CWS 2016: Grants for writers

Disclaimer: I am not perfect and neither are my notes. If you see anything that needs correction or clarification, please email melanie (dot) marttila (at) gmail (dot) com and I’ll fix it post-hasty.

jackillingworth

Presenter: Jack Illingworth, Literature Officer, Ontario Arts Council (OAC)

The majority of funding dollars go to written works. The budget is approximately four million and that hasn’t changed significantly since the nineties. Programs are fiercely competitive. In general, 11% of applicants receive funding.

Apply often and apply widely.

There are three streams of funding for literary creation.

The Canada Council of the Arts is moving to a non-disciplinary model in 2017.

Don’t put yourself in a box.

The writers’ works in progress grant offers up to $12,000 to work on a specific project.

For poetry, we want to see 15 pages of your work. For prose works, we want to see approximately 40 pages.

Juries assess the applications on relative artistic merit.

October 18 is the next deadline. There is also funding set aside specifically for northern writers and for comic arts (graphic novels). These have separate deadlines. You can’t apply to more than one type of works in progress grant, though.

Prose and poetry juries are separate. I try to have a “wild card” juror on each. For fiction, it’s a jury of four and for poetry, it’s a group of three.

The program could change in 2017.

We may add funding for an additional specialized genre.

Our current anonymous assessment model could go for the sake of equity and diversity. How can we ensure equity and diversity without knowing the identities of the applicants?

For the work in progress grant, there is an emerging writer category. We ask for one published work (novel or collection) or three publications of short fiction, non-fiction, or poetry.

We may be adding self-published works to the eligibility requirements.

There is also the writers’ reserve. This is not assessed by a jury, but by the participating publishers. It runs from September 1 to January 31 of the next year. Please see the OAC website for our list of participating publishers. It’s wide open genre-wise.

Approximately 10% of applicants receive funding. The available funding is divided among the publishers.

We hope to have an online application coming soon, but technological change is slow to come.

Juries for the WIP grants are selected after the applications are received to avoid conflict of interest. There are six considerations for equity: persons of colour, indigenous writers, disabled writers, francophone writers, and regional writers (in the case of the northern WIP grant).

Keep your application professional in tone. Don’t be pretentious. The synopsis is optional.

Also keep your eye out for the Chalmers Art Fellowships. They’re offered one time a year (currently TBA) and are interdisciplinary grants intended for research and development. For artists with up to 10 years of practice, the funding amount is between $10,000 and $25,000. For artists with over 10 years of practice, the funding range is between $10,000 and $50,000.

And that was the last session I’ll be reporting on from the Canadian Writers’ Summit. The rest of the presentations I attended didn’t lend themselves to reportage and the rest of the events were key note speeches or awards ceremonies.

As I implied last week, I’m going to take some time to vary my programming before I dive into WorldCon sessions. Next week, I’ll get into the current reno Phil has undertaken and something else of a more personal nature. The following week, I’ll probably finish my review of mid-season TV and offer my thoughts on a few more movies I’ve seen in the past year or so.

And then it’s time for another next chapter update. Gosh, time really does fly, doesn’t it?

Be well!

CWS 2016: Diversify your writing income

And . . . I’m back from WorldCon and my blogging vacay🙂

Disclaimer: I am not perfect and neither are my notes. If you see anything that requires clarification or correction, please email me at melanie (dot) marttila (at) gmail (dot) com and I’ll fix it, post hasty.

Presenter: Robert J. Sawyer

RJS1

One of the easiest ways to diversify is to use your expertise and become a public speaker. If your expertise is in writing, you could receive a nominal fee, funded by a professional writing organization or granting agency.

A science fiction writer, however, can use their scientific research as the basis to become a futurist. A futurist demands a more substantial fee, potentially between five and ten thousand dollars. The more established the writer is as an expert, the higher the fee offered for their presentation.

Public speaking ability, is, of course, a benefit. Join your local Toastmasters to develop that. Sign up for an improvisation class.

Short fiction can earn a small amount, but even small amounts can add up over time and the publication credit becomes part of your platform. Hugo Gernsback, for whom the Hugo award is named, founded Amazing Stories and paid .06 cents a word. It’s still a payment standard used today.

A more lucrative form of writing is screenwriting. The Screenwriters Guild has standardized rates of pay for screenwriters. A one hour script for a television series, such as ABC’s Flashforward, based on my novel of the same name, earns the writer about $3600. That’s approximately 6000 words. Compare that to a short story of 6000 words paid at .06 cents a word.

If you do get a novel published, pursue film and screen rights. It doesn’t happen without effort, though.

I’ll never win a Giller Award, but I earn the equivalent of that prize amount every year.

Whatever you write, become an expert in that subject.

Authority comes from the same etymological root as author. Market your authority.

Record your presentations. A video is a great promotional tool. It will convince people to hire you. Embed it on your web site.

Too often, the author is the only person not being paid.

If you present in schools, don’t be shy about asking for a fee. The only classes I don’t charge are the ones studying my book. If they’ve bought a class set of my book, it’s not fair to charge further, in my opinion. Some professional writing organisations will provide you with a reading fee. Some will cover travel or accommodation expenses as well.

In general, non-fiction sells better and pays better that fiction. I might avoid book reviews, though. The Globe and Mail will pay $175 for book reviews, but you have to either be prepared to hold your punches, or have someone want to punch you. You can’t like everything you’re given to read.

