As recorded by our secretary, here are the minutes from our most recent meeting on
June 8, 2013. You can read these minues below or download them as a PDF.
Agenda: 1. Tip of the Month: How to use Google's reverse image search
5. Featured Speaker: T.E. Watson
Present (15): Anson, Beyer, Lola Brussin, Michael Brussin, Callmeyer, Edwards, Kando, Lawmaster, Lenson, Potter, Sheikh, Thompson, Thornton, Umbach, Westlund.
Vice President Penny Callmeyer presided over the meeting, as President Ted Witt was out of town.
1. Ted Witt’s tip of the month was “How to use Google’s Reverse Image Search.” Callmeyer discussed this and passed out a hand-out. Such a search can be helpful to monitor your images and to enforce your copyrights.
2. Personal introductions followed, including several guests and prospective members.
3. Raffle: several attendees won books.
4. Announcements: Penny Callmeyer announced that there was a tutoring position available in Abu Dhabi, all expenses paid.
Norma Jean Thornton welcomes assistance with any suggestions for future NCPA guest speakers.
The July NCPA meeting will be a networking meeting.
5. Speaker of the month: T.E. Watson, on “Putting your passion where your pen is.” Watson is a best-selling author of children’s books and a past president of the NCPA. His rich career has included teaching creative writing, being a sports journalist for UPI, and receiving a fellowship in the Society of Scottish Antiquities from the Royal National Museum in Edinburgh, Scotland. This award was for his research in Scottish Children’s authors, especially Robert Louis Stevenson. He has published hundreds of articles and 127 children’s books, including audio books.
When it comes to writing and publishing, T.E. Watson’s chief focus has been on working with kids. He mentioned the concept of “faction,” which is the relatively recent idea of a hybrid genre that combines autobiographical facts with fiction. He also told us about a recent “wine and words” event in which he participated.
Inspired, among others, by his wife and his grandmother, he stressed that one’s creative work should always be shared – be it writing, painting, or any other creative endeavor. Otherwise, why do it? In other words: do it, and then get it out there.
His grandmother was a best-selling author when Watson was still a 7-year old child. He won his first writer’s award at 10, for a short story.
In high school, he took journalism class, and he went to work for a newspaper in Davis. He always ended up gravitating back to writing, to politics, to science fiction, as well as textbooks. He ended up writing children’s books.
As a 6th grade teacher, he gave his students a 5-to-10 minute writing assignment. They retorted that he should complete the assignment himself as well. So he wrote a story about a whale, and it became very popular with his students. One thing led to another, including support from his school principal, and he ended up with a contract and an enormous advance for a book from a major publisher . So you could say that his students started him on the road to publishing.
T.E. stressed that things must come not just from the head, but mostly from the heart. His passion is writing. He abides by the “three P’s:” Perseverance, Promotion and Passion. People have even offered to do a movie about him, sort of a memoir.
His grandmother’s greatest gift to him was to show him that writing was his passion. So he got better and better. He continues to both write and teach. In his travels around the world, he has found that all true writers have this passion and perseverance.
Watson does not find agents useful. By now, he writes and publishes book after book, not even needing to submit query letters.
Promotion can be fun, as it basically means meeting people.
He is an independent publisher. This is a better and less stigmatizing term than “self-publishing.” Mark Twain, Benjamin Franklin and Robert Louis Stevenson were independent publishers. By now, just about everyone is an independent publisher. As far as traditional publishing is concerned, there are only four big ones left, all in New York. They hardly do any promoting any more. Same with distribution and wholesale companies. A huge waste. Better start your own. Barnes and Noble will soon go out of business.
Promoting your work is hugely important, and it can be easy and fun. You can do many things on this front too, if you find the passion.
Take poetry, which is the hardest thing in the world. How do you promote this? By being shameless. Hand out business cards, etc.
The problem is that most authors don’t want to be businessmen. But you must be. After all, you are selling a product. You must be both a writer and a businessman. You must promote. After all, you don’t just want to hand over your product to anybody. You want to stay in control, decide what your illustrators do, etc.
Questions and answers followed: T.E. displayed several of his award-winning children’s books and audio books, including an all-time best-seller that has sold as many as 10,000 copies in a two-month period.
What about promotional book-signing events? Extremely useful. You should call up local book stores, as well as newspapers, radio, and TV stations. Offer the bookstore a 60%-40% split of profits.
Should you force yourself into a production schedule? Watson used to do this, but it was unhealthy. Now, he is more laid back. It’s possible to “crash” a book within 72 hours (the way they did with the O.J. Simpson book), but this is garbage. Best to slow down and calm down. Once T.E. wrote a book in three days, and then it was shelved for seven years.
All in all, we learned many interesting things.
Past Meeting Minutes (PDF)