5 Reasons I’m Attending an Online Writer’s Conference

Guess who has two sore thumbs from drafting and is attending a writer’s conference?

 

Writer’s Clearinghouse is having their conference completely online. And oh man, I am here for it. Here are my top five reasons why:

#1 It’s a good ice breaker since I’ve never been to a conference before

If you are an itty bitty baby writer like me, everything seems very prestigious and scary. I don’t know why I haven’t tried to attend a conference yet. Maybe it’s the imposter syndrome or the crippling insecurity… (yeah, probably that).

Or going outside in general, honestly. I didn’t even know that was a thing that other writers did. What is a sun? You mean there’s a whole world on the other side of my laptop screen?

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#2 I can attend in my own comfy house

The idea of attending a Q&A with agents and editors while wearing secret pajama bottoms under a desk is exhilarating at best. Not to mention, being a mother of small children makes leaving my house MISSION FREAKING IMPOSSIBLE.

Recently, we moved the baby into his own room and had to get creative with our office space…

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Yes. That is actually a closet. I will be attending a writing conference in the comfort of my own closet.

#3 The networking is more personable

The faculty to attendee ratio is 6:1.

Granted, at a larger conference, you would have MORE industry professionals in attendance. But having a lot of time for personal feedback is pretty dang desirable. And you really get to know the faculty you’re working with.

Authors so often feel intimidated by literary agents that they forget that they’re “shopping” too. You want someone who is going to be the best fit for your book as well as your work style. For example, I’m interested in partnering with more of an editorial agent. That makes these workshops invaluable for me because I can get more of an idea of what and WHO I’m looking for.

And if you want to talk tactical efforts, I don’t think it would hurt to leave a lasting impression on only one agent. The publishing world is so tight-knit that it would only help you to be memorable. (Favorably, of course.)

#4 A free partial evaluation from Writer’s Clearinghouse is included

WCH

Yo. Not a sponsor. But I just really dig on this company, y’all. I’ve been in and out of the query trenches for a year now. AND THEM SLUSH PILE BLUES ARE NO JOKE. I’ve seen quite a few automated rejections in my day.

Writer’s Clearinghouse is an evaluation service done by former editors and agents. It’s designed to let you know how ‘publishable’ your book is. They score your manuscript in twenty different categories picking out your strengths and things that could be improved. (I’m both annoyingly pragmatic and an art educator, so the sight of a rubrics system fills me with such a giddy glee. TAKE THAT SUBJECTIVITY!)

The most delectable part of Writer’s Clearinghouse is that if your manuscript scores high, they will notify compatible agents about it. UM YES PLEASE!

If you are interested in that sort of thing, click HERE for more information.

And finally,

#5 I’m trying to make real, tangible investments into a dream

I have a hard time spending money on myself, so it took a while for me to bring myself to register. I mean, really. How dare I spend this much selfish money on myself, when I could have used it to buy 30 kids meals for my toddler? (…I only understand currency if I convert it into chicken nuggets.)

It was my husband who finally said, “We’re spending this money and we’re investing in YOU.”  And that sure is a true thing. My dream is worth it. It’s not stupid, it’s not irresponsible and it’s not impossible either. Especially if you take actual real steps toward it, instead of just saying you’re going to do it someday.

So, go and do the thing.

… And if the thing for you is this online conference, mention me. Maybe we’ll be in the same critique group together and you can cringe over my first ten pages. It will be so fun!

The FACE

Okay. I’m pretty embarrassed to share this piece of information with you… because it’s going to ‘out’ basically every guy I’ve ever been attracted to.

So, sometime during my mid-twenties, like already married and everything, I was talking to a best friend of mine about past dating life, celebrity crushes and that sort of girl gab… And I told her that I have a really, really specific type that I like physically…

 

REENACTMENT TIME. Two friends having a shallow conversation over a tray of chicken nuggets.

Me: So, every single celebrity and guy I’ve been attracted to has the same face. The Same. Exact. Face.

Her: Haha. Okay, like what?

Me: Brown eyes. Most importantly.

Her: Most importantly?

Me: As big as humanly possible. Freakishly big brown puppy dog eyes.

Her: Is that it? They all have big, brown eyes?

Me: Well… And I like brunettes.

Her: Sure. A natural with the brown eyes. Short hair or long?

Me: You know that sixties hair where it’s like swooped over but still with decent side-burns?

Her: Ooh yeah.

Me: I like cheekbones. Like when their cheeks ball up when they smile.

Her: Oh yeah, that’s cute.

Me: Just a lot of face. An overwhelming amount of face. Like the chunkier the dude the better.

Her: Uh…

Me: And like, I know I should probably be trying to breed out my big nose, but I love long noses. A real man’s nose.

