Author Events, Fantasy, Fiction, Local San Diego, Magical Realism

Warwick’s Event With Erin Morgenstern

In November, I attended a Warwick’s event at the San Diego Public Library with Erin Morgenstern. She was on tour to promote her new book, The Starless Sea. She is the author of the popular book, The Night Circus. My friend, fellow writer, bookworm, and neighbor, Kristin Luna, attended the event with me.

This was my first trip to the downtown library so I thought I’d lead this post by sharing a few must-know tips if you’re trying to attend any sort of event at this library after hours:

First, because the library is downtown, they lock it up at night. And when I say they lock it up, I mean they really lock it up. Good luck trying to find someone to help you enter it at night even if there is an event going on and you’re knocking on all the doors.

We eventually learned there’s actually an underground parking area beneath the library. And if you are attending an event at the library, this is where you MUST park if you don’t want to walk laps around the building knocking and trying every door.

Once we figured out how to get inside, the event itself was really lovely. It was held in a gorgeous conference hall they have off the center courtyard, across from the library’s own gift shop. Because we were running late, we arrived right as the talk was getting started so I didn’t get to hear who the person was that was interviewing Erin Morgenstern about her book. The whole atmosphere of the place and the discussion reminded me of the sort of literary events I used to attend on and off campus when I was going to UCSD. Very different from the last couple events I went to with YA authors. This was definitely a different crowd and the conversation was a lot more literary and craft-focused.

Erin Morgenstern reading from her new book, The Starless Sea

Morgenstern talked mostly about her new book, The Starless Sea, with occasional mentions of her famous first book, The Night Circus. I haven’t actually read The Night Circus yet, but I own a copy that’s been taunting me forever from the TBR stack. Maybe 2020 will be the year I finally read it…who knows!

After the discussion, there was a signing with the author which was highly efficient, but kind of impersonal. Not the author’s fault at all, but there were a lot of people onstage shepherding us through the process so there wasn’t any opportunity to have a chat with the author. I was able to get both The Starless Sea and The Night Circus signed, which means my little collection of signed books is growing!

We didn’t get to see the rest of the library, but we did briefly visit the library gift shop which was super fun and full of TONS of cute gifts I wanted to buy for myself and others. If ever at the library, I definitely recommend checking out the cute little shop near the courtyard.

Local San Diego

Save Mysterious Galaxy Bookstore

In case you haven’t heard the news which broke about a week ago, San Diego’s iconic and much beloved bookstore, Mysterious Galaxy, needs a new owner and a new location to avoid shutting its doors forever. Click here to read the announcement from the store.

This week they posted an update that they are in talks with potential new owners. Since I can’t find it online, I’m reposting the update from Instagram below:

So fingers crossed that one of the potential new owners works out, but as in all things, backup options are great! If you’ve always dreamed of owning a bookstore, this is your chance! The store is not only known in San Diego County, it’s a beloved haunt of people across the country. Many, many authors have hosted readings and signings at the shop over the years and while Mysterious Galaxy is small and humble in stature, it’s a legend in the book community. I haven’t been keeping this blog going for eight years for nothing – if you are at all interested, reach out to the store!!

They are still in need of a new space as well. As you can see on the image, there are contact details if you have any leads on vacant commercial spaces in San Diego County. Time is ticking down – they now have less than sixty days to find a new place!

Until then, you can help by spreading the word far and wide and coming in to the store to buy inventory. Mysterious Galaxy has a lot of cute gifts for sale besides all the gorgeous books (including signed author copies!) I know I will be hitting the store to see if I can get some holiday shopping done for people…and let’s be honest, probably myself. It’s for a good cause, right?

Here’s to hoping Mysterious Galaxy will ride out this little bump in the road and remain a fixture in the San Diego community for years to come in a new and improved location!

Book Events, Dystopian, Fantasy, Fiction, Historical, Local San Diego, Young Adult

Mysterious Galaxy Bookstore Event With Renee Ahdieh and Sabaa Tahir

Sabaa Tahir and Renee Ahdieh at Mysterious Galaxy Bookstore in San Diego

Mysterious Galaxy is an independent bookstore in San Diego that specializes in carrying fantasy, science fiction, young adult, horror, and mystery novels. Tucked away in a shopping center, this bookstore is a small, but mighty bastion in the San Diego book scene.

Though I’ve lived in San Diego for almost eleven years, I only recently visited Mysterious Galaxy. Of course once I walked through the door I immediately thought, What have I been doing with my life?! It’s such a cute store and though the space is small, they have TONS of books, including copies that are signed by the authors.

