Westport Writers’ Rendezvous: August update – Part 1

51tDpVmnPWL._SY498_BO1,204,203,200_Twenty writers attended out meeting yesterday – and they had a lot to share. Mary Grace Dembeck’s children’s book, I’m Mad at the Moon, was published this month, Richard Seltzer has a publishing contract, and member V.P. Morris is launching her first weekly podcast series on August 27. The Dead Letters Podcast is a suspenseful audio drama in 25-minute episodes, focusing on the lives of five women who, over history, have received mysterious letters that warn of death and destruction if they don’t do exactly as the sender says. Find it on all the main podcast platforms: PodBean, iTunes, Google Play Podcasts, Spotify, and Stitcher

Gotham Writers in NYC offers writing courses in a wide variety of genres, and for all levels of expertise.  To encourage you to take a look, they are offering a free course to the winner of their 27-word Story-in-a-Bottle contest. Imagine finding a bottle Continue reading

Author interview: Elissa Grodin

ElissaGrodin_-10EditI’ve always admired crime and mystery writers. Their ability to mislead the reader, and the way they place clues and red herrings through the manuscript, has always fascinated me. Although I love to read these books, I almost never guess who the murderer is, which is what keeps me reading. Elissa Grodin’s latest novel, A Handful of Worldliness, had me guessing (incorrectly) as one by one, suspects were eliminated. The crime-solver in this novel, Edwina Goodman, is a professor of physics at a small college in New England, and although the main investigator is her policeman boyfriend, he can’t do it without her. I needed to interrogate the author…

GC: I don’t believe I’ve ever heard of a female science professor as the main protagonist in a mystery story. What gave you the idea for the character?

elissa gEG: I’ve long been interested in the philosophical idea that objective reality is illusory—the idea that there are myriad ways of seeing any given thing or person or event.  Everything is open to interpretation.  It is human nature to assume that the world really is as we think it does.  But life—and death—are much more complicated than that.  That’s where science comes in.  Theoretical physicists like my character, Edwina, spend their lives looking into the nature of reality, and trying to describe it as accurately as possible.  In my books I use murder as the punch line for the kind of mayhem and confusion murky, superficial thinking brings about.  So, her constant questioning of what we think we know, helps reveal the truth.

GC: The initials of her name, Edwina Goodman, are the same as yours. Does this mean she’s an alter ego?

EG: Yes, Edwina is certainly my alter ego.  If I could wrap my mind around mathematics – which I have a very hard time doing – I would have liked to have become an astronomer.  My siblings gave me a lovely telescope for a recent birthday, and I take it out every so often to stargaze.

GC: I like the way you include physics as a way to help figure out whodunit.  How easy is it to incorporate this relatively esoteric knowledge into your detective’s crime-solving?

EG: Physics is a very useful way to explain much of what goes on around us.  For example, one of my characters is a raging narcissist. Once you know that about him, you can interpret, and possibly even predict his actions, by applying Newton’s 3rd law of motion: “For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.”  A narcissist is likely to react in a specific way, given a particular set of circumstances—like lashing out when slighted or criticised.  Edwina uses informed logic, aided by a ferociously good imagination, to figure things out.  Her ability to connect the dots doesn’t necessarily depend on physics esoterica.  It’s just fun to throw a little bit of that stuff in once in a while.

GC: Your writing career started with books for children. What prompted the switch to adult fiction?

EG: The opportunity to write children’s books happily came my way some years ago, but I always had it in mind to move on to writing adult novels.  I developed a taste for mysteries from my mother, who was a great reader of mysteries, her favorite author being Agatha Christie.  Writing mysteries provides a somewhat larger, and more satisfying canvas on which to record the ideas I’m interested in.

GC: Do you outline your mystery novels before you start writing, or do you simply sit down and type? Why do you do it that way?

EG: I’m not nearly clever enough to hold all the subplots, and red herrings, and things in my head, so yes, I outline before I start writing.  Before I begin on a book, I know who the victim is, who the murderer is, how the murder is committed, and why.  I do a fair bit of filling in as I write, but I have the basic plot line figured out at the outset.  I rewrite incessantly.  You have to.   I also discover things I didn’t realize I wanted to say as the writing progresses.  Writing is self-discovery.

GC: What does the future hold in store for our heroine, Edwina Goodman?

EG: She’s a brilliant physicist, so certainly, she will continue to have career success.  And, I expect she and Will might get married one of these days.  We’ll see.

Keep reading to find out! You can follow Elissa on her website, as well as on Facebook, and Goodreads.

Westport Writers’ Rendezvous: July update

We had a great meeting on Wednesday, with lots of ideas for writers on how and where to submit, editing techniques, and congratulations to members recently or about-to-be published.  To keep this month’s update down to one post, I’m forging ahead.

