Author Stacey Longo Talks Writing and the Habits of a Writer

by Jason Harris

Author Stacey Longo spoke to an attentive audience at the Douglas Library in Hebron, CT on Wednesday night about being a successful writer. Longo knows what she is talking about since she has sold over 20 stories and has been in over a dozen anthologies. She also has published a children’s book, Pookie and the Lost and Found Friend, and a collection of 12 tales, Secret Things,which was released in October. Along with writing, she is also an editor with a number of successful edited books including Wicked Seasons: The Journal of New England Horror Writers, Volume II.2013-12-11 08.41.01

Before she began her horror writing career in 2010, she was selling articles to newspapers and magazine such as The Island Crier and The Works. She was also a humor columnist for the Block Island Times. She has also just been hired to review B horror movies for the Cinema Knife Fight website.

The habits of a successful writer include writing a lot, Longo said. A writer should be setting realistic deadlines and goals. If these deadlines and goals are not realistic, you will just be defeating yourself and setting yourself up to fail. Stephen King writes 10 pages a day. Ernest Hemingway wrote 500 words a day.

“Thomas Harris took 10 years to write the sequel to Silence of the Lambs. Robert James Waller wrote The Bridges of Madison County in 6 weeks. Both were NY Times bestsellers.”

One shouldn’t use Harris as an excuse not to write every day or at least a few days a week, she said.

Stacey Longo talking to a crowd interested in writing.

Stacey Longo talking to a crowd interested in writing.

A writer should even read more than they are writing. Reading is always good, but it should be well-written book,s not poorly-written books such as the Twilight series by Stephenie Meyer, she said. There are two books every writer should read. They are The Elements of Style by William Strunk Jr. and E. B. White and On Writing by King. A writer needs to know the rules of writing before choosing to break those rules.

If you want to write, you should seek out workshops, conventions, and writers’ groups so as to meet other writers. Longo states that writing is a lonely profession and meeting fellow writers is always a good thing. Other writers can help you or you may be able help them with editing, a potential market, or even with a story problem. “The best way to learn about the craft of writing is to talk to others who have been successful at it.”

Longo met Ken Wood, publisher of Shock Totem, in 2009 at the Northeastern Writer’s Conference (NECON). In 2011, he asked her to write-up an anecdote she had told him about her father so it could be printed in the magazine’s holiday issue.

When it comes to editing, it’s very important to Longo. Everyone needs to learn the basics of sentence structure, grammar, punctuation, and verb tenses. If you can do these things in your story, you won’t do it in a query letter, which will lead to no agents or publishers reading your story. This is where your fellow writers or your writer’s group comes in handy. Let them read your first draft and listen to their suggestions. Your first draft isn’t going to be publishable.

“No book on the shelves today is still in the original draft form that the writer first wrote. Everything needs editing,” Longo said.2013-12-11 08.39.49

Another important fact for a writer to learn is the need to be prepared for rejection because the publishing world is all subjective, Longo said. One publisher may reject a story while the another one will accept it.

For more information about Stacey Longo, click here.

The ‘King’ of Tsongas Arena

A Conversation with Stephen King

By Timothy P. Flynn

On Friday, Dec. 7th, the streets of Lowell were packed with traffic all heading to a very special event at Tsongas Arena: A Conversation with Stephen King. The event was to mark the first for the Chancellor’s Speaker Series for the English Department at UMass Lowell. One of the esteemed faculty members, Andre Dubas III, acted as host/interviewer for the talk.

“It’s scary as shit in here!” was King’s first words to the audience resulting in an uproar of laughter. This was King’s first ever arena event, he stated, and the feel for the evening was established:  this was going to be a night to remember.  Dubas gave a rather lengthy introduction to the merits of King’s work and movie adaptations to which King cut him off saying, “You make it sound like I died!” When Dubas gave King the compliment of having doubled Charles Dickens in book sales, again King states, “They didn’t have e-books back then.”

The topics talked about included story ideas, aspects of the writing craft, and King’s rise to success. If you read any of the many King biographies out there, some of the more famous stories and anecdotes were brought up such as the origins of Cujo and how King states he never needed a psychiatrist because with all the crazy shit he makes up, people pay him. The funniest story was when King finally had a dinner with Bruce Springsteen at a restaurant in Pennslyvania, and a beautiful 16-year-old girl floated over to the table for an autograph with such excitement. “She didn’t even fucking look at Springsteen!”

Dubas read an extract from On Writing which was very moving having to do with the writing process and the will to continue writing. After Dubas’ reading, King read a brand new story, Afterlife, which was a story of a man who died from colon cancer and the events thereafter. The essence of the story was man’s fear of death, and if given a choice to start over again exactly the same versus blow out like a candle in the wind; most make the wrong choice.

The end of the night consisted of a Q and A session with about 10-15 questions asked. King added his usual wit and humor to his answers along with advice everyone in the room was listening to. A woman in the crowd brought a poster board picture of King at Fenway reading a book and her question was if King knew what book it was. Well, this slick creative woman got her poster board brought up to the stage for King to look at only to find a large sign in the back of it stating, “Sign Me!”- With roars from the crowd, King signed it.

556837_10200367388130995_510152151_n

A group of Stephen King fans.

After the event was over, a bunch of us NEHW members met up at front to recall the night. We all went down the street to Lowell Beer Works for awhile to end the night. You can use your imagination on how the conversation went and topics discussed.

The event was a surreal, fantastic memory that I will forever cherish. I read King’s books, I created a challenge to myself via his On Writing memoir, I proposed to Barbara in front of his house in Bangor, Maine and now I was able to hear his talk and joke in the same room( very far away though). I am getting closer, maybe one day I can get that signature and that picture.