Yeah, I got a bunch of you to send me your mailing addresses so I could send you your drawing prizes from the Word Weaver Writing Contest, then I started emailing the sponsors and telling them who to send prizes to… and then I kinda forgot to do the rest.
Uh, well, in my defense, there were a lot of you…
Anyway, I’m on it.
And remembering I forgot is like not actually forgetting in the first place, right?
So the rest of the emails will go out today. Probably. Definitely this week, I bet.
And I have a bunch of books I’m mailing MYSELF so no worries, you didn’t get ripped off, it’s coming. Calm down. Sheesh.
Our first place winner in our first contest, Ellie Presner wrote an amazing story – but also lives one. Born and raised in Montreal, Ellie still lives her life there “to the fullest” as a freelance writer, editor and proofreader in the land of “bonjour-hi!”
“My writing credits include ‘Taking Back the Night,’ which was nominated for a National Magazine Award. Originally published in Homemaker’s Magazine, it was anthologized in Essays: Patterns and Perspectivesby Oxford University Press (1992). Another of my stories, “First Kiss,” was anthologized in The Issues Collection: Gender Issues, McGraw Hill Ryerson (1993). My other credits include magazine articles in Menz, Home and School, The Write Place and Gasp; I’ve also been published numerous times in the Montreal Gazette, The Downtowner and The Westmount Examiner.
“When not at my Mac desktop, you’ll find me ensconced in my recliner with my cat, Annie, glued to my lap. If I need to get up I have to say, “Sorry, Annie…”
“I have two lovely adult children, a plump ‘n’ hairy kitty, a boyfriend who lives 700 miles away (drat!) and – oh yes – an ex-husband.
“My many years spent reading, editing and proofreading various magazines, screenplays, books and fellow writers’ manuscripts have honed my awareness of what good writing should look like.”
We agree. Maybe that’s why we loved her entry so much.
Now, for some writerly insights with our first grand prize winner.
1. Dan: Did you write your story for the contest or was it part of a larger piece or something you had written before?
Ellie: I have distinct memories of the circumstances surrounding this 1991 story. I don’t know why I dredged it up after all this time for this contest, except to say that I’ve always had a soft spot for it. It captured the snarky, vengeful feelings I still had then, years post-divorce. I’d gone on a “writing retreat” with my young-adult daughter to a B&B in the countryside. I wrote two stories in a “white heat,” one of which was this winner. My daughter, though, got sick from some sort of water-borne bacteria (we think) and was down for the count for three days of the five we were there. Poor girl! I also remember the little annoyance of having to go outside every time I wanted a cigarette. In December. (My addiction days.)
2. Tell us about your writing process. What is the journey from idea to published piece /completed story?
First comes the inspiration, i.e., the idea. It usually flashes in my mind much like the light-bulb moment shown in comic books. Usually I’m nowhere near my computer, so I zap the idea down in my Notes app on my phone. (I live in dire fear of losing my phone. There’s a story idea for you!) From there it’s easy to zap the story down in no time. Then: revisions, and finally proofing. Those last stages take longer than the actual writing. (Except for my memoir; that took seven months to write, and three months to revise and proofread.)
3. Where do you do your writing?
Oh, easy: at my iMac. (See attached photo of my kitty, Annie, supervising me as I write.)
4. Do you have a writing goal you want to achieve?
Whatever it takes to become rich and famous, I’ll do. Er, no wait, that’s not a good answer. It’s not a NOBLE answer. Let’s try that again. I would like to write something deep and weighty and memorable. No, that’s not quite it either. Something… funny? entertaining? imaginative? disquieting? nightmarish? More memoirs? A novel?
I think it’s time to confess: I don’t have one goal in particular. I just hope each piece is better than the last.
5. What helps you the most when it comes to writing?
You didn’t ask what is the bane of my writing existence. I’ll tell you anyway: I have a weakness for exclamation marks and smileys! 🙂
6. What does writing success look like?
See #4 please.
7. What are you working on now?
I’m rather busy these days on a freelance editing gig. Other than that, I’m accumulating notes – and have started outlines – for several books I want to write. All are memoirs based on very different periods in my life. I think memoir is my genre of choice; dabbling in fiction is, I admit, more intimidating for me. Why? Because
when you think about it, in fiction, ANYthing is possible. I’m a bit overwhelmed by that “anything” aspect.
8. There are a lot of writing contests out there. What drew you to this one?
Well Dan, I’ll tell you: your entry fees were very fair (i.e. low!), and your requirements re length, topic and so on were loosey-goosey. Also: great prizes. Perfect! 🙂
9. Have you ever entered a writing contest before?
Yes. I entered a contest for writing prompts, which I won. 😀 My prompt was: “When the angel rang the bell, Claret was annoyed. He’s late, she thought.” Needless to say, this was fiction.
I also came first place in a Grade 4 contest. I was given a paper crown and the title, Queen of the Composition. That sealed my fate. There were probably other contests I entered, which, having NOT won, I quickly forgot.
10. Will we see you again in the July Word Weaver Writing Contest?
Yes, If only I can find the guidelines again on your website…
11. Did you know the piece you submitted was special?
I knew that *I* liked it. I had no idea whether anyone else would, though.
12. What’s next for you?
Please see #7. Also – I’m planning to self-publish my memoir, since traditional publishers/agents didn’t bite. Two nibbles but that’s it.
Here’s part of my query letter pitching the memoir I wrote last year:
Back in the 1990s I worked on a TV series with Tony Scott, laboured on a script with Patrick McGoohan, chatted with John Ritter over canapés and nodded “Hi!” to Terence Stamp and David Bowie in the hall. My irreverent non-fiction memoir, “Surviving Hollywood North: Crew Confessions of an Insider,” reveals the ups and downs I spent immersed in the then-flourishing film business here in Montreal.
