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Get all your news here for the 2019 Retreat to the Springs!
(And now the links work: sorry about that.)

August 2–4, 2019, “Focus on Fiction” Details

Schedule 

Q&A with Maddie James 

Q&A with Tim Waggoner 

Q&A with Jeffrey Marks 

Deadline has been extended to July 25, 2019!

To keep our intimate setting and personal attention, the workshop is limited to 25 people.

Location: John Bryan Community Center
100 Dayton St.
Yellow Springs, Ohio 45387


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http://www.stayyellowsprings.com/ Lodging in Yellow Springs

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Tim Waggoner will be enlightening us at the second annual Retreat to the Springs! Tim has published close to forty novels and three collections of short stories. He writestim pic 2 original dark fantasy and horror, as well as media tie-ins, and his articles on writing have appeared in numerous publications. In 2017 he received the Bram Stoker Award for Superior Achievement in Long Fiction. He’s been a finalist for the Shirley Jackson Award and the Scribe Award. His fiction has also received numerous Honorable Mentions in volumes of Best Horror of the Year. He’s also a full-time tenured professor who teaches creative writing and composition at Sinclair College in Dayton, Ohio. He took time to talk about his life as a writer.

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

Tim:    I’m not sure I did choose them. I’ve been interested in horror, fantasy, and science fiction since I was a small child. I was fascinated by the idea that dinosaurs were real creatures who lived and walked on Earth at one time — maybe even right where I lived. And my mom and dad let me watch horror and SF movies on TV (as long as they weren’t too scary). My dad liked to read SF/F/H too, and as I got older, he’d let me read his books when he was finished. I got into reading comics when I was in seventh grade. This was back in the late seventies, and the big wave of 80’s sci-fi and horror movies was just around the corner. By the time it hit, I could drive, and I saw as many of these now-classic films in the theater as I could. Growing up with all these influences, it’s no wonder I write the kind of stuff I do.

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.)

Tim:    When I was sixteen, I took a creative writing class in high school. There, I wrote a story called “The Last Christmas Present” about the last surviving Christmas elf who is trying to continue delivering presents on his own and having great difficulty managing it. One Christmas eve, the elf sees a young boy about to be hit by a car, and he pushes the boy out of the way, saving his life. Unfortunately, the elf is hit and dies from his injuries, his sacrifice being the last present he’ll ever give. This was the first story where I consciously tried to focus on an emotional core, and I realized the difference it made in my writing. The teacher — Mrs. Vagedes — read the story aloud to the class. She nominated me for writer of the month (an honor I didn’t even know my high school offered), and I was interviewed by a local paper, which printed the story alongside my interview. So “The Last Christmas Present” was my first official publication, too.

 

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

Tim:    My first published novel was a work-for-hire piece of erotica called Dying for It. It was about husband and wife private detectives who had trouble keeping their hands off each other when they’re working. I enjoyed writing the book, and it appeared under my own name. I still list it in my bibliography. But once it came out, I was no longer eligible for a Bram Stoker Award for Best First Novel (an award in the horror genre). My next published novel was a horror story, The Harmony Society, and I think I might have had a shot at the award if I hadn’t written Dying for It. Dying for It came out in 2001, and it would be sixteen more years before I finally won a Bram Stoker Award (this one for a novella called The Winter Box). But this is such a mild regret. As I said earlier, I was happy with Dying for It — and I still am.

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

Tim:    Nope. I don’t read the anthologies or magazines my stories are printed in, either. In the movie The Gumball Rally, which is about a cross-country road race — Raul Julia plays a character who, just before the race begins, breaks off his car’s rearview mirror and tosses it in the back seat. He says, “The first rule of Italian driving: What’s behind me is not important.” I feel it’s better to focus on what I’m working on now, and what I’m going to be working on next, rather than stuff I’ve already had published. Every once in a great while, I pick up a book and read a few lines. I never remember writing them, and they always strike me as much better written than what I’m capable of producing now. This reminds me why I shouldn’t re-read my own books!

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

Tim:    I believe you’re right about self-publishing no longer being viewed as a lesser form of publication — for the most part. What concerns me about it is that if writers can publish their work so easily, what incentive do they have to improve their craft? How do they even know their craft needs improvement? In many ways, self-publishing is like making YouTube videos. People can make a video where they sing, perform on a musical instrument, perform a comedy skit, etc. It’s a wonderful form of self-expression, but how many of these performances would we consider to be of professional quality? How many would be pay to see? I’ve no doubt there are self-published novels as good as anything that’s traditionally published. But traditional publishers vouch for the books they produce, giving readers confidence that these books are at least up to a certain standard. There’s no such assurance with self-published work. On the other hand, self-publishing is a great avenue for works that don’t easily fit into a marketing category whether because of content, length, etc. But it’s the instant gratification aspect for writers that worries me about self-publishing. Over the last few years, I’ve heard student writers say variations on, “I don’t care if my book isn’t good enough to be traditionally published. I’ll just self-publish it.” As a teacher, I wish I knew what to do to change that attitude.

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

Tim:    As I said earlier, my first published book was Dying for It. I’d once collaborated with the editor on a short story, and he contacted me and asked me to pitch some ideas for the erotica publisher he was working for. I pitched a few, he liked one, gave me a contract, and I started writing it. It didn’t take long for me to get the contract. I was in the process of developing a second novel for the editor — this time an erotic horror story — when the company folded. I’ve since written and published over forty novels, and most of those have been sold on a pitch or an outline, and only then do I actually write the book. It’s been close to twenty years since I’ve written a book without having a contract in place first.

