Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Saturday Writers 8th Annual Short Fiction Contest - A Bittersweet Experience

Today in St. Peters, MO: Light snow, high 39 degrees. Let it snow!

On my blog today I'm posting the names of the winning entries in the Saturday Writers 8th Annual Short Story Contest. In the past I have served as a contest judge, but this year it was my honor to serve as contest chair.

Chairing this year's contest has been a bittersweet experience. The bitter part came after the death of our contest judge, Pushcare Prize nominated writer, Lynn Carney. When I asked Lynn to be our judge in the fall, she was so excited. We exchanged e-mails, especially after the contest deadline was extended. Lynn was anxious to receive the entries and finish judging before the holidays.

On Friday the week before Thanksgiving, I mailed the contest entries to Lynn. At suppertime the following Monday I received a tearful call from her husband Mark that he had received the entries, and he told me Lynn had passed away over the weekend. Lynn was only 56 years old. She was such a wonderful writer and generous spirit. Mark told me Lynn's passing was peaceful, and he was content that she was in the hands of the Lord. I told Mark Lynn was in our hearts and prayers and not to worry about mailing back the entries--he had enough to worry about.

The sweet part of the experience came when my dear friend Louella Turner, CEO and publisher of High Hill Press, and also a Pushcart Prize nominated writer, did not hesitate when I asked her to serve as judge in Lynn's place. Lou was thrilled to judge the entries, almost 90 of them. Fortunately, the rules asked for two copies of all entries. I delivered the second copies to Lou in late November, and she immediately got busy judging, which was blindly, so she did not know whose story she was reading. She not only judged the stories, she also provided comments about her experience. You can read Lou's comments on the Saturday Writers Contests page.

Here are the names of the winning entries:

And the winners are:
1st Place "To Touch the Moon" Lisa Tiffin; West Henrietta, New York
2nd Place "Myrtle" Pat Wahler; St. Peters, Missouri
3rd Place "Peligro" Wilma Gore; Sedona, Arizona
4th Place "The Baby" Evan Guilford-Blake; Stone Mountain, Georgia
5th Place "Firebreak" Doyle Suit; St. Charles, Missouri
6th Place "These Boots" Lisa Tiffin; West Henrietta, New York
7th Place "The Darkness of the Pines" Jerrel Swingle; O'Fallon, Missouri
8th Place "Marge" Charles King; Springfield, Missouri
9th Place "Streets of Gold" Nancy Peacock; Fort Smith, Arkansas
10 Place "Splashdown" Brenda Brinkley; Marshfield, MO

Honorable Mention
"Owen Bentley" Jean M. Emrick; Tuscon, Arizona
"Revelation at the Hacienda" Lonnie Whitaker; High Ridge, Missouri
"The Last Time I Saw Herbie" Charles King; Springfield, Missouri
"Misery and the 8N" Terry Alexander; Proum, Oklahoma
"Redneck GPS' Russell Gayer; Fayetteville, Arkansas
"A Grief Too Astray" Zac Walsh; Hayward, California
"Mingled Tears" Lilah Continue; St. Charles, Missouri
"Daddy" Cathy C. Hall; Lilburn, Georgia
"The Man Who Loved His Refrigerator" Dimetra Makris; Amherst, Massachusetts

Congratulations to all whose names are listed below, and thanks to everyone who entered the contest. Part of the contest fees help fund our children's contest and annual meeting. Submitters retain all rights to their stories.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Mid Rivers Review Open for Submissions

Today in St. Peters, MO: Chance of flurries, high 35 degrees.

If you live and write in the metro-St. Charles area and one of your goals for the new year is to submit your work for publication, here's an opportunity with a local literary journal.

The Mid Rivers Review is the literary journal of St. Charles Community College. The MRR is published annually by the SCCC English Department and contains poetry, prose, and artwork contributed by students, staff, faculty, and area residents.

My short stories have been included in three issues of MRR, and the English Department at SCCC does an excellent job producing the journal. Teddy Norris is the journal's editor, and I found her easy to work with and very helpful. She accepts original, unpublished poetry, short fiction, creative nonfiction, and artistic black and white photos, from September through January.

Entries must be postmarked by Jan. 31, 2010. Contributors receive two complimentary copies. For complete guidelines, visit

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

A Missouri Redneck Christmas Poem

Today in St. Peters, MO: Chance of showers, high 45 degrees.

A Missouri Redneck Christmas Poem

The week before Christmas in a small Missouri town
a dusting of snow fell down to the ground.

The trees were all sprinkled with flakes from above,
and throughout the woods spread a feeling of love.

When across the vast forest what should appear
but a painted red sleigh with eight mounted reindeer.

Inside the sled my brother-in-law Steve sat,
wearing a Cardinals sweatshirt and camouflage hat.

Huddled next to Steve, sat sweet sister Bridget with antlers and smile,
hoping her Budweiser hoodie would keep her warm for awhile.

The Missouri Redneck sled, built by my niece Angie’s husband Paul,
was mounted on his quad-runner, with deer heads from their family-room wall.

I share this photo so one and all can see why I so “deerly” love my family

We're not phony or fake and we have a good time,
But I must apologize for my attempt at this rhyme.

As Christmas draws near, I wish you much joy and good cheer,
Maybe one day you’ll ride in a sled with eight mounted reindeer.

Merry Christmas! Donna Volkenannt

Monday, December 21, 2009

River Styx - Fourth Annual Schlafly Beer Micro-Brew Micro-Fiction Contest

Mostly cloudy, high 35 degrees. There's still a dusting of snow on the grass.

The Fourth Annual Schlafly Beer Micro-Brew Micro-Fiction Contest wants your best micro-fiction. Compete to win a $1,500 First Prize plus one case of micro-brewed Schlafly Beer!
Rules: 500 words maximum per story, up to three stories per entry.
$20 entry fee also buys one year subscription to River Styx. Include name and address on cover letter only. Entrants notified by S.A.S.E. Winners published in April issue. River Styx editors will select winners. All stories considered for publication. Send stories and S.A.S.E. by December 31st to:
River Styx's Schlafly Beer Micro-fiction Contest
3547 Olive Street, Suite 107
St. Louis, MO 63103
The photo of the "boat dude" is from the River Styx website, where you can find complete details.

Friday, December 18, 2009

A Question from Woman's Day Magazine

Today in St. Peters, MO: Chance for rain and snow, high 41 degrees.

As part of the Woman's Day Reader Network, I receive e-mails occasionally asking me to participate in surveys. In their latest e-mail, they asked: How would you spend $5?
If they use my answer, I could be quoted in an upcoming issue of Woman's Day. To participate, I need to e-mail my name, city, state, email address and answer to with "Spend $5" in the subject line. I believe others may participate as well, so you might want to check it out.
How would I spend $5? On a discount paperback novel and a tai chi latte.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Summerfield G. Roberts Award

Today in St. Peters, MO: Partly cloudy, high 49 degrees. Not a bad day to put a dent in my Christmas shopping.

Here's an interesting writing competition from the Lone Star State. If you've ever lived in Texas, you know it is a state like no other. Walt completed his basic training at Lackland AFB outside of San Antonio in 1967, and our family lived in El Paso in the mid 80s when he and I both worked as civilian employees for the Army at Fort Bliss. Living in Texas was a memorable experience for us and our children.

Back to the award: The Summerfield G. Roberts Award is presented by Sons of the Republic of Texas to encourage literary effort and research about historical events and personalities during the days of the Republic of Texas (1836-1846).

In Texas, they do things big--the cash award of $2,500 is for manuscripts written or published during the calendar year for which the award is given. The award is made possible through the generosity of the late Mr. and Mrs. Summerfield G. Roberts of Dallas.

Manuscripts may be fiction, nonfiction, poems, essays, plays, short stories, novels, or biographies. The competition is open to writers everywhere. Deadline is Jan 15. For complete guidelines and to find out more about the Summerfield G. Roberts Award, visit their website. Good luck, y'all.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Christmas Miracles - And the Winner Is . . .

