Tag Archive for writing community

Forward with Strength: Launching your Book into the World

by Susan Sloan

In July I wrote about taking a crash course in marketing my new book and a piece about why it was important to document Fred Fragner’s story. Today, I’m writing about why book launches and writer’s events in general are essential to celebrating community.

The book launch of Yishar Koach: Forward With Strength is scheduled for November 10 at Village Books. So, what’s a book launch? Well, it can be whatever the writer decides it should be.

It could be about shameless self-promotion a la Kardashian style. And it’s always about book sales because there’s no reason to write without getting that book into the hands of readers. And it’s also about celebrating because wowee zowee, you just spent “x” number of years creating and now you are ready to party with some people who appreciate what you’ve accomplished. And it’s about celebrating and sharing the content of your book and the contribution it makes to the sum total of human knowledge. So the author will most likely talk about their book and do a bit of reading from the book to share with their audience. And, at the other end of self-promotion, there will likely be many, many “thank you’s” handed out at a book launch.

So what do these things all have in common? Well, it’s all about celebrating community.

I have a quote in my book from Dietrick Bonhoeffer—the Lutheran pastor who was one of the few German theologians to staunchly resist Hitler and who was eventually hanged on April 9, 1945 for his role in a plot to assassinate Hitler. Bonhoeffer said:

The mark of solitude is silence, as speech is the mark of community. Silence and speech have the same inner correspondence and difference as do solitude and community. One does not exist without the other. Right speech comes out of silence, and right silence comes out of speech

What Bonhoeffer says is profound and it is in many ways the sum total of what it means to be a writer and why book launches and author events are such an important part of the writing experience. Writing, just like speech, comes from silence and solitude, and a rich internal life and probing introspection. But once we take pen-to-paper, we move towards community. And if all goes well, our right speech has the power to change the world. And it has, time after time after time.

If you are available on Nov. 10, I hope you’ll come celebrate Fred’s story. It took him many years before he was willing to share what happened to him but when he realized that he was one of the few remaining witnesses to the Holocaust, he began speaking out. And what he had to say has great significance for our time

forward-with-strengthAuthor’s Bio:  Susan Lynn Sloan is an author and communications specialist who has lived in Maple Falls, Washington since 2004. Susan was born in Chicago and she’s a transplant from northern California. Her interests include family, gardening, snorkeling, books, and film. Her biography of Holocaust survivor, Fred Fragner, is due out this fall. It’s called Yishar Koach: Forward with Strength. Susan is hoping it will inspire readers to understand the importance of persevering even in the midst of the most daunting challenges.

Entering Her Next Incarnation

By Susan Chase-Foster

“I think all writing is a disease. You can’t stop it.”

—William Carlos Williams

Jennifer Wilke

Jennifer Wilke

Jennifer Wilke and I are hanging out, self-medicating our chronic literary conditions at the writers’ table upstairs in Village Books. She’s a tall, handsome woman with a broad, inviting smile. We’re both members of SOLN, a stealth writing group whose exact name I’m not at liberty to reveal at this time.

I’m interviewing Jennifer as part of my own pre-grieving process. By Labor Day she’ll be moving back to Wisconsin, her birthplace, and I’m going to miss learning from her fine writing each week, especially, her sense of humor.

SCF: Jennnifer, Bellingham is such supportive literary community. Why are you leaving us?

JW: “To be close to my dad’s side of the family. They all have great senses of humor, even if some are Republicans. I’m going to miss all of you like crazy.”

Jennifer’s special brand of humor spills into her writing and inspires me to be more open to humor in my own. Here’s an excerpt from her soon-to-be published RWB anthology submission “Abaldyeno” about her1988 trip to the Soviet Union.

As the line inched forward, I remembered the Aeroflot barf bag I’d stolen from my seat pocket on the plane. Would the Customs officer ask me to empty my pockets? Would he accept my defense of innocently wanting a souvenir of the Russian language description of how to use a barf bag? Is a sense of humor allowed?

Jennifer has also taught me how to craft heartwarming scenes that connect readers with universal emotions and truths.

Ludmilla accessorized her running suit with a string of pearls. Her nails were clean and polished. Perhaps she didn’t know we would be camping. She touched my arm and laughed. “You are the first American of my life, Jenny. Camping is a small price to pay to meet you.”

SCF: What about the development of your writing life?

