Friday, January 29, 2010

Writing the Future, LitArtlantic, Story/Stereo, and More

Tomorrow is The Writer's Center's birthday bash. It's finally here. There's still time to register, and there are still a few seats left. Click on the link in the first sentence to get yours. (And don't forget those Member Appreciation Month discounts--only a couple days left.)

It's been a long but good month. We've welcomed over 120 new members into the fold, we've prepped our spring and summer workshops (The Carousel should be in the mail soon), and we've gone into overdrive on preparations for major upcoming events, including Writing the Future, LitArtlantic, and Story/Stereo. Look for a couple exciting new partnerships, too, including Cave Canem, Letras Latinas, and the Norwegian Embassy! Oh, and we'll be partnering with Round House Theatre on its upcoming "Around the World in Eighty Days" program. The event we'll be doing with them is a kind of book club: read the book and come to The Writer's Center for a discussion with some folks related to the play (details forthcoming on that). Two things are certain: The book club is FREE and Writer's Center members will get a discount on the Round House show.

So we're plenty busy.

Great member news:

Yvette Neisser Moreno's translation of Luis Alberto Ambroggio's "Their Dove-Song Hurts" from Difficult Beauty has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Congratulations, Yvette. Yvette will be teaching Poetry Translation: Spanish/English beginning February 17.

And finally, a big congratulations to member Thomas Young, who recently signed a two-book deal with Putnam. His first novel, The Mullah's Storm, will be published this September.

Hope to see you tomorrow!


Thursday, January 28, 2010

Opportunities for Writers

Some opportunities for our members:

First, NSAL's short fiction contest (for writers 18-32) deadline is February 8. More details here.

And the 13th Bay to Ocean Writers' Conference is February 20. Learn more about that conference right here.

Then, for those of you interested in getting some great editing experience with a wonderful local institution, consider this posting for a volunteer editor:

Editor-The Montgomery County Story

Are you detailed oriented? Do you enjoy reading stories about Montgomery County History? Are you computer savvy? Then Montgomery County Historical Society has the opportunity for you. The Society is currently seeking an Editor for its bi-annual publication The Montgomery County Story. The Story is the Montgomery County Historical Society’s journal focusing on the history of the people, places, events, and organizations in Montgomery County, Maryland. The Editor’s chief responsibility will be formatting and editing stories that are slated to appear in the publication. The Editor will be responsible from the first to the final draft of the publication. The Story is published in February and August. The volunteer editor will receive a 20% discount in the Museum Shop and the opportunity to attend MCHS programs for free or at a reduced fee.

The mission of the Montgomery County Historical Society is to collect, preserve, interpret, and promote the history of the County so that children and adults of diverse backgrounds can use the past to better understand the issues of the present and together build a shared vision of the County’s future.

Please Contact:
Elizabeth Otey
301-340-2825 ext. 223

Job Description:

Editor-The Montgomery County Story
Supervisor: Assistant Director

Time Commitment
Twice a year in November-January and May-July

· Oversee production of The Story from first to final draft
· Edit submitted “stories” for print
· Format The Story in preparation for print
· Collaborate with staff members to determine final content
· Interact with authors to keep them on deadlines for promised articles
· Develop guidelines for authors regarding formatting, and footnote usage
· Verify data in footnotes
· Select and prepare photographs for publication

· Interest in local history
· Experience with MS Office Suite
· Detail oriented
· Ability to meet deadlines with minimum supervision
· Familiarity with Photoshop or similar scanning program

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Member Appreciation Month: New Board Members

As we near the end of Member Appreciation Month, the time seems right to introduce two new board members of The Writer's Center. Our board members are some very dynamic people, and their work in support of our mission is invaluable. Staff wishes to take this moment to thank them for all the work they do for us. But we also would like to take this time to present these two new board members.

TOM BIRCH has served for more than twenty-five years as legislative counsel and lobbyist for nonprofit organizations, developing policy positions and di­recting advocacy ef­forts to influence Con­gres­sional action, primarily in cultural policy and on issues of child welfare. An attorney by training, Mr. Birch came to this work from Congress, having served as legislative counsel to members of the United States Senate and House of Representa­tives on issues of domestic policy. He is the author of articles on legisla­tive advoca­cy and topics of public policy, particularly in his areas of specializa­tion in child welfare, human services, and cultural affairs. Birch received his J.D. degree from George Washington University and his undergraduate B.A. degree in American history from Lehigh University. He was a Peace Corps volunteer for three years in Morocco and has served as a board member for a number of charitable organizations, including the Ellington Fund of the Duke Ellington School of the Arts, Family Stress Services of the District of Columbia, Planned Parenthood of Metropolitan Washington, the DC Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy, the Folger Poetry Board, and the American Humane Association. He is serving a fourth term in elected public office as Georgetown’s neighborhood commissioner in Washington, D.C., where he was recipient of the Belin Award in 2006 for distinguished service to the community. In 2003, Birch received the American Psychological Association’s Award for Distinguished Contribution to Child Advocacy, and in 2006, Casey Family Programs awarded him its Leadership Award.

WILSON W. WYATT, JR., is a writer and communications specialist who leads several initiatives to develop the writing community on the Delmarva Peninsula. He is president of the Eastern Shore Writers’ Association, chairman of the Editorial Board and founder of The Delmarva Review, a new regional literary review, and coordinator of the annual Bay to Ocean Writers Conference, at Chesapeake College. He is on the Talbot County Arts Council. Originally from Louisville, KY, he started his career as a journalist for The Courier-Journal. Later he was a writer and account executive for two advertising agencies. He was elected to public office in Kentucky at 25 years old, as a State Representative. He became head of the public-private planning and development agency for Louisville, overseeing redevelopment of the city’s downtown and riverfront. He left the public position to become vice president of BATUS in London, U.K., heading communications for all the corporation’s U.S. holdings. He then became senior vice president of communications at PNC Financial Corp., in Pittsburgh, PA, where he was chairman of the PNC Bank Foundation. He became senior vice president for communications, marketing, and public affairs at the Travelers Insurance Companies, in Hartford, CT, where he received Fortune Magazine’s Gold Award for the company’s “umbrella” advertising campaign. While in Hartford, he was on the board of the Hartford Stage and the executive committee of the Hartford Chamber of Commerce. He was recruited to become CEO and executive director of the American Academy of Actuaries in Washington, D.C. Following his business career, he and his wife moved to Maryland’s Eastern Shore (in 1998), where he returned to writing and photography.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Writing the Future at The Writer's Center, March 20

The Writer's Center is pleased to announce a special collaborative event: WRITING THE FUTURE, a one-day, information-packed conference for writers in all genres and media, reporters, editors, and publishers that will explore and explain the transitions and innovations taking place in the literary and publishing worlds.

