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Denver, Colorado, 2019

Another shooting —
Something’s wrong.
Another town is
“[Somewhere] Strong.”

As students become
First Responders,
Parents rush in and
Each one wonders
“Was it mine?”

Some parents will grieve a lost daughter or son.
Others will grieve
Because theirs was the one.

Loud voices will now enter the fray,
Yelling “Gun control!” and “RKBA!”:
Another debate without a solution.

As the country grieves even more lives taken,
Another school mascot
Becomes “[Something] Nation.”

Wendy Hart Beckman
Virginia Tech, class of 1980
A sad member of Hokie Nation
Written May 8, 2019

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Retreat to the Springs! will be offered Aug. 2 to 4, 2019, in Yellow Springs, Ohio. Maddie James, romance writer and indie publisher, is one of the faculty members for the retreat. Here we get to know her a little better.

Romance writer Maddie James

Maddie James

 

 

Q: What made you choose your genre(s)?

 

Honestly, the genre chose me! It took hold of an 11-year-old girl who cried inconsolably after Rhett told Scarlett, “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn.” That day, this girl vowed that every story here and evermore deserved a happily-ever-after ending. Besides, I grew up kissing my pillow. Writing romance was a given.

 

Q: What do you consider to be the first meaningful things you wrote? (For example, I had a poem published in a national magazine when I was 10. I then wrote my autobiography when I was 12, but my mother said no one would buy it until I had done something meaningful. I then wrote a “Nancy Drew” book the next year. Even though I’ve published nine books, those three things are what stick in my mind.)

 

Probably the note I wrote to my kids’ teacher explaining why I didn’t agree with her philosophy about how my kid should choose a book from the library. It was poetic and oh-so-convincing but I’m pretty sure said kid lost the note on the way to school. Sigh.

 

Q:  Is there anything you wish you had not written?

 

Yes. A couple of Op-Ed pieces. I did learn a couple of valuable lessons though by writing them — the pen is powerful and be ready to back up what you wrote to your family.

 

Q: Do you read your books after they’re published?

 

I read my emails after I push send. What do you think?

 

Q: How do you feel about self-publishing? It has lost a lot of the stigma of “vanity” publishing.

 

I could write for a day on this topic. I’m totally independently published these days, so I am pro — but only if you know what you are doing, and not saying one should self-publishing exclusively. There are a lot of considerations. Self-publishing and vanity publishing, by the way, and as you likely know, are two very different things. I could go into the differences here but will spare you. 🙂  (maybe in the workshop?)

 

Q: From when you first started seriously pitching your first book, how long did it take to be picked up?

 

Ten years. Ten very long years. From 1986 to 1996. It was a different era in publishing. I wrote my first complete manuscript on an electric typewriter. Think about that.

 

Q: What is your writing routine? Do you have one?

 

I still work a day job but I work from home so there is that. My fiction writing happens between 5 and 8 a.m. every day of the week. On Saturday and Sunday mornings, I could go longer. In the evenings, after the day job ends (where I also write) I work on other “writer stuff.”

 

Q: If you didn’t write in your genre, what would you be writing?

 

I write in several romance subgenres — from suspense to paranormal to contemporary to westerns. I like the variety. But I also have a cozy mystery and a women’s fiction novel in the works. And, I write non-fiction, mostly in academia but I have written essays, articles, curricula, etc. I’m currently writing the 30-year history of a non-profit organization. So, it’s pretty safe to say, if I want to write it, I’ll likely take a stab at writing it.

 

Q: What was your harshest rejection? What was your best rejection?

 

It has been over 10 years since I submitted a work traditionally and I can’t recall a harsh rejection (not saying it didn’t happen, I just don’t recall!). I do remember a good rejection where my former editor stated that my suspense voice was similar to Iris Johansen’s. I floated around on that one for a while.

 

Q: What did you do when your very first book arrived? (I opened the book and smelled it.)

 

Probably opened the box and said, “Thank God. Finally!” But I honestly can’t remember.

 

Q: Where do you think your genre is going? What are the changes you’ve seen?

 

The romance genre is not going away. It will continue to be a popular genre. That said, the genre will evolve as it has over the past 15 years or so. Ebooks and erotica changed the landscape of the romance genre a while back. Indie publishing was the next wave. As writers in the genre become more diverse, so do the romance stories, and that changes not only the genre but the industry as a whole. There is a lot we could talk about here.

 

Q: Do you ever think back on your first book and wish you’d done something differently?

 

The rights to that first book reverted to me several years ago. Since then, I have revised and rewritten the story, added scenes and chapters that were left out, and re-released it back into the world. I like the final product better.

