Thursday, May 21, 2015

3 June Conferences

Most of the PEG editors will be at the following three conferences. They are all fabulous conferences, meeting different needs in the writing community.

2015 Teen Writers Conference, June 13, 2015. Weber State University. Register here.

2015 Writing & Illustrating for Young Readers Conference, June 15-19, 2015. Waterford School, Sandy, Utah. Register here.

2015 Indie Author Hub Writers Conference, June 19-20, 2015. Provo Marriott Hotel. Register here.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Getting Past the First Chapter

I had a conversation with someone the other day who said he wanted to write a book about his life (he's had some amazing experiences), but of course he has the challenge of finding the time to write. Sound familiar, anyone? It's hard to carve out that time. It takes sacrifice, and it reminded me of Julie's post from March 2013.

Hope you'll find some inspiration :-)

(originally posted March 2013)
By Julie Wright
We all know that the first line of the book has to be awesome. It has to earn you the right to the second line which has to earn you the right to the first page, which has to earn you the right to the first chapter. The first chapter is the thing that paves the way for the rest of the book. Sometimes it's all anyone will ever see of your book.

But writing a first chapter is HARD. It takes time--which is the number one reason people never get past the first chapter. I tweeted this the other day: My best writing advice to new writers? Time is made not found. If you love it, you will do it. We always *make* time for what we love.

Don't tell me you're too busy. If you loved writing like I love writing, then you will MAKE the time. Heck, even if you only sorta liked writing a tenth of the way I love it, then you'd make the time.

But it's still HARD. After all what if you write it all down and it's lame, lame, lame? Fear is another reason people don't write. In Steven Pressfield's The War of Art, he talks of Hitler's talent as an artist, then made the claim that it was easier for Hitler to start WWII than it was for him to face a blank canvas. That line stayed with me. Am I driving my own artistic life off course in order to avoid the blank page? I'm not saying fear of failure isn't real. I'm not saying that the blank page isn't terrifying. Of course it is. But it's also exciting, filled with possibility and adventure. The blank page can be anything you want. Embrace the page and write. So what if it's lame? I maintain my firm belief that a lame page is easier to fix than a blank page.

So where do you start?
I start with the character.
Then I put the character in a  situation that feels interesting to me. I have them act on that situation and speak to those people populating that situation.
You might be a setting starter.
You might be a plot starter.
You might be a late starter and need to turn the engine over and over and over until it finally engages (which means you'll have to delete the first few pages, but so what? They helped you get the engine going).

There is no right or wrong place to start. The point is to start at a place that is interesting to YOU. In my latest novel, Capes and Curls, the story opens with Red killing a rabbit in front of her sister who hates the killing even though they're starving. I opened showing the differences between the sisters, the sacrifices each were willing to take for the other. I wanted to show that even with all their differences, they stood together  in all things. Did I know I wanted to show all that with my beginning? Absolutely not. I started there because it was interesting to me. Admittedly, I had a couple of other false starts before I got to the scene with the girls and the rabbit, but those were the cranking-the-engine pages and were all deleted.

The first chapter is do vital because it sets the tone and mood of the whole book. Should the reader be afraid? Should they be cautious? Should they want to laugh?  All of that is revealed in the beginning of every book, so you should know ahead of time whet kind of book you're writing. Is it romance? And if it is romance, is it funny, tragic, steamy? You need to know going in so that your tone stays consistent. You don't want to start out with a deep, soulful, navel-gazing talk about the weather when you want the book to be an action-packed, hard core science fiction novel.

So have an idea of what you want to write, forget fear, make the time, and sit your butt in a chair. You might have to rewrite but that's okay. Why? Because it's easier to fix lame than blank

Monday, February 9, 2015

Remembering editor Lu Ann Staheli

Lu Ann Staheli tragically passed away this morning after an 8-month battle with cancer. Lu Ann has mentored hundreds of writers and thousands of students over her lifetime. She was a Senior Editor at Precision Editing Group since our company's inception. She lived a remarkable life and was a wonderful friend and mentor to us all.