On every third Thursday of the month, The Darien Library hosts a free Writer’s Workshop for writers of any genre and level of writing ability. Next meeting: Thursday, July 18, from 7-8:30 pm. They critique up to ten pages of written work in a friendly, constructive atmosphere. The meeting is directed by Laura Cavers, MFA. If you’re interested in joining the Writer’s Workshop for the first time, email Laura to get started.

41hnNV7tBgL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_On Sunday, July 21 / 2:00pm – 3:00pm The Storytellers Cottage is hosting a chat with a published author about the secrets to becoming a successfully published writer. July’s Featured Author: Penny Goetjen author of The Empty Chair, Murder on the Precipice, and  Murder Beyond the Precipice. National award-winner Goetjen writes murder mysteries where the milieu plays as prominent a role as the engaging characters.

Pequot book sale Pequot Library’s 59th Annual Summer Book Sale takes place from Friday, July 26 – Monday, July 29, from 9-6pm. Prices vary day to day, from most expensive to begin with to almost free by the end. They often have over 60,000 books for sale, so there’s definitely something there for you.

The Storyteller’s Cottage in Simsbury is also offering a class on Saturday, July 27, from 1-2:30pm, titled: Get Published: from Ideas to Instagram. Topics include: Opportunities on websites such as Submittable, preparing manuscripts, and deciding between a traditional publisher, and indie publisher or self-publishing. What to expect from publishing companies and editors. Revising and editing. And some of the most popular ways authors market their books from traditional bookstore signings to blogs, to Instagram. Good value at $30.

camouflageNorwalk Public Library is hosting two authors in August. Ivy Keating will be appearing on August 7 from 12-1:30 to talk about her book Camouflage, and on August 9, also from 12-1:30pm, Scott Kimmich will be discussing his trilogy of fantasy novels, Ordeal by Fire.

The Masters Review is now accepting submissions for their Summer Short Story Award for new writers. The winning story will be awarded $3000 and publication online. Second and third place stories will be awarded publication and $300 and $200 respectively. All winners and honorable mentions will receive agency review Deadline August 31.

Registration for the 2019 Ridgefield Writers Conference is now open! The conference takes place Friday, September 20, from 6:30-9pm at the Ridgefield Library. This year’s theme is storytelling, and the keynote is acclaimed writer, teacher and New Yorker poet Charles Rafferty. They also offer an agent, editor and publisher panel with Q&A, and three breakout sessions, for poetry, fiction writers and nonfiction. For details, visit Ridgefield Writers Conference. To register, click on Ridgefield Library Events. $25.

The 2019 Jeffrey E. Smith Editors’ Prize awards $5000 each to winners in fiction, poetry, and nonfiction. Winners are published in the spring issue of the Missouri Review and honored at a reading and reception in Columbia, Missouri, in late spring. Deadline October 1. All contest entries are considered for publication in the magazine.  Entry fee: $25-30. Submit here,

The New York Chapter of the Mystery Writers of America is offering two Burstein scholarships worth $1000 each this year to aspiring mystery writers. The purpose of the scholarship is to offer financial support to writers who want to take a specific class, attend a conference, or do specific research as demonstrably necessary to a mystery work they are creating. You don’t have to be a member of the MWA-NY Chapter, and submissions are open until October 9. Check the link above for how to submit.

If you want to pitch your book to an agent you could consider attending The Gotham Writers Conference on October 25-26. They promise genuinely to connect writers with agents and give a close-up look at how to get a book published.  Day 1 includes five panels and presentations. Day 2 is for pitching roundtables. Anyone can attend Day 1, but you must be selected to participate in Day 2. Space is limited.

Those of us with complete manuscripts have to decide how and where to publish. If that’s you, take a look at this informational chart from Jane Friedman, writing and marketing guru, about the key book-publishing paths. It is available as a PDF download—ideal for photocopying and distributing for workshops and classrooms—and the full text is also shown at the link.

Authors Publish is offering a new free book: 182 Short Fiction Publishers. It’s a very helpful guide to places where you can submit. You can download it at the link above.

Once you’ve decided, check out WriterBeware, which has an excellent newsletter that does what it says on the label. Each issue reviews publishers that have caused problems for authors or that misrepresent themselves. These are often self-described as hybrid publishers, co-publishers or partner publishers. What this means, essentially, is that you pay them to publish. This may be worthwhile in some cases, but it’s helpful to know which of these companies are on the level. Worth signing up for.

dreyerSome of you will have attended Dreyer’s evening at the Westport Library on July17, where he discussed his book, Dreyer’s English. If you’re interested in getting your work edited, it might be helpful to know what kind of editing you need. Member Alex McNab has a blog post to enlighten you, describing the Five Stages of Editing.

