Sunday, August 25, 2013

Pre-Conference Mix & Mingle

Author Laurie Tomlinson started a great Pre-Conference Mix & Mingle on her blog last week! It's a great way to "meet" some fellow conferees before we travel to ACFW in a few short weeks. Visit her blog here to find out more and to meet other writers. You'll have a few more friends waiting for you when you walk into ACFW in Indianapolis!
If you're interested in joining, here's what to do:
- Fill out your own answers (you don't have to answer all of them!) in a post on your own website and paste the URL to that post (not your home page) on Laurie's blog using a handy link-up tool she provides. If you don't have a website, feel free to answer the questions in the comments below!
- Make sure to link back to Laurie's post after you fill out your answers so any of your readers who are conference attendees can participate, too! The more, the merrier.
Friends (new & old) at last year's ACFW Conference.
L to R: Amy Simpson, Katie Ganshert, me, Cynthia Herron
(standing) and Sarah Forgrave.
Here are the answers for my Pre-Conference Mix & Mingle!
Name: Gabrielle Meyer
Location: Central Minnesota
What you write/tagline: Historical Romance set along the banks of the Mississippi River in Central Minnesota
Place in the book world: Pre-published author with two completed manuscript currently being shopped by my lovely agent, Mary Keeley, of Books & Such!
On a scale of hugger to 10-foot-pole, please rate your personal space: A hugger :)
The unique talking point that will get you going for hours: History & writing! Especially talking with other historical writers. ;) You will learn more about Central Minnesota (and Charles A. Lindbergh) than you ever thought you needed to know!
People at home you'll be missing: My husband (of twelve years) and our four children. Two girls ages 9 & 7 and twin boys who are three. I plan to Skype and Facetime with them often!
Conference goals we can pray for? I'd love to make connections with editors who currently have my proposal.  
Up for any contests/awards? I'm a finalist for the My Book Therapy Frasier Contest! The award will be given during the Pizza Party on Saturday night. I can't wait. :)
Any disclosures, disclaimers, or crucial information we must know? I will be bringing a WHOLE lot of Monster Cookies with me to ACFW! And I may, or may not, share. :) On Thursday night my lovely roomies and I will be hosting a cookie party in our room. Message me on Facebook if you'd like more information!
Don't forget to head over to Laurie's blog to check out other Pre-Conference Mix & Mingle participants!
Your Turn: If you're going to ACFW, what are your conference goals? If you're not going, what big plans do you have for September?

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Modified Schedule

The next several weeks are going to be incredibly busy for me as I transition into my fall schedule. School will be starting, which brings with it a whole new routine (and a lot of acronyms...). We have AWANA (Wednesday night church), MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers), ECFE (Early Childhood/Family Education) classes, Zumba (for me), homeschool co-op, piano lessons, not to mention the ACFW Conference, a visit from my sister, family pictures and Melissa Tagg's debut release party, which I'll be attending in Iowa.


With all that said, I've decided to take a semi-blogging break. I plan to blog on Mondays until the conference, because I'd love to share a few more conference experiences with all of you. After that it may be a little sketchy until October, when I'll be back with a fabulous month of guest authors! I have a fabulous line up, if I do say so myself. Some debut authors, some multi-published, some self-published and some traditionally published--but all incredible!

I look forward to adjusting to our fall schedule. It takes a little time to get it all ironed out, but when we do, things usually run pretty smooth.

Your Turn: Does your schedule change drastically from summer to fall? What activities will keep you busy this coming month?

Monday, August 19, 2013

Preparing for a Writers Conference: Being Memorable

In just three weeks I will be going to the ACFW Conference in Indianapolis. I went last year and had the time of my life. As I'm preparing to go this year, I thought I'd share some of my thoughts and feelings about my experiences.

Last week I talked about One Sheets, Business Cards and Pitches. This week I thought I'd focus on how to be memorable.

