by Amy Lutz, MCWC Editorial Assistant

Exciting new changes to MCWC leadership

We are proud to announce that we have a new, incoming Executive Director! Lisa Locascio (whom many of you know as MCWC faculty) will be taking over the leadership of the MCWC Board as soon as MCWC 2018 is over, in order to manage the year-long run-up to MCWC 2019. A new board member will be helping her—another face you may recognize: Kara Vernor.

 Lisa Locascio

Lisa Locascio

 Kara Vernor

Kara Vernor

Both Lisa and Kara have experienced the conference first-hand as participants. Kara first attended MCWC on a scholarship in 2011 and won the short story contest. She met Lisa in the short story workshop the following year. That year, it was Lisa’s turn to receive a scholarship and win the short story contest.

Kara especially loves the community created by MCWC. “MCWC is a special conference. It has what you might expect—quality faculty and a variety of learning opportunities—but it’s also welcoming and intimate and, of course, located on the beautiful Mendocino coast. I met some of my best writer friends while a conference participant, friends I’m still close with today.”

Since attending MCWC, both Kara and Lisa went on to build successful writing careers and have worked together on multiple projects. Both writers returned to MCWC as faculty: Lisa taught the short fiction workshop at MCWC 2015 and the emerging writers’ workshop at MCWC 2017; and Kara taught a seminar on flash fiction at MCWC 2017.

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Becoming the Executive Director of a writers’ conference is a natural next step for Lisa. “I have taught writing at universities, graduate schools, summer camps, mentorship programs, and as a tutor; I have edited literary magazines large and small, as well as an anthology. My passion is for creating literary communities for everyone: inviting, safe, dynamic places where people can experience and experiment upon the wonder of the written word. As Executive Director, I’ll be able to apply my diverse experience to the broadest demographic yet.”

Lisa and Kara plan to continue the conference’s current growth. “I returned as faculty five years after I had last been a participant,” explained Kara, “and in that time it seems the board has drawn a more diverse pool of participants and faculty. I hope to continue these efforts, so the conference is truly welcoming to, and helpful for, all who attend.”

Lisa added, “As a participant and teacher, I’ve had the best possible experiences at MCWC, and I want to continue to deliver the conference’s uniquely inspiring brand of creative welcome. The cultivation of an inclusive, warm, and fun environment is my priority, as is populating the conference with as many different types of people as possible, so that all participants can see their experiences reflected and validated by a diverse group. I believe that amplifying voices that might otherwise struggle to find recognition enables all of us to rise as a circle.

“I’d like to partner with the community in a bigger way, to bring in scholars and teachers from local tribes and reservations, Mendocino College, and neighboring Humboldt and Lake Counties. I will work to expand our incredible donor base and bring MCWC up to speed with other local events such as the Mendocino Film and Music Festivals.”

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Kara will use her experience as a grant writer to bring in more support. “I imagine looking for grant opportunities that fund scholarships for low-income participants, draw quality faculty, and, above all, help sustain the conference. The MCWC makes a huge cultural contribution to life on the Mendocino Coast, and there are likely funders who want to help preserve this enrichment.”

In conjunction with their plans for growth, Lisa and Kara will maintain MCWC’s strengths. Lisa said, “My primary goal is to maintain the incredible conference my predecessors have so carefully built. My dream is to build a bigger profile for the conference so that we can continue to attract the superlative and diverse teachers and students who make the conference so special.”

When asked about the secret to their successes—how they went from young writers participating at the conference to acclaimed writers and part of MCWC leadership—they both answered: Read!

“There is no great writing without even more great reading. Read what you love, read what you don’t, read everything.  Understand that everything you read is part of your writing,” said Lisa. “And don’t be afraid to be yourself. You can only do you, and ‘doing you’ means being governed by your idiosyncratic passions, experiences, interests, obsessions, and desires. Make a project of exploring and confronting yourself and use that knowledge in your work. It’s what will make your writing authentic and worthwhile.”

Reading and writing need not be solitary exercises. Kara recommended getting involved in literary communities. “Hosting a reading series, joining the staff of a journal, even connecting with other writers on Twitter can open up opportunities and help buoy you when you’re struggling with your own writing and the isolation it demands.”

While we wait to see what Lisa, Kara, and the rest of the MCWC Board will create with MCWC 2019, you can take their advice and immediately enrich your own writer’s journey: registration for MCWC 2018 is now open at mcwc.org.


To find out more about Lisa Locascio (and her new novel, Open Me), check out her website at http://www.lisalocascio.com/.

To learn more about Kara Vernor, check out her website at https://karavernor.com/.

by Amy Lutz, MCWC Editorial Assistant

Hollywood comes to the Mendocino Coast

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We are thrilled to welcome Hollywood’s Nina Sadowsky to MCWC 2018! Nina will be teaching our first-ever screenwriting workshop, sponsored by Humanitas

Nina is a screenwriter, film producer, and novelist. Her first novel, Just Fall, is now in development as an original series for STARZ. Her second novel, The Burial Society, was published February 2018 by Ballantine Press. She has written numerous original screenplays and adaptations for such companies as The Walt Disney Company, Working Title Films, and Lifetime Television, and serves as adjunct faculty at USC’s School of Cinematic Arts program, teaching both writing and producing.

Nina will be teaching The Business of Show: Successful Screenwriting at MCWC 2018. This workshop will provide an in-depth view of writing for film and television. The mixture of lecture, in-class exercises and workshopping of participants’ material will reveal how material is pitched, developed and produced in Hollywood; give an overview of television and film story structure and craft; as well as provide tips for successful screenwriting that are also applicable to other genres.

Our Executive Director, Shirin Bridges, sat down with Nina to discuss this unique opportunity:  

Hi Nina, thank you so much for giving us the time for this interview. And an even bigger thank you, of course, for agreeing to give a workshop on screenwriting at MCWC 2018. It’s such an honor for us, and such a great opportunity for our participants, that Humanitas is sponsoring MCWC’s first screenwriting morning workshop. Can you tell us a little about Humanitas and the Woolf Pack, and about your involvement with them?

The Humanitas Prize is an organization that recognizes and promotes writing that explores and elevates the human condition in film, television and theatre. The organization sponsors several different initiatives, including the New Voices program that gives writers a chance to develop a TV pilot under the guidance of a seasoned mentor, and two college fellowships (one for drama and one for comedy, each of which come with a $20,000 cash prize for the winning student). This year, I became the Director of Educational Outreach for Humanitas and ran the college fellowships.

The Woolf Pack is a group of women, primarily TV and film writers and/or producers, also formed under the Humanitas aegis, who support each other and various initiatives for creating more opportunity for women writers. I’ve been a member of the Woolf Pack since its inception, so have seen the value of this kind of community first hand.

 

You will be teaching screenwriting from a rather unique vantage point: you’re an experienced screenwriter for both the small and big screen, but you’re also a very seasoned producer and you’re a novelist. How do you think those different perspectives are going to frame the workshop you give?

Film is the marriage of art and commerce more than any other art form. The multi-million dollar budgets most films command, along with the additional marketing costs required to make those films stand out in a crowded field, make that union indivisible. Understanding the craft of storytelling is essential for screenwriters, but understanding how the business works is just as important. My workshop will cover the creative aspects of writing a screenplay, such as character development, structure, the elements of drama, pacing, and transitions, as well as provide an understanding of how the business works so writers can best position their material for sale.

As I’ve expanded into publishing novels, which I am now also adapting for television, I have learned how to create a brand an identity for myself and my work. We’ll discuss branding in my workshop, as it is an essential tool for anyone working in media.

As someone who does both, how does putting on your screenwriting hat strengthen your work on novels or short stories—or nonfiction, for that matter? How has your novel-writing influenced your screenwriting?

Working in film has taught me why it’s important that character drive story, how theme influences narrative, the importance of perspective in a scene, how the reveal of information impacts pacing, the value of fluid transitions, and how to communicate character through action. I apply these principles to all my writing, regardless of medium.

One of the beauties of writing prose is that you can luxuriate in a character’s interior thoughts or take a digression to provide backstory or exposition, neither of which is true in screenwriting. I release a big exhale when I go back into writing a novel, happy to have that freedom. On the other hand, having learned to do without those tools as a screenwriter, I rely on them sparingly and tactically in my prose, which I think contributes to the “economy” or “control” in my writing that reviewers praise.

And let me share a trick: When starting a new scene for a novel, I close my eyes and put my “producer hat” on, envisioning what each department would have to contribute in order to bring that scene to life. Where’s the location? What has the production designer dreamed up? What mood has the cinematographer brought with lighting? Are there weather effects? What does the sound department have to contend with? How is the costume designer communicating character through wardrobe? This trick reminds me to think about the impact of a scene on all the senses and frequently provides unexpected creative opportunities. 

 

Many of our participants are interested in screen adaptations of their work, but I’m sure some might find joining this workshop a big leap. Many may not have actually put pen to paper on a screenplay. Obviously, if they sign up for your workshop, they’ll have to bring work to share. Do you have any advice for them that might make this a little less daunting? Tips on where to start so that they can give you the pages you need in three months? How many pages are you looking for, by the way? Or are you happy to work from synopses?

I’m less interested in pages than the important pre-writing process of identifying a) whose story is being told and b) what themes the writer wants to tackle and why. If someone has their own novel that they’re interested in adapting, they are already way ahead of the game as they have a full plot and presumably developed characters and themes as well. But writers are welcome even with just an idea. 

I firmly believe that voice is the single most important quality for any writer. Voice can’t be taught, it’s the unique combination of experience, research, perspective and lens that each of us brings to the keyboard. That being said, I teach techniques that show how to lay virtually any story across a classic film structure. My job is to help participants figure out how to best tell their story. In order to do that, I want each writer to send me:

a) a logline – a one sentence description of the plot
b) a synopsis – a one paragraph synopsis of the story (that also includes the genre and tone)
c) a statement of theme – a one paragraph statement about the universal themes of the work and why telling this story is important to the writer
d) the first scene – properly formatted 

I expect that during the course of the workshop participants will find the structure for their story or develop the tools to do so once they’re back on their own. So, the last thing I want people to do is rush to finish a full draft before we meet. 

I would suggest participants read a screenplay or two before the conference. Many are easily available online. Find a script for a film that you know and like and compare how the script compares to the finished film. Then watch a favorite scene with the sound off and dissect the visuals: see how much music and sound design contribute; how the production and costume design choices advance the narrative; what camera angles were chosen; how it’s lit, how it’s cut, etc. This will help prepare screenwriters for the understanding that a script is not a finished thing in and of itself but a road map for countless people in various capacities to follow and enhance.

We just had the Oscars last month with its emphasis on diversity and inclusivity—on bringing on those who have been long overlooked. You dedicate a lot of your time to teaching and mentoring, both with the Woolf Pack and for USC. Why do you feel it’s so important to nurture the next generation of screenwriters? Won’t talent just rise by itself?

