Welcome to The Club!

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The Berkeley Branch is the founding branch of the oldest professional writers’ club West of the Missisippi.

CWC Berkeley Branch welcomes all California Writers Club members and guests to our monthly speaker program and affordable workshops on the art and business of writing.

Our events are open to the public!

Our next program is

We are accepting new members!  Click here to commit to your writing career.

Writing Tips from our April Featured Member, Karma Bennett

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Editor’s note: Today we start a new series that presents interviews with Berkeley CWC members who are to be featured at our events. These interviews are presented by Jason Yiu. Our first featured member is Karma Bennett, who is not only the featured member at this Sunday’s meeting, she’s also our Berkeley branch president. Now I turn it over to Jason. 

SAMSUNG DIGITAL CAMERAKarma Bennett has experience in many fields of writing: poetry, writing content for businesses, novels, even in publishing and publicity. She has been working in publicity and marketing since 2007, specifically in book publicity and digital marketing, and now she runs her own business in that field, at www.karmabennett.com. Bennett’s forte is in increasing publicity in social media, creating Google search keywords for blogs, and overall making sure her clients get more attention online. She enjoys writing about music, politics, feminism, and philosophy, and she blogs about them in www.futureisfiction.com. She is one of the top ten most-popular blogger on blip.fm, with over 42,000 followers. Although she has no published work yet, in the past decade, she has been working on a novel.

Bennett’s intention for writing is unequivocal: writing is what fulfills her the most. “It’s natural. It’s what I’m good at,” she said. “It’s the question of ‘What did you do while you’re on Earth?’ Writing’s the only answer that makes me satisfied.”  She started off writing poetry, but realized that poetry can’t build a career, so she pivoted into writing novels. 

JY: Can you tell me a little about the novel you’ve been working on?

KB: The novel is about an artist who has recurring dreams about the Garden of Eden. She is trapped within the ambiguity of whether she is going insane, or if she is in fact called to save the world.

Bennett compares the novel to Pan’s Labyrinth, by Mar Diestro‑Dópido, where the ending could be interpreted in different ways, depending on the perspective of the reader. While writing, Bennett had the objective to construct this ambiguous ending, empowering the reader to perceive an ending in his or her own head. Is it fantastical, or is it real?

JY: As an experienced writer, are there any tips you would like to give to other writers?

KB: Don’t self publish.

As someone who worked in marketing and publicity for many years, the first suggestion Bennett would give to other writers is a practical one: don’t self-publish. She’s talked to many writers over the years who are gung-ho about self-publishing in order to put their work out there, but she doesn’t recommend it if the author wants to get their books in the bookstores. From her experience, “buyers will only look at books from traditional publishers,” she said.

KB: Join a writer’s group!

Bennett has been part of three writer’s groups, and she says that it helps her grow as a writer. She learns from the critiques they give her on her writing and absorb their point of view. She also mentioned the essentiality for writers to collaborate, especially for blogs. Speaking from her own blogging experience, she knows what the readers want is more content in the blogs. Being the only blogger on her website, she was only able to post monthly posts given her time restraints with her business. To tackle this issue, Bennett has been thinking about collaborating with a few other writers so they could each contribute to the blog to drive more frequent content.

KB: Most importantly, write everyday.

This was the last point Bennett added, but stressed with most gravity. “If you look at runners, they don’t hit their best times every practice. Writers have to be like runners and basketball players, to continue practicing,” she said, “Even if it’s writing journal entries that won’t be seen by anybody else.” Bennett emphasized the importance of keeping up with the daily writing, and, comparing writers to athletes once more, “don’t be too hard on yourself if your writing doesn’t meet your standard. Keep writing.”

JY: What motivates you in writing?

“The news, and ignorance,” she answered, but clarifies that she doesn’t mean that in a judgmental way. There would be instances where she comes across people saying things that are politically incorrect that makes her perplexed. She, then, realized that it’s because many people don’t have the a background or frequent exposure to politics and sociology. Thus, one of her strongest objectives in writing would be to raise awareness for views she doesn’t think are talked about enough, or to edify her readers on political views that are often misunderstood from an unbiased point of view.  

JY: Lastly, do you want to leave us with some of your favorite authors and books?

Bennett has recently been reading Joseph Campbell’s work as well, on account of her research for her recent novel. Referring to The Hero with a Thousand Faces, she is intrigued by his theory of monomyths, how he pointed out the common denominator for all religions share archetypal similarities. Although Bennett had her qualms with many religious practices in the past, she said Joseph Campbell made her understand what we see a lot of times are results of culture changes, but not in the idea of the religion itself.

Bennett has read numerous books in her life, but the two authors she could think of from the top of her head were Kurt Vonnegut and Catherynne M. Valente. She indicates that she likes how Kurt Vonnegut triggered the question of “am I who I am, or am I who I pretend to be?” She referenced her favorite book by Vonnegut, Mother Night, and explained that the split identity of the protagonist, and the conflict of those two identities, shifted her perspective on who we really are. Bennett likes Valente for her imaginative fantasy novels. “[Her] descriptions are so engaging, she creates a world that only exists in her own head,” Bennett said.

