One of the members, Jerry Johnson, had generously donated his sprawling property to be used as a retreat center. Despite forecasts of severe thunderstorms and a 70% chance of precipitation, the weather gods relented and stayed the hell out of our way.
(Jerry, by the way, seems to be a local legend. On the way to my destination, I got lost twice and asked first a fireman and then the owner of an auto body shop for directions to Jerry Johnson’s schoolhouse. Both times, I got the reply, “Oh sure, EVERYONE in town knows Jerry Johnson!”)
The first session I attended was “Hybrid Press Publishing” with hybrid-published author Tammy Flanders Hetrick. I could definitely relate when she talked about rapidly approaching age 50 and getting fed up with the waiting and querying game that every wannabe-published author knows so well.
So Tammy decided to make it happen herself, but going the DIY route—which basically forces you to treat publishing and marketing your book as a full-time job—was too daunting. In the end, she signed up with She Writes Press, a hybrid publisher specializing in women authors, and loved it.
Then it was off to “Blogging Boot Camp” with author and communications consultant J.P. (Joy) Choquette. Participants crowded into Stowe’s Cabin to learn the ins and outs of successful blogging, different platforms, how to drive more traffic to your blog, and whatever could be packed into 50 minutes of lively discussion.
After a BYOG (Bring Your Own Grub) lunch on the barn porch, drama teacher and speaking coach J.S Grant taught us how to up our stage presence at author readings. From physical and vocal warmups to tricks of the trade (did you know that, when holding a speech, you should always inhale through your mouth?), I learned a lot in a short time—including how to say “me-mo” and “fadda-da-da” ten times fast to relax my lips and tongue. Of course, I’m already a motor mouth when I get going, so if my lips and tongue get any more relaxed, they might just fall off.
For the last session, I went back to hear my new friend J.P. Choquette talk about how to write your first book in just 15 minutes a day. I found that quite intriguing because I’m not just a horrible procrastinator—I invented a new Twitter hashtag called #30WaystoGetOutofWriting—but also the master of self-induced guilt trips.
I tell myself I need to write, but then I don’t (because, come on, I write for a living all day and it’s exhausting and I had to drive my son to karate and had to make dinner and had a headache and had to take a nap and…). The good news: everyone can do 15 minutes a day. Joy has put her strategy into book format, titled The 15-Minute Novelist.
The event concluded with a watermelon and ice cream social (Ben & Jerry’s, of course, we’re in Vermont, after all) and a door prize raffle, in which I won such an opulent bag of goodies that I not only got my paltry $28 fee back, but basically got paid to attend. So, all in all a great day. Thanks to all the volunteers of the League of Vermont Writers (especially Alyssa Berthiaume, LVW’s very pregnant president who tirelessly worked to make this event happen).