Litquake Palo Alto: A Huge Success
Recently, the Peninsula Parlour extended its “campus” to the Oshman Family JCC in Palo Alto where Litquake was hosting its second annual literary event. Just think, PP on steroids without the fog. There were many fantastic speakers, panels, and, of course, lots of books for sale. Dan Handler, Andrew Sean Greer, Jane Smiley, Ellen Sussman, Ann Packer, Gail Tsukiyama, and many other luminary authors were there. It was fun to hobnob with the literati.
I was privileged to moderate a panel on emerging authors. Litquake Founder, Jane Ganahl and I decided to invite female writers who are “emerging” into writing as a second career to be our guest authors. Tracy Guzeman whose debut novel, The Gravity of Birds, was published at the beginning of August joined us. As did Nina Schuyler whose second novel, The Translator, was published in July. She says she is “re-emerging” given her last novel was published in 2004 and then “life got in the way.” Finally, Amy Franklin-Willis, whose novel, The Lost Saints of Tennessee just came out in paperback, also joined us.
I shared a quote from James Woods’ in an article he wrote for the New Yorker. He pondered if great writers can be good family members:
Perhaps the story teller is especially ill suited for a happy family life. For even as the fiction writer tells humae stories about behavior and motive and family relations–what one might think of as a sympathetic skill–so he or she is also a little like the proverbial choirboy at the funeral: coldly observing, carefully pillaging, rearranging,impersonating, and re-voicing the very material that constitutes “family.”
Our panelists whole-heartedly disagreed. Family, how ever you define it, is the juice that helps the writing flow. “We are better writers because of our “other commitments” was the general consensus. How then, does she do it all?
Nina regaled us with her discipline. Mother of two, juggler of five different free-lance jobs, wife, friend, and the model for “how does she do it all,” Nina explained that she is up at 5:00 am, keeps to a daily page commitment, and has the power to say no to email/Facebook/Twitter/ and all other digital distractions. This passion to her craft has enabled her to stay true to writing career. That and the occasional chocolate reward.
Tracy recounted how she juggles her marketing/event planning career with her writing. Given the cycle of event planning with her clients, she is able to balance a six months on/six months off work life allowing her to dive in deep to her writing life.
Amy says, “We all need a good wife.” Luckily, she has one. As the primary bread-winner, Amy has been able to squeeze in writing between her full-time job and duties raising the couple’s three daughters largely because of her great partner (and great kids). “It’s a team effort. I can’t imagine doing this alone,” she told us.
The room was packed, the air-conditioning overworked, and still the audience was bright and lively. More than half the room was filled with aspiring “second career” novelists. The best advice our panelists’ gave? Don’t give up!
Some other tips?
1) Consider using Freedom to shut down that pesky digital world and give yourself focus. It’s called “productivity software” for a reason.
2) www.750words.org is a great way to track your daily progress.
3) Scrivener is software that allows you to organize your manuscript. Best used from the start of a project.
What’s up next for the Peninsula Parlour?
As you know, we’ve partnered with Books, Inc. in Palo Alto and will be hosting a full schedule there this fall. Here is our line up of interviews:
On September 17th, I’ll be interviewing debut author, Anthony Marra, at Books, Inc. The event is free and open to the public. Sign up here. And if you’d like to buy his book in advance, you can do so here.
On October 15th, the prolific writer, Dennis McFarland, and I will be in conversation. His newest book, Nostalgia, will be published on October 1. Sign ups coming soon.
On November 19th, Nina Schuyler will be joining me for an in-depth conversation about her novel, The Translation. We’ll be taking about how our words can ever really be understood, and even then, only in context.
Come join the conversation.