Meet the Members: Karen Hulene Bartell

“I’m beginning to realize the wealth of information that’s so readily available to us authors here in Texas.”

-Karen Hulene Bartell

A member of the Writers League’ since January, Karen Hulene Bartell lives in Driftwood, Texas.

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

Karen Hulene Bartell: Primarily, I write women’s literature, but also in the religion, spirituality, romance, and mystery genres.

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

KHB: Earnest Hemingway — last spring, we visited his home in Key West. I’d ask how much of his writing is fictional and how much is truth, with just the names changed to protect the “innocent.”

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

KHB: Okay, my roots are showing: Gone with the Wind. I read it for the first time when I was 13, and it’s influenced my life.

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

KHB: I’m beginning to realize the wealth of information that’s so readily available to us authors here in Texas. I especially enjoyed last June’s Agents & Editors Conference!

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

KHB: My goals are to write full time in nine months and earn what I’m currently making at my bread-and-butter daytime job as a technical writer.

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?

KHB: Summer of ‘58 by Janice Gilbertson is one of my favorites, and River of Cattle by Alice V. Brock is another.

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

KHB: My book Lone Star Christmas: Holy Night is the Christmas story, updated and set in current-day Texas. Christmas in Cahokia: Song of the Owl is my most recent release (October 2017). Visit my website for upcoming events, including the release event for my upcoming book Sacred Heart: Valentine, Texas on February 3rd.

Thanks, Karen!

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!

Advertisements

An Interview with Jeremy Ellis of Interabang Books, plus a special discount for WLT members!

“Share your love of books all the time. Don’t be afraid to sing the praises of the books you adore.”

-Jeremy Ellis, General Manager, Interabang Books

If you’ve been keeping track of our 2017 events calendar, you’ve probably noticed that we’ve been traveling quite a bit this year. One of our favorite places to visit is Dallas’ newest bookstore, Interabang Books. We’re thrilled to announce that Interabang will now be offering WLT members a 15% discount.

We spoke with Interabang Books General Manager Jeremy Ellis about his career as a bookseller and how Interabang came to be. Read the interview to learn more, and stop by Interabang soon!

Scribe: You’ve spent many years in the book world, working in top positions at well-known bookstores like BookPeople in Austin and Brazos Bookstore in Houston. Where did your bookstore journey begin, and what inspired you to work in bookstores?

Jeremy Ellis: Working in bookstores was a happy accident. I was in my early twenties and flailing. I had intended to become a famous stage actor, but was coming round to the notion that I might need something to pay the bills until that happened. So, I applied to be a bookseller at Taylors Books in Dallas. I had always loved books and reading, but hadn’t really considered I could make it my career, but I excelled and was quickly promoted. I had discovered my new calling.

Scribe: You opened Interabang with partners Nancy Perot and Lori Feathers. How did the idea to open Interabang come to fruition?

JE: I left Dallas in 2011 to take over the Brazos Bookstore in Houston. It was really a dream come true, but my better-half was never able to find a job there, so I always had one eye searching the horizon for a way that might take me back to the Metroplex. Initially, I had been trying to bring Brazos Bookstore to Dallas. As I was pursuing that course, I met Lori and then Nancy. In the end, the complexity of expanding a Houston neighborhood store to Dallas made the deal untenable, so we decided to launch a new brand.

Scribe: Tell us a little about the name of Interabang Books — what’s an interabang, for those who might not know, and why did you choose it as the name to represent your bookstore?

JE: Naming a bookstore is a challenging project. There were lots and lots (and lots and lots) of ideas proposed. Frankly, most of them were pretty dull. But the pressure was on. We needed to make an announcement, so I made a new list of printmaker and book terminology. Interrobang was on that list…  An interrobang is an exclamation point and a question mark in a single punctuation mark. We thought that an icon that represented curiosity and excitement was perfect for the bookstore. In the end, we chose the secondary spelling – interabang – to distinguish ourselves from the mark.

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?

JE: I’ve been revisiting WATT MATTHEWS OF LAMBSHEAD by photographer Laura Wilson. This is a third edition with a terrific introduction by David McCullough, and a new foreword by Anne Wilkes Tucker. The photographs are an amazing view into a vanishing lifestyle and Western culture. The new edition from the Texas State Historical society is really gorgeous as well. I’m looking forward to reading THE LINE BECOMES A RIVER by Francisco Cantu (Riverhead). I’ve glanced at the first few pages and it looks amazing. It’s published in February of 2018 and he’ll be touring across Texas. Go out and meet him and support your local bookstore!

Scribe: What’s one piece of advice you’d give to aspiring booksellers?