JW: “I was always a good speller and I loved writing and reading. In the 10th grade we read Herman Melville’s Billy Budd. It shocked me every time I found words I didn’t know, like “motley retinue.” I loved the sound of that and still try to use it every chance I get.

At last, our motley retinue of 200 Americans descended Aeroflot’s push-up jet stairs and set foot on Soviet soil in Moscow.

“I think when I really started to write, though, was in the 11th grade. My teacher had us write daily, at least a paragraph. It was intense. I really liked that practice.

“When I started making money it was in Juneau, through technical writing, which I thought was fascinating. But I wanted to learn how to write for movies, so I moved to L.A. I studied screenwriting at USC, pitched some scripts to producers and worked in post-production preparing subtitles for Hollywood movies. After eight years, even though one of my scripts was made into a short film, I was ready to leave. I didn’t know how to schmooze enough to sell screenplays, and I hated parties. Hollywood was exciting, but also disappointing. The writer had no power. That’s when I moved to Bellingham.”

SCF: How has your writing changed since then?

JW: I took the first Red Wheelbarrow Writers workshop taught by Laura Kalpakian, Cami Ostman and Susan Tive. I’d been working on a novel set during the Civil War and related to my family. The class helped me to be a better writer. I also joined my first critique group around that time. It was a big deal because I had to audition, which meant going public, reading my work aloud, really coming out as a writer. Being part of the RWB community has inspired me to be bold enough to write memoir, which I very much enjoy.

 

Jennifer Wilke does seem unstoppable. She’s an engaging storyteller who knows how to pay attention to detail as she works on her current project, a memoir about peace and war, of which her marvelous RWB anthology contribution is a part.

I followed that trail over a slight dune to discover a curving sandy beach and the endless Black Sea. The vast expanse of water was velvet blue, not black. The faded moon was sinking into the watery horizon to let the sun take its place.

SCF: What’s the most important thing you’ve learned, so far, about writing?

JW: Show up!

SCF: Any final words about Jennifer Wilke as a writer?

JW: I feel like I’m entering my next incarnation.

A bit about Susan Chase-Foster

Susan CFSusan is an award-winning poet who gathers spruce tips and shaggy mane mushrooms in Alaska’s boreal forests with her grandson, eats stinky tofu and steamed sweet potato leaves on exotic Taiwanese archipelagos with her son, and has deep conversations about art and kiwis with her husband in their own jungle of a backyard. If there’s time, she ignites her computer and writes a tsunami.

 

Thanks!

When I signed up to write this blog post several months ago, it was at the Red Wheelbarrow Writer’s happy hour and—as I’d been indulging in happiness for well over an hour—I was, um… easily manipulated. And writing a blog post for a bunch of writers at some random future date seemed like a great idea. No problem.

As the deadline neared, however, the idea shriveled: what could I possibly contribute that could be of value to such an amazing group of writers, most of whom have been at this far longer than myself? I tried denying that I would have to do it: the project would be abandoned, no one would notice if I let it slip, the Internet might break, etc. Of course, Diane called me right on cue. Sigh.

But then it occurred to me that everyone likes gratitude, especially when it’s genuine and directed at them, and that would be my honest experience of the Red Wheelbarrow Writers – a great giant heaping serving of gratitude. I am perhaps on mile twenty of my novel-writing marathon, and I have high hopes of reaching the finish line entirely because of this great community. So here’s my thanks to you all:

Thanks for the start.

On October 31, 2011, Cami Ostman texted and challenged me to a Nanowrimo duel—odd, as we didn’t know each other well at the time, and I had never expressed any desire to write a novel. She must have had an intuition that I had a story lurking, or maybe that I am madly competitive, because I picked up the glove. Mostly from a desire to beat her daily word count, I began writing the first story that came into my head, and was surprised by the end of the first week to find a whole crowd of characters had woken up in my mind and were clamoring for freedom. I haven’t had much peace since.

Thanks for the community

As a professional creative, I’ve participated in any number of conferences and activities with other folks similarly inclined, and have always rolled my eyes at what can quickly devolve into—for lack of better words—a big ol’ pecker contest: who has been published, who is connected to which publisher or producer, who won the award, who is sleeping with the drummer. Ick. I prefer solitude. When I reluctantly joined in with my first RWW meeting, what I found in you all was instead a marvelous group of people, all in different parts of their writing journeys, but all wonderfully supportive of one another’s successes and challenges. Each time one of you has garnered an award or new contract, or even just finished the first draft of a difficult project, others in the group are genuinely thrilled as if it were their own success. What a delight to be welcomed into such a group.

