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.
I’m going to keep the intro short this month, since there’s a lot of ground to cover. Wednesday saw another great meeting, with old hands and new faces, and many successes to report. And here’s what’s coming up in the writing world of Fairfield County and environs:
This Saturday, January 19, Brian Hoover will be leading his monthly memoir writing workshop from 10:30-12:00, in the Bridgeport History Center, located in the main branch of the Bridgeport Public Library. Free.
The Connecticut Press Club is wrapping up submissions for this year’s contest. Anyone who lives or works in Connecticut is eligible to enter work published in 2018. Fees: $25 for the first entry and $15 for each additional entry. Deadline: midnight EST, January 22.
Not sure why September always has that “let’s get back to work” feeling about it, but as if to encourage people to do just that, the events and opportunities for writers keep multiplying. We had eighteen people at Wednesday’s meeting, which provided lots to talk about. IN the interests of space – I’ll start with the upcoming events:
On Monday, September 24, from 6-7:30pm, the SoNo Branch Library will kick-off its Local Children’s’ author series with a book signing with member Kristen Ball, author of A Calf Named Brian Higgins. The event will honor the importance of access to fresh water globally with Millennium Promise.
I’ve just signed up for Wine and Write-in, a series of Tuesday evening writing opportunities at the Fairfield County Writers’ Studio, starting September 25. Led by the inimitable Stephanie Lehman, I’m hoping to work on my next project, a romantic comedy. I understand prompts will be available and all genres welcome. This is just one of many fall classes being offered.
If you need an inspiring place to write, but can’t get away on a writer’s retreat, how about three hours of writing in Mark Twain’s Library, for $75? You can do just that this Thursday, September 27, 2018 from 6-9 pm at the Mark Twain House & Museum in Hartford, CT. Space is limited to fourteen writers, and you can reserve your spot here.
And it seems the Mark Twain House is on a roll. They’re running their two-day Writers Weekend on September 29 -30. Events include writing workshops, panel discussions, author talks, book signings, and if you don’t have time to attend the whole weekend, one-day tickets are available. Click here for a full list of presenters and session topics. Keynote speakers include Gary Shteyngart and Jodi Picoult.
Flash fiction is all the crack, and it’s a gateway to getting published. The Masters Review is running a contest dedicated solely to flash twice a year. The winning writer will be awarded $3000 and publication on The Masters Review site. Deadline September 30.
And if you’re not sure how to write very short, Authors Publish Magazine is offering a free book to help you. The Quick-Start Guide to Flash Fiction. is a guide to writing and publishing flash fiction –– Stories 1,000 words or less. The book gives you 60 writing prompts, plus 60 publishers accepting submissions. Download it here:
The book you’ve all been waiting for, When to Now, launches October 1.You want it because it features stories by several members, including Alison McBain, who edited it, Ed Ahern, Elizabeth Chatsworth, and yours truly. The pre-order page is live on Amazon for the eBook. And right now, it’s only $2.99 for the Kindle version, so you can afford to buy it!
The Westport Library’s creative non-fiction writing workshops begin on October 2 (introductory) and October 4 (advanced). They’re taught by Mary Lou Weisman, author of Playing House in Provence. Register here.
On October 4 at 6pm, former Poet Laureate Billy Collins will be reading from his work in West Hartford. Seating is first-come, first-served. Details here.
The Saugatuck StoryFest is the first annual literary festival organized in Westport, CT, this October 12-14. There’s something for everyone here. More than thirty writers of note have signed up to come, in many genres, including graphic novels and children’s literature, as well as memoir and all kinds of genre fiction. This is a great way to meet them face-to-face. There’s a list of authors and events on this website , and new info is added daily. Almost everything is free. And A Bradbury Evening, a celebration of Ray Bradbury with his biographer, Sam Weller and a live performance of one of his radio plays, is only $10. Don’t miss any of it!
The Fairfield Library will be offering a Writers’ conference on November 3. Details to follow.
And on November 8, member Alex McNab will be interviewing author Eric Burns about his first novel after decades of non-fiction books. Details here.
Once you’ve published a short story or a poem, most literary journals aren’t interested in publishing it again. Still, the more a poem or short story is published, the more exposure it gets.and there are publications who accept reprints. Courtesy of Authors Publish.
