Mechanics Institute presents -Publishing in the Time of Coronavirus

a conversation with Brenda Knight and Laurie McLean over Zoom

Thursday, April 9, 2020 – 12:00pm to 1:00pm

In partnership with the San Francisco Writers Conference and the Women’s National Book Association, San Francisco Chapter.

Join us and publishing veterans Brenda Knight and Laurie McLean for a timely discussion about how the publishing industry may be irrevocably changed by the global pandemic.  

This meeting will take place over Zoom. To receive an invitation to the meeting, please email Taryn Edwards


Laurie McLean spent 20 years as the CEO of a multi-million dollar marketing agency and 8 years as an agent/senior agent at Larsen Pomada Literary Agents before co-founding Fuse Literary in 2013 with her business partner Gordon Warnock. At Fuse Lit Laurie specializes in middle grade, young adult and adult genre fiction including romance, fantasy, science fiction, mystery, suspense, thrillers, and westerns. Laurie is also the Director of the San Francisco Writers Conference, in its 18th year, and co-founded two ePublishing companies: for romance, and Ambush Books for tween and teen books (acquired by Short Fuse Publishing in 2015). Find out more at and on Twitter @FuseLiterary and @AgentSavant.

Brenda Knight began her career at HarperCollins, working with luminaries Paolo Coelho, Dr. Dean Ornish 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 Associate Publisher at Mango Publishing. She also serves as President of the Women’s National Book Association, San Francisco Chapter and resides in the SF Bay Area.

10 Goals for Writers for 2020

By Debra Eckerling, author of Your Goal Guide: A Roadmap for Setting, Planning and Achieving Your Goals (January 2020)

[Editor’s note: In this time of world chaos, we wanted to present something positive for you to focus on, as you deal with the changing times.]

It’s an opportunity to jump into new writing projects … and perhaps revisit some old ones. Whether your long-term goal is to sell a manuscript, get an agent, or break into a new publication, start by setting some short-term writing goals. 

I’ve made it easy, and listed some goals to get you started. Keep the ones that resonate, tweak the ones that don’t quite hit the spot, and add new ones that will help you reach your long-term goals.

Here are 10 goals to set you up for writing success in 2020.

  1. Journal Regularly. I’m not going to say journal daily, because for most people that’s not realistic. However, you can make some time for journaling. Spend 5 or 10 minutes, a few days a week, brainstorming your projects, retelling funny people-watching stories, or sharing thoughts of what’s going on in your life. A journal is multipurpose, in that it’s a tracking document for what’s going on in your life, personally, professionally, and creatively. Use it as such.
  2. Research. This is going to be the year you get a leg up as a professional writer, right? Well, if what you’ve been doing is not quite working, try something new. Research new publications, agents, and professional development groups. And don’t stop there. Write a pitch, send a book proposal, go out networking, or all of the above. You never know where research and new connections may lead.
  3. Explore a New Genre or Format. Just like researching new places and people to pitch, why not switch up your writing too. Are you a horror writer? Try writing something personal. A technical writer? Give poetry a try. Here’s a secret, this is for fun. You don’t have to show your work to anyone, unless of course you love it and you want to. 
  4. Learn. There is no shortage of continuing education opportunities for writers, both in person and online. Find a conference or workshop to attend. Even better, offer to volunteer at one. By working at an event, you will make even more connections, in addition to learning new things.
  5. Do Something Creative. What – besides writing – gets your creative juices flowing? Painting? Playing or listening to music? Cooking? Gardening? Dancing? If you don’t have a go-to creative outlet beyond writing, it’s time to find one. Try new things throughout the year, and stick with the ones that resonate.
  6. Refresh your Website or Blog. You are a professional, and your website should showcase that. Give your website a mini-makeover. Re-read and re-do your bio page, upload a new headshot, and write a new blog post. And, while you’re at it, send out a newsletter. I’m sure your readers and followers would love to hear from you.
  7. Clean up your LinkedIn Profile. As a social network for professionals, LinkedIn is often the first place people search for you after you meet. Make sure your Summary and Experience sections are up-to-date, and that each includes one or two multimedia links or files. 
  8. Spend Time on Social Media. A social media presence is necessary in any business, and that includes writing. Even if you have not yet become known, you should have public social media pages for yourself or your business. It’s another one of those things that gives you a professional leg up and enables you to showcase your expertise by sharing your own content, as well as links your readers will find interesting.
  9. Have Fun. Add fuel to your writing background by going on adventures. These can be close to home – or even at home – or in faraway places. The point is to have fun, enjoy experiences, and learn new things that you can bring back to your writing and in turn share with your audience.
  10. Revisit a Passion Project. Give yourself permission to spend time on a passion project. You know the one – it’s that book, essay, or screenplay that you always wanted to write. Even if it’s an hour a week – or a few hours a month – the time adds up. Stop thinking about it and start doing it. This is your year.

