Speaker Spotlight – Constance Smith – Mountain Valley Writers Conference 2017

The Mountain Valley Writers Conference will feature speakers and presentations that will help provide the tools to writers that are working in the industry or those writers that are seeking to build their own platform for writing success.

Speaker Highlight

Constance Smith

Constance Smith got started running her first website in 1998, teaching herself to write html from scratch. Since then she has acquired 2 decades of experience in social media and has readers that have stuck with her since the very beginning.

After living a military life for 25 years, she is planting roots in northern Alabama and starting a homestead. It is a new life chapter that she shares with her subscribers, along with the countless recipes and other lifestyle content on her website, Cosmopolitan Cornbread. She believes in “what you see is what you get” and her readers have come to love her honesty and authenticity. Constance chronicles her adventures with her subscribers in both written form as well as video on her YouTube channel. She has a heart for teaching, which is expressed through her blogging, vlogging, speaking engagements, volunteer work and she even homeschooled her three children through graduation.

Constance has appeared in local, national and digital publications, such as: MSN Food & Drink, BuzzFeed, Military Spouse Magazine, Home Gourmet Magazine, The Alaska Post, Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, Making it Home Magazine and others.

Constance joins the Mountain Valley Writers Conference with the task of providing the tools to help you take your passion and turn it into profit. She will challenge attendees to know what they love and then find ways to make that into a living wage. She did it in her life so she knows it is something possible and profitable!

    Passion to Profit

    My focus will be on blogging & social media as an outlet for what I am passionate about, and how I have used that to garner my own income by connecting with sponsors, growing readership/subscribers, and more

More about the Speaker

Favorite Book: The Bible

Favorite Quotes: “Bloom where you are planted.”

Random Fact: I am a history & genealogy buff and have traced one branch of my family tree back to the first century.

Where to Connect with the Speaker

Website: Cosmopolitan Cornbread

YouTube: Cosmopolitan Cornbread’s Homestead

Facebook: Cosmopolitan Cornbread

Twitter: @CosmoCornbread

Snapchat: https://www.snapchat.com/add/cosmocornbread

Instagram: http://www.instagram.com/cosmopolitancornbread

Mountain Valley Writers Conference – Speaker Highlight – William Thornton

The Mountain Valley Writers Conference will feature speakers and presentations that will help provide the tools to writers that are working in the industry or those writers that are seeking to build their own platform for writing success.

Speaker Highlight

William Thornton

William Thornton is the author of “Set Your Fields on Fire,” which won the 2015 Aspiring Author Contest with WestBow Press and the Parable Group. His comic Christian novel is distributed by HarperCollins. He is a native of Gadsden, Alabama and an award-winning reporter with the Alabama Media Group and AL.com. He has been in journalism for 28 years, with his work appearing in The Birmingham News, The Huntsville Times, the (Mobile) Press-Register, The Tuscaloosa News and The Gadsden Times, along with national publications. His previous novels are “Brilliant Disguises” and “The Uncanny Valley.”
He lives in Southside, Alabama with his wife Donna and daughter Sophie.

He writes on classic and contemporary literature, music, movies and pop culture.

Here’s a link to the first chapter of “Set Your Fields on Fire.”

Here’s a link to the book on Amazon.

William will be joining the Mountain Valley Writers Conference as a session leader. He has been learning the ropes of self-promotion and will share all his secrets and special tips for how to market your book without losing all your friends.

Learning Self-Promotion (without Ending up Friendless): You’ve written a book! (or you want to write a book! Or maybe not?) You mean to change the world, one blessed word at a time! But yet, how will they know? You hear about social media, but you’re not at all sure about this whole thing. Does it involve words? Then again, you like the Interwebs, but how much is too much? How can I break the cycle of cat videos, political memes, and get them reading? And what about other media? Does anyone care? Make them!

More about the Speaker

Favorite book: It changes periodically, but always seems to swing back to “The Great Gatsby” by F. Scott Fitzgerald. Proves a great book doesn’t have to be long to be important, can be funny but serious, can be lyrical and still tell a story.

Favorite quote: E.L. Doctorow on writing: “It’s like driving a car at night. You never see further than your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.”

One thing to know: It was working as a reporter that convinced Bill he could write a novel. A reporter on a beat can easily turn out two pages a day. Keep that pace up for three months, and you’ve got the first draft of a book.

