Why I love Writers’ Organizations

I belong to a number of writing organizations, and have always found them interesting, though not necessarily vital. But this year has brought the value of the groups I belong to sharply into focus. In years past, I would join a group, attend occasional events, and skim their newsletters, while I wrote mainly on my own and hoped for the best. Sometimes I’d be asked to speak at a meeting. Occasionally I’d benefit from a new idea about how to tackle a specific craft element of writing – handling a dual timeline, structuring a personal essay, finding an editor – but these were largely peripheral to the main role writing played in my life. 

This year, though, I found myself with no writers’ meetings to go to, no conferences, and no workshops. I found that, to my surprise, I missed the company of other writers. And then my organizations stepped up to the plate.

I have to confess that I stepped up pretty early myself. I run three groups for writers: a monthly open mic, a monthly get-together where we talk and exchange ideas, and now a weekly write-in too, which I was asked to organize by the Pequot Library in Southport, CT. I transferred all meetings to Zoom beginning in March, and found, to my surprise and delight, that people from other states, and even Canada, who’d never have been able to join us before, were now attending. I was finally meeting people I’d only corresponded with until then.

Back to the writing organizations. I’ll start with ones I’m a member of. If they’re not right for you, there are bound to be others that are, and I’ll post a list of those tomorrow.

The WFWA, (Women’s Fiction Writers Association) holds daily (sometimes twice-daily) write-ins, where I check in, write for 90 minutes, and check out. I’ve been writing every day since the pandemic started-not something I could have said before. They run webinars with workshops on craft, book marketing, and more. And the joy of webinars is that you can watch them afterward if you can’t make the original time slot. Although there is something to committing oneself to a particular time that makes one more likely to stick to it. Through these activities, I’ve met dozens of new writer friends across the country – sometimes even from abroad.

The CTRWA (Connecticut Chapter of Romance Writers of America) holds monthly meetings for its members. They used to be held an hour away – now I can attend from the comfort of my office. The talks they offer can apply to almost any kind of fiction writing, and the camaraderie has made me new friends. To be a member, one has to belong to the national association (RWA), which has been controversial this year, resulting in a real effort to make the organization more aware of diversity issues in membership and publishing.

The Authors Guild is, as its name implies, for all authors. Among the services they provide are lawyers who will look at any contract (with an agent or publisher) and give you feedback on whether it makes sense or has unforeseen pitfalls. They can help you design a web page, and they have a daily conversation thread where you can ask for advice on any subject, knowing that other members will have experience with that issue. They also keep tabs on any industry controversies regarding pirated work or slow royalty payments, for example.

The CPC (Connecticut Press Club) is open to writers, bloggers, novelists, web designers, public relations, etc – in short, anyone connected with communications via the written word. Their annual Awards contest gives members a chance to enter their published work for a possible award, and they host occasional evenings with celebrated members of the writing and publishing world.

CAPA – the Connecticut Authors and Publishers Association has introduced me to new writers and ideas for how to publish your book. They too have monthly online meetings. 

I’m an unofficial member of the MWANE Mystery Writers of America’s New England Chapter. Not because I’m writing mysteries, but because I read them, attend conferences, and go to the occasional meeting. And I’ve interviewed some of the members for this blog. I first came across them at their annual conference, and learned a lot at the workshops they held there. I had to leave the room during the discussion of the decomposition of corpses,(way too detailed unless you write crime!) but in general, I found the sessions interesting and useful. 

You can find many of these entities on Facebook, if you’d like to see what they do, or ask members questions. More organizations tomorrow! 

 

Author interview: Amy Sue Nathan

I met Amy Sue Nathan through the WFWA (Women’s Fiction Writers Association) and decided to read her latest book, The Last Bathing Beauty. I’m glad I did. It’s set at a Jewish summer resort on the shores of Lake Michigan, MI, and goes back and forth in time between 1951 and today. It’s a wonderful coming-of-age story that reflects some of the major ways in which our thinking has changed over the decades and the ways in which it hasn’t. In this novel, the influence of family means that the protagonist has to abandon her dreams and deal with the reckoning decades later.

It’s a perfect book club book, with plenty to discuss, but what stuck with me was the well-delineated characters and the seamlessly structured weaving of the stories. By the way, the Kindle version of The Last Bathing Beauty is available throughout December for $1.99, so you can download a copy now. Having enjoyed it so much, I asked Amy about it.

GC: I’d never heard of a summer resort like the Stern Resort, other than in the Catskills, and wondered how you came across the idea of setting your novel in Michigan. 

Old South Haven resort

ASN: I was introduced to the SW Michigan shore about 9 years ago and knew right away I wanted to set a novel there. After I’d begun thinking about this story, I discovered South Haven by a happy accident when I was doing some online research. When I visited South Haven, I met someone who grew up there in the fifties and she had many stories and lots of background material that helped me finish the book. So, I no longer believe in accidents. Some things are meant to be.

GC: How long have you been writing? Is this your first historical novel? 

ASN: I’ve always been a writer, and have been blogging about writing women’s fiction for several years at http://womensfictionwriters.com/. I started writing fiction in 2006. The Last Bathing Beauty is my first work of historical fiction and I’m hooked! My books tend to be about families and the ways they impact our lives, so one can write them in any period.

GC: Your story spans 1951 to today. What issues did you have in painting the picture of these two different social environments and the character attitudes over that time?

ASN: I took the treacherous route and wrote each timeline separately and then wove them together. As well as visiting South Haven, I did oral history and book research to get it right. The local historical association and the South Haven library had a wealth of background information.

GC: Novels with different timelines are notoriously difficult, so are you a plotter or pantser (someone who writes by the seat of their pants)?

ASN: I’m a 100% panster but I know my story in my head before I begin. If I know the ending, all I have to do is get there.

GC: What was the hardest part of writing this book? 

ASN: Definitely weaving the timelines!

GC: And finally, what are you working on now?

ASN: I just finished writing Well Behaved Wives due out in November 2021. It’s set in 1962 Philadelphia.

You can connect with Amy via her website, or on Instagram and Pinterest.

Author interview: Marilyn Simon Rothstein

044-MarilynRothsteinAuthorPortrait_14x11crop-more-retouchedI met Marilyn Simon Rothstein at the Saugatuck StoryFest in Westport, CT, and bought her first book, Lift and Separate, because she made me laugh. That novel, by the way, hit the number 1 slot on Amazon’s list of Satirical Fiction last week!

Her novels are filled with humor, as well as romance, pathos and a host of other emotions. The first book made me want to read the sequel, Husbands and Other Sharp Objects, another satisfying read. Marilyn has had a career in advertising, and became a published author relatively late in the game, so naturally I had questions for her. Continue reading