Writing Dialogue in Memoir

Written By Louise Nayer 

Louise NayerUnless you sprint through life with a tape recorder strapped to your body 24/7, dialogue is created by the author through memory. How do you write believable dialogue? Differentiate your mother’s voice, “I feel ill” from your father’s, “I feel like crap”? Keep it short. It doesn’t have to be grammatically correct, but does need to capture the quirkiness of the speaker. Use action along with dialogue—tearing up a napkin on your lap to show nervousness, staring out the window to show sadness. In my book Burned: A Memoir, I wrote a scene the morning after my parents were burned in an explosion in the cellar of our Cape Cod rental house. I’m four years old, in the basement of our neighbor’s house with my sister and babysitter, Della.

“Will Daddy take us to the beach today?” I asked Della as she lifted her heavy body off the bed, her red wool sweater spilling onto the cool basement floor. “Will Daddy take us to the beach today?”
“They were hurt—in an accident.” Her face was puffed up and red. I turned away clutching my stomach, an acid taste rising in my mouth.

Along with the dialogue, you learn about what Della looks like and also what I’m physically feeling as a child at that moment—an acid taste in my mouth.

In The Glass Castle right at the beginning, author Jeannette Walls has a scene with her homeless mother. A few days before, Walls was in a taxicab and saw her mother picking through trash. She didn’t stop to say hello.

“You want to help me change my life?” Mom asked. “I’m fine. You’re the one who needs help. Your values are all confused.”
“Mom, I saw you picking through trash in the East Village a few days ago.”
“Well, people in this country are too wasteful. It’s my way of recycling.” She took a bite of her Seafood Delight. “Why didn’t you say hello?”
“I was too ashamed, Mom. I hid.”
Mom pointed her chopsticks at me. “You see?” she said. “Right there. That’s exactly what I’m saying. You’re way too easily embarrassed. Your father and I are who we are. Accept it.”

This excerpt is mostly dialogue, but there are a few places where the reader is grounded in the scene, and knows it’s a restaurant. “She took a bit of her Seafood Delight” and “Mom pointed her chopsticks at me.” The action of the mother pointing her chopsticks at her daughter allows us to see the mother’s personality and also is laced with humor.

Dialogue makes a scene come alive and reveals something more about a character. Look through old letters of people who have passed away to help “channel” their voices. Listen and take notes for people now in your life. Practice by writing down snippets of conversations while sipping your cappuccino. Dialogue moves the story along, revealing what each character wants. But often, as in life, you have to read between the lines.

Louise Nayer has been an author an educator for many years. Burned: A Memoir was an Oprah Great Read and won the Wisconsin Library Association Award. Her most recent book, Poised for Retirement: Moving From Anxiety to Zen is about “emotional planning” for retirement and was written up in Next Avenue and Forbes Magazine. She did 27 radio spots based on the book. She is a member of the SF Writer’s Grotto and has been an educator for over forty years. 

Serious Play: Fiction and Storytelling

The Craft of Fiction and the Importance of Storytelling

Saturday, April 21st, 3:00 pm
Hagerty Lounge, De La Salle Hall
Saint Mary’s College, 1928 Saint Mary’s Road, Moraga, CA 94575

Serious Play 
Authors Sarah Ladipo Manyika and Nayomi Munaweera in conversation with Mary Volmer about the craft of fiction and the global importance of storytelling

The Women’s National Book Association, San Francisco Chapter, presents an afternoon conversation with internationally acclaimed authors Sarah Ladipo Manyika and Nayomi Munaweera. Come to hear these two remarkable women discuss the craft of fiction, the global importance of storytelling, and their impressive philanthropic endeavors. Reception to follow.

Sponsored by the Saint Mary’s College of California MFA in Creative Writing. Co-sponsored by the Saint Mary’s English Department, the Intercultural Center, and the Women’s Resource Center.

$15.00 WNBA members, $20.00 non-members (Prepay online, or at the door)
FREE for SMC students with a valid student ID

All proceeds benefit the WNBA-SF and the Saint Mary’s College MFA’s Hedgebrook Scholarship.

Parking is available and free
Click here for a campus map.
Locate De La Salle Hall to the right of the main entrance.

