"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

Monday, September 29, 2014

Meeting a friend

Let's be clear: Tod Goldberg doesn't need a lick of exposure from my little blog. He's written over a dozen books and his latest, Gangsterland, is gathering adoring reviews from places like Kirkus, Publisher's Weekly, and the LA Times. He's a writer from a writing family and directs an MFA program at UC Riverside.

He doesn't need a leg up from me - he's already in the saddle.

I met him this weekend at the monthly OC Sisters in Crime meeting, where he was an engaging speaker. It was difficult to end the meeting, since I was having such a great time listening. True confession time: I don't always buy our speakers' books. I try to, mostly if they are on Kindle, but I have a lot of on my e-TBR pile. Yesterday, though, I bought one of Tod's books just for the autograph.

He was that good.

In between our formal meeting, I got to have a few chats with him, on various subjects and of varying lengths. I found we have some things in common:

1. We both love the Monkees. I'd run to the meeting after working all day at a horse show, and when I got dressed at OHMYGOD-thirty, I grabbed my purple Monkees t-shirt from the closet. Tod told me a very funny anecdote about Micky Dolenz while we shared a little Monkee-mania.

2. We both hate conventions but love writers conferences. Okay, this little tidbit made me want to dance with glee. I'd love to tell you all that I adore Left Coast Crime and Bouchercon and really, I DO love meeting my friends there, but the truth is that if I'm not on a panel, I spend my time wandering about the venue, wondering what I'm doing there. I'm just a sad little fish out of water. The only fun to be had is to sit in the bar and offer people a seat at my table. It's like a revolving door of famous and semi-famous and wanna-be-famous faces.

Writer's conferences are where I feel like I've found my tribe and we can talk about the creative process, and the marketing process, and everything in between. We can be witty and stupid and laugh because we kind of trust each other.

So for Famous Name Tod to admit conventions are a little depressing and he'd rather go to a conference and be energized, made my little writer's heart squeal, "YES!" We spent a few moments talking about the Santa Barbara Writer's Conference and all the people we both knew.

3. We both like bacon. Okay, to be honest, that's a no-brainer.

I was really impressed by Tod and plan to read more of his work. And that, Dear Writers, is how you establish yourself. Yes, you have to write good books. But when you meet people face-to-face, it's important to put on your Friendly Author Personae.

Have you met an author that was so personable, you went out and bought their book immediately? Have you ever met one that made you want to toss their book at their head?

Friday, September 26, 2014

Teaching savvy

I've been back from the Southern California Writers Conference for almost a week now, and I can only report what I always report: it was fabulous, energizing, inspiring, and fun. (Helpful hint: the way to tell you've been to a good conference is that you come away from it NEEDING to write.)

There will be another conference in February in San Diego (http://writersconference.com/sd/), and I'm already thinking of workshops I can propose that will benefit as many people as possible.

Although, frankly, if I can help one person, I'm a happy gal.

In the meantime, in a twist of being in the right place at the right time, I'm teaching a workshop about self-publishing at the Placentia Library. This is where it pays to be listening with an ear bent toward how can I add value to my community?

I attended the annual Author's Luncheon in March, held by our Placentia Library Friends Foundation. Marcia Clark was the speaker, and more than a few of the questions in the audience had to do with publishing, even though Marcia is not self-published. Afterward, I went to our library's adult services director and said, "I noticed these questions and I teach a workshop on self-publishing. I'd be happy to teach it at the library for free."

Notice I offered it for free. Why? Well, for one thing, I'm a library trustee, and taking any money might be seen as a conflict of interest. For another, I believe in the power of the win-win situation. I take great pride in the quality of my books. The stories may not be your cup of tea, but you can't say that my covers look cheap or the writing is full of typos, etc. When I share my knowledge with other writers, they may not buy my books, but they may recommend them to their reader friends. Why?

Because they trust me. They know I care about my brand.

So this Monday, September 29th at 6:30 pm, I will be teaching a workshop called "Self-Publishing Savvy" to whoever wants to show up at the Placentia Library. It's a basic course, designed to help people make an informed decision about whether self-publishing is right for them.

If you're in the neighborhood, stop in and have a listen. I'd love to have a full house! Here's the library schedule with the details: http://www.placentialibrary.org/sites/default/files/calendars/adults/september2014.pdf

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Busyness as usual

Although I'd rather sit and revel in my vacation, there are squiggles in my calendar that say I have to do stuff. So it's time I get to it.

First on my list is the Southern California Writers Conference (http://writersconference.com/la/), where I'll be teaching an introductory workshop about self-publishing. The focus of the workshop is for those folks on the fence, wondering whether they should take that step. I can't give anyone a magic formula, you know, "if X is True and Y is False, Then Publish." What I can give people is a list of questions to ask themselves and an accounting of what I've had to do.

My hope is that people come away with the ability to make an informed decision.

I love this conference because I consider it a friendly, working conference. I will confess, I haven't been to a lot of other conferences, but the few others I've been to have not tapped into that desire within me to go home and write. SCWC inspires me, goads me, takes me by the reins and gallops me toward finishing my next project.