The ACFW Conference is a busy place. Over seven hundred writers, editors and agents come together to get as much business accomplished as possible in four days. As a writer, we want to stand out from the crowd and be memorable--but how do we accomplish this?

I have five simple suggestions for being memorable.

1. Be selfless. This sounds like a simple idea, but it is one of the most important things you can do at a conference. Countless opportunities will come up for you to do things for others, and it's one of the most effective ways to be memorable. Last year two of my friends offered me their editor appointments--talk about selfless! I've heard that agents and editors watch writers interact together at conferences. They like to see that you're someone who would be easy to work with. 

These two ladies gave me editors appointments!
Melissa Tagg and Lindsay Harrel have become
some of my best writer friends. I can't wait to
see them soon!!
2. Be genuine. Some of my favorite people in the world are the ones who are completely genuine. What you see is what you get. These are the people who care about you and take the time to listen. They genuinely want to offer you their friendship. Last year I met some incredible writers who asked me about my writing, listened to me practice my pitch and made me feel included. These people were very memorable to me.

Suzanne Stock took this picture about thirty minutes after we met!
She was so genuine and warm. We connected very quickly
and found we had a lot in common.
3. Be outgoing. This one is hard for a lot of writers who tend to be introverted by nature--but the best way to be memorable is to step out of your comfort zone and get to know other people. Take the time to find someone else who is sitting alone and strike up a conversation. It's very easy to do at a writers conference. Just ask them what genre they write, how many books they've written, are they published? agented? You might be surprised! Your next best friend could be a conversation away. Push yourself to walk up to an agent or editor. Approach a published writer who you recognize and tell them what you like about their books. Put a smile on your face and look others in the eyes--showing them you're open for conversation.

4. Be creative. This one can be fun! Think about your talents and gifts. What can you do that sets you apart? Last year one of my roommates drew an awesome dragon on her name tag. She writes YA Speculative Fiction--and she's an incredible artist. She combined those two talents and had a name tag others went out of their way to ask her about. I recall twin brothers last year who dressed exactly alike and went into pitching appointments together. Very memorable. My friend, Lindsay Harrel, performed in a musical during the MBT Pizza Party. She stood out from among the crowd!

Some of my flower pins.
So what could I do to stand out? I can't draw or sing--and I don't have a twin. But I can make flower pins. They're pretty and feminine. They also remind me of earlier fashions from the 20s and 30s, and since I love all things historical, they're one of my favorite things. Last year I wore a different flower pin every day. I chose colorful ones that stood out and I had a lot of people ask me about them. I also wore really unique necklaces. It seems like a little thing, but I love necklaces. I wear one every. single. day. This was something I didn't even realize would make me memorable, but I had a lot of people come up to me and comment on my necklaces.

Here I am with one of my unique necklaces and flower pins
(and Katie Ganshert)!
These are just a few ideas to get your creative juices flowing. The idea is to be unique and memorable.

5. Be thankful--send a memorable thank you to agents & editors. This is another one that takes some creativity. After a conference it's an excellent idea to send a thank you to the agents and editors you pitched to--even if they didn't request your work. It's also a great idea to send thank you notes to anyone else who made an impact on you. Last year I sent thank you notes to a handful of teachers and writers who made my conference special. This is another way you can be memorable. My friend Melissa Tagg was really creative when she was pitching. She made a video thank you for the agents and editors she pitched to! She had great feedback from her videos--and she was very memorable.

Since I had so many positive comments on my flower pins, I decided to send a flower pin to each person I thanked. I wore my flower pins at my pitching appointments, so I thought it would be a fun and memorable thank you gift. Keep in mind you don't have to send a gift--a simple thank you is sufficient. I just wanted to do something a little extra special. One of the editors I sent a pin to told me she wore the pin to her nephew's birthday party. What a great way to keep me in mind! Hopefully each time she looks at her pin (or wears it), she thinks of me.

These are just a handful of ways you can become memorable at a writers conference. Remember to be humble, have fun and relax--and all of these things will come naturally to you.

