Monday, March 26, 2018

A Cocktail for My Novel: Absolut-ly, SILVER GIRL!

It's not every author who has a husband who will create a special cocktail to celebrate her new novel, set in the 80s in Chicago! Call me Absolut-ly Lucky!


By Steve Ello

The 1980’s ushered in the advent of Vodka as an emerging cocktail spirit in the American market.  One of the most successful and iconic ad campaigns of the decade were the ads made for Absolut Vodka featuring the bottle in a variety of whimsical displays.  At the same time, California wine producers began to take on the Champagne region of France with their more affordable and approachable sparkling wines. The Korbel brand from Sonoma, California was a leader in making the “champagne experience” more accessible.

Absolut-ly, Silver Girl recognizes this time period—the setting for Leslie’s novel SILVER GIRL—and the roles both Vodka and Sparkling Wine played in our drinking lives in the 80s.  It’s also an attempt at a playful update of the classic and refreshing Tom Collins cocktail first memorialized in 1876 by Jerry Thomas who many recognize as “the father of American mixology.”

In the Absolut-ly, Silver Girl Cocktail we have swapped Vodka for Gin, replaced granulated sugar with a more complex simple syrup and introduced a dash each of cherry bitters and orange bitters to replace the typical Collins’ garnishes. Topping off this cocktail is sparkling wine which takes the place of carbonated water.
Below are two versions of the Absolut-ly, Silver Girl Cocktail.
Drink created by Steve Ello.

Absolut-ly, Silver Girl Cocktail (Served up)

1 oz Absolut Vodka
½ oz Fresh Lemon Juice
½ oz 1:1 Simple Syrup*
1 Dash Orange Bitters
1 Dash Cherry Bitters

Add the ingredients above to a shaker with ice and shake until chilled. Double strain into a chilled coupe.

Top with:
1 oz of Korbel Brut Sparkling Wine and a Lemon Twist

Absolut-ly, Silver Girl Cocktail (On the rocks)
1 oz Absolut Vodka
½ oz Fresh Lemon Juice
½ oz 1:1 Simple Syrup*
1 Dash Orange Bitters
1 Dash Cherry Bitters

Add the ingredients above to a rocks or Collins glass and stir.  Add ice.

Top with:
1 oz of Korbel Brut Sparkling Wine and a Lemon Twist

*How to make 1:1 simple syrup:
Boil one cup water. Add one cup granulated sugar. Stir until dissolved. Cool before use. (Can be stored for several weeks in the refrigerator.)

Friday, March 16, 2018

Where to Send Your Work?

The age-old questions…where to submit your work? Who’s open for manuscripts? What are the deadlines if you’re trying to balance and/or avoid some simultaneous submissions while not missing the tiny window of an open reading period? While nothing will replace the careful study of the lit journal/small press scene (i.e. reading work to understand the vibe and aesthetic of a publication), a list of open places can be helpful, especially when it offers links, is free, and does not overwhelm.

I’m happy to say I found such a list on Entropy Magazine: Where to Submit: March, April, May. That’s right, it’s targeted to RIGHT NOW and will be updated for June, July, August. And then for the fall. And then for the winter. !! Is this heaven? No, it’s the internet.

Read all about it:

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Researching the 80s Can Be Totally Awesome!

From my essay up at the AWP Writer’s Notebook:

“I researched and wrote a novel set in 1900 Chicago, but what a cinch compared to writing about 1982 Chicago—though I was alive in 1982, with a brain actively recording memories. Some American eras beckon novelists seductively with auras of perpetual cool: Roaring Twenties. Grunge in the ’90s. The Sixties, everyone’s darling. Punk! Other historical times are lesser known, allowing the writer to do exactly what she wants: the 1200s. 1823. The Ice Age. But the time setting of my new novel, Silver Girl, is the late ’70s and the early ’80s, which I found was a challenging historical period to write about. (Yes, forty years ago is “historical fiction.”)…”

Read on to see my tips for how to handle modern historical research:

Monday, March 5, 2018

Review in The Millions

(And what a review!)

"Silver Girl is an act of mesmerism, of misdirection; it appears slight and forgettable, but turns out to have more substance and permanence than half the novels on a given bookshelf. Thematically, it’s ambitious: irreconcilable conflicts regarding money abide within it, as well as enduring mysteries about female friendship and a spooky motif of displacement and replacement. Nothing is as it seems between its pages, or between its characters."

