Archive for March, 2014

March 30, 2014

Register to Win a Free MWC Pitch Session

Have you been thinking about registering for the 2014 Maryland Writers’ Conference but haven’t gotten around to it yet?

You can register here right now.

Now is the time—anyone who registers for the conference between March 30th and April 5th will be entered into a random drawing for a free practice pitch session with the MWC agent of your choice!

A hearty MWA thank you to member Charles Evans for donating the session for this drawing!

For a bonus entry, share this with your Twitter connections by referencing @MarylandWriters !

Or click here for a tweet that is ready to go! (Limit of one extra entry per person; but please tweet as often as you’d like to! See more Fine Print below.)

Maryland Writers’ Conference Hashtag:
#MDWriters 2014

The winner will be notified by email on April 6. (Winner will also be announced on our Twitter and Facebook feeds.)

Fine Print: The free pitch session cannot be used as a refund for a previously purchased session. It can only be used for a new session. We’ll do our best to schedule you for the time you prefer, but sessions are selling quickly. If you don’t want to use it, let us know and we’ll give it to the second runner up.

See you at the conference!
Carolee


Carolee Noury, Vice President/Acting Treasurer
Maryland Writers’ Association

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March 26, 2014

Good Writers Should Know Their Tools: an Interview with Gabe Goldberg

by Paul Lagasse

Sometimes, it seems that writers today need to be masters of technology. It’s not enough just to be good at writing; we’re also expected to know how to do formatting and layout, graphic design, audiovisual production, and online marketing. Do writers really need to be techies in order to do their jobs?

“Writers don’t need to be a techie anymore than I need to know how to build or repair a car,” says Gabe Goldberg, a technology communicator and consultant who has has contributed extensively to consumer publications, co-authored three McGraw-Hill technology books, and written hundreds of computer press and website articles. “But when I buy a car, it’s up to me to be an informed consumer because I’m going to live with that car for many years.”

Technologies for Knowledge Workers
Gabe Goldberg

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

Technology advances faster than the eye or mind can follow, but what tools and practices do 21st century professionals (from tech novices to experts) really require to survive and prosper in their careers? This presentation provides important but easy-to-forget tips and resources for online, mobile, and computing productivity/safety, aiming at essentially everyone: employees, freelance workers, work-at-homers, retirees. It covers procedures, opportunities, and suggestions from session participants.

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

Gabe says that many of the questions that people ask when shopping for a car can be applied to their search for the right hardware and software. Will this help me do what I need to do better? Does it have the features that I need? Am I paying for things that I don’t need or won’t use? “The universal tool set includes the ability to evaluate your other tools and learn to use them effectively,” he says. Gabe will be helping writers ask and answer these questions for themselves at the 2014 Maryland Writers’ Conference, “Feed Your Writing Habit,” on Saturday, April 26 at the Conference Center at the Maritimg Institute (CCMIT) in Linthicum Heights.

Gabe says there are two common misconceptions about technology that writers and other knowledge workers (people who locate, consume, produce, structure, and distribute information) have. The first is that whatever tool they’re using right now is the tool that they *should* be using. The second is that technology is inherently reliable and infallible.

“As technology changes, you may be missing opportunities to save time and use technology as a force multiplier,” he explains. “You need to stop thinking about what you need to get done and focus instead on what you need to be able to do that.” At the same time, says Gabe, people also need to take precautions to ensure their work and their personal information is safeguarded, because no matter how much you eventually come to rely on that technology, it can–and at some point probably will–fail.

Gabe speaks frequently about technology to diverse audiences, from senior citizens and baby boomers to techies, while avoiding jargon and “technobabble.” In his experience, there are several reasons that writers develop an aversion to technologies that could otherwise help them. “Sometimes it’s because the skill doesn’t come to them naturally,” says Gabe. “Other times, it’s because they weren’t raised immersed in the technology–so they’re recent arrivals, called digital immigrants. It doesn’t fit their self image. They see themselves as creative intellectuals and see the tools as removing them from what they need to be concerned with.”

To this latter problem in particular, Gabe offers some practical advice. “The antidote is to recognize that, with discipline, you can keep problems small.” This helps avoid slipping into a spiral of procrastination and avoidance. “You’re going to have to do it sooner or later,” Gabe reasons. “It’s not going to be better later, and you’re going to feel better if you don’t have the obsolete or problematic thing sneering at you from across the room for a long time.”

To get going, Gabe says, you have to “allocate some mental bandwidth” to focus on the tools that you are using now and on the tools you need. He encourages people to read product reviews, visit tech centers, and join user groups. “Try some blank-paper thinking,” he suggests. “Ask yourself, ‘OK if I was starting from scratch, what would I be using?'”

Finally, says Gabe, it’s important to maintain a sense of perspective about technology. When you’re having trouble getting a piece of hardware or software to work while others around you are using it without problems, don’t feel embarrassed, frustrated, or inhibited. Instead, try to remind yourself that those people had to learn how to use it, too.

