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 Writers’ Rendezvous – February update

Eighteen of us gathered at the Westport CT Barnes & Noble on Wednesday, to exchange ideas, brag about successes, set small goals and drink coffee. The temperature was around 70, which confused us all for a couple of days, but we’ve come to our senses now. 🙂 Fairfield County is becoming a writers’ hub, with loads of events to encourage our writing. I’ve complied the following in (largely) date order.

Write Yourself Free, based in Norwalk, is offering a unique workshop tomorrow, Saturday, February 24 from10:30 am – 1:30 pm. Patrick McCord will help you come to a better understanding of what happens when some action or person appears to you as true, just, and/or beautiful. $40 WYF students/alumni / $50 new clients. They are also running free introductory classes on the following dates:February 25, March 4, March 8 and March 10. Follow the links to register.

The Connecticut Press Club is co-sponsor of a workshop with Contently on February 27 at The Fairfield County Writers’ Studio at 7:00 p.m. The workshop will show you how to become a content marketing writer, something you should know how to do if you are developing your own website. $25 includes Prosecco and light refreshments. Register here.

For those of you who missed last month’s Pitch party, you can join a live webinar  on March 15 at 5PM PST, run by Pitchapalooza. You get 250 words to pitch your book. Twenty pitches will be randomly selected from all submissions to be critiqued during the webinar. For details on how to submit your pitch, (by 11:59PM PST on February 28, follow this link. The winner will receive an introduction to an agent or publisher appropriate for their manuscript.

If you’re at the point of looking for an agent, you might want to attend the New York Writers’ Workshop Pitch Conference in New York on April 20-22. It’s pricey at $495, but might be worth it if it gets results.

Lilly Danzyger editor at Narratively, the online journal, is teaching a course on writing the personal essay at the Fairfield County Writers’ Studio beginning March 1, mem imagefrom noon to 2pm. Open level, for anyone who wants to develop their first-person storytelling chops. She’ll cover the nuts and bolts, from picking a fresh and exciting topic to writing active scenes and getting at a big-picture idea, and you’ll write and polish one publication-ready essay. She’ll follow that up with a class on advanced memoir writing from 2-4pm.The class is for writers with a book-length work in progress, and is limited to 6 students.

Marcelle Soviero and a group of other published writers will be reading their work at 323 Bar & Restaurant in Westport on Friday, March 2, from 7 – 9 pm. The event is free and you can buy yourself a drink or dinner while you’re there.

The Westport Library’s ongoing program for writers, WestportWRITES, is offering a free mini-conference on March 4 from 1-4pm.Entitled, Write Your Fear, it will show you how to write horror, if you’ve never tried it, or improve if you have.

 

Donald Maass, a New York literary editor, is giving an all-day workshop entitled: The Emotional Craft of Writing: How to Tell the Story Beneath the Surface, on March 10, at the Norwalk Inn in Norwalk CT. It costs $139, and you may register here.

Enter by March 15 for the chance to win $1,000 in the Missouri Review’s 11th Annual Miller Audio Contest. The journal is now accepting up to 15-minute audio entries in poetry, prose, audio documentary, and humor for the 11th Annual Miller Audio Prize, judged by the estimable Avery Trufelman.

And WestportWRITES marches on! The Westport Library is running a series of FLEX:experiences from March 21-25, some free of charge and some with a cost. Check the link for details. One experience that I think is worth a writer’s time takes place on March 23 from 10-3pm. Local authors will be appearing at the library all day. They include:  Nina SankovitchEmily Liebert; Lynne Constantine; and Sally Allen; among many others.

If you’re not attending that event, you might be excused if you’re writing a play for WestportWRITES. It 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 1. Submit to Westportwrites@gmail.com, and put Playground Westport in the subject line.

Those indefatigable guys at the Westport WRITES headquarters are at it again on April 8 from 1-4pm with another mini-conference Write Your Business. The conference will focus on the business side of writing, including how to promote yourself if you’re self-published. Alice Mattison, author of The Kite and The String will be there to discuss the writing life.

Time travel is a compelling sub-genre of science fiction and fantasy, and the Fairfield Scribes are looking for the  feature story for their upcoming anthology, When to Now: A Time Travel Anthology. Submissions are open between now and May 1. They’re only accepting original stories with a word length of between 2,000-10,000 words. Check their website for complete details.

If you’re having trouble with a longer work, perhaps you can manage a 100-word submission to The Drabble. They’ll even allow you to republish material from your blog. Check their website to get some idea of what they’re looking for.   .

Recommended by our members: Bibisco, open source novel-writing software that helps you organize your work. Definitely worth a look.