I get more from mentoring and teaching then I’ll ever put out, so it’s purely selfish. I’ve taught at USC’s School of Cinematic Arts for ten years and have also taught at Syracuse University’s Semester in LA program (SULA), Columbia College Chicago’s Semester in LA program and Hedgebrook, as well as being asked to do fun “one offs” (like speak to engineers at Northrup Grunman about the power of creativity). I’ve always believed in mentoring and the last 10 years of formal teaching have brought me into contact with people from all over the world who have challenged my perspectives and taught me as much as I’ve taught them. I’ve also discovered that having to teach what I believe about writing and filmmaking required me to formally articulate those beliefs, which in turn helped my own mastery of them. Teaching and mentorship is all win-win for me.

After a couple of years of being a publisher, I realized I knew so much about the publishing industry that could inform the way I approached getting published—information I never had despite being a published author. How did your producing experience inform the way you wrote and pitched screenplays, and will you be covering what you learned in class?

As noted above, I believe a screenwriter can’t work successfully in the industry without an understanding of how the business works, so yes, I will definitely be including valuable information about such things as determining where content “fits” into the marketplace, demographics, and trends in buying and selling. I’ll also cover representation (the difference between managers and agents, for example) and how to “produce” one’s own career.

Having a Hollywood insider on the Mendocino Coast is really exciting—in fact, some of us might get a little star-struck! You’ve worked with Meg Ryan and Matthew McConaughey and Samuel L. Jackson and… So let’s end on why we shouldn’t be intimidated by you. What’s a goofy, human thing you do? First thing that pops to mind!

I am the least intimidating person on the planet! Frankly, I’m a big goof ball, so it’s hard to pick just one thing. But the first thing that pops to mind about my goofy self is that I love to dance, and do so around the house all the time. I have some skill in that regard (despite my creaky bones) having studied dance when I was younger, but I also sing out loud while I boogie, which everyone and anyone on the planet should be spared.

Thank you so much for your time today and in August, Nina. I am really looking forward to welcoming you to our conference.


You can register now for Nina’s screenwriting workshop, at mcwc.org.  To secure your spot, register as soon as possible—MCWC 2018 workshops are filling up quickly!

To find out more about Nina Sadowsky, check out her website at https://www.ninarsadowsky.com/.

To learn more about the Humanitas prize, please visit their website at https://www.humanitasprize.org/.

by Amy Lutz, MCWC Editorial Assistant

Ready, set, REGISTER!

General registration for MCWC 2018 is now open! Don’t wait to grab your seat because all workshops and consultations are first-come, first-served. Explore mcwc.org to learn more about the workshops and afternoon seminars offered at MCWC 2018.  

When you register, sign up for the Saturday night closing dinner to hear our 2018 keynote address from Elizabeth Rosner. Seats at this event are first-come, first-served as well. 

Elizabeth is a bestselling novelist, poet, and essayist. Her debut novel, The Speed of Light, was translated into nine languages and short-listed for the prestigious Prix Femina. Blue Nude, Elizabeth’s second novel, was selected as one of the best books of 2006 by the San Francisco Chronicle. Her third novel, Electric City, was named one of the best books of 2014 by NPR. A poetry collection, Gravity, was published in the same year. Elizabeth’s first book of non-fiction, Survivor Café: the Legacy of Trauma and the Labyrinth of Memory, was published in September 2017 and has been featured on National Public Radio and in the New York Times.  

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Here’s a taste of the insight and passion she will bring to her keynote address: 

In an interview with Late Night Library, you mentioned writing as a form of personal transformation. How have you seen the transformative power of writing across all three genres—novel, poetry, and non-fiction—that you have published in? Was there a progression that led from your publishing novels to poetry, and now non-fiction? 

I can say in all humility that the gifts of the writing process continue to evolve for me. Sometimes I am clearly aware of what has transformed in my life, inner and outer, while at other times the changes are much more subtle (but no less profound). In writing novels, I’ve often experienced a sense of simultaneously delving into my own memories of people, places, and events, alongside deliberate questions like: “Who might I have been if I’d been born in a different decade or to different parents?” or “What if this had happened instead of that?” or “What if I combined these three real people into one?” or “What have I always wanted to learn about this place and its secrets?” Fiction allows me to become a kind of special investigator, and I get to indulge the part of myself that is insatiably curious, and to challenge the part of myself that can be dissatisfied with how things supposedly are. In poetry, I get to be transfixed by the sound of words, by the images that come to me unbidden, and by my wrestling match with lines and negative space. When I began writing poems, I felt a bit fraudulent, because I didn’t quite know what I was doing, but ironically perhaps I also came to trust that poetry gave me extra permission to be honest. I let go of some of my ambition, and paid much more attention to the process rather than the outcome. That was a crucial developmental moment for me as a writer. Most recently, writing a book of nonfiction has changed me in ways I haven’t quite assimilated fully yet. Maybe the most significant thing is that I’ve relaxed into a new form of confidence—at least in the sense that I feel a depth of self-recognition in my work, a quality of speaking in my own voice and from my truest source.

The themes of trauma and your experiences as the daughter of two Holocaust survivors are present throughout much of your writing. What appealed to you about looking at the same themes through different writing genres?

On the one hand, I’m astonished that the themes of my family legacy are so persistent in my writing, and yet, on the other hand I think: Why not? I came to a point in my life as writer where I simply had to make peace with the material that was “given” to me. My movement from one genre to another wasn’t to try to escape the subject matter so much as it was a following of some inner impulse to explore again from another angle. I happen to believe that form follows content—as in, the material tells us what it wants to be. So there were plenty of times where I had to wait a while to understand what genre I was going to end up with. In my most recent book, and in my poetry collection too, I was quite consciously combining forms and creating what many people are now calling “hybrid” forms. Coming back somewhat repeatedly to similar themes doesn’t feel repetitive if it’s a practice of looking at something through a kaleidoscope. The view is different each time. 

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In your latest book, Survivor Café, you broaden the discussion of inter-generational trauma and the lasting results of war atrocities to a wide range of recent historical events. How do you feel the message of your book is compelling and relevant today?  Why did you decide to write Survivor Café?

Broadening the discussion is, for me, absolutely essential if we have any hope of learning from history and finding ways not to keep perpetrating the same horrors over and over. In the present moment, we are all bearing witness to unmistakable evidence of unresolved historical trauma. What I feel compelled to do is to bring my own awareness into a public conversation, to take what I’ve been studying all my life (both personally and professionally) and to share it with as wide an audience as I possibly can. I wrote this book with urgency because of the soon-to-be-gone voices of Holocaust survivors and others who endured some of the worst atrocities of the 20th century; I wrote this book to promise that these voices would not be forgotten; I wrote this book to inspire empathy across the boundaries of time and place; I wrote this book as a plea for individual and collective responsibility and awakening; I wrote this book to help illuminate the intricate and strange interconnections we share as human beings; I wrote this book while feeling filled with despair and with hope, in almost equal measure. War and genocide and historical trauma must continue to be examined alongside our vast potential for resilience and creativity and compassion and healing.

In the interview on your website, you admit, “I am quite possibly the least organized novelist in the known world.” Were you more organized as a non-fiction writer? Survivor Café has a rich mix of personal experience and research. How did you organize so many different pieces?  

I must confess that I now feel as though I qualify for an award for least organized non-fiction writer too. Seriously. The main difference in this case was that I did have a working outline in the form of a sketched-out table of contents—but this was a very slender skeleton upon which to rely. My structural decisions often come to me after I’m well into the accumulation of my material, and this was true for Survivor Café as much as it was true for my novels. It seems that I am compelled to write in fragments, and they pile up (as well as scatter). Eventually I can’t tolerate the chaos any longer, and I begin to gather pieces into categories, which may or may not become chapters. It’s not a method I recommend, because it can be so alarming to be immersed in such confusion and uncertainty. But I also understand that the opposite of this—adhering to a rigid plan, for instance—would never work for me. My ideas take shape as I write; voice and intersections and images all lead me toward something I can’t quite know in advance. Even the research for Survivor Café, which was exhausting on many levels, couldn’t quite be contained by a strategy. Sometimes I imagine hiring an assistant to help me organize my work, but I can’t even imagine getting organized enough to tell an assistant what to do!  

Your first novel, The Speed of Light, was translated into nine languages, was a finalist for the Prix Femina and won the Prix France Bleu Gironde. Did your success overseas surprise you? What about your work, do you think, appeals across borders?  

Thanks to my brilliant editor Dan Smetanka, who purchased my first novel for Ballantine Books (Random House), foreign rights were indeed sold to nine countries, with Germany being the first. It was beyond thrilling to discover that my words would be translated into languages I didn’t know (that is, almost all of them), and a bit strange to know that readers would hold books in their hands that had my name on the cover but with different titles and images (foreign titles are often quite unlike the original titles—something I was shocked to learn). The truth is, though, I often felt, growing up, that I wasn’t exactly American; instead I felt more strongly connected to the European birthplaces of my parents and all of my ancestors. Also, because the setting of The Speed of Light includes not only Berkeley but also a handful of European cities, as well as an unnamed country in Central America, I hoped that the story would be meaningful across national and cultural boundaries. The theme of storytelling as redemptive, and the longing to connect deeply with others who can empathize with your emotional landscape—I imagine that these are essentially universal truths that do transcend nationality. 

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In all your years of being a mentor, teaching workshops and leading writing retreats, what do you feel is the most important service you offer writers? What drives your passion for helping other writers?

In my teaching I practice a form of deep listening, and give each writer and each group my full attention. I do this for a variety of reasons and with certain goals in mind: 1) in hopes of recognizing what is “already working” in a piece of writing so that I can play that back to the writer; 2) in order to help the writer know what it’s like to be received; 3) as a way to model and help develop a writer’s own practice of deep listening to the words and voices and images that are generated in the process of writing; 4) to create a safe and supportive community; 5) to build and reinforce empathy, which is an elemental tool of writing and reading and connecting with others; 6) to help myself and others to remember what it’s like to focus intimately and without distraction. 

After writing for so many decades now, I think my commitment is to share what I’ve learned from my own mentors and teachers as well as to share what I’ve learned through trial and error. As for passion, I sense so many of us are hungry for validation—not in the form of awards or prizes but in the sense of feeling seen and heard. I want to offer that to others whenever possible. I consider teaching to be a privilege, and I take the role very seriously.  

How do you plan to approach your non-fiction morning workshop, Deepening and Refining Non-fiction?

There is a wonderful quotation that I’m told comes from Ovid, and I keep it framed on my desk: “If you write truthfully and completely about anything, you write at the same time about everything. That is certainly one very significant message that I want to convey, although there is a great deal of nuance involved in considering what it means to “write truthfully and completely.” Non-fiction is not about so-called “facts,” for instance, nor is it about striving to become an absolute expert on a particular subject. That leads to a more complicated discussion of emotional honesty, and a willingness to write with uncertainty, and a humble transparency about what one does NOT know alongside what one knows. I’m a firm believer in writing as a process of discovery, following questions rather than answers. 


