Meet the Conference Faculty

An Interview with Editor Mallory Kass

Mallory Kass is a Senior Editor at Scholastic Press. She edits middle grade and young adult fiction. Her titles include A Snicker of Magic by Natalie Lloyd, Daughters of the Sea and Horses of the Dawn by Kathryn Lasky, and The Sin Eater’s Daughter by Melinda Salisbury. She is also part of the editorial team responsible for The 39 Clues.

She’s interested in literary fiction with a commercial hook, historical fantasy, and anything with spectacular world building, particularly magic in unexpected places. For more information, check out her “editorial mood board” on Pinterest under the name EditorMal. Read the interview below to learn more.

 Mallory_Kass_PICScribe: How would you describe your personal approach to working with an author?

Mallory Kass: I see my job as helping an author articulate his/her vision for their novel and then figuring out how to execute that vision in a way that will be compelling and emotionally satisfying for readers.

Scribe: What do you look for in a debut author?

MK: First and foremost, originality. Reading submissions can be like wandering through a crowded cocktail party where you find yourself making the same kind of small talk with each guest. It can be clever, amusing small talk, but the conversations start to blend together. However, finding the RIGHT manuscript is like bumping into the strangest, most fascinating person at the party—someone who introduces you to new ideas and sparks your imagination. Beyond an original voice, I look for debut authors who love language and story craft, and who take as much pleasure in revising as they do in writing.

Scribe: Do you think social media presence is critical for a successful writing career?

MK: It’s certainly not critical. Social media can help a writer make connections within the publishing industry, and it’s a fun way to connect with readers, but I don’t believe it translates into book sales. If you enjoy it, then go for it. If it gives you anxiety, then you’re probably better off focusing your attention on your writing.

Scribe: If you could give writers one piece of advice, what would it be?

MK: Make sure the reader has a reason to root for your character by making it clear what he wants, what he’s willing to do to get it, and what will happen if he fails.

Scribe: Tell us about a project you took on because there was something special or unique about it, even though it wasn’t like projects you usually take on; or tell us about an exciting or proud moment in your career as an editor.

MK: I have a thing against zombies and swore that I’d never publish a zombie book. Then, I got a submission called Frost by M.P. Kozlowsky that completely blew my mind. The writing was so beautiful, the setting was so strange and haunting, and the characters were so compelling that it actually took me about 100 pages to realize that it had creatures in it similar to zombies. (They’re called something else, though.) That’s what great writing does, though. It makes you see the world in a different light! I fell head over heels for that manuscript and am proud to be publishing it in 2016.

— Thanks, Mallory!

Click here for a full list of our 2015 A&E Conference Faculty.

Click here for more information and to register for the 2015 A&E Conference.

Click here to register for the Keynote Luncheon.

Meet the Members

Nancy West has been a member of the Writers’ League for about ten years and is attending the 2015 Agents & Editors Conference in June. She lives in San Antonio, TX.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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

Nancy West: Suspense, a mystery series, a biography of artist Jose Vives-Atsara and magazine columns and articles. While in the throes of adolescence, I wrote poetry for the library journal, Pegasus. As an adult, I wrote the poem “Time to Lie,” for NPR. I’ve written essays on various subjects which I’ll add to my website. Come visit me on Facebook or on LinkedIn.

Scribe: What authors would you like to have coffee or a beer with and which beverage? 

NW: Dave Barry (for the humor), Ken Follett (for the suspense), and William Shakespeare (for language, character, setting, suspense, plot, etc.)  They can have coffee or beer. I’ll have wine.

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

NW: The Bible, Shakespeare’s tragedies, To Kill a Mockingbird, William Kent Krueger’s Ordinary Grace, Jodi Picoult’s House Rules, and so many more.

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

NW: That I can never learn enough about writing. There are so many talented writers who have expertise in particular aspects of the craft, and I feel so fortunate to be a member of the tribe.

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

NW: I’ll write at least one more Aggie Mundeen mystery, perhaps more. She and her friends are not through with me yet. I have an idea for a new series that I’m trying to suppress, for now. I have an idea for a biography and an idea for a book of literary fiction.

