Anonymous said: How do I register for this conference and get information on hotel booking?

Hello! The best number to reach us at is 478-229-0690 or Chris@CrossroadsWriters.org 

You can also find more information about us online at www.CrossroadsWriters.org Just click on the “Writers Conference” tab and hit Registration to learn more. Thank you! 

Anonymous said: Please give me a telephone number to contact the Macon, GA, October 5-7,2912 writer's conference.

Hello! The best number to reach us at is 478-229-0690 or Chris@CrossroadsWriters.org 

You can also find more information about us online at www.CrossroadsWriters.org Just click on the “Writers Conference” tab and hit Registration to learn more. Thank you! 

“The Mutter Draft:” an interview with a Terrible Mind, Chuck Wendig

Chuck Wendig is the prolific and bearded badass of fiction. (Surely, no other writers wear beards. Not like Chuck Wendig.) His latest is “Blackbirds,” which follows Miriam Black, a woman who is just psychic enough to know when you’re going to die so she can be there to steal your wallet. (Until she meets a massive but kind truck driver who she foresees dying with her name on his lips.)

As master of TerribleMinds.com, he tenderly guides budding writers along the path to better storytelling with a tough love approach that often involves his time-tested use of inventive invectives to convey his sharp insights and blunt force no-excuses mentality.


Rachel: Thanks for taking time out to answer these questions. With the success of Blackbirds and your blog and…okay, it’s a mystery to me where you find time for it all to be honest! So let’s get to it!

Question 1:  Many authors say that it is important to “write as one speaks.” I’m not suggesting that you walk around muttering the things you write (leave that to your fans!) but would you say that  your work is representative of your internal monologue?

Chuck: I do walk around muttering all the things I write. The first draft of every thing I do is called “the mutter draft.” I hire a small, unobtrusive person to follow me around and record it as I go.

Or not.

I don’t think my writing is really all that representative of an internal monologue – my internal monologues are probably pretty incomprehensible to any who would actually witness them in some psychic way. That said, I do think the work is representative of my voice, both internal and external. Edited, sharpened, tightened, but my voice just the same.

R:  In your career as the freelance “penmonkey” you have made a living providing advice and inspiring fellow writers with your ability to do prolific work, all while meeting the challenges of family life. What are some things that you have found work in your juggling of career and domesticity?

C: Technically, I don’t make a living doing the advice and inspiration thing – I sell some e-books (more now than I used to, which is good), but the actual “living” part of my work comes from all the other writing I do.

As for the juggling thing—well, first, I found it’s a terrible idea to actually try to juggle a toddler and any technological device. You’re bound to favor the toddler and that just means you break your keyboard or iPad or whatever. Turns out, “juggling” is metaphorical. Stupid metaphors.

Said-metaphorical-juggling is no easy feat and gives way to chaos very easily. The best thing I can tell people, and I hear this a lot from folks, is that you don’t just “have time.” Everybody says that phrase—“I don’t have time.” Well, everybody has the same hours in their day, it’s all about the partitioning of those hours. We devote hours to sleep and child raising and reading and eating and whatever.

You have to find a way to take time for the things you want to do. It won’t happen for you. One must be active! Reach! Grab! Steal the minutes and hours back from the mouth of the Time Beast. Even a little time reclaimed will let you do that thing you want to do. Maybe not at full-blast, but something is better than nothing.

R:  Do fans and critics seem to have different expectations of your work, which is sometimes sordid, now that you are a family man and father? Do you feel that it alters your perspective and time investment in the work?

C: No, I haven’t found any altered expectations. The nice thing about having a daily blog is that I continue to urge my voice into the world daily, which not only practices my writing but also continues to assert who I am as a writer.

Having a kid has altered my perspective, though, sure. It’s given me new reason to do what I do. Both to put food in his mouth and to one day put books in his hands. And, best of all, ideas in his mind.

R:  When you began your blog, Terrible Minds, did you have a very specific idea of what it was going to be or did it (and does it) undergo gradual evolution?