Write what you want to find out about. Maureen Jennings writes the Murdoch Mysteries. She also writes articles on historical Toronto.

Q: What are the tax implications?

I happen to be a dual citizen so that makes some of it easier. The IRS is assiduous about getting its money, but you can work around it to some extent. I live and do most of my work in Canada. It makes a difference. For a presentation I gave in the US, I wrote it in Canada. If the work is completed in Canada, the income is declared in Canada.

For publishing income in the US, you need to have a ITIN or EIN.

Q: Do you enjoy public speaking?

Yes, I do. The more speaking engagements you get, the more comfortable you get on the stage.

Q: How did you get started?

Back in 2000, I was invited to speak at an AI conference based on my research from a recent novel. Previous to that, I was making $250 per speaking engagement as a science fiction author. I asked for $2500 and the organizers said yes. I could have asked for more.

I used to be on panels with Jay Ingram and Bob McDonald, but now I can earn more than they do for a speaking engagement.

Q: How does the unpublished or minimally published author make a living?

The number one thing is to get on television or radio as soon as you can. An agent or publicist can be helpful with this.

I used to teach for Ryerson, but it was actually the least lucrative channel of income I had when you factor in the hours spent on prep and marking.

Q: Do you have to seek out engagements?

Initially, yes. Not so much anymore. Once you’re an established expert, people will come to you.

If you have an author newsletter, let your readers know that you’re available for talks. Fans will convince their businesses to hire you just so they can meet you.

Q: Can diversification compromise your author identity?

It can.

There are some writers who end up making more public appearances and presentations than writing novels.

In 1988, I was 28. I wanted to be a novelist, but I was writing financial columns. That was how I paid the bills. I decided to start turning down these opportunities to make more time for writing novels. I was terrified. In 1996, eight years later, I won the Nebula award. It took that long to make the transition.

And that was time.


You’ll be happy to know I’m returning to Tipsday and Thoughty Thursday curations starting this week.

Next week: I’ll be offering up my next chapter update for August and then I’ll have only one more session from the Canadian Writers’ Summit to share before I move on to WorldCon panel notes🙂 I have enough of those to keep the weekend blogging going into 2017 (considering the time I’ll be taking off for NaNoWriMo).

Be well until next week, writerly peoples🙂

Canadian Writers’ Summit 2016: Writing hard truths

Disclaimer: I’m not perfect, and neither are my notes. If you see anything that needs correction or clarification, please email me at melanie (dot) marttila (at) gmail (dot) com and I will action it post hasty.

HardTruths

Panellists: Lorri Neilsen Glenn (moderator), Kim Pittaway, Clem Martini

LNG: So many people are struggling with how to approach difficult topics and hard truths in their writing. Each presenter will have the opportunity to frame their work, each will give a reading, and then we’ll open the floor to Q&A.

CM: In 2010, I wrote Bitter Medicine, which is about my family’s struggle with mental illness. It ends on a positive note, but the story itself is difficult in that it documents our journey with my brother’s schizophrenia and my mother’s developing dementia. When I recognized the first signs of my mother’s dementia, the support structure we’d had in place for my brother collapsed. They were living together, and had been able to take care of each other, with my support, until then. I’m now working on the continuing story, the working title of which is The Book of Lies. Caregiving is a verb. Ideally, it’s perfect, like a spider web, a delicate network of mutual and community support. In reality, it’s more like a spider web that’s been woven by a spider on LSD. It’s full of flaws. My problem now, because I’m writing our story as I’m living it, is to decide what’s safe to write about. What do I include? How far do I go? Those are cogent questions for all writers facing true stories with demanding subject matter.

KP: My current manuscript is about families and unforgiveness. The concept of difficult knowledge versus lovely knowledge is used in curation. Deborah Britzman defines lovely knowledge as easily assimilatable. It confirms what we know, or think we know, about the world. Difficult knowledge does not confirm, or conform with, our reality. How do we curate suffering? Are we showing it?  Are we turning suffering into something productive? How is truth-telling gratuitous? How is it harmful? This is intriguing to me as a writer because most memoirs are full of lovely knowledge. There’s nothing wrong with sweetness and nostalgia, but we have to be aware that everything contains within it, its opposite. Do you face it head on, or obliquely? We have to question our tools, our strategies, and our craft.

LNG: I was reading Martha Nussbaum. She states that the heart cannot change without story. I found myself thinking about readers and readers’ responses. My students ask me why I don’t have any happy stories or poems. It’s a valid question, but it made me think. Writing hard truths forces us to confront our shadow selves as writers and as readers. Despite what you think you’re writing about, the tough stuff is already there. Do we really need those details, though? There is a hunger for stories that get close to the bone. Take a look at the stories that have come out as a result of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission for residential school survivors. Those are terrible stories, but they’re also healing stories. Stories about difficult truths invite us to remove our masks. They can be, and often are, gendered.

Readings ensued, with the attendant and courteous trigger warnings, followed by Q&A.

Remember: I’ll be on blog-vacation, so there won’t be a post next weekend, though this week’s curation posts will be scheduled and should be posted on their regular days. No curation on the 23rd and 25th, though. I’ll be back on August 27th with my notes from Robert Sawyer’s presentation on diversifying your income and regularly scheduled blogging will proceed from there until November.

