How to Make Book Signing Events More Engaging

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

A few weeks ago there was a book signing event I was incredibly excited to attend. The author recently published a beautifully illustrated informational book, and it was on social media the author would be on book tour at local bookstore. Happily, I put the date of the signing on my calendar, told the kids about it, and decided on my outfit beforehand. Again, I was totally excited to go!

The day of the event, I made preparations to arrive early. My normal modus operandi is to arrive 20 minutes before event start time, hoping I will get lucky with last minute parking and seating. Not this time. I made sure we left home with ample time to deal with L.A. traffic and L.A. parking.

When we arrived at the bookstore, it was packed! There were so many people standing around, looking for seats and buying the author’s book. There were women, men, and children of various ages and ethnicity, the bookstore owners, and friends and family of the author. It was so exciting! There was high energy, anticipation, and good chatter amongst those of us simply waiting to see her, the author.

The author sat in a corner of the bookstore behind the signing table, and watched patrons buy her book and fill seats. Once all the seats were taken, adults stood in corners and children squeezed in between chairs on the floor. When the bookstore owner walked out in front of the audience to introduce the author, you could have heard a pin drop. Silent anticipation filled the space. We were waiting for her. I was waiting for her. The bookstore owner eloquently introduced the author.

With my shoes off, one copy of her book on my lap, my son seated cross-legged on the floor and my daughter leaning against the wall, I watched her move to the front of the audience.

‘Speak! Tell us! Tell us! Give us the backstory! Tell us how you decided upon this creative project! What was your inspiration? Process? Moments of doubt? Unexpected creative surprises?! Speak!’ I thought.

And so it began!

The author stepped in front of the audience and we applauded. She was delighted to see so many diverse faces in support of the book. So were we! She read a few passages from the book (very nice!), took three questions (all that were asked), including one from me, did a sample drawing illustration of how she created the figures in the book, and…30 minutes later, that was it.

Wait.

What about everything else?

I wanted to know so much more about…I don’t know…whatever else I didn’t know!

It’s an incredible undertaking to write a book, to illustrate a book, to market a book and to sell a book. There was a lot of effort made and work put in, on her part, to bring this project to completion. As book readers, one can only imagine; as book authors, we know how much work is involved. I thought she would talk about something behind the scenes, or tell us something we would like to know but didn’t know we wanted to know. I thought it would be engaging, informative, and at minimum exciting.

However, it was… anti-climactic.

Let’s be clear. I’m not saying I went to the signing merely to be entertained. Seeing that most in attendance already purchased the book, the notion of selling the book at the event was redundant. Most people held 2–3 copies of the book! And the line for the cash register was still long.

I couldn’t help but wonder what else could have been done at the book signing in lieu of what is usually done.

With so many in attendance this was another opportunity to be creative and fun, and maybe do something unique. This was the type of signing I would imagine all authors want, an event filled with people who (mostly) all have bought your book! So why not celebrate with the audience? Why not just have fun with the audience since you’ve met the goal?

While I am not a marketing expert, or event planner, I thought perhaps some of the following could have made the event more engaging:

  1. An audience tally of their favorite chapter, scene, character, etc.
  2. Tips for brilliant social media marketing (This is how the author got the book deal!).
  3. A contest, or giveaway for the person who traveled the farthest distance to attend.
  4. Have audience members read a favorite passage in the book and tell why it’s their favorite.
  5. Select three members of the audience to tell their favorite “word of mouth” recommendation for your book. How do they describe your book to someone who has not read it?
  6. Spread the love. Talk about two of your favorite books (perhaps similar to your book) that audience members may not know about.

Despite my feeling that the event fell short, I have to say the author did not. She was gracious, kind and took the time to speak briefly with every single person who waited in line for her to sign the book. There was so much light in her eyes while she interacted with children and adults and thanked them for attending. There is nothing worse that meeting someone you admire and feel blown off by them. I can tell that each person who attended felt they were seen by author and given the gift of her time and attention.

It was apparent the audience, regardless of the perspective in which they attended the signing (as a book reader or fellow author) was excited for her, and for the book.

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 – Gina L. Mulligan

Interview by Susan Allison

When asked how and when she became a writer, Gina shares her history: “I began writing poetry as a child and thought I wanted to be a copywriter. So, I got my degree in Marketing and moved to New York City. My first job was as a flunky in an advertising agency. It was a great job, but I realized I didn’t like copywriting. The form was too short. That’s when I discovered a passion for fiction. I went back to school to study fiction and non-fiction writing. I worked as a freelance journalist while honing my novel writing skills. I’ve never found it difficult to shift between the two styles.”

Gina explains how she began writing historical fiction, a genre that still inspires her:The historical element to my writing was inspired by a trip to The Hotel Del Coronado in San Diego. It’s a beautiful Victorian hotel built in 1888. I wrote a story about it, and the story got longer. I realized how much I loved research and got immersed in the era. That was fifteen years ago, and I’m now working on my third historical novel.”

Gina has advice for other women writers, especially about publishing their work:

“As a new writer, it’s hard to understand how publishing can be anything but wonderful. Unlike the creative process, having a book published is all business. For me, the exciting part was getting my first big N.Y. literary agent. That’s a phone call I’ll never forget. It was such a huge weight lifted off my shoulders. For me, the most challenging piece came once my novel was finally released. It’s thrilling and terrifying to know strangers are reading your work, and because writers today have to help with marketing and promotion, it’s a lot of work. My suggestion to new writers is to find out what your publisher is willing to do for you. Will they pay for contest entry fees? Do they have salespeople to help with your book, or do they focus only on the known best-sellers? I also tell new writers not to submit anything to agents until it’s truly your best work. Once the book is published, it’s out there forever. Take the time to write something amazing!”

Asked how her own illness prompted her to found a non-profit and write a new book, Gina replies: “When I was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2009, I was working on my novel From Across The Room. It’s an epistolary novel, which means the story is told through letters. Even though I’d been researching and reading letters for five years, not until I was a patient and received snail mail did I recognize the power of letters. I received over 200 cards and letters, mostly from friends of friends, strangers. In this age of text messages and emails, we’ve forgetting the healing property of hand-written notes. They are tangible and so very expressive. My combined experience of writing an epistolary novel and receiving letters is the reason I started Girls Love Mail. I want others to be inspired and healed by the gift of a handwritten letter.”

Getting mail from all ages is most rewarding for me. Our youngest letter writers are second graders, and our oldest is a woman in her late 90’s. We’re keeping women engaged and helping to create the next generation of philanthropists. Truly anyone can perform a simple act of kindness.”

Gina shares how the process of writing Dear Friend evolved: “The Girls Love Mail gift book, Dear Friend, began organically. Because of my writing background, I recognized right away that we had content for a book. Some letter writers just have a knack for writing heartfelt or funny letters. So I began collecting letters in 2011. What I didn’t know is that it would take five years to collect enough for a book. This presented a challenge when I had to get signed release forms from every letter writer selected. Some writers sent one letter, five years earlier as part of a group, and I had to track them down by just a first name and last initial. It was fun. I felt like a super-sleuth. I couldn’t find them all, but the ones I found were so excited.”

Asked about her experience publishing Dear Friend, Gina offers, “Working with Chronicle Books is the best experience. Not only do I love how the book turned-out, they do, too. You can see and feel their care on every page. This book is even better than I ever imagined, and I love that we can reach so many more women with the healing power of words.”

Gina Mulligan is not done yet! “I’m working on my third historical novel. That’s about all I can say because it’s still so new. We’re also still collecting letters in case we do another book for the charity, and I’d love to see Dear Friend translated into other languages. We’re working on it.”

Gina L. Mulligan is a veteran freelance journalist and the author of two historical novels; REMEMBER THE LADIES and From Across The Room, and the non-fiction Dear Friend; Letters of Encouragement, Humor, and Love for Women with Breast Cancer. After her own diagnosis, Gina founded Girls Love Mail, a national charity that collects handwritten letters of for women with breast cancer. Since the formation in 2011, the charity has sent out over 140,000 letters across the country. Gina has been featured on The NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt, The Steve Harvey Show, People.com, Today.com, and Woman’s Day Magazine. You can contact Gina at GinaLMullilgan.com and ginamulligan@girlslovemail.com.

Featured Member Interview – Elise Collins

Interview by Susan Allison

As a successful writer, Elise speaks of her history, explaining that she was encouraged by her family to be an intellectual, and was expected to read and write well. It was in her mid twenties that she began writing articles for newspapers and had a column called “Body and Soul” in the ​Psychic Reader​. She adds, “It was here where I explored the connection between the body and the spirit, and how that relationship in many forms is the foundation of health.” 

When asked if her passion for healthy living began in childhood, Elise responds, “Looking back, I was always attuned to a healthy lifestyle. My mom was into healthy foods; I read Wayne Dyer in high school and worked in a health food restaurant while in college. I grew up around my grandma and saw her live a very active life until the age of 95 when she passed away. My parents are 88 and 89 and they are both very active. I learned from all the older adults in my family that aging can be fun and exciting.”  

Elise says that the term “super ager” was a buzzword that resonated with her and she wanted to know how she could become one. Combining her knowledge and training in healing, yoga and Ayurveda, she decided to “put together something that helps people to age well and feel good about it.” This curiosity and desire spurred her to write  Super Ager, You Can Look Younger, Have More Energy, A Better Memory, and Live a Long and Healthy Life, released this summer. 

“I think people are confused about aging,” Elise explains. “The comment I get most from people who read my book is, ‘Oh, I didn’t realize aging could be fun or something to look forward to.’ I think we have so many limiting beliefs about aging. There is so much programming and people have not questioned their own beliefs around aging, which in my opinion seem to be stuck in the past. I think people are sooooo hungry for role models and examples of Super Agers. I think we are entering an era in which how ‘awake’ and conscious you are is more important than your age.” 

Elise offers advice about how to become a Super Ager:

1) Accept where you are right now at any age.

2) Know that it is never too late to change. You probably have some healthy habits and some not so healthy habits.  Some things that you want to try, but are perhaps afraid that you are too ‘old.’ What small step can you take today to become a little healthier, or is there something fun that you have wanted to try? Could it be a change in your attitude? Taking a walk? Doing some jumping jacks or eating more veggies? Acting? Dorothy Steel who starred as the elder in ​Black Panther​ didn’t start acting until she was 88 years old.  Start with one tiny, positive change and stick with that new habit until it is second nature. 

3) Remember your attitude is the most important part of Super Aging. And behind that is your purpose. What is your reason for living? What brings you joy? If you don’t know, then you probably won’t want to Super Age. 

So what brings Elise Collins joy in fulfilling her purpose?  “I love working with people of all ages and backgrounds. I really love young people and that is a trait of Super Agers. They like to keep up with what is new. That is me. I love the future! I love to work with groups in yoga classes and workshops and while coaching. People transform better in community. There is a group energy that you can’t get in one on one.” As a member and vice president of the WNBA, Elise enjoys being in a supportive community and inspiring women writers.

As an energetic Super Ager, Elise is enrolled in the University of Southern California, Masters of Gerontology Program, and says her next book will be on intergenerational yoga, ways to bring together children,  parents and grandparents. She adds, “We need more activities, besides eating and staring at screens that will bring multiple generations together.” 

Elise’s holistic view of aging will shift the way people think of themselves and the world. Potentially, it will keep anyone vibrant, energetic and sharp well into their 60’s, 80’s, 100’s and beyond, able to experience a profound life phase of meaning, wisdom and enjoyment. 

Elise Marie Collins has been a visionary yoga teacher for twenty years, inspiring students and clients to form healthy lifestyle patterns. She has also authored three books to encourage readers to optimize their well being and longevity, her latest being the life changing text, Super Ager: You Can Look Younger, Have More Energy, A Better Memory, and Live a Long and Healthy Life.  You can find more about her at EliseMarieCollins.com

Book Marketing Pros Panel: WNBA-SF’s Secrets to Successful Marketing for Writers

Author Lunch
Mechanics’ Institute Library, San Francisco
Friday, October 19, 2018, 12:00 Noon
57 Post Street, San Francisco, CA 94104
4th Floor, Chess Room (Free to Public, refreshments available)

When do you start marketing your book? Find out the surprising answer at WNBA-SF’s Book Marketing Master Class. Join three promotional and marketing experts who are there to give you highly effective bookselling tips and tools. Attendees can receive a proprietary marketing guide filled with the most up-to-date secrets to social media, and the art (and science) of selling your book. 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. Brenda Knight will share insider secrets from big-house publishing to create preorders for your book, how to master metadata and much more. Top publicist Eileen Duhne will talk about which media actually sells books and the keys to booking print and radio including NP. Events Manager, TV host and public speaker extraordinaire Sue Wilhite will share how to craft highly successful talks. 

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-winning 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.

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 was recognized by the American Library Association for “Outstanding leadership and contribution to society through the publication of books of significance.” Knight is the author of Wild Women and Books, Be a Good in the World, and Women of the Beat Generation, which won an American Book Award. Currently, Knight is Director of Acquisitions and Editorial Development at Mango Publishing. She also serves as President of the Women’s National Book Association, San Francisco Chapter. Her blog can be found at lowerhaightholler.blogspot.com

Heart-centered entrepreneurs hire Sue Wilhite as their Profit Attraction Mentor so they can stop struggling with the marketing that’s not their genius, and attract more perfect customers. As a best-selling author, publisher and business coach, Sue teaches her clients how to earn six figures as an Authority – even if they can’t market their way out of a wet paper bag. Sue currently serves on the WNBA-SF Board as the Membership Co-Chair. ProfitAttractionFormula.com

 

Dear Writers: Is an Epistolary Book Right for You?

By Gina L. Mulligan, author, Remember the Ladies; From Across the Room; and Dear Friend

If you lived in the late 1700s, you drank corn whiskey, spun your own cloth, and spent your evenings in the glow of candlelight reading an epistolary novel. If the term epistolary is unfamiliar, you’re not alone. An epistolary novel is a story told through letters, and though it’s not common today, it was the most popular novel format throughout the 18th and early 19th centuries. In fact, epistolary novelist Samuel Richardson was the Stephen King of his day. Since its heyday, the epistolary format really hasn’t really made a come-back. But there are a few that made it big like The Color Purple, The Guernsey Potato Peel Society, Carrie, Dracula, and 84 Charing Cross Lane. If you’ve only seen the movies, you’re missing out!

Like many writers, I’m fascinated by letters. They’re a voyeuristic peek behind the curtain and so I decided to try writing an epistolary novel. A few years after I started, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I discovered first-hand the healing power of letters so I founded Girls Love Mail, a charity dedicated to giving hand-written letters to women newly diagnosed with breast cancer. My epistolary novel was published, From Across the Room (Five Star 2016); Girls Love Mail has distributed over 120,000 hand-written letters; and the charity published a collection of 100 letters called Dear Friend; Letters of Encouragement, Humor and Love for Women with Breast Cancer (Chronicle Books 2017). I’m now a letter expert. So, what does an epistolary book require? Is the style right for you?

Telling the Story

Fiction or non, because letters are first-person expressions of beliefs and feelings, readers organically develop a quick and deep understanding of characters. Think how much we know from a simple “My Dearest Rebecca,” versus, “Hey Dude.” Letters also have built-in pacing. Short or unfinished letters create a page-turner. To slow down important moments, a longer, intricate exchange or multiple letters with different points of view do the trick. Even setting and plot are advanced because a letter naturally demands some level of description.

That said, not every story works in this format. Maybe you have wonderful World War II letters from your grandfather or you love writing letters yourself. You need to ask yourself if the story (true or not) is enhanced by using letters. To make this call, try sorting them by story arc, not date. Do you see the story you want to tell within the context of the letters? Or will you need a fair amount of narrative commentary to explain what’s going on? The best epistolary stories are the ones where the format itself is either imperative or greatly improves the narrative. For examples, look at The Shirley Letters: From the California Gold Mines (non-fiction), and Ella Minnow Pea by Mark Dunn (fiction).

Telling the Reader

Second, you need patience. The pivotal challenge for this format is how to get information to your reader in a way that isn’t forced. Unlike a narrative, you have to know which characters to tell what. If you’ve already told one character, then how do you share it with another without boring the reader? Language is also a big consideration. Would your character write in the same style to a friend as he would his mother? And if letters are going back and forth, how important is the timing of the letters? It’s a giant puzzle. To save time and your sanity, I recommend a very detailed outline of your characters, their part in the story, and their motivations for writing letters. You’ll also want to resolve if you only want to use letters. For example, Dracula has diary entries interspersed with the letters. It’s a wonderful technique to go deeper into the thoughts of the characters.

Finally, you’ll need many draft readers who will be honest with you and let you know if the story is making sense. No friends and family for this. You need the hard truth.

It’s comforting to know that classic epistolary works are still studied in Literature classes, and a few modern authors have experimented with the traditional epistle by creating stories from blog entries, emails, and text messages. These create a wonderful record of our current culture. The ongoing fascination with letters continues because they connect us with our past and provide a means of recording our society with in-depth perspectives and first-hand accounts. They also ideal in helping writers develop story pacing and unique characters.

Overall, trying this format is a great exercise and will only improve your writing. So go for it. We may not live in the 1700s, but Lord Byron’s words still resonates today. He wrote, “Letter writing is the only device combining solitude with good company.”

Gina L. Mulligan is a veteran freelance journalist and the author of two historical novels; REMEMBER THE LADIES and FROM ACROSS THE ROOM, and the non-fiction DEAR FRIEND; Letters of Encouragement, Humor, and Love for Women with Breast Cancer. After her own diagnosis, Gina founded Girls Love Mail, a national charity that collects handwritten letters of for women with breast cancer. Since the formation in 2011, the charity has sent out over 140,000 letters across the country. Gina has been featured on The NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt, The Steve Harvey Show, People.com, Today.com, and Woman’s Day Magazine.

Narrative Arc – Your story needs a shape

By Louise Nayer, author of  Poised for Retirement: Moving from Anxiety to Zen (2017)

As a poet for many years, I didn’t obsess about “narrative arc” —though there was a beginning, middle and end to my poems that I tinkered with constantly.

When I moved to prose — plot, character transformation, tying it all together — the denouement — was new territory for me and very difficult. I didn’t even like the term “narrative arc” that everyone was throwing around. Why do I have to prove growth? Change? Don’t people stay the same? Or if the writing is good, isn’t that enough? Life is not neat. It’s messy, often very messy. I didn’t want Pollyanna endings. Why do I need arc?

When I sent out a piece to the San Francisco Chronicle, “The Panic,” about an accident that severely burned my parents when I was four and my later panic attacks, it was rejected. I decided to go back and change the ending with some words thrown in about how we all accepted our new, reconstructed family and became more compassionate people. Bingo, the article was published.

I’ve gotten more skilled at thinking about the arc — about the obstacles in the way and about transformation. We tend to gravitate toward characters that learn from the past and are resilient, despite the hard knocks of life. Resilience gives us hope that we, too, learn from our suffering and have a story to tell, a legacy to leave.

In memoir, especially, no one likes a whiny voice. However, memoirs are often written about terribly painful events. The writing needs to go deeply into the pain of a scene or moment in order for the book to work. But the author also needs to have a new perspective, a lesson learned, and an acceptance of pain, death, and separation and, yes, often a reminder that love and deep connections to others heal us.

So what is arc?

First, a character wants something and has a desire. Adair Lara, who wrote a wonderful piece “Key Elements of Writing a Memoir”, named it the “desire line.” Sometimes that’s hard to figure out, and that’s okay. In the new memoir I’m writing, at first I thought my nineteen year old self wanted love (which of course everyone wants), but as I wrote for a couple of years, I realized what I wanted first was to break away from my parents. I then went back and revised some scenes with that in mind. The desire must propel the book forward. Readers want to root for you—hoping you will find independence, or love, or a missing parent or sibling, or make it to base camp of Everest!

One reviewer said of Cheryl Strayed’s memoir, Wild “…it’s a woman coming out of heartbreak…with a clear view of where she has been.” We want to see that she has examined her life and also found resilience, in Strayed’s case both physically and emotionally as she walks 1000 miles on the Pacific Crest Trail.

But the arc needs to be earned. People don’t easily change or suddenly gain a new perspective. Most people actually stay the same and don’t want to examine their lives. Who can blame them? It’s hard work. But as writers, that’s what we do. We examine the big questions and also the minutiae of life. Characters go on a journey, often to a new land. Some of these journeys are harrowing. In Beah’s Memoirs of a Boy Soldier, he goes from an idyllic childhood to being caught up in the terror of war in Sierra Leone and doing terrible acts, to being rescued by UNICEF and brought to America. We see the pain. We see the resilience. We see the forgiveness. In Jessmyn Ward’s Men We Reaped she starts with a question about why all these men she cared about died and finds answers as she examines racism and economic struggle.

We’re cheerleaders throughout the books we read, staying up late at night wanting to make sure she got back home before her mother died, or she was able to continue to be a nurse even though she was in an accident and had to be in a wheelchair, or that despite being facially burned, she found someone who wanted to be her romantic partner.

Arc is about life’s ups and downs—what a character wants and the obstacles she faces along the way. The denouement is the climax, when things are made clear and resolved. As humans, we know that the next week can bring more obstacles or difficulties that will need to be overcome As writers, we are the puppeteers, picking and choosing—what obstacles must be faced, and what lessons will be learned on the journey.

Louise Nayer is the author of five books. Burned: A Memoir was an Oprah Great Read and won the Wisconsin Library Association Award. Her most recent book is about emotional planning for retirement: Poised for Retirement: Moving from Anxiety to Zen. She teaches through OLLI at UC Berkeley and is a member of the SF Writer’s Grotto where she teaches memoir.

Pushing Boundaries – Stories of Border Crossings, Love, Courage and the Indomitable Human Spirit

WNBA-SF hosts National Reading Group Month 
Book Passage, Ferry Building, San Francisco
October 13th, 2018, Saturday
3:00-5:00pm
Co-sponsored by:

litquake logo 2017

 

 

Kristina McMorris, Sold on a Monday: A Novel (Sourcebooks Landmark, 2018), is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author. Her background includes ten years of directing public relations for an international conglomerate as well as extensive television experience. Inspired by true personal and historical accounts, her novels have garnered twenty national literary awards, and include Letters from HomeBridge of Scarlet LeavesThe Pieces We Keep, and The Edge of Lost, in addition to novellas in the anthologies A Winter Wonderland and Grand Central. A frequent guest speaker and workshop presenter, she holds a BS in international marketing from Pepperdine. She lives with her husband and two sons in Oregon.

Debbie Clarke Moderow is the author of Fast Into the Night: A Woman, Her Dogs, and their Journey North on the Iditarod Trail (Boreal Books, 2018). The memoir recounts her experience running Alaska’s Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race and explores her deepening and inextricable bond with her team of Alaskan huskies. The memoir, her first book, was published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in February 2016 and was released by Boreal Books of Red Hen Press in June 2018. Debbie earned a BA from Princeton University in 1977 and an MFA in Creative Writing from Pacific Lutheran University’s Rainier Writing Workshop in 2013. She and her husband, Mark, live in Denali Park and Anchorage Alaska.

Lauren Markham is a writer based in Berkeley, California. Her writing focuses on issues related to youth, migration, the environment and her home state of California, and has appeared in outlets such as NarrativeThe GuardianOrionHarper’s, The New RepublicGuernica, The New York Times, and VQR, where she is a contributing editor. She is the author of The Far Away Brothers (Crown, 2017), which was the winner of the Ridenhour Prize, The Northern California Book Award, the California Book Award Silver Medal, and was shortlisted for an LA Times Book Prize and longlisted for the Pen America Literary Award. In addition to writing, she works at a high school for immigrant youth in Oakland, California. 

Brianna Wolfson’s debut novel is Rosie Colored Glasses (MIRA, 2018). She shares her narrative non-fiction in the San Francisco writing circuit, having performed at The Moth and been featured on Medium.  Thinks and writes about family stuff. Does the crossword in pencil. Plays the lottery on Fridays.​

 

Mary Monroe, One House Over: A Novel (Dafina, 2018) is the award-winning and New York Times bestselling author of over 20 novels, with over one million books in print. She is a three-time AALBC bestseller and winner of the AAMBC Maya Angelou Lifetime Achievement Award, the PEN/Oakland Josephine Miles Award, and the J. California Cooper Memorial Award. The daughter of Alabama sharecroppers, she taught herself how to write before going on to become the first and only member of her family to finish high school. She lives in Oakland, California and can be found online at MaryMonroe.org.

Mary Volmer - credit Kory HaydenThe moderator, Mary Volmer, is the author of two novels: Crown of Dust (Soho Press, 2010) and Reliance, Illinois (Soho Press, 2016). She teaches at Saint Mary’s College (CA).

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The Power of YES: Why Community Matters in Your Writing Life

By Joan Gelfand, author of You Can Be a Winning Writer (July 2018)

Do you know how John Lennon fell in love with Yoko Ono?
While visiting an art gallery—Lennon himself was a sketch artist, had gone to art school and was a fixture on the London art scene as well as a famous Beatle – he saw Ono on a ladder installing her one woman art show: a huge sculpture of the word YES.

There is a children’s book called “Richard Scarry’s Please and Thank You.” The book is an object lesson in teaching children the consequences of their actions with the help of a cast of lovable characters—Lowly Worm, Pig Will and Pig Won’t. Pig Will does what’s asked of him. Lo and behold, guess what? Pig Will gets the goodies. He gets to participate, have fun, and be an all-around happy guy. Pig Won’t, of course, always finds a reason to say no. You guessed it. Pig Won’t doesn’t get the goodies. Simple as this sounds, Pig Will has power.

When people see that you help out, not only because you want to build your reputation, but because you are a ‘team player,’ you are also cheerfully having a “Pig Will moment:” You are “paying it forward.”

Not all of our “Yes’s” or positive actions are immediately followed by fabulous outcomes. But haven’t you found that taking positive action—on balance—has benefited you?

The Big, Scary “Yes”
In 2004, I had quit my corporate job to write a novel, had a setback, and was just starting to establish myself as a poet. Like many writers, I was busy! I still had a daughter at home, I was running a small business, and my writing projects had projects. When a writer friend told me about WNBA, I was thrilled to meet colleagues and friends who were in the same boat! Soon after joining WNBA, members received an email. The current president was stepping down and, if someone didn’t take the reins, the chapter would fold. Wow. Okay. I was new to the group, but with the support of another member, we said “Yes,” and took on the presidency. Boy, did I get an education. I learned how to plan events, communicate to a group, and get things going. Together, we doubled our membership! Somehow, I found time in my busy life to help WNBA.

Two years later, I was asked to be the incoming National President’s Vice President. Now, that was a serious ask. It meant two years as VP, two years as President, and two years as Immediate Past President. I was loathe to take on a six year commitment. I wanted to get back to my novel. My husband strongly advised that I take the position.

Since that time, I’ve had five more books published, four of which were directly related to my leadership role in WNBA. The other one certainly took into account that I had a national platform. The point here is not about happy endings, it’s about why community matters in your writing life.

Community
Doesn’t it seem to happen that just when you are feeling stretched thin, crunched for time, and really not in the mood that opportunities to say YES! present themselves? What I want to say is that it isn’t always so obvious when the right time is to say “Yes.” Building your platform is not exactly like party planning. Sometimes you need to say YES! exactly when you would be inclined to say NO! Sometimes you make that extra effort to build your platform at exactly the time when you want to pull in your oars, hibernate, isolate and…. WRITE!

But winning writers, remember, are a breed apart. Winning writers who follow the “4 C’s” are firing on all burners; building community, working on craft, maintaining commitment, and moving forward with confidence.

A note on teams: Remember that you don’t have to go it alone. When I took on the Presidency of WNBA, I had mentors. Past presidents, executive board members, and chapter members were all sources of great inspiration and encouragement for me. YES! 

Joan’s new book, You Can Be a Winning Writer: The 4 C’s of Successful Authors: Craft, Commitment, Community and Confidence, newly published by Mango Press, is on Amazon’s #1 Hot New Releases. The author of three poetry collections and an award-winning book of short fiction, Joan is the recipient of numerous writing awards, commendations, nominations and honors. Joan can be found writing and coaching writers at Eco-Systm co-working space in SF. http://joangelfand.com

22nd Annual Effie Lee Morris Lecture featuring Shane Evans

Thursday, September 6th, 2018
SAN FRANCISCO MAIN LIBRARY

CIVIC CENTER • FREE ADMISSION
100 Larkin St, San Francisco, CA 94102
5:00 pm: Reception, Children’s Center Creative Center, 2nd Floor

6:00 pm: Lecture, Koret Auditorium, Lower Level

WNBA Members and Guests are invited to the pre-event Reception.

Join the Women’s National Book Association-SF Chapter and the Main Library’s Children’s Center as author/illustrator Shane W. Evans, author of the Coretta Scott King Award-winning Underground, speaks on The Art of Dream….

A book-signing will follow the lecture.

Shane Evans is perhaps best-known as the author and illustrator of the Coretta Scott King Award-winning picture book underground, a sensorily rich evocation of how it feels to be a slave on the way to freedom. Among his dozens of other titles are collaborations with his lifelong friend, actor and singer Taye Diggs; the pair have together created Chocolate Me, Mixed Me! and other warmhearted picture stories. Shane Evans is the recipient of an NAACP Image Award, a Boston Globe-Horn Book Honor award, and two Jane Adams Honor awards, one for Lillian’s Right to Vote (written by Jonah Winter) and the other for We March.

This annual lecture honors the work of the late Effie Lee Morris by celebrating the work of writers and illustrators for children whose work exemplifies the causes she championed: inclusivity, diversity, and the rights of all children to read, learn, and create. Ms. Morris was the first coordinator of children’s services at SFPL, the first African-American president of the Public Library Association, and a founder of the local chapter of the Women’s National Book Association (WNBA).

This lecture series is sponsored by the Main Children’s Center, the Friends of the San Francisco Public Library, and the SF chapter of the WNBA. The event is free and open to members of the public of all ages.

For more information, call 415-557-4554 or see their website.

Featured Member Interview – Susan Allison

Interview by Nina Lesowitz

In this interview, Dr. Susan Allison shares her wisdom about “writing what you know” and her publishing experiences with large publishers (Random House), smaller presses, and, self-publishing.

“What has worked for me in writing Conscious Divorce and the books that followed, is to write about what I am deeply experiencing, and what I feel compelled to share with others. I’ve written about how to end a relationship amicably, create a new life as a single woman, heal physically or emotionally, find one’s soul mate, cope with a partner’s passing, and connect with loved ones in spirit realms. Every book has its seed in my own life-journey.”

“In 2001 when I published Conscious Divorce, Ending a Marriage with Integrity, I was going through a divorce and couldn’t find anything helpful, so I wrote my own book.”

We asked how this book came to be published by a division of Random House.

“I found a great agent, Anne Edelstein, in New York, and within two weeks of sending it out, it was picked up by Harmony Books/Three Rivers Press.”

“What I found, and have experienced since, is finding an agent and publisher is about connections. I called a friend’s sister in New York who had been an editor at Bantam and she gave me the names of five agents.”

“When I called Anne Edelstein, she said, “Oh, how is Nancy and the new baby?” We talked about my book, and then she said, “Oh my gosh, I have to go pick up my kids! Call me in the morning.” I loved how real she was. Anne taught me about editing and publishing, as well how to get a great advance and contract. My editor at Harmony had gone through a difficult divorce and they had just lost Spiritual Divorce to HarperCollins. It was perfect timing for my book.”

“I then met Bill Gladstone at a conference and he became my agent at Waterside. However, even with an agent, finding a publisher for Empowered Healer, Gain the Confidence, Power and Ability to Heal Yourself (2012), proved difficult, and I ended up self-publishing with Balboa Press. It was a mixed experience, and I still prefer a traditional publisher for the levels of support.”

“In some ways it doesn’t matter what sort of publisher it is because the author does most of the marketing. Neither Random House nor Balboa Press did a great job of marketing my books.”

“My poetry books, Breathing Room and Our Spirits Dance, were published by small presses. I have found that unless you are a well-known poet, it is difficult to get a traditional publisher and any sort of advance. I feel good knowing that Breathing Room has helped women going through a breakup, and Our Spirits Dance lets readers know that soul mates are real, and loving someone is worth the risk of losing them.”

“My husband Tom passed away in 2013. Our spiritual connection and my heartbreak propelled me to write two books, Our Spirits Dance (2014) and You Don’t Have to Die to Go to Heaven (Weiser Books, 2015).”

“Again, I followed my intuition and connected with others. I emailed Brenda Knight, whom I had met while having many of her authors on my radio show. She liked the concept of my book, You Don’t Have to Die…., but said that Jan Johnson at Red Wheel/Weiser would be the perfect publisher.”

“I contacted Jan and she loved the book, decided that she would edit it herself and we agreed on a contract. I loved my experience at Weiser and with Jan (now retired), who is an amazing person as well as a gifted editor and publisher.”

“Currently, I just finished Silver Sex, a book about finding love and passion as you age. Even though it’s done, so am I! I feel burned out and can’t seem to find the energy to publish it. I had started a new book, Good-Bye Good Girl, but can’t seem to work on it either. I need a break and am taking it!”

“I used to feel afraid of “writer’s block” until a local poet, Maude Meehan, said, “There’s no such thing as writer’s block; you are composting, all the ideas and words germinating inside you.” So, I guess I’m composting, which consists of traveling, walking my dog on the beach, gardening, reading, and spending time with those I love.”

“My best friend said recently, “Yeah, this will last until you’re bored. Then you’ll publish the book and write the next one. I know you.” Maybe she’s right. For now the worms of inspiration are quietly creating more space, more rich soil for new seeds.”

You can contact Susan via her website at drsusanallison.com

Susan is an Empowered Healer, Reiki Master, Transpersonal Psychologist and successful author has also hosted two radio shows – “The Empowered Healer Show” and “We Carry the Light.” Over several years she has interviewed such luminaries as Jack Canfield, Barbara Marx Hubbard, Bernie Siegel, Larry Dossey, and many others. She has been interviewed by radio and TV hosts across the country, and has been a keynote speaker at conferences in the United States and Europe, her favorite being “The Children of Light” Conference in Frankfurt, Germany. Her CD of original songs “We Carry the Light” was released at this event.