AshEdit—News About Books & Writers

August 21, 2015

MFA or not to MFA by Josh Stallings—Part 6

Filed under: Uncategorized — ashedit @ 6:05 am

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To help support his family he did many things, among them selling bootleg hooch to sailers on the Long Beach Pike. For a
lark he took the L.A. sheriff department’s entrance exam. He passed it and became a life long cop. When he was promoted to Chief of Corrections the brass discovered that although he had two honorary degrees from USC, he never graduated from high-school. There was a rapid scramble to get him a GED diploma. The man was well educated, he just didn’t go to school.

A fellow writer once referred to me and Pearce Hansen as street writers. I was proud to be associated with Hansen, but didn’t see the link. It took a while to understand street writer was code for ‘he ain’t gots no higher edumacation.’ That what I knew, I learned in the street. True, sort of. I learned some things in the street (back of a Firebird or a bowling alley bar more like it), but I also learned a lot in public libraries and cigarette and caffeine fueled conversations with writers and readers. Dyslexia and a deep-seated mistrust of authority made me a lousy fit for academia. But I have no room for or truck with ignorance, so I educated myself. I have studied everything from Shakespeare to old west dime novels. From Dylan Thomasrsz_street_cred to James Crumley. I also have my rich and troubled life to pull from. Socrates said the unexamined life is not worth living – conversely the life un-lived is not worth examining. If all of one’s knowledge comes from reading and lectures, your work can not help but be referential. This isn’t ‘only write what you know’ crap, if you want to write about something go out and get your hands dirty, live it, tell Google to fuck off and spend a night interviewing Ensenada pimps. Good fiction is making shit up while getting the essential truths right. Our job as writers is to tell our truth fearlessly. Only by doing this can we find our voice and reach into reader’s hearts.

Here is a short list of my fellow autodidact writers – William Blake, Agatha Christie, William Faulkner, Harlan Ellison, Howard Phillips Lovecraft, Terry Pratchett, Ernest Hemingway, Louis L’Amour, Ray Bradbury, Alan Moore, Tad Williams and, wait for it, William Shakespeare. Not bad. So from now on instead of street writer, how about you call me one badass autodidact motherfucker. ###

More on JOSH STALLINGS & HIS BOOKS

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August 6, 2015

SAM WIEBE Sounds Off on the MA DEGREE — Part 5 MFA series

Filed under: Uncategorized — ashedit @ 4:45 am

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Sam coverLINK TO READ SAMPLE

SAM WIEBE: I basically dropped out of school after my second year and worked a bunch of blue collar jobs, driving a forklift, stocking shelves at a liquor store, etc. I was without purpose. I enrolled at the local university-college because I remembered enjoying literature. I took a third-year Shakespeare course with a teacher named Neil Kennedy, and I was back in 100%. I went through and then into the MA program at Simon Fraser University, and finished in four semesters. I’ve been teaching ever since.

Lisa singleLISA: So tell me what your MA experience was like in Canada.

 

 

Sam Wiebe equalizeSAM:College in Canada is neither cheap nor guaranteed–it’s cheaper than the States, for sure, but still very expensive. I worked two jobs through most of my education, and I graduated with quite a bit of student debt.

On one hand I wish finances hadn’t played as much of a part in my education–I think schools are geared toward professional students, students who come straight out of high school, with families who have been to university, and who are supported financially. It’s a very grades-obsessed, career-obsessed view of education, and I struggled with that at times.

On the other hand, I’m happy with the circuitous path I took. A certain amount of struggle is good. Because of that, I don’t take my teaching responsibilities lightly.

 

Lisa singleWhat’s your opinion on your MA degree? Do you think it helped your career?

 

 

Sam Wiebe equalizeI don’t know that having an MA gives you a benefit to being a writer. But it doesn’t hurt. If you like working with books, and with students, then there are worse ways to go through this vale of tears.

My experience with writing courses has been pretty mixed. I took an excellent undergraduate screenwriting course, where they actually produced, acted and shot our scripts. That was very helpful. It never really occurred to me to take an MFA, because I didn’t have the money, and I didn’t see anyone writing the kind of stuff I wanted to.

