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WordySouth old

3 exciting reasons not to feel lonely in 2014

I’ll be honest. I miss you all.

Just a couple months ago, we had our fifth–and I think, best–Crossroads Writers Conference and it was chock full of awesome, but now I’m lonely again. It happens every year. I just never get used to it.

This time, I decided to do something about it. That’s why I’m happy to tell you about three things we’re doing between now and the next conference that gives me a great excuse to talk/text/email/pester you.  (Yes, you!)

#1) the Wordy South podcast

Do you like things that are free? I do too! That’s the deal with podcasts. Download ‘em for free then go workout, take a walk, stream it in your car on long rides. You may think they’re soooo 2005 but I love ‘em.

That’s why we’re launching our own on Thursday, December 19, 2013. Every week, there’ll be a new installment featuring some of our favorite guests from past conferences, members of the Crossroads family and writers new to the whole Wordy South thing.

You’ll find each episode online, via iTunes, Stitcher, Soundcloud and whatever else we can get set up.

Our first guests include Bernice McFadden, Adam Mansbach, Carrie Howland, Delilah S. Dawson and Cat Scully. We’ve got a couple of surprise guests and dozens of cool folks from the five previous conferences so this is going to be fun.

 

#2) Webinars, tweet-ups and Hangouts, oh my!

Early in 2014, we’re re-launching this website.

The idea is to keep regular blogs with tips, advice, insight, prompts and whatever else we can think of to help keep you motivated.

But we’re also working on ways to keep us connected to each other in the year that passes between one conference and the next. That’s why we’ll start having regular meet-ups on Twitter (er, tweet-ups) and Google Hangouts.

And we’re working on plans to introduce webinars so you can workshop with your favorite Crossroads writers.

 

#3) the 1st ever Crossroads Writers Retreat

What the what?

Oh yeah. Think: a cross between the conference and that ray gun from “Honey, I Shrunk the Kids.” A mini-Crossroads that may or may not be in Macon.

Honey...

And there may or may not be more than one. Perhaps that’s something we can talk about in our tweet-ups and Hangouts, eh?

See, the big idea is that we want Crossroads to be directed and designed by you even more than it already is. Surveys aren’t enough anymore. We want you active and engaged in making sure we can help you write more and write better.

(That goes double for the next conference.)

So stay tuned. Make sure you’re on the email list, that you’ve added us on Facebook and are following us on Twitter. Share your ideas below or shoot me an email at chris (at) crossroadswriters (dot) com

Later!

Chris H.

redirect

Is Your Story Getting in the Way of Your Writing?

 

So, a couple weeks ago, I started re-reading a book called “Redirect” by Timothy D. Wilson. It promotes the “story editing” approach to life, which should be perfect for a writer, right?

But Wilson isn’t offering insights about writing, per se. His book is about psychology and neuroscience, not novels.

And still, it is about narratives.

Here’s an excerpt from Wilson’s interview with Scientific American:

We all have personal stories about who we are and what the world is like. These stories aren’t necessarily conscious, but they are the narratives by which we live our lives. Many of us have healthy, optimistic stories that serve us well. But sometimes, people develop pessimistic stories and get caught in self-defeating thinking cycles, whereby they assume the worst and, as a result, cope poorly. 

Timothy D. Wilson, author and professor of psychology at the University of Virginia

Timothy D. Wilson, author and professor of psychology at the University of Virginia

You (and I) have heard a bazillion times that “writers write” so get off your butt and just write.

So why aren’t you (or I) writing?

After the conferences and workshops and talks and great blog posts and all that motivation… why aren’t you writing? Once you’ve rocked out (or not) for a month doing NaNoWriMo why aren’t you still writing in December or January, February, March, etc.?

Could it be the story you tell yourself about who you are? Maybe it’s because you’re looking at your stumbles and thinking, “I’m just not supposed to be a writer.”

