Saturday, December 29, 2012

Anthology News from Welkin Press: Shadows After Midnight and Cupid's Quiver

 If you like to read scary stories on long winter nights, check out the Shadows After Midnight Anthology, which has recently been released by Welkin Press and is available on Amazon as a Kindle e-book.

The anthology of "12 spooky tales of terror by 12 award-winning authors will raise the hair on the back of your neck and make you want to check under the bed and sleep with the light on."

Edited by award-winning journalist Patricia B. Smith, the collection pays "homage to a variety of ghosts and nightmarish creatures." I'm please to announce that my short story "Stairway to Heaven" is among the stories in the collection.


If you have a flair for writing romance, here's a call for submissions. Be sure to note the short deadline. 

Welkin Press has also announced a call out for Valentine's Day short stories for Cupid's Quiver, a romance anthology.

Word count range is 2500-7000.  Payment is $10, plus royalties. Submit short stories to by January 15. Click on the cupid photo for more details.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Whimsey, Wurst and Wine in Hermann, Missouri

After the horrific events in Connecticut last Friday it's been hard to get into a light-hearted mood. I've been reluctant to post more of the photos I took in Hermann. Then I thought maybe some holiday cheer might lift my spirits and those who read this post.
I started this last Thursday, then the strong winds knocked out our electricity briefly and my Internet service was down for a couple days. Unfortunately, I lost much of what I had typed to post, but fortunately the photos survived. 
While the Christmas decorations in St. George's rectory included Nativity scenes and religious icons, there also were touches of whimsey sprinkled throughout the four-story home. 
A silver-plated knight in shining armor stood outside the Queen's room announcing the queen was not in.
The Wizard of Oz room was complete with a yellow brick road.
The tree in the Military room had a tree with photographs of veterans, including WACs and WAVEs, and a pillow with an image of Elvis.
Multi-colored masks were the centerpieces of the Mardi Gras room.
After touring the rectory we headed for Stone Hill Winery for lunch and a tour.

Pelznickel, the fur clad Santa with origins in Northwestern Germany, made an appearance during lunch.

Pelznickel is one of Santa's helpers who visits kinder (children) who have been naughty during the year. He carries a stick and lumps of coal. 

And after lunch at Stone Hill Winery we toured the caves where the wine barrels are stored.
At the Wurst Haus, our group was treated to sausage snacks and a demonstration of sausage making.
Hope you enjoyed this virtual tour of Hermann.  


Friday, December 14, 2012

Christmas at St. George's Rectory in Hermann, Missouri

Yesterday I was part of a bus tour that visited the lovely village of Hermann, Missouri, which overlooks the Missouri River. Hermann is a popular tourist destination known for its "vintage charm and timeless beauty."

Jan Lay, a charming friend from our old DISA workplace, made the arrangements with the "Are We There Yet" tour company for our group of "Kindred Spirits"-- a dozen of former co-workers and friends.  

The highlight of yesterday's tour was a visit to the rectory of St. George's Catholic Church, located at 128 West Fourth Street. The old Franciscan Rectory has become a must-see attraction for tourists to Hermann each December.

For the past several years, the non-Franciscan pastor -- Father William Debo, a priest from the Jefferson City Diocese who is known as Father Bill -- plans, designs, and orchestrates the decorating effort.

Parishioners volunteer their time and donate many of their treasures to transform the rectory into a Christmas delight, which they share with visitors from across the country. The St. George Rectory open house is an annual fund raiser for the Hermann Ministerial Alliance, with free-will offerings used to assist needy families in the community.

During Christmas time, the four-story rectory holds more than 50 Christmas trees and dozens of Nativity scenes. My descriptions won't do justice to the displays, so I'll post some photos I took of the many rooms in the rectory.


Next week I'll post more photos of the rectory, along with a few snapshots from our visit to the Wurst Haus and Stone Hill Winery.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

On 12/12/12, Good News Comes in Threes

Among the many words of wisdom I remember my mom saying is, "Good news comes in threes." She also was quick to remind that "bad news comes in threes, too."

Mom's good-news-comes-in-three saying won out today. Maybe it's because of the 12/12/12, triple 12 date. Or maybe not.

At any rate, after my bad-news start of the week, which I won't go in to here, I was ready for some good news.

Everything about my three-part good news is Christmas related, which helped put me in the holiday mood. Please excuse this shameless self-congratulation.

