Writers’ Rendezvous: September update – part 2

Here’s the second half of the September update, with lots of events, places to submit, and a couple of useful websites for authors, including one that helps you generate your plot, if you’re stuck.

romanIt’s never too soon to begin preparing for NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) in November, so Roman Godzich, author of No Higher Ground, is offering a NaNoWriMo Plotting Workshop at the Storytellers Cottage in Simsbury on October 19 from 1-2:30pm. This workshop will help you develop an outline of a plot for your NaNo novel. You’ll learn how to lay out the three acts of your story and how to define your protagonists and antagonists and their goals, plus you will walk away with a full outline for your novel. COST: $30. Pre-registration required.

New-England@3x-1-768x1366Bank Square Books in Mystic, and Avon Books (the romance imprint of Harper Collins) are co-hosting KissCon New England at Mohegan Sun on Saturday, October 26. Tickets are $10 and include a mass-market romance paperback. Authors Ilona Andrews, Loretta Chase, Tessa Dare, Megan Frampton, Caroline Linden, Sarah MacLean, Nisha Sharma, Joanna Shupe and Olivia Waite will be speaking and signing books.

If you’re writing flash fiction, here’s your chance to submit to CRAFT’s first flash fiction contest for unpublished stories up to 1,000 words. Three winning stories will each receive: $1,000 and publication in CRAFT. Deadline October 31.

The annual Dorothy and Wedel Nilsen Literary Prize for a First Novel is to identify and publish completed fiction manuscripts (novels, novellas, and linked collections) of high literary quality by authors who have not previously published such a work. (This includes self-publishing.) Prize: $2,000 and publication. Deadline November 1. Details at the link above.

Bateau Press is accepting manuscripts for the annual Boom Poetry Chapbook Contest.
The winning chapbook is a handmade, hand-sewn, letter pressed work of art. Winner gets $250 plus 25 copies. Print run of 400 chaps.  $14 entry fee includes a copy of the winning chapbook (or any chap in their catalogue). Deadline: November 1.

Hold the Date: The Fairfield Library’s second annual Writers’ conference is scheduled for Saturday, November 2, from 9:15-4:30pm. I’ll be one of the speakers there, and I’ll let you have more details as I have them. You might want to sign up now, though, since spaces will be limited to a hundred, and some have already gone. Free.

jeff gOn Sunday, November 3, from 4-6pm, the Pequot Library’s Meet the Author guest will be Jeff Gordinier, food and drinks editor of Esquire magazine, among other things, talking about his latest book, Hungry: Eating, Road-Tripping, and Risking It All with the Greatest Chef in the World. It speaks of the four years spent traveling with René Redzepi, the renowned chef of Noma, in search of the most tantalizing flavors the world has to offer.

blackCrime Bake, which takes place from November 8-10, in Woburn, Massachusetts, is the premier conference for crime-fiction writers and readers in New England. It offers numerous opportunities to meet and network with agents, editors, and authors in a small, friendly environment. Updates will tell you if it’s sold out yet.  This year’s guest of Honor is British writer Ann Cleeves, author of the Shetland crime novels, and those featuring Vera Stanhope.

Andrea Penrose returns to the Pequot Library on Saturday, November 9, from 11-1pm for a craft talk on A Writer’s Life. She will be talking about: inspiration, historical fiction, publication journey, critique groups, and what a regular writing day entails. Attend with your questions and get ready to be inspired.

Authors Publish has produced a list of publications currently open to reprints, so if you have published work you’d like to see published again, now’s your chance. Sign up for their newsletter to be updated regularly.

Seeing it Clearly Now,  a blog for people of a certain age, has a rolling submissions policy for fiction, non-fiction and poetry.

If you can’t think of what to write and need a hand, try this British website: Plot Generator.

And if you’re looking at independent publishers and want to check their credentials, try Writer Beware, which monitors publishing scams.

And–keep writing!

