Interview with Fran Sanders of Public Poetry + A Special Discount for WLT Members!

“For 16 years, Poetry at Round Top has been a very special gathering place to hear some of the country’s best poets in an absolutely gorgeous location.”

-Fran Sanders

We’re such big fans of Public Poetry, a Houston-based nonprofit whose mission is to expose people to good poetry and to promote this art form by taking poetry public. They host frequent collaborative programs and projects that put hundreds of poets in front of thousands of people at libraries, museums, music venues, and more.

Their upcoming event “Poetry Ride to Round Top” is a great opportunity for aspiring poets to learn while making the trip from Houston to the Round Top Poetry Festival. We talked with Public Poetry’s Executive Director Fran Sanders about the event. Details about how WLT members can get a special discount are in the interview below!

Scribe: What is the Poetry Ride to Round Top?

Fran Sanders: The Poetry Ride to Round Top includes travel on a round-trip luxury coach ride to the Round Top Poetry Festival, Saturday, April 21, 2018, as  well as admission to the Festival. During the ride to the Festival, Houston Poet Laureate Deborah D.E.E.P. Mouton will be doing a workshop exclusively for us. The coach will leave Houston at 9:15 a.m. and be back in Houston around 10:15 p.m.

Scribe: Tell us a little about the Round Top Poetry Festival.

FS: The Austin Chronicle calls this Festival a “paradise for poets!” Its unique 200-acre campus contains major performance facilities, historic houses and architectural restorations, extensive gardens, parks, and nature preserves, and a wide collection of rare books and manuscripts.

Scribe: What’s included in a ticket to the Poetry Ride?

FS: Your ticket includes:

  • Saturday-Only Festival Registration ($75 value if purchased individually), including all festival events. This year’s festival poets include Coleman Barks, Scott Brownlee, Carrie Fountain, Kurt Heinzelman, Tomás Q. Morín, Aimee Nezhukumatathil, Naomi Shihab Nye, Emmy Pérez, Laura Van Prooyen, Roger Reeves, Liz Garton Scanlon, and Javier Zamora
  • Travel to and from the festival
  • Our exclusive Rolling Poetry workshop on the bus with Deborah D.E.E.P Mouton
  • Catered box lunch
  • And more!

Find the full list of what’s included here.

Scribe: Tell us a little about, Deborah D.E.E.P. Mouton, Houston’s Poet Laureate.

FS: Deborah D.E.E.P. Mouton is a poet, educator and coach. Formerly ranked the #2 Best Female Poet in the World, D.E.E.P. has established herself as a notable force in the Performance and Slam Poetry World. She has been featured on BBC, NPR, Upworthy, Blavity, Button Poetry, Write About Now, and the opening video of the 2017-2018 Houston Rockets Season. D.E.E.P. was featured at Public Poetry’s inaugural reading in 2011.

Scribe: How can WLT members take advantage of discounted pricing?   

FS: WLT members can get a special discount of $25 off the regular price when they register HERE before April 1, 2018. After April 1, 2018 the price increases by $10, with a 13% discount for WLT members on the total cost. After you register, you will be sent a confirmation letter from Public Poetry with further details.

Thanks, Fran!

Find more details about the Poetry Ride to Round Top here.

Find more details about Public Poetry here.

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Meet the Conference Faculty: Agent Jennifer Chen Tran

“Part of doing the work means being a good literary citizen, so support your fellow writers and bookstores.”

-Jennifer Chen Tran

Every year, the Writers’ League of Texas brings a faculty of close to thirty agents, editors, and other industry professionals to Austin for its Agents & Editors Conference. As we look ahead to the 25th Annual A&E Conference, taking place June 29–July 1, 2018, we’re happy to share Q&As with some of our faculty here.

