Pitchapalooza comes to Westport February 13th. Be there.

Last July, I wrote a post about Pitchapalooza, a sort of American Idol of books, created by literary agent Arielle Eckstut and author David Henry Sterry, AKA The Book Doctors, They’re coming to the Barnes and Noble in Westport CT next Wednesday evening, and if you live anywhere nearby, and you write, you should be there. The evening is free, and a portion of all purchases (all day – any purchases!)  at that Barnes and Noble that day will go to the Fairfield Public Library , which is co-sponsoring the event.

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 organizers will draw 20 names out of a hat, and then off you go. The catch? You 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.

I went in July, and as I sat and listened to other people pitch their ideas, I realized that my own pitch was going to be pretty bad. As I listened, I sat revising the 200-word pitch I’d prepared. (200 words takes about one minute.)

When my turn came, I got up and began my pitch, but about 35 seconds in, I literally lost the plot of my novel. I couldn’t remember what happened next. They were kind, and said it had promise. But the moral of this is that you NEED to have your pitch honed and ready for any occasion. And it needs to be good.

So – 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.

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.

Fairfield Writers reprise the MFA debate

Back in November, I wrote a post about whether an MFA was worth the money it cost. recently, m,y friends at the Fairfield Writers’ blog took up the discussion again.  This was sparked by the Broadway hit play Seminar, which some of the writers had seen. It’s about a writers’ workshop…

Here’s the beginning of the post:

Save Your Money, Just Write

At different times in March, three of us in the Saturday morning writers’ group at the Library saw the hit Broadway play Seminar with its original cast, before changes were made at the beginning of April. (Jeff Goldblum has replaced Alan Rickman in the role of Leonard; Fairfield’s own Justin Long now plays Martin, the role debuted by Hamish Linklater; and Zoe Lister-Jones is Kate, following Lily Rabe.) Colleague Ian Peterkin, who is an MFA student in creative writing, offers this takeaway.—Alex McNab

When novice writers realize their passion is more than a hobby, they will invariably seek out instruction. Whether they find that instruction in an MFA program, a writer’s workshop, or autodidactically, they must take the matter of writing seriously. For those hoping to learn their craft through books, there are many sources to choose from. Stephen King has his On Writing and of course there is that old classic by William Strunk and E.B. White—The Elements of Style. If fledgling writers do not have the time or commitment for an MFA program—and sometimes even after completing one—they often attend a writers’ retreat or seminar. This brings me to Theresa Rebeck’s play, Seminar.

Read the rest of the post here:



Guest Post from Susan Schoenberger: Books for your Valentine

Susan Schoenberger is a fellow blogger of mine at the Patch, a chain of online newspapers. Recently she published this blog about Valentine’s gifts for book-lovers, and since I know that in addition to writing you all read (you do, don’t you?) I thought I’d re-post it here. Susan has worked as a reporter, editor and copy editor at The Day in New London, The News and Observer in Raleigh, N.C., The Baltimore Sun and The Hartford Courant. And she still has time to read…and write. Her first novel, A Watershed Year was published by Guideposts Books in March 2011.

A Valentine’s Day Gift Guide for Book Lovers

Does your significant other love to read? A thoughtfully chosen book can be far more intimate than flowers, candy or jewelry, and it can change the recipient’s perspective on life in ways that those more traditional gifts can’t.

With Valentine’s Day just a week away, it’s time to start thinking about how to impress the ones you love with a gift that shows just how well you know them.

Here are a few suggestions for the special person in your life:

The Novel Reader: “The Night Circus” by Erin Morgenstern, a tale of two magicians who must compete in a life-or-death contest even as they fall desperately in love with each other.

The Non-Fiction Enthusiast: Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption” by Laura Hillenbrand. “Unbroken” is the harrowing account of a bombardier who survives a plane crash during the war and tests the limits of endurance on the open ocean.

The Sports Fan: “Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game” by Michael Lewis. Get even more details about the inside workings of the underdog 2002 Oakland A’s than in the Oscar-nominated movie starring Brad Pitt.

The Historian: “Catherine the Great: Portrait of a Woman,” by Robert K. Massie, described by its publisher as “the extraordinary story of an obscure young German princess who traveled to Russia at 14 and rose to become one of the most remarkable, powerful, and captivating women in history.”

The Kid at Heart: “The Hunger Games,” by Suzanne Collins. The movie is due out soon, so give the gift of the gripping tale of a stark future world and the resilient Katniss Everdeen before it hits the big screen.

The Aspiring Writer:”On Writing”: 10th Anniversary Edition: A Memoir of the Craft” by Stephen King. The master of the horror genre — one of the bestselling authors ever — offers his personal insights on the craft and the profession.

The Book Clubber: “The Sense of an Ending” by Julian Barnes, a short but powerful novel that describes how an Englishman’s life is upended in old age by repercussions from a long-ago relationship.

The Poetry Lover: “The 100 Best Love Poems of All Time” edited by Leslie Pockell. Shakespeare, Burns, Byron, Yeats and Dickinson, among the many greats.

The Self Helper: “The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love That Lasts,” by Gary D. Chapman, described by the publisher as a guide for “couples in identifying, understanding, and speaking their spouse’s primary love language — quality time, words of affirmation, gifts, acts of service, or physical touch.”

Write a whole 50,000 word novel this November – I am

National Novel Writing Month


It sounds ridiculous, doesn’t it? Write a 50,000 word novel in 30 days – specifically, this November. So I have no idea why I signed up for it. But I’m posting this so I can’t renege.

Having put my name down already, I belatedly decided to ask my friend Donna Orazio, a Fairfield writer, why she’d done it a couple of years ago, and how she felt about it now.

“I did it as a challenge,” she told me. “I saw a reference to it on-line and decided to try to see if I could actually write 50,000+ words.”  I think I’m doing it for the same reasons, so I asked Donna what the experience was like.

She told me that the hardest part was writing consistently.

“It’s easier to write a certain number of words every day, rather than trying to write just on the weekends.” She also told me that she had no real plot when she started, although she had an idea that involved three women whose lives become intertwined and there was a train setting.

Apart from writing consistently, Donna told me that, in order to succeed, the goal shouldn’t be to have a brilliant piece of writing, but rather a very rough draft. “I did no editing while I was writing.  My goal was getting words on the page,” she said.

Although Donna didn’t do this, WriMo’s (as I believe they’re called) often like to write outside their homes, so they won’t be disturbed. In the past, Fairfield Library has provided a room for WriMos. Café’s are also a good idea, ( writer needs that caffeine!) although make sure you don’t outstay your welcome. If you’re nursing a latte for two hours, you may get some pointed looks.  In Black Rock the Port Coffeehouse (http://www.portcoffeehouse.com/ ) is happy to host writers, and so is Las Vetas (http://www.yelp.com/biz/las-vetas-lounge-fairfield) in Fairfield. In fact, Andrew, a novelist disguised as a barista, told me he might even get his half finished novel out of the drawer where it’s languishing. The Chef’s Table (http://www.chefstable.com/contact_us.html) doesn’t mind if you hang around, but it’s best to do it outside their main rush hours. And, of course, Starbucks (http://www.starbucks.com/store-locator) everywhere welcomes writers. And Write Yourself Free (http://writeyourselffree.com/ ) at Colonial Green in Westport, also offers writers a place to write. In fact, Jane Green, best-selling novelist, wrote her last book there. There’s peace, quiet, coffee, and someone on hand to give you a word of encouragement if you need it. Call 203 858 8249, to find out when it’s open.

I asked Donna whether she’d done anything with her novel after the month ended. She told me that she hadn’t but since I’d asked her she was thinking about pulling it out and rereading it. “I know there are some very good stretches of writing in there and I like all three of my characters as they came alive on the paper.” Watch this space…