Posts Tagged ‘Write!Canada’


Platform Plateau? – Part 1

   Posted by: Faith    in Write!Canada

While I was at Write!Canada, there was a lot of talk about ‘building your platform’. And I mean a lot of talk. It was general concensus that no author today will succeed without a solid, innovative platform that’s reflective of and changes with the times.

This week, I’d like to take a look at different aspects of platform building, along with some some perspectives from specific authors (gleaned from talks at Write!Canada).

During the symposium on the future of publishing, author and speaker Sheila Wray Gregoire had quite a bit to say about platforms, so I’d like to share that with you today.

Note that I called her an author AND speaker? Hmm… the platform comes into play already…

Sheila has a lovely, very user-friendly website. It’s jam-packed with media, downloads, articles, resources, and a place to buy her books. This woman knows what she’s doing – she may only have a few books published, but she’s got a killer platform. Go visit her site, then come back here.

In brief, here are the things Sheila had to say about the future of publishing/being an author/platforms:

  • Authors must, must, must have a platform.
  • It is now easier to find places to write than ever before, but harder to get paid.
  • Can’t rely on royalty publishers anymore for 100% of income.
  • But… we can create ways to get paid.
  • Don’t get intimidated!!!
  • Do the work, practice the craft, learn the technology, and you can get noticed, because…
  • “Excellence will always rise to the top.”
  • Authors must face that they can’t survive on just one book a year, so they must have a multi-platform action plan, including such things as…
  1. Podcasts
  2. Livestream TV (ie. Youtube)
  3. Twitter
  4. Functional website
  5. Blog w/ regular updates
  6. Articles that complement your book/expertise
  7. Ebooks

Sheila has done all these things and more, so she knows what she’s talking about… and she does it well! Yes, it’s a lot of extra work to build a platform, but in today’s publishing industry, taking the time to do all these things can mean the difference between success and obscurity.

The only thing I really take issue with in Sheila’s observations is that “excellence will always rise to the top”. Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately, depending on who you are), that isn’t always true. A mediocre author with a fantastic platform will almost always “rise to the top” above a brilliant author with just a decent or even non-existent platform. Then again, people measure success in different ways, and one person’s success may be another person’s sorrow. But, if we’re talking sheer numbers, the person who rises to the top in this day and age will likely be the person with the better online/public social profile… even if their writing kinda stinks (a few names spring to mind, but I’ll let you think that one over yourself).

Monday Ponderings: Where do you stand in regards to platform building? Have you thought about it? Do you plan to build a platform, or will you simply let your writing speak for itself?

Tags: , ,


Write!Canada: Day 3 (Finally!)

   Posted by: Faith    in Write!Canada

Yes, I’ve been slacking at getting this up… here we are, nearly 3 weeks later and I still haven’t pushed past the daily summaries and delved into the pile of things I learned. Oh well. Not like this blog is going anywhere, so without further ado…

  • 9:30-10:30amContinuing Class (Part 5 of 6)

Good information, good discussion, and some great ideas. Memories of the continuing class still blur together, but I have everything typed out on my laptop. Which, I should add, was incredibly useful to have with me instead of trying to write it all down by hand.

  • 11:00amWorkshop C: Five Critical Things You Must Do With New Media

I wasn’t quite sure what to expect with this one, and I admit, I chose it because it sounded better than the other things on the list during this time slot. I figured it would probably end up as one of two things: outdated (or just wrong) information, or the pompous ramblings of some tech-savvy youngster. Mercifully, it was neither, and I came away pleasantly surprised. There really wasn’t much that I didn’t already know, but the people around me were learning quite a bit (judging by the facial expressions and questions asked). I suppose you could say I was affirmed in what I’m already doing, and encouraged to do even more with new media.

The woman leading this session was Denyse O’Leary, a Toronto-based journalist who has written extensively on evolution vs. intelligent design, neuroscience and faith, and other scientific topics. She wasn’t the best speaker in terms of grabbing one’s attention, but I gained an enormous amount of respect for this woman as she related to us all the things she’s done to build her own platform in the industry, and how she’s embraced changing technology quickly with each step. I thought, “my goodness, there are so few people of her generation that are as open and willing to changes in technology… she is such a leader in this area!” Not only that, but I plan to track down her books and subscribe to a few of her blogs. A female journalist covering scientific topics intelligently, who embraces new media? Here’s someone to look up to and respect.

