August 26, 2014

MWA Montgomery Chapter Monthly Meeting


September 06, 2014
10:00 AM to 12:00 PM
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The Episcopal Church of the Ascension
205 South Summit Avenue
Gaithersburg, MD 20877

Local author Tom Glenn will share his tips on the mechanics of fiction writing—formatting, copy editing, and developing crisp dialogue—when he presents “The Forgotten Discipline: Fiction Craftsmanship” at the September meeting of the MWA Montgomery County Chapter. Mr. Glenn’s presentation focuses on the craftsmanship required to get published, and he will answer any related questions from the audience.

About the Speaker:
Tom Glenn has been writing fiction all his life, drawing from a plethora of experiences. He has worked as an intelligence operative in Vietnam, a musician, and a cryptologist. With a doctorate in Public Administration, he toured the country training federal executives. Seventeen of his short stories and two novels are now published, including the novels Friendly Casualties and No-Accounts.

Location and Directions:
Join us Saturday, September 6, 2014, 10 a.m. to 12:00 p.m., at The Episcopal Church of the Ascension, 205 South Summit Avenue, Gaithersburg, MD 20877, in the white chapel. Just follow the signs. You can find directions to the church here.


MWA chapter meetings are open to the public and are free to MWA members and first-time guests. Returning non-members will be asked to pay $5. Non-members wishing to join MWA may do so at meetings or here.



August 26, 2014

Call for MWA Open Board Chairs

The Maryland Writers’ Association Board has the following Chairs currently open:

Communications Chair: The Communications Chair is responsible for publicizing MWA activities to members and to the public, for initiating and responding to media requests, using such communications tools as the Board may direct.

Conference Chair: The Conference Chair is responsible for all aspects of planning and carrying out the Annual Writers’ Conference, if one is held.  If there is no Annual Writers’ Conference, the Conference Chair may be given other responsibilities.

These volunteer positions greatly influence other writers and help us foster a strong literary community. If you are interested in either of these positions, please email a bio with some notes about your experience in the particular position to

June 22, 2014

2014 Annual Meeting Business Report

At yesterday’s annual meeting, the results of the MWA state board elections were officially announced:

With 59 ballots cast, 57 (98.28%) voted to approve the slate as presented, 1 (1.72%) voted to not approve the slate as presented. One blank ballot was cast. There were no write-in candidates.

Congratulations to the incoming board of the Maryland Writers’ Association!

Elected Positions:

  • President: Lalita Noronha
  • Vice President: Holly Morse-Ellington
  • Treasurer: Mark Prebilic
  • Secretary: Kathleen Young Rybarczyk
  • Communications Chair: Vicky Pinpin-Feinstein
  • Conference Chair: Denise Camacho
  • Members at Large: Carolee Noury, Ally E. Machate

Appointed Positions:

  • Editor, Pen in Hand: Jill Earl
  • MWA Books Co-Directors: Gary Lester, Ally E. Machate
  • Teen Writers’ Club Co-Coordinators: Diane E. Booth, Mark Willen

The attending members also voted to approve the change in wording to Article III of the Bylaws:

Original Text:

“The membership and fiscal year is July 1 through June 30. New members are accepted throughout the year, but dues are not prorated. For those who join between March 1 and June 30, membership is extended through the next fiscal year. Membership dues are not refundable.”

Approved Revision:

“The fiscal year is July 1 through June 30. New members are accepted throughout the year. Membership dues are not refundable.”

June 8, 2014

Submissions Now Being Accepted for Summer 2014 Pen in Hand

Hello, everyone!

We’re now accepting submissions for the Summer 2014 issue of Pen in Hand, the MWA’s quarterly membership newsletter. The issue will be appearing in Mid July 2014.

Pen in Hand publishes:
=   Tips and techniques on the art, craft, and business of writing and publishing
=   How-to advice for writers
=   News items and features on upcoming events of interest to MWA members and friends (please keep the publication date of the issue in mind when submitting dated items!)
=   Interviews with noteworthy people such as MWA meeting guest speakers
=   Short-short stories and poetry

Word count ceiling: 300-400 words for features, stories, and poetry; 100 words for news items and announcements.

Payment: Your story in print. Pen in Hand acquires no rights beyond first publication.

Submission deadline: Monday, June 30, 2014. The newsletter can fill up quickly — especially the fiction, poetry, and memoir section — so don’t wait too long before submitting!

Pen in Hand reserves the right to edit for length, grammar, and spelling as appropriate. Publication will depend on factors such as timeliness, relevance, professionalism, and available space.

Submission Requirements:
=   You must be a current MWA member to be considered for publication.
=   Maryland-based literary journals, publishers, reading series, and writers’ associations are welcome to submit announcements such as calls for submissions and upcoming events.
=   Submissions should be in unformatted text and included in the body of an email message. No attachments, please.
=   Please include a brief bio.
=   If line art or halftones will accompany your submission, please specify that in your e-mail and the editor will provide formatting guidelines.
=   Include “PIH” in the e-mail subject line and send to Jill Earl at Questions and queries are encouraged.

Please note: submissions that don’t follow these guidelines will not be considered!
Our ideal is to match Pen in Hand to the needs and interests of our members. With your help, we can get a little closer to that ideal with each issue. If you’d like us to explore a particular theme, please let us know.

We’re looking forward to seeing your submissions!

Jill Earl
Editor, Pen in Hand

June 2, 2014

Meet the 2014-2016 MWA Board of Directors Candidates

We are happy to announce the slate of candidates for the 2014-2016 MWA Board of Directors. Congratulations to our nominees, and thank you for volunteering to serve the MWA!

Online voting for the slate of candidates will open on Monday, June 9. Current members will receive a ballot e-mail that will allow them to register their votes anonymously. The online election window will remain open for two weeks, until midnight Friday, June 20, and the results announced the following day at the 2014 Annual Meeting, Saturday, June 21 from 1-3 at the Leonardtown branch library, 23250 Hollywood Road, Leonardtown, MD 20650 (please RSVP; directions at the link). Members who attend the Annual Meeting will also have the opportunity to cast their ballots in person.

Please take a moment to get to know your 2014-2016 board candidates!

Elected Positions:

