The 4th Annual Writers’ Weekend
is April 17 – 19:
The 4th Annual Writers’ Weekend at The Mark Twain House & Museum will run from April 17 to 19. The weekend costs $170, and will include lectures, workshops, panels, readings, receptions, and book signings featuring exemplary writers from all over the United States. (Single day tickets are also available.) Workshops throughout the weekend will focus on both the craft and publishing aspects of writing, with many and varied instructors as you can see below.
This schedule is subject to change. The best way to make sure you see everything is to register for the whole weekend!
Friday, April 17th
Welcome reception: 7:00 pm
Books on the Nightstand Podcast Conversation: 7:30 pm
Books on the Nightstand strives to bring listeners great book recommendations, as well as a behind-the-scenes look at the world of books, bookstores and publishing. They do this through their weekly podcast and frequent blog posts. Michael Kindness and Ann Kingman are friends and colleagues who work in the publishing industry. That means that they talk about books all day long to other people who love to talk about books. But sometimes, those conversations have to end before they’re ready to stop talking. Thus, the podcast and blog.
Saturday, April 18th
9:00 – 10:00 am Breakfast & quiet writing time
Session 1: 10:00 – 10:55 am – Concurrent Workshops
TRUTH IS STRANGER — AND BETTER — THAN FICTION with Susan Campbell
Looking to write your family history? A biography on an obscure Civil War veteran? Want to try your hand at freelance magazine/newspaper pieces? This is your workshop.
SPEAKING TO SILENCES THROUGH THE EPISTOLARY POEM with Antoinette Brim
Workshop participants will write a poem that reads as a letter to address an area in which they have been silent or have felt silenced. Poets of all levels are invited to attend.
BEHIND THE SCENES AT THE PUBLISHER: THE EDITORIAL PROCESS DEMYSTIFIED with Stacey DeKeyser
You’ve slaved over your book and made it perfect. Do you really need an editor? Whether you self-publish or use a traditional publisher, you do. Find out what to expect your editorial team, from acquisition to proofreading and every step in between, from someone who’s been on both sides of the red pencil. You can even test your Word Nerd quotient by taking a copyediting quiz!
FICTION with Leslie Jordan
Session 2: 11:00 – 11:55 AM – Concurrent Workshops
THE NOT SO GENTLE ART OF MURDER with David Handler
An Edgar Award-winning master of the whodunit novel shares the secrets of his highly mysterious trade. Whether your passion is for cozies, the mean streets or white-knuckle thrillers you are sure to come away shaken, if not stirred.
SOCIAL MEDIA IN 60 MINUTES OR LESS with Caitlin Thayer
These days, writers need to be using social media to promote themselves and their work. In this workshop we’ll talk about how to use Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest to showcase your work, connect with your readers, and to sell more books!
THE ART OF THE PERSONAL ESSAY with Christine Palm
To a young writer, the essay is the most dreaded of literary forms. But in this workshop, we’ll challenge most of what we learned about this imaginative, persuasive genre. For “essay” is also a verb meaning to try, to endeavor, to venture. With our essays, then, we will essay to move people — to tears, to laughter, perhaps even to action.
SIT, STAY: THE DOG AS A METAPHOR IN POETRY with Leslie McGrath
The dog’s role in American life has evolved a great deal over the last fifty years, moving from pet to intimate companion. Many poets have found rich metaphor in this relationship. We’ll be reading poems by Gerald Stern, Billy Collins, WS Merwin and others, examining how the dog has come to inhabit an important place in our poetry. We’ll also write a poem based on a prompt from Leslie McGrath.
12:00 pm – 1:00 pm: Lunch (provided)
Session 3: 1:00 pm – 2:00 pm – Concurrent Workshops
POET AS IMPOSTER with Vivian Shipley
Fiction is, well, fiction. Many people assume that poets seek to find truth, personal or universal, in their poetry. But, does poetry need to be literally true? Can and/or should the poet be a good liar? Come and find out whether Vivian Shipley really trekked the Inca Trail to get to Machu Picchu, hiked up Av. Du-Lachaise to visit Jim Morrison’s grave, was a surfer chick, a dominatrix or hammer thrower. If she wasn’t, learn how she wrote poems about the subjects for her forthcoming ninth book, The Poet. (Louisiana Literature Press, SLU, 2015)
CLICHE IN WORD, THOUGHT, AND CHARACTER with Mark Ferguson
“A cliché is dead matter. It causes gangrene in the prose around it, and sooner or later it eats your brain.” – Verlyn Klinkenborg, Several Short Sentences About Writing. Clichéd phrases are easy enough to spot, and with a little self control easy enough to get rid of. But what of cliché in thought, character, or story? What of cliché in phrasing, clichéd ideas? This session will focus on the concept of cliché and why it’s so difficult to avoid. The group will discuss strategies for spotting and eliminating cliché in their writing.
