Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Storm Country Anthology from Joplin Writers' Guild and MWG

As a follow-up to my recent posts about how Joplin residents and writers are helping heal after the May 22 F-5 tornado in Joplin, Missouri, I found information about the Storm Country Anthology on Claudia's Page. Claudia is the president of the Joplin Writers' Guild. Here's what I found on her blog:

"The Joplin Writers' Guild and the Missouri Writers' Guild are going to join forces to produce a small book of weather related stories and poems. The proceeds from the book sales will all go to the Joplin school system to buy books for the libraries they lost. Two grade schools, a high school, and a Catholic grade school were lost that I know of right now. Estimates are in the millions to replace these schools and the fall term is only three months away!"

Here's what they're looking for in submissions from Midwest writers for the Storm Country Anthology. (You can also find a link to the official guidelines on Claudia's blog or on Storm Country.)

Theme: Storms and severe weather in the Midwest, including tornadoes, floods, snow, ice, and wind.

Who can submit: Midwest writers**

What: Original work of Fiction, Nonfiction, Poetry

* Maximum of three submissions per author/poet

* Fiction - Any genre up to 1,500 words

* Poetry - Up to 30 lines each

* Nonfiction - Features, essays, memoirs up to 1,500 words

When: Submission period is June 1-July 15, 2011

How: Submit typed Word document in 12-point Times New Roman font

* Include name, address, phone number, and e-mail address on first page of submission

* For prose, three-space paragraph indention and double-spaced manuscript

* For poetry, single-spaced manuscript

* Number pages

* Proofread carefully and check spelling and grammar

* Author retains all rights

* Include third-person author bio no longer than 75 words

Where: E-mail to joplinwritersguild@yahoo.com or

Mail to: Claudia Mundell, 1815 River Street, Carthage, Missouri 64836

Why: Proceeds from book sales will be used to buy books for school libraries damaged by the tornado.

**If you have any questions about the anthology, or for the official guidelines, including theme, format, or who is eligible to submit, please e-mail joplinwritersguild@yahoo.com

After the Storm Country Anthology is published (estimated pub date is at the end of the summer) I will post information here about how to purchase copies.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Memorial Day Remembrances and In Flanders Field Poem

On this Memorial Day please join me in remembering those who died serving our country.

I am remembering two friends of my youth who lost their lives in Vietnam.

James Donnelly, a classmate at Most Holy Name of Jesus School in North St. Louis, took me to the eighth-grade dance on the S.S. Admiral, and bought me my first corsage (pink and white carnations). The eighth-grade dance in 1962 was my first "official" date where a boy asked me to go out. Six years later James lost his life while serving as an Army soldier in Vietnam.

Mike Blassie was my escort to the St. Alphonsus (Rock) High School senior prom. Rock High was an all-girls' school, so we invited the boys--and Mike graciously accepted my invitation. That night he talked about how excited he was to be going to the Air Force Academy after graduation. First Lieutenant Michael Blassie's remains rested, for a time, in the Tomb of the Unknowns in Arlington National Cemetery before being returned to St. Louis in July, 1998.

Please take time today to remember James and Michael, along with all the fallen who gave their "last full measure of devotion" while serving our country.

If you've ever wondered the connection between the red poppies you see on sale around Memorial Day, read "In Flanders Field," the poem by Canadian Army Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae. The link to the Arlington National Cemetery also has an explanation about the writing of In Flanders Field.

In Flanders Fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Loaves and Fishes and the Tornado in Joplin

Sunday's tornado in Joplin continues to be in the news, on my mind -- and in my heart.

This week, a local business put out the word they would have a truck collecting donations on Thursday at a local grocery store not far from our home. The business asked for donations of food and personal-care items that the folks in Joplin could use as they recover from the tornado damage.

My husband Walt and I decided we wanted to do something.

We aren't wealthy. We're both retired and, for more than six years, we have been raising our grandchildren, Cari and Michael. Our lives have been touched in the past by the kindness of strangers who helped us through dark times. While our days have been marked by deep sorrow, we've also been blessed in many ways and live a comfortable and joyful life.

Anyway, yesterday while I was at Michael's school for field day, Walt went out and bought enough groceries to fill a large banana box with canned goods, shampoo, toothpaste, soap, wet wipes, and mostly personal-use items.

When he got to the parking lot of the grocery store, he was amazed and happy at what he saw. The parking lot was full of people waiting to hand over their donations, while more than five grocery carts overflowing with previously donated items were being loaded into the truck. Walt said he saw people donating everything from dog food to diapers. One woman alone donated 1,000 diapers.

The business sponsoring the event had hoped to fill one truck to drive down to Joplin. As it turns out, by the end of the day they had filled three tractor trailers!

Last night, as Walt described what he saw in the grocery store parking lot, I thought about the miracle of the Loaves and the Fishes. After Jesus finished preaching, he asked his disciples to pass out food to the hungry crowd. Only five loaves and two fishes could be found. The food was passed out and Jesus blessed it. After everyone was fed, twelve baskets of food were left over.

In times like this, when our hearts are open and we are moved by the Spirit, our love is not divided--it is multiplied.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Update on Joplin Tornado - Writing through the Pain

I have a bit of uplifting news to pass along from the Joplin writing community.

The Joplin Chapter of the Missouri Writers' Guild, in conjunction with the MWG and other MWG chapters, is planning to produce an anthology.

The tentative theme for the anthology is weather. All the proceeds from sales of the anthology will go to buy books for schools in Joplin.

The anthology is in the early planning stage, but as details are finalized I will post them here.

Until then, please continue to pray for the residents of Joplin, the Joplin and Missouri writing community, and everyone across the United States affected by the tornadoes this spring.

Monday, May 23, 2011

The Tornado in Joplin

My heart is heavy this morning thinking about all the Missourians in the Southwest corner of our state in Joplin who have been affected by the deadly tornado that hit yesterday. At bedtime, the news reported 24 dead, but this morning the count is up to 89. I get chills listening to audio reports and watching news footage of the devastation.

Except for thunderstorms that rumbled through early evening, our area was spared. The tornado sirens went off as the sky darkened last night, but the twister abated by the time it got to the Eastern part of the state.

I have the folks from Joplin in my prayers, especially my writing friends who live there. I got to know several writers from Joplin while I served on the board of the Missouri Writers' Guild and later when I served as the president of MWG. I was able to chat with a couple of them at the MWG conference last month.

The Joplin writers are such a talented and generous group. Each year at the MWG conference awards ceremony, the writers at their table have their names called in just about every category. They set the high standard for writers throughout the rest of the state.

While I'm praying for my writing friends and all the residents in Joplin, I realize that life goes on, and one way to work through times like this is to write. So, while my friends in Joplin are on my mind and in my prayers, I'm going to continue to do what I know--and write.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Elizabeth Lyon (Part V) Wrap-up and Writing Gems

Today we come to the end of Elizabeth Lyon's blog interview/workshop (or blogshop as my blogger buddy Cathy so aptly named it).

We've covered a lot of territory in these posts, and I've learned much from Elizabeth about the craft of writing. She has been open with her answers and generous with her time and wisdom. I sincerely appreciate it, and I'm certain my visitors do too!

Thanks again to Delois McGrew and Louella Turner for making arrangements for me to interview Elizabeth.

In this wrap-up, Elizabeth answers questions about writing advice and lets readers know how to contact her.

Donna: What is the best writing advice you’ve received? What’s the worst?

Elizabeth: Keep writing. It’s a cliché, I know. I think it is the most difficult advice to implement because writing is a solo affair and the rewards—an audience, financial support—often don’t appear until years down the road, if ever. Steady practice over time, not talent, is the main indicator of success. I wish it weren’t so—all that work! Family and community, earning a living, and taking care of health command a great deal of our life energies. That’s also why I believe in critique groups—you get an audience, encouragement, and deadlines.

The worst advice? Quit. Take up crochet or something. There are writers with talent and then there is you. Everything you could dream of has already been written. Send all of these awful messages to the place of eternal fire.

We’ve learned, I think, that setting goals and accomplishing them is a matter of choice and follow through. Schedule writing time like you would a doctor’s appointment for which you would have to pay if you missed it. If it is important, you’ll do it. Finishers win the game.

Donna: Any last words of advice for writers?

Elizabeth: Every writer deserves publication, but not all writing meets publishing standards. Do your best and complete the circle from idea to creation to audience. I believe in print-on-demand self-publishing and in getting digital format to sell your book to e-readers. Try for Plan A—usually representation and publication by a traditional publisher. But if you don’t succeed, self-publish.

Don’t forget to use a proofreader!

Donna: What’s the best way for writers to contact you?

Elizabeth: I prefer email: elyon123@comcast.net. I usually have a three-month backlog of editing commitments. If interested, contact me to get penciled into the schedule. My policies, preferences, and fees are on my website: www.elizabethlyon.com. I’m not opposed to phone calls; they are much more personable, after all. My phone number is 541-357-4181.

Donna: Thank you so much for sharing your time and wisdom. You truly are a gem to the writing community!

Elizabeth: Make that a diamond. J

Donna: Speaking of diamonds, I won't be posting for the next few days because I'll be leaving tomorrow morning to attend Elizabeth's "From Dust to Diamonds" workshop on Saturday at the OWL meeting at the College of the Ozarks.

Thanks for visiting my blog this week to read my interview with Elizabeth. Hope everyone has a wonderful weekend. See you next week!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Elizabeth Lyon (Part IV) Manuscript Makeover, Revision, and a Haiku

In today's interview, Elizabeth begins her discussion of her most recent book on writing, Manuscript Makeover, with a Haiku.

Donna: Your sixth book, Manuscript Makeover: Revision Techniques no Fiction Writer Can Afford to Ignore, has been called “one of the eight great writing books for 2008 . . . and perhaps the most comprehensive book on revising fiction.” Will you please briefly summarize the highlights of Manuscript Makeover?

Elizabeth: Now you’ve put me on the spot! Let’s see, summarize 100,000 words of instruction. There must be a haiku for that.

