Friday, October 14, 2016

Multigenre Writing Contest/Submission Opportunity: Rock Springs Review

Boonville author Judy Stock, editor and publisher of the Rock Springs Review, has recently announced she is accepting manuscripts for an anthology to be published in 2017.

Judy, who has edited and consulted on several anthologies for writers' groups, is using her editing and publishing knowledge and expertise to create opportunities for writers and poets to showcase their talent in this new anthology.

Here are limited details:

* Open to Fiction, Nonfiction, and Poetry submissions
* $10 entry fee (consult guidelines for details)
* December 31, 2016 Deadline
* $50/$30/$20 prizes plus Honorable Mention Certificates awarded
* Winners selected by independent judges
* Rock Springs Review (200-250 pages) will be published in 2017
* Each contributor whose work is accepted for publication will receive a contributor copy and a token payment.

For complete guidelines and questions about the Rock Springs Review, e-mail Judy at:

Rock on!

And good luck if you enter!

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Reflections on the Ozark Creative Writers Contests and Judges' Comments

As I reflect on my role as contest chair for the 2016 OCW contests, I've learned a few lessons. 

It was rewarding, and at times challenging, experience. I got to read some amazing entries and meet some wonderful people -- sponsors, judges, and entrants. I also made a few suggestions to improve the process next year.

Not everyone who entered won, but everyone who entered showed their courage and determination. During a closing session on Saturday I shared some lessons learned and comments from a few judges.

Here is a sampling of those comments:

* It's more than getting words on the page.
* Put the reader right there with you.
* Be honest; it's not necessarily about making writers heroes in their own work.
* Let us see real people.
* Emotions should be relatable.
* Doesn't have to be surprising or shocking.
* Readers should be able to see something of themselves in the story.
* Judging is subjective (this was repeated by several judges as well as during the conference)
* More than one judge wrote they enjoyed every one!
* Do spell check, grammar check, proofread carefully.
* Don't rely on spell check.
* Read your work out loud.
* Thoroughly vet your work.
* The better entries were pretty immediately obvious.
* Stay on theme if there is one.
* Watch formatting.
* Most were formatted correctly.
* Stick to word count.
* Include a header on your work with title and page number (but not your name)
* Be sure your work fits the category.
* Title your work.
* Follow the guidelines!

Congratulations to everyone who entered the contests. Submitting to a contest is a wonderful way to focus on meeting deadlines, following guidelines, and gaining self-confidence as a writer.

Special thanks to the judges and sponsors who provided their time and monetary support for the contests. During the conference I even managed to solicit a couple new contest sponsors for next year!

Yesterday I forwarded a Word document with a complete list of the winners to Chrissy Willis, incoming OCW president, who promptly posted the document on the OCW website.

Here's a link with all contest titles and names of the winners.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Quick Poll: How Do You Feel When a Contest Deadline is Extended?

Last year I was asked to serve as contest chair for a conference occurring this fall.

In the past I've enjoyed attending this conference, have paid to sponsor contests, have been a guest speaker, and have served as a volunteer judge. So, I agreed to volunteer for the conference chair job, as well as help with registration.

One of the benefits of attending this conference is that anyone registered (except of course the board members and conference chair) has the opportunity to enter the dozens of contests -- at no additional cost.

The contest entries (two copies each) began to arrive in July. I was excited when they appeared in my mailbox and started sorting and organizing them right away.

Dozens of people entered multiple contests. (There were 31 categories in all.)

One person who entered several contests sent each entry in a separate envelope, which made a lot of extra work for me, and added expense for her. I wrote and suggested she bundle her entries together to save money but did not receive a response. Some folks included notes thanking me for being conference chair, which made me feel good.

The original deadline for entering fell a few days before the Labor Day weekend, so I suggested to board members that the deadline be extended until the day after Labor Day.

The only drawback I could see was the judges would have a few days less time to complete their judging. All but one judge was fine with the shortened time for judging, and that was because he was leaving for vacation the day the entries arrived at his house.

The biggest (and most hurtful) complaint about the deadline extension came from someone who felt cheated because other writers would have extra time to submit their entries and thus more opportunities to win contests she might've won. (Although she also had the additional days to submit more entries if she chose.)

I'm trying to keep a positive attitude, so I won't go into all the ugly details, but I would like to take a quick poll of my writer friends out there:

How do you feel when a contest deadline is extended?

Do you feel relieved to have a few extra days to submit?

Do you get angry if a deadline is extended?

Do you feel cheated that it's unfair to those who entered at the original deadline?

Have you ever been a contest chair and had to deal with an issue like this?

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Missouri Resources, a Free Magazine with Resources for Writers

Image from the Missouri Resources magazine
Timing is everything, and this week the Fall 2016 issue of Missouri Resources magazine arrived in my e-mail box while I was in the middle of doing rewrites for a historical short story that features a teenage Sam Clemens. (Notice the subtle way I gave a writerly excuse for not posting on my blog for several weeks?)

Image from the Missouri Department of Natural Resources
Back to the magazine: Published by the Missouri Department of Natural Resources, the free magazine is filled with interesting facts, figures, and photos.

As a Missouri writer, I'm always searching for interesting tidbits about the "Show Me State" to weave into my writing or give me inspiration for a story or an article. And, as luck would have it, the fall 2016 issue includes the article "A Magical Tour on US 36."  US Highway 36 runs across the top third of northern Missouri and has been dubbed "The Highway of American Genius" because of some of the raw American talent with roots across that stretch of land. 

The "A Magical Tour on US 36" article features phots of the birthplaces or childhood homes of famous Missourians, including Samuel L. Clemens (aka Mark Twain) in Florida, MO; Walt Disney in Marceline, and General John J. "Black Jack" Pershing in Laclede.

Being a native St. Louisian, I also found the article "The Bricks that Built St. Louis," fascinating. This issue also includes a really cool photo from 1904, the year St. Louis hosted the World's Fair. The "Time Exposures" photo was taken in front of a shoe store in Old North St. Louis, which is the neighborhood where I was born and grew up, so that got my attention.

Did I mention the Missouri Resources magazine is free? Click here to read the latest issue.

A word of warning, reading this magazine can cause a writer to get lost in the fascinating articles and research material.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Field Trip to Monticello Sculpture Gardens, Through the Looking Glass

Who loves to go on a field trip? I do!

A field trip with friends is not only fun and relaxing, it also stimulates the brain.

This month I've gone on two outings, the first was a trip my friend and former co-worker Barb planned, which included a walking tour through the Monticello Sculpture Gardens on the historic campus of Lewis and Clark Community College in Godfrey, Illinois.

The college's 2016 "Gardens Through the Looking Glass," Summer Garden show, celebrates the 150-year anniversary of Lewis Carroll’s “Alice in Wonderland” books.

The college offers free guided tours, or you can do as our group did, and visit the sculpture gardens on your own at your own pace.

According to their website, "The Monticello Sculpture Gardens have been designated by Missouri Botanical Garden as one of their Signature Gardens in Illinois. Here, the traditional edges between art and landscape blend to create a seamless partnership between sculptor and landscape architect."

Here are some photos from the trip.

I'm taking a photo through the looking glass
with my friend Patty waving and looking on

Here's a lovely centerpiece fountain with an egret
and some of the many limestone buildings in the background

My sister Kathleen and I take time for a photo op

A fountain surrounded by flowers - delightful!

Breathtaking sculpture of Sacajawea
carrying her child on her back

A bit of history about the original Monticello Female Seminary,
founded in 1838 by Captain Benjamin Godfrey, who championed
education for females

Horticulture Manager Ethan Braasch took time to
highlight some features of the gardens
My friends and fellow co-workers: Fran, Nancy, JoAnn,
Judy, Barb, Kathleen (my sister), Donna (me), and Patty
For information about the garden tours, call Ethan Braasch, Horticulture Manager, phone: (618) 468-3140 or e-mail him at

If you're interested in learning about the history of the Monticello Female Seminary, here's a link to the Monti Memories blog.

After our sculpture garden tour we took a quick drive across the street and met up with two more friends, where we enjoyed lunch at the magnificent Josephine's Tea Room and Gift Shop, I had the special quiche, salad, and lobster bisque soup, after which I was as full as a tick. For dessert, I bought a slice of lemon meringue pie to go. On the drive home, we stopped at one of the many roadside farmers markets along the way, where farmers displayed freshly picked tomatoes, watermelons, peaches, and other delights.

The field trip to Godfrey with my friends was a wonderful way to feed my mind, body, and soul.

How about you? Have you had any interesting field trips or vacations this summer that inspired you?

Friday, August 12, 2016

October Delight: 50th Annual Ozark Creative Writers Conference in Eureka Springs, Arkansas

The very first writers' conference I ever attended was the Ozark Creative Writers Conference in beautiful Eureka Springs, Arkansas. That was twenty years ago. And the conference is still going strong. In fact, this year is the 50th anniversary of the conference! The friendly atmosphere, top-notch speakers, networking opportunities, and dozens of writing contests keep writers coming back each year.

This year's conference will be held October 6-8 at the Best Western Inn of the Ozarks in scenic Eureka Springs, Arkansas.

This year's faculty includes agents, editors, publishers, and writers, some of whom you might have seen on the History Channel or other television programs.

One of the most attractive features of the conference is that registrants can enter more than 30 writing contests.

There is no additional fee for conference registrants to enter the contests, and there is a contest for everyone, with thousands of dollars in total prize money. The awards are presented on Saturday evening, with a lot of hoots and hollers and applause.

In the past I've served as a judge for a few contests, but this year I'm excited and honored to serve as the contest chair. The entries have begun to arrive, with some folks entering more than a dozen contests, so that gives you a hint at how treasured winning one of these contests is for writers.

But wait. There's more: The Ozark Mountain fall foliage is eye-popping in October, and the drive from St. Charles County goes quickly. So, if you're looking for a fun, informative, and rewarding conference, I hope you will join me at the OCW 50th Anniversary Contest in Eureka Springs.

Monday, August 1, 2016

My Top Ten Takeaways from Jill Marr's "Exposition versus Dialogue" Presentation

One area I try to improve on in my fiction is hitting the right balance between exposition and dialogue.

So I was thrilled to listen to literary agent Jill Marr's suggestions on how to do that during her "Exposition versus Dialogue" presentation at the All Write Now! Conference.

Here are the ten takeaways I plan to focus on from list she discussed: 

* Write it down then go back over the telling part and change to show.

* Start as late as you can in the plot.

* Lock up back story and let out only when needed.

Don’t have two characters talking about what they already know.

* Don’t use quotes on an entire page.

* Fold exposition in like eggs into a batter.

* Don’t give up great heaps of information.

* Dialogue has to ring true.
Use italics for interior dialogue.

* Don't use he said/she said if it's obvious who is speaking.

How about you: Do you find any of the above suggestions helpful when writing fiction?