Tuesday, September 19, 2017

September Meeting Reminder

I am the Queen of the Auxillary Brain- the "brain" being little pieces of paper habitually residing in my pockets with reminders of things I mustn't forget.

There was a sticky note in my pocket when I got home from work this afternoon to remind me to post a reminder about Saturday's first official meeting of the WhipCity Wordsmiths. I am both excited and nervous. I'm not much of a public speaker. I'm a writer. The outline of the meeting I mailed out looks intimidating, but looks can be deceiving. I breeze through things pretty fast, and am not immune to constant interruptions (I work like that every day!). Anyway, I had the note to remind everyone about the meeting at 3PM at Blue Umbrella Books, 2 Main Street, Westfield, MA on Saturday, September 23rd, in my pocket. Too bad I didn't write myself another note not to forget my phone that was charging in the smaller kitchen at work- I went home without it. John (my husband) gave me a lift and on the way we encountered photographer Danny Nason snapping some pics of gorgeous mums at Pignatare's Farm stand on East Mountain Road- where we've been buying our fresh veggies every summer since we moved here in 1989 (from the haunted house in West Side.) So, grabbed my phone and charger, came home and...

...had a brainstorm! I figured it was time for a mother/daughter anthology to happen. I had started putting some ghost stories together, and Kelly has been writing some for Ghost Stories LIVE!. So, together, we've put together an anthology of our ghost and other weird and disturbing stories. I am Miss Peculiar, and she is Miss Spectyr, but we haven't quite agreed on a title for the collection yet, but hope to have it available at the October 14th Fall Family Festival and Pumpkin Carving Event where she and I will be among the local authors offering books for sale, and maybe doing some readings in the former Carson Center/Old Town Hall opposite the green. Judith "Sandy" Sessler and Sonia Ellis, two more of Westfield's fabulous authors will also be at this event with their books. We also are lucky to have CT author Connie Bombaci and her therapy dog, Judea. Connie has a book about her previous dog and talk about what she and Judea do as well as her book. She's an acquaintance of Shawn Flynn's. Shawn graciously connected us so I could offer her a chance to come to Westfield for this event.

Want to know a few curious and interesting facts? Three of the WhipCity Wordsmiths live in the same neighborhood on the same street! Two sets of Wordsmiths are mother and daughter. Two Wordsmiths are sisters. Four Wordsmiths are involved or have been involved with Ghost Stories LIVE!, a recurring event at Blue Umbrella Books that will next take place on October 28th. Four Wordsmiths are members of Artworks of Westfield, Inc. One Wordsmith is President of Friends of the Westfield Athenaeum. One Wordsmith has just started college at another Wordsmith's alma mater. All together, members of WhipCity Wordsmiths have written over 100 books!

I'm sure I could come up with even more facts, but it's getting late- the tree frogs are singing their lullaby with a cricket chorus as backup, with the occasional trill of a mockingbird and the rhythmic hooting of a great horned owl. The greenwood at night is alive with the sounds of natural music!

What was my point here? Oh, right! See you all (as many of you as can make it), plus visitors, observers, and maybe a drop-in author- who knows- on Saturday!

Hey! Don't forget to bring your favorite word on the card that was in your last newsletter mailing! (Bring your imagination too, tuck it in your back pocket on your way out the door!)

Sunday, September 17, 2017


Got your attention? Hi all. I have been out of the loop for a few weeks working on so many different projects ... life is fun but man oh man it can be fast!

Anyway, I am settling back into a routine of tempered normalcy. For some background about me for the folks new to the group and for the rest of the folks who don't know much about me, I serve as the President of the Friends of the Westfield Athenaeum (that's a library!). Did you know the Athenaeum is NOT a public library? Well, it is public in access of course but it is not entirely publicly funded. The city does provide some funding but the library is not a city department ... confusing yes? An endowment provides a large chunk of the operating budget. The Friends group raises funds to support the many FREE programs and services offered by the Athenaeum. No Friends? No Museum Pass Program, no Rosetta Stone Language program, no Children's & Adult Summer Reading programs, no Adobe Creative Cloud SaaS program, no books for the Boys & Girls Reading Clubs ... you get the message. The Friends recently contributed $40,000 to the library renovation project. The group is very important to the health of the Athenaeum and I feel very strongly about the importance of libraries so ... I contribute lots of time and energy.

