Meet the Members: Andrea Eames

“I’m a part-time unicorn … and fairy, and princess. When I’m not writing, I work at children’s parties, festivals and other events as a face painter and storybook character.”

–Andrea Eames

A member of the Writers’ League of Texas since June, Andrea Eames lives in Austin, TX.

davidkinneScribe: In what genre(s) do you write?

Andrea Eames: So far I have published literary fiction and poetry. My first two books, The Cry of the Go-Away Bird and The White Shadow, were set in my native Zimbabwe and published by Random House UK. One is a novelized autobiography of my childhood growing up under Mugabe’s dictatorial regime, and the other is set in the civil war of the 60s and 70s before Zimbabwean Independence. I released my first poetry collection this year. I am also working on two YA fantasy novels — I’ve always wanted to publish a fantasy novel!

Scribe: What author would you most like to have a drink with, and what’s the first question you would ask them?

AE: I was lucky enough to have coffee with my hero, Peter S. Beagle, and as I recall, I asked him about his experience writing The Last Unicorn. If I could choose another, it would be Terry Pratchett, who sadly passed away recently, and my question would be, “What the hell is going on?” I’m sure his answer would be entertaining.

Scribe: If you were stranded on a deserted island, what book would you want to have with you to keep you sane?

AE: That’s a tough question. I have so many favorite books. I would probably take The Last Unicorn, by Peter S. Beagle. The wisdom in there is worth a hundred self-help books.

Scribe: What have you learned from your association with the Writers’ League?

AE: I’ve only just joined, but I’m so excited to get to know other Texas authors and to become more a part of the community here.

Scribe: Where do you see your writing taking you (or you taking it) in the future?

AE: I’m no longer with my previous publisher and made my first venture into self-publishing this year with my poetry. I would like to find a traditional publisher for my third novel and for the YA novels, but I’m also excited to explore other kinds of publishing. My business partner Jenna Opperman and I are starting a small poetry press here in Austin.

Scribe: Here at the Writers’ League, we love sharing book recommendations. What’s one Texas-related book that has come out within the past year that you couldn’t put down?

AE: Mary Helen Specht’s Migratory Animals!**

Scribe: Is there anything else about you that you would like to share with the world? An opportunity for blatant self-promotion!

AE: Well, I’m a part-time unicorn … and fairy, and princess. When I’m not writing, I work at children’s parties, festivals and other events as a face painter and storybook character.

Thanks, Andrea!

If you’re a Writers’ League member and you’d be interested in being interviewed for our Meet the Members feature, email us at member@writersleague.org for more information. It’s a great way for other members to get to know you and for you to share a bit about what you’re working on!

**Migratory Animals won the Writers’ League of Texas 2015 Book Award for Fiction. You can view the full list of winners on our website.

MEMBERS REVIEW: The Memory of Us

THE MEMORY OF US

51-g1gH-LFL

by Camille Di Maio

Published in 2016 by Lake Union Publishing

reviewed by Kirsche Romo

In her novel The Memory of Us, Camille Di Maio carries us away in the love of a lifetime, forbidden by circumstance and overwhelming obstacles.

Julianne Westcott’s life is perfect. The daughter of an English shipping magnate and socialite mother, she has everything she needs and wants. But when she discovers a twin brother, Charles, who was institutionalized at birth – blind, deaf, and mentally challenged – she realizes her life is much more complicated than she knew.

Kyle McCarthy is a landscaper’s son, living within very modest means. Julianne first meets him during a visit with her brother. While taking a break from his landscaping duties, Kyle introduces Charles to the beauty of plants, using only touch and smell.  Her heart is taken with Kyle’s loving, gentle soul. But she soon learns that his heart has already been promised to another – Kyle is studying to be a priest.

Julianne’s best friend Lucille convinces her that it would be a sin to seduce a boy bound to God. But even though she tries her best to forget him, Kyle never leaves her thoughts. By chance, they see each other numerous times over the next year, and each time, Julianne feels her attachment to him growing stronger.  He is handsome, funny, and kind.  All the things a priest should be.  But all the things a husband should be as well.

Even if Kyle weren’t promised to the Church, his situation in life is far beneath the approval of her parents. They would never accept her marriage to a boy without station. Julianne would surely have to choose between him and the life she’s always known.