Nineteen members showed up for Wednesday’s meeting – thanks for coming! The night before, we had a great WritersMic Meetup in Westport, with content as varied as fiction, memoir, articles, poetry and even a prize-winning eulogy! Link to either of the pages here to join the Meetups.
Meanwhile, there was lots to talk about at the Westport Writers’ Rendezvous, and time for some networking at the end. Among the things discussed, in date order (where appropriate) were:
Write Yourself Free in Westport is offering a free introductory classthis Saturday (June 24) from 11-12.45pm, to familiarize you with their method of writing workshop. It gives you a structured way to get that novel or memoir written, and is definitely worth trying. In addition to a range of summer classes for adults, they’re also offering a series of classes for children (3-6th grade). More info here.
Also, this Saturday (June 24), Jan Kardys, founder and director of the Unicorn Writers Conference is having one of her regularly scheduled Meetups, at which you can offer up to 10 pages for critiquing by her and other participants. At $10 per meeting, it’s money well spent. If you can’t make it this time, become one of her Meetup members, and you’ll be on the mailing list for future events. She also offers editorial and other services for writers.
Glimmer Glimmer Train’s Short Story Award for New Writers is looking for submissions. Their deadline is June 30, 2017. It’;s worth entering, since they consider all entries for publication. The first place wins $2500 and publication, 2nd place gets $500, or $700 if published. Third prize is $300, or $700 if published.
The Writer’s Digest Conference is scheduled for August 18-20 in NYC. It costs $469, and for an additional $99 you can add the Pitch Slam, which offers: a one-hour Pitch Slam time slot on Saturday, August 19, a pitch perfect session (9:00 AM on Friday, August 18), entry in the Query Letter Directory and a query letter webinar: Query Better Basics for Books. The main conference has Lisa Scottoline and Richard Russo among its keynote speakers, and sessions cover craft, getting published, the business of being an author, platform & promotion and genre studies. You can register at the link above.
If you’re a horror writer, there’s the Horror Writers Association. Their conference is held in the early spring, but you could check them out.
The Good Men Project, an online magazine with 3 million readers each month, is looking for submissions on a range of topics. Topics include art & entertainment, dads and families, health, wellness, the soul, and so on. Submissions are via Submittable, and you may have to set up an account to join the Good Men Project, but it has a ready-made audience.
And speaking of Submittable, they handle submissions for many publications – you may have used them already. They also have a regular newsletter, with suggested places to submit. Submissions aren’t just for prose, they include screenplays, poetry, radio (NPR is looking for pitches for StoryLab) – even films and art. You can sign up for the newsletter and get free suggestions for your work.
Member Alex McNab mentioned a couple of commencement speeches with particular relevance to writers. The first is to the NY Times digest of 2017 commencement address highlights. He cited Colson Whitehead, with a near perfect precis of three-act structure. And his old pal Billie Jean King offers a smart way to think about writing a long story—just substitute the words “writing a book” for her uses of the word “life.”
Alex also reminded me that the current issue of Poets & Writers, is the annual Agents issue, with lists of agents, interviews with them etc. A good place to see who’s out there.
Finally, if you’re thinking of self-publishing, take control of the publication of your book with the IngramSpark Guide to Independent Publishing. It walks you through the publishing process: pre-production, formatting and binding, book marketing, creating your title metadata, preparing your files, and more.It sounds like a good guide to self-publishing, and you can download a free sneak peek of the guide before you buy.
We had another lively meeting at the newly refurbished Barnes & Noble in Westport this week. The refurb has given us a bigger space to meet in – thanks! Twelve of us got to grips with things, and here’s some of what went on. I’ve listed them in date order.
It’s rather late notice, I know, but TONIGHT (April 21st) the Westport Writer’s Workshop will hold a celebration featuring readings from a number of writers. Among them is Fairfield University’s Low-Residency MFA Program Director Sonya Huber, whose latest collection, Pain Woman Takes Your Keys and Other Essays from a Nervous System, was published in March; A propos, Sonya has written a blog post about all the available book awards, and provided a handy list here. Did you know you could nominate yourself for a Pulitzer? Free and open to the public, 7:30 PM at 323 Bar & Restaurant in Westport (323 Main Street).
