Friday, August 26, 2011

Contest Time - Cactus Country Anthology Giveaway

At critique group last Tuesday, Lou Turner from High Hill Press surprised us by handing out contributor copies of Cactus Country (Volume I). Cactus Country is "an anthology of Western stories, poetry, articles and artwork from the authors and artists who know the West."

I'm so excited to have my short story "Bridie O'Shea's Golden-Haired Visitor" in the anthology. Other contributors include Spur Award winning writers Dusty Richards, Jory Sherman, Max McCoy, and other esteemed writers.

My excitement is shared with members of our Coffee and Critique group with stories in the anthology: Lou Turner, Doyle Suit, Bill Mueller, and Claudia Shelton. It's so much fun to be published in the same anthology with other writing friends.

When Lou gave me my copy I asked for an additional copy to give away on my blog. Of course she said "Sure!"

So, thanks to Lou, I'm giving away a copy of Cactus Country (Volume I) signed by Spur Award Winning writer Dusty Richards (and me if you want me to sign my name by my story).

One lucky visitor to my blog will win. Here's how:

   * Post a comment by September 1.
   * Mention your favorite cowboy or Western series or movie.
   * Become a new follower of my blog (be sure and let me know you are a new follower) for an extra chance to win
   * Current followers, post a link to this giveaway on your blog for an extra entry-be sure and let me know.
   * Don't forget to include your e-mail in your comment so I'll know how to contact you if you win.

One winner will be selected at random on Sep 1. Winner's name will be announced on Sep 2.

*Contest limited to legal residents of the United States over age 18.

My favorite cowboy? Clint Eastwood in the TV series "Rawhide" and every Western movie with his name attached.

How about you?

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Strange Folk Festival in O'Fallon, Illinois

Some of my closest--and strangest--friends come from the other side of the Mississippi River in Illinois.

While I kid them about being different, Illinois has always had a strong connection for me. I met my husband at Scott Air Force Base in Illinois, our daughter Julie was born there, and we lived there before Walt got shipped to Vietnam. Some of my relatives still live in the Land of Lincoln.

As much as I joke to my friends from the other side of the Mississippi about being strange--and they deny it--I now have proof. Apparently the folks from Southern Illinois have embraced their strangeness--and even have a festival to celebrate it!

The annual Strange Folk Festival will be held September 24 and 25 in the Community Park in O'Fallon. Strange Folk is co-sponsored by the City of O'Fallon Arts Commission and the O'Fallon Public Library. The event is also "the oldest Heartland Indie Arts and Craft Festival." Last year more than 15,000 people attended.

A week or so ago I received an e-mail from Jodi Caticchio, Chairman of the Arts Commission, reminding me about the festival and asking me to spread the word to local writers. In her e-mail she wrote the mid-August deadline to sign up is a "soft deadline," so there's still time to sign up if you live in the metro area and want to participate. There is no fee to participate, and it sounds like a fun event.

Here's a link if you want to sign up. A friend and I might sign up for Sunday, so if we do I hope to see you there because we writers are a bit strange ourselves.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Coming Attractions from Lonnie Whitaker and David Lee Kirkland

I had planned to post these coming attractions yesterday, but like most people, life seems to get in the way when I'm making plans. My grandson only had half a day of school yesterday and invited a friend over, so my day was busy, but lots of fun! On to my Announcements:

The Early Bird Gets the . . . Radio Appearance

Last Friday I interviewed Jill Sheets from radio station KOPN in Columbia. During her interview Jill invited writers to contact her if they wanted to appear on her radio program.

I'm happy to announce that one of my blog followers and writing pals took advantage of Jill's offer. Lonnie Whitaker, Mizzou alum, lawyer, and author of GEESE TO A POOR MARKET, e-mailed earlier this week and thanked me for the information about Jill's program. He wrote that he will be interviewed on Jill's show on Friday, August 26. Not one to let grass grow under his feet, Lonnie will also be speaking at the Rotary Club in Eureka Springs, Arkansas, in October during the week of the Ozarks Creative Writers Conference. Way to go, Lonnie!