FICTIONAL VOICES with Mary Sharnick
Voice is what we hear and tone is how we feel. Workshop participants will bring our protagonists to life through exercises in interior monologue and dialogue with other characters.
Session 4: 2:05 pm – 3:00 pm – Concurrent Workshops
SELF-PUBLISHING with Patrice Fitzgerald
Tired of waiting to see yourself in print? Maybe you have a killer novel manuscript tucked into a drawer, wisdom to share with the world in a non-fiction book, or simply a family story you want preserved for the ages… but you haven’t found an agent or a publisher. Or maybe you don’t want to waste time going through all that, knowing the odds are long. Come learn about the realities of becoming an “indie” publisher-via ebook or in print-and the specifics of what it takes to get your book out there in a professional way. Hear about self-publishing from someone who’s been in the trenches.
MEMOIR STRUCTURE AND THEME with Judy Mandel
Find the right structure to transform your life stories into a captivating memoir. Learn how to uncover and develop the theme of your memoir. Jump start your memoir if you haven’t begun, or learn techniques to keep the writing moving.
BEGINNINGS IN FICTION with Dan Pope
This workshop will address techniques about BEGINNINGS in short fiction and novel writing. First impression are vital, in life and in fiction, and this workshop will show you techniques how to capture the reader’s attention right from the first sentence. What to dos, and what not to dos!
JE BANACH IN CONVERSATION WITH AUTHOR AND YALE WRITERS’ CONFERENCE DIRECTOR, TERRENCE HAWKINS
Je Banach, a returning member of the Yale Writers’ Conference faculty and former CT Artist Fellow, speaks with Terence Hawkins–the Founding Director of The Yale Writers’ Conference–about his life, his career, and his latest novel, American Neolithic, a Kirkus Best Book of 2014.
4:00 pm: PLAYWRIGHTS PANEL with Neil LaBute, Christopher Shinn, Mark St. Germain, and Frank Rizzo
Our Fourth Annual Playwrights Panel welcomes three of the most acclaimed writers working today! Neil LaBute is best known for his taut dialogue, confrontational style, and controversial subject matter. In addition to his screenplays for In the Company of Men andYour Friends and Neighbors, LaBute has written the plays Bash: Latter Day Plays, The Shape of Things, Fat Pig, and the Tony-nominated reasons to be pretty. Wethersfield native Christopher Shinn is best known for dramas that plumb dark, complex emotional terrain. With premiere productions in London and New York, Shinn’s work has been at Hartford Stage (Dying City and the upcoming An Opening in Time) and TheaterWorks (Four). Mark St. Germain is one of the busiest playwrights today with works that have been seen across the United States and span a variety of genres. Local audiences have enjoyed his Freud’s Last Session, Becoming Dr. Ruth, and Dancing Lessons at TheaterWorks. Frank Rizzo has been covering the Connecticut arts scene for more than 37 years, 32 of them for The Hartford Courant. He also writes reviews and stories for the New York Times, Variety, American Theater Magazineand other publications.
7:30 pm: Keynote with DANI SHAPIRO
Dani Shapiro’s most recent books include Still Writing: The Perils and Pleasures of a Creative Life, the novels Black & White and Family History and the bestselling memoir
Slow Motion. Her short stories and essays have appeared in the New Yorker, Granta, Tin House, Elle, Vogue, Ploughshares, and O, The Oprah Magazine, among other publications. She lives with her husband and son in Litchfield County, Connecticut.
Sunday, April 19th
9:00 – 10:00 am Breakfast & Writing Time
Session 5: 10:00 am – 11:00 am – Concurrent Workshops
THE PERFECT PITCH with Mike Morin
Writers write. Many writers don’t promote. There are amazing opportunities out there to receive free publicity for your book. Because Mike is a media host AND an author, he knows both sides of the publicity dynamic. He’ll share insider tips on getting your book exposed plus teach you how to be an engaging guest and effective speaker.
Mike is a 44-year Radio/TV personality including stays in Detroit, New York City, Boston and New Hampshire. His career includes 11,000 shows, playing 400,000 songs and being buried alive three time as publicity stunts. He’s a columnist, feature writer and author of FIFTY SHADES OF RADIO. In 2013, he was given the Will Rogers Humanitarian Award from the National Society of Newspaper Columnists for community fundraising efforts.
