Westport Writers’ Rendezvous – November Update

November get-together began with a discussion of the recent election. Having got that off our collective chest, we agreed writing might be a way to deal with the situation. With that in mind, there’s plenty going on in the writing world.

img_5200-768x927First, I need to thank Kate Mayer for her great blog post about holding oneself accountable. She’s been writing a blog post a day throughout November as a challenge to herself, which I know she’s going to complete. She gives the Rendezvous some credit for helping her achieve her goals, and I know our meetings have something to do with it, because she’s not the only one. Reason enough to show up!

On December 16, the Fairfield Public Library will be hosting a  one-day (9-5) panel, So You Want to Write a Children’s Book  featuring Patricia Reilly Giff, Susan Hood, Susan Ross, Christine Pakkala and former workshop instructor Michaela MacColl, Rosemary Wells, Tony Abbott and about a dozen other top names in children’s publishing. Free, but you need to register.

If you’re writing for children, FCWS is offering a class beginning on December 2, Writing for Middle Graders and Young Adults. Taught by Nora Raleigh Baskin, the six classes will run for seven weeks (not on the 16th – see above) on Fridays, 12 – 2 p.m.

A propos, it’s time to sign up for new writing classes/workshops if you’re interested. All three Westport sources are offering them, so check them out here:

Fairfield County Writers’ Studio  Among these is a session taught by Beth Levine, one of our members, on writing for magazines

Westport Writers’ Workshop

Write Yourself Free

Byrd’s Books in Bethel runs a series of classes on writing by Judith Marks-White. The next one is on December 4, at 3pm, and costs $20. Email events@ByrdsBooks.com or call (203) 730-2973 for moe information.

The magazine Poets & Writers, is holding a conference: Inspiration, in San Francisco on January 14-15, 2017. (Feels strange to be moving into 2017 already…)  It’s far from here, of course, but their line-up of speakers includes Juan Felipe Herrera; best-selling novelist and author of Purity, Jonathan Franzen; New Yorker staff writer and author of The Orchid Thief, Susan Orlean; acclaimed poet and former United States Poet Laureate Kay Ryan; writer and activist Ishmael Reed; and renowned poet Jane Hirshfield. And the Early bird registration (up to December 4) is only $175. You can’t beat that.

Here’s an interesting article on 9 Important Legal T ips For Self-Publishing Memoir And Nonfiction. It’s from Self-publishing Relief, and offshoot of Writers’ Relief, and worth a read.

And if you are self-publishing, here are some books on how to deal with copyright:  How Authors Sell Publishing Rights, by Orna Ross and Helen Sedwick; The Copyright Handbook and Kris Rusch’s Business blog posts. Kris also has a new book on Contracts coming out soon. Ross and Sedwick have also produced a podcast to help you get started, called Business Mindset Means a Rights Mindset.

Creative Non-Fiction is calling for submissions on a variety of topics for upcoming issues. They include science and religion; adapting to new situations; real life Frankenstein stories; and stories for their new monthly True Story publication (one story of 5-10,00 words per issue).

Kate Mayer also told us about attending Bindercon, the conference and community for women and gender variant writers. (I feel very clued in just typing that.) It’s a bi-coastal conference, and Kate went to the NYC one at the end of October. There’s another in LA from April 1-2, if you’re in that neck of the woods. For more info about the organization and the conference, click here, or check their Facebook page.

Writers Read is taking place on Tuesday, December 6, at the Fairfield Public Library from 7-9. It will be the last one hosted by Alex McNab, so I’d love you to come, even if not to read, to say thanks to Alex for hosting it for so long. Because of the way the days fall in December, the Writers’ Salon will be ther eon the 2nd, from 4-6. Hope to see you there.

At the halfway mark for NaNoWriMo, I keep bumping into people who are giving it a go. I did mine a few years ago, and I recommend it as a great way to learn to write without self-censoring. When I printed out the first draft, I made a title page ‘Horrible First Draft’, which it was. But at least I had a novel to work on. Among the writers I’ve run into are Tessa McGovern, of the Fairfield County Writers’ Studio, who’s also helped organize a series of events for NaNo writers at the Westport Library – putting her money where her mouth is, I guess. She was right on schedule with her novel.

At a talk given by the redoubtable Alice Mattison on Thursday, I was able to encourage a poet who was writing a novel and had got to the ‘Oh my god, this will never work,’ stage. She looked a bit more cheerful after, I think.

And yesterday I met a 13-year-old, working on her second one, which according to her teacher, contains inappropriate material (underage drinking) and is too gory (vampires will do that…). Sounds good.

Have a great Thanksgiving!



You may congratulate me – I have given birth to a horrible first draft…

And so I did it. I wrote a perfectly horrible first draft of a novel. 50, 000 words in 30 days. And you know what? I don’t even care that it’s horrible. Because a horrible first draft can become an OK second draft and then a pretty good third draft…you can see where I’m going with this.

I could only do it because I had no time to criticize myself as I went along. No time to ask anyone else what they thought. No time to put quotation marks round the dialogue, even. But I have it. It exists. And I have some people to thank who helped me to write it.

First my writing friends who come to our monthly Writers’ Café in Westport, CT. If it hadn’t been for me sitting there and urging them all to write a novel in November, I probably wouldn’t have done it myself. There were pointed looks, as much as to say, ‘So you’ll be doing it, right?’ They shamed me into it.

Next there’s a great blog by Larry Brooks, at www.Storyfix.com. Larry has a great way of helping you plot a novel, and he should know. He’s published several, to great acclaim. Larry writes thrillers, and they’re page turners. That’s what I wanted my novel to be. Not a thriller – I haven’t the first idea about how to write a fight scene – but a page turner. So before November 1, I followed his plan for structuring a novel. And it worked.

The next person is a Brit called Keith Blount who invented a software program called Scrivener  (http://www.literatureandlatte.com). I’ll write more about it in a future post. Suffice it to say that the man is a genius. I could never have counted all the words I’d written without it. (I did that every 15 minutes towards the end.)

And last, but certainly not least, I have to thank my husband. I started this novel on vacation in Indochina. This meant that instead of looking out of the bus window at the beautiful scenery flashing by, I sat in the back with my laptop on my knees and wrote. He didn’t complain. And he didn’t complain when we returned and there was a noticeable lack of interest in laundry, cooking and even going to the grocery store. Oh, I did do some of that, when the situation became desperate, but not as often as I used to. (I kind of like that, actually.) And my husband was unfailingly supportive in spite of being relegated to my second main interest for thirty days. He bragged about me to anyone who would listen. He didn’t ask me to watch movies with him. He even cooked. Yes, darling. Of course I will dedicate this first novel to you. You deserve it.

The Writer’s Espresso Machine

The Espresso Book Machine

Nope, it’s not something that will make you automatic cups of coffee when you’re still struggling to write that novel. What it is, is  a machine that will print your book n demand. Yes, that’s right, your book. And it will print it in a proper library style paperback edition, with a glossy full color cover.

I’m told that the cost of doing this is around what you’d pay for an actual book, but who cares? If you can actually have your book in your own hands…oh, the joy.

I suspect that come December 1, when the participants in NaNoWriMo come out of their lairs clutching a disk, memory card or flash drive with their novel on it, there will be a rush to use this machine. I am planning to print my first horrible draft with large margins, so I can edit a hard cover instead of doing it all on my computer. It will be like having galley proofs. There are only about 50 of them in the world, so we are fantastically lucky to have one right on our doorstep!

The first order comes off the pressThe Darien Library launched its Espresso Book machine yesterday, and I was there to see the first customer print a book. This one happened to be an out-of-print title called Twelve Years a Slave – the Narrative of Solomon Northup. A mother was printing it for her high school junior, since there wasn’t a copy to be had anywhere. The 325 page book cost $17 including tax, and printed in about 5 minutes.

