Friday, February 25, 2011

MWG Welcomes Dr. Susan Swartwout

Six weeks from today, we'll be kicking off the MWG "Just Write!" Conference in St. Louis.  I hope everyone is as excited about meeting new writing friends and getting reacquainted with the old ones as I am.  I've met really wonderful people this year as we've been planning the conference and I would be remiss if I didn't point out how our MWG members have stepped up to the plate to help make this successful.

I would like to begin with Dr. Susan Swartwout, new to MWG this year and the driving force behind the SEMO Press she created and continues to nurture.  The small press has earned a big name in Missouri publishing, with titles ranging from The Yonder Side of Sass and Texas to Faulkner and Twain to Mohammed Ali and the Greatest Heavyweight Generation.  

Then, there's Big Muddy, a biannual literary journal, recently reviewed by Molly Clasen of who wrote, "This journal reads like a road trip. Its rich landscape left me with a lingering sense of journey as I found characters and imagery replaying in my mind like saturated photographs....Next time you yearn to roll down your windows, hop in a car, and speed toward the sunset, I suggest letting Big Muddy feed your appetite for adventure. It’s a rowdy, profound ride and worth every second."

Susan isn't just a publisher, she's a writer and a poet with books and chapbooks of her own.  But it's Susan's enthusiasm for sharing her love of the written word with others that makes her very special.  In January, she and her assistant at SEMO Press, Donna Essner, also a new MWG member, launched a new SEMO Chapter of the Missouri Writers' Guild.  I had asked Susan how many she expected at the first meeting.  "Oh, maybe about 10 or 12," she answered.  She was shocked when 30 people showed up, many of them her former students.

Their second chapter meeting is tomorrow and the group has not only grown since their initial meeting, many of the new chapter members have registered to attend the conference.  And Dr. Swartwout will be actively participating also, sitting on both the Agents and Editors Panel and the Literary Fiction/Literary Journal Panel, as well as hearing pitches and giving pitch pointers on Saturday.

For writers who aren't acquainted with Dr. Susan Swartwout, make it a point to get to know her.  You'll be glad you did.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

"Beauties" Author Mary Troy to Keynote Luncheon

Mary Troy, author of the award-winning novel "Beauties," recently spoke with Conference Publicity Chair Sarah Whitney.  Sarah found out a little about Mary and the keynote speech she will give during the conference’s Saturday luncheon.

Like many writers, Mary didn't start out writing fiction.  She was working as a technical writer for the University of Hawaii and taking an occasional writing class whenever she could fit one in.  Mary, then 33, squeezed in a creative writing class one semester, and it wasn't long before she was published as a fiction writer.  

Since then, Mary has published dozens of short stories and essays, as well as three collections of short stories---Joe Baker is Dead, The Alibi CafĂ© and other stories, and Cookie Lily.  Her first novel, Beauties, released last fall, was named 2010 "Best Book" in the literary fiction category by USA Book News.  Mary is director of the Master of Fine Arts Program at the University of Missouri-St. Louis and serves as editor for Natural Bridge, a journal of contemporary literature.

Q:  What are you planning to speak about during your keynote address?

A:  I’m going to talk about truth in fiction writing and the idea that fiction is truer than fact. The reason we write fiction is because we have a truth, or many truths, that we want to say or show. I really think that when you read a good novel or story, what keeps you going are these moments when you read a line and you say 'that’s exceptionally right; that’s true.'

As fiction writers, we tell these lies and make up these lies, and the whole reason we do it is to tell the truth.

Q: Why would you recommend interested writers attend the conference?

A: I think all classes on writing (which is, in a sense, what this conference is) do two things. One thing they do is inspire. Because you write in isolation, it can be frustrating. You could sit there, at your desk, day in and day out, working on one paragraph, and people look at you and think, 'what have you published?' So, just being around other writers, keeps you going.  You;re reminded that even though you’re writing in isolation, you’re not alone.

The second thing is learning how other people have succeeded, what they’ve done, what pitfalls to avoid, and learning the techniques. You will learn that all yourself from reading, but if you go to a class or attend a conference, it’s a short cut. They’re all valuable shortcuts. You can learn from all your wide reading, but sometimes it’s nice if someone points out the important things to you.

In addition to her keynote, Mary will lead a master class, Will the Center Hold? on Sunday morning.  This workshop which will examine what is sometimes called the Iago factor, after a Susan Neville essay. Whether it is a jealous co-worker, a religious conviction, a hidden past, a feeling of inferiority, or a repressive government, it provides the stress in a story. Discussions will examine how the Iago factor works in good writing, using examples from the stories of workshop attendees. Note: Attendees are encouraged to bring current works in progress.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Ya Gotta Love Those Writers!---Contests and More

The title is my only stab at writing for Hallmark.

We're observing Valentine's Day on Monday and it's not due to a governmental declaration for Monday observance so we can enjoy a three-day weekend.  It's a theme day for all things "love."  A tradition.  A bonanza for those whose livelihoods revolve around chocolate, flowers, greeting cards, and anything Cardinal red.

We're taking advantage of the Valentine's Day theme to have a "Ya Gotta Love Those Writers!" Valentine's Day drawing for anyone signing up for a Master Class at the "Just Write!" Conference.  Two people will win $10 cash.  Anyone who has already signed up will be entered, along with anyone enrolling until MIDNIGHT on February 14th.  Postmarks and PayPal timestamps will be used to validate entries.  Must be registered for the conference to enroll in a Master Class.  Winners will be announced on February 20th.  Cash prizes will be available at the conference registration table.  

You'll find Master Class descriptions in an earlier post, as well as on the MWG website.  Sign-up for both the conference and the additional classes can be done from the bottom of the same page.  If you've already registered for the conference and want to add a Master Class, just put your name on the registration form and make your selection.  Our registrar, Tricia Sanders, will make sure your choice is added to your registration. 

And just think.  St. Pat's is coming and color for the day is GREEN---so you don't know what might happen since it falls in the middle of MARCH MADNESS.  Stay tuned.

There's still time to enter the Sponsor or Chapter Contests.  Please check the tabs above and get your entries in by the deadlines.