Peevish Pen

Ruminations on reading, writing, rural living, retirement, aging—and sometimes cats. And maybe a border collie or other critters.

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Location: Rural Virginia, United States

I'm an elderly retired teacher who writes. Among my books are Ferradiddledumday (Appalachian version of the Rumpelstiltskin story), Stuck (middle grade paranormal novel), Patches on the Same Quilt (novel set in Franklin County, VA), Them That Go (an Appalachian novel), Miracle of the Concrete Jesus & Other Stories, and several Kindle ebooks.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

VWC Symposium 2014

A week ago Saturday, I attended the 4th annual Virginia Writers Club "Navigating Your Writing Life" Symposium. I've attended all four, but I have bad memories of things that have happened on two Symposium days. In 2011, Cupcake died shortly after I returned. In 2013, a girl went missing a few hours after I drove past the place on 29 where she was last seen. But this year was OK. While I'm still having mobility problems, I hitched a ride so I didn't have to drive. That helped a lot. And nothing bad happened this year.

This year's program consisted of three sessions with three choices for the two morning sessions. After the morning session was a keynote speech, followed by lunch, then a book fair, and then a final session.

The first session I attended was called "Stranger Than Fiction: Non-fiction Writing, Research, and Investigative Journalism" in the program but "Crafting and Publishing Non-Fiction" on the back of my name tag. Since I'd sold a few feature stories to regional markets some years ago, I'd hoped to learn how to research and put together stories that magazine editors would buy, and I'd hoped to learn about some paying markets. I was particularly interested in learning what went into investigative journalism. However, the session was mostly about creative non-fiction and ways to structure books about historical subjects. While I enjoyed the session, I didn't learn anything I could actually use. There was no mention of investigative journalism and little about paying markets. The highlight was listening to Michael Signer tell about the different ways he approached writing Becoming Madison: The Making of An American Statesman that will be out in 2015. Virginia's colonial period is one of my favorite historical periods, so I look forward to his book.

The second session I attended was "Writing for Young Adults." Because of the vague title, I didn't know what to expect. However, presenters  Kristen-Paige Madonia and Debora Prum gave an excellent overview of what should go into writing for YAs, with a lot of emphasis on developing character and voice. I took a bunch of notes, which I unfortunately lost. However, the handout included a list of recommended books, and I look forward to reading some of them. A real plus was that Madonia  and Plum both read from their works (Fingerprints of You and Fatty in the Backseat ) and thus showed how they'd into practice what they had told us. I really enjoyed this session, and I learned a lot.

The keynote speaker was Kathryn Erskine, a YA writer whose works I enjoy. So far, I've read Mockingbird, Quaking, and The Absolute Value of Mike. All three are excellent, and I look forward to reading her other books.

 Her speech was also excellent and featured a powerpoint display of her writing process. One of my favorite parts was a picture of her giving "the look" to anyone who disturbs her while she's writing.

Lunch was OK. We'd been given a limited choice of three sandwiches, so I opted for turkey. Because I'm gluten-sensitive and diabetic, I ditched the large gluten-rich, high-carb bun and added lettuce, cheese and tomato to my plate. I averted my eyes from the other gluten/carby choices (cookies and pasta salad) and added a bit of fruit salad (carby, but not as bad as pasta or cookies) to my plate.

After lunch, we assembled for announcements of who'd won which categories in the "Summer Shorts" contest. I thought the raffle drawing might be held then, but it wasn't. Then there was a 45-minute book fair during which the presenters would sign books. For most of us, this was a long bathroom break or a period of sitting around without much to do. I noticed several people leaving. I don't know why the signing wasn't at the end of the day as it had been in previous years.

The third session was the one I'd been waiting for—"The Basics of Creating an iBook." Deborah Prum walked participants through the steps of using iAuthor and made the ibook creation process look easy. We went from choosing a template (and why landscape is better than portrait). . .

. . . to what all the different icons in the toolbar do.

How to use iBook Author started to make sense to me. She recommended a free book, which I downloaded and am partway through.

I'm thinking about using material from my Naces of Lithia blog to make some free iBooks about family genealogy. Prum's suggestion to make a folder for each chapter before beginning an iBook's creation makes sense to me—and makes the task of putting together a book a lot less daunting.

We'll see how it goes.

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Blogger CountryDew said...

Sounds like a worthwhile conference.

7:17 PM  

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