As a writer, it’s important to constantly hone your craft, have new experiences, and put your best foot forward. These goals will give you a head start for a productive and writing-infused 2020.

Best of luck reaching your writing goals.

Debra Eckerling is the author of Your Goal Guide: A Roadmap for Setting, Planning, and Achieving Your Goals (Mango Publishing, January 2020), as well as the self-published Write On Blogging: 51 Tips to Create, Write & Promote Your Blog and Purple Pencil Adventures: Writing Prompts for Kids of All Ages.
A goal coach, project catalyst, and founder of the D*E*B METHOD®, Debra works with individuals and businesses to set goals and manage their projects through one-on one coaching, workshops, and online support. Note: DEB stands for Determine Your Mission, Explore Your Options, Brainstorm Your Path. She is the founder of Write On Online, a live and online community for writers, creatives, and entrepreneurs, as well as host of the #GoalChat Twitter Chat (Sundays at 7pm PT) and the Guided Goals Podcast.

Hone your book’s pitch at Pitch-O-Rama PLUS 2020!

You’ve polished your manuscript, now polish your pitch! Pitch-o-Rama, hosted annually by the San Francisco chapter of the Women’s National Book Association, is a great opportunity to not only practice your pitch with coaches and fellow writers, but also try that pitch on publishing professionals who can provide advice, direction, and next steps for your writing project.

Pitching your book to an agent or editor might seem like a daunting or terrifying experience. But it’s necessary if you want to publish traditionally. We’ve assembled top agents and editors from all genres for this event, who are excited to hear about what you’ve been working on. Pitch-o-Rama provides a welcoming, encouraging atmosphere to talk with them, and you’ve got six whole minutes per session. That’s twice as long as other pitch events.

Author Nisha Zenoff loves to tell her Pitch-o-Rama success story. “I walked in with a book project that had been turned down a dozen times. I was giving my book one last shot at Pitch-O-Rama. When I left, I was on cloud nine as I got excellent feedback on a new title and ideas to make my project more viable. I got an agent who sold my project to a big New York publishing house, and all because of the support I got from the Women’s National Book Association, SF Chapter at their event. Brava!” 

Pre-pitch coaching

If you’re feeling those pre-pitch jitters, coaching can help you get in the zone. We have two coaches this year to give you feedback and be the sounding board you need to get your pitch down. By practicing in front of others, you can build confidence so that you don’t get stuck when you’re trying to pitch to an agent. The atmosphere is supportive and encouraging, with personal, targeted feedback that helps authors succeed at sharing what their books are about. Michelle Travis, now published author of My Mom Has Two Jobs, says, “The pleasant atmosphere that provided an initial coaching session to get into the proper frame of mind, and then the possibility of speaking for six minutes with our agents of interest, was valuable.”

And Dr. Susan Allison says, “I really liked the pre-pitch session. Hearing other people’s pitches helps me hone my own. Plus, people were so very helpful, a very supportive/non-competitive group! Thank you for putting it on!”

Meet your Pre-pitch coaches

Betsy will again be sharing her expertise in a group setting, as part of your Pitch-o-Rama experience. Or if you’d like one-on-one coaching to get your pitch down, you can sign up on the day of Pitch-o-Rama for a time-slot with Elisabeth.

Betsy Graziani Fasbinder MS, MFT, is an award-winning author, a licensed psychotherapist, and a communications trainer. She has coached the reluctant and the phobic in public speaking in Fortune 500 companies throughout the United States and abroad, helping even the most introverted to be comfortable, engaging, and inspiring to their listeners. She coaches presenters to conquer stage fears and connect to listeners. Her favorite clients are writers and artists. For the past five years she’s offered pre-pitch coaching to help nervous writers practice their pitches. And she’s watched newbie writers and seasoned authors alike walk away from these pitches with pros requesting their work.

