Panelists needed for Association of Writers & Writing Programs

We are assembling a panel for The Association of Writers & Writing Programs conference next year (Feb 24-Mar 1, 2014 in Seattle, Washington).

The panel will be to discuss how social media has changed the relationship between writers and their readers. We are looking for a combination of fiction writers (non-format specific – fiction writers in film, television, novels, comic books, video games, etc are all welcome) and a couple of people to represent the fan/reader side of the conversation (we are particularly interested in bloggers or podcasters but will consider any one who has experience and a point of view on the reader experience).

Here is the panel description:

Social media engagement, from twitter book clubs, to live tweeting TV shows, to fansites, has completely changed the relationship between audience and author, opening up opportunities for conversation and collaboration between fans and creators. Audiences can take an active part not only in the experience of the art, but also in helping to shape it. This panel will look at how the relationship between writers and their audience has evolved with the advent of social media.

I am organizing this panel with Lesley Tye, who teaches screenwriting at Interlochen Center for the Arts in Michigan. Lesley has organized panels for AWP before and had this to say about it:

I know that for many conferences and conventions, etc, speakers get paid. AWP is a different kind of animal. The conference, which boasts far more panels and readings than the typical conference is actually for professionals by professionals. It’s highly in demand to get a panel accepted at the conference, and the panelists are also participants who want to attend the other panels and readings by their peers. It’s as much of an educational and networking experience for the panelists as for those who are just coming to participate. There are tons of publishers there, looking for writers as well. And many writers trying to network about their books being published, etc.


Obviously for those who are working writers attending the conference has to come from their own pocket but is a write off for them – a business expense. For many who teach they are able to get funds from their institutions to pay for it, again because it is professional development as well as something prestigious for their CV.


Last year I had a panel accepted which included four very respected writers (screenwriters and novelists) all of whom are also paid to speak at other conferences or workshops. So while it may seem strange for those that don’t know AWP, it is a very accepted for those that know AWP and attend it regularly.

Please contact me at meilu dot mcgonigle at gmail dot com if you know anyone who would be interested and available for the conference panel, which will be in Seattle, Washington from Feb 26-Mar 1, 2013.

We need to confirm our panelists by THIS Wednesday, May 1st.

 Please note: AWP is a non-profit organization and does NOT reimburse for travel expenses. All participants are expected to pay their participation fee ($140). See link for registration overview.


This is a real profile from a dating site

Through a complicated series of events (no, I am not on a dating site), I was exposed to this dating profile last week and had to save it for posterity. I am no expert, but I feel this person may be a narcissist and also a wee bit pretentious. Just a guess. On his profile page, he had a very romantic picture of his muscles backlit by the setting sun.  (Apparently, he is a competitive weight lifter of some kind.)  I bolded my two favorite of his statements.

How to describe yourself? That’s sort of like the high school guidance counselor’s trick questionnaire that pigeonholes you into some strange vocation for the rest of your life. There may be no wrong answers, but there sure are some bad ones.

I suppose I am what you would call an autodidactic polymath. Relax, nothing is wrong with me. No. I am perfect and charming in every way. And now that we are both laughing, this isn’t nearly as awkward. Many of my interests tend to be at opposite ends of the spectrum. I’m equally comfortable in a suit or flip-flops. I can be both articulate and low brow. Adaptability and versatility are two of my biggest strengths.

I’m typically laid back and easy going. I don’t strive to make the scene or be seen. I abhor pretension and excessive ego, but praise confidence and self-esteem. I’m interested in people who are real and authentic. I cannot tolerate flippancy. Forging friendships, sharing bonds, and being intimate (and not just that kind of intimate gutter mind), is something to be celebrated. I have definitely seen and experienced my fair share of hardships – more than most, not as much as some. Get to know me, and you will find that I am extremely compassionate, empathetic, and a good listener. I am also extraordinarily loyal and trusting, almost to a fault. That being said, I like to balance my serious aspects with plenty of humor. I’m often told I look like Keanu Reeves. That tends to work out well because I can’t act either. See- that’s at least kind of funny. Not your type of humor? Fine. Keep it to yourself. Remember, silence is golden, but duct tape is silver. Now that’s damn funny.

I’m looking for someone who is intelligent, has an amazing sense of humor, and is deeply caring. Someone who is active and athletic, who takes care of themselves physically and emotionally, is outgoing, fun loving, and is up for a challenge and new experiences. Someone who is able to articulate their feelings and emotions, who says what they mean, and is true to their word. My ideal significant other is allegiant, has a strong sense of core values, can see past mere surface appearances, and knows what is truly important. Someone who is strong and independent, yet relationship-minded, and wants to spend time together. I know what it’s like to be a step parent, and cherish being in that role when the fit is right.

It is with mixed emotions that I am starting a new chapter in my life. Unfortunately, I don’t have much time to dedicate to meeting new people, hence my profile. Please know that I do my best to respond to email in turn, but sometimes I get pretty far behind. Thanks for reading.

Best Historical Non-Fiction – 16th century edition

My tweep Christopher Leathley and I indulged in a marathon history discussion on Twitter last night, with loads of book recommendations, and that has inspired me to write a blog post on my favorite non-fiction books.

Since 16th century British history is my favorite, I’m starting there.  When assessing these books I take into account the following things: quality of the research, quality of the analysis, readability.  Almost all of the books on this list are so well-regarded they show up frequently in the reference pages of other books on the era, always a good sign.

James V by Jamie Cameron

If you are looking for a well-researched biography on James V, this is the one. There may be others out there that are as good, but I have not yet been exposed to them.

The Life & Death of Anne Boleyn by Eric Ives

It’s surprisingly difficult to find biographies of Anne Boleyn that are both well-researched and offer interesting analysis.  This book is by no means my favorite non-fiction book, or indeed my favorite on Anne Boleyn (because, honestly, I have yet to read a biography of Anne Boleyn that I feel is spectacular), but I found this book to be a useful enough resource that I have a first edition copy in my collection.  I particularly like the fact that Ives is careful to note his attributions, or at the very least the texts on which he is basing his ideas. There are assertions made by the author that I don’t entirely agree with -the available evidence on Anne Boleyn’s early life is quite slim and as a result almost all biographies on her are largely extrapolated. Overall a well-researched biography. I think some of Ives’ conclusions seem over-confidently stated, but for all that this is the best of the most recent crop of Anne Boleyn biographies.

The Boy King: Edward IV and the Protestant Reformation by Diarmaid Macculloch

I’m particularly interested in the Edward IV’s brief reign, and just generally in the Protestant Reformation. When it comes to scholarship on the Protestant Reformation, these days Diarmaid Macculloch is the man (references to his work on these topics literally dominate the field) and this book is a wonderfully well researched.

James IV by Norman MacDougall

Everything I said about the James V book above applies to this one, unsurprisingly as they are published in the same series. I would be quite interested to know if there is another James IV biography that is as well-regarded as this one as I haven’t been up to date on this field for the last five years.

Queen Katherine Parr by Anthony Martienssen

As far as I know, this is the only biography of note on Queen Katherine Parr. I badly want someone to write a brilliant book about her, even more than I want one on Anne Boleyn. I personally think Katherine Parr has been unjustifiably relegated to the rule of Henry’s nursemaid when in fact she played in important role in the politics of the country both before and after his death, was the only one of Henry’s wives to write and publish, and was every bit as impassioned about the Reformation as Anne Boleyn.  I personally think that Parr had far more influence on Elizabeth I than she’s given credit for and I would love to see this topic thoroughly explored.  There’s absolutely nothing wrong with this biography by Martienssen, he’s working on the slimmest of available evidence, but when evidence is in short supply, good analysis becomes even more important and I feel there’s more room in this field for discussion.  (But I am not up to date on academic writing in this area. I’m sure there are many fascinating doctoral theses on these particular subjects.)

The Rough Wooings: Mary Queen of Scots 1542-1551 by Marcus Merriman

Now we’re cooking with gas! I *adore* this book. The period of Edward IV’s brief, minor reign is an absolutely fascinating one to me, filled with a high-drama combination of religious and political upheaval.  This book focuses entirely on England and Scotland’s tempestuous relationship during this period and it is fantastically well researched and written.

The Anglo-Scots Wars 1513-50 by Gervase Phillips

If you are a fan of Dorothy Dunnett’s Lymond chronicles and want to know more about the real-life military history that informed those books, then look no farther than this one. It’s a very well-researched book that focuses entirely on the military aspects of Anglo-Scots relations during the mid-16th century (whereas Merriman covers a tighter time period and broadens the scope to include diplomatic relations). If you’re looking for descriptions of the various battles and skirmishes that happened in this period, this is the book for you. Warning: it is absolutely a military history and is very detailed which means it can be… dry.

Elizabeth: The Struggle for the Throne by David Starkey

I don’t always agree with Starkey’s analysis but I don’t think anyone can fault his scholarship. I like this book because it focuses on the time before Elizabeth became queen, an era of English history I find particularly interesting and which is underrepresented in biographies on Elizabeth I.

Six Wives: The Queens of Henry VIII by David Starkey

I feel slightly resigned by all the Starkey that’s on my list (in fact, almost all of his books are in my collection – insert eye roll here). The truth of the matter is that during a certain era, Starkey’s scholarship was absolutely (if, I think, justifiably) dominant. The quality of his research is excellent and what I particularly like about him is his analysis. I do not always agree with him, but I appreciate how well he makes his arguments. If you have Alison Weir’s book on the same subject, I beg you to give either this or Antonia Fraser’s book a try. I’m going to be classy and refrain from telling you my feelings about Alison Weir’s scholarship and writing. I’m just going to imply them. (And if you’re feeling generous and want to buy me a hardback first edition copy of the Fraser for my birthday, which is on August 18, I would gratefully accept it.)

The Rise and Fall of Anne Boleyn by Retha Warnicke

Yes. Two books on Anne Boleyn are in my list.  That’s because, as I mentioned with Parr, when the evidence is slim, it’s really important to have different analyses to draw upon. This book is older than the Ives book and has its own flaws of assumptions and overly confident assertions. I wish both authors would have taken more time to debate the merits of the evidence on Boleyn and offered better justifications for their own theories but often that simply does not happen in mass-market style biographies. So far no one (that I know of) has written a truly excellent biography of this most infamous of Henry VIII’s queens. I cannot say that I favor one book over the other, but I will say that if you choose to read either and do not have a thorough grounding in the subject matter or available evidence, take these biographies with a grain of salt. There is simply not enough data to confidently state certain things about Anne Boleyn as fact. Anyone who tells you otherwise is, well, selling you a story.

EXTRA CREDIT: To Be Read Books

Every now and then, when I have a chunk of cash to spend, I invest in my collection. The following books were purchased based on the fact that they are more cited by other academics and mass-market writers than any other books on the subject matter. I have not read them so am unable to provide my own take.

The Chronicle and Political Papers of King Edward VI, edited by W.K. Jordan

Edward VI: The Young King by W.K. Jordan

Edward VI: The Threshold of Power by W.K. Jordan

The Oxford Martyrs by D.M. Loades

The Reign of Mary Tudor by D.M.Loades