Interview with Author Amelia Kibbie

Amelia Kibbie, Author of Fantasy, LBGT & Historical fiction

To close this chapter of interviews with my Running Wild Anthology colleagues, I’m very pleased to feature Amelia Kibbie. Her story, “Idylls of the King,” moved and enchanted me.

Welcome, Amelia!

Is there a part of the Anthology’s cover collage that reminds you of your story?
The image that I think reflects my story the best is on the far left. It looks like a person with dark pants standing with their hand open but facing back, perhaps to take someone else’s hand. The figure is wearing a black glove. It reminds me of “Idylls of the King” because the picture does look historical, and my piece is a LGBT WWII romance, and it could also represent James reaching back to take Arthur’s hand so they can stand together.

 

Would you add anything to the cover to hint at your story?
A sword. In the story, Arthur is given a sword that represents the mythical Excalibur, and it inspires him to reach his full potential and be true to himself in declaring his love for James.

What do you like best to write?
That’s funny, because honestly I would have to say horror and fantasy, which is a pretty far cry from “Idylls.” But to be real, I love to write pretty much everything if I’m invested in the plot and characters.

What’s the biggest stretch for you to write?
I don’t typically write things I don’t like to write, but if someone paid me to write a traditional hetero romance where the proper girl falls for the bad boy, or a Twilight style scenario where the guy’s actually a stalker with no boundaries and the girl defines her existence based on her relationship, I would have a really hard time writing that. But, if you’re offering me money, I’d make it work.

Where do your stories fall on the plot-driven vs. character-driven spectrum?
I’d like to think they’re equal. Typically I come up with the plot idea, and then develop the characters after that. When it’s brewing in my mind they tend to develop relatively simultaneously.

What authors did you love most as a kid? Now? What authors have influenced your writing most?
As a younger kid, I was way into Patricia C. Wrede, Betty Wren Wright, and Brian Jacques. My teen years focused on Stephen King and Anne Rice. In college, I got into Chuck Palahniuk and Brett Easton Ellis. Now I read anything and everything I can get my hands on and I’m not all that particular. I learn something from everything I read. I’d have to say my current favorite author is Hillary Mantel.

Is there a place that you’ve lived (or visited) that most influences your writing?
I’m from Iowa, so there are a lot of Midwestern culture and themes in my work. However, I’ve done a lot of traveling, and visited France and New Orleans several times. I’ve been to England, and did quite a few historical tours of WWII sites, which helped in the writing of “Idylls of the King” and the follow up novel, Legendary.

What’s the first piece you wrote that you’re still proud of/happy with?
The first place I was really published was on the website BigWorldNetwork.com. They publish stories in installments as serial fiction. I have a fantasy novel there called Harvest of Ash. The first two seasons are available on the site. I have the third season written, but the new managers of the site don’t want to see anything until the series has concluded. I still have to write Season 4. When I turned 30, I decided that it was now or never to accomplish my dream of being a writer. When I was 31 I had my daughter, and I used her nap time during my maternity leave to write Harvest of Ash. I love that book and I hope to finish it someday. It’s a gritty retelling of Cinderella with echoes of Game of Thrones.

What have you been up to since the Anthology came out? Any other news?
I have written a follow-up novel to “Idylls of the King” called Legendary. It takes place about ten years after the short story, though the short story is included in the narrative as a flashback. The plot revolves around James and Arthur as they journey to find someone given up for lost many years ago. On the way they grapple with society’s judgmental treatment of gay people, and some rocky aspects of their own relationship.

What do you plan to work on next?
Man, I have a to-do list! I need to finish Harvest of Ash, as well as a story I have on Wattpad that some of the students I work with are reading. I tell them if they get their homework done and pass their classes, I will write another chapter. I owe them a chapter right now! I’m also working with a filmmaker on a screen play about the Holocaust.

How can readers connect with you?
I have an author page on Facebook — Amelia Kibbie — Author and Freelance Writer. I tweet @AmeliaKibbie and Instagram as @hollycat83. I’d love it if you would visit my website ameliakibbie.com. You can find EVERYTHING there, including my blog “I Know What I Know.”

Exciting news! I just found out that Amelia’s story “Idylls of the King” is one of RWP Readers’ Choice Best for 2018*

Congratulations, Amelia, and congratulations on your upcoming novel! Thank you for joining me on my blog.

 

*Check back for more results soon!

