Back in January 2011 I wrote an article about a writer’s group I’m a participant and original member in called the Night Writers. We meet once a month at the Liverpool Public Library, usually the last Wednesday of the month unless it’s a holiday month like November & December. We’re sponsored by the library, although we haven’t always been.
Tim Dodge works in insurance, but he’s also a trustee with the library and our current coordinator/leader; works for me since I’m out of town so often. He’s also a great writer in my opinion. He has a blog and does many podcasts, some of them interviews and some reading portions of his books. Thus, I thought he would be a perfect candidate to interview; below are his thoughts on writer’s groups and writing in general:
1. I initially wrote about the Night Writers group back in January 2011. What was your thought about the group when you came to your first meeting?
It was so long ago that I don’t really remember the first meeting. I do remember that I had attended a workshop at the library on a Saturday and learned about the group that way. I had participated in a couple of online critique groups, so I guess my expectation was that it would be a live version of that.
2. We have a core of people who have been in the group for a long time, but have problems getting more people into it. However, at one point there were so many people that there was talk of having two separate groups. What happened and what do you think needs to happen to increase participants?
That has been a source of frustration for me for a long time. I think the period of time when we were not a library-sponsored program hurt. The group was no longer mentioned in library flyers and other promotional material. We had to do our own promotion, which was ad hoc at best. Now that we are a sponsored program again, I think participation is creeping up a bit. Every month there seems to be another new face at the meeting. However, not many of them come a second time, which is discouraging. I think we’re in general a pretty supportive bunch, so I don’t think people are turned away by criticism. It could be that a monthly meeting is not habit-forming. Still, I think continued promotion by the library is the key. They can reach a lot more people than we can on our own.
3. What do you think makes Night Writers different than other writer’s groups, if you know anything about other groups?
I think we are a bit more relaxed and welcoming than some other groups. I can’t really generalize, as I’ve only attended one or two other groups, but I have attended some where the critiques tend to be a bit sharper than ours are. Nothing necessarily wrong with that as long as participants know what to expect. However, while some of us who attend Night Writers are serious about writing, others just like to dabble, which is fine, too. Our group is very accepting of writers who have a wide variety of goals.
4. Let’s talk about the writing process. All of us have different ways of doing things, but tell us your process.
My process is evolving. I wrote three novels without doing any outlining, then I wrote a fourth one with an outline. I’ve just started another without an outline, but that doesn’t mean I won’t create one once I’ve got a firm idea of where I’m going with it. I try to write at different times of the day, but I seem to be most productive at lunch or early evening.
5. Do you think you can get the same type of feedback from having people critique you live or online, since I know you put many of your submissions out on the internet in some form?
There’s a definite difference between live and online. I think there’s a tendency to be nicer in person, which may or may not be a good thing. Writing is seldom all good or all bad. In person, people may tend to talk only about what was good, whereas online they may emphasize what they didn’t like. Obviously, a balance between the two is best, unless the writing is truly awful.
6. Talk about the different ways you share your stories online and what led you to the processes.
Sometime around 2006, I discovered podcasts, and it didn’t take me long to find some shows about writing. I found podcasts hosted by authors who were hoping to become successful but weren’t quite there yet. Mur Lafferty, Scott Sigler and Tee Morris are the most notable examples because they all have since published books with large New York publishing houses. I found that all of these authors and others had built audiences by releasing their stories and entire novels as serialized audio podcasts and distributing them for free on the Web.
An entire online “store” called www.podiobooks.com has hundreds of titles available for free. I took the plunge myself in early 2009 by releasing my novel “Acts of Desperation” that way. My comedy novel “Purgatory” followed later that same year. Recording an entire novel is a lot of work, but it was very rewarding. Both of those books are still available on podiobooks.com.
7. Have you ever come close to having someone publish any of your works? If not, how do you feel about self publishing overall and how have you tried selling your stories?
I published a couple of stories years ago, but there was no payment involved, so I don’t really count it. An agent asked for the full manuscript of my latest book last winter, but I have not heard anything since, so I’m not optimistic on that front. I self-published “Purgatory” in paperback and ebook formats a year and a half ago. The process was not terribly difficult, thought it was time-consuming to get it just the way I wanted. However, to successfully self-publish you have to devote a lot of time and energy to marketing. To be perfectly honest, I have not done a good job at that.
8. What led you to trying to be a writer, and can you honestly say that if you could make your living at it that you’d give up your present career and never look back?
I remember being seven or eight years old and thinking I’d like to write a book. I wrote little articles and plays for student newspapers and class plays in elementary school, and I was a writer and editor for my high school newspaper. I worked for my college newspaper for one semester. In short, I’ve always enjoyed writing. Fiction writing is hard work, but there’s no better feeling than when you write those last two words at the end of a novel — “The End”. It’s a great feeling of accomplishment. I don’t know that I would give up my career to write full-time right now, but I can picture myself doing it as I get closer to retirement age.
9. We’ve had previous members who felt that one of the goals of Night Writers should be to get someone published. You know our members; I think you and I are the only two who have really tried to get something published. What do you believe the overall goal of our group should be?
