joanne Weck Author Page

Saturday, June 29, 2013


“Publishing a book is like stuffing a note into a bottle and hurling it into the sea. Some bottles drown, some come safe to land, where the notes are read and then possibly cherished, or else misinterpreted, or else understood all too well by those who hate the message. You never know who your readers might be.” 
― Margaret Atwood

A writer has to own many hats in today's publishing world.  Writing itself isn't enough. A writer must also be a promoter, a marketer, a public speaker, and perhaps even her own publisher.

It's lucky that I happen to like hats. And hats (literal hats) seem to be stylish again. I see hats as symbolic more than simply stylish. Maybe this has something to do with the old movies I love, the characters and plots that intrigue and inspire me.

In the forties and fifties nearly all men wore the same brimmed style that gave them a certain dignity and authority, while women’s hats seemed to offer insight into their personality and character.

The seductress wore a glamorous picture hat with a veil. The plucky career women (or gal, as they were then called) wore a jaunty little number with a feather. The secretary wore a little peaked cap and the artistic type chose a wild concoction with peacock feathers or something equally exotic.

I sometime ask my characters to choose a hat . This leads me deeper into the story. A hat reveals and conceals. A hat is a disguise or a symbol. And that brings me back to full circle. As a writer you have to have a whole wardrobe full of hats.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013


"Every human being is entitled to courtesy and consideration. Constructive criticism is not only to be expected but sought."   Margaret Chase Smith 

I meet with my writing group once a week. It's as vital to me as the time I spend actually writing. Why? Partly because it encourages me to have something new (or newly edited) every week. Partly because other writers who are enthused about their own work help to keep me enthused and upbeat about mine.

What's the downside? Well, nobody likes criticism. However, if it's constructive criticism delivered in a thoughtful and helpful way (and if others in the group agree) it can point out something I've missed, something I can improve, something that just isn't working.  Insights can come from the most unlikely discussions.

When I critique someone else's work I try to start off by mentioning something about it that I really liked. This isn't hard to do because I work with a talented group of (mostly) published writers. Although the genres we represent vary widely (from paranormal romance to thrillers to nonfiction to short stories to memoir to mystery) each person in my group gives feedback and shows the ability to recognize good (or flawed) writing no matter how the material differs from theirs.

Members of my writing group have been working together for at least six years. The size of the group varies. Some leave, some recommend and invite someone new (to be approved by the group) one, unfortunately, died, one who turned out to be a poor fit was delicately encouraged to resign. Week after week we meet, we discuss, we critique, we rewrite, we meet-- the group goes on, more than a critique group---a support group. WRITE ON!

Tuesday, June 25, 2013


“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one's lifetime.”
― Mark Twain, The Innocents Abroad/Roughing It

I'm waiting to board a plane from San Francisco back to New York, a fairly regular flight. In the past few years I've also  managed to see something of the rest of the world. Sitting in airports, on airplanes, or on the deck of a cruise ship gives me the opportunity to observe my fellow humans and find material for character studies.

I surreptitiously take note of the similarities and disparities of  travelers-- the the details of facial and bodily structures,  styles of clothing and hair, interactions among family and strangers, minor problems and their resolutions.

The loud, elderly woman wearing the latest teen fashions, complete with huge earrings and purple hair makes me smile and speculate while her pre-teen granddaughter rolls her eyes and tries to put distance between them.

A youngish mother with squealing triplets appeals to her husband (immersed in his Wall Street Journal) to "Please, take one of them!" 

 Three young men, two with shaved heads and one with a Mohawk, all with earphones, lounge carelessly, bopping to music, eyeing the pretty girls who wander past, nudging one another, occasionally hazarding a greeting that has so far been ignored.

The grim middle-aged couple in look-alike tan shorts and red
tee shirts haven't looked or spoken to one another in the past twenty minutes.

I invent stories for all of them. Why are they traveling? How did they meet? What is the backstory of
a relationship gone stale? A woman desperate for attention and the semblance of youth? The young men traveling together.

I could put on my own earphones and loose myself in my music or one of the movies I've downloaded onto my computer. But that would interfere with my study of the the human condition and make it difficult to eavesdrop. WRITE ON!

