I’ve seen Kelly Simmons’ byline in "Writer’s Digest Magazine", and was happy to find her leading the Liars Club Coffeehouse at Barnes & Nobles in Willow Grove, PA October 25th.
Whipping into the meeting late, I missed something about butter that caused some chuckles. The meeting runs from noon until after 2pm, and I encourage you to catch what you can. Subjects I heard discussed included memoir writing and query letters, among tidbits of information on writing.
Kelly Simmons authored The Bird House and Standing Still. She’s “developing a TV series and has been writing a memoir for what seems like her entire life.” Kelly suggested that when writing memoir, think about how you will structure your story. Even if chronological, it needs to have some central significant happening. Ruth Litner added that readers must like the character. This is you, so identifying with and pulling emotions from the reader about you is important too.
Kelly’s statement that a lot of people who start out writing memoir eventually move on to novel writing hit home with my own writing experience. Resources she noted was Beth Kephart’s memoir how-to, Handling the Truth and Jerry Waxler, M.S. These authors can guide you when telling your personal story.
Mature age may not be a plus when facing a prospective agent or publisher. This often is a reality when dealing with professional opportunities. But a writer’s background and rich knowledge can be most beneficial no matter if writing memoir, historical fiction, non-fiction or an upmarket novel.
Kelly reminded us that there’s something to be said for an aged person with a young spirit. Barbara Custer sat next to Kelly and used Barbara as an example. This sweet, petite red head brands herself as the Balloon Lady. I follow Barbara on Facebook and was surprised she was the same person I met at the Coffeehouse. She produces "Night to Dawn Magazine." So don’t mention your age, or that you’ve been writing more since retirement. A writer can produce a book a year; at 60, a writer still has time to birth multiple books.
Leave out your age on query letters, but make use of good letter writing skills by utilizing the P.S. A charming P.S. stands out in an e-mail. Don’t make it too long, and include any personal connections in the subject line. “Judging writers is a lot like dating.”
“Most people spend only 5 minutes on their query letter,” Kelly said, not understanding why. Query letter templates can be dull, but generally, follow them. Talk about yourself and your book in the first two paragraphs. Sometimes you can break rules if your credentials are the most important information you can give about yourself. Kelly said she’d look at anyone from the Coffeehouse’s query.
Tidbits I gleaned before cutting out early from the meeting:
- Procrastination may be a fear of success or a fear of failure, so figure out what the fear is.
- I’ve heard Liar, Janice Gable Bashman, also say that focusing on different components of your work with each pass during revision is a way to really polish your book. Kelly does one pass just to beautify her work after doing others, like for cutting unnecessary words.
- The middle-grade genre is hot.
- Goodreads may not let your Facebook friends publish a review of your book. You may want to keep this in mind when passing out your ARCs.