Westport Writers Rendezvous: May update – Part 2

Here, as promised, is part 2 of this month’s news. Be sure to check out the writers’ Calendar page for all the events I’ve come across that might be of interest to writers. And keep writing!41iWg5vRZGL.SR160,240_BG243,243,243

Jane Friedman, book marketing guru, will be in New York for BookExpo next week, and on May 29 she’ll be teaching a 3-hour evening workshop (in partnership with Catapult) on how to build a sustainable business model for your writing career. Click here to learn more and register.

On May 30, at 5pm, the Writers’ Workshop Continue reading

Westport Writers’ Rendezvous – April update

We had another lively meeting at the newly refurbished Barnes & Noble in Westport this week. The refurb has given us a bigger space to meet in – thanks! Twelve of us got to grips with things, and here’s some of what went on. I’ve listed them in date order.

It’s rather late notice, I know, but TONIGHT  (April 21st) the Westport Writer’s Workshop will hold a celebration featuring readings from a number of writers. Among them is  Fairfield University’s Low-Residency MFA Program Director Sonya Huber, whose latest collection, Pain Woman Takes Your Keys and Other Essays from a Nervous System, was published in March; A propos, Sonya has written a blog post about all the available book awards, and provided a handy list here. Did you know you could nominate yourself for a Pulitzer? Free and open to the public, 7:30 PM at 323 Bar & Restaurant in Westport (323 Main Street).

Glimmer Train, the highly respected literary journal, is looking for submissions for their fiction (3,000-20,000 words) and very-short fiction award (300-3,000 words). First Place gets $2,000-3,000, so – worth a try. Deadline April 30.

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The Westport Writers’ Workshop (WWW) is presenting a mini-conference as part of the Westport Library’s WestportWRITES program It’s on Sunday, April 30, from 1-5PM. Topic: creative writing and social justice. A selection of speakers will be led by WWW’s Executive Director, Valerie Leff.

The American Society of Journalists and Authors is holding its conference in New York from May 5-6. Their focus is on the business of writing, getting your personal essays published etc.

On Sunday, May 7 at 10:00 a.m, the Connecticut Press Club is sponsoring a workshop with Susan Maccarelli, founder of Beyond Your Blog and its eponymous podcast. Macarelli’s website and newsletters give you tips and strategies for submitting your blog posts to other websites. To be held at the Westport Writers’ Workshop. Details here.

On May 14, Colm Toibin, Irish author of Brooklyn, will be speaking at the Westport Library. Register here.

Our next WritersMic evening will be held on May 16, 7-8.45ppm in Westport. Join the Meetup for details and updates.

Creative Non-fiction’s annual writers’ conference will be taking place in Pittsburgh, PA, from May 26-27. Suitable for both novices and experienced writers, the conference aims to help you write better. Plus, you’ll have the opportunity to meet one-on-one with literary agents, get concrete advice from industry insiders, hear what different kinds of editors are looking for, and focus on specific skills in inspiring small-group sessions.

Gotham Writers in New York are holding a Be A Hero Contest. They’re looking for a 50 word story – that’s right, 50 words (or fewer). The title, if you have one, doesn’t count as part of the word count, so I guess you could have a really long title if you need more  exposition… The story should be about someone who fought for the right thing in a way that called for courage and commitment. This can be a personal story about, say, your father rescuing you when you were lost in the woods, or a public story about, say, Rosa Parks not moving to the back of the bus. It could also be a made-up story, even an artful retelling of a favorite, such as Erin Brockovich or A Tale of Two Cities.  Entries must be submitted online by midnight Eastern May 29,

Moving into early summer, on Saturday, June 3 from 9- 5 p.m, the Mystery Writers of America/New York Chapter is holding a fiction writers’ conference at the Ferguson Library in Stamford. The full-day session will cover subjects like great beginnings, structure, revisions, etc, and will be taught by established members of the MWA. Publishing professionals will also be on hand. $75 per person (MWA members $65), includes all sessions, plus continental breakfast, boxed lunch and a coffee/wine wrap-up party.

June 8-11 sees the National Society of Newspaper Columnists conference in Manchester, NH. The society is open to bloggers as well as more traditional columnists.

A couple of us were looking for suggestions as to setting up an author’s website. Among the suggested software companies were: WordPress, Hootsuite and Weebly.

And finally, one of our members, MarLou Newkirk, had a story published on an interesting website called Motherr. Read it here.

Write on…

 

 

Author interview: Chris Knopf

I met Chris Chris Knopf & CharlieKnopf 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.Cover

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.

You can connect with Chris and his books on his website, Facebook, Goodreads and Twitter

Author interview: Lucy Burdette

Picketfenceauthorsmaller copy Clinical psychologist Lucy Burdette (aka Roberta Isleib) has published 14 mysteries, including the latest in the Key West food critic series, Fatal Reservations. As you’ll find out below, she’s written more than one mystery series, but she’s used her real name for some and Lucy Burdette for her latest. Like many crime writers, she’s a member of Mystery Writers of America and a past president of Sisters in Crime.  Her next book, Killer Takeout will be released in April.

GC: First of all, why the pen name?

LB: As I was signing the contract with Signet/NAL, my new editor asked if I’d be willing to use a different name for this series. This would differentiate the Key West series from my previous advice column and golf lovers mysteries which were not as cozy. I was happy to do whatever would help sell books. And I was very happy to choose my grandmother’s name, Lucille aka Lucy Burdette. I get a kick out of carrying her name forward.

GC: Did you pick Key West as the location for the novels because you live there?Fatal Reservations-1

LB: About nine years ago, my husband and I drove down the string of islands and bridges that leads to Key West, agreeing that we’d never live in a place so fragile, so isolated, so exposed. But instead of listening to our practical voices, we fell in love and moved in.
The island is totally gorgeous, with its palm trees and turquoise water and eyebrow windows and gingerbread trim. And there’s a thriving artistic scene, and fabulous food, and an amazing literary history.
About this same time, I was planning to pitch a new cozy mystery series. Where should I set it but in Key West, with its delicately balanced development, and its conflicts between old-time Conchs and newcomers, between the richest of the rich, the homeless, and the millions of partying visitors. To find characters and plot ideas, all I have to do is step outside the door…

GC: You have a great website, with a lot of features like recipes (with photos) and blog updates. Do you have help with it, or do you do everything yourself? I’m asking because I know writers need a web site, and many are too frightened of it to even try.

LB: I had help setting this up on WordPress, which is fairly easy to learn. Now I can update things myself, which I’m woefully behind in doing. Look around for websites you admire, and then ask the writers who they used for design, etc. There are tons of resources out there, and many inexpensive designers who can make a website look professional.

GC: You previously wrote a mystery series based on a sleuth who was an advice columnist and another who was a golfer. Now there’s the restaurant critic. Are these all personal interests of yours or did you have to research these careers?

LB: Golf, psychology, and food are all great passions for me. If I love the subject, I find the book easier to write.

GC: Like most mystery readers, I love a series. Seeing the main character develop, and finding out about the people in their private life. Hayley Snow lives with an eccentric 80-something, Miss Gloria, and I love their relationship. Is it easier to write the crime-solving, or the personal life of your characters?

LB: I‘ve always been a huge reader. I tore through the Nancy Drew mysteries, then moved on to my brother’s Hardy boys adventures, gobbling lots of teenage romances in between. What stays with me even years after reading a book are the characters and their conflicts. So I shoot for that when writing my own series. I have lots of ideas of where the characters’ lives will go–and that is my favorite part of writing. But they can still surprise me, which makes it more fun!

You can also find Lucy blogging with the wonderful writers at Jungle Red Writers and Mystery Lovers Kitchen. Follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

Author Interview: Nina Mansfield

NinaMansfieldBeachPic Nina Mansfield is a prolific writer whose credits include numerous full length and short plays which have been produced around the world. Her short mystery fiction has appeared in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine and Mysterical-E. She’s a member of the Mystery Writers of America, and I met her recently at the CrimeCONN conference, organized by the New York Chapter of the MWA, which includes Connecticut. Swimming Alone, her most recent work, marks a departure for her in that it’s a full length mystery novel for Young Adults.

GC: I know you’ve written many short plays, and had them produced. And you’ve written a play for young children. What made you want to write a YA novel, and a crime novel, at that?

NM: I have always loved mysteries. As I youngster, I loved reading Nancy Drew Books, Two-Minute mysteries, and books by Lois Duncan, Joan Lowery-Nixon and Agatha Christie. I fondly remember curling up on the couch with my mother to watch Murder, She Wrote, Columbo and those Perry Mason television movies that came out in the 80s. I have also spent nine-years teaching high school in both New York City and the suburbs. I began reading a lot of young adult novels when I was in graduate school for teaching. One of the things I discovered my first year teaching was that many young adults craved novels with suspense. I wanted to write a YA novel that would keep even the most reluctant reader on the edge of her or his seat.

GC: My readers are interested in YA books, because they are so popular right now. Could you explain the difference between YA and Middle school and new adult books for us?

NM: First of all, we have to remember that these are all relatively new labels that were invented for marketing purposes. However, what I think writers should bear in mind is that children of different ages have different concerns and interests. Think about who you were as person at age eleven. What did you like? What intrigued you? What were your feSwimmingAlonefrnt (2)ars? Now think about age sixteen. Your perspective probably shifted during those years. If a writer is choosing to write specifically for a particular age group, the concerns and interests of that target audience need to be kept in mind.

To give some very basic guidelines, young adult books generally have a protagonist who is high school age, and these books tend to have a major romantic component. With middle grade, the protagonists are younger, and the themes generally focus on things such as friendship, or navigating social norms. But those are very general guidelines. And honestly, new adult is a very new category for me, so I can’t really speak to that!

I think that Swimming Alone actually departs from the traditional idea of the young adult novel, as the mystery in the novel is far more important than any of the romantic elements.

GC: Your character, Cathy has a very distinctive voice, with a nice sense of humor. How did you manage to capture the voice of a 15-year-old so well?

NM: Well, thank you! I wrote Swimming Alone while I was teaching high school, so I was definitely influenced by my students. High school students talk a lot, and they often don’t care that an adult is in the room—so I certainly overheard more than my share of teen conversations. I also still have a snarky 15-year old hiding inside me, so I really worked on channeling her as I was writing the novel.

GC: Your setting, Beach Point, sounds like a fun place, apart from the serial killer on the loose, of course. Is it based on a place you know, and if so, what made you think of setting this kind of a crime there?

NM: The town of Beach Point is very loosely based on my childhood memories of Misquamicut, Rhode Island. When I was very young, my grandparents would rent a bungalow there. But in reality, I fused a few beachside towns into what would eventually become Beach Point. I have always been attracted to seaside settings—both personally, and for my writing. It’s funny, because I don’t ever remember making a conscious decision to set SWIMMING ALONE at the beach. The idea just came to me, and I started writing.

GC: Is Cathy likely to have any more adventures like this one? In other words, is she likely to become part of a series?

NM: I have thought of writing another Cathy Banks mystery. If I do, the next book will be set in New York City. But right now, I am working on a young adult paranormal thriller currently titled In Deep. I don’t want to say too much about this current project, but it is also set near the water—this time on Long Island Sound. This book is also much darker than SWIMMING ALONE. The characters are less naïve than Cathy. They’ve already experienced some trauma in their lives.

You can connect with Nina via Facebook, Twitter and her blog

Author groupie? – this is your chance to connect

Okay. I’m prepared to admit that maybe. I was wrong. There are literary festivals in the US. In fact, one of the biggest, the Brooklyn Book Festival, is happening this weekend, specifically on Sunday, September 23 from 10-6.

A number of venues have been commandeered for the event, and it sounds as though they’ll need them, what with more than 280 authors from around the world. They include Paul Auster, Joyce Carol Oates, Denis Lehane, Gail Tsukiyama and Judith Viorst. And that’s just a very few of the fiction writers – well, Judith Viorst writes NF, too, of course.  There are non-fiction writers and poets as well, of course, so there’s something for everyone. There will be booksellers (of course) and various literary organizations and publications, like Poets & Writers, Mystery Writers of America and the London Review of Books. For those of my readers who know they should be submitting their writing to literary journals and haven’t done it yet, here’s a chance to find out which of them might like your work, since they’re well represented, too.

There are also what they call Bookend Events, which are taking place this week. There’s a link to them here, in case you can make some of them.

And here’s the sweetest thing – all the Festival events are FREE (Some of the bookend events charge, but most of them are free too.). I can’t claim that’s true of my beloved British literary festivals – so well done Brooklyn.

They’ve designed a free app to help you find your way around – check your iTunes or other app store for Brooklyn Book Festival 2012.  In the meantime, go the Festival’s website for all the details.

Just one thing that I find distressing about the whole thing – I can’t get there L. I’m going to be in New Hampshire this weekend, but I maybe my favorite New Hampshire writers, Jodi Picoult and Janet Evanovich, will have decided to stay up there too. Perhaps I’ll run into them at the local co-op store, but I’m not holding my breath. Do go and let me know how it was.