There are gifts assigned to notable anniversaries. For a 30th it’s “pearl,” traditionally. Being mildly superstitious, having always heard that “pearls bring tears,” we elected to eschew any pearl motif at this past weekend’s celebration as there are often too many tears in one’s life. Not a bad call for a couple of reasons: 1) Yes, tears were shed—tears of joy; those of gratitude resulting from that epiphanous moment when one conferee learned how to remedy a broken book that too many at other events told her they were not interested in, couldn’t really specify why, and made no effort to attempt to help fix. 2) Because our 30th San Diego event became all about cheers.
Cheers to the outstanding manuscript pages that came through SD30. Cheers to the dedicated writers who came to learn how to be the best writers they could be. Cheers to the usual fantastic SCWC staff of learned, empirically qualified, passionate advocates who believe that aiming for excellence and settling only for exceptional is a noble pursuit.
And cheers to the Rocky Horror Picture Show, for no other reason than what will likely become public later. Unfortunately.
Anyhow, a giant panda bear hug to all the SD30 staff–authors, editors, agents and others–who showed up to support our vast writing community; those who endeavor to recognize talent, embrace potential and extend the personal relationships and valuable connects beyond the end of any given conference weekend. Happy 30th and cheers to you all!
Now on to the awards…
by Clay Savage of Santa Monica, CA
by Michael R. Shevock of Portsmouth, NH
by Jeremy Snow of, Brentwood, TN
Angels Over Moscow
by Juliette Engel of Tacoma Park, MD
by Lora Sigler of San Pedro, CA
And each conference the SCWC holds a contest in which all writers are invited to participate. The rules are simple: Write a piece in any form you wish of no more than 250 words based on the topic announced Friday night. The topic for SD30 was “Cane/Cain/Kane.” Here’s this year’s winning entry…
OUTSTANDING TOPIC STORY
of Chandler, AZ
THE MESTEÉ KNEW HOW to damage a man without affecting his ability to harvest sugarcane. The man lying on Mbewe’s earthen floor would never harvest again. His back had been flayed to the bone. The mesteé had been drunk and careless.
Mbewe crouched nearby. “What do you want me to do?”
The man whispered, his face pressed into the dir. “Let me die.”
Mbewe poked the man’s raw wounds. “You don’t need my help for that.”
“Let me die,” the man repeated. “But first give me revenge.”
Mbewe nodded, satisfied. Revenge was a good reason to come to an obeah-man.
To summon a loa, one needs earth, fire, air, water. And blood, of course. Mbewe retrieved a large jar of rum. Sugarcane, grown in earth, the molasses mixed with water, then distilled by fire and air. Rum sufficed for all four magic elements. Mbewe scratched protective symbols on the floor. He spoke sacred words. He poured rum onto the man’s back, to mix with his blood.
The loa appeared. Mbewe grabbed it and shoved it into the man’s body.
It did not go.
Too late. The man was dead.
Mbewe frantically looked about. A freed loa was a terrible thing. He grabbed the first thing that came to hand—the rum bottle—and thrust the loa into it.
loa dissolve into the rum.
He smiled. He would give the bottle to the mesteé tonight.
Revenge would be served after all.
Congratulations to all the award winners!
Discounted pre-registration for September’s LA14 (in Irvine) opens March 1. Register for the Full Conference by April 1 and save $100 off Full Conference.
Dates for SD31 are Presidents’ Day Weekend, February 17-20, 2017. Pre-registration opens August 1, 2016. The conference will again be held at our longtime home, the Crowne Plaza Hanalei, San Diego. Be sure to follow us on Twitter and join the lively discussion on our SCWC Facebook community wall. Now go forth and write hard.
–Michael Steven Gregory
Executive Director, SCWC
Just in time for SD30, David Putnam’s third Bruno Johnson novel, The Squandered, is out Feb. 2nd from Oceanview. “[A] shocking and intense tale of brotherly love and redemption realized in the midst of moral decay. It’s a raw and gritty story I couldn’t put down,” proclaims New York Times best-selling author C.J. Box. David returns with two workshops this year, including one Writing for Real, part of our periodic focus on real-world perspectives of law enforcement.
For those addressing anything to do with cops, crime, justice (or lack of), this time around our Writing for Real sessions are comprised of the following:
“The Anatomy of Violence”
Leader: David Putnam
Objective: What motivates criminals? What’s involved in complicated officer-involved shootings or hand-to-hand confrontations? Drawing on his 30+ years in law enforcement, working crime scenes, narcotics, robbery, hostage crisis, Internal Affairs, patrol and as a SWAT team sniper, David has long confronted and studied criminal behavior first-hand. This workshop will explore the fundamental underpinnings at work behind both sides of the badge.
