Sunday, July 26, 2009

Write to Win

What do Marlene Cullen, Susan Littlefield, Ron Pasquariello, Jeanne Miller, Pat Tyler and Karen Batchelor have in common—beside the fact that we are all members of Redwood Writers? This is the list of our club members who have won money from the website since its inception in June of this year.

I discovered this opportunity by chance when I was looking on Craigslist for a little part-time, temporary writing or editing job. I saw a post for the website and decided to check it out. At first the young man in charge was offering $500 as first prize, but within a day or two the first prize had dropped to $150 and the runner-up prizes to $50. It costs $5 to enter so I thought I would give it a try because it was not a big investment. I didn’t want to recommend this to the general membership unless I knew it was legitimate. I found out within days that I had won first prize and my check arrived soon after. Then I was convinced.

That first week there were only eight entries, so the operator of this site dug into his pockets to pay the prize money. The second week there were only ten entries. The last two weeks there have been 18 submissions each. He hopes that the quantity of submissions will continue to grow, but it seems obvious to me that he cannot continue to go in the red each week. Therefore the opportunity may not last very long.

There is a posted theme, but it is not necessary to write on that theme. He also writes and posts a piece of his own on-topic writing. He accepts essays/memoir and poems up to 1,000 words, and short stories with a maximum of 2,000 words. He also has a “Discuss” button where readers can leave comments on the winning pieces. Although the manager would like to see more discussion on the winning pieces, this part of the site is not used much.

I suggest that you go to the site, and take a look at the winning stories, essays and poems—many written by our members. I also suggest that you try to take advantage of this site. I would like the young man to succeed, but I would also like you to be a winner!

June 28 Karen Batchelor “View from a Distance”

“The Last Day”

July 5 Susan Littlefield “The Favor”

Marlene Cullen “What are Gophers for?”

July 12 Ron Pasquariello “Lament of a Dead Man Walking”

Jeanne Miller “The Hitch”

Pat Tyler “It Never Happened”

July 19 Karen Batchelor “Mirrors and Memories”

Good luck!

submitted by Karen Batchelor

Thursday, July 23, 2009

An Interview with Adair Lara

An Interview with Adair Lara by Jennie Frost Butler

Adair Lara's October 2009 workshop, First Person Writing that Sells, could as appropriately be entitled First Person Writing that Sells, from One Who Knows. Her writing style, like her advice to writers, is both witty and gritty. The wide appeal of her work is attested to by the many readers who wrote in about her newspaper columns, as well as by a whopping 413,000 online entries under her name.

Adair's career began in local magazines, first at San Francisco Focus and then SF. She also contributed freelance humor pieces for San Francisco Chronicle's Sunday section, and was a great fan of columnist Jon Carroll, who "could write a column about anything."

In 1989, her turn came. "The Chronicle offered me my own column, which I wrote twice a week for 12 years, winning a wide range of awards, including `Best Columnist in California,' from Associated Press."

Adair's work has appeared in Cosmopolitan, Reader's Digest, Parenting, Glamour, Redbook, Ladies' Home Journal, Good Housekeeping and many other magazines and newspapers. Her essays have often been anthologized.

Her books include: The Granny Diaries; The Bigger the Sign, the Worse the Garage Sale; Normal is Just a Setting on the Dryer; and Naked, Drunk, and Writing: Writing Essays and Memoirs for Love and for Money. Lara also founded <> where aspiring writers can connect. The site has been endorsed by such prominent authors as Anne Lamott, Amy Tan, and Isabel Allende.

Some of Adair Lara's wit and wisdom for writers appeared during the interview:

Q: Why must I keep sending out manuscripts?

Lara: Because no one will break into your living room, demanding to publish them.

Q: Two, three, four drafts? Why so many?

Lara: So you'll dig deeper until you say something we don't expect, that even you didn't expect to say. Write until you get tired of being nice.

Q: What if I want to write something new and universally meaningful?

Lara: You aren't required to do the impossible. Instead, share your personal, eccentric struggle with a weighty topic, and tell how it changed you.

Q: What do you mean by "Flip the script?"

Lara: The story is not about what happened, but what you did about what happened.

Q: You say writers have maybe a minute to grab readers' attention. How do I do that?

Lara: Start where the trouble starts. Don't give your opinion. Give us the experience that gave you that opinion. (It isn't as if your views will not creep in anyway).

