By Barbara Morrison
Welcome to the first edition of the Maryland Writers’ Association (MWA) Newsletter. As of January 2017, MWA has split its member publication, Pen in Hand, in two. Pen in Hand becomes a literary magazine, while this quarterly newsletter provides information of interest to MWA members.
In the newsletter you’ll find information on MWA activities, such as updates on chapter meetings and information on writing contests, the annual conference, and the Teen Writers Clubs. There are contributions from the MWA Board and MWA members, as well as announcements from Maryland-based literary journals, publishers, reading series, and writers' associations.
We want to hear from you! Members are encouraged to submit announcements of awards or publication, questions for our writers’ advice column, and articles for possible inclusion. Articles may include interviews with writers or guest speakers, book reviews, how-to advice, member profiles, and member surveys, among other subjects of interest to writers. All submissions are subject to the editor's discretion (i.e., not all submissions will be published).
Send your submissions to email@example.com. Submissions must be emailed; no hard copies will be accepted. Please include a brief bio (75 words maxumum).
Happy writing! Please let us know what else you might like to see in this, your newsletter.
By Eileen Haavik McIntire
Michael Caine once said to a fledgling actor, “Acting is about emotions. Shouldn’t you show some?” Writing is about communication, and we on the MWA Board are dedicated to showing some. This year’s full Board of Directors is an outstanding group of talented, hard-working writers putting together and enhancing the many benefits MWA provides to the writing community in Maryland.
Conference Chair Jess Williams is shaping up the MWA Conference, “The Writing Roller Coaster” to have an outstanding schedule of workshops, keynote speakers, and venue, the Crowne Plaza in Annapolis. Mark your calendar for March 25. Early bird registration begins December 15.
MWA’s novel contest is now underway. Program Chair Michelle Butler with the help of Amy Kaplan, Howard County Chapter president, designed the contest to emphasize member involvement in submissions and judging.
MWA membership with Flo McCahon as Membership Chair, grows daily.
The critique groups continue to be a major benefit of MWA membership. Less known is the Novel Exchange Group, coordinated by Mark Willen, firstname.lastname@example.org, is a boon for participants seeking beta-readers.
Many thanks go to Barbara Morrison, new editor of the MWA Newsletter, and Dr. T.K. Basu, editor of MWA’s literary journal, Pen In Hand. Pen in Hand used to include the newsletter, but the board decided to separate the two. The newsletter will include member announcements so if you have a new book out, email Barbara with the news, email@example.com.
MWA’s seven chapters are located in Annapolis, Baltimore, Carroll County, Charles County, Howard County, Montgomery County, and the Lower Eastern Shore. They hold monthly meetings with speakers on the topic of writing (craft and business) as well as open discussions and open mic sessions.
MWA currently sponsors 13 active Teen Writers’ Clubs, coordinated by Mark Willen. They have about 100 members and are moderated by an MWA member. These clubs are part of MWA’s growing emphasis on outreach.
Community outreach is a vital component of each chapter’s activities. The Howard County chapter partners with HopeWorks, a domestic violence and sexual assault counseling center, by collecting books to distribute to HopeWorks’ clients and contributing to “Dragonfly,” its arts magazine. The Charles County Chapter has added a book club, critique group, and young writers’ contest to its roster of activities. Other chapters are considering ways in which they can reach out to the community.
And Angela Dale, MWA webmaster, is on top of the MWA website, where you can find out more about the contest, conference, chapters, critique groups, membership, and other benefits of the Maryland Writers’ Association.
MWA Announces ‘The Writing Roller Coaster’ Conference in Annapolis
Writers, authors and publishers from all over the region will participate in this year’s Maryland Writers Association (MWA) conference, Saturday, March 25 at the Crowne Plaza Hotel, 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. This annual event is an opportunity for writers to network, discuss their craft, and participate in workshops with respected industry professionals.
In addition to workshops and networking opportunities, the MWA welcomes speakers Jeffery Deaver, internationally recognized mystery and crime writer, and Sci-Fi/Fantasy novelist Maria V. Snyder. Deaver is a former journalist, folksinger, attorney, and bestselling author. His books are sold in 150 countries and translated into 25 languages. He has sold 50 million books worldwide. Snyder is a former meteorologist responsible for the New York Times best-selling “Study” series about a young woman who becomes a poison taster.
“This is why the MWA Conference is important,” said Eileen Haavik McIntire, MWA President. “I’m looking forward to this event because it offers a variety of choices that appeal to writers in different genres.”
In addition to the keynotes, the conference provides the opportunity to pitch to agents and editors and sit down with them and learn from them in our Book Doctor workshop. One-on-one opportunities will be offered on a first-come basis. Not ready to talk to an agent? We have more than twenty workshops for you to choose from! Have a query read in the query panel, or receive feedback on your first page from industry professionals.
Members receive a discount on tickets for the event, but hurry up! Tickets purchased after March 11 are subject to a $25 surcharge. Check the MWA website marylandwriters.org for registration information.
Your conference registration includes:
- Keynote Breakfast
- Keynote Lunch
- One pitch appointment (MWA members only)
- Access to 20+ workshops
- One-on-one appointment with an agent or editor
- Query and first page panel (random drawing)
- Book signing and cocktail party
To become an MWA member or to find your local chapter visit www.marylandwriters.org. For more information, to arrange an interview with the speakers, an agent, an MWA representative or to register for the event contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Join us for this jam-packed one day event!
2017 MWA Annual Book Awards: An Update
Submissions are open until December 31! Full details and submission form at:
The book award winners will be chosen by MWA members themselves! Scoring will run January 1 – March 1, 2017. Like submissions, scoring will be through the website. Winners will be chosen by the MWA membership, ranking entries on a 1 to 10 scale. Scores will be averaged to determine winners. MWA members in good standing may score entries, one score per entry (exact process still in process—details to come).
Authors who submitted novels should remember they are required to score at least 4 other entries, in a genre division different from the one they submitted to. Entries whose authors do not fulfill this requirement will not be considered for prizes. At least 5 qualifying entries are required to award a prize in a genre division. Entries receiving fewer than 5 scores will not be considered for prizes.
Awards will be announced at the MWA conference, March 25, 2017.
Submit. Score. Attend the conference. Hear the winners announced!
The Annapolis chapter meets on the third Wednesday of every month from 6:30-8:00 p.m. in Room 205 of the Maryland Hall, located at 801 Chase Street, Annapolis, MD 21401. For all the latest news and information about the Annapolis chapter, visit our website at https://annapolismwa.wordpress.com/ or contact us at email@example.com.
Our program for the upcoming quarter:
- January 18th: Award-winning author Barbara Morrison presents The Art of Memoir
- February 15th: Spend some time in the recording studio with Izolda Trakhtenberg and “Your Words, Your Voice” (pre-registration required; see the MWAA website)
- March 15th: Go inside the covers of a book review site with the managing and senior editors of Washington Independent Review of Books.
The Baltimore chapter has found a home at the Cockeysville Recreation Center across from the Cockeysville Library. The programs presented—readings and critique of member works in progress, poetry panels, presentations on writing, editing and publication—have been enthusiastically received. We have a strong core group and more new members have joined the discussions held on the last Thursday of the month from 7 to 9 p.m.
The Cockeysville Recreation Center is located at 9836 Greenside Drive, Cockeysville, MD 21030. Directions: From the Baltimore Beltway I695, take I83 North to Padonia Rd or take York Road North. Take the Padonia Road exit or turn right E Padonia Rd. Turn left onto Greenside Dr. 9836 is on the left, across the street from the Cockeysville Library. For more information or to be added to the mailing list, contact Dr. Tapendu Basu, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Join us again in 2017. It will be a very exciting year. We blast off on Thursday, January 26th with Poetry Gymnasium with Katherine Cottle.
The Carroll County chapter meets the second Saturday of the month, ten months of the year, at 1:00 p.m. in the large meeting room of the Finksburg Library 2265 Old Westminster Pike, Finksburg, MD 21048.
Our upcoming speakers are the following:
- January: Julie Castillo: So you Want to Write a Book?
How to write and publish a book from start to finish.
- February: Author Dani Pettrey: Writing a Romance Novel 101
- March: Eileen McIntire: Historical Research
The Charles County chapter meets the third Wednesday of every month on the La Plata campus of the College of Southern Maryland (BI Building, Room 214, 7-8:30 pm).
We have speakers every other month, so we will not have a speaker in January or March.
Our February speaker is Neal Dwyer, Poet and Professor of English at The College of Southern Maryland. He will be discussing his recent trip to Belfast and his study of writing as an act of healing and reconciliation. He will also be promoting the Irish Literature/Writing course he'll be teaching in Ireland this summer: http://www.csmd.edu/programs-courses/credit/flexible-learning-options/travel-study/2017-ireland/
The Howard County chapter’s 2017 programs will be entertaining, interactive, informative and creative. We’ll build our writing skills, learn how others write, share our work, create collective dramas, analyze literary greats and enjoy presenters who will teach us about writing dialogue, tell us about different genres, and get some great editing tips. Our chapter is stepping up; we’re stepping outside the norm to bring you more of what you want. We will engage and involve you as we co-create monthly programs you will not want to miss.
