Westport Writers’ Rendezvous – November Update

November get-together began with a discussion of the recent election. Having got that off our collective chest, we agreed writing might be a way to deal with the situation. With that in mind, there’s plenty going on in the writing world.

img_5200-768x927First, I need to thank Kate Mayer for her great blog post about holding oneself accountable. She’s been writing a blog post a day throughout November as a challenge to herself, which I know she’s going to complete. She gives the Rendezvous some credit for helping her achieve her goals, and I know our meetings have something to do with it, because she’s not the only one. Reason enough to show up!

On December 16, the Fairfield Public Library will be hosting a  one-day (9-5) panel, So You Want to Write a Children’s Book  featuring Patricia Reilly Giff, Susan Hood, Susan Ross, Christine Pakkala and former workshop instructor Michaela MacColl, Rosemary Wells, Tony Abbott and about a dozen other top names in children’s publishing. Free, but you need to register.

If you’re writing for children, FCWS is offering a class beginning on December 2, Writing for Middle Graders and Young Adults. Taught by Nora Raleigh Baskin, the six classes will run for seven weeks (not on the 16th – see above) on Fridays, 12 – 2 p.m.

A propos, it’s time to sign up for new writing classes/workshops if you’re interested. All three Westport sources are offering them, so check them out here:

Fairfield County Writers’ Studio  Among these is a session taught by Beth Levine, one of our members, on writing for magazines

Westport Writers’ Workshop

Write Yourself Free

Byrd’s Books in Bethel runs a series of classes on writing by Judith Marks-White. The next one is on December 4, at 3pm, and costs $20. Email events@ByrdsBooks.com or call (203) 730-2973 for moe information.

The magazine Poets & Writers, is holding a conference: Inspiration, in San Francisco on January 14-15, 2017. (Feels strange to be moving into 2017 already…)  It’s far from here, of course, but their line-up of speakers includes Juan Felipe Herrera; best-selling novelist and author of Purity, Jonathan Franzen; New Yorker staff writer and author of The Orchid Thief, Susan Orlean; acclaimed poet and former United States Poet Laureate Kay Ryan; writer and activist Ishmael Reed; and renowned poet Jane Hirshfield. And the Early bird registration (up to December 4) is only $175. You can’t beat that.

Here’s an interesting article on 9 Important Legal T ips For Self-Publishing Memoir And Nonfiction. It’s from Self-publishing Relief, and offshoot of Writers’ Relief, and worth a read.

And if you are self-publishing, here are some books on how to deal with copyright:  How Authors Sell Publishing Rights, by Orna Ross and Helen Sedwick; The Copyright Handbook and Kris Rusch’s Business blog posts. Kris also has a new book on Contracts coming out soon. Ross and Sedwick have also produced a podcast to help you get started, called Business Mindset Means a Rights Mindset.

Creative Non-Fiction is calling for submissions on a variety of topics for upcoming issues. They include science and religion; adapting to new situations; real life Frankenstein stories; and stories for their new monthly True Story publication (one story of 5-10,00 words per issue).

Kate Mayer also told us about attending Bindercon, the conference and community for women and gender variant writers. (I feel very clued in just typing that.) It’s a bi-coastal conference, and Kate went to the NYC one at the end of October. There’s another in LA from April 1-2, if you’re in that neck of the woods. For more info about the organization and the conference, click here, or check their Facebook page.

Writers Read is taking place on Tuesday, December 6, at the Fairfield Public Library from 7-9. It will be the last one hosted by Alex McNab, so I’d love you to come, even if not to read, to say thanks to Alex for hosting it for so long. Because of the way the days fall in December, the Writers’ Salon will be ther eon the 2nd, from 4-6. Hope to see you there.

At the halfway mark for NaNoWriMo, I keep bumping into people who are giving it a go. I did mine a few years ago, and I recommend it as a great way to learn to write without self-censoring. When I printed out the first draft, I made a title page ‘Horrible First Draft’, which it was. But at least I had a novel to work on. Among the writers I’ve run into are Tessa McGovern, of the Fairfield County Writers’ Studio, who’s also helped organize a series of events for NaNo writers at the Westport Library – putting her money where her mouth is, I guess. She was right on schedule with her novel.

At a talk given by the redoubtable Alice Mattison on Thursday, I was able to encourage a poet who was writing a novel and had got to the ‘Oh my god, this will never work,’ stage. She looked a bit more cheerful after, I think.

And yesterday I met a 13-year-old, working on her second one, which according to her teacher, contains inappropriate material (underage drinking) and is too gory (vampires will do that…). Sounds good.

Have a great Thanksgiving!

 

 

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.

Interview with author Lisa Winkler – editor of Tangerine Tango

In addition to writing a regular blog, Lisa Winkler is the author of On the Trail of the Ancestors, A Black Cowboy’s Ride Across America.  She’s also the editor of a new anthology of writing by women called Tangerine Tango (yes, of course I’m in it!) and I was impressed with the energy and dedication she brought to putting the project together, so I asked her about it.

GC: Congratulations on publishing Tangerine Tango. Is this the first book you’ve produced?

LW: Thanks, Gabi! I’m so proud of the book. This is my second book.  On the Trail of the Ancestors: A Black Cowboy’s Ride Across America was published last February. That is a very different book than Tangerine Tango. It tells the journey of a teacher I met from Newark, NJ who rode his horse from New York to California to honor the contributions of African-Americans to US history.

Tangerine Tango is a collection of essays and poems by 12 women writers.

GC: Tell me something about how you found your authors.

LW: Most of the writers I have befriended through blogging and I asked them to contribute.  By reading and commenting on each others’ blogs I feel as if I have all these wonderful friends!

GC: The book is attractive looking. Did you design it yourself, or did you have help?

LW: I had help. I am so lucky to have met Solveig Marina Bang. She is a designer and copy editor, based in India, who turns my word documents into art!  We go back and forth debating grammar as well as design.  She created 9 covers for me to select from—I loved this one immediately.

GC: Which parts of the publishing process did you handle yourself? (ISBN numbers, editing, etc)

LW: I have self-published with CreateSpace, Amazon’s publishing company. They assign the ISBN. I edited the essays and shared the edits with the writers. Then Marina and I pored through the entire document scores of times, and the writers proofread it too. I think there were over 20 drafts before it was ready to submit for publication.

GC: Was publishing the book pretty straightforward?

LW: Well the paperback was unavailable for a few days because of some glitch between Amazon and CreateSpace. In order to solve the formatting problems I had to wait for them to fix the issues with the Amazon paper copies. People who ordered from CreateSpace directly weren’t affected, but it was a nuisance from a promotional point of view. On the bright side, while it was unavailable, Amazon was advertising used copies for $999!

GC: Is the problem cleared up now?

LW: Yes, thankfully, and it’s been selling well.

GC: What piece of advice would you give to other indie authors looking to publish?

LW: It’s a risk and investment. There are tons of paper books being published both traditionally and self-published. Then there are eBooks. There’s a lot of competition. Don’t expect to make fast money. There’s no guarantee even if you’re traditionally published.
GC: Would you be prepared to do it again? Is volume 2 in the works, for example, or do you have something different on the horizon?

 

LW: I’d love to do this again! It would be another title; maybe with themes, maybe not. I’d love to double the size of the book and the number of authors. I think I’ll wait at least a year though to see how this one does, and if I do another book, I want to research other companies.

Author interview: James Tenedero

One of my more popular posts recently was the one about authors’ blog tours. After reading it, James Tenedero, a Canadian author, asked me if I’d be prepared to host him when he organized his blog tour today. James is from Montreal, but has traveled extensively in Europe, as you’ll find out when you read his book, The Consistency of Parchment, a thriller. You can find out more about his background at the bottom of this post.

Since this is James’ first novel, I wanted to know how, exactly, he arrived at a finished, published work. I was interested in the process from first concept through editing to self-publishing. I think you will be ,too.

GC: I can see from the book that you’ve traveled in Europe a great deal. Did you live there once? And, – a couple more questions: What gave you the idea for this novel, and why all the train trips?

JT: I have studied in Copenhagen, and I also lived in Budapest for a short time.  The idea for the novel really originated during my stay in Hungary. At the time, in 2003, the transition from Communist rule to democracy was already well underway, but I was still struck by the lack of severe Soviet-era architecture and customs; while there were traces of this past, much of that history seemed to have been swept out of view.

I started to consider the idea that we relate to the past in a very visceral way through the symbols and artifacts that we encounter in our daily lives. This is really the key underlying theme of the book, from which I then developed the storyline involving Cal, Kendra, and their journey to discover the contents of the safe deposit box for which Kendra possesses the key.

The frequent train trips in the book were based on my own travels throughout Europe. I used these episodes as a way to develop the bond between Cal and Kendra, and to flesh out the details of their motivations without impeding the narrative arc or the pace of the story.

GC: Once you had your ‘final’ draft, who edited it?

JT: I edited the book myself. Although I don’t have the skill set of a professional editor, I did work as a proofreader for a federal government agency for several years – so I have some sense of what to look for. Ultimately, I decided that the person best able to tell the story was me. So it seemed to make sense for me to write and edit the book myself. I’m a big proponent of the desk-drawer approach to editing: finish the draft of your manuscript, set it aside for a few weeks, and then come back to it with a set of fresh eyes.

GC: When you decided to publish, where did you start? I assume you had a Word document, but what happened next?

JT: Since I had made a decision to publish with Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing, I followed the template provided in their Building Your Book for Kindle guide, which is available online for free download here. I formatted the manuscript accordingly, added hyperlinks for the Table of Contents so that readers could easily navigate through the book on their Kindle, and then uploaded the full document for sale on the Amazon website.

GC: Who designed the cover and layout?

JT: As with the editing, I selected the cover art and designed the front cover. (You can probably tell that I like to exercise a good deal of control over the way that my writing is presented, and with The Consistency of Parchment I was an unabashed monopolist from conception of the story to sale of the book!). The photograph is taken from a cemetery in Manchester, England, which I visited earlier this year, and I experimented with several different fonts before settling on the text that you see here. I’m happy with the overall result, and I’ve already had some very complimentary feedback in this vein from potential readers!

GC: Where is it available?

JT:Although there are certainly many options for authors looking to make their books available on the Web, I chose Amazon because of the popularity of the site. I wanted to ensure that I had the largest possible audience for my work, and Amazon provides me with this opportunity. Another nice feature of their publishing model is that you’re essentially unrestricted in terms of the potential volume of sales you can realize. You publish online, your book is automatically listed by Amazon, and your ultimate success is dependent on the quality of the product (as determined by the readers and reviewers, not by literary agents or publishing houses) and the amount of effort you devote to marketing it.

GC: When you sent me a review copy (thank you) it was in MOBI format. Can you tell us why you chose that format?

JT: I chose MOBI as my format because of its simplicity and inexpensiveness. An author can use freely available software such as Mobipocket Creator to convert a manuscript into MOBI. Also, these files are fully compatible with the Kindle, which of course was an important consideration for me!

GC: I opened my copy using Calibre, and then transferred it to my Kindle Fire. Am I right in thinking that this only works for free copies?

JT: Although I haven’t used Calibre myself, my understanding of the tool is that it works for both free and paid copies.

GC: So if people want to buy it, how much does it cost, and where can they find it?

JT: The Consistency of Parchment is currently on sale for $2.99 on the Amazon web site. Since my book is included in the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library, Amazon Prime members can obtain it for free. Also, the familiar ‘Look Inside’ feature allows readers to sample the first couple of chapters before deciding whether to purchase the book.

Thank you for hosting me and allowing me to speak about my work! I would invite your readers to follow me on Twitter (@jamestenedero), connect with me on Goodreads, and Like my Facebook author page. I’m always interested in hearing from other authors and readers, so feel free to get in touch with me through any of these channels.

I hope you enjoy the book, and I welcome your feedback and comments.

James Tenedero is a Montreal author, PhD student, (sometime) adventurer, and (unrepentant) bibliophile. After stints in corporate finance and management consulting, James answered the call of academia: he is currently enrolled in PhD studies at McGill University with the hopes of eventually securing his place in the ivory tower. When he’s not writing fiction, James can be found in his office researching organizational innovation and writing non-fiction. The Consistency of Parchment is his first full-length novel

Author interview: Lisa Winkler – On the Trail of the Ancestors

Lisa Winkler is the author of On the Trail of the Ancestors, A Black Cowboy’s Ride Across America. It’s the story of Miles Dean, a Teacher from New Jersey, who rode his horse from New York to California to celebrate the contributions African Americans had made in the settling of the United States. I first came across her through her blog, and decided to interview her about the book, in particular because I wanted to know more about how Lisa became a published writer.

GC: Could you give us a brief summary of your writing career?

LW: I worked as a newspaper reporter and magazine journalist for years. When I became a teacher, I continued to write for professional journals and have had study guides published for Penguin Books. I write now for Education Update and have assignments for JerseyMan Magazine.

GC: Your latest book, On the Trail of the Ancestors, is about a black ‘cowboy’ riding across the USA on a horse. It’s an unusual topic, to say the least, particularly since it’s non-fiction. How did you come across the story? And what made you decide to write about it?

LW: I met Miles Dean while I was working as a literacy consultant in Newark, NJ. He taught at one of the schools I visited.  As a teacher, I’ve witnessed how little young people know of history. In urban areas, youth learn about slavery and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and a few more facts during Black History Month. Yet they have little if any connection with these historical figures. When I began my own reading after meeting Miles, I became fascinated with these people whose contributions to the development of the US are largely unknown. Most adults haven’t heard of these people. American history needs to include all races and genders to truly demonstrate who built this nation, their struggles and sacrifices and stories.  From my research, I couldn’t find any records of other African Americans who have ridden a horse across the country with this purpose in mind. A cross- country journey is a story in itself. I loved the idea of Miles growing up watching western movies and television shows and dreaming that he too could become a cowboy.

GC: My readers are always interested in the process of writing and publishing. Can you tell us what was involved in researching and writing this book?

LW: I read a lot of books that I found in libraries or bought. These included biographies, geography and books about horses.  I consulted maps and also interviewed some of scholars Miles met on his journey. I pored through the Internet. I read Miles’ website and transcribed the podcasts he did for the Star-Ledger and interviews he conducted with people he met.  I spent hours and hours interviewing Miles.

GC:  And what was your publishing process? Who edited the book? How did you decide on pricing, design etc?

LW: I nearly quit a few times. I submitted to about 100 agents before deciding to self-publish.  I researched the self-publishing companies and chose CreateSpace. For the most part, it was efficient. I hired a book designer who also is a copy editor and that is crucial to anyone considering self-publishing. We’d exchange emails six times a day, debating proper grammar usage, sentence structure, etc.  I priced it low as an eBook – $2.99 – and played around with the paperback price. $12.95 seemed fair for the size of the book.

GC: How can readers find you? Are you available to give talks?

LW: Yes! I’d love to talk about the book to any groups, bookstores and libraries that will have me. I’m available to present the book to all ages, and especially to educators who will use the book in their classrooms. The study guide gives a range of activities, including writing, literature, drama, math, geography, and research topics. It is available via my website. Readers can reach me via my website, and the book is available in all formats from Amazon etc)

The Secrets to Self-Publishing: A Panel Discussion

The Darien Public Library, in Connecticut, http://www.darienlibrary.org/ has been focussing recently on writers and their needs. One of the results of this is the installation of one of only 25 print-on-demand book machines in the whole of North America. (See my post on 11/16/11 https://writeconnexion.wordpress.com/2011/11/16/the-writers-espresso-machine/) Now they’re running a panel all about self-publishing – the newest way to get your work into print if you’re tired of waiting for Penguin to realize how talented you are.

Here’s the basic information from their web site:

Have you ever dreamed of publishing your own novel, memoir, or cookbook of herring recipes passed down from your Norwegian grandmother? Well now you can! And you can do it all using Darien Library’s brand new Espresso Book Machine.

On Thursday, February 2 at 7 p.m. in an event co-sponsored by On Demand Books, we will host a panel presentation to show the secrets of self-publishing.

Panelists include:

– Self-Published Author William Edgerton will speak about his experience publishing his mystery novel “Wine Killer.”

– Self-Published Book Designer and Author Sandy Garnett will recount his experience with designing self-published books and publishing his memoir “Baloney Express.”

– Award-Winning Author Adair Heitmann will discuss how to promote oneself as an author.

– Stephanie Anderson of WORD Brooklyn will discuss the decision-making process in purchasing self-published works to sell.

The chance of talking to people who’ve actually been there is what makes this an evening not to be missed – be there!

PS You can RSVP on their Facebook page, if you like.