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 – March update – Part 2

As I was saying…there was lots to talk about on Wednesday, so here’s part 2 of the update. Part 1 had the info for contests and submissions with deadlines coming up soon. This one starts with May deadlines…

ASJA – the American Society of Journalists and Authors has it’s conference scheduled for May 18-19 at the Sheraton Times Square. Conferences like this are not always so easily accessible, so it’s worth a look.

Creative NonFiction, the print and online journal, is looking for submissions on the topic of Home by May 21. They’re looking for true stories about finding a place in the world to call your own. Their next topic is Let’s Talk About Sex , with submissions due July 16. They want true stories about doing it—whether you’re straight, gay, or other; alone, in a couple, or in a crowd; doing it for the first time or the last, or not doing it at all. They’re offering $1,000 Continue reading

Westport Writers’ Rendezvous – February update

So much good stuff from the meeting last Wednesday, and more streaming into my mailbox since that I thought you might like. So here goes:

First, the first WritersMic Meetup is taking place tomorrow, Tuesday, February 21st, at Panera’s in Westport from 7-8.45pm. If you’d like more details, join the Meetup online, and you’ll get reminders every month. I’m planning to hold them on the 3rd Tuesday of each month. You can bring a 5-minute (or less) piece to read, and we’ll get through as many as possible.

This Saturday, February 25th, the Fairfield County Writers’ Studio is offering a morning workshop led by Kim Caldwell on the route to publishing your book.  She’ll discuss the main paths to publication – self-publishing, traditional publishing, independent presses, digital-only and more. And she’ll explain what you need to know before you choose your path, what factors influence that choice, and a host of other topics you might not have explored. $45. Register here.

The Poetry Foundation is running the Emily Dickinson First Book Award – designed to recognize an American poet of at least 40 years of age who has yet to publish a first collection of poetry. They’re looking for one book-length poetry, and will publish the winning book as well as offering a $10,000 prize.  The competition is open to any American citizen forty years of age or over who has not previously published a book-length volume of poetry. Submissions close on February 27!

Stalwart member Kate Mayer sent me this information about the storytelling event Listen To Your Mother NYC. The show is nationwide, but this may be the last year it runs. Auditions need to be scheduled by appointment via http://listentoyourmothershow.com/nyc/

Kate took part in 2012 – she was touching and funny, of course – and met some incredible writers. Men, women, anyone can audition, the only requirement is the topic motherhood. Auditions take place in New York Feb 26-March 2, and the actual event is on May 6th.

snoopygreatstart

 

The Unicorn Writers’ Conference is taking place March 25 in Manhattanville College, Westchester. Check my previous post for details.

The Connecticut Book Awards are back in business, and it’s time to submit. The awards include a category for books for young readers, both authors and illustrators, as well as fiction, nonfiction, and poetry. The deadline for submission is April 21, 2017, and the winners will be announced this October. Your work should have been published in 2016, have a valid ISBN number and you should be a resident of Connecticut or have set the book mainly in Connecticut.
More information about guidelines and entry fees, as well as how to apply, is available at the Connecticut Center for the Book website.

The Connecticut chapter of Romance Writers of America is offering a two-day mini-conference open to all writers, April 1-2, in Norwalk. The morning session is entitled Winning the Promo Game: a practical class focused on helping authors develop a personalized promotional strategy that reflects their work and personal style. The afternoon will cover The Romantic Plot: form vs. formula

Gotham Writers in NYC is running a contest everyone can enter. They’re looking for a 50-word (yes really -50 words) on the theme: Be a Hero. Deadline: May 29.

The Writing Institute at Sarah Lawrence is holding their fourth annual Publish and Promote your Book Conference on June 24.

And if you’re not at that point, perhaps you’d like their Joe PapaleoWriters’ Workshop in Cetara, Italy, July 8-15, which combines writing and painting.

Member Bernice Roque has provided a link to the new blog article, the first part of a 3-part series. It gives you ideas for organizing your book project more effectively. Check it out.

Writers Digest has an interesting post with suggestions of what to do after attending a writing conferences

Submit a 10-minute Play at Darien Library. Playwrights are invited to submit their final scripts for consideration to the Catherine Lindsey Actors/Playwrights contest by April 7th. They accept musicals, monologues, short scenes from full-length and one-act plays. When writing your piece please keep in mind that the number of cast members is limited, only one play may be submitted per person, and plays must be 10-minutes long or less. Please limit your plays to 10-pages double-spaced, 12 point font.

Writers’ Relief, that very reliable service for writers, now offers web design services. Even if you don’t use them, their blog is worth signing up for, because of its writing tips. Here’s the latest on the evolving trends in author web design:

Westport Writers’ Rendezvous – September update

We had our usual great meeting. I’m always amazed at how, in spite of being unscripted, we learn new things, meet new friends and feel good after. If you think you might want to start your own, let me know and I’ll be happy to give you some pointers.

aliceOn Saturday, October 8, from 10-12.30pm, Alice Mattison will present a Master Class at the Fairfield County Writers’ Studio in Westport. She is the author of six novels, including When We Argued All Night, a New York Times Book Review Editors’ Choice. Her guide to writing, The Kite and the String: How to Write with Spontaneity and Control—and Live to Tell the Tale, is included in the fee for the workshop. Check out the FCWS website for details on this hands-on way to jump start a stalled story or begin a new one.

Try to see Patti Smith in conversation hosted by the Mark Twain House in Hartford on October 13 from 7-9pm. By all accounts (people who heard her in New Haven) she gives a great talk. Tickets are $25, and you should book soon. I think they will sell out fast. Her memoir, The M Train, got rave reviews earlier this year.

WESTPORT WRITES – at the Westport Public Library

For those wanting an introduction to Scrivener, the writing software, The Westport Public Library’s Westport Writes program is offering a free introductory class at 6.30pm on Monday September 26, with a follow-up class on the 28th.  This is a good way to see how Scrivener can help you be a better organized writer. I couldn’t manage my writing without it.

Chris Friden, the teacher of this workshop, will be among the faculty at The Fairfield County Writers’ Studio – who are planning a wide range of classes, master classes and seminars this fall. Please check them out here. There’s something for you here, beginner, professional or a fiction writer who wants to try essay writing.

The following week, on Sunday, October 2, novelist Stephanie Lehman – Thoughts While Having Sex, Are You in the Mood?, You Could do Better and The Art of Undressing– will be doing a workshop on Planning Your Novel.

On Saturday, October 15th, The Westport Library is having its annual CrimeCONN Mystery Conference from 9-5pm.  I went last year and thoroughly enjoyed it.  You can see some of the interviews I did with the authors (Chris Knopf, Daniel Handler, Liz Mugavero, Lucy Burdette)in previous blog posts. The cost is $25, and you’ll need to register in advance. You can find the list of author, and police detectives/crime experts here.

On the same day, there’s an Open write in of the Fairfield County Writers’ Group, a drop-in event where you can join other writers to sit and write among friends from 1-4pm. If you’re practicing for NaNoWriMo, This could be useful, and if you want to get an early start on this month-long November novel-writing challenge, you can do so at the library, with an overnight write-in beginning at 12.01am on November 1. With 50,000 words as your goal, it might be as well to plunge right in

Writers Read will be happening On Tuesday evening, October 4, from 7-9pm at the Fairfield Public Library. Come and read some of your writing to a supportive non-judgmental audience.

On Friday, October 7, from 4-6pm, the Writers’ Salon is hoping to host an experienced local editor for a question and answer session. To be confirmed.

FCWS will be starting a season of monthly open mic readings on Thursday October  6th  from 6.30-8pm in Westport. You can choose simply to read for 3-5 minutes, without a critique. Or you can sign up to get feedback on how to improve your performance, and perhaps be filmed

Get all the details here and contact faculty member Linda Legters at info@fcwritersstudio.com for more information.

On a completely different topic, I’ve begun using AutoCrit, an editing software that can help you get your work into better shape before you hire a professional editor. I discovered that I have a few writing tics, and writing ‘that’ as I just did, is one of them. So, to rephrase – I discovered I have a few writing tics. Another of them is overusing ‘after all’. The program can do much more complex analysis, but I’m not ready for that yet (sentence length, pacing, dialogue and more). After all, I’m just a novice…Check it out.

I met successful self-published author PJ Sharon the other day, whom I’m hoping to interview for the blog in a week or two. She has many great ideas for how to make that success happen. You can see for yourself how she’s doing, here. One suggestion she made for self-published authors was to donate a copy of your eBook to your local library, for people to borrow digitally. And apart from the YA books and other fiction she writes, she’s written a book called Overcome your Sedentary Lifestyle – perfect for writers.

It looks as though it’s going to be a busy autumn. Happy writing!

 

 

 

 

 

Westport Writers’ Rendezvous – August update

Welcome to the August update from the Westport Writers’ Rendezvous.

First up, here’s news from the Westport Library and the Fairfield County Writers’ Studio.

The FCWS is working with the Westport Library to create a new program called Westport Writes, designed to guide writers through all stages of writing and publishing. They’ll be offering talks, workshops etc, with the next one taking place this weekend.

You Wrote a Book, Now What? is a 2-hour talk by Jan Kardys. From 10-12pm on Saturday August 20th

Writing Scripts for Television – 6.30-8.30pm, August 25th   

Advanced Writing Classes led by Mary-Lou Weisman begin September 6 1.15-2.45pm. Beginners’ fiction and non-fiction classes are available, too.

A two-part introduction to Scrivener writing software with Chris Friden, on September 26 and 28, from 6.30-8.30pm.

This is just a selection. Check out the complete list of writing events here. All these events are at the library and require registration.

The Connecticut Chapter of the Romance Writers of America is holding its annual Fiction Fest in Norwalk from September 9-11. The conference is open to any writer, and there’s the possibility of having an agent or editor look at your work and give you feedback. Registration closes on August 25th. $209.

A propos of ‘You Wrote a Book…, Jan Kardys is offering a one-day conference in Groton on September 10th, with Marilyn Allen (agent) Sal Gilbertie (herbalist and non-fiction writer) and Katie Henderson, who will tell you about social media marketing, among others.

Alex McNab recommends the ‘away days’ offered by FCWS, where you can spend the day just writing without distractions, and without the internet, if you’re strong enough not to ask for the Wi-Fi password. This how he got to the end of a major edit on his novel.

His latest blog post for the Fairfield Writers is up now. It’s an interview with Betsy Lerner, agent, editor and author of The Bridge Ladies, a memoir, but also of The Forest for the Trees, a book about editing.

Aalicelex also found a good article about hiring a professional editor. You can read it here. And he recommends these two new books on writing:

The Accidental Life: An Editor’s Notes on Writing and Writers by Terry McDonell (Knopf, $26.95) and The Kite and the String: How to Write with Spontaneity and Control—and Live to Tell the Tale by Alice Mattison (Viking, $25)

The Mark Twain House in Hartford is hosting its annual Writers’ Weekend from September 23-25th. It’s a conference that covers many genres and offers more than 30 different workshops. Registration is $180, and you can write in Mark Twain’s Library on Saturday or Sunday morning for an additional $30.

Don’t forget to come and read at the Fairfield Public Library if you can. Writers Read open mic is on September 6,  at 7pm. The Writers’ Salon , a discussion group, is on  September 9, at 4pm (a week later than usual, to avoid conflicts on the Labor Day weekend).

Norwalk Public Library is running several literary/writing events, too. Their next author visit if by Anne Korkeaviki, author of Shining Sea, who will be talking about her most recent novel at 12pm on August 22nd.

Norwalk is also where Leslie Kerr (their author-in-residence) runs the Norwalk Writers’ Guild, which meets every 1st and 3rd Thursday of the month from 5.30-7pm. For those members of the Writers’ Rendezvous who were looking for an evening group, this might offer an opportunity. One session each month is dedicated to discussion of the writing process, then writers can post their work online for critiquing before the second meeting. And the Guild is planning an annual conference next year, too.

Sheryl Kayne is organizing a contest on her website for people interested in Volunteer travel. Details here.