Today in St. Peters, MO: Sunny, high 39 degrees, but it's 16 out there now. Brrrrr.

The response to the Christmas Miracles book giveaway was amazing!
First, thanks to Dianna Graveman for generously donating a copy of the wonderful book with her story in it. And thanks to everyone who shared their special stories with the rest of us. As I mentioned in my original post, it's a good thing the winner's name was picked at random because all the stories were so great I couldn't possibly pick one as being the best.

And the winner of the Christmas Miracles book is . . . Becky. If you could please contact me, Becky, I will make arrangements to get the Christmas Miracles book to you.
Speaking of Christmas, I have lots of cleaning and shopping to do.
Check back later this week to find out how you could be quoted in Woman's Day magazine.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

BookReporter's Holiday Basket of Cheer Contest Deadline Dec 17

Today in St. Peters, MO: Mostly sunny, high 30 degrees. Baby, it's cold outside.

If you're looking for a Christmas gift for that special someone--like you--here's a contest that has been running for a few weeks, but you still have time to enter. The featured books change each week. This week you could win a basket of books with inspirational titles, along with peppermint, warm gloves, and chocolate--sounds good to me! Because I'm one a Bookreporter reviewer I can't enter, but my blog visitors can. Here are the details:
This week's inspirational titles are: HER INHERITANCE FOREVER: Texas: Star of Destiny, Book 2 by Lyn Cote, LEAH’S CHOICE: Pleasant Valley, Book One by Marta Perry, A LINEAGE OF GRACE by Francine Rivers, THE MOMENT BETWEEN by Nicole Baart, PRAYERS FOR SALE by Sandra Dallas and STRAY AFFECTIONS by Charlene Ann Baumbich. Their Holiday Basket of Cheer is a woven basket stocked with holiday-themed items. Along with copies of each of the titles above, winners will receive Ghirardelli Hot Chocolate mix, gourmet hand-cut vanilla marshmallows, Peppermint bark candy, red wool gloves, a decorative holiday spatula, a snowman dish towel, cinnamon sticks, and a snowman mini planter perfect for a small tree or single bulb.

To enter, complete this form and answer a question by Thursday, December 17, 2009 at 11:59PM (Eastern Time). You can find the answer by reading an excerpt from PRAYERS FOR SALE by Stella Dallas.
Stay warm, and good luck!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Writer's Digest is Looking for Your Story

Weather for St. Peters, MO: Patchy drizzle, high 50 degrees.

Here's a creative challenge presented by Writer's Digest Every month they provide a short, open-ended prompt, looking for a short story of 750 words or fewer based on that prompt. The winner will receive publication in an upcoming issue of Writer's Digest. According to their website they appreciate humor. For complete story prompt and complete rules, click on their Your Story link. Deadline is Jan 10.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Christmas Miracles Book Giveaway

Today in St. Peters, MO: Windy, with flurries tonight, low 10 degrees. Button up your overcoat!

Yesterday I had a wonderful surprise from Dianna Graveman, a good writing friend of mine. Dianna e-mailed and asked if I would like to have a couple copies of the book Christmas Miracles, edited by Cecil Murphey and Marley Gibson. Cecil Murphey is the New York Times bestselling co-author, along with Don Piper, of 90 Minutes in Heaven.

Dianna's heart-warming story, "Milton's Gift," is included in the CHRISTMAS MIRACLES anthology. She very generously offered to donate two copies of her book. One copy is for my 22-year-old niece, Alexandra, who has recently begun chemo and radiation treatments to halt the spread of brain cancer. Alexandra is in need of a miracle--and prayer.

The second copy is to give away here on Donna's Book Pub. Last night Dianna stopped by for a few minutes to deliver the books; she even autographed the copy for Alexandra. We had a nice chat about families and writing and overcoming obstacles in our lives.

So, to pass along Dianna's generous gift, I would like to offer a copy of CHRISTMAS MIRACLES to one of my blog visitors. Here's all you have to do to win the copy:

Christmas is such a special time of year, if you have a special Christmas memory you would like to share, please post it here so we can read it. For sharing your story, you could be selected as the lucky winner of the book. Post your story between now and Dec 15. One winner will be selected at random. The winner's name will be announced here on Dec 16.

Also, please visit Dianna's blog Write in the Midwest to learn details about a special on-line chat next week with the contributors of the CHRISTMAS MIRACLES anthology. I will also post a link to the chat room later this week.

Thanks, Dianna, and good luck to everyone who drops by to post a comment.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Mississippi Review Online Wants Your Flash Fiction

Today in St. Peters, MO: Light freezing rain, high 39 degrees.

Around the holiday season we've all been told, "Don't flash your cash," but here's some flash that can give you cash--in the form of a publication credit. (I'm not sure if they are a paying market.)
The Mississippi Review Online is looking for flash fiction. Kim Chinquee is editing a special collection of flash fictions for the January 2010 issue of MR online. She's looking for pieces not more than 750 words.
Send to as attachments in MS Word format or in the body of your e-mail. Submissions accepted Nov 1-Dec 15.

So, if you have something that fits their guidelines, send it. If you don't, write it, but quick about it because the Dec 15 deadline will be here--well, in a flash!

Monday, December 7, 2009

WOW! Call for Query Submissions: YA Issue

Today in St. Peters, MO: Flurries, high 40 degrees. Brrr it's cold outside.

It's cold outside, but here is a hot market!
My good friend Margo Dill e-mailed asking me to spread the word for query submissions. She is the guest editor for a special YA issue of WOW and needs your query submissions. WOW is a paying market. Here's Margo's call for queries:
"Young adult (YA) books are selling despite the economy. Adults and teens both seem to enjoy reading these books, which can be about many of the typical teen issues: suicide, peer pressure, dating, drugs, and cliques. Vampires and werewolves have practically taken over the YA section at the bookstores right now thanks to the Twilight series; and YA authors, like Ellen Hopkins author of Crank, are constantly on Twitter, Facebook, and their blogs, talking about censorship.
"Angela has decided to dedicate March's WOW! issue to YA! She has also asked me to be a guest editor for the issue. I am thrilled and can't wait to work on this exciting issue about the YA market. I love YA!Here are some ideas we had about topics for articles/interviews in the YA issue:
Interviews with YA authors about the craft of writing and marketing YA.
Interviews with YA editors or agents and what they’re looking for. What aren’t they getting?
Should YA authors find an agent or editor or does it matter?
YA authors and social networking/blogs: Do they target their teen fans or their writing colleagues or both? Special challenges of having teen fans.
What makes a book YA? The difference from tween and middle grade.
Edgy subjects in YA: are there any that are too edgy? What about language?
The use of technology in YA books—when does it date your ms? Do you need to put in e-mail, texting, Twitter and so on in contemporary novels now? How does having cell phones change the plots of novels?
YA non-fiction: What types of subjects are authors writing about now for teens? Is this an 'easy' sale for authors and publishers?
Trends: Is everybody writing about vampires? What’s the hot thing coming up? Should you write about trends?
We’re open to any ideas you may have for this issue. Please review our past children’s issues to check for YA topics we’ve already covered:
If you have an idea for an article or interview, please query us at submissions (at) wow-womenonwriting (dot) com.
Writer’s Guidelines:
Pay: $50 - $150 per article.
Looking forward to reading your queries,"
Margo Dill
Thanks for letting us know about the opportunity, Margo
And good luck to everyone who gets a query accepted,

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

St. Louis Writers Guild Annual Short Story Contest

Today in St. Peters, MO: Chance of rain, high 41 degrees. Chance of snow tonight.

Here's a contest with a quick deadline--and a $300 first-place prize. The St. Louis Writers Guild Annual Short Story Contest has a postmark deadline on or before December 5. According to the guild's promotional material, this is one of the "oldest, if not the oldest, writing contests in the country." TENNESSEE WILLIAMS won first place in this contest in 1935 for his story, Stella for Star.