Glimmer Train, the highly respected literary journal, is looking for submissions for their fiction (3,000-20,000 words) and very-short fiction award (300-3,000 words). First Place gets $2,000-3,000, so – worth a try. Deadline April 30.
The Westport Writers’ Workshop (WWW) is presenting a mini-conference as part of the Westport Library’s WestportWRITES program It’s on Sunday, April 30, from 1-5PM. Topic: creative writing and social justice. A selection of speakers will be led by WWW’s Executive Director, Valerie Leff.
On Sunday, May 7 at 10:00 a.m, the Connecticut Press Club is sponsoring a workshop with Susan Maccarelli, founder of Beyond Your Blog and its eponymous podcast. Macarelli’s website and newsletters give you tips and strategies for submitting your blog posts to other websites. To be held at the Westport Writers’ Workshop. Details here.
On May 14, Colm Toibin, Irish author of Brooklyn, will be speaking at the Westport Library. Register here.
Our next WritersMic evening will be held on May 16, 7-8.45ppm in Westport. Join the Meetup for details and updates.
Creative Non-fiction’s annual writers’ conference will be taking place in Pittsburgh, PA, from May 26-27. Suitable for both novices and experienced writers, the conference aims to help you write better. Plus, you’ll have the opportunity to meet one-on-one with literary agents, get concrete advice from industry insiders, hear what different kinds of editors are looking for, and focus on specific skills in inspiring small-group sessions.
Gotham Writers in New York are holding a Be A Hero Contest. They’re looking for a 50 word story – that’s right, 50 words (or fewer). The title, if you have one, doesn’t count as part of the word count, so I guess you could have a really long title if you need more exposition… The story should be about someone who fought for the right thing in a way that called for courage and commitment. This can be a personal story about, say, your father rescuing you when you were lost in the woods, or a public story about, say, Rosa Parks not moving to the back of the bus. It could also be a made-up story, even an artful retelling of a favorite, such as Erin Brockovich or A Tale of Two Cities. Entries must be submitted online by midnight Eastern May 29,
Moving into early summer, on Saturday, June 3 from 9- 5 p.m, the Mystery Writers of America/New York Chapter is holding a fiction writers’ conference at the Ferguson Library in Stamford. The full-day session will cover subjects like great beginnings, structure, revisions, etc, and will be taught by established members of the MWA. Publishing professionals will also be on hand. $75 per person (MWA members $65), includes all sessions, plus continental breakfast, boxed lunch and a coffee/wine wrap-up party.
First – thanks so much to the Fairfield County Writers’ Studio, who hosted this month’s Rendezvous. Barnes and Noble were simply too full of holiday stuff to have room for us, but we’ll be back there next month. In the meantime, thanks are due to Carol Dannhauser and Tessa McGovern, FCWS founding partners. And we covered a lot of ground, though there’s some additional information in this update which I didn’t get to in the meeting.
Courtesy Fairfield County Writers’ Studio
First up are the writing classes you need to sign up for now if you want to begin the New Year with a resolution to write more. Fairfield County Writers Studio (see photo left) has a huge variety – check them out here. in addition to classes and workshops, they are having another pitch party on January 28th, with Marilyn Allen, literary agent.
At the Westport Public Library, under the Westport WRITES banner, author and teacher Mary-Lou Weisman will lead a new six-part series for beginning writers, as well as an eight-session series for advanced writers. Introductory Non-Fiction Writing Workshop is on Thursdays, January 12-February 16 from 1:15-2:45 pm. There’s also an Advanced Non-Fiction Writing Workshop on Thursdays from January 10-April 18. This is an eight-session workshop for those who have had some experience in writing memoir and personal essay. You’ll need to submit some writing beforehand to ensure that you’re experienced enough for this class. Contact the library for more details: email@example.com
Write Yourself Free in Westport is also beginning its new year classes with a series of master classes for mixed genres. Join Patrick McCord Tuesday or Wednesday morning and evening, or Thursday afternoons to get your writing fix. If you’re interested in memoir or screenwriting, you can join specific classes in those genres. Get more info on all their classes here.
