MWA Newsletter Summer 2017 Print

Editor's Note

By Barbara Morrison

Welcome to the summer issue of the MWA Newsletter. If you’re like me, vacation means more than just time to swim or go camping; it means time to write! Be sure to let us know if there is anything MWA can do to help you achieve your writing goals You can contact any member of the board via or email

One way to promote your work or build your publishing credentials is to submit your news and/or articles to this newsletter.

Members are encouraged to submit to the newsletter announcements of awards, publication, or author events (readings, workshops, etc.). Members may also submit questions for our writers’ advice column or an entry for our Why I Write column. We’d also love to see your articles for possible inclusion: things like interviews with writers or guest speakers, reviews of writing craft books, how-to advice, member profiles, member surveys, and other subjects of interest to writers. 

Send your submissions to 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.


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President's Report

By Eileen Haavik McIntire

What an outstanding year! What an outstanding Board! Take a look at what MWA has accomplished this fiscal year.

  • We’ve held regular, well-attended board meetings each month.
  • We had cooperative booths at the Baltimore, CityLit,  Gaithersburg, and Kensington book festivals where you had a chance to show and sell your books.
  • MWA’s literary journal, Pen in Hand, came out on schedule in January. The next issue is due out in July.
  • The Quarterly Newsletter came out on schedule in January and in April.
  • Quick Notes were sent out to members once or twice a month offering current news bits and opportunities for writers.
  • The MWA annual contest began a new, innovative format this year with members judging the submissions. I read Provenance, the winning entry in the historical genre. It was excellent and worthy of first place.
  • MWA’s 2017 conference received high marks from attendees.
  • MWA’s seven chapters thrive with monthly meetings, outstanding programs and special events.
  • MWA’s Teen Writers’ Groups continue to expand in number and participation.
  • MWA continues to receive grants from the Maryland State Arts Council.

Plans are already underway for the 2018 Conference and for the 2018 Book Awards Contest. The conference theme will be “From Brain to Bookshelf.” John Gilstrap will be a keynote speaker. Mark your calendars for the date: March 24-25, 2018.

Next year’s Book Awards contest begins this summer. Books published in 2016 and 2017 will be eligible with submissions accepted from July 1 through Aug. 31. The scoring period will run from September 1 through February.  

As we look to the future, we hope to initiate new ways to reach out to the community. We need your ideas. You are always welcome at board meetings. If you can’t attend but have brilliant or even ordinary suggestions for MWA, contact us. We’re listening.


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MWA Conference

From Brain to Bookshelf

The 2018 Maryland Writers conference will be held at the BWI Airport Marriott. We’re working on some extra-special additions to the program. Watch your email for further details!

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MWA Annual Book Awards

Time for the 2018 Maryland Writers Association Annual Book Awards!

The 2018 MWA Book Awards are open to all MWA members in good standing who have published a novel (50K words or more) in 2016 or 2017.  There is no fee to enter; one entry per MWA member.  

Awards will be given in the following genre divisions:  

  • Mystery/thriller
  • Romance
  • Science Fiction/Fantasy/Speculative fiction
  • Literary/Mainstream
  • Historical Fiction

However, at least 5 qualifying entries are required to award a prize in that division.

Co-authored books are allowed; anthologies to which the author has contributed a story are not.  


Authors should submit an image of book cover and 50 word max blurb on the MWA website: Authors are not required to submit copies of their book; however, they are encouraged to negotiate a lower ebook price with their publisher for MWA members during the contest period, so members can read their books more easily.  

Submission period is JULY 1, 2017 – AUGUST 31, 2017

Authors must score at least 4 other entries, in a genre division other than the one submitted to.  Entries whose authors do not fulfill this requirement will not be considered for prizes.  


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). Critique sheets will not be given.  

At least 5 qualifying entries are required to award a prize in a genre division.  If 5 entries are not received in a category, the category may be eliminated or combined with another category, at the discretion of the MWA Program Chair in consultation with the MWA Board.

Entries receiving fewer than 5 scores will not be considered for prizes.  

Awards will be announced at the MWA conference, March 24, 2018

Scoring period is SEPTEMBER 1, 2017 – FEBRUARY 28, 2018

Please note that the scoring period has been expanded, as widely requested.


