Left Coast Voices

"I would hurl words into the darkness and wait for an echo. If an echo sounded, no matter how faintly, I would send other words to tell, to march, to fight." Richard Wright, American Hunger

Archive for the tag “Meetup”

Move On – Super PAC?

I’ve been a big fan of MoveOn.org since the last Presidential election. I smiled every time I sat in my car behind one of their bumper stickers and, being from the Bay Area and having a long commute, I probably smiled a lot.

I have also been a critic of Super PACs and voiced my disappointment at the establishment of an Obama Super PACPriorities USA Action – so you will excuse me when I realized that MoveOn.org may well be defined as a PAC. It probably wasn’t envisioned as such (or at least not with the baggage the Super PACs now carry. From their Wiki Page:

“MoveOn started in 1998 as an e-mail group, MoveOn.org, created by software entrepreneurs Joan Blades and Wes Boyd, the married cofounders of Berkeley Systems. They started by passing around a petition asking Congress to “censure President Clinton and move on”, as opposed to impeaching him. The petition, passed around by word of mouth, was extremely successful; ultimately, they had half a million signatures.[9] The couple went on to start similar campaigns calling for arms inspections rather than an invasion of Iraq, reinstatement of lower limits on arsenic and mercury pollution, and campaign finance reform.”

Joan Blades and Wes Boyd - Founders of MoveOn.org

MoveOn doesn’t have the feel of a Super PAC. They have harnessed email, Facebook, and Meetup forums. It has an Action Forum that allows members to decide and promote progressive causes.

MoveOn has divided into two legally separate entities: one is educational and advocates for national issues (MoveOn Civic Action), while the other is a more traditional PAC, raising millions of dollars for Democratic candidates.

There is nothing wrong, illegal, or immoral with what MoveOn.org is doing. But those bumper stickers just don’t make me smile anymore. I wish for a simpler time, when politicians won elections with scintillating rhetoric, inspiring vision, and a strategy to make the world a better place for all.

But then, that doesn’t fit on a bumper sticker.


Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist and A Gardener’s Tale. He is the Executive Director of the San Francisco Hillel Foundation, a non-profit that provides spiritual and social justice opportunities to Jewish students in the Bay Area. More on Alon Shalev at http://www.alonshalev.com/ and on Twitter (@alonshalevsf).

Author Salon – Creating Community

I have written several times on Left Coast Voices about initiatives that create online communities in a win: win framework. I think that Meetup is a good example of this. I have also written about how the idea of an author’s life being a solitary one is outdated and ridiculous. If a writer chooses to walk alone this is his/her choice. There are many options today that Mark Twain never had.

A Master At His Desk

So I was excited when a colleague introduced me to Author Salon, a new initiative aimed at helping authors prepare to pitch and market their manuscripts. It is a win:win community wherein the author is able to hone their work, while agents and publishers can delve in knowing these writers have done their due diligence.

When you sign up for Author Salon there are a lot of questions about your work. Often these questions make you look at your manuscript through new eyes. This is essentially the idea, that you see it not as the writer, but as the agent or publisher.

You will need to refine your pitch, synopsis, introduce your characters, clarify the overriding conflict and examine many other aspects. You need to plan for a few hours at least and this is only the first round.

Once you have completed your proposal, it is reviewed by peers and the Author Salon staff, all experienced agents or people who have worked in the publishing business for years. You get graded as your proposal is developed and this enables the agents and publishers who troll the site to know who is holding a more finished product.

This is not a get-rich-quick or silver bullet offer. Author Salon seems to hold pretty high standards and if you have a tender ego, perhaps you had better give this one a miss.

However, if your goal is to get published, if you fear your manuscript sinking into the publishers’ ever-growing slush pile and if you are willing to do what it takes, Author Salon might just be the answer.

Slush Pile

For those interested in learning more, here is the Author Salon mission:

First, to make Author Salon a preferred source of discovery for literary agents, producers, and publishing house editors. Author Salon opens channels to professionals to keep them updated on desirable projects, and for those who wish to search, we provide detailed writer and project profiles, multiple search parameters, and lists of high-rated projects, thus enabling professionals to more quickly obtain a range of information, and in a manner conducive to productive decision-making.

Second, to create a 24/7 writers conference environ utilizing a criteria-based step by step workshop approach that includes a primary and upper level peer-and-pro review process, a separate two level review by Author Salon, additional forum-based draft workshops, as well as a final top level review on the part of seasoned peers and players in the publishing business. We tell the writer what works, what doesn’t work, and what needs to be developed further – while they can still do something about it – and before an agent or publisher shuts the door in their face.

Third, to sustain a suitable and pragmatic work space for the nonfiction and novel writing community that combines the technical advantages of a Facebook-like environ (instant chat, site mail, video embeds, etc.) with the content approach of Publisher’s Marketplace. In other words, Author Salon provides the communication and features technology the writer community needs while enabling easy access to a backdrop of publishing news, as well as writer resource and craft content.

Fourth, to make Author Salon a trusted source of tie-breaking, valuable information on fiction and nonfiction writing, craft, publishing, and book marketing that avoids the myths and sticks only to the facts.


Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist and A Gardener’s Tale. He is the Executive Director of the San Francisco Hillel Foundation, a non-profit that provides spiritual and social justice opportunities to Jewish students in the Bay Area. More on Alon Shalev at http://www.alonshalev.com/ and on Twitter (#alonshalevsf).

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