C: I once thought it would be a website for a community of writers—I used to run a BBS and ran a thing there called WAR, Writers Against Reality. I envisioned doing so again except… ennh, that seemed like a lot of work so I made the website for ME, ME, ME, instead. Moo hoo ha ha.

It has kind of evolved into a place for writers, though. Over the last 10+ years.

R: In Blackbirds your protagonist, Miriam, is an often callous, violent woman but still has pathos. What method do you utilize when researching  your characters? What inspires you in their creation and how do you walk that tightrope, supporting characters who possess such deep personal flaws?

C: I don’t really “research” my characters, exactly. I research situations, events, settings, ideas, but not so much characters. The characters are in my head and it’s mostly a case of letting them tumble around for a while, breaking off all the jagged bits and figuring out what lurks beneath their crusty exterior.

There exists this idea that characters must be “likable,” which is, to me, a bit batty. All the people in my life that are likable make excellent friends and family but would not necessarily make excellent characters in a book. We don’t need to like a character so much as we need to like being with them and watching them for 300+ pages. The best thing I can say is, don’t make them boring. Interesting characters will – wait for it, wait for it – always be interesting.

R:  You have advocated the character driven plot (particularly in film).  Would you recommend that characters drive the plot and that a writer should commit themselves to character development early in the process? How do you feel about building stories around thematic elements?

C: Characters do drive the plot. They must. Consider how things happen in real life, how humanity exists and suffers and thrives—it happens under the direction and duress of human beings. Of their choices and behaviors. We’re all making our own plot. External events happen but we react to them as who we are and it is our decision that shapes our own course. Why shouldn’t it be the same way in fiction? It also helps to ensure that a story is more inventive, original, unpredictable – plots tend to follow a pattern. Characters follow no such pattern. So put them in the driver seat, let them find the road.

And I do think theme lies at the heart of those characters and actions, though. The theme is a delicious throughline that connects us (the reader and writer) to the character within the story.

R:  In your projects developing scripts for television and film you worked with a writing partner, Lance Weiler.  How would you recommend starting a creative collaboration with a partner, ensuring that you are both represented fairly and to maximum efficiency while preserving the relationship over the long haul?

C: I have no idea. My collaboration with Lance has been one of a few I’ve tried and the only one that’s been successful—I think collaboration is difficult with the wrong people and easy with the right ones, so the key is to find the right people. With the right partners and teammates in place, it all just kinda… works.

For More Chuck Stuff:

Review of Chuck Wendig’s “Bad Blood”

Delilah S. Dawson Interview by Chuck Wendig


Pulp Fiction Revivalist: an interview with Barry Reese

Pulp Fiction Revivalist:

an interview with Barry Reese

Barry Reese is a man with a prodigious habit for writing. A librarian by day, he churns out thousands of words a night, bringing to life pulp characters like The Rook and Lazarus Gray. He got his big break writing for “the Official Handbook for Marvel Universe,” then began creating his own stories. For his pulp short stories and gory, monster horror novel “Rabbit Heart,” Barry was awarded the 2011 Pulp Ark Award for Best Author. This year, he took home the Pulp Ark Award for Best Short Story and received his first—but certainly not last—nomination for Georgia Author of the Year. He’s also a co-creator on the “Pulped!” podcast and the Ubergeeks podcast.

In this interview with Barry Reese, which originally appeared in the pages of The 11th Hour magazine, writer Rachel Helie digs a little deeper into the pulp tradition and its revival.

Rachel: In working in pulp, which is considered a cult genre, what did you find distinguishes it from traditional literary models?

Barry: Well, on the New Pulp website, they have a definition of pulp that says it’s “…fast-paced, plot-oriented storytelling of a linear nature with clearly defined, larger than life protagonists and antagonists, creative descriptions, clever use of turns of phrase and other aspects of writing that add to the intensity and pacing of the story.” That’s a pretty good way of describing it. Pulp is about momentum and excitement – the stories barrel along at a brisk pace and feature larger than life heroes, villains and settings. That’s very different in many other literary genres.

R: Is there a formula to the creation of pulp characters and plots that does not apply to the traditional modes of character development?