And Janet Reid’s blog – she’s a literary agent who offers advice on how to write a query letter.

Amazon offers advertising for your book on a pay-per-click basis. You only pay when someone clicks on your ad and looks at your book. Find out more here.

See you in March!

PS: for those of you looking for places to submit your work, try Duotrope, and Aswiebe’s Market list, which Brian Duggan mentioned in the meeting. 🙂

 

 

 

Westport Writers’ Rendezvous – October update

It’s as though the entire writing world has woken up at once and is raring to go. If you’re not prepping for NaNoWriMo, or going to mini-conferences, you’re probably at write-ins, or book signings. And among the main providers of opportunities for writers are the local libraries. Read on for activities in Westport, Darien, New Rochelle and Durham… A propos of NaNoWriMo, where your daily counts soon become an obsession, member Elizabeth Chatsworth recommends a useful goal-setting tool for checking your progress called Pacemaker. And it’s free.

typingSunday, October 22, 1-5pm Darien Library: Get ready for NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) by developing your plot in during the Busy Writer’s One Hour PlotWorkshop. The hardest part of plotting is just building a workable framework so you can get on with the actual writing. Taught by Roman Godzich – free. While you’re at it, check out their Writers’ Workshop (next one on November 16, 7-8.30pm).

Sunday, October 22, 3pm: Member Kate Mayer will be reading at Read 650 event at the New Rochelle Public Library. Topic: The Kids are All Right.

Thursday, October 26, 7-9pm: Liv Constantine will be signing her latest book, The Last Mrs. Parrish, at the Fairfield University Bookstore in downtown Fairfield.

Saturday, October 28, 12 – 2:30pm: Member Susan Israel will be reading from and signing her books at Elm Street Books in New Canaan

Saturday, November 4, from 1-5pm: At the Durham Public Library – A Writing Workshop with Alice Mattison: Join acclaimed novelist and writing teacher Alice Mattison to explore the question, “What Does Your Novel Want?” Space limited. Registration required   Register Online or call (860) 349-9544, ext. 1.

Saturday, November 4, 1-4pm: WestportWRITES mini-conference: Discovering the Feminist YA Voice with Authors Jennifer Mathieu and Micol Ostow. At the Westport Library. Free.

Sunday, November 5, 1-5pm: WestportWRITES mini-conference: Write Your World, exploring writing that celebrates a more inclusive world. Features a keynote by author and Lambda Literary Award finalist Chavisa Woods (Things to Do When You’re Goth in the Country). Novelist and Chocolatier Nikki Woolfolk will present an interactive workshop exploring race and representation in storytelling. And author Stephen Graham Jones (Mapping the Interior, My Hero) At the Westport Library. Free.

Preceding every mini-conference, there is a Writers Survival Camp at noon (register online) that focuses on activities to help you survive the writing life. nano

Westport Library Write-In: Come work on your novel in the company of other writers. As if that weren’t enough, they are planning a new podcast series: One-Shot Stories from the Westport Library, as well as a WestportWRITES  compilation/anthology to be published on their newly acquired Espresso Machine. (See my earlier blog post to find out what that is!)

I found this interesting article from Amazon: A publishing checklist for authors. This is part of a new Beta service/blog called author insights, and offers a simple way of knowing what Amazon wants/expects you to do, if nothing else.

Once you have all your ducks in a row, there are several ways to pitch your work, and those of us who’ve tried them have had some success. The first three Pitch Mad, Pitch Madness and Pitch Wars, which takes place every August. They’re run by author Brenda Drake. Pitch Wars offers a two month mentorship for winning submissions to help get you an agent. Pitch Madness is a contest held every March, where writers enter for a chance to win requests from the participating agents. Writers submit a 35-word (max) pitch and the first 250 words of their completed manuscript on submission day. Then a team of readers choose the top sixty (60) entries to go onto the agent round. #PitMad is a pitch party on Twitter where writers tweet a 140 character pitch for their completed, polished, unpublished manuscripts. It takes place quarterly, and the next one is scheduled for December 7, 2017.

These contests work – there’s proof on the site.

Another, similar idea, is offered on Query Kombats, by Melissa Hauck. The rules are a bit complicated, since it’s a knockout contest, so hit the link to find out more. Her second contest is Nightmare on Query Street, whose submissions closed today, but at least you have time to plan ahead for next year…

If you need a hand finishing your work, you can take an online class with Catapult.com. One of our members is trying one, and promises to let us know what she thinks of it.

Lastly, here’s an intriguing, not to say, Quixotic, place to submit a hundred word story (or two). The César Egido Serrano Foundation is a non-profit whose objective is to use words and dialogue to promote understanding between different cultures and religions. The competition first prize is $20,000 for the best short story. All entries will be evaluated by an international jury of great prestige, and the finalist’s stories will be published. A maximum of two stories per person of no more than 100 words each, should be submitted via this link.

 

Westport Writers’ Rendezvous – November Update

November get-together began with a discussion of the recent election. Having got that off our collective chest, we agreed writing might be a way to deal with the situation. With that in mind, there’s plenty going on in the writing world.

img_5200-768x927First, I need to thank Kate Mayer for her great blog post about holding oneself accountable. She’s been writing a blog post a day throughout November as a challenge to herself, which I know she’s going to complete. She gives the Rendezvous some credit for helping her achieve her goals, and I know our meetings have something to do with it, because she’s not the only one. Reason enough to show up!

On December 16, the Fairfield Public Library will be hosting a  one-day (9-5) panel, So You Want to Write a Children’s Book  featuring Patricia Reilly Giff, Susan Hood, Susan Ross, Christine Pakkala and former workshop instructor Michaela MacColl, Rosemary Wells, Tony Abbott and about a dozen other top names in children’s publishing. Free, but you need to register.

If you’re writing for children, FCWS is offering a class beginning on December 2, Writing for Middle Graders and Young Adults. Taught by Nora Raleigh Baskin, the six classes will run for seven weeks (not on the 16th – see above) on Fridays, 12 – 2 p.m.

A propos, it’s time to sign up for new writing classes/workshops if you’re interested. All three Westport sources are offering them, so check them out here:

Fairfield County Writers’ Studio  Among these is a session taught by Beth Levine, one of our members, on writing for magazines

Westport Writers’ Workshop

Write Yourself Free

Byrd’s Books in Bethel runs a series of classes on writing by Judith Marks-White. The next one is on December 4, at 3pm, and costs $20. Email events@ByrdsBooks.com or call (203) 730-2973 for moe information.

The magazine Poets & Writers, is holding a conference: Inspiration, in San Francisco on January 14-15, 2017. (Feels strange to be moving into 2017 already…)  It’s far from here, of course, but their line-up of speakers includes Juan Felipe Herrera; best-selling novelist and author of Purity, Jonathan Franzen; New Yorker staff writer and author of The Orchid Thief, Susan Orlean; acclaimed poet and former United States Poet Laureate Kay Ryan; writer and activist Ishmael Reed; and renowned poet Jane Hirshfield. And the Early bird registration (up to December 4) is only $175. You can’t beat that.

Here’s an interesting article on 9 Important Legal T ips For Self-Publishing Memoir And Nonfiction. It’s from Self-publishing Relief, and offshoot of Writers’ Relief, and worth a read.

And if you are self-publishing, here are some books on how to deal with copyright:  How Authors Sell Publishing Rights, by Orna Ross and Helen Sedwick; The Copyright Handbook and Kris Rusch’s Business blog posts. Kris also has a new book on Contracts coming out soon. Ross and Sedwick have also produced a podcast to help you get started, called Business Mindset Means a Rights Mindset.

Creative Non-Fiction is calling for submissions on a variety of topics for upcoming issues. They include science and religion; adapting to new situations; real life Frankenstein stories; and stories for their new monthly True Story publication (one story of 5-10,00 words per issue).

Kate Mayer also told us about attending Bindercon, the conference and community for women and gender variant writers. (I feel very clued in just typing that.) It’s a bi-coastal conference, and Kate went to the NYC one at the end of October. There’s another in LA from April 1-2, if you’re in that neck of the woods. For more info about the organization and the conference, click here, or check their Facebook page.

Writers Read is taking place on Tuesday, December 6, at the Fairfield Public Library from 7-9. It will be the last one hosted by Alex McNab, so I’d love you to come, even if not to read, to say thanks to Alex for hosting it for so long. Because of the way the days fall in December, the Writers’ Salon will be ther eon the 2nd, from 4-6. Hope to see you there.

At the halfway mark for NaNoWriMo, I keep bumping into people who are giving it a go. I did mine a few years ago, and I recommend it as a great way to learn to write without self-censoring. When I printed out the first draft, I made a title page ‘Horrible First Draft’, which it was. But at least I had a novel to work on. Among the writers I’ve run into are Tessa McGovern, of the Fairfield County Writers’ Studio, who’s also helped organize a series of events for NaNo writers at the Westport Library – putting her money where her mouth is, I guess. She was right on schedule with her novel.

At a talk given by the redoubtable Alice Mattison on Thursday, I was able to encourage a poet who was writing a novel and had got to the ‘Oh my god, this will never work,’ stage. She looked a bit more cheerful after, I think.

And yesterday I met a 13-year-old, working on her second one, which according to her teacher, contains inappropriate material (underage drinking) and is too gory (vampires will do that…). Sounds good.

Have a great Thanksgiving!

 

 

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!

 

 

 

It’s the Place and the People: interview with Alice Mattison

I first met Alice Mattison several years ago when she was part of a panel of writers doing their best to enlighten some neophyte writers (me included) on ways to improve our writing, specifically when we had plot issues. Even when we peppered her with questions she was very approachable and so are her novels. She’s written six so far, of which the latest is When We Argued All Night, described by the New York Times Book Review as ‘a fine novel of a friendship that lasts more than half a century.’When I ran into her again recently, she agreed to be interviewed for this blog. I wanted to find out, among other things, why place and multiple generations of characters are so important in her work.

GC: Your novels have a very strong sense of place. Brooklyn is often almost a character in itself. Is place an important part of your work?

AM: I picture people in context, with a background, whether they are my characters or other people’s, imaginary people or real. I need to know where everybody is and what they see out the window. The places I’ve written about most, Brooklyn and New Haven, are places where I’ve lived, cities about which I feel passionate, but I like thinking about setting in any story, and trying to sense what it would be like for my characters to live in a particular place. I’ve recently written stories set in the mountains in New England and in Provincetown, Massachusetts.

GC: If so, do you have to travel to each place, or can you write about it from research?

AM: I write about places I’ve lived in or visited. I make up houses all the time but I don’t think I’ve ever made up a city—oh, yes, I did: Boynton, Massachusetts in The Book Borrower. I don’t think I’d set anything of length in a place I’ve never been, but a couple of times I’ve used research to write briefly about someplace I don’t know.

GC: Your novels often span several generations. Can you tell us why family histories interest you?

AM: I don’t always write about several generations, but I’ve done it more than once, yes. My grandparents were immigrants to this country. I don’t know much if anything about anybody in the family before them, but they were real and important to me when I was a child—even my mother’s father, who had died before I was born, and for whom I am named. My mother’s mother couldn’t read and write, and that is feels central for me: I will always be the granddaughter of someone who couldn’t read and write. She used to dictate letters that I’d write for her. My parents stories made a time just before my birth come alive for me. When I think about people like my family—even when I am not writing autobiographically, and I’m usually not—I have to include the older generations.

GC: You include politics and historical events in your books, with a particular fondness, it seems to me, for the 30’s until today. Why those years particularly?

AM: My parents were young in the 1930s. It seems like a fascinating era that I missed. I keep trying to get back and know what it was like for them—to see through their eyes. I love photographs from the thirties. I suppose life did not take place in subtle blacks, whites, and grays, but it’s hard not to think it did.

GC: Could you tell us a little about your latest book: When We Argued All Night?

AM: When We Argued All Night is the story of the difficult friendship between two Jewish men from Brooklyn, Harold Abramovitz and Artie Saltzman, beginning in 1936 when they are 26 years old, and ending in 2004, as Artie’s daughter Brenda and her partner watch Barack Obama on TV as he gives the keynote speech at the Democratic National Convention. The book is about the lives of the three main characters during difficult times—the Depression, the buildup to the Second World War, the McCarthy era, the Vietnam War. But even more than that, it’s about love, friendship, and the complexities of family life.

GC: Readers are always interested in the process of writing. I know you write in the afternoons, but where exactly do you write?

AM: I start in the late morning, but I rarely produce anything good until afternoon. I write in a small room on the second floor of my house. Sometimes I carry my laptop into the bedroom and write with it on my lap on top of a pillow, and occasionally I write in the attic. I leave my study when I don’t feel sufficiently alone there, when I’ve been answering too many emails and the room feels crowded with other people. Then the dog and I migrate elsewhere. It’s not logical, because I take my laptop with me and I can check email in any part of my house, but it feels helpful anyway.
GC: Do you have any writing rituals that help you get started or stay on task while you’re writing?

AM: No. I just keep going away from it and back to it until I can write something. I never stay on task. I turn away and back, away and back. It’s sometimes painful, but eventually I can write.
GC: What are you working on now?

AM: I’ve started a new novel and have also written some short stories, which are all about women at work. One was in the PEN/O.Henry Prize Stories collection of 2012; one is coming out in The Threepenny Review. Now and then I write an essay.

GC: You can find out more about Alice on her website  and she’s on Facebook. She also has a Facebook fan page