Book Review: THE BFF BUCKET LIST by Dee Romito

[This post is the fourth in an eight-part series of Book Reviews of books by some of our 2017 Midwest Writers faculty. The MWW interns wrote the reviews as one of their assignments for the Ball State University class “Literary Citizenship in a Digital Age,” taught by MWW Director Jama Kehoe Bigger.]

Does Best Friends really mean FOREVER?

This novel takes you on an adventure following Ella and Skyler completing the tasks on their BFF Bucket List–facing a fear, fancy dinner party, random act of kindness, 12 in all. These tasks were supposed to bring the girls back together and strengthen their relationship, but it might just have the opposite effect on them. With the completion of each task, the girls are making decisions and going off without the other, something that until now hasn’t happened before.

Ella hates change while Skyler embraces it. Ella is terrified of going to high school and meeting new people, while Skyler is beyond excited about it. Ella is obsessed with lists and following them to the letter, while Skyler just goes with the flow of it all to make Ella happy. Both of the girls are learning who they are without the other and trying to find themselves for the first time.

As Skyler branches out and makes new friends in anticipation of high school, all Ella can see is that Skyler is slipping away, little by little. Each end up with a new group of friends, some that are friendlier than others, and every girl who has ever had a BFF knows that once other people are involved, things change. But is change always bad? Ella and Skyler start keeping life changing secrets from each other and start to lean on new friends. Will this be the end of it all? Canoe flips, cows, and a few hospital visits in between the tasks on the list are teaching the girls something new about themselves and each other. They are learning to stretch out of their comfort zones but can they survive it?

If you had a BFF in middle school, this book will take you right back to that moment, that person. The perfect growing up and maturing story. Follow Ella and Skyler as they discover themselves and just how far you can stretch the bonds of friendship before they break.

Visit Dee Romito’s website for more information about this book and others.

By Amber Haynes

Welcome to the Simon-verse! Review of Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli

[This post is the third in an eight-part series of Book Reviews of books by some of our 2017 Midwest Writers faculty. The MWW interns wrote the reviews as one of their assignments for the Ball State University class “Literary Citizenship in a Digital Age,” taught by MWW Director Jama Kehoe Bigger.]

Title: Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda
Author: Becky Albertalli
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Copyright: 2015
ISBN: 9780062348678
Format: trade paperback
Genre: Young Adult
Page Count: 320
Find it on Goodreads
Get it on Amazon

“People really are like houses with vast rooms and tiny windows. And maybe it’s a good thing, the way we never stop surprising each other.” (Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda)

Becky Albertalli’s debut novel (soon to be a Major Motion Picture) Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda is a riveting and fresh story of love, friendship, and identity. The book centers on the protagonist, Simon, who is being blackmailed by a classmate, Martin. The secret he’s trying to protect? He’s gay (and not out). If he can help his blackmailer get what he wants, he might be able to take back control of his secret.

Simon also has a crush — on the guy he’s been messaging from his school, the mysterious “Blue.” The two email each other, become more than friends, and share stories (as well as a love of Oreos). Simon finds himself liking Blue more and more — and he wants to know who he really is. Blue feels the same way, but something is holding him back from revealing his true identity.

The story moves quickly and beautifully. Simon’s life becomes more dramatic as the blackmail situation gets worse and worse. Will Blue reveal himself? Can Simon get Martin to stop blackmailing him? Does Simon want to come out? The answers are painted perfectly in Simon’s first person narration. Switching every other chapter between story narrative and Blue and Simon’s emails, the story keeps the reader turning the next page until the book is finished.

It’s easy to fall in love with Simon and his intelligent sarcasm and humor. Albertalli’s writing style through Simon’s point of view is funny, engaging, and honest. Simon is a kid who knows who he is but feels locked within himself, and Albertalli writes this well. His struggle to come to terms with his identity is raw and real, and will demonstrate to the reader just how hard it can be to come to terms with sexual identities. Late in the novel, Simon confesses, “And this gay thing. It feels so big. It’s almost insurmountable. I don’t know how to tell them something like this and still come out feeling like Simon.” He wants to tell his closest friends — he feels like he needs to, it is a part of himself, but he still wants to feel the same around them.