It would be great to get someone published, but that’s not an easy thing to do when literary agents report getting 200 queries a week. I think the goal should just be for everyone who participates to be better writers after participating than they were before. And for everyone to enjoy themselves. If it’s not fun, why do it?
10. Make a pitch; tell central New York why they should check us out.
Do you like to write but are afraid you’re not good enough? Do you want people who are more objective than your mom to review your work, people who will tell you what is and isn’t working in your story? Are you intimidated by the thought that other writers are way better than you?
At Night Writers, you’ll find other writers who are in the same place you are. People who will tell you what they like and make gentle suggestions for improvement. The only people allowed to make harsh judgments are those who have made the New York Times best-seller list, and they always seem to be busy on meeting nights. At Night Writers, you’ll get a chance to present your work and to critique the work of others, in a relaxed atmosphere where the emphasis is on getting better at writing in the company of friends. New members and their friends are always welcome!
There’s good things that can happen when I like you and I’m fascinated by you. In this case, it’s a second visit with my friend, the artist Isaac Bidwell, whom I interviewed not only above but did a different interview on my other blog and then mentioned because of an art show he produced locally that I went to. I’m fascinated by the local art scene and it works out that I get to see some of what Isaac’s involved in, whether it’s his art or not. So, let’s learn more about the Syracuse and central New York ark scene:
Extremely hectic. I have 3-4 galleries in California that I show with regularly, another in New York City and a few other ones throughout the states I show with from time to time.
2. These days you’re helping to promote the art of others. How did that come about?
About 8-10 years ago I was in an Oswego art collective called Hat Factory. We were all about getting artists’ artwork out to the locals. After a few years of that (as well as sitting on the board of directors of an art assoc.) I realized I needed to do things on my own, not necessarily as a group effort.
After playing around with some ideas, I decided to publish handmade art books. I realized that a majority of the artists I was encountering were very lazy and unfocussed. So I started publishing artists from other countries. For the size of the project, things went well. Since then, then books have featured many emerging international artists and some that are way beyond in all aspects of their careers. I’m actually working on a horror book, showcasing the best horror artists in the world. It’s extremely flattering getting artists to work with me, especially ones that have careers I’ve followed for some time.
The other thing I do now, which I’m assuming brought this question on, is curate again. I’ve had to look hard, but there’s some really great local artists, ranging from novice to expert. I organized an art show about every three months at Tymeless Tattoo. As more galleries close in the city (all my favorites are now closed), it’s great to have a place that gives me total freedom to show when and whom I want. The artists are here, now it’s just getting the community to appreciate them.
3. Tattoos; I have to admit that it’s probably only in the last 5 years or so that I’ve come to grips with it being kind of a natural thing, not having grown up around it. Can you understand how some of us older folks might wonder why gorgeous women might get tattoos and why it sometimes takes a long time to get used to it?
Not really, I don’t understand the disconnect. It’s a way of expressing yourself through what’s on your body. Unfortunately sometimes it’s a $50 tattoo, then I wonder why gorgeous woman have those tattoos…
But in all seriousness, tattooing has come a long way. The machines are better, the ink is better, and frankly the artists (depending on where you go) are better.
4. I know you’ve sponsored art shows with only paintings and such, but have you ever considered sponsoring an art show of pictures of tattoos?
We’ve joked around about doing something like that at the shop. Our next show will be old school flash, so that will be pretty close.
(Tattoo flash is the artwork seen in tattoo shops. It helps customers pick what they would like on them. While there is no tattoo flash as Tymeless, many of the artists, will draw in an old style (old school).
I’ve messed around with art that allows me to draw faster. I do a lot more sketch work than before. I also have been doing lots of art shows with themes, such as Walking Dead, Wes Anderson and Saturday morning Cartoons. That can effect how and what I draw.
6. Is there an art scene in central New York where artists get together to appreciate each others work and talk about the craft?
There now is actually. I’m organizing a drink and draw. A drink and draw is a social meeting, where artists can meet up at a pub with their sketchbooks and sit back with a pint. It’s a great way to interact with each other as well as be seen in the public.
I’m big into reminding the city that we’re here. Syracuse, like many other smaller cities, is not very art friendly. Now that I have a studio here, I plan on doing my best to change that.
7. Are you only drawn to modern art or are there artists in history whose work you appreciate? Have you ever tried to emulate any of them?
I had a show a few months ago out in Long Beach that had the theme of just that. We took older classic works, and drew them in our style. I picked Klimt, please Google him if you’re unfamiliar with the work, it’s outstanding.
I’m not sure if I understand what you’re asking, so I’ll put it this way…
Personally when I talk to artists I look at it this way, is it a hobby or do they want it as a career? Most say career, but they get uppity when you start to talk about business. If you hate business or can’t do it, and are beginning in this field, either learn it or get out of it. There’s so much more to this than creating pretty pictures or placing “what you feel” onto the canvas.