The panelists and presenters at WRITING THE FUTURE will address technological advancements affecting the ways information is delivered to readers, how the content itself will change, and what writers will need to know to remain relevant in the second decade of the 21st Century—and beyond.

Featured guests at WRITING THE FUTURE include, among many others, Nick Bilton, NY Times technology reporter; Richard Nash, former editor of Soft Skull Press, social visionary, and founder of Cursor; Peter Ginna, senior editor of Bloomsbury Press USA; Jack Sallay, VP of marketing for; Carolyn Forche, poet and essayist; Jeff Kleinman, literary agent, Folio Literary Management; Sandra Beasley, poet, essayist; Tom Shroder, former editor, The Washington Post; Dan Sarewitz, Director of Arizona State University's Consortium for Science, Policy and Outcomes; and Lee Gutkind, editor of Creative Nonfiction, and author of Almost Human: Making Robots Think. To view the complete schedule of panels and panelists, click here.
Event: Writing the Future

When: March 20, 8:00-5:00 p.m.

Where: The Writer's Center, 4508 Walsh Street, Bethesda, MD 20815. 301.654.8664.

Admission: $90. Admission includes a FREE one-year subscription to the revamped Creative Nonfiction Magazine AND a FREE one-year membership to The Writer's Center. To view the entire conference schedule and to register, click here.

Writing the Future is sponsored by The Creative Nonfiction Foundation and Arizona State University’s Consortium for Science, Policy and Outcomes, and The Writer’s Center.


Creative Nonfiction has long been the place to go for “true stories, well told.” Now, after 15 years as the leading nonfiction journal in the nation, it’s getting a new look. Following WRITING THE FUTURE there will be a launch party for Creative Nonfiction Magazine! Stay and join Creative Nonfiction and The Writer's Center for this FREE evening event featuring readings by today's best nonfiction writers, free copies of the new magazine, free food and drink, and a chance to talk with Creative Nonfiction's editors.

About The Creative Nonfiction Foundation: The Creative Nonfiction Foundation pursues educational and publishing initiatives in the genre of literary nonfiction. Its objectives are to provide a venue, the journal Creative Nonfiction, for high quality nonfiction prose (memoir, literary journalism, personal essay); to serve as the singular strongest voice of the genre, defining the ethics and parameters of the field; and to broaden the genre's impact in the literary arena by providing an array of educational services and publishing activities.

About The Consortium for Science, Policy and Outcomes at Arizona State University: The Consortium for Science, Policy, and Outcomes is an intellectual network aimed at enhancing the contribution of science and technology to society's pursuit of equality, justice, freedom, and overall quality of life. The Consortium creates knowledge and methods, cultivates public discourse, and fosters policies to help decision makers and institutions grapple with the immense power and importance of science and technology as society charts a course for the future.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Call for Writers: The Pink Line Project

As we wind down Member Appreciation Month, I'd like to remark that it's been an enormous pleasure reading all the member stories--and corresponding with each writer. So many different stories. Sitting at my desk here at The Writer's Center, it's often too easy to forget just what this place means to people. What it means to me is a lot of work--rewarding as it may be.

So it's really great to get outside my little bubble and read these stories. Now I want to alert members to this opportunity to write--for pay. From the Pink Line Project:

The Pink Line Project is looking for writers to write short blog posts about the DC art scene for its website (, specifically the Art Chat section.  The purpose of Art Chat is to provide the emerging collector and art enthusiasts with information about the DC art scene, to inspire them to participate in the community of people who are culturally curious, to provide accessibility to an otherwise intimidating and seemingly unwelcoming world.

I'm not looking for traditional art writers.  I'm looking for good writers who are good observers and who are interested in bolstering the DC cultural landscape.

I have been posting reviews of shows but what I am really interested in human interest stories.  Profiles of collectors.  Something quirky about the art scene - artists Matt Sesow and Dana Ellyn wedding at Longview Gallery.  Interviews with interesting people who are doing neat things, like Tim Tate who started the Washington Glass School.  A couple things that Jessica Dawson from the Post that I've liked: story about art in condos and story about Mera Rubell's studio visit whirlwind. 

I will pay $50 for at least 300 words.  We will create an author profile on the site where all your articles will be posted.  I will promote your piece as much as I can through Facebook and my running blog on  (Note: The Pink Line Project site will be revamped considerable in a few weeks to be more friendly and fun.)  

If interested, please send a writing sample to

Friday, January 22, 2010

Member Appreciation Month: Thomas Mason

Member Appreciation Month is winding down. Next week we'll have at least one more member post. First Person Plural will resume its regular schedule following The Writer's Center's birthday celebration with Pagan Kennedy and Carolyn Forche (with Catherine Leggett as honorary chair) on January 30th. Here's member Thomas Mason to talk about his forthcoming play:

Thanks to the guidance I received while attending 2 Playwriting workshops at The Writers Center I was able to join the Washington D.C. Playwrights Forum. Then, finally after a long development period I'm happy to announce that the Washington D.C. Playwrights Forum will sponsor a public reading of my new play "The Misfortune of Kings" at St. Mary's Armenian Church in Washington D.C. this February. If not for The Writers Center, I do not think my writing would progress to the point where another organization would have taken such a serious interest in it.

Anyone who is interested in attending feel free to come on down. The contact information is below.
Play: The Misfortune of Kings by Thomas Mason, Jr.

Directed by Catherine Aselford

Synopsis: Johnny Williams a rising young superstar, is forced into a desperate struggle with the President of the Red Hawks baseball team, Charles McDaniels over his fight to obtain better treatment for his long time friend and mentor.

Time: 7:00 PM, Monday February 8

Location: St. Mary's Armenian Church (off of Wisconsin Avenue, several blocks from the Friendship Heights or Tenleytown metro stations) 4125 Fessenden Street N.W., Washington D.C. 20016

$3 Donation Requested at the door


Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Member Appreciation Month: Heather Davis

Writing at the Edge of the World
by Heather Davis

Last night one of my neighbors trotted over to my six year-old daughter and me while we were cleaning out our mini-van in the warm January sun. In her eager way, speaking very quickly, she apologized for screaming at her dog and then proclaimed that he had very inappropriately eaten cat poop or what she calls “cat crunchies.”

