Tag Archives: editing

Conquering the Cliche

Whether a plotter or a pantser, a novice or a pro, every writer will eventually do the same exact thing—and that’s stare at the screen, fingers poised over keyboard, planning a character’s next move.

How you handle your character’s next move will set you apart from the rest of the writing masses. Genre matters not; length matters not. What matters is whether or not that next move is a cliché.

A cliché is any expression, idea, or element that has been overused to the point of losing its original intent or effect. There are the obvious clichés, namely those turns of phrase that get used over and over (whoops, that was cliché). They are comparisons and references and descriptions that are so overused that they render the very language empty and boring.

While clichés are most often recognized as those annoying catch phrases, they can also relate to larger things like character and dialog and plot. Clichés are wicked little buggers that weaken our writing and writers should do their best to find them—and fix them.

Do The Unexpected

Clichés are often found hiding in plain sight (another cliché) whenever we let our characters act naturally—and these are the clichés that doom us to failure (probably cliché).

By acting naturally, I refer to the character doing what feels perfectly natural to us. I like to call it “First Response Syndrome”, an unhealthy story condition wherein the character acts upon his/her first—and therefore natural—response to a situation or stimulus.

When a character does exactly what we expect them to do, remember this—every other reader on the planet (cliché) is expecting them to do it, too. And that’s kinda boring.

Say your character is waiting for a bus that doesn’t seem to be slowing down for her stop.

• The natural response is to let her wait safely on the curb so she doesn’t get flattened.

• The unexpected action would be if the woman takes off her shoe and throws it at the bus, cracking the windshield. That’s more interesting.

• More interesting, still, would be if the character jumped into the middle of the street and made the bus driver slam on the brakes (technically a cliché but you know what I mean).

Do the unexpected.

Of course, there’s a difference between unexpected and ridiculous. You wouldn’t have an arthritic ninety-year old grandma jump into the street to stop traffic. (Unless, of course, we only thought she was a ninety-year old grandma but was instead an escaped acrobat who’s on the lam (cliché) and wearing a disguise. That is so not cliché.)

But, as I said–ridiculous is not a good thing and you don’t want to pull the reader out of the story. You just want to keep them on the edge of their seat (cliché).

Actions aren’t the only things that can be cliché in this fashion. Dialog can be cliché, too, even when it doesn’t contain any overused expressions. Any character who says what we expect them to say suffers from First Response Syndrome and is in dire need (cliché) of a rewrite. Don’t allow your teen protagonist to be a carbon-copy (cliché) of every other teen you know. Forbid your villain the pleasure of twisting his mustache and howling his favorite mu-hahaha laugh (no matter how cool it sounds, it’s cliché.)

Breaking The Habit

It takes effort to break a bad habit (cliché) like writing in cliché. However, the story will reap the rewards (cliché) if you can train yourself to spot them and fix them by doing the unexpected.

For instance, doing the unexpected may cause your character to come to a realization about themselves or someone else. An unexpected response may lead to heightened emotions. An unexpected response may tell the reader something about a character’s makeup that would otherwise take pages of description—in short, an unexpected response would show a quality that the writer might otherwise be compelled to tell.

Try this exercise: select a portion of your manuscript and print it out. Using a highlighter, mark everything that seems it might be cliché—look for those expressions that are done to death (cliché), scour your dialog for trite or dull responses, and mark off every reaction to a stimulus.

Then, evaluate each instance of highlighted text. Think of a different way to write over those overused phrases. Add color to dialog using emotion and fresh language. Make your character do the exact opposite of their original response.

Do any of the rewrites heighten tension? Make the character seem more interesting? Take the story in a new direction? If it’s more interesting to you as the writer, it’s going to be more interesting to the reader, as well.

What a lot of us fail to realize is that sometimes our stories get rejected not because our writing is bad but because our work is clichéd. Good isn’t acceptable anymore—our work has to be great.

Our characters need dialog that is fresh and original and our characters have to be ready to do the unexpected. Thinking past the first response will add an element of surprise and excitement to your work—and a reader who has to keep reading to find out what happens next is the reader that stayed hooked.

A hooked reader—that’s not a cliché… because that never gets old.

Ash Krafton is a speculative fiction writer who resides in the heart of the Pennsylvania coal region, where she keeps the book jacket for “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter” in a frame over her desk. Visit Ash’s blog for news on her newly released urban fantasy “Bleeding Hearts: Book One of the Demimonde” (Pink Narcissus Press 2012).

This article first appeared on the Query Tracker blog.

By Popular Demand: New Pennwriters Philadelphia Critique Groups Starting this August

From the desk of Lisa Diane Kastner:

Beginning in August 2010, the Philadelphia Critique Group will be held twice a month:

1. The second Saturday of each month at 3 PM
2. The last Tuesday of each month at 7 PM

Both meetings will be held at 525 S. 4th. St., 240A, Philadelphia, PA on 4th Street between Lombard and South.

This change is in response to requests from local writers for critique group meetings held during the week.

If you have any questions, feel free to email me at lisadkastner [at] gmail [dot] com

Thanks and I hope to see you at a group meeting.

Thank you, Lisa, for continuing to support the writers of southeastern Pennsylvania!

BOOK IN A DAY with Debra Dixon, September 25, 2010


Date: Saturday, September 25, 2010

Time: 9 a.m. – 4 p.m.

Location: Crowne Plaza Hotel – Pittsburgh Airport / 1160 Thorn Run Road, Coraopolis

Cost: $125 for Pennwriters members; $150 for nonmembers
(Lunch is included in the workshop fee)

Workshop Details:

Pennwriters Area 3 will host a “Book in a Day” interactive workshop with bestselling author Debra Dixon on Saturday, September 25, 2010 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Crowne Plaza, Pittsburgh International Airport, 1160 Thorn Run Road, Corapolis.

This intensive full-day seminar will draw from Dixon’s popular how-to book “GMC: Goal, Motivation, and Conflict, the Building Blocks of Good Fiction,” which is in its sixth printing, and “The Hero’s Journey.” She will show you how to put together the important elements of a book and its plot skeleton.

There will be a one-hour hot buffet lunch at noon. In addition, Dixon’s books will be available for sale. Registration for the workshop will begin at 8:30 a.m. For those planning to stay at the hotel overnight, special room rates are available. You must register by Friday, Sept. 3. Make sure you mention Pennwriters when registering at the hotel.


Pay online -or- if you prefer to mail in your registration and payment, send payment by mail ON OR BEFORE WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 1, 2010 using the mail-in registration form here.

Book Endorsements:

GMC: Goal, Motivation and Conflict (1996)

“This book belongs on every fiction writer’s bookshelf. Anyone who has ever had a story to tell and is dying to get it down on paper will find guidance and inspiration in GMC. The presentation is clear, immediate, and relevant to all writers–from novices to seasoned professionals. Experienced author Debra Dixon has done a magnificent job of demystifying the toughest aspect of fiction writing: that of a giving a story shape, form and urgency.”

— Susan Wiggs, RITA® Award winning author of over 40 novels and novellas.

When You’re the Only Cop in Town (2002)

“Not only a great resource, but a great read. I wish I’d had this book when I started writing. Highly recommended.”

— Jenny Crusie, New York Times bestselling author

“Debra Dixon delivers again! Facts, details, perspective, the life of the small town cop. It’s all here–everything the suspense and mystery writer needs.”

— Deborah Smith, New York Times bestselling author

“When You’re the Only Cop in Town is my new Bible! An indispensable reference–no writer should be without it! Don’t even start your small town crime story without this comprehensive guide!”

— Maggie Shayne, New York Times bestselling author

About the Speaker: Debra’s a bestselling author currently at work on her eleventh book, and has served as Vice-President for Romance Writers of America, an organization of over 9,000 writers. In 2003 RWA honored Debra with the national Emma Merritt Service Award, recognizing her contributions to writers and the organization.

Her published work has been awarded the Georgia Romance Writers’ “Maggie,” A Little Romance Magazine’s ROMY, Colorado’s Award of Excellence, the Kiss of Death Award for best suspense of the year from RWA’s Mystery/Suspense Chapter, and she’s received a Romantic Times Career Achievement Award for Innovative Series Romance. Her published books have been recognized as finalists for the Virginia Holt Medallion, Romantic Times Best Loveswept, and the National Readers’ Choice Award for romance fiction.

In addition to speaking at numerous regional and national conferences, Debra developed and continues to teach a novel writing courses for the University of Memphis as well as one-day writing workshops across the country. In late 1996, Gryphon Books For Writers published Debra’s first writing “how-to” book based on her popular GMC: Goal, Motivation, and Conflict workshop. That book is now in its sixth printing. In late 2002, Gryphon published Debra’s second non-fiction book WHEN YOU’RE THE ONLY COP IN TOWN, a writer’s guide to small town law enforcement.

Debra lives in the South with her husband and son. When she’s not working in publishing or corporate America, she moonlights as an award-winning quilter. The current home-remodeling-project-that-will-not-end began because Debra thought it would be nice to have a quilt studio for her art. Learn more about Debra and her work online at www.debradixon.com.

For more information or to receive a workshop registration form, contact Area 3 Representative Annette Dashofy.


DATE: August 2 – September 2, 2010

Join national bestseller CJ Lyons, an award-winning medical suspense author, in a highly interactive workshop designed to give you the tools you need to craft a complete fiction proposal, including a query letter, blurb, synopsis, opening hook, and pitch.

In this intensive course, you will learn the secrets to pitching, the power of your “blurb,” and lessons on how to:

* Create a query letter that sells
* Approach the submission process
* Know if your opening hook works
* Write a short synopsis
* Write a long synopsis
* Craft a high-concept pitch
* Build your brand
* Find an agent

You will have a chance to have your query letter polished by CJ and the class—and if time permits you’ll also have a chance to have your opening hooks and/or pitches evaluated as well.

FREE Bonus: “Writer’s Toolbox”–a list of resources from CJ Lyons.

(NOTE: A finished novel ready for submission is required for this course.)

Tremendously helpful. CJ is a fine teacher, with the patience of a saint.
– Corrina Lavitts
Golden Heart Finalist

CJ goes the extra mile with her willingness to help struggling writers, like myself. I would recommend this class to anyone.”
– Judith Gilbert

The class was terrific. I’ve come away with a synopsis, back cover blurb, and a head full of scene ideas. You gave me wonderful insight.”
– Debra Hemminger


Breathtakingly fast-paced.”
– Publishers Weekly

A winner!
– Romantic Times, Top Pick

A perfect blend of romance and suspense. My kind of read.”
– #1 New York Times Bestselling author Sandra Brown

Characters with beating hearts and three dimensions.”
– Newsday

Pennwriters Online Courses have high satisfaction scores and repeat customer rates—-read more of our Testimonials!

Discover how to avoid the slush pile and get your book sold and published. LIMITED CLASS SIZE. Enroll now.

$79 ($89 non-Pennwriters) $89 ($99 non-Pennwriters)


As a pediatric ER doctor, CJ Lyons has lived the life she writes about. In addition to being an award-winning medical suspense author, CJ is a nationally known presenter and keynote speaker. She has been invited all over the country to present her workshops and speak to audiences ranging from physicians to first responders to romance and thriller authors including: Colorado Fiction Writers, Oklahoma Writers Federation, the University of South Carolina at Beaufort, RWA National, MWA’s Sleuthfest, Lowcountry RWA’s Master Class, Left Coast Crime, and Pennwriters, among others. Her first novel, LIFELINES (Berkley, March 2008), received praise as a “breathtakingly fast-paced medical thriller” from Publishers Weekly, was reviewed favorably by the Baltimore Sun and Newsday, named a Top Pick by Romantic Times Book Review Magazine, and became a National Bestseller. LIFELINES also won a Readers’ Choice Award for Best First Novel. Her award-winning, critically acclaimed Angels of Mercy series (LIFELINES, WARNING SIGNS, and URGENT CARE) is available in stores now. Her newest project is as co-author of a new suspense series with Erin Brockovich. To learn more about CJ and her work, go to www.cjlyons.net.

* For more information on this course, contact Nate Hardy, Internet Activities Coordinator.

If you must mail in your registration and payment, send payment at least one week before deadline (the day of event) using the mail form at this link.

See you at the Pennwriters Conference!

***UPDATE*** 5/9:

AREA 6 MEMBERS: Join Lisa Kastner at Breakfast!

Lisa is our Pennwriters President and fellow Area 6 member. She coordinates the monthly Philadelphia Pennwriters critique group and supports writers throughout the region. Lisa is a great writer, a great leader, and a great person to know in Pennwriters.

Join Lisa at breakfast for a quick rally with other writers. Put faces to names, and make a new friend!

Jade Blackwater regrets to announce that after having fun day getting her hair done in Seattle to prepare for the Pennwriters Conference, she promptly came down with the flu and is unable to fly. Jade sends her deepest regrets, and encourages all writers to take full advantage of the Pennwriters Conference.


We’re a week away from the 23rd Pennwriters Annual Writers’ Conference to be held in Lancaster, PA May 14-16 2010. This year’s conference features keynote speakers James Rollins and Elizabeth Kann, a stellar lineup of agents, editors, and authors for workshops and pitch sessions, plus designated party time at our ‘Heroes and Villains’ Saturday Night Masquerade Ball.


So why should you attend? For starters, if you’re a member of Area 6 or another writer from the Mid-Atlantic, this is a fabulous opportunity to participate in a writers’ event right here in your region. Pennwriters offers a variety of workshops, networking, and promotional opportunities to help writers of all levels improve their work and build their business.

You don’t have to be from the East Coast to enjoy a Pennwriters event! Keynote James Rollins joins us from Northern California, and I’m flying in from Western Washington state to join the fun and support Area 6. The great thing about our membership is that we started with a strong community of writers from Pennsylvania, and have grown to include members from all across the US, and a few far-flung folks overseas. Our annual conference is the perfect time to put a face to a name/handle/avatar/penpal/writing-buddy.


AREA 6 MEMBERS: Find me at breakfast – I’ll have something to catch the eye and make it easy to spot me – and please come introduce yourself! I want to meet members, shake hands, and introduce you to one another.

I’m on the hunt for a new volunteer for the Area 6 Representative position. We of Area 6 extend a hearty thank you to Bob Michalsky for his support of Pennwriters, and wish him all the best in his endeavors! If you are ready to support writers in your area and do more with Pennwriters, then I WANT TO HEAR FROM YOU!


Here at the blog we’ve had Conference Coordinator Ayleen Stellhorn stop by with tips to prepare yourself to pitch, and a detailed interview discussing more about the conference.

Fellow Area 6 Member Ash Krafton has also prepared us with a link-rich post about pitching your work, plus more about editing the muse and navigating the transition from hobby writer to career author.

Follow @Pennwriters on Twitter for even more resources including tweets about Pennwriters activities as well as news, tips, and insights from members, guests, and other writing resources.

If you’re on Twitter, remember to use the #PWcon hashtag to tweet the conference, and use the #Pennwriters hashtag any time to chat about Pennwriters. Send us a @ (mention) or DM (direct message) and let us know you’re a member (tell us your name so we can find you in our roster). @Pennwriters follows Pennwriters members and guests.

If you’re on Facebook, be sure to join our Group and Page to keep up on news and announcements and to engage with our membership.

Contact me with any questions (or to be my last-minute volunteer angel).

See you all in Lancaster!

Editing The Muse

As a writer of all lengths of fiction, I always seem to have a work in progress. My muse, who apparently has some sort of attention deficit, likes to bounce between novels and short stories and back again. Sometimes, I actually finish things. Since first drafts come relatively easy to me, I spend most of my writing time editing.

I’ve learned a lot about editing and revising over the years, through books and online classes and (my favorite) reading books by authors whose style I adore. I’m heading back to BLEEDING HEARTS for a long, hard look and I’m considering doing some editing. For those of you who are also currently wallowing in edits, I thought I’d share some thoughts on the process.

Fellow writer and Query Tracker blogger Elana Johnson recently posted an article on “good vs. done.” It’s a rallying cheer we all need to remind us of our talent and our self-worth (as well as an opportunity to visit her fun vocabulary. I love to listen to her write.)

Sometimes, an editor or feedback group will recommend edits or revisions. It’s easy for us to think it’s because what we wrote is, as Elana puts it, sucktacular. But it’s not. Changes make something that’s already good even better.(And anyways, if it was truly sucktacular, they would have told us to shred it and start over.)

So, once we’re firmly reminded that we’ve already written something worth keeping, it’s time to edit it. Dustin Wax writes that there is no good writing, just good re-writing. After having edited my first novel over the space of three years, I have to agree with him. I find this to be a splendid philosophy for anyone facing the daunting task of staring down a first draft.

Before you start, it’s important to ask yourself what, exactly, you need to do. Are you making surface edits or major revisions? I came across Dennis G. Jerz’s article “Revision vs. Editing” and found a great quick-reference list.

While polishing a short story can be done in a manageable amount of time, editing a large volume–say, a four-hundred page manuscript–can be downright overwhelming. One trick, Ginny Wiehardt writes, is to break the process into steps.

Just tackle them one at a time and you make big progress with every small step. Take it chapter by chapter, task by task, and remember: keep going. It’s worth the work.

And then, once you think you have that WIP right where you want it, read Nathan Bransford’s article and see how close to “done” you’ve gotten. If necessary, lather, rinse, and repeat.

But if it’s done, then it’s all good.

Pushcart Prize nominee Ash Krafton is a speculative fiction writer whose work has appeared in several journals, including Niteblade, 42 Magazine, and Silver Blade. In addition to co-editing this blog, she maintains her own at http://ash-krafton.livejournal.com.

Writers: Run Wild with Lisa Kastner and Her Band of Authors

From the desk of Lisa Diane Kastner:

Don’t miss our upcoming 2010 courses from Running Wild Writers.  Pennwriters members receive discounts on classes. Click on the links below for workshop details.

February – April 2010

Fiction Writers Workshop with Lisa Diane Kastner
Thursdays, February 4 – April 10 at 7:00 PM

This ten-week course is designed to allow fiction writers an opportunity to obtain feedback on their prose as well as hone their own reviewer skills. Attendees will be given two opportunities to submit up to 5,000 words of writing to be reviewed by the group. The instructor will provide personalized feedback for each participant’s submission.

Course Requirements:
Participants must submit at least one piece of up to 5,000 words within the ten week timeframe. Participants are expected to actively participate in discussing the pieces submitted in the framing of craft. The instructor will provide a basic guide to assist participants in assessing the pieces submitted for craft elements.

Interested? Click here –> http://shop.runningwildwriters.org/product.sc?productId=5&categoryId=1
Pennwriters Member? Click here –> http://shop.runningwildwriters.org/product.sc?productId=2&categoryId=1

March 2010

Telling Tales: Elements of the Short Story with Mecca Jamilah Sullivan
Tuesdays, March 2 – March 30 at 7:00 PM

This five-week course will allow beginning, intermediate, and advanced writers to explore the genre of the short story, providing participants with the tools to create engaging, original worlds in short fiction. Focusing on several key aspects of fiction (character, setting, voice/point-of-view, structure, and plot), the course will help students craft their own stories, respond to one-another’s stories, and identify strengths and techniques in the works of established writers they admire.

Course Requirements:
Each writer will submit one short story of 5-10 pages to be read and discussed by all workshop participants. Writers will also submit a one-page response to every story submitted, discussing the author’s use of key craft elements. Each writer will act as discussant for one story, sharing their perspective on that story and opening conversation among the rest of the workshop participants. If scheduling permits, we’ll have a closing reading and reception, where we’ll share our work with each other, as well as with invited guests.

Interested? Click here –> http://shop.runningwildwriters.org/product.sc?productId=6&categoryId=1
Pennwriters Member? Click here –> http://shop.runningwildwriters.org/product.sc?productId=7&categoryId=1

Writing The Epic Quest with Jack Hillman
Saturday, March 20 beginning at 1 PM.
With so much of the focus in writing today on character based stories, what could be more timely than a discussion of the art form that transforms some mild mannered individual into a something totally outside their nature, and not always to the good.  Epic quests are not limited to fantasy and science fiction, but have been part of literature since writing was invented.  All genre’s have their favorite epic quest: the romance of Gone With The Wind, the tragedy of Moby Dick, the excitement of the chase in Raiders of the Lost Ark, the dark power of The Maltese Falcon.  All really good novels have a part of the epic quest in their making.  We will discuss the breakdown of the various characters that make up the quest- the fellowship- and how each one may play many, and often conflicting, parts as the story unfolds.  We will also discuss how the protagonist (not necessarily a hero) is becoming more prevalent in today’s literature and how this affects the tone of the quest.

Along with the standard writer’s pen and paper, it is suggested that you come prepared with at least a general idea outline for your story, including the genre, the setting, and at least some of the main characters of your story.

Interested? Click here –> http://shop.runningwildwriters.org/product.sc?productId=10&categoryId=1
Pennwriters Member? Click here –> http://shop.runningwildwriters.org/product.sc?productId=11&categoryId=1

What’s a Pennwriter?  Click here –> www.pennwriters.com
Want to learn how to Run Wild?  Click here –> www.runningwildwriters.org

Instructor Biographies

Jack Hillman
A lifelong Pennsylvania resident, Jack began a love of books sitting amid the mystery of hospitals and medical paraphernalia. Mythology of all cultures and a fascination with martial philosophies led to King Arthur, the knights of the round table and an array of science fiction and fantasy authors that had a strong impact on his life. Real life got in the way of a writing career to start, but thirty years in the life and medical insurance field led Jack to a job as a stringer for local newspapers and writing for medical and insurance journals. In addition to years in the insurance field Jack also has fifteen years experience as a journalist and freelance writer, and has even won a Keystone Press Award (1998) for his journalistic efforts.

Jack has written on a wide variety of subjects and keeps his hand in medical and insurance matters on a daily basis. In addition to newspaper reporting and magazine articles, Jack has written articles for a variety websites–some under his own name and some as a behind-the-scenes contributor. Jack’s first short fiction piece, a novella, was serialized in an old BBS site in 1992, with the first hard copy magazine story arriving in 1993. Four dinner theater plays written by Jack have been produced and performed for local theater in Eastern Pennsylvania.

His novels are now coming to light with the release of There Are Giants In This Valley published by Archebooks Publishing. With experience as a journalist, short story writer, playwright and novelist, Jack often speaks at writer’s conferences, to writer’s groups and to school gatherings. If you are looking for a speaker on esoteric subjects, Jack probably has something tucked away in a folder for the occasion.

Lisa Diane Kastner

Lisa Diane Kastner, fiction writer, creative non-fiction explorer, and former journalist writes fiction from Philadelphia and draws inspiration from her experiences. Kastner promises that her flaming red head tendencies will neither detract nor overly add to the commentary. If anything, it will bring a bit of flavor, like cinnamon.

A former correspondent for the Philadelphia Theatre Review and Features Editor for the Picolata Review, Kastner currently writes freelance and by invitation in literature and the arts. Her literary interviews include Charles Baxter (Academy of Arts and Letters Award in Literature 1997) and Lee Martin (Pulitzer Prize Nominee 2006).

Her short stories have been appeared in magazines and journals.  In 2007 Lisa was featured among up-and-coming Philadelphia writers in Fresh Lines @ Fresh Nine, a public reading hosted by Gross McCleaf Art Gallery.

