Calliope Writing Workshops

I attended two writing workshops over the last two weekends: “Compel, Polish, Pitch & Sign” and “The Crucible.” This is the first set of workshops I’ve attended since I graduated from college. In other words, it’s been a long time since I’ve done anything like this. This was an interesting opportunity and it had some unique aspects.  The thing that drew me to the workshop was being able to pitch my novel to publishers and agents. It also appeared to be a small enough workshop that I wouldn’t be overwhelmed by crowds.

Those that know me understand that I do my best to be impartial. I rarely enthusiastically embrace anything completely. I am a cynic and dichotomies annoy me. Everything falls somewhere on a spectrum and usually it’s a mixed bag. When asked, “Would you recommend this workshop to others?” I respond with a resounding maybe. This workshop isn’t for everyone. I’m not saying this in an exclusionary way. I think for some people it’s an awesome opportunity and for others it’ll simply be frustrating.

PROS

I’m not gonna lie. Angie Fenimore knows how to make things happen. She is extremely well connected and she knows her stuff. Her confidence and exuberance have opened doors for her. She puts things out to the universe and the universe responds.

One of the big lessons I learned is the importance of doing things in spite of your emotional response. The example given is if you put your foot on the gas pedal in your car, it’ll move regardless of your emotional state. I’ve often allowed my emotions to dictate what I do or what I avoid and it has been detrimental to my writing career. This tip is something I’m incorporating into the way I do things.

Another big lesson I learned is to figure out why you fear certain things, acknowledging that fear, and moving in spite of that fear. I have a lot of emotional baggage that will take some time to work through. I touched on this in my last post regarding my last name. For the life of me I couldn’t write a simple bio as long as I used my given last name. Once I acknowledged this and used the name that is me, I was able to write a killer intro. This knowledge will help me with other intros I’m doing a lot of right now since I’m job hunting and I always stumble over the “Tell me about yourself” question.

The other thing that was great is the assistance with writing a great pitch and delivering a great pitch. This went more in depth during the second workshop, The Crucible. Angie and her team did a terrific job explaining what worked and what didn’t work for writing and delivering the pitch. We practiced our pitches for hours before we delivered them on Sunday.

During the first workshop there was a panel of writers, agents, and publishers. Listening to the panelists was eye opening. I don’t think I fully realized how long it takes to get a novel published after it has been accepted.

Lance Allred, the first deaf NBA player, spoke with us during the first workshop. Listening to his struggles with getting his book published and the importance of integrity was amazing. He is a terrific guy and I am so grateful we got to speak with him. Integrity was another main theme of both workshops. The importance of honoring your word was emphasized. I realized how there have been times I haven’t honored my word and how corrupting it is to my self worth.

As promised, an agent wants to see the first three chapters of Helena once I polish them up. It was pointed out that in my first page I “head hopped” or changed perspective. I obviously don’t have an issue with this. In my head stories play like movies. When I watch a movie I get multiple perspectives at once. In older novels this wasn’t unusual but I guess it’s frowned upon in this century so I’ll adjust it since it won’t affect the story. Added bonus: the agent who wants to see this novel is someone I came to trust over the last two weekends. She is an amazing woman who is empathetic, passionate, and likes Shakespeare. She is someone I like even if she decides not to be my agent after looking at those chapters.

Cons

The cost. I registered for both workshops and received the early bird special and it was just under $800. I was offered a payment plan, but since I don’t have funds coming in that really wouldn’t help me; the money came out of the same part of my savings. If you aren’t tight on funds the cost probably won’t be an issue for you. Considering they took care of all the meals and even snacks as well as the one on one time with agents and publishers, that’s probably a pretty good deal. The other up side is you can attend future workshops at a steeply discounted price. So…YMMV.

I’m not fully convinced that throwing your intentions out into the universe works for everyone or everything. You can speak your intention and create a solid plan of action and follow through but things don’t always work out that way. I can say that next year this time I’ll be a best selling author, I can write a kick ass novel, have an awesome agent, and convince all my friends to buy my book, but there are other variables like how long it takes for a publisher to accept the novel, publish the novel, and getting people beyond my network to buy it. That takes a bit of random luck and other people so it isn’t completely in my control.

