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 “Seattle”

Starving Writer

Yahoo’s Financially Fit Website recently ran a number of articles about people living on very little income. One particular story grabbed my attention.

” … we tracked down Joseph Fonseca, a writer currently living in Seattle who supports himself on $20,000 a year. Fonseca, 28, authored a first-person piece in the Washington Post over the weekend describing his “10 cities, 10 years” project, in which he moves every year and starts over in a new town. An aspiring novelist, he plans to eventually write a book about his quest.”

Joseph Fonseca - seriously committed to getting published

Most of the article deals with how he budgets and lives on such little money. You can catch that part here. But what struck me is how far we are willing to go to realize our dreams of becoming authors. I rarely go to bed before midnight and am up by 6.30 in the morning. I realize that I am extremely blessed to have a loving family and a job that inspires me, so please don’t take this the wrong way. but the drive to write and get my books out to the world is immense. Outside of work and family, I have little tolerance for anything that take my time away from writing.

I was recently told by a well-known agent that, while he liked my work and me personally, he would not work with me because I am not willing to make my ambition of being a widely-read author my only goal. I protested that I have a family and a meaning job, to which he agreed that these were all very important, but that is not what he requires of his authors. He, I realize now, would prefer me to be the starving author like Mr. Fonseca.

I hold on to my dream and will realize it while balancing my responsibilities to family and work. I will burn the clock and continue to set and pursue the goals I seek to make it work. I keep telling myself that it is good to be multifaceted. But I would love to have a beer with a guy like Joseph Fonseca, especially when he writes sentences like this:

“To retire requires having a career to retire from. My ambition is to be a writer, and I’d love to be writing into my old age, to be like Vonnegut and write until the day I die. “


Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist (now available on Kindle) 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).

Elwin Cotman – Performing in Oakland and SF

Elwin Cotman is a member of the Berkeley Writer’s Circle and I want to promote two performances this weekend. Elwin describes himself as “a writer of fantasy fiction. I am the author of “The Jack Daniels Sessions EP.” I am as old as the movie “Purple Rain.”

Elwin Cotman

That description sums up Elwin’s style. You are listening to something flowing and literary, then suddenly laughing out loud. He is more than just an author giving a reading, he is a performer. For more on Elwin, check out his blog (gotta love the blog title).

The Jack Daniels Sessions

His two shows this weekend are:

5/27, 9pm – Cafe International Open Mic, 508 Haight Street, San Francisco
5/29, 7pm -Musick Box Co-op, 3404 Market Street,Oakland.
For those of you not living in the Bay Area, here are more tour dates:
+ Sat, 5/28, 4pm: Santa Clara, CA – Baycon Science Fiction Convention
+ Sat, 5/28, 7:00pm: Santa Cruz, CA – SubRosa community space
+ Tue, 5/31, 9:00pm: Redding, CA – House Reading/Show! at Gary Piazza’s – 1336 Tehama St
+ Thur, 6/2, 7:00pm: Portland, OR – 1,000 Words Reading at The Waypost
+ Fri, 6/3, 7:00pm: Vancouver, OR – The Space Art Collective
+ Sat, 6/4, 7:00pm: Portland, OR – Red and Black Cafe
+ Tue, 6/7, 7:30pm: Boise, ID – Hyde Park Books
+ Thur, 6/9, 7:00pm: Seattle, WA – University Bookstore
+ Fri, 6/10, 3:00pm: Olympia, WA – Last Word Books
Good luck, Elwin.

Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist (now available on Kindle) 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).

A Better Business Model

His publisher sent a friend of mine to Seattle for two book signings. They didn’t pay his expenses, so he drove up paying for gas, lodgings and food. He sold about 40 copies of his book (very respectable considering the average amount of books sold at a signing is eight) and returned home exhausted.

It got me thinking that there must be a better business model out there for non A-list fiction writers. There are very few such authors whose publisher sets up a book tour for them with all expenses included. A colleague of mine is married to an A-list author and the support she receives sounds amazing.

But what about the rest of us?

With this in mind, I was excited to see the website of The Pantheon Collective . Here is what they say on their homepage:
Three powerful individuals have joined forces to shake up the publishing world.
Their MISSION: to empower and inspire (aspiring) authors to take control of their destinies and make their dreams come true.
Their PASSION: getting their work (and the work of others) out into the published universe.
Their STRUGGLE: overcoming individual issues (personalities, distance, interpersonal relationships, finances, day jobs) for the good of the collective, while balancing their roles as productive authors and creators.
Their OBJECTIVE: successfully launch four books in twelve months while documenting every moment both wonderful and difficult.

I wonder if we can’t create such a group here? Ambitious, like-minded, committed and hungry for success. What if four authors:
– Shared a blog and were able to put out posts everyday (that’s still only two a week each). They could also share and regularly update a joint website.
– Read together at a bookstore. It would be a bigger draw than just one person, and from the bookstore’s perspective, sell more books. It will be easier for the bookstore to commit staff to keeping the store open that night.
– Shared a car, motel room and publicity for a 3-4 day book tour, each taking responsibility to book a venue in a city between San Francisco and LA.
– Each made a commitment to cultivate and maintain a relationship with bookstore/reporter/café owner/… and actively promote each member of the group. That would be four times the connections.

Now what if those four authors all had similar platforms: If we all wrote political, edgy, or social commentary fiction couldn’t we focus on a more specific platform and readership?

It would all come down to commitment and accountability. There could be no bystanders involved. Perhaps we would sign a contract?

However it would play out, there must be a better business model for the struggling author than what we are all pursuing individually. Any ideas?

Good Writing,

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