Posts Tagged ‘Santiago Writers’

She Writes, Indeed, an essay by Suzanne Adam


Suzanne Adam and I met in 2010, while I was leading writing workshops at Los Parronales Writers’ Retreat in Santiago, Chile. I was a structural editor for her first memoir, Marrying Santiago, which was later awarded the 2016 Moritz Thomsen Peace Corps Experience Award. Suzanne, a member of the long-running Santiago Writers, is about to release her second book, a collection of personal essays. She shares her editing process and pre-publication experience here.


I read and reread my manuscript and am satisfied. It is ready. Time to make the big leap . . . Or is it?

As I read the text yet again, doubts flood me. I’ve read it so often that it sounds flat to me. Will readers actually find engaging this mixed bag of expanded blog posts, travel pieces, and musings from my past? Will a publisher be interested?

There is only one way to find out.

A friend of a friend recommends She Writes Press. I check out their website. It’s a hybrid press (author and publisher share expenses), designed to give more opportunities to women writers. That’s for me. Copy. Attach. Send.

Days later, the publisher’s name appears in my email inbox. She’s accepted my manuscript, Notes from the Bottom of the World, A Life in Chile! Then I read on. My manuscript needs work, she writes, and she assigns me to Annie, an independent editor.

Weekly thirty-minute Skype sessions with Annie are equivalent to a semester in creative writing. We first tackle structure for this essay collection, written over the past three or four years. Picking the first and last piece is easy, as is arranging the essays in chronological order. I’m filled with satisfaction when themes and chapter titles reveal themselves to me bit by bit. I cut up colored index cards, big pieces for chapter titles and smaller ones with essay titles, and set them out on the floor to organize. It’s like a game. I move the cards back and forth and gradually see my book taking shape.

In addition to perfecting my writing skills, I must become a saleswoman. It doesn’t come naturally to me.  I dread facing this aspect of publishing but also see it as a challenge. I can do it! Sales hook, book description, selling points, target audience, biography, key words for Amazon searches, and endorsements. To my surprise I find learning these new tasks enjoyable, as is working on the book cover with the SWP designer. What a sense of satisfaction when we get the cover just right.

Do I need a publicist? Posts on the Fall 2018 She Writes Press Authors Facebook page convince me that I do. The cost of hiring a publicist makes me reluctant, but living overseas I recognize that I will need help if I want to reach a wider public through book talks, news articles, and podcasts. I find Isabella, a local publicist in the San Francisco Bay Area where I plan to spend a month at the time of my book’s publication. Isabella is guiding me through this daunting marketing process. Enthusiastic, she reassures me when I express worry about public presentations. People will want to get to know you, the person behind the words, she says. She has excellent contacts at libraries, clubs, and bookstores. I am even scheduled for a book talk and signing at my favorite independent bookstore, Book Passage, where I’ve attended author talks over the years. A dream come true.

Isabella is planning more activities as we get closer to my November 6 publication date. I must also advertise on Facebook and send out emails to friends and acquaintances. Advance Reading Copies (ARCs), which will look just like the published book, will be sent to me and my publicist within two months, and Isabella will distribute copies to reviewers.

I’ve spent years bending over a computer, dog-earring my thesaurus, jotting down ideas before I forget, and editing, editing, editing. And now, the publication wheels are in motion. This waiting time brings a mix of excitement and nervousness. And my mind spins with questions: Will I get decent turnouts at my book talks? Can I deliver a compelling talk? (This is something I’m reading up on now.) What will the reviews say?

Whatever the next few months bring, I’m ready. I have to be. And most amazing of all, I’ll soon hold my second book in my hands.


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SUZANNE ADAM grew up northern California. After graduating from UC Berkeley, she served in the Peace Corps in Colombia before moving to Santiago, Chile in 1972 to marry Santiago. She explores how this experience shaped her life in her 2015 memoir Marrying Santiago, published under the imprint of Peace Corps Writers. Her new book, Notes from the Bottom of the World: A Life in Chile, will be available on November 6, 2018.

She admits to being a tree-hugger, avid reader, nature writer, friend to stray dogs and cats, gardener, CNN news junkie, bird watcher, lover of storms and laughter, and doting granny. Before turning to writing, she worked as a teacher of learning disabled children. A member of Santiago Writers, she has published essays in The Christian Science Monitor, California Magazine, Marin Independent Journal, Nature Writing, and Persimmon Tree. She blogs at Tarweed Spirit.

Both Notes from the Bottom of the World, A Life in Chile and Marrying Santiago can be purchased from



Tuesday, September 11th, 2018

Santiago Writers: Fourteen years and three anthologies later, still going strong

In 2010, I was invited to teach memoir writing in residence at Los Parronales Writers’ Retreat in Chile — a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. The two-week retreat was organized by Susan Siddeley, a Canadian writer who had participated in one of my workshop series at North York Central Library. Susan and her husband own a charming vineyard outside Santiago — picture intensive workshops and writing time, but also sunshine, grapes on the vine, desert flowers, cacti, grazing horses, the scent of eucalyptus, mouth-watering meals on the terrace, and afternoon pisco sours by the pool.

During the time I was teaching at Los Parronales and later in the city of Santiago, I got to know a few members of the remarkably dedicated and productive group Santiago Writers (several of whom have written guest posts for this website over the past five years). Recently, I asked Ellen Hawkins and Susan Siddeley to share how the group got its start and what its members have accomplished together.


Anthologies published by Santiago Writers


Guest post by Ellen Hawkins with Susan Siddeley

©2010 Allyson Latta

It was Susan’s idea to start a writing group. I thought she was mad.

It was 2001. Santiago, then a metropolis of five million, was overwhelmingly Spanish speaking. You couldn’t get a cup of coffee without it. You still can’t, at least not in Dunkin’ Donuts — but once we announced that we were forming a group for English writers, others joined us.

Most participants were transient, their length of stay in the country dependent on the price of copper. So by the time we published our first anthology, Friday’s Fare, in 2004, there was only me left. But that publication brought long-term English-speaking residents out of the closet, all eager to write.

Today our membership includes authors from Argentina, Australia, Canada, England, Guyana, South Africa, and the United States.

From the beginning, we have held weekly meetings, gathering around a table to write and critique. Our current table, in my home, is oval and welcoming, polished to a high sheen. We begin with a fifteen-minute writing “sprint” in response to a prompt (usually a word), then read aloud what we’ve written. The energy this exercise produces could light up the Milky Way.

Taking turns, and with copies for everyone to mark up, we get down to the hard task of reading and critiquing one another’s work. Our aim is to listen with an open mind and offer honest comment. This is not easy. Over time, though, we’ve learned to trust one another’s judgment. We’re an intergenerational group with distinct views on most topics, which makes for lively discussion.

When we published a second anthology, In Transit, in 2007, each story, essay, or poem needed repeated editing, which forced a further honing of our skills. We were one another’s editors and “judges” in deciding which pieces would be included. The process taught us much about working together, and about the energy and dedication required if we were to take our writing seriously.

Once they were published, selling our books proved an even greater challenge. In the event, we sold 500 copies, as we had with Friday’s Fare. A third anthology, published in 2011, won the (U.K.-based) National Association of Writers’ Groups Anthology Award for 2012.

Pool at Los Parronales Writers’ Retreat (@2010 Allyson Latta)

Although Susan had by then moved to Toronto, she still was, and remains, very much a part of our group. Her involvement in local writing groups in Toronto — she started Parliament Street Writers — led to an unexpected opportunity for us when she began organizing two-week residential writers’ retreats at Los Parronales, her home on the outskirts of Santiago.

These were led by well-known writers and editors from Canada, England, and Australia. Allyson Latta was one of them. That we, Santiago Writers, were able to attend many of these was nothing short of fabulous. Until then, our only source of instruction had been from magazines posted from England or books tucked into suitcases from Canada or the United States.

Meanwhile, the world was changing. Thanks to the Internet, Santiago Writers can now connect with English-speaking writers, poets, and teachers anytime, anywhere. We use the Internet constantly for research and for ordering books. We started a blog. Some of our members have published their books online.

And at each stage of our growth, we’ve welcomed newcomers. Each writer adds something special to the mix. At last count, all but three of our eleven members either have published at least one book or have one in the works. At the heart of our efforts, it’s all about the writing.

Titles published by members of Santiago Writers:

Blood Flowers (2010), Mary Judith Ress
Djinxed (2010), Ellen Hawkins                   
Home First (2011), Susan Siddeley
Driftwood Fire, Chile (2012), Taeko Kushiro
Parallel Shores (2012), Tessa Too-kong
Flores de Sangre (2014), Mary Judith Ress
The Winemaker (2013), Second Best (2014), Charmaine Pauls
Marrying Santiago (forthcoming, 2015), Suzanne Adam


Wednesday, May 6th, 2015

Seven Treasures, part 18: guest post by Suzanne Adam

SUZANNE ADAM left her native California for Chile in 1972 to marry her Chilean boyfriend. She explores how this experience has shaped her life in her memoir-in-progress Marrying Santiago. A member of Santiago Writers, she has had narrative essays published in The Christian Science Monitor, California Monthly, and Sasee Magazine.

Tree-hugger, avid memoir reader, nature writer, talker to stray dogs and cats, gardener, CNN news junkie, serious recycler, walker, birdwatcher, lover of storms and laughter, Pilates aficionado, and doting granny, she’s embracing aging and working up the courage to let her hair go grey.

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Monday, November 26th, 2012

“Driftwood Fire, Chile,” a creative writing collection: guest post by Taeko Kushiro

Driftwood Fire, Chile (2012) is a collection of creative memoir, essays, short stories, and poems by Taeko Kushiro. She is a member of Santiago Writers, a writing group established by two Canadians living there, Ellen Hawkins and Susan Siddeley. Their third group anthology, Perspectives (2011), has just won the National Association of Writers’ Groups’ (NAWG) Denise Robertson Group Anthology Award for 2012.

It was a joy for me to get to know Taeko and her fellow writers during my workshops for Los Parronales Writers’ Retreats in 2010. Congratulations on the NAWG award, Santiago Writers.

Here, Taeko shares thoughts on her writing journey.

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Monday, September 10th, 2012

Writing “Home First: A Memoir in Voices”

Guest Post by Susan Siddeley

Susan Siddeley finds a tranquil writing place following my memoir workshops for her Los Parronales Writers’ Retreat.

I love writing: fashioning sentences, crafting a tale, getting feedback. A nightmare for me is to be stranded in a queue with no pen or paper, where nothing is moving, yet life suddenly makes sense.

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Friday, November 4th, 2011

“Djinxed” in Indonesia: Ellen Hawkins’s new memoir

Ellen Hawkins, a Canadian author residing in Santiago, Chile, announces the publication of her memoir Djinxed. Ellen participated in my workshop series at Los Parronales Writers’ Retreat in Santiago, in February 2010. Here, in her own words, is some intriguing background on her book:

When my husband and I and our two small children arrived in Indonesia in 1971 this populous Muslim country was gradually recovering from the social and political upheaval that had brought Suharto to power five years earlier. Patchy infrastructure, widespread poverty and colossal heat were daily reminders that we were a long way from home.

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Monday, October 18th, 2010