Thursday, April 23, 2015

SJWG April Blogfest

Every third Sunday of the month the South Jersey Writers' Group gets together for a work session dedicated to the art of blogging. If you noticed in the SJWG Social Media Database (seen here and here) many of its members are also bloggers. This month, once again, we have decided to put our money where our mouths are, so to speak, and promote here, on the SJWG Blog, what we accomplished at this monthly work session.

Loretta Sisco spotlighted her cat Ozzy on her blog/website The Mirth and Madness of My Mind (and Other Musings). You can read this terrific love letter here.

Writer/editor Patti O'Brien returned to her blog A Broad Abroad with a post about her recent car accident. You can read it here.

Marie Gilbert worked on an upcoming piece for Intertainment Hub.

Marie, Loretta, Jenny, Joanne, and Kahlil hard at work.
New member Howard Kleinman used the friendly peer pressure of the write-in style work session to get him working on rewrites for his novel.

Kahlil Weston of Mad Writer Publishing continued editing on a book set for release later this year.

Joanne Costantino crafted a new post for her blog The Life we Claim we Didn't Sign Up For.  

Jenny Barnes revised chapters of a novella she has been working on.

Glenn Walker helped out a couple new members, and also wrote and posted an entry for two of his blogs. He reviewed the Logan's Roadhouse franchise in Florida for French Fry Diary, and a recent episode of "Arrow" for Welcome to Hell. Please click on the links to check them out.

And that's just some of the creative magic that happened at this month's Blogfest work session…

Monday, April 20, 2015

More SJWG Storyteller Cards

We had such a great experience during our February meeting with Jason Tagmire and his Storyteller Cards (check it out here) we thought we would share more of our impromptu 25-word stories along with the cards that inspired them.

Here's Sarah Hawkins-Miduski's card and story from that night.

And here are two from Vince Sparks.

Jennifer M. Eaton posted her card and story to Instagram, you can see it here.

The Storyteller Cards were great writing prompt tools, and we highly recommend you check them out. Look what we did in just one session!

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Top Five Reasons to Go to the Philadelphia Writers' Conference 2015

C'mon, Jim, just one conference, it'll make you feel good...
By Jim Knipp 

It’s all Krista Magrowski’s fault.  This whole infatuation with the Philadelphia Writers’ Conference started with her innocent little statement of “the Philly conference is happening soon, you should check it out.”

I checked it out.  And within two years of that first conversation, I was on the Executive Board, building registration sites, and generally doing nothing but breathing, eating, and sleeping Philadelphia Writers’ Conference for six months out of the year (the other six months are spent dreaming about the next conference.)  That first conference was five years ago, and I think I love it more every year.  And this year I’m especially excited.  I’ll give you five reasons why.

Our speakers. Both our opening and our keynote speaker are nationally recognized talents and I really can’t wait to hear what they have to say.

uh...dude, that was a cheetah...
Opening speaker Sara Shepard caught a tiger by the tail a decade ago when her debut novel Pretty Little Liars hit the shelves.  And she’s ridden that tiger like Harold and Kumar through thirty novels, two television series, and enough awards to need a second or third mantle.

Speaking of awards, every year The American Society of Magazine Editors gives out the National Magazine Award.  It’s basically the magazine version of the Pulitzer Prize.   Our Keynote speaker, Stephen Fried, has two of them.  TWO!  It’s like he won the first and decided he needed a matching piece to balance out his book shelf.  Stephen as won these by writing about subjects as varied as supermodels to restaurateurs; from the joys and trials of being a husband and father to the trials and lies surrounding the pharmaceutical industry.
Dan Stabb

Our Workshops. In addition to our regular standbys The Novel, Short Story, and Poetry, we also will be offering Playwriting, three separate genre workshops (Mystery/Thriller, Young Adult, and Romance), plus a great assortment of features, including an hour with Sara Shepard to talk about her experiences selling pieces to Hollywood and an exciting course about developing your improvisational skills to help your writing.

