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

Margaret Atwood leads the digital media pack

There’s a new short fiction app called Wattpad and the website that invented it has 9 million followers. Surprised? I was, because I’d never heard of it. So I signed up to take a look. Readers describe themselves as an eBook community, but the interesting thing is that many of them are writers too. You can upload your own work for others to read. And you can do it chapter by chapter, if you like. The reason this is appealing is that it enables a writer to get feedback as they go along, rather than waiting until it’s a ‘finished’ book and then finding out that readers hate it. And readers may even suggest new plot developments or request more characterization.

Margaret Atwood

The reason Wattpad came to my attention is that among their new members is prize-winning Canadian author Margaret Atwood. Atwood’s novels include The Handmaid’s Tale, The Blind Assassin and the Year of the Flood, as well as children’s books, non-fiction and poetry. She has published two new poems on the site, and is planning to share a piece of fiction this Fall. The poems are: Update on Werewolves, in which she explores the world of the female werewolf and Thriller Suite . (I hope these links work for people who aren’t signed up for Wattpad…)

She will also be the final judge of a poetry contest to be held on the site this month. She already has 280 fans, one of whom is me, of course. And once people discover her whereabouts, that number will just keep going up.

Readers comment on her work, as they do for any other writer on the site. Ms. Atwood says she’ll be reading the feedback on her work, but won’t be commenting on other writers’ stuff, though she promises to read some. She feels any comment she might make would carry too much weight for its recipient – good or bad.

Making yourself visible on Wattpad isn’t easy. Even Margaret Atwood has stiff competition. There are currently five million stories in 25 languages, and more than half a million more are added every month. So if you add something, you’ll be competing for readers’ attention, too. But then, that’s a real author’s life, isn’t it? Name a genre and they have it. Presumably, there’s writing which doesn’t fit neatly into a genre, but so what?

I think it’s time to get some writing on there and see what happens.

P.S. This isn’t the only way in which Margaret Atwood is reaching readers old and new; I’ll be doing a follow up post on her remarkable new ideas soon.

Re-post from Ebook Friendly: 5 Bestselling Kindle Singles So Far

A while ago I wrote a post about the increasing market for short stories one could read on the go in a busy world. I figured this is good news for writers, and here to help make my case, is an article from the website Ebook Friendly. I came across  this site because I follow a Polish blogger named  Piotr Kowalczyk, self-publisher, author of short stories for geeks and a declared enthusiast of electronic books. And, by the way, a writer of impeccable English. Joseph Conrad could have taken lessons… He has a blog, Password incorrect, about mobile e-books, self-publishing and digital storytelling, and a website called Ebook Friendly.  You can find him on Twitter at @ebookfriendly  or @namenick. He’s more than happy to answer questions about self-publishing in a mobile world or about Ebook Friendly.

Here’s his report on the winning singles so far (and you can buy them via Ebook Friendly);

Good news travels fast. Over 2 million Kindle Singles were sold since they launched in January 2011. There are only 161 titles so far, you can browse all of them in Kindle Store. For your convenience we list below 5 most popular titles.

This list is based on a chart published by paidContent, where you can also check the approximate number of units sold, the date of publication, and the publisher.

Two titles, Second Son by Lee Child (#1 on a paidContent list), and No Time Left by David Baldacci (#3) were removed by their publishers from Kindle Singles section, probably in order to increase the price. They are not included in the list.

Mile 81 (Kindle Single)

Stephen King

With the heart of Stand By Me and the genius horror of Christine, Mile 81 is Stephen King unleashing his imagination as he drives past one of those road signs…

At Mile 81 on the Maine Turnpike is a boarded up rest stop on a highway in Maine. It’s a place where high school kids drink and get into the kind of trouble high school kids have always gotten into. It’s the place where Pete Simmons goes when his older brother, who’s supposed to be looking out for him, heads off to the gravel pit to play “paratroopers over the side.” Pete, armed only with the magnifying glass he got for his tenth birthday, finds a discarded bottle of vodka in the boarded up burger shack and drinks enough to pass out.

Not much later, a mud-covered station wagon (which is strange because there hadn’t been any rain in New England for over a week) veers into the Mile 81 rest area, ignoring the sign that says “closed, no services.” The driver’s door opens but nobody gets out.

Doug Clayton, an insurance man from Bangor, is driving his Prius to a conference in Portland. On the backseat are his briefcase and suitcase and in the passenger bucket is a King James Bible, what Doug calls “the ultimate insurance manual,” but it isn’t going to save Doug when he decides to be the Good Samaritan and help the guy in the broken down wagon. He pulls up behind it, puts on his four-ways, and then notices that the wagon has no plates.

Ten minutes later, Julianne Vernon, pulling a horse trailer, spots the Prius and the wagon, and pulls over. Julianne finds Doug Clayton’s cracked cell phone near the wagon door — and gets too close herself. By the time Pete Simmons wakes up from his vodka nap, there are a half a dozen cars at the Mile 81 rest stop. Two kids — Rachel and Blake Lussier — and one horse named Deedee are the only living left. Unless you maybe count the wagon. List Price: $ 3.99

The Moonlit Mind: A Tale of Suspense (Kindle Single)

Dean Koontz

In this chilling original stand-alone novella, available exclusively as an eBook, #1 New York Times bestselling author Dean Koontz offers a taste of what’s to come in his new novel, 77 Shadow Street, with a mesmerizing tale of a homeless boy at large in a city fraught with threats . . . both human and otherwise.

Twelve-year-old Crispin has lived on the streets since he was nine—with only his wits and his daring to sustain him, and only his silent dog, Harley, to call his friend. He is always on the move, never lingering in any one place long enough to risk being discovered. Still, there are certain places he returns to. In the midst of the tumultuous city, they are havens of solitude: like the hushed environs of St. Mary Salome Cemetery, a place where Crispin can feel at peace—safe, at least for a while, from the fearsome memories that plague him . . . and seep into his darkest nightmares. But not only his dreams are haunted. The city he roams with Harley has secrets and mysteries, things unexplainable and maybe unimaginable. Crispin has seen ghosts in the dead of night, and sensed dimensions beyond reason in broad daylight. Hints of things disturbing and strange nibble at the edges of his existence, even as dangers wholly natural and earthbound cast their shadows across his path. Alone, drifting, and scavenging to survive is no life for a boy. But the life Crispin has left behind, and is still running scared from, is an unspeakable alternative . . . that may yet catch up with him. List Price: $ 2.9

Thorn in My Side (Kindle Single)

Karin Slaughter

It could have been just any night, and they could have just been any two brothers–but it wasn’t, and they weren’t. The scene is an Atlanta bar. The music is loud and the dance floor is packed. The good-looking brother picks up a girl. But when dark deeds ensue out in the parking lot, what happens next can only be described in two words: vintage Slaughter. From the opening scene to the last line, Thorn in My Side is as wicked as it is entertaining–an unforgettable piece of writing from one of the most beloved storytellers working today. List Price: $ 0.99

Leaving Home: Short Pieces (Kindle Single)

Jodi Picoult

Leaving Home brings together three, previously published short pieces, each dealing with a variation on the theme of leaving home. The first, “Weights and Measures,” deals with the tragic loss of a child; the second is a non-fiction letter Picoult wrote to her eldest son as he left for college; and, “Ritz” tells the story of a mother who takes the vacation all mothers need sometime. List Price: $ 2.99

Three Cups of Deceit: How Greg Mortenson, Humanitarian Hero, Lost His Way (Kindle Single)

Jon Krakauer

Greg Mortenson has built a global reputation as a selfless humanitarian and children’s crusader, and he’s been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. He is also not what he appears to be. As acclaimed author Jon Krakauer discovered, Mortenson has not only fabricated substantial parts of his bestselling books Three Cups of Tea and Stones into Schools, but has also misused millions of dollars donated by unsuspecting admirers like Krakauer himself.

This is the tragic tale of good intentions gone very wrong.

100% of Jon Krakauer’s proceeds from the sale of Three Cups of Deceit will be donated to the “Stop Girl Trafficking” project at the American Himalayan Foundation (www.himalayanfoundation.org/live/project/stopgirltrafficking). List Price: $ 2.99

Still time to submit an audio story

I had this email from the Missouri Review yesterday. If you’ve been putting off entering – now’s your chance.

We wanted to let you know that The Missouri Review has decided to extend the deadline of our 2012 Audio Competition by an additional week. The new online submission system and our pay-by-donation entry fee caused some confusion early on, and we would like to give all entrants a chance to adjust to those changes. Entries must now be postmarked or emailed to us no later than Thursday, March 22nd.

The Audio Competition offers prizes of $1,000 in each of three categories: poetry, prose, and audio documentary. It’s easy to enter! All you need to record your work is a microphone, a computer, and free recording software, such as Audacity or GarageBand. Entries and payments can be submitted online.

All entrants receive a one-year, digital subscription to The Missouri Review. For full guidelines, please visit our website: http://www.missourireview.com/audiovisual/submissions/

It’s Never Too Late to Publish

Lizzy Davies is a reporter at the Guardian. She previously worked for the paper in Paris, and for the Observer and Independent as a news editor

She wrote this piece last week about a newly discovered short story by Charlotte Brontë:

Charlotte Brontë’s lost short story to be published

 Charlotte Brontë with her sisters. L’Ingratitude, dated 16 March 1842, is the first-known piece of homework set for her by the Belgian tutor Constantin Heger. Photograph: Jon Jones/Sygma/Corbis

 

A long-lost short story written by Charlotte Brontë for a married man with whom she fell in love is to be published for the first time after being found in a Belgian museum a century after it was last heard of.

The tale, written in grammatically erratic French and entitled L’Ingratitude, is the first-known piece of homework set for Brontë by Constantin Heger, a Belgian tutor who taught both her and her sister Emily, and is believed to have inspired such ardour in the elder sibling that she drew on their relationship for her novel Villette.

Brian Bracken, a Brussels-based archivist and Brontë expert, found the manuscript in the Musée Royal de Mariemont. He said the short story had been last heard of in 1913, when it was given to a wealthy Belgian collector by Heger’s son, Paul. The London Review of Books (LRB) is to publish the story in full on its website last Wednesday and in its paper edition on Thursday.

“It was finished a month after Charlotte arrived in Brussels and is the first known devoir [piece of homework] of 30 the sisters would write for Heger,” writes Bracken in the LRB. “It contains a number of mistakes, mainly misspellings and incorrect tenses … he [Heger] often returned their essays drastically revised – sadly, there are no comments on this copy of L’Ingratitude.”

 

 

Re-Post from eChook – Free short story app until February 12th

This is a re-post from Tessa Smith McGovern, award-winning author, founder of eChook and teacher at Sarah Lawrence College. She founded eChook in 2010, and after creating an app of her own short stories for iPhone, iPad, and Android, Tessa realized that she had, in effect, become a publisher. eChook’s goal is to give readers around the globe unprecedented access to quality prose by providing them with transformative short stories that they can read on their phones. I have to admit an interest here: Tessa published one of my memoir stories as part of her first collection of other people’s writing: Memoir 1. You can find out more here: http://echook.com/products-page/ Here’s her original post:

How Writers Can Build a Global Readership and Flash Sales in iTunes

Every now and then, we hold a sale in iTunes and every time, we’re delighted with the results. We get hundreds of downloads from dozens of countries around the world – China, Russia, Japan, Australia and England, to name just a few. It’s a wonderfully simple way for our writers to be read by hundreds of people and build a global readership – all with just a few clicks. And it’s all because of the technology that supports iTunes apps.

Here’s how it works: People all around the world download free apps that monitor price changes in the app store. (To find them, go to the app store on your device, search for ‘app price change’ or ‘app deals’ or ‘apps on sale’ and you’ll see different ones pop up. There are about a dozen.) Then these people check their newly downloaded apps to see what’s on sale (reduced price or free) and they download the ones that take their fancy.

But wait, there’s more, and this is the best part…because people around the world are buying new iPhones and iPads every day, there’s a constant influx of new readers coming to the app store. In fact, Apple doubled sales of iPhones and iPads in 2011, and sold 37m iPhones and 15m iPads in that year’s last quarter alone. Common wisdom has it that there are still many unpenetrated markets and that Apple is still far from saturation, so the future looks bright.

What can we say? We love Apple.

Memoir, Vol. 1 and London Road: Linked Stories are free in iTunes now until Sunday 12th Feb at midnight. Just go to the iTunes store and search for eChook.

Mystery Writing Contest in Fairfield CT

The new Fairfield University bookstore has opened in downtown Fairfield, so I wandered in there today to check it out. Guess what? Behind some sort of potted palm I found a poster announcing a mystery short story contest this month. Your writing is due in to them by December 15th, and I’m not sure they quite know how to promote it. So here goes. They need between 2,000-5,000 words for adult entries. Younger people may enter too. if you’re between 10 and 18 you may enter with 500-2,000 words. I’m not sure they’ve quite thought this out, but they want the entries in hard copy, delivered to the store with an accompanying entry form – available in the store only, not online. (Maybe they want people to come into the store…duh.)

A couple of details: Entries must be typed, double spaced and have numbered pages.

Winners will be notified by January 15, 2012

The first prize is a $150 gift card, second prize a $100 gift card for the bookstore.

The junior first prize is a $75 gift card, second prize a $50 gift card for the bookstore

Prizes must be claimed by February 1, 2012

I hope I haven’t made any mistakes in writing this, but if I have, they are purely mine and not those of the Fairfield University Bookstore. Please do check with them if you’re going to enter the contest. And Good Luck!

Westport Writer launches new e-book app

I’m a believer in the age of the digital book. I was one of the first people in my circle to have a Kindle, and lately I find myself straying to the color Nook displays at our local Barnes and Noble in Westport (http://store-locator.barnesandnoble.com/store/2864). One of the things I like about these e-books is the way I can read one 10 minute story on the go – on my iPhone. It means that I’m never bored when waiting in the doctor’s office, in line at the supermarket, or when traveling.

Tessa Smith McGovern, Writer, Founder and Editor of eChook Digital Publishing. Photo: Katherine Hooper.

So when I heard about a new app designed specifically for I-phones, I was eager to get hold of it. The company who developed it is called eChook (http://echook.com/ ) and its founder, Tessa Smith McGovern, is a Westport resident and award-winning writer. Her first app publication was a collection of linked stories called London Road, and following the success of that, she decided to produce a series of apps, highlighting different forms of short stories.

Ina Chadwick

Rogue's gallery of authors at the launch Authors L – R: Ina Chadwick, Gabi Coatsworth, Tricia Tierney, Rebecca Dimyan, Leslie Chess Fuller, Helen Rafferty, Nina Sankovitch (author of “Tolstoy and the Purple Chair”), Christina Thompson (author of “Come on Shore and We Will Kill and Eat You All” and editor of Harvard Review). Photo: Katherine Hooper.

Last Tuesday night saw the official launch of the latest in the series: the first Memoir collection, featuring 11 stories. These are a terrific value at 99 cents per app and I’m not only saying that because one of the stories is mine… Since the London Road stories were launched, the App has been made available for a number of platforms, including the android-based e-reader tablet the Nook, Kindle, iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch, and Android phones as well. Tricia Tierney of Norwalk, (triciatierneyblog.com/)the community events liaison at the store, is a writer too, and last Tuesday she was in the line-up of writers telling a little about their stories. Also present were a standing room only crowd of writers who came to meet the authors and doyens of the publishing world (see photos at right), some of whom had come from as far afield as Boston and New York City. These were generous with their time and advice at the networking session which followed the launch. eChook is planning a second volume of memoirs and also holiday stories. Writers among my readers can find the submission guidelines at eChook’s website.

As I said, I love the digital book, and the whole digital media publishing world. How about you?

This was first published in the Westport Patch online newspaper: http://westport.patch.com/blog_posts/westport-writer-launches-digital-memoir-collection