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