Are you waiting for permission?

I’m a huge fan of Amy Poehler’s videos on Smart GirlsIf you’ve ever wanted to start a large project, I suggest watching this video. Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer met doing improv at Upright Citizens Brigade. They created a web series based on their unique friendship and sense of humor, and it took off, leading them to the hit show on Comedy Central. In this video, Amy interviews the writers and talent behind this zany comedy, Broad City.

I love it when they talk about finding your voice, and how to get started on a dream. Everything they said reminded me of starting Writers Work :)

Abbi Jacobson’s response when Amy asks how someone can copy their success says it all for me:

“A lot of people wait for someone else to tell them it’s okay to start doing something or they have to be allowed to do this. But, no, we create that. You just have to start. No one’s gonna give you permission.”

What are your ambitions? Are you waiting for permission to get started?

Please Give Me Your Hard-Earned Money

In an effort to offer a conference which is affordable, yet small enough so there is a strong sense of community, I have run into a small conundrum. Even if I sell all of my tickets, I am just going to break even. I was hoping to get more corporate sponsors but I keep running into the same problem: I don’t have non-profit status. I would love to continue creating this incredible conference series, but I need extra money to make it sustainable (I want to file for non-profit status, I want to continue bringing in amazing speakers and paying them a fair price for their talent, and I would like to make a little salary for all the time I put into this). Here’s where I’m hoping my amazing readers will come in and save the day!

I know this is a brazen request, but I wouldn’t ask if I didn’t believe these conferences will make the world a better place by nurturing creative people and helping to bring their art into the world. You can help support creativity by making a donation toward the Writers Work conference through PayPal. Again, this isn’t a non-profit yet, so donations are not tax deductible.

Donate Button with Credit Cards

Where it asks for special instructions, type your name and/or website you would like me to advertise. For donations of $25 and up, I will be posting your link on this blog, my twitter handles for The Heso Project and Writers Work, The Heso facebook page, as well as on the programs for the conference. If you would like to make a large donation that covers a specific cost, here are just a few of the items from my budget (Donors will be acknowledged for this contribution on all promotional materials.):

Lunch – Feeding Creativity
$600 
Breakfast – The Spark of Inspiration
$150 
The Venue – A Room of One’s Own
$750 
Photography – Capturing the Details
$400
Logo Design – Leave a Mark
$100

And, of course, please keep telling all your writing friends about the conference! Thank you for your support :)

Meet My Favorite Author

Kyle_bookIt was a long shot, but I wrote to my new favorite author, Aryn Kyle, to gush and invite her to speak at my conference and she said YES!

A few months ago, I flipped out over her book, The God of Animals. Now I’m reading her short story collection, Boys and Girls Like You and Me. I normally have a hard time getting into short stories, but her writing style is so sensitive and evocative that I’m immediately immersed in each story of tainted adolescence. Her protagonists are mysterious, complicated, and observant. Her beautiful prose is filled with heartbreaking honesty, like this gem from The God of Animals:

“If you take something that isn’t yours, it will never belong to you. You can try to hold on to it, but somehow, it will slip through your fingers. If something wasn’t meant to be yours, it won’t be. No matter what you do to keep it, you will lose it.”

I’m so honored to have her as a speaker at my next conference on Saturday, September 20! She will be sharing her experience of turning an award-winning short story into a novel, as well as some tips on how to get into a writers’ residency (hint hint you don’t need to be a published author). When I started this series, I wanted to find speakers who would motivate other writers and share what they have learned. Aryn is one of my dream speakers. Don’t miss this chance to meet a wonderful, contemporary author and make sure you get a copy of her books so you can get it signed!

10 Reasons why every writer should come to this conference

When I first accepted the crazy notion that I was going to be a writer, I kept getting this advice: go to writers’ conferences and start networking. The idea made sense, but the price tag didn’t. I couldn’t afford tickets upwards of $500 on the off chance I meet someone who likes my pitch, and would remember me from the crowd of hundreds of other eager attendees.

If what you want isn’t out there, make it! It’s taken a lot of hard work, but I am proud to host a conference that is affordable (under $100 including lunch), and intimate. If you know a writer in the New York area, make sure they get a ticket before it sells out.

When and where is it, you ask?

Saturday, Sept. 20, 2014 from 10am-4pm in Times Sq. 

Here are just some of the reasons why you should go:

  1. Pitch your story idea to Shira Hoffman, literary agent at McIntosh & Otis.
  2. Hear from my favorite contemporary author, Aryn Kyle, about writers’ residency programs and the process of turning a short story into a novel. P.S. if you haven’t read her work, pick up a copy of The God of Animals today!
  3. Meet other people with same interests and goals so you can start having creative dates together!
  4. Meet Deborah Emin, publisher of Sullivan Street Press, a company that is working to give the power and control back to writers.
  5. Get a behind the scenes look at the publishing world from Christina Bryza, a Senior Copywriter at Simon & Schuster.
  6. Get a free hour of guided writing, care of  Gotham Writers’ Workshop, in addition to a special discount for their classes.
  7. Take your craft seriously. When you spend money on your dreams, they start to become a reality.
  8. Build your support network.
  9. Free lunch!
  10. Get out of the house, get out of the rut, get out of your head, and come and have creative fun with others!

You can buy tickets here, or check out the official website.

A fun moment at the last conference.

A fun moment at the last conference.

Exciting News!

