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Writer's Digest presents an excerpt from my webinar, "Three Secrets of the Greats: Structure Your Story for Ultimate Reader Addiction."

Joanna Penn of The Creative Penn, one of the Top 10 Blogs for Writers, interviews me about storytelling, writing, independent editing, and the difference between literary fiction and genre, with an impromptu exercise on her own Work-in-Progress.

Editing client Stu Wakefield, author of the Kindle #1 Best Seller Body of Water, talks about our work together on Memory of Water, the second novel of his Water trilogy.






  • By Victoria Mixon

    I know—I’m in the middle of our August writers conference month, including 3 Ways to Make Friends & Enemies at Writers Conferences and 5 BS Indicators for Writers Conferences (with its up-coming sequel next week).

    But I have to take a minute here to report on a conversation I just had on Twitter here and here with writer & blogger Anne R. Allen, whom I know you all know.

    Anne R. Allen: California Coast Writers Conference

    Anne is involved with the California Coast Writers Conference in my old hometown of San Luis Obispo, California—actually held on the Cuesta Community College Campus, where I earned my AA degree.

    I’ve never been to that particular conference, but I know the campus pretty darn well and I know Anne! And I do still know English professors at Cal Poly.

    In fact, my professor Kevin Clark gave me a fabulous blurb for The Art & Craft of Fiction: A Practioner’s Manual.

    Cal Poly San Luis Obispo

    As I recall, the year I was with them at Cal Poly, Kevin Clark and my English mentor Robert Inchausti nominated me for the Student of the Year Award in the School of Liberal Arts, but I was disqualified because I was only zipping through the English Department in two semesters—taking 23 credits per semester, whee, doggies!—and would therefore not be there for the full required Year.

    I’d already earned most of my degree (and then some) in the Computer Science Department.

    By the time I hit the English Department, I was like Wiley Coyote, my legs just a circular blur.

    Linnaea’s Cafe, SLO

    And during that last, hectic summer before my final non-year year in the English Department, I worked at those two bastions of downtown SLO culture (whom everyone remembers): Linnaea’s Cafe and the Earthling Bookshop.

    I’d been bouncing in and out of Linnaea’s Cafe for a few years, and we were all family down there. (In fact, I just looked it up, and it’s still around. Apparently I was working there only a few years after it opened. Now it’s been 26 years, and it appears the tradition of staff as family that we started—actually behind Linnaea’s back—continues to flourish.)

    I used to work all day Saturdays and our hoppin’ Saturday nights at Linnaea’s, serving the weekend crowds that peaked at midnight when the brewery across the street closed their doors, and everyone surged into Linnaea’s like a tide of lemmings.

    The Trees of Mystery (with an addendum re: Burning Man)

    in fact, my close friends, the local-sensation rock band The Trees of Mystery, lived directly upstairs and used us as their family kitchen—which makes me glad now I sneaked Paul Robert Dubois II all those freebie desserts, since years later he married Harley Bierman, one of the owners of Burning Man, and now I have an unending supply of fabulous behind-the-scenes Burning Man stories in exchange. . .

    There was a dance joint at the far end of the alley from Linnaea’s, and our manager would give the three of us on-duty permission to take our break all at the same time on Saturday nights because we were friends.

    We’d run whooping and a-hollering down that long alley in the dark toward the bright neon lights in the distance. We’d slip in at the head of the line waving our Linnaea’s aprons as proof we wouldn’t be there long, and then dance like crazed primates while The Trees of Mystery blasted their weird mix of Jim Morrison/noir jazz/punk rock from the stage.

    Rob would lean over with his microphone and cry with delight, “You’re here!” and then laugh his manic laugh while we threw our aprons on the floor and stomped hysterically around them in a circle.

    Then we’d toss back a quick beer, kiss the boys, and run up the alley again, shrieking at the tops of our lungs, to find our manager exhausted but smiling as he tried to handle orders from dozens of customers at once.

    Wonderful summer nights.

    Earthling Bookstore, Children’s Room Director

    I happened to live in a tiny studio apartment in downtown SLO then—a lovely town, a lovely time in which to live downtown!—so I’d wake up Sunday early, reeling and groggy and sometimes still in the dress I’d been wearing the night before—and dash blearily around the corner to my Sunday job at the Earthling Bookshop.

