Featured Member Interview – Judy Bebelaar

Interview by Susan Allison

WNBA Featured author, Judy Bebelaar, has been writing for seventy-two years. Yes, that’s right, seventy-two years! She remembers writing her first story in first grade and then a poetry collection in third grade. Judy loved her teachers so much that she decided to become one. She taught in San Francisco public high schools for 37 years, especially loving smaller classes and encouraging her students to publish their creative writing.

Judy invited many poets from California Poets in the Schools into her classrooms, and she wrote with her students when she could. She believes she is the only classroom teacher to be named an honorary CPITS Poet Teacher. For twenty years Judy produced a multicultural literary arts calendar with her students, as a way of helping them publish their work in a way that people would read. She always published their poems in the school arts magazine, which was enjoyed by students, teachers and parents.

On a national level, Judy has received recognition for her success in helping students find joy in writing. Her students won many awards, including eight from Scholastic Magazine on the national level. Judy was honored on the national level as well, by State Farm, the Good Neighbor Teacher Award in 1996 (one of 8 nationally); by Business-Week/McGraw Hill in 1994, for innovative practices in teaching; and by Scholastic, The Whitehouse Women’s Leadership in Teaching, in 2002. For ten years she has been co-host of a reading series, Writing Teachers Write sponsored by the Bay Area Writing Project at UC Berkeley, which partners writers from the Writing Project with those from the Bay Area Writing Community and beyond.

In terms of publication, Judy’s poetry has been published widely in magazines and online, and has won many awards, most recently a first prize, two thirds, and the Grand Prize in the Ina Coolbrith Circle Poetry Contest. Her work is also included in many anthologies, among them The Widows’ Handbook (foreword by Ruth Bader Ginsberg) and River of Earth and Sky. Walking Across the Pacific is her first poetry chapbook. Judy’s poetry evokes myriad feelings in its beautiful simplicity:

The Moon and the Room and the Windowsill

that September night as we lay sleepless,
the moon spilled into the room,
soaking the rumpled clothes on the floor

so that hard words spoken
melted as we did, into one another

and the moon and the room
and the windowsill
and us there, still breathing

Her highly regarded non-fiction work, And Then They Were Gone: Teenagers of Peoples Temple from High School to Jonestown, is about the students from Peoples Temple that Judy and co-author Ron Cabral came to know before most were sent to Jonestown. Of the 918 Americans who died in the shocking murder-suicides of November 18, 1978, in the tiny South American country of Guyana, a third were under eighteen. More than half were in their twenties or younger.

And Then They Were Gone begins in San Francisco at the small school where Reverend Jim Jones enrolled the teens of his Peoples Temple church in 1976. Within a year, most had been sent to join Jones and other congregants in what Jones promised was a tropical paradise based on egalitarian values, but which turned out to be a deadly prison camp. Set against the turbulent backdrop of the late 1970s, And Then They Were Gone draws from interviews, books, and articles. Many of these powerful stories are told here for the first time. In recognition of their work, co-authors, Ron and Judy, were recently honored as Library Laureates of 2019 by the Friends of the San Francisco Public Library.

Now that Judy is retired, she misses teaching and her students at times, yet remembers that she was often too busy to write. Now she can focus on her own work, and also has suggestions for other women writers, “In terms of publishing poetry, I’ve found submitting to anthologies is a great idea, and connects you with writers (and readers) who care about what you care about. Poetry readings can bring lots of people, too.” For every genre, Judy suggests joining a group, “Fellow writers in the many writing and response groups I’ve been in – or hosted myself – gave me good feedback and encouragement.”

And finally, Judy offers her truly sage advice: “I think for all writers I’d say: Don’t give up if it’s something you care about passionately. Think about your reasons for writing a piece or a book. Many times during the twelve years Ron and I worked on And Then They Were Gone, I thought it would never be published. But because I wanted to honor those young people who died, and those that had the courage to go on living in spite of great tragedy, I kept on.”

Judy has kept on the writer’s path as well. She is currently sending out a poetry manuscript and doing readings and talks with book groups for And Then They Were Gone. She will be moderating a panel, “Turning Tragedy into Hope: Teaching Transformation Through Writing,” at the 2019 AWP Conference in Portland, Oregon, Friday, March 29 at 10:30. The panelists include three other writers and survivors of Jonestown: Deborah Layton, John Cobb and Jordan Vilchez, as well as renowned educator and writer Herb Kohl.

Find out more about Judy Bebelaar at:
www.judybebelaar.com

Tips for World Building Your Memoir

Tips for World Building Your Memoir

by Nita Sweeney

It might seem odd to see “world building” and “memoir” side-by-side. Many writers think of world building as a tool used only in science fiction and fantasy. The red scarves in The Night Circus or light sabers in Star Wars come to mind. But a compelling story, regardless of genre, should be set in a specific world, a world the writer must build.

Like the novelist, a memoir writer can shape and mold the world the reader experiences. The main difference between world building in memoir and fiction is that the memoirist builds the world from known things, details chosen from the memoirist’s life. Memoirists are limited by reality, but the options are still plentiful. The memoirist carves from reality what the reader sees, feels, hears, tastes, and smells using what already exists.

In nonfiction, world building is sometimes referred to as creating a sense of place. But thinking of it as world building reminds the writer that the process is a series of choices, the same decisions novelists make. A fictional world might include magic, space ships, or time travel, but even in those worlds, the writer chooses which elements to emphasize. No matter how far in love a writer falls with the world she creates, she can’t include every detail.

How shall the writer choose?

Phases of World Building in Memoir:

In Bird by Bird, Anne LaMott referred to an unnamed friend when she explained her process:

“Almost all good writing begins with terrible first efforts. You need to start somewhere. Start by getting something — anything — down on paper. A friend of mine says that the first draft is the down draft — you just get it down. The second draft is the up draft — you fix it up. You try to say what you have to say more accurately. And the third draft is the dental draft, where you check every tooth, to see if it’s loose or cramped or decayed, or even, God help us, healthy.”

World building follows the same phases.

The Down Draft:

Some writers outline and plan before attempting a first draft. As a “pantser,” someone who writes by the seat of her pants, outlining and planning equals stalling. I head right to the page.