  • 11:45amAppointment with Mags Storey

I had to leave the workshop a bit early to head to my second 15-minute appointment, but it turned out that Mags got tied up at the session she was in and arrived late to our meeting (and the one before). The girl ahead of me took my appointment time since she’d missed hers completely, and we decided that I’d track Mags down later for ours. No problem! I headed back to the end of the workshop and finished that off.

I came back around 12:20 or so, and Mags was still hanging around the appointment area, so I was able to sit down with her then. What can I say? Mags is dynamic, personable, and tells it like it is. She’ll talk to you straight (…or maybe just if she thinks you can handle it :) ?) and lays down what it means to call yourself “a writer”. I’d made the appointment with her because I was looking for some encouragement and direction (and a wonderful lady named Kim, who I met on the first day, suggested I talk to Mags for it), so she went through a summarized version of the talk she’d given the day before in her own workshop (which I certainly would have enjoyed more than the one I was in… sigh).

They started closing up the bookstore as we chatted, and that was when we realized that lunch had started and Mags hadn’t cleared out her room yet (which was supposed to be done before lunch). So, we continued our conversation while Mags packed up her stuff, and then I helped her cart it off to the car. Can’t say I started the weekend planning to be a valet, but I really didn’t mind. During our talk, Mags offered to read my manuscript when I’m ready to let it go… and after talking with her, I felt better about my first completed piece of work being a chick lit novel. That doesn’t mean I think it’s any good (and boy, does it need a lot of work), but the fact is that I wrote it, I finished it, and I now have something that I wrote to work with. How many people go through their lives saying “I’ve always wanted to write a book”, and yet never make time to actually do it? Well, I did. Hah. 80,000 words (approximately) worth of book, and guess what? That was me. I wrote it. It might be crap, but at least I wrote it.

And that was the essence of our discussion. I definitely respect Mags – she’s a very real kind of Christian, and I saw a lot of myself and how I approach being a Christian in her. Plus, she grew up in the Middle East. How awesome is that? *wistful sigh* I really do think I left a part of me (no, not in the organ harvesting way) on that side of the world. I can’t believe it’s only been 4 years since I was there… wow. A lot can happen in 4 years. BUT, I’m getting off track, so I’ll move on now…

  • 12:45pmLunch

Alright, so I didn’t actually get there until well after 1pm, but there was still some food left at the table I found with a vacant seat (full of mostly middle-aged men… the majority of which were professors from Tyndale and/or pastors… honest, I just grabbed the first open seat I found and then tried not to act surprised when I realized where I’d ended up… I wonder if it worked, I wish there was a hidden camera so you could have seen my face!… haha).

  • 2:00pmContinuing Class (Part 6 of 6)

Our final session with Valerie! We finished off the material she’d planned to teach, and left some time for people to stand and share what they’d been working on over the weekend. I was thinking about sharing… seriously considering it… and if there had been time for one more, I would have shot my hand up. Seriously! I’m not just saying that. I had the document open and was reading it through & making corrections as we talked about the last person’s work (but participating at the same time, I can multi-task, so please don’t be offended if it was you!). I was surprised and delighted by the quality of work that was presented, though it became very clear, very quickly, that most of the people there needed to work on their presentation skills.

When you’re writing for children, inevitably you’re going to be reading your story out loud. Not all kids reading picture books can actually read, and as an author, you’d better be scheduling story readings at libraries, book clubs, mom & tot groups, etc, and if you can’t present your story in a dynamic way to those kids, you’re going to lose them very quickly. Your voice needs to be vibrant, colorful, entertaining, and bring your story to life, just like the pictures that accompany it.

But, that was just my own observation. Maybe I’ll write something on authors as speakers sometime in the future…

  • 3:30pmPlenary Session with Ray Wiseman: “Adversity Sharpens Your Pencil”

Ray Wiseman was a great speaker… very entertaining, and refused to let us take notes so that we’d simply listen & absorb what we were hearing. Unfortunately, people absorb information differently, and I need to take notes while I listen to a speaker or else my brain will wander off (yes, even if I doodle instead), so I took some notes anyway. So there. But honestly, he was a great speaker and had some excellent things to share. Here’s the blurb about his talk in the registration package:

“Ray’s journey as a writer has followed a circuitous route. He will show how seemingly random events have coalesced to change him from a dyslexic dropout in the past, to a journalist and author in the present, his life attuned for future adventures. Sometimes our greatest strengths as writers come from life’s discord, hardships, and errors.”

