The group is the Valley of the Sun chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists, a great group of folks. Their idea was to gather a few published authors, invite folks, and hold the event in a place with great food and drink. So they hosted “From Journalist to Author: Turning Your Beat Into a Book.” Well done!
That is how I came to be at Monti’s La Casa Vieja in Tempe last Friday, October 7. That is a place with a lot of history, and they can mix an excellent martini. Most important, the panel was excellent.
One of the first changes you might note about that industry is represented above—every one of these accomplished women has her own website. That and the amount of marketing individual authors are expected to do are striking changes from the past.
This ain’t your grandmother’s publishing industry.
Click through to read more about these writers. Jana is an amazing author (from whom I once took a hilarious and insightful writing class) of the books Bones in the Desert: The True Story of a Mother’s Death and a Daughter’s Search and The Trunk Murderess: Winnie Ruth Judd. Shanna is the true-crime author of Dancing With Death: The True Story of a Glamorous Showgirl, Her Wealthy Husband and a Horrifying Murder.
And just to prove that it’s not all blood and guts, Terry spoke about her book Illegal: Life and Death in Arizona’s Immigration War Zone.
Their insights about the industry, agents and pitches were helpful. As a writer, though, I really appreciated their comments on that ink-stained craft of writing itself. For instance, Terry told us that “The essence of writing is understanding the human soul.” True that.
Shanna described her brave plunge from “fitting her writing in” to making it her main work. Attendees appreciated her honest assessment of those risks.
And then there’s Jana, who I’m sure would be able to make me laugh even as the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse swept into town (“… and the horse you rode in on,” she’d likely mutter to the overly dramatic riders). She offered those gathered some suggestions that we all could use, whether we write book length or something smaller.
“Don’t overwrite the story,” she offered. “But you sure have to write the heck out of it.”
When you conceive of a book, she said, “Write a one-page treatment of it: If I can’t snare the reader in 500 words, I certainly can’t snare him in 15,000.”
Finally: “If you have the first sentence of your book and the last sentence of your book, you’re halfway home.”
Below you’ll find a few of my dreadful cell-phone pictures of the event. But you should go to the authors’ websites for better art and copy.
(And for an odd but related blast this weekend, head to—appropriately—The Trunk Space in downtown Phoenix, where the film “Murderess” will be screened. It is filmmaker Scott Coblio’s retelling of the Winnie Ruth Judd story—with puppets. It’s shown at 7:30 pm Sunday; click here or more information.)
Thanks to the authors and to the Phoenix chapter for such a great event. Have a terrific weekend.Follow @azatty