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

Westport Writers’ Rendezvous – October update

We had our usual excellent get-together on Wednesday, and as always, we covered a lot of ground, from upcoming events, to publishing ideas. Here are some of the many upcoming events in our part of the world:

For the poets among us, the Dodge Poetry Festival is happening in Newark this year from October 20-23.

The Fairfield County Writers’ Studio in Westport will be hosting an open mic on October 29th from 2-4pm. Different from other open mics, in that, if you choose,  you can have your performance critiqued  – with helpful suggestions for improving your presentation.

Book Riot is a website/podcast/newsletter for readers about reading. Their conference, Book Riot Live takes place in New York from November 12-13, and will have a host of speakers, including Walter Mosley, among others.

The Groton Public Library will be hosting its Annual Authors’ Festival on November 5, from 12-3pm. Over forty Connecticut authors will be there, reading, signing books, and giving attendees a chance to talk to them one-on-one. They’ll have refreshments and door prizes, too. Call 860-441-6750 for more information.51eenpcnryl

And finally, Susan Israel, our own crime novelist, will be in conversation with author Jim Valeri at Banks Square Books in Mystic on November 15th from 6-730pm. She’ll be talking about her latest book, Student Bodies.

In other news, the Connecticut Author Directory highlights the literary heritage of our state through a compilation of contemporary and historical author profiles. It’s compiled by the CT Center for the Book. If you live in Connecticut (or were born here but live somewhere else), have produced work while living in CT, written at least one single-author book, and your book is available for purchase or in libraries, you’re eligible to be included. If you’ve self-published, but your book has been reviewed by professional literature journals, you’re also eligible.

And talking of reviews, Kirkus Reviews is offering a 5 Step Marketing Guide that will walk you through the 5 most successful steps to marketing your book. Topics covered include: Ways to establish credibility as an author, guidance on how to leverage your current or future paid endorsements, instruction for selling your book rights – which can be the most lucrative result of independent publishing, and direction on how to invest your money into selling your book. All useful stuff.

Authors First, which bills itself as a virtual writers’ conference, is running its third annual novel competition, open to any work of previously unpublished fiction 40,000 words or longer. The winner will get $5,000 and a contract to publish with the Story Plant, a Stamford, CT publisher. Submission guidelines here.

Those of you Nano’ing this year will want to participate in the Westport Library’s encouraging events. On October 31, they have an all-night write in, starting at midnight, with coffee and snack available, to get you off to a flying start. And to finish the month, there’s a last-minute write-out (new one on me, but you get the drift. GC) from 9pm-midnight. Details of these and other writing events on the Library website.

Jan Kardys, literary agent and organizer of the Unicorn Writers’ Conference, has a Meetup for people interested in book publishing. She covers some of the same ground we do, but it’s possible to have work critiqued too.

Beyond your Blog, a website for bloggers, has an interesting article on the main reasons bloggers lose their connection with readers. It begins with ‘sporadic publishing’ and gores on through readers’ pet peeves (bad writing/editing) and more. Worth a read for almost any social media efforts you’re making.

Writers Read will be at the Fairfield Public Library from 7-9 on Tuesday, November 1, and the Writers’ Salon will be there at 4pm on Friday November 4th. I, on the other hand, will be out of the country.

Enjoy the Autumn!

 

 

 

Westport Writers’ Rendezvous – September update

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.

aliceOn Saturday, October 8, from 10-12.30pm, Alice Mattison will present a Master Class at the Fairfield County Writers’ Studio in Westport. She is the author of six novels, including When We Argued All Night, a New York Times Book Review Editors’ Choice. Her guide to writing, The Kite and the String: How to Write with Spontaneity and Control—and Live to Tell the Tale, is included in the fee for the workshop. Check out the FCWS website for details on this hands-on way to jump start a stalled story or begin a new one.

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.

The following week, on Sunday, October 2, novelist Stephanie Lehman – Thoughts While Having Sex, Are You in the Mood?, You Could do Better and The Art of Undressing– will be doing a workshop on Planning Your Novel.

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

Get all the details here and contact faculty member Linda Legters at info@fcwritersstudio.com for more information.

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!

 

 

 

 

 

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!

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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.

 

 

Westport Writers’ Rendezvous – January Update

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

If you have a novella waiting in the wings (Max 20,000 words) you should submit it to The Malahat Review (Canada). The prize is $1500 (Canadian, but still). Deadline Feb 1. http://www.malahatreview.ca/contests/contests_info.html

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).

For children’s book writers among us, here is Gail Gaulthier’s Calendar of Children’s book author events, which includes author appearances, workshops, conferences etc. Here’s the calendar I mentioned this morning: http://blog.gailgauthier.com/search/label/CCLC-Connecticut%20Children’s%20Lit%20Calendar This link looks weird, so if it doesn’t work go to Gail Gauthier‘s blog and look on the left for the calendar. One of these is the Big Sur Conference Cape Cod, which takes place in May this year.

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.

Hope you find this useful!

 

Westport Writers’ Rendezvous

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:writers-clock

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.

Someone else talked about the Kristin Nelson literary Agency based in Colorado. They have a blog called Pub Rants, which specializes in giving suggestions for how to improve your submissions.