After Ray finished speaking, people were able to share some of the good things that had happened to them this weekend and what the conference meant to them, which was followed by draws for door prizes… and I won $25 for Chapters/! Whoo-hoo! Talk about a great way to end the conference.

I wasn’t able to stick around and say goodbye to anyone (it seemed like most people were eager to get home anyway), as I had to perform in a show that evening and needed to rush to rehearsal, but all things considered, it was a good day.

And So…

Was it worth it? Absolutely. Was it exhausting? You bet. Would I go back next year? Without hesitation.

I met a lot of people. I learned a lot of new things. I was encouraged and affirmed in my calling. I made some great contacts, and let’s not forget, had some great food. There were a few disappointing spots, but in all, they didn’t tarnish the weekend’s shine.

Another bonus: 13/15 of my one sheets were picked up, as well as a number of business cards. Does that mean anything? Not really. Mostly, it means people thought my write-up was interesting enough to want to learn a bit more about me, but there are no guarantees that it will turn into additional work (unless you do need content for your website… in which case, contact me!). The simple truth is that my name is out there. In a miniscule, insignificant way at the moment, but it’s out there.

It may have also helped that I chose to wear clothing that stood out all weekend, so that I could be easily recognized as “that young girl from the one-sheets”. I have no idea if it worked, but hey, at least I got plenty of compliments on my outfits! LOL. I figure it’s just “part of my platform”.

And now, to make good use of the things I learned.

I have a long journey ahead of me… but at least I know where I’m going.

Tags: , , ,


Write!Canada: Day 2

   Posted by: Faith    in Write!Canada

Day two started eaaaarly… or at least it seemed that way. It was an hour to drive in, and I wasn’t going to miss breakfast (I paid the money, I’m getting fed!), so I was up and driving in at 7:30am. *yawn*

  • 9:30am - Noon - Continuing Class (Writing for Children & Young Adults)

Believe it or not, we discovered that someone had complained the day before about the amount of writing time given to us in the class… On day one, Valerie presented us with four or five options of projects we could work on (and possibly share on the last day) over the course of the conference, and the plan was to give us about 15 minutes of writing time at the end of each session. We only managed to get the time in once on day one, and only for about 10 minutes… and someone had a problem with that??? It was bizarre. We’re at a writing conference, people. Don’t you want to write? Weird. But, it became the running joke of the rest of the session, and I hope that other person found what they were looking for in another session.

  • 12:30pmLunch

I sat at Audrey Dorsch‘s table, and chatted with the ladies around me again. A few of us had a conversation with Audrey about indexing and the work involved in that… I know it might sound boring, but after my brief stint at indexing in university, I found it interesting to hear about it on a professional level. Audrey had made jokes the night before about it not being the most exciting work, but when she talked about it to us, it was clear that she did enjoy her time on that job. Indexing also takes quite the detailed eye, since so much of it can be subjective (unless someone has specified the terms & formatting), and I imagine that job helped to prepare her in some way for her later editing positions.

  • 1:45pm - 4:45pmWorkshops A & B: Finding Your Writing Personality (2-part)

Well… I can’t say I gained a whole lot out of this workshop, and unfortunately, I felt like it was a bit of a waste of time. Too bad it took up 2 out of 3 workshop slots… and I had such high hopes! We took several tests to determine our personality ‘color’, and then worked in groups to talk about the various personality colors and what made them different… and finally, how that showed through in our writing life. It was interesting… but I think it could have been covered in one session. It was repetitive, slow, and… did I mention repetitive? I mean, I get the point. Greens like research, yellows are organized, blues are emotional people-persons, and oranges are adventurous free spirits. *ta-da!* Can we move on now?

The best part of this workshop was the last 10 minutes, when we were in groups and answering questions about how we dealt with various aspects of our writing. Oddly enough, the session even went 15 minutes over time… but really, you can only tell me what each color is like so many times before I’m going to tune out and work on something else. The woman leading the workshop even said, more than once, “greens hate it when things get repetitive, they get bored and won’t listen anymore because they just want you to get to the point”. Mmm-hmm. Did you hear what you just said, lady? Are you wondering why this table at the back hasn’t looked in your direction for the past 15 minutes?

I may cover more of this session’s material in a future post – hey, I need to try and get something out of it – but I’d say the best part was meeting like-minded individuals who react in similar ways as I do to various parts of our work. That was really nice… but again, something I could have done in one hour, as opposed to two and a half. Sigh.

