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Have You Ever Been Profiled?

If you’re a male writing from a female POV, or vice versa, or a writer of one race writing from any other race POV, then this post is for you. It can also apply to any adult writing YA, or let’s take it a step further, a senior adult (55+) writing as a twenty-something.

The term profiling, in broad terms, refers to the process of identifying the perpetrator of a crime based on an analysis of crime statistics and the way it was committed. It is a common investigative tool (see How Stuff Works article). The most basic kind of profiling is a Be On the Lookout (BOLO) or All-Points Bulletin (APB), although you might not have heard it referred to as a profile.

Suspect was last seen in a dark blue Ford pick-up truck. He was wearing a red T-shirt and black jeans. Suspect is described as a white male, 5-feet 10-inches tall and thin with receding blond hair. He has a tattoo of a snake on his left forearm.

With a psychological profile, the investigators create this sketch in the absence of physical evidence or eyewitness descriptions, or to supplement such descriptions. They take what they know about an unknown suspect and his actions and try to generate additional information. For example, if a serial murderer has been killing the female employees of a law firm, profilers might find it likely that the killer is a male former employee or client of the law firm.

With predictive profiling, things get a bit stickier, and more controversial. Instead of seeking a particular suspect based on evidence at a specific crime, predictive profiling attempts to guess which people are likely to commit a crime, or act a certain way, based on characteristics they hold in common with a group. You’ll often hear of this mentioned in the news where individuals are harassed or even arrested, because of certain features they might have in common with criminals -- or worse yet, because of their skin color.

You’re probably asking yourself…what does any of this have to do with writing?

Fair question. The answer isn’t so much in the writing itself, but rather how other people react to it…specifically agents, editors, and even CP’s. I’ve mentioned on my blog several times that the reason I go by my first two initials (DL) rather than my given name (Don) is because of feedback I received early in my writing career from readers of a short story I wrote from a female POV (Itinerary). The negative critiques were relatively minor (i.e. “A woman wouldn’t say that” – even though I had heard me wife say it often), but it made me think. Was my writing being judged differently because of a subconscious assumption rooted deep in the reader’s minds – that an unproven author will struggle with voice if the POV is something outside of a perceived expertise?

Let’s take that thought an extend it out a bit. Is it possible that agents, editors, CP’s, beta readers…any of the above…are making judgements based upon who you are…compared to who you are writing as? And I’m only talking about writers who haven’t broken through yet and been published. Is there a pre-disposition to believe a male writer (or female) can only write successfully if they use a POV the same as their own?

Think about it…would you hesitate to pick up a book by a new MALE author who writes about a woman who is struggling against domestic violence? How about a white writer telling a tale of an African American struggling to become the first person in his family to go to college, or a Jewish immigrant who settles in the Midwest?

I know…it depends…right?   

Even though I have experienced this myself, my gut says no, that by in large these are professionals who have learned to put blinders on when it comes to considering the source when reading submitted material.

Profiling is a useful technique when it comes to catching the bad guys…but it can be misused and errant assumptions formed. And you know what they say happens when we ASS U ME.

WRiTE CLUB 2016 - Slushpile Scores

You asked...a lot. Everyone wanted to know how everyone who entered WRiTE CLUB this year fared in the eyes of the Slushpile here it is.  Above is the list of the 30 contestants who made it into the ring (excluding the second JavaInMe piece, which was excluded because only one could make it into the contest), along with the number of judge votes they each received. As you can see, nobody received votes from all twelve of the judges. In fact, the writers who drew the most votes, didn't even make it to the finals! Both of our finalist got a nod from only half (or less) of the judges. A perfect example of how making it into the ring is one thing, but what you do when your in it could be something entirely different.

Below are the scores of everyone else. An interesting note -- the second submission from The Night Songstress (one of our finalist), only garnered one vote. I'm also told from my wife (who is the only person who knows everyone's real names), that this year one of the contestants who made it deep into the competition didn't make the cut last year -- and Lisa Dunn (our 2015 champion) -- didn't get selected for the ring the year prior. As I've it said all along, the competition is fierce, and sometimes fickle, but that is the subjective nature the publishing industry deals in .

In my last post when I asked for feedback about the contest, one commenter suggested that the slushpile judges jot down their thoughts about each submission (131 of them) and those could be returned to everyone who entered after the contest was over. I'm sorry, but I feel that asking my judges to do that is too much, and frankly I doubt I would be able to get a dozen judges if that were the requirement. This is the best I could do (for now)...showing how you stacked up against everyone else in the eyes of the judges. Next year I'm considering offering more feedback to those contestants who continue to support the contest (by voting and communicating) all the way through its conclusion.

So what's the morale of this story? Don't give up! If you missed out this year, keep working on your craft and give it a whirl again next year.  A new group of judges is assembled each year, and maybe next year one of the pieces you submit will be their cup of tea!

If you're interested in receiving an email just before the 2017 version of WRiTE CLUB kicks-off, then leave your name and email address HERE. In the meantime, keep on writing!

