News & Views

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Are you looking to learn how to finally write that private eye novel? Or do you want to figure out what's wrong with the one you've already written? If yes, then it may be time to get schooled. And there's never been a better time. The Crime Fiction Academy, part of The Center for Fiction, is offering a 10% tuition discount to members of the New York Chapter of Mystery Writers of America for their spring 2015 session. Classes begin February 10.

Authors and courses scheduled for this session are::

▪  Alison Gaylin on "Crafting the Perfect Crime Novel"

▪  Jonathan Santlofer on "Advanced Crime Fiction Writing"

▪  Duane Swierczynski on "Learning from the Masters"

The Crime Fiction Academy debuted in 2012. Students are taught by successful practitioners of the genre, and classes take place in The Center’s eight-story building at 17 E. 47th Street in Manhattan. Every writer enrolled in CFA attends a 12-week writing workshop (divided up into two six-week sessions), plus master classes with experts in the field. All classes, workshops, and lectures take place in the evening.

To enroll for the spring 2015 session, email with proof of membership (your membership card!) to receive the discount. The CFA has also be kind enough to extend the discount to members of any MWA chapter who may happen to be in New York this spring.

—Richie Narvaez, President, MWA-NY


Stuck on a blank page? Wondering how to build suspense in your story? Willing to travel to Boston?

MWA University, the daylong writing seminar run by MWA national, will be held at the Hyatt Regency in Beantown this February 14. Scheduled instructors and classes include:

▪  Jess Lourey  on "The Blessing and Curse of Genre Writing"

▪  Louis Bayard on "Handling Backstory and Multiple Timelines"

▪  Julie Hyzy on "The Art of the Supporting Characters"

▪  And our own just-named Edgar nominee Alison Gaylin on "A Streetcar Named Suspense"

▪  Plus, there will be author-led critiques of your story pitches and synopses.

The cost is  $90 for MWA members and $125 for non-members. You can find more information here.

This event is being hosted by the fine folks at the MWA New England chapter. (Our chapter ran a very successful MWA University in Philadelphia last year.) Listening to established writers talk about craft can be very inspirational. Yes, it's on Valentine's Day. But what's a better way to show your writing career that you care?

—Richie Narvaez, President, MWA-NY


This article is the fourth and final in a series designed to help you stage more effective readings. Thank you to author Clare Toohey for sharing her wisdom, originally posted on Women of Mystery.


You’re on! So you’ve practiced reading aloud–and you have, right? And your copy’s well-prepared–and it is, right? Once you’re in front of an audience, it’s still very important to read more slowly than you think you need to, and to emphasize with More Dramatic Pitch and Rhythm Changes than feels natural. Form the words More Deliberately than you do in conversation. All this, because nervousness makes monotonic mumble-mouths of us all.

Stand in a relaxed pose, one where you won’t need to weave, because lots of fidgeting or swaying can be distracting. But don’t lock your knees. (Many a high-school choir concert has seen fainting off the top riser from locked knees.) Try to keep your shoulders down, your chin up and your chest open, so you have plenty of air for your biggest moments. If you can, hold your copy in front of you, not flat. It’s pretty natural to want to hold the copy like a tabletop, then to curl your neck and head over to read it. However, your listeners are probably in front of you, not in the floorboards with the termites, and for the sound of your voice to get to them, it’s much better if you aim it in their direction, and the occasional bit of eye contact is always appreciated. The second issue is that crunching your windpipe like a shepherd’s crook isn’t very conducive to deep breaths either, the breaths that keep you calm, help pace your work, and provide support for dynamic range in your reading.

Feel it and see it! You know what it’s like when you tell someone something unusual, and they seem unmoved, so you respond by repeating it in a more emphatic, amped-up way to persuade them to get it? “I said he married the dog!” That second, more intense form of the communication is exactly what we’re listening for, so let yourself feel the emotional tides of your selection. That doesn’t mean you have to twirl an invisible mustache when you say “He was a bad man,” but if you can let that lousy ratfink appear in your mind while you’re telling us, he’ll come across. Really! That’s reason number infinity for advance preparation, because if you know the material well, your mind has enough spare wattage to visualize what you’re saying, and that really does help your delivery immensely.

