We had out first Virtual Writers’ Rendezvous via Zoom yesterday, and I’m so glad we did. Thirteen of us managed to sign in, and it was a wonderful way to connect. And, as you can see, I look much younger on Zoom. (Just kidding – that’s not me…) The reason the Rendezvous exists is as an antidote to the isolation of writers. And nothing will stop us connecting! (Photo below courtesy of Zoom)
Naturally, there were almost no events I could recommend, since everything for the immediate future is canceled. But the internet is a wonderful thing. Here are some of the things you can do to stay in the writing groove.
As promised, here’s part two of this month’s update. And I’ve updated the Writers’ Calendar, which you can find by clicking the tab above. What a great time to be a writer in Connecticut! We have one more winning member in the CT Press Club awards. Gina Zammit won for Specialty Articles – Insta Hit (Business) and The Coastal Traveller at the Delamar West Hartford. Well done!
The Norwalk LitCrawl is happening on Tuesday, April 9, 2018 from 5:30 to 8:00 pm and will benefit Norwalk Reads. Enjoy Norwalkers reading aloud from their favorite poetry. 5:30 – 7:00 p.m. at the Wall Street Theater; 7:00-8:30 p.m. at the Fat Cat Pie Co. $10 donation will benefit Norwalk Reads. Please buy a ticket online by donating $10 to Norwalk Reads.
Although it’s sponsored by the Connecticut Romance Writers Association (CTRWA), anyone is welcome to join this online writing class, by Geoff Symon, Federal Forensic Investigator, from April 22-26 Especially valuable for crime writers, I think, since it’s all about wounds, weapons and other things a forensic investigator needs to know. Only $20 for CTRWA members, $25 for non-members.
Anna Quindlen will be appearing at the Mark Twain House in Hartford on Monday, May 6 at 7pm. In her new work of nonfiction, Nanaville: Adventures in Grandparenting, Quindlen explores the role of being a first-time grandmother. She writes with wisdom, humor, and wit about family, female relationships, and being a parent/sister/friend/mother-in-law. A copy of the book is included in the ticket price of $30, and a signing follows the talk.
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. If you love losing yourself in a book about time travel, deep sea expeditions and the world beyond, join us for this exclusive author night featuring these incredible Sci-Fi authors! 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, each author has written several books from other genres as well from romance to history and YA. Register for $5
On May 16, at 7pm, the Mark Twain House & Museum presents author David Baldacci, who will talk about his new thriller, Redemption. This Mark My Words event takes place on Thursday, May 16, at 7 pm, at the Immanuel Congregational Church, across the street from The Mark Twain House in Hartford. Since this is a fundraiser, tickets to the talk include a copy of the book and cost $40—if you’d like to attend the VIP reception, $90.
CrimeCONN 2019 takes place at the Ferguson Library in Stamford, CT on Saturday, May 18 from 8:30am-4:30. This year, the one-day mystery lovers’ conference takes as its theme: Lawyers, Guns and Money. Panelists include a ballistics and firearms specialist, and prosecutors and defense attorneys from the world of white collar crime. Plus, a panel on the craft of writing with some of the most admired instructors in the country. $50 per person. $45 per person for Mystery Writers of America members, friends members, seniors and students. Early Bird registration (before April 19) is $40.
On Thursday, May 23 at 6:30pm. as part of it Friends Author Series the Ferguson Library, Stamford is hosting a panel of thriller writers, Featuring Lynne Constantine (one of the two authors writing under the name of Liv Constantine), author of The Last Time I Saw You, Wendy Walker, author of The Night Before and Kate White, author of Such a Perfect Wife. Tickets are $15 and include a wine and appetizer reception. Reception at 6:30 p.m. Presentations at 7 pm. Book sale and signing. Registration to open in late March.
The 2019 Housatonic Book Awards, hosted by the Western Connecticut State University MFA in Creative and Professional Writing, are now open for submissions. The contest is for work published in 2018. Awards include a $1,000 honorarium with an additional $500 travel stipend in exchange for the opportunity to lead a one-day, three-hour writing workshop. Winners also will give a public reading during students’ week-long residency at WCSU. Genres accepted include fiction, poetry, nonfiction, middle-grade and young adult literature. The submission fee is $25. Application deadline: Friday, June 14.
Expressing Motherhood is a stage show that showcases stories about motherhood. The show is built for the non-famous, non-published, and people who want to get out and express themselves. The average cast consists of ten people, and the lineup changes for each show. Performers submit in advance, and are chosen based on the power of their stories. There are no auditions. Thrown Stone’s Connecticut performances of Expressing Motherhood will take place on Tuesday, July 23, at 7 and 9pm, at the Ridgefield Conservatory of Dance. Compelled to share your own powerful story of motherhood? Submit before May 1, and Thrown Stone Co-Artistic Director Jason Peck will be in touch.
Another great group of people showed up at Barnes & Noble in Westport today, and we had a good time, encouraging each other, and generally making the writing happen. Several people had things published, some rather unexpectedly. Kathryn Mayer had a piece she’d forgotten about published here, and if you have something to brag about, add it to the comments, so people can find it!
Thanks to the intrepid crowd who braved wet weather – and the aftermath of a small, but efficient, tornado which tore through Connecticut leaving a trail of fallen trees and dark homes behind – to come into the warmth and bright lights of Barnes & Noble in Westport on Wednesday. We had lots to talk about – you can find the highlights below.
Up first, this Saturday morning, May 19, (but after the Royal Wedding…) Fairfield County Writers’ Studio is offering a master class by best-selling mystery author, publisher and all-around great guy Chris Knopf. Titled:The Secret Life of Successful Mysteries, it’s geared toward mystery writers, but all novelists will benefit from Chris’ expertise. From 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. or thereabouts Continue reading →
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.
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.
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
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!
I met Chris Knopf at the CrimeConn conference recently, and was intrigued to find that not only is he a writer of several crime series, but is also Connecticut liaison of the New England Chapter of Mystery Writers of America, and is one of the publishers at The Permanent Press, which publishes award-winning crime novels. The main protagonist of Cop Job, the sixth novel in Chris’ Sam Acquillo Hamptons Mysteries series, is an intelligent, well-read man who is a master cabinet-maker as well as an amateur sleuth. Sam has a nice way with women, and a sense of humor, too. The novel is somewhere between a crime novel and a thriller, with a little grown-up romance thrown in for good measure, and so well-paced that I found it a pleasure to read.
GC: I don’t read many “thrillers” or gritty crime novels, but I loved your book, Cop Job. Maybe that’s because it doesn’t fit neatly into any category. There’s mystery, suspense, romance and a limited amount of violence. How did you come to write this kind of book, rather than something easier to categorize?
CK: Thanks for that. I like not being pigeon-holed in any particular genre, though most people who are heavily into mysteries would categorized the Sam books as hard-boiled, amateur sleuth. Many years ago my creative director at the ad agency was approached by a Hollywood producer looking for movie concepts. My boss thought it would be fun to get a roomful of copywriters together to brainstorm ideas. Out of this I came up with Sam Acquillo, an ex-corporate burnout who discovered the body of an old lady who’d lived next door. The setting was the Little Peconic Bay in the Hamptons, and included a potential love interest named Amanda. That was all I had, and the partially-written script went nowhere, but about ten years later I turned it into a novel and things went from there.
GC: Your main character, Sam Acquillo, reminds me a little of Spenser (from the novels by the late Robert B. Parker) or Travis McGee (John D MacDonald). They too, were resourceful private eyes with integrity and intelligence who live slightly outside the mainstream. Were these writers/characters favorites of yours?
CK: Yup. Along with Phillip Marlowe, Sam Spade and Lew Archer. Of those five influences, I always loved Ross MacDonald’s prose and Parker’s dialogue. I also liked Paul Newman’s characters in The Verdict and Nobody’s Fool. Put it all together and stir in my father’s sense of humor and engineering talents, my grandfather’s toughness (a champion boxer) and, of course, my own take on things, and you get Sam Acquillo.
GC: There’s a sense of humor that infuses the book. Is that something you have to think about, or does it come naturally to you when you’re writing? Do you laugh at your own writing?
CK: It comes naturally as I’m writing, though as noted above, my father had a very sardonic wit. I channel some of that. And yes, I often chuckle at Sam’s humor, though usually long after I’ve written the lines when I’m getting the manuscript ready to go to the copy editor.
GC: I know you’ve written two other series, one of which uses Jackie Swaitkowski, who features in the Acquillo books, as the main protagonist.If you had to pick one character to stick with long-term, which would it be?
CK: Sam for sure will always be with me. Jackie, of course, as a key sidekick, will also live on though she could easily turn up again in her own book. I’m probably going to keep Arthur Cathcart’s series as a trilogy. But one should never say never.
GC: You’re very active in Mystery Writers of America. What are the benefits of joining an organization like that?
CK: It’s very important for mystery writers to be part of our rather robust sub-culture. There are lots of conferences, publications, Facebook pages, etc., where we communicate. By we, I mean other writers, commentators, fans, bloggers, etc. It’s a great crowd, and we support each other through thick and thin. I highly recommend joining MWA, but also International Thriller Writers (if you write thrillers), Sisters in Crime (for men and women, though the skew is obviously female) and the International Association of Crime Writers.
Last weekend I attended the CrimeCONN conference held annually in Westport, CT. It was great fun and interesting for writers as well as readers. Among the people I met was Nina Mansfield, author of the YA mystery novelSwimming Alone. She’s written a good blog post about the conference, the beginning of which I’m re-posting below, with a link to the full post. here’s how she began:
CrimeCONN was an AMAZING CONFERENCE!!!
I had the honor of being on the first panel of the day, Who loves you, baby?: How to make your readers fall in love at first sight. Great openings followed by ways to keep the love alive. When I first saw the line up for the panel, I was more than a bit intimidated. Roberta Islieb (aka Lucy Burdette) has published 14 mysteries and has been short-listed for a host of mystery writing awards. Tom Straw has written numerous New York Times bestsellers under a pseudonym. But if I was the tiniest bit nervous (and I was) moderator John Valeri quickly put my fears to rest. He had fantastic questions, and he really made the panel a very enjoyable experience. You can see in the picture below just how much fun I am having!
From L to R: Roberta Isleib (aka Lucy Burdette), Tom Staw, Nina Mansfield and moderator John Valeri. Photo: Chelsey Valeri.
One of the major points that the panel touched upon was whether or not a body needs to drop in the first chapter. The consensus seemed to be – GC. you can read the rest here.
And my next post will be an interview with Nina about how she wrote her first YA novel.