Though it’s not exactly considered dialogue, this reviewer’s favorite parts of the book were the emails sent between Simon and his mysterious crush “Blue.” The messages and the banter between the two of them makes readers fall in love with Simon even more and makes them root for him throughout the story. The couple emails about their identity struggles, their families, and so much more. It just shows how honest communication can happen through mostly any method nowadays, and that relationship are built on just that — communication. Albertalli paints a beautiful relationship through the emails two people sent to one another, and the craft is well-done.

True and honest LGBT+ representation is hard, almost impossible to find in today’s literature. Albertalli took this lack of representation into her own hands and did what she could to give what needed to be given. Simon’s story is important not just because of the riveting story and plotline, but because it normalizes literature that represents all people.

Overall, the book gives the reader a refreshing, progressive story that one reviewer described as “The love child of John Green and Rainbow Rowell.” This is pretty accurate, and some may even add that Simon’s voice is similar to Holden Caulfield from Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye. It’s part love story, part comedy, and readers are sure to fall in love with Simon and his story. 

Go check out the book here: (x

Check out author Becky Albertalli here: @beckyalbertalli 

By Kristen Parks

Book Review: Glued to THE GIRL BEFORE by Rena Olsen

[This post is the second in an eight-part series of Book Reviews of books by some of our 2017 Midwest Writers faculty. The MWW interns wrote the reviews as one of their assignments for the Ball State University class “Literary Citizenship in a Digital Age,” taught by MWW Director Jama Kehoe Bigger.]

Glued. That’s the word I think of when I think about Rena Olsen’s The Girl Before. My eyes were glued to the pages – even after my head started to hurt from reading for so long. It’s everything all at once. Riveting. Troubling. Fascinating. Suspenseful. I found myself ready to turn to the next page as soon as I had started one – something that I’ve been lacking in novel reading for a while.

Olsen’s novel centers around a young woman named Clara who’s life is turned upside down when men in suits come into her house, separate her from her husband and daughters, and call her by the name “Diana” – a name she doesn’t recognize. She watches her husband get dragged away as he shouts at her, “Say nothing, baby, okay?” and “I love you, baby! Remember that!” As she waits in alone in a small room, she struggles between saying nothing and wanting to spill everything. She knows she’s done nothing wrong, but how will these people understand? Questions run circles in her brain. Will she see her husband again? Will she see her daughters again? As Olsen moves back and forth from past and present, readers slowly start to learn about who Clara is and where she comes from. At times the reader begs the question, is Clara the victim or villain?

The Girl Before moves back and forth with a Now and Then storyline, and it is written in first person. Allowing readers to slowly piece together Clara’s story, and better understand her decisions and experiences. Clara has been so sheltered that many times readers know more than she does about her own upbringing, and sometimes you don’t know whether to feel sympathetic or angry that she’s so naïve.

This book covers some disturbing content, making it all the more intriguing to read. The story focuses heavily on dialogue and the weight of verbal and non-verbal communication dynamics between characters. Much of the story is told through nonverbal expressions, and the way people say things to each other.

The only thing I had trouble with was how quickly the novel came to a conclusion. It felt rushed, considering what Clara had to go through. While reading, I had trouble believing certain scenarios and how they were resolved. However, after discovering that Olsen has a bachelor’s degree in psychology, and a master’s degree in marriage and family therapy, it made sense how she was able to tap into the complexity of Clara’s thought processes so clearly – and I wouldn’t have been able to understand her decisions, and the decisions of other characters without this. This novel is so many things all at once, and it’s going to stick with you.

If you want to be enthralled by a story, pick this one up.

