Imagine Other Worlds with Authors (I.O.W.A.) Signing

For the past three years, the incredible Dana Beatty and Terri M LeBlanc hosted an epic author signing event called Imagine Other Worlds with Authors (I.O.W.A). It moved from place to place, hosted tons of authors, and had a lot of success. In 2018, they asked if The Writers’ Rooms would like to take it on as part of the organization. We jumped at the opportunity, and after months of hard work, we’re excited to finally host the event on September 7th from 10am-4:30pm and 8th from 1:30pm-4:30pm at the Cedar Rapids Public Library in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

I.O.W.A is a multi-genre, multi-author two-day book signing event. This year features over 20 authors who are eager to share their books with you. You can meet the authors through literary panels, readings, signings, author speed dating, and special giveaways! Don’t forget to stop by the welcome table for a swag bag. The first 50 people on Saturday will receive a bag with a free book inside!

We have an incredible list of authors who delve into the worlds of fantasy, science fiction, romance, fiction, women’s literature, humor, memoir, children’s books, YA/NA, etc.:

Featured Authors of IOWA

We also provide a bunch of fun prizes that you can win both courtesy of The Writers’ Rooms and the CR Public Library. Who wouldn’t want a bag that makes your book look big?

The two-day event is divided up into several different activities that both patrons and authors can get excited about.

  • Author Signing: Come meet local Iowa authors to learn more about their books and pick up tantalizing tales for sale. Be sure to stop by every author table to have your Passport signed. Once you get as many signatures as possible, drop it off at the Welcome Table downstairs to the chance to get a prize.
  • The Writers’ Rooms Writing Prompts and Social: Stop in the Conference Room to learn more about The Writers’ Rooms, one of the hosts of I.O.W.A. Write with us using prompts provided by the Rooms and also get to know your fellow writers. 
  • Panels: Authors will sit on a panel to share knowledge of a chosen topic. Come listen and ask questions to learn more about the writing/publishing industry. Some topics included are, “Indie Author Publishing,” “The Writer Parent,” “So You Wanna Be a Writer 101” and more! 
  • Author Readings: Join the authors of I.O.W.A. as they read from their sections of their novels. Now’s the time to ask questions and get to know more about the author! 
  • Speed Dating: Authors will be seated at separate tables in Greyhound Cafe and interested readers will have a chance to talk with them in three-minute intervals. The author will begin with a short pitch of their book releases and answer questions the reader may have. When the bell rings, the readers change seats. A Saturday event only! 

One thing we tried to do is make sure that none of the events (ie. panels, readings, speed dating) overlapped with each other. I know how hard it can be to want to attend multiple author readings but have to choose between them.

Want to get a first look at when the different events are happening? Stop over at the facebook event to get the latest news and let us know you’re coming, check out the I.O.W.A. website page, or visit the Cedar Rapids Public Library calendar.

Today we were featured in The Little Village Magazine (thank you to Rob Cline for his kind words). We were also interviewed by the Press Citizen, which is so exciting!

The Writers’ Rooms is a community-driven organization, and we couldn’t exist without you. I.O.W.A. is a way for us to thank the many writers and authors who have helped us over the years and to give back to the creative community. This is a free, family-friendly, event, so be sure to bring your little ones along. We can’t wait to see you! #IOWAWrites19

To learn more about I.O.W.A., visit:

The Writers’ Rooms: I.O.W.A.

I.O.W.A. Facebook Group

Twitter

Instagram

 

Finding Writing Contests

Whether you’re a poet, short story writer, a novelist, etc, I’m sure most of you have submitted your work to a writing contest at some point in your life. Contests can come in many shapes and forms. They might be for large anthologies to help you get your name out there. Some may pay royalties to their authors. Others have big cash prizes. And some pay nothing, but at least you get the bragging rights. The things I hear most writers say is that they don’t know where to submit their work or where to start looking, or how to prepare their piece.

