit at the conference, along with numerous literary journals and small presses.  The Bookfair is unbelievably huge and I've learned over the years not to buy or collect too much, or the tote bag you get upon picking up your badge will not fit in your luggage for the return trip home.

The schedule features panels, readings and, if you're a really big author, an interview or discussion about your work.  But most of the day is taken up by panels of three or four writers plus a moderator. Any member can submit a panel (I've got a group in discussion about submitting for next year and have been on a panel in the past).  The subjects vary wildly, from topics on craft, to pedagogy, to trends in publishing, to information on how to create a winning reading.  Anything related to literature might find a home on an AWP panel.  As a wild guess, I'd say there are upwards of 30 panels and readings at each time slot during the day, of which there are six, and then there are two time slots for readings in the evening as well.  The selection is, to be honest, overwhelming. And it's a crap shoot as well, with the panels varying widely in quality (which is why there's no stigma attached to arriving or leaving in the middle of a presentation).

AWP is about as literary a conference as you're going to get.  (Some might same that a few panels even lean toward the arcane.)  You don't attend expecting to hear the latest bestselling romance author speak, that's for sure.  And it is a stronghold of writers from traditional university programs with legacy publishing house contracts.  Which is why it was so interesting to me to see Amazon all over the place–as sponsor, exhibitor, and host of two panels.  Indeed, Jon Fine, director of author and publishing relations at Amazon, joked that he used to feel he should wear a Kevlar vest to protect himself at such events, though things have changed in the last year or so. (I meant to write more about these panels in this post but since it is already getting so long I will save that info for another day.)

I gotta say, being around this many people for several days is wonderful–and also a bit much.  I think of myself as a balance between introvert and extrovert.  I crave time alone spent writing, but at the end of the day, I'm ready for human contact.  This year at AWP, I realized that maybe I'm more on the introverted scale than I thought.  I'm actually very outgoing and easily strike up conversations with strangers. But, after a couple of panels and a stroll through the bookfair, I needed to go back to my hotel and get some downtime.

A non-writing friend asked me if I was meeting new people.  Yes, and no.  Mostly I hung out with my dear friend Diana, which was the best treat ever.  (She has an amazing new book of poems just out called Lust, which I highly recommend.)  Diana's son Josh runs a hip literary journal called The Newer York Press and it was fun to meet him and the people who work with him.  I reconnected with old friends from my MFA days and that is always a pleasure. I had some entertaining brief chats with other writers. But the conference is so big and overwhelming that it is not conducive to meeting new folks. (The place where I did meet people was on the train.  My seatmate on the way up was also attending AWP so we chatted happily off and on from Portland to Seattle, and the woman I shared a cab with from the station to the hotel was also from Portland.  Turns out we are pretty sure we used to know each other when we were both active with a local writing group.)

To me, attending AWP is acknowledgment that there is a huge like-minded community out there that cares about the same things that I do.  It's fun to wander around town and see other people with the tell-tale lime-green lanyard attached to their badge and feel a connection.  It's thrilling to walk the street from the hotel to the convention center in a throng of writers.  It's amazing to come home with your head buzzing from all the information it has just absorbed–and also to feel energized and excited about the possibilities for putting words on the page.

So, if you get the chance, attend AWP some time.  You don't have to be affiliated with any university or writing program, all you have to be is interested in writing.  Next year the conference will be in Minneapolis in April.  I'm pretty sure I'll be there!

What's your favorite writing conference?  Do you make it a point to attend conferences regularly?

Freelance Writing, A New Publishing Model, and Haiku (Or, What I Learned in Nashville)

VanderbiltYesterday I wrote a post about my adventures in Nashville.  Today, I'm writing about what you really want to know more on, some of the writing activities I partook of.  Wait, that's a poorly constructed sentence, with that dangling participle.  Today, I'm writing about the writing activities about which you want to learn more.  Technically correct, but a bit high-faluting.  Well, let's just get to it.

The Writer's Loft

To refresh your memory, I travel to Nashville twice a year, in September and January, to participate in the certificate writing program sponsored by Middle Tennessee State University, the Writer's Loft.  It's a program modeled on the brief-residency MFAs that are so popular now, and in the words of the Loft's founder, Roy Burkhead, it's "MFA lite." (By the way, Roy's editing a cool literary magazine that I contribute to called 2nd and Church–check it out.)The program offers weekend orientations during which students hear lectures and workshops on all aspects of writing, and meet with their mentors after which, students go forth and do what they should be doing–write.

