Writers’ League of Texas

Writerly Resources in Austin, TX

AustinTX

This ATX skyline pic is a little outdated.

It seems like every week I meet someone new to Austin. That’s probably because people JUST KEEP MOVING HERE. Luckily, all these recent Austinites are super nice and many of them are writers.

This is a great city to live in if you’re a writer. (I know, I know, I’m supposed to tell everyone Austin sucks, don’t move here, but I can’t. I’m too honest for my own good.) I didn’t know Austin was such a great writing town until I became a writer myself and even then I didn’t understand just how unique our community was until I started hearing about it from people who live elsewhere. Jennifer H. Robenalt called Austin “the best literary town in the United States” when she talked about being a good literary citizen at WLT’s Third Thursday event in July. (<– More about what that is later.)

It’s true that we have a plethora of amazing resources for writers, as well as a supportive atmosphere for creativity. I just didn’t realize other places didn’t have that too. Now I understand, and I’m so grateful to be here.

When I meet writers new to Austin, I can’t help telling them about all my favorite local resources. Three times last month I sent emails to people detailing all the awesome stuff they have to check out. So, to save myself some time in the future, I decided to put all that information here. Next time I can just point ATX newbies to this post.

Carie’s List of Writerly Resources for New Austinites

*Organizations:

Writers’ League of Texas

No matter what genre you write or how long you’ve been writing, you will benefit from a membership to the Writers’ League of Texas. WLT is a long-standing, well-run organization full of friendly faces and excellent perks. Membership gets you discounts to their weekend workshops and annual agents & editors conference, as well as access to their open office hours, where you can schedule time to discuss pretty much anything you want. If you want to check out the organization before signing up, attend one of their Third Thursday events at BookPeople. The panel discussions are free and open to the public and cover a different topic every week.

Austin Poetry Society

If you’re a poet in the Austin area, I encourage you to join the Austin Poetry Society. I’m on the board of this small, but enthusiastic organization, and we’re always on the lookout for new members. By joining the society, you get access to our monthly meetings as well as eligibility to enter our monthly and annual contests. Members can also advertise their events and publications through our newsletter and social media sites. Want to learn more about us before signing up? Follow our Facebook page!

Austin Chapter of SCBWI

If you write picture books, chapter books, middle grade, or YA, the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators is for you. This national organization has lots of benefits for members, including contests, webinars, discussion boards, conferences, and vast networking opportunities. The Austin chapter is an amazing source of support for both new and established writers in this genre. A quick look at their website will show you just how much they have to offer. Their monthly meetings (also at BookPeople) are on the second Saturday of each month.

*Bookstores:

BookPeople

Well, I’ve already linked to this fabulous bookstore twice in this post, so you know it’s important. BookPeople is my favorite store. Period. It’s the largest independent bookstore in Texas. Not only do they have a huge assortment of books, including many by local authors and publishers, but they also have an incredible staff of knowledgeable bibliophiles who can help you find whatever you need. Even if you forgot the title. And the author. There’s a coffee shop downstairs, a great space for reading or writing, and they host a wide variety of meetings, events, and author signings. Go. Spend some time and money there.

Malvern Books

Malvern Books is another independent bookstore dear to my heart. This much smaller shop also hosts readings and events. In fact, they were kind enough to invite me to read some poetry there last January. You can see my reading here. But this store is different because they specialize in “visionary literature and poetry from independent publishers, with a focus on lesser-known and emerging voices.” They have an enormous poetry section. Tired of seeing poetry books tucked into a sad little corner at the big bookstores? Come to Malvern and bask in the glory of their wall of poetry.

*Critique Groups / Meetups:

There are tons of writing-related groups in Austin. Just type “writers” into Meetup.com and you’ll see what I mean. I’m at bit sporadic in my attendance to these groups, but the three I frequent most often are:

Sit Down, Shut Up, and Write

Chat for thirty minutes with the other members of the group, then shut up and write for one hour. It’s incredible how much more work I produce in that hour compared to any single hour at home. RSVP through Meetup.

Austin Writers Meetup Group

Bring a chapter or short story or poem (see their website for details on word count and number of copies) or just come to read and listen. After introductions, members spend about an hour silently reading the pieces. Then they take turns discussing each one aloud. Good input from a variety of perspectives in a short amount of time. RSVP through Meetup.

Slug Tribe

Although I only recently became a “slug,” this sci-fi, fantasy, horror critique group has been meeting for over twenty years. Bring a chapter or a story (again see website for details on word count, etc) or just come to listen. Stories are read silently one by one in the order that the authors arrive. Feedback is detailed and insightful. This group also has an email list you can join where people ask questions, share publications, and discuss industry news. See their website for details.

*Other Unique Venues and Resources:

The Writing Barn

Workshops, classes, writing days, author events, overnight accommodations—The Writing Barn has it all and wraps it up in a serene environment perfect for providing creative inspiration. Read all about this lovely south Austin writing retreat in my post about it here.

Harry Ransom Center

This is one Austin resource I need to spend more time exploring. According to their website, the Harry Ransom Center is “among the nation’s finest research libraries and a place of unlimited discovery. The collections assembled here document the work of some of our finest writers and artists and provide unprecedented access to the creative process while also helping us understand the historical moment out of which this work emerged.” I spent time at the HRC in college and have seen a few exhibitions in recent years, but there’s really no excuse not to visit more, especially since it’s FREE. What a gift to have a cultural archive of this magnitude in my own city.

Annual Literary Festivals in and Around Austin

You’ll just have to click on the links to learn more about these events because I’m exhausted from typing.

WritingOrgsCollage

Whew! Now do you see why I wanted to stop sending all this through email? Now do you see why I can’t help but tell people about our awesome writing community? Of course, this post is only for those of you who’ve already made it to Austin. To everyone else: Austin sucks, don’t move here. ;)

My Nerdy Valentines

I’m not usually a big celebrator of Valentine’s Day, but this week I received a few special treats that brought a big smile to my face.

stargirlOn Wednesday, the elementary school where I work part time as library clerk showed their appreciation for me with breakfast from Torchy’s and a gift card from BookPeople. Books and tacos? Um, yes please! What a great way to make someone feel special! Then on Thursday, the love continued when Nerdy Book Club, one of my favorite blogs, shared my review of Jerry Spinelli’s Stargirl, one of my favorite books. It was an honor to guest post for them!

Ginker

On Friday, my long-time Valentine celebrated a big birthday. Gink, panther extraordinaire, turned sixteen years old. We commemorated the occasion with cuddles, tuna, and looking down our noses at the other members of the household. (Gink’s a bit conceited, but I love him.)

And today, I spent the morning at a workshop offered by the Writers’ League of Texas. “Finding the Write One: Wooing a Great Critique Partner and Being One Yourself” by Nikki Loftin, author of Nightingale’s Nest and the soon-to-debut Wish Girl, was the perfect way to start off my Valentine’s Day. Not only did I learn the good, the bad, and the ugly of critique partner relationships, but I also made some great connections with other local writers.

Now I get to spend the rest of the day with my awesome husband, who listens to my stories, encourages my writing, and shares my love of books, cats, and breakfast tacos. (Breakfast tacos most of all.) It’s been a lovely week indeed. :)

PricklyPear

Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone!

(If you have a comment about my Stargirl review, please post it on the Nerdy Book Club site.
Otherwise you can share your thoughts here.)

Endings, Beginnings, and Middles

Hello blogosphere!

I’m sorry about my recent lack of posts. It’s been a big couple of weeks here in my little writing world. Grab a cup of coffee or a glass of wine and settle in. I’ll tell you all about it.

fortune

Excuses, Excuses

I was determined to finish my middle grade novel by mid-June. (That was, of course, after I had been determined to finish it by the end of May and by the beginning of May and by the end of 2013. But, you know, things happen.) I was working really hard, but at the end of each day there was always still more to do—more chapters to finish, more scenes to write, more words to put on the page.

Finally, on Thursday, June 19th (which is totally still considered mid-June, definitely, just like how at thirty-seven-and-a-half I am totally still in my mid-thirties) I had the feeling that it was THE DAY. I worked all morning at one of my favorite coffee shops (#4 actually) with my friend Lori. In the afternoon, when my brain was fuzzy, I decided to head home for a change of scenery and then I was going to FINISH MY NOVEL, all caps.

I wanted a change of scenery and I got it.

Whoops! I should have told you to set down that cup of coffee or glass of wine before I showed you this picture. Sorry. My bad.

Whoops! I should have told you to set down that cup of coffee or glass of wine before I showed you this picture. Sorry. My bad.

When I came home, my dog and I found a snake in our backyard. A HUGE snake. At first I freaked out, thinking it might be a rattler. I grabbed Uno by the collar and put him inside. Then, I went back out to investigate from a safe distance. (In my flip flops.)

My racing heart calmed down a bit when I determined two things: 1) This was not a rattle snake or any type of venomous snake and 2) it couldn’t bite me anyway because it currently had another snake in its mouth. (!!!) The eater (from here on referred to as Snake #1) was, we think, a coachwhip and it was about six feet long. The eatee (from here on referred to as Snake #2) was probably a checkered garter snake and may have once been up to three feet long, but I never got to see it in its entirety. The sight was so gruesome/ interesting/ horrifying/ cool/ creepy I had to get my camera. (Still in my flip flops.)

I was taking pictures of the awesomeness of nature happening in my backyard, feeling proud of myself for my bravery and my lack of fear of non-venomous snakes when Snake #3 arrived. (!!!) It was another coachwhip, also close to six feet long. This one was moving fast and had nothing in its mouth to prevent it from biting. And that’s when I flipped out and ran screaming back to the house. (Flip flops flying.)

I eventually calmed down enough to venture out again (this time in cowboy boots) but by that time, the snakes were leaving. Snake #1 and Snake #3 slithered through my back fence into the greenbelt area behind our house and curled up together. “Cuddled” is really the best word to describe it. Snake #3 protected Snake #1 while he/she digested Snake #2, and then they left. They don’t, presumably, live in my yard, but had just come here to dine.

What Does This Have to Do With Your Novel?

Right… my novel. Nothing. Snakes have nothing to do with my middle grade novel about a quirky boy who starts a game club at his school. Nothing at all. And that’s why I was unable to finish my novel on June 19th, because if I had, it would have ended with, “AND THEN THREE GIANT SNAKES CAME AND DEVOURED EVERYBODY!” and while that is indisputably a great ending for a book, it was not the right ending for my book.

The End

On June 20th, with no snakes in sight, I finished my novel. The Legacy of Bamboo Bilski was complete.

I wrote all that! Well, not The hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Douglas Adams wrote that. I wrote the thing in front of it.

I wrote all that! Well, not The hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Douglas Adams wrote that. I wrote the thing in front of it.

The Beginning

One week after finishing my book, I attended my first big writing conference, the Writer’s League of Texas Agents & Editors Conference here in Austin. If anyone is considering attending next year, I highly recommend it. The WLT staff did an excellent job organizing the event. It was easy to navigate, even for a first time attendee, and the speeches and panel discussions and presentations were all interesting, relevant, and inspiring.

Plus, the faculty was amazing. There were agents, editors, and publishers from Folio Literary, Sterling Lord, The Gernert Company, ICM, Dystel & Goderich, Polis Books, Scholastic, Henry Holt & Company, Carol Mann Agency, Foreward Literary, and more, as well as several local authors. The conference was set up in a way so that there was plenty of time to talk to these leaders in the business both formally and socially. (My favorite part was listening to them talk about the BBQ they ate for lunch. For the first-time visitors to Texas, I think it was an eye-opener!)

During the weekend, I pitched my novel to three different agents and editors and received positive responses and good feedback. One agent (superstition keeps me from revealing who) was very excited about my idea and asked me to send her pages, which was, of course, extremely exciting. (I’ll be working on that query right after I post this!) For me, this is the beginning of another exciting step on my road to publishing—sending my work out into the world. I hope the world is kind to it.

Somehow, this is the only conference-related photo I took. I think I was too absorbed in the information to think about taking pictures.

Somehow, this is the only conference-related photo I took this weekend. I think I was too absorbed in the information to remember to take pictures.

It wasn’t just the industry professionals that I enjoyed meeting. The conference gave me a chance to get to know other writers of all genres and backgrounds and stages in the writing process. I came home with business cards from several local writers who I can’t wait to connect with again.

If you do plan on attending the WLT conference, get your tickets and consultations early because this year they sold out of everything—conference tickets, keynote tickets, 10-minute consultations—EVERYTHING. Take advantage of their early-bird offers if you can.

The Middle

Finishing my novel was a huge accomplishment, and I celebrated it accordingly, with beer and horror movie sequels. (I’m saving the champagne and party for when I get it published.) But even while flinching at the scares in Insidious 2, I knew that this was really less of an ending and more like the start of the middle, because my work is far from done.

As I think about the revising that lies ahead of me, my mind keeps coming back to that image of the snake. As I dive into the inevitable cutting and chopping and rearranging of my story, I picture myself as Snake #1. Deleting text or characters will likely feel a bit like devouring one of my own. While each “bite” I take out of my novel will hopefully make it stronger, I imagine that the process will leave me feeling a bit helpless. Luckily, I’ve got good friends like Snake #3 who I know will support me along the way.

(Did I seriously just turn that creepy snake-eating-snake photo into a sweet/cheesy metaphor about writing? Why, yes I did. As Jason Pinter, founder of Polis Books, said after making a “meat cake” metaphor in his presentation about publishing, “I stand by it.”)