Westport Writers’ Rendezvous – July update

So here’s the update from Wednesday’s meeting of the Westport Writers’ Rendezvous – for those who were there, and those who wish they had been…lainey

A number of interesting topics arose. Ed Ahern mentioned that he’d been interviewed for The Two Sides of You, a book about bi-hemispheric people – those using both sides of their brain with equal facility. I mention this because I know the author, who belongs to a generation not generally known for their technological interest, never mind savvy. Yet Elaine Breakstone managed to publish this interesting (not just because I know her!) book, finding a cover designer, using Createspace to help with the layout, and putting it up on Amazon. Point is, if she can do it, you could too.

Alex McNab had his first fiction piece published in Still Crazy, suggested by fellow member Jacque Masumian. This is why we meet – to encourage each other and tell each other what works.

One submission tool that comes up at virtually every meeting is Duotrope. I mention it again for new members, and also for those of you who find submitting an overwhelming task.

Several members asked about how to write a really good query letter. We talked about Query Shark, a website run by  agent Janet Reid  who takes apart query letters she thinks aren’t any good, so you can see what not to do. One Rendezvous member suggested not sending a query letter to your top agent preferences first, in case the letter needs modification.  After you’ve sent it to your second tier list, and modified the letter (assuming you don’t get an acceptance) submit to your A list.

An interesting article in Atlantic Monthly talks about the rise in women crime writers. I find this interesting, since in my book, so to speak, women authors have dominated crime since the 30’s (Agatha Christie, Dorothy Sayers, and forward). I guess what the writer is getting at is that women write better psychological crime – solving the crime isn’t just a technical puzzle, it’s an emotional one, too. Add to that the fact that over half crime readers are women, and you can see why women crime writers are so successful. A quick check of our membership shows a number of women crime writers among our members, but so far, no men.

Dogwood, the Fairfield University Literary magazine, is soliciting submissions for their 2017 Literary Prizes. If you don’t want to compete, but would like just to submit, you can do that, too.

Talking of submissions, here’s an article on why you should aim for 100 of them. Some of our members are working on it!

For non-fiction writers, Creative Nonfiction is running a workshop in Havana (Cuba) from January 31-February 4, 2017. It’s co-sponsored by the Santa Fe Photographic Workshops, and will be led by Lee Gutkind, editor of Creative Nonfiction. It’s called: Bringing Havana to Life, and at least one of our members is setting her novel there. Even if you’re not, Havana? Sounds great.

I heard about Plot Control software from a friend. It’s designed to help with screenwriting, but as we know, plot structure doesn’t vary much between genres. However, this is not the only one out there.  You might also look at Movie Outline, Save the Cat, and Final Draft.  I think most of these will work for fiction, too, but don’t quote me.

For those people already published on Kindle, you can, in fact, sign your book for buyers. I asked A.J O’Connell about it when I interviewed her a while back. You can read more about Authorgraph here.

As ever, Writers Read will be at the Fairfield Pubic Library on Tuesday, August 2nd, from 7-9pm. On August 3rd, Jay McInerney is talking about his latest book at the Darien Library, and on Friday, August 5th, the Writers’ Salon will be meeting at the Fairfield Library from 4-6pm.

See you next month!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Westport Writers’ Rendezvous – April update

First, a big thank you to the 20 or so people who showed up for the Westport Writers’ Rendezvous today. It turned out to be an interesting meeting, as always. Here are some of the highlights:

The current (May/June) issue of Poets and Writers has a section on writing contests, and they offer a free submissions tracker if you enter huge any of the contests. They’re also offering 25% off advertising rates if you advertise your book in the July/August issue. I only mention this, because I’d forgotten all about print advertising as a way of promoting a book…

Aninka has been going to a class with Tessa McGovern at the Fairfield County Writers’ Studio – Writing Your Novel to Prompts. She highly recommends it, since she’s getting help with the plot structure of her ongoing project, as well as getting back to her desk with new scenes to use in the novel.

Writing-Group

Penny Pearlman recommends an online editing tool you can find at ProWriting Aid.  You can try it for free, and it’s very interesting. Apparently my writing (or the bit they analyzed) was cliché free, but what they picked up on was my English way of expressing myself. It actually gives specifics, not just general observations.