Review of D.G. Valdron’s The Mermaid’s Tale

About the book:

themermaidstaleIn a city of majesty and brutality, of warring races and fragile alliances, a sacred mermaid has been brutally murdered. An abomination, a soulless Arukh is summoned to hunt the killer. As the world around the Arukh drifts into war and madness, her search for justice leads her on a journey to discover redemption and even beauty in the midst of chaos.

Published by Five Rivers Publishing.

My thoughts:

The Mermaid’s Tale is a fable of personhood wrapped in a murder mystery framed by a fantasy setting, peopled by familiar races that are presented in subtly original ways.

Valdron’s protagonist has no name. Most Arukh (orcs) don’t. The few that have been so graced have earned their names by distinguishing themselves from their mad and murderous brethren. Each race has its own name for the Arukh, but all of them translate to either abomination, or abortion.

The Arukh are the sterile offspring of vampires and goblins and considered to be soulless. They are housed in lodges and governed by trolls, dwarves, or vampires and are largely used as expendable troops in warfare, which the various races engage in frequently with one another.

Something horrible has happened, though. A mermaid, one of a race considered sacred, has been brutally murdered. The selk call upon the Arukh to investigate and find the killer. It is implied that this particular Arukh is known for her skill in this area, but not why.

As she investigates, the trail of the killer leads the Arukh to each of the races in turn and the world is eventually fleshed out very cleverly in the form of told tales and legends. The mystery is what first draws readers in, but the world and its stories are what compel readers to continue turning pages.

Valdron’s world is a young one of unmitigated violence and the Arukh’s life is one of degradation. She fails repeatedly in her quest and makes many wrong assumptions, but for all that, the story itself is one of hope and redemption and the climax and denouement are both satisfying and bittersweet.

Readers will be left wanting more (moar!) of Valdron’s world and more of his surprisingly complex protagonist.

I lurved The Mermaid’s Tale.

My rating:

Five out of five stars. I did say lurve, didn’t I?

About the author:DGValdron

Den Valdron, is a reclusive writer, originally from New Brunswick, currently living in Winnipeg, Manitoba. Over the years, he has published in print and online a variety of short stories of speculative fiction, and articles on obscure pop culture topics.

Like many writers, his previous occupations have included mechanic, carpenter, schoolteacher, journalist and ditch-digger. He is currently an aboriginal rights lawyer.

He loves B-movies and tries to be nice to people. The Mermaid’s Tale is his first published novel.

You can connect with Den on Facebook.

The Canadian Writers’ Summit 2016: Achieving your dream: the shadow side

Disclaimer: I am not perfect and neither are my notes. If you notice anything that needs correction or clarification, please email me at melanie (dot) marttila (at) gmail (dot) com

Panellists: Suzanne Alyssa Andrew, Carrie Snyder, Maria Meindl, Heidi Reimer, Sarah Henstra (Moderator)

theshadowside

SH: Everyone talks about the struggle that precedes publication, but what about what happens afterward?

[Panellists introduced.]

What’s been your experience with the shadow side?

HR: I’ve been thinking about this because I achieved my creative goals and felt things nobody I knew had ever mentioned. I finished my novel and I felt depressed rather than elated. My spouse is an actor and he’s experienced in the art of letting go. In his world, it’s a recognized thing that all actors experience. It’s not in mine. When I won the Chatelaine contest, I was elated, and then terrified. I looked up their distribution and readership on line. That amount of exposure made me feel vulnerable. I physically recoiled. Something intensely private was about to become public. I talked to friends about my distress.

MM: I feel like I’ve confronted the connection between success and darkness in my life. My grandmother was Mona Gould. By the time I was a child in the 60’s, her poem, “This was My Brother at Dieppe” was everywhere. When her success faded, she turned to alcohol and became bitter. What I learned from that experience is that success is harmful. It can destroy you. When she died, I received boxes of her materials. It took me five years to sort through it. She started promoting her work at the age of eleven. Her poem was sponsored by an arms manufacturer, but she was a pacifist. She didn’t feel she could object. Now I understand that it’s not success that’s destructive, but the lack of a forum and the means to use it.

CS: I always wanted to be a writer. As I was driving in from Waterloo, I tried to figure out what that seven-year-old girl’s impulse was. I focused everything on becoming an author. I published by first book at the age of twenty-nine. It was written when I was twenty-six. It was another eight years before I published my second novel. In 2012, The Juliet Stories came out and was nominated for a Governor General’s Award. It was a huge moment for me. I embraced the high and I rode it. I wasn’t prepared for not winning, though. I mean, I knew I wasn’t going to but knowing it and experiencing it are two different things. They informed us ahead of the public announcement and I sat with the secret for a week. I felt ashamed. I was afraid of disappointing my kids and everyone else who’d been so supportive of me and my book. I didn’t know how to cope with it. I am so grateful for my blog because I was able to get my experience out there. I almost changed careers. I had my acceptance to McMaster’s midwifery program in one hand and the offer for The Girl Runner in the other. I thought I’d made a mistake in pursuing my dream. Now I’m making a living as a writer. It’s wonderful and it’s amazingly difficult at the same time. It’s hard to be here and to be vulnerable in front of you.

