Monday, April 5, 2010

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Finally



Allison Pittman gives us more suggestions to save for conference!

Your F*R*E*E* Conference
Part 3

Everybody agrees: the surest road to publication begins at a writers conference. But between the conference fees, travel expenses, and little extras along the way (at least one new outfit!), you might have to pay a pretty toll to travel that road. So, if you’re wanting to go to a conference, but you’re not sure how you’ll fund it, let me introduce you to the concept of the FREE conference. For the next four weeks I’ll share my tried-n-true methods for paying for your conference without robbing your family.

F= “Free Money”
R= “Reconsider the “Must Haves” in Your Life
E=Earn a little on the side. I’m at least 2 months behind on my current manuscript, but the other day I left the laptop at home and drove out to a lovely private Christian school where I spent the day grading essays, watching 2-actor skits, and listening to speeches. Why? Because at the end of that day I walked away with a check for $75. You see, I was a judge for a TAPS competition. I’ve got a gig at another school next week. Schools, public and private, hold these competitions throughout early spring, and the sponsors need people to judge the contestants. Don’t get me wrong. It’s an exciting, rewarding day, and I love to see the kids. But the money isn’t bad, either.

Even if you already have a job, you probably have pockets of time and overlooked resources that could bring in a few extra bucks. Academic contest judging isn’t always readily available, but there are loads of other options…
Re-connect with your inner teenager. Think about it, how did you earn money when you were in the school? Babysitting, mowing lawns…Those of you with little ones might not see this as an attractive option, but if you’re an empty-nester, or the parent of your own teens, there’s probably some lovely young couple who would love to employ you so they can have the all important date night. I know when my kids were young, a babysitter with experience and a driver’s license? Pure gold.
SSS…Sell Some Stuff. The almighty yard sale is always good for a few bucks, especially in this economic climate where everybody’s looking for a bargain.
If you have a job that offers overtime or extra shifts, go for it!
Think seasonal. Some of the big conferences are in the fall, leaving the intervening months to explore the world of the summer job. Yes, it might be tedious and monotonous. Yes, you’ll be looking at minimum wage. But think of the wealth of potential new story ideas that might await!

Who knows? This might be enough to fund the entire conference? If nothing else, combined with the other suggestions, you should be well on your way!



Your F*R*E*E* Conference
Part 4


F= “Free Money”
R= “Reconsider the ‘Must Haves’ in Your Life”
E= “Earn a Little on the Side”
E= Estimate how much of your income you can reasonable devote to this endeavor. I’m not recommending a particular percentage—every family is different. Different incomes, different expenses. But you need to look at the conference total, including fees, meals, lodging, travel. Add a couple of hundred dollars for “extras,” and that’s the number you have to work with. How does that feel? Easy? Scary? Impossible?

Last semester I taught a class at UTSA. Every day on the way to my office area I walked past a Taco Cabana, a Starbucks, a Panda Express, two soda machines, a Gyro shop, a bookstore, a little office supply place, and a little snack shop. Oh, daily temptation. Oh, yeah, and Chick-Fil-A. And a SubWay. I am not a person who’s real good at self-control, so I needed a different strategy to keep myself from gaining a thousand pounds. So, every week I put $10 in my bag, and left my actual wallet locked up in my car. At the end of the week, that $10 went into my underwear drawer cash stash, and I put a new one in my bag. Week by week I proved I didn’t need to spend that money, but it was always available. Some of you need to save $5 at a time. Some of you can do $50. Keep it in a special pocket of your wallet or in your car’s glove box. Each bill on its own doesn’t do much, but saved up over time…that’s a lot of breakfast tacos!

Look, things come together in God’s timing. You want to be able to go off to conference with a feeling of financial security. Not coming back to a mountain of debt. Not with a family made vulnerable by taking funds away from their needs. Not with a neglected tithe or unpaid bills. My goal is to have a little stash of cash that has been set apart for purpose of the conference. Money that otherwise might not exist at all in your underwear drawer. (or, you know, wherever) If that’s this year, great! If it’s next year, great! God will meet you where you are.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Conferences



Last time Allison told us about Free Money. Now she addresses the "R" in her plan!

Everybody agrees: the surest road to publication begins at a writers conference. But between the conference fees, travel expenses, and little extras along the way (at least one new outfit!), you might have to pay a pretty toll to travel that road. So, if you’re wanting to go to a conference, but you’re not sure how you’ll fund it, let me introduce you to the concept of the FREE conference. I’ll share my tried-n-true methods for paying for your conference without robbing your family.


R = Reconsider the “Must Haves” in your non-conference life. I love the Glorieta Christian Writers Conference—love the facilities, the aspens in the fall, the ducks on the pond—everything. Some of my best memories there are of going to the Holy Grounds coffee shop after the closing session and listening to the hub of conversations all around. This is where editors and agents really let their hair down. This is their time to get to talk to each other. Nobody’s pitching, nobody’s (blatantly) schmoozing. Just nice. It’s nice to just sit back and soak up the atmosphere and, sometimes, enough tables get pushed together so that you’re sipping your mocha latte alongside that editor you were dying to impress, and both of you are laughing hysterically at someone else’s great story. A cup of coffee at Holy Grounds? 4.50. That moment of unscheduled camaraderie? Priceless.