I’m not gonna lie. I thought the second workshop was better than the first. Quite a bit of the info from the first workshop was repeated for the first part of the second workshop. I’m not sure the first workshop needs to be three days long. The first workshop seemed really disorganized and I left after three days feeling frustrated and wondering if I had thrown away a good chunk of my savings.This may be due to the fact that the producers were really sick with the flu the weeks leading up to the event. I also felt like there was an infomercial aspect to the last part of that first conference, encouraging us to pay $$$ for personal coaching and web design. I don’t doubt their other services are amazing, but listening to a sales pitch after three intense days left a bad taste for me. All I wanted at that point was to go home.

I really expected to speak with more publishers and agents. There was a total of two publishers and two agents. I was under the impression there would be more chances to speak with publishers and agents. Again, this might be an anomaly, but I’ll have to attend later sessions to find out.

Overall, I did get a lot out of this workshop and I’m happy I went. I met some awesome fellow writers with whom I’ll keep in touch. I learned some techniques that will keep the fear of failure at bay and keep me writing. If you are interested in learning more, here’s a link to their website: http://www.calliopewritingcoach.com/

What’s In a Name?

What’s in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet;

~Romeo and Juliet Act II Scene II

I spent the weekend at my first writing workshop. I had some interesting insights, some of which I’m still processing.

I was having difficulties creating an introduction. This is nothing new. I have never been good at introducing myself; I stumble through the question “So, tell me about yourself” whenever it is asked (which is frequently since I’m job hunting).  After a rather frustrating day culminating in me stumbling through pitching my Nanowrimo novel Helena to a publisher and an agent, I collapsed in my bed in tears. How could it be so difficult to say, “Hi, I’m Laurie Richards and I have an awesome retelling of All’s Well That Ends Well that will knock your socks off?” For this INFP writer, it’s a gargantuan task, in spite of my public speaking and performance abilities.

My given name is Laurie Diane Richards. It’s my legal name, but it’s not a name with which I can identify. I had a difficult childhood and my primary role models came from my mother’s side of the family—surname Lawrence. Everyone advised me not to change my name when I was eighteen; it was practical advise; after all, I’d get married in a year or two and then I’d take my husband’s name. Life happened and all of those traditional dreams of being a normal Mormon girl dissolved. I evolved into someone else, as many of us do in our twenties. Long story short, I’ve never been able to afford to change my name. So in my head I’m Laurie Diane Lawrence.

If you know a little about names, Laurie is a diminutive form of Lawrence. I’m not certain Laurie Lawrence is the best name for a writer. That said, I love it because it encompasses two amazing grandmothers who encourage me from the afterlife. My grandma, Helen Heath Lawrence, pokes at me once in a while. For the first two years of my life she and my grandpa Lawrence were my two favorite people in the world. My great grandma Louisa. I never knew her in person, but she is sort of a guardian angel. If you can’t tell I see spirits. I ran across a picture of her one day and immediately said, “That’s who you are!”

We attended some of the Heath family reunions after my grandma died. Heath is a name I connect strongly to. Members of the Heath family have been creative and I don’t doubt I inherited a lot of my creativity from the Heath genes. I also look more and more like my grandma as the years go by. I wear that badge with pride.

So instead of sleeping Saturday night I wrote my introduction as Laurie Heath. It flowed without hesitation. Names are powerful. They can spur us on to wonderful heights or crush us by what or who we are reminded of by them.

My Rights as a Woman at Any Size

I have the right to take up all the space my body needs.

I have the right to love and be loved.

I have the right to move freely and express myself in my own ways.

I have the right to feel sexy.

I have the right to feel beautiful.

I have the right to move with dignity and grace.

I have the right to be treated with dignity.

I have the right to love myself as I am NOW; not as I wish I was or as I was at another time in my life.

I have the right to feel successful and fulfilled in all aspects of my life.

I have the right to live joyfully and fully.

I have the right to be a goddess.