What about you? If you've been to a conference before, what ways have you found to be memorable? What thank you ideas do you have? Which one of these is easy for you? Which one is harder?

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Gowns From 1800 to 2013

I've love using Pinterest as a way to collect pictures of clothing for my characters. My first story was set in 1857 and my second was set in 1898, but I've been gathering images from numerous eras.

I thought it would be fun to watch the amazing transformation women's gowns have taken from 1800 to 2013.

It was interesting for me to find that somewhere around 1930 designers started modifying designs from previous generations and "updating" them. The trend has continued to this day. Since 2000 it's hard to determine what the "style" has been. It's such a combination of many eras.

I was also surprised to find that some gowns were only slightly modified from one decade to another, but there are a few decades that changed drastically (such as the 1910s to 1920s).

Here are some of my favorite gowns from the past two hundred years.

c. 1800
c. 1810

c. 1820

c. 1830
c. 1840

c. 1850
c. 1860
c. 1870

c. 1880

c. 1890

c. 1900
c. 1910

c. 1920

c. 1930
c. 1940
c. 1950

c. 1960
c. 1970

c. 1980

c. 1990
c. 2000

c. 2010
Your Turn: What is your favorite era? If you could choose, which gown would you bring back?

Monday, August 12, 2013

Preparing for a Writers Conference: One Sheets, Business Cards & Pitching

With the ACFW Conference less than five weeks away, I'm busy preparing for the meetings, classes and networking I'll be doing while there.

For an unpublished author, pitching appointments are at the top of my preparation list. Everything else pales in comparison when I start to think about pitching. We can never start practicing and preparing for these important meetings too soon.

Three areas I'm preparing right now are one sheets (or pitch sheets), business cards and practicing my actual pitch.

One Sheets. When I start to prepare for my pitching appointments, the first place I start is with my one sheet. This is the piece of paper I'll place in front of the editor when I sit down to pitch. Here's mine from last year (modified with my agent's info for this year):

On my one sheet I have my story question (or hook), an image that represents my story, my picture, the "back cover copy," information about the book's length, genre and series potential, and my bio. Last year the bottom contained my contact info, but this year it contains my agent's info.

I feel that this one sheet captures the essence of my writing and I've received some great feedback on it from my agent. Make sure your one sheet does the same.

Last year I took Beth Vogt's advice and organized a pitching folder. You can watch her great vlog here. Since she does such a fabulous job explaining pitch folders, and how to have a successful pitching appointment, I won't go into too many details. But I want to share what I felt worked really well about her advice.

My pitching folder from last year

I bought three sturdy folders and placed my one sheet on the left, my full book proposal on the right (including the five page synopsis and first three chapters of my novel), as well as my business card in the little slots on the bottom left. When I sat down for my pitch appointments I took out my one sheet and placed it on the top of the folder. It was great to have the pitch sheet ready to give to the editors when they extended their hands. I based my pitch on the "back cover copy" and if I needed to, I could easily look at it for reference if I forgot my words.

Having everything together in one place came in handy when an agent--who I talked to in the hallway before a meal--ask for my entire folder.

Business Cards. I discovered business cards were mostly used to connect with other writers. When I came home from ACFW last year I had dozen and dozens of business cards from people I met. It was a great way to gather contact information. The editors I talked to didn't take my one sheets, but they did take my business cards.

Here's what my business cards looked like last year, with modifications for this year:

I tried to make my business card and one sheet look similar. (I included my personal phone and address on the original, but deleted it for this blog post.) My best advice is to make sure you put your picture on your card! This will help people put a face with your name later on.

At the conference be sure to have these card easily accessible! You'll find yourself exchanging cards all the time.

Pitching. Ah, pitching. I admit, I was very nervous to pitch my story last year (and nervous to pitch again this year!). But I learned a few things before I went to the conference, and I learned a few things while I was there, that have put my nerves to rest...a little bit.

