Archive for February, 2014

February 17, 2014

Writer’s Block is Trying to Tell You Something: an Interview with Alix Moore

by Steve Berberich

Writer’s block is traditionally viewed as an obstacle to overcome through willpower. To author and speaker Alix Moore, writer’s block is a mindset that can be changed through greater self-awareness. In this article, Alix discussed the sources of writer’s block and how to take the first steps toward developing the self-awareness you need to overcome it.

Alix will be one of over 30 distinguished speakers participating in the 2014 Maryland Writers’ Conference. Her session is titled “Getting Unstuck: Why Writer’s Block is Your Best Friend.” Here’s a sneak preview of some of the themes and topics that she’ll be discussing in her presentation.

She has created and presented dozens of seminars and workshops for teachers, writers, and those who work with animals. She is the president of the Montgomery County chapter of the Maryland Writers’ Association. When not writing or presenting, Alix is raising chickens, training cows, or harvesting vegetables on her sustainable homestead in Clarksburg.

Here is a closer look at Alix Moore:

Getting Unstuck: Why Writer’s Block is Your Best Friend, and How to Start Writing Again
Alix Moore

4:15-5:00 in the Art of Writing Track

Writer’s block is one of the most misunderstood parts of the creative process. Creative blocks are necessary and valuable moments of pause that ask us to slow down, open to our intuition, and, sometimes, to rethink our path. In this experiential workshop, participants will learn to recognize the signs and types of writer’s block and use practical exercises to release self-judgment, activate intuition, and get back to inspired writing.

Find out more about Alix Moore on the Maryland Writers’ Conference’s Speakers, Panelists, and Agents page.

Steve Berberich: Your website states that everyone has an inner creative genius. Is that related to your topic?

Alix Moore: Yes, it is related. That inner, creative part of us doesn’t operate like a machine. When we aren’t writing, it’s not that we’re broken and need to be fixed; it’s that we need to pause, to listen, and to learn something about ourselves.

In this workshop I want to unpack some of the myths that people have about writer’s block. A lot of times people think of it as a sort of character defect. They think, “I’m not trying hard enough. I need more willpower.” I don’t think that’s the problem at all. There’s usually something much deeper going on. There is real information to tap into in the fact that we are stuck.

SB: Why does writer’s block happen?

AM: I think that one of the big causes is fear. We are blocked creatively because voices in our head say, “You are not good enough; your work sucks; you are never going to get published.” Or, we are afraid of actually being successful and being visible because being “out there” can attract a lot of negative attention from people.

SB: You mean that people will “throw dirt?”

AM: Exactly! I know writers who have gotten negative messages, even hate mail, online, and it comes from just being visible and just simply being who you are. There is a lot of pressure in this society to conform, to not stand out.

SB: What do you mean?

AM: Look at celebrities in general. If people are too good at what they do, someone will find some way to try to bring them down and make them smaller. That makes them feel more comfortable perhaps.

If someone really shines brightly in their own unique way, that can illuminate places in their own lives where maybe they are not standing in their own truth, not being fully the creative persons they would like to be.

SB: Getting back to writer’s block, how do people get unstuck?

AM: First they have to understand what programming they already have around writer’s block. What goes on in your head when you are in that situation? That is the first thing to do: develop an awareness. The second thing is to consider alternatives. I will be exploring what could be going on to cause you to think you are not self-disciplined enough.

SB: As a writer, what helps you cope with writer’s block?

AM: For me, it always comes down to meditation. In meditation, we access that inner voice that’s often drowned out by the day-to-day world. In the workshop I will take people through a very short meditation and talk about the meditation tools that they can use to find out what is really happening, and to cope with it.

SB: How did you find your audience?

AMI have been a teacher for many years. I am also a nonfiction writer who writes about things that have changed my life. The minute I learn something, I want to share it with other people. The style of meditation I teach now completely changed my creative process and I wanted to share that.

So, I just started blogging, being visible online, holding workshops, and participating in my writers’ community, which is MWA!

SB: Is there anything else you can tell me about writer’s block that we haven’t covered so far?

AM: Sometimes we are blocked because we are in a period of growth. If we are trying to step into a new understanding of ourselves or a new amount of public success, or trying to move into a new direction, sometimes the creative process just has to shut down for a while. It is as if we are a website undergoing maintenance. But [our creative ability] will always come back in a new and better way.

