Saturday, April 4, 2015

Bindercon Los Angeles

            As someone new to writing, I have a lot of catching up to do. I’m always looking for classes and events that will take my craft to the next level.

            Earlier this year I did an online search for “Writing Conferences Los Angeles 2015”, one of the top five results was “Out of the Binders / Symposium on Women Writer’s Today”.  I clicked on the link and was happy to see I had not missed it.  The event was taking place at the end of March (last weekend) at UCLA's Carnesales Commons.
            The description on the website “A symposium to empower women and gender non‑conforming writers with tools, connections, and strategies to advance their careers” sold me. The promise of diversity and the affordable price made me sign up right away. I took advantage of the early bird discount, the best $125 I’ve ever spent.  
             The program was still being developed. Every week or so, I received updates on what panels, events and speakers had been added. I was shocked and pleasantly surprised at the number of women of color involved. Keynote speakers included conversations with Filmmaker Gina Prince-Bythewood on day one and with Poet Claudia Rankine on day two. These two ladies were truly motivating and got things off to a great start.
            Every panel I attended had at least one woman of color representing. My one “complaint” is that this conference had so many fantastic panels and conversations that they overlapped with one another. I wish I could have cloned myself but a lot of the conference was video taped so hopefully that content will be available soon.
            My favorite panels were:
             “Writing the (An) Other: A Workshop on Writing Other Genders, Races, Sexualities and cultures” taught by Elmaz Abinader & Faith Adiele both VONA instructors. The main message is don’t pander, write well-rounded characters and stay away from using food comparisons when describing them (mocha/chocolate skin, almond eyes, jalapeno lips etc.). They shared different ways to approach writing the (an) other; reading works by and about people like your character, going to events where your character might be present, interact with people like them. Observe how your character moves in the world, keep a diary from your character’s point of view.

            “The Only Girl in the Writer’s Room” with Cherry Cheva (writer/producer, Family Guy)
, Jessie Gaskell (writer, Conan)
, Alexa Junge (writer, Grace and Frankie, Friends, The West Wing) & 
Robin Schiff (writer/producer, Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion). Any panel with Robin Schiff is worth the price of admission, she does not shy away from telling it like it is. They talked about how f*ck*ed up it can be for female writers in Hollywood but at the same time, they gave advise on how to fit in, how to deal with certain situations, how to dress and how to stand up to misogyny in the work place. Most importantly they stressed the importance of mentors (male or female) and that when it’s your turn to pay it forward by hiring women.

            I also got a chance to pitch. I spoke with Dara Hyde an Agent at Hill Nadell Literary Agency and Neelanjana Banerjee, Managing Editor at Kaya Press.  I was nervous about speaking/pitching but the atmosphere was relaxed and casual, both ladies were open about sharing advice and expertise, I was at ease and got to enjoy the experience.
            I’m going to put this out to the universe, I want Dara Hyde to represent me when my memoir is done. She stressed the importance of handing an agent a polished manuscript and if possible hire someone who can edit it so that your agent is focused on your story and not on how much work needs to be done to the manuscript.  She encouraged me to start submitting work to literary venues, to build my writing platform and to stay in touch.
            I talked to Neelanjana about starting a small press. I would love to put together a non-fiction anthology of women writers of color, the intended audience being teen and young women of color. An e-book or a blog would be the least expensive ways to go about it but the audience I want to reach may not have access to a computer.  She suggested applying for grants. After our conversation, I had the idea of putting the anthology together and finding a small press to distribute it.              
            The women behind the conference went out of their way to put together a seemingly flawless event, meticulous detail was put on finding the right venue, sponsors, speakers and catering.  I can’t believe that the small price I paid gave me access to so much. I’m making plans to attend next year’s conference and am contemplating attending the one in NY this fall.
            Here’s a link to their website
            Thank You Bindercon for the great weekend.

Other Highlights:
1.     Spending time with my memoir writing teacher from Santa Monica College, Monona Wali who was on the Moms Who Write & Writers Who Mom: How to have a Kick-Ass Career and be a Kick-Ass Mom panel
2.     Lunch at the PEN Center USA table
3.     Book to Screen: Adaptation & Collaboration with Jane Anderson (screenwriter, Olive Kitteridge teleplay), 
Tananarive Due (author and screenwriter, Danger Word and From Capetown with Love, and screenwriting instructor), 
Pamela Redmond Satran (novelist, Younger)
, Carolyn Kellogg (LA Times)
, Emily Ziff (producer, God’s Pocket)

4.     On Writing Memoir; The Literary, The Legal and The Loophole with Eileen Cronin (author, Mermaid), 
Quinn Heraty (lawyer), 
Wendy Ortiz (author, Excavation)
, Leigh Stein (author and co-founder of BinderCon)
5.     Characters in Flux: How To Create Weetzie Bat and Other Compelling Young Adults Who Grow Up on the Page w authors Francesca Lia Block, Jade Chang, Brandy Colbert, Lauren Strasnick
6.     The networking party at the end of the conference.

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