The Reality of Writing

April 18, 2016

I just attended the monthly meeting of the California Writer’s Club, Mount Diablo Branch. Tamim Ansary spoke about why we write. I’ve been writing ever since I learned how. Short autobiographies from 3rd grade, papers for school (I returned to college in my 20’s and again in my 40’s just so I could write), letters, reports, stories, articles. I even wrote a book.

Thinking while writing is a lubricant for the mind. And the best part is the “limitless-ness” of writing. It provides a perfect route for self-expression, whether that’s opinion, imagination, historical, etc. It’s free and it can be done any time of the day or night. All it takes is a little time. Tamim writes six hours per day. That’s a high bar for me. I’m happy if I write for an hour or two.

Now that I’ve finished a book, I find I haven’t finished it at all. The initial creation is done, but now I’m in the editing phase. Then there’s the rewrite and re-edit. That’s the reality of writing…for those who want to write for money. I write for the love of it. Even when I write in my journal, it makes me feel like I accomplished something. I also enjoy the company of other writers, and have become close comrades with my Writers on the Journey.

I write because it enriches my life in a quiet way. For me, that’s the reality of writing.


AN INTERVIEW WITH AUTHOR HEATHER MACKEY

April 14, 2016

Bloggers Note: Heather Mackey will be speaking on the topic of Where Ideas Come From at the May 14th 2016 meeting of the Mt. Diablo branch of the California Writers Club. The meeting will be at Zio Fraedo’s Restaurant at 611 Gregory Lane, Pleasant Hill. Cost is $25 members and $30 for guests. Paypal and credit card requires additional fees. Sign-in is at 11:15 am–12 pm, luncheon at 12–12:45, and program at 1:00 –2:00 pm. Reservations required. RSVP to Robin at cwcrobin.gigoux@yahoo.com.

  1. In one paragraph, can you give us some highlights from Dreamwood?

Dreamwood is the story of Lucy, a young girl who ventures into a haunted forest to save her father—an expert in the supernatural who’s gone missing. Along the way Lucy has to solve puzzles, question her own beliefs, and learn to work together with people she might otherwise discount. I filled it with things I love: ghosts, spooky landscapes, American history and folk tales, odd and forgotten scientific theories, and stubborn, brave children who make terrible mistakes but still somehow manage to set things right. I set it in the Pacific Northwest, because I was inspired by the old-growth redwood forests of Northern California. But it’s a Pacific Northwest of a strange, alternate past.

  1. Tell us about your muse, Bell.

When I get stuck (which is often), I do all kinds of rather goofy visualization exercises to get unstuck. A while back, I was having trouble figuring out a plot element. I knew the answer was in my subconscious, but no matter how hard I thought about it, I couldn’t get it. I wished I had a mental agent who could go into that subconscious muck and pull out what I needed. So I imagined my own personal muse. The name Bell came to me, along with her appearance (kind of a steampunk superhero). I made her as real as I possibly could, and I have complete confidence that when I ask her to solve something for me, she’ll go do it. Right now, I’m working on my new book. Whenever I doubt myself, I picture Bell in some fantastical setting, and I imagine her sitting down and reading this book I’m writing. I see her pick it up, look at the cover, and turn the pages where the story is already written. So I know I can write this. And if there’s something about the story I don’t know, I ask her to find it for me. Maybe it sounds a bit woo-woo, but I have to say, having her around removes a lot of the stress and anxiety that can get in the way of writing.

     3. List five of your all time favorite books.  

It’s really hard for me to pick a list of just five books. But here are five that I’ve loved fiercely and find myself returning to again and again. 

  • The Secret Garden, by Frances Hodgson Burnett
  • Remembrance of Things Past, by Marcel Proust
  • The Long Goodbye, by Raymond Chandler
  • The Golden Compass (Northern Lights) by Philip Pullman
  • Regeneration, by Pat Barker

     4. Describe your path to publication.

How far back should I start? I’ve always wanted to be a writer, and I worked for a while as a journalist, I went to graduate school to get an M.F.A. in creative writing, and at various points I’ve tried my hand at short stories, essay writing, screenwriting, and so on. I started writing Dreamwood without consciously thinking of publication. Then a friend told me about SCBWI—the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. I went to one of their conferences and submitted the first ten pages of my manuscript for a critique. The editor who read it was interested in seeing the whole thing and then made an offer. After this seemingly overnight success I worked for nearly seven years to revise the manuscript. It was in rough shape when I sold it, and I didn’t really know how to write for children. So I rewrote it laboriously while holding down a job and being a mom. Halfway through the process my editor got laid off . Luckily, my publishing house gave me a fabulous new editor. But she zeroed in on weaknesses in the manuscript that I’d been avoiding, and she forced me to work on the story in a way I hadn’t before. Three more years passed until it finally came out in 2014. It’s been quite a long journey, but I learned a tremendous amount along the way.

