Wednesday, February 8, 2012


Author of A Watershed Year Will Focus on 'Getting Started' and 'Finding the Big Idea' at March 3 Event

Susan Schoenberger's first novel had not even been published when it was awarded the prestigious Gold Medal in the 2006 William Faulkner-William Wisdom Creative Writing Competition.

A Watershed Year, published by Guideposts last year to critical acclaim, treats issues of friendship lost through death -- yet not lost; and the heartbreak and redemption that arise from a woman's quest to adopt a four-year-old boy in Russia.

Schoenberger, a longtime editor at the Hartford Courant and the Baltimore Sun, as well as a published essayist and short story writer, writes "with subtle humor and grace," in the words of bestselling author Julia Fay (Shelter Me). Patti Callahan Henry (Driftwood Summer) writes: "Susan Schoenberger takes us to the softer places of the heart where love -- in all its forms and glory -- transforms grief into grace."

But there is the day when even an acclaimed novelist has to take that first step toward her achievement -- the day she has to get started. On Saturday, March 3, from 1:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m., Schoenberger will lead a special three-hour workshop with a small group in just that subject: "The Novel: Getting Started." And its corollary, finding the new novel's core: "Writing the Novel: The Big Idea".

The special three-hour Fiction Workshop, a special event in our Writing at the Mark Twain House program, comes with a special price -- only $20, thanks to Schoenberger's generosity.

Included in the "getting started" portion of the afternoon will be exercises in "free-writing" and discussion of some of the practicalities -- such as what literary agents and editors say about the importance of the first pages. And, Schoenberger says, she will provide "advice about listening to your gut on the best place to start," in which she will relay her own experience with A Watershed Year.

"I want to focus on getting the importance of the first pages and help participants get over the hump of getting started," Schoenberger says.

The second part of the session will focus on the challenge of crafting an idea weighty enough to sustain a full-length novel. The afternoon will not be a one-way experience: There will be opportunities for participants to share their ideas and workshop with Schoenberger and each other.

Register early, as enrollment is limited for this special event. Tickets are $20 and can be obtained at 860-280-3130.

Susan Schoenberger has been a writer, editor and copy editor at the News and Observer, the Baltimore Sun and the Hartford Courant. She now works as an editor for Her articles and essays have appeared in many publications, including the Courant's Northeast magazine and Reader's Digest, and one of her essays was included in the anthology Stories for a Woman's Heart. Her short stories have appeared in Inkwell and the Village Rambler and one was a finalist in the New Millennium Writings contest.

A Watershed Year received the Gold Medal in the 2006 William Faulkner-William Wisdom Creative Writing competition, presented at the 2006 Words and Music Festival in New Orleans. The novel was also one of seven finalists for the Peter Taylor Prize given by the Knoxville Writers Guild, and received an Artist Fellowship Grant from the Connecticut Commission on Culture & Tourism.

Schoenberger lives in Connecticut with her husband and three children. She is working on a second novel.

Writing at the Mark Twain House has offered spring and fall writing classes over the past three years, including A Class in Memoir with Lary Bloom and Suzanne Levine, which runs from March 7-April 25. And for the first time this year, Writing at the Mark Twain House will hold a Writers' Weekend (April 20-21) keynoted by Lewis Lapham and including sessions with Jon Clinch, Alfred Uhry, Bessy Reyna, Lary Bloom, Susan Campbell and A.R. Gurney. For information on these programs, contact Steve Courtney at 860-247-0998, Ext. 243, or

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