"The notion that such persons are gay of heart and carefree is curiously untrue. They lead, as a matter of fact, an existence of jumpiness and apprehension. They sit on the edge of the chair of Literature. In the house of Life they have the feeling that they have never taken off their overcoats."
- James Thurber, My Life and Hard Times

Friday, August 21, 2015

Still plugging away

I may be writing this post to promote the Southern California Writers' Conference, but if you can't get to Irvine this September and feel the need for a conference, here's a list of what to look for in a good one. 

*I suppose I should insert the caveat that this is my opinion and your mileage may vary, but I believe with all my heart that this is why I keep coming back to this particular conference (I have been to others, but they didn't make me want to return).

1. How organized is it? A good conference should have its workshop schedule and leaders available ahead of time for you to look over. How do you know you want to attend if you don't know what they're teaching? There should be an email address if you have concerns. Your check-in should be easy. It should look like they've not only done this before, they've constantly learned to do it better.

2. How are the rooms organized? This might not be obvious, but I like a room with several tables and chairs, instead of just rows of chairs. I've come to learn, which means I'll be taking notes. It's so much easier to write at a table than to squeeze into a row of chairs (they're always too close together) and balance my notebook/tablet on my lap.

3. Who is teaching? No, I'm not talking about the guest speakers or anyone's fame. The workshop leaders need to have some experience at what they're telling you. Query tips should be taught by someone who is or has been a publisher, an agent, an editor. In other words, someone who has read queries and decided to accept or reject a manuscript. Authors teaching craft should have written books and gotten some reviews. Not all glowing, but at least no reviews saying they suck at grammar and spelling.

4. Who are their guest speakers? Here's where I'm probably going to surprise you: yes, I love to hear a famous author speak. I actually had lunch with Dean Koontz once, and his speech was delightful, warm, funny. It was also of no value to me as a "new" author. The world where he first found his agent and publisher does not exist anymore. I need to hear from new authors, authors that have just found their path within the last 10-15 years, or the more established authors who have re-invented themselves for the 21st century.

5. How welcome do you feel? Writers are a fairly introverted species, but the best ones are good people, if shy. You should be able to go into a room, sit down at a table and meet someone new. Lunch should only be a lonely experience if you want it that way. Otherwise, you should be able to see someone else with a badge and ask if you can join them--or invite them to join you. BTW, one way I see SCWC as creating this inclusive environment is that their workshop leaders, guest speakers, and conference directors are completely accessible. Did you really enjoy that workshop leader's talk? Ask if you can join them for lunch. Have a drink at the bar in the evening. Who doesn't need more friends?

6. How do you feel by the end of the conference? If you feel motivated, supported, encouraged, excited, antsy to get to work, you've found your tribe. If you feel like maybe writing is a dream for someone else, this was not the conference for you, and you need to go have a big glass of wine and call your Friend Who Loves and Supports You to talk you off the ledge.

There's still time to get the discount to the Southern California Writers' Conference, and there are still spots left on the StoryCore Track, designed to help you take your pretty good story to OMG-Must-Read level. Go sign up. Now! http://writersconference.com/la/

Sunday, August 16, 2015

A shameless, yet rational plug

The view from our cabin
I just got home from a week's vacation in the mountains, which is mostly relaxing, if you don't mind getting up early to walk the dogs, packing and unpacking food every day to go to the lakes, and the 10-hour drive to and from the lodge. At least we take two days.

They're so sweet when they're sleeping.

This particular trip was sidelined to visit one of our friends, a dear young girl who was supposed to be with us on the vacay, except that she discovered her leukemia is back and she had to be in the hospital instead. And, as lightly as I'm trying to say that, my heart is aching with hope and fear and a desire to be on my knees begging God to make it all right.

So now that I've been home for 24 hours, I am a big ball of tired-cranky. My son would call me salty. "Gee, Mom, want some salt with that?" he'd ask if he were here. Since I am here, I can answer him.

"Shut up."

I now get to plan for my next trip(s) in September, back-to-back travels to Monterey, then Irvine. In Monterey, I will be attending workshops to help me become a better trustee for my library. There's always something interesting to learn, plus, well, Monterey. I'm totally looking forward to breakfast at LouLou's on the pier.

Irvine, however, is where the action's at. September 25-27 is the Southern California Writer's Conference. This is our "Los Angeles" conference, which is almost never held in L.A. We used to be in Irvine, then we went to Newport, and this year, it's back to our old Irvine haunts. 

We should christen the hotel with a bottle of something.

This is probably the first of a couple of posts about the conference, but I wanted to let everyone know there's still time to get a discount on registration, a room at the hotel, and even an advanced reader or several.

Go here: http://writersconference.com/la/

I'll be teaching at least one workshop to help people who are on the fence about self-publishing determine whether they want to try it or not. When I'm not teaching, I'll be in workshops learning to grow as a writer and a marketer of my books. 

I know what some of you are saying. "The conference costs money. I can't afford to go to conferences. I get everything I need from YouTube videos, chat rooms, and my writer's group at the coffee shop."

IMHO... no, you don't. Seriously, go here: http://writersconference.com/la/

Here's what a conference gives you (or a good one should): access to industry professionals. These folks are editors, publishers, authors with traditional contracts, people who've been around the block more than once. They can steer you, mentor you, lift you up toward your goal, IF--

If you want to be a better writer and get a book out to the world. (Have I told you where to go? http://writersconference.com/la/)

And if you're worried about the cost, here is something to consider: being an author means you are self-employed. That means you are a business. Businesses need assets, need investment. Writer's conferences are an investment in the business of your writing.

After all this blabbering, I'm still feeling salty, so what are you waiting for? Get thee to that website and register!

INVEST IN YOU. http://writersconference.com/la/

Friday, August 7, 2015

I'm fine, thanks

What's new with you?

I'm running off to the mountains for a week, a week without internet or television, but with my family (including the dogs), my friends, and my tablet. I finally finished the fourth Peri mystery, so that will brew at home while I'm away.

Today, I'm over at Michelle Knowlden's cyber-house, drinking coffee and talking about my books. She is such a gracious hostess, in addition to being a fabulous OC writer. I may never leave if she keeps pouring the hazelnut light roast.

One of the things we discussed was the trio of books I'll be releasing in October. I'm really excited to be launching my books at the Placentia Heritage Festival, especially since one of my books is full of columns all about Placentia.

I'm still trying to come up with a name for my chicken. Enter and win. In the meantime, stop by Michelle's place to say hi. You can find me here: https://mlknowlden.wordpress.com/2015/08/07/august-2015-first-friday-breakfast-with-an-author/

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