Since the beginning, this blog has been “The Writers Circle”. But as many of you know, The Writers Circle has taken on a life of its own. I thought it high time to claim this space for me as a writer – a novelist. I’m calling it “Digging for Words: One writer’s quest to bring the past alive through imagination”. And though these days my time is consumed with running our workshops and all the business-y nonsense of keeping TWC alive and well, I am still and will continue working on my novel, bit by bit.
When I have something to share, like that very fun news about being on Mankind that I announced the other day, I’ll do it here. And eventually, when I have a moment to write about MY WRITING above and beyond the role I’ve grown into as a teacher and director of The Writers Circle, this’ll be the place.
Now, off to write for real!
As an addendum to my last post, I just heard from Words Bookstore in Maplewood that Pitchapalooza is coming on October 27. You can get all the details at Pitchapalooza’s site, but here’s a brief intro to what they do. I hear from friends that their events are well worth a visit.
“Five years ago, we created an event that has drawn thousands of people into bookstores, writing conferences and book festivals all over the country. It’s called Pitchapalooza, the American Idol for books (only without Simon) and it works like this: Anyone with an idea for a book has the chance to pitch it to a panel of judges. But they get only one minute. Eckstut and Sterry team up with two guest industry insiders to form the judging panel. The Judges critique everything from idea to style to potential in the marketplace and much, much more. Whether potential authors pitch themselves, or simply listen to trained professionals critique each presentation, Pitchapaloozas are educational and entertaining for one and all. All attendees come away with concrete advice on how to improve their pitch as well as a greater understanding of the ins and outs of the publishing industry.
“At the end of each Pitchapalooza, the judges come together to pick a winner. The winner receives a half hour consultation with Eckstut and Sterry. From Miami to Portland, from LA to NYC, and many stops along the way, Pitchapaloozas have consistently drawn standing-room-only crowds, press and blog coverage, and the kind of bookstore buzz reserved for celebrity authors.”
Check out these great happenings at The Writers Circle and in our broader, connected creative circles.
First, we’re officially launching our monthly Writers Circle Speaker Series with a talk that goes beyond writing to all aspects of creative thinking.
Join me and TWC Associate Director Michelle Cameron on October 2, 2-4PM for “Tapping into Creativity” at Luna Stage, 555 Valley Road, West Orange. We’ll be talking about how to bring creative thinking to the classroom, the workplace, and yes, into your own creative work, with hands-on exercises that will challenge your imagination. Tickets are $25/session if pre-registered, $35 at the door, and only $20/session for TWC students and parents (former and current). Students should’ve gotten an email with the discount code, but if you didn’t, just let us know. Register online and, while you’re at it, check out the entire schedule of ten great events. (It’s only $150 for all 10 sessions!)
Second, my good friend, novelist Christina Baker-Kline, shares this terrific mini-retreat for creative women. (Sorry, guys. I’ll find something for you next time!)
Rejuvenate Your Writing Life!
A Restorative Mini-Retreat for Creative Women
with authors Christina Baker Kline and Deborah Siegel
Friday, November 4, 9:30am – 3:30pm, Montclair, New Jersey
This one’s not just for writers. As Christina says, “it’s for anyone who may have a story (or stories) inside but needs a little inspiration and encouragement.” Christina and Deborah are both professional writing mothers who believe that writing is vital — even when it has to happen in the crevices of our lives. (How true!) They held this workshop in Park Slope, Brooklyn this spring with wonderful results. Find out more at Christina’s blog and take advantage of these great women’s wisdom and a day of creative community.
Finally, this from one of the participants at my workshop at the Maywood Library last week. Katie O’Connell writes:
“I have a website, SocialJersey.com which is an event listing site and blog for young northern NJ professionals in their 20s and 30s. I’m updating the site and would like to update it monthly with new content. If you are interested in gaining clips, please email: SocialJerseyEditor@gmail.com.
Thanks, everyone, for spreading the word, sharing the talent and networking around. Now get to writing! I promise I’ll have something substantive to contemplate in the next post. Till then, see you at The Writers Circle.
Just thought I’d share another lovely repost of one of my recent blog entries.
Check out Backspace: the Writers Space. It’s another great community for writers that I’m privileged to be connected with.
This just in from the Adult Programs Coordinator at the Livingston Public Library:
The public is invited to “What’s Happening to my Newspaper?” with Star-Ledger columnist Kathleen O’Brien, who will share her observations on the current state of newspaper publishing. This presentation will be held 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, April 13th at the library. Admission is free and no registration is required.
Kathleen O’Brien has worked at The Star-Ledger as a columnist and reporter since 1996, where her writing has been recognized by the American Society of Newspaper Editors, the American Association of Feature Editors, the National Headliner Awards, The Front Page Awards, the New Jersey Press Association, and the Garden State Association of Black Journalists.
