Posts Tagged ‘DFW Writers’ Workshop’

I belong to a great writers’ workshop, and we put on a writers’ conference every year. And this year, DFWcon melted my face off like Dave Grohl rocking during a Foo Fighters’ encore set.

Lemme give you 10 reasons why:

1. I met my agent, Sara Crowe, in person, for the first time ever!!! She’s so phenomenal in eleventy-billion ways, and hanging out with her all weekend just confirmed them all. I had so much fun gabbing and getting into shenanigans. (In-N-Out Burgers! Panel Discussions! Bull-Riding at Billy Bob’s!)

2. I met many other publishing professionals, and it turns out that PR genius Mer Barnes, and super agents Sarah LaPolla and Jennie Goloboy are just as crazy cool as you’d expect. (Psst…they aren’t bad at Texas two-stepping either.) And editor Stacey Barney? When she talks about YA, drop your fork and take notes. Her taste in good books (and dessert) is impeccable.

3. Alec Shane is at Writers’ House. He’s also a former Hollywood STUNTMAN. Dude. Fo Realz. He might not have an official action figure, but hey, google his IMDB page. Then award 1,000,001 street cred points for appearing in a flick called MAXIMUM CAGE FIGHTER. And award another 1,000,001 points for championing boy YA books. (Note to self: Write heartbreaking, edgy YA about a seventeen-year-old mixed martial arts master. Who cage fights. In Post-Apocalyptic Detroit.)

4. There’s a coffee shop in Hurst called ROOTS. They make blackberry green tea Chai lattes. That taste like warm blackberry cobbler. Don’t tell me how many calories are in a Venti. I don’t want to know.

5. Author Rosemary Clement-Moore is a perfect hotel roommate. She doesn’t snore, she doesn’t hog all the hot water, and you can totally pick her brain at 1:00 a.m.

6. Kate Cornell is the world’s best agent wrangler. She gets your agent coffee, packs a mean conference survival kit, tells perfect anecdotes, and absolutely, positively doesn’t hold it against you when you have to drive back to Abuelo’s and kidnap her because you couldn’t figure out the right exit to get to the airport.

7. DFWcon attendees are charming and sweet and 100% inspiring. When you teach a session, they don’t heckle you and they ask great questions. When they practice pitch you, they blow you away with high concept premises (Hey, Sally Hamiltinez!) and well-developed ideas. (Hello, MR. SECULAR APOCALYPSE, I’m talking to YOU.)

You can e-mail Jason at

8. This year’s GONG SHOW–I can’t even, guys. What happens when you listen to agents gong and crit queries/first pages? A scorched earth, DEFCON LEVEL I nuclear blast zone of shock and awe-some. Mildly painful. Seriously instructive.

9. Rosemary, A. Lee Martinez and I taught a ‘Perfect Your Pitch’ class. And Candy Havens critiqued reads with us, too! Our best advice? When querying, your e-mail shouldn’t be Also, never google ‘purple bondage lolcats.’ EVER.

10. Author Roni Loren knows how to write a scorching hot love scene. She also knows how to teach you how to write a scorching hot love scene. She also, also knows the words one must never use in a love scene. No LOVE SWORDS or SECRET GARDENS, apparently. Can’t imagine why.

So…how was your conference weekend? If you were at DFWcon, I’d love to hear about your experience!

A couple of weekends ago, I hosted a session at the 2011 DFW Writers’ Convention called Bringing Pages to Life.  

The class was loads of fun–I met a lot of terrific writers, and since then I’ve been immersed in reading and critiquing sample pages from attendees. Of course, I’ve also been reading published books, beta reading for crit partners, and working on my own WIP.  

In looking at my own writing and that of others, one question plagues me:  

Is this book read-able, or is it un-put-down-able?  

Really, doesn’t everything–finding an agent, selling a book, finding an audience–***partially hinge on this one, crucial question?  

I think so.  

I think readable books… 

have a decent premise.  

have coherent plots.  

have believable dialogue.  

have sympathetic characters. 

have a narrative voice.  

garner nice, personal rejections from agents and editors.  

are damned with faint praise. 

languish in the slush pile. 

are destined for dark drawers.  

I think un-put-down-able books… 

have killer premises that hook readers and don’t let them go.  

have such compelling plots that readers can’t stop turning pages. 

have wholly convincing, honest, distinct dialogue.   

have living breathing characters with vivid dreams, recollections, memories, desires, and fears.  

have narrative voices so strong and so rich, they make readers laugh out loud, reach for kleenex, grumble in anger, gasp in surprise, and linger over passages,  

garner urgent requests from agents and editors.  

are ardently championed with with praise and recommendation.  

are pitched, sold, and slated for release.  

are destined to be bought, borrowed, and beloved.  


I know. It’s soul-sucking to think of our own work as ‘readable.’ But we can’t settle. We have to keep reading, keep listening, and keep learning. We can’t rest  or be satisfied until we write books that are totally UN-PUT-DOWN-ABLE. 

Hungry for more? Then try this recipe for Sweet and Salty Party Mix. One handful is never enough.


***Yeah, yeah. I know there are plenty of other variables (timing, luck, notoriety, etc.) that factor into a writer’s sucess, but this post isn’t about those. So sue me.

Have you ever gotten a present so incredible, so meaningful, so awesome it almost made you cry?

Can you hear me sniffle? ‘Cause I just celebrated my birthday at the DFW Writer’s conference last weekend, and I got one of those gifts.


Friday night, my workshop friends arranged a little birthday bash in our hotel room. The regular gang was there, plus even a few super fab agents. Oh yeah. We had cake.