JE: Share your love of books all the time. Now that everyone carries a media studio in their pocket, we all have the ability to trumpet our favorite books directly to the authors and publishers. Don’t be afraid to sing the praises of the books you adore. The more you do it, the stronger your reach and influence.

Thanks, Jeremy!

To take advantage of our discount with Interabang Books and other benefits, consider joining the Writers’ League. Questions? Call our offices at 512-499-8914 or visit writersleague.org.

Meet the Members: Deborah Lynn Blumberg

“I’m working on my first novel; it’s historical fiction based on the true story of how my great grandparents saved a group of Jews from the Holocaust with the help of a world leader.”

-Deborah Lynn Blumberg

A member of the Writers’ League since earlier this month, Deborah Lynn Blumberg lives in Houston, Texas.

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

Deborah Lynn Blumberg: I come from a journalism background and now freelance full-time. I write for publications and corporate clients and specialize in business & finance and health & wellness. I’m also working on my first novel; it’s historical fiction based on the true story of how my great grandparents saved a group of Jews from the Holocaust with the help of a world leader. I’d love to connect with other Texas writers working on historical fiction!

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

DLB: Erik Larson. I love his books that read like fiction but are about true events – Devil In The White City and Dead Wake. My own book is fiction, but it’s based on a true story set in the late 1930s. I often find myself going down the rabbit hole with research. I’d ask him, “How do you know when to stop researching?”

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

DLB: And Then There Were None by Agatha Chrystie. I love mysteries and books set in England. I have an old copy of her 1939 novel in my home library. It’s one of the few books I can read over and over again.

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

DLB: I went to a great WLT event in Houston about how to turn your mess of pages into a book. I’m part of the way through my first draft, and it’s always so inspiring – and encouraging – to hear tips and tricks from veteran novelists and short story writers.

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

DLB: I’m excited to continue building my fiction writing skills and eventually get my novel published. I also just finished a personal essay for a local magazine about my experience during Hurricane Harvey, and another piece for my alma mater (Wellesley’s) alumni magazine about my grandmother’s death and our home flooding. I really enjoyed working on them and would like to continue writing personal essays in addition to my other freelance work.

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?

DLB: I reviewed Austin writer Jeff Abbott’s recent thriller Blame for the Rice University alumni magazine and stayed up way past my bedtime several nights reading it. I couldn’t resist the cliffhangers at the end of each chapter. It was a page turner.

Scribe: Is there anything else about you that you would like to share with the world?

DLB: I’m the co-president of the American Society of Journalists and Author’s Texas chapter and am co-chairing ASJA’s first regional conference in Texas with fellow Writers’ League member Susan Johnson Taylor. We have an exciting day planned – a session on mindfulness for writers, a panel on self-editing, etc. – and would love to see fellow Writers’ League members there. Members can get a discount using code TX18-WLT-TX.

You can find me online at deborahlynnblumberg.com on Twitter at @dlblumberg.

Thanks, Deborah!

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 Blake Kimzey of Writing Workshops Dallas, plus a special discount for WLT members!

“For many writers, finding a community is an essential step that leads them to take their work and craft more seriously. Community is where you realize, maybe for the first time, that other people in your own backyard are trying to do the same thing you are.”

-Blake Kimzey, Founder of Writing Workshops Dallas

We’re always so thrilled at WLT when we see our Texas writing community growing, and we were so excited to meet Blake Kimzey this year in Dallas! Blake is the founder of Writing Workshops Dallas, an independent writing school for hardworking writers who want to strengthen their voice, develop a greater understanding of craft, and forge a path to publication along the way.

Writing Workshops Dallas has generously offered a 10 percent discount on their programs to Writers’ League of Texas members. We hope you’ll consider classes with WWD as a gift for the writer in your life (or for yourself!) this holiday season. Registration is now open for WWD’s Winter 2018 classes. Visit their website to learn more, and read the interview with Blake to learn how WLT members can take advantage of this discount.

Scribe: What inspired you to start Writing Workshops Dallas?

Blake Kimzey: I started Writing Workshops Dallas with this mission in mind: to bring writers out of the wilderness and into community with each other. Ten years ago, when I was working in a cubicle with a dream of being a writer, I discovered a writing workshop at a local community college that gave me my first mentor, a trusted group of readers, and, most importantly, deadlines to finish work. I found a group of writers around the workshop table who took my work as seriously as their own. That was transformative for me as a writer and allowed me to take my work seriously.

When I moved back to Dallas after six years out of the state, I saw there was nothing like that community college course I had taken a decade ago. So I started Writing Workshops Dallas. Our goal is to fill a need for creative writers who want a dedicated creative community outside of the university system as well as for those writers planning to apply for and pursue an MFA. We believe having a literary community is essential to the life of any creative writer, no matter the stage of your career.

