Author Q&A: Five-time Bestselling Author Discusses Civil Trial Lawyer, Fred Levin

By Brian Feinblum, Chief Marketing Officer

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In his new book And Give Up Showbiz? How Fred Levin Beat Big Tobacco, Avoided Two Murder Prosecutions, Became a Chief of Ghana, Earned Boxing Manager of the Year, and Transformed American Law, five-time New York Times bestselling author Josh Young provides a detailed and insightful portrait of one of the nation’s most successful and contentious civil trial lawyers, Fred Levin.

Young examines the unorthodox career path and life of a lawyer who was dogged by two murder investigations, three attempts to disbar him, a successful excursion into professional boxing management, a dysfunctional family life, and a legal career that included civil rights activism, huge lawsuit victories, and settlements that saved lives and reformed the tobacco, drug, and auto industries.

 

MEDIA CONNECT had the pleasure of speaking with Josh Young about the book and Levin:

 

MEDIA CONNECT: What’s Fred’s greatest or most prideful professional moment in a law career that spans more than a half-century?

Josh Young: Undoubtedly it was when Fred rewrote the Florida law that allowed the state to sue Big Tobacco on behalf of Medicaid patients, and got his buddy, who was the president of the Florida Senate, to ram it through unnoticed in the middle of the night. This allowed the state of Florida to sue Big Tobacco to recover Medicaid costs spent on behalf of smokers. Because the law that Levin wrote was ultimately upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court, Big Tobacco settled with Florida for $13 billion – and soon settled with every other state, paying out some $206 billion. Prior to that case, Big Tobacco had never paid a nickel to its victims. As a result of the settlement and the changes required in the marketing of cigarettes, more than 100,000 American lives are saved every year.
MC: Fred almost didn’t make it to law school. How did he overcome being such a poor student and a party kid?

JY: Fred was motivated to succeed in law school by his dean. On the first day, the dean told the group “Look to your left and look to your right. If your class is average, neither of those guys will be here when you graduate.” Fred felt sick to his stomach. Because the school wasn’t that large, Fred’s reputation had preceded him. Everyone in the room knew that he was a goofball, a party boy, a gambler, and a lousy student. But the real push came when the dean himself predicted Fred would never graduate.

After Fred was in law school for several weeks, he got a call that his younger brother Martin’s health was quickly deteriorating. Martin had been fighting leukemia for months, but he now appeared near the end. Fred told the dean that he needed to go home. The dean pulled out his undergraduate file and told Fred, very coldly, “You know, with your grades and everything, you might just as well stay home.” Fred didn’t make it home before his brother died, but he did return to school. Fred ended up graduating third in his class, beaten out only by two transfer students.
MC: Are you surprised at how the trial lawyer profession has evolved over the years? What has Fred’s role been in that regard?

JY: Over the past four decades, trial lawyers have increasingly become the main stalwarts causing safety changes that have benefited every single person in this country, yet they are often vilified for the large amounts of money they have made and their flamboyant lifestyle. Fred’s central role in changing the direction of the national personal injury field was when he won an $18 million verdict against L&N Railroad in 1980. It was the largest verdict of its kind in legal history, and made national news, landing Fred in the entertainment magazine US, which highlighted his $6 million fee. This got the attention of lawyers and corporations all over America.
MC: Why does Fred’s own son call him “a cockroach and a humanitarian?”

JY: A cockroach is something despised, but despite all efforts to eliminate they continue to thrive. Trial lawyers are disliked in large part as a result of the propaganda by the insurance industry, politicians and the business world. There have been endless efforts over the past several decades to destroy or eliminate the trial lawyer, but they continue to thrive and get stronger by adapting to the circumstances. The only difference between the trial lawyer and the cockroach is that the trial lawyer efforts often serve humanity very well.
MC: Why has the Florida Bar Association tried to disbar him three times?

