Friday, June 28, 2013

Ann Marie Meyers: Up in the Air

I'm going to take a little break from the wrap-up posts about the Historical Novels Conference this last weekend in St. Petersburg to host an old buddy.

Ann Marie is someone I remember fondly from the old days at the San Francisco Writers Workshop. We both attended religiously about six or seven years ago. Now she has a children's book out called Up In the Air. Isn't that a gorgeous cover?

I'm very happy to host her today with a little Q&A about the process of writing this book and her career in general.

1)                What inspires you to write

I get my inspiration from just about anything. Something I read, or overhear; a thought that flashes through my mind, the look on someone’s face; my dreams, especially my dreams. Sometimes I just let my mind go blank and write down the very first thing I think of and then see where that takes me. My very first book was written this way.

2)                What about Up In The Air. Which form of inspiration did that take?

Surprisingly, neither of the above. The idea came to me while I was meditating one day. That was the first and, as of now, the last time such a thing has happened to me.

Ann Marie Meyers

3)                Did you always want to write?

No. Definitely not. I have always enjoyed reading. I devoured hundreds of books when I was young, and I loved writing essays in school and letting my imagination fly. Then, one day, (in my late teens actually) to my utter shock, I started a journal and the very first words I wrote were: “I want to be a writer”. I have no idea where that thought came from, though I didn’t actually start to write until much later, and even then I didn’t embrace the idea at first. I resisted.

Some of the famous authors I studied in school (eg: James Joyce and D. H. Lawrence) were so unhappy I wanted no part of it. I wanted to be happy, unfettered by depression (idealistic but true).  Eventually though, over time, I learned to accept the fact that I wanted, even needed, to write and create stories.

4)                And children’s books? How did you get involved in that?

Quite by chance actually. I remember seeing advertisements appealing to people to write children’s books, but I never paid any attention to them. After my daughter was born, I began having thoughts about what she might like to read but it wasn’t until she was about 3 years old that I actually wrote my first children’s book, Up In The Air.

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Tuesday, June 25, 2013

HNS 2013: the witchcraft panel

From left: me, Kathleen, Mary, Suzy, before the panel

Just got back from the Historical Novels Society conference (held this year in St. Petersburg, Florida), and just can't stop thinking about how much fun it was. Surrounded by people who get what I'm fascinated by, who are kind and supportive and part of a great community of writers and readers (and editors/agents too!)...people who don't mind shaking a little booty  to the DJ in the bar after hours...ha!

I'll be doing many wrap-up posts, but this one is about the witchcraft panel I participated in with three wonderful, wonderful women: Kathleen Kent, Mary Sharratt and Suzy Witten.

Since we all live in different areas of the country, we decided to meet at the conference to plan our panel the day before the presentation.We'd previously agreed on the tenor of the discussion and even come up with a few questions to talk about, but we wanted to chat and plan further. Kathleen was a champ: her flight had been delayed, so she showed up to our get-together fresh off the hotel shuttle!

Immediately we began to see that this was a lovely meeting of the minds, that we'd have no trouble talking about this topic to fill our allotted time. We then continued on to dinner together and continued discussion there.

From left: Suzy, Mary, me, Kathleen
The next day, our panel went really well. We had some great audience questions and acquitted ourselves well, I think. :)  We raffled off copies of our books, and that's the paper bag you see in front of me on the table (no, it wasn't Thunderbird!)

I've got nothing but warm fuzzies for these ladies. I'm hopeful we'll all meet again at HNS 2015 if not earlier!

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Thursday, June 13, 2013

Literary (and in no way despicable) Me

After a long hiatus of experiencing no literary events, I just went through a few weeks of very happy creative activity with other writers. The first was attending Summerwords, a creative writing colloquium at American River College in Sacramento. I was there at the invitation of Michael Spurgeon, organizer and faculty member there, who released his first novel during the conference. Although Michael and I never met before six months ago, we attended the same very small liberal arts college in Maine, Colby College, attended the same MFA program in Tucson, Arizona, and both wound up in the greater Sacramento area. Coincidences too great to be ignored! Facebook brought us together and we had coffee and compared notes on our shared, but not shared, experiences.

Here's a photo of Michael and his friend, fellow author Christian Kiefer, chatting during an audience Q&A following their joint reading at Summerwords. The goody bags had both their novels in it. Score!

Christian, on the left, is the author of The Infinite Tides, which looks like a great read. I'm in the middle of Michael's book Let The Water Hold Me Down now, which is wonderful. Photo courtesy of Bethanie Humphreys.

Next I need to talk about T.C.Boyle, who read a short story and did audience Q&A. Oh, this man. His source of charm must be located and destroyed. He must have kissed the Blarney Stone, located in the parapet of a castle in County Cork, Ireland, which confers wit, charm and eloquence upon the kisser. Although it appears clear he didn't just kiss it, but made out with it. I posit that T.C. Boyle frenched the Blarney Stone.

I was there as a presenter, and did a workshop on how to research and outline a novel. People seemed receptive and afterwards a young woman came up and said something so sweet I had to hug her. Then I went to the main hall and did a reading from The Witch's Trinity and signed books. The energy at Summerwords was honestly so upbeat and happy...I just loved the whole weekend. Bravo to the organizers!

That's me reading from Witch's Trinity, above. One final picture from the weekend...I mentioned above that Michael and I attended Colby College. Well, another person was there from Colby too: literary agent Eleanor Jackson. She represents Christian Kiefer and a slew of other wonderful authors. It's truly a small world! And Colby's English Department rocks. From left: Michael Spurgeon, Eleanor Jackson, and me.

All right, on to my next literary adventure. Last week, my friend Susan Spann (her first novel Claws of the Cat launches next month. Two words: ninja hero. Need I say more?) headed to a reading for Karen Joy Fowler's latest book. She gave a great reading and I'm dying to start her book! Especially since there's apparently a big plot spoiler event early on in the novel. She had us raise our hands to say if we knew already so she could talk about it. She gave a very generous Q&A and signed books.

This was her at the Barnes & Noble in Citrus Heights, CA. Many audience members had been part of her writers group many years ago, so it was neat to hear the familiar back and forth.

My next literary adventure is in a few weeks. I'm off to the Historical Novels Society conference in St. Petersburg, Florida. I'll be on a panel called "The Witchcraft Window: Scrying the Past." I have to admit I shamelessly stole the idea from a previous panel put together by someone else (I'd love to know who! Ann Kent?) at Book Group Expo in San Jose way back in 2008. Here's a "historic" picture of us then:

From left, moderator Michelle Gagnon, me (how I miss those boots), Kathleen Kent, and Brunonia Barry. Photo courtesy of Secret Sushi, Flickr.

From this crowd, only Kathleen and I will be in St. Petersburgh, with added ranks of Mary Sharratt and Suzy Witten. Excited to see all three of these wonderful women again, as well as others I met at HNS 2011 in San Diego.

Writing is such a solitary activity--when we can get together, talk craft, laugh, have a glass of wine and listen to sex scenes...oh wait. I forgot (literally! I was just about to wrap up this post). I'm going to be reading a sex scene from Woman of Ill Fame at HNS too. Moderated by the supreme Diana Gabaldon, this event is a Saturday night standard at the conference.  I'm going to gulp some courage and read a scene. Wish me luck.

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