Thursday, February 28, 2013

Notes from a Panel

I curated a panel at Skylight Books to discuss the publishing industry.  The panelists were Writer and Teacher Dana Johnson, Editor Dan Smetanka, Agent B.J. Robbins and Critic David Ulin. It was a great opportunity to provide our neighborhood writers a chance to get advice from experts on how to get published.  Here are some worthy comments:

1.  Consider book contests in trying to get published.
2.  Make sure query letters to agents are professional.  (Please have someone read it before it goes out.  A letter that says I wrote a "fictional novel" will not be taken seriously.)
3.  Don't think about getting a book published, think about having a career.
4.  Don't take rejections personally.  If a book gets rejected, it doesn't mean a book is bad. It just means the book is not right for that particular editor/agent.
5.  Look at the Acknowledgment Page of a book similar to yours to find an editor and agent. 
6.  Find a literary community.  Through this community, one gets an idea of where the agents/editors are.  (Indeed, I won a literary contest with a nice cash sum because another writer in my community told me about it.)
7.  Be aware and alert of what's going on in publishing.  Gone are the days when writers just wrote books and others publish and market them.  Writers are EXPECTED to work hard to get their books out there.
8.  The rejection experience doesn't have to be negative.  Some agents give feedback on how to make the project better.
9.  Beware of the internet and technology: It can be a distraction--facebooking is not writing.
10.  Know your genre.  If you want to debut your first novel, please be prepared to answer this question: Who were the five First Novels you read last year? 
11.  Blogging is over.  (I understand the irony as I write this blog).

Thursday, February 07, 2013


It's hard going to a memorial. I went to three recently.  One was for activist Tak Yamamoto did a lot for the gay and Asian community.  Another was for Dramaturg Jim Boyle who did some good workin LA Theatre and worked as a screenwriting professor at USC for many years.  They led full and interesting lives.

The hardest memorial was Justin, a bookseller I worked with at Skylight.  He was 35.  He died of alcoholism. 

Memorials or funerals are more for the living.  It helps with the grieving process.  We gathered and remembered him.  I didn't want to be caught babbling, so I wrote a poem