Meet the Members: Linda Lloyd

“After spending three years researching facts, participating in writing courses and workshops, and moving to Texas in the middle of all this, I finally completed and published my book The Syrian Peddler.”

-Linda Lloyd

A member of the Writers’ League since 2017, Linda Lloyd lives in Austin, Texas.

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

Linda Lloyd: Historical fiction and general fiction.

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

LL: Adriana Trigiani. I’d ask her, “What inspired you to begin writing?”

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

LL: The Bible.

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

LL: The many events and resources the League provide to members. I hired my book editor through a link on Writers’ League website.

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

LL: Now that I have my first book published, I would like to write a sequel.

Scribe: What’s one Texas-related book that has come out within the past year that you couldn’t put down?

LL: A Love Letter to Texas Women by Sarah Bird.

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

LL: After spending three years researching facts, participating in writing courses and workshops, and moving to Texas in the middle of all this, I finally completed and published my book The Syrian Peddler through Createspace on March 2, 2017. A while ago I stopped by Half Price Books on North Lamar in Austin to see if they would sell The Syrian Peddler. It can be found on the local authors’ shelf. They also booked me for a book signing, taking place on February 10, 2018, from 1 pm to 3 pm. Hope to see you there!

Thanks, Linda!

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!

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Meet the Conference Faculty: Agent Sharon Pelletier

“Understanding your own commitment to writing and to your current manuscript will help you identify which agents to submit to and what questions to ask them when they get in touch and/or offer representation (and it will help prepare you to answer their questions!).”

-Sharon Pelletier

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 Sharon Pelletier

Sharon Pelletier joined Dystel, Goderich & Bourret in 2013 after working for Europa Editions and Barnes & Noble. At DG&B, in addition to growing her own client list, Sharon oversees digital projects and social media. While her interests are broad, Sharon is especially seeking upmarket fiction, including unexpected suspense fiction; smart, complex women’s fiction; and hearty, unforgettable book club fiction. On the nonfiction side Sharon is eager for compelling, fierce narrative nonfiction by journalists and experts, and emerging voices with a growing platform who can speak to pop culture, feminism, sports, social justice, and/or religion. In all categories, she particularly encourages submissions from marginalized writers.

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

Sharon Pelletier: I am very editorial and love working with an author on both story development and craft, depending of course on the needs of the given manuscript. I am always ready to answer questions at any point in the process, whether it’s “what happens next?” or “omg I’m a terrible writer, aren’t I?!” This job is half coach, half cheerleader! I can’t be any more specific than that because my approach varies from client to client, book to book, depending on what the author most needs to be supported and empowered to do their best work ever at this stage in their writing life.

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

SP: Voice and dedication.

Voice speaks to the art side of what you need to be a traditionally published author. Of course I have to fall in love with the manuscript I read, but beyond that, I am looking for clients to work with for their career, not just for one exciting project. Trends come and go, some story hooks are stronger than others; irresistible voice in your work is a sign that the next book will be good, and the one after that. And it’s a hint that you’ve read widely and honed your craft, but also have the confidence to let your voice out on the page rather than aping your favorite writers or leaning on workshop tics.

And dedication speaks to the business side. Even under the best of circumstances with all luck going the way it should, publishing a book is a long slow process with disappointment and discouraging feedback along the way. Not to mention building a career! If you’re dedicated, then you want this for more than just the razzle dazzle some might imagine goes along with being a published author. And dedication means you’re willing to spend the necessary time and energy on revisions (with me, with your editor) and then keep working to get better and better with each book, learning and adapting as the industry evolves. (I have to do that too, by the way!)

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

SP: Know why you’re writing.

Doing the soul-searching to figure out why you write—not just your goals for your career, but why you sit down every day at your computer and why you’re telling this story—will be your ballast through the best of times and the worst of times in the process of finding an agent, getting published (or self-pubbing), and growing a readership. Understanding your own commitment to writing and to your current manuscript will help you identify which agents to submit to and what questions to ask them when they get in touch and/or offer representation (and it will help prepare you to answer their questions!). Checking in with the why of this story can help you when you’re implementing your agent’s editorial feedback and perhaps making tough choices in the process. In the best case scenario, keep your career goals in mind if choosing between offers from more than one publisher, and touch base with those goals again when you’re deciding what to write next.

And in a more disappointing outcome, knowing why writing is important to you and why you’re writing this book will help keep you motivated when you’re getting rejections from editors (or agents!), if a book does poorly, if you get a bad review. Writer’s block or computer crash, bestseller list or Nobel prize—you always have your writing, so don’t forget why you’re doing it in the first place!

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? 

SP: Several! The best example is probably a book called Love, Teach, based on a blog of the same name for first-year teachers (by a Texas teacher, in fact!). I wouldn’t have said I was looking to do a book in the education space or even a practical how-to project, but this proposal had the perfect blend of voice, concept, and platform that is so critical for nonfiction. After some work on the proposal and a carefully researched submission list, drawing on the experience of my colleagues with more experience in practical nonfiction, before I knew it I was fielding multiple offers! The result is going to be a wonderful guide to help prevent burn-out for young careers—and this experience was also a good reminder that trying something new and unfamiliar can be intimidating but it can also be a lot of fun, and rewarding if you’re willing to put the work in.

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

SP: Well of course I have to brag on Austin’s own Amy Gentry! In her debut thriller Good as Gone, a daughter returns home 10 years after she went missing, and her mother has to face the truth of what happened to her while she was missing—and if she really is who she claims to be. Good as Gone came out in 2016 and was a New York Times Book Review Editors’ Choice, an EW Must-List pick, and an Amazon Best Book of the Month, and as well as Buzzfeed, Refinery 29, Bustle, The Skimm, Dallas Morning News, Austin Chronicle, and many more! And Amy’s work is a great example of VOICE that grabs you from page one. Her second book is called Last Women Standing and will be out in January 2019—it’s the daring feminist revenge thriller you’ve been waiting for!

Thanks, Sharon!

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 Members: Deborah Reardon

“I visualize my writing taking me to a notable agent who helps me achieve my goals as a published author.”

-Deborah Reardon

A member of the Writers’ League since August 2016, Deborah Reardon lives in Dallas, Texas.

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

Deborah Reardon: My primary genre is mystery/thriller. However, I’m keenly focused on dusting off my first novel, which is literary fiction.

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

DR: I would most like to have a drink with Harlan Coben in order to unveil his ingenious knack for mixing storytelling with a searing critique of human frailties, all while tossing it neatly into a mystery.

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

DR: I’d pick Where’d You Go Bernadette by Maria Semple, in large measure for the author’s sheer hilarity and sparkly prose. I’m sure this book would pick me up during bouts of loneliness between foraging for food and shelter, and the story would remind me that there are some things nuttier than getting stranded on a deserted island.

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

DR: Since I’ve only recently begun my journey with the Writers’ League, I’m still learning about what’s happening with statewide library events and Dallas classes that could support my growth and successes as an author. As well, I am hopeful someday to join the ranks of distinguished panelists.

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

DR: I visualize my writing taking me to a notable agent who helps me achieve my goals as a published author.

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?

DR: Since I often bring home books from my fellow Texas authors, The South of Good by Randall Reneau­­ — with whom I shared the book room at the Texas Association of Authors 2016 Wimberley Book Festival — was very well received. My husband gobbled it up in days.

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

DR: I am a National Indie finalist and an Amazon bestseller, and I am proud of my forward progress. Visit my website here.

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!

 

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!

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.