She began her career on a Selectric typewriter, and now narrates videos and maintains two blogs. One, called “We’ll Know More on Monday,” chronicles her breast cancer diagnosis and treatment. She’s a graduate of Cornell University and Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism. She comes from a newspaper family; her father was an editor at The Detroit News. She’s married to a journalist, and has one daughter.
And my friend, author Christina Baker Kline shares this great writing workshop she’s doing for Mother’s Day. (Sorry, guys. This one’s for women only):
Rejuvenate Your Writing Life! A Restorative Mini-Retreat for Writing Mamas
with authors Christina Baker Kline and Deborah Siegel of SheWrites.com
Saturday, May 21, 9:30am – 3:30pm, Brooklyn Society for Ethical Culture
53 Prospect Park West (near the 2/3, F, Q, B)
What do you need to turn your writing dream into a reality?
You spend your days taking care of other people’s needs. This May, give yourself a Mother’s Day gift of time and space for contemplation and creativity. Think of it as a spa treatment for your mind.
Maybe you’ve kept a private journal and dream of starting a blog. Maybe you have an idea for a memoir. Or maybe you just want to start writing and don’t yet know the form. Chances are, if you’re a mother and trying to write, your greatest obstacle is time. Whether you’re at the idea stage or further along, we’ll help you get to the next level not only in your writing, but in your writing life.
Christina and Deborah are two professional writing mamas who believe that writing is vital—even when it has to happen in the crevices of our lives. In this beautiful setting we’ll combine strategies for how to fit writing into your everyday life with concrete exercises and feedback designed to get your creative juices flowing. We’ll provide a stimulating and pampering combination of workshops and advice, group conversations with other writer-mothers, one-on-one consultations, inspiring writing prompts, and Q&As. You’ll leave at the end of the day with fresh ideas and insights, pages of new writing, concrete goals for your writing and your life – and a sense of community, something no writing mama should be without.
This day-long gift-to-self includes a delicious lunch, healthy snacks, caffeine (and caffeine-free) drinks … and of course – chocolate. Cost: $175 ($195 after May 1). Space is limited. Register early to save a spot!
Guest blogger and author Michelle Cameron has shared her thoughts on The Writers Circle Blog before. This past weekend, she visited one of The Writers Circle children’s classes at Luna Stage. Michelle and I are working together to introduce The Writers Circle to the Chatham, Madison, and Florham Park, NJ area this spring. More on that in the weeks to come. Meanwhile, here she shares her impressions from her visit.
It was a small, warm cocoon of a space, with a single rug in the center of the floor. The kids walked in, each one clutching a well-thumbed notebook. Coats were slung over chair backs, boots left akimbo on the floor. The children sat, knees drawn to their chests or folded under them, or they kneeled at the edges of the rug. A striped, snowman-and-snowflake box in the center of the rug held pencils; there were large pads of paper and an enormous selection of markers. The kids were noisy and excited, anecdotes about their week and their writing tripping over one another as they settled down. They knew this was a creative space, a place where they could bring forth fantastic ideas with confidence, could tell the stories that were clamoring to emerge from their imaginations to spill onto the page.
Judith played the role of Pied Piper to these third through fifth graders, who started the session by sharing their work. “Louder, slower,” she said when shyness or softness made a child hard to hear. “Time out,” she’d call, bringing her hands up in a T-symbol when the thoughts flowed too fast and furious. “Who has questions?” she’d ask, and then point her way around the waving forest of eager hands.
In every case, some principle of writing emerged from the young work. Point of view. Conflict. Too many characters. Evocative description. Realist vs. fantasy stories. Judith never talked down to these kids. She shared technical concepts many adults struggle to master. The youngsters absorbed what they could and stored the rest to access later.
A fifteen minute writing prompt ― the hero being faced with a challenge ― didn’t intimidate these young minds. Many lay on their stomachs to write. Some left the circle and found chairs to sit on. An initial rustle of movement and the flapping of paper gave way to the focused silence of pencils moving across the page.
As the session ended, parents waited in the lobby while the kids collected themselves and reluctantly left the warmth of this creative cocoon. A few parents lingered, talking to Judith about their son or daughter’s progress. “This class has grown so popular!” said one. “It’s been a godsend for my son,” said another.
Could anyone who loves writing and creativity witness this and not be moved and excited? Any parent of a curious, inventive child knows the difficulty of finding a warm, supportive, and challenging outlet for their son or daughter. I’m thrilled to be invited into The Writers Circle and to have the opportunity to bring such an inspired venture to my own community this spring.