  • 3:15pmAppointment: Valerie Sherrard

The day before, Valerie asked us all to write down ONE question that we absolutely couldn’t leave the weekend without having an answer to. I posed “one question, many parts” relating to series writing, since the YA and Children’s book industry often seems so centered around pumping out series that will keep kids coming back again and again… but I’ve also heard that a new writer doesn’t necessarily want to write a series, as it could be a career killer. Anyway, Valerie asked me to make an appointment with her to go over the question, since it was pretty involved and perhaps pertained more to me specifically. So I did! The meeting went very well, and I got the answers I needed. More on the meeting in another post!

  • 5:30pmSupper

Sat at Mags Storey’s table, talked with her a little bit, but saved my questions for my appointment with her on Day 3. She was extremely chatty, very personable, and funny. I also met an adorable young woman who works with special needs high school students and has a firey passion for social justice… I wish I could remember her name, but she was very sweet and truly had a heart to change the world. I bet she will.

  • 7:00pmPlenary Session with Brian Stiller

Wow… talk about an excellent speaker! Brian Stiller was inspiring, encouraging, and challenging… and full of one-line inspirational quotes. It was ridiculous. A lot of people weren’t sure what to expect of his talk, but he gave a lot of good advice about following what God has called you to do, speaking to the world instead of hiding ourselves away, and asking for the Holy Spirit’s guidance in your everyday life. I wrote a lot of things down during his talk, and I plan to read it over during those moments of self-doubt, to be reminded that I’m doing the right thing. I’m in the right place. I was born with this desire to write for a reason, and who else would put that in me but the One who made me?

  • 9:00pmAutograph Party for All Authors

Well, not all of them… it was more like: “Set up a table with your books and sit behind it for awhile.” Hmm. The ones I wanted to get autographs from weren’t there… of course. Oh well. I ordered a recording of one of the other workshops that I wasn’t in, got a free book (oooh yeah) from the bookstore, and moved on to…

  • 9:30pm - 25th Anniversary Cake!

By this time, I was tired, emotionally drained, and ready to go home… but I wanted cake, so I tried to hide in the background while they got it ready, with the intention of grabbing a piece and getting out of there. I sent a text to my husband at this point, saying something like “I’m exhausted, if I have to talk to one more person I’m going to scream”… which meant, of course, that someone came over to talk to me. That was fine, though – I managed to excuse myself easily after a few minutes, grab some cake, and head out the door with it. I ate it on the way to the car, and then drove home…

I think at that point I was just so tired from interacting with so many people… being around a lot of people like that – in a situation where I’m constantly talking, sharing, listening, etc. – really drains me, and after two days, I was beat. One more day to go, though…

Tags: ,


Write!Canada: Day 1 Overview

   Posted by: Faith    in Write!Canada

When I arrived at the conference grounds, it was immediately apparent to everyone around me that I was a first timer. How do I know that, you ask? When I walked in the front door, I was greeted warmly with: “Hi there, welcome! Is this your first time at the conference?” said in a very knowing way. Apparently it was quite obvious… probably due to my wide, searching eyes that contained a hint of underlying anxiety.

Ah, but there was nothing to worry about. I was directed (escorted, actually) to the registration room, where I waited for only a few minutes before giving my name and picking up my tote bag & materials. Again, as soon as the woman handing the bags out looked at my name and looked at me… “Is this your first time at the conference?”

Hmm. I sensed a running theme.

My first instinct was to take a look at the schedule, figure out where I was supposed to be first and when… which was followed quickly by a second instinct to head to the ‘freebies’ table and obtain as many sample magazines & submission guidelines as possible. Mind you, I actually took a look at what I was picking up, unlike some other individuals at the table who just grabbed as many papers as they could, as fast as they could, and scurried off to who knows where. It was a bit bizarre, but to each their own, I suppose.

The room in which the registration was set up would be used as the bookstore/appointment location for the remainder of the weekend, which made it a very central place to both kill extra time and meet up with others (or casually run into an editor or agent, for that matter). Before coming to the conference, registrants were able to sign up for up to three 15-minute appointments with faculty… but due to my late registration, I simply didn’t feel I was ready to talk to anyone, and I believe I missed the deadline for pre-conference signups anyway. However, when I looked around the registration area, there were sheets posted on the wall for each faculty member that listed which appointment times were booked and which ones were still open. Those who hadn’t yet made appointments were welcome to sign up for their three before 5pm, after which it became a free-for-all to sign up for any additional appointment space.