Like LaMott, my first draft is the “down draft.” Using “writing practice,” a term coined by best-selling author Natalie Goldberg, I set a timer and “go” for a specific amount of time. The world that appears in early drafts arises from what Goldberg might call “first thoughts,” the initial detail I remember as I tell the story to myself. I don’t worry about setting the scene. I just get the story on paper. If I get caught up in describing the pattern of bark on the sycamore, the reader may never find out whether I finished that twenty-mile run. It’s more important to finish the initial draft.

As I write, I make notes in the text. I use two “at symbol” marks (@@) to note places where I have forgotten something or if the backdrop feels shallow. Later, I can search for “@@” and fill in the detail. I repeat the timed writing until I have a full first draft.

I trust this organic “down draft” process for three reasons. First, there’s science behind it. A brain structure called the reticular activating system (R.A.S.), filters out the details I don’t need and focuses on the ones that have meaning. The R.A.S. is at work when you buy a new car. You choose the power blue Pinto because it’s special and different. Then, when you pull out of the lot, you see powder blue Pintos on every street. Did they appear out of nowhere? Of course not. Your RAS had filtered them out. Not intentionally. You just didn’t need to see them yet. Our minds cannot handle the number of sensory stimuli we actually receive. When you are creating the world for your memoir, your R.A.S. is also at work. Start with what you automatically notice and easily remember. The result often surprises me. I didn’t know what I remembered until I wrote it down.

The second reason to trust this seemingly random process is because it taps into each writer’s unique take on the world. The lens through which she sees the story is what makes the book special. That writer’s filter will separate her book from the flood of similar works in the market. Head to the memoir section of your local bookstore. Scan the titles. How many books trace the author surviving childhood? The fact that Mary Karr wrote about harrowing family circumstance in The Liar’s Club didn’t stop ‎Jeannette Walls from penning The Glass Castle. While these two memoirs contain similar themes, each book describes a vastly different world, the world each author lived. These sensory images are ripe fruit just waiting for the writer to pluck them off the branches.

The third and most important reason to do a “down draft” is that you can’t edit a blank page. Before I discovered this process, my perfectionistic, anxious mind made writing nearly impossible.

The Up Draft

In the revision phase, I start by searching for the “@@s” and filling in what I thought was missing. Next, I read the entire work with an eye solely for building my world. I ask questions: Where am I? Who am I with? What am I eating, wearing, talking about, thinking about? Was I aware of any tastes, smells, sounds, or feelings? What matters to me? I also think about what else was going on in the world. This could be as complex as the international political scene or as simple as a neighbor child’s bake sale. I ask what is happening outside my world. If I don’t know the name of something, this is the time to look it up.

The following tools help bring memories to the surface:

  1. Eyes Closed: I put myself in the scene again and imagine walking or running or driving through.
  2. Eyes Open: Since I can’t remember everything, I open the laptop or head to the library and research. Again, I trust my gut. Skimming an article about the Olentangy River might remind me of a day the water was so high we couldn’t cross the trail.
  3. Go: If I can, I visit the place. When I was writing a memoir about the last year my father was alive, I couldn’t remember details about a raptor sanctuary I visited. Research gave me an excuse to make the pleasant drive to Yellow Springs where it is located.
  4. Perk Time: I let it percolate. I take the dog for a walk, go for a run, or go to a movie with my husband. If I can distract myself enough to let go of the scene, the best image will often pop into my head.

Using this new information, I weave and polish and add and subtract to transport the reader into my world.

The Dental Draft

Now it’s time to make sure the world serves the story. No matter how lovely, if my “darling” images do not convey meaning, show character, or move the plot forward, they must die. The world I’ve created must put the reader exactly where I want the reader to be.

For example, in one scene in an early draft of my running memoir, I wrote in great detail about the lush vegetation along the Olentangy Trail. I adore the trail, spend hours there, and practically breathe in the green. After many revisions, I mention only the poison ivy. Eighteen miles into a twenty-two-mile run, I could only see the scarlet leaves. When I pointed those out to my running partner, she reminded me not to touch them. I’d forgotten about the rash and itching that would result if I did. Narrowing the focus in this way shows the reader how fuzzy my mind gets on a long run. This choice creates the world I want the reader to experience.

We each have our own writing process and world building is no different. I’ve given you a glimpse of mine. It might sound inefficient, but I afford myself a lot of breathing room to do it the way that works for me. I hope you’ll allow yourself the same space to discover the best method for you.


About Nita Sweeney

Nita Sweeney’s articles and essays have appeared in magazines, journals, and books including Buddhist America, Dog World, Dog Fancy, Writer’s Journal, Country Living, Pitkin Review and in several newspapers and newsletters. She writes the blog, BumGlue and publishes a monthly e-newsletter, Write Now Newsletter, which features a short essay, a schedule of the classes she teaches, and a list of central Ohio writing events. Her forth-coming memoir, Depression Hates a Moving Target: How Running with My Dog Brought Me Back from the Brink, was short-listed for the 2018 William Faulkner – William Wisdom Creative Writing Competition Award. She was recently interviewed for the radio show and podcast Word Carver. When she’s not writing, Nita is running and racing. She has run three full marathons, twenty-six half marathons (in eighteen states), and more than sixty shorter races. Nita lives in central Ohio with her husband and biggest fan, Ed, and her future running partner, the yellow Labrador puppy, Scarlet (aka #ninetyninepercentgooddog).

Pitch a Publisher! Insider Secrets to Getting a Book Deal

 

Pitch a Publisher! Insider Secrets to Getting a Book Deal

Friday, April 5, 2019
12:00pm to 2:00pm

Location:

 

 

57 Post Street San Francisco, CA 94104
4th Floor Meeting Room

Admission: Mechanics Institute Members $35 Public $45

Brenda KnightFrom the outside, book publishing can seem mysterious, but from the inside it is really quite simple.

Publishing veteran Brenda Knight will teach you how to sell yourself and your book idea, who you are really selling, the importance of “comp titles,” how to craft the perfect proposal, and trend tracking.

In her own words, “I have acquired over one thousand books in my career, including a few New York Times bestsellers. One of the great joys in my life is helping authors get their work into print and published successfully.” Brenda Knight currently acquires both fiction and nonfiction and will listen to your pitches in the second half of the session. Bring your best ideas!

