Friday, August 27, 2010

Happy Sweet 16th Birthday, Cari

Today is my granddaughter Cari's 16th birthday. It's hard to believe she is already 16. Cari is an amazing young lady who has endured much in her 16 years, but has also given incredible joy to those around her. Cari and her brother Michael have lived with Walt and me since February 2005, when our daughter Julie and son-in-law Mike were killed in a motorcycle accident.

Since then we have seen Cari grow from a shy young girl into an independent (sometimes too much) young lady. The photo above is of Cari and Julie at an All Saints softball awards ceremony six years ago. (Julie was the coach.)

The next photo is of Cari and her friend Brynley on their way to school this morning. (Cari is on the left, wearing the dress).

Mike's sister Jena Dee planted the sign last night or early this morning. I know this because when I went outside at 4 a.m. to put up balloons on the mailbox it was already there. Happy birthday, Care Bear. Wishing you many more years of joy!
You are:
C ourageous
A wesome
R esourceful
I independent.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

I See Stars, I See Mars, I See . . .

If you remember the ditty "I see stars, I see Mars, I see someone's underdrawers ," like me, you must've gone to grade school in the 1950s and 1960s--or earlier.

We sang that ditty on the playground during recess when a girl wearing a dress hung upside down on the monkey bars, went too high on a swing, or got her skirt tangled in a jump rope. Wait (she says blushing), I was usually the one who did those things and was taunted by some smart aleck out to spoil my mindless fun.

Now, when I hear "I see stars or I see Mars," I smooth down my imaginary skirt so as not to offend anyone.

Earlier this month I received an e-mail about the planet Mars. Briefly it reminded me of my playground embarrassments, but even more it made me believe I might witness history on August 27--this coming Friday.

Here's what the e-mail claimed: On August 27th Mars will approach Earth and swell to the size of a full Moon. "NO ONE ALIVE TODAY WILL EVER SEE THIS AGAIN!"

The e-mail advised to tell my grandkids--which I did. Faithfully all month I've looked up in the sky, "It's a bird, it's a plane," oops, that's another childhood jingle. Anyway, I've looked skyward at night and have seen what I thought was the planet Mars. And it is bright.

Then I did some research. Okay, I actually didn't do a lot of research, I Googled the word Mars.

I found an article on Red Orbit News, titled "Demystifying The Mutating Mars Hoax." You can read the entire article by clicking on the link above, but in a nutshell: If you go out on the evening of August 27th, the bright light in the west is Venus. But if you grab a pair of binoculars, a few degrees to the right, you will be able to see a little orange star-like object. That is Mars.

Before reading the news article I had planned to announce the historic event of seeing Mars this coming Friday.

Good thing I checked out the facts first. I might've once again embarrassed myself having some mindless fun.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Pockets Magazine Seeking Themed Submissions

Happy Monday! Hope everyone had a great weekend.

After reading comments about some of my postings this month, I realized a few callouts have been for regional markets and contests, so I thought it would be a good idea to post about a national market. I think it helps to write around a theme, so I was happy to find that Pockets Magazine has a submission call out that focuses on themes.

Pockets Magazine
out of Nashville, TN, is designed to connect kids 8-12 with "God the other six days." Pockets content includes fiction, scripture stories, puzzles and games, poems, recipes, colorful pictures, activities, and scripture readings. Freelance submissions of stories, poems, recipes, puzzles and games, and activities are welcome. The magazine is published monthly (except in February).

Here's some information I found about their
themes for the next few months on the Pockets website:

Hope (for the April 2011 issue) Due Date: September 1, 2010.

Family - In This Together (for the May 2011 issue) Due Date: October 1, 2010

Caring for Creation (for the June 2011 issue) Due Date: November 1, 2010

For complete writer's guidelines, including rate of payment, their special needs, and submission requirements visit their

Good luck! If you submit and receive an acceptance, please let me know so I can recognize you right here!

