Jot: The GR Writers Mini-Conference

It has a name.

After conducting a poll to determine which of the names were most popular (the most popular category was Other, as in, other than the names we liked), the Weaklings decided to throw all previous names out the window and start fresh. Thus was born Jot: The GR Writers Mini-Conference.

So, for those of you who value putting events in your calendars, jot this down. Jot will be happening February 8th from 7:00 – 11:00pm at Baker Book House in Grand Rapids, MI.

Baker Book House's new event areaNow that we have a name, a date, and a venue, we need to market this thing. And to do that, we’ll need your help. In order to market effectively, we need to create some graphics for the conference. And so, we are having a Jot Logo Contest. Think you have an eye for graphic design? Send us a logo! Make sure that the logo features the name (Jot) and the subtitle (The GR Writers Mini-Conference). PDFs are preferred, but we can work with JPGs as well. Send your submission to josh@thoughtcrimemarketing.com. The winner will be chosen by the Weaklings. The contest ends December 15th.

Don’t have an interest in designing our logo? That’s okay. You can still help us market Jot by telling your friends about it.

“But Josh,” you say. “What do I tell them?”

Say this: “Have you heard of Jot: The GR Writers Mini-Conference? It’s a free, one-day writers conference happening in February. It will be a night for meeting other writers, learning the craft of writing, and actually having some time to write. The presenters will be speaking on things like writing with a busy schedule, flash fiction, and marketing yourself and your books. It’s happening at the newly remodeled Baker Book House in Grand Rapids, Michigan. I’m going, of course, and you should go too.”

That should cover it.

I’ll keep you posted as we get closer to the actual event. In the mean time, tell your friends and maybe submit a logo. Thanks for reading!

Flash Fiction Challenge | Before, But After…

The last contest I did was fun for me, but it lacked in participation. Maybe my prize wasn’t good enough. Anyway, here’s the new contest:

Before, But After… – A One-Sentence Biography.

Craft a single sentence that provides a bit of depth on a character of your creation. Each biography should follow the format below.

Before he was arrested for tax evasion, but after his time as Lieutenant Governor  of Maryland, Jeff Small worked as the greeter for a major retail chain.

or

Before her body hit the bottom, but after she jumped from the heights of the Grand Canyon, 23-year-old Jennifer Bennington discovered that she was happiest when falling.

The one-sentence biography can be about an existing character or a completely original character to this contest. You also don’t have to be a writer to enter the contest, just willing to participate.

To enter, just leave your sentence in the comments of this post. A winner will be chosen at random from among the participants.

The prize: This set of books.

Set includes The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan, and The Emerald Atlas by John Stephens.

What are you waiting for?

The contest ends July 20th, 2012. All comments must be in by then. And like usual, I can only ship within the continental US.

Win Stuff | The Hobbit & The Lord of the Rings Box Set

Leave me a comment with your ideas for this blog. Now. Do it now.

You could be as happy as me if you win this set of books.

Here’s the deal. I’m giving away a box set of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien. It is the set that I bought right after the Fellowship of the Ring came out in theaters. I bought it to replace the well-worn copies that my dad had laying around. Well, I still have those well-worn copies. Also, my wife brought a really nice hardcover set into the marriage. As much as it pains me to say this, I don’t need three copies of the same series. So I’m giving this box set away.

If you’ve never read the whole series, now’s your chance. If you are quick about it, you can just finish them in time for the arrival of The Hobbit (part one) in the theaters this December.

So how can you win?

Simple. Just tell me what you’d like to see from this blog of mine. Share with me any questions that you have, any ideas for posts, any themes or categories that I’m lacking. Just leave a comment below and you’ll be entered to win. I’ll pull the winner next Monday, April 30th, and announce the results here on my blog.

The Fine Print: I’m not made of money, so although I love international comments, I can’t ship internationally. Sorry about that.

Back to School | Fantasy & Science Fiction

My phone died on the way home from work yesterday. I’m really glad that it did.

My wife and I both get out at 5:00 PM. She picks up our daughter from her parent’s house on the way home from her work, and I get dinner started since I get home first. We always call each other and talk on the way home (driving safely, of course). But yesterday, my phone died just as I was pulling onto our street.

I got home a few seconds later and went about my routine (let the dog out, get the mail, take care of my lunch bag, start dinner). By the time I got my phone plugged in to call my wife back, she was almost home.

“Monkers,” she said to me, “Did you happen to turn on NPR after your phone died?”

I told her that I did not.

“Because I heard something on the radio that made me think of you.”

She proceeded to tell me about a free class being offered by the University of Michigan that had to do with Fantasy something-or-other. My wife knows that I would like to go back to school at some point and get some formal training in writing. I graduated a few years back from Western Michigan University with a degree in Recreation and a minor in Communication. It wasn’t until after I graduated that I took up a serious interest in writing.

“I’d really like to look into that,” I said.

So I did.

The class is called Fantasy and Science Fiction: The Human Mind, Our Modern World. It doesn’t look like a specifically “writing” course, but it looks great all the same.

Here’s a description from the sign-up page:

Fantasy is a key term both in psychology and in the art and artifice of humanity. The things we make, including our stories, reflect, serve, and often shape our needs and desires. We see this everywhere from fairy tale to kiddie lit to myth; from “Cinderella” to Alice in Wonderland to Superman; from building a fort as a child to building ideal, planned cities as whole societies. Fantasy in ways both entertaining and practical serves our persistent needs and desires and illuminates the human mind. Fantasy expresses itself in many ways, from the comfort we feel in the godlike powers of a fairy godmother to the seductive unease we feel confronting Dracula. From a practical viewpoint, of all the fictional forms that fantasy takes, science fiction, from Frankenstein to Avatar, is the most important in our modern world because it is the only kind that explicitly recognizes the profound ways in which science and technology, those key products of the human mind, shape not only our world but our very hopes and fears. This course will explore Fantasy in general and Science Fiction in specific both as art and as insights into ourselves and our world.

This course comprises ten units. Each will include a significant reading, typically a novel or a selection of shorter works. I will offer video discussions of each of the readings and also of more general topics in art and psychology that those readings help illuminate. Each unit will include online quizzes and ask you to write a brief essay offering your own insights into the reading. All the readings except Ray Bradbury’s The Martian Chronicles and Ursula K. LeGuin’s The Left Hand of Darkness will be available online at no charge.

The professor is Eric S. Rabkin. Again, from the sign-up page:

Eric S. Rabkin is Arthur F. Thurnau Professor, Professor of English Language and Literature, and Professor of Art and Design at the University of Michigan. He has won numerous teaching awards, including the Golden Apple awarded annually by the students to the outstanding teacher at the University of Michigan. His research publications include the first English-language theoretical discussion of fantasy and the second of science fiction. He has won the Science Fiction Research Association’s Pilgrim Award for lifetime contributions to science fiction criticism.

And the class really is free.

I signed up last night.  You can sign up here. Who’s going to join me?