After my first visit, I also signed up for Mysterious Galaxy’s email list which was how I saw that Renee Ahdieh and Sabaa Tahir were going to be in San Diego in October to celebrate the release of Ahdieh’s new book, The Beautiful.

Though I haven’t read either author’s books yet, both An Ember in the Ashes and The Wrath and the Dawn have been on my TBR list FOREVER. And I enjoy following them both on Instagram so their visit seemed like a great excuse to go spend an evening doing bookish stuff with my friend and fellow writer, Kristin Luna.

With Kristin Luna

Renee and Sabaa are friends in real life so it was like sitting down to coffee with your best friends. Both are very sweet, funny, and clearly love what they do. And these two ladies packed the house for their event! It was standing-room only during the discussion portion. I felt like Renee gave us quite a bit of extra insight into the characters and the world of The Beautiful so now I’m even more excited to tear into this new story of romance, New Orleans, and vampires! She also brilliantly navigated touchy subjects like domestic abuse, women’s rights, and immigration without allowing the conversation to spiral into a political discourse.

Even though this night was mostly about Renee’s new book, Sabaa also got to talk a bit about her books, characters, and experiences as an author. I think they did a good job of balancing the promotion of The Beautiful and allowing both ladies to talk since there were fans of both in the crowd.

Sabaa Tahir Signing Books at Mysterious Galaxy Bookstore

After the discussion we lined up to do the book signing and even though the signing took awhile because many people had multiple books that needed to be signed, Renee and Sabaa were just as sweet and patient in person. The four of us mostly ended up talking about makeup (Renee and Sabaa are the real pros here) and Kristin asked them for advice about the querying process since we are both querying agents now. They were so kind, encouraging, and supportive.

Renee Ahdieh Signing Books at Mysterious Galaxy Bookstore

Overall it was a great night and the staff of Mysterious Galaxy and the publicist for the two ladies did an excellent job keeping things running smoothly while letting the fans have their moments!

 

Writing Conferences

Recap: Fallbrook Writers’ Conference 2019

Imagine you find out there’s a writing conference happening near you. Imagine you find out it’s only one day. And then imagine you find out it’s FREE.

That, my friends, is the experience of the Fallbrook Writers’ Conference, a magical annual event I found out happens each fall in North San Diego County!

I found out about the event thanks to author Jonathan Maberry and immediately signed up. I was excited that a) it was free and b) it still included great add-on options like pitch to an agent and lunch with an author.

The event itself did not disappoint. I recruited Kristin Luna and another friend to come along (who recruited another friend) so it was a writing PARTY. The Fallbrook Writers’ Conference was held at the Fallbrook Library, a picturesque library in the little town of Fallbrook, CA, known for its avocados, rural lifestyle, somewhat lower housing prices, and Oink and Moo Burgers (alas, this trip to Fallbrook did not include a burger pitstop).

Overall, I was so impressed by the quality of the presentations and the organization of the event. The first session of the day with agents Jill Marr and Elise Capron from Sandra Dijkstra Literary Agency was so good and so helpful. I was lucky enough to have an appointment to pitch my book to an agent at the conference and I felt like what I got out of the first session really jived with the feedback I got during the pitch appointment so overall I believe I now know how to make my query letter that much stronger. Soo….if that was the ONLY thing I got out of the conference, it would have been a day well spent.

But it got better! I listened to Matt Coyle talk about his journey to becoming a published author, had lunch with author Laura McNeal, and listened to author Marivi Soliven give an important talk about domestic violence against women.

Author Matt Coyle at Fallbrook Writers Conference 2019

The last session of the day I want to particularly highlight as it was a panel about diversity in writing. It featured authors Marivi Soliven, Mickey Brent, and Huda Al-Marashi. This session was fascinating, eye-opening, frustrating (as far as hearing the challenges the authors have faced in their careers) and a clear illustration of the necessity of continuing to push for and talk about the inclusion of diverse voices in writing. Just a really amazing session.

Well done to everyone involved with the Fallbrook Writers’ Conference, I’m planning to come back next year!

Diversity in Writing Panel at Fallbrook Writers Conference 2019
Personal, Writing Conferences, Writing Events

2017 SDSU Writer’s Conference in Review

This is months and months overdue (I attended this event in January!), but I definitely wanted to review this event because it was awesome!

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The SDSU Writer’s Conference is an annual event in San Diego and one I’ve been trying (and failing!) to attend for the last 5 years. However, after the 2016 conference, I emailed the coordinators and asked if they could add me to their mailing list so I would know when to sign up. Problem. Solved. I registered for the 2017 event with no problem and eagerly waited to attend my first ever writing conference! UCSD had a writing conference in the fall of 2011, but I was sadly not able to attend any of the panels between my class schedule and traveling to San Francisco. So the 2017 SDSU Writer’s Conference was my first taste of the world of professional writing.

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Jonathan Maberry Speaking

It poured rain all weekend and since the event was in Mission Valley, we even got a flash flood alert during one of the panels that scared the bejesus out of all the out of towners. The San Diegans were quick to reassure the concerned that that’s just want Mission Valley does when it rains, it floods. Still, the bad weather could not dampen the energy and enthusiasm that this event had in spades.

It was divided between keynote presentation and panel events, which was nice because you could pick and choose your trainings you wanted to attend. The keynote speakers this year were Jonathan Maberry, R.L. Stine, J.A. Jance, and Sherrilyn Kenyon. We also had a special presentation on the final day from Marjorie Hart, author of Summer at Tiffany. Of the keynote speakers, the only one I was familiar with prior to the event was R.L. Stine because of course. All the keynote speakers gave wonderful and very inspiring presentations!

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R.L. Stine Speaking

The panel events were fabulous as well. They even had historical fiction panels led by author Gina Mulligan which apparently is relatively rare for writing conferences. As I’m still working on my historical fiction novel about Nikola Tesla, I made sure to attend all of these events. Also, Gina is probably the sweetest person ever. Seriously, ever.

Some other standout panels were the panel taught by agent Mark Gottlieb on how to write an effective hook and all of the panels taught by Bob Mayer. There was also a cool panel I didn’t get to attend where you could see real weapons and chat with experts from the FBI, CIA, police, and military. I did not attend one panel that was not fabulous and I purchased the recordings for several more (I still have not listened to these yet, but I am grateful this was an option and I have them when I’m ready).

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Panel With Authors J.A. Jance and Sherrilyn Kenyon

I met so many nice attendees, editors, and agents at this event! I only did one pitch which was okay because I’m not where I want to be with the book yet. But I walked away with valuable information from the editor I met with on how to fix my story synopsis!

I highly, highly recommend this conference. I am planning to attend again in 2018. If you live in San Diego and are a writer, you should really sign up. Yes, conference fees are relatively expensive, but this event is worth every penny!

 

Author Events, Author Spotlight, Local San Diego, Uncategorized, Writing

An Evening With Neil Gaiman in Review

In an effort to become a better writer, I’ve been doing a lot of things lately that are kind of outside my comfort zone:

1. I joined a writer’s group. I’m still not sure why they like me, but I’ve spent enough time around horses to know not to look a gift horse in the mouth!

2. I went to a writer’s conference. Which I realized I still need to review on the blog. More on that later then.

3. I signed up to go to a second writing conference in May.

4. I got tickets to go see Neil Gaiman speak in San Diego.

The last one is notable because I bought a ticket without finding out if I knew anyone who wanted to go with me. At the time I was thinking I’d probably find someone to go with and we could carpool. Which did not happen. So I’m super proud of myself that I didn’t flake especially because I had to drive myself downtown to go.

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Anyway, back to the event. I really had no idea what to expect. It was billed as “An Evening With Neil Gaiman” which is all I really needed to know. What I didn’t expect was how many other people find Neil Gaiman as cool as I do.

Earlier that day I was explaining to someone how the event I was going to was at the San Diego Civic Center. To which they pointed out that it’s an enormous space for an author to book. I looked this up later – The San Diego Civic Center seats 2,967 people. While not every seat was filled, the majority were. And that is just so cool for an author to fill that many seats with booklovers and wordnerds. I’ve been to concerts and sporting events, but there is just something so uniquely magical about gathering a crowd of overly excited introverts together to talk about books.

The setting itself was just as dramatic: a single podium on that massive stage. No signs, no backdrop, no video screen. The whole evening was blessedly free of pomp and circumstance. Just Neil and a microphone.

As could be expected, he did some reading of his work. Nothing I had actually read before so it was nice to experience it for the first time being read by the author. He read a story from his book Norse Mythology and he also read a short story about a genie.

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Apparently Neil had also been accepting questions prior to the event. I didn’t know about this, but it was okay. He had quite a stack of questions up there on the stage which he picked from. Some of the questions required longer answers, some just a few words.

Overall, I really liked how the evening was unscripted and fun. It ended up feeling like a very intimate event, despite the fact that perched high on the balcony I had to squint to see the tiny figure on the stage. My only real complaint was that 90 minutes was over much too soon.

If you get the chance to hear Neil Gaiman talk, I highly recommend! He’s as lovely and entertaining as all the Twitter posts have led you to believe.