Simon Fraser University now has a program called The Writer’s Studio, which is very hands-on and publishing-oriented. It’s run by some great Vancouver writers. E.R. Brown (Almost Criminal) and Janie Chang (Three Souls) have both come through that program, and they’re terrific writers. If I was starting out now, I’d definitely try to get into a program like that.

 

Lisa singleWhat kind of book-learning took place in your MA program?

 

 

Sam Wiebe equalizeMy MA was in English literature, so I did a lot of American, English Renaissance and Restoration lit, and critical theory. My MA paper was on Orson Welles’s adaptation of Shakespeare’s Henry IV plays, Chimes at Midnight.

 

 

 

Lisa single How did the teaching path come about out of your MA experience?

 

 

Sam Wiebe equalize

 

I started out with the idea of doing technical writing. Once I started TAing–working as a teaching assistant–I found that I really enjoyed it and was pretty good at it.

Yeah, I teach for a living.

Making the time to write is tough regardless of the job. I fit writing around work, but I did that during grad school, too. It’s a priority.

 

Lisa singleElaine Ash said in a review that if you keep writing at the quality of your first book that you could become known as one of the best crime writers ever to come out of Canada. Are you making a career as a novelist your ultimate goal? Is it novel writing or bust?

 

 

Sam Wiebe equalizeThat’s a great compliment. I try to think more in terms of telling the right stories than financial success–trying to “predict the market” and all that bullshit, or defining your artistic worth by your income, seem like sure ways to madness.

My goal is really to tell the stories I want, and get them out to people without compromising what makes them the stories I want to tell.

Career-wise, I don’t want to be owned–by a student loan, a giant mortgage, a boss, etc. If I can accomplish that as a writer, terrific. In the meantime I teach, and I enjoy that. Making kids aware of Dorothy B Hughes or Dashiell Hammett, helping them to express themselves–what’s not to like about that?

 

FIND SAM at www.samwiebe.com

LISA CIARFELLA blogs HERE.

July 28, 2015

LES EDGERTON Tells it Like He’s Lived It — MFA Part 4

Filed under: Uncategorized — ashedit @ 8:59 am

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Hooked
Finding Your Voice

DON’T MISS THE COMMENTS SECTION AT THE END. IT’S EXPLOSIVE!

All I can speak for is myself. I’m sure that many found their MFA experience educational. Alas, it wasn’t so for me. I learned a couple of things, but neither were about the craft of writing.

First, I learned like in most things in this country, the average person doesn’t trust their own acumen. It’s why Michael Jordan gets paid bazillions of dollars to endorse breakfast cereals and shoes and other bullshit products. It’s not that businessmen are in love with him and just want to shower him with big bucks; it’s that hard-nosed businessmen know that the average American doesn’t have a clue what’s good and what’s not and when a public or famous person tells them something is good, then they buy it. Same thing happens with bestsellers in books. Bestseller lists are the biggest lie out there. They have little to do with sales. It’s a marketing tool, pure and simple.

Publishers are like any other businessmen and women. Exactly like the folks who own shoe companies and cereal companies. They know the average person doesn’t have a clue what’s good and what’s not, unless it’s so clearly obvious that even the densest person can tell.

I learned this the best way—the hard way. Years ago, I had a novel my agent, Jimmy Vines, put into auction. Very exciting stuff. It went back and forth until the bidders dropped out and there were two left—St. Martin’s and Random House. SM offered a $50,000 advance and RH, $45,000. Jimmy left it to me which to go with and I made the biggest mistake of my life and went with RH. Ruined me financially and is still affecting me adversely today. But, that’s another story.

The editor at RH who took it was Scott Moyers. Mine was the first book he signed for them, having just come over from Villard Press to become a Les 1senior editor at RH. Shortly after, I signed with them, then-prez Ann Godoff of RH told my agent, Jimmy, that she’d read my book, loved it, and that when it came out, not only would it be on the NY Times bestseller list, it’d be #1. They could guarantee that, she said, because that list isn’t determined by sales. It’s determined by copies published. And, since it was going to come out simultaneously from Ballantine Press 50,000 copies in paperback), and from Random House (5,000 copies in hardcover), she knew it would leap to the top of the list. When Jimmy told me that and then told me how the list actually worked, it was an eye-opener.

