Archive for July, 2012

COULD YOU PLAN YOUR OWN WRITERS’ CONFERENCE?

July 24, 2012

Well, why not?  Recently several much-loved mid-sized writers conferences in the mid-USA have closed.  So why not plan one to fill in the gap.  ARE YOU READY?

Here is one example you might consider:

Fiction Writing Conference.  Cape Cod, August 11-12, 2012.  (Nah, too far away from center USA. But–a really appealing location, so . . . .)

Main Conference:  August 11-12.  Registration:  $1,295.  Continental bkfst. included.  Hotel,  at special rate, $210 per night.

Add on sessions (with personal attention) August 9 and 10, from $495.00 to $1,995 each.

Surprised at the rates?   I sure was.  (Maybe I’m naive?)  But then, though this conference schedule looks an awful lot like the many conferences I have attended over the years, there is a difference.  It’s designed for physicians and lawyers who want to write novels–especially thrillers and mysteries.  “And,” my brother-in-law the lawyer says, “they’re probably charging what they know the attendees can pay.”  Why not luxury?

Moving on:

Mid-summer conference in Texas.  Registration? $75.00 for  each writer, $35.00 for spouse.  One day, Saturday, with possible add-ons Friday and Sunday. Meet and Greet Dinner Friday night, $30.00 extra.  Special hotel rate, $89.00. Full breakfast furnished, including made-to-order omelets.

Which conference would you like to plan?  Which one would you attend?  Both have speakers, the Cape Cod one bigger names.  Both have a few panels. Both have agents to take pitches.   Gosh.  Could you do it?  Whoooeee, not me!  I’ve been in on the planning for one writers’ conference and you-have-no-idea what is required.  We had a committee, a whole organization board, in on the planning.  Consider a moment:  meeting rooms, deals with hotel, services, including water and coffee for guests, meals?, speakers? paying transportation for speakers, and, usually, honorariums. Panels?  Who?      Yes, you’ve got to cover every detail including being sure, (if you have coffee), that cream and sugar and sweetener are on the table, up to who is going to pick up Miss Big Name Speaker at the airport?

And, of course, you need to assure there are enough attendees to cover all expenses.  Simply put, we couldn’t do it.  We cancelled the conference.

But, maybe not knowing about all the problems he would have to tackle, a daring man in Denton, Texas, jumped into the shark pool.  He wanted to have a conference and, by gum, he did!  He had no committee.  He had only himself.  Though he is a full-time building contractor specializing in home remodels, he is also an author, with one published novel thus far. And, he is in love with writing.  So, assisted at times by his wife Ranay, Mitch Haynes set out to offer  his conference:   LexiCon.

Initially several hundred people signed up, though in the end, something around 125 actually paid and attended.  You can perhaps imagine a tiny bit of all the details Mitch had to cover.  He got his hotel.  (Two, in fact, next door neighbors.)  One hotel hosted all conference meetings.  He signed up speakers, including book packagers, a press or two, (subsidy, I think) a couple of agents, a publicist, and several experienced writers.  True, Random House didn’t come, or even any mid-sized royalty presses. (Maybe next year.)  And what may have seemed lacking in big names–the head-held-high above the crowd folks–this conference made up for in good old friendly enthusiasm.

Mitch told us, in his welcoming talk  Saturday morning, that this was a conference with a difference.  We were to support each other.  We were friends, and not just there to sell our own books.  We were advocates for each others’ books.  No egos, no various degrees of success, and definitely no “I’m better than you are” folks.  At this conference, all were to hold out the hand of sharing and support, of appreciation and networking.

Mitch made his dream plain, and, y’know, his very enthusiasm and, perhaps, innocence, almost brought tears to my eyes during his opening speech.  Most certainly,  LexiCon was not to be like other conferences.  Though he didn’t say it, I thought of brotherhood (and sisterhood, of course) and simple friendliness.  Reminded me of an “Up With People” event I attended many, many years ago.

Well, I’d advise Mitch to hold on to his dream, and continue to make LexiCon the conference with Mitch Haynes’ special stamp–the little conference with a big difference.

Of course there were a few stumbles along the way.  After all, at the conference, Mitch, his wife, his young daughter Crystal and her friend Kayla were the staff.  Crystal and Kayla monitored the check-in table, handed out badges and conference folders.  Mitch, assisted by Ranay,  did all the rest.  Who cares about stumbles, especially when you’re together as one big family made up of all types of authors.  In fact, any blips probably only added to the family ambiance of the event. Nothing actually harmed the enthusiasm or good information shared during the day.  (There were four tracks of speakers to monitor, by the way–and hard choices as to what to attend.)

