Sunday, March 13, 2011

What Was I Thinking? Collect Readers First, Assemble Book Afterwards

Take one part universal experience (bad relationships,) two parts collecting and editing such tales from a wide variety of women (including celebrities); record the authors reading their essays aloud, then mix well with music, art, subtitles and video, and you've got VidLit.

The result is wildly entertaining - just play and see for yourself.

Editor Liz Dubelman shared her experiences with the California Writers Coalition (and friends) assembled in Gallery 800 of the gorgeous Lankershim Arts Center last Saturday afternoon.  (It was originally supposed to be at Borders-Sherman Oaks, but as that venue became unavailable, Scott Sonders of the CWC worked tirelessly to secure the new venue, and notify everyone through FaceBook and MeetUp of the change, set up chairs and the A-V system, MC'd the meeting, and probably did dozens of other things that made the afternoon run so seamlessly.  Thank you, Scott!) 

Photo Via Art Directors Guild

My favorite artwork was in the Ladies' Room
Murals by beautiful and talented Nicki LaRosa

The gallery was filled with interesting, beautiful and affordable works of art, mostly by local artists.  If you're ever in the neighborhood, it's well worth a visit - and if you're not in the neighborhood, it's still worth a visit.

Photo via CRA/LA

Sorry, what was I thinking/saying?  Every time I pass under the GateWay to NoHo my thoughts get a little scattered and Bohemian.

Back to Liz (and co-editor/collaborator Barbara Davilman was present, too, she simply waved and smiled) was explaining how they came up with the concept, first, then pitched it on Craigslist, MySpace, and most fruitfully, FaceBook.  Women were happy to chime in with their own stories - but don't cringe, men, it truly wasn't male bashing.

From the Intro:
What Was I Thinking? is a collection of personal essays written by women describing that moment in a relationship when, no matter how much you think it should work or want it to work or need it to work, it becomes clear to you that it's not going to work.
Except for the "written by women part," I'm thinking that everything there has happened to every man who's dated more than one woman in his life, too. 
...this is not necessarily the moment of the actual breakup.  Rather, these stories describe the instant when logic, common sense, and simple self-interest triumph over the human need to be loved - or, at least, the need to be in a relationship.  The relationship may not last beyond lunch, or it may linger for weeks or even longer.  But inside, you know: He's going to be an ex.
Okay, so you've got material for the anthology that will be What Was I Thinking? 58 Bad Boyfriend Stories.  You're putting together the video clips - how/where do you sell it?

By having much of the material together, Liz and Barbara were able to sell the book proposal to St. Martin's Press.  Why?  Built-in readership - every woman that contributed probably has a mom, sisters, brothers, network of friends - all who will buy and help promote "her" book.  So with 58 authors, that's several thousand people right off the top.

Liz said they worked every avenue possible.  Through FaceBook, they found a friend of a friend of a friend who knew somebody who wrote for O Magazine.  That got them a mention there.  They did Vimeo, and YouTube, podcasts, radio interviews, Twitter.  They used their (small) advance from St. Martin's to... do promotion.  They secured sponsors for their parties that were featured in video clips with a tie-in to the subject matter of that essay.

Did I mention that they sold this video book to New Line Cinema?

They "discovered" a long-forgotten holiday - one which I plan to celebrate from here on out.  Play here for more on "Come to Your Senses Day."

I love that it's the day after Valentines' Day, and one of the honored traditions is eating all one's VD candy in one sitting!    Join the sisterhood here:

You may think- watching these videos - wow, that looks very slick.  I can't do that

Liz's advice on technology was that it isn't expensive, these days, it just takes a strong stomach (and time to learn.)  I think she may be a bit modest about her own talents - they don't just hand out Emmys to anyone, after all, and she's got two.  But she's probably right in that if you are a good writer, then you have the intelligence to learn anything, if you want to.

On that note - the presentation was followed by an Open Mic session.  Participants were young, old-ish (not gonna hang myself by calling anybody old here!), male, female, published, not yet published, and the material was everything from poetry to essays to short screenplays to material that truly defied categorization.

It amused me, speaking of technology, that the first reader, Amy S., did not have pages, in the traditional sense.  She read several wonderfully evocative haiku poems directly from her SmartPhone.

I think everyone took away from the evening many ideas to ruminate over.  And to blog about!

Your thoughts?