So often it is we judge literary success only by the quality of our rejection – Hey, they spelled my name right on the rejection letter! – that it’s easy to lose faith in one’s path to publication. In and of itself, even publication won’t guarantee less rejection from book critics and book buyers, family and friends, whether traditionally published or not. Rejection is just part of the process of being a writer. Yet despite facing an industry awash in rejection, an industry in which incalculable competition already exists and grows exponentially each year, emerging writers glom onto hope. Truly, emerging writers remain the world’s most insufferable optimists. Why? Because stories matter.
Good stories matter even more. Good stories grant readers permission to escape. They allow readers to forget; or force them to remember. Good stories entertain us, or educate us, embolden us or make us think, even dare fill us with wonder, sometimes all at once. Because above all else, good stories make us feel. Something. Everything.
As a writer, and more importantly as a reader, I need desperately to feel. I demand it. We’re all suckers for a good story.
But a good story well told is more than words strewn shrewdly across a page; more than clean structure and dialogue that pops; vivid scenes and imaginative sequences; breathless action and rich, compelling characters. A good story – scratch that – a good author of an exceptional story recognizes the reader’s needs, embraces them and delivers. A good author crafts an exceptional story that makes us care.
Here in the thick of November, with so many SCWCers and over 40,000 other NaNoWriMo writers immersed in the challenge of committing 50,000 words to a rough draft, in a month, one can lose sight of the why, let alone how to, write a good story. Which is where the SCWC has historically fit in.
Once words are laid naked on the pages of that initial draft, now the real work begins.
Whatever you’re currently writing, be it a hard-rocking adventure, killer murder mystery, YA fantasy, NA rom-com, spellbinding sci-fi, literary, memoir, historical, transformative narrative, prescriptive nonfiction or anything else, you need to know what’s working, what’s not working, and possess the tools to ready it for commercial viability.
The SCWC provides a safe, welcoming environment to do just that. The SCWC prides itself on encouraging bold voices who strive to distinguish themselves by bolstering the quality of their work.
We are about the excellence of craft and clarity of message in your efforts. Your manuscript. Your career. And honesty is our policy. It’s a subjective thing, of course, but SCWC staff can only respond to what you’ve got. What you might think you’ve got doesn’t change that. That’s what makes writing hard. That’s what makes rejection sting. That’s why honest, empirically qualified, professional feedback is so intrinsically valuable to writers.
So, in the giddy haze that often follows the end of NaNoWriMo, or the grim wake of disinterest expressed at a recent pitch to an agent or editor, or yet another inexplicable rejection notification, do know that there is a place for you to get a reality check on where your work is now; figure what’s broken or not; what needs to be fixed and how.
Publishing a book is an affirmation of purposeful being. But publishing a good book, an exceptional book, a great book, requires a community. This is the time — your time, our time — to join the chorus of singular voices offering distinct perspectives on today’s world, yesteryears’, and beyond tomorrow’s to make a difference. A contribution. A declaration. Or just to give the reader one rip-snortin’ wallop of a good story well told.
Effectively communicating the movie in your mind to some faceless stranger across a page is a noble goal well worth making the effort to achieve. One that the SCWC is most proud in serving so many to do so.
Be the best writer you can be. Inform. Inspire. Entertain.
Because stories matter.
(You can read my take on an old favorite, “A Book Worth Reading,” here.)
Lots to report on San Diego 31, though most of it can wait ’til the next update – including some especially great news for one of our favorite workshop leaders. What’s important now is that the Advance Submission Readers are open for selection, including literary agents Leticia Gomez (Savvy Literary), Amanda O’Connor (Trident Media Group), Eve Porinchack (Jill Corcoran Literary) and John Rudolph (Dystel, Grosset & Dunlap). Do keep in mind that several more readers will be added as we begin finalizing the remaining staff for February’s event.
Now on to some of the most recent SCWC successes…
Frederick Ramsay’s tenth book in his long running Ike Schwartz Mysteries is actually a prequel to the contemporary series. Set in 1920, Publishers Weekly calls Copper Kettle, “a genuine pleasure to read.” It’s out February from Poisoned Pen Press… The third in workshop leader Claudia Whitsitt’s award-winning “Kids Like You” series, Broken Lines, is out January, also just in time for the conference.
In her third Meg Pennington novel, Nancy Churchill weaves a tale of lies, love, money, and murder in A Deliberate Lie, out now… And majorly longtime SCWCer and good friend Simon Mayeski has a fine contribution to the newly released science fiction anthology, Chronicle Worlds: Paradisi. It’s also out now.
Congratulations and best of success to all!
That’s it for the time being. There’ll be another update before we hit December, regarding workshops and additional staff. Be sure and subscribe to the SCWC .COMmunity for periodic email updates and announcements. And definitely join us on Facebook to be privy to all sorts of valuable insight and inspiration. Our winter event is limited to 175 writers. Discounted pre-registration is now open. Your words are worth it. Be there.
Now be sure to watch the video below to understand why and how you need to take control of your writing career.