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

Tim:    I teach college composition and creative writing in my day job, so I write when I’m not teaching. I tend to start slow on a book. I work from an outline, and I produce maybe twenty pages a week, sometimes more, sometimes less depending on if I have papers to grade that week. Then when I get past the halfway point on a book, it’s like coming down a hill on a roller coaster. I pick up speed, writing every available moment I can find until the book is finally finished. Once I have an outline in place, it usually takes me about three to four months to write a book this way.

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

Tim:    Mysteries, maybe. I enjoy series detective fiction, and I think it would be a lot of fun to develop a sleuth I could tell many stories about. I might write thrillers. The thriller is a close cousin to both mystery and horror, so it might scratch both of those itches for me.

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

Tim:    I don’t recall ever receiving a rejection that I considered too harsh. I did once receive an email from someone I didn’t know, written in all lowercase letters, no punctuation, that said you write badly. My best rejection came from an editor at a German publisher which prints translations of many English-speaking writers’ horror novels. When I inquired about the possibility of their publishing translations of my novels, the editor wrote back apologizing, saying my work for too good for them to publish.

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

Tim:     I can’t remember. I’m sure I ran my fingers across the cover, held it in my hand to feel the weight, opened it to the title page to see my name printed there, opened it to the middle to see what the text looked like, and of course smelled it. Aren’t these things all writers do?

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

Tim:    Horror is poised for a new renaissance, thanks to the recent spate of arthouse horror films, literary horror novels, and popular original films and series that debut on streaming media. Major publishers stopped producing horror for the most part after the horror boom of the 1980’s fizzled out in the early 90’s. The small press stepped in to fill the gap, and now horror has a strong, thriving small-press scene. But major publishers are once again establishing horror lines, and we should start seeing a much stronger presence of horror fiction in the mass market. It’s a great time to be a horror writer!

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

Tim:    Never.

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

Tim:    I’m currently on my third agent. I got my first one when I was twenty-six. I’m fifty-five now. If someone writes novels and wants to be traditionally published in mass market, an agent is a must. Most larger publishing houses won’t look at a book unless it’s represented by an agent. But if you want to publish with the small press or self-publish, an agent isn’t necessary. I have novelist friends who don’t use agents, who prefer to find their own deals and negotiate their own contracts. But unless you know what you’re doing when it comes to the business of publishing, and you’re confident you can negotiate aggressively, I think you’re better off with a good agent. I’d rather write than deal with business stuff, so I prefer working with an agent.

Q:     Anything else you’d like to add?

Tim:    Not that I can think of.

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

For more information:

August 2–4, 2019, “Focus on Fiction” Details

Schedule 

Q&A with Maddie James 

Q&A with Jeffrey Marks 

Register by July 25, 2019: To keep our intimate setting and personal attention, the workshop is limited to 25 people.

Location: John Bryan Community Center
100 Dayton St.
Yellow Springs, Ohio 45387


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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.  

More about Retreat to the Springs!
August 2–4, 2019, “Focus on Fiction” Details

Schedule 

Q&A with Tim Waggoner 

Q&A with Jeffrey Marks 

Register by July 25, 2019: To keep our intimate setting and personal attention, the workshop is limited to 25 people.

Location: John Bryan Community Center
100 Dayton St.
Yellow Springs, Ohio 45387


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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.

 

 

 

 

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If you’re in the Cincinnati area and are looking for a writers’ group, please check out my Writing Workshop Workshop. We began as a group of writers who had attended my Communiversity classes on writing. We were discussing the art of critiquing other writers’ work and being critiqued by them. Where can you learn how to do this? At the Writing Workshop Workshop!

 

We meet the second Sunday of every month. Currently, we are meeting at the Green Dog Café in the Columbia-Tusculum area. We start the meeting at 1 and conclude at 3. If you want to eat, come a little early. Bring $5 for the kitty (and more if you want to eat). Bring seven minutes’ worth of work to read: fiction, nonfiction, query letters, blog posts, poetry — all are welcome.

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Well, the reviews are in and they’re great!

OK, I’ve actually had them for weeks, but I just remembered that I have to send them to Communiversity at UC. In April, I taught a one-day workshop called “Writing to Publish.” We had a great class, with lots of good questions about writing, formatting, and publishing your work.

Here are some of the highlights from the evaluations:

“You learn from a person who actually practices. Thank you. Loved it!”

“I learned exercises to help me unlock my writing blocks.”

“Fantastic! I truly learned so much about the writing market. [Would recommend this class to others] absolutely — so informative and so constructive. Very thorough, I wouldn’t change a thing.”

Your next opportunity to hear my instruction on writing and publishing will be at my Capon Springs Nonfiction Writers’ Retreat. Even if fiction’s your thing, you’ll benefit from the beautiful surroundings and the instruction from Ann Hagedorn and me.

Registration deadline is August 15. Make your $50 deposit through PayPal to reserve your place.

Ready to go? Make your deposit with PayPal:
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Capon Springs Nonfiction Writers’ Retreat
Postponed to Fall 2016
Capon Springs, West Virginia

Join us for a retreat in a fantastic mountain setting, where you’ll receive expert instruction from two award-winning writers: Ann Hagedorn and Wendy Hart Beckman. Learn the strategies and tactics of being a successful nonfiction author. Experience a one-on-one manuscript critique. And enjoy personal time for writing while exploring the exquisite, inspiring surroundings! The retreat fee of $450 includes all workshop instruction, lodging, meals, gratuities, and taxes. (more…)

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