Writers Work

Behind the laptop

Sometimes you walk into a coffee shop and there are so many laptops it looks like a computer store. Have you ever wondered what all these people are working on? I always think, “Maybe my new favorite book is being written in this room right now!”

For the last few weeks, I’ve been going up to strangers in coffee shops and asking them what they are working on. It was pretty intimidating at first. I didn’t want to interrupt their work, I’m not used to starting conversations with strangers, and strangers don’t look very inviting when they’re staring at their computers. But it was a great experience. I learned that people really like talking about their work and that they are aching for a connection with other creative people.

Meet Tricia Alexandro

Below are her answers to the three questions I’ve been asking writers in coffee shops.

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Tricia Alexandra writing at The Queens Kickshaw.

Me: What are you working on?

Tricia: “A short film about a couple taking a trip to Paris. It’s one of those trips you take thinking it’s going to solidify your relationship but instead it reveals all the cracks.”

M: What’s your next stage and what do you need to get there?

T: “I want to be paid for my work. I want more exposure and a writing community. I find that kind of support is imperative for getting to the next level because those kinds of people inspire you and also hold you accountable. When you see the consistency of other people, and the fact that they’re making a go at it on a daily basis, that encourages me. And you also share resources when you have a community.”

M: What does a writer need?

T: “I think self-compassion is probably the best thing to have as a writer because most of your first drafts and even fifth drafts are going to be shitty. Also curiosity about what’s going on around you. Be gentle on yourself and persevere.”

This conversation was such a great affirmation of what I’m doing with my organization, Writers Work. I’m proud to be creating a supportive community to help writers develop their craft, career, and community. I’m hosting my FIFTH conference on Saturday, April 9 and it’s going to be a great place to find a community as well as get inspired and informed. I hope you can come and spread the word.

*** As a side note, I’m still working on the film. We’re in the audition process for cinematographers and actors. I will be writing about it soon, but in the meantime you can get more updates by liking the Lily and Mara facebook page.***

Life lessons from hosting a writer’s retreat

I know that not everyone has the desire to host a writer’s retreat, but if you have any desire to take a big risk, the skills and lessons are the same. As I mentioned in my earlier post, I’m making an effort to go into more details about what I’m doing and still keep it relatable.

In mid-January, I hosted my second writer’s retreat in the Catskills. This is one of my favorite parts of the year. I love being around other writers 24/7, sharing ideas, supporting each other, and getting motivated by the clicking of their keyboards. As enjoyable as these retreats are, the preparation for them can be a stressful practice in patience and faith.

If you are planning to take on a new challenge, here are some lessons I’ve learned from organizing this retreat:

  1. Commit Commit Commit
    This is the most important rule for any risk you take. If you try to do something new and out of your comfort zone, there are going to be challenges. There will come a time when quitting seems like the most obvious and sane choice. The only way to succeed is to decide that there is no quitting: you will do whatever it takes. Surprisingly, everything gets easier once you take the option of quitting off the table.
    Once I found the venue I liked for my retreat, I had to pay the dreaded deposit. This is super scary to do when you have no one signed up, but you can’t get people to sign up if there’s no venue. Once I sent out the deposit, I decided that I wouldn’t back down no matter what.
  2. Strike while the iron is hot
    For some reason, I thought it made sense to book my writer’s retreat one month after my writer’s conference. The conference takes about 200 hours to plan and market. It’s thoroughly exhausting. A week before the conference, I realized that I had no one signed up for the retreat, and the final payment was due in two weeks. I was in jeopardy of losing my deposit.
    My husband suggested I give a promotional discount for the retreat during the conference and let everyone know that it would expire by the end of the day. This seemed beyond ridiculous to me. My guests were already shelling out their hard-earned money for my conference. It felt greedy to ask for more money.
    That’s when I was forced to confront a harmful belief I had. I was thinking my guests were doing me a huge favor, rather than recognizing that I was giving them an incredible gift: my conferences and retreats are inspiring, informative and an incredible value. Once I accepted that fact, it was easy to announce the promotional offer and capitalize on the excitement and motivation I had already worked so hard to create at the conference.
    And guess what? Five people signed up that day!
    This is all to say, figure out when you can maximize your efforts and don’t let any doubts get in your way.
  3. Relax and enjoy the ride
    At a certain point you have to believe that all your planning will pay off and that it’s okay to enjoy yourself. I believe one of the reasons why my events are so powerful is because I am a writer and I give other writers exactly what I would want. If I can’t enjoy my own events, why the heck am I doing it? Passion projects are going to wipe you out. They will use up every last reserve of energy and will. If you can’t stop and enjoy the moment, I promise you won’t be able to sustain the passion.