    I worked there other days of the week, too, but Sunday was the real challenge. . .as you might imagine.

    I was the Director of the Children’s Room, a large room in the basement with two entrances, where I went in every morning and turned on the lights over the bookcases one-by-one, as though lighting up a stage. I loved that moment so.

    The magic of books coming alive!

    During the week I’d spend my days zooming on my bike to the town Hobby Shop for flannel and ink pens, and then I’d cut out flannel-board stories on the Children’s Room floor for my Sunday morning Story Time. On particular days, I was also working at the local alternative newspaper right up the street, so I’d be dashing up to their office to drop off the instructions for the Earthling ads that I’d have to typeset and paste-up later for both sets of bosses.

    I also had a wildly busy weekday nightlife.

    It was a splendid era.

    Lorelei

    So by Sunday mornings, there I’d be with my big stand-up flannel board and box of flannel-board stories, barefoot, still in my party dress from Saturday night, and looking just a teeny bit over-the-edge—face to face with a whole crowd of eager cross-legged children ready to get into some serious storytelling.

    My friend Lorelei would be in the back with a couple of boxes of cookies and a jug of apple juice that we’d acquired, sitting on a table and swinging her legs merrily. She was my official Story Hour ‘assistant.’ Lorelei used to hang around with me all week as I went through my frantic slapstick routine of mixed jobs—being very funny and amusing.

    And I’d tell flannel-board stories to the kids. . .long, involved, highly dramatic stories of a Bunny who changes costume every few seconds in its endless, inventive efforts to become a Runaway Bunny, of King Bidgood taking a bath as his friends one-by-one decide to join him, of a little boy and a yellow ducky who discover in their bath a whole ocean of strange and wonderful creatures. . .

    Then at the end I’d stand up and sing a capella a very lovely Nancy Griffin song of love and hope and tolerance that I’d just learned, “From a Distance.” And the children would clap and dance. And afterward Lorelei and I would serve them all cookies and apple juice with much gaiety and wit.

    Then I’d go upstairs and collapse on a stool behind the front counter.

    And my pal Jerry—a wise, fatherly type in his fifties—would let me spend the rest of the day being the person who sat down ringing up sales while he walked the aisles directing customers to books. Because Jerry knew I couldn’t stand up anymore.

    Lorelei and I once took a drive to Santa Barbara in her mother’s convertible on a sunny summer day, pausing at random spots to take photos of ourselves horsing around. I stood on the hood of the car and threw my arms wide to an audience of rather bemused cattle. She posed comedically in front of downtown window displays. I jumped straight at her off a flight of steps—flapping behind me the 1940s herringbone jacket I’d ‘borrowed’ from Rob Dubois, who is about twice as big as me in all directions—and she caught me on film in mid-air.

    For musical entertainment, we brought a tape I’d found in the glovebox of a used car I’d bought a couple of years before, although I’d never listened to it. We popped it in and bobbed our heads to the music, singing along with the lyrics, all of which—it turned out—we knew by heart.

    “Heart of Glass,” “Let the Good Times Roll,” “Le Sheik,” “Voulez-vou Coucher Avec Moi?” “She Works Hard for the Money,” and Peaches & Herb singing their impossibly treacly but entirely familiar, “Reunited”. . .which we belted out with some real enthusiasm, I’m telling you.

    We hadn’t been able to read the scribbled writing on the tape, but we realized none of these songs had come out any later than 1979 (we knew all the release dates, you see, and in many cases the seasons), and we could tell they had been taken off the radio. When we double-checked we realized it said, “Hits of ’79.”

    So fabulous to be young and zany and completely, totally out of our ever-lovin’ minds.

    Anne R. Allen: Reprise

    Which means you’ll all appreciate the enormous significance of it when Anne informed me this morning that she still knows Lorelei!

    Lorelei!

    How I would love to see Lorelei again, after all these years.

    Is life not a wonderful, convoluted, inexplicable, and extraordinary thing?

