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!

 

 

Neil Gaiman explains why we need libraries

Neil GaimanOn October 14, Neil Gaiman gave a lecture for the Reading Agency, at the Barbican in London. Neil Gaiman is the author of over 30 books, mostly fiction, including many for children and graphic novels. The Reading Agency’s annual lecture series was initiated in 2012 as a platform for leading writers and thinkers to share original, challenging ideas about reading and libraries, and The Guardian reprinted an abridged version of the talk. You can read the whole thing here, but there are a few sentences that stood out for me;

I want to talk about what reading does. What it’s good for.

I was once in New York, and I listened to a talk about the building of private prisons – a huge growth industry in America. The prison industry needs to plan its future growth – how many cells are they going to need? How many prisoners are there going to be, 15 years from now? And they found they could predict it very easily, using a pretty simple algorithm, based on asking what percentage of 10 and 11-year-olds couldn’t read. And certainly couldn’t read for pleasure.

It’s not one to one: you can’t say that a literate society has no criminality. But there are very real correlations…

The simplest way to make sure that we raise literate children is to teach them to read, and to show them that reading is a pleasurable activity. And that means, at its simplest, finding books that they enjoy, giving them access to those books, and letting them read them…

The second thing fiction does is to build empathy. When you watch TV or see a film, you are looking at things happening to other people. Prose fiction is something you build up from 26 letters and a handful of punctuation marks, and you, and you alone, using your imagination, create a world and people it and look out through other eyes. You get to feel things, visit places and worlds you would never otherwise know. You learn that everyone else out there is a me, as well. You’re being someone else, and when you return to your own world, you’re going to be slightly changed.

Empathy is a tool for building people into groups, for allowing us to function as more than self-obsessed individuals…

Literary Festivals – they’re all in Britain

I love literary festivals. That’s to say, I love the idea of them. I love the thought of rubbing shoulders with my favorite writers, mixing with other bibliophiles and generally indulging my taste for reading and writing for a glorious few days without interruption. Actually, though,  I’ve never been to one, which considering what an author groupie I am, is surprising. Maybe the reason is that I live in the US and most of the English language literary festivals take place in the British Isles. (British Isles – how quaint! That’s because I’m including Ireland). You can find a comprehensive list of these festivals here and there are still plenty left to visit this year.

At least it seems that they’re all in Britain. I Googled literary festivals USA and got a couple of individual ones, but no comprehensive list. If you know of such a list, do let me know and I’ll be sure to add it to this post. There are plenty of book fairs, but I don’t think they’re the same thing, and most of them aren’t open to the public.

Britain has approximately 135 of them a year, a staggering number for such a small country. The grand-daddy of them all, the Hay Festival,  is celebrating 25 years this week, and the authors that have been lined up for it include Martin Amis, Ian Rankin, Michael Morpurgo and Hilary Mantel, among many others. The Festival is sponsored by the Daily Telegraph, and you can follow it on their live blog 

Hay-on-Wye is normally a small Welsh town of fewer than 1500 people, once famed for having 39 bookstores, mainly selling second-hand and antiquarian books. (That’s one bookshop for every 36 residents, in case you care…) The bookstores are still there, of course, doing a brisk trade all year with collectors all round the world, but when the festival is on, 80,000 people visit the town. Heaven knows where they stay…

Other British Newspapers sponsor literary festivals too. The Times supports the Cheltenham Literature Festival (October), The Sunday Times does the Oxford festival in March,

But British festivals don’t end there. There are specialized festivals: ones that feature particular writers – Graham Greene (Berkhamsted in September), Dylan Thomas (October, Swansea), Daphne du Maurier (Fowey, Cornwall, May), T.S. Eliot (Little Gidding in July). There’s one just for travel writing: Immrama – the  Lismore Festival of Travel Writing (June 7-10, Waterford Ireland) and another in Manchester just for children’s books (June/July). It goes without saying that some of these are poetry festivals.

My question is: why? Why so many? I know that more books are sold in the US, (over 3 bn! versus 230m in the UK), although almost as many are published (just under 250,000 in the UK and just over in the US). So you’d expect that there would be more festivals like this in the US to cater to those readers. Maybe it’s the distances that put people off. After all, in Britain you’re never more than about 3-4 hours away from anywhere, so these things are accessible. But that can’t be the whole story. Maybe they bring up the Brits to be writer groupies. Maybe knowing our favorite writers live just around the corner (metaphorically speaking) makes people think of them as personal friends, whom they want to visit periodically. I don’t know. But I’m thinking I might visit a festival next year. After all, so long as I don’t visit in December, there’s always a literary festival going on somewhere.