Posts Tagged ‘writers conference’

Join Me For a Writing Intensive Workshop in Santa Fe, New Mexico

November 25, 2016


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Award-winning novelist, poet, travel writer, editor, and teacher, Linda Watanabe McFerrin and literary agent, Andy Ross are conducting a 7-day writing workshop for fiction and creative non-fiction. The workshop will focus on craft and, where it’s appropriate, getting your project ready for publication. The workshop will run from September 8 – September 14, 2018.

Registration is now open. See details below. To register or get more information, email me at

Santa Fe, New Mexico is one of the world’s most magical cities. It lies at the foot of the majestic Sangre de Christo Mountains in the high desert of Northern New Mexico. It is the third oldest city in America, founded in 1607. The Palace of the Governors on the Plaza was built in 1610, making it the seventh oldest building in the United States. The city is a center for art, Native American crafts, and great food. It has over 300 galleries, extraordinary museums, and historic buildings reflecting New Mexico’s Spanish and Native American heritage. You can go horseback riding in the mountains or take a side trip to Taos and visit the famous pueblo. Santa Fe also has a distinguished literary tradition. The legendary Archbishop of Santa Fe Jean Baptiste Lamy inspired Willa Cather’s masterpiece, Death Comes for the Archbishop, and General Lew Wallace, who was governor of the territory, wrote his epic novel, Ben Hur, in his office on the Plaza. It’s also the site of some of Andy’s childhood literary and not-so-literary adventures.

The Workshop:

Mornings after breakfast you’ll attend workshops from 10 am to noon devoted to literary craft.  Be prepared to bring portions of your writing projects. We will discuss them in group and individually with Linda and Andy. Afternoons will consist of exploring your environment, sampling the local fare, and finding the best spots to linger and write.

Workshops will be directed by Linda and Andy.  We will conduct classes and workshops on:

  • Finding your literary voice
  • Creating irresistible characters and centers of interest
  • Creating spellbinding plots and strategies for structure
  • First pages
  • Best literary bells and whistles
  • Steps to getting published (or self-published)


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Linda Watanabe McFerrin

lindaLinda Watanabe McFerrin is an award-winning novelist, poet, travel writer and contributor to numerous newspapers, magazines and anthologies. She is the author of two poetry collections, past editor of a popular Northern California guidebook and a winner of the Katherine Anne Porter Prize for Fiction. In addition to authoring book-length fiction and an award-winning short story collection (The Hand of Buddha), she has co-edited twelve anthologies, including the Hot Flashes: sexy little stories & poems series. Her latest novel, Dead Love (Stone Bridge Press, 2009), was a Bram Stoker Award Finalist for Superior Achievement in a Novel.

Linda has judged the San Francisco Literary Awards, the Josephine Miles Award for Literary Excellence and the Kiriyama Prize, served as a visiting mentor for the Loft Mentor Series and been guest faculty at the Oklahoma Arts Institute. A past NEA Panelist and juror for the Marin Literary Arts Council and the founder of Left Coast Writers®, she has led workshops in Greece, France, Italy, England, Ireland, Central America, Indonesia, Spain, Japan and the United States and has mentored a long list of accomplished and celebrated writers and best-selling authors toward publication.

Andy Ross

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Andy Ross opened his literary agency in  2008.  Prior to that, he was the owner of the legendary Cody’s Books in Berkeley for 30 years. His agency represents books in a wide range of non-fiction genres including narrative non-fiction, science, journalism, history, popular culture, memoir, and current events. He also represents literary, commercial, historical, crime, upmarket women’s fiction, and YA fiction.

For non-fiction Andy looks for writing with a strong voice, robust story arc, and books that tell a big story about culture and society by authors with the authority to write about their subject.  In fiction, he likes stories about real people in the real world.

Andy is the author of The Literary Agent’s Guide to Writing a Non-Fiction Book Proposal. He has participated in writers’ conferences throughout the country and has taught classes about writing book proposals, composing query letters, working with agents, and getting published. His popular blog,  “Ask the Agent: Night Thoughts About Books and Publishing”, has received over 500,000 unique views.

Authors Andy represents include: Daniel Ellsberg, Linda Watanabe McFerrin, Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson, Anjanette Delgado, Elisa Kleven, Tawni Waters, Randall Platt, Mary Jo McConahay, Gerald Nachman,  Michael Parenti, Paul Krassner, Milton Viorst, and Michele Anna Jordan.

Andy is a member of the Association of Author Representatives (AAR).