Melinda Emerson
Most exciting for me is a three-day workshop on Social Media with “Small-Biz” lady Melinda Emerson.  While we’ve offered social media workshops before, they’ve always been shorter affairs, and I’m looking forward to seeing how much more in depth we can get by giving Melinda three hours to walk through these most necessary of tools.

Could it be you?
Agents and Editors.  As writers who want to market our work, and who know how hard it is to get the attention of an agent or a marketplace, the chance to sit down with an agent or an editor is damn near priceless.  And at the PWC, you’re offered that chance!  On Friday afternoon, we have five minute “speed dates” were you can pitch your work or even just discuss some of the challenges you face or the ideas you have.  The market last year seemed to finally open a little, and it was great to sit at the registration table and hear some of the chatter from the agents (or even better, help track down a conferee who an agent wanted to speak to again!).  Markets seem to be trending as open again, so I can’t wait to see who I’ll be helping towards success this year.

Critiques not following guidelines get reviewed by Carl;  you don’t want your piece reviewed by Carl.
Critiques.  Most of us belong to critique groups where our peers offer feedback on our work.  How would you like nationally recognized, Asimov and Tor published Fran Wilde to critique your short story?  Or maybe have your blank verse checked out by Ken Pobo, the Linback Award-winning PhD who teaches at Widener University.  Or how about international bestseller Suzanne Palmieri (The Witch of Bourbon Street) or the award-winning Solomon Jones (Pipe Dream) giving your novel excerpt a read through?  All of our three-day workshop leaders have agreed to critique work.  You won’t get that opportunity anywhere else.

Networking.   During my first conference, I met Don Lafferty who essentially is the midwife of my blog, KnippKnopp.  I met Kelly Simmons who said four words to me (“that was fu**ing awesome”) that keep me going to this day.  During the second conference, I met Jonathan Maberry, who let me interrupt his breakfast to give me additional imput on the piece I submitted for critique.  And the networking isn’t limited to board members and workshop leaders.  I’d need four extra hands to count the friends I’ve made, the advice and input I’ve been granted, and the energy I’ve gained by just meeting other writers, sharing in their stories, and seeing how similar they were to my own.

Wait, isn’t that this many?
Cost.  The price of admission (minimum $270) seems high.  If you compare to other conferences, you’ll find the PWC is right in-line (and in many cases lower), then comparable conferences.  But I understand when there are bills to pay, it may not matter and scraping together that cash can be tough. 

To that end, the PWC board has done a few things.  One, we extended the student discount to all students.  So if you’re attending a local college, you can attend for 50% of the price.  Two, we’re keeping the writer’s group scholarships.  The SJWG scholarship has already been awarded, but if you’re part of  another writers group that hasn’t been issued code, talk with the group, register them, and claim their code.  Finally, we’ve initiated a group discount policy.  If you register with seven others as a group, you get 20% (that’s up to $60) knocked right off the top.
And if you can get nine dressed like this, I’ll make sure you get the best seats at dinner

I truly believe that all of the things I mention above: the critiques, the camaraderie, the exposure are invaluable.  For the years before I joined the board, I always considered the conference an investment.  I really hope you see it that way too, and I hope to see you at the Philadelphia Writers' Conference!

About today's guest-blogger: 

Jim Knipp is a writer only in the sense that he very occasionally gets to actually write things.  He has been not-writing like this for over thirty years and most recently can be found posting ridiculous things on his blog, KnippKnopp, or guest writing for the very patient folks at BiffBamPop!.  In addition to not-writing, Jim is an HR Project Manager at Comcast, the Registrar for the Philadelphia Writers’ Conference, and a member of exceedingly seedy standing at the South Jersey Writers’ Group.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Loner in the Garret: A Writer's Companion

Guest blog post by Jennifer R. Hubbard 
Last year, I gave a talk for the South Jersey Writers’ Group called, “It Was Sunny Just a Minute Ago: Weathering the Storms of Writing and Publishing.” It focused on an aspect of this business where I’ve needed a great deal of support myself, and have found myself encouraging others: the mental and emotional aspects. 

