Writing Conferences

By Stephanie Moore

I was a closet writer. I could count on one hand the number of people that knew I liked to write. Then I finished my first manuscript and I was proud of it. *Happy Dance*

One night I read the first chapter aloud to my husband and he said, “If the ending doesn’t suck, it could be really good.” (Love you, Honey!) That gave me the confidence I needed to let trusted friends read the manuscript. After a couple revisions and lots of deep breaths, those precious pages were in someone else’s hands. And guess what? Shock! They enjoyed it too.

Then I thought, what’s next?

I fired up Google and found out about writing conferences. There was a local event, here in Salt Lake City, Writing for Charity, where participates get a full day of classes and a one page critique with a published author. I was terrified! The thought of strangers reading even one page made my stomach ache.

Once it started, my writing life changed forever. I made new friends, found a critique group and discovered that the book community is extremely supportive.  Then I followed up with WIFYR a few months later.

Those conferences were a turning point in my writing career, where I realized writing could be something more than a creative outlet. And now all my friends know and many have read that manuscript, which will hopefully be published someday.

Have you experienced that turning point? If so, what was the catalyst for you?

Guest Blogger Viewpoint: A WIFYR Workshop Experience

Today Stephanie Kelley blogs about her experience at the WIFYR Conference last June: 

I had the honor of going to Writing and Illustrating for Young Readers this last June,
including a 4-hour workshop with Martine Leavitt each morning for five days.
Here’s a sample of my journal a few days before WIFYR 2013 started:
I’m preparing for a writing workshop that I’ll be going to all next week–a gift for my
birthday. I’m so happy–I’ll get to go to class with Martine Leavitt, one of my idols who
lives in Canada. She also teaches at Vermont College, so it will be like taking a Master’s
writing course. What could be better?
Yes, I was excited. I marched into class the first day, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed ,
ready to take on the world (cliche-alert). By the third day I was breaking down into
random fits of crying–and we hadn’t even critiqued my pages yet.

That came Thursday.

The critique was difficult yes, but I surprised myself by being able to learn from it and
move on. By the end of the week I was exhausted.

Here is a sample of my journal a few days later:
Today I’m coming down with a cold. No fun. But not surprising considering the crazy
schedule I’ve had this week: wake at 6:30 and do homework, 8:30 get to Waterford
School for class with Martine Leavitt. Lunch at 12:30, class from 2 to 5, then go home
and try to do what needs to be done at home.
Note there is no eulogizing about the conference being over. I did walk away knowing
my manuscript needed some–no, a lot–of work.

I mention how I felt because I think no real growth occurs without a little pain. All the
stretching was worth it, though. My writing changed for the better in a relatively short
time–one week.

Here’s a sample of the things that Martine taught us that have helped me the most:

Characters need to have a strong desire line–emotional and concrete–that pull the reader through the whole book.

Make descriptions work double duty: setting the scene and communicating the state of mind of the character at the same time.

Metaphor! Small metaphors to describe settings and people and big metaphors to
describe emotions or intense events in the character’s life.

One of my favorite quotes that Martine shared was, “Nothing bad that happens to you
goes to waste.”
Two days later there was severe flooding in Calgary where Martine lives, which
damaged her house and caused her husband to be evacuated in the shovel of a large
back-hoe. 
That’s something I’ll never forget!

She is an amazing writer and teacher and I feel lucky to have been able to be in her
class. Thanks, Martine!

WIFYR 2013: Comments from the Writing Conference Survey

“The Conference gets better and better….”

“By Monday at 12:30 p.m.[the time the morning workshops end], I felt that the information I had gained was well worth the price tag of the conference.”

“This conference was one of the best things that has ever happened to me. It was worth every single penny. Not only did I gain more motivation for my novel, I made good friends who are happy for my success.”

“How  many people have to say this is a life-changing experience before it becomes a cliche? In my case, it’s absolute truth. [T]his workshop and conference has been exactly what I needed….I was intimidated to come….[but during the] opening session on Monday, I was set at ease that whatever I was as a writer, I was welcome.”

There are many more good comments we can add, and probably will. For now, we’d love to hear from you. What did you love about WIFYR? What would you like to see happen next year?

