Catamaran Writers Conference Gems

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Catamaran Attendees at the Tor House, Carmel, California, home of the renowned poet Robinson Jeffers

While at the 2015 Catamaran Writers Conference in Pebble Beach, I met so many talented writers, poets, editors, publishers, agents, aliens (just kidding) that I was overwhelmed, but in a good way!

Now I understand why people love going to these conferences. You become immersed in a creative energy field, plus you don’t have to cook, wash dishes or do laundry. Or deal with fighting siblings or a snotty partner!

I’d like to share these special people and resources with you. One of them may lead you to a great book, a conference, a poetry collection, landing your own book deal…who knows? 

From my Creative Nonfiction Class with Frances Lefkowitz:

  1. Frances Lefkowitz’s highly acclaimed memoir To Have Not about growing up poor in San Francisco is one of the best memoirs I’ve read. Meeting her in person, being her student and receiving her feedback and encouragement was almost better than chocolate. (Frances, chocolate is to me what a cute pair of shoes is to you! 😉  Visit her awesome website to learn about Frances’ upcoming workshops, writing/editing services & to read her blog.
  2. Rayne Wolfe, a fellow classmates, has an incredible resume. Her book Toxic Mom Toolkit is a bestseller and it has spurred a very active Facebook community. Rayne works as a journalist and has written for none other than the New York Times. She’s a writing coach, media source and guest speaker. Visit Rayne’s Facebook page (Toxic Mom Toolkit) to keep posted of her upcoming book (I can’t wait to buy it!) and her blog: http://toxicmomtoolkit.com 
  3. Annie Dawid is another talented classmate (hey, my class was 100% packed with talent! 😉 and a prolific author, artist, and writing teacher. Annie has had several books published, and her upcoming book Paradise Undone: A Novel of Jonestown is sure to be riveting. Learn more about Annie at http://www.anniedawid.com

During one of our yummy meals I met two fascinating women who teach in my hometown. 

Helene Simkin Jara of helenesimkinjara.com is an actor, director and author. Her book Because I Had To is a Kindle bestseller. Her upcoming book consists of 96 interviews from women and men about childhood experiences with dolls; some are funny, many are terrifying, some are poignant. Some experiences occure in orphanages in Switzerland and Korea; takes place during the Holocaust.  It’s a peek into people’s lives with dolls as the catalyst. Her book sounds extraordinary. Check out her website for the details.

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Dr. Adela Najarro of http://www.adelanajarro.com immediately set me at ease. She invited me to practice my publicity pitch with her about my book Birth of a New Brain – Healing from Postpartum Bipolar Disorder. Adela pretended that she was an independent bookseller and I “met” with her to promote my book. 🙂 Like everyone at the conference, she’s multitalented – she’s a poet, published author and creative writing instructor at Cabrillo College. I wish I had her as my teacher when I went to school!

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Our lecturers made a big impression upon me. Two of my faves were:

Michael Larsen, literary agent and co-founder of the famed San Francisco Writers Conference in 2016 and the San Francisco Writing for Change Conference coming up very soon on September 12, 2015. I seized the opportunity to meet with Michael for a half an hour. We discussed my book Birth of a New Brain and he inspired me, gave me a bunch of great ideas, and listened. It didn’t hurt that he had one of the best senses of humor around. To get to know Michael visit his blog http://sfwriters.org/blog/

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Development editor/publishing consultant Heather Lazare gave an illuminating presentation. She explained how the New York editing scene worked, and much more. Heather has a comprehensive website and if you’re a fiction writer I suggest checking out her Northern California Writer’s Retreat she co-founded with literary agent Chelsea Lindman. It’s coming up in 2016 – I wish Heather and Chelsea would offer a nonfiction version, hint hint!  

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Chicago Quarterly Review

(How cool & lovely is this collie on the cover? Doesn’t she look like Lucy?)

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I was honored to meet Syed Haider, the founder of this highly respected nonprofit literary journal and author of To Be With Her. Syed was so kind to me and we had some wonderful talks at mealtimes. If you’re a writer, I encourage you to look at the website’s submission guidelines and send the Chicago Quarterly Review your work – they consider virtually all forms of writing. If published, you can be tremendously proud to be a part of this literary tradition.

Finally, I must mention the beautifully produced

Catamaran Literary Reader

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Catamaran conference attendees were given swag bags upon check-in, which was a lovely way to start the conference. We received a copy of the latest issue of the Catamaran Literary Reader.

While at the dentist last Saturday for four hours (without WiFi or a smart phone) last week, I thank God that I brought my Catamaran issue. I leisurely enjoyed every page – I had the time! I was very impressed with this notable local publication founded by visual artist/writer/creative visionary Catherine Segurson.  

As someone who has lived on the West Coast of California for forty-five years, I particularly love Catamaran’s tagline: “West Coast Themes – Writers and Artists from Everywhere”.