 

What you’ll learn from this session:

  • How publishers think
  • Who the decision makers are at any publishing house (prepare to be surprised)
  • Platform-building tips and marketing strategies that will work for you<
  • The art of the book “hook;” the one line that might sell your book
  • How to ask the right questions and the one question every editor is waiting to hear

Brenda Knight began her career at HarperCollins, working with luminaries including Paolo Coehlo, Marianne Williamson, Mark Nepo and His Holiness the Dalai Lama. Knight was awarded IndieFab’s Publisher of the Year in at the American Library Association in 2014. She is the author of Wild Women and Books, Be a Good in the World, and Women of the Beat Generation, which won an American Book Award.

Knight is Editorial Director at Mango Publishing and also serves as President of the Women’s’ National Book Association, San Francisco Chapter.

 

register-now

Pitch-O-Rama 2019 presents a Master Class in Book Marketing

*** SOLD OUT! ***

Pitch-O-Rama

One of the most exciting features of this year’s Pitch-O-Rama is a post-pitch session with a panel of promotional and marketing experts who are there to give you highly effective bookselling tips and tools. Everyone who signs up will receive a proprietary marketing guide in advance filled with the most up-to-date secrets to social media, booking print and radio, including NPR, and the art (and science) of selling your book.

 At the post-pitch session, “Twitter Queen” Cathy Turney will guide you on how to grow your following and tweet your way to the top! Brenda Knight will share insider secrets from big-house publishing to create preorders for your book, how to master metadata and much more. Returning to Pitch-o-Rama by popular demand are top publicist Eileen Duhne and Jim Azevedo, who is marketing director for Smashwords, the world’s largest distributor of ebooks. New to Pitch-O-Rama this year is Cristina Deptula, a former science and technology reporter and also the publisher of Synchronized Chaos Magazine.

This panel alone is worth the oh-so-reasonable ticket cost. 

Building your platform and book promotion can sound daunting, even overwhelming. How can you do that and still have time for the creativity or writing? Turns out, marketing is a creative art as well. From achievable marketing plans, promo ideas that fit your book, and tips for ruling social media, this panel of experts will provide highly effective tools for marketing your writing, your book, and yourself.

More about the panel:

 Jim Azevedo is the marketing director at Smashwords, the largest distributor of self-published ebooks, serving over 130,000 independent authors, publishers, and literary agents.

 

 

 Eileen Duhné is a publicist and publishing consultant who has worked with everyone from New York Times bestselling authors to self-published books by first time authors. She knows what publicity actually sells books. Eileen has worked in or with the media since she began her career as a radio announcer in the SF Bay Area. The former Director of Publicity and Marketing at a book distributor in Northern CA, for 25 years she has worked on books from Quincy Jones, the creator of Aveda, the founder of The Shift Network, the SF Giants, award-wining photographers, and #1 New York Times bestselling author Mark Nepo, one of Oprah’s favorite writers, as well as dozens of books and projects by individual authors and indie publishers in both traditional and new publishing platforms. She specializes in mind/body/spirit, new sciences, and non-fiction titles. 

 

 Cathy Turney is the author of Get 10,000+ Twitter Followers—Easily, Quickly, Ethically. A self-described right-brain creative, technophobic Luddite, she sweated bullets to just make Twitter work and shares her simple method to build platform and amass thousands of followers in only five to ten minutes a day. Her first book, entitled Laugh Your Way to Real Estate Sales Success, won the 2015 American Business Award’s Best Business Book of the Year Award. Cathy is an award-winning humor journalist and has served on the boards of the National Society of Newspaper Columnists and Women’s National Book Association-SF Chapter. 

 

Cristina Deptula is a former science and technology reporter and also the publisher of Synchronized Chaos Magazine, which showcases art and writing from around the world. Literary publicity is a way for her to serve others while satisfying her implacable curiosity! Authors, Large and Small helps authors to find their audience where the people already gather and reach them how they already communicate. We develop individualized outreach plans for each author’s project and continue working until we land mutually agreed-on results. As a large, national team we welcome all genres of writing and work with both traditionally published and self-published authors over traditional and social media. 
 

Brenda Knight Brenda Knight worked at HarperCollins in the sales and marketing division and brings both the tried and true tactics as well as the latest secrets for success.Pitch-O-Rama 2018 participants will receive handouts including a comprehensive “Author’s Guide to Social Media” complete with a timeline for building preorders for your book so it launches as a bestseller!

 

Pitch-O-Rama 2019: Agents & Publishers

* * *SOLD OUT! * * *

Women’s Building

Meet the Agents and Acquisition Editors!

Pitch-O-Rama 2019,
Saturday, March 23, 8:00 am – 12:30 pm.

These impressive publishing professionals bring years of experience, and will provide advice, direction, and next steps for your literary project! 

Whatever your genre, you’ll find an agent or editor to fit your project: from prestigious agencies that represent fiction of all genres, including YA and children’s books, to non-fiction and New Age titles. There are publishers that specialize in eBooks, in hybrid business models, and a non-profit publisher with a local focus. 

 

Lisa Abelisa-abellera-200llera joined Kimberley Cameron and Associates in 2013 with a background in management, marketing, and finance. Lisa responds to well-crafted prose with strong hooks and high personal stakes, to idiosyncratic, sympathetic characters, to a tangible sense of place, to multicultural aspects and international settings, to page-turning twists, and to emotionally immersive fiction that explores the human condition, especially within family and close relationships. She is seeking to represent upmarket fiction, women’s fiction, historical fiction, mystery/suspense/thrillers (especially if it has a dose of science or the supernatural), science fiction, fantasy, most speculative fiction except for paranormal fantasy (no demons, angels, vampires, zombies, werewolves, etc.), romance if it’s an element or part of another genre, NA, YA and middle grade.

 

 

Emmerich Anklam is assistant to the publisher and an editor at Heyday, a Berkeley-based house that has been publishing award-winning books about California for forty-five years. He joined Heyday in 2015. For Heyday he is looking to acquire nonfiction for a general, national audience in the following subjects: history, social justice, nature, and California Indian studies (with a strong preference for Native authors). Recent Heyday titles include The California Field Atlas by Obi Kaufmann, Biddy Mason Speaks Up by Arisa White and Laura Atkins, Bird Songs Don’t Lie by Gordon Lee Johnson, and Foucault in California by Simeon Wade.