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.

 

Author Interview: Nina Mansfield

NinaMansfieldBeachPic Nina Mansfield is a prolific writer whose credits include numerous full length and short plays which have been produced around the world. Her short mystery fiction has appeared in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine and Mysterical-E. She’s a member of the Mystery Writers of America, and I met her recently at the CrimeCONN conference, organized by the New York Chapter of the MWA, which includes Connecticut. Swimming Alone, her most recent work, marks a departure for her in that it’s a full length mystery novel for Young Adults.

GC: I know you’ve written many short plays, and had them produced. And you’ve written a play for young children. What made you want to write a YA novel, and a crime novel, at that?

NM: I have always loved mysteries. As I youngster, I loved reading Nancy Drew Books, Two-Minute mysteries, and books by Lois Duncan, Joan Lowery-Nixon and Agatha Christie. I fondly remember curling up on the couch with my mother to watch Murder, She Wrote, Columbo and those Perry Mason television movies that came out in the 80s. I have also spent nine-years teaching high school in both New York City and the suburbs. I began reading a lot of young adult novels when I was in graduate school for teaching. One of the things I discovered my first year teaching was that many young adults craved novels with suspense. I wanted to write a YA novel that would keep even the most reluctant reader on the edge of her or his seat.

GC: My readers are interested in YA books, because they are so popular right now. Could you explain the difference between YA and Middle school and new adult books for us?

NM: First of all, we have to remember that these are all relatively new labels that were invented for marketing purposes. However, what I think writers should bear in mind is that children of different ages have different concerns and interests. Think about who you were as person at age eleven. What did you like? What intrigued you? What were your feSwimmingAlonefrnt (2)ars? Now think about age sixteen. Your perspective probably shifted during those years. If a writer is choosing to write specifically for a particular age group, the concerns and interests of that target audience need to be kept in mind.

To give some very basic guidelines, young adult books generally have a protagonist who is high school age, and these books tend to have a major romantic component. With middle grade, the protagonists are younger, and the themes generally focus on things such as friendship, or navigating social norms. But those are very general guidelines. And honestly, new adult is a very new category for me, so I can’t really speak to that!

I think that Swimming Alone actually departs from the traditional idea of the young adult novel, as the mystery in the novel is far more important than any of the romantic elements.

GC: Your character, Cathy has a very distinctive voice, with a nice sense of humor. How did you manage to capture the voice of a 15-year-old so well?

NM: Well, thank you! I wrote Swimming Alone while I was teaching high school, so I was definitely influenced by my students. High school students talk a lot, and they often don’t care that an adult is in the room—so I certainly overheard more than my share of teen conversations. I also still have a snarky 15-year old hiding inside me, so I really worked on channeling her as I was writing the novel.

GC: Your setting, Beach Point, sounds like a fun place, apart from the serial killer on the loose, of course. Is it based on a place you know, and if so, what made you think of setting this kind of a crime there?

NM: The town of Beach Point is very loosely based on my childhood memories of Misquamicut, Rhode Island. When I was very young, my grandparents would rent a bungalow there. But in reality, I fused a few beachside towns into what would eventually become Beach Point. I have always been attracted to seaside settings—both personally, and for my writing. It’s funny, because I don’t ever remember making a conscious decision to set SWIMMING ALONE at the beach. The idea just came to me, and I started writing.

GC: Is Cathy likely to have any more adventures like this one? In other words, is she likely to become part of a series?

NM: I have thought of writing another Cathy Banks mystery. If I do, the next book will be set in New York City. But right now, I am working on a young adult paranormal thriller currently titled In Deep. I don’t want to say too much about this current project, but it is also set near the water—this time on Long Island Sound. This book is also much darker than SWIMMING ALONE. The characters are less naïve than Cathy. They’ve already experienced some trauma in their lives.

You can connect with Nina via Facebook, Twitter and her blog

Writers Connect: Jacqueline Masumian

We’re very lucky here in Fairfield County, Connecticut, because we get a constant stream of authors willing to visit and share their wisdom. I’m not saying that selling some books has nothing to do with it, but I’m often impressed by how willing they are to discuss their writing process, how they found an agent, etc. So I’ve decided to begin recording some of them, and asking for a piece of advice about writing.

 

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The first up is Jacqueline Masumian, a local writer, whose memoir, Nobody Home, has garnered critical praise. I loved her book; it’s a charming memoir. From her childhood in Ohio, to her life as a landscape architect, via acting, singing and market research, she takes the reader through a vivid journey. The memoir tries to make sense of her distant mother and a father who left the family when she was a child. Attempting to understand one’s family is something I suspect most of us do. Jacqueline has made it possible for us to understand hers in a very readable way.
When she came to the Westport Library recently to talk about the art of memoir, I asked her what particular advice she would give to her fellow writers.Here’s what she said:
The best advice I could give would be to share your work with a group of other memoir writers; a workshop setting gives you deadlines, forcing you to write every day, and provides very valuable feedback on your writing. Groups in which you read out loud to the other writers provide a special advantage, because reading your work aloud alerts you to any awkward sentences or incomplete thoughts you may have overlooked. I could not have written my book without the many thoughtful comments of my workshop friends.