Friday, February 23, 2018

On Finding a Great Writing Book and Chatting with Andi Cumbo-Floyd

by Carollyne Hutter

I have to confess: every once in awhile I buy a book about some element of writing, either at a writers’ conference or at Barnes and Noble. Then I make myself some tea, sit down with the book, and prepare to read it, but I usually don’t actually read it. Instead, I skim the table of contents and read the back blurb and think how good it would be for me to read this book, sort of like eating Brussel sprouts, and then I sigh, reach for a novel to read and put the writing book on my bookshelf in the writing book section, where it lives with all the other never-to-read, good-for-me books on writing.

When I heard Andi Cumbo-Floyd had written a book on writing, LOVE LETTERS TO WRITERS: ENCOURAGEMENT, ACCOUNTABILITY, AND TRUTH-TELLING, I sadly assumed that the book would just live on the moribund writing book section of my book shelf, but to my surprise, I am actually reading this book. It comes with me in my backpack, living right next to my laptop, and when I have a free moment, I’ll read a chapter or two.

Why is this writing book different for me? First, Andi has a warm, engaging way of writing that draws me in and it feels like we are chatting over coffee about writing and her life on the farm.  Second, Andi really understands what it’s like to be a writer and has wise advice and, more importantly, great encouragement. Three, the book is composed of 52 short chapters, which works nicely for me as I can read a chapter or two in a few minutes and muse on what she is saying.

I was curious about LOVE LETTERS TO WRITERS: ENCOURAGEMENT, ACCOUNTABILITY, AND TRUTH-TELLING and Andi was kind enough to answer my questions.

Q: What inspired you to write this book?

Well, I’ve been writing letters to a community of writers that I coordinate for over two years now. Because I know those people, because I love them, and because I know some of their individual struggles with writing, my letters to them come from a very personal place inside myself. So, when one of the community members suggested I compile some of the letters into a book, I listened and compiled 52 of the letters into this book.

Q: You said the letters come from your weekly letters to your online writing community. How did you select which letters to include and which ones to leave out?

It was a highly scientific process.  Ha!!  Like everyone, I have good writing days and bad ones, good ideas and poor ones, so when I read through the two years of letters I’d compiled, I looked for the letters that had elicited large responses from the community members, the ones that still evoked some emotion or deeper thought in me, or the ones that seemed to align with what I was seeing other people in the writing world talk about.  Letters that were too pedantic, too set in a specific time, or too boring got left out.

Q: Which of your chapters have been the most popular and why?

There’s a chapter on the way strong emotion can lead you into a deeper truth, a chapter drawn from seeing an infant after my miscarriage. That one gets a lot of commentary.  The chapter on sales and writing also gets a lot of response since so many of us really struggle with marketing as part of our work as writers, especially in the 21st century.

Q; Which is your favorite chapter and why? (My favorite is “When We Feel Guilty for Writing.”)

Oh, I have lots of chapters I really like (is it arrogant to say that?), but at least today, my favorite is “The Call to Bravery” because one of the hardest things for me to do as a writer (and a person in general) is to ask for help. Yet, as much as the act of writing is solitary, the writing life cannot be. . . and so we need to reach out and ask for people for assistance with our work.  It’s an act of courage, but a necessary one.

Q: If you could give just one advice to writers (both newbie and established writers) what would it be?

Be true to yourself while staying open to learn new things.  Not all of us are going to get a million Instagram followers and not all of us want to write romance novels. Not all of us can go on national book tours and not all of us can write every day at 5am.  We have to do what works for us, even as we try out new things, consider lessons from other writers, and stretch our muscles in places that are uncomfortable, like marketing.  In the end, though, we answer most to ourselves and need to honor who we are in the world in our writing lives.

Q: How do you get the ideas to write your weekly letters? Do you have them planned out ahead of time?

Oh gracious, planning—what’s that?  No, I’m really very much a seat of the pantser when it comes to all things writing.  So usually, on Sunday evening—the letters go out on Mondays—I spend a few minutes pondering what has “stuck in my craw” about writing the previous week. It might be something someone mentioned in a blog or shared in our community online space. It might be something that’s coming in my own writing life.  It might be something I draw from one of the writing books on my own shelves.  I look around a bit and find what feels like it has the most energy for me that week, and I write about that thing. 

Oh, thanks for asking.  The book is available everywhere books are sold—Barnes and Noble , OverDrive , IndieBound , iBooks,  Amazon, and  . . pretty much everywhere. 



Andi Cumbo-Floyd is a writer, editor, and farmer who lives at the edge of the Blue Ridge Mountains with her husband, four dogs, four cats, six goats, and thirty-five chickens.  She writes regularly about writing at

Carollyne, regularly writes on environmental, international, and scientific topics for both adults and children.  

