See you at the Pennwriters Conference!

May 6, 2010

***UPDATE*** 5/9:

AREA 6 PENNWRITERS: Join Lisa Kastner at Breakfast!

Lisa is our Pennwriters President and fellow Area 6 member. She coordinates the monthly Philadelphia Pennwriters critique group and supports writers throughout the region. Lisa is a great writer, a great leader, and a great person to know in Pennwriters.

Join Lisa at breakfast for a quick rally with other writers. Put faces to names, and make a new friend!

Jade Blackwater regrets to announce that after having fun day getting her hair done in Seattle to prepare for the Pennwriters Conference, she promptly came down with the flu and is unable to fly. Jade sends her deepest regrets, and encourages all writers to take full advantage of the Pennwriters Conference.

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We’re a week away from the 23rd Pennwriters Annual Writers’ Conference to be held in Lancaster, PA May 14-16 2010. This year’s conference features keynote speakers James Rollins and Elizabeth Kann, a stellar lineup of agents, editors, and authors for workshops and pitch sessions, plus designated party time at the Pennwriters ‘Heroes and Villains’ Saturday Night Masquerade Ball.

REGISTER NOW FOR THE 2010 PENNWRITERS CONFERENCE

So why should you attend? For starters, if you’re a Pennwriters member of Area 6 or another writer from the Mid-Atlantic, this is a fabulous opportunity to participate in a writers’ event right here in your region. Pennwriters offers a variety of workshops, networking, and promotional opportunities to help writers of all levels improve their work and build their business.

You don’t have to be from the East Coast to enjoy a Pennwriters event! Keynote James Rollins joins us from Northern California, and I’m flying over from Western Washington state to join the fun and support Area 6. The great thing about the Pennwriters membership is that it started with a strong community of writers from Pennsylvania, and has grown to include members from all across the US, and a few far-flung folks overseas. The annual conference is the perfect time to put a face to a name/handle/avatar/penpal/writing-buddy.

LOOK FOR LISA KASTNER JADE BLACKWATER AT BREAKFAST

AREA 6 MEMBERS (and all writers) can find me at breakfast – I’ll have something to catch the eye and make it easy to spot me – and please come introduce yourself! I want to meet members, shake hands, and introduce you to one another.

I’m on the hunt for a new volunteer for the Area 6 Representative position. All members of Pennwriters Area 6 extend a hearty thank you to Bob Michalsky for his support of Pennwriters, and wish him all the best in his endeavors! If you are ready to support writers in your area and do more with Pennwriters, then I WANT TO HEAR FROM YOU!

GET READY TO PITCH YOUR WRITING

Over at the Pennwriters Area 6 blog, Conference Coordinator Ayleen Stellhorn stops by with tips to prepare yourself to pitch, and a detailed interview discussing more about the conference.

Pennwriters Area 6 Member Ash Krafton has also prepared a link-rich post about pitching your work, plus more about editing the muse and navigating the transition from hobby writer to career author.

Follow @Pennwriters on Twitter for even more resources including tweets about Pennwriters activities as well as news, tips, and insights from members, guests, and other writing resources. You can also Follow @JadeBlackwater on Twitter for my own #PWcon tweets plus more about writing, art, creativity, ecology, sustainability, and various miscellanea.

If you’re on Twitter, remember to use the #PWcon hashtag to tweet the conference, and use the #Pennwriters hashtag any time to chat about Pennwriters. Send @Pennwriters a @ (mention) or DM (direct message) and let them know you’re a member (tell them your name so you can be located in the roster). @Pennwriters follows Pennwriters members and guests.

If you’re on Facebook, be sure to join the Pennwriters Group and Page to keep up on news and announcements and to engage with the membership.

Contact me with any questions (or to be my last-minute volunteer angel).

See you all in Lancaster!


Pre-Spring Updates from the Desk of Jade Blackwater

March 10, 2010

Contrary to what logic might suggest, my low-attendance at the Brainripples blog is in fact a sign of how busy I’ve been.

Here’s a little update from my desk:

Copywriting and Poetry

Concise language is important for both copywriting and poetry.  Since December I’ve enjoyed the dual tasks of copywriting for Kathi “george” Wheeler of Noise w/o Sound Graphic Design, and revising poetry from my 2009 journals to prepare for a round of submissions this spring.  Of all the writing I do, poetry revision is probably the most difficult.  It’s delicate work to revise small handfuls of words without losing the voice.

