Tag Archives: books

Confessions of a Conference Junkie

A few months ago I attended a writers conference in San Francisco. Prior to my leaving, I did some research on how to prepare. With workshops and speakers scheduled from early morning to well into the night, I figured a little planning would go a long way . . .

Most of the advice was commonsensical: prepare a schedule so that you know exactly where to go when; be friendly and open to meeting new people; wear comfortable shoes. But then I stumbled over one suggestion that made me sit up and take notice. It said, “Stand out. Agents and editors will be meeting hundreds of writers over the course of a few days, so make yourself memorable – put on a flowery hat or wear a bright purple jacket or carry a statement bag . . .”

Wow, what great advice! Every woman there would be in a uniform of black pants and white blouse or some variation on that look. What could I do to make my outfit special? Hat? No. Crazy color jacket? Don’t think so. Statement bag? Absolutely! The next day I ran to TJ Maxx and purchased a leather tote in candy-apple red. I imagined people admiring my chic accessory and later recalling my stylish fashion statement.

“I was the one carrying the bright red bag, remember?” I would say.

As soon as I got to the hotel, I unpacked my suitcase, freshened up, and transferred my materials into the new red tote. With my “statement piece” slung over my shoulder, I headed downstairs for the opening session. As I got off the elevator, somebody tapped my shoulder and asked if I knew where the ballroom was. I turned, and to my surprise, there was a woman with a tote bag almost identical to mine. I laughed and said, “Follow me. And by the way, great bag!”

Imagine that, two of us walking into the room looking like we’d just gone shopping together. I found an open chair, sat down, and put my bag in front of my feet . . . right next to another red tote. What was going on here? I glanced around. Three more women carrying red bags (one was a beautiful raspberry color, even prettier than mine!) entered the room. There were so many red bags it looked like a red-bag-convention! I thought about tagging mine so I wouldn’t pick up somebody else’s by mistake. So much for a statement piece when everyone else was making the same statement.

I crossed my arms, sat back, and focused on the welcome presentation. I forgot all about my disappointing red bag and absorbed every drop of wisdom the speaker had to offer. During the Q and A, I raised my hand. The speaker pointed to me, and I began my question. But then she said: “No, no back there. The one in the flowered hat.”

Next time I’m wearing my mini-mouse ears.

Should I Stay or Should I go?

I’ve gone in and out of several writing groups over the years. For the most part, I’ve gotten at least something out of each one — encouragement, sympathy, advice . . . and oh yeah, homegrown vegetables – writers have all kinds of interesting hobbies! For many of us, however, there comes a time when a critique group fails to serve its purpose.  Here are FOUR situations that indicate it might be time for you to move on.

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In Defense of Prejudice

And what’s that got to do with writing anyway?

One of my writing colleagues recently published an article about prejudice against beauty. What? Who doesn’t like beauty? We all enjoy seeing beautiful things, places, faces. But what we don’t usually consider is how that pretty face makes us feel. Envious? Intimidated? Intrigued? Superior? Before that gorgeous gal utters a single word, have we judged her based on appearance?

Drawing conclusions, positive or negative, and making assumptions about people according to how they look is human nature. If I see a good looking guy driving a fancy-schmancy car, I think he’s rich. But he could be the chauffeur, the son of a rich guy, the boy-toy of an heiress, a car thief . . . who knows? From a young age, we are taught not to judge a book by its cover (or a man by his car), but we can’t help it.

From Science Daily: “Contrary to what most people believe, the tendency to be prejudiced is a form of common sense, hard-wired into the human brain through evolution as an adaptive response to protect our prehistoric ancestors from danger.” Okay then, it’s all about survival. While we’ve come a long way since the caveman days, we cannot ignore our instinct to be wary of those who might harm us, thwart our plans, or get in our way. Stereotypes help us make sense of the world, and we want to be able to look at people and think we know what they’re about.