Monday, June 24, 2013


“The opposite of the happy ending is not actually the sad ending--the sad ending is sometimes the happy ending. The opposite of the happy ending is actually the unsatisfying ending.” 
― Orson Scott Card

    I like to go back to re-read the ending of certain novels I enjoyed. The first pages hooked me, of  course, but my overall feeling about the book depends on how satisfied I felt when I closed the cover. I want a novel to end at precisely the right point, neither too early or too late. Sometimes an otherwise enjoyable novel is ruined for me when a writer drags out the action beyond what I think is the perfect stopping point.

What does constitute a satisfying ending for me? One that has an element of the unexpected, that leaves me slightly off balance, with questions lurking to be mulled over.
 Unlike some readers who sneak a peek at the last pages while reading earlier chapters, I savor the smooth unfolding right down to the final words. If I am disappointed in the ending I am left with a sour taste for the whole work, and an irritation with the author.

Here are some endings that linger in my mind:

     "Tell your aunt," he said, "that you met a poet who was looking for the Belle Dame Sans Merci, and who met you instead, and who sends her his compliments, and will not disturb her, and is on his way to fresh woods and pastures new."
      "I'll try to remember," she said, steadying her crown.
       So he kissed her, always matter-of-fact, so as not to frighten her and went on his way.
       And on the way home, she met her brothers, and there was a rough-and-tumble and the lovely crown (of pliant twigs, ivy and ferns, roses and honeysuckle fringed with belladonna) was broken, and she forgot the message, which was never delivered.

From Possession by A. S. Byatt

"The dying sometimes speak of themselves in the third person. I was not speaking that way. I said: I am bleeding. I am going to bleed to death. And I will be lucky if I die before he returns.
     Give me my Scallop shell of quiet.
     You know, they did not print the whole of the Indian song in the subway. Only a few lines. But I know the poem.
      "It's off in the  distance. It came into the room. It's here in the circle."
      I know the poem.
      She knows the poem.

(From In The Cut by Susanna Moore)

 Then ended. But I see no reason to announce the news. Let viscid history suck me down a bit. When the season is right I'll return to whatever is out there. It's just a question of what sound to make or fake. Meanwhile the rumors accumulate. Kidnap, exile, torture, self-mutilation and death. The most beguiling of the rumors has me living among beggars and syphilitics, performing good works, patron saint of all those men who hear the river whistles sing the mysteries and who return to sleep in wine by the south wheel of the city.

From Great Jones Street by Don DeLillo

When I remember that dizzy summer, that dull, stupid, lovely, dire summer, it seems that in those days I ate my lunches, smelled another's skin, noticed a shade of yellow, even simply sat, with greater lust and hopefulness--and that I lusted with greater faith, hoped with greater abandon. The people I loved were celebrities, surrounded by rumor and fanfare; the places I sat with them, movie lots and monuments. No doubt all of this is not true remembrance but the ruinous work of nostalgia, which obliterates the past, and no doubt, as usual, I have exaggerated everything.

From The Mysteries of Pittsburgh by Michael Chabon

 I prefer endings that carry a slight electrical shock or feature an element of ambiguity instead of having every last detail wrapped up and tied with a bow. WRITE ON!

Friday, June 21, 2013


"I write for myself and strangers." Gertrude Stein

"Every novel is an equal collaboration between the writer and the reader and it is the only place in the world where two strangers can meet on terms of absolute intimacy." Paul Auster

When I write I'm not thinking of my future "audience". I'm creating a world for myself, playing at being god, making people live, love, fight, flee, die. I create the story I want to inhabit for the duration.  Only later do I think of the readers, for the most part strangers, with whom I want to communicate.

It is while writing my second draft that I become aware of my reader's participation. Have I created the details of sight, smell, taste, touch, hearing that will draw them into the reality of each scene? Is the plot moving swiftly enough to keep them engaged, but not too swiftly for them to keep up? Do the characters emerge as individual, unique, sometimes quirky, memorable, yet realistic human beings?

As a child I escaped to other worlds through reading.  I didn't realize for some time that there  was a writer behind the curtain. The worlds simply existed for me, the characters as real to me as my parents and siblings. Later, after I began to understand that certain books appealed to me more than others, I became curious about the writer.Who was this person behind the book? How could she speak to me across the years, the distance, the absolute differences of experiences?  I was drawn into the idea that I, too, could create my own worlds for others to share in. The dialogue begins when the reader opens (or downloads) the first page and steps into the world I've created. WRITE ON!

