Having had five books and more than fifty pieces of shorter fiction published, having participated in a large and diverse writers’ group for more than fifteen years, having critiqued pieces of genre fiction at fantasy, science fiction, and gaming conventions, having been a judge on Project Publish, having read a ton of articles and blogs about writing, and, most recently, having edited an anthology of ghost stories (Familiar Spirits), I’ve had a lot of experience with critiques, workshops, and editing. I’ve also read some “classic” books and stories that, frankly, have been less than impressive. Because of that, I began to wonder what would happen if popular or classic stories were submitted to a workshop, writers’ group, or critique site which was unfamiliar with the historical success of the piece. Having seen Steve Allen occasionally spoof musical lyrics by reading them aloud with a deadpan demeanor (Donna Summer’s “Hot Stuff” was one such reading), I wrote “Season’s Critiquings” as a kind of Christmas card for social media friends. When a small press publisher asked for a holiday piece for a charity anthology, I polished it up and submitted it and it got accepted . A few years later, I read it at Waterline Writers and got a very satisfying reaction from the crowd, so since then have created two sequels: Merry Mark-Up (darker, grittier, because, like all sequels, this time it’s personal), which I read during the open mic portion of last December’s session of Waterline Writers; and “Holiday Workshopping” (based on a more adult Christmas classic). All three are also available as short e-stories on Amazon and make great Christmas cards for your writing friends or favorite author.
What has changed since you last read at Waterline?
I’m actually just finishing up ghostwriting a novel, but the nature of ghostwriting is such that I can’t tell you what it is or really anything about it, except that it’s a thriller and about 100,000 words long. I also recently placed the last story I read at Waterline, “Options,” in an anthology and wrote another story on a similar theme, but in a much different setting. Next up is getting back to working on the sequel for my spy thriller, “Net Impact.”
What is the value of Waterline Writers, or an organization like Waterline Writers, that provides a venue for writers to read, or perform, their work?
Two things stand out. First, there is great value in reading your work aloud. Every writer should do that with every story they write, even if it is alone at their desk. It helps reveal clumsy construction, confusing phrases, and misplaced attributions or asides. Reading in front of a group is even more helpful, however, as you get to see and hear reaction to your words. Not only can that be informative (I’ve read lines that I think are hysterical and heard no reaction but crickets chirping), but it is the exception from the normal rule that writers work alone in silence and readers read alone in silence. Second, independent and small press authors have few real opportunities to be discovered by readers and have their work gain traction in the marketplace. By connecting personally with readers and lovers of words at places like Waterline, an author gets a chance to not only highlight their work, but a chance to feel like their work is appreciated, even if it never achieves any real commercial success.