First, practice, practice, practice! Practice in front of the mirror, practice with a friend or family member, and practice while you're doing household chores. It's hard to condense a 100,000 word story into a two or three minute pitch (because that's about how long it should take you)--but you can do it! You want to hook the agent or editor in the first thirty seconds and then keep them hooked for the next few minutes. After that, hopefully they want to know more and they'll ask.

Start with a great story question. Last year I asked: Can breaking someone's heart be the ultimate act of love? Both times the editors raised their brows and said: "Can it?" This year I'm going to ask: Can best friends compete for the same lady--and remain friends?

Here's a great tip: register for the Pitch & Promotion Seminar with My Book Therapy taking place before the ACFW Conference. It was the best thing I've done for my writing career. You can see the promotional video I made for the seminar here.

In the video I talk about how the Pitch & Promotion Seminar helped me land an agent!

One thing that surprised me about pitching was how it was actually done. It's hard to imagine what it will be like, so I thought I'd explain it as best as I can. First, you show up for your scheduled meeting about fifteen minutes early and wait in the waiting area with a lot of other very nervous people. :)You're told to be quiet, since meetings are taking place close by.

People are talking quietly together, encouraging and praying for one another. A few minutes before your scheduled time, the coordinator with call all the writers to one place and explain what will happen. There is a long hallway with many meeting rooms. You will be told where your agent/editor is waiting.

A minute before you go into your appointment a whole group of other people will be exiting the meeting rooms, done with their appointments. Then the coordinator will tell you to find your meeting room--quietly. At this point, you walk down a long hallway with about fifty other people. It kind of feels like you're being herded!

The meeting room is well lit (I say this, because for some reason, when I imagined my pitching appointments before last year, I imagined sitting at a table in a dark room with a large light shining directly on my face...) :). There are about five or six small tables set up in the room, with two chairs at each table, directly across from one another. There will be name tags on their tables so you know which person to go to. The agent or editor will be sitting on one side and you'll take the chair on the other. Hopefully they are smiling at you when you walk in! :) You sit down, with a smile on your face, and take a deep breath. Remember there are about a dozen other people in the room talking, so don't let their chatter distract you.

My first editor started by introducing herself and asked me to tell her a little about myself. This immediately set me at ease. I love talking about my home and family. After that, we launched into my pitch. The second editor greeted me with a handshake and told me to tell her about my story.

My first pitching appointment! The editor had this lovely smile
the entire time I talked to her. She put me at ease and asked
great questions about my writing.
Five minutes before your time is up the time keeper will come into the room and say: "Five minutes left" or something like that. My first appointment I used my entire time, the second one I finished with a minute or two to spare, but I felt like everything had been accomplished and I said my goodbye. Both editors asked for my manuscript, so I felt good!

There is nothing I can say that will magically prepare you for the conference. It takes a lot of time, hard work and determination--but you can do it! Remember that you are the expert concerning your story and that God has called you to write it--no one else. Don't forget to be confident, yet humble. Try to put your nerves in their proper place. God gave you these nerves to keep you alert and conscious of your performance, but if you let them have too much control they can work against you.

And last, but not least in any way, pray, pray, pray. If God has called you to it, He'll walk you through it. You can do all things through Christ who strengthens you (Philippians 4:13).

Your turn: What makes you the most nervous about pitching? If you've pitched before, tell us about it. If you have any advice about one sheets or business cards, I'd love to hear it.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

A Little Kindness Goes a Long Way: Part Two

A few months ago I wrote about a disappointing experience I had at one of our local Subway stores. I won't go into great detail about it, because you can read about it here. An employee had treated me poorly, which could have affected my mood if I had let it--but I didn't. In my blog post I said a little kindness goes a long way, but sadly anger and selfishness can go further.

Yesterday I returned to that same Subway (I've been there many times since then). I brought with my daughter and niece. We ordered our food and my daughter asked if she could get chips and a soda pop. I said yes and the lady at the cash register rang up our food.

I was $1.68 short. My daughter looked up at me with her big green eyes, but I told her we had to put her chips and pop back. I didn't have enough money with me.