An Interview with Jennifer Chen Tran

Jennifer Chen Tran is an agent at Bradford Literary. She represents both fiction and non-fiction. Originally from New York, Jennifer is a lifelong reader and experienced member of the publishing industry. Prior to joining Bradford Literary, she was an Associate Agent at Fuse Literary and served as Counsel at The New Press. She obtained her Juris Doctor from Northeastern School of Law in Boston, MA, and a Bachelors of Arts in English Literature from Washington University in St. Louis. Jennifer understands the importance of negotiation in securing rights on behalf of her authors. She counsels her clients on how to expand their platforms, improve on craft, and works collaboratively with her clients throughout the editorial and publication process. Her ultimate goal is to work in concert with authors to shape books that will have a positive social impact on the world–books that also inform and entertain. She is looking to sign authors from diverse or marginalized backgrounds.

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

Jennifer Chen Tran: I’m a very hands-on and editorial agent. I see myself as an author cheerleader and savvy negotiator, and I truly believe in securing the best book deal for my author but also think broadly about how else we can take advantage of subsidiary rights beyond the book. I brainstorm with my clients on creative out-of-the-box approaches to promotion and marketing. I really am a friend and business partner and pride myself on being very responsive to my clients. My role is to add value to all of my interactions with my author-clients, who I feel so gratified to work with.

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

JCT: Many things, but paramount is voice and tension on the page. Characters that feel real, a story that makes me care and think more deeply about the world at large. Professionalism and realistic expectations about the publishing journey, also doesn’t hurt.

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

JCT: Do the work. Work on your craft, improve your writing. If you write non-fiction, keep placing essays and shorter pieces in journals, magazines, and other literary publications. If you write fiction, keep refining your story, your characters, the setting, and get feedback from others. Part of doing the work means being a good literary citizen, so support your fellow writers and bookstores. (I think that is more than one piece of advice! I like giving advice).

Scribe: Has there been 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? 

JCT: Yes. I represent Cori Salchert, a former perinatal bereavement nurse who now takes care of hospice babies and kiddos with life-limiting medical conditions. She’s been covered in national media outlets, including a recent appearance on Today with Kathie Lee and Hoda. I think it’s the most unique project I’ve worked on because it takes on so many ethical and spiritual questions in a scenario that you don’t often see. Plus, it made me cry more times than I can count.

Scribe:  Tell us about a recent book that you worked with–you know, brag on one of your writers!

JCT: I’m super excited about Spark! a three-book middle grade series that was originally based on a viral Tumblr blog called “Little Girls are Better Superheroes Than You,” where little girls sent in pictures of themselves in homemade costumes and comics artists created superheroic characters based on these pictures. It features Lucia Marquez-Miller, who loves tinkering with her Legos and can take things apart with just the power of her mind. She’s a very positive role model for little girls everywhere but she’s also a normal girl who has homework and wants to please her parents. Lucia fights crime with a motley crew of characters in modern-day San Francisco. It’s a fun story, full of adventure, and I think a lot of middle grade kids will love it. Lion Forge comics is the publisher and the first book in the series will be released next year.

Thanks, Jennifer!

Click here to read our 2018 A&E Conference agent bios.

Click here for more information on the 2018 Agents & Editors Conference, a weekend long event in Austin, TX (June 29-July 1) that focuses on the craft of writing, the business of publishing, and building a literary community.

Q&A with Chaitali Sen on Her Interview Series BORDERLESS (Next Event with Juli Berwald on March 9!)

“Although we might provide an escape from reality through our writing, we are still part of this world . . . I wanted to dig into the question of what role we play as writers as things are happening around us. “

–Chaitali Sen

In the interview series Borderless: Conversations on Art, Action, and Justice, emerging and established writers talk with host Chaitali Sen about the power of words and the role of art in reflecting and changing our world. Chaitali is a novelist, WLT class instructor, and fantastic friend to the Texas writing community and WLT. We couldn’t be more excited or inspired by this new project from Chaitali.

The next Borderless conversation will be with author Juli Berwald and will take place at Austin indie bookstore Malvern Books on March 9, 2018 at 7 p.m.