This year, I presented a lecture at the Loft on Scene and Structure, a variation on one of the sessions of my Get Your Novel Written Now class.  It was an information dense hour and a half, let me just say, so much so that I feared my student's heads might explode.  They graciously refrained from allowing this to happen, however.  I also sat in on a variety of other presentations, two in particular that I want to highlight here.

Freelance Writing

Writer Jennifer Chesak spoke on freelance writing and got me all inspired about it again.  She went through the basics of getting started, establishing relationships with editors, and so on.  Jennifer recommends starting with querying on small articles that would go in the news sections at the front of magazines and working your way up.  When I graduated from journalism school a gazillion years ago, I got married and had babies right away and so working at a newspaper was something that never happened for me.  But I did begin free-lancing and did it off and on for years, until I went back to school for my MFA and began doing more teaching and coaching.  But listening to Jennifer made me want to have another go at it, so I'm now on the lookout for ideas. 

A New Publishing Model

VPWebsiteBannerClassic-600x230Jennifer has also begun an innovative publishing company that intrigues me. It's called Wandering in the Words Press and here's how it works: it's submission-based, so you submit your work and go through a vetting process.  When Jennifer selects your novel or memoir for publication, you pay her for the editing process, either upfront, or through your royalties.  She not only edits, but creates you a website, and assists with marketing.  And the royalties are good–50%.  This is a very similar arrangement to my publisher, Vagabondage, though I didn't pay any fees to them for editing or anything else.  What I like about it is that you get all the benefits of indie publishing but there's still some quality control, which is often lacking in self publishing.  It's worth checking out.


Another one of the workshops which captured my attention was Aaron Shapiro's on writing Haiku.  He went through the rules of writing Haiku, gave us some visual prompts and let us have at it.  Okay, okay, if you insist, I'll share my brilliance with you:

Past his given time

Fading days of a short life

A bee in winter.

This was my ode to the bee that appeared in my Portland bathroom at 4 AM as I was getting ready to catch my plane to Nashville.  What I liked about the Haiku writing was the idea that you could play around with it as a warm-up to writing.  Or when you're blocked, or don't know what to write but want to write something.

So that was what I learned in Nashville.  But I also want to give a shout-out to the Living Writer's Collective, this amazing group of writers in Spring Hill, about a half-hour away from Nashville (in which direction, I'm still not entirely certain).  I had the great good fortune to speak to them on Thursday night before the Loft orientation began and I loved it.  What a great group of writers–not a wanna-be in the bunch.  All of them, as far as I could tell, were actually engaged in the work of putting words on the page.  They were a friendly and welcoming group, also, and if you live in the area, check them out.  Thanks, guys, for having me!

And I think that is quite enough from me for the moment.  What have you learned of heard or read about writing lately?  Comment, please.


The top image is one I took on the Vanderbilt campus, which is serving as a stand-in for MTSU.  They are two very different beasts, but oh well.

I snitched the Vagabondage Press image for the website.

The bee is by Mordac.

Stop the Starving Artist Syndrome: Transforming Your Money Story Free Class

Have you ever said (to yourself or someone else) any of the following?

* You've got to be really lucky to succeed as a writer or artist or creative person

* I'll starve if I rely on my income from my creativity

* I'm too tired (old, ugly, stupid, fat, uneducated…) to do what I really love and succeed

* Everybody knows you can't make money as a creative person

* Being creative is just plain hard, and of course you can't make any money at it

Just about every creative person we know struggles with internal dialogue that constantly parrots these thoughts. But guess what? These thoughts are just your story. Nothing more.

And guess what else? This story isn't even true! You've just held onto it for so long that you've come to belief in it. Learn how to change your story into a vibrant, abundant one in our upcoming FREE teleclass!  Announcing:

Stop the Starving Artist Syndrome: Transforming Your Money Story.  A FREE 90-minute content-rich teleclass.

Join me and Gwen Orwiler from Your Strongest Life for this free online class this Saturday.

October 22nd, 11 AM, Pacific time/ 12 noon Mountain/1PM Central/2pm Eastern time

Registration is simple, just email me at charlotte@charlotterainsdixon.com and I'll send you the call-in information.

Note: By registering for this call, you are agreeing to receive information from both Charlotte and Gwen. In other words, you're opting into our lists, both of which are chockfull of fabulous information to help you live a fantastic life.

And even if you're already on my list, email me so I can send you the call-in info, okay?  It's going to be a fabulous call with lots of great information.

Writing=Creativity=Play (A Post That Might Make You Nervous)

Dream_feather_blue_266249_l At the fall orientation for the Loft, author Debra Moffitt (Awake in the World) did the keynote speech, which was really a workshop, and a presentation the following day.

She began with a meditation designed to take us into our “secret garden,” the place of sanctuary for our spirit and creativity.  And after we had visited, she passed out boxes of crayons and had us draw one aspect of our garden and share it with another person.

I liked the whole secret garden thing.  Mine was actually in a glorious cathedral with beautiful stained glass windows and just as we finished up the meditation, a man swathed in a royal robe with an amazing velvet hat of many colors glided up to me.  Alas, I didn’t get to hear what he had to say, as the meditation was over.

Debra also talked about the value of using dreams, and gave us a few clues on how to remember them:

  • Keep a pad of paper and pen by your bed
  • Write about the dream as soon as you wake up
  • Write in the present
  • Give the dream a title
  • You can ask a question and put it under your pillow to induce an answer

The whole idea of accessing my dream life fascinates me, and I’m terrible at it.  I rarely write down my dreams and, no big surprise, also rarely remember them.  Do you?

And now for the part that will make you nervous: Debra talked a lot about the value of play.  It can activate our right brains and heighten our creativity.  Hence, the crayons.  And yet play makes us nervous.  So nervous it has become nearly a radical activity in our society.   We’re obsessed with work.  And control.  And getting things done.  And sticking to a schedule.  Who has time for play?

I have to admit, I have a hard time with it.  I’ll do “playful” activities but they generally have a purpose: knitting, which makes useful things, hiking, which is exercise, gardening, which makes a pretty yard.  I like to paint, and yet I rarely do it.  Too close to play, I suppose.

It was interesting to watch the reactions of some of the workshop participants.  They were uncomfortable with the idea and in some cases, outright resistant to it.  I get it.  I felt somewhat the same way.  And yet there’s value in the idea of play.

What about you?  Does working with your dreams or engaging in play appeal to you?  And here’s a deeper question: would you do it just for sake of it, without knowing it would help your creativity?

*Don’t forget to capture your dream of writing a book by signing up for my free Ebook, Jump Start Your Book With a Vision Board.  You’ll also receive a subscription to my biweekly newsletter, The Abundant Writer.  The form is to the right of this post.

Image of dreamcatcher by aschaeffer.http://www.everystockphoto.com/photographer.php?photographer_id=46425

The Wonder of a Writing Retreat

LetsGoWrite_logo Writing retreats and workshops have been much on my mind lately, for several reasons:

1.  I've been running around like a nut job, working on classes, coaching, traveling and other fun things.

2.  Among the "other fun things" noted in #1, I've been planning my first week-long retreat/workshop with my biz partner, Debbie Guyol. (Note spiffy logo to the left.)

3.  Doing all of the above has not left me much time to write.

And, let me just tell you in all confidence that the result of #3 is a cranky Charlotte.  A cranky Charlotte who is desperately seeking ways to enjoy a writing retreat.  And so, herewith, my pithy thoughts on writing retreats and how you (and I) might nab one for yourself:

1. Find an organized retreat, where a group of people come together to create time to write. Sometimes other activities are planned and in most cases, these activities are optional, should the writing be going well. I'm the writer-in-residence at one of these retreats in Nashville, Room to Write, held in December and April. You can find others at Shaw Guides, or if you're looking for the best of both worlds–instruction and time to write check out my retreats at Let's Go Write.

2. Band together with a group of friends and create your own retreat, as I have done on several occasions. Going in a group can reduce expenses considerably, and the camaraderie after writing sessions are over is priceless. Some writers like to read their work at night, either what they've been writing that day, or finished work, and some prefer to keep to themselves and ponder the next day's session. You can rent a house, stay in a bed and breakfast, or find a resort. Just make sure everybody is clear on the ground rules from the outset.

3. Design a personal writing retreat. When you're coming down the home stretch on a project, going off by yourself to work on it can help you finish. Hours of solitude devoted only to your writing fuels a lot of inspiration. Find an inexpensive room in a nearby city and take yourself away to work. I have a friend who often takes personal writing retreats at a college town, because accommodations are plentiful. Resort towns in the off-season are also good. Or check out this site for more options.

4. Go to a writer's colony. This is a bit different in that there will be an application process involved. Writers apply for residencies of anywhere from a week to several months, and in many cases, meals and everything you need are provided. Competition is fierce, especially for the most prestigious colonies, such as MacDowell. But there's also quite a list of lesser-known colonies that might interest you. Either google or check them out here.

5.  If all else fails, design your own retreat while you stay at home.  Inform everyone you know that you'll be focusing exclusively on your writing and then follow through–turn off the phone, shut down the email boxes, refuse to answer the door. Because in reality, retreating is a mind-set more than anything else. It is committing to keeping outside influences at bay while focusing deeply on your own work, that which is most important to you. And that can be accomplished anywhere.

