Archive for November 2014

Reading at Village Books? This Message is for YOU!

A Message from Laura Kalpakian:

Hello PLACEBO authors! We are delighted you are joining us for the Third Annual Reading of the novel at Village Books. Clearly PLACEBO gave all of you much fun; the book is filled with narrative energy, wit, comedy and drama. A guaranteed surprise every day with each new chapter.

On Monday, December 8th we meet in VB’s downstairs reading space. Please come 15 minutes early, at 6:15. We will start on time. We have two hours, 6:30 to 8:30. That’s all we have. We have a lot of readers. This means that each of you gets FOUR MINUTES. That’s it. No matter how brilliant your prose, your take on the novel, your backgrounds to the characters, four minutes is it. If you go over that, a loud drum will sound with a dirge-beat, or perhaps a shrieking whistle will rend the air, or a couple of rodeo clowns will come and escort you off. Don’t find out. Please observe the time limit.

The allotted time is short because we also have to allow for introductions, for applause (lots of it) for laughter (lots of that too) and to get one person down from the lectern and another person up. We’ll reserve the front rows for the authors. Please sit there.

Your four minutes also includes your intro to your material. Here are some thoughts and suggestions for keeping it fast-paced and lively:

Firstly, don’t try to make sense. The novel doesn’t make sense. It isn’t supposed to, and that’s the fun of it. Anyone who wants the larger picture, can go online and read it for free.

Don’t recap what came before. (When we last saw our heroine, she was……..) No. Keep it in the present that you created.

Your intro might read something simple like:

“Hi, I’m ____________ [your name]

and I took these characters [name the characters you dealt with; if they are new characters you created for your chapter then briefly identify: “I made up a new character, Lili Spedrova, the palm reader,” We don’t need Lili’s background. She reads palms. Maybe she read Miranda’s palm and told her to dump Scott. Keep it simple. If you made up new characters, and they don’t show up in your reading, don’t refer to them.]

“I brought (or sent) these characters to__________ [wherever, especially if you moved the location of the action] where they __________did whatever they did.” Keep it simple. If they robbed a bank, say it, but don’t tell us how they tunneled underground for three days segueing into the difficulties of the bank’s alarm system. Your intro should frame your excerpt, not the whole chapter.

Then, for the read itself select c. 250 to 300 words (depending on the length of your intro) that best exemplifies your narrative voice. Your audience wants to hear your voice, both speaking and on the page. If you’ve got witty dialogue, use the dialogue. If you’ve created a great spooky scene, then use 300 words of that.   If you have written something uproariously funny, use that. Decide what really sounds like you, the author. Feel free to skip about and edit from your chapter. Trust me, no one will know the difference.

Lastly, do your edits and time yourself for the whole read. Don’t guess at it. Rehearse with a timer. Make your adjustments accordingly.

I have requested Sam to be our downstairs VB liaison person for the read; he is excellent, energetic and charming. If you need something, ask him. I am going to request a lot of chairs because of course all writers have their entourages, and you should all bring yours.   I will also ask to have a table with some water glasses there as well.

Lastly, amigos, the allotted time is short because as you all well know, no one can sit in those folding metal chairs for two hours without serious lumbago setting in.

I look so forward to Monday the 8th, to seeing you, your entourages, and all the Red Wheelbarrow Writers, to hearing your inimitable voices read successive portions of deathless prose. November is a great month for writers.

If you have questions, please feel free to zap a note to Laura, or Susan or Victoria.

This Saturday, Indies First!


Please join us this Saturday, November 29, at Village Books

as RWB’s very own Laura Kalpakian and Janet Oakley

will be joined by local author Noble Smith

in support of Indies First!

Here’s what Village Books has to say about the event:

“Indies First is a year-round campaign in support of independent bookstores by authors and publishers. Sherman Alexie came up with the idea for writers to support their local indie by volunteering to work at the store on Small Business Saturday in 2013. Alexie called the appeal “Indies First.” Now, bestselling author Neil Gaiman and musician-author Amanda Palmer are leading the call for their fellow authors to get behind Indies First for the 2014 holiday season. Join us at Village Books as we host two book chats featuring various local authors who will recommend some of their favorite books, just in time for the holiday gift season!

At 11am local authors Laura Kalpakian, Janet Oakley and Noble Smith will talk up their favorite latest reads, and at 4pm we’ll host authors Rob Slater and Clete Smith. Come prepared to take some notes, and then shop with lots of great ideas.”


See you there!


So much depends upon a red wheelbarrow!


It takes a wheelbarrow full of writers to make one Nano-novel.

Thank you, Placebo writers,
for penning or being about to pen
your marvelous chapters!

Susan, Victoria, Laura, Cami, Pam, Dick et al

A Remarkable Speech from Ursula K. Le Guin at the 65th National Book Awards

Thank you, Linda Lambert, for sharing this with Red Wheelbarrow Writers!


Ursula K. Le Guin was honored at the National Book Awards tonight and gave a fantastic speech about the dangers to literature and how they can be stopped. As far as I know it’s not available online yet, so I’ve transcribed it from the livestream below. The parts in parentheses were ad-libbed directly to the audience, and the Neil thanked is Neil Gaiman, who presented her with the award.

Thank you Neil, and to the givers of this beautiful reward, my thanks from the heart. My family, my agent, editors, know that my being here is their doing as well as mine, and that the beautiful reward is theirs as much as mine. And I rejoice at accepting it for, and sharing it with, all the writers who were excluded from literature for so long, my fellow authors of fantasy and science fiction—writers of the imagination, who for the last 50 years watched the beautiful rewards go to the so-called realists.

I think hard times are coming when we will be wanting the voices of writers who can see alternatives to how we live now and can see through our fear-stricken society and its obsessive technologies to other ways of being, and even imagine some real grounds for hope. We will need writers who can remember freedom. Poets, visionaries—the realists of a larger reality.

Right now, I think we need writers who know the difference between the production of a market commodity and the practice of an art. Developing written material to suit sales strategies in order to maximize corporate profit and advertising revenue is not quite the same thing as responsible book publishing or authorship. (Thank you, brave applauders.)

Yet I see sales departments given control over editorial; I see my own publishers in a silly panic of ignorance and greed, charging public libraries for an ebook six or seven times more than they charge customers. We just saw a profiteer try to punish a publisher for disobedience and writers threatened by corporate fatwa, and I see a lot of us, the producers who write the books, and make the books, accepting this. Letting commodity profiteers sell us like deodorant, and tell us what to publish and what to write. (Well, I love you too, darling.)

Books, you know, they’re not just commodities. The profit motive often is in conflict with the aims of art. We live in capitalism. Its power seems inescapable. So did the divine right of kings. Any human power can be resisted and changed by human beings. Resistance and change often begin in art, and very often in our art—the art of words.

I have had a long career and a good one. In good company. Now here, at the end of it, I really don’t want to watch American literature get sold down the river. We who live by writing and publishing want—and should demand—our fair share of the proceeds. But the name of our beautiful reward is not profit. It’s name is freedom.

Thank you.

Here is a link to the speech:


Hooray! We’re halfway through!


Congratulations, Placebo writers, on a SPECTACULAR first 15 chapters! You’ve weathered turbulent seas and the winds of change like pros. Sail on, Chapter 16-30 writers!