Featured Member Interview – Kate Carroll de Gutes

Interview by Nina Lesowitz

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Featured Member Interview – Alexandra MacVean

Interview by Nina Lesowitz

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Featured Member Interview – Gauri Manglik

Interview by Nina Lesowitz

Gauri Manglik, member interviewWNBA-SF’s newest Board Member Gauri Manglik is on a mission to share South Asian culture with children through literature. We wish her every success with her career change and important new venture.

“I am a lawyer by training and have practiced for over 12 years, both in India and the United States. In 2015, I chose to follow my passion and left my legal career to start Kitaabworld to create a space for South Asian and diverse children’s books.

“At Kitaabworld, our mission is to make South Asian culture more accessible and mainstream in the US, especially for children. We fulfill our mission in three ways. First, we run an online independent bookstore. There is a robust children’s literature industry in South Asia and many of those books are not otherwise available in the US, so we bridge the gap.

“Second, we run an online content platform, where we spotlight South Asian authors, publishers, and books. We routinely publish curated booklists on various South Asian topics with an aim to highlight social issues. Our Counter Islamophobia Through Stories campaign was very successful earlier this year.

“Lastly, we collaborate with schools and other institutions to share our knowledge of South Asian culture: we have conducted parent education, teacher education workshops and also created events for kids for a hands-on experience to learn about South Asian culture.”

“For a recent art storytime at the Palo Alto Art Center, we read A Bhil Story, which was about the history of the tribal Pithora art and a drought in a tiny village in central India. The situation rang true with kids in California, who were very familiar with conserving water and taking care of our resources, given the ongoing drought from which they only got a reprieve this year.”

I asked Gauri why it has been hard to find South Asian children’s books since South Asian literature is such a popular genre in adult literature.

“That’s a great question – yes, writers such as Salman Rushdie, Arundhati Roy, Amitav Ghosh and many others have really created a great space for South Asian adult literature.

The situation is quite the opposite for South Asian children’s literature in the US. A few years ago, the statistics on children’s books featuring persons of color came to light and were quite disappointing. We noticed that even within the broader discussion of diversity in children’s books, South Asia was acutely underrepresented and often bundled with the rest of Asia, sometimes ignoring the extensive diversity within Asia itself.

“As an avid reader, when I became a mom, it was natural for me to fill my bookshelves with children’s books. Our weekly trips to the library, and often the bookstore, unfortunately, exposed us to very few books that reflected our culture. It was impossible to find books with Indian names, foods we ate, terms my kids used to call their grandparents and other similar topics. I spoke to many other South Asian parents and realized I was not alone. In parallel, I noticed a robust children’s literature scene in South Asia itself and noticed that many of these books were not available in the US. All of these facts and circumstances eventually resulted in the creation of KitaabWorld.

“Needless to say, language is integral to a culture. There are many words that exist in a language but don’t quite resonate when they are translated into English. These words, the tones, the familiarity that is passed on through language are integral to sharing a culture, and thus, it is critical for children of immigrants to have access to bilingual books and materials to maintain their cultural ties to their native culture.

“There is also ample research on benefits of bilingualism for children. Growing up in India, it was a given for me to be fluent in English and Hindi. We were even encouraged to study a third language in school. Most kids in India grow up to be fluent in their mother tongue and English. Given the complexity in script of many South Asian languages, we do notice that there are additional challenges for parents living outside India and trying to teach their mother tongue to their children. To help those parents, we have books in various South Asian languages, including Hindi, Bengali, Urdu, Tamil, Punjabi, and many others!”

What does the future hold for this WNBA board member with a mission? “I would love to write my own book and in fact, that was part of the original plan. However, when I started to research existing South Asian children’s literature, I was thrilled to find so many great stories and talented authors. I felt it was important to first curate and present the already existing literature in an accessible way for everyone to discover. Of course, I am still itching to get my own words on the (printed) page, but all in good time!”

Gauri Manglik has more than 12 years of experience as a lawyer, and she has practiced law in both India and the United States. During her legal career, she advised on various aspects of corporate and commercial laws. In 2015, she chose to follow her passion and left her legal career to start Kitaabworld. She is passionate about making South Asian culture fun and accessible for children, as well as sharing her love for diverse children’s books.

Featured Member Interview – Janis Couvreux

Interview by Nina Lesowitz

Janis Couvreux, member interviewJanis Couvreux describes her path to becoming an author:

“Originally I went to France to learn French so I could practice journalism through that language, but on my way to my profession I married a Frenchman, became involved in public relations work for Bordeaux wines, and wrote freelance articles on wine and travel.

“Later, while sailing and living on our boat, I had various stints as a freelance journalist, teaching English as a Second Language (ESL), and eventually was a full time journalist for local Sonoma County publications for a number of years after we settled here. When desktop publishing and the Internet became the norm, I got more involved in editing, copy writing, and page layout designs for newsletters, catalogs, composing website copy for clients, brochures, press releases, business resumés, etc.

Last year I submitted one of my original vignettes (that is now part of a chapter in my book) to the San Francisco Writers Conference 2017 competition and won the first place Adult Nonfiction category. I had completely forgotten that I had submitted to the competition and had no idea I won until I received a notice and check in the mail.

“For years my husband urged me to write our story, but before I could write it, it had to age, be digested. Some of the events and misadventures were still too fresh and raw for me to face for many years. As my grandchildren began to arrive upon the scene, I knew I had to record this for them so they could better understand their fathers’ characters (our two sons), and the non-traditional life paths that they followed.

“I found it too daunting to begin at the beginning, so I was more amused by writing vignettes, individual stand-alone stories, one at a time in no particular order, of the many events and experiences we lived. I posted them on my website as entries under my Blog From the Past. Once I had written about 40 of them, I realized that I had just about covered the story, more or less.

My debut book, Sail Cowabunga! A Family’s Ten Years at Sea (Filles Vertes Publishing) is our story of wanting to travel as a family, to be with our two boys as much as possible in their formative years, of our thirst to discover countries and cultures, all intertwined with our passion of being bicultural and bilingual French and American. Our story recounts our initial first two years of life onboard, our “shakedown” period, as we learned how to live on our boat, in a confined space, and change our “land-life” habits to “off-the-grid” routines. We first moved on board when our first son was one year old, and when we left our two were three years and five months old. Then the story follows our trip from Bordeaux to San Francisco across the Atlantic Ocean and four continents as I retell our adventures, misadventures, tragedies, and glories.”

What are the main differences between sailing in 1988 and today?

“GPS did not exist then, let alone cell phones, personal computers, or the Internet. Some boats had the capability to receive weather faxes. My husband accomplished all our navigation with an old fashioned, yet reliable, sextant. It was difficult to maintain regular contact with family and friends using only the ham radio and marine band radios. We received our mail via postal general delivery in the various countries we arrived in, and sometimes our mail never arrived. For a while we taught our children with correspondence homeschooling courses, and could only send the lessons back through the mail when we got into port. There was no online connection. Our navigational charts were actual printed charts and maps.”

What was your process to getting published? Do you have any advice for fellow members?

“Once I seriously considered getting published, I wanted to have my full manuscript ready. I knew the importance of working with an editor well before seeking out an agent or publisher, so I spent a good year polishing up my manuscript with my editor. She flushed out the flaws and the missing links and I am eternally grateful to her.

Being a complete novice to book publishing at that point, I tentatively began the research process while also joining writers groups and attending conferences and seminars. The main point that was constantly hammered home was the necessity to establish a platform and work the social media channels. As a journalist, I am drawn to communicate with people, and to “spread the word” so embarking upon building a platform wasn’t terribly daunting to me. Although I had my own website early on as part of my business as an independent editor and copywriter, I lacked Twitter and Facebook know-how. So, I concentrated on learning how those worked, establishing them, and working them. I found sites such as Writers Digest, The Write Life, and various writing and travel bloggers and coaches. I read their tips, articles, how-to books, and learned about the many conferences out there.

“Initially I gave myself six months to try and attract an agent and/or traditional publisher, and if I failed at that I would attempt to go with a hybrid publisher (like She Writes Press). I researched agents, how to query and pitch to them. Delving more and more into the various levels of all that’s involved, I learned about Twitter “pitch wars” that are hosted several times a year by various recognized writing professionals. I read up on these and how to pitch a story in 140 characters or in my case, 35 words as pitched on the Pitchmas website. I liked the idea of this newer method to pitch a story, the immediacy of pitching online in a “short and sweet” format as opposed to a traditional long and involved query letter along the lines of a well-crafted cover letter and resumé.

The Twitter “pitch” method seemed much more relevant, evolved, effective, and immediate, a shortcut to get one’s foot in the door. Through my 35-word pitch on Pitchmas, I was successful in attracting the attention of a brand new small publisher, Filles Vertes Publishing. They wanted a synopsis and my first two chapters, then the complete manuscript, and voilà we signed a contract.”

What are your plans for the future, and how can people get in touch with you?

“I have an idea way in the back of my head concerning a hitch-hiking trip across the U.S. in the early 1970s that my husband accomplished, then a young French student. I didn’t know him then, and his English was fairly rudimentary, but he was able to get across the United States east-to-west and back within several months, and lived quite the adventure. But since “road trip” stories are commonplace, I need to find the unique angle in order for this one to appeal to readers. As a journalist I love talking with people and getting the story out there, so I’m looking forward to this next chapter.”

Janis Couvreux is a journalist, sailor, mom, grandmom, traveler, and Franco-American, blogging at the Huffington Post,  The Lady Alliance, and Pryme about living bilingually, crossing oceans, backpacking adventures, and raising kids outside the box. Sail Cowabunga! A Family’s Ten Years at Sea is her debut book.

Featured Member Interview – Renate Stendhal

Interview by Nina Lesowitz

Renate Stendhal by Louise Kollenbaum (member interview) Member Renate Stendhal’s newest book, Kiss Me Again, Paris, a visual-textual memoir, came to her out of her fondness for Gertrude Stein and her fascinating life arc from Germany to Paris and now the Bay Area. Aspiring memoirists can learn a lot from Renate’s process and her expert advice for writers.

“As a school girl in Germany, I already longed to be a writer. My Muse was Gertrude Stein, photographed by Man Ray with a Caesar haircut and makeup. I had no idea how to read and understand Stein until I left my stifling country and oppressive family behind and took up life in Paris, as she had at the turn of the century. I was twenty-two, and Paris was my dream of a chosen exile—the bohemian place of culture and sexual freedom that turns artists into Artists. Being an outsider rebel like Stein, a maverick, was in my blood.

“Having studied literature in Hamburg, I did ballet and underground theater in Paris then became a cultural journalist and translator. I introduced Audre Lorde, Susan Griffin and Adrienne Rich to German readers and I translated a novel by Gertrude Stein. When I composed my photo-biography Gertrude Stein in Words and Pictures (Algonquin, 1994), I had figured out that she could be read both visually and textually, and that both readings informed and enriched each other.”

The title of her book came from this line in an obscure text by Stein: “Kiss me, I said. Kiss me again. She did.”

Stendal decided to go with a smaller publisher to control the artistic details: “I had always been a hobby photographer and photo collector, and after almost twenty years in Paris, a whole crate of vintage pictures had come with me to California. I could not imagine my memoir, my love declaration to Paris and Parisian women, without a wealth of images. I quite deliberately chose a small, local, literary publisher because I wanted to be intimately involved in the creation of a visually exciting book. For the Bookwoman feature, “The Full Story,” I wrote about the experience of going small and indie with IFSF Publishing, and how different it was compared to my previous experience with the Big Five.

The best part of the indie way was the local teamwork, going regularly to the studio of book designer Tom Ingalls and shaping the book page by page, being in control of every artistic detail—the size, font, paper quality, cover, photo placement, page design, etc. My publisher, whose own beautiful book on France, Monsieur Ambivalence: A Post-Literal Fable, had been my initial inspiration, looked on and added his ideas. This process took nine months, and the moment the book went off to the printer, I already felt nostalgic and missed my team. She worked with a filmmaker to create a book trailer.

“I have never had the dream of being a full-time writer. Journalism showed me the value of being fully engaged in life outside the ‘ivory tower’. This form of writing has taught me invaluable lessons and still does. Describing and critiquing a theater performance, for example, for a radio program of a few minutes, forces you to press your message into an exact and unforgiving frame, be succinct and evocative with few words, have an arc of suspense, and end your piece on a high note. Not easy to do!”

Today, she still writes reviews for Scene4 Magazine and HuffPost. “But this doesn’t give me a living. When I moved to the States, I worked as an editor in private practice. I also went back to college to get a Ph.D. in psychology, to work as a therapist. Both are professions that allow a writer to remain relatively free and flexible, and both are intimately connected to the deep soul work of writing.

My advice for new writers is not to waste time dreaming up the exceptional career of bestseller success and full-time writing. Yes, it can be frustrating that life constantly interferes with our creative desire, I tell my clients. We writers always complain that we don’t have enough time to write. But my life companion, writer Kim Chernin, taught me that writing first thing in the morning and not for more than three hours, was all I needed to satisfy my craving and, just as importantly, avoid the panicky feeling that writing was eating up my life like a hungry beast, throwing me out of control.

What I tell my writing clients is: You can have it all. You can have a writing life and a life. Keep the focus on being playful in order to fight off the inner critic and perfectionist. Listen to your intuition. Pursue your goal with passion and patience. It doesn’t matter how long it takes for your manuscript. As Rumi said: ‘When you do things from your soul, you feel a river moving in you, a joy.’

It took me patience and many, many drafts to finish my memoir, years of work to let my message simmer down like a fine sauce reduction. I soothed my impatience by writing short pieces of criticism or blog posts, and even put out a quick, short collaboration with Kim (Lesbian Marriage: A Love & Sex Forever Kit) in the DIY fashion. It was a way to engage with the world, and refresh my inspiration.”

I consider memoir writing technically the same as fiction writing. You need to hone the same skills: fine-tune poetic, evocative description, catch the telling detail, follow a good rhythm of sentences and paragraphs, and show keen psychology in drawing up your characters and their dialogues. The best way to learn is to read lots of great literature, classic and modern: you’ll absorb their quality and technique even unconsciously. As a memoirist, if you want your story, your era, your personal experience to shine and draw in a reader, you need to think just as strongly about plot, story arc, and suspense as a novelist does.”

Kiss me again Paris cover To meet Renate, and hear her speak, there will be several readings in the SF-Bay Area: For details go to http://renatestendhal.com/home/news-and-events/.

Her essay on the process of writing the memoir appeared recently in the Lambda Literary Review:
Kiss Me Again, Paris, or: How Many Drafts Does it Take to Screw In a Light Bulb?

Featured Member Interview – KJ Landis

Interview by Nina Lesowitz

KJ Landis, member interviewFour-time author and wellness coach KJ Landis joined WNBA-SF and hit the ground running by joining the board and taking responsibility for key roles in events including Pitch-O-Rama. The founder of Superior Self, she shares some tips for her high-energy approach to life and work.

“My work with Superior Self is a combination of researching the latest data on nutrient-dense foods and its relationship to hormone health as well as their effects on overall health. I focus on taking my clients on a journey away from the ‘Standard American Diet’ and toward a grain-free, sugar-free diet.

“My workshops are all about deciphering ingredient labels, ridding the mind of negative thoughts, meditation, chocolate and dessert making, fermented food education, essential oils, and more.”

KJ’s latest book, to be released in August 2017, is titled Happy Healthy You. Her first book, Superior Self: Reaching Superior Health for a Superior Self, describes her fat loss story, the basics of nutrition, and four anti-cancer healing therapies that are food-based. It also has a simple guide to wellness from within that is a transition to a grain-free and sugar-free eating style in baby steps. Her second book, Eat Well, Be Well: Your 9 Week Solution for Real Health Right Now, features questions for the reader to answer in journal style.

How to Clean up Your Life When the $#!+ Hits the Fan is a self-help book for those seeking to get unstuck from past trauma and drama that are keeping them from moving toward their life goals.

She describes her journey to become a workshop facilitator and author:

“Five years ago I had a midlife crisis of sorts and decided to lose the extra fat around my body. When I lost the fat, I began researching the latest science about maintaining fat loss, at the time the Paleo eating style was beginning to emerge. I found studies of four anti-cancer healing therapies that were food based and that did not require expensive medical treatments.

“Doctors and scientists had been successfully treating chronic conditions and cancers with them. But since the food based therapies didn’t make the money that chemotherapy does, with the machines and manpower needed for the medical industry, these studies were suppressed and not widely accepted. The funny thing was, the foods I ate for fat loss were the same foods in the four anti-cancer healing therapies.” 

Landis was asked to coach friends and family to their better health and said ‘yes!’

“Soon I was asked to be a guest on a podcast and the ball rolled from there. I had a lot of notes in a shoebox under my bed. One night my husband asked me to get the notes out from under the bed. I said: Sure, I would put them in the basement. He laughed and said that he meant: No, get them out from under the bed, that I had an obligation to share the truth with the world. I had to write a book.”

Landis has some helpful advice to members who are contemplating writing a nonfiction title:

“For women who want to publish a nonfiction title, my advice is to do your research. Unless it is memoir, the public library or the internet is your close friend. I used to visit up to five libraries a day. Women do so much for others. We are busy. How do we fit time in for our writing? My greatest flaw and stressor is that I have to be very early everywhere I go. This has turned out to be my greatest ally in writing. I have a few Dollar Store notebooks in the car at all times. I have a few library books in my car at all times. When I arrive early, usually an hour early so I can relax about not being late, I research and write. That is my advice. Get everywhere early and you have built-in time for writing every day.

Beside books, Personal Wellness and Life Coach KJ Landis writes a blog and a newsletter and leads free events at libraries, senior centers, and in private homes. Details on her website www.superiorselfwithkjlandis.com 

Featured Member Interview – Sue Wilhite

Interview by Nina Lesowitz

Sue Wilhite, Featured Member InterviewSue Wilhite has spent the last decade coaching businesswomen: authors, coaches, other creatives, or those in the helping professions. Her unique program, the Profit Attraction Formula, is the result of discovering that many of her clients have money issues, especially around deserving to make money.

“Many women in creative and service professions have a subconscious belief that it’s not okay to want to make a profit because they should be satisfied with just helping people. I’m here to tell them that they can do both – they have permission to make a profit! My coaching program explores the roots of these limiting beliefs and provides practical tools as well as firm coaching support.

“The coaching program comes from my business experience mixed with a deep understanding of how the subconscious influences everything we do. Some upheavals in my pre-teen years, including the death of my beloved father, left me with unrecognized PTSD symptoms that took years to diagnose. I spent twenty years in the tech industry as a programmer and database designer but was not satisfied. Hypnotherapy and other techniques brought clarity, focus, and purpose to my life. Technology is a great tool to make life easier, but the greatest tool we have is our own mind.”

Sue has published two books, Simple Success in 2003 and 21 Templates that Run Your World in 2007.

Simple Success is a series of affirmations, while 21 Templates explores personality archetypes and how they affect work and relationships. My love of books led me to buy and manage a New Age bookstore in San Jose and then work as Event Manager at another bookstore. I found that authors and other artists would frequently undervalue themselves and their work. They had difficulty marketing themselves.

“Through my experience as an author and bookstore owner, I had become familiar with many aspects of publishing from many sides and found myself helping other authors learn about the publishing industry. So I decided to establish my own hybrid publishing company and author publicity program to help beginning authors.

“Writers who seek traditional publishing company contracts have to navigate a complex process. Book proposals now must include solid platforms and marketing plans, especially for non-fiction writers; even if the editor likes your work, if you don’t have the ‘reach’, the manuscript will never make it out of the slush pile.

“I started Positively Success Publishing to give authors time and space to create their platform and help with everything along the way — except for actually writing the book. My company provides editorial direction, layout suggestions, and helps authors design their marketing and publicity strategies.

“Writers like to tell stories, but not about themselves. It’s such a delicate balance between being enthusiastic about your work and knowing the realities of the publishing world. My biggest advice to authors is that you must tell great stories all the time, both in your book and about your book.”

WNBA-SF board member Sue Wilhite lived and worked in the Silicon Valley for over 25 years, and has recently moved to the North Bay. You can read more about her background on her website.

Featured Member Interview – Teresa LeYung-Ryan

Interview by Catharine Bramkamp

Teresa LeYung Ryan, featured member interview Writers Platform Building CoachTeresa LeYung-Ryan has been helping authors with their platforms for years: Her own platform – reach out, not stress out – speaks to her focus on authors and how to make their promotion, their sales and even their conversations more productive and natural.

Platform and Fanbase-Building Coach Teresa LeYung-Ryan says:

“When I was an aspiring writer, playwright Kim McMillon would invite me to literary parties. ‘Make connections,’ Kim said to me. ‘Have fun.’ I was too stressed out to have fun. I’d introduce myself by my first name only, and, I didn’t know how to articulate what I was writing about. Then, I would go home, dreading the next networking event. Kim did not give up on me. She even put me in the line-up at her open mic events. True friends are your biggest fans.

“Through watching Kim’s plays, I discovered what makes a performance/story memorable. Those recurring themes! What is theme? The subject matter/topic/issue discussed repeatedly in a piece of writing. Theme answers the question ‘What’s your point?’ Whether you are writing fiction (as in novels), narrative nonfiction (as in memoirs) or prescriptive nonfiction (as in workbooks/how-to books), theme is the thread with which you weave your chapters. For example:

  • In E.B. White’s Charlotte’s Web (fiction/classic children’s book), the core themes are: true friendship; cycles of life; believing in one’s self.
  • In Maxine Hong Kingston’s The Woman Warrior (narrative nonfiction), the core themes are: Chinese myths; being a Chinese-American youth in California; losing and gaining one’s own voice.
  • In Angie Choi’s My Dreams: A Simple Guide to Dream Interpretation (prescriptive nonfiction), the core themes are: understanding personal dream symbols; solving problems; transformation

“So, the platform statements I would create for these brilliant authors would be:

  • Through his children’s books, E.B. White teaches young readers how to be a real friend.
  • Through her memoirs and novels, Maxine Hong Kingston inspires us to reclaim our voices.
  • Through her book My Dreams, Angie Choi shows us how to interpret personal dream symbols and transform our waking worlds.

“Side note: The Woman Warrior was the book that inspired me to write my first book Love Made of Heart. Thank you, Maxine Hong Kingston!

“To writers, I say: ‘Make your name stand for something—to attract target consumers—who are likely to buy what you have to sell.’

  • The something = themes you write about
  • Target consumers = readers who read about the themes you write about
  • What you have to sell = your intellectual properties

“Your platform statements will attract attention before and after publication, whether you’re going to self-publish or sell rights to a publisher.

“When I teach ‘For Theme’s Sake: Edit Your Own Manuscript Before Pitching to Agents OR Self-Publishing’ the first assignment I give is: Reread one of your favorite books (especially a classic children’s book). What is the author’s point? What are the topics /subject matters/issues running through the entire story? Then, tackle your own story! Knowing how to weave core themes makes rewriting enjoyable.

“Authors of fiction need to work doubly hard building their platforms. With more than 3 million titles in the Literature/Fiction category for readers to choose from, how will they find you if you aren’t already an award-winning author, bestselling author or celebrity? My first book Love Made of Heart is a novel. I was a newbie. My agent believed in me. However, I had to demonstrate to Kensington Publishing in New York my platform statements:

  • Teresa LeYung-Ryan encourages adult children of mentally ill parents to speak openly about the stigmas.
  • Teresa LeYung-Ryan helps survivors of family violence find their own voices.

“It is challenging to enter the fiercely competitive bookselling arena. The other players include authors with proven track records / established platforms / big fanbases / celebrity status and authors who are also seasoned publishers or promoters. That said, ‘Don’t worry, be happy’. Yes, you can transform challenges into opportunities that feel right for you. And turn off the noise in the brain. I recommend Elisa Sasa Southard’s book Break Through the Noise: 9 Tools to Propel Your Marketing Message. Elisa has taught me well.

“The Internet helps your fans find you. They find you when you broadcast your platform statement on cyberspace. After all, where do we go when we need to find something or someone? My workbook Build Your Writer’s Platform & Fanbase In 22 Days: Attract Agents, Editors, Publishers, Readers, and Media Attention NOW shows you how to create and broadcast your platform statement / how to reach out, not stress out. Some best practices from this workbook:

  • Who are you? Not a year ago. Who are you today? If you want others to notice you, you need to notice yourself.
  • What are tags? Tags are keywords and phrases. Understand the function of tags on cyberspace (especially in your blog/website) and you will rejoice over your name and platform statements.
  • Celebrities reach out. Organizations reach out. You reach out.

“Here are a few excellent platform statements because each one fulfills the definition from my workbook – Make your name stand for something—to attract target consumers—who are likely to buy what you have to sell.

  • Writing Coach & Chief Storytelling Officer Catharine Bramkamp helps small business owners tell their stories on social media platforms to attract more clients/customers.
  • Through her books, Margie Yee Webb promotes pet awareness and encourages people to make a difference in the lives of cats and other companion animals.
  • Linda Lee of Askmepc-Webdesign says: Whether you are a novice or veteran Internet user, I can help you optimize and monetize your website.
  • Mary E. Knippel (Your Writing Mentor and founder of The Unleashed Homemaker) is fiercely committed to guiding women—who have been silent too long—to polish their words so that they sparkle and shine.
  • Travel writer and professional Tour Director Elisa Sasa Southard turns student travelers into explorers.
  • Author and teacher Connie Smith Siegel says: ‘You do not have to be an artist to reclaim your unique creative language. Drawing and the use of color is for everyone.’ 

“Enjoy the benefits of being a WNBA member. I have had the privilege of working on the board and committees, co-presenting, and connecting with members of the San Francisco Chapter (by the way, many members are also colleagues through California Writers Club and San Francisco Writers Conference). I have served WNBA by doing what was enjoyable for me – using my organization skills, knack for taking pictures, and platform/fanbase-building expertise. Get to know other WNBA members by attending mixers and other WNBA events, and subscribing to the weekly blog posts.”

WNBA-SF Member Coach Teresa LeYung-Ryan teaches her clients (writers, artists) how to reach out, not stress out, before and after publication — identify themes in their intellectual properties and create scripts for pitches, query letters, press releases, talking-points, one-minute videos, photo slideshows, and the all-mighty blog. Visit http://WritingCoachTeresa.com and http://lovemadeofheart.com/blog/ for more resources. Teresa’s upcoming speaking events are listed on this page.

