Monday, February 29, 2016

Current SJWG Blog Roundup

Compiled by Jessica A. Walsh, Mieke Zamora-Mackay, and Glenn Walker

There is so much talent in the South Jersey Writers Group, and as we've mentioned in the past, so many bloggers. And many of these bloggers produce content on a fairly frequent basis, so we thought it would be a cool idea to highlight some of each month's more intriguing and interesting blog posts and present them here.

Please give a click and a read, and we hope you will like the samples enough to become regular readers. Check them out!

Kristin Battestella continued reviewing films and shows for her blog, “I Think, Therefore I Review,” including Season Two of "White Chapel," which she thinks is slipping.

Dawn Byrne recollected a story about her green 1970 Chevy Nova in her post “Not So New Nova.” Spoiler alert: It wasn’t so reliable.

Joanne Costantino’s maintained the same group of girlfriends for over forty years, which is beautiful and impressive. There’s nothing like a day away from the family laughing with the girlfriends to recharge one’s batteries. She tells the story in her post, “Happenstance and God Giggles.”

Jennifer M. Eaton keeps very active over at her blog writing advice to help fellow writers learn from her mistakes, as well as reviewing books. Particularly helpful, considering she is quite accomplished despite having a full time job and a family, is her post answering the question: “How the heck do you write all this stuff?

Marie Gilbert, who wears an awful lot of hats, has a group of friends to go with each one! She reflected on her many friendships in her post, “Walking the Tightrope of Friendship” at her blog, Gilbert Curiosities. Marie also reviews several television show for Biff Bam Pop!. This past month she also reviewed The Revenant, starring Leonardo DiCaprio.

Sarah Hawkins-Miduski continued writing about her many experiences in Disney World over at The Obligablog throughout January, but she also took a break to share her favorite reads of 2015.

Memoirist and short story writer Victoria Marie Lees takes a stab at writing a synopsis.

We have a real-life bull runner in our ranks. Peter N. Milligan clears up one of the biggest misconceptions about bull running in Pamplona.

Author Randy Ribay shares his #OscarsSoWhite thoughts.

Kevin Stephany reviews one of the most influential and controversial books on writing out there, "No Plot? No Problem!" by Chris Baty.

Jessica Walsh has a story in "Chicken Soup for the Soul: My Very Good, Very Bad Dog" and don't forget to check out her terrific blog, The Cracking Nut.

Founder Janice Wilson talks about "Total Worth" on her website Soothing Prose.

Our Outreach Trustee Mieke Zamora-Mackay has been reviewing "The X-Files" for Biff Bam Pop!. Check out what she thought of the new season here.

We hope you liked this month's selections from SJWG member blogs, and will not only read more at their respective sites, but also come back here next month for more. Don't forget to 'Like' the South Jersey Writers at Facebook, 'Follow' us at Twitter, and check us out on Pinterest. Thank you!

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Liars Club Writers Coffeehouse Back Again for 2016

By Dawn Byrne

Jonathan Maberry led the Liars Club Writers Coffeehouse in the Willow Grove PA Barnes & Noble via Skype. Keith Strunk hosted the Liar-filled meeting, which included Marie Lamba, Janice Gable-Bashman, Kelly Simmons, and Kathryn Craft. One of the South Jersey Writers' Group’s recent third Thursday speakers, Donna Galanti, fit well into the nucleus of Club members.

Jonathan began with information on the Writers Coffeehouses. There are nine active ones and more are popping up in the US, and other countries. It started with this group that now meets in Willow Grove. When thanked for starting the Coffeehouse, Jonathan reminded us that the Liars Club started the Coffeehouse, and that he is just a part of the Club. He shares hosting duties with the Coffeehouse in San Diego, where he now lives. “Community matters to writers,” he said, after exchanging familiar and sincere greetings with us. His fondness for our group showed in his face and words.

Questions for Jonathan matched the subject of how to get the word out about your book once it’s published: Blogging in your genre can be the grass roots in promoting your work. Subscribe to other blogs who read yours to making connections with potential readers. Goodreads and LinkedIn are a must. Reach out to writer conferences that do your subject and genre; you’ll meet people who can be helpful. Your writer’s platform on social media and how it’s maintained brings awareness of your book to audiences. Synching up your Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn accounts makes posting content easier. Starting a conversation is vital for your audience to make a connection with you. “The author is the brand,” said Jonathan. But don’t promise things that cost you a lot. If people are interested in you, they are more likely to buy your book.

Jonathan suggested multi-platform to promote anthologies. They don’t sell well, but anthologies can engage readers and get audiences interested in you and your other work.

Interviewers don’t always read your book, so give them a cheat sheet of questions to ask ahead of time. Making it easy for them, can make you popular to work with. Give one or two takeaways, that aren’t your plot, to make a memorable engagement with potential readers.

To learn how to do a podcast or book trailer, watch and listen to them. Trailers should be one-minute long, with strong production. After Jonathan had to end his Skype visit, Keith took advantage of the computer to show Kerry Gans’ trailer for her book, “The Witch of Zal.” Keith and Kerry had both worked on it. Donna is also a resource for making a trailer. Check out the one for her book, “Joshua and the Lightning Road.”