Thanks for reading!  Please share if you dare! 😉

with love,

Dyane

 

 

 

 

Starting to Freak About the Catamaran Writing Conference

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Yes, I’m beginning to feel nervous about leaving my cozy comfort bubble to attend the 2015 Catamaran Writers Conference at Pebble Beach. I certainly won’t let my freakiness stop me from going to such an incredible-sounding event. But I’m definitely intimidated about hobnobbing with established writers, not to mention some famous ones. It’s not like I’m a writing neophyte. I have a book deal with Post Hill Press, but I’m not exactly Karen Joy Fowler (our keynote speaker and the winner of the 2014 PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction) either.

I’m daunted at the prospect of having my writing critiqued by a group, but that’s the primary reason I’m attending. I want a fresh perspective about my book Birth of a New Brain – Healing from Postpartum Bipolar Disorder; specifically I want feedback about Chapter One, the material I submitted for our class to review. An acclaimed memoirist/memoir instructor, Frances Lefkowitz, will discuss her take on my chapter and I’ll gain insights from my classmates as well. 

The last time I was away from my family for more than a day was in 2013. That summer I was hospitalized three times after I slowly, slowly tapered off lithium and relapsed into bipolar depression/suicidal ideation. I admitted myself into Community Hospital of the Monterey Peninsula, a.k.a. CHOMP. (I’ve always found that to be a bizarre acronym; CHOMP reminds me of a vicious shark – no offense to shark lovers!)  While there I requested bilateral ECT (electroshock treatment/electroconvulsive therapy) which brought me up to a functioning level. I have no regrets about ECT and consider it a lifesaver. However, my bipolar depression didn’t go away until I began taking lithium and my MAOI (monoamine oxidase inhibitor) Parnate that fall. 

Ironically CHOMP is located very close to the Catamaran Writers Conference site, but I’m determined not to darken its doors unless I suffer from severe writer’s cramp or the like. My meds are doing their job, thank God, and I’m still working out almost every day “Alsuwaidan Style“.  

I think that sometimes after we suffer so much trauma, it’s hard to fully accept the “happy stuff” that comes our way. A part of me feels that this conference is too good to be true. Moreover, thoughts of “I’m not worthy! My writing sucks and it’s not worthy either!” have floated through my mind.

I’ll do my best to let my negative perceptions pass through my brain, and focus on breathing in the fresh ocean air that permeates the campus. My past anxiety crutches of booze and benzos are no longer an option. As hippy dippy as this may sound, I’m going to turn to nature and sweat to help me grapple with my assorted heebie jeebies. There’s a gym I will use on campus, and there are group hiking activities and other outdoor field trips (i.e. to gorgeous Tor House, home of Robinson Jeffers, a John Steinbeck tour, and exploring sites that inspired Robert Louis Stevenson, i.e. China Cove and Pelican Point ) for the writers.

I can also blog about my angst to you, right? I’ll have my laptop  and WiFi by my side, and I’ll let you know how it all pans out.  🙂

XoXo,

Dyane

p.s. It’s not too late to join me! August 1st is the registration deadline. Sign up at 

http://catamaranliteraryreader.com/conference-2015/

 

Here are a few hideous campus shots! 😉

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And the atrocious area of Pebble Beach & China Cove!

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My 1st Fellowship Award! The Catamaran Writing Conference

 

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On Tuesday I was awarded a Fellowship to study Creative Nonfiction and Memoir with Frances Lefkowitz at the 2015 Catamaran Writing Conference. 

I still can’t believe it!

A little backstory: in 2012 I read about the new, local Catamaran Literary Reader. Each issue was filled with first-rate writers. Many of them had received the highest writing accolades possible. I never dreamed of submitting my writing to the editors, especially since my unrelenting bipolar depression got in the way.

In 2013 after a seven-year-long search, I finally found a medication combination that alleviated my paralyzing depression: lithium and an MAOI. I started this blog and returned to work on my partially written memoir Birth of a New Brain.

Fast forward to last month. I wanted to attend a writing workshop that could help me improve my first draft. Through a Google search I found the Catamaran Writing Conference. This annual event is held at a beautiful Pebble Beach campus complete with field trips. It sounded like a glorious summer camp for writers!

I looked at the cost and gulped. No way, I thought. Ain’t gonna happen. 

However, I couldn’t get the conference out of my mind. After three cups of Steve’s Smooth French coffee (for the record, the coffee mug was small!) I wondered if scholarships were available  I emailed an inquiry to the Catamaran office and got on with my day. Within hours the conference coordinator emailed me,”Yes, we offer several fellowships, and here’s the link to apply.” 

Why the hell not? I thought.