B: Well, Lester Dent (the creator of Doc Savage) actually did have a formula – you can Google it and find his detailed instructions on how to write a pulp story. But few authors use that model – just as with any other field, we want to feel like we’re doing something unique rather than use a true formula. But for most pulp characters and plots, you want to create something that gets your blood pumping. Indiana Jones, Dirk Pitt, Jason Bourne… those are contemporary creations that spring from the well of pulp. Larger than life, action-oriented characters

R: Is there an atypical process to the creation of pulp characters and plots that distinguishes it from your comic writing?

B: Not really. In both mediums, I work the same way in terms of creation. Obviously, comics will ultimately be a visual medium so you kind of think that way, ensuring that you’ll end up with scenes and characters that are exciting to look at.

R: What do you think are the key points in creating a believable three-dimensional character in pulp and comic writing?

B: You have to be able to get into the heads of your characters and understand what makes them tick. Just like real people, they have their good and bad sides, too, so you have to be able to relate that on to a reader. I’ve created lots of different types of characters over the years and the most popular are the ones who have many sides to them. I always try to figure out what strengths they have and where their weaknesses lie.

R: What would you say was your best work, or where you feel that you most expressed your creative ideal as a writer in each genre?

B: From a comics side of things, I have an 8-page Rook short that will run in November’s “All-Star Pulp Comics # 1” and I think it turned out really well. In prose, I’d say that “The Damned Thing,” “The Adventures of Lazarus Gray” and “The Rook Volume Six” were my best.

Rachel Helie is a freelance writer and journalist, aspiring novelist, sometimes ghostwriter, and regular contributor to The 11th Hour. At eight years of age she stepped into the wardrobe and never quite made it back out.

Always Carry Your Towel: a Freelancer Turns to Sci-Fi for Help

Always Carry Your Towel: a Freelancer Turns to Sci-Fi for Help by Angel Collins

Freelance writer Angel Collins

On May 25, 2012, as I prepared to leave the house, I grabbed my handbag and my towel and headed down to my favorite watering hole to obtain my pan galactic gargleblaster.

It was a balmy 95 degrees and I realized that, far from being a silly, geeky thing to do, maybe carrying a towel around made you more than a savvy intergalactic traveler. Maybe it made you a smart, walking in the middle of a hot day, traveler.

As a writer, I thought about the towel. The towel told another traveler that, even if you didn’t have anything else, you had to be a pretty awesome traveler because you kept up with your towel. As a writer, I think our “towel” is what we use to write. Whether it is pen and paper or a smartphone, if you always have it for ideas, other writers think you’re a pretty savvy writer if you always have something to keep up with your ideas. So then I was thinking, what are other silly, geeky things others dismiss that could inform our writing?

One of my favorite stories is Stranger in a Strange Land. When Valentine Michael Smith first explains the term “grok”, I knew it would stick with me forever. Grok means to understand so thoroughly that the observer becomes a part of the observed—to merge, blend, intermarry, lose identity in group experience. It means almost everything that we mean by religion, philosophy, and science—and it means as little to us (because of our Earthling assumptions) as color means to a blind man. As a writer, isn’t that what we do? We become the novel, short story, poem, play, movie, tv script, or whatever we write, so that we can be completely honest with ourselves and to our readers. At least, that’s what we strive for. As writers, we do more than observe, we do more than notate. We grok. So how do we grok? We immerse ourselves in the words, worlds, and cultures around us. We make ourselves familiar with the things we know, and we ask questions that make us familiar with the things we don’t know. There is never a time we should not try “to grok” as writers.

In Good Omens, it was the job of the angel Aziraphale and the demon Crowley to watch for the coming of the son of Satan. Aziraphale initially wanted to protect the world from him while Crowley wanted to foster him in the ways of his father to prepare him for his reign on earth. But they became comfortable being on earth, so they worked together to avert the end times. It turns out, the real Anti-Christ has grown up a perfectly normal boy and may not be the harbinger of doom everyone imagines. As a writer, sometimes we put out some truly horrendous crap. Good Omens shows us that sometimes something bad can lead to a better understand of ourselves or, in this case, our writing. That’s why the first draft is never to be feared. While the first draft may seem like the Anti-Christ, it is actually us using our powers to recreate what we think is perfect. Once we see it, then and only then can we really make the changes that need to be made.

If you’re a Doctor Who fan, especially if you’ve been watching the new series, the term “Hello, Sweetie” is of great significance. When we see or hear those words, we know we’re about to enter the world of craziness that is River Song. River Song is an especially interesting character who loves The Doctor and calls him into some of his most interesting adventures. The phrase “Hello, Sweetie”, according to the Doctor Who series, is the oldest written word, left as a message for the Doctor by River Song. More than a mating call between aliens, I take this as a form of encouragement. As a writer, we start many adventures when we pick up pen or tap on keyboard. It is nice to have a bit of encouragement. Whether we convince our spouse or significant other to drop a note to us every now and then to let us know that our writing is important. What if you’re alone, you ask? Barring asking our friends to play that role, we can make a calendar event that will let the encouraging words pop up on our screen at the appropriate time. Leave an encouraging quote on a sticky note on a random page of your journal or notebook and be encouraged when your writing gets to that page. Write an encouragement on your mirror so that you see it every morning. The encouragement is necessary because being a writer isn’t all space jaunts in time traveling blue boxes, or brandishing our towels to prove we deserve that pan galactic gargleblaster. Sometimes writing is being burned at the stake, even while you secretly know you have 40 lbs. of explosives and nails ready to do in the ones that put you on the stake. What I’m trying to say is sometimes writing is rough, but we know we have the skills (our secret weapons) to get back at the rough and then, make it better.

Silly, geeky things are fun, but I love them all the more when they inform my writing.

Talkin’ Business with The Queen: an interview with Lauretta Hannon

Talkin’ Business with The Queen

by Beth Ward

I have had the pleasure of keeping Lauretta Hannon’s company exactly two times, and both of those times she was sporting fire-engine red lipstick, with leopard print sunglasses perched on top of her head. Nothing about this look was contrived; in fact, she was The Cracker Queen personified – right down to a laugh that bellowed out of her in loud, unapologetic waves, causing her head to tilt back as if to make room for its sound. It is a rare thing to be in the company of someone so utterly authentic. Fans of her memoir have responded not only to its brash, down-home humor, but also to its warmth and honesty. For many of us adoring fans, it is not a stretch to place ourselves right within its pages, living out scenes of our own lives.

Perhaps it is these things that can be credited for “The Cracker Queen”’s success; perhaps it is Ms. Lauretta herself. Either way, we have all fallen in love with her and her joyful, jagged life.

I had the opportunity to pick The Queen’s brain a bit in lieu of her Crossroad’s appearance this year, and as always, she left me laughing and aching to write.

BW: To begin, when did you know writing was what you wanted to do?

LH: I’ve always had a hungering to write, but I didn’t always know that I was “good enough” to do it well.

BW: I think that’s the main problem emerging writers struggle with – just getting over that fear, because there’s always someone in your ear telling you that you can’t make a living that way. How did you handle the people around you that thought, “don’t quit your day job?”

LH: Like I always treat such folks: I ignored them and listened to my gut. I realized that I’d have to choose risk over security if my book was to have any chance of success. The book market is like a blood sport, and I knew I’d have to hustle to keep The Cracker Queen alive. Actually, I think dog fighting is more humane than publishing.

BW: So to say you need a thick skin and selective hearing would probably be a bit of an understatement then. But when it comes down to the nuts and bolts of writing, what is your process like? How do you tackle the blank screen and the big messy desk?

LH: My process is a hot junky mess. I’m not one to rise at 5am everyday and write 500 words. Instead, I’ll go on marathon writing jags on a weekend after not doing anything for days. I like to write at Waffle House in the morning, but it has to be the right Waffle House, know what I mean? And I find that I’m productive when traveling—in hotels, airplanes, and such. Too much structure in my writing routine makes it seem like drudgery, so I have to toss things up. That said, I keep in mind how much I need to accomplish and see to it that it gets done. I set goals and deadlines, but I don’t have any rules about how I get there. Caveat: there are times when I have to be that 5am writer, such as when I was on deadline to finish The Cracker Queen. Sometimes the situation demands that kind of process, and I obey it when that’s the case.

BW: I’ve had many nights holed up at Waffle House myself actually, haha. It’s funny how personal the process is for everyone. It’s the beauty of a creative life. But what about those mornings at WaHo where the words just don’t come and the fear sets in? How do you get through bouts of writer’s block?

LH: I used to freak out when I couldn’t write! I’d become convinced that I had no future as a writer, and this would plunge me into great dramatic moments of despair, curtain-clutching, and consumption of Ruffles with sour cream and onion dip. After many years I’ve finally learned that the so-called blocks aren’t blocks at all; they are a necessary and vital part of the writing process. Accept them instead of fighting them. Your brain needs them.

BW: What about your reading life? What types of things do you read when you’re waiting in line at the DMV or the doctor’s office?

LH: I typically use that time to jot down ideas or notes about whatever I’m working on or thinking about doing next.

BW: Let’s talk a little about your illustrious memoir for a second. At last year’s conference you talked about “The Cracker Queen”’s beginnings some 20 years ago. The story sat on your chest for so long and when you finally wrote it down, it was in a tiny shed in your back yard. Since then, it’s been critically hailed as a manifesto for strong, southern women, with it’s own almost cult-like following. What has “The Cracker Queen” meant to you as you’ve seen its success grow?

LH: EVERY DAMN THING. Next question

BW: Do you think you’ll stick to writing non-fiction?

LH: My next book is non-fiction, but a novel is definitely on the horizon. It’s inevitable that I’ll write fiction in the future; it’s just too much fun to play in the land of unfettered imagination! I like the notion of making up a story in order to tell the truth.

BW: As an aspiring non-fiction writer, that notion has always intimidated me. But it’s one of the most beautiful things about reading and writing. Now, I heard the unfortunate news that you won’t be able to hang out with us at Crossroads this year. I can almost hear the collective sighs of sadness. Had you been able to go though, what would you have liked to cover?

LH: First of all, I’m mad that my schedule won’t let me be at Crossroads. I relish the chance to return to my Middle Georgia stompin’ grounds and hang out with fellow writers. Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about writing as a spiritual practice, so I would have liked to cover that this year. I’m also surprised by how few writers understand platform, so I might talk about that next year.

BW: I’ll be adding that session to my schedule for sure. It’s a bit of a hot point among published authors though, whether or not writing groups and conferences are really as beneficial as the money you pay to attend them. What do you think the benefits are to attending conferences for beginning and seasoned authors?

LH: I don’t care if you’re a neophyte or a bestselling author, you benefit from being in the company of kindred spirits and from keeping writing front-and-center in your mind. Writing is complicated business, and others have a lot to teach us—regardless of our level of experience or acclaim.

BW: Now that is something I can personally attest to. There is a creative and spiritual energy unlike anything else when you are in the company of people sharing your passion. For me, that alone makes the trip worth it. A couple more questions though. I’m sure throughout your career you’ve gotten your share of wise words and advice from people who claim to know it all in terms of making yours a writing life. How would you sum up the best writing advice you ever got in one sentence?

LH: Copy the masters.

Pick a literary masterpiece, and spend 15 minutes a day copying it, either in longhand or at the keyboard. I was doubtful about this exercise when Terry Kay advised me to do it, but you’ll learn more about craft than you could get from years of classes or conferences. I hand-copied The Grapes of Wrath. Anna Karenina will be next.

BW: And finally… What has writing meant to you and your life?

LH: EVERY DAMN THING. Next question

Well. I’d say that just about sums it up.

What if ee cummings just didn’t know how to work his typewriter?

je    sus
fu   c k     i ng chris
t how
do e       s    thi   s
t   ype   w
r i    t         er
w   o r              k

-e.e. cummings 

(via betweenthecomma)

You're passionate. You're creative. You're dedicated. Pull it all together at the Crossroads Writers Conference: October 5-7, 2012 at the Marriott City Center in Macon, Ga.

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