Sarah Ladipo Manyika, fiction Sarah Ladipo Manyika was raised in Nigeria and has lived in Kenya, France, and England. She holds a Ph.D. from the University of California, Berkeley, and for several years taught literature at San Francisco State University. Sarah currently serves on the boards of Hedgebrook and the Museum of the African Diaspora in San Francisco. Sarah is a Patron of the Etisalat Prize for Literature and Books Editor at ozy.com. Her widely lauded first novel, In Dependence, is required reading in Nigerian schools and her second novel, Like a Mule Bringing Ice Cream to the Sun, was shortlisted for the 2016 Goldsmiths Prize.

Nayomi Munaweera Sri Lankan born author, Nayomi Munaweera immigrated to Nigeria and then to California. Her debut novel, Island of a Thousand Mirrors, was long-listed for the Man Asia Literary Prize and the Dublin IMPAC Prize. It was also short-listed for the DSC Prize and the Northern California Book Prize and won the Commonwealth Regional Prize for Asia and a Godage Prize. Her second novel, What Lies Between Us, a book about a Sri Lanka-American, won the Sri Lankan National Book Award for best English novel and the Godage Award for Best English Novel. She teaches at Mills College and at the Ashland University low-residency MFA Program. She holds writing workshops in Sri Lanka through a program called Write to Reconcile in which she co-teaches with legendary Sri Lankan writer, Shyam Selvadurai. Their aim is to use writing as a tool of reconciliation and healing for both Tamil and Sinhala survivors of the civil war.

Mary Volmer is the author of two novels: Crown of Dust (Soho Press, 2010) and Reliance, Illinois (Soho Press, 2016). She has been awarded the Rotary Ambassadorial Scholarship and residencies at the Vermont Studio Center and Hedgebrook and she teaches at Saint Mary’s College (CA). 

Serious Play: Fiction and Storytelling, April 21, 2018

Register online in advance or pay at the door.
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Spring Break Mixer

Wednesday, April 4th, 6:30 – 8:30 pm
WNBA-SF Networking Mixer, featuring a reading and Q & A with Shanthi Sekaran
Saint Mary’s College, 1928 Saint Mary’s Road, Moraga, CA 94575

Join the WNBA – SF and the Saint Mary’s College MFA program for a night of networking and literary excellence. 

Shanthi Sekaran, spring mixerMeet, greet and eat with fellow WNBA members and potential remember at 6:30 pm in beautiful De La Salle Hall, on the campus of Saint Mary’s College. Then move next door for a reading and Q & A with acclaimed author of Lucky Boy, Shanthi Sekaran.

Click here for a campus map.
Locate De La Salle Hall to the right of the main entrance.

Share your news and personal projects and learn how you can get more involved in the WNBA Centennial Year activities! Bring your business cards to share.

Bring a friend you think would be interested in joining the magical WNBA!

The event is free and open to the public (no need to RSVP). Parking is available and free.

Shanthi Sekaran lives in Berkeley, California. Her latest novel, Lucky Boy, was named an Indie Next Great Read and an Amazon Editors’ Pick. Her essays and short fiction have appeared in The New York Times, Canteen Magazine, Huffington Post and Best New American Voices. She’s a member of the San Francisco Writers’ Grotto and a Distinguished Visiting Writer in Fiction and Creative Nonfiction at Saint Mary’s College. 

Contact Mary Volmer with any questions: maryvolmer AT gmail DOT com

Featured Member Interview – Kate Carroll de Gutes

Interview by Nina Lesowitz

Kate Carroll de Gutes, member interviewFrom cappuccinos to creative non fiction: new member Kate Carroll de Gutes shows how persistence pays off in getting published.

“I started working as a journalist—writing feature stories—right out of undergrad, working for magazines and as a stringer for a couple of alternative newspapers. It was good work—and recognized as such—but I was young and idealistic, so I quit to run my own coffee business. In that way that only the young can think, I believed it would give me more time to work on essays, you know, in between steaming milk for cappuccinos.