Don’t forget to check out the Writers’ Calendar for more events for writers, and – keep writing!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Westport Writers’ Rendezvous: June update – Part 2

Here, as promised, is Part 2 of the June update. Lots of author events, contests, and places to submit your work:

The Norwalk Public Library is offering two creative writing series: An ongoing poetry workshop on the first Monday evening of each month, and creative writing each Monday, from 10:30-12pm, beginning July 8. Free. Details here.

A quick reminder that I’ll be interviewing Amy Oestreicher about her extraordinary memoir, My Beautiful Detour,  on July 11 at Barnes and Noble in Westport at 6:30pm. She’ll be reading, and signing her book. And there’ll be refreshments Continue reading

Westport Writers’ Rendezvous: June update – Part 1

Some twenty of us gathered this month at the Westport Barnes & Noble—almost a record! There was lots to talk about, so this post covers Part 1 of this month’s update. First, and most important, the Westport Library is reopening … Continue reading

Author interview: Erica Boyce

IMG_2616 (1)Erica Boyce launched her debut novel, The Fifteen Wonders of Daniel Green, at the beginning of April, and I was lucky enough to meet her at our local independent bookstore in Fairfield. I was intrigued by the idea of a story being told against a background of crop circles and the people who make them. When I read the book, I was delighted to find it exceeded my expectations. This is one of those books that you keep putting down so it will last longer. Or you read it all in one go. I stretched it out, and will probably read it again, because it’s wonderful. So well written, and the emotional understanding the author brings to the characters belies her youth. It’s hard to believe this is her first book. The themes encompass the struggle between rural and urban existence, acceptance of others, the revelation of secrets that can mar relationships but that forgiveness can restore, and the role of art in that process. The author had me rooting for every character, and I was sorry to leave them. An excellent book for clubs (it comes with a reading guide) and anyone looking for hope in the crazy world we live in today. So I asked her whether she would let me interview her.dan grn

GC: Yours is an unusual background story for a novel. I expect you’ve answered this a million times, but for the sake of readers who don’t know, what drew you to the idea of crop circles?

EB: It is sort of a funny hook, isn’t it? When I was in college, I fell down one of those YouTube rabbit holes and came across a video of people making crop circles. I thought it was so interesting that this group of people were essentially making art—not for the recognition or the praise, but rather for the joy it brings the viewer.

GC: Would you describe one of the major themes as the push and pull between rural and urban America, as embodied in the characters?

crop_circle_wallpaper_015

Crop circle

EB: That’s a very interesting read, and I’d say it’s part of the story, for sure. I think it’s also sort of paralleled by the push and pull between the family you’re born into and the family you make and where they supplant and support each other.

GC: How has your life experience influenced the story?

EB: I think there’s a little bit of myself in almost every character in here! But I’d say the biggest influence on the story came when I was diagnosed with the same mental illness that one of the characters’ lives with. I got my diagnosis in college, right around when I wrote those first few chapters, and over the years of learning about the disorder and how it’s affected my life, I started to wonder what would happen if one of the characters was learning the same things. It can be hard to find novels with characters for whom their mental illness is one part of the whole, as opposed to their antagonist or their guiding force. So, I decided I wanted to try to write one.

GC: What made you pick up your unfinished novel after such a long break? Did you find it better or worse than you expected at first?

EB: Oh, it was terrible! Those first few chapters were so, so cringe-worthy and required a lot of editing before it was all said and done. I’d been putting off writing the rest for a long time (several years!), and I think I kept looking for “a sign” that it was time to pick it up again. In late 2016, my day job shifted from full-time with a very long commute to part-time and working from home, so I had a lot more time on my hands and I figured that was as good a sign as any!

GC: What are you planning on writing next?

EB: I’m currently editing my second book (as yet untitled), which is due out in spring 2020. After that, I’m not sure; still feeling my way through a few ideas for book three. Hope to start outlining soon…

You can follow Erica on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. You can also sign up for her monthly newsletter (on hiatus for the next few months) at www.ericaboyce.com She gives away a copy of one of her favorite books to a subscriber in every newsletter!

 

Westport Writers Rendezvous: May update – Part 2

Here, as promised, is part 2 of this month’s news. Be sure to check out the writers’ Calendar page for all the events I’ve come across that might be of interest to writers. And keep writing!41iWg5vRZGL.SR160,240_BG243,243,243

Jane Friedman, book marketing guru, will be in New York for BookExpo next week, and on May 29 she’ll be teaching a 3-hour evening workshop (in partnership with Catapult) on how to build a sustainable business model for your writing career. Click here to learn more and register.

On May 30, at 5pm, the Writers’ Workshop Continue reading

Westport Writers’ Rendezvous: May update- Part 1

CT PC

Jane Green presenting the award to Alison McBain for the anthology When to Now. PC Keeler was one of the contributors.

