Speaker Spotlight: BlogHer Writers '11 Keynoters

BlogHer Original Post

BlogHer Writers '11Lisa Stone introduced the BlogHer Writers '11 program, and now it's time to start sketching in the details. First, a little more on the backdrop, which is: volatile! In a recent email, Lisa was listing all the turbulence besetting book publishing:

Five viable competitors to the Kindle; the bankruptcy of Borders, not to mention indie bookstores closing; the shuttering of Oprah's book club; the launch of Pottermore.com; all while the number of books bought by readers has arguably increased and certainly held steady. In other words, the publishing world hasn't undergone this much change since the printing press was created -- the opportunities seem both fantastic and potentially insurmountable. What's a writer to do?

Take stock, take aim, and take advantage! Because where there's change, there's opportunity.

This October 21st in New York, BlogHer and Penguin Group will introduce you to over two dozen experts who'll help you answer this question (what to do?) in the best way for you. You'll want to hear what they have to say. Last week Jes described the small-group mentoring sessions that will anchor the afternoon. This week's Speaker Spotlight will shine on keynoters for BlogHer Writers '11: opening, lunchtime, and closing.

The day begins when BlogHer co-founders Elisa Camahort Page, Jory Des Jardins, and Lisa Stone paint a portrait of the BlogHer Writers '11 and share recent research by BlogHer about the book consumption habits and interests of the BlogHer community. They've been watching this space from ringside seats, and you're going to want to hear their commentary. They'll be joined by Penguin Strategic Innovations Advisor Barbara Marcus, who'll provide a veteran insider's look into what's happening now in publishing and the qualities and strategies that will help you chart the smartest path.

BlogHer Writers' lunchtime keynote interview, conducted by Lisa, will be of Dominique Browning, author of Slow Love: How I Lost My Job, Put on My Pajamas, and Found Happiness, a September BlogHer Book Club pick. Former Editor-in-Chief at Condé Nast's House & Garden -- the folding of the magazine sparked the life changes Slow Love explores -- Dominique authored two previous books, and her decades-long work as a writer, editor, and consultant in the newspaper and magazine fields is prodigious (see for yourself).  

In a March 2010 interview, she talks about how she decided to begin to write about her experience following the folding of House & Garden:

I started writing almost the week after we were all fired from House & Garden, then I kind of collapsed. I developed this weird typing problem [not being able to type i's], which is so ironic because I'm a very good typist. Then after I sold my house [in Westchester] and moved to Rhode Island, I started writing about the garden, and I realized I had a lot of things to deal with. My feeling of loss wasn't just about the job -- but the job was obstructing my ability to figure out the rest. I had been hiding behind the job, which was all-defining. The process of writing was the process of discovery.


"There is no such thing as being a writer," she has said, "There is only writing." The conversation between Dominique and veteran journalist Lisa will be one not to be missed.

Jory will close the day for us in conversation with three different authors who have plotted three distinct routes toward their publishing successes: Ann Napolitano, Jean Kwok, and Kathy Cano Murillo.

Ann Napolitano's A Good Hard Look is a August BlogHer Book Club pick, among many other distinctions. Also author of Within Arm's Reach, Ann climbed over illness to her publishing success, finding her writerly self while reading Flannery O'Conner's The Habit of Being in the wake of an Epstein Barr's Virus diagnosis. Listen to her describe the turning point in a July 2011 interview at The Lipstick Chronicles:

Those letters shifted something inside me, and I found myself sizing up my own situation in a similar manner. I had always loved writing, but I lacked the requisite confidence to declare myself a writer. (Hence the idea of working at a literary magazine—I would surround myself with other people’s words, not my own.) But my illness, and Flannery’s example, offered up a new clarity. I was able to appreciate, in a way my obnoxiously healthy twenty-year-old peers could not, the sheer brevity of life. I felt, with every quivering, exhausted muscle in my body, that everything I’d taken for granted could disappear in an instant. And this gave me a new drive to make each moment meaningful, and to make my life matter.

My illness disassembled, and then reshaped, my life. From within its foggy walls, I chose my path. I would be a writer. I realized that this was no dress rehearsal; this was my life and I should -- at the very least -- take a swing at it.

To spread the inspiration farther and wider, she Tweets a quote a day by a writer born that day. (I love this one!!!)

Jean Kwok's debut novel Girl in Translation is also familiar to readers of BlogHer's Book Club, for which it was a May 2011 pick. It's also a New York Times bestseller and has been published in 15 countries and translated into 13 languages. Listen to her describe a turning point here in an August 2010 interview for the UK's Daily Mail online:

Let me tell you about the moment I started writing. After our shift at the factory, I’d go home with my parents but [brother] Kwan, who had just turned 16, went on to a second job as a waiter. One night, he gestured at a package he’d bought for me. It was a blank diary. ‘Whatever you write in this will belong to you,’ he said. I had left all my belongings behind in Hong Kong, so any kind of possession was a luxury. I don’t know how he managed to save enough or how – rather than buying sweets or a toy – he’d known to choose something that would nourish my soul. I wrote in it every day. When it was full, I progressed to any paper I could get my hands on. I learned that my own inner world was the most precious possession of all.

How do you get from this moment in a cockroach-infested apartment to a perch as a full-time writer whose work tops bestseller lists and lives now in over dozen different languages? She'll tell us in her own words.

Kathy Cano-Murillo is an uncorkable font of creative output, and is familiar to BlogHers for any number of things: She's the editor of BlogHer's DIY content, a visual artist who has sold handmade "Chicano Pop Art" to retailers from Bloomingdales to Target, a former syndicated newspaper columnist and, as CraftyChica, is an online craft guru and evangelist with a reach from iTunes to HGTV to USA Today and the New York Times. And also? She's a novelist -- Miss Scarlet's School of Patternless Sewing, Waking Up in the Land of Glitter -- and non-fiction author of seven books, including La Casa Loca: Latino Style Comes Home, and Crafty Chica's Guide to Artful Sewing.

Writing has been her first love, and she's been surprised to have come to earn a living as an artist and crafter. Here she is at Reads for Pleasure in March 2011, describing how she got started:

I went on to journalism and yearbook all through high school. My dream was to be a features reporter for The Arizona Republic. It took a lot of work (almost 9 nine years), but I did it! I loved writing articles, reviewing movies, books and concerts. I also started blogging in 2003, where I wrote essays about crazy things that went down in my life. Happy, funny things. I just love to write, any outlet I can find, I go for it. Around the time I started my blog, I knew I wanted to write a novel. I always wanted to, but didn't have the confidence. I'm a very project-oriented person. I put my mind to something and go full force. After outlining for a year, I knew I needed a kick in the butt, so I joined National Novel Writing Month. It worked! That was in 2004. My book finally hit store shelves last year!

"I put my mind to something and go full force," Kathy says.  Despite the differences in these authors' journeys to print, they seem all to have this in common.  Something tells me BlogHer Writers is going to be a day chock-full of full force.

Now that you've read what these amazing women have done with their writing careers, you might want to take a moment to register for BlogHer Writers '11. There's still time, there's still room and there's a possibility that these amazing women will inspire you to write that book that's sitting inside of you.

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