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Filtering by Tag: workshop

Five Questions with Teresa Crumpton

Louise Ahern


1.   What is your favorite part about writing? The most challenging part? 

My favorite part of writing is the grinning face after I have a complete first draft. Until then, I don't really know what the story's about. And--sometimes--I have to work pretty hard to figure out which one thing my story is about. But I know I have to narrow it down.  Once I know who desperately wants what and what hideous thing is going to happen if she doesn't get it, then I begin revising. I love to revise. I think I love to revise because only then do I start to have hope this is a real story.  The most challenging part for me is to come up with a single-sentence premise line. I understand why it's needed, and I support the idea--but, geesh, it's hard work. 


2.     What’s the worst writing advice you’ve ever received? How did you overcome it?

 The worst writing advice I ever got came at the of my three-year stint in an MFA program. My advisor praised my novel, but insisted I break it into three discrete books and present it as a series. It wasn't as much a suggestion as one might hope. So I did it. It took quite a bit of rewriting and revision to make three books that could stand alone. Then I went to a conference and had a meeting with an agent from an agency I admired. The agent scrawled Bravo across my manuscript and we spent the meeting time talking about working together. But when I asked him how we'd transition from book to book, he looked shocked. No, he wanted the entire story in one book. He was certain I could write it in 400 pages. And as soon as I got that done, he wanted to see it. Majorly bummed. More years of reworking the novel in my vanishing spare time. When I overcome that bit of academic advice, I'll send out an email. 

3.     Looking back, what did you do right that helped you become an author? 

There came a day in my zoo-like* shipwreck of a life that I realized if I were ever going to do what I wanted to do, I was going to have to be the one to speak up.  I started in journalism and got paid 50 cents a column-inch for feature articles in the Brown City Banner. It takes a lot of inches to feed five teenagers. I moved up through big papers, then on to technical and nonfiction books. I got my MFA in fiction writing and discovered the best times of my life were had workshopping with a few writers and drinking fu-fu coffee. No matter how the powers-that-be drove me into IT or Finance, I kept saying I was a writer. By then I was an editor, too, and I found that editing was what I did best. Editing is a finely tuned glob of writing and encouragement. I confidently report I am no longer in danger of slipping off into an IT department somewhere. 

* Note the five teenagers


4.     What would you change or do differently when it comes to your writing career?

If do-overs were permitted, I would speak up for myself in high school journalism.  I loved it--even though the teacher was one crotchety dude. I'd told my dad that journalism was the career I was going to pursue.  Encouraging sweetheart that he was, he told me I'd never be able to do that. I needed to stick to math and science. Wonder what would have happened if I'd had 30 more years of writing experience. Anyone waiting to speak up for their inner writer, be encouraged. Don't wait any longer than you absolutely have to.


5.     What are you working on now?

Currently, with a small team of editor/educators, I'm developing a series of online courses for fiction and non-fiction writing. The fun part is that the courses have workshops built into them, so when they go live, I'll have all the joy of being with writers in real time.  I'll have to buy one of those fancy coffee machines. 


And, finally, what can we expect from your workshop?


Thank you for giving me the opportunity to tell about the workshop. It's my chance to ask authors to bring with them a scene or two from their works in progress.  We'll be trying out our powering-up techniques on our own writing.


To thwart the audio-visual jinxes that haunt me, I've created a small workbook for the workshop. Using the workbook, we'll cover three power tools for boosting our prose. 

Art by Lisa Stewart

Art by Lisa Stewart


For this one session, we'll look away from story structure and big picture concerns, and we'll focus on sentences and short passages. We'll play with ways to power them up so they are more vivid, more effective, more fun.  One fun part is that almost all the examples of story used in the workbook come from authors in our community, who have generously shared their work, and I'm excited about showing off their work.

Be sure to stop by Schuler in Okemos on Wednesday, October 4th at 7pm for Teresa's workshop!

Five Questions with Elizabeth Heiter

Louise Ahern

Elizabeth Heiter is a familiar face in the CCWA. Not only has she taught workshops at our last two Write on the Red Cedar conferences, she has also given many of our monthly workshops. This month, Elizabeth is talking all about suspense. You're not going to want to miss this one!


1.     What is your favorite part about writing? The most challenging part?

I’ve got several favorite parts: I love it when that first spark of a story appears and I can’t wait to dive in and build it into a novel.  I also love when I’m working on the story and the words are flowing so fast that my fingers can barely keep up on the keyboard.  The most challenging part probably varies by book, but I also think that the challenges of writing and the challenges of being an author are two different things.  When it comes to purely the writing, sometimes it’s the balance in the writing: layering in everything you need for the plot and the character growth and the themes and making sure you’re still able to pull out the strong emotions.  And sometimes, it’s the balance with your life: finding time and energy to write amidst all of the other commitments.  But the joys of writing far outweigh the challenges.

2.     What’s the worst writing advice you’ve ever received? How did you overcome it?

Hmmm…maybe it’s because I’ve always regarded writing as something that was special and mine and I guarded it fiercely, I haven’t felt the need to overcome bad advice.  Whenever I get writing advice, I think long and hard about whether it’s the right advice for me.  Sometimes it is and sometimes it isn’t, but I think one of the most important things about this business is knowing yourself and your goals.  A lot of people have advice, and even when that advice is coming from industry professionals, they’re not you, at this time in your career with your particular goals.  I do think that one of the things I felt pressure about was when I got opportunities that I felt weren’t the right direction for me; they were great opportunities, but they didn’t match my career goals, and I turned them down.  Choosing the opportunities that are best for you – and advocating for yourself – can  be challenging, and I do think that being on the same page with your agent (if you have one) from the start can ensure that you have another advocate who can handle issues that pop up for you.

3.     Looking back, what did you do right that helped you become an author?

I think one of the things I did right was to stay true to myself.  I turned down great opportunities, because they weren’t right for me, but I also worked with editors to transform opportunities into things that would work for me.  As in any business, I think it’s important to find the right mix of being steadfast about the important things and flexible when you can.  I also think that the biggest thing I did right was to believe in myself and to chase after my goal no matter how many times I heard “no.”  Nine years of rejections before selling was disheartening at times, but I found ways to reward myself for forward motion and to find new opportunities and most importantly, to keep writing.  It’s a job, but it’s also a passion, and it’s important never to lose sight of that.

4.     What would you change or do differently when it comes to your writing career?

I think that if I could, I would get to know more people face-to-face from my publishing house right from the beginning.  The same is true of other industry professionals, like reviewers and bloggers.  There’s nothing like personal contact to get you and your books front of mind, and knowing the people who are working on your books makes it easier to chat about things, both when they’re going right and when they’re going wrong.  On that note, I plan to attend Bouchercon this fall and visit the MIRA office in Toronto where my new editor works.

5.     What are you working on now?

Right now, I’m working on promotions for my latest thriller, STALKED, which is already on shelves, and for my upcoming romantic suspense miniseries, BODYGUARD WITH A BADGE, POLICE PROTECTOR and SECRET AGENT SURRENDER, which are coming this summer.  I’m also writing a brand new standalone thriller (and waiting to hear news from acquisitions on that!).  And I'm coordinating with a group of authors on a fun suspense anthology I agreed to be part of; that one is already contracted, but I can’t share details yet – they’ll be coming soon!


Join us this Wednesday, May 3rd, at Schuler Books & Music in Eastwood at 7pm for Elizabeth's workshop!