Basically, I wouldn’t have a novel without the lessons that I learned from attending the UW-Madison Writers’ Institute three times in prior years.
The first visit in 2012 involved helpful comments about my contemporary love story from a critique group. This guidance led to edits I made which engaged the reader immediately in the basic conflict, a stale 24-year marriage in which husband and wife were experiencing zero sexual intimacy. Months before I’d googled “Sexless Marriage” and discovered dozens of online forums, blogs and therapeutic/self-help websites showing huge numbers of miserable spouses in the 100,000s trapped in barren marriages.
The second year I submitted a finished manuscript for a page-by-page critique. A professional story editor on staff at the Institute made dozens of suggestions such as interweaving a second love story about two singles with the first story of the couple. Themes of sensuality and passion, commitment to marriage vows in the face of divorce, God’s vision for a healthy marriage, and a life-changing friendship between the wife and single mom became clearer and more sharply defined.
The third year, after hiring three local editors, two proofreaders, and a book designer, I brought my new novel to the conference — now in the role of a marketer rather than as an author. Bang! The adventure (and pitfalls) of online marketing, blogging, tweeting, and seeking book reviews (leading to sales?!) kicked off.
This year my phone rang and I was invited by the Institute’s Director to be a guest on the Author Success Panel. What a great opportunity! I felt rewarded for the countless months of trials and errors and risks and expenses involved in building a website and other publicity/marketing efforts. During a tasty lunch with other panelists a week ago, I had the privilege of speaking briefly to 300 fellow writers and authors. I passed along lessons about writing my novel, my plans for a sequel, and the challenges I’m facing in the online marketing world.