First off, here are few of the common places I visit to find writing contests/opportunities:

  • Submittable: This is a submission engine as well as a place where sites compile contests that are available. More and more sites are using submittable as a way for authors to send in their work. Once you enter your information once, it’s usually there for you to use again. What’s great is you can track what pieces you’ve sent in, where they are in the process, and which pieces have been accepted or rejected. There’s a messaging system too so you can contact the contest site if you have questions. Once you sign up and indicate your genre interests, it you can also look up available contests through the system.
  • Poets & WritersThis site is great because not only does it provide helpful writing tips, it also frequently updates contests or submission opportunities. You can filter it depending on entry fee, genre, deadline, etc. So if you’re only interested in poetry, you can just select the poetry category. Or if you don’t want to pay for an entry, you can filter out all of the contests that cost money.
  • Writer’s DigestWriter’s Digest hosts a lot of writing contests each year. They also list other contests/events that are going around, so keep checking in for the newest and greatest stuff. Like Poets & Writers, Writer’s Digest provides helpful literary tips as you’re prepping to submit your material.
  • Jerry JenkinsJerry Jenkins lists contests that are going on throughout the year and it gets updated every year. What I like the most about it is that it’ll provide a link directly to the contest so you don’t have to go looking for it.
  • The Write LifeI like this website a lot. They provide 31 free writing contests that have cash prizes. So if you’re looking to make some money for your writing, this may be the route to go.

These are just a few sites to get you started. If you’re looking for a particular genre, you might have to dig a little deeper into the internet to find the right contest for you.

As you prep your piece for submission, there are a few things to keep in mind.

  • Read the Guidelines: Whatever contest you enter, it is vital you read their guidelines. They might have very particular ways that they want you to submit your piece (font, size, single vs double-spaced, etc). If you don’t do as they request, they may disqualify you without even reading your piece. Get it in on time, and if any of the directions are confusing, be sure to e-mail them and ask for clarification.
  • Stay on Topic: If you enter a contest that has a particular theme, make sure you’re submitting a piece that works. If the theme is “Aliens in Space,” don’t give them a contemporary romance or paranormal entry. Stay as close to the topic as possible.
  • Word Count: When contests give max and min word counts, you need to stick to them. Even if your entry is 5001 words and the max is 5000, that one word can still get you disqualified. Again, stick to the guidelines.
  • Review Other Published Pieces: Some sites will have previous anthologies available for your to peruse. If you have the opportunity, read through some of their pieces to see if your work seems to fit in. If the magazine/anthology is completely different from your realm of work, you might consider submitting somewhere else.
  • Make Sure the Contest is Legitimate: There are many contests out there that will gladly take an author’s money and not do anything with the contest or will scam the writer. Make sure they’ve published other pieces before, they have a history, and the information on their site is spelled correctly. I know that last one might sound odd, but a lot of scam sites will have misspellings, which would seem odd if they’re running a writing contest.
  • Don’t Harass the Judges: When you submit a piece, don’t e-mail the judges or the site owners repeatedly to find out the status of your piece (unless it’s to notify them that your work was published somewhere else). The more you pester, the more likely it is your piece will be dropped. It takes time to review the work, choose the right pieces, and prep them for publication on paper or on site. Be patient. Generally “no news” is good news because it means you haven’t been rejected yet.

I hope this helps you as you look for places to submit your work. If you have other tips or sites people should check out, feel free to post them below!

Happy Writing!

World Building

One of the most exciting and most frustrating tasks of starting a book series is world building. For those of you unfamiliar with the term, this is something writers have to do when they write a book that’s set in their own world. They have to create everything about the world, from the appearance and agriculture to the politics and government. Maybe you have a race you want to create, or a brand new religion. Sounds simple, right? I’ve read on blogs before that non-fiction writers believe that fiction writers have it easier because we don’t have to look up historical facts to back up our literature or world. Quite honestly, I think fiction writers have it the hardest. At least non-fiction artists have a base point from which they can start. They have a timeline and a culture already created for them from which they can draw history. And in truth, many fiction/fantasy writers do a ton of research to create their books. Right now I’m looking at a huge shelf of books about medieval history including blacksmithing, herbal medicinal uses, the medieval city/castle/town, and even ship facts. Some of us writers do try to keep our stories somewhat historically accurate so that there is some truth in our craft.