Karma Bennett will be reading a short passage from her work at our meeting this Sunday. Come out and say hello, and be sure to look out for the hidden Easter eggs! They contain a coupons for discounts from publishing professionals in our club, including several from Bennett too. 


Jason Yiu

What They Never Told Me about Being a Writer

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what-they-never-told-me-being-a-writer-connie-hale

Are you ready to get serious about your writing career? Whether it’s your first book or your fiftieth, whether you write poems or parables, penny dreadfuls or pensive memoirs, every kind of writer is welcome at the oldest organization for writers west of the Mississippi.

This month in addition to our regular marketing and craft groups, we welcome Constance Hale.

Through remarks that are frank, sometimes funny, and often inspiring, Constance Hale reveals some of the ups and downs of her 30-year career as a writer. She’ll tell you the surprising story of her first piece in print, how she later became an “accidental grammarian,” and how she recently resolved to break out of the pigeon hole she found herself in and write from her deepest passions—the market be damned. Along the way she’ll share some tips on how to make sentences sing and how to make it as a freelance writer.

About Constance Hale

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Constance Hale is a San Francisco–based journalist and the author of three books on language and literary style, including Sin and Syntax. She has been called “Marion the Librarian on a Harley, or E. B. White on acid.” Her profiles, essays, and articles have appeared in The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, The Atlantic, Afar, and Honolulu. In 2016, she published a book on the evolution of hula, The Natives Are Restless, and a children’s book, ‘Iwalani‘s Tree. She covers the writing life at SinAndSyntax.com.

But Wait, There’s More

As always we offer two interactive groups to boost your writing career. In our craft group, we discuss how to tackle challenges in our writing. In the marketing group we help you spread the word about your books and build your platform. We also provide tasty snacks and plenty of opportunities to network with other writers.

MEETING SCHEDULE

12:00–1:00 – Craft Support Group
1:00–2:00 – Marketing Group

Simultaneously
12:30–2:00 – Social Hour
2:00–2:30 – Break, Book Sale
2:30–3:00 – Announcements

Featured Speakers
3:00–3:15 – CWC Featured Member Karma Bennett reads
3:15–4:30 – Keynote Speaker Constance Hale

Meetings are $5 for members, $10 for non-members.

CWC Marin One-Day Writing Conference April 2

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CWC Berkeley member John Byrne Barry alerted us to the CWC Marin Conference on April 2.

The day-long conference will cover fiction and nonfiction writing, with three literary agents available for five-minute pitches. Registration includes morning coffee and rolls, along with a bag lunch. Vegetarian and gluten-free options will be available.

Presenters include keynote speaker Constance Hale on “The Seven Stages of Manuscript Grief,” Linda Watanabe McFerrin on “Writing About Places Real and Imagined,” Tanya Egan Gibson, Robert Pimm, Teresa LeYung-Ryan, Krissa Lagos, Mary C. Moore, and David Colin Carr.

Find out more at cwcmarin.com/writerslife.

Flyer for April 2 CWC Marin event

Get Inside Your Reader’s Brain with Novelist and Scientist Ransom Stephens

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Ransom Stephens speaks March 19 CWC - "Be a better writer...with SCIENCE!"

The Neuroscience of Reading

How to Make Readers Laugh and Cry

Neuroscience is like looking under the hood to see how It works. When you know how readers process your writing you can figure out what grabs readers, what bores them, and why. In this presentation, we’ll investigate how to write in ways that administer dopamine when you want readers happy and withholds it when you want readers sad. We’ll explore the roots of what people like and why bestsellers aren’t always critical favorites. Art is subjective, but our subjectivity has a lot in common. Join us for this exciting approach to writing March 19th!

About Ransom Stephens

Ransom Stephens, Ph.D., is a scientist, science writer, and novelist. He’s written hundreds of articles on subjects ranging from neuroscience to quantum physics to parenting teenagers. In his first novel, The God Patent (47North, 2010), a troubled father is caught in the science-religion culture war and in his second, The Sensory Deception (47North, 2013), scientists and venture capitalists use the relationship between the senses and the mind to give people the experiences of endangered animals. His first nonfiction book, The Left Brain Speaks but the Right Brain Laughs (Viva Editions, 2016), is an irreverent and accurate look at neuroscience for a lay-audience with emphasis on innovation in art and science. Ransom has given thousands of speeches across the US, Europe, and Asia and has developed a reputation for making complex topics accessible and funny.

RansomStephens.com

MEETING SCHEDULE

12:00–1:00 – Craft Support Group
1:00–2:00 – Marketing Group

Simultaneously
12:30–2:00 – Social Hour
2:00–2:30 – Break, Book Sale
2:30–3:00 – Announcements

Featured Speakers
3:00–3:15 – CWC Featured Member reads
3:15–4:30 – Keynote Speaker Dr. Ransom Stephens

 

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4 Publicity Tips from Sunday’s Speaker, Cristina Deptula

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Cristina Deptula

Cristina Deptula speaks at 4 pm, come at noon for our working groups.