WIFYR Success Stories, Part 2

Earlier on the blog we featured several writers who got their start at WIFYR. This week we’ll start off with some stories from some of our resident illustrators, as well as many more from past attendees. We hope you enjoy their inspiring stories!books

A few years ago Jed Henry had never been published. He’d been an artist all his life, studying art in college and graduating from a prestigious animation program. But though he enjoyed his schooling, his true aspiration was to become a children’s illustrator. The problem was, he didn’t know where to start. That’s when oneof his friends told him about WIFYR conference.  He says, “Attending [WIFYR] was my first step into the world of publishing.  Before the conference, I had no idea what I was getting into.  But during that week of workshops and classes, I learned a lot.  Most importantly, I made connections that lead to other opportunities.”

After the conference, Henry had his hands full. He writes, “I made dozens of illustrations, and wrote manuscript after manuscript.  With each piece, I felt myself getting a little better. Finally, I got a lucky break when an illustrator friend introduced me to his agent.” With the help of his agent, Henry illustrated his first book, Pick a PupHe went on to illustrate Can’t Wait Till Christmasand Just Say Boo!. He has also written and illustrated two of his own picture books, I Speak Dinosaur! and Cheer Up, Mouse! He has three books due for release in 2013, including Good Night, Mouse!a sequel to Cheer Up, Mouse! To aspiring writers and illustrators he says, “Honing one’s craft takes time and hard work.  You may not get discovered your first year at the conference.  But youwill learn a ton, and if you’re serious about writing or illustrating, you’ll do what it takes to make the most of this conference.  It’s an amazing opportunity.”

Another illustrator and past WIFYR attendee, Matthew Armstrong, met his agent at the WIFYR conference as well. He has since written and illustrated several books for young readers, including a popular pop-up retelling of the classic Narnia tales. He also won the 2005 Benjamin Franklin Award for his illustrations in The Blacksmith’s Gift.

Illustrators Scott Franson and Sherry Meideell also attended the illustrator workshop at WIFYR conference. It was here that Franson sold his first picture book, the wordless tale Un-brella, published in April 2007. Meidell, meanwhile, made connections with her now-agent Steve Fraser, who will return to the conference this year as one of our special guests. Since then, Meidell has gone on to illustrate nine picture books.

Of course, illustrators aren’t the only ones who make connections at WIFYR conference. Rick Walton, a highly-published author of picture books, chapter books, joke books (and more!) says attending conferences like WIFYR is an essential part of becoming a published author. At conferences, writers and illustrators are able to network, not just with each other, but with agents and editors, too:  “Actually,most of my sales have come about through networking, from meeting people at conferences or other events,” he says. “It’s not the only way to get published obviously, but for me it’s the most effective.” The WIFYR conference led directly to at least three picture book sales for Walton.

Ann Dee Ellis, author of This is What I Did and Everything is Fine, feels that the instruction she got as an attendee was as valuable as the contacts she made. She writes, “I attended the conference while I was in graduate school. I had no idea what to expect. I was both surprised and excited after the first day. It was much more hands-on than I had expected. Not only did I get to have a group of peers plus a published and accomplished author read and critique my work, I got to meet editors and an agent from New York. I got to hear what they were looking for, learn what the business of writing entailed and received valuable tips on craft. I left the conference feeling rejuvenated and encouraged.
“The second year I attended, the author that was directing my workshop, Virginia Euwer Wolff, had a specific request from a new agent back in New York to look for writers that he might want to represent. After workshopping my piece, Virginia suggested I send him some of my manuscript. What?! Yay! I sent him the first few pages and, within a few weeks, had an awesome agent, and soon thereafter a contract. I can honestly say that the Writing and Illustrating for Young Readers conference launched my career.” Ellis has since returned to WIFYR several times as an instructor.The conference has also put established authors in touch with editors and agents. Claudia Mills, author of dozens of YA and middle grade novels, first came to the conference as an instructor several years ago. While there, she met the person who would become her agent. She also met the editor to whom her agent would sell a new series. But she didn’tgain just professional contacts; “I met wonderful writers who helped me grow in my craft and whose friendship I will always cherish,” she says.

WIFYR conference has also been useful for beginning writers, and we hope to see several of our past attendees in print soon. Here is a list of past attendees who are now on the road to publication:Taryn Albright, winner of last year’s Annual Writing Contest, received a great deal of feedback from agent Mary Kole, creator of the popular kidlit.com website. After extensive revisions, Albright later signed with agent Molly Ker Hawn of the Bent Agency. She hopes to have a contract soon.

