Monday, September 25, 2017

Digging in the Spurs at the Paragraph Ranch

Y'know, it's always a strange experience coming back from a convention. Kind of feels like going home from Hogwarts for the summer. There was this magical place, full of fantastic people and all the most delightful conversations... and now I'm back here in the real world, belatedly plugging back into the news, the inbox, and the Face-feed, and y'all - I'm not sure who started what, but absolutely EVERYONE is pissed off about something. I swear this happens every time.

They call it a 'hard return' - and boy, is it ever.

There's a pattern to the readjustment, too. First you're annoyed that the 24/7 Internet slap-fight has made no allowances for your lingering literary wizard-buzz. Then you feel guilty for getting to run off to La-La Land in the first place, even and especially while things were getting real on the six o'clock news. Sometimes you just feel like everything you're doing with your life is some kind of first-world frivolous... or at least I do. It's hard to feel like writing daring new adventures for your story-barbies is all that important or helpful when the doomsday clock perpetually reads one minute to midnight.

But you know what else? We are sharing a planet with some incredibly sharp, talented, big-hearted ambitious doers - and if you put your own self out there often and enthusiastically enough, sometimes you can catch one of them on their way past, like the Little Prince netting a comet.

Sometimes, if you are really lucky, you can catch two.

I'm still not sure exactly how it happened, but I seem to have roped a pair of shooting stars called Kay Ellington and Barbara Brannon. You might already know Kay as the editor of Lone Star Literary Life, and Barbara as the director of the Texas Historical Commission's panhandle region. Writing plus Texas history. Hold that in your memory buffer - it's about to get radically relevant.

And so is this place right here.
Because guys. Kay and Barbara have cracked the code. They have figured out how to harness writing-energy and turn it into something that makes a positive, real-world impact before you ever publish a single word. Are you ready? Here's their secret.

Step 1: Find a historic West Texas town that has been losing population to the big cities - one that has modern infrastructure and conveniences, but needs a new economic engine to survive.

Step 2: Move there. Buy a big plot of land with a storied house and outbuildings. Work like a twenty-mule team to completely update and remodel it from top to toe.

Step 3. Invite scriveners of all stripes to come out for a writers retreat like no other - in a place where you can perfect your craft in perfect rustic splendor, while your presence helps keep small-town Texas living sustainable for generations to come.

It's called the Paragraph Ranch - in a little place called Spur, Texas. And if you are up for the adventure, I'll meet you there. Here's what we're doing:

WHEN: December 1st-3rd

WHERE: In Spur at the historic Back Door Inn (we are making our home base at this fantastic B&B for the first year, while Kay and Barbara finish their renovations).

WHAT: Come and write! And while you're there, let's talk about your work. Send me your current project - whether it's 800 words or 80,000 - by November 27th. (Yes, you can send me your entire novel. No, I'm not scared!) I'll read it and come ready to have a one-on-one conversation tailored to your specific goals and concerns. Kay and Barbara will also open up the treasure trove of their knowledge as successful working authors, and we'll have opportunities for you to share some of your writing with the group.

HOW MUCH: $250 for the weekend. That includes your room and board, and all of the expertise on offer - everything but your gas and road-trip snack supply!

We're keeping it simple this first time out, and giving it 100% - all you have to do is get there. Here is the thing, though: we have to make our minimum head count by November 1st in order to hold our space at the Back Door Inn. (I hope this won't be hard to do: we have eight beds, and two are already spoken for.)

So. If you like the idea of racking up good keyboard karma - if you want to get in one last big burst of word-slinging before the holidays eat your life - if you're willing to pack up your laptop and hit the road to help keep small-town living going strong - please sign up as soon as you can. (If you have questions about it, hit us up - lonestarliterary at , tex at - and we'll be happy to tell you more!)

Regardless: you know this isn't your only chance to catch a comet, y'all. You know you don't have to wait for a moonshot to make good things happen for yourself, or to put your goodness out into the world. I'm just saying: if you've been feeling a little short on light in your life, there is a twelve-gigawatt bright idea passing right overhead - and you never know where it might take you.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Writers in the Field: Your Hogwarts Letter Has Arrived...!

Okay, so you know that whole thing about karma: whatever it is you dump out into the cosmic ocean on a daily basis will eventually wash back up at your front door. I can't say for sure that it's true, but I have been striving (however imperfectly) to pour out Exxon-Valdez quantities of love and realness and radical generosity. Helps cut down on water weight, if nothing else.

Of course, you never know exactly whether or how your moral exports will come back to you – but a few months back, a bona-fide unicorn beached itself at my feet. Only this is a marine metaphor, so like... maybe a narwhal or something. His name is Shane.