Free Admission Festival

Earlier this week I received an e-mail from my long-time writing friend, fiddle player, and wearer of kilts, David Lee "Kirk" Kirkland David is author of THE LAST DARK ELF, TANKA MOMENTS, GOD'S THREE STEP PLAN, and an award-winning short story collection. In his e-mail he told me about The International Festival of Nations August 27-28 at Tower Grove Park in St. Louis.

No matter what your ethnicity or background, this International Festival of Nations has something for you from Irish dancers, Bollywood Shuffle dancers from India, Flamenco dancers from the St. Louis Spanish Cultural Society, American Folk and Blues players--and lots more. Here's the schedule if you want to check it out.

That's all for today. Check back next week when I'll have some strange news to share from across the Mississippi River in the Land of Lincoln.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Notes from Critique Group - The Light Bringer and Other Bright Spots

Yesterday was an exciting day at our Coffee and Critique group. Our usual Tuesday spot at Rendezvous Cafe in O'Fallon, MO was hopping. With 17 of us there it was hard to keep up with what was going on. Good thing I had my nifty timer to keep us on track--sort of--well at least I tried.

We had a few special visitors. I didn't announce our first two guests beforehand to keep it a surprise.

I invited Lake Saint Louis Police Officers Chris Diguiseppi and Mike Force to drop by and talk to us about their new book, THE LIGHT BRINGER. Chris and Mike belonged to our Coffee and Critique group a few years ago when we met on Tuesday evenings at B&N. After we changed locations and went to a days-only schedule, they weren't able to continue coming, and we've missed them a lot.

Thankfully, they continued writing their book, THE LIGHT BRINGER. Yesterday they gave me a copy of their book, which I will review in the next couple weeks. I will also interview Chris and Mike about their publication journey. They had very kind words about how our group helped them in the early stages of their writing. If you get a chance, visit their website and view their book trailer. It is awesome.

Our other special surprise guest was Doyle Suit's youngest granddaughter, Jacqueline. Talk about a doll! She is a lovely ten-year old with a beautiful smile and a quick mind. She and Doyle joined several of us for lunch. It was lots of fun!

Also yesterday Alice Muschany--whom we like to call our own Chicken Soup Queen, with six stories and counting--gave me a copy of A CUP OF COMFORT FOR BREAST CANCER SURVIVORS, which includes her poignant story, "Hidden Treasures." This coming October, in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, I will interview Alice and give away a copy of the book with her story in it.

Stay tuned. On Friday I'll post more announcements about coming events you won't want to miss.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Missouri Warrior Writers Project Anthology Contest Open for Submissions

The Missouri Warrior Writers Project Contest is open for submissions of poetry, fiction and creative nonfiction for its anthology:

Holding Each Elephant's Tail: Voices from the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars

Editors are looking for writing from veterans and active military service personnel of Afghanistan and Iraq about their wartime experience, including deployments, those who have never been deployed, and transition back into civilian life.

Award of $250 each to top entries in poetry, fiction, and creative nonfiction

Prose limited to 5,000 words

Up to 3 poems (max 5 pages)

Submissions exceeding limits will be disqualified

All entries considered for publication in the anthology

No entry fee

Deadline December 30, 2011

Winners announced by April 1, 2012

Visit Missouri Warrior Writers blog for complete details, including submission process and names of judges.

Contact for additional information.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Interview with Jill Sheets, Penguin Tracks Program, Radio Station KOPN in Columbia

I’m pleased to have Jill Sheets from Community Radio station KOPN 89.5 fm in Columbia, MO, as my special guest today. I learned about Jill and her program from Sylvia Forbes, a writing friend. In Jill's interview she discusses how she got started in public radio and how writers who want to appear on her show can to contact her.

Donna: Welcome, Jill. I’m thrilled to have you as my guest today. Please tell us a bit about yourself--how you got started, how long you've been on radio--anything you're comfortable sharing.

