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

Westport Writers’ Rendezvous: April update – Part 1

jacqueWe had a relatively small but select group of members at Wednesday’s meeting, probably due to spring break around here, coupled with Passover and Easter. But that gave us a chance to talk to each other about whatever was on our (writing) minds. One of the topics was rejection, about which one of our more prolific writers, Jacqueline Masumian, (Nobody’s Home) has a theory. She has always made it a goal to achieve 50 rejections. I don’t think she’s there yet, because her work is accepted more and more often. Because she submits. And that’s the point of the goal…

It seems to me there are more and more events for writers around here, so I keep updating my Writers’ Calendar, on a separate page of this blog. If you have anything you’fd like me to add, let me know. Here’s a selection of upcoming events, plus some ideas for ways to move your writing forward. Part 2 will follow next week.

On Saturday, April 20, at 7:30 pm, Shanna T. Melton of www.PoeticSoulArts.net is hosting a celebration of National Poetry Month, to include the music of DJ Buddha LuvJonz, art, and an open mic for poets. The event will be held at Conscious Creators, Studio 1223, The Bridgeport Innovation Center on Connecticut Ave, in Bridgeport. $10

From April 26 – 28 (Friday/Saturday at 8pm, Sunday at 3pm) a festival of nine new plays will be presented by the Theatre Artists Workshop in Norwalk. Reservations: 203 854 6830. Suggested donation: $25

On April 30, the Fairfield Library is holding an evening for and about book clubs. Worth going if you’re a writer who’d like more book clubs to buy your book. Guest speaker, Carol Fitzgerald, is Founder and President of The Book Report Network. She’ll share some of the hottest new titles, and explain the website Reading Group Guides. Come on your own or bring your book club! Register here.

ed ahernMay 5 sees members Ed Ahern and Alison McBain will be at the Fairfield Library along with other members of the Poets’ Salon, to read selections from their published collections and answer audience questions about their process of writing and getting published. Register here. Ed will be reading again on May 7 at Curley’s Diner in Stamford.

On May 9, from 7-8:30pm, I’ll be leading an Book Odyssey Author Night at the Storytellers Cottage in Simsbury, CT, featuring: Elizabeth Chatsworth,  Roman Godzich and Alison McBain. This is one of many author events they hold there. Do join us for this exclusive author night. Meet each author and hear readings from their latest books. Signed copies will be available for purchase. Enjoy a light reception after. If sci-fi isn’t your thing, don’t worry, we’ve written books in various other genres too. Register for $5

alafairAlso on May 9, at 1pm, Alafair Burke, author of The Better Sister, will be at Fairfield Main Library for an author talk and signing with high tea/luncheon. Please rsvp here since space is limited,

last timeLiv Constantine, the two sisters who wrote The Last Mrs Parrish, will be launching their latest psychological thriller – The Last Time I Saw You at the Fairfield University Bookstore on May 10, from 7-9pm. The evening is entitled Merlot, Munchies, & Murder, which should give you some idea of what to expect! RSVP: livconstantine2@gmail.com. If you can’t make that evening, there are various others planned. (See the Writers’ Calendar for details.)

On May 16, from 7-9pm, the Fairfield County Story Lab in Westport is hosting a Literary Game Night. Host Evan Pagano, presents a rousing evening of trivia, charades, Pictionary and more — all centered around books, authors and all things literary, from classics to contemporary. Come and compete, team up with new friends, or just watch the games unfold and have some fun. Free to members. $10 for guests. Open to the public.

Keep an eye out for part 2. It should be out on Monday!

 

Westport Writers’ Rendezvous – March update Part 2

As promised, here’s part two of this month’s update. And I’ve updated the Writers’ Calendar, which you can find by clicking the tab above. What a great time to be a writer in Connecticut! We have one more winning member in the CT Press Club awards. Gina Zammit won for Specialty Articles –  Insta Hit (Business) and The Coastal Traveller at the Delamar West Hartford. Well done!

53912536_10156555110728172_3833466682018365440_nThe Norwalk LitCrawl is happening on Tuesday, April 9, 2018 from 5:30 to 8:00 pm and will benefit Norwalk Reads. Enjoy Norwalkers reading aloud from their favorite poetry. 5:30 – 7:00 p.m. at the Wall Street Theater; 7:00-8:30 p.m. at the Fat Cat Pie Co. $10 donation will benefit Norwalk Reads. Please buy a ticket online by donating $10 to Norwalk Reads.

Although it’s sponsored by the Connecticut Romance Writers Association (CTRWA), anyone is welcome to join this online writing class, by Geoff Symon, Federal Forensic Investigator, from April 22-26 Especially valuable for crime writers, I think, since it’s all about wounds, weapons and other things a forensic investigator needs to know. Only $20 for CTRWA members, $25 for non-members.

Anna Quindlen will be appearing at the Mark Twain House in Hartford on Monday, May 6 at 7pm.  In her new work of nonfiction, Nanaville: Adventures in Grandparenting, Quindlen explores the role of being a first-time grandmother. She writes with wisdom, humor, and wit about family, female relationships, and being a parent/sister/friend/mother-in-law. A copy of the book is included in the ticket price of $30, and a signing follows the talk.

IMG_4838On May 9, from 7-8:30pm, I’ll be leading an Book Odyssey Author Night at the Storytellers Cottage in Simsbury, CT, featuring: Elizabeth Chatsworth,  Roman Godzich and Alison McBain. This is one of many author events they hold there. If you love losing yourself in a book about time travel, deep sea expeditions and the world beyond,  join us for this exclusive author night featuring these incredible Sci-Fi authors! Meet each author and hear readings from their latest books. Signed copies will be available for purchase. Enjoy a light reception after. If sci-fi isn’t your thing, don’t worry, each author has written several books from other genres as well from romance to history and YA. Register for $5

51e5JDPpl7L._SX326_BO1,204,203,200_ d baldOn May 16, at 7pm, the Mark Twain House & Museum presents author David Baldacci, who will talk about his new thriller, RedemptionThis Mark My Words event takes place on Thursday, May 16, at 7 pm, at the Immanuel Congregational Church, across the street from The Mark Twain House in Hartford. Since this is a fundraiser, tickets to the talk include a copy of the book and cost $40—if you’d like to attend the VIP reception, $90.

CrimeCONN 2019 takes place at the Ferguson Library in Stamford, CT on Saturday, May 18 from 8:30am-4:30. This year, the one-day mystery lovers’ conference takes as its criemconntheme: Lawyers, Guns and Money. Panelists include a ballistics and firearms specialist, and prosecutors and defense attorneys from the world of white collar crime.  Plus, a panel on the craft of writing with some of the most admired instructors in the country. $50 per person. $45 per person for Mystery Writers of America members, friends members, seniors and students. Early Bird registration (before April 19) is $40.

The-Last-Time-I-Saw-You-Liv-ConstantineOn Thursday, May 23 at 6:30pm. as part of it Friends Author Series the Ferguson Library, Stamford is hosting a panel of thriller writers, Featuring Lynne Constantine (one of the two authors writing under the name of Liv Constantine), author of The Last Time I Saw You, Wendy Walker, author of The Night Before and Kate White, author of Such a Perfect Wife. Tickets are $15 and include a wine and appetizer reception. Reception at 6:30 p.m. Presentations at 7 pm. Book sale and signing. Registration to open in late March.

The 2019 Housatonic Book Awards, hosted by the Western Connecticut State University MFA in Creative and Professional Writing, are now open for submissions. The contest is for work published in 2018. Awards include a $1,000 honorarium with an additional $500 travel stipend in exchange for the opportunity to lead a one-day, three-hour writing workshop. Winners also will give a public reading during students’ week-long residency at WCSU. Genres accepted include fiction, poetry, nonfiction, middle-grade and young adult literature. The submission fee is $25. Application deadline: Friday, June 14.