Her: You… you know you just perfectly described… feature by feature… Woody from Toy Story, right?

Me: …

Her: …

Me:

jcena

!!!

 

No, this is not a joke. And no, this is not an exaggeration either. I have no idea why I didn’t put it together sooner. Honest to goodness, not lying or making this up… three of my past love interests have even told me DIRECTLY that other people say they look like Woody (my husband included).

And okay, this best friend I was talking to reassured me that every girl had “A Face”. And she showed me hers. Hers was normal. Hers was like a Ben Affleck looking face. MINE IS A CARTOON TOY OKAY? HOW IS THAT A NORMAL HUMAN EXPERIENCE?

And like the creepiest part of it… is that I have always loved Woody. A little too much. Like once I got a Woody doll as a Christmas present and I actually cried over it. I do not know why I’m so attached to him as a character. I think maybe… loyalty? He’s super loyal throughout the series? (I’ve heard #4 is questionable here. I haven’t seen it yet) But, Toy Story One came out when I was five… which is a pretty impressionable age, right?

lmao

Another theory here. It’s not actually Woody. It’s Daniel. I don’t know if it’s a coincidence that I was actively and purposefully seeking Dan’s exact face. Not to mention really specific personality traits that my husband has perfectly. It’s… very odd. I don’t know that I believe in soul mates, but it honestly almost feels like I remembered what Daniel looked like and I was trying to find him.

Either that or I’m really hot for Toy Story. Whatever.

GUEST POST: “Just Start” Annie Cowden

 

JUST START PLEASE!

Hey, you creative geniuses!! You have so many ideas just swirling through your head constantly. So, I bet you can relate to some of these phrases you have when it comes to thinking about making that vision come to life.

Does this sound familiar?

• Once I am more clear, THEN I will start!
• I’m just waiting until I have a little more clarity
• I don’t know what I want yet, so I’m just waiting
• I’m trying to figure out what it is EXACTLY I’m meant to do before I do anything

HOMIES!! I got to tell you something. And that is, this type of thinking can become habitual thinking and it is a straight up trap. As long as you keep thinking that way….no big surprise here — you’re going to keep thinking that way. Waiting leads to more waiting, period. If you wait to decide on one thing, you’ll wait to decide the next thing. And then you will comfort yourself by saying ah I’ll wait till the next go around. I’ll wait till things aren’t so crazy in my life. I’ll wait until ____________________.

There is one small (large) problem with that.

The TRUTH is, is there are not very many guarantees. So you’re betting on something that you don’t know and you can’t know is going to happen. Think about it: Are you waiting to start writing until you have the dream writing office with natural light and a fountain and no kids screaming in the background. Or maybe you’re waiting until you have more free time. (that seems kind of vague to me no offense, but I hear that one all the time).

TODAY IS ALWAYS THE DAY. Today is the day to do something towards getting your creative project off the ground. Because here is the punchline:

“Clarity doesn’t come before action, action comes before clarity”

Now hold up- I understand how this could be confusing when there is so much advice on being specific about your audience, your message, your mission statement, who you are, what you do, etc. But YOU GUYS stop taking labels so seriously. There are not rules in life. You can change your bio and your title whenever you want. You can change it twice a day if you want! You can self designate yourself whatever you want, at any time, without having to ask a soul.

 

Here’s Why You Have to Take Action Before Clarity:

 

When I say take action, I mean- what logistically and literally has to happen in order to make this happen. Who has to be contacted? What do you have to create? What physical things do you need ready?

Now ask yourself, “what is the quickest way to get this done”. Because there’s a whole lot of mojo that goes into getting a book published, recording a song, starting a business, etc. But many people start with the fluff instead of start with the juicy stuff. It’s like you’re spending all your time on the whipped cream and keep procrastinating making the pie which is what you really love doing and what you do best.

So, before I get a song recorded, I have procrastinated because of a gazillion of reasons, but I can sum them up like this:

• The song isn’t good enough yet
• I don’t know anyone who will record the guitar part for me
• I can’t afford it
• I’m waiting until I can find backup singers

Just some typical fluff. Which I know you can see similarities amongst any craft. Here’s the truth though-all of these “excuses” or “obstacles” are either A) Not true or B) can be overcome by taking action on that specific task.

So if the true, ONLY THING STOPPING me is “I can’t afford it”, if that is really honestly and sincerely the truth, then my only focus from that point on becomes getting creative to get the money. My new task at hand is to earn the money. If you will truly do anything for your craft, then these excuses don’t matter. I immediately dig into my skill sets and think what I can offer, sell clothes, reach out to people who need a dog walker or a babysitter, have a yard sale, skip out on a cost I normally buy (sacrifice something else). Because believe me, it’s possible if you want it.
Similarily if my excuse is “I don’t have backup singers yet” or “I don’t know anyone who can play a guitar” then I just need to stop whining about it and say: Okay, well what would an established professional who was looking for a musician do? Journal out all the possible solutions to your problems, and one of them will land home with you. Try one of them or try all of them.