Interview with Author Julie Doherty

Julie Doherty — Fiction that’s Plaid to the Bone

For my penultimate interview with one of my Running Wild Anthology colleagues, it’s my pleasure to feature Julie Doherty. Her story, “Justice,” left me a little shaken, but satisfied.

Welcome, Julie!

Is there a part of the Anthology’s cover collage that reminds you of your story?

Probably the section with the stark tree. I’m certain the main character in “Justice” feels that bleak and lonely, since he’s an abused boy surrounded by pampered show dogs.

 

What do you like best to write?
I love writing horror, which sounds silly coming from a romance author. If you think about it, though, love and fear are two of our most powerful emotions, so maybe it makes sense that I enjoy writing about both.

What’s the biggest stretch for you to write?
Because I slip into my characters’ skins to tell their stories, it makes me something of a writing chameleon. So far, I haven’t found any genre more challenging than the rest.

Where do your stories fall on the plot-driven vs. character-driven spectrum?
My books are largely plot-driven, but they include well-developed characters with plenty of inner conflict.

What authors did you love most as a kid? What authors have influenced your writing most?
Laura Ingalls-Wilder completely transported me to that little house on the prairie. I even remember the smell of those books. Wonderful memories. I think every author has taught me something, though; sometimes, what not to do. (I’m probably that author for a lot of people. Ha!)

Is there a place that you’ve lived (or visited) that most influences your writing?
Since my stuff is Plaid to the Bone, I suppose it’s no surprise if I respond with . . . Scotland. The bens and braes, the heilan’ coos, the swaggering rogues in kilts. *sigh*

What’s the first piece you wrote that you’re still proud of/happy with?
I’m proud of each of them, because let’s face it, finishing a novel is a major accomplishment. But happy? Are authors ever completely happy with a story? I think most are chronic editors. I can’t read any of my published works without wanting to change something. However, I’m especially proud of THE SCENT OF FOREVER, my most recent release. I kind of nailed that one. Here’s the link.

What have you been up to since the Anthology came out? Any other news?
Soul Mate Publishing released THE SCENT OF FOREVER, and I signed with that same house for the release of my fourth novel, A VALLEY TOO FAR. I’ve spent most of the summer renovating my 1926 Colonial Craftsman home and trying not to molder. It rained all summer in Pennsylvania!

What do you plan to work on next?
I started another contemporary romance about a disabled vet who courts an old high school sweetheart by sending her messages with a drone. Unfortunately, I got about 35,000 words in and decided I wasn’t happy with the direction the story was taking. So, I decided to take a short break from writing, reset my creative brain, and come back at it in the fall. I’m starting to get the urge to look at it again. In a week or two, we’ll probably be out of clean clothes again because the laundry maid is stuck to her laptop.

How can readers connect with you?
I blog at my website at: https://juliedoherty.com/ and I’m pretty active over on Facebook. https://www.facebook.com/juliedohertywrites where I occasionally give away some pretty awesome swag and even free books.

 

Congratulations on your recent and upcoming releases, Julie!

Julie has hosted her own fun interviews of Anthology authors and others on her website here. You can read her interview of me right here.
Thanks for the great interviews, Julie, and for taking part in my blog!

UPDATE Dec. 8th, 2018

Exciting news! Julie’s story “Justice” has been chosen as one of RWP Readers’ Choice Best of 2018*. Congratulations, Julie!

*Check back for more results soon.

 

Interview with Author Nick Mazzuca

Nick Mazzuca, Author

Continuing in my series of interviews with my Running Wild Anthology colleagues, I’m very pleased to feature Nick Mazzuca. Nick’s story “Buck It and Bolt” is great sci-fi with a gritty soul and lots of heart.

Welcome, Nick!

Is there part of the Anthology’s cover collage that reminds you of your story?
I really like the inserts of black-and-white photographs layered under the color overlays – it reminds me of the Cowboy Bebop opening, which is another piece of science fiction centered around regular folks grinding their way through their days.

 

Would you add anything to the cover to hint at your story?
I’d put a diffused starscape in the background.

What do you like best to write?
I enjoy throwing characters into impossible, no-win situations and seeing how they crawl out.

What’s the biggest stretch for you to write?
I’m great at figuring out the how of world-building, but getting my characters to sing requires a lot of effort.

Where do your stories fall on the plot-driven vs. character-driven spectrum?
I try to cut it straight down the middle. Plot is there for characters to struggle against. Characters are there to survive what the plot throws at them.

What authors did you love most as a kid? Now? What authors have influenced your writing most?
I was a huge fan of Clarke, Peter David, Harlan Ellison, Conan Doyle, and Rosemary Sutcliffe growing up. Frank Herbert’s examination of societies through personal point of view still informs much of my artistic worldview, though I very much reject the “Great Man” theory underpinning it. Right now I’m enjoying Shelley and LeGuin.

Is there a place that you’ve lived (or visited) that most influences your writing?
I grew up in Nebraska, but moving to Philly really did cement my notion of what a city can represent for a people. Economics, sociology, and history really do come together to create the vibe Philly has. Philly is weird, but you never see a bumper sticker saying “Keep Philly Weird.” It stays that way on its own.

What’s the first piece you wrote that you’re still proud of/happy with?
My Master’s Thesis: The Dreamer Deepe. It’s a Lovecraftian horror play that I wrote close to a decade ago. There’s a ton wrong with it, but it moves and has a solid sense of space and place.

What have you been up to since the Anthology came out? 
One of my plays had a reading at the Valdez Last Frontier Theatre Conference. Spending a week binging theatre and taking nature photos in one of the most magnificent places on Earth… doesn’t suck.

What do you plan to work on next?
I’m restarting work on a sci-fi horror play as well as getting the outline of a screenplay about alien abduction into gear.

How can readers connect with you?
Twitter for my random musings and angry political scoldings: twitter.com/nickmazzuca
Instagram for lots of striking images (and the occasion fuzzy friend!) @nickmazzuca

Thanks for being part of my blog, Nick! It’s great to hear your news and plans, and I wish you the best success with them!

UPDATE Dec. 8th, 2018
Exciting news! Nick’s story “Buck it and Bolt” has been chosen as one of RWP Readers’ Choice Best of 2018*. Congratulations, Nick!

*Check back for more results soon.

Interview with Author Laura Nelson Selinsky

Laura Selinsky, Author and Teacher

As I continue this series of interviews with my Running Wild Anthology colleagues, I’m particularly pleased to welcome Laura Selinsky; she and I have been members of the same critique group for many years. Her story, “Sea Wall,” touched me with its bittersweet poignancy.

Welcome, Laura!

Our Anthology’s cover has gotten comments that it evokes a sense of many varied stories inside.

 

Does any part of the cover remind you of your story?
I’m not sure the cover reminds me of my specific story, but it does remind me of a library. There is no place where I feel more at home than a library…except maybe the library of my childhood. My hometown library was over the fire station and when the alarms went off- Phew!

Would you add anything to the cover to hint at your story?
I’d add a sifting of sand across the cover. Nothing hints at slow passing time like the imperceptible movement of a sand dune; that’s why the protagonist crosses a sand dune in my story.

What do you like best to write?
I love writing YA high fantasy, so much flexibility in writing magic, alternate species, new cultures, etc. Conversely, all that world-building requires many self-generated rules, and a passion for consistent application of the rules from page to page.

What’s the biggest stretch for you to write?
The hardest thing for me to write is a contemporary teenager; I am excruciatingly careful not to pirate my high school students’ lives. I used to teach adjudicated teens, and I have a novel that considers the juvenile justice system. When I work on that particular novel, I have to be cautious to limit what I know to generalizations, not specific experiences.

Where do your stories fall on the plot-driven vs. character-driven spectrum?
Character-driven! I love tossing two characters in a room and seeing what happens. In the anthology, the story is actually “Image-driven.” I started from the image of a seawall and wondered how it affected or reflected the people who pass it each day.

What authors did you love most as a kid? Now? What authors have influenced your writing most?
When I was read-aloud aged, I loved Kipling because my mom read me the original JUNGLE BOOKS. Later I loved the mythology that I found in my school library, and I still teach elective mythology to high school students. My adult fantasy writing is influenced by the usual suspects, Tolkien, Kay, Mallory… In a practical sense, my writing is influenced by my critique group, which calls me to account for my nonsense and encourages me through my discouragement.

Is there a place that you’ve lived or visited that most influences your writing?
We used to camp in Maine when I was a girl, so I have to watch myself or I’ll write endless cool misty mornings.

What’s the first piece you wrote that you’re still proud of/happy with?
Of my adult writing, I’m proudest of a magazine article about working with high-functioning autistic students. Advise magazine,  where the article appeared, has a run of 50,000. I loved the idea of seeing my students fairly portrayed and offered every option for fulfillment in their school lives in a magazine that landed on the desks of 50,000 teachers.

What have you been up to since the Anthology came out? Any other news?
Since the Anthology came out, I signed my first contract for a novel with Anaiah Press. Very exciting!

What do you plan to work on next?
I’m editing the contracted novel under the supervision of my publisher. I am always editing some portion of my fantasy trilogy. I’m also goddess of grammar on my son’s doctoral dissertation…the only part of that I understand is whether the commas are in the right place.

How can readers connect with you?
Twitter- Laura Nelson Selinsky, @huzzahlns
Facebook- Laura Nelson Selinsky

Anything else you’d like to add?
At my first writing conference, I was advised to find a good critique group and stick with it. Best. Advice. Ever. Nothing has contributed more toward making me a thoughtful writer than the critique group I’ve attended for the last eight years. Gemma Brook, the owner of this website, is also the leader of that critique group under the auspices of Pennwriters. Kudos for your leadership, Gemma!

Thank you for the kind words, Laura! Our critique group is really a co-operative effort, and I’ll vouche for you as being not only a goddess of grammar, but a most beneficent one!

Congratulations on your upcoming novel! And thank you for taking part in my blog (and for all your excellent critiquing).

 

 

Interview with Author Elan Barnehama

Elan Barnehama, Contemporary Fiction Writer

Continuing in this series of interviews with my Running Wild Anthology colleagues, it’s my pleasure to welcome Elan Barnehama. His story, “Just Be,” truly moved me.

Welcome, Elan!

Tell us a bit about yourself and your writing. What do you like best to write?
I like writing flash fiction and novels. Opposite ends of the story spectrum – but I like the way they influence each other.

Where do your stories fall on the plot-driven vs. character-driven spectrum?
I would say my stories are more character driven as I like knowing who people are, who characters are. Of course, it’s impossible to separate who they are from how they are in a situation. So maybe the easy answer is both. Clearly, plot influences the choices a character makes, but how they respond reveals who they are.

What authors did you love most as a kid? Now? What authors have influenced your writing most?
When I read EAST OF EDEN as a kid – my mother gave it to me– I loved it and it was the first time I thought to see what else a writer had written. That was followed by falling in love and in awe of the characters and the writing of J.D. Salinger, John Steinbeck, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, Bob Dylan, and others. Later Toni Morrison and Thomas Pynchon came and knocked me over.

Is there a place that you’ve lived (or visited) that most influences your writing?
I was born and raised in New York City, and while I have lived away from the city more than I lived in it, New York continues to be a large part of who I am. But I have also spent time in Los Angeles, and it’s become a part of me and is the setting of the novel I am working on.

What have you been up to since the Anthology came out? Any other news?
My story in the anthology, “Just Be,” is an excerpt from my novel, ESCAPE ROUTE – which is making rounds with agents/publishers. Since the Anthology was published, another excerpt of Escape Route, “Raining In The Holy Land,” was published in JewishFiction.net, September 2018.

In July, I had a new piece of flash fiction, “Snowflakes and Earthquakes,” published by DrunkMonkeys.us. A book I helped edit, “A Mile In Our Shoes — Personal Stories of Global Journeys,” will be published by Whyte Tracks Publisher, Denmark, in September 2018. And, my flash story, “Everyone to Dance,” will be published in the October issue of BostonAccent.com.

What do you plan to work on next?
I am working on a new novel about starting over and taking risks that is set in Los Angeles.

How can readers connect with you?

Twitter: @elanbarnehama
Website: elanbarnehama.com
Facebook: facebook.com/elan.barnehama
Instagram: elan32
Email: Elan32@gmail.com

Thank you for joining me on my blog, Elan! I’m happy to hear of your ongoing publications and wish you many more to come.

Interview with Author Rebecca House

Rebecca House, Writer of Dark Fiction

To continue celebrating the six-month anniversary of RUNNING WILD ANTHOLOGY OF STORIES VOL. 2 , I’m delighted to welcome author Rebecca House. Her story, Visiting Friends, left me chilled and rather wide-eyed, honestly.

Welcome, Rebecca!

Our Anthology, as several people have commented to me, has an evocative cover that hints at a collage of varied stories inside.

 

What part of the cover reminds you of your story?
There is a picture of what appears to be a body lying face-up on the ground. It’s a good hint at where my story ends up.