Courtney Alameda, a longtime WIFYR participant, signed last year with agent John Cusick. Her book, Shutter, will be published by Feiwell & Friends in 2014.

Kate Coursey, 19-year-old YA writer from Salt Lake City, was in a workshop with writer Alane Ferguson. Ferguson introduced Coursey to her agent, Edward Necarsulmer of McIntosh & Otis. Coursey signed with Necarsulmer soon after. Her book is undergoing revisions at Scholastic Press.

We’d love to see your name added to this list, and we know you would too. WIFYR may be just what you need to jump-start your writing/illustrating career. At the conference you will practice your craft, make new connections, and learn important skills to help you get published. Keep checking for more updates from our authors, and go see this year’s lineup at wifyr.com.

Permission to Write: How J. Scott Savage Finally Wrote Farworld

In February I went to a launch party for J. Scott Savage’s book Air Keep, the third in his Farworld series. The Provo Library put it on, and it was a great event (think: face painting, sugar cookies, cardboard cutouts). But before all the festivities took place, J. Scott Savage took a few minutes to talk about writing the Farworld series. Farworld 3 Cover

He started off by telling us that he’d had the idea for a long time. It was an idea that wouldn’t let him go, though he knew it would be different than anything he’d written before. Savage considered himself a writer of adult books, and this new idea was about a boy in a wheelchair. It was also about magic—one of Savage’s favorite genres to read, but not one he’d ever tried to write.

He put it out of his head and went on with his other work, but the idea kept popping up again and again.

Finally, he’d had enough. He decided to prove to himself that he couldn’t write a YA Fantasy.

He was traveling for work, staying in a hotel room, and thinking about Farworld again. And even though he wasn’t convinced it was something he could pull off, he pulled out his laptop, opened a blank document, and began to type.

He wrote for an hour at first, then two, then three. Then, in what seemed like a second, he sat back and saw the first bits of daylight peeking through the windows. He’d not only written into the night, he’d written through it.

Taking Savage’s story to heart, this week I wanted to prove something to myself: I’m not a picture book writer. Over the years I’ve had lots of ideas for picture books. Some of them good, some of them embarrassing and awful. And, like Savage, I never gave myself permission to take any of these ideas seriously. I write novels, not picture books.

But this week I sat down with my idea and an empty notebook. I had kids dumping legos all over each other and pulling fur off the cat, but amid the chaos I set my pen down and wrote through what was rattling around in my head. I wrote and wrote and wrote, and I poured out three bowls of applesauce (and wiped applesauce off the floor and the couch and the wall, why was it on the wall?), and then I wrote some more.

And after an hour I’d filled up five pages, front and back, of notes and prose. It wasn’t Where the Wild Things Are, but it was something. Some of it was even funny. I revised and re-arranged and tossed some pages and wrote new ones. As I did, I thought about other ideas that, with my permission, I’ll also write down.  I didn’t fail as miserably as I thought I would, and though the manuscript is far from perfect, I’m surprised with how the wiggly idea grew into a real story.

Perhaps you’re like me, telling yourself that you can’t write picture books or novels or The Great American Dystopian Romance (is that a thing?). Maybe you have an idea wiggling in your head, an idea that’s been dancing like mad around in your brain for ages. Or maybe your idea is more of a wall-flower: quiet, doing a half-shimmy in the corner. Either way, it won’t stop wiggling until you give yourself permission to write it down.

If you’re interested in more stories from published authors, check out our morning workshops. J. Scott Savage is teaching our middle grade class this year, and promises to bring his best, wiggliest ideas with him. Earlybird registration ends in three days (gasp!) so hurry on over and sign up.

Also, don’t forget to check out our Spread the Word Contest, going on right now at the blog. Click here for details.

New Contest: Spread the Word about WIFYR

New contest: Share the WIFYR Word! The person who gets the word out to the most places/people will win a page critique from a soon-to-be announced surprise guest.

Here’s how it works: Talk about what you love about the WIFYR conference in every way you can. Blog, post, tweet, email, tell friends. Suggestions: let them know about the deadline extension for the WIFYR writing contest with its award of $1000 plus potential publication, the a la carte mini workshops, remind people about the early bird registration extension, the free Keynote speech with Utah’s Poet Laureate Lance Larsen, the discount for SCBWI members, etc. Limit of two posts per day on Facebook and Twitter. When tweeting, please use the hashtag #wifyr2013. You will also get points for liking the WIFYR Facebook page, signing up for the WIFYR email newsletter list, or making comments on the blog.