Good news #1: A reprint of my Christmas short story "Canned Beets" will be included in the Saturday Writers 10th Anniversary Edition, Cuivre River Anthology VI. The original version of "Canned Beets," which received Honorable Mention in the Steinbeck National Short Story competition, was previously published in CRA II and the Mid Rivers Review. I share this good news with more than 40 other writers, whose award-winning stories, essays, and poems also appear in the anthology. Almost all contributors are members of Saturday Writers, and many of them belong to Coffee and Critique. The final version is hot off the press today, but you might have to wait a few days if you want to order a copy.

Good news #2: My short story "Time to Get Your Jingle On" appears in the Kindle version of Fifty Shades of Santa, which is available today from Amazon. The anthology from Welkin Press is a collection of "12 Nice (Not Naughty) Humorous Holiday Romances."  I share this good news with writing friends -- Marcia Gaye, Pat Wahler, Pat Smith (the editor), Lou Turner, Lynn Obermoeller, and Regina Williams -- and several other writers I hope to meet. The print version will be available in a week or so. Isn't the cover cute?

Good news #3: My recipe for German Gluhwein (Donna's Hot Glow Wine) and the story behind the recipe are featured on the Panera Bread Company website this month. Actually, I received the news that the recipe was posted yesterday afternoon, but for some reason my home town was shown as somewhere in North Carolina. After a quick e-mail to the editor, a fix was made and my correct home town appeared there this morning.

So, that's my good news for 12/12/12.

Congratulations to all the other writers whose works are included in the anthologies mentioned above.

I think it's time to make a batch of German Gluhwein to celebrate.

Prosit! (That's German for Cheers!)

Monday, December 10, 2012

Guest Post by Margo Dill on Writing Historical Fiction

I'm thrilled to have Margo Dill as my special guest today. Margo is a children's writer, an editor, and a blogger who also is a contributing writer to Women on Writing, WOW! Margo and I met more than a dozen years ago at a weekly critique group, and we are founding members of the Saturday Writers chapter of the Missouri Writers' guild. Although our lives have taken us in different directions over the years, we still have remained good friends.

White Mane Kids recently published Margo's middle-grade children's book Finding My Place: One Girl's Strength at Vicksburg.

Welcome, Margo, I'm so happy you could join us on such a chilly morning, and congratulations on your new book. After reading the early chapters in critique group, it's exciting to see the book in print and read the final version.

Finding My Place is a wonderful book of historical fiction. The setting is Vicksburg, Mississippi, in the summer of 1863. Thirteen-year-old Anna Green and her family are thrust in the middle of the attack on Vicksburg. Here's what Margo has to say about writing historical fiction.


Stopping the History from Getting in the Way of Historical Fiction
By Margo L. Dill
I loved researching the Civil War, especially the Siege of Vicksburg for my historical fiction middle-grade novel, Finding My Place. I actually went to Vicksburg, Mississippi for a few days and toured homes that were standing during the Siege and spent hours on the battlefield where the Confederate soldiers tried to hold off the Yankees. I went to the library one afternoon and poured through the vertical files, finding an actual newspaper from 1863 printed on the back of wallpaper. I read diaries of women who survived the siege, living in caves slaves built out of the yellow Vicksburg hills, and other historical fiction books set in Vicksburg as well as history books about the battle itself.

So, with all that research, when did I start writing the fiction and how did I balance it?

That’s the hard thing about writing historical fiction, especially if you love history. You have found a period of time you’re interested in as a writer, and you love to research. You want to share every little fact with your reader, but your reader doesn’t want to read a history book. If she did, she would go to the nonfiction section and pick one out. She wants to read about your characters and plot, while learning some history on the side.

I struggled with this balance. I wanted to have thirteen-year-old Anna Green, my main character, experience everything that the citizens of Vicksburg did in 1863. I wanted to share every sacrifice that the people had to make, what happened on each day of the Siege, and how the people survived with so little supplies. But kids especially get bogged down with too many facts thrown into the story.

Mostly what I did to keep my balance, and what I’ve heard from other historical fiction writers, is that I focused on the story. Instead of thinking to myself, I am writing a historical fiction book for kids set during the U. S. Civil War, I had to think—I am writing a book about a 13-year-old girl who doesn’t know where she belongs—physically and emotionally. She has a brother and a sister that depend on her, but she’s not ready for this role.

Once I started focusing on the story and the characters in my setting of the Siege of Vicksburg, I found balance. When Anna is trying to decide whether or not to take James and Sara back to their cave and stay on their own, it was easy to work in some of the daily tasks that people had to do back then and even how the soldiers bombed the citizens most of the day, resting only for meals. Focusing on the story made the research details that much easier to fit into the story—naturally.

Historical fiction is fun! It’s a great way to learn about a time period. It’s not easy to write, until authors start thinking about the story and the characters and less about the actual history.
Thanks, again, Margo for your insight on not letting history get in the way of writing historical fiction.

Margo L. Dill is the author of Finding My Place: One Girl’s Strength at Vicksburg, a historical fiction middle-grade novel about 13-year-old Anna Green and her struggle to keep her family together during the Siege of Vicksburg. To read a summary or purchase an autographed copy (a perfect Christmas present for children ages 9 to 12!), please go to   or  on  Amazon at:


Monday, December 3, 2012

"Chicken Soup for the Soul, Canned Soup for the Body" Book Signing on Saturday

I'm pleased to announce that this coming Saturday, December 8th, I will be one of ten local Chicken Soup for the Soul writers participating in the fourth annual "Chicken Soup for the Soul, Canned Soup for the Body" book signing.

The signings will be at three independent book stores in the metro-St. Louis area. Customers who bring in a canned good, which will be donated to area food pantries, will receive 20% off their entire purchases that day.

The fun will begin at All on the Same Page, 11052 Olive Boulevard, Creve Coeur, MO, from 10 a.m. till noon. Authors signing books there include: Nina Miller, Theresa Sanders, and T'Mara Goodsell.

In the middle of the day from 1-3 p.m., Main Street Books, 307 S. Main Street in St. Charles--the book store that started it all four years ago--will host Cathi LaMarcheLinda O'Connell, Lynn Cahoon, and  Pat Wahler.

And . . .if you want to visit a haunted book store, The Book House, 9719 Manchester Road in St. Louis, will host the late shift between 4-6 p.mDonna Volkenannt (that's me) will be signing copies of "Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Gift of Christmas" which includes her true story "Unexpected Joy." Other authors signing at the Book House are Beth M. Wood and Sioux Roslawski.

Hope to see you this coming Saturday.

If you can't make it to the Book House, please stop by one of the other book stores on Saturday. The event is for a great cause.

Independent book stores are fantastic supporters of local witers, our food pantries can use your help--and you get a discount on your purchases!

I wasn't kidding about the Book House being haunted. If you drop by, I'm sure you can learn more. And don't forget your canned goods.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Let's Get Digital, Digital: Random House Accepting Submissions for Digital Imprints

If you are one of the crazies overachievers who wrote a book during NaNoWriMo this month, here is some exciting news for you -- and for the rest of us who have shorter works we'd like to get published.

The Random House Publishing Group has launched three new digital imprints alongside their existing Loveswept digital imprint.

RHPG wants to to "give new authors the opportunity to showcase the best of what these genres have to offer . . . For the first time in history, authors will be able to forge wide-reaching and long-lasting relationships with their audiences, and we at Random House can’t wait to explore and create new opportunities in the digital space. The possibilities are endless, and we’re excited to offer authors the best opportunities to take advantage of this growing marketplace."

Editors are looking for submissions in these individual imprints:

Alibi - Mystery and Suspense
Flirt - New Adult
Hydra - Science fiction, fantasy, and horror
Loveswept - Romance and Women's

Word counts vary between 15,000-30,000 for shorter works and 40,000-60,000 for longer works (for all you NaNo folks).

Visit their website for information about submission process and guidelines and FAQ.

My apologizes to Oliva Newton-John for altering the lyrics to her "Let's Get Physical" song to "Let's Get Digital." Now where did I put my headband and leg warmers?

Monday, November 26, 2012

Cyber Monday Submission Opportunities - Well Versed and Chicken Soup

When I opened my e-mail this morning I was overwhelmed by the notices about Cyber Monday sales offering fantastic deals--and free shipping. Of course, I get these e-mails the day after I ordered something on line and paid $8 in shipping costs. Oh, well. I should've known better.

Rather than selling anything, I thought I'd share some submission opportunities I've run across lately.

The deadline for Well Versed, the anthology put out by the Columbia Chapter of the Missouri Writers' Guild, has been extended until December 30. Linda Fisher, the editor of Well Versed, does an excellent job selecting submissions and producing a professional anthology. I'm not just saying that because two of my essays appeared in the last issue of Well Versed--well, maybe I am just a little--but the anthology is a worthy project. Here are the submission guidelines.

Chicken Soup for the Soul has several calls for submission, ranging from Devotionals for Women, to Holiday Stories, even Messages from Heaven. Several of my visitors have been published in Chicken Soup (even me) so we all know what a wonderful anthology the editors produce. So, if submitting to Chicken Soup is your cup of tea (talk about a mixed metaphor), check out their Possible Book Topic page for details.

Good luck if you submit!

If you have any submission opportunities to share, feel free to post about them in the Comments section.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Interview (Part II) with Deb Marshall, Director of Warriors Arts Alliance

In Part II of my interview with Deb Marshall, Director of the Warriors Arts Alliance, she discusses the selection process for Proud to Be: Writing by American Warriors, one of her favorite selections, plans for another anthology and how readers can purchase copies of the anthology.
Donna: Beyond the contest winners, what was the process for selecting submissions for the anthology?

Deb: That one you’d have to ask Susan. We talked at great length about my “vision” for the anthology. She did the rest. The selections and their order in the book is all hers and I couldn’t be more pleased with the way it turned out. Susan edits “Big Muddy” and “The Cape Rock,” so she’s tuned in to literary journals and what works well within a writing collection. Her ability to take what I thought the anthology should reflect and turn it into the final anthology has set the bar pretty high for any future editors I may work with. Our contributors are raving about their pride in the overall book, not just having their work published.

Donna: What is the most surprising or gratifying lesson you’ve learned from working on this project?

Deb: Pursuing this project has been extremely time-consuming---to the extent that publishing my own work has been delayed. The satisfaction that comes from service to others though, has surpassed anything I’ve ever experienced. It runs deep and true and I truly marvel with many of the things that have occurred for me personally and professionally since this all began. The notes from our contributors, along with those from our workshop contributors, provide great joy to me. As Monty Joynes, our fiction winner, wrote, “Service to others is the best work of all.” To be involved in writing and publishing in this manner has had a tremendous impact on my life.

DonnaAmong so many wonderful submissions, do you have one or two favorites?

Deb: I have exchanged e-mails with many of our contributors and met several others. A few I have known for awhile. I really enjoyed Velda Brotherton’s “Rosie the Riveter” story, probably because many of us are familiar with the legendary character. It’s difficult to pick even one or two favorites because it seems like showing favoritism to my kids.

Donna: What can you tell us about plans for another anthology?

Deb: We’re finalizing the next call for submissions for the 2013 anthology right now. We’re expanding the categories to include interviews with veterans or veteran family members and high-contrast photographs. We’d like to see more submissions from around Missouri, so the Missouri Press Association has joined us an ally now, so we’ll definitely be getting the word out. We’re discussing contest specifics at this time.

Donna: Anything you’d like to add?

DebWe read a lot about the prevalence of post-traumatic stress disorder among our veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. I polled a number of veterans to choose the anthology’s title. When it came to “Proud to Be,” one vet summarized sentiments best when he said, “You know, people think we’re all crazy. That doesn’t mean we’re not proud we served our country.” I think that sums it up pretty well.

 Donna Where can readers purchase copies of Proud to Be: Writing by American Warriors?

 It will also be on sale when we celebrate the anthology and its contributors with an evening of readings on Tuesday evening, November 27th, from 7:30 to 9:30 p.m. at The Focal Point, 2720 Sutton Avenue in Maplewood 63043. This event is hosted by the St. Louis Poetry Center.

Thank you, Donna. I appreciate the time you have taken to allow me to share a little about our veterans writing program. 

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Interview (Part I) with Deb Marshall, Director of the Warriors Arts Alliance

I'm pleased today to welcome Deb Marshall, Director of the Warriors Arts Alliance, to Donna's Book Pub. I met Deb several years ago at a Saturday Writers meeting and got to know her when she was president of the Missouri Writers' Guild. She is a writer with vision and energy and compassion. I'm certain those characteristics are what led her to get involved with the creation of the anthology Proud to Be: Writing by American Warriors, a collection of stories, poems, photos and articles written by and about American warriors who have served in the Armed Forces.

Here's Part I of my interview with Deb:

Donna: Welcome to Donna's Book Pub, Deb. I'm so happy you could take time from your busy schedule to answer my interview questions. The Proud to Be: Writing by American Warriors (Volume I) is an inspiring anthology filled with moving stories, poems, photographs and nonfiction pieces from veterans and their families. Where did the idea come from for the anthology?

Deb: A handful of St. Louis area poets and writers led creative nonfiction and poetry workshops for veterans at Jefferson Barracks VA Medical Center. We had veterans from the Korean War to the Iraq and Afghanistan wars participating and the writing they were doing for the workshops were very individual stories, but their messages reflected the same sentiments, regardless of the generation it represented. We opted to put an anthology together to reflect a variety of voices from many generations.

