Writing

Goodbye, Nye Beach Writers Series. It was good to know you.

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For more than thirty years my vacation destination was the Oregon Coast. Leaving behind stressful jobs and busy schedules, my husband and I drove to the coast, almost every year, usually in late September or early October. We’d rent a vacation home overlooking the ocean and do nothing. Well, not really nothing. He’d golf and I’d either write or read. We’d take long walks on the beach, or just sit back and watch the sun set. We loved the quiet easy-going pace we found here and a chance to unwind and recharge before heading back to the real world in Idaho.

If you know anything about the Oregon Coast, you know there is always something happening here, either in Lincoln City or all the way down the coast to Florence. Even after all those trips, we never had time to do everything we wanted to do. Often we would leave saying next time I’m going to ….

One of the things I always wanted to do was attend one of the writer’s events back when they were still held in Yachats. But I could never fit it into our schedule.

When we moved to Oregon, one of the first things I did was attend a Writers on the Edge event at Nye Beach. It wasn’t long before I joined the board and became more involved in the organization.

A strong writing community is one of the reasons I moved to Newport. After thirty years, I still feel like I’m seeing the ocean for the first time. And every day I spend here, I learn to love Oregon more.

For our final event, Writers on the Edge will host Johnny Bargain on June 18 at 7 p.m. at the Visual Arts Center on Nye Beach. If you’re in the area, please stop by and help us celebrate a wonderful organization. And just in case you are interested, here are some things you may not know about our next author, Johnny Bargain.

11 things you may not know about JOHNNY BARGAIN

1) Why did you become a Writer? How did you get started?

The stories from my past were circling in my head. I’d wanted to write a letter to my friend’s 18-year-old son who had been gunned down in the 1960s by the police as he rode his Harley Sportster in Rosebank, Staten Island. Three bullet holes punctured the boy’s back, for no good reason at all. I wanted Stitch to know he had not been forgotten even though 50 years have gone by. The memories weighed heavily and I couldn’t shake them.

Over time, I mentioned some of the incidents to Carla Perry, publisher at Dancing Moon Press and she suggested that I record them on a tape recorder since I didn’t have the patience, eyesight, or ability to write them out on paper and I don’t have a computer. She said the stories were tragic, appalling, poignant, eye opening, and funny, and that they provided a glimpse into the world of motorcycle clubs and gangs that was unlike anything she’d encountered before.

So I headed down to California for a three-day biker party and by day ten, I’d managed to record several stories. Carla transcribed the recordings when I returned, but she said more stories were needed to flesh out a full book. When I said I couldn’t remember more, she suggested I create a map of my Rosebank neighborhood — the bars, Dapper Dan’s motorcycle shop, the houses where I lived, the police station, the location of the murders, the location of infamous parties, the cemetery where Stitch was buried, and the various motorcycle club headquarters. Each time I drew a building or marked an X on the map, stories flooded out, clear as the day they’d happened. So, I headed south again for another biker party and came home with plenty of material.

2) What is your writing routine? How do you discipline yourself to keep at it?

I clear the space in my head by inhaling sweet weed, think of an incident from my past, turn on the tape recorder, and start talking.

3) How many drafts before you feel the book is finished?

Carla Perry prepared three drafts for me. The first was to make sure the information was correctly transcribed and that I was okay with the short story titles. The second was to put the stories in order and correct name spellings. The third was the final draft. The cover designer, Sarah Gayle, also drew cartoonish maps to illustrate the locations where the stories took place, so those are interspersed throughout the book.

4) What was the best thing that happened with regard to your writing career? The worst?

The best thing was getting the stories out of my head so I don’t have to remember them anymore. I feel a sense of freedom knowing I’ve done what I hoped to do – reconnect with Stitch by writing this book dedicated to him. The worst thing is there are still more stories I’d like to get down on paper. Maybe there will be a volume 2.

5) What part of your job do you love the most? Hate or dislike the most?

I can’t write longhand anymore because my eyesight is not so good and I will never use a computer, so talking into the tape recorder worked great for me. Telling stories from my past is not a job. It’s something I’m compelled to do to make peace with my early life.

6) What was the best advice you received as a writer? The worst?

The best advice was when Carla Perry suggested I draw a map of my neighborhood. That was amazing. Every street corner, every bar and tavern, the cafes, the movie theater, the houses my friends lived in, every building, park, church, and school contained vivid stories from my life in Rosebank, Staten Island. It was like taping into full-color movies of what went on in the 1960s. I could remember conversations, the sounds, the smells. It was all there, hidden away in my memory.

7) Who has influenced you the most in terms of developing your personal writing style?

