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Archive for August, 2013

New England Christian Writers Retreat

October 18-20, 2013
Plainfield, NH

A New England-based team of successful published authors will offer an eclectic selection of practical workshops targeted to help you write a powerful first page, finish the first chapter of your novel, build a blog, write memoir, craft professional book proposals, and move beyond writer’s block. Singing Hills Conference Center will provide housing, delicious food, wireless internet and a great atmosphere for creativity amidst God’s palette of autumn color. Enjoy times of worship and inspiration from seasoned speakers familiar with the writing journey. Writers of all levels and genre are welcome, but space is limited for maximum interaction.

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Turner Classic Movies host Robert Osborne (center) is joined by Jane Powell and Dennis Adamovich, senior vice president digital, affiliate, lifestyle and enterprise commerce for TCM, TBS and TNT, to launch the TCM Classic Film Tour in New York City. Photo courtesy of TCM.
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Visit the homes of Lauren Bacall, Holly Golightly;

Take Your Picture on Marilyn’s Subway Grate

By Lauren Yarger

Turner Classic Movies has come up with the perfect combination for movie lovers visiting the Big Apple the New York Classic Film Tour that highlights the city’s famous landmarks and the films that feature them.On the press launch, we were welcomed by TCM’s host Robert Osbourne,  (he has a recorded greeting for you to start off the tour which officially opens to the public today). Also on hand was legendary screen actress Jane Powell (not a bad start). As the bus weaves through Manhattan, your tour guide shows clips from movies filmed on location, so you can see King Kong fending off airplanes atop the Empire State Building just as your drive by the iconic skyscraper.

Our tour guide, and native New Yorker, Roseanne Almanzar, was very knowledgeable about the city, often pausing to direct bus driver Harold Jean-Pierre to the best route across town to beat traffic while she was spewing out movie trivia (there’s a contest), sharing little known facts about the movie clips she expertly paused and played on video monitors and delivering a great tour of New York in the process.

What makes a film a classic? Well, that’s up to you, Rosemarie said, but tons of clips from TCM’s vault run during the tour. At Columbus Circle, we saw clips from movies with scenes shot there like “Ma and Pa Kettle Go to Town,” “Taxi Drive” “Ghostbusters.” Footage from “Superman” rolled as we drove by the apartment building where Lois Lane lived. There was a clip featuring an interview with Ann Miller speaking about filming “On the Town,” the first MGM musical shot on location.

At the Prasada, a Beaux Arts classic building on Central Park West, we saw clips from “Three Men and a Baby” (this is where the bachelors lived) and “The Out of Towners.” In the photo at left, though you can’t see it too well, Jack Nicholson and Sandy Dennis are exiting the church that you can see out the bus window to the the left of the screen (video screens are placed throughout the coach bus so everyone has a great view of the movies).

At Lincoln Center, a clip from “West Side Story” played while we heard that two streets of vacant buildings were left up while the filming took place during construction of the current center for the performing arts which houses the Metropolitan Opera, Avery Fisher Hall and the ballet. It also was fun at one point to see a clip with a two-way Fifth Avenue (it’s now one way).

Sometimes the movie stars themselves, rather than their clips are the highlights. We saw the beautiful Ansonia on the upper West Side, home to people like Enrico Caruso, conductor Arturo Toscanini, composers Igor Stravinksy and Dmitry Shostakovich, baesball star Babe Ruth and others. The residential hotel, now condos and home to the New York campus of the American Musical and Dramatic Academy, used to offer a roof-top farm (complete with chicken that provided eggs for the residents), a basement Turkish bath and a fountain with live seals in its luxurious past. The “Sunshine Boys” lived here too and laughter rang out as the clip of George Burns and Walter Matthau rolled.

Other buildings featured are The Apthorp (“Network,” “I Witness”), The Emerald Inn (“The Apartment”), The Ardsley where Barbra Streisand once lived and the Dakota where “Rosemary’s Baby” was shot, where Lauren Bacall, Connie Chung and Yoko Ono still live and where John Lennon was killed. There’s a stop there for a photo opportunity between the gas lanterns at the entrance, left, if you are interested. I had walked by this building a hundred times, but had no idea it was the famous Dakota (so named because when it was built in 1884 on what is now Central Park West, it was considered so far away from the heart of the city that it might as well have been built in the Dakota Territory….).
The bus takes the transverse through Central Park, the most filmed location in the most filmed city in the world. You have seen in in films like “Barefoot in the Park,” Ransom,” The Manchurian Candidate” and “Marathon Man.” we also saw an early 1896 clip called “Mounted Police Charge.”
We drove by the Guggenheim Museum, seen in “Cactus Flower” and “Manhattan” and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, with a classic scene in “When Harry Met Sally,” Also included are numerous clips and sites along Fifth Avenue, including Rockefeller Center, Tiffany’s and the New York Public Library. Believe me, I can’t begin to list all of the buildings pointed out and clips shown.You’ll just have to take the tour and see them for yourself. It’s well worth it. A great way to see the city (and the three hours flies by).
There are a few stops included during the tour in addition to the Dakota. About 30 minutes into the tour there is a brief lunch stop near Zabar’s, the famous upper west deli. You can grab a sandwich there (I highly recommend their grilled vegetable sandwich) or at a few nearby shops, or you can just get a photo of yourself where Meg Ryan finds herself in the cash-only lane at Zabar’s in “You’ve Got Mail.” Other photo ops are available in front of Holly Golightly’s brownstone on East 71st Street (above

right) or on the subway grate where Marilyn Monroe’s skirt blew up for “The Seven Year Itch” (Roseanne does the honors, left, with her tour guide umbrella that will help you find her when you get off the bus).

Probably one of the most memorable stops for me was at Sutton Place where you can take your picture on the bench overlooking the 59th Street Bridge (also known as the Queensboro Bridge, or the Ed Koch Queensboro Bridge) from the ending scene of Woody Allen’s “Manhattan'” It’s a beautiful spot (above right) that I and some of my press colleagues had never been to before. It’s kind of off the beaten path.

The tour concludes at Grand Central Station (“Spelbound,” “The Thin Man Goes Home,” “North By Northwest”).
Tours, booked through On Location Tours, are offered Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday at 11:30 am, leaving from a location near Broadway and 51st Street (exact location given upon purchase). Cost: Adult: $40 pus a $3 ticket fee, Child: $24 plus a $3 fee. To book: 212-913-9780; http://onlocationtours.com/tour/tcm-classic-film/. There is a restroom on the bus.
Harold Jean-Pierre
A Bonus:
You Never Know Who Your Bus Driver Might Be
By Lauren Yarger
In New York’s restaurants, there always is a chance that your waiter or waitress might be be the next Russell Crowe or Sandra Bullock — most wannabe actors start out waiting tables while waiting for their big break. On the TCM Classic Films Tour Bus, a quiet celebrity among us was our bus driver, Harold Jean-Pierre, a professional musician and composer whose specialty is the tenor sax.
Harold played in the pit for orchestras on cruises for 10 years (TCM offers a movie cruise this December where Osbourne and Powell will be joined by Ben Mankiewicz, Robert Wagner and Theodore Bikel among others. More info here: http://www.tcmcruise.com/).
A native of Haiti, Harold started exploring at age nine, when his father introduced him to the accordion. He mastered the tenor, alto and soprano saxophones, the clarinet and the flute. He studied at Five Towns college and played with the marine band during his four year tour in the military.
Harold has also played and recorded for many musicians and entertainers including Ben Vereen, Charo, David “fathead” Newman, Shirley Jones and Betty Carter, among others He is putting his “bus money” into his CD project to combine the sounds of jazz and Haitian rhythms.
“It’s New York,” he said. “Anything is possible.”
Harold gave me a copy of the CD, “Moving On,” which I popped in my player for the drive home. It is a different sound. I enjoyed it very much. Visit him at http://haroldjeanpierre.com/. Here’s hoping you make it big, Harold.

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launch full house john groo

By Lauren Yarger
Planning a successful book launch is a lot like creating a prize-winning recipe: it’s all in using the right ingredients and making sure people will want to sample the gourmet masterpiece that is your book.

When our writing group set out to launch “Harvest of Gold,” (River North, July 2013) the third historical biblical novel by member Tessa Afshar, we had a number of savory ingredients at hand (sort of like having quality ingredients in the pantry without having to go to the store).

First the book itself was the highly anticipated sequel to “Harvest of Rubies” and Tessa already has a loyal following. She was voted “New Author of the Year” by the Family Fiction sponsored Reader’s Choice Awards 2011 for her first novel “Pearl in the Sand” and “Harvest of Rubies” had been nominated for the 2013 ECPA Book Award (formerly known as the Gold Medallion) in the fiction category. It also received the 2012 Grace Award for Women’s Fiction.

Second, we are fortunate to have in our group Lucinda Secrest McDowell, who has a lot of professional experience speaking and hosting events. She was the perfect choice to emcee the event and to interview Tessa during the program. She also is one of those humble people who will tell you that they have no talent when it comes to decorating, but who can whip up flower arrangements for the tables and stage that look like they’re right out of the pages of Home & Garden magazine. She was “hired” and we were on our way. (If you aren’t fortunate enough to have a professional emcee in your mix, hire one. It really can be the difference between keeping the evening flowing and interesting or the soufflé falling.)

I was the “head chef,” Cindy jokingly says, in charge of putting all the ingredients together.

But where would we cook the meal? The answer to this question might be one of the most crucial ingredients in the recipe for a successful book launch. It doesn’t help to bake a dish fit for a king if no one shows up to eat it.

Tessa and Cindy with Mark Twain John GrooIn Connecticut, where we are located, the premiere name for writing and writers is The Mark Twain House & Museum in Hartford. Here, where Samuel Clemens lived and wrote his most famous books, author events and book signings happen every day (Stephen King just stopped by for a sold-out evening of conversation hosted at a 2,800-seat venue nearby). Would they be willing to host an event for a book and author in a genre (inspirational fiction) they hadn’t before? That’s sort of like asking someone who is excitedly expecting meat and potatoes for dinner to try sushi for the first time.

“Faith” books hadn’t been tried on the menu much at the Mark Twain House, said Jacques Lamarre, manager of marketing and special events. Their most successful sampling in that food group had been an atheist author who drew 150. He was intrigued, however, after considering the potential of reaching a new audience and realizing that the Mark Twain House had never hosted a launch before. They had hosted events, writing weekends and book signings, but never a launch. Jacques is the kind of guy who isn’t afraid to try something new, so he took a taste.

Persian foodsA culinary masterpiece began to take shape. Since Tessa had been born in Iran and the “Harvest” books feature settings in ancient Persia, we decided to make the launch a Persian Tea. A day of sampling Persian delights at a nearby market resulted in selections of delicious and unusual foods for the reception: Pistachio with lime and sea salt, raisin butter cookies, walnut cookies. baklava with rose water and cardamom, butter cookies, pomegranate, fig, Noghl (a Persian sugar candy used for celebrations like weddings and new endeavors), Salad Olivier (chicken and potato salad) and Kashke Bademjan (eggplant puree with onions and mint).

Meanwhile, Jacques suggested displaying the museum’s “mosque lamp,” which had hung in the front foyer of the home after being purchased by the Clemens family. It had been severely damaged in a fall, however, and fundraising efforts were underway to repair and restore it. The museum’s chief curator would be on hand during the event to give a little background on the lamp and to translate a section from Twain’s “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer” read aloud by Tessa in her native Farsi (the language in which she had read the story as a young girl). Tessa also would do a reading from “Harvest of Gold.”

signing John grooSuddenly, the book launch wasn’t just an event that might appeal only to readers of historical or inspirational fiction, but something that was becoming an entrée in its own right that anyone could enjoy. Jacques was still a little skeptical about how many might turn out for an inspirational novelist, but as RSVPs started to flood in and book orders overwhelmed the museum’s shop, we had an idea that the launch was going to be a success.

And it was. An eclectic group of VIPS (from authors and marketing experts to a Broadway theater producer) attended a reception with Tessa prior to the program while the line of those arriving for the event stretched out the door as people waited to sign the guest book and register for prizes. Additional chairs were brought in to the museum’s auditorium, where even with people seated on the stage, the crowd still was Standing Room Only (the official count attending the event was more than 230). To the delight of the crowd, Jacques admitted that despite his initial hesitation, he had “tried it and liked it.”

Following the program attendees feasted on the buffet of Persian delights and black tea served up in two silver samovars. I personally think God pulled off a little “loaves-and-fishes” miracle to keep the food flowing in abundance throughout the evening as attendees mingled, lingered to chat, network and have their books signed. (The shop completely sold out of books at 140 and took orders for more).Harvest of Gold Tessa Afshar

The recipe will vary slightly for each book launch depending on what ingredients you have available. If you don’t have a location like the Mark Twain House, find a venue that is a good match for your book. Is your novel historical in nature? Perhaps a local historical attraction would be the perfect setting. Is your book about sports? Why not try the local club house at a sporting venue? Tie the theme of your non-fiction book to a local charity and have the launch be about supporting a cause as m   uch as about announcing publication of your book.

Some might fear that too many cooks will spoil the broth, but expanding the focus of your launch could lead to tapping into markets you might not be able to reach otherwise. It’s just a question of making sure that you have quality ingredients perfectly measured and blended to create an epicurean delight.

You can find more info about Tessa on her website at www.TessaAfshar.com.

Links to purchasing her books are here: http://www.amazon.com/Tessa-Afshar/e/B003JS0HLW/ref=sr_tc_2_0?qid=1374868243&sr=1-2-ent

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