Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Writing Retreats: The Writer's Secret Weapon

by Annette Lyon

I'm a huge proponent of writers finding snatches of time to do their work, especially for moms, whose lives revolve around little people, and for anyone else with full-time job. Without some of my secret weapons for finding those snatches, I wouldn't have gotten published, and I wouldn't have written anything long enough to be called a book.

But at times, we writers need a bit more, and that's where writing retreats come in. Think of them as one of those booster packs in a video game. A couple of days away, holed up somewhere, where you do nothing but write, and ZOOM! you're thousands of words ahead.

Mini Retreats
Also known as writers conferences. Stay the night at the hotel. Get there the day before the conference begins if you can, and write that night. Then write at night after the workshops, before you go to bed. Write in the morning. Write whenever you can sneak it in.

Low-Impact Retreats
Another way I've have had mini (yet very productive) retreats that are relative low-impact on my family is the method four of the Precision Editing Group editors did while working on our Newport Ladies Book Club series (Heather, Julie, Josi, and me).

For those retreats, we went away for one night only. Our children are all in school now, so this type of retreat was particularly good for us at this stage. I got the kiddos off for the day, then left with my suitcase and computer.

The four of us then met at a library and wrote until late afternoon, when we took a break for a late lunch/early dinner. Then we checked into a motel (cheapest we could find in advance) and wrote until our brains melted (around midnight), using Mountain Dew and trail mix to stay awake.

Around 7 AM, we'd be awake and writing until check-out. I was always home by noon or earlier. All in all, I was gone one night and (as far as family impact goes) less than a full day.

Refreshing and productive all at once!

Full-fledged Retreats
For the last two Novembers, I've attended a 3-night retreat sponsored by the Author's Incognito online group. (All of the pictures below are from this year's retreat.)

The basic idea here is that a group of 20 or so people combine forces to rent out a cabin. Everyone gets food assignments for easy-to-prepare meals, and while there, each writer signs up to make and clean-up a meal with a couple of others, leaving everyone else time to write.

The AI retreat typically has writing sprints, where a timer is set and everyone cranks out as many words as they can in, say 20 minutes. The winner gets a prize. (I won a necklace that says "Believe" on it for winning the first sprint!)

For the AI retreat, we arrive around noon on Thursday and write through Saturday night. Come Sunday morning, we have time to get up, pack, clean the cabin, and check out.

On Your Retreat:
Make a game plan in advance. Cranking out words is much, much easier if you already know what happens next. Come with a list of scenes. A big list. Yes, even you pantsers. I'm not talking about a hard and fast outline, just bullet points you can use to keep going, jump around to write depending on mood, and otherwise use for being majorly productive.

Be prepared to focus, not chat. As hard as it is to not chat with friends (and I've been guilty of that at times), this is your time to write. Get to work. If you must, wear noise-canceling headphones and listen to either music you can focus to or white noise. My favorite white noise generator is Simply Noise. I use the app for when I may not have internet access with simple ear buds.

Award-winning novelist Michele Paige Holmes writing away with her noise-canceling headphones.

Plan breaks. Get up and walk around. Stretch your back. Get a drink. I know some writers who set timers to write for 25 minutes, then break for 5. That method has increased their output significantly.

Bring snacks. It's truly amazing how much easier it is to stay focused, butt in chair, when you aren't suddenly hungry. Have a water bottle. And don't forget to pack your laptop cord!

Other items on my must-have list (See the picture above. That was my writing spot.):
  • Research, character, and plot notes. I use a manila folder.
  • Blanket, socks, and sweaters (I run cold, and somehow cabins are always a bit on the cool side in November.)
  • Laptop bag, mouse, cord.
  • Pens and a notebook.
  • Lumbar pillow. (Note the black and pink happy-face pillow, made by my then 3rd grade daughter.)
  • My green Theracane (to the left of my laptop) for massaging knots from my neck and back.
  • Medications and supplements. (I don't do well without my thyroid!)
  • Kindle, book, or magazine. To reward yourself with a little down time. 

Late-night break for brain food. Nom, nom!

Obviously, most of us can't up and leave for a retreat on any kind of regular basis, but if you can manage one of some kind once a year, you'll come home invigorated  more excited about your story, and pumped up that yes, you really are a writer!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

New Releases!

If you have a new release and you are a blog follower or editing client, please let us know! We are happy to make the announcement here.

Congrats to Rex Taylor on the release of his new book:

RIDING THE LINE: Seeking Thrills & Beauty Near the Edge of Calamity--Solo in the Wilderness on a Motorcycle

Available on Kindle & Paperback

Visit Rex Taylor's Website here 

Friday, November 2, 2012

Get Your Prezi On!