Over the years since then, I’ve had skeptics question that, so I tell them to watch the list until they’re familiar with the names on it and then the minute a new title appears, to call their bookstore to see if it’s in stock. Almost always, it isn’t. Usually, the bookseller will tell them that they’ll have it in 4-6 weeks. That’s because it not only isn’t in print yet; it hasn’t even been printed. Much less shipped and placed on the shelves. Or had any copies sold… (That’s changed a bit now with the “pre-sold” copy opportunity Amazon and others offer.)

Les 2The list is very simply, a marketing tool. There are bazillions of people in this country who don’t know what good literature is. A great many of them depend on these bestseller lists to let ‘em know. What happens is if a book has enough copies printed, it makes the list, and then people see the list… and buy a copy. Life imitates art. Marketing 101.

I used to have a mother-in-law (since deceased) who was probably at best, semiliterate. (It wasn’t Jane, to put that at rest! Jane was an extremely intelligent reader.). To “impress” people that she was quite the intellectual or whatever, about once a month, she’d glance at the bestseller list and then run out and buy a copy of something on it and plunk it down prominently on her coffee table. To “prove” that she was well-read… What she didn’t realize was that if she was buying bestsellers, it most likely proved the opposite… I might add that she rarely ever actually read the book… But she’s only one of a large crowd of people who get their reading material from those lists.

This long story is used only to point out the one main thing I got from my MFA degree. Many editors are like many readers out there in the Great Flyover. Don’t have much more of a clue what’s good and what isn’t. So, if a writer or his/her agent sends ‘em a query and mentions that the writer has an MFA, they open their eyes wider, will actually read the mss, and will often take a book that wouldn’t have been considered at all without that MFA thingy… If you think publishers and editors and those folks are all geniuses, you may have just landed on this planet…

So, an MFA degree gets you read by editors. Is that worth the thousands of dollars and investment in time to obtain one? That has to be your decision.

The other benefit for me was that I got a new and different reading list. Discovered some writers I wasn’t aware of. I think I would have eventually discovered them, but the MFA program sped that up a bit. Not sure if that was worth the thousands of dollars in loans I took out and just paid off this past spring. And, most of those new writers I wouldn’t read today.

Mostly, I was reading all this stuff about upper-middle class angst. Really jazzy stuff, like how some guy was sorrowing because all he had out of life was his Chrysler agency and ten million bucks and was searching his soul and was in this big blue funk because he hadn’t gone off with Easy Sally that time at the senior prom way back in H.S. Every book I picked up at that period seemed to have a similar theme. I just couldn’t identify. Hell, I never was able to afford a used Chrysler, let alone an entire agency, and I had run off with Easy Sally–yeah, I was that guy, the one in the leather jacket and the slicked-back hair–really! I had hair, back then–and believe me there isn’t a lot of angst to be used for material in the writing trade when you’re sitting in the trailer and Easy Sally is looking like Even Easier Sally and you don’t know where your next PBR is coming from and the TV is flashing those little tornado warnings across the bottom of the screen and you’re trying to quiet the little rascal on your knee that has your last name but the propane delivery man’s hook nose. I just knew somewhere deep inside my bones I couldn’t fake writing a whole, entire book out of what it meant to be the Executive Vice President in Charge of Sales for Southeastern Florida for the Tidy Bowl Corp and sorrowing over the lost babe of his childhood or the sad fact that he’d chucked it all and gone off to paint Tahitian sunsets. Or that his wife had. Crap like that. On the other hand, my own reading list contained names like Charles Bukowski. His stories weren’t about middle-aged English professors who were all in a fret because their wives no longer get excited sitting around listening to them conjugate French verbs and deducing that their lives, the meaningful portions of them, anyway, were over. Some of these guys, it seemed, took 400 pages to figure out why the major babe in their life was leaving. They were bored, Jack.

That was the kind of thing my MFA reading list provided and the kind of thing my personal list gave me.

Elaine Ash and Les edgerton at Bouchercon 2014

Elaine Ash and Les Edgerton at Bouchercon 2014

That lack of faith in one’s acumen is what allows MFA programs to multiply like wharf rats. A host of writers don’t have much faith in their own ability to write and they think that if only they could get those three letters behind their name, not only would they learn neat-o tricks to writing, the powers-that-be would take their efforts seriously.