President: Lalita Noronha lalita-noronhaBorn in India, Lalita Noronha received a Fulbright travel grant to the US and earned her Ph.D. in Microbiology from St. Louis University School of Medicine. She is a widely published research scientist, poet and fiction writer. Her literary work has appeared in over seventy journals, magazines and anthologies. She is the author of an award winning short story collection, Where Monsoons Cry, (Black Words Press) and a poetry chapbook, Her Skin Phyllo-Thin (Finishing Line Press). She has twice won the Maryland Literary Short Story Award, a Maryland Individual Artist Award, the National League of American Pen Women Award, and Maryland Writers Association Awards in fiction, creative non-fiction and poetry. She is a fiction editor for Baltimore Review, a nominee for a Pushcart prize in poetry, and she teaches both science and creative writing.
Vice President: Holly Morse-Ellington holly-morse-ellingtonHolly Morse-Ellington’s articles and essays are forthcoming or have appeared in Three Quarter Review, the Baltimore Review blog, Outside In, Baltimore Fishbowl, Smile, Hon, You’re In Baltimore, Urbanite, The Journal of Homeland Security, and The Washington Times. Anthologies include Whereabouts: Stepping Out Of Place and Freshly Squeezed: A “Write Here, Write Now” Anthology. She is a fiction editor for Baltimore Review and will be speaking on a panel of Baltimore Review editors about “Making the Ordinary Extraordinary” at the 2014 Baltimore Book Festival. Holly was a staff writer for Baltimore Fishbowl and has told her true stories for the Stoop Storytelling Series, The New Mercury Readings, and Lit & Art. She holds a J.D. from the University of Maryland Law School and currently writes as a consultant for a Federal grants review contractor, LCG, Inc. When not writing, Holly is an active member of the Gunpowder Garden Club and plays the ukulele. Her publications are available through her website,
Treasurer: Mark Prebilic mark-prebilicIn my day job as a database expert, I have been involved with financial systems for large organizations as well as government agencies. I am currently involved in helping to relieve the VA benefits backlog and helping to speed up the time it takes for our disabled veterans to receive the benefits they are due.
In my personal life, I am currently a chair of the Poolesville High School Post Prom Committee. I own and operate a corporation involved in the information technology services sector. I am responsible for the financial books for the corporation. I also prepare the corporate tax filings for the business. I write fiction, poetry, and opinion pieces. I’m inspired by the natural world around me and my writings reflect that inspiration. I’ve been published in The Washington Post, Yoga Journal, and the Gazette newspapers.
Communications Chair: Vicky Pinpin-Feinstein vicky-pinpin-feinsteinBorn in the Philippines, I came to the U. S. shortly after I graduated from university to work as a research fellow on a five-country study on the portrayal of women in American, British, Korean, Japanese, Filipino television programs. The engagement led me to pursue graduate studies in Communications, Political Science and Public Policy. I then spent a substantial part of my working life in areas such as strategic communications, media research and policy, media assessments and behavior change and the use of information and communication technologies for international development. I worked with institutions such as the Smithsonian, Public Television, the World Bank and other UN agencies and private telecommunications companies. As perhaps you can imagine the kind of writing I did for these institutions tend to be technical and laden with jargon that only those instructed in the codes would understand. A few years ago, I decided I wanted to change that and write differently resulting in a first book, a memoir, last year. I know that joining MWA is a good move: meeting other writers, honing on the craft of writing, and building all manner of ‘writerly’ connections. Thus far, it has been great. It was made even sweeter this year when I attended the MWA conference. I enjoyed meeting so many nice people and learned a lot from the workshops. I have a lot to learn as a writer and being with MWA is a path to that. In turn, I hope that by joining the MWA board, I can use my skills to help the association in improving its communications functions and activities to its members and the community at large as Communications Chair. I hope that anyone who has an interest or experience in Communications will join me and together we can all help in making MWA even more of a success.
Secretary: Kathleen Young Rybarczyk Kathleen Young Rybarczyk lives near Baltimore with her lifemates and two sons. A medical transcriptionist and proofreader by trade, she writes paranormal fiction under the pen name Katherine Fisher Clarke. She loves reading, tabletop gaming, baking and cooking, gardening, knitting, renovating her sixty-year-old house, and running her family-friendly guild in World of Warcraft. She also volunteers at writers’ conferences, science fiction conventions, and at her kids’ schools through their PTAs. She is a proud member of the Maryland Writers’ Association and the national and local chapters of the Romance Writers of America.
Conference Chair: Denise Camacho Denise Camacho is the president of Intrigue Publishing. With over 10 years in the publishing realm, she brings her knowledge and expertise to those wanting to branch out and become published authors. As the president, Denise has the responsibility to review new submissions and make recommendations to the acquisitions team that are worthy of becoming properties under the Intrigue Publishing banner. Her other responsibilities include managing contract negotiations with potential authors.
Member at Large: Carolee Noury carolee-nouryCarolee Noury earned her Master’s Degree in Counseling at George Washington University and is a freelance writer in Rockville. She is Vice President of the MWA and Vice President of the MWA-Montgomery Chapter. Carolee has completed courses in creative and business writing and is currently working on her first novel, tentatively titled Favored.
Member at Large: Ally E. Machate ally-e-machateAlly Machate has represented the interests of MWA members as a Member at Large for five years and would like to continue in this role to help MWA better serve our membership by providing opportunities for education, networking, and exposure. Her MWA experience also includes a term as Vice President, four years as a critique group leader, and an ongoing appointment as co-publisher of MWA Books, through which she spearheaded the production of MWA’s anthologies. Her 15 years of experience in the publishing industry gives her unique insight into what our writers need to succeed in today’s publishing environment, and she enjoys being able to use that insight to help her fellow MWAers.

Appointed Positions:

Editor, Pen in Hand: Jill Earl jill-earlAs a member of the Maryland Writers’ Association, Jill Earl served as a proofreader and was published in Pen in Hand. She has been a contributing writer for online magazines WOW! Women On Writing and Catapult. She also worked with local media nonprofit Christian Walk Alive on the video production team as well as writer, editor and voice artist for A Work in Progress, the nonprofit’s online radio drama. Jill is an avid reader, a serious foodie who can cook up a storm, and an emerging photographer, and she is always looking forward to her next travel destination.
MWA Books Co-Director: Gary Lester gary-lesterGary L. Lester won his first writing award at the age of 17. He has been involved with various forms of writing ever since, from plays to stories and even a novel. His first book, Ursula the Yellow,  won first place for Fantasy in the Maryland Writers’ Association’s Novel Contest. He currently is the Creative Director for Greyrock Publishing, LLC, and Senior Editor for Channel 37. He co-authored, along with Paul Lagasse, the anthology Season One!, which includes numerous short stories from the Channel 37 website. He also has numerous e-books on Amazon and Smashwords. He has been a member of MWA for many years and held officer positions such as treasurer and vice president on the state Board of Directors, and treasurer, vice president, and president of the Baltimore chapter. He and Ally Machate launched MWA’s publishing arm, MWA Books, which has published the anthologies New Lines from the Old Line State and Life in Me Like Grass on Fire.
MWA Books Co-Director: Ally E. Machate See above
Teen Writers’ Club Co-Coordinator: Diane E. Booth diane-e-boothI look forward to serving with Mark Willen as co-chair of the Teen Writers’ Club. Much of my writing work includes jobs as either reporter, or writer, and/or editor for: Baltimore Sun newspaper, Baltimore Business Journal, Baltimore magazine, Army magazine, Life magazine, and American Legion magazine, among others. Significant awards came from both legal and medical groups. My interest in working with teens comes directly from experience as a teacher for a private high school and for Baltimore County Public Schools Home and Hospital. Relevant volunteer work: president of the U. S. Merchant Marine Mid-Atlantic Parents Club, chairman of the annual All Service Academies Holiday Ball (an event that included all five federal academies), judge for the Ben Carson Scholarship Committee, and chairman of the Maryland Writers Association Writers Conference. I am a member of the National Press Club in DC and reside in Monkton, MD.
Teen Writers’ Club Co-Coordinator: Mark Willen mark-willenMark Willen has been a reporter, columnist, blogger, producer, and editor at The Voice of America, National Public Radio, Congressional Quarterly , Bloomberg News, and Kiplinger. His published nonfiction articles have covered a wide array of topics and carried far-flung datelines, from Washington to Moscow to Cairo to Beijing to South Africa. He has been a member of MWA since 2009, participates in three MWA critique groups, and has led an MWA Teen Writers’ Club for three years. His first novel, Hawke’s Point, will be released July 22 by Pen-L Publishing. He has a Masters of Arts in Writing from Johns Hopkins and lives with his wife in Silver Spring.
May 14, 2014

Save the Date! MWA Annual Meeting and Elections

The 2014 Annual Meeting of the Maryland Writers’ Association will be Saturday, June 21 from 1-3 at the Leonardtown branch library, 23250 Hollywood Road, Leonardtown, MD 20650. Our thanks to the  St. Mary’s Chapter for hosting the event!

At the meeting, we will:

  • Tally the votes and announce the slate of officers for the 2014-2016 Board of Directors. (Slate to be announced soon!)
  • Vote to change the bylaws from a fixed membership year (currently July 1-June 30 for all members) to a rolling membership year (i.e., starting on the date that a person joins).
  • Welcome the Summer Solstice — and the new board, of course — with light refreshments, hors d’ouerves, and socializing.
  • Perhaps we’ll have a speaker too! UPDATE: We’re pleased to announce that past MWA president and current mystery/thriller writer Austin Camacho will be the speaker at the Annual Meeting!

Keep an eye on Keyboard in Hand, Facebook, and the website for more details. In the meantime, please circle the date on your calendar and come on down to St. Mary’s County to celebrate with us!

For directions to the Leonardtown branch library, click here.

Hope to see you there!

May 5, 2014

Call for Nominations: MWA Board of Directors

Calling all MWA members:

Would you like to get more involved with the MWA? Would you like to help make decisions that will set the direction of the organization for the future? This is your chance!

2014-2016 Board of Directors Election — Call for Nominations

Monday, May 5 through Friday, May 23

Nomination instructions are at the end of this e-mail.

Serving on the MWA board is a terrific way for aspiring, emerging, and established writers and editors to make your voices heard while making valuable connections that will help you throughout your careers.

We’re looking for candidates for the following elected positions (two-year terms, serving July 1, 2014-June 30, 2016):

  • Vice President
  • Secretary
  • Program Chair
  • Membership Chair
  • Communications Chair
  • Conference Chair
  • Publications Chair
  • Long-Range Planning Chair
  • Member-at-Large

We’re also looking for people who are interested in serving in the following appointed positions (also two-year terms):

  • Critique Group Coordinator
  • Contest Coordinator
  • Teen Writers’ Club Coordinator
  • Webmaster

Serving on the MWA board is a commitment of time and energy, but it is not an onerous one! Most board members find they spend only a few hours a month on MWA business in addition to board meetings.

Board members are expected to attend regular meetings either in person or remotely via conference call. The schedule and details will be worked out by the new board when they take office on July 1. Outside of the board meetings, the officers remain in touch through a board-only Yahoo group. Board members must be current MWA members.

To nominate yourself or a fellow MWA member, please send an e-mail to with the sublect line “Nominations.” Include your name and the name of the position you are interested in being considered for, a brief bio, and a statememnt about why you are interested in the position. The Nominating Committee will then be in touch.

