Pam Webb

a writer's journey as a reader

Archive for the tag “writers”

Conference Crumbs


Recently I attended a writing conference and I will freely admit I attended primarily because I knew my time had arrived. Yes, this time I would be discovered. My critique editor would be so impressed with my submission that she would pat the chair next to her and state, “I’ve waited all day to finally meet you. I adore this * points to my pages* and we need to talk about contracts.”
This, of course, did not happen and I doubt it will. Or if it does I hope the actual moment will not be as corny as my version.

I didn’t always used to be conference goer. I used to be a conference nayer. “Pfft–I don’t need to spend money, drive miles, and sit and listen to people who have made it. I have my books and magazines to tell me what I need to know.” That’s me turning down a suggestion to attend a SCBWI conference. My critique group sagely retorted, “You go because it’s all about networking.” And she was right. Making connections is primary, and gaining knowledge is secondary for me.

When conference invites drop into my mailbox I first check the line up–who is going to be there? Getting to hear a favorite or well-known author or to glean industry insights from a respected editor, publisher, or agent might entice me to reach for the calendar. Yet, what gets me actually going to the conference is the critique, having the opportunity to learn and to receive an assessment of my writing from an industry professional. If I can get a renowned publisher, editor, or agent to look over my work and get their attention for 12 minutes, I’m all in. Critiques range in price and my pocketbook can handle the $60 variety, which translates to roughly $5.00 a minute . I consider this a good value since I willingly pay a dollar a minute for my ten minute chair massage at the farmer’s market. Both are invigorating focused sessions, yet only one is beneficial towards my career.
Once at the conference  I diligently sit through the various speakers, deftly mining worthy industry nuggets. Admittedly I’m only half tuned into the program because I keep glancing at my at my watch after continually rechecking my critique appointment slip. Bad form, really. It would be much better to relax and relish while waiting.

This year I did do just that.

My appointment was probably the last one of the day which meant I needed to pass the time. I actually decided to really listen to the speaker presentations and not just flick through the bin of offered treasure trove of advice but to really savor the meal before me. Yes,a muddle of metaphors.  As for the actual conference I had a productive meeting with a publisher of a respected, well-known publishing house. She liked my approach, style, and even appreciated my humorous bits in the manuscript. She had prepared an amazing critique page–the best organized I’ve ever received. No, she did not offer a contract. However, she did hand me her personal business card and invited me to send my proposal for another project to her directly *no slush pile*. And she said I could resubmit the piece she had critiqued. Better than six chair massages, I’d say.

So, if are on the fence about attending a writing conference I would give you a bit of a nudge and so “Zip out the credit card and go absorb and mingle and learn.”

Oh–I would appreciate some good thoughts towards the project I just emailed her.  Having just received a rejection for a manuscript, I wouldn’t mind some good news around the corner.

Book Booster Beckonings


Book Booster

I have been quite remiss in my blog hostessing. Usually I invite new followers to add their name to the Book Booster roster. If you are a recent follower, please accept my apologies for not having invited you sooner. What’s a Book Booster? This is the detailed link and here is the short version:
Read books? Recommend books? Buy or checkout books by the armload? Have a TBR list and stack longer and taller than Superman can leap over in a single bound? Consider yourself a Book Booster and consider this your invite.

What are the benefits?
If you are hoping for a Barnes and Noble discount, I’m afraid the details are still sketchy on that one.
And reserved parking at the library is still being negotiated.
I am still working on that secret handshake.
However, you can revel in the knowledge you are in great company and you can spend hours clicking to connect with other Book Boosters.

While I can’t guarantee all the links are still active I can ensure you will no doubt discover a few new blogs to follow, and in turn they will no doubt find and follow you and that Six Steps Separation thing gets one step closer to becoming a big blogging bunch of Book Boosters.

What? You’re not on the list and you thought you were? I can fix that…

So send me your “Of course add me to the roster” approval and then it’s happy browsing.

Blue Skies and Happy Reading,

C. Muse

Doodle-Doo, A Contest for You

The above is Mike Allegra and he is a children’s writer.  Yes, he is a wild and crazy guy.  Kind of Steve Martin and kind of Billy Crystal– entertaining ,witty and the author of :

 Which is about how one lady, namely Sarah Hale, got Thanksgiving on the calendar as a national holiday.  Even if you aren’t into picture books, you should stop by and say “hi” to Mike. For one, he is very friendly and will say “hi” back.  For another, he tells great stories–they are hilarious more times than not.  And the best reason is right now he is offering a free personal doodle for some lucky winner.  Check out the details here.

for YOU

Life Long Loving of the Library of Congress

Main Library of Congress building at the start...

Main Library of Congress building at the start of the 20th century (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

And yet another reason I continue my praises of the Library of Congress. In recent Internet research sleuthing I stumbled across their Festival Author Booklist. Yippee! I love bookish gatherings, especially when I don’t have to do much traveling to enjoy it.  If you do want to travel, then get your arrangements made for Washington D.C. because that’s the happening spot. Last year the festival ran the weekend of September 21 and 22.  For more information: National Book Festival

Author and Reading Celebration

Since 2001,  authors, illustrators and poets make presentations on the National Mall in various pavilions. In 2013 over a 100 authors represented  Teens & Children, Fiction & Mystery, History & Biography, Contemporary Life, Poetry & Prose, Graphic Novels & Science Fiction and Special Programs.

Library of Congress Pavilion

If a person has longing to know all about the Library of Congress, then a visit to their LOC Pavilion is in order. There is so much moAt the Library of Congress Pavilion than books.


There is more bookish good stuff from the LOC. Want handy access to classic reads? Then you need to click on the link and start enjoying a range of reading from the John Carter series to Aesop Fables and what lies in between.