You have marketing, goal setting, networking, financing and on and on. This is something 99% of the art schools don’t teach you. Everyone that goes to school for Art, should have to take a business class. Not an “Art” business class, but a real one.
In about another year, I plan on doing art talks about just that… the real “Art” world. Not the fantasy. There’s a reason why the successful artists I know has it together. This notion of the care free, unorganized artist is a joke. You will not succeed with out some sort of business foundation.
Well, I’ve been calling October my hell month for a plethora of reasons. I’ll be in 3 art shows that will be my biggest (most popular) of the year, all that month. I’ll be in Gallery 1988’s Crazy for Cult (dubbed the Super Bowl of pop art), Spoke Art’s Wes Anderson’s Bad Dad’s 4 and AMC’s The Walking Dead.
I’ll be hustling my artwork at craft fairs, comic cons, and horror shows around then too…plus I want to have my horror book in print by then… and I’m supposed to be a featured artists at this new venue called Dichotomy, out in Rochester.
As for my own projects, I purchased a screen printing business and will be creating a clothing line as well as toys. Over the winter I plan on doing art talks at various venues, like colleges and galleries.
10. I notice I didn’t get my invite to that big fancy opening with the “pretty people”; will you make sure I’m on the next one?
I’ll tell ya Mitch, a few months ago I was in NYC for a Scorsese tribute art show. It had a couple thousand of New York’s hottest. What a great experience. I had passes, I could have gotten you in. You’ll be VIP for the next one sir.
Time certainly flies! Back on April 16th we had the second meeting of the CNY Bloggers group, this time at Kitty Hoynes. Many of the people who came to the first one were at the second, along with some new folks. I can’t find the sheet now to list all the new people unfortunately, but it was a good time nonetheless.
There was one guy who made a very interesting impression however. His name is Larry Dietrich, and he’s the editor in chief for the Syracuse New Times. His presentation to the group was simple – write for us! In essence, something he’s like to see is more of a local flavor for the New Times online, and he’s reaching out to local bloggers to help do this.
It’s an interesting concept, one that reminded me of Huffington Post, so I asked some questions and answered a couple as well since I’m familiar with the concept in general. Each person approved would get their own byline and a link back to their blog. One can decide to write new content or post something that’s already on their blog; they don’t have the ability to repost via RSS so it would be a copy and paste situation if one went that route.
This is the kind of thing that takes some forethought. As the New Times figures out just what they really want, local bloggers would also have to figure out a few things.
One, time commitment; if someone is accepted will there be a request for a certain type of regularity that the blogger might not be capable of?
Two, will a blogger be limited to one post a week or can a blogger have multiple posts?
Three, if a blogger disappears for a long time, will they automatically be removed while their content stays?
Four, how many people who write will be allowed to write on the same subject? For instance, within the group are multiple people who write about food, designing and saving money; would those clash with each other, as well as the general goal of the New Times?
Of course the major benefit is potential traffic and notoriety. The majority of local blogs don’t come close to the traffic figures the New Times offers, and even those blogs ranked higher probably aren’t known by as many local people as they are people from around the world (I’d count myself on that one because of a couple of my other blogs). I know a few local people who’d be great writing for the New Times.
There is no pay, which is something that irked a lot of HuffPo writers when the creator sold it for lots of money so you might as well get that delusion out of your head. And yet, if your missives brought traffic to your blog and website… who knows right?
At this juncture I’m waiting to hear from Larry, who said he was going to reach out to me at some point. I’m on the fence because I write a lot already, and yet being able to reach more local bloggers than I do now, even with this blog… that would be hard to turn down. What do you think of this prospect?
I love cartoons, although I lean towards Warner Brothers and most older cartoons of that type. I also love art… okay, art that I can understand. I may not understand Picasso all that much but I had a feeling that I would easily understand the latest art show that was titled “Tooned In” that was exhibited at the Tymeless Tattoo Parlor in Baldwinsville this past Saturday night.Isaac Bidwell, who I interviewed at the link that’s attached to his name. This is actually the second art show he’s led that I’ve gone to in the same location, as there was another one held around Halloween that also had a lot of great pieces, some admittedly scary but still very fascinating; I can’t believe I didn’t write about that one.
Below you’ll see some of the other pieces for which I took pictures of so you can see the types of work there was. I tell you, there are some very talented people in central New York, and I’m glad I got to be a part of it in my own way. I just wish I was a better photographer. Be sure to click on the images to see them as they were actually taken, as I had to show them this way for formatting purposes.
A unique event created by myself. Maybe not so unique but hey, it’s my show.
Today I’m running Christmas and holiday songs on all my blogs. I’m doing this because I love Christmas songs and I felt that there’s so much other stuff going on that I wanted to do something just for the day. It also gives me a chance to introduce this audience to my other blogs, which you might not know about, all of which are more prominent than this one.
Those other blogs only have 3 songs each; this one will have 5 songs. I hope everyone has a wonderful holiday with their families if they have them, and if not then I wish you peace and happiness for the day. First, the other blogs are:
And now the songs: