Path to Publishing Panel: Does Social Media Really Sell Books?

Wednesday, March 18, 2020  – 6:00pm
1 Ferry Building
San Francisco, CA 94111

Book Passage, SF Ferry Building, presents a powerful panel discussion of one of the most popular subjects generally introverted authors want to know about. WNBA-SF’s own Elise Marie Collins joins members of the Author’s Guild to clear up many of the myths and truths about social media for writers.

Presented with the Authors Guild and the Women’s National Book Association

Authors often hear that they should spend time on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and a half dozen other platforms building an audience for their writing. Handled adroitly, social media can prove to be a powerful tool. This panel discussion will cover specific examples of entranced audiences, signed deals, and careers launched from writers who have made social media work for them.

Panelists

Laird Harrison
A genre nonconforming writer, Laird Harrison has published journalism and poetry, fiction and essays for magazines, literary journals, newspapers, book publishers, and websites, and worked in radio and video as well. He teaches at the the Writers Grotto.

Nayomi Munaweera
Nayomi Munaweera’s book Island of a Thousand Mirrors won the 2013 Commonwealth Book Prize for the Asian Region. She found her agent and first publisher on Facebook.

Lyzette Wanzer
Lyzette Wanzer is a San Francisco writer, editor, and creative writing workshop instructor. Her work reflects the peri-racial, social, and economic experiences of African-Americans and others. She’s a true believer in LinkedIn, and has taught many workshops on that topic.

Elise Marie Collins
Elise Marie Collins has consulted with small businesses, authors, and alumni associations on social media marketing and believes that a social media plan should be intuitive, fun, and seamless. Helping students and clients form healthy lifestyle patterns is Elise Collins’ passion and life purpose. She has taught yoga for the past 20 years and is the author of several books on healthy living, including her latest, Super Ager: You Can Look Younger, Have More Energy, a Better Memory, and Live a Long and Healthy Life. Elise enjoys sharing yoga wisdom and current scientific research.

Nilofer Merchant
Nilofer Merchant, a tech executive of 25 years is now an author of 3 non-fiction books reshaping work to create more value by valuing each of us. Named one of the top 50 management thinkers of our time by Thinkers50, and top 10 HR thinkers by HR Magazine, Nilofer has given a TED talk that has been cited 300 million times.

Building a platform is now standard for all authors and writers. But what does this mean? Platform these days must include all forms of social media. Writers frequently and fearfully ask: Do you have to have a following to write a book? Yes and no! It NEVER hurts to develop your social media chops! The short answer: In general, social media cultivation helps you get traction, unless you’re lucky enough to have a book idea that catches on like wildfire.

Social media is like kindling for that fire. You put your ideas and see which ones light up! Social media is a great way to spread your ideas, bring fans on board, and spark conversations. 

Novel Approaches to Outlining and Marketing Fiction: Another Reason to attend SFWC 2020!

Come join two of our WNBA-SF Chapter board members in a great presentation blending their expertise and experience.

Brenda Knight, Publisher, Author and Sheryl J. Bize-Boutte, Author present “Novel Approaches to Outlining and Marketing Fiction

This is where the “bookends” of writing meet. Hear unique insights from a prolific and popular writer on the outlining and writing of fiction along with insider secrets from a veteran of Harper Collins marketing and sales that you can use for marketing your book. Get tips on how to create the “who”, “what” and “what ifs” in outlining “must read” fiction, along with strategies for success with social media, publicity, blogging, and more, all designed to draw positive attention to your work. Get information on how to sign up for the Women’s National Book Association-San Francisco Chapter’s March 21, 2020, “Pitch-O-Rama Plus” to learn more about the “4 Ps” that lead to publication.

Sheryl J. Bize-Boutte is an Oakland multidisciplinary writer whose works artfully succeed in getting across deeper meanings about life and the politics of race and economics without breaking out of the narrative, with Oakland often serving as the backdrop for her touching and often hilarious works. Her first book, A Dollar Five-Stories From A Baby Boomer’s Ongoing Journey (2014) has been described as “ rich in vivid imagery”, and “incredible.” Her second book, All That and More’s Wedding (2016), a collection of fictional mystery/crime short stories, is praised as “imaginative with colorful and likeable characters that draw you in to each story and leave you wanting more.” Her latest book, Running for the 2:10 (2017), a follow-on to A Dollar Five, delves deeper into her coming of age in Oakland and the embedded issues of race and skin color with one reviewer calling it “… a great contribution to literature.” Her fictional story, “Uncle Martin” was published by Medusa’s Laugh Press Summer 2019. She currently has a novel in progress titled “Betrayal on the Bayou,” slated for publication in early 2020. She is also a contributor to award winning author Kate Farrell’s upcoming book “Story Power,” an anthology on how writers build and create their stories.

Brenda KnightBrenda Knight began her career at HarperCollins, working with luminaries Marianne Williamson, Mark Nepo, Melody Beattie, Huston Smith and Paolo Coelho. Knight served for 8 years as publisher of Cleis Press & Viva Edition, winner of the IndieFab’s Publisher of the Year Award in 2014. 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 Associate Publisher 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.

 

Options to Make Your Book Marketing More Effective

By Bridgitte Jackson-Buckley, author of The Gift of Crisis​ 

If there is one thing I’ve found out about book marketing it’s this: everyone is not your customer.

As a reader, this makes sense. You don’t want to read every book that’s out there yet, when you publish your own books, why does that knowledge suddenly become irrelevant?

You suddenly want everyone in the world to read your book. It doesn’t matter if it’s the silver-haired grandmother in Texas, the roughneck in Alaska, or the mouthy teenager next door — you simply now insist your book appeals to every demographic on the planet and no one can convince you otherwise.

So, you share your book links everywhere and sit back and wait for the sales to roll in. 

And then…

Crickets.

According to Worldometer as of this writing, over 40 thousand books have been published and we’re only a few days into the New Year! 

Within this publishing phenomena, how can one book stand out and/or connect with the right readers? 

Well, you make your book marketing more effective.

Here are a few options you may not have considered.

 

  • Take the time to determine your ideal reader

 

What is your reader most likely to carry in their backpack, handbag, or briefcase? Is your ideal reader a teen girl, a business person, or a blue-collar worker? Once you’ve determined who your ideal reader is, the next step is to find out where your people hang out online. 

