Sunday, February 12, 2017

Retreat! Professional Development for Writers with Linda Sands

Today we are visiting with award winning author Linda Sands.

Linda you've been a professional writer for a while now, tell us about what you write and what it's like wearing the crown of Georgia Writer of the Year.

Lately, I've been broadly categorized as a mystery novelist. My work runs the gamut from historical fiction with my book Not Waving, Drowning, to legal thriller with Simple Intent to contemporary noir/ PI with 3 Women Walk into a Bar

Prior to the novels, I concentrated on personal essays, literary short stories and very off-the-wall flash fiction. Being named Georgia Author of the Year for Mystery has made me realize the mystery/thriller/crime fiction genre may be my preferred wheelhouse. Though I won't stop writing all the stories that speak to me, regardless of categorization.

In this article you're going to be sharing about different conferences you've attended and their flavor. But let's start with your retreat. You are planning a new writer's retreat in April. WHOOP! Why is a writer's retreat, in your opinion, important to writers. Tell me what writers could expect at your retreat (Hey, everyone I'll be there as a presenter and to help you Write it Right! Bring your questions!)

Yes! Write by the Water was born of necessity. I NEEDED a beach house. LOL. But seriously, I have always felt at home at the ocean, The soothing sound of the surf, the vastness of the ocean, the renewing of the coast with every tide and the possibilities of what might float to shore... damn. That's writing to me.

At Write by the Water, I had the idea of a communal house of creatives that would come together to lift each other. Not just story writers or novelists, but poets, painters, photographers, songwriters and musicians. We've had all of those! You would be surprised how much work you accomplish when you hear someone else typing away. I love that we can share our work at the end of the day and bounce ideas off one another. More than a "workshop" experience, this retreat is geared to allowing one to focus on the work at hand without the distractions of work/home life. This April, we will be- as always- listening to the needs and desires of our attendee and trying our best to fill them.

5 day retreat April 5-9
or the weekend retreat April 7-9

We know. You’ve had a rough year. The kids were all over you. The house needed attention. The dog died. The spouse spent too much time nagging/golfing/not cooking. Worst of all…the word count was slacking. And now? You have needs.

We understand. Writers…write. Even when we aren’t anywhere near a pen or laptop, we’re still writing, conjuring up scenes, asking for solutions, listening to the voices of characters we spawned. For most of us, those creative moments come in quiet places, in shower stalls, empty cars, or during long solo walks.

Write By The Water can give you all of those moments. And more.
  • Writing prompts every morning
  • Discussions every evening
  • Classes geared to individual needs
  • Skype call with a NY editor or agent
  • Networking and marketing opportunities
  • A spoken word event where you will share your work

Additional options include yoga classes and outdoor activities such as paddle boarding, fishing, biking and horseback riding. We’ll provide breakfast, unlimited coffee, happy hour cocktail, semi-private and private rooms, and lots of desks and writing areas. Create or re-create on the beach or from your bed. Maybe you’ll write best at the corner desk with music playing or basking in the sun on the 360° rooftop terrace.

Join us in Blue Mountain Beach where muses and mermaids play and let your creativity flow. If you’ve got more questions, we’ve got the answers— right here.

Now that you know what a writing retreat is, it sounds great, right? Come on over here, let’s talk.

Linda, you and I met each other when we became Kindle Scout winners, but we've also met in person at Bouchercon. You do quite a few writers' conferences. Which conferences do you like to attend and what do you get out that conference?

