Thursday, July 2, 2015

All Write Now! Conference Offers Writing Advice, Inspiration, and Publication Opportunities

I'm excited to be speaking at the Second Annual All Write Now! Conference next weekend, Saturday, July, 11, on the campus of Southeast Missouri State University in the historic Mississippi River city of Cape Girardeau, Missouri.!schedule/cl2i
Courtesy of All Write Now!
Registration kicks off at 8 a.m. July 11 on the fourth floor of the University Center (pictured at left).

The welcome address and introduction of the faculty begins at 8:30.

At 8:45,  Dr. Susan Swartwout, Professor at Southeast Missouri State University and Editor/Publisher of the SEMO University Press, will give the opening keynote address.

The opening group session starts at 9:15 with Janet L. Cannon, Technology Instructor, who will address the topic of  "Building Your Writer's Platform"

The luncheon keynote speaker will be New York Times best-selling author, Angie Fox.

Throughout the day, breakout sessions will cover a wide range of topics, such as: fiction, poetry, prose, personal essays, newspaper writing, children and YA, romance, networking, book cover design, and much more.

Breakout speakers include:
Eileen Dryer, New York Times best-selling romance author.
Dr. Allison Joseph, Associate Professor and Director of SIU-C Creative Writing Program
Bob Miller, Editor of Southeastern Missouri News
Margo Dill, Children and YA author and editor
Ellie Searl, Publishta and book designer
Catherine Rankovich, author, editor and teacher
Donna Volkenannt, writer, editor, and teacher

Afternoon pitch sessions feature the following publishers:

Amphorae Publishing Group, (which includes Blank Slate Press, Walrus Publishing, and Treehouse Publishing Group), with Kristina Blank Makansi, Lisa Miller, and Donna Essner

Brick Mantle Books/Open Books Press, Pen & Publish with Jennifer Geist

Deadly Publishing, LLC, with Sharon Woods Hopkins and Bill Hopkins

Rocking Horse Publishing, with Robin Tidwell

Conference co-chairs Mary Rechenberg and Donna Essner have done an excellent job planning and organizing this special event, along with Marcie Upchurch, who interviewed speakers for the blog; Laura Luttrell, who served as contest coordinator; and Janet L. Cannon, who designed their spectacular website. These women and everyone else involved with this conference are definitely first-class professionals!

The All Write Now! conference also features door prizes, contest announcements, and a mystery grand prize.

For complete details, visit the All Write Now! Conference website.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

News from the World of Publishing . . . THE HAPPY LIFE OF PRESTON KATT by J. J. Zerr

Congratulations to Jack Zerr, one of my critique group writing pals!

If you look closely at the photo on the left, you'll notice three things:

The smile on Jack Zerr's face
The logo on his tee-shirt that says, "I love the smell of jet fuel in the morning."
The copy of his latest novel, "The Happy Life of Preston Katt."

Recently Jack generously handed out copies of his novel to members of the Coffee and Critique writing group, and I read my copy right away.

Zerr's military fiction novel, which opens on the Island of Oahu on December 7, 1941, is the story of Seaman First Class Preston Katt's heroic adventures during World War II.

As the story unfolds, we learn about the daily grind of Navy life, as well as Katt's struggle with guilt and insecurities and his strong and sustaining faith.

As a Navy combat aviator and Vietnam veteran, Zerr writes with authority and compassion. His vivid writing, strong characterization, and attention to detail make The Happy Life of Preston Katt a compelling read.

If you would like to read my complete review of Jack's latest novel, visit the Coffee and Critique blog.

Friday, May 29, 2015

Exciting News and A Literary Controversy: Flannery O'Connor Gets Her Own Postage Stamp!

Image from US Postal Service
I was excited to read the news that Mary Flannery O'Connor, one of my top three favorite short story writers, is getting her own postage stamp. According to a report in Crux, the 93-cent stamp will be released on June 5.

Also according to Crux, the image is based on a black and white photo of O'Connor taken in 1945 when she was a student at Georgia State College for Women. The background image is peacock feathers, a signature symbol of O'Connor and representative of the birds raised on her home in Georgia.

The image the artist used of O'Connor has already created controversy.

According to an article in Entertainment Weekly, another favorite short story writer, Joyce Carol Oates, tweeted earlier this week that she doesn't think the stamp resembles any photos she has ever seen of O'Connor and wonders if the artist who created the stamp had ever seen an image of O'Connor or read any of the iconic writer's work. 

While I agree with Oates that the image doesn't resemble any I've seen of Flannery -- most photos I've seen show her wearing dark glasses -- I think the image is flattering.

And I will be in line next month to buy my O'Connor stamps.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

I'm Back with a Quick Deadline Call for Submissions for Veterans and their Families

If you've been wondering where I've been for the past two months, I'm still around, although I haven't been spending a lot of time on social media this winter.

Earlier this year, after scrubbing my kitchen and bathroom floors, I was so out of breath I had to sit down and rest. Around the same time, my Internet service provider "upgraded" their system and threw my program speed and capability for a loop.

Frustrated with not being able to easily do what I used to do both physically and on line, I took some action.

I joined a local fitness center and began a nutrition and exercise program, and my husband figured out what was wrong with my laptop.

Now that I have more energy and my computer is behaving itself, I hope to blog more often.

I wanted to begin with this call for submissions because it's for such a good cause and there is no fee to enter.

Here are some details:

For all military personnel, Veterans, and their families:
Call for Submissions for Proud to Be: Writing by American Warriors volume 4
Deadline: June 1, 2015
No fee
Prize: $250
Categories: Short fiction, Poetry, Interview with a Warrior, Essay, Photography
Writing must be by veterans, military-service personnel or their families.  Include the connection in your short bio.

You can find more information by clicking on this link from Walrus Publishing.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Dr. Richard P. Johnson's Workshop for Writers "Enliven Your Writing with an Understanding of Clinical and Spiritual Psychology"

On Saturday, Feb 28, I was among the more than two-dozen writers who attended Dr. Richard P. Johnson's workshop sponsored by Catholic Writers of St. Louis and hosted by All Saints Catholic Writers in St. Peters.

The topic of Dr. Johnson's workshop was how writers can enliven their writing through an understanding of clinical and spiritual psychology. 

Dr. Johnson is the former Director of Behavior Science at a large teaching medical center in St. Louis. 

You can also find further information and explanation in his book, Discover Your Spiritual Strengths.

Here are some notes I jotted down.

Writers and psychologists are kindred spirits -- both are observers of people. 

For writers, using accurate words to describe behaviors is vitally important.

Personality: The core of individuals; what makes them unique. 

Dr. Johnson's six Christ-centered functions of personality are:

1. Believing. What you think life should be like. “Beliefs are the mother of your actions and behaviors.” 

2. Perceiving. Where you place your focus. We take in data - physical, mental, emotional, and also spiritual. (body, mind, and spirit).

Transcendence - visible and invisible. How are you perceiving that which is invisible?

3.  Thinking- the meaning you make from your evaluations or assessments, We have an estimated 60K thoughts each day; we are constantly thinking. Thoughts create feelings.

4. Feeling. Feelings have a great purpose. They are the automatic emotions that flow from our thoughts. How your personality creates your emotional life

5.  Deciding. The choices we make in our lives are based on our feelings. Make choices as to what we are going to do: strategies, goals, objectives, FREE WILL.

6. Acting. Behavior, what we actually do. Actions move things, hearts, minds, and souls. Actions cause change; we change as a result of action.Some action is outward; most is inward.

He also discussed Spiritual Gifts and Attitudes: 

What are spiritual gifts? They are the essence of the person. 

What is attitude? Patients with healthy attitudes responded rather than reacted. 

Responding is something thoughtful

He passed out a list which displayed the above six functions of personality with corresponding Spiritual Strengths (virtues), Disturbing Compulsions (fears) and Instructive Shadows (absence of virtues).

Virtues are expressed as spiritual strengths received through the grace of God. For each spiritual strength or virtue (light) there is an instructive shadow (darkness) expressed in the absence of that virtue.  We use our compulsions (fears) to try to get out of the shadow.

For example: The spiritual strength of  HOPE, the absence of hope is some measure of Despair (from disillusionment to hopelessness). The corresponding compulsion is Presumption (taking things for granted). 
Spiritually healing patient expressed themselves through their: VIRTUES

What is a virtue? Manifestation of Christ in them

“Virtus in media stat” In the middle stands virtue.

Virtue motivates our behaviors, from the Christ-centered perspective.  

Shadow (the absence of virtue) is the fear that comes from darkness. Something is missing.

Compulsion: When our whole being is fearful.

 As authors, we try to describe the human condition. He suggested we use the model for fleshing out  our characters to go beyond the physical, mental, and emotional dimensions to the spiritual. For fully fleshed out characters, consider using the character's virtues.

After Dr. Johnson's presentation, Cathy Gilmore from Catholic Writers of St. Louis led participants in a brief exercise to apply what we learned. I was amazed at the creativity expressed during the readings offered by several writers. 

I left the workshop with a happy heart and a desire to learn more about spiritual strengths to use in my writing--and in my life!

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Don't Let the Truth Get in the Way of a Good Story: When Facts and Truth Matter

In June of 1995, my sisters Kathleen, Bridget, and I toured Ireland. I have many memories of that trip, but the recent media flap over NBC news broadcast journalist Bryan Williams reminded me of a saying I first heard our Irish bus driver say twenty years ago: “Don’t let the truth get in the way of a good story.”

Our bus driver/tour guide was a cheerful and funny man with a "gift of gab" I’ll call Tommy. To quote the TV show “Dragnet,” Tommy’s “name has been changed to protect the innocent.”

During our daily trips, Tommy shared some history of Ireland and entertained us with jokes and long-winded tales. And usually, after one of his far-fetched stories, someone would ask him: “Is that a true story?” 

He would grin and wink then say, “The Irish have a saying: Don’t let the truth get in the way of a good story.” 

After hearing some of his stories, one might conclude that Tommy not only kissed the Blarney Stone, he went back for seconds.

As he skillfully drove down busy highways and wended across narrow roads, stopping for flocks of sheep, which he called “Irish traffic jams,” he would break out into song and encourage everyone to sing along. When one of the tourists complimented him on his singing, he smiled widely and humbly bragged that his voice wasn’t as good as his cousin’s, who belonged to the Irish rock group, “The Cranberries.” 

After I returned to the USA, I shared his don’t-let-the-truth saying with several writing friends, some who often quote it and a few who claim it as their own.

I’ve also used Tommy’s principle in my own writing--my fiction writing that is. In fiction, it is all right to embellish and change details or facts to fit a story. That’s why it’s called fiction.

But in non-fiction, facts are important, and truth is the critical element.  

When I write personal essays, I try to remain as faithful to the truth as possible, or at least as I remember it. 

But memories can fade, especially over long periods of time. Was it sunny or overcast thirty day years ago? Was I wearing a blue dress or a red sweater? Using vivid details can color a story and make it stronger, but they aren’t as important as the essence of the essay--the universal truth I’m trying to convey. And while those details might be innocent mis-remembrances, they aren’t deliberate falsehoods, like the ones Bryan Williams told when he reported that the helicopter he was riding in was shot at by RPGs.

Using dialogue in personal essays is especially tricky. I’ve often tried to recall conversations verbatim. For example, I've asked myself: Is that exactly what my mom said when I told her my teacher died? If I can’t recall the exact words, I stay true to my memory of how I felt and what I believe she said. On occasion I'll ask one of my siblings to compare memories.

So, while I’ll continue to embellish and not let the truth get in the way of my fiction writing, for my non-fiction, while I might occasionally “change a name to protect the innocent,” I’ll follow the advice of Sergeant Joe Friday on “Dragnet” and do my best only to use “Just the facts, ma’am.”

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Free Writing Workshop by Dr. Richard P. Johnson on How To "Enliven your Writing with an Understanding of Clinical and Spiritual Psychology"

I'm pleased to announce that the Catholic Writers of St. Louis and the Catholic Writers Group of All Saints Parish in St. Peters, MO, are co-hosting a Special Presentation and Writing Workshop on Saturday February 28, 2015.

The workshop title is: “Enliven your Writing with an Understanding of Clinical and Spiritual Psychology" presented by Richard P. Johnson, Ph.D., PCSG, LPC, NCC

You can learn more about Dr. Johnson here.

When: Saturday, February 28, 2015

Hospitality 8:30 a.m. 
Workshop 9:00 - 11:00 am

7 McMenamy Rd.; St. Peters, MO

This special event is free, but registration is required. 

* Bring a pen and notebook and invite a friend, but be sure to let us know that you'll be there!

** RSVP to: dvolkenannt at or post in the Comments section below that you will be attending.

Hope to see you there!