Sparks Fly During The San Francisco Writers Conference

It had to happen.

After weeks of Internet back and forth on the self-publishing versus traditionally publishing options (which kind of blossomed into WWIII), with articles like this,  and this, and this monstrosity of a blog post that took me three hours to read and that time was spent on the post, not counting the comments, you’d figure that some of that fiery emotion still lingered in the air.

The keynote speaker for the 2014 San Francisco Writers Conference was Barry Eisler, renowned writer of thrillers. He is also an engaging and charismatic speaker. While the ensuing address wasn’t exactly a s*** show, the sparks were definitely flying, mostly because Mr. Eisler gave a spirited speech on the current state of publishing. He listed toward the side of self or indie publishing, giving his own personal experiences and the reasons why he decided to go that route, while acknowledging the fact that there is still a place for an author to choose the traditional publishing route of gaining an agent and then a Big New York Publishing House. (I’m not going to rehash his words; you can click on any of those above links to get the gist of the debate.)

Keep your eyes wide open and make a decision based on gathering all of the facts. That’s what I got out of this address. Sage words for everyday living, wouldn’t you say?

I observed a wide range of reaction in this crowded room of 500 attendees. Keep in mind that the room was not only full of wannabe writers who have never published a word either on their own or with assistance, but it was also filled with authors, agents, editors, and those who make their living on the “legacy” model. In between the green with a freshly completed manuscript and the greenest at the top of the food chain were people like me, who had attended the conference before, or who had some success in self publishing, or who had started companies specifically designed to make the self publishing experience easier. By the end of Mr. Eisler’s speech, some were nodding in agreement, some were visibly blanched and upset, and others experienced a light bulb moment of “Oh! I can do that?”

At the end of the address, Michael Larsen came up and gave a just as spirited counterpoint to everything Barry Eisler said.

sfwc

I don’t know Barry Eisler. I’ve never read his books, as they’re not in the genre I like to read for enjoyment, but I might buy one of them to throw on the To Read pile that I can now build a small house with. To be honest, I don’t know any of the authors who have broken away from the traditional publishing model. I know the most visible ones write great books and have strong followings and they’re all immensely wealthy as a result. I do know that what works for one might not work for another.

On the other hand, I know agented authors with published works who haven’t seen book sales rise over 100.

I’m the kind of person who doesn’t believe in leprechauns or pots at the end of the rainbow. I buy lottery tickets, but I’m pretty sure I’m never going to win. I missed out on the eBay and Martha Stewart IPOs, and totally missed the bitcoin boat altogether, which means I will work like a dog until I drop dead.

Economic success is a combination of creating a viable product, brilliant marketing, being at the right place at the right time, finding a loyal niche and consistently delivering. There’s also a bit of serendipity in the way the cards fall; all the stars have to be aligned perfectly, especially in the writing world where a book is a work of art and the art of gatekeeping is a subjective (i.e. artistic) one. Not everyone can find that level, if it were that easy, everyone would be rich and famous.

The reason why I attend the San Francisco Writers Conference is that it consistently provides a wealth of information on the writing world, in craft, in marketing, in giving the opportunity for writers to briefly touch those in the publishing world. Michael and Elizabeth have been generous in allowing all points of view, thereby giving the attendees many options.

I go each year, because by mid-February, I need a recharging badly.

And it doesn’t hurt at all when the sparks fly.

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Writing and Finding Your Inner Artist

If you’ve wondered where I’ve been, the editing of Finding Cadence has taken up a lion’s share of my time. Update: I’m still on the second part, although I’m very close to nailing it down, and will then go on to the third part, which will be more like a second edit since it’s so full of new plot twists and characters. The ending is also new.

In the meantime, I’ve finally figured out the RWA PRO loop. I’ve been PRO for over a year, but Yahoo! forums make me want to sell all of my modern devices and go live in a forest somewhere, a forest without electricity. For one, I can’t get into my Yahoo! mail, because my password changed (!) and my attempts to recover are futile. Even when I got into the mail, 90% of it was junk, and I’d spend an hour or so deleting the junk. Somehow, the Yahoo! loop mail now gets transferred to my regular email account. How that happens, please do not ask me. I’m woefully terrible on the computer.

The main topic for the PROs this week was sales, going indie, and more sales. Small house vs. Big House vs. indie, self-pub vs. helped self-pub, etc. The upside of this rather depressing exchange is that selling 100 books is actually not a bad thing (I mention this because that’s just about what I’ve sold). Many, many authors sell that or less. Many, many PRO authors.