Fun fact: Because Bill made (what he thought was) an innocuous comment about a 40-year-old movie, the actor William Shatner blocked him on Twitter.

Where to Connect with the Speaker

Website: Brilliant Disguises

Twitter: @billineastala

Facebook: william.thornton.56

Get your tickets NOW!

Mountain Valley Writers Conference Tickets

Tourism Fiction Offers a New Niche for Writers

Visit the SouthEastern Literary Initiative to learn more about tourism fiction and to partner to create your own SELTI contest

Tourism fiction uses the creative license of the fiction writer to help promote a location, region, or event. It tells a story that drives people to be interested in a setting so that through the story the write helps to boost the economy through an increase in tourism.

Tourism fiction combines the artistry of the writer with the community and gives a boost to both for the effort.

Elements of Tourism Fiction

The region, event or activity becomes a character in the book.

The descriptions in the story foster a desire for the reader to learn more about that character.

The stories include links, maps or other elements that can help direct readers to these “characters” or to the sites that inspired them.

Tips for Tourism Fiction

1. Bring the scene to life – best opportunity for show, don’t tell

The wind blew the soft sounds of the flute across the plain. The simple tune soothed my heart. From the distance, I noticed the warrior. He was dressed in his full regalia and I heard his chant join the breeze. As he drew closer, I could make out the words and was shocked that I recognized them.

“Shot through the heart, and you’re to blame. You give love a bad name.”

2. Limit the tourism aspect. Including too many locations or too many focuses can take the story from fiction into travel. The location should be more of a character than a scene. If you don’t need it to carry then story forward then consider using it at another time or just releasing it.

3. Give a link – include information to find the location in real life. You can embed the link into your PDF (it really is NOT as hard as it sounds) or just include a link at the end of your story that provides the reader with the option to discover more.

4. Connect with the community – let leaders and others in the area know that you are writing about the area. Send them copies of the stories, excerpts from the book and be sure to ask permission for including links.

Creating a Tourism Fiction Contest for Your Area

– Connect with others. The more groups, organizations or associations that are involved with the contest then the more everyone will benefit from the contest.

– Choose the focus. Tourism fiction contests work best if one location is the focus of that competition.

– Set the prizes. Writers want to know what will be the benefit of participating. Offer publicity opportunities, scholarships to writing conferences, awards or other enticements that will help to increase the number of participants.

– Announce the contest. People can only enter if they know there is a contest going on. Use the tools of the internet – Facebook, Twitter, blogs and other social media – and also traditional markets – newspaper, radio, and television.

– Schedule the award ceremony. The bigger the better. Combine the award with the event that was featured in the contest.

Tourism fiction can provide writers with a new avenue to share their words. It allows areas to reap the benefits of the tourism. Tourism fiction can be a great way for writers and the community to come together to help boost the economy.

Learn more about tourism fiction by visiting SELTI website. You can read some excerpts from novels and read the first winner of a tourism fiction short story contest.

Secrets for Building a Writing Career

Okay – so there is no secret to building a successful writing career. There are steps that you can take to help make success possible in your writing journey. But, in the end, you will have to invest the time and resources to build the writing career that you desire.

Top Secret Steps for Building a Writing Career

    1. You have to write. It may seem silly, but there are people out there that want to write one article or novel and make a million dollars or land a full-time gig. It might be possible, but it is highly unlikely. The more you write, the more you will master the art of words. The more you master the art, the more opportunities will open up for your journey to a writing career.

    2. Know your audience – Learn to understand your CORE audience – that center niche. Once you know the core then you can expand the reach out to other connected niches and even beyond.

    3. Show your writing. Give it to someone who will be honest about what you should do. Having a writing mentor online is great. There is a certain anonymity to the internet that makes honesty easier. Just keep in mind that you will never build a successful writing career with words locked up in a desk drawer. You have to be willing to bare it all – and not be injured by the hits that WILL come – if you want the chance at success.

    4. Believe in your work – have the confidence in the words you put down. I need to be willing to share my words because I know my words will impact lives of others. That confidence will push me past the fear of rejection.

    5. Go job hunting. Decide what you will and will not write and then find the jobs you are willing to do. Value your work, though. Think outside the normal boxes. Look for new publications in your community and then contact the editors to offer your services. Already have a pay scale in mind, but be willing to negotiate to some degree. The jobs are available, but you have to make finding the jobs part of your job plan.