Use check-off lists

At the end of each chapter

To fix all problems

I made Part I on Style, where most how-to books tuck style into the end and give it short shrift (you got it or you don’t). I placed it first because I’ve heard countless agents say they are looking for “voice,” “a fresh original style.” Without distinctive writing, you’ll have trouble selling your novel. I wanted to help everyone set the imagination on fire and re-capture lost originality, first and foremost.

Then I developed a fat Part II on Craft: structure, structure, structure. Get the architecture of a whole book planned and then shift to interior design. I firmly believe that if novelists start with a solid foundation in structure, whatever they write can be polished into that diamond talked about earlier. Recently, I edited a mystery where the whole book structure included about three novels in one. It’s very difficult to tell a writer that what they may have labored on for years should be demolished. I spent about 30 pages suggesting what great ideas could be salvaged and how to put them into a new solid structure for one novel.

Part III includes 100 pages on Characterization and how to put the characters behind the steering wheel of plot. We should all aspire to such believable and memorable characters that they outlive us. Scarlett O’Hara, Tom Sawyer, Jo March, Miss Marple, Sherlock Holmes. We can create classic characters. Deeper characterization is the answer to most problems in writing, and solid techniques of structure serve characterization, not vice versa.

Part IV offers revision techniques for Marketing: how to improve the pitch, query letter, and synopsis, to gain literary agent representation and publication. Because the rejection rate is so ferocious, these marketing documents must be competitive. The great irony is that fiction writers must write fantastic nonfiction letters in order to gain a request to read their fiction.

Donna: Thanks for summarizing your latest book, and I love your Haiku! What can you tell us about the other books you've written?

Elizabeth: As a writing teacher and book editor, I’m a generalist; I edit almost every type of book. My first writing book covered how to sell nonfiction books. I’m proud to say that Nonfiction Book Proposals Anybody Can Write has been kept in print since 1995 and is considered one of the standards on proposal preparation.

Next I covered how to sell novels at a time when there was zip on how to write queries and synopses. I still get fan mail and testimonials for The Sell Your Novel Toolkit, first published in 1997.

In terms of the books I’ve written, the cart arrived before the horse—how to sell before how to write. With A Writer’s Guide to Fiction and A Writer’s Guide to Nonfiction, I filled that gap, and had the pleasure of sharing my unique style of teaching craft. One of the goals I set for myself with each book was to make a contribution to the literature and not merely to rehash existing ideas.

Second, because I see my approach as exceedingly practical (a Midwest farm girl watching my father fix equipment), I also sought to break down my how-to instruction into steps. The sections “Going South” in the Writer’s Guide books, and all of Manuscript Makeover, are organized by what can go wrong and how to fix it.

I have two out-of-print books. National Directory of Editors & Writers (2005) profiled 520 freelancers living in 48 states. I wanted to provide a resource for writers and non-writers to compare and select a best editor or ghostwriter for their project.

In 1981, I self-published my first book, Mabel: The Story of One Midwife, and intend to bring it back for e-readers. The first third of it was a biography of Mabel Dzata, a midwife from Ghana who moved to Oregon and performed home births (including “catching” my two children) and the last two thirds was a collection of home birth stories. I was once told it is a “midwifery classic.”

I’m sure I was born with a big fat pencil in my hands. From about age six on I was on a joyride of writing—short stories and articles, letters and diaries, very bad poetry, novellas and novels (fantasy, speculative sci-fi, y/a and women’s fiction), how to manuals, ghostwriting, book-length memoirs, a work of philosophy, and a children’s picture book.

When the opportunity presented itself to teach writing and build an editing business, I shifted away from my own creative writing. With book contracts dangled in front of my nose, I couldn’t look at gift horse in the mouth. Twenty years later, I finally figured out that I should stop writing writing books if I want to live long enough to enjoy my own creative writing. That is why Manuscript Makeover is the last of my six books for writers.

Donna: That's an impressive list! And I can't wait to buy my copy of Manuscript Makeover while I'm attending Elizabeth's workshop at OWL this weekend.

Tomorrow will be the final installment of my interview with Elizabeth, so hurry back for her wrap up and final words of wisdom.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

A Writers Guide to Fiction - Interview with Elizabeth Lyon (Part III)

In today's interview, Eliabeth Lyon discusses her book on fiction writing and answers a question about sources of inspiration.

According to its cover, A Writer's Guide to Fiction is a "concise, practical guide for novelists and short-story tellers."

When I checked this book out of the library a few weeks ago I thought I would breeze through it. Instead, I have studied it and taken pages of notes--oh, and renewed it so I could read it again. At the OWL workshop this weekend I'm going to buy a copy of the book and see if I can get Elizabeth to sign it for me.

Here are my questions and Elizabeth's answers about this wonderful book on fiction writing, including an explanation of why workshops are so important.

Donna: In my opinion, every fiction writer should keep a copy of A Writer’s Guide to Fiction on their bookshelves and refer to it often. I’ve studied your book and have pages of notes. You open with the language of fiction and the differences between story and plot then continue with the importance of characterization, structure, style, description, setting, imagery, dialogue, etc. What are the most important nuggets of wisdom writers should take away from this book?

Elizabeth: You have to fill your left brain with a clear understanding of craft, then cross that brain barrier into the right brain, to write creatively.

Translation involves practice, and practice builds skill. That’s why workshops are so important—I always have short exercises after instruction to put know-how into action. How-to books like mine are best read many times, not just once (we forget most of what we read if we don’t implement it).

Read about craft to diagnose problems in your writing. Then revise. In particular, I wrote Manuscript Makeover to be a hands-on guideline for revision. My books on craft, and those by other authors, should be reread over a whole career. We are ready to “hear” ideas at different times in our growth as writers.

Donna: After reading the chapter on “Problems of Characterization, Structure, Technique, and Style” in A Writer’s Guide to Fiction, I want to revise every short story I’ve ever written, even the ones that have been published. While I realize that isn’t practical, I’d like to know what one or two tips writers should keep in mind when revising their manuscripts?

Elizabeth: Avoid trying to make all revisions at the same time. Do that and you’ll probably need an adult beverage.

Take one problem, such as character or setting description and go through a first time with a yellow highlighter and use it for where you have already provided description. That way, you can see how often or how little you’ve supplied details of description (typically underwritten in most of our novels).

Then, go back in and “open up” description but make sure not to become a reporter with a video camera. Instead, stay in role and describe characters or setting from your point-of-view character’s opinions, experiences, likes and dislikes, and emotions. Now you’ve turned description into characterization.

Donna: Do you believe some writers are divinely inspired?

Elizabeth: Sure. And some are inspired by their dogs, news stories, and dreams. If you mean, are some writers gifted, my answer is yes.

I’ve worked with some writers whose talent is beyond mere mortals and to date, none have been published. Sometimes the current of talent is like a river at flood stage, yet the author’s commitment to learn craft to successfully channel that talent isn’t there.

There are Mozart’s and Beethoven’s in the literary world.

Check back tomorrow to learn more about revision and Elizabeth's latest writing book, Manuscript Makeover.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Elizabeth Lyon Interview (Part II) "From Dust to Diamonds"

On Saturday, May 21 2011, Elizabeth Lyon will give a "From Dust to Diamonds" workshop from 9:00 a.m. - 4:30 p.m. during the Ozarks Writers League (OWL) quarterly meeting.

Ms. Lyon is best-known for her writer’s guides: Manuscript Makeover, A Writer’s Guide to Fiction, A Writer’s Guide to Nonfiction, The Sell Your Novel Tool Kit, and Nonfiction Book Proposals Anybody can write. Besides being a prolific author, she has also worked as a successful independent book editor and writing teacher for two decades.
The OWL meetings are held at the
College of the Ozarks in Hollister, MO, just minutes from Branson.

The "From Dust to Diamonds" workshop is free to OWL members.

Visitors may attend for $10.

Lunch will be $7, and registration must be made in advance with Delois McGrew deloism@gmail.com.

The workshop will be presented in the auditorium of Plaster Business Building, located on Opportunity Avenue, on the College of the Ozarks campus.

Registration begins at 8:30. Get there early for a good seat!

Meeting opens at 9:00 with announcements.

At 9:15 - Elizabeth's workshop on "Writing for Voice, Revising for Style," begins.

After the catered lunch break at noon (on the patio), the annual OWL auction will commence in the auditiorium. Last year's auction raised over $1,500, and OWL President Delois McGrew is hoping to top that figure this year.

At 2:15 Elizabeth's workshop continues with "Writing for Character Driven Plot, Revising for a Page Turner."

Meeting will end at 4:30, of course there will be breaks during the morning and afternoon.

For details about attending the workshop or about OWL, visit the OWL website or e-mail OWL President Delois McGrew deloism@gmail.com

Here is Part II of my interview with Elizabeth, where she gives a preview of her OWL presentation on "From Dust to Diamonds."

Donna: I love the title of “Dust to Diamonds,” a workshop you will be giving at the Ozarks Writers League meeting on May 21. What does that title mean?

Elizabeth: The word “dust” means raw ore that must be processed to extract the diamonds—and even then they need polishing to catch the eye. Our rough drafts are “dust,” raw material. We’re the diamond masters; our job is to extract and then polish the diamonds. Every rough draft of a novel (or any other book) has potential for becoming a diamond.

Donna: In the morning workshop session at OWL you are talking about "Writing for Voice, Revising for Style." What will you cover during that session?

Elizabeth: Over the years, I heard a number of professionals—authors and agents—claim that style can’t be taught. Excuse me! That just made me mad and determined to learn how to teach improvement of style. Society needs conformity to assure law and order. To an artist censorship and conformity is like a Mac truck rolling over individuality. Too often our writing sounds generic, as memorable and exciting as governmental reports. Ugh! I have an in-class exercise to stir the imagination and retrieve original use of language. Second, I’ll hand over a host of techniques for easy “wordsmithing” to strengthen sentences and passages in a way that adds color and edge.

Donna: In the afternoon workshop session at OWL you will discuss "Writing for a Character-Driven Plot, Revising for a Page Turner." Briefly describe what you'll cover during the afternoon.

Elizabeth: Too often, the writer is a bully pushing the point-of-view character off stage, because the writer has her own goals, usually to hold a press conference and brief the reader. Scene structure with a character-defined goal puts the character back on center stage. Story goals and scene goals plant suspense and the higher the stakes—for the character—the better. I’ll show how to create multiple levels of tension and suspense for the “page turner.” What about the poor author’s needs? You’ll learn how to be sneaky, how to not only show don’t tell, but to tell well. Hook the reader in every sentence.

Thanks for the preview of your workshop, Elizabeth, I am looking forward to hearing the rest in person at the OWL meeting on Saturday!

Tomorrow in Part III of my interview, Elizabeth will answer a couple of my questions about her information-packed book, A Writer's Guide to Fiction.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Elizabeth Lyon Interview (Part I) - Common Mistakes, Characters and Heroes

Please join me in welcoming Elizabeth Lyon , book editor, author, instructor and speaker to Donna's Book Pub.

Elizabeth will be speaking at the quarterly Ozarks Writers League meeting on May 21 at the College of the Ozarks in Hollister, MO, just outside of Branson. For details about
Elizabeth's visit to OWL, check out their website.

Thanks to Delois McGrew, president of OWL, and Louella Turner for arranging for my interview.

I e-mailed Elizabeth about a dozen interview questions, which she answered promptly and thoroughly. To give proper space and time to each, I've divided my questions and her answers into five parts.

In Part I of my interview, Elizabeth discusses character, how to fix common writing problems, and shares the names of some of her literary heroes.

Donna: You have been an independent book editor and writing teacher for two decades, and you are the author of six books on writing. As an editor and a teacher, what are some of the most common mistakes writers make that are easily fixable?

Elizabeth: I’ll break my answer down into areas of craft:

Ego—or maybe that isn’t fixable. I had an editing client long ago who contacted me every time a first-time novelist got a giant advance and was a bestseller. “Why not me?” she asked. The unwillingness to eat humble pie and work hard is surprisingly common.

You asked for craft mistakes. Weak scene structure shows up in 90% of the novels I edit. It’s easy to fix and we’ll cover the steps to correct this. Scenes, goal-directed action, make up 80% of most novels. It is fundamental to know how to write them in your sleep. I also like to add how to add a secondary source of suspense that comes from character development. Oh, let’s add a third level from the environment. Hook the reader at multiple levels. We’ll cover this in the workshop.

Two-dimensional characters that come across like cartoons or stereotypes is common weakness. The last character to become interesting in almost every novel I’ve edited is the protagonist. Go figure! Characters begin to become three-dimensional when writers weave in a back story of a traumatic event that wounded the character and gives them a need. Love, respect, self-determination. Reveal snippets of the past and show the character seeking to fill the need and voila—three-dimensional interesting characters.

“Wordsmithing” corrections make giant improvements: Change as many to-be verbs into dynamic past-tense verbs as possible. Kill dead weight—delete as many small, unnecessary prepositional phrases as possible (Ex: to her, as he thought). Get extra style points by adding similes.

Donna: A critique group I belong to frequently discusses the subject of character. One topic of discussion is the “right” number of characters. I’ve heard from one writing teacher that a writer should have no more than 3-5 characters in a short story. Is there a “magic number” of characters for a short story, novel, or even a scene within a story?

Elizabeth: Of course the only accurate answer is “No!” Anything goes with creativity—technically. If you can pull it off, you can break every rule in the book. That said, most writers are not in that league. For short stories, it is difficult to develop three-dimensional characters--3 characters much less 5. I can see having 5, if several are thinly drawn or “bit”. Stick to one point-of-view character for all but literary short stories. For long short stories, you may be able to use a scene break and develop a second point-of-view character.

Novels are a different matter. Limiting viewpoint to one or two characters can help a beginning novelist to gain control over the elements of craft. Three is one of those magical numbers that facilitates triangulation, conflict, and variety. Some genres have many points of view, but I do recommend aiming for no more than 5, in general. Avoid use of omniscient, all-seeing, endless possibilities as a viewpoint.

Donna: Who are your literary heroes?

Elizabeth: For every one author, I would be leaving out a dozen more. I loved Dostoyevsky and Dickens. I am inspired by Ray Bradbury, was thrilled as a child by Andre Norton, and captivated by Frank Herbert. I enjoy Jayne Anne Krentz, J.A. Jance, and Lee Childs. I would choose to be reborn as Barbara Kingsolver. Alice Walker blew me away. I get great laughs from the Devil’s Harbor comic mystery series by my author friend, Carolyn J. Rose. Dean Koontz and Stephen King are master writers, not to be pigeon-holed as horror writers. I just finished Racing in the Rain and loved it.

Check back on Monday for Part II of Elizabeth's interview for a preview of what she'll cover in her May 21 OWL workshop, "From Dust to Diamonds."

Friday, May 13, 2011

** Special Announcement: Five-Part Post of my Interview with Elizabeth Lyon **

I'm so excited to announce the dates and topics of the five-part post of my interview with acclaimed editor, author, and writing instructor--ELIZABETH LYON, who will be giving a workshop at the Ozarks Writers League (OWL) quarterly meeting on Saturday, May 21.

Elizabeth Lyon has been an international editor and writing teacher for two decades. She is author of A Writers' Guide to Fiction, A Writer's Guide to Nonfiction, The Sell Your Novel Tool Kit, Nonfiction Book Proposals Anybody Can Write, and National Directory of Editors & Writers. Her most recent book on writing, Manuscript Makeover, has been described as "perhaps the most comprehensive book on revising fiction."

Here are the topics and dates I will post my interview questions and Elizabeth's answers:






I hope you will stop by between May 14 and May 19 to read what Elizabeth has to say about writing, editing, and revising. She truly is a gem of the writing community.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Goldilocks, Golden Locks, Happy Monkeys and Critique Groups

For over a week I've been working on an article for a newsletter about what makes a good critique group.

Over the years I've belonged to a few crit groups, but I wanted to get perspectives from other writers about their groups. To gain some insight I queried a cross-section of writers and asked for feedback.

I expected to hear back from maybe a handful of writers, but was pleasantly surprised to receive e-mails from more than a dozen!

Alice, who belongs to Coffee and Critique (C&C), a critique group I co-founded with Lou Turner, compared finding our group with the Goldilocks fairy tale. Some previous groups Alice had belonged too gave her nothing but compliments, another was brutal, but our group points out sterengths as well as weaknesses in her works. In Alice's words, our group is "not too soft ... not too hard ... but just right." I love her analogy.

Another writer who responded is Lisa, who lives in New York and belongs to a group called The Happy Monkeys. Even though I don't know why the group is called The Happy Monkeys, and Lisa didn't explain how they got their name (it's a long story, she wrote), Lisa's group sounds great. Lisa wrote that her group works because the members will tell her when something is wonderful and will also tell her when something needs work.

A common element among several responses I received is that writers want honest feedback given in a tactful manner. As far as receiving critiques--have a thick skin and be able to take it gracefully.

Which brings me to my second project--a short story I'm working on for a Western anthology.

The main character is Bridie (short for Bridget) O'Shea, a teenage girl who gets tricked into leaving Missouri and finds herself working at a "Joy House" in Indian Territory.

The short story has four characters. One of them is a fictional U. S. Army Colonel who visits Bridie. The story is pure fiction, but the colonel's character is based on an actual historical figure.

The setting is in the 1870s in Indian Territory. The colonel is particular about is appearance ---especially his long golden locks.

I did a lot of research, including the time, setting--especially the details about the colonel. I decided not to name his character, but given the context and with all the clues and historical references I included, I felt certain members of my critique group would "get" his identity. For the most part they did.

Last week I read the first five pages. Most folks figured out the colonel was based on George Armstrong Custer.

Yesterday I read the last five pages. Someone who wasn't present last week thought I needed to name the character or folks wouldn't know who he was. My response was something akin to "Well, then they'd be stupid."

Did I actually say that? Yep. It just slipped out. So much for having a thick skin or receiving critiques gracefully. I apologized afterwards, but still . . .

Someone else commented there are too many characters in the story. But, hey, I only have four characters!

Someone else commented one of the character names sounded Mexican and not Indian. Did they miss the part in the story where Custer spent time in the Mexican War?

My lesson in all of this is no matter how much research I've done and how well I know my characters and story--if the reader doesn't get it, he isn't stupid, I haven't done my job.

No matter how much I've learned about belonging to a critique group, receiving feedback gracefully and having a thick skin--I've still got a lot to learn.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Whispering Prairie Press Contest Open

Whispering Praire Press Contest is seeking submissions from writers over 18 for its 2011 Poetry, Flash Fiction, and Essay Writing Contests.

Poetry: 36-line limit

Flash Fiction: 1,000 word limit

Non-fiction Personal Essay: 1,000 word limit

Postmark Deadline: June 30, 2011

Prizes in each category: $100/$50/$25

Entry Fee: $5 each or 3 for $10. (Can mix categories)

(Student discount 2 for $5)

For complete contest guidelines, visit the WPP website. Results announced August 1, 2011, and winners' names posted on Kansas City Voices.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

ORA Contest and Conference Information

Are you in the mood for romance?

If so, the Ozark Romance Authors have a contest and a conference for you.

New to writing? Don't fear. Their motto is "helping new and seasoned writers hone their skills."

The contest deadline is May 16, so if you're interested, you need to act fast!

The conference is July 23 in Springfield, MO--in the heart of the Ozarks--and the registration fee is very reasonable.

Speaker topics include revision, plotting, dialogue, pacing, backstory, transitions, an agent/editor panel, and much more. For complete details click on the conference link.

I was asked to post this information on my blog as a favor to a fellow-Missouri writer. Now that I've read the list of speakers coming to the conference, I'm thinking what a great line-up and an excellent opportunity for writers--even if you don't write Romance!

Friday, May 6, 2011

Winners and Welcomes and Happy Mother's Day

Thanks to my guest Mari L. McCarthy for her for post this week on "Using Your Five Senses While Journaling."

The winner of Mari's e-book, "27 Days of Journaling to Health and Happiness," is:

Clara Gillow Clark

Clara, please e-mail Mari at Mari (at) createwritenow (dot) com to make arrangements to receive your book.

Also thanks to everyone who joined the celebration of Children's Book Week by leaving comments on my post about Children and Mothers and Giveaways.

The randomly-selected winners of the ARCs (who also included their e-mails along with their comments) are:

Life's Beautiful Path wins the ARC of GIRLS BEST FRIEND

Tiger85 wins the ARC of BENJAMIN PRATT

I will e-mail you two to get your mailing addresses.

Again, thanks to everyone for your continued support and interest in my blog.

If you didn't win one of this week's contests, check back next month because I have some more ARCs to give away--and either later this month or early next month I will be interviewing another writer and giving away a copy of her book.

Also, please join me in welcoming the newest followers to Donna's Book Pub.

Mari L. McCarthy
Debra Mayhew

I hope my new followers will visit often and stay long.

Last, and certainly not least, Happy Mother's Day to all of my visitors who are mothers. May your special day on Sunday and the rest of the year be filled with joy, hope, and happiness!

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Celebrate Cinco de Mayo the "Write" Way

To celebrate Cinco de Mayo at her high school today, my granddaughter's Spanish II class is bringing in treats with a Mexican flair.

Last week, each student was assigned one or two recipes and was asked to bring in the food today to share with the rest of the class.

Yesterday afternoon my granddaughter and I went shopping for ingredients we didn't have on hand. She brought with her recipes for two Mexican dishes she found online--Churros and Hot Popcorn.

Shopping was the easy part, except maybe for trying to find popcorn other than the microwavable kind. After we got home, Cari busied herself in the kitchen laying out the storage containers of flour and sugar, along with the butter, salt, oil, and cinnamon. Her brother Michael helped out by digging out the air-pop popcorn machine from the back of a cabinet.

I cleaned out the popper while Cari diligently followed the recipe directions, measuring the water, the butter, and all the dry ingredients, putting them into a pot, turning on the heat, and waiting for the mixture to thicken.

It never did.

She called me to the stove and told me something wasn't right with the Churros. She thought maybe the recipe measurements were wrong. We dumped out that batch then checked and double checked the recipe amounts against the measuring cups and spoons. She printed out a different recipe and we tried again. After our second try, the batter was another watery mess and still wouldn't form into a ball.

When I dipped a finger into the cup she used to measure flour, I discovered the problem. She had grabbed the cannister of powdered sugar rather than flour. On our third try, the mixture was much better. Rather than starting from scratch, we added flour to the watery powdered-sugar-butter mix then formed the mixture into a ball. The powdered sugar gave the Churros batter a sweet taste, even before being formed, deep fried, and rolled into cinnamon and white sugar.

Making the Hot Popcorn was also an adventure. As the corn popped--some of it bounced out of the bowl across the kitchen--Harley, our black lab, circled the island chasing errant kernels. After Cari sprinkled Parmesan cheese and Chili Powder on the popcorn, it gave it a kick. Not bad.

Except for cleaning up the mess, it was a fun evening. I'm sure the high schoolers in Cari's Spanish class will enjoy all the treats she and her classmates bring in today.

The lesson I learned is that cooking is a bit like writing. To get the best results, it helps to plan ahead and have the right equipment and ingredients on hand, but occassionally happy accidents create something original--an unexpected delight that becomes a treasured family memory.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Guest Blogger, Mari L. McCarthy, and a Giveaway

This morning, as part of the Women on Writing WOW! Author's Blog Tour, I'm pleased to welcome my guest blogger, Mari L. McCarthy, who will share with my visitors her thoughts on "Using Your Five Senses While Journaling."

As a special token of her appreciation to visitors to Donna's Book Pub, Mari is giving away an e-copy of her book, "27 Days of Journaling to Health and Happiness." To be eligible for the e-book just leave a comment between now and May 6. Winner will be announced after that date.

Mari L. McCarthy is The Journaling Therapy Specialist, founder of Journaling for the Health of It™. Please visit Mari's blog at http://www.createwritenow.com/journal-writing-blog/. In 27 Days of Journaling to Health and Happiness (http://www.createwritenow.com/peace-of-mind-and-body---27-days-of-journaling-to-health--happiness/), Mari walks you through an easy process for accessing your natural inner strengths. Mari's latest publication is titled, Who Are You? How to Use Journaling Therapy to Know and Grow Your Life. See http://www.createwritenow.com/journaling-therapy-ebook/ for details.

Heres's what Mari has to say about "Using Your Five Senses While Journaling."

Do you sometimes seem to run out of ideas about what to write, even in your journal? Do you have dry spells, in which your words seem uninspired?

Do you ever arrive at a fresh page, eager to write, and then grind to a halt, not knowing where to begin? Or have you ever hesitated, doodling and procrastinating because the "right" way to start writing isn't forthcoming?

I obsess sometimes, worrying that I will run out of ideas. For some crazy reason, the thought of not having useful thoughts is one of my most fearsome and persistent mental monsters.

I depend on my creativity in so many ways. I don't know what I'd do without it.

But like just about all of our fears, this one is purely imaginary, totally fabricated from groundless assumptions. I know this is true because if I ever sense a lack of creativity, or if I don't know where to turn, I have only to tune in to my senses.

You know, the old ears, eyes, nose, tongue, and fingertips. Listening, looking, smelling, tasting, touching. You can add in your sixth sense, too, but we'll save that for another article.

If you can still use any one of your five senses, you have instant access to more creativity than you can ever use.

Right now, for instance: I hear crickets. I see night falling. I smell the lingering flavors of dinner we just finished. I taste its satisfaction. I touch the sagging flesh under my chin.

Clearly, there are infinite stories wrapped up in every one of those sensations. And if I wait five minutes, there will be another set of five.

If you doubt me on this, try the following:

  1. Open your journal to a new page, and then concentrate all your attention for a few moments on one of your senses.

  2. Let your awareness rest on what you are receiving through your ears, for instance, or what the inside of your mouth feels like, or the sensation of the tip of your thumb massaging the tip of your forefinger.

  3. Transitioning from sensing to writing as seamlessly as you can, start moving your pen on the page.

What happens thereafter should be noted. And then the process should be repeated the next day.

Following this formula provides five days of journaling on different sensations, which can be repeated as a cycle, endlessly.

It's true that you'll most likely dispense with the routine as soon as a tangent takes you elsewhere.

But remember, you can always return to the simple yet keen observation of your current sensations to jumpstart your writing or creativity of any kind.

Thank you, Mari, for your advice and stimulating exercise.

If you would like to enter to win Mari's e-book giveaway, leave a comment on this post by Friday, May 6.

Good luck, and happy journaling!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Welcome and An Announcement

It's been a few weeks since I've welcomed my new followers, so without further ado, I would like to extend a warm welcome from Donna's Book Pub the following amazing authors, wonderful writers, and vivacious visitors:

Marcia Gaye

Bea Siroa

Elizabeth Mueller

Thanks for joining the fun. Hope you come visit often and stay awhile.

Now for my announcement: As part of the WOW! Author's Blog Tour, tomorrow my guest will be Mari L. McCarthy, author of Peace of Mind & Body: 27 Days of Journaling to Health & Happiness. Mari will discuss using the five senses in writing--and will be giving away an e-book. Hope you'll stop by to read what Mari has to say.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Children and Mothers and Giveaways

Today marks the beginning of Children's Book Week, the national celebration of books and reading for youth. This year there will be events in 25 cities throughout the United States.

To celebrate Children's Book Week, I will give away two Advance Reader's Copies of books I have reviewed over the past few months for Kidsreads.com, a great site to learn about upcoming children's books--as well as contests to win books for kids.

The first ARC I'm giving away is "Girl's Best Friend" by Leslie Margolis, a mystery featuring Maggie Brooklyn Sinclair. Brief summary: While walking dogs in her Brooklyn neighborhood, Maggie notices several pups have gone missing. "Girls Best Friend," published by Bloomsbury Children's Books, is appropriate for young readers aged 8-12 years old.

The second ARC is "Benjamin Pratt and the Keepers of the School: Fear Itself," by Andrew Clements, the author of Frindle. Brief summary: Best friends Ben and Jill have less than a month to save their historic Massachusetts shoolhouse, which is going to be destroyed to make way for an amusement park. "Fear Itself," published by Atheneum Books for Yound Readers, is appropriate for readers aged 7-10 years old.

To win one of these ARCs:

* Sign up and become a follower of my blog and leave a comment on this post.

* If you're already a follower, leave a comment on this post by the end of the week.

* Be sure to include which book you would like to win

* Include your e-mail in your post.

* I will select two names at random.

* Winners' names will be announced on or around May 8th.

Now, on to mothers:

To honor of mothers, my friends at Bookreporter.com are sponsoring their Sixth Annual Mother's Day Contest by giving away a basket filled with books and other goodies.

If you want to enter, act FAST. The deadline to enter is TODAY, May 2.

While you're at the Bookreporter.com site, check out my review of the late New York Times bestselling author Beverly Barton's romantic suspense "Dead by Morning."

Tomorrow I will announce details about this week's special guest blogger. Stay tuned!

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Tra La, It's May, the Lovely Month of May

Every year during the month of May, I think of the lyrics "Tra La It's May, the lovely month of May" from Camelot--one of my favorite musicals.

Like the song in Camelot, May is a month full of hope and promise.

For me, May is already starting off on a happy note.

This morning I opened an e-mail from Linda Fisher, editor of Mozark Press. Linda is attending a conference, but she took time to notify me that my short story, "Look Back, But Don't Stare," has been accepted for possible inclusion in "A Shaker of Margaritas: Cougars on the Prowl."

Thanks to members of my critique group for their suggestions and comments when I brought portions of the story in for critique. Special thanks to Marcia and Alice for detailed edits on the full story. I need to tweek the story a bit to adjust the characters' ages, but that should be an easy fix.

So, I just wanted to share my news before I go off and enjoy this beautiful day.

Wishing you a month full of hope and promises--and lovely surprises!

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...