Tag Archives: The Weaklings

Reflections on the fourth Jot Conference

The flow of events

Last night The Weaklings put on the fourth Jot Conference. We had 82 people show up, and judging by an unofficial “raise your hand if this is your first time at Jot” poll from the stage, it looked like about one third of the audience were new people.

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Our friend, Alison Hodgson, spoke first and provided three practical tips for writers: (1) Start writing; (2) Don’t stop; (3) Create your own “You’ll rue the day!” list, which is something of a black list you keep for recording the names of people who discourage you in your writing. Alison is a humorist, so I think this last tip is a joke. :-)

I spoke next and talked about lessons I’ve learned from my first year as an acquisitions editor. The talk seemed to be received well. My year as an acquisitions editor has been one of the most exciting of my career so far. As I told the group last night, I have a long way to go on the road to becoming an editor of substance. However I have learned so much and was delighted to share what I know thus far.

After my presentation Ellen Stumbo spoke on the value of vulnerability in your writing. Ellen is a blogger, journalist, and an aspiring author. She was also kind enough to drive from Wisconsin just to participate in Jot. I think I can speak for all of The Weaklings and the other Jot friends (ahem, Ann, Amelia, and Susie) when I say that Ellen seems like a kindred spirit. During her presentation on vulnerability she spoke about “what vulnerability is not,” (mainly, it’s not a confessional of every wicked thing you’ve ever done) which struck me as an important point to make.

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Panel Discussion at the Jot Conference

JOT II is right around the corner (next week Friday, September 13th, to be precise…) At this JOT my writers group will be hosting a panel discussion. We, the Weaklings, will be the panel. We’ve never done something like this before. To be honest, the whole thing feels a little pretentious. We certainly don’t mean it to be, and I hope on the night of JOT it doesn’t come off that way. But I thought I’d tell the story of the panel discussion here, just in case anyone thinks we’re getting big heads. :)

The last JOT totally surprised us. We couldn’t believe 60 people showed up to hear us talk about writing. It was a jaw dropping night for us. We made new friends, we connected with old ones, and everyone that came was so responsive to our presentations. We didn’t count on any of that happening. Honestly, we would’ve been happy if just five people had shown up, much less 60.

Something else we didn’t count on was a common question from attendees. All four of us were asked the same thing by different people:

“How can I find / start / join a writers group?”

None of us knew that question was coming and so none of us had a very good answer ready. As we debriefed after JOT, and as we talked to other writers in other groups, we realized that there really isn’t one way to answer this question. Like so many other situations in life, how you join or start a writers group is different for everyone.

After talking about it for a while we decided to have a panel discussion on the topic of writers groups during JOT II. We want to take a few minutes and try to provide a quality answer to this question. We’ll tell the story of how we got started writing together, what the benefits are to being in a group, and how to fight against the indefatigable tide of “real life” that makes you think you’re “too busy” to be in your group.

If you’re in the greater Grand Rapids area I hope you’ll consider coming to JOT II next week. It’s fun, it’s free, and you’ll meet a lot of other writers in a very casual, easy-going setting. See you there.

-Andy

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On Planning a Writers Conference, part 2: Inspiration and Community

Last night I participated in a monthly meeting for the Breathe Conference planning committee. We meet throughout the year at a local book store. We drink coffee, work through an agenda, and hopefully manage to plan an annual writers conference that is both equipping and enriching.

But much more than just those pragmatics happen at each meeting. We encourage one another. We laugh. We have thoughtful discussions about writing and publishing that may or may not make it onto the Breathe platform, and without really trying – we reinforce one another’s identities as writers.

How do I know this happens? Because last night I came home full of writer juice (so to speak). Like a taught water balloon I was bursting with ideas. After putting my toddler to bed I sat down in wrote three pages of keep-able fiction. When I was finished I realized that the Breathe planning committee had filled my creative well. When I got home I just had to let it out.

Are you in a writers group? Or, do you have people around you who actively encourage your writing?

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Some thoughts on JOT: The GR Writers Mini-Conference

WE DID IT!

That’s my first big thought after Jot. The Weaklings (my writers group of five or more years) put on a successful “mini writers conference” last weekend. But how do we measure success in an event like this? And were there any surprises? I’ll try to answer these two questions in the rest of the post.