     5. What is your best advice for an aspiring novelist? If different, what would your advice be   for a teen or pre-teen writer?

There are so many things I wish I’d know when I first started writing. But I think the piece of advice that would have made the biggest difference is about rejection. At some point, when you try to write for publication, you’re going to get rejected. I took rejection really hard, and let it get to me. What I realize now after years and years of writing is that everyone suffers through some form of rejection. You can experience rejection from external gatekeepers (agents, editors, and publishers) or you can reject yourself when you write a draft and get upset when it doesn’t come out the way you thought of it in your head. Either way, you can’t give up. Just keep writing, keep submitting your work, and keep getting feedback. The people I know who are published writers are the people who have kept going. Really, we should call it “training” instead of rejection.

       6.  Why did you select fantasy as your genre?

I loved fantasy as a kid, and I gobbled up books like The Lord of the Rings and The Chronicles of Narnia. As a parent, I see how my children have loved fantasy series like Harry Potter and Percy Jackson. Fantasy is often called escapist, but I think it’s very useful in illuminating aspects of the real world that can be difficult to tackle head-on in fiction. The child psychologist Bruno Bettelheim famously argued in his book The Uses of Enchantment that fairy tales provide an invaluable way for children to come to terms with difficult emotions and navigate their inner lives. Of course, it’s also fun to think of cool things and invent stuff—that part of writing fantasy is pure pleasure!

  1. What is a free-range reader?

I call myself a free-range reader because I roam far afield in my reading habits. I’ll read adult literary fiction, mysteries, fantasy, nonfiction, history, natural history, biography, and, of course, middle grade and young adult because those are the genres I’m writing in. I consciously try to read books that get me out of my usual reading habits and I try to support diversity in publishing by buying and reading books from authors with diverse backgrounds. In late 2013, a study came out showing that reading literature increased empathy—I can think of no better reason to read widely.

I hope you’ve enjoyed learning about Heather Mackey. To learn more visit her website: heathermackey.com, her books can be found on IndieBoundAmazon, or Barnes & Noble. She is also on Twitter at @heathermackey.


David George: On Grandparenting

March 24, 2016

 

  1. Can you give us some highlights from the stories that you’ve written about grandparenting?

I’ve written 14 stories or chapters now of my Modern Day Fables about the Natural World, with a working title of “Granddad’s Place”. The first chapter, entitled “The Acorn” was published recently by GRAND online magazine in their March/April edition which was released on March 9th: http://www.grandmagazine.com/. This is special for me because GRAND magazine reaches out to over 200,000 subscribers, most of whom are grandparents like me.

My hope is that a large proportion of subscribers read my stories to their grandchildren if they are of what I call the “peri-reading” age, or between the ages of 3 and 6. And in turn, I hope their grandchildren read the stories back to their grandparents when they are able. Each story is set in a framework of an interaction or adventure between a granddad and his new grandson exploring the natural world. The fable hides somewhere in the middle of the story and is intended to teach the grandson a lesson about how the natural world works.

So, you see that the stories are not really about “grandparenting”, but rather about the special relationship one granddad has with his grandson, and also about the laws of nature and man’s role in protecting the natural world.

  1. What is the one experience in the natural world that you think every child should experience?

Well, my favorite is for kids – in a fascinating and controlled environment – to experience the miracle of birth and the renewal of generations of life. As a kid, I was impressed by our family dog giving birth to four fabulous, healthy puppies, and unfortunately one that was not strong enough to make it. I learned a lot from that experience as a 10-year old about the cycle of life.

These miracle-of-birth (and death) experiences are often removed from the sanitized childhood of modern children. The birth and rapid growth of a litter of kittens or the hatching of a chick from an egg. Birth and death and regeneration go on all about us and kids these days just don’t get a chance to experience firsthand this miracle of life.

     3. What is the one thing that you hope your grandson will remember about you.

My grandson recently visited. One morning, he threw his arms around my neck and said, “I love you, Granddad. You’re the best granddad in the world.” I still don’t know what I did to deserve that. But the pure unconditional love of an 8-year old is precious and it makes my life feel complete.

