Tag Archives: mark

Places to hear authors speak in the DC Area….

by Ellen Weeren

I just recently discovered these two things and I want to share them with you so we can all come out into the light.

Authors are speaking all over DC, and we’re invited.

Mark Athitakis

This well-known book critic publishes a calendar/guide of speakers throughout the DC area on his blog called American Fiction Notes.

Sixth & I Historic Synagogue
(This excerpt was taken directly from www.expressnightout.com)

Since Sixth & I was rededicated in 2004 (the building started out as a synagogue in 1908, then was an African Methodist Episcopal church for several decades, and is now a working synagogue again), it’s become one of D.C.’s hippest venues for indie rock concerts and big-name author appearances. Tina Fey’s sold-out reading and Q&A in April was the see-and-be-seen nerd event of spring, and the calendar promises an equally compelling fall. Some of Sixth & I’s programs are co-hosted by Politics and Prose, which doesn’t have nearly as much room. Expect a swarm when novelist Jeffrey Eugenides reads on Oct. 31. S.M.

Sixth and I Synagogue, 600 I St. NW,  202-408-3100 . (Gallery Place)

Arse in seat………..

Apparently, that is the way to get a book written.

Plant your arse in a seat and click away at the keyboard.

Arse in Seat

Just in case  you don’t remember every detail of the life that I chronicle here, I’ll take a sec to remind you that I am  writing a novel called The Alligator Purse. You can read chapter 1 here, if you like.

For the past three years, I have focused on non-fiction (aka this blog). And, then. Well, then I joined a writing group that encouraged me to try my hand at fiction. Now I am drinking the Kool-aid and have taken on a full-fledged novel.

That was brave, right? I know.

What was I thinking, right?

I know. Believe me, I know.

But now I am thinking, maybe some of you want the Kool-aid, too. Maybe some of you are writing a novel for the first time. Or maybe just an article or a short story – because maybe you are smarter than I am and maybe you don’t want to overwhelm yourself all at once – right before school gets out and the kids are home a.l.l. d.a.y.

I know, what was I thinking?

But maybe it would be fun not to write this novel all by my lonesome. I mean, sure, I will write the book with my own ideas and story ideas. But maybe, just maybe, we can skip down the yellow brick road together.

So, I will tell you what I am doing along the way and what works and what wasn’t so great.

Here are my first thoughts…

Arse in Seat Modus Operandi

The first thing I can tell you is that you must put your arse in a seat. And type. A lot. And then. A lot more.

That woman in the picture is not me – but she makes me want to highlight my hair again. Not all blond on the top like hers, but you know soft-subtle highlights.It’s summer after all…

Erghhhhh. See how easy it is for me to get distracted. Arse in Seat. Arse in Seat. Not Distracted. Arse in Seat.

Anyseat, I am starting my fourth chapter – I am at about 6,000 words. A typical novel runs about 75,000 words. Yes, I have a l.o.n.g. way to go.

My entire story is not completely plotted out, although I am pretty sure I know 5 or 6 major story events that must happen and how I would like the book to end. But the only way I am going to find out the details in between is to write them. (That, and drink more Kool-aid, possibly spiked with Vodka.)

Writers Groups

I will continue to go to my writers group mostly because I love them dearly and they serve yummy snacks. But also because they encourage me to write. And they tell me when I am not doing a great job – in a kind, loving way – but they let me know when something isn’t working. Plus, I am accountable to them. They expect me to submit chapters on a regular basis.

We meet once a week during the day when my kids are at school. That works well for me.

Take notes here – you want to be sure to find a writers group that has most of its members submitting work on a regular basis. You want to surround yourself with serious writers, who are writing.

If you are wondering how to find a writers group – try this:

1. Meetup – this site is great for all sorts of meetups (groups of people who like doing the same thing with other people) and there are tons of writing groups listed.

2. If your town has a university – call the English Department and see if have any writing groups.

3. Try your local library. They usually coordinate book clubs and might be willing to coordinate a writing group as well.

4. Take a writing class – many writing groups come from students who took a class together.

5. Simply ask around – I am amazed out how many aspiring authors are out in the world putting pen to paper. You might be surprised at who is interested in starting a group with you.