SAA: Everything you’ve all said resonates. I’ve just published my first novel and I, too, have always wanted to be a writer. I went on a book tour and it was the first time my family had heard me read my work. I play bass in a band. It’s a group, a community. We share. In literary circles, I find there’s a lack of transparency, especially about publishing in Canada. I think the reality’s worse than any of us realize. There’s a lot of pressure to market your own book. I invested in promotion. I’m a freelance writer. I don’t regret making that investment. At the time I figured, I’ll worry about it later. Well, it’s later and I’m feeling the financial impact. I have second book paralysis, knowing how hard it was promoting my first. Musicians are open and honest about the challenges. They offer each other advice and strategies. Authors in Canada don’t talk about these issues. We’re worried about seeming ungrateful. It’s very isolating. We need to be more vocal as a community.

SH: Can any of you comment further on shame and vulnerability?

CS: You’re novel is something you’ve worked on for years. It will be judged. There will be reviews. I’m a private person. I work through things in writing. It doesn’t feel right to be so exposed. To create anything of value, you have to go there, though. I was terrified of being changed by success. I can deal with rejection, but I have no experience in dealing with success.

SAA: It’s about being a creative person in the public sphere. You can get so involved in the persona you adopt for the media that you can start to feel schizophrenic. We don’t express our real feelings on social media. Everyone else seems more successful, happier. You compare yourself to others and find yourself wanting. There’s another reality to the one presented on Facebook.

HR: When I was published for the first time (I wrote an essay about the experience) I suffered anxiety and panic attacks. If it’s not discussed openely, everyone thinks it’s only them. I have a novel on submission. I received a rejection and felt relief. I know what to do with rejection. A ‘yes’ involves a whole other world. I was happy to stay in my identity as a rejected writer. You have to redefine yourself in light of success.

SH: Is this a question of gender? We’re all women on this panel.

MM: There’s a line between the inner and outer worlds of the author. There’s a free-floating shame still attached to being a woman and a woman writer in particular. Hélène Cixous once asked, “write? With what right?” We’ve internalized this social message. It’s about taking charge of the narrative. Take hold of the narrative. Be heard. It’s a gendered issue.

CS: Are there any men authors in the audience?

Aud: Yes. When the questions was asked, all the women were nodding and the men were shaking their heads. We don’t talk about the shadow side.

MM: The word authorship, etymologically, it means leadership, mastery. As a woman, I didn’t feel welcomed into that world.

SH: Many authors speak of their novels as their ‘book babies.’ There’s a stigma to post-partum depression. You’re not allowed to feel down after having a human baby. Have you found anything that helps?

SAA: Being someone who had this dream, I had high expectations. Being in a band dialled those expectations back. Check your expectations. Talk about it with other authors. What does success mean to you?

CS: Create a safe, private space in which to create. Don’t get down on yourself if you can’t create while you’re doing publicity. It’s not what I thought the job was. I have to remember why I write. I have to turn off all of my expectations. I’m still a writer, even if I never get published again. I wanted to make a living as a writer. I have. But there are worse things than not making a living as a writer.

HR: I did a releasing ritual. I needed to get all of that stuff out. Society says you should be happy. I felt loss. I had to write it out. I had to acknowledge the feelings and affirm what I wanted.

SH: How do you not miss the moment because you’re rushing on to the next fifty things you have to do? You have to celebrate your successes. Ania Szado says you also have to honour your losses.

MM: When my book came out, my Rabbi did a blessing over the book. It was a wonderful thing, on the Sabbath, so, no selling, no pressure. We were just honouring a life event.

SH: Do you want to say something about your definition of success?

MM: The more I thought about it, the more I realized how much others define success for us. We also internalize those definitions and move the bar.

CS: My ‘word of the year’ was success. It terrified me. To everyone else, it looks like success. To me, it doesn’t feel like success. It has a lot to do with what we expect.

SAA: Amy Winehouse’s definition of success was to sing. That’s it. When she got big, she imploded.

Q: What issues turn you on to writing?

CS: I write because I have something to say. Later, the issues grow out of what I’ve written.

SAA: Despite all the challenges of writing, we all have something to say. The joy of writing is in expressing something, of speaking to your readers.

Q: How do you relate to your readers and how is that relationship affected by the shadow side?

MM: I used to be more involved in small press publication. A man bought my book for a dollar and then returned later to tell me that he was moved. It was a wonderful feeling.

SAA: I started out on fire about online marketing. Eventually, I felt like I was speaking into the void. It wasn’t until I went on tour that I felt it was real. I could talk to people. Writers are rarefied outside Toronto.

CS: I was at a writers’ festival in BC and a woman gave me an envelope. In her letter she asked me how I had known her so intimately? She felt like I had written for her, to her. It was humbling.

SH: When I launched Mad Miss Mimic last year, a girl bought the book, sat down, and didn’t stop reading all night. My favourite thing is when parents send me pictures of their kids reading the books. It’s old school. One reader can change your world.

Q: What kind of support do you look for?

SAA: I get the best support from other writers. I have a wonderful agent, Samantha Haywood, and she held my hand through the process.

Q: What strategy do you use to deal with criticism?

CS: I bounce back really quickly now. I’m as polite as possible in person. Privately, I allow myself 24 hours of bleakness, and then I get over it.

SAA: A lot of critique says more about the critic than the writer.

Q: Do you get requests for information from aspiring writers?

CS: Yes. I have advice on my blog. I’ll respond to individual requests for advice from friends.

