Behind the Scenes

Community Novel Project 2017 handouts

What Publishing Insiders Wished Authors Knew
Wednesday, January 4, 2017 • 7-8:30 p.m.
Marvin Auditorium 101C
Julie Meidinger Trelstad, a 30-year NYC publishing veteran, talks about publishing myths, including what agents and publishing houses want, when to choose self-publishing, and the author’s role in publishing. Bring your questions to a facilitated conversation, and receive checklists to help aspiring writers. 

Questions submitted in advance for “What Publishing Insiders Wished Authors Knew” – read the questions submitted in advance by community writers which were answered at the event

Additional advice from Julie Trelstad:

Previous year handouts

Welcome to the 2016 Community Novel Project from the Topeka and Shawnee County Public Library!

The goal of the Community Novel Project is to help writers gain skills and learn techniques that transfer to their writing careers, through working together on a collaborative writing project.

WRITERS: Learn more about the self-publishing process, including peer feedback and editing, and contribute a short story to this year’s community novel. Contact Project Organizers Lissa Staley and Miranda Ericsson.

Follow along on our writing, editing and publishing progress by looking Behind the Scenes or you can Get Involved as a writer, editor, marketer, or in any other role needed to successfully self-publish a book.

Upcoming events are listed under Get Involved

2016 Community Novel Project basics

WRITERS: Learn more about the self-publishing process, including peer feedback and editing, and contribute a short story to this year’s community novel.

Spoiler alert: The 2016 theme is short stories which are Alternative History or Speculative Fiction set in Topeka/NE Kansas.

Project and Programming for 2016

  • A short story collection, allowing writers to all write simultaneously and meet the same deadlines
  • Workshops designed to improve writing, editing and self-publishing skills
  • Greater focus on workshopping/peer review and editing
  • Collaborative effort to create a quality product

The Theme

  • Alternative History or Speculative fiction set in Topeka/NE Kansas
  • “What if” stories—something in the past happened differently than it did in real life, leading to a different present; or, what the future could look like if things continue on the track that they are on now

Parameters for Inclusion (as determined by participants)

  • Stories should be about 2,500 words—4,000 word hard maximum
  • Single submission from each writer
  • Flash fiction is also acceptable, for example, a complete story in one page.
  • Writers are expected to have personally polished their work through self-editing before it is passed on for peer review
  • Each writer will have their story read by at least 3 other writers; each writer will read at least 3 stories and give feedback
  • Do your part in the collaboration. This is not a publishing house or a contest. This collaborative project models the successful skills and strategies for successful fiction self-publishing.

If you decide you want to be involved, please read more about the project theme and parameters for inclusion in the notes from the Premise Meeting. You can also check out the March 25 project update with project timeline and deadlines and April 1 project update for reminders, upcoming events, and links.

Previous Events, Handouts, Photos and Notes

Create the Community Novel

Saturday, January 23, 2016 • Noon-2 p.m.
Marvin Auditorium 101C

Learn self publishing from premise to paperback or ebook. Writers will create thematically connected stories, peer critique, copy edit, layout, publish and market the book. Focus on skills including connecting to local networks, establishing collaborations and setting project timelines.

Fiction Writing Basics Workshop with Thomas Fox Averill

Tuesday, February 23, 2016 • 6:30-8:30 p.m.
Marvin Auditorium 101BC

Writing short stories and flash fiction requires a different approach than novel-length writing. Author Thomas Fox Averill will guide aspiring short fiction writers into crafting effective short fiction in this community writing workshop.

Editing Your Novel

Thursday, March 10, 2016 • 6:30-8:30 p.m.
Marvin Auditorium 101BC
Writing the first draft of a novel is the first step on the journey to publication. Morgan Chilson will speak from her experience as a writer, ghostwriter and editor. To move toward a manuscript worth submitting, you have to sit down to edit. Discuss types of revision in this community writing workshop including line editing, copy editing and peer feedback.