Festival of the Trees

Last November Dave Bonta and Pablo invited me to join their team in support of the Festival of the Trees blog carnival.  You all know how much I love this project, so you can imagine how stoked I am to lend a hand.  We’re looking for volunteers to host! Read an interview by The Nature Blog Network with the Festival of the Trees crew.  The Festival of the Trees is @treebloggers on Twitter and Identica.

Pennwriters 2010

All lovers of literature can find me this spring May 14-16, 2010 in Lancaster, Pennsylvania for the Pennwriters Annual Conference: The Writer’s Craft.  To learn more, read this Feature Artist Interview with Conference Coordinator Ayleen Stellhorn.  You can count on seeing me in PA next year too – I’m running for VP this term to support Carol Silvis; she and I are working hard in preparation for 2010-2012.

@JadeBlackwater on Twitter

You can now follow me @JadeBlackwater on Twitter where I tweet about writing and art, ecology and conservation, sustainability and gardening, and everything else that makes me think.  I never thought I’d be a tweep, but I’m already a nerd, so I shouldn’t be that surprised.  To help preserve my time, I typically schedule tweets in advance via HootSuite, and to help preserve my readership I shorten links via bit.ly.  (I also like to poke around #poettues hosted by @robertleebrewer.)

JLB Blogs on the Move

I’ve been tweeting away since January while my blogs Brainripples, AppleJade, and Arboreality appear to languish in neglect.  In fact, I’m preparing to relocate my blogging adventures under one roof at Brainripples.com (including a much-needed new web design).  Since I’ve been blogging for five years, it seems like the right time to try on the big girl pants.  Prepare yourself for the next incarnation of my blogs as I shake off the old and don the new.  (Sheesh, how many more metaphors do you think I could have packed into this paragraph?)

Coming Up Next

Show and Tell Friday is beyond over due, and I’ve found so much cool stuff on my Twitter adventures.  I’ll put one together for you soon!  I was also invited for a fun phone interview with Perry Norton of PanRight Productions.  I’d like to share that with you all soon.  Finally, I’ll be selecting at least one poem from my drafts to share here, probably something I love but know I won’t submit.


Feature Artist Interview: Ayleen Stellhorn

February 1, 2010

This interview also appears at the Pennwriters Area 6 HQ blog.

Today it is my pleasure to introduce you to Ayleen Stellhorn, freelance writer and editor, Pennwriters Member, and 2010 Pennwriters Conference Coordinator.  Ayleen works hard, balances multiple projects, and still greets everyone with a smile (you can even “see” her smile in her friendly emails).

You can contact Ayleen via email with questions about this year’s Pennwriters Conference at this address: conference2010[at]pennwriters[dot]com.

[Additional details are available at the end of this interview.]

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JB: Greetings Ayleen!  Thanks for joining us for an interview at the Pennwriters Area 6 HQ blog.

AS: Nice to be invited, Jade. Thank you.

JB: First, tell us a little about yourself.  What do you write?  When did you first join Pennwriters?

AS: I write newspaper and magazine articles mostly. My articles have appeared in the Hanover Evening Sun, the Chambersburg Public Opinion, and the Lancaster Intelligencer Journal. Right now I’m writing regularly for Lancaster Farming Journal and Adams Electric’s corporate magazine PennLines, and I just signed a contract to author a book featuring contemporary hooked rugs. I also do a lot of freelance editing for publishers of craft and hobby books. I’ve been a member of Pennwriters for about 10 years.

JB: I understand that this isn’t your first time volunteering as the Pennwriters Conference Coordinator.  Could you tell us a little about your experiences, and what brings you back to organize the 2010 Conference in Lancaster, Pennsylvania?

AS: I coordinated the 2008 conference in Lancaster. We had an amazing turnout, and overall, everything went really well. Award-winning literary writer and Princeton University professor Joyce Carol Oates was our keynote speaker; Susan Meier, Mary Jo Rulnick, Brian Butko, and Valerie Malmont were a few of our workshop presenters; and a record 236 people attended. We had a lot of firsts that year, including the preconference intensive classes, an author as a Friday keynote, and the networking lunch. I decided to volunteer one more year because I wanted to do a couple things differently: the first was a new hotel and the second was a commercial fiction writer as a keynote. So in 2010, we’re at the Eden Resort in Lancaster and we have adventure-thriller writer James Rollins as our Friday night keynote.