What surprised me at Jot:

  • The attendance. – We had 58 people sign up before we started and others trickled in as we got going! The meeting space was packed. It was just the right size group. I was able to at least say hello to most people that came and have many meaningful conversations with others. I was thrilled that so many people wanted to come hear our presentations. If you were one of those people – Thank you for coming!
  • A recurring question: “How do I find a writers group?” – I keep getting asked this question and I don’t have a good answer for it. My writers group started because we were friends. Josh, Bob, and I were all active readers asking ourselves the question, “I wonder if I could write too?” Then Matt came along (he was already a writer) and basically said, “Yes you can. Let’s get organized.” Boom. The Weaklings were born. (If you want the full story read Josh’s post about the Weaklings.) But none of this really answers the above question. The best I’ve been able to tell people is, “Find other like-minded writers and just start taking it seriously.” I’m not satisfied with that. I’m going to keep pondering this question. Stay tuned.
  • Representing a publisher. – This might sound stupid, but at writers conferences I often forget that I represent a publisher. When I’m in these settings I think of myself as just another writer in the group. Seriously. (Again, this might sound really dumb, but I’m being honest.) So I’m always surprised by some of the questions I get asked. At Jot I got to answer a number of questions about publishing, and about my workplace, Zondervan. It was fun. I think too often publishers seem like some sort of mysterious club to writers. I enjoy just talking straight with people and try to clear away the fog around publishing.

What made Jot successful.

  • Meeting other writers. – More than anything else, this is what I personally hoped to achieve with Jot. I wanted to make friends with other writers in the Grand Rapids area. In this regard, Jot was a huge success. I shook hands with lots of new people. I learned about what other people are writing. I also (hopefully) helped encourage them to keep on writing. I even exchanged emails with a couple of folks.
  • Reconnecting with the writers I already know. – For me, this really important. I’ve said on this blog before that if there’s anything I’ve learned about writing over the last few years it’s that writing cannot be done alone. The encouragement from the other guys in the Weaklings has propelled me forward to seeing a good number of publications. My network of friends in the writing community are inspiring me even further. At Jot I got to see friends from the Breathe Conference, the Guild (those two groups have some overlap, but they are not actually the same), friends from Zondervan, from Baker, from Cornerstone University (my Alma mater), and lots of other familiar faces.
  • I kept my talk within the 15 minute time frame. – In my pre-Jot post I mentioned that I’m long-winded. Well, the gods of public speaking smiled on me at Jot and I was able to keep my talk from stretching into an epic oration.
  • The other Weaklings gave awesome presentations. – Seriously. I’m super proud of my writing brothers Matt, Bob, and Josh. I learned something from all of them. I actually wished I had taken notes. I was too busy thinking about running the event that I forgot to let some of the content really soak in. If you missed their presentations, you can see a video of the event here. I plan on re-watching all of their presentations.

That’s all for now. I’ll post my iPhone pics from Jot tomorrow. If you attended – Thank you!

-AR

You are invited to a mini writers conference

The Weaklings, Josh Mosey, Bob Evenhouse, Matt LandrumThis blog post is your official invitation to Jot: The GR Writers Mini-ConferenceI hope you’ll consider coming. The event is completely free and it should be of great value to writers. It takes place in Grand Rapids, MI on February 8th. Click this link for further details.

Here’s the story behind Jot and some more information on why you should come.

The Genesis of Jot

I’ve been in a writers group for about five years called “The Weaklings.” This group includes Josh Mosey, Bob Evenhouse, Matt Landrum, and a few other friends who’ve drifted in and out of our meetings. I’m not sure whose idea it originally was but some time during the fall of 2012 we looked at each other and said, “It’s high time the Weaklings put together an event for writers.”

(I don’t know if any of us actually used the phrase “high time” or not, but it sounds good for the telling of this story.)

We are partly inspired by another Michigan-based writers group, the Guild, which is a group of female writers who started the annual Breathe Conference. If you’ve read this blog for a while then you know that I’m part of the Breathe Conference planning committee. The other Weaklings have all also been involved with either Breathe or the Guild in various ways. The point is, getting to know this group of writers and seeing how they invest in Breathe showed me and the other Weaklings how much good a writers group can do when they come together for an event like this.

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Please Vote for my short story in the Write Michigan contest!

I’m thrilled to announce that I’m a finalist in the Write Michigan short story contest. My sci-fi story, “Archived,” is one of ten stories that were chosen by judges to be voted on by the public between now and January 31st. I’m humbled and completely excited to spread the news about this honor between now and then. I’m so grateful for this opportunity!

Will you vote for me? 