Q: What about feedback during the writing process?

Lara: It helps having someone who's in your corner, but who'll make retching noises if you get sentimental, yawn if you're boring. Read aloud. If no one else is around, read to the cat.

One suspects that, in Adair Lara's case, retching noises and yawns seldom occur, while the cat might even be inspired to claw out its own first person pieces.

Editor's Notes:

[1] For more information, go to

[2] Adair Lara's workshop, First Person Writing that Sells, is part of the `Craft of Writing' track of the October 24th Redwood Writers 2009 Conference. Her session is currently scheduled to run from 2:00 to 3:00 pm. More conference details:

Monday, July 20, 2009

Interview with Steve Hockensmith, Keynote speaker at Redwood Writers Conference

Steve Hockensmith Interview by Annie Acker

At the ripe young age of forty Steven Hockensmith has achieved a rare feat. He's managed to not only write, but publish, roughly thirty short stories and three novels. His fourth hits the stands on July 21st, 2009. Even more impressive, his first novel, Holmes on the Range, made him a finalist for the 2007 Edgar, Anthony and Shamus Awards in the Best First Novel category. Accolades for Hockensmith's writing don't stop there. His first published mystery story, "Erie's Last Day," won the Short Mystery Fiction Society's Derringer Award. It later appeared in Best American Mystery Stories 2001.

Steve first began writing as a child. He was a geeky kid making his own comic books or fantasy epics, short stories and little books in grade school. In high school he wrote a lot of "bad poetry" and worked on the high school yearbook. Later in college he wrote "quasi-literary vignettes" while juggling a double major in Journalism and History. Now he prefers short story writing with humor or dark writing. "You have more freedom than a novel because of the time invested. You can experiment more. A novel is a year of your life and 99 percent of them are never finished."

To me humor is the hardest form of writing. So I asked if it comes naturally to Steve. "Humor is the thread that runs through the majority of my writing in both short stories and novels. I'm not a comedy writer though. My novels are historical mysteries with humor."

When asked if he ever experiences writer's block Hockensmith replied, "I do and I don't. Some days I agonize about one sentence for 15 minutes. If I have a block there's something wrong with the writing content; what is the perspective of a lead character or the intricacies of the plot. What do I need to fix? I'm sort of a perfectionist, but only about writing."

His biggest influences were Kurt Vonnegut who has a similar worldview. Vonnegut got Hockensmith excited at a young age to do offbeat fiction. Then reading Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler inspired him to write mysteries. "I felt simpatico with him. I felt a connection to his whole outlook. It was through my mystery stories my agent found me."

Besides a sense of perfectionism, luck and timing were the secrets to his success. "Timing makes a huge difference. The way I ended up with my agent. I don't think I would be where I am today without Cheney Literary Associates in New York City."

To learn more visit:

Editor's Note: Steve Hockensmith is the luncheon Keynote Speaker at the Redwood Writers 2009 Conference, October 24, 2009. He will deliver an exciting and humorous talk about getting published, "Anything I Can Do, You Can Do Better: Getting Published Made Easy(ish)." More details here:

Friday, July 17, 2009

FREE Write Free Playshop in Petaluma

This information comes from our friends Rebecca Lawton and Jordan E. Rosenfeld. Rebecca will be one of our editors in the Meet the Editors at the upcoming Redwood Writers Conference and Jordan will be leading one of the morning session.

They let us know this wonderful opportunity for local writers being held this weekend at the Petaluma Copperfield's store.

Join Rebecca Lawton and Jordan E. Rosenfeld at the spectacularly renovated Copperfield's Books, Petaluma, California, for a FREE two hour Write Free Playshop that will inspire creativity and help you attract publication.

The Write Free work relies on a universal principle in which like attracts like. We use our writing energy to consciously attract the lives we want by flowing our creative vibrations onto paper.

A Write Free Playshop. Saturday July 18, 2-4 p.m. Copperfield's Petaluma.

In the first hour, Becca and Jordan will take you through playful ways to generate ideas and work, inspiration and elbow grease.

In the second hour, you'll playfully adjust your attitude about attracting success and publication, with exercises and games that help you make this shift.

Just as you create worlds, images, essays, and stories with your words, you can create the artist's life you dream of with just as much pleasure and delight. We invite you to energize your dreams!

Copperfield's Books

140 Kentucky Street

Petaluma, CA 94952

July 18, 2009

2 to 4 p.m.

Rebecca Lawton's collection Reading Water: Lessons from the River was a 2008 San Francisco Chronicle Bay Area Bestseller. She is coauthor of three other books of nonfiction, including Write Free: Attracting the Creative Life with Jordan E. Rosenfeld and On Foot in Sonoma with Arthur Dawson. Learn more at:

Jordan E. Rosenfeld is an editor, writer, and teacher, and author of the books Make a Scene: Crafting a Powerful Story One Scene at a Time, and with Rebecca Lawton, Write Free: Attracting the Creative Life. Her freelance articles are published in a multitude of sources. She reviews books for Publisher's Weekly and NPR's California Report. Learn more at:

Write Free

P.O. Box 654

Vineburg, California 95487-0654

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Preserving the Internet as a Democratic Tool

Most writers make extensive use of the Internet to do their business. Manuscripts are sent to editors electronically, websites are developed, blogs are nurtured, and social networking sites, such as Facebook, are leveraged to get the word out.

A move is afoot, sponsored by the telecom and cableco giants, to charge usage fees for the Internet, over and above the monthly ISP fee people may fork over each month ($12 - $50 fixed or $144 to $600 annually). Note that Internet access at your local library is free, paid for by your tax dollars. This corporate action is disconcerting. The Free Press reports that, “In the first three months of 2009, the phone and cable industries spent at least $20 million to hire more than 400 lobbyists!” See the graphic above (the Free Press is outnumbered and outspent). Their corporate objective is to secure policies that augment their bottom line while leaving Americans with an Internet “that is too expensive and too slow compared to services in other countries.”

The Free Press is asking us to write to the FCC (writers like us can easily do this) and tell them that we need a fast, affordable, and open Internet.

By getting involved now, “we can reinvigorate the economy, open up public participation in government, empower a new generation of journalists, and give everyone the opportunity to prosper in the 21st century.” Sounds lofty, but these things are achievable by having our politicians and regulators set public policy for the people and not for corporate America. We need an Internet that’s “participatory, open, and democratic.” Keep the Internet as a tool for democracy and get involved. Write in!

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Social networking - let the list begin!

I'm a self-professed social networking junkie. Yes, it's a time sink, but I've also found ways to make it work for me and further my writing career. In fact, that's my primary reason for doing it and what got me into it.

Since I began joining and participating in these sights, my benefits have included:

Reviews for my book, interviewees for my blog, sites to list on my resource website, tips on places to publicize my book, calls for submissions, blog followers, and if you include yahoo groups, an inside track to my present FT writing job. And readers!

Here's my ever growing list of social networking sites I've found over the years. I'm not going to explain the what and hows of all these groups in this entry. That's another one, or better yet, come to the workshop sponsored by the Redwood Writers scheduled for August 4th in Petaluma, CA (more details to follow).

Many of you are already familiar with the major groups and how they work.

First LinkedIn. If you join LinkedIn, but don't join any of the groups there, you're truly missing out. Here's a partial list of mine. It's partial because the others are industry specific for the day job. I haven't linked these, but punching the names into the search groups box will take you right to them.

Fiction Writers Guild (my membership is still pending)
Affiliated Authors
Author Planet
Authors of Fiction
Authors, Writers, Publishers, Editors, and other Professionals
Book Marketing
First Time Authors
Just for Writers
LinkEds & writers
Networking Nation
Novelists Networking Group
Professional Writers
Published Authors Network
Science Fiction readers, writers, and collectors
Speakers and Panelists
The Pen
Writing Mafia

Have you heard of Ning? Here are my groups:

First the place to find readers:
Book Blogs. Of course you have to have a blog about books to join. But if you do, you'll find even more subgroups to join by genre or other sub-category.

Pocketbooks scifi/fantasy blog tour group
Pocketbooks blog tours
About the author - author interviews
Authors and books we love
Short stories
California book lovers (I posted here about our authors' books, including Vintage Voices)

More Ning sites for authors/writers:
My Book Place
Building 98
Published authors - and a subgroup of this one for those who tweet: Authors on Twitter
Book Marketing Network

Miscellaneous writers' sites:
Author Link
Writer's Beat
And for ladies only: She Writes

And there are International and National author organizations that have no physical headquarters. They live on the web.
Broad Universe (but only if you’re a female speculative fiction writer)
Published Authors

Just google your genre and organization and you'll find plenty. Look for regional ones, too.

A good place to connect with readers is Goodreads. I know there's also an Amazon version and Library Thing. I'm sticking with Goodreads for now. On Goodreads, if you're a published author, you can have a free fan page to aggregate all the reviews of your book and add your appearances and other info for your fans. And, like LinkedIn, this is just the first layer. Join groups or you're just scratching the surface.

Here's a list of mine:
Published Authors
SciFi and Fantasy Book Club
Sci-Fi/Fantasy Authors
Women's Fiction Authors
Authors Reading Authors

I have a page on MySpace, but spend more time on Facebook. However, some people only hang out at MySpace, so make sure they can find you there and look for them.

Facebook. This entry would automatically double in size if I listed all my Facebook groups. My experience, so far on Facebook, however is that there are myriads groups that you can join but few of them have much activity on them. It's more of a way to show your interests in your profile. You can also have a fan page on Facebook. Also, Facebook just added the ability to chose user names for people to find you easier when you have a common name.

Then there's Live Journal. It's not just a place to blog. You can friend other users and read all their entries as they come up on your friends page. And LJ has lots of groups, too.

Many of these don't have a lot of activity and some of them are mostly writers, probably 80 percent self-published, all promoting to each other. However, even those have their value. At least it's exposure. I'm a firm believer in grabbing (politely) all the cyber real estate you can. When you have really big news, you'll have more outlets with which to share it and it's more places for people to find you.

You may occasionally get a useful tip or be able to provide one. You might find an author with a similar book that you can trade publicity with back and forth since you have the same target audience. However, concentrate the bulk of your efforts on the more active sites.

Of course, make sure when you start off on this adventure, to keep track of all the sites, user names and passwords. Also, don't forget to link back and forth between them wherever possible.

That ought to keep some writers busy for a while. Please feel free to add to this list by leaving a comment with more sites.

PS - Don't get sucked into spending all your time there and not writing.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Vintage Voices 2009 Anthology

Vintage Voices: Centi’Anni: May You Live 100 Years

Your anthology team, headed by Karen Batchelor, has been hard at work collecting, screening, revising and editing the more than 100 submissions received. The book is in the process of final formatting and copyediting and then will go to the publisher.

This year is our centennial celebration of the founding of the California Writers Club and it is appropriate that our anthology reflect this event. We have more pages, more pieces, and a great variety of writing styles—all of which are engaging. The stories and poems are short, making it possible to read at brief sittings. And you will want to read all of them.

During the past two weeks, each contributor to the anthology has had his or her bio posted on Facebook to generate interest and excitement for our fourth anthology. We’ve also received our first testimonial, some advance praise for the wonderful collection. See our website for that:

Our goal is to have the books available by the Sonoma County Book Festival on September 19. On Saturday, September 26, the following weekend, we will launch the publication at North Light Books and Café in Cotati, as we have done the past two years.

Join us for these up-coming events! And keep on writing.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Book Launch - July 12th for Redwood Writers

Next Meeting: July 12 - moved from the 5th

This meeting will be held at Copperfield's Books 2316 Montgomery Dr, Santa Rosa, CA - (707) 578-8938 For a map, click here. Room Fee; $3 members/$5 non-members

Where better to celebrate Redwood members who have recently published books than at a great local bookstore?

Six member/authors will read from their books and sign them as well. Come prepared to be entertained and to purchase our members’ books.

Centennial Celebration: to recognize 100 years of CWC literary history, George Rathmell and Mary Priest will speak on the origins of CWC and the founding of the Redwood Branch. (Be sure to wear your centennial pin.)

Our Redwood Authors

  • Pamela Pizzimenti - The River Whispers, a fantasy book for young teens about loving and letting go
  • Kate Farrell - Girl in the Mirror, a young adult novella of self-discovery
  • Tyler Stanley - Counting the Days: Recovery through the Romance Side of the Brain, chronicles recovery from traumatic brain injury with romantic poetry
  • Linda Loveland Reid - Touch of Magenta, a novel of two women with secrets revealed and lies untold.

  • JC Miller (Jeanne Miller) - On the Brink of Nora, literary novel of life change and challenge
Note: There will be NO book swap or door prizes!