Writing advice, publication opportunities, and thoughts on books, language, and life from Donna Volkenannt, winner of the Erma Bombeck Humor Award. Donna believes great stories begin in a writer's imagination and touch a reader's heart.
open to members of MWG and its state chapters, as well as anyone attending the
annual conference in April.
Happy day; the
extension gives me extra time to enter my favorite chapter’s contests.Saturday Writersis sponsoring two categories:
#7 Flash Fiction and #9 Inspirational Essay.
On the topic
of being given second chances, the Writer’s Society of Jefferson County is sponsoring
an additional contest not listed on the MWG website. Category #17 is an essay
contest on "Second Chances" with a limit of 1500 words. Send your
essays for that category to entry coordinator
extension only applies to the Chapter and Sponsor contests, not
the President's contests. (Woops! I already missed that deadline.)
If you are eligible to enter, please consider the Saturday Writer’s Flash
Fiction and Inspirational Essay contests.
Final note: Apologies
to Will Shakespeare for my attempt at humor with Julius Caesar. My granddaughter and I visited the campus of Mizzou
this weekend. While we were in Columbia, we ate at Shakespeare’s Pizza. Quick restaurant
review: Long wait, great pizza!
Last weekend I caught a program on Book TV that got me excited about writing.
Yep. That's the word that describes how I felt watching Tracy Kidder and Richard Todd talk about their new book: Good Prose: the Art of Nonfiction - Stories and Advice from a Lifetime of Writing and Editing.
I'm always looking for new ways to think about writing, and what could be better than to listen to advice from Pulitzer Prize-winning author Tracy Kidder and former executive editor of The Atlantic Richard Todd.
Although it was late at night and I was sleepy, I pulled out my handy-dandy black-and-white 2013 writing notebook and started writing. Here are some notes I jotted down:
Three forms of nonfiction:
- Factual narrative
- Imagine the reader is intelligent and has knowledge not available to you.
- "There's a lot to be said for the quiet beginning." (e.g. "Call me Ishmael.")
- Invite the reader into a conversation
- Don't tell it all at once
- Trust yourself as a writer
- Trust the reader
- Broader way of thinking
- Reveal the dramatic truth
Narrative of revelation:
- Problem unfolds
- Something is important or at stake
- Someone is learning something that transforms
- Most important conflict comes from within the character
- Without revelation, leaves one asking: "Is that all?"
Finding the story:
- Have an idea
- Let it blossom
- "Luck of the conception"
- "Grace descending"
- Chance encounter
- A story is not a subject
- Begins with character
Forget the cocktail party rule for summarizing your story: "It isn't always a bad sign when a potential story does not talk well."
Writing (after research):
- Don't commit too soon
- Seek to understand
- Don't delay too long
- Find a method that works
- Write in blocks to find connections
- Make mistakes early
- Fall out of love with your words
- Let go of words that don't fit
- Leave something unsaid
- Help the reader to think
- Don't make it harder than necessary
- Read out loud
- Something that is good must go for the good of the whole
- Learn in revising
"A writer cannot hide from the sound of his voice."
"The best thing an editor can do is to help a writer to think."
That sums up most of what I wrote down.
Yesterday I visited our local library to check out Good Prose until I buy my own copy. Alas, the copy at the branch I visited had already been checked out. Until my copy arrives, I'll rely on my notes.
February is a month for red, with love and flowers and hearts
-- and giveaways.
In the love department, my romantic short story “The
Promise of New Beginnings” is among the twelve stories in the just-released Cupid’s Quiver anthology. Oh, and flowers play a large part in my story.
In the heartdepartment, last
week my sister Kathleen and I attended the Her Heart: Every Beat Counts seminar and luncheon, sponsored by SSM Health Care. It’s the third year we’ve attended the free
event. The inspiring speakers included local cardiologists and a young mother who is a heart attack
survivor. There were several vendors and lots of activities going on all morning. Lunch was tasty, and although I didn’t win a door prize, they looked
While I was at the event, I picked up some handouts and promotional
items. Rather than keeping everything for myself, I decided to have a giveaway so I could share them with one
of my blog readers. The giveawaysinclude
a red-and-white bag to hold the goodies, two colorful pens for writing, a Go Red for Women pin to wear, a nail file to keep you sharp, and several pamphlets with
educational information about women and heart disease.
For a chance to win the bag of heart-healthy writerly goodies, be sure to have
a mailing address in the USA and leave a comment by February 22. I’ll pick one
name at random and announce the winner’s name on Feb 25.Good luck!
Since I can’t afford to give all my readers flowers or chocolate for St. Valentine’s
Day—and to avoid tempting those of us who gave up candy for Lent—I decided to
do something a bit different in today's post.
How about a sweet treat for writers who
crave to learn more about the business-end of our craft? Sound
tasty? I thought so too. Today’s post is healthier and less fattening, but
more filling than chocolate! So, here’s the “skinny.”
Earlier this month, I received a message from Dianna
Graveman of 2Rivers Communications and Design that she was giving a seminar on Advanced
Marketing. I have known Dianna for several years, and I know how strong and current her
background is in writing, editing, teaching, social media, and marketing. After checking my calendar, I decided
to attend her seminar, and I’m glad that I did.
At $15, Dianna’s presentation at All On the Same Page Book
Store in Creve Coeur, MO, was a bargain. The night of the event, Dennis
and Robin Tidwell had to scramble to find extra chairs to accommodate the dozen or so writers who showed up at their cozy store.
During her presentation, Dianna gave a preview of an article on
Indy Publishing that she’s been assigned to write for the 2014 Writer’s Market. Not wanting to steal any thunder before her article is published, I asked Dianna
if she’d mind if I blogged about her presentation. Dianna said she’d
Here are some highlights from my notes:
Writers need to think like business people.
Speaking to groups sells more books than just signings.
Think beyond speaking to just writing groups.
Target your audience.
Offer value by speaking on a topic of interest.
Learn how to write a press release.
Join groups that promote events.
Send your host a jpg headshot and bio in advance.
Start local and expand.
Become familiar with social media tools.
Create a Facebook Event and invite contacts (That’s how I
learned about Dianna’s seminar).
Follow-up with an e-mail (That’s how I remembered the date).
Don’t hard sell.
Send your host a thank you after the event.
Offer to write a blurb about the event.
Pass out business cards.
I hope my fat-and-sugar-free sampler of what Dianna talked about has whet your appetite and given you some food for
thought about marketing.
If you want to learn more about Dianna's upcoming presentations, click on this link.
This morning I was surprised to hear that Pope Benedict XVI is going to resign at the end of the month due to his physical condition and advanced age. According to reports, this is the first time a pope has resigned in almost 600 years.
Born Joseph Aloisius Ratzinger, Pope Benedict XVI is the ninth German pope and the first German pope in nearly 500 years. According to news reports a new pope is expected to be elected by Easter.
The thought of electing a new pope took me back to August of 1978, the month Pope Pius VI died, the same time my husband Walt were taking a trip to Germany to celebrate our tenth wedding anniversary.
You might wonder what the changing of the guard at the Vatican had to do with our vacation. Back in 1978, so did I.
Walt was born in a Bavarian town about thirty miles from Munich, not too far from the town where the current pope (Benedict XVI) was born. Bavaria is a predominantly Catholic area of Germany, strong in faith and strong in tradition. During our vacation I discovered just how strong.
Walt emigrated to the United States when he was a teen. Our vacation was going to be his first return to Germany since he'd left. He planned the trip. His sister Helga helped pay for our tickets, and his sister Irma watched our children. In addition to seeing the sights of Germany, we were going to visit Walt's family and attend the wedding of one of his cousins.
Because of the death of Pope Pius VI on August 6, 1978 -- until a new pope was elected -- the Church was in mourning. After our arrival we found out that the parish priest refused to officiate at Walt's cousin's wedding celebration.
Although I couldn't understand much German at the time, I remember seeing lots of tears and waving of hands and hearing heated exchanges among Walt's relatives. His cousin's wedding had been planned for more than a year. Many Deutschmarks had been spent on dresses and flowers and decorations and music and food wine and beer!
I don't remember if it was because a new pope (Pope John Paul I) was elected, the mourning veil was lifted, or if the family finally prevailed, but the wedding was held on the scheduled date and we were able to attend.
The old Gothic church was beautiful; the wedding was a lavish affair, with a solemn ceremony, a lovely bride, and the hoods of several Mercedes-Benz decorated with flowers. There was lots of food and drink and dancing and singing, and some memorable and unusual traditions.
It's hard to believe our anniversary trip was almost thirty-five years ago. Time flies, memories fade, but some traditions live on.
This morning I was among several volunteers collecting donations for Heat Up St. Louis , a regional nonprofit organization. Heat Up St. Louis provides energy assistance to help seniors and poor households in Missouri and Illinois.
All of the administrative costs for the event were underwritten by Hardee's, which featured sausage and egg biscuits for just one dollar. All money collected from the biscuit sales goes right back into the community where there is a Hardee's. And, was there ever a crowd this morning!
The temperature was below freezing when my sister Kathleen and I arrived around 7 a.m. for our two-hour shift at the Hardee's on Mid Rivers Mall Drive in St. Peters. Even though I wore a winter coat, scarf, and gloves, it didn't take look to get chilly. Several other Vincentians from All Saints Parish were among those brave souls collecting for this worthy cause.
The support from other organizations and businesses who showed up to help collect was impressive. Volunteers were from groups as diverse as: Citicorp Mortgage, UMB Bank, Monsanto, North East Community Action Corporation (NECAC), and local radio station 97.1.
Tom Terbrock, from the Dave Glover Show on 97.1, braved the cold weather and collected donations with a few of us in the drive-thru. Tom was enthusiastic and sincere when he told me how much he supports the energy assistance program. I told him a little about what our parish's St. Vincent de Paul conference does to help assist needy families pay their utility bills. (I also told him how much my husband Walt enjoys listening to him and Dave on the Dave Glover Show.)
Another enthusiastic young lady from 97.1 handed out tee-shirts and pens to diners inside Hardee's. A friendly young man named John from UMB smiled and joked as he collected funds with me in the drive-thru. He seemed to be having a good time -- and told me how much he loves his job at UMB. Donna, from the North East Community Action Corporation (NECAC), and I talked about the growing need for energy assistance in St.Charles County.
The generosity of people digging deep into their pockets to help others was amazing. Just about everyone waiting in the drive-thru or walking into the restaurant -- from construction workers, utility company employees, teachers, school bus drivers, businesspeople, World War II and Vietnam veterans, senior citizens, to families -- made donations.
I held the door for a mother and her young children, who took turns placing handsful of coins into my canister. Other donations ranging from one dollar, to a handful of dollars, fives, tens, and twenties were stuffed into the containers. One generous woman even wrote out a check for $100!
By the time my shift was over, my feet and fingers were cold and my nose was almost as red as Rudolph's, but my heart was warmed by the generosity of the good people from the St. Peters-St. Charles community.
Yesterday on the way home from the grocery store, my grandson and I stopped at our nearby McDonald's drive-through. MickeyD's is Michael's favorite fast food restaurant--and I wanted to try their onion cheddar burger.
Before leaving the parking lot, I inventoried my order because I've learned that what I ordered doesn't always make it into the bag.
Here's what I found:
One order of fries for Michael - Check
One McDouble burger for our dog Harley -Check
Two grilled onion cheddar burgers (one for Walt and one for me) - Check, Check
One soft drink for Michael - Check
One unsweetened iced tea for me - Check
After we got home, I cut up Harley's burger then unwrapped my sandwich, which felt a bit light, so I did another inventory:
Bun - Check
Grilled onions - Check
Cheddar cheese - Check
Burger - Missing in Action
After Walt opened his sandwich he found the same thing, or I should say found that his burger was also MIA.
We shook our heads and had a good laugh. I wish I'd taken a photo before tossing the mess in the trash. That burgerless grilled onion cheddar burger was quite a sight.
I almost didn't call the manager because the two burgers only cost $2, but I figured when you order a burger you should get some meat on your sandwich, right? I also figured the manager could use a laugh.
With a friendly voice I told the manager what happened. The young-sounding manager was very polite and apologetic. He asked if I could come back so they could make two more sandwiches -- which included the meat. With the Superbowl about to start I didn't want to run out again, so I told him I couldn't make it back last night. He told me to let him know next time I come in and I would receive two free sandwiches.That seemed fair, and I think the manager handled the situation well.
Besides having a good laugh and a funny story to tell, on the positive side, I really shouldn't be eating a fried hamburger anyway. Maybe someone was looking out for my good health to make sure I avoid fatty foods.
How about you? Do you have any funny fast food stories to share?
Heart disease is the Number One killer of women and is more deadly than cancer.
Over the past two years, heart disease has affected people I love.
* Almost two years ago, my sister experienced shortness of breath and chest discomfort. At first she thought she was coming down with a cold or maybe getting a sinus infection. She went to her doctor, and to be on the safe side her doctor ran some additional tests to make sure the problem wasn't her heart. While my sister was on the treadmill, the technician told her to get off immediately and called the cardiologist in, who told her she needed to get to the hospital right away. She had blockage in several valves, 98% blockage in one, and needed to have surgery. After her surgery and making lifestyle changes, she is doing fine.
* This past October, my sister-in-law, who has had two pacemaker surgeries, passed out during a wedding reception. Over the past few months she has been hospitalized for more than 10 weeks; twice she was "coded" and had to be resuscitated. After being bedridden for so many months she is going through physical therapy while she gets healthy enough for a heart transplant. I saw her and my brother on Wednesday. While she needs help walking, her color is good, and she is grateful for every day.
* Sadly, this summer I lost one of my writing friends from complications after surgery. She had had several heart surgeries in the past but her body couldn't survive her last one.
The reason for this post isn't to make readers feel bad, but to encourage them to get educated and get healthy. Personally, I need to work on eating healthy, losing weight, and exercising more.
Here's what I am doing:
To get my weight under control and exercise more, I've been going to a Zumba Gold class at a local church. Classes meet on Tuesday and Thursday evenings. It's fun and an inexpensive and invigorating class, intended for older women. The pace is slower than normal Zumba classes, but the energy level is high. The leader is enthusiastic and encouraging and incorporates her faith with fitness.
If you see me today, I will be wearing red, including tonight at Bunco, where I will try to limit my portion sizes and calorie intake.
I've signed up to go to Her Heart: Every Beat Counts Event, a free health event hosted by the SSM Heart Institute later this month. There, I will have cholesterol/glucose screening (for a small fee), blood pressure screening, listen to speakers, be treated to a healthy lunch, and have the opportunity to win door prizes. My sister and I went to this standing-room only event last year. I came away educated and encouraged to make some changes in my lifestyle--which I'm still working on, but progress is slow.
How about you? Do you plan to do anything today or this month to educate yourself about heart disease?