Twice each year, near my grandson’s birthday and near Christmas, I present and read to him a new story. These stories use his (and his family’s) real names. Afterward, I revise them into a new chapter for my anthology of modern day fables. The stories are essentially chronicling my grandson’s childhood, not all of it of course, but some of the parts of which I am involved. The times I hope he remembers when he grows up are these tender and special moments when he and his family, his “Oma”, and me gather together to listen to me read him a new story. And the hugs that follow. He won’t be a little boy much longer and so you need to cherish those moments.

   4. Describe a perfect playdate.

Well, the perfect play date must occur at Granddad’s Place, our home in the San Francisco Bay Area’s East Bay hills. We are surrounded by nature here, and there is plenty to explore.

A vivid recollection is when we went on a hunt for beneficial snakes – I have never found a dangerous one around here. I thought I had found a gopher snake rustling around in some brush, as they are very common here. It turned out to be just a fence lizard. But my grandson got very excited anyway, and ran around saying, “Snofer nakes, Snofer nakes!” He was just 4-years old at the time and his mispronunciation was charming. I laughed, and the experience ended up as one of my stories. I’d say that day had all the elements for a good adventure: mystery, excitement, discovery, a bit of drama, and pure kid fun.

   5.  What is the best piece of advice you have for maintaining a long distance relationship  with a grandchild?

Take advantage of the long distance communication technologies available today to bring your grandkids into your own living room no matter where they live. Its free and it works! A Skype or Apple Facetime session is a great way to stay in visual as well as audio touch across the miles. My daughter recently let us know that she has accepted a position that requires my grandson’s family to move to Atlanta from their current home in Austin, Texas. But Atlanta is just as close via Skype as Austin is to us. So, the miles really don’t matter as much anymore as they once did. Then, make the most of the few days a year that you are physically together with your grandkids. Everyone benefits.

  6. Describe your grandparenting experience in one word?

I CAN’T describe the grandparentling experience in one word! Who can? There are so many facets that we both enjoy. The unconditional love, the little adventures exploring nature, watching an infant grow into a toddler, an inquisitive 5-year old, a chatty and charming 8-year old, an intense teenager, and finally a well-rounded adult. I was fortunate to experience those stages with my kids, and at every turn I see similarities in my grandkid. It truly is a circle-of-life experience to be a grandparent.

     7.  If you could be any superhero in your grandson’s eyes, what would it be?

My grandson is really into skeletons and zombies right now, but those are NOT what I would want to be seen as! My kids were into Dexter’s Laboratory and Inspector Gadget, and my grandson sees himself as an entrepreneur and engineer when he grows up. So, I guess I would have to choose Tony Stark and his Iron Man invention, although he is a bit dark and conflicted for my taste!

    8. What do you think your generation can do better to make the earth a better place for their grandchildren?

Oh, that’s easy! Step up to be an advocate for nature and nature’s creatures. It’s their home, too. But they don’t have a voice of their own, can’t represent themselves in a court of law, or argue their case in front of a board of directors. We and the organizations that we support can.

The 21st century will be a turning point – one way or the other – toward a sustainable coexistence between our grandchildren and nature, or toward a world devastated by the impact of centuries of man’s heavy-handed plundering of nature’s wealth. The goals of sustainability are achievable, but they require much work and dedication from all of us to ensure that the world our grandchildren’s grandchildren inherit is a world that is sustainable and still full of natural wonder.

           

I hope you’ve about David George. To learn more visit his Facebook Page at: facebook.com/david.george.3958914.  David is the current statewide President of the California Writers Club.


An Interview with Mir Tamim Ansary

March 20, 2016

 

 Bloggers Note: Tamim Ansary will be speaking on the topic of  Why Do We Write? at the April 9th 2016 meeting of the Mt. Diablo branch of the California Writers Club.  The meeting will be at Zio Fraedo’s Restaurant at 611 Gregory Lane, Pleasant Hill.  Cost is $25 members and $30 for guests. Paypal and credit card requires additional fees.  Sign-in is at 11:15 am–12 pm, luncheon at 12–12:45, and program at 1:00 –2:00 pm. Reservations required.  RSVP to Robin at cwcrobin.gigoux@yahoo.com.

  1. In one paragraph, can you give us some highlights from Games Without Rules

Games Without Rules is a narrative history of Afghanistan, the story of a hodgepodge of people trying to coalesce as a country, despite interruptions by global powers who have invaded the country five times in the last two centuries. In the standard narrative, Afghanistan is a static land filled with intractable bearded fanatics who are hard to conquer. Games Without Rules delivers a more nuanced view, the one from the inside looking out. In this version, a country that began to form at just about the same time as the United States, has an epic, tragic, and yes sometimes humorous story of its own, peopled by characters that Dickens would have been proud to invent—a story that has, however, been interrupted every 40 to 50 years by a Great Power invasion, which has—curiously enough—failed in exactly the same way every time.