We talked with Chaitali to learn more about this series and the upcoming event.

Scribe: Tell us about the mission of your “Borderless” interview series and what inspired you to start the series.

I started Borderless: Conversations on Art, Action, and Justice, so that I could talk to other writers about “the power of words and the role of art in reflecting and changing our world.” From talking to friends in the writing world over the last year, this seemed to be a topic that kept coming up. I have been to a lot of great discussions on writing, especially on craft and process, but I felt a real lack of discussions on writing that connected writers to the world at large. Although we might provide an escape from reality through our writing, we are still part of this world, and though there are vague pronouncements on the importance of literature for developing empathy, I wanted to dig into the question of what role we play as writers as things are happening around us.

Scribe: Your first interview was with Nikki Luellen. What’s one surprising or illuminating takeaway that resulted from your interview with her?

CS: Nikki is mainly a spoken word poet, and I had seen her captivate people out on the streets at protests. It gave me a whole new appreciation to hear her poetry in the intimate space of Malvern, because I really got to appreciate how she inhabits characters and modulates the pitch and tempo of her voice, how it really is a whole performance (she’s also a playwright). Her poems have a lot of movement and a lot of substance, because they take on very big social and political topics, yet they are also very personal, about how she is struggling with these questions and overcoming her own fear. I wanted to start this series with someone who is not a part of the literary establishment, because her work illustrates to me how confining that world can be. There are so many parameters that are set within that world, either implicitly or explicitly, about what makes someone a writer, what we should be writing about, how to challenge an audience within acceptable limits, how to get published and recognized as a writer, what purpose our art should serve, and so on. Nikki doesn’t care about any of that. There is an absence of ego in her work that is so refreshing.

Scribe: Your next interview will be with Juli Berwald on March 9. Can you give us a preview of some of the topics you might discuss?

CS: Juli Berwald is the author of a great science memoir called Spineless: The Science of Jellyfish and the Art of Growing a Backbone. I’m looking forward to seeing what surprises come out in this interview, but we will touch on the science of climate change, the changes in the ocean ecosystems, being a woman in science, and of course, jellyfish. 

Scribe: Malvern Books is such a special space with truly unique titles available. Can you recommend one book by an indie author that you’ve picked up from Malvern recently?

CS: I just picked up Danez Smith‘s poetry collection at Malvern, Don’t Call Us Dead. Because Malvern is dedicated to independent publishers, you can find titles and discover writers there that will not be featured or available in other bookstores. Last year, I bought a novel translated from Indonesian called HomeThis novel was published by Deep Vellum, a Dallas-based independent publisher that highlights world literature in translation. For any Writers’ League members in Austin who have not been to Malvern, I urge you to change that immediately. It’s a warm, beautiful space that will open your eyes to all kinds of literature.

Thanks, Chaitali!

Find out more about Chaitali here, Juli here, and their upcoming conversation at Malvern here.

Meet the Conference Faculty: Agent Eric Myers

“Even if all you want to do is sit and write, these days you have to be prepared to engage with the public at large, and to take charge of your own book promotion.”

-Eric Myers

Every year, the Writers’ League of Texas brings a faculty of close to thirty agents, editors, and other industry professionals to Austin for its Agents & Editors Conference. As we look ahead to the 25th Annual A&E Conference, taking place June 29–July 1, 2018, we’re happy to share Q&As with some of our faculty here.

An Interview with Eric Myers

Eric Myers entered publishing as an author, with three books published by St. Martin’s Press. He has been an agent since 2002, having worked at The Spieler Agency and Dystel, Goderich, and Bourret before establishing Myers Literary Management. His clients include Chris Grabenstein (Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library), Sam Staggs (All About “All About Eve,” Closeup On “Sunset Boulevard”), Seth Rudetsky (My Awesome/Awful Popularity Plan), Miriam Davis (The Axeman of New Orleans), and Patrice Banks (The Girls’ Auto Clinic Glove Box Guide), among many others. He specializes in YA, Middle Grade, Historical Fiction, Thrillers, and most non-fiction, including memoir that comes with a strong platform.