A propos of learning new things, one of our members, Alison McBain, attended the one-day workshop on writing for children that I mentioned last month. She’s written a blog post giving an overview of it, so if you want to know what went down, click on the link.
In addition, Alison finished her novel during NaNoWriMo and pitched it via a Twitter event called #pitmad. PitMad stands for Pitch Madness. There’s an excellent article on this one-day event here. Doing this has resulted in several agents asking to see Alison’s novel, which is terrific. You can pitch any genre, so check it out. You’ll need a Twitter account to pitch.
Being British myself, and writing in the British style, I sometimes wonder why people here don’t get exactly what I mean. For any of you writing something with a British character, here’s a very good run-down from Joanna Penn (of The Creative Penn) on how to get the Britishness just right. It might help you understand me, too…
The Connecticut Press Club wants your submissions for the Annual Communications Contest. Last year some people found it hard to submit, but the process has been streamlines for this year. They’ll be sending out a call for entries next week with instructions how to enter your work in the contest. To ensure you’re on their mailing list, email CTPressclub@gmail.com. That way, you’ll get all the information as it happens. There are 64 categories, so if you’ve had work published/broadcast/launched etc during 2016, check the list. The Connecticut early bird deadline is January 17 and the regular deadline is February 6. They’re going to swap judging duties with the Illinois affiliate of the NFPW, which means that they judge Connecticut’s entries and CT judges theirs. Please let the CPC know at the email above if you’re interested being a judge.
I found an interesting article specifically targeted to writers with books they want to promote. It tells you how to run Facebook Ads that work. If that writer is you, take a look.
Hearst Magazines used to have a collective submission system called the Mix, which allowed you to submit to all their publications simultaneously. Since its demise, it’s been harder to do that. There’s a list of all the Hearst editors in the following blog: How to pitch Hearst magazines now The Mix has gone.
The most popular feature of the annual Unicorn Writers Conference, taking place March 25th , 2017, is the 30-minute One-on-Ones with top NYC agents and editors. For an additional $60 over the basic $325 cost, you get a 30-minute sit-down with the agent or editor of your choice, who will have read 40 pages of your manuscript as well as your two-page summary. For $150, Unicorn for Writers is offering to help you edit and polish those 40 pages before you submit them to those agents for the conference. You can find out more by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
And finally, here’s the link for BookBub, for people who asked me for it. Pick your preferred genres, and BookBub will send you daily offers on e-books at much reduced prices. They’re books by well-known authors as well as newer writers.
And all that remains is for me to wish all my readers a very happy holiday week (or so). Keep writing!
The FCWS is working with the Westport Library to create a new program called Westport Writes, designed to guide writers through all stages of writing and publishing. They’ll be offering talks, workshops etc, with the next one taking place this weekend.
The Connecticut Chapter of the Romance Writers of America is holding its annual Fiction Fest in Norwalk from September 9-11. The conference is open to any writer, and there’s the possibility of having an agent or editor look at your work and give you feedback. Registration closes on August 25th. $209.
A propos of ‘You Wrote a Book…, Jan Kardys is offering a one-day conference in Groton on September 10th, with Marilyn Allen (agent) Sal Gilbertie (herbalist and non-fiction writer) and Katie Henderson, who will tell you about social media marketing, among others.
Alex McNab recommends the ‘away days’ offered by FCWS, where you can spend the day just writing without distractions, and without the internet, if you’re strong enough not to ask for the Wi-Fi password. This how he got to the end of a major edit on his novel.
His latest blog post for the Fairfield Writers is up now. It’s an interview with Betsy Lerner, agent, editor and author of The Bridge Ladies, a memoir, but also of The Forest for the Trees, a book about editing.
Alex also found a good article about hiring a professional editor. You can read it here. And he recommends these two new books on writing:
The Accidental Life: An Editor’s Notes on Writing and Writers by Terry McDonell (Knopf, $26.95) and The Kite and the String: How to Write with Spontaneity and Control—and Live to Tell the Tale by Alice Mattison (Viking, $25)
The Mark Twain House in Hartford is hosting its annual Writers’ Weekend from September 23-25th. It’s a conference that covers many genres and offers more than 30 different workshops. Registration is $180, and you can write in Mark Twain’s Library on Saturday or Sunday morning for an additional $30.