You Are Allowed to Change Your Mind

 

Changing your mind does not mean giving up. I always want you to be honest with yourself. If you truly deeply desired to run a 10K but after 2 weeks had a few bad days and gave up, that’s not the same thing as changing your mind. But if you showed up your best self, made a promise to yourself to follow a training schedule, gave it enough time to give yourself the chance to form a new habit, then you will be opened up and exposed to more avenues of things you love more.

Maybe you stick to the training plan, and because of that you see a class at the gym which ends up bringing you WAY MORE JOY than running. If you wind up choosing the class over training, it isn’t necessarily giving up. However, it’s all about your initial intention anyway. You have to be honest about why you wanted to do the race.
-why you wanted to write the book
-why you wanted to start the non-profit
-why you wanted to be a teacher
-why you wanted to be in the show

Knowing your why will keep you going. So don’t skip taking the time to know your why!

The reason why action brings clarity, is because you are likely doing something you have never done before. So how in the world are you supposed to know exactly what to say, do, wear, when you have not done something before?!?? Sometimes I have ideas for camps/workshops for various musical theatre camps and voice lesson programs, but I avoid going to edit and finalize the flyer because “I don’t know for sure what I am offering”.

Guess what: as long as my flyer stays as a draft on my laptop, then I’m not sharing my musical passion with anyone, nobody’s kids are getting my joy and energizing classes, I’m not getting any money from my gifts, ALL BECAUSE I AM WAITING TO COME UP WITH THE PERFECT IDEA.

So to sum this up, in my case taking action can be WORKING ON THE FLYER. Maybe my very first day I don’t have to print it and hang it up, but every day I work on the flyer, the idea change a little bit. The time length of the workshop changes, the price changes, the concept changes, and the more I work on it, the closer and closer it gets to feeling like home. But I know well enough that there is no such thing as perfect, so once it hits a place that feels good and exciting in my body, I then have to take the action to print out the flyers and hang them up. And no, I don’t know all the logistics, but I will know as I go along.

To writers: When you are writing, you are not writing in permanent marker on something that is going to be hung in a museum with your name on it. You literally can change it, always. But NEVER save a good idea for later. That is the worst thing a creative can do. Because then you are essentially believing you won’t get any better ideas. Do you know how many amazing chord progressions that have come to me that I didn’t make a song with because I was waiting until I was a “better songwriter” to use them? That sounds so silly now!

The next time you feel that dark cloud come over you when you are about to begin a project, say this affirmation:

I have unlimited permission to change this as many times as I want.

We are so weird as humans. We always need permission don’t we? Sometimes just acknowledging that whatever you create isn’t permanent, is so liberating.

ALSO.

It’s very liberating to understand that, so long as you aren’t breaking laws…you really can’t screw up your path that much. We spend a lot of mental energy making decisions because we want to be “right”. Here’s a secret…one decision you make isn’t really going to alter your destiny. If you want to try doing slam poetry, well you might as well try it because we only got like 99 years on this earth so just keep doing you. When in doubt, just bring it back to the now, and ask what excites you most? ALWAYS follow the joy. Always follow the fun.

I am going to leave you with one book recommendation and one song recommendation!

Book: The War of Art by Steven Pressfield.
Song: Follow the Compass of Your Heart https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BY5JTxFt2pM

 

Annie

 

ANNIE COWDEN is a singer, songwriter and motivational speaker. When she’s not traveling the world, she works with teens and young adults who feel deeply inspired to create amazing things in their life. She is a self-discovery leader, adventure-seeking heart follower, and music is her first language. If you would like to learn more about her coaching, please follow her wonderful page on Facebook- https://www.facebook.com/AnniesVizion/

A Sappy Post About My Sappy Wedding Anniversary

Guess what day it is?

 

Five years ago TODAY Daniel and I were marrrrrrrried. Woooohoooo! In honor of this sweet, sweet, milestone, I decided to write a sweet, sweet blog post for my sweet, sweetheart. It will be so sweet in fact that it might make you sick if you ingest too much of it… so be prepared. CUZ IT’S ABOUT TO GET ROMANTIC UP IN HERE.

oneiwant

Dan. What up, bro?

