Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Woman's Day Book Giveaway Contest - Nantucket Island

(Image from Women's Day website)


Today's forecast for St. Peters, MO: Isolated showers, high 60 degrees.

Yesterday's visit with George Singleton was informative and so much fun. I hope you all are inspired to write--and to run out and buy one of George's books.

Over the weekend I found out that in July we will be traveling to Massachusetts for a Volkenannt/McMullan family reunion. Walt, Julie, Walter Erik, and I lived in Massachusetts in the early 70s. Erik was born in Holyoke, MA, in 1972, so it will be a bittersweet journey for us. Last night I told Cari and Michael about the trip. They are not looking forward to the long car ride, but they are looking forward to visiting with the McMullan clan and are excited to see the ocean again. I hope to get to Cape Cod, where Walt and I spent our honeymoon.

So, what does a trip to Massachusetts have to do with Donna's Book Pub? How about a chance to win a free book? Woman's Day magazine is sponsoring a contest to give away five copies of Nantucket: Island Living, published by Harry N. Abrams Books. Approx. retail value: $40. I've already put my name in the hat to win a copy, and I've got my fingers crossed. If you want a chance to win a copy of the book, here's the link:

http://www.womansday.com/Giveaways/Nantucket-Island-Living-Book-Giveaway?cid=5385

Tomorrow I will announce the winner of Dianna and Don Graveman's book about St. Charles. Stay tuned!

Sunday, March 29, 2009

George Singleton on How Voice Matters in Fiction

(Photo from George Singleton's website)


Today's forecast for St. Peters, MO: Mostly cloudy, high 61 degrees, chance of thunderstorms for this evening. Thunderstorms beat the thundersnow we woke up to early Sunday morning.

I am pleased and honored to have acclaimed author George Singleton as my guest blogger today. Singleton is visiting Donna's Book Pub as his last stop on his WOW! Women on Writing Blog tour. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution calls Singleton: "[The] unchallenged king of the comic Southern short story."

Recently I finished reading one of his laugh-out-loud story collections, Why Dogs Chase Cars. One afternoon while waiting for my grandchildren in the carpool van, I read it with the windows down. I was laughing so hard I kept getting strange looks from other moms and grandmoms picking up their kids after school. If you get a chance, check this book out. It is side-splitting funny and will definitely put a smile on your face. Also, check out his latest non-fiction book from Writers Digest, Pep Talks, Warnings and Screeds: Indispensable Wisdom and Cautionary Advice for Writers. I can't wait to read my copy and see what George has to say.

Singleton's publishing credentials read like a short story writer's dream resume. His short stories have appeared in The Atlantic Monthly, Harper’s Playboy, Zoetrope, The Georgia Review, Shenandoah, Southern Review, Kenyon Review, Glimmer Train, North American Review, Fiction International, Epoch, Esquire.com, New England Review, Carolina Quarterly, Greensboro Review, Arkansas Review, American Literary Review, and so on.

His stories have been anthologized in eight issues of New Stories from the South, and also in 20 Over 40, Surreal South, Writers Harvest 2, They Write Among Us, and Behind the Short Story. His non-fiction has appeared in Bark and Oxford American, and has been anthologized in Best Food Writing 2005, Dog is My Co-Pilot, and Howl. He has published four collections of stories: These People Are Us, The Half-Mammals of Dixie, Why Dogs Chase Cars, Drowning in Gruel; and two novels: Novel and Work Shirts for Madmen.

George was born in Anaheim, California and lived there until he was seven. He grew up in Greenwood, South Carolina. He graduated from Furman University in 1980 with a degree in philosophy, and from UNC-Greensboro with an MFA in creative writing. Singleton has taught English and fiction writing at Francis Marion College, the Fine Arts Center of Greenville County, and the South Carolina Governor’s School for the Arts and Humanities. He has been a visiting professor at the University of South Carolina and UNC-Wilmington, and has given readings and taught classes at a number of universities and secondary schools. His papers are reposited at the Jackson Library at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. He lives in Pickens County, South Carolina, with the clay artist Glenda Guion and their eleven dogs and one cat.

What an impressive list of credentials! Also impressive is what George has to say in the following essay.

***

Once upon a time I had a great, great copyeditor named David Hough. From what I understand David got let go when Harcourt got bought out by Houghton-Mifflin. I’m sure he’s landed on his feet, for he is the best copyeditor of all time, as far as I’m concerned.

Backtracking somewhat, when I was a graduate student at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, all of the MFA students were required to take a class taught by Jim “Lester” Clark called Contemporary Publishing and Editing, wherein we learned the ins and outs of editing, proofreading, understanding the Chicago Manual of Style, and so on. Maybe two or three meetings into the course I understood, without a doubt, that I would never, ever, ever want to work in the publishing industry. There’s a reason why “editor” and “endoscopy” are close together in the dictionary, as far as I’m concerned.

Anyway, my last novel was ready to be fact-checked and proofed by good David. But his mother got sick up in Minnesota, or North Dakota, or one of those places that a southern boy will never understand. He called me up and, in his Tom Waits-like voice, said, “I’m going to have to subcontract your novel out to another copyeditor. You’ll be in good hands.”

I said that I understood, for I did: There’s enough to worry about when one’s mother is sick in the South, much less a state that doesn’t know the term “Springtime.”

A couple of weeks later I got the proof pages of my novel in the mail. I looked over it. Already I knew that I might have some problems with colloquialisms--that was nothing new. In the past I had had to explain that we call liquor stores “red dot stores” around here, because of the gigantic red dots painted on the sides of the establishments. I’ve had to explain how we catch possums and raccoons live, pen them up, feed them corn for a week to clean out their systems, then slaughter them later for the wonderful roasts that they offer up. I’ve had to explain how sometimes grown men call each other “Cuz,” or “Bo,” and that not everyone down here says “Bubba.”

I readied myself.

The subcontracted copyeditor, as it ended up, was an eighty year-old woman who used to work in publishing up in New York. So she knew the rules of grammar.

The first time I wrote something like, “I only wanted to get out of the AA meeting and go home to my wife,” she used a transposition sign so that it read “I wanted only to get out of the AA meeting…”

She used that same procedure when I wrote something like, “I only cared about getting my name cleared of the situation.” She changed it to “I cared only about getting my name cleared.”

Understand that there’s a term called “stet,” which means “let it stand.” I wrote “Stet” in the margins both of these times. People don’t say things like, “I cherished only the freshest Beaujolais” around here.

On the third occasion--and I know this sounds like a joke, where everything comes in threes--she changed “I only thought about my future” into “I thought only about my future.”

And she wrote, “Do you people not know the rules of grammar down there?”
Uh-oh. I didn’t write “stet” in the margins. I wrote, “I want only to kill you, right now.”

As it ended up, David’s mother recovered. He returned to work. He called me up after getting the proofs and said, “I had a feeling there might be a problem, but I didn’t want to tell you.” He said that he kept all of my stets.

So. I relate all of this to only say that one must be patient with copyeditors, who’re doing their jobs, and who know way more than any of us the correct rules of grammar, et cetera. And I’d like to add that, with fiction, voice matters.
***


There you have it--some of George's indispensable wisdom and cautionary advice for writers about the value of a good copy editor and the importance of voice in fiction.

If you have any questions or comments for George, please feel free to post them here and check back for his answers.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Special Events and Coming Attractions - Saturday Writers and George Singleton

(St. Peters Community and Arts Center - Click on building for location and directions)

Today's weather for St. Peters, MO: Isolated showers, high 50 degrees, chance of thunderstorms tonight. On Saturday, thunderstorms and an 80 % chance of rain and snow. What was that again? Snow? I hope the threat of nasty weather won't keep local writers from attending the "Just the Facts" panel discussion at Saturday Writers meeting tomorrow.

Here are two special events I'm excited to announce--one "live" tomorrow and the other on my blog on Monday.

Saturday, March 28, from 11 a.m. till 1 p.m. Saturday Writers meeting at the St. Peters Community and Arts Center, 1035 St. Peters Howell Road - "Just the Fact" Panel of law enforcement experts talk about their careers in a question-and-answer panel discussion. Panelists include: Cindy Allen, a Federal Flight Deck Officer and writer; Chris DiGuiseppi, Police Captain and author; Mike Force, Police Chief and author; Jeff Fulton, Assistant Special Agent in Charge of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) in St. Louis; and Lisa Harke, 911 Operator. The meeting is an excellent opportunity for writers of mystery, suspense, or crime novels to get an insider's perspective from experts about their experiences in a variety of law enforcement careers. Hope to see you there!

Monday, March 30, Donna's Book Pub Blog: George Singleton, author of PEP TALKS, WARNINGS AND SCREEDS: INDESPENSIBLE WISDOM AND CAUTIONARY WARNINGS FOR WRITERS (published by Writers Digest Books) will be my guest blogger. George has published short stories in a variety of magazines and journals including The Atlantic Monthly, Harper’s Playboy, Zoetrope, The Georgia Review, Shenandoah, Southern Review, Kenyon Review, Glimmer Train, North American Review, Fiction International, Epoch, Esquire.com, New England Review, Carolina Quarterly, Greensboro Review, Arkansas Review, American Literary Review, and so on. I'm currently reading Singleton's Why Dogs Chase Cars--it's hilarious. I'm honored and delighted to have George as a guest blogger as part of the WOW! Author's Blog Tour. Hope you'll stop by on Monday to read what he has to say.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Interview with Authors Dianna and Don Graveman

(Don and Dianna Graveman, courtesy of Dianna Graveman)
Today's forecast for St. Peters, MO: Isolated showers, high 61 degrees. The wet weather can't dampen my enthusiasm for today's post and my special guest bloggers, Don and Dianna Graveman, pictured above.

When I read a book, especially if it's one I enjoy or one written by someone I know, I'm curious about how the project evolved from a germ of an idea to an actual touch-and-feel book. Today, I'm pleased to share what I recently learned from Dianna and Don Graveman, who co-authored St. Charles: Les Petites Cotes, published by Arcadia Publishing.
The Gravemans graciously answered questions through e-mails about how their book went from concept to creation of a lovely book.

1. Hi, Don and Dianna. Welcome to Donna's Book Pub, and thanks for taking time from what I imagine is an unbelievably hectic schedule to share your story about writing your book. Let's start at the beginning. What inspired you to chronicle the history of St. Charles in " St. Charles : Les Petites Cotes," which is now part of Arcadia Publishing's Images of America series?

Originally, we searched the publisher's website for other books in the series and were surprised to discover their catalog did not include a book on St. Charles. Since the city of St. Charles is so rich in history and has a pretty well-developed historic district, we felt sure Arcadia would be interested in adding this book to the series.

2. Doing research ahead of time and knowing the market definitely paid off for you. That's a lesson all writers can use before approaching a project like this. So, after you got your idea and researched the market, you decided to begin the project. Can you tell us about your backgrounds and how they meshed to complete the project?

Dianna: I have an MFA in writing, and my articles and stories have appeared in many publications over the past five years. I am also a magazine and trade book manuscript editor for a publishing company. I have a "feel" for how to pitch to a publisher and develop a proposal. I even have a little experience with design and layout.

Don: I am a 4th generation St. Charlesan and I know a lot of families who have lived in the area for a long time. My many years in sales have equipped me with the ability to easily and quickly establish rapport with people. In addition, amateur photography and history, especially Missouri history, have long been interests of mine.

3. That's impressive! Sounds like your backgrounds are a good balance of writing and photography and a perfect match for your book. As for gathering material, how were you able to gain access and obtain the historic photos for the book, as well as access to the Mayor of the City of St. Charles ?

This book was really a learning experience for both of us. We struggled a bit in the beginning with trying to convince historical society folks and others that we actually had obtained a contract from a major publisher to do this book on their town and that we did not need or want anything from them other than their cooperation. We eventually prevailed and developed what we hope are long-term friendships. We have had quicker success enlisting support for our new book on Missouri wine country. Besides having learned from our first experience, we can now show people the St. Charles book and more clearly explain the scope of our project. Reaching the mayor of St. Charles was pretty easy, but we owe fellow-writer Patsy Zettler for that one. She suggested we ask the mayor to write the foreword, and she even sent us a follow-up email of encouragement, saying: "Remember, she's people just like us." We sent off the email, and the mayor responded pretty quickly saying she'd be honored to do it. Patsy was right: It never hurts to ask!

4. Good advice. Don't be afraid to ask permission, be patient and persistent, and listen to good advice from wise friends--like Patsy Zettler! Speaking of your contract, how did you approach Arcadia Publishing, your publisher? Did you send a query letter or a formal proposal?

First we sent an email query to the address listed on their website. We explained a little bit about St. Charles and why we thought a book on our town would make a nice addition to the series. We included a brief bio for each of us. We also offered to send a full proposal at their request. One of the reasons we initially sent a query instead of a proposal was because we knew there could already be a St. Charles book in the works, even though it wasn't yet listed in their catalog. The website also indicated that writers should request a proposal form and guidelines, so we did that. About three weeks later, we received an email from an acquisitions editor stating that she had been looking for someone to develop a book on St. Charles for some time. So it was lucky timing. She sent us the proposal guidelines, and we got to work. A few weeks after that, we had the contract. Talk about lucky timing: We soon realized that 2009 is the bicentennial of St. Charles's incorporation as a city. In fact, the bicentennial celebrations kick off this week, the same week as our book's release.

5. More good advice. I've atteneded several writing conferences, and just about everyone I've heard within the publishing industry stresses how important it is to follow the publisher's guidelines. And what great timing to coincide with the bicentennial celebration--sounds like the stars were aligned perfectly for your book! In your book you use
photos to capture the history and story of a small town that grew into a large city, which still maintains its unique feel. How did you approach the organization and layout of the book to capture the spirit and essence of the city?

Each chapter is a little different. For the chapter on disasters, it made sense to both of us to keep the bridge accidents together, the floods together, the fires together, etc. The photos within those disaster categories were arranged chronologically. Most of the photos in the other chapters are not arranged chronologically, because we discovered early on that too many similar pictures would then be placed side by side. We wanted more contrast than that.

6. Well, your strategy for the design and layout worked. The book is informative and the photos are eye-catching. With so many photos to chose from, it's probably difficult to pick a favorite, but I have to ask each of you: If you could pick one photo from the book as your favorite, which would it be?
Dianna: It's hard to choose. I like the photograph of the 1905 Lindenwood University graduating class. The entire class consists of 18 very properly-dressed young women. (It was an all-girls' college then.) Our own daughter will be graduating from Lindenwood in 2010--one hundred and five years later! Her graduating class will look quite a bit different!

Don: My favorite would have to be a photo from around 1950 of my late mother in a canoe with her two brothers, my uncles Jack and Henry Heck. My mother was young and was very obviously enjoying herself.

7. I can see why you chose those. They are not only great photos, but they also have a personal connection for each of you. What has been the most gratifying aspect of this project?

We met (and continue to meet) some really nice people. Just today we received a phone call from a woman who has lived in the area for many years and who saw the Suburban Journal article about us and our book. She has so many great memories to share, and I really wish we could have met her when we were developing the book.

8. That's inspiring! It must be such a warm feeling to know your book has touched so many local people with a connection to St. Charles. With so many high spots with your project, there must also have been some low points as well. Can you tell us a little bit about what your biggest obstacle was in completing the book?

There are so many people who have good photos and great information that we would have liked to include in the book, but we didn't know how or where to find them. We tried to get the word out about what we were doing, but a lot of people seemed to think they wouldn't have anything to offer--that we only wanted photos of really important or big events. Those pictures are great, but we also wanted photos of everyday people doing everyday things. Now that the book is being released, people are contacting us and saying, "I have some great photos I could have let you use!"

9. Here's something I am really am curious about: How was it to co-author a book as a husband and wife?

After twenty-five years of marriage, we didn't think there was much left to learn about each other. We learned that we think a little differently about things and that we have different ideas about organization. We tend to use different strategies to tackle the same task. While this project required flexibility and compromise, it actually was kind of fun to learn entirely new things about each other after all these years. The other difficult thing was that we didn't have a lot of time for leisure last summer. In fact, we spent the evening of our 25th wedding anniversary on separate floors of the house, calling back and forth to each other as we each worked on separate parts of the project.

10. What a wonderful testament to the strength of your marriage. Maybe you can take delayed wedding anniversary vacation this summer. Here's another question I'm curious about: what, if anything, would you do differently?

We would definitely get in touch with the Suburban Journal or another local publication when we were first beginning to work on the book and ask them to help us generate interest. Hopefully some of the people who have photos and information to share would have gotten in touch with us. However, we are happy with the way the book came out and with the wonderful collection of photos we were able to collect and get permission to use. Bill Popp at the St. Charles County Historical Society was very helpful. The Academy of the Sacred Heart School, as well as a few individuals, also donated some photos. There are over 200 pictures in the book, and many of them have never been published.

11. Your book truly is a historic gem, and one local residents should be thrilled to read. From what you've shared it sounds like many people were generous by sharing their time and treasured photos with you. That says a lot about the way you approached the project and the dedication of the people connected with the St. Charles County Historical Society and the generosity of people with a connection to St. Charles. Now that you book is out, what is your schedule for this spring and summer? Tell us about book signings and any other projects you have planned.

We have a busy summer ahead! We have a book signing scheduled for March 28th from 1:00 to 3:00 at Main Street Books in St. Charles, and another scheduled on April 4th from 1:00 to 3:00 p.m. at Barnes & Noble in St. Peters. Mayor York will join us for the first hour of that one. We are in the process of scheduling additional events, and we'll probably be signing books at various St. Charles events like Riverfest and Festival of the Little Hills this summer. We also just learned that we have been awarded the contract to do our second book for Arcadia, Missouri Wine Country: St. Charles to Hermann. Our delivery date will be in the fall. We're talking with our editor about the possibility of developing two additional books for Arcadia, as well
.

12. That's great! I hope you have long lines of people wanting to buy your book. And congratulations on your next project with Arcadia Publishing. A St. Charles to Hermann Wine Ccountry Book sounds like another great idea!
How can readers contact you if they have any questions?

Please visit our website at
www.gravemanbooks.com. Under the "Contact Us" tab, there is a form to send us a message. We'd love to hear from you! We are especially interested in talking to anyone who has photos or stories from the Dutzow, Defiance, Augusta, or Marthasville areas that they'd like to share for the wine country book.

Thanks again, Don and Dianna, for spending time with us today. I'm certain others have questions for you. I'm pleased to announce that the good folks at Arcadia Publishing have graciously agreed to send me an additional copy of the Graveman's book, St. Charles: Les Petites Cotes to give away to one of my visitors.

So, here's the deal: Anyone who posts a comment or asks a question this week about the Graveman's book or their interview is eligible to win a copy of their book. One name will be selected at random from the names of everyone who leaves a comment or question. The winner's name will be announced on my blog next week.

Don't fret: If you don't win a copy, you can buy one at one of their book signings or directly from Arcadia Publishing.

I have to mention that Teresa at Arcadia Publishing has been impressive to deal with. The media kit she sent me was professional, as were her communications and responsiveness--in providing a review copy of the Graveman's book, images for my blog, and an additional giveaway copy for one lucky blog visitor. Arcadia truly is a first-class operation, which is evident from the books they produce.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Update from Arcadia Publishing on St. Charles: Les Petites Cotes

(Logo from Arcadia Publishing website)

Mostly sunny, high 59 degrees. Nice weather for grandson Michael's field trip. This afternoon, both fourth grade teachers from All Saints School are treating their students who made their AR reading goals this quarter to ice cream. Way to go, Michael!

For anyone who has been trying to purchase a copy of the Gravemans' book through Amazon.com and weren't unable to because the books are temporarily out of stock, I discovered late yesterday afternoon that the publisher, Arcadia Publishing, has copies available for purchase. Here is a direct link to use to purchase the book from the publisher.

Even more good news: Arcadia Publishing is sending an additional copy of the Gravemans' book to me. So, in the spirit of sharing the wealth and spreading the word about the book, I will give that copy away to one of my blog visitors.

If you would like to win the copy, all you have to do is post a comment or question about the Gravemans' book on my blog this week. I will select one name at random. The winner's name will be announced the first week in April.

Tomorrow will feature my interview of the Gravemans, so feel free to post your questions or comments then--or at any time this week.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

St. Charles: Les Petites Cotes by Dianna and Don Graveman


Today's forecast for St. Peters, MO: Thunderstorms predicted; there's a 100% chance of precipitation today, high 71 degrees.

Today I'm honored and excited to be reviewing a book released yesterday by Arcadia Publishing as part of the Images of America series--St. Charles: Les Petites Cotes; in French Les Petites Cotes means The Little Hills.

The book is co-authored by Dianna and Don Graveman, of St. Charles, with the Foreword written by St. Charles Mayor Patti York.


I received my review copy from Arcadia a couple weeks ago and have been savoring it ever since. The Gravemans have done a great service to our area by writing this book. Personally, I wish it would've been available more than ten years ago when I wrote a chapter of the history of All Saints parish in St. Peters. The Graveman's book truly is a historic gem, rich in detail, full of surprises, and pleasing to the eye.

Most Missouri residents are aware of what a charming and historic city St. Charles is and will no doubt be thrilled to read the book and enjoy the remarkable photos. For out-of-staters and beyond, the Graveman's book is a lovely introduction into the past and present of the Missouri River town settled in 1769 by French Canadian Louis Blanchette in what was then Spanish territory.

In the Foreword, Mayor York writes about the rich history of St. Charles as being the place where Meriwether Lewis and William Clark rendezvoused in 1804 before beginning their exploration of the Louisiana Purchase and the new frontier to the West. Mayor York also comments about the significance of the book's release in 2009 coinciding with the 200th anniversary celebration of the city's incorporation.

On the Acknowledgements page, the Gravemans recognize and thank the many people who assisted them along their research and publication journey, notably Bill Popp, the archivist at the St. Charles County Historical Society.

The book's Introduction briefly chronicles the history of St. Charles, and through carefully arranged and thoughtfully organized photos with accompanying captions, the Gravemans have captured the essence of the quaint Missouri River town of St. Charles.

The Graveman's book is not arrayed in chronological order. It is divided into ten chapters: In the Beginning; Many Firsts; Life on the River; Churches and Schools; Defending Town and Country; Business as Usual; Life and Times in St. Charles; Disaster Strikes; Main Street, U.S.A; and St. Charles Today. Those ten chapters are followed by the Bibliography and a section about the St. Charles County Historical Society.

One chapter that has stayed with me is Defending Town and Country, which includes a photo from 1879 of the "first lawful hanging" in St. Charles. The photos from the chapter on Disaster Strikes, especially the images of the train and bridge accidents and the tornado damage, are also compelling.

With so many photos and so many powerful images, it's hard to pick a favorite section, much less a favorite photo, but that's exactly what I asked the Gravemans to do.

On Thursday, I will share my interview with the Gravemans about their book, in which they will not only discuss their favorite photos, but also their plans for another book.

You can meet the authors on Saturday, March 28 from 1-3 p.m. at Main Street Books in St. Charles. They will be signing books again on Saturday, April 4 from 1-3 p.m. at Barnes and Noble in St. Peters, where Mayor York will also be attending from 1-2 p.m.

You can also order through Amazon.com, but last time I checked the books were temporarily out of stock and you will need to place an order. Guess that's good news because it means the book is selling a lot of copies!

Congratulations, best wishes, and thanks to the Gravemans for producing such a remarkable book!

Monday, March 23, 2009

Siliver Lining Contest from REDBOOK Magazine and Adams Media


Today's forecast for St. Peters, MO: High 71 degrees, chance of showers, but there's a silver lining on the horizon. Really!

Today's weather is a perfect opportunity to mention a contest I found out about from editor Colleen Sell, in the Cup of Comfort Community Bulletin. You can subscribe to the bulletin by clicking on the above link.

Adams Media, publisher of A Cup of Comfort series, and REDBOOK magazine are teaming up to sponsor a Silver Lining contest.

They are looking for personal essays between 1,000 to 2,000 words which tell how you've found the silver lining—what or who gave you inspiration, strength, hope, and comfort—during a personal challenge.

NOTE: I pulled these details from the March 20 issue of The Cup of Comfort Community Bulletin. Please click on the links below and read and follow carefully.

Grand-prize winner wins $1,000 and will also be excerpted in a future issue of REDBOOK and published in full on CupofComfort.com. Prizes will also be given to the authors of the three runner-up stories; these will be announced in REDBOOK and on CupOfComfort.com.
You must enter by May 15, 2009, and submissions will be accepted only through the online submission form. Make sure to select "Silver Lining Story Contest" on the pull-down menu of the form's "Select Cup of Comfort Book/Contest" field.

To submit a story, you must be a CupOfComfort.com member (Register Now) and logged into the site (Login Now).

Please note that the Silver Lining submissions are for the contest only and not for publication consideration in a Cup of Comfort book. Please also note that Colleen will not be involved in vetting stories or selecting winners for the Silver Lining contest. Instead, all entries will be reviewed by Meredith O'Hayre, the Cup of Comfort project editor at Adams Media, and REDBOOK editors will review the top 100 submissions and select the winning stories.
To learn more about the Silver Lining contest and for complete contest rules, click here.

Good luck to everyone who enters.
Now, for a little personal announcement--if you scroll down on the March 20 bulletin to the Cup of Comfort Author Appearances section you'll notice my name--Donna Volkenannt. I'm excited to be participating in the book signing at the Missouri Writers' Guild Conference at the Drury Lodge in Cape Girardeau, MO, on Saturday, April 4. I will be signing copies of A Cup of Comfort for Military Families, which includes my story "Welcome Home." If any of you will be attending the MWG conference or are anywhere near Cape from 5:15-7 p.m. on April 4, please stop by and say hello! I would love to meet you!

Friday, March 20, 2009

Confessions of a Contest Groupie - and a Contest from Lisa Jackson


Today's forecast for St. Peters, MO: Mostly sunny, high 60 degrees, but it's chilly out there this morning. Robins are prancing in the yard, my lilac bush is budding and tulips are pushing through the ground. Welcome Spring!

If you're a regular visitor to Donna's Book Pub, you've probably noticed I frequently post about contests. I confess; I enjoy entering writing contests, and winning is fun for sure, but I also enjoy sharing contest information with writing friends--and writers in general. Contests can be a way to polish a manuscript before submitting for publication, and they definitely help pump up self-confidence when you win.


Last evening, I received an e-mail informing me that I won the Judge's Merit Award in the Pikes Peak Branch NLAPW 2009 Flash Fiction Contest. I also had entered their contest last year and received a note that I was among the top five, so I made a mental note back then to enter again this year. Of course, I promptly forgot about the contest until Tricia Sanders posted an announcement about it on her blog, A Novel Approach. Last night, after I e-mailed the contest coordinator thanking her for letting me know about my win, Tricia was the next person I e-mailed to thank for the reminder about the contest. Tricia is one of several writing friends I share contest information with; the way we look at it is we're not in competition with one another, but with ourselves to do our best, and cheer on our friends when they win!


Okay, enough about my philosophy on contests.


How about a fun contest to come up with a character's name for a book?

New York Times bestselling author Lisa Jackson has a fun contest going on to do exactly that! The character can be a : hero, heroine, villain, victim, best friend, police officer, or a pet. If a pet, she asks entrants to indicate the kind of pet and add a descriptive note as to the breed or mix: Dog, cat, bird, horse, fish, hamster, chicken, pot-bellied pig, snake, or other.

When I think about memorable character (human and pet) names, Hannibal Lecter, Scarlett O'Hara, Atticus Finch, Nancy Drew, Lassie, Garfield, Snoopy, and Rin Tin Tin come to mind. For Lisa's contest, when I read about the police officer name I thought of Tricia (she knows why), and the pet names brought Pat W. to mind. Pat blogs about pets of all sorts on her blog, Critter Alley.

So, if you're up for a challenge, put on your thinking caps and try to come up with a name. Here's a link to Lisa's Name a Character Contest.

Good luck, and if you win, please let me know so I can post about it here.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Synopsis Advice from the "Queen of the Western Romance"

(Donna and Bobbi in front of Crown Candy Kitchen, a North St. Louis landmark)

Today's forecast for St. Peters, MO: Mostly sunny, high 59 degrees.

New York Times and USA Today bestselling romance writer Bobbi Smith, who has been called "Queen of the Western Romance," is one of the nicest and most generous writers I know.

Bobbi and I grew up a couple blocks from each other in North St. Louis, although we didn't realize it until years later when we met at a writers' group. Although we attended different schools, we knew some of the same kids from the old neighborhood. We also discovered Bobbi had a crush on a boy (I promise not to divulge his name) in my class at Most Holy Name of Jesus School on East Grand Avenue. Most Saturdays or on special occasions our families took us shopping to Fourteenth Street, where Crown Candy Kitchen (in the photo above) is located. My dad would've been holding down a bar stool sipping on a frosty Bud while Mom took all us kids shopping, probably at Sobel's Department Store or Hill Brothers (Head for the Hills-Two for Five, Man Alive) Shoe Store. For dessert, we headed to CCK for ice cream. Yum!

Anyway, last month Bobbi was guest speaker at Saturday Writers. Sadly, I was out of town and didn't get to see Bobbi or hear her talk, but my dear friend Louella Turner was there and picked up some handouts for me.

One of the topics Bobbi's handouts covered was:

Seven Things Editors Look for in a Synopsis.

1. The year of your story
2. The setting of your story
3. A physical description of your main characters
4. A mental description of your main characters
5. A statement of their goals
6. A clear and concise telling of the story that hooks the editor and makes them want to read the whole book. Set up your conflict, show the complications and the resolution.
7. A unique style that's yours and yours alone

Bobbi's last words of advice on the handout are: DO NOT say "after the climax . . ." The editor MUST know the entire story. Do not leave them guessing! It will only make them angry!

There you have it, seven things to be sure and include in your synopsis from the "Queen of Western Romance." If you've never read one of Bobbi's books, check them out. My friend Louella especially liked the covers. ;-)

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Love Your Indie: Joe Hill's Contest to Support Independent Booksellers

(Banner from Joe Hill's Fiction Site)

Today's forecast for St. Peters: Chance of thunderstorms, high 70 degrees. So far, it's looking lovely outside.

My friends at The Book House on Manchester Road in St. Louis sent an e-mail about author Joe Hill's "Love Your Indie"--a contest to support independent booksellers.

Here are a few details:

Author Joe Hill, author of HEART SHAPED BOX and son of authors Stephen King and Tabitha King, has a contest during the month of March to get people to buy books at independent bookstores. At the end of March Joe will have a random drawing and send the winner a signed slipcased copy of GUNPOWDER. He will be adding other signed editions of other books for other randomly drawn winners.

Click the link below to find out more! http://joehillfiction.com/?p=714

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

A Blessed St. Patrick's Day to You All


Today's forecast for St. Peters, MO: Sunny, high 80 degrees. It's a beautiful day for wearing of the green.

It's said that everyone's Irish on St. Patrick's Day. In honor of those of us who are Irish, Irish-American, and everyone else, happy St. Patrick's Day. And in memory of my late parents, James and Katherine Duly, my late daughter and late son-in-law, Julie and Mike O'Donnell, my late son Walter Erik Volkenannt, and all the members of the Duly, O'Donnell, Volkenannt, Wade, Noblitt, and McMullan families, wishing you a joyful and blessed St. Patrick's Day.

For my writing friends--Irish or otherwise--here's a Limerick I wrote awhile back, which actually has won me some money in writing competitions. Hope you enjoy, and feel free to add your own--but keep them somewhat clean--it is a saint's day, afterall.


Reverend Finn

A fist-pounding pastor named Finn
chastized all who fell into sin,
but after Finn met
the spripper, Yvette,
Finn's preaching forgiveness -- Amen!

Monday, March 16, 2009

Submission Opportunity - Summerset Review

(Cover from Spring 09 issue, the Summerset Review website)

Today's weather for St. Peters, MO: It's foggy out this morning, but it's going to clear with a high predicted of 70 degrees. Bring it on!

Amy Willoughby-Burle, a writing friend and former critique group member who now lives in North Carolina, has a wonderful short, short story "Out Across the Nowhere" in the spring issue of the Summerset Review. If you click on the link above you can read her story and see why I call it "wonderful."

While you're there, check out their Fifty-Fifty contest, where they award a monetary prize and a complimentary print issue to the reader who submits the best feedback on a piece appearing in each issue of the Summerset Review. I plan to comment on Amy's story. Hope you will, too.

For complete information on how to submit your feedback, see their guidelines page.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Friday Freebie - LOOK AGAIN by Lisa Scottolini

(Cover from Amazon.com)

Today's forecast for St. Peters: Mostly cloudy, high 35 degrees

Friday the thirteenth is an appopriate day to wish you all good luck, especially if you enter a contest sponsored by one of my favorite sites, Bookreporter.com. And I'm not just saying that because I write book reviews and do interviews for them.

Bookreporter.com has 20 advance reading copies of LOOK AGAIN by Lisa Scottoline to give away to readers who would like to preview the book and comment about it. If you are interested, just fill out this form by Friday, March 20th. Hurry! Hurry!

If you've never read any of Lisa Scottolini's books, you are in for a treat, and entering the Bookreporter.com contest is a good (and inexpensive) way to get introduced to her writing, that is if you win. Her suspense thrillers are witty, intelligent, and, of course, suspenseful.

James Patterson calls LOOK AGAIN her "best novel." I can't enter the Bookreporter.com contest because I write reviews for them, so it looks like there will be a trip to the library or book store in my future.

Good luck to everyone who enters! And try not to walk under any ladders today.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Publishing Opportunities from Tampa Marketing Company

Today's forecast for St. Peters: Mostly cloudy, high 35 degrees.

Nothing like a chilly day to check out markets and submit your stories or poems--and get paid.

Thanks to Dianna G. for e-mailing me this link.

The Tampa Marketing Company is seeking contributing authors for five books to be published in June 2009. Tampa Marketing Company publishes the Davis Islands Community News, a 24,000 distribution monthly publication in Tampa, Florida.
Here are the five topics and brief details. For complete details, click on the link above.
1. Ghost Stories and Unusual Tales.
2. What Sports (and Sports Viewing) Is Really About.
3. Depression/Recession ? The Economy in 2009.
4. Relationships: the Good , the Bad, and the Funny.
5. Measures of Time, A Collection of Contemporary Poetry.

Short Story writers will be paid $50 and 4 books upon publishing.
Poets will receive $25 and 2 books for each poem accepted.
Story must be original, on topic, and all rights to the story must belong to the author.
Deadline for entry is March 31,2009.
Selections will be made by April 10, 2009.
To Submit a Story: e-mail story to bill@tampamarketingcompany.com
Heading must indicate which subject area the story belongs to and title of the article.
Name, address, phone, and email of the author must be provided. Story must be submitted in a Microsoft Word File.
Stories to not be longer than 3,000 words.
Poetry limited to 1,500 words
***These are just brief details, for complete guidelines, click here
ORDER BOOKS AND GET MORE INFORMATION at http://writercollections.com/

I've got an idea--how about a ghost who was caught up in a bad relationship, lost money in the stock market, who loved sports and wrote poetry? Maybe not!

Happy writing!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Call for Submissions - Unsent Letters

(Cover from Unsent Letters website)

Ever wish you could write a letter to someone, but didn't? Well, here's your chance, and you could get paid for it!
For complete guidelines, you must visit the Unsent Letters website Writer's Guidelines for Unsent Letters
Here are a few of the basics, for complete guidelines visit their website:

"Unsent Letters is both a print anthology collection of our best Unsent Letters and a weblog (blog) of Unsent Letters sent in by our favorite readers.

* All submissions must be from persons age 18 or older, no exceptions.
* Letters can be between 250 - 5,000 words. No exceptions on word length.
* For blog posting, $10-25 per letter, payable within 30 days of publication.
* For published collection (paperback anthology) $50-250 per letter, depending on length, appeal, current budget, category needs, editor's needs, and how much formatting and editing will be required to make the Unsent Letter publishable.
* All Unsent Letters writers chosen for the collection will receive payment within 30 days from letter of acceptance. Unsent Letters authors will also receive two free copies of the collection in which their letter appears.
* It is possible some letters will be accepted for both the blog and the print anthology, and the writer will be compensated separately for each.
* First publication print and electronic rights. Rights will revert to author 12 months after publication, and author may reprint their letter in any form.
* While Twin Trinity will hold the copyright on the compilation, author will retain copyright of their individual letter/s. No other rights are transferred.
*We do respond to all submissions received. Unfortunately, we cannot accept all letters for publication or promotion on the blog. If your letter is not accepted, we do encourage you to rewrite or write another one and submit.
* We do not accept multiple submissions.
* Please wait until you hear from us on your first submission before you submit another.
* It might take between 2-8 weeks to issue a response or purchase your letter. Please be patient during this waiting period.

***Please read our submissions page for specifics on submitting***
Sounds fascinating to me! I'm going to get out my favorite pen and read the entire guidelines before submitting.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Call for Submissions - Gulf Coast Writers' Anthology

(Cover from Gulf Coast Writers website)

Today's forecast for St. Peters, MO: Chance of thunderstorms, high 75 degrees.

After the photography contest announcement yesterday from Midwest Living, in the spirit of equal time for our friends south of the Mason-Dixon Line, I thought I would share this announcement about a submission opportunity from anyone living in or writing about the South.

Gulf Coast Writers (GCWA) seeks submissions for a second print anthology of short fiction. According to their website, they are "eager to include voices from many southern states in this collection!" They will accept most genres, "except pornography, erotica, graphic violence/horror, excessive profanity, or anything racial or biased toward any religious or moral preference."

The cover above is from their first anthology, "Teacakes and Afternoon Tales: New Stories from Mississippi." Visit the GCWA website for complete guidelines, which are very specific, and act fast. The submission deadline is the Ides of March--March 15!

I'm not sure if Missouri is included in their "southern states" category. During the Civil War, Missouri was considered a border state, but Missouri is also depitcted as one of the states on the Rebel flag. If in doubt, query them.

I read about this call for submissions on Cathy C's Hall of Fame blog, so thanks for the tip, Cathy, and congratulations on your recent publication in A Cup of Comfort for New Mothers!

Monday, March 9, 2009

Monday's Market -Midwest Living Photo Contest

(Photo from Midwest Living Magazine)
Today's forecast for St. Peters, MO: After the lovely, but windy, weather over the weekend, we knew it wouldn't last. My Free Weather link won't engage, but I can tell you it's cooler than the weekend.

For all you writers who are also photographers, Midwest Living magazine has a photography contest, with monthly winners--plus two grand prize winners who will receive a world-class dinning weekend in Chicago. Click on the photo above or www.midwestliving.com/mymidwest

Friday, March 6, 2009

Nathan Brandsford's Ten Commandments for Happy Writers


Today's forecast for St. Peters: Right now it's 72, but it's expected to reach degrees. "Oh, what a beautiful morning!"

Sorry, no Friday Freebie today, but I believe I've got something better. Yesterday, literary agent Nathan Bransford, a literary agent with the San Francisco office of Curtis Brown, Ltd., posted his "Ten Commandments for the Happy Writers."

I'm amazed and gratified to read so much wisdom from such a young man. Here's the list of Nathan's commandments. To read his wonderful explanation for each of his happy-writer commandments, visit his blog.

1. Enjoy the present
2. Maintain your integrity
3. Recognize the forces that are outside your control
4. Don't neglect your friends and family
5. Don't quit your day job
6. Keep up with publishing industry news
7. Reach out to fellow writers
8. Park your jealousy at the door
9. Be thankful for what you have
10. Keep writing

My personal favorites are: #2, #4 (although I would put family first) and #9.

How about you, which are your favorites?

Thursday, March 5, 2009

March Madness in Missouri


**Today's forecast for St. Peters, MO: This afternoon it will be windy, high 69 degrees. Take off your jackets and hold on to your hats!

Here's a special announcement from MWG Conference Publicity Chair, Margo Dill Balinski, to members of Saturday Wriers and any other interested writers:

"During March Madness, the Missouri Writers’ Guild is making the following offers for the 94th Annual Conference in Cape Girardeau:

1. Calling all College Students: If you are currently enrolled as a full-time student at a college or university, you can attend the MWG conference for $139, which is a savings of $30 off the current price.

2. Saturday Only price: We’ve had several requests about attending the MWG conference on Saturday only. So, we are offering pricing just for Saturday from 9:00 a.m. until 7:00 p.m. (includes lunch). The prices are $109 for MWG members, $119 for chapter members, and $129 for non-members.

3. Deals on Master’s Classes and the Banquet: FOR ONE WEEK ONLY From March 9 to March 16, you can sign up for a master’s class for $10 off ($55.00) or for the banquet for $5 off ($20).

4. More Deals on Master’s Classes and the Banquet: If you add a Sunday Class or the awards' banquet to your registration from March 17 to April 2, you will get a $5.00 off coupon for the conference book store when you check in at registration on Friday night. (If you are only attending a Sunday class, this will not apply because the book store is only open on Friday night and Saturday until the banquet.)

5. If you live in the St. Louis area and can attend the SLWG meeting on Saturday. . .Barri Bumgarner, MWG board member, has been invited by the St. Louis Writers' Guild to share a program and information about the conference. If you register on that day and pay Barri in cash or check to the MWG, you will save! We are basically offering early bird pricing on that day only if you attend Barri's talk and pay that day. If you need more information about this, you can e-mail me at margodll@aol.com

Check the MWG conference website for more information: www.mwgconference.org, call Margo at 217-714-8582, or e-mail Emily at esh@mwgconference.org.

Hope to see you there!
Margo Dill Balinski"

I'm going to the conference on Friday and Saturday, so I hope to see you there, too!
Donna

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Book Notes - This Is Your Brain On Joy by Dr. Earl Henslin


Today's forecast for St. Peters, MO: Mostly sunny, high 55 degrees. "Let there be light!"

Today's sunny weather reminds me of something I recently read in a book about the effect of sunshine on our moods and behavior. The book is Dr. Earl Henslin's, THIS IS YOUR BRAIN ON JOY: A Revolutionary Program for Balancing Mood, Restoring Brain Health, and Nurturing Spiritual Growth.

According to Dr. Henslin, "More than 25 percent of Americans suffer from a special sensitivity to the natural decrease in sunlight during fall and winter in a condition called SAD (seasonal affective disorder)." That might explain why I get cranky on cloudy days and the kiddos get antsy when stormy, snowy, or rainy weather prevents them from playing outside.

After seeing the colorful cover and reading an excerpt, I requested Henslin's book as part of the Thomas Nelson Publishing reader/reviewer program. And I'm glad I did. In his thought-provoking and enlightening book, Henslin combines scientific studies with observations from his clinical practice to suggest specific remedies to nourish our minds and embrace joy.

Henslin's book is divided into sections on: Healthy Brain, Happy Life; Raising Your Joy Quota in the 5 Mood Centers; and Joy Everlasting. Another unique and attractive factor of the book is that Henslin folds in faith and quotes Scripture. He also suggests traditional and medical ways to elevate your mood and increase your joy, as well as some other ways, including: visualization, nutrition, exercise, meditation, prayer, music, aromatherapy, soothing Scriptures, bibliotherapy (reading books--Yay!), and cinematherapy (going to the movies).

You don't have to be a physician or have a degree in psychology to comprehend what's inside this book. It's very readable and full of practical advice. It's definitely one book I will keep on my reference shelf. Maybe I'll take it outside to re-read it on a sunny day--like today!

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Southern Illinois Writers' Guild Contest


Today's forecast for St. Peters, MO: Partly sunny, high 31 degrees. Almost above freezing--come on we can make it.

Here's a quick contest announcement sent to me by Roger Poppen at John A Logan College from Carterville, IL. Looks like there's something for any writer. The entry fee is only $5, and the prizes aren't bad. I just might send them something myself. Good luck if you enter!
The 2009 Southern Illinois Writers Guild announces its writing contest.
Three categories: Fiction, Nonfiction, Poetry.
Prizes: $100 - 1st, $50 - 2nd, $25 - 3rd, in each category.
Entry fee: $5
Deadline: May 1, 2009
Direct inquiries to Roger Poppen drrock2k@yahoo.com

Monday, March 2, 2009

Call for Submission: Quiet Heroes - Grandmothers

Today's forecast for St. Peters, MO: Fair, current temp 27 degrees.


Happy Monday! I'm glad to be back from my trip to Lake Geneva. Although it's plenty cold here, it can't compare with the weekend weather in Wisconsin. I'll blog more about my visit later this week, including an essay about an amazing pizza parlor in Lake Geneva.


Here's a call for submission sent to me by my writing friend Dianna G., who is also a magazine editor. Dianna forwarded a link to me about an upcoming anthology from best-selling author Farrah Gray for his new book, "Quiet Heroes."


Dr. Gray, who was named as one of the most influential black men in America today by the National Urban League, is looking for contributing writer submissions for his new book entitled Quiet Heroes: The Grandmothers Who Have Enriched Our Lives -- Inspirational Letters of Wit, Wisdom and Worth Delivered Through Grandmothers and Their Grandchildren.


Here are a few call-out specifics:

* Quiet Heroes is looking for compassionate and insightful stories that highlight a grandmother's sage advice to serve as pearls of wisdom.

* Submissions should be no more than 500 words.

* Send directly to the Farrah Gray Foundation at the e-mail address below.

* Letters and stories from grandmothers and those inspired by a grandmother or someone like a grandmother. Your grandmother's wisdom and personal story profiling the prudent vision that helped guide you through life.

* Grandmothers are welcome to submit letters on love, life, inspiration and hope.

* If your work is chosen for publication, you will receive $50 per story, along with publication of their 50-word biography.

* Send your submissions to: Danielle Jean-Jacques, danielle@farrahgrayfoundation.org


***For complete details about this opportunity or to find out about other submission call-outs, visit the Freelance Writing website.


Good luck!

Mysteries of the Ozarks, Volume V - Interviews with Johnny Boggs and Larry Wood

Several weeks ago, Jane Hale, president of Ozark Writers, Inc., forwarded names of contributors to Mysteries of the Ozarks, Volume V, who a...