–Michael Steven Gregory
Executive Director, SCWC
Our extended Presidents’ Day Weekend conference takes place February 17-20, 2017. With over five-dozen workshops–including “Rogue” read & critique sessions that often go way, way late into the early morning hours–for the writer devoted to being the best storyteller s/he can be, this one’s for you. And though we’re still nearly five months out to SD31, there’s plenty to report …
Joining the SCWC for the first time as a Special Guest Speaker, Jeff Johnson will discuss his writer’s journey. Making quite a run of it in quick order, Jeff recently delivered feature screenplays to Sternman Productions and Cineville, respectively, and has another in pre-production slated for release next year; his debut horror noir novel, Everything Under the Moon (Soft Skull Press), dropped last month, while Knottspeed: A Love Story (Turner) is out February, 2017, followed by Lucky Supreme: A Novel of Many Crimes, from Arcade Publishing, in April. Jeff will also be conducting a couple cool, new workshops.
Former SCWCer James A. Misko returns with a particularly relevant author’s journey to share as a Special Guest Speaker. In somewhat of a coup, Square One Publishers, the excellent house known for its nonfiction titles, has acquired Jim’s first four previously published novels, and will release his latest just in time for the conference. The Path of the Wind tells the story of an idealistic young teacher cast to a remote lumber mill town in Central Oregon, where an intolerant school board and jealous superintendent conspire to break his spirit and destroy his career.
As evidenced yet again at our recent LA14(Irvine) event, a lot of terrific writers come through the SCWC. The improvement and overall level of quality many of us on staff see in those who attend the conference, then go on to apply empirical feedback or lessons learned and return to the next with often superior manuscripts, is inspiring. Writers who truly aim for excellence and settle only for exceptional is what we’re about–and every agent at LA14 noticed.
Speaking of staff, as usual, friends both familiar and new will be joining us in San Diego. While we’ll start rolling out exactly which authors, agents, editors and other publishing professional are aboard starting next update, I do want to confirm that, yes, Ara Grigorian and Janis Thomas are returning to conduct their enormously popular 5-part Novel Intensive. Though it will remain open for all conferees to attend, given it’s popularity this past Irvine, we will be tracking pre-registration attendance to ensure sufficient space.
SCWCers with new releases or books soon to be: the second in Megan Haskell’s Sanyare Chronicles, Sanyare: The Heir Apparent. If you enjoy thrilling adventures across unique realms filled with wise-cracking carnivorous pixies, check it out … Indy Quillen’s debut murder mystery, Tracker: A Fox Walker Novel. Of it, author Laura Taylor lauds, “Rich characterization, brisk pacing, graceful writing, and an in-depth knowledge of Native American spirituality and survival skills hallmark this novel.”
The eighth installment in Teresa Burrell’s compelling Advocate Series, The Advocate’s Homicides, has just been released … As has the ever-prolific Bethany Lopez’s latest women’s fiction, More than Exist … Also, from David Putnam, the fourth in his bad boy Bruno Johnson thrillers, The Vanquished, will be published in February, 2017 … And Jenny D. Williams’ literary thriller, The Atlas of Forgotten Places, will make its debut next July from Thomas Dunne Books. There’s plenty more to be announced, but for now let’s also give a shout out to a couple of titles that have recently earned special recognition …
For Shelly Malone, her nonfiction Inflamed has been chosen by SELF Magazine as one of “7 Fascinating And Illuminating Books That Will Totally Open Your Eyes About Your Health” … And, finally, Aline Ohanesian’s exquisite Ohran’s Inheritance has been named one of six fiction finalists for the prestigious Dayton Peace Prize.
Congratulations and best of success to all!
That’s it for now. Be sure and subscribe to SCWC .COMmunity news updates for periodic email updates and announcements. Discounted pre-registration is now open for San Diego 31. Our winter event is limited to 175 writers. Shouldn’t you be one of them?
–Michael Steven Gregory
Executive Director, SCWC
And we’re off! Discounted Early “Bard” Pre-registration is now open for our 31st annual winter conference. Do so by September 1, 2016 and save a whopping $125 on Full Conference attendance. While well over six months away, plenty of trusted, familiar friends are already aboard. Regular updates, of course, will begin following our fall event in Irvine, Sept. 23-25, 2016. (Check out all the latest news on it here.) As usual, our focus will be on getting you where you want to be with your work, be it with novels, narrative or practical nonfiction, short stories, essays or other writing aimed at commercial publication.
SCWC*SD31 LOCATION: The conference will again be held at the Crowne Plaza Hanalei resort, located mere moments away from Lindbergh Field International Airport, Sea World, Balboa Park, the San Diego Zoo, historic Old Town, downtown and its famous Gaslamp District, along with beaches galore. Dates are Presidents’ Day Weekend, Feb. 17-20, 2017. Lodging discounts are available to SCWC conferees. Phone 800-972-2802 to book your reservation, or click here to do so online. Deadline for discounted hotel registration is January 18, 2017.
SCWC*SD31 SCHEDULE: Rest assured that plenty of craft- and business-centric sessions, read & critique workshops, one-on-one consultations and more will bloat the weekend. Though we’ll not start plugging things in until later, you can get an idea of the overall shape of the conference on the schedule page.
SCWC*SD31 STAFF: In addition to the many familiar workshop leaders, agents, editors and other publishing professionals returning in 2017, we’ll be rolling several new folks into the fold. Check ’em out on the staff page as they’re announced, beginning in October.
If you haven’t, do subscribe to our periodic .COMmunity updates to receive all the latest. Join the well-moderated conversation on our SCWC Facebook group for all sorts of publishing news and support, SCWC exclusives, announcements, and more.
That’s all for now. We look forward to seeing you in San Diego come February, if not before. In the meanwhile, go forth, write well, aim for excellence and settle only for exceptional.
Your words are worth it!
–Michael Steven Gregory
Executive Director, SCWC
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