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

 

How to Write a Synopsis (The Writers’ Rooms)

As you may know, I’m the Director of The Writers’ Rooms, a literary organization focused on providing a free, safe environment to all writers, no matter their experience, income, gender, etc. The specific “Room” I lead is The Violet Realm, which is our Sci-fi/Fantasy group. What’s a Room, you ask? It’s a two-hour session with a literary lesson during the first hour and then free writing/sharing the second hour. We have a plethora of groups ranging from poetry, romance, LGBT, all-genre, with more coming soon! The community is wonderful, and I’m thankful for every person who brings their story to us. Best of all, the Rooms are free.

Tonight, we talked about how to write a synopsis. I thought I’d share it with you so you could get an idea of the information that The Writers’ Rooms has to offer, and also provide some tips on how to prep a synopsis for querying an agent.

What is a synopsis? A synopsis is, in short, the summary of your story. You’ll need this if you’re querying a traditional publisher. But, this is also a great way for you to figure out the main plot of your story! 

Rules of thumb: 

  • Only name your MC and main villain (typically only 3 characters at most). Briefly outline their roles so you can refer back to them throughout the synopsis. The first time you list the name, write it in all caps. 
  • A good synopsis should only be about 500 words. Any longer, and an agent may toss it out the window, or you may realize you have some work to do.
  • You must tell the whole story, including the ending gasp! The agent has to know where the story’s going, and so do you! 
  • Focus on the main plot, not any of the subplots. The subplots are for the book. 
  • You need to know what your characters want and make the plot out of that. What are their ultimate goals? 

How to Set Up the Synopsis

You may remember from a previous session that we talked about the Beat Sheet to set up your entire story. Making your synopsis is very similar. Together, we’ll take a look at an amazing resource called “How to Write a 1-Page Synopsis”  with a little flare added. Source is at the bottom. 

 

  • Set the Scene: Create the stage for your world and your characters. We need to know what genre/timeline you’re focusing on. Fantasy? Show us the castle. Science Fiction? Show us the ship and the world. Enchant us with the very first line.
  • Introduce the Protagonist: Bring in your Main Character (in all caps). We want a couple descriptive words to say what he/she wants, and to help us identify him/her. Blacksmith? Banker? Butler? Let us know! 
  • Inciting Incident: Yes, we’re taking a trip to Freytag’s Pyramid. What event, decision, or change prompts the main character to act? Is it a death in the family? A murder? A young boy buying a robot with a hidden message? 
  • Plot Point #1: This is where we get into the first big change in the story. What’s the first turning point? What does the MC do to change the book’s direction? This is the point where your heroine might start out on her journey to travel to a different planet or go on an epic quest. 
  • Conflict and Other Characters: Your character enters a new world/environment. What new life experience does she have? How does she meet the antagonist/villain? This is also a chance for you to bring in, say, a love interest. But again, only include important characters. 
  • Midpoint: This is the point when the MC may have to make a 180 degree change or emotion in the story. Once she crosses this line, she can’t go back. She makes a decision that changes everything. Or maybe her cowardly nature turns to heroism. 
  • We’re Winning! Whoops, No We’re Not: Reveal when your MC thinks she has the upper hand but then the antagonist swoops in to ruin everything. Maybe a magical item gets stolen, or an escaping ship gets shot down. For once, the villain has the advantage.
  • Darkest Night: This is when your MC has hit rock bottom. She has to fight through it both emotionally and physically. Maybe the villain has trapped her. Maybe she’s had everything taken away. How does she find the strength to enter the final battle? 
  • Climax: Battle time! What happens when the MC and the antagonist come head-to-head? Yes, we do need the conclusion. 
  • Resolution: How does the climax end? Does everyone live happily ever after, or are we doing a Shakespearean ending and killing everyone? How do you tie up loose ends, and loose romances? 
  • Closing Scene: What’s the last scene you want to leave your reader with? Has the MC won or failed? Is there a future waiting? We want to know! 

 

Prompts: 

  1. Take your story and write a synopsis. Use the outline above to separate out each important moment from your plot. 
  2. Think of a new story and use the outline to plot it out. 

 

Literary Community: You’re Not Alone

There’s a community to be found whether online, in person, or just through the simple knowledge that there are others out there going through the same kind of struggles.

When most people think of writers, they picture solitary creatures hiding away and typing to a computer screen’s glow. Alright, so I suppose that’s not too far from the truth–I’m doing that right now–but what many don’t understand is that writers aren’t alone. There’s a community to be found whether online, in person, or just through the simple knowledge that there are others out there going through the same kind of struggles.

While I was growing up, I didn’t have a writing community to call my own. I felt like the weird one who spent more time scribbling in a Lisa Frank folder than playing outside with her friends. But when I hit high school, I was introduced to a writing community based on the Redwall books by Brian Jacques. Imagine my shock when I could create characters and write about them, and people would actually respond back. This was the first time I didn’t feel alone as a writer.

This kind of online networking still exists today in roleplaying sites or even on places like Wattpad. Here, writers and readers come together to share stories, comment, vote, write/read, and message one another. I’ve already made some online and IRL friends through the platform. And best of all, it’s helped me get my writing off the ground again. I can ask people in my genre questions about world building or story structure. And at the same time, I can offer advice to newer writers who don’t know where to start.

Twitter and Instagram are both great places for building a writing community as well. Between things like #pitchwars and #pitchmad (events that allow you to mentor with other writers or pitch your stories to agents) you get to meet a lot of people. There are also particular hashtags people can follow to talk about their experiences, like #writerlywipchat. One of my favorite events is the #chance2connect meetup led by Kim Chance (@_KimChance). Once a month, she posts questions that writers can answer that encourage the community to interact and get people to meet one another. I’ve stayed up late having great conversations with some fantastic writers.

But what if you don’t want to meet people online? Well, there are writing conventions like the Pikes Peak Writing Conference that you can attend. I spent about four days in Denver, Colorado sitting in on literary lectures and meeting both new and published authors, agents, editors, etc. We had meals together, learned from one another, and created friendships that still last today. I would love to go back! I felt so inspired and encouraged. It helped me realize that writing is honestly what I want to do with my life.

Of course, not all of us can travel or pay for conferences. So how do you find your community in town? One way is to check Meetup. You might find writing events that are hosted in your local area. There’s National Novel Writing Month where you write 50,000 words in the month of November. Many cities have leaders who set up writing get-togethers. Check the NaNo site to find your area! If you look in library calendars, or maybe a local literary paper, you might find a group of writers. Or, if you’re in the Iowa area, you’re always welcome to join me at The Writers’ Rooms, a non-profit corporation focused on providing a free, safe environment to writers of all incomes, genders, skillsets, etc. If you’re looking for workshop, then there’s the brilliant Iowa Writers’ House which also hosts an astounding airBnB.

You’re not alone. There are writers out there looking for companionship and the chance to just sit and brainstorm story ideas. Some of my best work comes out when I’m with other writers because I’m happy. I know that I’m not the only one struggling or going through this big process of creating a book. Most of all, I love to meet people and learn about their journeys. I believe that it’s important that we, as writers, learn to support each other in our personal quests. This world is hard enough as it is. I’d rather spend my day encouraging an author than trying to rise above them. As my friend Author Brian K. Morris says, we’re all part of a Rising Tide, and when we help one another, we all rise together as a community.

Just as a reminder, I post author interviews every Friday. Last Friday I showcased Leona Bushman, and this Friday will be Shakyra Dunn! Please stop by and show your support!