Featured Member Interview – Annemarie O’Brien

Desire to Share Overseas Experiences Prompts Dog-Lover to Write

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

Each time I interview a WNBA-SF member, the opportunity reminds me how fortunate we are to be part of a group of such interesting women. I hope you enjoy this conversation with Annemarie O’Brien and learn as much from her as I did.


Nita Sweeney (NS): As a fellow dog-lover, I must ask about yours. Please tell us about your dogs.

Annemarie O’Brien (AO):  When I wrote Lara’s Gift, I had two borzoi, Zola and Zar. They inspired the key fictional canine characters in Lara’s Gift of the same name. Borzoi are also known as Russian wolfhounds. They were the dogs of the Tsar during the Imperial era and considered a national treasure. They are very tall, slender, super-fast dogs that belong to the sight hound group. The Tsar and his court used them to hunt wolves. Today, many Russians use them to hunt hare. Beyond the squirrels who dare to steal fruit from the trees in my garden, neither of my borzoi hunt. Unfortunately, Zola passed away two years ago. She was a sweet, outgoing borzoi with a golden retriever personality. To keep Zar company we now have a silken windhound named Zeus. This is a newer breed of sighthounds developed in California, I believe, that looks like a miniature borzoi. Both of my dogs like to go to Stinson Beach and play tag with other dogs. They are both loyal and great companions.

NS: Each of your dogs sounds lovely. I’m sorry to hear about Zola. Our pets are such gifts. Changing the subject a bit, can you tell us more about Lara’s Gift, perhaps something that isn’t in the blurb?

AO: Lara’s Gift is a girl empowerment, father-daughter, historical fiction, dog story for young adults. It is set in Russia in the early 1900s during the Imperial era. The main character, Lara, wants to breed borzoi worthy of the Tsar, just like her father and her ancestors have done for hundreds of years. Lara has a special gift, or sixth sense as I’d liked to call it, regarding the borzoi such that she sees things before they happen. I got the idea from my own sixth-sense sort of experiences I had with my first childhood dog, Emma. Once when she was at a kennel while we were on vacation, I had a strong feeling that she had escaped and was lost. I begged my parents to call the kennel to check on her, but they assured me that there was no way she could escape from the kennel. Sure enough, when we picked her up upon our return, they told my parents that she had escaped and had, indeed, been lost on the same morning I had felt that something was wrong. I have other examples I could share, but I think you get the point. Well, as I researched these types of things in Russia, I learned that there was no real word in Russian for ‘sixth-sense’ and that what was more common were visions. If you read Nabokov’s memoir, you will learn that he had visions. I have dozens of other sources of Russians during this period who claimed to have visions, as well. My choice to add visions to Lara’s story reflects what people in Russia believed at that time. It is not intended to be fantastical.

NS: How interesting that dogs have played such an important role all of your life. Your bio explains that you worked in Russia which inspired the setting for Lara’s Gift. Which part were you in? 

AO: I spent about ten years in Russia. In my early years, I worked as a consultant for Soviet small businesses interested in doing business in the United States and Europe. Because of all the contacts I developed, I started a venture capital group in Philadelphia with three other people that established one of the first oil and gas joint ventures. I also launched Bill Blass menswear in Moscow. It produced $25,000 in the first hour of opening at a time when hard currency wasn’t legal. 
When USAID provided technical assistance to Russia to set up a privatization and capital markets program, I joined the PriceWaterhouseCoopers team as an economics advisor to the Russian government. I travelled all over Russia to cities like Moscow, St. Petersburg, Petrozavodsk, and Irkutsk, as well as former Soviet republics like Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, and Turkmenistan. During this time, I lived in Moscow, Russia and Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan. It was the greatest adventure of my life.

NS: What was your favorite thing about the country?

AO: There are a number of things I adore about Russia. But my favorite would have to be the people. I have never met a more well-read, intellectual, resourceful, salt-of-the-earth group of people anywhere else in the world. When I lived there, so many people had PhDs and valued books and their friendships. Their homes (one-bedroom apartments) often consisted of one or two walls of floor to ceiling bookcases for their beloved books. In space that was limited a good chunk of it was reserved for books. Russians somehow found happiness without materialism and showed me what was important by the way they lived. Their values regarding education shaped me tremendously. A lot has changed since I lived in Russia during the 80s and 90s. I like to think that Russians still value books.

NS: Are there other things about the time you spent in Russia that inspire your life or work?

