After a nice lazy drive through farmland dotted with barns and silos, we arrived in Madison, Wisconsin last Thursday afternoon. Len helped me settled into my room at the Lowell Center (in the 1960’s it was a private women’s dormitory), and made sure that I could log into the Internet with their wireless service—perfect!
Once situated, we walked State Street, window shopping and looking for lunch. I’m fairly confident that every ethnicity of food on the globe is represented in the hustle-and-bustle of this college-town street. We strolled past the capitol building and had a delicious lunch at The Great Dane Pub & Brewing Company.
After our feast, we waddled back to check out the Pyle Center where the annual Writers’ Institute is held. As Len headed back to Crystal Lake, I geared up for the first event: “Pitching Practice” at 5:30pm. Pitching is a one-on-one, 8-minute opportunity with a literary agent to sell them on your manuscript.
Between this post and the next (on Thursday), you’ll read some of the practical things I learned at the 22nd Annual Writers’ Institute at UW-Madison. Please note, this is just from the presenters that I saw—there were many more:
“Be yourself. Just tell your story.”
– Laurie Scheer, is the Writers’ Institute director. She’s also the author of Creative Careers in Hollywood. Her DVD, How to Pitch and Sell Your Screenplay, is a perennial bestseller.
“People pay money to read about trouble and how to get out of it.”
– Christine DeSmet teaches fiction and screenwriting for UW-Madison Continuing Studies. She’s an award-winning novelist, short story writer, and screenwriter who has optioned to New Line Cinema and others. She’s also written stage plays. At UW-Madison Continuing Studies, Christine also mentors and critiques writers throughout the year—myself included—helping them polish their material for agents and publication.
“Voice is the manner in which you choose to tell your story. It has a particular cadence and tone. Like a thumbprint, most of us have a unique signature to our own voice. It’s what makes you unique as a writer.”
– Josie Brown is the author of four fiction and one non-fiction book. Her next novel will be released in September of this year.
Josie shared, the five elements of “voice” are:
Tone – the tone you set with characters, dialog, and how you describe a scene
Phrasing – wordy vs. spare, and choosing the “right” words
Dialogue – how you put words in your character’s mouths
Where you START your scene remember, “I am camera.” Paint images of what the camera sees, don’t write explanations.
Point of View – Who is seeing, feeling, talking? The main character or supporting character?
“If you’re going to write, don’t be afraid to upset your readers (even your mother).”
“Do the Dreaded thing first! Just get it over with and move on.”
– Kelly James-Enger has authored, co-authored, and ghostwritten twelve books. As a freelance journalist, she’s published more than 700 articles in over fifty national magazines.
“Whether you Indie publish (independent, self-publish), or legacy publish (traditional publishing) a published book is just the beginning. Now the real work begins.”
– Judy Molland is an award-winning teacher and writer. She’s the contributing education editor for Dominion Parenting Media—the largest syndicate of parenting magazines in the U.S.
Paul S. Levine is an attorney and a literary agent. In the event I get his statements wrong, I’m not going to print his wonderful advice here. Suffice it to say that he provided a tremendous amount of terrific information on advances, royalties, and the actual contract (the exact wording of what should and should not be in it). He also talked about subsidiary rights—current and future—and film, audio, and foreign rights.
By this time my hand was aching from taking so many notes. My handwriting looks like a drunk chicken wrote it, but as you can see in the last photograph of the slideshow, it’s a good idea to hire a lawyer—one who knows publishing—because “Lawyers get paid to anticipate the best and worst that can happen now and in perpetuity—forever!”
I’ll end this post with one of my favorite quotes from Natalie Goldberg’s bestselling book, Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within:
“Don’t identify too strongly with your work. Stay fluid behind those black-and-white words. They are not you. They were a great moment going through you. A moment you were awake enough to write down and capture.”
“Whatever you are not changing, you are choosing.”
– Laurie Buchanan
© 2011 Laurie Buchanan – All Rights Reserved