Strengthen your Character.

 

 

Hemingway once said, “When writing a novel, a writer should create living people; people, not characters. A character is a caricature.” So how do you create that depth of realism in your protagonist that makes you (or at least your readers) weep at their misfortunes? How much time should you devote to these exercises? I once attended a Brandon Sanderson book signing where he answered the question saying you need to know (at minimum) these 3 things about each and every character, no matter how minor:

 

  • Where did they come from?
  • What do they want?
  • What’s stopping them from getting it?

 

You will find endless lists online of questions to ask yourself/your characters to help define who they are and how they will function in your story, but I find myself returning to these core questions again and again. It doesn’t need to take long, but the more fully fleshed out these answers are, the more fully your people will live and breathe on every page.

It can be as simple as deciding that my gatekeeper from the village now works in the big city, and just wants to go home and see his visiting daughters for the evening, but this rough-looking traveler is getting in the way. It can be as complicated as detailing the religious beliefs of an political dissident who is plotting a major coup with multiple obstacles. Very versatile.

 

There are a variety of apps that can help as you seek to give your character depth and clarity. I’m not talking about those word processing apps (with a little spunk) like Scrivener or yWriter, I’m talking about dynamic organizational tools that will make your background work on character development and world building easy to find and integrate into your writing.

My very talented niece introduced me to Notebook.ai, a free online app that organizes all of your background information into four integrated categories: Universes, Characters, Locations, and Items. I find it to be a very efficient way of seeing all the pieces I need easily and directly. It includes relationship maps, and can be as simple or as detailed as you like. Its format does encourage you to be succinct, but doesn’t have a character limit that forces the issue.

Another fairly new option is StoryShop. This one is more comprehensive, there is a price tag, but could be worth it. While this one features a character development section, it also provides space for outlines, research, and a word processor so you can keep ALL the pieces in one box. (I will do a follow-up post reviewing these tools and others soon!)

So spend some time fleshing out the people in your stories. Make them live and breathe and desire. No matter their age, they have goals and fears, and something drives their decisions. What is it? Make sure you know.

 

A word of caution: Don’t let your time spend in character development or world building become so all-encompassing that it distracts you from your true goal: Completing that story! You NaNoWriMo soldiers get back to work!

Memoir vs. Autobiography: Does It Really Matter?

Happy November! For most of America, the transition from October to November heralds the end of trick-or-treating and pumpkins and the anticipation of Thanksgiving and the bigger winter holidays, whatever your family celebrates. For writers, however, November first means only one thing: the start of NaNoWriMo—National Novel Writing Month! Our staff has covered this venerable tradition in the past, and we’ve got advice for you if you’re participating this year for everything on staying motivated  to the importance in staying connected with like-minded individuals to reviewing your work after the big rush . Here are some links to get you started:

This post is for the portion of our friends out there who swim in the autobiographical end of the writer’s pool or for those who are thinking about testing those waters this November. We are seeing more and more of a trend towards autobiographical submissions. This is becoming a very popular category of the nonfiction section, and why not? It’s easy to see why people might want to draw from their own personal histories to create an epic novel; there’s an endless source of inspiration to draw from. Anyone can do it, from celebrities to political figures to a person with a story to tell. But hold on a second: does anyone remember that moment in time back in 2006 when A Million Little Pieces was first hailed as a masterpiece then ultimately crucified as a work of fraud? Written by James Frey, the book was billed as a memoir, but on January 8, 2006, The Smoking Gun published an article exposing large portions of the book as fictionalized or gross exaggerations. Mr. Frey was interviewed by Larry King to defend his book three days later, but the real media storm happened on January 26 when Mr. Frey made an appearance on The Oprah Winfrey Show. He was confronted by her and admitted to fabricating many sections of his memoir, which he had previously stated had been fact-checked by his publisher. This ultimately caused an ensuing controversy in which Mr. Frey’s literary manager dropped him and his publisher broke a two-book, seven figure deal. A legal settlement for readers who felt defrauded was also reached, and people were entitled to a refund of their book. That’s a massive consequence for someone who embellished the truth a bit. So where’s the line? Should writers be expected to remember every conversation they’ve ever had when they are recording memories to the page? Is any creative license allowed, or are we in danger of being sued by some disgruntled cousin who doesn’t remember the family reunion going down the way we do? How can we sort through what is fact and what is reasonable fiction? Luckily, there’s an answer to these questions and more.
Everything on this list falls under the umbrella of non-fiction. If I think of writing as dessert, then autobiography is cake. Memoir, narrative nonfiction, personal essays and roman à clef are all just slices of the same cake. Let’s break it down:

Autobiography: An autobiography can be distinguished from the others on the list as the most factual of the bunch. It is told in a linear fashion and should relay all the major life events of the subject in a chronological order. It concerns itself with the entire scope of a person’s life and all of the events, people, places and subjects that relate to a person’s existence as they move forward through their life, not just a few key years, events, feelings or observations of the narrator.

Memoir: This form gives someone more creative license. It can cover a few short years or a major event. Examples might include how someone survived their time in a concentration camp or how they overcame an addiction. It doesn’t have to be harrowing, but it may just focus on one developmental stage and is more likely to reflect strong feelings. It is generally less factual and more emotional. It is far less encompassing in scope than an autobiography. It is generally less formal and may have a more literary feel.

Narrative non-fiction: Narrative or creative non-fiction is a somewhat new and emerging genre. It draws on real-life scenarios, usually something journalistic, but incorporates elements of fiction to become a readable novel. According to literary critic Barbara Lounsberry, there are four recognizable elements to narrative nonfiction: the topics and events must exist in the real world (not in the mind of the author), there must be exhaustive research, all scenes must be in context, and it should all be presented in a literary style. Some examples of narrative nonfiction are The Emperor of All Maladies by Siddhartha Mukherjee and Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly.