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Price, Registration, and Details

The price for the workshop is $1800 per participant. This does not include the cost of housing. Participants will be responsible for their own housing in the Santa Fe area.You can find an inexpensive room on AirBnB or you can stay at the legendary and luxurious Bishop’s Lodge or anything in between. The price includes the full 7-day workshop, 7 breakfasts together at the house, 2 lunches, and 3 dinners in situ or at charming local restaurants. Air and Ground transportation is not included. Classes begin at 10 am, Saturday, September 8 and the last class will end at noon on Friday, September 14. We will be renting a lovely house for the workshops and communal activities, and there will be some space available for a few participants, but you must reserve this space in advance. Ask us about the price.

Deposit and Payment.

In order to reserve your place, we require a deposit of $500 due by April 1, 2018 along with registration. This is non-refundable unless the workshop is canceled for any reason. The balance of the payment is due by July 1, 2018.

Payment can be by Paypal or by personal check.

For more information, contact Andy Ross at





At the San Miguel de Allende Writers Conference

February 26, 2012

San Miguel de Allende

Last week I went down to the San Miguel de Allende Writers Conference. All I can say is: Wow!

After selling books my whole adult life, I still don’t understand this  one mystery: Why do writers write? I’m fascinated by all writers, from Pulitzer Prize winners to old geezers puttering around with  memoirs of their exploits at The Battle of the Bulge.  In particular  I’m puzzled and amazed at the minds of fiction writers. I can’t imagine   inventing stories. It’s hard enough to lie to Leslie about how I let  the gold fish die while she and Hayley  were visiting  Disneyland for the weekend.  Almost all the novelists I speak with say that the stories keep pouring out of their heads like water from a broken faucet. I think it must have something to do with the subconscious. When I try to understand it, the phrase that keeps coming into my mind is “touched by the muse”.  I don’t even believe in the muse. But I don’t know how else to explain it.

Fascinating and exciting though they may be, most writers conferences – how shall I say this? – aren’t easily monetized. Not to put too fine a point on it, I don’t usually come away with a lot of new clients. But I have to tell you. To paraphrase Mitt Romney, there was some severe talent down in San Miguel de Allende.  I asked  to read  a lot of manuscripts from the writers down there. And I know that some of them are going to end up on the front tables at Book Passage.

A lot of writers conferences have their primary  focus on how to get published. Pitching to the agents is always  the highlight of the conference.  Prior to the pitch sessions, participants go to workshops where they are instructed  with excruciating detail on the nuances of the  perfect pitch.  I would imagine it feels a little  like learning the rules of etiquette at the court of Louis the XIV.   I don’t believe in any of this. I tell the writers that I just want to have a conversation about what they are writing about. I like to think that a bad pitch won’t kill a good project and a good pitch won’t save a bad one.

San Miguel de Allende  was more about writing than learning how to get published and networking with agents.   The agents played a more subordinate role, which was all for the best.   There were only four agents there. We did have the usual agent panel where we tried to explain the ins and outs of getting published. Before the panel started, I introduced myself to the agent sitting to my right, Kathleen Anderson. She’s a very successful agent in New York. I decided to try to impress her by telling her that I sold a book earlier in the day. She responded that she did as well.  Hers was the collected unpublished writings of James Joyce.  Mine wasn’t.   So ended the conversation. It turns out that Kathleen was not your usual snooty New York agent though. We’ll get to that in a few minutes.

Speaking of James Joyce, I spent a lot of time talking to Susan Sutliff  Brown. Susan is a freelance editor – book doctor – ghost writer.  And a very good one too. She’s  also a retired James Joyce scholar. Susan told me entre nous (and I really shouldn’t be repeating this in a blog) that she loves reading junk fiction. I attended her fiction workshop where she attempted to explain  what Joyce, William Faulkner,  and  mystery writer James Lee Burke have in common.  More than you might imagine, according to Susan. She also brought up Scruples  by Judith Krantz. I was doodling on my legal pad, so I wasn’t paying attention at that moment.  Susan might have been saying that Krantz’s first novel had a lot in common with Thomas Mann’s Magic Mountain, but I might have heard it wrong.

I went to another fiction writing session conducted by C.M. Mayo, an award winning writer living in Mexico City. She talked a lot about first lines in literature. At the end of the class we all attempted to compose a great first line.  A lot of them sounded like bad imitations of Henry James.  I took a different approach. I wrote something about diarrhea at the art opening.  More  Charles Bukowski than Portrait of a Lady. And, like Bukowski, my genius was not understood or appreciated at the time.

I  was off and on engaged in a running conversation/argument with Rikki Ducornet  about  how writers write and how story tellers tell stories.  Rikki has written 8 novels and has won about a zillion literary awards. Right now she is writing a libretto to an opera based on The Gilgamesh Epic. I can’t exactly remember what  we talked about but I do recall  bringing up Nietzsche’s notion of the union of the spirit of Apollo and Dionysus in Greek tragedy. It was as if I was back in my sophomore year at Brandeis.

