Each spring, the rally helps writers pull away from the clutches of winter with an array of programs and discussions on the creative art of writing and the practical art of getting published.
This year, the 30th year of its long history, the rally will be held April 8 at Lansing Community College’s West Campus. The event features more than 10 authors and 19 breakout sessions covering topics ranging from writing historical romance to capturing cultural stories to pitching nonfiction stories to editors.
Over the three-decade span of the rally, hundreds of award-winning and best-selling authors have graced the podium, bringing both inspiring messages and practical tips for writers.
Michigan native Lori Nelson Spielman, a participant in an early rally, returns to a Rally of Writers this year as keynote speaker. Spielman brings with her a long list of accolades, including being the author of two No. 1 international best-sellers, “The Life List” and “Sweet Forgiveness.” “The Life List” alone has sold more than 1 million copies worldwide and has been optioned for a movie.
Spielman is just one of hundreds of writers who have been inspired by the day-long summit. A Rally of Writers co-founder Linda Peckham was a writing instructor at Lansing Community College when she decided that the Lansing area needed a venue where writers, published and unpublished, could meet and hone their craft. Linda has stepped back from the rally this year because of the recent death of her husband, Robert Morris, a well-known Lansing historian and builder.
Each year, the rally selects authors, agents and others in the industry to pass on their knowledge. A few years ago, thriller writer Karen Dionne, who had written several modestly successful environmental thrillers, talked about the need for meticulous research and sticking to something that you love. Now thriller fans are eagerly awaiting her new book, “The Marsh King’s Daughter,” for which the U.S. publishing rights sold at auction for over $1 million. The book, which is set in Michigan, involves a young mother who was fathered by her own mother’s kidnapper. Years after she helped put him in prison, she must face him again after he stages a dramatic escape.
The presenters at the annual conference are no slackers, and the lineup routinely includes award-winning writers, including many Michigan Notable Book Award winners. Not to be missed this year are Beverly Jenkins and Julie Lawson Timmer. A Detroit native, Jenkins is the nation’s premier writer of African American historical romance. She has written 35 books and was recently featured on “CBS This Morning” talking about the cultural impact of romance novels. Timmer, an Ann Arbor lawyer, is the author of “Five Days Left,” an emotional look at decisions that affect life and death.
Landis Lain, a local writer and Michigan administrative law judge, will talk about her debut young adult novel, “Daddy’s Baby,” and how to write in the voice of a teenager when you haven’t been one for many years.
Registration for this year’s rally is available at arallyofwriters.com. The registration fee is $100 at the door, but early birds can reserve an advance registration for $85. Students can reserve a spot for $35 in advance or $45 at the door. An optional lunch is available for an extra $15.
While the meat of the rallies takes place on Saturdays, a relatively recent addition is a free Friday Rally Warm-Up event hosted by Schuler Books in partnership with WKAR. Longtime rally participant and nonfiction writer Andrea King Collier is especially excited about the theme of this year’s warm up, which focuses on storytelling. “Storypaloosa” features several local storytellers who will explore the nexus between writing and storytelling.
Collier compares “Storypaloosa” to NPR’s “The Moth Radio Hour” and hopes that it will “get people jazzed up about storytelling.”
In her Saturday session on writing nonfiction, Collier will explore the nuts and bolts of submission, as well as the challenges of telling real-life stories.
“A lot of people want to do autobiographical essays, but they have to remember that their mother or daughter or sister or friend might read it,” she said. “Even though you might write a particularly revealing essay for an obscure publication, your mother’s going to see it in the beauty shop, so be prepared.”
Collier, who has stepped in for Peckham this year as the public face of the rally, said the event also fills an important social function “where writers can meet other writers and become friends.”
“Writing is so solitary,” she said. “The rally is an important outlet for writers.”
Collier recalls an early rally — she’s only missed two — where she volunteered to drive Beverly Jenkins to her hotel and ended up spending several hours talking about writing. That one-on-one time, she said, was priceless.
Rally Warm-Up: “Storypaloosa”
7 p.m. Friday, April 7
Schuler Books & Music (Eastwood Towne Center location)
2820 Towne Center Blvd., Lansing
(517) 316-7495, schulerbooks.com
A Rally of Writers
8:30 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday, April 8
$100/$85 adv./$45 students/$35 adv. ($15 optional lunch available)
LCC West Campus Conference Center
5708 Cornerstone Drive, Lansing