HR: Take me out for lunch and I’ll tell you whatever you want to know.

Q: How do you deal with family stuff?

HR: I write what I write and when it goes out into the world, I panic. The Chatelaine article reveals some personal information about my relationship with my dad. I had to tell him when I heard that it would be published. I was worried, but it was good. It’s best to deal with it directly.

And that was time.

Next week, I’m going to post another book review.  It’s a five-star so you can look forward to that🙂

Be well until next I post, my friends.

Ad Astra 2016, day 2: Common mistakes from an editor’s perspective

Disclaimer: I am not perfect and neither are my notes. If you notice anything that needs correction or clarification, please email me at melanie (dot) marttila (at) gmail (dot) com

Panellists: Dominik Parisien, Linda Poitevin, Nina Munteanu

MostCommonMistakes

With this session, I chose a different approach. There was a lot of discussion and insight, with examples from various editing projects, none of which I was able to capture effectively on the page. The editors focused on the three parts of a story, the beginning, middle, and end, and, interestingly enough, they discussed three main problems with each part of a story.

As a result, this is a very point-form summary of the main points of the panel.

So here’s the description of the panel from the program:

Whether it’s easy-to-correct grammatical errors or awkward sentence structure, or more complex issues related to characterization, plot, or research, in this panel you’ll hear real editors share the most common mistakes that they see new or inexperienced writers make and tips on how to avoid them. They’ll tell you the things they encounter that have a simple fix, but also the things they encounter that are warning signs of larger problems.

Problems with beginnings

  • Not starting in the right place. Too early (prologues/backstory) or too late (character in danger immediately/no reader investment).
  • Not hooking the reader. If the reader puts the book down, you’re done before you’ve even gotten started.
  • Not having a distinctive, crisp voice.

Mel’s note: Most of these problems can only be solved by experience, either the author’s own, gained through practice, or by leveraging the experience of others, with the help of good critique partners/beta readers/freelance editor.

Problems with middles

  • Solving the character’s problem too early in the narrative. The story ends when the character achieves their goal.
  • Not knowing the story you’re telling/theme.
  • Presenting event after event to get the character from point A (the beginning) to point B (the end).

Mel’s note: Points two and three are related. If you don’t have a handle on your story and its theme, you’re most often going to end up with a series of unrelated events. My recommendation: read Steven Pressfield’s blog and books, and read to Shawn Coyne’s (Steven’s editor) Story Grid book and blog (and now podcast with Tim Grahl—excellent).

Problems with endings

  • Not ending (!).
  • Setting up for a series when the novel is a standalone, or failing to set up for another book when it’s a series.
  • No payoff for the reader/unsatisfactory ending.

Mel’s note: Begin with the ending in mind, even if you’re a die-hard pantser. Endings are torture if you’ve given them no thought until you get there and you’ll likely finish your draft with a hefty case of post-partum depression. Also, one of your editing exercises should be to ‘reverse engineer’ your story from the ending back to the beginning. You can see where important bits of foreshadowing need to be.

And that is my final entry in Ad Astra 2016 reportage. There were readings and launches and the Guest of Honour Brunch, but I wanted to enjoy those rather than record notes on them😉

See you on Tipsday!

Ad Astra 2016, day 2: A guide to submitting your short stories

Disclaimer: I am not perfect and neither are my notes. If you notice anything that needs correction or clarification, please email me at melanie (dot) marttila (at) gmail (dot) com

Panellists: Bob Boyczuk, Gregory A. Wilson, Nicole Levigne, Kate Heartfield

NL: Read the submissions guidelines of the publications. Read the publication to get a feel for the kind of story they publish.

GAW: Don’t undersell or oversell your story. Don’t lie. What’s really important is the excellence of the work. Would you overlook stories just because they haven’t followed guidelines?

NL: We read everything. We give feedback, even if it’s just one sentence. One query that got to me used parenthetical snark. After noting that he’d conformed to the guidelines, he went on, in parentheses, to say that he didn’t understand why his story had to formatted in any particular way given today’s technology.

GAW: Someone who goes on and on about their experience may be an asshat. If you receive any feedback, it’s a win. You don’t have to follow the advice unless you see a pattern forming, though.

NL: Rejection often speaks more to fit versus quality of the story or the writing.

GAW: Don’t argue with the editor.

KH: You don’t have to respond to the rejection, even if it’s a nice one.

BB: You can use it if you meet in person, though. “You gave me some encouraging advice. Thank you.”

KH: If you talk to other writers, you learn that rejection is the default. Fantasy and Science Fiction (F&SF) gets over 1,000 submissions a month.

GAW: Don’t overlook anthology calls. Most of my publications have been in anthologies. The idea that anthologies don’t make a lot of money isn’t accurate. It depends on how it’s launched and the audience.

NL: For Second Contacts, the theme was 50 years after first contact. That’s not a theme you’d see in a magazine.

GAW: Athena’s Daughters was an all-female effort. Authors and editors were all women. Apollo’s Daughters was pro-feminist and had women editors, but the writers were men.

Q: How do you find anthologies?

GAW: Duotrope, Ralan, and Submission Grinder are your main resources.

NL: Duotrope is a for-pay service, but they tweet, so follow them on Twitter.

Q: Do you always get a response?

KH: Yes.