Maybe no one else will read this post. And that’s okay. Because today is about you, my love. So I’ve been thinking lately, about all the times you’ve told me how you feel “boring”. And that’s just crazy. For me, you are the opposite of boring. You fascinate me. My life comes alive anytime you come home from work or wake up next to me or spend time with me (when you honestly could be doing anything else at the moment). My heart goes from zero to fifty, like, just at the chance to hang out with you, because you are just a big ball of FUN. And I wish I could think of a better way to say that… like, you know, if only I were some kind of an author or something and I knew how to write words.

I love the way your eyes crinkle when you smile. And I love your laughs. Sometimes you have this high pitched “HA” and then other times you sound like a freaking duck choking on a popsicle stick. I love it though. Like that’s when I know we’re on a super good inside joke, is when we’re both WHEEZING like we’re dying.

I love how at the end of the day when we put the kids to bed, our activity of choice is trashy reality TV with a side of cheesecake. Like, that’s all I want in life, honestly. But I also love the things you watch when you’re not with me. Like, documentaries about lions and people detailing their car or something. Videos with scammers scamming other scammers. And divers collecting stuff in muddy rivers. I just like the small interests you have. I don’t know. It’s attractive to me. Because, sure, like you could be SUPER into sports or something. And be that guy who’s into sports. Or working out or something that is some general interest. But I really like that you like weird things. I like when you want to show me a video about space or tell me a weird fact you learned that day. I really, really love that about you.

OH MY GOSH and how lucky that we have the same taste in movies? I mean, basically. All I want to watch are old movies. And you adamantly refuse to watch the same movie twice unless it’s Black Hawk Down or American Sniper (for some reason?).

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I love the unique way you walk. I love your voice. I loved your voice when you called me up for our first date, even though I basically interrupted you to tell you I was on the news for doing a flash mob. Ah, the way you say my name too. When you’re talking to someone else about me it’s this nice soft “Val”. But when I’m in trouble it’s, “VAL-REE!”

This is selfish, but I really love the way you love me. I love that you confidently tell people that I’m an author. Like as if I already had a successful career or something. And when you want to bring me to all your parties because you think “I’m an ace up your sleeve”. (I wish!)

aww

I love the way you love the kids. You are a great dad. You worry that you’re not. But you really really are. You are always RIGHT THERE to take them and play with them. Give me a break or help me with something around the house. Ha. You are the Starsky to my Hutch when it comes to chores. I’m so incredibly lucky that I married a guy as helpful as you are.

Seriously, and it’s not just me. Like that is your legacy. I think you get a call every freaking day from SOMEONE needing your help and advice. Whether it’s about car stuff, or medicine, or a financial decision. YOU are the person that everyone turns to because you are competent AF!!

dadgrad

You make me happy every single day, with all the puns. And all the pranks. There has not been a single day that I have not laughed since I met you. You are a hidden treasure in a lifetime ocean of day by day challenges. (Another “River Rat” reference?) Just when I think there is no possible way I could love you more, you do something else that gets me. I feel like the Grinch, except my heart is blowing up to like thirty sizes bigger.

I just love you. That’s it. I really do.

I Randomly Generated an Emotional Short Story using only Shrek References

shrek

Swamp Feelings

A Short Story
by Val Manwill

Shrek had always loved the stinky swamp with its bad, bitter boulders. It was a place where he felt lonely.

He was a green, scary, muskrat stew drinker with green skin and large hands. His friends saw him as an old-fashioned, obnoxious ogre. Once, he had even revived a dying, legless gingerbread man. That’s the sort of man he was.

Shrek walked over to the window and reflected on his muddy surroundings. Duloc teased in the distance like fighting dragons.

Then he saw something in the distance, or rather someone. It was the figure of Donkay. Donkay was a big donkey with a hideous tail and powerful fur.

Shrek gulped. He was not prepared for Donkay.

As Shrek stepped outside and Donkay came closer, he could see the important glint in his eye.

Donkay gazed with the affection of 3765 ugly fine fairy tale creatures. He said, in hushed tones, “I love you and I want friendship.”

Shrek looked back, even more gassy and still fingering the Shrekish goblet. “Donkay, ogres are like onions,” he replied.

They looked at each other with angry feelings, like two breakable, burnt blind mice saving at a very ogre quest, which had Smashmouth music playing in the background and two shreky uncles swamping to the beat.

Shrek studied Donkay’s hideous tail and powerful skin. Eventually, he took a deep breath. “I’m sorry,” began Shrek in apologetic tones, “but I don’t feel the same way, and I never will. I just don’t love you Donkay.”

Donkay looked god-like, his emotions raw like a prickly, pretty pitchfork.

Shrek could actually hear Donkay’s emotions shatter into 7420 pieces. Then the big donkey hurried away into the distance.

Not even a drink of muskrat stew would calm Shrek’s nerves tonight.

THE END
Many thanks to the plot generator for this piece of important literature: