Sunday, March 31, 2019

Brain to Bookshelf Conference

This past weekend I attended the Maryland Writers’ Association’s conference from Brain to Bookshelf 2019. It was wonderful with good resources, a variety of speakers and a bookstore featuring Maryland writers.

I primarily became interested in the conference when I learned that Chuck Sambuchino would be one of the keynote speakers. I always enjoyed his columns in Writer’s Digest and knew he would have much to share. I wasn’t disappointed.

I didn’t think I would be able to sit through a four-hour intensive session on agents, submissions, queries and first pages, but I did. Others had expressed worry about sitting for so long but I didn’t see any one leave. Also, Sambuchino's other speeches and panels were popular.

Crystal Wilkinson, the other keynote speaker, who spoke on The Thin Line: Writing Memorable Characters.  Unfortunately I wasn’t able to attend her special session on writing poetry, but hope to be able to hear her again and enjoy her writing in the meantime.

My favorite workshop was “Creating a Reputation as a Local History or Niche Writer” with  James Rada. Besides being interested in writing local history, this workshop appealed to me because I worked with James Rada on the staff of the Cumberland Times-News. I had enjoyed his columns then and later read some of his books. Again, I was not disappointed. He gave an interesting presentation and was willing to discuss ideas and answer questions later in the day.

I really enjoyed “Reverse Engineering the Cozy Mystery” with Lane Stone, as she had us work with her to build a cozy mystery. Other workshops, including “Write Outside the Box and Stay Within the Room” with Linda Rondeau.

I didn’t schedule to meet with an agent since I felt it was too early in my current writing project to share it. Quite a few new books came home with me. Some of my books sold also and I left pleased with new writing friends as well as lots of inspiration and motivation.

I came home with books from some of the writers I met and information about others I hope to purchase in the future. Still processing information I learned, I am looking forward to 2020's conference to hear Jane Friedman speak. She is an award-winning blogger on all aspects of writing and publishing who will speak at the 2020 conference.

You can learn more about Maryland Writers’ Association at The nonprofit, voluntary organization is dedicated to the art, craft and business of writing.

Monday, March 11, 2019

Author Jamie Ford Speaks

After spending the first two months of 2019 reading, I am back to writing my blog and hope you enjoy it.

I recently heard author Jamie Ford speak to a sold-out audience about his award-winning book Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet. We each received a copy of the Special Edition 10th Anniversary Edition, which included a new short story, “Only Keiko,” an interview, a map of 1940s Seattle and an excerpt of his newest novel, Love and Other Consolation Prizes.

Ford is a New York Times Bestseller. He also has been awarded best "Adult Fiction" book at the 2010 Asian/Pacific American Awards for Literature. The book was also named the #1 Book Club Pick for Fall 2009/Winter 2010 by the American Booksellers Association.

The book continued to sell over the years and began to be included on school summer reading lists. The father of several teens, Ford found it humorous when he realized he had become homework.

It was as a teenager that he realized he wanted to write love stories after watching the movie “James at 15.” Love and history were his main interests.

Ford participated in writing sessions with Orson Scott Card, author of Ender’s Game and Speaker for the Dead.  Card recommended his students buy three out-of-print books at yard sales. Read them to look for errors and other things that seem wrong and may have led to the book being out of print, Card said. 

“Be true to reality,” he told us as he mentioned his characters, setting and story. This effort may help you realize when something is not right with your writing. It will help you be more aware of various errors and pitfalls. 

When he writes, Ford makes a timeline of what was happening during the time of his story, such as news events, music, cars, fashion, and songs. 

A question and answer period followed his talk. I found it interesting that the Panama Hotel (mentioned in the story) is still there. You can look down a glass panel in the floor and see the suitcases and other items stored there by the Japanese before they were taken to internment camps.

I had learned about these camps but had given little thought to the effects the Pearl Harbor attack had on the lives of Japanese and Chinese people in this country. Ford captures the confusion and fear in this story of two young people in Seattle in the 1940s and then one in the 1980s.

His novel Love and Other Consolation Prizes was supposedly inspired by a true story of a twelve-year-old boy raffled off as a prize at the 1909 Seattle World Fair. Like Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, it offers interesting characters, historical details, and insights about morality, race, and culture, as does his novel Songs of Willow Frost.

I now have some more books to add to my “To Read” list. You can learn more about Ford’s books at