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Heaven: A Writing Holiday in Tuscany
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
‘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
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
firstname.lastname@example.org, tel 39 06 3224634.
Lifecycle of a
by Sandy Tritt
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
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
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.”
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
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.
these words: “The waste paper basket is the writer’s best friend.”
- Isaac Singer
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
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
for permission and additional resources at no or limited charge.
Critiques by Sandy
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
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
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
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
Provide my telephone number for a
personal follow-up, if you desire.
For Sandy's success stories, see
Write Sandy at
Freshman, Sophomore, Junior, Author!
you on the path to getting your
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
* 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
* Why the @#$&^%*# am I not
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
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
things from watching them (and
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
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
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
A Sophomore is a writer who has
developed some adeptness in all the
basics of the craft of
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
A Junior is a writer who is
excellent in all the aspects of the
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
"Congratulations! You've just sold
There is nothing worse than being a
Senior. There is nothing better
than being a Senior who has just
I teach fiction at writing
conferences across the country. When
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
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
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,
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
Visit our sister websites...
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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