“It’s no problem,” I said. “Sometimes we need to yell at our cat.”

Then she explained how upset she was that Hazel, a 94-year old neighbor, had finally moved out. Hazel had been like a grandmother to her.

“I was so messed up, I did this,” she said, holding up the inside of her right wrist so I could see the young scar running across her translucent skin.
Dumbstruck, I tried to distract my daughter so she wouldn’t notice the scar and ask me later what it meant.

Finally, at a loss, I said, “You really shouldn’t have done that to yourself.”

“Oh,” she replied, “I didn’t mean to do this. I had to break into my own house a while back. I locked myself out and couldn’t wake anyone up. Sliced some major arteries. Lost about half my blood.”

At moments like these, I say a little prayer to The Writer’s Center: “Help me!”

It’s comforting knowing that I can turn to the Center to learn how other local writers process all kinds of experiences. Although I live 70 miles from Bethesda, in Front Royal, Virginia, I can access the Center online through classes, the website, or the blog.

Living out here, my husband José Padua and I often feel like we are writing from the edge of the world. Both poets, we are hard-core city people who transplanted to the hinterlands to make ends meet. The farther away I am from town, the more I appreciate institutions like The Writer’s Center.

After earning my M.A. in poetry and becoming a working stiff in the early 90s, the Writer’s Center helped me stay connected to my creative work. I took poetry and fiction courses there. José and I also completed an HTML course that helped us land jobs as website managers.

Six years after those classes, my first book of poems, The Lost Tribe of Us, won the Main Street Rag Poetry Book Award and was published in fall 2007, just as we moved to Front Royal.

We’ve learned that to live here is to step through the looking glass, only our guide is not a rabbit but a shirtless, pot-bellied man holding a menthol cigarette in one hand and a Bud in the other. The Shenandoah Valley may be the land of wineries and Skyline Drive but it is also home to Confederate flags, the Stonewall Jackson Restaurant, and Xtreme religion.

Happily, there are as many stories here as there are “Gut Deer?” bumper stickers. The Writer’s Center helps us keep one foot in the city while we focus on our blog about rural small town America. Without this blog, called Shenandoah Breakdown, we would be mad as hatters.

In the coming year, we hope to take even more advantage of the resources at The Writer’s Center and to coordinate some writing events in the Shenandoah Valley. Maybe we’ll see you down at the Knotty Pine or at Stoke’s General Store. Just make sure you have a notebook and a pen in hand.
Visit Shenandoah Breakdown at

For more information about The Lost Tribe of Us.

To read work by Jose Padua, visit
Heather holds an M.A. in Creative Writing from Syracuse University. Her poems have appeared in numerous journals and her first book of poems, The Lost Tribe of Us, was published by Main Street Rag in 2007. When not working as a communications manager or being mommy, she can be found holed up at various cafes in the greater metro area trying to write.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Member Appreciation Month: Molly Mahoney Matthews

I was not the kid who read under the covers with a flashlight. The pink plastic journal with My Diary embossed in gold that I got for my 13th birthday had a total of three entrees.

I suffered through English essays in high school, barely showed up for term papers in college, and the first memo I ever wrote was returned to me folded in half and stapled. When I ripped it open my hands shook. The note, scribbled by my boss across the top of the paper, said, “Molly this is terrible writing – it’s disorganized and makes no sense – please rewrite.”

Fast-forward several decades. I become a voracious reader. I can’t stop because I am so drawn by the power the author has over me. I envy these writers. I want what they have. They don’t even know me, yet they are changing me, challenging me, connecting with me.

I sign up for a class called The Writer’s Toolbox at the Writer’s Center. I have no idea how terrible I am. If I had known I would not have read my first few submissions out loud.

The class doesn’t point out that my writing is full of clichés or that I include absolutely no dialogue, nor do they note that I use 5 words when one or two would do. They do respond to the heart of my story and especially the scene I’ve written about my father’s teasing me when I gain the freshman 10 pounds in college. I had some capacity for dialogue by then and quoted Dad saying, “Molly, another few pounds and a permanent wave in your hair and you’ll look exactly like your grandmother.”

After class a woman follows me to the parking lot. She is in her 80s, and I know she was a refugee after WWII. “Molly,” she said, “I have to tell you I really related to what you wrote. Do you know that I weighed 90 pounds at the end of the war? My Dad made fun of me too when I put some of the pounds back on -- and it was humiliating. I just wanted you to know.”

OK, not the Pulitzer or the Booker prize, but I had written something that evoked a response in another person. Wayne Dyer on PBS says you’ll see it when you believe it. That night in the parking lot on Leland Street, I became a believer or at least considered the possibility that I could be an author.

Since then, I’ve joined a writer’s group (we came about thanks to another class at The Writer’s Center and are all sharing our experience on this site during member appreciation month). You can learn more about our experience at Thanks to The Writer’s Center and my writing group for keeping the faith.

Member Appreciation Month: Jenni Hesterman

Musings of a Novice Blogger
By Jenni Hesterman

A few years ago, I retired from a rewarding, yet hectic military career. Juggling motherhood and increasing work responsibilities, chaos encompassed my life like a thick fog, never allowing for quiet moments of reflection or the psychological “space” I needed to write.

All of that changed dramatically when, suddenly, I was alone all day, my family at work and school. Living in rural England at the time, I was also suffering through a long, dark winter season. With hours of deafening silence at my disposal and a clean slate, I was faced with a new crisis and riddled with questions. Writing what? Writing how? Writing for whom? I found it quite overwhelming, and had no support like I do now with The Writer’s Center, so I shelved my projects and started down a new path. To scratch my “academic itch” and fill my days with a productive (and paying) venture, I started teaching college classes online. This really got the creative juices flowing! Boxes of free text books and journals graced my doorstep, and my mind was occupied with more than just the fruitless search for the perfect antique sideboard.

As I settled into the new role of professor, I found myself writing some fairly long classroom discourses on emerging homeland security issues. Unsure whether my thoughts were being read (or appreciated), I frankly didn’t much care: I was writing again and it felt good! One appreciative student/reader suggested that I blog and share these musings with a wider audience. By this time, I’d started writing for a homeland security magazine, but was frustrated with the 2 month lag time from submission to publication. So perhaps my brilliant student was on to something!

