Monday, December 15, 2014

Free Writing Resource: Planning Calendars from Literautas

Here's a gift you can give yourself without feeling guilty -- and it's free!

Just in time for Christmas, the generous folks at Literautas, whose motto is, "If you like writing," are giving away downloadable writing calendars.

For 2015 there are three varieties: wall calendar, desk calendar, or monthly planner

Last year I used my 2014 monthly planner to:
* Record upcoming deadlines
* Document my monthly goals
* Have a visual displays of what I'd accomplished
* Help account for my monthly income and expenses

So, if you like free, here's a link to the Literautas blog, where you can find directions on how to download the calendar of your choice.

Happy writing --  and planning!



Saturday, December 6, 2014

Just Released from Mozark Press: That Mysterious Woman

Earlier this month I received an early Christmas present -- my check and contributor copies of That Mysterious Woman.

The book with the striking cover is part of the award-winning Shaker of Margaritas Anthology series from Mozark Press.

That Mysterious Woman includes mystery tales ranging from cozies, soft-boiled mysteries, suspense tales, capers, and whodunnits, with emphasis on character, plot, and good old-fashioned storytelling -- each with a female protagonist. Topics covered in the anthology are tales of: "murder, retribution, paranormal activity, thievery, strange disappearances, deception, and other mysterious situations."

The anthology includes short stories from 27 writers who hail from coast-to-coast across the United States.

Contributing writers are: David K. Aycock, Paula Gail Benson, Steven Clark, Lisa Ricard Claro, Karen Mocker Dabson, E. B. Davis, Caroline Dohack, Eileen Dunbaugh, Linda Fisher, J. D. Frost, Jodie Jackson Jr., Mitch Hale, Cathy C. Hall, Sharon Woods Hopkins, Jennifer Jank, Suzanne Lilly, Mary Ellen Martin, Edith Maxwell, Carolyn Mulford, KM Rockwood, Martha Rosenthal, Georgia Ruth, Harriette Sackler, Rosemary Shomaker, Susan E. Thomas, Donna Volkenannt (that's me), Kari Wainwright, and Frank Watson.

For more information about That Mysterious Woman and to find out about future calls for submission, visit the Mozark Press site.







Thursday, November 6, 2014

More CCMWG Notes: What's So Funny? with Mary-Lane Kamberg -- and a Well Versed Winner

Mary Lane Kamberg at CCMWG
During an afternoon CCMWG breakout session, I sat in on award-winning Kansas writer Mary-Lane Kamberg's humor writing seminar. 

I can attest to Mary-Lane's writing skills -- and her sense of humor. About ten years ago we both served on the board of the Missouri Writers' Guild. Even when board discussions got heated, Mary-Lane could be relied on for solid advice and an upbeat personality. 

During the CCMWG breakout session, she interspersed some of her essays along with her lecture on humor writing. 

Her basic two-step process for writing humor is:

1. Think of something funny.
2. Write it down.

Beyond that, she gave examples of how humor can be expressed through: action, dialogue, and description.

She broke down humor writing into three basic parts:
* Topic – Can found in family life, politics, news stories, horrible experiences, phobias, etc.
* Format – Can use diary, how-to, advice Q&A, quiz, pretend interview, list, narrative form personal essay, etc.
* Individual jokes – Her opener was: “A horse walks into a bar and the bartender asks, ‘Why the long face?’”

The format she uses for the narrative form of personal essays is:
Character has a problem (wants to get or keep something)
Three escalating conflicts
Dark moment
Final tug
Punch line 

She emphasized that personal essays are basically true stories.

Some of her tools/observations in humor writing are:
Repetition - three times is usually enough
Build the joke then pause
Specifics are funnier than generalities
Surprise
Include an element of a universal truth
Piling on 
Use hostility
It’s okay to be mean. (Note: I don’t necessarily agree with this.)
Words with the letter “K” are funny (Hmm?)
Play with works, such as puns or mixed metaphors
Targets: public figures, politicians, family members, movement, yourself
Butt of jokes gives readers a sense of superiority
Use yourself as a target - she does this a lot in her essays
Exaggeration
Comparison, but make it BIG
It’s okay to make fun of famous people, but she warned against libel

Humor pieces tend to be short, between 500-800 words, and they’re getting shorter.

Her wrap-up quotes were:  “No laughter in the writer, no laughter in the reader,” and “Get them laughing then get them with the knife.”

