Friday, February 27, 2009

Shreve Stockton and Andrea Portes

Barbara DeMarco-Barrett interviews Shreve Stockton, author of The Daily Coyote: A Story of Love, Survival, and Trust in the Wilds of Wyoming and Andrea Portes, author of Hick.

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(Broadcast date: February 25, 2009)

Bernhard Schlink, author of The Reader

Here he is, a video with Charlie Rose. Great interview.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

It's a wild ride

A student who works for a corporation wrote to me, and said she was hurt by what a friend said to her. She had shared with the friend that she hoped to be a published author someday.

Rather than sharing her dreams, the friend said she just didn't like to work hard.

This devastated my student, who has worked fulltime for years and years.

She asked me to talk about this on the blog.

All I can say is, so many non-writers just do not get it. I might expand that to say that people who are not in the arts don't get that while your particular art may have its wonderfully fun side, it's still work.

Hours upon hours go into practicing an instrument before you can play a song well. Artists put so many hours into art class before creating a beautiful painting.

And you spend so many years writing, taking writing classes, reading, studying craft and writing lots of crap, before a gem of a piece emerges, before your story or book or screenplay takes form and becomes something someone--an agent, an editor--wants to buy and publish.

Non-writers just do not understand.

In Pen on Fire, I talk about keeping quiet about what you're working on because you let the air out of it. The energy for the project dissipates.

I would broaden this to say, don't discuss your writing aspirations with your friends, especially if they're co-workers who feel stuck in their jobs and do not see a way out. They will want you to remain stuck as well, and the thought of you leaving, of you making something of your life that's more than they will ever see in their own lives, will fill them with dread and fear, and they will hurt you.

Share your writing dreams with other writers or artists, people who understand what it's like to ram your head against a wall--until it falls. And it will fall, if you ram it long enough.

Take heart. It's all about growing a thick skin. And it's about having empathy for people who have no dreams, or whose dreams have failed, but protecting your own dreams and doing everything you can do to make your dreams come true.

Have empathy, but protect yourself. What's that old, old saying: Don't cast your pearls before swine....

Your writing self is a delicate, beautiful part of yourself. Don't squander it. It takes so many hours of work and sacrifice to create works of art. The world needs art. Your sacrifice will pay off.

The creative life is a wild ride. Enjoy it (when you can).

Interesting talk on this Ash Wednesday.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009


A sweet video, kind of lyrical, called to my attention by my friend Don Gagne. Take a break and watch....

Monday, February 23, 2009

Can't stop writing?

In case you didn't see this in Sunday's New York Times....

Friday, February 20, 2009

Janice Y.K. Lee and Sylvia Sellers-Garcia

Marrie Stone interviews Janice Y.K. Lee, author of The Piano Teacher and Sylvia Sellers-Garcia, author of When the Ground Turns in Its Sleep.

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(Broadcast date: January 14, 2009)

Wednesday, February 18, 2009


My friend Kim wanted me to post this here. I said, "But it's not about writing." She said, "It's an example for people like me who need inspiration to write about something special immediately after it happens." So here you are.

It’s been raining off and on for days—tres unusual for Southern California, even in winter. I love it. Everyone here lives for sunny days, and I do love sunny days, but I love rainy days more, perhaps because something is happening. I’m from back east where there’s lots of weather.

Still, because of the rain and cold, I haven’t been walking much. But this morning I decided I had to get out, so I put on my old tennis shoes in case they get wet —not the sparkling new ones I just bought—and my usual walking clothes. Because of the rain, I wear my purple windbreaker with hood and a hat. And fingerless gloves. I’m as prepared as I need to be—maybe even overdressed.

When I start out, it’s misting. I tuck the Netflix DVD I’m taking to the post office in my coat, under my arm, snug against my body. The sky is bright but it begins to rain harder. I pull up my hood. No one’s on the street except for an older woman and a little white dog. She holds a black and white striped umbrella over the dog so he doesn’t get wet doing his business. He sees me and barks. Few cars pass; even cars are staying in.

I head across the parking lot behind Coco’s. I love the sound of the rain. It sounds like hot oil sizzling in a cast iron pan. I close my eyes and walk, listening. At the post office a man says, “It’s wet.” “Sure is,” I say, “but I like it.” He doesn’t say anything, just watches the street and me going back out into it.

I’m wet now, and getting wetter. I decide I’d better go home. My shoes have water in them and it’s beginning to hail. I put out my hand and watch tiny mounds of ice pop onto my gloves and melt there. I laugh aloud, a little dizzy with happiness at being caught unexpectedly in a winter storm. I am so glad to be in it.

At crosswalks the water gushes by, ankle deep. I submerge my feet. My shoes are already wet so what’s it matter? The storm reminds me of El Nino when Travis was a small boy and from our window I’d watch rivers of water rush down the street, and Travis, on the porch bundled up, splashing in the rain.

By the time I return home, the rain has returned to mist. I step inside and de-clothe right in the doorway. I hang my coat on the doorknob and leave my sopping wet pants and socks and shoes on the floor by the rug. My legs are red from the cold but I don’t care.

It’s been lovely, and I feel lucky, wondering if the rain came so hard and heavy that little bit of time while I was out, just for me.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Vicky Bijur

Barbara DeMarco-Barrett interviews
Vicky Bijur, New York City literary agent.

Download audio.

(Broadcast date: February 11, 2009)

After the interview, I still had a few questions for Vicky, and she agreed to elaborate. Here you go:

Memoirs traditionally don't cover an entire life but just a period in the life, but can a memoir take place completely in the past? What if you want to write about a time in, say, the '80s, or '90s. Is that okay, or does a memoir need to end with the present?

