Friday, January 8, 2010

green girl & the iowa summer writing festival (part III)

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.


  1. I love your solution to the Iowa problem. :-)

  2. congratulations on the book. also, growing up in Minnesota we said "screw Iowa" all the time. but i don't think we meant the same thing.....

  3. Hey look, I'm actually timely today! I was going to comment after Part II that you are such a geek :), but thought I better not. I say it most lovingly and since you essentially just used the same word I can't resist, "You are such a geek", but I love ya anyway." I actually admire your talent and hope you continue fighting to accomplish your dream. The only time I didn't follow my father's advice was career related of all things because it was my goal and I stuck to it. I still keep the pile of rejection letters to remind me to never give up on my dreams because with hard work and patience (which I would still need more of) they do come true. Thanks for the story on Screw IA. I thought it had something to do with Mr. D. :)

  4. Wow! That's awesome and I will check it out.

  5. YES, "The End Of The Book" is great. Trying to find a group here, but there are so many other things going on! I'm taking it all slowly for now.

  6. I'm e-mailing this to my husband as an idea for a Valentine's Day gift for me.

  7. i'm laughing at the "screw iowa" moniker.

    where do you guys meet? do you all live in wisconsin? the two classes i took there did not result in anything so happy and useful. the memoir group stayed in touch for a while--we emailed, and i posted some photos for everyone to see, but most of them weren't all that serious about writing and nothing ever came of it

    good for you, and your group!

  8. You are AWESOME. I am so inspired by you--living the dream and not letting a "no" get in your way. Rock on, Ladies.

  9. Love it! Thanks for the Baker book recomendation....I had a feeling that you'd know Pop 485! It was a great book (too funny because I found myself sticking our locals into his characters!).

  10. Congrats from one writer to another.

    Love the blog, now following :-)

  11. Congrats on publishing such a helpful book for fellow writers-- and would-be writers. All your thought, experience and hard work will help many, I'm sure.

    Good job!

  12. Yea! Go team estrogen!!! You are my favorite geek! you're a talented writer.."keep on keeping on!" I think I just dated myself with that quote, lol.

    Sweet wishes,

  13. I'm swamped and behind on my "reading, obviously. Still, I wanted to say wow - I'm impressed!


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