Thursday, April 30, 2009

Cuivre River Anthology (Volume IV) Now Available

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

It's going to be a brief post today. Cari and a few classmates are giving a special Irich dance performance at her school right after lunch this afternoon, and I need to be there to help her with her costume and wig. Yes, most of the girls wear wigs while Irish dancing. It's so their curls bounce with their steps, and wearing a wig is easier than curling their hair overnight.

Now about the Cuivre River Anthology. I'm so excited that CRA Volume IV is finally published and available for purchase. Louella Turner and I co-edited it, and it was published by High Hill Press. The anthology includes short stories, poetry, essays, and flash fiction, including my award-winning flash piece, "Ida's Rocking Chair." Putting the anthology together was a lot of work, but definitely worth it. There were a few glitches in the first short print run, but those have been worked out. Local contributors have received their complimentary copies, and other contributors will receive theirs next month.

Contributors include Walter Bargen, Missouri's first poet laureate; Susan Swartwout, editor of The Big Muddy; Dianna Graveman, winner of the North American National Catholic Press Association Award for Short Fiction; Pushcart Prize nominated writers Amy Willoughby-Burle and Louella Turner, and scores of other award-winning writers from Saturday Writers and the Missouri Writers' Guild, as well as a couple of newly published writers.

Contributors hail from Missouri, Arizona, Colorado, California, North Carolina, and Kansas. Saturday Writers' membership chair Sheree Nielsen took the haunting cover photo.

Copies are available from, or directly from High Hill Press

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

An Insider's View of the London Book Fair

Today's forecast for St. Peters, MO: It's foggy and misty outside today. Tonight there's a chance of thunderstorms, high 75 degrees.

Update on last night's concert: Although it lasted almost two hours, it was great fun. Cari's eigth-grade class played the part as cool teenagers singing in their "Grease" attire, and Michael's fourth-grade class looked styling performing "Dreamgirls." The cutest act was the kindergarten class performing "Wizard of Oz." The sixth-grade's rendition of "Mama Mia" had folks dancing in the aisles, in part because it was the last act and folks were ready to leave, but also because they did a good job.

Now, on to writing, with a bit of poetry for good measure. Robert Browning said, "Oh, to be in England, now that April's there." April is a great time to be in England, especially if you were lucky enough to attend the London Book Fair. If you couldn't be in there in person, how about gaining insight from a blogger with connections to Missouri, who lives in England, and has written about his experience at the London Book Fair?

For the past couple days, Sean McLachlan has been writing about his experiences at the London Book Fair on his blog Midlist Writer. Sean advises conference goers not just to visit with editorial staff, but also the business representatives who have insider's knowledge about what lines will be expanding and what lines are not living up to sales expectation. He also comments that while the fair is geared towards agents and publishers, authors can benefit if they behave in a professional manner. He shares some stories of writers who did not behave professionally. Sean tells about one shameless (and desperate) author who actually pasted stickers about his book in the bathroom stalls. To read more about Sean's book fair experiences, visit his Midlist Writer blog.

I visit Sean's blog regularly because in addition to his blog posts on the writing life, he has conntections to Missouri and the American Civil War. He has a book coming out in the fall from Osprey Publishing titled American Civil War Guerialla Tactics.

Sean's book Outlaw Tales of Missouri also has recently been released, which follows his other Missouri history books include Missouri: An Illustrated History and It Happened in Missouri.

So, hop on over to Sean's blog and check out what he has to say about the London Book Fair, and if you're interested in the American Civil War or Missouri history, you can also check out his books.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Perfect Pitch

Today's weather forecast for St. Peters, MO: Foggy, cloudy, high 65 degrees.