2. Describe your most memorable moment as an author.

I’ve been writing all my life but in the wake of the events of 9/11, I was suddenly redefined as “an author.” Why? Because I was an articulate English-speaker from Afghanistan and because, on 9/12 I wrote an email setting forth my view of what had just happened. I sent it to about 20 of my friends, who sent it to their friends who sent it to their friends, and it went viral. It was the first viral phenomenon on the Internet. Within two days it had spread around the world and been read by tens of millions of people. I was getting phone calls from strangers in Argentina and South Africa and from people I hadn’t seen in 40 years. Within three days, I was on TV in conversation with Bill Moyer while my agent was trying to reach me by phone to tell me I should forget about the novel she was peddling for me and propose a nonfiction book instead—“anything,” she pleaded. “Just write one page. Anything!” It was the oddest thing that every happened to me—but maybe not the most “memorable”, now that I think about it, because those few months were so crowded and crazy I hardly remember a thing about them.

  1. What authors have most influenced your writing?

I really have no idea what authors have most influenced my writing (in which I dare say I’m pretty much like every author) because when I write I’m not conscious of trying to write like someone else, or even “like myself.” I’m only conscious of straining to net with words that elusive thing out there, that vague shape I see, that meaning that, goddamn it, I can’t seem to quite articulate, that story I can almost taste, almost feel, almost see but which–when I try to turn it solid with words—disperses like a school of minnows. Who’s influenced me? Damned if I know. I can tell you who I’ve liked: Yann Martell for his musings; Romain Rolland and Dostoevsky early on; Celine for Death on the Installment Plan, Michael Connolly ‘cuz he’s so solid, Michael Faber because who else could get away with writing a thousand-page novel entirely in the second person, and because I couldn’t shake The Book of Strange New Things out of my head—and there are others. Vikram Seth, especially Golden Gate. Peter Pan. I give up. There are too many.

  1. Describe your path to publication.

Long. Random. Arbitrary. Along the way it was hard to tell if I was published at each particular point. At the Scribe, a weekly newspaper in Portland, where everyone was a volunteer, no one was paid, and where I could write anything I pleased, no editor between me and my readers—was that publishing? Well, I had readers: five or six thousand people a week read what I wrote. Later, when I was a freelance writer in San Francisco, selling things like a profile of the 14-year-old girl who won the Grand Ole Opry, and the story of a drug bust for Stone Age Quarterly—did those things count? Was I published? The publication I cherished most was my first piece of fiction, “Crimes of Passion.” It was published in Prim International, a Canadian lit-mag. Did anyone read it, though? I don’t know. Later when I was a columnist for Encarta, they told me I was getting 80,000 hits each time I posted a new column. But it was a column. On the Internet. Did that count? Well, whatever. One way or another, I’ve got some fifty books out there, most of them nonfiction for children, all of which, as far as I know, are still in print.

  1. Did you find it difficult to write from a women’s point of view in your book, The Widow’s Husband?

Yes and no. I grew up among women. That’s how it was in Afghanistan. Everyone grows up among women and then the boys go out and become men. I didn’t go out and become an Afghan man, because at a crucial period in my life, my family moved to Laskhkargah, a town heavily populated with Americans, and then I moved to America. But I when I created Khadija, the widow of The Widow’s Husband, I didn’t take Western media reports as my point of departure, I started from my memories of the women in my family, the women in our village, the women I knew and knew about over there when I was growing up. I have to say, I don’t think anyone else writing fiction about Afghanistan has followed in my footsteps.

  1. Which of your books has been the most difficult book to write?

My three best-known books—West of Kabul; East of New York, Destiny Disrupted, and Games Without Rules were not hard to write at all. They just fell out. They were waiting to be written, I showed up and they seized control of my fingers and used me to get themselves into the public. The Widow’s Husband slipped right out too, but then I started editing it, and that took years. Two other books, a memoir called Road Trips and the novel Dreaming in Dari, have also taken years, and the real sign of that is: I’m not done with either of them yet.

  1. What do you think your life would look like if you hadn’t come to America in 1964?

I would have been drafted into the Afghan army just when the Communists seized power and the war started. I would have been in their army, following their orders to fight the Mujahedeen, and I doubt I would have survived. If I had not come to the United States in ’64, the chances are pretty good I’d be dead.

