Category Archives: Conferences

Tayari Jones to teach fiction class in Lisbon PORTUGAL June 30 to July 12, 2013

Everyone,
I don’t know if you remember, but this summer I took a workshop with Tayari Jones at the 2012 Napa Valley Writer’s Conference. Tayari is a terrific teacher, and made really interesting comments about everyone’s MSS. Anyway, she is going to be doing a fiction workshop in Portugal. Here is what she has to say about it:
I’m going to be doing the fiction.  The workshop cost is about the same is Breadloaf— $1950, but the difference is that it’s in Europe and there is a lot of cheap housing available– hostels for $25 bucks or so a night.  And of course, for fancy, there is fancy housing. Classes are every other day, and there are activites, tours, etc on the off day, so there will be time to see stuff and have fun.
If you’d like to go, here is the website: http://disquietinternational.org/
Image shows the Torre de Belem, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, built at the mouth of the Tagus River in Lisbon.
Have a fabulous weekend!

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Preview of forthcoming novel AN UNSUITABLE SUITOR

Just wanted you all to know the exciting news that I’ve finally finished this novel! (Here is a mockup of the cover. What do you think of it?) By ‘finished’ I mean that I have sent off the MSS to my fabulous editor, and we are now working on the final edits before it is publishable.

The novel is about identity, forbidden love and family secrets.

Set in 1920s Washington DC and Berlin, Germany, we are drawn into the world of a violinist honing her craft with the most celebrated violin pedagogue of the day, amid the seediness and glamor of 1920s Berlin.

While I was at the 2012 Historical Novel Society Conference in London, I managed to get TWO agents interested!

Stay tuned & have a fabulous weekend.

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DON’T leave your MSS moldering in a drawer…

Recently, I attended the Fall meeting of the Mid-Atlantic Book Publisher’s Association (MBPA), a regional affiliate of the Independent Book Publisher’s Association (IBPA). The whole day was devoted to discussing e-books.

The industry continues to change at breakneck speed. When I mentioned at the beginning of this year that I was still seeking representation, an online acquaintance dismissed that with the comment that is was “so 2010”. On the other side, I once heard a well-known New York agent say, when asked about self-publishing, that she wasn’t interested in stuff that had already been published. That was in December 2010. Now, it is November 2011, and my colleagues at the MBPA were sharing stories of how agents are actively pursuing some of us who have self-published. Why? Because if we can demonstrate that we can sell our books, they become very interested.

Similar changes are taking place at Publisher’s Weekly, which is now giving self-published authors an opportunity to present their titles to the publishing trade, in recognition of the fact that  valuable works are being published outside traditional publishing. PW has launched a new program called PW Select, a quarterly supplement that presents self-published books to PW’s trade audience. Authors are required to pay a processing fee of $149. The carrot is that if PW really likes your work, they’ll do a full review of it in this supplement. A lucky few from among the listed titles will be selected for an interview and given an opportunity to pitch their book.

To read more, click here.

The moral of this story? Don’t leave your MSS moldering in a drawer. With determination, persistence and a great deal of work, self-publishing can be a venue to a publishing career.

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Indie Presses

For those of you who would like to have the pleasure of hefting your novel in your hand as a codex of weight, extension and form, but don’t want to get sucked into the clanking machinery of big publishing conglomerates, Indies presses are the way to go. You might be surprised by how many of them there are. Because of the nature of the business, Indie presses tend to be niche enterprises. Some only publish poetry. Some want short stories or novellas. But there are some that do novels.

If you have written a novel that is set in a particular geographic region, you might want to consider contacting an Indie press in that region, because Indie presses like to cultivate local authors. For example, when I mentioned that my second novel HE MUST BE SOMEONE is set in Georgetown, Washington D. C., Ed Perlman, the owner of Entasis Press which is based in Washington D. C., visibly brightened.

You might wonder what is going to happen to Indie presses in light of recent turmoil in the publishing industry. I mean, aren’t books going the way of the dodo? And doesn’t that mean that their days are numbered? Not according to the Association of Writers and Writing Programs (AWP) whose annual conference I attended at the beginning of February. Several small presses showed interest in digital apps such as Ampersand that display poetry on digital readers with the correct line breaks.

To read more, click here.

–Cynthia Haggard writes novels.  She is currently seeking representation for HE MUST BE SOMEONE,  a novel about identity, forbidden love and family secrets. For more on her creative writing, go to spunstories. (c) 2011. All rights reserved.

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I go to AWP

The Association of Writers and Writing Programs (AWP) holds a conference every year. I had never been before, and I went to see the Book Fair, meet some friends, and sit in on some of the sessions.

The most impressive thing about this conference is the Book Fair, which is huge. I’ve never seen so many representatives of indie presses all together in one room. I had a wonderful time walking up and down each row as I looked for presses that might be interested in publishing my novels. (This is my Plan B. Plan A, is still to get representation. Plan C is to self-publish).

I also had time to sit in on the sessions, and it was an interesting experience. I should say, first of all, that in my professional life I am a medical writer with a science background. I’m used to people who deal in facts, and always support what they say either by producing relevant data, or by making an argument.

So I was bemused to find myself in a session listening to five people talking around the issue of whether workshops actually work.

This is an important question because workshops are the backbone of MFAs and many writing conferences, so it is important to know if they don’t work and why. I sat in the audience for 75 minutes, without hearing one person explain exactly what the problems with workshops were. I heard two people say that they were problematic, two people say they were not problematic, and one person give a lit-critty deconstructional analysis.