Personal essay: This is exactly what it sounds like: an essay that is personal to you. It is generally just a short memoir. A great example of a classic personal essayist is David Sedaris.

Roman à clef: Roman à clef is from the French, meaning “novel with a key.” It began as a way for people to write an expose of famous social and political figures without the risk of reprieve. It is truth with an overlay of fiction. Names or identifying situations can be changed to avoid persecution, but the general public could still understand and enjoy the jab. This could be done for protection of the author or for satirical purposes. The Marquis de Sade often employed the roman à clef to skewer prominent religious and political figures of his day. Today, the roman à clef is still in use for various reasons, including satire, but it can also be used when you’d like to write a memoir but perhaps you would like a bit more creative license than your own story affords you. This is where certain authors—cough, Mr. Frey, cough—could simply have stated his work was inspired by real events. That little disclaimer would have saved him seven figures plus and a whole lot of embarrassment.

These are all just guidelines. Most of them bleed into each other. The important thing to remember is if you have a story to tell that you don’t fret which category you bill it as, but that you get it all down on paper, especially this November! A good editor can help you decide how your memories and your story fit together and what you’d like to call it. Happy writing!

November Events

While I’m sure everyone is excited for Halloween next week, it’s never too early to start planning for all the cool writing events you’ll be attending this November! As it is officially NaNoWriMo, there will be a lot of events this month that revolve around it! Hopefully you can find the perfect event to help you reach your goal! As usual, all of these events are free to attend! Happy writing everyone!

2nd – Tom VanHaaren- “The Road to Ann Arbor” – Ann Arbor

Tom VanHaaren will be at the Literati Bookstore in Ann Arbor to discuss and sign copies of his book; “The Road to Ann Arbor”! While there isn’t a lot of information on this event, it’s sure to be great! More Info through the link!

https://www.triumphbooks.com/tom-vanhaaren—the-road-to-ann-arbor–event-3443.php

3rd –  ‘5th Annual ‘A Gathering of Writers’ Fall Writing Conference’ – Ionia

This conference is jam packed with a variety of workshops and authors, all willing to teach you new skills! There are 5 workshops overall, each offering different tips and tricks about all aspects of writing! Click the link to see descriptions of the workshops, get more information and register!

https://www.eventbrite.com/e/5th-annual-a-gathering-of-writers-fall-writing-conference-tickets-50442754637?aff=ebdssbdestsearch

8th – Lecture: Dr. David Dark – Holland

This lecture will certainty be interesting as Dr. David Dark will be discussing the points of post-apocalyptic novels, and how they challenge our morals. He will also be discussing Emily St. John Mandel’s ‘Station Eleven’ novel in a similar fashion! Click here to register and read more!

https://www.eventbrite.com/e/lecture-dr-david-dark-author-of-lifes-too-short-to-pretend-tickets-50455115609?aff=ebdssbdestsearch

9th – 10th – NaNoWriMo Write or DIE Library Lock-in – Traverse City

Contrary to the title, you will not die! This is an 18+ event held at the Traverse City Library, and participants will spend the night locked in the library to try to meet their NaNoWriMo goals! An interesting event indeed! Don’t forget to register and check out more information through the link!

NaNoWriMo Write or DIE Library Lock-In

10th – Motown Writers Monthly Meetup – Detroit

This group has been meeting since 2000, and is filled with all sorts of writers! A great opportunity to network with other writers and share opinions! Click the link for more information, and to see there other meetups!

Motown Writers Meetup Group

Detroit, MI
2,934 Writers

Hi everyone. This is a group for everyone in the Detroit Area (and Michigan area) who like to write. Whether it’s a novel, short story, poem, autobiography, or any other gener…

Next Meetup

#MotownWriters Monthly @Meetup

Saturday, Nov 10, 2018, 10:00 AM
4 Attending

Check out this Meetup Group →

15th – NaNoWriMo Write in – Lansing

This is just one of many of the NaNoWriMo Write ins that are available in Lansing, the link contains the full list,  and other NaNoWriMo events that they will be hosting!

https://nanowrimo.org/regions/usa-michigan-lansing

18th – Detroit Public Library Welcomes Author David Baldacci – Detroit

Usually I try not to have any of the events in the same locations, but this event was too good to pass up! Possibly a once in a lifetime experience, David Baldacci will be at the Detroit Public Library to sign copies of his new book, ‘Long Road to Mercy’! Here’s the link to register!

https://www.eventbrite.com/e/detroit-public-library-welcomes-author-david-baldacci-tickets-51486421272?aff=ebdssbdestsearch

26th – Barbara Oakley: Learning How to Learn – Port Huron

While this event isn’t directly linked to writing, Barbara Oakley will address how to handle procrastination, learning new material, and bad memory, all of which can cause you to put off writing! Registration and full description of the topics through the link!

https://www.eventbrite.com/e/an-evening-with-author-barbara-oakley-learning-how-to-learn-tickets-51106888078?aff=ebdssbdestsearch

30th –  You Wrote a Novel… Now What? – Ann Arbor

This is a NaNoWriMo wrap up event that will have Brigit Young as a guest speaker! A great way to learn about publishing and celebrate your NaNoWriMo accomplishments! Click the link for more information and other NaNoWriMo events!

https://nanowrimo.org/regions/usa-michigan-ann-arbor

 

I hope you all enjoy these events! Don’t forget to let us know if you go to these events, or others not mentioned, by commenting on this article! We can’t wait to hear from you! Happy November everybody!

Author Spotlight: James D. Taylor Jr.

