Literary Sala presents two San Miguel writers
By Carole Schor
San Miguel Literary Sala Presents:
John Scherber’s Into the Heart of Mexico: Expatriates Find Themselves Off the Beaten Path
Michael Gottlieb’s The Fourth Wall
Thu, Jul 17, 5-7pm
Bellas Artes’ upstairs auditorium
Hernández Macías and Canal
100 pesos (50 pesos for Literary Sala members)
Complimentary wine reception
Michael Gottlieb and John Scherber are two of San Miguel’s literary personalities: Michael is known for his acting and directing for Players’ Workshop and John, for his mysteries based in Mexico and his books about expatriates.
San Miguel is known to be a Mecca for music, art and writing, but the theater has taken a bit of a back seat to the other arts. Michael Gottlieb wishes it weren’t so and has taken charge of our theatrical needs for almost a decade here, directing plays and readings for both Players’ Workshop and Playreaders and starring or performing in them as well. He is rehearsing now for Red, a Tony-award-winning play about the painter, Mark Rothko.
While he’s not busily reading, memorizing and rehearsing, Michael takes time to write. His latest book, The Fourth Wall, from which he’ll be reading at the July Literary Sala, is a little bit fantasy, a little bit autobiographical. It’s the story of Meredith Mann, an aging journeyman, a well-respected member of the theater who plays the roles of Willy Loman and George Bailey. Mann is of a certain age where roles are hard to come by and seems to be having a nervous breakdown. To make ends meet, Meredith teaches acting. The story is about one student’s father who becomes jealous of his daughter’s love of theater and blames the main character for it, prompting a wild ride for actor and audience. How much of it is autobiographical? Michael responds, “In terms of Mann’s sensibilities, feelings about art and the theater, it’s kind of what I believe, the roles would be what I would want – roles for men of a certain age. I’m ready to play George or Willy Loman, classic roles.” I asked Michael why is it that the most iconic roles in American theater are the saddest. He told me, “It allows the actor to live a happy life off the stage. You act it all out on the stage and express all the emotional power you have that could screw you up in real life. Once you put it out on the stage, it’s a cathartic cleansing and it’s not you.”
Michael writes every day. His writing flows out of him, “kind of freestyle, ambling along without a focus.” His advice to the aspiring writers (or actors) here in San Miguel is to sit down and start writing. “People want to write sometime in their future – it can’t be ‘someday.’ You have to make a commitment, put in the time, and do the work to get to the final product, whether it’s acting or writing, any craft. There’s a lot of work that goes into it.”
John Scherber has written more than a dozen mysteries set in Mexico, a trilogy about vampires, and two non-fiction books about expatriates (a third soon to come). All this after he experienced writer’s block for 37 years! “I was able to pull out of my writer’s block because it didn’t matter anymore. That might sound funny, but I had developed writer’s block after writing two bad novels, and I was very ego-involved with that process. I was defined by being a writer and I knew the books were bad and I couldn’t see writing a third bad one and I quit.”
John will be reading from his new non-fiction book, Into the Heart of Mexico: Expatriates Find Themselves Off the Beaten Path, about people who settle, not in towns like San Miguel with large expat communities and networks for becoming comfortable quickly, but less gringo-populated places where foreigners have to make it on their own.
John’s success comes not only from writing good books, but also from becoming an expert in self-publishing, marketing, promotion and social media like Facebook and Twitter, where he promotes and sells his books successfully. “I had an approach/avoidance thing with the business part of writing books. It was easy to do nothing. But when I tripled the sales of the San Miguel books by promoting them on line, I was well rewarded.”
John teaches and coaches aspiring writers about how to write and sell successfully. He emphasizes that it is important to identify your target audience and then write every word, design every cover, and pitch all your advertising and promotion to the actual readers of your words. “You need to know who your target reader is from sentence one,” John says, “because you would not write the same letter to your father as you would write to your daughter, even if you are describing the same package of news. [Your target reader] is so inside your head, you want to know what search words she (most readers and buyers are women) will use that will take her to your book. Because you know already what she wants to hear, use a unifying process that starts with sentence one and ends when your reader puts the five-star review up on Amazon.”
John’s advice to aspiring writers: “Find your own voice. Writers often begin by imitating someone they feel is successful. I started out imitating William Faulkner. It is a reasonable and useful way to start. But as soon as possible, move past those imitations of other writers. As you do, you will gain confidence in your own voice. That is where the meat of your writing development will be. You can never be William Faulkner so your journey on the way to being Faulkner is going to be developing your own distinctive identity and voice.”
This July 17 Sala Event promises to be both informative and entertaining. Please join us in the second-floor auditorium at Belles Artes at 5pm. Admission is 100 pesos, 50 pesos for Literary Sala members, and includes complimentary wine and snacks.