“Once I left the coffee business, I started teaching and writing again, but this was the late ’80s and I worked primarily on creative nonfiction pieces, and there were few outlets that wanted to publish anything that wasn’t a traditional essay in the style of Montaigne. I shifted my focus to book-length, narrative-driven nonfiction and fiction, found an agent, lost an agent, got rejected (mostly) and published (infrequently). Still, I kept writing creative nonfiction and finally the market caught up to my work. Or I got better at it. Or both.

“The third book I wrote was the first to get published. Objects In Mirror Are Closer Than They Appear (Ovenbird Books) looks at marriage, and how we learn to be in a relationship by watching our parents’ marriages. The book begins with the end of my marriage, works its way through my life in a reverse chronology, and asks big questions about sexual identity and gender expression, as well as more quotidian ones about the search for the perfect fashion accessory and how to combat hat hair. The book won the 2016 Oregon Book Award for Creative Nonfiction, the Lambda Literary Award for Memoir, and the Next Generation Independent Publishing Award. So, thirty years after I began writing, I finally knocked it out of the park.”

What was your inspiration for your most recently published title, The Authenticity Experiment?
“I started The Authenticity Experiment: Lessons From the Best & Worst Year of My Life as a writing challenge during July 2015. I wanted to see if I could be completely authentic on social media for 30 days. I think we use social media as our new back fence, a place where we can stand and talk to our ‘neighbors’ about the good and bad of our days. During the middle of the ‘experiment’ my mother died, so the posts naturally talked about that. The writing resonated with a wide audience—in fact, USA Today wrote a story about it—so I kept writing, transitioning to a weekly blog, chronicling the dark and the light, and putting it out there for everyone to see. Now I write twice a month and publish new pieces on www.authenticityexperiment.net.”

What was your process of getting published?
“Both of my book contracts have been very serendipitous. The press that published Objects was founded by the poetry critic and award-winning writer, Judith Kitchen. After several very good rejections—with honest critiques about what the publishers thought worked and didn’t—I took the book apart, threw out 100 pages, and wrote 75 new ones. Right before AWP Seattle 2014, Judith Kitchen asked me for the new manuscript. The sad part of the story is that Judith died two days after finishing her edit on the book. But she’d left detailed notes that I followed. Authenticity Experiment was a similar serendipitous experience. On the floor at AWP LA 2016, the editors of Two Sylvias Press said off-handedly, ‘If you ever want to turn Authenticity Experiment into a book, we’d love to publish it.’

If I have any advice, it’s to knock on doors, use your network, and ask for what you want. That means asking friends to write reviews, host house parties, and talk about your book—authentically, of course—on social media. It means teaching and taking every opportunity that comes along, because you never know who you might meet or who might buy your book from you. Oh, yeah, and you do have a box of books in the back of your car, don’t you? I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve sold two or three books right out of my trunk to some old friend I’ve run into at a restaurant or on the street.

“I suppose the other bit of wisdom is that nothing changes the day after you’ve won an award. You still have to do the work and not all people will like the work. It’s been just about two years since Ovenbird released the Advanced Review Copies of Objects and I’m finally seeing an uptick in sales and reviews as the book starts to find its way into more libraries and onto bookstores’ radar.”

What are you working on now?
“Every 66 seconds someone is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease. Since 2000, death from heart disease has decreased by 14% while death from Alzheimer’s has increased 89%! For those of us with parents or partners suffering from Alzheimer’s, the disease often feels like an immediate death sentence. My mother lived for years with the disease and I’m working on a hybrid monster I’m not sure I have my hands around yet. Part memoir, part survival guide, the manuscript intertwines my struggles to manage my mother’s meager retirement income, gain power of attorney, and get her the assistance she needed with practical advice for caregivers and family. I’ve got two agents vying for the proposal—which is a surprising and exciting spot to find myself.”

You can get in touch with Kate via her website: www.katecarrolldegutes.com.

Honoring the Legacy of Effie Lee Morris

Effie Lee Morris

Effie Lee Morris, Our Founder

50 Years: WNBA – San Francisco Chapter

March 7, 2018, Wednesday 
5:30 – 7:30 pm
San Francisco Public Library Main

Latino/Hispanic Room 
(Located lower level; accessible by stairs or elevator) 

A Panel Presentation FREE and Open to the Public!
Light refreshments served

Fifty years ago this year, Effie Lee Morris founded the San Francisco Bay Area Chapter of the Women’s National Book Association. A remarkable woman, Ms. Morris was a groundbreaking librarian and educator who worked for justice and equality for children, women, and underserved communities.