NL: If they don’t, it will be stated in the guidelines.

KH: Some editors will let you know you’ve made it to a second round. This is awesome news.

NL: For magazines and anthologies that use Submittable, you can track your submissions, which is useful. If you submit to Lightspeed, just watch your email. They respond at light speed, too.

GAW: It depends on the magazine’s internal process.

NL: Simultaneous submissions are fine for most publications. Read the guidelines, though. They may specify otherwise. Never send multiple submissions (that’s more than one story at once to one publication). Don’t resubmit, or submit another story unless you are asked to do so.

GAW: If you get a request to revise and resend, take advantage of it.

NL: There’s no guarantee they’ll accept it, even if you do, though.

KH: We should talk a bit about contracts, at least in the high level sense. A contract follows acceptance. They’ll usually ask for first North American rights for print or online, whatever format the publication is in. There will be a reversion clause to specify when rights will revert to the author. Payment conditions will also be specified. Check to see how long the publication has exclusivity.

NL: Have a writer friend read it over.

GAW: Check out the Writer Beware web site for fraudulent publishers.

And that was time.

There’s only one more Ad Astra session for me to report on and then I’m moving on to sessions from the Canadian Writer’s Summit🙂

See y’all on Tipsday!

Have a fabulous weekend!

Ad Astra 2016, day 2: How to get an agent

Disclaimer: I am not perfect and neither are my notes. If you notice anything that requires correction or clarification, please email me at melanie (dot) marttila (at) gmail (dot) com.

Panellists: Amanda Sun, Mary Fan, Gerald Brandt, Matt Bin

HowToGetAnAgentPanel

AS: Online resources that can help you get an agent: #MSWL, Miss Snark, Query Shark, Guide to Literary Agents blog.

MB: #MSWL is critical these days.

GB: You have to do the research.

MF: There are writers who get an agent and their first novel fails to sell, their second novel fails to sell, but then their third sells big.

MB: The agent has to love your book.

GB: If your query doesn’t match their submission guidelines, it will be rejected.

AS: I used to be an acquiring editor for Room. If a submission didn’t meet the submission requirements, I’d never see it. It would go straight to the spam folder.

Q: How formal does your query have to be? I write YA.

GB: You have to be professional up front. Your second paragraph, where you’re pitching the novel has to have the flavour of your book, but it’s a sales pitch.

MB: The agent wants to understand how your book works and why it will appeal to readers.

MF: 250 words is a good goal length for your query.

Q: At what point do you look for an agent?

GB: As soon as you have a book that’s finished and ready to go out into the world.

MB: Query agents first. If you submit to publishers, agents will have their sales channels limited. Remember, it’s your agent’s job to sell your book to publishers.

GB: Take advantage of pitch sessions at conferences and conventions.

AS: And work on your next book.

GB: The agent is in it with you for the life of your career.

Q: So querying an agent first is better? Is that because editor A might love you book and editor B might hate it?

GB: At Penguin Random House, if one editor rejects the book, all of them do.

MF: That can happen at agencies, too. Agents can move around, too.

Q: What happens when your agent leaves the agency?

GB: In my experience, I was given the option to follow the agent or stay with the agency.

MB: When agents send your novel to publishers, they do so with a different perspective.

MF: I know a writer whose agent is all business. Some agents will want to help edit or develop the work prior to submission to publishers.

MB: Look at the agent’s reputation before you sign with them. You have to be able to work with them.

GB: When an agent is interested in your work, the tables turn.

MF: When you get an offer, don’t be afraid to ask for references.

AS: Don’t be too eager. You don’t have to back down 100% of the time. It’s a partnership.

MF: There are some Schmagents who aren’t legitimate. There should be no reading fee.

GB: The money should flow to the author. Check out Writer Beware and Preditors and Editors.

MB: Querying is the traditional road. Networking at conferences and conventions can help.

GB: But don’t be stalkery. Have your elevator pitch ready, just in case.

AS: Don’t burn your bridges. Publishing is a surprisingly small world.

MF: Maybe we should talk about the structure of a query? It’s three paragraphs. Introduce yourself and your book. The second paragraph is your pitch. Then the third paragraph is about you and your qualifications.

GB: List publication credits if you have any, memberships in any writing organizations. Make sure you look serious.

AS: Your introductory paragraph should focus on the reasons you’re querying this particular agent. Have you met at a con? Do you write books in the same genre as other authors they represent?

Q: Do you use Canadian, or US spelling?

GB: Everything should be in US spelling.

MF: Your comps (comparative novels) should be published in the last three years.

AS: X meets Y is a popular formula to use. Agents can use it to pitch to publishers.

MB: We should also mention online pitch contests like #PitMad. Look them up. Most of them are on Twitter and you have a limited time to pitch directly to agents. Use the hashtag. If an agent likes your 140 character pitch, they’ll respond to you. The rules are all online.

Q: How long should my book be?

MF: It really depends on your genre and category. There are a lot of resources for this online.

Q: Should you query to an agent if you mostly write short fiction?

AS: You can do that without an agent and, in fact, most agents won’t represent short fiction, even for authors they represent for novels.

GB: Collections of short stories are a hard sell.

And that was time.

Next weekend, it will once more be time for a next chapter update (already?).

Be good and write well!

