Monday, January 28, 2013

C Hope Clark

Hope signing Lowcountry Bribe
C. Hope Clark, a returning and popular workshop leader, is editor of, an online resource of grants, contests, markets, publishers, and pure motivation for writers. Her following estimates 40,000, and the site has been selected for Writer's Digest's 101 Best Websites for Writers for the last dozen years. But Hope is also a mystery author, her first love, the reason she started writing. She debuted via Bell Bridge Books, a mid-level publisher out of Memphis, TN with Lowcountry Bribe, the first in The Carolina Slade Mystery Series, set in rural South Carolina. It has sold well, with almost 200 reviews on Amazon. The second in the series, Tidewater Murder, comes out in April 2013. Hope's author website can be found at Hope also freelances, having written for many trade and online publications, to include Writer's Digest, The Writer, Guide to Literary Agents and the 2013 Writer's Market.

MWG: Welcome to the conference blog, Hope! We are going to be keeping you busy in April, so let's get started asking what you'll be presenting on each day of the conference. On Friday, you are doing an early arrival seminar titled The Shy Writer. Tell us about this seminar.

Hope: Once upon a time, back around 2004, I was probably known as well for The Shy Writer as I was FundsforWriters. After a lifetime of fiercely protecting my privacy, enjoying seclusion, and abhoring crowds, I found myself in a profession I loved--writing--but faced with the agony of self-promotion. People expected me to toot my own horn, and that petrified me. Then an editor I freelanced for asked me to speak on her behalf at a women's writing group because she couldn't make herself do it. Then a writing group I belonged to threw a small conference, and I became a big draw for their inaugural event. Whether I liked it or not, I was being thrust into the public eye. It was painful, and I quickly learned that most writers I met felt the same way. So I started taking note of how I weathered these moments, and turned them into The Shy Writer. Self-published, it did quite well considering this was way before self-publishing was understood, much less accepted. But the demand didn't wane, and I updated the book in 2007. It sold well then, too. Then came 2011, and I had a mystery series to tend to, so I let Shy Writer age out, with little attention. I know this is a long explanation, but fact is, during my 2012 book tour for The Carolina Slade Mystery Series, writers kept cornering me about The Shy Writer! I sold every copy I had and scratched my head. Was there still a serious need for this topic? Each stop, someone asked me about The Shy Writer. Then I started receiving requests to do presentations on the subject. I received a proposal to perform an all day seminar in late 2013, half of which they asked to be on The Shy Writer. Dang, I thought. Guess what I thought was a dead horse was very much alive. The Shy Writer class will cover platform and self-promotion, but it does so with tricks and suggestions on how to handle them from an introvert's perspective. It isn't fun to self-promote when your strength comes from within, from seclusion, from introspective thoughts. Hopefully, this class will enable writers to better handle the business of writing, which means the obstacles, the presentations, and the daring to step up and be seen and heard. Promotion and submission instill fear in most writers. But they are the two big doors a shy writer must pass through in order to advance from fun-writing to career-writing. Attendees will learn tricks from a fellow shy writer about how I grew from hiding as a bedroom novelist to public speaker, award-winning novelist and writing cheerleader recognized by Writer's Digest, The Writer, and more.

MWG: There will probably be standing room only in that workshop--I know you are right--so many authors struggle with promoting themselves! You also are going to have a book out (a sequel or 2nd edition) around this same time about being a shy writer--right? Tell us about the book and where people can purchase it.

Hope's book: 2nd edition
Hope: The Shy Writer Reborn is a sequel to The Shy Writer. I hope (fingers crossed) to have the print version available by the conference. The e-book version should be out and about by then. It will be available on Amazon, mostly; but I also hope to have it available for most e-readers. It's actually the third version of Shy, but this one is written anew with more current ideas. The news for its release will be available on both and .

MWG: On Saturday, you'll be presenting a one-hour workshop on The Big Three Incomes for Writers. Tell us what to expect in this workshop.