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

NW: Fit to Be Dead, was shortlisted for the Lefty Award for Best Humorous Mystery. Dang Near Dead was named a “Must Read” by Southern Writers Magazine.

If you’re in the Dallas area June 12 and 13, don’t miss these events with a slew of authors, including me. I’d love to meet more members of WLT.

FRIDAY, June 12.

Event: Girls’ Night Out

Place: Frisco Lakes Clubhouse, Del Webb Community, Frisco, Texas. Everyone welcome!!

Time: 7 p.m. – 9 p.m.

The Frisco Lakes Book Club, 200 strong plus all their friends, invite you to join them for an author mingle with wine, apps, and desserts. They’ll have 10 minute interviews with each author, an open Q&A and a raffle table of author provided totes filled with goodies. Each guest gets three raffle tickets to win the author’s tote of their choice.

For more information, click here.

SATURDAY, JUNE 13

Event: Boa & Tiara Tea

Place: Hilton Garden Inn, Allen, Texas

Time: 1-5 p.m.

High tea with fifteen authors: Each attendee chooses an author and sits at her table where the guest is showered with goodies. Attendees visit with the other authors, too, and there’s a raffle!

For more information, click here.

TUESDAY, AUGUST 24

Event: SMART, BUT DEAD, Aggie Mundeen mystery #3 by Nancy G. West is available for pre-order!

Meet the Conference Faculty

An Interview with Editor Latoya C. Smith

Latoya C. Smith started her editorial career as an administrative assistant to New York Times bestselling author, Teri Woods at Teri Woods Publishing. It was there that she discovered her passion for book publishing. Latoya worked at TWP seasonally while pursuing her Bachelor’s Degree at Temple University. She graduated Cum Laude from Temple in August of 2005. She then attained a full-time position at Kensington Publishing in March of 2006. In October 2006, Latoya moved over to Grand Central Publishing, an imprint at Hachette Book Group. For the span of her eight years there, Latoya has acquired a variety of titles from Hardcover fiction and non-fiction, to digital romance and erotica titles. She was also featured in Publishers Weekly, USA Today as well as various author, book conference, and book blogger websites. She is the winner of the 2012 RWA Golden Apple for Editor of the Year. In early 2014, she appeared on CSpan2 where she contributed to a panel discussing the state of book publishing. Now an Executive Editor at Samhain Publishing, Latoya acquires short and long form romance and erotica.

mediumScribe: How would you describe your personal approach to working with an author?

Latoya Smith: I look at our relationship as a partnership and my goal is to do all that I can to make the author and their works a success.  I see myself as the author’s advocate in-house, so it’s imperative that we are on the same page in terms of content, branding, marketing, and overall publishing direction. I try to be open and honest with my authors about what’s happening with their books at all stages of the publishing process and I try to be as accessible as possible whether it’s via email, phone, or virtual meeting.

Scribe: What do you look for in a debut author?

LS: There are two key things I look for in a debut author—their willingness to hit the ground running with self-promotion and branding, as well as growth potential of their writing and careers. I’m looking for an author I can have a long-standing publishing relationship with.

Scribe: Do you think social media presence is critical for a successful writing career?

LS: Definitely! Over the years we’ve seen how powerful social media can be. So of course, you want to take advantage of the amount of people you can reach by being a part of social media. To me, it’s one of the easiest, and in some cases, least expensive ways to reach hundreds, sometimes, thousands of people. You can brand, market, and network on social media. It’s a win-win!

Scribe: If you could give writers one piece of advice, what would it be?

LS: Never stop promoting and networking! Whether you self-publish, publish with a small press, or publish with one of the top New York publishers, you have to be willing to do the work to promote yourself and your brand. Every little bit counts. I’d also say be careful what you say or do on social media. Because once it’s out there, it’s hard to take back and you don’t want to become an outcast based on something you said or did on a social media platform.

— Thanks, Latoya!

Click here for a full list of our 2015 A&E Conference Faculty.

Click here for more information and to register for the 2015 A&E Conference.

