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 April, 2006


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Like Heaven: A Writing Holiday in Tuscany

by Sally Sontheimer

Here is a photo of me and my friend Niala Maharaj from our Like Heaven Holidays website.  We are standing on the terrace of Villa Madreselva, an old house in Tuscany, back in 1989.  Life threw us together in Rome, at the beginning of our careers as development aid workers.  I’m American; Niala is from Trinidad.  The house is my husband’s villa in Tuscany, outside Siena, where we will hold the first Like Heaven Writing Holiday this June.  Under the photo on the website, Niala inserted a caption - ‘out to change the world’.  We were young then, and full of ideals.  Maturity has made us more practical.  In our own small way, the writing workshop is our contribution to changing the macrocosm by helping people to realize their potential.

Niala left Rome shortly after that photo was taken but we stayed in touch throughout the years.  Then one day in 2002 I called her in Amsterdam where she was living.

‘I need a writing coach’, I yelled in a desperate voice.  I was consumed at that moment with a desire to write about the tumultuous experience of having married the whole of Italy, or that’s how I put it.  But I was stuck.  So Niala came for a long visit.  We talked about my story, about the difficulty of intercultural marriage, about how I never quite felt at home in Italy.  And while I talked, Niala nodded her head and said, ‘sounds like Trinidad’.  Then I found her one morning bent over her laptop in the dining room typing furiously away.  That was the beginning of her novel, Like Heaven, set in Trinidad, but dealing with the same clash between strongly held beliefs that I am trying to handle in my own story.

A blocked writer can only become unblocked by going inside herself.  I organized a yoga and meditation retreat at the house in Siena in 2005.  The workshop went so that I called Niala again.  Random House had just picked up her book and she was feeling flush with success. 

‘The house is heaven,’ I told her. ‘Let’s organize a writing workshop there.’ 

So the idea was born. 

Our roles for the workshop came to us easily.  Niala is the writing coach.  She teaches with a good dose of that humor so typical of the people from the Caribbean.  It inspires humor in me.  When I tell her my woes, all the ins and outs of marriage and life in Italy, I turn the irony up high to please her.  At the end of one of my tales, her voice still bubbling with a good laugh, she says, ‘That’s it, Sally.  Just write like that.’ 

I instead am the hostess.  I open the doors of this old house knowing that it will inspire others as it has inspired me.  When I sit down under the portico, pen and paper in hand, something clicks.  I do my best writing there.  I write about what I love, about the view out to the Monte Amiata, about the unique history of the house.  My husband's grandmother bought it in 1920, but before her, the house was the residence of the parish priest.  In 1843 the priest living there at the time found a portrait of a Madonna and Child 'abandonned' in what we call the tower room.  He built a small chapel on the ground floor to commemorate the event, restoring Mary to a place of honor.  People from the neighborhood came to pray to her here.  I think for this reason, the house has a wonderful feminine energy.   Guests feel this when they come.


The workshop will be held from June 25 through July 1, 2006.  That’s just before the first Palio – Siena’s famous horserace – and participants are welcome to stay on at the house to see it.  The cost is $1100 for six night’s accommodation in the Villa or Villa Volpaia, next door, all meals and workshop fees.


For more information visit www.likeheaven.it or contact me, Sally Sontheimer, at sallysont@yahoo.com, tel 39 06 3224634.


Lifecycle of a Character: Maturity

by Sandy Tritt


Maturity is when our character learns how to handle his emotions. And that means we, as his creator, must learn to control his emotions as well, if we are to get out reader’s empathy. Writers must have an innate understanding of the human psyche. We must understand what motivates people, what destroys them, and how any given person will react in any given situation. Unfortunately, not all of us have this natural ability, so we must find ways to help us increase our knowledge. How?

• Study Human Psychology at your local college.
• Observe people, especially in emotional situations.
• Empathize. How would you react?
• Study books written on character emotions. Two I strongly suggest: Creating Character Emotions by Ann Hood (Story Press, Cincinnati, Ohio) and The Writer’s Guide to Character Traits by Linda N. Edelstein, Ph.D. (Writer’s Digest Books, Cincinnati, Ohio).
• Study books written on body language for subtle ways to insinuate emotion through character posture, expression and mannerism.
• Read emotional scenes in novels. Which ones move you? Why?

In one of my early attempts at writing, I wrote what I thought was an incredibly emotional scene in which a driver hits a pedestrian. It was full of “God, no! It couldn’t be! Oh, God. Oh, God. Oh, God! Dear Lord, don’t let her be dead! Oh, God!”

Well—I was told to look up the word “melodrama” in the dictionary. And now I can see where this over-dramatizing tends to make the reader turn off. The advice I received was: “The more intense the emotion, the more distant the perspective.” While I sometimes agree with this, I also believe it is possible to get into a character’s head during a moment of intense emotion. The trick is to do it in a unique way (which isn’t easy). Although there are many, many masters of emotion out there such as Toni Morrison (Beloved) and Tim O’Brien (The Things They Carried), one of my favorite emotional passages is from Barbara Kingsolver’s The Poisonwood Bible (pp 366-367, Hardback). Taken from the viewpoint of the oldest sister immediately after witnessing her youngest sister’s death by snakebite, we are given an excellent example of the power of restrained emotion:

There’s a strange moment in time, after something horrible happens, when you know it’s true but you haven’t told anyone yet. Of all things, that is what I remember most. It was so quiet. And I thought: Now we have to go in and tell Mother. That Ruth May is, oh, sweet Jesus. Ruth May is gone. We had to tell our parents, and they were still in bed, asleep.

I didn’t cry at first, and then, I don’t know why, but I fell apart when I thought of Mother in bed sleeping. Mother’s dark hair would be all askew on the pillow and her face sweet and quiet. Her whole body just not knowing yet. Her body that had carried and given birth to Ruth May last of all. Mother asleep in her nightgown, still believing she had four living daughters. Now we were going to put one foot in front of the other, walk to the back door, go in the house, stand beside our parents’ bed, wake up Mother, say to her the words, Ruth May, say the word dead. Tell her, Mother wake up!







The Best Manuscript is The Well-written Manuscript

by Winona Rasheed
Managing Editor -


 The beautiful part of writing is that you don’t have to get it right the first time, like, say a brain surgeon.”      Robert Cormier


            Have you heard that quote before? It’s quite true. This message speaks for itself. You don’t have to get it right the first time, not even the 2nd time, or 3rd time as long as you are working on a draft or a revision. However, as a writer your work must be right and in perfect condition when you are preparing to send off the final, completed version to a targeted publisher. You do not want an unfinished piece which is full of mistakes, setting on the desk, waiting for the skillful eyes of an editor.

            This is the most critical of times in the submission process. Manuscripts in this condition are unprofessional, shedding light on the writer as being an amateur, and the work deemed as unsatisfactory; wasting their time and your time because you failed to make a positive impression with your manuscript at the first setting, the onset. And, more than likely those manuscripts are the ones that are put in the slush pile, and then the author receives the ever dreaded rejection slip.

            It is very annoying to editors when they receive a manuscript from an author who suddenly, and at the last moment, which is usually a few days after receiving a submission, the author decides that they want a particular manuscript returned because they want to work on it some more. They want to revise it before the editor can begin, or finish his editing of the work. Is this something you really want to do? I think not!

            This is not following the protocol of the submission process. An author should only submit a manuscript when it is absolutely ready, final and complete to the best of his or her knowledge. You can not call it back once it is in the hands of a publisher, simply because the writer has decided that they want to make changes at the last moment. Again, this is not professional, regardless if you are submitting to a traditional publishing house, or an online publisher. This is why it is so very important for all writers to set aside their work for a few days, giving them time to think and go over their work one last time to make changes before they submit, because once your story is submitted, it’s out of your hands until you hear from the editor, or publisher. Not following the protocol of the submission process can lead to having a very disgruntled publisher, or editor; and unfortunately, an over flowing slush pile of manuscripts and some very unhappy writers.

            So, write, write, write and rewrite before you submit. Making sure that what you write is exactly right, the way you want it. Make a good impression each and every time you submit.

Remember these words:  “The waste paper basket is the writer’s best friend.”

                                                                                                                - Isaac Singer

Tritt (continued)

The whole world would change then, and nothing would ever be all right again. Not for our family. All the other people in the whole wide world might go on about their business, but for us it would never be normal again.

I couldn’t move. None of us could. We looked at each other because we knew someone should go but I think we all had the same strange idea that if we stood there without moving forever and ever, we could keep our family the way it was. We would not wake up from this nightmare to find it was someone’s real life, and for once that someone wasn’t just a poor unlucky nobody in a shack you could forget about. It was our life, the only one we were going to have. The only Ruth May.

Until that moment I’d always believed I could still go home and pretend the Congo never happened. The misery, the hunt, the ants, the embarrassments of all we saw and endured—those were just stories I would tell someday with a laugh and a toss of my hair, when Africa was faraway and make-believe like the people in history books. The tragedies that happened to Africans were not mine. We were different, not just because we were white and had our vaccinations, but because we were simply a much, much luckier kind of person. I would get back home to Bethlehem, Georgia, and be exactly the same Rachel as before. I’d grow up to be a carefree American wife, with nice things and a sensible way of life and three grown sisters to share my ideals and talk to on the phone from time to time. This is what I believed. I’d never planned on being someone different. Never imagined I would be a girl they’d duck their eyes from and whisper about as tragic, for having suffered such a loss.

I think Leah and Adah also believed these things, in their own different ways, and that is why none of us moved. We thought we could freeze time for just one more minute, and one more after that. That if none of us confessed it, we could hold back the curse that was going to be our history.

What more can I say?

(c) copyright 2002 by Sandy Tritt. All rights reserved, except for those listed here. November be reproduced for educational purposes (such as for writer's workshops), as long as this copyright notice and the url: http://tritt.wirefire.com are distributed with the pages. For use in conferences or other uses not mentioned here, please contact Sandy Tritt at tritt@wvadventures.net for permission and additional resources at no or limited charge.

   Keep writing!

Sandy Tritt

Inspiration for Writers tritt@wvadventures.net

Critiquing Special

  • Limited time special, one cent per word.  Just mention Publishing New Writers  Newsletter (April, 2006).

    Critiques by Sandy Tritt

  • Unlike most editors, I consider my role to be a mentor or a coach. Instead of just telling you what is wrong, I explain how to correct the problem, and I work with you to teach you how to write effective prose. More than 50% of my business is repeat business, and I relish establishing long-term relationships with other writers.

  • Treat you with respect and compassion. All criticism will be of the "constructive" sort. My purpose is to improve your writing, not to destroy your confidence.

  • Mark your manuscript, correcting grammatical and spelling errors and suggesting alternative wording where appropriate, line-by-line.

  • Highlight areas that are especially well-written, so you will know where your strengths are.

  • Where appropriate, offer suggestions for plot development, character development or other areas that could be strengthened.

  • Return a two-to-four page written analysis of your work. This will include evaluation of: plot, setting, characterization, dialogue, special effects (flash forwards, flashbacks, etc.), voice, point of view and any other areas particular to your work.

  • If appropriate, recommend reading or resources to strengthen your areas of weakness.

  • Answer any questions you  have via email.

  • Provide my telephone number for a personal follow-up, if you desire.

For Sandy's success stories, see http://tritt.wirefire.com/Manuscript_Critique.html

Write Sandy at tritt@wvadventures.net








Freshman, Sophomore, Junior, Author!

Where are you on the path to getting your novel published?

by Randy Ingermanson, Publisher, Advanced Fiction Writing E-zine

This is a strategic "big-picture" sort of question and it's very
important in guiding you toward your goal. If you can answer this
question, it'll help you answer the zillion tactical questions that
every pre-published novelist asks:
* What should I study next?
* Do I need to know how to write a book proposal?
* Do I need an agent?
* How do I get that pesky agent?
* Should I be going to a big writing conference or a small one or none
at all?
* Why the @#$&^%*# am I not published yet?

I asked myself those questions many times before I sold my first
novel. And most of my frustrated writer friends were asking the same
questions. What I'd like to do in this article is to point you in the
right direction to answer those questions.

I've been writing for about 18 years. In that time, I've seen many,
many wannabe novelists turn into gonnabe novelists and then into
published novelists. I've seen some of them win major awards. I've
seen some of them hit the best-seller lists. And I've learned a few
things from watching them (and watching myself).

What I've noticed is that there are four fundamental stages on the
path to publication. Being a lazy cuss, I've named these levels the
Freshman, Sophomore, Junior, and Senior years. The word "year" is
appropriate here because it generally takes about a year to advance
to the next level. And if a writer has just a little bit of coaching,
he or she CAN advance to the next level. It takes some hard work, but
it ain't rocket surgery.

That's an amazingly liberating thought! Too often, pre-published
writers believe the lie that "I'm not published yet, and the reason
must be that I'm stupid, inferior, lazy, or untalented."

NO!!!!! The truth is more likely to be, "I'm not published yet, and
the reason is that I'm a Freshman--I haven't been writing long enough
to be published yet." (Or a Sophomore, or a Junior, or a Senior.)

In my way of looking at things, getting published is like graduating
from college. You don't start college and expect to graduate right
away. You start college and expect to spend several years working
hard and moving toward graduation. You have confidence that if you do
the work, you'll reach your goal. Nobody considers a college freshman
to be a failure because he or she hasn't graduated yet. Being a
freshman is a result of your birthdate, not a result of your

A Freshman is a writer who has not been writing long, is still
unfamiliar with the basics of the craft of fiction, knows few editors
or agents, has no idea how to write a proposal, and has been to few
writing conferences.

A Sophomore is a writer who has developed some adeptness in all the
basics of the craft of writing--StoryWorld, Character, Plot, and
Theme. A Sophomore typically has begun writing proposals and has
shown them around at one or more writing conferences, but has not yet
gotten much of a reception with them.

A Junior is a writer who is excellent in all the aspects of the craft
of fiction and is now writing good proposals that are starting to get
some attention from editors and agents at writing conferences.

A Senior is writing better fiction than many published novelists. A
Senior writes proposals that draw editors and agents like rats to
roadkill. A Senior is one very frustrated puppy. A Senior is often
much closer to graduation than he or she imagines. And one magical
day, a Senior gets a phone call from an editor or agent with the
life-changing words, "Congratulations! You've just sold your first

There is nothing worse than being a Senior. There is nothing better
than being a Senior who has just graduated.

I teach fiction at writing conferences across the country. When I
teach, I give my students a limited goal. I tell Freshmen to worry
about becoming Sophomores. I give Sophomores the task of becoming
Juniors. I tell Juniors to work at becoming Seniors. And I tell
Seniors not to have an aneurysm while they wait to graduate.

For each of these stages, I coach them on what they need to do to
advance to the next level. Everybody is at a different place on the
road, so everybody has a different task. My job as a coach is to tell
writers what to work on next. Their job is to do it. To put it in
modern business-world buzzwords, my job is to show writers how to
work smarter. Their job is to work harder.

Unfortunately, I can't be everywhere at once, so I finally decided to
clone myself in software. I've recently released my Fiction 101 CD,
which contains about six and a half hours of audio-visual
lectures--the same lectures I usually give at multi-day writing
conferences. Fiction 101 is for Freshmen who want to become
Sophomores. I'll soon be releasing Fiction 201, 301, and 401 for
Sophomores, Juniors, and Seniors.

If you'd like to hear the first lecture of Fiction 101 FREE, you can
visit my web site and listen to the lecture titled "Your Roadmap":

If you'd like to learn more about the Fiction 101 CD (and take
advantage of a 20% discount between now and midnight Saturday), you
can visit my information page:

I write a free monthly e-zine, the Advanced Fiction Writing E-zine,
which covers the craft and marketing of your fiction. I currently
have over 4500 subscribers. You can check out my back issues free on
this page:

I like writing fiction, but I LOVE teaching it. I hope you'll find my
web site useful!

About the author: Randy Ingermanson has published six novels and won
about a dozen awards for his writing. Before he took up writing, he
earned a Ph.D. in theoretical physics from UC Berkeley. Dr.
Ingermanson has taught at a number of writing conferences across the
country and publishes the free monthly Advanced Fiction Writing

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Publishing New Writers,

April, 2006 (no. 704)


Publisher: Bruce L. Cook, P.O. Box 451, Dundee, IL 60118.  Fax (847) 428-8974.

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