AO: I became a writer because of an experience I had in Russia. Lara’s Gift is the first part of the bigger story I want to tell from this experience. I don’t want to reveal too much about this experience or story just yet. What I can say is that it will be my best story because it comes from my deepest passion.

NS: Have you always wanted to be a writer?

AO: No. When I was in middle school, I took an aptitude test that pointed me to three potential careers: writer, veterinarian, and engineer. The veterinarian option seemed likely and was exactly what I wanted to be until I discovered I didn’t like blood and saw a veterinarian try to spay a male dog. That’s right, a spay, not a neuter. I come from a family of engineers so the engineer option didn’t seem far-fetched. But the writer option? I seriously thought that that had been a mistake. It wasn’t until decades later when I worked overseas that my interest in writing took root. It was because of these overseas experiences I was having and my desire to share them that turned me into a writer.

NS: What is the most difficult part about writing for you?

AO: Time. I work full-time for Bio-Rad in marketing where I create stories and the branding/communications for my division. I’m also a soccer mom with two daughters who aspire to play soccer in college. In the fall of 2020, my oldest daughter will play for the University of Portland where World Cup legends like Megan Rapinoe played. The dogs need exercise so it’s my job, despite promises from my kids, to walk them three miles every day. After I take care of everyone, it’s a challenge to carve out time to write. But I put it on my calendar and hold myself to it. Fortunately, I never get writer’s block. When I sit down to write, I know I have to use my time efficiently, so I don’t waste it. If I have a hard getting back into my story, I read and revise the last thing I wrote. It always jumpstarts the ideas and gets the fingers moving!

NS: What is the most surprising thing you discovered while writing?

AO: When I was getting my MFA, I attended a lecture about theme. The person giving the talk had said, “The theme of your story will often come well after you’ve completed your story.” Really, I thought? Wouldn’t I know the theme as I’m writing? I recall thinking this didn’t make sense until I was in the second round of revision edits with my editor at Knopf. That’s when it dawned on me what the theme of my story really was about: girl empowerment. 
In another lecture, the speaker stopped me when she said, “There’s a little bit of ourselves in the characters we create.” Even if I’m writing historical fiction, I wondered? My character, Lara and I had nothing in common besides our love of dogs. 
After I turned in my manuscript for publication it surprised me to discover how closely Lara’s struggle with her father mirrored my own childhood struggle with my father. Although my father always told me that I could do anything I wanted, if I put my mind to it, he also didn’t think I needed to go to college. He came from a generation that believed women got married and would be taken care of by their husbands. Luckily, I was able to persuade him that I had another plan and got to go college and get two master’s degrees.

NS: Do you have a personal writing tip you would care to share with the WNBA-SF members?

AO: Read like a writer, write like a reader. Read or listen to books on audio while you’re driving, exercising or doing chores every day. Put writing on your calendar and guard this time. Join a writing group. There’s nothing like community to help you develop your craft.

NS: That’s great advice. Thank you. Are you working on something new you would like to tell us about?

AO: I am nearly finished drafting a rhyming picture book. An early draft of it was a finalist at a recent SCBWI conference. 

NS: Congratulations! Any other projects in the offing?

AO: I also co-wrote a young adult/crossover book that’s on submission. It’s about a Thai girl who is sold into slavery by her uncle and how she escapes and starts a new life. I spent some time in Thailand and feel very strongly about empowering girls and preventing human trafficking. My co-author is a Thai-American writer who works for a non-profit that helps to educate Thai girls that are at risk of trafficking. It was wonderful collaboration. 

NS: What a worthy cause. You stay busy. Any others?

AO: I am currently working on a middle grade novel, the one that inspired me to become a writer.

NS: I look forward to seeing that as well. Thanks so much, Annemarie, for taking the time to share your experiences and insights.


  1. Annemarie O’Brien writes books for young adults. She is the author of the debut middle grade novel, Lara’s Gift, published by Alfred A. Knopf of Penguin Random House with subsidiary rights to Scholastic.  Lara’s Gift is a girl empowerment story set in imperial Russia. It is also a dog story inspired from a former life when Annemarie worked in Russia and was gifted her first borzoi puppy.  Lara’s Gift has received starred reviews from School Library Journal and Kirkus Reviews among other accolades.

    Annemarie grew up in Northampton, Massachusetts, attended the University of Massachusetts at Amherst where she earned a BBA in marketing and economics, and studied Russian at Smith College. She later earned an MBA in international business from the University of South Carolina and an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from the Vermont College of Fine Arts. Today, Annemarie lives in the San Francisco Bay area with her family. She is a global marketing manager and teaches writing courses at UC Berkeley Extension, Stanford Continuing Studies, and Pixar.