Here are some place to look:

  • Hubspot: If you don’t know a lot about demographics or marketing, this is a great place to start. Their services are a tad pricey, but the blog is free.
  • Pew Research Center is a nonpartisan fact tank that provides tons of great info about our world. You can use it to find out where your demographic/ideal reader spends time on social media. Enter the search terms you’re looking for about demographics and it’s likely in there. 
  1. Goodreads quotes
    This seems like such a simple and obvious suggestion, but believe it or not I recently got this straight. I’ve had a Goodreads profile for some time now. Even though I often search online for quotes and inevitably Goodreads shows up in the search, it never occurred to me list quotes from my book on my profile! You never know when your work may appear as others search for quotes. On the author profile there is also an “ask me questions” feature, which is a good way to connect with readers. Additionally, Goodreads is a great place to connect with genre readers – for free! 
  2. Quote graphics
    quote "the time to be with your heart is precisely the time when it feels most difficult, most out of reach and the last option"My website is hosted by WIX and I have to be honest…if asked, I would happily do a promotional spot for WIX’s stellar customer service. Beyond great customer service, they have a marketing tool that allows users to create beautiful quote graphics that can be posted on all social media platforms. The picture is an example of one of my favorites that was made through my website.
    Canva is also an excellent source for creating graphics. However, you will have to research the correct sizing for the graphic you create. Depending on which site you want to share it to, if the dimensions are off the site you post the image on will cut off the edges or stretch the image, distorting it and sometimes making it blurry. It’s helpful to name the pictures as you save them as “A World without Butterflies — Insta” or “A World without Butterflies — FB cover” etc. so you’ll know which graphic can be used for which site based on the dimensions.
  3. Podcast interviews
    Shortly after my book was released I received several interview requests. Considering this was the first time I had ever done anything like this, I was quite nervous. It was interesting to see how differently each interview was conducted and how the information came across. I had to get used to watching AND listening to myself on video and in audio interviews. Consider podcast interviews great practice for book signings, speaking engagements, interacting with the public and representing yourself as a writer. One of the best interviews I have ever done to promote my book was on The Soul Directed Life podcast with Janet Conner. Overall it was a spirited exchange between two people with a genuine interest in my book’s subject matter.
  4. Quora
    I’ll admit, Quora didn’t appeal to me for a long time. However, it’s another great way to find your audience. If you’ve written “How to Start a Podcast without Looking Silly,” go onto Quora and find people asking questions about how to start a podcast and provide a creative and honest answer, while also linking your article in the answer.
  5. YouTube readings
    Recording readings or making quick videos on the topics you write about is a good way to draw readers to your site and your writing. You can create a 10 minute video discussing your book and reading a few key paragraphs and share on your (newly created) YouTube channel (the one with 3 followers). You can also post the video link to your author pages on Goodreads, Amazon, and your website.
  6. Use smaller sites like Mirakee and Flipboard
    Mirakee is a great place. It’s a visual site with a younger following. Flipboard allows you to post articles like a collection of online magazines that people can follow.
  7. Contact your local newspaper
    You never know! I emailed one of my local newspapers to get information on how to get my book featured beyond a paid advertisement. The editor responded, “If you can make it relevant to the community, we’ll run a feature.” Done!
  8. Create author share groups
    Creating a small group of 3–5 people who agree to do a share rotation of work. If there are three of you, each person can share their “promo-of-the-day” link or two to the group, and as you make your promotional rounds you share yours, then theirs, and they do the same for you. Set an agreed number of sites to share to and number of shares so you each benefit from the sharing collaboration.
  9. ManyStories for Medium
    ManyStories is part of the Penname platform. Penname is a platform of integrated websites dedicated to content distribution and discovery; a place where writers grow their audience and readers discover stories. ManyStories links to the original article link and selects stories to share on the front page of the site each day and will notify you if your work is selected to distribute. If you’re already a writer on Medium, it’s great because it allows writers to find new readers who are not part of the Medium  platform and allows writers to find a pool of writers, with a disproportionately high number of active Medium writers, as well.
  10. Business cards/face-to-face interactions
    Yes. Good old-fashioned business cards. The business card I use now is version number 5! It took several different versions before I finally created a business I am absolutely proud of. When I hand my business card to someone, I am so grateful that my presentation is strong and well-prepared to represent myself as a writer. When I am out and about and a natural conversation strikes up with someone, I’ll give the person my business card and invite them to read my writing. The title of my book is listed on the back of my business card and they can search my name and find my writing on various platforms. Considering we live in an infinite universe full of infinite possibilities, you never know what can happen as a result of these brief encounters!
  11. Focus and learn
    You can’t be everywhere, all the time. It’s inefficient and exhausting. A good approach is to narrow down tactics, or start slowly, and see what works. Toss what doesn’t. The definition of efficacy is the power to produce an effect. The more you learn what works for you, the better prepared you are for the next book launch. And the next.
  12. Do what you can, then let it go and live your life.
    As a writer, there comes a point when you simply have to let go. The book is written, you’ve poured your heart into it and then you have to let it do what it’s meant to do…not always at your direction or on your preferred timetable. A relationship with a book is very similar to the relationship a parent (or caregiver) has with a child. Eventually the child will grow up and have a life of its own. Until then, you do everything within your power, means and resources to provide a good start, a good foundation and then…all you can do is let go. You let go and trust your very best efforts will contribute a life – an existence – that will thrive and touch people in ways you could not have imagined. 

I’d love to hear your feedback. Share what works for you and what doesn’t below in comments!


Bridgitte Jackson Buckley is a freelance writer, author and ghostwriter whose focus includes spirituality, transformational documentaries, and in-depth interviews. She is a former contributor to General Religion on the National circuit of Examiner.com as the National Spirituality Examiner. She’s interviewed many New Thought luminaries including Eckhart Tolle, Iyanla Vanzant, Deepak Chopra, and Elizabeth Gilbert. As a freelance writer, she has written online articles for Examiner, Tiny Buddha, Recreate Your Life Story, Thrive Global, Medium, Gaia and Patheos’ Spirituality Itself. She is a fluent Spanish speaker and has traveled extensively throughout Central America including Belize, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua. Additional travels also include Hong Kong, Malaysia and (her favorite adventure) Thailand. She currently resides in Los Angeles with her husband, three children and Miniature Schnauzer.

Five Reasons to Review a Book and a Brief How-To

By Nita Sweeney, author of Depression Hates a Moving Target

I’m embarrassed to admit how little I appreciated the importance of book reviews until my own book, Depression Hates a Moving Target, was published. Before that, I posted the occasional review on Goodreads and didn’t even know that some publisher sites (including Mango) accept reviews. I rarely left a review on Amazon.

How times change. Now I am ever-so-slightly obsessed with (I’m always obsessed with something) checking all those sites for reviews of my book. And I’ve gone so far as to spend your precious time telling you about it.

Why Leave a Review?

So just why should a person, especially a busy person with lots of competing interests and precious little time or energy, a person such as you, review the books you read?

  1. To Remember the Book

I’ll go ahead and date myself. I’m old enough that I sometimes forget I’ve read a book, even if it seemed “memorable” at the time. It’s a bit frightening, but also enlightening to scan a review I’ve written. It refreshes my recollection and sometimes makes me want to read the book again.

  1. To Forget the Book

Perhaps it’s part of my mental health challenge, but I don’t think I’m alone here. If I read a deeply moving (or deeply disturbing) book, I get “stuck” in the story. Characters and scenes stroll and scroll through my mind when I should be doing other things. Often I can’t sleep. I toss and turn, trapped by the book. But if I write a review, capturing the essence of what is looping through my mind, it releases me and helps me move on.

  1. To Keep Yourself Honest

Many of us skim when we read. I’m no different. But in order to leave a detailed review, I must read deeply. If I want to review the book, I allow myself to slow down, sink in, and really pay attention. As a result, reading regains a pleasure it once lost.