  1. Who is your idol?

To that extent I am a good Muslim. I have no idols.

 

I hope you’ve enjoyed learning about Mir Tamim Ansary. To learn more, visit his website: www.mirtamimansary.com . Also, take a look at his blog, www.memoirpool.com , a site devoted to the art of telling the real life story.


Meet Poet Roy Mash

January 16, 2016

Bloggers Note:  Come hear Roy speak on Word Selection for Writers.Sign-in starts at 11:15am. Luncheon 12 – 12:45 pm. Speaker 1- 2 pm at Zio Fraedo’s Restaurant: 611 Gregory Lane, Pleasant Hill. $25 members, $30 guests Reservation required – deadline: noon, Wednesday, Feb. 10th. To reserve, contact Robin at ragig@aol.com, leave a message at 925-933-9670, or sign up via PayPal: click “buy now” on the Mt. Diablo website, http://cwcmtdiablowriters.wordpress.com/next-program/. Add $2 transaction fee.

1). In one paragraph, can you give us an overview of Buyer’s Remorse?

Buyer’s Remorse is a celebration of the small, the overlooked, the underrated. Doggedly anti-lofty, reveling in the This-Worldly, the poems deal with the themes of the body, of mathematics and rationality, adolescence and middle-age, love and fear and death. The tone ranges from the irreverent to the wistful—the spritz of seltzer in the face of the Creature from the Black Lagoon to the lover standing in one sock. Drawing on sources from The Three Stooges to Archimedes, Lavoisier to Tweety Bird, the book represents a nail in the tire of post-modernity, a pea shooter smuggled into the High Church of Poetry. Be ready to duck.

Here’s an assortment of lines and the poems they come from:

  • I wanted to be 1932 (“The Untouchables”)
  • Sometimes I envy my bed (“Desire for Retirement”)
  • Come, spritz of seltzer in the face         (“Love of Slapstick”)
  • I pity women / with their purses / like canyons (“Wallet”)
  • Its raison d’etre is being a slob (“The Blob”)
  • Dear Marcel, (“Letter to My Penis”)
  • babushka   babussshka   ba-busssssh-ka (“The Plagiarizer of Words”)

2). Describe your most memorable moment as a poet.

I’m always suspicious of superlatives, but certainly one of my more pleasurable memories is of the

the book launch for Buyer’s Remorse at Book Passage in Corte Madera. I had sent out “Save-the-Dates” six months prior to the launch, and later covered the waterfront with e-vites. The turnout was spectacular, 90 or 100 people, some of whom I hadn’t seen in years. Some close friends joined in, reading poems of mine they’d chosen. It was one of those evenings when everything clicks, topped by a standing O and clamor for an encore. Definitely a peak (if narcissistic) moment.

 3). What authors have most influenced your writing?

Pablo Neruda, especially his Odas Fundamentales (Odes to Simple Things), made a big impression early on. It gave me permission to explore subjects that are decidedly un-profound, that undermine the quasi-religious tone that pervades so much poetry, and that causes readers and audiences to tighten their shoulders and hold their breaths, as though in the presence of the holy. In my work this comes out in poems such as “Pinkie,” “Glasses,” and “Wallet”—not to mention “Letter to My Penis.”

Other writers who have affected, or rather infected, my work include Ted Kooser, Stephen Dunn, Billy Collins, Linda Pastan, Lisel Mueller, Steve Kowit, and Cole Porter. The list is far from exhaustive. What they have in common (for me) is a certain unpretentiousness combined with language play.

4).  What tools do you use when you are wordsmithing?

I start every journal reserving a few pages for words. It is a kind of jam jar where I keep words I pick up like pebbles on a seashore. When I’m reading, or even listening to people talk, I’ll sometimes fixate on a word, and save it for my collection. Often the words are idiosyncratic, but they can also be ordinary. Here are some examples culled from my current journal: wrestle, Cyrillic, guidepost, guff, amputated, compliant, stipend, hock, connive, negligee, scaffold, muggy, pumpernickel. I go to my word pages when I’m stuck on a poem, or sometimes as a way of starting a new poem. Just mixing the words often sparks ideas by mere juxtaposition

Another tool is what I call “word-riffing”. Starting with an arbitrary multisyllabic word, I spurt out as quickly as I can, words that have similar sounds, not worrying about order or length, or anything really. Here’s an example from my current journal that riffs on “astonishment”:

stone stem shant shin meant mesh mash gush shun shimmy massage punishment garnish tarnish Amish luscious eyelash nightmarish mansion extradition friction trash mustached goulash scripture

Then I go back over the list and see if anything tickles my interest. For instance, in the above list, just now I’m enjoying the phrase “luscious eyelash,” the feel of the sh sounds like liquid in the mouth, the slightly oxymoronic quality of an eyelash and its associated quality of delicateness as contrasted with the Rubenesque connotations of “luscious”.