WNBA presents a panel of those who knew Ms. Morris and had the privilege of working with her, including children’s agent Andrea Brown; author and WNBA past-president Mary Knippel; co-founder of the San Francisco Writer’s Conference Michael Larsen and San Francisco Public Library Main Children’s Center program manager Lyn Davidson.  The program is moderated by WNBA-SF chapter president Brenda Knight

For this 50th anniversary kickoff event, we will discuss  Ms. Morris’ legacy and how the WNBA continues it, as well as the Effie Lee Morris Historical and Research Collection at the San Francisco Public Library, and the importance of getting books into the hands of all children in all communities. Enter to win a FREE raffle with prizes of signed copies of new WNBA-SF writers’ books. 

The Effie Lee Morris Children’s Literature Lecture Series features thought-provoking conversations with today’s top authors and illustrators of books for children. This annual series offers the book-loving public an opportunity to enrich their understanding of how writers and artists create great works for young readers. The Series is funded by The Friends of the San Francisco Public Library and the San Francisco chapter of the Women’s National Book Association. 

Honoring the Legacy of Effie Lee Morris is co-sponsored by the San Francisco History Center and the Main Library Children’s Center

Pitch-O-Rama Book Promo Session

Secrets to Successful Book Marketing for Writers: 2018 Panel 


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. New to Pitch-O-Rama are top publicist Eileen Duhne and Jim Azevedo, who is marketing director for Smashwords, the world’s largest distributor of ebooks. 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.

 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. 

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!


San Francisco Writers’ Conference

SF Writers' Conference logoMark Hopkins Hotel
February 15 – 18, 2018

Join us and help us promote WNBA at the Intercontinental Mark Hopkins Hotel on Nob Hill at the 2018 San Francisco Writers Conference (SFWC).
This will be the 15th 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 2018 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!

Brenda Knight, president of WNBA-SF, will be on a featured panel – Writers Lunch ‘Authors as Activists’ – with Mike Larsen, Reiko Remonde, Lyzette Wanzer, and Charlotte Ashcock. 

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

SFWC Keynote speakers include:

sheldon siegel Sheldon Siegel
New York Times best-selling author of the critically acclaimed legal thriller series featuring San Francisco criminal defense attorneys Mike Daley and Rosie Fernandez, two of the most beloved characters in contemporary crime fiction.

Dana Gioia
California Poet Laureate. Former Chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts. Internationally acclaimed and award-winning poet.

Shanthi Sekaran teaches creative writing at California College of the Arts and is a member of the Portuguese Artists Colony and the San Francisco Writers’ Grotto. Shanthi’s newest work Lucky Boy, published by G.P. Putnam and Sons debuted earlier this year. Her first novel, The Prayer Room, was published by MacAdam Cage.

Young Writers Session Presenter: Mitali Perkins, author of ten novels for young readers, including Rickshaw Girl. RSVP for the 2018 San Francisco Writers Conference FREE Open-to-the Public Live Event!

The Magic Carpet of Place : A Workshop for All Young Writers
Saturday, February 17, 2018 at the Mark Hopkins Hotel, 1 Nob Hill, San Francisco 94109 
Event starts promptly at 10 a.m. Book signing to follow at 10:45 am in the onsite bookstore.

WNBA-SF current members are welcome to volunteer at our exhibit table during the regular conference program. First come, first signed up. Volunteers will be able to attend some free sessions with the exhibitor’s badge. Contact: Jan Schmuckler, jan AT janconsults DOT com, if you are interested in this great opportunity. The exhibit table space is small and we will display ONLY information about WNBA. You may want to volunteer for 2 hours or 4 hours; either is fine. We will assign two volunteers for each slot. We hope to see you there!


Tweet Success – II

Written By Cathy Turney 
with significant input from Cynthia Rubin, BestEditorEver

Cathy Turney, Tweet success[This is the second part of Cathy’s post. Read the first part here.]

