Thursday, January 13, 2011

Launch Party for San Diego Writing Women

We at San Diego Writing Women invite you to our launch party for a night of readings, musings, wine and other creative juices, hors d’oeuvres and live music. Come join us on Saturday, Feb. 19 from 6 to 9 p.m. at Hair Drezzers on Fire, 3463 Adams Avenue in San Diego.

A few months ago we started blogging here about the writing life. Now, we want to celebrate the written word with you in person, read from our latest books, and launch our mission of sharing our combined knowledge and experience with readers, writers, and aspiring writers everywhere.

We know you all have busy social lives, so we divided our program into two sets of readings, which enables you to go to dinner before or after listening to the author(s) you most want to hear or meet. But we certainly invite you to stay for as long as you like!

Jumping off with true crime novelist Caitlin Rother, our first set of readings will go from 7 to 7:30, featuring the following authors, in this order:

1) After 19 years in the news business, Pulitzer-nominated investigative reporter Caitlin Rother left her job at the Union-Tribune in 2006 with one published book, a new book contract, and the hope of making a living as a full-time author. Today, she is doing just that. She teaches writing at UCSD Extension, and is working on book #8, about the John Gardner case. Caitlin will read from her new true crime book, DEAD RECKONING, the story of how a former child actor turned conman and hermaphrodite wannabe tied a nice married couple to the anchor of their yacht and threw them overboard – alive.

2) Jennifer Coburn is the USA Today best-selling author of four “chick-lit” novels and contributor to four literary anthologies. Her first novel THE WIFE OF REILLY is in development for feature film and her favorite, TALES FROM THE CRIB is in development for TV. Jennifer has written for newspapers across the country from the San Diego Union-Tribune to the Miami Herald and is the recipient of numerous journalism awards from the Press Club and Society for Professional Journalists.

3) Divina Infusino is the author of DAY TRIPS FROM ORANGE COUNTY: GETAWAY IDEAS FOR THE LOCAL TRAVELER, the writer of ROCK GODS, a rock ‘n’ roll photography collection and co-author on THE LOVE RESPONSE, a mind-body wellness book. An award-winning journalist, she worked as an entertainment staff writer and critic for The San Diego Union, rock critic for The Milwaukee Journal, cultural commentator on KPBS, and a contributor to Rolling Stone, The Economist, TV Guide,, The Huffington Post, Haute Living and other publications. Divina will tell a story from her travel book about a magic point on the Orange County coast.

4) Dr. Sharon Vanderlip has provided veterinary care to domestic, wild, and exotic animals for more than 30 years. She served many years as veterinarian for the University of California San Diego-School of Medicine and later as Chief of Veterinary Services for NASA. Dr. Vanderlip’s practice is dedicated exclusively to mammalian reproductive medicine and surgery. She has written numerous scientific articles and more than 20 books on animals and pet care. Tonight Dr. Vanderlip will read from her new book, Hedgehogs. Dr. Vanderlip may be contacted at

5) Kathi Diamant left a career in broadcasting to follow her dream to tell the story of Kafka’s last love. She retraced Dora’s life, interviewing all who knew her, uncovering lost letters in London, secret Nazi and Communist files in Berlin and Moscow , finding Dora’s missing diary in Paris , and reuniting her lost family in Tel Aviv. Kathi’s literary detective work resulted in KAFKA'S LAST LOVE: THE MYSTERY OF DORA DIAMANT, which won the San Diego Book Awards’ “Best Biography” and "Best of the Best" in 2004. It is translated into French, Spanish, Russian, and soon in Chinese, Portuguese and German.


Historical novelist Laurel Corona will start off our second set of readings, which will go from 8 to 8:30, featuring the following authors, in this order:

6) After decades teaching research writing to college students, and 17 Young Adult books to her credit, Laurel Corona decided in 2004 to try her hand at writing for adult audiences. Her first book, a nonfiction work, UNTIL OUR LAST BREATH, won a Christopher Medal, and her first novel, THE FOUR SEASONS won the Theodor S. Geisel Award for Book of the Year at the 2009 San Diego Book Awards. In fall 2010, her second novel, PENELOPE’S DAUGHTER, was published by Penguin, and her third novel, FINDING EMILIE, is due out in early April from Simon&Schuster. Laurel will discuss the important role historical novelists play in recreating the lost history of women.

7) Born and educated in New York City, Kathy Jones moved to California in 1980. The recipient of major grants and an honorary doctorate from Örebro University in Sweden, she taught Women’s Studies for twenty-four years at San Diego State University, publishing award-winning books on feminism and the women’s movement. After writing LIVING BETWEEN DANGER AND LOVE, a memoir about a student’s murder, she left the university to pursue a writing career. Since then, she has written and produced a play, ACTS OF FAITH, completed another memoir, and is working on an historical novel and a collection of satirical short stories.