(Cari and Michael)
Michael's baseball game was a rainout last night, but there's no worry about the weather this evening for Cari and Michael's spring musical because it's going to be held inside their school auditorium. Cari's eighth grade class is doing "Grease" (we ran out last night to buy stuff so she could make a special tee-shirt), and Michael's fourth-grade class is doing "Dreamgirls," (easy one, just a new pair of dress pants and a dress shirt for him). Our second-grade carpooler's class is doing "Oklahoma"; the seventh grade carpooler is doing "Hairspray," and our first-grade carpooler is doing "The Sound of Music," so I've been hearing show tunes in the van for a several weeks now. It's been fun, and tonight should be a blast!

The kids' concert got me to thinking about "perfect pitch"--not in music, but for writers--in having a good ear for dialogue, a unique voice in stories, and a strategy for pitching to an editor or agent. Spring is not only the time for school concerts; for writers, it's a busy time for conferences, where opportunities to pitch your novel abound.

As writers with hopes of one day publishing a novel, pitching is something most of us dread. I've pitched ideas at several conferences, and my anxiety level always increases just thinking about what I'm going to say.

As luck would have it, yesterday literary agent Nathan Bransford posted on his blog about "How to Maximize Pitch Sessions." He recently attended Pike's Peak Writer's Conference, where he participated in pitch sessions. He talked about his experiences on his blog, where he also gave some suggestions for pitching.

The following list his five suggestions. For complete explanations of each, visit Nathan's blog.

1. Spend as little time as possible talking about your project.
2. Go in with questions.
3. Focus on making a personal connection.
4. Listen to feedback.
5. It's okay to be nervous.

So, even if you are not musically inclined and have a tin ear, as a writer you can give the perfect pitch--just remember: don't be nervous because it's all about the writing.

Monday, April 27, 2009

A Question of Poetry - "Trees" by Joyce Kilmer

Today's forecast for St. Peters, MO: Chance of thunderstorms, high 75 degrees. Looks like Michael's baseball game this evening might be a washout.

With poetry month about to end, I thought it might be interesting to pose some questions about poetry:

Do you read it? Do you write it? Do you love it? Do you fear it? Do you have a favorite poem?

One of my favorites is a poem I learned in seventh or eighth grade at Most Holy Name of Jesus School in North St. Louis, Missouri. It's a simple poem, but one that touched me back then and one I still remember today. The poem is "Trees" by Joyce Kilmer.

TREES (1913) by Joyce Kilmer

"I think that I shall never see
a poem lovely as a tree.
A tree whose hungry mouth is prest
against the earth's sweet flowing breast;
a tree that looks at God all day,
and lifts her leafy arms to pray;
a tree that may in Summer wear
a nest of robins in her hair;
upon whose bosom snow has lain;
who intimately lives with rain.
Poems are made by fools like me,
but only God can make a tree."

(photo from Wikipedia)

Alfred Joyce Kilmer was killed in action in France in W.W.I, but his poetry lives on in the memories of people like me, who like this simple poem with its timeless message.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Friday Field Trip - Disney's Earth Movie

Another warm day in St. Peters. High 85 degrees with a chance of thunderstorms. The weather was glorious last evening for Michael's ballgame. Michael went 1 for 3, with a single and two RIBs. The Bulldogs won 17-8. They are 2 and 0. Go, Michael! Go, Bulldogs!

I'm excited today to be a chaperone/carpool driver for Michael's fourth-grade class on their field trip to see the Disney movie, "Earth." The trailers for the movie look spectacular, and according to the Disney website they will plant one tree for each ticket sold during Earth Week. How's that for a good deal?

Thursday, April 23, 2009

A WOW! of a Flash Fiction Contest Judged by Wendy Sherman

Today's forecast for St. Peters: High 80 degrees. Lovely weather for Cari's field trip with her class to the Cathedral Basilica and the Science Center in St. Louis.

Each quarter, WOW! (Women on Writing) hosts a writing contest to inspire creativity and recognize good writing. Some special features about their contests are the wonderful prizes and the calibre of their guest judges. The guest judge for WOW! Spring Flash Fiction Contest is literary agent Wendy Sherman of the Wendy Sherman Literary Agency.

