Happy Monday, RG2E Peeps!
Welcome to The RG2E and/or Welcome Back!
Here’s a terrific inside peek at What Really Goes on at a Writers Conference…with RG2E Featured Author Anne R. Allen.
Take it away, Anne…
The average reader probably doesn’t know much about Writers Conferences. They seem to exist in a world unto themselves. Ideally, they are idyllic retreats where aspiring writers can polish their craft, learn the latest publishing trends and hang with successful authors, agents and publishers.
Emotions run high and adrenaline peaks as writers vie for the attention of publishing professionals and often stay up into the wee hours schmoozing with their idols.
They can be pretty pricey, but lot of writers see them as a shortcut to fame and fortune.
And/or a fun place to have a fling.
I’ve heard it has cleaned up its act, but the oldest and most revered Writers’ Conference, Vermont’s Bread Loaf—which rejects 78% of applicants—is also known as “Bed Loaf” for a reason. In a famous 2001 article for the New Yorker, Rebecca Mead said, “The triple compulsions of Bread Loaf have, traditionally, been getting published, getting drunk, and getting laid.”
But sometimes conferences only bring shattered dreams and empty wallets.
I’ve attended my share—some good, some bad, some just plain exhausting, but I couldn’t help seeing all of them as a marvelous venue for a mystery novel.
Like the English country house party that served as a setting for some of the great classic mysteries, the writers’ conference has everything a good mystery needs: glamorous setting, high emotion, and lots of suspects.
Some conferences provide intensive workshops where writers can have their work critiqued. Critique workshops offer a unique opportunity to learn tips about crafting dynamic prose and tricks for self-editing.
Unfortunately they can occasionally devolve into nasty personal attacks.
I attended one prestigious writers’ conference where I saw a talented young man bullied by a bunch of semi-informed Bozos in a critique workshop. What was worse, the Bozos were egged on by the workshop leader—who seemed more interested in wielding power than in improving anybody’s prose.
I tried to speak to the abused writer afterward—to say how much I disagreed with what had been said—but he dismissed me with a few angry words and took off running. I realized he was close to tears.
That night I tried to write about the awful scene. In my story, the critiqued writer was so damaged by the bullying critiquers, he killed himself. The story was way too melodramatic, so I later changed it to simply the appearance of suicide. Then I added a few more murders (I had to kill off that workshop leader!) plus some romantic sizzle, a couple of ghosts, a cross-dressing dominatrix, and a lot of laughs.
The result was my comic mystery, Ghostwriters in the Sky, the second of my Camilla Randall romantic-comedy mysteries. I decided to send New York socialite Camilla Randall, a.k.a. “the Manners Doctor” to a fictional writers’ conference at a former dude ranch in the cattle-and-wine country in California’s Santa Ynez mountains north of Santa Barbara.
I’m lucky that Santa Ynez is in my own backyard—I live about an hour north in San Luis Obispo—so I was able to use my own neighborhood as an “exotic” setting.
I had a lot of fun with local color: the celebrity culture (The neighborhood has been home to A-list celebrities for decades, from Ronald Reagan to Michael Jackson), the wine business (I manage to get Camilla locked in a wine cellar with two suspicious characters and several magnums of the local sparkling wine), plus some hunky cowboys, and a wannabe writer who is also a really hot L.A. cop.
I used the old Alisal ranch in Solvang as the model for the dude ranch where I set the conference.
Just before I set out to write this post, I read in the local paper that a mysterious body has been found there. I hope life isn’t imitating art here—that would be creepy!
The book takes the reader on a fun mini-vacation to the Santa Ynez Valley, as well as providing a whole lot of hilarious goings-on. There’s some old-time movie glamor, wine tasting, classic motorcycle lore, some horse-thieving, a little gambling at the Indian casino, fabulous Danish pastries, and a visit to the notorious Maverick Saloon.
And oh, yes—some dead bodies, incompetent murderers, and a little hot romance.
She’s also the co-author of the writer’s guide How to be a Writer in the E-Age…And Keep Your E-Sanity (MWiDP June 2012), written with Pay it Forward author Catherine Ryan Hyde.
She lives on the Central Coast of California near San Luis Obispo, which Oprah named “the happiest town in the US.” Anne teaches blogging and social media at the Central Coast Writers Conference. Her blog, “Anne R. Allen’s Blog…with Ruth Harris: Writing about Writing. Mostly” was a finalist in the American Publishers Association/Goodreads IBB Awards for Best Publishing Industry Blog. NYT Bestseller and former Big Six editor Ruth Harris joined the blog in 2011.
Connect with Anne here:
Fascinating scoop here, Anne, and thanks bunches for chatting with us!
Who all would like an Ebook Gift Copy of GHOSTWRITERS IN THE SKY? Let us know below, and you just might win one from Anne!
The Best of RG2E Reading Wishes — D. D. Scott, RG2E Founder