Local author Bette Bono is writing the second in a series of novels about a group of unusual seniors with special powers that enable them to travel back in time to solve historical mysteries. I loved the first one, The Better Angels, which was published by All Things That Matter Press in 2019. I asked her where she did her writing, and what she needs to enable her to write. Here’s what she said:
I wrote my debut novel, The Better Angels, from the kitchen table. I had the house to myself during the day, so I could craft my time travel-history-adventure-mystery with few interruptions and easy access to coffee.
But as I began work on the sequel, the pandemic arrived. Suddenly, everyone in my household was working from home. The kitchen became Grand Central Terminal, the place to converge for a break, a snack, a meal, TV news, card games, drinks, and non-stop conversation.
I needed to order more coffee! More importantly, I needed a new at-home writing space. My brilliant husband suggested I take over the dining room. After all, we weren’t going to be hosting dinner party guests for a while. So, after a few hours work and a few improvised furnishings, my new workspace was created. The home-built, cement-block bookshelves look a bit like something from a college dorm, but the books I need—primarily history and biographies—are close at hand. My husband, knowing I love gardening, set up a green space for me in front of the windows. Houseplants, orchids, a Christmas cactus, chives, dill, parsley, and basil became my writing companions.
My new novel, Fear Itself, was completed in my new “office” and will be out later this year. This time, my time travelers voyage back to the 1930s to investigate some of the pro-Hitler groups that formed in the U.S. before World War II. Now I’m on to a collection of short stories and research for the next time travel book. I love my writer’s workplace and don’t plan on decamping any time soon.
You can find The Better Angels on Amazon and other retailers. You can connect with Bette on Facebook, Goodreads, Amazon, and LinkedIn. Her website, Bette Bono’s Blog, discusses books, writing, history, time travel, senior superheroes, and our better angels.
I hope you found part one of this update useful. Here’s part two, with more places to submit, and contests to enter.
First, though, member Libby Waterford is teaching a couple of useful virtual classes in April. The first is Writing Dynamic Fictionwhich will cover the following aspects of craft: dialogue, active voice, backstory, point of view, and show not tell. If you have an in-progress manuscript or are at the beginning of a new project, this class will help you come away writing more dynamic fiction. Begins April 9. The second is a two-hour workshop on April 24, from 10-12 noon. – Writing Faster. Libby writes first drafts in 40-90 days on average, so she should know. She’ll discuss mindset, tools and techniques, and how to set yourself up for successful writing sessions.
The 2021 Connecticut Literary Festival’s Anthology is accepting submissions for their second volume writing by Connecticut writers. (Defined as residing in Connecticut by January 1, 2021.) They are looking for fiction and creative nonfiction (3,500 words max), and poetry (2 poems max). Submission details here. Deadline: April 15.
The Writers Rendezvous this month welcomed several new members, and ran into extra time because we had so much to talk about. I’m going to start this update with events and contests that have upcoming deadlines, and leave the more general information for part two of the post.
First, the Bridgeport History Center at the Bridgeport Library will be holding its monthly memoir writing workshop with Brian Hoover (online, of course) this Saturday, February 20, from 10:30-12:00 pm. The class includes writing exercises, an exploration of the nature of memoirs, and feedback on voice and perspective. Register here.
Here are some contests with upcoming deadlines. Check the links for full details:
Welcome to part two of January’s update. This includes some free writing workshops, suggestions for finding more reader reviews for your upcoming book, and more.
On Tuesday, February 9, at 3pm, member Barbara Anne King (The California Immigrant) will be appearing at the Norwalk Library in a discussion on Zoom of her new novel, The Apple King, to be published February 3. The book is the second historical novel in her Monterey Bay Series, based on the Croatian immigrants who settled in California in the 1930s. Register to get a Zoom link by emailing Cynde Bloom Lahey, or call (203) 899-2780 ext. 15133.
The Connecticut Romance Writers Association (CTRWA) allows non-members to attend two meetings a year to see whether membership appeals to them. Meetings are held monthly, and each one has a guest presenter with topics of interest to writers. The next meeting, On February 13, will host bestselling thriller author Hallie Ephron, (Careful What you Wish For) giving a workshop on Writing Character-Driven Fiction. She’ll cover topics appropriate for any novelist: creating a character web, developing a character arc within the novel’s three-act structure, mining the gap between what’s visible and what’s hidden, developing a character arc within a scene, and the importance of back story in driving plot, and how to use it effectively. Email email@example.com if you’d like to attend.
