The Writer’s Life: Reflections on SiWC16
Bastion of creative writing isn’t what most people think of when they hear the word ‘Surrey’. But, for three and a half days every October, that’s exactly what Vancouver’s neighbour becomes for the hundreds of writers, agents and publishers gathered for the Surrey International Writers Conference, which recently wrapped up its 24th year.
This year, FriesenPress was there, connecting with authors and industry professionals, hearing about the challenges and opportunities afoot in writing and publishing today. All weekend, we soaked up the collegial atmosphere (which often felt more like a festival), and took in many of the dozens of workshops and seminars on offer. Time and again we saw that writers are tirelessly dedicated to polishing their craft. Workshops on plot, structure, character development, creativity, and the overwhelming importance of quality editing we often standing room only.
As with other conferences, our goal in attending Surrey was to hear, first-hand, what matters most to writers. An added bonus, however, was the inspiring camaraderie on display. Writers, who are so often working alone in quiet rooms, flocked together to celebrate the power of the written word, to encourage each other, and to remind themselves of the possibilities open to those who work hard on all aspects of their craft. We left Surrey with many new friends and a renewed enthusiasm for helping writers craft books they’ll be proud to call their own.
We’ll share more craft-based articles in future editions of this newsletter, but for now we’ll leave you with a few short insights we overheard while at Surrey. We hope they’ll inspire you to polish your own writing practice.
Writing exercise: Picture an ordinary moment (say, eating breakfast) and think about how you could describe it through each of the five senses. How could each of sight, sound, touch, taste, and smell be used to enhance the reader’s experience, or even suggest a plot point? (A dripping sound? The smell of something burning?) The key to writing great scenes is to engage the senses.
Ask “what does this chapter accomplish?” after every chapter you write.
Choose a time and place to write every day. Even if it’s just 15 minutes, make sure it happens every day. It’s how we train our brains to be ready to write.
Finished your first draft? Celebrate! And then don’t look at it for a month. You’ll return with fresh eyes.
Define a purpose for each social media platform you want to use. Do you want to use Twitter for research? Selling books? Building community? Different platforms have different functions.
The first chapter is often the writer making notes. It might get cut. That’s normal.
Got a great first line? Good. Write a great second line. Keep compelling the reader.
Social media is a place where your generosity comes back a thousandfold. Invest time sharing great info and find your flock.
The risks you take are the things that will make your book stand out.
Team Member Spotlight
Hannah Monteith is a social media and promotion guru who's spent the last 2+ years helping FriesenPress authors build readerships and bring their books to the world. Her role as a Book Promotion Specialist recently culminated in a promotion to Team Lead!
- Hometown: Victoria, BC
- What's your favourite book marketing platform? And what's the most underrated?
My favorite book marketing platform is Instagram! It is a fantastic platform for networking while still allowing authors to be creative with their posts. The most underrated site is probably GoodReads. Even though it is book centric, it gets overlooked because it is more unfamiliar. I love that everyone on the platform is into books! Personally, it feels great being able to mark a book off your want to read list and give it a few stars!
- Best part of your day?
Running around to the different departments answering questions and problem solving. Today I had an awesome conversation with one of our Publishing Specialists about cover elements and how they relate to an author's branding and overall strategy. By the end of the conversation, the Publishing Specialist was excited and prepared with questions to ask the author.
- What’s the most rewarding aspect of your role here at FriesenPress?
When I get on the phone with an author who has worked hard, prepared well and is enthusiastic about their book, I can't help feeling happy and excited right along with them. These are coaching sessions that leave me invigorated and excited to help that author along their journey.
- What’s the best book you’ve read this year?
All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr (Fiction)
Women In Clothes by Heidi Julavits, Leanne Shapton, Sheila Heti (Non-Fiction)
What are some memorable books you’ve helped our authors publish?
I find the books that stick with me the most are the ones I have had fun working on and where I have connected with the author. The content is important too but, being a people person, the author makes the most impact for me.
- Isle by Jes Dory. Jes is such a passionate and driven author with a great aesthetic. She came to me with great ideas and ready to work hard and we had a good time working together.
- Truly Global by Anna Schlegel. Anna knows what she is doing and is not afraid to take charge and get stuff done.
- How To Forgive Your Boss by Tammy Dewar. Working with Tammy was especially great because she was able to visit us in the office and welcomed the team into her community. She is a subject matter expert but was so open to feedback and suggestions.
- What's the one thing authors need to know about book promotion?
Plan ahead, do your research and make educated decisions. That is technically three but, together, they all contribute to a prepared author and a better book.
New Publishing Paths
Over the years, our experience in facilitating the publication of thousands of titles has taught us important lessons about what makes for a successful book. More than ever, we know how to get authors where they want to go--to help you not only meet, but exceed your publishing goals.
That's why we're so excited to announce that FriesenPress is entering a new phase, as a Publishing Services provider.
Here's what that means:
- We've put our expertise into 4 new publishing experiences that are perfect for writers of any stripe. Called "Paths", each offers a flexible level of service that aligns with authors' goals.
- For our Launch path, we now offer editing, design, and promotional Bundles. These are expert services, bundled in a way that maximizes their impact on your project while providing a discount over purchasing each service separately.
Something that will never change is our commitment to you, the writer, and helping you succeed. We look forward to writing our next chapter, together.
From the President’s Desk
For many of us, 2016 was a year full of successes, changes, and challenges. It was no different here at FriesenPress. As a company and as a team, we continued to grow and refine the services we provide to our wonderful authors. November saw us launch an all new suite of publishing packages, that we’re now calling “Paths” to reflect the reality that successful publishing is a journey. It takes time, effort, courage, and expertise to do it well.
2016 saw FriesenPress authors succeed like never before, with extensive media coverage, strong book sales, countless 5 star reviews, and even some prestigious writing awards. As always, we are proud and honored to play a role in helping authors realize their literary goals.
Many new partnerships were developed over the past 12 months, including an exciting agreement with Smith Publicity that helps our authors garner media attention and get the word out about their books.
The past year also brought several changes here at FriesenPress. Some longtime staff members moved on to new challenges. Goodbyes are difficult when a team is as close-knit as ours, but each farewell brought a new hello and we’ve been so lucky to have new wonderfully talented people join our team. 2017 is looking brighter than ever!
From all of us here at FriesenPress, I wish you a happy holiday and every success in the New Year!
Each issue we’ll present an exercise or prompt aimed at getting you writing and building your skills. This month’s pump-up is called Snow Scene!
The holidays are a wonderful opportunity to relax, unplug, and spend quality time with people we love. Occasionally, though, the holidays can be challenging, what with so much preparation, travel, and even interpersonal difficulties. As writers, though, we understand that any good story requires a degree of conflict and drama. Imagine a story in which conflict helps to bring a family closer together.
Prompt: It’s the holidays and you’ve planned a cozy getaway with loved ones. A beautiful cabin in the mountains, a crackling fire in the fireplace, and the smell of good food sizzling in the kitchen. Happy songs are playing on the stereo and outside the window little funnels of snow are starting to whirl, dancing against the glass until, slowly, it begins to rattle...
Set a scene and add some characters. What kinds of conflict could give the story drama and also provide an opportunity for learning and growth?