Writers Rendezvous – January update Part 1

Since yesterday was Inauguration Day, we had a smaller number of writers than usual, but that included some new members, which gave us a chance to get to know each other. I’m still loving the way Zoom meetings can expand my horizons, so I can meet people who would be unlikely to show up in person, because of distance. Here’s some of what we discussed.

If you like or write historical fiction, you may want to attend this virtual event at 7pm on Thursday, January 21. Darien Library and Barrett Bookstore will host authors Marie Benedict (The Mystery of Mrs. Christie), Melanie Benjamin, (The Children’s Blizzard), and Greer Macallister, (The Arctic Fury)  for a historical fiction panel that will delve into their most recent novels: The Children’s BlizzardThe Mystery of Mrs. Christie, and The Arctic Fury.  Register here.

Here’s an unusual Short Story Challenge run by NYC Midnight Movie Making Madness. This international creative writing competition, now in its fifteenth year, challenges participants to create original short stories in as little as 24 hours.  The challenge consists of four rounds.  In the first round—January 22-30—writers are placed randomly in groups and are assigned a genre, subject, and character. Writers have eight days to write an original story of no longer than 2,500 words. In further rounds, the number of words decreases, but so does the time allowed for writing the story. For more details, check here.  One of the benefits of this challenge is that feedback from the judges is provided for every submission and there are cash prizes for the winners.

Allison Dickens

The Westport Writers Workshops has many workshop classes, among them their popular series of One-off workshops on various topics of interest to writers. These include My Lessons In Self-Publishing with Libby Waterford and Allison Dickens this Saturday, January 23, from 10-12noon. Getting Your Book Published will be held on Saturday, February 6 (10a-12noon). Here’s one every novelist can use: Learn to Outline: How to Write a Novel and Not Lose Your Mind with Jessica Speart, on Saturday, February 20 from 10am-1pm. Others are available and WWW is always adding new ones.

Writer and teacher Tessa McGovern is offering a free one-hour writing sprint and ask-me-anything session every Tuesday at noon. Hosted by Westport Library, participants chat about successes and obstacles, write for an hour and then have 39 min  to ask Tessa anything about writing or publishing. More information and the link on her website (link above).

On January 27 at 7 pm The Connecticut Press Club is offering a virtual Boost Your Brand Workshop, led by Javacia Bowser. The workshop promises to teach you how to: define and convey who you are, what you want, and what you stand for as a writer; build relationships with other writers, bloggers, editors, and agents; use social media to manage your brand’s reputation, and grow your audience before you launch your book or blog. Free to Connecticut Press Club members, $15 for non-members. More information and registration here.

Courtesy of the Poets’ Salon, the Meetup for Poets: The Sunshine State Book Festival will be held online all day on Saturday, January 30. It will feature 100 authors writing in eighteen genres. You can preview a sampling of the author booths right now – each author will have their own video presentation and list of books to browse online. Free.

The Big Moose Prize contest is open to traditional novels as well as novels-in-stories, novels-in-poems, and other hybrid forms that contain within them the spirit of a novel. Each year Black Lawrence Press will award The Big Moose Prize for an unpublished novel. The prize is open to new, emerging, and established writers. The winner of this contest will receive book publication, a $1,000 cash award, and ten copies of the book. Prizes will be awarded on publication. Deadline January 31 and submissions are now open.

The Mark Twain House is offering a six-week online writing course with author Dana Meachen Rau (Who is series) for a six-week writing course! Each session runs on Zoom from 4 to 5:30 p.m every Thursday, February 11 through March 18. This six-week writing course is offered in conjunction with the Page to Stage Short Story Writing contest co-sponsored by The Bushnell and The Mark Twain House & Museum. More information to come! Registration is $150 and grants you access to all 6 sessions. This course is limited to 10 students. Registrants will receive a Zoom link in advance of the first class. Register here.

Member Elizabeth Chatsworth allowed me to interview her for her book launch last week. If you’d like to see how it went, here’s the link.

That’s about half the information for this month. Check out Monday’s post for more events, and ways to increase your book reviews, particularly before you launch.

Meanwhile, keep writing!

Westport Writers’ Rendezvous: March update

We had out first Virtual Writers’ Rendezvous via Zoom yesterday, and I’m so glad we did. Thirteen of us managed to sign in, and it was a wonderful way to connect. And, as you can see, I look much younger on Zoom. (Just kidding – that’s not me…) The reason the Rendezvous exists is as an antidote to the isolation of writers. And nothing will stop us connecting! (Photo below courtesy of Zoom)Zoom picture

Naturally, there were almost no events I could recommend, since everything for the immediate future is canceled. But the internet is a wonderful thing. Here are some of the things you can do to stay in the writing groove.

The Westport Writers Workshop is offering all its courses via Zoom. Those of you who have tried it already will know how simple it is Continue reading

Writers’ Rendezvous: September update – part 2

Here’s the second half of the September update, with lots of events, places to submit, and a couple of useful websites for authors, including one that helps you generate your plot, if you’re stuck.

romanIt’s never too soon to begin preparing for NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) in November, so Roman Godzich, author of No Higher Ground, is offering a NaNoWriMo Plotting Workshop at the Storytellers Cottage in Simsbury on October 19 from 1-2:30pm. This workshop will help you develop an outline of a plot for your NaNo novel. You’ll learn how to lay out the three acts of your story and how to define your protagonists and antagonists and their goals, plus you will walk away with a full outline for your novel. COST: $30. Pre-registration required.

New-England@3x-1-768x1366Bank Square Books in Mystic, and Avon Books (the romance imprint of Harper Collins) are co-hosting KissCon New England at Mohegan Sun on Saturday, October 26. Tickets are $10 and include a mass-market romance paperback. Authors Ilona Andrews, Loretta Chase, Tessa Dare, Megan Frampton, Caroline Linden, Sarah MacLean, Nisha Sharma, Joanna Shupe and Olivia Waite will be speaking and signing books.

If you’re writing flash fiction, here’s your chance to submit to CRAFT’s first flash fiction contest for unpublished stories up to 1,000 words. Three winning stories will each receive: $1,000 and publication in CRAFT. Deadline October 31.

The annual Dorothy and Wedel Nilsen Literary Prize for a First Novel is to identify and publish completed fiction manuscripts (novels, novellas, and linked collections) of high literary quality by authors who have not previously published such a work. (This includes self-publishing.) Prize: $2,000 and publication. Deadline November 1. Details at the link above.

Bateau Press is accepting manuscripts for the annual Boom Poetry Chapbook Contest.
The winning chapbook is a handmade, hand-sewn, letter pressed work of art. Winner gets $250 plus 25 copies. Print run of 400 chaps.  $14 entry fee includes a copy of the winning chapbook (or any chap in their catalogue). Deadline: November 1.

Hold the Date: The Fairfield Library’s second annual Writers’ conference is scheduled for Saturday, November 2, from 9:15-4:30pm. I’ll be one of the speakers there, and I’ll let you have more details as I have them. You might want to sign up now, though, since spaces will be limited to a hundred, and some have already gone. Free.

jeff gOn Sunday, November 3, from 4-6pm, the Pequot Library’s Meet the Author guest will be Jeff Gordinier, food and drinks editor of Esquire magazine, among other things, talking about his latest book, Hungry: Eating, Road-Tripping, and Risking It All with the Greatest Chef in the World. It speaks of the four years spent traveling with René Redzepi, the renowned chef of Noma, in search of the most tantalizing flavors the world has to offer.

blackCrime Bake, which takes place from November 8-10, in Woburn, Massachusetts, is the premier conference for crime-fiction writers and readers in New England. It offers numerous opportunities to meet and network with agents, editors, and authors in a small, friendly environment. Updates will tell you if it’s sold out yet.  This year’s guest of Honor is British writer Ann Cleeves, author of the Shetland crime novels, and those featuring Vera Stanhope.

Andrea Penrose returns to the Pequot Library on Saturday, November 9, from 11-1pm for a craft talk on A Writer’s Life. She will be talking about: inspiration, historical fiction, publication journey, critique groups, and what a regular writing day entails. Attend with your questions and get ready to be inspired.

Authors Publish has produced a list of publications currently open to reprints, so if you have published work you’d like to see published again, now’s your chance. Sign up for their newsletter to be updated regularly.

Seeing it Clearly Now,  a blog for people of a certain age, has a rolling submissions policy for fiction, non-fiction and poetry.

If you can’t think of what to write and need a hand, try this British website: Plot Generator.

And if you’re looking at independent publishers and want to check their credentials, try Writer Beware, which monitors publishing scams.

And–keep writing!

Westport Writers’ Rendezvous: June update – Part 2

Here, as promised, is Part 2 of the June update. Lots of author events, contests, and places to submit your work:

The Norwalk Public Library is offering two creative writing series: An ongoing poetry workshop on the first Monday evening of each month, and creative writing each Monday, from 10:30-12pm, beginning July 8. Free. Details here.

A quick reminder that I’ll be interviewing Amy Oestreicher about her extraordinary memoir, My Beautiful Detour,  on July 11 at Barnes and Noble in Westport at 6:30pm. She’ll be reading, and signing her book. And there’ll be refreshments Continue reading

Westport Writers’ Rendezvous: June update – Part 1

Some twenty of us gathered this month at the Westport Barnes & Noble—almost a record! There was lots to talk about, so this post covers Part 1 of this month’s update. First, and most important, the Westport Library is reopening … Continue reading

Author interview: Edward Ahern

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 his014 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?

ed ahernEA: 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!

You can follow Ed on Facebook and Twitter. He is also co-organizer of The Poets Salon Meetup, which meets once a month in Fairfield, CT.

 

 

 

Westport Writers’ Rendezvous: April update – Part 1

jacqueWe 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.

ed ahernMay 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

alafairAlso on May 9, at 1pm, Alafair Burke, author of The Better Sister, will be at Fairfield Main Library for an author talk and signing with high tea/luncheon. Please rsvp here since space is limited,

last timeLiv 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: livconstantine2@gmail.com. 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!

 

Westport Writers’ Rendezvous – July update

I wasn’t able to be at Wednesday’s get-together, but I understand members had lots of positive happenings to report, which is fantastic. Alex McNab hosted in my place, and did a great job, I’m told. Thanks, Alex. A local storytelling … Continue reading

Westport Writers’ Rendezvous – March Update

We had another great meeting on Wednesday, which brought up a number of new ideas – some about publishing. Here’s a blog post about why it’s a good idea to publish via Amazon. This article includes links to others which tell you how to format your file and give you suggested templates.

imagesAnd this is an article about how one sells publishing rights, for those who need to know.

In upcoming events, on March 31st at 7pm, Write Yourself Free is sponsoring a free workshop with Victoria Sherrow on Writing for Kids. Please email Tish Fried at tishpatrick@mail.com to register.

Sisters in Crime, New England, are having a read-in (I invented that word. GC) on Saturday, April 16th from 1.30-3.30 at the Fairfield County Writers’ Studio in Westport. Connecticut mystery writers will be reading from their books and there’ll be a chance to mix and mingle with them afterwards. In the morning, the FCWS will offer a writing workshop called Mystery 101 from 9.30am-noon.

And the day after, same location, Joyce Maynard, NYT bestselling author, in conversation with award-winning author Nora Raleigh Baskin (4/17 at 7p.m.)

The Creative Nonfiction Writers’ Conference will be held from May 27-29 in Pittsburgh this year. Meetings with literary agents are available. More details here.

For some reason, we had quite a discussion about writing poetry. It turns out there are a number of places where poets can meet others and get feedback. One of our Meetup members, Rona, sent me information about the regular meeting on Tuesday nights (7.30pm) at Curley’s Diner in Stamford. One of our regulars, Leslie Chess Feller, wondered whether the group would consider light verse as poetry (see my interview with her here)
The Bigelow Senior Center in Fairfield is the location for a Poets’ Roundtable every first and third Thursday of the month at 1pm. The gentle critique group is run by Emerson Gilmore.
And Garrison Keillor is offering five thousand dollars in prize money to the seven winners of “‘Poems of Gratitude: The Fourth Annual Common Good Books Poetry Contest. Submissions due by April 15th, only one poem per person, guidelines here.

Sophronia Scott is organizing a series of readings by Connecticut writers (not an open mic) at the C.H. Booth Library in Newtown CT. The next one is May 1st from 2-4pm and she already has some good authors lined up. It’s a good chance to meet published writers and ask them about their work.

The Westport Writers’ Workshop is now taking registrations for their Spring workshops here.

Writer’s Relief has an email newsletter you might find interesting. It includes submission listings as well as interesting articles on publishing, editing etc.

Meeting regular, Jacque Masumian, sent me details of her newly published short story “Out of the Park,” now available in the January issue of the on-line journal Still Crazy , only until the end of March. She explained that the download costs $4 payable through Paypal, so if you have a Paypal account and can manage it, please take a look. She’d love some feedback. My question is: Who gets the $4? I hope it’s Jacque.

Bernice Rocque sent details of Carol Bodensteiner’s blog post about her advertising experience with Book Bub which resulted in her second book being picked up by Lake Union, Amazon’s traditional publishing company. Bernice commented that she thinks they rarely agree to promote newly published books. But the article is fascinating because the author gives you actual numbers of books sold, money made etc. Sounds like good value to me.

Alex McNab mentioned the Muse and The Marketplace conference to be held in Boston from April 29th-May1st this year. He sent me three links, in hierarchical order, to Grub Street, the conference, and the manuscript-evaluation sessions. Go for it!

Ed Ahern, our most avid submissions guy (and therefore the most frequently published), mentioned that Duotrope now has listings for podcasts you can submit your mp3 files to. Sounds interesting (geddit?). He is also reading for Bewildering Stories, which is looking for flash fiction (defined as up to 1,000 words). Submit here

Kate Mayer talked about Listen To Your Mother, a storytelling production that
takes the audience on a well-crafted journey that celebrates and validates mothering through giving voice to motherhood–in all of its complexity, diversity, and humor–in the form of original readings performed live on-stage by their authors. (I didn’t write that, BTW. GC) Cities and auditions are usually announced Dec/January and auditions are February, so the shows are decided for this year, but it’s something to keep in mind. .

And here, in a burst of shameless self-promotion (I’m quoting her, here), is the video of Kate from the 2012 NYC performance.

Author interview: Leslie Chess Feller

coverWith the rise of self-published books, it’s hard to know which books are worth buying. So when I find one I think is excellent in its class, I like to give them and their authors a shout-out. One such is Monster In My Lunchbox,  an illustrated book of family-focused rhyme. The poems are by Leslie Chess Feller and the illustrations by her late sister, Shelley. I asked Leslie how the book came about and her answers were quite unexpected. Read on to find out why.

GC: Can you tell us something about the book?
LCF: Monster In My Lunchbox is a collection of light verse that celebrates family. It includes simpler poems for early readers and others for kids in elementary school and beyond. But it’s also for Moms, Dads, Grandmas and Grandpas. I like to say that anyone who has ever been a kid will get a laugh out of these poems. They are meant for the whole family to enjoy together. Here’s a sample:

SCHOOL DAYS, RULE DAYS …cartoon 1
Bells ring! Books slam!
Papers shuffle! Yes, Ma’am!
Raise your hand! Get in line!
Hurry up to be on time!
Quiet please! Do your work!
Don’t be idle! Do not shirk!
Reading, writing, number stuff …
Sometimes I’ve had quite enough.
Even when I’m pleased as punch,
I think my favorite subject’s lunch

GC: How long have you been a poet?
LCF: I grew up in Brooklyn, NY, the second of five siblings. My sister Shelley, older by 15 months, was the alpha sibling and with three younger brothers there was never a dull moment. Our father was a physician who loved the poet Ogden Nash. Whenever he had something to say to our mother, a psychologist, he would do it with a clever Ogden Nash-ian rhyme. And my mother would rhyme right back.

lcf kids

Leslie (L) and Shelley

You could tell anybody anything in my family, even our father, if you did it with a poem. Every occasion became a poetic roast. Like my siblings, I began to rhyme as soon as I could write. So when my daughter Dania brought home Shel Silverstein’s A Light in the Attic in the fourth grade, I looked at it and said, “I can do that.”

GC: How did you get your first poems published?
LCF: In 1985, a few of my Kidstuff poems ran in a local newspaper and attracted the attention of editors at a Westport, CT, magazine, Profiles. As soon as I found out they wanted me to do a monthly column and were open to me bringing in an illustrator, I called Shelley. By then, she was the world’s best middle school science teacher. But as a student, she used to get in a lot of trouble for cartooning all over her schoolwork. “Hey, Shelley,” I said. “I’m getting these poems published! Maybe you could do some cartoons?”

GC: Did you continue to publish poetry?
LCF: I did two other light verse columns for Profiles. Both Rhyme or Reason and Poetic License won Connecticut Press Club awards, but ran without illustrations. Soon my editors started assigning me articles which put my writing career on a different track. I went from local articles to the New York Times to national magazines as a freelance journalist for almost thirty years. Writing in light verse became something I enjoyed doing for family events.

GC: What made you decide to publish your poems now?

lcf sis

Leslie (L) and Shelley

LCF: This book is also a celebration of a very special sisterhood. Over decades, my sister and I cheerfully perfected the art of never, ever agreeing with each other – except that we didn’t want to fight. Agreeing to disagree was our solution, the catalyst for what became an extraordinary friendship. Shelley died of leukemia two years ago. It was a terrible loss.
Six months afterwards, I was standing in my living room feeling very black. For no reason, I opened a cabinet door. Something fell on the floor in front of me. It was a xerox copy of fifty of my poems with fifty illustrations done by my sister. I had forgotten ever writing them. The fifteen Kidstuff poems in my writer’s portfolio were what I remembered. But at some point, decades ago, I had given more to Shelley and she had chosen to illustrate them.
I felt her right beside me. “Publish these,” Shelley said. The words were sweet. I threw everything out of that cabinet in a mad search for the pen and ink cartoons. Eventually I found 110 of my poems, each with the perfect cartoon. My sister and I disagreed about everything, but clearly we shared the same sense of humor. Monster In My Lunchbox is a collaboration that includes eighty of my favorites.

GC: How are you promoting your book?
LCF: Monster In My Lunchbox was published in November, 2015.
The website is http://www.monsterinmylunchbox.com On the website, you can listen to me read the title poem. Then click links to videos of other poems in the collection.
And I’ve been giving talks and readings at libraries, and for parent groups among others.

You can see the promotional video here. And to connect with Leslie, follow her on Facebook or Google +, and Vimeo where you’ll find links to more videos.
The book is available from Blurb.