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Sep 2

#PatrickMcLaw, Me, and Other Thought Criminals

I can’t stop thinking about the terrifying story of the Maryland teacher/novelist who’s being weirdly punished because he once wrote a novel that includes a school shooting. No one knows the full story yet… Maybe there will turn out to be more going on here? As is, though, it sure looks like an author’s Constitutional rights are being violated simply because of his fiction. Because he wrote about a taboo subject, a subject that’s so scary we as a culture dare not discuss it even in fictional terms.

School shootings are absolutely chilling, evil, nightmarish. So are police states. And in a healthy society, we should be free to engage with those subjects in fiction without fear of a “Soviet-style punishment.”

Last month at the Willamette Writers Conference in Portland, my co-author and I pitched a sci-fi adventure screenplay which met with enthusiastic response… until we mentioned that our heroine time-travels to prevent a school shooting. Producers gently broke it to us that school shootings–even theoretical, thwarted ones–were totally taboo in Hollywood. Even bringing up the subject of domestic terrorism was right out. One producer even gifted us with a hot tip: just change it from a school shooting to something cool, safe, and timely–Ebola. (Brilliant! I’ll just go do a “find” “replace” right now.)

That’s when it occurred to this novelist-turned-novice-screenwriter that Hollywood’s fearful hangups could stymie a screenwriter in a way that no one really can do to a novelist anymore. Even if a Big 5 press doesn’t buy your book, you can self-publish it. Thanks to freedom of speech, as a novelist in America you can choose to write about difficult subjects without fear of being censored, blacklisted, etc. The worst that could happen is readers could collectively shrug and dollar-vote you down to obscurity. (In other words, what happens to most of us anyway.)

As of today I’m no longer sure that’s true.

#PatrickMcLaw, Me, and Other Thought Criminals was originally published on A Herd of Cats

Aug 9

Saturday Morning Email Party

On this Saturday, Amazon called on thousands of KDP authors to spam the CEO of Hachette. That’s their  killer new negotiating tactic. To be clear, I think KDP is a great service. But… what? Chuck Wendig said it best when he called this situation “cookoo banana-pants” (upgraded to “ludicrous coyote-pants” for accuracy).

Saturday Morning Email Party was originally published on

Aug 6

4 Things Pros Do After A Writers Conference

Pile-of-business-cardsYou had a blast, forgot to sleep, and learned why every publishing strategy you ever tried was wrong. Now that you’re home from the conference, what can you do to maximize your return on that investment of precious time, cash, and energy?
Fun with the taxman.

As Carolyn See puts it in her delightful must-read Making A Literary Life, writing is your business and you must manage that business. Luckily this part’s crazy easy: just gather all your receipts for hotel, courses, meals, and supplies into an envelope. Label the outside with a Sharpie (mine says, Willamette Writers Con. 2014 expenses). In the future you can pre-label your envelope and pack it along to make this step even simpler. File with your other writing expenses for the current year… Wait, you do keep track of your business expenses, don’t you? Even if you haven’t made a cent yet in publishing, doing this marks you as a pro in my book. And, for you Law of Attraction types, I’ll add that the first year I started doing this was also the first year I ended up selling a book.

Thank you notes.

Another classic Carolyn See suggestion. Send a short, polite note of thanks to every pro you pitched to who was helpful, interesting, and/or kind to you. No need to reach out to that one who you felt no connection to and who rudely told you your whole genre was stupid/dead/saturated/a scourge on the earth (it’s happened to many writers I know and it means nothing… about you). As usual in life, it’s about following up on the positive connections and letting all the rest go. But make sure you don’t let the positive connections go too! Send those notes, within 1 week.

Add new people. 

Dig out the business cards of cool people you met this weekend and add those folks to Twitter, or Facebook, or your personal email contacts list. However. BIG HOWEVER. Do not add those folks to your author mailing list… because tossing you a biz card across the bar does not an opt-in make. Have faith in your work and believe that people will choose to opt-in to learn about your next release–don’t try to force it.

Save the gems.

Take a few minutes, maybe up to an hour, to go over your notes from the workshops and one-on-ones and synthesize what you learned. The big picture of it. Which quotes stuck with you? What new resources and techniques are you dying to try now? How many blog posts are in there? What was the theme of the lessons you gleaned? For me it was, Keep Learning Or Die. Dramatic? Maybe. But in today’s publishing and entertainment world that’s our reality.

Or maybe that’s just reality, everywhere.

That’s why you’re reading this blog post, isn’t it? We all have to keep learning. No one’s exempt, not even the Big 5. And next time you go to a conference, I guarantee you’ll get more out of it because you’ll already be thinking about these four objectives.

When you see someone you want to talk to, I hope you’ll talk to them AND get their contact info. When you check out of your hotel, I hope you’ll save the receipt for your taxes–that’s a real, legit business expense. When you walk into a workshop that’s not teaching you anything, I hope you’ll walk right the hell out and find another… because that’s your precious time, and you’re there as a gem-hunter, not to be an extra in some presenter’s big scene. You’re there as a pro.

4 Things Pros Do After A Writers Conference was originally published on

10 Commandments of Writing Collaboration – Drafting Edition

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  1. Thou shalt abandon thy darlings. If you wrote a line that you’re damn proud of and the editing sword smites it, speak up by all means… but if you’re the only one who was feeling that line, let it go. Better yet learn to forget who wrote what—that way lies heaven.
  2. Thou shalt obey thine…

#NameThatKitten Contest

UPDATE: Congrats to  for her awesome name for the black kitten, Shadow. Really fits hir personality, scared yet sweet and curious but also kind of a mastermind.