You can register now for the morning workshop of your choice, including Elizabeth’s non-fiction workshop, at mcwc.org.  To secure your spot, register as soon as possible—MCWC 2018 workshops are filling up quickly!

To find out more about Elizabeth Rosner, check out her website at http://www.elizabethrosner.com/index.html.

by Amy Lutz, MCWC Editorial Assistant

only two weeks left!

If you are thinking about applying for a scholarship to MCWC 2018, now is the time to act. Or if you know of anybody who has never been to MCWC, now is the time to pass along this newsletter. Our First-Taste and Diversity scholarships are under-subscribed, so if you know somebody who would be a great addition to our community, please send this notice their way.

Applications are only open for two more weeks, and our merit-based scholarships provide more than financial aid—as juried validation of your writing skill, they are a great way to start building your author’s platform. But you don’t have to take our word for it. We spoke with some MCWC 2017 scholarship recipients about how receiving a scholarship benefited them.

“Receiving the scholarship removed the financial burden that would’ve been lingering in the back of my mind the whole time I was at the conference,” said Leslie Henderson. “Thoughts like, ‘Is this conference a worthy investment of my time and limited resources?’ were immediately resolved.”

 Jonathan Cardew

Jonathan Cardew

Jonathan Cardew was able to travel from Wisconsin to Mendocino because of the scholarship he received. But the benefit went beyond the money. “Creatively-speaking, it was a very welcome boost to my confidence, knowing that a committee had read my sample and offered the scholarship based on merit,” he said. “The writing life is littered with rejection and doubt, so these spikes of acceptances and awards really do go a long way in motivating you to continue.”

Helena Kim flew in from out of state as well. “The scholarship made it possible for me to attend the conference, without which I would have had a difficult time financially, especially since I had to travel from Hawaii.” A seasoned writer and National Book Award finalist, Helena appreciated the opportunity to attend MCWC 2017 because it reconnected her with a writing community. “The conference gave me a chance to get back into the literary loop and find out what’s going on in that world. I was pleasantly surprised by a strong sense of community that felt authentic and very supportive on every level.”

One of our scholarship recipients, Nicole Abdinghoff, traveled all the way from Germany. “I was very flattered that I received a scholarship for the very first piece of work I ever shared,” she said. “MCWC 2017 was the first writing conference I attended. From the very beginning I had the feeling that everybody was part of one big community and that it didn’t make a difference if you were attending for the first or the 20th time. Everybody was equally welcome. I was pleased to meet so many wonderful and smart people who shared their ideas, stories, and memories by writing, and who also showed interest in my person and my work.”

 Leslie Henderson

Leslie Henderson

 Nicole Abdinghoff

Nicole Abdinghoff

 Kelly Grogan

Kelly Grogan

Kelly Grogan also commented on the strong sense of community at MCWC 2017, especially in the Master Class workshop she attended. “I wanted to apply to the Master Class because I felt that it would be potentially more intimate and rigorous than another workshop. I was not disappointed at all! The class was warm and supportive, but we offered critical feedback that challenged and inspired each other to strive for better use of craft. There was a sincere feeling of community and connection in the workshop, and in such a short span of time—it was remarkable to experience.”

Leslie agreed that the writers she met at MCWC 2017 and the sense of community made the experience invaluable. “I felt as though I was taken seriously as a writer at MCWC. The people I met at the conference were from all walks of life and were passionate about their writing pursuits. They were friendly, encouraging, and not afraid to give or receive constructive feedback. I was also surprised at how friendly and approachable the panelists and industry pros were towards attendees!”

When asked what advice they might have for writers applying for scholarships, the answer from all the scholarship recipients was a resounding, “Just do it!”

“I sent my application in, I must admit, with little hope of actually being successful. I sent my best stuff and gave it a shot. That’s my advice: give it a shot!” said Jonathan.

Nicole said, “I highly recommend MCWC to any writer, no matter the passport you hold. Like everything else, writing has become a global business and it is always a good idea to have a look at how things are done in other countries.”

 Helena Kim

Helena Kim

“My advice,” added Helena, “is not to be shy about applying for a scholarship.  It not only helps with financial matters, but also, with one’s morale.  And my advice to other seasoned writers is that it helps to keep going to conferences and exposing oneself to the literary community and current literary world.”

To take advantage of the wide range of scholarships we are offering this year for MCWC 2018, visit mcwc.org. You can also apply for the MCWC 2018 Master Class: The Art of Fiction. This juried-in workshop, restricted to only twelve participants, will be taught by National Book Award nominee Elizabeth McKenzie and requires a separate application.

Hurry, applications close February 15, and no late submissions will be accepted! Don’t let this opportunity pass by. As Kelly says, “The chance to be around other writers, and to dedicate time to focus purely on your craft and passion for writing, is always worth it!”

If you are a past scholarship winner and not eligible this year, please pass along this newsletter and encourage a writer friend to apply!

by Amy Lutz, MCWC Editorial Assistant

NOW ACCEPTING SCHOLARSHIP AND MASTER CLASS APPLICATIONS!

We’re pleased to announce that scholarships and Master Class applications for MCWC 2018 are now open! This year’s faculty is not only an all-star cast but a bigger cast than usual. We will be offering nine morning workshops, including a screenwriting workshop sponsored by Humanitas, a Hollywood non-profit founded and funded to foster screenwriting talent. Afternoons will be packed with craft seminars, one-on-one consultations, open mic readings, and more; and evenings will be full of the camaraderie and community we are known for. You can also add on our one-day Publishing Bootcamp, taught by the recognized authority on publishing in the digital age, Jane Friedman.

You can now apply for a range of scholarships designed to make our conference accessible to writers from diverse backgrounds and to reward writing of outstanding merit. You can also apply for the MCWC 2018 Master Class, The Art of Fiction. This juried-in workshop, restricted to only twelve participants, will be taught by National Book Award nominee Elizabeth McKenzie. But hurry, applications close February 15, and no late submissions will be accepted!

To apply for scholarships and the Master Class, please visit mcwc.org. Workshop and seminar descriptions are available so you can start planning your MCWC 2018 experience. General registration opens March 1. Take a look below for a sneak peek at this year’s faculty. 

 
 Elizabeth McKenzie

Elizabeth McKenzie

 Shanthi Sekaran

Shanthi Sekaran

 Vanessa Hua

Vanessa Hua

 

Master Class: Elizabeth McKenzie 

Elizabeth McKenzie’s most recent novel, The Portable Veblen, was long listed for the 2016 National Book Award for fiction. Her short fiction has been awarded a Pushcart Prize and has appeared in The New YorkerThe AtlanticBest American Nonrequired Reading, and others.

 

Novel: Shanthi Sekaran

Shanthi Sekaran’s recent novel, Lucky Boy, was named an Indie Next Great Read, and an Amazon Editors’ Pick. Her stories and essays have appeared in The New York Times, Canteen Magazine, The Rumpus and LitHub.

 

Short Fiction: Vanessa Hua

Vanessa Hua is the author of Deceit and Other Possibilities, winner of the Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature and a finalist for the California Book Award. She is a columnist at the San Francisco Chronicle, and has written for The New York TimesWashington Post, and The Atlantic.

 
 Guadalupe Garcia McCall

Guadalupe Garcia McCall

 Linda Joy Myers

Linda Joy Myers

 Indigo Moor

Indigo Moor

 

MG/YA: Guadalupe Garcia McCall

Guadalupe Garcia McCall’s debut YA novel, Under the Mesquite, won the prestigious Pura Belpré Award, was named a Morris Award finalist, and received a Tomas Rivera Children’s Book award among many other accolades. Guadalupe’s 4th YA novel, All the Stars Denied, is due for publication in the spring.

 

Memoir: Linda Joy Myers

Linda Joy Myers is president of the National Association of Memoir Writers and author of the award-winning memoir Don’t Call Me Mother—A Daughter’s Journey from Abandonment to Forgiveness. She has also written two books on craft: The Power of Memoir and Journey of Memoir.

 

Poetry: Indigo Moor

Poet Laureate of Sacramento, Indigo Moor is also a scriptwriter and author. He is on the advisory board for the Sacramento Poetry Center, a Cave Canem fellow, the resident artist at 916 ink, and a graduate member of the Artist’s Residency Institute for Teaching Artists.

 
 Elizabeth Rosner

Elizabeth Rosner

 Nina Sadowsky

Nina Sadowsky

 Jason S. Ridler

Jason S. Ridler

 

Non-fiction: Elizabeth Rosner

Elizabeth Rosner’s first book of non-fiction, Survivor Café: the Legacy of Trauma and the Labyrinth of Memory, has been featured on National Public Radio and in The New York Times. Elizabeth has also published three award-winning novels and her essays and poems have appeared in the NY Times MagazineElle, the Forward, and several anthologies. In addition to teaching the non-fiction workshop, Elizabeth will be this year’s keynote speaker.

 

Screenwriting: Nina Sadwosky

Nina Sadowsky is a screenwriter, film producer, novelist and entertainment lawyer (in recovery). Her first novel, Just Fall, is now in development as an original series for STARZ. She has written numerous original screenplays and adaptations for such companies as The Walt Disney Company, Working Title Films, and Lifetime Television. And she is the producer of movies as diverse as The House of Sand and Fog and The Wedding Planner.

 

Emerging Writers: Jason S. Ridler

Jason S. Ridler’s novels include Hex-Rated—the first installment of the Brimstone Files series for Nightshade Press, Rise of the Luchador, and Death Match.  He has also published over sixty stories. His next historical work, Mavericks of War, is forthcoming from Stackpole Books.

 
 Kerrie Flanagan

Kerrie Flanagan

 Gabriel Tallent

Gabriel Tallent

 Norma Watkins

Norma Watkins

 

Paths to Publishing: Kerrie Flanagan

Kerrie Flanagan is an author, writing consultant, publisher, and freelance writer. Her new book, The Writers Digest Guide to Magazine Article Writing, will be released in July of 2018.

 

Paths to Publishing: Gabriel Tallent

Once an MCWC Under-25 scholar, Gabriel Tallent’s debut novel, My Absolute Darling, was an instant New York Times bestseller and named one of the most notable books of 2017 by both The New York Times and The Washington Post.  

 

Paths to Publishing: Norma Watkins

Norma Watkins has published two memoirs, The Last Resort and That Woman From Mississippi. She is professor emerita at Miami Dade College where she held an endowed chair, and teaches creative writing for Mendocino College.

 
 Mark Gottlieb

Mark Gottlieb

 Duvall Osteen

Duvall Osteen

 Susan Chang

Susan Chang

 

Mark Gottlieb, Agent

Mark Gottlieb has ranked #1 among Agents on Publishers Marketplace in Overall Deals and other individual categories. He is an agent with book publishing’s leading literary agency, Trident Media Group.