James Taylor is a Renaissance man, delving into music, history, and writing in his decades long career. As a military veteran, composer, amateur astronomer, and historian, he brings a depth and breadth to his work that is priceless. His penchant for finding a good story in history and talent in finding true sources combine to create intelligent, engaging biographies that reveal his favorite aphorism: truth really is stranger than fiction. He has written four biographies detailing the lives of some of the lesser known Tudor royalty and two about the women behind the enduring Betty Boop. His fantasy novel, Checkmate, entwines Egyptian history with the lives of present-day researchers trying desperately to solve the puzzle that will save the world. You can check out his full list of publications at https://jamesdtaylorjr.com/literary.

 

What first attracted you to Tudor history?

I watched a movie about Lady Jane Grey, which fueled my curiosity… I encountered nothing but inconsistencies with everything I reviewed, such as the spelling of her name and her birth date, to mention a few. I realized that there should be a single unbiased reference available free from embellishments for researchers or just anyone interested in Lady Jane. This led to the following six books for the same reason.

How do you find the documents you use as the backbone for your histories?

Eighty percent of my research still involves reviewing material in libraries and private holdings, as many of the original documents and books are too fragile to be handled for digitalization. This may require traveling out of state. While accumulating material for Helen Kane, I located a single copy of the court trial transcript in New York. The day I was to leave, the copy disappeared. I was rather devastated as the trial transcript was to provide the foundation for the book, and it appeared the project would have to be cancelled. The library frantically searched for the missing copy, but it was never located. About three weeks passed when the librarian located another copy in a law library—that saved the project.

 

What a relief! That would have been disastrous. How do you even know where to look for these materials?

The Tudor era projects are perhaps a bit easier as there is a rather limited selection of published material through history, though sometimes scattered throughout the world. I lost a very dear friend, Dr. Charlene Berry, a research librarian at Madonna University who sometimes helped me with locating pre-1600 books. More often locating sources is like archaeology, but cleaner. I just kept digging and most of the time found nothing, but occasionally I did. I utilize Worldcat.org and Melcat for locating sources not found in local University libraries. The University of Michigan, by the way, has one of the finest libraries in the country.

Your work really brings alive the drama, intrigue, and excitement of people’s lives. How do you do it?

We too often imagine what a person’s life and times are like through the media’s portrayal, which is often very different. Pirates are a good example. Media presents them as dashing, swashbuckling Errol Flynn types instead of deadly, ruthless individuals who patrol the seas looking for easy prey. The Somali pirates we encountered off the coast of Vietnam when I served in the U.S. Navy killed two dozen refugees before we could save the remainder. Usually, fact is more interesting or even unbelievable than fiction. That is my driving motivation, to present the unembellished facts.

 

Tell me about your fascination with Betty Boop.

I felt that Mae Questel’s story had to be told, and the more research I conducted about Mae’s contributions to Betty Boop, the more untold elements I discovered about Betty Boop, which included Helen Kane. Betty Boop was and is an iconic figure known worldwide, but very little is known about her creation and the tragedy that followed. Some of her early (pre-Hayes code) cartoons are very dark even by today’s standards.

 

How on earth did you get celebrities like Woody Allen, Lou Hirsch, Doris Roberts, and Bob Newhart to discuss Mae Questel’s career with you?

I cold contacted all those who worked with Mrs. Questel based on who was still alive, and who would possibly respond; some by direct contact, through the studio, production faculty, or an agent. Constant diligence and persistence yielded those few who did respond. No one simple answer, as each individual warranted a different method. Many of the actors never met her on the set because of the scheduling of shooting times were different. Perhaps as high as eighty percent never responded. This includes family members.

 

That takes real tenacity. Any other tips for budding authors out there on how to research effectively?

Ask questions. Learn to decipher fact from fiction through persistent research. In a class I attended, a woman turned in a report based upon facts she obtained from Wikipedia. When the professor asked if her facts were true, she replied, “Yes, Wikipedia said they were.”

Oh wow. That is sad. You are quite the Renaissance man. Do you find your varied interests help when you sit down to write?

While serving in the military, I visited a dozen countries and had a chance to experience much that those cultures offered. These and life’s experiences have provided me with a valuable tool set allowing me to sometimes view things as others may not.

 

How do you organize your time for your work?

Writing biographies (to me anyway) is like patch-quilting. I will pick a pattern (subject), assemble the swatches (facts), lay them out and assemble them until the final result is something I am proud of. I maintain the discipline required to allocate time and it can vary from an hour to 14 hours a day and if travel is required, more.

 

How do you approach the editing phase of writing?

That is the most tedious aspect of any project in determining what remains or goes. Generally, if information is unclear or I am unable to validate or substantiate it, it is a time consuming decision as to the fate of that information. Depending on the complexity of the project, I will set it aside and re-review it at a later date to possibly gain a fresh perspective.

 

Thank you, James, for your time! It’s been wonderful getting to know you. I look forward to reading your upcoming publications!

Author Spotlight: Ed Myers

Over the course of a week last September, I had the opportunity to administer a series of in-person interviews with the subject of our latest author spotlight, Mr. Ed Myers. I usually conduct my business via e-mail, so this was a rather unusual medium for me, but it turned out to be an unexpected blessing. I don’t use the word blessing lightly; with its overt religious overtones, it can alienate those who disdain the subject, and it can carry a distinctly heavy sort of preaching when it is put into use. I can’t deny that it fits in this case, however; to meet with Ed in person when I would normally choose the more modern route was a blessing to me. I had to consider that, while I am far from tech-savvy, I have taken refuge in insulating myself from much of the lesser social graces that come with meeting someone in person if I can avoid it. That’s the beauty of e-mail and text! I have embraced skipping over that awkwardness that comes with making small talk and chit-chatting about the weather, the uncomfortable pauses, having to listen and feign interest while someone talks about their kids and then trying to decide when it’s too soon to extricate myself from the meeting without being rude. All of this is a moot point over e-mail: it’s quick, to the point, and we none of us must suffer each other’s annoying personal qualities. What could be a more efficient arrangement?