 

But — would I do anything differently about that first published book? Yes. I would have learned more about marketing. I would have written the sequel sooner. I would have paid attention to the popularity of the western genre (it was a cowboy story) and written more of those back then. But yeah, hindsight. We learn from it.

 

Q: Do you recommend getting an agent? How many agents have you had?

 

I have never had an agent. I didn’t need one for my first six books but my editor at the time kept bugging me to get one. Things happened in my life at that point that prevented me from moving forward and seeking an agent, and I actually stopped writing for a few years. After that, I sort of had to start over again, and with small press and indie publishing becoming a “thing” I decided not to go the agent route. However, never say never. I have a book in the hopper that might be a candidate for submitting via an agent.

 

Do I recommend getting an agent? I think the answer to that question is tied up in what your goals are as an author, what you write, how you want to publish, and more. It’s a good question.

 

Q: Anything else you’d like to add?

Just that I’m looking forward to the event! Is it summer yet?

 

Retreat to the Springs! takes place Aug. 2 to 4, 2019, in Yellow Springs, Ohio. Besides Maddie James, we will also have Tim Waggoner and Jeffrey Marks on faculty. For more information, go here.  

 

The next Retreat to the Springs will be held Aug. 2 to 4, 2019, in Yellow Springs, Ohio, at the John Bryan Community Center.

This year we will focus on fiction and have the good fortune to be instructed by three fabulous writers.

Faculty

tim pic 2

Tim Waggoner, horror

jeffrey marks

Jeffrey Marks, mystery

mj-sj-2018

Maddie James, romance

Check back for details — but first, put the date on your calendar!

To keep our intimate setting and personal attention, the workshop is limited to 30 people.


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Q: What’s the difference between traditional and self-publishing?

Valerie J Lewis Coleman

Valerie J. Lewis Coleman, self-publishing

A: With the advent of technology, writers have numerous options when it comes to publishing. If you’re blessed to get a book deal with a traditional publisher (e.g., Random House, Simon & Schuster, HarperCollins), you’ll get an advance, royalties and marketing allowance. Given the volatility of the book industry, explosion of self-publishing and emergence of eBooks, landing a deal with a traditional publisher is a rare feat.

An independent or small publisher usually focuses on a specific genre. These publishers may or may not pay advances and often have fewer than twenty authors on the roster.

Enter book producers. Authors pay these companies to produce their books; often at a premium. Most book producers are piranhas that eat away at your money, confidence and publishing rights one bite at a time. Although reputable book producers are available (e.g., QueenVPublishing.com), most fall into one of three categories of awfulness. I’ll discuss this publishing option at the retreat.

I am a proponent for self-publishing for many reasons:

  1. You control the process. You decide when the book releases, the cover image, the retail price, the marketing strategy and more. If executed correctly, you can save thousands of dollars, mountains of frustration and hours of research by implementing the do-it-yourself method.
  2. You keep 100% of monies earned. As opposed to waiting for royalty checks from your publisher, or fighting with your publisher for compensation, you keep every dime you make. Caution: Just because you earn it, does not mean you should spend it.
  3. If the content is relevant and you are actively marketing, your title has an indefinite shelf life.
  4. Short lead time to market. After writing the manuscript, you can have your book published and on the market in a few weeks. The longest component in this process is professional editing which can take several weeks depending on how well the manuscript is written and the editor’s proficiency.
  5. Affordable. Emerging technologies have made self-publishing more cost effective. With the advent of eBooks, the most expensive aspect of publishing—printing—is eliminated. In addition, since only a front-cover image is required, the cost for cover design is cheaper than that for print books. Note: Editing is required regardless of your book’s format.
  6. Quick changeover. Updates and revisions can be made quickly. And as new technology hits the market, a self-published author is in the perfect position to leverage the opportunity without delays from fighting chain-of-command bureaucracy.

 

Q: How much does self-publishing cost?

A: The answer depends on several factors including book format, word count and printer specs. The least expensive route will cost a few hundred, but I have worked with authors who were tricked out of $15,000, couldn’t earn a profit and then hired me to fix the mess. As I serve clients, we work through the intricacies of publishing, find reputable service providers and assess expected expenses. I’ll explain how I can save you thousands of dollars at the retreat.

 

Q: Do I have to get the bar code and numbers myself?

A: As a true self-pub, yes! Other options are available, but I caution you to avoid them.

 

Q: Do I have to design my own cover?

A: Unless you’re a gifted graphics designer proficient in designing book covers, you better not! As amazing as I am at publishing books, I do not design covers. I hire a professional designer with years of experience and a thorough understanding of colors, fonts, placement and more. Your book cover is a marketing tool. Don’t leave the success of your book to a novice designer. It’s not worth the few dollars saved.