Expressing Motherhood is a stage show that showcases stories about motherhood.  The show is built for the non-famous, non-published, and people who want to get out and express themselves. The average cast consists of ten people, and the lineup changes for each show. Performers submit in advance, and are chosen based on the power of their stories. There are no auditions. Thrown Stone’s Connecticut performances of Expressing Motherhood will take place on Tuesday, July 23, at 7 and 9pm, at the Ridgefield Conservatory of Dance. Compelled to share your own powerful story of motherhood? Submit before May 1, and Thrown Stone Co-Artistic Director Jason Peck will be in touch.

 

Westport Writers’ Rendezvous – March update – Part 1

There’s so much going on that I’ve split the latest update into two again. More to follow next week. I’m delighted to report that several of our members have been contest winners recently. Connecticut Press Club Awards went to Kate … Continue reading

Westport Writers’ Rendezvous – February update: part 2

And here, as promised, is the second part of my February update. There was simply so much to include, that I thought I’d give you a little breathing space. First up: the Bridgeport Library offers a free monthly memoir writing … Continue reading

Westport Writers’ Rendezvous – February update: part 1

First, thanks to everyone who showed up yesterday for our 5th anniversary meeting in spite of dire warnings about the weather. And congratulations to member Alison McBain who came First  in the Connecticut Press Club’s Communications Contest for her editing … Continue reading

Westport Writers’ Rendezvous – December update

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

Time traveling launch!

Oh the excitement! When to Now, the time travel anthology, is out tomorrow, October 1, and I have a story in it. But I’m not the only one, and the variety and quality of the other seventeen stories prompted me … Continue reading

Author interview – Linda Legters

Website Pic1-2Linda Legters’ debut novel, Connected Underneath, is unusual in several respects. Its chief protagonist, Persephone, is a confused teenager whose life becomes even more complicated when her tattooing habit, which she pays for with sex, gets in the way of her love for her best friend, Krista. Meanwhile, Celeste, a wheelchair-bound young woman who lives nearby, is watching and meddling in other people’s lives. I’ve not read a novel like it, and although the writing was a little tricky because of its unusual style, it seems to suit the novel perfectly, as the characters collide with one another like pinballs. The book is available as an eBook right now, and as a paperback on April 2nd. (Just so you know, I know Linda and she gave me an ARC in exchange for an honest review.)

File Jan 11 Cover shot

GC: You’ve picked an unusual set of characters and story-lines in Connected Underneath. Was it the characters or their situations that developed first for you?

LL: The characters, definitely the characters. Celeste, for example, grew out of a childhood memory of a neighbor, and aspects of Persephone’s character come from the many wonderful and interesting but sometimes troubled students I have worked with while teaching at Norwalk Community College.

GC: Would you say that the overall tone of the book is dark?

LL: It certainly has some shadows, but there is also hope, hope that we can be more self-aware, more honest, and, well, more connected. The title of the book comes from the first line of Muriel Rukeyser’s poem “Islands,” which chides us in our thinking that we stand alone.

GC: How important is the location, a decaying upstate town, to the novel? Could the story have worked in a more upmarket place?

LL: I don’t think so. I didn’t want readers thinking about upscale solutions, such as therapy. Also, the fictional town, Madena, has been left behind by ‘progress,’ and yet maintains its struggle to survive and even move forward. At the beginning of Connected Underneath, the characters are isolated, and this parallels the ways the town is isolated, even though only a short train ride away from big cities. At the end of the story, Madena comes together, as do most of the main characters.

GC: Did you feel the changing points of view were a risky way to tell the story?

LL: In fact it’s always Celeste’s point of view, even as she describes others’ experiences. At first her information comes from what she witnesses or thinks she witnesses from the safety of her kitchen. Later, as her circles of contact widen, and her connection to the truth is on firmer ground, the story she tells becomes more and more accurate. In terms of the ending – which I won’t give away – we often imagine what moments like this must have been like for someone, and our imaginations can run wild in the way Celeste’s does.

GC: Your book is published by Lethe Press, a publishing company that specializes in books across the gender spectrum. The gay theme in the book is relatively minor, so would you describe this as a gay novel?

LL: I’m delighted Lethe Press welcomed my novel to their list, but, no, I don’t see this as a gay novel. Members of the LGBT community are part of the fabric of our lives, just as Persephone is part of Madena’s. A good friend, Dan Jaffe, who is also published by Lethe, and who first read this manuscript, appreciated the way it was not ‘one more’ coming out story, but instead showed Persephone in the throes of all-too-common teenage problems, of which her sexuality is only a part. Connected Underneath is also about parenthood, particularly single-parenthood, and about coming to terms with family dynamics, in all of its dimensions.

Thank you so much for chatting with me!
You can connect with Linda via Facebook, Twitter, and on her website.

 

 

 

Author interview: Kate Manning

_DSC5087ccccKate Manning’s second novel, My Notorious Life, was six years in the making, and it was worth the wait, so far as I’m concerned. It’s the story of Axie Muldoon, an orphaned child from the streets of 1870’s New York, who makes good, in one sense, only to find that there’s a man determined to bring her down. It sounds like the stuff of all great fiction, but in fact the character is based on Ann Lohman, a 19th century midwife and abortionist. If this makes Axie sound somewhat unsympathetic, it’s a testament to Kate Manning’s skill that I found myself rooting for her all the way. Her motives are pure – she wants to help women. Becoming rich happens to be the result of the natural remedies she sells, ones that might cause a miscarriage if the patient wants them to. Clearly a lot of research went into the book, yet I never felt I was being lectured. Apart from the feeling that I was stepping in and out of Victorian New York each time I picked up the book, it was exciting, too, and I wanted to know more about what went into it.

PS This interview is longer than my usual ones, but Kate’s answers are well worth reading!

