Inspiration

Sometimes all it takes is that one perfect song to get you going—to get you writing that short story, or that novel. Other times it takes a good long stroll, or maybe a vacation, or last night’s dream to inspire you to write. But as writers, we must write even when we aren’t inspired to. Even on days when we think we don’t have time to write—we make time to write…anything. A sentence, a paragraph, a page, or a chapter. Because it is from writing every day that we are able to start a story and finish it.

I came across this short, but inspiring clip of authors sharing some invaluable advice on writing. Here are a few of my favorite quotes from the video:

“Write a story for yourself.”
“Investigate on what your truths are and have faith in it.”
“Let the audience that’s meant to find it, find it.”
—Wally Lamb

“Write every day.”
—Diane Hammond

“When you have writer’s block—write. That’s how you unblock.”
“No book is written. Every book is re-written.”
—Ridley Pearson 

“Read. The more you read, the better you write. Write. Keep writing because the more you write, the better you write.”
—Anthony Horowitz

“Trust yourself. Write exactly what you think you want to write.”
—Lee Child

“If all else fails, just keep trying.”
—Graeme Base

“There’s one thing that all writers have, that you have…your voice.”
—Dennis Lehane

“Write what you know. Write what you believe in.”
—Robert Crais

Here is the link to the video:

Happy writing!

A Fun Afternoon

2014
It was an honor to be part of the The Noe Valley Authors Festival last Saturday. I had a great time meeting other local authors and learning about their books. I also met people from the neighborhood who stopped by my table to purchase books, while others simply came by to ask questions about writing and publishing. I was happy to answer their questions and even share some tips.

The festival was three hours long. It was enough time for us to meet and greet folks and sell our books. It was indeed a fun afternoon. I can’t wait to join other author events in the near future.

photo2

Check out the list of authors who came to the festival. Take your time and click on the links below. I’m sure you will find something that will interest you. 🙂

Author: Michael Alenyikov
Books: “Ivan and Misha”
Winner of the Northern California Book Award
Finalist for the Edmund White Award for Debut Fiction
Awarded the 2013 Gina Berriault Award from San Francisco State

Booklist
Word madness is a hallmark of the writing: lyrical descriptions of place, time, and events; touches of the bizarre; everyday humor; and a love of New York from Brighton Beach in Brooklyn to the gentrifying East Village delight with their clarity and detail. Written with sweetness, compassion, and great beauty, this book will have broad appeal to lovers of short fiction and literary writing.

“Ivan and Misha” is the Great American Russian Novel told as Chekhov would tell it, in stories of delicacy, humanity, and insight. From Kiev to Manhattan, Brighton Beach, and Bellevue, Michael Alenyikovsky lays out a series of compelling arguments for brotherhood between brothers, between lovers, between men from an old country. Alenyikov confronts big subjects–illness and madness, sex and love in the age of AIDS, Old and New World values, a fallen wall, the metaphysics of survival, the march of generations.” — Carolyn Cooke, author of The Bostons and Daughters of the Revolution

www.michaelalenyikov.com

Author: Michelle Cannon
Books: “Ben Not a Puppy!” and “Remember When?”
cannonbooks.org

Author: Marie D’Abreo
Book: “Beautiful: A girl’s trip through the looking glass”
http://amzn.com/0991528506

Author: Peter Gabel
Books: “Another Way of Seeing” and “The Bank Teller”
Available at Folio Books
3957 24th Street, San Francisco

Books also available on Amazon

Author: Tom Graves
Book: “Twice Heroes: America’s Nisei Veterans of WWII and Korea
Interviews and 98 portraits of men and women who fought for America while their families spent the war in internment camps.

National Japanese American Historical Society
1684 Post Street, San Francisco
(415) 921-5007

Kinokuniya Books
1581 Webster Street, San Francisco
(415) 567-7625

Online: www.TwiceHeroes.com

Author: Chester Hartman
www.prrac.org
To order books, email author at: chartman@prrac.org

Author: Kathleen Knowles
http://www.boldstrokesbooks.com/Author-Kathleen-Knowles.html

Author: Sheppard Benet Kominars
Book: “Portal Poems: Perspectives on Aging”
Senior Years Are the New Frontier in the 21st Century. The moment you pass through this portal, finding a new compass to navigate is a task that must be initiated. Portal Poems offers valuable insights into this new territory in which the Old Rules have changed and new ones need to be discovered. What better way than through the poetry of someone who has lived it?

