Westport Writers’ Rendezvous: April update – Part 1

jacqueWe had a relatively small but select group of members at Wednesday’s meeting, probably due to spring break around here, coupled with Passover and Easter. But that gave us a chance to talk to each other about whatever was on our (writing) minds. One of the topics was rejection, about which one of our more prolific writers, Jacqueline Masumian, (Nobody’s Home) has a theory. She has always made it a goal to achieve 50 rejections. I don’t think she’s there yet, because her work is accepted more and more often. Because she submits. And that’s the point of the goal…

It seems to me there are more and more events for writers around here, so I keep updating my Writers’ Calendar, on a separate page of this blog. If you have anything you’fd like me to add, let me know. Here’s a selection of upcoming events, plus some ideas for ways to move your writing forward. Part 2 will follow next week.

On Saturday, April 20, at 7:30 pm, Shanna T. Melton of www.PoeticSoulArts.net is hosting a celebration of National Poetry Month, to include the music of DJ Buddha LuvJonz, art, and an open mic for poets. The event will be held at Conscious Creators, Studio 1223, The Bridgeport Innovation Center on Connecticut Ave, in Bridgeport. $10

From April 26 – 28 (Friday/Saturday at 8pm, Sunday at 3pm) a festival of nine new plays will be presented by the Theatre Artists Workshop in Norwalk. Reservations: 203 854 6830. Suggested donation: $25

On April 30, the Fairfield Library is holding an evening for and about book clubs. Worth going if you’re a writer who’d like more book clubs to buy your book. Guest speaker, Carol Fitzgerald, is Founder and President of The Book Report Network. She’ll share some of the hottest new titles, and explain the website Reading Group Guides. Come on your own or bring your book club! Register here.

ed ahernMay 5 sees members Ed Ahern and Alison McBain will be at the Fairfield Library along with other members of the Poets’ Salon, to read selections from their published collections and answer audience questions about their process of writing and getting published. Register here. Ed will be reading again on May 7 at Curley’s Diner in Stamford.

On May 9, from 7-8:30pm, I’ll be leading an Book Odyssey Author Night at the Storytellers Cottage in Simsbury, CT, featuring: Elizabeth Chatsworth,  Roman Godzich and Alison McBain. This is one of many author events they hold there. Do join us for this exclusive author night. Meet each author and hear readings from their latest books. Signed copies will be available for purchase. Enjoy a light reception after. If sci-fi isn’t your thing, don’t worry, we’ve written books in various other genres too. Register for $5

alafairAlso on May 9, at 1pm, Alafair Burke, author of The Better Sister, will be at Fairfield Main Library for an author talk and signing with high tea/luncheon. Please rsvp here since space is limited,

last timeLiv Constantine, the two sisters who wrote The Last Mrs Parrish, will be launching their latest psychological thriller – The Last Time I Saw You at the Fairfield University Bookstore on May 10, from 7-9pm. The evening is entitled Merlot, Munchies, & Murder, which should give you some idea of what to expect! RSVP: livconstantine2@gmail.com. If you can’t make that evening, there are various others planned. (See the Writers’ Calendar for details.)

On May 16, from 7-9pm, the Fairfield County Story Lab in Westport is hosting a Literary Game Night. Host Evan Pagano, presents a rousing evening of trivia, charades, Pictionary and more — all centered around books, authors and all things literary, from classics to contemporary. Come and compete, team up with new friends, or just watch the games unfold and have some fun. Free to members. $10 for guests. Open to the public.

Keep an eye out for part 2. It should be out on Monday!

 

The Storyteller’s Press – a new publisher in Connecticut

Lisa Melikian NatcharianLisa Natcharian launched the Storyteller’s Cottage in a beautiful Victorian house in Simsbury, CT, in 2017.  It began as a venue for various literary activities and events for children and adults—book clubs, author readings, Harry Potter and Dungeons and Dragons Clubs, literary parties (1930s Murder Mystery or WWII Blitz party, anyone?) and plenty more. (Check the writers’ Calendar page on this site.) In addition to all of this, Lisa offers writing coursesSix Months to Your Manuscript, Intro to Journalism and Picture Books 101 among many others. Recently she 750 hopmeadow lightinstalled a writer-in-Residence, C. Flanagan Flynn, who leads workshops and one-on-one coaching, as well as writing for Inkling, (below) the beautiful quarterly literary magazine published by Storyteller’s Cottage. With all this going for it, it’s small wonder that ST is so popular with writers.