What element would you hypothetically add to the cover to hint at your story?
I may have added a ghostly figure looking down at the body.

What do you like best to write?
My writing leans towards dark fiction. I like to explore the darker aspects of the natural and supernatural worlds or more precisely, what is it that drives people to the edge either in struggling with their own personal demons, external forces or both combined. Sometimes I just like to throw a character into a tension-filled situation and see what happens.

What’s the biggest stretch for you to write?
Romance. The style of writing I lean towards does not naturally lend itself to typical commercial romances. Now in saying that, gothic romance, that I could do and have done in another published short story titled, “Frozen Beauty.”

Where do your stories fall on the plot-driven vs. character-driven spectrum?
Definitely character-driven. With a psychology background I love to poke around in the inner world of people, dead or alive.

What authors did you love most as a kid? And now? What authors have influenced your writing most?
As a kid I was drawn to mystery/thrillers like Nancy Drew and Christopher Pike. That evolved to a slight obsession with Anne Rice, Tolkien and Stephen King as a teenager. Now, I read so many different kinds of authors. Interestingly, because I write darker fiction I’m not as drawn to read it (which I should!) but instead like to sit with a good literary novel, Marian Keyes or non-fiction.

Is there a place that you’ve lived (or visited) that most influences your writing?
I am very influenced by setting of places I have lived and travelled. “Visiting Friends” was interesting because I wrote about a place I researched whereas a lot of the settings in my other stories are typically based on a place from my past or present. I’ve used my hometown in Southwestern Ontario, my grandparent’s farm where I spent a lot of time as a child and of course my current home in Prince Edward County. One story was a combination of where I live now and the French countryside and a small costal town in Spain called Tossa del Mar. I love wandering in places and often take pictures of setting, buildings or scenes that catch my fancy and use them as prompts for a lot of my stories.

What’s the first piece you wrote that you’re still proud of/happy with?
Actually, “Visiting Friends,” was one of the first short stories I wrote that I felt captured what my style of short story writing was – it opened up creative flood of short stories that I wrote over a year and felt confident enough to submit.

What have you been up to since the Anthology came out? Any other news?
Since the Anthology launched I’ve had two other short stories published. One called “Monika Unraveling” in Weirdbook Magazine #39, and an online story production site, thebreakroomstories.com, published one of my previously published short stories, “Silent Houses.”

What do you plan to work on next?
This past summer I took a bit of a writing break so now I’m back at it. I have a few short stories I am submitting and a whack of them to finish. I also am working on my third novel and debating whether to finish it or fine tune my two other manuscripts. Decisions, decisions.

And finally, a question from your own interview of other authors that you would like to answer:

Are you a panster or a plotter?
I am a panster by nature. For various reasons, time constraints and how my brain works, I need to let a story or character develop organically and sometimes in frantic spurts. I akin it to an Advent calendar and opening up those little doors to get glimpses of plot or follow the story/character. I have to be very disciplined to sit down and commit to a plot, which I have done when it needs to be done, but it’s not my nature of writing. It can be good and frustrating to write. I’ve learned to write an outline on longer projects, although I’ll go through at least two or three until the story reveals itself enough for me to make sense of a manuscript.

How can readers connect with you?
www.smalltowngal.com. All my social media information is there as well as links to my blogs and where to find my published works.

Thank you for having me answer the questions! I hope the readers liked the entire anthology. It was great to work with Running Wild Press and meet an amazing group of authors.

I agree entirely, Rebecca – the Anthology is full of excellent stories, and it’s a pleasure to get to know some of you. I’m glad to hear of your recent publications. And thank you for taking part in my blog!

Interview with Author Tori Eldridge

Tori Eldridge, Suspense Writer

Today, Sept. 15th, marks the six-month anniversary of when I became a published author, and I want to celebrate!

In honor of RUNNING WILD ANTHOLOGY OF STORIES Vol. 2 I’m delighted to feature author Tori  Eldridge. Her story, Life After Breath, made my heart race and left me honestly breathless.

Welcome, Tori!

First, a bit about the Anthology and your story.
A number of people have commented that the Anthology has got a beautifully evocative cover, and that it hints at many varied stories inside.

What part of the cover reflects/reminds you of your story?

There’s an element of nostalgia in the cover of our Anthology that reflects my protagonist’s state of mind as she strolls into an ominous fog along the beach. Memories of her late husband and regret for what they’ve lost is a driving force.

What element would you hypothetically add to the cover to hint at your story?
I would have loved for the anthology cover to suggest the ocean or, better yet, a glimpse of a dark and grasping kelp bed. That would have been awesome.

Now a bit about your writing in general:
What do you like best to write?

I gravitate toward suspense, often, as with my short story Life After Breath, involving psychological tension and some aspect of the supernatural. I also enjoy stories steeped in culture, either from my own multi-cultural heritage or other intriguing and especially exotic cultures. And naturally, as a 5th degree black belt ninja, I do tend to sprinkle in some action. *wink*

What’s the biggest stretch for you to write?
The biggest stretch for me to write is anything I know nothing about. On the other hand, I love learning. So an assignment that takes me out of my comfort zone always leads me to some cool research from which an unexpected story emerges.

Where do your stories fall on the plot-driven vs. character-driven spectrum?
Right in the middle. I like to keep a story moving with action, turning points, reversals, and climax. But at the same time, I am fascinated by the human condition—the commonality of our internal struggles with love, loss, fear, integrity… everything that speaks to the core of what makes us human, as well as our unique perspectives that make us so different. I love those gray areas where the line between villain and saint get muddled and you find out too late you’ve have it all wrong.

What authors did you love most as a kid? Now? What authors have influenced your writing most?
As a kid, I was often too serious for my own good, so my favorite authors were Pearl S. Buck, Leon Uris, James Clavell, and later Stephen King, Ann Rice, and Michael Crichton.
When I became serious about writing, I paid attention to Ken Follett, Barbara Kingsolver, F. Paul Wilson, David Morrell, Jacqueline Carey (Kushiel series), Lisa See, Jonathan Maberry, and Lisa Gardner.

Is there a place that you’ve lived (or visited) that most influences your writing?
I was born and raised in Hawaii, which is unlike anywhere in the world. Not only do Hawaiians have our own rich culture, language, and heritage but we also benefit from the cultures of people who populated our islands during the plantation era, most notably the Japanese, Chinese, Portuguese, Samoans, and Caucasian missionaries, seafarers, and colonists. Many cultures. Many perspectives. Growing up in Hawaii has not only influenced my writing but how I look at the world.

What’s the first piece you wrote that you’re still proud of or happy with?
My first short story, Call Me Dumpling, was published in Suspense Magazine’s Best of 2014 issue and remains one of my favorites. In fact, it inspired a novel and a potential mystery thriller series.

What have you been up to since the Anthology came out? Any other news?
In the last six months, I finished the revisions of one novel, began the sequel to another, wrote a short story, and am currently working on a new novel inspired by another of my short stories. It sounds like a lot, but I’ve been approaching it all in a relaxed way since I’m still building back my strength and agility from hip surgery!

What do you plan to work on next?
I’m having a blast writing my dystopian futuristic thriller.

How can readers connect with you?
Readers can find me on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and, of course, my website torieldridge.com. Just google Tori Eldridge and I’ll pop up everywhere.

Thank you for helping me celebrate our Anthology’s semi-anniversary, Tori! I wish you the best of success with all your projects.

UPDATE Dec. 8th, 2018
Exciting news! Tori’s story Life After Breath has been chosen as one of RWP Readers’ Choice Best of 2018*. Congratulations, Tori!

*Check back for more results soon.

 

Pennwriters Conference 2018

Every May, writers, editors, and agents gather in Pennsylvania for three days to share their knowledge, wisdom, and passion about the art and business of writing. I know I’ll always come home from the conference inspired and brimming with ideas; it’s reason enough alone to belong to Pennwriters, and there are many others.

One of the great delights is connecting with people who share this passion. This year, I had the pleasure of meeting my Running Wild Anthology colleague Suzanne Mattaboni, a gifted writer who is also a local Pennwriter representative.

She put together a beautiful raffle basket full of goodies and books by Pennwriters – among them the RW Anthology which features a trio of us Pennwriters, including Susan Helene Gottfried, another talented writer and an editor (I’ve really enjoyed emailing with her and wish she could’ve come so I could meet her).

I contributed a few items to the basket, clues to some of the RW Anthology stories. You can just spot them in the photo: seed packets for “Bee Heaven” and “Holy Basil” (for my story, “Last Memory”); a bag of pirate gold (for Cindy Cavett’s fun “Rehoboth Beach Break”); and a tiny Excalibur (for Amelia Kibbie’s touching “The Idylls of the King”). And the “Seaglass” candle (furnished by Suzanne) fits well with Laura Selinsky’s poignant “Seawall.” Curious how these mysterious things fit in with the stories? Look into the Anthology and find out!

