Rightsizing at a Writers’ Conference

Fall and Spring in lovely settings–that’s pretty much the routine when it comes to holding writers’ conferences, and the Scribblers’ Retreat is no exception!  Held quarterly, the next one is November 10-14  at the King and Prince Beach and Golf Resort –shown here–on gorgeous St. Simons Island, Georgia and features both fiction and nonfiction writers, such as yours truly, along with my publisher, Dominique Riccah, CEO of Sourcebooks.

I just got the promotional material that kindly said:  ”Ciji Ware, veteran of all forms of print and electronic media, will talk about “New Publishing Trends–or–How I Survived as a Scribe.” Certainly a timely topic, given the revolution (and convolutions) going on in the print and publishing worlds, and when visitors to this Rightsizing Your Life site—-or the one that promotes my novels–click from page to page, they can certainly deduce that the main message I probably want to convey at the writers’ conference is going to be:  writers keep writing–no matter what!

That is how one gets to be a “veteran.”  As my sainted late father, mid-century popular writer Harlan Ware, used to say about producing reams of material over his professional writing career, “Writers write.  They don’t make excuses. They put the seat of their pants on the chair and their hands on the keyboard and they keep typing!”

And if you’re me, you start at about 9a.m. at least five days a week, as you can see from the image of my former (very messy and pre-rightsized) office on the right.  In recent years, we’ve downsized from an original 4000 square feet of living space in Southern California to a 950 square foot cottage and a guesthouse-office of about 300 square feet in the San Francisco Bay Area.  And even though my office these days is an armoire, as you see below, I still have that keyboard and I still keep typing. When you’re a “rightsized author,”  size does NOT matter.

Maybe “Writers Write” should be inscribed within view of every would-be novelist or scribe.  If you click on the “Ciji’s Covers” page on my author website cijiware.com that displays the eight books I’ve written, you’ll see what can come from being consistent. To earn my keep, besides nonfiction books and six historical novels,  I’ve also written two screenplays (neither so far produced), a play (produced in my home town), magazines, news, television, and radio copy, online articles for the web, e-books, e-guides-–you name it, I’ve typed it!

I usually mention this variety of writing projects when I speak publicly, and offer forth other bits of wisdom from my father who wrote screenplays, novels, a biography, short stories, and for fourteen of its twenty-seven years on the air, the radio classic One Man’s Family: “The best way to be a writer who can pay the light bill is to pretend you work for the phone company. Be  Jack-of-all-trades in the field. Punch the clock, day in, day out.”

Not every budding writer wants to hear this message of how to survive as a professional scribe.  They want to write “when the spirit moves them….”  or when their head is full of vibrant, fabulous ideas.  And that’s fine, if writing is a hobby.  But if it’s a living, there’s only one way to survive, and that’s to, as they say in the Nike commercial:  ”Just DO it!”

When I taught as an adjunct professor at the UCLA Extension Writers’ Program,  I had 17 members in my first class, and only one of them finished a book.  The next year’s class–same thing. One person completed her manuscript and the rest of the class never crossed the finish line.  I was worried that perhaps I wasn’t the greatest teacher, but the supervisor running the program looked up my student evaluations and said, “No…you got great marks from your class.  It’s just they never understood–until they took your class–how hard it can be to write a book, to say nothing of getting it published.”

Apparently, nearly every lawyer would like to be a John Grisham or a New York Times bestselling nonfiction author, but few have the stamina to work as hard at the writing craft as Grisham has.  Hundreds of people over the years have said to me, “Oh….I’d love to write a book, if only I had the time,” or “I know a great book that you should write!”

I haven’t spoken before a full-fledged writers conference for quite some time, lecturing mostly these days about my nonfiction work Rightsizing Your Life:  Simplifying Your Surroundings While Keeping What Matters Most. But now that all my historicals are being reissued with wonderful covers from Sourcebooks Landmark–and my first new historical novel in a decade will be published next April–it’s going to be interesting to see if audiences of fledgling authors who “love to write” have changed at all, especially as it has become tougher and tougher to earn one’s living in the Digital Age.

I’ll let you know how it goes….


  1. Charlotte Poole Harrell says:

    Dear Ciji, your website is as generous as was your paricipation at Scribblers’ this past week. I’m reading your “Rightsizing” book, and commending it to friends. I love seeing your tag sale pix.
    I want to send you my sketchbook, which I’ve been up all night scanning into MS.Word. I wanted to get it out to as many writers as I can. I don’t want to let go of the wonderful energy we all shared at the King and Prince conference, and the great encouragement it is and was.
    Did you get a cover for a new book, something called, “Return to Splendor”, about a San Francisco hotel icon being restored? Or was that another author? I just glimpsed the Kindle with that cover, a vignette of a woman in a ballgown sweeping by. When I arrived late after Bob Dart’s talk and begged him to stay while I sketched him and listened to him, you fed him such great questions, that I half wondered if his talk didn’t benefit very much from that attention. I love the sketch I did of you, and you said you liked it, too. Thanks for everything, Charlotte Harrell

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