 

 Jim Azevedo is the marketing director at Smashwords, the largest distributor of self-published ebooks, serving over 130,000 independent authors, publishers, and literary agents. Since 2008, Smashwords has helped authors around the world release more than 470,000 titles and distribute their work globally to top ebook retailers, subscription services and public libraries. Prior to joining Smashwords in 2011, Jim built his career in marketing & PR for high-tech companies. Although Smashwords is a self-publishing platform, Jim loves helping authors sharpen their pitches and book descriptions. He credits his journalism education when it comes to guiding authors, and himself, to “get to the point” with messaging.

 

 

Peter Beren, Literary Agent and Publishing Consultant, is a member of AAR. Formerly publisher at Insight Editions, Sierra Club Books and VIA Books, he has also been an acquisitions editor for Jeremy Tarcher. He specializes in nonfiction in the categories of self-help, pop culture, body, mind, spirit, how-to, illustrated books (art or photography) and narrative nonfiction. His best-known clients include: photographers Art Wolfe (Earth is my Witness) and Frans Lanting (Into Africa), graphic novelist Jack Katz (The First Kingdom), Chakra expert Anodea Judith (Eastern Body, Western Mind), and Taoist Laurence Boldt (Zen and the Art of Making a Living). He is also the author of seven books, including The Writers Legal Companion, California the Beautiful and The Golden Gate. He has nearly 50 years experience in the publishing industry as a Publisher, Marketing Director, Author and Agent. www.Peterberen.com

 

Michael Carr is a literary agent with a background in editing and writing, working from a home base in San Francisco. He represents writers in a variety of genres, with a special emphasis on historical fiction, women’s fiction, mystery and suspense, and science fiction and fantasy. Michael works carefully with clients to produce the cleanest, most professional manuscripts and enjoys teaching at workshops and conferences to help develop emerging writers. He speaks Spanish and conversational French and before joining Veritas had professions as diverse as programming simulators for nuclear submarines and owning an inn in Vermont.

 

 

Associate Agent Karly Caserza was born in the Philippines and immigrated to Northern California as a child. She obtained her Business Marketing degree and has been a Freelance Graphic Designer for over 10 years. In addition to designing a wide range of print and web promotional material for clients, Karly creates book covers for Short Fuse and promotional graphics for Fuse authors. Professionally, Karly began her career in the publishing industry as a reader for Tricia Skinner at Fuse Literary. Her responsibilities quickly grew and she was promoted to Literary Assistant, a role that also included a spot on the production team of Short Fuse. Karly is also the Marketing Coordinator of the San Francisco Writers Conference. In her spare time, Karly is an Adobe Technical Trainer, freelance graphic designer, Young Adult author, video game geek, and art noob. Karly has a deep love for characters with a strong voice and seeks out stories she can get lost in. Diversity in genre fiction is a major bonus. She specializes in middle grade and young adult genre fiction (fantasy, science fiction, and contemporary).

Cristina Deptula is a former science and technology reporter and also the publisher of Synchronized Chaos Magazine, which showcases art and writing from around the world. Literary publicity is a way for her to serve others while satisfying her implacable curiosity! Authors, Large and Small helps authors to find their audience where the people already gather and reach them how they already communicate. We develop individualized outreach plans for each author’s project and continue working until we land mutually agreed-on results. As a large, national team we welcome all genres of writing and work with both traditionally published and self-published authors over traditional and social media. 
 
 

 Suzy Evans is a literary agent, attorney, and author who holds a Ph.D. in history from UC Berkeley. In the adult market, she’s looking for narrative nonfiction, history, science, big idea books on controversial social issues, riveting, elegantly-written memoir (recent favorites include Barbarian Days and When Breath Becomes Air), self-help, parenting (bonus points for humor!) and small quirky books that make her smile and think about the world in new and surprising ways. On the children’s front, she’s seeking MG nonfiction, YA fiction that tackles difficult issues in bold, daring ways, and graphic novels that bring history, literature, and fascinating historical figures (think Socrates! Machiavelli! Hamilton!) to life. She’d also love to find a thriller that has “MOVIE!” written all over it. As an author herself, her books include Machiavelli for Moms (Simon & Schuster) and Forgotten Crimes: the Holocaust and People with Disabilities. She’s also a ghostwriter for a #1 New York Times bestselling author with 25 million copies in print and her work has appeared in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, The Wall Street Journal, Newsweek, Parade, Forbes and The London TimesSandra Dijkstra Literary Agency 

 

Nancy Fish

Nancy Fish: In her long career in publishing, Nancy Fish has worked in almost every iteration of the book business. Having been publicity and marketing director for major houses including  Farrar, Straus & Giroux, HarperCollins and Pereus as welll as small indies, freelance publicist and copywriter, and bookseller at legendary shops on both coasts, Nancy now manages the Path to Publishing Program, and all the writers programs, at Marin County’s three-store treasure trove, Book Passage. Ask her about them. 

 

 

Tory Hartmann is the force behind Sand Hill Review Press, an award-winning small publisher. SHRP is currently looking for mystery, historical fiction and literary fiction with religious themes. www.SHRPress.com

Sand Hill Review Press is an off-shoot of The Sand Hill Review, a literary magazine published in Palo Alto, California for the last 16 years. They are royalty publishers who give authors much leeway in the creative process, cover design and content.

 

 

Brenda Knight began her career at HarperCollins, working with luminaries Paolo Coelho, Marianne Williamson and His Holiness the Dalai Lama. Knight was awarded IndieFab’s Publisher of the Year in 2014 at the ALA, American Library Association. Knight is the author of Wild Women and Books, The Grateful Table, Be a Good in the World, and Women of the Beat Generation, which won an American Book Award. Knight is Editorial Director at Mango Publishing and acquires for all genres in fiction and nonfiction as well as children and photography books. She also serves as President of the Women’s’ National Book Association, San Francisco Chapter and is an instructor at the annual San Francisco Writers Conference.

 

 

Georgia Kolias is an Associate Acquisitions Editor with New Harbinger Publications, the foremost publisher in proven-effective psychology and personal growth books for adults and teens. Before joining New Harbinger, she worked in nearly every other aspect of the book world, including: literary management, publicity, book selling, the public library system, and teaching creative writing. She is actively acquiring books in the areas of psychology, self-help, spirituality, and social justice. She is always interested in work from authors who are emerging leaders in their fields and actively engaged with their potential readers. She welcomes proposals from LGBTQ+ queer, POC, and all other underrepresented voices interested in making positive change. Georgia holds a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing and her work has appeared in The Huffington Post, The Advocate, Role Reboot, The Manifest-Station, and various anthologies.