As time passes, Julianne and Kyle battle the devastation that World War II brings to England, coping with the love and loss each struggles to understand and accept.

Misery loves company, they say, and if the war had brought about misery, it had also created a company of friendships that were forged through common suffering.

It was bewildering to see the everyday aspects of life go on amidst such a ravaged landscape….Perhaps the most unnerving sights were the few children that remained in the city, prancing among this new concrete playground and making toys out of the scraps of someone’s former life.

In The Memory of Us, Di Maio surprised me with twists and turns. Just as I was expecting the plot to take one path, it would turn toward another. The first person narrative brings the reader into the brain of Julianne Westcott, following the longing of her love-torn heart as she tries to deal with her passion for a man she can’t have.

As I read, I was filled with the strong emotion of my past, as well as Julianne’s. I suffered the same struggle as a young woman – falling in love with a man whom the world didn’t see as a perfect match, but loving him none-the-less.  The conflict in the novel makes the reader consider the question: How much would you give up for the love of your life? And how would you deal with the consequences?

The people I’d loved, the people I’d left, their voices came back to me in a rising tide until, overwhelmed, I crumbled down onto the floor and wept with abandon. The tears burned my skin and I made no attempt to wipe them away. I was supposed to suffer – my eternal punishment – because of what I’d done.

For a poignant look into the hearts of forbidden lovers who must question destiny to survive, The Memory of Us will wrap itself around your heart until you cry for what was never had, what was had and lost, and what was never meant to be.

K.L. Romo is a Texas author who loves to write about the human experience, bringing awareness to people living on the fringe. Her recent novel Life Before was released in 2016. She is a member of the Writers’ League of Texas and the Women’s Fiction Writers’ Association. Please visit her at http://www.klromo.com.

Meet the Members: Lauren Flake

“As a native Austinite and 7th generation Texan, I love the vibrant diversity, history, and unity of WLT and look forward to building deeper relationships with other writers, editors, and publishers through the Texas writing community.”

–Lauren Flake

A member of the Writers’ League since April, Lauren Flake lives in Buda.

IMG_5185 (2)Scribe: In what genre(s) do you write?

Lauren Flake: I primarily write religious and children’s nonfiction, but I’m thinking about diving into children’s fiction.

Scribe: What authors would you like to have a drink with, and what beverage?

LF: I adore Canadian author and minister Sarah Bessey, as well as down-to-earth, Oklahoman cookbook author and TV personality Ree Drummond, but my ultimate picks would be the late John Steinbeck, C.S. Lewis and Edgar Allan Poe. Coffee or beer (or margarita) would depend entirely on the time and place.

Scribe: If you were stranded on a deserted island, what book would you want to have with you to keep you sane?

LF: Hmm…This one’s probably a tie between John Steinbeck’s East of Eden and Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness.

Scribe: What have you learned from your association with the Writers’ League?

LF: As a native Austinite and 7th generation Texan, I love the vibrant diversity, history and unity of WLT and look forward to building deeper relationships with other writers, editors and publishers through the Texas writing community.

Scribe: Where do you see your writing taking you (or you taking it) in the future?

LF: I recently wrote, illustrated and self-published my first children’s book for grieving preschoolers and plan to pursue the traditional publishing route with my next book, which I’ve written for women struggling with grief or depression.

Scribe: Here at the Writers’ League, we love sharing book recommendations. What’s one Texas-related book that has come out within the past year that you couldn’t put down?

LF: Last summer I was on the launch team for my Buda “neighbor” Jen Hatmaker’s For the Love: Fighting for Grace in a World of Impossible Standards.

I read the whole book in less than 48 hours—laughing and crying my whole way through her heartfelt but hilarious discussion of just about everything—from marriage and motherhood to mission trips and ministry. For the Love ended up on The New York Times bestseller list for Religion, Spirituality and Faith.

Scribe: Is there anything else about you that you would like to share with the world? An opportunity for blatant self-promotion!