 

Q: Doesn’t self-publishing have a bad reputation?

A: In a nutshell, yes and no. Barriers to entry have been eliminated so anyone with internet access can publish a book. However, with over 10,000,000 books on Amazon, almost 90% of them will sell less than 75 copies. Why? Many self-published authors don’t invest adequate resources to produce a quality book causing readers, libraries and bookstores to shy away from their crap…I mean books.

On the flip side, self-published authors like James Redfield (The Celestine Project), Amanda Hocking (My Blood Series) and E. L James (50 Shades of Grey) produced books that hit the New York Times bestsellers list, the big screen and millions of readers. In addition to having outstanding marketing strategies, these authors created amazing content—well-written and well-edited—which competed with standards held by traditional houses.

Friday, Oct. 26
4 – 5              Wendy/Sandy, Registration
5 – 6              Wendy Faculty, Introductions
6 ­– 6:30         Sandy, Ice-breaker (writing games)
6:45 – 8:15    Jason, General fiction, especially short
8:15 – ?          Private time for writing, enjoying YS, or meeting for MS critiques
Saturday, Oct. 27
8 – 8:30           Wendy, Welcome back
9:00 – 10:30   Valerie, Self-publishing
10:15 – 10:30 Break
10:30 – noon  Donna, Long fiction, especially romance
Noon – 2         Lunch at Peach’s
2:00 – 3:30      Ann, Narrative nonfiction
3:30 – 3:45      Break
3:45 – 4:15      Wendy, Writing prompt (writing and sharing)
4:30­ – 6:30      Dinner
6:30­ – 8:00      Sandy, Author panel
8:00 – ?           Private time for writing, enjoying YS, or meeting for MS critiques
Sunday, Oct. 28
8 – 8:30          Wendy, Welcome back
8:30 – 10:00   Faculty reading
10 – 11:30      Faculty Q&A
11:30 – noon Wendy, Wrap-up, evaluations
Retreat to the Springs is a roaming writers’ workshop that takes place in such places as Capon Springs WV, Yellow Springs OH and Steamboat Springs CO.
Here’s our next one!
Yellow Springs, Ohio
John Bryan Community Center
October 26 to 28, 2018
Join us for a retreat in a fantastic village setting, where you’ll receive expert instruction from Ohio writers: Ann Hagedorn, creative nonfiction; Donna MacMeans, romance; Jason Sanford, scifi/fantasy; and Valerie Coleman, self-publishing. Learn the strategies and tactics of being a successful, published author. Sign up for an optional one-on-one manuscript critique! The retreat fee of $195 includes Friday evening, all day Saturday, and Sunday morning. (A separate $25 fee will be added for manuscript consultations.)

 

wendybeckman3

Oct. 26 to 28, 2018 Yellow Springs OH

At Retreat to the Springs! in October 2018, our faculty will be reviewing participants’ writing and providing a one-on-one feedback session. Each review costs an additional $25 for the critique and 15-minute discussion.

Here are the guidelines for what each faculty member will review:

 

Ann Hagedorn (4 manuscripts)

  • What: Nonfiction
  • How much: Three-paragraph synopsis and up to 10 pages of manuscript
  • How: Send an email to Wendy at whbeckman@gmail.com for the address.  Put “MS for Ann” in subject line.
  • When: No later than Sept. 17

Donna MacMeans (10 manuscripts)

  • What: Fiction, particularly romance
  • How much: First chapter and a synopsis
  • How: Email to whbeckman@gmail.com with “MS for Donna” in subject line
  • When: No later than Oct. 12

Jason Sanford

  • What: Short story manuscripts, any genre
  • How much: Up to 6,000 words
  • How: Email to whbeckman@gmail.com with “MS for Jason” in subject line
  • When: Send by Oct. 12

Retreat to the Springs! is a roving writers’ workshop held in various “Springs” cities around the country. The next one is Oct. 26 to 28, 2018, in Yellow Springs, Ohio.

Join us for a retreat in a fantastic village setting, where you’ll receive expert instruction from fantastic writers: Ann Hagedorn, creative nonfiction; Donna MacMeans, romance; Jason Sanford, scifi/fantasy; and Valerie J. Lewis Coleman, self-publishing. Learn the strategies and tactics of being a successful, published author. Sign up for an optional one-on-one manuscript critique! (One-on-one manuscript critiques cost an additional $25.) Friday evening, all day Saturday, and Sunday morning are yours for only $195.


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For more information:

Ann Hagedorn

Nonfiction Presenter Ann Hagedorn

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Renowned author Ann Hagedorn will be talking about nonfiction at Retreat to the Springs! October 26 to 28, 2018, in Yellow Springs, Ohio.