I don't think I can generalize. I do think readers like to know what happened to the subject of the memoir. But I wouldn't ever say there is a hard and fast rule for how to end a memoir.

Is a non-linear structure fine, or is whatever works fine?

Again, I don't think there are any rules here.

Is it possible to write just part of a memoir and submit as with any other nonfiction book proposal--30 pages of text and other material, such as overview, bio, marketing?

Barbara, I don't feel there is one answer to this question. The answer probably depends on too many factors--how well known the author is, the author's publishing history/track record, the quality of the writing. But the memoir is such a writerly, literary form of non-fiction, that it is probably more important for an editor to see it in its final form.

Do you see the memoir form becoming exhausted?

I don't think so. My impression--based on purely anecdotal evidence--is that I read all the time of deals for new memoirs.

On the show you talked about how we need to support newspapers. I subscribe to the Los Angeles Times, and even though I don't read it daily and feel guilty about wasting paper, I keep my subscription because I want papers to continue. Is this what you were talking about?

Yes. I feel good about paying for my newspaper. I am worried that if content is free, the newspaper industry won't be able to finance the sort of coverage and investigative reporting they can currently support.

We also talked about the reviewing media and how the loss of book reviews in newspapers and the addition of online reviews is changing things. Can you embellish?

I wish I had more information on if and how online reviews/online buzz sells books. All I know is that the print review media is contracting, and there seems to be a lot of chatter online about books.

If you have a question for Vicky that wasn't't addressed on the show, or here, post it in the comment area. I'll get it to her, and post her response.

California Crime Writers Conference 2009

Here's a writers conference in June, taking place in Pasadena. (I'll be on a panel talking about getting writing done in 15 minute blips.) Should be good!

Best-selling authors Robert Crais and Laurie King will be the keynote speakers for the inaugural California Crime Writers Conference, cosponsored by the Los Angeles chapter of Sisters in Crime and the Southern California chapter of MWA on June 13-14, 2009 at The Hilton Pasadena.

The two-day event will include an agents reception, forensics track, craft workshops, query and synopsis seminars, manuscript consultations, and classes for established authors on book contracts, e-publishing, presentation tips, online marketing information, and film/television opportunities.

Confirmed agents include Jill Marsal of Sandra Dijkstra Literary Agency, Irene Webb of Irene Webb Literary, and Timothy Wager of Davis Wager Agency. Faculty members include award-winning and best-selling authors such as Gayle Lynds, Jerrilyn Farmer, Jan Burke and Christopher Rice, while other experts featured are LAPD detectives, intellectual property attorney Jonathan Kirsch, and publicist Kim-from-L.A.

Early registration is $265 through February 28. For more information, click here.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

And yet more on T. Jefferson Parker

Jeff said a lot of great things the other night (we'll broadcast and also podcast the show very soon), but the one thing I remember is he said: "I believe in velocity." I had asked him how he kept track of The Renegades, a mulitlayered, complex book. Novels, in general, are very messy. So many pages, so many characters, so many things to keep track of.

Jeff said he keeps his chapters in one big file, so if he has to do a search, it's all there, in one file. He also said he wrote five pages a day, 25 pages a week and in six months he has a book-length manuscript, so there isn't enough time to really forget what he wrote.

Such a simple tip and yet invaluable--for me, anyway, who has been known to take, well, years to work on a project.

My new mantra: I believe in velocity.

Friday, February 13, 2009

More on T. Jefferson Parker

UC-Irvine covered our event the other night. Here you go.

And here's a photo of us that was in Publishers Weekly today as photo of the day. That's Matt Astrella, on the left, who has run the UCI bookstore for the last 20 years, T. Jefferson Parker, and moi....

I'll write more later (after I get some sleep!).

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Amy MacKinnon and Jincy Willett

Marrie Stone interviews Amy MacKinnon, author of Tethered and Jincy Willett, author of Jenny and the Jaws of Life and The Writing Class.

Download audio.

(Broadcast date: January 28, 2008)

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Sarah Murray and Gail Belsky

Marrie Stone interviews Sarah Murray, author of Moveable Feasts: From Ancient Rome to the 21st Century, the Incredible Journeys of the Food We Eat and Gail Belsky, author of The List: 100 Ways to Shake Up Your Life.

Download audio.

(Broadcast date: December 31, 2008)

Friday, February 06, 2009

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

T. Jefferson Parker and me

An Evening with T. Jefferson Parker and
Barbara DeMarco-Barrett

We have a very special evening coming up on February 10 with T. Jefferson Parker.

T. Jefferson Parker’s new book, The Renegades, is being published this month, so next Tuesday night, at 7 p.m., we’re holding a launch party at the Student Center on the UC Irvine campus. We’ll discuss Jeff’s new book, he’ll read, take questions, and sign books. There will also be refreshments.

This launch party also heralds “Pen on Fire: A Speaking Series,” which intends to bring literary events to Orange County on a regular, monthly basis.

The show will be recorded for a future broadcast on "Writers on Writing,” KUCI-FM and will also be podcast.

The New York Times Book Review said this about The Renegades: “Another insanely imaginative thriller from T. Jefferson Parker…the wondrously weird characters [take] this lurid plot to its outer limits.”

Unfortunately, reservations cannot be made (seats are free) so please get there early. Here are directions.

If you have any questions, email me at And feel free to tell your friends.

Please join us for a wonderful evening. I hope to see you there.


Sunday, February 01, 2009

Jo-Ann Mapson

Jo-Ann Mapson, author of The Wilder Sisters, Blue Rodeo, Hank & Chloe, Loving Chloe, Along Came Mary, Goodbye, Earl and The Owl & Moon Cafe.

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(Broadcast date: May 5, 2000)