Tip #3: Choose a Memorable Handle
By memorable, I mean easy to remember and identify (vs. too clever). On Twitter you have two names. First is your real name—the one your parents gave you (or you changed to your own liking). Twitter asks for that when you set up your account. But! They limit you to 20 characters. (I’m sure future parents will keep that in mind when they give birth.) So if your real name is longer than 20 characters you’ll need to shorten it without disguising it so much that people can’t find you.

Your other name is your “handle” which begins with an @ and is also known as your username. Your handle can be up to 15 characters, not including the @ sign. Here’s where you can be creative, but I caution you to still try to make yourself easy to identify. You are searchable by either of these two names, but the @ name is yours and yours alone so that, for instance, there’s no confusion if someone searches for Mary Jones, of whom there are dozens.

If you want to change your handle or account name later, you can do it at any time and still keep all your followers.

Tip #4: Incentivize Yourself!
Twitter is a quick way to stay up-to-the-minute on world events. Something exciting at the United Nations? Just search #United Nations, and you’ll hear about it firsthand. Want to know what’s going on at WNBA-SF? Just search “#WNBASF.” And do click “follow” once you get there because WNBA-SF is so follow-worthy!

Tip #5: Stumped About What to Say?
To be deemed follow-worthy by large numbers, you also need to tweet regularly—to inspire, support, and engage. Yikes! Who has time to do that, plus write the great American novel or go-to nonfiction book? I use a program called Social Jukebox, which only costs a few dollars a month. It automatically posts quotes and images that are so wonderful they even inspire me! I’ve actually had babies following me, it’s so great!

Cathy Turney is a member of WNBA-SF. Her book Laugh Your Way to Real Estate Sales Success won the American Business Association Stevie Award for Best Business Book of the Year 2015. For more tips and lots of screenshots, read Get 10,000+ Twitter Followers—Easily, Quickly, Ethically, published in 2017. A contributor to Huffington Post, Turner tweets at @CathyTurneyLafs and blogs at www.CathyTurneyWrites.com

Tweet Success – I

Written By Cathy Turney 
with significant input from Cynthia Rubin, BestEditorEver

Cathy Turney, Tweet successIf you think Twitter is basically for the birds, I was once like you. Actually, as a child I had a succession of blue parakeets I faithfully nurtured that then mysteriously dropped dead—a portent of things to come? Recently, though, after spending countless dollars to promote my real estate tell-all humor book (with so-so results), my social media guru said: “You need 10,000 Twitter followers.”

Speaking as a right-brain creative technophobe, I was…speechless. I had collected 200 followers, and that had been a struggle. But if I couldn’t do better on Twitter, the alternative was to sign every paycheck from my day job over to marketing companies. Well, I sweated bullets and found workarounds—strategies that made me able to navigate Twitter and draw a big flock. Easy strategies that other right-brain Luddites, as well as the technologically gifted, can also use to make their writing soar into the Twittersphere.

And I think you might want to hear about those methods, if Brenda Knight, WNBA-SF’s MostExaltedPresident, is any barometer, which she is! At an WNBA meet-and-greet event at the Hotsy Totsy Club (“best happy hour in the East Bay!”), as I started to float another new book idea, she said, “Tell us about how you got 10,000 Twitter followers—that’s what we really want to hear about!” And just like that, my next book took flight.

Here are a few tips to show how you too can capitalize on Twitter. You don’t even have to buy my Get 10,000+ Twitter Followers—Easily, Quickly, Ethically! But if you do, of course, you’ll have my undying love and free technical support (right-brain version) forever.

Tip #1: Banner Content
Twitter success begins with amassing a large flock. People infer your “relevance” by the size of your following. To get followers, we need to engage and follow, follow, follow others. But how do you do that? The first step is to create an appealing banner, aka header, for your Twitter page with images that make it look like it would be interesting and uplifting to follow you.

Unruffle those feathers! You do not need to create the banner yourself. There are several services (I used Fiverr.com) that will do it for you for about $25, and the result will fit Twitter’s size parameters. If you’ve authored a book, include a picture of it. Don’t worry if you don’t have a book—it won’t be conspicuous by its absence; just tell the designer you want some graphics indicating that you write.