Hope: Regardless of what you write, income is the preferred outcome. But regardless of what you write, you can utilize the big three incomes for writers, resources that FundsforWriters has touted for a decade - Grants, Contests, Magazine Markets. Learn how these three can help fund your writing as you fight to perfect that dream project. Many writers omit one, two, or all three of these resources, thinking they don't need them, or worse, don't have a chance with them. I want to show how writers can benefit from them, bringing in some income while working on that long-range project.

MWG: That sounds great! Who would benefit from attending this one-hour workshop?

Hope: Writers who are struggling to build a resume/portfolio to make themselves appear stronger in queries. Also writers attempting to earn some income between long-range projects. And also writers who need to earn a reputation, a following, basically, a platform for their career. Every writer can adopt at least one of these into their business/marketing plan.

MWG: Thanks, Hope. Finally, you'll be doing a Sunday Master Class, "Career Solutions 101." What will you be sharing in this workshop?

Hope: This class will go into some of the previous workshop; but by listening to the actual situations of writers, I hope to lead the class in defining solutions for many stalemates, obstacles, and quagmires that writers find themselves in when attempting to earn a living, get recognized, and find publishing venues. We can talk about mixing fiction and nonfiction, self-publishing and traditional publishing, print and e-books, magazines and blogs, contests and grants, newsletters and copyrighting. The list is endless. It's about taking the strengths of the individual and using them to promote themselves as writers. It'll be a very individualized session, with everyone brainstorming to aid each other.

MWG: Sounds great! Before we say good-bye, we want to pick that expert brain of yours--what are two mistakes that you see freelance writers constantly make in their career and how do you avoid these?

Hope: First, I see writers hitting "Enter" too fast before the writing is polished enough. They tend to think a first draft is writing, when it's nothing more than taking notes out of your head. Editing is often the biggest difference between the successful and unsuccessful freelance writer. Second, many writers are not consistent. They start and stop their writing, letting other interests in their lives push writing to a time in the day when everything else is done. Writing needs to be the activity that's done while pushing OTHER things to the back burner. Sure, family tends to tug on us, but in reality, family isn't all that writers let get in the way. It's a matter of adopting priorities. Diligence and consistency impact every aspect of a writer's life, and we don't use them enough.

MWG: Yes, and just what you said above is very inspiring! As a debut mystery novelist this past year, with a sequel on the way, what have you learned about marketing a book?

Hope: Oh my is tough. I traveled across nine states, handling twenty-six events, and each time I wondered if I made any sort of difference. It's slow going, especially for a debut novelist. You are pitching, speaking, finding venues in competition with more seasoned writers for attention. Even acquiring speaking engagements at conferences, I competed against other speakers, learning quickly that a multiple published author, with four or five books, commands much more attention. I spoke to a room of one up to a room of two hundred, the number often determined by who I was speaking against. I attended events that cost me financially, and made money at others. Book store managers loved me and snubbed me. I've learned that savvy online work makes more sense than public appearances, but still, readers love to see an author and authors love the face-to-face feedback from readers, so a few sure feel rewarding. But I've learned you can never stop building that platform. The minute you take a breather and think you've done enough for a while, your image fades as others more proactive step up and snatch your readers away! You must be vigilante and diligent. There are a lot of us out there trying to sell books. The smart and steady usually win. And you can never guest blog enough.

MWG: Thank you, Hope! Great, practical advice as always. I know I speak for many when I say we can't wait to have you back at the MWG conference sharing your wealth of knowledge with us!

Hope: I love the people at this conference. My past experience with the Missouri Writers Guild has been nothing but fantastic. A bunch of good people, doing good things . . .

Interview by Margo L. Dill, author of Finding My Place 

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Grant Clauser, Poet and Poetry Teacher, at the MWG Conference

Grant at work
Welcome to Grant Clauser, a poet who is going to teach us about poetry at this year's MWG conference! Grant is the author of The Trouble with Rivers (2012). Poems have appeared in The Literary Review, Painted Bride Quarterly, Cortland Review, Cider Press Review, and others. He's conducted many interviews with poets for The Schuylkill Valley Journal and The American Poetry Review. In 2010, he was named the Montgomery County Poet Laureate by Robert Bly. He runs the Montco Wordshop and teaches poetry writing at Philadelphia’s Musehouse, the Philadelphia Writers' Conference and runs the blog  

MWG: Welcome, Grant. You are going to give a master's class in poetry on Sunday morning. Who should attend? Poets of all levels? Beginners? Seasoned poetry writers?