By Makayla Smart

Book Review: THE HATE U GIVE, and the Knowledge We Get

[This post is the first in an eight-part series of Book Reviews of books by some of our 2017 Midwest Writers faculty. The MWW interns wrote the reviews as one of their assignments for the Ball State University class “Literary Citizenship in a Digital Age,” taught by MWW Director Jama Kehoe Bigger.]

Over halfway through Angie Thomas‘s debut novel, these words – spoken by the main character’s mother – rip through readers as we witness her growth and the love of her family:
“‘Brave doesn’t mean you’re not scared, Starr,’ she says.  ‘It means that you go on even though you’re scared.  And you’re doing that.'”

The Hate U Give is a haunting story that centers around sixteen-year-old black high school student Starr Carter.  Already struggling to balance a double life between a rich, primarily-white private school and a poor, gang-afflicted neighborhood, Starr’s life is only tougher after she witnesses the murder of her childhood friend, Khalil, at the hands of a white police officer.  Facing the trauma of Khalil’s death, the miles of red tape of the judicial system, the idiocy of privileged high school students, and the harsh realities of gang violence, Starr is an indisputably remarkable character.  And what’s more, she’s written honestly by a bold new author, who – excuse the cliché here – says exactly what needs to be said year after year in America.

What really pulls readers into The Hate U Give is Thomas’s memorable characters.  The entire novel is told through Starr’s perspective, so it’s easiest to witness her growth from a timid, quiet teen to a well-informed and well-spoken activist.  We get honest glimpses into her past, as well, witnessing both the pain and love of her past side-by-side.  Maybe some will say it’s “too real” for young audiences, but I think what Thomas understands is that, in YA, “too real” is exactly what we need.  It’s how we’re able to percieve Starr’s growth, which comes together in an older, wiser, and stronger character that we find ourselves extremely proud of.

Thomas’s writing is, at its heart, powerful.  It gives us a close-up perspective of a world many teens and children live in now: its violence, cruelty, love, and eventually, its unity.  At the end of the novel, we fully understand alongside Starr that these things must exist together, and we must find a place within them.  It’s a novel I’m thankful to have experienced.

And remember, this is Thomas’s very first novel.  Keeping a title at the top of the New York Times bestsellers list for weeks is no small achievement, and with a premier novel?  I think I speak for all devoted YA readers when I say that we can’t wait for the next title she puts out.  As it continues to make huge ripples in the literary scene, The Hate U Give proves to be a novel every teen, parent, poor college student – every person needs to read immediately.  It’s an excellent catalyst for discussion, for mingling experiences and identities together, and for insight into the very real problems of police brutality, gang violence, and poverty.

Please read it.  You won’t regret it.

By M.S. Swain

What? Win money at MWW?

Forget Emmy, Oscar, Tony, and even Grammy

At Midwest Writers Workshop, it’s all about Manny. That’s what we call our annual manuscript contest, and it’s open-free of charge-to anyone registered for Part 2 of MWW17. We’ve taken a real-world approach to our competition. Editors tell us that they know if a manuscript shows promise after reading the opening 1,000 words. So, we ask contest entrants to submit only the first 1,000 words (or about five pages) of a work in progress. We have four categories: Long fiction (think novels), short fiction (think magazine stories), nonfiction (not fake news), and poetry. We only award one winner in each category because in the competitive world of publishing, sorry, there are no runners-up.

The rules are simple and the payoff is in cash. You’re competing for a $50 prize per category. The four winners then compete for our overall R. Karl Largent Writer of the Year Award and the $150 check that goes with it. Here’s what you need to do:
  • Enter only one manuscript.
  • Mark whether your submission is long fiction, short fiction, nonfiction, or poetry.
  • Mail the opening 1,000 words or 5 pages: hard copy, double spaced, 12-point type (about four pages).
  • Plan to attend the closing banquet (required) to learn if you are one of our lucky winners.
  • Deadline for entries: June 17.

