Joining us for the first time is Tom Zoellner, co-author of the New York Times bestselling An Ordinary Man, mesmerizing autobiography of Paul Rusesabagina, the hotel manager who turned Rwana’s luxurious Hotel Milles Collines into a refuge for more than 1,200 Tutsi and moderate Hutu refugees during the 1994 genocide that inspired the film Hotel Rwanda. His latest is Train: Riding the Rails that Created the Modern World (Viking/Penguin), which Booklist hails as, “An exuberant celebration.” The New York Post calls it, “Enchanting.” And the L.A. Weekly concludes, “Once you open it up there are so many reasons to keep reading that it’s nearly impossible to put down.” Tom’s our final Special Guest Speaker to be announced for LA12, and he’ll be conducting a workshop for novelists, non-fictionalists and short story writers that bites down to the bone of story, “Clearing the Narrative Brush.”
Lots of additions to the staff and workshop roster. We’ve many trusted, familiar faces in the September fold, of course, but also new folk introducing fresh sessions to the mix. Some of the workshops most recently added:
Still more to come, but you can always check where we’re at with the line up on the Workshops and Events page, via the navigation menu on the right.
A topic making the rounds among many in the SCWC is the lackluster quality of writing found in so many novels being published today, both traditionally and independently. True, mediocrity is sometimes rewarded, but it should never be the aspiration of any writer to achieve.
Efficient, albeit uninspired prose, errant POV, sloppy structure, muddled or missing voice—these and myriad other issues of execution seem so common in so many books populating the bestseller lists as to astonish. (Though, figuring what number of books actually sold quantifies a “bestseller” these days is hard to come by.) But so long as there’s the semblance of a good story, adequately presented and that satisfies the expectations of its readers, does it matter? Do readers really care about the writing? Should they?
I recently had a fascinating conversation with a writer who self-published his first novel to moderate Amazon “bestseller” success that faded fast. Thing is, in hindsight, he recognized just how much he didn’t know he didn’t know when he elected to eschew the traditional path to personal validation he was seeking from legacy publication. Rebuffed by agents, ignored by slush pile sifters, he opted to go indie. Then he realized his book was not anywhere near ready for publication. More importantly, he realized its execution did not represent the superior quality of storyteller he’s determined to become. Pretty much the norm nowadays, actually.
Recognizing the unique approach and success rate the SCWC has maintained these past 28 years, this writer reached out to us. He called and proclaimed that he wants to write his next book right. More than just a good story, he’s coming to LA12 to learn how to write a terrific book. Not only for his readers, but for himself.
That’s what every writer should aspire to.
Congratulations to SCWCer Amanda LaPera. You may recall that her debut title, Losing Dad, Paranoid Schizophrenia: A Family’s Search for Hope (Adamo Press), broke out big upon its release last December. Well, Amanda was just in New York as recipient of the Silver Award in the IBPA’s prestigious Benjamin Franklin Book Awards category of psychology… Also, at Book Expo America in New York, SCWCer Jide Zeus was formally presented the 2014 Next Generation Indie Book Award for his debut novel, Losing My Religion… And in Florida, word’s in that SCWC*SD workshop leader Rick Anderson’s Cobra Clearance has been selected as a finalist for the Royal Palm Literary Award.
Couple new books out from SCWCers… The follow-up to I, Jequon, Book Two of the Nephilim Chronicles, With Mercy, is now available from Jeremy Lee James for all those who dig a taught, paranormal thriller (Jeremy will also be conducting a workshop or two come September)… And from Doug Bournemann, his debut novel has just been released. The Demon of Histlewick Downs (The Dreamweaver Chronicles Book 1) follows the adventures of a young man forced to outwit magic-wielding heretics in order to save the lives of his parents, falsely accused of heresy.
Advance Submission Readers are now available for selection. If you registered for a reader “to be determined” simply email Chrissie, Wes or myself which reader(s) you’d like to go with and we’ll take it from there. It is important that you select a backup reader, as well. Also, remember that we are now accepting submissions strictly through email. Details on advance submissions can be found on the upper right navigation menu.
Discounted pre-registration expires soon. Do yourself a favor and secure your spot today. And just to whet your writerly appetite, from her LA11 keynote, here’s why you probably don’t want to miss Leslie Lehr’s “Story Structure Made Simple: The 7 Key Steps Based on Truby’s Method” workshop:
–Michael Steven Gregory
Executive Director, SCWC
Joining us for the first time as a Special Guest Speaker, celebrated writer, performer, musician, and educator Ryka Aoki, recipient of a University Award from the Academy of American Poets. Author Robert Morgan (Gap Creek) calls her He Mele A Hilo (A Hilo Song)—out August 26th from Topside Press—“A debut novel unlike any you have ever read.” Maureen McCody (Junebug, Walking After Midnight) lauds, “Rich in authentic voice, the book is grounded in emotional honesty, rhythmic prose, and doses of humor and heartbreak that loft the reader along as believers in Aoki’s thrilling dream.” Ryka was last with us as a conferee and we’re thrilled to welcome her back, let alone boasting such beautiful affirmation of her literary talent.