This Sunday at Connexion in Jack London Square, publicist Cristina Deptula is going to give us tips on creatively reaching traditional media. Rather than a passive lecture, Cristina is looking forward to having an interactive discussion, based on the best advice for the authors in the room.

I asked Cristina to give us some general tips on publicity, and here are four that she mentioned that should apply to most any author.

Publicity Tip 1

Go Where Your Audience Already Is

Find your audience where they already gather, reach them how they already communicate. Ask your readers how they found out about you. Then ask them how they normally find out about new books and where they spend time. Go to those places and find more readers like them.

Publicity Tip 2

Traditional and Social Media Work Together

For example, use social media to announce and post photos from your signings and events (posting live is even better). Share links to reviews you’ve landed in print publications. Host in-person events where you invite your social media followers.

Publicity Tip 3

Do Your Research

When you reach out to traditional publicity venues like radio shows and newspapers, figure out how they want to be contacted and follow the rules and submission guidelines. Pay attention to preferred genres and areas of interest. For example, if you are calling a live outlet like radio and television, it’s critical that you not call them close to shooting hours. A newspaper journalist is more likely to take your phone call if you don’t call her before deadline.

Publicity Tip 4

In Your Pitch, Include Previous Speaking/Reviews

Let the outlet you are contacting know where you’ve spoken before or been reviewed or interviewed before. Especially for radio and television, it’s critical to demonstrate that you aren’t camera/radio shy! So even if you gave lectures on a different topic, it is good to let them know you have experience with public speaking or appearing on TV or radio.

Better to give them the name of a little-known reviewer and quote an interesting bit from their piece than to claim that some people think you’re the next big celebrity and wonder if your relatives or friends paid you to say so!

To find out how to apply these to your book come out to this Sunday’s meeting.

feb-writing-event-oakland-traditional-book-publicity

 

 

Feb 19: Creatively Reaching Traditional Media with Publicist Cristina Deptula

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cristina-deptula-head-shotCristina Deptula is a former journalist and founder of the literary publicity company Authors, Large and Small. On February 19th, she will share practical advice on getting your work reviewed in traditional media like newspapers, literary magazines and radio shows. She will also offer advice on promoting your book through bookstores, reading groups, festivals and more. Deptula’s specific,creative and sensible advice will help your writing get you heard and mentioned.

Deptula specializes in helping writers identify what’s unique about their books and find and communicate with the people who would most be interested in reaching them. Every book has an audience—it’s a matter of finding them!

About the Speaker

Cristina Deptula’s company Authors, Large and Small has provided affordable and resourceful publicity for authors of all genres since January 2013. They leverage both traditional and online/social media.

MEETING SCHEDULE

MEETING SCHEDULE
12:00–1:00 – Craft Support Group
1:00–2:00 – Author Support Group
Simultaneously:
12:30–2:00 – Social Hour
2:00–2:30 – Break, Book Sale
2:30–3:00 – Announcements
3 :00–3:15 – CWC Featured Member: Tim Jollymore
3:15–4:30 – Cristina Deptula

MEETING LOCATION

We meet at ConneXion in Jack London Plaza at 520 3rd Street (View map). Our location is a 13-minute walk from City Center BART, and there is free street parking on the street plus we are very near the garage by the movie theater. The entrance on Fourth street is ADA accessible.

Admission
CWC Members: $5
Non-Members: $10

PDF Flyer of This Event


Upcoming Meetings

April 16 (Easter Sunday)

What They Never Told Me About Being a Writer
With Connie Hale

featured member: Tim Jollymore

June 18th

Marketing Your Book with Social Media
With Frances Caballo

featured member: JoAnn Ainsworth

Member Book Launch: The Vesuvian Affair

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Long-time member Kristen Caven has published four books since she joined the CWC. One of her measures of creative success is a great launch party, and her next one promises to be unforgettable. On February 11th, she will be debuting a limited-print edition of an erotic/paranormal/spiritual romance at an elegant and extravagant costume party.  

The Vesuvian Affair (Mystic Editions) takes place at a sci-fi-themed Carnevale party in Venice, where flickering lights, outrageous costumes, and flowing alcohol create a beautiful but unsteady reality.  An American schoolteacher has become possessed by a nature spirit, and a Wiccan priestess tries to protect her from the psychological toll of consummation.

cover2As in most of Caven’s fiction, the narrator becomes real and the author becomes a character. The lines will blur even further when this award-winning playwright appears as Cosima Zanardi, international woman of mystery. The Prosecco (not Champagne) reception at the finale of a private Carnevale-themed party, is open to the public. Costumes and masks are admired but not required.

When: Saturday, February 11th, 2017, 5-6p.m. 

Where: The Bellevue Club in Oakland, 525 Bellevue Avenue (across from the playground at Lake Merritt)

How much: $20 in advance covers admission, a collectible book, and a glass of bubbly.  Purchase the “Venetian Affair” package at www.generousmuse.org. (If you love dressing up, then get the “Venetian Adventure” package and come at 2pm.) Please note you are coming and invite a friend on the Facebook Event page!

The CWC is proud to share big news from our members!
Members, please send blog posts to the president.
Would you like to become a member? Join in January or February for half price!

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