How did I get here?

DSC03679How did I get here?

Have you ever looked around at your life and wondered…how did I get here?

This week I’m bracing for a fast and furious week (5 days) at the San Francisco Writers Conference (SFWC). I will be helping out in various capacities:

  • Workshop Presenter:  How to be Your Own Editor with my co-presenter Teresa Le-Yung Ryan (our 3rd appearance at the conference)
  • Independent Editor Coordinator:   I assist participants signing up for a Free mini-consultation with one of 12 Independent Editors during the conference…and I am also one of the editors)
  • Panel Participation:  scheduled to be on two panels focusing on editing.

I’m going to take a minute to share with you my evolution at this prestigious event catering to everyone and everything in the publishing industry.

Once upon a time, my family moved to the beautiful San Mateo Coastside and I was introduced to the president and membership chair of the Women’s National Book Association-San Francisco chapter (WNBA-SF) because I told someone I was a writer.  They immediately took me under their wing and ferried me to monthly meetings in the City because I couldn’t imagine driving the streets of San Francisco yet. That’s where I met the founders of the SFWC, Elizabeth Pomada (past president of WNBA-SF) and Michael Larsen (programs chair).   

Over time, my confidence in my writing and my leadership skills grew with a lot of hard work and encouragement from my colleagues and friends in WNBA-SF. I served as president of WNBA-SF and vice-president of the California Writers Club-Peninsula Branch. I sought out and won assignments as a free-lance editor for the monthly CoastViews Magazine. 

And when the first SFWC took place, the job I felt qualified for at the event was…babysitting the purses in the volunteer lounge.

Yes, that’s all I felt I could handle because I didn’t feel ready to go for what I really wanted…to do what I’m doing now…helping other women tell their story and shining the light so that they can see their gifts.

As you can tell from the list above, my expertise at the conference has evolved along with my confidence and skill-set. When my own editor suggested I help her at the conference as a “Book Doctor,” I jumped in because she’d be there too. When she was unable to continue with the conference, she recommended me for the job with a glowing endorsement.

I’m sharing where I started at the conference to help you see that if you keep showing up and moving forward wonderful things will happen. 

If you stay in one place, nothing will happen.

Show up and Shine!

[Coaxing Creativity Tuesday Tip] Celebrating Black History Month…loving the legend known as Effie Lee Morris

Mary E. Knippel (past pres WNBA-SF) & Effie Lee Morris (Founding President WNBA-SF)

This picture was taken at a Women’s National Book Assn-San Francisco Chapter (WNBA-SF) fundraiser in 2007 when I was serving as the WNBA-SF president. Ms. Morris founded WNBA-SF in 1968 at the request of WNBA National organization. She never waivered in her dedication to the group and the individuals involved. She was very generous with her compliments and encouragement.

 The little lady who had the wisdom of the owls she collected as well as a heart full of love of books and readers of all ages…

In honor of Black History Month, I’d like to share the story of my history with a woman who cast a giant shadow, but barely stood less than five feet tall. I proudly called her my teacher as well as my friend. She was also the reason this Minnesota born Scandinavian had the privilege to give testimony at a Baptist gathering. And the first woman of color who had such a significant influence on me.

Effie Lee Morris was a visionary, advocate, author, San Francisco leader, and honored as a Living Legend by the California Library Association. “I am proudest to have been a librarian,” she said, “a librarian who has made a difference.” Her first book, The Tale of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter, launched not only her love of reading but also her career as a children’s librarian and children’s advocate.

Work as a part-time library assistant in the Cleveland Public Library led to her first degree from Mather College in 1945 and her masters in library science in 1956. She was the first children’s specialist at the Library for the Blind in the New York Public Library. She was the first children’s librarian and first African American president of the Public Library Association, a division of the American Library Association. She was the first coordinator of children’s services in the San Francisco Public Library (SFPL). 

Her expertise in children’s literature afforded her the opportunity to serve on every major children’s book award committee, among them the Caldecott Medal, the Newbery Medal, Notable Books and the Coretta Scott King Award. Ms. Morris wrote the criteria to establish the award to honor Mrs. King’s advocacy.

Ms. Morris’s awards are numerous, but two that she was particularly proud of are the Silver Spur Award for Dedication to Enhancing the Quality of Life and Economic Vitality of San Francisco, and the Women’s National Book Association’s Award for Extraordinary Contribution to the World of Books.

The annual Effie Lee Morris Lecture Series lecture was created to salute Ms. Morris for her outstanding contributions to the San Francisco Public Library and the children of San Francisco by the WNBA-SF in 1996. The Children’s Historical and Research Collection was established in 1964 by Morris and officially renamed the Effie Lee Morris Historical and Research Collection of Children’s Literature in 1981. The collection was created as a research collection of out dated or out-of-print books deemed important to children’s literature and books containing ethnic stereotypes.

Little did I know as I sat taking notes at that WNBA-SF planning meeting which organized the first lecture in the series, that one day I’d be receiving phone calls from Effie Lee congratulating me on doing such a great job as president, or passing along a suggestion about our next chapter meeting.

She passed away in 2009. She was our cheerleader, shining star and an amazing example to live life to the fullest every day. Her spirit continues to shine brightly with all of us who were touched by her deep abiding love of the written word and enthusiasm for everyone who participate in the passionate pursuit of just the right combination to create an engaging story.

Miss Effie Lee will always be remembered with love and admiration. We miss you!








Advice for Saturday’s March 26 attendees at WNBA-SF Meet-the-Agents by the Bay Event

Do you have a writing project you’d like to get in front of an Agent or Acquisitions Editor?

Then join me next Saturday, March 26 at WNBA-SF’s 8th Annual Meet-the-Agents & Acquisitions Editors Event at Sinbad’s. Fellow authors Teresa LeYung Ryan, Tanya Egan Gibson and I will be on hand to prep attendees on how to best use this rare opportunity of a face-to-face meeting with an agent/acquisitions editor.

Just a few words to remember:

  1. Tell a good story. Talk about your project with enthusiasm, focus, and heart. Keep it short – you only have three minutes – and concentrate on the best bits.

  2. Be a good listener. The agents/acquisition editors are there to find great stuff. Your work may need a few adjustments to be just what they are looking for.

  3. Be yourself! Relax and have fun! This is a great opportunity to network with other writers and learn about their writing process.

Have you ever got to meet a writer you admired?

Mary E Knippel (l) and Joyce MaynardI recently had a chance to do just that! WNBA-SF hosted an author luncheon featuring Joyce Maynard at Book Passage to celebrate WNBA’s National Reading Group Month. Attendees were able to not only have lunch with Maynard, but also ask questions of the very accomplished author. I was thrilled when WNBA-SF was able to invite Maynard to be our honored guest for this annual event. As a young mother in Minnesota, I looked forward to reading Maynard’s “Domestic Affairs” columns in the Minneapolis Star Tribune. I could relate to the woman who wrote about searching for tiny Barbie shoes in shag carpeting and the small dramas of daily life. It helped me realize I liked that style of writing and wanted to have a column of my own some day. Sitting next to her, I had the chance to hear her talk about the writing process and receive encouragement to keep on the writing path. “I write about people and relationships,” Maynard said enthusiastically, “because that’s where the story is.”

She answered questions about how characters and plots show up and gave us insight into this mysterious world of the written word. Maynard spoke about the importance of making our writing a priority and ignoring e-mail until after we’d put in writing time for the day. She also stressed that even when it sometimes looks like we’re not writing, we’re actually writing because we’re thinking about writing. Writing is both frustrating and fascinating. Maynard’s latest work, “The Good Daughters,” was the end-result of a month-long retreat in Wyoming. The novel explores self-discovery of “birthday sisters” over decades. Writing retreats are wonderful opportunities to break from routine and allow the writer to disengage from distractions, but for day-to-day writing, we need to show up at the page to tell the story no matter what our surroundings.

Who do you admire?

WNBA-SF Publishing Panel advice for writers

Recently, I had the privilege of moderating a panel sponsored by the Women’s National Book Assn-San Francisco Chapter (WNBA-SF) at the San Francisco Main Library discussing the fate of publishing in this new world of ebooks and

(l-r) Georgia Hughes (New World Library), Bridget Kinsella (Breaking Books), Peter Beren (literary agent), Jennifer Joseph (Manic D Press)

(l-r) Georgia Hughes (New World Library), Bridget Kinsella (Breaking Books), Peter Beren (literary agent), Jennifer Joseph (Manic D Press)

 downloads. The art of the writing is very much alive and well along with those passionate about the written word. Technology has enhanced the delivery with things like eb00ks and on-line magazines, and made it more accessible for small publishers to get their unique projects in front of their target audiences.

What does this mean to you? Believe in your writing. Finish your book and don’t think that you have to wait for a big publishing house to offer you a contract for your manuscript. Join organizations such as the WNBA-SF to learn about your craft and network with others in your profession. Small publishers can have a big impact on the literary industry. You don’t have to be affiliated with a big pulshing company to be listed on Amazon!

If you have a story you want to tell, a book you’d like to share with the world, or an idea that could develop into a writing project – contact me.  I’d love to help you realize your dream!

WNBA-SF Writers get creative at Coaxing Creativity Decide, Design & Declare Workshop

WNBA-SF Decide.Declare.Design 2010Lots of laughter, powerful PLAY, attitude adjustment, accessing artist selves, lively conversation, sharing, and wonderful connections were made at the Coaxing Creativity Decide, Design & Declare Your Writing Life for 2010 Workshop. I am so inspired by all the creativity demonstrated by everyone in the room. Congratulations to all of you for Deciding to show up for yourself, Declaring how/what you wanted to achieve in your writing life in 2010 , and Designing such amazing works of collage art as a visual representation of your journey. Thank you for allowing me to facilitate this step. The vision board is just one step…I can’t wait to find out what happens next…

Set Goals at Vision Board Workshop Jan 30

Have you ever set a goal and been disappointed when you didn’t meet that goal? Well, attending the WNBA-SF sponsored Coaxing Creativity Vision Board Workshop is a step in the right direction! By creating a vision board and a plan with simple steps on how to achieve that goal, you are set up to succeed in 2010. This is the year your intentions become your reality! It’s not too late to sign up and join us on Jan. 30, 10 a.m. – 3 p.m. in Half Moon Bay. It’s a bargain for a day of purposeful play at $30/WNBA-SF members and $45/non-members. Register now at


The Women’s National Book Association-San Francisco Chapter ( is a part of a rich literary heritage. Started in 1917 in New York City by a group of women booksellers who were excluded from the annual booksellers’ convention, WNBA was founded to unite and support women in the book industry. Today, there are eight chapters across the nation and is a non-government membership at the United Nations. Visit them on the web at

Create a Vision Board – Manifest a Magnificent 2010

Whether it’s a new concept, or an annual ritual, vision boards perform powerful magic in helping us manifest our dreams. They are a staple at inspirational retreats I’ve attended and if you saw the DVD “The Secret,” you know it played a significant part. The Law of Attraction directs us to envision success as if it is in the present and has already happened. The more detail you bring into the mental image, the better. The vision board brings life to the mental image.writing space vision board

A vision board may also be called a Treasure Map, or Creativity Collage. Using simple raw materials of paper and glue, a dash of whimsy along with a generous amount of your own imagination, the final result is the birth of a physical expression of your inner most hopes and dreams. The word collage comes from the French “to stick.” It is a work of visual art made from an assemblage of different forms (images from magazines, jazzy junk mail, ribbon, photo copies of favorite pictures, and sometimes handwritten quotes); creating a new whole.

This is an opportunity to have fun envisioning the 2010 you’d like to experience. We’re not just playing around. We’re Playing with Purpose!  The idea is that when you surround yourself with images of who you want to become, what you want to have, where you want to live, or where you want to vacation, your life changes to match those images and those desires.

Ready to create your vision board?

I can’t wait to see how this year turns out…

Loss of a legend, Ms. Effie Lee Morris

Mary E. Knippel (past pres WNBA-SF) & Effie Lee Morris (Founding President WNBA-SF)We lost someone who exmplified how to create a successful life. Someone whom I looked up to a great deal. She was a wonderful lady who will be remembered for a great many things:  her grace and gumption, ability to inspire others, and her infectious enthusiasm for everything literary.

 I have said many times that I wanted to grow up and be just like Ms. Effie Lee Morris some day. Her boundless energy and all her commitments made me dizzy. She never failed to make you feel like the conversation she was having with you was the most important one going on in the room. After only minutes in her company, this legendary librarian, encouraged generations to learn a new version of the alphabet. Starting with A for attitude, B for books (of course) and C for compassion and caring… 

This picture was taken at a Women’s National Book Assn-San Francisco Chapter (WNBA-SF)  fundraiser in 2007 when I was serving as the WNBA-SF president. Ms. Morris founded WNBA-SF in 1968 at the request of WNBA National organization. She never waivered in her dedication to the group and the individuals involved. She was very generous with her compliments and encouragement.

We’re going to miss her, but she’s defintely made her mark on everyone in her path. And we’re all the better for the experience.