Are you a teacher, a parent? If books are an important part of your education input, you will want to perk up and take time to read the guidelines about the LOC contest Letters About Literature.  Prizes too! I look forward to introducing this to my students.

Stay tuned for more love notes about the nation’s library.

The Art of Avoidance

All week the in-progress novel beckons me. Fatigue, lesson plans, grading papers tend to get in the way of creativity, so Saturday tends to be ThE writing day. Typically when Saturday arrives the following dual decision-making occurs:


SATURDAY (Photo credit: Stefan Sager)

-wake at usual time of 5am “much too dark to think; sleep in two more hours”
-is it 7 already? “I’ve got the whole day–lounge a bit”
-how did it get to be 9:30? “better put in some work out time since I didn’t this week”
-wow! it’s going on 11 already “after a shower and breakfast I’ll get right on the computer”
-cranking up the computer means it’s time to settle down to working “after I check my emails and notifications”
-enough procrastinating, open up the file and let’s get cracking on this new chapter “lunch would be a good idea”
Okay, you get the idea. Raise your hand if similar avoidance scenarios take place when preparing to work on your project.

Why is it I avoid something I look forward to working on? I do actually like the story and it’s going well. Yet, there remains a reluctance to jump right up and sit down and work.
Wait–that’s it! Writing is work and after a 40 plus work week putting in another 5 plus hours on the novel feels like a double-shift, even though it’s doing something I like.
Solution? Absolutely, I’m agreeing with you on this–suck it up, get focused, and get going. Good advice. After I go for a walk, clean out the refrigerator, and put away the laundry I’ll get right on my story.

A Quiver of Quotes

perusing through a recently acquired preview AP textbook, I couldn’t help but appreciate the assortment of writerly quotes sprinkled throughout the book.  A collector of words, I knew I had to gather them, and words, like arrows, fly straight, cleaving the mark true and fair when the marksman is skilled and the aim is practiced.  (ooh, maybe that will end up in a textbook someday…)

Never mistake motion for action–Ernest Hemingway


 It is not necessary to portray many characters. The center of gravity should be in two persons:  him and her. —Anton Chekov

Anton Chekhov

Anton Chekhov (Photo credit: blue_paper_cranium)

To produce a mighty book, you must choose a mighty theme.–Herman Melville

It is the writer’s privilege to help man endure by lifting his heart.–William Faulkner

For me, fiction is life transformed and fueled by imagination.–Dagoberto Gilb

A ration of failures is built into the process of writing. The wastebasket has evolved for a reason.–Margaret Atwood

When I’m asked what made me into a writer, I point to the watershed experience of coming to this country. Not understanding the language, I had to pay close attention to each word–great training for a writer. —Julia Alvarez

English: Photo of Julia Alvarez from Interview...

English: Photo of Julia Alvarez from Interview with LaBloga. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Not all things are to be discovered; many are better concealed.–Sophocles

Great literature is simply language charged with meaning to the utmost possible degree.–Ezra Pound

You must write.  It’s not enough to start by thinking. You become a writer by writing.–R.K. Narayan

Between my finger and my thumb
The squat pen rests.
I’ll dig with it.
Seamus Heaney



Spring Came on Forever

Spring Came on Forever by Bess Streeter Aldrich

From the book:

This is the story of two midwestern families and the starnge way in which their paths crossed. It begins in Illinois in the year 1866, and end in Nebraska in the present one [1935], severed from all that went before and all that will continue beyond a thing of incompleteness.

Aldrich blends together a portrait of the harshness of prairie pioneer life and that of an unconventional love story.  Amalia Holmsdorfer, a sweet young girl of seventeen, finds herself attracted to twenty-one year Matthias Meier, the young clerk who sold her stern German father the soap-making kettle.  Matthias also finds himself attracted to Amalia and begins secretly courting her–even though she has been pledged in marriage to a man of her father’s choosing.  Amalia and Matthias plan to run away together, yet their plans meet up with the fury of flooded roads and even though Matthias attempts to meet her in Nebraska before she marries, he again meets up with one of nature’s blockades.  Matthias and Amalia miss each other by mere hours and she marries the wrong man.

So goes the begins a love story that will span three and four generations.  Aldrich, writing in the style prevalent of her time, reveals the story in an omniscient narrator fashion.  It’s as if we are sitting in a cozy living room and listening to a tale of long ago.  While the “tell” style of yesteryear may not got over well with the current “show” method of today, I have to admit I became so involved in the plot that by the last chapter I clutched the book and actually cried.  And I am not a crier when it comes to literature.  Movies, on occasion can induce some sniffling, but rarely can a book get me to sob.

The story is mainly about Amalia; her hopes and dreams of romance are forever changed when she is forced to leave with the rest of her family and the other members of her German community to build a new settlement in Nebraska. Though she appears complacent on the outside, she keeps her inner thoughts and desires to herself.  Aldrich captures this wonderfully:

pp. 9 & 10

But thoughts are acrobats, agile and quite often untrustworthy.  So now, with impish disregard of the command, they hopped about quite easily.  They asked Amalia innocently why the nice young man wanted to know where she lived.  They suggested with subtle art the possibility that he would try to find out.  And then when the gruff person at her side questioned their activities they urged her quickly to answer, “Nein.”

My interest in pioneer started long ago with the Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House on the Prairie books. There is a fascination in reading about how people created homes and towns out of the rough lands of prairie and wilderness, and through all this tremendous effort they had their own personal stories.   For the last five years I have labored on a novel about a family who follows the Oregon trail to turn off and make their claim in Idaho.  Historical novels require plenty of research to make the time period, setting, and characters come alive.  Aldrich’s Spring Came on Forever reminded me how moving pioneer stories can be.   I am also encouraged to someday write something that induces tears.

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