JB: This year I’ll be joining everyone in Lancaster for my first writers’ conference ever.  Can you tell a newbie like me what to expect?  What would be the *top three* things a writer could do to make the most of the Pennwriters Conference experience?

AS: Top three things for a newbie… Let’s see…

Be prepared to be overwhelmed is one. A lot goes on in a very short time, and your brain will reach overload quickly. I’ve been to five conferences, and I always walk out of each workshop with my head spinning with ideas. Even if you think you’ll remember something, write it down anyways. Odds are you’ll get another great idea — or piece of advice or link to follow — at the next workshop, and that first idea will be long gone.

Be ready to talk is two. If you’re generally the person who sits back and listens to conversations flowing around you, make a conscious decision to not be that type of person at the conference. Introduce yourself to the folks sitting at your breakfast table; find out what the person sitting next to you in a workshop likes to write; join a group of people hanging out in the hospitality room or at the bar; volunteer for one of the little jobs like moderator or Penn Pal. And along those same lines, be prepared to answer the question, “What do you write?/What are you writing?” in one or two sentences. You’ll get asked that more times than you can count.

Latch on to the positive is three. Getting published in any form takes a lot of skill, but it also takes a lot of persistence: you need to be in the right place at the right time with the right manuscript. You’ll hear lots of gloom-and-doom statistics at a writers conference dealing with how many queries an agent receives and how few they accept, or how many rejection letters an author received before he or she got published, or how many writers write but quit before their manuscript is even completed. Don’t get discouraged. Focus on the encouraging personal stories and listen to the advice of the agents and editors we’ve invited.

JB: Event planning is a huge undertaking – especially for something like this.  Can you tell us about some of the joys and trials of volunteering as the Conference Coordinator?  What advice would you give to other volunteers who organize events for nonprofits?

AS: The joys far outweigh the trials. If they didn’t, I wouldn’t be back for my second shot at this! I love seeing a writer make a connection with an editor or agent. I love to sit at dinner and hear people talk about how their characters are running their lives. I love providing an opportunity for writers to learn and grow and just be writers in whatever genre, whether that’s nonfiction, thrillers, comics, magazines, poetry, corporate communications…. The trials (and they are sometimes devils) are in the details. Putting together a quality three-day program that will appeal to a broad range of writers is a real challenge. Lining up everything the editors, agents, and presenters need — from travel arrangements to special room set-ups — can fall through the cracks with one missed e-mail. And making sure all the little things are covered, like codes to book rooms online and full coffee pots 24/7, is sometimes overwhelming. My advice to other volunteers who organize events like ours would be to believe in what you’re doing, and be a list-maker!

JB: I know that readers can get the scoop if they follow Pennwriters on Twitter, join the Pennwriters Group on Facebook, or visit the Official Pennwriters website, but please tell us again: What are the highlights for the 2010 Pennwriters Conference?

AS: Highlights:

Keynote James Rollins, author of adventure thrillers, the movie novelization for the most recent Indiana Jones movie, and a new series of young adult thrillers. Watch his videos at www.jamesrollins.com to see why we think he’s going to be an excellent keynote.

Eight agents and editors: Jennifer Jackson, Donald Maass Agency; Jenny Bent, The Bent Agency; Miriam Kriss, Irene Goodman Agency; Alex Glass, Trident Media; Janet Reid, Fine Print Literary; Barbara Lalicki, senior vice president and editorial director at HarperCollins Children; David Pomerico, assistant editor at Del Rey Spectra; and Leis Pederson, associate editor at Berkley. They’ll be hearing pitches, teaching classes, and critiquing first pages.

Preconference classes. Attend in-depth and interactive full-day and half-day seminars with Tim Esaias (fiction), Jonathan Maberry (nonfiction), Loree Lough (plotting), and CJ Lyons (fiction queries).

Three days of workshops. The conference fee includes more than 40 to choose from, and all the instructors are published authors or industry professionals.

JB: We’ve held the Pennwriters Conference in Lancaster before.  For visitors who’ve never been to Lancaster (or perhaps even Pennsylvania), what are some of the other local perks you might suggest they check out?

AS: Take an extra day to wander through Amish country. (The city is filled with tourist attractions, which give you a good overview of the culture, but there’s nothing like checking out the roadside stands and sharing the byways with buggies.) Go shopping at the outlets. Play golf at the Host. Eat at a smorgasbord. See a play at the Dutch apple. Check out Central Market. Visit Landis Valley Farm Museum.