***

And, now for the announcement of the winner of the copy of Well Versed 2009.

Drum roll, please . . . .

The winner is: Marcia


I will get the copy to you soon.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Round Three from CCMWG: Linda Rodriguez on Writing and Publishing Novels with the Big Five

Linda Rodriguez at CCMWG
Attending Linda Rodriguez's session at the CCMWG conference was like taking a master class on how to survive and thrive with the Big Five. (Hey, did I just type a rhyme?)

Linda has an impressive list of credentials as a writer, poet, and university administrator. In 2012, her debut novel, Every Last Secret, was the winner in St. Martin's/Malice Domestic Best First Traditional Mystery Novel Competition. Her third novel in the Skeet Bannion series, Every Hidden Fear, was published this year.


During her presentation, she explained that with recent changes in the publishing industry, what once was the Big Six publishing houses is now the Big Five. Where editors with a passion for books used to make final decisions, now MBAs and "bean counters" are in charge.


Linda got her first big break in the mainstream fiction market when she won the St. Martin's Press Malice Domestic Best First Traditional Mystery Novel Competition in 2012. As the contest winner, she received a generous advance on publication of her book.


How did she do it?


* She wrote a novel (which she revised and rewrote and fine-tuned).


* She belonged to a critique group and got professional and honest feedback for her novel.


* She hired a professional freelance editor.  She emphasized that no matter how good a writer you are, you should hire a professional editor--and, she emphasized you should make sure the editor you hire is reputable. An editor can help with the last little bit to improve your novel. She also observed that as a result of downsizing and outsourcing by major publishers, there are some highly qualified and experienced freelance editors available for hire.


(Linda's advice on hiring a professional, reputable, and an experienced editor struck a chord with me. Before hiring an editor (or a proofreader, etc.), I believe it's a good idea to ask about their background, training, experience, and references. Just because someone has a blog or a website claiming they are an editor or has the word "editor" printed on their business cards doesn't automatically make them qualified, professional, or reputable. Ask for credentials and references.)


* She entered her novel in a contest.

* She won the contest.



**


Here are a few other notes I jotted down: 

Develop a platform while writing your first book.


Know that contracts are always weighted to give advantage to the publisher.


Find a good agent to help you get a contract favorable to you. 


Attending conferences, joining professional organizations, and networking can help land an agent--and get you and your book noticed.


In traditional publishing the first four-six weeks after a book is published are a measure of success.


Traditional publishers expect every book to do better than the previous one.


By the fourth book, publishers expect a breakout novel.


Writing a great book isn't enough.


Writing is a business. Writers need to become business oriented.


Make an annual marketing plan.


Learn to prioritize.


Balance time between promotion and writing.


Use social media, but don't hammer your book to people.


Get your followers to like you.


Don't spam everyone to buy your book.


Group blogs are a plus. She belongs to two.


Life happens, be flexible.


To learn more about Linda and her books, visit her blog.

Monday, October 27, 2014

More Notes from CCMWG's Write Direction Conference: Writing Nonfiction with Mary Horner

Here is the second installment of my notes from the CCMWG's Write Direction conference earlier this month. 

Mary Horner  is a multi-published, award-winning writer and college teacher who gave a thoughtful and informative session on “Writing Nonfiction.”

Here are some of the notes I jotted down during Mary's presentation:

Nonfiction is based on someone's truth. It is factual but can also be emotional. Variety is what makes writing nonfiction wonderful.

According to Mary, the secret of selling nonfiction is:

* Give editors what they want
* Read the publication before submitting
* Approach editors with an idea (2 or 3 are better)
* If it's something you're interested in, that's even better
* Your passion will come through if you care about your topic
* Ask the editor for an idea if your suggested ideas fail
* Submit clean, well organized, and researched copy
* Stay focused; it's more than the writing itself, it's the framework

Possible topics: What do you love? What do you hate? What are your pet peeves?

Make connections to your feelings so your passion comes through.

What do you know?
What do you want to know?
Next comes research (to fill the gap between what you know and want to know)

Mary's three-step process:
Make an outline – gather lots of info
Visit the library – ask  research librarians for assistance; they have access to databases not available to writers
Ask experts -- they are usually flattered you ask!

Word of caution: Research can be a time waster so set limits.

Credibility is believability.
Make sure your sources, especially from the Internet, are reliable.
Be sure to cite your research and copy url onto the work-in-progress document for future reference.
Always verify. If in doubt, leave it out.

One of Mary's favorite humorous quotes from the Internet is:
"85% of the quotes on the Internet are made up." (Abe Lincoln)

The framework for your nonfiction should be logical and easy to follow.

The thesis statement basically asks the question: What do I believe to be true?

Don't be afraid to make changes if what you discover during research conflicts with what you think you know.

Ask yourself:
What is true?
Why do I believe it?
What do I believe about it?

Mary shared this quote, “If there is no discovery for the writer, there is also no discovery for the reader.”

Narrow focus makes the difference.

Mary uses symbols in the margins of her paragraphs to help organize her works in progress.

Editors appreciate it when writers add a little something extra (a sidebar, thoughtful quotes, photographs, or illustrations).

If you would like to learn more about Mary’s thoughts on writing nonfiction, I recommend reading her book, “Strengthen your Nonfiction Writing.


Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Notes from CCMWG Keynote Address by Terry Allen on Film Noir

During the keynote presentation, Terry Allen showed film clips to demonstrate the points he made and to complement his lecture on film noir.

Here are a few things I learned:

Film Noir is French for black film.

Hollywood’s classical film noir period was in the 1940s-1950s, notably when G.I.s returned home from World War II.

Before that period, in the 1920s and 1930s, German film makers created German Expressionism films, which combined elements of film noir with horror.

The neo-noir period is the 1970s, with films such as “Chinatown” and “Blade Runner”

This year’s “True Detective”was also mentioned as an example of the genre.

Film Noir movies have a range of plots from the P.I to the fall guy.

Hard-boiled pulp novels like The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler, with first person narrative, were mentioned as books that were made into film noir movies.

The real star of film noir is Fate.

The message is: There’s something dark out there.

The question is: Why me?

And there’s no good answer at all.

FN relies on the importance of dialogue and style. Everything has a purpose.

Key elements are: mood, tone, style, and moral ambiguity.

Text and subtext contribute to the total package, as does the music and background.

Another element is the Femme Fatale – the fatal woman or black widow who lures the good guy out of the sunshine into the shadows and causes him to do something he might not otherwise do.

One example given was how Barbara Stanwyck manipulated Fred McMurray to murder her husband in “Double Indemnity.”

This element of femme fatale in movies (and novels and short stories) brought back something my dad used to say when he read or heard about a decent guy who acted out of character and did something stupid or wrong. Dad would shake his head and say, “Cherchez la femme,” which he told me meant, “Find the woman.”

As a writer, my take-away from the film noir session is the need for consistency in dialogue, tone, mood, and style.

This session also brought to mind what Edgar Allen Poe wrote about the importance of the “unity of effect” in short stories. Everything in a story, from the title to the character name, the mood, the tone, and the individual words should combine to create a consistent effect of the piece.

Are you a fan of film noir? Do you have any favorite movies or novels to recommend?

Monday, October 20, 2014

Giveaway and Call for Submissions for Well Versed 2015

Well Versed 2009
Last Saturday I attended the Columbia Chapter of the Missouri Writers' Guild annual Write Direction Conference in Columbia, MO. It was an inspiring and informative event--and extremely well run and affordable!

Over the next few posts I'm going to share some notes I took during the conference, but today I have a call for submissions and a giveaway!

One important announcement during the event was a reminder about the CCMWG's call for submissions for their annual award-winning Well Versed anthology.

The anthology accepts submissions of fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and new this year--flash fiction. Members of CCMWG may enter for free. Nonmembers may enter for a modest fee.

You can find complete guidelines for the 2015 anthology at the link. Deadline is November 15, 2014.

Entries are judged independently by guest judges (for fiction, nonfiction, and poetry) who select winners in each category and make recommendations for other submissions to be included in the anthology. The judges select the top choices to receive monetary prizes. All entries selected for inclusion in the anthology receive one contributor's copy, plus a payment of $1 for each piece included.

During the conference, attendees were encouraged to take free copies of past anthologies. Of course, I took advantage of that generous offer.

To carry on the CCMWG spirit of generosity, I'm giving away a copy of Well Versed that I picked up at the conference. The 2009 issue of Well Versed (pictured above) includes a foreword from Walter Bargen, Missouri's first poet laureate, who served as poetry judge for that issue.

For a chance to win a copy of the 2009 anthology shown above, leave a comment with your name here by October 31. I will select one winner and announce the name the beginning of next month.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

News from AKA Publishing/Compass Flower Press

AKA Publishing/Compass Flower Press has announced the release of its first anthology, Uncertain Promise: An Anthology of Short Fiction and Non Fiction, edited by Von Pittman.

Among the contents of the anthology are these winning entries: 


• First Place: “Body Language” David G. Collins, Fulton, MO

• Second Place: “Our Ventana” Mary Pacifico Curtis, San Jose, CA
• Third Place (Tie): “Ballerina” Sally Whitney, Millersville, MD and“The Broom” Marlene Lee, Columbia, MO


Other selections include the works of finalists in the anthology contest.



Von Pittman served as the anthology's editor. Following a career in academic administration, Pittman began writing fiction.  His short stories and creative nonfiction pieces have appeared in The First Line, Cantos, Crime and Suspense, Perspectives Magazine, Well Versed, Cuivre River, and Iowa History Illustrated.  In addition, he has contributed to several recent anthologies, including Storm Country (Missouri Writers Guild, 2011), Deep Waters (Outrider Press, 2012), and Educators as Writers (Peter Lang, 2006). Pittman has won first-place awards in the annual Missouri Writers Guild competition in the categories of Short Story and (2008) and Article (2012), as well as several other awards.

Uncertain Promise can be pre-ordered at a discount through AKA Publishing.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Call for Submissions: Nimrod International Journal of Prose and Poetry

Yesterday I received an e-mail with a call for submissions from Eilis O’Neal, Editor-in-Chief of Nimrod International Journal of Prose and Poetry, at the University of Tulsa.

The Call for Submissions for their Spring/Summer 2015 issue has the theme of: 
Circulatory Systems: Current and Connection.

For hints at what the editors have in mind, visit the Nimrod Journal website.

Here are some guidelines:

Stories and creative nonfiction  - up to 7,500 words

Poetry - up to 8 pages 

All work must be previously unpublished 

Postmark Deadline: November 30, 2014 

Publication Date: April 2015

Send manuscripts to:

Nimrod Journal
The University of Tulsa
800 S. Tucker Dr.
Tulsa, OK 74104

Please mark both your cover letter and the outer envelope with “Spring 2015 Theme.”

Questions? Email nimrod@utulsa.edu, call (918) 631-3080. Or visit the website.


Monday, September 22, 2014

Don't Miss This: Fiction and Nonfiction Contest Announcements from Dappled Things

Earlier this month, Denise Montgomery , from Catholic Writers of St. Louis, forwarded an e-mail with some exciting contest announcements from Dappled Things, a quarterly of ideas, art, & faith

It's taken me a while to pass this information along, but it's worth reading and sharing!

Here's what I like about these contests:

The contest prizes are generous. 

The processing fee for fiction is only $2.

There's no processing for nonfiction entries.

So, here's the scoop:

Last year, Dappled Things debuted the J.F. Powers Prize for Short Fiction. The contest drew about 400 entries, from which a winner and nine honorable mentions were selected by a panel of independent judges. 

This year the magazine is introducing a nonfiction category, the Jacques Maritain Prize for Nonfiction.

Here’s what you need to know if you are interested in making a submission to either prize:

What are the prize amounts?
For the J. F. Powers Prize for short fiction: 
1st place: $500
2nd place: $250
8 honorable mentions: publication in the journal and a one-year subscription.

What is the deadline for the fiction prize?

You can submit your story until November 28, 2014.


For the JacquesMaritain Prize for Nonfiction, the prizes are:

1st place: $500
2nd place: $300
3rd place: $200

What is the deadline for the nonfiction prize?
Since all nonfiction submissions will be eligible for the prize (selected from among all the essays published in Dappled Things during a given year), then submissions for the prize are accepted year-round. To participate in the current prize, your piece should appear at the latest in the Mary, Queen of Angels 2015 edition, which means you would have to make a submission by June 2015. The issues could all be filled before then, however, so don’t delay. The editors publish about two to three essays per issue, and all published essays will be finalists for the prize. The earlier you submit, the likelier the chances your essay will appear among a given year’s finalists.

What kind of submissions are you looking for?
For the J.F. Powers Prize for Short Fiction, please review the submission guidelines. If you have a story to submit that doesn't fit those guidelines, please consider making a submission under the general fiction category.

With regards to the Jacques Maritain Prize for Nonfiction, the editors are not limiting submissions to a particular theme (this being in keeping with Maritain’s own broad interests), other than what would fit within the context of a Catholic cultural and literary journal. In other words, please follow the nonfiction submission guidelines and look at the nonfiction pieces that appear in previous issues

When will winners be announced?
Winners of the J.F. Powers Prize for Short Fiction will be announced in February 2015. Winners of the Jacques Maritain Prize for Nonfiction will be announced in December 2015 (with the finalists being announced as each issue is published, starting with the Christmas 2014 edition).

Is there a reading fee?
No. 
However, given the costs imposed on us by the huge number of entries last the winner will be year, we are instituting a nominal $2 processing fee for the fiction prize to help us run it as efficiently as possible. Think of it as the equivalent of paying for postage if submissions were being accepted through the mail. 
There will be no processing fee for the nonfiction prize this year.
Make your submissions soon! 
Further information will be posted on the Contests page as well as Submittable. 

Saturday, September 13, 2014

UMSL's Write Stuff Program: Chancellor's Certificate in Writing, Focused Seminars, Business Writing and More

UMSL's Write Stuff Program offers St. Louis area writers the opportunity to "learn from experts and enhance your skills." 

Writers interested in earning a Chancellor's Certificate in Writing:

* Complete a total of 50 contact hours 

* Contact hours include:

 ** Two core courses (one fiction and one nonfiction) taught by top students in UMSL's distinguished Master of Fine Arts Creative Writing Program 

 ** And focused seminars on a wide variety of topics (including business writing) 

Writers wanting to improve their writing skills but not interested in earning a certificate:

** Can pick and choose from a variety of classes or seminars that interest them

All seminars are taught by published authors

For more information on The Write Stuff Certificate Program or to register, please call (314) 516-7454.

This month, multi-published, award-winning author and writing teacher Dianna Graveman will give a seminar on: 

Writing for Dollars: Earn Income as a Freelancer

The seminar will be Saturday September 20 from 1-4

Here's a description of the seminar: "You've written a short story or have a great idea for a magazine article or personal essay. Now what? Where and how can you get it published and earn money for your work? Find places to publish, choose a market for your story, pitch an article, and more. Come away from this class with a wealth of information about how to start writing for dollars."

Two Business Writing Seminars will also be presented this month: 

Business Writing Seminars will count toward the contact hours needed for the Write Stuff Certificate. 

Business writing seminars are $65 each, or you may register for both on the same day for $100 each. Onsite training is available for a group of 10 or more participants. Please call for special pricing and scheduling options.

* Grammar and Punctuation for the Business Professional

Wednesday, September 24, 2014 • 9 AM–Noon  
Creativity and industry knowledge are building blocks for effective business writing, but common errors in grammar and punctuation can undermine the best efforts. Join this collaborative workshop to refresh your knowledge or to continue to build stronger skills.

* Telling the Story: Narrative Writing for Business Professionals

Wednesday, September 24, 2014 • 1–4 PM  
Storytelling skills aren’t just for novelists; business professionals use narrative writing, too – to weave scenarios, present case studies, develop compelling training modules, craft great blog posts, compose winning press releases, and more. Learn how to craft a piece that will hook your audience, engage them, and send them off with a memorable message.

For more information, visit the Write Stuff Program website.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Whole Lot of Shaking Going On

The last two weeks have been stormy, with strong winds, rain, hail, thunder, and lightning piercing the days and nights.

And. over those weekends, when my hubby, grandson, and I made trips to our house in Osage County, we could tell the storms that passed through had left their marks.

Driving the half-mile from the county road to our house, we found several branches down. Dark green palm-like cedar branches littered the road, while yellowish-orange globs of persimmons lined the sides of the road. Persimmons must be good eating because flocks of turkeys gather near the base of the persimmon trees.

When we made the curve to where the woods part into an open field, I spotted the old oak tree (on the left) in the cemetery had lost two large limbs.

I spent most of one day trimming small branches from the large limbs and putting them into the area where the guys collect firewood. My hubby and grandson (mostly) use the small branches for bonfires during deer season. And once the large limbs are cut down, the larger hunks of wood will warm our home on cold winter nights.

As I cut down and hauled off the detritus, I wondered how old the tree is. My hubby's guess is more than a century. I wish that oak tree could talk; what amazing stories it could tell.

Of the hundreds of trees on our property, the old oak took the biggest hit, but it wasn't the only one that took a good shaking during the late summer storms.

Several walnut and pecan trees lost limbs --  and countless nuts. Pear trees also lost some branches--and mostly unripe pears littered the ground. I gathered bags full of nuts from the trees nearest our house and a few of the palatable pears and laid them out on a towel on top of a table.

Squirrels were especially busy under the pecan tree near the porch, gathering their bounty then dashing across the gravel driveway to the nearest outbuilding, where they must be storing the nuts for the winter.

If the large amount of nuts, acorns, and fruit weighing down the trees on our property is any indication of what's to come, we're in for a cold winter.

On Labor Day weekend, we went to a neighbor's farm for an end-of-summer party, which our host described as a  "Hillbilly Hootenanny," complete with a shared pot luck dinner, swimming, line dancing on the backyard deck, and Karaoke performances. Some folks, from as far away as Linn and Jefferson City, remarked about how they'd also lost trees during the stormy weather.

By the time we returned home, I was sore from all the bending, stretching, and hauling, but I also felt peace after being out in the country, communing with nature and spending time with our neighbors.

While there was a whole lot of shaking going on, and the storms knocked down tree branches and limbs, the storms also left behind easy pickings for wildlife.

I believe from time-to-time it's necessary to shake things up and change. And so, the cycle of life continues. Storms pass and leave their marks, but goodness and bounty prevail.

Friday, August 29, 2014

CCMWG's Write Direction Conference 2014

The Columbia Chapter of the Missouri Writers' Guild will hold its annual  "Write Direction" conference on Saturday, October 18, 2014, from 8:30-4:00 at the Unity Center, 1600 W. Broadway in Columbia, MO. 

Early-bird registration (by Sep 26) is only $35 for CCMWG members and $40 for non-members. 

Registration includes:
* Choice of break-out sessions,
* Sales/exhibition space in author’s hall,

* Breakfast snacks, lunch, afternoon tea

Keynote speaker Terry Allen will talk about "Writing Dialogue" and "Writing in Shadows and Fog." Dr. Allen is Professor Emeritus of Theatre Arts from the University of Wisconsin – Eau Claire who taught courses in playwriting, directing, acting, stage movement, theatre history, theatre of the Holocaust, and American cinema for thirty-four years. 

Alan Proctor: "Submitting your Poetry: What Poetry Editors Want." Alan Proctor is a poetry editor for Kansas City Voices, a former humor columnist, tree surgeon, Vice President of a public university and classical guitarist. 

Mary Horner: "Write like a pro to sell your nonfiction writing." Mary is the author of Strengthen Your Nonfiction Writing, a guide to help you write like a professional. She teaches communications at St. Louis and St. Charles Community Colleges. 

Linda Rodriguez: "Riding the Tiger: Writing and Publishing Novels with a Big Five Publisher in a Chaotic Time of Transition."  Linda Rodriguez’s third Skeet Bannion novel, Every Hidden Fear (St. Martin’s/Minotaur), will be published May 5, 2014. 

Mary-Lane Kamberg: “What’s So Funny?” Put your sense of humor on paper. Her workshop includes practical advice for using humor in poetry and following the narrative form for humorous essays. Mary is a professional writer with more than twenty years’ experience. She is the author of 27 books. Her articles have appeared in Better Homes and Gardens, Marriage and Family Living, Christian Science Monitor, Healthy Kids and many others.

Gerado Mena:  "Unleashing your Inner Voice." His workshop includes generating material, sifting, and creating poems using modern structural techniques. War Poetry: (Closing Session) Iraq.  In this workshop he will read from his poetry book The Shape of Our Faces No Longer Matters and will share his journey from a head full of bad memories to a book of war poems. Gerardo Mena is a decorated Iraqi Freedom veteran. He spent six years in Spec Ops with the Reconnaissance Marines and was awarded a Navy Achievement Medal with a V for Valor for multiple acts of bravery.  His poetry and essays have appeared in The New York Times, Ploughshares, Best New Poets 2011, Ninth Letter, and elsewhere.

For complete details, visit the CCMWG site.

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?










i

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!



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