Last spring my story "Ida's Rocking Chair" was among the top ten. For being in the top ten, my story was published on their website, I received a one-year subscription to their premium newsletter, was interviewed on their website, and received a WOW! goodie bag that my mail deliverer probably got a backache from carrying to my doorstep.

More good news: Recently Dianna Graveman, a writing friend, got notification that she is in the top ten for the winter contest. Way to go, Dianna!

The deadline for the spring contest is midnight, May 31, or when they receive 300 entries. Visit their website for complete details, including word count, prize amounts, and entry fee.

I'm working on something to submit this quarter because I don't want my free membership to run out--plus I would love to have an like agent Wendy Sherman read one of my stories.

How about you?

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Writing Contest - Are You the Next Mark Twain?

Today's forecast for St. Peters, MO: Partly cloudy, high 70 degrees. That's what I like to hear!

Here's an intriguing writing contest I ran across on Alan Rinzler's blog, The Book Deal: An Inside View of Publishing.
The contest is being featured to coincide with the publication of the book Who Is Mark Twain? by HarperStudio. (The photo on the left of Mark Twain, one of Missouri's most famous writers, is from the HarperStudio website.)
For the contest, writers are asked to finish Twain's piece "Conversations with Satan" and submit their entry through an online form. The contest ends May 31st, so get writing! For complete details, visit the site and read the rules.
Good luck!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

A Sweet Mother's Day Contest from

Today's forecast for St. Peters, MO: Windy, high 60 degrees. Hold on to your hats!

Here's some exciting news from my friends at about another amazing contest they are sponsoring. This one is to win some special gifts and a basket of books from some wonderfully gifted authors!

From April 17th through May 1st, readers will have the chance to win one of five Mother’s Day gift baskets. The baskets are filled with one copy of each of the featured books as well as a variety of gifts, including: a luxurious pink Indulgence Throw Blanket by Berkshire Blanket (60"x70"), a lilac blossom-scented candle by Yankee Candle Company, a box of Tazo Passion Tea, a blue shower flower from Crabtree & Evelyn, a green flexible nonstick spatula, a yellow all-purpose spoon spatula and a bag of scrumptious Dancing Deer Lemon Daisy Cookies. (Approximate retail value: $350.00).

Wish I could enter, but I can't because I review books for the Bookreporter network --- which I love doing, by the way --- but maybe one of my blog readers will be a lucky winner!

Check out the titles of the books:
The Actor and the Housewife by Shannon Hale
Bad Mother: A chronicle of Maternal Crimes, Minor Calamities, and Occasional Momemts of Grace by Ayelet Waldman
The Diary by Eileen Goudge
The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton
Flowers on Main: A Chesapeake Shores Novel by Sherryl Woods
The Girls from Ames: A Story of Women and a Forty-year Friendship by Jeffrey Zaslow
Heart and Soul by Maeve Binchy
Prayers for Sale by Sandra Dallas
Stern Men by Elizabeth Gilbert
Summer on Blossom Street by Debbie Macomber
Tea Time for the Traditionally Build: The New No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency Novel by Alexander McCall Smith
Time is a River by Mary Alice Monroe
Valeria's Last Stand by Marc Fitten

Wow! That's 13 amazing books--enough to read all spring and summer long.

What I think is really sweet about this contest is you are asked to name your favorite book that your mom read to you.

For the curious: My favorite book that my mother read to me was, "The Little Engine that Could."

Here's a link for complete information on how to enter:

Good luck!

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Laurell K. Hamilton to Speak at St. Louis Library

(Banner from Laurell K. Hamilton's website)

Today's forecast for St. Peters, MO: Cloudy, high 65 degrees. This morning a census taker rang the bell and asked a question about our residence then before she left remarked on how lovely my lilacs smelled--hence the lilac-colored weather posting.

Thanks to my writing friend Julie Earhart for this information about a special appearance of local award-winning author, Laurell K. Hamilton.

