Wednesday, January 27, 2010

5 Reasons to Participate in a Book Fair

We’re having a book fair at the end of the day at our Write It Right conference. Local authors are invited to participate; cost is $10 for a table if you only plan to sell your books at the Fair. If you’re planning to attend the conference (and I know you are), you can rent the table at no cost.

If you’re a published author living in a fairly close proximity to Schuylkill County, we’d love to see you there! I know, I know—writers are solitary folk, living in the imaginary worlds we create in our minds. But why not come out and talk with the 3-dimensional people? Here are 5 good reasons why you should:

Sell your books. Duh. But if you’re hoping to broaden your customer base beyond your parents, grandma, and Great-Aunt Tilly, to be perfectly honest, you need to attend as many events as you can—get your name and product out there, practice your sales pitch, and watch your books fly off the shelves (er, table in this case).

Network with other writers. One of the biggest benefits of any literary event is the opportunity to meet and chat with other creatives. You’ll be amazed at the stories you’ll hear, the writing tips you’ll pick up, and the friendships you’ll form. We understand the triumphs and frustrations you face in your writing projects—guess what? We have many of the same ones! Isn’t it nice to meet kindreds?

Inspire. So you're meeting writers, talking the writerly talk, walking the writerly walk, and inspiring them just as they may be inspiring you. No, really. Do you know how many people follow through on their "I'm going to write a book one day" promise? Not too many! So welcome to a very exclusive club. You'll be inspiring your fellow writers to sit down and commit to a project--after all, you did it, why can't they?

Go somewhere new. Traveling is not only good for your soul, but it just might prove to be good for your writing! Even if you're only going to the next town or mid-sized city, it's still a change of scenery--new restaurants to try, new folks to meet, and new things to experience. You never know when a road trip might spark an idea for a story or article, so get going!

Build your fan base. You can't beat good old-fashioned word of mouth publicity, and if your readers enjoy your work, you can bet that they'll suggest your book to friends...who will suggest it to their friends...and so on. Getting out there and meeting your readers face-to-face will just enhance the whole experience for them. And what writer doesn't like to hear that their work has touched a reader? Isn't that a huge reason why most of us write--to make a connection with readers?

Monday, January 25, 2010

Interview with Kathryn Craft

by Jodi M. Webb

The Black Diamond Writers Network is honored to have author and developmental editor Kathryn Craft as the keynote speaker for our first annual Write It Right conference. Kathryn is the owner of [], a service that helps clients hone their work for publication through manuscript evaluation and developmental editing. Over a 19-year career, she wrote hundreds of arts features and reviews for The Morning Call daily newspaper (Allentown, PA) and other publications. While writing novels and memoir over the past decade she served in a variety of positions on the board of the Greater Lehigh Valley Writers Group, including two terms as president. She also serves on the board of the Philadelphia Writers' Conference. She speaks about writing and the publication process, and hosts writing retreats for women at her summer home in northern New York. She is a contributing editor at the popular Blood-Red Pencil blog []. Here, Jodi Webb catches up with Kathryn to talk writing, editing, and living the creative life.

BDWN: Many authors who write memoirs say it helps them to understand their life experiences. Do you feel all types of writing, not just memoir, reflect a writer's life?

Kathryn: It is impossible to separate your writing from your life experience. From the words you choose to the rhythm of your sentences to which ideas and perceptions juxtapose to spark creativity, your worldview will define your project. That’s why we may want to read two biographies about the same person—the writing will be different. That’s why writing workshops are so stimulating—the same assignment will be fulfilled in myriad ways. This is a message of great hope to writers, because there is room in the world for all our voices. But it also makes rejection tough. With our life’s DNA woven into each project, the rejection feels personal.

BDWN: I know you've done newspaper writing but you also write fiction. How does your fiction reflect your life?

Kathryn: I like to think of each writing project as staging a drama. The writer is peopling the stage with characters who will come to life when the author shines the bright white light of her creativity upon them. But creative energy must be channeled properly or it will spill all over the place. To properly direct the audience’s attention a writer must use a housing to focus the light—that’s your craft. The writer’s life experiences, then, are like the gel that slips down in front of the light: experience colors everything the light shines upon. So if I am shining my light toward a certain story, that story is not necessarily “reflecting” my experience—my experience is the lens through which I see my work.

BDWN: Do you feel your writing is a celebration of your life or an escape to something different?