Full disclosure: I’m one of four authors featured in an evening called Book Odyssey Night on May 9, but that’s not why I asked Lisa for this interview.

Inkling Spring 2019 coverRecently Lisa added to her impressive list of offerings, by launching The Storyteller’s Press. So far, they’ve published three authors, and I wanted to find out more.

GC: What made you decide to begin such a time-consuming project?

LN: In the two years that we’ve been active in the writing community, we have been privileged to meet scores of aspiring authors.  As we spoke to them in the context of our writing classes and social events, we heard over and over about the difficulties new writers have trying to make an impact as tiny fish in a gigantic sea.  We saw a need for a small, hometown, supportive press, where new children’s authors can launch a career with personalized, caring support.

GC: How does an author get published by you? Do they require an agent?

LN: No agent is required.  Prospective authors may send us a summary of their story idea by email and we’ll respond back with a request for more information if the concept is a good fit for us.  For the first year of our operation as a publisher, we are limiting our range to children’s books.  As we grow, we plan to add additional genres.

813TmqvutuLGC: What makes publishing with The Storyteller’s Press different from traditional or self-publishing?

LN: We fit right in the pocket between traditional and self-publishing.  As a small press that focuses on personal service, we provide a hand to hold on the beginning of the publishing journey.  Whereas self-publishing requires a significant up-front investment on the part of the author, publishing with The Storyteller’s Press does not.  And while traditionally published authors may receive an advance on sales, or may be asked to travel to promote their work, the Storyteller’s Press instead operates on a smaller, more human scale.  We publish small initial print runs and rely on a print-on-demand model after the initial run, reducing financial risk for all involved. Focusing on our local contacts to promote new books, we work to get new authors into local independent bookstores as well as national chain stores.

Truly cover to edit-2GC: Does The Storytellers Press help with marketing the books?

LN: Definitely. With the Storyteller’s Cottage at the core of our local writing community, we are able to quickly garner name recognition for our new authors by promoting them on all our established communication channels, including our website, direct mail, social media, online magazine, etc. New authors are featured in our on-site bookstore, and at a variety of special events, including a launch party, storytime, writing workshop, community fairs and more.  We help authors create a website, blog, Facebook page, YouTube book trailer and any other personal marketing vehicles that they can then maintain. Our staff promotes new authors to the media with regular press releases to our established contacts in the area, and will also submit authors’ names to respected online directories and for a variety of author awards.

GC: This is amazing! And finally, most important for my readers, are you currently looking for submissions, and if so, in what genre(s)?

LN: Yes we are.  We would love to see submissions from local children’s book authors, especially those that have a self-confidence or educational component.  Our current roster includes Amanda Bannikov, whose three books featuring Tippy the Dragon and Kimothin the girl knight all encourage children to get comfortable with uncomfortable situations; Lana Bennett, whose two books featuring Truly the Fairy use mystery-solving to build self-confidence; and Kati Mockler, whose book about magnets teaches children how positive behaviors can attract joy in life.

You can connect with the Storyteller’s Cottage at their website, on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram

 

Bringing Hollywood to Life – interview with Emma Straub

I think it was last week (this hurricane has played havoc with my sense of time) that I met Emma Straub at the Darien Library in Connecticut. She was there (all the way from New York) to talk about her first novel, Laura Lamont’s Life in Pictures, which was published by Riverhead Books in September. Her debut story collection Other People We Married, arrived in February 2012, also published by Riverhead Books. Her fiction and non-fiction have been published by Tin House, The Paris Review Daily, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, Vogue, and many other journals, and she is a staff writer for Rookie, an online magazine for teens. She’s done a fantastic job of promoting the book, with readings, events and offers to book clubs to join them via Skype. I have to say, she deserves the success she’s having.

GC: How/where did you learn to write?

ES: My father is a writer, and my mother runs a literacy program, so I learned to read and write in utero, I’m pretty sure. I started to take writing seriously when I was about ten, I’d say. I always liked to read more than just about anything else.

GC: This novel covers quite a swathe of time. What first got you interested in the idea of a saga?

ES: Most of what I’d written previously was bite-sized–my short stories in particular. I wanted a novel that felt like it couldn’t possibly take any other form. And who doesn’t love a saga?!

GC: You said you weren’t a film buff, yet you seem to know a lot about Hollywood in the 30’s and 40’s. How did you find out about it?

ES: Well, some people would probably call me a film buff–I do go to the movies once or twice a week, probably. But I didn’t have an encyclopedia of film already embedded in my brain. I went to the library! Several libraries. And bookstores. And, of course, to the movies.

