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Pre-event Assignments, Readings, and Guides - Parts I, II, and III

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The following are the major pre-event segments (not including Part IV) for all Algonkian events including the New York Write to Pitch. Please do not utilize these assignments and forum without prior approval of Algonkian Conferences.

To utilize effectively, please establish a membership here at Author Connect, instructions in the third paragraph below.

Thank you.



Pre-event work as follows. This is Part I of four parts. 
We include a seven short assignments forum that will persuade you to consider several crucial and foundational aspects of your commercial novel project. Think of them as a primer. Complete them at your convenience and post the responses. Your responses to these assignments will be reviewed by faculty with an aim towards achieving a better understanding of your project and its current stage of development.
We recommend writing down the answers in a separate file and then copying them into the forum to prevent any possible loss of data. To enter this forum (Algonkian Author Connect), click on the “Sign Up” link, top right and follow the instructions regarding password, email, etc.
Once done, click on the assignments link above.




The second instance of pre-event necessity as follows. Read carefully and complete in the proper order as noted. You might become a bit astonished from time to time but push through. It all makes perfect sense. 
Now comes the NYWP 2023 kindle e-bookIt is perfectly suited not only for the NYWP, but for other Algonkian writer events as well; and if you do not wish to utilize Amazon, the same booklet is found here as a PDF. In either case, you must faithfully absorb everything beginning with the first chapter, “Writer Ego and the Imaginary Bob,” and continue through “Settings are 60%.” This is vital to your potential success. It places emphasis on all the crucial core elements of novel development that *will* be discussed in formal sessions. 
If you arrive at the New York Write to Pitch not knowing the difference between a plot point and a pinch point, you will be swimming upstream from the first day and thereby seriously disadvantage yourself. Avoiding the study of proper technique won’t get novels published much less developed in a manner both artful and professional. 
Okay, much to do! Is it ever enough? No, but don’t recoil or hesitate if portions of the e-Book fail to comport with what you’ve been told elsewhere (writer groups, conferences, chat boards, etc.) because the odds are extremely high that what you’ve been told is wrong, if not potentially ruinous.
Keep in mind, we all stand on the shoulders of those magnificent and capable authors who’ve preceded us. And remember too, there are no great writers, only great rewriters.




Quite often, after scoring well in a pitch session, the faculty person will ask us, “But can they write?” Premise and plot prod the necessary attention, but so many writers don’t cross the line because their actual prose narrative is not as competitive as it should be. Fact.

In response to this circumstance we’ve created an online forum that serves two purposes. First, to demonstrate the best methods and techniques that should rightfully be considered when it comes to the creation of competitive narrative regardless of genre. Second, to act as a place where editors and agents will see the quality of your work up close.

Use one of the two links above to get started asap. Simply open the topic linked above, read the guidelines and all the examples linked to Novel Writing On Edge, then edit your own opening hook accordingly. Once done, post at least 500 words by replying to the topic post. If you cannot include first pages at this time another good sample will suffice.
Btw, you should already have an Author Connect member login if you’ve opened and utilized the Part I assignment (Seven Assignments). If you have not, please do so at the first opportunity.


Michael Neff
Algonkian Producer
New York Pitch Director
Author, Development Exec, Editor

We are the makers of novels, and we are the dreamers of dreams.

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Pre-Event Assignment

 The Playgroup

Patricia Kruger

1.      Story Statement

Jenny struggles with a move to an upper middle-class suburb from New York City and her new role as a stay-at-home mom.  She is thrown together with four other mothers when she joins a Playgroup and navigates budding friendships and antagonisms while contending with her mother’s Alzheimer’s, a bumpy marriage, and a devastating breast cancer diagnosis.  Bolstering or blistering her path, the Playgroup provides friendship, laughs and mothering scorekeeping while handling their own issues of infidelity, alcoholism, poor parenting, and everyday life.

2.      Antagonist

Erica grew up hardscrabble in Georgia and clawed her way to a modeling career in New York City.  She kept her eye on the prize and lassoed a rich decent man. She participates in the Playgroup only to appease her husband and is not maternal or interested in suburban moms as friends. Erica is cutting and vocal in her criticisms of the other woman and their children. 

3.      Breakout Titles 

The Playgroup- Reminiscent of Mary McCarthy’s The Group.  Involves 5 women and their interactions.  Mothers can all relate to The Playgroup.

Mommyland – refers to the suburbia of the upper middle class where woman still have the ability, some would say luxury, of staying home to rear young children. 

4.      Genre and 



Family stories, motherhood, woman’s fiction 

The School for Good Mothers -Jessamine Chan

            Intense, upper middle-class parenting, consequences of bucking societal expectations 

Friends & Strangers- J. Courtney Sullivan

            Exploration of motherhood, power dynamics and privilege, moved from NYC to small town 

5.      Core Wound and Primary Conflict


A successful investment banker gives up her lucrative career, moves to the perfect suburb, and becomes unmoored as she struggles with mommying as a job and a fight with breast cancer.   

The core wound is that Jenny overcame a lack of money and her father’s abandonment. Her career was the outward face of her victory.  Now she is in a roll with no clear benchmarks.  She faces other conflicts including learning how to be friends with non-carer women, suburban mores for raising small children, her mother’s Alzheimer’s and her children’s acclimation to a new life.

Meanwhile other members of the Playgroup face their own conflicts that impact the group, infidelity, weight struggles, alcoholism, etc.

6.      Inner Conflict

Trigger- Bear Cub Mom protective instinct, Conflict- Fitting in with expectations of school administration 

A.    Jenny is called to the principal’s office because her son has a fight with another child.  She has just finished a chemo treatment and can barely get out of bed.  She is conflicted by her desire to be dismissive of such a trivial, in her estimate, incident and the realization that she has to get to the school immediately to show concern and do damage control.  The encounter is not what the principal is expecting as the school’s Zero Tolerance rule about fighting is challenged aggressively.  

B.     Secondary Conflict

Jenny is going to another round of chemo and is relegated to a chair as they are out of recliners.  Her husband is with her and becomes insistent on better care in a way Jenny would have not as challenging medical insensitivity goes against the docile patient mode expected of sick females. 

 7. Setting

There are two settings in the book.  One is Manhattan which is portrayed as the Emerald City, full of pop-up wonders and beauty, the surprise of the ceiling stars of Grand Central Station, the glowing globe of a spinning earth in The Daily News building or the Central Park Carousel. These appear as magical apparitions. Life takes place outside, in public spaces and you never know what you will stumble upon. 

Suburban settings are expected.  They are a study in kitchens and playrooms.  Details of backsplashes, countertops, color schemes and window treatments are important clues to a homeowner’s personality. What kind of space is dedicated to children and leisure? What toys are available?  Are playthings put away before a child finishes building? Is the kid’s area manicured and sterile or cozy or messy? Is there a display of personal curios from travel or homemade children’s art work? Is a home styled with a ”don’t touch” decorating scheme? Despite large personal outdoor spaces most of life is lived indoors.

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Algonkian Writer’s Retreat (April 2023)  


First Assignment:

1)    Act of Story Statement. 

In other words, what’s the mission of your protagonist? The goal? What must be done?

Rita’s job as an experienced clinical psychologist puts her life in danger as, Andy, a depressed patient whom she is counseling is traumatized by his marital relationship and wife’s deviant behavior. Victimized by the vengeful, violent actions of his wife, Rita devises a plan to keep her safety in check, as well as Andy’s, by enlisting the aid of her ex-husband’s team of bodyguards. But in the process, she is faced with legal investigations about her own past marriage relationship and involvement with fraudulent dealings of her millionaire industrialist ex-husband Nirmal Menon. Rita’s husband, Jay’s, intuitive powers help to warn her of future dangers. She is grateful for his love and concern but is skeptical of his sincerity when he offers advice. Are Jay’s warnings walking Rita right into a trap? Is Jay truly concerned about her safety or is he after something more, like Rita’s divorce settlement money? Rita must sort out the loyalties of those around her, come to terms with the insecurity and dangers of her profession and focus on the crux of her true ambition.


Second Assignment:

       2).  Antagonist Sketch:

             Sketch the antagonist or antagonistic force in your story. Keep in mind their goals, their background, and the way they react to the world around them.

Antagonist Dina: Dina is Andy’s abusive wife and the main reason that Andy seeks counseling advice from Rita. Overbearing and obsessively possessive Dina demands control over anyone who tries to stop her powerful ways using brute force and destruction.

Antagonistic force: Rita’s past marriage to shady industrialist Nirmal Menon has tainted her image in her professional world of clinical psychologists.  Menon’s scheming, fraudulent ploys to embezzle money from investors made major headlines 2 1/2 months after Rita divorced him.

Because of her ex-husband’s criminal investigations, the ethical integrity of her professional and personal reputation is at stake.

Third Assignment:

3)    Breakout Titles

Irrational Logic

Mindful Methods

The Counselor Is In

Fourth Assignment:

4)    Comparables: Who compares to you and why?

Maybe You Should Talk to Someone by Lori Gottlieb (2019). “A book that takes us behind the scenes of a therapist’s world where patients are looking for answers (and so is she.)” 

My protagonist is a devoted therapist, one who inadvertently seeks help from others to solve her life challenges as well. By immersing herself in her patient’s relationship issues she herself learns how to deal with her own. Sometimes it takes a stranger to show us our own flaws and admit that we are not perfect.


Anxious People by Fredrik Bachman (2019)

“Each character carries a lifetime of grievances, hurts, secrets, and passions that are ready to boil over. None of them is entirely who they appear to be. And all of them crave some sort of rescue.”

My characters have diverse personalities and backgrounds, yet they all have a common need -to be saved. 

Trying to build characters profiles in this same light as those in this novel.


Fifth Assignment:

5)    Write your own Hook line (logline) with conflict and core wound following the format above.


When a patient’s vengeful wife puts her life in danger, Rita questions her professional ambitions, the security of her role as a clinical psychologist, and where the true loyalties of her relationships lie.


Sixth Assignment:      

6)    Sketch out the conditions for the inner conflict that your protagonist will have. Why will they feel turmoil? Conflicted? Anxious? Sketch out one hypothetical scenario in the story wherein this would be the case –consider the trigger and the reaction.


Inner Conflict:

Rita struggles with the dilemma of how to successfully guide her patient, Andy, out of his abusive relationship with Dina. Her previous marriage to millionaire industrialist Nirmal Menon was contentious and has scarred her emotionally. Being used and then emotionally abused had caused stressful anxiety attacks and nightmares for which she feels empathy for anyone in a hostile marital relationship.

Secondary Inner Conflict:

How am I viewed in the world as the ex-wife of a multimillionaire hot shot who multilayered deception lost millions and millions of dollars for so many families struggling to make ends meet. Do people think I was somehow involved with his scheming tactics? Do my neighbors believe every scandalous rumor on the news and that the tabloids print? How will I regain my reputation as an acclaimed member of the APA and seasoned clinical psychologist who has a waiting list that is 6 months long?


Final Assignment: Setting

7)    Sketch out your setting in detail. What makes it interesting scene by scene, to allow for uniqueness and cinema in your narrative and story?  Please don’t repeat what you already have which may well be too quiet. You can change it. That’s why you’re here! Start now. Imagination is your best friend and be aggressive with it.


Flashback setting – Mumbai India. Rita’s first marriage to Nirmal Menon.

            At the tip of Marine Drive, in the bustling peninsula that is the city of Mumbai, is Nariman Point, where the lapping waves of the bay from the greenish gray Arabian Sea swirl onto the rocky shores and spray a misty welcome to passersby strolling along the boardwalk. Track suited joggers and cotton clad walkers, young and old, breathe in the warm breeze of winter’s midday air, passing photo-posing friends and couples leaning in for selfies. 

Soon the golden sunset will hold steady their gaze.   

The ethnically diverse population and the mesmerizing mosaic of traditions, cultures, fine art and religions of India reside in Mumbai just as the metropolis cities of New York or Chicago. Known for their fast-paced lifestyle, people always on the go, constantly hustling, these cities are major economic hubs, home to centers of commerce, leading financial institutions, booming businesses, and nightlife.

 At night the crescent shaped Marine Drive is lit, like a long shining string of pearls, aptly named the Queen’s necklace. Motorbikes, automobiles, old and new, black and yellow taxi cabs all whiz by before rush hour sets in. The vibrant nightlife of the ‘city that never sleeps’ begins at 10pm, till the wee hours of the night, boasts an appealing, undeniable charm as a mix of Western and Indian music, fashion and style all create a uniquely entertaining night to be visited over and over again. It is a must experience nightlife that attracts crowds in droves to dance to the music at street cafes or the live musicians at glamorous 5 star hotels.


Present setting – Naperville, New York. Rita’s home present day with second husband, Jay Kaur.

The busy suburban town of Naperville in upstate New York, boasts of two top class accredited public high schools with expansive football fields and an Olympic sized swimming pool, surrounding by scenic green parks, walking trails and multimillion dollar homes and businesses. Because Naperville was home to many high-end boutiques and shops, Rita and Jay moved into the area with the hopes that her clientele would be the right target group and a perfect place for a good education and a successful future for their children. But underlying all the rich beauty and glamor is masked deception and greed.























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Chapter 1

Jenny enters the Woman’s Club as her daughter toddles behind.  She assesses the chaotic clutches of women milling about the foyer and inwardly recoils. Her reluctance to join the fray is palpable but she forces herself.  She moved to Hamlet at the beginning of the summer and other than the postman and the crazy cat lady who lives next door she has not managed to meet anyone. September has arrived and the club is hosting a Newcomers meeting. The buzz of greetings and conversation belie the name.  Everyone here seems to already know everyone else. Snatches of conversation float towards the doorway where she wavers.

“How was your summer?” asks a fish print Lilly dress of the lemon sundress woman who is filling in nametags.

“Fantastic, Shelter Island is so mellow, and the boys loved the Mandarin classes they took with their sensei.”

Jenny staunches her gag reflex and is about to retreat when the name tag lady spies her and reels her in.  “Hi, I’m Bunny, you must be new in town.  Welcome!! Please sign in and then go into the main room. Sign up for whichever programs you’re interested in.  Have fun!”

Sticky backed squares with their names are stuck onto Jenny and Grace’s chests by the enthusiastic greeter and Jenny moves from the ivy wallpapered entry to a meeting room with a wooden beamed ceiling and a small, raised stage. Three of the walls are flanked by rectangular folding tables covered in royal blue plastic tablecloths each of which has a cardboard sign attached to its front.  Books and Bites, Coffee and Kids, DINKS (Double Income No Kids), Brew Nites, Tennis, Gourmet Club, Volunteer Opportunities and Pilates vie for attention. Each table has a clipboard at its center and flyers announcing the next event or dates for recurring meeting schedules. She browses the offerings while Grace strains against her controlling grip. She places herself on a 3.5 USTA tennis team and moves to the book group checking the list of books that will be discussed.  Cold Mountain, The Red Tent and Memoir of a Geisha are among the selections. Knowing she’ll skip the night featuring the Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment evening she signs up and moves to the exit when a full-figured woman with a curly haired daughter about Grace’s age accosts her.

“You didn’t sign up for the Coffee and Kids.  Don’t go until you do.  Your daughter looks to be around Natale’s age.”

“What is that?” asks Jenny, a bit alarmed by the insistence.

“Just a cute way to say a Playgroup.  I’m desperate to meet people with kids the same age as mine.  I’ve been waiting for you to walk by.  We just moved here and I’m going a bit balmy.  I’ve got my eye on that blond with the little girl over there and the tiny one with the gigantic twin boys.  They may look older, but I can tell by the toys and the way they’re strapped into that stroller that they probably aren’t and that they’re a handful.  I already got my friend Laura to sign up, but if you don’t get at least five families it can’t be an official Newcomers sponsored Playgroup.  Please say you will.  It’s only once a week and we rotate houses.  I’ll do the first one.”

“Who are you?”

Grace and Natale are crawling under the table and Jenny concedes that a playmate or two for her daughter is not the worst idea even while she dreads being stuck with women selected solely by virtue of wombs on similar time cycles. 

“Oh, I’m sorry, I’m Kate.  I see you’re Jenny and your daughter is Grace.  I read the name tags.”

Nametags, ugh, she should have made something up like Curmudgeon or Melancholy, the way she used to at college Pi Lam frat mixers.  She glances across the room and sees that the regal blond is escaping. “If you get her,” she says pointing, and the twins, I’m in.”  There isn’t a chance.

“Watch the girls,” replies Kate and she scurries across the room towards her prey. Jenny watches as the quarry is netted and shanghaied towards the Coffee and Kids sign up.  Damn, she is in a Playgroup.




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