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.

Join us February 18th for

“Grounding Our Characters to the Real World” with Jacqueline Luckett

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An Interview with Sunday’s Speaker, Jacqueline Luckett

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Jacqueline LuckettJacqueline Luckett Gives Us a Preview on Writing Great Characters Grounded in Reality

This Sunday in Preservation Park, Jacqueline Luckett will speak to the club on writing stronger characters. Luckett’s two novels are Passing Love and Searching for Tina Turner, and she writes essays in the Huffington Post and Best Women’s Travel Writing 2011.

CWC member and journalist Cristina Deptula asked her some questions so we can get to know her better.

CD: You talked about living authentically in an old blog post on your website, about having personal values even if you don’t consciously think about them a lot. Did developing and articulating your own values help you do the same for your characters, or vice versa?

JL: My characters are people with values, that may or may not parallel my own. I try to include characters, male and female, with values and action that are the opposite of my own.

CD: What are some examples of grounded, developed characters in contemporary or classic fiction?

JL: Pecola, in Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye believes that having blue eyes will make her happy. Every action she takes grounds her to this belief. Lotto and Mathilde, husband and wife in Lauren Groff’s Fates and Furies, steadfastly hold on to their perceptions of themselves and each other. My own character, Ruby, in Passing Love, believes her life will be better in Paris, no matter the personal cost. She’s dogged, persistent, and focused.

Every action these characters take is a result of his/her character development, physically and emotionally.

CD: How can you learn to write about a character unlike yourself without falling into stereotypes?

I took a class from Junot Diaz years ago. He suggested trying to write yourself as a character with a scar or disfiguration. How that character approaches the world will create a new character different from self.

I’m a black woman over fifty. Does that mean that I can only write characters who are black women over 50? Of course, not. It’s our job as writers to observe, to dig into our memories and to write past the first idea that comes to mind. That’s where being a great observer of people comes in. If your mother called father to dinner many times before he finally came to the table, what does this characteristic say about your mother? How does the father’s response distinguish him? The traits aren’t gender specific. They’re great traits that distinguish and deepen a character. We can twist those traits into characteristics that, alone or in combination, can avoid stereotyping. Mix things up.

Preservation Park

Preservation Park, where Jacqueline Luckett will speak this Sunday

CD: Does every characteristic you give a character have to relate somehow to the plot, or can it work to develop a character just for the sake of having them be more well rounded or letting the readers get to know them better?

Not necessarily. Just as in life, we run into people who are interesting, but irrelevant to whatever we’re doing at the moment, so too are incidental characters in a story who pop up on a protagonist’s journey. They hold our interest, enliven our stories, and create a three-dimensional world.

Right now, I’m reading Since We Fell by Dennis Lehane. In a party scene, he lists the names of five or six attendees who may be important to the main character’s enjoyment of the celebration. We only know their names. The guests blend together and probably won’t be seen again. There’s one character, in the scene a woman, who’s described in a couple of sentences. She holds a baby on her hip, she’s striking, and, the characteristic that really stands out for me, she struggles with her newly adopted English language. This character stands out.

CD: I’ve heard talks on how to create unique and individual characters before. Is creating a character who’s grounded in reality kind of the same idea? Will a character who’s grounded in the reality of an actual and realistic person be more likely to be interesting?

Not if the actual person isn’t interesting. Even if they’re real, a writer may have to give him/her characteristics to make them engaging, appealing and give readers a reason to stick with a story.

When I speak of characters grounded in reality, I don’t mean the everyday reality of incidents. I’m talking about characteristics that make people real and credible: a person who itches all the time, a man who sings in the BART station but nowhere else, a person who cannot look another in the eye, someone who voices the same complaint every day of her life.


Jacqueline Luckett has an MFA in Screenwriting from the University of California, Riverside. Luckett frequently speaks to various organizations about discovering her passion, her path to successful publication, and advice for new writers seeking to move forward in their careers. The Bay Area native lives in Oakland and travels frequently to nurture her passion for photography, exotic foods, and in search of another city that mesmerizes her as much as Paris. Learn more about her at JacquelineLuckett.com, or come to this Sunday’s meeting.

Luckett is the highlight of our schedule, but be sure to get to the meeting early to take advantage of our group discussions on craft and marketing. Coffee and snacks are included.

See the full schedule for Sunday’s meeting here.

Feb 18th: “Grounding Our Characters to the Real World” with Jacqueline Luckett

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Our members have told us that want more opportunities to improve their craft, and we listened. on Sunday, February 18th, novelist Jacqueline Luckett will help us improve our character writing in her feature lecture, “Grounding Our Characters to the Real World.”