7 Tips for a Great Conference by Annie Sullivan

We welcome MWW alum Annie Sullivan as our guest who shares her  7 Tips to Getting the Most Out of Any Writing Conference.

Annie Sullivan is a Young Adult author from Indianapolis, Indiana. Her work has been featured in Curly Red Stories and Punchnels, and her novel, Goldilocks, won the Luminis Books Award at the 2013 Midwest Writers Workshop. She loves fairytales, everything Jane Austen, and traveling and exploring new cultures. When she’s not off on her own adventures, she’s teaching classes at the Indiana Writers Center and working as the Copy Specialist at John Wiley and Sons, Inc. publishing company, having also worked there in Editorial and Publicity roles.

You can follow Annie’s adventures on Twitter (@annsulliva) or on her blog: https://anniesullivanauthor.wordpress.com/

I attended my first writing conference back in 2013, the 40th annual MWW, and I went in with one goal: to get a literary agent. Every decision I made was calculated on how best to accomplish that goal. Did I leave that conference with a literary agent? No. But I did leave with the knowledge and connections that helped me land one within the next four months. So here are my secrets to how you can get the most out of a writing conference.

 

Treat it like a job.

If you want to actually make money writing, then you have to treat it like a business. Invest in business cards. Start author pages on Facebook and/or create a blog or Twitter account. Make sure people can find/contact you after they leave the conference.

[MWW Director note: if you need help, MWW17 offers free social media tutoring for Facebook, Twitter, and blogging.]

 

Define your brand.

Since you need to treat writing like a job, you need to figure out what your brand is and make sure you’re consistent. This means, if you’re writing picture books and an agent goes to your Twitter and sees nothing but tweets full of profanity, they may be turned off (unless that’s what your picture book is about, of course.) You need to encompass what you’re trying to sell. This means dressing the part, too. If you’re pitching an agent face-to-face, look presentable. However, if your brand is all about goth vampires, don’t be afraid to let that show in your clothing and makeup choices. You have to be the best representative of what you’re pitching them. This also stands true with alcohol consumption. While some people may need some liquid courage before facing agents during a conference’s cocktail hour, you can leave a bad impression if you consume too much. Keep in mind your brand encompasses all that you do and say.

 

Strategically plan your agent interactions.

Many conferences offer a chance to pitch agents. Take advantage of this. Of course, do thorough research ahead of time to see which agent is the best fit. (Go to an agent’s website to see what types of books they are looking for.) At some conferences, they also offer everything from query critiques to first 10 pages critiques, often by editors and agents. If that’s the case, it could be worth the money to do both, especially if there were two or three agents who might be a good fit for your story. By doing a pitch with one agent, a query critique with another, and 10 page critique with a third, you can successfully get feedback from all three and see if they’re interested. If nothing else, when you do query them, you can include that you met them at that specific conference, which always helps.

**Bonus Tip** Sign-up for the conference early for the best chance of getting to pitch/have a query critique with the agent or editor you want. Slots often fill up fast!

 

Find your people.

Conferences are one of the best places to meet critique partners. Talk with as many people as you can to find other writers who write in your genre or age group. Take advantage of activities like “Find Your Tribe” to meet people who write what you do. Even if you leave without making any headway with agents, you might just leave with a new critique partner who can help you polish your next work in progress so it catches an agent’s eye. Or, a new writer friend might have an agent already and be willing to put in a good word for you.

 

Don’t be a wallflower.

If you’re shy or introverted, it can be hard to put yourself out there. But if there are opportunities to read your work aloud or have your first sentence critiqued during a session, speak up. You never know what agent has sneaked into a session and is listening. The more you put yourself out there, the more you’ll get in return.

 

Make the most of every opportunity.

