Westport Writers’ Rendezvous – March update – Part 1

There’s so much going on that I’ve split the latest update into two again. More to follow next week. I’m delighted to report that several of our members have been contest winners recently. Connecticut Press Club Awards went to Kate … Continue reading

Westport Writers’ Rendezvous – October update

It’s as though the entire writing world has woken up at once and is raring to go. If you’re not prepping for NaNoWriMo, or going to mini-conferences, you’re probably at write-ins, or book signings. And among the main providers of opportunities for writers are the local libraries. Read on for activities in Westport, Darien, New Rochelle and Durham… A propos of NaNoWriMo, where your daily counts soon become an obsession, member Elizabeth Chatsworth recommends a useful goal-setting tool for checking your progress called Pacemaker. And it’s free.

typingSunday, October 22, 1-5pm Darien Library: Get ready for NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) by developing your plot in during the Busy Writer’s One Hour PlotWorkshop. The hardest part of plotting is just building a workable framework so you can get on with the actual writing. Taught by Roman Godzich – free. While you’re at it, check out their Writers’ Workshop (next one on November 16, 7-8.30pm).

Sunday, October 22, 3pm: Member Kate Mayer will be reading at Read 650 event at the New Rochelle Public Library. Topic: The Kids are All Right.

Thursday, October 26, 7-9pm: Liv Constantine will be signing her latest book, The Last Mrs. Parrish, at the Fairfield University Bookstore in downtown Fairfield.

Saturday, October 28, 12 – 2:30pm: Member Susan Israel will be reading from and signing her books at Elm Street Books in New Canaan

Saturday, November 4, from 1-5pm: At the Durham Public Library – A Writing Workshop with Alice Mattison: Join acclaimed novelist and writing teacher Alice Mattison to explore the question, “What Does Your Novel Want?” Space limited. Registration required   Register Online or call (860) 349-9544, ext. 1.

Saturday, November 4, 1-4pm: WestportWRITES mini-conference: Discovering the Feminist YA Voice with Authors Jennifer Mathieu and Micol Ostow. At the Westport Library. Free.

Sunday, November 5, 1-5pm: WestportWRITES mini-conference: Write Your World, exploring writing that celebrates a more inclusive world. Features a keynote by author and Lambda Literary Award finalist Chavisa Woods (Things to Do When You’re Goth in the Country). Novelist and Chocolatier Nikki Woolfolk will present an interactive workshop exploring race and representation in storytelling. And author Stephen Graham Jones (Mapping the Interior, My Hero) At the Westport Library. Free.

Preceding every mini-conference, there is a Writers Survival Camp at noon (register online) that focuses on activities to help you survive the writing life. nano

Westport Library Write-In: Come work on your novel in the company of other writers. As if that weren’t enough, they are planning a new podcast series: One-Shot Stories from the Westport Library, as well as a WestportWRITES  compilation/anthology to be published on their newly acquired Espresso Machine. (See my earlier blog post to find out what that is!)

I found this interesting article from Amazon: A publishing checklist for authors. This is part of a new Beta service/blog called author insights, and offers a simple way of knowing what Amazon wants/expects you to do, if nothing else.

Once you have all your ducks in a row, there are several ways to pitch your work, and those of us who’ve tried them have had some success. The first three Pitch Mad, Pitch Madness and Pitch Wars, which takes place every August. They’re run by author Brenda Drake. Pitch Wars offers a two month mentorship for winning submissions to help get you an agent. Pitch Madness is a contest held every March, where writers enter for a chance to win requests from the participating agents. Writers submit a 35-word (max) pitch and the first 250 words of their completed manuscript on submission day. Then a team of readers choose the top sixty (60) entries to go onto the agent round. #PitMad is a pitch party on Twitter where writers tweet a 140 character pitch for their completed, polished, unpublished manuscripts. It takes place quarterly, and the next one is scheduled for December 7, 2017.

These contests work – there’s proof on the site.

Another, similar idea, is offered on Query Kombats, by Melissa Hauck. The rules are a bit complicated, since it’s a knockout contest, so hit the link to find out more. Her second contest is Nightmare on Query Street, whose submissions closed today, but at least you have time to plan ahead for next year…

If you need a hand finishing your work, you can take an online class with Catapult.com. One of our members is trying one, and promises to let us know what she thinks of it.

Lastly, here’s an intriguing, not to say, Quixotic, place to submit a hundred word story (or two). The César Egido Serrano Foundation is a non-profit whose objective is to use words and dialogue to promote understanding between different cultures and religions. The competition first prize is $20,000 for the best short story. All entries will be evaluated by an international jury of great prestige, and the finalist’s stories will be published. A maximum of two stories per person of no more than 100 words each, should be submitted via this link.

 

Writing critiques – necessary evil, or wonderful energisers?

For some reason, the subject of writing groups has been surfacing around me over the last month or so. I belong to two different groups, and people I meet have been asking me about how they work. So I brought up the subject at the Writers’ Rendezvous (an informal monthly meeting of local writers, see photo) and asked for input.Writers-Rendezvous-May-2014-Westport-CT-BN

So far, I have come across four different types of group. I thought I’d list them here and get your input, too. Please comment to let me know which kind of group you think works best.

critiqueOne writer talked about a group she used to attend in New York, which she had found very effective. That one allowed people to read their work, and to hear the group’s response, but there were 20 writers in it. Obviously, this meant that not everyone could be heard each week.
Another person currently facilitates a group in Trumbull, CT, (about 20 minutes away from me) which has eight participants. Even here, because of the numbers, while the critiquing sounds as though it’s thorough, writers only have a chance to be critiqued four times a year.
The Fairfield Public Library hosts several weekly writing groups, and there’s always a waiting list of people wanting to join. (I may still be on that list, but after a two or three years waiting, a place hasn’t become available yet…) One of our Writers’ Rendezvous participants runs such a group. It has eight members, not all of whom are present every week. The focus is on reading a suggested five double-spaced pages aloud (roughly 1500 words) as others read along on copies of the work. Then the work is critiqued by the group. The aim is not to repeat a critique if someone else has already made the same observation. The group does not distribute work ahead of time.

One group I belong to has four members, and we send each other our work ahead of the fortnightly meeting (up to 10 pages, double spaced). Then we bring our critiques to the meeting. This seems to work well, and produces in-depth critiquing, which is very valuable. But, of course, the number of participants needs to be limited, or the amount of ‘homework’ before each meeting would be too onerous.

I belong to a second group, with three people, where we don’t see each other’s work ahead of time, but read it aloud (up to 10 pages at the weekly meeting) and critique it on the fly. This tends to make for broad-brush critiquing, particularly if a person reads well. I often think people are bamboozled by my English accent into thinking my writing is better than it is. Meaning, I suppose, that I don’t get as much critiquing in this group as I think I need. On the other hand, I do have to show up each week. If a member is away, unless they’re totally beyond reach, she phones or Skypes in, so as not to miss a meeting.
I have heard of, but don’t know anyone who’s tried it, online writing critique groups. I’m not sure exactly what the guidelines are, but I think they must be a boon for writers who can’t reach a group in person. They may also have the benefit of having your work read by a person who doesn’t know you and therefore has no idea what you’re trying to convey, except through your writing.
There’s one more idea you might want to consider.

Adele Annesi, one of the editors of NowWhat? Creative Writers’ Guide told us at the Writers’ Salon at Fairfield Library a few days ago that she has a writing buddy with whom she meets regularly. They meet at a local coffee shop and then sit there and write for a while, before looking at each other’s work. So that’s yet one more type of writing partnership.

For me, the value in critique groups is two-fold: I get (and, hopefully, give) constructive feedback and, more important, I have to write in order to bring something to the group. This is an enormous plus for a procrastinator like me.

There are things to bear in mind if you’re thinking of starting or joining a group. I think groups like this work best if the participants are writing in a similar genre. It needn’t be all fiction, or all memoir, but I think a group specifically for writers of poetry or children’s books would be more useful than a mixed one. What do you think?

Then there are the friendships that form in writing groups, which can be lifelong. The advantage, and the disadvantage, of friendship is that your friends understand your work, which is gratifying but not necessarily always helpful. They may be able to read between the lines to understand it, whereas your unknown reader won’t. The other advantage/disadvantage is that friendship can allow for no-holds-barred criticism, which may prove, depending on one’s mood, either energizing (I’ll show them!) or discouraging (I’m never writing another word.)

All feedback welcome!