    Connect with me on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/AnnemarieOBrienAuthor/), Twitter (@AnnemarieOBrien) and LinkedIn (https://www.linkedin.com/in/annemarieobrienauthor/).

    Learn more about Annemarie O’Brien by visiting her website. (www.AnnemarieOBrienAuthor.com )

Meet the Agents & Editors: Pitch-O-Rama 2020

Join us at our new venue in Noe Valley!
Bethany UMC Church
1270 Sanchez Street (at Clipper) SF, CA 94114

Saturday, March 21, 2020
8:00 am – 12:30 pm 

It’s Pitch-O-Rama PLUS!
Includes a continental breakfast and pre-pitch coaching.
$65 WNBA members, $75 Non-members
Men Welcome!
Limited to the first 60 ticketed attendees


Meet the Agents and Editors for Pitch-O-Rama Plus 2020!

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

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

Peter Beren, formerly Vice President, Insight Editions, Publisher of Sierra Club Books, Publisher of VIA Books and an Acquisitions Editor for Jeremy Tarcher. Peter Beren is a literary agent and a book publishing consultant to authors and independent publishers. He is the founder of The Peter Beren Agency, located in the San Francisco Bay Area. He is also author or co-author of eight books, including The Writers Legal Companion (Basic Books), California the Beautiful (Rizzoli) and The Golden Gate (Insight Editions). As a publishing consultant, Peter works with independent publishers, self-publishers, and authors to help them make the most of their publishing opportunities. He represents selected nonfiction projects as a literary agent to help authors obtain publishing contracts. https://peterberen.com/

Karly Caserza, Associate Agent,  Fuse Literary, was born in the Philippines and immigrated to Northern California as a child. She obtained her Business Marketing degree and has been a Freelance Graphic Designer for over 10 years. In addition to designing a wide range of print and web promotional material for clients, Karly creates book covers for Short Fuse and promotional graphics for Fuse authors. Karly has a deep love for characters with a strong voice and seeks out stories she can get lost in. Diversity in genre fiction is a major bonus. She specializes in middle grade and young adult genre fiction (fantasy, science fiction, and contemporary). https://www.fuseliterary.com/karly-caserza/

Michele Crim is the West Coast literary agent for Miller Bowers Griffin Literary Management, a boutique agency based in New York City. They represent authors such as Mark Bittman and Jean-Georges Vongerichten, Cal Peternell and Mads Refslund, co-founder of Noma, and MBG recently signed Moby to do a cookbook for his new award-winning restaurant, Little Pine. They work with chefs, food, and lifestyle writers and also represent fiction and narrative nonfiction writers, worldwide. Among others, Michele now represents Yumiko Sekine, founder of the beloved international brand Fog Linen Work; Allison Arevalo, best-selling cookbook author with a new book, The Pasta Friday Cookbook, coming out in September of 2019; and Charleen Badman, James Beard nominee and celebrated chef-owner of FnB Restaurant and Bar in Scottsdale.

Suzy Evans (remote access only) is a literary agent, attorney, and author who holds a Ph.D. in history from UC Berkeley. In the adult market, she’s looking for narrative nonfiction, history, science, big idea books on controversial social issues, riveting, elegantly-written memoir (recent favorites include Barbarian Days and When Breath Becomes Air), self-help, parenting (bonus points for humor!) and small quirky books that make her smile and think about the world in new and surprising ways. On the children’s front, she’s seeking MG nonfiction, YA fiction that tackles difficult issues in bold, daring ways, and graphic novels that bring history, literature, and fascinating historical figures (think Socrates! Machiavelli! Hamilton!) to life. She’d also love to find a thriller that has “MOVIE!” written all over it. Sandra Dijkstra Literary Agency 

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

Becky Parker Geist is CEO of Pro Audio Voices and has been in the audiobook industry since 1981. As an audiobook publisher and producer, Becky has produced and/or narrated hundreds of titles, helping authors leverage their content through audio – even if it is the first or only format of their book to get publishedTypically working with authors and publishers who are challenged in reaching their widest audience, the Pro Audio Voices team provides audiobook production, including complex and unusual projects, and the Audiobook Marketing Program™ to help authors increase their impact. Committed to leadership, Becky serves as President of Bay Area Independent Publishers Assoc. and a Chapter Leader of Nonfiction Authors Association. proaudiovoices.com

Georgia Hughes is editorial director at New World Library, publisher of the Joseph Campbell Library and The Power of Now. She acquires and edits nonfiction books in the areas of spirituality, sustainability, animals, business, women’s issues, and personal growth. Recent acquisitions include Spiritual Envy by Michael Krasny, Dreaming the Soul Back Home by Robert Moss, Dogs and the Women Who Love Them by Allen and Linda Anderson, Right-Brain Business Plan by Jennifer Lee, and The Practicing Mind by Thomas Sterner. 

