Saturday, April 12, 2014

Writing Contest for Middle & High School Students Sponsored by The Writers of Chantilly

The Writers of Chantilly, a not-for-profit organization of local professional and aspiring writers in Chantilly, Virginia, is sponsoring a free writing contest open to middle and high school students in Fairfax County.

Students are invited to write an original essay, short story or poem on the theme “Unfinished Business”—about a goal, a regret, or something left incomplete or unresolved in the past.

First through third place winners will be chosen to read their work at an author event held on Sunday, September 7, 2014, from 2—4 p.m., at the Chantilly Regional Library in Chantilly, VA. Winners also will receive a writing prize package, and have their work published in a future Writers of Chantilly anthology.

·         Only one entry per author may be entered
·         Entries must be postmarked/received by May 31, 2014 to be eligible
·         Works must be written by students, and reflect their own original ideas
·         Pieces will be judged on creativity, content and structure (stories and essays should have a beginning, middle and end; poems may be free verse)
·         Stories can be fiction or nonfiction
·         Only unpublished works are eligible
·         Previous winners of a Writers of Chantilly writing contest are not eligible to enter
·         Entries must be typed in English
·         Maximum word count of 1,000

Please include your name, grade, school, mailing address, email address and phone number with your entry (your information will be kept confidential), and note if your piece is fiction or nonfiction. All entries will be acknowledged; winners will be notified by June 16, 2014.

Email entries to:

About the Writers of Chantilly
The Writers' of Chantilly meet twice monthly at the Chantilly Library to encourage and support writers 18 and over at all levels—newcomers warmly welcomed. WOC has published several anthologies over the last 12 years, the most recent being Etched in Memory, available on or through the Fairfax County Public Library system. More info: 

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Writers of Chantilly Anthologies Featured at Book 'Em Event in North Carolina

Writers of Chantilly member Denice Jobe represented the Writers of Chantilly at the Book 'Em North Carolina Writers Conference and Book Fair in Lumberton, NC, on February 22, 2014.

The annual event, now in its third year, brings together authors, publishers and literary agents who sell and sign their books and participate in talks and panel discussions. A portion of the proceeds raised from the event is given to the community - Robeson County and Lumberton, North Carolina - for the purpose of increasing literacy and reducing crime.

A record 4,000 readers and writers attended this year's event.

Copies of The Writers of Chantilly's anthologies, Nana...and Other Grandmothers and A Medley of Mischief, Mayhem and Madness were available for purchase at our table. Nana was very popular, selling out by mid-day!

Along with books for sale, several of our earlier anthologies were on display, and Denice handed out promotional fliers about our most recent anthology, Etched in Memory, to all who stopped by to check out the books and to learn about the group.

Overall, it was a fun and successful event, and a wonderful opportunity for The Writers of Chantilly to reach new readers.

Writers of Chantilly member Ruth Perry created this eye-catching wall poster that really made our table stand out at Book 'Em

A selection of Writers of Chantilly anthologies on display at Book 'Em

Sunday, January 26, 2014

A Journey to Self-Publishing

By Kalyani Kurup

Excerpt from the personal narrative ‘A Journey to Self-Publishing’

Meanwhile, while I was writing facts for others and fiction for myself, my personal life had taken some unexpected detours. After a life that had taken me through every corner of India and given me experiences of scorching summers, bone-freezing winters, billowing dust storms, and earth-drowning rains, I found myself catapulted onto a new continent. Courtesy of my daughter, I ended up in the USA, and found myself trying to fathom the esotericisms of a new country.

Near the apartment in which I live in Fairfax, there is a library called Chantilly Regional Library, one of the many Fairfax County library branches. I had been there now and then to take books and to participate in book discussions, but it was only in the middle of 2012 that I stumbled into a writers’ organization called ‘Writers of Chantilly’ which meets there twice a month.

‘Writers of Chantilly’ is a motley crew of people who are in love with words and sentences. I found that some of them were established writers glowing in the happiness of the checks they regularly received. Some had just managed to leapfrog into the world of published authors and were exploring the wonders of their new world. Some others probably had, like me, the experiences of chasing agents or sweating it out in post office queues with their manuscripts on their head. The important thing was that they understood each other’s hopes, dreams, fears, dreads, needs, and yearnings.

I asked if I could join their group and they readily let me in. There was no formal interview and no filling up of forms to declare my age-gender-height-weight-sugar-cholesterol-father’s name and records of lawbreaking. They accepted me as if they were expecting me to drop down from heavens into the library’s conference room in the spring of 2012, even though I am visibly incompatible with the rest in height, weight, accent, and skin color.

Empathy is the true union on which ‘Writers of Chantilly’ revolves. Exchange of ideas and constructive criticism are the fabrics that hold the members together. They turned out to be the support system that I had always yearned for but had not found till then.

For anyone who is interested in writing, there is an indefinable ease and comfort in being part of a writer’s group. When I joined, WOC was on its way to publishing an anthology on grandmothers, and as a member I was eligible to contribute. I was hesitant in the beginning because I was not sure of their selection criteria.
I did, however, try. And they did, instantly accept. I felt almost as if I was back in those early days of freelancing in the mid-1980s when I just wrote what I liked and sent it to magazines and they published it. Life seemed to have come full circle.

‘Writers of Chantilly’ introduced me into the world of self-publishing. I had heard about the alternative world of self-publishing even before I became a part of WOC. But I had then believed it to be a sort of shadowy underworld where anemic souls rejected by publishing companies went to build their nests. But the new company made me wiser on the nitty-gritty of self-publishing. I realized that it was no longer an inferior world populated by discarded souls. Self-published authors were apparently giving big publishing companies a run for their money. Self-publishing had introduced a new world order where you were doomed only if readers handed out a negative verdict and not if established publishers rejected you.

All that information was a fresh gust of wind for me. I decided to publish my accumulated material – two novels and many collections of stories nestling in attics and lofts and hibernating CDs and thumb drives….
Self-publishing is no easy trapeze, and does not in itself solve all of a writer’s problems. It is still a long road ahead, but every journey has to start with a small step. I am ever grateful that ‘Writers of Chantilly’ helped me take this tiny first step.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Achieving Success and Fulfillment as a Writer—Without Being Published

Thanks to Denice Jobe, a long-standing Writers of Chantilly member who provides our latest post!  DENICE JOBE'S features and essays have appeared in The Washington Post and Chicken Soup for the Soul: Twins and More,among others. She lives in Centreville, Virginia,with her husband, Steve, and twin boys, Nick and Henry. 

Achieving Success and Fulfillment as a Writer—
Without Being Published            

In fifth grade, I wrote and illustrated my own series of children’s books. Spooky, about a ghost who liked chocolate bars, was my favorite. Spooky was never officially published. It didn’t win a Newberry Medal or earn royalties. It didn’t have to. Finishing the story—showing it to my mother—was reward enough.      
Fast forward decades later and most of what I write is intended for eventual publication to a wide audience. I’ve even scoured my journal for ideas. Whenever I’m writing my thoughts, there’s always a question, can I expand this into an essay or article? Is there a market for this?
Many authors start out writing for fun and self-expression but get caught up in the idea that they have to be published to be successful as writers.
We can’t deny the lure of publication. Seeing our name in a national magazine or on a book cover—and getting paid—does for writers what the Super Bowl does for football players. It may seem that publication is the ultimate achievement. But there are rewarding alternatives to traditional publishing.
Can you be a successful writer without being published? Absolutely! Here’s how:

Writing serves a need in each of us. Do you write to express yourself? To work through crises? To connect with others? To make a difference in the world? To leave a legacy? To tell a story?
Once you figure out your reasons for writing, it’s possible to come up with alternate ways to satisfy those needs, without having to publish in the traditional sense. It might be that you don’t have to write a bestseller after all.

Channel your talent and creativity into something worthwhile. If you want to make a difference in the world, start locally. For example, a playwright/scriptwriter can partner with a community playhouse, high school drama club, or student filmmaker to see her vision on stage or screen. A poet can share his work in classrooms or mentor aspiring poets—children, adults, seniors—and arrange community readings. Authors can write for church newsletters, neighborhood aid groups and nonprofit organizations.
There are ways to satisfy a need to connect with other people and share ideas without joining the publishing rat race. A blog is just the thing for authors who like to write opinion or humor pieces. If you are involved in a hobby or club, start a newsletter or website. If you’re a novelist, write down your stories for friends and a family, or record it on a CD they can listen to while driving. A romance writer can pen steamy stories to share with his or her partner.
Look for writing opportunities at work with your company’s public relations or communications department. Volunteer to write content for their publications or website. It might lead to a paying position. By the way, if you’ve been putting off quitting your “dead-end” job until after you’ve sold your first novel, it’s time to find new employment where you can write every day and shine at it.  
Many authors have a powerful need to tell their personal stories but believe they’ve failed as writers if they can’t sell them to a publisher. Unfortunately, there are more of us writing our histories than publishers can accommodate. All the same, your stories are worthy and deserve to be shared.
Compile them along with photographs into a book for your family. There are online publishers such as that you can use to create beautiful and lasting keepsakes that will be handed down for generations.
I enjoy writing personal essays with a humorous slant. These are notoriously hard to sell. That doesn’t mean they are not important works. I’ve decided to collect them into a book for my children. They will enjoy reading them when they’re older.
If you believe that the only way for you to leave a lasting legacy is to be published, consider this: a newspaper story is gone in a day, a magazine article in a month. Very few books achieve bestseller or classic status. We read them, learn something from them—or not—and move on to the next. But think of all the old letters that people have saved over the years. They weren’t published at the time they were written or read by anyone but the recipient. Does that make them any less historically significant?
Letters and photographs, family stories, children’s artwork…these are what people treasure.

That’s inspirational and all, but I want a book I can hold in my hands. Self publishing using services like may be an option for people who want to do more with their manuscripts than keep them in a three-ring binder. There are countless resources online to guide you through the process if you decide self publishing is right for you. It comes down to your goals for your work and whether they will ultimately be met by self publishing. We've all heard stories of people whose self published books have gone on to become commercial bestsellers. Even if your book does not achieve that level of success, self publishing can help you produce a quality piece to share with people you know.

If you’re already caught up in the harsh cycle of submissions and rejections STOP! The reality is that often, no matter how hard we work, or how skilled we are, or how great our idea is, we just can’t break in. Frequent rejection is an occupational hazard for writers who shop their work. 
Isaac Asimov wrote, “Rejection slips, or form letters, however tactfully phrased, are lacerations of the soul, if not quite inventions of the devil—but there is no way around them.” In fact, there is a way around them. It’s called don’t submit. Why suffer rejection if you don’t have to? Choosing not to write for publication is a valid option. It can even be liberating.
If you are fixated on publication—if you can’t remember why you got into writing in the first place—it’s time for an intervention. Take a scheduled break during which you write nothing, or if that’s too extreme (some of us can’t not write) write with no thought towards publishing.
Try this: write for an hour on any topic and destroy the results. Delete it. Shred it. Repeat the exercise until it’s no longer uncomfortable for you to write just for yourself.
Experiment with new forms. For instance, if you typically write fiction, write an opinion piece. Step out of your comfort zone. Take risks. Expand your range of skills.
If you’re feeling beaten down by rejection, try another type of self-expression like painting or go on an adventure to rekindle your spirit.
The point is to challenge yourself. Growing as a writer and a person—learning something new—can generate feelings of excitement and accomplishment.

A Successful Writer is a Fulfilled Writer. When I became preoccupied with getting my work published I stopped writing for the sheer pleasure of it. Me, write a poem? Please. There’s no market for it.
What I realized after some serious soul-searching is this: there are many paths to success and fulfillment for a writer. Being published is just one of them. It might not even be the right path for some writers.  
That’s okay. We don’t have to be professional, published or paid writers to be real writers. Using our talent in other ways—writing for ourselves, for work, for our children, for our communities, for the hell of it—are all satisfying options.
It’s your choice. It could be that writing not for publication will make you happier than you’ve ever been as a writer.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

New Anthology Now Available: Etched in Memory

I am pleased to announce that the new Writers of Chantilly anthology, Etched in Memory, is now available through Amazon or via Kindle.

In this latest anthology from the renowned Writers of Chantilly, you will discover a variety of unforgettable stories describing incidents that have left an indelible mark on their participants. Some are from the past, some from the imagination, all are Etched in Memory.

It has been a year in the making and features great stories and essays from many of the group's writers.  I heartily recommend it to anyone who has a connection with the group, or just wants to read some memorable short stories!

Monday, November 4, 2013


October 17, 2013
In his 1950 essay, “The Simple Art of Murder,” Raymond Chandler deconstructs the classical idea of a mystery, replacing it with the form begun by Dashiell Hammett, who “gave murder back to the kind of people that commit it for reasons, not just to provide a corpse.” Chandler goes on to describe his idea of the perfect detective with these now famous words:
“But down these mean streets a man must go who is not himself mean, who is neither tarnished nor afraid. The detective in this kind of story must be such a man. He is the hero, he is everything. He must be a complete man and a common man and yet an unusual man. He must be, to use a rather weathered phrase, a man of honor, by instinct, by inevitability, without thought of it, and certainly without saying it. He must be the best man in his world and a good enough man for any world. I do not care much about his private life; he is neither a eunuch nor a satyr; I think he might seduce a duchess and I am quite sure he would not spoil a virgin; if he is a man of honor in one thing, he is that in all things. He is a relatively poor man, or he would not be a detective at all. He is a common man or he could not go among common people. He has a sense of character, or he would not know his job. He will take no man’s money dishonestly and no man’s insolence without a due and dispassionate revenge. He is a lonely man and his pride is that you will treat him as a proud man or be very sorry you ever saw him. He talks as the man of his age talks, that is, with rude wit, a lively sense of the grotesque, a disgust for sham, and a contempt for pettiness. The story is his adventure in search of a hidden truth, and it would be no adventure if it did not happen to a man fit for adventure. He has a range of awareness that startles you, but it belongs to him by right, because it belongs to the world he lives in.
Dana King pic for bio v1If there were enough like him, I think the world would be a very safe place to live in, and yet not too dull to be worth living in.”
A lot changes in sixty years; a lot changes in twenty, though conditions maybe not as quickly as attitudes. In his 1973 film based on Chandler’s the Long Goodbye, Robert Altman set out to do to Chandler what Chandler had done to the writers of the classic English-style mystery: to mark Chandler’s hero, Philip Marlowe, as an anachronism. Referring to the character as “Rip van Marlowe,” he built the movie roughly around Chandler’s story while showing what he and screenwriter Leigh Brackett thought would happen had Marlowe existed into the 70s.
Altman and Brackett may have delighted in the sense of irony they sought to create, but the joke was on them. Chandler always knew Marlowe was an anachronism; references to it are all through his books. In the second paragraph of The Big Sleep, while Marlowe waits to meet General Sternwood, Chandler writes:
“…Over the entrance doors, which would have let in a troop of Indian elephants, there was a broad stained-glass panel showing a knight in dark armor rescuing a lady who was tied to a tree and didn’t have any clothes on but some very long and convenient hair. The knight had pushed the vizor of his helmet back to be sociable, and he was fiddling with the knots that tied the lady to the tree and not getting anywhere. I stood there and thought that if I lived in the house, I would sooner or later have to climb up there and help him. He didn’t seem to be really trying.”
Later, puzzling over a chess problem while trying to ignore Carmen Sternwood lying naked in his bed:
“Knights had no meaning in this game. It wasn’t a game for knights.”
The Big Sleep was Chandler’s first novel. If he knew even then Marlowe was an anachronism, when would Marlowe have fit in?
Any time. Any time at all.
What setting did Chandler envision for Marlowe? Cherry picking descriptions from the essay, it’s a world:
– “in which hotels and apartment houses and celebrated restaurants are owned by men who made their money out of brothels.” Maybe not brothels, but there is a lot of now-legitimate money in this country and Canada originally made through illegal means. As Balzac said, “Behind every great fortune there is a crime.” In Chinatown, Noah Cross, as unpleasant a villain as ever filled the screen, says: “Course I’m respectable. I’m old. Politicians, ugly buildings, and whores all get respectable if they last long enough.” The Kennedys and Bronfmans made fortunes during Prohibition. They’re unique only in that they maintained high enough profiles to pop to mind.
– “[where] the nice man down the hall is a boss of the numbers racket.” Or serial killer. Or has held young women hostage for years with no one any the wiser.
– “where a judge with a cellar full of bootleg liquor can send a man to jail for having a pint in his pocket.” Bootleg liquor may be gone, but now the opportunity exists to send a man to a for-profit prison in which the judge owns stock; mere hypocrisy is now passé.
– “where no man can walk down a dark street in safety because law and order are things we talk about but refrain from practicing; a world where you may witness a hold-up in broad daylight and see who did it, but you will fade quickly back into the crowd rather than tell anyone, because the hold-up men may have friends with long guns, or the police may not like your testimony…” This has been true, and will continue to be true, as long as there are criminals who have criminal friends or associates.
– “…and in any case the shyster for the defense will be allowed to abuse and vilify you in open court, before a jury of selected morons, without any but the most perfunctory interference from a political judge.” Any rape victim can attest to the first part. Avoiding jury duty may surpass tax fraud as the true national pastime. As for the judges, how much do you know about the names on the ballot? If there is even a ballot.
Who makes things right if the systems—both de jure and de facto—do not? It has to someone with a knowledge of both, and only tangential involvement with either. Someone whose continued employment does not depend on whose feathers he doesn’t ruffle. An outsider.
Private investigators are outsiders by definition; otherwise he’d be a cop. (We’re talking about fictional detectives. The lives of actual private detectives resemble what we read about not at all, with rare exceptions.) Working as a PI and not as a cop has its plusses and minuses. A PI cannot compel anyone to talk to him, can be beaten up with impunity, and can be arrested for doing things a cop does almost without thought.
The good news—at least in fiction—is the PI gets to look into things a cop never touches. A cop concerns himself with who and what; why is nice, but is primarily important as a way to get to what, or to help to convince a jury as to who. His caseload is too great to do otherwise. Private eyes are paid to find out why, which often compels some worthy introspection. Cops close cases; PIs provide closure.
PI stories are also better suited for ambivalent endings. Cops are paid to catch bad guys. The PI can appreciate the bittersweet nature of all cases, balancing the satisfaction of solving the mystery with the knowledge that things can never be put right; the dead are still gone. The cop catches the killer and exacts a measure of justice; the PI may be brought in to clean up the mess that doesn’t quite meet the standard of illegality.
A writer willing to lay the groundwork can place the private investigator into any manner of criminal situations police may not deal with. Once in, the PI is like a tick on a dog: hell to get out. Ross Macdonald and Declan Hughes explore dirty family secrets. Travis McGee is, in most respects, an insurance investigator who earns a living collecting recovery fees, just not from insurance companies. Sam Spade is motivated by the death of his partner; the demise of Archer as a person interests him little. He solves the murder almost as an afterthought.
PI stories are somewhat out of favor right now. TV and movies ignore them. In written fiction, PIs have become something of a cult thing, with the exception of those writers who were already established. Have the stories outlived their time, much as Altman claimed Chandler’s hero had? More likely this is a low ebb; the tide will come in again. The public’s fear of terrorism has led to the rise of the apocalyptic thriller. Omnipotent government agencies send agents who make the James Bond of Ian Fleming look like Miss Marple out to thwart baddies who want to destroy “our way of life.” (Jack Bauer, anyone?) This is not a time for outsiders; it’s outsiders who caused all this trouble in the first place. No one wants to deal with the troublemaker who turns our protectors on their backs to show how much clay is in their feet.
Public perception of recent events may herald a change. Government interference into people’s lives—real and perceived—has not been well received on either the left or the right. People may become more sympathetic to the outsider who holds abuses up to the light when even a person of good conscience may not be able to do so from the inside, as is shown by the mixed reactions given to the actions of Julian Assange, Edward Snowden, and Chelsea Manning.
Who steps into the breach when people have had their fill of super-governmental agencies? Jack Bauer is not going to go private
It must be an outsider—almost by definition—but an outsider with an inviolable code. (Jack Reacher does not apply. Reacher doesn’t just hear a different drummer; he has his own marching band.) This outsider knows going in he won’t get everything he wants, and understands things will never get put right again; the ripples of what he’s investigating spread too far. His victory is in the struggle itself. He’s a man (or woman; the characteristics are not unique to men) who may need to appear to be bent but whose compass can be relied on to point him in the right direction.
In the beginning of The Little Sister, Chandler wrote in Marlowe’s voice:
“It was one of those clear, bright summer mornings we get in the early spring in California before the high fog sets in. The rains are over. The hills are still green and in the valley across the Hollywood hills you can see snow on the high mountains. The fur stores are advertising their annual sales. The call houses that specialize in sixteen-year-old virgins are doing a land office business. And in Beverly Hills the jacaranda trees are beginning to bloom.”
The man we’re discussing sees both the beauty and the corruption, understands they can never be separated, and does not allow his disdain for one detract from his appreciation of the other. The kind of man, who, “If there were enough like him, … the world would be a very safe place to live in, and yet not too dull to be worth living in.”
When this man becomes irrelevant we’ll have bigger problems than deciding which book to read.
Dana King has published three e-books, Wild Bill, Worst Enemies, and A Small Sacrifice, the first in a series featuring private investigator Nick Forte. His first dead tree book, Grind Joint, will be published by Stark House in November. His short fiction has appeared in Thuglit, Powder Burn Flash, New Mystery Reader, and Mysterical-E, as well as the anthology, Blood, Guts, and Whisky. He lives in Maryland with his Beloved Spouse and does not like to be disturbed while reading.

Jack Getze

Spinetingler's Fiction Editor is a former Los Angeles Times reporter and author of the screwball crime novels BIG NUMBERS and BIG MONEY, with BIG MOJO and BIG SHOES coming soon. His short fiction has been published on the web at BEAT TO A PULP and A TWIST OF NOIR. He lives in New Jersey, misses southern California, and makes his own tacos.

1 Comment

  • Jack Getze says:
    Dana gave this talk from notecards one afternoon at Bouchercon last month. The audience was full of well-known crime writers intent on listening, and later commenting, on the subject of private eyes, heroes, cops, and capers. For many of us, the time passed too qu

‘Twas The Night Before Halloween By Molly Templar

Inspired by Clement Clark Moore’s “’Twas the Night Before Christmas”

‘Twas the night before Halloween, when all through the crypt
Not a creature was stirring, Not even a witch.
Their broomsticks were hung on the headstones with care,
In hopes that the full moon soon would rise there.

The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of trick or treating danced in their heads.
And mama in her witch hat and I dressed as a spider,
Hand just settled down for a cup of hot mulled cider.

When out in the shrubs there arouse such a clatter,
I sprang from my Lazy-Boy to see what was the matter.
Away to the window I flew like a flash,
Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash.

The moon cast its light on the graveyard below
The broomsticks were gone, Where did they go?
When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But witches on broomsticks flying high and clear.

Followed by ghosts and goblins so spooky and slick,
I knew in a moment it must be a Halloween trick.
More rapid than eagles in batches they came,
And whistled, and shouted, and called out their name!

Now Wanda, now Harriet, now Buffy and Glenda,
On Sabrina, on Helen, on Elvia and Lynda.
To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall! 
Now fly away! Fly away! Fly away all!"

Out for a practice run before their big night,
The witches were flying in the bright orange moonlight.
So up to the house-top the coursers they flew
With their cauldron of brew, and Witch Wanda too.

And then in a twinkling, I heard on the roof,
The sweeping of brooms and the clawing of cats.
As I drew in my head, and was turning around,
Past the window they flew with a bound.

They were dressed all in black, from their head to their feet,
And their clothes were all tarnished with spiders and meat.
A bundle of treats they had flung on their back,
And they looked like peddlers, with very full packs.

They spoke not a word, but went straight to their work
And filled all their cauldrons then turned with a jerk.
And laying their fingers aside the warts on their nose
And giving a nod, up to the rooftops they rose.

With cats on their brooms, they gave a shrill whistle,
And away the witches flew like the down of a thistle.
But I heard them exclaim ‘ere they flew out of sight
“Happy Halloween to all, and to all a good night.”