The Writers Conference Come Down

I recently attended my very first in-person writers conference. You guys I was so excited. I want to say it was worth the money but I just can’t this time. I think the organizers did a great job, and the volunteers were amazing. And, I get it, we’re in a living, breathing economy and people need money to eat.

DUDE: How Much Did You Spend?

I’m glad you asked. I spent about $500 on the conference itself, and about $1,000 in hotel room fees. That doesn’t include the keynote luncheon (another $55) and the $50 I paid for the honor of 10 minutes with a working agent. During the social at night (during dinner hours – 5-7pm in which there were crackers and cheese) there was a $14 glass of wine to keep me company. And I don’t even want to talk about the books I bought and how much that was. (About $74…) Not to mention the gas driving there and back from the Woodlands. (I’m going to conservatively guess about $100).

What Did You Learn?

Don’t get the liquor because it’s $2.00 cheaper than the wine…just sayin’. I did receive some great tips from the agent who was nice even though my pitch was rambly and awkward. My favorite presentation was the Diversity in Kid Lit meeting with Candace Buford. She was honest, funny, engaging, and informative. I did buy her book – ‘Kneel’ and I recommend you do the same. (Y’all know I’m not getting paid for that.)

POC Characters in Fantasy Novels

I had a chance to ask if it was alright that I write a mixed-race character or POC as my main character in the YA Fantasy novel I am writing. The answer was, basically, no. I know there is a lot of controversy around this – and, at least when it comes to Fantasy, I can see both sides. My intention wasn’t to ride the ‘POC’ bandwagon but from a sincere desire to see more representation in fantasy. We’ve all seen enough straight old white men running around the Shire, am I right? I mean, it’s time for some color, literally and figuratively. Having said that – I don’t want to take away the opportunity of a young black or brown writer trying to break into YA Fantasy. I’ve decided to chuck the whole ‘white fragility’ thing and I am changing the color of my main character back to white. I have POC as my secondary characters just like I have same-sex couples in my secondary characters as well. I know not every white person will agree with me. Heck, I know not every person of color will agree with me, but that’s what feels right to me right now. There is a lot I could say about white privilege but looking around the rooms this weekend it was clear it was working well. I saw maybe 5 people of color. That says something about our society as a whole and the literary society specifically. We need to do better. We need to make these types of conferences more accessible and seen by more people of color. We’re trying, I think, but there is so much more work to do.

Saving Money at the Conference

So here are my solid tips for saving money at a writer’s conference.

  1. The Hotel

The hotel is fun if you can afford it (I brought the family and they had a nice pool outside) but it definitely isn’t necessary. I could have saved about $600 if I’d stayed off the main hotel and got an air B&B or a Holiday Inn and just driven in for the day. I will do this next time, assuming I have the money for a next time.

2. The Wine

Don’t buy a $14 glass of wine. That is ridiculous. Ditto the $12 liquor drinks. Bring your own in a mug if you need to or better yet – keep a clear head and drink water or tea instead.

3. The Extras

Skip the luncheon unless it’s an author you would shove your grandmother aside to see and get yourself another agent opportunity.

4. Volunteer

A wonderful way to save money is to work as a volunteer. This wasn’t available to me as I don’t live in Austin but if you’re nearby and your job or family obligations allow it – there is no reason not to take this opportunity.

I met some wonderful writers. Women who were funny and awesome and literary and the conversations you can have with someone who shares your passion for creativity are golden and amazing and worth any price to pay.

Having Said That…

Having said that, and here I am going to be so honest I will probably never be allowed to another writers conference ever again – I have to say I felt the jadedness. I felt the exhaustion and irritation of the agents and the desperation and confusion of people committed to writing who may never see their words in print unless they do it themselves. It kind of broke my heart. I’m not a political animal. I’m not bold or confident or loud. I’m just quietly working away at this word-craft that I love. And everything I heard last weekend told me that was not going to be enough. That I, was not enough.

It doesn’t help I applied to an actual MFA program at Sam Houston University and I found out on the way to the conference I didn’t get in. The reason I was given? It’s competitive. So, I wasn’t good enough. Whew. That’s tough.