What are your experiences with writing retreats?  Have you gone to an organized one?  Created one for yourself?  I'd love to hear about them.

The Writer’s Loft at MTSU

The Writer's Loft at MTSU.

That, my friends, is a link to the awesome video that Janet Wallace just made for the Writer's Loft.  (Check out her blog post that also features the video.)

I haven't written about the Writer's Loft
in quite awhile.  The Writer's Loft is the distance writing program I
co-direct in Murfreesboro, Tennessee (for those of you not from the
area, Murfreesboro is about half an hour away from Nashville, the home
of MTSU, the largest university in Tennessee, which is where our program is housed).

Loft is a three semester certificate program in which you work
one-on-one with a supportive mentor, who not only reads your work, but
recommends books to read and helps to guide your course of study.  As
I've noted in this space repeatedly before, there really is no better
way to improve your writing skills.  Working one-on-one with a mentor
allows you time at home to write while still getting focused
instruction.  Our program is modeled on the brief-residency MFA
programs that have become so popular, although, as our founder, Roy Burkhead says, the Loft is an "MFA lite" program.

can sign up for the Loft and complete all three semesters and earn a
certificate in writing.  Or, you can take one semester if you need a
jump-start on a writing project, or perhaps need guidance to finish
something.  You can join the Loft and just continue to sign up,
semester after semester, which is what several of our students have
done.  They refuse to graduate and we love them for it!

There's been a lot going on in with the Loft lately.  My original co-director, Terry Price, has decided to spend more time on his writing and is now Director Emeritus.  I am pleased and proud to announce that Rabbi Rami Shapiro has stepped up to become my new co-director.  Rami and I have worked together at the Room to Write retreats and Path and Pen workshops.

I've written more about the Loft here,
and you can learn lots more about it by going to our website.  For
anybody in the area, or even close, think about heading to the MTSU
campus on September 17, when we feature workshops that our open to the
public.  This semester Whitney Ferre of Creatively Fit and Kathy Rhodes of the journal Muscadine Lines
will be doing workshops for us.  The price is $50, and you'll not only
have the benefit of the fabulous workshops, you'll get to meet
wonderful writers, including moi.  C'mon, I'd love to meet you in

And, of course, if you want any more info, just email
me.  My address is at the top of this page.  (Top left, I think.  I've
been rearranging things.) By the way, Janet Wallace, who made the video, is our new marketing expert.  She specializes in helping writers, authors, and other creative types with their marketing and social media.  Check out her blog here.

Friday Guest Post: Summer Writing Conferences

For this week's Friday Fun, we have another wonderful guest post by my dear friend Linda Busby Parker.  You may remember that Linda recently wrote about the value of networking for writer, which post you can read here.

Summer Writing Conferences

by Linda Busby Parker

Time to think of summer writing conferences! For anyone seriously interested in creative writing, summer conferences are a must. Many writing groups take the summer off and the members of those groups might feel as if they are wilting in the long, hot months of June, July and August. Summer writing conferences serve as well-springs to keep the writing life flourishing during those dry summer months!

Where can a writer locate summer conferences? A first stop is on-line: SHAW GUIDES TO WRITERS CONFERENCES AND WORKSHOPS.  Any writer will find more conferences there than she/he can possibly attend. Conferences are also announced in POETS & WRITERS, the WRITER’S CHRONICLE, and some of the other writing magazines including WRITER’S DIGEST and THE WRITER. State humanities organization also maintains lists of writing conferences and festivals within individual states.

There are conferences and workshops for every kind of creative writer—memoir, short story, poetry, novel, stage and screen writers, children and YA writers, Christian writers, environmental writers, and so many more. Every conference has its own format. Some offer just a workshop format where writers submit their work for critique. Others offer a combination of lectures, panels, and workshops. Other conferences offer not only the lectures, panels, and workshops, but also bring in agents and editors. Be selective! Choose the conference that’s tailor-made for you at this point in your writing life.

Some conferences are difficult to gain admission. Top on the list of difficult are: Bread Loaf, Sewanee, and Squaw Valley. Workshop critiques at these conferences can be extremely penetrating and caustic. These might not be the best conferences for those writers not open to the critique process.

Conferences can also be expensive. Tuition ranges from $150 to $1500 or more. That’s another reason for reading all information carefully and selecting the conference that’s best for you. What do you as a writer need to get out of a conference this summer? Think about your own writing needs/desires before selecting a conference.

I’ve been to Bread Loaf, Sewanee, the Kenyon Review Workshop, Indiana University Summer Writing Conference, New Harmony Writing Retreat, and several southeastern summer conferences. I’ve never attended a summer conference I didn’t like! I’ve never attended a summer conference that I didn’t come away enriched by the experience! It’s definitely time to start thinking summer writing conferences, workshops, and retreats!

Linda Busby Parker is author of the award-winning novel, Seven Laurels and is a professor of writing at The University of South Alabama in Mobile. She also teaches in a low-residency program in Continuing Education—The Writers’ Loft—at Middle Tennessee State University. Her blog is www.lindabusbyparker.us

Finding Faults

I'm perfect.Sharon's Flowers

I am.  I am poised, intelligent, attractive, talented, funny, loyal, passionate.  Like I said, perfect. 

And, already you are bored with me and ready to go elsewhere to read because who can relate to perfect?  Already you are thinking, well, if she's perfect than I have nothing in common with her at all and what exactly do all those general terms mean anyway?

So try this instead:

I'm not perfect.  I'm way too judgmental, not good with details, have a terrible habit of rebelling against authority just because it is authority, I veer from crazy deep emotion to extreme containment of it, sometimes I lack focus, I eat too fast, I am currently not exercising enough, I get so excited when I'm talking to friends I interrupt…

Now don't you like me a lot better?  And aren't you way more interested in me as a person?  And, not that you are not perfect, but can't you relate to my faults a bit better than my perfection?

In a post I wrote last week, I discussed the Top Takeaways from the Writer's Loft, specifically, the workshop that Richard Goodman hosted.   One exercise focused on making yourself likable as a narrator by sharing a fault.  This, Goodman said, "provides the reader some freedom."  It allows the reader to feel that the writer is like him, and creates an emotional bond.

And, it is a lot more interesting.  Conflict and imperfection is far more compelling than calm and perfection.

Alas, this is why we have wars.

But I'm a writer, not a warrior, so back to our topic.  Goodman talked specifically about finding fault in terms of narrating memoir, but it also applies to fiction.  Think Holden Caulfield or Jean Rhys (his examples).  And think, too, of the memoirs you've read in which you fell in love with the narrator.  Chances are, they had a fault or two. 

During the Writer's Loft workshop, the readings that came out of this exercise were some of the most entertaining all day.  One participant wrote of his fear at facing a roomful of college students he had come to teach, another wrote a humorous paragraph about always getting lost.  We laughed at these pieces, but we also felt a kinship with their authors.  Who hasn't obsessed over having to speak to a group of people, or gotten themselves good and lost?

In my own novel, the narrator Emma Jean is loudly judgmental, thinks very highly of herself, and gets herself into trouble by flinging herself headlong into new things.  People like her because of her faults.  (And, um, she's not based on me at all.)

So if you are writing memoir, share a fault or two with us.  We'll like you lots better.  And if you are writing fiction, give your characters some faults so that we know they are just like us.

Anybody have any suggestions of famous flawed narrators?  Feel free to leave your ideas in the comments.

***Thanks to Jessica, who left the comment asking for more information on this topic, and thus inspired this post.

And, by the way, the photo of flowers is supposed to epitomize perfection.  Not sure if you would get that or not, so I felt compelled to explain it, which means it is probably not working as an illustration.

The Final Top Takeaways From the Writer’s Loft

I've been writing a series of posts on what I learned at the Writer's Loft last weekend.  You can find the links for Part One and Part Two at the end of this post, or just click on the highlighted words.

Today's post is about the lecture that one of our favorite mentors, David Pierce, gave, which he called "Tools for Stories."  I have to give David a huge thank-you, as he stepped in at the very last minute to give this lecture after one of our mentors was not able to attend due to a family illness.

David offered the following six tools:  Bookcover

  • Trouble
  • Cause and Effect
  • Reversal and Revelation
  • Expectations
  • Dramatic Irony (when the audience knows more than the character)
  • More Trouble

The important concept here is that these are tools that you can use as you write stories or novels.  Stuck?  Give your character more trouble.  Don't know what to have happen next?  Figure out what a logical chain of cause and effect might be.  The plot just won't budge?  Throw in a reversal or a revelation.  You get the idea. 

I love these tools and can see how truly helpful they are to have in your bag of tricks.  These are real, specific, craft responses to writer's block in fiction–and they probably work pretty well for creative non-fiction as well.

By the way, David is the author of "Don't Let Me Go," a wonderful memoir about climbing mountains and running marathons with his daughter.

As my father would say, thus endeth this series on Top Takeaways from the Writer's Loft.  Here are the links for the first and second parts:

You can read Part One, about social media and Kory Wells, here.

And Part Two, about Richard Goodman, here.