Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Call for Submissions - Shaker of Margaritas: Hot Flash Mommas

How could I not post this call for submissions from Linda Fisher of Mozark Press? Linda's anthology sounds like a lot of fun! Here's the deal:

Shaker of Margaritas: Hot Flash Mommas
Fiction, Fun, and Forties Writing Contest
Mozark Press – Call for Submissions
Short Fiction: 1,000 – 3,000 words
Deadline: May 30, 2010

Mozark Press is a small publishing company in central Missouri dedicated to producing quality paperback books. They publish short story collections, inspirational works, anthologies, general fiction and non-fiction.

Right now they are seeking fiction stories for an upcoming anthology, A Shaker of Margaritas: Hot Flash Mommas. The anthology will be comprised of stories about women living the adventure of midlife. The protagonist must be a woman in her forties with a colorful character and intriguing storyline.

Your audience will be Hot Flash Mommas who never waste a second reading a boring story. Grab them at the beginning, give them an unusual situation—or a usual situation handled in an unusual way—and bring it all to a satisfying conclusion. Give your imagination free rein. Any style will be considered except pornographic. Approximately 25-30 stories will be selected for the anthology.

The prize amounts and other specifics can be found at Contest coordinator and anthology editor is Linda Fisher.

Good luck!

Today in St. Peters, MO: Windy, expected to reach 80 degrees. (Note: March did come in like a lion and is going out like a lamb.)

Monday, March 29, 2010

Manuscript Advice from Mid Rivers Review Editor, Teddy Norris

Last Saturday, Teddy Norris, English Professor at SCCC, poet, and Editor of the Mid Rivers Review, gave a presentation at Saturday Writers on "Creating Winning Manuscripts." Teddy spoke about the basics and shared some tips she learned while on a sabbatical at a poetry manuscript workshop in Western Massachusetts. Here are some notes I jotted down during her presentation on submitting your manuscript:

#1 Rule: Proof, Proof, Proof, and Revise, Revise, Revise. The competition is fierce to get an editor to select your manuscript. Even if you write like Hemmingway or are a poet on par with Elizabeth Bishop, your work had better have flawless grammar and spelling. Read your manuscript out loud before submitting.

Other suggestions and observations:

* Real the submission guildelines carefully for specifics, such as:

"To clip or not to clip." Some editors prefer paper clips over staples.

SASE should be business letter size.

Cover letter should be short and to the point. Bio should be succinct. Include a statement "edit as needed for space." If listing publishing credits, quality is more important than quantity.

* If an editor asks for changes, respond quickly. Editors are generally flexible and will work with you, but they are working under deadlines.

* Simultaneous submissions - Be honest with the editor. Editors are writers, too, and understand if you have submitted the piece elsewhere. It is courteous to mention that in your cover letter. If your work is accepted in one publication, notify others where you have submitted it right away.

* Online journals are changing the market. There are more places to be published, but check out the publication (both print and online).

* Publication credits - If a piece has been published online or in a student lit mag or publication, it is generally considered published. Again, find out what rights the editor is wanting. Some accept reprints. Just be upfront with the editor.

* In poetry, non-rhyming has the edge. Don't force the end rhyme. Line is critical. Be clear on line breaks and endings. Honor the white space. Each poem gets its own page. Most editors prefer poems that can fit on one page because of layout issues.

* Centering poetry is the mark of an amateur. Left justified is easier to work with.

* Titles are important in poetry and prose. Untitled doesn't work; it makes the submitter appear either pretentious or unimaginative. You can market your piece with the title. Avoid one-word titles. Titles are also a way of layering your work or adding symbolism.

* Don't use fancy fonts or colors. Use standard fonts, such as Times New Roman or Courier.

* Dialogue - Should sound like real conversation. Watch dialogue tags.

* Cut, cut, cut. "Pruning makes trees stronger; it will make your writing stronger, too."

* Watch overuse of adjectives and adverbs - "The road to hell is paved with adverbs." (Stephen King)

* Trust your reader. Rather than summarizing or wrapping up at the end, let your story end naturally. End with a quality of "mystique."

* Produce "small amazements" for your readers.

* Just like "iron sharpens an iron" being in a workshop with other poets or writers and listening to their works will make your writing stronger.

* Editors review submissions quickly. Quality is expected; you must go beyond. Use provocative titles to get their attention, then follow-through from there.

Final word of advice: Proof, Proof, Proof, and Revise, Revise, Revise.

There you have it in a nutshell.
Teddy was so gracious and generous with her time and talent, and she donated her speaker's fee back to Saturday Writers. Aren't writers great?

Today in St. Peters, MO: Sunny, high 58 degrees.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Saturday Writers Special Weekend Events

For my local blog visitors, here are some special events from Saturday Writers that you won't want to miss.

Tonight, Friday, March 27 - If you are out and about tonight, stop by Main Street Books in St. Charles between 7 and 9 p.m. for a special Open Mic event. Saturday Writers President Lou Turner has got a star-studded line up which is sure to please, including members who will read from their published works as well as others who will be reading from their works in progress.

Country-western musician and songwriter Nick Nixon will be there strumming his guitar and singing. Main Street Books is located one block south and across from the Visitors Center at 307 South Main. Refreshments will be served and lots of fun is guaranteed!

NOTE: Under the timing is everything heading, Cari's championship soccer tournament game will be tonight at 7:15, so unless I can teleport myself to be two places at the same time, I won't be at the Open Mic event, but I'll be cheering for my writing friends while cheering Cari's soccer team. Go FZE JV Lions!

Saturday, March 28 - Tomorrow, Saturday, March 28, Teddy Norris, professor, poet and editor of the St. Charles Community College Mid Rivers Review, will be the featured speaker at Saturday Writers' regularly scheduled meeting (11 a.m. till 1 p.m.) at the St. Peters Community and Arts Center, 1035 St. Peters-Howell Road. Teddy will give an insider's view on what an editor looks for in submissions when she talks about "Creating Winning Manuscripts." Prior to Teddy's presentation, SW long-time member and former art teacher Jerrel Swingle will have his fifteen minutes of fame. And . . . the winner of the March Madness members'-only writing contest will be announced.

Also on March 28 - Saturday afternoon, right after the meeting, Saturday Writers member Bill Mueller will have a book signing at Main Street Books in St. Charles.

Hope to see you at one of these events.

Quick Call for Submissions - Silver Boomer Books

Silver Boomer Books is posting a quick call for submissions for an anthology. They need short prose pieces (1000 words or less) which fit their Grandma’s Quilts/Grandpa’s Attic theme. Submissions of prose and poetry are accepted. Deadline April 15.

Please send your submissions to: - subject line should read: QUICK CALL - GRANDPARENTS.

Electronic submission is preferred, with the manuscript or poem pasted into the body of the email. They ask for one-time rights. Payment is $5 for poetry and $10 for prose plus a contributor’s copy. See guidelines for further information. Here's a link Scroll to HOW WE WANT IT for specifics on how to submit.

Oh, can't forget the weather: Today in St. Peters, MO: Sunny, high in the mid-fifties. Yay!

Note: Thanks to everyone who e-mailed about my absence from Donna's Book Pub over the last several days. Last Wednesday I had surgery. The results were good, and I'm feeling better now. Check back next week for another contest to win a book, plus other market and submission opportunities. Have a great weekend!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Winners and Bloggers

Thanks to everyone who left comments after my post last week about Patricia Stoltey's book,, PRAIRIE GRASS MURDERS. I wish I could give copies to everyone who left a comment, but I only have two copies to give away. The names of the winners were picked at random--i.e. folded pieces of paper.

And the winners are: Nancy Cook and Linda O'Connell. Please e-mail me at dvolkenannt (at) so I can send copies to you. If you weren't a winner, check back later this month. I will have a contest to win another book.

While at Linda's blog I discovered another blog with writing advice for writers: The Blood-Red Pencil. "It is place where you can find "sharp and pointed observations about writing." If you get a chance, check it out.

Today in St. Peters, MO: Partly cloudy, high in the mid-fifties.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Get Caught Read Handed by the St. Louis Public Library

Julie E., one of my dear friends and a great writer, works for the St. Louis Public Library. Yesterday Julie e-mailed a press release about a really cool incentive the library has going on for the next few weeks The program is called: Get Caught Read Handed! (I've downloaded their logo on the left.)

Here's information from the library's press release:

"Grab a book and head out on the town, because you could get Caught Read Handed! The St. Louis Public Library will take to the streets March 15th - April 9th between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m., looking to catch people reading.

"If we see you reading, you will be entered to win great prizes, including a St. Louis Sports package, a St. Louis Arts package, and a Central West End Getaway. This exciting contest is the Library's way of getting St. Louis ready for National Library Week (April 11-17).

"Each day beginning March 15th, check out the Library at Facebook, MySpace and Twitter for clues on where you can get Caught Read Handed!"

Personal note: Now that I'm retired I don't cross the river very often, although I did get into the city for a bus tour of Stained Glass Windows and Churches on Tuesday, but it might be worth the trip to drive across the river with a book.

Today in St. Peters, MO: Chance of rain, high 50 degrees.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

March Madness Mystery Contest Giveaway

Several weeks ago I won a box of mystery books over on Colorado mystery writer Patrcia Stoltey's blog. If you haven't visited Patricia's blog, you should check it out. It's one I visit regularly. Several days each week, Patricia posts writing tips, contest information, and other useful hints and links. Yesterday she posted a link to the Mystery Writers of America contest going on for March. The books in the Mystery Writers contest sound amazing. Her post on Tuesday was on self-editing, which I need to revisit and study.

Back to the box of books I won from Patricia last month. Included in the box were paperback copies of The Prairie Grass Murders, a mystery novel Patricia wrote. Of course, hers was the first book in the box that I read. And I wasn't disappointed. Here are a few reasons I like "Prairie Grass Murders":

* The main characters. They are interesting and vividly portrayed, and like me, they came alive during "Pepsi Generation" of the nineteen-fifties and sixties. Willie is a Vietnam veteran who returns to the home of his youth, and while hiking through the Illinois countryside discovers a body. Like a good citizen he reports his discovery to the authorities. For his actions he gets locked up in a psych ward. Willie's sister Sylvia is a smart cookie who lives in Florida. Sylvia is also a judge with an attitude who comes to Illinois to rescue her brother and help solve the crime.

* The setting. The primary setting is in rural Illinois, but it also moves to sunny Florida.

* The writing. Patricia's writing is crisp and the story moves briskly.

So, as part of my goal to downsize the stacks of books around the house, I'm happy to announce I will be giving away copies of the paperback novel THE PRAIRIE GRASS MURDERS. The copies are signed by Patricia. Two lucky people who post between now and March 15 (the ides of March) will win.

Quick: Which famous literary character was murdered on the ides of March?

Two winners will be picked at random at the end of the day on March 15 and their names will be announced on March 16.

NOTE: To comply with FCC guidelines, please note that Patricia gave me copies of her books to share with my friends in any way I choose. She did not pay me or ask me to post about her book on my blog or ask me to give her book a favorable review. It's just a darned good mystery book I would like to share with my writing friends--plus it will make my wonderful hubby Walt happy that I'm eliminating some books from my shelves so he doesn't have to build new ones.

Good luck!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Blue Lotus Review Accepting Submissions

I'm so excited to announce that Pushcart Prize nominated writer Amy Willoughby-Burle has launched a new literary magazine. On March 1, Amy and her editors began accepting submissions for Blue Lotus Review , a new online journal for literature, art, music, and more.

I've known Amy and her husband RJ for about ten years, and they are such a talented couple with two lovely daughters. Amy is a brilliant and generous writer and a former president of Saturday Writers. In the past Amy has volunteered as a guest speaker and a judge in our writing contests, and she has always been always helpful with comments to improve my short stories.

Knowing Amy, I'm certain she will accept only top-quality work for Blue Lotus Review, so send her your best work. According to the website, their tastes are "literary eclectic" but they do not want anything that is blantantly offensive. You can find complete submission guidelines on the Blue Lotus Review site.

I have a short story that needs a home --- and some work --- that I'm going to polish and submit. How about you?

Today in St. Peters, MO: Showers likely, high 59 degrees.

Monday, March 8, 2010

The Oscars - It All Starts with the Writing and Creative Process

Long after everyone else in my family went to bed last night, I stayed up to watch the 82nd Academy Awards (aka the Oscars). This morning while driving Cari and a friend to high school, the girls talked about how they didn't watch the Oscars because they are so boring. While I don't think the program was exactly boring, I didn't find it overly exciting, either, but a few moments did stand out as being memorable.

One segment I liked was the nod given to writers. Even some of the jabs pointing out the difference between writers and actors were humorous.

What would movies be without the words and creativity of writers? Blank sheets of paper.

Everything starts with writing and the creative process. Here are some of my favorite moments from this year's Oscars:

* Clips and music from one of my all-time favorite movies "Ferris Bueller's Day Off"

* Mark Boal, winner for best original screenplay, "Hurt Locker," talked about how he got his idea for a story while he was a reporter in Iraq

* Geoffrey Fletcher, winner for adapted screenplay, "Precious," encouraged others who "work on a dream everyday"

* Sandra Bullock's win for best actress

* Katherine Bigelow's best director win for "The Hurt Locker"

* Short acceptance speeches

* The winner who encouraged young people to pursue their creative dreams because "taking time to be creative is not a waste of time"

Here's a link to a complete list of winners.

How about you? Any moments stand out as memorable --- or forgetable?

Sunday, March 7, 2010

One More Suggestion from Dakota About Writing a Synopsis

Genereally I don't post on the weekends, but I woke up this morning remembering something Dakota Banks said last week at Saturday Writers. I'm going try it to get my YA novel back on track.

It's a suggestion from Dakota that I didn't mention in my earlier post: Use the synopsis as a planning tool while writing – you’re going to need one as a marketing tool anyway.

Eureka! This hit me just as I was waking up this morning. Next week I'm going to work on the synopsis for my novel to see if that will help.

But tonight? O-S-C-A-R-S. That's what I'll be watching. I'm rooting for Sandra Bullock.

Chance of showers, high 59 degrees.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Saturday Writer Member Events on March 6

Tomorrow, March 6, will be a busy day for members of Saturday Writers .

10 a.m. till noon - Saturday Writers Board Member and Children's Writing Chair, Margo Dill presents a workshop: "See My Byline: Writing for Newspaper and Websites" for the St. Louis Writers Guild (SLWG) at the Kirkwood Community Center, 111 S. Geyer, Kirkwood. (No Charge for SLWG Members, $5 for Non-Members)

1:30-3:30 p.m. - Lifetime Saturday Writers Honorary Member and "Queen of the Western Romance," Bobbi Smith will sign copies of her latest novel RELENTLESS at Barnes & Noble, 320 Mid Rivers Mall Dr., St. Peters, MO 63376

2:00-5:00 p.m. Join Saturday Writers member Judy Moresi for a wine tasting and book signing at The Wine Bottle, 810 O'Fallon Rd, Weldon Springs.

The weather should be great to take in all the events. Today in St. Peters, MO: Sunny, high 51 degrees. Tomorrow for all the events above: Partly cloudy, high 55.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

My Notes from "Book Proposals that Sell" by Dakota Banks

Last Saturday, February 27, Dakota Banks (aka Shirley Kennett) gave an educational presentation to a packed room of Saturday Writers on “Book Proposals That Sell.”

Here are some notes I took during Dakota's information-packed presentation:

· You need an agent to stay out of the slush pile

· Query Letters must be perfect
o No grammar or punctuation mistakes
o Have at least three people read it before sending it out
o It is the first sample of your writing an agent sees
o It is the teaser to entice the agent to ask for more
o Personalize – send to an individual at the agency (not Dear Agent)

· First paragraph – The Hook
o Should have a short, exciting teaser. (Think jacket copy from the back of the book)
o Purpose is to get a reader to request your full manuscript
o Hyped-up mode. Find the “heat” of your story
o Same for nonfiction—exciting, different, new slant on an old topic
o Memoir – same rules apply
o Poetry – rarely uses a query letter, just send the poem

· Second paragraph - for fiction, bio part of protagonist
o Characters sell books as much (or more than) plot
o Here is where it is okay to TELL, DON’T SHOW because you don’t have time to show in this brief space.
o Give the boiled down version of your story
o Tell about characters in an interesting way

· Third paragraph – Business part
o Include your relevant publishing credits
o Tell why you are the best person to write this book
o Mention books the agent has handled
o Include word count, point of view

· Fourth paragraph – Direct request to send more material
o Write: May I send you the complete manuscript or a synopsis and sample chapters?

· Synopsis
o You may include a synopsis with your query letter
o Keep to one page, as if a movie pitch
o Double space
o Write the synopsis in the PRESENT tense
o Start with conception of the book
o Show some emotion - No “heat,” no story
o Don’t include dialogue or subplots
o Include high points - Peak-to-peak, no valleys
o Include resolution
o Can change when writing the book
o Book should be recognizable from the synopsis
o Reveal end of the story
o Voice – engage the reader to cause an emotional response
o Chapter length – end for suspense or tension
o For non-fiction, the chapter outline serves as your synopsis

· Finding an agent
o Look in dedication or acknowledgements of books you like
o Attend conferences
o Ask friends
o Literary Agent guide books

· Questions to ask agents
o Ask practical questions about fees, extra costs
o Updates: how often do they send updates on your manuscript’s progress
o What kind of rights do they pursue (foreign, movie, audio)?
o Subsidiary rights?
o What happens to book sales after termination of the author/agent agreement?

· General comments/suggestions
o Multiple submissions – start with 12
o If an agent asks for a full manuscript, it’s generally an exclusive basis
o Etiquette - Don’t send out full ms to different places
o Be honest when sending material beyond the query letter
o Putting a copyright symbol at the bottom turns off agents
o Publishers copyright the work in your name
o When in doubt, read the publisher’s guidelines
o The Author’s Guild is a great resource, especially to review contracts, but they are not the negotiators of your contract.
o If you’re unhappy with an agent, you can switch, but do so carefully and contact the Authors’ Guild for advice.

Dakota also has a blog, where she shares tips with writers. Later this month I will post an interview with Dakota. Anyone who posts a question or comment for Dakota will have their name entered in a contest to win a signed copy of MORTAL PATH, the first novel in her DARK TIME series.

Here's what bestselling author Steve Berry has to say about DARK TIME: "Seductive, sophisticated, and imaginative, DARK TIME has a multi-dimensional quality with beguiling concepts and a labyrinth of fast-paced suspense. There's food for thought on every fascinating page. Dakota Banks is firing on all cylinders."

Today in St. Peters, MO: Sunny, high 49 degrees.

Monday, March 1, 2010

10 Synopsis Dos and Don'ts from Writers Digest

Happy March! Beginning this month, I will put the weather forecast for St. Peters at the end of my posts rather than at the beginning, just to change things up a bit.

If you're thinking about writing a synopsis, here's a quick list of 10 keys for creating a better synopsis. The snappy and easy-to-understand list of 10 Synopsis Dos and Don'ts, written by Jane Friedman, is waiting for you on the Writers Digest site. The tips cover the hook, characters, details, the ending, the proper tense to use, and what not to include.

Later this week I will summarize what I learned from the talk Dakota Banks gave to Saturday Writers about "Book Proposals that Sell."

Stay tuned!

Today in St. Peters, MO: Mostly cloudy, high 41 degrees.
"March comes in like a lion, and goes out like a lamb." I don't know who said that, but I'm hoping this month is more lamb than lion. (I must have lions on the brain after last week's field trip with Michael's fifth-grade class to watch the marvelous rendetion of the musical "The Wizard of Oz" at Incarnate Word Academy.)

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...