Thursday, September 30, 2010

Awesome Word Rainbow

How cool would it be to have a rainbow made up of all of YOU! 

Your words.

Your imaginations.

Umm, it would be freaking awesome!!

So here's what we need from you:

Write four lines of poetry, or a quatrain (it can rhyme or not) about your favorite color:

Black (I know, not technically in the rainbow, but some people think it's the new pink)

Wax poetic. Write your soul. Or just muse about a funny color. If we get every color, we'll have a very lovely word rainbow that represents all of you, our favorite people on the whole blogosphere. *happy sigh*

I'll do my favorite color for an example:

Yellow of daisies or buttercups,
Tulips, sunshine, roses, and pups:
No symbol as sublime as thee.
You cast out winter, shadows flee.

**Starting Tomorrow: Don't forget to snag your buttons (save and post from our sidebar to yours) to show your commitment to the One K a Day October challenge {or one page a day for the time-challenged} which starts tomorrow!! Join Kristal in blogging your daily word count.. To join a write-a-thon, waltz cheerfully into the OA Writing Lab and type your favorite username. The password is awesome

Woot for CONTESTS! Come back tomorrow because the gorgeous Lindsay has something that will really get your creative wheels spinning. You will want this prize. Trust me. ;)

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

A World Of Imagination

Come with me, and you'll be in a world of pure imagination...

Sorry, I had a Willy Wonka moment there.

I have a kind of vivid imagination. And, as a child, Roald Dahl was one of my favourite authors. So, naturally, I loved the Gene Wilder version of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

I want one of those gardens with the sweets. I want it now! Yeah, there's a bit of Verucca Salt in me. :)

The line from that song makes me wonder about imagination. All of us have it. As children we use it everyday in the games we play, the stories we tell etc. So when we are adults where does it go?

Do we lose the ability of imagination? Do we forget because we don't want to use it and life is taken over by the practicality of work?

As writers we seem to hold on to our imagination. It grows along with us.

We store those ideas and tap into them. We create worlds, characters and stories. We live with our MC in this world. We share their pain, triumphs and disasters.

Maybe we're eternal dreamers. The word charmers of old changing folktales into bedtime stories.

Perhaps imagination is a gift bestowed on all as babies, but only utilized by those who still see the world around them. They want to shape it and set it free for others to enjoy.

Imagination has a spark. A catalyst that helps us turn our idea into a plot, and that plot into a novel. We want to do it.

Perhaps that is what separates writers' imaginations from others. We all have it, we never really loose it, but only some want to use it.

Like Mr. Wonka says.

If you want to view paradise, simply look around and view it. Anything you want it. Want to change the world? There's it.

There is no life I know to compare with pure imagination. Living there you'll be free. If you truly wish to be.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Awesome Chat: Magic Limitations and 1K a Day update.


Next Tuesday, October 5th from 5-6pm EST, come join the Operation Awesome girls in the OA Writing Lab (password: awesome) for some tantalizing discussion about magical limitations in your writing. The OA bloggers LOVE their magical story elements. In fact, I think every single one of us is writing a sparkly-magical story right now, so we have lots of opinions/tips/thoughts about how to do it convincingly, and we'd love to hear yours as well.

Door prizes include:
  1. Prada and Prejudice by Mandy Hubbard 
  2. Voice of Crow by Jeri Smith-Ready 

1k a Day:

As promised, here are the buttons for the 1k a Day challenge. Put it up on your blog as a way to commit to this challenge. Also, if you post about the challenge on your blog and then post a link to that post in the comments under this thread, I'll give you a chance at winning your choice of either a blog button, banner or a ten page critique by yours truly.

Edit: I've been having some technical difficulties getting the text box to link the buttons. For now, you can save the images and post them on your site.

Here is the button for 1k a day

And for the less ambitions, here is a 1 Page a Day tag.

It's not how much you write that is important, it is writing consistently. So if you can't pull off the 1K a Day, make a go for the 1 page.