Don’t forget to come and read at the Fairfield Public Library if you can. Writers Read open mic is on September 6, at 7pm. The Writers’ Salon , a discussion group, is on September 9, at 4pm (a week later than usual, to avoid conflicts on the Labor Day weekend).
Norwalk Public Library is running several literary/writing events, too. Their next author visit if by Anne Korkeaviki, author of Shining Sea, who will be talking about her most recent novel at 12pm on August 22nd.
Norwalk is also where Leslie Kerr (their author-in-residence) runs the Norwalk Writers’ Guild, which meets every 1st and 3rd Thursday of the month from 5.30-7pm. For those members of the Writers’ Rendezvous who were looking for an evening group, this might offer an opportunity. One session each month is dedicated to discussion of the writing process, then writers can post their work online for critiquing before the second meeting. And the Guild is planning an annual conference next year, too.
Sheryl Kayne is organizing a contest on her website for people interested in Volunteer travel. Details here.
I recently registered for the Unicorn Writers’ Conference, a one day affair which takes place on August 15th in Westchester County, NY. And last Thursday, I attended a talk given by its founder, Jan Kardys, where she explained what it is that sets her conference apart from others. I was particularly interested in the possibility of having professional editors and agent do an assessment of my work, just to see if I’m on the right track. You can find out more below, and if you aren’t able to attend the conference, I think you’ll find Jan’s book really helpful, too. GC: You’re a literary agent, which is a demanding job. When and why did you decide to found the Unicorn Writers’ Conference? JK: Unicorn Writers’ Conference came to life in 2010 after attending many writers’ conferences as a guest speaker throughout the US. It occurred to me that since I had worked inside publishing for 35 years for 10 major NYC book publishers, I could get top editors, agents, and speakers to attend a conference if I put one together. I think writers need to understand the various departments within a traditional publishing company, the role of agents and editors, and how to improve their writing skills.
GC: What are the reasons to attend a conference like yours? JK: What sets Unicorn Writers’ Conference above the competition is the large list of top literary agents, NYC book editors from major publishing houses. Unicorn’s manuscript review sessions are better than our competition – a deal with major agents for 40 pages and a 2 page book summary (all read in advance) for $55 and 30 minutes with an agent and/or editor. Writers have found their agents at Unicorn Writers’ Conference and we have book deals with two major NYC book publishers. GC: How is it different from other writers’ conferences? JK: We run five (5) different workshops for writers every hour. This is an opportunity to meet literary agents, pitch your book, network with other writers, meet printers, sponsors, and learn about the benefits of traditional publishing vs self-publishing. We also select our best-selling keynote speaker from a list of published authors who will motivate and inspire our attending writers. This year the keynote speaker is New York Times best-selling author, Stephanie Evanovich. We carefully cover craft, career, and connections for writers. Unicorn focuses on workshops that will educate writers – agent panels cover copy in marketing books, character, social media, plots, and book proposals. Unicorn selects agents and editors that cover many genres in order to reach more writers, including poetry, fiction and non-fiction. We are proud that Writers’ Digest Magazine interviewed us in their magazine in 2012, and you know you are successful when many literary agents throughout the US and New York City ask to return each year.
GC: What are the main mistakes writers make when they’re trying to get published? JK: The first mistake is submitting your manuscript without having it edited by a freelance editor before you send it off to literary agents, or publishers that will consider unsolicited manuscripts (without an agent). Too often writers are under the impression that a book editor will assist the writer in “rewriting, restructuring and revising the book.” This is not the process today. Agents and editors have higher expectations in today’s marketplace, and they demand manuscripts that are fully edited, in excellent editorial shape, ready for publication, and without any errors, etc. The second mistake is not researching your competition for your book before you write it. Third mistake is not setting up social media before you write your book. Start networking with writers now as it is a long process to build an audience and followers.
GC: Have you ever found someone you decided to represent at your conference? JK: Yes, a former newspaper reporter who wrote a novel set in the 14th century. It is currently under submission. The author originally signed up with John Ware (who attended the conference for many years – a former Doubleday book editor, former agent at Curtis Brown, and agent at John Ware Agency). John died and this author connected with me via LinkedIn and I was blown away about her novel. I can’t wait to sell it!