My blogging adventure started as a guest writer for another site. Naturally, writing online is a different style, so I considered blogs I regularly perused. What aspects did I enjoy? What turned me off? Why did I come back (or run away)? I kept writing and honing my skills. Months went by and soon I had a growing readership, as well as a portfolio of published material. I fostered healthy debate. I was praised. I was hooked!

I recently took the plunge and started my own blog. The online tools are so easy to use that even a computer novice like me could set up a very professional looking site--for less than $30! Using a free online analytics tool, you can track your readership and gather data that helps hone your efforts and attract more viewers. Since I post daily, my personal “writing laboratory” has improved my skills and boosted my confidence across the board. Emboldened with my newfound success, I’ve tackled a much larger project--a book I am co-authoring with a federal agent about undercover operations.

Yes, the blog is well underway, but I still have one loose end to tie up--I never did find the elusive antique sideboard!

(For the curious, please visit

Jenni Hesterman was the very first receipient of an Ann Darr Scholarship for female veterans. To learn more about this scholarship, click here.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Monday Morning Post: Balalaika and Solveig Eggerz

As we honor Martin Luther King today, we're taking a day off from Member Appreciation Month. So some news about related events you might be interested in.

The Washington Balalaika Society--who recently wowed the crowd at The Writer's Center--will once again present their Balalaika Quartet "Nalimov" direct from Russia.

Friday evening, January 29, at 7:30 P.M.
at The Lyceum, 201 South Washington Street, Alexandria, VA
Tickets: $20 in advance, $25 at the door

To order, go to or call 703.549.0760

A "Meet the Artists" wine and cheese reception will follow.

And on Sunday, January 21st member and workshop leader Solveig Eggerz (Seal Woman) will appear with memorist Nicole Burton (Swimming Up the Sun) for a book talk: "Searching."

Where: St. Elmo's Coffee Pub, Inc, 2300 Mt. Vernon Avenue, Alexandria, VA 22301-1328 (703.739.9268)
When: Sunday, January 31, 2:00 P.M.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Member Appreciation Month: Arlene Stanton

Why I Write
by Arlene Stanton

There I was, 4 years old, toes embedded at the edge of the sea surrounding Taiwan, wearing a huge- brimmed sunhat that was its own umbrella. Blue sky met blue water and stretched on into infinity, and I stretched out my arms to embrace that beauty, the vastness and the ache of it. The sand shifted under my feet and, being human, I fell back flat on my butt, arms still outstretched, terrified and outraged at a loss I didn’t understand. Mother Ocean serenely gobbled at my toes.

Years later, terrified of water, I ask a friend who teaches children to swim, to teach me. He is a hardy and patient man, a good thing because it takes five lessons before I can tolerate putting my face under the surface of the pool. Weeks later, I spend 45 minutes a day swimming back and forth, pulling against the water, unable to see where I’m going but plowing ahead with joy and strength. I stretch, I pull, feel strong and timeless, and emerge to find the middle-aged men who sit out in the sun cheering me on, clinking their beers.

But years later, I find myself flat on my butt again, this time facing the computer screen, alone and lost, longing and afraid, and repulsed by my fear—but of what? Finding what I’m looking for? I begin to organize my ideas. Mostly they are scribbles of ideas, and I realize how many times my working titles are about finding the way home. Ah ha. Is this about me finding my way home, through my writing? Each time I commence, I feel like Gretel without Hansel, starting off into the forest and trying to remember if there’s a wolf in ‘my’ story. I read books, articles, ponder the concept of writer’s block but don’t give up the idea that this is something I must do.

But each time I go seeking, it is a new journey. I stumble about, rattle at my interior cabinets wondering if this one will get me to Narnia. Sometimes, I end up bumbling around in the wrong place, like a drunk pounding on the wrong door. You have to earn admission, again and again, but how to do that, lacking magic or a password?

Yet more years later, I spend quite some time with the man at Sherwin Williams to find the right color for my office walls—not a mere off-white or blunt turquoise, but the color of a swimming pool, or more precisely, the color of getting into a pool, feeling the world fall away, the limbs loosening, the arms stretching out to pull back the weight of nothingness and move on. I paint my walls.

And sometimes…suddenly, there I am, where I have not been before, standing squarely on both feet. A moment as I look around, alone. But no, there are voices in another room, firelight and shadows. Dropping my keys in a familiar place, I move forward, into darkness, into light.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Member Appreciation Month: Jamie White

Whenever I get frustrated and want to say to heck with writing, I’ll try to find some good writing to keep me company. One of my favorite screenplays is Edward Scissorhands; I especially like the scene where Kim (Wynona Ryder) dances as Edward (Johnny Depp) creates a kind of music as he carves Christmas ice sculptures. The writing is beautiful and reminds me what I’m striving for.
Edward concentrates, his attention rapt, a kind of glow upon him. His hands work with more certainty than ever, without an instant’s hesitation. Then, she begins to dance. Her dance is shy at first, a little awkward, gangly. She gropes after a rhythm. On and on she dances.

This is how writing felt when I first decided I’d like to try my hand at it. There was a kind of magic about it all. Yet the nervous excitement, goose bumps, and fevered thoughts were soon swallowed up by blank pages. Frustration gave way to despair when the road got rocky and writing my novel or screenplay wasn’t so easy. I believed I could just call it quits, apply to grad school and abandon the writing life.

Corporeal again, earthbound, Kim clumsily scrapes her arm along one of Edward’s blades, then impales her finger on one of the points. She recoils, gasps. She pales at the sight of blood trickling down her hand. She has stood too abruptly. The blood drains from her face. She crumples, fainting, landing on the ground at her mother’s feet.

Writing wouldn’t let me go. My head was persistently swimming with scenes and dialogue and plot twists. So I went back to the blank page to write (so the voices would be quiet and the cursor would stop blinking). But my divided heart has often kept me from being fully devoted to the craft. For instance, I want so much to believe that this yearning to write is a calling, or a gift – not a delusional fancy. Then there’s the part of me that sees writing as a selfish practice. Wouldn’t it be better for the world if I were a public school teacher in the trenches 60 hours a week working to make a difference in the lives of children? Or I could focus all my energy on social work and caring for the forgotten. Wouldn’t my free time be better spent volunteering for a cause than revising a piece of writing that perhaps no one will ever read?

