|Vonnie Winslow Crist|
Vonnie was the guest speaker at my local writers club meeting this last Thursday, and entertained us all for an hour with anecdotes from her career and practical insight into writing and publishing. Her works include: Essential Fables and River of Stars, both poetry collections from Lite Circle Books, fantasy novel The Enchanted Skean - Book 1 of the Chronicles of Lifthrasir from Mockingbird Lane Press, as well as The Greener Forest and Owl Light, collections of short stories and more from Cold Moon Press. She has also edited much, volunteered much, and produced many columns and articles. Her talk was titled "Be Ready When Opportunity Knocks and How to Find Those Hidden Opportunities."
Her first piece of advice is to always be writing. She underscores the fact that you can't respond to any publishing opportunity unless you have appropriate work ready to go. Keeping a backlog of poems, stories, and manuscripts means you have something in your pocket when you see a notice, hear a rumor, or find a great contest - and the deadline is coming up fast - like tomorrow. Don't stop writing as you wait to see if your entry wins or if your submission is accepted. Write something new while you wait.
Along with 'always be writing' is keep improving. Vonnie points out that every piece of writing we do, no matter how brief, helps us improve our craft. She emphasizes the importance of finding a critique group, and making sure it is one where all the members have the same level of writing expertise. Read articles, magazines and books about the craft. For fiction writers she recommends The First Five Pages by Noah Lukeman. You might want to take workshops, courses, or even go back to school (as she did) and earn an advanced degree in writing!
Vonnie suggests we be creative about finding publication "homes" for our work. She reads the bios of other writers to see where they've been published, and checks out directory style websites appropriate for our genre (I happen to use ralan.com and duotrope.com) Don't neglect local outlets such as newsletters and bulletins, and keep an eye open for anthologies in your genre. You can't underestimate the library, either. Use your community (below) as a source of information on unique places to publish.
She emphasizes the importance of staying connected with the community. This includes other writers, editors, and publishers. Staying connected can mean: attending writers' conferences, joining societies, attending conventions, volunteering to edit pieces or write articles, helping out with local meetings, etc. Some of these opportunities will cost money and others will be free labor at first, but all can have payoffs down the line.
Vonnie points out that one opportunity can lead to another, so leverage opportunities. For example, she won a poetry chapbook contest, and used that as the means to get a publisher interested in a full sized book of poetry.
Finally, she says, "When you see an opening, jump! You can't fear rejection - say 'Yes' then work hard."
Actually, she said a great deal more, but you'll have to be lucky enough to catch her in person for the whole talk, and to enjoy her entertaining style.
Image Credit: Vonnie Winslow Crist from her website.