Jan Johnson is Publisher Emeritus at Red Wheel Weiser & Conari Press acquiring select books for each imprint. Before launching Red Wheel/Weiser, Johnson worked at Tuttle Publishing, HarperOne (when it was known as HarperSanFrancisco), Winston/Seabury Press and as an independent book doctor, rewrite editor and editorial consultant for corporate and independent publishers. Johnson has worked on many bestsellers including Codependent No More, Random Act of Kindness, Oprah pick The Book of Awakening, and Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way.

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

Georgia Kolias is an Associate Acquisitions Editor with New Harbinger Publications, the foremost publisher in proven-effective psychology and personal growth books for adults and teens. Before joining New Harbinger, she worked in nearly every other aspect of the book world, including: literary management, publicity, book selling, the public library system, and teaching creative writing. She is actively acquiring books in the areas of psychology, self-help, spirituality, social justice, gift books, women’s issues, third phase of life, teen empowerment, spiritualism/occult, practically applied spirituality,  LGBTQ+ queer, and POC issues. She is always interested in work from authors who are emerging leaders in their fields and actively engaged with their potential readers. She welcomes proposals from LGBTQ+ queer, POC, and all other underrepresented voices interested in making positive change. Georgia holds a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing and her work has appeared in The Huffington Post, The Advocate, Role Reboot, The Manifest-Station, and various anthologies. Her debut novel, The Feasting Virgin, will be published July 2020.

Lisa McGuinness is a twenty-five-year veteran of the publishing industry. As publisher of Yellow Pear Press, Lisa has worked in the editorial, sales, and production divisions during her tenure at Chronicle Books. In addition, as a writer, developmental editor, and project manager, she has worked on books for Running Press, Barefoot Books, Chronicle Books, and Accord Publishing, as well as custom publications for Starbucks, Gap, the Exploratorium, Cooper’s Hawk Winery and Nordstrom. She has authored several books including Hoppy Trails,  Catarina’s Ring,  Meaningful Bouquets,  Caffeinated Ideas Journal, Bee & Me and Baby Turtle’s Tale (the later two co-authored under the pen name Elle J. McGuinness ), and The Dictionary of Extraordinary Ordinary Animals. She is the founder of Yellow Pear Press (yellowpearpress.com) and acquires books in the categories of lifestyle, gift, self-help, inspiration, children’s and fiction. You can find her at lisamcguinnesswrites.com

Laurie McLean, Partner, Fuse Literary, Laurie McLean spent 20 years as the CEO of a publicity agency and 8 years as an agent and senior agent at Larsen Pomada Literary Agents in San Francisco. Following her stint as the CEO of a successful Silicon Valley public relations agency bearing her name, Laurie was able to switch gears in 2002 to immerse herself in writing. She earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism from the State University of New York and a Master’s Degree at Syracuse University’s prestigious Newhouse School of Journalism. At Fuse Literary, Laurie specializes in adult genre fiction (romance, fantasy, science fiction, mystery, thrillers, suspense, horror, etc.) plus middle-grade and young adult children’s books.

Randy Peyser sells non-fiction manuscripts in all genres and speaks nationally about how to get book deals. She also serves on faculty for CEO Space International where she teaches about writing book proposals. She is the author of: The Write-a-Book Program; Crappy to Happy as featured in the movie, Eat Pray Love; and The Power of Miracle Thinking. Her clients’ books have been in Oprah and Time Magazines, the Wall Street Journal and USA Today Bestseller Lists, in airport bookstores, Office Max and FedEx/Office stores, and on Hallmark TV. Her work is featured in: Healing the Heart of the World; The Marriage of Sex and Spirit; Secrets of Shameless Self-Promoters; and the national bestsellers, Networking Magic, Guerrilla Publicity, and The Profit of Kindness. AuthorOneStop.com.

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

Lara Starr has made her mark in publishing starting at Collins, Conari Press, and Chronicle Books. A bestselling author of several books, she is also a producer to KGO Radio. Starr is a creative professional with expertise in public relations, marketing, media production, and special events. Currently at Insight Edition, Starr is a children’s book specialist for Path to Publishing.