He's basically Mead Hall Dumbledore.
Anyway, so you know that thing, when somebody just randomly says to you, "Hey, so my wife and I own sixteen acres down south of the airport, and we've been running this big-ass awesome steampunk ren-faire for a few years now, and I'm not a writer or anything, but I'm a huge reader, and... how do I say this... is there some way I could help you guys like, not screw up your fight scenes?  And period clothing and such? Like, if I got some of my sword guys down here, and a poisons expert, and the WWII artillery crew, and some folks who could show you how to pick locks and sew Victorian underwear and make real-life herbal remedies and stuff... do you think writers would be interested in a thing like that? We can throw in a wine-tasting too, by the way. Do writers like wine?"

And y'all... when a dapper pipe-smoking karma-narwhal asks you a thing like that, there is really only one thing to say.

Writers in the Field: a hands-on, gloves-off, first-of-its-kind research experience for writers! Handle authentic weaponry, clothing, tools, and more - Interview nationally-renowned field experts - Explore thirteen acres of live demonstrations, special exhibits, and rare displays - October 14th and 15th in Mansfield, Texas. Featuring wonders medieval to modern - outdoor venue with shade and seating - wine-tasting by prior reservation - live music and evening performances - tickets starting at $30! Register now at

It's called Writers in the Field. It is going to be PHENOMENAL. And I am asking for your help in making it an unforgettable smash hit.

Shane and his crew have thrown themselves into building this event. They've been hammering away at the pavilions and the booths for weeks now.

They've brought in a slew of experts from their huge arcane Rolodex, for every kind of hands-on tutorial and demonstration you can think of.

A small sampling of the faculty. Anybody know a good potions professor?

They've got first aid, security, parking, concessions, restrooms, vendors, electricity, and wifi all taken care of – and kept the ticket price for the entire glorious weekend to only $45. Yes, really.

This is it, guys. This is your Hogwarts.
This is going to be an incredible event, y'all. It's built - it's happening - and the only thing we need now is you.

And let me be clear: even if you live a thousand miles away, we still need you. 

If the logistics don't work out for you to attend this year – we still need you.

If this isn't exactly up your genre alley, or your writing is on the back-burner right now, or you've already given your bottom dollar for worthy causes and don't have a penny to spare – we still need you. 

Because damn it, the fun's not going to have itself!

If you're thinking "man, this is such a cool idea - why hasn't anybody done this before?", let me tell you: it's because an event like this is a five-leafed clover. Because nailing down the venue AND the outdoor-event-management know-how AND the talent AND the community connections AND still keeping the cost down to something the humble striving scrivener can afford... is damn near impossible. You can't do all this when you are hiring for each of those positions. You can't create something like this as a strictly transactional enterprise.

Which means that something like Writers in the Field can only happen under the most perfect and unlikely conditions – when you have *exactly* the right balance of passion, talent, generosity, and one-in-a-million golden opportunity. We just-so-happen to have lucked our way into the perfect primordial alchemy here - and you are the lightning that is going to bring it to life.

Your playground awaits...
So. If you like the idea of making hands-on education and research opportunities accessible to writers from every walk of life – if you want tentpole writing events that go beyond the ballroom of the airport Hyatt - if you want to see this event come back next year with even more variety of activities, for even more kinds of writers – if you want to help us establish a strong precedent for one day having something like this in YOUR neck of the woods – then we need you to come out of the gate *roaring*, as fierce and enthusiastically as you ever have. We need mentions. We need shares. We need good old-fashioned buzz. More than anything, we need 'proof of concept' - and that means tickets sold.

...and so does your saloon.
And of course, I wouldn't ask you to do anything without putting my own skin in the game. So let me make you a deal.

1.    If we can sell 150 two-day tickets between now and midnight on Sunday (three days from today) I will personally read 5,000 words of your work - any format, any genre, any combination - and you and I will have half an hour of undivided real-time conversation about it. Phone or Skype or whatever you want to do. Once we hit the 150-mark, you forward me your ticket receipt and attach your doc file and we will make us a date.

2.    If you can't attend Writers in the Field but want to get in on the critique deal – or again, want to vote with your dollars for more events like this one – we can totally do that. Just buy a ticket and use promo code GIFT when you check out. We will give the ticket to a local writer who couldn't otherwise afford to go - and you will get the critique, even if we don't hit the 150 mark. Like I said, y'all – this is about love and realness and radical acts of generosity. And, you know, learning how to hit people with swords.

This is how we do it, guys. This is how first-evers become first-annuals, how we know more and do better, how we give ourselves something fantastic and special to be proud of, even when it feels like the whole rest of the world is going all to hell. This is how game-changing greatness begins.

It is also how legends begin.
Epic, unforgettable, totally-worth-the-hangover legends.

Are you pumped? Are you ready? Then pick out a job below and go!
Set your watches now, y'all: in one month exactly, we make literary-adventure-field-trip history!