Scribe: You offer both seminars and multi-week classes. What should students who register for a multi-week class expect?

BK: Our multi-week classes are taught by talented working writers and separated by genre: fiction, poetry, nonfiction, and screenwriting. Each class offers a rigorous, deep dive into craft with a focus on workshopping new student work. The classes are inclusive and intentionally small. In each of our multi-week classes every writer has to submit two new pieces of work to the workshop (two new short stories or novel excerpts in our fiction workshops, a series of poems for the poetry workshop, two essays for the nonfiction workshop, etc.). When these classes wrap, we want every writer to have two new pieces that they are equipped to revise and send out into the world. In each of our classes we read a book on craft and a collection of stories or a novel (or collection of essays or poetry for our nonfiction and poetry classes). We also offer beginning through advanced classes in each genre so students can keep pushing forward with their work. We’re very proud of the number of students who have returned to take classes with us.

Scribe: Why is it important for writers to have a community and to participate in organizations like yours and WLT?

BK: For many writers, finding a community is an essential step that leads them to take their work and craft more seriously. Community is where you realize, maybe for the first time, that other people in your own backyard are trying to do the same thing you are. Often it is a mystery how people go from writing alone in a room to having a book on the shelves in a bookstore. Being part of and participating in organizations like WLT and Writing Workshops Dallas can certainly demystify the process. Writing is a solitary endeavor and encouragement from a strong community is invaluable. Plus, there is nothing better than meeting a group of dedicated readers and writers to share your work with. You might even find a mentor.

Scribe: What’s one piece of advice you would give to writers considering an MFA program?

BK: I would avoid going into debt for an MFA program if at all possible. There are so many great fully-funded programs out there and I would focus on applying to those schools. These are often the most competitive, but they will leave you in the best financial position after the program ends. Before you apply, it is also a good idea to join a writing group or workshop. You’ll discover if you like being around the workshop table, writing letters of critique, and if you’re dedicated to meeting creative deadlines for your work on a rolling schedule.

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?

BK: I loved reading The Dime by Kathleen Kent. It’s a great crime novel set in Dallas, which feels like a rarity. It follows detective Betty Rhyzyk, a Brooklyn transplant who comes from a line of strong characters. It was a thrill to see the streets of Dallas come to life in the pages of Kent’s novel. Plus, Rhyzyk is up against Mexican cartels and cult leaders, which means the thrill and pacing of the novel never relents. I’m delighted to know Kent is working on the second book in the series and to learn that Hollywood is making The Dime into a TV series. I’m all in.

Scribe: Are there any upcoming events with Writing Workshops Dallas that you’d like our readers to know about? And how can WLT members take advantage of the 10 percent discount on your programs?

BK: Writing Workshops Dallas is throwing a free Holiday Cocktail Meet & Greet at The People’s Last Stand at Mockingbird Station on Wednesday, December 13, 2017 from 5 pm to 8 pm. We’d love to meet you! Come out if you’re interested in talking to our faculty about upcoming winter classes or if you just want to meet other writers in Dallas and talk shop. It doesn’t matter if you’re a current or former WWD student — we’d love for you to be part of this community. RSVP on our website if you think you can make it.

For WLT members, mention your membership when registering for a class online, and you’ll be able to select the WLT member option at checkout for a 10 percent discount.

Thanks, Blake!

To take advantage of our discount with Writing Workshops Dallas and other benefits, consider joining the Writers’ League. Questions? Call our offices at 512-499-8914 or visit writersleague.org.

Meet the Members: Patricia Vermillion

“I am a school librarian who loves placing those just-right books into the hands of children.”

-Patricia Vermillion

A member of the Writers’ League since May, Patricia Vermillion lives in Dallas, Texas.

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

Patricia Vermillion: I write children’s books.

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

PV: Eudora Alice Welty. I’d ask her, “Does your photography inspire your writing?”

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

PV: I’d want to have The Catcher in the Rye.

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

PV: There are a lot of Texas writers!

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

PV: Hopefully, publishing more children’s books!

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?

PV: I’d recommend Wishtree by Katherine Applegate.

Scribe: Is there anything else about you that you would like to share with the world?

PV: I am a school librarian who loves placing those just-right books into the hands of children. You can visit my website here.

Thanks, Patricia!

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! Please also email us, at the same address, if you’d like to learn more about WLT board service.

Meet the Members: Melinda Freeland

“There are a lot of friendly writers and people associated with the writing world, and Texas sure has a lot of writers!​”

-Melinda Freeland

A member of the Writers’ League since 2011, Melinda Freeland lives in Canyon Lake, Texas.

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

Melinda Freeland: Christian contemporary romance and women’s fiction​.

