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Saturday, June 29, 2013

West Virginia Turns 150 Years Old

My wonderful state turned 150 years old last weekend.  And in true WV style, the people came together for an amazing celebration.  The grounds of Charleston was covered with fun things to do for all members of the family.  It was a very hot day and we had our National Guards Men and Women there handing out bottle water and manning the First Aid tents.  They also provided a rock wall for the kids to play on, which is where we spent most of our time.  

But the best part was the 3D movie which was played with the front steps as the back drop.  You will have to see it for yourself because no words can describe it. After the movie a stunning display of fireworks was launched from the Capitol's roof.  See below!

I know my state gets a bad rap but that is only because outsiders have no clue what the people of this state are really like outside of Hollywood movies.  Truth is West Virginia has many first in the USA that lot of people have forgot. 
  • The only state in the Union to have acquired sovereignty by proclamation of the resident was WV.
  • On July 1, 1921, WV was the first state to start sales tax. (That one really isn't that great).
  • In 1926, WV opened the first federal prison exclusively for women in the US.
  • On November 8, 1954, WV Memorial Tunnel became the first in the nation to be monitored by television.
  • On October 6, 1896, Charles Town became the first rural free mail delivery, which then spread throughout the US.
  • On December 3, 1787, James Rumsey launched the first steamboat in Shepherdstown.
  • In 1908, Wheeling started the first outdoor advertising when the Block Brothers Tobacco Company painted barns and bridges with "Treat Yourself to the Best, Chew Mail Pouch."
  • In 1928, WV's House of Delegates member, Mrs. Minnie Buckingham Harper, became the first African American woman to become a member of a legislative body in the US.
  • On October 23, 1870, Charleston, WV laid the first brick street in the world on Summers Street.
I could go on and on but you get the point.  I love living here and having such a awesome "backyard" to play in.  We have white water rafting, rock climbing, hiking, camping, history, culture, four wheeling, fishing, boating, hunting, scuba diving and so much more.  

So before you judge West Virginia or it's people, why don't you just jump in your car and make your way here for a weekend and find out for yourself what a beautiful place it is.  

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Sunday, June 9, 2013

WV Writers Conference 2013

I’m sad to say that the three days I wait for each year has come and gone.  I’m talking about the WV Writers Conference held each year at Cedar Lakes, West Virginia.  This year the conference had approximately 45 workshops to pick from and tons of items in the book store.  I was also lucky enough to outbid others on some really great books that I can’t wait to start reading in the silent auction.  I will say that I was so excited after hearing the buzz about Flowertown by S.G. Redling that I skipped the nightly entertainment after the awards banquet and dived right into starting it.  I will let you know what I think in a later post.

 For all that do not know, WV Writers has been around since February 1977.  The first conference was held in June 1978 at the Charleston Culture Center and housed close to 200 state wide writers.  I discovered this organization when I moved back to WV in 2010.  My first conference was in 2011 and I look forward to it every year.  It has been a wonderful place to meet others who love to write and to learn the trick of the trade in the business. 

I’ve been writing for more years then I care to say.  I started in high school as a reporter and by my senior years, was made editor-in-chief.  Since then I have been hooked and have wrote on and off since then.  The conference has helped me get the juices flowing again and opened my mind to allow my characters to find their voices and tell their stories.  I hope to have something to submit for next years conference.  Wish me luck!

The conference offers many opportunities to writers to get their work noticed.  You can submit your work before the conference to be judged for a small fee.  There is also several chances at the Conference to win an award if you missed the mailed in submission deadline.  One would be The Writer’s Wall which allows you to post your work on boards for all to read and vote on.  Another is to read your work to a group and let others vote for the People’s Choice Award. 

I saved the best for last.  The conference offers pitch sessions for you to speak to an agent about your book.  Why not skip sending out another batch of query letters and take a chance to meet an agent to pitch your book face to face.   Best part….no waiting months for rejection!

There were so many workshops that I can’t list them all.  Below I have giving you a brief Review of some of the workshops I did attend this year:

“Every Novel is a Mystery and the Devil IS in the Details” by Marie Manilla. 
This was a really great workshop to start off the weekend.  I learned that you need to leave clues throughout your novel that leads up to the big reveal at the end.  Manilla gave us a really great exercise in which we pictured two different people going into any place you want them to.  We were asked to list everything that the characters see from their point of views.  I picked a woman in her early twenties who was raised to be tough and her grandmother who sees everyone through rose colored glasses.  They are on a road trip and stop at a gas station.  The younger woman sees all the exits, video cameras, how many people in the store, every potential hiding spot and any items that could be used for a weapon.  The grandmother sees what snacks she wants for the trip, bathroom door, and the college shirt the cashier is wearing happens to be the place her brother went to.  I was also asked to share my thoughts with the class and I learned that I’m very shy speaking to a group of people.  That is something I need to work on.

 “Marketing To Your Target Audience” by Christine Witthohn 
This workshop was huge source of wonderful knowledge for anyone wanting to publish their books.  It was really nice to speak to agents and authors about the process.  I really had no idea that before you want to publish your book, you should start marketing it 9-6 months before the book is released.  Places like twitter, facebook, writers groups and conferences are a great place to start.  Plus, it’s FREE!  You must know WHO your target market is.  Who is your completion? What is your books hook?  Even simple things like book titles and cover art can make or break your book.  I also learned that swag doesn’t really help you sale your book.  A simple thing like business cards work better to get your name out there and cause the buzz to start about your book.  Websites are awesome if you spend the time to make it good.  Agents normally will google your name to see what is out there if they are interested in you.  Your score on Amazon does make a difference.  If you have a book for sale there then you need to create an author page to start building your score.  Sad to say but thing like this, my blog, are old school.  I also learned in the agent world, 25 lines on a page is equal to 250 words per page.  It’s a good rule of thumb for publishers to quickly figure out the word count.  

"How to Pitch Your Book" by Christine Witthohn
     Who doesn’t want to know this?  In a nut shell, work on telling your complete story in three sentences.  When you think about a pitch, think about TV Guide and the short summary they give of TV shows and movies that will hook you to watching.  Your pitch should be no more than 3 minutes and included; word count, genre, your stories hook and summary of story.

     "Social Media for Writers" by Heather Isaacs
     If you haven’t, open your world to social media.  Follow agents and people that you know that write.  Agents will sometime let everyone know that they are on a hut for a certain book.  If you just happen to have that certain book then it could be as easy as submitting your work to them.   

      “My Evil Plan is Working! by Sheila Redling
I loved this workshop and it was so full of writers that people were seating on the floor.  In one of Redling’s handouts, she had three tables with the titles of each being; Quality, Villain and Hero.  She also made great points when writing about the relationship between Hero and Villain.  You need to ask yourself basic questions like;  Why would your hero fight the villain?  How does the villain justify his acts?  What does the villain have to gain?  Why are they against each other?  I have also learned of the Mary Sue Litmus Test (see the link below).  This little test is a good way to find out if your characters are too good to be true.  Meaning, does the world fall at their feet?  Does your characters touch seem to turn everything nice and rosy.  I have never heard of this before and was excited. 

      “Introduction to Writing Graphic Narratives by Robert Tinnell
I have never thought of doing a comic strip but since there was not another workshop that I wanted to attend in this hour slot, I took a chance and went.  I was presently surprised to learn about the amount of work that goes into one comic.  Each page of script equals about two pages of comics.  One should never use more than 7 panels to a page.  Bookstores are looking for comics that are around 106 pages or 53 pages of script.