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!

635897804476249932-2080163357_editor

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.

 

 

Author Interview: Nora Raleigh Baskin

280493I met Nora Raleigh Baskin at the Unicorn Writers’ Conference in August and was interested to find that she was a prolific writer of middle grade novels, who’s been writing since she was in 5th grade. I read YA novels from time to time, but I wasn’t sure what to expect from a middle grade one. So I read her latest book Ruby on the Outside, because it dealt with a topic I hadn’t seen covered anywhere else in children’s books. It’s about a girl whose mother is in prison for life, convicted of being an accessory to murder. There are many questions about truth and lies, friendship and family, as well as some spot-on characterizations of 11 year-old girls. Apart from being a page-turner, it offers the reader hope that he/she doesn’t have to stay ‘on the outside.’ After reading the book I had some questions for her.

GC: Ruby on the Outside is your 12th novel for middle graders. This is a relatively new genre in terms of marketing. Why did you choose to write for this age group?
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NRB: I’m not sure how new this genre is. I think the YA spin-off is the one that marketers have really jumped all over. Middle grade is what we used to just call Children’s books. It’s what most of us remember from school, Nancy Drew, E.L. Konigsburg, A Wrinkle in Time. In fact, as a writer I feel that these publisher/library imposed categories are very limiting but that’s a whole other topic of conversation. I write for all ages. I write for myself. I write the stories I needed to tell and when I told that story (my first book in 2001) in a 6th grader’s voice it worked best. And so that’s where I mostly stayed.

GC: Your books are often about outsiders. Is there some particular reason why you find these characters interesting?

NRB: I have a strong feeling that all writers, to one degree or another, at one time in their life, or still, feel like outsiders and so have become observers. Writers are viewers, watching and listening and analyzing the world as they see it, and as they want others to see it. For me, it began when I was three and a half and my mother committed suicide but the truth was kept from me for many years. This disconnect between what I had witnessed as a child and what I was being told created an “I-don’t-belong” sensibility. From a very early age I became a “truth-seeker” and that is what I do in my writing to this day.

GC: What’s the most fun thing about being a middle grade author?

NRB: Interesting question. Being a writer is a great profession but writing for children is an added responsibility, at least I believe so. I’m not sure if that qualifies as fun, but is it what makes being a middle grade author important. Just like middle school teachers, who can play very important roles in a child’s life (more so than any other age in many ways), I care about what I write and how it is going to be read by children. I feel deeply that I need to write stories that are realistic and do not offer false hope, but do offer hope. And that present characters of strength, acceptance, and resiliency.
GC: Do you get direct feedback from fans about your books? And do they comment on your amazing ability to capture a young person’s voice?

51Q7daYMuQLNRB: With the internet, Twitter, and FB I get more feedback than I’ve ever gotten. I’ve gotten requests from students doing book reports, complaints from parents about some minor (I mean, teeny tiny) bad word in my basketball book (Have you ever BEEN on a basketball court???) but mostly I get wonderful, validating, and affirming letters from students, teachers, and parents. In particular I hear from many people about my book, Anything But Typical which told the story of a 12 year-old autistic boy from the first person POV. Books move people, make them think, and feel, and care. There is nothing more meaningful than finding out that I’ve achieved that.

GC: What’s up next?

NRB: My next book is being published in August 2016 by Simon & Schuster. It’s titled: Nine, Ten: A September 11 Story, and tells the story of four children across the United States in the 24 hours before 9/11. It is not a depressing or scary story, but again, hopeful.
Other than writing, I’ve lately found myself drawn to teaching. I enjoy very much talking to writers about writing, and helping new writers figure out their creative paths. I have been teaching for years through Gotham Writers Workshops and various conferences around the country and I’ve decided to start offering my own workshops and manuscripts critiquing. I’ve made a new website just for this new teaching venture: LightOnWriting.com. I do hope people will find the site and take an interest. The first workshop,Trade Secrets: Writing for Children & Young Adults, is scheduled for Saturday, November 21, 2015, 10-4 in Norwalk, CT.

You can connect with Nora on Google +Twitter and Facebook.

Author Interview: Marta McDowell

indexI’m English, so naturally I love books, and I love gardening (although I must admit that my gardening is of the if-it-lives-it-lives variety). Still, I pore over gardening catalogues in between reading other books, so I was particularly pleased recently when I had the chance to meet Marta McDowell. She’s the author of Beatrix Potter’s Gardening Life, a beautiful and fascinating look at Beatrix Potter and the gardens she created and featured in her books.