So what do stereotypes have to do with writing? For starters, it’s one way writers create surprises, twists, and tension. We take preconceived notions and turn them on their heads. The drunk, depressed girl with no life becomes the one who solves the mystery (The Girl on the Train); the nerdy newspaper reporter turns out to be the super-hero (Superman); the ambulance chasing, low-life lawyer is at his core a noble advocate for the truth (The Night Of); the outcast, scrawny dog/wolf steps up to be the leader of the pack (Balto).

As writers, we often give a protagonist prejudices as a way of showing character arc and creating tension. The protagonist must evolve, have a change of heart, or experience a revelation in her quest for whatever it is she desires. And it’s the “will she or won’t she” question that keeps the reader in suspense.

So the next time you draw a conclusion based on nothing more than appearance, don’t feel bad. It’s your inner caveman at work. Just know, you might be wrong . . .  then again, you might be right.

Read Mark Fine’s insightful article here: http://www.thefinemaxim.com/are-searchyou-prejudiced-against-beauty/

Would love to know what you think . . . And please follow my blog by entering your email in the box on the main page. Thanks!

My Literary Agent Soulmate

Unknown-4There’s no magic . . .
I’m in the midst of querying literary agents. It’s hard work, painstaking actually.
To do it right, authors spend countless hours researching, investigating, and tracking. Landing an agent can take months. Or longer . . . Continue reading

GIVING – A Holiday Tradition

In the spirit of giving during the holiday season, 100 percent of my royalties from The Long Dance Home will be donated to The Mar Vista Gardens Steppers, a non-profit dance program located in a public housing development in Los Angeles. In addition to dance instruction, Steppers provides at risk children and teens with the inspiration, mentoring, and support they need to help break the family cycle of poverty.

Every royalty penny I earn during December will go to this wonderful program. Please help me support The MVG Steppers and the Boys and Girls Clubs of Santa Monica.

Soft Lips JulieAbout the book: The Long Dance Home is a sweet, funny, romantic holiday story. Cece Camden, a cautious, organized planner, has her life all figured out. That is until she doesn’t. At the time of her twenty-ninth birthday, nothing goes according to plan, and the disciplined, level-headed, former ballerina is thrown into turmoil. With financial woes and boyfriend trouble, Cece makes an impulsive decision that sets into motion the unraveling of her meticulous life plan. Set in a small town at Christmastime, The Long Dance Home is about choices that alter life’s path and dreams that come true when they are least expected.

By the way, I love bookclubs, and it’s great fun to Skype with groups who have read the book. Let me know if your bookclub is interested! If you would like a signed copy for yourself or for gifting, please email me at juliemayersonbrown@gmail.com.

Thank you so much for helping me support The Mar Vista Gardens Steppers, and I hope you enjoy reading  The Long Dance Home. 

Available on Kindle for $2.99 and in hardcopy wherever books are sold. http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00ET55U0M

Where have all the Readers Gone?

We hear endless reports about the drought in California, the potential extinction of the Northern White Rhino, and the disappearing rain forests. But does anyone care about a certain type of human being whose numbers are dwindling at such a rate they should be added to the endangered species list? 19650368_ad5e5c496e_oThis creature is disappearing faster than pay-phones and pop-tarts (for anyone who has never heard of a pop-tart, it is a toaster pastry that is delicious but not particularly healthful that we ate in the car on the way to school when I was a kid). What kind of human is this, you may ask?
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Favorite Books

Whenever I speak to a book club or at an event, somebody usually asks me about my favorite books and authors. Here are a few:

First book that comes to mind is The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Luis Zafon. I almost never read a book more than once, because there are so many great books to read. This one – three times!

Anything by Philippa Gregory – I love historical fiction and the British Royals. Gregory does it like nobody else.

The Girl with Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevalier – her words flow like beautiful music.

Sara’s Key and The Book Thief – both captivating stories written for YA but crossed over into the adult market because they are compelling and well-written.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night – I just loved this book.

 

When I was a kid:

Nancy Drew – could not get enough of those great mysteries!

One of my favorite series was Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House books. And I LOVED the TV series with Michael Landon and Melissa Gilbert based on Wilder’s life.

The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis. I’ve never stopped dreaming about secret doors in the backs of closets . . .