Sunday, August 17, 2014

Beautiful Missouri: Saints and Sinners in Stained Glass

When I started this blog, my purpose was to post about writing, books, publishing, and life’s sweet mysteries – and to avoid politics and divisive or controversial topics.

But the recent events in Ferguson, Missouri – just twenty miles away from my home – are impossible to ignore.

However, rather than commenting on the heartbreaking situation and disturbing images coming out of Ferguson, I’ve decided to post some beautiful images that can be found in my beloved home state of Missouri.

Earlier this summer, my sister Kathleen and I took a day trip through Osage County. Our tour was called “Gospels in Glass,” which included traveling to several churches in Osage County -- and one across the county line in Maries County.

Sacred Heart, Rich Fountain
Our on-the-bus tour guides were Ken Luebbering and Robyn Burnett, whose guide book, “Gospels in Glass: Stained Glass Windows in Missouri Churches,” published by Pebbles Publishing, was included in our tour price. Pebbles Publishing, a small press located in Rocheport, specializes in books about Missouri heritage, travel and adventure.

The 144-page Gospels in Glass depicts stained glass windows in churches and synagogues throughout Missouri—from Cape Girardeau to St. Joseph; St. Louis to Kansas City; and St. Patrick to Carthage.

During our trip, we got a sampling of the many artistic displays in the book, as well others not found in the book. We also learned about the rich history of German settlements in Missouri; Ken and Robyn also wrote German Settlement in Missouri: New Land, Old Ways (University of Missouri Press).

St. Gertrude
We learned about iconography and symbolism, techniques for creating stained glass, snippets of information about the artists, and some history of the Emil Frei Company in St. Louis, which is known nationally and internationally for its stained glass craftsmanship.

Churches included in our tour were:

* Sacred Heart Church in Rich Fountain, founded in 1838. The parish’s German and farming heritage was evident by windows of German saints, such as St. Gertrude, the patron saint invoked against rodents. 

Standing at the front of the high altar, Ken explained the significance of the Sacrifice of Melchizedek and “Abraham’s Sacrifice” on opposite sides of the altar. 
St. Joseph, Westphalia

Draped over the wooden pews were the hand-made quilts that were to be auctioned off at the parish picnic.

* St. Joseph in Westphalia, with stained glass windows of many saints, including: St. Hubert, St. Conrad with the spider on his chalice, and St. Herman holding the Christ Child. 

We learned about the legend of the pelican and significance of sacrifice in church iconography, not just Catholic, but also Protestant.

* Holy Family in Freeburg, called the “The Cathedral of the Ozarks,” which, we were told by the pastor, is the last church in Missouri with Twin Spires. 

Holy Family
The abstract representations of grapes and wheat allowed vibrant light to flow through the windows.

* Visitation Church in Vienna in Maries County, with its less-traditional windows that are technically different from those earlier in the day.Although several of the windows were out for repairs, the ones we saw were lovely.

This is just a small sample of the beautiful images throughout Missouri, although I’m certain if you look, you can find beauty everywhere – not only in churches, stained glass windows, or handmade quilts, but also in nature – and in residents of the Show Me State.
Visitation, Maries County

How about you? Where can you find some beautiful images in Missouri?


Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Call for Submissions: Harness Anthologies from Rocking Horse Publishing

Rocking Horse Publishing is seeking submissions for four new anthologies for its new imprint, Harness Anthologies.

The St. Louis-area small publishing company will release four anthologies each year beginning in January 2015.

The proposed anthology titles are:

Solstice: A Winter Anthology  
Empty Nests: Parents, Old and New  
The American Dream: Then and Now
Spirits of St. Louis: Missouri Ghost Stories Volume II  

Visit the RHP website for complete submission information, including word counts, submission dates, and expected publication dates.

According to the Harness Anthologies page of RHP website, payment is two contributor copies.

Monday, August 11, 2014

High Hill Press Wins a Spur Award from Western Writers of America

My friend Lou Turner, publisher of High Hill Press, is a huge fan of Westerns -- books and movies. 

She tells the story of when she was young she once wrote a fan letter to John Wayne -- and she got an answer. Somehow the letter got lost in one of her moves from Central Illinois to Missouri, but she still has a life-size cutout of "The Duke" in her house.

So, it's no surprise that after she and her husband Bryan started HHP several years ago they decided to publish western novels and anthologies. 

Their hard work, dedication, and commitment to the Western genre recently paid off when High Hill Press won a Spur Award from Western Writers of America for the best Western short story, "Cabin Fever," by Brett Cogburn, which appears in Cactus Country III. 

HHP was also a finalist for another short story, "Chouteau's Crossing," by McKendrie Long, which appears in the Rough Country anthology.

I took the photo of Lou (above) during one of our weekly critique group sessions. She's holding her spur and a copy of Cactus Country III.

If you are a fan of the western genre, check out the High Hill Press website, where you can find western novels and anthologies published by HHP. 

And, if you write about the West, visit HHP for information about submission guidelines.

Monday, August 4, 2014

A Day in the Life of a Book Editor (Part II)

During her visit to Saturday Writers, Jane Henderson answered questions from the audience. She was engaging and thorough when she explained the review selection process and candid and encouraging when she gave tips for local writers and publishers on how and when to submit their books for review.

Here's a summary of what I learned:

* All books, including children’s books, should be sent directly to Jane Henderson at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

* You do not need permission to submit a book for review.

* About six weeks ahead of the event/release date, send her a heads up e-mail that you will be submitting a book (galley or ARC) for review consideration.

* No later than four weeks before the release date or event, submit the book (galley or ARC).

* She has to have a physical copy. (I took this to mean no e-books or PDF files.) 
* Succinctly summarize (in a couple lines) why Post-Dispatch readers would be interested in the book.

* Describe the local connection, if any.

* Mention if there's a local event planned—date, time, location, etc.

* Include the date of publication, price of the book, and name of the publisher.

* It’s okay to send one additional follow-up e-mail to make sure the book was received.

* But, sending more than two or three reminders can be counterproductive.

* Jane mentioned that the newspaper uses metrics of online readership to determine which reviews, features, and types of books readers are most interested in reading about. These metrics are used when selecting books for future reviews. 

* Here is a selection of newsworthy items that have appeared recently in the PD book section/book blog.

            A review of Gravity Box written by local author Mark Tiedemann and published by WalrusPublishing, a local press.

            A feature about esteemed local writer William Gass on the occasion of his 90th birthday.

            A feature about the October literary festival, Lit in the Lou.   

           Weekly listings of best-selling books.
Final note:  Jane's talk confirmed my belief that writers can generate interest and get more visibility for books and book reviews by visiting the Post-Dispatch online book section and book blog site regularly. I visit them several times a week to make sure I don’t miss any news about books, publishing, local authors, or special book-related events.

Monday, July 28, 2014

A Day in the Life of a Book Editor (Part I)

Jane Henderson talks
to Saturday Writers
Jane Henderson, book review editor for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, was the special guest speaker at the July meeting of Saturday Writers. 

SW president Jennifer Hasheider, along with the rest of the board, did an excellent job recruiting and hosting Jane at the monthly meeting at the St. Peters Community and Cultural Arts Center.

During Jane’s talk, and afterwards at lunch, she was candid, approachable, informative, and gracious when describing her review selection process and when answering questions about books, reviews, writing, and the changing world of publishing. 

Here are some highlights.

* Jane receives about 300 books a week for review. She held up some of the books from her “July stack” and explained why she might send one book out for review but not the others. (Some selection considerations are listed below.)

* Most of the books sent to her come from mainstream publishers and small presses, although she also receives books from independent authors.

* Due to cutbacks in print space, personnel, and revenue, the paper has a limit of three reviews each week--although occasionally a feature writer will do a story about a writer if there's something newsworthy. (She remarked that several newspapers have discontinued their book review sections entirely.)

* The main area of focus for book reviews is the paper’s readers, not the author.

* The paper sometimes reviews paperbacks, but rarely reviews self-published books.

* The paper does not review self-help or diet books.

* When selecting which books to send to reviewers, some considerations are:
   Is it newsworthy?
   Is it unusual?
   Is it unusually well done?
   Is it something readers are interested in reading about?
   Is it something readers should be interested in reading about?
   Is there a local connection?
   Who published it?
   When was it published? 
   Has the book won a major award?
   Is the book written by a known name of someone who is coming to town?
   What is the story about?
   Is it original or the first book of its kind? (She used the example of follow-on books about wizards similar to the Harry Potter series are not as newsworthy as the original Harry Potter books.)

* Stories are important.

* The best books have good plots, engaging characters, extraordinary use of language, and compelling stories.

 * A review is not just free publicity; it is one person’s opinion about a book.

* She trusts her reviewers and doesn't edit a lot. Reviewers conform to the newspaper's style and standards.

In my next post I’ll share some of Jane’s suggestions for local authors and publishers who want to submit their books for review: when to contact her, what to include in their submissions, and what to avoid doing.

Check out Jane's book blog here.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Double Feature: Not Your Mother's Book Signing at STL Books

 Last week I was among two dozen local writers who participated in a a double Not Your Mother's Book signing at STL Books in Kirkwood, MO. The signing featured contributors from NYMB: On Being a Mom, which several writing friends and I have a stories in, and NYMB: On Family, which several of my writing friends have stories in.

My good friend and High Hill Press CEO Lou Turner picked me up and drove me and another good friend Marcia Gaye to the event in Lou's luxurious Lincoln, which did just about everything except drive itself.

Several of my writing friends have already blogged about the gala. I'm a bit late chiming in, but I wanted to post these photos in case you missed the report anywhere else.

The first shot is of the generous and gracious STL Books owner Robin Theiss kicking off the festivities, while NYMB editors Dianna Graveman and Linda O'Connell look on.

Contributor Jenny Beatrice reads her
sweet story about her daughter.

Sioux Roslawski reads her
hilarious tale about her son.

Dianna and Linda relax
after the event.

I snapped this photo from Lou's
SUV. After hiking a few blocks
to the parking lot, my feet were screaming.
It was a long night, but lots of fun!

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Interview with Sarah Kohnle: Reporter, Editor, Cyclist, Humanitarian, and Author of "Shifting Gears"

I'm pleased to have Sarah Kohnle as my guest today. I met Sarah a couple years ago when I was a speaker at the Columbia Chapter of the Missouri Writers guild conference, and she invited me to give a writing workshop at the annual Missouri State Teachers' Association retreat along the Jacks Fork River in the Ozarks. During the retreat I met so many teachers who are also writers, which was an inspiring experience. When Sarah told me about her book, I invited her to be interviewed on my blog, and she graciously agreed to do it! 

Sarah has been a reporter/editor for many years and has multiple publishing credits to her name in newspapers, trade magazines, and corporate newsletters. A native of North Dakota, she earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and a master’s degree in communication from the University of Illinois. Currently, she is managing editor for a state association for teachers.

For Shifting Gears, she put her professional skills to work, interviewing numerous professionals including those associated with cycling and exercise, law enforcement, and funeral homes. Additionally, she conducted first-hand research while bicycling on roads across Kansas and Idaho, and on bicycle trails in Illinois and Missouri.

Thank you, Sarah, for taking time from your busy schedule to visit, and congratulations on the release of your novel, Shifting Gears  You are an accomplished writer, reporter, photographer, editor --- and now a published novelist. What (or who) inspired you to become a writer?            
Sarah: My journalism career started early; I recall publishing a newspaper in elementary school with a classmate. I have no idea where the inspiration came from, however, I do know one of my relatives was a newspaper columnist in the 1800s. It’s a real treat to have some of her articles. 
 It seems like you were destined to become a reporter! One of your passions is long-distance cycling. How did long-distance cycling spark your idea for Shifting Gears, and what kind of research did you perform while writing your novel?          

Sarah: I had ridden across Iowa years ago. When this idea came along, as a former newspaper reporter, I wanted to do some firsthand research, so I signed up for a ride across Kansas. To train, I logged many hours on a bike trail in Illinois. My love of long-distance cycling was rekindled. So far, Idaho was my favorite state to ride. Next spring, my husband and I hope to go on a bike and barge trip in Holland.

 Traveling to Holland for a bike and barge trip sounds so exciting! Shifting Gears has been described as a relational novel, written in the style of Anne Tyler. What can you tell us about the characters and story line of Shifting Gears?         

Sarah: A reviewer really nailed it: “I enjoyed the writer's clear voice, the consistency of the book's purpose and progress as Meg and Josh traversed life together -- but not quite together. This was a careful drawing of the changing relationship of a mother transcending her care-worn past and navigating new realities with her ever more independent son. The author thoroughly explored the power and presence of the absent husband-father. The supporting characters were well drawn and the description rich and visceral as the two travel together through thick and thin across America.”  That is an impressive review! Now, onto the business end of your book. Shifting Gears was published by Astraea Press. Why did you choose Astraea to publish your novel, and how was your experience with them?          

Sarah: I discovered Astraea Press last summer and was intrigued by their concept of publishing clean fiction. They were exceptional to work with. The editors were wonderful and pushed me in a good way. Working on the cover with a lot of fun as the artist and I tried various approaches. I love the cover; it is colorful and inviting. You and the artists did a wonderful job. So, where can readers find Shifting Gears?

Sarah: It is available online through Astraea Press, Amazon, iBooks, and Barnes & Noble. In your full-time job, you are managing editor of the MSTA magazine. Will you please discuss submission guidelines for the magazine—who is eligible to submit, what kinds of submissions you’re looking for, etc.

Sarah: Our quarterly magazine is mailed to approximately 44,000 educators. I am always looking for good pitches from writers on a variety of education topics. For MSTA questions, please contact me at

You also are coordinator of the annual MSTA retreat at Bunker Hill. What can you tell us about the annual creative retreat—how did it get started, where is Bunker Hill located, when is the retreat held, who is eligible to attend, what kinds of speakers or workshop leaders are involved, etc.? 

Sarah: When I first started at MSTA, I spent a weekend at Bunker Hill, a rustic property that has a fascinating history and has been part of the organization since 1947. The tranquil property sits along the Jacks Fork River in the Ozarks. I was inspired during my first weekend and thought other writers could benefit as well. From there I started the annual fall Creative Retreat. This year it is for writers and photographers Oct. 3-5. Enrollment is limited and more information at This year, I am excited to welcome you and Lou Turner back to meet with aspiring writers. It will be a weekend to create and to learn.
 Another of your other passions is mission trips to Central America. How did you get involved in these service trips, and what can you tell us about your experiences?          

Sarah: This spring was my fourth trip to Honduras. We work with World Gospel Outreach, an organization that has been in Honduras for 30 years. We provide medical, dental, optical services and children’s ministry to neighborhoods. One of the aspects I like about the organization is how it partners with local churches and professionals to provide on-going physical and spiritual care. That is a worthy cause, and I'm certain it is also gratifying to make a difference in the lives of so many children. I do have another writing question: What are you working on now, and what’s the best way for readers to contact you to find more about your writing?     

Sarah: I have another fun story I am working on. Readers can find me at I'm looking forward to learning more about your next book. Any final thoughts or anything else you would like to add?

 Sarah: Donna, thanks for this opportunity. I am really looking forward to our fall weekend, when the air has a slight crispness to it and the leaves begin to change.

Thank you, Sarah, for your answers to my questions, and I look forward to seeing you at Bunker Hill again this fall!

If anyone has a question or comment for Sarah, please feel free to leave them.