Monday, September 27, 2010

How To Plot Your Awesome Novel

In case you haven’t heard, Kristal’s started an awesome 1k a day challenge. This challenge got me thinking about a bunch of stuff (like how I’m procrastinating… a lot… please don’t tell my crit partners…). But mainly, it made me ponder something I’ve recently become a fan of.


I know, I know—a 1k a day challenge is no place for pre-plotting. BUT I’m not here to tell you to map out everything beforehand. I’m here to share some uh-may-zing tips on what to keep in mind while you’re writing.

Confession: Heidi Willis is a genius. She blogged about what a novel’s plot should consist of, but in a way that even I understood it (yep, I’m sort of slow with the technical stuff…). Since it was such a great post, I decided to share it with all you pretty people.

Here’s how Heidi breaks down plot:

3 Act Method

Act I (25%) Set up characters, motivations, backstory. At the end of this section, a dramatic event propels the main character into conflict

Act II (50%) In the middle of this, the MC discovers a secret, by the end is the start of big confrontations with seemingly insurmountable obstacles. Conflict rises steeply.

Act III (25%) Obstacles are overcome, MC must make choices

Percentage Method

Stage 1 (10%) draw reader in, identification with hero

Turning Point (10%) new opportunity, new journey often followed by MC refusing to take the journey or by into the opportunity

Stage 2 (15%) hero reacts, formulates plan

Stage 3 (25%) hero is overcoming obstacles

***Turning Point (at the 50% mark) hero must commit, there is no turning back

Stage 4 (25%) goal is more visible, stakes are higher

***Turning Point (at 75% mark) Major setback, a do or die moment

Stage 5: (15%) Final push; conflict becomes overwhelming, MC must give everything; accellerated pace; MC determines his or her own fate.

Stage 6: Aftermath, what life are they living now

When Heidi plots, she uses 300 pages as her guideline. Thus the above percentages would be:
p 1 - 30
p 30 - 60
p 60 - 105
p 105 - 180 (turning point at p 150)
p 180 - 255 (turning point at p 225)
p 255 - 300

I don’t know about you, but I feel all smart after reading that :)

Here’s the link to Heidi’s amazing blog:

And here are some links to other plot-related posts around the blogosphere: (by Kelly’s agent, Mary Kole)

Go get that 1k a day, everyone!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

1k a Day: Write-a-Thon and Chat News

Yesterday, I posted my first 1k a Day word count on my blog. I'm glad to tell you, friends, that day one was a success!

(cue applause)

I credit my success to one tool that our OA gang loves. It's call the Write-a-Thon.

What is a Write-a-Thon? Well, I'm so glad you asked! A Write-a-Thon is when a group of writers join together in a chat room for the singular purpose of writing our butts off. What we do is set a timer for 20 minutes, and then take off and write...write...write. I'm not sure why it helps so much. Perhaps it is because one feels motivated when she knows others are writing at the same time. It also helps because it helps avoid procrastination; there are only 20 minutes to get things done.

When the 20 minutes are finished, we converge back in chat and report our word count. We chat for maybe like 5 minutes, get snacks, and then we go for another round. Last night, I was able to write 1,339 words in three rounds of Write-a-Thon.

So to help you all out--and me too--we've created a chat room for the sole purpose of writing. If you join the chat and nobody is talking, it could be they are in the middle of a serious Write-a-Thon. You are all welcome to join in the fun. And writing together really does makes it more fun! Try it out. Meet some new writers. Write with the OA gang.

FYI: I tend to write after lunch, around 12:20 or 1:00pm Central Time during the weekdays.

Here is a LINK to the OA Writing Lab. When joining, please come with the attitude of kicking word count butt.

Edit: The password to the room is awesome

Update. Update. Update.