In the real world, we’re eager to learn as much as we can about the new people we meet. Readers should experience that same excitement when they’re introduced to a novel’s characters. At February’s meeting, we’ll look at a few ideas to keep readers interested and engaged in a character from the first pages of a novel to the last.

About the February Speaker

Jacqueline Luckett is the author of two novels, Passing Love (2012) and Searching for Tina Turner (2010), and essays in the Huffington Post and Best Women’s Travel Writing 2011. She has an MFA in Screenwriting from the University of California, Riverside. Luckett frequently speaks to various organizations about discovering her passion, her path to successful publication, and advice for new writers seeking to move forward in their careers. The Bay Area native lives in Oakland and travels frequently to nurture her passion for photography, exotic foods, and in search of another city that mesmerizes her as much as Paris. Learn more about her at jacquelineluckett.com.

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Get Marketing Support, Get Your Craft Questions Answered, and Network with Other Writers…

Be sure to arrive early to participate in the Craft and Marketing groups. These are interactive conversations where you can talk to other writers to resolve the issues in your writing and your writers career. Make the commitment to be join us every third Sunday; your writing career is important and you deserve this.

MEETING SCHEDULE

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CWC Featured Author Francine Thomas Howard

12:00–1:00 – Craft Support Group
1:00–2:00 – Marketing Group
2:00–2:30 – Break, Book Sale
2:30–3:00 – Announcements

Featured Speakers

3:00–3:15 – CWC Featured member Francine Thomas Howard
3:15–4:00 – Featured Speaker Jacqueline Luckett

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

Our meetings are right off 980 in downtown Oakland, at beautiful Preservation Park. Just off 12th Street, naturally you can get there from the 12th St. BART station. Those with limited ability can use the parking lot off of MLK Way; otherwise there should be plenty of FREE parking within the park and on surrounding streets.

Jan 21: How to be a Publishing Success Story with Literary Agent Ted Weinstein

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Literary Agent Ted Weinstein Knows a Secret: All Publishing Is Self-Publishing

After a year of dramatic changes in book publishing, the larger media world, and the entire nation, authors must be more entrepreneurial than ever to maximize their chances of success. At our Sunday, January 21st meeting, literary agent Ted Weinstein will give an overview of recent publishing developments and offer guidance on the best routes to publishing success, whether you’re seeking traditional publication or the indie route.

But That’s Not All!

Get Marketing Support, Get Your Craft Questions Answered, and Network with Other Writers…and Check Out Our New Location in the Heart of Oakland

Be sure to arrive early to participate in the Craft and Marketing groups. These are interactive conversations where you can talk to other writers to resolve the issues in your writing and your writers career. Make the commitment to be join us every third Sunday; your writing career is important and you deserve this.

preservation-park-480pxMEETING 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 gives a short reading
3:15–4:30 – Featured Speaker Ted Weinstein

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

We are meeting at Preservation Park

Our next meeting will be right off 980 in downtown Oakland, at beautiful Preservation Park. Just off 12th Street, naturally you can get there from the 12th St. BART station. Those with limited ability can use the parking lot off of MLK Way; otherwise there should be plenty of FREE parking within the park and on surrounding streets.

 

#GivingTuesday and giving back

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Thank you to an anonymous donor who has offered a $200 challenge grant for our branch of the California Writers Club! Let’s maximize this contribution to energize our mission to support and educate writers. Our continued work brings fresh voices to literary culture and creates a stronger arts community in the East Bay.

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Our ongoing fundraising program is our monthly raffle. One lucky person who attends our monthly meetings wins a book by one of our authors! Another lucky person wins a bottle of wine or specialty consumable. Club authors, please donate a book or a bottle. One raffle ticket is FREE with meeting fee ($5 members/$10 public) and more are for sale for $1 each or 6 for $5.

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A small sample of our member offerings!

Our members donate books, time, writing, and money to help other nonprofits.

  • One of our members just donated in the name of CWC to Chapter 510 & the Land of Make Believe, which supports youth writing and voices. Another of our members started a support group to nurture young writers.
  • Several members have been published in anthologies that are fundraisers, like this one with proceeds going to RAINN, the nation’s largest anti-sexual violence organization, and the ACLU.
  • Our president, Kristen Caven, arranged the donation of 3000 copies of her book to parent organizations to help understand and end bullying.
  • Our speaker chair, Kymberlie Ingalls, is hosting an annual comedy show and auction to fundraise for Toys for Tots and the Bay Area Collective… Donate toys and books and get your tickets now ($20) for this fun, Sunday, December 10 event at PF Changs in Walnut Creek!