By Josi S. Kilpack
           Last June I went to a parent orientation with my daughter who was about to start college (Go Utes!) and in one of my classes, the instructor (i.e. Upperclassman doing an internship) had a PowerPoint presentation. Or, at least, I thought it was a PowerPoint. It looked like a title page projected on the screen, with some little design-type tiles to the side. He started the class and clicked his pointer, but instead of the page sliding or folding or whatever, the screen zoomed into one of the little tiles I thought were just decorative. It was another PowerPoint slide with bullet lists and whatever, but he’d ZOOMED to it. He clicked his clicker again and the page zoomed out and then zoomed back in on a video interview. It was as though I were watching a TV show. He had music, videos, graphics, and lists within lists which made up the “slides” of his presentation. It was very cool. I wanted to ask him what the heck it was after the class, but he was engaged with someone else and I had to go, but I wondered if it was a special U of U thing, or was it a new version of PowerPoint. I didn’t know, but it was cool.
            A few months later, Rob Wells was telling me about this Prezi he was. I thought he was being cute—like when you call a helicopter a chopper—but as he kept talking I realized that I was missing something. He eventually showed me his presentation and I was like, “THAT’S WHAT THE KID HAD AT THE U.” It was awesome.
Rob told me it was easy to learn, but I was in no place to learn something new and so though I was excited to know about it, I wasn’t ready to dive in. My PowerPoint presentations were fine.
            Then I attended a conference where Marion Jensen had a Prezi. It was so crisp and almost felt interactive, even though it was a presentation just like any PowerPoint presentation was. I decided I would learn how to do it one day, then a few weeks later realized I had to build a presentation for a conference I had last week. I was in between my deadline and my revisions so I went to and within a couple of hours, I had my first Prezi done, complete with lots of images I could use off the computer without having to download them. The next day I adapted an existing power point into a Prezi. I got compliments at the conference for both of them.
            So, basic stuff to know about a Prezi. It’s a free online thing—you build your Prezi through their site and then you download it if you want it on your computer, though you can access it online as well. You can pay to keep your Prezis private, or you can have a free account which remains public. It kind of bugs me that anyone can see my Prezis, but apparently it doesn’t bug me enough to pay $60 a year for a private account. It makes me feel better to know that I’m the only person who can edit my Prezis (unless I give someone else permission) and I was sure to put my name all over both of them so that if anyone does use them, I will still get credit. The biggest risk, I guess, is that someone can steal my ‘content’ so I remain mindful of that
The only drawback I found is that when I give a PowerPoint presentation I usually do it from ‘presenter view’ which means I can see a slide ahead and read any notes that I’ve made—none of that shows up for those attending my presentation, but it gives me a little more detail. I don’t think Prezi has that, which meant that as I gave my presentation there were times when I wasn’t sure what frame came next. I need to poke around the site and see if there is a solution to this somehow, like being able to print out the pages in advance. But even without that, I enjoyed the format very much.
Both Prezis I’ve created are very, very basic, but I like how they turned out and I feel all cool and stuff to have learned to do something cutting edgeyish.
            You can create an account and get started at

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Poetry on Canvas: Poetry Contest!

As a supporter of all forms of writing, I agreed to post this notice here:

Dear fellow poets,

It’s time for submissions to the third annual “Poetry on Canvas” contest. Open to UTAH POETS ONLY. Gather your best poems and tell your friends.

Forty of the winning poems will be printed in the third edition of Utah Arts Voices, a literary annual. Fifteen of these forty will advance and be interpreted into art by local artists. The poem and painting combination will be displayed at the American Fork City Hall during April.

All poets and artists will be honored at a public gala the evening of May 4, 2013. Mark your calendars for the full day as Scott Livingston, the new writing instructor for the Council, will offer a writing seminar for all genres. We’ll send more information as the event nears.

ENTRY FEE: $8.00 per person. NOT $8.00 per entry. The fee will go toward printing costs of the Utah Arts Voices book, of which EACH submitter will receive one copy. Additional copies will sell for $10.00 with applicable discounts for multiple purchases.

Please mail checks payable to the Timpanogos Arts Foundation:

Attention: Lori England
American Fork Arts Council
51 E. Main
American Fork, UT 84003

RULES: 1) Limited to four submissions. Send via email only to in the body of the email. No attachments, please. Each piece must be sent separately.
2) Deadline: December 07, 2012
3) Subject line of email MUST include both author name and title of   submission
4) Poem length: 32 lines or less
5) Previously published work is acceptable if the author retains the rights.
6) By entering the contest, author certifies their submission or submissions are their original work, and they own the rights of publication. The American Fork Arts Council Press does not keep any publication rights or ownership once the selected works are published


A)  If any of the above guidelines are not met, the submission will be disqualified.
B)  If using a pen name, it must be included in each communication in conjunction with the “Poetry on Canvas” event.

