Maspeth Book Festival to host youth writing workshop
by Benjamin Fang
Apr 16, 2019 | 7847 views | 0 0 comments | 153 153 recommendations | email to a friend | print
As part of the first annual Maspeth Book Festival on May 18, organizers are hosting a writing workshop for young adults.

Two professional authors and writers, Alex Shvartsman and Ian Randal Strock, will critique writing samples and provide advice.

To apply for the workshop, which is only accepting a limited number of students, high school students must submit a completed short story by Friday, May 9.

The written work should be at least 700 words and no more than 4,000 words. Accepted applicants will be notified by May 15.

The workshop itself will be conducted during the book festival in a classroom setting.

“We see a great deal of talent in the field of writing from high schoolers,” said Walter Sanchez, publisher of BQE Media. “This is a chance for those who have a real passion for the craft to get their work critiqued by experts.”

Shvartsman, a local author who primarily writes short stories, said it’s important to get more students to read, as opposed to play video games or watch television.

“It helps everyone if we encourage everyone to write and develop that next generation of George R.R. Martins,” he said.

His advice to aspiring writers is to read widely within their genres.

“It’s common to see manuscripts rehashing old ideas,” he said. “This is true of young and old writers. Know your genre and be able to add something.”

Growing up in the Soviet Union, Shvartsman said he had no computers or access to entertainment other than books.

“Books were our Netflix and our streaming services,” he said. “For me, it’s always been about accessing wonder through reading and imagining the scenes in my head.”

He didn’t become a writer until much later in his life. Shvartsman said he wrote his first books at 35 years old.

In addition to publishing two short story collections, he has also penned a novella and a couple of novels, which he is now shopping around. Shvartsman also edits and works with other writers.

For the Maspeth Book Festival, he wants to see promise in the written works. The writing doesn’t have to be well developed, but it has to have something “unique about it that shows potential.”

“I’m excited to see more of these kinds of events happening in New York City,” Shvartsman said.

Strock, meanwhile, said he became a writer the way most people do –– staring at a blank piece of paper, putting words on it, and doing it over and over again until he got better.

He said many up-and-coming writers find workshops useful, and he hopes this one will be as well.

“Creativity is something that is sorely needed,” he said. “I see less creativity now and more rote learning or teaching to the test, which is not conducive to anything but passing the test.”

Strock has a different piece of advice for young writers: take a job in another field and write as a hobby.

“The vast majority of writers do not make a lot of money as writers,” he said. “It’s a really tough business.”

Strock considers himself a science fiction writer, although most of his stories are nonfiction. In addition to selling a short story, Strock is also working on a novel.

He also owns and runs his own small publishing company, and has been an editor for many years.

While it’s a difficult business to enter, Strock does encourage young writers to read as much as they can.

“The best thing for a writer of fiction or novels to do is read,” he said.

To apply to the workshop, email submissions to Place “MBF Writing Competition” in the subject line.
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