Friday, May 29, 2009

Coming Attractions and More Free Chocolate

Today's forecast for St. Peters, MO: Mostly sunny, high 81 degrees. A lovely last-day-of-school for Michael, who gets out of school at 11:30 then summer vacation begins.

Over the next several days, a lot will be happening around here. I thought my readers might be interested in learning about what's going on in my writing world:

May 30 - Saturday Writers presents, "The First 300." Members of Saturday Writers who have submitted up to 300 words will have their works in progress read and critiqued by editors: Lou Turner, Amy Harke-Moore, and Donna Volkenannt--hey, that's me! The panel and will offer practical comments about what's working with their piece as well as what needs tweeking. Prior to the panel, David "Kirk" Kirkland will give a brief tutorial on "Self-editing." For more details, click on the Events page at .

June 1
- I officially launch a new blog, A Book A Week, at
Each week, baring any serious injuries such as paper cuts, eye strain, or pulled muscles in my typing fingers--or illness or vacations--I will introduce my blog visitors to books I have read. The first book I will discuss is SECRET KEEPERS by Mindy Friddle. Note to all my Donna's Book Pub blog readers: I will continue Donna's Book Pub, where I will post several times a week about writing and books in general. My new A Book A Week blog will focus on specific books --- one each week!

June 5 - Acclaimed Southern writer Mindy Friddle will be interviewed right here on Donna's Book Pub, as part of the WOW Author's Blog Tour. Friddle will answer questions about the writing life, as well as her latest book, SECRET KEEPERS, which I have read and love! Friddle's writing has been compared to Flannery O'Connor and Eudora Welty.

If you missed last Friday's posting, where I did a lot of whining then talked about chocolate, here's some "sweet" news. Every Friday through September, the folks from Mars (the candy company, not the red planet) are offering chocolate lovers the chance to get a Free* Real Chocolate coupon for your favorite Mars brand. Visit their website for details.

Hope you all have a "sweet" weekend--sorry I couldn't help myself.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Small Presses Looking for Submissions

Today's forecast for St. Peters, MO: My weather link is down, so I can't offer an "official" forecast today. But when I was outside earlier it was drizzling.

From the May 26th Poets and Writers newsletter comes an invitation to visit the Poets and Writers Small Press database, which lists 147 small presses looking for submissions.

Among the presses is Cherry Pie Press, whose Midwest Women Poets Series publishes poetry chapbooks of new and established women poets whose lives or poetry ground them in the American Midwest. This chapbook series aims at uncovering the innovative possibilities of a voice that is female, central, and pivotal.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Dred Scott's Revenge and the Dedication of Hariett's Hill

Today's forecast for St. Peters, MO: Chance of thunderstorms, high 79 degrees.

Sorry I haven't posted for a few days. Really, I'm not a slacker. We all celebrated Cari's eighth-grade graduation dinner/Mass last night, and it's been busy (in a fun and uplifting way) around the Volkenannt/O'Donnell household.

Last night was a bittersweet occasion. At the graduation Mass, when Cari performed as part of the liturgical movement dancers, I thought about how proud our daughter Julie and son-in-law Mike would be to see what a lovely young lady their beloved daughter Cari has become.

I had no doubt they were looking down from heaven smiling at us all--probably in part because they know we now officially have a high schooler on our hands. Yikes! And in four years, we get to do it again when Michael graduates eighth-grade.
Life is good and God is great!


Now, on to book notes: Recently I read Dred Scott's Revenge, an in-depth book about the legal history of race and freedom in America. The book was written by Judge Andrew P. Napolitano and published by Thomas Nelson.

Most likely you recognize the name Dred Scott from the infamous court decision or the term getting off "Scot free. " If you're from Missouri, especially the St. Louis area, you learned about the Dred Scott case as part of Missouri History. Not our finest moment.

The judge's name might be familiar if you watch the Fox News Chanel, where Napolitano is Senior Judicial Analyst.

Using the Dred Scott case -- which was first decided at the Old Courthouse in St. Louis -- as a centerpiece for his book, Napolitano chronicles how the laws of the United States and the policies of our leaders created the deep-seeded racial tensions our nation has endured for centuries. From the Missouri Compromise, to the Civil War, Jim Crow Laws, Civil Rights Legislation, even sports, Napolitiano makes a compelling case for how our national leaders, including Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln, bear responsibility.

