Westport Writers’ Rendezvous – March update-Part 1

You may remember me nagging you to enter the Connecticut Press Club Awards Contest earlier this year. If you did, good for you. If not, you might wish you had! Member Veronique Klemow placed first in the short story division, and I came second. Mar-Lou Newkirk placed second in the Writing for the Web section (along with her daughter Laurie). It’s a good way to start Spring!

The fifth Annual Norwalk LitCrawl is taking place next Tuesday, April 3, beginning at the Wall Street Theater at 5:30pm before moving out to read at restaurants – including Aji10, Banc House, Fat Cat, and Peaches – from 6:30 – 8:00 pm. Free appetizers will be provided courtesy of the restaurants, and a cash bar will be available for all attendees. URGENT: If you have poetry of your own (up to 3 minutes) and would like to read, please email Christine Bradley, Library director, at cbradley@norwalkpubliclibrary.org by this Friday, March 30, Include your introduction (why you chose to read that poem, etc.)  to let her know what you will be reading , and include a one or two line bio, that the host can use to introduce you. Also, let them know if you have a preferred venue and the approximate time at which you’d like to read. Tickets are $10.

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WestportWRITES has extended the deadline for their 10-minute plays, because they cancelled the workshop session due to snow, and have to reschedule it. So you still have time to submit. The play must be no longer than 10 minutes, must take place at a table, and have only two characters. If you’re not sure how to format a play, check here. The plays will be work-shopped for the very first Playground Westport, a downtown theatre mini-fest this summer. Submission deadline: 5pm, April 30. Submit to Westportwrites@gmail.com, and put Playground Westport in the subject line.

Southeast Review has extended the deadline for its World’s Best Short Story and Gearhart Poetry contests. Submit your work by March 31st in order to be considered for $1000 and publication in their next issue. This year’s Short Story Contest will be judged by Pulitzer Prize winner Robert Olen Butler. The poetry contest will be judged by poet and fiction writer Barbara Hamby, a recipient of the Guggenheim Fellowship. Check the journal’s Submittable page for more information and to submit.

Missouri Review’s annual Miller Audio Prize closes for submissions on April 2. The
entry fee is variable between $10-30 (you choose how much) and includes a one-year digital subscription to the Missouri Review, which normally costs $24. All entries must be 15 minutes or shorter. Multiple entries must be accompanied by a separate donation for each. Previously published or aired pieces are acceptable as long as you, the entrant, hold the rights.

The Westport Library’s next mini-conference will be held from 1-5pm on April 8. The topic is Write Your Business, and will feature guests speakers Alice Mattison and Aubrey Sitterson. Join in-depth discussions about what it takes to make it as a writer in today’s climate, including traversing social media in a way that makes sense to help promote your work and propel your career.

Members Alison McBain and Ed Ahern have started a new Meetup for poets. The poetry discussion/critique group will meet the second Saturday of each month. The first meeting is on April 14 in the Jennings room of the Fairfield Library’s main branch from 10-12 am. You may bring your poetry for critique, or come to hear others. Sign up at the link above for more information.
Member Bernice Rocque will be at the Wednesday Night Writers group on April 18, at the Trumbull Public Library from 6:30-8:30 pm. She’ll be discussing some of the challenges of publishing a print book with color interior pages. If you’re writing a book that includes photographs, and are planning to self-publish, Bernice has a lot of experience in this area, and is worth meeting.

CRAFT is an online literary journal which explores the art of fiction. Their current contest in short fiction (up to 6,000 words) closes on April 30. The first prize is $2000. Simultaneous submissions (previously unpublished work only) are allowed, but please inform them if your story has been accepted elsewhere. As with many contests with cash prizes, there’s a $20 reading fee per story.

The Fairfield County Writers Studio is offering several useful classes and workshops right now, among them, The Ultimate Writers’ Workshop with Carol Dannhauser, which starts March 29, from 12:30-2:30, and The Art and Craft of Novel Writing, Level Two, with Stephanie Lehmann on Mondays, 2:15 p.m. to 4:15 p.m., Starts April 16, 2018
Also in April (date to be confirmed) agent Marilyn Allen will be showing us how to write a query letter that grabs an agent’s or publisher’s attention. In this master class, you’ll get insider tips and techniques to accomplish just that.