As a corollary (and in order to blame someone else for my writing style), I turned to a website called I Write Like This site analyzes a passage of your work, and tells you whom you most resemble. Apparently I write like Cory Doctorow OR James Joyce. (I tried it twice because I wasn’t sure about the result.) So, Cory Doctorow is a Canadian-British writer, and James Joyce is, you know, James Joyce. It’s a flattering comparison, but I sincerely hope my writing is more comprehensible than Joyce’s. Neither of them is American, which I guess is what the analysis picked up on. Give it a shot here.

Jacque Masumian has just launched her website , and she did it herself using Weebly, which she found easy to use. The results are impressive – check Weebly out here.

Tricia Tierney, our Barnes and Noble angel (she lets us meet there) told us about an upcoming book signing by Betsy Lerner, author of The Bridge Ladies, and also a literary agent. It’s on May 14, at 3pm. If you come to hear her read and speak, don’t bring your manuscript – it might even get you blacklisted (I exaggerate, but you get it…). But she’s an interesting writer and has written several books, among them a book on the writing craft – The Forest for the Trees.

Another bookish event is Connecticut Authors Reading Series 3, hosted by Sophronia Scott at the Cyrenius Booth Library in Newtown, CT on May 1st at 2pm. Free, and refreshments provided, so a really refreshing afternoon all round.

BTW, Sophronia and her son are featured in the Tribeca Film Festival success, Midsummer in Newtown – a great documentary with a lot of heart. Keep an eye out for it.

Byrd’s Books in Bethel hold a twice-monthly writing workshop hosted by Judith Marks-White. It runs on the first and third Sunday of the month at 3pm. Cost $20.

Upcoming events at the Fairfield County Writers’ Workshop include How to Get Published on April 30th, at 10am with Cynthia Manson (agent) and Caitlin Alexander (editor). More information here.

The same day, The Westport Writers’ Workshop has a session with Suzanne Hoover from 2-4 in the afternoon: Essentials for the Fiction Writer. And they are hosting an Open House on Monday, April 25th from 5.30-7.30pm. It’s a good way to find out what they have to offer.

We had recommendations form several members for books helpful to writers:

Mary Carroll Moore: Your Book Starts Here

Blake Snyder: Save the Cat (screenwriting)

John Truby: The Anatomy of Story

Finally – the deadline for submitting to Glimmer Train’s Fiction contest is April 30th.  There are two categories: Very Short Fiction (under 3000 words) and Fiction Open, bit with cash prizes. Every entry will be considered for publication and if chose, will be paid $700. Winners announced July 1st.

Enjoy the Spring, but don’t forget to write on…

 

 

 

Westport Writers’ Rendezvous – February update

Another great meeting last Wednesday of the Westport Writers Rendezvous – thanks, everyone!

We covered quite a bit of ground, and here are the highlights:
First, I had to congratulate our own Alex McNab, whose query letter was one of the three selected to be passed on to Sourcebooks and Penguin. The contest was organized by the Fairfield County Writers’ Center in Westport, and agent Marilyn Allen of Allen & O’Shea literary agency was the judge. Terrific, Alex!

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Two ways to avoid getting the Bad Sex in Fiction Award (it’s a real thing, folks) – get your work edited (see below) and find some beta readers – people who don’t know you all that well, and don’t know what you’re trying to say, and will tell you so.

Book editors
New York Book Editors
Tiger Wiseman uses Ramona De Felice Long

People had great suggestions for places to submit your work:
Mused:  . Unfortunately, the Spring edition submissions just closed (Feb 15th) but they are a quarterly, so submit something for the summer issue.
Bewildering Stories: an interesting, self-described webzine that promises to give you feedback if your work isn’t accepted
The Huffington Post may seem like an impossible dream but here are some hints on how to get accepted:
And a propos of getting your blog published on other sites, take a look at Beyond Your Blog, which has lots of advice.
Still Crazy, with writing for boomers…
Act Two, an online magazine based in Fairfield, is also for boomers.
Scary Mommy is self explanatory, although I don’t think you have to be Joan Crawford to write for them.
Submit your play (musical, monologue, short scene from a full-length play or one-act play) for the Catherine Lindsey Workshop by March 1st. The workshopping is done in Darien.