Ad Astra 2016, day 2: Publishing today—old models, new models, and hybrids

Disclaimer: I’m not perfect and neither are my notes. If you see something that needs correction or clarification, please email me at melanie (dot) marttila (at) gmail (dot) com and I will fix things up, post hasty.

Note: I attended the David G. Hartwell memorial panel first, which was lovely and funny and touching, but not the kind of thing one takes notes about.

PublishingPanel

Panellists: Brett Savory, Sandra Kasturi, Ed Greedwood, Tom Doherty, Mark Leslie

SK: There’s been a lot of change in the industry and some “Chicken Little” doom saying. We’re finding our way.

EG: There are so many options now. Historically, traditional publishing or print self-publishing were the only options for the serious author.

TD: What it’s all about is story. How can we make the story the best it can be? How can we get these stories to the reader? J.W. Campbell was “the” editor for short fiction. Tor now has a novella program. In 1996 we had four hundred and some distributors in the US. Changing models for product wholesalers have meant the loss of book distribution networks. We were back to 1939 for a while. Every pharmacy, airport, and grocery store now has a fiction rack. There’s a lot of competition for the brick and mortar book store, chain or indie. New models for distribution and sales are emerging thanks to the internet.

ML: One of the things I like about digital publishing is that we don’t need three hundred pages bound in cloth.

TD: How do we get new readers? If you don’t or can’t put books where readers are, how do we put a book in their hands? Tor.com reviews movies and television as well as books as a means of attracting readers to the brand.

SK: ChiZine is a small publisher. We have a small publishing budget. HarperCollins used to handle our distribution, but they stopped. If anyone tells you they know the secret to marketing, they’re lying.

ML: You started ChiZine because you wanted to publish the books you wanted to read.

BS: Something like 50 Shades of Gray or The DaVinci Code, we’d like to think we’d stay away from, but if something like that came our way, we’d totally publish it. We need commercial successes so we can fund the outliers.

ML: How does Tor approach it?

TD: You have to have great creative people and you have to let them write what they love. The Gears wrote The People of the Wolf. Their books are archaeology and anthropology, but they’re also speculative fiction in our opinion. Forge focuses on near future science fiction and military thrillers. Science fiction has a pejorative reputation. The classic first contact story can also reveal sociological impact and insight.

SK: We’re fascinated by genre ghettoization, even intra-genre. In our experience, dark fiction isn’t just horror. Dark fiction writers get it out on the page. Writers who keep that darkness inside can get messed up.

ML: Is it all about the story?

EG: The Ed Greenwood Group is not going to compete with Tor, who’ve cornered science fiction and fantasy, or with ChiZine, which is more of a literary press. I wanted to do something I remember from my childhood. I used to fall in love with the setting, the story worlds I discovered through reading, and I created my own stories to go with them. So now I have the Hellmaw universe, which is dark urban fantasy. I have story universes for epic fantasy, space opera, hard science fiction. For each setting, we’re creating music, short fiction, art, novels, and follow up stories (like a coda). We will never let things go out of print. If an author wants to stop writing, or dies, there will always be other authors writing in the milieu. We’re an alternative, not competition.

ML: Is there more collaboration?

EG: The potential is there. Each world has its own lore guardian and art director. Fanfic is not verboten, but a TEGG book is a TEGG book. We’re developing a sandbox area for creators to play in.

ML: Where does a beginning writer fit in?

TD: Tor has been publishing new authors for a long time. Brandon Sanderson’s first book was Elantris. Moshe Feder is his agent. They met at a convention.

SK: ChiZine is open to new writers from August to January through the Writers’ Reserve program. I don’t ever want to be above the slush. There are a lot of talented people out there.

BS: Everything that we published has been edited by one of us. It’s an insane amount of work, but we’re still about 10% of the scale of Tor.

EG: David G. Hartwell chased me for seven years to get my last book. It took seven years to get into print.

TD: We buy more from agents because they screen for us.

SK: I pass on the experimental stuff to Brett.

ML: Kristine Kathryn Rusch and Dean Wesley Smith do the Fiction River Anthologies. I joined their panel for one of them. Each editor comments on each story. It’s amazing to see the variety of reactions. One editor will say, ‘This is the best story.’ The next will say, ‘I couldn’t get past the first page.’ Self-publishing has exploded, but 80% of the industry is still print-based. Publish-on-demand can fill the gap, but there’s no distribution.

SK: It really makes a difference. 90% of our books have had missing information, or misinformation on their Amazon listings. Gemma Files’ Experimental Film was out last fall. Amazon finally has it in pre-order.

EG: Amazon wants to go 100% epublishing, but print is still a thing. They’re saying ‘no’ to 80% of their market. What about outside the US?

SK: One thing epublishing has done for us is that we can re-issue novels where the rights have reverted to the authors.

Q: Publishing has changed over the last fifty years. Attention spans are shortening. Is this why serialized fiction is coming into fashion?

TD: Series have always been important. In a series, the characters become friends. It’s an advantage, but not a necessity. There are stand alones. I have a quarrel with literary fiction. Up to five hundred yers ago, everything that lasted was fantasy. Dickens was reviled for being too popular.

Q: Podcasts and transmedia works, are they the responsibility of the publisher?

SK: We’d love to do all the things, but we can’t. We have to network.

TD: Tor has a contract with NASA because they feel that science fiction brought young people to science. They have a massive education project. We are trying to reach a broader audience.

And that was time.