Some of you know I’ve been through plenty of literary rejection that brought up slight 😉 anger and insecurity issues. See this link for the gory details: https://dyaneharwood.wordpress.com/2015/03/06/lets-play-the-schadenfreude-game-a-writers-1st-rejection/

 

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To get fired up to write my application, I re-read the description of the Nonfiction Workshop I wanted to take. The teacher, renowned writer Frances Lefkowitz (author of To Have Not, a highly acclaimed memoir about growing up poor in San Francisco), seemed like she’d be an ideal guide. Lefkowitz has led numerous memoir workshops. She won a grant to teach free memoir workshops at libraries – how cool is that? (I’ve worked for the Santa Cruz Libraries and Friends of the Santa Cruz Libraries; I’m a bit of a library fan.) Participating in her workshop would be a unique opportunity, bar none.

Moreover, Frances Lefkowitz has the same first name as my beloved Granny who was also a gifted teacher. I blogged about my remarkable grandmother for the first time last week. The name coincidence and timing seemed like a good omen that tickled me in the face.

Still, I knew that it was highly unlikely I’d be awarded a fellowship. Surely the staff received a gazillion entries from outstanding writers with talents far superior to mine – writers who were destined to win oodles of Pushcart Prizes and PEN Literary Awards. 

On Tuesday morning I sat in front of my laptop, perplexed. The past month I’ve gone through an awful writing block. I’ve worked on my book here and there instead of during every precious child-free opportunity that I’ve had. (I suspect that my Seroquel withdrawal has had something to do with my struggle.)

My dog Lucy sat on my foot, her warm, furry flank reassuring me of her affection. I began to sob with frustration. Lucy immediately jumped up in alarm and licked my face. As soon as I dried my tears, I noticed a new email had popped up in my in-box.

It was from the Catamaran Literary Reader.

I stared at my in-box. I felt slightly sick to my stomach. I wanted this fellowship. Ever since I emailed my application I wrote nightly affirmations stating I’d receive the award. I furtively placed these slips of paper under my pillow. (This is hippie-dippie Santa Cruz after all, and in twenty-seven years of living here, I’ve never written positive affirmations!)

Despite my pillow plea to the Universe, I knew that the email was likely to be a rejection. Before opening it I braced myself. I took a deep breath. I opened the email and read, ” The editors have chosen you to receive a Fellowship Award to study Creative Nonfiction and Memoir with Frances Lefkowitz during the 2015 conference.”

I let out an enormous, happy scream. Poor Lucy. She barked madly while I danced around in circles like a freak. I’m so grateful for this beautiful award, and I’m honored that the Catamaran editors were “impressed” with my submission!

Since then, I’ve been absorbed with reading my teacher’s memoir; it’s not required, but after reading its rave reviews and spotting its $2.99 cost on Kindle, I was compelled to buy it. I’ve read the first few chapters and it’s incredible. My good friend/blogger Kitt O’Malley (http://kittomalley.com) noticed my enthusiastic tweet about this book and she also bought it. I know she’ll find it a riveting read as well. 

I’ve checked out Lufkowitz’s blog Paper in My Shoe and some of her interviews to get a sense of her teaching style and philosophy. All of these interviews contained excellent writing advice.

Here’s one piece of wisdom she shared on the Fictionaut blog that many of us bloggers/writers can utilize. 

http://fictionaut.com/blog/2012/04/11/fictionaut-five-frances-lefkowitz/

What’s the best writer’s advice you ever got?

Frances Lefkowitz: When submitting stories to publications, always keep several pieces in circulation, so when one comes back rejected, you still have the others keeping hope alive. Also, for the same reason, send that rejected one out immediately to another journal. This advice came from the wonderful Pamela Painter, who taught me fiction at Harvard’s night school.

It’s not too late to sign up for the conference! Details are posted below. 

I’ll be back next week with an update on the Seroquel withdrawal blues, which was meant to be today’s original topic until I got this lovely conference news. 🙂 

take care, and have a wonderful weekend!

love, Dyane

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To buy To Have Not go to :http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B003GDIA32/ref=s9_simh_gw_p351_d0_i1?pf_rd_m=ATVPDKIKX0DER&pf_rd_s=desktop-1&pf_rd_r=0434WR0JN7PNWSVJ7ACW&pf_rd_t=36701&pf_rd_p=2079475242&pf_rd_i=desktop

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@YesFrances
Frances Lufkowtiz’s cool website/blog Paper In My Shoe 

http://www.franceslefkowitz.net/blog/

 

For information about the 2015 Catamaran Conference in Pebble Beach this August, visit:

http://catamaranliteraryreader.com/conference-2015/

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Dyane’s memoir Birth of a New Brain – Healing from Postpartum Bipolar Disorder with a foreword by Dr. Walker Karraa (Transformed by Postpartum Depression: Women’s Stories of Trauma and Growth) will be published by Post Hill Press in Fall, 2016.