Do you ever have one of those months where everything finally comes together? I hope you do, because it feels fantastic. After a lot of hard work, I have some great news to share:

  1. I have a new website for my Writers Work conference series, and I’ve added a writer’s retreat feature! I used the logo you guys chose. Check it out and let me know what you think.
  2. I sent out my first query letter for my novel!
  3. I submitted a short story to The New Yorker and The Missouri Review.
  4. AND MOST IMPORTANTLY…discounted tickets are now available for the next Writers Work Conference 9/20/14 in Times Sq. NY! Have lunch with an agent, hear about authors’ experiences of getting published, meet approachable editors and publishers who want to share the inside scoop with you, and connect with other writers. It’s going to be an amazing day
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Ahhh the joy of getting sh*t done!

A Place Where No One Should Have to Live: Remembering Kibera (Part 4)

A few days ago Kibera was mentioned at an event I attended and the name sounded so familiar. After a moment I realized it sounded familiar because I had been there three years ago.  I went on a volunteer trip to Kibera, the largest slum in Africa, with my dad and a group called Cross-Cultural Thresholds. How did I manage to completely forget about an experience that shook me to the core? Forgetting Kibera was a coping mechanism, because if I thought about it all the time I would never be able to do anything. How do I work on a novel when I know that there are 2 million people living in a slum with no electricity or running water? How do I enjoy time with my friends when I know kids are starving to death? While it serves no one to put my life on hold because there is suffering in the world, I do believe I have a responsibility to remember and share what I saw. I am reposting some of the emails I sent to Mike while I was there:

I heard the most incredible story from one of the local volunteers today. Jimmy grew up in a poor, rural area outside of Nairobi. The planes of Wilson Airport flew directly over his village and he dreamed of flying one of those planes. He found a magazine about flying and wrote a letter to every address listed in the directory. He kept doing that for years until finally he got one letter back from a man named David in Connecticut.

David encouraged Jimmie to study hard and follow his dreams, and they began a pen-pal relationship that lasted years. When Jimmy graduated from high school with great grades, David paid for him to go to college in Michigan. He trained to be a pilot there and then got a job in Arizona as a private pilot for the Mayo Clinic. The clinic offered to pay for his Masters but he really wanted to go back to Kenya and be a pilot at Wilson airport. He’s been flying for Air Kenya for 4 years now.

David is a volunteer on our trip and he asked Jimmy to meet us on the first day and share his story. He asked if he could help us in Kibira because he had never been there before. He immediately fell in love with the project. He’s joining the board of the daycare center and is going to become our liaison. He doesn’t have much money but he realized he was given a great gift from a man who encouraged him to study and now he wants to help hundreds of young kids study as well.

Jimmy’s story became our slogan for the trip. When someone said we couldn’t finish digging the foundation that day, another person said, “Well if Jimmy can fly…” Whenever something seemed hard, we just kept saying “Jimmy can fly.”

In other news, this morning we dispensed 200 pairs of Crocs to the kids at the daycare center. The kids went crazy for them. It was amazing to see their joy in receiving such ugly shoes but it was it was also gut wrenching to see the kids outside the daycare center watching this giveaway, barefoot and hungry. They stood outside the gate, hoping to get an extra pair but we didn’t have enough. Well it felt great to give these shoes away, it was a reminder that the gift of schools, wells and roads do a lot more good than finite, material goods. Despite how ugly they are, there will never be enough crocs to go around.

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A little girl receiving her first pair of shoes.

Afterward, Marina and I finished the mural. It’s really cheerful and the construction workers kept taking breaks to look at it and give us the thumbs up. In art school, the idea that art is supposed to be challenging and serious was crammed down our throats. Today was a nice reminder that art can also cheer people up and be pretty.

Last night at dinner we were talking about the book Many Lives, Many Masters. It’s by a professor who did a lot of research into past lives. As I was walking out of Kibera today, I thought  about that book and almost vomited. I had absolutely no control over where I was born, and I just as easily could have been born in Kibera. The thought that past and future lives could be real, freaked me out because as long as there’s the chance of being reborn, there’s the chance of being reborn in Kibera. I think a lot more people would do volunteer work, and donate money if they thought there was a chance they could be reborn on the other end of the lucky spectrum.

A Place Where No One Should Have to Live: Remembering Kibera (Part 3)

A few days ago Kibera was mentioned at an event I attended and the name sounded so familiar. After a moment I realized it sounded familiar because I had been there three years ago.  I went on a volunteer trip to Kibera, the largest slum in Africa, with my dad and a group called Cross-Cultural Thresholds. How did I manage to completely forget about an experience that shook me to the core? Forgetting Kibera was a coping mechanism, because if I thought about it all the time I would never be able to do anything. How do I work on a novel when I know that there are 2 million people living in a slum with no electricity or running water? How do I enjoy time with my friends when I know kids are starving to death? While it serves no one to put my life on hold because there is suffering in the world, I do believe I have a responsibility to remember and share what I saw. I am reposting some of the emails I sent to Mike while I was there:

So I was having a really hard time picking out a souvenir for you. I didn’t want to get a tacky trinket, and so I got you a son! There was an adorable boy at the daycare center who needed to be sponsored. He has big, white teeth and a dimple just like you! It’s just a dollar a day and it pays for three meals a day and all his school supplies.

Shwaib Ayub, the young boy I sponsored

Shwaib Ayub, the young boy I sponsored

[In a tragic turn of events, two weeks after I left Kibera, Schwaib was hit by a car and died instantly. I shared this terrible news with my friends and family, and together we raised over $1,500 to donate to his daycare center.  What happened to him was a tragedy, but there are still so many kids who need help there. Click here if you would like to make a donation in honor of Schwaib.]

Today it poured. And you don’t want to be in Kibera when it rains. There were streams of fecal waste, plastic bags and old shoes running past us. The smell is horrific. The pathways are just piles of slippery mud, and you have to hold onto the sides of the houses so you don’t fall down. When you touch the houses, the walls crumble apart.

Some pretty clever, make-shift umbrellas.

Some pretty clever, make-shift umbrellas.