Excited to announce that Del Sol Press (of which I am now Editor-in-Chief) has just opened a first novel competition! Deadline is April 15, 2016.
The judge is Madison Smartt Bell.
THE 2016 BEST FIRST NOVEL COMPETITION Del Sol Press seeks to publish exceptional work by both new and recognized writers. Our emphasis is on original, unique, and accessible work with an edge.
We are only interested in the very best work, regardless of source or type. The competition is open to all authors writing in English regardless of nationality or residence, and is available to published and unpublished authors alike. Genres we are looking for include literary and upmarket fiction, mainstream or general fiction, mystery/thriller or speculative fiction with a literary edge, serious women's fiction, and unique experimental work.
Finalist manuscripts will also be considered for publication. A second manuscript may be submitted for a reduced fee.
First Place Winner Receives A $1,500 honorarium, paid May, 2016, and book publication by Del Sol Press in fall 2016, plus 20 copies of the winning book. Second and third place winners receive free tuition to the Algonkian New York Pitch Conference where they can pitch their novels to editors in the commercial publishing business. Del Sol Press would like to thank Algonkian Writer Conferences for providing this opportunity.
-Writers who are at least 18 years of age and who live inside the United States.
-Simultaneous submissions are acceptable (as long as you let us know immediately if the manuscript is accepted for publication elsewhere).
-Excerpts from the manuscript may have been published previously in magazines, journals, anthologies, chapbooks, or self-published books, but must be submitted in manuscript form.
-If the work has previously been published by an independent small press or eBook press, it may be entered but only if the author has regained the rights.
-If the work is currently published and the rights remain with the publisher, the work does not qualify. If the work is self-published, it may be entered in the contest.
-If the work was previously published by a major commercial New York publisher (Penguin, Random, St. Martins, etc), or any of imprints of that publisher, it does not qualify as a "first novel" and therefore cannot be entered.
-Employees, volunteers, and board members of Del Sol Press, their partners, spouses, and immediate families, and immediate family, friends, and former students of the judge are not eligible.
"Your service, The Real Writer Editing Services, is ranked as one of Thumbtack’s Best of 2015 in the Proofreaders category as a result of your great customer reviews. This is a terrific vote of confidence from your customers in the past year—and a great way to stand out this year. We're proud to prominently feature your business on this page of our website."
I appreciate the appreciation! Now if they only had a badge you could post on the website. I mean, it is 2015....
Hello dear Real Writers, I haven't posted in a while as I have been editing manuscripts practically nonstop for the last eight months! It's wonderful that so many people are ready to put their books out there and share their stories, and know that working with an editor is a crucial step (however talented and well-meaning family and friends are!) in that process.
I also taught a class in the Johns Hopkins Odyssey program in April on writing a pitch and query letter and received this terrific review from one of the participants who has written a book with his mother. His comments reflect exactly what I strive to do so I'm glad I succeeded in this class.
So pardon me while I (sort of) sing my own praises!
"My mother and I have been writing our novel for 8 years and we believe in it as much as we've ever believed in anything. We know in our hearts that we have a winner. Yet, we've been trying to create "pitch" materials for about 1 1/2 years and have struggled with mixed results. Chris was able to quickly get us light years ahead of where we were and helped us to create pitch materials that are much better than good. They really capture the essence of the novel. While more polishing may be needed, we now feel very close to the point of being able to make legitimate submissions to agents. It's astounding that she could help us (and the other class members) so well without having read our manuscripts. My hat's off to her and the class was absolutely well worth it."
--Robert G., Young Adult, Maryland
If you're local, I'll be teaching a ten-minute playwriting class at Odyssey this Fall. The catalogue should be up in early August. This class is so much fun. I can't wait!