5). Who is your idol?    

Jimmy Carter. Not for his poetry, but his life.

6).  What is the most off-the-wall metaphor you have ever composed?

Again, I shy away from superlatives, but here’s a candidate from my love poem to gangsterism, “The Untouchables”:

        I wanted to be the filed-off serial number,
        the East River,
        Winchell’s voiceover—staccato,
        like a typewriter got caught in his throat.

Strictly speaking, the typewriter line is a simile rather than a metaphor, but the image continues to tickle me. I’m not generally a fan of “frivolous surrealism” of the a-winter-wonderland-of-green-hellos type, but I love surrealism that is tethered to the world in such a way that it manages to be both wacky and accurate.

         

I hope you’ve enjoyed learning about Roy Mash. To learn more visit his website: www.roymash.com, or contact him directly at roy@roymash.com. You can order Buyer’s Remorse directly from his website, or order it from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or Powells.


An Interview with Ann Steiner

December 9, 2015

Blogger’s Note:  Please join Dr.  Ann Steiner at the December 12, 2015 Mt. Diablo California Writer’s Club Holiday meeting.  Ann will be speaking on the Platform aspect of the Three Ps of Publishing.  We have a seated meal for this event and you can choose from: pasta primavera, salmon, chicken parmesan, or NY steak.  Costs are $20 members and $25 nonmembers. Reservations required, contact Robin Gigoux at ragig@aol.com , leave a message at 925-933-9670, or sign up via PayPal: Click “buy now” on the Mt. Diablo website, http://cwcmtdiablowriters.wordpress.com/next-program/ . Add the $2 transaction fee.  In all cases, please let Robin know your meal choice so the restaurant can plan. Sign-in starts at 11:15 am. Luncheon 12 – 12:45 pm. Speakers 1- 2 pm at Zio Fraedo’s Restaurant: 611 Gregory Lane, Pleasant Hill. $25 members, $30 guests Reservation deadline: noon, Thursday, December 10th.  If you need to cancel, you must do so before noon on Friday, Dec 11 to avoid forfeiting the cost of the meeting.

  1. Do you think a social media presence is necessary for authors?              

Sadly, these days, yes. That is, IF you want people outside of your immediate circle of friends and family to hear about, buy, read and talk about your book. Visibility and Name Recognition plus a good, value-packed website are truly the name of the game! Having a platform is another major tool for getting your book known. Social media can open doors across the world, and give you access to communities you would never have known about in years gone by.

2. Can you give us some highlights from your new book: The Group Leader’s Workbook and Planning Guide?

As those of you who know me can attest, I am a big fan of Group Agreements – written agreements about expectations and ground rules for groups. Part of the joy of writing my current book has been finding and getting permission to include over 10 sample group agreements from writer’s group leaders, the restorative justice community, Toasmasters, and ChronicBabe.com a hip, humorous, online forum for young women living with chronic illness. One of the unique features of my manual is making these and online agreements available as templates that can be modified to fit each leaders’ needs.

So many work groups, service or volunteer organization leaders don’t think of themselves as group leaders. Each of these groups, and all the clubs and writer’s organizations we belong to, are actually groups. Our elected officers are in fact leaders. Rather than being mentored by their predecessors, or given leadership training, most leaders learn from the “seat of my pants” school. My hope is that the tools and resources I’ve created will help leaders in a wide range of settings serve as stewards for their group’s mission.

  1. Describe your most memorable moment as an author.

My most memorable moment was a few weeks ago when I was the discussant for a paper published by a renowned group psychotherapist and analyst at The Psychotherapy Institute.  This was the first time I was to give this kind of formal presentation to this sophisticated audience. Part way through reading my hastily written paper I looked at the audience and had a moment of panic. Maybe I should have stayed up later and rewritten it yet again. A few minutes later I registered a few friendly smiles and nods. It wasn’t until I ended my presentation, after the applause died down and the author spoke, that I realized I had done okay. It was amazing to hear the author’s “This was the best discussion of any of my papers I have ever heard! Thank you! Thank you!”

