I've told you how I ended up at the Iowa Summer Writing Festival and what a glorious experience it turned out to be (click here for part II). Like camp for geeky grown ups. But the best part of that writing festival is what came afterward. Lots of times people exchange email addresses and other contact information following events like this, but do they keep in touch?
In this case, we did. Since 2004 Nina Romano, Marni Graff, Mariana Damon, Lauren Small and I became writing partners and evolved to something beyond my wildest dreams. We exchanged emails and occasional phone calls during the fall and winter , and we all craved one thing no writing workshop provided: a place to have our entire manuscript read and peer edited--not a measly 20 pages or so which is typical for most writing workshops. Nina wrote to the festival coordinator in Iowa, but we were denied. They cater more to the new and developing writer, something that hard core, editing an entire manuscript with only 6 participants per session wasn't what they wanted to host.
"Screw Iowa," we said. "We'll do it ourselves." And we did. Since then, we've held our own workshops, Screw Iowa-style, in each other's homes, meeting for a week every summer. For five days in a row we go in turn, each of us getting a whole day committed to our manuscripts. We begin in the morning, each of our readers presenting an overview and their notes. Then the author may ask questions and then we do a page-by-page, line-by-line critique of the book on the table. We brainstorm solutions, fix problems, vote on serious matters such as whether a character is vital to the plot or what point of view the book should be told through. Sure, this system is a lot of work, we spend every spring reading up to 1,000 pages of manuscript to prepare for this week, but to receive FOUR critiques of your manuscript, to roll up my shirtsleeves and knuckle down for a full 8-hour day with the help of 4 other writers to repair and perfect my own--TOTALLY worth it! I'm certain that without this writing group I'd have quit trying to write years ago. It's an impossibly hard endeavor and there's little satisfaction to be found in a pile of rejection letters.
Our model of workshopping worked from the first year we tried it in 2005--and while I had no other writing workshop to compare ours to, seasoned group members say it is phenomenal. So phenomenal that we wrote a book about it.
The End of the Book: Writing in a Changing World goes beyond how to write--it surpasses the tired advice on landing an agent or improving your craft. It describes how (in excellent detail) to find writing partners and a writing network and how to implement (I hate that word, but it does work in this case) the Screw Iowa Writers Workshop method. You can buy a PDF of this book for only $9.99. Sound crazy? Too good to be true? Go to this link and check us out--Screw Iowa! Read an excerpt and get a copy. Refer your writer pals to our site and our book. It's no scam, it's an honest and tested attempt to help writers succeed at writing when the chips are down and publishing houses are going belly-up. Writing is solitary and lonely work--easy to abandon because nobody cares. The Screw Iowa Writers Workshop method addresses all of those issues too.
The Iowa Summer Writing Festival is an awesome experience--a great resource and I hope to return again and again in the future, but the subsequent success of my writing: sticking to it, landing a literary agent, finishing 4 novels in the past 5 years, that's all the work of what we describe in this book. And because we were each helped so profoundly by each other, we wrote this book to help others.
Now go, check out this resource: The End of the Book:Writing in a Changing World
and our website: Screw Iowa! If you like what you see, spread the word.