The point is, while a coffee at Holy Grounds is about the same price as one at your corner Starbucks, if I fritter away my money at Starbucks, I may never get to Holy Grounds. Think about it. One cup of coffee @4.50 once a week comes to about 225 dollars. Think how that could cut back your air fare. Or lodging. Or conference fee.

Matthew 6:21 says, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” From now ‘til conference time, keep your mind and your heart focused on the calling God has made on your life, and make a lot of little financial decisions based on that calling. The coffee is just one example of the possible trade-offs…
Do you need to buy that new book? Instead, go to the library and buy a great resource book at the conference.
Do you need to buy that DVD? Instead, find a good movie on TV so you can buy conference CDs of the sessions you miss.
Do you really need new clothes? Instead, hold off a bit and buy the perfect appointment outfit.
Do you really need to go out to dinner? Instead, scrounge something at home and have money to go out to an impromptu dinner with the friends you only know through email.

Again, these choices will fund an entire conference, but they might make your time there a lot more enjoyable! Check back for more ideas!

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Show Me The Money



Allison Pittman has some great ideas to share about saving for conference. Here's the first installment:

Everybody agrees: the surest road to publication begins at a writers conference. But between the conference fees, travel expenses, and little extras along the way (at least one new outfit!), you might have to pay a pretty toll to travel that road. So, if you’re wanting to go to a conference, but you’re not sure how you’ll fund it, let me introduce you to the concept of the FREE conference. I’ll share my tried-n-true methods for paying for your conference without robbing your family.

F = Free…as in, free money. Just today I got a check from my bank for 19.80. Why? Because my bank pays me .10 every time I use my debit card. Apparently I use the card a lot. That’s free money. That check will get cashed and stashed in my special conference piggy bank. (OK, a pretty cedar box in my underwear drawer, but you get the picture…)
***Be on the look out for unexpected refunds and forgotten rebates.
***Have a credit card that offers cash back or rewards in the form of air miles? Use it as much as possible (Of course, only for your everyday purchases, and be sure to pay the bill in full each month.)
***Got a gift-getting occasion coming up? Be bold and ask those people who would be inclined to give you a gift (parents, spouse, siblings, etc.) to consider giving a contribution to your conference fund instead.
***Keep the change—all of it! For our family vacations, we keep a large jar in a central location for all the family change. We just cashed in a year’s worth and had over $200. That’s a healthy couch cushion yield.
***Use coupons at the grocery store and pay yourself the difference. For instance, if you save $12, get $10 cash back and stash it away.

Now, none of this in itself will pay for an entire conference, but it’ll sure make a dent.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Is Contest Feedback Worth it?



From Roxanne Sherwood: I’ve won the Touched by Love Contest and the Dixie First Chapter Contest, finaled in the Golden Gateway, Summer Sizzle, and Genesis contests, and judged contests as well.

I’m sure that you’re like me. When score sheets arrive in the mail, my stomach flips more times than a world-class gymnast in a floor routine. I’ve received wonderful feedback that praised my work or told me how I could improve. Every compliment is read over and over, savored like melt-in-your-mouth chocolate.

Then, there are those other comments. Negative feedback hurts; and sometimes, I’ve had to put it aside until my skin feels thick enough to withstand the pain. But I’ve found that the critical comments were the most useful ones. From those I can learn. After all, if I wanted only positive feedback, I’d give my manuscript to my mother and save the money spent on entry fees.

When I can be objective—usually after a long, bubble bath and ice cream straight from the carton—I study my manuscript. Was the judge right? Is my heroine shallow? Have I failed to show instead of tell? Does my chapter lack description? (Probably yes to the last one, though I’ve really tried to work on that.)

I imagine each judge as a potential reader—she is, isn’t she? If she loves my submission, wonderful! I have a new fan. But if she doesn’t, is there something I can change—while staying true to my story and my voice—yet win her over?

Some comments are best ignored, but first really try to see if the criticism has merit. In one contest, the judge gave me a low score for conflict, then wrote: “Most of the conflict is because of the heroine’s poor choices.” Hello? Hasn’t she heard of Moby Dick? I know that story is rife with conflict. Another judge thought my heroine was unsympathetic. Ouch. My character has abandoned her children. If I haven’t provided proper motivation for this heinous act, then I needed to heed the judge’s criticism and create a more sympathetic heroine. I was glad for the opportunity to rewrite the story now, before submitting it to an editor.

The best way to look at contest feedback is the way a writing partner offers her critique: “Use what you can, and lose the rest.”

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Reading and Writing



I've discovered I'm a "baby" writer. This week I've inhaled several books and been wowed by writing styles. At two in the morning I almost screamed, "not fair, not fair" because I wanted MY stories to resound like the one in my hand. One historical took place during the Civil War. I cringed under fire and almost retched inside the prison. Another took place on the Southside of San Antonio. Places I have passed took on a new veneer with this artist's words.

Wow. The power of setting. I've been told by my editor I write "spare." That means I leave out images which could bring my reader inside my story. After several books, I see what she means. sigh. Baby Writer. That's me: Eileen

What have YOU learned about setting??