Monday, August 15, 2016

Midwest Writers Workshop by Margaret S. Hamilton

Just after dawn on July 21st, I turned off the interstate and headed north into a fog bank, Muncie-bound for the forty-third annual Midwest Writers Workshop. Corn emits water, which fueled the mix of hot air on top of moist ground. Lacey white Queen Anne’s Lace in roadside ditches peeked through the white vapor.
In the sunshine at Ball State, I was issued a hundred-page spiral bound conference outline and lime green tote bag, and joined the throngs of writers in the newly-renovated student center. On Day One, we were immersed in five-hour specialized instruction sessions, my revision class taught by Lori Rader-Day.
 We emerged in the late afternoon for pitching and querying instruction sessions, followed by MWW alumnus Kelsey Timmerman discussing how he wrote his two books on global manufacturing and the food economy, Where Am I Wearing? and Where Am I Eating?

Friday and Saturday were devoted to four panel sessions a day, plus an agent panel and two Buttonhole the Experts roundtable discussions. I heard the incomparable Jane Friedman speak several times, including her succinct overview of the e-publishing process. Larry Sweazy and Lori Rader-Day gave additional talks on the mystery-writing process. Boutique publisher Liz Pelletier delivered a rapid-fire version of how she edits a book, including five crucial minutes on writing deep POV.
 I screwed up my courage and pitched one of my novels, and had my first five pages and query letter critiqued.

MWW is Midwestern friendly, from caucuses in the restroom to lunch table conversations in the ballroom.  Agents, editors, and writing instructors were approachable and enthusiastic. YA authors were everywhere, earnestly discussing contemporary, sci fi, and fantasy. There was a large contingent of mystery writers, identifying themselves as “cozy, police-procedural, romance or thriller.” An agent informed me I write “crime fiction,” which was a relief. I now have a niche.

The workshop drew participants from twenty states, many of them seeking access to agents who handle YA fiction. First-timers universally agreed that MWW was a great fit for debut authors.
 Many of us will return to Muncie, Indiana, in July 2017, more experienced and accomplished, and eager to learn.

Readers and writers, have you attended a writers’ workshop?

Margaret S. Hamilton has published cozy stories in Kings River Life and the Darkhouse Destination: Mystery! Anthology. She is completing her first crime novel, Curtains for the Corpse.


  1. This sounds wonderful, Margaret. and the Queen Anne's lace is gorgeous. I haven't seen it in years, doesn't grow in my area, or if it does, I've not seen it!

    I have yet to attend a conference. I've been to the Writer's Police Academy, and that was a heady experience, but I've not yet made it to a conference. I'm hoping 2017 is the year!

  2. Thanks for including some of your wonderful pictures!

    It sounds like you had a great experience. A workshop like that can be helpful and invigorating.

    I'm looking forward to reading more of your work.

  3. When I first started learning to write, I attended a number of writer workshops. The two that stick out were my first, on Whidbey Island, WA (whose name I no longer remember) and Sleuthfest in Florida. Most recently, I invested in a weeklong Novel Writing workshop with Donald Maas.

  4. I was lucky enough to attend workshops put on by Nancy Pickard. She's a great teacher.

  5. Thanks for sharing your experience, Margaret. My roots are in the Midwest (Missouri) and I've looked at the blurbs for this conference several times, wondering if it might be right for me. Sounds like it would be. I'll keep it in mind for next year. In the meantime, good luck with your crime fiction novel.

  6. Sounds like you had a great time, Margaret. I've heard such great things about Lori Rader-Day's classes.
    I just signed up for the Mysterium conference at Wesleyan University. It has some master classes with Barb Ross, Alison Gaylin and a keynote with Laura Lippman. Can't wait!

  7. Margaret, what a wonderful experience. I attended Seascape two times and found it helpful. I also attended several at a college north of me and didn't find them very helpful. It was the
    same instructor both times. As for Queen Anne's Lace, I have it all around my place, and often include it in my flower arrangements.

  8. I've heard many wonderful things about the Midwest Writers Workshop, and now you've confirmed it! I've been to several conferences and workshops and learn something valuable at each one.

  9. Kait: it's tricky matching your needs with what's taught at the conference, particularly guessing at what level the attendees are writing. I lucked out.

    Kathleen: I have a short story coming out in the Southern Writers Magazine in September, as one of ten runners-up in their contest.

    Jim: hearing Donald Maas in person would be an amazing experience.

    Warren: the Nancy Pickard workshops must have been wonderful.

    Sandy: MWW is so friendly, it's a great place to start. 1.5 hours from both the Dayton and Indy airports.

    Shari: can't wait to hear about Laura Lippman. I've always wondered what she's like in person.

    Gloria: I have a stand of Queen Anne's lace in my garden, too. It resembles hemlock, so I'm careful about handling it.

    Julie: MWW is great for a debut author. You might be interested in teaching at it.

  10. Nice wrap up, Margaret.

    Your entrance to Muncie was appropriate for a crime fiction writer!