JY: Largely because of his success and the way he flaunted it. Over his career, Fred won 30 jury verdicts in excess of $1 million, including one for $25 million and another for $50 million, and settled more than 75 other cases in excess of $1 million. Fred also has openly, and often, insulted the leaders of the bar by referring to them as elitist, white country club men. It’s doubtful that any of the three charges would have been brought with such vengeance against any other lawyer.

The first time he was brought up on charges was for gambling on football games, and then going on his cable access channel BLAB-TV and saying he saw nothing wrong with it – despite the fact that it was a misdemeanor. The result was a slap on the wrist. The second time was for violating the ethics rule on interjecting personal statements into a trial. That stemmed from him calling his opponent’s case “ridiculous” in two different trials. He was acquitted on that charge. And the third time was for him lambasting a judge’s ruling. Again, he escaped.
MC: What role did Fred’s faith, as well as his experiences with anti-Semitism, influence his career?

JY: Fred grew up and practiced in a part of the Southern Bible Belt at a time when Jews were outsiders. Fred encountered anti-Semitism at every turn in his life, from not being admitted to the cool college fraternity to not being allowed to join the country club to not being able to join the established law firms. This made him more sensitive to other minorities and actually led to him being an open advocate for African Americans and homosexuals. He has been honored by the United States Congressional Black Caucus, and made a chief of the country of Ghana, for his efforts. In recent years, he has become a prominent philanthropist for Jewish causes, most recently donating $1 million to the Lubavitch/Chabad Student & Community Center at the University of Florida.
MC: Fred’s firm is now involved in litigation against BP Oil for the massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico a few years ago. Is he driven by the money, the fame, or a sense of justice?

JY: It’s a difficult question to answer.  Fred and his firm are dedicated to leveling the playing field in some small way so that the little guy can do battle with the big guy. The lawyers in his firm believe very strongly in what they do. Stepping back and looking at what has happened in this country, it has become clear that the federal government does less and less for the people.

The agencies designed to help people and to keep big business honest do not work properly. The FDA is not able to keep up with the drug companies and has practically become their functionary. The Consumer Product Safety Commission is overwhelmed. And all of those agencies tasked with protecting the financial system have an abysmal track record of late, which led to a catastrophic financial crisis in 2008. The central problem is that these agencies are all beholden to big business. So looking objectively at what has happened to individual rights in this country in the last 20 years, it is clear that people need a voice, and a powerful one at that. Fred’s firm tries to be that voice in cases where people need it, such as the BP Oil Spill.  On the other hand, Fred loves the money and fame.  He thrives on it, flaunts it, and promotes it.
MC: Did Fred reveal what his former partner, Johnnie Cochran, felt about O.J. Simpson’s innocence?

JY: Fred and Johnnie Cochran were close friends.  Fred was with Johnnie at a boxing match in Miami when Johnnie saw O.J. for the first time since the conclusion of O.J.’s murder trial. It had been six years, and Johnnie told Fred that he had not spoken to O.J. since the trial. When Johnnie spotted O.J., he asked Fred and his friend Terdema Ussery (the president of the Dallas Mavericks) to shield him so O.J. wouldn’t see him. Fred’s take on the whole situation is “that Johnnie thought O.J. was guilty, and even though his successful defense was a cornerstone of his career, it was something that troubled him.”

Months later, Ussery was with Cochran when the subject of the events at the fight came up. Ussery recounted that Cochran told him to ask him anything he wanted about O.J. When Ussery demurred, Cochran then answered the question that Ussery wouldn’t directly ask; of whether or not he believed O.J. Simpson was guilty. Ussery recalled to me: “Johnnie said, ‘The answer to your question is his character is going to eventually answer the question for those who are curious as to whether or not he did it. So what I would say to you is watch him. Eventually – because character is something that you cannot suppress long term – your question is going to be answered if you just watch him.’” Of course, in 2008, three years after Johnnie Cochran died, O.J. Simpson was convicted of armed robbery and kidnapping in Las Vegas and sentenced to 33 years in prison.