We have a fund set up for Lu Ann's family to help with medical expenses. Her husband spend the past 8 months caring for Lu Ann around the clock. All donations go directly to her family.

Please share your memories of Lu Ann in the comments, and we'll get them to her family. Below is her incredible list of accomplishments.

Much love,
The PEG Editors

Lu Ann Brobst Staheli

Lu Ann Brobst Staheli got her start as a celebrity paparazzi-stalker-chick, which led to her award-winning career as a ghostwriter for celebrity memoirs. A masochist at heart, she taught junior high school English for 33 years and then moved to the school library. She once spent two weeks summer vacation backpacking through Europe with 15 of her students. She has won three Best of State Medals--two for writing and one for teaching--but refuses to wear them all at the same time because she'd hate to be known as a show-off.

Staheli graduated from Alexandria-Monroe H.S. in Alexandria, Indiana, in 1972, and the Indiana University Bloomington School of Education in 1976. She taught English and psychology at Rockville Jr. Senior High School in Rockville, Indiana, for five years before moving to Utah. In 1984, Lu Ann joined the staff at Payson Jr. High School in Payson, Utah, where she taught English, Writing for Publication, and Reading Options, and most recently she has worked as school librarian. Lu Ann also holds a Master’s Degree in Instructional Technology with a Library Media endorsement through Utah State University’s School of Education.

Staheli's published works include Men of Destiny: Abraham Lincoln and the Prophet Joseph Smith (Walnut Springs Press); Temporary Bridesmaid; Silver Bells Collection—A Fezziwig Christmas; Tides Across the Sea; Just Like Elizabeth Taylor; Leona & Me, Helen Marie; A Note Worth Taking; When Hearts Conjoin: The True Story of Utah's Conjoined Twins; Psychic Madman; One Day at a Time: Teaching Secondary Language Arts; and Books, Books, and More Books: A Parent and Teacher's Guide to Adolescent Literature.

Lu Ann's articles have appeared in Grit, Byline, Scouting, Library Media Connections, and The Writer magazines, and she has published invitational essays in Teaching Secondary Language Arts K-12: It Really Works (Christopher-Gordon Publishers) and Famous Family Nights (Cedar Fort International).

As a Senior Editor with Precision Editing Group, she has had a hand in a number of releases from Deseret Book, Shadow Mountain, Covenant Communications, and other regional publishers, including several winners and finalists for the Whitney Award, and USA Today and New York Times best-sellers. A former Associate Producer of Alan Osmond's Stadium of Fire, Lu Ann resides in Spanish Fork, Utah, with her husband, and tries to keep track of their five sons.

Lu Ann is a teacher of teachers. Two of her former students teach with her at Payson Jr. High, one is an administrator there, and numerous others have entered the education field. She has been a mentor to four student-teachers, all of whom have continued in the field. In addition to helping students become teachers, she also has moved students to careers in creative writing and journalism, but perhaps the most successful thing she has done is encouraged a generation of lifelong readers.

During her years as an English teacher, Lu Ann has shared her love of reading and writing with over 4,000 students, and it doesn’t look like she is ready to stop teaching them anytime soon. “Once my student, always my student” is her personal philosophy, and her students seem to know that without ever being told. They come back to visit her classroom years later, stop her in the local grocery, and track her down via the Internet to ask her for book recommendations, tell her about their latest writing project, or share a favorite memory from a long-ago class she taught. Through shared literacy, students develop a sense of connection to Lu Ann that leads them into an adult world where books and writing are important. The fact that many of her own students have become teachers, and that she also mentors student teachers, broadens her influence even farther across the state and perhaps the world.

“Until I’ve given them a million words, I can’t teach them how to write,” describes the beginnings of an English program under Lu Ann’s tutelage. “So many students come to me—even in my Honors programs—with a limited view of reading and a fear of writing. A boring book or a single blood-red paper returned from a well-meaning teacher can halt a student’s progress toward engagement in reading or improvement in writing for years, sometimes even a lifetime.”