Brooke Warner is founder and publisher of She Writes Press, president of Warner Coaching Inc., and author of What’s Your Book? and How to Sell Your Memoir. She Writes Press publishes fiction and memoir for women authors and readers. Brooke’s expertise is in traditional and new publishing, and she is an equal advocate for publishing with a traditional house and self-publishing. She sits on the board of the Independent Book Publishers Association (IBPA) and the National Association of Memoir Writers (NAMW). Her website was selected by The Write Life as one of the Top 100 Best Websites for Writers in 2014. She lives and works in Berkeley, California. http://www.shewritespress.com

If you want to see what they all look like, click here!
Better yet, register and meet them in person with your pitch!

register-now 

Featured Member Interview – Geri Spieler

Self-Proclaimed “Political Junkie” Reveals Her Writing Secrets

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

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


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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

    Contact Geri at gspieler@gmail.com

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

    Twitter https://twitter.com/home

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

    Blog https://gerispieler.com/blog/

Featured Member Interview – Sheryl Bize-Boutte

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

NS: Are you working on any new writing projects?

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

    Contact Sheryl at Bize11@Mac.Com

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

    Check out her author profile on Amazon

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


How Publishers Think and How Best to Pitch Them

How to Sell Your Book to a Publisher and Who You’re Really Selling
Mechanics’ Institute Library, San Francisco
Friday, Jan 17, 2020, 12:00 Noon
57 Post Street, San Francisco, CA 94104
4th Floor, Chess Room (Free to Public, refreshments available)

As everyone probably knows, you or your agent needs to get your book or proposal into the hands of an interested editor; that’s the first hurdle. A well-crafted proposal, an agent with good relationships, and choosing the right editors to approach is the first steps. What most would-be authors don’t know is that the editor has to turn around and sell you to an editorial board. The sales management, more often than not, makes the decisions.  If sales and marketing think they can sell your book, then you’ve got a wonderful chance of getting published.

 So how do you sell the sales people? If it’s your first book, you have no Neilson Bookscan number to get in the way. That can be a blessing, but you have to prove that you are an “influencer” that can sell your book and provide the publisher’s sales force with the ammo they need to go out to the trade. Publishing veterans Jan Johnson, Nancy Fish, Lara Starr, and  Brenda Knight will help you navigate the rapids of book publishing so you can find the perfect home for your books. Bring all your questions about book publishing so you can learn from some of the best in the business!

Jan Johnson is Publisher Emeritus at Red Wheel Weiser & Conari Press, acquiring select books for each imprint. Before launching Red Wheel/Weiser, Johnson worked at Tuttle Publishing, HarperOne (when it was known as HarperSanFrancisco), Winston/Seabury Press and as an independent book doctor, rewrite editor and editorial consultant for corporate and independent publishers. Johnson has worked on many bestsellers including Codependent No More, Random Act of Kindness, Oprah pick The Book of Awakening, and Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way

Nancy Fish

 

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

 

Brenda Knight

Brenda Knight began her career at HarperCollins, working with luminaries Marianne Williamson, Mark Nepo, Melody Beattie, Huston Smith and Paolo Coelho. Knight served for 8 years as publisher of Cleis Press & Viva Edition, winner of the IndieFab’s Publisher of the Year Award in 2014. Knight is the author of Wild Women and Books, The Grateful Table, Be a Good in the World, and Women of the Beat Generation, which won an American Book Award. Knight is Associate Publisher at Mango Publishing and acquires for all genres in fiction and nonfiction as well as children and photography books. She also serves as President of the Women’s’ National Book Association, San Francisco Chapter and is an instructor at the annual San Francisco Writers Conference.

Lara Starr has made her mark in publishing starting at Collins, Conari Press and Chronicle Books. A bestselling author of several books, she is also a producer to KGO Radio. Starr is a creative professional with expertise in public relations, marketing, media production, and special events.

 

Featured Member Interview – Nita Sweeney

Q&A with Brenda Knight, WNBA-SF Chapter President and Nita Sweeney, WNBA-SF member

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

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

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

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

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

    But I’m always writing something. So, in 2011, after my first half marathon, I used National Novel Writing Month to record how this middle-aged woman leashed up our dog and went from eating Hershey bites on the sofa to running a half marathon. It took another year and a half for me to realize I wasn’t writing about how I took up running. I was writing about saving my life. That’s when I knew I had a story.

    (BK):What is your favorite memoir, running or otherwise?

