Wittier Word Weavers

Writers' Club of Whittier


AWP2016: A Quick Report

I believe I was a step closer to reaching my dream when I showed up at this year’s AWP, held for the first time in LA, barely 30 miles from my home. Although I dreaded to have to navigate the chocked freeway to downtown LA, it was this “now or never” thought that gave me the needed push to register for the conference. At least, I wouldn’t have to fly and live in a strange city all by myself. It turned out ideal that I had to commute back and forth over the three days instead of staying in a hotel room. I had not only conquered one of the biggest and most academic-oriented writers’ conference but also overcome my fear of driving the most crowded and vicious freeways and the part of town to me too wild, too noisy, too bewildered to visit unaccompanied.

I was immediately rewarded for my bravery the minute I walked into the first panel of my personalized schedule, “Book Launch Confidential: Marketing Made Smarter, Not Harder.” The slideshow had started. I was sitting too far away from the screen but technology came to my rescue. Several screen shots later using my cellphone camera, I could read what were displayed to follow the conversation. I began learning. Terms like “campaign” and “PR expert” popped like corns and made me almost “feel the Bern” of a presidential campaign. On one slide were two columns, one labeled “Qualitative” and the other “Quantitative.” The panel moderator encouraged us to list our objectives under each one. What does an author want to achieve for herself and her book: connection, recognition, book deals, sale numbers, etc.? List them out and prioritize. See what activities you can do to achieve some or all of your goals without feeling depleted, drained, joyless. When overwhelmed, ask yourself: “What activities align with your campaign? What energizes you?”

She went on to say, “There are millions of things you can do to promote your book, from speaking/reading tour to radio talk to interview, but remember to schedule yourself.” In essence, I noted, do not let yourself be burned out (not “BERNed” out).


“Social media have changed the world in a number of gigantic ways that shouldn’t be sneezed at,” said one panelist. “Publication is the creation of a new public,” said another.  We were reminded that the written world would come full circle to return back to its oral beginning and give voice to the people who do not know how to read nor write. In a way that’s how movies function, transforming script to sound and images.

The above were only my impressions and note from attending one of the many, many AWP sessions. I had about 30 pages of notes to review and digest and can only give you a glimpse into this wonderful, soul-affirming, craft-enhancing AWP experience. I returned humble but hopeful. The ambition for AWP to be more inclusive and diversified has kick-started. I was counted in the first Asian American writer caucus. During the conference I spoke up. I asked questions. I exchanged business cards. I breathed in inspiration and breathe out aspiration. I wondered how so many women could raise a family and write prolifically, just like I marveled at the way many of them could walk around the conference in skirts and high heels, when I could hardly manage to survive the day toddling around in my well broken-in sneakers.

To the next AWP,



PS. Below are a few BIG bullet points from the notes I took.

The myth busters:

  • Big 6: for work geared to the mainstream & mass market. Not easy to get in for lit fictions. Need agent to represent you, negotiate contracts, and champion your work. Agent’s style, personality, mode of communication need to fit those of an author for the relationship to last. Referral’s a PLUS for debut authors to get noticed.
  • Indie Press: prefer no agents. Partnership with author for publicity. In some cases, support authors better.
  • Platform: a must for nonfiction (except memoir)
  • YA: no e-books. Need print copies
  • Get on Twitter to connect with other writers, agents, authors and participate in insiders’ discussions. Learn about those special hashtags. More here: http://www.authormedia.com/44-essential-twitter-hashtags-every-author-should-know/ Keep Googling to discover & mine for treasured tags. Just now I discover you can pitch directly to agents via pitch contests on Twitter.

Tips: Authors with potential book series a plus. Suggested language in query letters: this is a standalone book with series potential. (Sounds like something you will find on Match.com, doesn’t it?)


…and much, much more. If you have more questions, ask me in the comment section of this blog and I’ll get back to you.




My husband Chuck and I were invited by our friend, Jan, to attend a performance of The Messiah by Handel at St. Matthew’s United Methodist Church in Hacienda Heights. Jan sings alto in the choir so we were happy to be a part of the audience.

The day was warm and the huge windows were opened wide for cross ventilation. The sanctuary was crowded. Chairs had been set up in the aisles and the balcony was open to accommodate the overflow. I marched up the aisle toward the front, Chuck following, grumbling. Through gritted teeth he whispered, “Where are you going? Maybe there’s room in the balcony.” I kept marching and he followed, his face flustered and red with embarrassment.