I was puzzled. After all, if you don’t state what the problems are, how can you possibly find a remedy?

Next: I join a book club.

Image: mymcpl.org

–Cynthia Haggard writes novels.  She is currently seeking representation for HE MUST BE SOMEONE,  a novel about identity, forbidden love and family secrets. For more on her creative writing, go to spunstories. (c) 2011. All rights reserved.


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Writers Conferences

Writing conferences are important, not only because you have a chance to network and meet people, but also because you may learn interesting things. When I think about going to a conference, I first check the faculty or the list of speakers.  What is each person’s bio, what have they written, would they be the kind of writer who might understand my WIP? Then I look at the sessions. Is there anything that I particularly need to learn, or do I know it already? Is there going to be time to talk to the speaker? Are there special sessions where you can meet an agent or an editor? Lastly, I look at practical things like travel, accommodation and date.

Where can you find out about writing conferences?  Check out the Shaw Guide to Writers Conferences, Poets and Writers, and Writers Digest.

If you have been to any interesting conferences, feel free to comment below.

Image: aliceosborn.com

Next: I participate in my first webinar

–Cynthia Haggard writes novels.  She is currently seeking representation for ONE SEED SOWN, TWO MURDERS REAPED, the Richard III story told from the point of view of his mother. For more on her creative writing, go to spunstories. (c) 2011. All rights reserved.

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I sign up for Unicorn Writers’ Conference

As I mentioned in a previous blog, my goal at the end of 2010 was to try and find an agent for my first novel ONE SEED SOWN, TWO MURDERS REAPED. While I had received some expressions of interest, by December 2010, no agent had signed a contract with me. I decided that my goal for 2011 would be to try and get my second novel HE MUST BE SOMEONE to an agent, while continuing to send ONE SEED around.

HE MUST BE SOMEONE is a very different novel from ONE SEED. While ONE SEED is set during the period of the Wars of the Roses, and is the Richard III story told from the point of view of his mother, SOMEONE is set in 1922, and is the story of a young woman who goes to Berlin to study violin (based upon the true story of my violin teacher).

When stylish widow, Angelina Pagano Miller, invites a potential suitor to supper one  evening, things don’t go as planned. To Angelina’s chagrin, the mysterious dark-eyed stranger finds her seventeen-year-old daughter Grace more appealing.  Angelina seeks revenge by trying to find out who her daughter’s suitor is, but her efforts are derailed by her sudden death.

Grace and her sister Violet are hustled out of town, and finally wind up in Berlin, where Grace, a gifted violinist, is accepted as a student by one of the foremost violin teacher of the day. Grace dreams of having a career as a soloist, but inadvertently acquires two other suitors. What should she do? Should she pursue a career as a violinist, or should she marry? And if she does marry, which one will it be?  It is hard for Grace to decide, as she feels drawn to each of her suitors in turn. Finally, she shocks her family (and creates a minor international incident) by disappearing on the eve of her marriage to her aristocratic suitor, Count von Lietzow.  Where is Grace, and why did she flee?

I needed to get some feedback on this MSS, and so I looked around for various writing conferences that occur during the spring, so that I would just have time to fix up the MSS to send off to Squaw Valley, which occurs in August. I stumbled upon The Unicorn Writer’s Conference, which is going to take place in a castle in Portland CT. What I liked about this conference is the fact not only do they have interesting sessions to attend, but for a little bit extra you can sign up for a one-on-one with a speaker, an agent and an editor.  I lost no time in signing up!  The conference takes place on Saturday April 9. Stay tuned.

Next:  Why writing conferences are important.

Image: triobrioso.com

–Cynthia Haggard writes novels.  She is currently seeking representation for ONE SEED SOWN, TWO MURDERS REAPED, the Richard III story told from the point of view of his mother. For more on her creative writing, go to spunstories. (c) 2011. All rights reserved.

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What I learned at Napa Valley

In the blurb for the Napa Valley Writers conference it said you had to send a 7,500-word excerpt of your novel in to be critqued. My reason for going to the conference was to get some much-needed feedback, because, as any writer will tell you, getting good quality feedback is a huge problem.

As I said in an earlier post, you cannot assume agents will give you any meaningful feedback (aside form the it-didn’t-knock-socks-off or it-isn’t-right-for-my-list variety) even though you may have given them a 3-month exclusive. Infuriating? Yes. The only thing you can do about it is to NOT to let them have that exclusive for longer than it suits you.

In any event, I decided that I needed help with the middle of my novel, which deals with the politics of the Wars of the Roses. So I carved off a huge bleeding chunk and sent it off.

The weeks rolled around, and one day I found myself sitting in class awaiting my critique. I was sure everyone was going to hate it. I braced myself for the worst, and was surprised by good news.

I breathed a sigh of relief. I must be doing something right. The problem I’d had was that my main character was having 13 children in 17 years, while her husband got caught up in the intricacies of court politics. I racked my brains to find some way of making this potentially mind-numbingly info palatable, and hit upon the idea of doing crowd scenes, then interleaving these scenes with interior monolog and narrative summary. Somehow, all my hard work had paid off.

Next: I get a referral to an agent

Image: Tudor Rose, intstudycen.com

–Cynthia Haggard writes novels.  She is currently seeking representation for ONE SEED SOWN, TWO MURDERS REAPED, the Richard III story told from the point of view of his mother. For more on her creative writing, go to spunstories. (c) 2010. All rights reserved.

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