Welcome to the Beach House AiR blog!
In celebration of Marion Davies’ support of artists, and to further the work of artists in all disciplines, the City of Santa Monica created the Annenberg Community Beach House Artist Residency program. Several times a year a local artist works out of an office at the Marion Davies Guest House, sharing their progress with the public both in person and online. Visit http://annenbergbeachhouse.com/cultural-programs for more information.
Well, time ticked by and I am sad to say this is my last
week here at the Marion Davies Beach House. I will miss everything about this
place and the people I met during my tenure here.
I took a little time over the weekend to reflect on how my
writing changed during my stay and I wanted to share my thoughts with you
below. If you came to my event on Tuesday night, I talked about some of these
same issues (I also read a short portion of my novel that I wrote here.)
best writing backdrop ever!!!
Over the course of the last 8 weeks, people who visited my
office hours often asked what exactly am I doing here at the beach house and how
did I get here? I had answered a call for a writer-in-residence from the
Annenberg blog. Each residency focuses on a different genre of creativity.
Before me was a choreographer and after me will be an acting troupe. My call
was specifically for a fiction writer.
The application process involved sending in a few letters of
recommendation, a writer’s statement, proposed events for these types of
evenings, a writing sample as well as a description of the project I’m currently
glorious sun in eyes in front of Marion Davies Beach House
So for the past ten weeks I’ve had the wonderful opportunity
of having a place away from home to call my office. In addition to the hours
spent writing without the distractions of my home office, (think lots of dog
barking and neighborhood construction) I hold office hours once a week for
three hours on Mondays from 11-2. I’ve been so pleased with the turnout of
these office hours. The work I’ve been presented with has run the gamut from
short stories, to novel ideas, to picture books to a graphic novel to a Greek
cookbook. All enthusiastic writers with great stories to tell. I will hold my
final office hours on Monday, March 14th from 11-2 in my office on the
second floor of the Marion Davies building.
The novel that I was able to complete during my time here is
currently titled, “Time May Change Me” The gist of the novel is about a woman
with a transgendered daughter who is forced to move back in with her parents
after years of estrangement. It sounds pretty heavy, but I think, I hope it has
a lot of comedic elements to it.
There are many ways in which my writing was greatly impacted
by my time here at the Annenberg:
Planning: Let me start by talking about the planning
rituals I usually go through. Because, in my writing life before the Annenberg,
I worked on such limited writing time. My average on a good day was 2 hours.
Keep in mind I didn’t start writing until I had kids, so I just learned to
write within these parameters. Because of this, I really would spend a lot of
time planning and outlining so that I could best economize my writing time. When
it came time to write, I’d just follow my outline and “produce". However,
something happened with all of the extra time I had here. I felt liberated from
my usual planning and for the first time, I wrote without a premeditated
structure. This was incredibly liberating for me and I felt as though a lot
more discoveries happened both for me as a writer and for my characters. I
allowed them to meander without pressure and they’d inevitably take me
someplace unexpected or interesting – places I don’t think they would have
ended up had I been locked down to preplanned plotlines. This leads me to
Structure: So as I mentioned, Time May Change me is
about a woman who returns home with her daughter to estranged parents. At
first, the structure was split in two: before and after the daughter's transition. My original vision was to have each section alternate between these
before and afters. But as I began writing, it became apparent that so much of
the momentum and energy of the story was in the after. So there was a lot of
cutting (not deleting because I ended up saving some of the before sections to
use as flashbacks) and I decided to keep the story in the “after” sections. I
did leave a “before” in there to start the novel as a prologue.
The Writing Process:
For me, the writing process has been very accordion-like
this sort of stretching and then compressing goes on. I’ve spend a long time in
my MFA program and in writer’s workshops discussing how we all write. I
definitely am a strong proponent of moving forward and getting words on the
page, even if those words are not ultimately the ones that will end up on the
So, there you have it! I think the biggest piece of advice I’d
offer fellow writers is to get out of your comfort zone, change up your writing
routine and try something new! If you usually write in the morning, try writing
at night. If you usually write in first person present, check out the third
person past tense. And keep applying to those residencies! You never know what metamorphosis
your writing might go through at a beachside office!
Come by my last office hours Monday, March 14th
The query letter is the first piece of your writing that
an agent or publisher will see. Even if you have the most wonderful manuscript
the world has yet to read, none of that matters if your query letter is a mess.
The query letter serves multiple purposes: it shows the
agent / editor your ability to form cohesive sentences and that you’ve done
your researching in selecting them, it introduces your project and it gives you
a chance to speak about why you are qualified to write this piece either
through sharing your past writing experience or because of real life experience.
Below is my initial query letter for my second young
adult novel, Strays. You’ll notice the book was formerly titled, Hothead and
the Dog Days of Summer.
To INSERT NAME HERE:
I am writing regarding the possibility of representing my young adult novel, HOTHEAD AND THE DOG DAYS OF SUMMER.
It is no wonder that Iris Moody, a sixteen-year old animal fact aficionado with a penchant for caffeine, has a problem controlling her temper. She has a lot to be angry about. Iris was forced to move to Santa Cruz, California after her mother passed away two years ago, her father is so entrenched in work that he hardly notices her existence, her boyfriend dumped her and thanks to old Mrs. Schneider, she’s barely passing 11th grade English.