There’s so much information this month that I’ll be posting part two in a couple of days, just to give you a breather, but all the upcoming time-sensitive dates are here. Happy writing

Westport Wrtiters’ Rendezvous – June update

Nineteen members showed up for Wednesday’s meeting – thanks for coming! The night before, we had a great WritersMic Meetup in Westport, with content as varied as fiction, memoir, articles, poetry and even a prize-winning eulogy! Link to either of the pages here to join the Meetups.

Meanwhile, there was lots to talk about at the Westport Writers’ Rendezvous, and time for some networking at the end. Among the things discussed, in date order (where appropriate) were:

Write Yourself Free in Westport is offering a free introductory class this Saturday (June 24) from 11-12.45pm, to familiarize you with their method of writing workshop. It gives you a structured way to get that novel or memoir written, and is definitely worth trying. In addition to a range of summer classes for adults, they’re also offering a series of classes for children (3-6th grade). More info here.

Also, this Saturday (June 24), Jan Kardys, founder and director of the Unicorn Writers Conference is having one of her regularly scheduled Meetups, at which you can offer up to 10 pages for critiquing by her and other participants. At $10 per meeting, it’s money well spent. If you can’t make it this time, become one of her Meetup members, and you’ll be on the mailing list for future events. She also offers editorial and other services for writers.

Tomorrow afternoon, Saturday, June 24, from 2-4, members E.V. Legters and Kristen Ball will join CT writer Harmony Verna will be reading from their new books at the Booth Library in Newtown, CT, as part of the Connecticut Authors Read series. Should be fun!WritingbyPhotos8dotcom

Glimmer Glimmer Train’s Short Story Award for New Writers is looking for submissions. Their deadline is June 30, 2017. It’;s worth entering, since they consider all entries for publication. The first place wins $2500 and publication, 2nd place gets $500, or $700 if published. Third prize is $300, or $700 if published.

The Writer’s Digest Conference is scheduled for August 18-20 in NYC. It costs $469, and for an additional $99 you can add the Pitch Slam, which offers: a one-hour Pitch Slam time slot on Saturday, August 19, a pitch perfect session (9:00 AM on Friday, August 18), entry in the Query Letter Directory and a query letter webinar: Query Better Basics for Books. The main conference has Lisa Scottoline and Richard Russo among its keynote speakers, and sessions cover craft, getting published, the business of being an author, platform & promotion and genre studies. You can register at the link above.

New member Tanya Detrick told us about the Connecticut Authors and Publishers’ Association. They offer 12 meetings a year with different speakers all over the state. $48 per year.

If you’re a horror writer, there’s the Horror Writers Association. Their conference is held in the early spring, but you could check them out.

The Good Men Project, an online magazine with 3 million readers each month, is looking for submissions on a range of topics. Topics include art & entertainment, dads and families, health, wellness, the soul, and so on. Submissions are via Submittable, and you may have to set up an account to join the Good Men Project, but it has a ready-made audience.

And speaking of Submittable, they handle submissions for many publications – you may have used them already. They also have a regular newsletter, with suggested places to submit. Submissions aren’t just for prose, they include screenplays, poetry, radio (NPR is looking for pitches for StoryLab) – even films and art. You can sign up for the newsletter and get free suggestions for your work.

Member Alex McNab mentioned a couple of commencement speeches with particular relevance to writers. The first is to the NY Times digest of 2017 commencement address highlights. He cited Colson Whitehead, with a near perfect precis of three-act structure. And his  old pal Billie Jean King offers a smart way to think about writing a long story—just substitute the words “writing a book” for her uses of the word “life.”

Alex also reminded me that the current issue of Poets & Writers, is the annual Agents issue, with lists of agents, interviews with them etc. A good place to see who’s out there.

Finally, if you’re thinking of self-publishing, take control of the publication of your book with the IngramSpark Guide to Independent Publishing. It walks you through the publishing process: pre-production, formatting and binding, book marketing, creating your title metadata, preparing your files, and more.It sounds like a good guide to self-publishing, and you can download a free sneak peek of the guide before you buy.

I know it’s summer, but keep writing!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Westport Writers’ Rendezvous – May update

We had another great meeting yesterday, with several new members, who contributed their points of view – something we value. And the WritersMic Meetup the night before had 11 enthusiastic readers plus guests. I wasn’t able to be there, but member Sheryl Kayne took over the duties of MC, to general acclaim. Thanks, Sheryl!

I’m going to begin the update with some events that are happening very soon.

Dr Suzanne Hoover, a former master teacher at Sarah Lawrence is giving a class on Endings, (how to end your novel) this Saturday, May 20th, from 2-4pm at the Westport Writers’ Workshop.

Also on May 20th, from 11-12.45, Patrick McCord is offering a FREE introductory class at Write Yourself Free in Westport. He has a specific method that can help you structure your writing to make for a better book. Although their main classes started this week, they may still have room for you to join one if you like the freebie.

One of our members, E.V. Legters, is holding a launch party for her second novel, Vanishing Point, on June 4th at the Fairfield County Writers’ Studio from 4-6pm. Come and support her, and enjoy the festivities, and hanging out with fellow writers and readers.

There are several Meetups around for writers, apart from the two I run:

One is headed by Jan Kardys, who organizes the Unicorn Writers’ Conference, in which you can bring 10 pages to be critiqued. The next meeting is on Saturday, May 20th. Check it out here.

There’s a Children’s Writers and Poetry Critique Group meetup in White Plains

Also for poets, the Monroe Poetry Meetup.

A Meetup for Christian writers: Word Weavers of Southern Fairfield County.

And there’s an Open Mic Night in Norwalk Meetup, which includes performances of all kinds, including reading, I think. But check it out by being part of the audience, if you’re not sure whether it’s the right fit for you.

And speaking of telling stories, Barnes and Noble, our gracious hosts in Westport, will be having a regular storytelling evening each month, the first on June 21st. They’re looking for people with a personal story to tell about strong women who’ve had a personal effect on you, experiences where a woman with power helped or hindered you, etc. Like their Facebook page or call in at the store to get updates about how to tell your story.

The New York Pitch Conference, a 3-day event running from June 22-25 offers a wonderful opportunity of meeting agents who might actually be interested in seeing your work. It’s not cheap – so if you haven’t finished your book and got it publication-ready, it’s probably best to wait a while, according to those in the know.

Later in the year, The Ridgefield Writers’ Conference is a one-day event for writers to be held on Friday, September 22nd.

Enter a contest. This one is the Brighton Prize, which exists to find inventive new writing. It’s open for entries until 30th June, and has two categories: short stories between 1000 and 2000 words, and flash fiction under 350 words. The prize for the winning story: £1000, with two runners up getting: £100 each.

Improve your writing or get yourself over the hump by taking a class this summer. There are many around this area. The Fairfield County Writers’ Studio, the Westport Writers’ Workshop and Write Yourself Free are all running classes. IN Rowayton, CT,

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Drew Lamm: To Taste Life Twice

Drew Lamm has shorter summer series of her unique writing groups for women: To Taste Life Twice.  I’ve been going for some years, and value the peaceful place where I can write with other women, and get Drew’s reactions to the writing. She praises the good, so that we write more of it. And it works. Check the link above and the photo to the left.

If you can’t get to a live class, there are several online options. One is from Gotham in New York, and they have many to choose from – food writing, travel writing, script writing, video game writing, teen creative non-fiction, humor, romance, sci-fi etc

Creative Nonfiction has summer online classes  give you the chance to experiment with new subjects or forms in a condensed 5-week format. Classes begin June 26, 2017 and include topics like digital storytelling, science writing for general audiences, historical narratives and experimental forms. Enroll by June 2 to get $50 off.

We talked about the importance of editors and a couple of people mentioned Allison Dickens, who is teaching a class called Nailing Your First 20 Pages -an advanced workshop in novel and memoir. It’s a one-week intensive at the Westport Writers’ Workshop, from 10-12, July 24-28. Another recommended freelance copy editor was Stephanie Finnegan.

Member Ed Ahern mentioned that the online journal he reads submissions for, Bewildering Stories, will always critique your submission, whether it’s accepted or not. Sounds like a good way of getting some feedback, and maybe publication. They accept submissions in all genres.

A couple of places are offering a free book of writing advice if you sign onto their mailing list. One is from Autocrit, The Secret Formula to Publishing a Best-selling Novel, and the other is from Penguin books, The Ultimate Guide to Writing Advice.

If you’re a friend of Poets and Writers, they give you the chance to list your latest publication in the nest Friends News. It’s too late for this year – entries closed on May 15th, but it’s worth bearing in mind for next year. Any book-length publication of poetry, fiction, or creative nonfiction published after December 2015 (so 2016 next year) is eligible to be listed, as are forthcoming titles. Chapbooks, translations, and self-published works may be included.

Last but not least, for those of you writing a memoir, here’s an interesting article from The Creative Penn. Six Points to Consider When Writing a Memoir.

That should keep you going until next month. See you then. And if you have any additional info, corrections etc, just put them in the comments below. Thanks, and Happy Writing!

Westport Writers’ Rendezvous – January update

What a great first-of-the-year meeting we had on Wednesday. I think everyone left with ideas for new goals to set and how to get them done. More on that later, but first:

If you have a book you’d like to pitch to an agent, take advantage of the Fairfield County Writers’ Studio’s Pitch Party in Westport on January 28th from 10-12. $25 to pitch, $15 to sit, sip mimosas and see how it’s done… For tips on how to write a query letter, Alex McNab suggests Jane Friedman’s site, and also taking a look at Query Shark, for info on how not to write one.

FCWS is offering a broad selection of classes, in addition to this unique event. Hit the link to find out what they have.

A number of writing classes are also available at various venues in Fairfield County and New York. In the City, Gotham Writers is offering what they describe as a ‘rush of classes’ both in classrooms and online. I’ve tried them and found them very useful when I first began as a way of finding an instant critique group led by an experienced published writer.

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The Westport Writers Workshop has classes starting in Westport, Avon and Ridgefield. Subjects include memoir, fiction, the journey of writing for women, and personal essay.

Kate Mayer, one of our members, published a great blog post on achieving one’s writing goals. her simple method produced great results, so take a look.

The Connecticut Book Awards are back. These awards recognize the best titles of 2016 written by authors who reside in Connecticut. Book award submissions will be accepted starting January 2017 and will close in April 2017. For more information, please visit the Connecticut Center for the Book website.

The Connecticut Press Club is still accepting entries for their Annual Communications Contest. The only criterion for submission is that you must be a Connecticut writer and that the submission should have been published/broadcast/launched etc in 2016. The submitting process is still  more complicated than it should be, but if you’re interested, don’t give up. They’re accepting entries until February 6.  To ensure you’re on their mailing list, email CTPressclub@gmail.com.   The deadline is February 6.

One of our members, Sheryl Kayne, is producing a book for which she’s seeking contributions: Grandmas and Grandpas by Many Other Names.   This is an opportunity to celebrate grandparents. She’s looking for stories and/or photos about your own grandparents or yourself as a grandparent to accompany stories about fictional grandparents including Little Red Riding Hood’s as well as Heidi’s and Willy Wonka’s Grandfathers. She’s accepting contributions through Valentine’s Day and the E-book and softcover will be launched mid-April in time for Mother’s Day, Father’s Day and Grandparents’ Day. Contributors receive a free E-book.  Contribute here.

Bernice Roque, one of our members, is offering a useful (and free) task managing tool  specifically aimed at writers. If you feel you can’t keep track of things, this might be a good solution for you. Contact her through her website.

Elizabeth Chatsworth, another member, has been having some success with the grammar-checking tool Grammarly. It claims to find mistakes which Spellcheck doesn’t, and there’s a free version which should be worth trying out.

Among writing conferences coming up in our neck of the woods this year are these:

Unicorn Writing Conference Manhattanville College, Westchester March 25

ASJA (American Society of Journalists and Writers) NYC May 5-6

Writers’ Digest Conference, NYC August 18-20

BookBub is a great resource for authors looking to reach new readers for a debut or a series, to boost books up on the best-seller list, and even drive sales for backlisted books. Authors see an average earning increase of almost 200% when their book is chosen as a Featured Deal. GoSpark Press is offering a webinar; How to Maximize BookBub is set for February 2, 2017 at 4 p.m. PST (register here), and will help you figure out how to make Bookbub work for you, if you’re already published. Plus, it’s only $10…

Larry Brooks is a Californian writer with a great website called Storyfix. He coaches writers and now has a new virtual classroom which provides, to quote, “Hardcore Training Videos For Serious Authors”. He’s offering one free training module, one of five currently available. Here’s the link to “Essential Craft for Emerging Novelists,” an 81-minute hardcore craft training experience. Worth a look.

Book Riot, an online site that sends me updates on all sorts of book-related topics, has a post to inspire anyone who’s having trouble writing: a list of books that will help to get you started.

At our monthly meetings we set ourselves a goal to be accomplished by the next meeting, I’ve vowed to submit more work for publication this year, so I’ll be signing up with Duotrope. Now that I’ve said it in writing, I’ll just have to do it!

 

Westport Writers’ Rendezvous – February update

Another great meeting last Wednesday of the Westport Writers Rendezvous – thanks, everyone!

We covered quite a bit of ground, and here are the highlights:
First, I had to congratulate our own Alex McNab, whose query letter was one of the three selected to be passed on to Sourcebooks and Penguin. The contest was organized by the Fairfield County Writers’ Center in Westport, and agent Marilyn Allen of Allen & O’Shea literary agency was the judge. Terrific, Alex!

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Two ways to avoid getting the Bad Sex in Fiction Award (it’s a real thing, folks) – get your work edited (see below) and find some beta readers – people who don’t know you all that well, and don’t know what you’re trying to say, and will tell you so.

Book editors
New York Book Editors
Tiger Wiseman uses Ramona De Felice Long

People had great suggestions for places to submit your work:
Mused:  . Unfortunately, the Spring edition submissions just closed (Feb 15th) but they are a quarterly, so submit something for the summer issue.
Bewildering Stories: an interesting, self-described webzine that promises to give you feedback if your work isn’t accepted
The Huffington Post may seem like an impossible dream but here are some hints on how to get accepted:
And a propos of getting your blog published on other sites, take a look at Beyond Your Blog, which has lots of advice.
Still Crazy, with writing for boomers…
Act Two, an online magazine based in Fairfield, is also for boomers.
Scary Mommy is self explanatory, although I don’t think you have to be Joan Crawford to write for them.
Submit your play (musical, monologue, short scene from a full-length play or one-act play) for the Catherine Lindsey Workshop by March 1st. The workshopping is done in Darien.

The Mix is a site run by Hearst Corporation, which issues daily writing assignments that you can choose to write and submit.
Poetry & Writers has a long list of contests, grants and awards here.

A couple of conferences: The Creative Nonfiction Writers’ Conference (Pittsburgh, PA My 27-29)
And the Unicorn Writers’ Conference won’t be happening until March next year.

Online courses:
Tiger Wisemen has taken several online writing courses, and the one she recommends is given by Margie Lawson . In particular, she endorses any of the Deep Editing courses.
Ed Ahern produced a great list of courses that can be taken online. They’re run by 28 Pearl Street, in Provincetown MA, which is an offshoot of the Fine Arts Work Center in the same town. The latter run summer courses in various media, including writing. Check out the websites for more information.
James Patterson teaches a Master Class for $90. No one in our group knows if it’s any good, but he certainly seems to know what he’s doing…
Gwen Hernandez teaches Scrivener online. I highly recommend her courses – they’re inexpensive and paced so that you don’t get overwhelmed.
Creative Nonfiction also offers online classes including advanced memoir, magazine writing and introduction to audio storytelling and podcasting.

Jessica Bram of the Westport Writers’ Workshop will be teaching an all-day class on how to use flashbacks and backstory in your non-fiction writing next Saturday, February 27.

Last but not least  – come and read from your work at the Fairfield Public Library on the first Tuesday of the month – March 1st, as it happens. People who do it swear by it.

 

 

Westport Writers’ Rendezvous – December update

Our end-of-year meeting of the Westport Writers’ Rendezvous was a surprise and delight to me. A surprise, because there were 26 of us there, and I hadn’t expected so many with the holidays looming, and delight because we broke our own record. We held the meeting at the newly established Fairfield County Writers’ Studio, where Tessa MGovern and Carol Dannhauser made us feel very welcome. Check out the courses the offer here. They begin in January and there’s something for everyone.

Tessa sent me the link for a Scrivener video tutorial. I’ll post the class schedule for Gwen Hernandez’ Scrivener classes next month. They begin at the end of January.

!CBC+,Ig!mk~$(KGrHqN,!lsEz+6T,IzCBNG!mBJiE!~~_3Gotham Writers Workshop, the New York-based writing school, is now offering one-on-one classes online. You can get professional feedback on a particular project (book, short story, screenplay, poetry) or long-term mentorship. You can also take a private 3-hour class or a private 6 or 10-week course tailored to your interests and needs. There are private grammar sessions, help with applying for an MFA and help launching a blog, among other things. I imagine it’s fairly pricey, but if this is what you need, go for it.

Here are some websites which might be useful to you. I found them courtesy of Larry Brooks, who runs Storyfix, a website and critiquing website. He has a special offer on right now for critiquing your novel ($1300 – a great value, I think, especially if it helps you find plot holes or areas you need to work on). He’s not an editor per se, but he does have a good grasp of how a story should be put together.
This blog post came from Robert Morris, a guest blogger and freelance editor in NYC. You can follow him on Google+. I’m reproducing most of it here, since he wrote it so well.
1.OneLook Reverse Dictionary
You are torturing yourself to remember a word you have in the back of your mind, but you just can’t spit it out? You need this reverse dictionary. Just describe the concept of the word you’re looking for, and you’ll get an entire list to choose from. The word you’re looking for is definitely in there.
2. NinjaEssays
You would have to invest a lot of money to hire a long-term editor you would work exclusively with. These editors usually work with published writers and charge amounts that newbies are unable to spend. That’s why you have NinjaEssays on your side! This is an online editing service that evaluates your projects and assigns a perfectly suitable editor for an affordable price. Plus, you can collaborate with professional writers, who can help you improve some aspects of your content!
3. Reedsy
You are already determined to become a professional writer? Then you need to become part of Reedsy – an online community that connects authors with great editors, designers, and marketers for their books. You can create an author profile for free, upload a portfolio, and start building connections. If you still haven’t discovered a publisher for your first draft, Reedsy will direct you on the right way.
4. Plagiarism Checker
Think about the greatest sin a writer can commit. Of course it’s plagiarism! You want to produce absolutely unique content with no signs of copying, paraphrasing, rewriting, and other dishonest strategies. PlagTracker checks your content and provides a detailed report about any plagiarism involved in it. If you accidentally got too inspired by an online resource and you forgot to provide proper citations, PlagTracker will help you fix the damage before it’s too late.
5. Cliche Finder
Some writers just love clichés. They are not aware of their habit phrases; they use them intuitively and bore the readers with unnecessary fillers. This online tool will help you locate the clichés and overused phrases in seconds. That’s a certain way of making your content less annoying. (Have to say, I couldn’t actually see how to track cliches on this rather simple website. But you could try this website instead. GC)
6. Buffalo
Daily writing exercises are necessary for your progress. Buffalo enables you to write every day and publish your random thoughts online. It’s a supportive community that’s clean and extremely functional. All you need to do is join and start writing on any topics you have in mind.
7. Calmly Writer
You’ll see an almost blank page when you land at this website. Isn’t that all you need? You’ll access the options when you click on the lotus flower in the upper left angle of the page. You can insert pictures, change the font, download the document in different formats, or enter Focus Mode. You’ll also get character and word count, as well as an estimated reading time for your content. The distraction-free writing environment will make you a more focused writer. (I definitely need this one…GC)

A friend sent me this information about the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators’ conference, which I thought might interest some of you: https://www.scbwi.org/events/17th-annual-scbwi-winter-conference-in-new-york-ny16/. It will be held in New York on February 12-14 next year, and includes participation from many agents and editors, as well as authors.

We ended the meeting as we always do, by telling each other what we planned to do before the next meeting (January 20th). With holidays interfering, we tried to keep the goals modest and achievable. Here’s to 2016!

Westport Writers’ Rendezvous

It was great seeing both old and new faces last Wednesday at our November Westport Writers’ Rendezvous. We had a record number of attendees (22), and plenty to talk about, with good ideas coming from all directions. Here are some of them:writers-clock

For those of you wrestling with disorganized longer projects, these are the online Scrivener courses taught by Gwen Hernandez, which I’ve taken. Inexpensive but effective. The next one for beginners is in February.

Bernice Rocque recommended Zazzle, an online retailer that allows users to upload images and create their own merchandise, or buy merchandise created by other users, as well as use images from participating companies. Bernice has made note-cards using her own photography, which she uses as marketing/branding tools.

Aninka, like me is a fan of Book Riot. Aninka listens to their podcasts, I read their newsletters. Either way, they have a lot to say. You can subscribe to both here.

Ed Ahern enjoyed the World Fantasy Convention he attended recently, and felt the exposure to writers and publishers was worth the trip to Saratoga Springs. You can check out next year’s convention here.