The charming young attendant, Bronwen, will be there to help you print your novel for the next few weeks, after which her trained replacement will take over.

I can imagine handing those doubters among my friends and relatives an actual copy of my novel as a Christmas (or any other) gift. That’s my shopping taken care of. And the fact that the novel is no good yet (I won’t have rewritten it in time) isn’t going to stop me. They’ll just have to suffer.

Links: http://www.darienlibrary.org/espresso


NaNoWriMo – almost halfway there…

I went to a local NaNoWriMo get-together on Sunday afternoon. It was held at Sono Caffeine in Norwalk, one of the coffee shops I’d recommended in my blog about where to write one’s novel. I wasn’t sure how I’d recognize the people, but I spotted one young woman whose face looked familiar from her Facebook photo, and started with her. The laptop she had clutched to her chest was another hint that here was a writer on a mission.

As people started arriving it was clear that we NaNoWriMo writers are about as varied a bunch as you could find. Ages from about 18 to way up there (me), men as well as women (I generally find more women in writing groups) and a variety of different writing styles and genres, as it turned out. I think I was the only one writing a historical novel, but here’s the thing that threw me off a bit. I was right on target for the number of words per day if I want to get the 50,000 words done in November.

But I was shocked to learn that not every writing software counts words the same way. So what might be 50,000 words in Word, might not be in some other writing software. And no-one knows how the NaNo people count the words, except that they often come up with fewer words that the writers.

I’m using a software called Scrivener for writing my novel, and I love it. It lets me plot out scenes and chapters and is altogether terrific. No-one should write a novel without it (and it works for non-fiction, essays, presentations and reports, too). Here’s the link: http://www.iteratureandlatte.com/scrivener.php

But what if Scrivener comes up with a different number of words from NaNo? My new friends, (at least those who’ve done NaNoWriMo before, told me I should write a few extra words to be on the safe side. “Like a couple of hundred?” I asked.

“More like a couple of thousand,” they said.

So now, although I’ve written 25,000 words by the middle of the month, (tomorrow), it actually isn’t half of the novel. Rats!

Nano Days 8 & 9

Finally made it back to Connecticut, with some writing done in airports and planes. So, on Tuesday I think I wrote 2245 words and today I managed 2453, so that makes a grand total of 15465, although I admit some of those words say things like RESEARCH and CONTINUITY?

Never mind – it’s all progress.But I’m going to have to improve my daily counts if I want to stay on track…

Nano Days 6 and 7

I barely wrote anything yesterday  – around 500 words. Elephants take up a lot of time when you’re learning to ride them bareback… To make up for it, I wrote 1433 words today for a total of 13,123. That means I’m over a quarter of the way through in 7 days, but I’m using up some of my head start. Oh well. Another hideous start at 5.00 am tomorrow to go to Chiang Mai Airport to fly to Bangkok and then to Hong Kong (just for a night). But surely that will mean time to write at the airport. This should really be a guide to airports, and not a novel…

Nano Day 5

There’s something to be said for being made to rise at 4.45 to got to Bangkok Airport. Not much, but something. Our guide said it was because of potential traffic problems. I think it was because he wanted to go home and practice his standup routine.
The good part was that it gave me time to write, so I managed 2163 words yesterday, for a total of 11,136.

But have only just managed to get on the internet to let you know.

Now, back to the salt mines…

Nano Day 2

Saigon - sorry, Ho Chi Minh - airport

Well, so far this is kind of fun. I started writing this morning at Saigon Airport (a fabulous place by the way, and brand new). I continued this afternoon at our hotel in Bangkok. Yes, there’s some flooding, but really, we’re OK. It’s tough for the inhabitants, though.



I wrote 2081 words today, for a total of 6054. If you think I can’t add, you’re half right. I under-counted yesterday, so that should have been 3973. but what are a few words between friends?

Fact is, no matter how this ends up, I will always remember where I wrote this novel.