    And won’t it be wonderful when Anne puts me in touch with Lorelei, and we can all appear together as Patti Labelle and her back-up singers here on this blog. . .thereby proving once & for all that history is beautiful and coucher-ing with abandon in three-part harmony is just one of those great, hilarious hobbies the 1970s left to all of us as their eternal legacy?

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    8 Comments

8 Responses to “Breaking News: Anne R. Allen Knows How to Find Lorelei”

  1. What a wonderful post. Oh, it takes me back. Living in downtown SLO when the downtown was so alive with creativity was such a gift. I’d moved to Los Osos by then, but I came into town a lot.

    I’m pretty sure Lorelei still lives in her log cabin in Los Osos, (a log cabin painted sky blue.) She was in charge of booking musicians for the Earthling concerts, as I remember, and she married a semi-famous musician named Craig Nuttycomb (Lambert and Nuttycomb were a 70s folk duo) The marriage didn’t last, and she later married another musician. I hadn’t seen her in a while, but I ran into her at the Los Osos Farmer’s Market on Monday. We have a mutual friend who will probably have her e-address, if she has one. I’ll be in touch!

    Yes. Life is convoluted and unexpected. And full of extraordinary things.

  2. Victoria said on

    That SLO period in the early 1990s was so fun.

    I lived all over that area at one time or another—Los Osos, Morro Bay, Arroyo Grande, Pismo, Cayucos—before I settled in town.

    The Trees of Mystery lived upstairs from the 781 Club a few blocks from me, so we were in and out of that building constantly. We used Linnaea’s as our kitchen and 781 Club as our living room. We partied—quite dangerously, actually—on the roof.

    One night Rob had the flu, but he knew we were all right downstairs partying so he came down anyway in his jammies. Another night his bassist, Mitch “Cheese-Eater,” tipped my beer into my face for a joke, and I wound up running upstairs quick to shower, and Rob had to loan me dry clothes. I walked barefoot all over SLO that evening, from 781 to McCarthy’s to Bull’s, in pants so big I could have camped in them.

    Such a fabulous town to wander through all those warm, jasmine-smelling summer nights. One time I came around a corner and found two guys I knew sitting in the bushes of the Savings Bank drinking a six-pack of beer.

    We still see Rob and Harley whenever we’re in San Francisco. Our son and their little girl are great friends.

    The last time we saw Lorelei was shortly after she’d married Craig. Our son was a newborn, and we took him to their house in SLO, and she sat on the couch holding him across her lap, just smiling her wonderful, zany Lorelei smile.

  3. Wow! ‘Zany’ smile?!? That was a wonderful journey you took me on, Victoria.Thanks so much. We just sold that ‘Little Beauty’ Mercedes, and I was sorry to see it go, but since it didn’t have a backseat, it made it touch to cart the wee ones around. (People frown on them tossed in the back cargo area.) That was fun!
    I just went to Glen Starkey’s wedding. Remember the New Times Music guy? That was a stroll down memory lane.
    I remember the flying jacket picture, and think of you when I go through the San Marcos pass when I go by that turnoff to Foxen Canyon. I haven’t driven that rode since.
    GRAND to hear from you!

  4. Oh, weren’t we crazy? Such a fabulous youth to be able to look back on.

    I do vaguely remember the name Glen Starkey, although I don’t think I saw him around the office. I spent a lot of time at the New Times in the darkroom taking photos of my bare feet.

    They may have put me there on purpose.

  5. “Such a fabulous town to wander through all those warm, jasmine-smelling summer nights.” That is it. That magic. I miss it.

    Funny. Just now I got an email from my ex husband I haven’t heard from in forever. We lived in SLO in an old garage on High St. in the late 1970s. Those were amazing days, too.

  6. Victoria said on

    I had three friends who lived upstairs from a garage behind a house on Chorro Street. We called ourselves the Chorro Street Posse.

  7. Jeffrey Russell said on

    I’m glad I know you. I’m glad you’re editing my work. Both it – and me – are better off for it.

  8. Victoria said on

    🙂

    Thanks, Jeffrey!

    Me too.