JB: How can writers, editors, agents, publishers, book sellers, readers, etc. help to get the word out about the Pennwriters conference?

AS: I’d like to ask folks to simply drop our name and website into whatever social media they’re using. Mention us in your Facebook status, twitter about a favorite author who will be teaching, write about us in your blog, list the event info on your own website. I’ve also got fliers that you can hang up at local coffee shops, bookstores, libraries, etc. Every little bit will help. We’ve got an amazing program, and I want to share that with as many writers as possible.

JB: Where and how can writers register for the 2010 Pennwriters Conference?

AS: Online, go to www.pennwriters.com, click on Conference and then Register. If you prefer to send a check by mail, download and print a registration form at the Pennwriters website, or call or email me so I can send you one. Registration forms will also be printed in January-February 2010 issue of The Penn Writer newsletter. (Remember to book your room early. The Eden [1-866-801-6430] is a gorgeous facility but much smaller than the Host.)

JB: Finally, as a writer and journalist (and all-around awesome person), what words of wisdom or inspiration would like to share for writers and artists?

AS: Always end an interview with a question that strokes your source’s ego and makes her feel appreciated. 🙂 Nicely done, Jade.

Ayleen, we thank you again for joining us and sharing some behind-the-scenes insight.  See you at the Pennwriters Conference in May 2010!


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2010 Pennwriters Conference – The Writer’s Craft

When: May 14 – 16, 2010

(May 13, Preconference Seminars)

Where: Eden Resort, Lancaster, Pennsylvania, USA

POC: Ayleen Stellhorn, Pennwriters 2010 Conference Coordinator

Web: www.pennwriters.com

Email: conference2010[at]pennwriters[dot]com

Facebook: Be a Fan of the Pennwriters Annual Writers Conference

Twitter: Follow Pennwriters on Twitter

LinkedIn: Join Pennwriters on LinkedIn

Listserve: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/PennwritersConference/


Writers: Run Wild for February 2010

January 26, 2010

Running Wild Writers, LLC offers its first fiction writers’ workshop for 2010 beginning Thursday, February 4, 2010 at 7 PM. Workshops will run for ten weeks, and will be held in the heart of an artists’ community at 1241 Carpenter St. Philadelphia, PA 19147.

What You Get:
Participants will have the chance to workshop two pieces of a maximum 5,000 words each. The pieces will be given thorough written feedback by the instructor as well as feedback from fellow attendees.

Cost:
The ten week course will cost $410 for non-Pennwriters and $375 for Pennwriters members.

Interested?
Registration is available at www.runningwildwriters.org

Need More Info?
For more information, contact Lisa Diane Kastner at lisa [at] runningwildwriters [dot] org

Lisa’s Bio
A former correspondent for the Philadelphia Theatre Review and Features Editor for the Picolata Review, Lisa Kastner currently writes freelance and by invitation in literature and the arts. Her literary interviews include Charles Baxter (Academy of Arts and Letters Award in Literature 1997) and Lee Martin (Pulitzer Prize Nominee 2006).

She is the Founder of Running Wild Writers Community, LLC and the President of Pennwriters (www.pennwriters.com), a not-for-profit organization dedicated to assisting the novice to the award winning and multipublished writers to learn and succeed in the craft. She is the founder of the Pennwriters King of Prussia Critique Group, Philadelphia Critique Group and has led workshops on business communications. Her short stories have been published in 63 Channels Journal and The StraightJackets Magazine.

Lisa promises that her facetious redheaded tendencies will not get in the way of the workshop but instead provide a bit of flavor, like cinnamon. Learn more about Lisa at her blog The Wonderful World of a Facetious Redhead.

Running Wild Writers Community
Running Wild Writers, LLC is a not-for-profit created to assist up and coming writers to learn and excel in the craft of writing. Running Wild welcomes writers from all forms and all genres. Located at 1241 Carpenter St, Philadelphia, PA, Running Wild Writers is in the heart of an artists’ community.

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Philadelphia Writers Make Room to Run Wild

August 1, 2009

August 1, 2009

For immediate release
1 August 2009
Contact: Lisa Kastner, Founder
lisa[at]runningwildwriters[dot]org
www.runningwildwriters.org
 
Philadelphia Writers Make Room to Run Wild
 
Running Wild Writers, LLC  debuts as Philadelphia’s newest writers’ community with its first Fiction Workshop beginning September 2009.  Founded by Philadelphia-based writer Lisa Diane Kastner, Running Wild provides a venue for writers of all forms and all genres to learn and succeed in the craft.  Kastner is a fiction writer, former correspondent for the Philadelphia Theater Review, freelance journalist for the Delaware County Times, Features Editor for the Picolata Review, and President of Pennwriters, Inc., a 501(c)(3) nonprofit writers’ organization.
 
“In my years with the creative writing community, I have repeatedly been asked to provide writers a venue to more thoroughly explore the craft of writing.  Running Wild Writers is the answer to that request.”
 
The inaugural Fiction Workshop will begin September 24 and will run once a week for ten weeks through December 2009. Attendees will have two opportunities to submit up to 5,000 words of original material to be reviewed by participants and to receive a detailed assessment from Kastner.
 
“What makes Running Wild Writers unique is that we believe all forms and genres are valuable. Most workshops specialize in a specific genre such as literary, thriller, mystery, romance and so forth. At Running Wild, we believe that writers can learn and grow by reading and writing across genres,” said Kastner.   “The same is true for form.  Writers need to experiment in creative non-fiction, poetry, and fiction writing to hone their skills and discover who they are as writers.”
 
Workshop Details

Running Wild Writers Community will hold a 10-week Fiction Writers Workshop  from September 24 – December 3, 2009. The group will meet on Thursdays at 7 PM.
 
Participants will have the opportunity to workshop two pieces, maximum of 5,000 words each, during the sessions.  Each work will be given thorough written feedback by the instructor as well as feedback from fellow attendees.  In addition, the instructor will select elements of the craft to discuss during the sessions.  Craft discussions will be based on the pieces workshopped that evening.  Workshops will be held at 1241 Carpenter St., Philadelphia, PA 19147, in the heart of a thriving Philadelphia arts community.
 
Lisa’s Bio
 
Lisa Diane Kastner, fiction writer, creative non-fiction explorer, and former journalist writes fiction from Philadelphia and draws inspiration from her local experience. Kastner promises that her flaming red head tendencies will neither detract nor overly add to the commentary. If anything, it will bring a bit of flavor, like cinnamon.
 
A former correspondent for the Philadelphia Theatre Review and Features Editor for the Picolata Review, Kastner currently writes freelance and by invitation in literature and the arts. Her literary interviews include Charles Baxter (Academy of Arts and Letters Award in Literature 1997) and Lee Martin (Pulitzer Prize Nominee 2006).
 
Kastner is the Founder of Running Wild Writers Community, LLC and President of Pennwriters, Inc. (www.pennwriters.com) , a 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to assisting the novice to the award winning and multipublished writers to learn and succeed in the craft. She is the founder of the Pennwriters King of Prussia and Philadelphia Critique Groups, and can be found throughout the region leading workshops on business communications, and occasionally performing on the local stage with theater companies such as CelebrationTheater.  Her short stories have been published in 63 Channels Journal and The StraightJackets Magazine.
 
For more information go to www.runningwildwriters.org or contact Kastner via email at lisa[at]runningwildwriters[dot]org.

 

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Pennwriters: Resource for Writers

March 5, 2008

Pennwriters, Inc. © Copyright 2008 Pennwriters, Inc.Writing can be a naturally independent and solitary profession.  Even as hobbyists, writers often create their material alone.  Professionals navigate potential writing markets using their own will, initiative, and creativity.

If you are a writer seeking a support, guidance, and networking opportunities, Pennwriters is the organization for you.  Pennwriters’ current goals are as follows:

– Promote excellence in writing;

– Help aspiring authors learn how to become published via traditional, professional venues;

– Advance the careers of published writers;

– Facilitate professional networking between members and representatives of the traditional publishing industry;

– Act as a liaison between authors and booksellers.

Membership is open to all writers at all levels – you do not have to live in Pennsylvania to be a member of Pennwriters.  The Pennwriters organization offers workshops, critique groups, contests, industry news, networking opportunities, and an annual Writers Conference held in a different location in Pennsylvania each year.

I am the new Pennwriters Area 6 Representative which means I work with members in southeastern part of Pennsylvania.  Brainripples readers are familiar with my writing critique group in the Philadelphia Area.  Now that I’m a Rep, I’ll be coordinating workshops, critique groups, and other activities throughout the region.  You’ll hear all about writing activities in my area right here at the Brainripples blog.  Please feel welcome to join us any time!