  1. What is your worst nightmare when public speaking?

Oh boy! Let me count the ways! All the professional speakers I know have tales of keynotes gone horribly awry. We can all conjure up worst-case scenarios. Nightmares that I’ve been able to do salvage jobs for include: losing my voice the night before an engagement, and the countless technology and organizational glitches that happen when humans and machines try to collaborate. My worst nightmare would be losing my voice in a large venue that doesn’t have a microphone.

The list of Nightmares That Haven’t Happened to Me includes: Missing the last connecting flight for the day of an early morning keynote address in New York. Realizing that everyone in the audience is playing Words with Friends on their phones and under the heading of Irrational, Yet Not Rare Fears: giving a presentation on The Rollercoaster of Chronic Illness: How to Add Joy to the Ride and finding out that the talk was billed as How to Maximize your Return on Investment or How to Train Your Ferret in 5 Easy Steps.

5.  What is your greatest writing strength?

I was once described as being like a dog with a bone when I commit to a project and run into obstacles. So I guess my dogged perseverance, no pun intended, is my greatest strength. While I have my share of times when I allow distractions to lure me away from the keyboard, and I too tend to linger too long in the rabbit holes I fall into, I’ve gotten better at scheduling time to keep my butt in my computer chair and doing the hard work. Being part of our weekly Shut Up and Write! group also helps keeps me on track.. One of my first writing instructors at the California Writers Conference years ago, Bonnie Hearn, had a tip that I still use to comfort and prod myself. She suggested that we have a note taped to the computer monitor, saying Rewrite! Rewrite! Rewrite! Good words to write by!

  1. What are your top tips for establishing an author platform?

Hmm.. How can I put this in the form of Coming Attractions for our workshop this Saturday? OK I’ll try not to give away the store…Here is a subset…

  •  Decide whether you want your book to be read, talked about, recommended, and fly off the bookshelves.
  • If you want a platform, it won’t happen with you staying at home in your flannel PJs. You have to put yourself out there. Most of us worry about been seen as arrogant and stuck up if we shine, stand out or draw attention to our work. Especially for my women friends and the women that I see in therapy, the issue of standing out. Letting your light shine is a big challenge. It’s as though we were all told not to draw attention to ourselves, ever! Were you told: “That’s not lady-like! Don’t make a spectacle of yourself!” – or “Nice girls don’t let themselves be the center of attention.?” You probably don’t have to create a spectacle, but getting comfortable with being visible is essential for promoting your book in public. Find your own balance of pushing yourself outside of your comfort zone and not scaring yourself too much.
  • Having a good professional photo on the directory of every organization you belong to is one of the many tips I will be sharing this Saturday. Jill Lublin refers to this as the “Don’t I know you from somewhere” phenomenon.

I hope you’ve enjoyed learning about Ann Steiner. To learn more feel free to email her at DrSteiner@DrSteiner.com, call (925) 962-0060 or visit her website: www.DrSteiner.com Her book, Groups that Thrive: Workbook and Planning Guide will be available on Amazon in January 2016.

 


An Interview with Lynn Goodwin: Author of Talent

November 17, 2015

 

Blogger’s Note:  Please join Lynn Goodwin at the December 12, 2015 Mt. Diablo California Writer’s Club Holiday meeting.  Lynn will be speaking on the Prompts aspect of the Three Ps of Publishing.  We have a seated meal for this event and you can choose from: pasta primavera, salmon, chicken parmesan, or NY steak.  Costs are $20 members and $25 nonmembers. Reservations required, contact Robin Gigoux at ragig@aol.com , leave a message at 925-933-9670, or sign up via PayPal: Click “buy now” on the Mt. Diablo website, http://cwcmtdiablowriters.wordpress.com/next-program/ . Add the $2 transaction fee.  In all cases, please let Robin know your meal choice so the restaurant can plan. Sign-in starts at 11:15 am. Luncheon 12 – 12:45 pm. Speakers 1- 2 pm at Zio Fraedo’s Restaurant: 611 Gregory Lane, Pleasant Hill. $25 members, $30 guests Reservation deadline: noon, Wednesday, December 9th.  If you need to cancel, you must do so before noon on Friday, Dec 11 to avoid forfeiting the cost of the meeting.

  1. Can you give us some highlights from your new book, Talent?

Fifteen-and-half-year-old Sandee Mason wants to find her talent, get her driver’s license, and stop living in the shadow of her big brother, Bri, who disappeared while serving in Afghanistan. You can read the first chapter at http://blynngoodwin.com/an-excerpt-from-talent/.