I’ve said before that I just don’t get into sales. I have a product, but I’m not going to push it. My lackadaisical attitude probably stems from the fact that when I want to buy something, I despise getting “sold.” Not to decry salesmen (although the used car salesmen are rather slimy-I can say that because there are some in my family) many of whom are great people, but that’s just not me. I’m similarly that way with my jewelry. If people are interested, cool, if not, cool too. In this world, there is art for everyone. I won’t be offended if you don’t like mine.

I might mention VIRTUALLY YOURS every once in a while (currently ranked 519,148 HA!), but I don’t spam my Facebook or Twitter feed with impassioned pleas to buy. I don’t have a “real” author web site, although someday I might, when there is more than one book available. Perhaps if I begged, or invested in blog tours, or passed out freebies, or stood on my head, I could sell more than 100 books.

But…I do not use my creative side to make money (obviously). Being in the business of making money rather sucks. You have to push, sell (a little bit), cut corners, stay within budget, and worry, worry, worry. Oh, we need to make money, and I do it in my day job, but it’s not what I live to do. I’m an artist; I live to create.

Coincidentally, I’m taking another Savvy Author class, this one on The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. She looks at writing as what it is: art.

Unlike a job, though, being an artist requires a certain amount of freedom. You must free yourself from all sorts of conflicts (anger, shame) inside yourself. This makes perfect sense to me, and is how I generally look at living, as though it’s a spiritual journey. A person full of fear, loathing, angst, and doubt cannot possibly make the best art. Of course, trying and trying again, perfecting the art, as well as the artist, is the whole point.

And this week, I was also directed by Book Baby to this post by Michael Larsen of the San Francisco Writers Conference and the Larsen Pomada Literary Agency. Creating Your Literary Ecosystem-I liked it! The ten “P’s” of writing. I was so impressed, I printed it out to keep near my computer when I write.

You see, I might never be a best-selling author, but I will truly be the best artist I can be.

🙂

Nothing Could Be More Perfect Than This Stolen Post

This lovely missive was in my email inbox today, from Michael Larsen of the San Francisco Writers Conference. The sentiments expressed are perfect not only for writers, but for anyone who wishes to live a more perfect life.

Thank you, Michael, for keeping it real, and see you in February. 🙂

A Wish List for Perfect Days

In memory of my brother Ray,

a San Francisco Writers Conference benefactor, who had many of them.

 

If your days were perfect, what would they be like?

Your list will be different, but it might include:

Inside

  • having harmonious personal and professional goals that motivate you to do whatever it takes to achieve them
  • putting short-term goals in the service of long-term achievements with enduring value
  • living as simply as possible, as if every day were your last
  • knowing what enough is and earning it with daily effort
  • loving what you do so much you don’t notice time
  • balancing

–desire and necessity

–giving and having

–time and money

–thought and feeling

–comfort and the need to create and serve

–serving others and yourself

–sitting and moving

–screen time and the rest of your life

–work, home, and leisure

–ownership and access

–sound and silence

–planning, flexibility, and spontaneity

–imbalances created by the need to focus on an activity

–yin and yang 

In the World

  • filling your days with challenges that inspire your creativity
  • seeing opportunities in change, problems, and the unexpected
  • earning and enjoying the respect, admiration, friendship, and support of everyone you know
  • expressing gratitude through giving and service
  • having time and money to devote to the people, ideas, projects, and organizations you’re passionate about
  • learning about what excites you and what you need to know
  • laughing and making others laugh
  • making decisions, knowing that that money, technology, and other forms of power are useful tools but destructive masters
  • meeting your responsibilities as a citizen of a neighborhood, city, state, country, and the world
  • transforming anger about problems into positive action
  • needing no contact with the legal, medical, or corporate world, government, or large institutions, except to try to improve them
  • being able to work anywhere
  • helping strangers who can’t help you
  • celebrating your achievements

At Home

  • waking early, after an uninterrupted night’s sleep, next to your beloved, knowing the best way to use the day and eager to start it
  • having a home that has charm, character, and a garden, and that  is filled with love, light, color, art, music, and books, and that enlightens, entertains, and inspires everyone who enters
  • spending time with a family that is a source of love, renewal, encouragement, and wisdom
  • loving and needing the joys of domesticity but not letting them lessen your courage, discipline, and determination to pursue the dreams you were born to fulfill
  • sharing simple, varied, beautiful, colorful, delicious, nutritious, locally produced food
  • having a spiritual practice that brings you peace of mind
  • being at peace with your significance in 400 billion galaxies
  • living in a place that’s safe, good for raising children and provides privacy, diversity, a sense of community, natural beauty, a creative environment, access to culture and kindred spirits, local and independent sources of products and services, effective schools and government, full employment, freedom from want, a climate without extremes, planned growth that enhances the quality of life, community involvement, and the freedom to live as you wish
  • renewing your sense of wonder at the beauty and grandeur of nature
  • reading books you love without being disturbed, with Bach or Mozart providing the  soundtrack
  • working in your garden growing the fruits, vegetables, and flowers
  • using only what you need and minimizing waste
  • exercising your mind and body
  • understanding the value of people, information, and experiences and giving them the attention they deserve
  • having patience with others and yourself
  • being debt-free and saving for the future you want
  • experiencing no form of marketing
  • doing all you can as well as you can and expressing your gratitude for the day
  • making love as if it were the first time and the last
  • renewing yourself with sleep that begins the moment you snuggle your beloved