We talked about ways of self-publishing, including crowdfunding a book via Kickstarter or another entity. There’s a British company called Unbound, which crowdfunds books, giving writing related rewards depending on the level of funding. Worth looking at. And there’s a full article covering this on a website called Winning Edits.

Someone asked about Writer’s Relief. They offer a range of services to help authors get published, from helping to design your website, to finding an agent, to identifying places to submit short stories, etc. You can check out both them, and their fees, here.

Someone else talked about the Kristin Nelson literary Agency based in Colorado. They have a blog called Pub Rants, which specializes in giving suggestions for how to improve your submissions.

There’s also Query Shark, with lots of (pretty ruthless) suggestions for writing query letters

Leslie told us about an article by NYC professor Susan Shapiro pertinent to memoir writing. She talks about writing the humiliation essay and its potential to jumpstart your writing career. Read it here.

Via Janet Luongo, one of our members: How Writers Write Fiction -a free online 8 week program of IOWA Univ. I think it’s offered every year. Pulitzer prize-winners are among the brilliant authors who teach through video; great reading lists, assignments, peer feedback. Worth passing on to writing community. Certificates are offered for $50, which I did earn.

To find places to submit, and succeed with submissions, Ed Ahern swears by Duotrope. And he should know; he gets published all the time.

For those looking for beta readers (people to read your book before you look for an agent and give you honest feedback) a friend of mine recommends Book Hive.

I mentioned an app I find very useful. Evernote can save a snapshot of a web page, allows you to write with your finger to make a note of something (and voice too, I think). I use it for notes, reservations, recipes etc, and it syncs them across all my devices.

Lori Pelikan Strobel is looking for women dog owners to interview. If you’re interested, contact me and I’ll pass on your email.

eChook is looking for submissions of romance and women’s fiction, 35,000-75,000 words long. The submission guidelines can be found here.

Our next meeting is on December 16th. If you’d like to get notifications of upcoming meetings, sign up at Meetup. Look for Westport Writers’ Rendezvous.

 

Author Interview: Nina Mansfield

NinaMansfieldBeachPic Nina Mansfield is a prolific writer whose credits include numerous full length and short plays which have been produced around the world. Her short mystery fiction has appeared in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine and Mysterical-E. She’s a member of the Mystery Writers of America, and I met her recently at the CrimeCONN conference, organized by the New York Chapter of the MWA, which includes Connecticut. Swimming Alone, her most recent work, marks a departure for her in that it’s a full length mystery novel for Young Adults.

GC: I know you’ve written many short plays, and had them produced. And you’ve written a play for young children. What made you want to write a YA novel, and a crime novel, at that?

NM: I have always loved mysteries. As I youngster, I loved reading Nancy Drew Books, Two-Minute mysteries, and books by Lois Duncan, Joan Lowery-Nixon and Agatha Christie. I fondly remember curling up on the couch with my mother to watch Murder, She Wrote, Columbo and those Perry Mason television movies that came out in the 80s. I have also spent nine-years teaching high school in both New York City and the suburbs. I began reading a lot of young adult novels when I was in graduate school for teaching. One of the things I discovered my first year teaching was that many young adults craved novels with suspense. I wanted to write a YA novel that would keep even the most reluctant reader on the edge of her or his seat.

GC: My readers are interested in YA books, because they are so popular right now. Could you explain the difference between YA and Middle school and new adult books for us?

NM: First of all, we have to remember that these are all relatively new labels that were invented for marketing purposes. However, what I think writers should bear in mind is that children of different ages have different concerns and interests. Think about who you were as person at age eleven. What did you like? What intrigued you? What were your feSwimmingAlonefrnt (2)ars? Now think about age sixteen. Your perspective probably shifted during those years. If a writer is choosing to write specifically for a particular age group, the concerns and interests of that target audience need to be kept in mind.

To give some very basic guidelines, young adult books generally have a protagonist who is high school age, and these books tend to have a major romantic component. With middle grade, the protagonists are younger, and the themes generally focus on things such as friendship, or navigating social norms. But those are very general guidelines. And honestly, new adult is a very new category for me, so I can’t really speak to that!

I think that Swimming Alone actually departs from the traditional idea of the young adult novel, as the mystery in the novel is far more important than any of the romantic elements.