SB: Have you ever experienced such a thing?

AM: Yes. I had to learn to step out of my ego. I really thought I was pretty hot stuff when I was younger. I was operating in an ego perspective that said, “How cool am I?” but I was actually really insecure. I had to let go of that insecurity about whether other people would like me and what I do, and find my own ability to like myself. During that personal growth period I could not write for a few months. It was like somebody turned off the faucet.

SB: Do you have a message that you want to share the conference?

AM: I want people to know they have so much power, that they can shine so brightly if they can just work through their fears and not worry about other people’s opinions.

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February 10, 2014

Ten Questions for Literary Agent Jessica Negrón

by Carolee Noury

Writers know that it’s a good idea to get to know agents before pitching to and/or querying them. In that spirit, here’s an opportunity to meet Jessica Negrón, Associate Agent at Talcott Notch Literary Services. Jessica will be one of three agents participating in the practice pitch sessions at the 2014 Maryland Writers’ Conference.

Jessica Negrón chose a career in publishing over her previous lab research plans. We’re lucky that publishing tempted her away.

Carolee Noury: Who’s your favorite living author?

Jessica Negrón: This is a dangerous question. It’s so hard to choose just one! If I absolutely must pick one, it would be Juliet Marillier.

CN: Have you met her?

JN: No.

CN: If you could, what would you ask?

JN: If I did have the chance to speak with her, I’d probably ask about her wonderful characters. She creates such rich, layered worlds filled with generations of fascinating people. I’d love to know what these characters were up to off-page, and how she keeps track of so many of them! I’ve been hooked on Marillier since I discovered DAUGHTER OF THE FOREST when I was thirteen, and the young women in her books had a profound effect on how I viewed myself growing up. I couldn’t have asked for braver role models.

CN: Was there a moment when your career as an agent snapped into place? What was that like?

JN: My journey as an agent is really just starting, but I think the moment things really started to feel real was when I closed my first deal (SHRIKE, Harlequin 2014). Before that, it’s so easy as a new agent to doubt yourself and worry about people taking you seriously. Like anyone, we’re our own worst critics, and it’s easy to feed into the doubt bred by comparing yourself to others who are further along in their careers. That first deal is such a validation and a relief.

CN: What experiences prepared you most to be an agent?

JN: I’ve been in sales for almost my entire professional life, so that really prepared me for the sales aspect of being an agent. I was a telemarketer for a long time, so I’m no stranger to trying to convince people to throw money at me. The book industry is its own beast, however, and I would never have been able to make my way here without the internship positions I held in the years leading up to my becoming an agent. These positions gave me such an insight into the world of publishing and provided the strong foundation I needed to start my career as an agent.
CN: What makes Talcott Notch Literary Services an unique agency?

JN: We’re a very small, boutique agency located in Connecticut. I think our size makes us more capable of developing closer relationships with our authors. Our smaller lists allow us to provide more personal attention to the people we work with, so no one feels like they’re a product on a long, automated assembly line.

CN: When you reflect on some of the best advice you’ve gotten in your life, what comes to mind?

JN: By far, the best advice I’ve ever received came from a beloved mentor of mine from college. I’d started to doubt the path I’d chosen and he asked, “When you’re old and retired and get to do things for pleasure without worrying about money, what do you want to be doing?” If it wasn’t for him, I’d probably still be in a lab coat. Successful and important work, but not the work of my heart.

CN: What would your perfect day look like?

JN: I’d wake up and be bombarded with phone calls from editors offering each of my clients 13-figure deals for books to be printed and distributed an hour later, which would then immediately hit all the bestseller lists, win all the prizes, and inspire world peace. Then I’d celebrate with a nice cup of spicy hot chocolate.

CN: Approximately what percentage of writers follow your query guidelines?

JN: As of answering this question, I happen to have exactly 200 queries in my inbox. Of those, 48 have a subject line that does not follow my submission guidelines. That’s 24% just looking at subject lines, never mind peeking inside the email to see if they’ve included the materials my guidelines ask for. Unfortunately, it’s an indicator that the writer has not done the proper research on me, and many times, the story isn’t something that fits my interests (usually not a genre I represent), something that could easily have been avoided had they read my guidelines.

CN: If being an agent doesn’t work out, and I hope it does, what would your next career be?

JN: I wouldn’t mind being a pro poker player.