LF: My debut children’s book, Where Did My Sweet Grandma Go?:  A Preschooler’s Guide to Losing A Loved One, gently guides little ones and their parents into meaningful conversations about death, grief and eternal love. The book, which started out as a love letter to my own young daughters, features original artwork by myself and my mother, Dixie Benton Stucky, who died of early onset Alzheimer’s disease. More information about this project is available at laurenflake.com.

In addition to writing, I also enjoy raising funds and awareness for my favorite local nonprofits–including Alzheimer’s Texas, The Salvation Army Austin, and United Way of Hays County–at loveofdixie.com. My #TexasStrong shirts raised nearly $150,000 last year for central Texas flood relief and are now raising money for statewide disaster recovery.

Thanks, Lauren!

If you’re a Writers’ League member and you’d be interested in being interviewed for our Meet the Members feature, email us at member@writersleague.org for more information. It’s a great way for other members to get to know you and for you to share a bit about what you’re working on!

Instructor Q&A: Jodi and Owen Egerton

“My favorite writing time and ritual is waking pre-dawn…The morning can be wonderful, as exhilarating as a Barton Springs swim. Other mornings I feel stuck, useless, and tired. But I have never regretted waking up, never regretted sitting with the page in those dark, early hours.”

-Owen Egerton

From writing books to making films to clowning on stage, Jodi and Owen Egerton play a key part in many of the scenes that make Austin a national hotspot for creativity. Jodi is a celebrated workshop leader, book editor, and wordslinger for Typewriter Rodeo. Owen is the author of several novels and numerous screenplays as well as a feature film director. He has been voted Austin’s Best Author by the readers of The Austin Chronicle seven times.

Jodi and Owen are teaching a class for the Writers’ League called “This Word Now: Brainstorming Your Way into Stories and Out of Dead Ends” on Saturday, August 27, 2016 at the ACC Riverside Campus. Based on their new book on the craft of writing, This Word Now, Jodi and Owen will lead a high energy morning of conversation, exercises, and insight into the art of brainstorming.  As a bonus, each student will receive a copy of This Word Now—recently featured in the Austin American-Statesman. Read the interview below and visit the class page to learn more.

Owen and JodiScribe: You are both absolute creative powerhouses. Jodi, you’re a workshop leader, book editor, and wordslinger (i.e. spontaneous creator of poems) for Typewriter Rodeo. Owen, you’re a novelist, screenwriter, film director, and podcast host. On top of these pursuits and more, you’re parents of two. How do you balance all the demands on your time and creativity, and most importantly, when do you sleep?

Owen Egerton: Balance has never been our best skill. Some people have the ability to stand in the center of the see-saw perfectly still. But I get very curious about the extremes and dash out to see what’s out there, then rush back to the other side. Sometimes it’s a flaying mess, other times it’s dancing. I think what’s key is that we love what we do—the writing, the performing, the parenting. It’s work, of course, but the work is a kind of play. When it’s not fun, we know something’s up. We pause and listen, and maybe make a change. We look out for each other and make sure there’s breathing room, family meals, afternoon dance parties, late night bottles of wine, and long walks.

Jodi Egerton: We’re often both moving in seventeen directions at once. But one thing that we’ve discovered over the years is that we both thrive when we’re in the thick of a few big projects. I think because of this similarity in our working style, we’re able to support each other well. Also, Owen doesn’t sleep.

Scribe: This Word Now is chock full of writing exercises and insight for kindling creativity, and you say in the book that you collaborated on every essay and exercise. Can you describe the development process for writing this book? How does one brainstorm about, well, brainstorming?

OE: It was great to investigate how I write. What are the steps I go through but had not yet thought through? Some of the process was simply observing how we create.

JE: We met back in 1999 when I joined Owen’s improv troupe. We connected through the world of improv—saying yes to and building on each other’s ideas, taking risks and embracing a spirit of play. It’s how we work together still—whether writing a book or cleaning the house. While working on the book, we’d toss ideas back and forth, brainstorm with big mindmaps, and mostly encourage each other. In the editing stages of the book, we spent a few weeks pacing around our kitchen, reading each essay out loud and revising sentence by sentence, finding just the words we wanted to share each idea.

Scribe: I was particularly struck by the section “Place, Time, Ritual,” and the E. B. White quote with which you opened that section: “A writer who waits for ideal conditions under which to work will die without putting a word on paper.” Can each of you talk a little more about your place, time, and ritual for writing?

