Archive for the ‘writers conference’ Category

Read more about the event featuring three writers’ organizations in Western Massachusetts — and the BONUS!


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The following essay was written by Mohammad and Priscilla Yadegari.

It was summer of 2017 and we were in our car on vacation in the Adirondacks. My cell phone rang and my daughter said, “Turn on your radio right now.” It was a program on getting your manuscript published. My wife and I had worked on our manuscript, ALWAYS AN IMMIGRANT, A CULTURAL MEMOIR, for several years and it was basically finished. We needed a publisher.

During the program the guest speaker suggested attending writing conferences, specifically discussing the WriteAngles Conference held annually in South Hadley, Massachusetts. We found the conference online and attended that fall.

The conference was wonderful, including speakers, individual short meetings with agents, and workshops. It was there that we met WriteAngles Journal editor Joan Axelrod-Contrada who has been more than encouraging over the last three years. We attended three conferences and participated in other activities where we read portions of our book to audiences and other writers. We found everyone helpful, friendly, and encouraging.

We were tending toward self-publishing because we did not want to spend five years looking for an agent or a publisher. We had talked to a business outfit which assisted authors in self-publishing their books. What concerned us was the fact that they didn’t even intend to read the book. They would just print it as given. Formatting, copyediting, proofreading, interior design, and cover were our responsibility.

Then at the WriteAngles Conference in 2019, we attended a session called “Paths to Publication” where panelists discussed the pros and cons of big publishers, indie presses, and hybrids. The term hybrid refers to a model in which authors invest in their projects up front — in lieu of receiving an advance, as from a traditional publisher.

In addition, we met with one of the panelists, Mary Bisbee-Beek. We must congratulate WriteAngles Conference for their choice. Mary was extremely forthcoming to our needs and desires. When we mentioned that we did not want to spend a long time searching for a publisher, she suggested White River Press, a collaborative publishing company. (It is seemingly a hybrid but they insist on the description collaborative.)

The advantage of this collaborative press is that they are selective in their choice of books to publish, and they insist that all manuscripts published by them be brought up to industry standards. This includes being copy-edited and professionally proofread as well as using a professional designer for the book cover and arrangement of the text. The cost of this process was charged to us (our upfront investment). Another advantage is that White River Press uses a print-on-demand format. Books are printed as needed and there is no need to decide on a number of books (50, 100, 500) up front.

While we had thought that our manuscript was in excellent condition, we were very impressed with the work that they did and very pleased with the final product.

White River Press gave us a tentative schedule for each step in the process and they kept to that schedule very successfully. The book, ALWAYS AN IMMIGRANT, A CULTURAL MEMOIR, is listed with Amazon, Barnes and Noble, bookshop.org, and wholesalers Ingram Book Company and Baker & Taylor. We have had some good reviews and a podcast interview. At this point, we are hopeful about selling a good number of books.

We once heard of a survey that asked authors why they wrote their books. The most common reply was “Because I had to.” It feels great to be finished! Without the WriteAngles Conference we might still be chasing our dream.

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We have decided not to hold an in-person conference this year on October 30 because of uncertainty about conditions in the Fall. We are currently having virtual meetings to plan what we might do instead, possibly involving hosting live panels or speakers via digital streaming — on one or more  dates.

We would love to hear from those who have ideas about what sorts of things they would like to see.

Also, if you have had positive — or negative — experience with online panels or conferences and have suggestions on how best to conduct them, please let us know.

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Until the next WriteAngles conference on October 31, 2020. Planning is about to begin.

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Joan Axelrod-Contrada will be leading this year’s workshop on Flash Memoir. She was interviewed by fellow workshop presenter Tzivia Gover.

How long have you been writing? When did the writing bug first bite you?

I started making up “furry tales” for my French poodle, Sherry, when I was eight years old. In high school, I fell in love with journalism, which rescued me from my poor-poor-pitiful-me introverted adolescent self. What I like best about writing – whether it be journalism, children’s books, journaling, or flash memoir — is that it focuses my mind. I need that in much the same way I need air to breathe.

What got you interested in flash fiction and memoir?

I’ve always enjoyed reading the first-person essays and annual short-story contest winners in the Daily Hampshire Gazette. When the Gazette stopped running its short story contest, my late husband, Fred, and I thought of publishing our own anthologies, but we couldn’t figure out how to make them financially viable. So I brought the idea of a literary journal to the WriteAngles committee, and the rest is history.

How has your experience with this short form enhanced your writing and your life?

I started journaling and blogging around the time Fred developed an awful degenerative neurological disease. A couple of my pieces lent themselves beautifully to our 500-word format. I found that writing helped me come up with new perspectives on and solutions to my problems. My challenges found new life as flash memoir!