Napolitano also draws comparisons between Dred Scott v. Sanford, which declared slaves as non-persons, to U.S. v Korematsu, which denied rights to Japenese-Americans, and Roe v. Wade, which declared babies in the womb as non-persons. I recommend Dred Scott's Revenge to anyone interested in American history and race relations. It's a compelling read.

On a related topic, I recently received a press release about the dedication of Harriet’s Hill, in memory of Harriet Scott, Dred Scott’s Wife and co-plaintiff in the infamous Dred Scott case. The ceremony was held yesterday at Greenwood Cemetery in St. Louis. The May 26th event was sponsored by the Dred Scott Heritage Foundation and the Friends of Greenwood Cemetery Association. For years, it was assumed that Harriet was buried next to Dred Scott at Calvary Cemetery in St. Louis, but in 2006, researchers discovered Harriet was buried in Greenwood Cemetery, the burial site of as many as 50,000 African-Americans.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Bad Days, Sleepless Nights, and Free Chocolate

Today's forecast for St. Peters, MO: Partly cloudy, high 85 degrees.

There's nothing like chocolate to help elevate my mood. And, boy, after the day (and night) I had yesterday, I sure could use some chocolate today!

Yesterday morning started off wonderfully. My grandson Michael's class play and poetry recitation were outstanding! The fourth graders did a fantastic job. As I prepared to leave school, Michael complained he had an upset stomach, which is a ploy he has used several times before when I visited school so he can leave with me. Our van must have miraculous powers, because on several occasions after I would let him leave with me, he would be miraculously healed, even asking for Chicken McNuggets on the way home.

Yesterday, I wasn't falling for it. I told him he probably would feel better after lunch and recess, which generally is true. Plus I had lunch plans of my own with my sister and some friends--something I hadn't done in quite some time.

My lunchtime fun stopped after my cell phone rang. It was my husband Walt.

Unless it's something urgent, I don't like to talk on the cell phone, especially on those rare occasions I'm able to go out with friends. Walt knows how I feel, so when I noticed a missed call followed immediately by a voicemail message while I was at lunch, I knew it had to be important.

I excused myself from the table and listened to Walt's message. "Call me when you get this."

I called back right away. "What's wrong?" I asked, hoping Michael wasn't really sick.

He cleared his throat and said, "The washer caught on fire."

Okay. This was not what I expected to hear. True, the washer had been making funny noises for a couple of days and Walt took the back panel off the night before to check it out, declaring the engine was about shot. We planned to get a new washer over the weekend, hoping there would be a sale. It was a holiday weekend, right? Everybody has some sort of sales on holiday weekends.

By the end of the conversation I found out that fortunately Walt was at home when the washer motor caught on fire. No damage, but a lot of inconvenience and mess.

Well, at least I had a conversation piece for the remainder of lunch, plus it would be a good story to tell the kids on the drive home from school later in the day.

Granddaughter Cari and the rest of the carpool were fascinated when I told them about the washer catching on fire. Michael was mostly quiet. As soon as we got home, he went straight to bed, not bothering to change his school uniform, and complaining he felt like he had to throw up. He didn't even want his usual after-school snack. And when some neighborhood friends rang the bell to see if he wanted to play, he wouldn't budge.

A little bit later, the "fun" began. I won't describe all the details; I'll just say it was a not-so-sweet mess, which required scrubbing the carpet, changing all the bedding, and washing down the walls. And that wasn't nearly as bad as the guilt from thinking Michael was faking being sick to leave school early.

Then the even worse reality sunk in. With the washer broken, I could not wash the clothes, towels, and piles of bedding. So, I rinsed them all out and soaked everything in the hallway bathroom tub.

Sleep didn't come easy last night for Michael, or me. After even more episodes and more dirty towels and linens, I resorted to piling everything in our master bathroom tub.

Thank goodness the washer will be delivered today--between noon and 4 p.m.--they promise.

Okay, this is long and whiney post, so how about some good news for a change?

How about free chocolate? Yep. You heard me. Don't you think we all deserve it?

Here's the deal: Every Friday through September, Mars (the candy people, not the solar planet) will give away free chocolate to 250,000 people. To participate, you need to sign up at their special Real Chocolate Relief Act website, where "sweet relief is on the way."

I could use some "sweet relief" right about now. How about you?

Thursday, May 21, 2009

St. Louis Writers' Guild Presents David Lee Kirkland

Another sunny and warm day in St. Peters, with a high of 85 degrees, and another win last night for the St. Louis Cardinals against our arch-rival Chicago Cubs. The Cards are going for the sweep tonight.