Michelle Cameron’s The Fruit of Her Hands: the Story of Shira of Ashkenaz (Pocket Books, September 2009) is based on the life of the author’s thirteenth-century ancestor, Meir ben Baruch of Rothenberg, a renowned Jewish scholar of medieval Europe. Michelle lives in New Jersey with her husband and two college-age sons.
I love Backspace’s STET! And why shouldn’t I? They seem to like me, too.
They shared another of my blog posts on their site, this one from just a couple of weeks ago: The Meandering Plot, or How to Figure Out What’s Next.
Thanks to Amy Sue Nathan, Karen Dionne, and Christopher Graham and everyone at Backspace. I’m honored to be a voice in such a great organization.
The web of support that frames my life as a writer was first anchored in a writing workshop taught by Madeleine L’Engle, author of A Wrinkle in Time. Sitting at the feet of the author of one of the most influential books of my childhood, I gained not only a richer understanding of literary craft, but a spirit of generosity, nurturing and acceptance that has guided my work, my relationships with other writers, and my teaching.
Through that web, I recently connected with another writer, Lena Roy, whose ties to Madeleine are not only creative but familial.
I’m honored to welcome Lena, Madeleine’s granddaughter, to The Writers Circle. Her debut novel, Edges, was published last month by Farrar, Straus and Giroux. Lena and I have become digital friends over the months leading up to her book’s publication. Finally I’ll have the chance to meet her in person, this Saturday at 2PM at Words Bookstore in Maplewood. Join me there as she shares her work and her own writer’s journey. She loves to meet new people, and I know she’d adore a crowd!
We are writers, hear us roar! For published and pre-published writers alike, the journey through this industry is an arduous one. (Unless of course, you are Snooki. However, I am assuming that Snooki and her wannabes are not reading The Writer’s Circle Blog.)
Do you have a compulsion to write? Does writing help you make sense of the world? Do you feel that you must write, even though sometimes you want to tear your hair out? Then you are one of us.
After seven years of hard work, I made my “debut” last month with my novel, Edges. It is a story of love and grief, addiction and redemption, set in both NYC’s Upper West Side and in the red rock desert of Moab, Utah.
Why loss and addiction? Why realistic fiction?
I had the image in my head of the first scene for years before I wrote it down on paper. Luke, a seventeen-year-old runaway, is setting up a home for himself in a trailer in Moab, Utah. What was his story?
In 2004, when my middle child was two and a half, before my daughter was born, I gave myself permission to find out.
When we write, we are delving into the soup of our sub-conscious. I wrote the first draft in three months, discovering with each word, what Edges was about. That first draft was a mystical, messy experience.
I had to fall in love with revision. I wrote and rewrote over the next three years, sending my manuscript out to agents and even a couple of publishers, having some experience with rejection before finding my agent. I made more revisions before he sent it out to an editor at FSG in late April of 2008. Then in July I got the call that they wanted to buy it.
But it has been far from the fairytale experience I thought it would be. Things took a really long time, to the tune of two and a half years. The two months up to my book launch in December were fraught with anxiety. I had to focus so much on marketing, and that fed my insecurities. Was I doing enough? What was everybody else doing? How can I be noticed? Nobody will know about or read my book. Wah! It felt a little like . . . well, high school! When Barnes and Noble and Borders only agreed to buy a small amount of books for the NYC area, my heart broke a little.
But then I had a moment, an hour before my book launch party, taking my kids to see Santa Claus at Macy’s. This could be as good as it gets, and you’re missing it. Enjoy it!
I ended up having a book party that exceeded expectation. My joy was boundless. I was able to revel in my accomplishment, knowing that I had worked hard for it. “Edges will be championed by librarians and independent book sellers,” my editor told me confidently. “The big chains are not a barometer of success anymore.”
Yes, getting published might not be a fairytale, but that doesn’t mean it’s not still really incredible!
I wake up every morning pinching myself that I am able to do what I love to do, having proof in Edges that the more I practice writing, the better my stories get. I can also say that I practice what I preach when I indulge in my other passion – teaching writing to kids age 8 – 18 in Northern Westchester.
I roar as a writer by reaching my hand out to other writers and creating community, finding compassion, strength and support with others on the journey.
So what do you say? Will you roar with me?
Lena Roy was raised in New York City, in the cloistered environs of a theological seminary, with extracurricular education provided by Manhattan’s club scene. She has worked as a bartender, an actor, and with at-risk adolescents in Utah, California and NYC. Lena now lives with her husband, two sons, daughter, cat and four African water frogs in Katonah, New York and teaches creative writing workshops for kids and teens from 8-18 with Writopia Lab in both NYC and Northern Westchester.