The new JMWW is online with lots of great poetry and prose, as well as my latest article on how to give a good reading. Here's the opening:
"Years ago, I hired someone via friend who called himself a "reading coach." He was an actor who ran a theatre in New York and had recently published a collection of short stories through one of the Top Five publishers. I was in Baltimore, but I e-mailed him anyway, asking if he made out-of-state calls and how much he charged. Turns out he had friends in the area and was already going to be in town in a few weeks, so we scheduled a session. So you don't think I'm crazy, I won't tell you the ridiculous amount he charged.
For two hours, he put me through my paces. I read poems softly, then loudly. I moved from loud to soft and back. I did the same with fast and slow. I stood and did stretches. I hummed and did scales. I lay on the floor and breathed in various ways while he pushed on either my upper chest or my stomach (he made sure I was comfortable with that first) to indicate where I should center the breath. The ultimate was me standing in the middle of the room reading while he circled me in his loose, fluid way of moving, and called out instructions: "Faster, slower, louder, softer, look at me, pause," occasionally coming over to pull my shoulders back or lift my head. I often felt pretty silly."
I haven't abandoned you, Real Writers, I've been working on my own novel, one of many rounds of editing, and it's been crunch time for me. I promised myself I would finish it by end of August. There was also a healthy dose of Game of Thrones binge-watching. I admit it. I came late to that party.
I post on my Facebook page nearly every day, however, so "like" via the badge to the right for news, tips, and my general rants about bad writing and how you can make sure it doesn't happen to you!
Below is my latest article on creative nonfiction for JMWW.
Tell All the Truth But Tell It Slant
by Christine Stewart
It's time to give some love to the creative nonfiction writers, who have just as many cool tools to use as fiction writers (including the tools fiction writers use).
Per the quote from an Emily Dickinson poem that's my title for this piece, let's get one thing straight: there is no such thing as a true story. Even newspaper articles have a slant and a shape to the article. Even if you're telling a story about something that actually happened, you're telling a story. It's your version of events shaped and paced in a certain way. You’re telling it slant.
Facts are the only truth, but how one interprets them and which ones you share or leave out is the realm of story.
What is creative nonfiction? It's the reporter-like communication of information shaped like fiction using literary technique and style.
What falls under this heading: biography, autobiography, memoir, personal essay, travel essay, food essays, diary writing, history, which is the relaying of history in the form of a novel for example, from the point of view of the person or people involved. The same is true for literary journalism—the story is told as a story, with setting of scene, a narrator (character), the use of conflicts and tension, etc.
Check out some cool techniques (that you c an also use as a fiction writer); read more here.
My latest article at JMWW is up! Check it out and then read around a bit in the magazine to see if anything inspires you to write.
HOW TO BRING MORE SPONTANEITY, IMPERFECTION, AND RISK INTO YOUR WRITING:
This article is about not playing fair or being nice.
You're human. You're imperfect. Allow both in your writing. Let's see the struggle, confusion, questioning, disbelief, fear. Make a mess. Yes, you could end up writing 10 poems that end up failing. That's risk. Creativity can't exist without freedom to create anything, including a mess.
Perfect is boring. Perfect is lifeless and flat. Perfect is claustrophobic. Don't connect every dot in your writing, just the key points. An object is stronger for being broken, for having cracks. Let there be cracks and gaps for the reader to enter and fill in on their own. Make leaps in your logic that don't seem logical (but not illogical—there should be a thread of logic). Use a word in the 'wrong' way, a surprising way. Say something crazy. Allow the Freudian slip. Say what you really want to. Free pass. You can edit later. No one is going to grab it out of your hand and send it to the New Yorker and your mother to embarrass you. Allow the unexpected. If any of these happen, leave them and keep going. Let the faucet drip!
Admit you have a problem. Do you keep encountering the same problem in your piece? You can't really see the image you're trying to convey, your lines or sentences are coming out choppy when you'd rather they were long, all of a sudden the poem rhymes or you're slipping in and out of verb tenses, or one character is taking over.
Take another look at what you're calling a problem. This may be the piece telling you what it really needs to be. Go with it. Use another image, let your lines come out short, rhyme to your heart's content. Change your verb tense or your narrator. Stop rowing so hard and just float.