What’s a “Writers’ Conference”, anyway?
A Writers’ Conference can be a mixture of break-out sessions and programs, insights and intensives, and social and networking opportunities.
The conference faculty will be replete with experts in the fields of writing and illustrating, editing and publishing, and author representation.
When researching and registering for a conference, keep in mind the elements that fit your current needs as a writer. Choose the conference that best addresses where you are, where you want to go, what you need to learn and how you can accomplish your goals.
Among the many benefits of attending a Writers’ Conference are chances to:
LEARN FROM THE EXPERTS ABOUT THE PUBLISHING PROCESS
How does the publishing industry work? Who decides what gets published, where and how books are placed, what makes it to the front of a bookstore? Who designs the covers? How do authors get blurbs and reviews? What are the latest trends?
HONE YOUR CRAFT
Intensive Programs – in-depth hands-on workshops of interest that explore, examine, and educate the participant in specific content areas. They concentrate on deepening the craft for the committed writer
Break-out Sessions – targeted sessionson craft and creative process, knowledge and/or insight into the publishing industry, social media, networking, marketing and promotion
Critique sessions – one on one with an agent, editor or author who reviews your work and offers insight, feedback and/or and recommendations for improvement
Finding new writers are among the reasons thatagents and editors attend conferences. Attending a conference is a great chance to get a face to face moment with one of them. You should be prepared to tell them about your book. The best way to do this is to develop a perfect pitch – the“shortest summary of story that captures the core emotional conflict of a story”. Have your pitch memorized for those convenient and appropriate times to deliver. Sign up for a Pitch Session if available. Your pitch is your job interview.
Business cards/Illustrator Postcards – a professional representation of who you are to exchange with authors, editors and agents
Synopsis – one page describing your narrative arc, introducing your main character(s), revealing your inciting incident, compelling core conflict and the major plot twists and turning points, divulging the stakes, describing the emotional upheaval, climax, resolution and the change that will take place (Have one in case someone asks for it.)
Manuscript – your work in progress, written in proper format, edited and revised (Have one in case someone asks for it.)
NETWORK WITH INDUSTRY PROFESSIONALS
Connect with industry insiders and fellow authors at informal social gatherings, autograph parties, luncheons, open mics, and red-eyes to exchange ideas, numbers, emails and form writing partnerships.
5 TIPS ON ATTENDING A WRITERS CONFERENCE:
- Come prepared with an iPad, laptop, or note pad
- Practice good etiquette andobservesocial media rules
- Be Professional andmakea good first impression
- Respect Agents, Editors & Speakers and their privacy
- Follow-up with a “Thank You!”
And, most of all, have a great time!
I hope to see you at my next conference:
Click here to register.
It’s that time of year again! Some schools in the south have already started classes, while the typical start for the rest of the country is after Labor Day. Whether you have already begun or are gearing up – with over 55 million school children in grades K-12 attending our schools, there are some very important safety considerations to note.
ON THE WAY TO SCHOOL
STUDENTS ON THE BUS
~ Choose a safe place to wait for the bus, away from traffic and off the street.
~ Wait for the bus driver to come to a complete stop and give the okay to board.
~ Look both ways, make sure all traffic has stopped before you cross the street.
~ Stay seated at all times, keeping your hands and arms inside the windows.
~ Keep the aisles in the bus clear.
~ Don’t throw anything out of the windows.
~ Listen to the driver and other adults in charge, obeying the rules and directions.
~ Do not stand up to exit until the bus has come to a complete stop.
PARENTS OF BUS RIDERS
~ Review your child’s route and the bus stop procedures before the first day.
~ Tell your child not to walk in front of the bus until it has come to a complete stop. ~ Remind them not to bend down in front of the bus as the driver may not see him before starting to move.
DRIVERS IN SCHOOL ZONES
~ Be alert for cars and school buses dropping off children, children walking and biking.
~ Pay attention to the directions of school crossing guards.
~ Remember: In normal traffic, both directions of traffic must stop when school bus stop arms and flashing red lights are displayed. On multi-lane roadways with a raised or grass divider, traffic traveling in the same direction as the bus must stop.
~ Be aware of posted speed limits in and around school zones and schools.
STUDENTS ON A BIKE
~ Obey all traffic regulations and signals.
~ Ride in the same direction as auto traffic.
~ Walk your bike through intersections.
