Three Easy Ways to Get Started in Book Clubs

bookclubs_custom-1ec58e61bccbffba94a3c846786b5fc6af15cce1-s6-c30Hello writers! This is Adair Heitmann writing about reading, discussing what you’ve read, and the impact that can have on your writing.

Do you want to add spice to your life? Join a book club. Today’s book clubs range from one-time casual book chats to long-running serious literary encounters. Welcome in the new era!

Three easy ways to get started:
1. Sign up for library eNewsletters
Libraries have book clubs, and most have eNewsletters. Go to the library’s website and sign up for the eNewsletter for all the libraries within your driving range. Book clubs will be announced via the library’s eNewsletter.

2. Dive into social media
“Like” on Facebook and follow on Twitter the above said libraries. They’ll announce their books clubs on social media.

3. Start your own book club
“If you build it, they will come.”  If you can’t find a book club that works for you, start one.* Be sure to do it with joy. Maybe create a Beach Bum Book Club so you can deepen your tan while discussing the newest fiction. Or start an After Work Wine’d Down Club, the possibilities are endless.

Synergy is important. My favorites are the intergenerational book clubs. They are lively, fast-paced, and intense.  This passion for the written word then overflows into your own writing. You can observe what people like or don’t like about a book and apply that insider information to your own writing.

When your favorite books become movies, that ignites a whole new level of interest and intrigue. Did they choose the right actors? Was the scenery what you imagined?  You can gain even more fertilizer for your own crop of books by discussing and listening to what really matters to people when a book becomes a movie. Then apply this to your own writing.

Until next time, keep on writing.

* I’ll write more about this in later blogs.

Published in: on May 9, 2014 at 1:14 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Is that all there is? The aspiring novelist’s to-do list

So you want to make a full commitment to your effort to become a successful, engaged writer of long narrative fiction? Consider the following elements of the job description.

Story Organization

• Determine your story’s three-act structure.

• Chart your plot points/story beats, including but not limited to:

Inciting Incident

Establishment of the Stakes

Attacks on the Hero


Reversals and Revelations

Recalibrating the Stakes

All is Lost Moment

Hero’s Pause for Dark Reflection

Final Battle



• Review the hero’s journey, desire, agenda, quest, path of change.

• Ditto the antagonist’s.

• Go through and outline your entire first draft before beginning revisions.


• Make daily stops at the best online story aggregators and discussion boards about your subject.

• Check relevant topics on Wikipedia.

• Take whatever field trips are necessary to get the “real feel” of your story world.

• Tune into TV shows about that world on the NatGeo, History, Biography or Spike TV channels, even if you’ve seen the shows several times before.

• Keep checking for any new books about your subject, then try to read them when your purchase arrives.


• Download and take a class in Scrivener, even though you have already written thousands of words in Microsoft Word.

Social Media

• Post regularly on two blogs of your own: a personal one and a writerly one, where you might even consider posting excerpts from your work-in-progress.

• Comment regularly on Twitter, post and share on Facebook, and keep your profile updated on LinkedIn—the minimum in terms of social networking.

• Establish a presence on GoodReads.

Publishing Planning

• Learn the difference among an Elevator Pitch, a Log Line and a Premise.

• Research the surefire three-paragraph query letter and file away some examples thereof.

• Seek out, similarly, the ultimate guide to crafting a winning synopsis. Be sure you can write it in 1-page, 3-page and longer versions.

• Collect the names of reputable freelance editors who can review your manuscript, if and when you finish it.

• Begin compiling a list of agents you’ll approach about your completed manuscript, with a reminder about each one as to why she or he is receiving your letter.

• Bring yourself up to date about the burgeoning world of self-publishing, in case you opt for or must go that route.

Writing Advice

• Read the three writers’ magazines (Writer’s Digest, The Writer and Poets & Writers) when the new issues hit the mailbox or newsstand.

• Surf the websites of writing gurus and agents (i.e.,,,,, Janet Reid (, etc.

• Explore going away to a multi-day writers’ conference or writer’s retreat, or both.

Local Writing Community

• Attend the semi-monthly writers’ group and the monthly Writers’ Salon and Writers Read sessions at your public library.

• Read the library’s Writer’s Blog, and contribute a post if invited.

• Take part in your own or a neighboring community’s One Book One Town celebration, depending on which town has selected a book that interests you and that you want to or have read.

• Join a fee-based ongoing weekly workshop/critique group with a veteran college professor or published novelist.

• Collate the suggested edits/questions/areas-needing-improvement-or-cutting that you agree with from all of the reading copies of your work that you handed out in the library and fee-based workshops/critique groups.

• Attend local appearances by touring novelists. Strongly consider buying a copy of their new book and getting it signed, perhaps after telling the author that you’re working on your own novel, so she or he will write a pep-talk inscription for you along with her or his autograph.


• Heed the words of Stephen King: “If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.”

• Read fiction while writing fiction to keep your creative pump primed.

• Don’t read fiction while writing fiction so you don’t subconsciously fall into the style of the authors you are reading.

• Read the latest Pulitzer Prize for Fiction winner.

• Read the widely acclaimed first novel by a graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop.

• Read the just-published second novel of another graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop because you so enjoyed her first novel.

Updike• Read the widely acclaimed new biography of a great American writer, John Updike, even if the only works by him that you have read are some of his essays about golf.

Current Events

• Stay abreast of key writerly issues, such as the latest developments in the MFA-vs.-NYC and unlikeable-vs.-likeable-main-characters debates.


• Keep sending out the two or three short stories that have been collecting rejection slips.

 And, Oh Yeah, Don’t Forget

• Set and adhere to a daily writing schedule—using an elapsed-time, word-count or page-count quota—so you can, once and for all, finish composing and revising your book.—Alex McNab

Humor and Mystery = Fun

It’s my turn for the blog. This is Adair Heitmann writing to you about the Author Talk I recently attended at the Fairfield Public Library. Susan Santangelo, who is the author of the humorous Baby Boomer Mysteries: Retirement Can Be Murder, Moving Can be Murder and Marriage Can Be Murder spoke to a crowd of writers and non-writers alike. The photo I took of her (l) and a happy reader (r) shows the connections this author makes with her fans.

The author’s writing process starts each book with a dead body, but it sometimes takes her six months or more than five chapters later, to figure out who it is. “The characters tell you what they want you to do,” she says. Santangelo added that for a mystery to be good, “it’s very important for it to be logical.”

She wrote book one and was rejected by three major literary agencies. Two agencies told her that they loved the book but there wasn’t a market for it. The third wanted such a major re-write that Santangelo gave it a try for a month then realized as a reader, she wouldn’t read the book the agency wanted her to write. So, she and her husband started their own publishing company on Cape Cod, Baby Boomer Mysteries.

After self-publishing her first book (and including her email address in the back), she heard, via emails from around the world, “You are writing about my life.” This encouraged her to write more books. Santangelo’s writing and public speaking style are like sitting down with her over a cup of coffee in her kitchen. Her quick wit comes across in speaking, and her real life experiences inspire her fictional works.

She noted “inspiration is everywhere, especially among the clothing aisles of stores when women are talking on their cell phones.” This author writes what she knows and her fans gobble it up. She is working on book four, a mystery about a high school reunion. Santangelo ended the lecture by saying, “Once the book hits Kindle, the sales skyrocket.”

Susan Santangelo is a member of Sisters in Crime and the Cape Cod Writers Center, and also reviews mysteries for Suspense magazine. As Santangelo stated in the comment section of this blog last month, she is obsessed with writing murder mysteries. From the look on her fans’ faces, they are thrilled with her obsession too.

Until next time, keep on writing!

Stop Writing, Go to Author Talks

Adair Heitmann here writing to you on this Spring day about getting out of your office. As writers we need to take breaks from our writing routines. I feel lucky today. It’s not that I can smell the lilacs, nor have I been picked yet for Oprah’s Book Club or won a MacArthur Fellowship. I’m thinking about how lucky we are as writers to live in an area with a plethora of libraries, all of which host visiting authors.

Recently two very different authors came to Connecticut. The fact that I hadn’t read their books didn’t stop me from leaving my writing studio and learning from them. As writers we need to study how other writers present their material. It’s professional research. Observing how much or how little an author reveals personal information, hearing if they read a passage from their recently published books or not, hones my skills as a presenting author.

Phyllis Theroux, author of The Journal Keeper, spoke about memoir writing at Fairfield Public Library. Her focus was the art of journal writing. My literary take-away was being reminded that any life can be filled with dark parts, yet “journal writing is a place to remember where the light is.” Theroux went on to say, “The more personal your writing is the more universal your application.”

Author of Sacred Hearts, Sarah Dunant, came to neighboring Pequot Library. Dunant is really a scholar of Renaissance history wearing fiction writer’s clothing. She is passionate about her subject matter and I heard how she can still get trapped within the book she is writing. While it is a difficult place for any writer to be in, Dunant knows that she has to write her way out. If she doesn’t allow herself to be boxed in, she can’t authentically experience the resolution that her characters need to feel.

After hearing an author speak, I come back to my own essays, articles, books and blogs with a bounce in my step and a gleam in eye. Armored with new knowledge about the art and craft of writing and speaking about writing.  Until next time, after you return from an Author Talk, keep on writing.