Stories have arcs. Characters have arcs. Writers have arcs. We write, we get better at our craft. We read, we get better at our craft. We interact with other writers and our readers, we get better at our craft. Whether you are a professional writer or just starting out. Hobby or career. We are all in this together. Welcome.

Contact: Elena Hartwell - elenahartwell@gmail.com and visit me on the web at www.elenahartwell.com

Mystery does love company! Jack Remick, Robert J Ray, and Marilyn Bennett make the readings sing.

My first month as a published author continues to be full of epic events. After appearing at Mysterious Galaxy in San Diego, I feared everything else would be a let down.

But the readings at Third Place Books in Lake Forest Park and King's Bookstore in Tacoma were amazing.

Two wonderful bookstores

If I've learned anything after twenty years in the theater, it's to surround myself with great people. I got to join Jack Remick and Robert J. Ray at Third Place Books for a reader's-theater style performance from each of our most recent books. (Well, my only book, the guys are very prolific).

The audience overflowed The Den, the wonderful staff found extra chairs, and we were off! So much fun to read with these two remarkable writers.

On May 22nd, I got to read with a longtime mentor, colleague, and friend, Marilyn Bennett. Our Friday rehearsal was approved by Herbert, one of the resident critics, so I knew we were ready to go.

Herbert the cat

We started with a monologue performed by Marilyn, then did two scenes from the book together, and ended with me, reading the opening of the novel.

Such a great audience! They stayed and asked questions, had a little bubbly, and I got to sign books. So pleased to be able to engage with readers and support a local, independent bookstore.

It's been an emotional couple of weeks. Fear, that no one would come or that people would come, then the reading would fail. Elation, as audiences arrived and the readings go well. Anxiety about whether or not people enjoy my book. As an artist, it's very hard to know how your work is experienced. We often downplay the compliments, thinking "they are just being nice," and obsess about the negatives, taking even a simple, offhand comment and spinning it into "they hate my work!" But the high from people laughing and applauding at the end of the readings helped allay the fear.

Which is good, because I'm hard at work on book two, and the confidence their responses gave me helps me leave my inner critic at the door.

Next up! The official launch party on Saturday May 28th at 2pm! Click here for information about the event.

First Bookstore Event... the bar was set high!

The very first bookstore event I attended as a published author was on May 7th, for the Mysterious Galaxy's Birthday Bash. Located in my hometown of San Diego, Mysterious Galaxy celebrated their 23rd year as the premiere bookstore dedicated to a passion for books of “Martians, Murder, Magic and Mayhem.”

Arriving early (theater people know arriving on time means you're late), I found the bookstore full of people and a writers' panel going full swing.

It was hard to believe in just a short time, I'd be up there too.          Having taught at the university level for almost twenty years, I've done a lot of public speaking in my time. At writers conferences and writers workshops, I've stood in front of thousands of people. But this was the first time someone could hear me speak, and then be able to go and buy my novel. I'd waited a long time for this moment.

My panel included authors Kelley Armstrong, Daryl Wood Gerber, Kwei Quartey, and Gavin Scott. They had each written a number of books (Kelley Armstrong has almost 40 titles alone!). It felt humbling to be sitting next to these prolific, award winning authors.
Our panel went great. It was so fun to see the audience. Though I did wonder, would anyone buy my book?

Regardless, it was a real kick to see my novel on the shelf.

The signing was equally amazing. I had decided no matter what happened, I was going to be happy just to be there. I ended up sitting at a table with Kelley. The line for her signature snaked around the bookshelves, people carrying stacks of her books, while my line was a wee bit thin. It was a delight to sign books for friends and family. I felt like a real "author." Then it happened. The moment I'd been hoping for. A person who didn't know me and did not have the last name Hartwell, came up to where I sat. She carried a book. My book. She asked me for an autograph. It was a moment I'll never forget. I'd arrived.

But where had I arrived? I knew it was just a single spot to stop for a moment on the author's road I'm traveling. But it was an important stopping place. 

For the moment, I just sat back and enjoyed the view. 

My first month as a published author...

After interviewing published authors for several years now, it's very exciting to include myself on my own blog. My novel officially launched on April 15th with Camel Press.

The first two weeks after the launch have been a whirlwind. 

As a longtime playwright and writing instructor, I've spent years leading classes and workshops, from dialogue for fiction writers to story structure to voice. This last weekend I got to have my book available in the bookstore at a conference for the very first time. I can't tell you how fabulous it was to see the pile get smaller and know that people I'd interacted with in my workshops were interested in my work.

I'm going to spend the month of May chronicling the adventures of a first time author. I'd love to answer any questions you might have as we go along - feel free to either leave them as a comment or email me at elenahartwell@gmail.com. 

First up? Saturday May, 7th I'll be in San Diego for my very first book signing at an actual bookstore. Can't wait to join my fellow mystery writers to celebrate Mysterious Galaxy's 23rd birthday with book signings and cake. Mmmmmm.... cake.

Looking forward to sharing this exciting time with all of you!