“Law Enforcement Immersion”
Leader: Richard Craig Anderson
Objective: In this session you are put behind the wheel of a speeding police cruiser. But why are you behind that wheel, why are you speeding, and where will you end up? To discover the answers, you must first learn why cops think along unique dimensions that only make sense to someone who has been there, done that, and bought the t-shirt. Armed with this insight, a writer can then develop cop characters with a sense of authenticity that eludes those who fool themselves into thinking they can gain an insider’s perspective from a friend of a friend, whose cousin’s brother knows this guy who once knew a cop.
“Proactive Investigations, Informants & Undercover”
Leader: Michael R. Shevock
Objective: Explore the fundamentals of recruiting and managing informants and touch on the basics of undercover operations. One of the most interesting aspects of complex investigations is the personal dynamic between confidential informants and their handlers – it is also inexplicably ignored by most crime writers.
“Trigger Points and Response”
Leader: Wes Albers
Objective: What happens when previously separate orbits realign to cross paths? This workshop will explore the dynamic world of action and consequence. It will discuss the potential consequences of decisions made during the dangerous moments surrounding a crisis.
Complete information on all SD30 sessions can be found on the Workshops and Events page.
Lots going on at our San Diego event. While true, each conference is distinctly constructed on the foundation of the preceding one, addressing what trends and changes within the industry have occurred between them, thing to remember is this: Craft matters. Craft is cool. Craft is king. All else is noise.
The SCWC is not some panel-centric confab focused merely on those occupying the stage, espousing conflicting views which too often muddle the conversation and dilute clear answers. The SCWC is about the writers in attendance–where they are now and where they want to be with their work. For, in our estimation, it is the work that remains an author’s ultimate declaration of purposeful being and it is the work that remains singularly their’s alone. Which is why, for example, a workshop such as “Authorial Voice: Finding and Making It Unmistakably Your Own,” conducted by prolific novelist Frederick Ramsay, is so valuable to emerging authors.
Devoting our attention to craft & execution and embracing the potential of quality material is how the SCWC has managed to facilitate over $4 million worth of first-time book and screen deals. One of the reasons we don’t do “pitch” sessions (charging writers for merely telling an agent or editor what their book’s about in hope of winning a request) is because a good pitch doesn’t necessarily equate to a good book. It’s the pages that matter.
But what about when the pages are good, the book genuinely is ready for prime time, yet the writer fumbles pitching it? It’s a pass. That one potentially passionate advocate, so vital to every writer’s success, never even glimpses what talent might fill the page.
Happens all the time.
Like it or not, in person and in query letters, the ability to convey your story with a polished “elevator pitch” is an essential part of being a commercial writer. Two specific workshops, “Pitch Witches: What’s Your Book About?” and “Pitch Witches: Query Letter Critique,” both co-conducted by Marla Miller and Jennifer Silva Redmond, will better prepare you for the inevitable. (The video to the right demonstrates Marla troubleshooting a query letter.)
As with a good pitch that doesn’t result in good writing, good writing is no guarantee of a good story, let alone a great one. We’ve all seen it: a book with potential fizzle out fast, whether in a few paragraphs, a few pages or several chapters deep. Seasoned agents, editors, writers, even readers, can discern if they’re in the hands of a quality writer pretty quickly. What factors play into why a book fails to grab or sustain the attention of a reader are too multitudinous to mention, but factor they do. Where a good book ends–at least for the reader–is perhaps the biggest challenge a writer must face. Worse? Not knowing where it actually begins. Worse than that? Everything in between!
Whether you’re pursuing a traditional publishing path or seeking to avoid regrettable premature e-publication, there are so many terrific craft and troubleshooting sessions on the schedule addressing these issues that it can be difficult to choose which not to attend. For those joining us for the first time, know that if you end up in one that doesn’t resonate for you, you’re more than welcome to quietly excuse yourself and pop into another. Other than with “A Novel Journey Immersion” and the “Best Foot Forward: Polishing to Impress” workshops, no other sessions require advance sign-up.
And though we’re still tweaking time slots and such, don’t forget that you can tailor and print your own personal weekend itinerary on the interactive SD30 Schedule page, or visit the Weekend-at-a-Glance page for one big eyeful.
