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.
We had another great meeting at Barnes & Noble yesterday, with seventeen of us gathered to exchange ideas and recommendations. Alison McBain, Elizabeth Chatsworth, Ed Ahern and I bragged — just a bit — about our time travel anthology, When to Now, for which we did a reading and signing over the weekend at the Inaugural Saugatuck StoryFest in Westport.
In spite of this being NaNoWriMo (National Novel-Writing Month) month, sixteen of us showed up to hang out with other writers. A couple of our members were ahead of the game in terms of numbers of words written, some had stalled but were gamely going to keep trying. Either way, well done, I say!
If you’re looking for a quiet place to work (on your novel or any other writing) The Fairfield County Writers’ Studio is having open days on November 17, 18, 20, 21, 27 and 28. Hours vary, so be sure to check their site.If you have taken a paid workshop with them, you can come in and write for free on those days. If you haven’t, you can buy a one-day pass for $25. They’d like to know you’re coming, so either register here, or email them at info@FCWritersStudio.com.
There are a lot of writing events happening around us – here are just a few:
Next Tuesday, November 21, is WritersMic night at Panera’s in Westport 7-8.45PM. Come and read something for five minutes or so, or come to listen.
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.
Sunday, 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).
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.
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.
We had our usual excellent get-together on Wednesday, and as always, we covered a lot of ground, from upcoming events, to publishing ideas. Here are some of the many upcoming events in our part of the world:
The Fairfield County Writers’ Studio in Westport will be hosting an open mic on October 29th from 2-4pm. Different from other open mics, in that, if you choose, you can have your performance critiqued – with helpful suggestions for improving your presentation.
Book Riot is a website/podcast/newsletter for readers about reading. Their conference, Book Riot Live takes place in New York from November 12-13, and will have a host of speakers, including Walter Mosley, among others.
The Groton Public Library will be hosting its Annual Authors’ Festival on November 5, from 12-3pm. Over forty Connecticut authors will be there, reading, signing books, and giving attendees a chance to talk to them one-on-one. They’ll have refreshments and door prizes, too. Call 860-441-6750 for more information.
And finally, Susan Israel, our own crime novelist, will be in conversation with author Jim Valeri at Banks Square Books in Mystic on November 15th from 6-730pm. She’ll be talking about her latest book, Student Bodies.
In other news, the Connecticut Author Directory highlights the literary heritage of our state through a compilation of contemporary and historical author profiles. It’s compiled by the CT Center for the Book. If you live in Connecticut (or were born here but live somewhere else), have produced work while living in CT, written at least one single-author book, and your book is available for purchase or in libraries, you’re eligible to be included. If you’ve self-published, but your book has been reviewed by professional literature journals, you’re also eligible.
And talking of reviews, Kirkus Reviews is offering a 5 Step Marketing Guide that will walk you through the 5 most successful steps to marketing your book. Topics covered include: Ways to establish credibility as an author, guidance on how to leverage your current or future paid endorsements, instruction for selling your book rights – which can be the most lucrative result of independent publishing, and direction on how to invest your money into selling your book. All useful stuff.
Authors First, which bills itself as a virtual writers’ conference, is running its third annual novel competition, open to any work of previously unpublished fiction 40,000 words or longer. The winner will get $5,000 and a contract to publish with the Story Plant, a Stamford, CT publisher. Submission guidelines here.
Those of you Nano’ing this year will want to participate in the Westport Library’s encouraging events. On October 31, they have an all-night write in, starting at midnight, with coffee and snack available, to get you off to a flying start. And to finish the month, there’s a last-minute write-out (new one on me, but you get the drift. GC) from 9pm-midnight. Details of these and other writing events on the Library website.
Jan Kardys, literary agent and organizer of the Unicorn Writers’ Conference, has a Meetup for people interested in book publishing. She covers some of the same ground we do, but it’s possible to have work critiqued too.
Beyond your Blog, a website for bloggers, has an interesting article on the main reasons bloggers lose their connection with readers. It begins with ‘sporadic publishing’ and gores on through readers’ pet peeves (bad writing/editing) and more. Worth a read for almost any social media efforts you’re making.
Writers Read will be at the Fairfield Public Library from 7-9 on Tuesday, November 1, and the Writers’ Salon will be there at 4pm on Friday November 4th. I, on the other hand, will be out of the country.
We had our usual great meeting. I’m always amazed at how, in spite of being unscripted, we learn new things, meet new friends and feel good after. If you think you might want to start your own, let me know and I’ll be happy to give you some pointers.
Try to see Patti Smith in conversation hosted by the Mark Twain House in Hartford on October 13 from 7-9pm. By all accounts (people who heard her in New Haven) she gives a great talk. Tickets are $25, and you should book soon. I think they will sell out fast. Her memoir, The M Train, got rave reviews earlier this year.
WESTPORT WRITES – at the Westport Public Library
For those wanting an introduction to Scrivener, the writing software, The Westport Public Library’s Westport Writes program is offering a free introductory class at 6.30pm on Monday September 26, with a follow-up class on the 28th. This is a good way to see how Scrivener can help you be a better organized writer. I couldn’t manage my writing without it.
Chris Friden, the teacher of this workshop, will be among the faculty at The Fairfield County Writers’ Studio – who are planning a wide range of classes, master classes and seminars this fall. Please check them out here. There’s something for you here, beginner, professional or a fiction writer who wants to try essay writing.
On Saturday, October 15th, The Westport Library is having its annual CrimeCONN Mystery Conference from 9-5pm. I went last year and thoroughly enjoyed it. You can see some of the interviews I did with the authors (Chris Knopf, Daniel Handler, Liz Mugavero, Lucy Burdette)in previous blog posts. The cost is $25, and you’ll need to register in advance. You can find the list of author, and police detectives/crime experts here.
On the same day, there’s an Open write in of the Fairfield County Writers’ Group, a drop-in event where you can join other writers to sit and write among friends from 1-4pm. If you’re practicing for NaNoWriMo, This could be useful, and if you want to get an early start on this month-long November novel-writing challenge, you can do so at the library, with an overnight write-in beginning at 12.01am on November 1. With 50,000 words as your goal, it might be as well to plunge right in
Writers Read will be happening On Tuesday evening, October 4, from 7-9pm at the Fairfield Public Library. Come and read some of your writing to a supportive non-judgmental audience.
On Friday, October 7, from 4-6pm, the Writers’ Salon is hoping to host an experienced local editor for a question and answer session. To be confirmed.
FCWS will be starting a season of monthly open mic readings on Thursday October 6th from 6.30-8pm in Westport. You can choose simply to read for 3-5 minutes, without a critique. Or you can sign up to get feedback on how to improve your performance, and perhaps be filmed
On a completely different topic, I’ve begun using AutoCrit, an editing software that can help you get your work into better shape before you hire a professional editor. I discovered that I have a few writing tics, and writing ‘that’ as I just did, is one of them. So, to rephrase – I discovered I have a few writing tics. Another of them is overusing ‘after all’. The program can do much more complex analysis, but I’m not ready for that yet (sentence length, pacing, dialogue and more). After all, I’m just a novice…Check it out.
I met successful self-published author PJ Sharon the other day, whom I’m hoping to interview for the blog in a week or two. She has many great ideas for how to make that success happen. You can see for yourself how she’s doing, here. One suggestion she made for self-published authors was to donate a copy of your eBook to your local library, for people to borrow digitally. And apart from the YA books and other fiction she writes, she’s written a book called Overcome your Sedentary Lifestyle– perfect for writers.
It looks as though it’s going to be a busy autumn. Happy writing!
I was talking to a writing friend, Carolyn Mansager the other day about how she manages to avoid procrastination when she’s writing. She told me she has a couple of writing partners, one in Connecticut and one in California. I asked her to explain how it worked, and here’s what she had to say:
A writing partner does help maintain deadlines that you don’t otherwise have. But the other part of the equation is that a writing partner makes you accountable. The two combined are what makes writing with a partner the most productive.
If you are showing each other your work, each person knows, whether you share via email or in person, that you either did the work or you did not. There is neither honor system nor wiggle room around this fact. You assign your writing partner, for example, “email me 500 words by midnight tonight” and either you have an email with 500 words from them, or you don’t. Accountability.
Or, you tell your writing partner: “I have the goal of doing x, and will email you the first draft by Y (date and time) and either you do it, and they get it, with a thumbs up, kudos or comments (depends on your relationship) or you don’t, and you get the “Where is it?” In that case, you may be running late, or something happens in life, and you can share that event with them, and he or she will (hopefully) understand, and you move on from there.
A writing partner is also allowed to ask you this question, “Why aren’t you getting the writing done?” It becomes a friendship situation sometimes. Writing can be solitary and our brains work a bit differently. So being able to talk about it with another writer is a great help. Sometimes this can get worked out over coffee, or in the case of RG and myself; we met in the bar at Grand Central Terminal, while we were both, coincidentally, heading for the same train. Then we discussed it on the train ride home.
As a result of our agreement, I am now waiting for RG’s 500 words, emailed to me. He has a deadline and knows I am waiting for his words. Chances are good, he’ll do it now. He’s waiting for mine, too. He and I met through the Nanowrimo (National Novel Writing Month) group and ours is a writing relationship. It’s different from my writing relationship with Yvette, but that happens. Two people, two writers, work differently sometimes.
“My West Coast writing partner Yvette and I contact each other via Facebook i.m. and agree that it is “time to set the rooster” that means the alarm on my phone, and I keep the time. We negotiate when and for what amount of time we write. We write in separate rooms, sometimes in different time zones, for the allotted amount of time. Although we can’t see each other writing, we believe that’s what we are doing then. The word count says it all. Either you have words down at the end of the time, when the “rooster” crows, or you don’t. The rest is the same accountability as with my East Coast writing partner.
Since writing is a solitary event, we also make time to meet with each other, to have conversation as friends, and sit in the same room and write, when we are in the same vicinity. The overall goal is to support each others’ individual writing goals, and help guide each other to completion of individual projects, with support of another writer. I recommend making time to write, if only for a few minutes, each time writers get together. That way, we are alleviating procrastination and promote word count completion. We are also building writing connections and friendships.
I don’t know about you, but I’m a typical writer in the sense that when it comes to writing, I procrastinate. Those of you that say you don’t ever procrastinate have selective memory. At least that’s my story, and I’m sticking to it. And so, the only way that I can be sure of writing what I’m supposed to, when I’m supposed to, is to have a deadline. There’s a snag with this. When you’re writing for yourself, there’s no-one to impose deadlines on you. There are deadlines for paying the bills, deadlines for taking a shower, deadlines for getting to the next appointment at the nail salon. But deadlines for being creative? After all, why should I need deadlines when I love writing? But, somehow, I do.
Which is why, in November 2011, I volunteered for NaNoWriMo. I had two novels languishing in a drawer somewhere, and decided that if I were ever going to write one, I’d need a deadline. So I signed up to write the 50,000-word horrible first draft of a novel in 30 days. A deadline at last.
The thing about signing up is that it makes the damn thing public. So I had to do it, or lose face. In June, I had committed to doing 30 creative things in 30 days. (Why do these people always pick short months?) Each day, I had to think of something new, because I was posting the results on Facebook. And by new, I mean old, in many cases. For instance, I made what we used to call a Japanese garden; something my mother taught us how to do when I was small. You fill a container with moss and then ‘plant’ flowers and twigs to make a miniature garden. Then you add pieces of mirror (or in this case, silver foil) to represent water, and voila! I don’t think my mother had any idea that Japanese gardens were made of sand and rocks, but never mind.
Or there was the day I made the papier maché bowl. On another dreadful day, when I didn’t have much time, I decided to make something any child could make in an hour – a lanyard. I don’t think I’d ever made one before, but it looked so easy…here’s a picture of the result. And it took me hours!
All this turned out to be preparation for NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). The idea here is that you write 50,000 words in 30 days. Realistically, I didn’t think I was going to manage it, because I was traveling for the first 9 days of November, and had other activities I had to fit in when I get back, like the Writers’ Cafe I was helping to run, and a presentation and reading of the three winning stories in our writing contest, and the book club (why is it at my house?). And let’s not forget Thanksgiving…
All in all, I suspected it was going to be tough. But I know that my whole career has been founded on deadlines, and so, even though they used to be imposed by other people, I’m finding that the best way for me to write is to promise someone else that I’m going to do it. And better yet, make the promises public on the internet, so anyone can see them and hold me to it.
Well, I did it. And then I had to revise it. Nothing happened until I joined a small writing group where they expected me to produce something every two weeks to be critiqued. Lo and behold! I began to write again. There was one problem. I was writing a very bad novel. So I switched to some memoir writing…and then the group disbanded. Now I need to find another, because I NEED DEADLINES!
Those of you who read me regularly will know by now that Lisa Winkler of Cycling Grandma is the editor who included me in her anthology of women writers, Tangerine Tango. Her recent post about a blog game called the Look Challenge, caught my attention. Read on and you’ll see why…
I’m not participating but Tangerine Tango contributor Dawn Landau is. Not only is she writing with abandon dawn to dusk, she tagged me in the blog game called the “Look Challenge.” Bloggers, who are writing beyond their blogs have a chance to offer a sneak peek of their work.
The rules require that you search your writing for the word “look” and share a few lines. Dawn suggested I provide excerpts from the book.
“I used to wonder sometimes if the sea would ever come back again. I would look out of my bedroom window, under the eaves of Granny and Grandpa’s house, and sometimes the sea would be right up, covering the pebble beach, and at other times I couldn’t see it at all, it was so far away. All I could see was sand, stretching away to the end of the world. It felt a bit scary, but there is one wonderful thing about sand like that. In the summer, after we’d had supper, my father would take us out shrimping before bedtime.
We’d walk down the drive toward the main road in front of the house. Holding hands in a straggling chain, we would cross the road after repeating the incantation: “Look right, look left, look right again. If all clear, quick march.” This last was, I suspect, my mother’s variation on “cross the road”. She had been in the army, after all.”
“Miss Bean, our two-year-old shelter dog, started barking furiously on the deck while I was finishing making the pesto. Looking out towards the mountains, I saw why. A beautiful hot air balloon was floating over the valley and heading towards us! If it wasn’t for our trees, they might have landed on our hill.
“Most might find it hard to feel nostalgic about any kind of laundry, let alone having to lug heavy baskets outside to dry on lines. Line drying the wash is hard work and not often reliable. Mom watched the sky, constantly on the lookout for ominous dark clouds Read the rest here.
Maybe you’d like to join in? Here’s the idea:
The Look Challenge
Search your manuscript for the word “look” and copy the surrounding paragraphs into a post to let other bloggers read. Then you tag five blogger/authors.
You only have to provide some of your own writing, not for the others (but “Thank you,Lisa”).
I first met Adair Heitmann at a friend’s book launch, but we’ve become closer friends online. That’s because she’s easy to find on Twitter, Linked in, Facebook and other social media. Having an unusual name helps (try Googling her.) She’s a creativity and wellness expert as well as an award-winning author, popular professional speaker, and a fine artist. She writes a regular blog for the Fairfield Writers as well as her own, and gives regular workshops on how to use social media to promote your writing, so I asked her to write me a guest post on the subject:
Social Media has become a fact; any writer who wants to be taken seriously, be published, and stay published needs an online presence. Just as the basic ingredient for chocolate mousse is chocolate, it’s important for writers to use Social Media as a way to build their author platforms.
Social Media is also like chocolate mousse; if you’ve never tasted it, it’s hard to describe the velvety smooth texture or appreciate the rich bittersweet taste. I must confess I love chocolate mousse, and, full confession, I adore Social Media. However I think it’s easier to use Social Media then it is to make a good chocolate mousse.
As a writer, originally I was a snob, thinking that I was above the Social Media game. “My time should be spent writing,” I proclaimed, “not engaging in social networking trivia.” Then I tasted the power of Social Media and was hooked.
Various Social Media vehicles attract different personality types. In my workshops and programs I like to say, “LinkedIn is for introverts, and Facebook is for extroverts.” I’m an ambivert so I have found ways to navigate both. Every day however, there seems to be a new online communications tool – Google+, Branchout, Pinterest, Etsy, Prezi – the list goes on and on. As in any good recipe I suggest that you start with the five basics: LinkedIn, Blogs, Facebook, Twitter, and Having Fun. Once you’ve mastered those you can add others (or not) to suit your own time and taste.
1. LinkedIn. Join LinkedIn first. It’s the world’s largest professional social network. LinkedIn is a living breathing, walking and talking résumé of you and your professional endeavors. It’s free, and you key in your profile on your own time. True story: I met a speaker at a health and wellness conference in Westport, CT. We exchanged business cards to meet over coffee at a later date. (Yes, you still need to have those in your pocket.) She then moved to San Francisco, so it was two years later when I added her to my connections on LinkedIn. I already had my writer’s website in place, and was a contributing author to two professional blogs. She got to know me through my online presence, not over coffee. I didn’t know that she was the editor of an online journal of women’s wisdom until she invited me to be a contributing author to that journal.
2. Blogging. If you have something to say, beyond your online résumé, and website, then you can start a blog. Blogging is free and you make it all your own. Defend your cause! Educate the public about your mission! Enlighten! Entertain! Blogs are like water to yeast, when used in the right amounts they can expand your platform and help you rise above the competition. Blogs can also be a perfect, soft-sell, e-commerce tool. Belgium-based nature artist, Paula Kuitenbrouwer, has a blog.Either she read my creativity and wellness blog first (through a LinkedIn writing group) or I read hers, but we have been subscribing to each other’s blogs for about a year. Her recent blog came into my email box. She is now using Pinterest on her Mindful Drawing. Pinterest is a content sharing service that allows members to “pin” images, videos and other objects to their pinboard, and includes standard social networking features, plus a link to Etsy. Through Etsy she sells her hand-made note cards online.
3. Facebook.Facebook is free; you set up your page, and reach out to friends and colleagues. You can become magnetic, offering mentally stimulating posts, or be the information conduit about local writing conferences. I find out more about what’s happening in my writer’s world through Facebook then through any other medium. I learned about both NaNoWriMo and The Sketchbook Project first on Facebook. Are you into images? A local writer shows pictures of her colorful garden on her Facebook page. You don’t always have to write about writing. Some of the more interesting Facebook pages show diverse sides of a writer’s life. Author of Your Book Starts Here, Mary Carroll Moore, highlights her pastel paintings on her Facebook art page. If you are stymied about what to say on Facebook use my rule-of-thumb: If you have something to say, say it, if you don’t have anything to say, don’t. Instead you can comment on other people’s posts or share their helpful information with your friends. You don’t have to do all the talking.
4. Twitter. Twitter is a fascinating social networking tool. For any writer I think it is the coolest thing since dark chocolate became available in grocery stores. With Twitter you have to say what you are going to say in 140 characters or less. It’s a great tool for honing your writing craft. Twitter is a micro-blogging free service. You can tweet your way to success! Before I added Twitter to my communications toolbox, I researched the funniest tweets of all time. The book Twitter Wit: Brilliance in 140 Characters or Less edited by Nick Douglas showed me that I will never be as funny as many tweeters out there. It did inspire me though to take a stab at tweeting. I use it to share information about literature, the arts, creativity, wellness, and all those things that interest me. I’m still searching for my inner twitter wit, but while I’m exploring I’m building a fan base of followers.
5. Have fun! Embrace your inner spark. Be fearless when learning new technology. If you enjoy doing something you are more likely to repeat it. I recently heard an introverted author interviewed on NPR. Sorry I forgot his name, but I remembered his niche is cats and writing about cats. His Facebook posts are all about his life from the point-of-view of being a cat. Brilliant! He’s an introvert but he’s using Facebook in an extroverted way, but, no wait it isn’t him talking, it’s his cat. Only an inventive writer could do that.
LinkedIn, blogs, Facebook, and Twitter are communication tools that are all about building relationships. I encourage you to let your online relationships naturally evolve. Remember to avoid forcing anything and to set clear boundaries for yourself. Gauge how much or how little time you want to spend on Social Media and stick to it. Present yourself online in thoughtful, constructive ways. Support and promote other writers in your own Social Media platforms; it’s not all about you. Take time to reflect on who you are and to develop your unique brand. As a writer your business is writing, so promote yourself professionally. Lastly, whenever possible, refer people back to your writer’s website.
After you’ve added the Social Media ingredients, mix them well because they will help build your author’s platform. Then be sure to walk to your refrigerator. Swing open the door and take out that chilled, parfait glass full of light, airy, and rich chocolate mousse. Dip your spoon in, close your eyes, savor, and enjoy.