Congratulations to our own Cindy Dees on winning Romantic Times’ Best Silhouette Romantic Suspense Novel of the Year and being nominated for a RITA … again!
We are proud to announce that SMU’s DeGolyer library will be housing Carmen Goldthwaite’s papers in its Archives of Women of the Southwest special collection, honoring her work to “to revive, remember and discover the women who came before throughout Texas’ fabric.”
Congratulations to CWI instructor Andrew Mortazavi who won a fiction fellowship from the Wisconsin Institute of Creative Writing for the next year. He will be leaving us to pursue his writing dreams. Thank you for your time with us, Andrew! Best of luck!
Writer’s Salon Review
Kathleen Rodgers, Wendy Lyn Watson, Kalena Cook and Shilpi Somaya Gowda, all published (or soon-to-be-published) writers, shared their wisdom at the recent salon, hosted by the always-great Legacy Books.
Kathleen Rodgers told us about perseverance — how it took her years, and even time off from writing, to finish her book. After years of revisions, rejections and her vow to never self-publish, she tracked down a niche publisher for her book, The Final Salute. Diligent self-promotion and building word-of-mouth has resulted in great reviews, award nominations and wins! Kathleen is hard at work on her next project and had these words to share, words that comforted and soothed her during her arduous process, torn from a 1995 Texas Monthly article about an author named Grover Lewis. “Grover Lewis died on the upswing, out from under the publishing world’s manhole cover. He went out a writer—unsung, perhaps, but it was in the writing and not in the applause that he found where he belonged.”
Wendy Lyn Watson talked about the “treadmill” of being published. She explained that selling your first book is the start; it’s followed by proposals and plans for the next things, always finishing the edits on one project as you are selling the next idea or series. She underscored how very much you must love writing, because it’s a hard schedule to maintain. But if you love the work, then you “can’t believe I get paid to do this!” as she said. She is the author of the Murder a la Mode mystery series.
Kalena Cook found her publisher after winning the Mayborn Literary Nonfiction Conference competition, which included a publishing contract with University of North Texas Press. Kalena’s book, Birthing a Better Way: 12 Secrets for Natural Childbirth, comes out in July, but she shared the book jacket and a few of the tips that will make her book stand out in the mothers-to-be market. Kalena talked about how she learned to take the facts of nonfiction and shape them narratively into stories, to create a book that is full of information, but an easy and enjoyable read.
Shilpi Somaya Gowda is in the middle of a press tour for the recent release of her book, Secret Daughter. She talked about the different stages of writing and the kind of critique she needed at each stage. The first draft, which she wrote while taking SMU classes, needed to be read by people who were writers, who had the understanding and language to not only tell her what they thought, but also why. She then farmed it out to people who were experts in the fields she was discussing. A few chapters to this doctor here, a few to this mother there. She wanted to be accurate as well as tell a good story. Then when she had all the pieces in place, she let the “feel-goods” (family, friends, etc.) read it to gain insight into the reader’s experience.
Please check out these authors’ books!
- Kathleen Rodgers: The Final Salute
- Wendy Lyn Watson: I Scream, You Scream and Scoop to Kill (September 2010)
- Kalena Cook: Birthing a Better Way: 12 Secrets for Natural Childbirth (July 2010)
- Shilpi Somaya Gowda: Secret Daughter
Taos Summer Intensive Program
It’s happening for the first time this July: SMU’s Creative Writing Program is getting out of town and heading to the enchanted landscape of Taos, New Mexico. If you’ve been thinking you want to get started but just can’t find the time, our regular classes will be offered in not-so-regular ways, giving you the opportunity to meet several requirements in five days rather than the usual six weeks. If you want to get away and really get into your writing, Taos is for you.
If you long for blocks of time to revel in your creativity without having to worry about the necessities of life (food, shelter, decisions), then this is your escape. Once you’re there, we take care of the housing, we feed you wonderfully and serve you great coffee—and even s’mores! There’s the Inspired Body stretching in the morning, two class sessions a day, excursions, walks, and plenty of time for thinking and writing during the day and evening.
Check us out on the web and make your reservations soon to catch the early bird discount!
All Roads Lead to New York
October 20-23, 2010
For four days, in the extraordinary setting of an Upper East-side mansion, up to 13 SMU writers will have the opportunity to live the literary life. Hear an honest and complete critique of your manuscript submission from publishing professionals, enjoy meals and lectures with those in the business, and learn firsthand the intricacies of the publishing world.
