Category Archives: Unsolicited Writing Advice!

How did you get along without it?

Liberty States Fiction Writer’s Annual Conference Registration is Open!

This year’s Featured Speakers

Mark Your Calendar for the
10th Anniversary
Liberty States Fiction Writers Conference
March 30-31, 2019

Renaissance Woodbridge Hotel
in Iselin, NJ

Whether you’re indie published, traditionally published, not quite published, or simply love to read, we have something for you. Join us for this exciting, fun, and informative event!The Liberty States Fiction Writers Conference features a line up of more then 20 authors and industry professionals who will share their expertise and experience. Located a in New Jersey, just a short train ride from New York City, we offer a weekend of education, networking, and fun in a relaxed setting.

Love to read? Want to write? Join us March 30-31, 2019.

For More Info go to Liberty State Fiction Writers Conference info.


Advertisements

Tips From the MFA Pit, Part 5 – Reading like a Writer

This week it’s another installment from the MFA Pit, where we’re looking at the things we read to write. Sometimes our reading material can take the form of books on craft, the other times on our genre of choice. Sometimes that’s not even the genre we write, but what we simply enjoy reading. But when what-we-write converges with what-we’re-reading, we seem to take on a more critical eye…
You certainly don’t have to like everything you read, and sometimes that’s good. You find out what NOT to do, what works and what doesn’t. And you learn to read like a writer, not so much for the story, which definitely runs in the background, but for craft—what tools and techniques the writer uses to write a compelling story. In my Comp One classes, we do what’s called a Rhetorical Analysis of an essay to accomplish much the same thing. We look at four things: the situation, or what prompted the writer to write, the purpose, what the writer wanted the reader to think or do, the thesis, the main claim, and the audience, who the writing is directed toward. Of course, this analysis is wasted on 90% of most of the students (sadly), as once they get out of my class and/or Comp Two, they’ll more than likely never write anything beyond a text or instant message, or maybe an email when they get into the work world. But we can also apply some if not all of these principles to creative writing too, when we’re directing our story to a particular genre. In the fantasy or romance realm, audience is all important. When you combine the two, even more.
In fantasy, we concentrate on the world the writer’s building. It has to be different and compelling to draw your audience in. They need to leave the ordinary world and venture into something where the rules of of the ordinary world can flex. But that flex has to have its own logic, and after it’s established, you need to stick with it or your readers will call you on it. For example, the perennially logical Dr. Spock of Star Trek could never suddenly turn sentimental. Fans would call foul. Then again, if he did it for a single episode it could be fun, because he’s stepping out of his ordinary world. But his fans would definitely want such a sojourn to be temporary, as what’s the fun in a weepy Spock?

With romance, the “rules” are definitely a bit stricter. There ALWAYS has to be a HEA – a “happily ever after,” or at least a HFN – a “happy for now” if you plan on sending them on some hijinks in the next book. And there are definite stages to their romance—when they first meet, when they first kiss, when they first make love, when they fall in love, when the fall OUT of love, when they face the Dark Moment, when they fall back in love, then when the commit to each other, then lastly, the HEA or HFN.  All romances mostly follow the same progression, and romance fans look for and expect each stage. What keeps them interesting, and keeps the pages turning, is how the couple reaches each stage and goes beyond it. You see, the trick to writing a good romance is the couple is not supposed to fall in love—yet against all odds, they do. It’s this struggle romance fans look for. And as a Romance Writer, it’s up to your to deliver. When it’s too easy, it’s not a romance. When they meet, it’s fate. When they kiss for the first time, it’s mind-blowing. When they finally make love—it’s a nuclear meltdown. It’s that easy!

As we venture more and more into our own writing, we almost subconsciously view other writers’ works through the filter of our own. Sometimes we view it with intimidation, sometimes with awe, sometimes with jealously, sometimes with a smugness when we’re convinced ours is so much better. What we should always do is keep reading though. Just like a chef never stops tasting, a writer can’t ever stop gazing at the worlds around them, in a continual effort to improve their own.

A day of writing, writers, and Red Bank

During this retreat like full day workshop authors have the opportunity to attend various Presentations, pitch Literary Agents and Editors (Optional), get a book signed by Bestselling Author Megan Erickson during our Mixer, get work critiqued by Agents and Editors (Optional), attend the Critical Mass: First Page Critique Literary Agent and Editor Panel, and Network with authors and industry professionals all day long and during a Networking Mixer after hours.

8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., Saturday, October 13, at The Oyster Point Hotel, Bodman Place, Red Bank, NJ 07701.
Phone: 732.759.9175
Conveniently located about one hour from NY City.
​Valet parking complimentary.
Train Station: Red Bank – North Jersey Coast line located just 5 minutes away.

For full info please visit the Corvisiero Agency Website!

