Monday, February 14, 2011

Writing Salon Recap

 So Friday was the Writing Salon. Q & A Roundtable: The In’s and Out’s of Publishing Commercial Fiction  with Nick Mamatas.

It was a fun learning experience with great lessons and insight on the publishing world.

Let me rewind with a detail about the afternoon. Coming from the South Bay, it's supposed to be a 45 -60 minute drive to Berkeley.

Well, with Friday night traffic it took me about 1.5 hours to get there.

If you look closely you can see all the cars backed up on the freeway.

At least I had a beautiful evening to take me up there.

The view of San Francisco from across the Bay.

Finally, I made it Berkeley and the site of the Writing Salon. 

Yes, I giggled like a middle school boy from the 80s when I saw the street name.

There's a code to get in through that door. I didn't test it out yet. I was just glad I found the place.

 I still had an hour and half to kill and I was hungry so I got lost and found my way to Pyramid Brew. After a quick dinner, sans a beer, I headed back to the site and opened the door to see this:

A dark, creepy, wooden stairwell that led to Goddess knows where.

I walked up those stairs and turned around on the landing to get the last glimmers of the sunset. If you look closely you can see dying embers of orange in between the buildings.

I then followed the wooden landing that had doors branching off them and found my room, which was the only open and inviting door.

So here I am.

 I was early, the first one there and met with Nick, preparing the cheese for the evening. I told him I was a fan of cheese. While we waited for the others to show up, I began to feel a little jittery. I was getting nervous. I had no questions in mind, I had no idea what to expect and so far I had been the only one there.

Thankfully, the others came in soon after.

The session ended up only having three participants and Nick as our speaker. The two other students spoke about the work they were writing, which was crime and murder mystery. I felt a little ostracized by one when I said I was writing a science fiction fantasy. Luckily, Nick is a sci fi horror writer so it was equally spaced out on genres.

The session was open discussion where we talked about our interests, what we were writing and what were were looking for in this one night class.  Nick opened it up to our questions and I immediately asked about the query letter.

The session reminded me of the one our workshops that I participated in at the Willamette Valley Writer's Convention, but this was far more one on one. We rehashed the importance of the query letter, the importance of an agent and looking into the small independent publishers, some of which he listed were local.

There was a large discussion on certain writer's and how they got published, or why they were even published, and how not to sound "insane" when writing and sending our letters to the agents. We also spoke about authors going under a different name, going into different genres, etc. when branching out into the industry.

I learned that I should go over my work to make sure it isn't written in cinematic style and to make sure my tenses are correct. I also found out that I shouldn't be too in love with my first work since that inevitably gets rejected and that even the titles that we envision with our book, well, we shouldn't get too attached.

Nick had us write the first paragraph of our query letter for practice and I found to have a difficult time trying to write it out in just a few short sentences.  After pretty much vomiting the words onto my notebook, we took turns reading our "letters" and he helped us see what worked and what didn't. I still have a lot to work on to polish my letter but at least I know now what is more expected within the letter.

  I took a lot of notes, about 4 pages worth, ate quite a bit of cheese and crackers and had some wine and tea.  Overall, it was a much needed shot in the arm in terms of getting into the writing industry. I know I have quite a ways to go now, but I shouldn't fear it as much as I had been.

If there are any Bay Area readers out there interested in getting their creative juice flowing or just need the support of other writers, I do suggest the Salon. BUT I also suggest looking into writing groups that are close to you are that are free or less expensive as some of the salon class series.

Nick was very informative, answering our questions with great insight and humor. I'm not sure if it was his good nature or the wine that helped calm my nerves but I truly did enjoy the evening.  For the one night 3 hour class priced at $45 dollars, I say it was worth the drive and the expense and if there were more classes like this I would definitely be interested.

For now, I'm going to take Nick's advice and look into writing groups more centrally located to where I live. Like my art studio where we feed off each others creativity and get inspired by one another, a writing group will be able to help me when I get stumped.

So, anyone know any writing groups in the South Bay? :)

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