~ Always wear a bicycle helmet and wear bright colored clothing.
~ Obey all traffic signals and/or the crossing guard.
~ Do not cross the street against a light, even if you don’t see any traffic coming.
~ If possible, walk with a friend, or in the case of small children, with an adult.
~ Wear something reflective that will it make you more visible.
~ Walk only on sidewalks and/or designated paths, not on the road.
~ Do not walk between parked cars.
~ Walk the route with a parent before school starts, especially if it is a new school, to determine the safest route.
STUDENTS IN A CAR
~ All front seat passengers and minors must wear a seat belt.
~ Obey the crossing guard and the speed limit within the school zones.
~ Drop your children off and pick them up as close to the school as possible.
~ Don’t leave until they are in the schoolyard or building.
~ Parents should require seat belt use by the driver and all passengers, limit the number of teen passengers, do not allow eating, drinking, cell phone conversations or texting to prevent driver distraction; limit nighttime driving and driving in inclement weather. Remember, many crashes occur while novice teen drivers are going to and from school.
~ Never share personal information about yourself, your family members, your school, your telephone number, and your address.
~ Use strong passwords, keep them private.
~ Never open email or click on links from strangers.
~ Never download unfamiliar links that may contain viruses.
~ Use computers with a good antivirus protection.
~ Never send pictures to strangers.
~ Use caution before you post online. Once it is in cyberspace it is there forever!
~ Lock and protect your computer and mobile devices.
~ Report any suspicious, inappropriate, cyberbullying or cyberstalking behavior to authorities.
Keep these tips in mind and have a safe, happy, and exciting school year!
Dialogue Dish Du Jour – Tawk to Me
“And what is the use of a book,” thought Alice, “without pictures or conversations?”
WHY IS DIALOGUE IMPORTANT?
In these times of fast paced media and technology it takes a great piece of fiction to hold the interest of your juvenile reader. It is certainly a character-driven plot-driven world we live in.
The importance of great dialogue in your story cannot be overemphasized. Dialogue brings a novel to life. In children’s literature, dialogue is at the pulse of emotion, plot, conflict, drama. Think about the children you know – they are always talking, texting, listening, watching. A good plot line is essential to a good story – but great dialogue moves that plot line along.
I look for lots of dialogue in a book. Dialogue develops three dimensional characters. And it deepens the storyline and helps drive the plot.
Everybody’s talkin’ at me
I don’t hear a word they’re sayin’,
Only the echoes of my mind.
People stopping staring,
I can’t see their faces,
Only the shadows of their eyes.
FUNCTIONS OF DIALOGUE
- Dialogue reveals character. In what is said (or left unsaid), dialogue helps the reader understand the character’s personality, thoughts, attitudes, where they are coming from. A person gets to know a character in the same way that he gets to know a real person–through his or her speech and behavior. Think about your character’s traits when crafting their speech – are they egotistical? Blunt? Honest? Mean? Sweet? Loving?
- Dialogue can show what one character thinks of another character. Shows how characters relate to one another, makes them more realistic, and deepens their dimension. We can visualize their story and how they are connected.
- Dialogue can show how someone feels. Rather than telling us what a character thinks or feels, when characters act and speak, they become real to us.
- Dialogue gives necessary information. Every line of dialog should be there for a purpose. To advance the story line, to reveal and deepen a character. It conveys information in a lifelike way.
- Dialogue moves the plot along. Dialogue can reveal conflict and build tension. It can intensify the drama, build emotion, and further the plot.
HOW TO USE DIALOGUE
- Make it sound real. Think about the natural rhythm and pacing of speech. Write dialogue that sounds real to kids. Dialogue should sound the way children speak. Children don’t always speak in compete sentences. Vary the pattern.
- Listen to others to develop speech patterns. Watch television and movies. Eavesdrop on the conversations of kids.
- Listen to yourself out loud. Talk to your characters. Listen to them talk to one another.
- Show don’t tell. Dialogue is part of the action in any good story. It doesn’t tell the readers about the characters. It allows the characters to reveal who they are.
- Always keep your audience in mind. Consider the age and vocabulary of the children for whom you write. Your goal is to engage the child and keep them interested in what you write. Your dialogue should be age appropriate.
WAYS TO IMPROVE DIALOGUE
- Dialog Tags – stick to traditional “he said” and “she said”. Keep the tags simple. Children do not notice the repetition of “he said” and “she said”. But they often are distracted when we try to force colorful, fancy, and evocative tags. Avoid using words like “Giggled” for an entire bit of dialog. (Go ahead Guffaw and then try to say an entire sentence.) Don’t over-tag dialogue: “he retorted angrily,” “she snapped thoughtfully.” Especially avoid the overused adverbs – she said “sadly, loudly, forcibly, quickly, angrily…” When necessary use tags like “whispered” or “yelled” to heighten a scene or color the drama.
- Ground dialog in the scene – no “talking heads” with isolated unrelated speech. The conversation that advances the plot and develops your character takes place somewhere that is vital to your story. Where are they? Why? Who’s around? What’s happening? There doesn’t have to be action – but there has to be purpose – and your characters have to be physically located somewhere. Even if they are not in the same place – i.e. a telephone or online chat – the anchor character can be grounded.
- Don’t let one of the characters dish a long monologue filled with diatribe. A normal exchange in conversation is a one or two sentence give and take. An action, a response, etc. When your character has a long speech, break it up with another character asking for clarification, or interruption of some sort. Even if the other character response is nonverbal – frowning, sighing, groaning, etc. And if the plot calls for a long speech – break it into one or two sentences from the beginning and one or two from the ending – giving the gist – not a whole lengthy discourse.
- Realistic Doesn’t Mean Real – dialogue gives the impression of real speech, but again it is distracting to try to use a lot of “ums” and hesitations, repetitions etc. Use pauses of description to break – not “uhs”. Use stumbling and hesitations only when absolutely necessary to the scene.
- Give Your Characters distinct speech patterns – all of your characters have different personalities, and they are different ages, sex, etc. therefore they don’t sound the same. Think about their: Age: a 13-year-old will speak differently from a 70-year-oldGender: women and men may use different vocabularySocial background: does your char.acter use down-to-earth words or “classy” ones?Education level: does your character have an extensive or limited vocabulary?Geographical area: where do they live?Particular catch phrases: don’t go overboard here, but consider whether your character has any common phrases (things like “for sure!” or “good” or “awesome”). Beware of buzz words of a generation = i.e. groovy, (the 60’s). Slang can tell you where your character is from, the time frame your character is in – but it can become quickly outdated.Verbosity: some people tend to babble, others will be taciturn.
- Don’t Put Exposition in the Dialogue – every piece of information conveyed through dialogue needs to be a natural occurrence – don’t force it. If two people are discussing a topic that has to be revealed in a natural way that’s okay. I.E if two people are catching up one another’s lives.
- Use Silence as Well as Words – sometimes what is not said is just as important and revealing as the things that are said. A lot can be revealed about a character not responding to something that another character says. Is something wrong in their relationship? What’s going on?
- Get in Late, Leave Early – every piece of conversation doesn’t have to be heard – or written – for the reader to understand what is going on. In fact, getting in on the middle of a conversation can create intrigue. We don’t always need to see (or hear) the last word either. Unless it is vital to hear Hello” and “goodbye” to reveal or deepen character or plot – leave it out.
- Punctuate Your Dialogue Correctly – this is very important. Certainly if you submit to an agent, editor, or publisher. And most important to the reader. Dialog should: Begin on a new line for each new speaker. Have double or single quotation marks around the words. Have punctuation inside the quotation marks. End the dialogue line with a comma if adding a dialogue tag, but with a full stop if you’re adding an action. Most people use contractions when they speak.
- What’s In a Name – what do we call one another when we are speaking? We rarely call one another by name.
RESOURCES AND REFERENCE
“Dialogue should simply be a sound among other sounds, just something that comes out of the mouths of people whose eyes tell the story in visual terms.” Alfred HitchcockRead More
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Last week, on Memorial Day, I wrote about “A Day of Remembrance.” When that blog posted at 5:00 AM, there was no way to predict that the day would evolve into a day to remember for altogether different reasons.
and shattered the back glass door.
When I arrived home, pulled into the carport, and got out of my car, I had no awareness that anything was wrong, that there would have been – or might still be – criminals in my home. I was in a great mood, having spent a lovely holiday with friends. I unlocked the door, and as I opened it, I noticed that the freezer and refrigerator doors were wide open. My first thought was “How did raccoons get in the house?” Then I entered through the door and saw the total chaos that only human animals could have caused.
I have looked at these pictures – and many more – over and over for almost a week now. I need them for evidence, for the police report, and for insurance claims. They don’t seem as scary any more. Not the pictures. But the memory of walking into my home that day is still fresh. The initial shock has worn off some. But the sinking, sickening feeling that strangers were in my house, tossing things around, rifling through my clothing, stealing my valuables and my family treasures, is still with me.
The burglars stole more from me last Monday than electronics, jewelry, and cash. They stole my sense of security. My peace of mind in my home. The psychological effects of burglary are similar to those victims of any assault, rape, or violent attack. I felt that my home was no longer safe, beautiful, or clean. I have to admit that I now suffer from symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
And they stole a week from me so far – a week I was to have gone to the beach, spent writing, relaxing with friends. Instead, this week’s agenda is filled with police reports, investigations – looking at photos of suspects –filing insurance claims, and ordering the chaos.
I must admit, I was one of the “It won’t happen to me” people. I don’t have that much. Don’t live in an affluent neighborhood. I lock my doors. I don’t need an alarm system. I was wrong.
When I asked one of the investigators if there is a chance they will come back, he said “It happens. Sometimes the thieves wait until the insurance company settles, gets you back your stuff, then they might come back for more.” Comforting. Now, I have an alarm system. Another cost of this home invasion.
Here are some things I have learned the hard way. To protect yourself, your family, and your home:
- Always lock all doors, windows and garages.
- Make sure home entrances are well-lighted, and minimize bushes where intruders can hide before their ambush. Be aware of the bushes surrounding exterior windows.
- Keep your house well lit at night to discourage would-be criminals. Have motion detecting flood lights on low-lit areas of your home.
- Post stickers and alarm signs on the exterior of your home. Statistics show that even fake alarm decals and signs can be a deterrent.
- Don’t leave heavy objects in the backyard that can be used to throw through windows, particularly patio furniture (or shovels! There is now a lock on the tool shed).
- Use highly-visible house numbers so that the police can readily identify your home.
- Lock your gates using a padlock at the least and leave some nice surprises on top of the fence if they think about scaling it.
- Don’t enter your home if it looks like it’s been illegally entered; leave the premises and call the police.
- Be aware of the trash you leave on the curb. Break down boxes from recently purchased items like TVs and conceal them from prying eyes.
- Don’t open the door to solicitors or strangers.
- Install solid-core doors, heavy-duty locks and window security systems.
- Upgrade your locks to high security locks. Most household locks are simple to bypass.
- Get a wide-angle peephole and use it before answering the door, but consider covering it up while not in use.
- Invest in anti-kick doors or a police lock to prevent brute force entry. A door chain isn’t going to help one bit, even answering the door. If you have one, don’t open it part way to see who is there.
- At the very least, you should install longer screws into your door jambs and hinges, preferably 3″ screws to prevent criminals from kicking in the door.
- If you have a spare key hidden, be sure that it is in an uncommon place, or better yet, with a neighbor.
- Fortify basement windows with bars or anti-break window film. Secure windows where A/C units are attached.
- Put a dowel rod in the track of your sliding glass door to prevent it from being opened if the lock is bypassed.
- Get a security alarm with interior motion detectors and set the alarm when you’re at home (obviously not the interior motion detector). Criminals rely on an alarm not being set while someone is home and awake.
- Insure your alarm is monitored and will continue to work in the event you lose your power in a storm or it happens to be neutralized. Look into cellular monitoring.
- Keep your cell phone by the bed ready for you or another person to call 911.
- Change alarm codes often.
- Record serial numbers of expensive items and have backups of your computer off-site using Dropbox, Carbonite, or iCloud (Apple).
- Mark and engrave your property with your driver’s license number (not social) to aid in returning your stolen property or discourage theft in the first place.
- Discuss the importance of home security with everyone in the home. It only takes one person to forget to lock a door or window.
- Have a plan for your family or roommates in your home in the event of a home invasion. Talk it over and know what each person’s responsibilities are. That plan should include ways to escape the home if necessary.
- Consider a safe room as a rally point where you have the ability to protect yourself and call the police. Stash a spare cell phone here.
- Keep spare vehicle keys or any important spares in a lock box or safe.
- Always keep the alarm set on your vehicle, even in the garage. Consider a Club or secondary device to prevent theft, even in your garage.