Click here to register for the Keynote Luncheon.

MEMBERS REVIEW

TEXAS: THE GREAT THEFT

By Carmen Boullosa
Translated from the Spanish by Samantha Schnee

Published in 2014 by Deep Vellum Publishing.

 THE GREAT THEFT

Reviewed by David Eric Tomlinson.

In the first pages of Carmen Boullosa’s powerful yet whimsical novel Texas: The Great Theft, we are introduced to dozens of characters – butchers and lawyers and chicken dealers and grocers and judges and escaped slaves and housemaids and vaqueros, Mexicans and Americans and Indians and Africans and Germans – everyone trying to survive in the precarious, often violent territory between the Rio Bravo and Nueces rivers. It’s a place bursting with stories, a place where every perspective – no matter how small or marginalized – has something to add to the conversation.

The story begins with an insult. It’s 1959, in Bruneville, and “Sheriff Shears spits five words at Don Nepomuceno: ‘Shut up, you dirty greaser.’” Handsome, wealthy, and respected, Nepomuceno – like many Mexicans north of the new “border” – was granted a kind of second-class U.S. citizenship in 1948, during the titular “Great Theft,” when his land was stolen by the Texas government. Before long, news of the sheriff’s insult has traveled far and wide, inflaming racial tensions along both sides of the Rio Bravo – “In Galveston, no sooner has the phrase made it off the boat than it doubles back southward, finding passage on a steamboat that’s just arrived from Houston and is headed to Puerto Bagdad, Mexico, almost directly across the river from … Bruneville’s seaport.”

Boullosa’s world is one where relationships are transactional, the laws are only useful insofar as they create capital, and personal identity is as fluid as our disputed borderland setting. Survival often means profiting from another’s weaknesses, or exploiting the jurisdictional loopholes afforded by the border. “Mexico forbids [slavery] on principle, while Texans deem it a God-given right.” So slaves escape into Matasánchez, Mexico, where they will be free – only to be caught and returned … for a price. The lawyer Stealman “follows the law to the letter when he’s doing business with Anglo-Saxons, unless he has a good reason not to, of course.” The border also encourages a horrible sort of split personality, “because [people] come to satisfy appetites for things they wouldn’t think of even trying in the north.”

A single name here can imply an entire history of abuse, of crimes and insults forgotten or ignored. In one scene, we meet a group of Mexican spies – the Eagles – playing a subversive game of charades in a Bruneville bar: “Carlos the Cuban shuffles the deck … He deals and they quietly begin to speak of crimes. Since the Café Ronsard has begun to fill up, he sets the tone: they won’t talk about anything new and they won’t go into details … Carlos names the first atrocity. ‘Josefa Segovia.’ Ronsard immediately responds. ‘1851.’ … How the Eagles laugh. They smile in bitter revenge, as if saying these names has repaired these offenses, as if it has given them pleasure … They sit there making allusions and obscure, cruel jokes aloud yet no one understands them, they’re speaking in code.”

As tensions build, Nepomuceno flees south into Mexico, preparing to invade Bruneville and reclaim both his land and his honor, Boullosa invites us to identify with every creature encountered along the way. We are privy to the secret dreams of a talking cross, a dying horse, a bullet shattering a Mexican’s skull, a buried corpse, an icaco tree, even that tree’s shadow. In the end, Boullosa’s humorous, offbeat tale makes the case that – no matter how small or marginalized, no matter where it exists in relation to some arbitrary geographical or racial border – every perspective matters.

David Eric Tomlinson has been a member of the Writers’ League since 2013. He was born and raised in Oklahoma, educated in California, and now lives in Texas. You can learn more about him at www.DavidEricTomlinson.com

Instructor Spotlight

Ann McCutchan‘s work springs from deep interests in the arts, nature, and creativity, and the ways they shape individuals, places, and history. Her books include a biography of French flute virtuoso Marcel Moyse and a volume of interviews with composers about the creative process. In 2011, she published two titles: Circular Breathing: Meditations From a Musical Life  and River Music: An Atchafalaya Story, an eco-biography of Louisiana musician Earl Robicheaux and the Atchafalaya River Basin. Ann is currently writing Where’s the Moon? a memoir of Florida during the Space Race, and a biography of author Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings.