Ah Sunday, that day of relaxing, eating, blog trawling and, in my case, inflicting way too much sugar on my poor system in the form of chocolate. Although last week it was the bag of Swedish Fish I bought on a trip to Ikea with my parents, brother and sister-in-law. Yum.
But I digress. Today I'm here to do a quick Operation Awesome service announcement. We loved the response to the 100 followers contest, but there are still a few we haven't heard from yet. :(
Here are the winners below. If you won, but if we haven't heard from you, please get in touch. There are some OA gals waiting to say hi.

Julie Weathers wins Katrina’s 10-page critique

Elizabeth Briggs wins a custom blog banner or button, and a 10-page critique by Kristal

Coffeelvnmom wins Kelly’s 10-page critique

Jared Larson wins Lindsay’s 10-page critique

Cali Davidson wins Angela’s 20-page critique

Rachael Harrie wins Amparo’s one-line pitch AND query critique

Happy Sunday to all. Now this little Brit gal needs to get back to Kristal's 1k a day challenge. Have you joined the fun yet?

Saturday, September 25, 2010

1k a Day

So, as I mentioned in my post on Tuesday, I am back on the writing horse. One thing I didn't mention, is my horse is one of those old gray mares, walking in slow, clunky strides. I am writing, but it is going slow, and I've been fighting it every step of the way.

I started this current novel last November, during NaNoWriMo. I really hate NaNo. I stink at NaNo. And yet, here I am again, feeling the draw of NaNo as it approaches in November. Every time I try it, I fail. I guess I'm not so good at writing goals. So here is where you all come in. I hope you can help me, as much as I can help you.

I did a little math. If I write a little over 1k a day, I can finish my current project's 1st draft by the end of October, right in time to plung into NaNo again. And, even though I dislike NaNo, it is a great platform to START a book. I'm not sure if I would've gotten the jump start I needed without it last year. And, like I said on Tuesday, I want to continue in the habit of creating something new. If I finish the first draft of my current project, I want to have something prepared to write, so I can create while I edit the current book--which is where this NaNo idea comes in.

So I start today, writing at least 1k a day. Starting October 1st, I'd like you all to join me. I will post daily updates on my personal blog, and on Tuesdays, I expect you all to check in on the Operation Awesome blog and tell me how you're doing. And, as long as you are on that writing horse, join me also in November for NaNoWriMo. You can join me for one or the other, or both goals.

This coming Tuesday I will post code for the cute little button on this post, so you can put it on your blog. Use it as a way to commit yourself to this goal. And, like me, tell everyone else. Perhaps by putting it out there, we will be more likely to achieve our goals.

If you can't do 1k a day, try a page a day. Let's get in the habit of creating something new.

Who is with me?

(Now, I just need an idea for NaNo...)

Friday, September 24, 2010

The Geniuses of WriteOnCon: Jen Stayrook

If you wondered about the web design mastermind behind WriteOnCon, look no further. Her bio from the conference blog reads:
Jennifer Stayrook—aka JentheAmazing—is a writer, blogger, student, cake-eater, and web design goddess. She is in her final year of graduate school, getting an MA in Art History at American University. She currently resides in Washington, DC and loathes traveling around the city. Jen is a professional daydreamer and lover of all things chocolate. She enjoys violent video games in the wee hours of the night, playing the piano loudly (her neighbors do not like her), and cuddling on the couch with her husband and dog while watching bad movies.You can find her online at her website or on Twitter.

Jennifer Stayrook (pic and bio from

Katrina Lantz: WriteOnCon was seriously epic, historic, unprecedented! As one of its organizers, did you expect WriteOnCon to garner as much industry support as it did? To what do you owe this?
Jennifer Stayrook: Not at all. I thought it would be pretty big because of all the connections and the popularity of the other founders, but I don't think any of us anticipated it being as big as it was. I owe its large scale, really, to the other founders. They were all vigilant in emailing and contacting authors, agents, and other big names to play a part in the conference. Their dedication made the conference what it was. 

