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Writers Conference: Best of Times…
<d>Christopher Klim is not yet a household name,
but the Lambertville-based writer insists that "I am a typical
successful writer." The author of "A Jesus Lives in Trenton,"
a novel that has sold 8,000 copies, Klim is working on a sequel, "Everything
Burns," due out early next year, and a screenplay. He has published
a non-fiction book, teaches writing at three community colleges, writes
magazine articles, edits books for major publishing houses, and acts
as an editor and writing mentor for aspiring authors.
"Stephen King is unusual," he says. The lives of most people
who want to be writers, and who succeed, will look a lot like his.
It is a good life, if financially lean, a life in which family is
well-integrated, and in which tomorrow is full of promise. If he sells
the screenplay, "that’s $500,000," he says.
Klim is organizing the Conference Center at Mercer’s first Contemporary
Writer’s Conference. It takes place on Saturday, October 18, at 8:30
a.m. at the conference center on the West Windsor campus of Mercer
County Community College. The full-day event features workshops by
of Poetry for Dummies;
to Marie Claire and Seventeen magazines;
for CBS radio network;
of Ireland, I am of Urelaunde;
Literary Magazine, former Doubleday editor;
editor of The New Renaissance, Without Halos, and Under a Gull’s Wing;
book, Flying Jack;
of the comic series, Roach Mill; and
over 50 plays, including Bessie Smith: Empress of the Blues. Cost:
$95. Call 609-586-9446.
"The first thing I learned in promotion," says Klim, "is
that people come to the author first, and then the book." When
he is interviewed, his intro goes something like this, "He’s the
ex-space physicist turned father."
Klim always wanted to be a writer, but followed a not-uncommonly circuitous
route to become one. The trip has been shaped by a shuttle disaster,
the invention of electronic junk mail, long, lonely nights in flea-bag
Panhandle hotels, and the birth of his first child.
Klim grew up in and around Trenton, graduated from Rutgers in 1984,
and holds a master’s degree in computer science and physics from the
New Jersey Institute of Technology. He worked on a variety of space
projects, including the Mars Observer, for RCA, and hoped to get on
a space shuttle as a support specialist. He was on track to do just
that when the Challenger exploded. The tragedy’s effects reached well
into the space program. "The whole industry went to hell after
the shuttle blew up," he says.
Klim moved on to the commercial sector at about that time, landing
a job with Xpedite, a Tinton Falls-based company that pioneered what
it calls the "automated distribution of communications." When
he started, mass communications were going out by fax — very inefficiently.
"I was in on the invention of junk E-mail," Klim recounts.
"I was there the day it was invented." Although the junk going
out in those just-pre-Internet days was still on paper. "Out biggest
client was Citibank," he recounts. He and his Xpedite team were
visiting just as the day’s mortgage rate sheets were going out. "We
watched 50 secretaries standing in front of fax machines sending out
the exact same thing," he says of the ah-hah moment.
Shortly thereafter, the automated fax was born.
Xpedite thought the next big thing would be PC-to-PC communications,
but, says Klim, "it never took off." What did take off, with
the speed of a shuttle on steroids, was, of course, junk E-mail. At
Xpedite, he also followed the birth of a mass communications technology
that is even more hated by the masses: Junk voicemail.
On sales trips, Klim spent a good amount of time traveling I-10 along
the Panhandle of Florida and into Texas. Staying at "God-awful
motels," he by-passed the common pastimes of his fellows —
"being a drunk or watching TV" — and wrote.
Writing remained a part-time occupation for Klim until his first child
was born in 1996. He and his wife, who is in sales for Xpedite, decided
they did not want their child to be raised by a stranger. In deciding
which parent would stay at home, the couple took into account that
he wanted to be a serious writer and that she was making more money.
Klim became stay-at-home dad. The couple now have two children, and
he writes around their schedule.
The family’s income was cut in half by their decision to keep a parent
in the house, but Klim shrugs at the effects. "You just live differently,"
he says. "You don’t live an extravagant lifestyle." He grew
up poor, and says "you can adjust your lifestyle to anything."
Likewise, you can fit writing into your life, and build toward success,
part time or full time. Here are excerpts from Write to Publish (Hopewell
Press), his book of advice for writers.
birth. They construct scenes in their heads, like theatrical plays.
They dissect events, searching for the dramatic core. At the start,
they aren’t thinking about book contracts and publishing deadlines,
but they imagine their stories being heard by the public and garnering
writer. He writes every day, on schedule, regardless of family, or
illness, or weather. He gives his best hours to the process. This
sounds demanding, but a writer can’t think of a better way to spend
his time. Regardless of his career path, he returns to writing. Even
as publishers’ rejection slips pile on his desk, he cannot ignore
the facts. He feels compelled to write.
writing schedule, create a writer friendly environment. Rent an office
or set aside a corner of your home. Make it as plain as possible.
"A gorgeous view opens beyond my office window, but I positioned
the desk so that I can’t see it while I’m working," writes Klim
in his book.
goals. Put names to them and build a list. Replace vague desires with
concrete goals. Attach proposed dates to your goals. If you fall short,
forgive yourself and regroup, but remember to reach high. You cannot
reach your grandest dreams if you never give them a name.
Another important precept of writing is that all drafts are bad. Bad
is a general category, ranging from not too bad to pretty damn bad.
In draft work, writers sometimes deliver lines that are pretty damn
bad. An honest writer admits that the draft process is an inescapable
flirtation with disaster. As he attempts to elevate his prose, he
sometimes misses and suffers a bad fall. That is expected. The revision
process exists to recognize the fall and mop up the mess.
writers collect untold numbers of rejections. Notes Klim: "My
path was no different. I was not a literary insider. I earned no degrees
in fine arts, journalism, or literature, and I never labored inside
a publishing house, yet I gained valuable experience and success in
each of those areas. I waded through countless rejections and sought
the help of a trusted mentor. I concentrated on the craft and art
of storytelling and learned to trust my instincts."
An aspiring writer should cast off discouragement. Regardless of the
endeavor, the path to success is riddled with uninspired individuals
who will say "no, no, and no." Eventually someone will say
"yes" or lend a helping hand.
the bulk of it exists in Manhattan. Don’t think a publishing house
will do anything that you cannot do for yourself. They will not fix
bad grammar, chubby plots, or stilted characters. An author needs
to deliver a watertight story and get it to the right people. The
rest is fate and luck, and as successful businessmen say, we create
our own luck. A solid story creates a lot of luck for a writer.
From an industry perspective, a good book is a book that sells. If
you read the publishing trade journals or spend an afternoon in a
bookstore, you’ll observe the following. The cover of the book entices
a reader to pull it from the shelf. The first page and author photo
sell the book. Talk to anyone in the business, and they know this.
It is the contents of the book that sells the author’s next book.
Publishing people mimic the reading habits of common readers. Right
now, editors and agents are searching for the most compelling manuscripts,
but they must work within the needs of the business. It pays their
salaries and finances the office coffeemaker. A book must sell, and
a book is sold when a reader decides to take it home.
It was an impressive group, those three dozen people
who sat in a big square at the Lafayette Yard Marriott on a September
a taskforce to firm up the plans for a major women’s conference in
October. Present were such notables as Congressman
The breakfast meeting produced some hot-and-heavy discussion plus
some good listening: Pechter walked in with one idea for the conference,
but he and his conference planner
with a completely different idea. After listening to what the women
business owners had to say, Pechter changed the tune he had planned
to play at the conference. Instead of gearing the conference to newbies
and wanna-bes — women who want to be entrepreneurs or who are
have just opened their business — the conference would be slanted
to more experienced women entrepreneurs seeking ways to grow their
"Prosperity listened to us," says
whose environmental law firm, Lieberman & Blecher, is located at Jefferson
Plaza and who will be a panelist at the conference. "We said there
were many classes to help us get started, but that we need people
telling us how to operate at a higher level, how to create the relationships
that we need."
"This isn’t the entry level symposium for every entrepreneur,"
says Blecher. "While new entrepreneurs certainly can learn a lot,
this will be more focused on the business owner looking to land the
larger business deals, or work with the government, or work with larger
corporations. I think it will be an exciting symposium, a creative
and fertile opportunity for leading women and business owners in New
This conference is one of three dedicated to women’s issues —
beginning on Thursday, October 23. The Prosperity New Jersey panel,
entitled "Women Rising in New Jersey: a symposium for women and
business in the new economy," is set for Monday, October 27, from
8 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at Forsgate Country Club. In addition to a closing
keynote speech by
remarks by Pechter, Holt, CEO of New Jersey Commerce & Economic Growth
C. Pease, president of the National Association of Women Business
Owners. Then Manahan will chair a 10-woman panel. It’s all free for
those who register, but space is limited. Call 609-984-4924.
Bracketing the free Prosperity New Jersey symposium, Mercer County
Community College and the New Jersey Technology Council focus on workshops
for women. MCCC partners with the Small Business Development Center
at the College of New Jersey for "Women in Business: Developing
Powerhouse Strategies," set for Thursday, October 23, at 9 a.m.
Cost: $125. Call 609-586-9456.
NJTC has scheduled "Women in Technology Network: Roundtable Discussion,"
an interactive look at a variety of issues faced by women in technology
companies, for Wednesday, October 29, at 8:30 a.m. at Wachovia Insurance
Services, 499 Thornall Street, Edison. Cost: $40. Call 856-787-9700.
If Prosperity New Jersey was listening to what the women
on the taskforce were saying, so did the keynote speaker, Pease. "I
came out of that meeting and wrote the speech right then," says
Pease, whose business, Ampersand Graphics, is based in Morganville.
Referring to a favorite slogan "We are your market, make us your
vendor," she will quote the statistics about women having 85 percent
of the purchasing power and conclude that smart firms should buy more
from women-owned businesses.
But she will also challenge women. "At that taskforce meeting
I saw some posturing from need rather than power. We have the economic
power but are not using it. In addition to our purchasing power, women
have more voting power (more women voters than men) and employing
power (one fourth of all workers work for women business owners).
It is time to move from a position of disadvantage. We may have been
disadvantaged for these years but let’s get over it and move forward."
"If we constantly look at obstacles, it doesn’t change them,"
says Pease. "We need to spend time on how we get around them,
over them, through them, and work from whatever base we have and build.
Look at what’s working and do more of it."
Underneath the drama of women entrepreneurs arguing over what should
be presented at the conference was another subtext, a smaller drama.
When Pease took office as president of the National Association of
Women Business Owners (NAWBO), that organization included the nearly
1,000-member state organization, New Jersey Association of Women Business
Owners (NJAWBO). But last December NJAWBO broke away from NAWBO. Suddenly
she became the president of a national organization with no representation
in her own state. Pease has had to draw on her own philosophy of "If
you can’t change it then you have to move on.
Pease, who still retains her membership in the state organization,
attributes the break to too many layers of communication between the
national organization and the state members. "There is a need
for a state association, but the communication tree needs not to be
so long." She is philosophical about what she needs to do; she
has set about starting new chapters and has chartered three in New
Jersey so far. "I’m hoping that five years down the road that
the two organizations will come back together in some form."
"It is time to say that everyone has disadvantages — whether
from gender, learning disabilities, bankruptcy, or the effect of September
11. It is not going to change things to feel like you are owed something.
Certainly there are things the government should and could do to rectify
inadequacies. That doesn’t eliminate the responsibility of the business
owner for doing her own marketing, for fulfilling the business promises
that her brand has created to the best of her ability."
She cites a contracting officer who is frustrated by women who don’t
do their homework and ask for contracts they are not prepared to fulfill.
"Part of NAWBO’s job is to be there for advocacy but also to give
women the tools to compete," says Pease.
Some of the panelists are also in positions where they
can help train and encourage women entrepreneurs. For instance,
Franzini is CEO of the New Jersey Economic Development Authority,
which has various loan and study programs.
officer at Commerce Bank, can tell about Small Business Administration
called Women Impacting Public Policy, can be expected to urge women
entrepreneurs to press their issues with lawmakers.
Business Owners, was recently quoted in U.S. 1 on the topic of self
marketing ("Sell Yourself, Not the Deal," October 8). Among
those representing women entrepreneurs with one or two person businesses
Pediatric Medical Daycare, that in three years has grown to 75 employees
and three sites, and is an activist in the field of healthcare policy.
controller, she supervises 16 workers at Enterprise Rent-A-Car. DiGemma
came to the United States from the Philippines about 20 years ago
and has been with Enterprise ever since.
DiGemma can be expected to echo Pease’s keynote challenge by saying,
don’t do business as a minority or a woman. "I never conducted
business with the idea that I am going to do it as a minority or a
woman, and I have never been discriminated against, because the Enterprise
culture promotes diversity and provides opportunities to everyone,"
says DiGemma. "My advice to women would be, `Don’t think about
being a minority, just perform to the best of your abilities’."
— Barbara Fox
"Women in Business: Developing Powerhouse Strategies." $125.
"Women Rising in New Jersey: Women and Business in the New Economy."
Free by registration.
499 Thornall Street, Edison, 856-787-9700. "Women in Technology
Network: Roundtable Discussion," $40.
Seven area companies will be represented at at New Jersey
Technology Council’s Growth Company Showcase on Thursday, October
23, at the Jersey City Hyatt, 8 to 1:p.m.
of technology banking at Wachovia Bank, will be the keynote luncheon
speaker. Cost: $75. Call 856-787-9700.
New Jersey State Treasurer
in an afternoon meeting open only to angel investors, venture capitalists,
and investment bankers.
CEOs and CFOs of 30 regional public and private technology companies
will make presentations.
Princeton area participating companies: Aereon Solutions and Quantiva
at Princeton Forrestal Village, Barrier Therapeutics at Overlook Center,
Digital 5 at Quakerbridge Executive Center, MicroDose Technologies
on Route 1 North in Monmouth Junction, StatementOne on Lenox Drive,
and NanoOpto Corp., with technology developed at Princeton University
but located in Somerset.
Going to work every day to earn a paycheck can be wearing,
even downright miserable, but letting go of that tether can be positively
terrifying. "The biggest concern for people about to retire is
"People are used to looking at income as where the money is coming
from." Contemplating a life without paydays is harrowing, she
says, because ""people are thinking income, when they should
be thinking cash."
Szymanski, co-founder of EKS Associates on Ewing Street (firstname.lastname@example.org),
talks about just how much cash is needed for a comfortable retirement,
and about where the cash will come from, when she appears at the Princeton
Senior Resource Center’s "Legal and Financial Plans for the Future
Day" on Saturday, October 25, beginning at 9 a.m. at the Suzanne
Paterson Center. Cost: $40. Call 609-924-7108.
Szymanski, who studied accounting at Rider, founded EKS Associates,
ago. Prior to that, the Pennsylvania native worked in the venture
capital industry for 10 years.
The biggest failure in retirement planning, she says, is not doing
the planning at all. This is a common sin. "People in general
aren’t prepared for retirement," she says. "People in their
60s didn’t expect to get old." She likes to see people start a
comprehensive plan 10 years out, when there are still plenty of options.
Her straight forward advice cuts through the barrage of "Can You
Really Afford to Retire on $1 Million?" articles that pop up every
month or so in the personal finance press. A lot of the panic is unnecessary,
she says, and a lot of the high-wattage advice being peddled in the
media is wrong.
$60,000, you won’t need quite that much in retirement," she says.
There will be no more Social Security tax, for one thing, and those
401 (k) contributions will stop. Otherwise, though, expect spending
after work to be about the same as it is while you are punching the
No, there will not be a commuter ticket, and there will be a lot fewer
outlays for suits and wing tips, but Szymanski says that travel, entertainment,
and trips to see the grandchildren will slip right in to fill the
The first step, then, is adding up what you spend. It will tell you
how much cash you will need.
to work alone in carrying your retirement. There will be Social Security
and there may be a pension. Add up these amounts, and subtract them
from your expenses. The result will be the cash you will have to find
to continue to live the lifestyle you enjoy.
income, many panicked retirees turn their nest eggs into annuities
or put them all in bonds. This is a natural reaction to the loss of
the cash-the-paycheck ritual. But it is severely limiting, allows
for precious little upside, and does not take account of the effects
of inflation. Resist the urge.
Security and pension income by taking a section of the nest egg, perhaps
a quarter, and purchasing bonds of varying maturities, up to eight
or ten years. Cash one in a year.
There your need for income is met, and the majority of your nest egg
hasn’t had to come into play.
observes Szymanski. But, no, she says, it’s just the beginning. "What
are you going to do, retire and die?" she asks. Recent retirees,
even those who did not take early retirement, may well live for another
30 years — or more. The world will continue revolving, and it’s
a good bet that inflation will roll right along with it.
Aiming for steady income is not enough. The nest egg must work hard
to provide for expenses way down the road.
are the foundation of an equities portfolio. That being the case,
Szymanski says they might as well be stocks that pay dividends. Legislation
passed this year taxes dividends at the capital gains rate, rather
than the rate for ordinary income, providing a tax break. Also, dividends
are a relatively sure thing, meaning that companies are paying their
stockholders upfront, a prospect she says many find comforting when
corporate scandals rage.
that they have to choose between giving up on their retirement plans
and working a bit longer to fund them. The latter is a good idea,
particularly when the work is enjoyable.
"I love my work," she says. "I’m not ever going to retire."
Those who share her sentiment should be in no hurry to collect a gold
watch. More time in the workforce generally means a bigger 401 (k),
a more generous pension, and higher Social Security payments. It also
means fewer years that need to be funded from savings.
It is tempting to think of retiring, taking some time off, and then
re-entering the workforce. Be careful, says Szymanski. "It’s not
easy to get back in. There is job discrimination all over the place."
financial guru is urging one and all to hurry up and pay off their
mortgages. Nonsense, says Szymanski, pointing out that the deduction
for mortgage interest is the best tax break of all for most people.
"If you can get yourself a nice 6 percent mortgage," she says,
"that’s really 4 percent. If you can earn more on the money, you’re
ahead of the game."
for most people. Don’t make it worse by uprooting yourself. New Jersey
is an expensive place to live, Szymanski concedes, and many people
do decide to stretch their money in a less pricey state. If you decide
that you want to head for the sun, do so in stages, and wait at least
a year before making a drastic move.
anxiety at your desk, no matter where you choose to retire.
<d>Ethicon, a Johnson & Johnson company, has been
named Outstanding Corporation by the 2003 New Jersey Conference on
Ethicon was recognized for supporting the Somerset Medical Center
Foundation and Association of Fundraising Professionals’ Youth in
Philanthropy program through funding, volunteers, and in-kind contributions
of products and facilities, and also for its philanthropic activities
throughout New Jersey.
Recipients of the company’s outreach include Muhlenberg Regional Medical
Center, the YWCA’s TWIN program, United Way, the Susan G. Komen Foundation,
the Upper Raritan Watershed Association, and the American Red Cross.
Thomas Edison State College and the New Jersey Historical Society
in sponsoring "Furniture, Curios & Pictures: 100 Years of Collecting
by the Old Barracks Association," a show at the Old Barracks Museum.
The show will run all year long.
According to Vivian Lea Stevens, curator of the museum, the goal of
the exhibit is to illustrate the progression of the collection as
a whole. It aims to examine and salute the efforts of the past, to
showcase the collection, and to look toward future growth.
The exhibit features several sections that demonstrate how museum
practices have evolved during the past century. Stevens opted to display
a portion of the museum’s household antiques alongside military artifacts.
Visitors may view a collection of six firearms that show the advancement
of rifles during the Revolutionary War. Also displayed is an extensive
collection of samplers of the era, constructed by women from the New
Jersey and Pennsylvania region. Of special interest is a 1774 Broadside,
the Revolutionary War equivalent of junk mail.
teamed up with the 2003 Jerry Lewis Telethon, which raised more than
$6.6 million for the Muscular Dystrophy Association, by taking calls
throughout the annual WWOR-TV broadcast.
In addition, the
a fundraiser entitled "The Shirts Off Their Backs" at a recent
Jets football game to raise an additional $30,000 for the Muscular
to 14 Mercer County non-profits whose efforts are focused on improving
the lives of infants, toddlers, and parents in Trenton.
Catholic Charities, Children’s Home Society of New Jersey, Mercer
Street Friends, and St. Francis Hospital each have been awarded $1,035,000
to establish family-friendly activities focused on increasing access
to prenatal care and strengthening parenting at four neighborhood
parent-child centers in Trenton.
Union Industrial Home for Children has been awarded $675,000 to encourage
and sustain positive involvement of fathers in early childhood. Child
Care Connection has been awarded $1.2 million to continue quality
improvement efforts with child care centers and family child care
homes in Trenton. Greater Trenton Behavioral Health has been awarded
Another seven organization were awarded $10,000 each as a result of
their involvement in a Children’s Futures Capacity Building Grants
Program geared to increase the effectiveness of non-profit organizations
working in early childhood-related areas. Agencies receiving these
awards include Camp Fire USA, Princeton Deliverance Center, Trenton
Head Start, and Interfaith Caregivers of Trenton’s Faith in Action
offers scholarships each year to New Jersey high school and college
students pursuing a CPA career path.
For this school year, the society has awarded $275,000 to 80 New Jersey
The scholarships are awarded based on an exam, which is scheduled
for Saturday and Sunday, November 15 and 16 this year. The scholarships
are presented as five-year awards and total up to $8,500.
To complete an application form for the exam and for more information
visit www.njscpa.org/scholarships or call 973-226-4494.
its annual GO (Get Organized) Week last week. A group of Princeton
area organizers came together to organize the East Trenton Center
Food Pantry and the YWCA Childcare Center’s library, supply center,
and donation process.
of Leadership Trenton, a collaboration of Thomas Edison College and
the Partnership for New Jersey that seeks to train adults to take
leadership roles in the city, and in support of its future.
new and interested volunteers on Monday, October 20, at 7:30 p.m.
at the Main Street office, at 17 Phillips Avenue.
The purpose of the event is to familiarize new and potential volunteers
with the group’s activities, which are focused on the revitalization
of the village. For more information, call Ann Garwig, executive director,
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