I am also involved in the ArtWorks of Westfield Inc. organization. We want to bring more arts and culture to the city. We are young and steadily finding our way. There is so much artistic talent in and around this city ... you are all examples of the mountains of creativity in the area. ArtWorks is a work in progress that will be a smashing success (think Easthampton City Arts) once we ramp up and gain some operational traction. Good things happening in Westfield.

I work full time as a business development analyst and manage an investment portfolio that one day will allow me to retire and focus on the fun stuff in life.

Back to FAKE NEWS! The Friends of the Westfield Athenaeum group is sponsoring a special speaking engagement called Sniffing Out Fake News! on Thursday September 28th at 6:30pm in the Lang Auditorium at the Athenaeum. Dr. Kyle Moody, Assistant Professor in Communications Media, Fitchburg State University is the featured speaker. He has been doing these talks for several months in eastern and central MA, mostly at public libraries.

Admission is FREE, thanks to The Friends, but seating is limited so registration is recommended. If I don't see you at our inaugural WhipCity Wordsmith gathering, perhaps I'll see you at Sniffing Out Fake News!

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Revisions Can Be Daunting, but They're Necessary

In late May 2015, I self-published my 2014 Nano novel, Medea, which was an extended version of a Halloween story I'd written for Kelly when she was in middle school. Since she had grown up and was graduated from college and already in the work force by 2014, I grew the story up to her new age level- so it went from middle grades/high school level to young adult/new adult/adult level.

Of course I'd known nothing about self publishing when I tackled the project. CreateSpace offered two free copies of your Nano novel in 2014, and extended the deadline of the offer to the end of May 2015. For years my family had been pressuring me to publish something. So, I jumped onto CreateSpace and created the novel- and it totally sucked the first time around. To be honest, even with Kelly's help, it wasn't much better the second time around after cover color revisions so the reader could actually see my name (I hadn't realized I had color options for backgrounds and fonts-duh!) Kelly had put headers in and page numbers, but the interior was sloppy- the text not justified so it was all over the place down the sides of the pages. The spacing was too close, the chapter headers were bold and size 14 which was acceptable, but started at the top of the page, which according to Writer's Digest judges is a no-no. Chapters must start about halfway down the page- or so I was told when my self-published novel submissions were critiqued. I did a lot of things wrong, but the judges enjoyed the stories-and that year (2015) that was all that mattered to me, that W.D. judges liked the stories. I could fix all the cover issues and interior layout issues they found fault with- but I would have thrown in the towel if they'd hated the stories!

Medea was published under a pseudonym. It's languished in the background for two and a third years. All my other books- both novels and story collections- have all gotten more interesting covers with text you can see and read easily and some have new images on the covers because now I am taking some of my own photographs and using them instead of using stock images CreateSpace offers. All of these books have also had interior layout revisions- and believe me, I've studied a lot of book interiors to figure out what looks best. I was also chastised for not having an author photo by W.D.- I was like, who the hell wants to look at me? They're supposed to read the story, but evidently readers have some curiosity about what the author looks like. I took a hundred selfies and use the one I like best- so I will be eternally fifty-seven- end of story there.

I have grown in leaps and bounds as a self-published author. Whereas it used to take me days to put a book together, now it takes me at most, two hours, depending on how pokey the CreateSpace website is on any particular day. I have the entire interior text file ready to upload, the back cover text written, and the image I want to use chosen. I simply plug it all in in the correct places, and then fiddle with the background, box, and font colors until I'm happy and the book looks appealing to me, like something I would snag off the shelf and dive into.

