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)
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.
Happy you rejoined me. 🙂 And, as you will see if you read far enough, this is all about me.
The Brooklyn Book Festival will be held from September 16-23 in a variety of venues around Brooklyn (of course). It’s one of America’s premier book festivals and the largest free literary event in New York City. Presenting almost 200 national and international literary stars and emerging authors, the Festival includes a week of Bookend Events throughout New York City, a lively Children’s Day and a celebratory Festival Day with more than 300 authors plus 250 booksellers filling a vibrant outdoor Literary Marketplace (September 22).
We’ve had a couple of great days, as we always do in the third week of the month. The WritersMic Meetup was terrific, with another batch of varied reads. If you think you’d like to come and read or to listen, sign on at the Meetup link above. We’d love to have you!
Just some of the Rendezvous members – looking happy after the meeting
On Wednesday, a dozen or more of us showed up for the Writers’ Rendezvous at Barnes & Noble in Westport to be deafened by the sound of jackhammers – inside the store. Worse than that, the area being worked on was the café, so we were deprived of coffee too! Undeterred, member Gina Ryan suggested we meet al fresco, which was lovely until the construction trucks drove by, causing yours truly to signal them rather rudely and to absolutely no avail…
The item that caught everyone’s interest actually came at the very end of the meeting, when we go around and say what we hope to get done before we meet again. Member Elizabeth Chatsworth casually said “I’m going to have my computer read my novel aloud.” An eruption of questions prompted her to explain. MS Word has a text-to-speech feature which will read your work, without much expression, but accurately, so you can hear where you might have repeated yourself, skipped a word, or said something clumsy. I’m a fan of reading one’s work aloud – it helps me see where the flow becomes wonky, but when I do it I’m apt to supply a missing word, or even replace something without noticing. The computer doesn’t care – it will read what you wrote while you take notes, or stop it to correct things. Elizabeth supplied me with a link which explains how to enable the text-to-speech feature in Word. She also sent me the info on a free tool, Natural Readers, that claims to sound more natural. I’m not sure how much better it is, but it does offer different accents, if that’s your thing.
The Ridgefield Writers Conference is happening from September 22-23 at the Ridgefield Library. Run by Adele Annesi and Rebecca Dimyan, it features a great list of presenters. It is a juried event, so if you want to attend, you’ll need to send them a one page sample of your writing. Check the site for details.
Dogwood, Fairfield University’s Literary magazine, is open for submissions to their next contest. They charge to submit, but offer prizes in poetry, nonfiction, and fiction – three prizes of $1,000 each for the best story, essay, and poem submitted. Enter by clicking this link.
Member Ed Ahern found this article about author etiquette on Amazon and, incidentally, how to avoid trolls. Among the suggestions are: Don’t spam/Never trade reviews for books/Never diss other authors/Don’t pay for customer reviews /never respond to reviews/Always report abuse/avoid certain sites/Don’t stray from your genre…
Along the same lines, here’s one on how to get book reviews as an unknown author by Jason B Ladd on the Creative Penn website. This is a good website to subscribe to if you’re an indie author. Joanna Penn, who runs it, has succeeded as an indie author (she may even have coined the term) by working very hard. I began by listening to her podcast, where she interviews fellow authors while she was still writing her first book, and then subscribed to her blog.
For those of you looking for an agent, Publishers Marketplace produces a daily email you can subscribe to, which will keep you abreast of all developments in the publishing world. It’s called Publisher’s Lunch and although there’s almost too much information if you’re not looking right now, you might want to make a note of it.
If you need beta readers, or you want to become one, Goodreads can help. One of their groups is Beta Reading and Editing, and you can post your willingness/availability/charges, or look for someone to read your work. They will send you occasional email updates, but to get the most from it, you should check it regularly yourself. I don’t need to tell you that the advantage of having a beta reader you don’t know is that they don’t know what you’re trying to say, either. And if they don’t get it, they’ll tell you so. Don’t rely on your cousin Antonia!