GC: Are any of the characters based on real people and if so, why did you choose the ones you did?

ES: I couldn’t resist–though I knew I wanted Laura, my main character, to really be her own person, I couldn’t help sneaking a couple of fictionalized versions of real actors and Hollywood types in there. Laura’s best friend Ginger is based on Lucille Ball, for example, because I just loved learning more about her.

GC: Do you have any favorite authors you like to re-read?

ES: Jennifer Egan, Lorrie Moore, Ann Patchett. Those are my fave, fave, faves.

GC: Can you tell us exactly where you write and why you like to write there?

ES: I have a small office, with a chaise lounge. I recline. Why not, you know? I just don’t like sitting at a desk. And it has to be at home, because I need total quiet. And my cats.

Re-post: 5 Unusual Ways to Experience Books by Sally Allen

Sally Allen is the editor of Westport’s HamletHub  an online newspaper, and blogs about books and literature at Open Salon. She earned a PhD in English education from NYU. You can also find her on Facebook and Twitter. As a book-lover, a recent article got my attention right away, with it’s new and unusual ideas for ways to enjoy books.

Here it is:

5 Unusual Ways to Experience Books

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been running into fascinating projects that involve experiencing books in unorthodox ways. By ‘unorthodox,’ I mean not sitting down alone and reading quietly in your head but taking the act of reading into a social realm that feels very ’21st Century.’ And not in the kind of way that involves complaining about e-readers and the death of the book/publishing industry/library.

These ideas all offer exciting new ways to experience books that show how relevant reading is today and why it will always matter. Yes, always.

Since they’re all worth sharing, I’m going to do just that! Click on the link to visit the project then meet me in the comments to discuss:

Around the Watery Part of the World in 135 days: The MOBY-DICK Big Read

In an earlier blog post I sang the praises of “Moby Dick,” a novel that wasn’t appreciated in its time but that readers and scholars have been appreciating the crap out of since around the 1920s.

I don’t know that I convinced any of you to read it because—let’s be honest—it’s a really, really long book, a major time commitment. And when you have so many books to catch your eye (and capture your imagination), classics can get relegated to the back of the pile (especially the long ones). It’s kind of like how New Yorkers never quite make it to the Statue of Liberty.

With this project, you can get through “Moby Dick” with a chapter a day, and you don’t actually have to read it! The book is read TO you by a different person each day (Tilda Swinton read Chapter One!). The project began on July 9, but you can still catch up. Melville wrote pretty short chapters.

Moby-Dick Marathon NYC

Here’s another way to experience the American classic without having to sit down and read it for yourself and by yourself: a reading marathon to be held in New York City from Nov. 16 – 18. The website is pretty brief, but here’s what I can tell you: over 100 readers will gather over three days at three independent bookstores in two boroughs.

And also, the celebration marks the 161st birthday of “Moby Dick,” which was first published on Nov. 14, 1851.

“It Was a Dark and Stormy Night,” the Board Game for Book Lovers

I’m almost speechless with glee at this idea for making reading social—a board game that asks players to correctly identify famous first lines of books, from novels to mysteries to non-fiction to children’s literature to short stories. You can play as individuals or teams. It sounds hard but deliciously fun!

The Shakespearience

Launched this week in the iBookstore is this interactive e-book of Shakespeare’s works. Embedded in the text are translations into contemporary language as well as well-known performances featuring Laurence Olivier, Kenneth Branagh, and Orson Wells. The e-book also offers production notes, photos, and other fun features from famous stagings of the plays. The three included in today’s launch are Othello, Hamlet, and Romeo and Juliet.

Reading Parties

Here’s another idea I’m deeply in love with, offered by Book Riot writer Jennifer Paull as an alternative to the traditional book group. What’s the problem with book groups? Maybe that you have to read a book you’re not interested in, or you don’t have time to read the book that’s assigned? This idea takes care of both of these issues.

Instead of picking one book, having everyone read it before the meeting, then getting together to talk about everything but the book that none of you read, make the book group meeting about the act of reading itself.

What does that look like, you ask? Paull suggests setting aside time to read together, as in sitting in a room together and reading. You read the books of your choice, maybe even taking time to read a favorite part out loud to the group, which (incidentally) can be a great way to discover new books to experience in full. Genius!

Do you have a great idea for social reading? Maybe you’ve tried one of these or want to? Tell me all about it in the comments!