Iris lands in trouble when she lashes out at Mrs. Schneider on the last day of school. Because of her outburst, she is sentenced to a summer program for delinquent teens rehabilitating aggressive dogs. She is paired with Roman, a three-legged pit bull who is an equal match for Iris in temperament. When Roman’s unruly behavior threatens his life, Iris steps outside of her comfort zone to rescue him. Her summer is filled with new love, an inspirational summer school instructor and an increasing complex and difficult relationship with her workaholic father who crosses the line when he dips into her college fund. Iris eventually learns to train her dog, temper her anger and experience the upside to being vulnerable.
I am a writer and college instructor living in Los Angeles, California. I received an M.A. in English Literature from California State University Los Angeles and an M.F.A. in creative writing through the University of British Columbia. My first young adult novel, Urban Falcon, was published in 2009. I have served as the dog columnist for the Los Feliz Ledger since 2005. I received a Creative Capacity Fund grant for HOTHEAD AND THE DOG DAYS OF SUMMER from The Center for Cultural Innovation in 2010.
I look forward to your response!
Let’s analyze this letter.
While I left the name blank above, you’re going to want
to address a specific agent or editor. This shows that you’ve done your work in
selecting someone who is compatible with your project. It would be a waste of
time to send your short fiction collection query to an agent who only deals in
The first section should mention your interest in seeking
representation or publication with them specifically. Here, you could reference
a book or two an agent has represented or an editor has worked on that you
Next, you’ll want to summarize your project. This should
get to the heart of your pitch and should be written in the manner of the
manuscript itself. If the book is funny, humor could be infused into this
section. You can absolutely spill the beans on what happens in the story; no
need to be coy.
The last paragraph of the query letter involves the
author’s bio. Here, feel free to mention your educational background or
credentials and any other published writing you’ve done. If you don’t have an
M.F.A. or any previously published novels, that’s fine! You can make this more
personal and talk about why you’re the person to write this book. For my novel,
Strays, I mentioned that I was the dog columnist for a local paper – this is
not something I mention on my query letters for other writing projects, but it
was apropos specifically because I was writing a novel about dogs.
Each editor / agent usually posts very specific
guidelines about what information they want in a query letter, so be sure and read that information and heed their advice.
Want more help with writing your query letter? Come to my
final event at the Annenberg! Click here to R.S.V.P.
Writer-in-Residence Jennifer Caloyeras will read from
work completed during her tenure at the Beach House. After the reading, all
(but especially aspiring writers) are welcome to stay for a workshop (Query
Letter-Writing 101) centered around demystifying the submittal process.
Small breakout group discussions will commence around 7:15pm.
Interested in sending out your work to magazines, agents
or publishers but you don’t know where to begin? Jennifer Caloyeras and author
Tisha Marie Reichle of the 'Women Who Submit' author group speak about
their own experiences as well as strategies and tips for sending out your work.
After, workshop attendees are invited to split up into smaller groups where we
will review one another’s letters. Feel free to bring one single-page query
letter to the workshop. Participants will leave the workshop with a solid
understanding of the submission process as well as a stronger query letter.
Jennifer Caloyeras is the 2016
Writer-in-Residence at the Beach House. She began work onsite in mid-January and
is working on a novel in the Marion Davies Guest House through mid-March. Her
most recent novel, Strays, is for young adults and explores an
incarcerated teen’s relationship with a pit bull. Caloyeras’ short fiction has
appeared in Booth, Storm Cellar and other literary magazines. She holds
a M.A. in English from Cal State Los Angeles and a M.F.A. in creative writing
from the University of British Columbia. Jennifer’s current project is her
first adult novel – a mixture of humor and pathos – that explores a mother’s
journey with her transgendered six-year-old daughter, and the weight of
expectations parents place on their children. She will share her work with
three public events, a weekly blog, and open office hours throughout her tenure
(schedule below). Her website: jennifercaloyeras.com.
Mondays January 25 – March 7, 11am-2pm: Open Office Hours
– come by Jennifer’s office at the Beach House with any literary questions or
to catch up!
Stop by early to save your seat and check
out the historic site!
Tickets are free but space is limited and reservations
are required. Arrive by 15 min before start time to retain your reservation.
Late seating, even for reservation-holders, is not guaranteed. To adjust or
cancel your reservation for this event, email firstname.lastname@example.org. We appreciate
your keeping in touch!
Getting Here: The Beach House is located at 415 Pacific
Coast Highway, Santa Monica, CA 90402 on the west side of Pacific Coast
Highway. Enter off PCH at the Beach House Way traffic light.
Parking: The parking rate is Nov - Mar: $8/day
or $3/hour, Apr - Oct: $12/day or $3/hour, payable at
the park and pay machines in three areas of the ACBH parking lot. Credit cards
or exact change only. Handicapped placards and Senior Beach Permits are
accepted. For other parking info and lot hours, please check the website for details.
General Info: For hours, events and more, visit annenbergbeachhouse.com,
or call (310) 458-4904. Back on the Beach Café hours are subject
to change but are generally through 3pm in the off season & 8pm in the
summer, call (310) 393-8282 to confirm.