#DFWCON 2016

The first DFW conference I attended was back in 2012. That was the year I adopted the motto“making it uncomfortable in my comfort zone”, and what a better way than to drag my introverted ass to one of the major writer’s events in the country.  I did my research, listed out all of the conferences that met my requirements (the list of conferences was quite long), and chose the one where the cost/benefit analysis made sense. I only live 5 ½ hours from Dallas, so DFW got the nod (and my money).

What a difference that one decision has made.

I’ve attended every DFWCON since, this year being my fifth. I found my agent (Sarah Negovetich) at DFWCON, and the writers contest I host right here on my blog – WRiTE CLUB – has since become sponsored by them.  I continue to sing their praises because they consistently deliver a quality product, one that has embraced a concept key in the publishing world…adaptation. The lineup of classes and speakers they organize consistently represent not only what writers need to know about the literary world of today, but also include cutting edge concepts and trends that could eventually help shape the industry. The people of the DFW Writers Workshop, who are responsible for putting together the conference, do a magnificent job of keeping their finger on the pulse of the industry and use that knowledge to constantly tweak the winning formula they've patented to hosting such an event.

This year the venue switched to the Ft. Worth convention center, and I have to say it was definitely a step up. Although there were some logistical issues at the start that caused everything to be pushed back 20 minutes, and coffee/water was nowhere to be found that first morning (depriving a writer of coffee should be a felony), the conference settled into the spacious surroundings just fine and it ran like a well-oiled machine. One of the things I liked about this conference hall was that there were plenty of places to slink off to and enjoy some alone-time. Coming out of ones shell takes a toll, and knowing that I could retreat and regroup if I needed to was a big deal.

There were four major highlights at DFWCON for me this year. The first was that the conference set up a table for WRiTE CLUB and it became a rallying point allowing me to meet and talk to lots of writers about how the contest works and the benefits of participating. It also gave anyone who participated (this year or year’s prior) a way of finding me and telling me how much they enjoyed following contest. I met so many people because of the table, and it really set the groundwork for what I believe will be record breaking year in 2017.

Highlight #2 was that I met A LOT of new writer friends at DFWCON. Two of them were my new critique partners (Melissa and Veena). Melissa already had plans for the weekend and couldn’t attend the conference (maybe next year), but I got to spend a great deal of time with Veena. I clicked with both of them right away, and I’ll tell you a secret, rubbing elbows with fellow writers is a surefire way to overcome the introversion most of us have to deal with.

Highlight #3 – the WRiTE CLUB winner announcement. This year both of the finalist (Solange Hommel and Joy Lucas) were at the conference, and it was a thrill to meet them both and see the looks on their faces when they were called up to the podium. Unfortunately, last year’s winner, Lisa Dunn, was unable to take advantage of the prize she won and attend the conference, but we made arrangements for her to come back in 2017. I want to say congratulations again to BonsaiBabe (Solange) for her victory. If you haven't seen it yet, Solange kept a journal of her WRiTE CLUB experience and she posted it on her blog. It is a wonderful article!

Oh yeah -  I’m grateful that this picture doesn’t show how bad my legs were shaking when I handed out the award, but I wouldn’t have missed it for anything!  

My final highlight is the one that really made the weekend for me…which is saying something because the conference was phenomenal as a whole.  Every year DFWCON holds something called the Gong Show, and for many it is the climax of the weekend. The organizers put 7-8 agents who’ve been invited that year up on the stage, place a little gong in front of them, then the MC takes turns reading material (one page) submitted anonymously by the conference attendees. Some years its query letters that are read, but this year it was the first page of a manuscript. The MC reads the first page and its up to the agents to strike the gong when they would normally stop reading if this were something from their slush pile. When the gong is struck by three agents, the MC must stop reading and then the agents explain why they gonged. It is rare that a submission makes it all the way through without being gonged, but it does happen, and when it does the author is invited to make himself/herself known and take a bow. It is nerve wracking for the ones who are brave enough to submit their work, but a lot of fun (and informative) for everyone. Well, this year I decided to submit the first page from my YA Paranormal Mystery MOVING FEAR just to see what would happen. It was picked…it was read…AND IT WASN’T GONGED! What a thrill! I have to say I felt like a rock star the rest of the day.

That’s just four highlights I can think of, but here's a bullet list of other memorable moments.

- Tex Thompson running UP the DOWN escalator...and winning!
- Christopher Golden’s moving speech (still gives me chills).
The Poetry Slam.
- The Villain versus Hero contest.
- Being handed a pin and named a Tomorrowland participant - representing writers who are doing what they can to benefit the writing community of the future.

- Meeting numerous writers stressing out just ahead of their first pitch to an agent. 
- Eric (the pitch session wrangler) doing his best to calm nerves with a stream of cringe-worthy jokes.
- Seeing the joy on those same writers faces after walking away with a request for a full!
- A pair of quality meals that put some local restaurants to shame.
- A notebook full of notes from classes overflowing with information.

 Trust me, if you weren’t there, you missed out!

But you can do something about that next year. DFWCON 2017 is already scheduled and take my word for it…established and aspiring writers alike will benefit from attending!

I’m looking forward to it already. Can I possibly meet you there?



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