Or, maybe it’s because you’re telling yourself bad stories, like the situation has to be right, that you must first be inspired, that you will as soon as…

But, Chris, there’s not enough time in the day. Believe me, I know. And after work, who has the energy? I get that one too. Just try to get up that early, or find a few minutes in your day when the kids and your spouse demand all your attention.

Yep, but in the end, what you think of as “reasons” for not writing — and others call “excuses” for not writing — are actually the elements of the bad story you’re telling yourself.

Wilson’s book, which is also about the stories that are told to us and the stories we tell others, offers clearer advice than I can about how to suss out what story you’re telling yourself and how to change it.

But that doesn’t mean you have to read it (though I’ve enjoyed it twice now) for you to experiment with the principle: Editing your story can change your behavior.

You are a storyteller. I believe that about you (and me). So, if you’re still struggling to establish a solid writing routine, flex your storytelling — and story editing — muscles on yourself first.

Do you agree? Are you planning to try it? Or is this the stupidest thing you’ve ever heard in the history of ever? Share your thoughts, opinions, experiments, ideas, problems and miscellaneous random whatnot below.

 

Chris Horne is a Macon-born writer in the midst of a move to Akron, Ohio. Before he tricked his beautiful wife into becoming his beautiful wife, they started the Crossroads Writers Conference with a couple of like-minded (and like-awesome) Maconites, Dr. Monica Young-Zook and Dr. Kelly Whiddon. 

Robert Venditti

X-O Manoawesome: interview with Robert Venditti

Rachel: How does working in digital, something you did for the first time in The Surrogates: Case Files, change the collaboration of a writer and artist? Is it essentially the same process or are there some aspects that alter? How does it improve upon the traditional methods?

ROBERT VENDITTI: Brett Weldele and I have a done two graphic novels with each other, so our process is pretty established.  It also helps that Brett handles all of the art himself—even the lettering—so it’s really just the two of us working with Chris Staros at Top Shelf (publisher of The Surrogates).  I will say that the content of The Surrogates: Case Files lends itself well to the digital format, and Brett’s style, particularly his unique color palette, really shines on a screen.  There’s this one page in the first issue where he draws a dusting of fall leaves, and the colors really pop.  It’s one of my favorite moments.

 

Robert with his colleagues Gail Simone and Nathan Edmondson at Crossroads 2011 (Photo: GR Lucas)

Rachel:  You recently began publishing your first month by month, working on X-O Manowar.  How does this sort of quick production and historical sci-fi/fantasy aspect change your style of writing? How does it determine your research process?

VENDITTI: Writing for a monthly book is a big change from the graphic novel writing I’m accustomed to doing.  There are always multiple issues in various stages of production, which took getting used to, since I tend to be a linear writer.  With a monthly book, there’s also a need to reorient the reader every issue—without making it read like you’re reorienting them—and I’m still learning how to do that as effectively as I can.  On the plus side, you have a new book on the shelf every month instead of a graphic novel every other year, so that’s nice.

On the research side, since X-O Manowar has a heavy historical element, I’ve spent a great deal of time trying to get the details right, particularly in the opening half of the first issue, where we see the main character as a Visigoth in the 5th Century.  I won’t claim that everything is accurate, but if I got something wrong, it wasn’t for lack of effort.  I spent almost a whole day trying to find out whether or not Visigoth saddles would’ve had stirrups at the Battle of Pollentia.  Historians seem to differ on that point, so I went with no stirrups, since that would look different than every other saddle that’s been drawn in a comic.

 

Rachel: You have, like a lot of comic writers, a handful of projects going simultaneously.  How do you keep your feet on the ground functioning as a writer in so many worlds?  What is something that you do to keep yourself present for the stories as individual worlds?

VENDITTI: I divide my days up into even chunks, working on a separate project for a couple of hours at a time, so I’m always moving ahead on everything at once.  At least that’s my plan.  Inevitably, something of the this-needs-to-be-done-right-now variety comes up, and the day gets blown apart.  The alternative method would be to not have a plan and let each day decide for itself what you’re going to work on, but of course when you do that, nothing happens and you end up wasting a day.  So I start each day with a plan, and even though I know going in the plan isn’t going to be followed, I allow myself to hope that it will.  I’m an eternal optimist.

 

Rachel: X-O Manowar has been described as “the cornerstone of the Valiant brand”(Simons, CBR).  With the challenge of producing a month by month for the first time while this precedent exists… how’s that pressure treating you?  What’s something you do to wind down in the midst of such a wild schedule?

VENDITTI: Honesty, I try not to think about things like that.  If I considered it my responsibility to make X-O Manowar the “cornerstone of the Valiant brand,” I’d probably freeze up at the keyboard.  I just try to write the best comics I can the way I write them, and hope the audience will respond positively.  Thankfully, things have gone well so far, but with a monthly book you’re only as good as the latest issue, so there’s no time to rest on your laurels.

As for winding down . . . I do anything that has nothing to do with writing.  But it all makes its way back to the page in one way or another.  All writing is autobiographical in the sense that it’s made from the writer’s influences and experiences, so on days—and there’s plenty of them—when the words just don’t seem to come, I go out and make some of those experiences.

 

Rachel:  It’s been said that The Surrogates “reads like Philip K. Dick writing an episode for The Wire” (i09).  In my book, that is some damn fine praise!  How do you continue to push yourself to kick it up to the next level or is it a “slow and steady wins the race” game?  Do you pay much attention to your reviews (I mean other than when an interviewer forces you too) or do you find it distracting?

VENDITTI: I’d like to say I don’t read reviews, but it’s hard to ignore them.  Especially in the digital age, when reviews are posted online in advance of the book’s release, so for a week or so, they’re the only response that’s out there in the world.  I try not to get too wrapped up in them, though.  I just keep my head down and do what I think a story needs.  Whether I’m successful in the end is up to each individual reader to decide for themselves.

 

Rachel:  Your work seems to push toward the “new.” How do you find your challenges and adapt to a changing marketplace?  What would you say has been your most valuable learning experience over the years and what is one challenge you have on your mental list that remains unchecked?

VENDITTI: I make a conscious effort to do something different with each new project.  So far in my career, I’ve written cyberpunk sci-fi (The Surrogates), political/medical thriller (The Homeland Directive), middle-grade fantasy (the adaptations of the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series), young-adult vampire romance (the adaptation of the Blue Bloods novel), and now with X-O Manowar, mainstream superhero comics.  A lot of people will say you should brand yourself with a particular genre and build your career from there, but if I did that, I think I’d feel like I was in a rut.  Changing things up keeps me engaged with the story.

As for challenges I’d still like to tackle, writing a prose novel is definitely at the top of the list.

 

rsz_Handbill-Freebie

Christina Ranallo: Write a Book No One Can Put Down

You are in the middle of novel, you dive deep into the plot with a character you care about, worry about, maybe even fantasize about and you carry that book around rife with the anticipation of opening page after page to more scenes, more succulent words to bring you deeper, closer to the resolution you (and that character) long for.

You hear your stop coming up, and you leave the book on the train. Didn’t it feel like you left somebody on the train?

WANT TO HEAR CHRISTINA IN PERSON? REGISTER WHILE THERE’S STILL TIME!

No matter who is the main character in your novel, the symbols of your own life and experience come through. The same positive and negative extremes you apply to your own ethics and morals will be the ones your characters embrace. It is as inevitable as what you see in the mirror. That’s why the hero’s journey is more than a model for writing; it’s a model for life. A reflection of life. And because of that it breathes life into your writing.

Joseph Campbell studied and taught religion and mythology for decades and his remarkable book, The Hero of a Thousand Faces is the basis for what writers and psychologists call the hero’s journey. Campbell recognized the commonality of all myths no matter where in the world they originated. There is universal phenomenon of any story that follows the hero’s journey.

It’s the book we can’t leave behind.

TO READ MORE OF CHRISTINA’S BLOG AT PENPAPERWRITE.COM, CLICK HERE