Nominations will close Friday, May 23. Look for details about online voting and the 2014 Annual Meeting, at which the election results will be announced, later this week!


April 22, 2014

Six Questions for Agent Lauren Clark

by Carolee Noury

Writers know it’s a good idea to get to know an agent before pitching to and/or querying her. In that spirit, here’s an opportunity to meet Lauren Clark, of Kuhn Projects literary agency. She will be one of four agents participating in the practice pitch sessions at the 2014 Maryland Writers’ Conference.

Lauren Clark PhotoCatch up with Lauren Clark, a Maryland Writers’ Conference agent, if you can. Wear your running shoes or make it easier on yourself and register for a practice pitch.

Carolee Noury: Your Twitter profile says “Cincinnatian at heart.” What do you miss most?

Lauren Clark: I can only narrow it down to my top three: Mio’s Pizza, Half Price Books, and the abundance of unmetered parking.

CN: What do you like best about your job?

LC: I feel fortunate to have a job that lets me mix the creative and business-oriented parts of my brain. In a typical day I’ll read and respond to an author about her proposal, and then think through a contract negotiation. I enjoy that balance; I wouldn’t want to do all one or all the other.

CN: What inspires you?

LC: My colleagues at Kuhn Projects, daily.

CN: What has been your most meaningful project to date?

LC: I handled the foreign rights for Escape from Camp 14 by former Washington Post reporter Blaine Harden. Escape was the true account of the life of Shin Dong-hyuk, the only person born into a North Korean prison camp who was able to escape and make it to the West. I got to meet Shin briefly, and I was also in constant contact with Blaine because the book sold extremely well overseas. It became an international bestseller and was translated into more than 25 languages. I was so happy for Blaine and Shin each time another foreign publisher bought the rights to the book. I’m grateful to have been involved in that book, even a little bit.

CN: What’s your idea of happiness?

LC: A long, tiring run in the woods.

CN: What is your favorite DC haunt?

LC: The fiction section of Kramer’s or the National Gallery of Art.

April 17, 2014

An Interview with Dean Bartoli Smith

by Steve Berberich

Dean Bartoli Smith

Dean Bartoli Smith

The theme of the 2014 Maryland Writers’ Conference, on Saturday, April 26, 2014 at the Conference Center at the Maritime Institute in Linthicum Heights, is “Feed Your Writing Habit.” Some writers are poets, some novelists, and still others prefer the short story format. They all think about crossing over, to stretch their gifts into other writing genres, even different and media.

Dean Bartoli Smith will be speaking at the conference on the tools and mental approach to crossing over in his workshop, “Putting It All Together. ” Smith has published poetry, prose, and non-fiction books. Below, he tells in his own words how he does it. He recently published a book in August on the Baltimore Ravens football teams run to the winning the Super Bowl, which he calls “part an account of the 2012-13 season, part love letter to Baltimore. ”

Steve Berberich: What does your workshop title, “Putting It All Together, ” mean to you?

Dean Bartoli DBS: It refers to melding the genres together: poetry, fiction, and nonfiction. The first book I published was poetry in 2000. My poems are of a very narrative nature and can be easily turned into nonfiction or even fiction. In Never Easy, Never Pretty about the Baltimore Ravens, the foundation is poetry. Every section starts with a poem by American poets and it grew out of poems I had written about football. As for my writing habit, I need all the genres all the time.

SB: What can you tell authors about the mental process of making such a transition in genre?

DBS: Poetry opens all possibilities. From a poem, I will try to revise it into more accessible forms. I will write in between the lines of the poem. Here is an example from the book: I’ve spent my life running under a Johnny Unitas touchdown pass. To me that is a line of poetry. I’ve also had journal entries become poems. I start breaking apart the linkages and varying the syntax and something new arises. Memories drive poems and longer forms emerge. I wrote a poem called “Chow Mein” for my book of poetry American Boy. It was the last night my parents were together. I was seven and remember the plate of chow mein–the noodles and the chicken and the light from a bright chandelier. It stayed there until morning on a white tablecloth in front French doors. Mark Strand once told me that the success of any kind of writing is based on how well it evokes a shared sense of suffering.

SB: How did your love of a particular topic, football or perhaps the city of Baltimore, help you become a better writer through the years?

DBS: It’s about the imagination and for me sports are a kind of launching pad. It is one of the topics I like to write about from an imagination perspective. I am interested in the way motion and athleticism, especially when slowed down, approach art. For others, it may be a particular painting that inspires a poem. That’s happened to me too. Whatever that springboard is, that font or units of energy called psychic energy, that is what really cultivates the mind. That is what nibbled on the outskirts of poet Stanley Kunitz’ consciousness in his poem “The Wellfleet Whale,” for example after the townsfolk gathered around a whale that washed up on the beach.

SB: What’s new with Dean Smith these days?

DBS: I’ve become more interested in writing more long-form things after being forced by my publisher to produce the Ravens book in 90 days. And going back further, when I started doing journalism in 2008-9, those deadlines and word counts prepared me to write the nonfiction book. It gave me the necessary discipline. I’ve got a poetry manuscript entitled “My Father’s Gun” that’s ripening in its 15th year and a detective novel that needs a rewrite.

SB: My guess is that a lot of your subject matter and inspiration comes from your love of Baltimore. What can you offer others in terms of how they can find their Baltimores?

DBS: I know this place. It is an acquired taste like the mustard in the back fin of a [blue] crab. It is the muse in a lot of ways, for me. Those poems come easier. They seep into the consciousness like water into the cracks of a sidewalk. Write what you know and the rest will take care of itself.

April 10, 2014

Questions for Literary Agent Shannon O’Neill

by Carolee Noury

Writers know that it’s a good idea to get to know agents before pitching to and/or querying them. In that spirit, here’s an opportunity to meet Shannon O’Neill, Agent at Lippincot Massie McQuilkin. Shannon will be one of four agents participating in the practice pitch sessions at the 2014 Maryland Writers’ Conference. Shannon is an agent for a New York firm who lives in DC–offering the best of both worlds for our Maryland writers: a “hometown” rep with NYC connections.

D12_201_019Carolee Noury: What’s it like working as an agent in DC? While it’s not remote, it’s also not New York or California.

Shannon O’Neill: DC is full of articulate and driven people. There’s a strong intellectual climate here; it’s a very literate city. I feel fortunate to be based here with so many universities, think tanks, and nonprofits in my backyard. And, oh yeah, the government just so happens to be here too. That means a large pool of interesting people who are experts in their field, and plenty of aspiring writers.

I love that DC is such a livable city. It’s quite beautiful, easy to navigate, and has so many free cultural offerings. The Smithsonian museums are my favorite, especially the National Gallery and the Museum of the American Indian. The free concerts at the Kennedy Center’s Millennium Stage can be pretty great too.

CN: What trends are you seeing in popular science these days?

SO: The narrative is ascendant in most all types of nonfiction these days. It’s not enough to have breakthrough findings or brand-new scientific discoveries to share; you really have to be able to tell a great story and to connect with your readers.

CN: What makes fiction “upmarket? “

SO: Upmarket, to me, basically means writing that aspires to last beyond the season in which it was published. Beyond being entertaining or well-written, upmarket fiction has staying power. It resonates with a reader on a deeper level. To write in such a way requires a mastery of the craft. Other forms of fiction do not necessarily make the same demand.

Recent examples I love include Anthony Marra’s A Constellation of Vital Phenomena and Claire Messud’s The Woman Upstairs.

CN: What writing book(s) do you wish rookie writers would read before they start writing?

SO: I wish that people would read more, and read more widely before they tackle their own book. There’s no “how to” guide that I’d recommend; instead I’d urge people to read or return to to the classics of literature, or make sure you’ve read every recent book on your subject that’s intended for a general audience if you’re writing nonfiction.

CN: What books are you reading right now?

SO: My most recent reads are Ben Lerner’s Leaving the Atocha Station, Sheila Heti’s How Should a Person Be, and Nabokov’s Pale Fire.

CN: What’s a typical “a-ha” moment when you know you want to take on someone’s project?

SO: It’s different for every project but for fiction, I’m usually drawn in by the voice or the authority of the writing within the first few pages, or the first chapter.

For nonfiction, a strong platform matters but so does the originality and marketability of the idea. It’s often after a phone call or a meeting that I really feel confident that the writer and I are on the same page and would work well together.

CN: How many hours do you spend working in a typical week?

SO: That’s a really good question–one that I need to work harder on quantifying. Whenever I am reading–the news, book reviews, blogs, articles, literary magazines–I am constantly thinking about whether this person could write a book, or this article deserves to be expanded into something more robust, or the expert cited in a piece might have more findings to share. I need to work harder at unplugging!


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