We’re getting great suggestions for topics many would like addressed at LA12. Given the accelerated pace of galvanizing trends across the entire publishing spectrum, it’s no surprise emerging writers require as much real-world perspective from those now in the trenches and successfully plying their trade—whether it be in Big 5, boutique house, hybrid or self-publishing—in order to make an informed decision on which path to choose. As usual, the SCWC brings plenty to the table. Among our new business and indie publishing “Do Yourself Independence” sessions lined up:
Among the many craft & execution workshops slated:
The response to our Scrivener software workshop at this past February’s conference was such that Ara Grigorian returns with not one, but two sessions he’s been crafting: “Scrivener Demystified: Maximize the Value, Minimize the Stress (for Beginners)” and “Scrivener in Practice: Advanced Tips and Techniques.” Having become a recent convert, there’s no doubt in my mind that it should be considered the go-to software in almost any writer’s toolbox.
A reminder that Drusilla Campbell’s “NovelCram: Building the Better Book” immersion track, along with the two-part “Best Forward: Polishing to Impress” workshop, led by Jean Jenkins, are both very popular and require pre-registration as they tend to sell out. While there’s more wiggle room with NovelCram, BFF is strictly limited to 12 participants. If you’re writing genre fiction, you do not want to miss it.
The bedrock of the SCWC remains its emphasis on producing exceptional craft by providing writers with empirically qualified feedback on their work. In addition to our usual storytelling prose and query letter read & critique workshops, at LA12 we’re going to test one devoted to book summaries. Reason being is that we’ve seen so many writers—especially author-publishers—post such awfully written book summaries on their Amazon pages and elsewhere that they instantly snuff any interest in exploring them further.
The odds of a good book being discovered and propelled to success by discerning, book-buying readers are slim, so long as confidence in the writer being a professional is undermined every step of the way. Presentation is key. That means a book needs:
Should be fun, so bring a paragraph or two write-up of your book and let’s see if it needs fixing.
SCWCer Mary Vensel White’s The Qualities of Wood, her debut novel and the first book chosen for publication based on nominations from the Authonomy writing community, went on to win a 2012 International Book Award for literary fiction. Initially released only in digital format, come June 17 HarperCollins finally drops the hardcopy of the book and we couldn’t be more pleased. There’s a recent interview with Mary over at Authonomy.
Out August 5th, our own Mary G. Thompson’s follow up to Escape from the Pipemen drops from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. The comedic fantasy Evil Fairies Love Hair tells the story of Ali and her middle school classmates, who are raising hundreds of two-inch-tall fairies in effort to make their wishes come true. Thing is, it turns out the little imps have plans all their own: to replace all the parents in town with the awesome magical powers they possess to do so!
Out now on Kindle is SCWCer Jennifer Hilborne’s third installment of her popular Jackson mystery series. In The Blackest Night our favorite homicide inspector is forced to turn to a wrongfully convicted ex-con with problems of his own, in effort to solve a murder he just might be connected to.
That’s all for now. Plenty more staff to add to the schedule, as well as the schedule itself. We’ll begin opening up the Advance Submission Readers for selection shortly. Remember that Newport Beach is more limited in attendance than our Winter conference in San Diego. Take advantage of the discounted pre-registration price today to secure your spot. Your words are worth it!
—Michael Steven Gregory
Executive Director, SCWC
A refreshing mystery without a murder, Good Sam delivers on many fronts. The debut novel from Dete Meserve, it has earned the 2013 Reader’s Favorite Book Awards Gold Medal. Kirkus declared it, “[A] solid feel-good romance sparked with mystery.” And Barbara Schroeder (Beverly Hills Confidential) raves, “Bravo! Author Dete Meserve takes us into a world not often explored, and writes fluidly, always leaving the reader wanting to turn the page… Hot stuff!” Not only our third Special Guest Speaker to be announced, Dete will also be conducting a workshop, “From Book to Screen: Turning Your Novel into a Film or Television Series.” As president of Wind Dancer Films, producer of TV hits such as Home Improvement and film successes like What Women Want, as well as several book-to-screen adaptations, it’s a subject she knows well.
Speaking of workshops, as we begin sorting out the schedule for September, please feel free to submit topic suggestions. Naturally, beyond our slate of critique and craft sessions, we’ll devote plenty of needed attention to the most pressing legacy, indie, and self-publishing issues. Despite what too many say, regardless of which route to publication you pursue, attaining success will ultimately hinge on inspiring confidence in your readers—and delivering on expectations roused—each and every step of your journey. Beyond writing an exceptional book, how best to do just that will be covered in our “Do Yourself Independence” (DYI, not DIY) track.
SCWC veteran Teresa Burrell’s been busy. All five titles in her ongoing legal thriller series are newly available as audiobooks. The Advocate, The Advocate’s Betrayal, The Advocate’s Conviction, The Advocate’s Dilemma, and The Advocate’s Ex Parte can all be had and heard at Audible.
From longtime SCWC author/workshop leader Michele Scott, Dark Harmony: A Vivienne Taylor Horse Lover’s Mystery, the second in her Fairmont Riding Academy series, is out May 20… Also out next week, in a departure from the Peri Minneopa mysteries she’s best known for, author/workshop leader Gayle Carline introduces readers to new characters and a new venue in Murder on the Hoof.
Finally, on the young adult front, the second in Valerie Wicks’ 7-part Seven Spectral series is out. The Orange World Outlaw follows her 2012 debut, Into the Red World. Congratulations and best of success to all!
We’ll begin plugging in what authors, agents, editors, and other pros will be joining us on the staff page soon, along with what workshops are being lined up. Advance submission readers will start being listed early June. Remember that Newport Beach is more limited in attendance than our winter conference in San Diego. Discounted pre-registration is highly recommended.
More soon. In the meantime, we’ve begun recording the reading of SCWC Topic Award recipients. You can listen to LA11’s honored entry here, written by Stephanie Lewis. The topic was “bidet.” And don’t forget: Aim for awe. Settle only for exception.
—Michael Steven Gregory
Executive Director, SCWC
Selected a “Best Buzz Book” by PublishersLunch for Spring/Summer 2014, Isla Morley’s Above tells the story of a 16-year-old girl abducted and locked in an abandoned missile silo by a survivalist convinced the world is going to end. Booklist calls it, “[A] menacingly sinister tale of imprisonment… that will appeal to fans of riveting psychological suspense and cut-throat dystopian fiction.” The Boston Globe hails, “A compelling tale of survival, reinvention, and hope… Vivid and poignant.” “[An] audacious page-turner,” declares Publishers Weekly. And from Sara Gruen (Water for Elephants): “Grips your heart from the first page and doesn’t let go… A novel to savor.” Isla will join us as a Special Guest Speaker in Newport Beach to discuss her latest novel, and whatever the hell else she wants to.
Our second Special Guest Speaker to be announced is none other than Tonilyn Hornung, winner of the SCWC*LA8 Outstanding Non-Fiction Award for the manuscript that became her breakout success, released just this month, How to Raise a Husband: A Whole Bunch of Ways to Build a Strong and Happy Marriage. A prolific essayist and blogger, Tonilyn’s inventive discoverability campaign supporting the title’s release includes a series of fun trailers, which everybody should share. Welcome back, Tonilyn!
Since reporting so many SCWCers with titles due out in our February 26 update several more have dropped or are about to. Among them, Jeremy Lee James has released the first installment of his Nephilim Chronicles, I, Jequon, a taught thriller chronicling a half-angel, half-human’s fight to prevent a modern day “Holycaust” being waged against his noble people by an ancient religious cult… On the epic Armageddon front, Christopher P. Simmons delivers a sprawling, fresh take on the End Times prophecy, Judas Christ: Immaculate Inception. In it, following his betrayal, Jesus’ most infamous apostle prays for a second chance and is given it–some 2000 years later.
Fantasy folk can regale in Dot Caffrey’s Awakening Powers: Book One in the Trilogy of Power. Of it, multiple award-winning author and longtime SCWC workshop leader Laura Taylor lauds, “Readers will delight in the characters, both good and evil, and the world-building skills of the author… A 5-star achievement”… An equally delightful urban fantasy, Janet Tait’s Cast into Darkness is also just out. Mixing magic, megalomania and mystical intrigue to provide yet another fun foray in yet another far-spun otherworld, it marks the debut of her projected Kate Hamilton series.
And for both the young ‘uns and our elders, we got two new titles to glean: First up is from that unstoppable force of nature, Sheri Fink. The fifth of her “Whimsical World” of cherished children’s titles, The Little Seahorse also marks her 5th No. 1 best-selling debut… And from conferee Lynne Martin, whose travel memoir Home Sweet Anywhere: How We Sold Our House, Created a New Life, and Saw the World sprouted at SD27, the book is now out to wide acclaim, even landing her only this past week a guest appearance on CBS’ “The Morning Show.”