Ann will be teaching a class for the Writers’ League on Saturday, May 2 at St. Edward’s University called “Eight Ways of Knowing: Research and Creative Nonfiction.” Read the interview below and visit the class page to learn more.

Ann McCutchanScribe: When did you know you were a writer? Was there a defining moment in your personal history?

Ann McCutchan: I’ve loved writing and reading from an early age, but I can’t say I “knew” I was “a writer” until after my second book was published – about the time I set aside my musical life to focus on writing. And even now, I resist the label. I think of myself as a creative person who’s been lucky enough to work in two disciplines: music and writing.

Scribe: How did your experience as a journalist influence your present work?

AM: Newspaper and magazine journalism require quick, focused thinking, no-nonsense research skills, concision and overall resourcefulness in service to meaty work produced on deadline. The novelist Carolyn Chute once described journalism as “boot camp for writers.” I couldn’t have said it better. The experience reinforced, or perhaps played into, my years as a musician, which required several hours of practice a day, no matter what, in service to regular performances for which one had to be exquisitely prepared. There is no room, in music-making or journalism, for “I don’t feel like it” or “I don’t feel inspired.” One always shows up to the stand or the desk.

Scribe: Your class focuses on research. Does all writing require some form of research?

AM: You could say so. Even purely imaginative work requires exploring one’s mind.

Scribe: How do you choose your research subjects? Do you start with topics you’re interested in, or with a piece of information that intrigues you?

AM: Research is a skill or practice I bring to a compelling nonfiction project or story. For example, five years ago I felt an overwhelming urge to write about my youth in Florida, and determined it would be part personal history (memoir) and part social/political history. This required memory work, library time, interviews, on-site exploration, and even attendance at a high school reunion. Additionally, I poked around in others’ books for models of the thing I wanted to write, and listened to music. For a few months, my formal model was a Beethoven string quartet.  How presumptuous. But it inspired me.

Scribe: What constitutes a good writing day for you? A research breakthrough, the perfect articulation of an idea, or just a lot of work done in one day?

AM: Any of the above.  Two of the three in one day I’d count as golden.  All three = Triple Crown.

— Thanks, Ann!

Click here to register for Ann’s class.

Click here for a full list of classes.

Instructor Spotlight

Carol Dawson is both a novelist and nonfiction author whose books include the novels The Waking Spell, Body of Knowledge, Meeting the Minotaur, and The Mother-in-Law Diaries, all published by Algonquin Books, Simon and Schuster, Viking-Penguin, and translated overseas into several languages. Her award-winning nonfiction book House of Plenty: The Rise, Fall, and Revival of Luby’s Cafeterias was published by the University of Texas Press. She has taught creative writing and literature at the College of Santa Fe, as well as in numerous workshops. In addition, her work has been published in magazines and journals, including Texas Monthly, Southern Living, The Oxford-American, and Parenting Magazine. Currently she is working on two historical novels, and researching her latest nonfiction book, Miles and Miles of Texas: The Story of the Texas Highway Department, 1917-2017, to be published in fall 2016 by Texas A&M University Press.

Carol will be teaching a class for the Writers’ League called “The Joy of Revision: Editing and Revising Your Masterpiece for the Marketplace” as part of our Summer Writing Retreat in beautiful Alpine, TX. Read the interview below and visit the class page to learn more.

Carol Dawson_thumbScribe: You’ve lived all over the place — New Zealand, England, California, and Texas. How does this show up in your writing?

Carol Dawson: Any travel broadens the writer’s world view, of course—and the most important aspect of this is that it helps you to be more objective. This can balance your work, and help you to enter the skins of other people more easily, and strip the self-absorption from your own perspective. Seeing more of other cultures, experiencing them firsthand for a longer period of time, immersing yourself in the ways in which other people think, looking at the settings and artifacts of a much longer history than your own: these experiences all inform the mind and the writer’s approach. They strengthen empathy and promote maturity, which in turn gives the work more depth, more resonance, and more authority. And of course, all travel should stir and trigger both curiosity and the imagination.