Featured Member Interview – Kathleen Archambeau

Interview by Nina Lesowitz

Kathleen Archambeau, member interview

On Saturday, March 25, WNBA-SF holds its popular Pitch-O-Rama event, and this month’s interview features the fascinating Kathleen Archambeau who pitched – and later got published – at Pitch-O-Rama 2015. In her words:

“WNBA runs one of the friendliest Pitch-O-Ramas ever. Agents, publishers, and legal experts are great about answering questions, encouraging writers, and inviting further communication. What a great resource for women writers!

“My recently released title – the one that was birthed by a conversation I had at Pitch-O-Rama – is titled Pride, and Joy: LGBTQ Artists, Icons and Everyday Heroes. As an LGBTQ activist and avid reader, I was struck by the lack of diversity in mainstream queer titles. Most of the books up until the new millennium were mono-cultural. Many described gay life in the shadows, alleyways, bathrooms and parks. Many ended in suicide, depression, addiction or unhappiness. I began writing a column of inspiring profiles for one of the largest and oldest LGBTQ papers in the U.S., the San Francisco Bay Times.

“The readership of 50,000 wrote glowing emails and comments about the column. For the book, I interviewed 30 LGBTQ folks from around the world. I found these people through personal contacts — someone who knew someone who could make the introduction for me. I did extensive primary research before interviewing the 30 luminaries.

“My book is designed to depict stories of openly queer artists, icons and everyday heroes from around the world living open, successful, happy and fulfilling lives. I interviewed the famous — Tony Kushner, Colm Toibin (Brooklyn), Emma Donoghue (Room), Bill T. Jones (Fela! and Spring Awakening), Richard Blanco, Carolina De Robertis, Rick Welts (Golden State Warriors), Kate Kendell (National Center for Lesbian Rights), Leanne Pittsford (Lesbians Who Tech), John Longjones Abdallah Wambere (Call Me Kuchu) — and the not as famous — an Hungarian activist on a Neo-Nazi hit list, the first openly lesbian Methodist bishop, a Russian emigre award-winning software engineer, a Chinese folk dancer, the founder of Harlem’s Ballroom Basix, a Maori Member of Parliament and many more. This is a book I wish I had been able to read when I was coming out.

“My first book, Climbing the Corporate Ladder in High Heels, was inspired by my career consulting with FORTUNE 500 corporations in the SF Bay Area in marketing, sales, and business development. When I was working for several Silicon Valley tech companies, I had to travel extensively. On one of many of my cross-country flights, I thought that there’s gotta’ be a better way to achieve work-life balance and success, especially for corporate women professionals. So, I began taking notes on what worked well and what didn’t work so well from my own personal experience, the extant research and experts in the field and created a fun, easy handbook of sorts based on traditional women’s roles in society and the upending of those roles.

“My advice for aspiring authors is: understand that much of the work of marketing and selling your book will be on you, the author, regardless of who publishes your book. Expecting to get rich from writing is a false pursuit of a false god. Writing for the joy of writing. Writing the best book you can. Working closely with agents and publishers by exposing yourself and your ideas to them at conferences and workshops is the best way I know to get published. A 60-second elevator pitch. A thorough book proposal. An Amazon blurb. An outline. Sample chapters. Endorsements. These all help to secure publication.

“Like most writers, I’ve had to do a day job to make a living. Fortunately, I wrote copy, edited business publications, edited videos and audios and websites for several tech companies and Internet start-ups, all of which I enjoyed. I even convinced one enlightened HP manager to give me tuition and release time for a graduate poetry seminar (only four poets) with Adrienne Rich, arguing that writing poetry would improve my marketing copy.

“I’ve been writing my entire career, both on the job and in writing workshops with Nobel Prize winner Derek Walcott, American Book Award winner Elizabeth Woody, and U.S. Poet Laureate Robert Haas. I was the tech advisor to the San Jose Poetry Center while working at Hewlett-Packard and a continuous member of four different writers’ groups throughout my work life. For 20 years, I’ve taught writing, business, marketing and presentation skills at several SF Bay Area universities; that has kept me fresh and current. I love to write.

“If I never was published, I would still write. I don’t have to worry about what to do next — after this book and its book tour and marketing plan is complete, I have two novel drafts sitting in my file cabinet and on my hard drive that I want to return to and rewrite for publication. I have a collection of poems, under the title Street Corner Romance, that I aim to gather in a manuscript at some point. I plan to enter poetry contests where publication is the prize.”