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

MF: Anita Shreve. Is any part of The Last Time They Met autobiographical?  (That’s my favorite book written by her.)​

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

MF: The Bible.  It’s long, so it would keep me occupied for hours. I would continue to learn some new insight each time I read it, and I could maybe figure out why G​od decided to stick me on a deserted island!

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

MF: There are a lot of friendly writers and people associated with the writing world, and Texas sure has a lot of writers!​

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

MF: My debut novel just came out in May, so I see many more years of writing novels in this genre and women’s fiction.​  If my writing could take me on a trip to the red carpet because my novels were made into a movie, that would be awesome!

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?

MF: I just finished reading My Hope Next Door by Tammy L. Gray.  It’s also a Christian contemporary romance like my debut novel and it’s also written about “real” people.  Like I say, “Christians are people, too!”  This author did a fantastic job of keeping me interested enough to read even when I was dead tired, making me really feel for the main characters, and portraying Christians realistically to show both their good and bad sides.

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

MF: If you love reading books that take place in Texas  and novels that are inspired by true stories, go to my website www.melindafreeland.com and check out the BOOKS tab. Love, Texas — Population 2 is a Christian contemporary romance novel inspired by my own true story of my life as a small-town reporter and photographer in Taylor, Texas; my reunion with my Austin high-school sweetheart; and my dynamic faith journey.  You can also check out the BUY tab on my website, where you’ll find a link to purchase a signed copy of my debut novel with PayPal or a major credit card. :)​

Thanks, Susan!

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! Please also email us, at the same address, if you’d like to learn more about WLT board service.

5 Questions for Screenwriter Jill Chamberlain

“Likeable characters are boring. You’re doing yourself a great disservice if you worry about making your protagonist likeable.”

-Jill Chamberlain

Jill Chamberlain is a screenplay consultant and founder of The Screenplay Workshop with Jill Chamberlain, which offers private script consultation and group instruction in Austin and via Skype. Her book from the University of Texas Press, The Nutshell Technique: Crack the Secret of Successful Screenwriting, is considered the go-to manual many professionals swear by and is on the syllabus for the acclaimed screenwriting program at Columbia University. Many of her students have achieved success in Hollywood with screenplays optioned, sold, and made into award-winning feature films.

On December 2, Jill will teach “Structuring a Successful Screenplay Using the Nutshell Technique” at St. Edward’s  University in Austin, TX. This class will cover eight essential elements for a successful screenplay. We asked Jill about the films she’s learned from, advice she gives often and advice she thinks is overused, and what people will take away from the class.

What is a film that you recommend to people over and over? What makes it so compelling?

Paper Moon is about as perfect as a movie can be. Take the first shot: Moses drives up to a graveside funeral in progress and steals flowers off of a nearby grave to present to the bereaved. That tells you everything you need to know about this guy. He’s a con artist but also at times his heart is in the right place. It is a masterpiece, from the first frame to the last, and yes, that last frame is connected to the first one.

In your work as a script consultant, what has been one challenge posed by the craft, structure, voice, etc., of a screenplay that you’ve had to puzzle out?

Last week, I was consulting on a screenplay for a major studio; this was for a movie with a huge budget. I can’t discuss any specifics about the project, but I’ll say generally that I discovered I was dealing with the exact same kind of story issues that I deal with when working with amateur screenwriters. At the heart of everything, a story is a story. It doesn’t matter if it’s ultimately a $150 million movie or a $150,000 movie or zero-dollar labor of love, you need to ensure the same story elements are in place and are structurally sound when you’re writing the screenplay.

What piece of advice do you find yourself giving to screenwriters again and again?

If you want to be a screenwriter, you must read screenplays. Not one or two screenplays but tons and tons of screenplays, as many as you can get your hands on.

Is there a common piece of writing advice that you wish people wouldn’t put so much stock in or follow too closely?

Yes, that your protagonist should be likeable. This is the central precept behind the number one bestselling book on screenwriting, “Save The Cat,” and I couldn’t disagree with this idea more! Think of, for example, the Bill Murray character in “Groundhog Day” — he isn’t in the least bit likeable. The movie wouldn’t have worked had he been likeable. Likeable characters are boring. You’re doing yourself a great disservice if you worry about making your protagonist likeable.

What is one thing that people will take away from this class?

Well, you’re going to take away a ton of things because the class is going to be absolutely jam-packed with information. But here is perhaps the most important thing: In my work as a script consultant, I have discovered that 99 percent of first-time screenwriters fail to tell a story. What the 99 percent do instead is present a situation. The most important thing I’ll show you is how to ensure you’re telling a story and that you’re not falling in the 99 percent who are merely presenting a situation.

Thanks, Jill!

 

Click here to learn more about and register for Jill’s class.

Click here for our current class schedule.