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The Path to Publication at Sussex County N.J. Library

Within the historic valleys and state parks of New Jersey’s northernmost county lives an active public library system with a burgeoning community of aspiring writers and, even better, mystery fans. And when a community of mystery loving readers and writers asks for an opportunity to hone their craft, MWA-NY answers the call — no matter the distance.

On Saturday, September 23 MWA-NY members Mistina Bates and Karen Katchur will discuss "The Perilous Path to Publication," at the Sussex County Main Library, 125 Morris Turnpike, Newton, New Jersey, from 1 to 3 p.m. The authors will share their unique experience navigating the perilous, and sometimes mysterious, path to publication. The program is free and open to the public, but you are asked to register by phone 973-948-3660 or at the library website here. Seating may be limited.

A member of the MWA-NY board and the editor of the chapter's newsletter, The Noose, Mistina Bates (pictured, left) will offer advice and insight from her own fiction writing and as founder and president of Market it Write, a content marketing agency based in northern New Jersey. Karen Katchur (pictured, right), from the Eastern Pennsylvania region of our chapter, will be sharing her experience of publishing her novels The Secrets of Lake Road (2015) and The Sisters of Blue Mountain (2017) with Thomas Dunne Books/St. Martin’s Press.

The presentation came about after Sussex County Librarian Louisa Bann reached out to see what MWA could offer their community. "Sussex County and its six branch libraries have a very large community of mystery readers," says Bann.

—Robert J. Daniher

Robert J. Daniher lives in New Jersey where he works as an IT Support Technician for Madison Public Library and Library of The Chathams. He has been a member of MWA since 2009 and assists the MWA-NY Library Committee with planning author events at North Jersey libraries. His short fiction has appeared in Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine for the Mysterious Photograph Contest and in the annual Deadly Ink Short Story Collections of 2007 and 2008.

S.J. Rozan on Why Genre Matters, Next Week at Madison, N.J. Library

Sometimes genre fiction gets a bad rap for being "less than literary." Nothing could be further from the truth. But, believe it or not, as popular as crime fiction is, it still retains a certain stigma to many readers. Award-winning author and Mystery Writers of America, New York member S.J. Rozan, will endeavor to correct this misconception at the Madison Public Library in Madison, N.J., next week, on July 20, as part of the library's free Summer Seminar Series. For more than 30 years, Madison Public Library has provided a wildly popular series of free academic lectures each summer. Targeted at a local audience with a desire to learn more about history, politics, and culture, these free lectures offer something for everyone. Past topics have included Manhattan Bridges, New Jersey Gardens, and the music of Scott Joplin.

Rozan's lecture, “Categorization and Its Discontents: Why Genre Matters,” will be held Thursday, July 20, at 10:30 a.m., in the library's Chase Auditorium, 39 Keep Street, Madison, N.J. The event is free and open to the public. Further details and contact information can be found by clicking here.

This year Jeffrey Payton, the library’s program coordinator, decided to offer a lecture on the mystery genre and he reached out to the Mystery Writers of America for input. "Now that we are in our 33rd year of our summer seminars, I found that there really hadn't been any seminars focusing on literature, much less books, fiction, reading, or mysteries," says Payton. "So this year I wanted to rectify that slight and end the fiction drought. We decided to focus on mystery." Mysteries are very popular with the local community as proven by regular attendance at the library's Wednesday Film Nights, which often feature mystery and film noir, and its annual cozy mystery reading series, Bones & Scones.

Recently selected by Mystery Tribune as one of the 25 best female crime fiction authors of the past 50 years, Rozan is the perfect choice for this presentation. Fortunately for the library, she accepted the invitation and will be able to offer her very passionate perspective on this issue. "To be able to get S.J.Rozan, a multi-award winner and an articulate speaker, to present a seminar, well, we feel very fortunate, and we look forward to a successful and popular addition to the seminar series," says Payton. "I would like to see this open the door to more literary and publishing opportunities for seminars and other programs."

—Robert J. Daniher

Robert J. Daniher lives in New Jersey where he works as an IT Support Technician for Madison Public Library and Library of The Chathams. He has been a member of MWA since 2009 and assists the MWA-NY Library Committee with planning author events at North Jersey libraries. His short fiction has appeared in Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine for the Mysterious Photograph Contest and in the annual Deadly Ink Short Story Collections of 2007 and 2008.

Lessons Learned from an Ill-Timed Writing Workshop

Lessons from a Recent Writing Workshop

Earlier this month I took part in a "first pages" workshop on Inked Voices, a website that facilitates virtual writing groups. This workshop offered feedback from a literary agent for the bargain price of $75.

