News & Views

WRITING IS EXCESSIVE DRUDGERY…

monk writing

...It crooks your back, it dims your sight, it twists your stomach and your sides.

In other words, as if we didn’t already know it, the writing life has always been hard. But the MWA-NY Mentor Program does what it can to help, by pairing writers in any stage of their career with a mentor from among our Active members. Up until now, this mentoring has focused strictly on manuscript development. Now that I’m in my second year of chairing the program, I am looking for ways to expand it – and would like to hear from you.

(And while I’m picking your brains, here are a few more complaints gleaned from the margins of medieval manuscripts in order to remind everyone that there are worse things out there than a bad review or a word-processing program that loses an hour’s worth of work. Well, maybe not the latter…)

That’s a hard page and weary work to read it.

The Mentor Program has always centered on manuscript critiques that focus on the market-readiness of works in progress, and will certainly continue to do so. But in today’s rapidly changing publishing environment, the manuscript is only half the battle. So we are planning to delay the manuscript portion of the program until January 2017, in order to offer at least one workshop on the nuts and bolts on the business of writing in Fall 2017.

This page has not been written very slowly.

One of the biggest appeals of the Mentor Program has been that the top manuscript(s) are read by an agent. But getting your work read by agent or editor is far from an impossible task. So instead of rewarding just one or two manuscripts, we’re hoping to expand the Mentor Program to help all of our writers with the process of finding agents and editors. We are collaborating with the MWA-NY library committee in order to offer a Pitch Perfect workshop this fall, which will give you the chance to interactively workshop your own pitches with industry professionals.

I am very cold.

As for the rest of 2017 and beyond, we need to hear from you. The manuscript program will run from January 2017 through March 2017. After that, what kind of workshops would help you? Since we are a mentoring program, we know that we want our workshops to be hands-on and interactive. Beyond that, what kinds of workshops would you find must helpful? A query letter workshop seems an obvious next step. Would you be interested in one? Or would you prefer a workshop on synopses – and the gentle art of distilling every hard-won word in your manuscript into two cold pages?

The parchment is hairy.

What about pitching at conferences? Would you like help with practice pitches? (I admit I was so appalled by the process, all I could do was read my pitch in mumbled monotone. I’d like to think I could get better. What about you?)

Thank God, it will soon be dark.

What about help with social media and blogging? (I, for one, still have no real idea what to do with Twitter.) And then there are Amazon pages, FaceBook pages, and Goodreads pages. Not to mention Snapchat and Instagram? What are the new and important platforms? Is hiring a teenager the only hope of using them effectively?

Oh, my hand.

Just a few more questions… Really.  What about indie publishing? How does it compare to working with a small press? How do you seek reviews, and actually get them – not to mention prizes and awards? What about help arranging blog tours and other cooperative publicity?

St. Patrick of Armagh, deliver me from writing.

Well, actually, I pretty much rely on St. Patrick to keep the snakes out of my garden, and he’s been more than a little shaky this year, I must say. I have christened the garter snake that took up residence under our front step The Lambton Worm, after the old English legend, but that still isn’t really reconciling me to its presence…

Now I’ve written the whole thing: for Christ’s sake give me a drink.

That one, we can handle – in the form of the MWA-NY Mingle with RWA-NY and Horror Writers of New York on August 11. You can RSVP at this link.  But in the meantime, what other notes or suggestions might you have? How can we improve the Mentor Program to address your practical needs as a writer?

—Erica Obey

Erica Obey earned a PhD in Comparative Literature and published a book and articles on Arthuriana and 19th-century women folklorists, before she decided she would rather be writing the stories herself. Her first mystery novel, Back to the Garden, was published in 2013, and The Lazarus Vector will be forthcoming from Amphorae Publishing in October 2016.  She currently teaches courses on mystery fiction and Arthurian romance at Fordham University.

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