 

Please post other donation opportunities in the comments. Happy Giving Tuesday!

12/17: Winter Social at the Bellevue Club

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Usually we prefer a flyer to have people in it, but these empty chairs are waiting to be filled with… YOU! Thanks to a caring patron of the arts, our holiday social is at one of the most beautiful venues in Oakland.

Instead of our regular meeting, on the third Sunday in December please join us at the historic Bellevue Club for a relaxing social event. We’ll be meeting a little later in the evening than we usually meet, to sip and enjoy the sunset on Lake Merritt. After the reception, stay for dinner in the club’s formal dining room. Building tours and an open mic will follow dinner. Please bring no more than two printed pages if you would like to read.

Meet us in the Wisteria Lounge at 5 PM by the elevator on the 4th floor for the members-only reception. Please invite your writer friends to join us for an elegant dinner at 6pm.

The cost for the member reception is $10+ donation, and a-la-carte dinner prices range from $15 to $35 with beverages. Lack of funds a problem? CWC members can contact the President to volunteer.

Reservations required—Register on Eventbrite!

Sunday December 17th: 5pm members, 6pm all writers

Here’s the event on FaceBook.

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Getting to the Bellevue Club (map)

525 Bellevue Avenue, Oakland

The Bellevue Club is nestled on the north side of Lake Merritt, across from the playground and the labrynth. Parking is free and safe in the Bellevue’s private lot—buzz to say you are coming for dinner. If you want to carpool, please contact one of the board members.

Interview with Joel Friedlander on Indie Publishing

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Berkeley CWC volunteer Cristina Deptula caught up with the speaker of this Sunday’s meeting for some questions about independent publishing. If you don’t know Joel, he is an award-winning book designer, blogger, and writer. He speaks regularly at industry events and is the author of A Self-Publisher’s Companion and coauthor of The Self-Publisher’s Ultimate Resource Guide. Joel is a columnist for Publishers Weekly, and was named by Writer’s Digest as one of the 10 people to follow in book publishing. He runs a number of helpful websites such as TheBookMakers.com, offering full service book production for authors and publishers.

Come out to our Sunday meeting to ask Joel your own questions about indie book publishing.

Joel-2014-headshot 300xHow does an author decide when to self publish and when to seek an agent and a traditional publisher? What sorts of books do you think are best served by each form of publication?

​Several elements go into this decision. Traditional publishers will be looking for books that will be sufficiently profitable to justify the expense of publishing them. Some authors may not want to wait the 1 to 3 years this process takes, and others want more control of their publications than is afforded in typical publishing contracts. Authors who have ready access to an audience for their books, or who are innately entrepreneurial, are likely to have the best results from self-publishing.

What are some big mistakes to avoid when self-publishing that make your book look unprofessional?

​The worst mistake is to publish a book with an “amateur” cover. It will mark your book as an amateur production before anyone even has a chance to open the book.​ Similarly, publishing a book that hasn’t been edited by a professional book editor isn’t a good practice.

What are some tips to make your self-published book stand out?

​Again, do yourself a favor and hire a professional cover designer and editor. Beyond that, look at the market you are entering. What does your book contribute that is not available? Does it do something better than any other books in the market? Or do it better, more extensively, or in greater depth? Why do people need this book?​

How can authors get self-published books noticed by media and bookstores? Are there hacks to the process or is it still a matter of calling and emailing place after place and dropping off copies?

​There’s no shortcut to marketing a book. Self-publishers can run review campaigns to print, electronic, and online media just like any other publisher. They can advertise on social media sites, build community through blogging or sharing their stories. There are no “magic bullets.” Most self-publishers will not have the assets to attempt a national marketing campaign with offset-printed books, a marketing budget, and a national distributor, all of which are necessary to go beyond consigning books to your local bookstores.​

What’s worth spending good money on as an author and where can a self-publishing author save cash?

​Use free reviews before you pay for any. You can find cover designers who charge very reasonable fees. Editing and cover design are the places to spend your cash. Use a template for your book interior, it will save you a lot of time and money with designers and formatters.​ Partner with other authors who publish books that appeal to the same audience and run promotions where you split the cost. Develop a blog and grow an email list, nothing you can do will pay off as well.

Whether or not you have questions for Joel, we hope to see you this Sunday at our monthly meeting at Preservation Park. Remember, though Joel speaks at 3:15, the meeting starts at noon with support groups to help you resolve issues in your writing or your book marketing…or just network with other writers over tasty snacks and coffee. Doesn’t your writing career deserve a little time this week?

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