Zoom. That’s the way I’ve been getting together with my friends, my writing groups, French conversation groups and, of course, The Writers’ Rendezvous people. And the great advantage of Zoom, is that it’s allowed me to host people who usually … Continue reading
Today is the last day of National Poetry Month. To mark the occasion, I am interviewing an award-winning local poet, Edward Ahern. His book, Irregular Images, is his latest published volume, and it differs from his others, because it’s poetry. Ed may seem like an unlikely poet, because he’s a prolifically-published writer of a novel, The Witches’ Bane, and stories laced with dark humor and a touch of the surreal. Many of the poems in this volume reveal a more metaphysical outlook, yet some of my favorites are those that tell a story, like The Wake, in which a man tells another, silently, how much he despises him, and Telling a Fortune, which reveals the fortune-teller’s point of view. And, as ever, the humor comes through too, in The Urchin Response and O’Leary’s Drive-Thru. I wanted to know more about his poetry.
GC: I know you as a prolific author of short stories, which have been published in journals, anthologies and collections. When/why did you decide to add poetry to your repertoire?
EA: It was curiosity that subverted the fiction writer. I‘d been reviewing poems for Bewildering Stories for a couple years, some of them pretty good, some of them clotted chewing gum. I wondered if I couldn’t write poems equally bad or maybe a bit better. So I read into poetry writing, dabbled in a couple on line courses and started writing poems. They got accepted, so I wrote more. And more. I think that writing poetry requires a hopeless infatuation with words, and that it dramatically improves my fiction writing.
GC: Writing poetry tends to be a solitary experience. How do you get feedback on your poems before you submit them?
EA: I cheat, often submitting poems before another human has read or heard them. If a poem is rejected say seven or eight times I assume it stinks and rewrite it. It’s usually accepted thereafter. (I use the editor’s pass/fail vote as feedback on the poem’s quality. Saves me anguishing about whether or not the poem’s any good.) People in poetry groups are often too nice to tell me it stinks, although I encourage them to do so.
GC: You’ve had many poems published by now. Where would you suggest poets submit to begin with? Are there any publications more open to new poets?
EA: I started with low expectations, submitting to publications that accepted fifty percent or more of the subs. Too many writers of both fiction and poetry assume their raw poetry has undiscovered greatness and submit to the top magazines, which accept only one or two percent of unsolicited submissions. They’re rejected, get dejected, and stop writing. There are hundreds of receptive publications out there, including Bewildering Stories.
GC: Irregular Images is your first poetry collection. What prompted you to publish it, and how difficult was the process?
EA: All credit for the Publication of Irregular Images goes to Alison McBain, who went through the Amazon publication anguish. She’s not guilty of the poems’ DNA, but she delivered them. Peculiarly, a different assortment of twenty of my poems, will be published as a chapbook by Prolific Press, titled Dirty Handed Graspings. I’ll need to treat my children lovingly but uniquely as they develop.
GC: How did you choose which of your poems to include, and in which order?
EA: The selection process was painless. Of a hundred thirty poems written so far, eight or so are so bad I euthanized them. Another five are variations on the same theme. Another ten or fifteen, despite being published, are not how I want them to appear, and need cosmetic surgery. Irregular Images could be described as a ‘what’s left’ volume.
GC: In that case, it’s an advertisement for effective pruning!
We had a relatively small but select group of members at Wednesday’s meeting, probably due to spring break around here, coupled with Passover and Easter. But that gave us a chance to talk to each other about whatever was on our (writing) minds. One of the topics was rejection, about which one of our more prolific writers, Jacqueline Masumian, (Nobody’s Home) has a theory. She has always made it a goal to achieve 50 rejections. I don’t think she’s there yet, because her work is accepted more and more often. Because she submits. And that’s the point of the goal…
It seems to me there are more and more events for writers around here, so I keep updating my Writers’ Calendar, on a separate page of this blog. If you have anything you’fd like me to add, let me know. Here’s a selection of upcoming events, plus some ideas for ways to move your writing forward. Part 2 will follow next week.
On Saturday, April 20, at 7:30 pm, Shanna T. Melton of www.PoeticSoulArts.net is hosting a celebration of National Poetry Month, to include the music of DJ Buddha LuvJonz, art, and an open mic for poets. The event will be held at Conscious Creators, Studio 1223, The Bridgeport Innovation Center on Connecticut Ave, in Bridgeport. $10
From April 26 – 28 (Friday/Saturday at 8pm, Sunday at 3pm) a festival of nine new plays will be presented by the Theatre Artists Workshop in Norwalk. Reservations: 203 854 6830. Suggested donation: $25
On April 30, the Fairfield Library is holding an evening for and about book clubs. Worth going if you’re a writer who’d like more book clubs to buy your book. Guest speaker, Carol Fitzgerald, is Founder and President of The Book Report Network. She’ll share some of the hottest new titles, and explain the website Reading Group Guides. Come on your own or bring your book club! Register here.
May 5 sees members Ed Ahern and Alison McBain will be at the Fairfield Library along with other members of the Poets’ Salon, to read selections from their published collections and answer audience questions about their process of writing and getting published. Register here. Ed will be reading again on May 7 at Curley’s Diner in Stamford.
On May 9, from 7-8:30pm, I’ll be leading an Book Odyssey Author Night at the Storytellers Cottage in Simsbury, CT, featuring: Elizabeth Chatsworth, Roman Godzich and Alison McBain. This is one of many author events they hold there. Do join us for this exclusive author night. Meet each author and hear readings from their latest books. Signed copies will be available for purchase. Enjoy a light reception after. If sci-fi isn’t your thing, don’t worry, we’ve written books in various other genres too. Register for $5
Liv Constantine, the two sisters who wrote The Last Mrs Parrish, will be launching their latest psychological thriller – The Last Time I Saw You at the Fairfield University Bookstore on May 10, from 7-9pm. The evening is entitled Merlot, Munchies, & Murder, which should give you some idea of what to expect! RSVP: firstname.lastname@example.org. If you can’t make that evening, there are various others planned. (See the Writers’ Calendar for details.)
On May 16, from 7-9pm, the Fairfield County Story Lab in Westport is hosting a Literary Game Night. Host Evan Pagano, presents a rousing evening of trivia, charades, Pictionary and more — all centered around books, authors and all things literary, from classics to contemporary. Come and compete, team up with new friends, or just watch the games unfold and have some fun. Free to members. $10 for guests. Open to the public.
Keep an eye out for part 2. It should be out on Monday!
First things first: Several of our members will be at the Westport Library’s Makers’ Faire tomorrow, April 21, with their books. Among them are: Kristen Ball, Sheryl Kayne, Ann Lineberger, and yours truly. Come and talk to us, and check out the books. There’s no obligation to buy (though we always love that!).
To honor National Poetry Month, I’m starting with poets. Member Alison McBain has put together a list of poetry workshops and readings, open to everyone. She and member Ed Ahern have started the Poets Salon Meetup, which takes place once a month, and where you can take your poetry for critique. Sign up for monthly reminders of meetings, and to connect with fellow poets. Ed also offers helpful suggestions on where to submit, etc, on the Meetup site.
The Writer’s Group meets on the first and second Saturday of the month from 2-4pm in Bridgeport.
And on April 26, Alison McBain will be reading her work at 7:30pm at the Greenlight Bookstore in Brooklyn. The event marks the launch of the book: Aftermath: Explorations of Love and Grief, Check the happening out here.
The Westport Writers’ Workshop, which runs writing classes, is now offering a series of one-day classes, beginning this Saturday, April 21. They include Icing the Cake, The Power of ‘What If,’ Writing Through Motherhood, and Navigating the Publishing World. For a full list, see here.
The Nonfiction Writers Online Conference takes place from May 2-4 from 12pm-6pm. It looks as though it’s designed largely for those who’ve self -published, since a great deal of the focus is on how to market your book. The keynote speaker is Gretchen Rubin, talking about Habits, Happiness and Productivity for writers, and sessions include Effective Hybrid Publishing, Reach Millions with an Audiobook Presentation and Create Your Own Book Tour. You can check out the agenda online, and if you book by April 28, Sandra Beckwith of Build Book Buzz is offering a 35% discount off the fee of $125. Use her exclusive coupon code – BBB35
If you have a manuscript and you’re ready to take it to the next level, member Veronique Klemow suggests The Manuscript Academy. This online site offers various srvices for authors, ranging from a ten-minute phone meeting, with one page (your query or first page) read during the meeting, for $49, to critiques of your first 50/100 pages for $240/$480 respectively. They’ll critique your synopsis and proposal, too. Veronique felt the money was well spent.
Those of you looking for editors might want to take a look at Joanna Penn’s blog post on The Creative Penn. She lists a number of online resources from Winning Edits, to The Book Butchers. ‘We slaughter your writing, so it can rise in glory from the ashes.‘ There has to be someone on that list who’s right for you
A useful and free resource for finding places to submit is the weekly email from
Submittable. They list different types of publications and tell you whether they pay or not.
And finally, a quote via Alex McNab: You expect far too much of a first sentence. Think of it as analogous to a good country breakfast: what we want is something simple, but nourishing to the imagination. Hold the philosophy, hold the adjectives, just give us a plain subject and verb and perhaps a wholesome, nonfattening adverb or two.—LARRY McMURTRY