Join us at the Owen Brown Community Center, 6800 Cradlerock Way. Columbia, MD 21045 on the third Thursday of every month. (Except November and December). All MWA members are invited to join us!
- January 19, 2017, Peter Pollack will present “Fine Tune Your Dialogue.” We’ll dissect examples of good and not-so-good dialogues and give you keys to writing dialogue that will delight your readers.
- February 16, 2017, Nancy Alexander will lead an interactive workshop entitled “Act It Out.” Building on January’s presentation, this fun workshop will invite audience participation as we join each other to enact selected dialogues.
- March 16, 2017, Catherina Asaro, best known for her books about the Ruby Dynasty, called the Saga of the Skolian Empire is a recipient of the Nebula Award for Best Novel and the Nebula Award for Best Novella. She will lead us in a discussion about writing science fiction and fantasy.
Lower Eastern Shore
The Lower Eastern Shore chapter meets the second Tuesday of every month at 6:00 p.m. at Salt Water Media in downtown Berlin, Maryland. We don’t have speakers or topics. We just get together and hang out—a cheese and crackers and wine sort of thing in which we talk to each other about what’s going on and let the conversations just meander where they will. Often, one or two members will offer up a reading of whatever they’re working on. Informal and casual and light and relaxed: after all, that’s how life at the beach works.
The Montgomery County chapter alternates meetings between the first Wednesday evening or Saturday morning of the month at the Mid-County Community Rec Center on Queensguard Road, Silver Spring. Please see https://mwamontgomery.com/ for specific times and dates.
We're excited about our upcoming meetings which include a short story workshop with publisher Nancy Sakaduski, a poetry workshop, and open mic.
Six of members of the Charles County Chapter had their work published in the fall issue of The College of Southern Maryland's literary magazine, Connections.
Charlotte Eliopoulos’s story “A Surprising Love” was the first place winner of the Silver Pen Contest sponsored by the Baltimore County Department of Aging and was subsequently printed in the current issue of the Senior Digest, Vol. 38, No. 8. It describes a typical exchange between me and my father with Alzheimer’s disease who resided in a nursing home. It shows the changing nature of a parent-child love with age, and how we can still see the unique individual within the diseased body.
Tom Glenn’s story, "Snow and Ashes," has been published by the Loch Raven Review. You can read it at https://thelochravenreview.net/tom-glenn/. He is the author of Friendly Casualties, No-Accounts, and The Trion Syndrome, and has a new book coming out on March 15, 2017, a novel called Last of the Annamese. It's a story of love, war, and tragedy set during the fall of Saigon, which Glenn survived, escaping under fire after the North Vietnamese were already in the streets of the city.
Eileen Haavik McIntire announces the release of In Rembrandt's Shadow. Alternate stories trace the provenance of a Rembrandt painting through the centuries and Sara and Josh’s present-day struggle to outwit the thieves, find the painting’s rightful owner and deliver the painting as they resolve their own relationship. Available in print and e-book versions.
Revised and updated, Teenagers & Parents: 12 Steps to a Better Relationship by award-winning author Dr. Roger McIntire is now available in print and e-book editions. Practical and easy to read, this popular book for parents raising teenagers includes suggestions for dealing with cell phones, computers, and social media.
MWA’s Teen Writing Club Program continues to prosper and expand. We recently opened a club in Annapolis and another is set to begin on Jan. 11 in Catonsville, marking a much-needed return to Baltimore County. That will bring our total to 13 clubs, serving more than 100 teens aged 11-17.
All of the clubs operate in partnership with a local library. MWA provides a volunteer leader, while the library provides space and logistical support. Most clubs meet twice a month, although some meet weekly and others meet once a month. The format is largely up to the leader, but the aim is to foster a constructive environment in which teens interested in creative writing can share their work and get peer feedback and support. In addition to critiques of work brought to club meetings, meetings include writing exercises and prompts, conversations about the writing process, and an occasional visit from a guest author. The clubs have also joined together to publish two anthologies of teen works (Emerging Voices, Vols. 1 and 2). https://www.amazon.com/Emerging-Voices-Poetry-Prose-Maryland/dp/1530756669/
Club leaders often find they learn as much from the teens as the other way around, and there is nothing more rewarding than watching these young writers grow. Many have been in the program for three or four years. "The time spent with them is a rewarding break from my own work,” says Christy Lyons, leader of the Germantown club, now in its third year. “Often I leave the meeting refreshed and inspired by their creativity and their eagerness to play with different ideas, words, and styles,"
In addition to the clubs in Annapolis, Catonsville, and Germantown, we have clubs in Silver Spring, White Oak, Burtonsville, Gaithersburg, Bethesda, Odenton, Potomac, and Kensington.