In meeting with Ed this week, particularly for such an extended session, I came to see that there is something more important than efficiency. A connection is forged in that awkwardness borne of face-to-face interaction; there is a certain beauty in the pauses and there is the heart of human experience to be found in time spent in the presence of a person, even a person we don’t know that well. This is lost over e-mail. It may be uncomfortable and inconvenient, it may be time-consuming, but it is necessary sometimes. Especially when the topic is writing or poetry, which deals primarily and fundamentally with the subjects of the heart and how one can best explore those emotional connections. As a writer, I know I am an introvert. As an editor who works with many other writers, I am comfortable in stating that I believe many of my clients also exhibit introverted tendencies, as well. This leads us to the path of avoidance sometimes: avoidance of social contact, uncomfortable situations, and new people. In meeting with Ed this week, I’d like to share that these new experiences wake the sleeping talent in us. They revitalize our creativity even if the cost seems high and we’d prefer to shy away from that source of discomfort. I’m not counseling anyone into a panic attack, but I am pointing out that it is easy to hide behind our wall of technology and forget that human interaction is the best and most important inspiration there is for a writer. I’d like to thank Ed for reminding me of that and for giving me back my inspiration. Now, without further ado, his interview and a poem he wanted to share:

Catherine Foster: Did you like to read poetry growing up?

Ed Meyers: Yes. Edgar Allan Poe was my favorite.

CF: How long have you been writing poetry?

EM: About thirty-five years.

CF: Do you write out of passion or in hopes of publication?

EM: both

CF: What is your inspiration?

EM: Shannon

CF: Your poems are often very emotional and deal with subjects such as love, loss, longing and grief. Many authors struggle to be so open about these feelings. Do you have difficulty tapping into deep emotions and sharing them on the page for others to read?

EM: Yes and no. It’s easy to let my feelings out. It’s not easy to let people read it.

CF: Tell me what you love most about writing.

EM: The chance to express my feelings. It makes me proud.

CF: Poetry is an art form that requires an abundance of patience to master, which you have cultivated; Do you have any words of advice for your fellow poets who may need some direction?

EM: Let it flow.

CF: Thank you for your time with me. Do you have anything else you’d like to say?

EM: It’s hard work to write poetry, but the end product is usually worth the effort. It’s easier to write poetry if you write it with feeling.

Shan

Playing the role of a broken heart

is not easy,

No, not easy

Way to proceed

Like putting

the horse behind the cart.

Being with you

is simple, satisfying, serene; an art.

Tactics to endure.

You move out of the past

but it’s hard to be sure.

Being with you

is so simple

Like learning how to breathe,

for you are the reason for my reprieve.

I’d like to thank Ed for the time he spent with me and for the enormous amount of patience he had with me during these interviews. I’d also like to extend my sincere gratitude to the staff at Origami, particularly Bethany Simon and Kaitlyn Cavazos, for helping facilitate this process.

October Events

October is almost here! September’s wrapping up, and everyone is getting ready for Pumpkin Spice Lattes, Oktoberfest and Halloween, but there’s still time for you to get in on some events that are more centered around writing!  As per usual, here are ten free events in Michigan that are sure to spark some writing creativity within you!

Sept. 15th – Oct. 20th – Give and Let Go Exhibition – Lowell

While this is a repeat from the September events, this unique exhibition will be going on until the 20th  of October! Don’t miss this chance to view an amazing exhibition that features Miriam Pederson’s  poems that accompany Ron Pederson’s welded works of art. More information is available through the link!

https://www.lowellartsmi.org/give-and-let-go

1st – Grand Blanc Authors Meetup – Grand Blanc

This is a group for authors in and around Grand Blanc who are trying to make a living in publishing, they will be meeting at the Grand Blanc – McFarlen Library on the first! For more information, and to RSVP, click that link!

Grand Blanc Authors Meetup

Grand Blanc, MI
127 Members

A group for authors who are wanting to make a full time living in publishing.

Next Meetup

Grand Blanc Authors Meetup

Monday, Oct 1, 2018, 6:00 PM
5 Attending

Check out this Meetup Group →

 

4th – Author Signing: Heather Havrilesky – Ann Arbor

Heather Havrilesky is the author of four published novels and a number of articles, she will be at the Literati Bookstore to sign copies of her books and chat. This is a great chance to meet her! The link contains more information!

https://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/authors/234578/heather-havrilesky/#events

6th – Author Event: A Trail of Michigan Authors – Muskegon

This event will feature over 45 authors from all around Michigan! A very unique event put on by Barnes and Nobles, I doubt you’ll have another chance to meet this many authors in one day again! More information is available through the link!

https://allevents.in/michigan/author-event-a-trail-of-michigan-authors/20001123029231

13th – Indie Author Day Celebration – Lansing

To celebrate National Indie Authors day, Capital Area District Libraries will be holding a panel with authors and the people who make publishing a book a reality at their Downtown Lansing Branch. What an awesome way to celebrate this amazing holiday! Check out the link for more information!

http://www.cadl.org/news/2018/08/29/indie-author-day-2/

16th – Meet Author Sarah Miller discussing ‘Caroline’ – Dansville

Sarah Miller is a Dansville native, and will be at the Capital Area District libraries Dansville Branch to discuss one of her books, ‘Caroline’. The link for this one is a bit finicky, so here is a direct quote from their website, along with a link to the Cadl website;

Meet Author Sarah Miller (Adults)

Tuesday October 16, 2018 6:30pm – 7:30pm

Our group meets every month for a lively book discussion. This month we welcome the author of our selection–Sarah Miller. Her historical fiction novel Caroline explores the joys and hardships of the American frontier as seen through the eyes of Caroline “Ma” Ingalls, mother of Little House author Laura Ingalls Wilder.

http://www.cadl.org/

23rd – Grand Rapids Sci-fi Fantasy Book Club – Grand Rapids

This book club loves everything Sci-fi, and welcomes everyone! This month’s  book is ‘The Grace of Kings’ by Ken Liu, and is the first book in ‘The Dandelion Dynasty’ Series. See their Meetup page for more info!