I just speak it out so my writing style is just the same way I talk. Except it’s a little more cleaned up through the editing process.

8) If you weren’t a writer, what would you be?

I’m a retired building engineer. I’m an artist of three-dimensional representations that hang from the ceilings and walls. I’m already 80 years old. I never planned to become a published author.

9) What quote or personal saying do you live by?

“If I don’t see you real soon, I’ll see you down the road someday.” (lyrics from “Car Outside” © Jimmy LaFave.)
“I’m surprised you’re alive.” – Fred, a member of Johnny’s Yoga class.

10) What’s next up for you, writing-wise?

Maybe more stories. Volume 2 of “A Collection of Bummer Summers.”

11) What would you like us to know about your latest release?

The absolutely true stories of my life are in that book.

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Do You Blog?

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The first thing an agent, editor, or publisher asks a writer is, “Do you have a blog?”

Blog, you say. What is a blog? Why do I need a blog?

Social Media and WordPress Consultant Barb Drozdowich wants to tell you. She just released her book The Essential Marketing Tool for Authors: Book Blog Tour, a helpful guide in making sense of all the shoulds, woulds, and coulds.

Barb has taught in colleges, universities, and in the banking industry. More recently, she brings her 15+ years of teaching experience and a deep love of books to help authors develop the social media platform needed to succeed in today’s fast evolving publishing world. She owns Bakerview Consulting and manages the popular blog, Sugarbeat’s Books, where she talks about Romance – mostly Regency.

She is the author of six books and over twenty YouTube videos all focused on helping authors and bloggers. Barb lives in the mountains of British Columbia with her family.

I am so happy to have Barb Drozdowich here today. Please ask her lots of questions about blogging, and just in case you already know Barb, here are some things you may not know.

Fifteen things you may not know about Barb Drozdowich

Why did you become a Writer? How did you get started?

I’ve always been required to write quite a bit in my various jobs. After doing a survey of book bloggers in 2013, I decided I needed to publicize the results – to create a bit of a summary to accompany the results and make it available to anyone who was interested. The best way to do that was by creating something to publish on Amazon. As I created a summary of the results, I decided to make the book so much more. There was and is a lack of understanding of the role book bloggers can play in the promotion of books and I decided to use the book to be a comprehensive guide rather than just survey results. This first book, The Author’s Guide to Working with Book Bloggers started what would become a series of 6 books all aimed at helping authors and bloggers with various technical subjects.

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What is your writing routine? How do you discipline yourself to keep at it?

I have a house with young children, so my writing fits into whatever spare time I can find. And sadly, I’m not very disciplined but I respond really well to deadlines. 🙂 I can produce an amazing amount of material just in the nick of time. I think that will be my reality, until the kids are grown.

 How many drafts before you feel the book is finished?

I create a rough draft that is hopefully pretty complete in terms of content and fire it off to some wonderful beta readers. I get them to tell me if the content is complete, and whether or not it is understandable. Usually they have some changes that they feel need to be made. Once I make the changes that my beta readers suggest, I fine-tune the language and grammar and I then send the book to my outstanding editor. She typically does two rounds of editing followed by proofreading and we are good to publish.

What was the best thing that happened with regard to your writing career? The worst?

The best thing that has happened to me because of my writing is getting notes from authors thanking me – helping them to understand the subjects I cover. I haven’t had a worst yet. Even the critical reviews that I’ve gotten have been well balanced and constructive – no trolls yet!

What part of your job do you love the most? Hate or dislike the most?

I LOVE working with authors. My background is as a technical trainer and I can easily break down technical subjects and explain them in a way that non-technical people can understand.

I’m a voracious reader and anything I can do to help authors sell more books, write more books, I’m happy to do! Often authors spend writing time trying to figure out the various technical tasks that they need to do as part of their job. If I can help them understand various tasks or help them do things more efficiently, they have more time to write books – it’s a win-win for us both.

What do you like to read? Do you read while working on a book? Favorite authors?

 I always have a book or two on the go. My genre of preference is Historical Romance and I have many favorite authors! I read a lot of technical information to help me stay on top of my regular work so the escapism of romance helps me shut my brain down at the end of a busy day.

What was the best advice you received as a writer? The worst?

The best advice is to keep writing. I haven’t really gotten any bad advice. I’m often the one that is explaining why advice is bad that authors get from other sources. 🙂

Who has influenced you the most in terms of developing your personal writing style?

My biggest influence is my mom, hands down. She’s now a retired English teacher with a wicked red pen – literally – she’s old school with pen and paper and is militant about proper grammar and sentence structure. She was the first person who saw a lot of my writing and there was a sea of red ink at the beginning. I’m learning. 🙂 Now she has to hunt to find something for her red pen.