OE: When a deadline is approaching, I’ll write everywhere and anywhere—traffic lights, under the stage at the Alamo Drafthouse Ritz, waiting rooms, park benches. But my favorite writing time and ritual is waking pre-dawn, sneaking out of the house before the kids are awake, heading either to the desk we’ve got in our backyard shed or some all-hour coffee shop. I love that quiet strangeness. My shed feels like a monk’s cell and I’m waking for private Lauds. At the coffee shops, I find a corner. I read a little—something like poetry or poetic essays—sometimes I’ll scribble a few lines in my journal and then dive into the writing. The morning can be wonderful, as exhilarating as a Barton Springs swim. Other mornings I feel stuck, useless, and tired. But I have never regretted waking up, never regretted sitting with the page in those dark, early hours.

JE: I tend to write best when I’m super comfy. These days I often write in bed, snuggled in a nest of the covers. Back when I was in graduate school, I kept abandoning my desk in favor of the bed, the couch, the floor. For my birthday, Owen surprised me with my perfect writing space—a cozy, plush dog bed. It was amazing. I probably owe my Ph.D. to that dog bed.

Scribe: Can you give us one example of an exercise that students might complete in your WLT class?

JE: A lot of our exercises are inspired by our work in improvisation. Line Pop is one we love to teach in classes, and you can easily do it solo. Gather a collection of lines—these can be lines from songs, quotes from books, instructions from your TV manual, writing on the side of your medicine bottles. Write them down on slips of paper. Set a timer for two minutes and begin writing—this can be a story you’re working on, or you can pick a classic story, say, Snow White, and begin writing your own version of it. When the timer goes off, grab one of the lines—you might end up with “You can’t always get what you want” or “Do not take on an empty stomach”—and write it down as the next line of your story. Then reset the timer and continue writing, but don’t ignore that line—allow it to be part of the story and guide where the story goes next. It’s a fun exercise for forcing you outside of your natural patterns and styles, and it’s great for seeing what kinds of surprising ideas your brain comes up with when challenged with absurdity.

Scribe: Other than This Word Now, of course, what other books or methods do you recommend for writers or artists looking to jumpstart their creative mind?

JE: I’m still such a fan of the classics— Natalie Goldberg’s Writing Down the Bones, Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird, Stephen King’s On Writing. And I also highly recommend taking an improv class—it’s an amazing way to open your brain and expand your boundaries.

OE: I’ve recently fallen in love with Mary Ruefle’s Madness, Rack, and Honey. Her lectures spill over the brim of craft and technique and into the realms of poetry. They are meditations on the magic we conjure with nothing more than words. We are also big fans of WLT Program Director Michael Noll’s Read to Write Stories (readtowritestories.com)! Those exercises and essays are outstanding.

Scribe: What new projects can we look forward to from the two of you in the coming year?

OE: It should be a big year! My feature film FOLLOW, which I wrote and directed, comes out in theaters and streaming on September 30th. That’s exciting!

JE: Typewriter Rodeo will be popping up to craft custom poems on our vintage typewriters throughout the year. We’ll be at the Texas Book Festival for sure. That’s been such an amazing ride, working with some of my dearest friends, traveling the world, and sharing our love of words and poetry.

Thanks, Jodi and Owen!

Click here to register for Jodi and Owen’s class.

Click here for our current class schedule.

Instructor Q&A: Shennadoah Goodson

“In all cases an author needs to find a way to make their book and themselves stand out in the crowd. It all starts by getting specific about your market, developing a niche, and crafting your content and marketing to suit.” 

–Shennadoah Goodson

Shennandoah Goodson is Director of Marketing and Business Development for Connor Creative Co. In her many years as a PR and Marketing consultant, Shennandoah has worked with numerous authors and publishers to build successful book marketing campaigns and author platforms. A writer herself, Shennandoah is passionate about writing and books and loves empowering authors to take ownership of their book’s success.

Shennadoah is teaching a class for the Writers’ League called “Positioning Your Book in the Marketplace” on Saturday, August 20, 2016 at the ACC Highland Campus. Read the interview below and visit the class page to learn more.

© ClemPhoto.Com 210-862-0843

Scribe: For those who may be new to marketing, what are the differences between positioning, platform, and a marketing plan?

Shennandoah Goodson: In a nutshell, your positioning is how you’ve defined the niche or angle you will use to stand out in a crowded market place. Your marketing plan is your step-by-step guide to marketing yourself and your book. Your platform is the many activities you engage in to raise the visibility of you and your book. They are each necessary and all work together but serve very different purposes.

Scribe: Why is it important for authors to find their niche in the marketplace?

SG: Millions of books are published every year. Regardless of your genre, you will have tremendous competition, but even more so if you don’t focus on a key niche. There are thousands of mysteries or business books or any other category of books published each year. To stand out, you need to hone in on what makes you, your book, and your target reader unique.

A well-defined niche also helps you craft targeted messaging and marketing campaigns to promote your book. It helps convey what’s different and interesting, and it helps a reader say, “Hey, I think this is for me.”

Scribe: In the class description, you mention that the competitive landscape affects not just an author’s platform but also the structure and content of the book. What are some strategies that authors can use to make themselves aware of the competitive landscape, even while they are still in the process of writing their book?

SG: READ!!!! The first thing any author should do is read books in their category and not just the best sellers but mid-list authors too. This will help the author gain an understanding of what’s out there and how to make their book different enough to not sound like a rehash of what’s already on bookshelves. Authors also need to read the trades, talk to booksellers and industry pros, and see what the professionals are saying about market trends and reader habits. Publisher’s Weekly, Writer’s Digest, and a host of other publications are great resources to understand how to develop compelling content with marketing and sales in mind and without losing sight of the heart and craft of writing.

Scribe: How does strategy differ for a novel versus a nonfiction book?

SG: These days, not by much. In fact, I encourage nonfiction authors to see what successful fiction authors are doing to sell their books and vice versa. Many nonfiction authors tie speaking and consulting into their platform and marketing, which is a viable option for fiction authors too. On the flip side, fiction authors know how to leverage their creativity to create fun and interesting marketing campaigns that bring their books to life. Nonfiction authors can take that same approach and draw readers into the book in a new way. The only difference in strategy really is who they are targeting and which social media platforms and media outlets are best suited for them.

Scribe: What are one or two of the major differences between the competitive landscape for traditionally published authors and self-published authors?

SG: A big difference is traditionally published authors have the advantage of a publisher’s highly developed and skilled distribution team with established trade relationships at libraries, book stores, and trade publications. They have a dedicated sales force getting them into certain outlets. It’s not a lot, especially when you consider how much effort the authors must put into their own marketing, but it is something. They have a greater opportunity to get retail placement where self-published authors can’t. As a result, self-published authors have to work ten times harder to sell their book since they are limited in outlets, awards, and publications. Some of this is changing, and more traditional retail bookstores are selling self-published titles, but it won’t be a golden ticket to book sales.

Scribe: Can you give us an example of a book or an author that does a particularly good job of standing out in the marketplace?

This is hard because there are so many, but I think a few that do a good job of standing out from both a content and a marketing point of view are:

Rick Riordan

Rick has a very obvious niche with the mythological component of many of his book series. Instead of just being another fantasy middle grade writer, he targets mythology as a premise for his books from Greek, Norse, Egyptian, and other cultures. Each series is focused on that specific mythology, such as Percy Jackson and Greek Mythology or the Kane Chronicles and Egyptian mythology. Furthermore, he develops reading guides and resources for parents and teachers so it is easy to integrate his books into existing unit studies and education plans related to history, culture, English, etc.

Elizabeth Gilbert

Elizabeth has achieved what few are ever able to do with a memoir—including writing three best-selling memoirs. Instead of trying to tell her whole life story Elizabeth hones in on a specific chapter and tells it in her unique voice. Her content positioning is partly due to the framing of the stories, but is also largely due to her unique style and voice. On a grand scale, her positioning and marketing have continued to help her carve a very specific niche in the memoir and novel space and attract a large and loyal following.

Daniel Pink

Business is one of the toughest categories to excel in, especially when one doesn’t have a clear niche. Daniel Pink really positioned himself well by using social science as the basis of his books Drive and To Sell is Human. Frequently he takes the “revolutionary” or “rebel” approach, challenging the status quo of the business mindset. His website and marketing leverage the creative, personal, right brain characteristics that he espouses in his books, which is opposite of the traditionally buttoned up, proper, professional business author.

These three authors show how this matters in all genres—fiction, nonfiction, memoir, children’s books, cookbooks—and in all cases an author needs to find a way to make their book and themselves stand out in the crowd. It all starts by getting specific about your market, developing a niche, and crafting your content and marketing to suit.

Thanks, Shennandoah!

Click here to register for Shennadoah’s class.

Click here for our current class schedule.

Meet the Members: Weina Dai Randel

“As someone who grew up in China, I have a rather different perspective from writers who were raised in the American culture. And, let’s be honest, it is every writer’s dream to be read and to be discovered, as only through words, characters, and their stories can we truly say we understand each other.”

–Weina Dai Randel

A member of the Writers’ League of Texas since May, Weina Dai Randel lives in Dallas.

Author photo originalScribe: In what genre(s) do you write?

Weina Dai Randel: Historical fiction, but I’m not limited to that.

Scribe: What authors would you like to have a drink with, and what beverage?

WDR: Arthur Golden. I’m a huge fan of The Memoirs of a Geisha, which inspired me when I was writing my first novel The Moon In the Palace. I even tried to imitate the voice, but had to revise since Golden’s character was rather different from mine.

I’ll probably have coffee so I could still be coherent.

Scribe: If you were stranded on a deserted island, what book would you want to have with you to keep you sane?

WDR: A collection of Chinese classical poetry that includes the poems from the early Chunqiu Period to the Qing Dynasty and the poetry of Chan (Zen in Japanese) composed during the legendary Chan period in China (mid-fifth century to the eighth century).

Scribe: What have you learned from your association with the Writers’ League?

WDR: The Writers’ League is very helpful for aspiring writers who seek to hone craft and for published authors who intend to network and stay inspired with writers of similar mindset.

Scribe: Where do you see your writing taking you (or you taking it) in the future?

WDR: I think I’ll keep writing every day, but not necessarily write in the same genre or publish every year. I’m saying this because when my two books were wrapped up last year, I had some moments of loss when I found nothing in my head, which was terrifying since I was used to having something, thoughts, plots, characters, or just sheer weight of depression in my head for almost ten years. So yeah, I think I’ll just keep my eyes glued to the computer or the pages whenever possible.

Scribe: Here at the Writers’ League, we love sharing book recommendations. What’s one Texas-related book that has come out within the past year that you couldn’t put down?

WDR: I read Laird Hunt’s Neverhome and was enthralled by the strong voice of Ash Thompson who went to war in the place of her husband. I read it last year and I still can’t get it out of my head.

Scribe: Is there anything else about you that you would like to share with the world? An opportunity for blatant self-promotion!
MooninthePalace

WDR: I was born and raised in China and English is my second language. I came to the U.S. at the age of twenty-four; that’s when I started to speak, write, think, and dream in English. It took me ten years to write the first novel The Moon in the Palace, a historical novel about Empress Wu, and eighty-two rejection letters to finally sign an agent. I think I understand the full extent of rejection and depression as an aspiring writer.

I was determined to write about Empress Wu, the first and only female ruler in China, who is also known as the Chinese Cleopatra. Empress Wu was a trailblazer for women and left an impressive legacy in China, yet she was not often judged kindly by the Confucian scholars because of her gender.

Empress of Bright MoonI’d be very honored if you pick up one of my books and read it. I do believe, as someone who grew up in China, I have a rather different perspective from writers who were raised in the American culture. And, let’s be honest, it is every writer’s dream to be read and to be discovered, as only through words, characters, and their stories can we truly say we understand each other.

 

Thanks, Weina!

If you’re a Writers’ League member and you’d be interested in being interviewed for our Meet the Members feature, email us at member@writersleague.org for more information. It’s a great way for other members to get to know you and for you to share a bit about what you’re working on!