 

Duvall Osteen, Agent

Duvall Osteen is a literary agent at Aragi Inc., where she’s had the opportunity to work with a long list of distinctive authors, including Junot Díaz, Edwidge Danticat, Denis Johnson, and Anne Carson.

 

Susan Chang, Editor

Susan Chang is a Senior Editor at Tor Books. She acquires and edits books for the Starscape middle-grade and Tor Teen young-adult imprints. 


2017+small+Jane+Friedman.jpg

Publishing Bootcamp: Jane Friedman

Jane Friedman is widely recognized as a leading authority on digital media strategy for authors and publishers (in other words, how to get published in this digital age). She is the co-founder of The Hot Sheet, the essential publishing industry newsletter for authors, a columnist for Publishers Weekly, and a professor with The Great Courses.

scholarships.jpg

by Amy Lutz, MCWC Editorial Assistant

Meet our 2018 faculty! 

We’re pleased to announce the faculty for MCWC 2018! This year features not only an all-star cast but a bigger cast than usual. We will be offering nine morning workshops, including a screenwriting workshop sponsored by Humanitas, a Hollywood non-profit founded and funded to foster screenwriting talent. Afternoons will be packed with craft seminars, one-on-one consultations, open mic readings, and more; and evenings will be full of the camaraderie and community we are known for. You can also add on our one-day Publishing Bootcamp, taught by the recognized authority on publishing in the digital age, Jane Friedman.

Mark your calendars now, because scholarship applications open January 1 and close February 15. During this period you can also apply for the MCWC 2018 Master Class, The Art of Fiction. This juried-in workshop, restricted to only twelve participants, will be taught by National Book Award nominee Elizabeth McKenzie. More information on scholarships, Master Class, and our full conference schedule will be available at mcwc.org from the beginning of the New Year. Till then, read below for a sneak peek at the MCWC 2018 faculty. General registration opens on March 1, 2018.

 
 Elizabeth McKenzie

Elizabeth McKenzie

 Shanthi Sekaran

Shanthi Sekaran

 Vanessa Hua

Vanessa Hua

 

Master Class: Elizabeth McKenzie 

Elizabeth McKenzie’s most recent novel, The Portable Veblen, was long listed for the 2016 National Book Award for fiction. Her short fiction has been awarded a Pushcart Prize and has appeared in The New YorkerThe AtlanticBest American Nonrequired Reading, and others.

 

Novel: Shanthi Sekaran

Shanthi Sekaran’s recent novel, Lucky Boy, was named an Indie Next Great Read, and an Amazon Editors’ Pick. Her stories and essays have appeared in The New York Times, Canteen Magazine, The Rumpus and LitHub.

 

Short Fiction: Vanessa Hua

Vanessa Hua is the author of Deceit and Other Possibilities, winner of the Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature and a finalist for the California Book Award. She is a columnist at the San Francisco Chronicle, and has written for The New York TimesWashington Post, and The Atlantic.

 
 Guadalupe Garcia McCall

Guadalupe Garcia McCall

 Linda Joy Myers

Linda Joy Myers

 Indigo Moor

Indigo Moor

 

MG/YA: Guadalupe Garcia McCall

Guadalupe Garcia McCall’s debut YA novel, Under the Mesquite, won the prestigious Pura Belpré Award, was named a Morris Award finalist, and received a Tomas Rivera Children’s Book award among many other accolades. Guadalupe’s 4th YA novel, All the Stars Denied, is due for publication in the spring.

 

Memoir: Linda Joy Myers

Linda Joy Myers is president of the National Association of Memoir Writers and author of the award-winning memoir Don’t Call Me Mother—A Daughter’s Journey from Abandonment to Forgiveness. She has also written two books on craft: The Power of Memoir and Journey of Memoir.

 

Poetry: Indigo Moor

Poet Laureate of Sacramento, Indigo Moor is also a scriptwriter and author. He is on the advisory board for the Sacramento Poetry Center, a Cave Canem fellow, the resident artist at 916 ink, and a graduate member of the Artist’s Residency Institute for Teaching Artists.

 
 Elizabeth Rosner

Elizabeth Rosner

 Nina Sadowsky

Nina Sadowsky

 Jason S. Ridler

Jason S. Ridler

 

Non-fiction: Elizabeth Rosner

Elizabeth Rosner’s first book of non-fiction, Survivor Café: the Legacy of Trauma and the Labyrinth of Memory, has been featured on National Public Radio and in The New York Times. Elizabeth has also published three award-winning novels and her essays and poems have appeared in the NY Times MagazineElle, the Forward, and several anthologies. In addition to teaching the non-fiction workshop, Elizabeth will be this year’s keynote speaker.

 

Screenwriting: Nina Sadwosky

Nina Sadowsky is a screenwriter, film producer, novelist and entertainment lawyer (in recovery). Her first novel, Just Fall, is now in development as an original series for STARZ. She has written numerous original screenplays and adaptations for such companies as The Walt Disney Company, Working Title Films, and Lifetime Television. And she is the producer of movies as diverse as The House of Sand and Fog and The Wedding Planner.

 

Emerging Writers: Jason S. Ridler

Jason S. Ridler’s novels include Hex-Rated—the first installment of the Brimstone Files series for Nightshade Press, Rise of the Luchador, and Death Match.  He has also published over sixty stories. His next historical work, Mavericks of War, is forthcoming from Stackpole Books.

 
 Kerrie Flanagan

Kerrie Flanagan

 Gabriel Tallent

Gabriel Tallent

 Norma Watkins

Norma Watkins

 

Paths to Publishing: Kerrie Flanagan

Kerrie Flanagan is an author, writing consultant, publisher, and freelance writer. Her new book, The Writers Digest Guide to Magazine Article Writing, will be released in July of 2018.

 

Paths to Publishing: Gabriel Tallent

Once an MCWC Under-25 scholar, Gabriel Tallent’s debut novel, My Absolute Darling, was an instant New York Times bestseller and named one of the most notable books of 2017 by both The New York Times and The Washington Post.  

 

Paths to Publishing: Norma Watkins

Norma Watkins has published two memoirs, The Last Resort and That Woman From Mississippi. She is professor emerita at Miami Dade College where she held an endowed chair, and teaches creative writing for Mendocino College.

 
 Mark Gottlieb

Mark Gottlieb

 Duvall Osteen

Duvall Osteen

 Susan Chang

Susan Chang

 

Mark Gottlieb, Agent

Mark Gottlieb has ranked #1 among Agents on Publishers Marketplace in Overall Deals and other individual categories. He is an agent with book publishing’s leading literary agency, Trident Media Group.

 

Duvall Osteen, Agent

Duvall Osteen is a literary agent at Aragi Inc., where she’s had the opportunity to work with a long list of distinctive authors, including Junot Díaz, Edwidge Danticat, Denis Johnson, and Anne Carson.

 

Susan Chang, Editor

Susan Chang is a Senior Editor at Tor Books. She acquires and edits books for the Starscape middle-grade and Tor Teen young-adult imprints. 


2017+small+Jane+Friedman.jpg

Publishing Bootcamp: Jane Friedman

Jane Friedman is widely recognized as a leading authority on digital media strategy for authors and publishers (in other words, how to get published in this digital age). She is the co-founder of The Hot Sheet, the essential publishing industry newsletter for authors, a columnist for Publishers Weekly, and a professor with The Great Courses.

 *Barring any mishaps involving reindeers.

*Barring any mishaps involving reindeers.

by Amy Lutz, MCWC Editorial Assistant

Making a list and checking it twice?

As we approach the holiday season, the wishes of the MCWC board and the many MCWC participants eager to understand the current publishing labyrinth have been granted: former Writer’s Digest publisher and widely recognized self-publishing guru Jane Friedman will be teaching the MCWC 2018 Publishing Bootcamp! 

To find out more about Jane, and for a load of useful links to get you off and running, keep reading. But first, we’d like to announce another way in which the MCWC board and all our wonderful donors can help make your wishes come true.

 *Barring any mishaps involving reindeers.

*Barring any mishaps involving reindeers.

 

Now, back to the great news about Jane!

Jane is an expert on writing and publishing in the digital age. She’s the ex-publisher of Writer’s Digest,  a columnist with Publishers Weekly, a professor with The Great Courses, a co-founder of The Hot Sheet, a publishing industry newsletter for authors, and the author of an award-winning blog for writers, JaneFriedman.com. She helped produce The Author’s Guild Guide to E-Publishing and presented the educational series, The Digital Age Author.

We spoke with Jane about her work helping authors navigate the world of publishing.
Here’s a sneak peak into the expertise she’ll be sharing at the MCWC Publishing Bootcamp in 2018!

You’ve often spoken on the importance of viewing social media as a fun extension of an author’s creative work instead of a marketing chore. How can authors explore the fun side of social media rather than feel the pressure of having to market and promote?

When you fall in love with a writer’s work—or at the very least you’re engaged by it—it’s often because of how they see the world. They have observations or interpretations that shed new light on the everyday, or jolt us into awareness. 

In fact, I think each writer is looking, daily, to do just that in their work. They seek that genius insight, that fresh way of looking at something, that will help their name and their story be remembered later. This could be through a matter of stylistic expression—a way of using a metaphor or an unusual word to describe something—or by applying a striking lens.

What does any of this have to do with social media? Social media is fundamentally expressive. It should be a playground for writers. Sadly, it’s also become a playground for a lot of mundane communication, vile activities, and annoying marketing and promotional pushes. But that’s what happens when the masses gather and express themselves. 

Rather than looking at this tool and focusing on its implied demands or deficiencies, writers can take control and use it for their own creative purposes. They can use it to practice their voice and expression on their own terms. Looking at social media and seeing the opportunity for creativity, especially in small bursts, is what makes it fun. As soon as it becomes obligation or something that must “pay off,” forget it.

You mentioned the idea of author collectives in a few different interviews—as marketing collaborations, business partnerships, even in your satirical book on the future of publishing. How do you see these collectives functioning? How do you think authors can support each other for the better success of all? Do you think the rise of social media and self-publishing will lead to more collaboration between authors?

Indeed, I think self-publishing has already increased collaboration tremendously, although most of it proceeds on an informal rather than formal basis. Self-publishing authors tend to be very sales-oriented in their collaborations, while traditionally published authors tend to be relationship-oriented (since the latter have greater restrictions on how they can share or sell their work).

Earlier this year, industry analyst Mike Shatzkin wrote a long post discussing how authors still need help with their digital presence and related marketing—help that traditional publishers are rarely providing. While he advocates for publishers to devote more resources to “author care” functions, he also discusses the potential for authors to collaborate among themselves to improve their situation, without the involvement of agents or publishers.