Ten of us gathered for the Westport Writers’ Rendezvous on Wednesday, and applause was in the air, because that evening we celebrated the Ct Press Club Awards with a smashing party at the Delamar Hotel in Southport, CT. Novelist Jane Green, presented the awards, and kept the party moving. Among winning members and friends were: Alison McBain, Deborah Levison, Ann Lineberger, Megan Smith-Harris, Aline Weiller, Kate Mayer, Diane Lowman, Catherine Onyemelukwe, Heather Frimmer, Marlou and Laurie Newkirk, Gina Zammit, Lauren Busser, and Sarah Galluzzo. It was wonderful to be in such good company.

ALCThere’s a chance to meet several authors this month. On Friday, May 17 at 7pm, Armando Lucas Correa, author of the international Continue reading

Author interview: Edward Ahern

Today is the last day of National Poetry Month. To mark the occasion, I am interviewing an award-winning local poet, Edward Ahern. His book, Irregular Images, is his latest published volume, and it differs from his014 others, because it’s poetry. Ed may seem like an unlikely poet, because he’s a prolifically-published writer of a novel, The Witches’ Bane, and stories laced with dark humor and a touch of the surreal. Many of the poems in this volume reveal a more metaphysical outlook, yet some of my favorites are those that tell a story, like The Wake, in which a man tells another, silently, how much he despises him, and Telling a Fortune, which reveals the fortune-teller’s point of view. And, as ever, the humor comes through too, in The Urchin Response and O’Leary’s Drive-Thru. I wanted to know more about his poetry.

GC: I know you as a prolific author of short stories, which have been published in journals, anthologies and collections. When/why did you decide to add poetry to your repertoire?

ed ahernEA: It was curiosity that subverted the fiction writer. I‘d been reviewing poems for Bewildering Stories for a couple years, some of them pretty good, some of them clotted chewing gum. I wondered if I couldn’t write poems equally bad or maybe a bit better. So I read into poetry writing, dabbled in a couple on line courses and started writing poems. They got accepted, so I wrote more. And more. I think that writing poetry requires a hopeless infatuation with words, and that it dramatically improves my fiction writing.

GC: Writing poetry tends to be a solitary experience. How do you get feedback on your poems before you submit them?

EA: I cheat, often submitting poems before another human has read or heard them. If a poem is rejected say seven or eight times I assume it stinks and rewrite it. It’s usually accepted thereafter. (I use the editor’s pass/fail vote as feedback on the poem’s quality. Saves me anguishing about whether or not the poem’s any good.) People in poetry groups are often too nice to tell me it stinks, although I encourage them to do so.

GC: You’ve had many poems published by now. Where would you suggest poets submit to begin with? Are there any publications more open to new poets?

EA: I started with low expectations, submitting to publications that accepted fifty percent or more of the subs. Too many writers of both fiction and poetry assume their raw poetry has undiscovered greatness and submit to the top magazines, which accept only one or two percent of unsolicited submissions. They’re rejected, get dejected, and stop writing. There are hundreds of receptive publications out there, including Bewildering Stories.

GC: Irregular Images is your first poetry collection. What prompted you to publish it, and how difficult was the process?

EA: All credit for the Publication of Irregular Images goes to Alison McBain, who went through the Amazon publication anguish. She’s not guilty of the poems’ DNA, but she delivered them. Peculiarly, a different assortment of twenty of my poems, will be published as a chapbook by Prolific Press, titled Dirty Handed Graspings. I’ll need to treat my children lovingly but uniquely as they develop.

GC: How did you choose which of your poems to include, and in which order?

EA: The selection process was painless. Of a hundred thirty poems written so far, eight or so are so bad I euthanized them. Another five are variations on the same theme. Another ten or fifteen, despite being published, are not how I want them to appear, and need cosmetic surgery. Irregular Images could be described as a ‘what’s left’ volume.

GC: In that case, it’s an advertisement for effective pruning!

You can follow Ed on Facebook and Twitter. He is also co-organizer of The Poets Salon Meetup, which meets once a month in Fairfield, CT.

 

 

 

Westport Writers’ Rendezvous: April update – Part 2

Thanks for following my blog, and for letting me know that you find it useful. Hope you find Part 2 helpful, too. You can read Part 1 by following the link at the bottom of the page.

On Wednesday, May 15, at 6pm, the CT Press Club will be hosting its awards evening at the Delamar Hotel in Southport, CT. Congratulations to the many winners who are part of the Rendezvous family, including Ann Lineberger, Kate Mayer, Catherine Onyemelukwe, Lauren Busser, Gina Zammit, MarLou Newkirk and Alison McBain. Looking forward to seeing you at the event. 🙂

ALCArmando Lucas Correa, author of the international bestseller The German Girl will discuss his new Continue reading