I’ve never heard anyone call out “Read it with less feeling!” Also, no one will ever complain you’re too slow, as long as you’re within your time–and if none’s specified, think 10 minutes–it’s magic. The only thing better than a great 10-minute reading is a great 5-minute reading, seriously. You’re there to tantalize with a sample of your work that makes them want more. Boring them or overstaying your welcome is never in the service of that cause. (Also, I’d like to recommend a special cul-de-sac of Hell be assigned for writers at a group reading who chew up everyone else’s time and wear out the audience by going way over, because they didn’t bother preparing and tried to wing it.)

When you’re comfortable with the material you’re presenting, you feel confident, you can express dramatically, but still naturally, not stiffly, reacting to the listeners in the audience as they react to you. And when you have prepared great material, don’t be afraid to use it again, because those people in the crowd who’ve heard it may enjoy the encore!

—Clare Toohey

Click here to read part 3 of this essay.

Clare Toohey is a genre hack and friendly contrarian who wrangles and also blogs for A literary omnivore who wants a taste off your plate, she adores the uncanny as well as New England sports.


This article is the third in a series designed to help you stage more effective readings. Thank you to author Clare Toohey for sharing her wisdom, originally posted on Women of Mystery.


 Highlighter-pensI love e-books, and if you have a lot of capacity in your reading app for markup, a digital copy may be fine, but for public readings, I prefer having a printout, double-spaced, since that gives plenty of room for me to scribble. I also collate and staple my one-sided pages at the left corner. Once I’m reading, I don’t want to be shuffling pages, flipping back and forth reading duplex, dropping any sheets, or suddenly panicking that I’ve disordered something. Any of these fumbling misfortunes is only abetted by performance anxiety. Once I have my printout ready, I read it aloud with a timer and start marking it up with a pen and highlighter. (Some people prefer pencil, in case they need corrections.)

My markup includes highlighting any word that I wouldn’t naturally emphasize, but which ought to be in this selection. For example, I’d naturally tend to emphasize a word in italics, but what about that weird name of a Rottweiler when it’s called across the park? I’ll highlight things like that, even underline them for max effect. When you highlight this way, your eyes will catch it as you’re working down the page and you’ll be ready for whatever kind of vocal expression is called for when that bit comes.

I also scribble pronunciations next to any difficult words. Pronunciations are especially good to have in the margins if I’m reading work that’s not my own. Perhaps there are foreign words I had to look up, or words I’ve only seen written before and just learned to say (or say differently). Is the philosopher Pliny pronounced more like PLINNY or PLEINY? I don’t want to decide wrong on the fly, or worse, freeze up in confusion when I get there. Not sure what’s going to be difficult? Read it aloud. Again. (This is the cure for almost any problem.) Any place that trips you as you read, no matter how dumb it seems that you stumble there, is a place for you to give yourself some guidance. The Future You will send her fervent appreciation from the podium.

I had a sentence in my recent story that I just couldn’t say without mangling. Yes, I wrote it, but there was something about the way the consonants fell. I kept screwing it up in my classically dyslexic fashion. In this case, I had the ability to edit those words into something I could actually say, preciousness of my own prose be damned. If I can’t change the words, I can at least put in a note to Slow Down just before that part. (This, too, is practically a miracle cure for difficult sections.)

Long, complex sentences with big words (hello, Henry James) may have several emphasis points within their phrases, and in that case, I like to use a highlighter on any word I want to be sure to hit plus slashes to separate the text into logical phrases, and even double slashes or brackets where I want longer than usual pauses. This is my personal, bastardized way of marking up copy, something I learned and then forgot the proper way to do for radio copy in the distant past. If slashes don’t tell you to pause, put something else in. Red dots, tall X’s, unhappy faces. It’s your personal lexicon and the more effortlessly understandable it is to you, the more instantly and helpfully it will speak to you when you’re in the limelight.

—Clare Toohey

Click here to read part 2 of this essay.

Click here to read the fourth and final part of this essay.

Clare Toohey is a genre hack and friendly contrarian who wrangles and also blogs for A literary omnivore who wants a taste off your plate, she adores the uncanny as well as New England sports.

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