To help her students overcome those fears, Lu Ann begins her school year with reading. She teaches strategies and tips to improve reading skills, no matter what level a student currently tests, then she gives them plenty of time to practice those skills. She reads high interest books aloud to them, lets students read in small groups, and includes time for plenty of independent reading, providing audio books for students who need additional reading support. “The more words I can put in front of them, the more likely they will discover something—a book, short story, poem, or piece of non-fiction—anything that will hook them, giving them a reason get excited about reading and hopefully leading them to reading on their own. If it takes giving a student something new to try every day, then I’ll do it. All it takes is one book—the right one—to make a lifelong fan of reading.”

In addition to reading, Lu Ann leads her students into writing fluency. “Getting words down onto the page is hard for most people, but this is especially true of junior high students who are already a little insecure. I believe in letting students feel comfortable with writing, validating their efforts and ideas, long before I make corrections and suggestions.” A professional writer herself, Lu Ann teaches the craft of writing rather concentrating during early draft stages on the skills of editing. “Editing is the final process in writing. Too many teachers seek perfection from their students long before the work is ready. Editing too early can ruin voice, stop the flow of fresh ideas, and squelch any student desire to attempt, let alone perfect, a piece of writing,” she says. This process of building readers, then teaching the craft of writing, has found Lu Ann’s students of all ability levels not only among the highest scores on a variety of state and standardized tests, but also eventually following career paths that allow them to use these skills without fear.

“People who read succeed, or so the slogan goes. If a student reads well, school is easier for him or her. The information disseminated via teacher lectures, textbooks, and other materials becomes accessible and interesting,” Lu Ann states. “Eventually my students leave the junior high school. Most of them graduate from high school. Obviously, those who leave with reading and writing skills will move on to successful careers that add to the economy,” something Lu Ann herself does through the various employment and volunteer opportunities she follows beyond her work in the classroom.

In addition to teaching, Lu Ann has long served her local community. As a member of the staff at Alan Osmond Productions, Lu Ann was an Associate Producer for Stadium of Fire, a member of the Spanish Fork Arts Council, State Coordinator for the National Council of Teachers of English’s Promising Young Writers program, on the Speaker’s Bureau for the League of Utah Writers, and has been on the Middle Level and Young Adult Book Selection Committees for the Children’s Literature Association of Utah. Lu Ann served as coordinator for the Spanish Fork City Arts Council Writer’s Workshop and the Nebo Young Writer’s Conference. She is often called upon by church groups, book clubs, and other members of the local and state community to present workshops on literacy, give book reviews, or serve as a judge in writing contests. She has worked on district and state textbook and media adoption committees, as well as helping to write the previous state CORE for Secondary English Language Arts.

Lu Ann has earned several awards and recognitions through her teaching career, including Nebo Reading Council Reading Teacher of the Year 2006, Christa McAuliffe Fellow Utah 1999, Utah English Language Arts Teacher of the Year 1999, Excellence in English/Language Arts Instruction 1999 from the Utah Writing Project, and Celebrate Literacy Award 1996 from the Utah Council IRA. She was selected for the USWest/UtahLINK Teacher Network Project 1995, the Marquis Who’s Who in American Education for several years, and has previously been nominated for both the Disney Hand Award for Outstanding Educators and the Huntsman Awards for Excellence in Education.

As the past-President of the Utah Council of the Teachers of English Language Arts and the League of Utah Writers, Lu Ann currently serves on the board of the Nebo Reading Council and the UVSC Forum on Children’s Literature. Through her newspaper column and personal donations, she helped the Nebo Reading Council build a library collection for the Nebo School District Young Mother’s School in 2008.