“Look, you weren’t born knowing how to drive a car, or dance, or sew,” Gabe says. “You’ve spent your life learning how to learn. This is just one more thing to learn.”

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Here are some of Gabe Goldberg’s publications that may be of interest:

Articles on Freelancing

Technical Works

Consumer Interest

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March 21, 2014

Agent Lauren Clark Joins the MWC14 Pitch Practice Team

by Carolee Noury

The Maryland Writers’ Conference team is excited to announce the addition of a fourth agent to take practice pitches at the 2014 Maryland Writers’ Conference, “Feed Your Writing Habit,” on Saturday, April 26 at the Conference Center at the Maritimg Institute (CCMIT) in Linthicum Heights. Lauren Clark, a DC-based agent for the New York City firm Kuhn Projects, answers the questions we asked agents Jessica Negrón, Shannon O’Neill, and Jessica Sinsheimer in the earlier post No Need for Nerves.

About Lauren Clark:

Lauren Clark is an agent with Kuhn Projects and is based in Washington, DC. She has previously worked for ICM/Sagalyn and earned her Master’s in English/Creative Writing from the University of Cincinnati. Under the nonfiction umbrella she’s interested in great writing about politics, history, current affairs, science, business, and sports, and under fiction she’s on the lookout for literary fiction and political, legal, and/or tech-centric thrillers.

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

Carolee Noury: What should people expect when they attend a pitch session with you?

Lauren Clark: An author should expect a casual, straightforward conversation in which she’ll tell me about her book, and I’ll respond with either thoughts or a request that she send me more of her manuscript. If I don’t request further material, I’ll do my best to explain my decision. If she has any specific questions–about her synopsis or query, etc. –I’d be glad to try to answer them if we have time.

CN: What advice would you give to authors in preparation to pitch?

LC: Practice! When I’m preparing to pitch an author’s book to an editor, I practice my pitch, and it makes a big difference, especially if I’m reaching out to an editor I don’t already know. It lets me scrap all the wording that might have seemed beautiful on the page but wound up feeling clunky in my mouth.

Also, when I practice my pitch on someone who doesn’t work in publishing, that person will sometimes point out very obvious holes in the story I’m telling or the argument I’m making, and that feedback is invaluable.

CN: Will you share a memorable pitch experience–good or bad?

LC: This wasn’t a formal pitch session experience, but someone once called me and pitched me his book while he was driving in heavy traffic. The call wasn’t scheduled, which meant that he could’ve called me at a time that was more convenient for him, and we hadn’t met previously, so my first impression was that he was distracted, frazzled, and not very serious about his book. Five seconds online would have let him prevent some of his basic mistakes.

I can’t think of an official pitch session that went badly enough to stand out.

CN: What made you want to be an agent (aside from loving books)?

LC: I really enjoy matching an author with an editor who will support that author and his work, and who will enthusiastically push that author to produce his best work. It’s rewarding to enable the love-fest that can happen when an author is excited to work with an editor, and that editor is thrilled to be working on the author’s book.

March 13, 2014

Facing Down Trauma With Writing: an Interview with Tom Glenn

by Steve Berberich

Writing can be used to do more than entertain, inform, and educate; it can also help authors cope with traumatic events that they have experienced. Author Tom Glenn writes stories from a perspective of his post-traumatic stress injury from the Vietnam War and his personal trauma from working with AIDS patients in the early days of the HIV/AIDS epidemic.

Tom will be one of over 30 distinguished speakers participating in the 2014 Maryland Writers’ Conference. His session, co-presented with Shirley J. Brewer, is titled “Healing Through Writing: Survival and Craft.” Here’s a sneak preview of some of the themes and topics that Tom will be discussing in his presentation.

Many of Tom’s prize-winning short stories came from the better part of the thirteen years he shuttled between the U.S. and Vietnam on covert intelligence assignments before being evacuated under fire when Saigon fell. His writing is haunted by his five years of work with AIDS patients, two years of helping the homeless, and seven years of caring for the dying in the hospice system. These days he is a reviewer for The Washington Independent Review of Books where he specializes in books on war and Vietnam. His Vietnam novel-in-stories, Friendly Casualties, is now available on Amazon.com. His article describing the fall of Saigon and his role in it was published in the Baltimore Post-Examiner this summer, and Apprentice House has just published his novel, No-Accounts. His web sites are tom-tells-tales.org, vietnam-tragedy.org, and friendly-casuatlties.org.

Healing Through Writing: Survival and Craft
Shirley Brewer, Tom Glenn

9:15-10:00 in the Craft of Writing Track

In this presentation, novelist Tom Glenn and poet Shirley J. Brewer explore the dark world of trauma: PTSI (Post Traumatic Stress Injury), accidental death, murder, and violence. Healing takes place when the writer faces the trauma, and begins to order chaos through writing. Survival is possible. Transformation is within reach. Hope may once again light the path. Participants will learn tech- niques to address personal traumatic experiences through their own writing.