Leading up to Pub Week for SILVER GIRL!

Leading up to Pub Week for SILVER GIRL!

Some goings on before the publication date of 2/27/18:

Here’s my blog tour (no, it’s not cheating to appear on other blogs). Check out the reviews and interviews, something new each day:


Here’s an essay I had fun writing about comfort food in the 1980s (yes, with recipes!). I’ll confess that ever since this was posted, I’ve had a terrible craving for an old-time TV dinner: 


And here’s a wonderful interview in the new blog hosted by The Gettysburg Review (where a chapter of SILVER GIRL first appeared):

Here’s an excerpt from that interview:

“I think about point-of-view a lot; it’s perhaps the most powerful tool the writer has: who’s telling the story? I like to think of POV as keys to the car, which in real life I wouldn’t easily hand over. I like reading the first person, but it’s a POV that needs quite a bit of justification from the writer: Why do we see everything only through these eyes? As this narrator emerged, I saw that she was reserved, more than a little sly, and that she had secrets she was keeping from the reader (such as her name). What surprised me as I wrote was discovering that she was also keeping secrets from herself. Once I knew I had an unreliable narrator on my hands, there was no turning back from the first person. I shifted my focus from pondering my POV choice to embracing it--working to ensure her voice stayed true, and that life inside her head didn’t turn claustrophobic.”

Thanks for reading—thanks to those of you who bought/pre-ordered books—thanks to ALL for your support along the way! No writer is an island…though on a bad day, it may feel that way. xoxox

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Survival Tips for #AWP18!

Again? Already? Wasn’t it just a year ago I was trying to persuade everyone that despite recent developments, Washington, DC, was NOT a pure and total den of evil and that everyone should have fun in our city. Not so sure now that I was right about (or ever totally believed) that highly optimistic view of such developments…but, anyway, the democracy is still surviving(ish), and now it’s time to pack up our black clothing and head to Tampa for #AWP18! (I’m sure that black clothing will fit right into Florida, and damn it, I don’t care what the temperature is, I’m bringing my boots.)

I’m feeling that this crowd may be a bit smaller than the most recent AWPs, but we’re still talking 10,000 writers, at least. 12,000? When will we crash the ceiling to 20,000 (#AWP19 in Portland, I’m guessing)? However many, A LOT by any standards, but especially by introvert standards: How can you survive the madness that ensues when thousands of anxious, needy, glorious writers all pack into one place for 4 days?

Here are my tried & true & freshly updated tips for success, based on my experience at past conferences (I’ve been a regular since New Orleans!):

Wear comfortable shoes, at least most of the day. There’s lots of traipsing around long hallways and the long (sometimes uncarpeted) aisles of the book fair. It’s also inevitable that the one panel you really, really, really want to see will be in a teeny-tiny room and you’ll have to stand in the back…or sit on the floor; see the following tip:

Wear comfortable clothes, preferably taking a layer approach. Wherever you go, you will end up either in A) an incredibly stuffy room that will make you melt, or B) a room with an arctic blast directed at you. Bulk up and strip down as needed. Also, as noted above, despite their best efforts, the AWP conference staff has a knack for consistently misjudging the size of room required for a subject matter/speakers (i.e. Famous Writer in room with 30 chairs; grad student panel on Use of Dashes in Obscure Ancient Greek Poet in room with 300 chairs), so you may find yourself scrunched into a 2’x2’ square on the carpet; see the following tip:

To avoid being stuck sitting on the floor, arrive early to panels you really, really want to attend. If you are stuck on the floor, hold your ground with a big bag and/or coat. Whatever you do, do not be nice and squeeze over…those panels can seem VERY LONG when someone’s knee is wedged in your ribs. (I know this sounds mean, but I did call these “survival” tips, not “how to win friends” tips.) UPDATE FROM OFFICIAL AWP: Actually, don't sit on the floor. It creates a fire hazard and a barrier to those who have accessibility needs. [I will see if people discontinue sitting on the floor--I'm guessing unlikely!--and report back on my findings next year.]

If a panel is bad, ditch it. Yes, it’s rude. Yes, everyone does it. (Be better than the rest by at least waiting for an appropriate break, but if you must go mid-word, GO.) I can’t tell you the high caliber of presenters that I have walked out on, but think Very High. Remember that there are a thousand other options, and you have choices. The only time you have to stick it out is if A) the dull panel participant is your personal friend or B) the dull panel participant is/was your teacher or C) the dull panel participant is your editor/publisher. Those people will notice (and remember) that you abandoned them mid-drone and punish you accordingly (i.e. your glowing letters of rec will flicker and fade). Undoubtedly this is why I have never been published in Unnamed Very High Caliber Magazine, having walked out on the editor’s panel.

There are zillions of panels: When you pick up your registration badge, you’ll get a massive tome with information about all of them, and also a shorter schedule that’s easy to carry around. Be dutiful and glance through the ads in the tome since these are the funders who subsidize our conference. Then ditch the tome and carry around the smaller master schedule….unless you are an app person (I’m not). Either way, do take time NOW to go to AWP’s website and scroll through the schedule and select EVERY panel that sounds even moderately interesting, and load those into the “my schedule” feature. Keep that stored on your favorite technology (mine is a sheaf of printed paper…which may be smart since I often forget how/where to re-access “my schedule,” which requires logging in and somehow finding “my account”; I assume app people are more adept than I am).  Anyway…no point waking up early on Friday if there’s nothing you want to attend. I checkmark panels I might go to if nothing better is going on and star those that I will make a supreme effort to attend. Give yourself a couple of options at each time slot so that if a room is too crowded, you have an interesting alternative.

I like to choose a variety of panels: people I know, people I’ve heard of, genres I don’t write but am curious about, topics I want to educate myself on. Stretch yourself. I also like to go to a reading in which I don’t know any of the readers, just to have a lovely sense of discovery! And don’t forget the ninety-trillion off-site events!

Someone will always ask a 20-minute question that is not so much a question but a way of showing off their own (imagined) immense knowledge of the subject and an attempt to erase the (endlessly lingering) sting of bitterness about having their panel on the same topic rejected. Don’t be that person. Keep your question succinct and relevant. If you don’t, I promise that everyone will mimic your annoying question to their friends in the bookfair aisle.

Don’t say anything gossipy on the elevator, unless you want the whole (literary) world to know it. Do listen up to the conversations of others on the elevator, and tell your friends what you’ve overheard over your offsite dinner, embellishing as necessary.

Same advice above exactly applies to the overpriced hotel bar.  Also, if you happen to get a chair at the bar, or, goodness, EVEN A REAL LIVE TABLE, hang on to it!!  People will join you if they see you’ve got a spot!  Famous people!  I mean it: the only reason to ever give up a table in the hotel bar is because the bar has shut down, you’ve consumed every bit of liquid in the clutter of glasses, and a beefy bouncer is headed your way. (Also, here’s a fun fact: AWP alcohol consumption often breaks sales records at hotels.)

Speaking of famous people or former teachers or friends…do not say something like this in one long breathless opening sentence right after hugging hello: “Great-to-see-you-can-you-write-a-blurb-letter-of-rec-piece-for-my-anthology?” Ask for favors AFTER the conference! I mean, unless you enjoy that uncomfortable moment and awkward triumph of trapping someone into saying yes.

Support the publications at the bookfair. Set a budget for yourself in advance, and spend some money on literary journals and books and subscriptions, being sure to break your budget. Do this, and then you won’t feel bad picking up the stuff that’s been heavily discounted or being given away free on the last day of the conference. But, please, definitely do spend some money! These journals and presses rely on OUR support.

Just because something is free, you don’t have to take it. Unless you drove, you’ll have to find a way to bring home all those heavy books/journals on an airplane. Or you’ll have to wait in line at the hotel’s business center or the UPS store at the convention center to ship them home. So, be as discerning as you can when you see that magic markered “free” sign on top of a pile of sad-looking journals, abandoned by the grad students with hangovers who didn’t feel like dealing with their university's bookfair table.

Try not to approach the table of each journal at the bookfair with this question:  “How can I get published in your journal?” Also, I recommend avoiding this one: “How come you didn’t publish my poem/story/essay/screed?”  Try instead: “What a beautiful journal. Please tell me more about it.” Even better: “I’m thinking about subscribing.”

It may be too late for some of you, but it’s inevitable that you will see every writer you’ve ever met in the aisle of the bookfair at one AWP or another…so I hope you were nice to all of them and never screwed anyone over. Because, yes, they will remember, and it’s not fun reliving all that drama as the editors of The Georgia Review gaze on.

Pre-arrange some get-togethers with friends/teachers/grad student buddies, but don’t over-schedule. You’ll run into people, or meet people, or be invited to a party, or find an amazing off-the-beaten-track bar.  Save some time for spontaneity! (Yes, I realize that I’m saying “plan” for spontaneity.)

Don’t laugh at this, but bring along Purell and USE IT often.  For weeks after, post-AWP Facebook status updates are filled with writers bemoaning the deathly cold/sore throat/lingering and mysterious illness they picked up at AWP.  We’re a sniffly, sneezy, wheezy, germy bunch, and the thought of 12,000 of us packed together breathing on each other, shaking hands, and giving fake hugs of glee gives what’s left of the CDC nightmares.

Along the lines of healthcare, don’t forget to drink a lot of water and pop an Advil before going to sleep if (haha…if!) you’ve been drinking a little more than usual. OR: come find me! I will be handing out small packs of Tylenol to celebrate the recent publication of my new novel SILVER GIRL, set in Chicago during the time of Tylenol murders! (Also note that AWP offers a daily 12-step meeting open to all in recovery. Please take care of yourself.)

Escape! Whether it’s offsite dinners/drinks/museums/walks through park/mindless shopping or whatever, do leave at some point. You will implode if you don’t. Also, the food on the convention floor is consistently overpriced and icky…you will starve if this is your entire diet.

Bring your cellphone charger and maybe even a portable charger. Or maybe you like huddling around electrical outlets?

I can’t believe I’m writing this: the Dance Party is FUN! I mean it! You don’t even have to go with anyone or be a great dancer (call me Exhibit A). It’s how to work off stress and reenergize after a long, sometimes daunting day after too many snubs, imagined and real. I mean, I’m sure there are all kinds of interesting undercurrents and nuances out there in the depths of that packed dance floor…but also, on the surface, it can just be FUN.

This is a super-secret tip that I never share, but I’ll share it as a reward for those who have read this far:  there will be a bathroom that’s off the beaten track and therefore is never crowded. Scope out this bathroom early on. Don’t tell anyone except your closest friends the location of this bathroom.

Finally, take a deep breath.  You’re just as much of a writer as the other 11,999 people around you.  Don’t let them get to you.


If you're interested, I will be signing SILVER GIRL at two different times. Come say hi!

Thursday, March 8, 11:30 am-12:00 pm

Friday, March 9, 11:00 am-12:00 pm


Friday, February 9, 2018

How to Get SILVER GIRL Right NOW! (well, almost)

The Chicago Review of Books has named SILVER GIRL one of the best books of February: 

If you order directly from Unnamed Press, you won’t have to wait until February 27 to get your copy! They will send it out to you right away. Just a thought…. 

Here’s the link to order:

Monday, January 29, 2018

Why Do I Need an MFA? THIS....exactly this

With permission, I’m posting the pre-reading remarks offered by Katie Sherman, who graduated in January 2018. from the Converse low-res MFA program with a degree in fiction writing  (Disclosure: I was her very, very proud thesis advisor, all teary in the audience!)

I thought Katie’s sentiments go a long way to answer that age-old question, “Do I need an MFA?” The answer is embedded here: only if you want to find a community like this, only if you’re open to a life-shaping experience like this, only if you long to find that place where your writing self is both revered and challenged, every single day of the program.

And, to be more specific, I suppose that if what you truly want is THIS sort of experience, please join our program. Our application deadline is February 15, so there’s still time…and if you sent in “all” your apps for December deadlines, well, we welcome hearing from you now. Maybe you’re rethinking your strategy? Maybe you might want to be part of our rigorous but nurturing community? Maybe, just maybe, what you need is exactly five semesters of this:

Remarks Prior to Graduation Reading
By Katie Sherman

There are a great many people I need to thank for their help in completing this program. Let me begin with my mentors — Bob, Cary, Bart, and Leslie. You have become the voices in my head asking for “more agency”, “more rising conflict”, for “fewer clich├ęs”, “longer sentences”, “more showing — less telling.” Thank you for helping me become better. Thank you for your patience and your honesty. The students in this room are your legacy, alongside the work you create of course. We carry your words, you can’t be silenced, despite our best efforts. Thank you for the time and care and the extraordinary thoughtfulness you placed in our stories.

I want to thank MFA Director Rick Mulkey: Thank you for seeing something in my work, for accepting me into this group. The people in this program, even those not in my genre, have become my community, and you were the gatekeeper to them.

To the students who came before me, particularly Kay and Angela; I thank you for opening your arms and accepting me at my best and my worst. To those who came after me, I hope I was able to show you one ounce of their generosity of spirit. And, to three special people — those who traveled through this program with me in my genre— I want to extend individual love, attention, and thanks.

Mackinley was the first person I met in the program. He is shy, witty, and brilliant. All of these qualities were imminently apparent. Thank you for bringing your insightful wisdom to each workshop. Linda has taught me grace under pressure. She displays graciousness, creativity, and a willingness to bear her soul that is always inspiring. And, last but certainly not least, Gwen. Thank you for talking me through so many works in progress, for loving elephants, for having eye rolls and sage wisdom and kind words to share.

To my mom and dad —Even when you didn’t understand the program, you listened to my complaints and my successes. Thank you for loving me enough to believe my dreams of publishing aren’t foolish and for teaching me anything is possible. Without the foundation you built, I couldn’t possible stand here.

To my sister, Angela. Thank you for babysitting. For loving my girls like you love your own children. Some people are lucky in life. They are born with someone who knows their entire story, who cheers from the sidelines, who takes care of them and protects them from … everything and everyone. Some people have a built-in soul mate. I’m one such person. Angela, thank you for being my best friend.

To my girls, Ella and Addie, thank you for being good nappers and for inspiring me daily. I write about you, because of you, and for you.

Lastly, to my husband, Ben. You deserve the biggest thanks of all. You helped with the girls, listened to every story, provided comfort when I needed it and encouragement when I longed for it. Every writer needs a good critique group. I get that from the people in this program. But, we also need someone who loves what we write. You always love my work. And, for the time you have given me to write, I am forever indebted to you.

More information about the Converse low-res MFA program:


Katie Sherman is a freelance journalist who covers fine food and parenting—two things rarely related—in Charlotte, NC. As an undergraduate studying news editorial journalism, she was mentored by Pulitzer Prize nominee George Esper at WVU. She recently received her MFA degree in Fiction from Converse College.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

How to Help Your Writer Friend

Let’s say you have a friend who is a Famous Writer or a Published Writer or a Writer. (If she calls herself a Writer, you should too; don’t think a Writer has to have published a book. Also, if she is writing and taking writing classes, start calling her a Writer even if she doesn’t refer to herself in this way.) And let’s say you want to be a good friend to her, the kind of friend that—maybe! Let’s just say!—might see her name in the Acknowledgments page of a book, or even—oh, wow! –the Dedication Page. Or, we could just say that you want to support her work and be a good friend. What are some of the things you could do?

1.     BUY her newly published book. Don’t worry so much about the “right” way to buy her book, unless she’s a Writer who rails against giant corporate behemoths (you know who I’m talking about). Just BUY her book somewhere, off some shelf or some site. DON’T expect her to give you a free copy. DON’T borrow a copy from your book club friend. DON’T check it out of the library. True angels will pre-order it from the giant corporate behemoth so the publisher will feel impressed by sales OR will buy one (or more) copies at the bookstore hosting her reading. You’re thinking that all this feels obvious, but there’s a reason it’s number one. The rest are in random order. Oh, and if there are financial concerns, OF COURSE it’s okay to check out your friend’s book from the library because number 2 is….

2.     READ her book or work. Buying a book is good, but giving a book your time and attention is the truest compliment. Maybe your friend doesn’t have a book yet, but she posted a link on Facebook to an essay she wrote. Yes, it’s easiest to click “LIKE” (which you will do, of course) but also, click on the link and read what she wrote. Maybe you don’t have to do this every time if she’s posting a lot of links or if you are the kind of person who is so important and so busy with your own highly important life…but read her work from time to time.

3.     COMPLIMENT her work after you read it. You know how you never tell someone they look fat in that dress they’re already wearing at the cocktail party? Never tell your Writer friend that her prose is a little “flaccid” or that her characters are “meh.” Try this instead: “I loved reading your story/poem/essay/book.” If you can, find something specific you liked—or throw out some of this phrasing: “it was powerful when….” or “it was masterful how you….” or just the words “powerful” or “masterful.” Or, return to “I loved reading your story/poem/essay/book.” She’s not going to quiz you!

4.     SHARE her with the world. Give her work five stars on Goodreads and Amazon. Write a review that doesn’t give away the ending. Or simply click on 5 stars…no one’s going to quiz you! Invite her to your book club, if your book club is friendly and not the kind of club that “hates everything,” and thank her with a gift card to somewhere good for giving up an evening writing to spend with your book club. Ask your library to buy her book. Repost/retweet her writing news that you see on Facebook/Twitter/etc. Read her book, cover held high, when you ride an airplane or take public transportation. Tell your other friends about your Writer friend and her great book/great book-in-progress. Buy your friend’s book to give as a gift; don’t lend your copy. Offer to host a book party when her book comes out.

5.     ASK questions if you don’t understand her writing. Don’t be afraid of her poetry if you think you’re not a “poetry person.” Say something like, “What a beautiful image.” Or say something like, “I want to understand your poetry better, but I’m not a ‘poetry person.’ What a beautiful image in the second stanza. Can you tell me a little bit more about how it works in the poem?” (Note: I’m not a poet. Maybe this is an incredibly offensive statement. But she is your friend, and I bet she’s doing something brilliant with that image in the second stanza.)

6.     SHOW UP to her readings and book parties if this is not a physical hardship (you only have to attend one event per book!). Raise your hand and ask a question at her reading if no one else does. If she doesn’t have a book (and even if she does), and she’s reading at an event, maybe bring a friend or relative to build the audience. (Don’t skip out right after your friend reads.) If the event has been organized by a literary journal, buy a copy of the journal and ask her to sign the page where her story/poem/essay appears. Save this journal in a special place on your bookshelf. Tell her she looked fabulous! Tell her she did a great job! And if you are this kind of friend, later, much later, tell her that she read too fast and that you know the audience would love if next time she could read a little slower.

7.     STEAL her children if you are this kind of friend. Not forever, but for an hour or an afternoon or a weekend. Give her some time to write. (I’m using “her” in a general sense, but it seems that right now, for whatever cultural reason, I do have to add that “her” also means “his.” Just take those kids somewhere fun and let the Writer parent get some work done.)

8.     LEND your lovely beach house/mountain cabin/city pied a terre to your Writer friend so she can finish her novel/collection.

9.      SHARE all your best stories from childhood and young adulthood and adulthood. Understand if she writes about these things in her fiction. Understand if she doesn’t.

10.  TELL your Writer that writing is important, that writing matters, that she shouldn’t give up now, that one day will come the “yes” she’s waiting for. Tell her that you are proud to “know her when,” that the world needs her unique vision, that she is an artist. These are not lies, by the way. Tell her this over and over, if she is a Writer, a Published Writer, or a Famous Writer. Tell her right now.

Note: I fear this might feel written in self-interest since I have a book coming out! But, really, I wrote it because this morning I woke up thinking about the many, many friends this Writer has had along the way who have helped support the work in a multitude of ways. THANK YOU, everyone!

Monday, January 22, 2018

Tumblr! seems I now have a Tumblr. Look me up if you're a Tumblr-er!

(goodness, I don't even know if this is the right way to pass on my details!)

I think it's going to be pretty me-me-me book-intensive, so consider yourself warned. Maybe find someone with cute cat pictures instead....

Friday, January 19, 2018

Upcoming Classes with Moi!

Two upcoming classes…maybe your resolution for 2018 was to reach more deeply into your creative self? HERE YOU GO!  

Wednesday, January 31
6:30 to 9 p.m.
Politics & Prose Bookstore
Washington, DC
Class: Right Brain Writing: Relationships
Explore your creative side in this session, one of a series of stand-alone classes with prompts designed to get your subconscious flowing. Through guided exercises, we’ll focus on writing about the variety of relationships we have in our lives, significant people, people who are still with us, people who are lost, even relationships with people we don’t know. No writing experience necessary! This is a great class for beginners and also for those fiction writers and/or memoirists with more experience who might be stuck in their current projects and are looking for a jolt of inspiration. Our goal is to have fun in a supportive, nurturing environment and to go home with several promising pieces to work on further. Please bring lots of paper and pen/pencil or a fully charged computer. Note: new exercises!


Thursday, February 1
1 to 4 p.m.
Politics & Prose Bookstore
Washington, DC
Class: Elements of Writing: Mastering Effective Dialogue
Dialogue is tricky. It’s not simply recorded speech; conversation must sound natural—while also creating a sense of a character and advancing the action. How does the writer learn that balance, knowing when characters should talk and when maybe they should keep quiet? How can your conversations build layers of meaning? This hands-on, interactive class will focus on helping you learn the tricks needed to get your characters to talk the talk! This class is appropriate for fiction writers, memoirists and anyone looking to sharpen their dialogue skills. All levels of experience are welcome. Please bring a notebook/pen or charged computer for writing exercises.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

DMV: Mark Your Calendars; Silver Girl DC Launches on 3/3

The SILVER GIRL book launch is set for Saturday, March 3, 2018, at Politics & Prose Bookstore, at 3:30 PM. I’ll read/talk/answer questions/pass out Tylenol/tap dance [not really that]/and be delighted to see you!

Here’s my FB write-up:

Help me celebrate the publication of my new novel, SILVER GIRL, set in 1980s Chicago, during the time of the Tylenol killer. Publishers Weekly calls it "a profound, mesmerizing, and disturbing novel that delves into the vagaries of college relationships and how the social-financial stratum one is born into reverberates through one’s life." Kirkus adds, "A dark, intense novel on a hot subject: female friendship complicated by class and privilege."

Dark? Disturbing? Intense? No worries...I'm still the same cheerful gal as ever, and I'd love to see you there!!

Here are the other SILVER GIRL events I have set up, in case there’s a location/date that works better for you. Updated information is always available at my website:

Saturday, March 3
 3:30 PM
Politics & Prose Bookstore
Washington, DC


March 7 ~ 10
AWP Conference
Tampa, Florida
(Must be registered participant to attend)
Thursday, March 8, 11:30 am-12:00 pm
Friday, March 9, 11:00 am-12:00 pm

Thursday, March 29
City Lit Books
Chicago, IL

Wednesday, April 4, 2018
6 p.m.
Chop Suey Books
Richmond, VA
In conversation with author Patricia A. Smith


Thursday, April 5
In conversation w/ best-selling author Krista Bremer
Flyleaf Books
Charlottesville, VA


Tuesday, May 8
Reading w/ William Wall
The Ivy Bookshop
Baltimore, MD


Thursday, May 10
Reading w/ Tim Wendel
One More Page Books
Arlington, VA


Wednesday, May 16
Bards Alley Bookstore
Vienna, VA


July 19 ~ 22, 2018
West Virginia Writers Workshop
Faculty: fiction workshop
West Virginia University campus
Morgantown, WV

Friday, January 12, 2018

A Star from PW for SILVER GIRL

I'm so thrilled with the review from Publisher's Weekly, which singled out SILVER GIRL for a STAR, calling it  "a profound, mesmerizing, and disturbing novel." !!!!!

Here's the review:
Silver Girl
Leslie Pietrzyk. Unnamed (PGW, dist.), $17 trade paper (320p) ISBN 978-1-944700-51-5
The latest from Pietrzyk (Pears on a Willow Tree) is a profound, mesmerizing, and disturbing novel that delves into the vagaries of college relationships and how the social-financial stratum one is born into reverberates through one’s life. The unnamed narrator—hailing from a poor family headed by an abusive father in Iowa—is befriended by her roommate, Jess, a charismatic Chicago socialite, during their freshman year at an unnamed university in Evanston, Ill. She wants to hide her past and reinvent herself. Meanwhile, Jess’s father sends his mistress’s daughter to live with the two girls after she accidentally poisons her mother. This strains the alliance between the two young women, already tenuous because of underlying jealousies and competitiveness. The narrator makes the same mistakes over and over again in her personal life, and the author posits that there is a way out, but at a cost. In addition to capturing college life on a Midwest campus, Pietrzyk brilliantly depicts the push-and-pull dynamics between the two women, resulting in a memorable character study. Agent: Kerry D’Agostino, Curtis Brown. (Feb.)

Here's the link so you know I'm not lying!

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Distinguished Fellowships at Hambidge....App deadline 1/15

Act fast! I love-love-loved my two weeks at Hambidge, in the lovely mountains of north Georgia…highly recommended:

Creatives of all kinds applying to the Hambidge Creative Residency Program Summer Session will be considered for a Distinguished Fellowship which provides a 2-week residency and a $700 scholarship for outstanding first-time residents.

We are now accepting applications for the 2018 Summer Session (May-August). The deadline is January 15, 2018Find out more and apply online at our website.

Distinguished Fellowships for Summer 2018

The CPT Bill Badoud Fellowships for Veterans for an outstanding Veteran in any discipline.

The Patricia Callan Fellowship for Ceramics for an outstanding ceramicist working in either sculpture or functional pottery.

The Fulton County Fellowships (multiple) for outstanding applicants in any discipline who resides in Fulton County, Georgia.

The Garland Fellowship for an outstanding applicant in any discipline.

The Griffith Fellowship for an outstanding applicant in any discipline.

The Lee and Margaret Echols Fellowship for Musicians for an outstanding musician and/or composer.

The Wisebram Culinary Fellowship for an to applicant working in or writing about the culinary arts: chefs, cooks, cookbook writers and/or those whose work involves the artisanal preservation or production of food.


DC-area author Leslie Pietrzyk explores the creative process and all things literary.