Well, part of that is untrue. There are no writing “secrets” out there. There truly aren’t. All the secrets are right in front of you. Whenever you read a work of quality and something affects you emotionally, study how the author did it and put it in your tool kit. Part of that is true. There are increasing numbers of editors who don’t have that much talent themselves and many have bought into that lie that MFA grads are better writers than those without those letters behind their names.

Things have changed significantly. A few years ago there were very few MFA programs out there. The school I attended was one of the very best. Vermont College. Every year for many years, they rank in the top five in the list Poets&Writer’s Magazine puts out. Usually as #1. Today, programs are all over the map. They’re the new cash cow schools have found to pump dollars into their coffers. Quite a few are laughable. They’re at schools that aren’t much more than community colleges. More than one of these are nothing but a joke.

I had the choice of attending Vermont or the University of Iowa’s program. I made a lifelong enemy of my mentor, Elaine Hemley, by turning down her recommendation for me to Iowa to attend Vermont. Two reasons. One, I discovered that Iowa was known for operating on a kind of “star” system. If you were their fair-haired, blue-eyed boy, you got all kinds of attention. If you weren’t that guy, in the terms of my Brooklyn friends, fuggedaboutit. They strove to put out an identifiable writer—the “Iowa writer.” Vermont, on the other hand, had the reputation of working to make you a better writer, but not a “Vermont writer.” They wanted you to remain you, but just better. The other reason was Iowa is a full-residency program and VC is a low-residency program. Being married with a family and not having a daddy to send me to school, VC made a lot more sense.

Elaine, this forum is too short for me to say everything I want to about MFA programs. In short, I think they’re kind of fools’ gold for most writers. I think a lot of the folks who go to them think they learned a lot… but I’m not so sure that they have. The one thing a lot of them did emerge with is some confidence in their ability. Not sure if it’s based on anything real, but who knows? The only way I know to learn how to write well is to read a lot and to write a lot. Someone did a study years ago, where they tabulated all professional writers as to their education. They defined “professional” by the only proper way to do so—by writers who made their living from writing. They found that about half had a college education. But, about half had only a high school or even less education. The conclusion was that college had very little correlation to a writer’s success. What was constant with all the writers surveyed was that just about every one was an avid reader from a very early age and remained so throughout their lives. And that’s how I think you learn to write. And, it doesn’t cost any more than a free library card…

Today, there are MFA programs at directional schools, at cow schools, at glorified community colleges. They employ a lot of faculty whose claim to fame is some obscure book that sold fifty copies. The truth is, there aren’t enough quality teachers for all these programs. When there were only a handful of programs, there were some pretty good writers manning them. Today, it’s as if the American and National Baseball Leagues suddenly expanded to fifty teams in each league. That means there are a lot of minor-leaguers playing. It’s the same in a lot of MFA programs…

Blue skies,

Les

LES ONLINE

LES EDGERTON’S BLOG

July 19, 2015

To MFA or Not to MFA—STEVE WEDDLE Part 3

Filed under: Uncategorized — ashedit @ 9:11 am

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LISA CIARFELLA: How did you decide upon an MFA degree and then how did you choose your program?

STEVE WEDDLE: I was completing my master’s degree in English literature at a graudate school in Kansas.I had been writing poetry, as we all do, for years. I’d been the editor of the literary magazine at my undergraduate school and continuted to send out poems, having a few poems published in magazines that probably no longer exist. As I finished my master’s degree, I knew I wanted to go on and had a choice whether to pursue a PhD or MFA. I picked poetry because I liked the idea of making the thing people talked about instead of talking about something other people made. Seems a silly notion now, but there it is.

My two top choices were the MFA program at University of Memphis and the one at Louisiana State University. Both programs were wonderful, but I ended up at LSU because that was my home state, so it was a bit of a return of the exile. Also, having the chance to study with Rodger Kamenetz, Dave Smith, Andrei Codrescu, and Vance Bourjaily was too tempting to pass up. So I went to LSU to write poems, which I did. Eventually, those poems became COUNTRY HARDBALL.