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Authors


MILLLICENT G. DILLON, represented by Harold Ober Associates, is the world's expert on authors Jane and Paul Bowles. She has won five O. Henry Awards and been nominated for the PEN/Faulkner. I worked with Dillon on her memoir, The Absolute Elsewhere, in which she describes in luminous prose her private meeting with Albert Einstein to discuss the ethics of the atomic bomb. Read more. . .


SASHA TROYAN is a Professor of English at Montclair University and author of the critically-acclaimed novels Angels in the Morning and The Forgotten Island, both Booksense Selections, tragic and beautiful stories based upon her childhood in France. I worked with Troyan to develop her new novels, Marriage A Trois and Semester. Read more. . .


LUCIA ORTH is the author of the debut novel, Baby Jesus Pawn Shop, which received critical acclaim from Publisher’s Weekly, NPR, Booklist, Library Journal and Small Press Reviews. I have edited a number of essays and articles for Orth. Read more. . .


BHAICHAND PATEL, retired after an illustrious career with the United Nations, is now a journalist based out of New Dehli and Bombay, an expert on Bollywood, and author of three non-fiction books published by Penguin. I edited Patel’s best-selling debut novel, Mothers, Lovers, and Other Strangers, published by Pan Macmillan. Read more. . .


SCOTT WILBANKS, represented by Barbara Poelle of the Irene Goodman Literary Agency, is the author of the debut novel, The Lemoncholy Life of Annie Aster, published by Sourcebooks in August, 2015. I'm working with Wilbanks on his sophomore novel, Easy Pickens, the story of the world’s only medically-diagnosed case of chronic naiveté. Read more. . .


SCOTT WARRENDER is a professional musician and Annie Award-nominated lyricist specializing in musical theater. I work with Warrender regularly on his short stories and debut novel, Putaway. Read more. . .


M. TERRY GREEN enjoys a successful self-publishing career with her three sci-fi/fantasy series based on her dual careers in anthropology and technology. I worked with Green to develop a new speculative fiction series. Read more. . .


DARREN D. BEYER is an ex-NASA experiment engineer who worked on every Space Shuttle orbiter but Challenger. In Casimir Bridge, the first novel of his debut sci-fi series, Beyer uses every bit of his scientific expertise to create a galaxy in which "space bridges" allow interstellar travel based upon the latest in real theoretical physics. Read more. . .


ANIA VESENNY, represented by Beverly Slopen Literary Agency, is a recipient of the Evelyn Sullivan Gilbertson Award for Emerging Artist in Literature and has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize. I edited Vesenny's debut novel, Swearing in Russian at the Northern Lights, and her second novel, Sandara. Read more. . .


STUART WAKEFIELD is the #1 Kindle Best Selling author of Body of Water, the first novel in his Orcadian Trilogy. Body of Water was 1 of 10 books long-listed for the Polari First Book Prize. I edited Wakefield's second novel, Memory of Water, and look forward to editing the final novel of his Orcadian Trilogy, Spirit of Water. Read more. . .


GERALDINE EVANS is a best-selling British author. Her historical novel, Reluctant Queen, is a Category No 1 Best Seller on Amazon UK. I edited Death Dues, #11 in Evans' fifteen popular Rafferty and Llewellyn cozy police procedurals, which received a glowing review from the Midwest Book Review. Read more. . .


JUDY LEE DUNN is an award-winning marketing blogger. I am working with Dunn to develop and line edit her memoir of reconciling liberal activism with her emotional difficulty accepting the lesbianism of her beloved daughter, Tonight Show comedienne Kellye Rowland. Read more. . .


LISA MERCADO-FERNANDEZ writes literary novels of love, loss, and friendship set in the small coastal towns of New England. I edited Mercado-Fernandez' debut novel The Shoebox and second novel The Eighth Summer. Read more. . .


JEFF RUSSELL is the author of the debut novel, The Rules of Love and Law, based upon Jeff's abiding passions for legal history and justice. Read more. . .


LEN JOY is the author of the debut novel, American Past Time. I worked with Len to develop his novel from its core: a short story about the self-destructive ambitions of a Minor League baseball star, which agents had told him to throw away. Read more. . .


In addition, I work with scores of aspiring writers in their apprenticeship to this wonderful literary art and craft.

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