What’s one tip you can share with us for distilling a story to its purest essence?

Think concrete. An item in your closet or food on your table can evoke powerful emotions. Some of our best pieces in the journal have involved items such as a VW van, a dad’s army jacket, a wooden cane, a purchase on Amazon.com, or a pair of expensive leather boots.

Who are your favorite writers who are skillful at saying a lot in very few words?

Ernest Hemingway is the master! His six-word flash story is classic. “For sale: baby shoes, never worn.”

You’ll be leading this year’s workshop on Flash Memoir. Can you tell us a little about what you’re planning?

Yes, I’ll be talking about what I see as the three key ingredients for successful flash memoir. Writing is like baking a cake. Once you mix the ingredients into a batter, you need to find the right baking dish for it. Just like there are loaf pans and cupcake tins as well as cake pans, flash memoir can take a variety of forms above and beyond the traditional prose essay. Among the different forms: verse, lists, and letters. I’ll finish up with the icing on the cake, which I see as style.

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If you are interested in attending the conference, you may register on Saturday.

The registration fee is slightly higher, $120.00 at the door. For full-time students and those aged 65 or over, the fee at the door is $100.

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Pre-registration will end tomorrow at noon. Please be patient if you do not get immediate confirmation (we’re all volunteers).

We are accepting materials for agent meetings until 5 pm tomorrow.

We will accept walk-ins on Saturday.

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We have just published a new flash memoir by Steve Bernstein.

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The conference is this coming Saturday! Registration is still open, and it’s still possible to schedule a meeting with one of the three literary agents, but time is of the essence: The registration fee must be paid and required materials submitted by 5 p.m. Wednesday (details provided upon registration). Mary Bisbee-Beek is fully booked.

Walk-in registration will be available on Saturday.

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Ellen Meeropol interviews Dusty Miller, a panelist on the Paths to Publication panel.

How did you come to write the mystery series?

When I began the first Alice Ott mystery, I had no clue that I would end up writing a series. After a long career in mental health, including writing many articles and non-fiction books, I wanted to do something new. I created Alice Ott, an elderly cane-wielding sleuth who carries a purse and a small oxygen tank. Although she was the perfect fit for a Miss Marple “cozy,” Alice tackled crime of national and international proportions. In the first of the “Danger” series, biological weapons were being secretly developed at a U.S military facility, microbiologists were being assassinated around the world, and Alice Ott was on the case!

Though most amatuer sleuths her age are relegated to the cozy, Alice and her friends went on in the next three books facing the kind of danger more suited to political thrillers. Inspired by Alice Ott prototypes (like Frances Crowe, a peace icon and long-time friend and mentor), Alice propelled me to write three more books in the “Danger” mysteries.

Who gave you the most encouragement early on?

I was lucky to find Dori Ostermiller’s Writers in Progress program as I began my mystery writing journey. The writing workshops eventually evolved into writers support groups, and I continued to be challenged, inspired and loved by my sister writer friends.

What is the most rewarding part of being a writer for you?

I love my relationships with my characters. They entertain and thrill me just like playing make- believe when I was a child. I have treasured deeply sustaining relationships with Frances Crowe and Ann Wilson, the two main inspirations for the Alice Ott character. Having Frances at my side for numerous local bookstore and library book talks has been an extraordinary gift.

What do you do in your daily life that supports your writing life?

I walk two to four miles a day year round. This is as important to my writing life as the hours spent at the computer. I also read planfully — perhaps addictively — and find a mix of mysteries, contemporary fiction, and miscellaneous non-fiction keep my “learning” cells alive.

Have you ever gotten writer’s block? How did you snap our of it?

No, not really. I think I suffer from too much social hunger to notice if I have writer’s block. I find it hard to take enough time alone to write. When I get myself to finally sit down at the computer, I’m excited that I have a block of writing time.

What are you planning to talk about at the conference?

I’m talking about my experiences with indie press publishing vs mainstream. In my nonfiction publishing years, I had more success than I deserved, really. My clinical work in the field of trauma and addiction opened a direct path to publishing. I never had to do the work of finding and negotiating with mainstream publishers; they found me. When I switched to writing fiction and got over the shock of discovering that my success in nonfiction wasn’t ready currency, I was lucky enough to find two local indie presses, White River Press and Levellers Press. I will explain how that has worked out, mostly very well.

You’ve said that DANGER IN THE HOUSE is your last Alice Ott novel. What’s next for you?

I’m trying to settle on whether to begin a new mystery series set in Florida where my wife and I live in the winter, or finally get down to working on a memoir centered on my experiences with death. The latter has been evolving in small pieces for too long now, and I have to either commit to it or dive into the Florida series.

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