Do you have a good luck charm or superstition?

No. I’m not really a superstitious person.

If you weren’t a writer, what would you be?

I think I would still be a technical trainer and a voracious reader!

What quote or personal saying do you live by?

I really like two sayings: “Do onto others as you would have them do unto you” and “It is what it is…”

What’s next up for you, writing-wise?

I currently have a box set (combination of the Book Blog Tour book and my Author Platform book) in proofreading and my Book Blogger Platform book is in formatting and should be available any day now. I have a re-write of my Goodreads for Authors book in the hands of some beta readers and I am currently polishing my new book “Blogging for Authors,” in preparation of submitting it to my editor. There should be quite a bit published in the first half of this year.

If you could do anything over again, would you and what would it be?

I don’t think I would do anything over again. I feel that things happen for a reason and whether it is a good experience or a bad experience, I have learned from everything. The sum of my experiences has made me the person I am today.

 What advice would you give beginning writers?

Everyone else will tell them to keep writing – which is very true. From my point of view, I would encourage them to create a platform – create a community of friends and supporters that will help with the marketing side of writing a book!

Something we don’t know about you?

My favorite job of all time was working at Toronto’s Metro Zoo driving the trains.

And: What would you like us to know about your latest release?

My latest release is me explaining Book Blog Tours from the point of view of an author as well as the point of view of a book blogger. There is a lot of misunderstanding out there about Tours, and I have written this book to cover all aspects of tours and clear up all the misconceptions. This is a second edition book. In this edition, I have added quite a bit on DIY tours as many authors prefer to set up their own tours.

to learn more about Barb go to :

Author Website: http://barbdrozdowich.com

Business Blog: http://bakerviewconsulting.com

Facebook Author Page: https://www.facebook.com/BarbDrozdowichAuthor

Twitter: http://twitter.com/sugarbeatbc

Google+: https://plus.google.com/110824499539694941768/posts

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/sugarbeatsbooks/

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7234554.Barb_Drozdowich

YouTube Channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCSgVt36XlVAHWj5dkSd0Zyw

Tech Hints Newsletter: http://eepurl.com/DfCRj

Amazon Author Page: http://www.amazon.com/Barb-Drozdowich/e/B00EN3CIDM/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_2?qid=1437240887&sr=1-2

 

Barb, thanks for joining us today, and thanks for all you to do help writers!

Meet Arleen Williams, author of The Alki Trilogy

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I’m delighted to have as a guest today Arleen Williams from Seattle, Washington. Her book, Biking Uphill was released this fall by Booktrope. Please say hello to Arleen.

Fall quarter starts with a bang and I am reminded once again why I write. Or more specifically, why I am writing The Alki Trilogy.

When I’m not writing, I’m an English as Second Language instructor at South Seattle College, a large urban school which is among the most diverse colleges in the country. The average student age is 31.5, 54% are first generation, 41% do not speak English as their first language and there are 35 languages spoken on campus on any given day. (2012 statistics http://www.southseattle.edu/campus-information/student-statistics.aspx)

This is my twenty-eighth year working with refugees and immigrants at this college. I’ve been teaching ESL for almost forty. When I introduce myself, when I tell my students these numbers, they inevitably ask me why. My response is always the same: I love to teach because I learn as much as they do. These are not empty words. The classroom has given me a world-view that does not stem from news stories but from the people who have lived the experiences that fill our headlines.

The Alki Trilogy began with a story about suicide, a topic I wanted to understand more completely. The character of Gemila Kemmal appeared to me unbidden but understandable: I work with African immigrants eager to gain the language skills necessary to enter our college nursing program. I did not plan to write three novels about the immigrant experience in the U.S. In fact, I didn’t plan to write a trilogy at all. But there we go. I fell in love with Gemila in Running Secrets. When I began Biking Uphill, a novel loosely based on a teenager I met years before when I was a lonely college student, I decided to hold tight to Gemila and Carolyn. Now, I’m working on Walking Home, the final novel in the trilogy, where the reader will meet new characters and revisit those who came before.

So I suppose the old adage, write what you know, guides my work just as it shapes the person I am. As I enter the classroom and greet the students before me, I wonder about the experiences they’ve lived, the things they’ve seen, the sacrifices they’ve made to come to class each morning hoping to glean the skills they need to build a new home in America. It is humbling. It is an honor. It scares the crap out of me … even after a lifetime of the same.

