Lonnie Whitaker attended a two-room school in the Ozarks and Missouri University Law School. He retired as district counsel for a federal agency and now works as a writer and an editor. His novel, Geese to a Poor Market, won the Ozark Writers’ League Best Book of the Year Award. His stories have appeared in Chicken Soup for the Soul, regional magazines, and anthologies. His children’s book, Mulligan Meets the Poodlums, will be published in 2017.
Dr. Barri L. Bumgarner is the author of a sci-fi thriller (8 Days), a psychological thriller (Slipping) and a YA novel, Dregs. Barri, an Assistant Professor at Westminster College, has also published seventeen short stories and hundreds of articles, both academic and teacher-education focused.
Other publications include “Why Not Me,” now being completed as a full nonfiction manuscript. She has just completed a contemporary fiction manuscript, Fifty Cents for a Dr Pepper.
1. What sparked your writing bug?
Lonnie: Since I was a child I had the notion that I could write, but I was "officially" bitten when I submitted a short story to Missouri Life Magazine in 1999 . . . and they bought it. A beginner's luck, perhaps, but it put me in the game.
Barri: To quote Strickland Gillilan, “I had a mother who read to me.” While most kids listened to Dr. Seuss, I was hearing The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam. When I was 7, I created a chapbook called The Works of Bumgarner. I’ve been writing ever since I can remember.
2. Please summarize your story in MOTO V.
Lonnie: A college student is called home because his mother has been admitted to a hospital for an illness, which seems suspicious to him. He suspected it was the recurring voices stemming from her experimental cancer treatment. But seeing her fearful eyes made him almost afraid to ask.
Barri: This autobiographical story is about my dad, who struggled with alcoholism, and how I learned about his problem. I first drafted the story during the Missouri Writing Project in 2006 and decided it was too close to home to publish at the time. Now, it’s time.
3. Where is your favorite place in the Ozarks? Please describe it.
Lonnie: On the Jack's Fork River, upstream from the Highway 17 bridge, there's a secluded gravel bar across from a limestone bluff that shadows a deep swimming hole. The spring-fed water is clear enough to see crawdads scurrying about, and there aren't many canoes or tourists.
Barri: I grew up in Lebanon, and had many favorite places: Bennett Springs, Wehner’s Bakery (eating crème horns with my dad), Lebanon Country Club (my summer hangout with Wilson and friends). When I moved to Springfield to attend SMSU, I discovered Lake Springfield. It holds a special place in my heart.
4. What writing accomplishment(s) are you most proud?
Lonnie: Publication of my novel, Geese to a Poor Market. It's a novel of the Ozarks, with one leg that wants to boogie, and the other planted on a pew. Or, "What do you get when you cross Norma Rae with Thelma and Louise?" –Jim Bohannon, Westwood One Radio.
Barri: When I published my first novel, 8 Days, I was ecstatic that my dad found out before he died. That was truly special. I’m also proud every time my blog sparks conversation. There’s no point in having a voice if you’re not willing to use it to spark change.
5. Many of my blog visitors are also writers. What writing advice can you share with them?
Lonnie: Long sentences laced with modifiers are too wordy for commercial fiction. Replace some of the adjectives and adverbs with strong verbs. Karl Largent, a techno-thriller author, told me, “Never have your protagonist running quickly when he could be sprinting.” As Mark Twain said: “When you catch an adjective, kill it.”
Barri: Write! Do it daily, if you can, no matter how simple the topic. Then connect with other writers. I stay involved with Missouri Writing Project, I’m in a writing group with colleagues at Westminster, and write every chance I get. Not writing, for me, risks stifling the creative juices.
Bonus Question: Where can readers find more about you? (Your website, blog, Facebook, etc.)
Lonnie: See my website www.geesetoapoormarket.com, or after October 2017 at www.lonniewhitaker.com with the publication of my first children's picture book, Mulligan Meets the Poodlums. And I am on Facebook.
Thanks for answering my questions, and congratulations on having your stories in Mysteries of the Ozarks, Volume V.