Our thanks go to the American Fork Arts Council and the Timpanogos Arts Foundation for sponsoring the “Poetry on Canvas” competition and gala event. We’re looking forward to a super day of learning, sharing, and enjoying.


Cindy Bechtold: Humanities Program Director
Carl Bechtold—graphic artist—Utah Arts Voices
Merianne Nelson—art and framing director
Chrisy Ross—writing seminar consultant, secretary
Vickie Ericksen—writing seminar, refreshments

Thursday, August 30, 2012

2012 Roundup Conference in Park City

We let you know in an earlier post that PEG editors will be running the Writers Boot Camp at the 2012 League of Utah Writers Conference in Park City, September 14-15, 2012.

The Early Bird discount has now been extended to Sept. 1st!

This year Roundup includes a fantastic lineup of speakers:

Barry Eisler: National & International Bestselling Thriller Writer

Richard Paul Evans: NY Times Bestselling author of women's fiction & the YA Michael Vey series

Brandon Sanderson: NY Times Bestselling author of the Mistborn series, and co-author of the last installments of Wheel of Time series

Robison Wells: author of VARIANT & FEEDBACK

Elana Johnson: author of POSSESSION & SURRENDER

Howard Tayler: writer & illustrator of the sci fi comic strip Schlock Mercenary

And plenty more, including Agents & Editors!

Register for Conference Here

Monday, August 20, 2012

Monday Mania--Query Letter

One of our readers has submitted a query letter for critique. Please offer only constructive comments. 

 Critique Archive #53 

Dear Ms.  ****  ,
            The Ninth has been chosen and the Shadow Wraiths have been summoned to destroy him. . . .
It’s normal for sixteen-year-old Macy Burdow to be awakened in the middle of the night to fight off demons; she’s a member of the Chosen, a group of humans selected to protect mankind from the monsters of the Hidden Race. But tonight is no ordinary night in the life of a Chosen. The Ninth has been discovered and Forrest Bastian, Macy's Watcher, has been elected to train and protect the child of prophecy. But when Bastian is murdered the responsibility of teaching and training the Ninth falls to Macy; except Tolen Parks is no small child, he’s seventeen, a clueless wimp, and Macy blames him for Bastian’s death. How can she train and protect someone she hates?
Macy must overcome her resentment, see Tolen for who he truly is and fulfill her role in his destiny. If she doesn’t the demons of the Dark will not stop until they kill him. Without the Ninth the delicate balance between the human and Hidden worlds will collapse and allow the release of an army of evil with a single goal—to destroy the human race and claim this world as their own. . . .
THE LEGEND OF THE NINTH CHOSEN: THE SHADOW PRISON is a 90,000 word YA Contemporary Fantasy, grounded in reality, that pulls the reader in with action, suspense, and a touch of romance; while showing through the points of view of both Macy and Tolen that love, friendship, and loyalty are the most powerful weapons in the war against evil.
I have published a short story with ….  and when I’m not spending time with my husband and two boys camping, watching Ice Age and Merlin marathons, or playing with our motley crew of animals, I’m daydreaming, writing, painting, or volunteering with a local youth group of twelve to eighteen-year-old girls. I enjoy reading many of your book suggestions on goodreads and I would like to think my style compares to that of Lesley Livingston and Ally Condie. I hope my novel can find a place with you as well.  
Thank you for your time and consideration.


Saturday, August 11, 2012

New releases!

If you have a new release and you are a blog follower or editing client, please let us know! We are happy to make the announcement here.

Congratulations to Curtis Moser, for MEMOIRS OF A BAD DOG:

Congratulations to Lu Ann Staheli for A NOTE WORTH TAKING:

Thursday, August 9, 2012

New releases by our blog followers!

If you have a new release and you are a blog follower or editing client, please let us know!

Congrats to the following:

Annette Lyon for PAIGE (The Newport Ladies Book Club series)


Melanie Jacobson for TWITTERPATED

And Josi Kilpack for DAISY (The Newport Ladies Book Club series)

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Boot Camp at the 2012 League of Writers Conference

In lieu of our next Live Critique Workshop this fall, PEG editors will be running the Writers Boot Camp at the 2012 League of Utah Writers Conference.