Elisabeth Kauffman is an editor, an author, and an artist. She edits fiction and memoir for independent clients as well as for publishing companies, and coaches writers to find their voices and connect to the magic in their creative lives. Additionally, she’s been coaching writers with National Novel Writing Month for the past six years, helping them overcome writing blocks and get their stories out. Using creative writing exercises along with tarot, visualization, and more tactile forms of art, she encourages her clients to take risks and tell stories that matter. She regularly volunteers for and speaks at the San Francisco Writers Conference, and with local writers’ groups. She is currently represented by Bradford Literary Agency and hopes to publish her first book (a tarot deck and guide for writers) in the near future.

Saturday, March 21, 2020Register for Pitch-O-Rama!
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.

$65 WNBA members,  $75 Non-members, Men Welcome!
Limited to the first 90 ticketed attendees.

Come join the fun – register here!




It’s Complicated: 3 Rules for Writing about Difficult Relationships

By Nita Sweeney, author of Depression Hates a Moving Target

“Love truth, but pardon error.” – Voltaire

If my mother hadn’t died, she would have been 89 on March 1st. And if she hadn’t died, I might not have written Depression Hates a Moving Target: How Running with My Dog Brought Me Back from the Brink because I’m not sure I would have taken up running. Sorry for the cliffhanger, but the book tells that story.

When I posted a photo of Mom on social media, as I do nearly every year on her birthday, friends and family commented with fond memories. They weren’t making it up. She could be kind, thoughtful, generous, creative, witty, and brilliant.

But she was the most confusing person in my life.

Mom only appears on a few pages of my running and mental health memoir, but she might be the most interesting person in the story. The year after she died, I wrote a first draft of a memoir about our relationship. I found the writing so painful that I set it aside to heal and gain perspective.

Her birthday and my reaction to the social media comments (curiosity and a bit of terror at the thought of what people who loved her might think after they read the book) led me to ponder how we can love someone so much yet also find the relationship so hard. As a writer, I reflected on how to write about difficult relationships.

Did her death grant me artistic license to tell the truth?

I’ve written before about Mary Karr’s admonition to memoirists. Karr, author of the memoir The Liar’s Club, one of the first memoirs about dysfunctional families to hit the best-seller list, has been referred to as “grande dame memoirista.” When she spoke at a nonfiction conference I attended years ago, Karr didn’t mince words. “Don’t make shit up.”

When I wrote this memoir (and the other memoir drafts sitting in files on my computer and in boxes in our basement) I heeded Karr’s words. “Don’t make shit up” was my canon, my lodestar, my guiding light. I wrote with abandon while compulsively checking journals, running logs, and datebooks to ensure accuracy.

Then came the revisions where I had to decide what I really wanted to say. How could I portray my experience without making any of the people in the book, and especially my mother, look like either monsters or saints?

Here are three rules I used in both parts of the process:

  1. BE BRUTAL. I wrote it all down. I used full names, actual places, true occupations. I wrote what everyone said and how it made me feel. I laughed, screamed, and cried. I put myself back in the scene and relived it on the page.
  2. BE KIND. I summoned empathy. I asked myself what the other person might say if they could tell their side of the story. I asked myself if I could be wrong about what happened or why it happened and I wrote that too. While I told the story from my perspective, it’s more interesting (and honest) to see all aspects. Perhaps it’s my legal training or my “mediator” personality, but after the dust of the first draft had settled, I found great relief in asking these questions. It added depth to a story that might otherwise lie flat.
  3. CHOP IT IN HALF. Then I cut, cut, cut. My first drafts are gargantuan creatures, unwieldy and wild. Trimming and tightening helped me see where I may have been mistaken and (I hope) allows the truth to shine through.

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

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

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 (, Twitter (@AnnemarieOBrien) and LinkedIn (

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

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

Wednesday, March 18, 2020  – 6:00pm
New Format:
Book Passage Social Media Panel is on Zoom!

Zoom Sign up Here.

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Options to Make Your Book Marketing More Effective

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

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

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

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

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

And then…


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

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

Well, you make your book marketing more effective.

Here are a few options you may not have considered.


  • Take the time to determine your ideal reader


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

Here are some place to look:

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

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

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

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

By Nita Sweeney, author of Depression Hates a Moving Target

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

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

Why Leave a Review?

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

  1. To Remember the Book

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

  1. To Forget the Book

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

  1. To Keep Yourself Honest

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

  1. To Share Your Joy (or Pain)

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

  1. To Applaud the Author

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

What Makes a “Good” Review?

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

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

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

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

The WNBA-SF Has Your Back!

Join or Renew Membership today for Awesome Benefits!

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

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

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

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

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