I sort of knew that Peter Rabbit lived in a real garden, but I didn’t know about Miss Potter’s tremendous talent for drawing or much about her private life at all. So I have found this book absorbing, the perfect accompaniment to a nice cup of tea when I’m taking a break from my computer. In addition to the biographical element, the photographs and illustrations are lovely, and the list of plants she grew helps me dream of improving my own humble plot. The book would make a great gift for a gardening friend – perhaps accompanied by a copy of The Tale of Peter Rabbit

Marta McDowell was kind enough to let me interview her for this blog:

GC: Your previous book was Emily Dickinson’s Gardens. What gave you the idea of writing about famous writers’ gardens?

MM: I had a eureka moment on a chance visit to The Homestead, Emily Dickinson’s home in Amherst, Massachusetts in the 1990s.  As a student I’d found the poetry of Emily Dickinson  difficult. At The Homestead that afternoon I discovered that Dickinson had been an enthusiastic gardener. It was a tiny common thread — I was recently bitten by the gardening bug — and became a personal entrée into her life and work.

After that I was on the lookout for writers who garden. The pen and the trowel as I like to say.

GC: When did you first become interested in Beatrix Potter?Beatrix Potter Cover CMYK

MM: At an exhibition at the Morgan Library in 1988.  It was a spectacular show that explored her biography and work:  the Tales, her art including botanicals, and her life as a Lake District farmer and preservationist.  I visited her home, Hill Top Farm, in 1997.  Then I got distracted by Emily Dickinson and didn’t come back to Miss Potter until 2007 when Linda Lear’s biography, Beatrix Potter: A Life in Nature came out.

GC: You’re a horticulturist. Was it Beatrix Potter’s watercolor illustrations that first interested you, or the woman herself?

MM: The woman.  Beatrix Potter was a person of grit.  She reinvented herself several times, and classed herself with “people who never grow up.”  I understand that.  And the more I learned about her gardening and personal style the better I liked her.  She was relaxed about her manner of dress, direct in her conversations, loyal in her correspondence, regular in her work habits.  She described her garden as survival of the fittest (evolution was relatively new in her lifetime — equivalent to DNA in ours).  Just ask my plants — mine is the same.

GC: How did you go about researching the book?

MM: There are many excellent archives with Potter material. The largest is with the Victoria & Albert in London, but I also spent time in the National Trust archives and the Armitt Museum in Ambleside in the Lake District. I worked at the Morgan Library’s Reading Room, at Princeton University and at Connecticut College. I was also able to find material online. F. W. Warne’s image database was a key resource. And I hired a photographer, Dayve Ward, in the Lake District.

GC: She seems to have been quite a private person. How easy was it to find the information you needed?

MM: I was blessed with researching a person who became famous in her lifetime and wrote engaging letters.  So while, before she died, Beatrix Potter Heelis burned her correspondence, most people who received letters from her seem to have saved them.

When she was a teenager, she kept a journal, (in code!), that was painstakingly translated by an early scholar of Beatrix Potter. Because her father was a photographer, there are many pictures of the people and places (and plants) important to her life.

There are wonderful biographies and studies of Beatrix Potter, many fostered by the active and engaging Beatrix Potter Society. The members of the Society couldn’t have been more generous. They helped with material, ideas, reading drafts, making suggestions — I’m still amazed.

GC: What was your favorite part of writing the book?

MM: For me, I loved to step through Beatrix Potter’s garden with her, to try to see it through her eyes — what was growing, her favorite plant (snowdrops!), the work that needed to be done in the beds and borders — and how she honored her garden by including it in her letters, her illustrations and her writing. My best day of the research was one November morning when I got to work in her garden at Hill Top alongside the National Trust horticulturist, Pete Tasker. We were cutting back the perennials. Heaven.

You can connect with Marta on Twitter

Writing for the soul

556035_420160031404051_632158423_nMy friend Drew Lamm is a Canadian author who has published several works of fiction including a YA novel, Bittersweet, a short story called Stay True in an anthology of the same name, four nonfiction picture books with The Smithsonian and four with NYC publishers.  Her poems have appeared in various anthologies. She’s been running workshops for women writers for over 10 years in Fairfield County, CT, and having met some of the participants, I wanted to know what made these workshops so unusual. I asked Drew how her workshops differ from others available in Fairfield County and New York.

Here’s what she had to say:

DL: These workshops are a party where spirits are fed, souls watered.  I don’t mean to sound cute, but it’s difficult to explain why women keep coming back, some for over ten years. I fashion something essential here, around creating and community – something most of us are starving for.  I offer a safe, supportive, vital place where women discover the poetic/meaning in their lives through writing. I help refresh their true voices and vital spirit.

Their stunning writing often feels more like a bonus, rather than the main fare.  And yet, whether non writers up through experts, they become brilliant at writing easily and naturally.

GC: Tea and chocolate seem to play an important role in your workshops. Why is that?journal-pen-sized-copy1

DL: ‘A teapot can represent at the same time the comforts of solitude and the pleasures of company.’ (Anon.) The custom of serving tea is ancient, refined and welcoming.  In this harried world, we don’t often pause in our racing to sit down and sip tea together. And chocolate, well, it’s chocolate!  Who doesn’t need to be offered a plate heaped with chocolates on a regular basis?

GC: Do you teach a specific method of writing?

DL: I teach organically, so no and yes.  This is nothing like school, nothing academic.  We’re all natural writers and I discover the truth of this in every workshop.  Last weekend I hosted a Tea and Writing Party, welcoming in seven women I didn’t know, who don’t write.  They balanced their tea cups looking a tad nervous and off we went.  By the end of two hours each one had strong, vivid writing where there was once an empty page. I teach to write visually and through the senses and I craft prompts that get at this easily.  Concrete images are simple, effective and pull treasure to the surface that surprises and delights the writer and then the reader.

 GC: How do you critique your writers?

DL: I zero in on specifically what works and only what works.  When you understand what works, you and your writing deepens.  These pieces are new-born babies and I celebrate this, by pointing out what shines.  Each person’s writing hones and turns to gold with this process.

GC: What do you think your participants find most useful about your workshops?

 DL: Women find the parts of themselves they love, emerging.  We are creators.  We need to create whether it’s art, music, a garden, a loaf of bread…this is what happens here.  I watch women arrive with tense faces and see them leave open, beautiful and looking younger.  This is what occurs when our true voice emerges, when we’re seen, heard and celebrated.  It’s essential.  These workshops aren’t hobbies for these women, but something vital in their lives.  And mine too.

GC: How often do you run these workshops?

DL: Once a week for two hours for twelve weeks.  The winter session will begin Jan. 8th and 9th. I have five groups a week.  Wed. 10 – noon, 1-3pm and 7-9pm and Thurs. 10 – noon and an advanced group 1-3pm.

There’ll be a Women Who Taste Life Twice evening here in Rowayton, CT, on Dec. 5th,  from 7-8.57pm, where women will read short pieces they’ve written and an Irish storyteller will tell a tale.  Any women who might be interested in my workshops or who’d love to come listen in, to take a taste of this sweet and spicy community are welcome to come sip and listen. If you’d like directions or to be on Drew’s mailing list, send her an email.

You can contact Drew via email, or her blog, as well as via Facebook where you can see videos of Drew and her home (where the workshops take place) and Goodreads

Best gifts for readers and writers

Everyone’s doing it. Producing lists of things to give people for the holidays. I myself have been plugging Tangerine Tango, the cute little book of writing by women in which some of my deathless prose (and a poem) appears. But I keep running across other great things a book-lover or writer might enjoy receiving. So here goes:

Every writer needs a notebook. This one is designed for the insomniac writer and includes lots of creative writing prompts (Write the shortest story ever written. Describe the taste of regret.) and quotes about the power of nighttime. Only $15.

My Ideal Bookshelf is both a book and a series of art prints that can be hung on your wall. Edited by Thessaly La Force and illustrated by Jane Mount the illustrations show the bookshelves of cultural figures, including writers Michael Chabon, Dave Eggers, Jennifer Egan and Junot Diaz. The cover of the book gives you some idea, but check out the website for close up views of the illustrations. Book $25, prints on archival paper $28.

Protect your favorite writer/reader’s iPhone with a gelaskin from Colin Thompson. $15.

There have been several films about writers this year, including The Words, Writers, and Being Flynn. My favorite, and one I’d give to a non-writing friend too, is Ruby Sparks. a 2012 romantic comedy-drama about a struggling novelist whose fictional character, Ruby Sparks, comes to life. It scored 79% on RT (Rotten Tomatoes) and has a great cast. I loved it. From $18.