Katrina: What were your thoughts on opening morning when thousands flocked to the site to participate in the first free online writer's conference?

Jen: Wow, there are a lot of people here. This is pretty freaking amazing. I can't believe I'm awake at 6am, but this is SO worth it. *9am rolls around* SERVER 403 error? Craaaaaaaaaap. :-)

Katrina: What was the hardest part about WriteOnCon's organization?

Jen: We didn't really expect the volume of visitors we received. We underestimated the popularity of the conference and because of that, we experienced more technical issues than we would have liked. Personally, I don't think any part of it was "hard," but the other girls did much more work during the conference than I did. I was just a lurker.

Katrina: What was the most important thing you learned this year that will help with future online conferences?

Jen: Always prepare for more people. And then prepare for twice that many. Check the videos. Check them again and again. But, I think the most important thing is to realize that something will always go wrong. It's how you handle what goes wrong that defines you. The other founders were fantastic at keeping their cool. 

Katrina: What's next for WriteOnCon? The discussion forums remain active. What role do you see WriteOnCon playing between annual conferences?

Jen: I think that WriteOnCon is a great networking tool for writers. Being unagented myself I was able to converse with those who were in the same boat as me and I didn't feel as alone in my dreams. Writing is, for the most part, a solitary act, but having a place to vent frustrations, find other writers in your shoes, get honest critique from strangers, is helpful to any writer.

Update: As for updates, we've been running a few contests as of late to try to get donations for Write On Con upgrades. Also, on Monday we're holding another panel discussion. It will be something we'll do monthly for all followers of Write On Con. 

Katrina: We think it's amazing the work you all did to put on such an amazing conference, and for FREE! Will next year's conference still be free?

Jen: Being free has always been one of our main goals of WriteOnCon. Even with our potential upgrades for next year's conference, we want to make sure we can give our members quality information that they are able to share with anyone. 

Katrina: You guys rock! One last question: In your opinion, what makes a writer awesome? 

Jen: Honesty. Truth. Reality to their writing. Even if they are writing fantasy or sci-fi, the characters need to be real and true to human nature. Flaws. I love flaws, but not flaky flaws. I truly love a writer who creates characters *I* love to read about. It's what progresses a story for me. 

Katrina: Thank you so much for the lovely interview, Jen! We are so excited about the Monthly Live Events!

Jen: Thank YOU Katrina! I realize this sounds incredibly lame and cheesy but seriously, you guys who spread the word about Write On Con deserve an Awesome Award. :-)

*warm fuzzies all over*

Say hello to Jen in the comments!
and if you missed them, check out the other organizers' interviews. More to follow next Friday, because Operation Awesome seriously hearts WriteOnCon. Yep, that much!

Other places you'll find Jennifer Stayrook online:

Her old wordpress blog <--cyberstalking at its finest (I mean, catch up on what you've missed)
The Publishers Weekly article about WriteOnCon
WriteOnCon's Official Web Page

Also: Another Awesome contest is just around the corner. You thought we were due for another one, didn't you? We agree. :) Stay tuned for details next Friday. 

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Mid-course Corrections

When it comes to the outline/no-outline continuum, I’m squarely in the middle. I have a detailed synopsis, and even an Excel spreadsheet. But I find I’m not patient enough to map out everything. I plan to a point, and I want to start writing. Forward ho!

But sometimes that gets me into trouble. And not just when I get to the point in my outline that reads “exciting stuff happens and everything is resolved.” The problem is not when the outline has holes, but the book does. And then it’s time for a mid-course correction.

I’ve had two major corrections on this book. The first one was eliminating a character I liked a lot. When I described him to anyone, including my agent, they rolled their eyes. I still think he could have worked, but I was about a third of the way in when I decided that I didn’t need to handicap myself. Who wants to win over skeptical readers? I want my readers on board from the beginning.

So I killed my poor defenseless character. And I came up with another way to move the story along, and I think the book is better for it.