8) San Diego native Georgeanne Irvine has devoted more than three decades of her career to raising awareness about animals and wildlife conservation. By day, she is associate director of development communications for the San Diego Zoo, where she has worked for 33 years. George is also the author of more than 20 children’s books plus numerous magazine, newspaper, and Web articles. George’s most recent work is the coffee table book, THE KATRINA DOLPHINS: ONE-WAY TICKET TO PARADISE, the true story of eight dolphins from an oceanarium that were washed out to sea during Hurricane Katrina and dramatically rescued.

9) Judith Liu spent thirty years conducting personal interviews and hunting through dusty archives to research her book, Foreign Exchange. The narrative revolves around two women—one the author’s mother who attended an American Episcopalian missionary school in central China—St. Hilda’s School for Girls—and the other, an American woman who went there as a short-term teacher in the 1930s. Their lives intersected at the school during the brief time of peace in China. Set within the context of the school’s history, their tales provide a snapshot of China and its educational system before the founding of the People’s Republic.

Before and after the readings, we will be available to chat with you as we sign books, which will be available for sale (please bring cash or checks). Please check the Books or Bio pages here on the blog for more information about us and our many and diverse titles.

For those who did not receive a personal invitation and would like to attend, RSVP directly to Caitlin Rother at so we can make sure to have enough books, food and beverages for everyone.

This venue is in the same area as the Adams Street Fair, so parking should be plentiful on surrounding residential streets.

Hope to see you there!

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Biggest Mistakes New Writers Make... or Literary Don’ts are Worse Than White Shoes In Winter

This week I will be giving a workshop at the San Diego Library on how to publish a book. In preparation I contacted some of my writer friends and asked them to share some of their best advice – what they wish someone had told them before they started their careers.

They had terrific tips about how to find an agent, work productively with an editor, and promote their books. While they offered a wealth of information about what to do to publish a book, they also shared some wonderful tips on what not to do.

We’ve all seen photos in women’s magazine in which a victim of bad fashion is featured with a black bar across her eyes. She’s selected as a “Glamour Don’t” because of her dubious choice to couple a cheetah print tank top with a hot pink Minnie Mouse hair bow. Consider the following, the literary equivalent.

“Literary Don’ts”

1. Don’t give an agent an “exclusive look” at your manuscript. When you are just starting out as a writer, it may be very exciting when an agent asks you to cut off all contact with others so she may carefully consider your project. It means she’s serious about you, right? In fact, asking for an exclusive look is a promising sign that this agent thinks your material has potential, but you should never, ever agree to this. Why? It’s great for the agent, but not such a good deal for the writer. The agent now has all the time in the world to ponder over your material (read: procrastinate) while your plan of action is reduced to waiting around. Nine times out of 10, this is a waste of your time.

2. Don’t pay an agent to read your manuscript. A real agent (read: non-charlatan) makes her money by selling your manuscript to interested publishers. Typically, an agent’s fee is 15%. They do not charge authors to read or offer comments.

3. Don’t get so excited that an agent is interested that you forget to ask questions. It is thrilling when an agent asks to represent you, but just because she wants you, doesn’t mean it’s the right fit. What is her style? What is her ideal client like? What deals is she most proud of? Does her agency have an aggressive foreign rights rep? Who does she work with in the film industry?

4. Don’t take advice that doesn’t feel right. If an agent or editor asks you to revise your work so much that you end up hating it, it’s time to have an amicable break up. Workshop your manuscript. Listen to trusted readers. Revise, rework and polish. But be sure you feel every new draft is getting better.

5. Don’t ask huge favors of people you don’t know. There’s a fine line between being a go-getter and pain in the ass. For example, I think it’s perfectly reasonable for writers to ask each other for cover blurbs even if they’ve never met. I’ve asked writers. I’ve been asked by writers. As long as there’s a legit book deal and certain publication, it’s all good. But the woman who showed up at my book party holding her daughter’s 600-page manuscript insisting that I “get it” to my publisher definitely crossed the line. She winked and promised me I’d thank her some day when the book hit the best-seller list.

6. Don’t oversell. Be confident about your work. Highlight your achievements as a writer. But if you describe your manuscript as “an epic historical drama so moving and poignant, it will surely become an instant classic.” This is the kind of thing other people say about books, not the author. Let your writing speak for itself.

7. Don’t quote your Mom. Unless your mother is Jackie Collins, no one cares if she loved your book. When pitching to an agent, do not tell her that your mother, your friends, or your Bunco group all loved your book.

8. Don’t tell people your book is about your life and all the cool stuff you’ve done. Have a definite focus for your memoir, novel or non-fiction book. You should be able to describe your concept in one sentence, or the time it takes for an elevator door to close.

9. Don’t mistake a first draft with a manuscript that’s ready to be seen by agents and publishers. It is exciting to complete a first draft. As a closure person myself, I know how fun it is to check a box that shows I’ve completed something. But it is critically important that you take the time to revise, workshop, revise and revise again. It is important to finish and get your work out there – but only when it’s really, truly ready.