Grant: The master’s class is called "Building Trustworthy Poems," and it’s a subject I think would be attractive to all experience levels. I believe that a lot of the success of a poem depends on how well it’s able to invite the reader into it. Poetry is based largely on relationships: the relationship of the images to the ideas, the text to the sounds, the line breaks to the connotations… but more than that, a poem has to engage the reader in a relationship, and the best relationships are based on trust. We’ll talk about the various ways a writer can provoke trust, such as the use of detail, voice, and honest metaphor. We’ll talk about examples and do some exercise. Jack Gilbert, Jane Kenyon, Sonia Sanchez, and Philip Levine are all poets who are expert at this.

 MWG: That sounds great, Grant. You are also doing a workshop (breakout) during the regular conference. What will you focus on during the workshop?

Grant: The other session I’m doing is called "Core Issues." I believe that the most lasting and resonant poems are the ones that are informed by the core issues that motivate us: love and death. A decent poem can be either craft-driven or core-driven, maybe have interesting or clever elements, but the best poems know how to bind those elements into something of ontological importance. Those are the ones that sneak up on us when we’re not expecting, the ones that cause us to put the book down and stare at our hands for a while after reading. I don’t mean that all poems have to be “about” love or death; but those two core issues have a spectral presence in everything we do of importance, so being aware of them and using that awareness can result in stronger poems.  

MWG: I'm sure many of our poets are getting excited about these classes! Will there be poetry writing and reading?

Grant: Yes, both. I’ll share lots of examples in both sessions. In the "Core Issues" session, I’ll send people home with some suggested prompts. In the master class, which is longer, we’ll do some exercises in class and talk about the results.  

The Literary Review
MWG: Writing exercises--great! What makes you love writing poetry?

Grant: I first found out I liked poetry when I was in middle school and memorized Poe’s "The Raven." I loved the eeriness of it and how the sound and images worked in tandem. Since then, I just grew to enjoy the process of writing. It’s the discovery element that does it for me, like starting on a hike and not knowing where it will lead. I start my poems with a word or image I like and then follow it through to see if I can make something happen. I’ve tried other longer-form writing, but I’m an impatient person and can’t hold a thought for the length of time it takes to write something like a novel.  

MWG: How can an MFA help a writer with his or her poetry writing?

Grant: This will be different for every person; but for me, what I valued in the MFA program at Bowling Green was the time it allowed me to focus on my writing. Aside from the couple of classes I taught, every waking moment was about poetry. I learned as much, maybe more, outside of class, hanging out with other writers, haunting bookstores and readings, as I did inside of the classes and workshops. The low-residency programs that are popular now don’t allow that kind of immersion, so I don’t think I can recommend them. I went to grad school on a fellowship, so I can’t imagine what it would be like to hold down a full-time job while working on an MFA. For me, the time and dedication was paramount. Don’t look at an MFA as a career investment. The degree is not a guarantee of a job or publication, and it won’t necessarily make a person a better writer. In fact, I think most of the people I was in workshop with have given up writing poetry. Life tends to weed out poets over time. What I believe is very important is that a developing writer have a peer group to share work with and learn from. Nearly every town/community has a writing group, or several; and if you’re not involved with one, then get involved or make one. It’s great to have a group of writers to bounce ideas off, share connections with, and trade favorite books and authors with. I meet with a group of poets once a month still.

MWG: That is so true! And hopefully some people will find each other at the MWG conference! What tips do you have for poets who are trying to get published in literary journals?

Grant: Read a lot. Be patient. Start local.

MWG: Anything else you would like to add? 

Grant: I’m always surprised when I meet new writers who tell me they haven’t  read much poetry. If you want to be a writer, you have to love reading, and that means reading a lot. That’s the most important way a person can learn more about the craft. I go through several poetry books a month and continually go back to books I’ve read before. My office floor is usually covered with open books. Also, read with a pencil in your hand—make notes on the page, seek to understand how the poem works or doesn’t, borrow ideas… If you’re not a serious reader, you’ll never be a serious writer.