In the self-publishing community, authors have been helping and educating each other from the start (no one has the rule book, and the rules keep changing, so it’s something of an imperative), but in the traditional publishing community, that kind of activity is harder to find, with the best example probably being the secret Facebook group Binders Full of Women Writers and all of its attendant subgroups.

But Shatzkin pointed to an excellent example—on the traditional publishing side—of an author marketing co-op that’s becoming visible: Tall Poppy Writers. Founder Ann Garvin started the group in 2013 by asking other women authors if they wanted to be part of a collaborative marketing effort. The group now has about 45 members and specializes in books by women and for women—especially women in book clubs. Everything they do is reader-centric: their group newsletter reaches about 20,000 readers, and their new book club has 3,500 members. As far as the organization and management of the collective, there are core leaders, but every member is listened to and expected to contribute. The group helps channel authors’ frustration at lack of marketing help into an organized system that works on several levels. When I ran a Q&A with Garvin, she said, “We see immediate changes in ranking on Amazon when our Poppy network gets behind a title, and that eases the mind of the author. … There is no anxiety related to wondering if we could or should do more. The Tall Poppy network helps us control a small part of the process, and this can be wonderful for the entire publishing experience.”

But I should point out, as a caveat, “author collective” can mean a lot of things. Most frequently, the goal of a collective is sales or marketing. But perhaps we’ll also start to see large-scale production collectives like the Magnum Photographers’ collective, which was created after World War II in Paris to meet the business needs of major magazine and war photographers. A group of professional authors may want to hire the various elements of a publishing house for themselves, to service their production needs from editing to design and right on out the door to publication and marketing. If you dig hard enough, you can find a few burgeoning examples of this type of collective, such as Triskele Books, based in the UK.

In an interview for One Roof Publishing Magazine, you described yourself as the perfect balance of realist and optimist. Are there common mistakes and misunderstandings you see that affect the attitudes of new writers?

Writing and publishing success requires practice, study, and reading in one’s genre (preferably many genres), but this is rarely understood by writers who are coming to the business as a second career, or later in life, as something they’re “passionate” about—that they now have time to pursue. So, these new writers produce a book-length manuscript and somehow expect it’s going to be commercial-level and ready for the market. It rarely is, but they feel they’ve accomplished something special and important in writing a book. They have, on a personal level, but it’s only the first step in a very long road to commercial success. Some of my clients will nudge me for validation of their efforts; they’ll ask, “Should I continue?” and that’s an impossible question to answer. Do YOU want to continue? How important is this to you? I can’t make the decision for you. Nearly everyone who asks me this question should probably stop based on their demonstrated skills as a writer today, but that doesn’t mean they can’t improve and become a publishable writer in the future.

Writers can fail to see the importance of improving as a writer—to be able to look at what they’ve produced, see its weaknesses, and do better next time. There’s not much attention or respect for the process—the years of hard work—required to become a writer whose works can be successful in the market. 

In the About Me section of your website, you wrote that you “prefer to serve as a bridge.” You also mentioned in the written version of your presentation at LitFlow 2012 that your work at Writer’s Digest was focused on “understanding the problems of writers and giving them information and instruction to help them make educated career choices.” What has given you such a passion for helping authors? What drew you to the world of publishing and what led you from there to a focus on author development?

I wouldn’t necessarily call it a passion (that’s a term that can be overused and nebulous), but I have attained mastery in my field. That comes with some fulfillment as well as an ability to earn a living in a way that suits my personality, and makes a difference in people’s lives.

What motivates me or interests me in the field has shifted over time. When I first began my career, college friends at the time probably would’ve described me as a quiet bookworm who liked to surround myself with books. Fast forward fifteen years, and I gave away most of my print books (they were too much of a nuisance to move around), and started teaching myself HTML and web design, plus I was fascinated by social media expression and communication. Today, I’ve found myself stepping back from social media (for reasons that are probably obvious to anyone dealing with US politics in their feed) and focusing on long-term projects that are satisfying—the Great Courses series, the Authors Guild collaboration from last summer, a book with University of Chicago Press next year. 

I continue helping authors because I think I still have a unique and important message to share about balancing the art and business, and developing one’s career with eyes wide open as to the challenges and opportunities. 

In a few articles, you described the importance of writing output, that a huge part of successful marketing is having enough material to market. What do you consider realistic output goals for authors? 

I most often give this message in self-publishing contexts. That is: it’s very hard to be a successful self-published author with only one book to your name. More content means more flexibility and options for sales and marketing—for example, so one book can serve as a loss leader that’s sold for very cheap or even given away for periods of time.

But all authors benefit generally from producing more work, practicing and showing their work in public, even if that work isn’t quite finished. This is basically what Austin Kleon promotes in his book Show Your Work. If you work privately and off in a garret and never show your work until the moment you’re ready to publish, you’re losing out on feedback, engagement with readers, and relationships that come with being part of a community of other creators. In other words: in today’s publishing world, creating in a vacuum or in isolation can slow your progress—yet this isolation remains a romantic ideal in literary writing circles. That’s fine for periods, but to hold it up as the ideal isn’t giving sufficient credit to the benefits of actively sharing and communicating within a community that includes your readership.

What does this have to do with writing output? Well, it brings us full circle to the first question you asked about social media. If social media is a form of expression, then you’ve got a micro-publishing opportunity right there—a regular time and place to show something of your voice, perspective, or work. And that counts as one’s material, at least in my holistic view of an author’s career and effect on the world. There is no ballpark output I could possibly suggest, as writers are too individual to offer quantifiable goals. But it certainly helps if writers aren’t overly precious about each and every word and how and where those words appear in the world. Expand your idea of what it means to publish.

The MCWC Publish Bootcamp with Jane Friedman is offered as an add-on or stand-alone class on the Sunday after the main conference.  You can sign up here to be notified as soon as registration opens. And keep an eye on our blog for more introductions to the MCWC 2018 faculty!

By Amy Lutz, MCWC Editorial Assistant

FACULTY SPOTLIGHT: ELIZABETH McKENZIE

If you were at the closing dinner of MCWC 2017, you would have heard the exciting announcement that in 2018, our Master Class instructor will be Elizabeth McKenzie.  Elizabeth’s latest novel, The Portable Veblen was long listed for the 2016 National Book Award for Fiction and won a 2017 California Book Award silver medal. An earlier novel, MacGregor Tells the World, was a Chicago Tribune, San Francisco Chronicle and Library Journal Best Book of the Year.  Her short stories have appeared in The New Yorker, The Atlantic Monthly, and the Pushcart Prize Anthology among many other publications, and have been recorded for NPR’s Selected Shorts. Her debut collection, Stop That Girl, was short-listed for the Story Prize.

We sat down to speak to Elizabeth about her experiences as both an editor and writer of short and novel-length fiction.

You were an assistant fiction editor at The Atlantic, and you’re now senior editor at the Chicago Quarterly Review and managing editor at Catamaran Literary Reader. How has being an editor helped you as a writer?

This is such a good question, and important to me. Nothing’s been a better education for me as a writer than reading manuscripts by fellow writers over the years. Sure, it’s vital to read great literature and published work, which is the main kind of reading we do, but seeing work in its various stages pre-publication—manuscripts that are often quite good but missing something, that are only partly developed or go off course at the end—that’s invaluable because all of our work suffers from problems as it progresses, and you become comfortable with the process in all its stages. Rather than despising a story that’s not ready, you understand that it’s simply a little premature. It’s helped me identify problems in my own work, and it’s given me enough exposure to have a sense of what’s original. And what’s overused too—i.e., starting a story in a bar. Argh! There are too many stories that start in bars, I can assure you.

And then there’s the inverse: how being a writer has helped me as an editor. I want to make sure the work looks exactly the way the writer wants it and I really want the writer to be proud to see his or her work in the magazine. After publication, it’s important to make sure all the anthologies get a chance to see the work to consider it for inclusion and prizes. All these small steps along the way mean a lot.

In your interview in Publisher’s Weekly: Q&A with editor Ed Park,” it is apparent that you had a great working relationship with your editor. What advice do you have for writers on how to work with editors?

Well, Ed Park was a once in a lifetime editor—sadly for me, he’s now left Penguin Press. (But good for him, because he’s a terrific writer and can work on his novel now.) Anyway, his suggestions for my novel were excellent, and I’m sure I took them all. Sometimes an editor will give advice and the writer will explain why the advice doesn’t make sense, and then both parties will realize that there was a fundamental misunderstanding of the cause of the problem. Other times, it’s a matter of taste, and writer and editor are just not on the same page. The advice I’d give is that when you and your editor don’t agree on something, work through it and try to figure out if you’re really talking about the same thing.

In the same article, you said “And because I’d been working on this book so long, I knew it was hairy, like a rescued castaway who at last has the chance to shower and be shorn and pruned and have all the knots and burrs pulled out.” What a great description! How did you sustain your momentum on your manuscript over such a long period of time? How was it different, better or worse, than writing short fiction?

Also a great question. It was so hairy, in fact, that there was no way out. I was involved in a huge struggle, and the more time I spent on it the more desperate I became to make sure it counted. Not finishing it became out of the question for me, no matter how long it took. I guess I sustained myself by enjoying the small signs of success that would come along the way—a sentence or new idea that I was happy about. And my writing group helped too, because they were really encouraging. That kind of struggle occasionally happens with short stories too—I have a few around that I’ve been working on for years, and they’ve never quite shaped up. Then again, I’ve written and finished stories in a few days or weeks. Those were the lucky times.

In an interview for the UC Santa Cruz Newscenter, you discussed your love of beat poets and that you took some poetry classes at UCSC. In another interview with LA Review of Books you mentioned working on translations and how the work helps pull you out of your own writing habits. As both a writer and an editor, you seem to have a very wide range. How has this genre-jumping strengthened your writing?

Well, working on translations introduces you intimately to another writer’s techniques, and that’s always good. I also wrote a number of scripts with a partner years back and that was a great exercise for me—understanding three act structure, etc. And poetry laser-focuses a writer on words and the music of language. The more tools you have, the better.

You have produced acclaimed work in both short fiction and novel-length fiction. Do you prefer one form over the other? How are the challenges and skills required for both similar or different?

It’s hard to say, they both have their own rewards. But I probably feel best when I’m thrashing around inside a long piece. During that time, I have an alternate universe to play around in and go to. The alternate universe eventually gains a kind of gravity that makes me alive and awake to things around me in a new way, and I have a place to put those impressions. What is fun about short fiction is that you can have a strange idea and test it out without turning over your whole life to it.

You recently presented a fiction workshop at the Catamaran Conference that included both short and long form fiction. Do you focus your instruction on common craft between the two forms, or do you have specific advice for each? What do you plan to present as the Master Class workshop for MCWC 2018?

I’d say both. Talking about stories rubs off on talking about novels. There’s a lot of overlap, but lots to say specifically about each, too. I’d like to discuss any issues that rise out of the work we’ll be reading itself, as well as structure, voice, defamiliarization, how to revise imaginatively, and anything else anybody wants to bring up.


To take part in this intimate discussion of writing with Elizabeth McKenzie, submit for her Master Class at MCWC 2018. You can sign up here to be notified as soon as registration opens. And keep an eye out here for more introductions to MCWC 2018 faculty!

By Amy Lutz, MCWC Editorial Assistant

what’s new with the newbies?

We caught up with a few MCWC 2017 first-time participants to see how they felt about their experience two months post-conference, when all the excitement had settled down. 

Dana Wagner, a MCWC 2017 scholar, had never been to a writing conference. “I had standard, imposter-syndrome concerns about whether I'd really fit in and be able to contribute well to the discussions, but everyone involved—organizers, instructors, and participants—was extremely welcoming and supportive. My main hope when I signed up for the conference was that I would enjoy, learn from, and be inspired by the community of authors at MCWC, and that certainly happened in spades,” he told us.  

 Dana Wagner

Dana Wagner

MCWC 2017 scholar and contest winner Chris Hall shared a similar story. “I had never been to a conference and I was going by myself. I wondered if people would be welcoming or if it would be awkward and isolating. I’m happy to say my anxieties were unfounded. From the first moment I arrived, I felt like I was part of a warmly welcomed community of writers.”

Cameron Lund, another writing conference first-timer, agreed that MCWC was a safe space to share. “It was so fun being surrounded by other writers and being able to talk about our craft. It’s not everywhere you can have a heated discussion about adverbs over lunch!”

Some of our first-timer participants were new to MCWC but not to writers’ conferences. Writers’ conference veteran Jennifer Siebert compared MCWC to other conferences she has experienced. “What I like about MCWC that is different from other conferences is it's not just a sit-and-listen-to-speakers conference. It’s interactive: you have the opportunity to work on your craft in a small focused group. It’s a good-sized conference, you aren’t lost in a sea of 1,000 people.” 

And some of our first-time participants were writing faculty elsewhere. “As a writing teacher and MFA grad, I appreciated the level of instruction and the insightful and honest feedback I received from instructors and attendees alike,” said Julie Sullivan who teaches at USF. “The sessions were challenging, but supportive. No souls were crushed in this workshopping process, at least not in my workshop!

 Chris Hall

Chris Hall

 Cameron Lund

Cameron Lund

 Julie Sullivan

Julie Sullivan

Two months later, our first-timers have found that their MCWC experience has changed their writing lives. Dana told us, “Since leaving, I’ve been setting aside more time each week to write, and I’ve joined a Bay Area writing group that I was introduced to through friends I made at MCWC.  None of this would have happened if I hadn’t attended, so I’m very glad I did.”

Cameron expressed similar excitement. “I left the conference feeling so inspired! When I got home, I immediately wrote two chapters of a new novel idea that came to me over the course of the weekend- and I got back to the editing grind on my existing novel. In fact, I ended up trading manuscripts with Jody Gehrman, who taught the Master Class, so once I got all of her notes back, it lit a fire under me to get my book as polished as possible!”

As a self-published author hoping to move into traditional publishing, Chris found success at MCWC as well. “I felt like I learned a lot about the process of getting an agent interested in your work and how to deliver a great pitch. And I even had a real-life literary agent express interest in reading my book!”

“Me too!” Julie chimed in. Julie first drafted her novel as part of her MFA a few years ago. At MCWC 2017, she finally was invited to submit pages by an agent. It was the step forward she had been waiting for.

Full notes from an accomplished (and busy) author like Jody Gehrman or interest from an agent are dreams that may not be immediately realized by many conference participants, but Jennifer was equally satisfied with her experience. “I left with direction on my manuscript. I also loved spending time with other writers. There was a feeling of community at MCWC. To describe it in one word: Tribe.”

 Jennifer Siebert and her tribe!

Jennifer Siebert and her tribe!

Because writing can be such a solitary occupation, investing in communities like MCWC is often crucial. “It can be hard to self-motivate and push yourself toward your goals—it can really help to have others to cheer on and to commiserate with,” Julie said. “At the start of the conference, Shirin Bridges, the Executive Director, welcomed the newcomers. And then to the returners she said, Welcome home. By the end of the conference, I fully understood that sentiment. There is something special about this conference. It’s not just welcoming, it’s like a hug you didn’t know you needed or didn’t know how to ask for.”

We look forward to welcoming you all home in 2018!

By Cameron Lund, MCWC Social Media Manager

and it’s a wrap!

We celebrated our 28th year this summer at MCWC 2017 and it could not have gone better! A big thank you to everyone involved: faculty, volunteers, donors, board members, and—of course—our enormously talented attendees. We were moved by the courage, creativity, and camaraderie shown by this community throughout the long weekend. Thank you for making MCWC such a safe and special place to be. 

 Members of the MCWC 2017 Novel-Writing Workshop, with instructor Michael David Lukas

Members of the MCWC 2017 Novel-Writing Workshop, with instructor Michael David Lukas

This year’s faculty came from both near and far to be with us—some especially far, like Jamaican-born poet Shara McCallum, who traveled from Pennsylvania State University (a more than twelve-hour journey door to door). “It was absolutely worth the time and distance I traveled to be there,” she tells us. “I loved the conference—my workshop especially, as well as all the people I met and spent time with in various ways, formal and informal—and the physical wonder of the place that is Mendocino. I was grateful to be part of this vibrant community for a time.”

 “The physical wonder of the place that is Mendocino…”

“The physical wonder of the place that is Mendocino…”

The other MCWC 2017 morning workshops were led by Jody Gehrman (Master Class), Michael David Lukas (Novel Writing), Kat Meads (Short Fiction), Lewis Buzbee (MG/YA), John Evans (Memoir), and Lisa Locascio (Emerging Writers). Says repeat attendee Terry Connolly, a Master Class participant, “The best part of the conference is always the morning workshops…The atmosphere is relaxed and friendly. It’s a place where one feels safe to share.”

 Poetry workshop with Shara McCallum

Poetry workshop with Shara McCallum

 “…a place where one feels safe to share.”

“…a place where one feels safe to share.”

Our afternoon seminars saw the introduction of two new genres for MCWC: Flash Fiction with instructor Kara Vernor, and Screenwriting with film maker Alexandra Lexton. And every evening brought a social event including faculty readings and a closing dinner with keynote speaker, Michael Krasny— author, literature professor, and award-winning anchor of NPR’s Forum

 A new genre for MCWC and many of our participants

A new genre for MCWC and many of our participants

For some, the conference was a very direct path to success. The popular Pitch Panels—with agents April Eberhardt and Jessica Sinsheimer, and publisher Shirin Bridges—led to several attendees being asked to send pages, including scholarship winner Bronwynn Dean. “It was one of my goals for the conference,” Bronwynn says. “The encouragement I received from other attendees who heard [my pitch] also made me feel confident. If the first agent doesn’t bite, now I know at least I have a solid pitch to query others.”

 Pitch panel moderator Emily Lloyd-Jones and agents April Eberhardt and Jessica Sinsheimer

Pitch panel moderator Emily Lloyd-Jones and agents April Eberhardt and Jessica Sinsheimer

Says Jessica Sinsheimer, the agent who asked to see Bronwynn's pages, “Writers were given a very scary task: read a pitch, in front of everyone (including a panel of faculty) for feedback. One pitch stood out to me for its literary writing—the author had created a memoir in essays about modern farming, and had woven in plant-related words in the most beautiful, literary way. Her pitch—a format that can, without great care, sound sales-y, or forced—sounded like something Annie Dilliard might write. I found her afterwards to request her work, and will be sharing it with my office this week.”

On that positive note, let’s call it a wrap! We would like to thank all who were part of MCWC 2017, and to invite everyone to join us again for MCWC 2018. To see the rest of Mimi Carroll’s beautiful and atmospheric photos of the conference, please click here

 

 

 

 

By Cameron Lund, MCWC Social Media Manager

Faculty Spotlight- Michael David Lukas

With our summer 2017 conference right around the corner, and fully booked except for a few spots in poetry, we thought we’d share the insights of one of our amazing faculty members: Michael David Lukas. Michael has been a Fulbright Scholar in Turkey, a night-shift proofreader in Tel Aviv, and a fellow at the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference in Vermont—and, as you can see above, an NEA fellow. Translated into more than a dozen languages, his first novel, The Oracle of Stamboul, was a finalist for the California Book Award, the NCIBA Book of the Year Award, and the Harold U. Ribalow Prize. His second novel, The Forty-Third Name of God, is forthcoming from Random House. A graduate of Brown University and the University of Maryland, he is a recipient of many scholarships and has taught creative writing to MFA students, undergrads, working adults, and middle schoolers.

Returning to teach at MCWC for the second time, Michael is thrilled to be back in the heart of our community. 

You’re teaching an afternoon workshop on good beginnings. As this is the beginning of our interview, we’ll start here! Do you have any quick advice on how to first grab your reader’s attention? 
Surprise them. Entice them. Lull them into complacency then throw ice water in their faces.

You’re also teaching a morning workshop on novel writing. What do you love about writing novels? Has long-form fiction always been your main focus, or do you write other forms?
I love novel writing because it’s such an immersive process, because it’s narrow and broad at the same time, because you get to create a world then live in it for three to ten years. What other pursuit affords us that kind of depth and escape?

In the past, I tried my hand at short stories and I’ve written the occasional personal essay. But for the most part, I’m a novel writer. That’s the medium I dream in.

Your novel, The Oracle of Stamboul, is historical fiction. What draws you to this genre? How did you go about your research?
I like writing about the past because it feels like another world. It gives me the space to stretch out and let my imagination run. When researching The Oracle of Stamboul, I did a lot of background reading about the social, political, and cultural history of the Ottoman Empire, but when it came time to write, I relied mostly on my imagination, my memories of Turkey, and an antique map of Istanbul.

Have you always been a writer? When did you first start writing? When did you want to make writing your career?
I’ve been writing almost every day for about fifteen years now. I’m not sure if I ever really had a conscious goal of becoming a writer or making it my career. It was more like a stubborn hope that I wouldn’t or couldn’t give up. And after a while, the practice of writing became an identity.

Do you have any advice for readers looking for agents?
For writers looking for agents, I have two pieces of advice. First, finish. Make sure your book is as good as it can be before sending it out, because you only get one chance to make that first impression. Second, look through the acknowledgements sections of books you love and use that to start compiling a list of agents to send your work to. That way, you are submitting to someone with a similar aesthetic as you. Plus you can tell them how much you enjoy their authors’ work.

Do you have a quick piece of general writing advice?
Write every day. Believe in what you are doing. Have a good sense of what you want to do, and do it.

You can find out more about Michael at his website, michaeldavidlukas.com.

by Cameron Lund, MCWC Social Media Manager

getting the most out of mcwc 2017

Play video for a glimpse of the MCWC experience.

We are proud—but also regretful—to announce that this year’s conference has already booked full.* For those of you who registered early, we cannot wait to welcome you to our little community of writers. To prepare you for what’s to come, here are some thoughts and tips from past attendees:

“I’ve always seen MCWC as a ‘safe haven,’ the first place where someone told me that if I wrote, I was a writer.  The conference provides a positive, nurturing environment for writers who are unsure of themselves and looking to improve their craft, and a meeting place for old friends to compare notes on their progress over the past year.” — Carole Stivers

“My favorite part is the feedback I get on my writing in the morning sessions. The faculty’s views are insightful, but it’s the participants considered thoughts coming from all angles that help make my writing better.” — Doug Fortier

“I appreciated the fact I could do and participate in as much as I wanted. I noticed writers who attended morning class and then picked over what was happening in the afternoon. They were gentle with themselves. For me, I packed in everything I could: full morning class with a consistent instructor on scene building, pitching my novel, two-plus classes each afternoon on everything from outlining to fast writing. I also scheduled a session with an agent, with trepidation.” — Earlene Gleisner

“My advice for newbies is to not hesitate, both for enrollment, but also for expressing what you want from the conference and for expressing your point of view in critiques of other participants’ writing. Don’t hang back—give something to get something.” — Doug Fortier

“Try to participate in as many sessions as you can.  Also, do your homework and try to get alone time with at least one agent or author, to talk about your work.  (I didn't do this last year, and I was sorry!)” — Carole Stivers

“Whether you ‘go for all of it’ or carefully pace your participation, your best bet is to read the schedule and biographies carefully. This is the best way to make a decision as to what you want to learn. And pack comfortable clothes which can be layered as the day can start cold and foggy and end up sunny. This is not a fashion show! Although a nice outfit for the final dinner can help you arrive in a celebratory mood.” — Earlene Gleisner

“Yes, bring warm clothes!  It can get cold at night!” — Carole Stivers

“For fun things in Mendocino, consider hanging out with other participants for evening meals. Patterson’s Pub on Lansing in Mendocino is a favorite of locals because it has the BEST food—but get there before six o’clock because it gets busy.” — Doug Fortier 

“For hikers, there’s Mendocino Headlands State Park, the Point Cabrillo Light Station, Russian Gulch State Park, the Botanical Gardens in Fort Bragg… On the way in, visit Hendy Woods State Park—virgin redwoods as good as Muir Woods, but with no crowds!” — Carole Stivers

“MCWC has it all—great presenters, friendly helpful volunteers, free wine receptions, great location. I’ve attended many conferences, and there’s none like MCWC for the friendliness and helpfulness of the volunteers, from the servers in the kitchen to the staff in the bookstore.” — Anne Da Vigo 

“The Board of this event work hard to provide a welcoming atmosphere with an undercurrent of enthusiasm for our craft.” — Earlene Gleisner

“My tip, as a past attendee before I became Director? Come as a sponge. Absorb it all—the insights, the passion, the camaraderie. It’s pretty heady.” — Shirin Bridges

 

*To be added to the waitlist for MCWC 2017, in case seats become available due to cancellations, please contact our registrar, Barbara Lee, at info@mcwc.org or 707-485-4031

by Cameron Lund, MCWC Social Media Manager

Faculty spotlight: Lisa Locascio

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I had the pleasure of sitting down recently with Lisa Locascio, who is returning to MCWC 2017 as the Emerging Writers workshop instructor. Lisa is a creative force to be reckoned with. She holds a PhD in Creative Writing and Literature, an MA in English Literature from USC, as well as an MFA and BA from NYU. She has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and has won the 2011 John Steinbeck Award for Fiction, the 2014 Robbins Memorial Emerging Writer Award, and a 2014 Dorys Grover Award. She is currently a Visiting Assistant Professor of Creative Writing at Wesleyan University and working as an editor and publisher—in fact, she has just completed the curation of an anthology, Golden State 2017, featuring two other MCWC 2017 faculty members, Kat Meads and Kara Vernor—and her novel, Jutland Gothic, will be published by Grove Atlantic in 2018. Suffice it to say, Lisa has a lot on her plate, and we’re thrilled that she has made time for this summer’s conference, and for this interview. 

What is your favorite genre to write in? Has it always been your favorite or has that changed over time?
I’ve always liked to tell stories, and I’ve been telling them through fiction and poetry for as long as I can remember. Writing creative nonfiction came to me a bit later, as a result of the training in critical writing and slam poetry I received in high school. While those two modalities might seem contradictory, they have similar missions of elucidating and exploring that which is seen and known, and writing in those ways helped me understand and portray my experiences as vividly as those I wholly invented. 

Over time, the lines between the genres have blurred for me, and today I produce a significant amount of writing that is all of the above—at the same time poetry, fiction, and creative nonfiction. Rather than a shift of interests over time, I consider this movement in my work the result of sharpening my knife and diving deeper and more fearlessly into the sea of consciousness where David Lynch suggests we seek to "catch the big fish" of ideas. This is the creative actualization I wish for every writer, and which I endeavor to help my students achieve.

How did you first get published? How did you get an agent? Do you have any advice for newbies?
I think the first time I was published in a journal that wasn’t affiliated with my school or creative circle in any way was towards the end of college, when a story of mine showed up in Prairie Margins, the undergraduate literary magazine of Bowling Green State University. Another big moment for me was when my story "Mallinckrodt" was published in the late great Northwest Review in 2008, when I was in the first year of my MFA. 

As for my agent, Marya Spence, I was very lucky that she found me, in fact through my work as an editor. She read a story I had edited for Joyland, the fiction magazine of which I am co-publisher, and through that connection found my website and read a great deal of my work. I feel blessed to work with such a whip-smart, wise, and devoted creative ally, especially since she reached out to me after six frustrating years of trying to find an agent. 

As for advice on being published and becoming agented, I’ll paraphrase the great Isaac Babel story "You Must Know Everything" and tell you that you must do everything: submit everywhere, be relentless and bulletproof to rejection, which you will receive in droves from magazines and agents alike. Try everything, keep going, and remember that publishing is a numbers game—the more places read your work, the more likely it is that one will want to publish you. Finding an agent is the search for a highly personal relationship, a lot like matchmaking, and just as finicky and magic-reliant; if you pay attention to who reps the writers you admire, send only your most polished and highest-quality work, and respect the difficulty of their job, you position yourself well to find good representation. 

Can you tell me a bit about the workshop youll be teaching at MCWC 2017?
The Emerging Writers workshop is designed for those whose creative identities are still coalescing, writers who seek to establish an understanding of themselves and their literary style, people from across the spectrum of age and life experience who wish to engage deeply with the self and the world to produce beautiful and meaningful work. It will be a supportive environment with great mutual respect between students and teacher and a deep and sacred sense of the honor of working together to help each other’s writing become the best and most realized version of itself. I’m so excited to teach this class!

Do you have any advice for someone who may be nervous about taking your class?
My job as a teacher is to create a space where the vital dream-work of workshop can occur, where things can get a little messy and weird, where ideas can bloom and be nurtured and undergo delicate, exquisite surgery to become more themselves. It’s good to be nervous if that nervousness is a sign of excitement at the immensity of the task ahead, but don’t be afraid! We will emerge as friends and better writers for having shared each other’s company. The best advice I can give is to be yourself, honest and open; if you show up with sincerity, respect, and curiosity, you will have a phenomenal experience.

What do you have to say to emerging writers in particular?
Be kind to yourself. Writing is an enormously complex ancient technology developed to address the problem of limited human memory, and yet we act like it should be as natural as breathing. Well, breathing is actually really complicated too, we just have a lot of practice at it. Practice is what writers need as well: practice writing, but also practice noticing and thinking and feeling, and practice incorporating each of these acts and their multifarious allies into a writerly way of being that is as idiosyncratic as each writer. Be gentle. Feel good. Keep going. 

Can they draw hope from your own trajectory?
I first came to the conference as a scholarship student, in 2012, when I took Steve Almond's Short Fiction workshop and won the short fiction prize, a huge honor. Then I was invited to return as faculty in 2015, an even huger honor! I had such a delightful time teaching that year's Short Fiction workshop; I met many people who became quite important to me, and it's no overstatement to say it was a life-changing experience. I was itching to come back and so happy when my invitation arrived to teach in 2017. 


To register for Lisa's Emerging Writers workshop, please visit mcwc.org. Attendance is limited to 14 on a first-come, first-served basis. The class is open to writers of all genres. 

If you have never attended our conference before, you may also submit an application for a First Taste of MCWC scholarship.

**SUBMISSION DEADLINE IS MAY 15, 2017.** 

You can find out more about Lisa at her website: www.lisalocascio.com

 

 

 

by Cameron Lund, MCWC Social Media Manager

faculty spotlight: Jody Gehrman

Author Jody Gehrman has been associated with the Mendocino Coast Writers’ Conference for more than ten years, both as a returning member of faculty and as an invaluable member of the advisory board. This summer, we’re thrilled to have Jody back to teach the MCWC 2017 Master Class. Jody is truly versatile. The author of ten novels and numerous plays for stage and screen, she’s also a professor of English and Communications at Mendocino College. Her young-adult novel, Babe in Boyland, won the International Reading Association’s Teen Choice Award and was optioned by the Disney Channel; her first psychological suspense novel, Watch Me, will be published by St. Martin’s Press in 2018. In exciting recent news, her full-length play, Tribal Life in America, won the Ebell Playwright Grand Prize, a prestigious playwriting award. 

 Jody with Ebell Club organizer Cynthia Comsky in Los Angeles this March for the reading of  Tribal Life in America , winner of the Ebell Playwright Grand Prize.

Jody with Ebell Club organizer Cynthia Comsky in Los Angeles this March for the reading of Tribal Life in America, winner of the Ebell Playwright Grand Prize.

I sat down with Jody to find out more about the class she'll be offering at MCWC 2017, and to discuss her writing process, getting published, and how she finds motivation. 


So you’ve published 10 novels. Can you tell us a little about that process? Were you traditionally published or did you self-publish?
Eight have been traditionally published and two were self published. When I’m talking to writers, I don’t recommend one over the other until I find out their personal goals, because they both have their strengths and their drawbacks. I like traditional better because I love having a professional marketing team and professional editors. I love the collaborative process. But it takes so long that way. Self publishing gives you a lot of creative control, like designing your own covers, and it’s usually much more immediate. 

How did you first get published? Did you have an agent?
I first got my agent when I was in grad school. I went to the University of Southern California, and I picked that school on purpose because I knew that the professors were all working writers. All of my professors there were published, but there was one I really wanted to impress. So I tried my best, always handed in my best work, and she said ‘I like what you’re doing. I want to introduce you to my agent.’ And we went from there. I’m now on my third agent, actually. I don’t write the same kind of book over and over. I started in "chick lit," then moved to YA with a romance vibe, and now I’m working on a suspense novel, so I wanted to find an agent with a good track record for that. 

Do you write under a pseudonym for when you changed genres?
My agent and I talked about a name change, but it seemed more harmful to start from scratch and we think my genres are closely enough aligned that it won’t matter. I always joke, ‘Thank God I haven’t had a runaway best seller,’ because then publishers would expect me to write the same book over and over again with a different title. Right now I have more freedom. 

Is there anything you would have done differently with your first novel?
Not necessarily something I would have done differently, but there is something that surprised me when I went from being a student to a working writer. I didn’t realize just how much a publisher will push you towards the most marketable angle no matter what that is. My first novel, Summer in theLand of Skin, was the farthest thing from a romance in my mind, but it went to auction and the highest bidder was Harlequin, and so suddenly I was a romance writer. This is confusing to a lot of writers, because in school we’re pushed away from genre fiction; everyone wants to write literary fiction. But in the commercial world we’re pushed really hard towards whatever sells. I wish that someone had told me more about that. I felt a little blindsided by it. But young writers do have a better sense now of branding. If it’s important to you how you’re perceived and how you’re marketed, think about that and be an active participant in the way your career is packaged. 

You also write plays. How is the playwriting process different from the novel writing process? Playwriting is therapeutic for me because it connects me to my audience in a more direct way than fiction ever can. There’s nothing like sitting in an audience and feeling their reaction to what’s happening on stage. With a novel, you’re basically launching a message in a bottle and sending it out to sea, and you know there are people reading it, but aside from reviews, you don’t have much connection to their experience. It’s abstract and kind of unsettling. So whenever I start to feel that distance, I want to connect with my community and work with directors and actors and have that feeling of collaboration. For me it’s about the collaboration and the insights I get when I sit in an audience that’s responding in the moment to a live performance. 

Has an actor or director ever interpreted your writing differently than you intended?
I love that! Sometimes an actor will interpret a line of dialogue in a way I’d never thought of, and it’s much better. That’s the joy of collaboration. It’s the X factor that other people bring. When your creative process is linked to theirs, it’s so much richer and more complex. A part of me really enjoys being surprised by what other people bring to my work. 

How do you find the time to write? 
I’m a really big fan of writing a draft as quickly as possible. I’m always busy, so I have to be a binge writer when I can. On summer and winter breaks from school, I get a lot done. Sometimes I’ll sit down and write for eight hours at a time, but even during the school year, I try to keep a fairly regular practice. It’s important to dedicate a certain amount of time, space, and energy every day to your writing. 

I have a group of girlfriends that I met at a conference and every winter and summer we get together to write in Carmel, and I don’t let myself focus on anything besides the writing. That’s always when I’m the most productive!

Writing retreats and conferences are so good for getting motivated! Do you have any advice on how to get the most out of a conference?
Before you go, you should ask yourself what you want to get out of it. Some people don’t expect to get any writing done— they want to get inspired and hear speakers, which is completely valid. Other people want quiet time to write. If you want to get writing time done, carve that out and guard it zealously. Don’t go to every event. You have to make time for yourself. But if networking is important to you, make time for those casual conversations. But don’t be too aggressive! My agent told me a story about how when she was at a conference, she was on the treadmill and three different people came up to her to pitch. You don’t want to turn them off and be too needy. Just wait for the natural moment!

How about a general piece of writing advice?
This is kind of a cliche, but I love that phrase ‘the writer’s strongest tool is the door.’ You need to have the willingness to close it and do your work. I know some writers that are so deeply social that they never find the time to get the kind of isolation that real creativity requires. On the other hand, it’s important to balance that out and connect with other writers and people that stimulate our imagination. Pay attention to who you’re surrounding yourself with and how they affect your work; whether you feel supported and inspired by people you’re working with or whether you’re feeling dragged down and distracted.

Can you tell us a little about the Master Class? And do you have any advice for those applying?
The class will be divvied up between mini lectures on the bones of storytelling, exercises to help students experiment, and critiques and feedback on everyone’s works in progress. As far as submissions go, I would say to just give yourself some time to really polish. Just like with any writing sample, you don't want to dash it off at the last second. Give it that distance and make sure it's the best sample of your work. Writing samples work best if they stand alone, even if they're part of something bigger. Usually the first section works best because you're already helping the reader get oriented. 

I’m excited to be coming back to the MCWC and especially to be teaching the Master Class. I just want people to recognize what a gem this conference is. It’s small and focused, but at the same time, it’s not claustrophobic. There’s such a wide range of types of writers. It’s one of the least pretentious, friendliest, and most inspiring conferences I’ve had the pleasure to work with.

You will find submission guidelines for Jody's Master Class on registration. To register, please visit mcwc.org. Attendance is limited to 12 and juried in, with final selections made by Jody. The class is open to writers of all genres: fiction, memoir, playwriting, screenwriting, etc. 

You can find out more about Jody Gehrman at her website: http://www.jodygehrman.com


MCWC 2017 registration opens—with many generous scholarships

registration IS now open!

Registration is now open for the 2017 Mendocino Coast Writers’ Conference, so we hope you’ve been thinking about which workshop you’d like to enroll in. All workshops are filled on a first-come, first-served, basis. With participation capped at fourteen, we are expecting the workshops to be fully subscribed. The only exception to the limit of fourteen is the Master Class, which is juried in and capped at twelve participants. Full details about registration procedures and fees are available by clicking on the REGISTER button displayed prominently on every page at mcwc.org.

This year, we’re very proud to offer a broad range of scholarships, many available for the first time (see list below). It is especially important to us to bring together voices from diverse backgrounds, so we are thrilled to announce our new Diverse Voices scholarships aimed at celebrating diversity in our conference community. New First Taste scholarships will encourage new participants of the highest caliber, and you’ll find scholarships rewarding the best writing in various genres. We thank our generous donors for funding these scholarships and making MCWC accessible to a broader range of participants, and we encourage everyone who qualifies to apply. Please keep in mind that you may only apply for one scholarship per year, and that past scholars must wait three years before applying again.

We also encourage all conference registrants to submit to our writing contest. Winners will be awarded cash prizes and the opportunity to read publicly, and their winning work will be considered for publication in our annual literary magazine, the Noyo River Review. 

So, register now and mark your calendars. MCWC 2017 will take place August 3rd-5th, with our stand-alone, full-day publishing bootcamp on August 6th. You’ll find descriptions of this year’s workshops and events, and the biographies of our wonderful faculty at mcwc.org

We hope to see you this summer—and we wish the best of luck to all scholarship applicants!


MCWC 2017 Scholarships

Barry Brian Murphy Memorial Scholarship

In memory of Barry Brian Murphy, beloved father and man of mischeief and humor: one full scholarship of $575, awarded to humorous writing in any genre, be it novel, memoir, short story, poetry

Byerley Memorial Scholarships
In memory of Suzanne Byerley, former co-director of MCWC: two partial scholarships of $250 each, based solely on merit. 

Bradish Memorial Scholarship
In memory of Mary Bradish O’Connor, poet and one of the founders of the Cancer Resource Centers of Mendocino County: one partial scholarship of $275, awarded to a female writer. 

5-Under-25 Scholarships
To support and encourage the next generation of writers: five full scholarships of $575 each, awarded to writers who are between 16 and 25 years of age on the first day of the conference. 

Judy and Bob Mathey Scholarship
A full scholarships of $575 awarded to a writer less than 30 years of age on the first day of the conference.

Voices of Diversity Scholarships
To encourage voices from underrepresented groups on the basis of ethnicity, sexual identity, disability, social or cultural background, and financial need: two full scholarships of $575 each. 

Marion Deeds Scholarship
A full scholarship of $575 awarded to a woman of color working in any genre

Francis Andrews/Soroptimists Scholarship
A full scholarship of $575 awarded to a woman of diverse background working in any genre. 

Susan & Mel McKinney Scholarship
A full scholarship of $575 awarded on merit to a writer working on a novel.

Ginny Rorby Scholarship
A full scholarship of $575 awarded on merit to a writer working in the genres of middle grade fiction, young adult fiction, or nonfiction.

Norma Watkins Scholarship
A full scholarship of $575 awarded on merit to a writer working in memoir. 

Doug Fortier Scholarship
A full scholarship of $575 awarded on merit to a writer of short fiction.

First Taste of MCWC Scholarships
Two half scholarships of $288 each, awarded to first-time attendees of the conference. 

Gene & Susan Lock Scholarship
In honor of Gene and Susan Lock, a partial scholarship of $300, awarded to a writer at least 60 years of age. 

High School Student Writers Scholarships
To encourage writers in their first bud: two full scholarships of $575 each, awarded to writers in grades 9-12 at any high school or alternative high school program, including home school and independent study in Mendocino County.


A sneak peek at some MCWC 2017 faculty!

We're proud to introduce...

By Shirin Bridges and Ginny Rorby

We’re pleased to kick off the MCWC 2017 conference year with an introduction to some of this year’s faculty.

First, we are delighted to announce that our keynote speaker will be Michael Krasny, journalist, literature professor, award-winning anchor of NPR’s Forum, and the author of three books—including his latest, Let There Be Laughter. 

As the anchor of Forum, Michael has discussed books and writing with some of the most acclaimed authors of our time. We are very excited to bring his wit and wisdom to MCWC 2017 participants. 

Michael will be joined by a sparkling faculty, including novelist, playwright, and screenwriter Jody Gehrman who will lead our Master Class; current Jones Lecturer and former Wallace Stegner Fellow John W. Evans who will teach memoir; Shara McCallum, Director of the Stadler Center for Poetry at Bucknell University; and much-loved returning faculty member Michael David Lukas, novelist and former Fulbright Scholar in Turkey, night-shift proofreader in Tel Aviv, and waiter at the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference in Vermont.

  Jody Gehrman

Jody Gehrman

  Michael D. Lukas

Michael D. Lukas

  John W. Evans

John W. Evans

  Shara McCallum

Shara McCallum

Also returning is our standalone Publishing Bootcamp, which will be taught this year by Hilary Lawson, Editor, and Ann Edwards, Book Marketer, of HarperOne. Together, Hilary and Ann will give bootcamp participants insight into how a Big Five publisher evaluates and markets its authors and titles—and how one can gain an edge when approaching them.

  Hilary Lawson

Hilary Lawson

  Ann Edwards

Ann Edwards

So, mark your calendars for August 3rd-5th for the main conference, and August 6th for Publishing Bootcamp. Also make a note that this year, our venue will be the bright and cheerful campus of Mendocino Middle School, a stone’s throw from Mendocino village. 

You'll find details of our full faculty and descriptions of workshops and afternoon events at mcwc.org. And keep your eyes peeled for the scholarships application information coming in our next newsletter!

We look forward to welcoming you to MCWC 2017,

Shirin Bridges
Executive Director

Ginny Rorby
President