March Meeting Roundup + Good News

I don’t know about you, but it’s been four days since our monthly meeting wrapped up, and my head is still overflowing from all the valuable, thought-provoking information shared by USA Today bestselling author, Mary Buckham. She hosted a very special all-day, four-part, interactive workshop, full of ideas for taking your career to the next level.

The morning was spent focusing on building strong characters. In what was perhaps my favorite activity of the day, Mary had us strengthen the characters in our current works-in-progress by forcing us to see their personality traits from a different point of view. Every character attribute, she said, can be seen in both a positive and a negative light. For instance, a stubborn character could also be described as determined; an analytical character could be described as nitpicky. By viewing the positive sides of what are generally considered negative traits (and vice versa), we can avoid bland, stereotypical characters and give them depth. (Also? We came up with the idea of an exhibitionist Sunday school teacher. If that’s not a plot bunny, I don’t know what is.)

Mary also covered body language and how to incorporate it effectively into our writing. Body language is a method of non-verbal communication, including:

  • posture
  • gestures
  • eye movement
  • touch
  • facial expressions, and
  • proxemics.

By incorporating our characters’ movements into our scenes, we can communicate subtext, and evaluating whether the body language messages are congruent with what our characters are saying allows our readers to gain an understanding of our characters’ feelings and motivation without us having to say it outright – it’s the difference between showing and telling. We reviewed many different kinds of body language and what they might possibly mean.

In the afternoon, Mary moved onto the concept of active hooks, and described how to use these to draw readers into our stories and keep them turning pages. The strongest hooks, she said, raise questions or reactions in the reader. She identified ten different kinds of hooks, and walked us through examples – then gave us the opportunity to design our own hooks and see how many different ways we could elicit a reaction in the reader. (It turned into a friendly little competition — and I sat at the winning table!)

Finally, Mary walked us through the concept of “primal branding” for authors. Building your brand, she said, is an important way to make yourself stand out in a crowded market. Writers must overcome the resistance by readers to spend their time and money on a book by an unknown author. If you’re new, you must establish a “promise to your readers,” describing the heart of what you’re writing and giving them a sense of what they will be getting when they purchase and read one of your books. On a fundamental level, people swear allegiance to brands because of the basic human need to belong, and to establish human connection. People don’t buy what you do, she said, they buy why you do it. If you can establish your brand early and remain consistent in your platform, you may naturally attract the people who believe what you believe – and therein lies your core readership.

Aside from the fantastic workshops, we also handed out our Member of the Month award to Patrizia Hayashi, for all the wonderful work she does behind the scenes to help our online classes run smoothly. We were fortunate enough to have Patrizia join us in person this month, a rarity seeing as she lives in Japan!

Patrizia Hayashi and Tami Vahalik

Member of the Month Patrizia Hayashi (l.) with President-Elect Tami Vahalik.

Additionally, our readers shared the following Good News:

  • Kimberly Field entered Cherry Adair’s Finish the Damn Book contest.
  • Donnamaie White created an author page on Facebook and self-published Close Escape.
  • Susan Burns finished edits on Fly Like an Eagle.
  • Megan Westfield signed with agent Melissa Edwards of Aaron M. Priest Literary Agency, and also signed a two-book contract with Entangled Embrace. Her debut new adult, Lessons in Gravity, will be released in Fall of 2016.
  • Judy Duarte will be writing Book 4 in the 2017 Fortunes of Texas series.
  • Pamela Moran made PAN, and released Sexy to Go anthologies, Volumes 11-12, as well as the Christmas and Valentine’s Day editions.
  • M.A. Taylor will be on a panel at RWA National, as well as teaching a class for Writer’s University in May.
  • Kristin Rockaway sold her debut novel to Center Street, an imprint of Hachette. The Wild Woman’s Guide to Traveling the World will be released in Summer of 2017.

Please remember to join us next month when we’ll be hosting acclaimed literary agent Kevan Lyon. She’ll be taking pitches and telling us why we shouldn’t sign away all our subsidiary rights. Please note, this meeting will take place on the fourth Saturday of the month – April 23rd – to accommodate all the members who’ll be going to RT the weekend before. Hope you can join us!

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