Grand Rapids Sci-Fi Fantasy Book Club

Grand Rapids, MI
32 Geeks

Do you like to read science fiction and/or fantasy? We are a fun-loving book group that doesn’t get caught up with too many rules or labels. We read everything from Neil Gaima…

Check out this Meetup Group →

24th – Jeffrey Eugenides Author Talk and Book Signing – Detroit

Pages Bookshop and Wayne State University present Jeffrey Eugenides, who will be speaking about his multiple novels and to sign books! To register for this event, and to get more information, check out their Eventbrite page!

https://www.eventbrite.com/e/jeffrey-eugenides-author-talk-book-signing-tickets-49955246487?aff=ebdssbdestsearch

27th – Southwest Michigan Writers Conference – Niles

If you’ve been thinking of self-publishing, then this event is perfect for you! This event will feature many authors and professionals that will share their stories, tips and tricks about self-publishing! For more information, and to register, visit the website below!

Southwest Michigan Writers’ Conference

28th – 1st Annual Grand Traverse Festival of Books – Traverse City

Inspired by the Detroit Festival of Books, this is a brand new event that will be happening for the first time ever! Don’t miss your chance to attend this special occasion! Visit their Meetup page for more information and a link to their website!

1st Annual Grand Traverse Festival of Books

Sunday, Oct 28, 2018, 10:00 AM

Grand Traverse Mall
3200 S Airport Rd West Traverse City, mi

3 Members Attending

*This is NOT a BCD event* 1st Annual Grand Traverse Festival of Books! Sunday, October 28,[masked]am-6pm Grand Traverse Mall 3200 South Airport Road West Traverse City, MI Inspired by the DETROIT FESTIVAL OF BOOKS (aka: Detroit Bookfest), the Grand Traverse area now has a Grand Traverse Festival of Books! Celebrating all things Bookish – this even…

Check out this Meetup →

 

If you attend any of these events, make sure you tell us about them by commenting on this article! we’d love to hear all about it!

Have a great October everyone!

 

September Events

Today is the last day of August, and while I’m sure that most of us are sad to bid summer goodbye, the beginning of fall doesn’t mean that the fun has to end! As per usual, here are this months’ picks of 10 free writing events in Michigan! To those fretting that this months’ list will be filled with premature Oktoberfest’s and Halloween events, I assure you that there are none featured this month! And as always, if there are any events this month, or next month, that you’ve either gone to or planning on attending, we’d love if you could comment and tell us all about them!

 1st – Mitchell State Park – They Call it the Mighty Mac – Cadillac

A good research trip for any writer, this event will feature information about the construction of the Mackinaw Bridge, what it means to Michigan, and a multitude of stories associated with the bridge.  The link below will direct you to more information and the location of this awesome event!

https://www.michigan.gov/dnr/0,,7-350–464822–evt,00.html

8th – Author/Artist David Small Presents: ‘Home After Dark’ – Kalamazoo

David Small will be at “this is a bookstore & Bookbug – An Independant Bookstore for all Ages” for this pre-release event. He will be signing copies of his new book, ‘Home After Dark’. There will be copies available for purchase, but the overall event is free to attend!  Visit this events Eventbrite page for more info!

https://www.eventbrite.com/e/authorartist-david-small-presents-home-after-dark-tickets-48165750055

9th – Kerrytown Bookfest – Ann Arbor

The 16th annual Kerrytown Bookfest in Ann Arbor, this event is a celebration of all things books, and will have multiple authors available to answer any and all questions you might have! Visit their Facebook page for more information;

https://www.facebook.com/kerrytownbookfest/

11th – Fiction for Foodies – Niles

The Niles District Library holds Fiction for Foodies every second Tuesday of the month, and what could be better than food and books? This book club features a potluck at every months’ meeting! Click the link to for more information on this book club, and to check out the other book clubs this library features!

Book Clubs

12th – Author Talk: Annie Spence – Grand Blanc

Annie Spence, author of ‘Fahrenheit 451: Love and heartbreak in the Stacks’, will be at the Grand Blanc-McFarlen Library to talk about writing her book, stories that she treasures and a variety of other subjects! There will also be the opportunity to get your copy of her book signed! More information through the link!

https://www.thegdl.org/grand-blanc-mcfarlen-library-events/event/6751-author-talk-annie-spence-grand-blanc-mcfarlen

15th – Oct. 20th – Give and Let go Exhibition – Lowell

Ron and Miriam Pederson present their exhibition, ‘Give and Let go’,  a combination of art and poetry. Miriam writes poetry to go with Ron’s welded and painted sculptors! An interesting way to gather ideas about writing your own poetry! This exhibition will be available for viewing starting September 15th, and the last day to view the gallery will be October 20th. Visit the link for more information!

https://www.lowellartsmi.org/give-and-let-go

18th – Lansing Young Adult (At Heart) Book Club – Lansing

A brand new book club for those who enjoy reading Young Adult books, this club is having it’s first meeting to decide what books to read while enjoying some good food! Meet great people who enjoy reading the same genre as you! More information on their meetup page;

Lansing Young Adult (at heart) Book Club

Lansing, MI
28 Readers

If you’ve ever found yourself browsing the “Teen” section of your local bookstore, love food and discussion, then this is the group for you! We will have meetings each month d…

Next Meetup

Punk Taco & Brainstorming!