The highlight of the entire conference  was an over-top-fiesta that conference director Susan Page put on in a huge 18th Century mansion. There was a phalanx of mariachi players. A few of them looked suspiciously like retired Jews from New York. Whatever.  My favorite thing  there was a real burro wearing a straw hat with plastic flowers.

La Cucaracha Bar

At the Fiesta, Kathleen Anderson, Kristen Iversen, Christine Wettlaufer, and I decided it was time to act like real writers and head for the bars. Christine had spent some time in San Miguel de Allende and insisted that we go to La Cucaracha, a bar with certain literary pretensions. It is said that Neal Cassady had his fatal accident on the train tracks outside of town after getting drunk at La Cucaracha. Legend has it that the bar has one of the 10 skankiest ladies’ rooms in the world. We ordered some margaritas there, and looked around at the clientele. Some of them  seemed like they might be over the hill “D” rated  Hollywood actors. There were a lot of TVs around the room. But instead of showing football, they had looping videos of go-go dancers in g-strings.

We decided it was time to move on, so we left and walked along the cobblestone streets to the plaza and found another bar, a little less, how shall we say, picturesque.  This time I ordered  the  true beverage of great writers — a scotch on the rocks. The waitress couldn’t speak English and none of us could really explain what we wanted in Spanish. Finally  I asked for Scotch con helado, which I later  discovered to my dismay meant “scotch and ice cream”.

Kristen Iversen is the director of the MFA program for writing at the University of Memphis. She was one of the keynote speakers at the conference. She was also once the student of Rikki Ducornet. Kristen’s forthcoming book is called Full Body Burden: Growing Up in the Nuclear Shadow of Rocky Flats. 22 publishers bid on it at auction. It’s being published by Crown Books this summer.   Of course, all of us wanted to know how much money Kristen got, but we were too embarrassed to ask. When Kristen went to the bathroom, though, we talked about it a lot. Christine is Kristen’s star student and probably knows how big the advance was, but she wouldn’t tell us except to say that Kristen probably doesn’t have to teach any more. Christine has written a memoir about her 24 years in the military. She’s good and I told her I wanted to represent her, but the book is a finalist for the Bakeless Award. If it wins, it automatically gets published by Graywolf  Press. So there isn’t much help I can give her.  Of course if it loses……

We all went bar hopping again on Saturday night along with some other authors whom I think I would like to sign up as well. We went to Harry’s Bar. It was “Bikini Night”. Anyone coming to the bar in a bikini got in free. They had a 12 foot high bare breasted papier-mâché female figure at the entrance. Somewhere in Kristen’s camera is a picture of me fondling it. She tells me the picture may have gotten lost. I hope she’s right.

I loved that writers conference. It was a lot of fun. I made some good friends. I got to hang out with writers. Life doesn’t get much better than that.

Laura Davis Talks About the New World of Publishing

April 23, 2011

 Today, I am going to interview Laura Davis, author of THE COURAGE TO HEAL and BECOMING THE PARENT YOU WANT TO BE. Laura and her colleague, Janet Goldstein, New York City publishing strategist and former editorial executive at Viking Penguin, Broadway Books and HarperCollins, have organized a two-day event called THE NEW WORLD OF PUBLISHING which will be held in Santa Cruz the weekend of May 22nd-23rd. I want to talk to Laura about this seminar and also about the value of writers’ conferences in general. I’m inspired to do this because I just got back from the Las Vegas Writers Conference.  It was really a revelation to me. Here I was in the absolute armpit of low culture and there is this amazing community of writers, passionate about their art and their craft. It really reminded me about how courageous writers really are.

Andy: Laura, let’s start by talking about THE NEW WORLD OF PUBLISHING.  Can you tell us a little bit about it?

Laura: I’m an independent writing teacher. And a lot of my students were getting to the point where they were ready to consider moving from personal writing—just for themselves—toward publishing—writing with an audience in mind. I could help them find their voice and develop craft and a story, but I realized that my knowledge of the rapid changes in the publishing industry was limited and out of date. So I called up Janet, who was the editor on my first six books, and asked her to fly out to California to do a half-day seminar on the changes in publishing. We did that last spring and it was so successful, and participants were so hungry for more, that we decided to do it again—this time offering a much more in-depth, hands-on environment where individual writers could really make progress applying new insights to their books, projects, and publishing steps.

Andy: It seems like writers’ conferences are cropping up all over the place? What do you have to offer that is different?