And, in a way, that is the most valuable lesson I learned from this conference. Rejection is normal. It’s part of the process. And since no one thinks I am anything to write home about (pun intended) I am free to dance away in my own little corner as freely and creatively and backwardly and awkwardly as I want. I’m over here doing the ‘Seinfeld/Elaine’ of writing and there is no one who gives one shit. And that is amazing and wonderful and freeing in a way I can’t even tell you.

So – just go freaking create. Create whatever is inside you and don’t hold back. You are the author of your own story and you get to write it any damn way you please. Oh, and don’t you dare give up. Writing is MAGIC and you are a freaking WIZARD. OWN IT!!

Staying Awkward, Kind, and Brave

I stood behind my little table rearranging the Phoenix statue, OCD lining up my books, and just in general feeling awkward and out of place. In this post-COVID era, I think I have forgotten how to human. How do I do this interaction thing with people I don’t know, or haven’t seen in years? And for god’s sake why can’t I do this in my comfy clothes? Do we even still dress up anymore? Is that a thing? Why? Just…why?

Me – awkwardly posing for a photo.

Selling Books

There is a reason I have a book to sell. Sitting alone by myself for hours on end seemed like a great idea. A perfect idea. But now I have to human? I have to look people in the eye? And TALK!? Not only do I need to keep eye contact (but not too much!) I need to sell my book. I have to delve deep – way, way past my insecurities and doubts and imposter syndrome that feels like the real me but isn’t, and assure these hard-working people that my work is work the money – their money?

I tell myself there are so many reasons not to do this. The world needs smarter, more hard-working people to solve these serious problems we have. Why am I wasting everyone’s time with a bit of cozy fantasy? Why can’t I be like Rebecca Solnit? She’s doing serious work. Helping women and changing the world in a real way. Or Margaret Atwood? Their work has impact.

Why I write

And then I think of the teenager I was – facing endless hours in a hospital room with nothing to occupy me but a staticky TV (if I was lucky) board games and books. Social issues, feminism, changing the world, all of those things took a back burner to the need I had to turn away from reality. Because there was no joy in reality. There was only pain and fear and, honestly, the unmitigated terror of a future I had no idea if I was going to be a part of. I didn’t expect to live past 18. And when that is your expectation, you turn to fantasy. And in fantasy there is hope. Fragile as it is, hope that miracles happen. That magic is real (or at least imaginable). And for a while, if the story was detailed and vast enough, I could forget who I was. And that is why I write.

I want any person reading my books to feel transported, for a little bit, into a world that is wonderful, fantastical, and cozy. There are real terrors too, but always the hope that our light is brighter than the pain we face. And that’s all I have to say about that.

What is your why? Why do you write? What fuels your world-building?

Five Ways to Build Creativity into your Daily Life

Life is busy. We have bills to pay. Wouldn’t it be great if we could infuse our daily lives with shots of creativity? Wouldn’t that be amazing? It IS possible and the best news ever is that it pays to start slow and build on good habits you are already doing.

Before we get Started: Some evening prep work can pay off in spades.

Set yourself a glass of water by your bedside (I use a mug with a lid because two kids, two dogs, a cat, and a gecko). Also is anyone else clumsy in the morning? No need to add shattered water glasses to your morning.

Habit One: Waking up. 

(What a great habit! You’re off to an amazing start! Confetti!)

Let’s add a good stretch before crawling out of bed. Even the thought of a leisurely stretch sounds delicious, doesn’t it? I have ‘waking up’ as the first habit because mornings are a freaking miracle. A MIRACLE. Do you know how many people go to sleep and never wake up? You don’t? Really? Okay cool because I looked it up. About one in eight people or about 41 million Americans will die in their sleep. It makes sense, we spend about a third of our lives sleeping. So if you are alive and blinking, count your lucky stars my friend.

Habit Two: Feet on the floor. 