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Contest for Kansas and Missouri Poets

Here's a contest announcement for residents of Kansas and Missouri
sent to me by Maril Crabtree

Davis Grove Haiku and Nature Poetry Contest: “Words to Weigh”
Co-sponsored by The Port Authority of Kansas City, MO and The Writers Place* The photo at left is from their website.

Submission Guidelines:

The contest is open to all residents of Kansas or Missouri.
Submissions will be received by email only.
Submit no more than three (3) poems as an email attachment. Submission of more than three poems will disqualify all poems from consideration.
Submissions will be blind. Submit a cover letter with name, address, phone number and email address, with the first line of each poem submitted, as a separate email attachment. Do not put identifying information on the poems themselves.
Submit poems and separate cover letter to:
Submissions must be the original work of the author and be unpublished.
Submissions must be no longer than four lines.
Subject matter of submissions should relate to themes such as rivers or other area waterways, docks, wharfs, the riverfront Heritage Trail, and other nature-based images suitable for poetry similar to (but not limited to) haiku and relating to the mission and goals of the KC Port Authority*. (see
Deadline: September 15, 2010

WINNERS: Four winning entries will be selected. Each winning entry will receive a $100.00 prize and each winning poem will be engraved onto a historic concrete barge anchor to be situated in Davis Grove, part of the Western Riverfront park area, adjacent to the Riverfront Heritage Trail in Kansas City, Missouri. Winners will participate in the opening ceremony for Davis Grove projected for Fall, 2010.
Good luck to everyone who enters!
*The Port Authority's mission is “to enhance the economic vitality of Kansas City, MO, as a redevelopment entity through transportation, trade, commerce, and riverfront development within the statutory authority granted by the State of Missouri and the City of Kansas City.”

Friday, August 20, 2010

A Celebration and An Award

My posts haven't been regular this week because I've been:
a.) Getting the grandkiddos ready for back to school (physicals, hair cuts, shopping)
b.) Working on two deadlines (book review, interview)
c. ) Too darned tired
Now that the grandkiddos are back full time and my deadlines have been met, I am celebrating my sense of relaxation. Let's see. I'm drinking a cup of tea, surfing the web trying to find a special necklace for Cari's 16th birthday next week, thinking about my doctor's appointment, and taking the Scarlett O'Hara approach to where to start with housework. "Tomorrow's another day."
Now for the award. Back on Coast Guard Day (Aug 2), Carol over at Under the Tiki Hut gave me a Circle of Friends award. Thanks, Carol, for the cool award. I've been saving it for a special day to share with five blogger buddies. In exchange for receiving this awesome award, I've been asked to:
Pass the link to five other bloggers.
Post a link from their blog to mine.
Notify them that they have received the award.
So, here are my five selections for The Circle of Friend Award:
Sioux at Sioux's Page
Now, I need to notify them that they have received the award and ask them to pass it along.
Hope you all have a great weekend. Stay cool, and take time to write.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Truth or Fiction and Bubble Gum Contest Winner

Now that the hot and sticky weather has cooled down a bit, it's time to announce the anwers to my August contest. One lucky submitter can relax with some --- bubble gum.

First for the answers to the questions.

* I am the middle of seven children. True Our blended family includes: Marleen, Glenda, Kathleen, ME, Jim, Tim, and Bridget.

* When I was 50 I sailed the Greek Islands with two men. True. Walt’s brother Werner divides his time between Germany and Greece. Werner has a Trimaran, which he designed and built himself. Werner gives tours during the summer. For my 50th birthday and our 30th wedding anniversary, Walt surprised me with a trip overseas. We flew to Munich to visit with his family then onto Thessalonica. Werner picked us up and drove us to Volos, where his boat is docked. We set sail on the Aegean Sea and sailed for about ten days. It was the trip of a lifetime, which we could never have afforded if not for Werner’s hospitality.

* My mother was a model. True. Mom modeled hats when she worked part-time at Sears. I still have several of her hats and hat boxes.

