January 13, 2019
Chapter Meeting & Holiday Party 12pm - 2pm
Centuries & Sleuths
Forest Park, IL Cake, Crime & Camaraderie. Enjoy some appetizers (cake!), make some resolutions for the coming year, and share some favorites from the past year.
February 9, 2019 Chapter Meeting
1pm - 3pm
Highland Park Public Library
St. Paul, MN Mindy Mejia, who is both an author and a CPA, discusses a broad range of tax questions geared specifically toward self-employed and freelance writers.
March 24, 2019 MWA-U
11am - 2:30pm
River Forest, IL Join us for an interactive, no-bad-questions, we’re-all-in-this-together, practicum on how to write about people who are different from us–and why it matters. Details below.
March 28-31, 2019 Left Coast Crime
Vancouver, Canada MWA Midwest will host a Happy Half-Hour for members! leftcoastcrime.org
May 2019 Chapter Meeting Colombus, OH Details TBA
May 11-12, 2019 The Loft's Wordplay Book Party Minneapolis, MN Members can sell and sign their books at an MWA-MW booth! loftwordplay.com
As you're probably aware, running an organization like MWA Midwest is not a one-person job. It takes a team of capable and committed individuals to make this work, and I'm delighted to welcome our new board members for 2019. They bring an unprecedented diversity of backgrounds, talents, and geographic diversity to our chapter.
Incoming V.P. Kristen Lepionka will take over our social media platforms, including the website—an exciting development as we continue to extend our virtual reach to include all members in chapter events. Our new board members Tracy Clark (IL), Shaun Harris (WI), and Libby Kirsch (MI) will join incumbents Tim Chapman (IL), Shelley Kubitz-Mahannah (MN), and Andrew Welsh-Huggins (OH) in hosting events throughout our chapter area. After our January chapter meeting to celebrate Edgar Allan Poe's 210th birthday, we're taking this show on the road with chapter meetings hosted by board members in their home states. If you live outside of Chicago, now you have a better chance of finding a meeting close(r) to you!
You already know how invaluable connections with fellow mystery writers can be, especially face-to-face. We're excited to spread the wealth, and it's just one of a number of steps we're taking to increase the diversity of our chapter. We want to make those personal and professional benefits accessible to writers from different cultural backgrounds than we've traditionally served. It makes us stronger as an organization, it makes us better as people ... but did you know it can make you more creative? Science says it's true! Check out the podcast HIDDEN BRAIN: “The Edge Effect" to learn more.
Besides improving our diversity as an organization, I've decided that this is the year to become more intentional about improving the diversity of my characters as well. You may want to do the same, but worry about inadvertently reinforcing harmful stereotypes. It seems easier to not try at all, right? That’s why I’m so excited to announce that author Cheryl Head will lead our March MWA-U workshop: CHARACTERS, NOT CARICATURES. The hands-on, interactive workshop will dig into techniques for writing authentic, compelling characters from different backgrounds, and why it's important to do. Speaking of practical, it's the same weekend as Murder & Mayhem Chicago, so you can attend two different mystery events in a single weekend!
If you can't make it to Chicago, don't despair: MARGIN CALL is our new, recurring newsletter column written by MWA members with tips and resources for accurately portraying people from marginalized communities.
If one of your resolutions this year is to improve your writing craft, you can check that off your list by taking advantage of one or all of these great opportunities brought to you by MWA Midwest. And if another resolution is to get more involved in the mystery community, we can help you with that, too! Come to MWA-U, attend a chapter meeting near you, or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org with other ideas.
Join us for an interactive, no-bad-questions, we’re-all-in-this-together, practicum on how to write about people who are different from us–and why it matters.
Sunday, March 24, 11am - 2:30pm
Concordia University Chicago, River Forest, IL
Members: $20, Non-members: $50 Presenters: Cheryl Head & Mia P. Manansala
Writing about the lives, environments, and cultures of people who are not in our networks of influence can feel awkward and stressful. Still, including diverse characters in our novels is the commonsense thing to do. Our current readers expect it, and our new readers will demand it.
Attendees of this hands-on workshop will walk away with practical tips, useful resources, and increased competence in:
1) writing diverse characters who are authentic, whole, and three-dimensional;
2) being intentional and thoughtful when writing about marginalized communities; and
3) knowing how, and when, to use sensitivity readers and advisors.
Free parking on-site; also accessible to public transportation. A boxed lunch is included in your conference fee. Watch for a separate announcement with sign-up and payment information.
When asked how I’m able to be so prolific, writing and releasing five to seven books a year, my answer is simple:
Just do it. Butt in chair. Have no life.
But that’s too simplistic, and I do have a life. How do I get it done, and have a full-time job? Since it's goal-setting mania month, let’s chat.
First, a little about me. I started out writing everything. Seriously. I sold essays and short stories to the confessional market and to the primo short story magazine for romance, Woman’s World. My first book-length romance was published in 2012 and I went on to sell several others.
However, I had this cozy mystery in my unsold stack. I’d tried to get an agent with no luck. Finally I sent it to Kensington, who asked if it could be a series.
Hell, yes. I already had book two started so I sent the partial. And while I waited, I wrote. Five years later, I have three series with 17 books for sale (including pre-orders) and six novellas. I have six more upcoming in those series. And by the way, I have a full-time job (besides the writing).
The secret: keep writing. Here's how:
#1 Set your max
How much can you write in a week? I know I can write 10,000 a week–so IF I write that much, how many 70,000 books can I write and edit before I run out of weeks? That’s my max. Figure out what you can do in a week, and then get your max words. It’s a lot. Breathe. 10,000 a week x 52 weeks is 520,000 words or seven books.
#2 Be realistic
"But Lynn, that's totally unrealistic. What about life?" Okay, you do have to have a life. Let’s put in your calendar what you’ve already committed to do outside of your writing life. Family vacations, conferences, holidays, whatever it is, get them on your calendar. (Television, however, is only used as a treat after you get your words. Set up your DVR.) That’s going to cut down your max (but remember, this is YOUR max, not mine). So now you have a better idea of what you can do in a perfect year. My actual output looks more like 300,000 rather than the 520,000 I thought I had room for at the beginning of the year.
#3 Set a goal
It can be a crazy, unreachable goal, but, like Alice, you have to know where you’re going or you could wind up anywhere. Do it now. I’ll wait…
#4 Plan your production
Have your goal?
No...Go back to #3.
Yes...Then let’s backward plan your production. This is easier with a deadline (either self-imposed or via contract). If you have to get a book done by April 30 and it’s January 1? That’s 17 weeks. Give yourself two weeks to edit and obsess–now you have 15 weeks. What’s your word count for your book? 80,000? That’s about 5,500 a week. Write 1,100 a day for five days, you don’t even have to write on the weekend. Or, do it all in one day.
I can hear the groans now. Do you know my schedule? I’ve got work and basketball and my couples cooking classes during the week. I don’t have time to write.
All that might be true. If you really don’t have time to write, you have to ask yourself a question. How important is the writing to you? No judgments, just a question. Step away from the dream. No one will hold it over your head. Except maybe you.
But instead of giving up, let’s back down the numbers. Maybe your goal is one book this year. Just one. 80,000 words. 52 weeks this year. But we’ll only count 50 so you have holidays and a summer vacation off. 1,600 words a week. Five days–320 words a day. Or you could do all of them on Saturday morning while you’re waiting for the rest of the house to awaken. Can you do 320 words a day?
It’s all on you.
#5 Track your progress
You've got to track your progress to identify possible problems in your work habits. Like zero days. Or dwindling word count. Or worse, not making deadline.
Typically, I write my words on my calendar, then I add them up at the end of the week. But last month, I did a word challenge and found I really liked using Excel to track my number of daily words for a month.
#6 Build in accountability
Let’s face it, unless we have a deadline, there is NO ONE sitting waiting for our completed manuscript. If you don’t turn it in, or look for an agent or editor, that’s just one less book in the slush file.
Get an accountability partner. A critique group. Create rewards and punishments for yourself. But know, in the end, that you're the one who needs to get the work done.
#7 Writers write
Being successful requires making time for what you’ve told me (and probably everyone you’ve met the last year) is important to you. Writing. You’ve just assigned yourself homework for the rest of your life. If you don’t write this book, the only one who will care is you.
And the readers you deprive of reading your story. The ones who need to hear just that story at just that moment. We’re here for them.
Stop what you’re doing. Write down your book goals for 2019. And set a plan to get this book, or books, completed. I believe in your ability to do this. Do you?
Lynn Cahoon is the author of the New York Times and USA Today best-selling and award winning Tourist Trap cozy mystery series. She also pens the Cat Latimer series available in mass market paperback. In 2018, she’s released two books, including WHO MOVED MY GOAT CHEESE, as part of the new Farm to Fork series. She also writes romance under Lynn Collins. In 2019 she’s planning on writing five books as well as having nine releases.
Emily Victorson and Jamie Freveletti joined J. Michael Major at the December MWA Midwest meeting to share insiders tips about working with small presses.
Victorson, publisher/editor of Allium Press, started her company in 2009, publishing literary fiction, historical fiction, mysteries, thrillers, and YA fiction, all with a Chicago connection. Allium’s twenty-first title will be out in May 2019.
Freveletti started Calexia Press a few years ago and draws from traditionally published authors of mysteries and thrillers. Calexia’s latest release is Virtual Sabotage, a thriller by Julie Hyzy.
Small presses do the same work of traditional publishers. Calexia hires editors and copyeditors to go over manuscripts and likewise hires designers and cover artists, many of whom also work for major publishers. At Allium, Victorson does almost all the work: editing, interior/cover design, and the bulk of the marketing.
The two panelists agreed that a small press is often a good choice for a debut author, as well as for a midlist author whose series or stand-alones are no longer being picked up by major publishers. Victorson explained that small presses are more willing to take a chance on debut authors and to provide marketing and other support to midlist authors.
Freveletti said that she is more nimble than large publishers: she is able to accept different genres from an author and not pigeonhole them into writing one type of book only. Freveletti encouraged any published authors with an unpublished book that doesn’t fit with what their publisher wants from them to consider submitting it to a small press if their contract allows it.
Small presses are often easier to approach because authors can submit their manuscripts directly, but that doesn’t mean your query should be any less polished than when you contact an agent. Write a good book. Have it critiqued and edited. Research what a press publishes and write a good query letter. And then, be patient—it takes time for an editor to get back to you.
Want to learn more? The presentation is available here on MWA Midwest's Facebook page for a limited time.
Barbara Gregorich writes fiction and nonfiction for children and for adults. Her most recent mystery-related book is Charlie Chan’s Poppa: Earl Derr Biggers, the first biography of the man who created Charlie Chan and wrote about the Chinese-Hawaiian police detective in six novels.
It happens in every writer’s career. Something goes wrong, the bottom drops out, and you’re in free fall. Doesn’t matter where you are in your career, be it your first novel or your tenth, you go from confident to scared in the span it takes to read an email subject line. If you’re lucky, it only happens a few times, but, if you’re like me, it happens with alarming regularity. Of course, a lot of this has to do with my anxiety issues and a tendency to blow things out of proportion, but sometimes there are genuine disasters that come over my transom.
That’s where my agent Brent Taylor comes in. Brent is my rock, my "candle in the window" to quote the philosopher REO Speedwagon. When I panic, Brent has me calmed down within the first two seconds of the phone call. How? He gives it to me straight. Over our journey together, Brent has built up enough trust that when he tells me everything is going to be okay I believe him. That’s what makes my agent so awesome. Also, he goes and fixes everything. That's also pretty cool.
Shaun Harris is the author of The Hemingway Thief. He grew up as the son of a homicide detective in Southern New England and now lives in Wisconsin.
I’ve been represented by Jill Marsal of Marsal Lyon Literary Agency since the fall of 2015, and she’s wonderful. She’s always very prompt in answering my (numerous) questions—we’re talking minutes or an hour or two. I occasionally hear other writers mention having trouble getting a response from their agents about something and I cannot relate to that at all! Given that I can be a fairly high-strung (read as: neurotic) person about details, it’s so important to me to have someone who always gets back to me quickly.
On top of that, Jill seriously knows her stuff. Her editorial feedback is right-on, she knows the mystery marketplace like the back of her hand, and she makes me feel like I have an expert leading me through this wild, wild world of publishing. I’m so happy to have her in my corner! When writers are considering potential agents, they should think about what's most important to them. For me, that's responsiveness, marketplace knowledge, and professionalism.
Kristen Lepionka is the Shamus Award-winning author of the Roxane Weary mystery series including What You Want To See, published May 2018.
Next Month's Question: What's the most important decision you've made in your writing career? Email us to submit an answer.
Paul Dale Anderson wrote more than 27 novels and hundreds of short stories, mostly in the horror, fantasy, science fiction, and suspense-thriller genres. He wrote under several pseudonyms, including Paul Dale, Dale Anderson, Dale Anderson, Dale Andrews, Paul Anders, Irwin Chapman, and several others. We will miss him.
Kristi Belcamino's Day of the Dead was named one of Barnes & Noble's favorite indies for 2018.
Tracy Clark’s Broken Places was named one of Library Journal’s best crime fiction novels of 2018.
Mindy Mejia’s Leave No Trace and Lori Radar-Day’s Under A Dark Sky were named two of SouthFlorida.com’s best mysteries of 2018.
Short stories by Julie Mangan Tollefson and Joseph S. Walker will appear in the 2019 MWA/Kelley Armstrong anthology Life is Short, Then You Die.
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Your MWA Midwest Board
President: Heather E. Ash (IL)
Vice President: Kristen Lepionka (OH)
Tim Chapman (IL)
Tracy Clark (IL)
Shaun Harris (WI)
Secretary: Mia P. Manansala (IL)
Treasurer: Adam Henkels (IL)
Libby Kirsch (MI)
Shelley Kubitz Mahannah (MN)
Andrew Welsh-Huggins (OH)
Make the Most of Your Membership at mwamidwest.org
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