Friday, May 8, 2015


Hi folks,

Just had an interview with Court Merrigan on Electric Lit I'm sharing below. Hope you enjoy it!

A fearless ex-con and writer of 18 published books, Les Edgerton has seen the elephant, friends, and he’s not going to varnish it for our sakes.
Court Merrigan: You say you’re holding out for a deal from Big Publishing. But you’ve already published eighteen books. What gives?
Les Edgerton: It’s the only real way to get work in front of people, other than a few thousand at the most. I’ve had legacy deals before and there’s no comparison. Look, the only books legitimate reviewers will look at for the most part are from the big presses. The NY Times isn’t going to look at books from Exciting Books, Ltd., no matter what the quality might be. Barnes & Noble and the other national brick-and-mortar stores aren’t going to carry books by Midnight Nifty Noir Books, no matter how good they are. Just ain’t gonna happen.
My desire right now was heightened via a discussion Joe Lansdale and I had recently where he told me flat-out (after reading my books) that I was “underpublished.” I’ve known that for a long time, but just never pushed that hard to get ‘em there.
CM: Is that why you really want a big publisher to buy your memoir, then? To reach as many folks as possible?
LE: That’s a big part of it. It’s also a case of reaching the right readers. For example, the reviewers for the respected publications such as the NY Times, Paris Review, Washington Post, et al.
That’s the area I think independent publishers should band together and go after. Convincing those publications to review books by their quality, not by their publisher. What might help change is if the independent publishers and writers began to make their voices heard by the Times, Post, et al. If, along with the Amazon and Goodreads reviews, folks took it upon themselves to send a letter or an email to those publications that—hey, this is a book you should look at—I’ll bet that after they got even a few hundred of such letters their ears may perk up. A kind of grass-roots campaign focused like this I think might prove effective. If, say, some of the better indies included a brief note on the back page, urging readers who liked the book to write to these folks and urge them to consider reviewing them and provide their email and snail mail addresses to make it easy to do so, I wonder if they would begin to make a difference? I think they would. However, a big part of the problem is the lack of mass market distribution. It’s hard to blame a reviewer who knows that no matter what she says, people are going to find it difficult to get a copy of the book in a bookstore.
There’s another advantage to being published by a traditional press that very few talk about or even acknowledge, and that’s the fact that your chances are good that your work will be soundly and professionally edited. And even traditional publishing isn’t what it used to be with editing, by and large.
And there are still agents around who do serious editing. I had a personal experience to such a throw-back agent with my friend Janet Reid. A few years ago, she graciously provided me fantastic notes on my novel, The Bitch. Her edits completely transformed it and she wasn’t even my agent—just my friend.
Here’s what used to happen in publishing: I sent a novel in to my old agent Jimmy Vines that he loved. I’d rewritten it—by “rewrite” I mean a total, page one to The End that changed entire sections—eight times. In my mind, it was finished. Perfect. Well, ol’ Jimmy had me rewrite it for him… six more times. The editor who signed me for RH, Scott Moyers, then had me do six more rewrites.
All that said, I still have hope. It’s why I’m holding out my memoir for one of the big boys. I’ve also got an ace in my sleeve. The president of HBO read it a few years ago and wanted it instantly for his network for a movie. He called it “a Permanent Midnight but with balls.”
CM: So why write crime fiction? I take it you don’t don’t agree with those who say the genre is a touch limiting?
It’s just… writing. I really don’t pay attention to genre.
LE: I wasn’t aware it was limiting. It’s just… writing. I really don’t pay attention to genre. I agree with Nabokov who only recognized two genres—good writing and bad writing. Plus, I don’t just write crime novels. I write mainstream fiction, coming-of-age novels, existential and philosophical novels, YA’s, all kinds of stuff. Not to mention books on baseball, humor and black humor, craft books, etc.
I’ve always tried to follow one precept: I write the book I wish someone else had written but hadn’t… so I have to write it to get to read it.
CM: You know whereof you speak when it comes to crime. You did hard time as a young man. Care to tell us about it?
LE: Sure, Court. I did a couple of years on a 2-5 bit at Pendleton in Indiana. When I was incarcerated there, then-President Johnson commissioned a national panel to study prisons to determine which were the worst. A bunch of us were in the day room watching the only TV in the place when Johnson broke into the program and announced that his study had determined, categorically, that Pendleton was “the single worst prison in the U.S.” We all began cheering and hooting wildly, as if our team had just won the Super Bowl.
I went through eight riots during my years there, not counting the one that had happened the day before I arrived, even though I paid for the consequences of that one, also. The inmates had burned everything combustible, including all the mattresses, pillows, and blankets. The superintendant was pissed and he told the inmates that since they’d burned everything they’d have to live without it. He wouldn’t issue mattresses, pillows, any of that stuff. I woke up in the morning with my toes turned blue underneath the snow that came in the windows during the night.
A bunch of guys came down with pneumonia and several died. Don’t know how many. In the movies, they show prisons with all these great communication systems–somebody farts in the cell house two cellblocks over and in six minutes, everyone knows it—but in a real prison, somebody can die in the tier above you and you might not know it for a couple of months.