Scribe: The class you’re teaching at the Summer Writing Retreat is on revision. Do you look forward more to the process of writing or revision?

CD: I love both processes. Although they require two different mindsets, they’re both highly creative. And since the final goal is to integrate them both into a more beautifully-crafted whole, I can think of few experiences in life more satisfying.

Scribe: Your April class will focus on the showing vs. telling dilemma. When did this ability really click for you? Was it something that you struggled with when you started writing?

CD: As a child I was crazy about reading—including many plays, both for kids and for adults (lots of Shakespeare, thanks to my older sister). I also loved writing poetry and stories. I was also one of those brash kids who organized the neighborhood into putting on plays (so bossy!!), either for our own amusement or for our parents and their friends. A lively imagination, in other words, that I tyrannically imposed on my buddies. Not because I wanted to push other kids around, but because I was on fire with an exciting idea or story that I wanted them to feel and live out, too—to fully realize, and for all of us to share the experience. Nowadays I do this with my characters. Thus, when I write a scene, I see it visually in my head—people doing and saying things in concrete settings, the reality of what’s happening, rather than just what the writer is thinking.

Scribe: What’s the end goal of showing? Is it to make writing more like real life?

CD: It’s to infuse life. To concretize the scene, as a direct event. This makes it much more accessible to the reader. That seems to be how we humans tick.

— Thanks, Carol!

Last year, Carol’s Summer Writing Retreat class sold out quickly. Don’t miss out! Sign up now!

To register for Carol’s class, click here.

For a full list of our Summer Writing Retreat classes, click here. 

NEW FICTION CONFAB

An Interview with Tim Staley

Tim Staley is the executive director of the Austin Public Library Friends Foundation, the nonprofit support organization for the Austin Public Library.

Join Tim and the rest of the APLFF on April 25th for the 6th annual New Fiction Confab, an all-day literary event that invites critically acclaimed authors to spend a day in Austin reading their work, engaging in critical conversations, and leading writing workshops. For more information about one of the Library Foundation’s largest literary programs, and a schedule of the day’s events, visit the New Fiction Confab event page here and read our Q&A with Tim below.

Can you tell our readers a little bit about the mission of the Austin Public Library Friends Foundation?

Tim Staley: The Austin Public Library Friends Foundation supports the Austin Public Library by increasing public awareness about the library and its importance to the community and by enhancing library collections, programs and facilities. Many of our programs are devoted to literacy, reading and increasing Austinites’ access to information and knowledge. Some of our programs include the Mayor’s Book Club, New Fiction Confab, Badgerdog writing workshops and the Texas Teen Book Festival.

TimStaley

Now in its sixth year, tell us how the New Fiction Confab has changed over the years?

 TS: There are more local authors involved in this year’s program than there have been in the past which is more indicative of Austin’s growing literary scene than it is anything in particular about the Confab. This program has always been committed and in large part even intended to promoting local literary talent and each year there just seems to be more and more Austinites publishing excellent fiction. The Confab is devoted to keeping up with this burgeoning talent.

What can you tell us about the authors that have been featured at the New Fiction Confab? 

 TS: The Confab seeks authors who have with just one or two books, established a distinct and unique voice and who, we expect, will continue to produce distinguished work for a long time to come.

Once again the Confab will feature the Austin Lit Fair, a showcase of local publishers whose contributions have helped shape the Austin literary scene. How have you seen the local literary scene grow and change, and how do you see the Confab and more generally the APLFF as part of this growth?

 TS: The Confab can play a role in connecting local literary journals with readers.  We hope that through the Austin Lit Fair we’re able to help raise the profile of the many local literary journals and publishers who are doing such good work.

What other APLFF programs would you like our readers to know about?

TS: Don’t forget the Badgerdog writing workshops!  Check austinlibrary.org for the schedule.

Thanks, Tim!

Click here to learn more about the Austin Public Library Friends Foundation.

Click here for more information about the New Fiction Confab.