Having lunch and there’s an empty seat next to that literary agent you know would love your book? Take it! Did an author give a great session on world building? Stop them in the hallway and let them know. You never know what interaction could open a door for you. Be kind and sincere, and don’t be afraid to take chances. (Note: DO NOT approach literary professionals in the bathroom, and do not blind pitch them when you’re standing in the lunch line. Only tell them about your story if they ask, and generally, they will ask because they’re just as eager to find good stories as you are to get published.)

 

Don’t be afraid to attend different sessions.

Are you a fantasy writer? Don’t be afraid to attend a session on writing mysteries. You never know what tips you might pick up about adding suspense and writing about villains. The biggest thing is to go in with an open mind so that you can absorb all the information being thrown at you, and then, when you get back in front of your manuscript, you can sort out how to implement it.

Above all, have fun and make friends. Being a writer can be tough and isolating, but going to conferences is one of the best ways to break out of those ruts. Take chances, and maybe in a year or two, you could be that author giving a session on voice or point of view. Good luck, and I hope to see you at Midwest Writers Workshop this year!

For a detailed listing of the 2017 MWW schedule, and to find out the writing instructors, agents and editors who make up this year’s amazing faculty, click on the link below.

Register now !

NYT Bestselling coming to MWW17 | Angie Thomas

If you’ve ever wanted to meet a debut novelist who started on the bestseller lists right out of the gate, come to Midwest Writers Workshop in July!

Since The Hate U Give released in February, Angie Thomas has been super busy! It turns out an extensive book tour and giving tons of interviews will do that to a person’s schedule.

But recently, we caught up with her in London and she gave us a quick email interview.

Angie Thomas was born, raised, and still resides in Jackson, Mississippi as indicated by her accent. She is a former teen rapper whose greatest accomplishment was an article about her in Right-On Magazine with a picture included. She holds a BFA in Creative Writing from Belhaven University and an unofficial degree in Hip Hop. She is an inaugural winner of the Walter Dean Myers Grant 2015, awarded by We Need Diverse Books. Her debut novel, The Hate U Give, was acquired by Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins in a 13-house auction and was published on February 28, 2017. Film rights have been optioned by Fox 2000 with George Tillman attached to direct and Hunger Games actress Amandla Stenberg attached to star. Follow Angie on social media:  Twitter: @acthomasbooks / Website:  AngieThomas.com

MWW: Your debut novel, The Hate U Give, was sold at auction with 13 publishers competing for the highest bid, and interest worldwide. Did that prepare you for the success you’ve had since its release? How are you feeling and what are you thinking after 6 weeks at #1 on the New York Times Bestselling list?

AT: I was totally not prepared for this. It’s surreal and a dream come true.

MWW: You’ve said that you thought about this story for a few years and I know you were in a creative writing program at college. What helped you the most in writing a compelling story?

AT: The thing that helped me the absolute most was to decide to write it for myself and no one else.

MWW: When you come to Midwest Writers Workshop this summer, you’ll talk about your debut and also about diversity in books. Do you have a few tips for writing a diverse book that resonates?

AT: (1) Remember that not every story is your story to tell, and that’s okay. (2)  Diversity is not a trend. Approaching it this way dehumanizes marginalized people. (3)  If you’re writing an identity outside of your own, sensitivity readers are a must.

MWW: Your agent, Brooks Sherman, is returning to MWW. What’s an insider secret on how to impress him? Or what is a no-no?

AT: He doesn’t like issue books, but great books with issues. Also, he’s the coolest Slytherin you will ever meet.

MWW: How do you know Becky Albertalli, who is also coming to MWW17?

AT: Becky and I consider ourselves soul mates – we share the same agent, same editor, same publishing house, same film producers, and sometimes the same thoughts despite our different opinions on Oreos.

How about some quick thoughts:

MAC or PC?

PC though a MAC may be in my future

Pantser or plotter?

A bit of both fortunately and unfortunately.

Early bird or night owl?

Night owl for sure

Scrivener or Word software?

Just got Scrivener and love it!

**** 

Speaking of Scrivener, MWW17 has you covered this summer. Dee Romito is returning to present “Getting to Know Scrivener” Part I Intensive Session – a full day’s instruction on the amazing writing software everyone’s talking about.

The Scrivener software is inexpensive (under $50), although there is a steep learning curve. Many people agree with Angie that the software is well worth the effort to learn. Let MWW help you speed up the process with our one day intensive session.

4 Ways to Love Scrivener, by Dee

Get organized.

Keep all your chapters, scenes, research, and links right at your fingertips. It’s all in one place!

Move around quickly.

With a simple click, go from Chapter 1 to Chapter 20 to plotting notes to research. No more scrolling or opening multiple files.

Multiple ways to work.

Write in the editor, or switch over to corkboard or outline view quickly and easily.

Go for your goals.

Set a word count goal for your manuscript and current session. You’ll see it keep track and change color as you get closer to your goal. 🙂
Come and meet Angie, Dee, and the rest of our fantastic faculty this summer!

Register now !

Join us for the 44th MWW ~ MWW17

In 2016, the Midwest Writers Workshop moved to its new location at the L.A. Pittenger Student on the campus of Ball State University.  The faculty and participants enjoyed this sprawling facility with its extra parking slots, classrooms, Starbucks, food court, lounge areas, and–would you believe–a bowling alley! What other writers’ conference offers an opportunity to bowl with authors and agents!  

Now for the “MORE” and “NEW” of 2017….

The additional space enables us to accommodate MORE writers, faculty, editors, agents, and workshops. We have a large faculty that includes a NEW intensive session on screenwriting, a NEW session on writing for children, and a NEW session on Adventures in Developmental Editing. We have bestselling and award-winning faculty for thriller, memoir, young adult, women’s fiction, nonfiction; PLUS Scrivener, PLUS six agents and three editors. 

We’ve put together a schedule that balances keynote talks on both the craft and business of writing, hands-on learning, panel discussions, and opportunities for manuscript evaluations, query letter critiques, professional head shots, social media tutoring, and tax/business consultations. We’re now able to offer 10 Part I intensive sessions and 45+ sessions for Part II on Friday and Saturday. We’ve made it extremely tough to decide which ones to attend!

Amid all that MWW offers, one thing will remain constant: Hoosier hospitality. Our planning team works hard to create the kind of friendly environment that gives new and veteran writers room to grow. Whether you’re a “regular” who makes Midwest Writers Workshop an annual event, or a first-timer who has decided–like us–to take a giant leap this year to the next level, we look forward to welcoming you on July 20!

Look at this stellar faculty!

Look at this fantastic schedule!

THEN … make haste and go

Here to register online!

… and just so you know, the Part I Intensive Sessions have small and limited class sizes, so don’t wait too long to register!

MWW Ongoing course | Word Play with Liz Whiteacre

You spoke. We listened. So many of our MWW16 attendees commented on Liz Whiteacre’s sessions and pleaded for us to offer more opportunities for her brilliant and helpful writing instruction.

Now’s your chance! Word Play is a 4-unit course, starting Monday, May 1st. Registration is now open!

 

 

Word Play is a short, low-stakes course designed to help you take a break from bigger projects and take some time to play with language. It presents focused writing exercises that explore diction and figurative language choices, which help us develop voice in our stories, essays, and poems.

Writers of all levels and intentions are encouraged to join these focused word-based exercises, honing language skills and developing new ones that will support the writing they do in any genre. Many prompts may become prewriting for new projects or help you revise projects already in the works.

About the Instructor

Liz Whiteacre has been teaching writing since 2000. She’s worked with writers of all ages and abilities at places like University of Indianapolis, Ball State University, College of DuPage, the Indiana Writers Center, and the Indianapolis Chinese Community Center. In 2015, she won an Excellence in Teaching Award from Ball State University. She was poetry faculty for the Midwest Writers Workshop in 2016. Whiteacre’s poems have appeared in Kaleidoscope, Wordgathering, Disability Studies Quarterly, Disabled World , and other magazines. She is the author of Hit the Ground and co-editor of Monday Coffee & Other Stories of Mothering Children with Special Needs.