MWG: Grant, that is so true. On another blog I write for, we have been having that exact same discussion. (smiles) Thank you again for taking the time to answer our questions. See you in April.

Interview by Margo L. Dill, the author of Finding My Place: One Girl's Strength at Vicksburg, middle-grade (ages 9 to 12) historical fiction and two upcoming picture books. To find out more, go to Margo's website at  

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Jane Henderson, Post Dispatch Book Reviewer, at the MWG Conference

Jane Henderson, book editor from The St. Louis Post Dispatch, will be the keynote speaker for the 2013 Missouri Writers Guild awards banquet on Saturday night of the conference. She grew up in the St. Louis area and graduated from the University of Missouri-Columbia with degrees in journalism and English literature. She cut short her work as a grad student in English to go to work as a copy editor for the St. Louis Globe-Democrat in the mid-1980s. The Globe would close a few years later (due to money issues, not misplaced modifiers). After working for three years in the newsroom of the Hartford Courant in Connecticut, Henderson returned to St. Louis and has been an editor and writer with the Post-Dispatch's features department for 23 years. Seventeen of those years have been as book editor. As book editor, Henderson assigns and edits book reviews, choosing from some 300 or so new books each week. She has written stories about book trends and interviewed many authors, from Salman Rushdie to Joan Didion to E.L. Doctorow. Usually, but not always, that's a pleasurable thing.

MWG: Hi Jane, we are so excited to have you come and talk to us at the conference. Let's start with this: What do you think makes a great book?

Jane: This is so hard to answer, isn't it? If we're talking about fiction, we'd need a strong plot, amazing characters, and fascinating prose, plus some interesting themes. Even then, not every novel that is well-written connects with every reader. I suspect that one's own life experience and even age and mood play a role in how a reader responds to a book. When it comes to nonfiction, I prefer books that have original, thorough research and a writer who can make anything interesting. Of course, both nonfiction and fiction should be well-edited and look professional (the fact that I even point that out shows that it's not always a given these days).

MWG: Unfortunately, that is true. SO the opposite then--what makes a book no good?

Jane: No good? Well, a lot of books have good points, but just aren't great. For me, if a nonfiction book has even a hint of being plagiarized or made up, it's no good.

MWG: What do you plan to share at the MWG conference keynote address?

Jane: I'm not entirely sure, but I assume writers will want to know about reviewing and how to get reviewed. I will talk about how there is a difference between reviewing a book and "supporting" an author, and that reviewers should be fair -- but that isn't the same thing as being objective.

MWG: That sounds interesting, and I think something all writers will need and/or want to hear--no matter where they are at in their careers! In general, what do authors need to know about getting their books reviewed? 

Jane: It's really difficult to get traditional newspaper reviews now. Most have less space and smaller freelance budgets. On the other hand, the reviews on the web have opened up a whole, new world. I will definitely talk more about this at the conference.

MWG: Sounds great! So, what are your favorite types or genre of books?

Jane: I suppose my favorite is realistic literary fiction. But anything well-written can be interesting!

MWG: What inspired you to promote books and authors in your career?

Jane: When I was a kid, I loved to read. I wanted to major in English literature in college, but I also thought I'd better study journalism so I could get a job. So I got degrees in both. I was working toward my master's in English when I got the chance to work as a copy editor at the old Globe-Democrat. About eight years later, I happened to be at the Post-Dispatch and was asked to fill in for the book editor while he was working on a project. Like so much in life, it was a bit of being in the right place at the right time. I ended up keeping the job, which was perfect for me.

MWG: It sounds like you were in the right place at the right time--AND you did a good job at it, too. Thank you, Jane, we look forward to hearing more at the conference! 

Interview by Margo L. Dill, author of Finding My Place: One Girl's Strength at Vicksburg 

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Carly Watters, Literary Agent Coming to the Conference!