Unable to pass up such a deal, and desperate to make progress on a novel that has languished for two-plus years, I signed up.

In full disclosure, I was completely unprepared. The workshop evaluated those carefully crafted opening scenes that will either draw in a reader or consign your literary brainchild to the slush pile. My first pages consisted of a brain dump spewed out to test the direction of my latest outline, the fourth or fifth for this project. Submitting that garbage would have wasted everyone's time and my money, so I spent five days (when I should have been reading and critiquing) rewriting my crappy draft. This process left me with just over one week to read and review the work of my fellow participants.

At the end of the two weeks, I had spent twenty hours or so rewriting my pages and critiquing peer submissions. My takeaways from the experience include the following:

Deadlines are my friends. Having a specific submission date kept me moving forward. Even though I posted my pages late, I still made more progress than I would have on my own.

Studying craft is mandatory. Because I've struggled with this draft, I've read several books on structure in recent weeks. Doing so helped me to identify the flaws in my draft during the rewrite, and it allowed me to pinpoint what didn't work in peer submissions.

Apply what you learn. Learning the craft in theory only goes so far. We still have to figure out how to implement these techniques in our own writing. Going in, I had an excellent idea of which aspects of my submission worked and which ones were likely to belly-flop.

Critiquing work builds editorial muscles. We often struggle to recognize the flaws in our own work, but those same errors leap from the page when we didn't commit them. Practicing this type of objective review helps us apply the same critical eye to our own stories.

Different readers offer different value. Even though no one else read my genre (urban fantasy), their feedback as readers provided great insight into which sections needed more explanation. Part of the writing process involves learning how to determine which feedback enhances your vision of the story and which does not.

In the end, the exercise confirmed that I'm not only learning craft, but also discovering how to apply it to my writing and to my reading. Such tangible takeaways can be invaluable when undertaking a project that literally spans years, where the ultimate payoff may go no further than a self-awarded foil star for participation.

A member of the MWA-NY board, Mistina Bates made her short fiction debut in Indian Country Noir (Akashic Books, 2010) and is currently working on an urban fantasy/paranormal suspense novel. She slings words for a living as founder and president of Market it Write, a content marketing agency based in northern New Jersey.

MWA-NY Authors Teach the History of Mystery in Chatham, N.J.

Authors from the Mystery Writers of America, New York Chapter, will present four lectures covering the history of mystery and crime fiction at the Library of The Chathams in Chatham, N.J., throughout next month.  These lectures will be part of the library’s Chatham Adult Lifeworks Learning (CALL) program, an adult continuing education series partially sponsored by Friends of the Library of The Chathams.

Launched in 2016, this unique library series is intended to offer the local community an opportunity to learn a variety of subjects through a series of month-long courses facilitated by experts in the subject fields. “Reaching our community in new ways is something we constantly try to do,” says library Reference Supervisor Robert Schriek. “The CALL program is a way for the library to offer academic opportunities to residents who now have the time to learn new things and are looking for affordable classes.” In the past the series has covered topics such as: Classical Music, French Impressionism, and American Foreign Policy. The program has hosted university professors, political science experts, and educators from the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

This year, in an effort to broaden the program’s appeal, the Library of The Chathams invited MWA-NY to facilitate a series of courses on the history of mystery and crime fiction. “It's great to get MWA involved because mystery is such a popular genre that the subject will have great appeal to the public,” says Schriek. The lectures will be held at the library on four consecutive Tuesdays in June. Each week will focus on a different period of crime fiction history beginning with Edgar Allan Poe and concluding with hardboiled crime fiction of the mid-20th century and today. Four MWA-NY members will speak on a different topic he or she specializes in for each week of the program. All programs will be held on Tuesdays at 1 p.m.

June 6 Peggy Ehrhart on "Edgar Allan Poe"
June 13 Jeff Markowitz on "Anna Katharine Green, the Forgotten Mother of Mystery"
June 20 Lyndsay Faye on "Sherlock Holmes"
June 27 Dave White on "The Hard-Boiled School of Crime Fiction in the U.S."

Registration through the library is required, and there is a fee of $40 for the four-week program. The library may be able to make exceptions at a fee of $10 per lecture for those who cannot attend all four lectures. You can register online and get further information by clicking here or by calling the library at (973) 635-0603.

—Robert J. Daniher

Robert J. Daniher lives in New Jersey where he works as an IT Support Technician for Madison Public Library and Library of The Chathams. He has been a member of MWA since 2009 and assists the MWA-NY Library Committee with planning author events at North Jersey libraries. His short fiction has appeared in Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine for the Mysterious Photograph Contest and in the annual Deadly Ink Short Story Collections of 2007 and 2008.

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