 

 

Related: Author Q&A: Former Sports Illustrated Writer Discusses Overcoming Tragedy In Tuscaloosa

 

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5 Reasons Why Libraries Still Matter

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Trinity College library, Dublin, via Libraries In Crisis.

By Dee Donavanik, Publicity Director

 

Last week, the Florida Polytechnic University in Lakeland, FL opened the doors to a brand new library.  The fact that a new library is opening and not closing is perhaps news in and of itself, but what makes this one particularly unique is that it is completely devoid of physical books.  With an assortment of over 135,000 books, the new university embraced going totally digital as part of their mission: “ to prepare 21st century learners in advanced fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) to become innovative problem-solvers and high-tech professionals through interdisciplinary teaching, leading-edge research, and collaborative local, regional and global partnerships.”

The library has its supporters and critics, and similar arguments have been made in the endless debate of  e-books vs print books. Forbes contributor Tim Worstall even recently argued against both libraries AND print books and suggested  that we close the libraries and buy everyone an Amazon Kindle unlimited subscription. Though Worstall’s suggestion may seem like a cost-effective solution on paper, it’s important to note that libraries are about much more than books.  And as S.E. Smith explains in The Week, “A world without public libraries is a grim one indeed, and the assault on public libraries should be viewed as alarming.”

 

Though there are plenty of arguments for why libraries still matter, here are a few:

 

Libraries are a valuable public resource. In his piece, Smith explains that people go to libraries for more than books .  Historically they have been a resource for those who can’t independently afford  books, access to internet and other materials.

 

Libraries provide a sense of community. In addition to books and internet access, libraries also provide other resources such as reading activities for children, various educational classes, and even just a general space for community gathering.

 

Reading isn’t dead. Just because there is an increase in people using e-books doesn’t mean the demand for physical books has gone away.  Libraries are also adapting with the times and providing e-books that can be borrowed.

 

Libraries are amazing archives. Though most information can be found online, not all of it is accurate and not all of it can be accessed freely.  With online resources, certain archives may disappear after a set amount of time.  Libraries help us preserve precious information.

 

Libraries provide an inexplicable experience. Most of us have great memories of going to the library as a child and being overcome with the excitement of being able to pick out some books to take home (at least if you’re a book nerd like myself).  The library provides an experience for us that just can’t quite be explained.

 

If you need more convincing, Julie Dressner and Jesse Hicks released a fantastic short documentary explaining Why Libraries Matter.

 

 

Related: The Power of Radio

 

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Author Q&A: Former Sports Illustrated Writer Discusses Overcoming Tragedy In Tuscaloosa

By Brian Feinblum, Chief Marketing Officer

 

Lars Anderson, the author of six books, spent two decades at Sports Illustrated writing profiles, features, home-length cover stories, games stories, scouting reports and essays for beats that included college and pro football, college and pro basketball, soccer, major league baseball, and NASCAR.  His newest book, The Storm and the Tide, is the true story of the 2011 tornado in Tuscaloosa, Alabama and how it inspired the greatest college football dynasty of the 21st century.

The book appeared in The Boston Globe just this past weekend.

In the following Q&A Anderson discusses his experience with the tragedy in Alabama in 2011, how it has changed his life, and the inspiration we can still draw today:

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10 Authors You Need To Follow On Twitter And Their Strategies Worth Stealing

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By Anna Patrick, Digital Publicist

 

We can trust authors to pen hundreds of pages without batting an eyelash. But how does their craft stand the test of a 140 character limit? Twitter poses a unique challenge for authors who want to preserve the quality of their signature prose style while engaging with readers and posting book content in a space where it can be difficult to be heard.

The following list consists of 10 authors who have not only risen to the challenge, but in their own unique ways have become writers to emulate as the social media world continues to expand. There are poignant takeaways from each of their styles, which set them apart from the crowd.