If you like lists, here is my list of why I like the Southern California Writers Conference:

1. The people are friendly and supportive. You can walk into any workshop, sit down at a table and make 5 or 6 friends. And most of them are friends who will continue to be your friends, post-conference.

2. The workshops give you useful information, whether about the craft of writing or the business of publishing. And if they don't - they encourage you to try another workshop. The rule is that if you get into a workshop and it's not what you expected, you should go to another workshop. You paid for this weekend. You shouldn't feel like any time was wasted.

3. Their "Read and Critique" and "Rogue Sessions" are fabulous. Both of these workshops work the same way: you read some number of pages of your work and get feedback on your writing. The difference between the two is that the Rogue Sessions occur after the evening speaker, starting around 9 p.m. and go until everyone has read. Sometimes they last until 6 a.m. the next morning! The facilitators ensure that the critiques are controlled and remain positive and focused on the work. They really taught me the correct way to run a critique group. Read their rules (http://writersconference.com/la/faq/) and see if you don't agree.

4. The organizers care about whether your conference experience was a good one. They want you to get your money's worth. They are willing to listen to suggestions for future workshops. Michael and Wes want to give you value for your money and time. Read this as proof:

(From the website) - NOTE: Agents wanting to participate contact Michael Steven Gregory only if you're accepting clients. There are plenty of other conferences that provide reps who have no sincere intent of acquiring new clients with free weekends at nice hotels in desirable locales. The SCWC is not one of them.

Here is my one caveat for attending this conference: if you are a very, very serious writer who is intense about your writing experience and general literary discussions, this may not be your conference. We work hard and we play hard. We joke a lot. We're irreverent sometimes. But if you can take a joke or two, if you can hope to achieve our conference goal of "sucking less than you did before you came" then please join us.

Hope to see you in Newport Beach. If not, they have another one in San Diego in February (http://writersconference.com/sd/).

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Back to reality. Sigh.

I'm back from Scotland, and Kentucky, and finally clear enough of mind to write a post, although my trip was so full of so much, I barely know where to begin. I have so many pictures I could post. Dale took pictures, too, but his are still in his camera and his camera is still with him in Boston.

I could give you a whole travelogue here and show you where we were and when, but I sometimes equate that with being stuck at someone's dinner party and having them drag out the slides of their vacation. They get to reminisce and you get to nod and look at your watch every five minutes.

What I will tell you about is that it felt magical.

Scotland is one of those places I've always wanted to see because I've always wanted to see it. I could talk about castles and green lands, etc, but that's just a ruse. I had no rational reason at all. All I can tell you is that my little mongrel heart longed for Scotland. By ethnicity, I am staggered parts Scottish, Irish, Welsh, German, Swedish and a dash (a small one) of Sioux. Of all those pieces, it's been the Celtic in me that pulls me toward the heather on the moors.

So riding a fat Draft cross through fields of heather by Loch Ness left me with, according to Robert my taxi driver, "the biggest bloody smile on my face."

And walking around the Kelpies, getting close to them, experiencing their size and their placement, put a lump in my throat and mist in my eyes. The Kelpies were built to honor the draft horses that pulled the barges up and down the river. They are on islands surrounded by water. It's all beautiful, even if it took us over three hours to find the entrance to them and it was raining buckets by the time we got there, which meant no one could see I was kind of blubbering.

That's me in the pink jacket, under the horse's nose.

In between, we toured castles and ate fish 'n' chips and drank ale. By the time we got to Aberdeen, we'd also toured some Scotch distilleries and tasted a wee dram or two. I won't say I'm now a big scotch drinker, but I understand and appreciate it now. Aberdeen is not big on tourism, so there weren't any shops to purchase tee-shirts and cashmere scarves, etc. We walked down to the Aberdeen Bay from our hotel, which was about a half-an-hour walk or more, then we walked up and down the beach. It was overcast and cool.

It was while we were strolling around the beach that a funny thing happened. I was taking all kinds of pictures, and I decided to take a close-up of the sand, to show the kinds of flotsam and jetsam that wash up on the shore. It reminded me of going places with my (Scotch-Irish) grandma, whose idea of a souvenir from someplace was a shell from a beach or a flower from a path. A piece of the place meant more to her than a towel with a map on it.

"You need a rock," some small voice in my head told me. So I picked one up and stuck it in my pocket.

For the rest of the trip, I rubbed that little rock in my pocket and felt - connected - to the country and my grandmother and maybe my roots, I don't know.

On our way home, we stopped in Lexington, Kentucky to visit the Horse Park. (We also toured a bourbon distillery - after touring the scotch ones, it was only fair.) That turned out to be quite the adventure, as we were stranded for a night in Chicago due to bad weather. We slept in the terminal at O'Hare, on cots with 200 of our close friends.

Yep, a big ole slumber party. No, I didn't take pictures.

Kentucky was beautiful, especially the horse park. Once again, I wanted to tear up, because this was a big wonderful trip and we took it and I was so happy and somehow humbled. At times, it felt like the fun and the wonder of it all was too big to fit in my soul and I was going to float away from joy.

Have you ever had such an experience?

Proud Member of ALA!

I support fair and equitable library access to ebooks and so should you.