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Writers, it’s Time to Make a Scene

From the BookShelf Writers

The BookShelf Writers consist of four Estero Bay women who have been writing and critiquing together for over five years. For more samples of their work, please visit www.the bookshelfwriters.com

Each issue, this column will feature one of the BookShelf Writers: Debbie Black, Catherine “Kiki” Kornreich, Judy Salamacha and Susan Vasquez.

February 10, 2022

Are you a wannabe writer? Have you broken your New Year’s Resolution to start or finish your book in 2022? It’s February, writers! If you meet up with Sandra Mittelsteadt, who’s written four books including the one we co-authored, “Colonel Baker’s Field: An American Pioneer Story,” she’ll say, “The only difference between you and me is I wrote the first word.”

I was one of those dreamers but knew I needed some industry knowledge to inspire me to craft the novel I knew was in me so I attended my first Central Coast Writers Conference at Cuesta College (CCWC), which is now on hiatus due to COVID-19. I was so inspired and awestruck by the options presented, I craved more. I volunteered for the next conference, but the director, Cathe Olson, had secured her dream library career and decided I had the resume to become the next director of CCWC. Aha! I thought, this position could allow me to binge on everything and everyone I might need to know about the world of writing and publishing.

But first I needed a network of local volunteers — professional and wannabe novelists like myself — to produce this amazing conference that began in the 1970s. It made sense to check out a SLO NightWriters meeting. Their mission statement is “…to advance quality writing, promote publication and expand author recognition in a forum that nurtures a spirit of community for all its members.” This became my new tribe.

Next I needed to find professional authors, editors, agents and publishers to present at the conference. Along the way I discovered editor/author Jordan Rosenfeld and invited her to participate in a trendy workshop called “The First Page.” Industry spokespersons cautioned, “If you don’t grab the reader on the first page, you’ll lose them.”

Sandra and I were well into drafting a biography of Colonel Thomas Baker, the namesake of our hometown, Bakersfield. I convinced Sandra to attend CCWC and read our first page for comments to the team of editors presenting. In my heart and new knowledge, I knew the editors’ comments would not be pretty. Jordan, however, not only advised us the page was breaking the cardinal rules of ‘show don’t tell,’ but in a brief five minutes she kindly advised us what was needed to fix it. Sandra immediately bought Jordan’s book “Make A Scene” at the conference bookstore and drafted a new first page, which became my inspiration to continue writing since I was the voice of the book and Sandra was the researcher and editor.

Today, I thank and credit Jordan Rosenfeld for helping us get on the right path to finish and publish our book.

And, local writers, the evening of March 8 she’s available to you, too.

Jordan will present by Zoom  “Get Intimate With Your Characters” for SLO NightWriters. Her credits include three suspense novels and six books on the craft of writing, including “How to Write a Page Turner” and my favorite “Make A Scene.” Jordan has also been published in numerous publications, including “The Writer” and “Writer’s Digest Magazine.”

SLO NightWriter’s program chair Steven Mintz invites interested writers of all levels to attend. “You don’t need to have a work in progress,” he said.

So if you are looking for fellow writers – a tribe to network with on a monthly basis – check out www.slonightwriters.org. There is also Coastal Dunes CWC (California Writers Club) www.coastaldunescwc.com. Author Laura Colbert will present “How to Pee Standing Up-An Alarming Memoir of Combat and Coming Back Home” on Saturday March 5. There is also Central Coast Sisters (and Misters) in Crime on Facebook.

Be sure to watch for a comeback of the CCWC at Cuesta College.  But first and foremost, I’ll share some great advice from my first editor, area journalist Neil Farrell. I had started my dream journalism career and felt blocked when Neil said, “Just write, Judy. Write anything. The words will come.”       

Judy Salamacha is a member of The BookShelf Writers. To see more of her work, please visit www.thebookshelfwriters.com.

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