I met Debbie Levison at a talk she was giving to the Connecticut Authors and Publishers Association. Her debut book, The Crate: A Story of War, a Murder, and Justice, is a true crime story, and seemed like an unusual … Continue reading
I’m going to keep the intro short this month, since there’s a lot of ground to cover. Wednesday saw another great meeting, with old hands and new faces, and many successes to report. And here’s what’s coming up in the writing world of Fairfield County and environs:
This Saturday, January 19, Brian Hoover will be leading his monthly memoir writing workshop from 10:30-12:00, in the Bridgeport History Center, located in the main branch of the Bridgeport Public Library. Free.
The Connecticut Press Club is wrapping up submissions for this year’s contest. Anyone who lives or works in Connecticut is eligible to enter work published in 2018. Fees: $25 for the first entry and $15 for each additional entry. Deadline: midnight EST, January 22.
I met Marilyn Simon Rothstein at the Saugatuck StoryFest in Westport, CT, and bought her first book, Lift and Separate, because she made me laugh. That novel, by the way, hit the number 1 slot on Amazon’s list of Satirical Fiction last week!
Her novels are filled with humor, as well as romance, pathos and a host of other emotions. The first book made me want to read the sequel, Husbands and Other Sharp Objects, another satisfying read. Marilyn has had a career in advertising, and became a published author relatively late in the game, so naturally I had questions for her.
GC: When did you decide to write a novel, and what made you choose this genre?
MSR: I realized that I wanted to write a novel as soon as I began reading novels. As a child, I would go to the library in Queens, New York, and haul home ten books at a time–that was the limit. I owned an advertising agency for over twenty-five years before I turned to writing fiction full time. I enjoy stories about families and friendships so I found a natural path to Lift and Separate.
GC: Your books are full of humor, but also include some sad events. How do you keep the balance between the two? It seemed to be effortless. Was it?
MSR: I was an overly emotional kid so it’s not difficult for me to work myself up into a tizzy.
GC: While you were writing, did you have a critique group, or a trusted reader to comment on the work?
MSR: I have been in the same writer’s workshop for over ten years. Going to that workshop is a highlight of each week. Before joining the workshop, I attended conferences for writers. I liked residential programs because I lived in a hotel and left my children at home with my husband. Conferences at colleges were nice because I salivate at the thought of endless cafeteria food.
GC: How long did it take from the day you signed with the agent to the date you held a copy of your book in your hand?
MSR: It was quick—and happy. I signed in June 2015. Lift and Separate was released in December 2016. Husbands And Other Sharp Objects was published in March 2018.
GC: What surprised you most about working with a publisher?
MSR: My books are published by Lake Union, which is owned by Amazon. Because I had no experience with publishing a book, it was a tremendous learning experience, like learning a new business. I was delighted to find dedicated, talented and responsive editors who cared deeply about my novels.
GC: You have been doing a lot of author talks. What do you find to be universal?
MSR: Everywhere I go, I find women who enjoy friendships, love books, want to have a wonderful time and laugh.
GC: And, finally, what’s next?
MSR: Currently, I am writing a third novel with all new characters. Here are five things in my work in progress: a fat shaming mother, an overweight daughter, a Lyft driver, a vibrator and a plate of brownies. (GC: As I said, she makes me laugh…)
Our final meeting of the year was surprisingly well attended, considering how close it was to Christmas. Maybe people were taking a break from the seasonal rush. In any event, we covered a lot of ground, with authors asking each … Continue reading
I ran into Clare Pernice at Goldenberry, a shop in Wilton, not too far from here, that stocks British products. No surprise there, because we’re both British-born, and we were looking for a few seasonal treats. But I noticed her … Continue reading
I hope you’ve all had a wonderful Thanksgiving, and are all set to begin writing again. I always think NaNoWriMo was invented by some guys who didn’t have to cook for their family in November. And how come they never noticed it’s a short month? Oh, well.
Undeterred by these minor setbacks, a hardy group of us gathered at the Pequot Library (our hosts this month and next) in spite of the fact that they were getting ready for their famous Black Friday/Saturday book sale. It’s on tomorrow, Saturday, November 24, from 9-5, and includes DVDs, CDs and Vinyl, as well as books.
|I’ve long been an admirer of Leslie Connor, an award-winning middle-grade author whose characters have always stayed with me after reading the last page of the book. Her latest, The Truth According to Mason Buttle, is no exception. It’s a finalist in the National Book Award for Young People’s Literature, and I think deserves to win. (I’m prejudiced because I loved it.) The results will be announced on Wednesday, November 14, and I’m keeping my fingers crossed. The character of Mason is unique in juvenile fiction, as far as I know, and yet he’s someone recognizable to all of us. Read on to find out more.
GC: You’ve written many middle-grade novels. For this one, which came first – the character, Mason Buttle, or the plot idea?
LC: My stories generally start with a situation—an element of nonfiction, such as a news report, or an event I have observed or read about. My imagination does a lot of work on that seed idea, bending it this way and that. If it’s a story-worthy idea, a character shows up—usually in my ear—and I go from there. In truth, that character has often already been kicking around the attic of my brain for quite a while. I’ve heard it said that character is plot. I have to agree; I never know either plot or character completely until I bring them together.
GC: You’ve captured Mason’s voice in an extraordinary and highly readable way. Do you know someone with these kind of learning difficulties, and characteristics (honesty, emotional synesthesia) or did Mason appear fully-formed from your imagination?
LC: Thank you! Mason is definitely a composite. I’ve always been able to pick out the kid in a classroom who is having a different experience from their peers. I know about some learning disabilities firsthand, but synesthesia was new to me. When I saw Mason Buttle in my mind’s eye, I knew what he was experiencing but I had to do some research to diagnose him.
GC: How would you characterize the main themes of the book? What would you like young people to take away from it?
LC: This question is difficult for me to answer. I’m not thinking about themes when I’m writing. For me, the most prevalent character traits (always tied to theme, right?) that emerged here are: self-reliance and honesty. Takeaways from this read might include empathy, compassion, and an increased sense of self-worth.
GC: For writers interested in writing for middle-grade – what makes an MG book different from a chapter book, YA novel, or an adult novel, for that matter?
LC: Writers are creative beings and lines are blurred, when it comes to formats. For instance, we see novels in verse and graphic novels for both the YA and MG audiences. So what separates them? For me, the single most important determinant of genre lies in the level of self and social awareness of the main character—no matter the age, no matter the topic.
GC: Your last two books have had a boy as the main protagonist. Are you planning anything with a girl as the featured character?
LC: Yes! I was surprised to be writing from a young male point of view, but the characters came to me an authentic way, and so far, I haven’t heard that they don’t work! (I chalk that up to having grown up between two brothers and having raised two sons.) My latest book (under contract) features a female protagonist, and in fact, there are very few males in this new story.
Lynne Constantine and her sister Valerie together form a writing partnership, Liv Constantine, whose nail-biting psychological thriller, The Last Mrs Parrish, has become a breakout international best-seller. It’s now available in 22 countries/territories, including places like Brazil, Croatia and China. … Continue reading
We had another great meeting at Barnes & Noble yesterday, with seventeen of us gathered to exchange ideas and recommendations. Alison McBain, Elizabeth Chatsworth, Ed Ahern and I bragged — just a bit — about our time travel anthology, When to Now, for which we did a reading and signing over the weekend at the Inaugural Saugatuck StoryFest in Westport.
If you like meeting authors face to face, plan to attend the latest Connecticut Authors Reading Series on Sunday, October 21, at 2pm at the Cyrenius H. Booth Library in Newtown. Among the featured authors are: Georgia Hunter, (We Were the Lucky Ones), Betsy Lerner, (The Bridge Ladies and The Forest for the Trees), Marilyn Simon Rothstein, (Husbands and Other Sharp Objects, and Lift and Separate), and Tom Seigel, (The Astronaut’s Son)
The Westport Writers’ Workshop has expanded its activities to include some popular Saturday workshops, for those who can’t attend during the week. On offer are A Writer’s Most Important Tool: The Power of ” What If “ with Jessica Speart this Saturday, October 20, Fall In Love With The Lyric Essay on Saturday, October 27, and Building a Multi-Dimensional Scene with Julie Sarkissian on Saturday, November 10. $75 each.
November 1 – NaNoWriMo begins! Click the link to find out more, and to find places where you can join your fellows to write your 50,000-word novel together.
The Fairfield Library will be offering a Writers’ conference on November 3, which will include Continue reading
I was surprised to find myself at a reading given by award-winning children’s book author Susan Hood, because she’s written more than 200 books for small children, and I don’t read many of those. But I heard about her debut … Continue reading