You can purchase Portal Poems online through GoodSheppardBooks.com and the Kindle edition is now available on Amazon. www.portalpoems.com

Author: Richard May
Book: “Ginger Snaps: Photos & Stories of Redheaded Queer People”
Available at Folio Books
3957 24th Street, San Francisco

Author: Mary Jo McConahay
Book: “Maya Roads: One Woman’s Journey Among the People of the Rainforest”
www.mayaroads.com

Author: Rebecca P. McCray
Book: “The Journey of the Marked”
http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00GV3D7J6

Author: Vincent Meis
Book: “Down in Cuba”
http://www.vincentmeis.com
https://www.createspace.com/4267959
http://www.amazon.com/Down-Cuba-Vincent-Meis/dp/0615812201/

Author: Sara Oletti
Book: “The Kitchen Book for Girls Who Think They Can’t Cook”
http://sarabetholetti.com/

Author: Dan Richman
http://cunningcrowbooks.com/

Author: Bruce Rogers
Book: “The Orchid Whisperer”
www.theorchidwhisperer.com

Author: Julianne Victoria
http://juliannevictoria.com/books-2/

 

20 Ways to Tell You’re a Writer

20 Ways to Tell You’re a Writer:
(In random order)

  1. Ideas for plots, characters and dialogue pop up in your head anytime and anywhere.
  2. Aside from owning a lot of notebooks, you have post-its, napkins and sheets of papers filled with random things you’ve written. (When I was 18 and working at a retail store, I ripped a piece of receipt paper from the cash register because I had to write a poem.)
  3. You love books.
  4. You can write scenes and dialogue in your head while doing house chores.
  5. You’re observant.
  6. You can almost always predict what’s about to happen next during a movie.
  7. You don’t mind spending hours alone—writing.
  8. You love words.
  9. You don’t only love to write. You have to write.
  10. You get the urge to want to rewrite scenes from movies or TV shows you’ve just watched.
  11. You say this line too often, “I need to write that down”.
  12. You get frustrated when you don’t get to write.
  13. You can be many different characters at one time when writing stories.
  14. You daydream often.
  15. You can fill blank pages with stories that most of the time write themselves.
  16. You’re always editing.
  17. You have voices in your head and you can’t shut them up. You try, but they come back anyway.
  18. You have a crazy imagination.
  19. Going to bookstores excite you.
  20. You see things differently. To others, it’s just a photo, just a line from a song, just a train ride, but to you—it’s a story.

There are other ways to tell if you’re a writer, but I thought I’d stick to 20. Please feel free to add more. 🙂

Getting Critiqued

One of the reasons why I wanted to attend the Paris Writers Workshop was because I wanted to see if my writing was up to par. I knew it wasn’t perfect and I needed to know exactly what I needed to work on. I am thankful I went. Each student in the Craft of Fiction class I attended, got a chance to get their story critiqued by the students and the teacher. It was worth it.

Getting critiqued is a gift.

I suggest getting your work read by a couple of people you know and trust and then let strangers read it. There is something amazing about having people you don’t know read and critique it. As much as mom and dad loved your story, chances are, a stranger will give you a more honest feedback. And that’s the point. You want and need honest feedback. A writer’s group or a writer’s workshop is a good place to meet people who will be willing to read and critique your work.

Here is why I think getting your writing critiqued is a gift:

  1. No matter how many times you think you’ve read and edited your work, you can still miss things.
  2. Different people spot different things. One person may notice a typo and another one won’t. Pay attention to each feedback.
  3. Different people can also spot the same things. This is really interesting. If you notice a few people commenting on the same thing, it probably means you need to do some rewriting. Again, pay attention to each feedback.
  4. Not all suggestions apply. If one person says to delete a specific line, but the rest of the group says it works, including you, then don’t delete it.
  5. Keep your target audience in mind when getting feedback. For instance: You’re writing women’s fiction and one person says, “he doesn’t get it” but the women of the group say “they get it”, then you can probably ignore the suggestion. Use your best judgment.
  6. There are things that are clear to you as the writer, but vague to the reader. Getting critiqued will help point these out.
  7. Ask questions. What is it about your story that you feel needs help? Is there a specific dialogue/character/chapter you’re not sure of? This is the time to get answers.
  8. Whatever you learn from each feedback is new knowledge you can apply to any of your stories.

Remember that the people critiquing your work are there to help you—not attack you. Listen to all suggestions and comments before responding. This was a great technique our teacher, Christopher Tilghman used that I think we benefitted from. If it was our story being discussed, we were not allowed to respond until after all suggestions/comments were said. Listening carefully first, instead of responding immediately gave us a better understanding of our work and how we could improve it.