During the conference, Mitch and Ranay were everywhere, getting water for guests, checking air-conditioning in every room every hour, monitoring the bookstore they’d set up for published authors (they only kept 10% of retail price) and nine gazillion other things, large and small.

I’m glad I went.    http://Lexi-ConWritersConference.com     Get ready for next year.

http://www.RadinesBooks.com

WHO ARE YOU — AS A WRITER?

July 14, 2012

An essay by Radine, first published in THE WRITER’S JOURNEY JOURNAL from Wolfmont Press, 2009.

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“Your writing should begin with motive, not process.”

Around twenty years ago newspaper editor Richard J. Cattani offered this advice, and the words continue to stir me. They lead straight to the question, “Why do I write?”

Why, indeed?

Up front I’ll exclude a common answer many non-writers (and even some writers) choose: “To be rich, or famous, or, best of all, both.” Those things might come (if rarely) but where’s the lasting joy in such material pleasures? I find them false motives.

Cattani also wrote this provocative and unfinished sentence: “If you don’t wake up writing . . . . ”

How would each one of us who writes finish that sentence? Cattani didn’t. I don’t think  he needed to.

Writers can wake up with a head full of words that demand sharing. (This “waking” might come at any time of day or night.) We sit at our computers with a vision of how to put our new-born sharing on the screen. And, at last, after writing and thinking and re-writing, we are ready to send the ideas we have loved and nurtured out to our fellow humans, hoping they may benefited, or at least entertained.

Ah, that, then, is the real answer to WHY.  It is beginning with motive. We love the magic of ideas expressed in words. We hope for what our words can accomplish, whether in print or on line. I think most writers feel this magic.

But we must also learn to use language with proficiency and skill. (And that could be called process.) Only skill linked with creativity will honor the ideas bubbling out on paper or screen. Only that will honor our readers. Motive first, then process.

Of course writing is work, and it should be. Read, re-read. Write, re-write. Does the sentence sing? Is that the best word to convey an emotion? Think. Think. Think.

Love of a profession does not guarantee ease in accomplishing its goals. We create, then we polish our articles, stories, and poems until they are worthy of us and our readers. Accomplishing this–not money, not fame, not even a big publishing contract–is the key to being a successful writer. Success comes first in our hearts.

Back in 2005, the 44th President of the United States, then Senator Barack Obama, was asked to define success. He said, in part, “People I respect who are happy with their lives know success is not just about them. It’s about something bigger than them.” He went on to link success with the sharing of ourselves and the best of our skills with fellow humans.

So, drawing from the big universe of ideas, we head for success. You and I reach toward words that have meaning for us, that set us on fire with the need to share. Then we are awake, and writing.

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I recommend this book to anyone interested in writing anything.  It’s a small book, spiral bound, selling for $9.95.  I joined a dozen other known writers in contributing inspirational and/or informative essays to be published therein.  Each of those has value.  In addition, there are lined, blank pages in the Journal where writers may jot inspiration and ideas.  At the top of each page is a piquant quote from a well-know author.  My favorite, which I have quoted many times, is from playwright Tom Stoppard: “Words are sacred. They deserve respect. If you get the right ones in the right order, you can nudge the world a little.”  I am not mentioning the book because sales benefit me.  (They don’t, at this point.)  I promote it on your behalf.  I am sure it’s still available.  See your bookseller or http://www.wolfmont.com.  Write:  info@wolfmont.com or Wolfmont Press at 238 Park Drive NE, Ranger, GA 30734.            http://www.RadinesBooks.com

POETS IN PRISON

July 7, 2012

How many of you have expressed your thoughts in the form of poetry?

Oops, I hear a few snarls.   All right, I admit some folks look down their noses at “that incomprehensible poetry stuff” but I still ask how many of you have ever written a poem?  And, by this, I don’t necessarily mean formula poetry, rules poetry, or rhymed poetry.  I mean language with a heartbeat.  I mean sometimes emotional or fiery “how I really feel” poetry.  I even mean poetry that you’d burn before you let anyone else read it!

Have you–instead of ranting and swearing or hitting the wall with your fist–ever tried writing a poem?

Have you–when sad, bowed under burdens–ever tried writing a poem?

Have you–when bursting with joy, wide-eyed over experiencing beauty, or aflame with love–ever tried writing a poem?

Yes, of course you can do it.