Thursday, June 13, 2013


"Never give up. And most importantly, be true to yourself. Write from your heart, in your own voice, and about what you believe in." Louise Brown 

I believe that writers become writers partly through reading other writers, great writers, genre writers, popular writers, writers of every stripe. You can't learn to discriminate without comparisons. Imitation, especially when you are starting your writing career, can be a great learning exercise. Attempt to write in the styles of authors you admire, but don't get stuck there. By reading and writing, reading and writing, you will eventually find and recognize the emergence of your own unique voice.

The most difficult part of this process, I believe, is accepting that your voice is valuable, that its very uniqueness is what gives it power. You may have traits and themes in common with other writers but your voice, nonetheless, will be unlike any other.

This voice, your unique voice will emerge from your own early experiences, your family life, your region, the patterns of language you heard and spoke, the religious and family rituals in which you participated. Your voice may emerge from your roots, your schooling, your reading, your life. Don't denigrate it because it is yours, the way many people fail to appreciate their innate talents.
"If its mine it can't be valuable." Instead treasure it. Praise it. Use it. WRITE ON!

Friday, June 7, 2013


“If you have a story that seems worth telling, and you think you can tell it worthily, then the thing for you to do is to tell it, regardless of whether it has to do with sex, sailors or mounted policemen.”
—Dashiell Hammett, 

How to write a "true" novel, create realistic characters, settings, plot, and tensions, and keep the readers' interest without becoming melodramatic? (Melodrama being characterized by sentimentality, hysterics, over the top emotional intensity and language and action).

Revelations fuel the plot--think of the many novels you've read in which the revelation turned the entire story on its head--Rochester's wife in the attic, the diary in Gone Girl is a total hoax, Dorothy realizes she can go home. It is the characters' reactions that can generate real emotion (or fake emotion). Is there screaming, striking out, fainting, or a more quiet and genuine reaction--shock, shutdown, tears rather than wild sobbing? Go for the understated.

Epiphanies are characterized by a protagonist's sudden awareness or sharp insight that come about because of actions and conflicts that have brought her to this point. Often the protagonist must give up some former belief or point of view and must therefore make some change. It might that the character must admit a previous state of denial, or acknowledge that she has not been able to admit some desire until now, or wakes up to some need or aspect of identity.

Climactic scenes are of course what the reader wants, expects and keeps turning the pages in order to reach. It is the high point of the whole plot and if it is disappointing the entire book will be disappointing. The opposing forces must confront and clash with one another with a satisfying outcome. The stakes should be high for both sides. The movement must be fast, yet we need time to feel the emotions. After the climax the only thing left is the wrap up.
If I can master these, I'll be content. WRITE ON!

Sunday, June 2, 2013


“Story is honorable and trustworthy; plot is shifty, and best kept under house arrest.” Stephen King

"Don't write the first page until you know the ending." Joyce Carol Oates

Stephen King says he likes to find his way as he writes. Joyce Carol Oates knows the whole story before she begins to write it. Even the experts disagree about what is the best approach.

My writing technique lies somewhere between these two extremes. I always have an idea about the overall plot but I am even more inspired by the characters who live first in my mind. When it comes to the actual writing of the first draft I fly more by instinct than plan. Even if I have a plot in mind it often veers away from my original intent. Characters suggest other possibilities than the ones I had in mind.

The most important aspect of any story I choose for a plot is that it has deep meaning for me. I may not be writing about my personal experiences but I am writing about issues that resonate deeply.  I find myself drawn to the same themes over and over.  My stories often express the need for family, for connections, concern for the protection and care of children, and the secrets that families keep. This concern resurfaces in short stories, plays, and novels, mysteries or literary, adult or young adult.

For me, like life, the essence of writing is the journey, as much as the destination. WRITE ON!

Saturday, June 1, 2013


I offered two days of free downloads of my novel, CRIMSON ICE, and was pleased by the terrific response. I believe that donating two days of downloads to readers is not just about getting something for free, but as an appreciated opportunity to share my vision with more readers, particularly readers of mysteries. I hope that those who downloaded and read this book will be kind enough to write a review on AMAZON!

I originally wrote this book as a challenge, although I didn't consider this my typical genre or style. However, I found a great deal of pleasure in the writing and in the response from readers, that inspired me to write a second in the series, which should be available soon.

CRIMSON ICE was originally published by a commercial publisher, but I will self publish the second in the series.

I will announce its publication here!
Thanks to all who participated.