Sunday, May 3, 2015

Learning from other authors at New West Lit Fest by Leanne Dyck

Early Saturday morning, I sailed from Mayne Island to Vancouver Island, my destination was Douglas College -- the setting for New West Lit Fest...

I had planned to take the last ferry on Friday night but misread the ferry schedule. Hey, it happens.

I attended three workshops:

The Art & Engineering of Making a Living in the Writing World by Sylvia Taylor

Here's what I heard...

-the difference between an amateur and a professional author is that a professional never gives up.
-the more successful you are the more you need others in the publishing industry

Add to your To-do list...
-connect with your writing society
-you have to do stuff for free in the beginning and continue to do so

-there is room for everyone
-be open-hearted
-be focused
-continue to educate yourself
-stick with it
-be authentic
-building a successful career in the publishing industry isn't a race

Fundamentals for your author business
-web site
-business card

My takeaway: You can make a living as an author if you stick with it and are resourceful.

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to My Laptop by Neil McKinnon

Here's what I heard...

Resources for generating funny ideas:
-out of date practices or laws

What makes something funny?

uniting two things that don't normally go together (the Pope on a skateboard)
interpreting something in two ways (knock, knock jokes)

This type of humour is generally cruel -- racial jokes

3)The Forbidden

My example of this type of humour...
Jack and Jill went up the hill
And we all know why
nudge, nudge 
wink, wink

Writing humour is hard because humour is subjective. 

What will affect whether or not you find something funny?

your age
your sex
your background/culture
how you feel at the time

This is why it is important to know your intended audience.

Remember that you will never satisfy everyone.

If the reader takes offense, it's like offering candy to a diabetic. If the diabetic eats the candy it's her problem.

It's easier to write a publishable piece by adding humour

Time makes things funny

It's easier to write your story (article) first and then add the humour later. 

All jokes need a beginning, middle, and end--like all stories.

My takeaway:  It's easier to be a writer who adds humour to her writing, than a stand-up comedian.

Connecting with Children -- in print and in person by Lois Peterson

Here's what I heard...

To write for children... 
-you have to connect with children. Find out what they are interested in and what books they are reading 
-you have to remember the child you were, write for that child.
-you have to like children and want to be with them
-be honest about emotions
-find common ground
-share who you are 
-know that you will have manuscripts that remain in the drawer and never become books

Don't start by wanting to teach your reader something -- morals, values, etc.

Storytelling is powerful. Children need it.

Why do presentations for schools and libraries?

Because you want to get your book in the hands of teachers and librarians.

To visit schools and libraries...
-prepare by learning how to tell a good story
-don't send out mass mailings. Instead, focus on the contacts you already have -- could be friends of friends of friends who are teachers or librarians
-make it as easy as possible for them to invite you.
-send them a letter of proposal for your presentation. A week before your presentation, send them a follow-up letter
-be very clear as to what you will need during your presentations. Express these needs to the teacher or librarian
-it's very helpful to know the curriculum. You are far more likely to get an invitation if your book fits into something they are currently studying.

During the presentation...
-go in prepared, but be prepared to be flexible to children's needs
-create a theme for your presentation (i.e. begin at the beginning or where ideas come from or how I grew up)
-use visual aids--but not technology, too stressful. These visual aids can serve as an anchor for presentation. They can also be conversation starts -- something to ask questions about, for you and the children
-engage the librarian or teacher
-do far more talking than reading
-talk to them about the process of writing a book. Make writing a book seem doable. Explain that it takes luck, skill, and hard work. Give them a realistic view of what it means to be an author.
-we are part of a culture, refer to other authors.
-invite them into the process by asking them 'what if...' questions
-be interested in them
-allow the children to be honest about your book. If they don't like your book explain that that's why there are so many other books.
-ask the children to sign your book

A children's fiction author doesn't make money by visiting schools and libraries. You make money by having your books nominated 
for example...
-the Forest of Reading Festival

This festival 'is Canada's largest recreational reading program of its kind. More than 250,000 Ontario children read and vote for their favourite book in eight age-specific award categories every year.' --from the Forest of Reading of Festival of Trees website

My takeaway:  A children's fiction author is an advocate for reading. 

And if this is true and you are a children's fiction author, you probably will be interested in this link: Reading Link Challenge

As you can see it was an information-rich festival. Well worth the expense and time (this year it took me two and a half hours) of getting there. Oh, yes, and the festival is free.

Sharing my author journey...

I carried a tip with me from my career as a knitwear designer to my life as an author.
Tip:  keep creating
If you keep creating you'll be able to take advantage of opportunities as they are presented. 
For example, recently I received an invitation to contribute to an anthology. I dug through my files and found a few short stories. I sewed them together like a quilter assembling a quilt. The result pleased me and the editor. 
Then I found this quote by Sage Cohen...
'As you develop your platform, over time one piece of writing can become a foothold for the next--until you approach vistas you never before imagined possible. Instead of starting from scratch each time you pitch an article, workshop or book concept, build on the wealth of information you've already researched and written, while finding a new dimension to explore, a new audience to educate or a new way to share what you know.'
I'll tell you more about the anthology when I know more. : )