An Interview with Erika Jo Brown of the Boldface Conference

Here at the Writers’ League of Texas, we love highlighting Texas literary organizations doing great work to support our community. Now in its 9th year, the Boldface Conference takes place May 22-May 26 in Houston and is dedicated to emerging writers. The conference is hosted by Glass Mountain, the University of Houston’s undergraduate literary magazine. This gives the conference’s organizers unique insights into the needs and issues facing emerging writers in today’s challenging literary environment.

To learn more about this conference, we spoke with Erika Jo Brown, Graduate Advisor at Glass Mountain. Registration is still available! Click here for more info.

Scribe: What makes the Boldface conference unique?

Erika Jo Brown: Boldface is truly a unique experience. First of all, we are devoted to emerging writers, which we define as those who have not yet published a book or enrolled in an MFA or PhD program in Creative Writing. We’re also entirely student-run; the conference is an initiative and a labor of love for the editors of Glass MountainUH’s undergraduate magazine.

From May 22-26, the conference itinerary is filled with writing workshops, craft talks, professional panels, readings, evening events around the city, and private manuscript consultations. Some participants are local and some are flying in from Oregon, Indiana, and more! We’re thrilled to host three visiting writing luminaries in each genre, Bill Broun (Night of The Animals) in fiction, Leah Lax (Uncovered) in nonfiction, and Hayan Charara in (Something Sinister, The Sadness of Others, The Alchemist’s Diary) in poetry. Plus, for breakfast and lunch, we scour the city for local, delectable meals.

Scribe: Why is it so important to support emerging writers?

EJB: The writing world is tough, and we’re delighted to provide guidance and, most importantly, community for our fellow scribblers. On Friday, we’re pleased to expand on a “community” day founded last year. We’re assembled terrific panels with local literary figures on topics such as  applying to grad school, submission bombing, pointers on performing work in public, literary citizenship, self publishing, and literary translation. Plus, we’ll have tables of publishers, book artists, magazines, and more. Together, we all rise!

Feel free to email boldfaceconference@gmail.com if you’re inspired to register for our Houston conference.

Thanks, Erika!

To find out more about Boldface and Glass Mountain Mag, visit the Boldface Conference website.

Meet the Members: Chip Dameron

“If I were stranded on a deserted island, I’d want to have The Norton Anthology of American Literature. I’d have such a variety of creative voices to keep me company.”

-Chip Dameron

A member of the Writers’ League for 3 years and a current Writers’ League Board Member, Chip Dameron lives in Brownsville, TX.

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

Chip Dameron: Primarily poetry, though I’m in the middle of drafting a novel.

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

CD: I’d enjoy clinking glasses of raki with novelists Orhan Pamuk and Elif Shafak and asking them about the challenges of depicting life in modern Turkey without triggering censorship and possible imprisonment.

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

CD: If I were stranded on a deserted island, I’d want to have The Norton Anthology of American Literature. I’d have such a variety of creative voices to keep me company.

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

CD: That there is a great thirst across the state for interacting with other aspiring and practicing writers, for learning more about the craft through short courses from accomplished writers, and for pursuing avenues to publication. The Writers’ League serves as catalyst in creating opportunities for all these activities to happen. I’m extremely impressed with the dedication of the staff of the Writers’ League and the board members I have the privilege to serve with.

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

CD: While I continue to write poems, I’m currently immersed in, and (mostly) enjoying, the process of spinning out a novel. I still have a long way to go.

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?

CD: I’ve just finished Amy Gentry’s Good as Gone, a fast-paced novel with memorable characters and a plot full of twists.

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

CD: I invite everyone to check out my recent book of travel poems, China Sketchbook, published by Purple Flag and available online from Powell’s Books, Amazon, and Barnes & Noble.

Thanks, Chip!

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.

An Interview with Charles Dee Mitchell of WordSpace

“Dallas has become known as a significant center for the visual and performing arts. WordSpace wants to provide the same visibility and enthusiasm for the written word.”

-Charles Dee Mitchell, WordSpace 

WordSpace is a non-profit literary organization that supports education and writers, connecting Dallas with the best of world literature. Founded in 1994, the organization hosts authors, readings, student workshops, concerts, and salons to promote established and emerging artists who use imaginative language in traditional and experimental forms. Through diverse, multi-cultural programs, WordSpace enhances the development of language artists of all ages, facilitates communication throughout the literary community, and contributes to expanding the Dallas literary scene to the widest possible audience. We spoke with Charles Dee Mitchell, board president, about WordSpace’s upcoming May events.

Scribe: Can you tell us more about WordSpace’s mission and the programs you offer in support of that mission?

Charles Dee Mitchell: WordSpace produces about 50 events per season. We feature readers both local and national. We feature authors just starting out and possibly giving their first public readings, as well as such well-known and respected local figures as David Searcey and Willard Spiegelman who have just published their latest books after turning seventy. By holding free events in bookstores, community centers, theaters, galleries, and private homes spread across the city, we are making a concentrated effort to get contemporary writing both new and established audiences. Dallas has become known as a significant center for the visual and performing arts. WordSpace wants to provide the same visibility and enthusiasm for the written word.

Scribe: WordSpace is hosting several events in Dallas in May at various venues. Can you tell us a little more about these events?

CDM: Douglas Kearney’s appearance at the South Dallas Cultural Center on May 25 concludes the third season African Diaspora: New Dialogues, our collaboration with the SDCC. This series has brought local, national, and international writers to Dallas. Season three included Jamaican novelist Nicole Dennis-Benn and poet Tyehimba Jess, who won the Pulitzer Prize a few days after his reading in Dallas. We plan to make Natalia Toledo Paz’s reading at the Latino Cultural Center the beginning of a new collaboration with the SDCC series. Ms. Toleday Paz is a distinguished Mexican poet, and this will be a unique trilingual event. Much of her verse is in Zapotec, and the peformance will include live Spanish translation and projected English super titles.

The Kessler Theater has hosted our Headliner Series since 2011. This series, one of our few ticketed programs, has featured such writers and performers  as John Waters, Nikki Giovanni, Sandra Berhnardt, and Laurie Anderson. Our first headliner was Dan Savage, and we felt that the time was right to bring him back to Dallas on May 11.

Scribe: Deep Ellum Lit Hop will be held in June and includes a packed lineup of individual hour-long showcases of literary talent. Can you tell us more about this event and how those interested can participate?

CDM: The first Deep Ellum Lit Hop took place in the summer of 2016 and attracted around 200 people for an afternoon and evening of poetry and music. By announcing this as the Second Annual Deep Ellum Lit Hop we are committing to making this a soon-to-be Dallas institution.  So far there are four Deep Ellum venues and twelve participating groups, but the event is still evolving. Checking out the Facebook event page is the best way to stay up to date on what’s happening, https://www.facebook.com/events/129649400912879/

Scribe: Here are 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?

CDM: Kathleen Kent’s The Dime is a debut crime novel set in Dallas, Weatherford, and a white supremacist compound in East Texas. It does not disappoint.

Thanks, Charles!

To find out more about WordSpace and May’s events, visit their website.

An Interview with Clay Smith of the San Antonio Book Festival

“Texas writers are given such a limitless gift by writing about–or being from– this place.”

-Clay Smith

We can’t believe it’s already April! The schedule for the 2017 San Antonio Book Festival is out now, and we couldn’t be more excited about this year’s lineup. The festival will be held on Saturday, April 8, from 9 am to 5 pm at the beautiful downtown Central Library and Southwest School of Art. A program of the San Antonio Public Library Foundation (SAPLF), SABF celebrates national and local authors and their contributions to the culture of literacy, ideas, and imagination.

This year, as in years past, we’re excited to feature our members at our exhibitor booth. You can find us in the Festival Marketplace at Booths 35-36. The list of WLT members who are signing and selling their books at our booth can be found here on our website.

To learn more about the San Antonio Book Festival, we talked with literary director Clay Smith about planning this year’s program as well as the literary landscape of Texas.

Scribe: Can you share a few thoughts with us about the Texas literary landscape — what makes it unique, and what opportunities can be found here for writers, readers, publishers, and booksellers?

Clay Smith: Texas writers are given such a limitless gift by writing about–or being from–this place. Not just the myths of Texas (and its actual history that inspires those myths), but Texans have a strong sense of themselves and a strong sense of what they think Texas means. That’s a real gift to a writer that I don’t think all American states offer to their writers.

Scribe: What have been your favorite aspects of developing this year’s SABF programming?

CS: The best part of this job is considering which aspects of and issues in our culture people are really thinking about and finding authors who write in thoughtful ways about those topics. So we’ve got events about terrorism, immigration, the environment—hard-hitting topics like those. But we’re also featuring a lot of thoughtful poets and fiction writers who help us re-imagine our world. The joy of the job is mixing those writers together and letting San Antonians engage with our writers, make up their own minds, and be in conversation with other readers about these big ideas.

Scribe: Can you tell us about one or two pieces of programming that are new or different from years past?

CS: This is our first year to bring The Moth to San Antonio (its first time in the city), so that’s been a really wonderful process. The approximately 100 writers who are chosen by us to appear at the Festival are chosen for very specific reasons (namely, because we think they are doing excellent writing and have something unique to say about this world), but the five storytellers chosen by the producers of The Moth aren’t necessarily writers. They are people who have figured out how to tell stories from their lives that are funny or poignant or some mix of those qualities, and I think The Moth is a great addition to this year’s programming. The Moth takes place on the Friday night before the Festival, April 7, at the Majestic Theatre. The Texan-Off, a contest based on former TexasMonthly.com editor Andrea Valdez’s book How to Be a Texan, is going to be a lot of fun, too. We’re asking native Texas writers and a few non-native ones to be contestants to see who has the best Texana knowledge.

Thanks, Clay!

Visit the San Antonio Book Festival website for more information and the schedule of events.

Clay Smith is the Literary Director of the San Antonio Book Festival. He is also the editor-in-chief of Kirkus Reviews and former literary director of the Texas Book Festival. He was elected to the board of directors of the National Book Critics Circle in 2015 and has written for the New York Times Book Review, among other publications. He is a graduate of the Cultural Reporting and Criticism program at NYU and began his journalism career at the Austin Chronicle and talks about books regularly on the public radio program “Texas Standard.”

Community Member Guest Post: The Writers Workshop

“We all work toward a writing career, but first we need a life as a writer.”

-Ron Seybold

Community membership in the Writers’ League of Texas allows businesses and organizations to support our programming and services. It’s also a great way for our community of writers to learn about the many valuable and varied services, programs, and opportunities available to them.

The Writers Workshop is a resource that provides writing workshops for novels and memoirs, creativity groups, coaching, and editorial services. Read a guest post from Writers Workshop director and coach Ron Seybold below.

Patience, Presentation, and Practice: Three Assets for Success in the Book World

 

There are three assets everyone needs to move into a career in writing. We all work toward a writing career, but first we need a life as a writer. The three assets are patience, presentation, and practice. Whether you choose to work with a publisher, employ an editor to polish your book, or make your career by publishing yourself, these three “Ps” are essential. They lead you from inspiration to publication.

The first “P,” patience, is crucial to assisting creativity. As authors build skills and polish their own books, they find opportunities to reach out to one another. You might be doing beta reads for your friends’ full drafts, or even catching typos in a late-stage revision. Remember, you must be patient with your own work, too. You may find yourself saying things like, “Really, why can’t I have three first-person points of view for my cozy mystery?” Talk it through (patiently) with a fellow writer, a workshop group, or even a coach.

As you move into your career as a writer you’ll also want to practice the second “P”: presentation. To a writer, presentation means the ability to share, submit, and offer. You will rework and revise, polish and pare down, but showing your work to the world is what launches a writing life. Even reading aloud what you’ve just written is a start. Find other honest, hopeful ears and eyes of a trusted group or a partner and share again. All work should lead toward the moment of presenting your writing.

Of course practice, the third “P,” helps everything improve. We practice to become the hard-working authors who love to put our early efforts well behind us. Plenty of practice happens via traded emails and Track Changes notes in the margins. Practice makes doing the work easier, too.

In his memoir Father’s Day, Buzz Bissinger gives Eamon Dolan fulsome praise in the book’s acknowledgments. “With Eamon as fastidious editor and wordsmith—some chapters had more of his comments than they did my own words—what began as an earnest and rudderless first draft became a book.”

It’s Buzz’s book, yes. But it’s also a collaboration that benefited from patience, presentation and practice. The first feels like magic when we manage to conjure it. But it’s earned by applying the other two assets in order to create something worthy of notice. Buzz admits his fine memoir was rudderless at first, but he kept working toward the big presentation. Patience helped him steer the story, and practice was the wind that filled his sails.

Thanks, Ron!

Find out about upcoming programming at the Writers Workshop here.

Ron Seybold is director and coach at Austin’s Writers Workshop, a volunteer tutor for the Austin Batcave Literacy Program, and the author of a debut novel Viral Times.

Community Member Q&A: The Writers Workshop

“The best way to grow a book is to write it, and then get responses and guidance from other writers. It’s like an actor getting notes during rehearsals and then polishing the performance.”

-Ron Seybold

The Writers Workshop develops writers, edits books, and helps authors from inspiration to publication. Founded by editor and novelist Ron Seybold, The Writers Workshop is a resource that provides writing workshops for novels and memoirs, creativity groups, coaching, and editorial services. Ron, the author of the novel Viral Times, has been writing and editing for publication for 35 years. He is also a past finalist in the Writers’ League of Texas Manuscript Contest in the Memoir and Historical Fiction categories.

In addition to developing and inspiring authors, the Writers Workshop is a proud Community Member of the Writers’ League of Texas. Read the interview below with Ron Seybold to find out more.

Ron SeyboldScribe: Tell us a little about why you founded the Writer’s Workshop and its mission.

Ron Seybold: I wanted to build a service with a full spectrum for authors, from creation to workshopping and then to editing for publication. After more than 25 years of writing, editing, acting, and podcasting, I trained in the Amherst Writers & Artists practices. I started to lead weekly Creation Nights, which soon led to workshops for authors writing books. From there, I transitioned into editing services as well.

Back in 2006 editorial services for authors were just starting to bloom. I’d been working in publications, helping writers improve their work. We editors are lucky to play our part to help hard-working writers get to publication. The Workshop gives authors the services and support to bring their books to the world. The best way to grow a book is to write it, and then get responses and guidance from other writers.

writers workshop logo.jpgScribe: In July, you spoke on a Writers’ League Third Thursday panel about writing and critique groups. Why is it important for writers to find writing/critique groups?

RS: You may be able to envision what you want your book to be, but other writers will see what a reader wants and needs from your story. You don’t copyedit a book in a good group—you learn what’s working in your story, what confuses a reader, and where readers may have drifted in your writing. All three of those notes are important. In a good group, the authors are both honest and polite, encouraging as well as specific while they critique.

A group helps you produce on a deadline for others to read. You also get better at understanding the components of stories by annotating responses to other authors. You become adept at naming the parts of the world. The podcast from that Third Thursday says even more about how to workshop well.

Scribe: You recently created an anthology of some of your Workshop participants’ writing, titled Small Packages. Can you tell us a more about this anthology and how it came into being?

RS: After being an editor all those years, it was my dream to start a small lit journal. Over the first nine years of Creation Nights, some amazing writing emerged. Creation Nights are 25-minute writing sessions, and during those sessions, some people created completed flash fiction, some have now had short stories published in journals, and others wrote the building blocks that became books. It’s a thrill to know that I was able to assist writers whose work is now for sale BookPeople and Malvern Books. I love those bookstores.

Scribe: What’s important to you about supporting the Writers’ League of Texas and being a community member?

RS: The Writers’ League of Texas is essential to the health of our writing community. I tell every Workshop member to join because WLT teaches us to write better and more easily, as well as making us aware of the business side of the publishing world and giving us opportunities to make connections. The contests lift up authors, too. Craft, community, and business savvy are a powerful toolset for any writer. A Saturday spent with WLT instructors always gives me something to take back to my editing desk, writing groups, and my own keyboard.

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?

RS: Faking Lucky by Q.D. Perdu, who won the Writers’ League Manuscript Contest in the Romance category with the story a few years ago. Sweet, sexy, funny, wise, and set in Austin. How do you go wrong with a comic love story about a heroine named Desdemona?

Scribe: Anything else you’d like to share?

RS: Those Creation Nights are block-busters. Writing in them helps us stay in contact with our book projects. You never know where the writing will go. One writer worked her way onto the New York Times bestseller list. We have a new series starting in March, and a few seats open in our workshop groups, too.

 

Thanks, Ron!

Click here to visit The Writers Workshop website.

Are you a business or organization interested in getting involved?

Community Membership is a great way to connect with the Writers’ League’s membership base and share news and information about writing-related services and events. For more information on Community Membership click here or call our office at (512) 499-8914.

Meet the Members: Ginger McKnight-Chavers

“My first novel, In the Heart of Texas, was just released in October of 2015. It has helped me create a platform and gain the confidence to finally call myself an ‘author’ instead of a ‘recovering lawyer.”

-Ginger McKnight-Chavers

A Writers’ League of Texas member since 2015, Dallas-native Ginger McKnight-Chavers lives near New York City.

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

Ginger McKnight-Chavers: I write in the genres of contemporary fiction, women’s fiction, and humor. I also do some essay and article writing in the areas of culture, law, politics, and parenting.

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

GMC: I am more of a white wine and margaritas kind of girl, but I would have Cognac with James Baldwin, since he relied on Cognac and coffee to keep him warm in the Paris cafe where he wrote Go Tell it On the Mountain. Once we were warm and cozy, I would ask him for the skinny on his beef with Richard Wright.

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

GMC:  The Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling.

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

GMC: I consider myself a Texan author, no matter where I happen to be in the world. The Writers’ League not only provides useful resources and workshops, but it keeps me connected with other Texan authors.

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

GMC:  My first novel, In the Heart of Texas, was just released in October of 2015. It has helped me create a platform and gain the confidence to finally call myself an “author” instead of a “recovering lawyer.” I plan to continue to write contemporary novels featuring interesting, Texan female protagonists. A second novel is already in the works, titled Oak Cliff, and it will focus on female friendship set in the rapidly gentrifying Dallas neighborhood where I grew up. I also will continue to write the occasional essay or article. I recently wrote an article about Beyonce for Essence.com that I hope will enable me to meet Queen Bey someday.

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?

GMC: How to be Texan: The Manual by Texas Monthly’s Andrea Valdez. Perfect for a homesick Texan like myself.

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

GMC: It was a very long road for me to have my first novel, In the Heart of Texas, published. In addition to a number of personal hurdles and challenges, the journey included praise by prominent agents (who still strung me along and never signed me), multiple rejections, a writing fellowship, a deal with a small press that folded, and finally a new home at She Writes Press, an independent publisher.

The silver lining of the struggle was that I learned a great deal about the business of publishing and promoting one’s self as an author, my writing improved immensely along the way, and, most of all, I was empowered by the fact that I never gave up on writing or myself.

In the Heart of Texas recently won the USA Best Book Award in the category of Fiction: African American, and it has received praise from Redbook, PopSugar, Bustle, Parade, BuzzFeed, Library Journal, RT Book Reviews, Brit + Co, and SoulCycle, among others. I am greatly enjoying meeting readers and sharing this labor of love with them.

Between promoting the novel and a part-time writing assignment with an online media group, I am finally living the writing life, after close to 20 years as a corporate and arts/entertainment lawyer. I am looking forward to being able to devote more attention to my second novel-in-progress, Oak Cliff. And I am helping my elderly mother, Dr. Mamie McKnight, write a memoir and family history. As a longtime educator and historian who is in the Texas Women’s Hall of Fame, and who is very modest about writing about herself, I want to make sure she shares her amazing Texan story with the world. Others can learn from her experiences in the way that I have, as her daughter.

Thanks, Ginger!

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!