And let’s not forget, New York comes around again in 2011. Write on!
- Last possible Polish: July 20
- Last possible Revision: July 21
Spring engulfs me.
As I ride between my home and SMU, I go through veritable clouds of honeysuckle scent. Vines tumble and fall over the fences that line the trail, while irises and tulips jostle for a chance to surge closer to the sun.
My patio is now in shade. The pecan trees that flank me are covered in almost-blinding green, dripping leaves and stubble all over me, the ground; uncontrolled and uncontrollable.
It’s spring. Verdant and fecund are the buzzwords. Unabashed might be another.
But it wasn’t two months ago, when on the ride to school wind whistled through bare branches; when I thought for sure I had a full sun patio (and planned accordingly).
We know this, but as writers—and largely as Americans—we don’t respect it. Not out of willfulness or disdain, but because we’ve come to think of ourselves, and whatever projects we work on, as machinery. Day in, day out, the same. Quantifiable production.
Put in two years of time + a good idea + take the right classes/read the right books = manuscript → trip to New York to accept publishing contract and congrats from Oprah.
We don’t expect we won’t finish. We don’t expect to drop out of class. We don’t expect to not be invited. We don’t expect to not get the deal. But mostly, we don’t expect the season to change.
I’m the card-carrying worst offender of this. I’d published five books, in two different series; I had two more to go and every reason to think I’d be able to write and publish like clockwork until I died.
I finished the books, but had stopped loving the work. Didn’t even know why I did it, if I could do it again. I began to chase the things the work brought me rather than love OF the work. I hacked away at frozen ground; I planted beneath icicles. The season had changed … I needed to change, too.
Spring’s exuberance is followed by summer’s endurance, fall’s nostalgia and then, like it or not, winter comes. All outward signs point to death and the curtain of gray that falls over the world looks limitless. It’s like being trapped in the Snow Queen’s globe: not a sign of life anywhere and no confidence it will ever return. (Go on long enough, and you doubt spring is more than a fantastical dream you had one time.)
But even winter is just a season.
In order to embrace all that spring and summer have to offer, you have to use winter to rest, recuperate and feed. Anything that supplies your heart, mind and emotions with sustenance; anything that stretches your perspective, helps you understand, or entices you. And never stop the daily regime of writing 20 minutes a day. It’s your seed and even though you can’t see, you’re watering it and it’s just waiting.
If you follow this practice, the day will come when you see a few green leaves—maybe in a question, or the silhouette of a stranger or the desire to describe a scene. Your new season will be upon you.
It will happen, because the one truth is: seasons change.
What does this mean to a writer? If you are buoyant with excitement, can’t hardly wait to get to the page, more in love with your created reality than the one in which you live – congrats, baby, this is spring! Have we got the classes for you! Ignite Your Creativity! Creative Writing Introduction! Novel: the Story! Novel: the Plot! Screenwriting I! Blogs, Blurbs and Columns! Children’s Track: Formats! The Inspired Mind! (offered in Taos)
Is summer in full dress? You start out excited, but sometimes feel wrung out after the marathon of writing work? Come to Chapters for a cool, refreshing reflection on what you are producing with regularity. It will give you a moment of calm before you head back into the endurance test of producing a manuscript.
Fall is the harvest. Last gasp before New York. The last 10% feels harder than the preceding 90%. Revision and Polish are the choices for your mature manuscript, your advanced skills and your great ambitions.
And winter—you build it yourself, unconsciously, throughout the spring, summer and fall. Winter is filled with the cohort you traveled the writer’s journey with, reflecting on the adventures you had in New York, or in querying or at conferences. This is when you meet your allies for coffee and a chat. This is the time to read all those great books you didn’t have time for, before. This is for family time, rest, laughter, and thinking. Enjoy this lag, this calm, this rest.
It will only last a season … rest assured in that. It will last only a season.
I fell in love with the work again. I fell in love with working! I fed and read and plotted and planned. I taught, and in teaching, learned more than I ever had. I learned that seasons change … and I learned how to prepare the earth, plant the seed and water.
Here comes the sun.
Write, rest, or revel, well.
(Great thanks to those students who shared their hearts and thus inspired me in this!)