The 31st Year of

April 14, 2018

“Rally is the warmest, longest-running conference in Michigan. Great speakers, great company, and pretty good cookies.”
Online REGISTRATION is now open! Mail-in registration available on the CONFERENCE page!

2018 Preview

Terry Blackhawk, Keynote:

Poet, essayist, teacher, founder of InsideOut Literary Arts Project

Greg Baldino: Ethics in YA NF Books

Michael Byers: Short stories, novels – Percival’s Planet

Desiree Cooper: Journalist, flash-fiction novel – Know the Mother

Karen Dionne: Psychological suspense thrillers – The Marsh King’s Daughter

Colleen Gleason: Fantasy, historical, paranormal….

Lisa Grady: Screenwriting

Patrice Johnson: Creative NF book – The Fall and Rise of Tyler Johnson

Linda Peckham: The Clumping Theory

Lev Raphael: Writing Mysteries

John Smolens: Writing the Novel – Wolf’s Mouth

Alice Speilburg & Elana Roth Parker: Agents, First Page

Whitney Spotts: Book Promotion

David Stricklen: MG Books – Blackwater Pond series

See the speakers’ bios on the CONFERENCE page now!
Online registration open on the REGISTRATION page! PDF Brochures now available on the CONFERENCE page.


For news of writing events, seminars and conferences, check in at The Skaaldic Society website and click on the WRITING EVENTS tab. I will be making updates there as news comes in. For information about local Michigan writing groups click on the Skaalds LINKS tab.

For more information on writing groups, check out the Resources page here.


Rally Warm-Up
7:00pm Friday, April 13, 2018


Several Super Storytellers
In participation with WKAR
 © A Rally of Writers 2018


Q&A with John Smolens

John Smolens will be presenting a session on writing a novel: “An act of faith, hope and stupidity: why we writing novels anyway.” We concur. It is a mystery, and we do it anyway. A short bio of John is on the CONFERENCE page. www.johnsmolens.com

How did you find your genre as a novelist? Did you experiment with others?

I like to think that I don’t work in “my genre”—or any genre, for that matter.  The notion seems confining to me.  Recently you see some novels described as “genre-bending”—something like that.  I think most novels have been doing that for a long, long time.  Crime and Punishment might be considered a “murder mystery.”  But definitely not a “British cozy.”

That being said, I realize that a reader is likely to think of some of my novels—The Schoolmaster’s Daughter, Quarantine, and perhaps Wolf’s Mouth—as “historical fiction,” while books such as Cold and Fire Point are “contemporary” stories set way up north.  For me, that’s the beauty of writing novels.  One can imagine how events unfolded on, say, the night before the battle at Bunker Hill, and also plunk a group of characters down in the midst of an Upper Peninsula blizzard and wish them luck.

What is your writing ritual like? Are you writing every day? 

I like the word ritual.  Has religious/spiritual overtones.  I try to write every day, and the days that I don’t feel lost, soulless.  The Turkish Nobel laureate Orhan Pamuk claims in an essay called “The Implied Author” that days when he doesn’t write the world become “unbearable, abominable.”  My ritual, such as it is, is to get up early…very early.  I tend to wake up between 3 and 4 a.m.  (I’m writing this at 4:29 a.m.)  I work for several hours, often till sunrise, give our dog Sammy the breakfast he richly deserves (and insists upon), and then take what I call my morning pre-nap.  On a good day I’ll be back at the desk again by midmorning.

Are you writing from an outline or are you more organic?

Never an outline.  But I admire writers who can see and sketch out an entire book before actually beginning to write.  I don’t know how they do it.  Organic?  I guess that word might apply, though it seems too clean, too healthy, and suggests all things lifestyle.  I have a life, such as it is, not a lifestyle.  My methods of composition are more dirty and very often repetitive, inefficient, and utterly exhausting.  However, if you think of something organic as being nurtured in the earth, yes, I often feel I’m down on my hands and knees, rooting in the soil for something, anything that might eventually be edible.  If I were a restaurant I’d be the farm to table sort, or what they call in Italy agriturismo.

What is the one thing you wish new novelists would take the time to do?

There are at least 101 things I would recommend (and have recommended during my years of teaching), but I’ll mention just three:

  1. Not just literature.  Read history.
  2. Don’t be afraid.
  3. And don’t be so sure of yourself. Doubt and uncertainty are essential elements when writing anything longer than your name.

You have a new book. How does the process of promotion for this book differ from that first novel?

You’re talking more than 30 years, from my first novel to my next (my tenth) novel Out, which will be published in 2019.  From 1987 to the present, virtually every aspect of publishing has changed, and it continues to morph at a greater pace.  These days, the vast majority of novels are released with little or no “promotion”; there will be a brief description in the publisher’s catalogue and, if you’re lucky, there might be some advertising.  Most likely “promotion” is the responsibility of the author.  There are far fewer brick and mortar book stores than even five years ago, and far less space is now devoted to book reviews in newspapers and magazines.  However, there are online reviewers and bloggers, and there are public libraries, which I think is one of the last bastions of civilization as we know it.  If a decade ago I was traveling to a string of book stores, now I’m greatly appreciative when librarians network and help me set up a series of readings.

What keeps you coming back to do a new book after the last one is done?

Because I’m still breathing.  My favorite response to the question “Why write?” comes from John Updike, who said, “Why not?”  I think it applies to every book I write.  But it’s also a self-serving impulse, because if I didn’t have a book to work on (I usually have several unfinished books going), then what would I be doing between pre-naps, naps, and post-naps?  If one stops writing, the stories, characters, ideas don’t stop…the words will still keep coming, but they won’t go anywhere; they’ll just keep filling up my head until there’s an incomprehensible slurry of junk in there.  Better to tap the source, let it out, and see what it looks like in the light of day.  Annie Dillard in The Writing Life talks about the artist who said he painted because he liked the smell of paint.  I like words and sentences and paragraphs; pages upon pages.  They represent something that is not real, yet seems more real than real, more true than fact (usually).  I also must admit that one of the first things I do when I obtain a book is press it up to my face and inhale.  I like the smell of paper and ink.


Andrea King Collier
Freelance Writer and Journalist
For A Rally of Writers 2018


Q & A with Des Cooper

Des Cooper will be joining us for two sessions at our 31st year of A Rally of Writers. Past presenter Andrea King Collier is interviewing our presenters, asking them about their experiences in writing, publishing, and life in general. You can also read Des’s bio on the CONFERENCE page. www.descooper.com

Many people know you as a journalist. How did the short story collection Know the Mother come about?

I’ve never not wanted to be a creative writer. I got into journalism as a way to make a living as a writer, but it was never a life ambition for me. Through the years of carving out a career and raising a family, I continued to write stories and meet with other creative writers to learn and grow. This collection was 20 years in the making, the result of my continued pushing to write whenever I could. My process is very much reflected in the theme of the book: How women fight to self-actualize beneath the often-crushing mantle of “mother.”

The cover of your book is extraordinary. Tell us about that process. 

I am so proud of the cover, and of Wayne State University Press for making it happen. I really wanted the work of an African American Detroit artist to be on my cover. I have lots of artist friends and I scoured their work, but I couldn’t find anything that perfectly depicted the themes of the book. So I Googled “African American surrealist” and up popped the extraordinary work of Karin Miller, who, of all things, is a white South African! She is a digital artist who uses icons of politics, history and religion to comment on race and gender. It was only after we got permission to use her piece “Guess Who?” for the cover that I learned that the woman in the image is actually Queen Elizabeth!

Did being an award winning journalist help you when it came to getting this collection published?