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.

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!

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!

 

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

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!

 

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: Paul Harding

UCSD New Writing Series Presents Paul Harding, 4/11/12

You have to love an artist who can poke fun at himself. Paul Harding was introduced by his friend and UCSD Professor, Ben Doller. Professor Doller started off his presentation by reading from some of Harding’s worst reviews on Amazon.com. Apparently, some people found his novel, Tinkers, boring, without plot, and a waste of time.

For those of you who aren’t familiar, Tinkers won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 2010.

A self-deprecating Pulitzer winner? A God among men, yet the humblest of the humble? Perhaps you are calling shenanigans on me from your computer screen. But ladies and gentlemen, it’s all true. I cannot tell a lie.

Okay so, Paul Harding. He’s smart, he’s humble, he won a Pulitzer, and a lot of people didn’t like his book. So where does that leave this review?

I’m going to borrow Tinkers from my friend as soon as my workload lightens up. Harding read from Tinkers at the reading yesterday afternoon, along with an excerpt from his new novel that will be released soon, and part of a short story he wrote, Speed of Light, which is set in Nigeria.

While listening to Harding read his work, I was struck by the same feelings I felt listening to the poem Howl being read aloud. It’s one of those things where the words you’re hearing don’t fade out of your mind as soon as you process them, but collect until their is a bottleneck of beautiful prose in your brain, the pressure mounting until it all comes out in a rush when the story is done.

Harding certainly had beautiful, precise, prose. It’s very lyrical and bears a strong resemblance to poetry. Harding used to be a drummer, which seems to contribute to this feeling of musicality. He explains that he seems to hear the lines in beats and phrases, trimming a syllable hear and there to fit this sort of rhythm he has in mind for his work.

My favorite line I picked up on at the reading, was fromSpeed of Light. Two characters are looking up at the stars, and one is talking about them to the other. He says, “Our own history is in the sky, preserved for us in light”.

In the Q&A, discussion of Harding’s writing process inevitably came up. I really enjoyed his answer though. In essence, he said that writing processes are never normative and should never be thought of as such. He also went on to state that “the right way for you to write is whatever gets the words on the page”. Another of his thoughts about writing is that a writer should know his language to the fullest extent possible so that everything is as precise and perfectly articulated as it could possibly be.

I’ll close this off with another gem from Harding’s writing. In Tinkers the title character goes searching for his father. In it, he climbs trees and is described as “tasting for traces of my father in their sap”.

Local San Diego: Ilya Kaminsky and Katie Ferris

Ilya Kaminsky & Katie Ferris presented by the reading series at the San Diego Museum of the Living Artist in Balboa Park 3/23/12

I’m breaking out of my UCSD bubble and attending readings in the larger world! Tonight’s event featured husband and wife Ilya Kaminsky and Katie Ferris, both professors at San Diego State University. The event took place amongst the paintings and photos and other art that lines the walls of the museum. The museum is housed inside the sprawling acres of gorgeous that is Balboa Park.

Katie Ferris read first, choosing some selections from her book BoysGirls. Described as fairytales for adults, she presented a couple of short stories including such topics as a girl with a mirror for a face and a girl who couldn’t shit on the devil’s face. It’s very deliciously Aimee Bender in that way. Her short stories are definitely short- at least the ones she read couldn’t be more than a page or two in length. But all were quite quirky and beautiful in their own ways. The close of the story about the girl with a mirror for a face says something to the effect of, “I’m not only empty, but I contain multitudes”.

Her husband, Ilya Kaminsky read next. Now, if you’re the type of person who gets up in the morning, thinks about how much your life sucks, and proceeds to throw yourself a pity party, take note. Ilya is a deaf poet. He lost his hearing at the age of four. Some time afterwards, his family moved from Russia to the US. Not only does Ilya speak and understand English well, he’s a professor. Still think your life is hard and you should give up now? Keep walking.

Listening to Ilya read is quite the experience. For one thing, he passes around copies of his work for the audience to look at while he reads. I would love it if more authors did this. I consider myself to be a visual, not auditory person. As such, I sometimes get lost listening to people speak because I spent too long trying to puzzle out a word. Ilya passes the books around I suspect so that the audience can get more enjoyment. Though I suppose that enjoyment is relative. Ilya is hard to understand, but he’s hard to understand because when he speaks, it sounds like English, Russian, and music all at once. Really. All at once. That description doesn’t even really begin to adequately describe what’s happening. This is poetry that transcends poetry as we know it.

The evening was followed up by an open mic session. There were a good amount of students from SDSU there and it was clear how much they love Katie and Ilya. As I attend a good amount of open mic nights, it was interesting to check out the scene at this one. It definitely has a different sort of a flavor. While many are skewed towards the young, this one featured equal representation from the opposite end of the age spectrum. Very interesting to hear and experience, especially as for many of the speakers, this was their first time.

There was one poet who came up who had an interesting premise. Apparently, he spent a year “quitting stuff” and is now spending a year “doing stuff”. The poem was the response to all that. But it was interesting to think about what that looks like. A year of quitting and a year of doing. I want to take up such an experiment.

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