MEMOIR: THE REMEMBERED LIFE with Mary-Ann Tirone Smith
Autobiography skirts the surface of a life without allowing the reader access to the messy, conflicted and unapologetically subjective material of a memoir. Let us come to understand the requirement that the memoirist be willing to expose that subjective mess in order to create an irresistible, compelling and publishable memoir.
ALL TOGETHER IN A SUDDEN STRANGENESS: BREAKING OUR WRITING PATTERNS with Edwina Trentham
In “Keeping Quiet,” Pablo Neruda suggests that “we all keep still” and see what will happen when we find ourselves “all / together in a sudden strangeness.” This workshop is not about keeping still, but it is about taking chances, about breaking out of our familiar writing patterns. We will both read and write poetry, using writing exercises to nudge ourselves out of our safe path as poets and encourage us to explore new voices.
WRITING A DRAMATIC SCENE with Lucy Ferriss
The scene is at the heart of the story — at the heart, one might say, of all imaginative writing, be it drama or prose or even poetry. Some stories consist of only one scene, whereas others seem to “layer” their scenes with exposition, description, and dialogue, so that the story moves through time and reaches its climax in a final or penultimate scene rather than in a single line of dialogue or exposition.
Session 6: 11:00 am – 12:00 pm – Concurrent Workshops
BIRTH OF A BOOK: FROM THE AUTHOR’S MIND TO THE SHELF with Matthew Dicks
This workshop will pull back the curtains on the complex and confusing world of publishing. We will discuss how authors find agents, how books are pitched and sold to publishing houses, how authors earn advances and royalties, how books are sold to foreign markets, and how books are made into films. The oftentimes opaque machinery of the publishing process exposed at last!
FIVE POETRY PROMPTS TO CHANGE YOUR LIFE with Christine Beck
If you are stuck in a rut or worse yet, are staring at an empty page, let me show you five poetry prompts that will help you get moving. You can use these prompts both as a teacher and as a writer. They are designed to help edit your poetry to its essential, write with compassion about the “other,” explore sonic appeal, use lists in new ways, and mimic lines or forms that will alter your standard syntax.
MYSTERIOUS STRANGERS AND AMATEUR SLEUTHS: WRITING THE COZY MYSTERY with Susannah Hardy
From Miss Marple to Nancy Drew to Jessica Fletcher to the modern cozy mystery, traditional mysteries never go out of style. This workshop will introduce you to the cozy mystery (you already know what it is–you just may not know what it’s called), as well as give you tips and techniques on how to write your own while working within genre expectations. We’ll cover setting, characters, and the construction of a twisting, turning plot that will keep readers guessing. A reading list will be provided.
12:00 pm – 1:00 pm: Lunch break
Session 7: 1:00 pm – 2:00 pm – Concurrent Workshops
FINDING AN AGENT with Susan Schoenberger
What does it take to find an agent in this uber-competitive marketplace? Do you even need an agent with all of the non-traditional publishing options available? We’ll talk about how to research agents, how to query them, why you might or might not need one, and what they actually do for writers. Bring your questions!
TAKING THE ORAL HISTORY OF A FAMILY MEMBER with Hunter Liguore
Are you an amateur historian? Have you always wanted to preserve your family history? Have a story of your own that you need to write? Here is your chance. Through oral history, we preserve not only the past, but the voices of those we care about. In this workshop, we’ll learn the logistics of conducting an oral history. We’ll create a list of interview questions, and complete sample exercises to get you started. Participants have opportunity to be included in One Bookshelf oral history project through American Athenaeum literary journal.
WRITING AND PROMOTING YOUR CONTENT with Wayne English
Writing for the web and social media is a necessity for every writer and author. Today we discuss writing headlines, media releases, your blog, InfoGraphics, white papers, and e-books. And, if we have time, how to use tools like HootSuite and Klout to promote all that hard work.
Researching and choosing the best publishing method for one’s book is a huge decision made complicated by the ever-changing landscape of traditional publishing and self-publishing. Vanity presses, independent publishing and now partnership publishing all offer methods for getting an author’s work out there, but is the purpose or end result always the production of a quality product? The goal of this panel is to clarify the options and provide resources for those writers and authors interested in exploring their publishing alternatives.
2:00 pm – 3:00 pm: Open Mic with Syllable Series!
We close out our weekend of inspiration and information with an open mic to read your work. Curated by Syllable, the Reading Series, this is a chance to show off your best work or put new work in front of friendly listeners for the first time.