10. Don’t think your publisher has a grand publicity plan for you. Sure, if you’re a New York Times Bestselling author, your publisher has assigned its best publicist to promote your book. If you’re like most, you’ll be pitching yourself to radio stations, newspapers and magazines on your own. Or you’ll hire a publicist with your own money. Either way, you’ll be the one being interviewed on TV, radio and in print, so get ready to hit the media circuit.

Of all of the “Literary Don’ts” you could commit, the worst one is this: quitting. Most people who want to write a book take themselves out of the game too early. They get a few rejections and figure the professionals know best – and throw in the towel. Getting published is simply a war of attrition. Just ask J.K. Rowling, whose mega best-seller, Harry Potter was rejected by 12 publishers, or John Grisham whose first novel A Time to Kill was rejected by 16 agents, then a dozen publishers. Most successful writers will tell you that their path to publishing was paved by failure, rejection and mistakes. If you’ve already made some of these fumbles, so what?

The world is a forgiving place. Now you know better. Move on, don’t make the same gaffe twice, and go get yourself published!

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

From Dolphins and Chimps to Critter Crap: Projects in the New Year

by Georgeanne Irvine

Welcome, 2011! I always like to ring in the new year with gusto—lots of energy, enthusiasm, and excitement about what I hope will be a fulfilling and fun 365 days. However, I started out this year with laryngitis on New Year’s Eve and then spent the next two days in bed with a killer cold. While lying there, though, in between episodes of “Glee” and “The Closer,” I had time to think about three writing-related projects that are in the works and decided that if even one of them comes to fruition this year, I will be very, very happy! So, what are the three projects?

The first project—a biggie—is financing and beginning production on a feature film based on my book, The Katrina Dolphins: One-Way Ticket to Paradise. Screenscope, a production company, purchased the movie rights to the book in 2009 and is still seeking funding. The producers have an Academy Award-winning screenwriter on board for the script but haven’t secured the big bucks to make the movie because of the bad economy. I know my book will make a fabulous movie: disaster, drama, dolphins, and a happy ending! Right now, there’s not much I can do to help, but if anyone knows of somebody who wants in on a film that’s sure to be an Oscar contender, please drop me a line! (And following the movie, I can see a show on Broadway: Katrina Dolphins: The Musical! Yes, I do have a vivid imagination.)

Next is my yet-to-be-published children’s book, Hope for Amizero, a true story about an orphaned chimpanzee at the Jane Goodall Institute Chimpanzee Sanctuary in Burundi, Central Africa. I researched the book in the early 1990s when friends of mine managed the sanctuary. The chimp, Amizero, was initially captured by poachers and then rescued by my friends when she was near death. The book touches on the drama of Amizero’s will to live and focuses on the story about her recovery and fun-filled life with the other chimpanzees as well as a baby gorilla at the sanctuary. On my two trips to Burundi, I met and bonded with Amizero and still cry when I think of the day I had to say goodbye to her. My first draft of the manuscript is written; I am partnering with a well-known children’s book illustrator; and we have a publisher interested in the book. An editor at the publishing house read the manuscript, liked it, said they definitely want to publish the book, but thus far hasn’t sent me suggested edits or the contract. The project has been stalled for a year and a half now. It’s truly time to get the Amizero project moving, even if it has to go to another publisher.

Third is an adult humor book I wrote nearly 30 years ago, Critter Crap from A to Z. As you probably guessed, it’s about animal poop. I think it’s the most creative and unusual book I’ve written. It features two-liners about animal poop in alphabetical order of the critters, which are illustrated with cartoons. Example: “Diamonds and rubies are fit for the crown. But jaguar jewels make the Queen’s gown brown.” Or: “When NASA sends monkeys to the red planet Mars…their waste, monkey missiles, orbits the stars.” I have had dozens of rejection letters regarding this manuscript but I know in my heart that, someday, it will get published and it will probably be my best-selling book! Late last year, I contacted my incredibly talented cartoonist pal, and we agreed to give the book another go. He’s working on updated illustrations, and then we’ll figure out our publishing strategy from there.

As a freelance writer with a full-time communications job at the San Diego Zoo, it’s really easy to put my book projects on the back burner. I also need time for friends, family, photography, travel, and fun, plus I am an excellent procrastinator. If I set my mind to something, though, I can make it happen, so now that my “to do” list is published for the world to see, stay tuned for the next chapter!

GEORGEANNE "GEORGE" IRVINE is the author of more than 20 books on animals and wildlife, her most recent being the colorful and informative coffee table book, The Katrina Dolphins: One-Way Ticket to Paradise. Whether she’s trekking through rain forests in Borneo to photograph orangutans and illegal loggers, cavorting with dolphins in the Bahamas to research a new book, or wrestling with 50-pound panda cubs to help promote wildlife tours to China, George’s career is all about sharing animal stories to raise global awareness about conservation. By day, she is communications manager for the San Diego Zoo and Wild Animal Park, where she has worked for nearly 33 years.