CM: How did your prison time affect you? What do you know that we who’ve never been inside don’t?
LE: What straights don’t know about the joint would fill a bunch of books. In fact, if folks watched that silly MSNBC program where they go inside joints, they’d think most guys inside were either weight-lifters or psychos. The weight-lifting part always cracks me up. Criminals are basically… lazy. It’s one of the reason we rob places. We don’t want a 9-5. We don’t even want to fetch our own beers while watching the tube. As for pressing iron, way too much work.
Getting busted now and then is the price you pay for a kind of freedom insurance salesmen will never experience.
Mostly, it was just boring as hell. I saw a lot of bad, bad shit, but I saw a lot of bad shit on the bricks. It was just the price you said for being an outlaw. Getting busted now and then is the price you pay for a kind of freedom insurance salesmen will never experience.
I will say the food truly sucks and you’ve got to be “on” all the time and can’t ever relax. You never ever know when the guy you’re just sitting there rapping with, decides to go all medieval.
CM: How did you cope with the boredom? Did they have a library or something?
LE: Yeah, Pendleton’s “library” consisted of about 20 copies of Zane Grey novels and maybe a dozen other books which were a snooze and intended for a third-grade level. When I go down to visit as I used to do a couple of times a year, I take a bunch of my novels I’ve already read and donate them.
As to coping with boredom, I ran a few games to keep semi-busy. Had an on-going crap game, had a loan business, did a lot of drugs and moved some drugs. Even with that though, there was a lot of time just sitting around the cell, naming your toes and teaching your trouser worm tricks… I wrote a lot, as well. Problem is, when I left they confiscated all my notebooks so I’m missing a few novels I wrote.
CM: So you wouldn’t say you were “reformed” by your incarceration?
LE: Well, I never had a “coming to Jesus” moment and still haven’t. I didn’t actually stop doing criminal acts when I got out. I just stopped getting caught.
That’s fairly easy to do. The only way I got caught before was because my rappies got caught and snitched me out. So, I just worked by myself. I can say that now as the statute of limitations has run out on most of the stuff I did.
Plus, when I was in, it was when they still believed in rehabilitation. I learned a great trade—cutting hair—and when I got out, I literally had dozens and dozens of job offers. The first week on the bricks I took home $500. That was good money in 1968. Very few of us who’d been through barber school went back.
CM: How much of your prison experience has made it into your fiction?
LE: Not as much as people think. It was only two years of my life. I always kind of looked down at those people who do something like spend a couple of years in the service and some war and that becomes their entire life—all they write about or think about.
In the memoir I’m trying to market, I left out a ton of things about say my Navy years and a ton of stuff about my hairstyling years and so on. I tell a few highlights, but left most of that stuff out. My childhood was a gas, too. For instance, I’d been bartending and waiting tables in my grandmother’s bar since I was eight, and on my 12th birthday she figured I was old enough to work as a dispatcher for her cab company, so I did. During the first two hours of that gig, I watched one cabbie shoot another cabbie in the throat and kill him—blood all over all of us.
And that wasn’t even the biggest thing to happen that summer.
CM: Eighteen published books over twenty years. Which do you like the best? Is it the best one?
It’s a truly scary place and it required more courage for me to go there than I’ve ever had to draw upon in any of the knife or gun fights I’ve been in…
LE: The Rapist was the most courageous book I’ve ever written. It represents the best advice I’ve ever gotten from anyone. My first mentor, Elaine Hemley, told me the very best writers reach way down deep inside to that dark place we all have but most of us studiously try to avoid exposing—both from others and from ourselves. That’s the place where truth resides and most writers are unable to go there. It’s a truly scary place and it required more courage for me to go there than I’ve ever had to draw upon in any of the knife or gun fights I’ve been in and I’ve been in more than one.
I’m not a rapist by any stretch of the imagination. I’m capable of a lot of sins and crimes and have committed quite a few but that’s just not in my makeup. But I can understand such a person.
I set out to do what Charles Bukowski did in his short story, “Fiend”, which is told from a child molester’s POV, albeit in the third person. What he did in that story was to achieve the very pinnacle of what it means to be a great writer in my view. To show that even the most depraved person on earth still retains a faint spark of humanity. This is what great writing is all about: “Martin’s eyes looked into her eyes and it was a communication between two hells–one hers, the other his.”
And this is what I set out to attempt in The Rapist. And, I wanted to beat Bukowski. So I cast mine in first-person.
I win.
CM: You’re 72 now. Recently, Cynthia Ozick said that young writers ought to wait their turn, as today’s old writers once did: “Aspiration is not the same as ambition. Ambition forgets mortality; old writers never do. Ambition wants a career; aspiration wants a room of one’s own. Ambition feeds on public attention; aspiration is impervious to crowds. Old writers in their youth understood themselves to be apprentices to masters superior in seasoned experience, and were ready to wait their turn in the hierarchy of recognition. In their lone and hardened way of sticking-to-it, they were unwaveringly industrious; networking, the term and the scheme, was unknown to them.” As an “old” writer yourself, does this strike you as hifalutin bullshit, or do you think the young folks ought to politely wait their turn – especially for you?