In my instructions to Fiverr I said I needed a colorful, upbeat Twitter banner that would attract book lovers, business people, and those wanting positive, inspiring quotes. The more avocations or interests you display in your banner, the more diverse a follower base you’ll attract. If you need ideas, look up other authors’ Twitter pages and see what they did.

Tip #2: Easily Target Those Who Want to Hear What You Have to Say
Many people will follow you back simply because they like your banner. But the key to exponentially bettering those odds is to target people who share your interests. If I want to promote my real estate book, I simply do a hashtag search for “real estate,” and Twitter shows me recent tweets from thousands of people about real estate. I follow the first several hundred people, and in a matter of minutes I’ve essentially invited them to follow me back. On a typical day, this step yields 30 to 100 follow-backs.

[Come back next week for the second part of Cathy’s post]

Cathy Turney is a member of WNBA-SF. Her book Laugh Your Way to Real Estate Sales Success won the American Business Association Stevie Award for Best Business Book of the Year 2015. Get 10,000+ Twitter Followers—Easily, Quickly, Ethically was published in 2017. She is a contributor to Huffington Post, tweets at @CathyTurneyLafs and blogs at www.CathyTurneyWrites.com

Featured Member Interview – Alexandra MacVean

Interview by Nina Lesowitz

Alexandra MacVean, member interviewFrom insurance representative to award-winning children’s illustrator, member Alexandra MacVean tells us about the life-changing events that lead to her rewarding career change.

“I’m a full-time freelance children’s illustrator and have been for over 3 years now. Prior to illustrating, I worked in the business/financial field for 13 years with State Farm Insurance Company, and thoroughly enjoyed my work. However, in 2012, I made a tough decision to resign my position with the company to return to school and finish my college degree.

“In April 2014, I was in a serious car accident one month away from graduating. The next 10 months were spent recovering. When November 2014 rolled around, my college professors began tutoring me, so that I could graduate. In May of 2015, I graduated with honors, earning a Designated Psychology Degree.

“I decided to focus more on my illustration work so I took online classes and landed my first job as a children’s book illustrator. My latest project, Ladybug! Ladybug! received two book awards.

“I’m currently working on illustrating a 5th children’s book for the author Charlotte J. Rains, entitled Meagan’s Wish, which is due to be released soon. My very own (and first!) book is due to be released soon as well: A Little Woodland Story focuses on various woodland animals. It’s a coloring book that tells a holiday story about coming together to help one another along the way.”

What advice would you give fellow members who may be interested in writing a children’s book?

MacVean's Illustration “Writing and/or illustrating a children’s book takes time! One thing I’ve heard over and over (from agencies, publishers, editors, etc.) while attending various conferences is that a solid, good book takes AT LEAST a year to complete, sometimes longer. Here are some tips:

  • Research your topic: Get to know what or who you’re writing about. Any missed detail, children WILL pick up on. And make sure your illustrator captures everything you write about. For example, if you mention Mr. Squiggly the mouse has a hat and your illustrator doesn’t give him one, that’s not good!
  • INVEST in your work: There are a lot of free online classes as well as Facebook groups for authors and/or illustrators. I would encourage individuals to invest in paying for at least one or two courses/conferences. There are two that have been SUPER beneficial to me and my career: 12 x 12 Challenge hosted by Julie Foster Hedlund and Picture Book Summit.
  • Join a local writing group: It’s great not just for feedback, but to engage with others who have the same/similar goals as you do.
  • Have PASSION: Without having a passion for what you do, you’ll find yourself running in circles, going nowhere. LOVE what you do. I love children! After overcoming a childhood of horrible abuse, my goal has been to give to children hope, love & joy.
  • TAKE TIME for YOU! Whether it’s reading a book, going for a walk, sitting in the window of your favorite coffee shop, taking time to replenish and revive your creative spirit is important.

“In the coming year, I plan to begin illustrating my second book, Miss Betty and Her Trail of Teapots, while also continuing to illustrate the Flitter Flutter Crawly series. Other projects will be having a teapot illustration come to life as actual tea cups and writing my second online watercolor course, Watercolor 102.”

Illustrator Alexandra MacVean can be found on all social media platforms via her website and blog.