It’s a good book for teens, parents, military families, and those who love shows and drama. There’s no crowd like the drama crowd. I know because I used to teach drama in high school and college.

  1. Describe your most memorable moment as an author.

Just one? Every time I make a scene work or create a moment that rings true or read a compliment from a reader or a client, I store it away and all of those moments have formed a collage in my head.

  1. What authors have most influenced your writing?

I’m often influenced by whomever I’m reading. Today that would be Travis Hugh Culley, author of A Comedy and A Tragedy, who is telling a story I wish I had heard beforeI taught high school. Earlier it was Mary Karr, or Elizabeth Gilbert or David Arnold, whose wonderful debut, Mosquitoland, reinforced my love of the YA genre and of teens discovering themselves.

  1. Describe your path to publication. The music for “A long and winding road” just came up in my head. Followed by “To dream the impossible dream…” Followed by a line Cicely Tyson said at the beginning of The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman. “Where to start? Where to start? So here are 9 Steps Toward Publication:
  2. Long ago I directed a high school production of Oklahoma!
  3. A few years later I created Sandee, Diego, and maybe Jenn as characters in a series of 9 articles describing warm up and improvisation activities for a high school drama class. It was called “Dear Diary” and published in Dramatics Magazine.
  4. I decided to use those characters in a novel about a high school production of Oklahoma! I used the format of a rehearsal schedule to help me build plot and tension and thought it was good until the rejections came in.
  5. I put it aside while I worked on Writer Advice, www.writeradvice.com, interviewed authors, reviewed books, and later used my draft for submissions to an online critique group.
  6. Later still I took a Media Bistro class called “Writing the Young Adult Novel” where I learned the plot of TALENT was thin. I remember typing that the narrator, Sandee, needed to prove that she was as good as her big brother, and as I wrote the words they rang true. The instructor loved the idea.
  7. I put it aside again while I wrote You Want Me to Do WHAT? Journaling for Caregivers, which had some agent interest.
  8. Went back to TALENT after I blogged for Caregiver Village and Inspire Me Today and continued with Writer Advice. I decided that Sandee’s older brother, Bri, disappeared while serving in Afghanistan. The stakes around sibling rivalry and loss escalated.
  9. Eventually I decided I wanted this published before I died and resolved to put it out to anyone who read YA. I told myself I would take the first offer from either an agent or publisher, so when Eternal Press, now an imprint of Caliburn Press, which is part of Spero Press, sent me a two-sentence acceptance, I took it. A year and a half later, I have a whole new appreciation for the challenges small publishers face today.
  10. What are the biggest mistakes you see as an editor?

It’s hard to find my own mistakes because I’m reading what I think I wrote instead of seeing what’s actually on the page. In other people’s writing, I frequently find description for its own sake and erratic pacing. Sometimes characters want nothing. Sometimes I feel indifferent towards them. Sometimes the writing is passionless. Sometimes grammar and spelling are either “creative” or optional.

  1. Do you think a social media presence is necessary for authors?

Only if you want to increase your sales by letting people know about your book. <g>

  1. What is favorite writing prompt?

“Today I want…” or “I am proud to say…” or “If only…” or “As we join our story today…” I’ve probably written over a thousand prompt over the last 12 years for a free-writing group I am in. I should do something with them besides keeping them in a file on my computer.

  1. What is your greatest writing weakness?

I get incredibly tired sometimes, but I’d call that a condition rather than a weakness. Maybe I’m spread too thin, but it’s exciting to have lots to do. I don’t like to focus on my weaknesses. I’d rather not give them any more space, focus, or spotlight-time than they already have.           

I hope you’ve enjoyed learning about B. Lynn Goodwin. To learn more visit her websites: www.writeradvice.com and blynngoodwin.com, where you can find the opening chapter of TALENT.

TALENT is available at “Amazon, Scribd, Sony, Kobo, B&N, and a lot of others” according to her publisher. The Amazon URL is http://www.amazon.com/Talent-B-Lynn-Goodwin/dp/1519329830/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1447695405&sr=1-1&keywords=Talent+%2B+B.+Lynn+Goodwin.

You Want Me to Do WHAT? Journaling for Caregivers is available at http://www.amazon.com/You-Want-Me-Do-What/dp/1606962973.

Lynn is open to all invitations for guest blogging and invites those who’ve published a YA, NA, or MG to contact her about guest blogging opportunities on blynngoodwin.com. She’ll open the field to more genres in February. She also runs a Manuscript Consultation Service, http://www.writeradvice.com/manuscriptconsultation.html.

 


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