Writers do not need to be a member of the SLWG in order to participate in this contest. The entry fee is $15, and entries must be postmarked on or before December 5, 2009. The judge for this contest will be best selling thriller author JOHN LUTZ.

Here is a link to the complete contest guidelines. Good luck!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Today in St. Peters, MO: High 60 degrees.

Can you believe it's December already? I can't. This year, Christmas is at my house, so I'll be busy--like everyone else--but I wanted to post some contest listings from Poets and Writers with deadlines this month.

Here's a link to their submission calendar, which lists more than 55 contests for December.

Good luck!

Friday, November 27, 2009

Metro South Arts Council hosts Author Fair

Today in St. Peters, MO: Sunny, high 55 degrees.

I hope you all had a wonderful Thankgiving Day. My family certainly did!

Yesterday we went to my sister Bridget's house. Bridget and her husband Steve always do a spectacular job with Thanksgiving dinner. Bridget and Steve cooked the turkeys and trimmings, and everyone brought their special dishes. After we ate, we had our annual Christmas ornament exchange, which is always fun. Then we picked names for Christmas--which will be at my house. Just about all the family was there, including my niece Alexandra and her fiance James--and their adorable mini-pinscher puppy, Carmen, who looked fetching in her pink and black tutu and on "diamond" choker. Alexandra and James are in town from Columbia for a couple days. Alex looks as beautiful as ever, and James is so supportive and loving to her. Alex begins her radiation treatments next week, so please keep praying for her.

Now that Thanksgiving is over, it's time to get back to work.

Tomorrow, Saturday, November 28, I will participate in the Metro South Arts Council Author Fair and Book Signing sponsored by Metro South Arts Council at Crestwood Court, 109 Crestwood Plaza Drive, just off Watson Road in St. Louis.

During the event, more than a dozen local Illinois and Missouri authors will display, sell, and sign their books. The Author Fair will be open to the public from 10 am until 6 pm at ArtSpace #120 near the north end of Crestwood Court; there is no admission charge and there is free parking at Crestwood Court.

This event was planned and coordinated by Cheryl Eichar Jett, who writes about local history of Southern Illinois. She has written a book about Alton, IL, which, if I'm not mistaken, has been named one of the most haunted places in the United States.

I will be at the event signing copies of books with my stories in them, including: Mysteries of the Ozarks, A Cup of Comfort for Christmas, A Cup of Comfort for Military Families, and A Cup of Comfort for Women.

I will be there from around 10 a.m. until 3:30 p.m. So, if you're in the vicinity, please stop by and say "Hey!"

Monday, November 23, 2009

The Blind Side - Uplifting and Entertaining

Today in St. Peters, MO: Partly sunny, high 60 degrees.

Saturday evening I did something I hadn't done in a long time--went out to dinner and a movie.
Walt and Michael were out at our country place deer hunting, so Cari and I went with one of her friends and her friend's mother to see The Blind Side. Good thing we got the the show early because there wasn't an empty seat in the house, which was filled with people of all ages and races.

The Blind Side movie is based on a true story about Michael Oher, a homeless African-American teenager from a broken home, who eventually becomes a professional football player for the Baltimore Ravens. Because of his large size everyone calls him "Big Mike," which he does not like. He is bounced through foster care until the Touys, an affluent family who owns a string of Taco Bells, take him in, and his life turns around--but not without difficulty.
Quinton Aaron plays the role of Michael Oher. Sandra Bullock and Tim McGraw play Leigh Ann and Sean Touhy. Kathy Bates plays "Miss Sue," who is a delight. Sandra Bullock is convincing and moving as Leigh Ann, who stands up for her new "son." Her other son, the actor who played SJ, is definitely a scene stealer and gave a lot of comic relief.

The actors who played parts of folks living on "the other side of the tracks" in Memphis, are very realistic in their roles. Adriane Lenox shows sorrow, shame, and love as Michael's birth mother. The actors who play the "thugs" show menace and hostility--even vulnerability. The actor who plays the football quarterback who dropped out of school and joined a gang gave an especially moving performance.

I found The Blind Side to have the right balance of being heartwarming, uplifting, and entertaining. The ending came off as a bit schmaltzy, but schmaltz is good in small doses. At our theater, when the movie was finished, just about everyone remained in their seats to watch the final clips and read about the true-life Michael Oher.
Oh, and neither Walt nor Michael got a deer this weekend. But while they were out in the woods hunting for deer, I saw a large doe romp across Mid Rivers Mall Drive onto the campus of St. Charles Community College as I drove home from Target on Sunday afternoon. Fortunately, traffic stopped in both directions to let the deer cross the road.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Why I Love to Write - How About You?

Today in St. Peters, MO: Partly sunny, high 59 degrees--bring on the sunshine!

This past week at least 10 things happened that affirmed why I love to write and why writers are some of my favorite people.

Here they are:

1. Yesterday I finished logging in the entries for the Saturday Writers 8th Annual Short Story Contest. We received almost 90 entries from 19 states. I am contest chair, and before sending the manuscripts to the judge, I read a few of the entries. One story made me laugh out loud; another gave me chills; another moved me to tears. Writers inspire me!

2. Last night I attended a local author's event at the Middendorf-Kredell Branch Library in O'Fallon, MO. Sara Nielsen did an excellent job orchestrating the event. It was fun to talk with readers and visit with some writing friends I hadn't seen in awhile as well as making some new friends, too. Writers are welcoming!

3. At critique group on Tuesday, everyone who wanted to read got to, and their works and the critiques were great! Writers are fun to be around!

4. Also at critique group, Alice M. read an excellent essay that brought tears to the eyes of everyone there. She is submitting her essay to Chicken Soup for Mothers and Daughters. She encouraged me to write and submit an essay, and she e-mailed me information about the issue and the Dec 31 deadline. Writers are generous!

4. Earlier this week on my A Book A Week blog, I posted my review of FINDING JOY, written by Joy Wooderson. Last night at the library Joy once again thanked me for my review and told me how pleased she was with it. Writers are grateful!

5. Last night several writers complimented me on my blog and told me how much they enjoy reading it. Writers are complimentary!

6. This week I finished reading and reviewing THIS BOOK IS NOT GOOD FOR YOU by Pseudonymous Bosch and e-mailed my review a few hours after the deadline to Tom Donadio, my editor at Good editors are a joy!

7. Wednesday a second copy of THIS BOOK IS NOT GOOD FOR YOU arrived from the publisher, so I'm going to donate it to Michael's class at All Saints School. Publishers are generous, even if by mistake!

8. On Wednesday I received an envelope from Green River Writers. My short story "Criminal Minds" won a certificate for 1st Honorable Mention in the President's Prize Contest for Short Fiction. Entering writing contests is fun!

9. Also in the envelope from Green River Writers was a certificate for the Jim O'Dell Memorial Poetry Contest. My Limerick "Pillow Talk?" won 1st Place--and I also received a check! Winning writing contests is even more fun!

10. This week I started scribbling down my thoughts for an essay about a beautiful patchwork quilt I won last Saturday, on my late daughter Julie's birthday. Writing keeps me sane and helps me remember the good times!

How about you? Care to share any thoughts about why you love to write or why writers are special people in your life?

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Harvard Square Editions Accepting Submissions

Today in St. Peters, MO: Chance of showers (not again!), high 50 degrees. It's another gray kind of day.

Here's a call-out for submissions I recieved from Julie Earhart, a writing friend who is a wealth of information about call-outs, submission opportunities, and all things literary, especially in the metro-St. Louis area:

Harvard Square Editions (HSE) is now accepting novel excerpt and short story submissions for publication in the sequel to Above Ground, an anthology entitled Voice from the Past. HSE authors retain ownership rights. HSE seeks work of the highest literary quality.

