Westport Writers’ Rendezvous – February update: part 1

First, thanks to everyone who showed up yesterday for our 5th anniversary meeting in spite of dire warnings about the weather. And congratulations to member Alison McBain who came First  in the Connecticut Press Club’s Communications Contest for her editing … Continue reading

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.

 

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.

Pitchapalooza comes to Darien July 12. Be there.

The Darien Library, which has regular events for writers,  has upped the stakes in the “we help writers” arena by inviting literary agent Arielle Eckstut and author David Henry Sterry, AKA The Book Doctors, to the Library on Thursday, July 12th. Eckstut and Sterry are the creators of Pitchapalooza, which they describe as the American Idol of books.

Briefly, anyone with a book they’re writing, an outline for a book or even just an idea for a book, can go and pitch their book/outline/idea. The catch? They only have one minute in which to do it. A panel of four industry insiders that includes Eckstut and Sterry gives constructive feedback on everything from idea to style to market potential and more. At the end of the evening, the Judges choose a winner, who receives a half hour consultation with Eckstut and Sterry.

If you have a book or an idea for a book – go.

If you haven’t – go. Because just listening to other people’s pitches will give you an idea of what’s involved in getting an idea across to a publisher. Everyone who goes will come away with concrete advice on how to improve their pitch as well as a greater understanding of the ins and outs of the publishing industry.

Pitchapalooza has been held in venues across the country, to standing room only crowds. This is a terrific chance to see what all the buzz is about.

P.S. While you’re at the Library, check out the Espresso Book Machine, which will print your book while you wait.

The Book Doctors, co-founded by Eckstut and Sterry, is a company dedicated to helping authors get their books published. Their book, The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published, contains all the information you’ll ever need, taking you through the entire process of conceiving, writing, selling, marketing and promoting your book. Arielle Eckstut has been a literary agent for 18 years at The Levine Greenberg Literary Agency. She is also the author of seven books and the co-founder of the iconic brand, LittleMissMatched. David Henry Sterry is the best-selling author of 12 books, on a wide variety of subject including memoir, sports, YA fiction and reference. They have taught their workshop on how to get published everywhere from Stanford University to Smith College. They have appeared everywhere from The New York Times to NPR’s Morning Edition to USA Today.