What this Course Includes

You will receive weekly video lectures, writing exercises and recommended readings, and access to the private Word Play Facebook community where you might share questions, excerpts of your writing, your responses to reflection questions, etc.

Each week you will receive a new unit with three language-based exercises, so you may tailor your experience to your needs and schedule.  Each lesson also offers suggestions for further reading on related topics, which you can chose to do while you work on exercises during the class or chose to save for the future.

And a bonus: You’ll have access to these four units and lessons indefinitely.

We’re so very pleased that MWW Ongoing is offering this opportunity to help you develop your writing muscles and stretch your creativity. At just $50, it’s a bargain.

 

Let’s play!

REGISTER HERE!

Novel to TV series | Screenwriter Nina Sadowsky | MWW17

Midwest Writers Workshop 2017 is offering a NEW Part I Intensive Session on “Screenwiriting,” and we’re pleased to welcome screenwriter and novelist Nina Sadowsky.

This class will provide an in-depth overview of writing for film and television. A mixture of lecture, in-class exercises and screenings will give the participants an understanding of how material is pitched, developed and produced in Hollywood as well as tips for successful screenwriting.

Spots to Nina’s intensive session are limited and we expect this one to fill up fast.

Register now!

A New York City native, Nina R. Sadowsky is an entertainment lawyer (in recovery) who has worked as a film and television producer and writer for most of her career.  Just Fall, published by Ballantine in March 2016 is her first novel, and is now in development as an original series for STARZ. She has written numerous original screenplays and adaptations and done rewrites for such companies as The Walt Disney Company, Working Title Films, and Lifetime Television.

She served as President of Production for Signpost Films, a film financier and foreign distributor, where she worked on such projects as the Academy Award nominated “The House of Sand and Fog,” starring Jennifer Connelly and Ben Kingsley. Prior to joining Signpost, she served as President of Meg Ryan’s Prufrock Pictures for over five years. During her tenure, Prufrock landed first look feature deals with Fox 2000 and Castle Rock Entertainment and an overall long-form television deal with Polygram/Universal Television.

Sadowsky served as executive producer for the hit film “The Wedding Planner,” starring Jennifer Lopez and Matthew McConaughey for Intermedia and Sony, produced “Desert Saints,” an independent film starring Kiefer Sutherland which premiered on Cinemax, and has served as executive director for numerous other films.

She is also currently serving as adjunct faculty at USC’s School of Cinematic Arts program, teaching both writing and producing. Her students have been the recipients of many awards and accolades including best scripted series at the College Television Awards and inclusion in the Cannes Film Festival Shorts Corner. Sadowsky is also currently serving as a mentor for the Humanitas Prize’s New Voices Program, and is a member of Humanitas’ Woolfpack, an organization of women writers, directors and showrunners.

MWW: What’s it feel like to have your debut novel being adapted for a television series?

NS: It’s thrilling that we sold Just Fall to STARZ, particularly as premium cable allows creators to push the limits. I’m especially excited that the network wanted me to write the pilot as they felt the work was so particular to my voice. As far as I know, the title will remain the same. And I wish I had a timetable, but I don’t!

MWW: You’ve said the opening scene of your psychological thriller was inspired in real life when your husband was lying in bed with one arm flung over his head. You imagined him dead, just for a moment. Why do you think people like yourself, a happily married woman and a mother, write and read dark, crime-filled stories?