Yet here I am again, putting my all into it this time because I refuse to live this double-minded existence anymore.

Edward watches. He helps her. Kim dances with abandon beneath the thick flurry of ice. Unabashed glee and a kind of majestic gracefulness have been set free – bursting from depths we could barely have suspected were there.
Either I’m a writer or I’m not. I’ve come to the conclusion that no words that flow from my divided mind will have the power to stir the hearts of men. God help me, I’m in this for the long haul!

Member Appreciation Month: Kristin Battista-Frazee

Believing It’s Possible
Kristin Battista-Frazee

I know “believing it’s possible” sounds a bit corny, but that’s really how I feel about my experience at The Writer’s Center. I wanted to be a better writer and The Writer’s Center helped make that possible. It started with a business writing class with Rick Walter. Rick was a fabulous teacher who gave me the tools to improve my writing, but most importantly, he believed in my writing potential.

I always wanted to write a book but thought it was ridiculous to think I could get published. I remember on a break from class wandering into the bookstore and, on an impulse, buying the Guide to Literary Agents book. I thought, “Maybe one day I might use it.” Rick helped me gain the confidence to begin writing my family memoir about my father’s involvement distributing the pornographic movie Deep Throat.

After the class was over, Rick and I would meet once a month to critique my writing pieces. I brought him a draft of the first 17 pages of my book. When he said, “I think this may be sellable with some work,” I was shocked.

Upon his recommendation I took Barbara Esstman’s Advance Novel and Memoir workshop. She taught me to love the art of writing and the importance of honing my craft. She said, “Don’t’ worry about selling the book, just make sure you write a good book and the rest will follow” and also, “Just because something is published doesn’t it make good.” So true!

In Barbara’s class I met David, who has become a good friend and writing partner. He brought me into a wonderful writing group with other talented writers (Janet, Donna, Molly, and Kelly) that have become great friends. Together we have built an environment that supports a strong creative process and continues to make me believe it is possible my book will get published.

In our lives we only encounter a handful of people who turn out to be our true champions. I am grateful to The Writer’s Center for helping me meet Rick, Barbara, and the members of my writing group. Thanks!

Today I am represented by the Ralph Vicinanza, Ltd literary agency and my agent Matthew is doing a great job guiding me through the process of obtaining a publisher for my family memoir Daughter of Pornography.
If you want to follow our writing group as we work to perfect and publish our books, visit our blog at And check out my blog Daughter of Pornography at

Monday, January 11, 2010

Methods and Models of New Play Development

A brief interlude from our Member Appreciation Month (writers: I'm looking forward to getting and posting your pieces!)

Especially for Playwrights:  Methods and Models of New Play Development

Following the Saturday, January 16th, 2 p.m. performance of Patrick Gabridge's new play, Constant State of Panic, Patrick will be joined on stage with artistic directors and literary managers from six DC-area theatres--artistic director Kathleen Akerley (Longacre Lea), artistic director Paul- Douglas Michnewicz (Theater Alliance), artistic director Christopher Snipe (Madcap Players), executive director JoAnn M. Williams (African Continuum Theatre Company), artistic director Richard Henrich (Spooky Action Theater), and artistic director Patrick Torres (Young Playwrights Theater).  They'll discuss Constant State of Panic and the processes they each use in developing new plays. 

This is an opportunity for writers to get the inside scoop on how these local directors go about choosing new scripts and bring them to life on stage.  "Though it'll be tempting to tell horror stories of what can go wrong when trying to get a new play up, the focus will really be on what works.  We'll look at who uses readings and workshops and how they structure the process.  Everyone approaches it differently, and as a playwright, its valuable to understand the different points of view, and also figure out who might be the best match for the way you like to work,"  Gabridge says.  Patrick is co-founder of the Rhombus playwrights group in Boston and has been involved in helping writers create and market new plays for more than 20 years.  In 1993, he started the publication, Market InSight for Playwrights, which offers monthly submission information to playwrights, and in 2002 he started the online Playwright Submission Binge, an online group that now has more than 500 members from around the world.

Constant State of Panic is a darkly comic love story about a man afraid of everything and a woman afraid of nothing other than losing her husband.  This highly theatrical show takes a twisted look at a couple struggling to survive in a culture that thrives on fear.  Lines between reality and fantasy blur the characters tumble through the looking glass of this paranoid Bush-era Wonderland.  The play was developed in an ongoing in-house reading series with Rhombus in Boston, and then with another workshop with Madcap in Washington, before it headed into rehearsal.

LOCATION:  H Street Playhouse, 1365 H Street NE, Washington, DC
TICKETS (for the play, there's no extra charge for the panel)$20; $15 for groups of 10 or more.  PWYC tickets are $5 or $10 online and are available at the H Street Playhouse, one hour before curtain.
Call 800.494.TIXS (800.494.8497) or visit to reserve tickets.

Member Appreciation Month: Amani Elkassabani

Writing as Collaboration

I count myself among those who believe that writing is done in isolation. When I write, I sit alone, putting fingers to keyboard or holding pen to paper, attempting to express the thoughts, stories, or images in my head. I also believe that the hardest work of writing—the revising—is not done alone. Quite the opposite. The process of revision begins with collaboration.

To do the hard work or revision, I need an expanded perspective. Since I am often too close my writing, I must rely on those who read my work to convey that perspective to me. This new perspective, expressed though constructive feedback, enables me to make critical changes to my writing, ones that can help me deepen a character, tighten a plot, or sharpen the dialogue in a story.

While giving constructive feedback requires thoughtful attention to what the writer is trying to accomplish, using this feedback requires a willingness to let go. It means letting go of the words, of the time and effort that I have poured into the work. Mostly, it means giving up control—if only temporarily. When I share my writing with others and invite their critiques, I am giving up something, but am gaining something more valuable: access to a reader’s response to my writing. This response, when given honestly, critically, and carefully, has always led me to examine my writing and reflect on it. Often, the response has helped me to make marked improvements. Occasionally, it has catapulted me forward in new and exciting directions.

This kind of collaborative exchange requires mutual respect and trust. Anyone who writes knows how hard writing is: carving out the time, making it a daily practice, telling a story or capturing a moment in just the right words. We’ve all experienced the challenges of being a writer. And we all have enormous respect for those who attempt to write. Our respect fosters trust, which continues to develop not only when we support each other’s work and ambitions, but mostly when we come to rely on other writers to give us honest and useful critiques of our writing.