The Mix is a site run by Hearst Corporation, which issues daily writing assignments that you can choose to write and submit.
Poetry & Writers has a long list of contests, grants and awards here.

A couple of conferences: The Creative Nonfiction Writers’ Conference (Pittsburgh, PA My 27-29)
And the Unicorn Writers’ Conference won’t be happening until March next year.

Online courses:
Tiger Wisemen has taken several online writing courses, and the one she recommends is given by Margie Lawson . In particular, she endorses any of the Deep Editing courses.
Ed Ahern produced a great list of courses that can be taken online. They’re run by 28 Pearl Street, in Provincetown MA, which is an offshoot of the Fine Arts Work Center in the same town. The latter run summer courses in various media, including writing. Check out the websites for more information.
James Patterson teaches a Master Class for $90. No one in our group knows if it’s any good, but he certainly seems to know what he’s doing…
Gwen Hernandez teaches Scrivener online. I highly recommend her courses – they’re inexpensive and paced so that you don’t get overwhelmed.
Creative Nonfiction also offers online classes including advanced memoir, magazine writing and introduction to audio storytelling and podcasting.

Jessica Bram of the Westport Writers’ Workshop will be teaching an all-day class on how to use flashbacks and backstory in your non-fiction writing next Saturday, February 27.

Last but not least  – come and read from your work at the Fairfield Public Library on the first Tuesday of the month – March 1st, as it happens. People who do it swear by it.

 

 

Westport Writers’ Rendezvous – December update

Our end-of-year meeting of the Westport Writers’ Rendezvous was a surprise and delight to me. A surprise, because there were 26 of us there, and I hadn’t expected so many with the holidays looming, and delight because we broke our own record. We held the meeting at the newly established Fairfield County Writers’ Studio, where Tessa MGovern and Carol Dannhauser made us feel very welcome. Check out the courses the offer here. They begin in January and there’s something for everyone.

Tessa sent me the link for a Scrivener video tutorial. I’ll post the class schedule for Gwen Hernandez’ Scrivener classes next month. They begin at the end of January.

!CBC+,Ig!mk~$(KGrHqN,!lsEz+6T,IzCBNG!mBJiE!~~_3Gotham Writers Workshop, the New York-based writing school, is now offering one-on-one classes online. You can get professional feedback on a particular project (book, short story, screenplay, poetry) or long-term mentorship. You can also take a private 3-hour class or a private 6 or 10-week course tailored to your interests and needs. There are private grammar sessions, help with applying for an MFA and help launching a blog, among other things. I imagine it’s fairly pricey, but if this is what you need, go for it.

Here are some websites which might be useful to you. I found them courtesy of Larry Brooks, who runs Storyfix, a website and critiquing website. He has a special offer on right now for critiquing your novel ($1300 – a great value, I think, especially if it helps you find plot holes or areas you need to work on). He’s not an editor per se, but he does have a good grasp of how a story should be put together.
This blog post came from Robert Morris, a guest blogger and freelance editor in NYC. You can follow him on Google+. I’m reproducing most of it here, since he wrote it so well.
1.OneLook Reverse Dictionary
You are torturing yourself to remember a word you have in the back of your mind, but you just can’t spit it out? You need this reverse dictionary. Just describe the concept of the word you’re looking for, and you’ll get an entire list to choose from. The word you’re looking for is definitely in there.
2. NinjaEssays
You would have to invest a lot of money to hire a long-term editor you would work exclusively with. These editors usually work with published writers and charge amounts that newbies are unable to spend. That’s why you have NinjaEssays on your side! This is an online editing service that evaluates your projects and assigns a perfectly suitable editor for an affordable price. Plus, you can collaborate with professional writers, who can help you improve some aspects of your content!
3. Reedsy
You are already determined to become a professional writer? Then you need to become part of Reedsy – an online community that connects authors with great editors, designers, and marketers for their books. You can create an author profile for free, upload a portfolio, and start building connections. If you still haven’t discovered a publisher for your first draft, Reedsy will direct you on the right way.
4. Plagiarism Checker
Think about the greatest sin a writer can commit. Of course it’s plagiarism! You want to produce absolutely unique content with no signs of copying, paraphrasing, rewriting, and other dishonest strategies. PlagTracker checks your content and provides a detailed report about any plagiarism involved in it. If you accidentally got too inspired by an online resource and you forgot to provide proper citations, PlagTracker will help you fix the damage before it’s too late.
5. Cliche Finder
Some writers just love clichés. They are not aware of their habit phrases; they use them intuitively and bore the readers with unnecessary fillers. This online tool will help you locate the clichés and overused phrases in seconds. That’s a certain way of making your content less annoying. (Have to say, I couldn’t actually see how to track cliches on this rather simple website. But you could try this website instead. GC)
6. Buffalo
Daily writing exercises are necessary for your progress. Buffalo enables you to write every day and publish your random thoughts online. It’s a supportive community that’s clean and extremely functional. All you need to do is join and start writing on any topics you have in mind.
7. Calmly Writer
You’ll see an almost blank page when you land at this website. Isn’t that all you need? You’ll access the options when you click on the lotus flower in the upper left angle of the page. You can insert pictures, change the font, download the document in different formats, or enter Focus Mode. You’ll also get character and word count, as well as an estimated reading time for your content. The distraction-free writing environment will make you a more focused writer. (I definitely need this one…GC)

A friend sent me this information about the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators’ conference, which I thought might interest some of you: https://www.scbwi.org/events/17th-annual-scbwi-winter-conference-in-new-york-ny16/. It will be held in New York on February 12-14 next year, and includes participation from many agents and editors, as well as authors.

We ended the meeting as we always do, by telling each other what we planned to do before the next meeting (January 20th). With holidays interfering, we tried to keep the goals modest and achievable. Here’s to 2016!

Westport Writers’ Rendezvous

It was great seeing both old and new faces last Wednesday at our November Westport Writers’ Rendezvous. We had a record number of attendees (22), and plenty to talk about, with good ideas coming from all directions. Here are some of them:writers-clock

For those of you wrestling with disorganized longer projects, these are the online Scrivener courses taught by Gwen Hernandez, which I’ve taken. Inexpensive but effective. The next one for beginners is in February.

Bernice Rocque recommended Zazzle, an online retailer that allows users to upload images and create their own merchandise, or buy merchandise created by other users, as well as use images from participating companies. Bernice has made note-cards using her own photography, which she uses as marketing/branding tools.

Aninka, like me is a fan of Book Riot. Aninka listens to their podcasts, I read their newsletters. Either way, they have a lot to say. You can subscribe to both here.

Ed Ahern enjoyed the World Fantasy Convention he attended recently, and felt the exposure to writers and publishers was worth the trip to Saratoga Springs. You can check out next year’s convention here.

We talked about ways of self-publishing, including crowdfunding a book via Kickstarter or another entity. There’s a British company called Unbound, which crowdfunds books, giving writing related rewards depending on the level of funding. Worth looking at. And there’s a full article covering this on a website called Winning Edits.

Someone asked about Writer’s Relief. They offer a range of services to help authors get published, from helping to design your website, to finding an agent, to identifying places to submit short stories, etc. You can check out both them, and their fees, here.

Someone else talked about the Kristin Nelson literary Agency based in Colorado. They have a blog called Pub Rants, which specializes in giving suggestions for how to improve your submissions.

There’s also Query Shark, with lots of (pretty ruthless) suggestions for writing query letters

Leslie told us about an article by NYC professor Susan Shapiro pertinent to memoir writing. She talks about writing the humiliation essay and its potential to jumpstart your writing career. Read it here.

Via Janet Luongo, one of our members: How Writers Write Fiction -a free online 8 week program of IOWA Univ. I think it’s offered every year. Pulitzer prize-winners are among the brilliant authors who teach through video; great reading lists, assignments, peer feedback. Worth passing on to writing community. Certificates are offered for $50, which I did earn.

To find places to submit, and succeed with submissions, Ed Ahern swears by Duotrope. And he should know; he gets published all the time.

For those looking for beta readers (people to read your book before you look for an agent and give you honest feedback) a friend of mine recommends Book Hive.

I mentioned an app I find very useful. Evernote can save a snapshot of a web page, allows you to write with your finger to make a note of something (and voice too, I think). I use it for notes, reservations, recipes etc, and it syncs them across all my devices.

Lori Pelikan Strobel is looking for women dog owners to interview. If you’re interested, contact me and I’ll pass on your email.

eChook is looking for submissions of romance and women’s fiction, 35,000-75,000 words long. The submission guidelines can be found here.

Our next meeting is on December 16th. If you’d like to get notifications of upcoming meetings, sign up at Meetup. Look for Westport Writers’ Rendezvous.

 

How to Make Crime Pay

Last weekend I attended the CrimeCONN conference held annually in Westport, CT. It was great fun and interesting for writers as well as readers. Among the people I met was Nina Mansfield, author of the YA mystery novel Swimming Alone. She’s written a good blog post about the conference, the beginning of which I’m re-posting below, with a link to the full post. here’s how she began:

CrimeCONN was an AMAZING CONFERENCE!!!

Seriously.

I had the honor of being on the first panel of the day, Who loves you, baby?: How to make your readers fall in love at first sight. Great openings followed by ways to keep the love alive. When I first saw the line up for the panel, I was more than a bit intimidated. Roberta Islieb (aka Lucy Burdette) has published 14 mysteries and has been short-listed for a host of mystery writing awards. Tom Straw has written numerous New York Times bestsellers under a pseudonym. But if I was the tiniest bit nervous (and I was) moderator John Valeri quickly put my fears to rest. He had fantastic questions, and he really made the panel a very enjoyable experience. You can see in the picture below just how much fun I am having!

From L to R: Roberta Isleib (aka Lucy Burdette), Tom Staw, Nina Mansfield and moderator John Valeri. Photo: Chelsey Valeri.

From L to R: Roberta Isleib (aka Lucy Burdette), Tom Staw, Nina Mansfield and moderator John Valeri. Photo: Chelsey Valeri.

One of the major points that the panel touched upon was whether or not a body needs to drop in the first chapter. The consensus seemed to be – GC. you can read the rest here.

And my next post will be an interview with Nina about how she wrote her first YA novel.

Writers Connect: Jacqueline Masumian

We’re very lucky here in Fairfield County, Connecticut, because we get a constant stream of authors willing to visit and share their wisdom. I’m not saying that selling some books has nothing to do with it, but I’m often impressed by how willing they are to discuss their writing process, how they found an agent, etc. So I’ve decided to begin recording some of them, and asking for a piece of advice about writing.

 

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The first up is Jacqueline Masumian, a local writer, whose memoir, Nobody Home, has garnered critical praise. I loved her book; it’s a charming memoir. From her childhood in Ohio, to her life as a landscape architect, via acting, singing and market research, she takes the reader through a vivid journey. The memoir tries to make sense of her distant mother and a father who left the family when she was a child. Attempting to understand one’s family is something I suspect most of us do. Jacqueline has made it possible for us to understand hers in a very readable way.
When she came to the Westport Library recently to talk about the art of memoir, I asked her what particular advice she would give to her fellow writers.Here’s what she said:
The best advice I could give would be to share your work with a group of other memoir writers; a workshop setting gives you deadlines, forcing you to write every day, and provides very valuable feedback on your writing. Groups in which you read out loud to the other writers provide a special advantage, because reading your work aloud alerts you to any awkward sentences or incomplete thoughts you may have overlooked. I could not have written my book without the many thoughtful comments of my workshop friends.

 

Pitchapalooza comes to Westport February 13th. Be there.

Last July, I wrote a post about Pitchapalooza, a sort of American Idol of books, created by literary agent Arielle Eckstut and author David Henry Sterry, AKA The Book Doctors, They’re coming to the Barnes and Noble in Westport CT next Wednesday evening, and if you live anywhere nearby, and you write, you should be there. The evening is free, and a portion of all purchases (all day – any purchases!)  at that Barnes and Noble that day will go to the Fairfield Public Library , which is co-sponsoring the event.

Briefly, anyone with a book they’re writing, an outline for a book or even just an idea for a book, can go and pitch their book/outline/idea. The organizers will draw 20 names out of a hat, and then off you go. The catch? You only have one minute in which to do it. A panel of four industry insiders that includes Eckstut and Sterry gives constructive feedback on everything from idea to style to market potential and more. At the end of the evening, the Judges choose a winner, who receives a half hour consultation with Eckstut and Sterry.

I went in July, and as I sat and listened to other people pitch their ideas, I realized that my own pitch was going to be pretty bad. As I listened, I sat revising the 200-word pitch I’d prepared. (200 words takes about one minute.)

When my turn came, I got up and began my pitch, but about 35 seconds in, I literally lost the plot of my novel. I couldn’t remember what happened next. They were kind, and said it had promise. But the moral of this is that you NEED to have your pitch honed and ready for any occasion. And it needs to be good.

So – if you have a book or an idea for a book – go.

If you haven’t – go. Because just listening to other people’s pitches will give you an idea of what’s involved in getting an idea across to a publisher. Everyone who goes will come away with concrete advice on how to improve their pitch as well as a greater understanding of the ins and outs of the publishing industry.

The Book Doctors, co-founded by Eckstut and Sterry, is a company dedicated to helping authors get their books published. Their book, The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published, contains all the information you’ll ever need, taking you through the entire process of conceiving, writing, selling, marketing and promoting your book. Arielle Eckstut has been a literary agent for 18 years at The Levine Greenberg Literary Agency. She is also the author of seven books and the co-founder of the iconic brand, LittleMissMatched. David Henry Sterry is the best-selling author of 12 books, on a wide variety of subject including memoir, sports, YA fiction and reference. They have taught their workshop on how to get published everywhere from Stanford University to Smith College. They have appeared everywhere from The New York Times to NPR’s Morning Edition to USA Today.

Interview with Charlotte Rogan, author of The Lifeboat

I was lucky enough to meet Charlotte Rogan the other night at an event hosted by Write Yourself Free, in Westport, CT. Charlotte is a local resident, and kindly spent a couple of hours talking to local writers and fans about her recently published book, The Lifeboat, described by Sam Tanenhaus of the New York Times as “a really accomplished first novel”. The novel takes as its premise a group of 39 people stuck in a lifeboat after their liner sinks in 1914. The lifeboat is too small, and, unlike the passengers of the Titanic, these people are not rescued for three weeks. Some have described the book as harrowing, but I found it fascinating, as well as beautifully written. The power struggle between the two main characters (other than our unreliable but intriguing narrator, Grace Winter) hinges on the male and female styles of leadership. There are moral dilemmas aplenty, and I predict this will be a firm favorite with book groups.

The book hit #12 on the NY Times hardback fiction list and has been on the extended list for 7 straight weeks – an amazing achievement for a debut novel.  And it’s being translated into 24 languages. What’s interesting about this is that Charlotte has been writing for 25 years, and has several (unpublished) novels under her belt. She took a creative writing class with Harold Brodkey, and then simply wrote and wrote and wrote, improving as she went along.  Judging by The Lifeboat, this method seems to have worked. (Memo to self: write more…) When I interviewed her, I asked Charlotte what had made her decide to publish at last.

GC: What made you decide to try and get the book published?

CR: I think all writers want to be published, but I was busy with my family and I didn’t like doing the things it took to try to find a publisher: searching out appropriate literary agents, writing endless query letters, writing short pieces in the hopes of breaking into print through magazines, making contacts among publishing professionals. Still, I knew I was getting better with each novel I wrote, so when I looked into the future, I could see two equally reasonable scenarios: one where I continued to write only for myself and one where I finally found an audience for my work.

GC: How did you find an agent?
CR: Over the years I occasionally set my mind to finding a publisher, but none of them came to anything until my children were seniors in high school. One day I got a call from a journalist who was writing an article on the challenges for multiples (Charlotte has triplets) of applying to college. Over the course of things, she and I became friends, and after reading one of my manuscripts, she introduced me to her literary agent, who sold The Lifeboat to Little, Brown (note: publishers of J.K. Rowling’s next book. GC) in the fall of 2010.

GC: How much help have your publishers given you in promoting the book? I notice that you have great quotes on the back cover (from the likes of J.M. Coetzee, Hilary Mantel and Emma Donoghue), and interviews/reviews with all the main newspapers/publications.

CR: Little, Brown has a phenomenal publicity department, which has been wonderfully effective at getting The Lifeboat in front of various media outlets. Of course, no one can control which books the reviewers choose to read of the many thousands they receive each year or whether or not they like a particular book. As for the blurbs, I was shocked to discover that finding authors to write them was my responsibility. I didn’t know any authors! I decided to use the opportunity to write letters to my literary heroes and thank them for their books, which are really the things that taught me how to write. Out of fifteen letters, five authors agreed to write blurbs for me: among them two Booker Prize winners, an Orange Prize winner, a National Book Award winner, and a Nobel laureate. I will always be grateful to them for taking the time to help a new-comer.

GC: And as always, writers want to know how a typical day goes…it seemed to me, hearing you speak, that you’re a pretty disciplined person. Is that right?

CR: I am quite disciplined, but how a day goes really depends on the other elements of my life. My family has always come first, and I find that even twenty-something children require a certain amount of time. One of the first things established writers will say to you is to treat writing like a job. That means blocking out distractions and saying no to a lot of things. I am a morning person, so I like to use the morning hours to work. Ideally, I fit exercise, errands, and household tasks into the afternoon, with more work before dinner if time allows. I find it impossible to do more than 2-3 hours of really creative first-draft writing per day, but there are always other writing-related tasks I can do. These include editing, research, and reading books that are inspirational for my work. When I am editing a more finished piece, I might work for 8-10 hours a day if life allows it. Finally, taking care of your physical needs is an obvious but sometimes overlooked element of productivity: eating right, getting enough sleep, and regular exercise pay huge dividends when it comes to writing.

GC: You seem very self-possessed. Do you feel pressured to produce your next novel?

CR: Oddly, I do feel pressure, but only some of it is related to worry about finishing the novel I am currently working on. That’s probably because there are so many new tasks vying for my time. Fiction writers tend to be introverts, but once published, they are given a microphone and asked to speak, set to writing essays for magazines, and interviewed on live radio. Those are things I have never done before, and they have taken a lot of time and energy. But the next big challenge is to balance my time more effectively because I do want to get back to working on my book.
GC: On behalf of my readers and myself, thanks, Charlotte for such an encouraging interview!

A theatre-going innovation

Here’s an interesting development in the world of books and writing. Our local theatre, the Westport Country Playhouse, a venerable institution, is starting a new “literary salon series” called Books Worth Talking About!  The program starts in June and consists of a pre-show discussion with an author whose writing complements the production. I’ve not heard about this kind of collaboration before, but it makes perfect sense to have writers and theatre-goers discussing what they have in common. In particular, the first in the series relates to memoir as a healing medium. Those among us who write memoir will surely find the comparison between two different authors’ work helpful.

Nina Sankovitch

The first discussion, on June 13, will feature Nina Sankovitch, author of  Tolstoy and the Purple Chair:  A Year of Magical Reading,” a memoir in dealing with the death of her sister. She’ll be interviewed from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. by Tessa Smith McGovern, memoir collection editor,  writing professor at Sarah Lawrence and founder of eChook Digital Publishing.

Maureen Anderman

The play that follows is The Year of Magical Thinking, based on the National Book Award-winning memoir by Joan Didion.  Featuring Maureen Anderman, the play is about hope and renewal following the author’s loss of her husband.

If you have a ticket for the play in that evening, you can attend the salon.

Two more salons are scheduled – on  July 18, prior to a performance of Molière’s “Tartuffe”; and on August 29, before the world premiere of the comedy “Harbor,” by Tony Award-nominated playwright Chad Beguelin.

If you’re interested in this new collaboration, you can buy a ticket by calling the box office at (203) 227-4177, or toll-free at 1-888-927-7529. Tickets are available online 24/7 at www.westportplayhouse.org.