Tag Archives: Tucson

Feasting on Words: Billy Collins, Southern California Writers Conference, and New Books in the Making

A few odds and ends while feeling very inspired and energized by the past ten days, which have included a wonderful Southern California Writers Conference, starting to put together what will be a smashing Spring 2013 issue of The Hummingbird Review, watching editing clients get one deal and opportunity after another, and Tuesday night’s superb event with Billy Collins, the former Poet Laureate of the United States…

The Billy Collins program at Point Loma Nazarene University was truly special. Billy has drawn hundreds of thousands of otherwise non-poetry fans into the world of poetry through his easily accessible, humorous, poignant and endearing takes on life’s otherwise ordinary moments. On Tuesday night before a standing room-only crowd of more than 400 at Crill Hall, he read 17 poems spanning his career (10 collections, plus several anthologies), including a couple from his latest, Aimless Love: New and Selected Poems 2003-2013, which will be released October 22. He also sat with PLNU journalism faculty member and Writer’s Symposium coordinator Dean Nelson, himself the author of a dozen books, for an excellent hour-long discussion.

One of Billy’s many funny lines? Check out this succinct take on science fiction: “There are only two directions for all of science fiction: We’re going there, or they’re coming here.” Priceless.

Discussing poetry with former Poet Laureate of the U.S. Billy Collins (photo by Martha Halda)

Discussing poetry with former Poet Laureate of the U.S. Billy Collins (photo by Martha Halda)

A couple hours earlier, I interviewed Billy at his bayside Shelter Island hotel for The Hummingbird Review. It was fun, lively, full of wisdom and humor – typical of Billy’s take on the world. We had a wonderful discussion about his poetics and vast contributions, a part of which I will share in this blog on Friday. For the rest, you’ll have to pick up The Hummingbird Review.

A really funny moment popped up during the interview. When my sweetheart, A Taste of Eternity author Martha Halda, and I told Billy how Carlsbad High School teacher Tom Robertson turned us onto poetry in our freshman English class, Billy looked at Martha and quipped, “So you were one of those mean girls!” He was referencing the fact that he (like me) was painfully shy in high school, and not on the radar screen of the school’s most beautiful girls. We informed him that Martha was one of the nicest (and best looking, and still is) CHS beauties, to which he replied, “So you were the nice one!” Gotta love this man.

• • •

I’m still pouring through notes from the Southern California Writer’s Conference, so I want to share a few comments that famed science fiction writer David Brin made that are great takeaways for writers and readers alike (with very special thanks to Alicia Bien for emailing her notes as well):

On the bad guys we all love to hate (or maybe root for) in novels: “Give the villain great dialogue so they are tempted. Make your villains so powerful that the U.S. government can’t beat them.”

Bestselling science fiction author David Brin (photo by Gayle Carline)

Bestselling science fiction author David Brin (photo by Gayle Carline)

On the purpose of writing: “Convey your sense of joy on the page. Control your ego, but believe you can write material that people want to read. Remember: writing is the only true form of magic.”

How to write a first page that hooks readers: “The first page must sing. Copy the first page of writers you respect, see how they move the story, and find that within your own voice, your own story.

Four keys to getting published and drawing your readers:

1)   You need an ear

2)   Bring on the criticism because you can be even better – and you know it

3)   Hard work

4)   Luck

• • •

Have been having a blast editing and/or writing proposals for some truly wonderful books that have made their way onto my computer in the past several months. Will rattle off their titles and authors now, so that you will grab them and share the experience when they hit bookstores in the next 12 to 18 months (as I am fully confident they will):

• A Taste of Eternity, a memoir by Martha Halda

• Home Free Adventures, a travel narrative by Lynne Martin

• Island Fever, Mustang Fever and Storm Chasers, an adventure romance trilogy by Stephen B. Gladish

• Who Will Cry for Us? a memoir by Davion Famber

• The Columbian Prophecy, a novel by Gary B. Deason

• Changes in Longitude, a travel narrative/memoir by Larissa and Michael Milne

• Red Hand, a novel by Seamus Beirne

• Forgoing Stress, a prescriptive book by Leo Willcocks

Next week, I will talk more about a couple of books coming from yours truly, including my forthcoming novel, Voices. We’ll also hear from authors Larissa and Michael Milne, Martha Halda and Stephen B. Gladish. Stay tuned.

• • •

Speaking of March, two events are coming up in the next two months that I hope you will participate in, if you are suitably located geographically: the Tucson Festival of Books March 9-10 at the University of Arizona in Tucson; and the L.A. Times Festival of Books April 20-21 on the University of Southern California campus. Between the two, more than 100,000 people will be in attendance. These events are a paradise for readers, a chance to meet and talk with hundreds of authors and publishers in all genres. Check them out.



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How I Know I’m Writing In Authentic Voice

I facilitated a great salon-style writing workshop in Tucson Thursday night, “Writing Well-Sung: Your Authentic Voice”. It pertained to lyrical-musical writing, and reaching so deep into the mind and soul to find the universal truths behind our experiences that, when we write them out, our voice carries the page and the reader can “hear” the words hitting them in the heart. Any writer who does that has won the reader!

Very wonderful cast of characters at the workshop: Barbara Stahura, the hostess and my long-time friend, a fine essayist and former public radio station writer whose book, “What I Thought I Knew,” is being published by Aisling Press in May; dear friend Stephen Gladish, professor at Pima College and author of two novels, “Moonlight, Missiles & Moana” and “Mustang Fever” (Aisling Press); Carol Krone, a historian working on a piece about the Manhattan Project; Valarie James, a fine Southern Arizona sculptress who was featured in the newest issue of “Sculpture Today” magazine (see her website at http://www.losmadresprojects.org); Barbara MacNicol, a self-help and business book editor and writer; and Sally, a high school creative writing teacher.

We wrote and talked for three hours about voice and how to use it in fiction and non-fiction works. I could even teach a workshop about it! Towards the end, I jotted down a list of ways in which you KNOW your writing is true to your voice, true to your essential self, and therefore is likely to connect big-time with the reader. Thought I’d share them right now—see if this happens to you:

1) I feel my body literally pulsate and vibrate with the power and truth of the words pouring through.
2) My word choices and sentence structure seem effortless, flawless and completely relevant to the subject, like a piece of music that hits home perfectly.
3) Time stands still. Hours on the clock pass without notice. The movement of time feels inconsequential.
4) All similes and metaphors feel natural and connect with the theme and plot, regardless of how disparate they might seem at first.
5) Every word that comes out feels true, essential, vital — life-giving, triggering mind and heart.
6) I feel the satisfaction of knowing it came out right.
7) I can HEAR and FEEL the words as they move through me, not just visualize them.
8) I am confident the theme, or message, will resonate with readers by the way it has made an impact on me.

Put your essays, poems, lyrics, stories, articles, novels or books to this list. See what you think — and let me know! Email me direct at bob@wordjourneys.com or post through here.

Off to another workshop today — “Writes of Life,” based on my book. Talk with you tomorrow!

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