In May 2008 you will find me in attendance at the Pennwriters Annual Conference, this year hosted in Lancaster, Pennsylvania at The Host Resort.  I’ll be blogging about the conference in more detail soon.  You do not have to be a Pennwriters member to attend our conference.  To learn more and register, visit the Pennwriters website.

PS – Our Philadelphia Writers’ Critique Group meeting is tonight!  Check out the Critique Group page for details, and if you’re in or around Philly, come join us!


Feature Artist Interview – Lisa D. Kastner

February 22, 2008

Lisa D. Kastner, © Copyright 2008

Today it is my pleasure to introduce writer Lisa D. Kastner of the Humna Humna blog for this week’s Feature Artist Interview.

Greetings Lisa, and thank you for joining us at Brainripples for an interview. I’ve been admiring your writing since joining the Philadelphia Writers’ Critique Group in 2006. To give our readers some background, could you tell us about your own beginnings as a writer?

Jade, thank you for inviting me to Brainripples.  When you first mentioned the interview, I was quite flattered (and still am).  The cliché answer is that when I was a pre-teen and teen I maintained a journal.  At the time, I focused on writing music lyrics (I am a music junky).  My writing interests expanded to include poetry (albeit rather bad poetry).  I later dabbled in short stories and wrote for my own enjoyment. 
 
My senior year of high school, my father asked that I pursue a degree useable in a corporate or business setting (Of course, I wanted to pursue a theatrical degree.)  Needless to say, I obtained a Communications degree and for more than ten years provided business writing consultative services to Fortune 500 companies.  
 
A few years after graduation, I realized that writing for business assisted in honing my self editing skills but I was losing my creative expression.  One Saturday I awoke with an image that I had to put on paper.  That afternoon I wrote the first rendition of the short story A Half (which you so kindly provided great feedback).  I stepped away from my computer knowing I needed to write fiction.  
 
Unsure of my skills, I attended the Philadelphia Writers Conference and submitted the short story.  Believe me, I was quite fearful that my workshop leader, Chris Bowman, would turn to me, point and say “WHY are YOU here?  You think you can write?” 
 
Of course this scenario never occurred.  Instead he pulled me aside and said that I had to write.  He said I had the gift and I should actively pursue writing.  This feedback was exactly what I needed.  The conference was six years ago and I  have been writing prose ever since.

Lisa Kastner is the Vice President of Pennwriters. Lisa, would you like to tell us a little about the organization and your goals as VP?

Pennwriters’ mission is to help writers of all levels, from the novice to the award-winning and multi-published, improve and succeed in their craft.  My official role as the VP is basically to do whatever our President asks me to do.  Luckily, Barbara Lockwood is a very kind and generous President.  Much of what I do is shadow her and act as a sounding board for her, our board, and members of the organization.
 
On a personal level, I took the role of VP because I always valued the encouragement provided by Chris Bowman and then later on by many workshop leaders, teachers, editors, and peers. Whenever I doubted my ability, a kind soul pulled me from my slump and reinforced that I am a writer and that I have talent.  I wanted to be in a position to do the same for other new writers.  What better way than to be on the board of an organization dedicated to helping writers?
 
The worst feeling in the world when you first pursue writing, as either a hobby or a profession, and wonder “Should I do this?  Am I a truly talented writer or are the words I put on the page something only a family member would appreciate?” 
 
Brainripples readers can find your blog Humna Humna in the sidebar. Will you be blogging about the upcoming 2008 Annual Pennwriters Conference in Lancaster PA?

During the conference, I would love to see attendees blog about it.  I think reading about it from the perspective of attendees is much more interesting.  This enables us to see the varying perspectives and thereby obtain a fuller and more interesting picture of the events.
 
Prior to the actual conference, I will post updates regarding the activities on Humna Humna.   
 
Your fiction is often set in the Pennsylvania / New Jersey region. What aspect(s) of the local culture do you find most inspiring for your work?
 
Excellent question.  Admittedly, I don’t write about Pennsylvania and New Jersey intentionally. I often begin writing a piece based on an image or a sentence or an idea and then follow that stream of conciousness.  After time, I review what’s on the page to find prominent themes and how I can develop them. 
 