Find out more about Tom Glenn and Shirley Brewer on the Maryland Writers’ Conference’s Speakers, Panelists, and Agents page.

Steve Berberich: How does writing help?

Tom Glenn: Writing down what happened forces you to face trauma. Soldiers and Marines I knew who suffered from post-traumatic stress injury (PTSI) wanted to ignore it and pretend it wasn’t there. They didn’t want to talk about it or think about it. But until you face the trauma and come to terms with it, it continues to haunt you.

SB: What do you do about that?

TG: The only way to overcome PTSI is to bring the crucial experience to the conscious level and think it through. Writing down what happened and owning your own role is one of the best ways to do that. Once it’s on paper or screen, it exists outside of you. You’ve begun the job of bringing order and dispelling chaos. Then you can start coping with it.

SB: You refer to the condition as Post-Traumatic Stress Injury (PTSI), and not Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Why?

TG: The term “disorder,” according to Webster, is a derangement of function, an abnormal physical or mental condition. “Injury” is much more precise. It connotes that external forces have acted upon the victim and inflicted damage. PTSI is a wound in the same way that a bayonet laceration or bullet wound is. Two writers I quote in the presentation, Karl Marlantes and Grady Smith, both refer to PTSI damage to the soul.

SB: Do you recommend specific writing techniques to heal that wound?

TG: Shirley and I offer these guidelines: Be specific; don’t write immediately after the traumatic event; be honest; avoid excessive sentiment; make use of the unexpected and surprise (meaning describe what the normal situation was before the wound was inflicted) ; listen to your own inner voice; and don’t be afraid, write it.

SB: Your own inner voice?

TG: Very important and very hard to do. Sometimes the inner voice is buried deep in the unconscious. The psyche tries to suppress horrific experiences to prevent suffering. But our inner voice often speaks the truth when the conscious mind is trying to deny. Sometimes you have to put yourself into a sort of hypnotic state and let the suppressed memories flow out.

SB: How can this approach help someone to be a better writer?

TG: I believe that the best fiction comes from the unconscious. In my case, I get an idea in my mind, much of the time from my Vietnam experience where really God-awful things happened. That image won’t go away until I confront it. At the conscious level I piece together an answer to the question, “how could this have happened? ” That becomes the germ that finally turns into a story. My very best work flows out of me in an almost semiconscious state in which my mind sees the images of what happened and I write it all down as if translating a movie to the page.

SB: For five years in the ’80s, you volunteered to care for men dying of AIDS. How does that relate to writing about traumatic experience?

TG: That effect on my psyche was very similar to PTSI. I did everything I could to help them and in the end I couldn’t stop their deaths. And that really hit me. I was having nightmares and flashbacks. I said to myself I’ve got to work this out. So again, I began to write about it. The result was my novel, No-Accounts.

SB: In that book, you created fictional characters to tell the story. How does a fictional character in these situations help you deal with trauma and perhaps help you be a better writer?

TG: First of all, this was a story I had to tell. My memories wouldn’t leave me alone. So I put myself in a dream-like state and watched as the characters appeared and spoke to me. They became more real to me than the people I see in my daily life. I asked them questions, watched them, listened to them. They told me their story and commanded me to write it down. Once the book was done, I experienced a peacefulness I hadn’t known before. Did it make me a better writer? I don’t know. The best I can say is that I must write about things that are important to me. The other way to express that is to say that I write what my psyche tells me to write. If I violate that dictum, the result is trivial.

March 10, 2014

Exhibitor Tables at the Maryland Writers’ Conference

The 2014 Maryland Writers’ Conference is offering a limited number of tables in the exhibitor area for authors, publishers, editorial service providers, and others who offer products and services of interest to writers. The details are below.

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Join us at our annual conference on April 26, 2014. Our theme will be “Feed Your Writing Habit.” Many experienced writers as well as new writers will be coming for a great day of instruction and networking. Being a part of this event, as an exhibitor, will assist in showcasing your organization to both professional and future professional writers.

The Maryland Writers Association has made special arrangements with the Convention Center at the Maritime Institute to provide tables for exhibitors. There is a limited number of these tables. All tables decisions will be based on a on a “First Come” basis. The cost of the tables is as follows:

Table (including lunch for one person, electricity, Wi-Fi, an easel for signage): $150.00
Additional person (includes lunch): $65.00

Any person or organization wishing to have a table for this exciting conference is encouraged to contact Gary Lester at conference@marylandwriters.org.

All exhibitors are responsible for collection of any Maryland State Sales Tax. All exhibitors are required to abide by the Terms of Service Agreement.

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