Zoom. That’s the way I’ve been getting together with my friends, my writing groups, French conversation groups and, of course, The Writers’ Rendezvous people. And the great advantage of Zoom, is that it’s allowed me to host people who usually … Continue reading
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!
The 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.
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. 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
On May 16, at 7pm, the Mark Twain House & Museum presents author David Baldacci, who will talk about his new thriller, Redemption. This 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 theme: 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.
On 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.
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.
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
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 tell you how to format your file and give you suggested templates.
And this is an article about how one sells publishing rights, for those who need to know.
In upcoming events, on March 31st at 7pm, Write Yourself Free is sponsoring a free workshop with Victoria Sherrow on Writing for Kids. Please email Tish Fried at firstname.lastname@example.org to register.
Sisters in Crime, New England, are having a read-in (I invented that word. GC) on Saturday, April 16th from 1.30-3.30 at the Fairfield County Writers’ Studio in Westport. Connecticut mystery writers will be reading from their books and there’ll be a chance to mix and mingle with them afterwards. In the morning, the FCWS will offer a writing workshop called Mystery 101 from 9.30am-noon.
And the day after, same location, Joyce Maynard, NYT bestselling author, in conversation with award-winning author Nora Raleigh Baskin (4/17 at 7p.m.)
For some reason, we had quite a discussion about writing poetry. It turns out there are a number of places where poets can meet others and get feedback. One of our Meetup members, Rona, sent me information about the regular meeting on Tuesday nights (7.30pm) at Curley’s Diner in Stamford. One of our regulars, Leslie Chess Feller, wondered whether the group would consider light verse as poetry (see my interview with her here)
The Bigelow Senior Center in Fairfield is the location for a Poets’ Roundtable every first and third Thursday of the month at 1pm. The gentle critique group is run by Emerson Gilmore.
And Garrison Keillor is offering five thousand dollars in prize money to the seven winners of “‘Poems of Gratitude: The Fourth Annual Common Good Books Poetry Contest. Submissions due by April 15th, only one poem per person, guidelines here.
Sophronia Scott is organizing a series of readings by Connecticut writers (not an open mic) at the C.H. Booth Library in Newtown CT. The next one is May 1st from 2-4pm and she already has some good authors lined up. It’s a good chance to meet published writers and ask them about their work.
The Westport Writers’ Workshop is now taking registrations for their Spring workshops here.
Writer’s Relief has an email newsletter you might find interesting. It includes submission listings as well as interesting articles on publishing, editing etc.
Meeting regular, Jacque Masumian, sent me details of her newly published short story “Out of the Park,” now available in the January issue of the on-line journal Still Crazy , only until the end of March. She explained that the download costs $4 payable through Paypal, so if you have a Paypal account and can manage it, please take a look. She’d love some feedback. My question is: Who gets the $4? I hope it’s Jacque.
Bernice Rocque sent details of Carol Bodensteiner’s blog post about her advertising experience with Book Bub which resulted in her second book being picked up by Lake Union, Amazon’s traditional publishing company. Bernice commented that she thinks they rarely agree to promote newly published books. But the article is fascinating because the author gives you actual numbers of books sold, money made etc. Sounds like good value to me.
Alex McNab mentioned the Muse and The Marketplace conference to be held in Boston from April 29th-May1st this year. He sent me three links, in hierarchical order, to Grub Street, the conference, and the manuscript-evaluation sessions. Go for it!
Ed Ahern, our most avid submissions guy (and therefore the most frequently published), mentioned that Duotrope now has listings for podcasts you can submit your mp3 files to. Sounds interesting (geddit?). He is also reading for Bewildering Stories, which is looking for flash fiction (defined as up to 1,000 words). Submit here
Kate Mayer talked about Listen To Your Mother, a storytelling production that
takes the audience on a well-crafted journey that celebrates and validates mothering through giving voice to motherhood–in all of its complexity, diversity, and humor–in the form of original readings performed live on-stage by their authors. (I didn’t write that, BTW. GC) Cities and auditions are usually announced Dec/January and auditions are February, so the shows are decided for this year, but it’s something to keep in mind. .
And here, in a burst of shameless self-promotion (I’m quoting her, here), is the video of Kate from the 2012 NYC performance.
With 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:
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.
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: 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.
My friend Sally Allen at BoooksInK challenged her readers recently to produce a list of their ten favorite poems. I thought this would be simple, but when it came right down to it, I found it hard to choose. Still, I did, and this post explains my choices, since I notice that I chose them for various reasons that include: if I ever learned one by heart, if it says something about a certain time in my life, if it makes me laugh, if it makes me cry…so many reasons. Anyway here they are:
1. Some one by Walter de la Mare
This may be the first poem I learned as a little girl. It’s a great poem for kids, because the metre, repetition and rhyme make it easy to remember. And it tells a story with a mystery at its heart. It’s got everything.
This poem I love because it reminds me of my mother, who knew parts of it by heart and would recite it in lieu of a bedtime story. It’s very visual and the parts she remembered were about how the Lady, imprisoned in the Tower of Shallott, becomes desperate. Good stuff.
3. Morning has broken by Eleanor Farjeon
Who couldn’t like this one? I know it’s a hymn, but it’s also a poem, and it makes me happy to recite it to myself. Or sing it, Or listen to Cat Stevens sing it. All good.
4. I remember, I remember by Thomas Hood
We had a wonderful cleaning lady who used to teach me poems as I followed her around while she tidied the house. I must have been a pest, but she never complained. This is a very sentimental poem, but it meant something to me when my grandparents’ house by the sea (see left), where I was born and spent my summer holidays, was sold. Mrs Ryder taught me another one but I can only remember the title and the first 4 lines. Harry and the Cake: Run off to school, Harry/Why do you wait?/ Nine o’clock striking/And you will be late.
5. When icicles hang by the wall by William Shakespeare (from Love’s Labours Lost)
This I learned in high school, and it’s so very evocative of the perishing cold winters we’ve been having recently that I’ve remembered it again. It cheers me (somewhat) to know that winters were hard four hundred years ago, too.
6. The Conway Stewart by Seamus Heaney
This is a poem about a pen, the brand name – Conway Stewart. I had a fountain pen in high school, because we had to write everything by hand. I think my favorite was a Waterman, because they were also my mother’s favorite, but I went through more than one including Parker and the eponymous Conway Stewart. Hopeless show-off, I used turquoise ink, which if it ever leaked, was a disaster because it wouldn’t wash out, unlike the Royal blue washable used by sensible people.
7. Granchester by Rupert Brooke
Another sentimental poem. Written just before World War 1, in which the poet died (unsentimentally, of dysentery). Rupert Brooke was beautiful to look at, and I read him at an age when romance was all. The poem ends with the famous lines: Stands the Church clock at ten to three?/And is there honey still for tea? In the late sixties, British comedian Peter Sellars wrote and performed a fake travelogue: Balham – Gateway to the South. (Balham was a very boring suburb of London.) The final lines are: Stands the Church clock at ten to three?/And is there honey still for tea? To which a waitress replies: Sorry honey’s off, dear. (Meaning there wasn’t any.) Perhaps you had to be there…
8. Dulce et Decorum Est by Wilfred Owen
On a much more serious note, this poem, written by Wilfred Owen was a devastating indictment of World War 1. Owen was killed just before the end of this war, and we studied the war poets in High school. The impact on me was extraordinary. When I won a prize for English they asked me which book I’d like and I chose Men Who March Away. At about the same time, the BBC was showing a 26 part series called The Great War. Using archival film footage and interviews with the survivors, they retold the story. As a child in the fifties, my sisters and I would see the veterans sitting in wheelchairs outside the Star and Garter Home in Richmond. My mother would explain that they had been gassed in World War 1 and would have to live there all their lives. I have never been able to look at war with any shred of romanticism since then.
9. The Lanyard Billy Collins
Back to the cheerful. When I first heard Billy Collins reciting his poem, I was entranced by the deadpan way he managed to capture a relationship between a boy and his mother. It’s funny and serious. Just listen to it.
10. Mrs Icarus by Carol Ann Duffy
As for this, it’s only five lines, but it makes me laugh out loud. A pillock, for my American readers, is a fool. Surely I’m too young to be cynical? Helena Bonham Carter reads it with aplomb.
Which are your favorite poems?