GC: Your character, Cathy has a very distinctive voice, with a nice sense of humor. How did you manage to capture the voice of a 15-year-old so well?

NM: Well, thank you! I wrote Swimming Alone while I was teaching high school, so I was definitely influenced by my students. High school students talk a lot, and they often don’t care that an adult is in the room—so I certainly overheard more than my share of teen conversations. I also still have a snarky 15-year old hiding inside me, so I really worked on channeling her as I was writing the novel.

GC: Your setting, Beach Point, sounds like a fun place, apart from the serial killer on the loose, of course. Is it based on a place you know, and if so, what made you think of setting this kind of a crime there?

NM: The town of Beach Point is very loosely based on my childhood memories of Misquamicut, Rhode Island. When I was very young, my grandparents would rent a bungalow there. But in reality, I fused a few beachside towns into what would eventually become Beach Point. I have always been attracted to seaside settings—both personally, and for my writing. It’s funny, because I don’t ever remember making a conscious decision to set SWIMMING ALONE at the beach. The idea just came to me, and I started writing.

GC: Is Cathy likely to have any more adventures like this one? In other words, is she likely to become part of a series?

NM: I have thought of writing another Cathy Banks mystery. If I do, the next book will be set in New York City. But right now, I am working on a young adult paranormal thriller currently titled In Deep. I don’t want to say too much about this current project, but it is also set near the water—this time on Long Island Sound. This book is also much darker than SWIMMING ALONE. The characters are less naïve than Cathy. They’ve already experienced some trauma in their lives.

You can connect with Nina via Facebook, Twitter and her blog

Writers’ Rendezvous Roundup

Once a month, here in Westport, CT, I run a Meetup for writers’ at the local Barnes & Noble store. The September one was held in September 16th, and here’s a summary of what we discussed – good tips and hints for any writer, though some of the activities are local. 🙂
We had another great meeting, with two last-minute guests, Carol Dannhauser and Tessa Smith McGovern.
Carol came just to see what it was like, but I asked her to talk about the writing classes she leads that are starting today (September 21). The first is a class of memoir prompts, which you can find out about here. The second is her Writers’ Workshop of Fairfield for writers with some experience. The classes are held at Birdcraft Museum and begin Sept 21. Email dannhauser@aol.com for info.

Tessa McGovern wanted to sound us out on the various courses and services local writers might need. Tessa teaches at Sarah Lawrence and her company, Book Girl TV does various things, including interviewing well-known authors and running online classes in social media for writers. She is organizing a free evening event at Barnes & Noble in Westport on October 27th at 6.30pm, with a panel of writers and publishing insiders, with a chance to mix and mingle afterwards. Among the panellists are authors Linda Fairstein, Jane Green, Pat Dunn and top editor Caitlin Alexander, publishing consultant Cynthia Mason and literary agent and author Marilyn Allen. Unmissable.
Tessa also mentioned the New York Pitch Conference for novelists to be held on December 10-13. It seems like an extraordinary chance to find out whether your book has a chance of being published, but it’s not inexpensive. It’s part of the Algonkian conferences, which include some writers’ retreats too.
New member Leigh Stein told us about the conference, Bindercon,she’s helping to organize for women and gender non-conforming writers in New York on November 7 and 8. Check the link above for information.

Online Scrivener classes started last Monday (14th) but I’ve just signed up today because I’m already somewhat familiar with Scrivener and want to brush up rather than begin as a compete novice. I’m including a link here to the site which is run by Gwen Hernandez, author of Scrivener for Dummies. The advantage of the courses is that they can be tailored for either Mac or Windows. And you can sign up for her newsletter on her site.

Adair Heitmann is leading a prompts-based monthly workshop, free at the Pequot Library in Southport, CT. It’s on a drop-in basis so you can attend any month on the third Saturday from 10-12pm. And the Darien Library (CT) is starting a fiction writing class on September 22nd.

We talked about writing productivity and one of us said they used the Pomodoro technique to make sure they wrote. You can find a description of it here. And there’s an app called Freedom which turns off your internet for times you specify so that you can’t be distracted and are forced to write (or clean out the garage).

For those who want to know how to write a good query letter for your fiction, there’s a blog called Query Shark
which has draconian rules for submitting a query letter to be critiqued. But the critiques themselves are interesting.

And for those of you interested in joining a writers’ community online, here are a couple, recommended by Writers’ Relief.