Thanks for the stretch.

Just like a really good yoga stretch is often done with a little help from the teacher, and usually hurts, (but not too much) you all have helped me stretch, even when it might not have been comfortable. You’ve been brave enough to tell me I used the same phrase four times in one page, that my characters needed more fleshing out or that (thanks Laura) a whole four pages are a waste of narrative space. Critiquing another’s work honestly is a brave and generous act, and I so appreciate those of you who have been willing to make it hurt a little!

Thanks for the laughs

The group Nanowrimo novels. Enough said.

Thanks for the stories

When I head to Uisce on a Saturday, I no longer see a group of strangers, but feel as if I am entering a big top tent teeming with wild and colorful stories. Because of you all, I have experienced the Alaskan wilderness, the thrill of blue water sailing, the joy of running, and the delicate insights uncovered in a garden. I have bird-watched on remote islands, been a civil war soldier, an African diplomat, a displaced gringa, and a woman obsessed with Elvis. I will never again cook a king salmon without a profound understanding of its arrival on my plate. Thanks for becoming my friends.

 

AGabrielPhotobigAuthor Bio:

Andrea Gabriel has written and/or illustrated a number of picture books for children, and is currently lurching toward the finish of her first novel. She makes a living creating pictures and websites.

In Praise of Writer Buddies

Posted on riverchildbooks.com   November 9, 2014 by Alice Robb

I’m a hermit scribbler, alone in my cluttered office, pecking out my sentences, paragraphs, blogs, letters, stories, novels, memories. Scrawling, sometimes almost illegibly, in my diaries, making outlines, lists, charts. I maintain this essential myth because I need solitude to engage in those satisfying activities. To write requires nothing but the tools (computers and software, pens and paper), an alert mind, my comfy chair, and my dog and mother to force the occasional breaks that keep my body from bonding permanently to the furniture.

Yet, as far back as the Seventies, while I wrote my still-born novel, I craved the company of other writers. I was so nervous and excited the first time I attended a writer’s group. I was out of my league. The focus in that group was on finding publishers; what to write that would sell was their big topic. Mid-novel, I needed to write, not to learn marketing. Not the group for me.

Later, at college, I took workshop style writing classes, and learned the etiquette of issuing and receiving polite critical feedback. Other small writing groups, often with a poetry focus, emphasized appreciation, favoring oohs and ahs over questions and critiques. Working at a community center, I facilitated writing groups. Again, there was lots of praise, often for memoir topics that sometimes put me to sleep. By this time, I’d finished my comedian novel and was starting my third novel. I recognized my need for a writing community, but hadn’t found the right one yet.

A few years ago, I began venturing out of my hermit shell. I talked to friends and acquaintances whom I knew to be writers. Over coffee, we discussed our word-loving lives in general, at great length. What a relief to know other people were experiencing the same joys and frustrations. Needing writing pals, I tried a little critique group that wasn’t the right fit for about a year; when it folded, I was relieved. Taking writing classes at the community college, I discovered a large active local group of writers and publishers. I began attending their monthly dinners. Anti-social as I am, I wrestled myself into going, month after month. You need this, I told my hermit self. I talked to strangers, some annoying but most pleasant and helpful. I made friends.

Then, magic! A tiny new group began to meet; gradually, we’ve coalesced into a trusting enthusiastic foursome of skilled writers. We meet every two weeks. Praising, questioning, and suggesting changes, we work through one another’s novels in progress. We are more than readers; we’re happily involved in one another’s stories.

More magic! I’m doing caregiving work now for an elderly writer friend; we bonded long ago over our craft. And, then! a dear long-lost friend moved back to town; turns out, we’ve both been writing all these years. We have a pair of well-matched writing projects, both in need of some meta-editing. Totally thrilling! I have writer friends, a critique group, and writer partners! I’m in writer-buddy heaven!

Author Bio:

alice robb

Alice Turtle Robb has been writing since early childhood, and has two novels almost ready for publication. One of her novels is about a woman comedian. The other is about a lady with Alzheimer’s who gets lost in Seattle for three days.  She has a BA entitled The Art of Communication; Writing, Talking, and Laughing from Washington University, Fairhaven College. She has also worked for twenty years as a professional caregiver.