An Interview with Writespace

“It’s amazing to consider that on August 20, people will form writing friendships that could change their lives and literary careers forever. When you take a moment to realize the power and beauty of this fact, you touch the core of why we are working so hard to bring the Writers Family Reunion and all our events into being.”

–Elizabeth White-Olsen, Founder & Director, Writespace

Writespace LogoHere at the Writers’ League of Texas, we love to highlight other literary organizations throughout the state that are doing great work. On Saturday, August 20, Writespace, located in Houston, Texas, is hosting their first Writers’ Family reunion. Writers’ League members can sign up for the event at a reduced rate. Read the interview below for more details on Writespace, the event, and how to receive your WLT member discount.

Scribe: Tell us about Writespace and the kinds of programming you offer.

152.2Elizabeth White-Olsen: Writespace is Houston’s new writing center. We are a new grassroots literary arts organization whose programming is run mainly by a tremendous volunteer effort. We are this uprising of literary passion that has blossomed in the heart of the city. People say it’s amazing how much we are doing, but we can’t seem to keep ourselves down. To this end, we offer writing workshops, write-ins, manuscript consultations, readings, and open mics to writers of all ages, backgrounds, experience levels, and genres.

Scribe: At the Writers’ League, we love learning about thriving literary communities throughout Texas. What are some of your favorite aspects of the Houston literary community?

EWO: My favorite aspect of the Houston literary community is our diversity. I love that you can go to a Public Poetry reading and hear someone read a highly refined, quiet poem about a seashell and then hear a slam poet share a poem about overcoming abuse at high volume a few minutes afterward. Houston is diverse, and its literary culture reflects our diversity.

Scribe: Writespace is hosting an event called “Writers Family Reunion” on August 20. Can you tell us more about where the idea for this event came from?

Write-In5 (2)EWO: In early spring we host a large literary festival that has a national focus—Writefest. We had such a blast hosting Writefest that we wanted to host another large event, but one quite different. Whereas Writefest is designed to draw both local and distant writers, the Writers Family Reunion is purely local. What we seek to offer and express through the Writers Family Reunion is that, as writers, we belong to the same family, even if we haven’t yet met. Our passion ties us together. We are united in our goal of the literary endeavor, and we can learn from one another, regardless of differences in genre, age, background, and experience level.

Scribe: The event includes free morning programming and ticketed afternoon programming. Tell us about the critique group speed dating portion of the program.

EWO: We’re insanely excited to be offering critique group speed dating, which has never happened in Houston. During speed dating, writers will get to meet each other based on similarities in genre, experience level, and geographic location—a necessity in Houston, to keep people’s drive times down. We’re also extremely excited to be offering small group critiques and Q&A’s with our professional writers. And by small, we mean that the highest number in these groups will be six! Writers who attend will get the personal and specialized attention that I think we all crave. It’s amazing to consider that on August 20, people will form writing friendships that could change their lives and literary careers forever. When you take a moment to realize the power and beauty of this fact, you touch the core of why we are working so hard to bring the Writers Family Reunion and all our events into being.

Scribe: Besides the Writers Family Reunion, what other upcoming Writespace programs should Houston-area writers put on their calendars?

Writefest_25-page-001EWO: Holy cow, Writefest. Writefest. Writefest! Writefest is our annual literary journal fair, and there’s no other event like it in the country. It’s an opportunity for new and experienced writers to meet journal editors from around the nation—last year, we had thirty journals represented by their staff, including the editor of McSweeney’s. Literary journals are a great way for writers to begin—in fact, they’re the way most writers DO begin. So many great writers have been discovered by agents who find one of their short stories or essays published in a journal. But, of course, journals aren’t just some kind of stepping-stone to publishing and selling books. First-and-foremost, they are works of art in-and-of themselves, regardless of their role in literary life and in the marketplace.

Mark your calendars for Writefest on March 6th-12th in 2017! The weekend journal fair is packed with panels, presentations, and readings and it’s preceded by four days of intimate literary fiction, speculative fiction, poetry, flash fiction, and memoir workshops. Last year everyone raved about the event on social media channels, and it’s going to be even better in 2017.

Thanks, Elizabeth!

Writers’ League of Texas members can use the code WLTMEMBER to receive $15 off the ticket price. Visit the Writespace website to purchase your ticket.