Places to submit: Glimmer Train very short fiction (300-3,000 word) and fiction open (3000-20,000 words) is offering cash prizes for the first three winners in both categories, and even if not a winner, will pay you $700 if they publish your story. Deadline 8/30/16.

Dogwood, Fairfield U’s literary magazine is also looking for submissions in fiction, non-fiction and poetry – deadline: September 5, 2016.

And there you have it. I think there’s enough stuff here to keep you going until next month… As ever – if I’ve made any mistakes, please let me know or correct them in the comments. Thanks!

 

 

 

Westport Writers’ Rendezvous – July update

So here’s the update from Wednesday’s meeting of the Westport Writers’ Rendezvous – for those who were there, and those who wish they had been…lainey

A number of interesting topics arose. Ed Ahern mentioned that he’d been interviewed for The Two Sides of You, a book about bi-hemispheric people – those using both sides of their brain with equal facility. I mention this because I know the author, who belongs to a generation not generally known for their technological interest, never mind savvy. Yet Elaine Breakstone managed to publish this interesting (not just because I know her!) book, finding a cover designer, using Createspace to help with the layout, and putting it up on Amazon. Point is, if she can do it, you could too.

Alex McNab had his first fiction piece published in Still Crazy, suggested by fellow member Jacque Masumian. This is why we meet – to encourage each other and tell each other what works.

One submission tool that comes up at virtually every meeting is Duotrope. I mention it again for new members, and also for those of you who find submitting an overwhelming task.

Several members asked about how to write a really good query letter. We talked about Query Shark, a website run by  agent Janet Reid  who takes apart query letters she thinks aren’t any good, so you can see what not to do. One Rendezvous member suggested not sending a query letter to your top agent preferences first, in case the letter needs modification.  After you’ve sent it to your second tier list, and modified the letter (assuming you don’t get an acceptance) submit to your A list.

An interesting article in Atlantic Monthly talks about the rise in women crime writers. I find this interesting, since in my book, so to speak, women authors have dominated crime since the 30’s (Agatha Christie, Dorothy Sayers, and forward). I guess what the writer is getting at is that women write better psychological crime – solving the crime isn’t just a technical puzzle, it’s an emotional one, too. Add to that the fact that over half crime readers are women, and you can see why women crime writers are so successful. A quick check of our membership shows a number of women crime writers among our members, but so far, no men.

Dogwood, the Fairfield University Literary magazine, is soliciting submissions for their 2017 Literary Prizes. If you don’t want to compete, but would like just to submit, you can do that, too.

Talking of submissions, here’s an article on why you should aim for 100 of them. Some of our members are working on it!

For non-fiction writers, Creative Nonfiction is running a workshop in Havana (Cuba) from January 31-February 4, 2017. It’s co-sponsored by the Santa Fe Photographic Workshops, and will be led by Lee Gutkind, editor of Creative Nonfiction. It’s called: Bringing Havana to Life, and at least one of our members is setting her novel there. Even if you’re not, Havana? Sounds great.

I heard about Plot Control software from a friend. It’s designed to help with screenwriting, but as we know, plot structure doesn’t vary much between genres. However, this is not the only one out there.  You might also look at Movie Outline, Save the Cat, and Final Draft.  I think most of these will work for fiction, too, but don’t quote me.

For those people already published on Kindle, you can, in fact, sign your book for buyers. I asked A.J O’Connell about it when I interviewed her a while back. You can read more about Authorgraph here.

As ever, Writers Read will be at the Fairfield Pubic Library on Tuesday, August 2nd, from 7-9pm. On August 3rd, Jay McInerney is talking about his latest book at the Darien Library, and on Friday, August 5th, the Writers’ Salon will be meeting at the Fairfield Library from 4-6pm.

See you next month!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Westport Writers’ Rendezvous – June update

It’s been a week since the last Westport Writers’ Rendezvous, and I should have published this post sooner. But I was away over the weekend, and I was doing some of my own writing, too, which all writers understand (I hope) has to come first. It was a great meeting, as ever, with several new faces, and there was a lot to talk about. Far from slowing down in the summer, the number of author workshops and events seems to be multiplying.edi

Among the upcoming events we discussed were the Memoir Workshop on June 25th in Westport. Run by The Company of Writers, the cost is normally $300 (including lunch), but the organizer, Terence Hawkins, is offering a specially discounted rate of $200 to Writers’ Rendezvous members.  The workshop leader is Blanche Boyd, a professor at Connecticut College, and a published writer.