Taking an active part in a writing community, whether it be in a workshop or writing group, builds relationships that are rooted in appreciation for one another’s yearning to express something true and profound and to share that with others. Sharing oneself can be a risky endeavor, one that makes us vulnerable. But it is also an act of hope, one that can ultimately lead to increased insight and to greater connectedness with others. For me, achieving this connectedness is one of the greatest joys writing brings me. It is also something I would not be able to achieve alone.

To my fellow writers—many of whom I have met through workshops taken at The Writer’s Center—who have been careful readers, honest critics, trusted peers, I am grateful for the critical feedback you have given me. You have helped make me a better writer than I could ever have become on my own.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Saturday Morning Post: News and co-sponsored Events

Great news: Board and faculty member Sandra Beasley will have a poem in next year's Best American Poetry. Congrats, Sandra. Awesome news. Read more about Sandra at her blog, Chicks Dig Poetry.

And there are three upcoming events NOT at The Writer's Center that feature us as co-sponsors, two of which are ticked events that our members can get discounts on. The third is a free event.

They are:

1) Steve Luxenberg, Associate editor of the Washington Post, reading at The Jewish Community Center of Greater Washington, Annie's Ghosts: A Journey into a Family Secret.

Throughout her life, Luxenberg’s mother, Beth, reveled in her status as an only child. Then, a few years before her death in 1999—and utterly out of the blue—she admitted to having a mentally and physically disabled younger sister named Annie, who died in 1972. After Beth’s passing, Luxenberg set out in search of answers. His dual roles as reporter and son proved both blessing and curse; the journalist dug furiously for facts, while the son wondered if long-buried secrets were best kept that way.
“As Luxenberg slowly uncovers Annie's story, he realizes that by exposing one ghost, he exposes thousands. . . The author calls on his investigative reporting skills not just to uncover the facts, but to explore what happens when lies or omissions become truth, exposing the contradictions, contrasts and parallels that exist within every life, every relationship and every family. Beautifully complex, raw and revealing.”

—Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
$8 JCCGW and Writer Center members/$10 general public. Code 10WCL001

Call Jodi at 301-348-3769 to register or for more information Books will be available for purchase.
Co- Sponsored by The JCC of Greater Washington (
and The Writer’s Center
Held at the JCC of Greater Washington
6125 Montrose Road
Rockville, MD 20852

2) Theatre J Discounts. Writer’s Center members can save $10 on every ticket simply by using the code “Four10” online at or by phone at 800-494-8497.

Visit Theatre J online here.

"The Four of Us"

By Itamar Moses

January 20 – February 21, 2010

Inspired by Moses' friendship with author Jonathan Safran Foer, the play tells the story of two close friends, one a wildly successful novelist named Benjamin and the other a struggling playwright named David, whose tight bond is tested. This poignant play explores the nature of friendship, memory and what happens when your dreams come true—for your best friend.

3) Poetry Discussion of Declension in the Village of Chung Luong with Bruce Weigl, co-sponsored by Split this Rock and The Writer's Center Thusday, January 21, 7:15 at GWU's Rome Hall, Room 351.

Bruce Weigl—an award-winning poet, translator of Vietnamese poetry, Vietnam War veteran, and Distinguished Professor at Lorain County Community College in Ohio—will be a featured poet at the 2010 Split This Rock Poetry Festival. Declension in the Village of Chung Luong is his 13th book of poetry.

Full details on this FREE event are here.

Member Appreciation Month: Kelly Hand

The Revision Revelation
by Kelly Hand

I finally “got religion” about the importance of revision when I took Barbara Esstman’s Advanced Novel and Memoir class, and subsequently formed a writing group with several of my classmates. The workshop model taught me that what matters most is not the opinion of a single authoritative reader, but the reading experience of a peer group of critical readers.

As a graduate student instructor years ago, I preached the gospel of revision in introductory composition classes and held conferences with students to discuss their essays and recommend revisions. Invariably, the second drafts of those essays came back with only superficial changes. It was annoying that my advice went unheeded, yet I clung to the notion that there are good and bad writers—and that good ones “get it right” the first time around. When I wrote a dissertation and made changes my committee recommended, the revision process felt like yet another disciplinary initiation rite.

Before coming to The Writer’s Center, I had completed a draft of a novel, Blind Girl’s Bluff, and sent it out to several agents. Some asked to read the manuscript, but did not offer to represent me. I concluded that the novel was “not marketable enough” and started a new novel with a clearer target audience. When my Writer’s Center classmates commented on the first chapter of this second novel, I was disappointed that while many readers enjoyed the story, most advised substantial changes. This felt like a verdict—that I was a “good writer” technically, but only a mediocre storyteller. Fortunately, some classmates encouraged me to keep writing and to join the writing group they were forming.

On a whim, I presented an excerpt of my first novel to the group, and their feedback helped me realize that it was premature to abandon it in favor of the second. With the help of the five other writers in our group, I have spent the last year revising Blind Girl’s Bluff. It has a new beginning, a new ending, and a multitude of changes in between. It surprises me how much I enjoy restructuring my plot, refining my characters, and reining in my sometimes flamboyant prose—all for an audience of supportive peers.

I believe in the hard-won miracles of revision because my book is better now—and so are the books of my writing group friends. We have faith in our ability to make our books “work” for readers like us. This revision revelation has changed my life, and it is turning me into the writer I always wanted to be. Maybe I am preaching now to the converted about revision, but if you find yourself doubting, then find yourself a community of like-minded writer/readers who can help you “see the light.” The Writer’s Center is a place where miracles begin.

If you wish to follow our writing group as we work to perfect and publish our books, visit our blog at

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Member Appreciation Month: Cindy Nessen

This is how I was like the bamboo that bends but does not break. This is my fairy tale story with many twists.

Born in Korea during the Japanese occupation, I supported my widowed mother and brothers during World War II by scavenging rice from the paddies. After learning American songs from the radio, I entertained the US troops stationed at Pusan during the Korean War, which launched my career as a professional singer. For several years I toured Southeast Asia with my group, The Apples, and became famous as Cindy Song.