Read on for a takeaway from each of these must-follow author-turned-Tweeters:

 

Paulo Coelho. When it comes to social media strategy for authors, look no further than Paulo Coelho. I’ve written about him before, highlighting the way he posts timely quotes from his upcoming novels (in an aesthetic, re-tweetable way), and links to his blog posts for his frequent “30-second reads.” He also has a great way of enticing followers to engage, such as posting pictures of readers posing with his new title. Bonus: if you are an author who writes in multiple languages, Coelho is a great example of how to tweet for a multi-lingual audience. Warning: following Paulo Coelho will most likely result in frequent re-tweets.

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Margaret Atwood. Atwood joined Twitter in 2009, after the release of one of her titles. In a brilliant piece about Twitter she wrote for The New York Review of Books, she recounted her decision to join the Twittersphere at the suggestion of her website curator: “’You have to have a Twitter feed on your Web site,’ they said. ‘A what?’ I said, innocent as an egg unboiled. To paraphrase Wordsworth: What should I know of Twitter? I’d barely even heard of it. I thought it was for kiddies.’” Needless to say, five years and 520k followers later Atwood seems to have gotten the hang of it. Her tweets are thoughtful, and she’s not afraid to use hashtags.

In her own words as told to The New York Review of Books: “… Typical of ‘social media’: you’re always saying things you shouldn’t have said. But it’s like the days of Hammurabi, and those of the patriarch Isaac in the book of Genesis, come to think of it: once decrees and blessings have made it out of the mouth—or, now, in the 21st century, out of the ends of the fingers and past the Send button—you can’t take them back.”

One of the quickest ways to lose followers, and potentially destroy your reputation, is to tweet something too controversial that alienates too many people. Atwood’s rule of thumb is worth emulating. Also worth emulating: using hashtags to increase your exposure and jump into conversations. Creating a hashtag for your book is also a great way to see who’s talking about your latest title.

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John Green. Though he wasn’t included in a list of Top Tweeters by The Guardian, I felt that John Green deserves more than just a nod – I would argue that he is one of the best examples of an author using Twitter to directly engage with his audience. For a Young Adult author engagement on social media is crucial, and helped turn John Green into a rock star in his own right in the YA world.

So how does he do it? Twitter chats and mixed media tweets. As for the former, either solo or with a fellow author, Green has live Twitter “chats” with users who simply ask him questions using a pre-determined hashtag. Users engaging in the chat simply follow the hashtag, and are encouraged to either re-tweet or favorite their favorite answers or ask a question and jump right into the conversation. As for the latter, mixed media, Green includes YouTube videos and other forms of online video to connect with followers in a deeper way. Green and his brother run their own YouTube channel, where Green gets in front of the camera for short clips covering a range of topics from back to school to his experiences in Africa with Bill Gates.

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See remaining authors and strategies after the jump.

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The Power of Radio

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By Nicole Martineau, Publicist

 

One of our specialties here at MEDIA CONNECT is the Morning Drive Radio Tour, a popular service where we arrange back-to-back interviews with radio stations across America in a single morning. Whether you are a top publishing house, a non-profit, a corporation, or a government agency, MDRTs are a time and cost-efficient way to maximize exposure and deliver your message to your target audience.

However, in recent years, there has been a lot of misinformation floating around regarding the future of radio. In 2010, former NPR CEO Vivian Schiller stated that Internet radio would replace “radio towers” within ten years. With misleading sound bites like this and headlines reading “Radio Digs Its Own Grave as Cultural Currents Shift,” it’s understandable why a lot of people think broadcast radio is no longer a powerful medium, let alone a publicity tool.

While it is true that radio stations need to adapt to the ever-changing digital age we now live in, Internet radio and mobile devices may not be as big of a threat to “radio towers” as one may think. In fact, they have been proven to maximize the number of Americans listening to broadcast radio. We turn to Arbitron, a proven leader in producing media ratings and research reports, for proof.