LE: Cynthia Ozick is a great writer but I suspect she’s had it pretty cushy most of her life. So, I take what she might say with a grain of salt. I disagree that younger writers should “wait their turn.” That’s bullshit. I do think they need to learn to be good writers before they gain success and that’s something different. That takes time in most cases but some learn how quicker than others.
That said, I do think writers would be better off (and there’d be fewer of them) if they had to go through what we once did to get published. My first novel went through 86 rejections before it got accepted. That was pre-internet—you had to snail mail everything and pay postage both ways. I was going to quit on that novel and the 87th house happened to take. It was taken by the University of North Texas Press (which shows where I was at in the submission game as I began alphabetically) and UNT Press had never before published fiction. Nowadays, writers shoot off half dozen or dozen email submission at no cost and without much effort.
CM: You published your first book in 1995, so you’ve no doubt seen a lot of writers snag big publishing deals, some at quite young ages. How do you handle the inevitable feeling of “Why the hell is it happening to them, instead of ME?”
LE: The first book I sent out got published. I should have been published years before that, but I didn’t have a clue how to get about it. Later on, when my second book came out, a collection of stories titled Monday’s Meal, one of the stories included in it I’d written when I was 12 and one when I was 10. Didn’t change a word of either. So, I’d written publishable work as a young kid, but just didn’t know how one got their stuff published. This was before I was even much aware there were things called agents.
Later I signed with Jimmy Vines and then wrote a crime novel and Jimmy took it to auction. Came down to two publishers—St. Martin’s and Random House. SM offered me $50,000 and RH $45,000. I went with Random House. I was on my way. I was one of those “young writers.” I quit cutting hair and became a full-time writer.
Wrong move. Three weeks later, Bertlesmann bought Random House and my book got jettisoned.
Jimmy told me to brush it off. That he’d get my next novel sold for a bunch of money and then we’d resell the R.H. novel for six figures this time. That would have been great except Jimmy got drummed out of the SAR and I was left high and dry.
Most of his writers quickly found other homes. I didn’t. I didn’t know how to do that. I went along agentless for some time and sold some other work, but not with big deals. I should have gone after a top, top agent and I could have then, but I didn’t know who the top agents were and I didn’t know how to glom onto one. Today, inside knowledge like this is all over the place. Back then, it wasn’t. Especially not to a guy living in the Great Flyover who didn’t hang out with other writers at all. I just stayed in my room and wrote.
They like to be known as the person who “discovered” the rising genius, but it doesn’t carry the same cachet for them to be known as the person who published the same guy’s second or third work.
It’s so little about the quality of the work. It’s mostly about a few key individuals in publishing who control the industry. When Jimmy took that novel out to market and the subsequent auction, he felt he had to tell everyone it was my “first” novel. Well, that was a lie. It was my second novel and my first novel and my first story collection were already out, but he didn’t dare tell publishers that. They froth at the mouth to publish a “first novel” but not a writer’s second novel. They like to be known as the person who “discovered” the rising genius, but it doesn’t carry the same cachet for them to be known as the person who published the same guy’s second or third work. Very little of the decisions made are based on actual quality. There are a hundred writers working today that I’m very familiar with their work and it’s as good if not better than most of the so-called bestsellers. You, yourself, Court, are a prime example. A mutual friend of ours—Neil Smith—is another one. I could easily name a hundred apt examples.
This is going to raise all kinds of trolls, I can guarantee you. People who will get pissed and call me everything in the book. No prob. It’s also going to irritate others who won’t respond publicly but when I see ‘em at Bouchercon aren’t gonna buy me a drink. Whatever… I’m just tired of all this false hope that’s always paraded on the Internet by the chattering classes. Most of it ain’t reality.
Here’s what I know for a fact. That the editor of a major thriller imprint was told by his boss that if he signed a book that didn’t net a minimum of $50,000 he’d be fired. A net profit. By the chief editor of a major imprint. Not that he’d get his expense account limit lowered or he’d lose the corner office. Fired. I won’t say who it is, but this isn’t a guy who cares about quality, at least not in my opinion.
I’m not implying that the writers who get the big deals these days are hacks. Many of them are immensely talented. But, for every one who cops a great deal there are twenty others who are just as talented and oftentimes, more so. If a writer thinks it’s about the quality of the work and that life is fair, then the best place for that person is teaching grade school where they still tell kids that crap and the little saps believe ‘em.
CM: I have a second-grader, Les, that I think I’ll keep in the dark a little longer. Maybe until middle school? Thanks, Les.
LE: Thank you, Court. You ask good, tough questions and it’s rewarding when I encounter an interviewer like yourself. It’s what you get when the interviewer is a terrific writer himself.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015