Q: What is the difference between creative nonfiction and “regular” nonfiction?

 

Actually, I call the genre of my books “narrative nonfiction,” which uses storytelling to deliver current issues and sometimes complex histories to the general reader in a compelling way. These are true stories, meticulously researched, that are told by applying the art of literary techniques, such as descriptive scenes, character development, story structure, suspense, and climax. I think of creative nonfiction as being more about memoirs. But, whatever the terminology, the goal for both is to utilize the very best tools of fiction writing and nonfiction research.

 

Q: Do you have to finish a nonfiction book before you can pitch it to an agent or publisher?

 

No, but you must write a substantial book proposal that shows the significance, scope, do-ability, research sources (such as people to interview, documents to uncover) and the literary potential for your book idea. Also, in the proposal, you must describe your vision for the story structure, which is effectively an artist’s sketch for how you think you will tell the story.

 

The better the proposal, the more confidence — and enthusiasm! — an agent and an editor will have in you and your book. I’m a great believer in writing proposals no matter how many books you’ve written or how solid the idea seems. While you’re writing it, you’ll be able to identify the strengths and potential flaws in the storyline.

 

Q: Do you have a “trademark” or something that distinguishes your work?

I’ve written five narrative nonfiction books — am now in the midst of the sixth — and each focuses on a different topic, but my reasons for choosing particular topics, my methods of research, and my use of literary techniques give them all common ground. For example, whether the stories I select are out of the past or in the present I choose them because they have potential for being significant to us all; because they are stories brimming with what I call “human constants,” meaning my readers may identify with the challenges and triumphs depicted in each of them; and because they are often stories in danger of slipping through the cracks of time and public awareness.

 

And, no matter what the topic may be, my research process always includes digging deeply for as many primary sources as I can find, traveling to the places where the narrative took place, using chronologies as organizational tools and story structure devices, and trying to re-trace the footsteps of the main players in the story.

 

Q: When you get an idea for a book, do you “bounce” it off people, like your agent or editor?

 

Sometimes I do, but typically not until I’ve narrowed it down to three ideas. Usually during the time between books, I come up with a new idea every time I discover an untold story or a significant issue that must be brought alive through nonfiction storytelling or an unknown detail from a story we all know. But I try to refrain from sharing all of my ideas with my agent and editor and explore the numerous possibilities first.

Q: Do you outline your books?

 

No, I don’t like the restraint of outlines; I think they can smother creativity. But one of my favorite parts of writing narrative nonfiction is to study the various possibilities for ways to tell the story, to experiment with story structure sketches, and then to choose one that becomes a flexible guide for the research and can change as the details of the story surface. There’s the saying, “Art flies if held too lightly and art dies if held too tightly.” I think it was Ray Bradbury who said it. [Yes, he did — based on an Oscar Wilde poem.] An outline is too tight; no sketch at all is death to the project; but a good sense of the story’s components and a sketch of how they might unfold is a map for the writer and also lots of fun to figure out.

Typically I use five parts or “acts,” so to speak, and a prologue and epilogue. With the current book, I’m dividing the narrative into three parts because the drama works best in three “acts.”

Q: How long does it take you to write a book, from research to publication?

 

For me, it’s usually about three and a half years from the day I begin the research for the proposal and the day I do the book launch and first booksignings. That includes fact-checking, source notes, edits, press packets, etc. Some of my books have flown quickly through the process: one was very early but another one was late because it was a current topic that kept evolving. They each have had different lives!

Q: Which of your books are you proudest of?

 

To honestly answer that, I will have to steal a line from author Tom Clancy who once said, “My books are like children; I have no favorites.” However, a few of them have main players whose wisdom and foresight had such an impact on me that they could rank as favorites, but I won’t go there!

 

Q: Do you have a few favorite pieces of advice for writers?

 

Yes, I do. Read. Read. Read. And … Write. Write. Write. Set up a routine. Carry a notebook with you at all times. And teach yourself how to walk the delicate line between discipline and creativity.

 

Q: Any favorite quotes from writers about writing?

 

I haven’t read a lot of books by writers about their writing, but I did read Stephen King’s book On Writing, which is excellent, by the way. And his quote is one of the best imaginable; I’ve actually memorized it and here it is, as I remember it:

“On some days writing is a pretty grim slog. On others, I feel that buzz of happiness, that sense of having found the right words and putting them in a line. It’s like lifting off in an airplane: you’re on the ground, on the ground, on the ground … and then you’re up, riding on a magical cushion of air and prince of all you survey. That makes me happy, because it’s what I was made to do.”

 

Retreat to the Springs! is a roaming writers’ workshop. In 2018, it will be held October 26 to 28 in Yellow Springs, Ohio. Go here for more information and registration.