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

Eric Myers: As an author myself, I try to be supportive as well as sensitive to an author’s needs.  I am constantly attempting to put myself in my client’s place. But a little tough love is sometimes required as well, and it’s important to know when and when not to use it.

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

EM: I look for a manuscript that is already at least 95 percent perfect; one which shows me that a writer really knows what he or she is doing and is ready for Prime Time.  It helps if the author is social-media savvy, has a feeling for self-promotion, and is willing and able to go out there and do everything possible to get copies of their book sold.

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

EM: Writing is no longer a solitary profession. Even if all you want to do is sit and write, these days you have to be prepared to engage with the public at large, and to take charge of your own book promotion.

Scribe: Has there been 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? 

EM: One of my most unusual projects is a forthcoming memoir called Girl Electric by Alisa Jones, who was diagnosed with adult-onset epilepsy at 40.  I’ll bet you don’t think an epilepsy memoir can actually be laugh-out-loud funny. Think again! You can find out this November, when it is published by Imagine/Charlesbridge.

Scribe:  Tell us about a recent book that you worked with–you know, brag on one of your writers!

EM: My client Lydia Kang, a physician based in Omaha, has already written several great YA and adult novels.  She joined forces with her journalist friend Nate Pedersen to write Quackery, which was published last year by Workman.  It’s an amazing compendium of all the horrendous quack cures that have been tried out on patients over the centuries. Darkly funny, it is peppered with great visuals, including outrageous old advertisements for every kind of snake-oil scam you can imagine.  It became one of Workman’s biggest hits of the year.

Thanks, Eric!

Click here to read our 2018 A&E Conference agent bios.

Click here for more information on the 2018 Agents & Editors Conference, a weekend long event in Austin, TX (June 29-July 1) that focuses on the craft of writing, the business of publishing, and building a literary community.

Meet the Conference Faculty: Agent Terra Chalberg

“Writing a fantastic book is important, but so is being able to talk about it with clarity, finding and connecting with its readers, and working well with others while upholding a vision for your career.”

-Terra Chalberg

Every year, the Writers’ League of Texas brings a faculty of close to thirty agents, editors, and other industry professionals to Austin for its Agents & Editors Conference. As we look ahead to the 25th Annual A&E Conference, taking place June 29–July 1, 2018, we’re happy to share Q&As with some of our faculty here.

An Interview with Terra Chalberg

Terra Chalberg began her publishing career in 2002 at Scribner after graduating from UCLA and working in film development. As an agent, she represents a range of fiction and nonfiction writers, including Victoria Fedden, author of This Is Not My Beautiful Life; Margaux Fragoso, author of the New York Times and international bestseller Tiger, Tiger; Elizabeth Isadora Gold, author of The Mommy Group; Lori Ostlund, author of Barnes & Noble Discover selection, finalist for the Center for Fiction First Novel Prize After the Parade; Andrew Porter, Flannery O’Connor Award-winner and author of the Indie Next List pick In Between Days; Melissa Radke, author of Eat Cake. Be Brave.; Alex Taylor, author of Kentucky Literary Award-finalist The Marble Orchard; and Glenn Taylor, NBCC Award Finalist in Fiction and author of A Hanging at Cinder Bottom.

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

Terra Chalberg: I tailor the job to the author and what she needs at any given part of the process, which can change book to book as well. There are periods when my authors and I are in constant, close communication (e.g. project development and sale), and periods when I take a backseat but am hands-on/involved as needed. Because part of the job is problem solving and liaising, I can best serve the client when author, editor, and, eventually, publicist all keep me in the loop. The more we work as a team, the better the results.

