Writers from across California are coming together this weekend in Clovis to share what they have learned during their own literary careers and what has led them from aspiring writer to published author. This opportunity is being provided by Wild About Books, a non-profit organization that promotes literacy.
Dan Dunklee, found of Wild About Books, started the event last year after noticing a need for something local that would promote more writing.
“It builds excitement in the craft,” Dunklee said. “Our area has a tremendous legacy of award-winning authors and playwrights and poets, academy award winners, Pulitzer Prize winners, New York Times bestsellers .... the list goes on and on and on, and they’re all right here in Fresno and Clovis. We have the talent, so why not utilize it?”
The event will kick-off with a presenter reception Friday evening, March 6 and will run all day Saturday, March 7 at Book Barn. One-on-one intensives with the authors are also being offered on Friday for an additional cost.
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Fresno author Bonnie Hearn Hill is one of the presenters, and she has also been involved in inviting the other presenters.
“We’ve put together the kind of conference I wish I had been able to experience when I was starting out,” Hill said. “It is writer-friendly and full of information and inspiration for writers at all levels.”
The speaker line-up includes a variety of backgrounds - everything from poets and screenwriters to an astrologist and a former FBI agent.
“What we do is offer hope and instruction,” Hill said. “We do it because we love it.”
Hill has learned firsthand what it takes to become a successful writer. She started writing at a young age and won her first writing contest in fourth grade. Shortly after that, she wrote her first novel.
“I knew before I could speak that I was supposed to make pictures,” Hill said. “I just didn’t know they would be word pictures.”
Hill continued to write and it turned into a career. She worked as a newspaper editor for 22 years, but every night she would go home and work on her novels. Hill says she finished her first novel 22 years before she wrote Intern - the novel that launched her career and garnered two back-to-back book deals.
“I stayed motivated because I loved the work I was doing and because I honestly believed my time would come,” Hill said. “Now I know the timing was perfect.”
Hill has had six thrillers published, including Intern, plus four young adult books. Altogether she has authored or co-authored more than 20 books, and now one of her books has been purchased for film. It is a story that Hill wrote 20 years ago and is set during the Delano Grape Strike of 1965. Most of Hill’s novels are issue-driven suspense, focusing on social justice and women’s themes.
“I love to read and write character-driven fiction, and I love playing the what-if game with my stories,” Hill said.
Hill is now a full time writer, but devotes much of her time to mentoring other writers.
“I try to save other authors the time I lost,” she said.
If Hill could only offer aspiring writers one piece of advice, she says it would be to “learn craft and practice it.”
“That means character creation and development, organic conflict, goal-driven scenes,” Hill said. “Too many people rush into publishing and marketing before they know how to write. So learn craft. Write every day and read every day. You will get better.”
Hill now meets weekly with a small group of writers and together they critique each other’s writing - something that thriller writer Christopher Allan Poe says can save writers months and months of writing. Poe, who is part of Hill’s critique group, is also one of the authors who will present at this weekend’s Spring Writers Conference.
“Everyone comes out wanting to know about publishing because they think they’re ready,” Poe said. “We’ll give them all that information but also tell them what they need to look for in their work.”
To make sure writers attending the conference are ready for publishing, Poe is going to instruct attendees “how to hook and hold the reader through craft.”
“The gist of it is that people now are so distracted by video games, television, movies - your job as an author is to have your craft so tight that once they pick your book up, they never want to put it down,” Poe said.