Monday, April 27, 2009

THE Teen Writers' Conference

Hey all- the following is an interview with Josi Kilpack, THE Teen Writers' Conference chair. I'm honored to be on the committee with her and am looking forward to this conference. It's going to be great, and if you know any kids aged 13-19, please pass the info along!!

NANCY: Tell us a little bit about yourself, Josi.

JOSI: I’m a mother of four, ages 15-7, and an author of 9 novels, with a tenth coming out in August. I have been a member of multiple writing groups, large and small, and a committee member and former conference chair for numerous writer’s conferences. In addition, I’m a frequent presenter to schools and groups, a fabulous cook (if I do say so myself) and amateur chicken farmer.

NANCY: You are the conference chairperson for an upcoming writers' conference for kids. Please tell us about the purpose of the conference.

JOSI: Several of the committee members and myself have been involved with putting together writing conferences for several years. We started small and have grown until our most recent conference had well over 250 attendants. Over the years we have had some teenagers attend our conference, and while they have enjoyed the experience, it seems to also be a bit overwhelming to walk into a two day, morning to night information-fest. So, we began discussing the idea of having a conference where the format, classes, and overall environment is created specifically to give kids, ages 13-19, the best overall introduction to writing conferences as well as instruction that will be most helpful to where they are now on their journey of being a writer. From there we started throwing out ideas and it really just rolled all together until we have this; THE Teen Writer’s Conference.

NANCY: What is your purpose for the conference? What do you hope the teens who come discover?

JOSI: Our hope is that the attendees will discover a lot of things, 1) that they are not the only kids that write, 2) that whatever goals or ambitions they might have in regard to becoming a writer are within reach, and 3) that it takes knowledge and time and concerted effort to accomplish those goals. Those of us on the committee, all of us being writers ourselves, have spent years honing our craft and are excited to help set these kids on that same path—perhaps earlier than we ever started.

NANCY: What kind of classes will you be offering?

JOSI: We will have classes that focus on actual elements of writing, as well as classes on book markets, the publishing process, and what they can do now to best prepare themselves for a future in writing. We have a variety of classes so as to appeal to both new and experiences writers.

NANCY: What if a teen would like to come, but is really shy? Will there be anything that will make him or her uncomfortable?

JOSI: Our entire focus and reason for putting this conference together is to create a comfortable place for young writers to come, learn, and flourish. We have been and will continue to put their comfort as our first priority because we know if they are intimidated and anxious, they will not benefit from this experience. However, we also expect them to be ready for this experience. Each youth, along with their parents, will need to determine if they are ready to be a part of this. Not all teen writers will be, and that’s okay. We hope to make this an annual event, so if this year won’t work, then perhaps by next year they will be ready.

NANCY: What is your overall goal for every youth that attends the Teen Writers' Conference?

JOSI: That they leave encouraged and inspired to do their best, to hone their craft, and to truly reach for the stars in regard to their writing and their life. We also hope they will make friends with one another and feel a sense of community among other writers their own age.

NANCY: How were you able to get such excellent editors and famous writers to attend?

JOSI: Well, in all humility I have to admit that they are my friends—my very good friends. We are like-minded people that saw a common goal and made it happen. I admire each and every person on this committee, and understand the sacrifice they each make to be a part of this. We are joined in this purpose as well as in our passion for great writing. I am blessed to rub shoulders with some of the best writers out there and the attendees get to benefit from that gift in my life.

NANCY: When is it and how do teens register?

JOSI: Registration is open for another 4 weeks. To register, attendees need to go to the website and print off the registration form. Those attendees under the age of 17 will need parental permission to attend; then they will mail the completed registration, along with payment, to the address printed on the page. They, and their parents, will receive a welcome e-mail upon receipt of their registration as well as updates as the conference gets closer. Updates will also be posted on the website.

NANCY: Finally, this conference is for 13 to 19 year olds. Why that age group?

JOSI: We discussed this issue at length, and then simply decided since it was a TEEN conference, we would make it open to TEENS only. We feel that having them among their peers will help them relax and yet be willing to ask questions, meet other kids, and focus on the instruction we’re providing. For the older attendees, this will likely be a kind of introduction to adult-focused writer’s conferences, showing them what to expect and how the typical conference is organized. For the younger attendees, we hope they will come back year after year and continue learning about what they can do in the future.

NANCY: Any other information you'd like to share?

JOSI: We’ve had some parents express concern in regard to leaving their children at the conference without them. Again, this conference isn’t right for all teens, or all parents, but we do ask that parents consider the value of letting their children experience the independent nature of this conference. As a committee, we are dedicated to their safety and comfort; they will come to no harm while attending. And while we ask that parents stay clear of the conference rooms, there are many places on campus that are great for reading or getting some other work done if they worry about going too far away. We will also allow attendees to keep cell-phones on silent throughout the conference so that parents are only a phone call away. For those attendees without cell-phones, they are welcome to use a committee member's phone at any time.

NANCY: Where can people go to find more information, and especially to learn about the writing contest made available just for those who attend?

JOSI: has all the details of the conference, contest, venue, etc. If something is not answered, there are e-mail links that will send you to us so we can give you the details you are looking for.

**And a final note from me- this is going to be so fun. What I wouldn't have given to have had something like this when I was a kid! I'm looking forward to it and am pleased to be teaching a class, myself!

Questions or comments? Check out the website or feel free to email me.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Easter At My House

You know how some girls get a new Easter dress ever year? Those pretty, pastel, frilly dresses that overwhelm department stores every year? Well, I never got one of those special Easter dresses. I've always wanted one and still look longingly at the racks of pretty dresses each season.

