Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Happy holidays from Writer Abroad

Disentis, Switzerland
(where you should use the fourth Christmas greeting listed!)

Joyeux Noel

Fröhliche Weihnachten

Buone Feste Natalizie

Legreivlas fiastas da Nadal e bien niev onn!

A very Merry Christmas to fellow expat writers in Switzerland and around the world.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Zurich Writers Workshop: Save the Date

Save the date!

Writer Abroad is busy planning the fifth annual Zurich Writers Workshop, which will be held May 23-25, 2014 in Zurich, Switzerland. More details will follow. To find out more, join the mailing list.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

International Writing Workshops for 2014

Looking for an excuse to visit the Netherlands, Switzerland, or Iceland? Then the following writing workshops and conferences may be of interest:

Nuance Words’ Writing 4 Young People workshop will be held on January 25 in Zurich. Places are still available.

Amal Chatterjee and Jane Draycott will lead another Amsterdam Creative Writing Weekend focusing on prose and poetry from January 31-February 2, 2014.

The ninth Geneva Writers Conference will be held January 31-February 2, 2014 in Geneva. Writers from around the world are welcome to attend a weekend of workshops and panels led by well-known authors, agents, editors, and publishers.

The Iceland Writers Retreat will be held April 9-13, 2014 in Reykjavik. A combination of workshops with high-profile writers, touring, and writing time are included. The theme is travel and journeys.

Finally, the fifth annual Zurich Writers Workshop will be held in Spring 2014. Stay tuned or join the mailing list to be the first to find out the details.

Anyone else have workshops of interest for Spring 2014? Leave a comment.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Giving Thanks to Fellow Writers

This Thanksgiving, Writer Abroad is grateful for the many writers, editors, and authors who have critiqued her work, offered support, or in some other way been extra great. Because writing is a lonely job (especially when you live abroad), it’s nice to have fellow writers among us who understand that. It would be impossible to list them all, but here is a start.

Lizzie Harwood
Lizzie Harwood, a writer and editor living in Paris, edited Writer Abroad’s collection of essays about life in Switzerland. She meets deadlines and is detail-oriented. An expat herself, she’s the perfect editor for expat-related projects. She also offers very competitive rates.

Kelly Jarosz
When Writer Abroad needs a critique, Kelly Jarosz is always there to offer one. A fellow American in Zurich, she’s offered complete writing companionship since 2009. Along with Emily Lacika, Writer Abroad and Kelly Jarosz co-founded the Zurich Writers Worskhop, which provides support to English-language writers living in a German-language world.

Janet Skeslien Charles
Writer Abroad met Janet at the Paris Writers Workshop several years ago and since then this award-winning author of Moonlight in Odessa has taught at a Zurich Writers Workshop, critiqued part of Writer Abroad’s novel, and also recommended various editor friends. Merci, Janet, for all of your support. 

Susan Johnston
Writer Abroad feels like she’s known Susan Johnston forever even though they’ve never met. The blogger behind The Urban Muse Writer, Writer Abroad has been inspired by Susan for years (and learned a lot about writing in the process).

Jill Prewett
Jill is one of those writers who always has about ten writing projects going—The Woolf Literary Journal, Words with JAM literary magazine, Nuance Words projects, and she still manages to run writing workshops and organize independent author meet-ups. She’s an expert on self-publishing too, having published several crime novels under J.J. Marsh. A fellow Zurich-based writer, Writer Abroad is grateful to have Jill’s support.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Are you a writer moving abroad?

Recently one of Writer Abroad’s fellow writing bloggers e-mailed her with a bunch of questions about moving abroad. They were really great questions, so Writer Abroad thought she’d post some of them here to help other writers considering moving abroad.

Are there rules that would prevent me from working for freelance clients in the UK while on a spousal visa?

Probably. But Writer Abroad can’t speak about specifics regarding permits and work in other countries. Every country is different and within each country there are very different rules depending on the type of permit you receive. Writer Abroad recommends you do your research so you know exactly what to expect before you arrive.

Have you found that clients in Switzerland are pretty receptive to working with you or do they prefer working with locals?

Clients in Switzerland are very receptive to working with Writer Abroad, but that is because English writing is practically a requirement for businesses everywhere in the world these days and Writer Abroad has a skill the locals don’t. She’s not sure if it would be as easy to find writing work in an English speaking country as a foreigner. But Writer Abroad believes that whatever you want to do, you will make it possible. 

Should I tell current US clients that I am moving abroad or should I not tell them right away? I don’t want them to get hung up on the potential barriers of working with an expat and decide to end the relationship.

You're right to be concerned; some Americans (family included!) are very resistant to mailing or calling overseas. Something about it scares them or makes them think it's too much work. You can get yourself a US-based Skype number so clients don’t know (or don’t feel) like they are calling abroad, but there is still the time difference to deal with.

Before she moved to Switzerland, Writer Abroad told the alt weekly she was writing for that she was moving. And she wrote for them for another couple of months after moving abroad, but honestly, the distance did make a difference—on both sides. That being said, Writer Abroad writes for publications around the world now, and a unique location can be an advantage for certain kinds of writing—especially travel writing. Also, if you are living in an expensive part of the world like Zurich or London, where the dollar isn’t worth as much as the local currency, you may find yourself naturally seeking out local opportunities if your permit allows it.

Anyone else have questions (or answers) about living abroad as a writer?

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Writer Interview: Chris van Hakes in the United States

Writer Abroad would like to introduce Chris van Hakes, a pen name for Shalini, the blogger behind Reading and Chickens, who just released her first novel, Lost & Found, which she published independently. Writer Abroad is extra excited about this novel because she went to high school and college with Shalini, back before they both knew they would become writers. Now Shalini joins Writer Abroad to discuss the experience of publishing her first book.

Congrats on publishing your first novel. Could you tell us a little about the premise?

Thank you! My elevator pitch is: Delaney hates Oliver, but not as much as Oliver hates Delaney. So why can't they stay away from each other?

At first it's a bit of Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy, contemporary-style. The novel starts out with Delaney and Oliver in a meet-cute, absolutely loathing each other. Oliver is a self-centered asshole, and Delaney has the lowest self-esteem, so they're obviously meant for each other. 

I like to think of it as a feminist romance. There are a lot of novels where a man "helps" a woman solve her problems (including Pride and Prejudice), and I wanted Delaney to go from weak to strong on her own (and she does).

You have a literary agent, who is currently shopping around some other book projects of yours. Why did she advise you to publish your first novel independently?

My literary agent and I parted ways this summer (amicably). She was incredibly insightful and I like to say she gave me an MFA in all she taught me about the art of writing. We worked on a YA novel of mine for nine months, and in the end, things just didn't work with the novel. 

I had another novel I was writing at the time, OFFICE CRUSH, that she said was well-written but wouldn't do well traditionally published, and I thought seriously about self-publishing it, but eventually decided against it. I focused all my energies around the YA novel instead.

After the YA novel was off my plate, I didn't really know what to do with my writing career, so I sat around metaphorically chewing my hair for a few months before deciding I wanted to self-publish, and to do something that sold well online, like romance, so I wrote LOST AND FOUND.

You published the novel under a pen name. Can you discuss why? Do you think authors should brand themselves differently based on the genre?

I am also a librarian, and I hope to one day be a school or children's librarian. While my book isn't exactly erotica (not even close), it does have lots of swearing and some sex, and I just wanted to keep those two worlds separate.

I think in the past authors have branded themselves differently by genre, and I can see the advantage, especially if you write both romance and children's lit.

Can you discuss your blog and the importance it has had for you as a writer?

My blog has been SO important. Not only have I met many great people, it gave me writing practice every single day, provided a great community for feedback, and helped me learn the ins and outs of social media. I think every writer should have a blog. If nothing else, it's free advertising, but I don't really think about it that way. I'm not sure the percentage of my readers who bought my novel, but I don't really care. They were cheerleaders, and every writer needs passels of cheerleaders!

How did you find your editor and book cover designer?

Honestly, I was incredibly lucky. My cover designer is a great friend of mine, and she volunteered because she happens to be a web designer by trade. My editor was a beta reader for my YA novel, who happens to also be an editor (who I met through my blog). I liked her notes on my YA novel so much that I asked if I could hire her. That's really no help to the wide world. Sorry!

Book promotion. Writers seem to have to do it whether they publish independently or traditionally. What has been your promotion strategy?

I'm still learning my strategy. I don't think I have one yet. I'm trying out GoodReads ads, and a few other places online, slowly rolling them out so I know what's effective and what's not. That said, so far I think almost all of my sales have been because of word-of-mouth, and BOY do I appreciate it. (See above when I talk about cheerleaders.) I think my other strategy is perseverance. I believe in my novel and my writing skills, and so it's just about finding my audience. I'll get there, whether if it's with this novel or the next one. I feel confident that there are people out there who want to read sweet, smart, well-written love stories about strong women.

Printing actual real books. How did you decide on Amazon’s CreateSpace? Was it easy to use?

I cannot go on enough about how professional and great CreateSpace was. The software is great. The review process is great. The way they get your book in print almost immediately is great. It's a lot tougher than formatting an ebook, because you have to consider gutter margins, font, line spacing, etc., and it took a lot of experimenting, and I wouldn't say it was easy, but I think that's just the nature of formatting for print. I think the final product is amazing.

Based on your experience so far, do you think you would publish again independently? Why or why not?

I'm only a week into it so far, so I think I need a little more time to decide. I really like being able to set my own timeline, and have control over my cover, and the great royalty rates, but if a traditional publishing house wanted to sink lots of money into me, I wouldn't be saying no!

I don't know that traditional publishers are great for first-time unknown authors any longer, though. If you go to a trade show, or look at the books being marketed by any of the US Big 5, they promote their biggest authors and throw all the money behind them. Smaller authors don't get much. 

As a capitalist, I understand this strategy completely, and if I were in book marketing, I'd do the same thing. It's hard to be on the other side of it, though, as understanding as I am. Agents and authors do SO MUCH work, and get paid so little, and the prices of traditionally published books are so much higher. I really enjoy having a book for 2.99. I'd feel guilty if readers had to pay 9.99 for an ebook copy, but it has to be priced that high to pay for all the marketing, publicity, etc., that I'm doing for free.

And those of you without agents so far--agents make even less than the author on deals so they're definitely on authors' sides in every sense. Something has to change, and I think self-publishing is making that happen. Self-publishers are learning, too, to not undercut the market by selling books for nothing, and how to put out a great product and make a name for ourselves that it's not all weird erotica or badly edited clichés. We're professionals, too, and I think LOST AND FOUND is the best work I've done so far. I've gotten a lot of "I couldn't put it down!" comments, and I'm extremely happy with that! I have a lot to learn, as does every writer, traditionally published or not, but I think my novel is a testament that quality exists in the self-publishing world.

 There has to be a medium where the public can appreciate art widely, and artists can actually survive doing what they love, and get better at it. Right now traditional publishers don't have the resources to support all the writers out there, and I think indie publishing is helping close this disparity.

Most of all, indie publishing is, at this point, low-risk. What's the harm of trying to write and sell? It's a great learning experience, and I'm so glad I'm doing it. I'm learning to be my own cheerleader, too, because I believe in my skills as a novelist so much more now that I have to self-promote and not just sit in a writing cave and think of great jokes and

I think much more now in terms of pacing and plot and what people like to read, as well as what I want to write. I think about what people say in my reviews, and how I can change that for future novels, or keep what people have loved. It's definitely helping me be a better writer, all around.

Yes, I want to purchase Lost & Found on amazon.
Yes, I want to purchase Lost & Found on the Nook (Only US).
Yes, I want to check out Reading and Chickens for more on the writing life (and just plain life).


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