Monday, September 27, 2010

What Would You Grab?

Last week my sister Kathleen, a couple of friends from St. Charles County, and I had the privilege of taking a behind-the-scenes tour of the Missouri History Museum Library and Research Center. The library is located in the former Hebrew synagogue on Skinker Boulevard, not far from Washington University in St. Louis. The library site itself is historic. In November 1960, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King addressed the congregation during his Civil Rights campaign.

Last week's special tour was to thank people who volunteered during the Vatican Splendors exhibitition last May-September, which was a treat in itself. More than 101,000 people toured the exhibit--and I do believe most of them came on Thursdays (the day our St. Charles group volunteered). :-)

The library tour was fascinating. In the downstairs laboratory, we got to see how antiques are restored and evaluated to determine when and where they were made. Other items we got to see were furniture and household items from the 1770s and the famous "Chipmunk Quilt"--which indeed does have two chipmunks and bird feathers embedded in the quilt. We also saw Civil War uniforms, an antique shoe collection, and got a preview of the "Black Dress" collection slated for display in 2012.

Before beginning our tour, Dr. Robert R. Archibald, President of the Missouri History Museum, gave a brief address on some of the collections in the library. He talked about how the contents of the library really tell the stories of those who lived before us, and how important our stories will be to those who come after us.

During his talk he mentioned how natural disasters, such as floods, cause people to think about the items they truly cherish. For example, on many film clips during the Great Flood of 1993-- which devestated parts of Missouri and Illinois--news reports showed people fleeing their homes carrying family photo albums.

Dr. Archibald's talk got me to thinking. If a natural disaster were to strike, what few precious items would I grab before evacuating?

For me, it would be family photos, our family Bible, and special drawings, notes and cards from my children and grandchildren.

How about you: In the event of a catastrophe or natural disaster, what would you grab on your way out the door?

P. S. The Missouri History Museum needs volunteers, especially for their upcoming exhibits. Volunteering is fun and fascinating, especially for writers or anyone interested in history. So, if you live in the metro-St. Louis area and have about 10 hours a month to spare, visit the Missouri History Museum website and find out how you can volunteer.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Is English Dead?

In a tongue-in-cheek essay in The Washington Post last weekend, Gene Weingarten lamented, "Goodbye cruel words: English is dead to me."

In Weingarten's article he pointed out examples from the Washington Post and other media of mistakes in print. Some reasons he cites for the demise of the proper use of English are decreased attention to grammar, punctuation, and syntax. Unedited blogs, instant messaging, and newspapers cutting back on copy editors have also contributed to the death of the English language, according to Weingarten. Some examples he cites are humorous; others are sad.

Everyone makes mistakes when writing or speaking. I've often made mistakes posting on my blog. When I discover them I feel embarrassed and make changes right away. On some occasions, a few writing pals have e-mailed me to let me know when I've messed up--and I appreciate it when they do.

For those who care about the proper use of English, what do you think:

Is English dead? Is it on life support? How can we save it? Should we care?

Monday, September 20, 2010

Writing Fiction with Pat Carr

Last fall Saturday Writers presented a workshop with acclaimed fiction writer Pat Carr. It was the fourth time I've heard Pat speak, and each time I'm inspired to run home and write short stories. During last year's workshop I used Pat's exercises to begin a few new stories. Like magic, those stories took shape.

After last year's Saturday Writers workshop, Lou Turner, CEO and publisher of High Hill Press, convinced Pat to write a hands-on book about writing fiction. The result is Writing Fiction with Pat Carr, the lovely book featured on the left.

You might be wondering: Who is Pat Carr and how can she teach me to write fiction? Pat Carr has a B.A. and M. A. from Rice, a Ph.D. from Tulane, and has taught literature and creative writing in universities across the South. She has fifteen published books, including the Iowa Fiction Prize winner, The Women in the Mirror, the PEN Book Award finalist, If We Must Die, and over one hundred short stories in pubications including The Southern Review, Yale Review, and Best American Short Stories. Her latest short story collection, The Death of a Confederate Colonel, a nominee for the Faulkner Award, won the PEN Southwest Fiction Award, the John Estes Cooke Fiction Award, and was voted one of the top ten books from university presses for 2007 by Foreword Magazine.

Her award-winning story "The Party," which was first published in The Southern Review, is included in her book. Other stories included are "The Death of a Confederate Colonel" and "Incident on the Border."