If you can't make it to the Cards-Cub game this evening, here's something you can do that I promise will be informative, enlighting--and fun!

Thursday, May 21, from 7-8 p.m., one of my good friends and Saturday Writers writing buddies, David Lee "Kirk" Kirkland, will be the featured speaker for the St. Louis Writers' Guild. Kirk will talk about "The Marketing Adventure – Tales from the Trenches" at the Barnes and Noble, 8871 Ladue Road, Ladue MO 63124. The event is free and open to the public.

I'm going to try to be there--if the kids' schedules permit and my knee cooperates. Yesterday I had a cortisone shot in my knee (no one warned me how painful those shots are). Ouch! I actually had a panic attack afterwards. Enough about me.

For more information about Kirk's talk, contact him at

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Eight Tips for Writing A Mystery from Marcia Preston

It's another glorious day in St. Peters, Missouri: Sunny, high 80 degrees. It was a beautiful evening at the ballpark last night. The Bulldogs, the team Michael plays for, won 18-10.

Yesterday's post about the Hillerman Mystery Novel Contest got me thinking about writing myteries. Specifically, how I need to get more disciplined about the mystery novel I'm plugging away trying to finish--a middle-grade mystery set in St. Charles.

Thinking about mystery writing also reminded me about a presentation Marcia Preston gave at the MWG conference last month. Marcia is a classy lady from Oklahoma with a kind and generous heart for writers trying to succeed. She is a former English teacher and editor who has published several books and is winner of the
Mary Higgins Clark Award for her novel "Song of the Bones." She also served on the Edgar judging panel, where she read parts of 250 mysteries. So, I think it's safe to say Marcia has insight into what makes a compelling (and selling) mystery.

During her "Writing the Mystery" presentation, here are the notes I took from:
8 Tips for Writing Mysteries from Marcia Preston:
1. Think series - Be thinking about your next book while writing your current one.
2. Look for a hook - The hook is a way for the sales and marketing team to promote your book.
3. Dig into your characters - Characters should be well developed and interesting.
4. Devise a fresh, stunningly clever plot device - and the be the first to do it!
5. Watch your pacing - Don't ever let the pace slack. As an example of what not to do, she warned "Don't let your protagonist think too much in the first chapter."
6. Pay attention to technicalities - "The devil is in the details." Make sure your facts are correct; research is important.
7. Plug into the mystery world - Follow the protocol for submitting to agents. Know the word count for your genre.
8. PERSIST! - If you're not successful landing a big publisher, try independent, small publishers. Try all other ways and avoid subsidy publishing. Keep revising your manuscript!

There you have it. Advice from someone who is definitely "plugged into the mystery world." To recap, I think it's time for me to: dig into my characters, watch my pacing, and PERSIST with my novel.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Hillerman Mystery Contest from Wordharvest and St. Martin's Press

Today's forecast for St. Peters: Sunny, high 80 degrees.

Anne Hillerman and her friends at Wordharvest are keeping alive the tradition of her late father through the 2009 Hillerman Prize Contest. The deadline is June 1.

Here are the basics: Novel length mystery manuscript by an author who has never published a mystery (Self-published is usually OK) Story set in the American Southwest Postmarked no later than June 1, 2009 No entry fee Prize: Publication sponsor, St. Martin's Press with a $10,000 advance. You'll find the details and an entry form at their webite. (NOTE: The Tony Hillerman/Cowboys & Indians Short Story Contest will not be held in 2009.)
You can also check the Wordharvest website for information about upcoming workshops.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Ozarks Romance Authors (ORA) Writers Conference

Today's forecast for St. Peters, MO: Partly sunny, high 71 degrees. "Sunshine on my shoulder makes me happy . . ."

Missouri is a lovely place to be in the spring, and the Ozarks are especially scenic this time of year, with dogwoods, lilacs, and rosebuds in bloom. How about combining a trip to the Ozarks along with a writing conference? Here's one I found out about just last week.

Kathy Mullens, Conference Chair for the 22nd Annual Ozarks Romance Authors Writers’ Conference, e-mailed me and asked if I would spread the word about their annual conference. So, here are the particulars.

Who? Anyone can attend.

What? ORA 's Conference theme is "Committed to Write."

When? June 6, 2009, 9:00AM-3:30PM (registration 8:30-9:00)

Where? The Springfield Library Center
4653 South Campbell Avenue; Springfield, MO

How Much? Cost ranges from $40 for members to $49.

Why? Speakers, motivation, value, door prizes, contest, book signings.

Speakers include:

ANGIE FOX, "Lining up the Bones: Plotting Your Paranormal (and Other Novels)"

ELIZABETH GRAYSON aka: Karyn Witmer-Gow "Bridging the Gap: Transitioning Between Historical and Contemporary Fiction"

LEIGH MICHAELS, "Writing Between the Sexes"

Contact Diana Locke for more details and registration information at 417-832-9191 or e-mail her at dilock @ sbcglobal . net (delete spaces) or visit the ORA website for complete details.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

The Editing Process - Kate Angelella at MWG Conference

Today's forecast for St. Peters, MO: Partly cloudy, high 71 degrees, chance of thunderstorms. Some wicked storms blew through this area last night, mostly to the north and east.

While I have my notebook handy from last month's MWG conference, I thought it would be a good time to share some notes I took during a presentation on "The Process" by Kate Angelella. Kate is an acquiring editor at Alladin, a division of Simon and Schuster. Kate's area of expertise is the 'tween market, ages 9-13, which she calls "an untapped market . . . for readers who have graduated from Nancy Drew but not ready for Gossip Girl."

Here are some of her answers to frequently asked questions:

What should I write?
Don't write into a trend because they change
Write what you want--because when you do, it shows

How do I submit?
Find an agent
S&S does not accept unsolicited manuscripts--must be through an agent or invited by an editor
Know whom you are submitting to--make sure that's what they represent
Know their tastes and what they're looking for (hint--look at acknowledgements in books)

What does she want to see?
Voice must be authentic
The "hook" is critical
The first page is the most important
Complete manuscript (through an agent or by editor's request only)

Other words of advice:
It's all about the author's drive
Have an on-line presence
Be passionate about what you write

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Listen Magazine, A Paying Market with a Positive Message

Today's forecast for St. Peters: Chance of thunderstorms. Around 4 a.m. this morning I was awoken by a hail storm, and it's still cloudy outside.

This week has been quite busy, so I didn't get a chance to post Monday or Tuesday. So, to make up for it I want to share information about a paying market aimed at teenagers, with a positive message--Listen Magazine.

(Celeste Perrino-Walker at 2009 MWG Conference)

Last month at the Missouri Writers' Guild Conference I attended a workshop given by Celeste Perrino-Walker, Editor of Listen Magazine. The print and on-line magazine is a drug and alcohol prevention magazine, primarily aimed at teenagers.

According to its website, the magazine "encourages development of good habits and high ideals of physical, social, and mental health. It bases its editorial philosophy of primary drug prevention on total abstinence from tobacco, alcohol, and other drugs. Because it is used extensively in public high school classes, it does not accept articles and stories with overt religious emphasis."

Celeste receives between 800-1,000 submissions a year. During her workshop she shared writers' guidelines along with dos and don'ts of query letters. Reading some of the letters made me appreciate the work of a magazine editor--and realize how important it is to read submission guidelines and polish my queries before submitting them.

Some guidelines she stressed were: follow the word count; include an SASE; and do not include stats, street names for drugs, side effects, etc. because that information is a permanent part of the website.

Celeste said a good way to break in to Listen is an article about celebreties or famous personalities, especially if the article includes the celebrity signing the Listen pledge. The best way to find out their submission guidelines is by visiting

Friday, May 8, 2009

Spoonful of Stories from Cheerios

Forecast for St. Peters, MO: Thunderstorms high 75 degrees. Not the greatest weather for Cari and her class who are on their field trip to Springfield, IL, but I'm hoping the storms stay to the south and miss them.

Who doesn't love Cheerios? My favorite brand is Honey Nut Cheerios, which I have most mornings with sliced bananas or strawberries--or just with milk. So, how about a writing contest from Cheerios, where a new writer could win up to $5,000 and a publishing contract?

The Cheerios New Author Contest encourages aspiring authors to write and submit an original story for a book for children ages 3 to 8.

The stories must be original, and will be judged on: appropriate story/content for children ages 3 to 8, emotional connection, writing quality, uniqueness, and read-aloud potential.

One grand Prize of $5000 cash will be awarded. In addition to the cash prize, the grand prize winning story submission will be offered to a reputable Children’s Book Publishing company for possible future publication. Publication not guaranteed. Two First Prizes of $1000 each will also be awarded. The stories of all prize winners will appear on

This contest is for new writers, so be sure and read the complete guidelines. The deadline is July 15, and there are specific rules, which are posted on the website.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Bath and Body Writing Contest - "What's Mom's Signature"

Today's forecast for St. Peters, MO: High 80 degrees, with a chance of thunderstorms.

Spring is in the air, the flowers are blooming, and Mother's Day is this Sunday. Just in time for Mother's Day, here's a contest to put your writing skills to work and possibly win a $1001 shopping spree or other prizes from Bath and Body Works--one of my favorite stores.

Bath and Body Works is sponsoring a "What's Mom's Signature" Sweepstakes. The contest has very specific guidelines (click on link for details), but the most compelling one is that the contest ends at 11:59 p.m. ET on May 11. So, my word of advice is to act fast! Basically, your on-line entry should include a title and a story of no more than 100 words telling them what makes your mom romantic, cuddly, fresh, or sexy. For complete guidelines, visit their website by clicking on the link above. Along with your story, you also have the option of submitting a video and/or photograph. Limit one submission per person. Must be over 18 to enter.

Good luck!

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Got Quilt?

Today's forecast for St. Peters, MO: Mostly cloudy, high 75 degrees, chance of thunderstorms this evening. Hope the rain holds out until after Michael's baseball game tonight.

Okay, all you writers who have a story to tell about a favorite quilt, here's a chance to win an autographed copy of a book from Marie Bostwick.

Quilter and New York Times bestselling author Marie Bostwick is looking for stories about quilts. If you have a story about a special quilt that helped you endure during a hard time or one about a quilt that helped you celebrate a milestone, mark a memory, create a bond with a friend or family member, or brought laughter and a smile to the face of a loved one, send her an e-mail via her website with MY QUILT STORY in the subject line. Also include a brief description of your story, a photo of your special quilt, and another of yourself. If she uses your story in a talk she will be giving, the submitter will receive a signed copy of one of her books.

Marie's fifth book A Thread of Truth (cover above) will be released later this month.

Monday, May 4, 2009

The New Esquire Fiction Contest

Today's weather forecast for St. Peters, MO: Partly sunny, high 71 degrees. Sounds good to me!

Hope you had a good weekend. This weekend was lots of fun for our little family. Walt and Michael took our dogs Harley and Heidi to our place in Osage County to turkey hunt (no luck) and cut grass. Cari and I went with some of friends and family to see Riverdance at the Fox Theater in St. Louis. Later this week I'll post photos and share a story about our Riverdance experience.

Now, onto writing. My writing friend Julie E. forwarded me an e-mail announcing a fiction contest that I want to share with my readers.

Here's an exciting contest with no entry fee. It's also an opportunity to read some great stories, win big bucks ($2,500), and get published by Esquire Magazine. The story may not exceed 4,000 words and it must be based on one of the following three titles:

1. "Twenty-Ten"
2. "An Insurrection"
3. "Never, Ever Bring This Up Again"

The contest began on May 1, 2009, closes at midnight of August 1, 2009. All entries must be submitted electronically at

To make sure your entry is considered, read and follow the complete rules or click on the Esquire logo above.

Thanks, Julie, for always sending me such good information about writing opportunities, and good luck to everyone who enters. Even if you don't enter, you can visit the site to read some great stories.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Friday Frolics

Today's forecast for St. Peters, MO: Chance of thumderstorms, high 65 degrees. "Tra-la, it's May . . ." That's part of the lyrics of one of my favorite songs in Camelot. May is a lovely month, but the last day of April wasn't too shabby either.

Yesterday afternoon my granddaughter Cari and four friends who are eighth-grade students at All Saints, put on their wigs, zipped up their dresses, laced their shoes, and hid in a back room until they were announced to perform a few of their favorite Irish dance steps.
(Brigid, Abbie, Cari, Ms. Kielty, Devin, and Hannah)
Abbie and Brigid danced a soft-shoe Irish reel. Devin, Hannah, and Cari danced a hard-shoe Treble Jig, and for their finale, all five girls danced a lively Treble Reel. The ceremony was in honor of Ms. Rae Ann Kielty, a former nun, who began her career in Catholic education forty years ago--thirty years as a principal, and twenty years as principal at All Saints.

In addition to the girls performing their Irish dances, other students sang, recited poetry, and presented flowers. Some former students dropped in for a surprise visit, and family members and close friends were in attendance. A representative from the Archdiocese of St. Louis presented Ms. Kielty with a letter of commendation from the Superintendent.

The teachers and faculty also got into the "act" by dressing up like nuns (including one of the male teachers) and singing and dancing in a "Sister Act" skit. To say the event was lots of fun, is an understandment.

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...