You are really kicking butt at this waking up thing! First thought? Water. Drink some water. Feet on floor – water in body. Excellent. You may need go to the water closet to get rid of some water first. Your organs will thank you. 

Try this for three days – if you made it – celebrate! Confetti! A latte from Starbucks! We’re not writing yet – you’re easing into things here. Carry on with your day.

Habit Three: Grab a cup of hot tea or coffee. 

Whatever makes you happy in the morning. I splurge on Yogi tea first and switch to coffee at mid-morning otherwise I’m as jumpy as a squirrel on meth. If you have a coffee pot with a timer, set that up for right before you wake up. Basically, how can you make things easy for yourself? The best is if you’re living with a morning person and you can ask THEM to make the coffee for you. To find, interview and/or date a morning person to live with, please see my article from 2012,  HOW TO FIND THE WORM FOR YOU. 

Habit Four: Write down your Routine

Writing down your routine gets you one step closer to keeping it. What days do you want to wake up early and write? Don’t say all of them – that’s crazy talk for people like Stephen King. Start with two. (Tuesdays and Thursdays work great for building new habits). Find a cozy corner to write in that is already set up with all the things you love. Your favorite candle, plant, a place to put your mug, a warm blanket. This should feel like a date with yourself, because it is.

NOTE: Not everyone can get on the morning routine train and that is TOTALLY OKAY. Why are you feeling guilty? That’s ridiculous. This is your life. Maybe after dinner is done is the perfect time – maybe after the kids are in bed is that sweet spot for you. Experiment with different times of day to see which one works best – maybe Thursday nights and Monday afternoons is your jam – maybe it’s Saturday afternoons and Sunday nights. Stay flexible and ask yourself, how can I make space for creativity in my life?

Habit Five: Accountability 

Accountability isn’t just for budgets and exercise programs. It isn’t required to have a buddy do this with you but it does make it easier (and more fun!). Don’t be discouraged if you can’t find anyone – if you start the habit and let people know you’re doing it someone will join you I can guarantee it.

Photo by Daria Obymaha on Pexels.com

Angela Yeh is an East Coast Canadian native that lives and works in the great state of Texas. Angela is a black belt wanna-be who loves to garden, write about magic, and eat cake. She lives with her husband, two lovely human children, and three cranky fur babies. You can follow her on Twitter and Instagram (@thatpluckygirl).

Writers Never Quit

“Many paths lead to the same destination; it doesn’t matter how you get there.”

I’m sitting here feeling shame because although I have been busy writing blogs for other people and working on my next novel (I just finished the messy first draft – VICTORY DANCE!) I realized I haven’t written a blog post in over a year.

I have fallen off the blog horse.

The horse has gone on without me, probably to greener, more reliable pastures. I pour some hot water onto my YOGI tea bag and the little quote on the paper tab twirls before me. I grab it with my thumb and forefinger to stop the spin and read it. The quote is what I’ve written above and I have to laugh. Well, yes.

I’m pretty sure this blog is not my path. But, it does get me writing and it does get me thinking, and it does make me feel like I am helping some beginner writer somewhere maybe hold on a little longer.

There are so many paths to being a successful writer, the world cannot contain them all.

There are so many ways to become a successful author – and you just need to find one. For me, the first step was to start calling myself a writer. Do you write? Good. You’re a writer. You don’t need to be published or famous. A writer writes. Period.

There is a lot of talk about defining what success means to you, and for the most part, I feel like rolling my eyes and chasing that butterfly out the window. But, there is some truth to this. Think of it as climbing a mountain and at the top is that thing you’ve always wanted. What if you get there, and you realize what you ACTUALLY wanted is up that other hill? I mean, no worries you can start climbing that other hill, and maybe that’s your path. I’d rather just figure out what it is I actually want and then climb that hill.

There are a lot of writers who make their bread and butter by ghostwriting, freelancing, editing, copywriting, or coaching other writers. I’m not knocking it – if that’s your jam go for it. It means you get to stay creative and your day job is working with and for writers. How awesome is that? But it is a business and one you need to build. Like I said, so many paths to being a successful writer, or authorpreneur!

Seriously, I am not knocking it – I work for diymfa.com and I love, love, love it. I get to work for and with writers from all over the world. Unless you are financially independent (always a worthy goal) you’re going to need to pay the bills. For a list of authors who also worked full or part-time, click here: The Day Jobs of 10 Famous Writers

Success, to me, means finding a job that pays the bills while allowing me the freedom to create and to be there for my kids when they get off school. That’s the dream. That’s success for me. If I end up making enough on the books to pay the bills – great – but I won’t put that pressure on myself or my creativity. I want the joy – that feeling of flow when I write and I want that forever. I will follow that ‘time-has-no-meaning’ feeling until I croak and you know why? Because real writers never quit.

What are you doing still here? Go write something amazing. (Or write rubbish – but keep writing).


Angela Yeh is an East Coast Canadian native that lives and works in the great state of Texas. Angela is a black belt wanna-be who loves to garden, write about magic, and eat cake. If you’d like to check out her first published novel, A Phoenix Rises, she will send you cookies (not cake – she’s already eaten the cake). She lives with her husband, two lovely human children, and three cranky fur babies. You can follow her on Twitter and Instagram or on her website.

Three Ways to Ease Back into the Writing Life

A few years ago my daughter was about three years old and I was home with my second, a bouncing (literally) baby boy. Life couldn’t have been better. I had everything I wanted. A loyal husband, enough money to pay the bills, and now two beautiful, healthy babies.

What more did I need? Besides sleep and to finish a hot mug of tea in one go?

I will tell you – and every writer out there published or not, ‘official’ or not will agree. There was something missing. I was journaling, sure, and reading books on kindle while Benji nursed. But I needed something more. A challenge, a project, that harpy siren-call to write would not let me rest.

Honestly at this point I thought, well, if I haven’t published anything by now it must not be meant to be, or, it’s too hard. It’s too hard to work for hours on a project that may never see the light of day, or worse, gets out there and people hate it. Gulp! Easier to just give up.

But then…and if you’ve read this far you know what I’m talking about…that restless urging to write would not let me be.

I say, give in to it. We cannot control the outcome of where our words will go or who will see them but the journey into ourselves that happens when we write is transformative and infinitely, inherently valuable all on it’s own. Creative writing will change your life. It has a way of drawing the poisons out and laying them on the page in font so bold you cannot deny the truth of it.

Here are three ways to jumpstart your writing journey:

  1. Writing Prompts. Hate them or love them they will get you writing. Here is a free ‘writer igniter’ writing prompt app from diymfa.com –https://diymfa.com/writer-igniter
  2. Schedule it in – and prioritize it. Block it off as important an appointment as a job interview or a much needed massage. Then tinker with the details. Try early morning, try after everyone else is in bed, try the middle of the afternoon. Tally up the moments it all worked and repeat.
  3. Treat it both like a sacred, holy moment and a fun play-date where you get to explore without editing that wide open space that is your inner world and the human condition all at once.
  4. This one is a bonus – write what excites you. Is it vampire-love in a post apocalyptic fantasy world where humans are almost extinct? Is it about a wild woman who throws off the constraints of contemporary life and transforms into a bird at night, hunting and flying free? Write what gets you excited to sit your butt in the chair and write. It’s as easy and as hard as that.

Lastly – as you all know I work for diymfa.com and I read hundreds of emails from beginner writers about their number one problems in getting their writing habits back on track. This week I received a sad email from a man who was told that getting published was like getting struck by lightening, twice.

I will tell you what I told him. If you stand in an open field in the middle of a rain storm long enough, you’re gonna get hit.

So whether publishing is your goal, or writing for writing’s sake – now is the time to get back into it. What are you reading this for? Go to it!

Oh and hey, email me your success stories, I wanna hear them! (yehthewriter@gmail.com)

It’s A Writer’s Life for Me!

“Writing is a craft, and storytelling is an art, and together they form this nebulous interstice where it’s just clowns juggling medium-sized cats and those cats are juggling little cat-sized chainsaws and the whole place is on fire and did I mention the “place” is actually a blimp and it’s drifting swiftly toward a flickering lighthouse operated by orphans?” Chuck Wendig

Isn’t that quote super fun? Doesn’t it make you feel like a rockstar for putting words to the page? It should. We put squiggly black lines on a white background and people download that into their brains. We create whole worlds and universes, characters we love and love to hate. Writers are weird, wonderful, amazing, MAGIC people.

If you haven’t stopped to appreciate that wild, wonderful, where-does-it-come-from urge to create, I suggest you do so now. Go ahead, I’ll wait.

Okay now I want us to put some consistency behind the magic. Consistency is the vehicle that will drive your magic to it’s final destination, in printed (or e-printed form) and into the hands of someone who will be just lit from within, just set ablaze by the words you’ve written.

We are here to change the world – and to do that we need to develop the habit of writing. We need to honor that muse and show up regularly.

Gabriela Pereira at DIYMFA.com is the one that showed me how to do this and it is called iteration.

Iteration: the chance to play around with both the time of day and the set-up of your writing habit. Do you work better in the morning before the kids get up, or at night after they’re in bed? Is there a time during the day, right before lunch, that you usually can commit to a bit of time? How much time can you consistently manage and how much is too overwhelming?​


Keep playing around with when and where and how much until you find the ‘heck, yeah’ moments and commit to those. Then life changes again and you get to ‘play around’ again!

 

How to be a Writer

Rumi tells us there is ‘a light seed grain inside. You fill it with yourself, or it dies.’

This is the writing life in a nutshell. You may do it for the dream of helping someone, for the dream of being someone’s favorite author. You may do it for the money (nothing wrong with this but it cannot sustain you in this endeavor if that is your only reason.) There are much, much easier ways to make money my friends.

No, the real pull of the writing life is the act of exploring that vortex of creativity inside yourself you can access no other way. Writing, like dreaming, “sometimes tells us what we are not ready to hear.” (Pat Schneider via Jane Yolen ‘Take Joy‘ – a book for writers’.)

There is no better tool to peel back the layers of your own psyche than the act of pulling words from the ether of your own soul and marching them into single file onto the page.

In fact, the harder you run from the issues you’re struggling with the more relentlessly they will show up in your work. So. If you don’t want to evolve, if you don’t want to grow – don’t write. Not one word. Because if you do it will smack you upside the head as subtle as a careening dump truck no matter how far away from reality you stray in your writing projects.

So don’t be a writer to change the world or help people or make money. Be a writer to change yourself, to push into the unknown, to delve deep into the unexplored darkness, dredge up the monsters most people are afraid to look at. That’s the sweet spot. You’ll know it when you reach it. No one has to read it but you need to write it.

I’ll finish up with sharing my firm conviction that there is no word wasted when you write. Each letter stacks and builds on the other. If you have a desire to write – you need to write. There is only one you in the entire universe that ever was or ever will be and if you don’t write it, no one will.

Now go forth and write y’all!

Being Useful

I mean, is there any better feeling? I’ve got some useful websites for beginner writers and an online writing conference to share details about.

Just found this awesome app called the Hemmingway app: and it does exactly what you think it does – highlight text that is clunky or wordy or too confusing. Where has this been all my life? Only issue is that it isn’t integrated into the Word docs like Grammerly – you need to copy and paste into it if you’ve already got a word doc on the go. If you’re starting fresh have at it!

Thesaurus Online: I do have a hard copy thesaurus, a couple actually and of course there is google but this is online and free, and is giving me more reliable results faster. (Also I often write early in the morning so turning on a light might wake up the littles).

My boss at DIY MFA.com and champion of writers everywhere is offering an online summit of sci-fi and fantasy author panel – sign-up is free but only for the next few days. Interviews will drop Nov 30th and replays will be available for seven days after as long as you’ve registered.

Six days until the conference starts!

You can sign up here: Writer Igniter Sci-Fi/Fantasy Summit.

Lastly – no reason for this meme but I have seen it a few times and it makes me smile: