I had a great time today catching up with former classmates and attending informative sessions at Winter Wheat. It’s always fun to hear what others are working on currently, and what they plan to tackle in the future. It’s also good to strengthen connections with people who are interested in the same things you are. As for the sessions, I wasn’t disappointed. There were four in total today, and I had a blast taking part in them. They are summarized below:
The first session I attended today was entitled “We Regret to Inform You: Dealing with Literary Rejection” and was hosted by Laura Maylene Walter, who is also an editor of Mid-American Review. In that session, it a lot of interesting notions came up, like the fact that one isn’t entitled to an acceptance. It surprised me that she would have to say something like that, but it clicked when she explained, saying that even though you’ve worked hard on a particular piece — maybe even tailored it to fit the specific publication — you may still receive a rejection. She also stated that not all rejections are created equal, and that editors are human in that they, too, can make mistakes.
One of the biggest pieces of advice I took away from that session is when you receive a personal note/personal rejection letter, follow it up by sending more work. This means that they liked what you did, but that particular piece didn’t jive with what they had. They are interested in reading more of your work. Now, this doesn’t necessarily mean that submitting again will land you an acceptance, but it is still a good sign. I remember getting a personal rejection from a lit mag when I first started to send things out, and now I regret not having followed it up.
She left us with two things to spark creativity and acceptance of rejection. One was a quote by Samuel Beckett: “Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try Again. Fail again. Fail better.” The other was a writing prompt that has you writing a rejection letter to your past self. I plan on tackling this later.
This session had to be, by far, my favorite of the series. It was “How to Make a Book: the Basics” and was taught by the ever amazing Suzanna Anderson. It was like stepping into a glorified arts and crafts class, but geared towards writers. I have never seen so many people attend one session before. While the turn-out was wonderful, the actual lesson was amazing. Suzanna handed out supplies and taught us how to make an X-Book, a Snake Book, and a Single Signature Book. It was really fun manipulating the paper and actually creating something you can tangibly hold, something that could benefit you later. I’m a textile person, so I was in love every single minute.
Most of these books and how to create them can be found on YouTube, or you can pick up books detailing this craft (Suzanna suggests Making Handmade Books by Alisa Golden, as per her handout). What was funny about making these, especially the X-Book, was that I kept thinking about the class I attended yesterday about the history of the zine and its evolution into the micro-press. Crafting your own books is one step closer to creative self-publishing.
“Don’t Just Fill the Pail, Light the Fire: Continuing Your Writing Education,” presented by Marissa Marangoni and Tobin F. Terry. This one gave me resources to further expand my knowledge of the craft. They started out with telling us about a few inspiring websites and podcasts, then moved into MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) that one could take for either low cost or free. We received a spreadsheet with potential sites that could help a writer, spanning from NaNo, to Twitter, to Evernote, to the Atlantic Review. Also presented was a TED Talk by Andrew Stanton: “The Clues to a Great Story.” The thing that they focused on was this idea called ‘The Unifying Theory of 2+2.’ Basically, it’s that readers/viewers like to work for their meal. They want to be the ones to unravel what’s happening, rather than be told that it is happening. The example used to illustrate this idea, though not part of the TED Talk itself, was La Luna. The videos served to show that there are a multitude of resources out there to continue learning and staying inspired.
The prompt given at the end of this session is to write a scene with at least two characters without using dialog nor thought. Give it a try; it’s a little harder than it seems.
The final session was “Websites for Writers: Launch Your Website in a Weekend.” It was lead by Nikkita Cohoon, who is an MFA graduate from BGSU. A lot of this session was just review for me, as I like playing around with web building and design. However, a lot of it is important to be expressed, like the fact that a website should be clear and accessible when presenting content. One should also focus on navigation and keeping it simple — users don’t want to spend forever trying to hunt down what they’re looking for. She brought up potential website builders like Tumblr, WordPress, Wix, Weebly, and Squarespace, and discussed their accessibility depending on coding/website competence. It was a good refresher to see just what is out there.
Winter Wheat is over for me, but I’m glad that I attended. I got to hang out with some pretty cool people and learned some things that now inspire me to learn more. It’s still up in the air, but I’m looking forward to potentially attending next year.