Speaking of Twitter, this happened the next day:

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Life. Made.

 

 

 

Local San Diego

Local San Diego: Judy Reeves & Jim Ruland

Judy Reeves & Jim Ruland presented by the reading series at the San Diego Museum of the Living Artist in Balboa Park 6/21/12

Some of you have seen my Open Mic Etiquette post on The Dark Globe. The event that inspired that post happened at this reading. The reading series put on by MOLA features an Open Mic after the featured reading. Below are my thoughts on the actual reading, which unfortunately got overridden by the very rude behavior of a reader during the Open Mic.

This was the second time I’d been to MOLA for a reading. Jim Ruland read first. He is the author of a short story collection, The Big Lonesome, and curates another Los Angeles/San Diego reading series, Vermin on the Mount, which I intend to check out in the coming months. He is also on the board for San Diego Writers, Ink. At MOLA, Jim read a lengthy short story about short stories and short story writers. That should already tell you something of his personality. The story was very engaging, about a short story writer on a deadline who receives a package containing a book of his work translated into Czech, except he didn’t write the work. Short stories are hard to pull off at readings. I know. I usually read poetry, but occasionally will throw some flash fiction at the audience. It’s very hard to keep an audience’s attention during a piece of fiction, so that they won’t get lost or confused. Ruland accomplished this in an exemplary manner. His writing is littered with such powerful witticisms as “the purloined story”, “a prose technician”, “a coffin in miniature”, “succulent groupies”, and “the details needed massaging”. Looking back, I think one reason why this particular story worked so well for a live reading, is the way it was structured. It was a neat, compact story, but it didn’t get too overblown and lose the reader. It wandered off into anecdotes and tangents as writing is want to do, but always he’d include a little grounding tidbit, something to the effect of “but now here he was, staring at the package on the table”. Little flags like that are helpful in a live audience. If you zone out a little, once you hear a grounding flag like that, you can jump back into the story with ease.

The second reader was Judy Reeves, the author of A Writer’s Book of Days. She is a teacher and author, as well as the co-founder of San Diego Writers, Ink. She runs a number of workshops and groups at San Diego Writer’s Ink. At MOLA, she read a series of flash fiction pieces. Her work (or at least the pieces she read) are very focused around women and women’s issue, such as sexuality (straight or gay) that is often tabooed in American culture. One of the stories she read was based around the Chinese Legend of the Moon Mother, who had twenty-eight houses in which she kept a different consort. Reeves took the legend and translated it into the American West, telling the story of a cowgirl on a farm full of cowboys and ranch hands, a cowgirl dancing by light of the moon. One of my favorite descriptions from this piece was “the tips of her boots a bright constellation”. She read a couple pieces. from which I collected the lines “one-light towns”, “silos like fat, silver fingers of God”, and “men with sunburned necks and flinty eyes”. I have Reeves book, A Writer’s Book of Days, which I got her to sign for me when the evening was done. I read a short piece of fiction during the Open Mic, which she liked.

My signed copy!
Fiction, Local San Diego, Poetry, UCSD, Uncategorized

Local San Diego: 2012 UCSD MFA Graduates Read

UCSD Presents its 2012 Graduating MFA Literature Class, 5/16/12

It’s always lovely to hear talented new artists. It makes me feel hopeful for them, wondering when we’ll see their books out on the shelf. An MFA is something I’m strongly considering for myself in the future. Many of these MFA graduates were my TA’s or friends.

I’ve included a link to the sound recording here. At the time of writing, it still is not up. UCSD records all of its writing series, but I usually don’t link back because they are published authors. At the moment, the work of these MFA grads exists nowhere else. I jotted down some thoughts during the reading and posted them below. Take a listen and let me know if you agree or disagree with my assessments.

Amy Forrest:
Amy read some excerpts from her novel project. I found her writing to be very conversational and correct. It’s not showing, it’s not trying to make you oohh and aahh, but is involved in communication. The parts of the text she read were very straightforward and precise. It’s almost Hemingway-esque.

Ryan Luz:
Ryan was my TA for introductory poetry and he’s an awesome writer and all around cool guy. Check out his blog here. Ryan has a particular gift for seeing the beauty in the tiniest things, in noticing all the details of his world. In one of the poems he read, he described a spider spinning a web on a bike, making ” a tiny anchor in the wind”. His poems are short and compact, which I enjoy. I enjoy writing poetry that way as well, because my other writing occupation is fiction. And I enjoy the way both forms can be so far form each other in form and length, but still beautiful. Ryan posts a ton of poems up on his blog. He’s also a photographer, musician, and makes videos.

Kara Ford-Martinez:
Kara was my TA for introductory fiction and later, my peer in a grad level film studies course I took. Kara read some pieces from her project, which is a collection of intertwined stories. Her fiction is also straightforward and conversational, very much in the contemporary mode. But there’s something sad and melancholic about it. The words express a strong desire for reminiscing. It could be just the work she read, but I think it’s more of her style. There’s a deep poetic longing underneath it all.

Lester O’Connor:
If I could describe Lester’s work in one word, it would be “packed”. He’s very much like Gabriel Garcia Marquez in that way. He notices everything and leaves nothing untouched. His sentences are well-constructed and filled to the brim with beautiful diction. It almost sounds like a flarf construction, but I don’t think it is. Or else it’s incredibly well-curated. His work is rich and deep and beautiful. I imagine if you were reading Lester’s work, you’d read it a few pages at a time, in order to fully digest the intense beauty of it.

Nikolai Beope:
Nikolai shared some of his fiction. Right away, I noticed his work as being a bit darker and grittier than the previous speakers. It came across as tough and unapologetic, precisely the attitude of the characters whose story he was relating. He displays a real talent for finding beauty in the unbeautiful. His work also included some sections of what came out as spoken word/rap, though I think it’s supposed to be some other type of art form that I missed the reference to. Either way, his work showed great versatility.

K. Lorraine Graham:
Lorraine seemed to be the most interested in experimenting with form and language in her poetry. She also makes use of methodology as a means to create art. Her work is very juxtaposed: things fit together precisely because they don’t. Her writing is extremely emotional and comes across that way, as a torrent of feeling. In the manuscript she read from, I didn’t so much get a sense of a theme binding together the prose poetry, so much as a feeling. She uses language to evoke emotional responses rather than cognitive response.

Allie Moreno:

Allie is the current editor-in-chief of Alchemy, the translation journal that I also work on. She has her blog here. Allie is such a sweet and laid back individual, who balances school, work, and a child! When you talk to Allie, she seems rather mild-mannered and sedate, but when you hear her read, it’s ferocious. She definitely packed a punch closing off the reading. She has a background in spoken word and it really shows in her poetry. Her art is fierce. Allie has a profound understanding on the way in which we can use sound and silence in language to express something beyond mere words. Her work is rhythmic and focused on tonalities and the musicality of language.

Local San Diego

Local San Diego: Poetry International Publishing Fair

SDSU Publishing Fair presented by Poetry International 3/19/12

This is going to be a bit of a shorter post, just sort of a summary of thoughts presented by the panel. The panel was composed of five representatives, including members from Cooper Dillon Press, Calypso Editions, and City Works Press.

The fair was put on as a congregation of small, local presses. It was exciting to see different organizations run by undergraduates, graduate students, and people who love literature. One of the most interesting points of the panel was how quickly the talk devolved into discussions about markets and in particular, e-books. Among the most interesting thoughts (no accreditation because I’m not sure who was talking), was the idea that e-books don’t replace actual books. Most of the people buying e-books are readers already; thus, they buy real flesh and blood books because they love reading. In this light, e-books are more a convenient companion to the paper book.

Another interesting idea (again no accreditation) is that the e-books as we see them now are a very primitive form of what they’re going to be in the future. There’s a lot of cool things you can do with technology; people who work in digital poetics and media as visual artists and writers can attest to that. E-books as they are now are essentially fancier PDF files. But they have the potential to be completely interactive, with sound and voice components, differences in color, etc. One person even brought up how cool it would be if the text faded off an on the page or changed colors. Now that is an entirely different beast than we’re seeing now. The technology isn’t there at the moment to support that, but it will be. And when it does, in my opinion, e-books will be even less competition to regular books because they will have evolved into something completely different. It’s like the difference between theatre and film or film and photography- they have the same roots, but now they’ve gone their separate ways and become mediums all of their own accord. They’re each supplementary to the overall artistic experience that is part of culture and society as we know it.

Participants (in no particular order):

Alchemy: Journal of Translation

Red Hen Press

Fiction International

Poetry International

Calypso Editions

Cider Press Review

Brick Road Press

Cooper Dillon Press

City Works Press

Pacific Review

California Journal of Poetics

Writers Ink Literary Center

Acorn Review

Puma Press

Border Voices Poetry Project

San Diego JCC Literary Series

Museum of the Living Artist Literary Series

Denver Publishing Institute

San Diego Poetry Annual/ Garden Oak Press

Haiku San Diego & Haiku Society of America Anthology

Black Crow Reading Series