Tuesday, Sep 18, 2018, 6:30 PM
7 Attending

Check out this Meetup Group →

 

22nd – Mary Schmidt: Author Meet & Greet – Holland

Mary Schmidt will be available to talk and sign copies of her book; ‘Uncharted Waters: Romance, Adventure, and Advocacy on the Great Lakes’.  There will be lots of discussion about the Great Lakes, and other topics featured in the book! View the link for more information!

https://stores.barnesandnoble.com/event/9780061958736-0

24th – Self-Publishing 101 with Lisa Howard – Southfield

If you’ve been thinking about publishing your writing, this event is perfect for you! Not only does Lisa Howard have experience with self-publishing, but traditional publishing as well! Here’s the link for more information!

Self-Publishing 101, with Lisa Howard

 

 

 

 

 

 

28th – 30th – Festival of the Book – Harbor Springs

I highly recommend going straight to the website for information on this event! There is a huge selection of festivities available from all genres, along with a variety of authors that will be attending!

https://www.hsfotb.org/

As always, if you attend any of these events, please comment and tell us about them! Have a great September everyone!

 

 

 

 

Behind the Book: All of Yesterday’s Tomorrows by Ramez Qureshi (Part 2)

This is the second in a two-part series. if you missed part 1, click here!

Welcome back! Last month I promised I’d get down and dirty with prepress details and insights when working with traditional print houses. Depending on your book, it may make more sense for you to self-publish and use a print-on-demand service like Lulu, or Amazon’s CreateSpace, but for the first editions of All of Yesterday’s Tomorrows, we were on a mission to create a limited release hardcover that felt unique and had character, an artifact that Ramez’s family, friends, and readers could treasure forever. Whether you have written a book and are thinking about self-publishing, or if you are operating an independent publisher, I hope this clarifies some of the mystery behind bringing a book into the world.

As you may recall, we had a last minute print house swap, which led to some cover measurement readjustments. Now this was not only an issue we had to shovel onto our brave jacket designer, Jason Yocum, but I also had to retool the file for the foil stamping on the spine behind the jacket. Fortunately, we only went with a single hit of foil, but if you add stamping to the front cover, be mindful of additional costs.

Foil stamping on the book spine

While we’re on additional costs, are you ready for the big one? Our primary financial surprise came in the form of shipping charges for proofs. Due to some color matching issues, we had to get a second proof of the jacket. Two jacket proofs and one text proof cost a mere $5 less than we paid to ship the entire order of finished books! We were aware of the base price for proofs, but we did not know that the shipping would be expedited and the additional cost would be added to our invoice. If you’re on a budget and not crunched for time, you’d be wise to ask for more shipping options on your proofs.

Jacket Proofs
The difference is so slight, yet so critical!

Another thing to remember is that proofs are the very last line of defense, so do your side-by-side comparisons and knock out all those edits before you send those final files to the printers! We’ll be happy to take care of this for you—our rates are right there on our homepage. This is an important detail, because both printers and eBook converters will charge for additional edits, and those rates are nowhere near as reasonable as ours!

Digital editions are somewhat less complicated during these stages, but that doesn’t mean they require less attention. What’s that? Did I just hear you say, “But Josh, I’m not going to release an eBook?” Let me stop you right there. I don’t care how much of a physical book purist you are, you aren’t the one who will be buying all of your books (I hope), so offer eBooks to your readers. Still not convinced? Digital books are a necessity for a lot of people with disabilities, and are significantly cheaper, which is great for folks with limited incomes. Even if you’re a heartless bastard, you can’t deny that a bigger audience pool equals more potential readers, and why publish if you don’t want readers?

If that last part applies, maybe we can work on you being less of a heartless bastard in a future post…

Until then, BACK TO EBOOKS! There are several DIY options for eBook conversion, such as Calibre, but these programs are notorious for their steep learning curves, so don’t even click that link if you struggle with everyday apps. If you’re feeling bold and have a simple layout, Bookow has an automated eBook layout program that appears easier to navigate than most, but if you have any specific layout elements in mind, you’ll want some human input. Fortunately, you can get an eBook conversion done for as low as $200, just make sure you’re getting both .mobi and .epub formats. Remember Bookow? They offer custom formatting from $250, but ultimately we went with Bookmobile because of the relatively complex nature of poetry formatting. Hot tip—poetry eBook conversions cost more due to this complexity. Our eBooks came out slick thanks to Arna & the crew at Bookmobile, and I fully endorse both their work and their customer service!

As soon as you have a manuscript that’s ready to publish, it’s time to also start thinking about high-resolution file formatting for both print and digital. Once  you are in contact with your printer and eBook converter, start asking questions about files. If you’re not familiar with the deep and varied range of options available within PDF files, brace yourself, because both formats require specific types of PDFs with fonts embedded. Get measurements for EVERYTHING. Find out what file types each company needs for images and text. Our eBook cover had to be at least 300 dpi and a minimum height of 2560 pixels, so keep this in mind when you’re sourcing cover art as well! If you haven’t had any experience with digital design, you might be better off hiring someone to handle this for you.

At the very least, I absolutely recommend hiring a designer for the cover. This is one of the most discussed topics I’ve ever seen in the worlds of self and indie publishing, and while anyone can slap a title and author name on a stunning piece of art, that usually doesn’t make for a great book cover. Design as a trade has been so diminished by the wide availability of programs like Photoshop and even the MS Office Suite, that anyone who can navigate a computer thinks it’s as simple as stacking the required layers and making the text readable. I assure you, fellow do-it-yourselfer, that a trained designer has an understanding of how and why visual elements work that most of us couldn’t hope to grasp. Give them your money, it will absolutely help you sell books. The same suggestion applies to cover artwork. Self-publishing is plagued by bad book covers, and I’m willing to bet more than a few outstanding authors have missed their shot because despite what we’re taught, we judge books by their covers.

