Monthly Archives: April 2012

Mississippi has a writers’ conference…and you should know about it!

This past October (14th-16th to be exact), the Gulf Coast Writers Association hosted their annual Southern Expressions GCWA Authors Conference, and I was honored to be one of their speakers. Held at the IP Casino, Resort and Spa in Biloxi, and the Mary C. O’Keefe Cultural Center in Ocean Springs, the conference is a nice little gem waiting to be discovered.

I’ll admit that I’d never heard of the conference before, and as a Mississippian, I was a bit embarrassed. However, that embarrassment faded when I learned the conference was only in either the 3rd for 4th year. I made the drive down on Friday from my home in Oxford. I was starting a new job as part of the faculty at Full Sail University in Orlando, Florida the following Monday, so I would just drive there from the conference on Sunday.

I arrived, checked in, and took my stash of books with me to the check-in conference room. Curtis Wilkie, author of The Fall of the House of Zeus, was the speaker for the night—he was asked the usual questions when it was done. I found it funny when I learned he also lives in Oxford and yet I’d never met him (or heard of him, to be honest). Just goes to show you I’m not running the “literary” circles in Oxpatch.

On Saturday morning they bussed the lot of us over to Ocean Springs and we began the daylong string of sessions in the Mary C. O’Keefe Cultural Center. I met some interesting folks, both speakers and writers, and did my two presentations: one on suping up your protagonist and the other on shameless self-promotion.

The conference provided live entertainment on the grounds that night, but I caught a ride back to the hotel with some new writer friends I’d made (Charles Sasser and Peggy Webb—Webb, a Mississippian from Tupelo!). I had dinner in the casino where I stumbled upon Jeanie Pantelakis, (Sullivan Maxx Literary Agency) one of the agents in attendance…she joined me and we had a nice chat—mostly about movies and comic books!

Sunday morning was a very laid-back signing session by any and all comers. The public was invited and several people made their way from the slot machines to our room full of authors. Of course, most of them claimed to have just lost all their money and assured us they would have bought a book if they’d had any cash… It wasn’t a total loss, though. As many authors are fond of doing when possible, I managed to trade a few books and still come home with new reading material. Though I went knowing no single other person, I left with a handful of new friends. Not a bad trip, if I do say so myself.

(I meant to post this back in December…but neglected to do so. A slightly different version of this was printed in IMAGYRO, the magazine of IMAGICOPTER)

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How many rejections does it take?

Writers who’ve been writing long enough know that rejection is as much a part of writing as weight training and conditioning is to an athlete. It’s just part of the process. A-listers get less rejection because they often generate so much revenue for publishers they can pretty much do what they want and the publisher will take it…pretty much. But rejection can hurt.

Rejection is tough for any writer but it is especially hard on young writers, or those just beginning their writing journey…just as conditioning is harder for an athlete when they first get started; it’s gets easier the longer they persevere. Although we know it in our brilliant writer’s heart that rejection isn’t personal, it feels that way. The form letters—which are more common than not—are the ones that hurt the most. We’ve taken the time to a)write the book, b)research the publisher and their product, c)find out who the/an editor is, d)write them a very personal letter explaining how great our book is and why they should want to buy it. So when the response comes back as a form letter…it hurts.

Ask any writer and they will tell you how excited they were when they discovered “a hand written note” at the bottom of a form rejection. It’s still a form rejection, but we feel that someone at least did notice us; that even though our voices are screaming out in the void, someone cared enough to hear that voice and acknowledge it.

Of course, some writers out there only submit once or twice, thus greatly diminishing their chances of acceptance. Depending on who you listen to or what/where you read, there’s some wild percentages that suggest you must submit (and thus receive rejections) X number of times before you get that acceptance. Some suggest the percentages are in the 90% and higher range. I don’t have any idea—that’s too much math for me. But when I think of rejections and acceptance, I’m reminded of the old lolly-pop commercial, you know, the one with the owl and the kid. The kid asks the wise owl how many licks it takes to get to the center of a tootsie pop? The owl proceeds to give it a lick or two and then bites in.

So, how many acceptances does it takes to cancel out the multitude of rejections?

One.

It only take one acceptance to cancel out the hurt of all the previous rejections…no matter how many there were.

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MidSouthCon 30 report

When I first started writing comics, I lived in Hattiesburg, Miss., and was a regular guest at CoastCon for several years beginning in 1989. The crew was good to me (and the entire Silverline crew), it was close, and it seemed like everyone locally was attending. But I was always aware of MidSouthCon and really wanted to go. I couldn’t go because it was either on the exact same date or the weekend before or after. Being a struggling writer, I couldn’t really afford to go to both. It wasn’t until the late 90s that I had the opportunity to go to MidSouthCon, held in Memphis, the city of my birth.

Thus I didn’t really realize it was the 30th until sometime during the day Saturday (they use the Roman numerals and since I’m not Roman, I can’t read them easily)…and I don’t know if it was that or just that it is a sign of recovery, but there were a ton of people there; it was very crowded at times—which is good.

This was the first year that a)I didn’t set up at a table; b)I didn’t attend the entire weekend (I couldn’t); c)my son, Brett, had the chance to attend a con. Because I didn’t have a table, I felt a bit orphaned. It was a strange experience. Brett seemed to love the experience, though. He played games practically the entire time (though I did tell him he couldn’t spend $60 on a sword), even electing to skip out on my panels!

My first panel of the day was shared with a few folks, including John Jackson Miller and Anthony Taylor. The topic was “Playing in other people’s sandbox,” which is about writing material that belongs to someone else (like Star Wars or Planet of the Apes). One of the common questions there was about fan fiction as it seemed several were under the impression that writing it is a good way to “get noticed.” Miller was quick to point out that the Star Wars franchise folks do not want that for fear of possible lawsuits. So it doesn’t get read by people who would matter. I’ve never really understood the draw of fan fiction and have read very little of it. My thoughts are write something original; create your own world to play in. That, or get HIRED to do the work.

I then had the opportunity to sit on the “Marketing for Authors” panel with such writers as A. P. Stephens, Janine Spendlove, Mike Preston, Peggy DeKay, and Stephen Zimmer. Zimmer was the only one I’d ever met before, but was a good panel with lots of questions from those in the audience. As you might guess, digital publishing was a big topic!

The last panel I did was “Indie Comics” with Sean Taylor and Tom Bondurant. I’ve “known” Sean for several years now, but never had the pleasure of meeting him in person and was nice to finally get to do so. Go visit Sean’s site to learn more about him. Tom writes for CBR.

I would tell you that Dean Zachary was also on the panel, but he bailed! (in his defense, he was making money in the Dealer’s Room) But I did get to visit with him and other artist extraordinaire Jim Hall and Mitch Foust. Actually, I had a more lengthy chat with Mitch on comic story-telling standing in the hallway at the close of the con which was quite enjoyable.

There’s a whole host of folks that I didn’t get to spend nearly enough time with but who I want to shout out to here: A. Christopher Drown (who was the recipient of a Darrel Award!), Alexander S.
Brown, David Blalock, Herika R. Raymer, J.L. Mulvihill, AND, some folks I had the opportunity to meet for the first time: Kimberly Richardson (who is the editor for an anthology to which I’ve submitted AND who said she remembered my story and liked it—so that bodes well for the story), S.P. Dorning (who I’ve swapped a ton of emails with, but had never met face to face), and Bobby Nash.

And since Brittany had the camera with her for Prom…I didn’t get to take any pictures. Still, a good time was had!

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