"On Monday, June 1 at 6 p.m. at Central Library, Laurell K. Hamilton will discuss and sign her new novel, Skin Trade. This is a release party for the new Anita Black: Vampire Hunter novel! Official release date is June 2, but you can get an early copy here at Central Library tonight! Vamp it up if you like. Books for sale courtesy of Subterranean Books.

"When a vampire serial killer sends Anita Blake a grisly souvenir from Las Vegas, she has to warn Sin City's local authorities what they're dealing with. Only it's worse than she thought. Ten officers and one executioner have been slain-paranormal style. Anita heads to Vegas, where's she's joined by three other federal marshals, including the ruthless Edward. It's a good thing he always has her back, because when she gets close to the bodies, Anita senses "tiger" too strongly to ignore it. The weretigers are very powerful in Las Vegas, which means the odds of her rubbing someone important the wrong way just got a lot higher.

"Laurell K. Hamilton is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of two series that mix mystery, fantasy, magic, horror and romance. Her Anita Blake: Vampire Hunter novels from Berkley Books began with GUILTY PLEASURES (now a hugely successful graphic novel from Marvel - the first sexy paranormal comic ever!) and continues with SKIN TRADE, number seventeen in the series. There are now more than 6 million copies of Anita in print worldwide, in 16 languages. Laurell lives in St. Louis County, Missouri, with her husband Jonathon Green, daughter, two pug dogs and one boxer/pug dog.

"She invites you to visit her website and message board at or catch her on MySpace at"

Sounds like things will be vampy at the Central Library in St. Louis on June 1!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Tax Day Haiku

(Image from IRS website)

Today's forecast for St. Peters, MO: Sunny, high 61 degrees. That's what I like to hear!

Just finished signing income tax forms while Walt made out checks for taxes. So, here's a not-good-at-all-but-it's-the-best-I-got-considering-the-date haiku in "honor" of April 15th, Tax Day:

Lilacs, tulips bloom
almost flawless April day
I. R. S. dot gov

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Better Living Magazine Now Available Online

Today's weather forecast for St. Peters, MO: Cloudy, high 49 degrees.
For quite some time I've been receiving the Missouri Family magazine newsletter in my e-mail box each week. It contains useful hints on a variety of topics for people of all ages. This week's issue has a special announcement I wanted to share with my blog readers. has made Better Living Magazine available online. MissouriFamilies is produced by the College of Human Environmental Sciences, Extension Division, University of Missouri-Columbia.

Click on the magazine cover above to access the magazine, which includes topics such as: money matters, aging, housing, food and fitness, health, relationships and extension resources.

Best of all, it's FREE---and you can't get any better than that!

Monday, April 13, 2009

Editors’ Panel at MWG Conference with Lee Goldberg and Kate Angelella

Today's forecast for St. Peters, MO: Chance of showers, high 49 degrees. It's foggy and misty outside this morning.

On April 3, opening night at the MWG conference in Cape Girardeau, MO, Lee Goldberg (screenwriter for Monk, Diagnosis Murder, etc.) and Kate Angelella (an editor at Simon and Schuster), graciously participated in an on-the-spot critique session. After a facilitator read the first two pages of works-in-progress from conference attendees, Lee and Kate then gave their impressions and suggestions.

Giving immediate feedback without the benefit of having a print copy isn’t the easiest thing to do, but Kate and Lee did an excellent job, and they were very good sports about it all. Seven works were read the first night, and I jotted down some comments and suggestions from Kate and Lee, which I’ve summarized below:

Kate Angelella:
Watch point of view
Avoid telling rather than showing
Dialogue should be distinct and real
Watch exposition
Parse exposition out slowly
An object can convey the mood of a piece
Put yourself in the reader’s position and ask: Why should I care?
Watch clich├ęs
Root your stories in something reader can relate to
Don’t overwhelm with information all at once
Sprinkle information throughout novel
Include action
Reader should connect with main character
Character should be authentic
Dialogue shouldn’t sound embellished or affected
Prefers writing with a distinct cadence, lyrical, literary
“Voice is the key!”

Lee Goldberg:
Stories need a sense of urgency
Get at a dramatic point
It’s okay to have a little bit of mystery at first
Give a sense of place
Don’t be an “Irwin the explainer” with overdone exposition
Stories need conflict, drama
What is your story about?
Why is it compelling?
Why is it entertaining?
Don’t need sex scenes or car crashes (to be compelling)
Do need emotional truth, conflict, drama
Opening page is your “query letter”
Don’t have the main character thinking too much out loud in the opening
“Story is conflict.”
Give a sense of choreography of scene, especially in fantasies
Don’t overwhelm reader with details at the beginning
Ground your reader
Focus more on character and emotion and less on phrases
Don’t be too in love with your writing
Hook! Tease!
Stay with what’s true
“Exposition is the death of good writing.”

There you have it, advice from two experts who know what it takes to get published. Over the next week or so I will post more of what I learned at the MWG conference, so stay tuned!

Friday, April 10, 2009

In the Footsteps of Paul - An Amazing Journey through Photographs

(Jacket cover image from Thomas Nelson Publishing)

Today's forecast for St. Peters, MO: Thunderstors, high 50 degrees.

Recently I've read an inspiring book, In the Footsteps of Paul, by award-winning author and photographer, Ken Duncan, and published by Thomas Nelson Publishing.

In his book, Duncan follows the footsteps of the apostle St. Paul, whom Duncan calls "one of the greatest examples of what it is to be a Christain." Duncan sets out to follow St. Paul's travels in Acts closely and bring them to life on film. I think he has succeeded in his quest.

Duncan's book is divided into three primary chapters: The Making of a Man, The Mission of a Man, and The Destiny of a Man. The opening photo of the Old Roman Road, with brilliant red poppies growing through cracks in stones, sets the stage for St. Paul's journey. "I am indeed a Jew, born in Tarsus of Cilicia . . ." (Acts 22:3)

Some photos in Duncan's book are breathtakingly beautiful, others stunning in their simplicity. Duncan also includes a few color-coded maps to chart St. Paul's journeys. Interspersed among the photos, captions, and quotes from Acts, are quotations from theologians and philosophers, including Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Max Lucado, Rick Warren, Henri Nouwen, Thomas Merton, Billy Graham, and C.S. Lewis--to name a few.

The final page shows a photo of the pillar on which St. Paul was beheaded. Also at the end of the book is a quote from St. Paul to Timothy, "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith." This quote also sums up what Duncan set out to do and has accomplished in his inspiring book.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Book Notes - God's Three Step Plan by David Lee Kirkland

(Cover from God's Three Step Plan by David Lee Kirkland)

Today's forecast for St. Peters, MO: Sunny, high 61 degrees.

I think it's appropriate during Holy Week to take time to read and reflect on spiritual matters, including love, sacrifice and blessings. One book I've found to help me along my spiritual journey is God's Three Step Plan: A Celebration of Micah 6:8, written by David Lee Kirkland.

God's Three Step Plan, published by High Hill Press, explores the Biblical passage Micah 6:8, Micah of Moresheth, an Old Testament prophet.

First, a few words about the author. David Lee Kirkland ,"Kirk" to some of his friends, is an avid traveler and writer. He is also a Knights Templar, a father and a grandfather. He's neither a priest nor a prophet, but a layperson who, like many of us, is interested in leading a just life and becoming closer to God.

Kirkland's slim volume draws from the meaning of Micah, and is complemented with quotes and writings from the wisdom of saints and sages, including: Mother Teresa of Calcutta, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Adin Steinsaltz, The Daili Lama, Brother Thomas Merton, Thich Nhat Hahn, Origen, Father Henri J. M. Nouwen, The Chafetz Chaim, The Rebbe Menachem Schneerson, and Maimonides.

In God's Three Step Plan, Kirkland gently challenges the reader, no matter what one's faith or belief system, to pick a date in the future to take a spiritual quest and follow Micah: to act justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with God.

Good advice during Holy Week, and any other time of the year.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Opening Day 2009

(Image from St. Louis Cardinals website

Today's forecast for St. Peters, MO: Snow showers, high 41 degrees. Snow on opening day for the St. Louis Cardinals? That's just not right!

Hey, baseball fans! It's hard to believe 2009 opening day is already here. This morning the kiddos were excited because they got to wear Cardinal red to school rather than their school uniforms--of course they're always excited when they get to wear anything other than their school uniforms. The St. Louis Cardinals are slated to play the Pittsburg Pirates later this afternoon. With today's forecast calling for snow showers, I wonder if they will get to play.

This crazy weather reminds me of another St. Louis Cardinals' game I attended--the 1967 All Star Game at the then new Busch Stadium. The weather on that day in July was at the other extreme. Hot and humid and over 100 degrees.

When asked what he thought about the Cardinals' new stadium, Casey Stengel remarked, "It holds heat well." Or something to that effect. It was definitely a scorcher!

The 1967 All Star Game game ranks third in my all-time favorite Cardinal memories.

My second favorite Cardinal memory was in July, 1997. I had entered Walt's name in a Father's Day contest at a local department store. His name was picked as Grand Prize Winner! He got to throw out the first pitch. He won four tickets for seats in the boxes where they serve you food and drink. In addition to Walt and me, Julie and Mikey went with us. Willie McGee hit a homer and won the game for the Cardinals.

My most treasured Cardinal memory is the seventh game of the 1964 World Series, when the Cardinals played the New York Yankees.

Mom and Dad let my older sister Kathleen and me skip school. I tagged along with Kathleen and her friends to camp outside Sportsman Park--the old, old stadium on Grand and Dodier. We bought $2 bleacher tickets, and a friend of Kathleen's paid us each $5 to buy an extra ticket. With $5 to spend, we got to buy lunch at the ballpark. That game was one I will always remember! Bob Gibson pitched; Tim McCarver caught, and the Cardinals won the game. I was one of the crazy people who climbed down the bleacher wall to run out onto the field and celebrate. Kathleen stood in the bleachers holding our blankets yelling, "Donna, don't do that you'll get hurt!" But I didn't.

So, anyone else have a favorite baseball memories to share? It doesn't even have to be a Cardinal memory.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Submission Opportunity - The Los Angeles Review

(Logo from the Los Angeles Review website)

Today's forecast for St. Peters: Thunderstorms, high 60 degrees.

The Los Angeles Review is open for submissions for Issue Number 6, scheduled to be released in 2009. Submissions will be accepted from March 1 to June 1 via e-mail only. They accept fiction, non-fiction, poetry, and reviews. Contributors receive one contributor copy in exchange for first North American serial rights.

For complete guidelines, including word counts and editor e-mail addresses, visit their website.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Poetry and Prizes

Today's forecast for St. Peters, MO: Mostly sunny, high 61 degrees, chance of showers this evening.

In his much quoted poem, The Wasteland, St. Louis poet T. S. Eliot, wrote: "APRIL is the cruellest month . . ."

I think one of my blog visitors might disagree because April is starting off as a good month for her.

The randomly selected winner of a copy of St. Charles: Les Petites Cotes by Dianna and Don Graveman is . . . Camille Subramaniam.

Congratulations, Camille! I hope you enjoy the Gravemans' book as much as I have. Please e-mail me at dvolkenannt @ (delete spaces) to make arrangements to get your book. And thanks to everyone who visited my blog last week and asked questions or posted comments about the Gravemans' new book.

On the subject of the month of April, today is April Fool's Day. So, in the spirit of fun, I would like to know about April Fool's pranks. Anyone care to share their favorites?

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...