Saturday, February 10, 2018

Getting Ready for SCWC...It's Almost Time!

Yes, it's February and less than a week until the Southern California Writers Conference here in San Diego.  I lalways ook forward to President's Day weekend with great expectations, knowing I'll learn a lot, even as I get to teach a lot!
I know I've said all this before, but bear with me as I remind you of a few reason to attend SCWC:
1. To find your "tribe"! The most important reason of all—we all need people in our life that "get" us and "get" our writing...You can find them at SCWC!
2. To meet industry professionals, and not just see them at a panel. Where else can you chat with agents and editors and successful authors in an informal setting like coffee or drinks? (Too many conferences are "cattle calls" where the pros all hang out together and you never actually meet anyone except other first-timers.)
3. To get professional eyes on your work. Amateur authors often submit their manuscript when they finish their first draft, because they're tired of working on it...but the book isn't ready to be published. Whether you take some pages to read and critique meetings or  to late night "rogues," you'll learn what is working—and what isn't.


4. To learn more about craft and story, and to learn what's happening in the industry. From workshops on publishing, marketing, & promotion for your published book, to great speakers who have all "been there, done that." One of those speakers this year is Eric Peterson, my client and friend, and author of "The Dining Car." (SHAMELESS PLUG: Now available as an Audiobook!)
5. Because it's so flippin' fun! We all need to get out from behind our desks and meet other writers and socialize once in a while. And who doesn't want to hang out with a talented, inspiring, upbeat group of creative souls?
See you there—hasta pronto!

Friday, January 5, 2018

SCWC & the Sunriver Writers' Summit in May

I've written quite a few blog posts regarding my favorite writers conference, the Southern California Writers Conference (SCWC), and why attending this excellent conference is so important for aspiring writers, published authors, and even for indie publishers. I'll be teaching at SCWC in San Diego (Feb 16-18), but this post is really about their new Summit in Oregon in May.

           The Sunriver Writers' Summit is, as its name suggests, something quite different from a typical conference, and there are some compelling reasons to attend this two-day event, besides the fact that I'll be teaching there with the always-inspiring Judy Reeves and Michael Steven Gregory. 




First, the elements that make up a typical conference can make it a bit overwhelming—the plethora of workshops to attend, the many things to do before and after workshops. At the Writers' Summit, you'll be in one of three intensive tracks (check them out here) for both days. You'll concentrate on one subject—for instance, writing, polishing, and producing a great memoir, in my track—and focus on that exclusively. Obviously, there's a lot to cover within that subject, so you won't get bored!

           The second reason is that we all get stuck sometimes—whether we're just starting a project and need a push to get us going in the right direction, or have written a manuscript and know we need help figuring out what part of it is a book, or have a book and no idea of how to "get it out there." I hear all the time from writers how they spent years in a creative rut, until the right class, with the right person, at the right time, helped to propel them to a whole new level.

           Another reason is that all of us track leaders have been there, not just writing and editing, but selling and promoting projects and published books. We'll not only share with you the benefit of our years of experience, but answer specific questions about your project. (You'll also get to meet the other workshop leaders during the Summit weekend and enjoy an orientation speech by the always-entertaining Michael Steven Gregory.)

           Finally, the Summit will be held in beautiful Sunriver, Oregon (located in Central Oregon, very close to Redmond Municipal Airport) at the spectacular Sunriver Resort Lodge. May is the perfect time to visit this part of the Pacific Northwest, and the Lodge is a perfect setting for creativity.

           So, why not take the opportunity for a life-and-work-changing weekend in a gorgeous natural setting? Dates for the upcoming Summit are May 26-27, 2018. Don't wait—the Summit registration fee will be discounted by $50 if you register by February 1.

           hasta pronto—see you soon!



Thursday, December 14, 2017

Five Books I Read in 2017—and Recommend

It’s time for me to list five books I loved in 2017. As always, I leave off the bestsellers—the ten titles you’ve read about ten times in the last ten weeks of top ten books lists. I tried to keep it to works published in 2017, but I included a couple from 2016 that I discovered this year.

I am also, as always, not listing the books I edited in 2017, but I will tell you that the key author name to remember is Clay Savage…He’s got a half-dozen excellent manuscripts written in a variety of genres—it sounds unbelievable, but he’s crazy talented and prolific. Don’t worry, I'll let you know when his books are being published.

I will mention one collection that includes a story of mine: The Insider’s Guide to the Best of Mexico: 42 experts tell you where to sun, swim, eat, stay, and celebrate the real Mexico (2017) edited by Carmen Amato. This little ebook is a treasure—filled with short pieces by some well-known Mexico writers, like Jinx Schwartz, author of the always-enjoyable Hetta Coffey Series. Not a typical travel guide, this includes unique tidbits, offbeat adventures, and actual insider insights—and best of all, it is currently free on Kindle!

So...On to my "top five" list for 2017:

What Remains True by Janis Thomas (2017) isn’t just my favorite book this year, it’s already one of my favorites of the decade. One sign of a great book is that I want to read it again, and I wanted to reread this one as soon as I finished it. A true literary artist has the ability to step inside other people’s heads and inhabit them, and Thomas has done that here, in spades. Oddly enough, I had just finished reading Stars in The Grass, which deals with a similar situation—a family dealing with the loss of a young child— and as good as Ann Marie Stewart is, her book paled in comparison to the raw power of What Remains True. I don’t want to spoil anything by telling you more, just read it!