Kathryn: For me writing is not an escape. In fact it’s the opposite, for it calls upon me to turn around and face the conflicts that most people avoid or deny. I must unearth emotional truths and find a way to effectively convey them so a reader I’ve never met can share the same journey. Some days the work is fun and some days it is extraordinarily difficult. Some days I crank out several new pages and some days I sit and steam over one paragraph because I’m just not sure that I’ve yet found or communicated the truth I sought.

But my writing is absolutely a celebration of life. I am not the type of person who will flit through her days partying. I need to figure some things out. I need to leave a footprint. I need meaning, and my writing is how I create it. And, because writing offers me so much of what I seek in life, I think it is fun!

BDWN: Is there one type of writing you prefer over the others?

Kathryn: I love interviewing other creative people about their lives and writing features about them, because representing a slice of life as a compelling story within a word limit is a fun puzzle. And my life has been greatly enriched from all the choreographers and other artists I’ve interviewed along the way.

Writing fiction, on the other hand, is one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. It challenges me on every single level that I value. I love to research and gain new knowledge. I love to ask questions until I find answers. I love to tell stories. I love to figure out why people do what they do. As much as I love interacting with other people I also enjoy long stretches of time alone. I am hopelessly enamored with words and I love the way good writing communicates on multiple levels. I love that fresh burst of creativity that becomes the first draft but even more I love applying craft during revision. I love the complexity a novel allows. I love the inherent paradox of writing tight while writing long.

Because I love a good challenge, I’ve got to answer “novel-length fiction.”

BDWN: Care to give us a peek at what you're working on right now?

Kathryn: What I’m working on right now is the same novel I’ve been working on for the past six years: “The Sparrow that Fell from the Sky.” That’s right, 6 years! It’s the story of Penelope Sparrow, a modern dancer whose distorted body image has plagued her career. She wakes up one morning in the hospital among strangers, unable to move, with no memory of the “accident” that put her there. It’s a story about second chances, and what we can make of them.

I address this story through the lens of my experience: I was a dancer and choreographer, I was a dance critic, and my first husband committed suicide when our sons were 8 and 10. Two resulting story questions—“How might despair accumulate to the point that a dancer would want to end her life?” and “What if self-destruction wasn’t under her complete control?”—inspired Penelope’s interweaving storylines in my novel.

I also have a draft of a book-length memoir about the experience of raising my sons on the farm where my husband was determined to die—“Standoff at Ronnie’s Place”—but haven’t yet decided if I’ll continue developing it for publication. But the memoir form resonates with me. Chaos may challenge us in real life but it cannot rule in an effective story. In stories, things happen for a reason. A memoir is an opportunity to wrestle with life’s chaos until you see the pattern and the meaning. It’s a chance to show that you have risen above circumstance and grown as a result. It’s a chance to create, from the chaos of life, a story.

BDWN: I hope we won’t have to wait another six years to learn the story of your wounded sparrow. Give us one last piece of advice for our readers.

Kathryn: If you identify the emotional turning points that are relevant to your story and spotlight them properly, your reader will hang on for the whole ride.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Blog Tours 101

by Jodi M. Webb

Jodi is a full-time freelance writer whose work has appeared in GRIT, American Profile, Reunions, History, PTO Today, and the Christian Science Monitor, among many, many others! She is also the co-author of Pennsylvania Trivia: Weird, Wacky, and Wild (Blue Bike Books) and a blog tour organizer and contributor to WOW Women on Writing ( Jodi will be BDWN's featured speaker at our March meeting.

My mom is annoyed at me. Again. It drives her crazy that I have a job that she’s never heard of and she can’t explain to her friends.

I’m a Blog Tour organizer. So, for my mom and everyone else who is a little fuzzy on blog tours here’s the scoop.

Definition: Blog tours are like book tours but, instead of going from book store to book store, you go from blog to blog.

Question: But what do you do once you get there?

Answerstrong>>: There are lots of options. The owner of the blog (blogger) can post their review of your book, an excerpt, or your book trailer. They can post a video, podcast or written interview they do with you, give away your book, or run a guest post.

A guest post is a short piece (500 words) you write about your book and writing, your life, or even something like baking cupcakes or traveling to foreign countries.

Question: What are the advantages of a blog tour?

Answer: You don’t have to get out of your jammies.

