Want to take a class with me?

Want to take a class with me?

Teaching

This summer, I’ll be teaching a one-day intensive fiction workshop at the Midwest Writers Workshop here in Muncie. Here’s the scoop:

Short Story Fellows Workshop 

Those accepted into this intensive will have the opportunity to have their 5-10 page short story critiqued by me and by the whole group.

Specifically, you’ll be working to improve your facility with scenecraft (when to dramatize, when to summarize), point of view, setting, suspense, and readability.

All work will be discussed anonymously and read aloud.

To apply, send a 5-10 page writing sample in manuscript form (as an attachment) to Cathy Day at cathy@cathyday dot com. Applications will be taken from the day MWW registration begins (February 12) to midnight on March 27.

You will be notified of your acceptance by April 15 so that you can sign up for another intensive if you’re not selected.

Why you should apply

Because Midwest Writers is a great conference. Here’s a previous post extolling its many virtues.

Because normally, I don’t read work by people I don’t know.  I devote my energy to my current and former students–and that’s considerable. All writers get a lot of requests like this from people they don’t know. But I almost always say no. I just don’t have time, unfortunately. But this summer, I will say yes to six people.

Because the best thing a writing conference can give you is writing instruction. Not “how to market yourself.” Not a lecture on “how to write better.” But someone spending time with your words specifically.

Because your work will be read aloud. There’s nothing quite so illuminating as being physically present when a group of strangers experiences your work for the first time. You see them fidget when they get bored. You hear them laugh and sigh. You watch them lean forward in their chairs. (Ever since The Circus in Winter started its journey as a musical, I’ve realized how important and instructive “live reading” can be.)

Because your work will presented anonymously. Nobody will know whose is whose. This might make you more inclined to write about something embarrassing or difficult–which is probably your best material, actually. And you’ll get more honest feedback, too; people tend to pull punches in their critique when the writer is right in front of them.

Come to Muncie!

Registration for the conference opened up today. I hope you’ll consider applying!

BSU + MWW: or “How I Spent My Summer Vacation”

BSU + MWW: or “How I Spent My Summer Vacation”

CW Programs Literary Citizenship Teaching

I’ve said this before, but I’ll say it again:

Did you know there’s a writers’ conference in Muncie, Indiana?

Did you know that Veronica Roth, author of the best-selling dystopian YA novel Divergent found her agent at this conference in 2009?

Well, now you do.

This conference is called the Midwest Writers Workshop, a yearly gathering of agents, editors, and publishing professionals whose mission is to help people become published authors.

Basically, MWW brings New York publishing to Muncie, Indiana, and this year, the conference celebrated its 40th year with 238 people in attendance from 20 states.

Watch this video and see for yourself how awesome it is.

As soon as I found out about the conference, I started thinking: How can I bring MWW and BSU together?

Answer: apply for a grant through the Discovery Group. Thanks to this amazing organization, many Ball State students (all of the English majors or minors) were able to attend this year’s conference as paid interns and scholarship winners.  

The Scholarship Winners

These students applied for scholarships to attend the conference, a $250 value. They were selected by the creative writing faculty based on a writing sample and essay. They attended two days of panels, presentations, and talks by industry professionals.

  • Jessie Fudge
  • Adam Gulla
  • Rianne Hall
  • Alisha Layman
  • Logan Mason
  • Brittany Means
  • Tara Olivero
  • Chase Stanley

Some of the scholarship recipients have taken my novel-writing course, where they learned the basics of the publishing process. I was happy some of them signed up for a pitch sessions and that my former students Alisha Layman and Jessie Fudge were successful in piquing the interest of agents about novels they began in my course.

Junior Brittany Means received the award for best poetry manuscript submitted, as well as for best overall manuscript (the R. Karl Largent Writing Award) and a $200 cash award. This is even more significant when you consider that Brittany wasn’t selected as the best student writer at the conference, but rather the best writer. Period.

Pic 2 Brittany Means winning Karl Largent Award
The moment Brittany Means found out whe won the Karl Largent Award

The Interns, aka “Social Media Ninjas”

These students worked as tech assistants, social media tutors, and agent assistants. They got a rare glimpse of the publishing industry, gained real-world experience, and built credentials that will give them an advantage in their careers.

Here’s what they did (and please click on the hyperlinks to read the Storify for each day of the conference!):

Day 1: Tech Intensives

Students worked alongside faculty in two all-day “tech intensives. One helped attendees learn how to create and format an e-book (taught by editor Jane Friedman), and the other helped them build an author website (taught by writer and editor Roxane Gay). I wrote about the tech intensives in more detail here.

The interns also served as buzzers in a fun game of Literary Jeopardy.

Day 2 & Day 3: Helping the Attendees and the Literary Agents

During “Part II” of the conference, the interns were split into two teams.
Six students worked as Social Media Tutors.

  • Mo Smith
  • John Carter
  • Madison Jones
  • Rebekah Hobbs
  • Kameron McBride
  • Jackson Eflin

Everyone who attended Midwest Writers had the opportunity to schedule a free, 50-minute social media consulting session. This is what it looked like. In advance of the conference, the tutors studied their clients’ current online presence and made recommendations about how they could be better online literary citizens. In two days, students met with over 50 clients.

Five students worked as Agent Assistants.

  • Rachael Heffner
  • Sarah Hollowell
  • Becca Jackson
  • Kiley Neal
  • Sara Rae Rust

Each agent heard approximately 30 three-minute pitches. In advance of the conference, the assistants coordinated schedules, communicating with the literary agents and the attendees. At the conference, they handled last-minute changes to the agents’ schedules.

All students had a chance to spend an hour and a half talking to literary agent Brooks Sherman. The conversation ranged from careers to publishing trends.

