Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Conferences for Writers

I just received a pamphlet in the mail entitled The Writer’s Summer for the Southampton Writers Conference sponsored by the Stony Brook Southampton MFA program in Writing and Literature. This reminded me that summer will be here soon and now is the time to start looking into writers conferences. Of course, there are conferences all year round and a great resource for finding them by location and month is the Shaw Guides. Poets & Writers magazine is also another good source for conferences.

How can a writers conference be helpful to an aspiring novelist? There are as many answers to that question as there are types of conferences. There are those that focus on hands-on workshops where you can get direct feedback on your writing, and others that emphasize the business side; meeting agents and editors and even having them read excerpts of your work. It is also valuable to network with other writers as well as to meet published authors and learn about their experience on the road to publication.

A writers conference that I found very helpful was the Squaw Valley Community of Writers, which I attended in 2001 and 2002. This conference, now in its 39th year, takes place every August in Northern California and includes workshops, lectures, panels, readings, and individual meetings with agents and editors. What I especially liked was that it required a writing sample as part of the application so the fact of getting accepted equalled encouragement of my writing goals. I felt that the price of the conference, including accommodations and some meals, was quite reasonable. I treasure the writer friends I met at Squaw through workshopping, socializing, and the shared housing.

Another conference I enjoyed was the San Diego State University Writers Conference, which is held every January. This is a more business-focused conference, though they do have some informal workshopping. What I liked was the opportunity to have agents and editors read an excerpt of my novel ahead of time and then be able to meet with them one-on-one for feedback. There were also interesting panels about all aspects of the publishing industry, from securing an agent to book contracts to royalties, with many to choose from.

Writing can make for a lonely existence and it’s great to be able to take some time out to network face-to-face with other writers. You can share your war stories and make some great friendships while getting valuable input on your writing career.

Sunday, February 10, 2008


SLEEPING WITH WARD CLEAVER. It’s a great, eye-catching title, right? So it’s not surprising that my guest today, as part of the Girlfriends' Cyber Circuit lit blog tour is Jenny Gardiner, won the American Title contest and in turn had her debut novel published by Dorchester Publishing, the oldest independent mass market publisher in the United States. SWWC has been called sharp and witty, and tells the the tale of mother-of-five Claire Doolittle, who seems to have lost her way, and realizes her husband Jack has turned into a modern-day version of Ward Cleaver, the stuff-shirted father from the Leave it to Beaver sitcom. Things become complicated when a former fiance suddenly re-enters her life, and Claire must figure out who she is and who she really wants to be, and decide whether her sagging marriage is worth saving.

Jenny was kind enough to stop by and answer a few questions.

Name three songs that would be perfect for the soundtrack of your book.

The Way You Look Tonight, sung by Rod Stewart
Let's Fall in Love, sung by Rod Stewart
Someone to Watch Over Me, sung by Rod Stewart

How do you approach writing your novel? Do you outline the plot?
Start with a character or...?

I totally write by the seat of my pants. With SLEEPING WITH WARD CLEAVER I started out with a title and had to come up with an actual story. I tend to follow my nose as I write and am often so surprised when things lead back to other things and help to tie up loose ends. I'm a very organic writer, and probably organic in most all I do. I have a brother who has a list of life plans he follows. I am SO far removed from that level of organization it's not even funny! It's hard enough to make day plans for me LOL

Who are the top three writers who have influenced your writing style?

In the "big picture" I'd say J.D. Salinger and James Joyce. I love that first person narrative and the stream-of-conscious writing styles ever since first reading them years and years ago. I can't think of a specific third author but I will say I am really motivated by beautiful prose. I'll read a book with gorgeous writing and it inspires me to step up my own writing.

What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

Slave over a hot stove. No, really, I spend a lot of time with my family. I also do a LOT of driving, as my kids have a ton of activities that require that of me--sports, extracurricular things, etc. I love to cook but don't find the time much these days. I had been studying Italian and really love it, but I was regressing and got too busy with my book launch so had to put it on hold. I love to travel and we travel as much as we can (or as much as our credit card bill will allow us). I love to go out to dinner with friends, and we like to go to the movies a lot.

What and where is your favorite restaurant and why is it your favorite?

There's this really fun little Asian tapas martini bar in my town called Bang. The upstairs has a bunch of beat-up old couches that leave you at somewhat awkward angles to the coffee tables you eat at, but it's a really convivial place and there's always great music, great food, great drinks and great company. Love to go there with our best friends and catch up and just enjoy each others company.

Thanks Wendy for allowing me to visit!

Thanks for coming by, Jenny, and best of luck to you with SLEEPING WITH WARD CLEAVER!

Be sure and check out Jenny’s Web site.