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MWA News and Updates

MWA at the Baltimore Book Festival!

Writers! MWA will once again have a booth at the Baltimore Book Festival. This year it runs Friday 22 September through Sunday 24 September at Baltimore’s Inner Harbor. It always draws a huge crowd.

MWA will be looking for volunteers to help staff our booth. This is a great opportunity to talk with people about MWA. Volunteers are also invited to bring their own books to sell while they are staffing the booth.

For more information about the festival see:

Keep your eyes open for an email asking for volunteers. The slots fill up fast!


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Chapter News



The Annapolis chapter meets on the third Wednesday of every month from 7:00 – 8:30 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 or contact us at

Our program for the upcoming quarter:

  • July 19th: The Interrupted Writer: National Book Award finalist Ellen Prentiss Campbell discusses the challenges of maintaining writing focus in the midst of everyday life, and getting back to writing after a long absence. 
  • August 16th: Book Publicity 101: Book publicist Jill Bernstein brings straight talk to the mystery of how to get your book known and talked about.
  • September 20th: What Drives You to Write?: Rafael Alvarez is an award-winning staff writer on the TV show The Wire, a screenwriter, a storyteller, and a long-time City Desk reporter for the Baltimore Sun. In a return visit , Rafael will discuss with the audience what it is that makes them want to tell a story, and how to funnel that drive into writing.



MWAB continues to have exciting monthly sessions. We meet at the Cockeysville Recreation Center across from the Cockeysville Library 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,

  • July 27th: Social Media for Writers by Amy Mascot
  • August 24th: Speaker from Goucher College MFA Program.


Carroll County

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:

  • July 8th: Picnic! 
  • August 12th: Open house at 1:00 pm at the Finksburg branch of the Carroll County Public Library.
  • September 9th: Comic author Michele (Wojo) Wojciechowski at 1:00 pm at the Finksburg branch. 

Mark your calendars for October 14th!

Donna Drew Sawyer, author of Provenance, will speak at the Carroll County Chapter of the Maryland Writers Association, on Saturday October 14 at 1:00 p.m.

Provenance was a finalist for the 2016 Wheatley Award and won the Maryland Writers Association 2017 Award for Historical Fiction. It also was the May 2017 selection for the Go On Girl Book Club's 30 chapters. The protagonist of Provenance is Lance Henry Withers. "I tell a story of one man's history and how art and the people he encountered in the art world changed him and the people around him," states Sawyers web page. ( Promise, which continues the story of Lance Henry Withers is scheduled for publication in 2018.

The meeting will be held at the Finksburg Branch of Carroll County Public Library,  2265 Old Westminster Pike, Finksburg, MD 21084. 

For more information check out her website, her Facebook Author page ( or subscribe to her Twitter feed (@ddswriter).


Charles County

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.

  • July 19th: "What If? Writing Exercises for Fiction Writers” In this session we will be responding to writing prompts from the book What If? Writing Exercises for Fiction Writers by Ann Bernays and Pamela Painter, and then sharing our work.
  • August 16th: No meeting
  • September 20th: TBD

Welcome to our new chapter officers!

  • President: Karen McIntyre
  • Vice President: Lew McIntyre
  • Secretary/Treasurer: September Lundeen
  • Web Coordinator: Paul Mayhair


Howard County

The Howard County Chapter meets on the third Thursday of every month at 7:00 PM at The Owen Brown Community Center, 6800 Cradlerock Way, Columbia, MD 21045 (except November and December). All MWA members are invited to join us!

  • July 20th: Harrison Demchick – Genre workshop
  • August 17th: Keith DeCandido – Fight Scene Planning
  • September 21st: Analyzing Effective Writing – Donald McLean

Howard County Chapter officers are:

  • President: Nancy Alexander
  • Vice President: Rissa Miller
  • Secretary: Donald McLean
  • Treasurer: Steve Lubs

You can contact us and please feel free to join us.


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. 