How to Workshop for Writers

Tuesday, April 12, 2016 • 6:30-8:30 p.m.
Marvin Auditorium 101BC
You can gather like-minded writers, share works, successfully workshop fiction, nonfiction and poetry and make your own writing community right where you are. We’ll show you how. Leah Sewell will speak from her experience as a writer, editor and workshop facilitator. Leave armed with new connections and resources to get started with creating or joining a writers group.

Notes from How to Workshop for Writers with Leah Sewell

BASIC Checklist from How to Workshop for Writers with Leah Sewell

Community Novel Project: Marketing Yourself

Tuesday, May 10, 2016 • 6:30-8:30 p.m.
Marvin Auditorium 101C
Create and promote your writing persona to help connect readers to your books. Learn how to improve author bios, use social media, choose head shots and give compelling written and recorded interviews. Get tips and share experiences with other writers. Presentation by Mikki Burcher.

Notes from Marketing Yourself with Mikki Burcher

Mikki Burcher’s presentation: Marketing You Handout

Self-Publishing with Createspace and Smashwords

Monday, June 6, 2016 • 6:30-8:30 p.m.
Marvin Auditorium 101C
Bringing your written work to market for sale and distribution has never been easier. Learn how to select a platform that fits your project. Join a discussion about formatting and publication options. Share ideas about marketing to reach readers. Presentation by Ian Hall.

Notes from Self Publishing with Createspace and Smashwords with Ian Hall

Miranda Ericsson’s presentation Self-Publishing: Getting Started .Adapted from Libraries Partnering with Self-Publishing: A Winning Combination, Chapter 5, by Miranda Ericsson and Lissa Staley. Libraries Unlimited, 2016.

Marketing Your Self-Published Book

Saturday, July 30, 2016 • Noon-2 p.m.
Marvin Auditorium
Plan promotions for marketing your book. Create timelines and implement strategies leading up to and following publication. Share ideas for success with consignment sales, fairs and events, giveaways, reader reviews, rankings, libraries, and other distribution channels. Register at

The Big Picture: A Community of Writers
Facilitator: Lissa Staley, Topeka and Shawnee County Public Library

Saturday, August 20, 2016
Marvin Auditorium

What could a community of writers accomplish? Facilitator Lissa Staley will help the group strategize and prioritize goals for the writing community. This is bigger than NaNoWriMo, bigger than Washburn’s English Department, bigger than poetry readings, bigger than the public library, bigger than any one writing group — but it includes all of those parts of our community. What do you need from each other and from your community? We will NOT be assigning out any tasks or develop a strategic plan, but when we engage in a facilitated discussion with many individual authors in the same room, we help people work together to see a big picture for the writing community.

Results from the Facilitated Conversation with Lissa Staley and a Community of Writers

Simple Steps to a Winning Pitch Presentation
Facilitator: Dr. David Price, Washburn University School of Business
Saturday, August 20, 2016

A “Pitch Presentation” or “Elevator Pitch” is a quick and well-structured speech designed to gain the interest of potential stakeholders. A good pitch can be critical as we never know when an opportunity will arise to make a great first impression with someone that can help our business. This session will present information on various pitch formats and how to prepare for them, what verbal and technological skills may be required and how these can be tailored for writers to increase their chances of publication.

David Price’s Presentation Slides

Meet the Authors: Community Novel Project: Twisting Topeka Book Launch
Sunday, September 25, 2016 • 2-4 p.m.
Marvin Auditorium
Imagine Topeka, only different. A tiny change can have a big impact, as seen in these short stories by local writers. Authors of the 2016 Community Novel Project will read from their stories, discuss collaborating and independent publishing, and sign copies at this book launch. Learn more at

Choosing an Excerpt for a Reading

Reading from your work can be a great way to connect with readers. Most of the time, you can’t just start at page 1 and read for your allotted time, though. The aim is to hook in readers without giving too much away, and you need a great excerpt delivered in a memorable way to do it. Check out the following blogs for good advice:

Choosing a Book Excerpt | Indies Unlimited

How to Choose an Excerpt to Showcase Your Novel | Nail Your Novel