The Book of Moon by George Crowder (2016) This book reminded me of a California take on The Dirty Parts of the Bible, but I enjoyed it much more. Moon Landing may be only fifteen but he’s no kid; this coming-of-age story is told from the point of view of a very adult young man. Moon is concerned with the disintegration of his family due to his parents divorce, but he’s also worried about sex, death, global problems, world religions, and his own spirituality.

The Leavers by Lisa Ko (2017) I try not to hype any books that showed up on national “best of the year” lists, but I had to include The Leavers, because I this book is a must-read for anyone interested in issues of migration, immigration, and assimilation, as I am (and if you are not interested in these subjects, why not?). The story builds slowly, and was tough to get into, so be patient; I almost gave up on it, and I am so glad I didn’t. It might change the way you look at life in these United States.

The Eagle Tree by Ned Hayes (2016) This quirky book is a winner, and could be read by nature lovers of almost any age—the protagonist is a 14-year-old autistic boy who is in love with trees, and one tree in particular. If you enjoy reading about the outdoors, the Pacific Northwest, or stories told by unusual narrators, you’ll love The Eagle Tree. And if you loved The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, you will adore this book. The Kindle edition is on sale right now.

Still I Rise: The Persistence of Phenomenal Women by Marlene Wagman-Geller, with a foreword by Laurel Corona. The book highlights the struggles and accomplishments of important women of our era, like Betty Shabazz, Nellie Sachs, Selma Lagerlof, Fannie Lou Hamer, Bessie Coleman, and Lois Wilson (if you don’t recognize their names, you obviously need this book). In spite of the spotty editing, I definitely recommend this addictively-readable resource. It's important to all of us, and future generations, that our written histories tell the other half of history.







Friday, October 27, 2017

It All Worked Out in the End

One of the best things that can happen to an editor is seeing their clients' books win over readers and get great reviews. That matters as much as book awards—though those are awfully nice, too. One of the finest memoirs that I've worked on is "Fourteen" by





 KIRKUS REVIEW
A debut memoir reveals a turbulent adolescence.
At first glance, the voyage of Bjorn Johansen and his three daughters from San Diego to the islands of Tahiti in 1975 aboard the Aegir (Norwegian for “lord of the stormy seas”) has all the makings of a standard adventure story. But there is much more beneath the surface that sets this stirring book apart from other renderings of the challenges of adolescence. Nack is the middle daughter, who turned 14 years old right before they set sail, and she cleverly provides a definition of “navigation” in the opening pages because it serves as one of the text’s central metaphors. Her mother, often absent from the action here, struggled with mental illness and substance abuse. The author’s early characterization of her father as “volatile and demanding” is an understatement, as he turns out to be physically, emotionally, and sexually abusive. Thus the inclusion of “Survival” in the subtitle acquires another layer of meaning. In a breathtaking scene, Nack bravely defies her father’s orders and confronts him about the sexual abuse. She writes: “We’d been at sea seventeen days. He was like a lion crouching low, studying his prey. The gazelles eventually get worn down. They cannot be on high alert every moment of the day. Nobody can. I was tired of being scared.” After a series of cultural encounters and harrowing events once they reach their destination, the return voyage involves a different boat and crew. Although the riveting book ends before they make landfall, it is an appropriate moment to reflect on what has happened up to this point. The exhausted crew has just emerged intact from a ferocious two-day storm, which required lots of concerted effort and skilled maneuvering. They’re not there yet, but they are getting close. In keeping with the tone of the project as a whole, this ending, while somewhat abrupt, is powerful and inspiring. Perhaps the only quibble is that Nack leaves readers wanting more.
An engaging account, gripping from start to finish, that should appeal to a wide audience, including sailing enthusiasts.



Wednesday, September 20, 2017

"Up and Autumn," Everyone!

What happened to August? I seem to have missed a month, somewhere. Family issues and losses abounded, none of them easy to handle. So, that's my excuse.
Luckily, September follows August and is one of my favorite months.
If I lived somewhere besides San Diego, I'd say the leaves were starting to turn, or the nights were getting cold, but as it is, I can at least sense the coming of autumn in the air. Time for us to get "up and autumn"! Of course, I'm so very thankful I'm not dealing with a flooded/destroyed home and I don't have a hurricane poised to strike me.
So... now it's time for one of my favorite weekends of the year—the Southern California Writers Conference. If you don't know about SCWC yet, click here. The schedule is up and the workshops and speakers are listed. So much to look forward to! Not just Pitch Witches at a new "rogue" time (9pm), but a Pitch Witch query class, my expository class, and an early morning read and critique on Sunday. I'm even teaching a new workshop on marketing literary fiction and memoir.


My "Pitch Witch" Partner, Marla Miller with Yours Truly

Aspiring writers ask me all the time why they should go to a writers conference and I always say you shouldn't go to just any conference, but there are some very good reasons to go to SCWC.
1. You'll learn a lot about writing & publishing, from professional writers, editors, and agents.
2. You'll get feedback on your work-in-progress or that manuscript you think is finished (is it?)
3. You'll make contacts in the world of publishing that will help you to succeed in this biz.
4. You'll make friends who will like, understand, and support you (I certainly have!)
5. You'll get out of your lonely writing room.
6. You'll have a blast!
I hope you can make it to Irvine this year—there's still time to register in advance, or you can simply show up on Friday...
hasta pronto!