Advice To Writers from James Baldwin

Every morning, I get some wonderful snippets of advice from well-established writers and here’s the one for today: “The hardest thing about writing, in a sense, is not writing. I mean, the sentence is not intended to show you off, you know. It is not supposed to be “look at me!” “Look, no hands!” It’s supposed to be a pipeline between the reader and you. One condition of the sentence is to write so well that no one notices that you’re writing.” JAMES BALDWIN When I first started writing, I thought I had to use those long fahncee words I had heard when I was a kid going to school in Scotland. For some reason, over there in Britain, people seemed to speak so much better than we did in the USA. Maybe it was their accents that impressed me so much as a child. Well, I eventually became a journalist in Philadelphia and found out that the readers appreciated my use of common ordinary words a lot more than when I used those big long words. I think in the beginning of that career, I was just trying to impress the readers because I wasn’t yet confident as a writer. Today, I love the simple words but occasionally, I can’t help myself and toss in one of those big words I learned (also as a kid) when I was studying for the National Spelling Bee contests I entered every year. In fact, I’ll never forget how to spell “daguerreotype” which was the word that cost me the California championship when I was in sixth grade. I had forgotten...

Pitch Sessions to agent = requests for more!

During the three-minute pitch sessions to an agent (or several) included as part of the San Francisco Writers Conference fee, one NY agent asked me to send her some scenes from my book, an L.A. agent asked me to send the entire manuscript, another NY senior literary agent asked for a copy of my Book Proposal, and another agent said she would be interested if I could cut the book down from its present 128,000 words to 90,000 words which I’ll think about later if I don’t drum up some real interest as it is. I’ve sent off everything to the first three and already heard back from two that they want it sent to their specific emails (not just Submissions), one also wants my Book Proposal, and another said she was swamped and I should contact her again next week to remind her. This is ever so encouraging after having sent out some 60 query letters last year and only receiving form “thanks but no thanks” letters. PS Two weeks have passed and no word yet from anyone, but they say it takes time. I just got back to Cliff Cottage Inn, the B&B I have owned now for 23 years in Eureka Springs, Arkansas (a Victorian artist colony)and after being gone almost four months, there is a mountain of mail and bills piled on the dining room table. Soooo, my book has had to be to the side temporarily until I can get caught up with my B&B (which pays the bills so I can spend some time writing!) It’s amazing that while at a conference, one...

What do bananas have to do with writers’ fears?

What do bananas have to do with a writer’s unreasonable fear of repetition? I am going to be posting some quotes I get from “Advice For Writers” which I find useful and helpful. This one is especially funny since I spent six months in Guatemala and all over Honduras some years back during the United Fruit Company fiasco. Ironically, many years before, I had dated a fellow from Harvard while I was going to GW who would write a well-respected book about that whole banana thing. While living on my sailboat in the Sea of Cortez, I met an American who had established a fantastic plantation of a zillion varieties of bananas from all over the world. As all the plants had grown up and were producing these gorgeous specimens, he suddenly said he had “found Jesus” and started spending all his time going around the Baja with his Bible. I felt so sorry for the fruit that was dropping to the ground that I told him I would sell it for him and not take any commission. Each week, I would go out to his banana plantation and collect big arms of ripe bananas then return to my boat and hang a big arm of bananas from my boom. I’d get on the radio and announce, “Chiquita Banana here. We have some splendid arms of bananas for sale, fresh from the plantation. And do we have a good deal for you!” It didn’t take long before I was known as the Carmen Miranda of the Sea. Boaters loved the bananas and sometimes, if there were just too many...

San Francisco Writers Conference 2016

Just left the San Francisco Writers Conference. We’re travelling in our RV back to Arkansas, sitting in a beautiful county park site just outside Tucson, looking out at all the amazingly varied cactus. The mountains here are stunning as well. I’ve had a chance to let everything I heard at the SF Writers Conference sink in and have come to the conclusion that it was a fabulous experience. I attended the conference with my husband, Carl Rohne, also a writer who has been working on his book, “I Can Do That!”, about the 20,000-mile honeymoon we took back in 2010 in our first RV, from St. Louis, across Canada and up to the Arctic Ocean, all around Alaska and back down Route One to San Francisco. At the SF Conference, I met many other writers working in all genres. Heard some incredible presentations by agents from NY to LA. Attended workshops given by traditional publishers as well as those who offer hybrid and self-publishing, and met a plethora of professionals in the industry who offer services such as content development and strategy, publicity and promotion, author website building and SEO, and experts on social media and author platforms. It was a lot to take in. One of the neatest things was when we arrived, the first person we saw a NY agent whom we met a couple of years ago at the St. Louis Writers Conference. At that conference, I attended every workshop she presented and learned an unbelievable amount about writing and publishing. At that conference, she asked us both to send the first few chapters of our...