Members of the Lower Shore Chapter of the Maryland Writers Association welcomed Steven Skerritt, the program director of community arts development for the Maryland State Arts Council. Skerritt was in town visiting members of the arts community and talking about the future of arts in Berlin. Members told him about the chapter's sponsorship of a poetry event and a book event in nearby Salisbury. Pictured are LSC member Cary Kamarat, Stephen Skerritt , Stephanie Fowler, chapter president, and LSC Member Susan Wimbrow. The chapter meets 6 p.m. the second Tuesday of each month at Salt Water Media, Berlin's independent book publisher. 


Montgomery County

TheMontgomery 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 for specific times and dates.

  • July 15th: Jenny Yakovissi – Publishing & Publicity
  • August 16th: No meeting 
  • September 20th: Stay tuned!


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Member News

Justine Quammie Bassomb, whose stage name is Travelling Roots, announces publication of her book of poetry, Tributes and Metaphors. Find it here:

Local author and MWA member T. C. (Ted) Weber was nominated as a finalist for the 2017 Compton Crook Award, given annually by the Baltimore Science Fiction Society for the “best first novel of the year written by an individual author in the Science Fiction/Fantasy/Horror genre.” Weber’s novel, Sleep State Interrupt, is a cyberpunk thriller set in a near-future dystopian Maryland, where a giant media corporation controls nearly all information and politicians do their bidding. An unemployed bipolar journalist, with the help of a fugitive teenage hacker, seeks to change all this, but has to evade an army of pursuers and break into one of the most secure facilities ever built.

Eileen Haavik McIntire, MWA president, will discuss her 90s Club cozy mystery series at the Barnes & Noble Book Fair, Ellicott City, 2 p.m. July 30.

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Teen Writing Club Program

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).

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. A local publication that serves Gaithersburg had a good photo of the teen workshop that a couple of our club leaders led at the Gaithersburg Book Festival.  Here's the link:

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


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Pen in Hand

Pen in Hand is the official literary journal of the Maryland Writers’ Association, edited by Dr. Tapendu Basu. It is published biannually in January and July and distributed online through Star Chapter. Printed copies are also made available. Members are asked to submit poetry, short stories, flash fiction, memoir, nonfiction  (including erudite reflection on current events), and artwork. Send submissions to The deadline for the next issue is December 15, 2017.

All submissions are subject to the editor's discretion (i.e., not all submissions will be published). He will edit, organize and prepare the content and arrange for a cover design. Submissions must be emailed; no hard copies will be accepted. Please include a brief bio (75 words maximum). 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 maximum) and an artist statement describing the work (500 words maximum).

The print edition of the January issue of Pen in Hand is available  on Amazon and other online bookstores. The retail price is $7; MWA President Eileen McIntire suggests chapters use it for prizes and to sell at MWA events for $5. Contact or your chapter officers for copies to use at MWA events.



Baltimore County residents ages 60 and older may enter the 2017 Silver Pen Writing Contest! The Silver Pen Creative Writing Contest is held to recognize writing among older adults. The theme this year is Reimagine Aging. First place prizes from The Ivy Bookstore and Penguin Random House will be awarded in the categories of essay and poem. All entries must be received by September 1st, 2017. For more information see

Note: Charlotte Eliopoulos from MWA’s Baltimore Chapter won last year.


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


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Writer's Toolbox

Selling books? Maryland Sales Tax  Required

By Eileen Haavik McIntire

The State of Maryland requires any person selling used or new products to charge 6% sales tax.  

If you make sales in Maryland, you will have to obtain a Sales and Use Tax License. Some book festivals, such as the Gaithersburg Book Festival, will submit a list of vendor names to the Maryland State Comptroller’s Office, so if you don’t have a Maryland tax ID number, you won’t need to apply for one. You will be assigned a temporary tax ID number at the festival. Most of the time, though, collecting sales tax and filing reports will be your responsibility.

When you sell for resale, such as selling to Amazon or other bookstores, you do not have to pay sales tax. Collecting sales tax is also usually not necessary for out-of-state sales unless you have a facility in the other state.

Here’s the website that will tell you how to apply for the sales and use tax license:

Paying the sales tax is simple. Depending on your sales, you will have to file a report every month or every six months. Follow these steps.

Step 1:  Go to

Step 2: In right blue box at bottom of page, under “Business taxpayers,” click on “bfile.”

Step 3:  You can register here or not. Click on “File sales and use tax returns.”

