a weblog for readers and writers

Monday, July 30, 2007

A Great (Gatsby) Conference

The F. Scott Fitzgerald Literary Conference is set for October 13, 2007.

This year, the conference honors William Kennedy for Outstanding Achievement in American Literature.

Since local writers will be the ones, after all, to gain the most from this event, the marketing director is extending an invitation to writers (us) before issuing general releases to the standard press and general public.

You heard it here first!

The F. Scott Fitzgerald Literary Conference is a full day of workshops, discussions, panels, and salons for writers. This year's workshop leaders include Susan Coll (fiction), Alix Ohlin (short story), Carly Sachs (poetry), Donna Andrews (mystery) and Margaret Blair (young adult) - to name only a few.

The Conference is all day October 13, 2007, from 8:45 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. and is held at Montgomery College's Theatre Arts Center in Rockville, Maryland. The cost is $85 with several levels of discounts available (including early registration, student, and senior).

Be among the first to register — before it’s even in the news — by responding to the email below.


Friday, July 27, 2007

Freedom to Fight

How can a domestic disagreement be harder to handle than a physical war? Find out in the latest installment of "Freedom." In part 11, Joe visits his girlfriend during his time off between tours. He discovers that talking about the war is more difficult than fighting in it.

Read “Freedom (Part 11)" at the link below—and feel free to follow the links all the way back to part one!


Wednesday, July 25, 2007

The Damage of Not Writing

It pains me to write this. No, really. It literally hurts as I write this. And all because I didn’t stick to my plan of staying in my cabin and getting some writing done.

Well, maybe not entirely because of that.

When my family and I went to the Catskill Mountains of upstate New York, I’d planned to use a good portion of my time working on my writing: some fiction, a travel writing on Czech Republic, Russia, and France.

But when we settled in at the riverside resort, there was a comfortable breeze in the cool air, the sound of the flowing river was soothing, and I couldn’t help myself. I found a flat, comfortable rock and laid back in the sun.

Before I knew it, I had burned. Not just any sunburn. A severe burn and sun poisoning that required medical attention. I had so many blisters, my blisters had blisters! In some areas, my skin was more liquid than solid, and in other areas my swelling made the tight skin even more uncomfortable.

The doctor prescribed four medications and hit me with a shot.

Not only was I in pain, but I couldn’t concentrate on anything! I couldn’t even focus on reading a novel, let alone writing one.

I’ve learned my lesson. No, not to always wear sunscreen, even when the mountain weather seems deceivingly cool — although that’s good advice too.

The lesson is, when you plan to stay inside to get some writing done, you’d better do it, or you may get burned!

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Pitching to Agents and Publishers

The July meeting of the Maryland Writers Association Baltimore Chapter will be this Monday July 23 at 7 p.m. and will be held at BlueHouse Cafe, 1407 Fleet Street, in Fells Point. Map and directions are here.

Christine Stewart shares her secrets for perfecting your pitch to agents and publishers. Christine is a fiction writer, poet, writer-in-residence at the Creative Alliance, instructor of the Write Here, Write Now workshops, and a founding co-sponsor of the MWA Baltimore Chapter. (Not to mention a nice person and good friend.)

Pitching is one of the most important business skills a writer can develop, and Chris has a lot of experience to share -- you won't want to miss it.

Come and join us this Monday! The meeting is free for members, and first-time guests, or $5 for returning guests.

In the meantime, here are two articles from another expert in the publishing industry, my friend Ally Peltier, as published in Writers Weekly – the world’s largest freelance writing ezine.

The Care and Feeding of Editorial Assistants:


Begin at the Beginning: Choosing the Right Sample Chapters for AgentSubmissions:


Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Treat Writing Like a Job

Ever wonder how a master novelist like Alice McDermott approaches her writing? She explained her process in Bethesda Maryland as she shared her novel-writing advice with me and a group of local writers.

Alice McDermott treats fiction writing like a full-time job — because it is one.

Alice writes four days a week and treats writing like a real job on those four days. She’s never been exclusively a full-time fiction writer. She teaches, does workshops, and fills her time with other activities as well. Few fiction writers actually write full time … or rather, few of them make it an exclusive job.