Including our L.A./Irvine and Palm Spring events, San Diego’s February gathering will mark our 47th conference in 30 years. Courtesy of longtime SCWCer and debut author Oz Monroe, whose literary dark fantasy Soil-Man is now out, we’re having a contest. The subject of the contest is, appropriately, “Anniversary.”
Written in any genre you wish, but limited to no more than 1500 words, writers everywhere are welcome to submit an original, unpublished story focusing on any kind of anniversary. Two winning submissions will be selected, the writers of which will each receive Full Conference admission to SCWC*LA14, which takes place in Irvine, Sept. 23-25, 2016. (Lodging not included.)
The contest is open to all writers. There is no fee and SD30 attendance is not required to enter. Deadline to submit is March 31, 2016. A contest submission page will be available here on the site soon. Winners will be announced in May.
SCWCers with new books include author/workshop leader Suzanne Redfearn’s No Ordinary Life and Sheri Fink’s debut novel, Cake in Bed. Both are out February … Linda Thomas-Sundstrom’s Immortal Redeemed is out April from Harlequin Nocturne, and Midge Raymond’s My Last Continent drops June from Scribner.
Among recent releases that slipped past: Dennis Bowen’s latest, The Redrock Quarantine … Barbara DeShong’s The Mercy, the first in her Jessica LeFave Mysteries … and David and Victoria Povall’s The Gift of the Twin Houses. Congratulations to all and to all, great success!
That’s it for now. It’s going to be another fantastic conference weekend. Looking forward to seeing old friends and making new. Be sure to subscribe to the SCWC newsletter for periodic updates. And do join the ever-informative discussion on our SCWC Facebook Group. There’s lots of stuff posted there that doesn’t make it to WC.com.
Until next time, go forth, write well and take a moment to watch “SCWC: Rise of a Writer” below. (It’ll put you in the mood.)
–Michael Steven Gregory
Executive Director, SCWC
Of her latest Booklist attests, “The collection spans time and geography and encompasses politics, the arts, and finance to offer a fascinating look at the sisterhood of the women behind famous men.” Daily Press effuses, “[She] does more than profile 40 members of the ‘fairer sex’ who lived and died in relative obscurity. She allows these vibrant women, marginalized by history, to step into their own spotlight by providing more than simple biographical data. Her clever and witty writing style brings them to life.” The author of such addicting historical non-fiction titles as Behind Every Great Man: The Forgotten Women Behind the World’s Famous and Infamous, And the Rest Is History: The Famous (and Infamous) First Meetings of the World’s Most Passionate Couples, Eureka!: The Surprising Stories Behind the Ideas That Shaped the World and Once Again to Zelda: The Stories Behind Literature’s Most Intriguing Dedications, Marlene Wagman-Geller will be joining as a Special Guest Speaker come February.
Our fourth Special Guest Speaker confirmed is Elizabeth Marro, breakout author of the richly woven novel Casualties. Kirkus asserts that it “unrelentingly addresses painful issues of war, suicide, and the shady dealings of defense contractors … It isn’t a happily-ever-after story, but Marro casts a ray of hope that a good life can be lived after terrible tragedy.” New York Times best-selling author Caroline Leavitt (Pictures of You) calls it, “Moving and full of heart.” And best-selling author Alan Russell (A Cold War) concludes, “With its gripping plot and seasoned prose, it is hard to imagine that Casualties is Elizabeth Marro’s debut novel.” Elizabeth will also spearhead a timely new workshop, “Writing War Right: Pathos & Prose.”
The bulk of SD30’s workshop staff is now posted, with still some to be added, including vetted literary agents actively seeking new clients, editors and other publishing professionals. Since this past September’s Irvine event, we’ve dialed in on some issues that particularly need be addressed—both on the craft front and business. Look for the Workshops and Events page to begin reflecting the shape of our February conference over the next couple of weeks. Also, we’ll likely be opening Advance Submission Readers selection earlier than usual. Figure the first to second week of December.
We’re gearing up for a most excellent 30th anniversary, what with well over $4 million worth of first-time authors’ success behind us and an ever-expanding international community. We have even more to celebrate with upcoming releases by SCWCers. Neal Griffin’s A Voice from the Field drops February from Forge Books. Where Tia Suarez jumped off the pages in his previous thriller, Benefit of the Doubt, now she takes center stage in a story all her own, tackling human trafficking in the U.S. …
Mark Koopmans Revival: The Donald Braswell Story, the manuscript of which earned him an SCWC Outstanding Memoir Award at SD27, is out November 3rd … August McLaughlin’s Embraceable: Empowering Facts and True Stories About Women’s Sexuality just had its cover reveal … Frank Pray’s short story, “Family Honor,” has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize by the literary magazine, Lost Coast Review … Aline Ohanesian’s Orhan’s Inheritance scored no. 24 on BuzzFeed Books’ “31 Books That Will Restore Your Faith In Humanity” … And Ara Grigorian’s debut novel, Game of Love, landed a finalist spot in the 12th Annual USA Best Book Awards.