All the interns got a chance to pick the brain of a NY literary agent.
All the interns got a chance to pick the brain of a NY literary agent.

The Final Verdict: “Awesome”

Intern Sarah Hollowell said it best. “Here’s what I took away from #mww13: I am meant to be in this community.”

The Dirty Little Secrets of Internships

CW Programs Literary Citizenship Teaching

intern_headerDear Midwest Writers Interns,

This week,  your internship at the 40th annual Midwest Writers Workshop begins.

  • On Thursday, half of you will assist Roxane Gay in her “Building a Website/Blog” class, and the other half will assist Jane Friedman in her “Creating an ebook Class.”
  • On Friday and Saturday, six of you will staff a Social Media Lab where attendees can get hands-on help and advice, and five of you will work as assistants to the literary agents who will be hearing pitches.

I thought I’d give you a few words of advice about internships. Here’s why:

  • I’ve been on both sides of the experience. I’ve been the intern, the outsider trying to get inside, and I’ve been the employer, the insider trying to train someone coming in from the outside.
  • Over the years, I’ve listened to a lot of former students complain about bad internship experiences, and I think that half the time, the students’ gripes are probably valid and the other half, the students’ gripes are the product of unreasonable expectations.

Internships aren’t classrooms (although they’re supposed to be)

Continue reading

Bringing New York Publishing to Muncie, Indiana

Literary Citizenship Teaching
This is the table where BSU Board of Trustees meets. It's kind of awesome.
This is the table where BSU Board of Trustees meets. It’s kind of awesome.

Thanks to a grant from the Discovery Group, I’ve hired 11 Ball State students for internships at this summer’s Midwest Writers Workshop.

I’ve told you before about this conference, but here it is again.

Some backstory

Ever since I arrived at Ball State in 2010, I’ve been trying to come up with a way to expose students to the benefits of this conference.   MWW is run by a group of dedicated volunteers. It’s not funded by Ball State University; it just happens to take place on campus. One day, I was talking about this to BSU professor Beth Turcotte (who knows everything about how to find the resources to make amazing things happen) and she recommended I look into the Discovery grant, and boom, I applied. In December, I found out I was a finalist and made a presentation to the members, and in February, I found out I’d been funded. I quickly put out a call for applications, and by April, I’d assembled my team.  Continue reading

10 Things You Should Know about the Midwest Writers Workshop

10 Things You Should Know about the Midwest Writers Workshop

Writing

1.  The Midwest Writers Workshop, or MWW for short, happens in my town! A few miles from my house! Muncie, Indiana, July 26-28, 2012.

2.  MWW’s faculty this year includes a Pulitzer finalist, a paranormal romance YA author, four literary agents, a best-selling author of cozy mysteries, a poet/memoirist/indie publisher, and quite a few long-time editors and publishing professionals. Including Jane Friedman, who I’ve been following for three years (long before I moved to Muncie) and who I credit with saving my writerly butt from literary oblivion.

3.  MWW has been around for a long time: 39 years! Last year, I was on the faculty. This year, I’m the newest member of the Planning Committee. Some of the committee members have been working to make this conference happen for over 35 years. You can read more about the history here.

The Ball State Alumni Center.

4.  MWW is the only writers conference I know of that offers on-site, totally free “social media consulting”—a drop-in tutoring center where you can get your Facebook/Twitter/blogging act together.

5.  Veronica Roth, author of the best-selling, dystopian YA novel Divergent (which is really, really good) got her start at MWW. My fellow committee member Kelsey Timmerman also got his start at MWW. He attended a few years ago, pitched his idea to an agent, and thus his book became a reality: Where Am I Wearing: A Global Tour to the Countries, Factories, and People That Make Our Clothes. There are many other success stories.  

6.  Remember when I wrote about how anxiety-inducing AWP is? Anxiety + Community = AWP. MWW, on the other hand, is small, intimate, encouraging—nothing at all like AWP. It’s open to anyone. You don’t have to apply to get in or secure a letter of recommendation.

7.  Remember when I wrote this post about how much I hate it when people ask me “How do I get published?” Well, here is your answer: Expand your circles! Get thyself to a writers’ conference! Here are a few other good reasons to go to a writer’s conference.

Jane Friedman, middle, and MWW director Jama Bigger, right

8.  If you read this blog because you teach creative writing, listen up. If you have strong students, don’t think that sending them to an MFA program is the only way to help them pursue their dream. Send them to MWW. Remember a few months ago, I asked, Should we make it our business to teach the business of creative writing? The response to that post was a resounding, Yes. Writers conferences are one way we can teach our students about the “biz.”

9.  If you read this blog because you’re an aspiring writer, listen up: I know you write and read and edit alone. You go online to find community and advice about what comes next. But you need to find community IRL. You need to stop Googling “How do I publish a book?” You need to fork out some dollars, because believe me, there’s nothing like spending some money to help you start taking yourself a little more seriously. You need to actually show up to an actual brick and mortar building where others like yourself have also shown up.

10.  I know I said this already, but this conference is in Indiana. Not in Boston or New York or even the bucolic Florida Keys. It’s in Muncie, Indiana. One reason why I left Indiana 20 years ago is that I believed you HAD to leave Indiana in order to be a writer (or an artist of any kind), but I came back two years ago because I wanted to help the next generation of Hoosier artists realize their dreams and become the people they want to be. When you’re poor or working class or live in a place where there isn’t a lot of literary activity, it’s not that easy to imagine yourself “becoming a writer.” That’s why bringing the publishing world to Indiana matters. A lot.

Will I see you there? This summer? Next summer for the 40th anniversary? I hope so. And do you know someone in the Midwest who wants to be a writer? Send them this link. Thank you.