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The Golden Orb Cover Copyright (c) 2014 Devin Night, http://www.immortalnights.com

 

Hello, fair readers!

I know it’s been a few months since I last updated the old blog. I wanted to send out a quick announcement that the Kindle edition of The Golden Orb is currently FREE at Amazon.com. It’s true! The promotion runs until June 17, 2016, so if you’ve been waiting to get a copy for yourself, now might be a good time to go for it. If you already own it, thanks! Perhaps you can spread the word to your friends and family and let them know about this amazing deal.

In other news, Summer Break officially started at the end of May. The last few months of my boys’ school year were filled with play dates and school board obligations an end of the year frivolity, leaving me little time to get much writing done. My editor sent back her final edits on When We Were Forgotten on Mother’s Day. I’ve managed to squeak out about three hours of revisions since then, but that’s it. Now that the boys are out of school, I’m finding less time (and less motivation) to write. Isn’t it funny? I should have more time during these long, lazy days, but I’ve actually been busier. Or, in reality, I’ve just been letting Mom Guilt take over, forcing myself to stop whatever unimportant thing I’m doing to focus on my kids. It’s been good for all of us, I think.

Last week was a little different, however. From Saturday, June 4, to Wednesday, June 8, I attended the Indiana University Writer’s Conference here in my hometown. It was a new experience for me, both eye-opening and exhausting. I’ve attended writing seminars at Gen Con over the years, and I took a creative writing course in college back in the day, but I’d never spent five consecutive days at an event dedicated solely to the art of writing before last week. It was intense, like being back in school with my pens and notebooks, feverishly taking notes while the lecturer at the front of the class tries to cram his or her area of expertise into a limited amount of time. I learned a lot about myself during those five short days, especially about “Amanda, the Writer.”

Each morning of the conference, I participated in a speculative fiction workshop with eight other people and our workshop leader, the science fiction author Wesley Chu. We critiqued each others’ sci-fi and fantasy manuscripts (I wrote a short story specifically for the workshop) and discussed the business of writing and how to get published. We also spent some time free writing using prompts Wesley gave us. It was nerve wracking having my short story critiqued by people I didn’t know, but they all had great advice and found lots of ways I could improve the manuscript. Many in the group thought I could expand it into a novella or even a novel. Maybe it will be the next thing I work on after I’m finished with When We Were Forgotten.

The afternoons of the conference were spent in classes about prose poetry, essay writing, memoir writing/storytelling, and making accurate word choices. I particularly enjoyed the prose poetry class and the storytelling class. Both gave me the opportunity to write from the heart, something I don’t do anywhere except here on the old blog. Also, both classes were led by such enthusiastic and animated educators, poet Amelia Martens and performer/writer David Crabb. The entire conference itself was a safe space for writers and their craft, so much so that I felt comfortable enough to read aloud one of the poems I wrote during Amelia’s class. It’s an epistle entitled “Dear Joss Whedon”:

Dear Joss Whedon, You are the man to write women, women who can be anything, do anything, feel anything. Your men are just as manly as your women are womanly. Let’s go have a tea together, or perhaps some shawarma. We can talk about what it is to delve into our brains, our souls, our heartbreaks, how we can put them on the page or screen so they’re no longer in the dark but in the open. We can think and feel and talk and be open without worry, without criticism. Just us and the shawarma sellers.

Another poem I’m kind of proud of is one in which Amelia asked us to take a headline or a small phrase from an article and use it as a seed for a poem. There is a sentence in an essay our lecturer on essay writing, Walton Muyumba, had us read that really struck me. The essay, called “The Google Bus” by Rebecca Solnit, begins one paragraph with “Where orchards grew, Apple stands.” I took that line and ran with it:

Where orchards grew, Apple stands. Where a rock once picked from the shore now lives in the water, a mollusk’s shell lays serenely among the grains of sand. Where a forest once canopied the floor, a city smokes and spews and groans. Where a field once knew battle, grass ripples. Headstones sit quietly where a meadow once opened green, waiting. It all waits. Waits until it has nothing to wait for, because there is something else there to sit and wait and live or die.

I love how prose poems can be fun and silly while still diving deep into our minds and souls. They’re powerful stuff, and I may continue to write them over the summer, because they don’t need a lot of time. They’re great for letting the mind wander and the fingers move until words become clear on the page.

I could go on and on about the conference, about how Salvatore Scibona showed us how to pick apart our work at the sentence level, choosing the right words and moving them into the right place for full impact. How Walton Muyumba blew my mind as he discussed various essays and demonstrated what the essay writers were trying to do in their work. How Wesley Chu spent time breaking down the route to getting traditionally published and encouraged us all to keep writing. How I made new friends and read some amazing pieces in the speculative fiction workshop. How my hands shook as I read a very personal prose poem to a bar full of conference attendees. I could go on and on, but this blog post is long enough as it is. Just know that I had a life-changing experience, and I highly recommend the IU Writers’ Conference (or any conference, really) to anyone who writes. You’ll come away a better writer … and a better person.

That’s it for now. I’ll try to update when I’m close to publishing When We Were Forgotten. My goal of having it done by my birthday is not going to happen, but I’m not worried about it. In fact, I’ve been seriously thinking about shopping the manuscript around with some agents and seeing if it’ll take. If not, I’ll go back to self-publishing it as I had originally planned. In the meantime, I’ll also try to get the rest of The Fae Agent short stories (what I’m calling the stories I wrote as prequels to The Golden Orb) up on the blog.

Have a great summer, and thanks for reading.

A. Cook

Amanda Cook is a stay-at-home-mom and writer living in the rolling hills of southern Indiana. When she’s not caring for her family or obsessing over punctuation, she can be found helping out at her sons' school, catching up on her Goodreads list, playing (and sometimes winning, but mostly losing) board games with her friends, crying over her favorite PBS programs, or sewing yet another costume for the local gaming/pop culture convention, where she’ll probably lose at even more board games.

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