Beta Readers

My writing group is awesomesauce and it’s amazing that they are all writers. But that means they read a story differently than someone who is primarily a reader. Writers are more technical. They know the jargon and they will spew it out at you when necessary.

Beta readers are just people who like to read. They can tell you if your story is marketable because they will tell you if they would pass your book on to a friend when they are done with it.

The only thing you have to be careful of with beta readers is that they will tell you what they want to happen next. You have to remember that you are driving the story line. You determine the plot. They tell you if what you have already written works.

I asked my beta readers two things…

1. To promise not to share my chapters with anyone else. I told them if they know of someone who would like to be a beta reader, I would happily add her name to the distribution list. But I need to know who is getting what and when.

2. To be perfectly honest. I absolutely want to hear what works and what they like. But, more importantly, I want to hear where they get stuck – what doesn’t make sense. I want to know what piques their interest and makes them want to read more. And I absolutely want to know what questions they have – so I make sure to answer them all.

Writing Classes

I have signed up for two classes – both through Writers Digest.

The first one is this one that starts tomorrow. It’s called the Agent One-on-One Pitch Slam. During the course, I will work directly with Paula Munier on the first ten pages of The Alligator Purse.

The second class begins mid-June and is taught by Mark Spencer. It is an Advanced Novel Writing Course. You have to have 10,000 words written at the beginning of the course and the plan is to get you to 50,000 by the end of the 8-week session. Gulp.

My arse will need to be in a seat quite a bit.

Other Resources

Next week, I will also meet with Rachelle Gardner. She hosted this contest and, holy koolaid, I won. The prize is half an hour with her. Reviewing my work.

I won this contest because I took a chance and entered. There were tons of great entries and I just got lucky that my friends love me enough to vote for me.

Web Presence – aka Platform

This is a word that sends most novice writers right back under the blankets. I don’t know a lot about all of this but I do have a blog, another blog, a twitter, a facebook, and a pinterest account. I also reserved www.TheAlligatorPurse.com so that no one can take it before I become wildly successful and try to snag it too late. I also reserved my full name as a url so that I can start working on my name as my brand.

Luckily for us newbiews, there are lots of folks who know a lot about building a platform. You can read this post from Jeff Goins blog sharing information from platform guru Michael Hyatt.


For Shakespeare’s sake, keep a notebook with you or at least something you can write down your ideas on. Trust me on this one. You are going to have a moment of sheer brilliance at the most unexpected time and you are going to be so confident that you couldn’t possibly forget it. Then you are going to start noticing other people’s hair color and “poof”, your idea will be gone. Lost 4-evah. So write it down the minute you have it.

I wrote about this in an article called Believing We Have a Story To Tell on Writer Unboxed because I have learned it the hard way. Too. Many. Times.

Own It

This is the most important thing – so it probably should have gone at the top – pretend it’s there okay?

You must own the fact that you are a writer. When you are at a cocktail party and someone asks you what you do, you must answer confidently, “I am a writer.” Do not explain that you are not published. Do not explain that your mother loves your work. Dear heavens, please do not explain that. Do not explain that it’s really more of a hobby.

YOU. ARE. A. WRITER. period. You Write. Therefore. YOU. ARE. A. WRITER. If you are not actually writing, remember the Arse in Seat axiom.

That is all for now. Because in a moment of extreme weakness, I signed up for a class and have 10,000 (quality) words due to a published author who will critique my work in two weeks.

I am going to keep my arse in this seat until I no longer feel like this…..

Disclaimer #1: It is important to note that the Arse in Seat Model does not work for all disciplines. For example, if you are hoping to compete in a marathon of more than mere words, you must get your arse out of the seat.

Disclaimer #2: This picture is also not me. I do not wear heels and I do not dress in all white – not even after Easter. And my floor is very honestly not that clean. Never will be.

Mark Blondie…………….

India has rocked my reality for sure. Things I just assumed were true about the world simply are not. Things that were once complicated have suddenly uncomplicated themselves and things that were easy schmeasy – well now, not so much.