Are you forgetting anything?

Did you buy ISBN’s? You’ll need these before you can finish your cover and your title page, so get these early. You can only get them from Bowker and they’re not cheap. Buy a pack if you can, because your eBook will need its own number as well.

Did you get a barcode? There are lots of options out there, but I’ll mention Bookow again because we used their killer barcode generator. These barcodes meet all retailer requirements, are high-resolution, and the generator is free! Once I tested ours out, I made a donation because Steve at Bookow was super helpful when I inquired about poetry formatting, and this utility is just so good, you’ll feel like you’re stealing if you get these barcodes for free!

Want your book in the Library of Congress? Of course you do! You’ll need to submit some information to their website before you send your final files to your printer and digital converter, as your PCN number will go on the publication data page. It’s a little confusing, but read the instructions carefully and you’ll have it in no time.

There’s a lot to this process, so if you have any additional questions, I’m happy to answer them in the comments!

Now that you know all the details that made this book a reality, get a copy for yourself!

Buy direct from Bedlam Publishing
or
Buy on Amazon

August Events

July has ended, which means that it’s time for a new events article! If you’re bored or just looking for some inspiration to get started writing again, these 10 FREE events in Michigan are perfect for you! The events picked each month cover a variety of different topics, all centered around writing! From book clubs to writing workshops, author meet-and-greets,  book signings, and much more, you’ll always find something interesting to do!

August 4th – Goodrich – Local Authors Tent

A variety of local authors will be available for discussions, book signings, and questions. This is also a family friendly event! Definitely a great day trip to take with the family!   Visit their Facebook page for more information!

https://m.facebook.com/events/460588177722160/?utm_source=booksigningevent.com&utm_medium=content

August 7th – Nagaunee – Sunburns to Snowstorms: Upper Michigan Weather in Pictures and Stories

The Michigan Iron Industry Museum presents meteorologist Karl Bohnak and photographer and photo collector Jack Deo. They will be discussing their new book, and will be available to sign copies after their presentation. Don’t miss out on this opportunity to learn about an interesting topic! Visit the website below for more info!

https://www.michigan.org/event/sunburns-snowstorms-upper-michigan-weather-pictures-and-stories

August 9th – Escanaba – Local Author Fair

Local authors from Escanaba gather to take part in this Author Fair! The festivities include complimentary concessions, meet-and-greets with the authors, and book signings! Click on the link below for more information!

Local Author Fair

August 10th – Ann Arbor –  Rhys Bowen & Susan Elia MacNeal

The Ann Arbor District Library is holding an interview with Rhys Bowen and Susan Ella MacNeal about their latest published books! Thsi is sure to be an interesting activity for all book lovers! Visit The Ann Arbor District Library’s website to learn more!

https://aadl.org/node/373384

August 16th – Romeo – Romeo Writer’s Group

A great writing group situated in Romeo, Michigan that encourages and supports writers. Share your writing and listen to others at this month’s meeting! More information is provided through the link!

http://www.myrecordnewspaper.com/?tribe_events=romeo-writers-group-2-2018-08-16&eventDate=2018-08-16

August 18th –  Lansing – “Dyed in the Wool” Book Signing 

Dr. Linda Lee Tarver’s book, “Dyed in the Wool” is a bestseller on Amazon, and she will be holding a book signing at The Barnes and Nobles book store at The Lansing Mall! Don’t miss this chance to meet her! Click the link for more info!

https://www.eventbrite.com/e/dyed-in-the-wool-book-signing-tickets-48506534350

August 21st – Rochester Hills – Freelance Marketplace Writers’ Group

While most writing groups focus on writing skills and critiquing  their fellow writers work, this group is all about the business side of being a writer. Perfect for writers interested in getting published, thinking about self-publishing, and being a professional writer in general! Don’t miss out on learning some very valuable information! Check out the link for more details!

Freelance Marketplace Writers’ Group

Tuesday, Aug 21, 2018, 7:30 PM

Barnes & Noble
2800 S Rochester Rd Rochester Hills, MI

2 Rochester Writers Attending

This Rochester based group is open to all new, working, and published writers, photographers, and illustrators. All genres welcome and free to attend. We are NOT a critique group – we discuss the business of writing. We meet the third Tuesday of the month* – come once, once in a while, or every time – hope you can join us.Our meeting could be anyw…

Check out this Meetup →

 

August 22nd – Muskegon – Left to Write – Creative Writing Group

Open to writers of all ages, this writing group focuses on making connections to other writers and using writing exercises to help facilitate growth! A perfect group for any writer to join! Don’t miss it! More information provided through the link!

https://www.hackleylibrary.org/events/locally-hosted-events/hpl/32280-left-to-write-2

August 23rd – Kalamazoo – RAWK READS: Summer Writing Students Read Selected Work

A great event that supports young writers! Come and listen to the participating students read their works and celebrate the wonders of writing! Definitely an event you don’t want to miss! Check out the link for more info!

https://www.eventbrite.com/e/rawk-reads-summer-writing-students-read-selected-work-tickets-48237928944

August 28th – Ferndale – Book Club: All the Ugly and Wonderful Things

A book club that focuses on personal growth through reading. Their book this month is ‘All the Ugly and Wonderful Things’ by Bryn Greenwood! Don’t forget to read it before attending the meeting! Check out the link below!

https://www.eventbrite.com/e/book-club-all-the-ugly-and-wonderful-things-tickets-48316099755

There are some amazing events this month! Don’t forget to tag us when you tell everyone what an awesome time you had! Have a great August everybody!

