I’m at Topsail Beach this week in North Carolina on vacation. I may be taking a break from my day to day responsibilities but I’ve not been taking a break from my writing.
One of the workshops I attended at The Muse Online Writers Conference was “Write that Bio With Sheri Gormley”. Sheri is the Director of Marketing and Promotions for Virtual Tales. Authors are told repeatedly to have a web presence before their first work sells but few know what to include on a web site. One thing all author sites should all have in common is the biography. It’s difficult for some writers to talk/write about themselves. What information will the reader find interesting? With the tips I learned at the workshop I updated my bio page.
Another workshop I attended was “Organizing Your Writing Life with Cheryl Malandrinos”. Cheryl is a freelancer, copywriter and aspiring author who understands how the writer’s mind works since she’s one herself. One of her tips was to take a SMART goal and break it down into smaller tasks. It sounds so simple but a lot of people get hung up on the volume of tasks and never get started. One of my SMART goals was to hit my daily word count in November. In order to accomplish this, I’ve brought my character pyramid sheets with me and I’ll have my characters interviewed before the week is done. I’ve already begun the interview process and been surprised by some of the answers.
My eyes hurt, I’m tired and a callous is forming on my mouse wheel finger. This is the current cost of The Muse Online Writers Conference this year. Great, isn’t it?
When I first heard of the conference I thought to myself, “It’s online and it’s free. It’s probably not going to be very good.” I signed up last year with no idea of what to expect. I was armed only with the knowledge that I’d be out of the town for the end of the conference and miss out on the last few days. Let me describe for you what the conference last year was like. Overwhelming. Educational. Fantastic!
Last year I learned about how to world build, where to find grants, why vampires are so loved and so on.
The workshops the last two years were held in week-long forums hosted on Website Toolbox and were easy to use. This is the software being used this year too. If you’ve ever used forums before these are basic and pretty easy to use. The “smart quotes” from Word don’t translate well so be prepared – turn off that feature in Word if you’re going to copy and paste your work into the forums. There is so much information, critiquing and networking being done. The organizers pay to keep the forums open a few weeks longer than the actual conference so participants can review missed discussions.
The chats have been held through Parachat and have a maximum capacity of 100 logins before it starts bumping people out. I signed up for a lot of chats last year. The organizer hopes to have enough donations from this year to upgrade the software or switch to something else for chats.
Each year the conference gets better based on constructive feedback. I wasn’t there for the first year, but the workshops were held in Yahoo!Groups. Yahoo!Groups is a great tool but it can be difficult to follow multiple discussions at times. Last year a request was made for transcripts of the chats. And this year most of the chat sessions have transcripts available afterwards. I wonder what will be in store for 2009?
After experiencing the conference last year I cut back on the chats and only signed up for the workshops I thought I would participate in. During this year’s conference:
- I’ve reworked a short story that’s been through several drafts already.
- I’ve received good/helpful criticism on a short story that’s been rejected several times but is dear to me so I don’t want to trunk it.
- I’ve begun a new short story with elements of suspense.
- I’m exploring some of the scenes that will take place in my next novel.
It’s only Friday morning. There are so many more exercises to do and things to learn before the week is over. It may be a free conference but the time and effort that went into the week really shows in the quality of the presenters and the participants.
I’ve taken a breakfrom reading the last few days so I can finish my reviews on Dirt: An American Campaign, Any Given Doomsday, and the Twilight Series for the blog. It feels weird not to be carrying a book around with me.
I’m also participating in the Muse 2008 Writers Online Conference. There’s homework and writing exercises to do for the workshops which has kept me busy this evening! 🙂
Today I spent part of the afternoon at the Greater Columbus Art Council’s offices for one of their OPPArt (Opportunities for Artists) events. Dawn Friedman, a local freelancer, presented How to Become a Working Artist: What it Takes to Make a Living.
Friedman mainly focused on marketing and branding with a few tips thrown in such as “be your own patron” and “it’s a business”. Writers and artists generally complain that time is taken away from their art to promote themselves or their work. No matter how successful anyone becomes, or how large a staff he/she employs, there are times when simply no one else can handle the business side of things. Honestly, would you read a Julia Roberts interview that was really her assistant answering questions on behalf of Julia?
Once I decided to become more serious about my writing all I heard about was platform, platform, platform. It hasn’t made any sense until today when Friedman addressed the topic. She provided excellent examples of branding showing how one artist uses the same logos, fonts and color schemes across various websites. Another example was a writer with a more serious website for her adult books and a much flashier one for her young adult books.
Today’s workshop was full and had a waiting list. I suppose a handful of people participated by offering up networking sites, sharing their experiences on the helpfulness of a community of like-minded individuals, and how volunteering time or donating items can be beneficial down the line. It was really exciting to be around other people who are trying to take the next step forward with their artistic endeavors.