Hi folks,

Well, I’ve been home from Oklahoma City for a full day now and am pretty well decompressed and ready to talk about my experience there.

In short, it was WONDERFUL! I’ve been to a ton of writing conferences—some as an attendee and some as a presenter—and while just about every one of them was a great experience, not a one is any better than the OWFI (Oklahoma Writer’s Federation Inc.) annual event. This is such a “user-friendly” gathering and I enjoyed every single moment—from being allowed to get up and yak in front of everyone to the moments I spent in my “office” – the front of the hotel where I smoked and got to meet and chat with all kinds of people like “Goatboy” Frank Steele and his play writing partner Amy Shojai, to Vickey Kennedy to Becky Franklin to a whole bunch of people I wish I could name but would run out of room. I better explain the nickname I gave Frank Steele—“Goatboy”—before he visits me and I end up in a Ft. Wayne swamp with a .22 rattling around in my brainpan. Actually, I don’t think Frank would ever do that, but… During one of my talks, I did a Q&A and Frank asked me something from way back in the room and I couldn’t hear anything but one word—“goat.” So, naturally… He turned out to be one of my new best friends and we did our best to keep the tobacco industry running smoothly.

I’d been looking forward to the convention for many months, ever since my Forever Best Friend, Dawn Allen invited me to be the keynote speaker. My one regret during the event was that we never got to spend a lot of time together. She was busy organizing everything and putting our fires and I was busy… smoking…

In one respect, I don’t like doing these summaries. They’re like interviews where you’re asked to name your favorite writers and after you’re done and it’s gone to print, you think of ten others you wished you’d mentioned. I know right now I’m going to forget someone and then hate myself for not recognizing them. So, to whoever I leave out, please forgive me—it’s my Halfzeimer’s at work again! I don’t know how many were in attendance—I had thought 5-600 hundred and then saw something that said there were 1500, and I don’t know, but I think I got to interact with at least a thousand of them and each meeting was fantastic.