If you’re not already, be sure to join the SCWC .COMmunity and subscribe to valuable updates and opportunities by entering your email address. Further, stay up to speed via our TSU.co/SoCalWriters and Twitter feeds. The pre-registration discount of $75 off Full Conference expires December 1. Your words are worth it. Do your work a solid and invest in yourself today.
And, speaking of Ara Grigorian, here’s an excerpt from his talk at September’s Irvine conference, addressing literary agents, social media and Sherpas.
–Michael Steven Gregory
Executive Director, SCWC
New York Times best-selling author of The Prince of Risk, Rules of Deception, Rules of Vengeance, Rules of Betrayal, Numbered Account, The Runner, among other thrillers, Christopher Reich will be joining us as a Special Guest Speaker for SD30. His latest, the standalone Invasion of Privacy, pits one women’s quest to uncover the truth behind her husband’s death against a new generation of cutting-edge surveillance technology and the most dangerous conspiracy in America. It’s his first appearance at the SCWC and we’re happy to have him. Welcome, Christopher.
Our second Special Guest Speaker confirmed is Howard Shulman, author of Running from the Mirror. Orphaned by his parents after contracting a disfiguring infection only three days following birth, Howard’s unflinching memoir chronicles his journey from bitter, bullied outcast ward of New Jersey to soul-lifting salvation decades later. An affirming testament to the resilience of the human spirit, he also joins us for the first time Presidents’ Day Weekend. Welcome aboard, Howard.
Howard will also debut a new workshop, co-conducted by writing coach, freelance editor and veteran SCWCer Trish Wilkinson, “Writing a Memoir: Making the Process Rewarding and Your Story Salable.” Despite rumor and those nay sayers claiming that memoir is dead, sales continue to prove otherwise, as they have done year after year after year. So long as you know how to write it, chances are you can sell it.
Along with our usual slate of targeted craft-centric, business and “Do Yourself Independence” sessions, all geared to getting you where you want to be as a writer, we’ll be introducing several new workshops for our 30th anniversary. First off, a standalone track conducted by novelists Claudia Whitsitt and Jeremy Lee James, “A Novel Journey: From Beginning to THE END,” kicks off Saturday at 9 a.m. and runs through Sunday afternoon. Comprised of eight daytime sessions, ANJ is limited in attendance and requires advance signup prior to the conference. Full details are available here.
Award-winning author Ara Grigorian will debut “Book Blueprint: From Foundation Forward.” This objective-oriented five-part series, spanning Saturday and Sunday afternoons, focuses on yielding participants a clear template unique to their specific WIP to facilitate completion post-conference. Details here.
Next up, Jean Jenkins will again conduct her popular genre workshop, the two-part “Best Foot Forward: Polishing to Impress,” which has so far contributed to yielding some dozen published novels out of the SCWC (details here). She’ll also introduce “Master Class: Editors’ Tricks to Grow Your Writing.”
Our periodic “Writing for Real” returns to San Diego with several new sessions. For those writing about law enforcement perspectives, experiences, procedures, strategies and tactics, numerous accomplished authors, federal, municipal and judicial agency members of the SCWC community are jumping in to make it great. Workshop leaders on the docket include Richard Craig Anderson, Paul Bishop, Teresa Burrell, Neal Griffin, Michael R. Shevock and, of course, Wes Albers.
Many, many more workshops to announce, as well as all those familiar friends and new who’ll be populating the schedule. Among them: agents Paul Fedorko and Samantha Bemekamp make their first appearance at our San Diego event. Also joining us, before taking a long hiatus, is novelist Bethany Lopez. She’s got a new short story just out, “Leap of Faith,” which is a fun read.
Other SCWCers with books recently out, or soon to be released, include Margaret Dilloway. A companion to her lauded Sisters of Heart and Snow, The Tale of the Warrior Geisha tells the historical part of the novel and is now available as an e-book only edition. And in a departure from her award-winning women’s fiction, the first in a new middle-grade fantasy series, Momotaro: Xander and the Lost Island of Monsters, is out April from Disney-Hyperion … Another bit of a departure comes from critically acclaimed mystery author Alan Russell. His latest is A Cold War, which Booklist calls, “[A] fascinating look at survivalists and the wilderness of our fiftieth state as well as being a truly gripping page-turner in the manner of Tim Johnston’s Descent.”
Of true crime writer Caitlin Rother’s latest, Then No One Can Have Her, Suzy Spencer (Wasted) affirms, “It’s riveting, revealing, and insightful.” … Book one of the Tasa’s Passage Trilogy, by Jeffrey J. Michaels, Tasa’s Path, is just out, as is Alan Patch’s re-release of Passage at Delphi (Apollo Series), a formidable mix of historical fiction, mythology fantasy and adventure … Finally, Oz Monroe’s debut novel, a dark fantasy, Soil-Man is set for publication by year’s end. Best of success to all!
That’s it for now. Meanwhile, take advantage of the pre-registration Early “Bard” Discount, be sure to join our greater .COMmunity conversation on Facebook, and follow the SCWC on TSU.co/SoCalWriters and Twitter for exclusive authorial insights and opportunities. Now here’s an excerpt from Neal Griffin’s moving talk last month at LA13, addressing his need to challenge readers’ expectation of what crime fiction should be about.
–Michael Steven Gregory
Executive Director, SCWC
Merely two weeks after a sensational LA13 (Irvine) and we’re full-on into prepping February’s San Diego event, which will make for our 48th conference in 30 years. Wes and I and many long-term staffers reflected on that fact recently. “Whoa,” is about all we could collectively muster. That’s a lot of writers who’ve placed their trust in the SCWC; a lot of success stories, too. And we couldn’t be more grateful for the opportunity to being a part. Among the latest is longtime SCWCer Kelley Kaye, AKA Kelley Gusich, who wrote the cozy mystery now titled Death by Diploma: Chalkboard Outlines Book One way back when she first started attending the SCWC as Kelley Bowles. It’ll be released by Red Adept early 2016, and we’re thrilled.
As usual, tons of other good “muse” to report this time of year—more than we can squeeze into one update … Frederick Ramsay has two new novels coming out: The Vulture, Ike Schwartz Mysteries book 10, plus Danger Woman, the second in his Botswana mystery series … Gayle Carline’s dropping not one, not two, but three new titles on us for the holidays. Raising the Perfect Family and Other Tales, You’re from Where? and Holly Jolly Holidays are all available in the next few weeks.
From SD28, Yvette Hovsepian-Bearc now has The Political Ideology of Ayatollah Khamenei: Out of the Mouth of the Supreme Leader of Iran out from the UCLA Center for Middle East Development series. A fellow at the Center for the Middle East Development at the University of California, Los Angeles, Yvette earned a B.A. in Business, a Masters in Theology, and Ph.D. in Islamic Studies. In other words, she’s basically a big brain bright enough to turn to us for guidance, and we’re pleased to have given it.
Another familiar SCWCer, Jessica Therrien, is finally getting the love she deserves. Acorn Publishing is re-addressing and re-releasing her Y/A Children of the Gods series. Oppression and Uprising are out now. Redemption, for the first time, will be released November.
Still more to announce, but will have to wait until next update. We have other things to discuss…
Unveiled at last month’s Irvine conference, possibly a work in progress. But here’s where we stand:
Probably only those who were in Irvine would know this, but here it is: Two hours before opening the SCWC registration desk on Friday, Sept. 25, our Facebook wall was targeted, deliberately sabotaged and taken down. Well over 1400 members were tossed irretrievably into the ether, along with the voluminous links to invaluable resources, exceptionally argued opinions and perspectives that served one of the best writer walls on Facebook. Facebook has been of no help recovering our wall. Consequently, we’re starting anew. Please re-join the SCWC.community Facebook wall.
The entire ordeal speaks well to Laura Taylor’s wildly popular workshop, “Indie Excellence: Glocalization and the Key to Survival,” which will be updated and slated again for SD30. Fundamental takeaway? Rely solely on one source of outreach to the community and you just might, probably, likely get torched. Another reason why we’re now obsessively backing up so much info on our Tsu and Twitter community feeds.
That’s all for now. Much info more to deliver soon. In the meanwhile, take advantage of the Early “Bard” Discount, have a gander at this excerpt from LA13 Special Guest Speaker Aline Ohanesian and listen hard.
–Michael Steven Gregory
Executive Director, SCWC