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What got me started on poetry?  Terry, an on-line friend who writes beautiful poetry, did. (http://terrysthoughtsand threads.blogspot.com)  She reminded me that, some years back, at the beginning of my writing career, I wrote poetry, and even sold some of it.  She took me back to my writing roots.   I not only shared one of my own poems on this blog, (see below)  I went to my bookshelves and took down several of the books of poetry I own, and have read in years past. And I began to read and think . . . .

Seems to me, expressing ourselves in poetry can free us from, well,  call it “the daily grind” more than other forms of expression. It’s just us and our thoughts, rolling out. Why poetry and not prose?  Because this form of writing demands we put thoughts in capsules. We need to understand them; we need to  remove the excess, the garbage words.  We need to THINK.  And thinking often leads to resolution and understanding, or even peace.

Proof?  I’ll begin with the opening lines from Robert Frost’s best known and probably best loved poem, MENDING WALL.

“Something there is that doesn’t love a wall,/ That sends the frozen-ground-swell under it/And spills the upper boulders in the sun,/ And makes gaps even two can pass abreast.”

Probably most of us can picture what Frost is describing unless, maybe, we live in the tropics and have never seen frozen ground heave under a stone wall.  But the wall is a metaphor for me here.  It stands for being in prison, and, in poetry, for how prisoners break the walls around them.

Read this, by a man named Charles Doss:

From the forward to his book, I SHALL MINGLE:

“In this prison cell I am highly resolved that I shall touch mankind, that I shall mingle with the thousands.”

And, here’s one Doss poem, titled “The Philippines of Our Soul.”

“There is an island in the Philippines,/ or perhaps it is a province,/ called Zamboanga./ I know nothing but its name,/do not wish to know more./ It is pronounced in four syllables, / Zam bo AHNG ah,/ and the sound to my ears is beautiful.

“I don’t know why it calls me so./ But I shall sojourn there one day,/ and when I do I shall not be gray and old./ I shall be lean and hard, laughing and gay,/ Filled with hope for the whole human race./ We should all have a Zamboanga,/ lush, exotic and beckoning,/ Anchored brightly in the Philippines/ of our soul.”

Another:

“I sense that there’s an image here/ That needs to be remembered./ There is an autumn in my soul/ That needs to be Septembered.

“There is a tiny stab of pain – / A shudder and a spasm – / And then infinitudes of night/ That form an endless chasm.

“There is a perfect, perfect peace/ That constitutes a corner – / So poised, so cool: just contemplating me/ And knowing I shall turn her.”

Copyright by Charles Doss, 1979.

I don’t know where Charles Doss is now, or even if he is still on this earth.  When the book came out he was in an Arizona prison, under a life sentence.   An appreciator helped, I believe, by his wife, saw that his poems and essays were published in I SHALL MINGLE.

From other men in prison, published in a book “POEMS FROM GUANTANAMO, the detainees speak.”

“Peace, they say./ Peace of mind?/ Peace on earth?/ Peace of what kind?

“I see them talking, arguing, fighting — / What kind of peace are they looking for?/ Why do they kill?/ What are they planning?

“Is it just talk? Why do they argue?/ Is it so simple to kill?/ Is this their plan?

“Yes, of course!/ They talk, they argue, they kill –/ They fight for peace.”

by Abdulaziz, who was captured when he left Saudi Arabia to find his brother and bring him home from Afghanistan.
Or this, (quoted in part) and written by Jumah Al Dossari from Bahrain, who, the book says, has tried to kill himself a dozen times or more while in prison.

“Dreams are shattered, hopes are battered,/ Yet with new status one is flattered!/ The irony of it — detention and all:/ Be so small, and stand so tall

“Years of tears and days of toil/ Are now but fears and tyrants’ spoil;/ Ordainment has surely come to pass, / But endure alone one must this farce.

“Now ‘patience is of virtue’ taught/ And virtue is of iron wrought;/ So poetry is in motion set/ (Perhaps, with appreciation met).

“Still the paper do I pen,/ knowing what, but never when — / As dreams begin, and nightmares end — /I’m homeward bound to beloved tend.”

The torture of Jumah al Dossari at Guantanamo was detailed in INSIDE THE WIRE, by former military intelligence soldier Erik Saar.)

A large number of legal professionals, professors, and human rights advocates contributed to this book, including those collecting and translating.

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Yes, if these men can, then we, too, can safely express our deepest thoughts in poetry.

Radine     http://www.RadinesBooks.com