We are rolling with the punches and really, truly have nothing to complain about. But some adjustments are trickier than others.

Take soccer (here it is called football) for instance. My kids love soccer – they each began playing when they were four and have not been off the pitch since – that is until we got here. We missed the sign ups when we arrived last year, so my kids have essentially been without soccer for a year. Yes, I know that is not the end of the world – but they love it, we love it, we all missed it.

And soccer sign ups here are not easy – if you are not coaching or sponsoring a team, good luck to you getting a spot. Hubby agreed to coach – he’s done it for years – and that guaranteed our kids could play. Obstacle number one – overcome.

For Bear and Angel it’s been a pretty smooth transition. But for Flower – enter obstacle number two. She is the only girl on her team.

Luckily she has a lot of soccer experience, she’s pretty fast, and she works hard. However, she still is on a team with all boys.

We did not make a big deal of it. You want to play, this is your option. She was and is fine with it. Not what she would prefer – but this has been a year sprinkled with “not what we would prefer” so we are getting the hang of adapting.

At her first practice the coach ran some speed drills. She beat a few of the boys and got a lot of eeeewws and aaaahhs. A little unnecessary because really, at this age, girls are often faster than boys. No one has really hit puberty yet and, like I said, she tries hard. Nonetheless, they were surprised and very verbal about it. They chided the boys she beat. Really, enough already. Anyway, she rolled with it. And after practice we laughed that she sure surprised them. They coach was very supportive – he complimented her on her speed and was happy to have her on the team.

Next was the game. Not so little number 14 on the  other team decided to push hard on Flower. Push he did. He was certainly more aggressive than necessary but not really over the line – pushing right up to the line – but not really going over it. Once again, she rolled with it. She didn’t slow down and maneuvered around him fine. She was often the only girl on the field. Undaunted, she played hard.

Then there was a throw in. She was standing on the field in front of the opposing coach and he yelled to his players, “mark your player, someone mark Blondie.”

Mark Blondie? augh. Who let Archie Bunker coach soccer in India?

The surprising thing about this comment is that the expat community here seems to be full of such global thinkers. They have been exposed to the world and embrace the differences that exist in it. They work hard to create advantages for the disadvantaged. It is filled with women who are literally changing the world and husbands who stay home with the kids. Of course, this one comment does not justify a condemnation of all things expat. But it surprised me because it sounded so back asswards.

Unfortunately – or maybe fortunately – I did not hear him say it. Flower told me about it after the game. This is my girl that hardly releases any details – seriously, I think she is in spy training. But this had an  impact on her. She told me that he looked and her and realized that she heard it. She told me she smiled and he smiled. Busted. Obstacle number 2 overcome.

Number 14 came at her pretty hard again and ended up on his butt. He kept his distance after that. She didn’t push him down. She was not retaliating. She was simply defending her position.  Obstacle number 3 overcome.

So when Flower told us about this Mark Blondie nonsense we laughed with her. Once again we complimented her on earning her spot on the field. We told her the other coach clearly saw her as a threat and wanted to make sure she was covered.

But privately, we wondered “what the heck”? It is hard enough for a girl here to get on the field without any nonsense. There are many girls who have chosen not to play. They are simply intimidated by the thought of being on the field with boys. Throw in the comments and the eeewing and aaahhing and it’s really tough.

And it is a shame. Some of these girls are remarkable players. They outwit and outlast most of the boys on the field. They score, they defend, they contribute in big ways to the success of the team. And they put up with some BS along the way.

So in true me fashion, I shared the story with a few moms. Most of them were outraged. I should lodge a complaint. I should have the coach reprimanded. Maybe I should burn my bra soccer cleats.

But we have chosen to treat this as not really a big deal. The bottom line really is that we will all face obstacles and if we let mere words stop us or slow us down, we lose before we even begin. We want the lesson to be not to let other people get in your way. Don’t get worked about about stupid comments. Continue to do your best. Besides, I have been seriously underestimated before and it can work to your advantage!

BTW, Flower was chosen as team captain for the last game and she continues to hold her own. She’s doing pretty well – even for a girl. 😉