Finally – enjoy the rest of the summer – our next meetings will be on September 19th and 20th. Look forward to seeing you there. If you have anything to add or correct, please let me know in the comments.
And if you like this blog, please follow it. Thanks!
So much good stuff from the meeting last Wednesday, and more streaming into my mailbox since that I thought you might like. So here goes:
First, the first WritersMic Meetup is taking place tomorrow, Tuesday, February 21st, at Panera’s in Westport from 7-8.45pm. If you’d like more details, join the Meetup online, and you’ll get reminders every month. I’m planning to hold them on the 3rd Tuesday of each month. You can bring a 5-minute (or less) piece to read, and we’ll get through as many as possible.
This Saturday, February 25th, the Fairfield County Writers’ Studio is offering a morning workshop led by Kim Caldwell on the route to publishing your book. She’ll discuss the main paths to publication – self-publishing, traditional publishing, independent presses, digital-only and more. And she’ll explain what you need to know before you choose your path, what factors influence that choice, and a host of other topics you might not have explored. $45. Register here.
The Poetry Foundation is running the Emily Dickinson First Book Award – designed to recognize an American poet of at least 40 years of age who has yet to publish a first collection of poetry. They’re looking for one book-length poetry, and will publish the winning book as well as offering a $10,000 prize. The competition is open to any American citizen forty years of age or over who has not previously published a book-length volume of poetry. Submissions close on February 27!
Stalwart member Kate Mayer sent me this information about the storytelling event Listen To Your Mother NYC. The show is nationwide, but this may be the last year it runs. Auditions need to be scheduled by appointment via http://listentoyourmothershow.com/nyc/.
Kate took part in 2012 – she was touching and funny, of course – and met some incredible writers. Men, women, anyone can audition, the only requirement is the topic motherhood. Auditions take place in New York Feb 26-March 2, and the actual event is on May 6th.
The Unicorn Writers’ Conference is taking place March 25 in Manhattanville College, Westchester. Check my previous post for details.
The Connecticut Book Awards are back in business, and it’s time to submit. The awards include a category for books for young readers, both authors and illustrators, as well as fiction, nonfiction, and poetry. The deadline for submission is April 21, 2017, and the winners will be announced this October. Your work should have been published in 2016, have a valid ISBN number and you should be a resident of Connecticut or have set the book mainly in Connecticut.
More information about guidelines and entry fees, as well as how to apply, is available at the Connecticut Center for the Book website.
The Connecticut chapter of Romance Writers of America is offering a two-day mini-conference open to all writers, April 1-2, in Norwalk. The morning session is entitled Winning the Promo Game: a practical class focused on helping authors develop a personalized promotional strategy that reflects their work and personal style. The afternoon will cover The Romantic Plot: form vs. formula
Gotham Writers in NYC is running a contest everyone can enter. They’re looking for a 50-word (yes really -50 words) on the theme: Be a Hero. Deadline: May 29.
Submit a 10-minute Play at Darien Library. Playwrights are invited to submit their final scripts for consideration to the Catherine Lindsey Actors/Playwrights contest by April 7th. They accept musicals, monologues, short scenes from full-length and one-act plays. When writing your piece please keep in mind that the number of cast members is limited, only one play may be submitted per person, and plays must be 10-minutes long or less. Please limit your plays to 10-pages double-spaced, 12 point font.
We had our usual great meeting. I’m always amazed at how, in spite of being unscripted, we learn new things, meet new friends and feel good after. If you think you might want to start your own, let me know and I’ll be happy to give you some pointers.
Try to see Patti Smith in conversation hosted by the Mark Twain House in Hartford on October 13 from 7-9pm. By all accounts (people who heard her in New Haven) she gives a great talk. Tickets are $25, and you should book soon. I think they will sell out fast. Her memoir, The M Train, got rave reviews earlier this year.