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Arleen Williams is the author of three books. Running Secrets (Booktrope, 2013), the first novel in The Alki Trilogy, is about the power of friendship in helping overcome the dysfunction of family and life. Biking Uphill (Booktrope, 2014), book two of The Alki Trilogy, invites the reader into a world of undocumented immigration, where parents are deported, and a young girl is abandoned to face life on her own. The Thirty-Ninth Victim (Blue Feather Books, 2008) is a memoir of her family’s journey before and after her sister’s murder.

Arleen teaches English as a Second Language at South Seattle College and has worked with immigrants and refugees for close to three decades. Arleen lives and writes in West Seattle. To learn more, please visit http://www.arleenwilliams.com.

Books Worth Reading. Or Not: Running with Scissors on The Long Journey Home.

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Because I watched the movie, I read the book. Because I read the book, I read his mother’s book. Then I wished I hadn’t, and here’s why.

Running with Scissors by Augusten Burroughs and The Long Journey Home by Margaret Robison are billed as memoirs. The subject matter is dicey: gays, lesbians, adultery, alcoholism,  and mental illness. Something most of us don’t encounter on a daily basis like this family did. Stuff great stories are made of, right?

One night when there was nothing else to watch on TV I flipped to the movie Running with Scissors. Annette Bening, Joseph Fiennes, Alec Baldwin, Gwyneth Paltrow, 116 minutes of comedy and drama. What’s not to like? The all-star cast held my attention. The movie was interesting, but it was a movie, right? I wanted to read the book to see how much of the story was actually true.

So I read the book, and when I finished Running with Scissors, I wanted to know more about this mother Margaret Robinson, a poet, teacher and writer I’d never heard of. With a college degree, someone who can probably put words on paper better than I can.

So I read The Long Journey Home, and wished I hadn’t. There is no doubt that there is a lot of talent in this family. All of them write well. Best sellers. But having watched the movie and read both books, I’m still no closer to the truth. Who is lying? Who is exaggerating? Does it even matter?

In most cases no. But in my case, it did. I am a mother. I have a son. I wanted to know why a mother would publicly call her son a liar. Why a son would change his name. I hoped to find the answers in the pages of the books, but when I was finished, I was depressed. Really, really depressed. So depressed I was in a bad mood for days. A mother tries to tell her side of the story, but can’t remember the details. An alcoholic husband and father shouldering most of the blame, is dead. His story remains untold. And the son and his brother are brilliant writers. Amen.

This brings me to why we read in the first place. Some read to escape, others for adventure. I read to understand human nature, and when I finished The Long Journey Home, I felt cheated. I was no closer to understanding the human nature of this family than I was knowing why my dog Emily growls at my husband all the while eating from his hand.

And maybe that’s okay. Maybe I don’t need to understand. But I did learn something. There are better ways to spend my time, better books to read.

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Blending Fiction and Nonficiton

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I have been a Pam Houston fan ever since I read Cowboys are My Weakness. Her stories resonate so true, it’s hard to know what is real or invented. In her essay on craft–“Corn Maze”–Pam explains her writing process.

By the way, Pam’s new book Contents May Have Shifted, will be published by W.W. Norton on February 6, 2012.

The End

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I’ve just finished writing the ending paragraph to my latest novel. My head is numb; my butt is numb and for a moment I’m elated. It feels SO GOOD to reach the end of this journey. I call a friend to celebrate because she knows how exhilarating it is to write The End. But the minute I hang up the phone my emotions plunge back to reality. This is just the first draft. The nuts and blots of the story are in place. Maybe. Now comes the arduous task of editing and revising.
Some of my writer friends can whip out a book in six months, some even three. But this book has been percolating for several years. I have a file folder three inches thick of scenes I’ve deleted, or research I want to include, or should I say wanted to include as the story morphed to an end. My characters names have changed; I’ve honed their actions and reactions. I know them better than I know my siblings. But still, this book really isn’t finished.
Thus is the task of a writer. Formulating an idea strong enough to carry a book, writing more than 100,000 words. Writing, rewriting and rewriting. I’m not complaining. I love my job. I am so grateful to have friends and family who support my writing and me. I can’t think of a better way to end this year by typing THE END, knowing 2012 is just around the corner, and that this is really just the beginning. Thank you all so much for your support. You have no idea how much you mean to me as I hole away to write my stories.

May Santa bring you everything you want, especially a prosperous New Year.

So, What Have You Published?

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Tell people you’re a writer, and the first thing they ask is, “What have you published?” There are lots of ways to answer this question, but I really like award-winning author and blogger John Shore’s observations on the book publishing industry. Check out his recent Huffington Post blog, “Why You Want a Big Book Publisher to Reject Your Book.” Being a writer is not the same as being published and here are some of the reasons why.