Friday, February 6, 2015

Why Authors Need to Go To Writing Seminars by Monique Bucheger

Well—it’s that time of year again for me—the time when I make arrangements to attend my favorite writing conferences. Why you say? Because LOTS of things can happen in a year and for an author—those changes can be huge.

Last year about this time (Feb 10, 2014 to be exact)—I gave several reasons why authors and wanna-be writers should attend conferences: here.

L to R Front: David Farland, Toni Weisskopf, Eric Flint, James A. Owen, Jody Lynn Nye, Kris Rusch, Kevin J. Anderson, Rebecca Moesta. Bak L to R: Dean Wesley Smith, Mark Lefevre, Todd McCaffery, Allyson, Lisa Mangum

This year I want to show you how attending conferences last year, changed my writing life this year. When I went to the Superstars Writing Seminar conference last year Kevin J Andersen and his wife, Rebecca Moesta, gave a talk on professionalism for authors.

In a nutshell, they said, “If you are given an opportunity to write for an anthology, a professional author will need to submit the type of story asked for, within the stated word count requested, and turn it in by the due date.”

IE: If the anthology is about “purple unicorns” the story needs to have a purple unicorn in it, be the right length, and turned in on time. Over the years, aspiring and established authors alike have joked with Kevin and Rebeca about writing an amazing story for his purple unicorn anthology.
Lisa Mangum and Monique Bucheger

Soooooo, last year at Superstars, an awesome editor, Lisa Mangum, offered to edit such an anthology. Once Kevin and Rebecca agreed, a call was put out to the Superstars Writing Seminars attendees for purple unicorn stories and the fun began.

As the deadline approached dozens of purple unicorn stories were turned in. I wasn’t sure I was going to participate at first because, quite frankly, I’m not a fantasy writer. 

Do I love to read fantasy? Absolutely. 

Have I written any? No, I had not.

Then the stakes increased.

Peter S. Beagle, author of The Last Unicorn, was asked to be a part of the anthology. Then Todd McCaffrey (son of Ann McCaffrey—an author I loved as a teen) came on board. 

David Farland, Jody Lynn Nye, James A. Owen, & Todd McCaffrey
James Artemus Owen

James Artemus Owen—an internationally bestselling author and amazing artist offered to design the cover. Then James made the offer even more personal: he read each story and said his cover would include a unique representation from every unicorn story entered. (See cover here) WOW!!

I was intrigued, and nervous, and excited, and then I really, REALLY wanted to write an awesome purple unicorn story. So I plotted and planned and brainstormed—by myself and with other author friends. A few unique ideas and threads came to me, but, quite frankly, nothing meshed well enough.

On impulse one night (and thoroughly frustrated—after all—at this point I had published four full length novel’s for Pete’s sake—but I couldn’t make one 7,000 word story come together), I called another of the Superstars attendees: Victoria Morris.

She graciously agreed to brainstorm with me. I didn’t know Victoria very well at the time. I only knew she was a very nice person, we had hit it off at the conference, and that she writes epic fantasy. So we plotted together and something magical happened: a story came together.

A very good story. The best fantasy story I’d ever written to date.

Monique Bucheger and Victoria Morris

Okay, the ONLY fantasy story I’d written. J Vicky and I traded critiques on our stories, offering suggestions to strengthen and tighten and keep under word count (I think I deleted over 2000 words to squeak in under 7K—including title and author info.)

We finally submitted our stories shortly before midnight on the due date and then waited … hoping and praying our stories had been accepted. The short story is …they weren’t.

However, I got feedback on my story that it had been a “maybe,” and although it hadn’t been accepted, it had potential. Which was pretty awesome, considering some of the competition for the anthology. 

I talked with Vicky. We discussed how I could have made it stronger, better, more engaging. Then a wonderful thing happened: we came up with some incredible ideas for a new series, ideas that would empower and intrigue our intended audience: middle grade girls. 

We are now almost done with Book 1 and we have the main ideas for the next several books. A year ago, I wasn't a fantasy author. Now I am. All because of a challenge given at a writing conference. 

Even better, I've made a wonderful new friend and she is opening doors to new experiences for me. For example, I've never been to a comicon. Vicky often helps James Owen at different comicons around the country and invited me to help at the Phoenix Comicon in May and Salt Lake City Comic Con in September. I'm looking forward to meeting new people and being immersed in the comicon experience I often hear about from my fantasy writer friends. 

Victoria Morris, James Artemus Owen, & Monique Bucheger

It will be fun ... and it wouldn't be possible if I hadn't attended Superstars Writing Seminars last year. My other favorite writing conference is LDStorymakers. It will be May 15 & 16, 2015. I hope to see some of you there!

Laugh lots, Love much, Write on...

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