If you’re interested in volunteering, know some teen writers who may be interested, or just want more information, you can contact the program by email at email@example.com.
MWA Novel Exchange
So, after months of painstaking work, you’ve finished your novel. It’s been reviewed in 25-page installments by your critique group and you’ve revised and polished and revised again. Now you need a fresh set of eyes, a savvy reader who will look at the novel as a whole and give you constructive feedback.
That’s where the Novel Exchange comes in. It’s a virtual critique group that functions as a matchmaking service, helping you find a suitable reader for your manuscript. And you’ll do the same for them.
It’s a bit more complicated than that, of course, but you can get all the details by writing to Mark Willen at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Pen in Hand
Pen in Hand is MWA’s biannual literary magazine. Members are welcome to submit poetry, short stories, flash fiction, creative nonfiction, and artwork. All submissions are subject to the editor's discretion (i.e., not all submissions will be published). Submissions must be emailed; no hard copies will be accepted. Please include a brief bio (75 words maxumum).
All photos must be formatted as follows: jpeg or png, max. 300 dpi, black and white. Photos may be resized for publication at the editor's discretion. Title, medium, date, and artist name must be included in all submissions. Please include a brief artist bio (75 words maxumum) and an artist statement describing the work (500 words maximum).
St. Mary’s County Library Author Fair
St. Mary’s County Library is pleased to announce that we will be holding our first Author Fair on April 1, 2017. Now through Wednesday, February 1st, we are accepting applications from local authors who are interested in participating in local author presentations. There will be room for 10 authors to present about their work and/or experiences as an author. There is no cost to participating authors, and the Library reserves the right to limit participation by selecting authors that represent a variety of genres and intended audiences. For more information and an application, interested authors may visit https://www.stmalib.org/adults/programs/author-fair/.
A Day to Write
March 4, 2017, 9:30-4:30. MWA member Ann Quinn is hosting a writing retreat in Catonsville. There will be time for guided writing and sharing as well as work on your own projects in a light-filled, comfortable space. Cost is just $50 including lunch. Details at
Call for Work
Catch Our Drift Productions is accepting submissions for a compilation about HOPE. Genre: Non-fiction. Length: 1,000 to 2,000 words. Deadline: January 31, 2017. More info: www.catchourdrift.ca/39-signs-of-hope
Listening Builds Dialogue
By Frances Altman
How do your characters talk? Like real people? Of course they don’t!
When was the last time you listened to real people talking? Writing dialogue or conversations between characters and using it to move a story forward can be harder to do than most writers think. Recently two playwrights speaking to the Baltimore Chapter of Maryland Writer’s Association (MWA) told how they gather dialogue by listening to people talking in shopping malls and coffee shops. Whether you call it eavesdropping or just listening, these conversations are a good way to collect expressions, current buzzwords, accents, colloquial expressions or pronunciation—the real way people talk. Then the writer refines it!
WYPR* producer Aaron Henkin told Maryland Writers how he has created a unique radio program entitled “Out of the Blocks” by gathering and linking conversations together. His idea is to record and then listen to people talking. The Baltimore program captures the way people talk in specific neighborhoods. “Program followers say it sparks their imagination. They wonder how the speakers look and what they might do for a living?” For example:
The 200 block of West Saratoga Street is nestled amid the bustle of downtown Baltimore. Church bells ring in a duet with the clanging Light Rail. City buses rattle and hiss while loud sidewalk conversations compete with the din. These are the sounds that reverberate through a block peppered with a Bengali body oil shop, barbershops and salons, a candle store, and the shoe-repair shop of a Russian cobbler.
These are the sounds and conversations Henkin captures. Then he begins to process these sounds just as a writer would edit. “When you listen to radio it is an intimate medium. You are completing an image in your head.” For a one-hour PBS show he tapes, listens to and cuts up to 25 hours of audio recordings. Then he puts himself in the “listening” seat and begins reducing the conversations. He listens to each segment many times reducing it again and again. His final cut is what he calls “slivers of moments.”
“From a study of a voice you can give your character a unique personality that will help the listener’s (or reader’s) imagination grow,” says Henkin. Once the dialogue is in place, the writer can enhance the scene by adding gestures such as frowning to continue moving the story forward. Use dialogue tags such as “he said” or “she replied” sparingly because they draw attention away from the conversation.