Can you come up with the perfect names for these special kittens I’m fostering? If I choose your idea, I’ll send you a copy of my book GLIMMER. Sound good? Read on to learn more (and see pics of the kitties to help inspire your naming)!

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Background/The Why: Everyone has hobbies, passions, causes. One of mine and my husband’s is helping feral cats. Feral cats are just regular cats who have gone wild over one or more generations. We volunteer with Alley Cat Project, a local trap, neuter, release program and we foster through the Seattle Animal Shelter.  Though I’ve trapped my share of cats (around 25), my biggest love is fostering feral youngsters and especially “socializing the unsocializable.” Speaking of which…

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The Kitties: Yesterday we took home this adorable pair of feral littermates who were found at an industrial site, with no mother. : ( They are total cuties: one solid black and one gray tabby. However they are already wary of humans—being just a touch past their ideal socialization window of 7 weeks—and will need extreme patience over the next month as they learn to trust us. In time their fierceness will be re-channeled into fierce affection and they will make extremely loving companions (I have 2 formerly feral companions who are wonderful, and they’re both on my desk as I type this). But in the meantime… it’s hard. We don’t even know their weights or genders because they don’t want us getting that close. So keep your names gender-neutral please!

The Contest: Tweet your gender-neutral kitten names with hashtag #NameThatKitten. Mention me, @phoebekitanidis, so I can RT you as soon as I get the notification. There is no cost to this, share with anyone you like who likes cats (the last thing these kittens need is hate), and be creative.  hashtagContest ends Friday 5 PM Pacific. That’s is, can’t wait to see your ideas!

#NameThatKitten Contest was originally published on

Your Creative Collaboration Kit

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So you’ve decided to try an in-person writing collaboration. Congratulations, brave author!

Now, what do you need to bring to the big event? Besides your genius, of course. And your brilliant ideas. And your near-genius, almost-as-brilliant friends.

Below is a list of practical things and…

Quick Recipe for 30 minute Bumglue

  1. Prepare a pleasant beverage
  2. Apply butt to chair
  3. Open document
  4. Apply headset to head
  5. Set timer
  6. The secret ingredient: turn on some concentration music on low volume

Note: sometimes we avoid writing, wisely, because part of us knows that we need something else more. A workout, a good night’s sleep, a hug, a trip to the beach, counseling, or just a better understanding of where it is this project of ours is heading. This is not for those times. This is for those other times, when all we need is a temporary anxiety tamer to get us rolling. Like every process trick, it won’t work for anyone, but it’ll work for some people. Give it a try… all you have to lose is 30 minutes.

An Odd Experiment in Collaborative Writing

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You’ve seen them on the TV. The TV writers. The movie dudes. Eight of them, around a table with coffee cups and pizza cartons and mountains of paper. Flipcharts and whiteboards and sticky notes everywhere. Outpourings of creative energy, driving to a looming deadline, shouting, arguing,…

Seattle Writers’ Café Reviews

As a Seattle author, I spend a fair amount of time typing while drinking coffee. I thought it might be helpful to others to review some of my favorite cafe spots here. I invite you to review your city’s best writers’ cafes reviews too! (If you do, send me the link.)

P.S. I don’t give stars because I don’t think in stars. Yelp, Amazon, and Goodreads are set up that way, fine… but on my blog it’s my rules.

Empire Espresso

Tucked into a Columbia City side street, Empire’s a skinny little joint—one long row of tables—that’s often packed, thanks to superior ingredients and a warm, authentic neighborhood vibe.

Writer Raves: Sweet silence! While some people do chat quietly, Empire’s pretty much a working café during daylight hours—you might not even need earbuds to concentrate.

Best Fuel: Yummy handmade waffles and Panini (gluten-free bread available too).  

Tips: Park in the $1 lot a block away on Ferdinand. If you set up a meeting here, choose evening (when it’s more of a pub vibe) and show up early as you can’t reserve space.

Victrola on 15th

Artistic, retro, hipster, whatever you want to call it, this place balances its coolness with a comfortable, laidback vibe. The coffee is top-notch and the art adds value—so does the latte art.

Writer Raves: The ambience here isn’t just inviting, it’s inspiring. I’ve gotten great work done… once I was able to find a table. (Oh, yeah, it’s popular!)

Best Fuel: Eh, some premade sandwiches and salads. I hear the pastries are good though!

Tip: Call to reserve (free) the fabulous private room with its conference table that seats at least 10.

Bedlam

This Belltown indie wears its quirkiness proudly, with crazy décor that features board games, taxidermy, and unique art pieces. To be honest, the first floor’s art isn’t my absolute fave, but it doesn’t matter because…

Writer Raves: … Because it’s all about the second floor, a secret, silent, book-and-couch-filled retreat where a writer can hide all day—and churn out chapters. Yay!

Best fuel: The toast is out of this world. This is also the kind of café where you’ll find wacky and fun concoctions like bacon cupcakes and lavender mochas—a departure from the Seattle single-origin coffee culture I’m used to.

Tips: If you don’t like your coffee, ask them to remake it—the owner makes a big deal in Yelp reviews that he wants another chance to make you happy. Apparently, this is not the place to be PA!

An Odd Experiment in Collaborative Writing

oddrocket:

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You’ve seen them on the TV. The TV writers. The movie dudes. Eight of them, around a table with coffee cups and pizza cartons and mountains of paper. Flipcharts and whiteboards and sticky notes everywhere. Outpourings of creative energy, driving to a looming deadline, shouting, arguing,…