Carr's how-to book begins with "The Techniques" and the sentence "Fiction is narrative in scenes." From there she gives two dozen assignments, which cover the nuts and bolts of writing compelling short stories, including: scene, setting, character, details, names, emotions, dialogue, point of view, openings, endings, symbols, vision, revision, theme, and more.

On "Point of View," she writes, "An author's choice of point of view can make or break a story." Carr not only offers advice, she includes diagrams to demonstrate her points and includes examples of different points of view.

On openings and endings, "The opening sentence of a story should promise what the story will deliver," and "The last line of a story should be a piece of dialogue, an action, or an image."

While this post isn't a short story, I'll take Carr's advice and leave you with a piece of dialogue.

After reading and using Writing Fiction with Pat Carr, Donna Volkenannt commented, "Carr's advice is brilliant and her assignments are inspiring!"

Friday, September 17, 2010

A Tale of Two Covers - Ala Chicken Soup

At the beginning of the month I received confirmation that my essay "Unexpected Joy" will be included in the next Christmas Soup for the Soul Christmas book. I've been excited ever since.

The editor's e-mail informed me that the release date will be in October or November and the book will be a special gift edition available exclusively at Barnes and Noble and Wal-Mart.

For the past two weeks I've visited the Chicken Soup for the Soul website hoping to get a sneak peek at the cover. It hasn't appeared there yet.

But I did find out something interesting about the covers on the Barnes and Noble and Wal-Mart sites.

Tales of Christmas (red cover) will be available in hard cover exclusively at Barnes and Noble.

Correction--added after my initial post: The Christmas Magic (blue cover) will be sold in paperback at Wal-Mart, but my essay is not in this book. My essay will be in Chicken Soup for the Soul, The Gift of Christmas, which is also a red cover.

Both covers look great to me, but I can't decide which one I like better.

How about you? Red or blue?

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Call for Poetry Submissions - Flashlight Memories

Here's a market for my poet friends.

Silver Boomer Books is seeking poetry of no more than 23 lines (including the spaces between lines and/or stanzas) for their upcoming anthology themed Flashlight Memories.

Flashlight Memories recounts memories experiences with reading, which produced lifelong readers.

Please submit your work according to the guidelines found at

Poetry deadline: October 5, 2010

Good luck!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Sylvia Forbes on Freelancing (Part II)

When Sylvia Forbes spoke to Saturday Writers last month, she shared several markets where writers can find work. This is Part II of her discussion. Part I was posted Tuesday, Sep 7.

* Arts Magazines and Newspapers: Photos enhance writing and make it more valuable. Critical reviews are more sought after than general reviews.

* Parenting/Baby Magazines: National magazines - usually request all rights, but pay more (some up to $1500). Local magazines or newspapers - some take reprints, but pay less. Don't overlap a market.

* Profiles: Artists, farmers, children, teens, business people. Quotes enhance the profiles.

* Sports Writing: Must write fast, have an interest and knowledge of sports.

* Essays: Different types. Some are personal/emotional in nature. Others provide life lessons or can be presuasive. Lifestyle are another type. Some markets are: Skirt (10 essays per issue), Missouri Life, Christian Science Monitor, Arizona Highways.

* Outdoor magazines: Need to do descriptions well. Examples are hiking, bird watching, soft adventure to extreme adventure. Specialized markets: Deer, Turkey, Bass Fishing. Outdoor Writers of America organization for outdoor writers.

* Children's Magazines (most competitive). SCBWI good organization to join. Children's market pay is not great, but accepts a variety of submissions, including fiction, crafts, games, poems.

* Health Writing. Nursing and health magazines can be lucrative. "Be careful about health writing. You may die of a misprint." (Mark Twain)

* Restaurant Reviews another market.

According to Sylvia, the most lucrative markets are: Health, Business (Finance), and Technology. Her advice is to:

* Read, read, read the market to know what they're looking for before you query.

* Provide clean copy, on topic requested, correct word count, on time!

* Read the book "Outliers," which shows examples of successful people who have dedicated at least 10,000 hours to excel in their proven profession.

The best advice she received from an editor was: "Just tell the story."

Sylvia is currently accepting submissions for the 2012 Bylines Writers Desk Calendar. Visit the website for submission guidelines.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Advice on Freelancing from Sylvia Forbes (Part I)

Last month Sylvia Forbes, freelance writer and editor of Bylines Writers Desk Calendar, was guest speaker at the Saturday Writers meeting at the St. Peters Community and Arts Center.

Sylvia shared a wealth of information about nonfiction writing with about 30 other writers. I took several pages of notes, but I'm condensing part I of the highlights here:

* Keep your query letters short. Include title of proposed article, a paragraph of what it's about, and be able to answer the question: Why should the editor choose me?

* Keep a submission tracker to track submissions, some of which are written two years before payment.

* Most magazines prefer third person. A few, like Travel and Leisure, prefer first.

* Travel Writing - Articles should report on a wonderful trip, not sound like an ad. Make writing fresh, not trite. Some editors will reject an article that uses the word "nestled" anywhere.

* Study the publication ahead of time.

* The trend is towards shorter (600-1200) word articles.

* Press trips are a great way to get paid to travel and write. Start locally. Check with Convention and Visitors Bureau or State Division of Tourism.

* AAA is a good place to get started, but they accept queries only in Jan-Apr. If you query outside that time frame your query will be tossed.

* Garden Writing - Editors plan 1 1/2-2 years ahead because of photos.

* Gardening is one of the most popular hobbies in America.

* Descriptions are important.

* Scientific names are key to garden writing. (My observation: Sylvia has a degree in botany, so she knows what she's talking about.)

* Senior magazines

* Word Count: Generally 600-800

* Profile interesting seniors

* Health stories

* How to survive on limited finances

* AARP pays $1-$2 a word.

* Smaller markets $25-$75 per article, which equates to 10 cents a word. You can't make a living on 10 cents a word.

* Local news - Contact the editor. Pay is usually per article. Might need coverage for evening or weekend meetings.

* Business - always looking for stories

* Not great pay for general articles

* Specialized publications pay more (e.g. cranes, asphalt, paint, baking, produce, gift basket, etc.)

* Profiles of successful business people. (e.g. Saturday Writers member David Lee Kirkland is going to be interviewed by the St. Louis Business Journal.)

My next post will wrap up Sylvia's suggestions on freelance writing for magazines specializing in the Arts, Parenting, Sports, the Outdoors, Childrens, and others.

Monday, September 6, 2010

September Lessons

Since the beginning of September I've learned and re-learned a few things I thought I'd share with you all:

1. Do not go to the post office at 11 a.m. on a Saturday morning.

2. Do not go to the post office the day before a long weekend.

3. It is easy to misinterpret what is said in an e-mail.

4. WordPress hates me. No matter how many times I try to post comments they usually don't show up.

5. A good friend is a blessing.

6. A good friend who is a writer and who understands you is a double blessing.

7. Getting together with writing friends is relaxing--and invigorating.

8. Book signings are fun.

9. Book signings at bars are more fun. (See photo above of Bill Mueller, Lou Turner, and Michael Flynn at the Boom Boom Room in St. Charles.)

10. Buying books at book signings to give as gifts helps writers succeed and makes the friends who receive them very happy.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Momentary Confusion and Unexpected Joy

After momentary confusion, unexpected joy is what I felt this morning while drinking a cup of tea and reading e-mails. As I scrolled through my messages, I found one from yesterday afternoon.

Editor D'ette Corona from Chicken Soup for the Soul wrote to congratulate me that my story "Unexpected Joy" has been selected . . . .

Oh, wow! That's great news!

. . . to appear in their proprietary Christmas manuscript.

Wait, what? Proprietary Christmas manuscript?

I kept reading.

"Proprietary" means the book will not be widely available, but only at specific merchants during the Christmas season. Okay, that sounds good.

In this case the merchants are Wal-Mart and Barnes and Noble. Woo hoo! That sounds fantastic!

At Wal-Mart, the book will be called Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Gift of Christmas.

At Barnes & Noble, it will be called Chicken Soup for the Soul: Tales of Christmas.

Both books will be special gift editions -- hardcover, with pretty endpapers and a red ribbon place holder. Sounds lovely!

I will receive my payment and complimentary copies of each book in October or November. Cha-ching!

The editors are not sure of the exact release dates yet. That's okay. I can wait.

Once the release date is announced and cover is available I will post it here.

I am so excited!

I am also very greatful to the members of Coffee and Critique for their suggestions and comments on my manuscript-- especially Alice who helped with last-minute suggestions the night of the deadline.

Thanks guys and gals, you are the best!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Call for Submissions - The Lindenwood Review

The Lindenwood Review is the new littery journal of Lindenwood University in St. Charles, MO.

Editors are currently accepting submissions of fiction, poetry, and personal essays for Issue 1, which will be published in Spring 2011.

Submission deadline is December 15, 2010.

Notification of acceptance by March 2011.

Guidelines are available at the Lindenwood Review blog.

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...