The Rundown on Rutgers One-on-One Plus Conference 2012

I know you want to hear all about the One-on-One Plus conference…but I also know that what you’re really aching to ask is, “Was it worth it?”

We stopped in Hershey, PA. on the way for a chocolate bribe.

I mean, Rutgers (where the conference is held) is all the way in New Jersey, and I’m way down here in Georgia. And the Beneficent Mr. Hall and I decided to make a sort of vacation trip out of the journey (and about every three hours, he’d announce, “I’ve driven X miles.” Until by the end he said, “I’ve driven 7.2 million miles.”). It’s a fer piece, as we say in my neck of the woods.

But it was worth it. Worth a week of fast food, hard beds, and road rage (in my own car). Worth the Beneficent Mr. Hall asking me about 7.2 million times, “What’s that say?” (When of course, the sign invariably said exactly what we were looking for, and I’d say, “Turn!” and he’d say, “Here?” and I’d say, “YES!” and he’d say, “Well, great. Now I’ve missed it.” Except that he did not put it that politely.)

The funny and entertaining Tara Lazar started the morning with her success story. (You can read her inspiring words here.) And that was followed by the Five-on-Five session where we met our mentors and met in groups of, er, five. It was an opportunity to ask questions about trends in the publishing field, do’s and don’ts about cover letters or queries, or the importance of social media and branding. Which of course, with some digging, you could find for yourself. But you could not get personal answers, about your personal manuscript/situation like you get with the Five-on-Five. Totally worth it.

We heard a panel discussion about the digital age of publishing, and honestly, what I took away from this discussion is that digital is becoming more and more common. Embrace it and grow with the industry–or get left behind.

At lunch, we had the opportunity to speak with anyone–agents, editors, authors–and though we didn’t have a lot of time, every person I connected with was absolutely polite, encouraging, and attentive. And here’s the thing: these mentors donate their time. They hop on a train, on a Saturday, and come from New York or wherever, and read your manuscript when they get to the conference. And they all seemed so happy to do so.

And finally, the One-on-One mentoring session. I was paired with Bethany Strout from Little Brown Young Readers and we were well-matched. We went over the five pages I’d brought, but we talked in detail about the story as a whole. Which was great for me, to clarify themes and plot and characters. We looked at the query, too. Well, we just talked our faces off and it was immensely helpful.

I think the format works so well because, unlike a 15 or 20 minute manuscript evaluation, you (the writer) have an opportunity to discuss issues in the manuscript, really get a deeper understanding of what works–and what doesn’t work. But I’ll add this caveat: I think you’re going to get the most out of this conference if you’ve completed your manuscript–or at least have a very good idea where you’re going with it. But be open to changes in your story. Not so much a full-out revision, but a consideration of how a change in one aspect of your story might enhance another part of your story. I suppose what I’m saying is be prepared, open your mind to possibilities, and listen. Pretty much what you should bring to any critique, now that I think about it.

The day ended with a witty and wise speech from the prolifically-published Bruce Coville, who gave 13 pieces of advice to help a writer. Now, I have all 13 pieces of advice, but something tells me Mr. Coville, though quite charming and kind, would not want me to share every word of his speech. I mean, it might be Speech #12, right? But then I thought I’d just give you the best piece of advice, but of course, they’re all good. So I’m just picking a random one: Never throw anything away. Because you never know if an idea, a story, or a book might be the idea, the story or the book that will make all the difference.

So to answer the question, “Is it worth it?” Yes, it is. And I’d go again next year. ( But you know I’m leaving the Beneficent Mr. Hall at home, right?)


Save the Bookstores 2012 (And Maybe a Lot Longer)

I am a BIG fan of books, and naturally, bookstores and libraries as well. And so this delightful post over at Tara Lazar’s blog about Save the Bookstore 2012 caught my eye. And immediately, I knew two things.

Thing One, I needed to dash over to the Facebook page so that I could join with Kelly Sonnack and nearly 2,000 other folks in this noble cause. So I clicked on the Join button, and now I just need to decide which bookstore I shall take my business to on June 16th. I’d like to save an indie bookstore in my own little corner of the world, but I’m afraid that ship has sailed. (Or the indie bookstores have all closed their doors, to skip the metaphor.)

I live in a HUGE county in the metro Atlanta area, and though we have a ton of brick and mortar bookstores, they are all of the chain variety. Nothing wrong with that. Except chain bookstores tend to be too big to support your medium-to-small author events.  I suppose a chain bookstore might throw a big booksigning party or two–but I’ve yet to see one.

And the chain bookstores are a tad impersonal. I go to the same insert-chain-bookstore-name-here about twice a month, and rarely see the same people working there. So there are no customer relationships beyond, “Have a nice day.”

But there are a couple swell indie bookstores in counties on either side of me–and I desperately want them to not just stay open, but to thrive! So I’m thinking a drive to one of them on Save the Bookstore Day, June 16th, might be the perfect way to celebrate.

So…hold on a sec. I had two things, didn’t I? Oh! And Thing Two, I needed to spread the word about Save the Bookstore Day.

And I just did.

Finding Motivation for The Picture Book Writer with PiBoIdMo

Oh, my Seussical stars! I am SO excited that I came across Picture Book Idea Month (beginning October 30th)over at Tara Lazar’s very clever blog!

See, I’ve done NaNoWriMo a couple times. Okay, I haven’t exactly completed the 50,000 words at NaNoWriMo, but I did get most of my YA book down, and from that NaNo starting point, I completed the book. I know that external motivation gives me the push to finish projects. And I’ve had a few inspirational nudges towards picture books in the last year. So, I’m ready for PiBoIdMo to give me the swift kick I need to produce picture book ideas.

On the other hand, I am right in the middle of writing a Middle Grade novel and I need to finish that project. So, here’s my plan: One hour per day on PiBoIdMo. I mean, all I have to do is come up with ideas, right? I can come up with an idea in an hour. Heck, I can come up with ten ideas in an hour.

They might be really stinky ideas. But I’ll worry about that little glitch later.

(P.S. Let me know if you’re participating and we’ll motivate each other as well, and I’ll be posting updates throughout November. Remember, you must SIGN UP by November 3 at Tara’s blog to be eligible for the prizes. And of course, all that motivation, too!)