(Barely Awake) ass in chair, baby

I don’t know, maybe it’s because I’m drinking too much caffeine in the afternoon but I’ve been waking up way too early in the morning lately. Or maybe I’m just of that certain age, but I really don’t want to go there at the moment. In any event, I’ve been writing really, really early in the morning these past few weeks, and for me that means at my desk by six-thirty or seven. I write until around  eight or eight-thirty, then it’s off to get ready for my first class at ten-thirty. I’ve been patting myself on the back for being so dedicated, then I heard about this group of people, and I have a whole new reason to feel inadequate.  The 5 AM Writer’s Club according to their website, is “…a dedicated group of writers who cheer each other on when it’s needed, and pass donuts around when they’re hungry. (BTW Check the #5amWritersClub hashtag to find a fantastic group of people to follow on Twitter.)”

But what it means to me is a bunch of dedicated writers who actually find their muse up and awake before the crack of dawn. I find this completely admirable, as although I’ve been know to get up early,  it’s usually not by choice, and I just take advantage of the situation. Still, what it says to me is if you want to write, if you need to write, you WILL find the time to do it. No excuses. Writers write. Ass in chair. And if you want some cheering on, well now you know where to go to find it.

Tips from the MFA Pit – Part 4 – A room of one’s own

Another school year, another entry from the MFA Pit. This time it’s all about process, about conjuring up your creative muse, about getting that perfect writing space, about finding the time to write. This semester MFA Candidate One is studying Aesthetic and Process, about why we write what we write, and how to go about bringing that process to fruition…

Here we are again, this time, examining your writing process as well as—and we’ll get to that soon enough—why you write what you write. Sometimes you can’t exactly say why you’re drawn to a particular genre. You may like romance because you like an HEA (happily ever after), or you like fantasy as you’re always drawn to other worlds. Whatever captures your imagination is something very individual to you, and it’s something that you’ll explore as well as you go along. You discovered this a bit in a previous semester, when you started out writing a straight romance, then found out you’re so much more comfortable adapting those romantic concepts to fantasy. More revelations we come along soon enough this semester, and this will become more apparent when you write a closing paper at the end.
Process is something we’re sometimes slow to discover. It’s the “how” of what we’re writing. You mentioned in the beginning essay you don’t find outlining as helpful as it could be. Well, I’ve discovered over the years there’s really two basic kind of writers out there—the pantsters and the planners. The pantsters write by the seat of their pants—start the story and then let the characters take them where they may. The planners find this process horrifying. They outline, they use index cards, bulletin boards, collages—anything to keep them in sequence and on track. Most writers fall somewhere in between. Your using a journal is a good example of this. I always have what I call my story guide. It’s a kind of a journal in which I list my characters, their names, occupations, descriptions, characteristics, etc. I list the main plot of the story, the conflict, the dark moment, mostly all the things I need to keep straight as the story progresses. For example, you forget how old one of your characters is, or in what town they’re to meet the villain at the end. This gives you something you could always refer back to. It’s also a handy place to list changes you want to adapt in later chapters when you’re editing a draft.
A place to write can be tricky at times when you live with other people. Unless you have a dedicated space at home, you sometimes have to shift around our make compromises. But it could also be outside of where you live. It could be a favorite bench in a park, a table at Starbucks, or in the 3rd floor lounge in the Student Center (I wrote a flash fiction piece there once!) It’s anyplace where you can wrap your head around your story. And that’s only up to you to decide.
Until next time — Writers write!

Poor Yorick is Open for Submissions

Poor Yorick: A Journal of Rediscovered Objects is an online literary publication of the MFA Program at Western Connecticut State University. The journal publishes poems, stories, essays, profiles, digital video shorts, photo essays, scholarly articles, and other innovative works about or inspired by rediscovered objects and/or images of material culture. In addition to unsolicited submissions, the journal’s editorial staff will occasionally identify a particular historical object, collection, exhibit, etc., and call for submissions inspired by the selected artifact. Poor Yorick also works in conjunction with museums both locally and nationally to identify and encourage innovative works focusing on lesser-known and overlooked objects and images.

For more information about submitting, please click here for their Submissions guidelines.

Liberty State Fictions Writers is now accepting Workshop Proposals for their 2019 Conference

Hey! Are you an expert on something? A writer with plotting/characterization/genre tips up your sleeve? Have knowledge you’re just itching to disseminate? Then by ALL MEANS YOU NEED TO SUBMIT! Not to a publisher (not now anyway!) But to Liberty State Fiction Writers, a tri-state multi-genre fiction writers organization who’s looking for presenters for their 10th Annual Writers Conference in March 2019 in beautiful Iselin, New Jersey! Submit your Workshop proposals here, and spread the wealth–of knowledge, that is. (Though you can send me money anytime. I’m a starving artist, after all.)

Ruminations on a Maxfield Parrish summer night

I love Maxfield Parrish. He is and always has been one of my favorite illustrators and artists. I love his vibrant, saturated colors and the visual depth of his landscapes, his use of perspective and the playful humanistic qualities he gives to each of his subjects. I often think of him when the evening sky is awash with stark color after a storm. The blue is most likely a colbalt used often in Parrish’s work, and I loved this particular shade of his even before I knew it was a thing. It is a blue that says many things to me–of the variations of nature, of a kind of impishness, of the joy that being all-in with life can bring. Maxfield Parrish’s art, because of its sheer volume, variation, and detail, also says to me he must have enjoyed the creation of it immensely. What a luscious life he must have lived, reveling in it.

