Browsing Tag

Midwest Writers Workshop

Happy Literary Citizens

Let me tell you how I was called Professor Bigger.

The finger-pointing and hand clapping credit goes to Cathy Day. Last year, she suggested that we move Midwest Writers Workshop to coincide with the final week of Ball State University’s second summer session.  She then suggested that because I was the Director, I should teach the class (the class she developed) on Literary Citizenship and that the students could be the interns at MWW. I nearly uttered my great-grandmother’s words, “Oh, Psshaw.” Although I have B.A. and M.A. degrees in English from Ball State, I hadn’t taught college classes in {REDACTED} years, and those were freshman composition courses.

Somehow, she convinced me. And somehow, she convinced Adam Beach, chair of the English Department, that this a worthy plan for English majors to both learn the value of literary citizenship and to receive an immersive learning experience as assistants to literary agents at a writers’ conference.

Great things can happen when you say “yes” to a Cathy Day idea. The curriculum. The classroom. The students. It was déjà vu all over again and I remembered how much I enjoyed teaching.

Then Cathy tagged one more brilliant idea onto her plan: assigning me a research assistant, Meagan McAlister. Surrounded by all this supportive energy and encouragement, I entered Room 291 of the Robert Bell Building to teach “ENG 299x: Literary Citizenship in a Digital Age.” And there I was greeted as “Professor Bigger.”

Let me tell you about the students.

Six students. Amanda Byk, Lauren Cross, Caroline Delk, Kara Harris, Rachel Lauve, Rachel Wright-Marquez. I told them to call me Jama.

They are clever and articulate and curious and thoughtful and funny and passionate. They are majoring in Creative Writing and English Studies and English Education, and they all bonded into a special friendship. They fangirl over authors and they love books and Harry Potter and donuts. One wears a Chicago Cubs cap, one carries a Pokemon backpack, one has political buttons pinned to her laptop bag. They became the 2017 MWW Ninja Team (the very first interns were called “ninjas” and it just fits).

Let me tell you about what they did.

That first day I explained Cathy Day’s definition: “A literary citizen is an aspiring writer who understands that you have to contribute to, not just expect things from, the publishing world” and the mantra of Literary Citizenship: “Be Interested in What Other People Are Doing.”

I explained that they can tend to their literary citizenship by reading (a lot), buying books, reviewing them, and publishing the reviews on their blogs or Goodreads. They can champion the successes of authors, not because of what they can get back, but because it’s part of being a literary citizen.

I underscored what Matt Bell reminded us: “The better solution is, as a part of your daily work as a writer, support the communities you wish to be a part of, by reading books, writing reviews, promoting other writers or bookstores or whatever in your social networking. It’s a small but old truth, but the more you give, the more you will receive. And this isn’t any kind of slimy networking. This is every writer’s responsibility, and the writers who create the most buzz for the good work of others will find that same energy waiting for them, when their own excellent book finally comes out.”

They were all in and realized that they had been literary citizens without even knowing it. “I’m a literary citizen for life,” one said. Another one said, “In the words of Cathy Day, it’s about building an oasis and creating and maintaining relationships in the community.”

They wrote blog posts about their experiences as a literary citizen. They jumped enthusiastically into the community-building project of sending “charming notes” that Carolyn See described in her book, Living a Literary Life. Their social media “charming notes” were both passive – friending or following or emailing someone in the publishing field (a writer, editor, publisher), and active – actually saying something to them (“I enjoy your work,” or “You published one of my favorite books”).

They read books written by some of the Midwest Writers faculty, they wrote and posted reviews of those books, they interviewed the authors and wrote another blog post.

They were bright and cheerful and arrived early to class. They were attentive and listening and respectful to guest speakers Gail Werner, Kelsey Timmerman, Holly Miller, Meagan McAlister, and Cathy Day.

They were spectacular as MWW Ninjas, as assistants to the literary agents during the 43rd Midwest Writers Workshop. They structured the (very fluid and challenging) schedules for their agents, they monitored the time for pitches, they bolstered the confidence of attendees who were pitching and calmed their anxieties. They worked tirelessly; they were friendly and generous.

I was their Summer English Class Professor and I was also their Midwest Writers Workshop Director. And I could not have been prouder of their literary citizenship development and their at-conference professionalism.

Let me tell you about what it means.

I enjoyed this summer more than I thought I would. The energy of the students, the classroom, building relationships, expanding the vision the purpose literary citizenship.

Encouraging, building up, cheerleading. And yes, teaching. It’s what I’ve done for a long time as the Director and now the experience has broadened as a “Professor.”

It means my life is enriched. Great things happened.


Amanda Byk, Rachel Lauve, Caoline Harris, Kara Harris, Lauren Cross, Rachel Wright-Marquez (center)

“Be passionate about books and writing, because passion is infectious.” ~ Cathy Day


The Authors Are Coming!

“That was a big sigh,” he said.

“I know. I was just thinking that it’s been quite a while since I posted a blog on my website,” I answered.

“Just tell them the Authors Are Coming.”

Because. Yes. As Director of Midwest Writers Workshop, that’s what I (and my hardworking team) do: we bring talented authors, talent-seeking agents, and talent-helping editors to the campus of Ball State University, in Muncie, Indiana.

So since my last blog post my life has been THIS

registrations, facilities, room assignments, emailing, scheduling, calling, emailing, hotel, travel, food, menus, parking, emailing, publicity, tweets, emailing, organizing, rescheduling, book orders, merchandise orders, signage, lists, more lists, emailing, session notes, equipment, bowling party, welcome totes, donations, magazines, emailing…….

Oh, yes, and then there was THIS: “Literary Citizenship in a Digital Age,” the class I taught during second summer term at Ball State. The {amazingly talented} students in the class are the interns for this year’s MWW, functioning as assistants to the literary agents. Really, so. much. fun. to be back in the classroom. My last teaching experience was as an instructor for English Composition courses at Ball State {____} years ago.

I reckon juggling all THIS doesn’t make me a slackard that I haven’t posted in a while…

Therefore, I give you my blog post announcing THIS:

Homer Simpson Authors Coming!

July 21-23, 2016



Go! Write! Win!

As Director of Midwest Writers Workshop, my main assignments are to cheerlead and serve writers. I enthusiastically wave pom poms in their general direction and root for them as they pursue their dreams. And of course, my primary cheer is encouraging them to come to our workshop/events/programs. Fetch me my megaphone! M! W! W! Go! Write! Win!

Here’s the honest-to-God truth: I’ve been connected to MWW since my sophomore year of college and now I’m a granny, so basically about 67% of my life. {Don’t let your brain explode trying to do the math, let’s just say that I’m no longer middle-aged.} First, I attended as a participant, then after my MWW-impacted manuscript was accepted for publication, I came on board as a committee member. Eventually, I become the director. {OK, so Myers-Briggs got it right. I’m ENFJ (Extraversion, iNtuition, Feeling, Judgment): “You are warm, empathetic, responsive, and responsible. You are highly attuned to the emotions, needs, and motivations of others. You find potential in everyone, and want to help others fulfill their potential.”}

MWW set a torch in my chest for helping other writers turn their dreams into reality. That fire has burned in me for {redacted} years. It’s like a ministry for me. “Amen!” “Let’s make this happen!” I proclaim.

From the very beginning of my time on the committee, I’ve been called to cheer. And to serve.

From my way-back years to my now-year, I serve writers. Fiction writers, nonfiction writers, poets, and all those who are struggling to know what they’re writing. I serve writers who write mystery stuff, romantic stuff, inspirational stuff, children’s stuff, blog stuff, or scary stuff I’m too sensitive to read … and I even serve those who write their stuff on a Mac. Doesn’t matter to me. I’ll serve ‘em all. I love ‘em all.

I love so many of these MWW people more than I love a big ol’ hunk of chocolate. I love writers in all their diversity. I love that the common bond for all of us truly is that we want to be writers who make an impact.

So, if you are a writer who feverishly wants to improve and be a more skilled/savvy writer, MWW can help you:

Make tangible progress as a writer: Your confidence will grow and your skills will improve. You’ll notice a real difference in your writing.

Become someone who starts AND finishes: Your manuscript will no longer be trapped in your head or desk drawer. You’ll learn to get from idea, to draft, to done.

Navigate the publishing world: You’ll receive guidance from experts who have sold and published their writing.

Create friendships to last a lifetime: You’ll discover a group of creative folk who give support and cheer. You’ll find a tribe that can amplify your creativity and boost your momentum exponentially.

If you’re ready to get serious about the discipline and the craft, MWW can help you achieve your goals.

Just ask….

Kelsey Timmerman: “The workshop, located in my hometown of Muncie, is where I met Caren (Johnson) Estesen who sold Where Am I Wearing to Wiley. It’s where it all began for me.”

Lori Rader-Day: “I can honestly say that the MWW Fellows (2008) retreat changed my life. That’s where I found out I was writing a mystery, that I was a mystery writer. And that designation changed everything.”

Amy Reichert: “My favorite conference is the Midwest Writers Workshop in Muncie, IN.”

D.E. Johnson: A 2009 MWW Fellow, Dan calls MWW’s summer workshop “one of the best conferences in the country and certainly the best value.”

Cathy Shouse: A 2007 MWW Fellow, Cathy appreciates “how MWW has it all in one place–manuscript critiques, craft classes in essay and novel writing, agent panels, the the latest social media techniques.”

Kelly O’Dell Stanley:  “Jama Kehoe Bigger and the Midwest Writers Workshop deserve the credit for most of what I know about writing.” (Acknowledgements, Praying Upside Down)

Janis Thornton:  A 2009 MWW Fellow, Janis says, “I’ve been attending Midwest Writers Workshop events since the late ’90s, and they have been an invaluable resource for information, ideas, instruction, inspiration, and a sense of belonging to a community of writers.”

Sarah Schmitt:  “I’m a regular participant at the Midwest Writers Workshop!”

J.R. Roper: “My critique group has been instrumental to my growth as a writer. My friends from the Midwest Writers Workshop have been amazing.”

….and we have a very long list … {now’s your opportunity, MWW alums, post your news in a comment below!}

So all you writers in the midst of some heads down work on your writing, I think you need a big, awesome thing you’d like to do. MWW is that big, awesome thing. This summer. 2016. Be here.

Let me cheer and serve you.

GO! (Register for #mww16)

WRITE! (Words with impact)

WIN! (The agent’s nod, the contract, the big bucks, the movie  deal …think BIG!)

I am a cheerleader

I wanted to be a cheerleader.

I love cheerleaders.  As a young girl, I remember hearing my mom’s stories of cheering for Plymouth High School. And while my football-coaching dad roamed the sidelines during games, I sat in the stands, mesmerized by the Ball State cheerleaders as they clapped and flipped and jumped, sparkling with enthusiasm and encouragement.

So I practiced my rah rah rahs, my cartwheels, my jumps, my rhythmic clapping during the summer of my twelfth year. I learned a cheer routine from my friend’s older sister. I tried out in front of a gymnasium of fellow students.

I became a junior high school cheerleader.

With Ronna, Robin, Ellen, Janie, Katy, Ann, and Kim, decked out in our home-sewn shorts, we cheered for our Storer Spartans. I yelled. I encouraged. I supported my team. Win or loss. And I dreamed of being a high school cheerleader.

Cheerleaders Storer 1968

Front: Katy Peterson, Janie Peckingpaugh, Ann Liston; Middle: Jama Kehoe, Robin Chico, Kim Nixon; Back: Ellen Naumcheff, Ronna McClements

Then, when a diving accident in the summer of my thirteenth year ended my cartwheel days, I discovered something.

I can still be a cheerleader.

I can say Yes to being a different kind of cheerleader. I can still encourage. I can still support. Just minus the gymnastics.

These days, I am the Official Cheerleader for Midwest Writers Workshop.


Praising, clapping, rooting for, and seeking to empower others in their writing journey.

Personality testing has classified me as an extrovert with traits well suited for cheering: enthusiastic, spontaneous, energetic, and understanding. Those tests indicated that I readily give affirmation and encouragement, that I focus on possibilities and have a contagious enthusiasm for ideas and people and activities. That I’m passionate and love to help other people explore their creative potential, what motivates them, what inspires them, and what they envision achieving in life.

I’ve got SPIRIT! So do you!

In other words, I’m a cheerleader.

Sometimes I feel like Jenny in Forrest Gump, cheering and yelling, “Run, Forrest, run!”

Sometimes I feel like those in the final scene of the sports classic, cheering and chanting, “Rudy! Rudy! Rudy!”

Sometimes I feel like the crowd cheering and shouting, “Rocky, Rocky!”

Always raising the spirits of others, always urging them on.


Sometimes it’s with the message: no matter what life throws at them, they should get back up and carry on and that they are responsible for the direction their lives take. If they want something in life, go and get it.

Sometimes it’s a reminder that even an underdog can have his day, and that they can do anything they put their minds to.

Sometimes it’s an understanding for the struggles that hardship bring and the unbridled joy of seeing all their hard work and perseverance pay off.

I take great pleasure in watching writers see their dreams come true. It’s as if their dreams become mine, and my investment in them and cheering for them is real and significant. Their dreams take up residence in my heart. I cheer and do (mental) cartwheels when they succeed, and I feel disappointment for them when roadblocks stand in their way.

This is what I know. Every(one) writers needs encouragement. Every(one) writers needs cheering.

As The Official Cheerleader for the Midwest Writers Workshop, I’m telling you that’s exactly I do.

I’m cheering for you, and encouraging others to cheer for you. And I’m believing in you when you don’t know if you can do it. Plain and simple. I believe you are a winner.

I’m reminding you: I’m proud of you. I’m cheering for you. I’m thankful for you. You can do this thing.

Through all these many years, through all these Midwest Writers Workshops, it has been my great honor to serve a cheerleader for so many on their journey as writers to published authors.

There is nothing quite like savoring a dream come true on behalf of a friend. Nothing like cheering them and watching them cross the finish line—battle weary and out of breath. But doing the thing they love.


There is nothing quite like being a cheerleader.

Midwest Writers Workshop = Happy Day Moments

My writer friends,

It’s the first week of a new year and I’m thinking about you. And I’m thinking how Midwest Writers Workshop could give you so many Happy Day Moments.

The days and months ahead are your blank book. You get to decide how to fill those pages, those chapters.

So why not decide to make Midwest Writers Workshop some of those pages?

You know I’m your MWW Director/Cheerleader/Encourager and we have an UNBELIEVABLE faculty for MWW15.  I’ll be working with my programming committee in the next few weeks to develop the AWESOME schedule of sessions, panels, and activities for what could be the THREE most life-changing, eventful days of your writing career…. JULY 23-25, 2015, in Muncie, Indiana.

save the date

I’m posting here to cheerlead/encourage you to keep MWW15 on your radar.

Save your money. Or how about this: put attending MWW15 on your gift list. Just ask Liz Lincoln Steiner.

Liz twitter Capture

You have 200 days. Six months and 19 days. 143 weekdays and 57 weekend days. 28 weeks and 4 days. 4,800 hours. 288,000 minutes.

Don’t let another year go by without discovering what MWW can do for your writing!

I know firsthand how MWW can be life-changing. So do these folks.

Plan to make this happen.  Make 2015 the most meaningful year of your life. Let’s go on this journey together.

Come. Let’s share some Happy Day Moments! Can’t wait for July!




**Bookmark and watch for upcoming information on the schedule and registration. Make sure you’re on our e-mail list!

{photo by Gail Werner Photography}