According to the “State of the Media: Audio Today 2014” report released by Arbitron earlier this year, radio, through traditional and nontraditional methods, reaches more than 90 percent of everyone in the U.S. each week:

“Audio is available on multiple platforms, in real time, wherever consumers want to listen on more than 16,000 stations across the country covering 50 different formats. Radio is also a hyper-local medium serving every unique community from one coast to the other…Audio consumers are listening for more than 2.5 hours every day, and one of radio’s best-kept secrets is its ability to reach a highly qualified audience right before they arrive to shop.”

In addition to being an effective tool for reaching out to the general population, radio is also drawing in one of the most highly sought after audiences in America: Millennials. According to Arbitron’s “It’s a New Millennial” report released in February, 90 percent of Millennials (ages 18-34) tune into radio each week:

 “Despite rapidly evolving technology, radio continues to engage an extraordinarily high percentage of Millennials across the country each week…As these young adults move into the workforce, 74 percent of Millennials are working either full- or part-time. And as work becomes an integral part of their lives, they find themselves tuning in when they’re more frequently away from home, which is where most listening occurs. In fact, the PM Drive (weekdays 3 p.m.-7 p.m.) is the most popular time of day for Millennial radio listening.”

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Radio has also been proven to be powerful tool for reaching minorities in the U.S., particularly African American and Hispanic audiences. Arbitron’s “State of the Media: Audio Today – A Focus on African American and Hispanic Audiences” report released in April, states that African American and Hispanic listenership has reached a historic high:

More than 71 million from these demographics tune in each week. Combined, these listeners account for nearly a third (29.6%) of the total national audience…These multicultural audiences are highly engaged with radio all across the country, in markets large and small, where more than 3,000 different stations program to them specifically.”

These facts don’t lie. Whether it’s through a car radio or on an iPhone app, millions of Americans are turning to broadcast radio programs each week for news and entertainment, further proving that this medium is, and will continue to be, a powerful and effective medium for reaching consumers in the digital age.

 

Related: 27 Tips To Help You Pitch The Media

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Author Q&A: New Book Lends Insight On Global Terrorism

By Brian Feinblum, Chief Marketing Officer

 

MEDIA CONNECT has promoted thousands of authors and books over the years, but few have managed to educate me the way a new book on the subject of terrorism has.

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No “Faults” For John Green

By Cori Cagide, Publicist

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Okay, so you may be thinking I’m late on the John Green train for this one, and I probably am. I first decided to read The Fault in Our Stars earlier this Summer when I found out about the movie coming out starring Shailene Woodley. I was hesitant because, as I’m sure you all know, it’s a pretty heavy topic. It was the start of Summer, and I was looking for a good beach read, not something that would make me burst into tears next to strangers on the subway during my commute.

However, disregarding my gut feeling, I read it anyway, mostly because people WOULD NOT STOP TALKING ABOUT IT. That, coupled with the fact that he brought out the biggest crowd at BookCon immediately following my first BEA conference – I figured the guy knew what he was doing.

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A Look at the Man Booker Longlist Books by American Authors

By Adrienne Fontaine, Senior Publicist

As a part of my summer reading, I read four of the five books written by Americans and named on the longlist for the Man Booker prize. The fifth, Joseph O’Neill’s The Dog, is not yet available in stores.

 

AF_ManbookerI started with We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves, by Karen Joy Fowler (best known for The Jane Austen Book Club). The book is about a young woman named Rosemary Cooke, whose father—a psychology professor—adopts a chimpanzee named Fern and tries to raise it as a second daughter within the family, as part of a research experiment. The experiment goes awry and the chimp is sent away to a lab and kept in captivity for the rest of its life. The banishment of the chimp causes an unbridgeable rift in the family, for the young son takes up the cause of animal activism and takes it to domestic-terrorism levels.

The book shows the complex relationships between humans and chimps, between members of a family, between science and morality, between males and females, and between friends in their adolescence. I like how the book uses a stranger-than-fictional plot at the beginning to later realistically portray and comment on animal cruelty.