Boot Camp Details:
September 14, 2012
1:00-5:00 p.m.
Yarrow Hotel and Conference Center in Park City, Utah
Boot Camp price: $35.00
*In advance, you will send in 10 pages of your manuscript, see link below for more info

Register for Boot Camp here

Register for full conference here, Boot Camp Sept 14 & Workshops Sept 15

Speakers include NY Times Best Selling Authors: Barry Eisler, Brandon Sanderson, and Richard Paul Evans

Monday, July 2, 2012

Monday Mania--Query Letter

One of our readers has submitted a query letter for critique. Please offer only constructive comments. 

 Critique Archive #52 

Dear Ms./Mr. Agent,

When Jared McAlister, in New York on business, sees the woman he thought he’d spend the rest of his life with walking down the street, all his anger and unanswered questions come flooding back. Why did Cecelia Chadwick disappear without a word and why did she lead him to believe they had a future together only to vanish? Jared is a successful attorney at the largest law firm in Dallas. As he tries to curb the spending habits of his girlfriend, who is pressuring him to ‘pop’ the question, he also fights against a domineering father. But when he sees the girl he believed would share his future in the city he hates, he finds his quests for unanswered questions isn’t as strong as his desire to be with her again.

Cecelia is a talented interior designer, making her mark in the Big Apple after years of hard work, yet she leads a lonely life, unable to move on from her first love, her only love and unwilling to settle for less. As Jared fights for a new beginning, Cecelia struggles to leave the past behind—both unaware they are being followed and money will change hands for Cecelia to disappear again.

ON THE STREETS OF NEW YORK is my first novel. At 110,000 words, I believe it will appeal to contemporary romance fans. I’m beginning to build a platform with Facebook and Twitter. I’m in the early stages of learning to blog and my next step will be a website. I follow and interact with numerous authors on blogs, Facebook, by email, and on Goodreads. I’m an avid reader and a passionate writer with many stories to tell.

I appreciate your time in considering my query. I have included the first ten pages of my novel, my synopsis, and a brief bio. I look forward to hearing from you soon.



Saturday, June 9, 2012

Mid-West Writers Conference

This is a brand new conference, but it's run by members of the fabulous Storymakers conference (held in Utah annually).

Details taken from Laurie Lewis's blog:

Midwest Writers Conference
Registration is now open!

Date: Saturday, September 15th, 2012
Time: 8 am – 9 pm
Location: Holiday Inn – Olathe (101 W. 151st St., Olathe, KS) 913-829-4000 *Discounted hotel rooms are available for $78/night. Please reference the Storymakers Writers Conference when you call to make a reservation.
Registration Fee: $95, includes all classes, lunch, dinner, and conference materials.

We’re excited to announce our Keynote Speaker:
Lisa Mangum
 (Editor for Deseret Book & Shadow Mountain and Best-Selling Author of The Hourglass Door series)

We’re also delighted to have the following authors as presenters:

Traci Hunter Abramson

Don Carey

  Karen Hoover

Heather Justesen

Josi Kilpack

Laurie (L.C.) Lewis

  Steve Westover

 Pitch your latest story to Lisa Mangum. Appointments are available on a first come first served basis. Meet your favorite authors at the Friday night Authorpalooza. Network with other writers across the Midwest.

Sign up for a day full of awesomeness! Register here:

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Upcoming Writers Conferences


For all children's authors seeking to be published and/or improve their work, The Writing and Illustrating for Young Readers Conference is not to be missed. Held at the Waterford School in Sandy, Utah, June 18-22, the five-day conference offers nine morning workshops with experienced author, editor, or illustrator manuscript critiques. The faculty includes Cynthia and Greg Leitich Smith, Matthew Kirby, Tim Wynne-Jones, A. E. Cannon, Carol Lynch Williams, Ann Dee Ellis, Covenant Communications editor Kirk Shaw, Illustrator Julie Olsen, and many others. The conference also offers an afternoon-only option. This year WIFYR is sponsoring a Writing Competition and Fellowship Award with a $1000 cash prize. Contest deadline is April 20th. For details, go to

The Teen Writers Conference
Registration is now open! Keynote speaker is Elana Johnson. Other speakers include many award-winning authors. Deadline to register is June 15, 2012.
When: Saturday, June 23, 2012
Where: Weber State University
Who: Teens, ages 13-19
Writing Contest!

Register at THE Teen Writers Conference website.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Congrats to Lon Dee & Julie Wright!

We are happy to announce book releases here by our blog followers. Please let us know when you have a new release!

Congrats to Lon Dee on his three new book releases: Amira, Borneo Fever, and The Power of Powers. Learn more about these books on Lon Dee's Official Site. Check out the covers below:

Also, Congrats to Julie Wright on her newest book: Olivia. More about The Newport Ladies Book Club series can be found on the Newport Ladies Blog.