She is an alumna of The Bread Loaf Writers Conference, Squaw Valley Writers Workshop, Kenyon Writers Workshop, University of Pennsylvania’s Conference for Writers, Chautauqua Institute, and the Rittenhouse Writers Group (RWG).  She is the Founder of Running Wild Writers Community, LLC and President of Pennwriters, Inc. (www.pennwriters.com) , a 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to assisting the novice to the award winning and multipublished writers to learn and succeed in the craft. She is the founder of the Pennwriters King of Prussia and Philadelphia Critique Groups, and can be found throughout the region leading workshops on business communications, and occasionally performing on the local stage or such theater companies as CelebrationTheater.

Mecca Jamilah Sullivan
Mecca Jamilah Sullivan is a writer from Harlem, New York. Her fiction has appeared and is forthcoming in a number of journals and anthologies, including Best New Writing 2010, Crab Orchard Review, Bloom, Lumina, Philadelphia Stories, What I Know is Me (Harlem Moon/Doubleday), Baby Remember My Name (Carroll & Graf), X-24 Unclassified (UK, Lubin & Kleyner), Amistad (Howard University), Woman’s Work (Girlchild Press), Black Ivy (Yale University), Roots and Culture (Columbia University), In/Vision (Temple University), Homeboy Review, and Baobab South African Journal of New Writing.

She has also published nonfiction pieces and critical reviews in American Visions and GLQ. A 2006 Best New American Voices nominee, Mecca has several received honors and awards for her fiction, including Crab Orchard Review’s 2008 Charles Johnson Student Fiction Award for her short story, “A Strange People,” the Future Faculty Fellowship in Fiction and the 2005 William Gunn Fiction Award from Temple University, as well as a noted writer distinction from the Boston Fiction Festival for her fiction excerpt “She Woke Up With the Words in Her Mouth” (later re-titled “Saturday”).

Most recently, her short story, “Wolfpack,” was shortlisted for the 2009 Eric Hoffer Award from Best New Writing. Her short fiction collection manuscript, Blue Talk and Love, was named a finalist for the 2009 Sol Books Prose Series award. Mecca’s one-act plays have been staged at the Hallie Flannegan Theatre and Theatre 14 at Smith College in Northampton, MA., and at the New World Theatre in Amherst, MA, where her play “Peel Away” won the 2001 James Baldwin Memorial Playwriting Award. In 1999 she won the National Gold Medal in Playwriting in the NAACP ACT-SO competition for her play “Lovely Day,” and in 2002 she was awarded a Smith College Praxis Grant to stage her longer one-act, “Love Coming Soon” at the Harlem Theatre Company in New York City.

Most recently, her first full-length play, “Two Rings,” which explores the intersections of race, sexuality, spirituality, and class on contemporary relationships and imaginations, was named a finalist for the 2009 Downtown Urban Theatre Festival in New York City.

Winner of Temple University’s 2005 “Rookie of the Year” award for Critical Writing instruction, as well as Temple’s 2006 Certificate of Merit in Teaching, Mecca has designed and led courses in Critical Writing, Fiction Writing, and Poetry Writing at Temple University, the Community College of Philadelphia, the University of Pennsylvania, and TreeHouse Books in North Philadelphia. Focusing on the inter-genre and interdisciplinary aspects of writing, her writing courses encourage students of all ages to consider the connections between reading and writing of various kinds.

Mecca has been invited to read with and participate in several writing communities, including the Bread Loaf Summer Writers Conference, the Kelly Writers House at the University of Pennsylvania, the Key West Literary Seminars, the Pan-African Literary Forum in Ghana, and the New York State Summer Writers Institute, where she received a 2005 Smith-Shonubi Scholarship in fiction.

She holds a B.A. in Afro-American Studies from Smith College and an M.A. in English and Creative Writing from Temple University. She is currently a Ph.D. candidate in English Literature at the University of Pennsylvania, where her dissertation research focuses on the connections between identity and literary form in black women’s fiction, poetry, drama and film.

She is also completing edits on her first novel, tentatively titled She Woke Up With the Words in Her Mouth. Set largely in Harlem in the 1980’s and 1990’s, the novel explores the relationships between race, class, body image, and love in contemporary American families.