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Neither degree has been a golden ticket for anything I’ve done. The biggest benefit I got from the MFA was finding a group of like-minded people who were passionate about the same things I was. You think anyone at my office today wants to talk about whether Gordon Lish’s influence is what made Raymond Carver a great writer? About whether opening with straight dialog is a risk? About open endings in short stories? Heck, no. But the people I went through the MFA program with me STILL DO. I’ve got a dozen or so friends from that time who are still adamant about stories.Essentially, we created a network of readers and writers that we’re still involved with. It’s pretty damn glorious.

LISA CIARFELLA: What was best about the MFA program?

STEVE WEDDLE: One of the best things about workshops, for me, was being forced to write each week and read each week and think and comment every week. You’ve got a dozen people in class who can tell you “This didn’t work for me” or “I got kind of lost at this point.” That was helpful to me, because I knew how far I could push things.You get an immediate response. Now that’s I’ve got some miles on me, of course, I don’t give two shits what other people think while I’m writing the thing. A workshop at this point, at least for me, would be crippling. I don’t want immediate feedback. I want to be left alone until I’m done, for the most part. Yet, when I was in the MFA program, having that immediate feedback was crucial. No one said “This doesn’t work. You should do THIS thing” to me. Or, if they did, I probably ignored them. I found the workshops less prescriptive in terms of what I should do and more descriptive in terms of what worked and what didn’t.

Also, listening to how other people read my work was instructive in that it gave me an outsider’s perspective I wouldn’t normally have access to. And being able to talk in and out of class with other writers about how they write and the manner in which they sculpted their own work was great.

Lisa singleLISA: Let’s talk about learning to write novels.

STEVE: Part of what you learn by reading good novels is pacing, as much as structure itself. I’d written three novels prior to COUNTRY HARDBALL, so I had in mind the way to pace and structure a novel — the weaving subplots through, the small questions and answers on the way to the big solution, carrying momentum from one chapter to the next. In writing COUNTRY HARDBALL, I was interested in turning all of that around. Instead of tying togther all the threads to make a linear rope that would carry the book, I wanted to weave the threads in and out of each other to make more of a quilt, which makes sense to me as COUNTRY HARDBALL is more a book about a community in the south,

My experience with MFA classes — both directly as a student and indirectly in talking with students and professors —Needle is that teaching the structure of the writing itself is a place where the programs excel, whereas teaching the structure of the writer’s life is more a problem. Saying whether an opening works is easy enough in a seminar. Should I combine these characters? Should I move this reveal sooner in the development? These sorts of things easy to talk about, easy to visualize. So, at least in what I’ve seen and heard, MFA programs aren’t missing anything when it comes to teaching the writing.

LISA: Regarding the structure of writing that was covered, could you describe some of the writing prompts and class practice excercises on, say, plot development, flashbacks, varying timelines, dialogue, subplots, etc? Were there  text books that guided this material?

STEVE: The only specific writing prompts I recall were for specific forms in my Forms of Poetry class. I’d wager that’s the last time I’ve written a sestina.

We never worked on plot, flashbacks, timelines, or anything of that nature as an assignment. Most of the workshops I took had very little in terms of “Do this exercise,” as I recall. We were expected to come to the program with the basic skills and use the MFA program to refine those skills. At least, that’s how I remember it 20 years later.

Where I think many MFA programs fall short is in teach the writer how to live the writer’s life. How to write a query letter. How to string together freelance assignments to pay the rent, while continuing to devote six hours a day to the novel. The actual work OUTSIDE the work is where I think more MFA programs should focus. I’m worried that MFA programs find The Writer’s Life kind of thing to be too proletariat, too non-academic. Of course, when I’ve talked with teachers and students outside the structure of the classes, I’ve found great help. That said. in the way that high schools should spend as much time teaching you to balance your checkbook as they do teaching you the kings and queens of foreignland, MFA programs should teach you how to live as a writer outside of the classroom walls. For me, that’s more the sort of structure they tend to miss. 

THANK YOU, STEVE!

Read more at steveweddle.com and his blog DO SOME DAMAGE

Lisa Ciarfella blogs HERE.

MORE  MFA series coming soon. LES EDGERTON (MFA), SAM WIEBE (MA), JOSH STALLINGS (BOOTSTRAPPIN’ IT), Elaine Ash (through the TV screen), weigh-ins from ANTHONY NEIL SMITH and MORE!!!!