WNBA-SF Member Kathleen Archambeau is an award-winning nonfiction writer and journalist, a founding supporter of the LGBT wing of the SF Public Library, and former VP and Co-Chair of Fundraising for one of the first mental health agencies dedicated to services for the LGBT community. After 2.5 years of successful fundraisers that included events with Tony Award-winning playwright Tony Kushner, National Book Award finalist Dorothy Allison and Armistead Maupin, she was given the prestigious Operation Concern (New Leaf) Board Service Award. During her career in high-tech marketing and business development, she studied poetry with National Book Award winner Adrienne Rich, American Book Award winner Elizabeth Woody and Nobel Prize for Literature winner Derek Walcott. 

Featured Member Interview – Barbara Falconer Newhall

Interview by Catharine Bramkamp

member Barbara Falconer Newhall

“My book Wrestling with God: Stories of Doubt and Faith was inspired by the amazing people I met on the religion beat at the Contra Costa Times back in the 1990s. So many stories. So many distinctive people. So many ways of experiencing the sacred. There wasn’t time on a newspaper to go deep with those people, so I decided to take some time – hours and hours with each one, as it turned out – to record some of those stories and put them into a book.

“To my dismay, publishers and agents were not much interested in publishing a collection of disparate voices—my book included Jews, Hindus, a Buddhist, a Native American, a fundamentalist Christian and a progressive Muslim to name a few. They kept telling me that my book needed an overarching narrative. I finally bit the bullet and wrote down my own spiritual journey – such as it was – and let that be the connective tissue that held all the stories together. I think the strategy worked, as the book received a starred review from Publishers Weekly and won a book award or two.

“Also, forcing myself to put my very private thoughts about my rocky spiritual journey into words paid off—I learned a lot about myself and I found that, indeed, I had a lot to say. This is the great thing about writing: it makes you learn and grow.

“I’ve been devoting myself to promoting the book full time for nearly two years. It’s hard to let go – there’s always one more book festival, one more blog post, one more influencer, one more book store to contact. A writer friend gave me this advice recently and I’m going to take it (I hope), and that is: Set a date for when you will stop promoting, do what you can within that time frame, then go on to the next book. I’m aiming for January 1, 2017.

“Some writers self-publish some of their works (the ones that are super literary, nichey or are outliers) and they go through a traditional publisher for their commercial books with wider appeal. I might self-publish my next book or two as I have quite a large collection of personal essays (funny and/or poignant) about family and what I like to call The Big Questions. I suspect that a traditional publisher won’t be interested because these books would be collections, which many believe are a harder sell to reader than, say, a memoir like Jeannette Walls’ The Glass Castle that has a beginning, middle and end.

“Self-publishing is looking like a better and better option for writers with every passing day, especially hybrid publishing, where the publisher does a lot of the work for you, while you maintain control over your book and its profits. I’m finding self-publishing really appealing at the moment because I simply do not want to spend time tracking down an agent and a publisher. That could take months. Self-publishing will let me get right to it.

“For better or worse, I have built most of my platform online. I post weekly on my website. And until recently I was posting weekly on Huffington Post and Patheos.com (my publisher’s site). I do Facebook (which I enjoy) and Twitter (not so effectively in my case). And I have been conscientious about going to various websites and posting lots of pithy comments that include links back to my website. I notice that, when people come to a page on my website via HuffPo or some other big site, it increases traffic that day, not just for that page, but for my entire website. In other words, the search engines notice when people are coming to your website from one of the biggies.

“I’m not so sure that my focus on online promotion was the right decision. It’s been very time-consuming. I might have been more successful had I tried to do events at churches and temples, spent time contacting librarians and book clubs, and reached out to the extensive interfaith community. Bottom line, I recommend that authors think hard about their readership’s demographic and go to where they are.

“Final thought for writers who are young, not-so-young and downright old: For my entire career in newspaper journalism, at the San Francisco Chronicle, at the Oakland Tribune and finally at the Contra Costa Times, I kept my age firmly under wraps. The HR departments knew, of course. But I let my colleagues and readers believe that I was 10 to 20 years younger than I actually was. Publications and their advertisers want young readers – that’s who’s buying all the stuff – so I felt it essential to give the impression that I was young and tuned in to the times.

“Very recently, I decided that maybe my next book will be about getting old. Really old. Like 75 years old. So I wrote a post called The Shame of Aging – The Big Seven-Five Has Finally Arrived. Hitting the Publish button on the post was one of the most liberating things I’ve done in years.”

WNBA-SF member Barbara Falconer Newhall is an award-winning journalist and columnist. Her book Wrestling with God: Stories of Doubt and Faith was published by Patheos Press in 2015. She has worked as a staff writer and editor at Good Housekeeping magazine, The San Francisco Chronicle, The Oakland Tribune, and The Contra Costa Times. Additional information is available on her website.