As if Lu Ann orchestrated it, her award-winning YA book JUST LIKE ELIZABETH TAYLOR, became officially available for sale today in paperback for the first time.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

2015 Writers Conference in Utah

Since most of our PEG editors are in Utah and frequently teach at the local conferences, here's a comprehensive list. If you know of another conference or an update, let us know!

2015 LTUE Fantasy & Sci Fi Conference, February 12-14 2015, Provo Marriott Hotel & Conference Center. Register here.

2015 LDS Storymakers Conference, May 15-16, 2015. Utah Valley Conference Center, Provo, Utah (next to downtown Provo Marriott). Registration here.

2015 Indie Author Hub Writers Conference, June 19-20, 2015. Information will be posted here.

2015 Writers at Work Conference, TBA, 2015. Alta, Utah. Information will be posted here.

2015 Writing & Illustrating for Young Readers Conference, June TBA, 2015. Waterford School, Sandy, Utah. Information coming here.

2015 Teen Writers Conference, June 13, 2015. Weber State University. Info here.

2015 League of Utah Writers Conference, September TBA, 2015. Visit website here.

2015 Utah Romance Writers of America conference. Usually in October. Information will be posted here.

2015 Kanab Writers Conference. Usually in October. Kanab, Utah. Information will be posted here.

2015 IndieReCon. Coming Fall 2015. Information here.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

POINT OF VIEW: First Person vs Third Person

By Heather Moore
(Originally published April 26, 2007... but POV continues to be a struggle for many new writers)

If you just said, "Huh?" this blog is for you.

When we read a book, we don’t always pay attention to the point of view. Instead, we enjoy the story. But when you write a book, point of view becomes an integral method of telling the story through the character.

First person point of view is almost always used in YA novels. Over the past several years, it has become increasingly popular in adult fiction, especially the suspense genre.

In Orson Scott Card’s book, Characters and Viewpoint, he says: “When you use a first-person narrator, you are almost required to tell the story in someone else’s voice—the voice of the character telling the tale.” (143)

1st person/present tenseGood Grief by Lolly Winston

On Halloween, angels and ghosts and pirates flock to my doorstep. A tiny pumpkin hoists her leg over the threshold and clings to my calf like a koala bear.
“No Jenny,” the baby’s mom says, and laughs. “We don’t live here.”
This is a busy year for trick-or-treaters. It’s only seven and I’m already running low on candy, since I never made it back to Safeway to load up. (p.34)

1st person/ past tenseLife of Pi by Yann Martel

My fellow castaway came into view. He raised himself onto the gunnel and looked my way. The sudden appearance of a tiger is arresting in any environment, but it was all the more so here. The weird contrast between the bright, striped, living orange of his coat and the inert white of the boat’s hull was incredibly compelling. My overwrought senses screeched to a halt. (p.160)

Third person point of view is by far the most common and reaches across all genres and age groups. Third person has two methods: limited narrative and omniscient narrative.

Orson Scott Card says a reader is “led through the story by one character, seeing only what that character sees; aware of what that character thinks and wants and remembers, but unable to do more than guess at any other character’s inner life.” (155)

You can also change viewpoints with limited narrative, as long as you have a clear division like a scene break or new chapter.

3rd Person—Limited Narrative: At the Journey’s End by Annette Lyon (all in different scenes)

Maddie’s POV:
A rifle shot split the air with a crack.
The sound halted Maddie in her step, and she looked around for the source. Maybe Peter or James had bagged some game for dinner—a wild rabbit, perhaps. It would taste good after eating dried fruit and jerky for nearly two weeks. But something told her that wasn’t right. (1)

Clara’s POV:
Another coughing fit gripped Clara Franklin, one so intense she didn’t even reach for her handkerchief on the end table. Her frail body curled up against the pain piercing her chest with each cough. As the spell ended, she found her hands clenching the bedclothes like claws. She had to consciously release each finger and make her breath even out. (35)

Abe’s POV:
Taking his hat off, Abe entered the building and wiped his sleeve across his brow. He was tired of the heat. First Utah’s, now California’s. He knew he might as well get used to it, at least until he reached Snowflake. (55)

OMNISCIENT NARRATIVE:The narrator can see into more than one character’s mind, switching back and forth at will. (Card, 156)

3rd person—Omniscient: Skipping Christmas by John Grisham (all in the same scene, 77-79)

Nora's POV:
“I already have calendars for next year.” That was news to Nora, who was biting a fingernail and holding her breath.