Two terms new to me: LookBook, where actors are put into your characters’ roles; and sizzle reel, which requires voiceovers and is expensive because so much goes into it. But the most interesting take away for me, was Jonathan’s advice to read out loud your edited, polished work. Listen to the polished voice of it. Study it, analyses it and contrast it with your original draft. This can help with your next work.

As always, Jonathan shared information on the current markets and trends: Graphic novels, the original ones that don’t feature superheroes, targeting girls are much in demand; pitch yours like a regular novel. Cross genre works are still hot. “I’m seeing a bit of a decline in memoir,” said Jonathan. But real life fiction is huge. Horror is starting to build in mainstream audiences.

Don’t be too specific with your plot when agents ask for summaries of books not yet written. “Be interesting but vague,” said Jonathan. He also highlighted the importance of having an agent: “If it wasn’t for my agent, I wouldn’t be in California.”

March 7, agent Marie Lamba is doing a First Page Workshop and answering questions on a panel for the SCBWI in Eastern, PA. May 20-22 is the Pennwriters Conference in Lancaster, PA. Jonathan and Kathryn will be keynote speakers and Donna will present workshops on craft and marketing.

Kelly Simmons took suggestions for next month’s Coffeehouse. She’ll be leading it, and selling her new book, “One More Day.” The trailer for it is cool.

Remember, no matter how many Sundays are in a month, the Coffeehouse always meets the last Sunday of each month from noon to 3 PM, unless a holiday gets in the way. It’s worth the trip over the bridge and through the city for us South Jerseyans. Three hours of shop talk and cohering with professional and upcoming writers is an exhilarating experience. And, my favorite, it’s FREE.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Copyright: In, Out, and Upside Down

By Krista Magrowski

“Print a copy and mail it to yourself.”

“Email yourself a copy.”

“I just run a small blog. I don’t need to worry about using someone else’s artwork. No one will care.”

As a writer or other artist, do any of these sound familiar? Does the ever-changing world of copyright law have your head spinning? Are you unsure when your work is protected?
Yes, yes, and yes were the answers we heard from our members whenever the subject came up. Copyright (the exclusive legal right, given to an originator or an assignee to print, publish, perform, film, or record literary, artistic, or musical material, and to authorize others to do the same) is complex, full of nuances and little-known facts. But as an artist you want to protect your work, AND you also want to protect yourself by not infringing on someone else’s copyright. After all, fair is fair.

At the January South Jersey Writers’ Group meeting, Gregg Feistman, Temple University associate professor, provided the group with an educational - and entertaining! - introduction to copyright law and what it means to an artist. The group also live tweeted the meeting so we could share some of the juicy tidbits (hey, we are writers!) with our Twitter followers.

Some of the topics we discussed were the duration of protection under copyright, defamation (did you know that this now covers both libel and slander since the distinction between the two is being blurred with the rise of the internet?), fair common, fair use, trademarks, fan fiction, invasion of privacy, and parody and satire.

When including name brands, lyrics, poetry, or anything written by someone else, or using a photo, you must have permission unless the item in question is in public domain. In some cases, attribution may be enough especially if you are using a photo for your blog, for which you do not make money. Check the artist's website or even just email the artist and ask. If you are buying rights (a photo, a video, etc.) always use a reputable site. We learned of a writer buying rights to a video and then finding herself under fire when the site she hosted it on received a complaint. The site ruled against her even though she had bought what she thought were the rights to the piece.

FUN FACT: Until the fall of 2015, the song Happy Birthday was protected under copyright (which is why restaurants never sang that particular song when they brought out your sombrero of shame and sparkler-topped sundae and you melted in your seat as your family and friends mocked your embarrassment... oh… sorry about that. Flashback).

In addition to Gregg’s presentation, many of our members had some great advice to give their fellow writers when the inevitable questions arose. I believe the words “literal douchebag” were actually uttered at some point during the defamation discussion. Nothing is sacred at our meetings, where we encourage and foster a safe space for creativity and what is said in meeting, stays in meeting. Unless of course the SJWG president writes about it on the group blog.

One takeaway we all got from the meeting is that we only touched the tip of the proverbial copyright iceberg. Always seek the advice of a professional if you have a question and do not take advice from a random internet commenter on this. I have seen plenty of incorrect advice out there. Also, give credit where credit is due (bloggers take note when using pictures found on the internet - pay for images, use public domain/royalty free images, or your own images).

By the way, you can mail/email yourself a copy of your work, but that would only provide limited protection and would not be valid should you try to file a copyright infringement suit.


Gregg Feistman is an Associate Professor of Instruction of Public Relations at Temple University. He teaches writing and strategic planning in the undergraduate program and courses in the Master’s of Science in Communications Management programs. His particular area of interest is Reputation Management and Crisis Communication. He is also the faculty advisor to Temple’s Public Relations Student Society of America chapter - one of the top ten in the country - and its student-run PR firm, PRowl Public Relations.