Then continue on through the steps. The last step will require your bank routing number and account number. They will withdraw the money directly from the account.



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Help! Advice for Writers

By Wendy Sand Eckel

Question: I am writing an historical novel set in Korea. I have been researching for months and have found some fascinating information. But when I sit down to write the story, I am faced with writer’s block. I think this book will be timely and I really want to get it going. Any suggestions?

Answer: Last fall I had the opportunity to participate in Bouchercon, the world mystery convention in New Orleans. I attended a session that consisted of a panel of very successful thriller writers moderated by Lee Child. (Fun fact: Lee Child is British) He asked the panel about the importance of research in writing technical, thriller, and/or historical novels.

They were unanimous on two key aspects of conducting research for a novel. The first: research is more fun than writing. As you may have already experienced, exploring a topic in depth can lead you down all sorts of unexpected paths. And with the Internet, it is easy to amass piles of interesting facts.

That being said, they emphasized the second: Don’t feel compelled to include all of it in your novel. This can result in information dumps that can slow a plot to a crawl.

Suggestion: Stop your research and organize what you have. Devise a timeline, series of events, and bios for your key characters. Ground your story in the time period and rich culture of your chosen setting. Loosen your writing muscles and get the story down. Remember to allow yourself to write badly in the beginning. The editing and fine-tuning will follow. Establish a routine and write every day you possibly can. Organize your writing sessions in segments. Write for 45-50 minutes straight, and take short break. Start another.

Good luck with your novel. And happy writing!

Send your questions to

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 author and aspiring writers. 


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Book Review-Writing Craft Books

The Comic Toolbox, by John Vorhaus

By B. Morrison

I am seriously unfunny. I mean, I enjoy a good joke or comedy routine as much as the next person, but fail when it comes to producing one. It’s embarrassing. I only know one joke, well, actually two but the second one is so silly it doesn’t really count: What’s yellow and not a banana? Oh, wait, it is a banana. 

The only person I’ve met more humor-impaired than I am is my friend, John. He and I were both technical trainers and decided to spice up our dry material with some jokes. I tried to memorise a few with lukewarm results. But John wrote out jokes on index cards and kept a handful in his shirt pocket. When things seemed slow in the classroom, he’d say, “Must be time for a joke.” He’d pull out his cards and leaf through them. Brilliant! The joke itself wasn’t half as funny as the whole performance of selecting it.

I don’t have any ambitions to write for a sitcom or do standup, but I would like to add more humor to my fiction and poetry. I want to improve my comic-relief characters. But how?

What a joy and relief, then, to stumble on John Vorhaus’s book! It is just what I needed.

He takes a two-pronged approach. The first prong is to create a safe zone. He uses several techniques to ratchet down the fear of failure. One that is most helpful for me is that he breaks each exercise down into progressively more specific questions. Instead of racking your brain trying to think of something funny to say, you are given a discreet task or question to answer, with plenty of examples. And Vorhaus himself is seriously funny; it’s hard to feel intimidated when you’re snorting with laughter.

The second prong consists of the tools implied by the title. I love tools. I was surprised to discover that what makes a joke work is essentially what makes a story work. I shouldn’t have been surprised, because of course a joke is a story. Vorhaus isolates the factors that make it funny. Using movies and television shows as case studies, he demonstrates each tool in action.

There must be a hundred tools here. The one I liked best was how to create a comic character. Amid discussion and illustrations, he boils the technique down to five elements. Boom! One minute and I had the bare bones of a comic character. Thirty seconds and I had another. Even better, I could see the gaping holes I’d left in the comic characters in my work-in-progress.

There are sections on parody and satire, situation comedy and sketches, but always tools and more tools. This book delivers on its promise: the subtitle is How to Be Funny Even If You’re Not. Finally there is hope for me! I can see that this is a book I will refer to again and again.

Barbara Morrison, who writes under the name B. Morrison, is the author of a memoir, Innocent: Confessions of a Welfare Mother, and two poetry collections, Terrarium andHere at Least. She conducts writing workshops, provides editing services, and speaks about publishing and marketing. She has maintained her Monday Morning Books blog since 2006 and tweets regularly about poetry @bmorrison9. For more information, visit This review first appeared on her blog.

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