While performing in Saigon, I met and fell in love with NBC correspondent, Ron Nessen. We married, and I followed him to posts in Mexico, London and New York, though not knowing the languages of those countries isolated me. When Ron was appointed President Ford’s press secretary, we moved to DC, where among other highlights, I danced with the president at the White House, sang with the Marine Corps band, and met dignitaries such as Emperor Hirohito and Anwar Sadat. After I divorced Ron, I raised my son alone, started a successful international company and survived cancer.

I wanted to write my story with the idea that it could inspire others to endure whatever life sent them. But there was no way I could do this alone. When I asked an author friend to write it for me, she told me to go to TWC. There I met with Al Lefcowitz, the director at the time, and asked if he could introduce me to someone who could write my story for me.

“Mrs. Nessen,” he said, “anyone can fix your English, but no one can write what you have in your heart.”

That was the best advice anyone could have given to me, but I was still unsure. Reluctantly, I registered and took a class. The first assignment was to write 15 pages about anything. I didn’t know where to start, but I settled on the story that my mother had told me about the tragic death of her sister and how years later her son brought her remains home to be buried with her ancestors. The teacher exclaimed what a wonder of story I had written. The class kept asking, “But what about her English?”

The teacher’s response was the same as the director’s.

“Someone can fix her English, but her description is what counts.”

I took two more courses, and over the next twenty years I wrote more than 500 pages and hired various editors along the way to help. But they didn’t know what they were doing and wasted my money. In 2008, after recovering from gastric cancer, I picked up where I’d left off before my illness. I knew all those pages had to be cleaned up and tons cut but didn’t know where to start. Out of desperation, I went to TWC again in hopes of finding someone who could do what the previous editors failed to accomplish.

Whatever Ms Barbra Esstman was teaching was way over my head, but I sat in her workshop and convinced her to edit my ms. She shaped my story, fixed my English and cut enough material that I have a good start on a second book of family history. If I hadn’t gone to TWC I wouldn’t have written the draft or gotten the right editor. Now I tell anyone who wants to write to come to TWC.

Cindy Nessen currently resides near Washington, DC. She owns and manages her own company, Nessen International Inc. This very successful company arranges events, interviews and contacts between Korean and American sports, business and political figures. She travels to Korea often. Visit her Web site.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Member Appreciation Month Discounts

A day off from posting member stories for this:

January marks The Writer's Center's Member Appreciation Month. It's a time for us to honor those who really make this place a special place: members. To give a special thanks, we're offering our members a $50 coupon off ANY 4 to 8-session workshop. To take advantage of this offer, you must have a current membership. Restrictions: Coupon is valid for 6 months from today. Cannot be combined with other offers.

Want to read some member stories? Check out First Person Plural all this month as we post entries written by our members.

Membership Drive

As part of this special month, we're running a membership drive. 2010 will be a very exciting year for us. Within the next few months, we'll have a new Web site; we'll host Writing the Future, an event featuring Lee Gutkind and Creative Nonfiction Magazine; and we'll host the first ever LitArtlantic--The Writer's Center's new premier event for literature, music, theatre, and film. Look for details in the coming months about these and many other happenings here.

With so much happening, now's a great time to become join our writers' community.

Birthday Membership Discount

If you buy 2 tickets to our birthday celebration on January 30th featuring Carolyn Forche and Pagan Kennedy, we'll give you one FREE membership. You can keep it for yourself or give it to a friend.

But why stop there? Here are some other discounts for members and nonmembers alike.

New Year's Resolution Discount

During January only, register for a 6-8 session workshop and get one FREE single-session workshop of your choice.

Restrictions: These discounts are valid only during the month of January, 2010. Cannot be combined with other offers.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Member Appreciation Month: Eugenia Kim

I read somewhere that the chance of getting published these days is like having two marbles meet in the middle after being shot from opposite ends of a basketball court. I can’t calculate those odds, but I can count the numbers behind my book. It began twelve years ago at The Writer’s Center. I’d been scribbling memoir and family stories, and somehow the pen wanted to do things I didn’t understand. And I wanted the pen to do things I couldn’t manage.

A writer colleague (I was a graphic designer) and friend, Beth Baker, told me about TWC. I enrolled in a beginner’s fiction class with instructor Patricia Elam and learned about craft and workshop. I have since been subjected to a variety of writing workshops, and am convinced that TWC’s focus on encouragement and constructive criticism is the best of this method. The experience seeded a new reality: perhaps I could be a writer.

After the class’s ten weeks, I joined a group that met monthly at the Center. My writing improved, as did my desire to pursue stories that had first inspired me. A stint at Hurston-Wright Foundation’s Writer’s Week opened my writing to new possibilities—and spurred me toward an MFA. I spent two intense years in the low-residency program at Bennington College, and asked and answered the question: am I a novelist, memoirist or essayist? I graduated as a reader and writer.

I subscribed to writers’ magazines and pored through the calls for submissions. I lurked in the TWC shop to find literary journals whose editorial bent I admired. Subtracting the many-rejections from the many-submissions-made yielded a handful of published pieces. I had more success with placing memoir in anthologies, but two stories landed happily in two minor journals. I worked on my novel, which after ten years of research, writing and staying alive with family and job, grew into a 500-page behemoth.

During the year it took to find an agent, I constantly revised my manuscript, my query package and my expectations. (See The Writer's Digest blog here.) I sent out 47 queries and decided that at 50 I would give up. Of those 47 queries, 17 agents asked to see more, proving at least that my query was effective. Then, one of my stories in the “minor” journal attracted an agent’s attention, and after a short dance, I signed on with Sobel & Weber Associates.

Another year passed with three revisions of my novel before Judith Weber decided to schedule it for bidding. Thirteen editors expressed interest, yet only one bid came in. But it was The One—editor Helen Atsma from Henry Holt who “absolutely loved the book.” Almost two years and three additional revisions later, the book was published as Holt’s lead fall title.

We aren’t marbles rolling aimlessly across a floor. All those numbers, those years, tuition dollars, revisions, all that angst, persistence and work—that’s how one writer, one agent and one publisher found each other.


Eugenia Kim is the daughter of Korean immigrant parents who came to America shortly after the Pacific War. She has published short stories and essays in journals and anthologies, including Echoes Upon Echoes: New Korean American Writings, and is an MFA graduate of Bennington College. She lives in Washington, D.C., with her husband and son. The Calligrapher’s Daughter is her first novel. Visit her Web site.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Member Appreciation Month: Alan Orloff

Today we kick off our Member Appreciation Month with author Alan Orloff. Look for a member post each day this month. Here's Alan:

For me, the yen to write fiction hid deep inside, dormant like a defective daffodil bulb, for forty-odd years. When it finally sprouted, I knew guidance was needed. I had the desire, but not a clue!