What makes a day perfect is subjective, but unlike this list, it’s likely to be simple. May every day be as close to perfect as you can make it. Like a rose, you were born to bloom. Now is the time to start doing whatever is best for you and becoming who you were born to be. As Anne Frank wrote: “It is never too late to start doing the right thing.”

Please feel free to share this list. I hope it inspires you and those you love to make a list and share it. This list will always be a work in progress, and I’d like to learn from yours. Many thanks for your time.

Michael Larsen

To Borrow a Line from My Other Blog: It’s My Pity Party and I’ll Cry if I Want To

The one good thing about being a writer: You get to make up all kinds of stuff in your head, transfer it to the written word, and glory in your obvious gift of converting language into entertainment.

The one bad thing about being a writer: Real Life.

Real Life has taken the wind out of my sails in the last ten days. There is the impending death of a family member – no picnic, to be sure; spring, when the yard beckons for attention; summer, when the Real Job heats up; and the antics of my children (yes, even though they are grown – responsibility doesn’t lessen, it just morphs into a different monster). So I have not been writing as much as I should.

I like writing, really I do. I’ve done it continuously since my mother handed me my first pencil. However, my mother was not a fan. I leaned toward scathing pieces from the get-go. In fact, a little known ironic anecdote: I was thrown out of Catholic school for a little story I wrote on a dare. I have always pushed the envelope.

My mother gave me a Remington typewriter that weighed about 25 pounds for my high school graduation, wished me well, and advised me to “stop writing stuff that makes people angry.” Then I entered my twenties, went to college, and partied a little too hard. No direction. My very first novel typed on that very same typewriter sits in a box in my basement somewhere. No, it’s not complete. I ran out of steam after 100 pages or so.

Being an adult means making choices, like working to eat. I did that. I got married. I had kids. I love my family, but Real Life really sucks the time away from the creative side. So what did I do? Made time for me. It was easier to do when the kids didn’t need me as much. Before that, I felt guilt for being selfish.

And so started art classes and writing. I’m totally amazed that I have completed two novels. Two entire books with the words “The End” at the bottom of the last page. This is epic, my friends. I have so many balls up in the air, it’s a miracle I can complete anything.

My first completed novel needs major work. The second has been majorly worked on, and I thought it was ready for submission. I thought I was ready for the standard rejection. There are literally thousands of people writing novels and only a small percentage ever snag an agent or ever get published in the traditional sense. These facts made for a nice buffer, and I’ve been handling my “sorry, not what we’re looking for” s with aplomb.

This week’s rejection was different.

I was told my novel concept might be too novel to be published. (I agree, it’s different. But too unusual to be published? That was crushing.)

Huh. I then went into Pity Party mode. For about a minute and a half. (Okay, a day and a half.) I ate a lot of fast food and chased it with chocolate and soft drinks. While chocolate is a writer’s best friend, fast food and soft drinks aren’t usually on my radar. I now have a pimple the size of a quarter (location kept secret because it’s quite embarrassing) for all of my gluttony.

I [psychically] cried about several things, including my rejection(s), my fence falling down, the state of the economy, the absence of the wire wrap teacher (because I like her and she’s funny but she has a broken toe and hasn’t been to class in a couple of months), our tax bill this year, and the fact that every weekend it’s been rainy and cold instead of warm and sunny. I also pitched a fit about my muffin top, my husband’s office (still looks like a bomb exploded), and some of my lesser favorite employees.

When I came out of my funk, I started writing. I also started reading. Here is an amazing blog post about failure. Son of a gun, but that was timely. Here is another about manufacturing writing time. Thank you, I needed that. Then a writing friend sent me this link, which caused me to laugh heartily. Of course there is the famed Rejectionist, whose current post has more to do with fashion than being rejected. I liked that.

That being said, the Pity Party is officially over. It’s time to get busy.