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Literary Scene: COVID a ‘Writes of Passage’ for Greater LV Writers Group

“Writes of Passage” (Greater Lehigh Valley Writers Group; 189 pp.; $12.95, print; $2.99, digital; 2021) is an anthology about change described in short stories, essays and poetry.

“‘Passage’ is broadly interpreted. It is when you find yourself at a crossroads, in a career, divorce or a personal epiphany,” says Suzanne Mattaboni of Northampton, chair of the Greater Lehigh Valley Writers Group Anthology Committee.

”The stories here are triumphant and heartfelt. There is a depth of emotion from people that I sort of knew from the group, who I now feel I really know well,” says Mattaboni in a phone interview.

More than 30 contributors cover many genres and emotions. Mattaboni’s story, “Gold in a Trash Can,” is a lighthearted look at a girls’ summer camp.

There are stories and reminiscences about childhood and adult relationships. Others deal with death and drama.

The Greater Lehigh Valley Writers Group (GLVWG) , founded in February 1993, has 190 members. “Writes of Passage” is its fifth anthology.

Phil Giunta of South Whitehall Township describes his anthology story, “Help Me Rise,” as “a troubled rock star and recovering alcoholic attempts to resurrect her career after the death of her husband.”

“The GLVWG membership has been growing, especially in the last few years,” says Giunta in a phone interview.

Apparently, the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic increased interest in writing since it can be done at home.

“At first, people could not think about anything else. But then they began to write, either to describe the experience or to escape. It was a cathartic experience,” says Mattaboni.

“And a lot more people have come to the Writers Cafe since it is more accessible online,” Mattaboni says.

The Writers Cafe meets Wednesdays via Zoom.

Giunta is author of three paranormal mystery books: “Testing the Prisoner,” “By Your Side” and “Like Mother, Like Daughters.” He is editor of and contributor to the “Middle of Eternity” anthology of speculative fiction. He has a YouTube channel, “Got a Story for Ya!,” where he reads his stories. The channel has 25 postings.

Mattaboni and Giunta say that many people would like to write but are hesitant to try.

“People don’t have confidence in their own abilities. They are insecure in their talents. They think everyone else knows more than they do,” says Mattaboni.

“People find some excuse not to do it. Or they take the first step and then disappear after getting discouraged,” says Giunta.

“I am an IT-support technician, and I am often burned out after 10- to 14-hour days, but I still manage to write. It is a slow process to build your career. You have to love this craft,” Giunta says.

Not that it is easy to get readers. “Half a million books a year are submitted to Amazon. It is hard to stand out,” says Giunta.

More authors are now self-publishing. “Things have changed in the last 15 years or so. Self-publishing was looked down upon. But things have reversed, and it is a growing percentage of the publishing landscape,” Giunta says.

Most authors do their own publicity. “Absolutely, you have to spend as much time promoting as writing. You have to become a marketer. I work in public relations, but I find it is hard to market myself,” Mattaboni says.

Mattaboni has written for Seventeen, Newsday and The Huffington Post. Her work has been featured in anthologies.

Mattaboni’s short fiction was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. She won honorable mention in the 2018 Writer’s Digest Annual Writing Competition and was a finalist in the 45th Annual New Millennium Awards.

Information: www.greaterlehighvalleywritersgroup.wildapricot.org

“Literary Scene” is a column about authors, books and publishing. To request coverage, email: Paul Willistein, Focus editor, pwillistein@tnonline.com

Suzanne Mattaboni
Phil Giunta