July 12, 2015

To MFA or Not to MFA—Part 2 by Lisa Ciarfella

Filed under: Uncategorized — ashedit @ 6:01 pm

Lisa headshotMA crop Lisa

As a first year university Grad student, I had a choice to make. I qualified for both avenues in the English department; the MA, (Masters of Art) as well as the MFA, (Master of Fine Arts) degree. It was up to me to decide which way to go. So I had to ask myself; did I really want to spend the next two plus years buried up to my eyeballs in the library’s dungeon-like cubicles, researching and writing about what others who came before me wrote, and who some in the industry affectionately call those “dead white guys.” Or, did I want to try and flex my own, original and budding creative writing talents, and maybe even become one of their contemporaries in the process, putting my own work out there for others to read and enjoy?English crop

The answer didn’t come easily. As everyone in academia knows, the MA seems to be the more practical choice, leading to many more actual teaching jobs and possibilities within the ivory tower walls, once graduated. The MFA, on the other hand, is considered far more of the “dare” option than the truth, much like in the kids’ game “Spin the Bottle.” It’s more akin to being dared to strip and run naked down the block, than playing it safe, staying put in the circle and just answering a simple question.

Did I have the guts, and the actual talent to push through and really go for the win, or would I play if safe instead, quite possibly locking up whatever stories I might have had inside forever, and always wondering, what if.

It seems the answer found me, more than the other way around. And after half a semester as an MA, having my hard earned, final 18th Century British Lit research paper torn to shreds, it hit me: Not only was this not fun, but I didn’t need it. I wanted to create, to spread my wings. To just be on paper, any way my imagination wanted to take me. And so I made the switch, and haven’t looked back once.

Sure the MFA has its own host of challenges. Having your original “babies” critiqued in weekly workshops by your peers and professors on a regular basis is always anxiety-provoking. And when your advisors seem to have different ideas about what kind of content and genre you should be writing, instead of what you really want to write, serious moments of self-doubt can and do set in. And granted, some MFA programs are bound to do a much better job preparing students for the real world authorial experience than others, by focusing on things like getting published, finding an agent, and finding work as a writer in general. But even so, for me, the choice has been clear. And I wouldn’t change back.

Freedom of expression is everything to an MFA student, especially when learning how to spread wings and make those pages fly, be it fiction, poetry, or nonfiction. And in spite of all the critics along the way, for me, it was an inevitable decision. For others, the MA is the right road to take. And who’s to say which is the better option? For that answer, you must give your own inner voice a good listen, and follow where it leads. †

Lisa headline

Master of Fine Arts (MFA):

 Two-year program; must specialize in either fiction or poetry (at other schools, there are more options, like scriptwriting, screenwriting, non-fiction, etc. My school just offers the two areas.) In place of research, a student creates original works in his/her area, and brings them to weekly workshops, where they are critiqued by peers and professors.

 To Graduate: you pick a three-chair, thesis-advising committee and are assigned a chairperson, who oversees your work.

  • Thesis: In my program we must have at least 100 pages of what the above-mentioned oversight group considers “publishable work.”

Master of Arts (MA):

  • Two-year program. Most have course “variety” requirements such as critical theory, 18th Century Lit, print culture, etc. but you specialize in one area of literature, which you pick.
  • Can be anything the department offers; ours offers American Lit, both early and modern/ British Lit; both early and modern/ 20th Century Lit/ Women authors/ and a few others.
  • MA Thesis: you must pass a comprehensive written exam in your area, or write a lengthy research paper on a topic in your area, pre-approved by your thesis advisor.

Coming soon: Steve Weddle, MFA grad, Sam Wiebe, MA grad

and Elaine Ash on why she’d choose an MA.

Also weighting in: Les Edgerton, Anthony Neil Smith and Josh Stallings!

July 11, 2015

Author’s Shop Talk in Claremont, CA

Filed under: Uncategorized — ashedit @ 9:10 am

What a group(!) showed up for my launch as a speaker on my favorite topic: writing and editing. Twenty-seven of us crammed into the back of the Buddhamouse on Yale Avenue and tackled the important stuff: ideas, creativity, and what agents and publishers really want. The heat didn’t matter, you could have heard a pin drop the whole two hours.