When I was the Features Editor of the Picolata Review, one of my favorite questions was, “Do you think environment plays a major role in your writing?”  Emphatically the answers were yes.  I agree but I think the reason I write about the cultures in PA and NJ is because I grew up in the area surrounded by quirky and interesting people. 
 
I’m attracted to those who are a touch outside the norm or on the fringe.  I like to figure out why they do what they do … in essence, how they think. (Probably because I am a self-proclaimed “person on the fringe”.)  Usually these same people exist in environments as complex as themselves.  Believe me, there are some areas of Pennsylvania and New Jersey that are the typical USA neighborhoods, I just don’t write about them.

Your fiction also often includes themes of urban life and the human experience, as well as – shall we say – the darker shades of life and mind. Could you describe some of your successes (or challenges) with writing accessible, compelling characters from such chilling perspectives?

Even those in the depths of darkness have light.  A yin and a yang.  But their yin and yang are out of balance.  The key is finding that bit of light and allow the reader to see it and to experience it.  In A Half a woman who lost her twin sister is in a panic and races through her childhood home.  She hallucinates or imagines that she is reexperiencing her sister’s drowning.  At the end of the piece, the reader discovers why this trek was so important to her – she needed to uncover the one picture she had of her and her twin – a tangible piece of a happier time with the person who completed her.  We have all lost someone we loved, whether a romantic interest or a friend or a member of the family.  My challenge was to tap those emotions of love and loss via imagery and scene so that the reader could experience it and therefore empathize with the heroine.

What writing genres and elements do you prefer as a writer (or a reader)?

I read multiple styles of fiction writing and nonfiction.  My favorite novel is Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison.  I also read bestsellers like the Kite Runner and the Harry Potter series.  I enjoy writers from Nick Hornby (About A Boy) to Percival Everett (The Water Cure) to classic Anne Rice (Interview with the Vampire) to Tolkein (Lord of the Rings) to Salman Rushdie (The Moor’s Last Sigh).  I believe we learn from all writing.  We learn what we like and don’t like, then alter our selections based on these discoveries. 
 
I read as a reader and as a writer.  I loved About A Boy.  Some writers do not enjoy Nick Hornby because much of what occurs is internal dialogue and telling the reader what the character is thinking instead of showing it.  For his writing style, I think it works beautifully.  In contrast, I thoroughly enjoyed Metal Shredders by Nancy Zafris.  Nancy focuses on the top story and then teases out the inner workings of the characters from that top story. 
 
The bottom line for me is, if it works (for me) then I like it. 
 
Are you currently experimenting with anything new in your writing?
 
When I write novel length prose, I tend to create a very rough outline and then use it as a writing prompt.  Right now I’m experimenting with writing via stream of consciousness, which is my standard method to craft short stories.  So far the process has been incredibly interesting.  I have 113 pages of a very rough draft and I really enjoy the process.  My goal is to have a readable rough draft by the 2008 Pennwriters Conference in May.

You’ve attended a variety of workshops, seminars, and conferences for writers. Would you tell us about a few of your favorites?

In all honesty, I have enjoyed each one.  I have been priviledged to attend Bread Loaf Writers Conference and workshops by Percival Everett and Danzy Senna.  I learned as much from the workshop leaders as my peers (Many of my ‘peers’ are much more accomplished than me, so I don’t feel the term “peer” is accurate.  They are absolutely brilliant writers who I am honored to have encountered.)  At Bread Loaf much of the experience is simply being in a focused creative environment among like minded people.   Michael Collier, the Director of Bread Loaf says in his opening remarks that lifelong friends are made there.  I still email, talk, and are MySpace and Facebook friends with fellow attendees.  It is a magical experience.
 
I have also attended Kenyon Review Writers Workshop which is an intensive week of writing, workshopping, writing, workshopping and … oh right … writing.  I had the privilege of attending Nancy Zafris and Geeta Kothari’s class.  Let me say that Nancy Zafris is such an excellent teacher and guide that she frightened me.  And Geeta looked at drafts and asked the right questions which forced me to think and bring the piece to an entirely new level.  Our workshop became a family after the first day and for that, I am forever grateful.  Again, I believe lifelong friendships were formed with incredibly talented attendees.  I am still amazed at the phenomenal writing that was produced on a daily (in reality, nightly) basis.
 
Another key guide in my writing has been James Rahn, the founder and leader of Rittenhouse Writers Group.  I attended the University of Pennsylvania’s Conference for Writers and signed up for James’s advanced workshop.  The previous day, I attended another fabulous intensive workshop conducted by Robin Black.  When James walked into the workshop he sat down, looked around the room, got up, walked right up to me and said, “You were in Robin Black’s class yesterday right? You’re Lisa?” I squeaked, “Yes.”  Then he pointed at me, grinned, and said, “Good!”  Later he invited me to join Rittenhouse Writers Group.  Another amazing experience with great readers and great writers.
 
And of course, I frequent the Pennwriters Annual Writers Conference.  The first time I attended the conference, I was amazed at the openness and encourangement of everyone.  We have writers that represent all genres and all walks of life, yet when we get together it’s about the writing.  We focus on encouraging both the established and the new writer.  Definitely another family I cherish.
 
I know you do more than write. Would you like to share some of your performing arts projects?

My last performance was a benefit for Women Against Rape.  We presented a staged reading of The Rape Poem.  A woman who had been raped wrote a series of poems based on her emotions and their evolution while she healed from the emotional and physical trauma. A playright read the poems and converted them into an experimental one act play.  I played the role of Wine (anger).  I have a feeling I was cast due to my firey red hair.  Sometimes type casting can be positive. 
 
At this point in my life, I audition for roles if my friends recommend them to me or if I’m asked to audition.  Performing consumes a lot of time (I’m a bit of a perfectionist) and right now I would rather focus on the writing craft.

What about your day job? (How) has consulting benefited your growth as a writer?

Consulting has been invaluable in my development.  Each company has a distinct voice to its writing, so the initial challenge is to understand the company’s culture to best represent that voice. 
 
As I had mentioned earlier, corporate writing has taught me how to step back and assess my own writing.  Most corporate editors do not want to see a piece until the writer is 99% sure it is complete.  If anything is presented before that time it’s considered amateurish. 
 
Consulting has also taught me to research, research, research – understand what already exists and how to leverage it.  Don’t take anything for granted because the more knowledge you have, the better the work. 
 
It has also taught me that work is always better when it is done in collaboration.  The trick in fiction is to find readers who provide feedback in a way that is in alignment with your goals as a writer and to find a stellar critiquer who states the feeback in a way that is easily implemented.

What are your goals as a writer and artist?

My ultimate goal is to be a full time fiction writer. The reality is that very few writers are lucky enough to write full time, so I may be in my 50s before this occurs, but I will enjoy the ride.  In terms of writing as an artist, I’m finding the evolution of my prose to be really interesting.  When I started this journey, I never thought I would write a novel written from the perspective of a woman who is devolving emotionally and mentally to become a celebrity stalker.  I can’t wait to see what I come up with next.
 
As an artist, I want to delve into other forms such as painting and sculpting.  In high school, I had an art major and I miss those creative outlets.  Now it’s just a matter of finding the time.
 
Could you tell us about some of your current and upcoming writing projects?

I am currently shopping Jersey Diner, a psychological thriller which engages readers in the twisted realities of heroine Nadia Scott, a waitress at the Athens Diner in Oaklyn, New Jersey.  When Nadia’s father commits suicide she rapidly disconnects from rationality and reality.
 
As I mentioned previously I am in the midst of crafting another manuscript but I’m not comfortable sharing what it is about since it seems to be evolving.  I am also sending out multiple short stories, including A Half, to publications.  I must admit, I tend to send my writing out in spurts.  I need to be more disciplined with submissions.

What are some of your favorite successes as a writer?

Acceptance to Bread Loaf and Kenyon.  The day I received my acceptance letters, my mouth flew open, surprised that I had been accepted. When someone reads my prose and says it meant something to them on a personal level or made them think or somehow changed how they viewed the world, I am euphoric. 
 
Some of my favorite successes are also as a reader of prose and poetry.  When I read a fellow writer’s piece and am able to provide constructive, positive feedback that encourages the person to continue writing … well, the knowledge that I helped that writer, in the smallest tangential way means the world.

What advice would you give other independent writers?

Read often.  Write often.  Never give up.  Find your stellar critiquer.  When someone says you’re good, listen.  They are telling you this for a reason.

Lisa, thank you again for joining us at Brainripples – we wish you the best in your future endeavors.
 
Thank you, Jade.  By the way, I need to mention that Jade is one of my stellar critiquers.  She provides amazing and insightful feedback that forces me to look at the piece with an entirely different eye.  Thank you for that gift.

[Insert Jade’s blush here.]