Welcome, Carly Watters, to the MWG blog and eventually to the conference in April. She took some time out of her busy schedule to give you an insight into her life as an agent at the P.S. Literary Agency. She is actively building her list and looking for new writers. Never without a book on hand, she reads across categories which is reflected in the genres she represents. Carly began her publishing career in London, England at the Darley Anderson Literary, TV and Film Agency and Bloomsbury PLC. She completed her BA in English language and literature at Queen’s University and her MA in publishing studies at City University London with a thesis on the social, political, and economic impact of literary prizes on trade publishing. We are honored to have Carly as part of the 2013 conference faculty.  

MWG: Hi Carly! How did you become a literary agent? Is this the career you started with? If so, what drew you to it?  

Carly: As I began researching the publishing industry as my career choice, the concept of a literary agent impressed me from the start. And luckily, my first job in publishing was a literary agency assistant. I was passionate about the role agents play in the greater publishing process and their advocacy for authors and their rights. After working as an agency assistant in the UK, I moved back to Canada and started as an associate agent at the P.S. Literary Agency in Toronto shortly after. Now I am a full literary agent representing picture books, YA, women's fiction, memoirs and upmarket nonfiction.

MWG:  Great! You have a blog ( FULL of information our conference attendees should check out! What can they find on your blog and what should they pay particular attention to?

Carly: Great question. I have a few posts that have gotten the most hits that I'll share with you: "Why Agents Take on Less Than 1 Percent of All Queries" ( This is the hard truth on why there are so many variables to getting an agent. "Should American Writers Submit to Canadian Agents?" ( This post outlines why it doesn't matter where your agent lives, and why US should also search out Canadian agents and vice versa. "When Is It Time to Retire Your Query" (  Many writers don't know when it's time to retire their project or retire their query letter. Here's the answer.

MWG: Those all sound wonderful. Thank you for pointing them out. I need to check out a couple of those topics myself. Who are a couple of authors that you currently represent to give us a flavor of your list?

Carly: Taylor Jenkins Reid is a debut women's fiction author whose novel FOREVER, INTERRUPTED is coming out with Atria in July. It's the amazing and emotional love child of P.S. I LOVE YOU and Joan Didion's THE YEAR OF MAGICAL THINKING. ( Julianna Scott's YA series THE HOLDERS is debuting with Angry Robot/Strange Chemistry in March. It's an adventure and romance series set in Ireland that is full of suspense and secrets. (

MWG: What projects do you hope writers pitch to you at the conference? Any genre you are looking for in particular?

Carly: I love emotional women's fiction, high-stakes contemporary YA, sci-fi and light fantasy YA, high concept picture books, and fresh, upmarket memoirs.

MWG: Okay, we got it! What will you not consider even if it's well-written?

Carly: Middle-grade, poetry, screenplays.

MWG: Writers get very nervous when they are pitching to agents. Do you have any suggestions for pitching to you? What do you like to hear?

Carly: As soon as writers sit down, I like them to feel comfortable. I want to hear their best pitch, so I want them to feel relaxed before they launch into their book. Take a deep breath, tell me how you're enjoying the conference, what drew you to choosing me to pitch to, and why you think your project is right for me. I like to know that some thought went into selecting me as the right agent for their book, just like writers should do in a query letter.

MWG: That is great advice! What are one or two pet peeves you have about writers at a conference? (We want to make sure we DON'T do this!)

Carly: I can't speak to all agents on this one, so this is my feedback only: Agents need some downtime, too--so whenever we're free isn't a free opportunity to pitch. Keep the pitches to the pitch sessions; but when agents are sitting at your table for lunch, feel free to strike up a conversation about the conference or writing in general.

MWG: Great--or even strike up a conversation about summer plans, right? (smiles) Anything else you would like to add?

Carly: I am very much looking forward to the conference! It will be my first time in St. Louis, and I look forward to meeting everyone. Thanks for inviting me and thanks for the interview, Margo.

MWG: Thank you for your time, Carly, and we look forward to seeing you soon! 

Interview conducted by Margo L. Dill

Margo is a former MWG conference chair and president, who now lives in St. Louis, MO and is busy marketing her first children's middle-grade historical fiction novel, FINDING MY PLACE: ONE GIRL'S STRENGTH AT VICKSBURG.  Check out more about Margo, her book, and her blog at her website. 

She hopes to see you at the 2013 conference. It's going to be great!