Congratulations and best of success to all our SCWC community authors!
As we now begin finalizing the itinerary for LA12 and which legitimate, genuinely knowledgeable authors, agents, editors and other pivotal publishing professionals will be joining us in September, much focus is being drawn from our new Sunriver Writers’ Summit intensives in Central Oregon. Strictly limited in size and planned to take place twice a year—one in the spring, one in the fall—the Summit grew out of what many of us behind the SCWC have come to believe: Too many writers remain too un-prepared for today’s industry reality. Because of that, they’re often bilked by publishing predators and punksters, or writer events that unapologetically ally themselves with entities whose mission is solely to profit from doing so.
Writers must break the cycle of rejection, whether it be from agents, publishers or, most importantly, book buying readers. With the ease of publication what it is today, far too many writers are giving up on the traditional path to publication altogether and simply skipping straight to self-publication. Not necessarily a bad thing, but just because you can doesn’t mean you should. The overwhelming majority of titles—especially those that are self-published—fail to find a readership for a reason: they’re not ready for public consumption.
Craft matters, today perhaps even more than ever in the past. Aspiring for mediocrity does not a good writer make. And good writing doesn’t necessarily equate to good storytelling. A good writer understands this. A good, commercial writer respects the expectations of her reader, aims for awe and settles only for exceptional in each and every step of the book production process. Unfortunately, most writers don’t discover their work is far from good enough until it’s been rejected by agents and editors. Or worse, after their book’s been self-published and too late.
We need to address that. And, as usual, we will again tailor an SCWC that uniquely guides you along the right path to publication success on your terms.
In the meantime, as requested, we’ve begun posting extended audio podcasts of some of our Special Guest Speakers’ talks from the archives. There’s a lot, but only a few are up and running at the moment. You can find them at Voqel.com/SoCalWriters.
—Michael Steven Gregory
Executive Director, SCWC
Hot off our warm winter event in San Diego (“chance of cloud, tanning likely”), the debate that began opening evening at SD28—whether 50% length of a Kindle book is enough or 100% is too much—still rages. With our fall conference nearly seven months away, we’ll leave it open for discussion. Meanwhile, there’s much good “muse” to report in the way of new books just out, or coming out shortly, all written by SCWC conferees. Among them, E.V. Fairfall’s Transformed, the fantastical YA tale of young Thea, who’s forced to break God’s one rule and forsake her animal form in order to become human, only to fall in love with the one thing she hates: a hunter. Yikes!
Next up, this week marks the release of Barbara Garren’s debut contemporary romance, Infinite Potential. Book 1 in her Phasms Trilogy—inked in a sweet 3-book deal with Entranced Publishing—it tells the story of young widow Kelsi Thomas, haunted by memories of her dead husband and desperate to distinguish reality from the guilty pleasure of the stranger that fills her sleep. Nice job, Barbara.
Evan Ramspot’s follow-up to the first novel in his Plagued series, The Midamerica Zombie Half-Breed Experiment, is next on deck. Plagued II: The Rock Island Zombie Counteractant Experiment is out both in print and paperless come March, 2014. SCWCer Kendall Roderick, a writer and graphic designer, did the jackets for both titles. You can check out her other covers and availability here.
In April we’ll see the awaited publication of Tonilyn Hornung’s How to Raise a Husband: A Whole Bunch of Ways to Build a Strong and Happy Marriage, out from Conair Press. Her manuscript earned the Outstanding Non-Fiction Award at LA8 and nabbed an agent on the spot, a mere three years ago.
And in May, David Putnam, a San Diego SCWCer from way back, will see the hardcover release of his debut novel, The Disposables, from Oceanview. Best-selling authors Michael Connelly and T. Jefferson Parker are giving it raves and we can’t wait for the release, or for David to tell us all about it.
LA12 (in Newport Beach, again) will offer the usual full slate of SCWC-centric read & critique, craft-oriented and business-savvy workshops. In the wake of SD28’s introduction of several new ones, we’ll also be devoting plenty of time and attention to the biggest rip so many writers are rending today: the choice to go fully indie, to pursue legacy, or to go hybrid when possible. As we all know, just because you can doesn’t mean you should. Where you are with your work come September, where you want it to be afterward, that’s what we’ll be dealing with. What we’ll not be doing is settling for anything—or anyone—aiming to settle for anything less than exceptional.
All that said, Early “Bard” Pre-registration is now open. Sign up for the Full Conference or Drusilla Campbell’s NovelCram immersion track (which includes all Special Guest Speakers, State of the Agent panel and Rogue workshops) today and save a whopping $75.
—Michael Steven Gregory
Executive Director, SCWC