We had another successful meeting on Wednesday, and covered a variety of topics, from classes to contests. I’ll start with upcoming events for writers. If you want more suggestions, or have an event you’d like to add, check the calendar on this page. Part 2 of this update will be appearing on Monday.
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 →
Not sure why September always has that “let’s get back to work” feeling about it, but as if to encourage people to do just that, the events and opportunities for writers keep multiplying. We had eighteen people at Wednesday’s meeting, which provided lots to talk about. IN the interests of space – I’ll start with the upcoming events:
On Monday, September 24, from 6-7:30pm, the SoNo Branch Library will kick-off its Local Children’s’ author series with a book signing with member Kristen Ball, author of A Calf Named Brian Higgins. The event will honor the importance of access to fresh water globally with Millennium Promise.
I’ve just signed up for Wine and Write-in, a series of Tuesday evening writing opportunities at the Fairfield County Writers’ Studio, starting September 25. Led by the inimitable Stephanie Lehman, I’m hoping to work on my next project, a romantic comedy. I understand prompts will be available and all genres welcome. This is just one of many fall classes being offered.
If you need an inspiring place to write, but can’t get away on a writer’s retreat, how about three hours of writing in Mark Twain’s Library, for $75? You can do just that this Thursday, September 27, 2018 from 6-9 pm at the Mark Twain House & Museum in Hartford, CT. Space is limited to fourteen writers, and you can reserve your spot here.
And it seems the Mark Twain House is on a roll. They’re running their two-day Writers Weekend on September 29 -30. Events include writing workshops, panel discussions, author talks, book signings, and if you don’t have time to attend the whole weekend, one-day tickets are available. Click here for a full list of presenters and session topics. Keynote speakers include Gary Shteyngart and Jodi Picoult.
Flash fiction is all the crack, and it’s a gateway to getting published. The Masters Review is running a contest dedicated solely to flash twice a year. The winning writer will be awarded $3000 and publication on The Masters Review site. Deadline September 30.
And if you’re not sure how to write very short, Authors Publish Magazine is offering a free book to help you. The Quick-Start Guide to Flash Fiction. is a guide to writing and publishing flash fiction –– Stories 1,000 words or less. The book gives you 60 writing prompts, plus 60 publishers accepting submissions. Download it here:
The book you’ve all been waiting for, When to Now, launches October 1.You want it because it features stories by several members, including Alison McBain, who edited it, Ed Ahern, Elizabeth Chatsworth, and yours truly. The pre-order page is live on Amazon for the eBook. And right now, it’s only $2.99 for the Kindle version, so you can afford to buy it!
The Westport Library’s creative non-fiction writing workshops begin on October 2 (introductory) and October 4 (advanced). They’re taught by Mary Lou Weisman, author of Playing House in Provence. Register here.
On October 4 at 6pm, former Poet Laureate Billy Collins will be reading from his work in West Hartford. Seating is first-come, first-served. Details here.
The Saugatuck StoryFest is the first annual literary festival organized in Westport, CT, this October 12-14. There’s something for everyone here. More than thirty writers of note have signed up to come, in many genres, including graphic novels and children’s literature, as well as memoir and all kinds of genre fiction. This is a great way to meet them face-to-face. There’s a list of authors and events on this website , and new info is added daily. Almost everything is free. And A Bradbury Evening, a celebration of Ray Bradbury with his biographer, Sam Weller and a live performance of one of his radio plays, is only $10. Don’t miss any of it!
The Fairfield Library will be offering a Writers’ conference on November 3. Details to follow.
And on November 8, member Alex McNab will be interviewing author Eric Burns about his first novel after decades of non-fiction books. Details here.
Once you’ve published a short story or a poem, most literary journals aren’t interested in publishing it again. Still, the more a poem or short story is published, the more exposure it gets.and there are publications who accept reprints. Courtesy of Authors Publish.
Our May meeting of the Westport Writers’ Rendezvous was made even more interesting by several new members. I never know what’s going to come up, but new members always add something to the mix. If you’ve anything to add to this list, please add it in the comments below. Thanks!
Among the upcoming events I want to mention is The Connecticut Press Club’s Awards dinner, which is taking place this Wednesday, May 25th at the Saugatuck Boat Club in Westport. $40 gets you drinks and hors d’oeuvres and a chance to meet fellow writers of all types. There were around 40 categories of awards this year, so there’s a place for everyone to submit next time round. Please RSVP by emailing Michele Turk firstname.lastname@example.org immediately!