One guy I won’t forget is Lee Lofland. Lee and I have been online friends for a long, long time and I was anxious to meet him in person. Being—you know—from the criminal class while Lee is from the “enemy” class—a former cop. No surprises—we hit it off famously. Cops and outlaws aren’t all that different—it’s like that thin line that separates geniuses and idiots (criminals being the genius side, of course…)—we’re more alike than we’re different. We got to share a bunch of stories and I told him and meant it—that in my criminal days, it would have been an honor to have been cuffed by him… if he could catch me… Just a great, great guy.

Another guy was Doug (Dougy) Kelley, who was a hoot! Dude has some great stories about his pilot adventures, especially a few encounters he had with Bill Clinton. Dougy (he’s gonna hate that!) did so danged much to help me out. I wish he’d adopt me and give me a good home… Had great, great conversations with him and Carol Johnson who is drop-dead gorgeous and sooooo funny!

I met Richard Thomas in Chicago where it turned out we were on the same flight. What a great guy! Unfortunately, he had to leave early because of illness with his family, but I got to attend one of his talks and it was fantastic. We’re going to meet up again in a few days at the WRW event in San Antonio and should get a lot of face-to-face time there. A totally interesting and informative writer-dude!

Got to chat (not enough) with the lovely and charming Michelle Johnson—really a brilliant mind.

And, then, there’s H.B. Berlow… whose real name is “Hugh” which explains his use of initials. He became my New Best Friend… well, one of ‘em. We REALLY hit it off. I’m sorry I missed him just as I was leaving as Jack Lord emailed me to see if he could get his shirt back from him… If you look at the photos of Hughy and me, you’ll see why we hit it off so well—we both look like we belong on the post office wall… I don’t, but he does…

Natasha Hanova and Maria Veres were just two of the many people who really rocked and kept things running smoothly. And were just fun people to chat with.

Two of my best friends for years online made the drive from Kansas so we could meet in person and that was a super treat. Mike Klaassen and BR Stateham and his lovely wife. Didn’t get to spend nearly enough time with them. BR’s one of my favorite crime writers and Mike’s a writing teacher who is also an editor for Wikipedia. Years and years ago, he emailed me (I didn’t know who he was at that time) to tell me he’d taken the liberty of creating an Wikipedia entry for me and I didn’t know what to say at the time, except “thanks.” Then, when I told my teenaged son Mike about it, he proceeded to tell me that it was a really big deal and that I was so five minutes ago. Thanks, Mike—for doing the one thing that made my boy think I was something other than the guy who made him make his bed up in the morning…

Got to meet a bunch of heavyweights in the writing game. Folks like Mel Odom who has written over 200 books—what th’ hell? Does he ever sleep? Got to see my ol’ buddy Jodi Thompson who I met last year at the Dallas-Ft. Worth writer’s convention.

A bunch of other people I’ll always remember—folks like Eric Reitan to whom I introduced the subject of philosophy to and recommended some books he should try for an intro to the subject (that’s an inside joke, folks…), Tony LoPresti, Vinita Eggers, Holly Jahangiri, the two lovely ladies I sat with for awhile at the bar, a gorgeous redhead and beautiful blonde—sorry, ladies for not knowing your names! (Halfzeimer’s…), and just a host of wonderful, lovely, talented folks.

I will never forget the warm hospitality and the many friendships I forged in Oklahoma City. You are indeed, a gracious people and I love all of ya! I hope you’ll consider having me back some day. It truly was the best time I’ve ever had with all my clothes on.

(Back home, decompressing...)

Now. I have to go draw the bath and strew the rose petals… I missed our regular Friday night sesh with my lovely wife Eye Candy and have to make up for it. Which means I’ll have to spring for an extra two Bics…

And, again, I am truly sorry for the folks I forgot to mention and I know I have. Please know that you’re not forgotten in my heart!

Blue skies,

Wednesday, April 29, 2015


Hi folks,
Here's an interview I did recently for the Writer's League of Texas in conjunction with an upcoming appearance I'm making with them on May 16. Details are on their website. I can't wait!

Instructor Spotlight

Les Edgerton has published eighteen books including the novel The Genuine, Imitation, Plastic Kidnapping and his most recent work, Finding Your Voice: How to Put Personality in Your Writing. His fiction has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize, O. Henry Award, Edgar Allan Poe Award, PEN/Faulkner Award, the Derringer Award, Spinetingler Magazine Best Thriller Award, Texas Institute of Letters Jesse Jones Book Award, and the Violet Crown Book Award, among others. One of his screenplays was a semifinalist in the Academy Award’s Nicholl’s Foundation and another was a finalist in both the Writer’s Guild Awards and Best of Austin Screenplay competition. He’s taught creative writing for the UCLA Extension Writer’s Program, was the visiting writer-in-residence for the University of Toledo for three years, and the visiting writer for Trine University. He currently teaches an ongoing private novel-writing class and provides private coaching.
Les is teaching a class for the Writers’ League called “Watch to Write: Lessons for Novelists in Thelma and Louise” at St. Edward’s University. A native Texan, Edgerton is making several appearances in Texas this summer including this workshop, an appearance at BookPeople in Austin, an appearance before the San Antonio Writer’s Group, and will be on staff for the Writer’s Retreat Workshop at the Oblate Retreat in San Antonio, all in May. Details can be found on his website. Read the interview below and visit the class page to learn more.

LesEdgertonScribe: When did you know you were a writer? Was there a defining moment in your personal history?
Les Edgerton: I knew at about the age of five. When I read my first book by myself I knew at that moment that I wanted to be a writer. I’ve never wavered for a moment. I thought at the time I could write a better story than the one I just read. I couldn’t then… but I can now.

Scribe: You’ve been a lot of things — homeless, a hairstylist, a life insurance agent, among other things. Do your array of experiences provide a foundation for writing?
LE: I wouldn’t call it a “foundation” exactly. It’s always been about material and experiences. When I was very young, I knew I wanted to be a writer and I thought at the time the best way to accomplish that was to accumulate experiences and then write about them, ala Jack London. A couple of years ago, I read an interview with Flannery O’Connor and she said if a person lived for the first 17 years of their life in the same house and same little town, he/she would have enough material for a lifetime of writing. Wish I’d read her years before—I could have saved myself a lot of trouble! Except, I’d do the same thing. I knew at that early age that one day—if I lived long enough—that I’d be 80 years old and sitting in that wheelchair at the nursing home with that blanket over my lap and all the money, cars, houses, clothes, et al, wouldn’t mean a thing, but if I had memories, I’d have something. I’ve got those memories now and wouldn’t trade them for anything.

Scribe: You recently published a book on craft. When did you become confident enough in your writing ability to start being able to write about writing?
LE: When I was in my thirties. I wrote Finding Your Voice, but it wasn’t published until my forties. I wrote it a few years before that, but didn’t know how to go about getting it published until a few years later. Actually, I knew how to get published but craft books don’t earn large advances as a rule and my agent at the time didn’t want to mess with something that was only going to offer a $10,000 advance. So, eventually I just sent it out myself.

Scribe: What is the intersection of film and books? What advantages do books have over movies and vice versa?
LE: The “intersection” is that they’re both forms of storytelling and that’s what good fiction is always about—creating a story. Books have a decided advantage over films because novels allow the writer to include the protagonist’s thoughts, whereas movies only show what can be seen and heard. That means that they naturally can provide more depth. Movies have an advantage over books in their production values—the senses of sight and sound are affected much more profoundly. That advantage however, is also a disadvantage, simply because they affect more than one sense. That reduces the audience’s level of active participation. The audience of a movie is more of a passive subject as most of the experience is provided for them and they don’t need to bring much to the experience to gain the benefit. As Marshall McLuhan so brilliantly delineated, a media that only affects one sense (as in reading) requires the audience to bring their imagination to bear to make the experience work, i.e., a “cool” media. Movies, being a “hot” media, don’t require nearly as much imagination from the participant, who merely has to sit there and experience the story passively. One’s brain usually isn’t overtaxed watching a movie… That “dumbing of America” that received so much press years ago really is true, as our entertainment tastes evolved to where more people went to movies and watched TV and reduced their reading, so did the overall intelligence as their imaginations were utilized less and less… To enjoy a movie, all one has to do is sit there and not do a whole lot of thinking. Reading, however, requires an active imagination, not to mention a larger source of information to call upon. What’s interesting is that old chestnut often posed–which did you like better, the movie or the novel?—was found in studies to be bound to whichever form the story was experienced in first. If a person read the book first, overwhelmingly they claimed to like the book better. If they saw the movie first, the movie won out. It’s basically a case of expectations. If you saw the movie first, you’ll “see” the characters a certain way and the book usually won’t match up to those expectations, and the reverse holds if the person read the novel first. Although there are always a certain percentage of those polled who will almost always answer one or the other consistently, probably because they have a bit of the “snob” gene working…

There’s another advantage to movies these days. When movies began their existence, they borrowed their structures from literature. However, nowadays the opposite is true. Today’s novels borrow their structure from film. Two good examples of that are transitions and beginnings. When movies began, they borrowed transitive models from books—that old “meanwhile, back at the ranch” scrolling across the screen as we went from one scene to another. All of that is gone and transitions ala the models we used even ten years ago in novels are fast disappearing. Beginnings in movies used to be taught along the same lines as novel beginnings. In movies, that used to be a standard ten minutes. No mas. Today, the setup time isn’t usually much more than a few seconds, or at most a minute or two. Same way with novels, because of the influence of film—no more beginning with setup and backstory and all that nonsense these days… At least not in work that wants to have a chance of being published.

Scribe: Why Thelma and Louise and not another movie?
LE: Great question! I’m writing a new craft book based on this workshop and T&L and at first, I intended to use parts from a lot of movies. I have a library of over 1,000 movies and meant to draw from many of them at first. However, the more I looked at other films, the more weaknesses I saw in all of them. Thelma & Louise was the only movie I’ve seen that doesn’t have a single writing weakness in it. Every single frame presents a valid and valuable teaching moment. I simply can’t say that about any other movie I’ve ever seen. There are a couple that come close, but none that were as consistently brilliant as this movie is. It’s quite simply a work of genius as the audience will discover. I’ve watched it over 200 times and I keep looking for a flaw but so far haven’t been able to find one. I’m speaking of writing techniques here. There are other movies I Iike better on an entertainment level, but none approach even remotely the level T&L does in providing perfect teaching lessons on how to write publishable, contemporary fiction. None come close to it. Discovering that was great, as it makes it extremely easy to use for teaching and a beautiful model for learning. In a workshop situation, I don’t have to rely on the audience knowing a bunch of movies to see great examples instantly. Virtually everything a writer needs to know and understand about contemporary fiction writing techniques will be shown at our gathering. And, they’ll get to see not only flawless writing but how the whole of the many parts comes together to create a powerful story. That is really important to me as I see a lot of writer education based on bits and pieces of diverse work presented as examples. We learn “parts” of writing, but not story as much. By watching a film that works on every single level and to see how all the parts we’ll go over come together into a seamless story, is extremely valuable. Please believe me that after watching this movie the way we will, I unhesitatingly guarantee the participant’s writing I.Q. will be raised significantly. If you attend you’ll see what I mean and I’m very confident you’ll feel like I’ve understated just how great a teaching and learning tool this movie presents. I predict participants will look back and identify many, many “aha!” moments.

Scribe: Last question … will there be popcorn?
LE: I hope so! Like Blanch Du Bois, I depend on the kindness of others. The only thing I’m not working at this showing is the concession stand…
— Thanks, Les!

Monday, April 13, 2015

New paperback version of FINDING YOUR VOICE

Hi folks,

I have a bit of cool news. Years ago, I wrote my first craft book, Finding Your Voice, and Writer’s Digest Books published it. Last year, they decided not to bring out an ebook version and graciously gave me back my ebook rights to it. My agent went about the work of getting out an ebook version and it’s continued to do well

Well, Writer’s Digest has recently sold out all the paperback copies of it and again, graciously ceded me those rights also. And, we were able to bring out the paperback version of it along with the ebook and now you can obtain it in a paperback version.

That means it’s now available in three versions—ebook, paperback and also a Snippets version. The Snippets version is really cool. It’s an abridged ebook version and sprinkled with “snippets” (videos) of me discussing various points throughout the book. I had a lot of fun helping create it and I’ve had a lot of people tell me they really like the idea of watching the videos.

The ebook and paperback version are available here on Amazon. The Snippets version is also available at their site and also on the blog here.

Hope you enjoy one of the versions!

