It’s California Writers Week! This is an annual observation to “encourage the people of the State of California to reflect upon the contributions that California writers have made to humankind,” since 2003.

We will be meeting this Sunday, like every 3rd Sunday, for our monthly day of writerly activities. Networking at 2 p.m., Club meeting at 2:30, Featured club author Alice Jurow at 3 p.m., and our Keynote speaker Linda McCabe at 3:15. Come early for our Craft Group at 12 p.m. and our Marketing Success Group at 1 p.m., and stay late for our new Open Mic at 4:15! (The support groups are for members but guests may audit before joining the club.)

Interview with Linda McCabe

 

Our October speaker, Linda McCabe, is inspired by classical works, particularly the story of Orlando Furioso, a 16th century Italian work that is connected to the 10th century French “Song of Roland.” What do laboratory science, magical creatures, Harry Potter, a Muslim/Christian holy war, Kick-ass heroines and beta readers have to do with each other? Our speaker chair Cristina Deptula did a lengthy interview on her website Lois Lane Investigates Authors, and we’ve excerpted some highlights here.

How do you know when you’ve done enough research and you’re ready to write? 

linda-mccabe-quote-octThis is a gut feeling. There’s a point when I feel like I am procrastinating more than I am doing research. Sometimes I just have to shift gears and stop researching if the aspect I am trying to understand isn’t “knowable” or maybe isn’t all that important. I spent over a week wondering about diapering in the middle ages. This was all because I wanted to have a character do some action in a scene with her baby. I started imagining the characters in my setting and thought of where would the dirty diaper would be placed. Then I wondered how the diaper would be closed, (did they have diaper pins?) How often would they wash them? How many diapers would a noble household have for a baby?
Some research suggested that babies might not have been put in diapers at all. Instead, the parents would watch them carefully and hold them at arm’s length over straw to absorb urine flow.

I considered this matter for too long. I was obsessing over a minor detail that did not enhance or further the plot. I decided to take it out and not “go there.” Instead, I described the baby as been freshly bathed in the scene.

I notice you also write essays and editorials in addition to your  historical fiction. Would you agree with the advice I myself heard as an aspiring novelist, to get other pieces of writing published before you  go out there to agents and publishers with a first novel?

linda-mccabe-quote-tall-octWhile I believe that publication credits are important to demonstrate your authority as a writer, they aren’t as important to an agent as the sample pages of your completed novel. Writing an article or short story is like running a 100 yard dash while writing a novel is more like running a marathon.

Perfecting the art of the query letter or verbal pitching to an agent in order to get the request to submit sample pages is a different skill set than regular writing. Once you get the go-ahead to send your manuscript and synopsis, your overall craft will be on full view. The agent and subsequent potential publishers will only green light a publishing contract based on the strength of your finished product and not because you had an op-ed published in the LA Times.

Honestly, I think getting a pithy book description will do more for you with agents and publishers than having multiple credits to your name. However, it is a different matter if you are writing non-fiction. If you had publication credits in magazines or peer-reviewed journals and you were submitting a book proposal on the same topic – it might help influence the decision of the agent/publisher to sign you as a client/author.

 

Ask Linda McCabe your own questions this Sunday, October 21st at our monthly meeting.

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