In September 2012, I came across a sweepstakes announcement inviting writers to apply for a free three-day stay at a mountaintop writer’s retreat in Central Vermont. Contests were seldom on my radar but given that the destination, When Words Count Retreat, was two hours from my home in southern Vermont, I filled in the sweepstake form and quickly forgot about it.
A month later I received an email telling me I had won. Won what? I wondered. Another gander at the retreat’s website and a phone call later, I found myself in two weeks time meandering north, around farmyard bends that wound through Route 100, trailing the caps along the White River. A prescient thought nagged at me: somehow this trip would change my life.
I arrived at the retreat and was immediately enchanted with the restored 1806 farmhouse, its cozy rooms and sumptuous chef-prepared meals, and my host Steve Eisner. That first night in the plush salon with its fireplace and cushy chairs I read a short fiction piece that I had recently completed.
Steve Eisner, CEO of When Words Count Retreat, immediately invited me to participate in his program known as “Pitch Week”—a Food Network’s Chopped-style book competition with the grand prize of a traditional publishing contract, guidance and possible representation from a literary agent, and a national book launch via a world-class, book-centric public relations firm.
The problem was that I didn’t have a book, except for a novel draft that sat in a drawer for eighteen years. I soon realized the short story I had read was the answer to the problems that had plagued my abandoned novel.
In June 2014, I won WWCR’s icon Pitch Week, and in one breath I had a book contract with a much-respected independent publisher, Select Books, Inc. of NYC; representation from Rachel Ekstrom, of the Irene Goodman Literary Agency; and expert public relations guidance from my most ardent cheerleader, Meryl Moss, of Meryl Moss Media, Inc.
My life dramatically changed. Steve Eisner hired me as a writer-in-residence at When Words Count Retreat. Meryl Moss asked me to contribute to her BookTrib website, and I have worked closely with the team at Select Books, in preparation for my October book launch.
Look for my upcoming notes on writing, amusing anecdotes, and updates on my lyrical novel Stony Kill. It’s the story of Joss Ryckman, a 30-something baker from Brooklyn who returns to her upstate roots and its gun culture. There she navigates the kingdom of her violent childhood on the family farm with its tree house on the edge of a magnificent river. She is a runner, a woman always seeking emotional distance, a family trait entrenched for generations. Though this time the players have changed and she cannot outrun the river, her guy Wyatt, or Miss Euphrates, the family housekeeper who is the only constancy in her chaotic life.
MARIE WHITE SMALL is a secret writer from a pragmatic blue-collar neighborhood who brings her skills as a florist, waitress, antiquarian bookseller, bookbinder, cook and pie baker to the page. She studied at the Center for the Book Arts in NYC and was the founder and moderator of a community literary critique group, North Gotham Fiction Writers, for 10 years. Small is currently the writer-in-residence at a Vermont mountain-top writer’s retreat. She has published short fiction in the anthology, Southshire Pepper-Pot. Stony Kill (SelectBooks; October 13, 2015) is her debut novel.