 

Michael Larsen Michael Larsen co-founded Larsen-Pomada Literary Agents in 1972. Over four decades, the agency sold hundreds of books to more than 100 publishers and imprints. The agency has stopped accepting new writers, but Mike loves helping all writers. He gives talks about writing and publishing, and does author coaching. He wrote How to Write a Book Proposal and How to Get a Literary Agent, and coauthored Guerrilla Marketing for Writers. Mike is co-director of the San Francisco Writers Conference and the San Francisco Writing for Change Conference. An update is at larsenauthorcoaching.com/

 

 

 Dorian Maffei began https://larsenauthorcoaching.com/at Kimberley Cameron & Associates as an intern in 2013. She has since become a junior agent and is now actively building a client list of her own. She is interested in magical realism, fabulism, reimagined fairy tales, speculative fiction, literary science fiction, upmarket women’s fiction, unique voices, and innovative storytelling. She values work that provokes a deep-rooted connection after the last page and explores the peculiar within the mundane.

 

Andy Ross Andy Ross opened his literary agency in January 2008. Prior to that, he was the owner for 30 years of the legendary  Cody’s Books in Berkeley. The agency represents books in a  wide range of subjects including: narrative non-fiction, science, journalism, history, religion,  children’s books, young adult,  middle grade, literary and commercial  fiction, and cooking. However, he is eager to represent projects in most genres as long as the subject or its treatment is smart, original, and will  appeal to a wide readership. In non-fiction he looks for writing with a strong voice and robust narrative arc by authors with the authority to write about their subject. For literary, commercial, and children’s fiction, he has only one requirement– simple, but ineffable–that the writing reveal the terrain of that vast  and unexplored country, the human heart. (AAR).  www.andyrossagency.com,  www.andyrossagency.wordpress.com  

 

JenniferSoloway Jennifer March Soloway is an Associate Agent with the Andrea Brown Literary Agency, an agency that specializes in children’s literature. She enjoys all genres and categories of children’s literature, such as laugh-out-loud picture books and middle-grade adventures, but her sweet spot is young adult. Although she mostly represents children’s literature, she is also open to adult fiction. Jennifer adores action-packed thrillers and mysteries or conspiracy plots. But her favorite novels are literary stories about ordinary people, especially those focused on family, relationships, sexuality, mental illness, or addiction. Prior to joining ABLA, Jennifer worked in marketing and public relations. With an MFA in English and Creative Writing from Mills College, she was a fellow at the San Francisco Writer’s Grotto in 2012. She lives in San Francisco with her husband, their two sons, and an English bulldog. http://www.andreabrownlit.com/

Featured Member Interview – Kathleen Archambeau

Interview by Susan Allison

WNBA featured author, award winning and successful writer, Kathleen Archambeau, has a storyteller’s ear, and has loved to listen and record the stories she’s heard since childhood: “I grew up in an extended Irish Catholic family in San Francisco, which gave me a head start on my love of words and stories. I distinctly remember visualizing myself when I was twelve, writing at a round oak table with a flood of light on a blue vase of flowers. Until college, I mostly listened. Everyone had a story to tell, like my grandmother, who was out dancing until 5:12 a.m. when the 1906 Earthquake hit, to my mother who played Judas Iscariot as a sympathetic character to a standing ovation.”

Kathleen not only loved hearing family stories, but found herself fascinated by the tales of co-workers at Hewlett-Packard where she was Employee Editor. “On many cross-country business trips, I began writing my first book, Climbing the Corporate Ladder in High Heels, published in 2006. I had the good fortune of securing endorsements from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the Chair of BareEscentuals, Leslie Blodgett. My publisher, Career Press, hired a Boston agency and garnered coverage in Fortune magazine, more than 15 NPR radio stations, Dallas Morning News and more. The book sold well for a first-time nonfiction author whose name was not Michelle Obama.”

A year later, Kathleen was asked to contribute to the collection, The Other Woman, edited by Victoria Zackheim. Her essay, “Seized,” ran alongside Pulitzer Prize winner Jane Smiley and other famous writers, leading Publishers Weekly to comment, “The main attraction…is the top-drawer writers….”

Despite not having time to write the great American novel due to a demanding day job, (writing audio, video and Web content, marketing and advertising copy, writing executive speeches and traveling extensively), Kathleen enjoyed a creative and far-ranging career in the written word. This helped her when she could finally put down the corporate scepter and pick up the pen full-time. She was used to deadline pressures and editorial constraints, so being a full-time published writer felt normal to her. During her corporate career, she fed her love of words by studying poetry with Adrienne Rich, Elizabeth Woody and Derek Walcott. “In various workshops, conferences and classes, I honed my craft. And always, I read and read and read.”
In 2016, at a WNBA pitch event, Kathleen met Brenda Knight who asked to publish a collection of profiles she was writing. In 2017, Mango published her book, Pride & Joy: LGBTQ Artists, Icons and Everyday Heroes. This book benefited from a Foreword by Dustin Lance Black, Academy Award-winning screenwriter of Milk. This compilation tells stories of success, happiness and hope from the LGBTQ community, stories that comprise the best of LGBTQ history ─ stories of queer citizens of the world living life OUT LOUD. The press release states: “Not like the depressing, sinister, shadowy stories of the past, this book highlights queer people living open, happy, fulfilling and successful lives.”

Eric Rosswood, one of the gay parents in her book Pride and Joy, asked Kathleen to collaborate on a new YA book called, We Make It Better: The LGBTQ Community and Their Positive Contributions to Society. It continues the important work of Pride and Joy, illustrating that LGBTQ people have always played important roles in society. They have served their country, served in office, pushed forward human rights and have impacted all fields of study, sport, art and industry. We Make It Better offers biographies of some of the more famous thinkers and changers in history from Alan Turing, Bayard Rustin, Leonard Bernstein and Dr. Sally Ride, to present day innovators and world changers like Ellen DeGeneres, Tim Cook, Beth Ford, The Wachowski sisters, Ricky Martin and more.

Kathleen not only collaborated with Eric Rosswood on We Make It Better, but received his valuable coaching: “From this Millennial/GenX author, I learned the power of social media and have begun using it to bolster pre-sales of the book. We Make It Better has been an Amazon #1 New Release in five categories and comes out Jan. 15th 2019. “For all my in-person readings, book tours, college presentations, LGBTQ center appearances and collaborations, ten minutes on Facebook and Twitter encouraging a birthday pre-order of our new book garnered more sales than months of time-consuming and expensive appearances. Verified Amazon purchases and reviews drive even more sales. Great lessons for selling books in the digital age.”

