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. 

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