BTW, The Company of Writers’ website also offers a list of indie presses, most of which accept direct submissions from writers. The site is worth a look.

Also on the 25th is a workshop run by Jan Kardys of the Unicorn Writers’ Conference, in Newtown, CT. It’s called: You Wrote a Book – Now What? Click on the link to can check it out.

June 26th sees an interesting development in book launches. Nora Raleigh Baskin, middle grade and YA novelist will launch her latest novel, Nine, Ten: A September 11th Story, on Facebook at 8pm. Check it out – it’s an intriguing new idea.

On June 28th, The Westport Library is offering a 2-part workshop called Writing Scripts for Television. It will be run by GiGi News. Part 1 is on June 28th and part 2 takes place on August 25 – both from 6.30-8.30pm. Register here.

Barnes and Noble in Westport, CT, is running a couple of excellent events next week. On June 29th, at 7pm, authors Nora Raleigh Baskin, Linda Legters and Stephanie Lehmann will discuss their paths to publication and changing views of success and art. Free. (Click here for my interview with Linda Legters.)

And the day after, June 30th, also at 7pm, our very own Susan Israel, crime writer, will be launching her latest novel – Student Bodies. If it’s anything like the last, it will be a great beach read.

Alex McNab wanted me to remind you of these other events:

Tues, June 28, 2 pm: Afternoon Tea with Author (The Bridge Ladies, The Forest for the Trees [about writing & editing from editor’s perspective]) Betsy Lerner at Fairfield Public Library, free.

Tues, July 5, 7-9pm Writers Read and Fri, June 8, 4-6pm Writers’ Salon at Fairfield Public Library, free.

Tues, Aug 23, 6-8pm DartFrog Books publishers are offering a  pitch session for self-published authors at Bank Square Books, Mystic, CT. Look for the sign-up form at http://dartfrogbooking.setmore.com/

One of our members is still soldiering on, checking out book marketing companies. It’s not easy to know who, among the crowded book marketing sector, can actually deliver in terms of book recognition, never mind sales. There are various companies that offer packages of services, but the consensus seemed to be that these aren’t likely to provide much in the way of promotion, and one is better off going it alone.

Which led us to a discussion of the value of editors – this without any prompting from me. As you know, I have a bee in my bonnet about editing, and it turned out that we had three among us. They agreed that it as best to submit 10 pages to an editor before hiring them, since the writer and editor must be compatible – on the same page, so to speak. This makes sense to me, because there are as many different styles and points of view as there are writers. If you’d like me to put you in touch with them, let me know in the comments.

For those wanting to print copies of their own book, the Espresso Machine by On Demand Books is located in New York, and can print your book while you wait. I’ve used it to print the first draft of one of my terrible novels, and I found it very useful for editing, since I left it in Courier type and double-spaced, so I could make written changes. (What is doesn’t do is improve the terrible first draft…)Much easier than doing it all on the computer. The machine itself is located in Shakespeare & Co, the independent bookstore on Lexington Avenue, and the company now offers other self-publishing tools as well.

Our most frequently published member, Ed Ahern, publishes short stories in many places, among them Ember and Spark. Recently, one of his stories, published by them, was accepted for a project that brings stories to young readers in eBook form to encourage them to read. And there’s a strong possibility it will be made into an audio version by Audible, too. The project is being coordinated by Plympton, so check them out. If I gave you all the details, it would be another whole post, but I’ll ask Ed to tell us more at the next Rendezvous.

Ed found Ember and Spark via Duotrope – it works, people!

And Kate Mayer recommended a site for freelance writers who want to make money writing: The International Freelancer. Check it out.

Kate also mentioned that she’d been paid to be a beta reader of a book. We all need beta readers for our own work, so if you know how to find them, let me know.

Write on, until next month!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.