I truly enjoyed our class and I appreciate every feedback I received. I was lucky to be part of such a diverse group of people. Each one had a story to tell. Each one was unique and memorable.

Getting critiqued is both terrifying and satisfying. By the end of it, you become a better writer.

Paris Writers Workshop

I had a wonderful time at the Paris Writers Workshop last week. The workshop offered writing classes that catered to all writers. I originally wanted the Novel class, but by the time I tried to sign up, it was sold out. Not wanting to give up, I searched for another class and found The Craft of Fiction had one opening. I signed up and snagged the last spot.

I think it was meant to be. 😉

Here are a few things I’ve learned from attending the PWW:
1. I learned to drink wine…the right away. (I’m not kidding. They taught us how during the opening ceremony. It’s all about using your senses, not just in drinking wine, but also in writing.)
2. I learned that getting your writing critiqued by other writers is a gift.
Remember: they’re not there to attack you. They’re there to help you.
3. Networking is fun. You’ll be surprised at who you’ll meet. I met a fellow-blogger who I have been following for months. Her blog is called: Becoming Madame.

4. Dialogue isn’t just about the quotes.
5. Traditional Publishing is hard, but it’s not impossible. Hang in there.
6. Self-Publishing is a lot of work, but it can be worth it.
7. Reading a chapter of your book to a group of strangers is exhilarating. If you get a chance to do it, do it. It’s good practice for when you go on book tours.

8. If you really want to be a writer—keep writing, and don’t give up.

The main reason why I wanted to attend the PWW was because I wanted to get my first novel critiqued by a group of writers. I’ve only shared my story with a few people, so I wanted to see what strangers thought of the way I wrote and what I wrote. Although we only covered part of the story, I can apply what I’ve learned throughout the novel.

You’re probably saying I could’ve simply joined a writers group or went to a local workshop, and that’s true. But I had other reasons why I also wanted to go to Paris. If you’ve read my other posts, then you know what they are. No need to bore you again with the details.

Now that I’ve been to a Writers Conference and recently to a Writers Workshop, I can tell you that I’ve learned a lot from both experiences. I recommend both for different reasons.

If you’re deciding between the two, here’s a tip for you:
If you have a polished manuscript and are ready to find an Agent, I suggest you attend a Writers Conference.
If you’ve got a story that is still a work in progress, I suggest you attend a Writers Workshop.

For those of you who are looking for a Writers Workshop, I recommend the Paris Writers Workshop. Writing and Paris go hand in hand. If you need inspiration, The City of Light is the place for you.

Cheers!

To the Craft of Fiction Class at the Paris Writers Workshop

Once in a while, we are lucky enough to meet people that encourage us and inspire us to continue pursuing whatever it is that we love.

I would like to dedicate a post and share a poem I wrote for my teacher and classmates at the Paris Writers Workshop. It is my way of saying, thank you.

NOTE: The names are listed in alphabetical order.

THANK YOU
The introductions, the handshakes
The smiles and the nods

The critiques, the honesty
The conversations and the laughs

Thank you for the time spent
In and out of class

Your friendships,
A remembrance that will forever last

So as we park our words in perfect places
Let hard work be our guide

And as we chase our dreams as writers
Let luck be on our side

Thank you, Mr. Chris Tilghman, Elena, Janet, John, Joy, Kamala,
Kristen, Meredith, Nicole, Oceane, Tom, and Veronica

We were a class at the beginning
By the end, a group of friends

Keep those pens busy
Until we meet again…

To the Craft of Fiction Class at the Paris Writers Workshop

Once in a while, we are lucky enough to meet people that encourage us and inspire us to continue pursuing whatever it is that we love.

I would like to dedicate a post and share a poem I wrote for my teacher and classmates at the Paris Writers Workshop. It is my way of saying, thank you.

NOTE: The names are listed in alphabetical order.

THANK YOU
The introductions, the handshakes
The smiles and the nods

The critiques, the honesty
The conversations and the laughs

Thank you for the time spent
In and out of class

Your friendships,
A remembrance that will forever last

So as we park our words in perfect places
Let hard work be our guide

And as we chase our dreams as writers
Let luck be on our side

Thank you, Mr. Chris Tilghman, Elena, Janet, John, Joy, Kamala,
Kristen, Meredith, Nicole, Oceane, Tom, and Veronica

We were a class at the beginning
By the end, a group of friends

Keep those pens busy
Until we meet again…

My Week in Paris: Day 2

I woke up at 4 a.m. and couldn’t sleep back. I spent the first few hours of my day reading the rest of the manuscripts. I couldn’t wait to finish them so I could explore city.

I left my hotel around 9 a.m. for a nice breakfast at a café close to my hotel. From there, I headed to my first destination of the day—The Shakespeare and Company bookstore on 37 rue de la Bûcherie.

Yes. I finally went. 

It felt great being there. I wish I had more time to browse around, sit and read books, but I had other things planned for the day. I took a few pictures to share with you. You’ll notice beds and typewriters next to shelves of books. There are chairs where people can sit and read quietly. It is such a great place for writers. They often have events and workshops that cater to writers. Thank you Sylvia Beach for her wonderful idea of starting this English bookstore and lending library (originally at a different location), and for George Whitman who continued her traditions and allowing writers to stay for free. Sadly, George recently passed away, just two days after his 98th birthday. His daughter, Sylvia, now continues to run the store.

I took a bunch of pictures so I can share my experience with you. The place was quite crowded. It’s not a big bookstore so there isn’t much room to move around.

After visiting the bookstore, I met up with a relative of mine who lives in Paris. We walked under the pouring rain to Café de Flore, one of the places I wanted to check out. Well, it’s nothing like it used to be. Back in the 1920’s, it was one of the places writers like Hemingway and Fitzgerald frequently went to, among other places. Now, it’s overcrowded with tourists. I wasn’t expecting it to be same as it was back in the day, but I did hope I would see a few writers busy with their craft. No luck there. Regardless, it was still nice to finally sit there and know I had coffee at a café that has so much history.

Right next to Café de Flore is another café The Lost Generation visited regularly—Les Deux Magots. It was also crowded.

Time flew and before I knew it, I had to rush back to attend the opening ceremony of the Writers Workshop. I had a nice time meeting and greeting other writers and our teacher. It was interesting seeing the faces of the people who wrote the stories I read ahead of time. After our meet and greet, we had a wine tasting treat. We learned how to drink wine…the right way.

One thing that stood out during the ceremony was how majority of the people attending are women. I think I saw about 5 men, including our teacher, and the rest (about 50) were women. Go figure.

I look forward to tomorrow’s first day of class. We are going over 2 stories from our classmates and the topic of discussion will be: Structure and plot.

I’ll tell you all about it tomorrow.

Good night.

Why We Don’t Give Up

So you’ve sent out dozens of query letters, sent out partials, received rejection letters, attended writers conferences, and still—no representation. Do you stop trying? 

I met a writer at a conference last year that told me he’s been attending the same conference for years, trying to sell his book idea to agents and editors and have not succeeded. It’s not an easy task and yet he still keeps trying.

There are many possible reasons as to why he hasn’t gotten signed. He could have an excellent story, but his query letter is poor. Or have a great story, but not a sellable one. Or have a great plot, but it’s not well written, or not edited, or he’s been pitching to the wrong agents and editors or his book is simply not ready, or we can go on speculating.

The truth is, we don’t know why he hasn’t gotten signed. But this goes for a lot of us who have patiently held on to our manuscripts for weeks, months, or even years, and have sent out queries and prayed for the perfect agent to give us that phone call that will change our lives forever and sign us and make us millionaires or best sellers, or whatever else we dream of being. In the end, we are writers who want to get published. We want our stories to make it, just like the rest of them.

But how long are we willing to wait…

Before we move on and decide that maybe the manuscript we have now is not meant to be our first book?
Before we move on and write our next story?
Before we say that maybe we don’t want to wait for a Literary Agent to dictate when we will be published authors.
Before we say that our story is good and that maybe self-publishing is the way to go.
Before we say that this is our dream, therefore it is up to us to make it real.
Before we give up.

But you see, we don’t give up. Our stories exist because we were called to write them. Something, somewhere gave us the idea and it was our job to write it down. And we did. There is a reason for that, and that’s why we are here still trying.

The thought of landing a Literary Agent can sometimes be frustrating and discouraging. The thought of self-publishing can be daunting and overwhelming, so what do we do? The reality is, we wrote a book. A book we believe in, and we want it published someday, somehow, somewhere.

And now, we must ask ourselves:
Do we want to be traditionally published or do we want to self-publish?
Do we want to control our destiny or wait for a star to fall?

I say we continue to research, network, educate ourselves, and know our options.

And while we wait to see our name in lights…we keep writing.