GC: You’ve drawn a marvelous picture of late 19th century New York. How much of the descriptions you write come from old photos, and how much from your imagination? GirlBaby350
KM: The photos of Jacob Riis, from his classic work How the Other Half Lives inspired me to write about that era. But it was also the city itself, the parts that are ever unchanged (smells and smoke, energy and grit), that fed the story. Books and newspapers of the 19th century, and the vivid first-hand descriptions of people who lived then, really helped me imagine it – the voice of those times was so dramatic (murder! mayhem! saints! sinners!) so overwrought, full of lovely arcane language. It’s always the very specific detail that makes something come alive, the more precise the better. Reading old medical textbooks and trial transcripts helped. The Diaries of Charles Loring Brace, the founder of the Children’s Aid Society and the orphan train movement (he’s a character in the novel) gave me a sense of Victorian attitudes toward medicine and women, children and charity that also deeply informed the book’s tone and outline. get-attachment-4.aspx
GC: Axie is an unusual character with a very distinctive voice. Was it hard to transition her speech patterns from street urchin to successful (if nouveau riche) businesswoman?
KM: The New York vernacular has a distinct cadence, as does Irish-English. I’ve been immersed in both these dialects for a long time, and so I heard Axie’s voice as a combination of these rhythms. I knew that as a street child, she’d not’ve been very well educated, but that as a striver, she’d want to “speak like the upper crust,” as Charlie counsels her. And so she tries to do that. It made sense to me that as she grew up her speech would improve. It was really fun to write in the voice of an irreverent character who broke the rules. A great help was a little dictionary compiled in 1859 by the New York City police chief, George Matsell, called The Secret Language of Crime, A Rogue’s Lexicon.
GC: You mention in an interview printed in the paperback edition that one of the book’s problems that you find almost unchanged in modern New York is the number of homeless children. Which other social issues do you think cause problems today?
KM: The parallels between our times and the Victorian age fascinate me – because we believe ourselves to be so enlightened, philanthropic and egalitarian. In the1850s there were 30,000 homeless children living on the streets of New York, most of them out in the open. Today there are still some 35,000 homeless kids in the city, and while it’s true that they mostly live in shelters, their situation is often quite as dire as the ones Jacob Riis chronicled in How the Other Half Lives. The gulf between insanely rich people, and the destitute is as wide now, in 2015, as it was during the Gilded Age, if not wider. The greed is obscene, really. The other strong and frightening echo between our own times and the late 1800s is this increasing and relentless erosion of women’s reproductive rights. I did not write My Notorious Life as some kind of object lesson, but as a rollicking story of Axie’s search for family, the mercy and kindness she shows to the women who come to her for help, her strength in standing up to zealotry, her respect for the complexities of women’s lives, for their choices – and lack of choice. This was an era when the birth rate was seven live births per woman. Women died in childbirth at very high rates, and abortion was the main method of birth control. I wrote a NY Times op-ed about this history. But the current attacks on women’s autonomy, the demonizing of abortion care providers – is the the same kind of harassment that happened to midwives in the 1870’s. “Anti-vice” crusaders succeeded in abolishing all birth control and abortion for our mothers, grandmothers, and great-grandmothers. Now, lack of access to good reproductive health is causing dire problems for women – especially poor ones – same as it did in 1878.
GC: The Orphan Trains seems to have come to the forefront fairly recently, with the publication of a novel, a program on PBS and new information coming to light from the Children’s Aid Society itself. Did you intend to include that in the novel from the start, or was it something you found in your research that prompted you to make them part of the plot?
KM: The book started out – in 2005 – as a story about the orphan trains. I’d long been fascinated by this little-known chapter in our past. Then, in the course of my writing and research about that era, I came across a character that just bowled me over–I could not believe I’d never heard of her, given her notoriety during her lifetime. Ann Lohman, AKA Madame Restell, was known as the “wickedest woman in New York.” She was a “females’ physician” who delivered babies, gave out birth control information and devices, placed infants for adoption, and also performed abortions. She grew rich selling medicines, was publicly shamed, often arrested, and ultimately brought down by religious zealot Anthony Comstock. I was immediately drawn to the astonishing details of her dramatic, sweeping story, and it made sense to me that my scrappy orphan train rider, Axie Muldoon, the story’s heroine, would grow up to be someone like Lohman. I borrowed certain parts of Lohman’s story for Axie. A faked suicide provided the perfect plot device, and the novel really took off after that. Funny thing: just as My Notorious Life was about to be published, I heard an author on the radio about her new book “Orphan Train.” I admit that I cursed this coincidence quite loudly–because I felt proprietary about this material, and thought “nobody else has heard of this chapter in history…” Since then, however, I have become friends with that very generous and bestselling author, Christina Baker Kline—whom I adore–and we’ve done quite a few events together talking about our shared interest in this fascinating time.
GC: I found the book more and more gripping as I started to get near the end. Any chance of a sequel? If not, what else is on your mind?
KM: There’s always that impulse to tie off loose ends, so, in doing just that, I seem to have written myself out of a sequel! At least for now. But I don’t lack for book ideas. Always on my mind is the drama that goes along with the wide gulf between haves and have-nots, and how that feels, especially to the have-nots. In any story set in our country, this concern necessarily involves a hard conversation about race. In my first novel, the psychological ‘thriller,’ Whitegirl, I was circling around ideas about whiteness and celebrity culture and unexamined ideas about the past, in the wake of the OJ Simpson trial. Times have changed somewhat since the 90’s—but I think we white Americans have a long way to go, to understand our history, the grim impact and long tentacles of slavery. So I have about three other books fully formed in my head that I’m trying to get out onto the page. This is always rough going. One of them is set in the early 1900s, a time of great labor unrest, financial panic, looming war, and changing ideas in the evolving idea of what it means to be American, a woman, a human creature. I hope I can pull of the ambitious idea of it, but each story is its own world, and presents a new challenge. Wish me luck! And thanks so much for the enthusiasm and the wonderful blog. It’s a privilege to answer your interesting questions.

You can connect with Kate on her website, Goodreads, Facebook, and Twitter