L-R Rick Stepp-Bolling, co-ordinator extraordinaire, me, Christine Marie Bryant, the brains and passion behind Coffee House Writers Group.

L-R Rick Stepp-Bolling, co-ordinator extraordinaire, me, Christine Marie Bryant, the brains and passion behind Coffee House Writers Group.

I am not a teacher. I have no credentials. I am a seasoned, published writer and book editor who knows her stuff. I have knowledge that can light the way for others. So I talked about what I love and what I know. They responded! Ages ranged from early twenties to 73, men and women, diverse ethnicities. Everyone bonded in the same spirit. Questions flew, pens scribbled. It was a magical night, and they want me back. THANK YOU Coffee House Writers Group.

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July 3, 2015

What Do Agents and Publishers Really Want? – Free public event

Filed under: Uncategorized — ashedit @ 1:43 pm

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I’m going to speak in Claremont, CA July 10th at 6:30PM. Hosted by Coffee House Writers Group​, the talk is titled, What Do Agents and Publishers Really Want? Here’s the promo:

WHAT DO AGENTS AND PUBLISHERS REALLY WANT?

Elaine Ash leads this illuminating workshop that gives insight into how literary agents and publishers select material and talent. What is the first thing an agent does after reading a query? (The answer may surprise you.) Why is it critical that proofreading and grammar are ignored until a story is “locked?” (Reeealllly surprising answer!) What are the pros and cons of writers’ groups and how do you get the best out of them?

Elaine Ash edits, ghostwrites, and produces books for a living. She has signed book deals with four different publishers and
writes crime and horror under the pen-name “Anonymous-9.” Thirty-one thousand copies of her series debut novel HARD BITE sold in April, 2015. Elaine was Editor at Large for Beat to a Pulp e-zine and published many names that have gone on to fame (or were already famous) in the book world such as Hilary Davidson, Chris F. Holm, Charles Ardai, Ed Gorman, Robert Randisi, and many more,.

Elaine Tiny headBuddhamouse

134 Yale Avenue, Claremont, CA

If it’s after 6:30pm, the Buddhamouse front door will be locked, please go around the building to the back door.

June 26, 2015

To MFA or not to MFA—That is the Question

Filed under: Uncategorized — ashedit @ 7:48 am
University of Toronto (in good weather)

University of Toronto (in good weather)

“To be, or not to be, that is the question,” Shakespeare posed back in early 1600 when his play, HAMLET, first appeared. Borrowing from the bard, I  applied that question to the MFA program, the Masters of Fine Arts degree, which many accomplished writers have obtained, and many more accomplished writers have not. Considering the pros and cons of the MFA came to me via Lisa Ciarfella, an MFA student I met in Long Beach, California, at the Coffee House Writers’ Group. Lisa was interested in my opinion of the

MFA degree and I honestly didn’t have one. My own higher education was a Bachelor of Applied Arts in radio and television writing, and then I went on to dabble in political science and economics while I debated competitively and wrote my first bestselling novel, on the

LISA CIARFELLA

LISA CIARFELLA

side. (I flunked out of economics, sadly.)

STEVE WEDDLE COUNTRY HARDBALL

STEVE WEDDLE
COUNTRY HARDBALL

cover_weddleTo get an answer for Lisa and others pondering the same thing, I decided to turn to a few colleagues/esteemed writers from the crime writing world, STEVE WEDDLE, author of NYT bestselling COUNTRY HARDBALL, and holder of an MFA degree from Louisiana State University; and SAM WIEBE, author of the award-winning LAST OF THE INDEPENDENTS, and holder of an MA in English Literature.

Lisa and I are currently asking Steve and Sam the hard questions. Part 1 of the MFA series will debut soon. If you have any questions you’d like addressed I love to hear from you in the Comments below. —Elaine Ash

SAM WIEBE LAST OF THE INDEPENDENTS

SAM WIEBE
LAST OF THE INDEPENDENTS

Last


June 11, 2015

The Black List, June 10, 2015

Filed under: Uncategorized — ashedit @ 8:37 am

Elaine Tiny headBL logoThe Black List is a well-known screenplay marketing site and once a month they have a networking event in Hollywood. Mercury was still in retrograde and right on schedule: I downloaded only a few photos before they deleted off my camera. But the story prevails! I grabbed online photos and put them up of the writers and producers I met last night.