The lady at the register paused for a second and then handed the bag of chips to my daughter and said: "This one is on me."

My daughter's face lit up and she said thank you.

Who wouldn't want to make this face light up? :)
When we got back to our vehicle I found a couple of dollars and told my daughter to run the money into the lady. My daughter came back with the money and a toothy grin. "She said I should keep it!"

We pulled out of the parking lot with smiles on our faces. It feels so good to be the object of someone's random act of kindness. Everywhere we went for the rest of the day my daughter told me to tell the story about the Subway lady's kindness. And each time I told the story, she grinned all over again.

"So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God." 1 Corinthians 10:31. 

I'm so thankful my daughter saw generosity and love in action. I was able to talk to her about the importance of doing kind things for people, without getting anything in return, other than joy--but isn't joy one of the greatest payments we can receive?

What about you? When have you been the object of a random act of kindness? What have you done for someone else?

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Famous Minnesota Picture

"Saturday Night in a Saloon"
Picture Courtesy of Library of Congress
Recently I was doing some research and I came across this famous Minnesota picture. I knew it was taken in Minnesota, but I didn't know much about I had to investigate further. It was taken in 1937 in Craigville, Minnesota in Koochiching County by Russell Lee.

Can you place it?

This iconic picture was used in the opening credits for the television show Cheers. A seemingly lighthearted photograph, this picture actually reveals a great deal about a town in Northern Minnesota that wasn't so idyllic.

Main street. Craigville, Minnesota, 1937
Main Street, Craigville, Minnesota 1937
Picture Courtesy of Library of Congress

Upon further research, I discovered this picture of Main Street in Craigville, Minnesota in 1937. It wasn't much. Most of the buildings weren't even finished. Logging was its main industry until 1952. During the logging season anywhere between 5,000-7,000 loggers would come into town.

Lumberjack with bandaged head after being beaten up and "rolled" in a saloon on Saturday night in Craigsville Minnesota, 1937
A lumberjack after a brawl in a saloon on Saturday night.
Picture Courtesy of Library of Congress
With the influx of loggers (and their hard earned money), the town was filled with all sorts of criminal activity. Prostitution, murder, theft and bootlegging--to name a few. It was so bad, no one could do anything about it. The town had a terrible reputation, not only in Minnesota, but across the USA.
Lumberjack and two "attendants" in saloon of Craigsville Minnesota, 1937
A lumberjack with two "attendants."
Picture Courtesy of Library of Congress
In 1937, photographer Russell Lee visited Craigville and documented the "seedy" lifestyle of the loggers, prostitutes, bootleggers and business owners. If you look closely, this man and his two "attendants" are the same people in the "Saturday Night in a Saloon" picture.
Researching can be an interesting adventure. You never know what you're going to unearth. Some of the stories I read about Craigville made me cringe. It was a dangerous town. I wanted to cry when I read about the prostitutes who inhabited the rough buildings. I always wonder what would lead a woman into such a sad choice. I don't think I'll ever look at this picture the same way.
Craigville is now a ghost town in Northern Minnesota. Some buildings remain, but they're falling apart and overgrown with weeds. The town that brought so much pain, to so many people, is now decaying in the Koochiching Forest.
Photographer Russell Lee

Russell Lee was an American photographer, best known for his work for the Farm Security Administration. He traveled around the United States between 1936 and 1943 documenting various American classes and cultures. Apparently he heard about the notorious town of Cragiville, Minnesota. Many of his photos are in the Library of Congress.

I wonder if Russell Lee had any idea how famous his "Saturday Night in a Saloon" photo would become?

In the words of Paul Harvey: "And now you know the rest of the story."

Have you seen the photo "Saturday Night in a Saloon" before? Did you have any idea what the real story was behind it?

