When I was in elementary school, I was constantly reading books and I thought I wanted to be a teacher when I grew up – imagining I would teach kids in the grade I had just completed. When I finally started teaching it wasn’t elementary school after all, but aerobics classes while I was attending UC Berkeley, where I was studying abnormal and cognitive psychology. My constantly evolving career goal at that point was to be a therapist, but as it turned out I became a journalist instead, which actually takes some of the same skills. After attending graduate school at Northwestern University, working many years as an investigative reporter, attending writing workshops and conferences, I quit a full-time job to follow my dream of becoming a full-time author. And now, as part of a portfolio career, which is necessary for many of us mid-list authors in today’s publishing world career, I also work as a writing teacher and coach of aspiring authors.
The Beach House Writing Salon grew out of all of my years of experience, learning as much as I could about the publishing world along the way, by attending many classes and conferences about investigative journalism and creative writing. I listened and learned from the pros, felt inspired by their words, their stories and their advice, and it helped me get to where I am today, a New York Times bestselling author of 10 books. Those books are mostly non-fiction and focus primarily on murder cases. I also have one mystery novel, NAKED ADDICTION, published recently by WildBlue Press. My latest is I’LL TAKE CARE OF YOU, and my next true crime is THEN NO ONE CAN HAVE HER, which comes out in late October.
I put on the first salon in San Diego in October 2014 and got such great feedback from participants, I started organizing the second one, which went off with a bang this past weekend. We split the day between the craft and business of writing books, with one-on-one critiques throughout the day. We gave four workshops, three on the craft of writing – character, the writer’s voice and narrative structure – and also one workshop on the importance of author branding and promotion. And finally we had an interactive panel discussion on the current and future state of publishing, followed by a cocktail party and book signing with live music featuring Breaking the Code.
I limit attendance to keep the salon a special event, which makes it a unique, intimate and quite intense experience for authors and aspiring authors alike (that’s called alliteration). Hopefully you can see what I mean from these photos, and also from the unsolicited testimonials that participants shared with me and on the Facebook Event page for the salon:
“This was an awesome event. It was a very good experience for aspiring writers.”
“A really wonderful conference, very inspiring and full of incredible people. Thank you all!”
“Wonderful day with authors and aspiring authors!”
“I learned many helpful things, left the salon feeling so inspired and ready to take charge, and, most importantly, met some seriously awesome people!”
“Thank you too to Geza Keller and Breaking the Code for providing us with great music during the after party!”
“I had a great time and met wonderful people. I think there will be new books coming out of this group and that’s great.”
Steve Jackson, one of the partners at WildBlue, flew out from Colorado to be on the author faculty at BHWS I and II, where he and other speakers, including WildBlue author Ron Franscell, have regaled attendees with their years of experience and advice. This makes for a great time for the attendees and for the authors as well, because it gives us a chance to share what we’ve learned from all our mistakes, rejections, successes and accomplishments along this path to publishing.
The salons are about building a community and giving back, helping other writers, enjoying a few laughs over adult beverages, and also for me, a chance to try out my new creative endeavor—singing—during the live music and cocktail party portion of the event. I’ll write up a separate blog post to go in more detail about going from author to singer, but for now I just wanted to share some of the highlights of the salon with WildBlue readers.
Steve and I are already talking about doing more of these salons, featuring WildBlue authors, in other parts of the country. We hope to see you there!