Is there anything else you would add to the list? Was this helpful? Leave a comment ’cause I’d love to hear from you. Also, if you’re interested in joining the next retreat, send an email to Tracy [at] writerswork [dot] org, or apply here. I am starting to plan a week-long retreat for this summer in Long Island, and it would be a huge boost to know that people are interested in it.

*** Pictures provided by Josh Conrad. Josh has a blog where he’s tackling 25 interesting dares this year. You should definitely check out his blog and see what he had to say about the retreat! ***

Growing some Wings

wings

This is one of my favorite quotes, and it’s a belief that motivates me whenever thinking of what to do next. It’s a quote I had to repeat as I wrote the check to reserve the venue for my first-ever writers’ retreat. (Actually I’ve set up two impromptu retreats with my writers’ groups and I know that the concentrated time and companionship can make the difference between thinking about a novel and finishing a novel. However, these retreats were at my parents house so there was no financial risk for me. This retreat is on a larger scale, with more money and time at stake.)

It would have been easy to say no to the idea of this retreat. Financially speaking, I should say no to this retreat. But at the end of the day I know I can do an amazing job organizing it, and I know that it will be worth it. There are only seven openings and I need at least five people to sign up in order to break even. I jumped off a cliff and now I’m waiting for those wings to pop out! If you know someone who would benefit from this retreat, please share the info! Here are some of the details, but visit the website for the daily schedule and more details.

  • 3pm Friday, Feb. 20 through 3pm Monday, Feb. 24
  • We will all be staying in a quiet house in the Catskills and our meals will be brought to us. All you need are your usual writing implements, clothing, and a toothbrush.
  • All activities are optional. They are designed to inspire creativity and enhance the craft, but your time and schedule is priority.
  • Mornings start with yoga or mediation and the evenings end with a group critique of the day’s writing.
  • On the last day, Chloe Caldwell, author of Woman, Legs Get Led Astray and The New Age Camp, will be joining us to talk about her experience as a writer, and offer feedback on our writing.
  • Prices range from $540-$800 depending on the room situation you pick, and if you send a deposit by 12/15 for the early bird special. Price includes housing, meals (except for one meal at a restaurant), activities and supplies.

I hope you will join me for this retreat and I hope there will be many more in the future.

Are you waiting for permission?

I’m a huge fan of Amy Poehler’s videos on Smart GirlsIf you’ve ever wanted to start a large project, I suggest watching this video. Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer met doing improv at Upright Citizens Brigade. They created a web series based on their unique friendship and sense of humor, and it took off, leading them to the hit show on Comedy Central. In this video, Amy interviews the writers and talent behind this zany comedy, Broad City.

I love it when they talk about finding your voice, and how to get started on a dream. Everything they said reminded me of starting Writers Work 🙂

Abbi Jacobson’s response when Amy asks how someone can copy their success says it all for me:

“A lot of people wait for someone else to tell them it’s okay to start doing something or they have to be allowed to do this. But, no, we create that. You just have to start. No one’s gonna give you permission.”

What are your ambitions? Are you waiting for permission to get started?

Please Give Me Your Hard-Earned Money

In an effort to offer a conference which is affordable, yet small enough so there is a strong sense of community, I have run into a small conundrum. Even if I sell all of my tickets, I am just going to break even. I was hoping to get more corporate sponsors but I keep running into the same problem: I don’t have non-profit status. I would love to continue creating this incredible conference series, but I need extra money to make it sustainable (I want to file for non-profit status, I want to continue bringing in amazing speakers and paying them a fair price for their talent, and I would like to make a little salary for all the time I put into this). Here’s where I’m hoping my amazing readers will come in and save the day!

