Westport Writers’ Rendezvous: August update – Part 1

51tDpVmnPWL._SY498_BO1,204,203,200_Twenty writers attended out meeting yesterday – and they had a lot to share. Mary Grace Dembeck’s children’s book, I’m Mad at the Moon, was published this month, Richard Seltzer has a publishing contract, and member V.P. Morris is launching her first weekly podcast series on August 27. The Dead Letters Podcast is a suspenseful audio drama in 25-minute episodes, focusing on the lives of five women who, over history, have received mysterious letters that warn of death and destruction if they don’t do exactly as the sender says. Find it on all the main podcast platforms: PodBean, iTunes, Google Play Podcasts, Spotify, and Stitcher

Gotham Writers in NYC offers writing courses in a wide variety of genres, and for all levels of expertise.  To encourage you to take a look, they are offering a free course to the winner of their 27-word Story-in-a-Bottle contest. Imagine finding a bottle Continue reading

Westport Writers’ Rendezvous – January update

I’m going to keep the intro short this month, since there’s a lot of ground to cover. Wednesday saw another great meeting, with old hands and new faces, and many successes to report. And here’s what’s coming up in the writing world of Fairfield County and environs:

This Saturday, January 19, Brian Hoover will be leading his monthly memoir writing workshop from 10:30-12:00, in the Bridgeport History Center, located in the main branch of the Bridgeport Public Library. Free.

The Connecticut Press Club is wrapping up submissions for this year’s contest. Anyone who lives or works in Connecticut is eligible to enter work published in 2018. Fees: $25 for the first entry and $15 for each additional entry. Deadline: midnight EST, January 22.

The Moth Mainstage comes to the Westport Playhouse on Friday, January 25, at 7:30PM for a one-night-only performance. Five storytellers, including Westport Continue reading

Westport Writers’ Rendezvous – August update

I love the fact that members old and new show up each month to get or offer encouragement to other writers. It’s how I finally got my manuscript edited, so I can now look for a publisher. Thanks, everyone! As … Continue reading

Writers Connect: Jacqueline Masumian

We’re very lucky here in Fairfield County, Connecticut, because we get a constant stream of authors willing to visit and share their wisdom. I’m not saying that selling some books has nothing to do with it, but I’m often impressed by how willing they are to discuss their writing process, how they found an agent, etc. So I’ve decided to begin recording some of them, and asking for a piece of advice about writing.

 

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The first up is Jacqueline Masumian, a local writer, whose memoir, Nobody Home, has garnered critical praise. I loved her book; it’s a charming memoir. From her childhood in Ohio, to her life as a landscape architect, via acting, singing and market research, she takes the reader through a vivid journey. The memoir tries to make sense of her distant mother and a father who left the family when she was a child. Attempting to understand one’s family is something I suspect most of us do. Jacqueline has made it possible for us to understand hers in a very readable way.
When she came to the Westport Library recently to talk about the art of memoir, I asked her what particular advice she would give to her fellow writers.Here’s what she said:
The best advice I could give would be to share your work with a group of other memoir writers; a workshop setting gives you deadlines, forcing you to write every day, and provides very valuable feedback on your writing. Groups in which you read out loud to the other writers provide a special advantage, because reading your work aloud alerts you to any awkward sentences or incomplete thoughts you may have overlooked. I could not have written my book without the many thoughtful comments of my workshop friends.

 

Author interview: Suzanne R Krauss – To Vegas and Back

011514Author5TBI recently met the amazing Suzanne R. Krauss, author of a searing memoir, To Vegas and Back. The book chronicles Suzanne’s sudden realization that her childhood as the daughter of a Las Vegas showgirl who depended on abusive men to keep her going, was not a normal one. Through therapy, Suzanne has managed to deal with the deeply hidden trauma that resulted from both witnessing and suffering from abuse. The book is a page-turner, for sure, and not for the faint-hearted. Her mother’s lack of sexual boundaries and bad choices are described in all-too-vivid detail. More than once, I found myself thinking: Oh no! Don’t do that! in response to someone’s bad decision. I wondered whether Suzanne had considered writing it as fiction, but decided that the story wouldn’t be plausible in a novel. Readers might think it was exaggerated. As a memoir, it rings all too true. Suzanne was kind enough to let me ask her some questions about the book and the process of writing it.

GC: What made you finally decide to write this book? Not everyone who undergoes successful therapy decides to do something so difficult.

1233573_440283982758950_1547912199_nSRK: I was at a point in my life where I was ready to share the dark side of my childhood. Today, as a wife and mother, I am confident with who I am, where I am in life, and I no longer feared being judged or embarrassed about my childhood.

This book started with my mom’s journey to becoming a showgirl. That alone is some story! From leaving my father, to the men she met to get her where she needed to be, it had all the ingredients of a compelling book: Vegas, showgirls, drugs, sex, mobsters and more. I began writing just before 2010. At some point, I knew the story was going to lead into mine (and my siblings).

GC: How did you persuade your mother to tell you so much about her mistakes where men were concerned?

SRK: It was not easy! I started with a simple outline (from bits and pieces she told me over the years) and had hundreds of blanks to fill in. Over the course of 3 years, I called her and interviewed her on video and recorder. She hung up on me in the middle of many stories; it was frustrating, but I understood. I was digging and prying in an area she did not want to revisit. However, in the end, I got everything out of her, because she supported me 100% and hoped that other people might learn from her mistakes as well.

GC: How did you feel about her revelations?

SRK: I put on an “interviewer” hat whenever I asked her questions. These events happened over 30 years ago. It is not who she is anymore, so I could not judge. It almost seemed like she was telling me someone else’s history. I only see who my mom has been for the past 30 years and she is one of the rocks in my life.

GC: Once you’d written your first draft, how did you go about getting it published?

SRK: I had so many ‘first’ drafts! I thought I’d never finish weaving together my mother’s, sister’s and my stories. Once I was done, I got my proposal together. I included the first 3 chapters and synopsis of each chapter thereafter. I was rejected by 16 literary agents over a 6 month period. It was difficult. I was sharing this hideously personal story for the first time in my life and no one was getting it. I wanted to show my children that you can get shot down, but you have to pick up and keep on trying. I finally decided to send it out to two publishing houses (skipping the agent route). The big, well known house sent me letter telling me it was a great story, with some other positive feedback, but it was not for them at this time. The smaller house, asked me to meet them for breakfast. We met in Grand Central Station and I had a book deal by the time breakfast was served.

GC: Did your editor suggest any major changes?

SRK: My editor (thankfully) embraced my writing style. She found it honest and detailed. She helped me streamline the story, make it flow and take 400+ pages down to 300. She is one of the most thoughtful, smart and incredible people.

GC: How do you hope readers will respond to your book?

SRK: I hope that people are moved. Whether it is anger, hope, sadness, laughter at my bits of humor or peace (at the end)…I want them to feel emotion. I hope it starts meaningful discussions with those who have faced adversity and for those who have not, but are eager to learn how someone overcame.

GC: Are you going to take a break from writing now, or have you got another book in mind?

SRK: I have another book that was edited out of this one. It is about my mother’s childhood/teen years and growing up in the kind of household she did. It sheds a lot of light on how she allowed us to get into the situation we did. If there is enough interest, I would go there. People are also very interested in the aftermath…how were my sister and I when we moved back east. Guess I could do a “before and after” book in one. But for now, I just want to enjoy this one.

You can find Suzanne on Facebook and Twitter, and read an excerpt of the book in an article published by the New York Post. Her website also gives details of her upcoming personal appearances.

 

Life sucks. Then it goes on. Six-word memoirs

Or alternatively: My constant cheeriness drives people nuts. Two terrible examples of a six-word memoir.

 

 

I don’t know if you know Smith Magazine? I may have mentioned them before. They’re a class act, (published by TED Books, a division of the TED Conference), and they invented the six-word memoir, and to date they’ve published seven volumes of them. It’s not as easy as you might think to come up with a really good six word memoir, but you can see some of the winning ones here.

Now they’ve raised the bar slightly, or maybe quite a bit, depending on how talented you are. For their next book, they’re looking for illustrations to go with the memoir, and they have to be done by the author, and – the author has to be a student – of any age. The book will be entitled: Things Don’t Have to be Complicated: The Art of Six-Word Memoirs by Students of the World.

Here are some of the current entries. Try not to get discouraged…they’re good.

You can read the submission guidelines here, and they’re taking submissions through October 15th.

Surely you can do better than I did here?

Reading my first interactive eBook – and loving it!

Sumner Glimcher is quite a guy. I first met him at the Westport Arts Center in Connecticut, where he was telling people about his new eBook memoir A Filmmaker’s Journal. I read it recently on my Kindle Fire, and it was astonishing for several reasons. First, Sumner’s career has taken many twists and turns. Starting with a stint of active combat in World War II, through service in post-war Germany in the de-Nazification program, through a long career in documentary film, followed by teaching at NYU, he’s had the sort of life that probably wouldn’t be possible today.

But the thing that interested me most about his book was not the story, fascinating though it was. What hooked me was the fact that this was the first interactive eBook I’d seen. It contains links to clips from Sumner’s movies, as well as to an oddity of a song called “That Ignorant, Ignorant Cowboy” – designed to be a way of telling people, after the invention of penicillin, that syphilis was now curable. Apparently it became a huge jukebox hit!

Why is this so extraordinary? Because Sumner is a very charming and gregarious 88 years old. And he’s still taking a very active interest in new technology and ways of getting his message across using all the means at his disposal.

Over coffee recently, I asked him how he’d managed it.

“Oh,” he said suavely, “Once I’d conceived the idea, I found this absolutely terrific young guy at the Apple store, and he helped me get it all together.” Creative thinking, right?

Just reading this eBook has given me a whole lot of new ideas of what’s possible in the eBook world. So, although I love a paper book, this kind of creativity will keep me reading on my Fire.

If you’re old-fashioned, and must have a paper book, it’s available as a paperback from Amazon, as well as in eBook form for Nook, iPad, etc. So you have no excuse now. If Sumner can lead the way, you can follow.

You can find Sumner at his website, on his Facebook page and you can follow him on Twitter – he’s just started tweeting. You can find his movies on YouTube, or just Google him…he’s everywhere.

This Saturday, August 4, he’ll be interviewed on WWNN radio (8.30-9am) by Anita Finley, host of the radio program:  “Cutting Edge with Anita.”  They’ll be talking about how the Publishing Revolution has developed as a result of self-publishing, reading tablets and eBooks. And on August 20th, (6-8pm) you can meet him in person at a “Meet the Filmmaker evening at the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences in New York.

It seems that Sumner Glimcher’s adventures keep right on happening.

 

Re-Post from eChook – Free short story app until February 12th

This is a re-post from Tessa Smith McGovern, award-winning author, founder of eChook and teacher at Sarah Lawrence College. She founded eChook in 2010, and after creating an app of her own short stories for iPhone, iPad, and Android, Tessa realized that she had, in effect, become a publisher. eChook’s goal is to give readers around the globe unprecedented access to quality prose by providing them with transformative short stories that they can read on their phones. I have to admit an interest here: Tessa published one of my memoir stories as part of her first collection of other people’s writing: Memoir 1. You can find out more here: http://echook.com/products-page/ Here’s her original post:

How Writers Can Build a Global Readership and Flash Sales in iTunes

Every now and then, we hold a sale in iTunes and every time, we’re delighted with the results. We get hundreds of downloads from dozens of countries around the world – China, Russia, Japan, Australia and England, to name just a few. It’s a wonderfully simple way for our writers to be read by hundreds of people and build a global readership – all with just a few clicks. And it’s all because of the technology that supports iTunes apps.

Here’s how it works: People all around the world download free apps that monitor price changes in the app store. (To find them, go to the app store on your device, search for ‘app price change’ or ‘app deals’ or ‘apps on sale’ and you’ll see different ones pop up. There are about a dozen.) Then these people check their newly downloaded apps to see what’s on sale (reduced price or free) and they download the ones that take their fancy.

But wait, there’s more, and this is the best part…because people around the world are buying new iPhones and iPads every day, there’s a constant influx of new readers coming to the app store. In fact, Apple doubled sales of iPhones and iPads in 2011, and sold 37m iPhones and 15m iPads in that year’s last quarter alone. Common wisdom has it that there are still many unpenetrated markets and that Apple is still far from saturation, so the future looks bright.

What can we say? We love Apple.

Memoir, Vol. 1 and London Road: Linked Stories are free in iTunes now until Sunday 12th Feb at midnight. Just go to the iTunes store and search for eChook.

Quick! I need something to read, and it needs to be short

In an age when a Twitter size concentration span is becoming the norm, publishers are looking for ways to reach new readers by offering them shorter works to read. The British book market is buzzing with new short titles from the major publishers.

Penguin, for example, has just launched Penguin Shorts – a collection of  short e-books from major authors. They’re available across all the digital platforms, but here’s the kicker: they’re only available in Britain. You’d think that with technology being what it is, they could allow a person to buy an e-book in London and download it in the US. They would still get their money and so would the authors, presumably. (I know it’s more complicated than that, but still…)

The Penguin collection includes memoir, fiction and essays and they retail in the UK for about $3.00 per download. Most, but not all, of their titles have been commissioned specifically for this imprint (if that’s the right word), so there’s a new memoir from Colm Tóibín, and short works from Anita Brookner and Helen Dunmore, among others, as well as How To Set Up A Free School – by Toby Young and The Battle of Alamein by Colin Smith and John Bierman.  The idea behind the essays was that instead of waiting six months for a book about some current event, a Penguin Short could be produced from scratch in less than a month. I see some opportunity for new writers here.

Random House is doing the same thing, except that in their case, you can buy some of the stories in the US.  They’re hard to find on Amazon, however. I searched in the Kindle store for Storycuts and found 25 of them, all by Su Tong. I’m pretty sure there are others….They are releasing about 200 short stories, generally culled from their current collections rather than new work.  Ruth Rendell, Alice Munro and A.S. Byatt as well as the famous Su Tong, are among them.  These retail for around $2.00.

And there’s PanMacmillan, who publishes under the ShortReads label. Again, a limited selection of these are available here  in the US, but I daresay there will soon be more of them. Emma Donoghue, Bret Easton Ellis and Andrew Lane are among the authors here. If you want to check for any of these on Amazon (I haven’t checked the other sites) you’ll need to follow the links here, find the titles and then look for them by name. Cumbersome and not exactly quick. In fact, for those of us with a Twitter-type attention span, hunting down these books can be a pain in the neck.

On the brighter side, Tessa McGovern of eChook Digital Publishing has long since had an app available for all e-book platforms, that includes short story and memoir collections designed to be read in about 10 minutes. You can check them out on the eChook website, and maybe submit something for possible publication. Perhaps Penguin and the rest should have consulted her about how to go about this…

Ether Books, based in England, has published digital short stories for an iPhone application for between 50p and £2.39, depending on length, since last summer. The stories are only available on the iPhone, Android and Blackberry, so far as I know, but they should be available in the US. They take submissions, too!

Recreating a memory

I was hanging out at the Westport Arts Center’s ArtCafe last Friday and got to talking with my friend Helen Klisser During about something that happened to her recently. It made me think about memories – how they’re formed, how we re-create them, and how they differ from the original event in the recreation. The story Helen told me was about a friend with a memory which Helen helped her recreate. Now I’m writing about it, so recreating it again. It may be different from the actual event, but that’s what being creative is about. I’m not big on heart-warming stories, especially when they’re designed to tug at your heartstrings. But this one is true, or as true as I can make it. Are you writing your memories down as they happen?

Helen was walking along the beach in Westport the other day with a friend of hers, Susan. It was a blustery day, but the beach always makes for great photos and Helen is am professional photographer, among other things. Westport likes to pride itself on having repulsed 2000 redcoats British in 1777 (after they’d set fire to the town of Danbury), and to commemorate this event there are two cannons located at the beach, pointing out to sea, in case the British (my friends and I) ever decide to invade again. Too late, of course, we’re here already, but I’ll let that pass…

“When I was a little girl, said Susan wistfully, “I used to sit on those cannons.” Helen’s ears pricked up. What she heard was” I wish I could sit on that cannon again…” Susan was 87.

Helen decided she’d never forgive herself if she attempted to hoist Susan up onto a cannon and anything went wrong. But she really wanted to make this wish come true. Across the parking lot, she spied a couple of young men who had descended from their motor bikes to smoke a cigarette in the fresh sea air. Helen marched up them and asked if they’d be willing to help.

“Sure,” they said. They swaggered over to the cannon and, very gently, helped Helen’s friend to sit astride. Then they supported her, but out of sight, so that Helen could record the whole thing on film. Here are some of the pictures:

Easy does it!

Yippee!

 

 

 

 

 

“By the way,” Helen told me, “Susan’s family think I am a bit of a risk taker, because Susan mentioned at the end of last summer how she used to love to go  sailing with her sister  in the sound – something I do 3 or 4 times a week – racing with a crew at Pequot Yacht club and renting little Hobie cats for an hour after work, from Longshore sailing school-for an evening sail…”

Helen’s response to this was to find a day that was: “breezy, but not too breezy. I needed to keep the chances of capsizing to a minimum. Hobie cats aren’t really ‘senior friendly’. They don’t have any rails or a solid bottom. You just have to take your life jacket and go sailing.”  And here’s the result of that!

Ahoy there!

Here’s what Helen, with her usual modesty, concluded from these events: “If you have a little idea, make sure you’re with someone who listens.” And I’d add that she’s stacking up karma for when she needs a hand climbing cannons when she’s 87.

All photos are by Helen Klisser During and she holds the copyright. You can also check out her weekly ArtCafe blog for updates on the local and global art scene. Lots of great ideas there.