Every year one of my alma maters, Seton Hill University (SHU), offers a writing workshop called, In Your Write Mind during their summer residency. IYWM is run by alumni from the Writing Popular Fiction (WPF) Master of Fine Arts program. I graduated in January 2015 and this was my first IYWM visit.
Since graduating from Seton Hill in January 2015, I have been extremely blessed. In October 2015 I signed with Dawn Dowdle at Blue Ridge Literary Agency. On April 20th, we got my first offer and Dawn sold my Mystery Bookshop series to Kensington. In April 2017 I sold my thesis novel to Camel press and was asked to write another series for Kensington’s ebook imprint, Lyrical Underground. I share this to help you understand my mindset going into IYWM. My goal for the workshop was not to pitch to agents or editors, although there were top notch guests present. Special guests included author, Diana Rowland; agents, John bowers with The Bent Agency and Kurestin Armada with P.S. Literary; and editor Sandra Kasturi, Co-Publisher of ChiZine. My goal was to learn how to sell/market my books once they were published. So, I signed up for every social media/marketing module offered.
My journey started early with a ten hour drive (Yes, I said drive) from Tennessee to Greensburg, PA with my fellow alum, Urban Fantasy writer, Jessica Barlow. Fortunately, it was a beautiful travel day. Technically, the workshop didn’t’ start until Thursday, but a couple of my professors, Victoria Thompson (Gaslight Mystery Series) and Randall Silvas (Ryan DeMarco), and one of my fellow alums, John Forunato (Dark Reservations, winner of the Tony Hillerman Prize) were doing a book reading/signing at Penguin Bookstore in Sewickley, PA.
The book reading/signing was great. Randall Silvas facilitated a discussion with the authors and then opened the discussion up to questions from the audience. The signing ended with book signings from the featured authors. If you ever get a chance to check out Penguin Bookstore, I highly recommend it. It’s an independent bookstore that has been around for more than one hundred years. You never know who you might run into, the previous month, they hosted Stephen King (and they have the picture to prove it). What a great way to learn how to do book readings/signings.
The workshop officially started on Thursday, June 21st. This first day was pretty low key with registration, pitch practice or writing among Friends. I’d just finished a month of edits and was excited to get back to what I love, writing. Nothing special, but it was nice to sit and write.
My first module started with a module by Shelley Adina, Writing the Back-Cover Blurb. The module was excellent, even though I didn’t complete any of the hands on activities. I did get a ton of notes and will work on this later. My last module was Social Media for Anti-Social Writers by Matt and Natalie Duvall. This module sparked a theme for me regarding social media, Proceed with Caution. Writers need to remember each post, tweet, or comment is a reflection of your brand. Sure J.K. Rowlings and Stephen King can afford to flaunt their political views, but perhaps a new writer, might want to tread softly.
One highlight for the workshop is the annual Book Signing. There were more than fifty authors that set up booths to sell and sign their books. For me, the ten hour drive finally caught up with me and I skipped the book signing this year. However, my credit card didn’t escape completely.
Saturday started with another excellent module by Shelley Adina, Expect Success: The Business of Your Career. Then Foreign Rights for Publishing and Film/TV Adaptations by John Bowers with the Bent Agency. Considering my first book doesn’t release for five months, I have a better chance of being hit by lightening than selling the foreign rights or getting a television deal. However, I updated my author information on Author Central Germany anyway (just in case).
In Your Write Mind takes place during the same time period as the Master in Fine Arts, Writing Popular Fiction (WPF) Residency. The WPF program brings in excellent award winning speakers like, N.K. Jemisin, Kevin Hearn, and this year’s speaker, Hank Phillipi Ryan. The presentation during the day is restricted to WPF students. However, there is a presentation in the evening which is open to the public.
The SHU Mystery Writers go to dinner in between the two speeches. At dinner, Vicki Thompson provided a mystery script which we acted out in the hopes of figuring out Whodunit. The only person to figure out who the murderer was happened to be an FBI Agent, so I didn’t feel badly about not guessing correctly.
After an excellent and inspirational talk by Hank Phillipi Ryan, who found out she won another Emmy while signing books, I dressed for the costume party. Yep, each year there’s a costume ball which drinks, food, music and dancing. This year’s theme was, International Persons of Mystery and I dressed up as Miss Phryne Fisher, 1920’s Australian Lady Detective written by Kerry Greenwood.
I started the day with a module, What’s Love Got to Do with It by Victoria Thompson about adding a romantic subplot to your book to add spice and interest. My last module, Your Own YouTube Channel by Heidi Ruby Miller and Jason Jack Miller cemented the fact that social media may not be milieu. When you realize you’d rather have a root canal than watch or listen to yourself on video, you probably aren’t ready to dive into the creation of a YouTube Channel. However, as always, the Miller’s provided a great link to free music which I can use on my website. So, mission accomplished.
I went to the In Your Write Mind workshop with a plan, Learn all I can about social media for promotion. I think in retrospect, the best thing about this workshop was the time I had networking with other writers, authors, editors and agents. I learned what I don’t want to do, which is just as valuable as learning what you do want to do. All in all, I’d say the workshop was a success and I had a great time. I can’t wait until next year. Hazard Yet Forward!