Three of my critique group friends were there this year, and hanging out and comparing notes with them was excellent fun. It was thrilling to see E. Williams win second place in the Pennwriters Annual Contest for short fiction with her story “Cici Accepts the Facts” (find out more on her website). And my friends Katrina and Rowan got requests for their manuscripts from more than one agent. Congratulations, my friends!

I was so pleased that Suzanne won third place for her short, “A Trailer Full of Cadillacs,” in the “In Other Words” contest (and that her daughter won first place in the poetry division! A lot of talent in that family).

Though “In Other Words” is a small and informal contest, it’s judged by attendees, and it’s an honor to be voted for by your peers. I was delighted that my short story tied for third place (not with Suzanne, as it happens).

As always, the conference had so many great workshops, I had to make tough choices. Once I got home, it took me weeks to edit all my notes and distill the wisdom that I can use here, now, and soon. Here is a tiny sampling from just a handful of the excellent presenters.

Don Helin, award-winning writer of thrillers, presented a lively, good-humored workshop on “Writing a Marketing Plan.”

A few tidbits for my present use:

• Develop a press kit; if you were going to write an article on yourself, what would you need?
• Develop a non-fiction hook: some fact that ties into your stories, to catch the attention of people who might promote your work. It can even work with fantasy. (I’m still working on what to tie into my fantasy in progress; it might have to do with the legend of Deirdre of the Sorrows.)
• Keep your website up to date…good advice I’m working on right now!
• Keep writing! Publishers want the next book. And for me, none of this matters if I don’t get to keep putting my stories into words.

 

Kathryn Craft, award-winning author and freelance developmental editor, talked about how to “Play Jenga with your Prose.”

Intriguing title, isn’t it? First, she and an audience member defined just what jenga is for those of us ignorant: a game where you start with a short, solid tower of wooden blocks and take out one at a time to stack them on top, ending (before it falls) with a taller, airier tower.

Her key point: overwriting builds a wall between the author and the reader. So…make holes in the wall and beckon to the reader through them. She gave eloquent examples from excellent authors.
Things I found particularly useful have to do with setting:
• Save description until it counts and something interesting happens.
• Make details meaningful.
• Consider ways to make setting interactive.
• Give details that anchor the reader in your world.
• Use the setting to support the plot.

 

Hallie Ephron, NYT bestselling author, talked about “Parallel Tracks: From Back Story to Front Story.”

One of her many helpful ideas is to chart your characters in relationship to your protagonist:
• Draw arrows toward the protagonist if they’re helping and away from if they’re hindering.
• You need a mix of push and pull.
• Some characters may do both.
• If there aren’t many arrows pointing away from protagonist, there’s probably not enough conflict in your story.
• You may need more characters, or hidden goals in existing characters.
• The protagonist can be hindering themselves.

And she highlighted the concept of Parallax: where you’re standing determines what you see.
• Different people will believe different things.
• What lies do characters believe, what truths do they doubt?
• What really happened, vs. what people think happened?

 

In “World Building 101,” multi-talented fantasy writer Jack Hillman presented a treasure trove of things to consider.

Some essential points:
• Make sure you know the backstory for your world.
• Your world will determine, at least in part, your people.
• Build your society around your world, and your conflict around all these factors.
• BUT don’t tell the reader everything about the world backstory. Let them figure some out themselves.

 

With a great deal of humor and hard-won wisdom, Western writer R.G. Yoho shared “What NOT to do as an Author.”

Some key things that stuck with me:
• Remember: the manuscript you don’t finish can’t be improved.
• Don’t let others define success for you.
• Enjoy the successes along the way, and enjoy the ride.
• It’s amazing how many ‘yeses’ you’ll hear if you’re not afraid to hear ‘no.”

 

Finally, with great verve and energy, Donna Galanti shared much helpful, practical information about “School Visits 101.”

Having been to some of her workshops and read her excellently fun Joshua and the Lightning Road I only wish I were a kid lucky enough to have her visit MY school!

These are just hints and samplings of what these presenters, and many more, had to offer. I’m still digesting this feast of information. Now it’s time to put it into use, and get back to writing!

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