Next week, I’ll be taking in more writerly goodness at the Canadian Writers’ Summit, so I will be taking a brief blogging vacation. We’ll catch y’all up over the weekend of the 25th/26th when I’ll be presenting my notes from the how to get an agent panel🙂

Review of DIYMFA by Gabriela Pereira: What it should have been but never was

What Amazon says:

DIYMFACoverGet the Knowledge Without the College!

You are a writer. You dream of sharing your words with the world, and you’re willing to put in the hard work to achieve success. You may have even considered earning your MFA, but for whatever reason–tuition costs, the time commitment, or other responsibilities–you’ve never been able to do it. Or maybe you’ve been looking for a self-guided approach so you don’t have to go back to school.

This book is for you.

DIY MFA is the do-it-yourself alternative to a Master of Fine Arts in creative writing. By combining the three main components of a traditional MFA–writing, reading, and community–it teaches you how to craft compelling stories, engage your readers, and publish your work.

Inside you’ll learn how to:

  • Set customized goals for writing and learning.
  • Generate ideas on demand.
  • Outline your book from beginning to end.
  • Breathe life into your characters.
  • Master point of view, voice, dialogue, and more.
  • Read with a “writer’s eye” to emulate the techniques of others.
  • Network like a pro, get the most out of writing workshops, and submit your work successfully.

Writing belongs to everyone–not only those who earn a degree. With DIY MFA, you can take charge of your writing, produce high-quality work, get published, and build a writing career.

My thoughts:

Gabriela Pereira was compelled to create DIYMFA, the website, community, course, podcast, and now book, after her disappointing experience with her Master of Fine Arts (MFA) program.

Like Gabriela, I went the route of the Master’s degree, believing that I needed the validation. It was the lie I believed, and it almost ended my writing career before it began.

DIYMFA is what the MFA program should be (or should aspire to be) but never was.

Most MFA programs centre on critique—without teaching the students what it takes to offer and receive constructive feedback—and coaching/mentorship by someone who may or may not even understand their own creative process, let alone be able to articulate it, or guide their mentee to their process and best mode of creative expression without imposing some ideal of “how things should be done.”

Admittedly, MFA programs have matured and improved, but rather than focus what should be a review of an amazing guide to the writing life on an indictment of the graduate institution, I’m going to, in grand rhetorical style, return to the matter at hand (see? Academia has ruined me—ruined!).

Gabriela divides her guide into three sections: write with focus; read with purpose; and build your community.

In the first, she offers a brief, but engaging, examination of all the essential points of craft that writers must master. There is no one way to reach the destination, but a multitude of paths from which writers can choose based on their personal goals and aptitudes. Self-knowledge and self-confidence are the foundations upon which craft is built.

While the reading with purpose section is shorter than the other two, it is no less important. Gabriela emphasizes a balanced approach throughout DIYMFA. All three aspects, writing, reading, and community, are essential to creative development.

Learning to read and analyze the text, not like an academic, but like a writer, is what this second section is all about. We have to learn about craft first and begin to apply it before we can learn to recognize it in the writing of others and extract lessons from that purposeful reading that we can take back to the page.

Finally, in this brave new world of social media, how do we tackle the task of finding our audiences, reaching out to them, and building a community of writerly friends, readers, and fans?

In all aspects of DIYMFA, Gabriela has studied and learned from the best in the industry, and she unpacks these lessons in an accessible and engaging way.

One of the things I enjoyed most about DIYMFA is that Gabriela draws on her statistics background and mathematical bent to offer charts, matrices, and unique visualizations that will help readers and learners find a way into the material she presents.

And, as a self-confessed word nerd, she exercises her talent for acronyms and initialisms, creating fun mnemonics to encapsulate concepts and principles for her writerly audience.

Having sung the praises of DIYMFA as an alternative to a traditional MFA program, I must point out that Gabriela never disparages academia, in fact, traditional programs are pointed out as viable options for the aspiring writer.

What if that writer has economic, domestic, or temporal limitations, though? It is for those writers-in-progress that DIYMFA has been crafted.

DIYMFA earns my highest recommendation.

My rating:

FIVE STARS!

About the author:GabrielaPereira

Gabriela Pereira is the Instigator of DIYMFA.com, the do-it-yourself alternative to a Masters degree in writing. While undercover as an MFA student, she invented a slew of writing tools of her own and developed a new, more effective way for writers to learn their craft. She dubbed it DIY MFA and now her mission is to share it with the world. Teaching at conferences and online, Gabriela has helped hundreds of writers get the MFA experience without going to school. She also hosts DIY MFA Radio, where she recreates the MFA speaker series in podcast form.

Before becoming a writer, Gabriela has done lots of wild and nerdy things like: playing violin at Carnegie Hall, singing madrigals in full Renaissance garb, designing toys for kids ages toddler to tween, and taking applied topology and number theory “just for kicks.” Despite her varied interests, Gabriela’s main passions have always been teaching and design. Now at DIY MFA she can bring these two elements together. Her favorite thing to do is come up with new dastardly plans and innovative resources for writers.

When she’s not teaching or developing new courses, Gabriela loves to write middle grade and teen fiction, with short stories for “grown-ups” thrown in for good measure. A New Yorker born and raised, she lives in NYC with Lawyer-Hubby, Little Man, Lady Bug, and Office Cat.