    6. Stretch yourself. All the veteran writers that I have spoken with say that writing outside your genre is critical. If you write novels then submit some article ideas. I would expand that and recommend that you write outside your knowledge zone. If you write about family issues then write some animal articles. The internet provides you with the ability to research any subject. You may even want to find ways that you can blend the new materials into your original niche market so that you can develop two articles for the investment of one.

    7. Make it a business. Treat your writing like any other job. Set aside a certain number of hours to write and put in your hours. Make a schedule of what you need to do and when it needs to be done and then get it done ahead of time. If you want to be a serious writer – one that makes a living with words – then you have to take your writing seriously.

Becoming a professional (i.e. paid) writer is just like anything else out there. It takes time, effort, practice and patience. Find your niche in the industry and then go for it. Building a successful writing career happens one step at a time – but you have to start stepping to reach that goal.

Grow Consistency in Writing with a Schedule

Consistency comes up in most stories of success – followed closely or preceded by persistence. The keep pushing, go get em, I think I can so I can attitude drives the personality to reach the goals set ahead. Most of the participants in Blogchat last night on Twitter seemed to agree.

Consistency and I have had a tumultuous relationship at best. I find ways to be consistent for a few weeks (maybe even months) but something always veers me askew and I end up in a ditch. It may be something “positive” like a new schedule. It may be an unexpected illness in the family. No matter what the IT is, IT puts a hitch in my giddy up.

“If something is important then you will find the time to do it.” I wrote those very words, and they are true. I know that. I wrote content for other people CONSISTENTLY for five years. I just have not yet “found the time” to make my writing as important as I made the writing I did for others.

Nothing changes until something changes. If I ever want to fall into a habit of consistency with my own writing, then I have to change how I approach my own writing.

Challenge: Make a Schedule – AND DO IT

    – Figure out what the most productive time of the day is for you. I work better in the mornings. Getting up one hour earlier will allow me to create content, work on a chapter or polish an article. That one extra hour can help me find a way to build consistency into my writing day.

    – Know what needs to be accomplished. I have a list written out on a white board that reminds me what I want to accomplish for the week. It includes household chores, family activities, and my writing because working from home means finding a way to blend all of the things that need to be accomplished.

    – Let others in on the secret. My family has access to the white board so that they can see what I need to do and they can help me CLAIM the time I need to get them done. The only thing I have yet to do is explain that morning works best for my writing while afternoons work better for my household activities. Bringing others into the loop can help keep the cart moving down the right path.

There is no right or wrong way to create a schedule. Put something into the computer. Create your own calendar to post on the wall. Make use of the white board. No matter how you do it, do it.

Do YOU have a schedule for your day?

Write Your Heart then Edit the Book

Sharing ideas about writing led me to remember that you write what is in your heart and then edit to get a solid book. Too many times writers stumble around the details and never complete the story. It all comes back around to the motto about the only way to be a writer is to write.

I live this idea of writing words that matter, but I have never sat down and thought about what it meant. God has amazing ways of getting His thoughts into our heads – sometimes it is a gentle breeze and sometimes it is a swift kick – today it was a gentle breeze.

A quick hello in Facebook led to a discussion about where God was leading when I reconnected with a friend from high school. Sherri pointed out that it seemed we were on similar paths – and I had to agree.

I encouraged her to write her heart and edit the book and it was like I had been hit by a bolt of electricity (now that I think about it – my battery backup did flash so maybe there it WAS more of a swift kick than I realize).

Tips for Writing the Heart

    1. Say what you mean. Stop thinking about who might read the story and be annoyed or upset. Put YOUR words down on YOUR paper and give the story the freedom to move where it needs to go.

    2. Talk to the reader. Tell the story like you would to your friend or neighbor. Make it a clear path of revelation that will make the writing experience more enjoyable for you so that you WILL write.

    3. Get to a place where your words are protected. Worrying about someone reading over your shoulder or picking up the notepad can hinder what you are willing to reveal. Put up a wall of protection that will allow the words to get raw. Think of it as writing naked – completely revealed.

    4. Forget everything you have ever been taught about writing. Your journey is yours. No formula or rules will make it a reality. Allow the words to dictate your path. Write out an outline or skip the outline. Tell the story in sequential order or some other direction. Stop worrying about the how and just do it.