NS: Actually, I am a mother of a 21 year old daughter and a 18 year old son and stepmother to other kids (one girl, one boy) now 22 and 20 years old. And the incident you correctly describe happened shortly after we blended the two families (the kids were all teenagers then).  Blending the family created all kinds of tensions between my husband and I that we never anticipated.  We believed “love will beget love” and were gobsmacked when our rosy predictions weren’t fulfilled. It got me thinking about all the couples who throw themselves into love and marriage and then have to get past the romantic idealism and slog through whatever real life throws at them.  In writing Just Fall, I wanted to take those very ordinary, universal feelings and inflate them to a thriller level.  As to why I like to write or read about crime, it comes from my desire to understand human nature.  Why we connect with other people. Why we don’t. Why societies create norms of behavior and what it means to an individual to step out of those norms. When is it right to do the wrong thing? Wrong to do the right thing? I’m trying to make sense of the confusing moral world that surrounds us and I think readers are too.

MWW: What are some ways your work as a film and television producer have influenced your novels? Might novelists benefit from learning screenwriting techniques in your course at MWW as well?

NS: I’d say the biggest influence is in the way I start any scene. I close my eyes and I think about what each production department would need to do in order to bring a scene to life. What are people wearing? What’s the quality of the light? What does the location look like and how do its details reveal something about the characters in the production design? These questions help me envision any scene for a book or a screenplay in a way that serves the narrative.  It’s my philosophy as a film maker that every inch of the frame should contribute to the story, so I think similarly about writing a scene in a book. Every element should be meaningful to furthering character, plot, theme and/or story. And I definitely think novelists can learn from screenwriting techniques. While film and television have highly codified and specific structures, good storytelling is good storytelling!

MWW: Just Fall seemed to be about taking risks as a writer, from the overall structure, to the sentence structure, to setting description, to characters that behave in unexpected ways. Do you have a tip or five on why authors wanting to break in or break out should take risks?

NS: Truth be told, when I started Just Fall, my sole hope was to finish it. It was a personal exercise borne out of the personal marital tension I was wrestling with as well as some frustration with the film and TV business. Because my expectations were so minimal, I felt very free. I played with structure partly because I wanted to shuck off the highly rigid structures of film and TV. I also wanted to play with structure as a way of revealing character, as opposed to solely using it to advance plot.  I subverted the stereotypes common to the thriller genre like the “damsel in distress.” I describe the writing of the novel as sort of a “howl,” one that came from a very deep place. No one was more shocked than I was when I exposed the book and very quickly found myself selling it to Ballantine/Random House!  I think one must always take risks.  Writing for the “perceived market” or writing something to which one doesn’t feel authentically connected is in my mind a mistake. Be bold or go home!

MWW: Tell us something distinctive about your writing process?

NS: I create an index card for every scene or chapter with a one line description about the scene. This reminds me to keep the main thing the main thing when I go to write.

MWW: As an adjunct professor in screenwriting at UCLA, what mistakes do students make? Besides reading Just Fall, is there a craft book you recommend your MWW students read in preparation for your course?

NS: I love SAVE THE CAT, which is a great primer on structure. Also when writing for film and TV one must adhere to proper format (if no other reason than improper formatting pegs you as an amateur). And if my students can read Just Fall before the course, I will be able to discuss how we approached its adaptation for TV.

MWW: Anything you would like to add?

NS: I’m looking forward to the MWW!

Quick hits:

1) Plotter or pantser (no pre-planning)?

A bit of both. I start usually with a theme and a visual and then begin to work up characters. I rewrite myself constantly, rewriting the last day’s work before I start on the new day’s work. And outline only once I’m deep into the first draft.

2) Critique group/hired editor or go it alone?

I have a couple of trusted readers, but my brilliant editor at PRH is the one I rely on the most.

3) Scrivener writing software, Microsoft Word or other?

Microsoft Word

4) Early bird or night owl?

Best in the morning, but can write all day and night if on a deadline!

5) Fast, messy drafter or slow and methodical?

Fast. Gut it out. Don’t obsess on every word. Writing is rewriting!

 

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Just Fall

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