Monday, January 4, 2010

Member Appreciation Month: Alan Orloff

Today we kick off our Member Appreciation Month with author Alan Orloff. Look for a member post each day this month. Here's Alan:

For me, the yen to write fiction hid deep inside, dormant like a defective daffodil bulb, for forty-odd years. When it finally sprouted, I knew guidance was needed. I had the desire, but not a clue!

So I joined The Writer's Center.

I started by taking an appropriately-titled workshop, Introduction to the Novel, from the wonderful Ann McLaughlin. There, I put pen to paper (okay, fingers to keyboard), along with the other workshop participants, trying to learn how to write. We'd exchange pages and make comments. I knew what I liked and didn't, but wasn't sure why. Every so often, I'd love something everyone else hated and vice versa.
First big lesson: writing is subjective!

It was utterly fascinating reading different genres: SF, memoir, fantasy, experimental, cozy, historical. There might even have been something about Martians--or maybe it was about sea lions, I wasn't sure. Everyone had different ideas, everyone had different skill levels. Everyone brought something different to the workshop table.

Second big lesson: I learned what "overwritten" meant.

After that eye-opening workshop experience, I was hungry for more, so I signed up for Noreen Wald's mystery writing workshop. From the first moment of the first workshop class, I realized I was "home." Mystery writers to the right, mystery writers to the left, mystery writers hiding in the closet with a lead pipe. The sense of community was intoxicating, plus I got to kill people with impunity!

Boy, did Noreen know her stuff (and how cool was it to take a workshop from a multi-published mystery author, giving moi pointers! Tres cool!). I learned plenty about writing in that workshop, but--equally important--I also learned the nuts and bolts of the publishing business (i.e, the business is mostly nuts).
I loved the workshop so much, I took it again. In fact, many of the other participants were also long-time repeat workshoppers and I fit right in. The second time through was just as enlightening as the first.

I found the members of my two critique groups from those workshops. I found out which organizations to join and the "right" conferences to attend from those workshops. I found out how to query agents from those workshops. All vital stepping stones on the path to publication.

Third big lesson: learn everything you can from those who've gone before you.

Looking back on the journey, I realize I wouldn't have gotten this far without the workshops I attended at The Writer's Center. Not even close.

Thanks, Ann. Thanks, Noreen.

Alan Orloff's debut mystery, DIAMONDS FOR THE DEAD, will be published in April 2010 by Midnight Ink. The first in his new series, THE LAST LAFF, featuring Channing Hayes, a stand-up comic with a tragic past, will be out March 2011 (also from Midnight Ink). For more info, visit


Galen Kindley--Author said...

Being a naturally talented guy didn't hurt you, either, Alan. Still, it's encouraging to see that even talented folks had to put in the grunt time to learn the ropes. Good lesson for the rest of us.

Best Regards, Galen.

Imagineering Fiction Blog

Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

Sounds like an incredible experience, Alan! And the people you met sound amazing, too. You're fortunate to have found such a great critique group and network. Thanks for the information on Writer's Center.

Mystery Writing is Murder