I’m a PK—a preacher’s kid—and know the front pews of a church are rarely filled. Apparently people are afraid the Holy Ghost will jump on them if they get too close to the preacher. Sure enough, the front pew was vacant. We took our seats.

The conductor took his place on the podium raised to a height that everyone of the 150 member Richard Riggs Memorial choir could see him. The sounds of talking, rustling of paper, and people moving about ceased. Silence reigned. The conductor raised his baton and the beautiful music began.

Chuck got sleepy, and before I knew it, he had nodded off. I caught him before his head dropped on the shoulder of a lady beside him. I’m thankful he didn’t snore.

The performance was all and more than I expected. So far, they are able to do this every Christmas. I hope so. I’d like to hear it again. Afterwards, there was apple pie and ice cream in a community room next door. I doubt Chuck will go with me again, even for pie and ice cream.





Globalization and Women

2015 TerzianIt took me only thirty minutes to get to Armenia from California. How? The Concorde is no longer available, agreed! And Scotty didn’t beam me up, nor did I teleport; though I believe we are in an age when this technology will soon be available.

Do you give up guessing yet? It was very simple. Mary Terzian, the author of two books, The Immigrants’ Daughter and Politically Homeless, invited me to AGBU Hye Geen’s presentation of Globalization and Challenges with Armenian Women in Pasadena, California, and I went. The topic intrigued me. What has globalization to do with the Armenian females, and if it has, then it must surely affect me too, though I carry zero Armenian blood.

As soon as I was through the doorway I swam in a sea of Armenians—tiny ones, large ones, tall and short ones, and bearded ones, though they were vastly outnumbered by their bustier counterparts. Armenian language floated in the crowded auditorium. I wouldn’t have been more startled had someone greeted me with “Welcome to Armenia” and demanded to see my passport. The only indication that I was at the right place was a table manned—or more correctly womanned—by two Armenians, its surface decked with Mary’s books.

I was swiftly delivered to Mary, who assured me that English would be the language of use in the presentation.

I sat down and soaked it all in. There were about a dozen round tables filled with mostly women, totaling around 60 – 80 women heads. Three or four men dotted the room. One, like a butterfly, stopped at different tables to dip his hand in the grasping hands of women, making them feel welcome and beautiful. One man sat morosely in a group of women, most probably to prevent his wife from disclosing all the family’s secrets in her high-spirited socialization. Another man busied himself around with the video equipment. The fourth and last one helped adjust Mary’s microphone when she came up.

She opened the hot topic with her measured speech, beginning by defining the meaning of globalization, and confirmed its reach in the modern age. To emphasize her points, Mary rolled her tongue and delivered a long sentence in her native language. I could see the effect of this string of Armenian words on her audience, for people began to let out a collective hum and laughter erupted in different corners of the auditorium. Whatever she just said had won approval. People clapped. So I clapped too, wondering at the meaning of the foreign words that carried the power to move her audience, to break the silence, words that unravel feelings in the women who so far remained subdued, even after they were reminded to take responsibility for their own lives—to be outspoken and take their identities seriously so that they should never again be addressed as their father’s daughter or husband’s wife.

The second and last speaker of the day was Dr. Nelly Kazman. She commanded the room with a microphone in hand. Behind her was a large screen illuminated with a PowerPoint presentation synchronized to her talk. It made following her thought much easier, for I took rapid notes, musing on several points and sometimes losing myself in the process.

Dr. Kazman approached her topic with a genuine enthusiasm. “Globalization is here to stay,” she repeated what Mary and the woman who introduced the talk before her had said. She built upon Mary’s idea of globalization—how it helped remove the barriers of commerce like tariffs and across border good exchanges—to embark first on the positives of globalization’s impacts, namely the need for a global language, cooperation between countries, political integration, and higher learning standards and competence. However, she warned, with globalization, one would soon lose all national identities, ethnic cultures, and sense of selves, etc.

She raised three questions—What, So What, and Now What—and used them to navigate her presentation, bringing into focus her topic and driving it home to her audience. She brought up the differences among the generations of Armenian women–from the traditional to the Baby Boomers and the Millennials—and their challenges, namely how to preserve their national identity against the mainstream’s, itself would be more and more globalized and all-encompassing to the point of complete dilution then evaporation. The future would no longer wear any set identity nor have any cultural variation.