* I’ve never eaten a peanut butter sandwich. True. We grew up on cheese or jelly sandwiches, butter bread, Spam, baloney, and for a treat baloney and cheese. Since I made it to adulthood without eating a peanut butter sandwich, I guess I never acquired the taste.

* I drink at least three cups of coffee a day. False. I tried coffee once when I was 18 but didn’t like it. Tea is my beverage of choice—hot or cold. Oh, and Diet Dr. Pepper and wine on occasion.

* My favorite short story writer is Flannery O’Connor. I would also accept Katherine Anne Porter.

* I have been to China. True. I went with my sister Kathleen and a few of her friends in 2000. Fascinating place to visit --- once.

* My father was born in Hannibal. False. Trick question. My mom was born in Hannibal and moved to St. Louis as an infant. Dad is a St. Louis boy.

* Just like Arnold Schwarzenegger, my husband is an Austrian immigrant. Another trick question. False. Walt is an immigrant, but not from Austria. Walt hails from the Bavarian city of Erding, in Germany. Here's a photo.

* If I could have a super power it would be the ability to travel through time. While I would like to have many of the super powers suggested by others, the one power I would LOVE to have is time travel--to the future and the past.

Okay, so now that you know more about me and my family than you ever thought you would need to or want to know, here is the winner.

Cathy C. Hall answered seven questions correctly. So, Cathy contact me so I can send you your goodies.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Last Call - Fact or Fiction and Bubble Gum Contest

Early this morning it was already hot and stick outside when I took out the trash, which reminded me about my August contest - Fact or Fiction and Bubble Gum - or Bubble Gum Contest for short.

Here's a last call to enter. I posted about it on August 2. Here's a link to the post.

The contest answers and name of the person with the most correct answers will be posted on Monday.

Good luck, and stay cool!

Friday, August 13, 2010

Gateway to the Best Contest from MORWA

Last Tuesday, Claudia Shelton, a writer in critique group, told us about "Gateway to the Best," a contest the Missouri chapter of Romance Writers of America (MORWA) is sponsoring.

When I asked if the contest was open to anyone, she told me it was. She also promised to send me the contest information, which she promptly did. Thank you, Claudia!

Here are the "Gateway to the Best" contest highlights:

* Open to writers unpublished and uncontracted in novel length (40,000+) fiction within the last three years

* Deadline Sep 10

* Several categories, including YA

* GRAND PRIZE: US $100, a full reading and critique of her entire manuscript by a MORWA Published Author, a certificate, and a "Gateway to the Best Grand Prize Winner" electronic banner announcing the win for the author's website.

* First, second, and third places are awarded in each category.

* Electronic format only contest.

* Please read the official rules for contest fees and other information before completing the submission process.

Good luck!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Words Matter - Cards See Red in Cincinnati

I love baseball. The St. Louis Cardinals are my team and have been since I was a kid. In 1964 my older sister Kathleen and I skipped school, with our parents' permission, and went with some of her friends to the seventh game of the World Series. We camped out overnight to get $2 bleacher tickets at Sportsman Park, where Bob Gibson and the Cardinals beat the New York Yankees. After the game I joined the throng of crazy-brave fans who scaled down the bleacher wall to celebrate on the field, while Kathleen stood at the foot of the wall holding our blanket, telling me to be careful and not get hurt. (I didn't.)

Flash forward to this week: On Monday, Cincinnati Reds second baseman Brandon Phillips was quoted in the media that he "hated" the St. Louis Cardinals and called them "whiny *itches." Last night when he came up to bat in the bottom of the first inning of the second game in the Cards-Reds series battle for first place, Phillips tapped the shin guards of St. Louis Cardinals all-star catcher Yadier Molina. Molina would have none of it.