  1. To Share Your Joy (or Pain)

If I enjoy a book, I want other readers to know. If I detest a book, I want other readers to know. If I didn’t finish a book, I want other readers to know that too. Having said that, I do my best not to pan a book just because it wasn’t what I expected. I’m referring to the 3-star review Marko Kloos received because his novel wasn’t a 36-count package of Jimmy Dean sausages.

  1. To Applaud the Author

I’ve always loved authors. Since my earliest days, people who created books out of thin air were my heroes. But now that I have personally gone through the entire process of not just writing a book and finding a publisher, but also marketing the book, I hold other authors in even higher esteem. I want to shout from the rooftops, “You did a really difficult thing! Great job!”

What Makes a “Good” Review?

As a published author, I appreciate the numbers game. Any positive review is lovely and a review of more than two sentences feels like a gift. But the reviews that stay with me are the ones in which the reader shares something personal about themselves and how the book made them feel. One reviewer said “Nita is inside my head.” Another wrote, “I had to stop at the end of one paragraph and call my mom.” Personal connections like these bring me to tears.

When I write reviews now, I remember how it felt to read reviews of my own book. I search for a place where I connect deeply with the book and share that with the author. This type of review achieves all the things I listed above and writing it feels fabulous since it provides the opportunity to cheer someone else along this twisting, winding, writing path.

[This article originally appeared in Nita’s blog, Bum Glue.]


Nita Sweeney is the author of the memoir, Depression Hates a Moving Target: How Running with My Dog Brought Me Back from the Brink, which was short-listed for the William Faulkner – William Wisdom Creative Writing Competition Award and the Dog Writers Association of America Award. Her articles, essays, and poetry have appeared in magazines, journals, books, and blogs including Buddhist America, Dog World, Dog Fancy, Writer’s Journal, Country Living, Pitkin Review, The Taos News, Spring Street, Pencil Storm, WNBA-SF, It’s Not Your Journey, and in several newspapers and newsletters. She writes the blog, Bum Glue, publishes the monthly e-newsletter, Write Now Columbus, and coaches writers in Natalie Goldberg style “writing practice.” Nita has been featured widely across media outlets about writing, running, meditation, mental health, and pet care. She was nominated for an Ohio Arts Council Governor’s Award and her poem, “Memorial,” won the Dublin Arts Council Poet’s Choice Award. When she’s not writing or coaching, Nita runs and races. She has completed three full marathons, twenty-eight half marathons (in eighteen states), and more than ninety shorter races. Nita lives in central Ohio with her husband and biggest fan, Ed, and their yellow Labrador running partner, Scarlet the #ninetyninepercentgooddog.

The WNBA-SF Has Your Back!

Join or Renew Membership today for Awesome Benefits!

Agents have told us that writers who belong to organizations like WNBA are more attractive because they demonstrate a commitment to the literary community. 

So if you’re a writer trying to get published, joining WNBA-SF Chapter makes you more attractive to agents!
If you’re not a writer, but a lover of the written word, joining WNBA makes you more interesting because you become part of a community of amazing women who are writers, editors, agents, publishers, booksellers, librarians, publicists, bloggers and more!
As a member of WNBA-SF Chapter, you can meet some of your favorite authors and get to know women who are on the cusp of being published and will soon join that list of your favorites! You’ll have interesting discussions about beautiful writing, share the challenges of finding an agent, learn about the current state of publishing and get tips on how to promote a self-published book, or how to pick the right read for a book club.
Joining WNBA-SF Chapter really does make you more attractive and interesting! 

NOW is the time to join (or renew if you are already a member) so that you can take advantage of these great benefits:

  • Meet publishing professionals face to face at WNBA mixers, readings, writers’ conferences, educational events and at our successful Pitch-O-Rama where many local authors met agents that led to publishing contracts!
  • Promote your book or business: For $30/year a published author or publishing professional member can have two book covers or logos on the WNBA/National home page and link to their business blog and website.
  • If you use @WNBA National, the national organization will often favor or re-tweet your tweets, increasing your following.
  • As WNBA member, you are eligible to submit an article for consideration in the Bookwoman – the national newsletter that goes to all 11 chapters and every member. And you can list your recent news in Member News.
  • Link your blog or website to the SF chapter. Attend as many in person meetings and events as possible to get to know people. Then there’s a good chance that you will make some really great connections.
  • Having WNBA on your resume is a plus, as it has helped many women move their careers forward, and agents like to see that you are part of the local literary community.
  • Discounts on WNBA events and opportunities to participate as a volunteer at the San Francisco Writers’ Conference and San Francisco Writing For Change and showcase your book at local book festivals and bookstores.
  • Ability to promote and sell your book or expertise at specified events.
  • Teach a class or present your book at one of our Mechanics Institute Library San Francisco events in 2020 for fantastic visibility to the public and the large MIL membership!
  • Participate in our or Litquake readings or book fairs.
  • Great way to network!!!!

You can join or renew now by going to this page. There is no application requirement to join. Become a member or renew your membership to enjoy the benefits for the whole year. Jump on your computer and sign up today.

Featured Member Interview – Geri Spieler

Self-Proclaimed “Political Junkie” Reveals Her Writing Secrets

by Nita Sweeney, author of the running and mental health memoir, Depression Hates a Moving Target: How Running with My Dog Brought Me Back from the Brink

The members of the Women’s National Book Association of San Francisco come from a variety of backgrounds and careers. I’m grateful for the opportunity to ask questions of smart, successful authors like Geri Spieler. Every interview provides splendid takeaways. I hope you enjoy the ones I heard in our conversation.


Nita Sweeney (NS): I have to start by asking about the ten chickens and 19 fruit trees . . . in Palo Alto. Surely there’s a story there!

 

Geri Spieler (GS): Ha. There is a story. As for the fruit trees, we live on a double lot on a corner so we have some room. The house came with six fruit trees. It was wonderful to be able to go outside and pick fruit, so I started planting additional trees with different fruit. I kept adding until now, we don’t have any more room.
As for the chickens, my husband can’t tolerate any kind of dander in the house. It’s way beyond allergies. I was raised with all kinds of animals and need them to define myself. Chickens produce amazing fresh, organic eggs, I don’t have to walk them and I can pick them up and cuddle them. They get to know you and respond. We started with three and it’s grown to ten. I take their welfare seriously because they are vulnerable to predators. 

NS: What draws you to the type of writing you do?

GS: I’m strictly nonfiction. Fiction is much too difficult for me. I’m sure it has to do with being a newspaper reporter and total political junkie. My book, Taking Aim at the President: The Remarkable Story of the Woman Who Shot at Gerald Ford, was written in the creative nonfiction genre. It was very difficult for me to write it the way I wanted–like a novel but, entirely nonfiction. I took writing courses to understand things like “scene.” I hired a number of editors along the way.

NS: Your publication credentials are impressive. Please tell us how you got started and what helped you land those projects.

