Posts in "News and Events" Category

Cover RE-REVEAL: One Night Gone

Surprise! Just when you thought I had a cover….I have a new cover.

The smart, lovely team at Graydon House/Harlequin decided that my original cover didn’t quite speak enough to the suspense/thriller genre that my book really fits in. So they gave it a facelift! And a beautiful one at that.

For those of you who were fans of the creepy house in the original–good news! It’s still there. But we’ve shifted focus slightly to the stormy night sky instead of the sandy beach, giving the overall look one with more menace and intrigue. Check it out!

Same house, added creepiness!

Story Sprint—Writing a Story in 20 Minutes

Everyone has a reality show these days—housewives, house hunters, doctors, singers, sword-swallowers. I’ve always thought it would be the most boring show in the world to watch writers write.

And yet, about 60 people showed up last week in Old Fairfax Town Hall to do just that—watch writers write. Well, to be fair, we went into a different room to do the actual writing, but the purpose of the evening was to see what three writers could do with the same first line and same last line and twenty minutes in between to craft a story.

I was pleased to be one of the three writers, along with Zach Powers and Colleen Kearney Rich. I will admit—I was terrified leading up to this event. I’m generally a fast writer, but writing under pressure? I wasn’t sure I’d be able to come up with something—anything—coherent.

Luckily, the audience was great, and the lines they chose were just interesting enough to be interesting, but not so crazy weird that we couldn’t come up with anything. Here were our first and last lines:

Grandma’s cookbook is worn and torn, a living record of splotches, comments and comfort.

When the plane lands eight hours later in Rome, the airport is completely deserted.

My first thought—zombies. So I went with it. I am actually proud of the story I came up with, though I’m not going to share it here since I want to work with it some more and maybe, at some point, submit it. But we’ll say that it was not so bad that I was embarrassed to read it aloud, so I consider that a win.

In fact, I was impressed with all three of the stories—all different in tone and plot despite having the same starting and ending point. It was fascinating to hear them all and see the audience response.

A really great event overall. Thanks so much to Fall for the Book, George Mason University, and the City of Fairfax for hosting us. I had a blast!

Photos by George Bradshaw

“The Case of the Vanishing Professor” named an Agatha Award finalist!


It’s been a wonderful writing week. I turned in my final book edits for ONE NIGHT GONE on Sunday…and then found out that my story “The Case of the Vanishing Professor,” which was published last year in the May/June issue of Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine, was named a finalist in the Best Short Story Award for the Agathas!

I first started writing the story about 12 years ago, when I got the idea of writing about a woman named Nancy Drew who really hated being named Nancy Drew. For a long time, though, I couldn’t decide what her story would be beyond that—so I kept writing a bit, then putting it away for a long time, then bringing it back out again. Finally, it came together when I put Nancy at a cheesy murder mystery dinner. It soon becomes clear that other suspicious things are going on besides the story on stage—and Nancy, like it or not, gets sucked into solving the mystery.

Read the full story below. You can use the arrows and controls at the bottom of the embedded PDF to navigate through the story. You can also download the file to print and read offline. Presented with permission of the publisher.

Laskowski_Case_of_the_Vanishing_Professor

And, as if getting the nomination wasn’t enough, I’m also thrilled to be sharing the honor with my husband, Art Taylor, who is also a finalist with his short story, “English 398: Fiction Workshop.” And we are both thrilled to share the slate with the fine writers Leslie Budewitz, Susanna Calkins, and Barb Goffman.

Thank you so much to Linda Landrigan and all the wonderful folks at Dell Magazines.

Let the partying begin—we’ll be celebrating this victory up until the Agatha banquet dinner at Malice Domestic in May. Whee!

Check out the full list of nominees here. Congratulations to all!

Bystanders named a ‘best book of the year’ in The Guardian

What a lovely post-Thanksgiving story to wake up to! This morning, The Guardian released part 1 of their Best Books of 2017 story–asking authors to discuss their top favorite reads of the year. I’m honored–and oh so thankful–to discover that Jennifer Egan named Bystanders as one of her three recommendations.

You can read the selections here and shop for all the book lovers on your list.

Bay to Ocean Writers Conference: Flash Fiction Resources

Yesterday I had the pleasure of presenting “Tiny but Mighty: How to Write Amazing Flash Fiction” at the Bay to Ocean Writers Conference at Chesapeake College in Wye Mills, Maryland. As I promised attendees, I’m posting my handout here of some resources for flash fiction writers, some of which was adapted from an earlier handout for a novella-in-flash panel created for the Conversations and Connections Conference in Virginia.

In addition, here are the stories I read aloud or mentioned during the presentation: Soap by Katrina Denza, Nightstands by Cole Meyer, and Gravity, Reduced by Kara Oakleaf.

Tips, Prompts, and a Reading List from Tiny but Mighty: How to Write Amazing Flash Fiction

A Bay to Ocean Writing Conference 2017 panel by Tara Laskowski

 

Tips for Writing Flash:

  • Start at the flashpoint—by definition, flash begins at the moment of conflict, when all the action is nearly complete.
  • Focus on the powerful image(s)—Find one or more powerful images to focus your story on.
  • Hit them where it hurts—go for an ending that offers an emotional impact. Play against expectations with a sense of narrative mystery or devastating twist, a poignant implication or declarative last sentence that leaves the reader breathless, and going back for more. Not an “aha” moment or a punchline. An ending more nuanced than that.
  • Strive for the concrete. Eliminate the word “thing” or “something,” for example. Replace that word with an actual concept, image, noun, etc, that explicitly participates in the image you are portraying.
  • Write the whole story, then eliminate useless words.
  • Stay away from punchline endings or “joke” flash fiction.

Some Flash Prompts:

Fictionalize a true moment: Start a flash piece with a specific memory of your own grounded in the five senses (touch, smell, feel, seeing, hearing) – For example: the feel of an aunt scratching your scalp or the smell of your child’s bedroom. This memory should be specific enough to work into a moment. Find the story from there.

Use pictures, paintings, or music to inspire a flashpoint.

Tell the story backward or play with the idea of memory and nonlinear time in a story.

Think of writing a flash piece as a scene when working on something longer, say a longer short story or as a novel chapter.  Flash is inherently raw with emotion. When wanting to draft a pivotal moment, take the time to draft a flash piece – with a beginning, middle and end — to represent that moment between your characters.  Break down the action to its bare essentials for more impact.

Write a story only using dialogue. Use no dialogue tags.

Find a dictionary. Open it to a random page, close your eyes, and point to a spot on the page to select a word. Do that several times to generate a list of random words, then write a flash that includes all of those words.

For Further Reading

Flash Guides

The Rose Metal Press Field Guide to Writing Flash Fiction edited by Tara L. Masih

The Rose Metal Press Field Guide to Writing Flash Nonfiction edited by Dinty W. Moore

A Pocket Guide to Flash Fiction edited by Randall Brown

Brevity: A Flash Fiction Handbook edited by David Galef

What If? Writing Exercises for Fiction Writers edited by Anne Bernays and Pamela Painter

Flash Fiction Collections

Mad to Live by Randall Brown

Severance by Robert Olen Butler

A Kind of Flying by Ron Carlson

The Collected Stories of Lydia Davis by Lydia Davis

The Coast of Chicago: Stories by Stuart Dybeck

Whiskey, Etc. by Sherrie Flick

Wild Life by Kathy Fish

Maybe Mermaids and Robots Are Lonely by Matthew Fogarty

Surrounded by Water by Stefanie Freele

Truck Dance by Jeff Landon

Modern Manners For Your Inner Demons by Tara Laskowski

Lust by Susan Minot

May We Shed These Human Bodies by Amber Sparks

 

Journals That Feature Flash

Smokelong Quarterly

Brevity

Every Day Fiction (open to genre)

Gamut Magazine (paying market, genre)

matchbook

Monkeybicycle

Nanofiction

Necessary Fiction

District Lit

The Collagist

The Short Form

The Journal of Compressed Creative Arts (paying market)

Wigleaf

Whiskey Paper

Shotgun Honey (crime fiction)

Gay Flash Fiction (LBGTQ)

Shimmer (diversity)

Abyss & Apex (speculative fiction)

Cease, Cows

Aphelion (science fiction and fantasy)

Daily Science Fiction

Narratives-in-Flash

Matt Bell, Cataclysm Baby

Chris Bower, Margaret Patton Chapman, Tiff Holland, Meg Pokrass, and Aaron Teel, My Very End of the Universe: Five Novellas-in-Flash and a Study of the Form

Aaron Burch, How to Predict the Weather

Sandra Cisneros, The House on Mango Street

Evan S. Connell, Mrs. Bridge

Matthew Salesses, I’m Not Saying, I’m Just Saying

Lex Williford, Superman on the Roof

Presses that Publish Flash Collections

Curbside Splendor

Jellyfish Highway

Matter Press

Rose Metal Press

Press 53

Stillhouse Press

Flash Stories

The Heiress by Tara Laskowski: matterpress.com/journal/2015/03/02/the-heiress/

The Cage in the Woods by Joe Lucido: wigleaf.com/201509cage.htm

Cravat by Roseanne Scott: www.smokelong.com/cravat/

Conjugation by Jen Michalski: www.smokelong.com/conjugation/

Bartleby Snopes contest (2000 words or less): http://www.bartlebysnopes.com/bartleby-snopes-issue-14.pdf

Transplanting by Lisa Smithies: http://www.smokelong.com/transplanting/

Dive by Dawn West: http://www.smokelong.com/dive/

Marriage by Anna Lea Jancewicz : http://www.matchbooklitmag.com/jancewicz.html

Happy book birthday to Modern Manners for Your Inner Demons

Once upon a time I thought of a title for a story: “The Etiquette of Adultery.” I liked that title so much that I wrote it down on a piece of paper and carried it around in my wallet with me for about a year. One day I decided to write the story, wondering what an etiquette guide for adultery would really look like. I sent it off to Necessary Fiction, and editor Steve Himmer wrote a nice note back saying he loved the concept but thought I should expand the story a bit more.

That note made sense to me and sparked something inside me that became the catalyst for this book. An editor’s job is mostly thankless–I know, having edited SmokeLong for almost seven years now–but I also don’t think that editors often realize how much impact a kind, encouraging, honest rejection letter can have on a writer. Sometimes a sentence or two or a quick suggestion can help solidify an idea or start someone off on another path with a story. In this case, Steve’s note didn’t just help make “Adultery” a better story, but it also started me on the trail of a series of etiquette stories, which eventually created a book.

The thing is, the stories were so very fun to write. Most of them teeter on the edge of flash-fiction-length–the longest story tips just over 2,000 words, I believe–and the form allowed me to play around with all sorts of fun experiments, creating an unofficial guide to our darker selves.

The first edition of Modern Manners For Your Inner Demons was published by Matter Press in 2012. It sold out of its print run and was only available as an ebook for the last few years, but now–now!–my friends, it’s back. And cuter than ever.

The newly revised Modern Manners, published by Santa Fe Writers Project, includes two new etiquette stories (“The Etiquette of Voyeurism” and “The Etiquette of Gossip”) and comes in paperback in an adorable, stuff-it-in-your-pocket size.

Here are some kind things folks have said about it:

“Sly, clever, original take on the sad, bewildering, dead-on truths of being human.”

— Kathy Fish, author of Wild Life and Together We Can Bury It

 

“The anxiety-ridden instructees of Laskowski’s stories tap dance their way through various awkward situations ranging from adultery to dementia. It’s fun to laugh at them, but by the end of each story, you can’t quite remember why you thought they were so dumb in the first place; these characters have problems and deal with their problems with dignity. Each of these stories start out in a sarcastic vein, yet the problems they address are heartbreaking, and each and every one of them realizes a protagonist, fully formed, with a past, a present, and a future.”

— L.W. Compton The Collagist

I’ll also be celebrating Modern Manners‘ birthday at the AWP conference Feb. 9-11 in Washington, D.C. Check out my events page for more information about readings and panels and things. Hope to see you and your inner demons soon!

Cold, Dark Flash at AWP

I’m pretty excited about this one, guys. SmokeLong Quarterly and D.C.’s Noir at the Bar will present an off-site AWP reading “Cold, Dark Flash,” an evening of noir flash fiction. I mean, really, what can be better than noir-themed flash fiction on a cold February evening in D.C.? I hope to see you there!

Cold, Dark Flash
Saturday, Feb. 11, 2017
7 p.m.
Wonderland Ballroom
1101 Kenyon St. NW
Washington, D.C. 20010
(Three blocks from the Green Line Metro)

With readers:

Matt Bell
Tara Campbell
W. Todd Kaneko
Jennifer Pashley
Amber Sparks
Art Taylor
and hosted by:
Tara Laskowski
E.A. Aymar

Music by DJ Alkimist

Books for sale, raffle prizes, music, and more!

The Rumpus Saturday Interview and a great reading at Politics and Prose

This weekend was a writer’s dream! My chat with the wonderful Tyrese Coleman was published in The Rumpus on Saturday. Q&As seem pretty easy to conduct, and we see a lot of them around. But conducting a really good interview is an art. It’s one thing to send some generic basic questions to an author and let them ramble on. It’s another to do research, read their works, and craft really interesting questions that would be of interest to someone who has read the book as equally as someone who hasn’t read the book. And I thought Ty did an excellent job with it. I so appreciate her efforts here, and I hope you’ll also go check out her writing as well. She’s a force.

Speaking of a force, Politics and Prose is one of the best independent bookstores in the country. I had an event there on Saturday afternoon with novelist Michael Landweber, and it was fantastic. Kudos to the professional and kind event staff at P&P who make you feel very welcome and who know how to draw in a crowd. It was a pleasure to hear Mike read from his new novel Thursday, 1:17 PM, about what happens to a teenage boy when time suddenly stops and everything is frozen except him. Thanks so much to everyone who came out to hear us read. It was truly a pleasure.

Author Elizabeth Hazen and publisher Andrew Gifford at the Grubb Road Book Festival.
Author Elizabeth Hazen and publisher Andrew Gifford at the Grubb Road Book Festival.

On Sunday, Santa Fe Writers Project hosted the first annual Grubb Road Book Festival in Silver Spring, Maryland. Local book publishers including Paycock Press and Possibilities Publishing were on hand to chat with readers and sell some books. It was a beautiful summer afternoon.

So…a whirlwind book weekend! I continue to feel fortunate in so many ways.

Bring your babies to book launches

My husband Art Taylor and I have been bringing our son to literary events since he was a baby. Last week, I had the pleasure of writing about this for Publisher’s Weekly. It’s not always gone smoothly, and it hasn’t always been pleasant, but we are pretty excited that Dash thinks that book launches are regular weekend events to attend. Here’s an excerpt from the essay:

When I was a kid, I remember how endless Sunday Mass used to feel, listening to the priest talk about things I didn’t understand. I had to sit still and be quiet. And yet I was aware that there was something important going on, something special and significant, and it was nice to be part of that.

I don’t equate readings with church (although good ones can be a spiritual experience in their own right), but my husband and I see Dashiell picking up on the specialness of the events we take him to. During one reading, a woman recited a long poem while Dash parked his cars in the back of the room. But when she started firing off a list of names in a rapid succession, he looked up and started laughing at the rhythm of the words. Another time we were at a friend’s reading, sitting in the children’s section flipping through picture books, when he looked up at me and whispered, “She just said ‘son of a gun’! That’s not a nice thing to say.”

You can read the rest of the essay here.

And, to put my money where my mouth is, Dash traveled with us this weekend to Pennsylvania where I had my Bystanders hometown launch at the Osterhout Free Library in Wilkes-Barre, PA. Dash sat in the front row and handed out Bystanders bookmarks to everyone in attendance (and photo-bombed some of the pictures, as you can see.) It was a really lovely event at a beautiful library, and I was so pleased to be able to read at a place I loved to go as a child myself. Circle of life?

**

This weekend I get to fulfill a dream I’ve had since I started graduate school at George Mason University in 2002. I’ll be reading at one of my very favorite bookstores in the world–Politics and Prose. I remember seeing some very fabulous writers read there over the years–Alan Cheuse, Susan Shreve, Paul Auster and Richard Russo, to name a few. It’s truly an honor to get to stand at the podium myself!

I’ll be there on Saturday, June 25 from 1 to 2 p.m. with novelist and friend Michael Landweber, whose book Thursday, 1:17 p.m. was released on May 1, 2016. Please come join us if you’re in town!