Our final meeting of the year was surprisingly well attended, considering how close it was to Christmas. Maybe people were taking a break from the seasonal rush. In any event, we covered a lot of ground, with authors asking each … Continue reading
I hope you’ve all had a wonderful Thanksgiving, and are all set to begin writing again. I always think NaNoWriMo was invented by some guys who didn’t have to cook for their family in November. And how come they never noticed it’s a short month? Oh, well.
Undeterred by these minor setbacks, a hardy group of us gathered at the Pequot Library (our hosts this month and next) in spite of the fact that they were getting ready for their famous Black Friday/Saturday book sale. It’s on tomorrow, Saturday, November 24, from 9-5, and includes DVDs, CDs and Vinyl, as well as books.
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, from 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 Sankovitch; Emily 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!
What a great first-of-the-year meeting we had on Wednesday. I think everyone left with ideas for new goals to set and how to get them done. More on that later, but first:
If you have a book you’d like to pitch to an agent, take advantage of the Fairfield County Writers’ Studio’s Pitch Party in Westport on January 28th from 10-12. $25 to pitch, $15 to sit, sip mimosas and see how it’s done… For tips on how to write a query letter, Alex McNab suggests Jane Friedman’s site, and also taking a look at Query Shark, for info on how not to write one.
FCWS is offering a broad selection of classes, in addition to this unique event. Hit the link to find out what they have.
A number of writing classes are also available at various venues in Fairfield County and New York. In the City, Gotham Writers is offering what they describe as a ‘rush of classes’ both in classrooms and online. I’ve tried them and found them very useful when I first began as a way of finding an instant critique group led by an experienced published writer.
The Westport Writers Workshop has classes starting in Westport, Avon and Ridgefield. Subjects include memoir, fiction, the journey of writing for women, and personal essay.
The Connecticut Book Awards are back. These awards recognize the best titles of 2016 written by authors who reside in Connecticut. Book award submissions will be accepted starting January 2017 and will close in April 2017. For more information, please visit the Connecticut Center for the Book website.
The Connecticut Press Club is still accepting entries for their Annual Communications Contest. The only criterion for submission is that you must be a Connecticut writer and that the submission should have been published/broadcast/launched etc in 2016. The submitting process is still more complicated than it should be, but if you’re interested, don’t give up. They’re accepting entries until February 6. To ensure you’re on their mailing list, email CTPressclub@gmail.com. The deadline is February 6.
One of our members, Sheryl Kayne, is producing a book for which she’s seeking contributions: Grandmas and Grandpas by Many Other Names. This is an opportunity to celebrate grandparents. She’s looking for stories and/or photos about your own grandparents or yourself as a grandparent to accompany stories about fictional grandparents including Little Red Riding Hood’s as well as Heidi’s and Willy Wonka’s Grandfathers. She’s accepting contributions through Valentine’s Day and the E-book and softcover will be launched mid-April in time for Mother’s Day, Father’s Day and Grandparents’ Day. Contributors receive a free E-book. Contribute here.
Bernice Roque, one of our members, is offering a useful (and free) task managing tool specifically aimed at writers. If you feel you can’t keep track of things, this might be a good solution for you. Contact her through her website.
Elizabeth Chatsworth, another member, has been having some success with the grammar-checking tool Grammarly. It claims to find mistakes which Spellcheck doesn’t, and there’s a free version which should be worth trying out.
Among writing conferences coming up in our neck of the woods this year are these:
Unicorn Writing Conference Manhattanville College, Westchester March 25
Writers’ Digest Conference, NYC August 18-20
BookBub is a great resource for authors looking to reach new readers for a debut or a series, to boost books up on the best-seller list, and even drive sales for backlisted books. Authors see an average earning increase of almost 200% when their book is chosen as a Featured Deal. GoSpark Press is offering a webinar; How to Maximize BookBub is set for February 2, 2017 at 4 p.m. PST (register here), and will help you figure out how to make Bookbub work for you, if you’re already published. Plus, it’s only $10…
Larry Brooks is a Californian writer with a great website called Storyfix. He coaches writers and now has a new virtual classroom which provides, to quote, “Hardcore Training Videos For Serious Authors”. He’s offering one free training module, one of five currently available. Here’s the link to “Essential Craft for Emerging Novelists,” an 81-minute hardcore craft training experience. Worth a look.
Book Riot, an online site that sends me updates on all sorts of book-related topics, has a post to inspire anyone who’s having trouble writing: a list of books that will help to get you started.
At our monthly meetings we set ourselves a goal to be accomplished by the next meeting, I’ve vowed to submit more work for publication this year, so I’ll be signing up with Duotrope. Now that I’ve said it in writing, I’ll just have to do it!
With 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:
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.
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: 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.