    (NS): Chris McDougall’s Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen enjoys a cult following among runners. I’m proud to be part of the fan club that finds it so inspiring. The book is memoir-ish but also includes copious research. And, it reads like a novel. I’ve stayed up all night reading the physical book and been dismayed to arrive at my destination while listening to the audiobook in my car.

    (BK): You have received several impressive awards for your prose; has that helped your writing career?

    (NS): Thank you for mentioning these! Awards provide a sense of legitimacy. I’m an anxious person full of self-doubt. Having well-respected strangers say I write well boosted my confidence. I also believe those external stamps of approval helped Mango decide to give this first-time author a chance. Hopefully the awards entice readers as well. 

    (BK): What advice do you have for aspiring authors who hope to have a first book published?

    (NS): Pitching to agents and editors is like dating. You don’t need every single person to love you. You just need one person to fall in love with your book and hopefully you will fall in love with them too. I’m so grateful to have found Mango when I did. I was ready. They were ready. The world was ready.

    (BK): What has been the single most satisfying part of your publishing journey?

    (NS): Needing to move the tissue box closer to my laptop. When I receive a note about how a reader relates and that the book gives them hope, my heart bursts. 

    Recently, a virtual book club picked up the book and the administrator messaged me a screenshot of a post. A woman’s teenage son who struggles with depression saw the book on their coffee table and asked if he could read it. Then, her daughter, not to be left out, asked if she could read it too. In her post, the mother explained they were reading the book as a family. She hoped it would open a much-needed dialogue about her son’s issues. There is no way I could have imagined that kind of scenario when I started jotting down the random thoughts that eventually became this book.

    On a lighter note, one woman posted that she was creating a design to have the “Depression hates a moving target” tattooed on her arm. I haven’t seen a photo of an actual tattoo yet, but that was a pretty good day as well.

    (BK): Do you have any trade secrets to your writing craft you could share for the Women’s National Book Association?

    (NS): I swear by Natalie Goldberg style “writing practice.” Set a timer and go. Her admonition to “keep your hand moving” and the idea that you often have no idea what you’ve written until after you’re done gets me through. Yes, I edit, study craft, and revise. But nothing helps me get the work done better than a digital kitchen timer.

    (BK): Who gives better critiques on your first draft – your husband or your dog?

    (NS): Clearly my husband. Scarlet, the #ninetyninepercentgooddog, just shreds everything!

    Seriously though, when I was working on Depression Hates a Moving Target, Ed read every stinkin’ draft, and there were many. And then, when we received the author copies, I came home one day to find him on the sofa with a copy of the just-published book, reading it again from page one!

    (BK): Any new projects up your running jacket sleeve?

    (NS): Yes! I’m writing a proposal for a book of simple, daily meditation “practices” to promote living in the moment. The book is in the standard 365-day format, but each page includes a teensy exercise to promote mindfulness in daily life. Many people don’t realize you don’t have to sit in silence to meditate. You can meditate all day long. This book will help them learn how.

    (BK): What question do you wish I asked and what is the answer?

    (NS): You’ve asked great questions, but I wish people would ask about my favorite stuffed animal. No one has asked that since I was four. At that time, it would have been a stuffed red dog I still have. But now my favorite is a stuffed Capricorn goat I bought after Ed and I began dating. Ed’s a Capricorn. I still adore both of those Capricorns.

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

Pitch-O-Rama PLUS 2020

Saturday, March 21, 2020
8:00 am – 12:30 pm 

It’s Pitch-O-Rama PLUS – now in Noe Valley!

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

Includes a continental breakfast and pre-pitch coaching.

Registration:
$65 WNBA members,  $75 Non-members, Men Welcome!
Limited to the first 60 ticketed attendees.

Pitch-O-Rama delivers the 4 Ps that lead to publication.

POLISH. You’ve polished your manuscript. Now polish your pitch with our pre-pitch coaches

PITCH. We’ve assembled top agents and publishers for all genres

PROMOTE. Power up with social media 

PARTICIPATE in a Q&A Panel. Secrets to Successful Book Marketing

= PUBLICATION

Pitch-O-Rama 

CLICK HERE FOR THE LIST OF AGENTS AND PUBLISHERS!!!

 

CLICK HERE FOR TIPS AND RULES FOR PITCHING!

Program
8 to 9 am: Continental Breakfast

8 to 9 am: Pre-Pitch Practice Sessions 

9 to 11:45: Pitch to Agents & Editors (2 one-hour sessions)

12 to 12:30 pm: Secrets to Successful Book Marketing for Writers

Register for Pitch-O-Rama!

 

Featured Member Interview – Sheila Murray Bethel, PhD

Interview by Susan Allison

sheila murray bethel PhD

A member of  WNBA and The Author’s Guild, Sheila Murray Bethel, PhD is recognized internationally as an expert in leadership. She is a successful entrepreneur, bestselling business author of five books, and a Hall-of-Fame speaker. She has given over 4,000 presentations to over two million people in 20 countries. Her latest published work, A New Breed Of leader, 8 Qualities That Matter Most In The Real World, What Works, What Doesn’t and Why is published in English and Chinese and is winning global praise. She has also written for such publications as The Washington Post, The San Francisco Examiner and USA Today, to name a few. 

When asked about her earliest writing experiences, Sheila remarks, “I am always impressed when I hear about women who knew they wanted to be a writer as a child or they talk about writing stories and plays or poems in school. I never did. I came to writing late in the game, as a necessity that turned into a passion. As a beginning professional speaker, I realized that I had to write articles, training materials, and most of all, a book. To have credibility in the marketplace, I needed a traditionally published book, and preferably one that did well.” 

In her thirty-five years as a professional speaker, Sheila wrote two compilations with other experts, and three books on her own on the subject of leadership. Her first solo book was a best seller in a large niche market; the second was a national bestseller, published in several languages and took her, as she describes, “around this wonderful globe of ours, speaking to fascinating groups of people in a myriad of organizations in fascinating venues.” It was the longest selling business book in her publisher’s history, with twenty-three printings in the U.S. The third book was a follow up to the second and again sold in many languages and countries. 

When asked to share her publishing experience, Sheila has sound advice for every writer: “Don’t Give Up!!! Publishing is one of the hardest things I have ever done. You will encounter nay-sayers and negative people who don’t believe in you or your work. You will get your feelings hurt, shed a tear, and even want to give up during the process. Please don’t. If you feel like quitting, call me and I’ll give you a pep talk.” 

Based on her years of experience, Sheila has three key tips about publishing:

      1. Once you have finished your book, take your ego, wrap it carefully in a piece of lovely soft velvet, and put it in the closet. From now on look at your work as a Product (not you personally). That is the only way you will survive what it takes to see it through to publication. 
      2. The hardest thing to do is to understand that rejection, or constructive criticism, is not personal. It is not you that is being rejected; it is your product. Take a deep breath and get feedback on why it is not being received as you had planned. Ask yourself, what can I learn/do to make it better or more appealing. A caveat here; ask advice from those who are as successful or more so than you. While it is generous of others who are not yet published to help, odds are they won’t be able to give you the hard news you need to make your book publishable.
      3. Get an agent! Will it be easy? No. Is it worth it? Yes! Research the net for the agents that work in your genre. Their website will tell you all you need to know about how to approach them and what they will and will not accept, and how to give them what they want; i.e., synopsis, longer outline, several chapters and so on. Get to know the books they represent and with which publishers they work. It is key to be informed about them before you try to submit your work. It pays off! I’ve had three non-fiction agents; two I enjoyed working with, one I did not. Will I go through it all again for a fiction agent? Yes. I will be right there with you on this journey to have a published book!

    Currently, Sheila is writing a work of fiction, and is drawing on so many inspiring writers for inspiration: “Early on I read the classics; Virginia Wolfe, the Bronte’s, Toni Morrison, Willa Cather among others. Their artistry was the basis and inspiration for my writing. They made me laugh, cry and come to realize how much their words empowered me and allowed me into other worlds. My current fiction project is greatly influenced by Australian writer Colleen McCollough, author of The Thorn Birds. She was a powerful storyteller, a true genius of the written word. She would create a broad scope of time and place and characters and then skillfully and artistically bring it down to one place in a specific time with a detailed group of characters.”

    Now that Sheila is retired and is “no longer a road warrior,” she has the luxury of flexibility and can write anywhere, from her desk, to BART, in a park, at the library, on a plane or in a hotel room. What works for her is to write in two-hour segments, take a break and then come back and finish or edit what she has written: “I often take what I have written ‘for a walk,’ meaning that I go out to one of my favorite walking trails and read and edit as I walk. Nature inspires me and frees my mind. I always come back with better material than when I began.” Sheila’s debut novel is half-finished, and she is “enjoying the challenge.”

    In her parting words, Sheila Bethel inspires us to believe in ourselves and to keep writing: “Congratulations and good for you! There has never been a better time for women writers. The global awareness of women’s issues, as well as the rights and contributions we have made, make it a pivotal time in literary history. Your words and ideas are important!”

    Sheila would love to hear from you. Find out more about her and her work at:

     sheila@smbauthor.com

     www.smbauthor.com

     https://www.sheilamurraybethelauthor.com/sheilas-books-in-order-of-publication/

Speaking Memory: Remarkable Hidden Histories and Stories You Won’t Forget

WNBA-SF hosts National Reading Group Month 
Book Passage, Ferry Building, San Francisco
October 12th, 2019, Saturday
3:00-5:00pm
Co-sponsored by:

litquake logo 2017

Celebrate National Reading Group Month with four renowned authors who will discuss their sources and inspiration for their new releases. FREE.

Carol Bumpus

A retired family therapist, CAROLE BUMPUS began writing about food and travel when she stumbled upon the amazing stories of women and war in France. She has traveled extensively throughout France and Italy, where she has interviewed more than seventy-five families to date for her food and travel blogs. Searching for Family and Traditions at the French Table is the first volume in her series, Savoring the Olde Ways. She is also author of an historical novel A Cup of Redemption and her unique companion cookbook, Recipes for Redemption: A Companion Cookbook to A Cup of Redemption.

Part culinary memoir and part travelogue, Searching For Family and Traditions At The French Table (She Writes Press, 2019) reveals French families at their best and at their own dinner tables. It is an intimate peek inside their homes and lives, a collection of traditional French recipes (cuisine pauvre or peasant foods), and accounts of families forced from their communities during the German occupation of WWII in the Alsace and Lorraine, only to continue to struggle for survival after finally making their way home.

donna digiuseppe

Donna DiGiuseppe studied at U.C. Berkeley, including a year in Venice at Ca’ Foscari, focusing on the northern Italian Renaissance. Dividing her time between San Francisco and Abruzzo, Italy, Donna has been a practicing lawyer in San Francisco who returned to her first love of history. She lectures frequently on her favorite subject, artist Sofonisba Anguissola.
Lady in Ermine: The Story of a Woman Who Painted the Renaissance (Bagwyn Books, 2019) reveals the captivating story of Italian Renaissance painter Sofonisba Anguissola, who embodies the struggle of women throughout the ages.  DiGuiseppe’s book vividly immerses the reader in the sixteenth century world of the Renaissance figures Anguissola paints, her ambitions, life story, and legacy.

Meredith MayThe Honey Bus Cover

Meredith May spent sixteen years at the San Francisco Chronicle, where her narrative reporting won the PEN USA Literary Award for Journalism and was shortlisted for the Pulitzer Prize. She is co-author of I, Who Did Not Die, about a child soldier who risked his life to rescue a wounded enemy fighter during the Iran-Iraq War. She is a fifth-generation beekeeper and lives in San Francisco, where she keeps several hives in a community garden.
The Honey Bus: A Memoir of Loss, Courage and a Girl Saved by Bees (HarperCollins/Park Row Books, 2019) reveals the compelling life lessons May learned beginning in her grandfather’s Big Sur bee yard. Part family history, part beekeeping odyssey, The Honey Bus is a rich and lyrical story of a girl who discovered that everything she needed to know about life and family was right before her eyes in the secret world of bees.

Deborah TobolaDeborah Tobola is a poet, playwright and co-author of a children’s book. Her work has earned four Pushcart Prize nominations, three Academy of American Poets awards and a Children’s Choice Book Award. Tobola earned a Master of Fine Arts degree in Creative Writing from the University of Arizona, and began teaching creative writing and theatre in prison in 1992. She is founding artistic director of Poetic Justice Project, the country’s first theatre company created for formerly incarcerated people.
Hummingbird in Underworld Teaching in a Men’s Prison, A Memoir (She Writes Press, 2019) takes readers on an unforgettable literary journey that alternates between tales of creating drama in prison and Tobola’s own story.  As she creates this groundbreaking theatre program, Tobola engages prisoners isolated from the outside world in the arts and helps them discover their own unique, powerful voices.

 

fran quittelThe moderator, Fran Quittel is an accomplished non-fiction author whose grassroots efforts successfully restored $270 million to 10,000 bank depositors by adding an amendment to the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act. Her delightful children’s book, The Central Park Lost Mitten Party (Gingerspice Imprint, Regent Press, 2018) celebrates the rich history and beautiful architecture of America’s first urban public park.

 

 

https://wnba-sfchapter.org/12506-2/