Jane Cleland, writer of the Josie Prescott series of cozy mysteries, and also a writing teacher, is offering some free online workshops that could benefit any writer of fiction. Here are the details: February 20: Thematic Writing (How to use figurative imagery, atmosphere, and allegories to add richness and depth to your writing) and on March 13,The Perception Gap (How to use your characters’ views of the world to create compelling and twisty plots.)
Finding readers to review your book can be difficult, but I’ve come across three companies that may be able to help. If you can recommend others, please let us know in the comments.
Booksprout is a company founded in 2015 that helps increase your book reviews. Rather than signing up for numerous newsletters, checking multiple websites, and missing new releases by their favorite authors, readers can follow them in their app. It provides a single location with mobile notifications so that readers never miss a new book again! Authors need reviews on launch day in order to build trust quickly. With our ARC Management feature, they can reduce time spent delivering eBook files and following up with readers all while maximizing reviews. There’s a free version, and ones for $10 or $20 per month with more features.
Bookfunnel is a similar service, but also allows you to collect the email addresses of those who’ve downloaded the ARC (Advanced Reader Copy) of your book. Depending on your price point, there are other benefits too. Prices range from $2 to $20 per month, with a contract for a year.
Lastly, Story Origin provides the same services and is completely free because it’s in Beta (meaning they haven’t figured out all the wrinkles yet). It might be worth a try if your budget is tight, since you’ve nothing to lose, and they have a number of tutorials on the site to show you how to use it. Here’s a list of the opportunities they offer.
Published to death is a blog for writers that covers a multitude of subjects, including agents, self-publishing, and submissions. A recent post listed 49 places to submitto for the month of January. Because it’s late in the month, some of the deadlines have passed, but there are still plenty left. They cover all kinds of genres, so subscribe to keep up to date.
Lastly, in case you’re spending too much time on your phone and would like to break the habit, you could do worse than try Forest, an app that allows you to “grow” a virtual forest while you’re not on your phone. When you accumulate enough points, the people at Forest will plant a live tree for you.
So you can do the world a bit of good along with yourself. 🙂
Since yesterday was Inauguration Day, we had a smaller number of writers than usual, but that included some new members, which gave us a chance to get to know each other. I’m still loving the way Zoom meetings can expand my horizons, so I can meet people who would be unlikely to show up in person, because of distance. Here’s some of what we discussed.
Here’s an unusual Short Story Challenge run by NYC Midnight Movie Making Madness. This international creative writing competition, now in its fifteenth year, challenges participants to create original short stories in as little as 24 hours. The challenge consists of four rounds. In the first round—January 22-30—writers are placed randomly in groups and are assigned a genre, subject, and character. Writers have eight days to write an original story of no longer than 2,500 words. In further rounds, the number of words decreases, but so does the time allowed for writing the story. For more details, check here. One of the benefits of this challenge is that feedback from the judges is provided for every submission and there are cash prizes for the winners.
Writer and teacher Tessa McGovern is offering a free one-hour writing sprint and ask-me-anything sessionevery Tuesday at noon. Hosted by Westport Library, participants chat about successes and obstacles, write for an hour and then have 39 min to ask Tessa anything about writing or publishing. More information and the link on her website (link above).
On January 27 at 7 pm The Connecticut Press Club is offering a virtual Boost Your Brand Workshop, led by Javacia Bowser. The workshop promises to teach you how to: define and convey who you are, what you want, and what you stand for as a writer; build relationships with other writers, bloggers, editors, and agents; use social media to manage your brand’s reputation, and grow your audience before you launch your book or blog. Free to Connecticut Press Club members, $15 for non-members. More information and registration here.
Courtesy of the Poets’ Salon, the Meetup for Poets: The Sunshine State Book Festivalwill be held online all day on Saturday, January 30. It will feature 100 authors writing in eighteen genres. You can preview a sampling of the author booths right now – each author will have their own video presentation and list of books to browse online. Free.
The Big Moose Prize contest is open to traditional novels as well as novels-in-stories, novels-in-poems, and other hybrid forms that contain within them the spirit of a novel. Each year Black Lawrence Press will award The Big Moose Prize for an unpublished novel. The prize is open to new, emerging, and established writers. The winner of this contest will receive book publication, a $1,000 cash award, and ten copies of the book. Prizes will be awarded on publication. Deadline January 31 and submissions are now open.
The Mark Twain House is offering a six-week online writing course with author Dana Meachen Rau (Who is series) for a six-week writing course! Each session runs on Zoom from 4 to 5:30 p.m every Thursday, February 11 through March 18. This six-week writing course is offered in conjunction with the Page to Stage Short Story Writing contest co-sponsored by The Bushnell and The Mark Twain House & Museum. More information to come! Registration is $150 and grants you access to all 6 sessions. This course is limited to 10 students. Registrants will receive a Zoom link in advance of the first class. Register here.