GS: Thanks. My interest in writing started with an awareness of news and politics. My grandmother was a Holocaust survivor in that she realized early on things were going downhill for the Jews in Poland. She left before it got really bad and tried to convince her siblings to come with her to the states. They thought she was over reacting and hence were killed by the Nazis. She taught me early on to pay attention to the government because things can get very bad and you need to be alert. My mother was a political junkie and she taught me the same lessons. 

I realized pretty fast that if an event did not get covered in the press it might as well not have happened at all. I wanted to have that control, so to speak. I was always interested in news and politics. 

Landing projects was sheer chutzpa. I often went after jobs and assignments by pushing my way into a role. I always say that I wanted something so bad I had fire in the belly. It takes that to make a success in any form of writing or job. You have to want something and do whatever it takes to “get it.” I talked my way into many of my news jobs and did whatever I had to do to get published. It’s all about clips.

NS: Taking Aim at the President has been optioned for a major motion picture. How did that come about and what has that process meant for you?

GS: I need to remind people that I didn’t write the screenplay or do anything but research and write the book. It was published by Macmillan in 2009.

My fabulous literary agent, Sharlene Martin, worked very hard to get the attention of the movie and cable industry with no luck. I did a lot of outreach at first but slacked off after a while. I had people approach me to who wanted to make a documentary about Sara Jane Moore, others who said they would make a movie, but nothing ever came of it.

So, when I got the contact from my website from some guy named Andrew Logan, I passed it along to her as usual with no thought that it would not go anywhere. Half an hour after I sent her the note, she called. “Geri, these guys are the real deal.” It took nine months to negotiate the contract, so that gives you an idea of how long it takes to make a major motion picture. 

These are the screen writers for the movie, Chappaquiddick, so, have a track record. They won several awards for their screenplay for that movie. They didn’t even start working on the Taking Aim screenplay for two years. Nothing in the contract says they have to consult with me, but they have involved me in writing the screenplay. They are super nice and very generous with the process. 

The movie is still on track, but I don’t think about it. Who knows how long it will take? I know everything could fall apart at any time. However, it really is a kick to have my book optioned for a movie.  

NS: Do you have a writing quirk we wouldn’t know by reading your biography? If so, do you feel it helps you in some way? 

GS: I have a timer on my desk set for 45 minutes. I can do nothing except my writing task during that time frame. After about 45 minutes I get up or check email for just 5 minutes, then go back to work. Our best attention span is somewhere between 11 and 20 minutes at a time. I also organize a ShutUp & Write one night a week. I get a ton done during that one hour. I always have some kind of assignment that I need to accomplish at the MeetUp. I don’t recognize myself if I’m not writing. That’s why I have a blog, contribute to Medium, and link the piece to LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter.

NS: What are you currently reading and why did you choose it? 

GS: Co-incidentally, I’m reading Joan Gelfand’s book, You Can Be a Winning Writer. It’s been on my shelf for many months, staring at me. I need a lot of reinforcement. I need to surround myself with confident and accomplished writers. Her book is helping me a lot. Also, coincidentally it was Joan who encouraged me to join WNBA. 

NS: If you could offer our WNBA-SF members a bit of writing or marketing advice, what would it be?

GS: Never give up and never listen to naysayers. Some people will tell why you won’t get published or why you won’t succeed. Don’t listen to them. Again, I call it the “fire in the belly” syndrome. Believe in yourself. It will happen. 

NS: Do you have any tips as to how you manage what sounds like a full and productive life?

GS: Deadlines. It’s all about deadlines with me. Self-imposed and outside deadlines. Deadlines are what drives my work. I must admit as we don’t have children in the house any longer, it’s a lot easier to control my time. There is always a reason you don’t have time to write today. The old adage that even 15 minutes of writing is true. When I look back, I was working on my book even though I had a full-time job. I was able to have control. Also, I guess I “wanted it” enough to find time. It’s a cliché, but it’s worked for me. Everyone has inside and outside obligations. Each of us has to look at our lives and obligations to see where there are corners one takes.

NS: What is the most interesting writing project you have done to date and why? 

 GS: I’m a full-time freelance writer these days and only to take assignments I like. I love research and also teach Internet Research skills. So far, I have loved writing for Truthdig.com, a news and opinion website, much like ProPublica. Their stories require a lot of research. I’ve a written a number of fascinating assignments. They are great to work with. But I haven’t done anything for the past several months as I’m “heads down” working on my new book.

NS: What’s next for you? Tell us about the new book!

GS: I never thought there would ever be another book. I always said and still do, books take too long to write, and they are very difficult. Taking Aim was brought about by circumstance. There wasn’t going to be a situation where I knew a potential presidential assassin for 27 years. However, as it happens, I am working on a new book, again, due to circumstance. My husband, Rick Kaplowitz, is my co-author. The working title is San Francisco Values: The Real Story. This book began when Bill O’Reilly said, “Al Qaida, you can come and bomb Coit Tower and no one will care.” San Francisco Values became a pejorative. I will counter that with San Francisco Values as American values.

NS: Is there anything else you would like to share with the members?

GS: I think it’s important not to compare yourself to others. I have to be careful not to because I’ll come up feeling “less than.” There are always others who are more successful, better marketers, and seem to have it all figured out. The truth is, I could never write your book and you can’t write mine.  I’ve learned it’s important to surround yourself with other writers. I owe a ton to my branch of the California Writers Club, San Francisco/Peninsula. I learned a lot from them and they were there for me in every way. I’m reaching out now to WNBA—long overdue for me.

NS: Thanks so much, Geri, for the inspiration.


  1. Geri Spieler is a former contributor for the Los Angeles Times, San Francisco Chronicle and has written for Forbes. 

    She was a research director for Gartner, a global technology advising company and edited two technology publications for Philips Publishing in Washington DC.

    Also, she is a past president of the San Francisco Peninsula Branch of the California Writers Club. She also is a member of the Internet Society, the Society of Professional Journalists, Author’s Guild, a reviewer for the New York Journal of Books, a member of the National Book Critics Circle and a regular contributor to Truthdig.com, an investigative reporting website. She is also a Signature Blogger for the Huffington Post and a member of Women’s National Book Association.

    Geri is the author of a creative non-fiction book, Taking Aim at the President: The Remarkable Story of the Woman Who Shot at Gerald Ford, which was published by Macmillan/St. Martin’s Press and has been optioned for a major motion picture by the award-winning screenwriters Andrew Logan and Taylor Allen.

    Currently she lives in Palo Alto with her husband, ten chickens and 19 fruit trees.

    Contact Geri at gspieler@gmail.com

    Facebook https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100009876341086

    Twitter https://twitter.com/home

    LinkedIn https://www.linkedin.com/in/geri-spieler-32675391/

    Blog https://gerispieler.com/blog/

2019Holiday Newsletter

Women's National Book Association, San Francisco Chapter Newsletter

upcoming events and news wnba-sf chapter

Celebrate the Holidays at the WNBA-SF Mixer

Sunday, December 29
East Bay (address provided upon registration)

Free to Public
Light refreshments.

Featuring  Gabriella Mautner award-winning author and Holocaust survivor and instructor of creative writing at San Francisco State University.

Join WNBA-SF members and friends for a WNBA-SF New Year’s Inspiration Celebration.
Our annual holiday celebration will be held in a private home in the East Bay and will feature the usual food, drink, and lively company.

Check out full details here…


Meet WNBA-SF at SFWC 2020!
SF Writers' Conference logo

Presidents Day Weekend
February 13-16, 2020

The fabulous San Francisco Writers Conferencewill be showcased at the Hyatt Regency Embarcadero on the waterfront, near the fabled Ferry Building.

Nowhere could you find a more spacious and elegant accommodation for networking and learning the newest trends in the craft and business of writing. Often called the “friendliest” as well as the premier West Coast writers conference, SFWC is now only a BART ride away from SFO or from almost anywhere in the Bay Area.


Pitch-O-Rama PLUS 2020
Saturday, March 21, 2020
8:00 am – 12:30 pm

** NEW LOCATION! **

Bethany UM Church
1270 Sanchez Street (at Clipper) SF, CA 94114

Early Bird Registration pricing through Jan 1, 2020:
$65 WNBA members,  $75 Non-members
Men Welcome!
Limited to the first 60 ticketed attendees. 
Includes a continental breakfast and pre-pitch coaching.

Every year, Pitch-O-Rama delivers the 4 Ps that lead to publication:
POLISH, PITCH, PROMOTE, PARTICIPATE

To Register, and for more information, click HERE!

Brenda Knight

Dear WNBA-SF Members,

The holidays are here! We hope to see you at least twice during the season, starting at our holiday party where all members are welcome — we encourage you to bring a friend!  https://wnba-sfchapter.org/wnba-sf-holiday-mixer-2019/ 

Please bring children’s books, wrapped or unwrapped, or any book you think will help a family for our annual donation.Please also bring anything you want to *show and tell* everyone whether it is a new book, article, poem or whatever you want to share with you fellow members and friends. We would love to hear about what you have been up to in 2019!


A gentle reminder to renew;  if you have not yet had a chance, please do before the end of the year.

Your membership allows the SF Chapter to present events and resources for YOU!

 


We are also having a panel at the Mechanics Institute in January and would love for you to come and learn along with us from female leaders in publishing. Come for the coffee and cookies and stay for the sharing of wisdom. https://wnba-sfchapter.org/wnba-sf-holiday-mixer-2019/ 


We had a marvelous National Reading Group Month event at Book Passage By the Bay: Cheryl, the manager of that store loved working with our chapter. it was truly a day to remember.   magical with all the marvelous women writers discussing the creative process and their books.


We are also looking forward to Pitch-O-Rama 2020, where we will have more agents, editors and publishers than ever before. We will also have our first-ever WNBA-SF Member Author Bookstore and every paid attendee can have their books sold there with opportunities for signings during breaks. https://wnba-sfchapter.org/pitch-o-rama-2020/


This latter part of the year has been stressful  with the fires and seemingly endless stream of troubling news  but we look forward to brighter days.  This is also a reminder to us all of the importance of being in community. We are very grateful to have you as part of ours.

Happiest of holidays to you and yours!

Brenda Knight, President

president@wnba-sfchapter.org

 

Featured Member Interview

BOOKTALK! The Buzz in the World of Books
Featured Member Interview – Sheryl Bize-Boutte

Interview by  Nita Sweeney

In this interview, Sheryl Bize-Boutte proves it’s never too late for the Write Words…

One of the many joys of participating in the Women’s National Book Association of San Francisco is the opportunity to learn from talented, successful authors such a Sheryl J. Bize-Boutte. As could be expected from even a quick review of her work, Sheryl provided generous, insightful answers to my questions.

NS: You enjoyed a rich work-life before you turned to writing full-time. Did your work experience prepare you for this phase of your career?

SJBBThe two things my work experience did for my writing career were 1) to provide a nice retirement with freedom to write and 2) to let me know that I could write in many different forms. In those ways the career off-ramp was totally worth it. Although I wrote a bit now and then throughout my government career, my work-related writing was often lauded and I became the “writer” in the office. I once wrote a section of congressional testimony for a cabinet level secretary that was delivered to the House without one word being changed. That sealed it for me. I knew what I would be doing in my retirement!

NS: Your work has won some impressive awards. Have those helped further your writing career?

SJBBAwards are impressive to some and I am sure have caught the eye of readers and some important people in the writing game. But I have found that much of my recognition and furtherance as a writer has been a result of my readings, involvement in the writing community and face-to-face casual literary encounters out there in the world of writing. I don’t write for the award of it. I write for the love of it. I think people feel my love of the writing and sometimes that alone makes them want to hear and see more of it.

BK: You have been described as a “talented multidisciplinary writer whose works artfully succeed in getting across deeper meanings about life and the politics of race and economics without breaking out of the narrative.” What did you think when you read this review?

SJBB: I can only surmise that this is what she received from reading my stories. I will say that since an African American mother who was often treated badly because of her skin color, and a Creole father who was often mistaken as White raised me, some may view my writings about my observations of the differences as artful, but for me they are what my life was and is made of. I had an “inside view” so to speak of what it meant to be treated as Black as well as White in Oakland as well as in the South, and since I was an extremely nosey child who listened to and looked closely at everything, I remember it, I kept it and I can write it.

As far as the narrative part: My favorite writing form is the short story. I learned a long time ago that be to an effective short story teller one must make each sentence a story in itself, have very few characters and stay on point.

To read more click HERE!

 


Featured Member Interview – Nita Sweeney

Interview by Brenda Knight, WNBA-SF President

Brenda Knight (BK): When did you know you were a writer, Nita?

Nita Sweeney (NS): Way to lead off with a stumper! Did I know I was a writer in 5th grade when I held the one and only copy of my “first” book, Sheshak the Wild Stallion, which I both typed and bound myself as a class assignment? How about in 1996 when Dog World published my first feature article or when Dog Fancy published my cover article? Definitely in 2019 when Mango published Depression Hates a Moving Target, my first actual (not typed or bound by me) book and I held it in my hands.

Still, self-doubt arises again and again. I have befriended it. Part of me may never think I’m a “real” writer, but I don’t let that deter me from writing.

(BK): Runner biographies and memoirs are a “thing.” Did you ever think you would write one? (or did you?)

(NS): At 49, when I took up running, the last thing on my mind was writing a running memoir. I just didn’t want to be miserable anymore and hoped exercise would help me crawl out of an emotional black hole. Soon, friends and my mental health providers began to comment about my improved mood. They saw it before I did.

To read more click HERE!

 

From Novel to Netflix: Mentoring the book-to-film path

By Bridgitte Jackson-Buckley

Mentoring comes in all shapes and sizes. It’s not always a meeting for coffee and reporting back. It can happen in a variety of different ways, like meeting an author at a book fair and requesting an email interview.

Unlike my usual manner of attending events without having gone over the complete schedule, for some reason before going to the Leimert Park Book Fair, I looked through the online schedule in its entirety and noticed a book-to-film panel discussion. How did I miss that when I made plans to attend?! I immediately switched gears in preparation to arrive two hours earlier to attend the panel discussion.

When I arrived at the book fair with my 12 year-old son, who is also an avid reader, we hurriedly walked to locate the main stage where the panel discussion was scheduled to take place. Unfamiliar with the venue, we stopped at the information table on the 1st floor and were directed to the 2nd floor. We got off the escalator and walked to the end of the hall (as directed).

No stage.

We went back down the escalator and asked a second volunteer for the location, but were again erroneously directed to the opposite end of where we needed to go. Finally, we found the main stage and I quickly found a seat. My son went to look out the window. This isn’t his genre. No dragon and sorcerer discussions here.

I was prepared to learn all the wonderful ins-and-out of a subject matter completely foreign to me. ‘Tell me something I don’t know!’ I thought as I eagerly positioned myself to listen to the panel, which consisted of a one-on-one with authors Trisha R. Thomas, Nappily Ever After and Michael Datcher, Americus.

Nappily Ever After, based on the novel by Thomas, an award-winning author of literary fiction, was made into a feature film on Netflix starring Saana Lathan.

I had many questions, but because we had difficulty locating the main stage we arrived five minutes before the panel discussion ended!

After both Thomas and Datcher left the stage to sit at the book signing table, I wasn’t sure what to do with my unanswered questions. I stood near the line for the book signing table while my son repeatedly requested a $5.00 slice cheese of pizza and two attendees asked if I was in line or not.

I carefully considered my most pressing question:

As an African-American woman writer, how did she break through the book-to-film barrier?

I took a deep breath and decided to request an email interview with Thomas.

She agreed.

To read more click HERE!


Three Ways To Get Buzz For Your Book

By Paula Rizzo

A few short weeks ago, my newest book, Listful Living: A List-Making Journey to a Less Stressed You, was published! I’m super excited. 

Many of my clients are authors as well and I always give them the same advice when I’m media training or working on media strategy with them. 

So I’m practicing what I preach! 

Here’s what I’ve been doing to get my book out there before it hit bookshelves:  

Get Traditional Media Mentions: When it comes to publishing a book, I always tell my clients to get media attention well before the book comes out. If you’re lucky you could be like my friend Ilise Benun who got one media mention that brought her ten years worth of business! 

I spent close to two decades as a television producer and the authors who got coverage were the ones that I already knew. That’s because they were already experts in my eyes and it was easy to say yes to someone who has already proven to be a good source for you. You want to be friendly with editors and producers well before you have a book to sell. It’s much easier to get their attention when they know and trust you already. 

As I always say media begets more media, so putting your name out there will create a ripple effect and hopefully bring new potential readers and media to your door. 

I was interviewed with PsychCentral.com about how to brainstorm better and be more creative. I took an example from my recent trip to Greece. Creativity is not a topic I typically would speak on but it worked and I got a mention for my book in there along with my quote. 

So that’s a lesson – don’t be tied to only talk about your topic. If you can confidently lend expertise in other areas do it – you’ll still get a mention for your book so it’s a win win! 

To read more click HERE!

WNBA-SF 2018-2020 BOARD

President: Brenda Knight
Vice President: Elise Marie Collins
Treasurer: A Leslie Noble
Secretary: Kathleen Archambeau
Membership Chair: Julianne Reidy
Board Development: Sheryl Bize-Boutte
Past President: Kate Farrell
Member at Large: Marcia Rosen, Marketing
Member at Large: Mary Volmer, Events Co-chair
Member at Large: Joan Gelfand

Communications
Social Media Manager: Elise Marie Collins
Web Editor: Sue Wilhite
Newsletter Editor: Gauri Manglik, in transition
Featured Member Interview Editor: Dr Susan Allison
Bookwoman Correspondent: Jennifer Griffith
Webmaster: Linda Lee

Mailing address: 
4061 E. Castro Valley Blvd.
Castro Valley, CA 94552-4840

The Women’s National Book Association has been a Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) member of the United Nations since 1959. A NGO is defined as “any non-profit, voluntary citizens’ group that is organized on a local, national or international level.”  

WNBA-the National Organization 

The Women’s National Book Association, established in 1917, before women in America had the right to vote.

The WNBA’s founding idea—that books have power and that those involved in their creation gain strength from joining forces—reaches across the decades to now serve members in 11 chapters across the country and network members in between.  
Read More…

Check out: NEW NATIONAL DIRECTORY!

DIRECTORY HOME | DIRECTORY LOGIN

You must be an ACTIVE MEMBER to be listed in the new directory and have login access to your personal profile and all other members.

 

 
 

30 Day Writing Challenges

By Elizabeth Kauffman

November got me thinking about how a 30-day challenge makes you a better writer. Of course, my favorite 30-day challenge is National Novel Writing Month (or NaNoWriMo), where writers commit to writing 50,000 words of new fiction in a month. There’s something about knowing I have to write at least 1,667 words a day if I want to hit that 50,000-word finish line that lights a fire under me in ways that my “regular” life doesn’t. I can push past the voice of doubt for just a little while to achieve my goal: words on the page.

Maybe NaNoWriMo doesn’t seem tempting to you at all, though. 30-day challenges are good for more than just rushing past your inner critic. They give you space to learn about your writing in a way that your regular practice can’t. And you can find (or create) a 30-day challenge for just about any aspect of your craft, and maybe even convince other people to join in with you.

Here are five ways a 30-day challenge makes you a better writer:

1) You give yourself permission to try something new.

Maybe you’re a non-fiction writer, but you’ve always wanted to try writing short stories! Or maybe you’ve always wanted to write poetry, but you’re not sure you’re any good at it. Or maybe you want to challenge yourself to create content for your blog. Give yourself 30 days to try something that’s outside of your usual writing routine. Your other writing will be there when your 30 days are up and you’re ready to get back to it. And asking yourself to think outside of your usual creative box will refresh you to bring new inspiration back to your usual work.

2) You give yourself a finite timeline.

Thirty days can seem like a long time, but it’s really not. Dedication and versatility are essential skills in your writer’s toolkit. You know how most people give up on New Year’s Resolutions before the year is half-over? A 30-day challenge offers you a shorter timeline for a reason. It’s not about permanently changing your habits, it’s about trying something radical for 30 days and finding out what you learn by the end of it. The finite timeline allows for you to try, fail, and pivot with no strings attached. 

3) You get to collect data on your writing process for 30 days.

Because hopefully your 30-day-challenge stretches you outside your comfort zone, sometimes you’ll have to push yourself to write, even if the muse isn’t ready and waiting. You’ll have to plan some, and wing it on the days when the plan goes horribly wrong. Maybe you’re trying out writing at a different time of day, or writing a certain number of words every day, or using the Pomodoro method to increase your productivity. As you progress with your challenge, make sure you keep track of what works and what doesn’t work so that you don’t get stuck. Then use that data to help make your regular writing practice stronger.

4) You can plug into a community of writers who have the same goals.

Some of the bigger challenges like National Novel Writing Month or Story-A-Day have built-in communities that you can join for the benefit of mutual encouragement and inspiration. But thanks to the magic of social media, even if you make up your own challenge, you can probably find others willing to test their writing limits with you. Post about it on Facebook or Twitter and see who else is game. You can broaden your writing community and try something new at the same time!

5) You might discover a new passion.

When you try something new and different with your writing practice for 30 days you might find that you actually enjoy the new direction you’re taking. The key is giving yourself space to experiment. Of course the converse is true, too. People have strong feelings for and against every aspect of the writing craft. But don’t take someone else’s word for what’s best for you and your writing. How can you know what you’ll love or what you’ll hate unless you give it a try?

At the end of 30 days, you’ll have a giant pile of 50,000 words, or a stack of stories, or 30 blog posts, (or more!) to show for your effort. Sure, it’s probably not perfect, but that’s not the point of the challenge. You’ll have honed your skills as a writer. You’ll have learned your writerly sweet spots (how many words per minute/hour/day/week you can do comfortably, what time of day you write best, etc.). And you’ll be a better writer for having pushed yourself to try something new, even if it’s only for 30 days.


Elisabeth Kauffman is an editor, an author, and an artist. She edits fiction and memoir for independent clients as well as for publishing companies, and coaches writers to find their voices and connect to the magic in their creative lives. Using creative writing exercises along with tarot, visualization, and more tactile forms of art, she encourages her clients to take risks and tell stories that matter. She volunteers for and speaks at the San Francisco Writers Conference, and with local writers’ groups. She is currently represented by Bradford Literary Agency and hopes to publish her first book (a tarot deck and guide for writers) in the near future.
Elisabeth grew up reading Mary Stewart, J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, and the like. She loves creative, imaginative storytelling, and regularly obsesses over board games, Doctor Who, and Harry Potter. Learn more about her at www.writingrefinery.com or email her at ekauffman@writingrefinery.com.

From Novel to Netflix: Mentoring the book-to-film path with Trisha R. Thomas

By Bridgitte Jackson-Buckley, author of The Gift of Crisis​ (October 2018)

Mentoring comes in all shapes and sizes. It’s not always a meeting for coffee and reporting back. It can happen in a variety of different ways, like meeting an author at a book fair and requesting an email interview.

Unlike my usual manner of attending events without having gone over the complete schedule, for some reason before going to the Leimert Park Book Fair, I looked through the online schedule in its entirety and noticed a book-to-film panel discussion. How did I miss that when I made plans to attend?! I immediately switched gears in preparation to arrive two hours earlier to attend the panel discussion.

When I arrived at the book fair with my 12 year-old son, who is also an avid reader, we hurriedly walked to locate the main stage where the panel discussion was scheduled to take place. Unfamiliar with the venue, we stopped at the information table on the 1st floor and were directed to the 2nd floor. We got off the escalator and walked to the end of the hall (as directed).

No stage.

We went back down the escalator and asked a second volunteer for the location, but were again erroneously directed to the opposite end of where we needed to go. Finally, we found the main stage and I quickly found a seat. My son went to look out the window. This isn’t his genre. No dragon and sorcerer discussions here.

I was prepared to learn all the wonderful ins-and-out of a subject matter completely foreign to me. ‘Tell me something I don’t know!’ I thought as I eagerly positioned myself to listen to the panel, which consisted of a one-on-one with authors Trisha R. Thomas, Nappily Ever After and Michael Datcher, Americus.

Nappily Ever After, based on the novel by Thomas, an award-winning author of literary fiction, was made into a feature film on Netflix starring Saana Lathan.

Nappliy Ever After Trailer (2018) Netflix

I had many questions, but because we had difficulty locating the main stage we arrived five minutes before the panel discussion ended!

After both Thomas and Datcher left the stage to sit at the book signing table, I wasn’t sure what to do with my unanswered questions. I stood near the line for the book signing table while my son repeatedly requested a $5.00 slice cheese of pizza and two attendees asked if I was in line or not.

I carefully considered my most pressing question:

As an African-American woman writer, how did she break through the book-to-film barrier?

I took a deep breath and decided to request an email interview with Thomas.

She agreed.

BJB: How can writers, specifically women writers of color, break through to have their book considered for a film option if their literary agent does not query film agents?

TT: I have found it helpful to have a literary agent who specializes in book publishing and a specific agent for film development. Two different agencies.

BJB: What is the most important thing you wish you had known prior to having your book made into a feature film on Netflix?

TT: Before having Nappily Ever After made into a film I ended up writing 8 more books in the series. I kept writing about Venus (Violet) to see where her journey was taking her. I actually hoped it was going to be a series so I wanted to be prepared with her full life trajectory, falling in love, falling out, and finding herself again.

I don’t have anything I would’ve done differently.

I have a library of cool stories under my belt that I wouldn’t have had if I’d just been sitting on my hands waiting for the film to happen.

BJB: What plans do you have to mentor or offer guidance to African-American women authors interested in the book-to-film path of writing?

TT: I have a few writers that I’m mentoring right now.

I suggest if you’re looking for a mentor you start locally where you can have a personal relationship as well. Go to conferences and meet the person you’d like to bounce ideas from and have a real interaction. The next step is exchanging contact information and your goals.

Mentoring is more than the transfer of advice, knowledge and information. It’s not solely about achieving goals. It’s also about coming together; coming together in unexpected ways to help each other.

You may not have the same goals as your mentor, but what you do have are similar intentions to create inspiring and creative content. This is why each and every person who is intrinsically inspired to create in whatever form — be it writing, painting, drawing, photography, or singing — is important. What you think and feel and how you share your creativity with the world carries a distinct vibration of inspiration.

The wonderful part is there is room for everyone.

Not only is there room, there is a collective need for similar creative intentions to be expressed in a variety of ways because there are a variety of recipients.

Your work touches differently than that of your mentor and because of this it’s crucial to have supportive camaraderie; someone who is willing to share information and encourage you as a writer to keep going — to let your creative voice be heard.


Bridgitte Jackson Buckley is a freelance writer, author and ghostwriter whose focus includes spirituality, transformational documentaries, and in-depth interviews. She is a former contributor to General Religion on the National circuit of Examiner.com as the National Spirituality Examiner. She’s interviewed many New Thought luminaries including Eckhart Tolle, Iyanla Vanzant, Deepak Chopra, and Elizabeth Gilbert. As a freelance writer, she has written online articles for Examiner, Tiny Buddha, Recreate Your Life Story, Thrive Global, Medium, Gaia and Patheos’ Spirituality Itself. She is a fluent Spanish speaker and has traveled extensively throughout Central America including Belize, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua. Additional travels also include Hong Kong, Malaysia and (her favorite adventure) Thailand. She currently resides in Los Angeles with her husband, three children and Miniature Schnauzer.

Featured Member Interview – Sheryl Bize-Boutte

A Rich Retirement: Sheryl Bize-Boutte Proves It’s Never Too Late for the Write Words

by Nita Sweeney, author of the running and mental health memoir, Depression Hates a Moving Target: How Running with My Dog Brought Me Back from the Brink

One of the many joys of participating in the Women’s National Book Association of San Francisco is the opportunity to learn from talented, successful authors such a Sheryl J. Bize-Boutte. As could be expected from even a quick review of her work, Sheryl provided generous, insightful answers to my questions.