For your favorite book snob, to broaden his horizons, or for a young person you want to entice into the classics, Seymour Chwast’s graphic novel of The Odyssey.  It’s not exactly the same old thing.  Odysseus travels by space ship, for a start. Chwast brought out Dante’s Divine Comedy in 2010 and the Canterbury Tales last year. List price $20.

I’m not sure I can explain this one, but it sounds fascinating. Here’s the Amazon description: Everything you need to read the new graphic novel Building Stories in a box: 14 distinctively discrete Books, Booklets, Magazines, Newspapers, and Pamphlets by Chris Ware. If you read the rest of the description. you’ll see it’s something completely original, though don’t give it to someone who has no patience and /or  no intellectual curiosity. (But you don’t have friends like that, do you?)
 
With the increasing electronic incorporeality of existence, sometimes it’s reassuring—perhaps even necessary—to have something to hold on to. Thus within this colorful keepsake box the purchaser will find a fully-apportioned variety of reading material ready to address virtually any imaginable artistic or poetic taste, from the corrosive sarcasm of youth to the sickening earnestness of maturity—while discovering a protagonist wondering if she’ll ever move from the rented close quarters of lonely young adulthood to the mortgaged expanse of love and marriage. Whether you’re feeling alone by yourself or alone with someone else, this book is sure to sympathize with the crushing sense of life wasted, opportunities missed and creative dreams dashed which afflict the middle and upper-class literary public (and which can return to them in somewhat damaged form during REM sleep).
A pictographic listing of all 14 items (260 pages total) appears on the back, with suggestions made as to appropriate places to set down, forget or completely lose any number of its contents within the walls of an average well-appointed home. As seen in the pages of The New Yorker, The New York Times and McSweeney’s Quarterly Concern, Building Stories collects a decade’s worth of work, with dozens of “never-before published” pages (i.e., those deemed too obtuse, filthy or just plain incoherent to offer to a respectable periodical). List price $50. $27 at Amazon.

Or, of course, you could just buy books…

Interview with author Lisa Winkler – editor of Tangerine Tango

In addition to writing a regular blog, Lisa Winkler is the author of On the Trail of the Ancestors, A Black Cowboy’s Ride Across America.  She’s also the editor of a new anthology of writing by women called Tangerine Tango (yes, of course I’m in it!) and I was impressed with the energy and dedication she brought to putting the project together, so I asked her about it.

GC: Congratulations on publishing Tangerine Tango. Is this the first book you’ve produced?

LW: Thanks, Gabi! I’m so proud of the book. This is my second book.  On the Trail of the Ancestors: A Black Cowboy’s Ride Across America was published last February. That is a very different book than Tangerine Tango. It tells the journey of a teacher I met from Newark, NJ who rode his horse from New York to California to honor the contributions of African-Americans to US history.

Tangerine Tango is a collection of essays and poems by 12 women writers.

GC: Tell me something about how you found your authors.

LW: Most of the writers I have befriended through blogging and I asked them to contribute.  By reading and commenting on each others’ blogs I feel as if I have all these wonderful friends!

GC: The book is attractive looking. Did you design it yourself, or did you have help?

LW: I had help. I am so lucky to have met Solveig Marina Bang. She is a designer and copy editor, based in India, who turns my word documents into art!  We go back and forth debating grammar as well as design.  She created 9 covers for me to select from—I loved this one immediately.

GC: Which parts of the publishing process did you handle yourself? (ISBN numbers, editing, etc)

LW: I have self-published with CreateSpace, Amazon’s publishing company. They assign the ISBN. I edited the essays and shared the edits with the writers. Then Marina and I pored through the entire document scores of times, and the writers proofread it too. I think there were over 20 drafts before it was ready to submit for publication.

GC: Was publishing the book pretty straightforward?

LW: Well the paperback was unavailable for a few days because of some glitch between Amazon and CreateSpace. In order to solve the formatting problems I had to wait for them to fix the issues with the Amazon paper copies. People who ordered from CreateSpace directly weren’t affected, but it was a nuisance from a promotional point of view. On the bright side, while it was unavailable, Amazon was advertising used copies for $999!

GC: Is the problem cleared up now?

LW: Yes, thankfully, and it’s been selling well.

GC: What piece of advice would you give to other indie authors looking to publish?

LW: It’s a risk and investment. There are tons of paper books being published both traditionally and self-published. Then there are eBooks. There’s a lot of competition. Don’t expect to make fast money. There’s no guarantee even if you’re traditionally published.
GC: Would you be prepared to do it again? Is volume 2 in the works, for example, or do you have something different on the horizon?

 

LW: I’d love to do this again! It would be another title; maybe with themes, maybe not. I’d love to double the size of the book and the number of authors. I think I’ll wait at least a year though to see how this one does, and if I do another book, I want to research other companies.

Where I Write: Jessica Speart

One of my internet friends, Pauline Gaines of the Perils of Divorced Pauline, runs a regular series of posts called “Blogger Space” in which authors send in a photo of their workplace and write about it.

Jessica Speart

And I follow author Jessica Speart on Facebook and Goodreads. She writes a fun series of mystery novels (nine of them) about a  former actress Rachel Porter, who now works for the New Orleans Fish & Wildlife Service, uncovering and solving crimes in the Louisiana bayous. Her latest book, Winged Obsession, is a non-fiction account of real butterfly smuggling, and it reads like a thriller. So when I saw a photo of her on Facebook, sitting at her laptop with what appeared to be a large furry cat on her lap, I needed to do some investigating myself. And she was gracious enough to answer my questions, even though I had mistaken her dog for a cat, and some of her answers were completely unpredictable…

P.S. A note on blogging etiquette: I checked in with Pauline, who kindly said that she didn’t mind if I adapted her idea and ran it as an interview format. Thanks, Pauline!

GC:  I couldn’t help noticing from your photo that you had a dog on your lap.  What can you tell us about that?

JS: Josie is a Lhasapoo.(I believe this is a Lhasa apso/poodle mix. GC)  She’s a rescue dog that I brought back to Connecticut from Anchorage, Alaska.  I was attending the Bouchercon World Mystery Convention a few years ago and was presented with the idea of taking Josie home with me just minutes before boarding the plane. The decision turned out to be easier than figuring out how to get a dog with “cage aggression” into a soft-sided carry-on bag.  Yet, I somehow accomplished it. She wouldn’t calm down and I ended up hiding her under a blanket on my lap for the entire trip home.  She’s become my constant shadow and writing companion.  She wasn’t feeling very well that day and I wanted to make her comfortable.  A pillow on my lap did the trick.  It’s amazing what we’ll do to accommodate our pets.

GC:  Where do you usually write?

JS: It varies.  There are lots of windows and sunlight in the kitchen.   I like to write there when my husband isn’t home.  Otherwise, I lock myself in my bedroom and office during the day.  It’s become a No Trespassing zone.

GC:  What time of day feels most productive for your writing?

JS: I work best in the morning.  Too many other things are on my mind by the time 3 pm rolls around.

GC:  What’s your favorite snack to have around when you write?

JS: Now we’re getting into dangerous territory.  As Mae West said, “When I’m good, I’m very good.  But when I’m bad, I’m better.”  On a good day, I’ll snack on almonds.  On a bad day, it’s definitely dark chocolate.

GC:   What’s the last book you finished in this spot, and what are you working on in the photo?

JS: The last book I finished was my narrative nonfiction Winged Obsession.  Right now, I’m working on a thriller that has nothing to do with wildlife.  At least, not that kind of wildlife.

So, with a dog, some almonds and some dark chocolate, you, too, can be a successful writer…In the meantime,you can find Jessica on her very attractive website, on her author Facebook page: and on Twitter.

Are Russian writers truly the greatest?

There’s a website called Brain Pickings, a kind of repository for quirky bits of information about… well…I’ll have to let Maria Popova, whose brain child it is,  describe it: culling and curating cross-disciplinary curiosity-quenchers, and separating the signal from the noise to bring you things you didn’t know you were interested in until you are.

It was brought to my attention by Emily Temple, the excellent Literary Editor at Flavorwire, who mentioned one of Brain Picking’s articles : the Greatest Books of All Time as Voted by 125 Famous Authors. The titles are sorted into 19th and 20th century – and topping both lists are…Russians. Anna Karenina, by Leo Tolstoy, and Lolita, by Vladimir Nabokov. There are American and British writers on the list, too, thank goodness.

Check out the article here and see if you agree with the voters.