Please send self-contained novel excerpts in the body of an email for possible publication in the anthology, Voice from the Past.
Submissions, sent in the body of an e-mail, should include the author's name and contact info and a one-paragraph bio in third person to: submissions (at) harvardsquareeditions (dot) org in e-mail address format. (The address is spelled out here to reduce spam.) Attachments will not be opened. Authors must inform Harvard Square Editions immediately if the piece has been accepted by another publication.

Visit the Harvard Square Editions website for complete details. Good luck!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Author Event at Middendorf Kreddel Library on November 19

Today in St. Peters, MO: Light rain, high 45 degrees--but I got a glimpse of the sun this morning! Yay!

Here's a reminder about an event sponsored by St. Charles City-County Library District that I will participate in, along with several other local authors.
Sara Nielsen, Manager for Community Branches and Adult Programming, and the staff from the St. Charles City-County Library District have done an excellent job planning and orchestrating this event, which is described as follows:

Local Author Open House
Start your holiday shopping early!
Books will be sold & autographed.
Refreshments will be served.
• How does an author decide the type of book to write?
• Would you like to chat with authors on their writing techniques?
• How do you get a book published? Where do you even start!
• Do you have a book inside of you? What does it take to write a book?
Thursday, November 19 -- 4:30 - 8:00 pm
Middendorf Kredell Library
2750 Hwy. K, O’Fallon
PLEASE NOTE: I will be there from 4:30 till 6, then return from 7:30-8:00.

I will sign copies of A Cup of Comfort for Christmas, A Cup of Comfort for Women, A Cup of Comfort for Families, Mysteries of the Ozarks, and other anthologies in which my stories appear. A representative from Main Street Books in St. Charles will on site to handle book sales. Hope to see you there.
NOTE: Several other local authors who belong to Saturday Writers will also be there, including Bobbi Smith, David "Kirk" Kirkland, Joy Wooderson, Dianna Graveman, Lou Turner, Pat Wahler, and Becky Povich.

ADDITIONAL NOTE: As mentioned above, Joy Wooderson will be one of the featured writers. Joy is a writing friend who has written, FINDING JOY: ONE WOMAN'S JOURNEY BACK TO FAITH, an inspiring memoir which I recently reviewed.
If you would like to read my review and learn more about Joy's book, please visit my A Book A Week Blog.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Voices Anthology Short Story Contest - Call for Entries

Today in St. Peters, MO: Light rain, high 49 degrees.

Voices Anthology has announced a call for entries for Volume III. The anthology is a compilation of short stories published by High Hill Press and edited by Lou Turner and Delois McGrew.

Here is an abbreviated version of the submission guidelines:
* Unpublished short stories only up to 3,000 words (no essays or poetry)
* Standard manuscript format. Times New Roman, 12 point font
* Entry fee $10 for each submission
* Mail two copies, along with entry fee to:
P.O. Box 9076
Fayetteville, AR 72703
* Include a cover letter with contact information, including e-mail address and a 50-word bio. SASE NOT required.
* All genres, except erotica
* First prize $200 and publication
* Other winners will be published in the anthology and receive one contributor's copy
* First North American rights - rights revert to author 30 days after publication
* Submission deadline: December 31, 2009
* For complete guidelines, visit the OWL website or contact or Be sure to put Voices Anthology in Subject line of your e-mail.

I had a story selected for Volume II and was pleased with the result. In the past the editors have nominated for the Pushcart Prize. I'm not sure if they are this time, but that would be a good question to ask if you e-mail them. Good luck!

NOTE: Tuesday night I confirmed with Lou Turner that short story submissions will be accepted from all writers. You DO NOT have to belong to OWL to submit to Voices Anthology, but you do have to include a $10 fee for each submission.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Memorable Holiday Moments Contest from Sister Schubert--and Coincidences, Not Really

Today in St. Peters, MO: Scattered showers, high 50 degrees.

Here's a contest I came across yesterday in the newspaper while clipping coupons. Just in time for Christmas, the Meridith Corporation is sponsoring a Memorable Holiday Moments Contest through Sister Schubert's (maker of yeast rolls).

Here's a link to a video which tell you how to submit your family's most memorable holiday moment. Share your most memorable family holiday moment in 200 words or fewer. Contest deadline is 11:59 p.m. E.T. on 12/24/09. You could win a $5,000 vacation from Apple Vacations and Riu Palace, Mexico. Also $5,000 will be donated to the winner's local food bank. Five runners-up will each receive a $100 gift card. Sounds like a win-win situation to me, especially with the donation to a local food bank!

On a personal note, sorry I haven't posted lately. I'm finally over my pneumonia. It is so good to be able to breathe easily now and back to a routine! I should be posting more regularly from now on.

On a bittersweet note, last Saturday I won the "big prize" in our parish craft fair raffle--an absolutely exquisite, hand-made, queen-size quilt. My late daughter Julie loved quilts. Over the years I won a few for her at parish picnics, and she won one of her own--a special "Irish" green quilt at a quilt bingo at St. Patrick's parish several years ago. Somehow, the "Irish" quilt got lost during the sale of Julie and Mike's house after their deaths.

My granddaughter Cari also loves quilts. I offered to give her one of mine to replace her mom's quilt that got lost, but Cari has always wanted a new one of her own. I promised Cari if I ever won another quilt I would give it to her. I made good on my promise over the weekend.

Since I don't believe in coincidences, I think winning the quilt was part of God's plan. What makes me believe that is Saturday would've Julie's 40th birthday. On Saturday after Michael's soccer game, a group of us went out to lunch and choked back tears when we toasted a marguirita in memory of Julie's 40th birthday.

I was shocked and thrilled a few hours later when I received a call from the parish that I had won the quilt. When I gave Cari the quilt I told her that her mom is still looking out for her, even while she's in heaven.

Saturday was a good day for remembering and sharing and making new memories. I found out this morning when I took some medicine to Michael up at All Saints School that one of the women who made the quilt used to be Julie's Brownie leader when Julie went to All Saints. Coincidence? I don't think so.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

And The Winner Is . . .

Tonight in St. Peters, MO: Fair and clear, how 35 degrees.

As promised last week, I've picked a name at random for a copy of THE LAST WILL OF MOIRA LEAHY from everyone who posted a comment or a comment for Therese Walsh, my guest blogger as part of the WOW! Author Blog Tour on October 30.
And the winner is . . . Margo. Thanks to everyone who posted a comment or asked a question and to Therese for her thorough and helpful answers.

Margo, please e-mail me so I can make arrangements to get the copy of Therese's novel to you.

And HAPPY BIRTHDAY, Hunter and Dylan, my twin grand-nephews who are 4 today!

Monday, November 2, 2009

Meet the Authors at Middendorf-Kredell Library in O'Fallon

Today in St. Peters, MO: Partly cloudy, high 65 degrees. It was lovely yesterday; I'm hoping for a repeat. Michael is now officially a "deer hunter." Walt took him over the weekend to our farm in Osage County to participate in his first Missouri Youth Hunt. Michael did not shoot a deer, but he got one shot off from his rifle.

On Thursday, November 19, from 4:30 to 8 p.m the St. Charles City-County Library District is sponsoring a special event for local authors, the "Meet the Authors Event" at the Middendorf-Kredell Branch Library, 2750 Highway K, in O'Fallon.

Some members of Saturday Writers will be there, including: Joy Wooderson, Becky Povich, Dianna Graveman, David Lee "Kirk" Kirkland, Louella Turner, and Donna Volkenannt (Hey, that's me!). Vicky from Main Street Books in St. Charles will be there, too.

I will be signing copies of books in which stories of mine appear: A Cup of Comfort for Christmas, A Cup of Comfort for Women, A Cup of Comfort for Military Families, and Mysteries of the Ozarks. Refreshments will be served. Hope you can make it!

