3 Questions with novelist S.D. Grimm

Sarah GrimmS. D. GRIMM’S first love in writing is young adult speculative fiction. She is represented by Julie Gwinn of the Seymour Agency and her debut novel, Scarlet Moon, is slated to be published in October 2016. (Pre-order a copy here!) When she’s not writing or editing, Sarah enjoys reading (of course!), making clay dragons for her Grimmlies store on Etsy, practicing kickboxing and Brazilian jiu jitsu, training dogs, and doing anything outdoorsy with the family. Her office is anywhere she can curl up with her laptop and at least one large-sized dog.

Sarah is a flash fiction editor for Splickety Magazine. She’ll be speaking on Flash Fiction writing at the upcoming Jot Writers’ Conference (9.9.16).

What is Flash Fiction? Give us a working definition that most people more or less agree on.

Flash fiction is, in its simplest form, a whole story in 1,000 words or less.

Who are your favorite flash writers and why? Who should we be reading?

Okay, this is really hard, and I’m going to be very biased because I work for Splickety Publishing Group and love all three of our magazines. We have had some really talented flash fiction writers as well as some talented featured authors who have tried their hand at writing flash fiction. It’s not as easy as it sounds. But if you’re interested in flash fiction, I highly recommend checking out Splickety Magazine, Splickety Love, or Havok. (if you want to include our website, feel free www.splickety.com)

Give us a teaser of your Jot Conference talk. What can attendees expect?

Dabbling in flash fiction has a lot of hidden benefits for writers. I’ll be discussing how to write flash fiction that sells as well as how writing flash fiction is just plain good for your writing career.

3 Questions with novelist Aric Davis

Aric DavisARIC DAVIS is the author of seven books: From Ashes Rise: A Novel of Michigan, Nickel Plated, A Good and Useful Hurt, The Black Death: A Dead Man Novella, Rough Men, Breaking Point, The Fort and Tunnel Vision. He is married with one daughter and lives in Grand Rapids, Michigan where he worked for sixteen years as a body piercer; he now writes full time. A punk rock aficionado, Davis does anything he can to increase awareness of a good band. He likes weather cold enough to need a sweatshirt but not a coat, and friends who wear their hearts on their sleeves. In addition to reading and writing, he also enjoys roller coasters, hockey, and a good cigar. All of Aric’s books are available on Amazon.com.

Aric will be interviewed as part of the next Jot Writers’ Conference (9.9.16). I (Andy) asked him a couple of questions recently about writing fiction and alternative publishing options. Take a look.

What are two important skills every fiction writer must possess? What are the things that seem universal among great fiction writers?

The first skill that I believe every writer should possess is the ability to take a beating. When I was trying to get published I wrote six manuscripts and suffered over 400 rejections, but if I would have stopped I’d have never seen my work in print.

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3 Questions with Tom Springer

Tom Springer 2015 300dpiTOM SPRINGER is an essayist, journalist, and environmentalist. He has written about nature and outdoor travel for newspapers and magazines such as Backpacker, Michigan Out-of-Doors, andNotre Dame, and his nature-themed commentaries have aired on several National Public Radio programs. His collection of essays, Looking For Hickories: The Forgotten Wildness of the Rural Midwest (University of Michigan Press), was named a Michigan Notable Book in 2009. Springer holds a master’s degree in environmental journalism from Michigan State University. He lives near Three Rivers, Michigan.

He’ll also be speaking at the upcoming Jot Writers’ Conference (9.9.16) so I thought I would ask him a few questions about writing creative nonfiction.

What’s an important skill a writer should possess if they want to write creative nonfiction?

A good nonfiction writer should know a little about everything and a lot about something. In other words, be a generalist — an omnivorous reader with many interests — but have also one area where you specialize. It could be sustainable agriculture, jazz music, infectious diseases, contemplative prayer or astronomy. Whatever. The point here is to communicate your passion and knowledge in a way that’s enlightening, without being too technical. Nonfiction writers should introduce people to other worlds in a way that’s accessible and makes them want to learn more.

Who are your favorite essay writers and why? Who should we be reading?