Us the comments box below to tell us how many times you shared the WIFYR word, and please include a list of places you posted, including blog links, and remember to use #wifyr2013 when you tweet.

Deadlines are Approaching

The Writing and Illustrating for Young Readers Conference (WIFYR) is dedicated to helping beginners to professionals hone their craft. The five day morning workshops and shorter mini workshops offer small-group learning and include faculty and group critiques. Round off each day with afternoon lectures from a variety of professional faculty, agents and editors.

Early Bird pricing ends April 30, 2013, so enroll now!

Second Annual WIFYR Writing Contest
Hurry, time is running out! This excellent contest features a prize of 1000 dollars and a chance to be published through Familius Publishing! However this great contest ends on April 27th at midnight, so don’t waste any time.

WIFYR Success Stories: Interview with Debut Author Courtney Alameda

Courtney Alameda, one of our participants in 2013, signed with agent John Cusick (of the Greenhouse Literary Agency) after connecting with him at WIFYR last year. Since then she has sold her first book, SHUTTER, to Feiwel & Friends, coming out iMarch 2013n fall 2014. She took some time to talk to us about her recent success.

Tell us a little about yourself. Did you always want to write?

I live a larger life inside my imagination than outside of it, certainly! From a very young age, perhaps as young as six, I began following characters around in my head. They made me into a child insomniac, because their stories were far more interesting to me than sleep. As I got older and read wider, those stories started flowing out and onto the page. I have always been a storyteller; however, it didn’t occur to me to pursue writing professionally until I hit college.

What does your schedule look like nowadays? Is it hard to find time to write?

I cannot believe how busy I’ve become in the last four weeks! Everything is so overwhelming, especially as I work to build a solid foundation for a future marketing campaign, network with other kidlit authors and those who are in my debut year, keep pace with my critique partners, and prepare mentally and emotionally for my editorial letter (which will arrive any day now). I’m still working full-time, too, which eats up almost 50 hours of my week. I’m in survival mode eighteen to twenty hours a day and mainline caffeine like a junkie. Are we having fun yet? Yes we are!

Insofar as finding time to write is concerned, I believe the best advice I ever got was from best-selling author Markus Zusak (and I paraphrase greatly): “To succeed, writing must always be your first priority. If it cannot be your first, then it must be your second.” For me, that means writing in the wee hours, losing sleep and free time. It means not seeing all the television programs and movies that people buzz about, and saving any scraps of free time for the books I should be reading. It means turning off the internet when I’m writing, and squeezing as much productivity out of each hour. It means I live to work, in the eventual hope that I will write to live.

Nothing worth doing is ever easy, surely.

When did you first get involved with WIFYR? Can you tell us about your experience at the conference?

My first year at WIFYR was in 2010 with Alane Ferguson. It was truly a watershed week for me: it gave me the confidence I needed to continue with my work, the right tools to treat it as a professional endeavor, and a good grip on what to expect from the industry. Moreover, I met many wonderful people and made friends, many of whom I am still working and critiquing for today.

Now that I think on it, SHUTTER was born in Alane’s workshop during a quick exercise. She assigned us to write a short, eerie scene using a handful of paint chip colors we’d chosen earlier. I don’t remember what paint chip colors were, but I certainly remember writing a scene about a girl armed with a camera. I was so enamored with the character, I started developing her story the very next week. So I suppose you can say SHUTTER is a WIFYR success story from start to finish!

Did it help to have your writing reviewed by published authors?

I cannot express how deep my gratitude is to the authors I have had the opportunity to work with! After Alane, I was an assistant to Holly Black in 2011. Not only was Holly a delight, but she identified a couple of problematic elements with SHUTTER and the world therein. Thanks to her feedback—plus her great lecture on building magic systems—I threw my old manuscript out and began afresh. The novel I produced over the next year was entirely unlike anything I’d written before in terms of its depth and creativity, and I have Holly’s input to thank for it!

