Author interview: Zeb Appel

zebLike other members of the Westport Writers Rendezvous with publishing news, Zeb Appel shared that her debut novel, Good Luck and a Benevolent God, was published this summer by DartFrog Books  not just in the US, but around the world. The book is about the colorful life and death of Mandy Flanagan, an Irish girl from the South End of Boston who elopes to New York in the twenties, how she navigates a good part of the twentieth century, and finally retires to the suburbs of Wallingford, CT. It has a great review from Kirkus, including this quote: “Appel writes in the natural prose of a raconteur, rising occasionally to the level of lyricism when praising her heroine.” I enjoyed the book too, and the way it demonstrated how stories and people intersect in their lives—what keeps them together and forces them apart. It’s a great book club book, with plenty to discuss.

I’ve followed some of Zeb’s progress via our meetings, but I wanted to know more.

GC: How did your experience as a playwright help or hinder you in writing a novel? Do you think it influenced your prose style?

ZA: Actually, my creative writing life began as a student writing poetry and short stories. These were published in literary magazines and university publications. About ten years ago I started writing plays, short and full-length, comedies and dramas. I took a class at the Hartford Stage, joined organizations and went to shows. This was fun. I learned about dialog and performance, the delivery of words, what sounded natural and what fit that particular character. This works in fiction, too. I always read my work aloud no matter what form it takes.

appelGC: What was the impetus for writing a novel at all? Just to try something different? To write about this particular character?

ZA: I am just a storyteller who writes in different forms. For me, poetry is an intimate experience while plays are public and must engage an audience. “Good Luck and a Benevolent God” originated a while ago in a workshop led by the New Haven writer Alice Mattison. Back then, it was a handful of (humorous) linked short stories about an eccentric family. Alice called it a ‘baby’ novel. Even though it ‘grew up’ to be the full portrait of a woman’s life, it still retains that ‘linked short story’ flavor about key characters and their adventures. This device (emphasizing character over plot) labeled it literary rather than commercial.

GC: Can you tell us something about your journey from first idea to publication?

ZA: Well, I don’t outline but will draw a relationship chart with major events to ‘see’ that it works logically. Initially I just write about something seen or heard that I want (need) to shape into a poem, a story or a play. My reader-friends critique and I use outside (paid) editors. But I’m fussy. I can always find fault with my work and will endlessly revise and mush the words around unless someone takes it away from me.

At present, I don’t have a literary agent (that may change). I find querying tiresome and the process to place a book with a major house too slow. A friend referred me to DartFrog Books. They liked the book and agreed to publish in less than a year and pay royalties like a traditional press. (They have since changed their business model.) They edited and formatted the content, and also designed a dandy cover. Plus, I enjoyed a book release signing and giveaway at BookCon in NYC.

GC: Mandy is considered eccentric, partly because she’s ahead of her time. To me she seems admirably independent. Is she based on anyone in particular?

ZA: My nana played slide piano on an old upright in her little house and a crowd sang along. I come from a family of four girls and we are a headstrong ornery bunch with our own sense of timing. Like most Americans, our family history is colorful. Of course I am part Irish so I enjoy a good story, music and beverages, like Mandy.

GC: You cover sixty years of New England life. How did you research the historical settings?

ZA: It was fun. The best background came from an estate. But I wasn’t writing a historic novel, so whole chapters about events like WWII had to be removed from the final version because it was too long.

GC: And finally, what’s next?

ZA: The final draft of my suspense novel, “The Median” is almost done. It’s about a woman’s breakdown, a truck driver and the startling event that changes their lives.

You can connect with Zeb on her website and at zebwrites@gmail.com, and via Facebook, and Goodreads.

Westport Writers Rendezvous: August update – Part 2

Happy you rejoined me. 🙂 And, as you will see if you read far enough, this is all about me.

The Brooklyn Book Festival will be held from September 16-23 in a variety of venues around Brooklyn (of course). It’s one of America’s premier book festivals and the largest free literary event in New York City. Presenting almost 200 national and international literary stars and emerging authors, the Festival includes a week of Bookend Events throughout New York City, a lively Children’s Day and a celebratory Festival Day with more than 300 authors plus 250 booksellers filling a vibrant outdoor Literary Marketplace (September 22).

