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Local Women Authors and Publishers Find Their Voices at Madison Meeting

More than 60 area poets and prose writers meet for critiques and companionship.

Women Who Write, which was established in the early '90s, is a group of (mostly) women who need the companionship and the critical eye of other writers.

The organization, founded in northern New Jersey, held its first full-day writer’s conference on Saturday at the , drawing nearly 60 writers of poetry and prose for workshops and critiques by authors and professional editors representing three publishing houses in Manhattan.

Marietta B. Zacker, an agent specializing in books for young readers with the Nancy Gallt Literary Agency, said these kind of conferences were “a great way to meet writers and illustrators.”

Pat Weissner, a Women Who Write former president who lives in Madison, has written 13 short stories for young adults, one of which she is developing into a novel. “I found when I started writing a story I was a 15-year-old,“ said Weissner, a former bookkeeper who now consults in elder finance. “I’m an adolescent at heart.“

Another Madison resident, Maureen Haggerty, also a former president, is a poet whose work has appeared in journals. Joining a group like Women Who Write is not only an inspiration, but a motivator.

“What keeps me honest are the meetings twice a month. You better have something to read,“ she said. Women Who Write has a membership of 105, all of whom belong to one of 12 different critique groups who meet twice a month.

Marcia Ivans, a poet from Chatham, has taken her love of poetry a step further as the organizer for Poetry and Pastries, a monthly performance based event held at Café Beethoven on Chatham’s Main Street. For $10, “they get all the coffee and cake they want and plenty of poetry,” said Ivans who wore a T-shirt to the conference with “Ask Me About My Book” on the front and a photo of her book “Over Easy” on the back.

Many of the writers work in “civilian life” and juggle the demands of a busy life with the need to write. Haggerty is a career counselor at the County College of Morris. WWW’s president, Marie Castronuovo Ascolese of Basking Ridge, is an attorney working at a Manhattan law firm and raising four children.

“There’s only so much a person can do,” explained Ascolese who has 120 pages done on a novel, a coming-of-age story based on a father-daughter relationship.

Half of those signed up for the all-day conference had also paid for 15- minute critiques of their work. Based on a page with eight questions, writers of children’s books got a professional assessment of their work. The editors included Katherine R. Harrison, children’s assistant editor at Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers; Emily Seife, children’s associate editor at Scholastic Press and Heather Alexander, assistant editor at Dial Books for Young Readers.

Giving talks on aspects of writing were poets Anastasia Werner and Dr. Susan Osborn of Rutgers University and authors Judith Lindbergh and Michelle Cameron.

The meeting broke up for lunch, with guest speakers and professionals being treated. She expected a lot of the attendees to walk a few steps to for lunch.

“I did warn them,” to expect around 40 women,” she said. “They’ve got veggie things there.”

pat weissner September 19, 2011 at 01:41 PM
Great article. Thanks for the coverage. Pat Weissner
marie ascolese September 19, 2011 at 01:55 PM
Jamie, thank you for attending! It was a pleasure talking to you. Marie Castronuovo Ascolese
Ginger Pate September 19, 2011 at 02:54 PM
Jamie, Thank you for wonderful coverage for Women Who Write. I didn't realize it was you who was coming from the Patch. Nice to be in touch with you again. We have a picture of you taken by our member Juanita. I'll have to send that on to you. Ginger Pate

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