The most tedious part of the whole process remains the revisions. Ugh! I have some editing and proofreading help still living at home in Kelly, but I tackled the Medea mess on my own. It took four days to slog through the currently 195 page book. At 55,000+ words it just makes it to the novel classification level. Flipping through the book I grabbed as my proofreading/editing copy, the pages are literally awash in blue Flair markings and scribbles. When doing a revision I want to do it right the first time through and not have to go back to fix things like continuity errors, grammar goof ups, and punctuation issues (always a thorn in my side!)

I thought everything was fine when I uploaded the file for the revised book in June of 2015. WRONG! I have been through the self-publishing self-educational mill and I'll be recycling all earlier versions of the book. It's going to be self-published under my real name and have a new title when it's finally finished. Victoria Bell is no more. She's retired from writing. I'm carrying on.

The big lessons I've learned is that no matter how many times you've read your story, manuscript, novel, etc. you need to step back, put it aside, and then read it again because there are imps at work screwing with your hard work. Your eyes get tired. Your brain sees what you think you wrote, not what you actually did write. Read your work with fresh eyes and a rested brain and be prepared to groan and roll your eyes a hundred thousand times. Have a pen in hand with a full ink reservoir. Suck it up and get the revisions done. You'll be a better person for doing it- and a much better writer, too.

Envision yourself as a writing warrior. The blue pen is your sword. Wield it judiciously, not foolishly. Misspelled words, grammar errors, punctuation issues, continuity mix-ups- these are your enemies who will challenge your power as a writer. Strike them down with the Sword of Revision! The words remaining on the battlefield are your story, your victory. Your name on the cover is your banner- you are the champion of what you have written. You can be proud of your win.

No one likes going into battle with their own manuscript, but if you can't afford an editor and or proofreader, it's a necessary fight because if your book doesn't look good, it reflects negatively on you because it's your name on the cover and no one else's.

When you're done, high fives to you all around! (That's where the camaraderie of your writing peers comes in because your friends and family who do not write will never understand what it is like to be a writer, but other writers will completely understand and support you.)

Monday, September 4, 2017

It's WhipCity Wordsmiths Launch Month!

Well- here it is four days into September, and nineteen days until group launch day! I'm both excited and nervous as I never in a gazillion years thought I'd be starting a writer's group. We have a great group of writers and authors with a wide variety of experience and backgrounds. It ought to make for interesting meetings!

I'm looking forward to the 23rd of September. If anyone reading this post is interested in becoming a member, please feel free to attend the meeting and complete your membership application then. People interested in joining, but who are on the fence about it, are also welcome to come and observe, and participate if you decide this group is for you.

 If you're looking for a structured group that writes to prompts and then sits around critiquing one another's work...well, there will be just a little bit of that going on. If that's all you want to do, there are plenty of groups like that in the area because western MA is rich in writers and always has been. We'll do some writing, but we'll also do some mentoring, and have discussions about publishing- traditional routes and self publishing, agents- whether or not you need one, how to improve your manuscript so it looks as professional and polished as possible before you self publish or send it off for consideration, thinking outside the box, and a whole lot more. There will also be a chance to socialize with other writers and authors for mutual support and camaraderie. You can hook up with a beta reader who will give you feedback on your work before you proceed to self publish it or send it off into the publishing world. We'll share info about upcoming events where authors have a chance to showcase their work and meet and greet the public. We'll note any upcoming contests that might be worth entering also. Exposure is a keyword not only for well known authors but especially for local authors.

 WhipCity Wordsmiths is much more than a sit around the table and write to prompts group. We're a network of people with a passion for writing and the written word in all its myriad forms. All members are expected to participate and bring something to the table at meetings. It's a member driven group- not a follow the leader group. You are each a unique, talented person with something to offer, windows to throw open in the minds of your fellow writers. We will all grow in our craft like beautiful flowers blooming and blossoming in the fertile soil of our collective imaginations!