Blue skies,

Openings still available...

 Back to Calendar

Hi folks,

There's still a few spots left in my upcoming presentation on May 16 from 10 am - 4 pm at St. Edwards University for the Writer's League of Texas. Go here  for additional info on registering and attending. Hope to see some of you there!


"Watch to Write: Lessons for Novelists in Thelma and Louise" with Les Edgerton

Register until

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St. Edward's University, Trustee Hall 303
3001 S. Congress Ave.
Austin, TX 78704


5/16/2015 From 10:00 AM to 4:00 PM

$69 for members (please log in for member pricing)

$129 for nonmembers
Before purchasing, please read all policies as noted below and on our Classes page.

Note: Online registration will close at the end of Thursday, May 14. After that you can pay admission at the door with a check for the walk up rate - $79 for members and $139 for nonmembers - as long as seats are available. Thank you!

Watching good movies can make you a better fiction writer.
That’s the entire premise of this workshop. The power of visual storytelling can allow writing teachers to demonstrate fiction-writing techniques in a more effective and entertaining way. 

In this class, we will watch the movie Thelma & Louise in its entirety, stopping frequently to desconstruct and discuss techniques that Callie Khouri (the screenwriter) uses to create a wonderful work of art—the same techniques used by the best fiction writers. Virtually every frame of this movie offers a valuable teaching moment for writers, and on top of that it provides an entirely pleasurable way to learn.

Class take-aways will include:

- How actions both inform characterization and provide a dynamic means to create character arc, creating believable, exciting people and not “characters.”

- How to write riveting scenes and set up future scenes up by foreshadowing.

- How to handle exposition and backstory.

- Giving your characters physical actions to define them and show character arc.

- How to utilize setting to define character.

- Surface-problem and story-worthy problem--How each is related and resolved.

- How to write resolutions that satisfy emotionally.

- How to create “watercooler moments”

- A bonus takeaway is learning how to create a novel that is cinematic in nature which could help sell it as... you guessed it...a movie!

This workshop would be valuable to every skill level of writer—from the raw beginner to the polished writer who has been published several times. And, even though it’s an event geared to novel writers, the same principles we’ll cover apply also to screenwriters. So… everybody is welcome!

About the instructor:
Les Edgerton has published eighteen books. His fiction has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize, O. Henry Award, Edgar Allan Poe Award, PEN/Faulkner Award, the Derringer Award, Spinetingler Magazine Best Thriller Award, Texas Institute of Letters Jesse Jones Book Award, and the Violet Crown Book Award, among others. One of his screenplays was a semifinalist in the Academy Award's Nicholl's Foundation and another was a finalist in both the Writer's Guild Awards and Best of Austin Screenplay competition. He's taught creative writing for the UCLA Extension Writer's Program, was the visiting writer-in-residence for the University of Toledo for three years, the visiting writer for Trine University, taught creative writing online for Vermont College, Phoenix College, St. Francis University, Writer's Digest, for the New York Writer’s Workshop and others. He currently teaches an ongoing private novel-writing class and provides private coaching. The workshop on Thelma and Louise is the heart of his newest craft book, A Fiction Writer's Workshop at the Bijou.

A native Texan, Edgerton is making several appearances in Texas this summer including this workshop, an appearance at BookPeople Bookstore in Austin, an appearance before the San Antonio Writer’s Group, and will be on staff for the Writer’s Retreat Workshop at the Oblate Retreat in San Antonio, all in May. Details found on his website at

REGISTRATION BY MAIL: If your browser has difficulty with our website store, or if you prefer to mail in a check, click HERE for a class registration form. The document provides instructions on where to mail it.

NOTE: Tickets are not refundable, but they are transferable. If you purchase a ticket and then find you cannot attend, someone else can attend in your stead. Simply contact us at or 512-499-8914 and let us know so that we can update the class roster. For policies, please visit our Classes page.

This project is supported in part by the Cultural Arts Division of the City of Austin Economic Development Department. Visit Austin at

Writers' League of Texas classes and workshops are also funded in part by the Texas Commission on the Arts - Investing in a Creative Texas. For more information, go to

The Writers' League of Texas would like to thank St. Edward's University for its generous support and commitment to community, ongoing education, and the arts. Visit

Blue skies,