Top Ten Tips from a first-time writing festival attendee

By Eileen Hammond

Buckeye Crime Writers member

I recently had the good fortune of attending the Magna Cum Murder writing festival in Indianapolis. As I reflect back, here are some takeaways from the conference.

  1. Book the conference hotel as soon as you know you will be attending. You will feel more a part of the action, as you will be having conversations in the elevator, in line for coffee, etc.
  2. Practice the elevator pitch for your book or for the project on which you are currently working. There were quite a few occasions where someone asked me what I was writing. It’s a great opportunity to share the great stuff you are doing.
  3. Order bookmarks or cards for your books, if you are published. (Thank you to board members Kandy Williams and Connie Berry for that suggestion.) After giving your elevator pitch you will be happy to be able to have something to give out as a reminder. It also makes you look more professional. I used vistaprint.com and was quite pleased with the results.
  4. Go to all the sessions you can. I got something out of nearly every one I attended. Bring a notepad and a pen. You never know when your next best idea will be triggered.
  5. Go for the weekend, if you can afford it, especially if it is a smaller conference. You will run into people repeatedly: they will get to know you and you them. According to some of the authors with which I spoke, this is a more intimate conference. It was a true family-like atmosphere.
  6. Get the complete experience. If you are an author or hope to be one someday, buy at least one of the books for sale and have it signed.
  7. Bring your laptop. There was an impromptu time-bound writing contest sponsored by the Indianapolis chapter of Sisters in Crime. (Two hundred and fifty words centered on or based on a Christmas carol.)
  8. Engage with the other attendees. Even if you go by yourself, you will feel like you are part of the community. Plus it’s a great opportunity to learn. At the lunch table a New York Times bestselling author suggested aspiring writers attend the Penn Writers conference, which is in Pittsburgh next year. It sounds like an intensive three days.
  9. Ask questions. The panel authors are grateful to get them and you can get answers to writing questions that may be vexing you.
  10. If you are a published author, let the organizers of the conference know (yes, even independent authors). When I signed up in May, I wasn’t, but by mid-October I had two books out. They are always looking for people to be on panels. And they had a place for readers to purchase panelists’ books and specific book signing times.
    Panel discussion, Old FriendsParnell Hall (left) and John Gilstrap meet in a panel discussion at Magna Cum Murder.
Guest of honor interview
Guest of honor John Gilstrap (right) with honoree Reavis Z. Wortham.
Lost in Translation panel
From left, Albert Bell, Ethan Cross, Elena Hartwell, Charles Todd and Larry Sweazy participate in the Lost in Translation Panel at Magna Cum Murder 2018.
Magna Cum Murder banquet
Keynote speaker Peter Lovesey was honored at the Magna Cum Murder banquet.

Book Review: Nabokov’s Favorite Word Is Mauve

By Patrick Stuart

Confession:  I use the word ‘that’ way, way too much.  OK, not that much. See? Just did it.  ‘That’ is one of those words that sneaks into my rough drafts with regularity, then when I go back for a revision I notice them popping up like mushrooms after a rainstorm. Not that that’s the worst . . . dammit. Twice this time. Does anyone else do this?

Turns out; yeah. A lot, actually. Even with famous authors who end up contradicting their own writerly advice. Which is what statistical word nerd Ben Blatt set out to find in his fascinating book Nabokov’s Favorite Word Is Mauve. By comparing several well-known authors of different genres and the books we know them for, he ran their work through complex computer programs to parse out their commonalities and secret habits. You know how Stephen King likes to slam adverbs (i.e., words ending in -ly)? Turns out he’s not quite so adverse with adverbs; he’s actually somewhere in the middle of the pack with usage (between Salman Rushdie and Charles Dickens). At the low end is Ernest Hemingway, whereas the high end tops out with E.L. James (50 Shades of Gray series) and J.K. Rowling. Which posits the following theory:

More adverbs > commercial work

Less adverbs > literary work

So maybe Mr. King has a point with his prejudice of sadly, suddenly, and tearfully (note: he’s hardly the only author against extraneous adverb usage). However, as the shopping channel likes to say; but wait, there’s more. Ben also compares the novels of Toni Morrison, Kurt Vonnegut, William Faulkner and others, and it turns out their most famous works (e.g., Beloved, Cat’s Cradle, The Sound and the Fury, etc.) also use less adverbs, while their lesser-known books tend to be more adverb-heavy.  Which further supports the prejudice against adverbs:

Less adverbs > higher literary quality

More adverbs > lower literary quality

But it’s not just adverbs.  No, Ben’s just getting started. There’s comparisons of swearing between male and female authors, the use of exclamation points (!), qualifiers (e.g., very), sentence length, clichés (spoiler: James Patterson and Janet Evanovich use the most), similes, and, yes, favorite words (hence the title). By taking blind snippets of books, Ben can even statistically predict who the authors were… imagine using that in a jury scene with an anonymous ransom note. One minor criticism: NKWIS is filled with statistical data, numerous bar charts, scatter plots and lists, which can come across a little dry at times. But ultimately, by teasing out these wonderful little factoids, it’s a fascinating trip inside the minds of our favorite authors and their literary peccadillos.  And that’s why this is recommended for your to-read list (another ‘that’ … shut up).

(Nabokov’s Favorite Word Is Mauve, by Ben Blatt, The Atlantic, Simon & Schuster, pub. 2017

An Afternoon With New York Literary Agent Victoria Selvaggio

Writers, are you ready to spend an afternoon getting advice from a literary agent? Most agents live in NYC, making it a RARE opportunity that you can sit and chat with such a professional in a relaxed setting–not in the hussle-bussle of an expensive conference. So come hang out with us, and Ms. Vicki, for this unique event.

AND, for those who are interested, she will be reading and reviewing your query letters. There is a fee of $10 per query letter you wish to submit. Payment and query letters are required in advance of the meeting.
You can pay through Eventbrite, there is a link on our web site or you can go to Eventbrite and pay directly.

Please feel free to contact us if you have any questions. We’ll also be enjoying lunch afterward, so plan on joining us!

A Midsummer Murder Workshop

 Agenda

9:00 am – 9:30 am                   Registration, Continental Breakfast

9:30 am – 11:00 am                 Award-winning Pittsburgh author, Nancy Martin, on“The Ten Questions Before Starting Your Novel”

11:15 am – 12:15 pm               Karen Harper, NY Times and USA Today bestselling author, on “Ten Tips From the Trenches: A 32- year published author talks about what works to get and stay published”

12:15 pm – 1:30 pm                Lunch on your own at the food court

1:30 pm – 2:30 pm                 Mindy McGinnis, 2016 Edgar Award Winner for Best YA Mystery Novel, on “Writing a Historical Mystery with Modern Appeal”

2:45 pm – 3:45 pm                 Successful romance novelist turned mystery maven, Duffy Brown, talks about “Plotting the Page-turner or 12 tricks on how to add a sense of breathlessness, anticipation, and sheer gotta-know-more to your story”

3:45 pm – 4:00 pm                 Afternoon Snack

4:00 pm – 5 pm                      General panel discussion: all Authors “21st Century Publishing: Where Is It Going and What Do We Do About it?

5:00 pm – 5:30 pm                 Author book sale and signing

During the afternoon, Nancy Martin will provide individual ten-minute critique sessions for the first ten participants who register for a critique. You will receive your scheduled time on the day of the workshop.

DIRECTIONS

The event will be held at Burton Morgan Lecture Hall at Denison University in Granville Ohio.

Directions and campus map can be found on Denison’s Website.

REGISTRATION DEADLINE JULY 25 2016!

When you are ready to register, pay per one of the options below and submit this registration form (instructions for submittal on form). Workshop Registration