For The Love Of Words

Engaging, encouraging & inspiring writers: Published authors share insights at 2023 Bosque Arts Center’s Books on the Bosque Readers and Writers Conference

CLIFTON – Whoever pictured authors as being introverted thinkers, most content to be locked up in their quiet workspace, enveloped in their own thoughts, typing out eloquent prose and poetry on their computers would be surprised to hear the very engaging, entertaining speakers at the 2023 Bosque Arts Center’s Books on the Bosque Readers and Writers Conference on Oct. 28.

The event provided an enjoyable and educational day full of interesting and engaging speakers for those who love the written word, authors, those that dabble in writing and those that love reading. Besides many aspiring authors, participants to the conference Glenda and Kermit Anderson attended because they love books and their local Tolstoy’s bookstore. They found the speakers very entertaining and bought several books.

BAC Board President Linda Pfeiffer was very pleased how the event with 45 participants nearly doubled compared to last year. And about half were visiting the BAC cultural center for the first time, and they were encouraged to visit the second floor Roland Jones Memorial Gallery while they were here.

There was a common thread among the speakers – their road to success was never a straight line, but usually a long and bumpy road over years and years. But, they always knew they wanted to be a writer, even though it might have seemed an improbable career to make a living with.

They also stressed that writers should always try to improve and learn along the way. Their advice to the participants was to keep believing in themselves, their keep honing their craft and their using their own voice, even though writing a book is the hardest thing to do, and that they will be facing rejection along the way. The authors and their parents were also avid readers themselves.

“Parents that read are the best example for our children, that we revere books and revere reading,” keynote speaker Charlaine Harris said. “I am so proud of my 10-year-old granddaughter who just wrote her own book. I guess my writing genes have been passed along”

With over 39 million books sold over her 42-year career of being a published author, the New York Times bestselling author specializes in mysteries and thrillers. She started with the “cozy mystery” genre, but her felt constrained by the genre’s boundaries and rules and she diversified to darker mysteries which included death, violence and sex.

Her first Sookie Stackhouse Southern Vampire Series story “Dead Until Dark” remained unpublished for two years, but now it’s in its 24th print, and the highly popular fantasy horror drama HBO True Blood television series from Alan Ball ran for seven seasons.

“Sexy, witty and unabashedly peculiar, ‘True Blood’ is a blood-drenched Southern Gothic romantic parable set in a world where vampires are out and about and campaigning for equal rights,” USA today’s Robert Bianco said on its release. “Part mystery, part fantasy, part comedy, and all wildly imaginative exaggeration, ‘True Blood’ proves that there's still vibrant life – or death – left in the star-crossed cute lovers' paradigm. You just have to know where to stake your romantic claim.”

The review shows Harris’ incredible cross-over capabilities, combining romance, with horror, with mystery. Her books scare her daughters too much, but her sons appreciate their mother’s dark imagination. And yes, as a perk, she did get to hug the very tall and handsome Alexander Skarsgård when she visited the set one time.

Her other well-known novel series also were adapted into TV series like “Aurora Teagarden” (Hallmark), and “Midnight Texas” (NBC 2017-18.) Besides her innate need to write, Harris is of a practical nature, saying “Unless I work, I do not get paid.” And she treats her writing as a job, sitting down to work every day.

Whitney native and last year’s essay category winner Thelizabeth (“Theo”) Boyd introduced her newly released nonfiction book “My Grief Is Not Like Yours,” which details her journey through tragic loss and finding her way to hope and healing.

“I needed a book that hit me as hard as I was hit,” Boyd said of her memoir/self-help hybrid. “I was born to write this one. I did not hold back, it is raw.”

Like J.K. Rowling, the Harry Potter books author, Boyd wrote primarily in a coffee shop or the local library, in “her spot.” While she highlighted the topic of her book, her presentation focused on listening to empower, called “Unleash Your Superpower.” Instead of just paying attention to sound or hearing words, Boyd feels listening to give consideration is invaluable.

Paradoxically, she used her mother who lost her hearing at a young age as the prime listener, because she observed, was present and in the room. Circling back to grieving, Boyd said “Sometimes you can just help a grieving person by just showing, and listen.”