Luther's POV:
Luther caught himself for a second and allowed his anger to settle in. As if buying a calendar was the only measure of his pride in the local police force.

Treen's POV:
Since Treen could think of no intelligent retort, he grew hot too and decided he would get Krank’s license plate number and lie in ambush somewhere . . .

And finally . . .
Before you start writing your novel, decide on which point of view you’ll use. Do you want the readers to see the entire book through just one character’s eyes? Then try 1st person. Are you writing a romance and want the POV of the heroine and the hero? Try 3rd person narrative. Just be sure that you don’t POV hop when writing either 1st person or in 3rd person narrative. When in 3rd person narrative, you can switch POV when there is a scene or chapter break.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Upcoming Writers Conferences in Utah

2014 League of Utah Writers Conference, September 12-13, 2014. Registration here.

2014 Book Academy Conference, UVU, September 25, 2014. CANCELLED

2014 Utah Romance Writers of America: A Readers Luncheon, October 16-19, 2014. Registration here.

2014 IndieReCon, October 10-11, 2014. SLCC Miller Campus, Sandy Utah. Registration here.

2014 Kanab Writers Conference, October 24-25, 2014. Kanab, Utah. Registration here

2015 LTUE Fantasy & Sci Fi Conference, February 12-14 2015, Provo Marriott Hotel & Conference Center. Register here.

2015 LDS Storymakers Conference, May 15-16, 2015. Utah Valley Conference Center, Provo, Utah (next to downtown Provo Marriott). Watch for info.

2015 Indie Author Hub Writers Conference, June, 2015. Information will be posted here.

2015 Writers at Work Conference, TBA, 2015. Alta, Utah. Information will be posted here.

2015 Writing & Illustrating for Young Readers Conference, TBA, 2015. Waterford School, Sandy, Utah. Register here.

2015 Teen Writers Conference, June TBA, 2015. Weber State University. Info here.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

When Are You Ready?

by Annette Lyon

Not long ago, I witnessed the following: 

A well-established, very successful writer, one who had moved from the traditional publishing world entirely to the indie side, was asked by a brand new, aspiring writer, when he would know his first book was ready to be published.

The veteran writer’s reply: “Put it up right away, as soon as you’re done with it. You’ll get better as time goes on, but why not earn money in the meantime?”

My reaction was pretty much stunned horror. I’ll explain why in a moment, but first, some back story:

I have been actively writing and seeking publication for two solid decades. In that time, my writing has improved by a huge amount, from the sheer number of words and books and articles and posts I’ve written as well as by the feedback I’ve received from others.

Some of those people have been other writers, such as critique group members. Others are beta readers, who may be writers or who may simply be avid readers. Some of those people are professional editors at a publishing house, people who have pushed me to take a good book and make it even better.

One such editor kept returning my manuscript—which was already under contract—and insisted I try again on this one section. It was almost there, but not quite. She wanted the motivation to be stronger here, or the characterization to be stronger there. I rewrote and rewrote and pulled my hair out. The experience was monumentally frustrating, because I already had confidence in that book. I knew it wasn’t garbage. It was good.

Besides, this wasn’t close to the first book I’d written, or even close to the first one I’d published.

For that matter, I had been part of an intense critique group for about a decade at that point. My skill level had increased a ton by that point. It was tempting to tell her to back off and just send the book to press already.

But in the end, I am so glad she didn’t do that. I’m immensely grateful that she pushed me to make the book the best I could possibly make it. She helped me see where my blind spots where so I could fix them. She helped me make that book shine. And it was a Whitney Awards finalist in the very first year of the program.