I think of Parrish in the context of a talk I attended just the other week, between a writer of some renown and an editor from a major publishing house. He was asked what advice he could give the attendant audience of writing students, especially when they’re feeling the full brunt of the pressure to publish. He said first and foremost to enjoy this early time in their career when the flush of discovery and learning is still fresh, and learn to cultivate it throughout your writing life. But more than anything, you need to enjoy the process, because if you don’t, it’ll show in your work and you’ll be doomed to ordinariness. And you’ll spend a whole lot of time being miserable.

Fine advice to always keep running in the background, no matter what discipline you create your art in.  Especially on a soft, summer Maxfield Parrish night as this.

Saturday by the River with Marisa

Saturdays are usually writing events for me. If I’m not creating my own genius, I’m at Liberty State Fiction Writers co-presiding over our meetings and seminars, or I’m disseminating my vast mental compendium of professorial writing tips to freshman and graduate learners alike. But to stay in this literary game, whether as instructor or practitioner, the savvy writer needs to continually update their literary toolbox. And there’s no better way to do that, after the manuscript is finished, proofread, and polished, than going where the industry professionals are. 

Might I recommend the second Author-Preneur Workshop by the Navesink River on October 13, 2018, in beautiful Red Bank, NJ.  This event is an all-day multilayered interactive workshop with presentations by  Literary Agent Marisa A. Corvisiero, Esq., her Corvisiero Literary Agency colleagues, and other key industry professional guests dedicated to an author’s success.

View of the Navesink River from the Oyster Point balcony, sigh…

~ 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., Saturday, October 13, at The Oyster Point Hotel, Bodman Place, Red Bank, NJ 07701.
~ Phone: 732.759.9175
​~ Conveniently located about one hour from NY City.
​~ Valet parking complimentary.
~ Train Station: Red Bank – North Jersey Coast line located just 5 minutes away.

For all the deets and a Who’s Who of who’s attending, visit the Covisiero Literary Agency.

Lazy Summer Observations

It’s summer and I’m really lazy right now, so I’m reposting this oldie when I was also lazy two years ago. Still pertinent, and I’m still lazy…

Been working hot and obsessively developing  another project the last few weeks. When I do this I so live in my head I’m apt to leave lights on or subsist on string cheese and blueberries because I can eat them with one hand. Because of that I’m giving myself a pass tonight to let my mind wander.  I have too many topics rolling around the fertile landscape of my brain to settle on one, so I’m treating you to a virtual sampler of each. Think of it as the Jones version of the Olive Garden’s Tour of Italy,” except not about chain restaurant Italian food or really anything to do with food at all. Please don’t ask me to explain…

~ Why is it harder to write in the summer when it should be easier? Okay, I”m a college professor, right? And I “theoretically” have the summer off (except for the summer class I’m teaching, which really is cake next to my usual load). So my brain should be my own (mostly), and I should be able to sail through what I’m working on, producing so many pages a day I’d best keep a fire extinguisher near my desk. Wrong! Phuque moi! Could it be the sun shining through my window? The fact I have no schedule? The lure of the beach? Distraction by a shiny object? Or I’m still trying to get to know my characters? Hmm…I going to have to think about that one. Where’s the string cheese?

~ You can lose weight on summer fruit. (All right; I lied about the food reference, but here’s living proof I write by the seat of my pants.) I live in the heart of the South Jersey farm belt, and you can’t drive more than a couple of miles without either passing a farm or a farm stand. This morning I happened to visit the latter, where I purchased tomatoes (early, but there’s nothing like a Jersey tomato!), cukes, blueberries (another iconic Jersey crop), cantaloupe and peaches, both yellow and white. Lately I’ve been gorging on berries and melons and cherries, instead of the usual snacky-type foods, and in the past month I’ve lost seven pounds! Of course, this may have something to do with the 1725 calories I’ve been allowing myself to eat, the half-hour of daily exercise, and the frequent swims in the ocean BUT! I have had more than a couple Bacchanalia events and let me tell you, the Yuengling hasn’t been lonely!

~ Beer tastes better in summer. That’s all I got. Any other commentary on that topic would be redundant.

~ Socks suck in summer.  I haven’t worn a pair of socks since, oh…probably early May. I hate the fricking little cotton casings anyway–hate the way they bunch up under your instep, hate the indentations they make on your shins, hate how the heels always wear out when the rest of the sock can go for another 10,000 miles. But MOST of all I HATE folding them. Hate! Hate! Hate! Just sayin’.

~ I love the sound of birdsong at dusk. The sun has set, the western sky is stained red, outside a soft breeze is blowing and you can finally shut off the A.C. and let in some fresh air. You venture out on your porch or you open your car window, or maybe you’re out for a walk and there in the bushes, the trees or on an overhead wire is a whip-poor-will or a mockingbird or who knows what kind of bird, only that their song is lovely, a tiny gratis pleasure on a soft summer night. What else can you possibly need?