If there was one catch phrase that came home with me from the San Francisco Writers Conference it was “word of mouth and mouse”.

Yes, the words and story are important, as is your audience, but to broaden your audience and, frankly, to generate interest in your book among publishers, you’ve got to use your computer mouse. That means breaking into the whole scary world of social media. One fellow went so far as to say that tweets are the new haiku! (I’ve never even seen a tweet, so I really can’t comment.)
The four days of back-to-back lectures covered prose, publishing and promotion, punctuated with open windows that welcomed early spring breezes and the gentle rattle and ding-ding-ding of cable cars descending California Street.
Although I had a packet of newsletters for critique, this wasn’t the forum. The conference was all about proposals and compelling premises – a step beyond my meager “elevator speech”.
But, oh, the information! Alan Rinzler (editor and publisher for Toni Morrison, Hunter S. Thompson, Andy Warhol, Bob Dylan and others) gave us the sobering facts:

  •   Eighty percent of American families did not buy a book in 2011.
  •  Fifty-seven percent of new books are not read to completion.

Still, Rinzler talked of hope for the writing world, where technology enables readers to get to know authors, and authors can establish communities of readers. Writers, he said, have a built-in compulsion to make sense of their lives and “cannot NOT write.”

In preparation for the conference, I read books by several keynote speakers or presenters including Lolly Winston’s Good Grief, Lisa See’s Dreams of Joy and two of Michael Larsen’s books (co-founder of the conference). I also went to several sessions as a selfish reader, hosted by writers already known to me, Cara Black, whose murder mysteries in Paris I’ve mentioned before, and Ellen Sussman who wrote French Lessons. And, of course, I was introduced to a whole slew of new writers and went home with a long list of titles to read, including Linda Lee’s Smart Women Stupid Computers, which will be published shortly.
I passed up the Speed Dating with Agents session. It was $50 per person and I just was not ready to go there, in any sense of the playful (but frightful) title. I did, however, book 15 minutes on the red couch with Kevin Smokler, billed as “wise person in residence” at the conference. I told him I needed a book shrink because I had been writing my memoir…foodie farmer and rent-a-peep queen…but then I got divorced, lost the farm and lost my purpose.
He told me books on farms are over done. I kept looking at the floor, tears blurring my eyes and words evaporating in my mouth. He said that I have to decide why I want to write the book. So, dear folks, that is what I must do—that, and write 500 words a day, and farm out much of this technology stuff, at least for the time being. So, you see, I’ve got a serious case of brain fog, and have to work it through. But, I cannot NOT write, and I promise there will be a book, even if it’s published posthumously.  Laurie Lynch
Grace Cathedral Labyrinth
Floating Through the Air: Author Bharti Kirchner, in the workshop Making Your Setting a Character in Your Novel, emphasized the role the five senses have in writing. A spell checker is fine, she said, but you also need a “smell checker”.
The Happy Wanderer
Spiritual Visits: Just a short walk from the conference was the beautiful Grace Cathedral. We walked the outdoor labyrinth and I saw a delicate, new-to-me vine called Hardenbergia violacea (aka the Happy Wanderer). It’s Zone 9, so it can’t be grown in Pennsylvania, but all of you happy wanderers out there should look for it.  We also visited the Cathedral of Saint Mary of the Assumption, and someone there has a sense of humor.  After Mass, Trig wanted to show us the gift shop downstairs. We got in the elevator and there were no numbers to press – only the letter H, going down…
Paterno/Cemetery Update: JoePa is definitely buried at Spring Creek Cemetery near my mother’s home. In infinite township wisdom, 17—yes, I counted them—17 No Parking signs (P with a slash through it) have been posted on the short stretch of road. I guess the P with a slash through it could also mean No Paterno…
Next Blog: A literary tour of North Beach.

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