Terry Macmillan of Waiting to Exhale fame will be presenting her latest book, I Almost Forgot About You, at the Wilton Library on June 7th at 7-8:30pm. The event is free but it’s a good idea to register on line.
One of our members, Mary Ann West, is launching her new book: House Grab – a True Crime Story on Saturday, June 11th from 6:00 PM- Sunset at The Pavilion at Longshore Park, Westport, CT. Since she’s combining the event with her birthday, she’d love you to bring a new or genty used book to be donated to local charities. For more details, connect with Mary Ann on Facebook
Jan Kardys, who organizes several literary events, including the Unicorn Writers’ Conference, Is running a one-day workshop for writers on June 25th in Newtown, CT for a cost of $45 per participant. Here’s a quick rundown: Part 1- The Craft of Writing. Award-winning filmmaker, playwright, author and teacher Bob Zaslow will demonstrate the six elements of effective writing. Part 2- How to Get Published. 35-year publishing veteran, Jan Kardys, will call on her experience working for ten of NYC’s biggest publishing houses to talk in depth about the big three types of publishing: traditional, self-, and blended and which one is right for you. Part 3- The Craft of Design. Unfortunately, today people do judge a book by its cover. Glen Edelstein, former art and design director for Bantam Dell Publishing, will teach you about the elements of good design: from covers to interiors to typefaces, as well as special features bookmarks, flyers and banners. Parts 4, 5, 6- Three Connecticut published authors, Including Tessa McGovern of the Fairfield County Writers’ Studio, will discuss their own writers’ journeys to success and answer questions. You can register here
Writers looking for constructive criticism should check out the Easton Writers’ Workshop. Recommended by Ed Ahern, it’s a Meetup that happens once a month (I think). The next meeting is this Saturday, May 28th, at 11am. Here’s the link.
The next events for writers at the Fairfield Public Library will be
Writers Read, on Tuesday June 7, from 7-9 pm and Writers’ Salon, Friday June 3, from 4-6 pm. They’re out of their usual sequence in June because the first Tuesday comes after the first Friday.
Some of our members have announced their new websites. They are:
Alex McNab found this interview by the Book Doctors (the people who run Pitchpalooza) with author John Dufresne. About two-thirds of the way down he talks about book promoting and platform, if you’re interested.
Something a little different – Do you love books? This could be your dream job! Elm Street Books in New Canaan is looking for a part-time bookseller (3 days, permanent, no summer positions). Must be available to work on weekends. Please email resume to:Kathleen@elmstreetbooks.com
New members looking for places to submit, should take a look at Duotrope and also Beyond Your Blog. Their approaches are quite different, but they can give you ideas. Both are used by some of our most regularly published writers.
Talking of submissions, the next deadline for Glimmer Train is June 30th. They publish fiction of various lengths, and there are prizes for the best.
I attended a lunch with Pulitzer prize-winning author Anna Quindlen the other day, so I took the opportunity to ask her what she felt about editing (my hobby horse). She said she wouldn’t dream of publishing without her books being edited by her long-time editor, and didn’t understand her friends who did so. Editing makes a book so much better. I feel vindicated…
Jan Karon of the Unicorn Writers’ Conference, is beginning a series of 90 minute classes to teach writers abut publishing and writing a compelling book. They cost $25 per class and they’ll be presented 3 times a week, on Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday. They started on Wednesday the 21st, but there’s no obligation to take all the classes. The last classes will be at the end of January. To sign up or get more information email: email@example.com.
Meet best-selling authors (including Jane Green and Linda Fairstein) as well as top literary agents and editors at Barnes and Noble next Tuesday, October 27 from 6.30-8. Free If you can’t be there, you can watch it on Periscope or BookGirlTV on YouTube.
Fairfield Public Library is having a Publish and Polish Writing Workshop on November 7, from 1-3pm. It’s designed for people writing for magazines. It’s free but you need to register.
Tessa MGovern and Carol Dannhauser, writing teachers and authors. are opening the Fairfield County Writers’ Studio in Westport, CT. Classes and writing retreats begin on November 4. The first class begins November 4 – The Art & Craft of Novel Writing and the second starts November 6: Write Your Novel to Prompts. For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 203 226 6971
If you haven’t signed up to follow it yet, you should follow the Fairfield Writers’ Blog, written by Alex McNab and other guest writers.
