Getting Serious About Your Writing Mini-conference

Kick Off 2018 With a Bang!

Take January to recover from the holidays, and then we’d love to see you in February! Midwest Writers Workshop is relaunching our popular mini conferences and hitting the road! As much as we love virtual connections, nothing compares to meeting In Real Life (IRL). Plus, this gives us the opportunity to share all the offerings we are adding.

The mini conference, “Getting Serious About Your Writing,” will take place at the Brownsburg Public Library, 450 South Jefferson Street, Brownsburg, Ind. on Saturday, February 10, 2018 from 9 a.m.-11:30 a.m. 

Check out the details:

1) Learn from three multi-published *authors who will share craft techniques, current publishing trends, and inside secrets through keynote addresses, instruction sessions, and a Q & A panel.

2) Light refreshments will be served.

3) Purchase the authors’ books on-site, and they will personally autograph them. (Or it’s okay to buy the books ahead and bring your own for an autograph.)

4) Join a small networking group by email, and possibly meet for lunch afterward (Not required. This activity is on your own, and not part of activities during the mini-conference.)

What does all of this cost?

Just **$20! Pre-registration and payment are required (no sign-ups at the door). Space is limited. Register early!

REGISTER HERE: Getting Serious About Your Writing

**Each attendee will receive an email following the mini-conference with a $20-off discount link to an online course from MWW Ongoing.

* The speakers include:

Nina Sadowsky

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. Her second thriller, The Burial Society, will be published in 2017. Sadowsky is also an adjunct professor at University of Southern California’s School of Cinematic Arts, where she teaches producing and script development. She has written numerous original screenplays and adaptations and done rewrites for such companies as The Walt Disney Company and Working Title Films.

Dianne Drake

Dianne Drake is a former nurse who has now written 60 novels (mostly medical romances), as well as nine nonfiction titles. She has also had countless articles published in magazines such as Family Circle, Woman’s Day, Better Homes & Garden and Seventeen. Dianne is proud to say she got her start at a Midwest Writers Workshop back in 1993.

Kelly O’Dell Stanley

Kelly O’Dell Stanley is a graphic designer and the author of Praying Upside Down and Designed to Pray. Her writing awards include first place in Inspirational Writing in the 2013 Writer’s Digest competition. She is a regular contributor to and Internet Café Devotions, and she has written for numerous magazines and blogs.

Midwest Writers Workshop and the Brownsburg Public Library are non-profit organizations that are hosting this mini conference as a service to the public. Books for sale will be supplied by Bookmamas bookstore.

Refund policy: Sorry, but we are unable to offer refunds for this event.

Book Review of JUST FALL by Nina Sadowsky

[This post is the seventh 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.]

Just Fall: A Psychological Romance by Nina Sadowsky

Murder, missing children, and a mystery of hidden pasts, Nina Sadowsky’s debut novel Just Fall will leave you breathless and asking for more.

When Ellie vowed on the night of her wedding “till death do us part” she probably assumed this would be a concern for later down the road, when her and her too good to be true husband, Rob, were both grey and old and the many experiences of the world behind them. What she never expected was for it to be the death of a strange man (by her hand at that) that would wrench their lives in different directions, sending them down a convoluted path of deceit, trickery, and a violence history both wish would remain rooted firmly in the past.

As Ellie learns about Rob’s dark past she is placed in a terrible situation where it seems there are no good choices left for her to make. In order to save her own life and the life of the man she loves, Ellie will have to cross lines she never dared thought were worth crossing, and question how far she is willing to go in order to survive. Will she kill for the man she proclaimed to love, and if she does, what kind of person will she be when all of this is over?

Mysteries of the past and present unfold, submerging Ellie in a twisted plot of murder, kidnapped children, and drug trade. The only way out is to do exactly as instructed, but before she can make it out alive she’ll have to ask herself the hardest question of all, can she really trust the man who’s criminal past has led her down this dangerous path? At every turn Ellie and Rob must question the motivations behind their own actions, as they are forced to see not just the darkness in their loved one’s past, but finally face the darkness in their own hearts that they’ve been avoiding for so long.

Nina Sadowsky’s debut novel Just Fall, takes the reader through a roller coaster of emotions, concern, desire and doubt, distrust and the ever present hope that there is some good reason behind the character’s heinous actions. The chapters are divided into Now and Then moments, giving the reader minute glimpses into the newlywed’s complicated pasts as the story of the present progresses ever forward. These small hints of painful history keep the reader eager for the next glimpse, and slowly help to unfold the answers to the many questions this twisted tale dares you to ask.

Sadowsky’s style of 3rd person narrative stems from her background as a screenwriter, providing the reader with a unique experience as she switches between a 3rd person point of view with insight into Ellie and Rob’s inner thoughts as well as the occasional, separate, impartial narrator that has the feel of an outsider looking in, trying to make sense of what they are seeing, much like how a movie goer may feel when seeing a feature film in theaters for the first time. This switching between the characters’ POV and the impartial narrator gives an extra level of complexity to the psychological evaluations of the characters actions, allowing us to see both the inner thoughts and reasoning of the characters from their own minds, as well as the questions an outsider without the knowledge of another’s thoughts might ask as they try to make sense of the motivations  behind the characters’ actions.

While the emphasis of Ellie’s physical appearance (as well as her evaluations of other characters’ physical attributes) throughout the book seems a bit excessive it is exactly what I would expect from a character who’s past has left her with crippling insecurity and feelings of being unworthy of other’s attention, let alone affections. Rob on the other hand is a surprisingly likable despite his many faults and wrong doings, and though he is far from mentally stable he exhibits one of the most important key traits in the recovery of any person who has suffered trauma or abuse, the desire and true motivation to change for the better. As we learn more about Rob’s dangerous and terrible past we can see over time how he has changed, both his decent into darkness as well as his dissatisfaction with the person he has become and his desperate, struggling attempts to change.

The one disappointing aspect of this book is that the ending was rather abrupt, having the feel of a thriller or action movie climax, which didn’t have quite achieve the same affect in book format. The turning point seemed to come on a bit sudden, especially after such a carefully planned out, slow release of information, but the suspense and gradual build up of knowledge throughout the novel more than makes up for the abruptness of the end. Overall, Just Fall, is a fascinating and gripping read, with complexity of character to capture the reader’s attention and enough mystery to keep you eager to learn more.

With a sharp attention to psychology and an accurate portrayal of motivations, Sadowsky wonderfully captured a tantalizing, and yet reasonably realistic representation of the horrors and aftermath of a traumatic and difficult life without overly romanticizing or dramatizing too much the horrors the characters lived through. Just Fall will have you sitting on the edge of your seat, ravenous for the next secret to be revealed. As a first novel and psychological thriller/romance, I’d say Just Fall is a great success.

Update July 14, 2017: If you’d like to read my interview with Nina Sadowsky you can find it here.

By Tynan Drake

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!


NOW AVAILABLE from Ballantine/Random House
Just Fall

COMING SOON also from Ballantine/Random House

The Burial Society