Jill: I am 21 and holding (that means I am almost 36). I have finally found the man of my dreams and we have been married for close to 6 years. We have an 11 year old daughter Heather and hopefully soon we will be able to add to our family. My family and I are involved with our church. My husband and I teach Sunday school and we teach at Awana. My daughter and I are in choir. When I am not at work I am writing, watching TV and spending time with my family. I can not remember when I started volunteering at KOPN, but I know that it has to be over 5 years.

In 2008, Salem and I started doing Anything Goes once a month. Due to work Salem had to leave our show, but I continue playing music and interviews. Slowly I turned my show into music that is song by singers that are 21 and younger and interviewing authors – ones that they love and new ones that had books coming out. Around 2010, Penguin Tracks had a permit spot on every Fridays from 4 to 6 pm CST.

Donna: Sounds like you have a busy and rewarding life. I love the name of your radio program. How did you come up with the name Penguin Tracks?

Jill: It took me awhile to come up with the name. I went around asking people. Making a joke because I love penguins I said Penguin Tracks and a friend was taking me serious and like it. So that is how I came up with the name. Penguin because I love Penguins and Tracks because I love music.

Donna: What can you tell us about Penguin Tracks and KOPN?

Jill: Penguin Tracks is a music/interview show. Most of the music that is played on my show is from singers that are 21 and younger. I interview children’s authors and Young adult authors, along with singers and actor and actresses.

Donna: Sounds great. Where is the station located?

Jill: KOPN is located in downtown Columbia, Mo. We have been in the same building since 1972 and KOPN went on the air March 3, 1973

Donna: When is your program aired?

Jill: Penguin Tracks in on every Friday. From 4:00 to 6:00 pm CST.

Donna: Approximately how far does your broadcast reach?

Jill: Our broadcast range is officially 40 miles in every direction, but we have reached 70 miles. You can also hear us on the web at

Donna: My husband and I have a country place in Osage County about 60 miles from Columbia, so I’ll have to check it out when I’m there. Is there any other pertinent information about your show or KOPN?

Jill: KOPN is a Community radio station. We mostly run on volunteers and we would not be able to do it with out them. 89.5 KOPN also has a wide range of music and talk programs. I feel that there is a show for everyone here. Also, Penguin Tracks is on Facebook. If you type in Penguin Tracks in the search it should come up. I try to update it as much as I can. I post about up and coming interviews and news. Along with what is on my mind or question I have for the audience. You can also e-mail

Donna: Who is your primary audience?

Jill: My target audience is 8 to 18 year olds. But I have been told that adults listen to my show, which is great.

Donna: Do you limit your interviews to children’s writers?

Jill: No. I do not limit by myself to children’s writers. I also interview YA authors, singers (21 years and younger), actors and actresses. I sometimes will also interview an author or someone who talks about certain issues that teens go through for example, bullying and eating disorders. Those are two things that I feel are important to address. That is not to say that there are other things that need to be addressed because there are. I love to interview.

Donna: Are you interested in interviewing writers to talk about how (or why) they became writers, their writing process, or other aspects of being a writer?

Jill: I am interested in interviewing more authors. I love it. I do talk to them about their writing process, about their books along with other questions about writing and then I do ask them questions about themselves. If they want to see the questions before hand that is great, but they do not have too.

Donna: Are you primarily interested in interviewing local and regional writers, or will you interview writers who live outside Missouri or the Midwest?

Jill: I will interview authors from anywhere.

Donna: How does your interview process work? E-mail? On the phone? In person?

Jill: Most of them are over the phone, but I have done a few in person.

Donna: Please tell us about some writers you’ve interviewed on your program.

Jill: It is kind of funny. My first interview was Mary Higgins Clark. I was asked if I would do it and I said “yes” and from there I was hooked. I have also interviewed Elizabeth Scott, Samantha Schutz, Niki Burnham, Kieran Scott, Linda Joy Singleton, Courtney Shenimel, Dominique Paul, Jessica Brody, Vanessa Lee, Elizabeth Eulberg, Allison van Diepen, Mary Dobson Wade and Kelley Armstrong.

Donna: Wow! Mary Higgins Clark as your first and all the other writers you’ve interviewed. That’s quite an impressive list! What’s the best way for writers who would like to appear on your program to contact you?

Jill: They can either email me at or call me at 573-874-1139.

Donna: How can I listen to previously recorded programs?

Jill: You can hear my show on-line at the time. We also have some podcast of some of the interviews, but not the newer ones yet. I can always email you an mp3 of the interview.

Donna: Last question: Is there anything else you would like to add?

Jill: Thank you for giving me this great opportunity to talk with you. If anyone wants an interview feel free to contact me.

Donna: Thank you so much, Jill, and what a generous gesture.

Writers, if you want to be interviewed by Jill, this is a great opportunity to talk about your books or other projects.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Results of NPR's Survey: Top 100 Science-Fiction and Fantasy Books

The results are in.

This summer, more than 5,000 people nominated their favorite sci-fi/fantasy novels, and more than 60,000 people voted for their top sci-fi/fantasy books.

Today the winners were announced. Here's a link to NPR's final list of 100 winners.

While I'm not generally not a reader of a sci-fi/fantasy novels, I have read a smattering of books on the list including: 1984, A Brave New World, The Stand, The Road, Animal Farm, and a few others.

How about you? Any favorites on this list I should check out?

Any included that surprised you?

Any favorites that did not make the list?

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

THE HELP by Kathryn Stockett At Movie Theaters Today!

About a year ago, one of my writing friends (Becky Povich) raved during our critique group session about a book she'd read. She was so enthusiastic about the book she brought it the following week and said, "You've got to read this."

I did, and I'm thankful to Becky for loaning me her copy of THE HELP by Kathryn Stockett. After I finished it she passed it on to another woman in our group. Becky is so generous!

Back to the book. As a writer, Kathryn Stockett's journey to publication is inspiring. It took her five years to write the book. She received more than 45 rejections from agents before having her novel published by Amy Einhorn Books in 2009.

THE HELP has been translated into 40 languages, has sold more than three million copies, and has been on the New York Times bestseller list for two years.

Talk about an inspiration!

A few of our critique group members have talked about the book, and just about everyone in both Bunco groups I belong to--my old neighborhood one and the one I sub for with my former co-workers--have talked about reading the book and planning to see the movie.

I mistakenly thought the movie opened last Friday, and my sister and I were set to go until I looked at the movie schedule and discovered it doesn't open until today. So, I plan to see THE HELP in the next day or so.

If you haven't read THE HELP, here's a link to a synopsis of the story. If you see the movie, please let me know what you think.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Gateway to the Best Contest Open for Submissions

Got romance? If so, the Missouri Romance Writers of America (MORWA) has a contest for you.

The Gateway to the Best Contest has a variety of romance categories, including: contemporary, historical, paranormal, mainstream, suspense, and young adult.

Entries must be RECEIVED by Sep 9.

Final contest judges are editors from Harlequin, Avon, Grand Central Publishing, Berkley, and HQ Teen. Visit the MORWA website for complete contest rules.

Good luck if you enter, and thanks to Claudia S. for forwarding me the information and link.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Happy Birthday, Lucille Ball - We All Loved Lucy

Today would've been the 100th birthday of Lucille Desiree Ball. We knew her as Lucy, the wife of Desi Arnaz, and Lucy Ball from the I Love Lucy show--and its spinoffs.

Last night at Bunco we talked about Lucy, her life, her family, and her career. I mistakenly thought her maiden name was Magillicuddy, but that was one of the names of her characters. Shows what I know.

We chatted about Lucy and Desi and Fred and Ethyl and how Lucy became a mom later in life. One of the Bunco gals said that she read that Lucy insisted Ethyl (Vivian Vance) wear frumpy dresses so she wouldn't outshine Lucy. We had a good laugh at that.

This morning I clicked over to Wikipedia to do some research (that's where the photo above is from) and was surprised to read about Lucy's involvement in politics, particularly the Communist Party in her early years. But I was pleased to read about her work with the USO, her being awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom later in life, and even having a postage stamp in her honor.

Thinking about Lucy Ball brings a smile to my face. I remember some of my favorite episodes from I Love Lucy--grape stomping with Ethyl, working at a factory with chocolate covered bananas, and skulking around to get glimpses of movie stars.

As we remember Lucy Ball today, my question is: Do you have a favorite episode from I Love Lucy, or a favorite Lucy moment?

Friday, August 5, 2011

Contest Time - Unknown Cowboy and Write Now

Lou Turner, my good friend and the publisher of High Hill Press, has a contest going on over at her Cactus Country blog.

This photo on the left of an unknown cowboy sits on her desk, and she wants writers to send her stories about him.

As an incentive, the winning story will be published in Cactus Country Volume II.

The winner will also receive five copies of the anthology.

No entry fee.

Deadline for submissions is November 30, 2011.

Visit the Cactus Country blog for complete details.

Good luck if you enter, and please give this cowboy a name!

If you're not into writing about cowboys, here's a giveaway contest for you. Karen over at Write Now has a giveaway as she approaches her 300th follower. Stop by to enter.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Silver Boomer Books Call for Submissions on Widowhood

This morning I received an e-mail from Becky Haigler, one of the principals at Silver Boomer Books, announcing a call for anthology submissions.

The editors are looking for stories, essays, poems, and interviews on the theme of Widowhood for the anthology.

Short works, especially poetry, are favored. Their emphasis is on "quality rather than quantity."

The submission period opens December 1, 2011 and closes March 30, 2012.

Writers whose works are selected will be notified in August 2012.

Expected release date is October 2012.

For complete details, visit the Silver Boomer Books submission page.

Through the grace of God my husband is still alive, so I don't have anything to submit for this anthology, but I thought some of my visitors might be widows or have something to write about on the topic.

Good luck if you submit, and God bless you if you are a widow.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

North St. Louis Treasures - Spiritual and Sweet

North St. Louis, where I was born and lived until after high school graduation, was the final leg of the "Treasures of St. Louis" trip I took two weeks ago.

We stopped by Mount Grace Chapel, home of the Holy Spirit Adoration Sisters. Mount Grace Chapel is tucked away in a corner of North St. Louis, not far from Interstate 70, an area unfortunately known for its poverty and high crime rate.

The day of our visit, smiling young mothers and grandmothers and their giggling children waved to us as the bus drove by some tidy brick homes, others were boarded up and abandoned. Two security guards kept watch as we parked and exited the bus. Walking inside the cool and dark chapel felt like entering an oasis of redemption in the midst of a desert of dispair.

The wooden pews are simple, but the altar is ornate, with a marble floors statues of angels and the Blessed Sacrament on display. During our visit, a lone nun, dressed in a pink habit and white veil, knelt in silent prayer at the foot of the altar, with her back to us. She prayed behind a gate which separated her from the outside world. After leaving the chapel, our tour guide ushered us to the Marian Center to meet Sister Mary Katherine, the mother superior.

The Holy Spirit Adoration Sisters are commonly known as the "pink sisters" because of the rose color of their habits. When I asked Sister Mary Katherine, who kindly permitted photos, why the sisters wear pink, she told me "the rose color signifies their dedication to the Holy Spirit and the joy of being in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament."

The sisters are cloistered, but they do not take the vow of silence, so they are permitted to speak. Mount Grace has 23 sisters, ranging in age from 25 to 90, and in the past few months they have had a few young women visit to learn about joining the order. Most of the sisters' days are devoted to prayer. In the photo on the left, Sister Mary Katerine stands behind an acrylic divider to signify her separation from the outside world.

Mount Grace Chapel was made possible through the generosity of Mrs. Maria Teresa Backer-Kulage and was dedicated in June 1928. Since then, one or two sisters have been kneeling in adoration before the exposed Blessed Sacrament day and night. Some folks give the pink sisters credit for praying for unusually mild weather (in the 70 degree range) our area experienced when Pope John Paul II visited St. Louis in January 1999. The nuns support themselves through donations. They also sell beautifully decorated cards and rosaries.

Several times a year I call to purchase memorial Mass cards from the sisters. The cards are elegantly decorated with calligraphy done by the sisters. The chapel is open daily to the public from 5:30 a.m. until 6:25 p.m. Daily Mass is at 7 a.m. and Vespers and Benediction daily at 5 p.m. and on Sundays at 4 p.m.

The final stop on our trip was--- in a word --- Sweet.

Crown Candy Kitchen (on left) has been a popular St. Louis landmark for decades. When I was young, my mom and dad took all us kids on Saturdays to 14th Street Shopping Center--an area on 14th Street and St. Louis Avenue. While Mom took us kids shopping at Krogers and Sobel's Department Store--or window shopping at Gervich Furniture--Dad waited for us at the cornern tavern. After shopping, if we behaved, Mom treated us to a scoop of ice cream at Crown Candy.

The day our tour bus visited, we arrived after 2 p.m., and customers stood in the 100 degree heat outside the door. The line we formed to buy ice cream trailed out the door and down the street to the bus. But our wait was short, and it was worth it. I got a scoop of chocolate chip in a cup then my sister Kathleen and I, along with several other of our travelers, ate our ice cream outside because there was no place to sit, or even stand.

When Kathleen and I finished our ice cream we squeezed back inside to buy some candy out of the glass display case. After out sweet stop at Crown Candy Kitchen we got back on the bus and headed home, passing familiar childhood landmarks along the way.

Our tour was sponsored by the City of St. Peters. To learn more about their day trips and tours, visit the City of St. Peters website.

Hope you enjoyed my virtual tour of the Treasures of St. Louis. Seeing so many wonderful places brought back memories of my childhood and has given me lots of ideas for essays and stories.

These posts also got me to wondering:

Have you ever visited a place from your past that has stired your imagination so much that you had to write about it?

If so, where?

If not, is there somewhere from your past you would like to revisit?

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Contest Time - Green River Writers

This weekend's soccer tournament in Kansas was a scorcher, and I have the sunburn to prove it. And it's still sweltering here in Eastern Missouri. This morning I watered my garden and filled up containers for the birds to take a drink and cool down, but the water evaporated almost as soon as it left the hose.

To stay out of the heat over the next few days I've decided to work on some contest entries. Talk about timing! Last week I received a brochure from Green River Writers announcing their annual writing competitions.

According to information on their home page, "Green River Writers is a non-profit organization founded in Kentucky in 1984 to support writers through education, promotion, and fellowship." GRW is a fine writing organization I've supported in the past by entering their contests.

I'm first to admit I'm not a poet, but there's something about writing limericks that calls my name. I've won a few times in Category #9, The Jim O'Dell Memorial Poetry Limerick Contest. Maybe it's my Irish roots stirring from ancestors who came to America during the Irish Famine. Or maybe it's because the type of limericks the contest wants --- wild and absurd ---are so much fun to write!

Here's what I like about the Green River Writers Writing Contest:
* A total of 15 categories
* Modest entry fees (ranging from $2 to $5)
* Two Fiction contests
* One Limerick contest

* Categories are sponsored by individual writers and writing groups
* It's gratifying to support other writing organizations by entering their contests

* It's fun to win!
* Grand Prize Categories pay $175/100/50

What I don't like about this contest:
* 13 of the 15 categories are poetry (Too bad I'm not a poet)
* In past years, it has taken months to receive checks and certificates after the winners' names were announced. Maybe they've worked that out this year.
* Except for the Grand Prize categories, the prize amounts are modest (ranging from $50 on the high end to $10). But it's not about the money . . . right?

So, I am going to come up with a few entries, and maybe even stretch my writing muscles and try my hand at poetry other than a limerick. Who knows, with my Irish roots, I might get lucky?

Submission deadline is Sep 30, 2011
Winners announced by Nov 30, 2011

Click here for a downloadable PDF flyer.

Good luck if you enter, and let me know if you win!

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...