Okay, there are other things. Bloggers have followers that automatically receive an email or feed of their blog posts everyday. They can guarantee you that these people will get info about your book as opposed to book store events that may only attract 8 people (sadly I know this from personal experience).

You won’t be traveling here, there, and everywhere wasting gas and time you could be writing. And, since most bloggers archive their posts, visiting a blog is like a book store event that lasts forever. Visitors could read about your book tomorrow, next week, even next year. They can also instantly visit your website, blog, book trailer, and even purchase your book immediately through your publisher’s website or They can also blog, Twitter, or email friends about this great new author—you!

Question: What blogs should I include in my tour?

Answer: Obviously, blogs that have a lot of visitors or regular followers. But they also should have to be your target audience. For example, if you wrote a romance novel and you stumbled across a super-popular blog called skip them. Most romance readers are female, we’ll have to assume that most readers of are male. In the real world visiting would be like writing a romance and having a book event at man’s clothing store.

Question: So I should only approach blogs with many followers?

Answer: No, there is an exception.

Let’s pretend you’ve written a niche book directed at a very specific group—how about women writers. If you find a general blog for women called with 20,000 followers and a blog for women writers called that has 10,000 followers definitely go for You know that all 10,000 of their followers are your target audience. With you don’t know how many of the 20,000 are writers. This is where the Internet can work to your advantage. Although there are no bookstores dedicated to OCD, raising environmentally aware children, or only books set in the South, there are popular blogs dedicated to them.

Question: Can I set up a blog tour myself?

Answer: Yes, but…(you knew there was a but, didn’t you?) there are some disadvantages.

1. If you’re working from scratch it will take you some time to discover the high traffic blogs that welcome blog tours. Also, some blogs prefer to work only with organized blog tours that can assure them they’re being offered a quality book.

2. You might visit a few clunker blogs that you have problems with: they forget to post your review or something else.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

5 Reasons to Attend a Writers' Conference

Writers tend to work in a bit of a vacuum, so every once in awhile it's nice to get away from the computer screen and have some face-to-face interaction. Conferences are a great way to pick up new info about different genres, meet other writers, and stay "in the loop" of what's happening in the field. Conferences can be pricey, so you want to make sure you'll get your money's worth if you decide to attend. Though offerings can vary, below are 5 of the biggest reasons why you should seriously consider attending a writers' conference:

Networking opportunities. It's nice to hear about others struggling with the same issues and how they're working through them. Networking can also lead to future business (for all of you nonfiction freelancers), writing buddies, or simply friends who can provide some feedback on projects.

Education through breakout sessions. Most attendees are looking for some new information about the field. That's where breakout sessions come in. Learn some new techniques for character development, how to write a stellar query letter, how social networking can boost your business, writing effective villains, or any other writing-related topic you can possibly imagine. Certainly attend a few sessions related to your genre, but why not check out a few on something completely different? It might help you approach your own work in a new way.

Inspiring keynote speakers. Even the most proficient writer needs a kick in the butt once in awhile, and often a strong keynote speaker can provide it. They are typically a highly established and respected member of the field meant to get the crowd to ask themselves "How can I renew my commitment to my craft?"

Author book fairs. It doesn't hurt to take advantage of opportunities for shameless self-promotion if they're available. Lots of conferences hold book fairs as a way for their published attendees to peddle their wares. It's a great way to support your local writers, and, if you're one of those writers, it's a quick and easy way to sell some books!

Giveaways. Who doesn't like free stuff? Conferences are notorious for their assorted giveaways or "swag" (stuff we all get). Pens, pencils, notepads, and often back issues of various magazines can be found on the average "freebie" table. Don't be greedy, but definitely take advantage!

What are some of your biggest reasons for attending writers' conferences?

Monday, January 18, 2010

Registration Now Open for BDWN's Write It Right Conference!

Registration is now open for the Black Diamond Writers Network's first annual Write It Right Conference, scheduled for Saturday, April 17, 2010 at the Schuylkill County Council for the Arts, 1440 Mahantongo St., Pottsville, PA.

Registration prices are as follows:

Early Bird (postmarked by 2/28/10): $40
Early Bird Student/Senior (postmarked by 2/28/10): $35

Registation after 2/28/10: $50
Student/Senior Registration after 2/28/10: $45

Be part of the author book fair! We like to support our local authors and are offering space at the conference to sell books. Reserve a table for $10; no fee if you would like to be part of the conference.

For more information or to download a registration form, visit