 

 

 

Behind the Book: All of Yesterday’s Tomorrows by Ramez Qureshi (Part 1)

We at The LetterWorks were recently involved in the publication of the first book by Bedlam Publishing, an indie publisher and sister company to TLW. (Full disclosure: I’m the Editor-in-Chief over there!) That book is Ramez Qureshi’s All of Yesterday’s Tomorrows: Collected Poems, and I wanted to take this opportunity to discuss some of the behind-the-scenes action that we don’t often consider when reading, writing, or even editing these wondrous little artifacts we call books.

It all started with the pitch. Bedlam doesn’t typically consider book pitches, as we are a tiny, D.I.Y. operation with a budget equivalent to the contents of the space beneath your couch cushions. Under normal circumstances, we can’t afford the cost of printing … but this was no normal circumstance. Writer, modern thinker, and all around top-notch individual, Ali Eteraz (whom we published in the first issue of our digital art/lit magazine, Loud Zoo in 2014), reached out to us with a poet, a vision, and a budget. We were definitely interested, and once he told us about Ramez and sent us a selection of his work, we were on board.

Ramez Qureshi
Ramez Qureshi

Ramez Qureshi was an astounding person. Both brilliant and compassionate, he earned his master’s degree at the age of 19 from the University of Pennsylvania and tutored underprivileged children in the area while in school. He was an avid reader and loved the arts profoundly. In addition to poetry, he wrote and published several critiques of books and gallery shows. Shortly after his college graduation, he was diagnosed with bipolar schizoaffective disorder, and spent time in and out of institutions. Through his struggles, Ramez held tight to his love of poetry, and those closest to him have stated that poetry and the poets he befriended through his online and local communities kept him alive for a number of years. The world lost Ramez in March of 2001, a victim of suicide spurred by his illness.

Ramez’s family made attempts to publish his work over the years, and though progress was made, nothing quite panned out. When Ramez’s sister, Sofia,  met Ali, the gears began to turn once more. In the original plan, Ali was to act as the editor, making final decisions on selections and order, as well as writing the introduction. Unfortunately, just as the book was picking up steam, he was sidelined by personal projects and responsibilities, and had to walk away. After discussion with Ramez’s family, it was decided that we would proceed and I would take on a more active role. Nikki Moen and Catherine Foster (who pulls double-duty, working at Bedlam and The LetterWorks) jumped in to read through the thousands of pieces and start deciding which ones would make the cut.

At this point, Catherine’s role expanded into The LetterWorks territory, as Ramez’s family had a box of handwritten pieces that they wanted transcribed and considered for the collection as well. This box of poems doubled our pool, but Catherine worked dutifully and had them transcribed before we knew it! Attention: writers who love to compose longhand, we can help with those stacks of stories you don’t know what to do with!

As things started firming up, Nikki, Catherine, Sofia, and I went on a mission to find the perfect cover art. We scoured the web, reached out to artist friends, and passed images back and forth until we saw “Cosmic Love 1” by Artem Mirolevich on the fine art website saatchiart.com. When Sofia shared a dream she had had about an “art office” that was promoting an artist who used a parachute in his work, we knew we had it. Was it meant to be? Look at this cover and tell me it wasn’t!

All of Yesterday's Tomorrows cover
All of Yesterday’s Tomorrows cover

We hired the incomparable Jason Yocum to design the jacket, and he was a joy to work with, even when we had to switch print houses at the last minute, requiring all sorts of measurement adjustments. (Thanks ‘n’ sorry, Jason!)

Wait a minute, did you just say you switched print houses … at the last minute??

That is correct. After working out the numerous details of production with [NAME REDACTED], there was a sharp and inexplicable price increase. When I politely inquired about said increase, I was met with silence. Ghosted by the print shop … So, I went back to my bookshelf and noticed that some of the best looking tomes from small presses had come from Maple Press in York, Pennsylvania. I reached out, got a quote, and we were back in business!

I highly recommend Maple Press if you’re looking to produce a book that has more character than your average print-on-demand book. Ramez’s family wanted something that looked and felt special, so we opted for a short-run of hardcovers with heavy, off-white, recycled paper with rough edges; which Maple delivered exquisitely. They were easy to work with, always friendly and professional, and, well … look at these books!!

Once we had completed two rounds of voting on which poems were most likely to make a great collection, Sofia consulted Associate Professor of Literature and Visual Studies at NYU Abu Dhabi, Shamoon Zamir. Not only did he help with the final piece selection, he ultimately developed the thematic order of the book. He also made a strong case for the title poem, which we nearly left out. “All of Yesterday’s Tomorrows” (the poem) is a forty-plus page experimental behemoth that explores Jenny Holzer’s Truisms, a Marxism conference, the Popol Vuh, statements made at the end of relationships, and somehow, quite a bit more. Ramez himself described the piece as “a philosophical meditation on the dialectics of arts and politics.” You may understand our hesitation to include such an extensive, experimental piece, but of course Shamoon was correct. We placed it at the end of the book, and while it’s not a light read, it is certainly Ramez’s most ambitious work. It evokes a tangible movement, and while you may not know where it’s taking you, its pull is undeniable.

We had a table of contents. We had a cover. We thought we were close. We had no idea…

Check in next time for Part 2, in which I get detailed about the prepress process in hopes of helping prospective publishers avoid some of the headaches and financial missteps we faced! In the meantime, you can buy Ramez’s wonderful book in the special edition hardcover (includes free eBook!), or all digital formats!

Buy direct from Bedlam Publishing
or
Buy on Amazon