Oh yes, I have attended many, many writing seminars, workshops, conferences and conventions since 2002. Some don't even exist anymore! I can't list in order of favorites, so I'll just throw it out there with a brief description and my comments. 
  • AWP (Association of Writers and Writing Programs) This annual conference is very "collegiate." Lots of professors and university presses and literary mags and MFA students. Lots of partying and lots of networking, but a distinct break in the crowd of the accomplished and the wanna-bes. On an unrelated note, I noticed that I was always one of the tallest attendees- and I'm only 5'8. 
  • Key West Literary Seminar - Great location. Brings in big names, as it's held in winter, and who doesn't want to go to Key West? Lots of sponsorship so great food and drinks and parties. Easy to hang with the big guns without feeling like a stalker. Relaxed conference and the separate writing workshops held pre- or post conference are fantastic. Themes change every year, so when they apply or interest me, I am there. Also, they offer all types of scholarships. 
  • Sleuthfest in Boca Raton is associated with the Florida Mystery Writers of America group. I had a great experience here, as that's where I found my agent! Great area for a winter escape, draws good authors, agents and editors. I haven't been in a long time, but they look like they have ramped things up even more- in the best way. Like the name, very PI/mystery oriented. 
  • Southampton Writers Conference, Stonybrook Campus, Southampton, NY. This is a fantastic conference in which you feel like a student staying on the college campus. Lots of parties and free time/writing time and amazing instructors. I was able to work under Amy Hempel one year. Being so near to NYC means they can pull all sorts of talent. No snobbery here. Best networking, and some of the nicest people I've ever met. 
  • Killer Nashville, Nashville, TN. I love this conference. It's like an intimate gathering of mystery/thriller/sleuth book-loving readers and writers, but don't let intimate fool you, this conference books major talent and by keeping things smaller you really get to canoodle. Awards and scholarships are growing every year and the location is such fun. 
  • Bouchercon. Location changes every year, and every year they have new "leaders." This is very much a volunteer run conference, and fan-based. You aren't going to get the kind of writing workshops/ tutorials/ lectures like at KWLS or SWC, but you will get to see and hear the big guns and the up and comers. Always feels a little elitist at first, and can be intimidating if you're a new writer. Expect lines of readers and collectors at the bookstore and signing area. The more you attend, the more friends you will make. Networking = drinks at the bar.
  • Southern Festival of Books, Nashville TN. This is a celebration of the book, the story. Some readings and lectures. Very family-oriented. Seems to draw big names, but in my opinion, it lacks the organization it needs to draw in the writing crowd. I noticed huge draw for YA authors last year. 
Here are the Georgia area conferences and festivals that I attend:
  •  Decatur Book Festival -The largest independent book festival in the world, this is a whole town of creative energy. They have it all from children's authors entertaining their crowd to cookbook authors doing live demos to poets reading at the coffee house to panels held in churches, courthouses and gazebos covering eight tracks of interest. And IT IS FREE. The shops and restaurants in Decatur are some of the best. Everyone here ( the authors from all walks- Pulitzer prize winners to debut) are accessible and you're a Marta ride away from downtown Atlanta if you want or need more. It happens every Labor Day weekend, which happens to coincide with DragonCon in Atlanta. Much fun. 
  • Dahlonega Literary Festival, in the mountains, sort of. I will be a featured author here in March, debuting Grand Theft Cargo, the first book in my new series. I haven't been part of this festival since I won a prize for a short story that they put in an anthology, so this will be fun. One year, I attended just to hear the readings and ended up partying with Cassandra King-- before I knew who she was. Very cute downtown area, much to do and the panels are well planned and organized. Also, free to the public
  • Milton Literary Festival, Milton GA. A new book festival on the small- but growing side. Very reader oriented with fun ideas to engage the audience. Local support makes it free to attend.
  • Atlanta Writers Conference, Atlanta GA. Happens twice a year and is a great way to query agents and editors. Wonderful workshop offerings, a perfect fit for the newbie writer, or the author who 's looking to query NYC people without traveling north. 
The other conferences I would recommend to a crime writer would be Thrillerfest, Malice Domestic and Left Coast Crime

Thanks, Linda for sharing all of that juicy gossip!

And ThrillWriters - we have just a couple more spaces available. Let us know if you can make it this year, if not? We'll have next year's retreat dates coming soon.

And happy writing.

1 comment:

  1. I couldn't agree more with how important fellowship is to development. And, I think, retreats and conferences weed out some of the negative elements we pick up in the pursuit of publication. ThrillerFest was SO helpful in my journey. Kathleen Antrim and Jon Land really took time with me and helped me develop my "pitch" voice. It's been a few years and I cannot wait to go again. Thanks, for sharing. You're aces, Sis.