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

TC: Reserves of enthusiasm and optimism; the ability to revise based on feedback but with creative license and authority. I appreciate someone who is willing to put all he’s got into promoting himself and his brand, but I also understand it doesn’t always come naturally, so effort counts for a lot in my book.

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

TC: Putting aside the craft, a writing career is like any other in that there are components of the career that don’t involve the actual work but are still part of the job, like cultivating relationships with readers and other writers, and planning for long-term success. Writing a fantastic book is important, but so is being able to talk about it with clarity, finding and connecting with its readers, and working well with others while upholding a vision for your career.

Scribe: Has there been 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? 

TC: Yes. One of my first clients, Margaux Fragoso, who has since passed away, wrote a memoir called Tiger, Tiger. Her nuanced approach to the material and her beautiful command of language humanized a pedophile in a way our society refuses to do. It’s controversial, haunting, and a crucial contribution to the world. I hadn’t been looking out for a writer whose topic was her experience with a sexual predator, but I recognized its unique qualities and potential to educate readers.

Scribe:  Tell us about a recent book that you worked with–you know, brag on one of your writers!

TC: Melissa Radke—born and bred in East Texas—is a phenomenal writer, speaker, and entertainer whose book of hilarious, heartfelt personal stories called Eat Cake. Be Brave. is coming in July from Grand Central Publishing. The book’s title is inspired by one of the many Facebook videos that has given Melissa her huge social media following; she made the video on the eve of her forty-first birthday to remind herself and everyone else that we are all whole, good, and unique, and that we need to love ourselves as we are, even when (and especially when) the world is not being kind.

Thanks, Terra!

Click here to read our 2018 A&E Conference agent bios.

Click here for more information on the 2018 Agents & Editors Conference, a weekend long event in Austin, TX (June 29-July 1) that focuses on the craft of writing, the business of publishing, and building a literary community.

Community Member Guest Post: Ageless Authors

“Those who continue to read and write well into old age suffer 48% less memory loss, dementia and other mental impairment than those who don’t take part in these activities. “

-Larry Upshaw, Ageless Authors

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.

Dallas-based Ageless Authors is the only national group exclusively for senior writers age 65 and older. Read a guest post from Editorial Director Larry Upshaw below, and find more information about Ageless Authors’ upcoming contest for senior writers at the end of the post.

Writing, reading key to mental agility in seniors

 

“Lyric poetry is a domain where talent is discovered early, burns brightly, and then peters out at an early age.”  This statement by Harvard psychologist Howard Gardner, when extended to writing in all its forms, presents a frustrating future for older writers wanting to publish.

It’s well known that novelist Jonathan Safran Foer wrote his 2002 bestseller Everything is Illuminated when he was 19. And Stephen King published Carrie, Salem’s Lot and The Shining before he was 30. Somehow, though, we discount the fact that Daniel Defoe wrote Robinson Crusoe at age 58 and Laura Ingalls Wilder completed her Little House series at age 76.

We have bought into the obsession with youth, searching for effective ways to combat aging. There is a physical side to it all, packing fitness centers to aim for peak performance by strengthening muscles and building endurance.

We also have what you might call mental gyms. For a small monthly fee, websites like Lumosity.com and MyBrainTrainer.com promise to enhance memory, attention and other mental processes through a series of games and brain teasers. They fit perfectly with our instant gratification culture, providing ready-made mind exercises for people who worry that time is catching up with them.

For members of Ageless Authors, the nationwide organization of senior writers age 65 and older, the answer may be closer at hand. A 2013 study published in the journal Neurology suggests that writing and even reading books slows down cognitive decline in old age and those who participate in these mentally stimulating activities over their lifetimes have a striking edge in memory and mental agility over those who never read or write.

Those who continue to read and write well into old age suffer 48% less memory loss, dementia and other mental impairment than those who don’t take part in these activities. This jibes with the purpose of Ageless Authors, which is to promote and encourage creativity and especially writing as long in life as possible.

