Southern Kentucky Book Fest and Writers Conference
April 19-20, 2013
|Knicely Conference Center, Bowling Green, KY|
This past weekend, I made the annual spring trip to Bowling Green, Kentucky, home of Western Kentucky University.
My destination was the Knicely Conference Center. There, for two days, bibliophiles converge on a two-day event known as Southern Kentucky Book Fest. Friday is the Kentucky Writers Conference and Saturday is the Book Fest, which includes authors of all genres.
The Writers Conference has four sessions, with three workshops per session. The conference includes workshops on characterization, plotting, revision, and query letter writing, making it accessible to new writers as well as more seasoned ones.
My first workshop was David Bell’s “Creating Suspense in Fiction.” He pointed out that every story, not just thrillers and mysteries, should be a page turner, and that character creates plot. Other tips for creating suspense were raising questions in each chapter, delaying answers, starting in the middle of the story, and having an evenly matched protagonist and antagonist.
The second workshop was Brent Fisk’s “The Fine Art of Revision.” While geared toward poetry, the tips given could be used for narrative writing. Along with writing a first draft while your inner editor’s tied up and gagged, he advocates taking a fresh approach to universal ideas, and advises writers to listen to comments given by readers, even asking questions to clarify potential problems. Other advice: read the poem aloud, think about why you've written what you did, and put the poem away so you can approach it with fresh eyes.
Session three was “Chapter 1 Do’s and Don’ts” by Chuck Sambuchino. While he acknowledged “voice trumps all,” he made it clear there were certain elements editors and agents don't like. Some of the reasons for rejection included scenes where nothing happens and info dumping. The list of “Don’ts” included clichés, flowery writing, dream sequences, and “laundry list” descriptions. He also advised against comparing your work to successful, best-selling authors and not looking to past books, because what worked for those authors then may not work now.
As for “Do’s,” he recommended introducing the protagonist soon as possible, mastering point of view, opening with a hook, and having characters act rather than do nothing. He also suggested writers look at page one of debut published authors to see how they start their books, and to query six or seven agents at a time, rather than all at once. This way, if agents don’t respond to your query, you can revise it and send it out to another handful.
The last session was “Revision as Reconstructive Surgery” by Kristin Tubb. One of the things she emphasized was summing up your story in one word. If a scene or element doesn't work toward that word, either revise or cut. She also suggested asking why. Why is this character telling the story? Why this POV? Why this setting, plot turn, etc.?
Following Friday’s writers conference was the Saturday book fest, and the first one I’d attended. (Usually I return to Louisville on Friday.) But this year, Sherrilyn Kenyon was going to be there, and I didn't want to miss meeting her again. (I first met her at Hypericon.)
|Dan Andriacco and Duffy Brown|
Saturday was a great day for meeting new authors, including mystery writers Duffy Brown and Dan Andriacco. I talked to them about writing mysteries, Killer Nashville, and about being possible speakers at our local Sisters in Crime presentations. (It’s all about the networking.) :-)
I also met fellow Louisville Romance writers Katie McGarry and Alison Atlee, as well as Julie Kagawa, whom I’d met at Fandom Fest and Bethany Griffin and Kelly Creagh.
|Bethany Griffin and Katie McGarry|
Chatted with Kristin Tubb a little more about those ubiquitous revisions and writing YA. I think if I ever do venture into that area, it’ll be New Adult. I have a couple of stories that fit that category, but they’re unfinished.
Aside from buying books and chatting with authors, I attended Chuck Sambuchino’s “Create Your Writer Platform” and Sherrilyn Kenyon’s Q-and-A panel.
|Kelly Creagh and Julie Kagawa|
The most important thing I took away from Sambuchino’s workshop was giving something of value to the reader. There seems to be a fine line between promotion and marketing and giving something your audience can benefit from. He also advises against trying to do everything, but focusing on those areas where you have the most impact. Social media can be overwhelming, but it doesn't have to be. Sambuchino’s book, Create Your Writer Platform, also discusses many of these principles.
Switching gears now, a few paragraphs earlier, I mentioned Sherrilyn Kenyon being at SOKY Book Fest. What can I say? She’s a major influence, and the reason I stayed for the Saturday portion of the weekend. Her RWA speech (2011) still makes me cry. If I ever become a successful author, she is who I want to emulate, as someone who makes her readers and fans feel appreciated.