I know this is a brazen request, but I wouldn’t ask if I didn’t believe these conferences will make the world a better place by nurturing creative people and helping to bring their art into the world. You can help support creativity by making a donation toward the Writers Work conference through PayPal. Again, this isn’t a non-profit yet, so donations are not tax deductible.

Donate Button with Credit Cards

Where it asks for special instructions, type your name and/or website you would like me to advertise. For donations of $25 and up, I will be posting your link on this blog, my twitter handles for The Heso Project and Writers Work, The Heso facebook page, as well as on the programs for the conference. If you would like to make a large donation that covers a specific cost, here are just a few of the items from my budget (Donors will be acknowledged for this contribution on all promotional materials.):

Lunch – Feeding Creativity
$600 
Breakfast – The Spark of Inspiration
$150 
The Venue – A Room of One’s Own
$750 
Photography – Capturing the Details
$400
Logo Design – Leave a Mark
$100

And, of course, please keep telling all your writing friends about the conference! Thank you for your support 🙂

Interview with Sojourner

Check out my interview on Sojourner’s Sojourns, a wonderful blog that covers diverse topics from international travel with an infant to organic lotion recipes.

Writers Work! A Brand New Writer’s Conference is Coming to New York.

Meet My Favorite Author

Kyle_bookIt was a long shot, but I wrote to my new favorite author, Aryn Kyle, to gush and invite her to speak at my conference and she said YES!

A few months ago, I flipped out over her book, The God of Animals. Now I’m reading her short story collection, Boys and Girls Like You and Me. I normally have a hard time getting into short stories, but her writing style is so sensitive and evocative that I’m immediately immersed in each story of tainted adolescence. Her protagonists are mysterious, complicated, and observant. Her beautiful prose is filled with heartbreaking honesty, like this gem from The God of Animals:

“If you take something that isn’t yours, it will never belong to you. You can try to hold on to it, but somehow, it will slip through your fingers. If something wasn’t meant to be yours, it won’t be. No matter what you do to keep it, you will lose it.”

I’m so honored to have her as a speaker at my next conference on Saturday, September 20! She will be sharing her experience of turning an award-winning short story into a novel, as well as some tips on how to get into a writers’ residency (hint hint you don’t need to be a published author). When I started this series, I wanted to find speakers who would motivate other writers and share what they have learned. Aryn is one of my dream speakers. Don’t miss this chance to meet a wonderful, contemporary author and make sure you get a copy of her books so you can get it signed!

10 Reasons why every writer should come to this conference

When I first accepted the crazy notion that I was going to be a writer, I kept getting this advice: go to writers’ conferences and start networking. The idea made sense, but the price tag didn’t. I couldn’t afford tickets upwards of $500 on the off chance I meet someone who likes my pitch, and would remember me from the crowd of hundreds of other eager attendees.

If what you want isn’t out there, make it! It’s taken a lot of hard work, but I am proud to host a conference that is affordable (under $100 including lunch), and intimate. If you know a writer in the New York area, make sure they get a ticket before it sells out.

When and where is it, you ask?

Saturday, Sept. 20, 2014 from 10am-4pm in Times Sq. 

Here are just some of the reasons why you should go:

  1. Pitch your story idea to Shira Hoffman, literary agent at McIntosh & Otis.
  2. Hear from my favorite contemporary author, Aryn Kyle, about writers’ residency programs and the process of turning a short story into a novel. P.S. if you haven’t read her work, pick up a copy of The God of Animals today!
  3. Meet other people with same interests and goals so you can start having creative dates together!
  4. Meet Deborah Emin, publisher of Sullivan Street Press, a company that is working to give the power and control back to writers.
  5. Get a behind the scenes look at the publishing world from Christina Bryza, a Senior Copywriter at Simon & Schuster.
  6. Get a free hour of guided writing, care of  Gotham Writers’ Workshop, in addition to a special discount for their classes.
  7. Take your craft seriously. When you spend money on your dreams, they start to become a reality.
  8. Build your support network.
  9. Free lunch!
  10. Get out of the house, get out of the rut, get out of your head, and come and have creative fun with others!

You can buy tickets here, or check out the official website.

A fun moment at the last conference.

A fun moment at the last conference.