Ann Arbor Book Festival Writer’s Conference and the second time I’ve left feeling invigorated by the other presenters and participants. As a thank you, I would like to offer the participants a 10% discount on one of my private writing classes or a free twenty minute trial of private coaching (email your inquiries: chloemiller(at)gmail(dot)com.)
Some highlights and resources from the Conference:
I presented “Brainstorming, Work, and Creativity” to a group of about six adults who were willing to share ideas, questions and encourage the others. The program asks participants to apply creative skills to brainstorming upcoming writing and employment opportunities. If you missed the workshop, email me (chloemiller(at)gmail(dot)com) and I’ll share the worksheet I distributed.
Poet Rachel McKibbens’ session, “The Girl with no Hands” had me scribbling notes and ideas for future poems throughout the entire hour and fifteen minutes. Here is the description of the session:
This workshop will take a look at the cultural and literary significance of magical realism, as well as provide participants with writing exercises that ignite the use of startling imagery. We will also discuss the importance of cutting loose the binds of "truth" by allowing the fantastic to co-exist with the factual.
An acclaimed spoken word poet, teacher and author, Rachel McKibbens was mesmerizing as she offered a group creative writing exercise based on Marilyn Monroe after a quick lecture on magic realism. On her blog, you’ll find numerous writing exercises similar to the one we did. Rachel encouraged us to uncover the unfamiliar word and image to push our writing to the next level. As homework, she suggested that we create our own word banks for writing by listing 100 words that describe or represent a list of words related to a subject. A challenge that will surely break traditional connections between words and ideas! I encourage you to try them out and open the many doors in your long hallway of your mind, as she described our thoughts. I look forward to reading her book of poetry, “Pink Elephant” from Cypher Books.
Micheline Maynard, the New York Times journalist and author of recent creative non-fiction book, “The Selling of the American Economy,” offered her experience in writing articles and books. Forthright and encouraging, the session was wonderful. She encouraged preparation as an important aspect of writing. Not only for creative non-fiction authors, she encouraged research and learning how to do a good search. She suggested simply stopping by a library and asking a research librarian to spend fifteen minutes to show you how to use technology to improve your search. Similar to Rachel’s exercises that helped us to stretch the creative writing muscles, she prompted us to write something unique. The subject could have been, and likely has been, written about before, but the trick is to find your own angle. She noted the required bravery that it takes to be a writer – brave to write what you believe to be true, come to your own conclusions and then read your readers' responses – immediately! – in this day and age. I couldn’t agree more.
Many of us desire to write full-time. Considering the economy, this is a potential financial risk. Micheline Maynard suggested that if you want to work as a freelance writer, you should spend 70% writing and 30% on the administrative details, like finding the next gig. (See the links under "Publishing Resources" in the sidebar for some resources.)
The final event I attended was the Publishing Session with Mary Bisbee-Beek, owner of an independent publicity and marketing consulting office, and authors Ellen Meeropol, Bonnie Jo Campbell and Ann Pearlman. This was a lively discussion about three authors’ experiences of being published by big, small and university presses. Squad 365, the book marketing blog, was recommended for regular advice on publicizing your work.
In almost every session I was in, there were questions about how authors can create and improve an internet presence. Especially for those who are less inclined to blog or spend hours a day online, this can be mysterious. The general advice was to set up Facebook, Linkedin and Twitter accounts, along with a website and blog. In the panel, it was encouraged not only because book publishers require you to because they can be used to market your work on a larger scale, but also as a simple means for friends and readers to recommend you.
Writers often discuss the difficulties of becoming published and consider Print on Demand companies. This panel in particular warned against it, since it will be very difficult to get your book into a bookstore, unless you are publishing for a very small community, such as your family or a small group that is not served by a publishing house and/or bookstore. Not everyone would agree with this approach, but I wanted to share their perspective.
There were a number of questions about protecting your work under copyright laws. For more information on that issue, I recommend the Copyright Alliance’s worksheet for details for writers.
The Ann Arbor Book Festival has events throughout the year. Check their website regularly for updates.