And what might Kathleen be working on currently? “Now, I am finally, as I near my seventh decade, working on a rewrite of the Great American Novel, Liberty Street, a story of love and transformation with a queer theme. Since I still so value the written word, I’ve enlisted the support of an amazing writing coach, accomplished novelist and professor, Carolina De Robertis.” As always, Kathleen has her eye on the details that make her writing a success: organization, hard work and collaboration.
Finally, Kathleen has this solid advice for every woman writer: “Write as if no one is watching, write because you love to write, write your own story in your own voice. Then, the joy is yours no matter what the sales figures say or who publishes your work.”

You can best contact Kathleen on her Website:
www.kathleenarchambeau.com
Her Twitter account is: twitter.com/KATHLEENARCHAM2

with the hashtag: #WeMakeItBetter

Sell Your Book at Pitch-O-Rama 2019!

SOLD OUT!

Check out this post if you still want to pitch!

Here’s what people are saying about the last Pitch-O-Rama:

“You never know what might happen when you pitch your writing project to an agent or editor at the Women’s National Book Association-San Francisco Chapter’s Pitch-O-Rama! The event’s format is well organized. I was fortunate to be able to hone and refine my presentation by attending a pre-pitch coaching session with an expert. The chance to get feedback on your writing project by Bay Area agents or acquisition editors in such a supportive environment is not to be missed. I left the event with a contract offer from an agent as well as positive feedback from all the editors I spoke to. Many thanks for the hard work and efforts that the San Francisco Chapter members bring to this event for all who attend.”

Scene from Pitch-O-Rama 2015 “Such a great event–never thought I could get so much out of a single morning. This was my first time ever speaking to an agent, and the mentoring session at the beginning of the day helped take away the ‘OMG I don’t know what I’m doing’ state of mind. Pre-pitch coaching was amazing—it really helped me feel far more confident—I am an experienced public speaker, but that counts for fairly little if you don’t know what the expectations are. The coaching helped us understand how to word our pitches so we could communicate what the agents wanted to know clearly and effectively. I was able to talk to 4 agents—and three of them asked for queries.

“This was my first pitching experience and I’m SO glad I participated. The pitch prep session was excellent. My coach was high energy, motivating, and offered great feedback on the pitches offered by members of my group.  It helped me refocus and tighten my pitch. I spoke with five pitch-takers. Two invited me to send a synopsis and opening chapters, which was very encouraging.

“It was great getting coaching from the WNBA and meeting with agents, getting their feedback — especially at a reasonable price! I got a lot of great insights about my genre and how to sell it.”

Scene from Pitch-O-Rama 2015 “The simultaneous exposure to a variety of agents and pitching coaches was very useful, it was helpful to have so many points of view accessible in one room. It was great that the pitching coaches continued to circulate during the event.

“The chance to speak intimately with agents, publishers, and editors in an intimate setting. I also enjoyed meeting other writers.”

“I really liked the pre-pitch session. Hearing other people’s pitches helps me hone my own. Plus, people were so very helpful, even the agents/publishers who didn’t accept queries from my genre. Very supportive/non-competitive group! Thank you for putting it on!”

The pleasant atmosphere that provided an initial coaching session to get into the proper frame of mind, and then the possibility of speaking for 6 minutes with our agents of interest was valuable. This amount of time felt adequate for the agent to gain a proper perspective on the writer, and also for the writer to feel out the agent.”

Scene from Pitch-O-Rama 2015 “The professional feedback, on all levels about which of my ideas is viable, and what publishers expect and want. I appreciated how open the agents were to talking with me, even though my projects are not 100% completed.

“Being able to speak with real live agents, editors and publishers. They were all so kind and generous.”

“Facing one on one on how agents/others reacted to my pitch and its weaknesses. I gained so much. One intern tore my pitch apart (graciously) and within 30 seconds re-organized what had taken months/years to assemble. She was right. I was thrilled. I am so much closer to ‘the perfect pitch.’ Pre-coaching was excellent. All of it broke down useless preconceived notions.”

SOLD OUT!

 

Mother Nature is My Writing Mentor

Drawing Inspiration From the Natural World

by Cheryl Leutjen

My office mate, a muscular, gray cat named Handsome, slumps over my left hand, purring. I sit at my desk in the attic, which I like to call the “garret” because it connects me with my childhood hero, Jo of Little Women. Here I can pretend to toil away at the craft, just like Jo, slaves to our art. Except that I’m tapping away, instead of dipping pen into an inkwell. Also, my garret is heated, well lit, and features an espresso maker. And, oh, yes, Jo is a fictional character about a third my age. Except for all that, we’re like twins.

The garret is where Handsome and I hole up most mornings, squabbling like a couple of old fusspots every morning about who controls the keyboard—and who needs to go find all the lost rubber bands. But today, we’re mesmerized by the sight outside our window. After months of drought, water pours from the sky, and glistening droplets blur our view. Handsome puzzles over the strange howling sound and jumps as the old window bangs in the wind. As the storm rages outside, I’m thrilled to cozy up here in the garret with my furry familiar. Every excuse to stay in, off the streets clogged by Angelenos struggling to remember how to drive in the Wet Stuff. As a writer prone to wax poetic, this is as good as it gets. Why would I want to go anywhere? 

And yet, one day later, the deluge has ended, and I tear myself away from the garret. I pack up my old kit bag and drive to Arlington Garden in Pasadena. This Mediterranean-style oasis is the living expression of redemption. Countless volunteers have teased its beauty from a dusty, vacant lot, set aside long ago for a stalled freeway construction project. Surrounded by stately Pasadena homes, the park attracts birds, bees, butterflies, and urban dwellers seeking respite. Considering all the eco-guilt I’m carrying, I welcome the opportunity to steep in Redemption.

I’m meeting here with my tribe, those valiant enough to brave the damp and the winter chill. Of  50-some degrees, that is. We’re members of a Meetup I facilitate called the “Natural Muse.” We gather in various green spaces in LA—yes, there are some sprinkled in among all our concrete—sometimes at picnic tables and sometimes perched on creek-side banks. Defying all notions of “nobody-walks-in-LA” stereotypes, we plucky pilgrims sometimes hike to a vista point or hop on a train to gain a different perspective. What devoted artisans we are; just like Jo, obeying our muses, for the craft.

