“There are three rules for writing a novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are.” 
― W. Somerset Maugham


Writers' Night In - Monday, December 20
Save the Date: Our incredible Annual Book Party
Looking for Authors
What Our Chapter Accomplished in 2021
In Praise of Independent Bookstores
A Story of Self-Publishing Success: Beatrix Potter
News Flash: NWU Placards and Buttons
Grants Available to Low-Income Writers
Spread Your News on the Update, Our Website, and Our Facebook Page!
Upcoming Events
MONDAY, DECEMBER 20 @ 5:30-6:30 P.M.
Strange days, these...
After not being able to visit loved ones and friends last holiday season, many of us were looking forward to in-person gatherings. Unfortunately the new Covid variant might put the skids on some of our travel plans. But this year’s an improvement over last in one respect; those of us who’ve hit the “triple play” (two vaccinations plus booster) are feeling more comfortable getting together locally in small groups.
Since the pandemic hit, our union’s informal gatherings have been virtual, and will continue to be so until we’re safely on the other side of this. But they’ve been fun and informative, so we hope you’ll join our next installment next Monday, the 20th at 5:30. It’ll be a whatever’s-on-your-mind chat, but we’ll also spend some time answering any questions people might have about publisher’s contracts.

To request a Zoom invite please click here or email Charles Coe. And please share it with your writer friends who aren't members (yet).

Hope to (virtually) see you there.
Your NWU-Boston Steering Committee

Questions? Click here.

We're counting down! Our Annual Boston Chapter Book Party is Sunday, February 7, at a time in the afternoon to be determined. The party highlights members who've had books published in the previous year -- we need you to tell us who you are! -- and our keynote speaker will be Boston Globe journalist Renee Graham.
The party will once again be a virtual event. But let's keep our fingers crossed that in 2023 we'll be able to gather in person once more.


If you will have published a book by the end of 2021 (hard copy, paperback, or e-book; written, edited, or translated), please submit info and a short blurb on it to your webmaster. We'll publish the list on our website, which has great SEO. If you'd like to read from your 2021 book at our Book Party, please tell your webmaster and we'll coontact you when we're ready to choose the readers.

It was a tough year, but we adapted. In fact, we flourished.

We started 2021 with our annual Book Party, where we “Zoom-celebrated” 13 books by members published in this second pandemic year. Our keynote speaker, Allissa Richardson, author of Bearing Witness While Black: African Americans, Smartphones, and the New Protest Journalism, made the case for iPhones as powerful tools for holding civil rights abusers accountable.

We were limited to meeting via Zoom but doing so allowed us to connect with more members, since 75% live outside greater Boston; 25% live in Vermont, Rhode Island, Maine, Connecticut, and New Hampshire.

This year’s highlights:

  • We held an eye-opening “Judging a Book by Its Cover” webinar, drawing members from around the country, led by Jim Kates of Zephyr Press, also a Steering Committee member.

  • We held an enlightening “Stop the Rejection: Self-Publish” webinar, organized and hosted by Willie Wideman Pleasants, who shared her expertise along with Tim Sheard (NY) and Ken Wachsberger (Michigan).

  • We held a Zoom discussion with National Writers Union VP David Hill on issues to be decided at the triennial Delegates Assembly.

  • During the Zoomed three-day Assembly, our four elected delegates -- co-chair Jeanne Cosmos, Barbara Mende, and first-timers John McDaid and Willie Wideman Pleasants -- participated in various committee meetings: Legislative, Black Lives Matter, Immigration, and Women’s. Cosmos moderated the Women’s meeting and updated the 2018 survey on the concerns of women in writing/journalism/publishing, with the aim of sending it to the membership. Other issues discussed and debated: the union’s service agreement with the Graphics Communications Conference of the Teamsters Union and the Freelance Solidarity Project (our digital medium division).

  • We kept our members informed with our monthly Update e-newsletter, edited by Barbara Mende, who also keeps track of our finances and posts news on our website, and copyedited by Sue Schopp.

  • And we had fun: Our monthly “Writers Night In” social-networking Zoom drew members around New England who shared their writing projects and challenges, and swapped resources.

  • We have new leadership: Jeanne Cosmos was elected as co-chair with Barbara Beckwith. Long-term co-chair Charles Coe continues on our nine-person Steering Committee and moderates NWU-Book, the union’s popular national listserv. Chris Kenneally stepped down after many years; he continues to serve as a Facebook administrator.

  • Our chapter funds went largely unspent because of COVID. We did, however, donate $200 to each of three organizations whose missions dovetail with ours: Native American Journalists Association, Mass Poetry, and 826 Boston (writing/publishing/tutoring program for K-12 Boston students). And we are offering up to five low-income members $100 each toward the cost of attending a writers’ workshop or conference.

In 2022 we can do more. Our ideas so far: Support unionizing efforts (Starbucks, gaming, Harvard U workers)? Speak out against book-banning? Speak to immigration issues? Join marches for racial justice? Work for parity in the journalism area? Connect with younger writers via social media? Offer leadership opportunities to members who want to be active on issues they care about? If that’s you, contact your editor.

by Charles Coe
It’s a gloomy, chilly day, with a light rain falling. You stop in front of your local bookstore to look at the window display. You spot several interesting books, including a new biography you’ve been meaning to check out. You’re running errands but you’re not in a hurry, so you go inside to poke around.
The place is brightly lit and people are browsing, checking out postcards, and sipping coffee in the café. You hunt down that biography and decide to buy it. And while you’re at it, you look for a copy of a hot-off-the-press mystery for a friend who’s a fan of the author. If it's not in stock, the cashier helps you order a copy and will have it delivered to your friend.
You could also order it online. When you order online from your independent bookstore, that book can be picked up at the store or shipped anywhere you like. They can even gift-wrap and mail it to your friend across the country. There’s nothing a certain enormous online company can do for the book buyer that they can’t.
Actually, there’s one thing that enormous company can do. Sometimes they’ll sell you that book for a little less. But isn’t supporting our local independent bookstores worth paying a couple of bucks more? With their helpful and knowledgeable employees, live author events, and cheerful atmosphere, our bookstores enhance the quality of life in our communities and help to support and encourage writers and poets.
Let’s support what supports us…

by John L. Hodge
The Tale of Peter Rabbit has sold around 45 million copies since it was first published in 1901, making it one of the best sellers in history. But when Beatrix Potter, its author, tried to publish it, she was turned down by every publisher she approached. Some publishers recommended changes. But Ms. Potter knew what the book should look like and ignored the publishers’ recommendations. So she published the book herself, printing 250 copies for distribution to family and friends. A year later, Frederick Warne & Company published it. But it was her uncompromised self-published edition that started it all.

We now have some NWU placards and buttons, available to members who want to demonstrate their union pride. (The placards, as pictured, are two-sided.) Wear a button around town or at literary events. Display a placard at work or carry to show solidarity at worker demonstrations or rallies to support a social justice agenda.
If you’d like a button or placard, Charles Coe will be happy to mail you one.

The Boston Chapter Steering Committee is offering $100 grants to up to five NWU members in good standing. These grants are available to those who face challenging financial circumstances and would like to attend a writing conference or workshop (one of those listed below or one of your choice), or to take advantage of some other professional development opportunity.
If you would like to apply, or would like more information, please contact Steering Committee member Willie Wideman Pleasants.
SHANNON O'CONNOR's poem, "Holiday Season, Massachusetts General Hospital, 2020," was published in Oddball Magazine. 

WENDY SANFORD published These Walls Between Us: A Memoir of Friendship Across Race and Class in October.  “This remarkable book is a moving testimony for all who believe in fairness and racial healing” (Dr. Pamela Brooks, Africana Studies, Oberlin College). A tender, honest, cringeworthy, and powerful read” (Debby Irving, author of Waking Up White). https://www.wendysanford-thesewallsbetweenus.com/

KRISTIN WATERS has published Maria W. Stewart and the Roots of Black Political Thought, "A biography of a trailblazer for abolition, gender equality, and social justice."

Please send any news of a publication, award, or writing-related appearance that has already happened to editor Barbara Mende. (A piece on your own blog or website doesn't qualify.) Send 50 words or less, plus your name and a link to the publication, event, or website where readers can find more info about you or the happening. Don't send notices of work that will be published in the future. Do send news of future events, but see the "Upcoming Events" block for that.

Are you speaking or reading from your work in the near future? Do you want to publicize an event that writers would be interested in zooming in to? Can you provide a service, such as editing or indexing or publicity, for your fellow union members? Do you just want to introduce yourself to the NWU membership?

Our Boston Chapter website, which you can reach at 
nwu.org/chapters/boston/ or www.nwuboston.org, is here for you to use. Not only that, but if you send us an announcement of a specific event by the second Monday of each month, we'll try to include it in these updates.

Please send us news of any upcoming events that you'd like us to publicize, along with Zoom links or PDF posters if you have them. If you'd like to promote your services, plug your latest book, tell us about something writing-related that happened to you, or post anything else you can think of, we'll try to give it a place on the website.

Be sure to like the NWU Boston Facebook page, and visit it often.

And we'd love to hear from you if you'd like to contribute to these updates. Do you have information or a viewpoint on some phase of writing or publishing that you'd like to pass along? Do you have tips that you'd like to share with your fellow writers? Send them in! And don't forget, if you've published something or participated in an event or made an appearance, we'll post it under Kudos.

Send all your news for the Update and website to your webmaster.
Co-Chairs: Barbara Beckwith and Jeanne Cosmos
Editor and Webmaster: Barbara Mende