Laura: Our concept for this event has been to find that “in between place” between a writing retreat that is focused on creating work and a writers’ conference that is focused on panels and “pitching.” The larger conference environment can be incredibly exciting and stimulating, but it can be difficult to apply the insights gained to one’s individual work.  We wanted to design a conference that isn’t just oriented toward the “indie-only” route or that promises that you can write a book in a weekend. It’s our belief that authors who truly understand the writing-to-publishing continuum and the mindset of successful publishing–such as craft, collaboration, audience–can strengthen their work and make it more valuable and open the door to publishing success.

Andy: It is kind of a cliché that you can’t really teach people how to write. You wouldn’t know that from all the workshops and magazines and blogs about writing tips. What do you think you can teach? What is beyond your grasp?

Laura: I can teach people how to carve away everything they’ve been taught about writing so they can discover their true voice and unearth their real material. I help people find the courage they need to write the pieces that are hardest to write—the kind where tears flow out with the ink. I teach my writers to cherish the shitty first draft; without it there would be no heart or soul to their work. I also teach them that dozens of drafts are required to create something polished and worthy of publication. I encourage my writers to begin thinking about communication and audience long before they think they’re ready to publish. That’s why I love writing circles—they create a built in “safe audience” that enables a writer to see the impact her words are having on others. In that confidential, encouraging setting, writers hone their craft and gain the confidence to share their work more widely. I see THE NEW WORLD OF PUBLISHING as a next step, where writers can workshop their ideas in the larger world—and begin to understand the range of publishing options that are open to them.

Andy: It seems to me that it is pretty easy getting your book published now, but not so easy getting anyone to notice it. At least traditional commercial publishing had (and has) a pretty robust filtering system that can separate wheat from chaff. Undoubtedly there is great work in the self-publishing world, but also an ocean of mediocrity. How can we make sure that the cream will rise to the top?

Laura: The cream doesn’t always rise to the top. Plenty of crap makes its way to the bestseller lists. And as you point out, millions of books get published each year that don’t find an audience. As Janet and many others say, it definitely seems like more people want to publish books than read them. Marketing guru Seth Godin says, “No one owes you their time,” and I agree. Writers need to accurately assess the quality and value of their work. Does their work truly merit an audience? And if so, who is the right audience and what’s the right platform for their book?

The dynamic of selection has changed. That’s a given. But writers and readers are still served by strong work that connects, resonates, helps, and inspires, depending on its purpose. What we want to do at our conference is help people make the leap from thinking like a writer to thinking like a author—someone who first of all, has to write a compelling book, and secondly, needs to find and connect with an audience that will care.

Andy: When I speak to authors, I like to tell them that they shouldn’t get discouraged if they can’t get a publishing contract. After all realistically, most writers can’t. But I still believe failure to find a publisher doesn’t diminish the value of writing. I like to quote the great final line from Camus’ MYTH OF SISYPHUS. “The struggle itself is enough to fill a man’s heart.” It seems like the premise behind THE NEW WORLD OF PUBLISHING is that becoming a published writer is a different kind of writing and offers qualitatively different challenges and opportunities. Tell us some more about this.

Laura: Personal writing—primarily for yourself—has tremendous value. Writing helps us process grief, make life decisions, understand ourselves, and record life stories for ourselves and for our families. Writing is an incredibly evocative, therapeutic, expressive tool. And if that’s as far as someone want to go with her writing—I’m cool with that. But for me personally, and for many of my students, a great wonderful leap happens when you start writing for an audience. It’s no longer just about self-expression; it’s about communication. There’s a two-way dialogue that happens between the author and her readers—and that’s a connection and a commitment that I find absolutely compelling. I’m a better writer because I’ve been published. When I have to make the story work for the reader, the story improves. No doubt about it.

Andy: Laura, let’s talk about you for a minute. You were a writer long before you became a published author. What changed when you became an author?

Laura: I feel an incredible responsibility to my readers. My first book, THE COURAGE TO HEAL, which I wrote with the poet Ellen Bass, was about an intensely personal experience for both me and my readers—having been sexually abused as a child. People didn’t read THE COURAGE TO HEAL for entertainment; they held it as a talisman, they slept with it under their pillow, they read one page or one paragraph at a time and then had to put it away until they could bear to read more. One woman barbequed her first copy because she was so enraged at everything the book was bringing up. When you touch people’s lives at such an intimate level, when you hold their lives and their trust in the palm of your hand, it creates an incredible covenant. Twenty-two years after THE COURAGE TO HEAL was first published, I still feel bound and helped by that covenant.  And that experience is at the heart of what I want to share with my students and the people who come to our conference. Words can change lives—not just yours—but the lives of your readers as well.