Now, two-thirds of the way in, I just completed another correction. I had lost the sense of one character in my drive towards The End. I had the poor girl doing and saying anything in order to further the plot along, and she just disappeared.

Joyce Carol Oates famously wrote that writing the first draft of a novel is like building a house. The second draft, she said, is when you decorate it. I believe that, but if your characterization isn’t on target from the beginning, you end up building a Barbie Dream House instead of story that seems to be populated with actual people.

So I thought a lot about my MIA character, discovered some things I didn’t know, and went back through the manuscript to reveal them.

I try not to revise until I’ve finished a draft. And that’s because I like revising too much – it’s fun to uncover themes, embellish details, and smooth out bumps. For me, writing a first draft is fraught with anxiety. I worry that I may never be able to get the end. The plot may fall apart, or I’ll just lose passion for writing and take up felting or bonsai instead. Or maybe I’ll just start tinkering with the incomplete text and never finish.

But some types of mid-course correction are necessary. When doubts start creeping about a character or a plot twist, they can take over. If those doubts aren’t resolved, they can stop me cold. I need to be able to write with full conviction.

So in my current project, so far one minor character had to die and a major one was brought back to life. Not a bad trade-off, if it gets me re-energized. I’m hoping this will be enough to get to The End.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

If I SPEAK, Will You Listen?

"Melinda Sordino busted an end-of-summer party by calling the cops. Now her old friends won’t talk to her, and people she doesn’t even know hate her from a distance. The safest place to be is alone, inside her own head. But even that’s not safe. Because there’s something she’s trying not to think about, something about the night of the party that, if she let it in, would blow her carefully constructed disguise to smithereens. And then she would have to speak the truth." (From Laurie Halse Anderson's blog)

I'm sure most of you will have heard about the guy who wants to ban Laurie Halse Anderson's SPEAK.

Why? Because he calls it filthy and immoral. He also goes on to call the two rape scenes "soft pornography."

Read Laurie Halse Anderson's original post here

There have been some amazing posts around the blogosphere pledging their support for Speak. Posts which are heartbreaking and honest, hopeful, rallying...posts that make me glad to be part of such a wonderful community with their generosity

While I believe in free speech, I don't agree with other people's views on books being formed by one opinion. This got me thinking about a line from the book itself:

"We want to hear what you have to say." (Speak, Pg.148)

For Melinda Sordino this lie is told to students in high school. For me, it's a lie told to all of us. Some people don't want to hear what you have to say -- they only want to hear themselves. Rape is not, and will never be, a subject which needs to be silenced. We should never shush the voices which need to be heard, the cries of those screaming inside their own thoughts. 

Speak has helped thousands of people by opening up a dialogue to the painful aspects of their past (and not just rape, but other aspects like self-harm and depression.). Speak will continue to open the gates for debate. Open young adults eyes to the dangers out there. To help them SPEAK! 

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Life After Submission Fail

I had an agent (and yes, it is past tense).  I wrote my first novel, edited and re-edited, did the whole query thing and got rejected many times. Then finally I had the wonderful moment when I landed an agent. I thought I'd crossed the hardest fence.

Boy, was I wrong.

I don't want to go into too many details. I could list excuses. Blame my agent. Blame the market. Blame the annoying editors for not seeing a good thing when it was stuck in front of their face. And yes, it could be one of those things, or a variety of those things, but I'm not here to talk about the whys. I want to talk a little about the what after.

Basically, after my book failed at the publishers, my agent and I parted ways. I felt a little like I'd run a marathon and tripped within sight of the finish line. I was so close. I had the agent. I even had a publisher at a great house ask me for edits. But in the end, it failed, and so did the partnership with my agent.

I had submission fail bad.

I should have worked on a new project when I was querying. I should have wrote on submission. Heck, I could have at least poured myself into a new project when my first book finally went to the great big trunk in the sky. But no. I rewrote the whole novel in 1st person. I sent it off to publishers that my agent missed. I entered random contests. My book was a crutch, and I wouldn't put it down.