Since beginning the Natural Muse Meetup nearly six years ago, many writers have come and gone. Some come once and scurry back to their own version of the garret. Some pop in periodically while others attend religiously. Occasionally, I’m the only human who attends. Regardless the turnout, I keep this Meetup going because it’s the crowbar that pries me out the comfort of the garret.

Nature herself is an unnamed member of our coterie; we never know what critters will join us.  Right now, a brown bird I can’t identify does a sort of hopping shuffle with her feet, to clear the fallen leaves so she can peck for seeds. I am trying, quite unsuccessfully, not to laugh at her comical efforts to produce a meal. Then I recall some of my own laughable antics in the kitchen, and humility squelches my mirth. At another gathering, some Canadian geese made me guffaw until I feared the white coats would come for me. Since beginning the Meetup, squirrels, crows, coots, ducks, geese, an Irish Setter, pigeons, rats, coyotes, songbirds, jacarandas, a dying sagebrush and more have joined us. Each critter encounter opens new gateways in my imagination.

Though the garret is an ideal spot for editing, providing that all-essential WiFi for research, my book, Love Earth Now, could never have been written there. Every insight that has produced my most creative work has come out of my experiences with the flora and fauna, few of which reside in my home (thankfully). Not that there haven’t been pest infestations in my kitchen that I prefer not to recall.

When I plant my fuming-about-phone books self under a blossoming pomegranate tree and discover a buzzing swarm of bees overhead, I’m rapt. I’m blissfully free of the seemingly nonstop tide of Bad News for Life on Earth. I’m simply witnessing these busy creatures, whose industry makes possible a good chunk of the human food supply, hard at work, not bemoaning the fate of their kind, with so many dying in droves. Each of them showed up to do what bees do, employing all the skills and abilities that Nature has given them. The bees remind me that I have the skills and abilities to do my own work and surrender the travesties that are not mine to address. 

I suppose time outdoors sounds like a no-brainer for someone like me who writes about learning from Nature. But why do other writers do it? Why leave the comfort of their own version of the garret or the local coffee shop to sit on hard benches, squint through the glare of sunlight and let’s face it, deal with the scourge of park bathrooms?

I pose the question to Reni who is writing an autobiographical piece about gifts. For her, creative time in Nature “opens something in me. Every sense is touched, and I become more aware.” Christy is crafting blog posts. Writing in nature reduces her stress about getting the work done. “I can think, feel and write from a place of calm and enjoyment, instead of frustration.” Aliete is developing a memoir of her struggles with mental illness. “Writing outdoors engages all the senses. The sounds, the colors, the smells, the touch. . . even the silence inspires me,” she says. “There are so many unexpected moments,” she continues, causing me an involuntary shudder as I recall that time when a squirrel spat green flesh at me.

However our time in this garden impacts us individually, we share a sense that we are better for it. We’re not alone in this assessment. Recent studies evidence that time in Nature can provide measurable benefits. An intentionally mindful experience in a natural setting— not a sprint around the park while I’m reading my Twitter feed—may lower blood pressure, reduce stress, improve sleep and increase energy levels. There’s even evidence that exposure to certain chemicals that trees emit increase the human body’s ability to fight off cancer. That’s some powerful therapy, no prescriptions or co-pays required. I pause for a word of gratitude for the enclave of crepe myrtle trees, dressed in striped stockings and leaflets of red and gold, which surrounds me.

Thinking of how humans evolved in a world with trees and plants and a myriad of microbes already in it, it’s no surprise to me that the natural world stimulates creativity not found indoors. Our ancestors lived eons seeing, hearing, smelling, sensing and relating with a panoply of flora and fauna that few of us know today. Locked into our sterile cubicles, we’re cut off from so many of the cues to which we evolved to respond. Perhaps steeping in our natural surroundings brings us back into a fuller experience of what it means to be human, which opens new portals for receiving fresh inspiration.

None of us sitting around this picnic table are aware of any of this, not on a conscious level, anyway. I can’t tell you if new neural pathways are forming or ancient collective memories have been awakened by this garden. I do know that a little bird gave me a chuckle, and I saw something of myself in her dance. That moment of connection inspired an essay, one that could not have been written in the garret. If you’re looking for fresh inspiration, consider packing up your own kit bag and walking out that front door.  


About Cheryl Leutjen

Cheryl Leutjen is the author of Love Earth Now, available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Mango Publishing.

Cheryl Leutjen’s deep love of Earth, as well as her hope for a bright future for her children, fuel her passion for responding to the challenges of our time with heart, hope, humor, and spiritual practice. Cheryl writes to share her experiences about on the razor’s edge between Earth-mindfulness and eco-madness, not because she’s got it all figured out, but in solidarity with anyone else who’s fumbling along the path of more conscientious living.

She draws from her experience as a geologist, attorney, small business owner, spiritual practitioner, over-analyzing-everything Gemini, Midwestern childhood, Los Angeles transplant, wife and mother to claw her way out of the abyss of eco-despair. She seeks solace from the sages in Nature who reveal the wisdom she needs to navigate a more Earth-loving path.

She resides in Los Angeles, where she takes copious yoga classes, digs up the yard and throws a lot of darts as therapy. She lives with her husband (aka her Sanity Supervisor), two children, her muse Atlas Cedar, and three cats who care not one whit about any of her credentials.

Guest Post: Every Day Creativity

By Margarita Tartakovsky, MS

When it comes to writing, inspiration can be controversial. Some people staunchly believe we shouldn’t need inspiration to write. We must sit down at our desks and get to work—whether the muse is available or not.

Others believe we need to coax, entice and nurture the muse—and if she’s away, it’s best to leave writing to another day. And still others would roll their eyes at me for using the word “muse” in the first place.

The great thing is that everyone has a different take on inspiration—opinions that can be quite inspiring. Which is why I asked various authors to share their thoughts. Below you’ll find a variety of invaluable ideas and insights.

When the muse sleeps, do something else. 

“When my muse is unresponsive, there ain’t much I can do to wake her up,” said BJ Gallagher, author of over 30 books, including the forthcoming title Your Life Is Your Prayer (out in spring 2019). So she waits, and does other things in the meantime: She mows the lawn, washes the car, walks the dog, does laundry, has coffee with a friend, takes a shower, vacuums or takes a nap.

And these are the very activities—especially the physical ones—that help her muse to return.

“When my body is on auto-pilot doing routine physical things, my mind is free to drift and wander and explore. That is usually when my muse awakens and calls to me, ‘Grab a yellow legal pad, quick!’ And I write.”

Be consistent. 

KJ Dell’Antonia, author of the book How to Be a Happier Parent and co-host of the #AmWriting podcast, writes daily—whether she feels like writing or not. Even when it’s not going so well, she still keeps writing.

“I’ll boil it down to how many paragraphs does this need? How many sentences? How many words? And then I will put those things down, no matter how sorry and sad they seem, and most of the time, they’ll spark something. I’ll write something I like. It will start to flow. And if it doesn’t, that’s OK. I’ll be here tomorrow, folks. I’ll be here all week.”

Jane Binns, an artist and author of the forthcoming memoir Broken Wholehas found the same to be true. “Writing steadily is inspiring all on its own. The ideas keep building and refining themselves and returning to this again and again is validating and self-fulfilling.”

Seek out alone time. 

Joan Gelfand, author of several poetry collections, the upcoming novel Fear to Shred and You Can Be a Winning Writer, stays inspired by ensuring she has time alone to think. “It is when I give myself unstructured time that the muse comes to visit.”

She suggested making time every week for a date with yourself. For instance, that’s when you might take a walk, sit by the lake or visit a local place you’ve never been before.

Read different kinds of books. 

Alexandra Brown, co-author of A Year Off: A Story About Traveling the World—and How to Make It Happen For You, draws inspiration from fiction. “With my writing planet generally orbiting the non-fiction sun, I am always in awe of someone’s ability to weave a truly remarkable story.”

Brown is currently re-reading—and being inspired by—The Elegance of the Hedgehog. “It reframes the way a person thinks of language. It’s so imaginative, philosophical and poetic. It also reminds you to never assume things about people because we’re all more complex than we seem.”

Binns reads novels from genres she normally wouldn’t pick up. “I like to read authors that challenge the convention of storytelling and observe how they get from point A to point Z. What devices do they use? Why do they suspend this or that detail until later? How do they keep the tension suspenseful?”

One of Binns’s favorites is Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad, “because I never knew who was speaking or where or when things were happening exactly. It’s almost entirely dialogue. I would think I had it figured out but then it shifted…Heart of Darkness reminded me of Ulysses which I read years ago. Both of these are written in ways I would never allow myself to do right now. I see them as examples of how to stretch into untraveled territory.”

Travel. 

This is another way Brown fills her inspiration cup. “Stepping into another culture, even if only for a day, can put you into an entirely new, often unknown, context, and there is nothing more inspiring than being witness to all the ways this world is unique, interesting and dynamic.”

You don’t have to travel to far-off places to be inspired. “Even if it’s just an hour’s drive away, there is so much to see when you get outside of your routine,” Brown said.

Paint. 

Binns also stays inspired by painting with watercolors. “It gives my mind a break from thoughts and words, and I can totally relax and muse about color, light, and shadow. I love how the proportion of water and paint mix for a certain effect. The water is messy and has a science all of its own. I love watching it drool into the nodules of cold press paper. There is only a certain amount of time that watercolor can be played with before it sets. That burden of making decisions quickly is a sharp contrast to writing where things can be revised endlessly.”

Get in the right state. 

“Inspiration comes when you stop thinking, writing and creating from a place of stress,” said Greta Solomon, a writing coach, and the author of the forthcoming book Heart, Soul & Sass: Write Your Way to a Fully-Expressed Life. She noted that the optimum state for writing is to be alert and completely relaxed, which is when our brainwaves are operating from an alpha state.

One way we can boost this alpha energy is to listen to music at 60 beats per minute (BPM), she said. “Research has shown that Baroque music can help learning, thinking and creativity because it pulses at this magic number.”

Solomon suggested doing a quick Google search or downloading a Spotify 60-BPM playlist.

In addition to listening to music, we can make our own. For instance, Binns plays the piano. “The mathematics and poetry of music opens doors in my brain that nurture sanity, allowing the world around me to make sense.”

As always, whether it has to do with writing or anything in life, the key is to find what really resonates with you—and to keep checking in with yourself to see if that idea is still relevant.

What insights on inspiration specifically speak to you?

Copyright (C) 2018 Psych Central. All rights reserved. Reprinted with permission from here.

Get Ready for 2019 SF Writers Conference February 14 – 19

February 14 – 19
 Intercontinental Hyatt Regency Embarcadero in downtown San Francisco

Join us and help us promote WNBA-SF at the San Francisco Writers Conference.

This will be the 16th Celebration of Craft, Commerce, and Community for all writers. Attendees will join with 100+ presenters and fellow writers from across the country and around the world at this year’s event. The SFWC events are consistently rated among the top writer’s conferences anywhere.

Presenters this year will include bestselling authors, literary agents, editors, and publishers from major publishing houses. There will be experts on self-publishing, book promotion, platform building, social media, and author websites. SFWC has one of the largest faculties of any writer’s conference.

The four day event is packed with 100+ sessions for writers–from the craft of writing to the business of publishing. There is copious networking with the very people who can advance your writing career; an opening gala; two keynote luncheons and breakfasts; lots of social interaction with other writers; and evening Open Mic readings and pitch sessions. There will be exhibitors with services and tools for writers, too.

If you are working on your book, getting ready to publish it, or looking for ways to promote an already published book, this is the event you need to attend. TO REGISTER for the 2019 San Francisco Writers Conference, CLICK HERE!

The San Francisco Writers Conference starts on Thursday with orientation classes in the afternoon and several optional Open Enrollment Classes in the evening. Then the conference runs–pretty much non-stop–through late afternoon on Sunday. If you can stay longer, there is a no-host dinner where you can keep the networking going with SFWC presenters, staff, and volunteers. On Monday there will be several post-event Open Enrollment classes, too. That’s the entire Presidents’ Day weekend..and then some!

In fact, we are proud that so many of our WNBA members will be presenters at this conference including: Brenda Knight. Joan Gelfand, Nina Amir, Linda Lee, Mary E. Knippel, Martha Conway, Kate Farrell, Betsy Graziani Fasbinder, Mary Mackey, Barbara Santos, Helen Sedwick and more!