I took copious notes, omitting the word “Armenian” for my own application. Her analyses of the impacts of globalization on today’s women and her suggestions on how to be prepared for the challenge of our time were all based on sound logic and thorough studies. She briefly mentioned the upcoming Gen Z and threw up her hands, laughed, and said, “I won’t go there. Stay tuned!”

Here I sat, a stranger among Armenians, thinking how odd I must look and how alien in a homogeneous group of people. I felt acutely out of place when some of the debates were reverted back to Armenian, their language of choice which aptitude they had mastered and nuances they fully grasped. However, this was not the first time I had subjected myself to a crowd like this. I had been among Vietnamese and felt totally lost, unable to associate. I had taken meal in a group of Indians and was left invisible because I did not look and talk the same way as the majority. I had been to writers’ conference and struggled to participate because I was definitely an odd sample among Caucasians and veteran writers. I had learned not to let being outnumbered bother me. I had in me this sadistic pleasure to be a dog among cats. Completely ignored and left alone, I was free to use all my senses to observe and listen when all around me, people forgot themselves in active socialization.

Didn’t Dr. Kazman just remind her audience to keep an open mind and be adaptive and flexible in all situations while juggling the Me identity with the Other identity, whether it be American, Armenian, Vietnamese, Indian, or woman?

I was deep in that frame of mind, so enthusiastic to learn and discover about this Armenian world around me and globalization, when the presentation ended with a Q&A session. I was about to tiptoe out when the first question was asked.

“I was born in Georgia. When someone asked what I am, I always said I am American. Then when I said my parents are Armenian I was told, ‘Then you’re not American, but Armenian American.’ I beg to differ. I am an American of Armenian descent but I am not an Armenian American.”

The room grew quiet for a few minutes then hands shot up. One woman replied. “I know why you say you are not Armenian American. Because once upon a time, being Armenian in America is a bad thing. Like being black. People changed their names.”

The Georgian-born responded. “That’s not it. I totally disagree. This concept of African American, Latin American, all that was started after the Civil War. To me, you either are American or you are not.”

Someone else stood up. “American is a mindset. There is no American ethnicity. What’s so unique about America is it’s a melting pot of multitude ethnicities. But you have to come from somewhere, and you are not being disloyal when you say you are Armenian American.”

Mary, who sat next to me, leaned over. “Do you experience the same with Vietnamese?”

I grinned. I was glad to find that I wasn’t the only one to suffer an identity crisis and feel alienated at times among my own people. And let’s not bring politics or religions in the discussion.


It will be a steep climb uphill. But it is here to stay.


RWA and NYC Vacation


Our airplane landed in Queens, we hailed a cab, and got our first taste of New York traffic. Our driver was adept at weaving through the crush of vehicles, but someone kept beeping their horn. Irritated, Chuck called through his window, “Shut up! Where do you think you are, LA?”

Our driver said, “Oh, that’s me.”

We soon learned that horn honking is part of the cacophony of NYC.

The RWA Convention was at the Marriott Marquis on Times Square. We had a view of that famous location from our room on the 37th floor. On television, Tames Square looks large and the crystal ball huge. In real life, to my disappointment, the square of concrete is squeezed between towering old buildings. The crystal ball and clock are tired looking. Rubin Johnson said this part of town used to be the worst section of the city. Now it’s full of people rushing up and down the sidewalks, miles of traffic, mostly yellow cabs, end to end in three lanes honking their horns.

Theaters line this street, Broadway. Chuck checked ticket prices for The Lion King. Per person is $250. We didn’t go. I’ll read the book.

Be careful where you eat. We stopped at a corner restaurant/bakery and bought cinnamon rolls. That evening we opened the bag in our room and prepared to enjoy our treat. They were so dry I suspect they were three days old. Their lunch and dinner menu looked inviting so we returned the next day for lunch and ordered a T-bone steak to share, staying away from the pastries on display. The T-bone steaks I’ve had in the past are served with the bone intact, the top loin strip on one side and the tenderloin on the other. Ours came without the bone and without the tenderloin. Cheated again.

On the other hand, Chuck’s nephew, Johnny Roller, took us to Grigino, an Italian restaurant on the Hudson River and the food was superb. Also dinner at the Marriott Marquis was marvelous.