As promised yesterday, here’s a partial list of the organizations that support writers in the United States. I’m sure other countries have them too, and I know that many American societies welcome membership from abroad. Many of these associations have regional chapters with their own events, and although many of those are being held on Zoom right now, they’re still a great way to make new friends with the same goals.
One other suggestion, check Meetup.com. That’s where I list my writers’ groups, and there are literally hundreds of local groups for writers, poets, screenwriters, etc. These meetings are held online, as is everything else, but don’t let that stop you from meeting new writing friends.
SFWA (the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America) is self-explanatory. One useful service they provide to the public at large is a page called Writer Beware, which looks at problems with publishers, agents, scams, and the like. If you’re looking to publish, particularly with a small or indie press, this is a good place to do a background check.
The WNBA (Women’s National Book Association) welcomes men and women interested in writing and marketing books. They have several regional chapters you can join.
The SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators) has many local chapters and members who are always willing to give new writers a hand. They too have monthly online meetings.
The NAMW (National Association Of Memoir Writers) is for anyone writing memoir, personal essays, and creative nonfiction.
The Academy of American Poets is a national, member-supported organization that promotes poets and the art of poetry. They also sponsor national poetry events and poetry publications in order to advocate poetry.
There are even associations for people who write about cats and dogs. According to their website, the CWA (Cat Writers Association) is a global cat-centric professional organization dedicated to excellence in written, visual, and audio media. Meow! And the DWAA (Dog Writers Association of America) encompasses all aspects of the world of dogs and is for anyone writing or communicating about dogs – mystery and fiction writers, poets, historians, photographers, and more.
There are groups for writers in various religious genres (Christian, Catholic, Islamic), among others; and groups for writers of erotica; journalists; and military writers.
Writers’ Relief, a company that provides support services to writers and a useful newsletter, has an excellent article with more suggestions. Read it here.
I belong to a number of writing organizations, and have always found them interesting, though not necessarily vital. But this year has brought the value of the groups I belong to sharply into focus. In years past, I would join a group, attend occasional events, and skim their newsletters, while I wrote mainly on my own and hoped for the best. Sometimes I’d be asked to speak at a meeting. Occasionally I’d benefit from a new idea about how to tackle a specific craft element of writing – handling a dual timeline, structuring a personal essay, finding an editor – but these were largely peripheral to the main role writing played in my life.
This year, though, I found myself with no writers’ meetings to go to, no conferences, and no workshops. I found that, to my surprise, I missed the company of other writers. And then my organizations stepped up to the plate.
I have to confess that I stepped up pretty early myself. I run three groups for writers: a monthly open mic, a monthly get-together where we talk and exchange ideas, and now a weekly write-in too, which I was asked to organize by the Pequot Library in Southport, CT. I transferred all meetings to Zoom beginning in March, and found, to my surprise and delight, that people from other states, and even Canada, who’d never have been able to join us before, were now attending. I was finally meeting people I’d only corresponded with until then.
Back to the writing organizations. I’ll start with ones I’m a member of. If they’re not right for you, there are bound to be others that are, and I’ll post a list of those tomorrow.
The WFWA, (Women’s Fiction Writers Association) holds daily (sometimes twice-daily) write-ins, where I check in, write for 90 minutes, and check out. I’ve been writing every day since the pandemic started-not something I could have said before. They run webinars with workshops on craft, book marketing, and more. And the joy of webinars is that you can watch them afterward if you can’t make the original time slot. Although there is something to committing oneself to a particular time that makes one more likely to stick to it. Through these activities, I’ve met dozens of new writer friends across the country – sometimes even from abroad.
The CTRWA (Connecticut Chapter of Romance Writers of America) holds monthly meetings for its members. They used to be held an hour away – now I can attend from the comfort of my office. The talks they offer can apply to almost any kind of fiction writing, and the camaraderie has made me new friends. To be a member, one has to belong to the national association (RWA), which has been controversial this year, resulting in a real effort to make the organization more aware of diversity issues in membership and publishing.
The Authors Guild is, as its name implies, for all authors. Among the services they provide are lawyers who will look at any contract (with an agent or publisher) and give you feedback on whether it makes sense or has unforeseen pitfalls. They can help you design a web page, and they have a daily conversation thread where you can ask for advice on any subject, knowing that other members will have experience with that issue. They also keep tabs on any industry controversies regarding pirated work or slow royalty payments, for example.
The CPC (Connecticut Press Club) is open to writers, bloggers, novelists, web designers, public relations, etc – in short, anyone connected with communications via the written word. Their annual Awards contest gives members a chance to enter their published work for a possible award, and they host occasional evenings with celebrated members of the writing and publishing world.
CAPA – the Connecticut Authors and Publishers Association has introduced me to new writers and ideas for how to publish your book. They too have monthly online meetings.
I’m an unofficial member of the MWANEMystery Writers of America’s New England Chapter. Not because I’m writing mysteries, but because I read them, attend conferences, and go to the occasional meeting. And I’ve interviewed some of the members for this blog. I first came across them at their annual conference, and learned a lot at the workshops they held there. I had to leave the room during the discussion of the decomposition of corpses,(way too detailed unless you write crime!) but in general, I found the sessions interesting and useful.
You can find many of these entities on Facebook, if you’d like to see what they do, or ask members questions. More organizations tomorrow!
In spite of a gray day during which many people were out running holiday errands before the predicted foot of snow began to fall, nine people showed up for the Writers’ Rendezvous. This gave us a chance to discuss some … Continue reading →
I met Amy Sue Nathan through the WFWA (Women’s Fiction Writers Association) and decided to read her latest book, The Last Bathing Beauty. I’m glad I did. It’s set at a Jewish summer resort on the shores of Lake Michigan, MI, and goes back and forth in time between 1951 and today. It’s a wonderful coming-of-age story that reflects some of the major ways in which our thinking has changed over the decades and the ways in which it hasn’t. In this novel, the influence of family means that the protagonist has to abandon her dreams and deal with the reckoning decades later.
It’s a perfect book club book, with plenty to discuss, but what stuck with me was the well-delineated characters and the seamlessly structured weaving of the stories. By the way, the Kindle version of The Last Bathing Beauty is available throughout December for $1.99, so you can download a copy now. Having enjoyed it so much, I asked Amy about it.
GC: I’d never heard of a summer resort like the Stern Resort, other than in the Catskills, and wondered how you came across the idea of setting your novel in Michigan.
Old South Haven resort
ASN: I was introduced to the SW Michigan shore about 9 years ago and knew right away I wanted to set a novel there. After I’d begun thinking about this story, I discovered South Haven by a happy accident when I was doing some online research. When I visited South Haven, I met someone who grew up there in the fifties and she had many stories and lots of background material that helped me finish the book. So, I no longer believe in accidents. Some things are meant to be.
GC: How long have you been writing? Is this your first historical novel?
ASN: I’ve always been a writer, and have been blogging about writing women’s fiction for several years at http://womensfictionwriters.com/. I started writing fiction in 2006. The Last Bathing Beauty is my first work of historical fiction and I’m hooked! My books tend to be about families and the ways they impact our lives, so one can write them in any period.
GC: Your story spans 1951 to today. What issues did you have in painting the picture of these two different social environments and the character attitudes over that time?
ASN: I took the treacherous route and wrote each timeline separately and then wove them together. As well as visiting South Haven, I did oral history and book research to get it right. The local historical association and the South Haven library had a wealth of background information.
GC: Novels with different timelines are notoriously difficult, so are you a plotter or pantser (someone who writes by the seat of their pants)?
ASN: I’m a 100% panster but I know my story in my head before I begin. If I know the ending, all I have to do is get there.
GC: What was the hardest part of writing this book?
ASN: Definitely weaving the timelines!
GC: And finally, what are you working on now?
ASN: I just finished writing Well Behaved Wives due out in November 2021. It’s set in 1962 Philadelphia.
I’m back with more suggestions for ways to keep your writing life going. For example…
Award-winning author and writing teacher Nora Raleigh Baskin is running a four-week workshop program for the Connecticut Library Association starting December 1, from 6-7:30pm). The cost for the entire program will be $100 for CLA members and $125 for non-members. Class size is limited, and each participant is expected to commit to the entire workshop series. Each session will build on the one before, so participants are asked to commit to the entire series. This program is a fundraiser for the Connecticut Library Association. Your fee goes back to CLA. because Nora Raleigh Baskin has donated her time and considerable expertise for the fundraiser.
The Writers’ Rendezvous is a big supporter of the Connecticut Press Cluband its Awards contest, which is now open for submissions. If you’ve published anything in 2020, you may enter, and since there are 61 categories, you should be able to find your niche. They include all kinds of writing, as well as editing (of others’ published work), photography, graphics, radio and TV, websites, podcasts, advertising and PR, and a host more. You may submit up to three entries in any given category, and up to ten entries in total. The early deadline (which avoids an extra fee) is January 27, the deadline for books is February 3, and the final deadline is February 10.