Writers spend a fair amount of time and energy coping with rejection, writer’s block, sudden changes in fortune, ups and downs. We try to quantify the qualitative, predict the unpredictable and control the uncontrollable. Even when we recognize how much of this is out of our power, that our power lies in our ability to tell our own stories, it’s easy to say, “Just sit down and write.” Doing it is another matter.
Out of all this came my latest book, Loner in the Garret: A Writer’s Companion (edited by SJWG’s own Amy Holiday!). There are so many good books on the craft and business of writing already. I wanted to focus on this particular side of it, on cutting through the emotional obstacles and mind games. I wanted to produce a book that would provide short bursts of inspiration, suitable for pre-writing-session reading. I wanted to provide the kind of reassurance to others that has helped me along the way: the simple knowledge that the path is unpredictable and rarely smooth, and it’s okay to keep going anyway.
We’re not alone.
Synopsis: Sometimes the most difficult part of writing is not coming up with a plot or the perfect turn of phrase. It’s getting motivated to sit down and start, or having the confidence to go forward, or finding the courage to move past the sting of rejection. Loner in the Garret: A Writer’s Companion provides inspiration and encouragement for that mental and emotional journey. Covering topics as varied as procrastination, the inner critic, fear, distractions, envy, rejection, joy, and playfulness, it charts the ups and downs of the writing life with honesty, gentle suggestions, and a dash of humor.
Bio: Jennifer R. Hubbard ( is the author of three novels for young adults, several short stories, and a nonfiction book about writing. She lives near Philadelphia with a very understanding husband, a pile of books and chocolate, and a tyrannical cat.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Latest Member Publication: Workplace Woes by John Leone

By Jessica A. Walsh

We are pleased to announce that South Jersey Writers' Group member John Leone has recently published his latest book, Workplace Woes: A Day at the Office.

A collection of four short screenplays, Workplace Woes is about office life at an imaginary company called McFrugal LLC and the characters who work there. If you have any experience whatsoever working in an office setting, you have no doubt encountered people like the cringe-worthy characters in this book.

I had the privilege to speak with John about Workplace Woes and his past work experience that inspired him.

Although John said he's had more job titles than can be imagined, he preferred "outside sales", calling on customers and trying to sell them products. "As most customers complained about their work, my job often entailed being an attentive listener, like a friendly bartender, but without the alcohol," he explained. "Consequently, I came to the realization that obnoxious bosses and annoying co-workers were not a unique phenomenon, but are universal and quite often funny without meaning to be."

All of John's characters are based on real people, although some are slightly exaggerated. And even though John is now retired, he admits that he actually misses his old obnoxious bosses and annoying co-workers. He also misses some of his old customers, but gets to enjoy the occasional lunch to keep in touch.

In addition to the occasional lunch, John enjoys spending his time writing, babysitting his grandchildren (whom he started writing for in the first place) and taking art classes. Although he did not illustrate Workplace Woes, he does hope to illustrate future books.

John is also the author of a series of children's books called Sharklock Bones about a talking shark detective. Although Workplace Woes is the first PG-13 book John has published, it wasn't a difficult shift for him since he considers his Sharklock series as books the whole family can enjoy. "But [writing] the children's books [is] more fun. That's probably because I never grew up."

John is currently finishing up book #11 in the Sharklock Bones Series, which all contain an underlying message about marine and ocean ecology. "They hopefully encourage younger readers to be more aware of steps we must all take in the future to keep our waterways healthy," he explained.

Workplace Woes is available on Amazon (paperback and Kindle), as well as Barnes & Noble. You can also find John (and Sharkie) at the Trenton Book Fair being held May 1st and 2nd.