According news reports, Molina told Phillips "I'm not your *itch." Phillips took off his batting helmet; Molina took off his catcher's mask, and the brawl began, emptying both clubs' benches. Reds pitcher Johnny Cueto retaliated by kicking players with his cleats during the mele. Both managers, Tony LaRussa and Dusty Baker, were ejected from the game. In Molina's first at bat he followed up his words with action by hitting a home run. The Cardinals went on to win 8-4.

As writers, we know how words are more than just empty talk. Words matter, and good writing shows rather than tells. Reds player Brandon Phillips was a lot of talk and no action. Last night Yadier Molina was more than talk. Like a good writer, Molina showed that words are important. He also showed sometimes actions speak louder than words.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Walrus Publishing Accepting Submissions from St. Louis Writers

Hey, St. Louis-area writers. If you are looking for a book publisher, here's a submission opportunity.

Walrus Publishing is now open to general submissions of original, unpublished work.

Their goal is to bring talented Saint Louis writers to the Saint Louis reading audience. Submissions should be from authors in the St. Louis City or the greater St. Louis metro area. Submissions set in St. Louis or about St. Louis are greatly appreciated.

Accepting submissions through October 31, 2010.

Submissions accepted during that time will be scheduled for Summer 2011 publication.
Only complete submissions will be considered.

Submissions consist of:
Query Letter:
Real Name and Pen Name
Phone Number
E-mail address
Biographical Sketch (no more than 200 words)
Working title of manuscript and anticipated word count
Synopsis which provides full detail of the work

Manuscript excerpt of 10,000 15,000 words or 50 pages of text with cover letter that provides your contact information and synopsis.

If you are providing poetry samples, they want at least five poems which best represent your work.

The excerpt and synopsis should be provided as one file in MS Word (.doc, .docx) or Adobe Acrobat© (.pdf) format attached to your email.

Subject matter of any genre is acceptable.

Please email your submission to An auto responder will confirm they have received your email. Allow up to 12-16 weeks for a personal reply.

Good luck!

(Note: I have no connection to Walrus Publishing. I'm just passing along information that might be useful to my readers.)

Monday, August 9, 2010

Story Call out from Patchwork Path - Star Spangled Banner

Here's a story call out from Choice Publishing Group, a paying market, with an anthology series based on quilt blocks.

According to their website, Choice Publishing Group (Choice) wants to know:

"How Are You Living the American Dream?

"Choice Publishing Group (Choice) is collecting stories about living the American Dream for their new book Patchwork Path: Star Spangled Banner.

"Choice is looking for original stories and essays from 250 to 2000 words about how you're living the American Dream. Each submission will be reviewed and considered based on creativity, originality, concept, and style. Reading will be continuous and submissions will be considered as they arrive. Not all works will be accepted. There is NO Entry or Reading Fee. The deadline for submissions is December 31, 2010. Authors receive $50 for each published story."

For complete deadlines, visit the website. Good luck!

Friday, August 6, 2010

Storytelling and Strawberry Pie by Cindy Allen

In June Cindy Allen judged the Saturday Writers' members-only writing contest. When Cindy announced the winner, she used the analogy of making a strawberry pie to creating a winning story.

Cindy is a poet, a pistol-packing pilot, a polo player, and a pioneer. How's that for alliteration? I asked Cindy if she could write up what she said about judging, and she graciously responded with the following essay.

Storytelling and Strawberry Pie

by Cindy Allen

Writing crowd-pleaser stories is like baking blue-ribbon pies.

First, one must use the right ingredients: whipped-topping-titles, sweet- beginnings, elements-of-style-strawberries, and pie-crust- structure.

Second, one must use the correct amount of ingredients. The right ingredient in the wrong proportion creates a taste-disaster. Biting into a bakery product that has one cup of corn starch and three tablespoons of sugar (instead of the other way around) causes the pie to end up in the trash pile.

How many times have we heard the following? Title, Beginning, Style, and Structure Matters.

To further our comparison of storytelling and strawberry pie, let’s slice the story pie into four quarters: Title, Beginning, Style, and Structure.

I. The whipped-topping-title is bold, fresh, and powerfully delicious. It gives the reader a heads-up regarding the content of the story. It gets our attention. One way to create a tasty title is to riff on titles that have already been winners, for example War and Peace. Isn’t that more effective than War: What Is It Good For?

II. The sweet-beginning stands for a delicious first sentence and a provocative first paragraph. Using a well known beginning as a starting point can be helpful. In Little Women, Louisa May Alcott establishes the personalities of her main characters in the first four sentences:

“Christmas won’t be Christmas without any presents,” grumbled Jo, lying on the rug. “It’s so dreadful to be poor!” sighed Meg, looking down at her old dress. “I don’t think it’s fair for some girls to have plenty of pretty things and other girls to have nothing at all,” added little Amy with an injured sniff. “We’ve got Father and Mother, and each other,” said Beth contentedly from her corner.

III. The elements-of-style-strawberry stands for all of the technical aspects of storytelling. Some components of style are: voice, grammar, and punctuation. One of the best books on style is Strunk and White’s Elements of Style, the time honored style-made-simple book.

IV. The pie-crust-structure is the foundation of the story pie. It gives the reader footing to move around on. In Heather Seller’s The Practice of Creative Writing, we learn that prose structure is made up of bits, beats, and scenes. Bits are images, beats are causes and effects, and scenes are made-up of beats.

Title, Beginning, Style, and Structure Matters. Crowd-pleaser storytelling is like award-winning strawberry pie. They both make life taste better.

Cindy Allen lives in Defiance, MO, with her husband and their horses and cats. She is a graduate student at Lindenwood University in St. Charles, where she is working on her MFA in Creative Writing. In a recent dream, Walt Whitman offered her a feathered quill. She hopes that portends a robust writing career.
Cindy is one of the most enthusiastic and friendly people I know, so I hope her dream comes true.
Speaking of dreams. Some folks dream of owning an expensive car. Here's a photo of Cindy standing in front of one. I believe she told me that at a recent polo match she hurried to get a shot of her standing in front of the car, which probably costs as much as my house.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

It's a Noun, It's a Verb . . . It's Di-a-logue

Dialogue: now there's a word that strikes fear into the hearts of fiction writers - well maybe not all fiction writers, but a lot of them, and me for sure.

I'm talking about dialogue as a noun. "Wow! That's realistic dialogue you used in your story," not as a verb as in "Let's dialogue about that." In contests I've judged, some writers have a good ear for dialogue, others struggle. I took me awhile to write dialogue that sounds like a real conversation, but I think I've finally grasped the concept and recognize good dialogue.

The other day I was excited to read a post on Janet Fitch's blog, "A Few Thoughts About Dialogue." I've read a lot of advice about writing dialogue, but one of Janet's comments hit me like a bolt of lightning. Sorry for the cliche, but I have lightning on my mind after the thunderstorm that whipped through this morning around three a.m. and caused me to bolt from my bed.

Back to dialogue. Here's what caught my attention: "Dialogue is only for conflict." That makes total sense. Other helpful suggestions from Janet are: keep it short, no meet and greet, and gestures are as important as what is said. Click here to read the complete post.

Other cool features on Janet's blog are her word stories and exercises, where she creates short, short stories using a word as a prompt. Very creative and challenging! Check it out and be amazed.

P.S. Tomorrow I will have a post from a guest blogger. Cindy Allen is a poet, a pilot, a polo player, and a pioneer. She is a board member of Saturday Writers who judged one of our monthly contests using a strawberry pie recipe. So, I hope you'll visit tomorrow to see what Cindy has to say.

P.P. S. The Cards redeemed themselves by winning 8-3 last night, so I'm in a double good mood today. Since they scored at least six runs it means drinks for a quarter at Mobil on the Run. The grandkiddos love their slushies!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Nicholas Cage and The Magic of Writing

I'm trying to be upbeat after the Cards 18-4 loss to the Houston Astros last night and another day of hot and humid weather predicted (100+ degrees) for today. To escape reality I'm thinking about going to the movies, which reminds me of the last movie I saw.

A few weeks ago I took my grandson Michael to watch "The Sorcerer's Apprentice." Michael really liked the movie--so did I. Nicholas Cage starred as Balthazar Blake, a master sorcerer who travels through time in search of an apprentice to inherit the powers of Merlin, the famous wizard.

I don't know why, but Nick Cage is one of my favorite actors (we'll forget about "Wicker Man"). Back to "The Sorcerer's Apprentice." As I watched and listened to Balthazar try to convince a guy named Dave he was the person to inherit Merlin's special powers, I noticed simlarities between having magical powers and a being writer.

As soon as I got home I jotted down some bits of dialogue from Balthazar to Dave and from Beth, Dave's love interest. Their advice to Dave about his special gift can also apply to writing:

* Take time to listen (I need to work on this.)
* You have a gift (I hope.)
* Clear your mind (Easier said than done.)
* Don't abuse your gift (I'll try not to.)
* You have a unique way of looking at the world (Thanks!)
* Be subtle (Okay.)
* Believe in yourself (I'm trying.)
* Take time to be with those you love (This is true for everything!)
* Imagination is important (Yep.)
* Be true to your heart (Yep again.)
* A good pair of shoes can work magic (Oh, yeah! I really like this one.)
* True magic is inside you (I'm still looking.)
* You have to be a little crazy (Hmm. I resemble that remark.)
* Never give up (Need to forget that last contest loss and rejection.)

Who would've thought Nicholas Cage would make me think about ways to become a better writer? Well, one of the suggestions is "You have to be a little crazy."

Do any of these simaliarities between magic and writing stand out to you?

Have you seen any good movies lately that made you think about writing?

Or, do you have a favorite movie starring Nick Cage?

Monday, August 2, 2010

Contest Time - Fact or Fiction and Bubble Gum

Can you believe it's August already? With the new month it's time for another contest. Yipee!

Hope you all enjoy this one. Here's the deal:

Yesterday I attended a bridal shower. One of the games was a modified version of 20 questions. The bride (Kaitlin) was read a list of questions about the groom (Kyle) and given a time limit to answer. For every answer she got right she got applause; for every answer she got wrong she had to chew a piece of bubble gum.

Some of the questions she answered quickly: What is his favorite color? Where was your first date? Others took awhile to answer, or the bride answered them incorrectly. Who is his favorite cartoon character? What super power would he like to have? By the end of the game she had a mouthful of bubble gum, which made for a lot of laughs and some cute photos.

The game yesterday got me thinking about how as a non-fiction writer facts and accuracy are critical. But as a fiction writer, making stuff up is more fun.

So, today I'm hosting a contest with 10 questions about me. The answers will be true or false, except for #6 and #10, which are fill-in-the blank.

Prizes: Winner will receive a signed copy of a book from my collection, a critique of a story or an essay (up to 2500 words), and drum roll-- please: a pack of bubble gum.

Now for the 10 questions:
1. I am the middle child of seven children.
2. When I was 50 I sailed the Greek islands with two men.
3. My mother was a model.
4. I've never eaten a peanut butter sandwich.
5. I drink at least three cups of coffee a day.
6. My favorite short story writer is _______________.
7. I've been to China.
8. My father was born in Hannibal.
9. Just like Arnold Schwarzenegger, my husband is an Austrian immigrant.
10. If I could have a super power it would be __________________.

E-mail your answers to the questions to dvolkenannt (at) charter (dot) net by August 15.

The winner's name and correct answers will be posted on Aug 16. In case of a tie, names of those with the most correct answers will be put into a hat and one name will be selected at random. Judge's decision is final.

Hope these questions give you all something to chew on. Have fun, and good luck!

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...