Here’s what you need to know about voting:

  • You can read the story in full and vote for it here: http://writemichigan.org/vote.html
  • Anyone can vote. Voters don’t have to live in Michigan residents. (Only the writers had to be Michigan residents.)
  • You can vote once per week from a given computer in each of the two categories: Writers over 18, and writers under 18.
  • That means you could vote on your work computer, then your home computer, then on your phone, then on your iPad, then on your whatever-else-you’ve-got … once per week.
  • Voting ends on January 31, 2013
  • Winners are announced on February 1, 2013.
  • You can read all about the contest and all of the entries in both the adult and teenage categories at www.WriteMichigan.org 
This image will make sense after you've read the story. (Found on Wiki Commons.)

This image will make sense after you’ve read the story. (Found on Wiki Commons.)

I can’t tell you how thrilled I am that my story was chosen. This is the first time I’ve ever been a “finalist” at anything. (I honestly can remember being a finalist in anything before. I generally avoid competitions like I avoid math problems or diet soda.) I owe a huge debt of thanks to a few people:

  • My wife, for her endless support of my writing.
  • My writers group, The Weaklings, for their constant encouragement, coaching, spurring-on, and camaraderie.  I was with the Weaklings when I wrote my first draft of this story during the 3-Day Novel weekend of 2010. It sat in my filing cabinet for over a year before I touched it again.
  • My friend and Zondervan colleague, Brian Phipps, who read an early draft of this story and provided critical feedback on the characters and the plot.  Brian is a published poet and his advice on how to “earn my ending” was (and still is) invaluable to me.

I’m so excited to have been chosen to be a finalist that honestly, even if I lose, I’ll still be thrilled and thankful. What an honor just to place in the final ten!

Please take a few minutes and cast a vote for me. Thank you!

-Andy Rogers

Why I Love the 3-Day Novel Contest (and Why I’ll do it again next year)

I love the 3-Day Novel contest.

In case you’ve not heard of it before, I’ll give you a brief history:

A few decades ago a group of Canadian writers dared each other to write an original novel over Labor Day weekend. Each writer had to start completely fresh on Saturday at 12am – no previous writing was allowed and be completely finished by midnight on Monday. That’s just three 24 hour periods to get the novel done. This initial competition among a few friends grew year after year until it eventually became an international contest that takes place annually over Labor Day weekend. The winner of the contest gets published by a Canadian publisher. There are other prizes for second, third, etc., but the real prize is that everyone who competes ends up with a finished draft of their new novel. You can read the official history and details at their website, www.3daynovel.com 

Josh Mosey, Bob Evenhouse, Matt Landrum

Josh, Bob, and Matt during the 2008 3-Day Novel contest.

Why I love the 3-Day Novel

The absolute #1 reason why I love this contest is simple: At the end of 3 days you have a full draft of a new story. BOOM. Just like that. The three days are gruelling, don’t get me wrong, but they are so worth it. The average 3-Day Novel entry is around 30,000 words (which is closer to a novella than a novel, but hey, who’s counting…). How long does it take you to write 30,000 words on a new project right now? It takes me months. I’ve got a job, I’m married, I’m a parent, I’m active in my church, I have family and friends nearby, etc. etc. etc. It’s very hard to get that much work done in a short amount of time. This contest however provides a format in which you are forced to race the clock and finish your work. It’s awesome. It’s tiring, exhausting really, but at the end of one 3-Day Novel weekend I typically have accomplished as much in 3 days as I would have in a full year of writing.

It’s the event that glued my writers group together. Okay, this might sound sappy, but I love my writers group. (Group hug.) There are four of us at our core with a few other friends that have drifted in and out over the years. We call ourselves The Weaklings and we love to write together. You can read my friend Josh’s post, “I am a Weakling,” for more details on the group. Bob and Matt make up the rest of the core group. Josh also recorded his 3-Day Novel memories here.

It was Matt’s idea five years ago to get us involved in this contest. We decided to not just join, however, but to write it together in one house. Think about that. A group of guys writing at a frantic pace for 3 days in 1 house. It was chaotic, it was smelly, it was camaraderie at it’s best. Our local newspaper actually wrote up a story about us. You can read that story here. (At that point our group had one extra member.) This contest weekend back into 2008, I think, is the event that really made our group stick together. Before the contest we met, almost weekly, to discuss our outlines, compare notes, create characters, plan for the food, and brainstorm ideas. The preparation alone forced us to think creatively about each other’s stories. By the time the contest started I knew every other story almost as well as I knew my own. Had we never participated in a 3-Day Novel contest  in 2008 I’m not sure we would’ve stuck it out this long together.

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