Friday, 28 August 2009

Gift horses

It might be time to rethink that old proverb "Never look a gift horse in the mouth". Or that seems to be the theme of today's Odd News.

So here, for your entertainment and edification, are three reasons why you might just want to have a look at that horse mouth after all.

#1. Because if you don't, it might bite you. Floridian police use stimulus money as a lure to catch criminals. They say it's a lot safer to draw the criminals to them rather than go after them in their homes.

#2. Because it might be a Trojan horse. Several state governors received unexpected laptops they didn't actually order. After the first shipment, they suspected a mistake. After the second, they called in law enforcement. None of the laptops were ever actually turned on. Turns out they were ordered with bogus accounts. It will be interesting to find out what kind of Greeks were hiding in there.

Fake moon rock#3. It might not even be a horse at all. Dutch officials are dismayed to discover their treasured moon rock is just a piece of petrified wood. So did the US ambassador know it was a scam when he gave the "moon rock" to the Dutch prime minister? Looks like somebody is going to have to pull out all their diplomatic skills to explain this one.

Monday, 24 August 2009

Further thoughts on writers' conferences

Ah, if Janna says jump, we jump. What is it about that girl?

So here are my thoughts on writers' conferences, as far as they go. Please keep in mind that this is based on my very limited experience, so feel entirely free to correct me or expand on what I've said.

If you are well-informed on the publishing industry and how it works, if you read the blogs of editors and agents, frequent online writers' forums that include experienced professionals, read books on writing and participate in some form of critique groups, chances are you won't get a whole lot out of the scheduled workshops, or at least not most of them. Aspiring writers are the bread and butter of these conferences, and much of it caters to them and is therefore at a pretty basic level. But not all of it. I found Jeff Gerke's continuing workshop for novelists to be thought-provoking. I bought his book The Art and Craft of Writing Christian Fiction and will probably buy his interactive DVD The Writer's Foundation. I found the exercises he had us do in the workshop (which were taken from the DVD) quite useful.

Actually meeting an editor was also useful, if only to hear the near-surprise in her voice when she said that I had an interesting premise. She also gave me the distinct impression that it was not right for her publishing house, despite her favourable impression. Oh well. There are other publishing houses.

The main value of most conferences is the opportunity to network, both with fellow writers and with industry professionals. To get the most out of a conference in that regard, you need to choose a conference at which the participating professionals are ones who are most likely to be interested in and knowledgeable about the kind of book you are writing. And you probably need to go for the duration of the conference. The one-day, in-and-out kind of thing that I did is really not the best way to go about this. I did manage to make some connections, but I think it would have worked much better if I'd had more time to develop them.

So there you go. Any wisdom to add?

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