My preferences tend toward essayists who focus on the intersect between people and the natural world. The seminal essayist for me is Aldo Leopold, whose deceptively short and simple “A Sand County Alamanac,” established the field of ecology and the impetus for the environmental movement. I also like Scott Russell Sanders, whose essays combine memoir and natural history, with a strong sense of community and place-based work (carpentry, agriculture, homemaking). For beauty and evocative writing, I’d recommend Barbara Kingsolver, a novelist whose nonfiction work resonates with the same literary qualities as her fiction does.

Give us a teaser of your Jot Conference talk. What can attendees expect?

During my session, we will discuss my basic formula for writing a personal essay: facts + firsthand experience + “wisdom synthesis.” If someone in the crowd is willing, we will on the spot take an excerpt of knowledge and experience from their life and shaped into an outline for an essay. Also, there will be free homemade cookies.

3 Questions with Tim Beals

Tim BealsTim Beals is a literary agent and publishing industry veteran. He’s worked for HarperCollins Christian Publishing, Discovery House, World Vision, and alongside numerous others in his role as an agent. He is currently the president of Credo Communications, an innovative publishing and agenting business based in Grand Rapids, MI. You can read his full bio here. During JOT #5 he’ll be presenting a talk called, “Agenting 101: What You Need to Know About Literary Agents.” Here are three questions with Tim:


What’s the most important thing a writer should do before they contact a literary agent?

Be prepared. Work hard to know your audience, craft your writing, present your very best work. Agents have become the first filter for publishers, so let them know what qualifies you to write about your topic, how your work contributes to an important, ongoing conversation, and what you are already doing to serve and communicate with your readers.

What is a common misconception people have about the book business?

It’s easy. It’s hard. Some people actually expect that the written offspring of their minds and hearts will automatically be loved and embraced by publishers and readers alike, just as it was by their mom or boyfriend or professor. Others believe that, while their message is important, timely, and well-rendered, it is impossible to break into print these days. The truth is both/and, not either/or.

Give us a teaser of your Jot Conference presentation. What can attendees expect?

We’ll learn together what agents need, what publishers expect, and what readers long for. We’ll also discuss when, why, and how to approach an agent about your project.

3 Questions with Amelia Rhodes

Amelia Rhodes-speakingAmelia Rhodes is an author, speaker, blogger, journalist, wife, mom, and probably don’s a cape a cowl each night to defend the innocent of Grand Rapids against ne’er-do-wells. She’ll be speaking at JOT 5 about making time to write. Here are three quick questions with Amelia. See you on Friday, March 13th!

Give us a teaser of your Jot presentation. What can attendees expect?

In The War of Art, Steven Pressfield, said, “There’s a secret real writers know that wanna be writers don’t. And the secret is this: it’s not the writing part that’s hard. What’s hard is sitting down to write.” I’ll be discussing making time to write, how to make the most of your writing time, and offering practical tips for both areas.

What’s a good habit or pattern for writers to start?

Shauna Niequist once said, “The first part of writing is noticing.” I think one of the best habits a writer can develop is to become the best possible “noticer.” Pay attention to life around you. Notice the people. Ask about their stories. Listen. Notice the colors, emotions, smells, and sounds that surround you every day. There’s always something to write about if you are paying attention. The second great practice is to collect those things you’ve noticed in a system that works for you, so when you sit down to write, you aren’t starting from zero. Instead, you’ll already have hundreds of ideas just waiting to be crafted into a great piece of writing.

Just for fun: If you could have lunch with any three authors – alive or dead – who would they be and why?


  1. Lucy Maud Montgomery. Anne of Green Gables is my favorite novel. I’d love the chance to thank her for this wonderful story that I now have the privilege of sharing with my own daughter.


  1. C.S. Lewis. I’d love to chat about his writing process, especially because he wrote such varied pieces from deep theology for adults to beautiful literature for children.


  1. J.K. Rowling. Professor Snape might be my favorite villian/non-villian. From his first appearance, he intrigued me. I’d love to hear how she came up with him, and if she knew from the start who he was and all he had done.