I still didn’t bother. Who would I talk to? I wasn’t prepared to show my work to anyone, and besides, I didn’t figure it would be relevant for the kinds of publishers/editors/agents at this conference. So, I was off to my first session…

  • 1:30pm - Orientation Session for First-Time Attendees

This was pretty much a common sense introduction to being at the conference. Things like “don’t panic if someone doesn’t like your work”, “change continuing classes if it isn’t for you”, “don’t smoke on the conference grounds”, “talk to people, they don’t bite”… things like that. The woman running it (can’t remember her name) really just read off a sheet and covered all the required bases before taking questions from some confused individuals. I assume it was a useful intro for most people… I kind of wished I’d just come later and slept in. Oh well, you’re only a first-timer once.

  • 2:15-4:00pm - Continuing Class #1& 2

My choice for the weekend’s continuing class was Writing for Children & Young Adults, run by author Valerie Sherrard. I’ll cover what we discussed and my thoughts about the class in another day’s post, but on the whole, I found this to be a very useful and enjoyable class. I wasn’t entirely certain whether it would be too basic for me when I signed up for it, but I found that I received a lot of helpful advice and information when all was said and done. Valerie was also an excellent session leader – full of warmth and humor, which certainly added to the atmosphere of the class.

  • 5:30pmDinner!

Here’s something I didn’t expect about the weekend: We were fed very, very well. No one went hungry, and even the coffee breaks were packed with fruit & sweets, which was a nice (& tasty) surprise. At dinner, I sat at Sheila Wray Gregoire‘s table, though a few seats away so I didn’t have a chance to talk with her… but that was alright with me. I talked to the other ladies around me, which was nice as well. More on the social aspect of the conference in another post, but on the whole, everyone was very friendly and open… which is a bit unusual for a bunch of writers, I think, so that was a good surprise. Safety in numbers, perhaps…?

The meals worked as follows: We were all given a sheet that indicated what faculty members would be sitting at which tables for each meal (lunch & dinner… not breakfast though, in case they were too tired to wake up early and eat), and you could choose which table you wanted to sit at according to which faculty member you wanted to chat with/ask questions of/etc. It’s a good way to have a casual ‘appointment’ with a faculty member that you weren’t able to get a 15-minute appointment with otherwise, though you have to keep in mind that a) there are other people at the table, and b) that person probably would like to eat their dinner before you launch into a 20-minute pitch on your latest work. I’m just saying.

  • 7:00pmPlenary Session with Audrey Dorsch: ” ‘Nursing’ a Great Ambition”

The plenary session was a good opportunity to sit down & try to digest the day’s events… or so I thought. Audrey Dorsch was a very entertaining speaker, focusing her talk on her journey from dream conception (she decided to be a nurse instead of a writer) to where she is today (freelance editor). She’s done so much over the course of her career, and I was amazed at how each job seemed to prepare her, in some way, for the next… and to come to that point where she can now pick & choose which jobs to take as a freelance editor, that’s quite the measure of success! I have nothing but respect & admiration for this hard-working woman, and if I can muster up even half the drive and energy to succeed as her, I’ll be happy.

  • 8:45pmSymposium on the Future of the Publishing Industry

The discussion here will provide me with information for several future blog posts, but in general, the symposium was informative, encouraging, surprising, depressing, and hopeful all at the same time. Twelve faculty members were give four minutes each to discuss their views on the future of publishing, and it was amazing how much information (and similarities of opinion) came out of such a fast-moving session.

  • 10:15pmNight Owl “open mike” reading… or not

I went home instead. The second day began with breakfast at 8:30am, and I had an hour drive to get there, so I decided I’d just be on my way. It was probably a good decision.

…and that’s an overview of day one. I’ll do the same for the other two days of the conference, and then we’ll dive into some of the material that was covered in the sessions & that I learned about the writing/publishing industry in general.

Tags: ,



   Posted by: Faith    in Write!Canada

I’m back from the conference… with piles of information, ideas, suggestions, thoughts, and opinions. Over the next few weeks, I’ll do my best to outline the weekend and what I got out of it… but I think I need just one more day to really mull over the things I learned. There was a lot to take in, and it was certainly worth the time and money spent. Of course, I also know there are a lot of things I now have to do, but it’s not as daunting as it was before.

It is possible to call yourself a writer in this day and age (and economy), and it is possible to gain some measure of success.

How is this possible? To summarize:

Just tell the story.

More to come in the days/weeks ahead.

Tags: , ,