In a Smithsonian.com article explaining this phenomena, journalist Marina Koren writes:

“Reading gives our brains a workout because comprehending text requires more mental energy than, for example, processing an image on a television screen. Reading exercises our working memory, which actively processes and stores new information …. Writing can be likened to practice: the more we rehearse the perfect squat, the better our form becomes, tightening all the right muscles. Writing helps us consolidate new information for the times we may need to recall it, which boosts our memory skills.”

The key to mental acuity is the same as physical superiority over the long haul; start your exercises (reading and writing) early and stick with them throughout your life.

Senior writers, when you are forced to look up a word that was in your active vocabulary just a decade ago, or you confuse John Irving with John Grisham, know that you are doing everything you can to slow aging.

Just curl up with a book or your trusty word processor.

Thanks, Larry!

Find out more about Ageless Authors here.

Larry Upshaw is Editorial Director of Ageless Authors, the only national group exclusively for senior writers age 65 and older. This group is now conducting its second annual writing contest awarding cash prizes and publishing. Deadline is Wednesday, February 28. Click here for more details and to enter. For more information, email larry@agelessauthors.com or call 214 405-5093.

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.

 

Photo credit: #WOCinTech Chat

 

Meet the Conference Faculty: Agent Susan Velazquez

“A great idea is nothing without great execution. Great writing isn’t much without a great idea driving it forward.”

-Susan Velazquez

Every year, the Writers’ League of Texas brings a faculty of close to thirty agents, editors, and other industry professionals to Austin for its Agents & Editors Conference. As we look ahead to the 25th Annual A&E Conference, taking place June 29–July 1, 2018, we’re happy to share Q&As with some of our faculty here.

An Interview with Susan Velazquez

Susan Velazquez is the assistant to Eddie Schneider and Joshua Bilmes and manages audio rights at JABberwocky Literary. She was born and raised outside of Dallas and studied Creative Writing at SUNY Oswego. Susan generally gravitates towards any story that details a complicated family dynamic, illustrates a transformative coming-of-age experience, or features multicultural characters or unique voices. In non-fiction, she is interested in memoirs, pop culture, and history. In science fiction and fantasy, she is looking for richly built worlds to become immersed in and stories that explore what humanity is like–or could be like.

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

Susan Velazquez:  I would describe my approach as “part-Jedi trainer, part-cheerleader.” Part of my job is to guide authors through the publishing business and help them understand all the possible avenues for their creativity, which can include books, film/TV, merchandise and licensing, etc. The other part, which is my favorite, is to help authors shape their ideas into the best possible version. I am happy to provide editorial feedback, but I never try to steer the story one way or the other. Our authors have amazing stories to tell and I want to do everything I can to help share them with the world.

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

SV: Excellent writing skills and boundless creativity. If a writer has both of these, the world is theirs. A great idea is nothing without great execution. Great writing isn’t much without a great idea driving it forward.

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

SV: Show your character’s personality on the page! One of the quickest ways I fall in love with a story is if I fall in love with the characters. There’s so many ways to express a character’s personality: in their dialogue, their inner monologue, or their driving motivations. Characters should feel as human as possible because it makes it easier to develop an emotional connection to them and thus, the rest of the story.

Scribe:  Tell us about a recent book that you worked with–you know, brag on one of your writers!

TC:  I’m currently working with one of our newest clients, Joy Lanzendorfer, on a historical family saga set in California that spans the Gold Rush, the Great Depression in Hollywood, and the beginning of World War II. Joy has created these beautifully complicated women who are trying to chase a version of the American Dream, no matter the cost. They are not always likable, but it’s mesmerizing to watch them go after what they want. She’s a wonderful, talented writer and I’m so excited to help bring this book (and her other future books!) to life.

Thanks, Susan!

Click here to read our 2018 A&E Conference agent bios.

Click here for more information on the 2018 Agents & Editors Conference, a weekend long event in Austin, TX (June 29-July 1) that focuses on the craft of writing, the business of publishing, and building a literary community.