NewPopLit.com is looking for short stories (not much more in the way of guidelines
Mused – the Bella Online Literary Review. Deadline for Winter Issue – November 20th
One of our members, Anita Evenson, mentioned (via email to me) that her husband has designed a new app for writers, Novelize: www.getnovelize.com. There’s a special deal if you’d like to try it for 6 months at half price ($2.50 instead of $5 a month). The coupon code is HALFOFF6MOMEET.
For some reason, the subject of writing groups has been surfacing around me over the last month or so. I belong to two different groups, and people I meet have been asking me about how they work. So I brought up the subject at the Writers’ Rendezvous (an informal monthly meeting of local writers, see photo) and asked for input.
So far, I have come across four different types of group. I thought I’d list them here and get your input, too. Please comment to let me know which kind of group you think works best.
One writer talked about a group she used to attend in New York, which she had found very effective. That one allowed people to read their work, and to hear the group’s response, but there were 20 writers in it. Obviously, this meant that not everyone could be heard each week.
Another person currently facilitates a group in Trumbull, CT, (about 20 minutes away from me) which has eight participants. Even here, because of the numbers, while the critiquing sounds as though it’s thorough, writers only have a chance to be critiqued four times a year. The Fairfield Public Library hosts several weekly writing groups, and there’s always a waiting list of people wanting to join. (I may still be on that list, but after a two or three years waiting, a place hasn’t become available yet…) One of our Writers’ Rendezvous participants runs such a group. It has eight members, not all of whom are present every week. The focus is on reading a suggested five double-spaced pages aloud (roughly 1500 words) as others read along on copies of the work. Then the work is critiqued by the group. The aim is not to repeat a critique if someone else has already made the same observation. The group does not distribute work ahead of time.
One group I belong to has four members, and we send each other our work ahead of the fortnightly meeting (up to 10 pages, double spaced). Then we bring our critiques to the meeting. This seems to work well, and produces in-depth critiquing, which is very valuable. But, of course, the number of participants needs to be limited, or the amount of ‘homework’ before each meeting would be too onerous.
I belong to a second group, with three people, where we don’t see each other’s work ahead of time, but read it aloud (up to 10 pages at the weekly meeting) and critique it on the fly. This tends to make for broad-brush critiquing, particularly if a person reads well. I often think people are bamboozled by my English accent into thinking my writing is better than it is. Meaning, I suppose, that I don’t get as much critiquing in this group as I think I need. On the other hand, I do have to show up each week. If a member is away, unless they’re totally beyond reach, she phones or Skypes in, so as not to miss a meeting.
I have heard of, but don’t know anyone who’s tried it, online writing critique groups. I’m not sure exactly what the guidelines are, but I think they must be a boon for writers who can’t reach a group in person. They may also have the benefit of having your work read by a person who doesn’t know you and therefore has no idea what you’re trying to convey, except through your writing.
There’s one more idea you might want to consider.
Adele Annesi, one of the editors of NowWhat? Creative Writers’ Guide told us at the Writers’ Salon at Fairfield Library a few days ago that she has a writing buddy with whom she meets regularly. They meet at a local coffee shop and then sit there and write for a while, before looking at each other’s work. So that’s yet one more type of writing partnership.
For me, the value in critique groups is two-fold: I get (and, hopefully, give) constructive feedback and, more important, I have to write in order to bring something to the group. This is an enormous plus for a procrastinator like me.
There are things to bear in mind if you’re thinking of starting or joining a group. I think groups like this work best if the participants are writing in a similar genre. It needn’t be all fiction, or all memoir, but I think a group specifically for writers of poetry or children’s books would be more useful than a mixed one. What do you think?
Then there are the friendships that form in writing groups, which can be lifelong. The advantage, and the disadvantage, of friendship is that your friends understand your work, which is gratifying but not necessarily always helpful. They may be able to read between the lines to understand it, whereas your unknown reader won’t. The other advantage/disadvantage is that friendship can allow for no-holds-barred criticism, which may prove, depending on one’s mood, either energizing (I’ll show them!) or discouraging (I’m never writing another word.)
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.
I first came across Joseph Kanon when I read his novel The Good German. It’s a literary thriller, with a lot to think about in addition to following the page-turner of a plot. So I was delighted when he came to talk at the Fairfield Public Library in Connecticut a week or so ago. (In case you missed that, he’s appearing again at R.J. Julia in Madison CT on July 18th at 7pm.) He talked about how he wrote his novel (longhand on yellow legal pads in the New York Public Library) and how his latest book, Istanbul Passagecame to be. He was kind enough to agree to answering some additional questions.
GC: You said you were a person who writes their novels without plotting them out. Have you ever taken a writing class or workshop? And if yes, did you find it helpful in actually writing your books? I ask, because so many classes want you to plot out the book from start to finish.
JK: No, I have never taken a workshop, though I was a guest teacher once or twice. I think the question of outline is simply a matter of temperament– some writers prefer them, some don’t– and there are no particular advantages to either side (it really depends on the writer). I’ve never used a proper outline but of course at a certain point in the narrative you have to have at least an over-arching sense of where it’s going and how it ends (though not necessarily the particulars). Working from a detailed outline would take much of the pleasurable surprise out of the process for me, but someone else may well feel at sea without one.
GC: I think you said that you’d visited Istanbul 5 times. Were all those visits related to the book?
JK: The first time I went to Istanbul I was simply a tourist (in fact, my wife and I were celebrating our anniversary) but all subsequent trips, however delightful, all had to do with researching the book. The most recent, last February, well after the book was finished, was to film the author video (see link on my website, Amazon, et al.). (GC: This is well worth seeing if you want to see the background for the book.)
GC: When you get an idea for a book, clearly the location is one of the most important ‘characters’ (rather like Alexandria and Laurence Durrell). Have any of your books been inspired by a place first, before the characters and plot?
JK: All of the books have more or less been inspired by place, but especially Los Alamos. The Good German really began with an interest in the postwar Allied Occupation, so another setting might well have occurred to me but, happily, I was fascinated by Berlin, whose stories seem inexhaustible. In fact, I’m planning to set my next book there again, this time with more focus on East Berlin and the rise of the GDR.
GC: What made you choose the time period immediately following WW2 as your preferred period? Does it have something to do with the murkiness of the loyalties/situations/duty that existed at that time? (Versus the more absolute moral certainties – right or wrong – that one uses to make decisions during wartime.)
JK: Yes, very much. To use a movie metaphor, the war begins with the black and white moral clarity of Casablanca, but it ends with the gray, murky, more compromised world of The Third Man. I think this is the world we inherited, more complicated and nuanced than what came before (or so it seems to us). But from a writer’s point of view, the immediate postwar period also has the advantage (to my mind) of being inherently dramatic– everything that happens then, in the aftermath of the war, takes on real importance. Decisions made then will reverberate for decades. So who made them and why? This seemed/seems to me an irresistible subject. (Of course, it also now has the pragmatic advantage for me of having already done so much research in the period…)
GC: I’ve just finished the novel, by the way, and love the way JK gives one several ‘what would I do?’ conundrums, but also makes his characters real, so that as the tension builds to a white-knuckle ending, you really care what happens to them. Highly recommended if you like thoughtful thrillers, romance and adventure.
My friend Alex McNab writes a blog for writers in Fairfield County as I do, but we don’t seem to cover the same turf, which is why I subscribe to his blog.. I particularly liked this recent post, which suggests several different sources for particular writing tips – sources you may not have thought of. Alex helps run (free) writing groups at the Fairfield Public Library, and is working on revisions of his own novel. He turned to fiction after a career in journalism, including being the Editor of Tennis magazine, and writing for The New York Times, Sports Illustrated, Golf Digest and Westport Magazine. His nonfiction books include The Tennis Doctor and, as co-author, Arthur Ashe on Tennis. So when he writes, I listen.
Here’s what he had to say about looking for writing help on the web:
Type “writing advice” into Google’s search box, hit the Return key and in a few seconds you’ll be looking at the first page of a list that goes on for “about 284,000,000 results.” That’s a lot of how-to about the writer’s craft.
As an old-school print magazine veteran, I’d like to suggest you monitor the digital offerings of four legacy publications for a while.
First, check out The Wall Street Journal’s weekly Word Craft piece. Every Saturday, a different well-known writer contributes an essay on a different aspect of storytelling. Some recent examples: Jeffery Deaver on writing thrillers, Hilary Mantel on historical dialogue and Carol Edgarian on desire as the driving force of fictional characters.
Second, stop in at Draft, a blog at The New York Times’ “Opinionator” area. Written by different grammarians, journalists, historians, novelists and others, it covers everything from punctuation to the value of diagramming sentences…