So then, my friends Alex and Sally bring a present wrapped in rock and roll wrapping paper. (Yeah, they know me too well.) I rip the paper off and this is what I see.

Scarlet Whisper Stalks the Stacks

As you can see, Sally is a very talented graphic artist and illustrator. I’m so grateful to have a custom, signed print of SCARLET WHISPER! And how cool is this caption?

And don’t forget, I owe Alex, too. After all, he is the guy who pulled my alter ego’s name out of thin air. At IHOP. Of course.

In short, the DFW Writers’ conference was unforgettable in many ways.

How about you? Has anyone ever gone above and beyond to give you a memorable gift? Tell me about it!

Hungry for more? Try this recipe for Raspberry Red Velvet Torte.


Erm, I don’t really have anything exciting to share about myself this week.

But, I do have some SPECTACULAR NEWS to share about one of  my friends/superheroes/mentors, A. Lee Martinez.

Alex’s bestseller, Gil’s All Fright Diner, is going HOLLYWOOD. Dreamworks has attached director Barry Sonnenfeld and the scribes behind Kung Fu Panda to a movie adaptation of the novel. You can read about it in Variety.

Very cool, indeed, dear ones.

Perhaps you’ve noticed I gush (quite frequently) about DFW Writers’ Workshop. Workshop is a fab organization for writers. Scribblers of all stripes and skill levels meet every Wednesday night. Some of us are newbie novices (me) and some of us are ridiculously talented (um, that would be A. Lee Martinez.)

How many bestselling authors take the time to patiently offer critique and advice to lesser mortals? Alex does. He helps to cultivate our community of writers; he and a cadre of other awesome superfriends contribute to DFWWW in a big way.

As a flunky sidekick in training, I’m honored to be counted among their number.

Congratulations to my superfriend, Alex. His talent and hardwork brought Gil’s to this point. I’d like to think a little karmic payback hasn’t hurt, either.

Here’s a toast to my many superheroes and friends.

Who are you cheering for? Whose advice or guidance has helped you most? Tell me and I’ll pick the most amazing shoutout. I’ll send the winner a copy of Gil’s All Fright Diner. (Hey, I might even be able to grovel enough to get the author to autograph it. ) I’ll announce the winner next week.

Hungry for more? Try my recipe for Peanut Butter Superfudge. I’ve taken this sweet confection and put it on steroids.

Peanut Butter Superfudge

2 cups sugar

1/2 milk

1 1/3 cup peanut butter

1 (reg. size) jar of marshmallow creme

Bring sugar and milk to a boil; boil for 3 minutes. Remove from heat and add peanut butter and marshmallow cream. Pour into buttered 8 inch pan.


Last night was workshop night. DFW Writers’ Workshop meets in Euless every Wednesday night for announcements, readings, and critique.

After the critique sessions, many members meet up at the local IHOP to decompress, debrief, and de-stress. Lots of great advice is shared over hotcakes and hash browns.

 Thank Goodness. As a novice writer, I can use all the help I can get.

 If you give a writer a pancake, he might share these suggestions:

Please don’t tell me Dr. Wiggle-bottom is an evil but brilliant neurosurgeon with jet black hair and a penchant for mushroom and Swiss omelets. Let me discover Dr. Wigglebottom’s secrets through action, foreshadowing and dialogue. Build characterization and detail into your story.

Please don’t drop a big, steaming, stinky pile of back story info-dump right in the middle of my plate. Reveal world-building details in moderation at the appropriate time and in natural places within the story. Don’t describe the giant scalpel in Dr. Wigglebottom’s secret lab until he’s using it to perform a lobotomy; or at least wait until he uses it to cut his omelet.

Please choose active verbs over passive ones whenever possible. All those is’s, was’s, and began to’s leave a bland taste in my mouth. Check, please.

Please don’t drizzle too much description over the basic plot. Too many adjectives and adverbs overpower the flavor of a good story. When in doubt, leave it out.

Please don’t allow irrelevant facts or scenes interrupt the flow of your story. Syrupy vignettes about unimportant details slow the action. Molasses belongs on a biscuit, not in your pacing.

Please trim the fat on your dialogue tags. Stick with he said, she said; not exclaimed, chortled, snorted or explained. Too many embellished tags clog my arteries. 

I remind myself of these suggestions each time I rewrite. Utilizing the advice of experienced writers helps me a lot. I try not to turn my nose up at critique. Yes, thank you. More, please. Delicious.

 Oh, I almost forgot. Don’t use cliches or corny food metaphors. 


Here’s a recipe for gingerbread pancakes. These cinnamon infused flapjacks sweeten the sting of rejection.

 Gingerbread Pancakes:

 1 cup flour

2 tbsp. flour

1/3 sugar

1/3 cornmeal (yellow is best)

1 tsp. baking powder

½ tsp. baking soda

ÂĽ tsp. salt

1 tsp. ginger

½ tsp. nutmeg

½ tsp. cinnamon

½ tsp. ground cloves

2 eggs

Âľ cup sour cream

Âľ cup milk

ÂĽ cup oil (canola or vegetable)

1 ½ molasses

1 tsp. vanilla extract

Stir the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, cornmeal, spices and salt in a big bowl. Stir, stir, stir to distribute the baking powder evenly.

In another bowl, whisk the eggs. Add the sour cream, milk, oil, molasses and vanilla.

Combine the wet and dry ingredients. 

Set aside for 5 minutes. Heat the skillet or griddle while you’re waiting. Edit a few dialogue tags. Grease skillet or spray it with non-stick cooking oil. 

Use about 1/3 cup batter for each pancake. Turn pancakes over (about two minutes) when bubbles form on the edges. Turn only once.