Sara Nielsen, Manager of Community Branches and Adult Programming for the St. Charles City-County Library District, e-mailed that local authors can sign up to participate until November 5 or when the spaces are filled, "whichever comes first." So, if you're in the metro St. Charles area and want to participate, e-mail Sara at or call (636) 441-2300, extension 1519, but do it quickly because space is filling up.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Interview with Therese Walsh

Today in St. Peters, MO: Chance of rain, high 61. Now that it's the rainiest October on record, rain has really become a real four-letter word.

As part of the WOW! Author's Blog Tour, I'm pleased to introduce Therese Walsh as my guest blogger today. Anyone who posts a question or comment for Therese is eligible to win a copy of her debut novel, THE LAST WILL OF MOIRA LEAHY. To read my review of her new book, pop over to my other blog, A Book A Week.

From her website: "Therese was a researcher and writer for Prevention magazine before she became a freelance writer. She’s had hundreds of articles on nutrition and fitness published in consumer magazines and online, but she loves her fiction work best of all–directing the lives of made-up people and stamping around in a puddle of theme. She has a master’s degree in psychology. Her favorite things include music, flash fiction, poetry, art, crab legs, Whose Line is it Anyway?, dark chocolate, photography, unique movies and novels, people watching and strong Irish tea. Oh, and the cover of her novel. She is married to the next Tommy Makem, and has two cute kids, one cat and a bouncy Jack Russell named Kismet."

Here's our interview:

DONNA VOLKENANNT: The Last Will of Moira Leahy is an enchanting and elegantly written story about love, grief, the need for approval and acceptance, and the strong bond of siblings—in this case twins. What was your inspiration for The Last Will of Moira Leahy?

THERESE WALSH: First, thank you for having me today, Donna, and for your kind words.
Maeve Leahy, the main character, has much in common with my youngest sister. Our father died suddenly at age 56 when she was 16, and she took it very hard—shut down, changed drastically, just like Maeve. Writing Maeve’s healing process via adventure and love and self-realization became almost therapeutic for both my sister and me. Her recovery experience—and my experience trying to reach her—inspired the novel, but I didn’t recognize that right away.

DV: Losing a loved one is definitely a life-altering experience. It's inspiring to learn that you were able to help your sister's recovery experience through writing your novel. Your website mentions that before you turned to fiction you were a researcher and writer for Prevention magazine and then a freelance writer. You began writing fiction after your daughter was born. Was it a difficult transition to go from writing non-fiction to fiction? Do you think there is a connection between becoming a mother and giving birth to a fictional world?

TW: I didn’t find the transition difficult. I remember being glad to simply express myself with fiction—even if that expression wasn’t saleable. It felt good.

I love your second question, and yes I see similarities between motherhood and birthing a fictional world—beyond the idea that a manuscript is like a child. When you first open the door to fiction writing, everything is new, a blank slate, a clean page; anything is possible. You don’t really get that with nonfiction. And it’s definitely like that when you have a new human life in your hands. There are no limits. It’s frightening sometimes, but it’s also incredibly exciting. Maybe this is why my fiction will always have a combination of realism and myth. I never want to lose that sense of anything is possible, everything is.

DV: I asked some writing friends if they had any questions for you. My friend Margo wants to know: How do you keep up your own blog while you are also writing novels and promoting your book? (Thanks for the question, Margo!)

TW: Honestly, my next novel has taken a backseat while I dedicate myself to promo for Last Will. I’m going to turn a switch in November, though, and my plan is this: Work on the novel in the morning, before I check email or Twitter or Facebook or the blogs. Catch up on correspondence in the afternoon. Hang out with my family in the evening. Hatch a plan for the following day before bed. We’ll see how it goes!

DV: On the topic of blogs, you are co-founder of Writer Unboxed, a blog for writers about the craft and business of genre fiction. How does the collaboration process work with several writers posting on the same blog? Are there pre-arranged topics, a set schedule?

TW: We occasionally have dedicated craft months during which time everyone will comment on the same topic (e.g. Plot Month). These are popular but take some effort to coordinate; we’re due for another soon. (Any ideas for what you’d like to see? Let me know!)
Yes, there’s a set schedule, which I’m happy to share with you:

Every Monday: YA author and WU co-mama Kathleen Bolton
Every Tuesday: My day
1st Wednesday: Agent Donald Maass
1st Thursday: Fantasy author Juliet Marillier
2nd Wednesday: Urban fiction/romance author Ann Aguirre
2nd Thursday: Commercial fiction author Allison Winn Scotch
3rd Wednesday: YA/fantasy author Sophie Masson
3rd Thursday: Editor and author Ray Rhamey
4th Wednesday: Women’s fiction author Barbara Samuel
4th Thursday: Techno-thriller author J.C. Hutchins
4th Friday: Historical author Anna Elliott
Fridays have traditionally been our interview day. Kath and I split duties here, interviewing authors and industry pros we think will interest our readership.
Our contributors generally send their work to either Kath or me to post, though some post on their own without difficulty.

DV: Your blog is a wonderful resource for writers and has an impressive line up of contributors. I've added Writer Unboxed to my blog links so visitors of Donna's Book Pub can check it out. Next question: The details in your novel add to the richness of your story. The sense of place is so distinct, and an obscure artifact, a Javanese dagger called a keris, is featured in The Last Will of Moira Leahy. Before reading your novel I had never heard of a keris. Can you tell us how you learned about the keris and how you performed your research?

TW: Thank you! You could say there were two forms of inspiration. The story of my sister was the underground inspiration but doesn’t explain how the story evolved on the page.

A little history: There are actually two very different forms of this story. The version you’ve read was written between 2005 and 2008, once I realized the book had to center around the relationship between the twins. But when I first began writing Last Will, in 2002, I intended only to write a love story between Maeve and her friend Noel. Noel was an antiques dealer, so I gathered lists of interesting things that I could describe in his shop. I wanted to set the first scene of the book at an auction house, so I randomly chose one item from the shop’s list for that scene. That item was the keris, which is a Javanese sword or dagger. When a friend read the scene, she said she liked it and asked if the keris would be in the rest of the book. This sounded like a good idea, so I later did some research online and was awed by the potential for story linked to the keris alone; it’s an item rich in mythology. Later, Moira appeared. Between the keris and Moira, the book took on a decidedly unromantic tone, which led to the rewrite.
More than half of my research regarding the keris took place online—through keris-related websites and even weapon message boards. I have one valuable book as well, The Keris and other Malay Weapons, published by The Malaysian Branch of The Royal Asiatic Society. This 179-page volume is loaded with fascinating information.

DV: I love the cover of your book. It is mysterious, elegant, and inviting. What role did you play in selecting the cover design?

TW: Thank you; I love it, too. My friends and I joke that I was visited by the Good Cover Fairy.
I just reviewed that old file—talk about a walk down memory lane. I sent several pages of ideas to Random House, including some story and character descriptions, and 35 pictures. A full 17 of those pictures involved a woman in water. I pushed the idea of water because so many of Maeve’s nightmares involve water and it was thematic. One of the pictures I sent was of a woman with red hair in the water, though it wasn’t even 1/10th as beautiful as what RH designed. Last Will’s cover was the first option presented to me, and it was the last.
Random factoid: I mentioned that there were two version of my novel. Well, the one scene I kept from version one of the book was the emotional climax between the twins, which is reflected on the cover of Last Will. How’s that for kismet?

DV: Whatever the reason: Good Cover Fairy or Kismet, the cover is definitely lovely, and I'm certain it will attract even more readers. What has been most gratifying about writing and promoting your novel? Surprising? Challenging?

TW: The most gratifying part of this experience was finishing this story the second time around after so many mental battles—realizing I could do it, and that I was very happy with the product.
Most surprising might be how many friends within the blogosphere have stepped forward to help promote the book—through interviews like this one and other invitations. I’m sincerely flattered, humbled and grateful.
Most challenging has been finding a balance between promo for Last Will and work on my second novel.

DV:What’s the best piece of advice on writing you’ve ever received? The worst?

TW: Best advice: Never, never quit. Worst advice: Don’t add too many layers to your story. Save some for the next manuscript.

DV: Interesting answers, especially the latter one. Who were some of your favorite writers growing up? Now?

TW: I wish I could tell you that I devoured Jane Austen’s novels as a five year old, but the truth is that I wasn’t a big reader growing up. I’m sorry; I’m an anomaly. I do remember adoring Winnie-the-Pooh and Dr. Seuss as a young girl, but my pre-adolescent and adolescent years didn’t involve many books. My father and I were “bum buddies,” and watched TV shows together instead.
Of course I love our authors at Writer Unboxed—I have oodles of books on my keeper shelf by Barbara Samuel O’Neal and Juliet Marillier—but otherwise I’m less apt to attach to an author than I am to a particular book. My favorite book is Audrey Niffenegger’s The Time Traveler’s Wife; another is Mark Haddon’s The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime.

DV: If you weren’t a writer what would you be doing?

TW: If not for a glitch in my grad-school program, I would be a sleep researcher somewhere. Life is odd, isn’t it?

DV: It certainly is! What can you tell us about your next novel?

TW: My next book is about a blind woman who travels across West Virginia in order to finish her dead mother’s story and along the way teachers others how to see the world. It’s a women’s fiction piece with cross-genre aspects, like Last Will, including psychological suspense, mystery and mythical realism.

DV: That sounds like an interesting book and one I will definitely want to check out. What is the best way for readers to contact you with questions or to find out about upcoming events?

TW: Readers can keep up with the latest on my website at and contact me directly through the site as well. I welcome reader feedback.

Thanks again for having me, Donna! This has been fun.

And thanks to you, Therese, for being so generous with your time and gracious with your answers.
Now it's time for visitors to post comments or questions for Therese. Anyone who posts will have the opportunity to win a copy of Therese's book, THE LAST WILL OF MOIRA LEAHY. The winner's name will be announced on November 4th (the birthday of my twin grand-nephews.)

Thursday, October 29, 2009

One Year Anniversary Today

Today in St. Peters, MO: Thunderstorms and rain, more rain. Please stop the rain!

It's hard to believe I've been blogging for one year now. Wow! It has been fun. Not as scary as I imagined. My sincere thanks go to everyone who has stopped by this past year; if you've become a follower, posted a comment or question, or just visited, I appreciate your company. Special thanks to all my writing friends who have shared blog-worthy information or who have posted links to DPB.

I hope you will stop by tomorrow for my interview with Therese Walsh, who chats about writing and her debut novel. Everyone who posts a comment or question for Therese will be entered in a contest to win a copy of her enchanting book, The Last Will of Moira Leahy.

Here's to another year of friends and fun! Please, have a virtual drink on me! I'm drinking a glass of cranberry juice, but feel free to drink at your pleasure. I raise my glass to you!

Cheers! Prosit! Zum Wohl! Avanti! Salute! Sláinte! Here's tae ye! Sante! L'Chaim! Sanitas bona! Skål! Kampai! Jamas! Salud! Bottoms up!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Saturday Writers 8th Annual Short Story Contest

Today in St. Peters, MO: Areas of fog, high 60 degrees, but thankfully no rain. Yay! No need to build that ark afterall.

Hi All,
Has it been a week since my last post? I've been sort of busy driving grandkids to school and sports and other events, attending a wonderful writing workshop, and doing housework for Bunco this Friday at my house. Yikes!
At the Saturday Writers workshop last weekend, Pat Carr talked about "Vision, Voice, and Viewpoint." Pat is an inspiration; I have tons of notes and ideas for stories. My dear writing friend Louella Turner did a STUPENDOUSMARVELOUSMAGNIFICIENT (I made that word up) job planning the workshop. I played a bit part as workshop contest chair. We had 23 contest entries and lots of happy faces when the winners were announced!

I'm also the contest chair for the Saturday Writers 8th Annual Short Story Contest. (Note to self: Stop volunteering so much or quit whining--or both). With two contests running, the 8th Annual Saturday Writers Short Story Contest hasn't gotten the attention it deserves (my bad) so we've extended the deadline until November 15.

Here are the details, so PLEASE, PLEASE spread the word about the contest to your writing friends--or better yet, enter yourself. If we don't get a lot of entries, I'll get "fired" as the volunteer contest chair. Hey, wait. Is that a bad thing? Just kidding; I love being contest chair, although I think my mail carrier hates delivering all those brown envelopes.

Saturday Writers 8th Annual Short Story Contest 2009 CONTEST GUIDELINES (Short stories only. no essays, poems, or articles)
EXTENDED DEADLINE: November 15, 2009 (postmarked)
Word Limit: 2009--as in the year 2009. Clever, right?
Contest is open to EVERYONE. Open subject, open genre. (No pornography or gore.) Entry fee: $7 Maximum of three entries per person.
(Members of Saturday Writers, MWG, or other MWG Chapters: $5 per story.) Checks payable to: Saturday Writers.
Prizes: 1st place - $100, 2nd place - $50, 3rd place - $25. 4-10th Place receive a certificate.
Short stories must be in English, unpublished at the time of submission, and the original work of the contestant. Contestants retain all rights to their stories. Standard manuscript format: 8 1/2 x 11 paper, typed and double-spaced on one side of the paper, pages numbered, title of entry on every page, 12 point Times New Roman. Paper clip pages together. No name or other identifying information should appear anywhere on entry.
Attach a separate cover sheet and include: story title, contestant’s name, address, e-mail, phone number, and MWG chapter name (if applicable). Do NOT send by certified mail!
Mail entry fee and two copies of each entry, flat, not folded, by November 15 (postmark) to:
Saturday Writers 8th Annual Short Story Contest
c/o Donna Volkenannt
32 Country Crossing Estates Drive
St. Peters, MO 63376
Stories exceeding word limit, not having adequate postage, or not adhering to contest guidelines will be disqualified and entry fee will not be returned. Decision of judge is final. Not responsible for lost or misdirected entries. Keep a copy of your entry because stories will not be returned. For a list of winners, visit the CONTESTS page of our website in late December 2009: Certificates and prizes will be mailed by the end of December.
Judge: Lynn Carney from Fayetteville, Arkansas, has been nominated for a 2010 Pushcart Prize and has received many awards for her fiction, including a Mainstream Literary award from the 73rd Annual Writer's Digest Competition for a short story, and others.
On Friday, my guest blogger will be Therese Walsh, who will answer interview questions I sent her as part of the WOW! Author blog tour. Anyone who posts a question or comment (or who sent an interview question for me to ask her) is eligible to win a copy of her novel, THE LAST WILL OF MOIRA LEAHY. Tomorrow I will post a review of her book on my other blog, A Book A Week.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Interview with Pat Carr - Part II

Today in St. Peters, partly sunny, high 70 degrees. Another fine day!

As promised, today I will post part II of my interview with Pat Carr. In addition to being a prolific writer, Carr has also been a teacher. She has taught English at Rice, Tulane, New Orleans, and several other universities. She has received numerous awards and honors, including a writing fellowship to the Foundation LedigRowohlt in Luasanne, Switzerland. She and her husband have retired and live in Elkins, Arkansas.

Here are my interview questions and Pat's answers:

Donna Volkenannt: Several years ago I had the privilege of attending a workshop during which you read your short story, “The Party.” I still get a lump in my throat when I think about the characters in that story. It is such a vivid and moving piece; I think it should be required reading for students from junior high through high school. I’m curious: what has been the reaction from teachers, parents, and students to “The Party”?

Pat Carr: I loved your reaction to "The Party." When I was teaching in college, my colleagues used to ask me to read it to classes to introduce the concept of a short story, and I have had great responses to it from students, teachers, and editors. It's been anthologized more than any of my other stories, and Hillary Clinton wrote me a note after she read it that said, "Reading it was like a fist in the gut."

DV: I can understand Mrs. Clinton's reaction. "The Party" is an amazing story, beautifully told. Here's another question about short stories: With more than 100 short stories published, you must have a favorite. Which is you have a favorite and why?

PC: I'm afraid I have a lot of favorite stories. Besides "The Party" I really like "The Puppet" and "An El Paso Idyll" but my husband's very favorite is also a favorite of mine, "Diary of a Union Soldier."

DV: In your works of fiction which comes first, character or plot?

PC: When I write a story, I usually start with an incident and then pick a character, so I'd have to say that plot comes before character for me.

DV: That's interesting. Now another question on craft. On October 24 you will be giving a workshop at Saturday Writers in St. Peters on "Vision, Voice, and Viewpoint." I'm curious about what is most important in writing fiction: vision, voice, or viewpoint?

PC: As for which is more important, vision, voice, or viewpoint, definitely viewpoint. It can make or break a story, and I've seen the most achingly beautiful story ruined by the author choosing the wrong point of view to tell it.

DV: Thank you for your succinct answer and wise advice. It is definitely something to think about before beginning a story. Speaking of advice, what is the best writing advice you’ve ever received?

PC: The best writing advice I ever got was probably that of my father who said, "Nobody can be great in more than one field, so you need to decide if you want to write or paint. Since you write more than you paint, I'd choose that if I were you."

DV: That is good advice, and definitely something to think about. As a final question: What are you working on now, and what’s the best way for readers to find out about book signings, workshops, or personal appearances?

PC: I don't currently have a website, so people can find out about readings, signings, etc. by checking with my e-mail, I don't mind answering them (with an e-mail the size of a post-it, of course.)

Thanks again, Pat, for taking the time to answer my questions and share you knowledge and wisdom with my blog visitors. I look forward to learning even more from you during your "Vision, Voice, and Viewpoint" workshop with Saturday Writers on October 24.

If you are in the St. Louis area and would like to attend the Saturday Writers workshop at the St. Peters Community and Arts Center, 1035 St. Peters- Howell Road from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. with Pat Carr and Regina Williams, editor of Storyteller Magazine, walk-in registrations will be permitted on a space-available basis. For workshop fees and other details about the event, visit Events page.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Interview with Pat Carr - Part I

Partly cloudy, high 71 degrees--another beautiful day in St. Peters, MO.

I am so excited to share with you my interview with acclaimed writer and teacher Pat Carr. The interview will be in two parts beginning today and concluding tomorrow.

Carr's twelve books of fiction include THE WOMEN IN THE MIRROR, winner of the Iowa Short Fiction Award, IF WE MUST DIE, nominated in the 2003 PEN book awards, and THE DEATH OF A CONFEDERATE COLONEL, published by the University of Arkansas Press. Her more than one hundred short stories have been published in Southern Review, Yale Review, Best American Short Stories and other publications. ForeWord magazine named Carr's, THE DEATH OF A CONFEDERATE COLONEL one of the top university press books of 2008.

This coming Saturday, October 24, Carr will present a workshop to Saturday Writers at the St. Peters Community and Arts Center on "Vision, Voice, and Viewpoint." I conducted my interview with Pat via e-mail.

Donna Volkenannt: You have written a dozen books of fiction and have had more than 100 short stories appear in notable publications such as Southern Review, Yale Review, Best American Short Stories, and others. THE WOMEN IN THE MIRROR won the Iowa Short Fiction Award. Your novel IF WE MUST DIE was a finalist in the PEN book awards. It is obvious you are talented and a master of the craft! When did you first discover you wanted to become a writer and how did you go about becoming one?

PAT CARR: I knew I wanted to be a writer before I could write. Before I knew the alphabet, I'd fold up pages into book form and write squiggled lines that I'd "read" to anyone who'd listen. I taught myself how to type when I was 13 so I could type up stories and start submitting them. Fortunately, no magazine took any of those early ones, but I had a liquor box stuffed with stories by the time I started high school.

DV: That's an interesting story, rich in memory and detail. Now, on to your latest book. THE DEATH OF A CONFEDERATE COLONEL is a short story collection set in Arkansas during the American Civil War. ForeWord magazine named it one of the top university press publications of 2008. What was your inspiration for THE DEATH OF A CONFEDERATE COLONEL, and why did you chose to write a short story collection rather than a novel?

PC: I did write a Civil War novel called A PERFECTLY SPLENDID TIME, but as I was researching and writing it, I ended up with a cast of characters that didn't fit in the novel plot, so I wrote a series of short stories as well and ended up with DEATH OF A CONFEDERATE COLONEL.

DV: The research in your work shines through but does not overshadow story. Your novel IF WE MUST DIE is set in Tulsa, Oklahoma, during the deadly race riot of 1921. Your short story collection THE DEATH OF A CONFEDERATE COLONEL is set in Arkansas during the American Civil War. Both works of fiction are rich in historical detail. Please talk about how you research your fictional works.

PC: When I do historical research for a historical novel--or story--I read everything I can get my hands on--which in the case of the Civil War is thousands of volumes. For IF WE MUST DIE, there are basically only 8 sources since that deadly riot was kept secret until the 1980s. After I read everything, I go to the places I'm going to write about so I can get a feel for the setting. (I just finished another novel, BORDEAUX IS BURNING, set in 1348 France when the Black Plague came to Europe, so I had to go to Bordeaux to do part of the research.) I also stalk every museum I can find.

DV: I know what you mean about visiting museums. What a wonderful obsession! Now, on to short stories. Over the years I’ve attended numerous writers’ conferences, and almost without exception, agents and editors said they did not represent short story collections. Lately I’ve noticed short story collections are getting some favorable attention. Oprah’s latest pick, SAY YOU’RE ONE OF THEM by Uwem Akpan, is a collection of stories. John Grisham’s FORD COUNTY: STORIES is one of the most pre-ordered books on and What do you make of this? Do you think short story collections are making a comeback?

PC: I hope short story collections are making a comeback because I love the form. But agents and publishers other than academics are still very shy about taking on a collection.

DV: I hope you are right about short story collections making a comeback because I love the form, too. On the topic of short stories, who are some of your favorite short story writers?

PC: Short story writers I like are Chekhov, Frank O'Connor, and Katharine Mansfield.

That concludes Part I of my interview with Pat Carr. Check back tomorrow to find out which Pat believes is most important in fiction writing--vision, voice, or viewpoint--and what Hillary Clinton had to say about Pat's short story "The Party."

To learn more about Pat's "Vision, Voice, and Viewpoint" Workshop visit the Events page of Saturday Writers.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Becky Povich in Vestal Review's The Dirty Dozen

Today in St. Peters, MO: Mostly sunny, high 69. Bring on the sunshine!

Here's some good news from a writing friend and fellow member of Saturday Writers: A flash fiction story by Becky Povich has just been selected by Vestal Review as one of three winning entries for the month of October 2009. Becky's story can be read online and will be included in their next print edition. The reason for the name Dirty Dozen is that the story can only have 12 words, plus a one word title. For more about the Dirty Dozen visit

Way to go, Becky!

Friday, October 16, 2009

Mastering the Craft

Today in St. Peters, MO: Light rain, high 49 degrees. Sunshine predicted for the weekend.

Today on Michael Hyatt's blog (Michael is the CEO of Thomas Nelson Publishing) his guest blogger is Mary DeMuth, an author, a speaker, and a book mentor with seven published books.

Her thoughtful guest post on Hyatt's blog poses the question: "Are you the type of person who will invest 10,000 hours to become a master writer?"

DeMuth has compiled a checklist of 10 traits to determine if you have what it takes to become a master writer.

All 10 traits have merit, but the ones that connect most with me are: 2, 5, 8, 9, and especially 10: "I understand the beauty of God’s sovereignty in the midst of the journey. He gives and takes away. Blessed be His name, no matter what happens—published or not." (Amen!)

How about you? After reading DeMuth's guest post on Michael Hyatt's blog about what it takes to become a master writer, which traits resonate with you?

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Call for Valley Voices from Highway 24 Alliance in Kansas

Today in St. Peters: Fog and mist. Rain, rain, go away.

Claudia M. from Carthage, MO, e-mailed me the other day with a contest announcement. It's the Solomon Valley Writing Contest: Call for Valley Voices, a small group promoting the Highway 24 Alliance in northern Kansas. They are looking for: poetry, fiction, essay, non-fiction, and biography. There is no entry fee or cash prizes, but there is the possibility of being included in an anthology they will publish in 2010. The submission deadline for their fifth annual contest is November 1.

Last year Claudia won a first place Adult Fiction category, and her sister-in-law from Great Falls won third place Adult Autobiography. Thanks for the information, Claudia, and good luck to all who enter!

Visit the website for complete guidelines. According to their website, "The Solomon Valley is full of fascinating cultural treasures to explore. Where else can you find the World's Largest Ball of Twine (Cawker City), the only Black settlement west of the Mississippi (Nicodemus), and an 1880s working sheep ranch (Cottonwood Ranch State Historic Site at Studley)." Sounds fun!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Everyone Has A Story to Tell

Today in St. Peters, MO: Drizzle, high 49 degrees. A good day to stay inside and write.

Lately I've met some people who have led fascinating lives. During my talk last Saturday, I met writers from outstate Missouri, West Virginia, Washington State, and Arkansas, and briefly talked with man wearing a Pearl Harbor survivor cap--wish I would've gotten to talk with him longer.

Ann, the woman from Arkansas, was a Senior at Little Rock High School during the Little Rock Nine historic event, when President Eisenhower ordered the National Guard to enforce integration at the high school. She shared a bit of her experience with us, but the clock was ticking and she seemed reluctant to say more.

While we were on the subject of high school experiences last Saturday, I mentioned that I went to an all-girls' Catholic school in St. Louis, where we had to invite our dates for prom. My date for senior prom was Mike Blassie, who was headed for the Air Force Academy after graduation. Mike later became a pilot. In May of 1972 his jet was shot down in Vietnam, and Mike was declared missing in action. Flash forward to 1998, when DNA testing determined Mike's remains were those which had been interred in in the Tomb of the Unknown back in 1984. In 1998 Mike's family made the decision to move his remains to Jefferson Barracks in St. Louis. My husband Walt, also a Vietnam Veteran, and I attended the ceremony, and I wrote about the experience in my story "Welcome Home" in A Cup of Comfort for Military Families.

A gentleman in our Coffee and Critique group is working on his memoir. When he joined our group I recognized his name immediately. He is a local singer and songwriter of some note (no pun intended). He is a wonderful storyteller who can weave words magically, yet he is soft spoken and not sure of his gift. Yesterday after critique he causually talked about the night he met a local crime boss while he was performing at a night club, although he didn't realize who the man was at the time. Then he talked about the time Elvis Presley pulled a gun on him while he was a Marine stationed in Memphis--that event made the headlines.

A while back, another critique group member told a few of us about the time she was living and working in Dallas in November 1963 and was questioned by the FBI about a co-worker, who later fled the country. While living in Texas she also came into contact with mass murderer Richard Speck--how frightening is that. This woman is a novelist, but has lived a fascinating life and met some famous--and infamous--folks along the way.

The lesson I've learned from all this is to take time to listen. I never know what I might learn because everyone--even the quiet ones, or maybe especially the quiet ones--has a story to tell.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Alice Muschany's "One Damaged Headlight" is Unbeatable

Today in St. Peters, MO: Showers likely, high 55 degrees.

Drum roll, please!

It's official; out of scores of entries, Alice Muschany's essay "One Damaged Headlight" won first place in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch Unbeatable Contest. In her essay, Alice pays tribute, with eloquence and humor, to her husband Roland for his love and support during her diagnosis and treatment for breast cancer. Congratulations, Alice, for your courage and humor--and for sharing your gift of story.

With Alice's permission, here is her winning essay, "One Damaged Headlight":

"When I was diagnosed with advanced breast cancer, my husband--my best friend—called for referrals, scheduled appointments, and gave me tender, loving care. His love and humor lifted my spirits.

After I completed four months of chemotherapy, the doctor performed a partial mastectomy.

From the beginning, my husband assured me all that mattered was that I win the battle against cancer. But when it was time to remove the bandage I worried, will he feel that way now?

He gave me a gentle hug and said, 'Honey, you remind me of my wrecked ‘55 Chevy.'

'Just what’s that supposed to mean?'

He quickly explained that he and his brother used the truck for raccoon hunting since its damaged headlight shone upward and assured a successful hunt. When I broke out in a fit of giggles, he supported me in his arms, and we laughed until it hurt.

I knew then he’d support me the rest of my life." Alice Muschany, Wentzville, MO

Monday, October 12, 2009

My Talk to Writers Society of Jefferson County

Today in St. Peters, MO: Mostly cloudy, high 51 degrees.

Last Saturday the weather outside was brisk, but inside I was greeted to a warm welcome by the members of the Writers Society of Jefferson County. The group meets at Jefferson Regional Medical Center in Festus, Missouri. My hands-on presentation, which focused on revision, was titled "Thirteen Ways a Bad Haircut Can Make You A Better Writer."

I'm always excited to get out and meet other writers, and the members of WSJC are a creative and lively bunch One gentleman in the back of the room sported a cap that read "Pearl Harbor Survivor." I wish there would've been more time to talk with him. Verna, who set up the meeting, was a charming host. She met me at the door and escorted me to the meeting room. She mentioned she attended Afton High School, where George Clooney did part of the filming of his latest movie. Ann, the WSJC president, mentioned she attended Little Rock High School during the "Little Rock 9" historic event, when President Eisenhower sent in the National Guard to ensure integration in the high school. What an amazing group of writers--each with a fascinating story to tell. I wish we got to visit more, but we got down to the business of writing.

Several members dazzled us when they read their on-the-spot writing exercises. During my wrap-up I encouraged them to attend workshops, network wth other writers, and enter contests. I reminded them of the Saturday Writers Workshop with Pat Carr and Regina Williams on Oct 24. I hope to see some of them there so we can visit some more.

Speaking of the Saturday Writers workshop, acclaimed writer Pat Carr will talk about "Vision, Voice, and Viewpoint." Storyteller Magazine editor Regina Williams will give tips on "Writing Query Letters" and will take pitches during the workshop. The early-bird deadline to register for the workshop and enter the contest is October 15. For details, visit the website.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Novel Contest from Smoke City Narrators

Today in St. Peters, MO: Scatter showers, high 51 degrees. I hope the weather clears tomorrow. Tomorrow is Cari's first high school homecoming parade and dance and Michael has a soccer game.

Here's a novel contest from an organization I hadn't heard of before--the Smoke City Narrators in Pell City, Alabama. An e-mail showed up in my mail box asking me to share this information with other writers. This is not an endorsement of any kind; I'm just passing along information to other writers.
NOVEL PITCH & 1st FIVE PAGES of a NOVEL CONTEST Sponsored by Smoke City Narrators DEADLINE: Postmarked by Saturday 10/17/09
AWARDS: 1st - $150 2nd - $75 3rd - $40 6 Honorable Mentions.
*Novel Does Not Have to be Complete.
* First 5 pages of a novel, 1,500 words max.
* One-sentence pitch for the novel, 20 words max.
Judged by Cindy Dyson, author of THE LAST QUERY: A New Approach to Crafting a Novel Query Letter.
The contest guidelines are quite specific, so visit the blogsite for complete details.

Mysteries of the Ozarks, Volume V - Interviews with Lonnie Whitaker and Dr. Barri Bumgarner

Here is the second installment of interviews with contributors who have stories in Mysteries of the Ozarks, Volume V , from Ozark Writers, I...