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Page & Paragraph


2012 Missouri Writer's Guild Conference

Posted on March 2, 2012 at 2:39 PM Comments comments (8)
Mark your calendars for the

Write Time! Write Place! Write Now!
April 20, 21 & 22, 2012

Doubletree Hotel and Conference Center of St. Louis
16625 Swingley Ridge Road
Chesterfield, MO 63017
Tel: 1-636-532-5000

Claire Cook:bestselling author of 8 novels, including Must Love Dogs, Best Staged Plans, Seven Year Switch, with a 9th, Wallflower in Bloom, to be published by Simon & Schuster Touchstone in June 2012

Christina Katz: is the author of three books from Writer's Digest: The Writer's Workout, Get Known Before the Book Deal, and Writer Mama.
Updates and speaker interviews on

2012 Iowa Summer Writing Festival

Posted on February 28, 2012 at 10:20 PM Comments comments (1)
The catalog for the Iowa Summer Writing Festival arrived today. I felt like a kid with a Christmas catalog! I carefully went through each page, selecting classes, investigating instructors and trying to match my free time and available money with what they offered.

This writing festival is in its 26th year in Iowa City, Iowa. During June and July, writers of all levels come together to teach and learn through week long or week-end long workshops.

Anyone who's been writing for any length of time knows how prestigious the MFA program at the U of  I is. However, not everyone has the time or money to invest in the full degree. The Summer Writing Festival is a great way to get a sampling of their program, especially if you can time it to coincide with the Book Festival.

Writing Advice from Bill Johnson and Julie Castiglia

Posted on November 12, 2011 at 5:57 PM Comments comments (43)
I found this 3 +/- minute interview with Julia Castiglia. I think she does a good job explaining why some books are published and why others are not.

Literary Agent Julie Castiglia discusses the challenges of selling a fiction novel to Literary agents and publishers.

Bill Johnson provides a 30 minute lecture on the premise that a story is a promise. It's good advice. I suggest listening to it.

Re-post from Pub Rants/MO Writer's Conference

Posted on April 14, 2011 at 4:17 AM Comments comments (2)
This is a re-post from Pub Rants, a blog by literary agent, Kristen Nelson.

April 11, 2011

Culprit: Writing Mechanics

STATUS: Was out of the office last week. Although I worked, it’s not quite the same as getting stuff done while there.

What’s playing on the iPod or the XM radio right now? CALIFORNIA DREAMIN’ by The Mamas & The Papas

This past weekend I attended the Missouri Writers Guild Conference in St. Louis and did my infamous “Agent Reads The Slush Pile” workshop.

For those of you who don’t know, this is the workshop where I pretend that I’m sitting in my office reading the opening two pages of a submission. In reality, this would all be done electronically and there would be no volunteer reading the entry aloud but you get the picture. In the workshops, as the volunteer reads, I’ll say “stop” if I wouldn’t have continued reading and state why. If I would have read on, we’ll hear the first 2 pages in its entirety.

I personally think this is probably the toughest workshop a writer can participate in but it’s always wildly popular. I do my best to be encouraging but brutally honest—a tough balancing act.

As I’ve given this workshop before, I can tell you several things about it:

1. I always begin with a dire warning and remind writers that they might not be ready for this. I’ve yet to have a participant withdraw an entry (and that always surprises me).
2. 99.9% of what I’ll see in the workshop is not ready for an agent to read.
3. For this workshop, only one entry made it past page 1. The majority of the others, I said stop within the first 2 paragraphs.

Like I said, brutal.

One participant asked a great question. He asked whether all agents would agree with my assessment on when to stop or would those opinions differ given the agent.

I replied that yes, of course opinions would differ but in the case of Saturday’s seminar, I don’t think they would have. Why? The biggest culprit that made me stop reading was a lack of mastery of writing as a craft. The entries had classic beginning writer mistakes we agents often see. And this isn’t to say that the writers in this workshop couldn’t master writing as a craft—just that they hadn’t mastered it yet. I’m confident everyone in my workshop will grow and mature as a writer as they learn.

A list of the culprits? Here they are.

1. Telling instead of showing.
2. Including unnecessary back story.
3. Loose sentence structure that could easily be tightened
4. The use of passive sentence construction.
5. Awkward introduction of character appearance.
6. Awkward descriptions/overly flowery language to depict.
7. Starting the story in the wrong place.
8. Not quite nailing voice in the opening.
9. Dialog that didn’t quite work as hard as it should.
10. A lack of scene tension even if the opening was suppose to be dramatic.

The great news is all of the above are mechanics that a beginning writer can learn.

But you have to be fearless. And the only way you’ll learn it is through a strong critique that points out the issue.

Solitary Writer Reaches Out

Posted on April 9, 2011 at 4:04 PM Comments comments (2)
The Missouri Writer's Conference is in full swing, yet I am not there. Instead, I'm dealing with my personal version of the plague, and living vicariously through friends who are attending. Hopefully, I will be able to attend our next writer's group and glean what they learned.

I just finished reading Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott.
This is one of my highly recommended reads whether you're a writer or not. Insight, wisdom and humor are served up in equal portions throughout. Some of her words resonated so deeply that I had to put the book down to ponder my reaction and wonder how she had managed to get inside my psyche.

Writing is by nature a lonely task. It is a singular pursuit. Rarely does one find co-authors in fiction. Writing conferences allow the solitary writer to reach out to like-minded individuals, to make connections both socially and professionally. Books like Bird by Bird reach out to the reader/writer on a personal one-on-one level.

Both are worth it.

2011 Missouri Writer's Conference

Posted on February 27, 2011 at 5:37 PM Comments comments (1)
2011 Missouri Writers Guild
Just Write!
April 8-10, 2011
St. Louis, MO

There's nothing like having a writer's conference in your own backyard! Click on the link below for more information.

I'm looking forward to this workshop by Literary Agent, Kristin Nelson.  

Have you ever wondered how an agent reads the fiction submission slush pile? What an agent is thinking during the first opening pages? What makes an agent stop and what makes an agent read on? If you have ever wished to be a fly on the wall during that process, this workshop is your chance to get the inside scoop without metamorphosing.Literary Agent Kristin Nelson will read the “slush pile” and give honest feedback as to why she would or would not read on for the sample pages in front of her.

Warning: This workshop is not for the faint of heart and can be tough. A writer needs to be sure that he or she is ready to hear bluntly honest criticism, no matter how nicely delivered. The point of this workshop is not to dishearten writers but to give them an honest, inside look at how an agent really reads the slush pile.

Interested participants can submit two copies each of the first 2 pages of their novel (one for a volunteer and one for me to follow along with). Auditors are fine to attend even if they don’t want to submit pages. The volunteer will then mix up the submissions and choose samples at random to read. If Kristin would have stopped reading, she’ll say “stop” and then explain why to the audience. If the Volunteer completes the two pages, Kristin will explain why she liked it and why she would have read on. Kristin has promised to tackle as many as possible during the time allotted.

Kristin Nelson, Agent, The Nelson Literary Agency. Since forming the agency in 2002, Kristin has sold over 100 books to all the major publishers.