Tips for Editing the Book

    – Read what you have written. There is a reason it takes a long time to write a book. You may be able to write 10,000 words a day, but you still have to read and review the words after the tale is told. Make notes about what you like, what you hate and what really should go in a new direction.

    – Dare to kill your words. So many stories would have been better off if a few words had been left to die on the editing floor.

    – Get input from unbiased sources. Get a printable draft completed (usually about the third or fourth round) and pass them on to people who will notice and point out the flaws. They do NOT have to agree with your point of view, the direction of the story or even what you say. You just need to listen and allow their words to help you solidify your story.

    – Read what you have written – and out loud if possible. This pass through the story will reveal any trouble with the flow.

    – Invest in beta readers. The final draft of your story will probably still need some tweaking. Give copies to people that read your niche (or that are willing to read what you have written) and see what reviews arise from their experiences.

The writing is for the words. The editing is for the book. Stop letting the editing hinder the journey of writing. Let the words flow without restriction and see where that flow leads.

Breaking the Procrastination Habit

Breaking the procrastination habit requires doing something – and doing it consistently. Getting it done is as simple as just doing it. Procrastination can be spelled W R I T E R S B L O C K or any number of ways. In the end, it is j

Putting things off until tomorrow is EASY – especially when you realize that technically tomorrow will never come because when it is here it is today. Making the tomorrow to-do list can be a great task for putting off what I should be doing today.

How do I do what I know to do when what I want to do is the things that I know get in the way of doing the should dos?

Top Three Secrets for Overcoming a Procrastination Habit

    1. Determine the value of the actions that you choose. You may be the kind of person that comparison shops for everything, but you will spend your minutes like they are printed on the copier. You can make more money, but you can never make more time than you are given. It might be a good idea to spend half the time comparison shopping with the minutes as you do with the dollars.

    2. Become accountable to someone other than self. Making the choice to work from home puts all of the responsibility for getting it done directly on YOUR shoulders. Being the boss means you can shift deadlines, put off projects or call a day off – if the urge strikes. Bringing in a partner – at least someone that can help you hold your feet to the fire when you are shying away from the tasks at hand – can help you break through to the success that comes from pushing when others back down.

    3. Do something. Inaction breeds inaction and before you know it you have spent the day watching a Psyche marathon. Taking that first step to complete a task (even if that is just getting dressed or making the bed) opens the door to that next step. Before you know it you have put one foot in front of the other and . . .

Nothing gets done if I choose not to do anything. Procrastination is not the act of putting things off, but the act of choosing not to do what needs to be done. It may seem like semantics, but it can be the simple line between staying where I am right now or pushing on to the success I desire.

Learn More to Grow a Writing Career

Invest in opportunities to learn if you want to build a successful writing career. If you are not growing then you are stagnant – and stagnant things always die. Learning opens up new ideas, expands old ideas and refreshes stale ideas. Learning is the gateway to possibilities. One of the most important investments you can make for your writing is the investment of time and resources into learning.

Best Places to Learn to Grow a Writing Career

Online challenges – the great thing about most of these challenges are that they are completely free. You may even end up winning some valuable prizes because of your participation. Search the internet for websites in your niche or that focus on your general genre. A quick search landed me a challenge at The Father Writers Writing Challenge, the Creative Every Day Challenge, and Ezinearticles.com (which offers a wide range of challenge or the option to build your own.)

Community classes – many local organizations offer free (or very inexpensive) classes on everything from aerobics to zither lessons – and pretty much anything in between. Call your local senior center, community center or community college and see if there is anything that you might want to learn, expand or just try.

Groups – people with similar interests often form groups where they can share ideas or learn new elements of their particular interests. Find one of these groups and become active in it and through it.

– there are no limits to the conferences that are available around the globe and throughout the year. You will have to determine what you want to invest and why you want to attend. Start local so that you can get a feel for the conference environment (and will not have the added expense of accommodations).

Learning is not just about focusing in on your particular career choice or niche. It is about expanding beyond the ordinary and expected. Learn something that has nothing to do with what you are doing, but then look for ways to apply what you have learned to where you are going. Let the things that you learn begin to guide you to a place where boxes no longer exist. Learn something that will grow you in boldness for your own purpose. Learn something and discover that learning helps grow the writing career that you desire.