Listening is an active process. It is not just overhearing a conversation. It requires a greater effort than just hearing words. It requires a degree of discipline and energy whether you are recording it or jotting it down. Researchers tell us that an individual listens 45 percent of the time.** So, we must frequently force ourselves to quit talking, stop thinking and concentrate on listening.
Gathering character clues doesn’t mean they must be used immediately. File them away for the future. Say you hear two Italian painters conversing. Immediately your imagination clicks with an image. Save it! Just a word or phrase in Italian could add to a scene you may write next year.
Not surprising today, but many conversations are sprinkled with swearing. A writer would not need to use but one “damn” to spark the imagination, make the point and move on.
Educators tell us that listening is an acquired skill that is being neglected.** So why not make listening a talent to be added to your writer’s tool box?
*WYPR 88.1 FM Baltimore PBS
**U.S. Air Force Guidebook
By Wendy Sand Eckel
Q: What are the advantages/disadvantages of using a first person point of view instead of a close third person?
A: There are two questions an author must answer when beginning a story. What is the story about? And who will tell it? The second question will determine your point of view (POV).
For clarity purposes, first person means the story is written using ‘I.’ In close third (aka third person familiar) the story is also told through a single character’s perspective, but using ‘he/she.’
The biggest obstacle in choosing either first or close third POV is that the character telling the story must be present in every scene.
An advantage of a first person POV is the intimacy it creates between the character and the reader. In first person, a reader is exposed to the protagonist’s deepest thoughts and feelings. Readers may also be more likely to identify with the character and care more about what happens to him/her as a result of this intimate relationship.
But first person has its own unique restrictions. For one, it is important to not make your character sound vain. Also, it can prove challenging to describe your character’s physical features. There are ways around this. For instance, you can reveal your character is vertically challenged with the following: “When I returned his embrace my nose only reached his armpit.” In addition, it is difficult to identify your character’s name early on in the story. In first person, the name is almost always revealed through dialogue which may not occur for several pages into the story. In close third, the character’s name is most often disclosed in the first sentence.
A good method to help choose your POV is to write a scene once in first person, and again in close third. Ask yourself, which was easier to write? Which scene was more likely to engage the reader and move the story forward? Or are both of these options too limiting for your writing style? If so, you may want to consider trying third person omniscient or first/third person multiple. Barbara Kingsolver’s The Poisonwood Bible is an excellent example of first person multiple.
Remember, any POV can make for a wonderful read, as long as it fits your story and remains consistent.
Send your questions to email@example.com.
Wendy Sand Eckel is a clinical social worker turned writer. She is the author of Murder at Barclay Meadow, Minotaur Books, 2015 and Death at the Day Lily Café, Minotaur Books, July, 2016, the award-winning Rosalie Hart mystery series set on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. Death at the Day Lily Café was recently chosen as best cozy mystery of 2016 by Suspense Magazine. Her literary novel, Three Skips of a Stone, won the Maryland Writers’ Association 2016 best novel contest and is currently represented by Ken Atchity of Atchity Entertainment. Eckel is a trained life coach who loves encouraging and supporting her fellow authors and aspiring writers.
By Nancy Alexander
At a recent meeting, some of us were pondering our motivation for writing. We realized, writers write for a variety of reasons. We thought it would be interesting to pose the question, so we can examine the myriad of reasons, why we do what we do. Most of us spend hours writing, we write everything from poems to blogs, we create elaborate, complex novels and snappy flash fiction. We are brilliant, funny, provocative, thrilling, mysterious, esoteric, imaginative and erotic. For some of us our writing defines us, it’s our driving life force, the reason we get up in the morning, for others it’s a momentary flirtation with self-expression, it darts in and out of our lives, like a short-lived butterfly.
Some of us are journalists who write for a living, some of us are novelists and struggle to break even, we write commentaries, short stories or travelogues. We write children’s books, history books or mystery books, joke books or coffee table books. Most of us love what we do. We love the act of creating, of saying, of sitting at our keyboards mesmerized as word after word a creation appears.
So why do you write?
Do you write because you want to express your point of view?
Because you want to share your story?
To create a world beyond reality? A world never before seen?
Do you write to thrill or influence others? Political or social commentary leading toward change?
Do you write to pass on your wisdom to future generations? To validate or solidify your accumulated knowledge?
Do you write to express your feelings? Your anger at injustice? Your love of G-d?
Do you write to entertain others or maybe just yourself?
Take a few minutes, contemplate and if you’re so inclined, write a few sentences that explain why you write. Send your brief essay to the MWA Newsletter, signed or unsigned, and we’ll publish selected results in upcoming issues. It will give us a better understanding of why we do what we do. Join us why don’t you?
Send your essay to: firstname.lastname@example.org