The Westport Writers Workshop is signing people up for one-day Saturday workshops beginning in September. Among them are: Honing Your Pitch  with Allison Dickens,  (September 14), Facebook For Writers w/ Jessica Grunenberg  (September 21), Twitter For Writers, also with Jessica Grunenburg, Learn to Outline (How to Write a Novel & Not Lose Your Mind) with Jessica Speart on October 5, Revise and Love It with Marie Cordell (October 12). Each costs $75, and runs from 10-noon or 10-1pm.

SFestThe Saugatuck StoryFest runs from September 26-28 and kicks off with Beyond Earth: The Stories and Science of Space Continue reading

Westport Writers’ Rendezvous: August update – Part 1

51tDpVmnPWL._SY498_BO1,204,203,200_Twenty writers attended out meeting yesterday – and they had a lot to share. Mary Grace Dembeck’s children’s book, I’m Mad at the Moon, was published this month, Richard Seltzer has a publishing contract, and member V.P. Morris is launching her first weekly podcast series on August 27. The Dead Letters Podcast is a suspenseful audio drama in 25-minute episodes, focusing on the lives of five women who, over history, have received mysterious letters that warn of death and destruction if they don’t do exactly as the sender says. Find it on all the main podcast platforms: PodBean, iTunes, Google Play Podcasts, Spotify, and Stitcher

Gotham Writers in NYC offers writing courses in a wide variety of genres, and for all levels of expertise.  To encourage you to take a look, they are offering a free course to the winner of their 27-word Story-in-a-Bottle contest. Imagine finding a bottle Continue reading

Westport Writers’ Rendezvous: July update

We had a great meeting on Wednesday, with lots of ideas for writers on how and where to submit, editing techniques, and congratulations to members recently or about-to-be published.  To keep this month’s update down to one post, I’m forging ahead.

On every third Thursday of the month, The Darien Library hosts a free Writer’s Workshop for writers of any genre and level of writing ability. Next meeting: Thursday, July 18, from 7-8:30 pm. They critique up to ten pages of written work in a friendly, constructive atmosphere. The meeting is directed by Laura Cavers, MFA. If you’re interested in joining the Writer’s Workshop for the first time, email Laura to get started.

41hnNV7tBgL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_On Sunday, July 21 / 2:00pm – 3:00pm The Storytellers Cottage is hosting a chat with a published author about the secrets to becoming a successfully published writer. July’s Featured Author: Penny Goetjen author of The Empty Chair, Murder on the Precipice, and  Murder Beyond the Precipice. National award-winner Goetjen writes murder mysteries where the milieu plays as prominent a role as the engaging characters.

Pequot book sale Pequot Library’s 59th Annual Summer Book Sale takes place from Friday, July 26 – Monday, July 29, from 9-6pm. Prices vary day to day, from most expensive to begin with to almost free by the end. They often have over 60,000 books for sale, so there’s definitely something there for you.

The Storyteller’s Cottage in Simsbury is also offering a class on Saturday, July 27, from 1-2:30pm, titled: Get Published: from Ideas to Instagram. Topics include: Opportunities on websites such as Submittable, preparing manuscripts, and deciding between a traditional publisher, and indie publisher or self-publishing. What to expect from publishing companies and editors. Revising and editing. And some of the most popular ways authors market their books from traditional bookstore signings to blogs, to Instagram. Good value at $30.

camouflageNorwalk Public Library is hosting two authors in August. Ivy Keating will be appearing on August 7 from 12-1:30 to talk about her book Camouflage, and on August 9, also from 12-1:30pm, Scott Kimmich will be discussing his trilogy of fantasy novels, Ordeal by Fire.

The Masters Review is now accepting submissions for their Summer Short Story Award for new writers. The winning story will be awarded $3000 and publication online. Second and third place stories will be awarded publication and $300 and $200 respectively. All winners and honorable mentions will receive agency review Deadline August 31.

Registration for the 2019 Ridgefield Writers Conference is now open! The conference takes place Friday, September 20, from 6:30-9pm at the Ridgefield Library. This year’s theme is storytelling, and the keynote is acclaimed writer, teacher and New Yorker poet Charles Rafferty. They also offer an agent, editor and publisher panel with Q&A, and three breakout sessions, for poetry, fiction writers and nonfiction. For details, visit Ridgefield Writers Conference. To register, click on Ridgefield Library Events. $25.

The 2019 Jeffrey E. Smith Editors’ Prize awards $5000 each to winners in fiction, poetry, and nonfiction. Winners are published in the spring issue of the Missouri Review and honored at a reading and reception in Columbia, Missouri, in late spring. Deadline October 1. All contest entries are considered for publication in the magazine.  Entry fee: $25-30. Submit here,

The New York Chapter of the Mystery Writers of America is offering two Burstein scholarships worth $1000 each this year to aspiring mystery writers. The purpose of the scholarship is to offer financial support to writers who want to take a specific class, attend a conference, or do specific research as demonstrably necessary to a mystery work they are creating. You don’t have to be a member of the MWA-NY Chapter, and submissions are open until October 9. Check the link above for how to submit.

If you want to pitch your book to an agent you could consider attending The Gotham Writers Conference on October 25-26. They promise genuinely to connect writers with agents and give a close-up look at how to get a book published.  Day 1 includes five panels and presentations. Day 2 is for pitching roundtables. Anyone can attend Day 1, but you must be selected to participate in Day 2. Space is limited.

Those of us with complete manuscripts have to decide how and where to publish. If that’s you, take a look at this informational chart from Jane Friedman, writing and marketing guru, about the key book-publishing paths. It is available as a PDF download—ideal for photocopying and distributing for workshops and classrooms—and the full text is also shown at the link.

Authors Publish is offering a new free book: 182 Short Fiction Publishers. It’s a very helpful guide to places where you can submit. You can download it at the link above.

Once you’ve decided, check out WriterBeware, which has an excellent newsletter that does what it says on the label. Each issue reviews publishers that have caused problems for authors or that misrepresent themselves. These are often self-described as hybrid publishers, co-publishers or partner publishers. What this means, essentially, is that you pay them to publish. This may be worthwhile in some cases, but it’s helpful to know which of these companies are on the level. Worth signing up for.

dreyerSome of you will have attended Dreyer’s evening at the Westport Library on July17, where he discussed his book, Dreyer’s English. If you’re interested in getting your work edited, it might be helpful to know what kind of editing you need. Member Alex McNab has a blog post to enlighten you, describing the Five Stages of Editing.

Don’t forget to check out the Writers’ Calendar for more events for writers, and – keep writing!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Westport Writers’ Rendezvous: June update – Part 2

Here, as promised, is Part 2 of the June update. Lots of author events, contests, and places to submit your work:

The Norwalk Public Library is offering two creative writing series: An ongoing poetry workshop on the first Monday evening of each month, and creative writing each Monday, from 10:30-12pm, beginning July 8. Free. Details here.

A quick reminder that I’ll be interviewing Amy Oestreicher about her extraordinary memoir, My Beautiful Detour,  on July 11 at Barnes and Noble in Westport at 6:30pm. She’ll be reading, and signing her book. And there’ll be refreshments Continue reading

Westport Writers’ Rendezvous: June update – Part 1

Some twenty of us gathered this month at the Westport Barnes & Noble—almost a record! There was lots to talk about, so this post covers Part 1 of this month’s update. First, and most important, the Westport Library is reopening … Continue reading

Westport Writers Rendezvous: May update – Part 2

Here, as promised, is part 2 of this month’s news. Be sure to check out the writers’ Calendar page for all the events I’ve come across that might be of interest to writers. And keep writing!41iWg5vRZGL.SR160,240_BG243,243,243

Jane Friedman, book marketing guru, will be in New York for BookExpo next week, and on May 29 she’ll be teaching a 3-hour evening workshop (in partnership with Catapult) on how to build a sustainable business model for your writing career. Click here to learn more and register.

On May 30, at 5pm, the Writers’ Workshop Continue reading

Westport Writers’ Rendezvous: May update- Part 1

CT PC

Jane Green presenting the award to Alison McBain for the anthology When to Now. PC Keeler was one of the contributors.

Ten of us gathered for the Westport Writers’ Rendezvous on Wednesday, and applause was in the air, because that evening we celebrated the Ct Press Club Awards with a smashing party at the Delamar Hotel in Southport, CT. Novelist Jane Green, presented the awards, and kept the party moving. Among winning members and friends were: Alison McBain, Deborah Levison, Ann Lineberger, Megan Smith-Harris, Aline Weiller, Kate Mayer, Diane Lowman, Catherine Onyemelukwe, Heather Frimmer, Marlou and Laurie Newkirk, Gina Zammit, Lauren Busser, and Sarah Galluzzo. It was wonderful to be in such good company.

ALCThere’s a chance to meet several authors this month. On Friday, May 17 at 7pm, Armando Lucas Correa, author of the international Continue reading

Author interview: Edward Ahern

Today is the last day of National Poetry Month. To mark the occasion, I am interviewing an award-winning local poet, Edward Ahern. His book, Irregular Images, is his latest published volume, and it differs from his014 others, because it’s poetry. Ed may seem like an unlikely poet, because he’s a prolifically-published writer of a novel, The Witches’ Bane, and stories laced with dark humor and a touch of the surreal. Many of the poems in this volume reveal a more metaphysical outlook, yet some of my favorites are those that tell a story, like The Wake, in which a man tells another, silently, how much he despises him, and Telling a Fortune, which reveals the fortune-teller’s point of view. And, as ever, the humor comes through too, in The Urchin Response and O’Leary’s Drive-Thru. I wanted to know more about his poetry.

GC: I know you as a prolific author of short stories, which have been published in journals, anthologies and collections. When/why did you decide to add poetry to your repertoire?

ed ahernEA: It was curiosity that subverted the fiction writer. I‘d been reviewing poems for Bewildering Stories for a couple years, some of them pretty good, some of them clotted chewing gum. I wondered if I couldn’t write poems equally bad or maybe a bit better. So I read into poetry writing, dabbled in a couple on line courses and started writing poems. They got accepted, so I wrote more. And more. I think that writing poetry requires a hopeless infatuation with words, and that it dramatically improves my fiction writing.

GC: Writing poetry tends to be a solitary experience. How do you get feedback on your poems before you submit them?

EA: I cheat, often submitting poems before another human has read or heard them. If a poem is rejected say seven or eight times I assume it stinks and rewrite it. It’s usually accepted thereafter. (I use the editor’s pass/fail vote as feedback on the poem’s quality. Saves me anguishing about whether or not the poem’s any good.) People in poetry groups are often too nice to tell me it stinks, although I encourage them to do so.

GC: You’ve had many poems published by now. Where would you suggest poets submit to begin with? Are there any publications more open to new poets?

EA: I started with low expectations, submitting to publications that accepted fifty percent or more of the subs. Too many writers of both fiction and poetry assume their raw poetry has undiscovered greatness and submit to the top magazines, which accept only one or two percent of unsolicited submissions. They’re rejected, get dejected, and stop writing. There are hundreds of receptive publications out there, including Bewildering Stories.

GC: Irregular Images is your first poetry collection. What prompted you to publish it, and how difficult was the process?

EA: All credit for the Publication of Irregular Images goes to Alison McBain, who went through the Amazon publication anguish. She’s not guilty of the poems’ DNA, but she delivered them. Peculiarly, a different assortment of twenty of my poems, will be published as a chapbook by Prolific Press, titled Dirty Handed Graspings. I’ll need to treat my children lovingly but uniquely as they develop.

GC: How did you choose which of your poems to include, and in which order?

EA: The selection process was painless. Of a hundred thirty poems written so far, eight or so are so bad I euthanized them. Another five are variations on the same theme. Another ten or fifteen, despite being published, are not how I want them to appear, and need cosmetic surgery. Irregular Images could be described as a ‘what’s left’ volume.

GC: In that case, it’s an advertisement for effective pruning!

You can follow Ed on Facebook and Twitter. He is also co-organizer of The Poets Salon Meetup, which meets once a month in Fairfield, CT.

 

 

 

Westport Writers’ Rendezvous: April update – Part 2

Thanks for following my blog, and for letting me know that you find it useful. Hope you find Part 2 helpful, too. You can read Part 1 by following the link at the bottom of the page.

On Wednesday, May 15, at 6pm, the CT Press Club will be hosting its awards evening at the Delamar Hotel in Southport, CT. Congratulations to the many winners who are part of the Rendezvous family, including Ann Lineberger, Kate Mayer, Catherine Onyemelukwe, Lauren Busser, Gina Zammit, MarLou Newkirk and Alison McBain. Looking forward to seeing you at the event. 🙂

ALCArmando Lucas Correa, author of the international bestseller The German Girl will discuss his new Continue reading