- Having your the keys next to you while you sleep, you can press the car alarm panic button in a pinch.
- And, finally, install a home security system from a trusted and reliable company.
The FBI Academy in Quantico
A few weeks ago I took a trip with the Columbia, SC FBI Citizens Academy Alumni Association (FBICAAA) to the FBI Training Academy.
We boarded an early morning train in Charlotte bound for Quantico. This was my first trip on Amtrak, and even though our travel agent had sent us maps, time tables, menus and “Tips for Riding Amtrak”, I didn’t really know what to expect. I was pleasantly surprised by the journey itself! For me, riding the rails was a new way to travel. For one thing, I wasn’t in charge of the stops and starts! The Carolinian made a total of 14 stops at train stations along the way for passengers to embark and disembark.
Normally I am all about getting from point A to point B the quickest way possible. But this was a ride to remember. The rolling hills, farmland, and waters of eastern NC and VA are beautiful. There is a rich history and thriving population there. And the opportunities to discover, learn, and get to know other people were great.
At last, we arrived at our final destination! After we settled in at our motel, we shared a relaxing dinner and conversation with friends.
The next morning we drove to the US Marine Corps Base at Quantico, where the FBI Academy is located on 385 wooded acres. I was excited to explore and learn more about the FBI!
Even though I had been through the training with the Citizen’s Academy and learned a lot about the Bureau, most of my “knowledge” base was from seeing the agency portrayed in television shows such as Numb3rs, Criminal Minds, and FBI and films like Point Break, Donnie Brasco and Silence of the Lambs.
Unfortunately, I cannot talk about everything thing I saw and learned because…
What happens at the Academy stays at the Academy.
The FBI Academy is dedicated to being the premier law enforcement learning and research center and an advocate for law enforcement’s best practices worldwide.
One of the first things that I saw at the Academy was this 9/11 Memorial. This was originally a gift from one of the classes. The towers, held together by the outline of the state of Pennsylvania, sit on the frame of the Pentagon – the scenes of the 3 sites of terrorism on that date. At the base are 3 plaques which hold an actual piece of each of those sites. Subsequent classes have donated landscaping surrounding the memorial. The FBI was very involved in the investigation of 9/11.
Next, our tour guide told us about the FBI Ten Most Wanted List, which has been around since 1949. The day that we were there, a new fugitive, Eric Toth, was added. This list grew out of a conversation between J. Edgar Hoover and a newspaper editor to capture the “toughest guys” that kept eluding the FBI.
Being a psychologist, one of the programs at the academy that I was most interested in was the Behavioral Sciences Unit. Behavioral science is all about understanding the criminal mind. It’s not only important to know who criminals are, but how they think, what they want, and why they do the things that they do. Understanding these behaviors and applying these insights to criminal investigation is known as profiling.
The FBI Laboratory, which has been in operation since 1932, is currently on the grounds at Quantico. The Lab provides forensic and scientific analysis, operational response, evidence control, and forensic science services to the FBI and other local and state law enforcement agencies.
This was one of the most interesting aspects of the program tour – to learn how the FBI utilizes technology and forensic science to profile, analyze, and solve crimes.
Another of the programs at the Academy is the International Training and Assistance Unit: ITAU, whose mission is to “develop effective law enforcement training programs for police in the international arena to successfully combat and prevent terrorist acts against citizens and institutions of the US both abroad and domestically.”
The FBI Tactical Hostage Rescue Team (HRT) was our next stop. This unit was formed in 1983 for the purpose of responding to any extraordinary hostage crisis or other situation that may occur in this country which requires law enforcement assistance. Currently, this team also responds to FBI and law enforcement cases abroad as well. The team operates quickly and often under extreme secrecy. They are among the most professional, fit and elite group within the Bureau.
After lunch, we made the journey to a simulated town know as Hogan’s Alley. It is in this fictitious town – complete with a hotel, a restaurant, a post office, a bank, homes, apartments, and other buildings – that FBI and DEA agent trainees learn investigative techniques, firearms skills, and defensive tactics.
Our last stop was the defensive driving course of The Tactical and Emergency Vehicle Operations Center (TEVOC). This group is responsible for teaching safe and efficient driving techniques to FBI and DEA personnel and other government and military personnel.
That about wraps it up because if I tell you anymore – well…
For more information – FBI Academy