Not only are we Wordsmiths, but we are local writers and authors who support local authors and writers at all levels in their craft.

We are the flint that will spark ideas and ignite creative fires!

See you on the 23rd of September at Blue Umbrella Books, 2 Main Street, Westfield, MA at 3PM.

Friday, August 25, 2017

August Musings as the Month Winds Down

I haven't posted much here and I apologize. I've been working on several projects I needed to get done- a little tweaking to Bending Birches and Life, Death, Love, Cats & Dogs. I wasn't happy with my first choice of fonts for the covers, so I pulled the books and changed the fonts to something easier to read. I also cleaned up a few things in the interior copy- I despise autocorrect! It does not know what word I want so it just changes my words on a whim or caprice. When you want the word confirm and it changes it to conform- uh, NO! Fixed it along with a few commas and missed or extra words- the usual stuff that gets past the review process. Now I'm more satisfied with those two books. Out went through four proof copies, multiple revisions and readings before I finally let it go out into the world...and I'm a little sick of reading it right now, so if anyone has the black cover version with the deep purple roses and smaller font (not all capitals) that is not the fourth proof copy, let me know if you find any errors!

Next, I want to thank Glen Ebisch who sent me his newest book, The Open Window, to read (and I will review it also) this week. I started reading it the other night and said, "Oh, my God! It's a fictionalized Westfield! It's my alma mater (WSU, where I majored in criminal justice and minored in English, graduating in 1980!) Weird coincidence! And- HOLY MOLY! One of my best friends at work is the twin sister of our Chief of Police's wife- so when I read about the Chief in the novel, I can't help but think of our real Chief! I know it's all fiction, but it's shaping up to be a fun read for me with its often just on the edge of familiar setting!

I did three beta reads this month. Two manuscripts went back to the authors with scribbles, comments and a few emojis over because I can't read anything and not mark pages up- my home library is full of big publisher brand novels that I've marked up the interiors of as I've read them. I'm not always right, of course- I am not a professional editor...I just have habits developed over years of fiddling around with my own stuff and now Kelly's also...so I hope no one takes my OCDism seriously! What it ultimately boils down to is I LOVE to read what authors are writing, and I really thoroughly enjoyed all three books I was given the opportunity to beta read- I think they're wonderful, and in one instance, downright magical! I'm excited to know that all three books are in various stages of being published!

My current project is to finish my edits in Mike Brenner's trolley story collection so he can self-publish his book before the end of September. I have about 50 pages to go, so should get that done and the file sent back to him this weekend so he can add his copyright info, dedication, and author bio. Kelly is working on getting him just the kind of photo he wants for the front cover at the trolley museum.

Meanwhile, I have the August Wordsmiths newsletter to write and send out. It will have the September 23rd meeting agenda included. It looks intimidating- but it's totally not! There will be instructions in the newsletter what to bring. Kelly and I will be providing each member a folder, a white lined 8.5x11" pad, and a pen. Inside the folder will be something you'll need for the October meeting, which may take place on October 21st right after my author appearance for Out at Blue Umbrella. I need to firm that probability up first though. But I will be discussing Out at the bookstore on October 21st at 2PM-3PM and talking a little about vampire legend and lore and reading from the book. You can bring your fangs, but no biting!

Finally, does anyone have any idea how we can connect with long distance members at the upcoming meeting? I am woefully non-technical. I don't have a hi-tech phone. A member in VT would like to be "present" at the meeting- any ideas how we can do that? Thought I'd throw that out now so there's time to brainstorm.

The newsletter will be going out at the end of next week- probably on Friday the 1st.

Welcome Joseph Vass!

Just a word of welcome to Joseph Vass one of our newest members. Please check out his member info on the members page to learn more about him. Happy to have him in the group and we're looking forward to meeting him!

Friday, August 18, 2017

Welcome Andrew!

I'd just like to welcome Andrew Curran to WhipCity Wordsmiths. Andrew is our newest member and we're looking forward to meeting him!