An Interview with our November Guest, Author Joan Gelfand
Our featured guest this November 17th is Joan Gelfand. Her reviews, stories, essays and poetry have appeared in over 100 national and international literary journals and magazines including the Los Angeles Review of Books, Rattle, Prairie Schooner, PANK! Kalliope, The Toronto Review, Levure Litteraire and Chicken Soup for the Soul. The author of three well-reviewed poetry collections and an award-winning chapbook of short fiction, Joan’s novel Fear to Shred will be published by Mastadon Press in 2020. Past President of the Women’s National Book Association, Joan is a member of the National Book Critics Circle and a juror for the Northern California Book Awards. Her poetry was featured at the 4th Annual Video Poetry Festival in Athens, Greece and won Certificate of Merit in a juried art show at the International Association for the Study of Dreams. A film based on her poem, The Ferlinghetti School of Poetics, has since showed at nine international film festivals and won Best Poetry Film at the World Film Festival.
Four Questions for Joan Gelfand
What are some common misconceptions people have about what it takes to be a real writer, and what’s true instead?
One common misconception is that real writers have literary agents.
Many writers work with small presses directly, or university presses that do not require an agent. Also—and I feel strongly about this—poets are real writers and only a handful of poets have agents. IMHO, the distinguishing feature of a ‘real writer’ is a writer who has at least one traditionally published book.
How did you harness Confidence, Commitment, Craft, and Community to help you write your latest novel Fear to Shred?
Let’s talk about Community first:
I met my publisher at a Women’s National Book Association event.
I had been very involved with the WNBA for 14 years as a volunteer. I served as National President and chapter president of the SF chapter for two years.
I also spent many years building up a platform, or fan base. I started a national writing contest that brought in a lot of writers and funds to the WNBA.
The other topics, Commitment, Craft and Confidence—I’d prefer to discuss in person with the group.
Who should be in a writer’s community? Are you talking about critique groups, or going to conferences to meet agents and editors, or both? Or something else entirely?
Again, in my humble opinion, every writer NEEDS to be in some sort of community. If they are able, they should be serving as volunteers in any number of active writing communities in the Bay Area.
I don’t consider critique groups , or going to conferences, part of community. Conferences would be part of networking and critique groups I would put under craft.
I am talking about building up your platform and fan base. One writer said you build your fan base one fan at a time. That means you need to meet people, you need to show up at other people’s events, support other writers, etc. Building community is a long term commitment. That said, many writers have built strong, successful communities on line.
Facebook, Twitter and Instagram all provide the tools to build community.
What are some good places to go in the Bay Area to meet some other writers and build community?
Beside the CWC there is the Women’s National Book Association, Left Coast Writers, San Francisco Creative Writing Institute, the Writing Salon, just to name a few.
Karma is president and web mistress for the Berkeley California Writers Club. She runs Future Is Fiction Communications, where she helps authors and other creatives spread the word about their projects. She writes poetry, and essays. She loves writing about music and politics.