So I joined The Writer's Center.

I started by taking an appropriately-titled workshop, Introduction to the Novel, from the wonderful Ann McLaughlin. There, I put pen to paper (okay, fingers to keyboard), along with the other workshop participants, trying to learn how to write. We'd exchange pages and make comments. I knew what I liked and didn't, but wasn't sure why. Every so often, I'd love something everyone else hated and vice versa.
First big lesson: writing is subjective!

It was utterly fascinating reading different genres: SF, memoir, fantasy, experimental, cozy, historical. There might even have been something about Martians--or maybe it was about sea lions, I wasn't sure. Everyone had different ideas, everyone had different skill levels. Everyone brought something different to the workshop table.

Second big lesson: I learned what "overwritten" meant.

After that eye-opening workshop experience, I was hungry for more, so I signed up for Noreen Wald's mystery writing workshop. From the first moment of the first workshop class, I realized I was "home." Mystery writers to the right, mystery writers to the left, mystery writers hiding in the closet with a lead pipe. The sense of community was intoxicating, plus I got to kill people with impunity!

Boy, did Noreen know her stuff (and how cool was it to take a workshop from a multi-published mystery author, giving moi pointers! Tres cool!). I learned plenty about writing in that workshop, but--equally important--I also learned the nuts and bolts of the publishing business (i.e, the business is mostly nuts).
I loved the workshop so much, I took it again. In fact, many of the other participants were also long-time repeat workshoppers and I fit right in. The second time through was just as enlightening as the first.

I found the members of my two critique groups from those workshops. I found out which organizations to join and the "right" conferences to attend from those workshops. I found out how to query agents from those workshops. All vital stepping stones on the path to publication.

Third big lesson: learn everything you can from those who've gone before you.

Looking back on the journey, I realize I wouldn't have gotten this far without the workshops I attended at The Writer's Center. Not even close.

Thanks, Ann. Thanks, Noreen.

Alan Orloff's debut mystery, DIAMONDS FOR THE DEAD, will be published in April 2010 by Midnight Ink. The first in his new series, THE LAST LAFF, featuring Channing Hayes, a stand-up comic with a tragic past, will be out March 2011 (also from Midnight Ink). For more info, visit

Friday, January 1, 2010

What is Genre?

Happy New Year to everyone! One last trip down memory lane with this post from last year, a year ago tomorrow to be precise. Next week, member month on the blog begins.

Earlier, I wrote this praising post of Dennis Lehane's The Given Day (recently noted on my 17 Notable Books of 2008).

That particular post revealed my interest in bad guys. In The Given Day, Lehane does a solid job drawing a portrait of a real live villain, the gist of which is that he created his villain in the image of society. The villain did not seem unreal, a monster.

In Shutter Island, Lehane's 2003 thriller--which I finished reading earlier this week and soon to be released as a Martin Scorcese film staring Leonardo DiCaprio, Mark Ruffalo, Ben Kingsley and my favorite actor of all time, Max von Sydow--Lehane is, I believe, less successful at drawing bad guys. But here's the thing: this novel is what many consider a "genre" novel. The genre = thriller. As a side note, I read somewhere, I can't remember where, that "genre" novels are the only type of novels that are actually growing in sales. Something to think about before you read further.

Now I don't use this word "genre" disparagingly. Not at all. I'm not one who rails against "genre" novels. In fact, I rather like "them." But here's the question: What's genre fiction?

Well, in short it's anything that falls into a category--mystery, suspense, fantasy, horror, thriller, science fiction, etc. Certain rules tend to apply. Take someone who reads mysteries, for example. They are aware of the tricks of the trade, I guarantee, and authors do well to study the genre and make sure they follow "the rules," so to speak.

Which isn't to say authors can't or shouldn't break the mold a bit. You should do that in fact. Always. But it is to say that you should be well versed in them, know what expensive china you're breaking before you break it.

I think the problem with genre--and why people disparage it at times--is that you can get lazy with it. I like Elmore Leonard, but if you read his Cuba Libre you'll end up, perhaps, feeling kind of empty when you finish. I did. It's kind of like snacking on peppermints instead of eating a real meal: you treat yourself but gain no real nourishment from what you just swallowed. This follows a view of mine that a writer should try to describe the world in new ways, ways that, through language, provide a taste of freshness. A new way of seeing and being. Cuba Libre hews too closely, I think, to the entertainment sort. If I wanted that, I'd watch a movie. In a movie you can do so much more with imagery. Things you see. On paper you have to rely on language, metaphor, association. Things you see only in your head. Cool stuff like that.

Anyway, back to genre and bad guys. One thing of note in a "genre" novel is the bad guys. They're usually a lot more transparent, often in black and white. And that leads me back to Shutter Island. The warden of this book, a minor character, assumes a bad guy role in a way that seems true to the genre but false to reality:

The warden spit on the ground near their feet. "You're as violent as they come. I know, because I'm as violent as they come. Don't embarrass yourself by denying your own blood lust, son. Don't embarrass me. If the constraints of society were removed, and I was all that stood between you and a meal, you'd crack my skull with a rock and eat my meaty parts." He leaned in. "If my teeth sank into your eye now, could you stop me before I blinded you?"

Teddy saw the glee in his baby eyes. He pictured the man's heart, black and beating, behind the wall of his chest.

I'll stop there. It's the second paragraph, the "black and beating" heart, that strikes me as an especially "bad guy" image. Bad men have black hearts, don't they? Well, they're bad, so they must. But no, hearts are not black unless it's a novel and the guy (or girl) with one is bad.

See what I mean? This is a trick of the genre, and kind of clumsy here actually. But it's not true to life. Unlike the bad guy cop in The Given Day.

So what am I saying? Well, in spite of this scene with the warden I really enjoyed Shutter Island. It's a thriller all right, and a pretty cool one, with a neat twist that’s become a staple in Hollywood flicks of late (think Fight Club, The Sixth Sense, etc.). So it's a successful thriller. But the characters, at times, adhere too closely to black & white representations of people--I'll call them "genre people."

And that doesn't strike me as real. So think about that, I guess, when writing your novel. What kind of characters are you making?