WESTPORT WRITES – at the Westport Public Library
For those wanting an introduction to Scrivener, the writing software, The Westport Public Library’s Westport Writes program is offering a free introductory class at 6.30pm on Monday September 26, with a follow-up class on the 28th. This is a good way to see how Scrivener can help you be a better organized writer. I couldn’t manage my writing without it.
Chris Friden, the teacher of this workshop, will be among the faculty at The Fairfield County Writers’ Studio – who are planning a wide range of classes, master classes and seminars this fall. Please check them out here. There’s something for you here, beginner, professional or a fiction writer who wants to try essay writing.
On Saturday, October 15th, The Westport Library is having its annual CrimeCONN Mystery Conference from 9-5pm. I went last year and thoroughly enjoyed it. You can see some of the interviews I did with the authors (Chris Knopf, Daniel Handler, Liz Mugavero, Lucy Burdette)in previous blog posts. The cost is $25, and you’ll need to register in advance. You can find the list of author, and police detectives/crime experts here.
On the same day, there’s an Open write in of the Fairfield County Writers’ Group, a drop-in event where you can join other writers to sit and write among friends from 1-4pm. If you’re practicing for NaNoWriMo, This could be useful, and if you want to get an early start on this month-long November novel-writing challenge, you can do so at the library, with an overnight write-in beginning at 12.01am on November 1. With 50,000 words as your goal, it might be as well to plunge right in
Writers Read will be happening On Tuesday evening, October 4, from 7-9pm at the Fairfield Public Library. Come and read some of your writing to a supportive non-judgmental audience.
On Friday, October 7, from 4-6pm, the Writers’ Salon is hoping to host an experienced local editor for a question and answer session. To be confirmed.
FCWS will be starting a season of monthly open mic readings on Thursday October 6th from 6.30-8pm in Westport. You can choose simply to read for 3-5 minutes, without a critique. Or you can sign up to get feedback on how to improve your performance, and perhaps be filmed
On a completely different topic, I’ve begun using AutoCrit, an editing software that can help you get your work into better shape before you hire a professional editor. I discovered that I have a few writing tics, and writing ‘that’ as I just did, is one of them. So, to rephrase – I discovered I have a few writing tics. Another of them is overusing ‘after all’. The program can do much more complex analysis, but I’m not ready for that yet (sentence length, pacing, dialogue and more). After all, I’m just a novice…Check it out.
I met successful self-published author PJ Sharon the other day, whom I’m hoping to interview for the blog in a week or two. She has many great ideas for how to make that success happen. You can see for yourself how she’s doing, here. One suggestion she made for self-published authors was to donate a copy of your eBook to your local library, for people to borrow digitally. And apart from the YA books and other fiction she writes, she’s written a book called Overcome your Sedentary Lifestyle– perfect for writers.
It looks as though it’s going to be a busy autumn. Happy writing!
Our May meeting of the Westport Writers’ Rendezvous was made even more interesting by several new members. I never know what’s going to come up, but new members always add something to the mix. If you’ve anything to add to this list, please add it in the comments below. Thanks!
Among the upcoming events I want to mention is The Connecticut Press Club’s Awards dinner, which is taking place this Wednesday, May 25th at the Saugatuck Boat Club in Westport. $40 gets you drinks and hors d’oeuvres and a chance to meet fellow writers of all types. There were around 40 categories of awards this year, so there’s a place for everyone to submit next time round. Please RSVP by emailing Michele Turk firstname.lastname@example.org immediately!
Terry Macmillan of Waiting to Exhale fame will be presenting her latest book, I Almost Forgot About You, at the Wilton Library on June 7th at 7-8:30pm. The event is free but it’s a good idea to register on line.
One of our members, Mary Ann West, is launching her new book: House Grab – a True Crime Story on Saturday, June 11th from 6:00 PM- Sunset at The Pavilion at Longshore Park, Westport, CT. Since she’s combining the event with her birthday, she’d love you to bring a new or genty used book to be donated to local charities. For more details, connect with Mary Ann on Facebook
Jan Kardys, who organizes several literary events, including the Unicorn Writers’ Conference, Is running a one-day workshop for writers on June 25th in Newtown, CT for a cost of $45 per participant. Here’s a quick rundown: Part 1- The Craft of Writing. Award-winning filmmaker, playwright, author and teacher Bob Zaslow will demonstrate the six elements of effective writing. Part 2- How to Get Published. 35-year publishing veteran, Jan Kardys, will call on her experience working for ten of NYC’s biggest publishing houses to talk in depth about the big three types of publishing: traditional, self-, and blended and which one is right for you. Part 3- The Craft of Design. Unfortunately, today people do judge a book by its cover. Glen Edelstein, former art and design director for Bantam Dell Publishing, will teach you about the elements of good design: from covers to interiors to typefaces, as well as special features bookmarks, flyers and banners. Parts 4, 5, 6- Three Connecticut published authors, Including Tessa McGovern of the Fairfield County Writers’ Studio, will discuss their own writers’ journeys to success and answer questions. You can register here
Writers looking for constructive criticism should check out the Easton Writers’ Workshop. Recommended by Ed Ahern, it’s a Meetup that happens once a month (I think). The next meeting is this Saturday, May 28th, at 11am. Here’s the link.
The next events for writers at the Fairfield Public Library will be
Writers Read, on Tuesday June 7, from 7-9 pm and Writers’ Salon, Friday June 3, from 4-6 pm. They’re out of their usual sequence in June because the first Tuesday comes after the first Friday.
Some of our members have announced their new websites. They are:
Alex McNab found this interview by the Book Doctors (the people who run Pitchpalooza) with author John Dufresne. About two-thirds of the way down he talks about book promoting and platform, if you’re interested.
Something a little different – Do you love books? This could be your dream job! Elm Street Books in New Canaan is looking for a part-time bookseller (3 days, permanent, no summer positions). Must be available to work on weekends. Please email resume to:Kathleen@elmstreetbooks.com
New members looking for places to submit, should take a look at Duotrope and also Beyond Your Blog. Their approaches are quite different, but they can give you ideas. Both are used by some of our most regularly published writers.
Talking of submissions, the next deadline for Glimmer Train is June 30th. They publish fiction of various lengths, and there are prizes for the best.
I attended a lunch with Pulitzer prize-winning author Anna Quindlen the other day, so I took the opportunity to ask her what she felt about editing (my hobby horse). She said she wouldn’t dream of publishing without her books being edited by her long-time editor, and didn’t understand her friends who did so. Editing makes a book so much better. I feel vindicated…
We had another wonderful get-together on Wednesday – thanks so much to all of you who came and contributed so much to help your fellow-writers.
One of the first things we talked about was the Connecticut Press Club Awards contest. One has to apply via the NFPW, the National Federation of Pen Women (men allowed), and their website is clunky. But once you’ve registered, and realize that you have to fill in all the separate tabs and save them for each entry, it gets better. I talked to Michele Turk (President of the CPC) about this, and she told me that it would make her job a lot simpler when submitting the CT winners to the National contest. You can submit in any of 64 categories here: http://www.nfpw.org/communicationsContest.php
May-Lou Weisman is starting her Introductory Non-fiction Writing Workshop at the Westport Library on Feb 4 for six sessions.
We talked about Duotrope – a real time-saver for those of use looking to submit our work somewhere. It lists all the available publications and you can filter them by genre, submission dates, likelihood of publication (easier to most difficult to be get in).
Gwen Hernandez, Scrivener maven extraordinaire, is beginning a new season of classes at the end of the month. Fantastic value at $25, they break the learning process down into very manageable daily chunks. Great as a refresher, or for beginners.
Jane Friedman and Joanna Penn have blogs of particular interest to those of us interested in publishing, self-publishing and book marketing. Here’s a link a post in which Joanna interviews Jane about the latest in publishing. Even if you think you’re not ready to publish yet, there’s a lot of interesting food for thought. They talk about the rise in mobile publishing – people reading on their phones or tablets– which will affect the way bookstores sell books. And they talk about alternatives to Amazon for self-publishing. http://www.thecreativepenn.com/2016/01/18/publishing-trends-jane-friedman/
Sandra Beckwith, of Build Book Buzz, a book marketer in Long Island, has a free webinar series on web marketing you can sign up for, beginning very soon. Check it out here.
A number of or authors use video book trailers to promote their books, a tool that seems to be on the rise. E.J. Simon has three books with trailers out, and Leslie Chess Feller has had several videos made of the poems in her book, Monster in My Lunchbox. She used Rozanne Gates to make them. Please contact me or her if you’d like to connect with Rozanne, who’s in Westport, CT. And here’s an article about the importance of book trailers for self-published authors.
Larry Brooks at Storyfix.com is running a free 10-part crash course on Story, which is his specialty. He has a way of looking at a plot and finding the holes or excesses in it, which is very clear and easy to apply to your own work. You can sign up for a series of emails which explain it all.
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:
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.
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.
Once a month, here in Westport, CT, I run a Meetup for writers’ at the local Barnes & Noble store. The September one was held in September 16th, and here’s a summary of what we discussed – good tips and hints for any writer, though some of the activities are local. 🙂
We had another great meeting, with two last-minute guests, Carol Dannhauser and Tessa Smith McGovern.
Carol came just to see what it was like, but I asked her to talk about the writing classes she leads that are starting today (September 21). The first is a class of memoir prompts, which you can find out about here. The second is her Writers’ Workshop of Fairfield for writers with some experience. The classes are held at Birdcraft Museum and begin Sept 21. Email email@example.com for info.
Tessa McGovern wanted to sound us out on the various courses and services local writers might need. Tessa teaches at Sarah Lawrence and her company, Book Girl TV does various things, including interviewing well-known authors and running online classes in social media for writers. She is organizing a free evening event at Barnes & Noble in Westport on October 27th at 6.30pm, with a panel of writers and publishing insiders, with a chance to mix and mingle afterwards. Among the panellists are authors Linda Fairstein, Jane Green, Pat Dunn and top editor Caitlin Alexander, publishing consultant Cynthia Mason and literary agent and author Marilyn Allen. Unmissable.
Tessa also mentioned the New York Pitch Conference for novelists to be held on December 10-13. It seems like an extraordinary chance to find out whether your book has a chance of being published, but it’s not inexpensive. It’s part of the Algonkian conferences, which include some writers’ retreats too.
New member Leigh Stein told us about the conference, Bindercon,she’s helping to organize for women and gender non-conforming writers in New York on November 7 and 8. Check the link above for information.
Online Scrivener classes started last Monday (14th) but I’ve just signed up today because I’m already somewhat familiar with Scrivener and want to brush up rather than begin as a compete novice. I’m including a link here to the site which is run by Gwen Hernandez, author of Scrivener for Dummies. The advantage of the courses is that they can be tailored for either Mac or Windows. And you can sign up for her newsletter on her site.
Adair Heitmann is leading a prompts-based monthly workshop, free at the Pequot Library in Southport, CT. It’s on a drop-in basis so you can attend any month on the third Saturday from 10-12pm. And the Darien Library (CT) is starting a fiction writing class on September 22nd.
We talked about writing productivity and one of us said they used the Pomodoro technique to make sure they wrote. You can find a description of it here. And there’s an app called Freedom which turns off your internet for times you specify so that you can’t be distracted and are forced to write (or clean out the garage).
For those who want to know how to write a good query letter for your fiction, there’s a blog called Query Shark
which has draconian rules for submitting a query letter to be critiqued. But the critiques themselves are interesting.