After lunch, K.D. Huxman also spoke of her journey as an author. While writing was “not in her wheelhouse” when she was young, she loved to read, draw and paint. Her first book collaboration was as a young girl illustrating her sister’s book about a potato romance. While being a stay-at-home Air Force mother to her children, the writing bug got ahold of her.

“Boredom and young children drove me to create short romance novels,” Huxman said. “It was harder than I expected.”

Admitting her first attempt at writing was not wholly successful, Huxman decided to educate herself, immersing herself in reading, joining a writing group, and going back to school. College immersed her in the writer’s life, writing and working every day.

When her writing stagnated, Huxman would branch out to a different genre, sometimes by chance, going from children’s picture books to adult romance, to poetry and non-fiction.  Her “Colorado Coal Field War” describing the mining town troubles leading to the 1913-14 Colorado coal strike for better working conditions, real pay and better places to live, which led to a true war received the Independent Book Publishers Association Gold Award.

“Writing people and book people are my people,” Huxman said. “Books are us.”

Huxman offered some sound advice to the participating writers – read widely, including poetry, read your work out loud, find mentors and writing groups, get outside your comfort zone, study the art and craft of writing, do not worry about trends, but do your research regarding publisher’s niches. But most importantly she said, “Be kind to yourself,” and “Write because you love it.”

Author and freelance copy editor Kelsey Bryant came to the conference to support and get some insights from local writer Grant Ferguson about the self-publishing process. Bryant herself writes Christian fiction for girls, set in modern times, but also in historic times. Her books are about life and ordinary people finding strength in their faith, friendships and bonds with siblings. She describes one of her books as “a sister book, like Jane Austen’s “Sense and Sensibility,” but set in the 1930s.

Author of the middle-grade adventure series Cliftopolis books, Grant shared his knowledge to help those who dream of writing and publishing through a series of informational slides and examples of several successful self-published authors.

Because the sector has shrunk so much in the past two decades, it is more difficult than ever to get a traditional publisher’s attention. Also, getting your book published traditionally can take over a year. self-publishing is a sound way to go.

“It’s not that difficult,” Ferguson said. “But there are many myths, and writers don’t self-publish more because of fear. My goal today is to help you make a decision between traditional and self-publishing your book. Nobody is more passionate about your writing than you are.”

And self-publishing allows an author to make their choices, take charge and have a quick turnaround. He also said learning about self-publishing is easier than writing fiction, especially with the current, user-friendly, economical self-publishing websites available. Ferguson shared links to his self-publishing workbook, the Trellis Method writing system and more.

Part of the conference was the announcement of the Second Annual Writers Contest award winners with cash prizes thanks to the sponsors First Security State Bank and Douglass Ford. The entries were judged by preliminary judges from Tarleton State, and the finalist judges were from Baylor University. Writers from Texas, Tennessee, New York and California entered the contest this year, as also a large group of Clifton High School students.

William Goolsby won $100 for his “Song of the Eclipse” poem, while Johana Freiss won $100 for her “Beyond the Myth” prose.

Katharyn Howd-Machan of Ithaca NY won first place in Poetry and Best of the West with her poem “Tess Clarion: Redwing, 1888." The $1000 Best of the West award was sponsored by Roland and Joyce Jones.

Candace Ingram won second place in poetry with her poem “In the Desert,” and Honorable Mention with her essay. Third place poetry went to Linda Fyke, and honorable mention to Kathryn Jones.

First place essay went to Randall Madden, second place to Kathryn Jones and third place to Theo Boyd. First place short story went to Laura Loomis, second place to Callum Schlumpf, third place to Keith Goedecke and Honorable Mention to E. Brett Voss.

Paula Perschke of Tolstoy & Co. Bookshop in Clifton provided coffee and sponsored the breakfast from Corner Drug. Perschke had a selection of books available for sale.

Photos by SIMONE WICHERS-VOSS & courtesy of DEBRA EVANS, Bosque Arts Center

©2023 Southern Cross Creative, LLP. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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