Outside of researching, we also have both the pleasure and burden of creating our own world. When I was little, the facts that truly concerned me about world building were: what color is my sky? What color is the grass? What kind of creatures will I have? Will there be different food? And that was it. Today, I realize just how much more in depth you have to get to accurately create your own world. This will actually result in reconstructing an entire series I’ve been writing.

But I digress.

World building can be as simple and as complicated as you want to make it. For the medieval books I’m writing, I’ve tried to create a map of what my world looks like. Where are the provinces located? What kind of agriculture is in that area? What marketing can they do and what is their main import and export? What are their political standings? Do they have natural enemies and allies? What is the landscape like? What kind of powers do mages possess? Can they control water? Are there rivers, or streams, or oceans? It’s always fun when you have a character try to cross a river in one chapter, and then you have a group of characters jaunt merrily across the land without the fear of a river…because their belligerent author forgot all about it.

World building can get even more confusing and complicated when you take myths from around the world and try to bastardize them to your own liking. My friend and I have been writing a series that includes multiple mythologies included, but not limited to, Greek, Arthurian legends, and various other beliefs and cultures. Now, we could stick strictly to what we know is “historically” accurate, but we’ve twisted the tales to make them all match what we want our story to be. Of course doing this, we realize, we have to create a brand new timeline to make sure we stay somewhat true to the old myths, but so we can tie them together with our own stories. Likewise, something as simple as writing about werewolves and vampires can become even more tedious when you get into the questions of, “species vs race, what are they?” Follow this with what bites can do and how likely it is for hybrid children to be born followed by the percentage of whether a child would be more vampire or werewolf if the two were to mate, and you’ve got a headache waiting to happen.

Needless to say, I keep Tylenol, chocolate, and tissues close at hand. One of these days I think I’ll need to add a pillow to my arsenal so I stop putting dents in my wall with the Tylenol bottle.

As painful as world building can be, it’s exciting and entertaining at the same time. There’s something very special about watching this world come to life and realizing you created it, or twisted it in such a way that you can call it your own. You can add as much color and flare as you want, or make it as murky and dark as you please. It’s not as simple as saying the sky is green and the grass is yellow, it’s so much more than that. Some writers go even into the scientific possibilities of how their world could actually be possible. Honestly, some of the science fiction theories people have come up with during their world building experiences have actually lead to the possibility of “science fiction” technologies becoming real.

There are a plethora of templates out there that people follow to help themselves create their own worlds. I’ve used some myself, and I’ve gotten half-way through and realized I had no idea what in the world I was trying to write about. That’s what happened with the first series I wrote. Fortunately, I don’t seem to have the same dilemma with my current series otherwise I’d be chucking more than a Tylenol bottle at the wall.

The advice I give you is make your world your own. Make it as amazing or as simple as you want it to be and then let it grow. Sometimes if you confine the world you’re building to one set of laws, it will crash and burn and leave you with a smoldering pile of charred dreams. But if you allow yourself to question your world and let people throw more and more questions or ideas at you, you may create something beautiful and wonderful that you can be proud to call your own.

Start small and work your way up. Make sure you actually know your world to some degree before you write your book. It’ll help you to better describe what’s going on and will help make the readers feel at home in your world. Now, as you write, you’ll find parts of your world you’ll need to revise or take out. You may find halfway through that the world you’ve created has completely evolved to something new. This isn’t a bad thing; it just means that you’re becoming more familiar with your world. Some people ask, why create the world before I start writing if I’m going to change it anyway?

Well, you have to start somewhere. Walking blindly into a story is easy for some writers, but for a person like me, I need to know what to expect before I begin, otherwise I’ll get lost…and if a writer gets lost in her own universe, how can she expect her readers to keep up?

For those of you interested in some templates, here are a couple you can try out:

Template for Creating and Building a New Fantasy Race for your Fictional World or Story

5 Tips: World-Building Template

How to Create a Fictional World from Scratch

Worldbuilding

That’s all for today. If you have any questions or writing ideas you’d like me to address, let me know below.