For an ex-social worker, the sudden entry into the world of movie mayhem as a script coordinator was somewhat daunting. What was this unfamiliar line of work like, this peek behind the film curtain? I’m convinced that many people will be curious to find out.
I am seeking a publisher for my 38,700-word memoir, and will be happy to provide my completed manuscript upon your request.
So far I’ve been asked twice for the full manuscript. The first time, I was ignored forever after. Second time got a (very nice) rejection letter.
“Dan Alatorre achieved President’s Circle with two different Fortune 500 companies before becoming a full time writer. He now has 17 titles published in over a dozen languages. From Romance to action and adventure to comedies, his knack for surprising audiences and making you laugh or cry — or hang onto the edge of your seat — has been enjoyed by readers around the world.”
Gang, that’s my bio for this year’s FWA conference, where I’ll be presenting IN PERSON on writerly subjects.
16th Annual Florida Writers Conference
“What A Character” October 19 – 22 in Altamonte Springs, Florida
4+ DAYS of writers, writer topics, publishers, agents, presentations you need and people (like me) you’ll wanna meet!
Allison’s post about the 2016 writers conference is HERE
Workshops I’ll be presenting :
Come see me talk in person about cool stuff like settings and outlines. You’d think those are dull topics but most new writers mess them up. Are you one of them???
1. Settings & Descriptions: How Much is Enough, and What’s Too Much?
A common mistake writers make is going on and on about things that don’t matter. Learn how and when to add detail – and when to avoid it. Create stories that flow because you provide enough information to engage the reader and not so much that it bogs down the story.
2. Outline Your Way to a Compelling Read
Plotters unite! Pantsers be gone, I say!
Gang, if you don’t have a map to your goal, it’s hard to get there. Learn how to create chapters with gripping openings, cliffhanger endings, and unforgettable characters. A page turner is a page turner because readers want to keep going. Find out how to bring that to your story.
Plus, come discuss stuff with me during a panel! PANEL: Dredging Up Your Dark Side
Few novelists are serial killers or homicidal psychopaths, that we’re aware of, anyway, but writing darker fiction requires us to mine the shadowy veins of our psyche. Where do those villainous characters come from and how do you write about the nasty things they do when you’re basically a sweetheart of a person? Ken Pelham moderates this panel.
And YOU can sit down with ME for a Private Interview on any number of topics:
Be amazed by me in a one on one setting, just you, me… and I guess a bunch of other people at other tables, but you can have my mostly undivided attention for a time slot to talk about YOUR specific writer stuff. Haven’t you always wanted to do that? I know I have. (And it’s not even at the bar, I don’t think.)
As me anything, ad get input specific to you. Beta reading, editing, marketing, book fairs, networking, building an author platform, building a fan base, blogging, doing interviews, and more!
And no, I don’t make commissions for doing this or anything.
Turning Your Crappy First Draft into a Spectacular Novel
Manipulating the Hero’s Journey for a Better Book
Allison will be presenting on
How I sold 20,000 Copies of My Debut Novel in the First Year
I’m Not a Scientist, but Story Physics Works for Me
And you can interact with all three of us during the event, in privates sessions or at the bar during happy hour. Poolside, maybe, or at a restaurant. We are amenable to you buying us dinner. Just saying.
“I have to say that I thoroughly enjoyed reading ‘Angel’ , I kept forgetting I was supposed to be beta reading it!”
– beta reader
Gang, my paranormal thriller “An Angel On Her Shoulder” is currently with the first round of beta readers. They are checking for mistakes and continuity problems, but also giving me an overall idea of just how good a story it is.
Looks like it’s pretty good!
Angel is planned for a June release but there’s still time if you’re interested to have a look and give me your thoughts.
The most important thing is that I give enough information to readers without spoonfeeding them so that the ending is both a surprise but very satisfying as well. For that, I wouldn’t mind having more input to make sure I got it right. If you would like to be a beta reader, use the “contact me” button and let me know!
I keep thinking there should be a formula for coming up with an awesome blurb. (We have discussed blurbs HERE and HERE and HERE, but this formula idea is different, I swear.)
Could a series of 10 (or 20 or 30) questions be asked and the answers dropped into a template that spits out a winning blurb every time???
We need that.
We need that sooooo bad.
So let’s do it.
it’s generally accepted that it’s easier to write an 80,000 word novel than a 150 word blurb that gets people to wanna read it.
It’s also generally accepted that blurbs are completely evil, torturing you as they laugh and force you to make revision after revision until you can no longer speak or understand English. Words are just black squiggles on a white background. Damn you, squiggles! Damn you!!
Think of all the things a good blurb talks about. The main character and what his/her existing life is and then what the dilemma is in the story, and then however you want to bait the hook to get people to open the book?
Stuff like that?
There should be a handful of questions we should be able to ask to get all the answers, and then a template that we can drop them into that will basically lay out… Well, maybe not a winning blurb, but certainly a good starter. And then from there you have to use your writerly talents.
I’m interested in getting your thoughts about stuff I see and hear, quotes I read, stuff that passes as knowledge – and starting an authorey conversation.
Huge. It’s almost imperceptible how important this is. This is voice. This is ‘tude. This is greatness. This is that quality people can’t quite explain that makes a writing unique, and we all have it, but it does take practice for it to work, just like a great actor or comic or sculptor or painter, the working on the craft is also what makes it, but knowing your way of saying things, and that you do have a unique way, is special.