Saturday, August 30, 2014

Westside Writers Schmooze - Finishing Out The Schmooze Year With a Bang!

Before we get started...

PLEASE NOTE (and we’re just gonna keep announcing this over and over, lest one of our dear Schmoozers falls through the cracks):  Due to circumstances beyond our control (and contrary to the info on the super-spiffy flyers we distributed), the planned moved to the Main Branch of the Santa Monica Public Library has been POSTPONED. Until further notice, we will continue meeting in our regular home at the Fairview Branch Library Community Room, 2101 Ocean Park Boulevard, Santa Monica, CA 90405

…now back to our regularly scheduled blog:

After months of learning about the nuts and bolts of the writing life – from dealing with failure to the specifics of different genres and formats to what social media can do for you as a writer – we finished off the Schmooze year with three powerhouse workshop Schmoozes.

First up were our two critique nights in April and May.  Schmooze critique nights are extra special because they provide a safe, friendly environment in which to hear honest feedback on your writing.  Whether you’re a brand-spanking newbie or a “seasoned veteran” (Charlie uses Tobasco heavily while Karol prefers the one-stop shopping of Mrs. Dash…ahem, where were we?) – sharing work with others can be nerve-wracking.  But the Critique Schmooze ethic dictates that we start and end on positive notes and try our best to help one another improve our work, rather than rewriting someone’s story obtrusively or crushing anyone’s dreams.

If you’ve been shy about coming – don’t be!  Join us for next year’s critique nights, and we promise, you’ll be glad you did.

Thanks to a brilliant suggestion by Schmoozer Jeffery Cox, we invited actual illustrators to join us for April’s Picture Book Critique.  It added a new dimension to the proceedings that was really fun and resulted in the largest turnout in some time, with nearly 40 people packing the room. (Not that we’re the types to count or care about that sort of thing.)
Charlie & Karol pose with some of
the Illustrators in Residence

The Illustrators In Residence (as Karol and Charlie dubbed them) were there to give general impressions about how well a manuscript might lend itself to illustration and to make suggestions on how to improve a story’s visual potential.  The night was so much fun, we’ll definitely invite illustrators again next year.

In May, writers of longer works were the beneficiaries of another great Cruelty-Free Schmooze Critique Night.  Alas, no groundbreaking new element was included – just hardworking writers bravely sharing their work and their thoughts on the work of others.  “We don’t need no fancy-schmancy, newfangled element,” the Schmooze novelists reported, claiming to get great value out of the night even though Charlie and Karol did nothing new.  Success!

Our final workshop Schmooze was the Fabulous Elevator Pitch Schmooze – SO fabulous, in fact, that we’ll be closing out the 2014-2015 Schmooze year with another one!  We spent some time discussing what makes a good elevator pitch and how it differs from book flap copy or a publisher’s description of your book.  There were some differences of opinion, but everyone pretty much agreed that your passion for your story and the tone and feel of your book should absolutely shine through in your pitch.

The real work came when the Schmoozers paired up and began crafting and practicing their pitches.  Charlie and Karol admitted to feeling a swell of parental pride when looking out at all the pairs of writers, working hard and so engaged (but don’t expect them to give you lunch money or drive you to the Sadie Hawkins dance—or make your bed!).  After working in pairs, several Schmoozers shared their elevator pitches with the room and got some of that Schmooze-patented, helpful-rather-than-hurtful feedback.  The whole evening was…in a word…AWESOME.

 Having to give your elevator pitch need not leave you HORRIFIED!

And speaking of AWESOME, Charlie and Karol have a truly exciting, experimental, CONCEPT YEAR planed for those Schmoozers intrepid (or foolish) enough to follow them. 

Starting September 10th, thanks to YET ANOTHER brilliant idea from Jeff, they present a Ground-Breaking Year-Long Concept-Schmooze experiment:

The Journey Of Your Book – From Initial Story Spark To Your Readers’ Eyeballs.

We’re in our regular home at the Fairview Branch!

First up on Wednesday, September 10thThe Spark…And What To Do With It

We'll look at where ideas come from, how to determine if there’s a book in your cool new idea, and some tips for flushing out your idea and turning it into a story we can all care about.

So…finish your summers off with Big Bangs (though don’t, like, restart the Universe or anything) and join us in September, ready to WORK and begin The Journey Of Your Book!

Until then, keep passing the open windows,

Charlie & Karol

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Blogging About Blogging, Westside Writers Schmooze-Style

Waaaaay back on March 12th, the SCBWI Westside Writers Schmooze transformed the SMPL Fairview Branch community room into a Blogster’s Paradise.

The topic was blogging and social media – specifically how we, as writers, can use the internet to improve our craft, share ideas, promote ourselves and generally feel less alone in the world.

We assembled a crack panel of experts featuring Lee Wind, Nutschell Windsor and representatives from The Pen & Ink Blog.

Lee treats blogging like a job (which, technically, it is, as he heads up the official SCBWI Team Blog).  “Blogging made me feel more like a writer,” Lee said.  He tries to post 5 times a week on his personal blog ( and twice a week for the SCBWI.

Sue Berger from The Pen & Ink Blog, who’s a published e-book author said, “If you’re published by an e-publisher, you’d better have an online presence.”  The Pen & Ink Blog began with a critique group.  They each toyed with the idea of doing a blog, and decided it’d be easier and more fun to do it together.

We learned that Nutschell’s blog, The Writing Nut, is a veritable treasure trove of interviews, writing tools and info on events for writers.

Charlie attempts to "fill in" as Greg,
naturally using a chicken as a stand-in.

In addition to the wisdom of the panel, co-coordinator Charlie Cohen had interviewed social media consultants, Greg Pincus and Laura Wallis, and chipped in their thoughts in absentia.

Read and or print the full interview HERE.

We also handed out a brief Social Media Survey.  10 Schmoozers responded and here are some of the details that came to light:

Three people blog; the others don’t – or haven’t yet.

Schmooze regular Joshua Hauke is the creator of online comic, Tales of the Brothers 3 (, and he posts weekly. 

Another anonymous Schmoozer blogs about “writing, on the way to being published” but admits she doesn’t post regularly.

Sarah Harroff was just starting a blog ( about the process of being a writer and said she hoped to post weekly.

Your very own Schmooze co-coordinator, Karol Ruth Silverstein, blogs about your very own Schmooze with her very own co-coordinator partner Charlie.  But lord knows they aren’t very regular about it.

The main reasons given for not blogging were not enough time, not enough technical know how and not having much to say or a unique enough focus. 

Nearly all respondents used Facebook daily.  Other social media sites, like Twitter and Google+, were used less.

Karol and writing partner, Boo
Overall, the evening was fun and informative, and as it turned out – very advantageous for Karol.  In her preparation leading up to this Schmooze, she decided to start trying to put her woefully neglected Twitter account to good use.  She stumbled onto a Twitter pitch event and wound up getting an agent out of it, proving just how valuable using social media can be for your writing career!

Keep an eye out for another blog post very soon (really!) and detailed info on our next Schmooze and the exciting Schmooze year ahead.

Until then, keep passing the open windows,

Charlie & Karol