Many years later, I’m still very proud of that book instead of being embarrassed about it.

(I still hate the cover, though. Dear marketing and graphics departments: What were you thinking?)

Hypothetical question: 
What would have happened if the industry had shifted earlier, making the siren song of self-publishing whisper in my ear back in 2007? I might well have thought that hey, it’s good enough, and put it up myself before that book was truly ready.

My first book hit shelves after eight intense years of working my tail off on a lot of manuscripts. I learned an enormous amount in that time.

So I cringe to think what I would have put out into the world as a writer if I’d had the ability to self-publish back when I started in 1994 as easily as I can in 2014.

I simply wasn’t ready back then. I hadn’t paid my dues to learn and grow and seek enough outside feedback.

Today, I’m grateful for the chance to self-publish; I’ve used the technology for several books and projects, and I have every intention of doing so again. It’s a wonderful tool, one with many, many perks that traditional publishing lacks.

But I also know that I’m stepping into those waters with a whole lot of experience under my belt. I know how to avoid landmines (largely by still getting outside feedback).

And this is why I cringe at the type of advice this author gave the beginning writer. I am a big advocate of independent/self-published books and their authors. I’m a hybrid writer myself—I do both traditional and self-publishing. It works for me and many others.

And yet. A huge stigma still exists about self-published books, and it’s not entirely unearned.

The stigma is based on the fact that very few books that are thrown up onto digital platform have gone through the amount of beta readers, drafts, and rounds of edits (including a professional edit!) that it needs. A lot of indie books are written by writers who are a long ways away from investing the 10,000 hours required to master their craft (or 100,000 or half a million hours, or however long; every individual will be different).

There is a time when it’s too soon to put your work out there. I’ve seen some self-published books by authors I can tell are talented and have the potential to do fantastic, wonderful things, but the book wasn’t ready. I've wanted to say, "Get to a critique group! Find a good editor! Get it proofed!" It's what  might have been. 

Instead of incubating it, revising it (again and again!) until it shines, the author uploaded the manuscript to make money on a half-baked book.

And that right there is the travesty.

If you have plans to self-publish, more power to you! So do I. It’s a fabulous train to be riding.

Just remember:

·         Take your time; don’t rush it.

·         Consider the next few years your apprenticeship: write several books with no intention of publishing them, just to learn how to craft a full story and how to finish a book.

·         Read up on the craft. Voraciously.

·         Read books in your genre. Voraciously. Look for what works, what doesn’t work, and figure out why.

·         Attend writing conferences and attend lots of workshops on the craft. Don’t just go to the marketing classes. You need to know your craft, first and foremost.

·         Get outside eyes looking at your work. Lots of them. You won’t agree with everything they say, and that’s fine; chance are, they won’t all be right. But chances are, they’ll be more right than wrong. And even if they tell you to fix something in a way you know won’t work, pay attention to the underlying diagnosis of the problem; they may be on to something.

·         Pay for professional services. That means editing and proofing (two VERY different skill sets), formatting (for e-books) or typesetting (for paper books), and cover art. If you aren’t trained specifically in graphic design and in creating book covers, don’t attempt to make your own. It’ll be obvious. I want indie authors to have all the success they deserve, and they have the best shot of that if they, quite simply, ignore that writer’s advice altogether.

Do NOT put up the first thing you’ve ever written and then just shrug, figuring you’ll put up better stuff when you’ve improved. You will have already besmirched your name and tainted any potential audience.

Sure, you may make some money in the meantime, but will you be proud of your books? 

Or will you be a bit embarrassed about them? 

Will you lose potential readers because they now assume you’re not a pro and don't take the craft seriously?

Make your start out of the gate the strongest it can be. Waiting is hard, but it’s so, so worth it, and it’s crucial if you want to be a successful writer, regardless of the publishing path you choose.