In 2012, I had the great pleasure of assisting Cynthia Leitich Smith, who taught me more about the craft of writing (and of a writer’s life) than any other. She turned me on to SELF-EDITING FOR FICTION WRITERS, which was immensely helpful into learning how to hone many of the finer points in my writing. I am currently re-reading the book in preparation for my editorial letter, and will probably make it an annual tradition until it’s branded on my brain. Also, Cynthia played a vital role in connecting me to John, for which I will be forever grateful to her.

In short, the morning workshops were integral to my development as a writer. I would not be where I am now without the scaffolding and education I received annually at WIFYR. It’s important to remember that WIFYR is so much more than words on the page, too—it’s learning to critique and be critiqued, developing an understanding of the industry, and networking with fellow writers. I cannot underscore how crucial networking at WIFYR has been for me; some of my richest friendships have been developed during the conference, and I treasure my friends above all else.

You met your agent, John Cusick, at our conference last year. How and why did you decide to work together?

Simple. I recognized something of myself in John, a certain hunger for and dedication to excellence. He had polish, class, eloquence, and a self-possession that I knew would equate to great success in the future. He’s also one of the kindest and most genuine people I have ever met, which are requisite skills for anyone I’m going to trust with my work. Moreover, I wanted to find a younger agent whom I could build a long-term career with, rather than someone with an established list and career. John is a marvel, a talented writer in his own right, and cares deeply about his clients. I have no doubt that it was these qualities (and many more) that landed him a spot as an agent at the prestigious Greenhouse Literary agency this year.

And there might have been a conversation or two that went something like this:

Me: “I like weird monsters. Really messed-up stuff.”
John: “Ever played SILENT HILL?”*

So when he offered representation, the first word out of my mouth was yes. I didn’t even have to think about it (even though he made me consider it about it for twenty-four hours). I honestly couldn’t have made a better decision if I’d tried, and I’m grateful I met John before starting the query process.

*For those of you who are not acquainted with video games, SILENT HILL is a survival-horror franchise famous for its deeply symbolic, nightmarish monsters.

You recently sold your first novel. Was this the first novel you wrote, or have there been others?

SHUTTER is not my first novel, not by a long shot. In the last ten years, I’ve written approximately 1.5 million words toward various projects, all of which were important learning experiences. As I never really thought I was any good (and still don’t), I never bothered to query agents. I was shocked when John was interested in the novel. SHOCKED. I think I’m still shocked and awed, but am pleased to say I have nary a rejection letter to my name. Writers can make their own luck through hard work and patience.

In short, I believe pre-published writers should focus on improving their craft, rather than on finding an agent. (I know, I hated hearing that too, but it’s true!) Attend conferences. Put your work in front of professionals. Read voraciously. Write every day. Query only when you feel ready. And when the time is right, industry cogs will start turning for you.

Can you tell us about finding a publisher? How did you find a home for your book?
The submissions process is harrowing, even if all the author has to do is be patient and check her email every 2.5 minutes. Thank heaven for the current industry model, and for agents who stand between writers and publishers! Any peace of mind I had stemmed from the knowledge that John would take excellent care of my work.

Luckily for my nerves, we were only out two weeks before Liz Szabla at Feiwel & Friends wanted to take SHUTTER to acquisitions. I couldn’t believe we’d gotten so far, so quickly; nor could I believe that it was with Feiwel & Friends, the publisher I most wanted to be with. I’d had the good fortune to host Jean Feiwel in January of 2012 when she toured with Marissa Meyer (author of CINDER), and had the greatest respect and admiration for her and her imprint.

So John and I spent another ten days waiting to hear the acquisition board’s decision. Then on a Wednesday afternoon, John’s name popped up on my caller ID and my life changed forever. It is a great honor to be on Feiwel & Friends’ list, and to be working with Liz Szabla, and I couldn’t be more thrilled with the way things turned out!

What’s the book about and when can we see it in print?

The basic synopsis for SHUTTER goes like this:
Seventeen-year-old Micheline Helsing sees dead people. . . in Technicolor. As a tetrachromat, Micheline sees the auras of the undead in a spectrum: reanimated corpses ooze crimson light, vampire veins glow cobalt blue, and specters rage in ultraviolet ghostlight. Only a tetrachromat like Micheline can see and reap a ghost, and nobody captures them on film like she does.

But when a routine exorcism goes awry, Micheline winds up soulchained to the very entity she sought to capture. As tattoo-like chains spread under her skin, she learns that if she can’t exorcise her captor in seven days or less, she and the boys in her reaping cohort are dead. With the clock ticking and Helsing agents hunting them through the streets of San Francisco, Micheline must find a way to capture her entity on film. . . or else.

Micheline & co. should be hitting shelves in Fall 2014!

What advice do you have for aspiring writers and conference-goers? Is there anything you wish you knew earlier, or anything you would have done differently?

When attending conferences, work and write hard. Meet new people with an open heart. Do things that frighten you. Done right, you will leave the conference with a wealth of new skills, new information, and new friends.

All writers should write, read, and live voraciously—the best way to create a dynamic character is to be dynamic yourself. In terms of writing, I find that I don’t so much regret whatever I do, but those things I don’t do that I should. As I mature as a writer and a person, I get better at identifying experiences that will force me to grow and chase them down…no matter how frightening or challenging they may be.

Thanks for talking with us! We’re excited to have you as an assistant this year. Good luck!

Discounts and Contest

Have you noticed? WIFYR is offering some great discounts this year.

There are a couple ways to save.

The early bird discount saves you money when you register before April 30, 2013. This is a great way to assure you get the class you want and a discounted price.

Joining SCBWI will also get you a discount. For more information about SCBWI, visit their website. www.scbwi.org

Discounts are not all we are offering. Get excited about the Second Annual WIFYR Writing Contest. This is a great opportunity for a writer at the conference to be awarded $1000 as well as a chance at publication through Familius Publishing.

It will be a great year at WIFYR. You won’t want to miss it.

Interview: Carol Lynch Williams

bio-carol

Carol Lynch Williams is the backbone of WIFYR. This conference is only one way she has reached out to help other writers improve their craft. The work she does to create WIFYR helps writers achieve their goals as they attend. Carol is one of the reasons we have such a rich writing culture in Utah.

Q: Carol, What is your favorite line that you have ever written or read that someone else wrote and why?

A: I think each of my novels has a favorite line in it. The one that kicked off The Chosen One, a book I had in my head for at least five years was, “If I was going to kill the prophet, I’d do it in Africa.”

The amazing Richard Peck says we writers are no better than our first lines–and I think he’s right. I try to make each line the best it can be. They aren’t perfect the first time through. I work hard at my writing. I want each line to count. And I have friends who read my work and editors and an agent who helps, too. Plus, my daughters.

Still, I love it when I get a line that makes the story unfold for me.

Q: If you weren’t a writer, what would you do?

A: I can’t believe people don’t already know the answer to this question–well, people who know me! I’d be a singer. I think I could be a pretty good Country and Western star, but dang it if I haven’t lived in UT for so long my accent is gone. I can only blame myself, of course. For being accentless AND living in Utah! I try to make up for the not singing part of things once a year at the WIFYR conference. So far we have sung our own take on Bohemian Rhapsody, Bad Romance and Hit Me Baby One More Time (is that the name?), just to name a few. The first song? Paperback Writer. :D

Always fun.

*Q: What does your typical day look like?

A: If it’s a day I can actually write, after I have had a chance for some individual morning study, I go right in to my computer. I try and spend about an hour or two working on the story I am writing. If I am behaving, I don’t do anything but write during that time–but the truth is, I check my email, blog, wonder why am I a writer, complain, stretch, stand up and walk around, get breakfast, complain some more, and think about cleaning.

Once though, I wrote 2500 + words in an hour. And that is pretty darn good for me because I don’t know how to type (and I use 6 fingers to write my books).

There are other things that take me from my writing. I’m a mom, I care for my own mother, I teach classes and grade papers and talk to my friends on the phone.

One of these days I’m thinking about being super dedicated. I’ll let you know how that goes.

Q: When you are stuck in a particular place in a book that you can’t seem to get through, what do you do?

A: I don’t believe in The Muse or in Writer’s Block. Something has gone wrong with my story if I am completely out of ideas as to what to do with a novel. However, when I write, I kind of figure things out as I go: what’s going to happen as the story unwinds, and does it unwind as it should. Does this mean writing is easy for me? No, it’s not. I spend a good amount of time complaining and whining and worrying thinking I will never write another book again in my life, that the first 25 were all a fluke. Does this mean that I don’t get stumped? Believe me, I get tangled up in the storyline. But I am pretty good at picking out knots–and if worst comes to worst, if I let things sit a bit, I can usually figure out what I need to do to get a draft on the page.