Johnny lives in Bronx and for two days ushered us around town seeing spots we would have missed otherwise. The Cloisters Museum and Gardens in Manhattan. Art and Architecture of medieval Europe 12th and 15th Century featuring 5,000 works of art. Every block of stone hauled over from the old country and reconstructed onsite.

St. John the Divine, the magnificent fourth largest Christian church in the world. Designed in 1888, opened in 1941. We passed the Intrepid on our tour, drove through some of the Burroughs, viewed a Buddhist Temple, and visited a friend of Johnny’s who lives in a $2 million penthouse.

On our own we visited Central Park by bicycle, pedaled by a young man from Russia. Always pay in cash. We used our credit card and somehow an extra $100. was added to our bill. Chuck caught it and our bank erased the charge. We strolled into Strawberry Fields in the park funded by Yoko Ono and admired a mosaic lying on the ground titled “Imagine”. A young man was singing and strumming a guitar, the guitar case open for tips.

Toured the amazing and beautiful Grand Central Terminal. We embarked on a boat tour on the Hudson River (after being search like boarding an airplane) and had close-up views of the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. Security was tight even on the water. Chuck saw a boat with guns drawn approach a pleasure boat when it got too close to shore. We drove by the Empire State Building, and also viewed the new Tower of Hope glistening in the sun.

The pools at the footprint of the Twin Towers are awesome. The area is landscaped with trees. One special tree was transplanted from the Twin Towers footprint. Two square pools have replaced the base of the Towers with a waterfall on each side of each square. On the parapet of the walls of the pools, 75 bronze plates are attached and inscribed with the names of 2,983 victims of the day the towers fell. (Wikipedia.org)

Oh yes, and the RWA convention. There were too many workshops to visit every one of them so RWA put them on a flash drive for a small fee. Also, after arriving home, workshops were offered online, pick and choose those of interest or missed and download. All in all, the convention was well organized and of value.

It was a wonderful trip and although we saw a lot, we missed even more. Go back? Maybe.

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California Dreamin’

Kathleen Harrington, a member of the Writers’ Club of Whittier, will be signing books at The California Dreamin’ Writers Conference this Sunday, at Embassy Suites in Brea from 2 to 4. Kathleen is the author of the recently completed Highland Lairds Trilogy as well as several earlier novels of historical romance. The 2-day conference is for writers, but the public is welcome to attend the book signing. Come meet some of your favorite authors: Sylvia Day, Vicky Dreiling, Tessa Dare, Susan Squires, Laura Drake, and many more.

California Dreamin’Screen Shot 2015-03-25 at 11.21.13 PM
Embassy Suites
900 East Birch Street
Brea, CA 92821
March 27-29, 2015


Welcome to Mayberry

The Pasadena Author’s Fair took place on February 21, 2015. Hobnobbing with other authors, and signing and selling books entertained me from setting up at 9:30 am until packing up books, bookmarks, and posters at 2 p.m. There was also a chance to present. My remarks, including four passages I read, are the bulk of this, my first blog post.

Good afternoon. I’m Rubin Johnson, a Californian, born in New York. I graduated Harvard before doing an engineering Ph.D. at Berkeley. I worked at big companies before starting a software firm. Lately, I’ve been focusing on the craft of fiction.

Thank you for the opportunity to discuss my novels – Well Oiled and Cyberbully Blues, both Mayberry Multisport Adventure stories. Why Mayberry? I’ll explain and then read some excerpts.

Continue reading


Pasadena Author Fair

Four of our writers will be appearing at the second annual Author Fair sponsored by the Pasadena Public Library this coming Saturday.  Rubin Johnson, Kay Murdy, Raquel Reyes-Lopez and Mary Terzian will be among the fifty-plus authors who will be speaking and signing books at the Fair. Continue reading

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A Valentine for Romance Readers


KH-Edit-Small-Kathleen Harrington will be speaking at a club-sponsored event this Friday in Whittier, California. She’ll talk about writing a romantic trilogy, the creative process, what makes a novel a romance and what it’s like to work with an agent, an editor and the staff of a publishing house like Harper/Collins.

Kathleen will also be available to sign the books in her Highland Lairds Trilogy of Scottish romance: The MacLean Groom, Lachlan’s Bride, and Black Raven’s Lady.

If you’re local, please drop in. The public are welcome, the event is free, and you’ll be supporting a local, independent bookstore as well as a local author.

Half Off Books
6708 Greenleaf Avenue
Whittier, CA 90601
February 13 at 10:30 a.m.