BL Umbrella ext

The chalkboard outside the door at the Melrose Unbrella Co on Melrose. COME ON IN AND CURE THAT WRITER’S BLOCK. The only place you’ll see a sign like that is Hollywood. Something to love about the place.

BL Umbrella2

Melrose Umbrella Co exterior. “Borrowing” the white picket fence thing from The Ivy. Cute.

BL Zach

Zach Patterson, genial host of the Umbrella.

Colin Costello

Colin Costello‘s screenplay, TRAVELING WITHOUT MOVING is currently shooting in Chicago. He also writes for virtualpitchfest.com

Russ Werdin

Russ Werdin of Twinstar Entertainment. Former Sunset Blvd. patrol cop back in the 70s. We shared crime stories but Russ is a family entertainment kinda producer these days. We need him.

rachel-paget

The glorious RACHEL PAGET graced our table. Rachel created FAUX SHOW, a half hour series pilot. She’s also writing a book and needs a little help with structure. Email me Rachel!

T.A. Snyder

T.A. Snyder is promoting THE VOLUNTEER, just optioned by two producers who took a whole year to read the script,  then optioned it immediately! (Better late than never.) T.A. also has a DEAD MEN pilot (one hour) available for consideration.

Finally, Liisi Rohumae, a screenwriter from Estonia with perfect English (learned in London) is here in Hollywood. No pics online and the one I had of her is gone BUT we were all impressed by her guts and pluck! Liisi writes drama and can also be found on IMDb.

–Elaine Ash

PS My HARD BITE script has been optioned by Amazon Studios, but FURTHER DEVELOPMENTS, my crime thriller with two juicy female leads, is available.

Elaine '14

June 7, 2015

NOIR @ the BAR – CCWC, 2015

Filed under: Uncategorized — ashedit @ 7:57 pm

Watering hole: Culver’s Club in the Doubletree Hotel, Culver City, CA

Fight Card: The Cozy Writers vs the Noir Scribes

A full house for down and dirty crime fiction readings, booze, and dim lighting. So dim half my pictures didn’t turn out. But here’s what survived…

Fisticuffs left of center by Holly West and Craig Faustus Buck. Left to right: Connie DiMarco, Sue Ann Jaffarian, Diane Vallere, Josh Stallings, (Holly 'n Craig), S.W. Lauden, Gay Anthony Harwood, Harley Jane Kozak, Samuel Galley, Rochelle Staab and Eric Beetner.

Fisticuffs left of center by Holly West and Craig Faustus Buck. Left to right: Connie DiMarco, Sue Ann Jaffarian, Diane Vallere, Josh Stallings, (Holly ‘n Craig), S.W. Lauden, Gay Anthony Harwood, Harley Jane Kozak, Samuel Galley, Rochelle Staab and Eric Beetner.

Judges

Judges

DIANE VALLERE was styled for the event just right. Great look for a great read. Co-chair of the conference with CRAIG FAUSTUS BUCK.)

DIANE VALLERE was styled for the event just right. Great look for a great read. Co-chair of the conference with CRAIG FAUSTUS BUCK.)

 Left to right: S.W. LAUDEN who announced his new book deal with Down & Out Books from the podium, ERIC BEETNER, (1940s Hollywood leadng-man looks with a serial killer smile), and our HOLLY WEST, historical crime fiction temptress.

Left to right: S.W. LAUDEN who announced his new book deal with Down & Out Books from the podium, ERIC BEETNER, (1940s Hollywood leadng-man looks with a serial killer smile), and our HOLLY WEST, historical crime fiction temptress.

ERIKA STALLINGS, ME, JOSH STALLINGS, TERRY SHAMES

ERIKA STALLINGS, ME, JOSH STALLINGS, TERRY SHAMES

LISA CIARFELLA, MFA student and emerging crime writer; ANDREW JETARSKI, Derringer nominee; BOBBY MCCUE, friend to writers everywhere.

LISA CIARFELLA, MFA student and emerging crime writer; ANDREW JETARSKI, Derringer nominee; BOBBY MCCUE, friend to writers everywhere.

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