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Finn Sets Sail: MEDIA CONNECT Reflects on the Third Annual Summer Boat Cruise

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There’s nothing like being on a boat on a beautiful summer day, circling New York, with Frank Sinatra and Alicia Keys singing their love songs to the Big Apple. A great day!
-Adrienne Fontaine, Publicist

Last Tuesday, August 5th, marked the third annual Finn Partners summer boat cruise in New York City, a summer outing where Finn Partners employees from all divisions came together to spend the day dancing, toasting and dining on Manhattan’s Hudson River.

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It is always nice to get outside in the summer but to see life from the vantage point of a boat is even more special. We got so close to Lady Liberty that I felt like was going to step out of her pose and give me a hug. I think it’s always a good idea to connect with your colleagues outside of work. It makes work seem like anything but.
-Brian Feinblum, Chief Marketing Officer

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Top row, left to right: Adrienne Fontaine, Emily Labes, Cori Cagide, Karissa Hearn, and Anna Patrick. Bottom row: Lindsey Hall, Johanna Dickson, Alexandra Israel

This was my second year on the boat cruise, and it seems like each year it gets better! It’s great to see everyone letting loose and having such a good time. I already can’t wait for next year! -Cori Cagide, Associate Publicist

The boat was a blast, getting to know my colleagues in an entirely different environment was a great experience. I had no idea we had some serious dancers on our team! But joking aside, sometimes with the daily hustle and bustle it’s easy to overlook that we work in such an amazing city, and the 360 degree view of the Big Apple was both humbling and necessary to reignite a sense of mindfulness and appreciation of where we are and the work we’re doing. Looking forward to next summer!
-Anna Patrick, Digital Publicist

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Left to right: Brian Feinblum, Steve Matteo, and David Hahn

It was a great time connecting with other people in various departments. We work in a big office, so oftentimes you tend to pass right by people without ever really getting to meet them, and so the day was a nice way to create relationships. And it’s always nice seeing people outside of their suits and ties just relaxing. Brings the sense of camaraderie closer!
-Lindsey Hall, Associate Publicist

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Left to right: Emily Labes, Anna Patrick, Lindsey Hall, Cori Cagide, Johanna Dickson, Alexandra Israel, Karissa Hearn, and David Hahn

What a blast the cruise was this summer!   Great weather; great food and great dancing!  Especially enjoyed Mick’s historical description of the waterfront!  Nice to have a local historian (and photographer) on the team. Look forward to next year’s outing!
-David Hahn, Senior Partner and Managing Director

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Adrienne Fontaine and David Hahn

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Left to right: Emily Labes, Anna Patrick, Lindsey Hall, Cori Cagide, Johanna Dickson, Alexandra Israel, Mick Andreano and Karissa Hearn

I loved  the sense of camaraderie and community – everyone was excited to spend the day with one another. Since we work in a fairly large company with different divisions it was nice to meet people (and put names to faces) that I see regularly. I am already looking forward to next year!
-Alexandra Israel, Publicist

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Keegan Abrahams, Dave Lieberson, and Dave Rosenthal

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Left to right: Alexandra Israel, Johanna Dickson, Anna Patrick, Karissa Hearn, Cori Cagide, Emily Labes, and Lindsey Hall

I had a great time at the cruise, it was a great group work experience. The dancing surprised me the most. Finn Partners and MEDIA CONNECT have some talented dancers!
-Johanna Dickson, Digital Publicist

It’s kind of obvious I enjoyed the dancing segment the best! But I also enjoyed talking to my colleagues and dining with them.
-Dawn Frederick, Receptionist

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Adrienne Fontaine, David Hahn, Anna Patrick and Cori Cagide

 

For more photos, please see our official album on Facebook.

 

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Should You Attend Writers Conferences?

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By Brian Feinblum, Senior Vice President and Marketing Officer

 

I recently attended the Willamette Writers Conference where I spoke before 50 eager self-published authors, talking about how one can make his or her book marketable and how to promote books to the news media. The conference was in Oregon, a state I’d never been to, but I realized that after going some 5500 miles round trip the community of writers is not only alive and well, but it is one that replicates itself across the country.

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