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 – January update

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.

The Moth Mainstage comes to the Westport Playhouse on Friday, January 25, at 7:30PM for a one-night-only performance. Five storytellers, including Westport Continue reading

Author interview: Marilyn Simon Rothstein

044-MarilynRothsteinAuthorPortrait_14x11crop-more-retouchedI 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. Continue reading

Author interview: Leslie Connor

leslie cI’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.

indexGC: 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.

YOu can find Leslie on Twitter, Goodreads, Facebook, and Instagram.

Continue reading

Author interview: Lynne Constantine

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

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

Westport Writers’ Rendezvous – April update

First things first: Several of our members will be at the Westport Library’s Makers’ Faire tomorrow, April 21, with their books. Among them are: Kristen Ball, Sheryl Kayne, Ann Lineberger, and yours truly. Come and talk to us, and check out the books. There’s no obligation to buy (though we always love that!).
To honor National Poetry Month, I’m starting with poets. Member Alison McBain has put together a list of poetry workshops and readings, open to everyone. She and member Ed Ahern have started the Poets Salon Meetup, which takes place once a month, and where you can take your poetry for critique. Sign up for monthly reminders of meetings, and to connect with fellow poets. Ed also offers helpful suggestions on where to submit, etc, on the Meetup site. th

The Writer’s Group meets on the first and second Saturday of the month from 2-4pm in Bridgeport.

And on April 26, Alison McBain will be reading her work at 7:30pm at the Greenlight Bookstore in Brooklyn. The event marks the launch of the book: Aftermath: Explorations of Love and Grief, Check the happening out here.

The Westport Writers’ Workshop, which runs writing classes, is now offering a series of one-day classes, beginning this Saturday, April 21. They include Icing the Cake, The Power of ‘What If,’ Writing Through Motherhood, and Navigating the Publishing World. For a full list, see here.

 
The Nonfiction Writers Online Conference takes place from May 2-4 from 12pm-6pm. It looks as though it’s designed largely for those who’ve self -published, since a great deal of the focus is on how to market your book. The keynote speaker is Gretchen Rubin, talking about Habits, Happiness and Productivity for writers, and sessions include Effective Hybrid Publishing, Reach Millions with an Audiobook Presentation and Create Your Own Book Tour. You can check out the agenda online, and if you book by April 28, Sandra Beckwith of Build Book Buzz is offering a 35% discount off the fee of $125. Use her exclusive coupon code – BBB35

If you have a manuscript and you’re ready to take it to the next level, member Veronique Klemow suggests The Manuscript Academy. This online site offers various srvices for authors, ranging from a ten-minute phone meeting, with one page (your query or first page) read during the meeting, for $49, to critiques of your first 50/100 pages for $240/$480 respectively. They’ll critique your synopsis and proposal, too. Veronique felt the money was well spent.

Those of you looking for editors might want to take a look at Joanna Penn’s blog post on The Creative Penn. She lists a number of online resources from Winning Edits, to The Book Butchers. ‘We slaughter your writing, so it can rise in glory from the ashes.‘ There has to be someone on that list who’s right for you

A useful and free resource for finding places to submit is the weekly email from
Submittable. They list different types of publications and tell you whether they pay or not.

And finally, a quote via Alex McNab: You expect far too much of a first sentence. Think of it as analogous to a good country breakfast: what we want is something simple, but nourishing to the imagination. Hold the philosophy, hold the adjectives, just give us a plain subject and verb and perhaps a wholesome, nonfattening adverb or two.—LARRY McMURTRY

Keep writing!

Westport Writers’ Rendezvous – March Update

We had another great meeting on Wednesday, which brought up a number of new ideas – some about publishing. Here’s a blog post about why it’s a good idea to publish via Amazon. This article includes links to others which … Continue reading

Author interview: Leslie Chess Feller

coverWith the rise of self-published books, it’s hard to know which books are worth buying. So when I find one I think is excellent in its class, I like to give them and their authors a shout-out. One such is Monster In My Lunchbox,  an illustrated book of family-focused rhyme. The poems are by Leslie Chess Feller and the illustrations by her late sister, Shelley. I asked Leslie how the book came about and her answers were quite unexpected. Read on to find out why.

GC: Can you tell us something about the book?
LCF: Monster In My Lunchbox is a collection of light verse that celebrates family. It includes simpler poems for early readers and others for kids in elementary school and beyond. But it’s also for Moms, Dads, Grandmas and Grandpas. I like to say that anyone who has ever been a kid will get a laugh out of these poems. They are meant for the whole family to enjoy together. Here’s a sample:

SCHOOL DAYS, RULE DAYS …cartoon 1
Bells ring! Books slam!
Papers shuffle! Yes, Ma’am!
Raise your hand! Get in line!
Hurry up to be on time!
Quiet please! Do your work!
Don’t be idle! Do not shirk!
Reading, writing, number stuff …
Sometimes I’ve had quite enough.
Even when I’m pleased as punch,
I think my favorite subject’s lunch

GC: How long have you been a poet?
LCF: I grew up in Brooklyn, NY, the second of five siblings. My sister Shelley, older by 15 months, was the alpha sibling and with three younger brothers there was never a dull moment. Our father was a physician who loved the poet Ogden Nash. Whenever he had something to say to our mother, a psychologist, he would do it with a clever Ogden Nash-ian rhyme. And my mother would rhyme right back.

lcf kids

Leslie (L) and Shelley

You could tell anybody anything in my family, even our father, if you did it with a poem. Every occasion became a poetic roast. Like my siblings, I began to rhyme as soon as I could write. So when my daughter Dania brought home Shel Silverstein’s A Light in the Attic in the fourth grade, I looked at it and said, “I can do that.”

GC: How did you get your first poems published?
LCF: In 1985, a few of my Kidstuff poems ran in a local newspaper and attracted the attention of editors at a Westport, CT, magazine, Profiles. As soon as I found out they wanted me to do a monthly column and were open to me bringing in an illustrator, I called Shelley. By then, she was the world’s best middle school science teacher. But as a student, she used to get in a lot of trouble for cartooning all over her schoolwork. “Hey, Shelley,” I said. “I’m getting these poems published! Maybe you could do some cartoons?”

GC: Did you continue to publish poetry?
LCF: I did two other light verse columns for Profiles. Both Rhyme or Reason and Poetic License won Connecticut Press Club awards, but ran without illustrations. Soon my editors started assigning me articles which put my writing career on a different track. I went from local articles to the New York Times to national magazines as a freelance journalist for almost thirty years. Writing in light verse became something I enjoyed doing for family events.

GC: What made you decide to publish your poems now?

lcf sis

Leslie (L) and Shelley

LCF: This book is also a celebration of a very special sisterhood. Over decades, my sister and I cheerfully perfected the art of never, ever agreeing with each other – except that we didn’t want to fight. Agreeing to disagree was our solution, the catalyst for what became an extraordinary friendship. Shelley died of leukemia two years ago. It was a terrible loss.
Six months afterwards, I was standing in my living room feeling very black. For no reason, I opened a cabinet door. Something fell on the floor in front of me. It was a xerox copy of fifty of my poems with fifty illustrations done by my sister. I had forgotten ever writing them. The fifteen Kidstuff poems in my writer’s portfolio were what I remembered. But at some point, decades ago, I had given more to Shelley and she had chosen to illustrate them.
I felt her right beside me. “Publish these,” Shelley said. The words were sweet. I threw everything out of that cabinet in a mad search for the pen and ink cartoons. Eventually I found 110 of my poems, each with the perfect cartoon. My sister and I disagreed about everything, but clearly we shared the same sense of humor. Monster In My Lunchbox is a collaboration that includes eighty of my favorites.

GC: How are you promoting your book?
LCF: Monster In My Lunchbox was published in November, 2015.
The website is http://www.monsterinmylunchbox.com On the website, you can listen to me read the title poem. Then click links to videos of other poems in the collection.
And I’ve been giving talks and readings at libraries, and for parent groups among others.

You can see the promotional video here. And to connect with Leslie, follow her on Facebook or Google +, and Vimeo where you’ll find links to more videos.
The book is available from Blurb.