I obsessed a lot.

And it is easy to say that one should write a new project right away when submitting another. Being where I've been, I can totally see that wisdom. But when I was there, in that moment, it is hard to see the wisdom of that statement. If you're stubborn, like me, then you might have to live the truth before you can see it.

So I am going to tell you, just like everyone else told me, to keep writing once you start querying. Keep writing when on submission. I even suggest for you to draft a new novel while you are editing the previous one. Don't get out of the habit of creating something new. It's grueling to get back on that writing horse once you've fallen off. I'm finally back on again. I've finally moved on.

How do I know I've moved on? Well, I got a query reply the other day, concerning the book that failed. She asked me to cut the word count dramatically, and then she'd have a look at it.

I told her no.

My old me would've jumped though those agent hoops. The new me just wants to move on. I have a great new story that is wanting to be told, and it's my job to make that happen.

Life after submission fail must go on.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Writing Tip: Embrace The Blueness

Maybe you like pirates. You think they’re the best thing ever. You go to your local bookstore and search for a pirate novel. You find a few and buy them. After reading them, you figure they’re okay, but you can write one that’s waaaay better. Why not? You’ve been obsessed with pirates forever, right?

One fine day, you stroll down the sidewalk, minding your own business. Then… it happens…

You get an idea for a book.

Without pirates.

You can either hyperventilate and curse yourself for betraying Captain Hook, or you can do what I always do: embrace the blueness.

Original here

People make plans all the time. Want to be married and have 2.5 kids by the time you’re 30? Nab an agent by the end of the year? Get published? Great. That might happen. But it might not.

And that’s okay.

I believe some of the best things in one’s life happen out of the blue. So what if you never saw it coming? That doesn’t make it less special. Hate surprises? Well, tough luck. Life’s full of ‘em.

Give the blueness a chance. Trust me—your future will thank you for it.

And you can always write that pirate book another time, right? :)

Sunday, September 19, 2010

100 Followers Contest Winners!!!

The results are in, my friends. Thanks to a random number generator, our six super smokin’ hot winners are:

Julie Weathers wins Katrina’s 10-page critique

Elizabeth Briggs wins a custom blog banner or button, and a 10-page critique by Kristal

Coffeelvnmom wins Kelly’s 10-page critique

Jared Larson wins Lindsay’s 10-page critique

Cali Davidson wins Angela’s 20-page critique

Rachael Harrie wins Amparo’s one-line pitch AND query critique

 Congrats to all of you!! Please send your materials to OperationAwesome6 (at) gmail (dot) com. 

A big thanks to everyone who entered! If you didn't win, don't fret--more contests are on the way. Pinky swear. 

Hope you're all having an awesome weekend!

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Put It Away...for now

(Photo from

Put It Away
By Angela Townsend

Over the years I’ve learned a lot of great tips for writing.  But the best writing advice I’ve ever received came from an old Italian cook.  

One cold December day, I stopped in to see my old friend, Mike.  I never had to knock as he always expected me at the same time everyday for lunch.  The aroma of a rich pasta sauce wafting from the back room led me directly to him.  

Entering his large antique kitchen filled with beautiful Italian marble, I found him, back hunched over a turn-of-the-century cook stove.   He was vigilantly stirring a delicious pot of freshly peeled tomatoes, standing in the new leather house slippers I had bought him for Christmas.  His crooked arthritic feet always stood in the same worn spot in the tile, just in front of the range.  The exact same location his mother stood forty years before, stirring the same tried and true recipe for spaghetti sauce.  

Mike turned to me and smiled.  “I’ve been thinking about this book business of yours.”  He shook a stubby finger at me.  “You know what’s wrong with you, Angie?”  

I shrugged my shoulders. “I’m Irish instead of Italian?”   

He shook his head and frowned.  “You never take the time to let your sauce simmer; good sauce is never made quickly.  You’ve got to take the time to caress the tomatoes, to handle your onions with care.”  

Without having to ask, I knew what Mike meant.  I always rushed everything, including my writing.  

“When you’re done with your stories,” Mike said, sniffing a spoonful of luscious sauce, “give them time to simmer, put them away, savor them later.”  

This was the best writing advice I’ve ever received, and I hope you will use Mike’s suggestion too.  Put your manuscript away for a while.  Get it out of your sight and try your best not to revisit it while the story is fresh in your mind.  When you’re ready, re-read it and make any necessary changes.  Like a good Italian cook, enjoy the sauce once it’s had time to simmer, maybe even add a few fresh herbs. It will do wonders for the ‘flavor’ of your writing.

Mike is selling his family's Italian recipes in an awesome cookbook that's available for $11. 
Buy your slice of Italy.

Friday, September 17, 2010

The Geniuses of WriteOnCon: Shannon Messenger

We have a sparkling gem of the writerly blog world for you today. A reviewing member of The Bookanistas, author of Shannon Shame, and otherwise known as Rainbow Brite, Operation Awesome brings you...

Shannon Messenger (pic and bio from WriteOnCon founders page)


Shannon Messenger is a Middle Grade Fantasy author represented by Laura Rennert of the Andrea Brown Literary Agency, Inc. She studied Screenwriting and Film/Television Production at the USC School of Cinematic Arts, where she graduated Magna Cum Laude. But after working in Hollywood for about a year she realized she really wanted to write books, so she left LA for a suburban life that would allow more time to write. You can find her online at her personal blog or on Twitter.

Katrina Lantz:  WriteOnCon was seriously epic, historic, unprecedented! As one of its organizers, did you expect WriteOnCon to garner as much industry support as it did? To what do you owe this?

Shannon Messenger: I think it's safe to say that we were all stunned. I can still remember one of our early group chats, where we were still trying to figure out how on earth we were going to build an online writer's conference. We ended up with a single goal: we just wanted nine contributors. One agent, one editor, and one author for each of the three days. It seemed impossible at the time--would nine people really be willing to help out? So it is AMAZING that we ended up with 59 contributors. And I think it really says something about how awesome and supportive the children's publishing industry is. We had very few people turn us down--and only then because they had scheduling conflicts. Most people offered to do more, and I'm still blown away by their generosity and support.

Katrina: What were your thoughts on opening morning when thousands flocked to the site to participate in the first free online writer's conference? 

Shannon: Well, my experience was a little different than the other girls, because I'm a west coaster AND I overslept (I know, of all the days to oversleep...). So by the time I jumped out of bed and grabbed my laptop, the website had already crashed. The first thing I did was check the WriteOnCon email to see if there were any problems, and when over 300 messages popped up I realized something was wrong. From there it was a whirlwind of trying to find out what happened, trying to respond to everyone, telling them where to find the content, and getting caught up, which was pretty much an all day thing (I sent about 700 emails that day, missed all of my meals, and finally had ice cream for dinner at about 11pm.) And it wasn't until I sat down to eat my cookies and cream that I realized that all that work and chaos was because we had SO many people attending. All those hundreds of emails were people at our conference--who were patiently bearing with our technical difficulties and taking part in this thing we built from an idea and a bunch of emails. It was very humbling.

Katrina: What was the hardest part about WriteOnCon's organization? 

Shannon: Keeping up with all the email chains. Since there were seven of us--and we liked to make all decisions collectively--we generated a LOT of email (I'm kinda surprised gmail didn't cancel my account). I was also the one in charge of the WriteOnCon email address, so I've sent and received more emails in the last four months than I have in the last couple of years. Good thing I LOVE email. It was just a little hard to stay organized, and to make sure I didn't forget to respond to anything important. 

Katrina: What was the most important thing you learned this year that will help with future online conferences? 

Shannon: Um, I guess the most obvious is that we definitely need a better place to host our website, so we don't have to ever think about error 403 again. But besides that, I think what I learned--more than anything else--is that we can do this. In the beginning we were so nervous to email people asking them to help, and I know I at least was super worried that we'd have a major website crash and it would all fall apart. But people did say yes when we asked them to help--and they went above and beyond what we asked for. And the website did crash, but we pulled it together and made it work. So this time I'm going to try not to be so worried. We want to make next year's conference even more awesome than this one, which means reaching out to even more people, maybe incorporating some other technologies that could give us issues. But we'll find a way to make it work, and with the fabulous support of the writing community it will happen. 

Katrina: What's next for WriteOnCon? The discussion forums remain active. What role do you see WriteOnCon playing between annual conferences? 

Shannon: We actually have big plans to keep the site active during the time between conferences, and the plan is to host some live events and maybe some contests between now and then to keep people stopping by. At the moment we don't have anything officially organized, but keep an eye on our blogs and on the WriteOnCon blog for announcements of what's to come. :)

(Update: Epic Giveaway of Epic Epicness going on right now at WriteOnCon.comMake sure to fly over and comment to win books, critiques, and swag (I love that word)! This is all building up to the launch of their new MONTHLY LIVE EVENTS!!! They have a few literary agents listed and more names coming! Stay tuned for that, too. They're hoping to announce them early next week.)

Katrina: We think it's amazing the work you all did to put on such an amazing conference, and for FREE! Will next year's conference still be free? 

Shannon: That is definitely the plan. We didn't create this to be a money making venture--and we don't want it to become one. This was our way of giving back to the writing community, and letting other publishing professionals do the same. BUT--we are realizing that there will be certain costs we can't avoid (better website hosting, for instance)--so we're adding a donate button to the website to hopefully raise enough to cover those, so that none of us have to be out of pocket. That way if people like what we gave them and want to chip in a little bit to help us out, they can. But if they can't afford it, it won't be something that excludes them from the conference.

(Update: The donate button is up and rockin'! They're halfway to their goal to support WriteOnCon 2011 (and you SO KNOW you want to be there). There's no obligation to pony up, but it will give you extra entries in the contests and make you feel warm and fuzzy. $5 from each person is a great start. It's a tiny fraction of what other conferences cost. So show your support! Shannon asked me to thank you for all the support and donations so far, and all of you who retweet and blog about the giveaways. You are what makes WriteOnCon awesome.)

Katrina: Do you know of any success stories (agents and authors who found each other during the conference)? 

Shannon: I know quite a few people who emailed me to say that they found critique partners, or are now doing major re-writes/revisions on their drafts because of advice they received at our conference. I also know Mary Kole trolled the forums and requested some pages, and a couple of other people let me know that agents requested pages from them. So we're crossing our fingers that those will lead to even better success stories in the future. 

Katrina: And lastly, what makes a writer awesome?

Shannon: Killer writing and great characters--of course. But I think being accessible online takes a writer just one step further. When I can follow them on Twitter or read their blog and really connect with them, it just makes me love them so much more. Especially if they take the time to respond to @replies or comments. 

Katrina: I LOVE accessible writers. Made my whole week when @gailcarriger replied to my review. Great answer!

I think I speak for the online writing community when I say THANK YOU! And we want to show our appreciation by spreading the word about WriteOnCon, as well as its organizers. So here, for our readers, is every link I could find about Shannon Messenger, the legend. :-) Tell me in the comments if I missed anything.

Say hello to Shannon in the comments!

Also check out her fellow organizers, Elana Johnson and Casey McCormick. More WriteOnCon interview goodness to follow, next Friday...

Operation Awesome 100 Followers Thank You Contest Update: You still have time to enter. Six winners will be announced Sunday. Follow and comment on THE CONTEST POST to enter.