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Preparing for a Writer's Conference

Last year at this time I made the decision to attend my first writer's conference! I registered for the American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) Conference in Dallas, Texas.
Right before the Gala Awards Dinner in 2012
It was one of the best decisions I've made for my writing career.
Before I went, I wanted to make sure I was as prepared as possible. I perused countless blogs looking for everything I would need to know about a writing conference. My thought was that I would be less nervous if I knew what to expect.
I had the right idea. I went to the conference fully prepared...but I still felt nervous--it just goes with the territory! I was also excited and anxious--but above all, I felt hopeful.

The first night I had supper with all these fabulous ladies!
I think the biggest reason we go to a conference is because we have hope--and we should. We have hope that we'll get the break we've been longing for. Where else can we meet with a wide range of agents and editors? Where else can we learn, first-hand, about the industry? It's a fabulous event for any writer, aspiring or published.
This year I'm going back to the ACFW Conference with a lot more experience, less nerves, but just as much hope.
Since last year, I signed with a fabulous agent, received amazing feedback from editors, and finaled in a prestigious writing contest. But as of right now, I haven't signed a book contract...which means I'll be pitching to editors again this year.

Yes, agented authors still have to pitch at writing conferences! It's the best way to meet an editor and to put a face with a name.
My first pitching appointment last year!
The lovely editor I'm chatting with
sent me this wonderful picture.
Once again, I'm going to the conference fully prepared. I have arrived at quite a few milestones on my writing journey this year, but I know I have a long way to go.
Over the next several Mondays I plan to share some of my conference experiences from last year. I will talk about what surprised me, what I wished I would have known before I went, what I would have done different and what I plan to do the same. I'll also talk about all those things unique to a writer's conference like business cards, one-sheets, pitching appointments, thank you notes (that an agent & editor will remember) and all the extras.
Your Turn: If you've been to a writer's conference, how did you feel going the first time? If you haven't been to a writer's conference, what would you like to know? If you're going to ACFW, how are you feeling right now?

Friday, August 2, 2013

Clothed With Strength & Dignity

Four weeks ago I started facilitating a small group Bible Study at my home. Five ladies have joined me to study So Long, Insecurity: Group Experience, by Beth Moore. It's been an excellent study, one I highly recommend to every woman who draws breath.

The study has been eye-opening at times. Not only because it's made me aware of areas in my life where I deal with insecurity, but also because it's made me aware of how prevalent and debilitating insecurity is in women. It makes me sad and angry at the same time.

The beautiful thing about the study is that it sheds light on insecurity and gives amazing tools to deal with it. The study has been a life-changing experience.

Last week Beth Moore highlighted Proverbs 31:25: "She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come." She spoke about how we are clothed in dignity, wrapped up in the love of Christ and strengthened by His power. Ponder that for a while. It's an amazing truth that we don't consider as much as we should.

During discussion Beth asked us to share a time when we had strength, might and power.

As we sat quietly, each person contemplating the question, I realized something. Most of us are quick to point out our flaws and weaknesses. We speak in great length about the areas in our lives where we struggle and we've made mistakes. But when we're asked to talk about our strengths...we hesitate.

Please don't misunderstand me. I believe it's important and vital that we have friends we can be real with. Friends who carry our burdens and listen as we share our pain and weaknesses. But I also think it's just as important to recognize our strengths, talents and gifts.

I believe we'd be a lot more secure if we acknowledged how strong Christ has made us.

I think we hesitate to talk about our strengths because we don't want to sound prideful or arrogant. But there is a way to be confident--yet humble. When we recognize that our best qualities come from God, and God alone, we can walk with our shoulders lifted and our heads high. We should be able to recognize those gifts and be quick to give God credit.

When our group had a few moments to ponder the question, I was overjoyed to listen as my friends shared their areas of strength. It was also fun to point out the strengths we see in each other.

Today I want to hear your strengths. Please don't be shy. I'd love to hear your heart. I'd love to celebrate the gifts and talents God has given you. I'd love to see where He strengthens you and clothes you in dignity.

Your turn: What do you think are your strengths? In what ways has God blessed you with talents and gifts?