“As literary fiction writers, we’re trying to get to something true of us all. So write about common humanity, communal experience, not about a place, plot. Show universal truth to the reader in an interesting way.”

That sounds like a full-time job to me.

Friday, July 06, 2007

TRACKS Story Published in To Be Read Aloud

A slightly altered version of a story from TRACKS, my novel in stories, has been published in the latest edition of To Be Read Aloud.

To Be Read Aloud is an anthology of stories used by universities, high schools, and voice coaches. The anthology is used in oral competitions nationwide.

My story, “The Stein Between Us,” is one of the opening stories in the latest issue. “The Stein Between Us” is a first-person variation of my story “A Good Beer Needs a Good Stein.”

A Good Beer Needs a Good Stein” is the second story from TRACKS, which was read by more than a thousand people as a semi-finalist in the Gather First Chapters Writing Competition earlier this year. An abridged version of the story was also featured on National Public Radio, and won third place in the Maryland Writers’ Association annual fiction contest.

When the editor of To Be Read Aloud read my story in its original form, he offered me a check and a publishing contract — with one request. Because every story published in To Be Read Aloud is in first person, for the purposes of oral competitions, he asked me to rework it as a first-person narrative.

The anthology is a little pricy at $60 a volume — it has a built-in niche audience. However, I’m tapped into contributor copies for half that rate. I’d be happy to send anyone a copy for my contributor’s rate of $30, if interested. (Or just listen to the third-person reading on NPR for free by scrolling down to the link in the previous posting.)

To learn more about To Be Read Aloud, visit their website.


To learn more about TRACKS, a novel in stories, visit the novel’s site.


Writing to Convey the Pain and Sweetness of Life

When my friend and fellow writer, Julee Newberger, asked novelist Alice McDermott what she’d hoped to achieve with her latest novel, After This, and also what she hoped to achieve with her next novel, that’s what Alice answered: "To convey, however briefly, the pain and sweetness of life... that answers both those questions."

Author Alice McDermott has been nominated for two Pulitzer Prizes and won a National Book Award in 1998 for her novel Charming Billy. Not to mention she’s a New York Times Bestselling novelist. And yet, she remains a down-to-earth soccer mom willing to share her knowledge with other writers.

I can attest to that as I’ve met her on four different occasions at events focused on helping emerging authors and the literary community. She has always been receptive to questions and open with sincere advice.

Alice recently chatted with Julee about After This, and about the craft of writing, for an interview published at failbetter.com.

“I let my characters lead the way,” she said of her process. “If their emotions and experiences are authentic, even if authentically sentimental or melodramatic, I’m not going to tell them otherwise.”

Allow me to lead the way to the full interview. You can read Julee Newberger’s interview with Alice McDermott at the link below.


Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Celebrate Freedom this Fourth of July

This Independence Day, patriots around the nation will find a number of ways to celebrate freedom. If you like reading and writing, here’s the perfect way for you to get your patriotic groove on: check out the latest installment of my short story, “Freedom,” as published in Coloquio.

Freedom," a story from TRACKS, continues to be serialized in Coliquio, an online magazine that boasts seven million hits a year. TRACKS is a novel in stories about passengers on a train traveling from Baltimore to Chicago.

In this 10th episode, Joe returns to the states and reunites with his girlfriend, Bi’nh. He’s thrilled to be with his love again, but finds himself in a battle more troublesome than the ones he faced overseas.

Enjoy this installment at the link below; follow the links back all the way to the beginning of the story.


Monday, July 02, 2007

A Summer Afternoon with Rafael Alvarez

Baltimore Renaissance Man Rafael Alvarez will be sharing his love for writing and reading from his work in Baltimore this Saturday, July 7. The event will take place at 2 p.m. in the Poe Room of the downtown Enoch Pratt Library.

You may know Rafael from his years as a reporter for The Baltimore Sun, or as author of the fiction collections, Orlo and Leini and The Fountain of Highlandtown. Or you may know his work as a television writer for Homocide, The Wire, and The Black Donnelly’s. Many people know him as the Mister Baltimore, the teller of Baltimore stories.

Spend a summer afternoon with Baltimore’s storyteller this Saturday.

Learn more about Rafael Alvarez at his website.