Unbuttoned Offers Writers a Stage

Unbuttoned Offers Writers a Stage

It was hard to find a seat at Luthier’s one Tuesday night in October. The place was alive with writers.

The bar was full, and beyond it, neat rows of chairs were nearly full. The atmosphere was buzzing with word jokes, spoken behind the microphone on the stage. Continue reading

Tommy Twilite talks about Florence Poets Society and Silkworm 8

Tommy Twilite talks about Florence Poets Society and Silkworm 8

Tom Clark, otherwise known as Tommy Twilite, is a poet residing in Florence, Massachusetts. And for as long as he can remember, he’s been a poet and musician. “I have always been writing stuff,” Tommy chuckles. “There’s a milk crate somewhere with stuff I wrote 40 years ago!” Continue reading

Write Angles Conference

Write Angles Conference

If you want to nurture your writer’s soul, come check out the Write Angles Conference on Oct. 17! Going on its 30th year, the conference is produced by writers who volunteer to host panel discussions, workshops and meetings at Mount Holyoke College’s Willits-Hallowell Center in South Hadley, Massachusetts. Continue reading

Filling a Niche for Local Authors

Filling a Niche for Local Authors

Steve Strimer says the Pioneer Valley is rich with authors who have something to say, and the traditional publishing world is getting more and more difficult for them to navigate. This set of circumstances was the main catalyst for the print shop Steve works for, Collective Copies, to develop its own publishing company six years ago in September. Continue reading

Local Author Series: Carol Bailey

Local Author Series: Carol Bailey

Carol Bailey says that in writing, the most profound lesson she has learned is to rely on the support of her community. Yet, the biggest challenge faced is rising to produce good quality work because no matter what, at the end of the day it is your book, your ideas, and you have to stand by it.  Continue reading

Seasoned Journalist Nominated as 2015’s Professional Writer

East Longmeadow resident Debra Ecker, left, talks about her son, Army Sgt. Mark R. Ecker II, of East Longmeadow, with The Republican Managing Editor Cynthia G. Simison, and her daughter-in-law, Chicopee native Jennifer Gaboury Ecker, Mark's wife, right, at Debra's house on Thursday, March 8, 2007. Sgt. Ecker stepped on an explosive device outside Ramadi, Iraq,  last month and lost both feet. STAFF PHOTO BY CHRISTOPHER EVANS.

East Longmeadow resident Debra Ecker, left, talks about her son, Army Sgt. Mark R. Ecker II, of East Longmeadow, with The Republican Managing Editor Cynthia G. Simison, and her daughter-in-law, Chicopee native Jennifer Gaboury Ecker, Mark’s wife, right, at Debra’s house on Thursday, March 8, 2007. Sgt. Ecker stepped on an explosive device outside Ramadi, Iraq, last month and lost both feet. STAFF PHOTO BY CHRISTOPHER EVANS.

By Shelby Ashline

Ever since she was a student at Northampton High School, Cynthia Simison knew she wanted to be a journalist. Now in her 50s and the managing editor of The Republican, her love of the field has only grown, as has her drive for sharing other peoples’ stories.

Cynthia initially decided to pursue journalism because of her love for the Boston Red Sox. She hoped that one day, she would be able to cover the team, and she sought opportunities that would help make her dream come true. During high school, she worked in the news room at the Daily Hampshire Gazette, where she first got a feel for work as a reporter.

“What I really liked was talking to people one-on-one and sharing their stories,” Cynthia says. “I learned the concept that everybody has a story. Everybody’s life matters.”

After graduating high school, Cynthia attended Syracuse University, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in newspaper journalism and political science in 1977. Having completed a summer internship with The Republican’s predecessor, the Springfield Daily News, she fell easily into full-time work with them in 1977.

Due to her decades of experience in the field, Cynthia has recently been nominated to receive Western Mass Women Magazine’s Professional Writer award for 2015. The magazine draws together a yearly list of local “Women to Watch” and gives awards based on profession. It is the second year Cynthia has been nominated.

Janice hopes Cynthia is selected as this year’s recipient for her skill, experience and huge heart. Janice freelances for Cynthia, follows her column and has known her as a professional for many years. Back in the 1980s, when Cynthia worked for the Springfield Daily News, Janice was writing for its companion paper, the Morning Union. She sees clearly Cynthia’s passion for the job and her passion for supporting the community through the sharing of news—and, as Cynthia says, stories.

At the launch of her career, Cynthia’s work with the newspaper didn’t include covering sports, as she had originally hoped, but Cynthia found that by covering local, hometown stories, she was able to feel personally connected to her sources, coworkers and even her readers.

“People in the 1970s and ’80s were picking up the newspaper every day and reading it, so writing for the paper was a chance to be part of a community,” Cynthia says. The connections she has made as a reporter, Cynthia says, have really been the greatest reward of her work.

Cynthia became the newspaper’s managing editor in 2005 and continues to write regularly and offers a Sundaycolumn, in which she likes to focus on topics that her readers will find fun and enjoyable. “I (like to) use the column as a place to encourage people to slow down and appreciate life,” Cynthia says. “I try to find topics that are a little off-beat or interesting.”

Cynthia enjoys the freedom to pick and choose what she writes about and feels that it gives her a chance to really explore the depth of each story.

Cynthia wrote one of her favorite pieces of her career last October. The Holyoke Soldiers’ Home and Honor Flight New England jointly organized a trip that would bring World War II veterans to see the war memorial in Washington D.C. Because her own father had served in the war, Cynthia was interested in the story from the start. She traveled with the veterans to the United States Capitol for what was a very emotionally touching journey.

“It was without a doubt one of the most moving things I’ve ever experienced,” she says. “These were 80- and 90-year-old men and women who were in tears that somebody cared enough to do this for them. They got to see how the nation cared for them.”

Outside of her work as a journalist, Cynthia is a board member for the Food Bank of Western Mass, and she participates on two scholarship committees: the Valley Press Club, which gives scholarships to high school students pursuing careers in journalism, and Dollars for Scholars, which supports Northampton students.

In her spare time, Cynthia enjoys gardening at her home in Northampton and reading nonfiction and mysteries. She also enjoys spending time with family, friends – who she says are often as close as family – and, especially, her three nieces.

We encourage you to vote for Cynthia as 2015’s Professional Writer.

Best Websites for Writers

By Vanessa Pesa

Writer’s Digest had a useful little article called “101 Best Websites for Writers” recently. I ran through it and pulled out a few especially helpful sites for our busy writers out there juggling full time professions with their part time authorial dreams.

First up is Evil Editor. Don’t let it fool you; this site is not evil at all. It provides much-needed tough love advice on crafting queries, synopses and the beginning chapters of your book.

Grammar Girl is another great website to keep in your back pocket. Mignon Fogarty has created this website to help with all sorts of difficult grammar dilemmas. The website offers podcasts, tips on punctuation, word usage and even developments on the English language.

If you’re an author that needs mentoring in novel writing, check out Helping Writers Become Authors. The site is separated into five sections: Characters, Writing Life, Writing Inspiration, Structuring Your Novel and Editing Your Novel. Anything you could possibly need is right at your fingertips, and it’s well organized so there’s no hassle of searching.

If you’re ready to start publishing, A Newbie’s Guide to Publishing could have some tips for you. Author JA Konrath gives insight on how to become a successful genre writer, whether through the traditional publishing route or by self-publishing.

Word Serve Water Cooler serves as an online community of agented authors sharing tips and tricks to help novice authors reach their publishing goals.

Another great site to gain some online support is Wow! Women on Writing. Here women authors stimulate creativity at all stages of the writing process. There are also critique groups, writing prompts and even a list of upcoming writing retreats.

If you’re on the hunt for agents or publishers, stop in at querytracker.net.  Here you can, as the title suggests, track submission progress as well. There is an accompanying blog for publishing tips that’s worth a look too.

The final useful site is the Coalition for Independent Authors. This is dedicated to self-published, independent authors with the goal of promoting their books. It’s a great way to network with other writers while getting some great exposure for your work.

Hopefully some or all of these will help out our ambitious writers out there!