NS: You enjoyed a rich work-life before you turned to writing full-time. Did your work experience prepare you for this phase of your career?

SJBB: The two things my work experience did for my writing career were 1) to provide a nice retirement with freedom to write and 2) to let me know that I could write in many different forms. In those ways the career off-ramp was totally worth it. Although I wrote a bit now and then throughout my government career, my work-related writing was often lauded and I became the “writer” in the office. I once wrote a section of congressional testimony for a cabinet level secretary that was delivered to the House without one word being changed. That sealed it for me. I knew what I would be doing in my retirement!

NS: Your work has won some impressive awards. Have those helped further your writing career?

SJBB: Awards are impressive to some and I am sure have caught the eye of readers and some important people in the writing game. But I have found that much of my recognition and furtherance as a writer has been a result of my readings, involvement in the writing community and face-to-face casual literary encounters out there in the world of writing. I don’t write for the award of it. I write for the love of it. I think people feel my love of the writing and sometimes that alone makes them want to hear and see more of it.

NS: You have been described as a “talented multidisciplinary writer whose works artfully succeed in getting across deeper meanings about life and the politics of race and economics without breaking out of the narrative.” What did you think when you read this review?

SJBB: I can only surmise that this is what she received from reading my stories. I will say that since an African American mother who was often treated badly because of her skin color, and a Creole father who was often mistaken as White raised me, some may view my writings about my observations of the differences as artful, but for me they are what my life was and is made of. I had an “inside view” so to speak of what it meant to be treated as Black as well as White in Oakland as well as in the South, and since I was an extremely nosey child who listened to and looked closely at everything, I remember it, I kept it and I can write it. As far as the narrative part: My favorite writing form is the short story. I learned a long time ago that be to an effective short story teller one must make each sentence a story in itself, have very few characters and stay on point. 


NS: Which of your many publications made you the proudest and why?

SJBB: I am most proud of my first published story, “Dead Chickens and Miss Anne” as it was the first short story I wrote after I retired and was published by the first and only place I submitted it. In addition to that, the comments about the story included that people felt I had found my voice, but in fact I was humbled to know that I had never lost it.

NS: Much of your work is set in Oakland. Can you talk about why this suits your work?

SJBB: I think Oakland is one of the most vibrant, creative and artistic cities on the planet and I am so fortunate to be here. As I have watched it change, grow, shrink, and morph, it has informed and nurtured my writing from the day my 12-year-old self wrote a story on my new Smith Corona, to now and beyond. My real memory and imaginary muse have their base in Oakland and both remain solid and rich with many more stories to tell.

NS: You successfully write in many genres. Are there common threads among these works?

SJBB: I think the common thread is my unique voice. My way of expression that is just me. I see things in a different way than some. I write with that difference.

NS: Crowds have enjoyed your readings, which were said to “bring down the house.” To what do you attribute your success at such events?

SJBB: I come from a family of voracious readers, storytellers, singers, poets, writers; you name it. One of our favorite pastimes as children was to act out scenes or mimic favorite characters as we told stories. I still do that. I find myself changing tone, pitch and voice when reading, especially poetry where there may be more than one character or message. Audiences are tickled and sometimes enthralled by that or perhaps how much I seem to like what I am saying. But the bigger attribution comes from the fact that I do not see myself as separate from the audience. I am not a presenter. I am a person sharing my life and work with people who have been gracious enough to sit quietly (until the end, hopefully when they applaud raucously) and listen.

NS: Do you have a go-to writing technique that you would care to share with the WNBA-SF members?

SJBB: I am not much on technique but I do have a few habits I follow. I am not afraid of breaks in writing. They provide rest for the imagination and allow words to just “fall out” when they are ready. I do not use $50.00 words when $5.00 words will convey my message and allow me to read it without stumbling. I limit the number of characters in my short stories. If there are too many, then it is easy to “fall out of the narrative” and end up with dribble.

NS: Are you working on any new writing projects?

SJBB: Yes, I am about 75% through the writing of my first novel, “Betrayal on the Bayou.” I am having a blast doing it and even I am wondering what will happen next.

NS: Is there a question I didn’t ask that you would like to answer?

SJBB: No. I think you covered it and I thank you very much.

NS: Thanks so much, Sheryl for your time, insights, and for a behind-the-scenes look at your process!


  1. Sheryl J. Bize-Boutte was born in Berkeley and raised in Oakland, California. Her first published writing experiences began while she was a student at the prestigious Mills College in Oakland as a columnist for the College’s newspaper, and as the youth editor for a local magazine called “Jump Bad.”

    After college she embarked on a 30- year management career with the U.S. Government where she tried to satisfy her need to write by becoming the “go to” person for writing and communication. When that didn’t totally scratch the writing itch, she turned to helping her math-oriented daughter with all of her school writing assignments. During this time her poem “That House” was published by the Poetry Guild’s “Gallery of Artistry.”

    Mercifully, retirement provided the freedom to engage that creative writing gene again, resulting in contributions to Harlequin anthologies “The Dog With The Old Soul” (her story, “The Green Collar”, received a positive mention from Publisher’s Weekly) and “A Kiss Under The Mistletoe”; and, the award winning “The Walrus- A Mills College Literary Journal.”

    Oakland often serves as the backdrop for her always touching and frequently hilarious works. Her first book, A Dollar Five-Stories from A Baby Boomer’s Ongoing Journey (2014) has been described as “rich in vivid imagery”, and “incredible.” Her second book, All That and More’s Wedding (2016), a collection of fictional mystery/crime short stories, is praised as “imaginative with colorful and likeable characters that draw you in to each story and leave you wanting more.” Her latest book, Running for the 2:10 (2017), a follow-on to A Dollar Five, delves deeper into her coming of age in Oakland and the embedded issues of race and skin color with one reviewer calling it “… a great contribution to literature.” In Summer 2019, Medusa’s Laugh Press published her fictional story, “Uncle Martin,” and MoonShine Star Company (Bradford Productions) will publish two more of her short stories in 2020. She is a contributor to award-winning author Kate Farrell’s upcoming book “Story Power,” an anthology on how writers build and create their stories, and has a novel in progress titled “Betrayal on the Bayou,” slated for publication in early 2020.

    An expressive and exciting reader, Sheryl has participated in readings and presentations for the Bay Area Generations literary reading series, the California Writers’ Club, Authors Large and Small, Hayward B Street Writer’s Collective, The Mechanics Institute Library, The Oakland Octopus Literary Salon, and the Mills College annual Writer’s Salon. In 2017 she was selected as the ongoing MC and co-curator for the annual Montclair Library (Oakland) reading and celebration of National Poetry Month, and proudly serves on the board of directors of the Women’s National Book Association-San Francisco Chapter.

    Contact Sheryl at Bize11@Mac.Com

    Follow her blog at http://sjbb-talkinginclass.blogspot.com/

    Check out her author profile on Amazon

    http://www.amazon.com/author/sheryljbizeboutte