My mom just didn't do Easter. I never got an Easter basket either, except for one year when my aunt gave us one. Don't get me wrong; my mom is great--really great. She's just not very traditional and doesn't give importance to customs she considers trivial. She does do Christmas every year just because my dad loves it so much, but if it was up to her, she wouldn't do Christmas either.

I think it all has to do with how these two holidays, based on the Savior, have been over-marketed to the point that they don't even resemble what they are supposed to symbolize. I understand that; but I still love holidays.

I don't go overboard though because I like my kids to not focus on Easter baskets and candy, but to remember why we celebrate Easter in the first place. So, they have an Easter basket that I reuse every year and put a few things in there for them. Simple things like candy, Matchbox cars, toothbrushes, pez dispensers, snacks. Nothing huge. They don't expect much and don't dwell on it. In fact, it's now 3:00 and they haven't even asked about them. I'll probably give out the baskets right before dinner or something.
Once, I celebrated Easter with some extended family and it was crazy. It felt like Christmas. Each adult gives each child an Easter basket so they end up with like 5 or 6 baskets filled with crazy stuff like clothes, electronics, purses for the girls, toys. I didn't like it. It's too much; way too much. I don't like my kids to have too much, just enough. Those kids tore through the baskets like it was Christmas (don't even get me started on Christmas with these folks), leaving behind baskets and trash in their wake. That was the last year we spent Easter with them. We like simple. So, we do a small Easter egg hung, small baskets, and some kind of lesson about the Resurrection.

People kept asking me what we're doing for Easter this year. Are we going to visit my parents who only live 2.5 hours away? I kept thinking, no we're just going to stay here--keep it simple. My mom just doesn't do Easter. As for Easter dresses? Well, I have 3 boys so I don't know if I'll ever get to buy one of those cute pastel-colored dresses after all. And me? Well, maybe my longing for a special Easter dress is perhaps long gone. I just wore a black dress today.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Write What You Know?

So one of the most basic pieces of writing advice you're ever likely to hear is the old, "write what you know," phrase. It's certainly good advice; when you're writing about something with which you have a lot of experience, it's bound to come off sounding authentic and will draw your reader that much more into your story.

But what if you don't like what you know? Take me, for example. I'm a SAHM with a degree in elementary education. Now, there's probably a great story out there waiting for me where the heroine is a teacher and a bunch of crazy things happen. But that's really not what I want to write about. Now, anyway.

In my books, my characters have time traveled, been doctors, spies, private investigators, archaeologists, antique experts and survivors of the Civil War. Some of my heroes have been accountants, tech guys, former drug addicts, blacksmiths and victims of amnesia.

Nothing in my shorter novels, (those that exclude the Civil War seris), has ever happened to anyone I know. A lot of what I've written is what I call "escape fiction," and is totally out there. That's because it's what I like to read, as well. When I read for enjoyment, I like to be completely and thoroughly entertained.

I also happen to love research.

Eeewww! So many people hate research, but I really love it. And here's one of the biggest benefits to spending a bit of time researching: it becomes what you know! I know, how great is that! If you spend some time becoming familiar with something else- a different occupation, location, time period- you have moved yourself into the realm of knowing something about the subject and when you do that, all sorts of things open up for your writing. Suddenly it becomes very easy to imagine a character with a given set of traits who, when you put her into a given set of circumstances or a profession, takes off on her own.

I suppose what I mean with all of this is that while yes, you will write with your own set of experiences behind you, it's ok to venture out into the unknown and make it known. Don't be intimmidated about writing something you haven't personally experienced just because you haven't personally experienced it.

Crack open a book on ancient Egypt, google archaeology, buy a guidebook on India or England--the sky's the limit if you don't limit yourself.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Promoting a Book

by Marsha Ward

Since I received 12 cartons/packages full of my novels--Trail of Storms, The Man from Shenandoah, and Ride to Raton--this week, I'm keenly interested in moving them out of my 740-square-foot trailer.

What am I doing to help that happen?

First of all, I've let the entire contents of my email address book know that autographed copies of my new book are now available. This includes numerous Yahoo groups.

I'm letting my social networks know, as well. Events kind of snuck up on me, so I didn't have all of those in place previously, but now I've joined Goodreads, and Twitter is in the works for later today.

I'm sending out review copies of Trail of Storms. Conventional wisdom says you have to get reviews out before your novel is published. Indeed, many review sites won't take a book that has already been published. However, ARCs don't come with the iUniverse process. There are sites that will do reviews on already-published books. Since my book doesn't depend on a limited bookstore shelflife, I can get reviews from here on out for continued sales.

I'm planning a blog tour to publicize my new novel. If you want to be involved, please contact me here.

I've posted a book trailer on I know of at least one book sale that will come from that.

I'm attending an obscene number of conferences and conventions this year, books in tow.

I hand out business cards to everyone I meet. These are specially prepared, with my novel's cover and information on how to obtain it. I print them from my computer.

I update my website and blog frequently.

I carry books with me wherever I go.

I hope it helps! =)

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

You're Invited: Ladies' Night at Cedar Fort!

Hello all!

This Saturday, LDS bookstores everywhere are hosting Ladies' Nights. I've attended a number of these super fun events over the years, and this year I get to do a book signing at one! So, check out the invite below, and come join me for a night of fun and friendship!

(In case you can't read the address on the invite, here it is: Cedar Fort, 2373 West 700 South, Springville, Utah.)

Hope to see you there!