DonnaSeveral organizations worked together to make this anthology a reality. What can you tell me about these organizations and their interaction?

Deb: The Missouri Humanities Council provided laptops for our workshops at Jefferson Barracks, but they also partnered with the Missouri Writers’ Guild to publish the “Storm Country” anthology to raise money for Joplin’s school libraries while I was president of MWG last year. Since the veteran writing initiative has continued to grow in scope, it needed to have its own organizational structure, so the Warriors Arts Alliance was born as a spin-off of the Missouri Writers’ Guild and is partnered with MHC.

I consider our editor Susan Swartwout a great gift to this program. She brings a proven publishing track record at SEMO University Press and over two decades of editorial experience, but, in this case, her role extends beyond that. There are bumps in the beginning of any start-up project, and this one was no different. Susan has been able to not only help us put those bumps behind us, she has also been instrumental in paving a new path.

We have an unusually well-balanced relationship between the three organizations.

Donna: Included in the anthology are contest winners of poetry, fiction and nonfiction. How did the contest work?

Deb: Our editor made selections for the first round. These were then forwarded to our judges, who each selected two finalists and a winner for each genre – fiction, creative nonfiction and poetry.

Donna: The list of contest judges is impressive, and the judges did an excellent job selecting the winners. What can you tell us about the judges?

Deb: Didn’t they do a fantastic job?  

William Trent Pancoast judged fiction. His character development of the Vietnam vet character in his novel Wildcat was superb and his reputation for being “the blue-collar writer” made him a good choice. Plus, he’s just a really nice guy and a true gentleman to work with.

Although Mark Bowden didn’t serve in Iraq as many people believe, he was a journalist imbedded with our troops for an extensive period of time. His book Black Hawk Down was probably the first nonfiction work to come out of the Iraq War.

Then there’s Brian Turner, another one of the literary giants to come out of the Iraq War in which he served as an infantryman. Now he teaches poetry. Brian had already agreed to be our judge before he was a speaker in St. Louis for the first St. Louis Humanities Festival last April. He is revered by his soldier/poet contemporaries, but he’s a wonderful down-to-earth guy who gave directions to people in the hallway who were attending his reading at Webster University. 

Donna: Beyond the contest winners, what was process for selecting submissions for the anthology?

Deb: That one you’d have to ask Susan. We talked at great length about my “vision” for the anthology. She did the rest. The selections and their order in the book is all hers and I couldn’t be more pleased with the way it turned out. Susan edits “Big Muddy” and “The Cape Rock,” so she’s tuned in to literary journals and what works well within a writing collection. Her ability to take what I thought the anthology should reflect and turn it into the final anthology has set the bar pretty high for any future editors I may work with. Our contributors are raving about their pride in the overall book, not just having their work published.

Thanks, again, Deb for insight into the making of this amazing anthology.

Please come back tomorrow  for Part II of my interview, in which Deb will discuss plans for another anthology.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Review of Proud to Be: Writing by American Warriors

A month or so ago I received a call from Deb Marshall, Director of the Warriors Arts Alliance, asking if I would be willing to review Proud to Be: Writing by American Warriors.

In the blink of an eye I said, "Yes!" I had heard about this project some time ago and was thrilled to be asked to read and review the finished product.

The anthology is a colloborative effort among the Missouri Humanities Council, the Warriors Arts Alliance, and Southeast Missouri State University Press.

It was such an honor to read this wonderful collection of stories, poems, and nonfiction from and about Americans who have served their country in the Armed Forces. The collection includes fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and photographs.

The winning nonfiction piece selected by Mark Bowden, author of Black Hawk Down is: "Rockhappy 1944-45" from Paul Mims

The winning poem selected by Brian Turner, author of Here, Bullet, and Phantom Noise is:
"Baring the Trees" by Gerardo Mona

The fiction winner, selected by William Trent Pancoast, author of WILDCAT, is:
"First Day at An Khe" from Monty Joynes

The winner for Best Writing from a Missouri Writer, judged by the Missouri Humanities Council is:
"Between Wives" by Jay Harden

In addition to the entries from the competition prize winners and finalists are selections from other writing warriors and their family members.

One true story I found moving is "Hyphenated Americans" by Jan Morrill, in which she shares the experience of her family and in particular her uncle, Sergeant Yoshio Sasaki, as Japanese-Americans during World War II.

The selections in this anthology, edited by Dr. Susan Swartwout, are filled with discovery and daring, sacrifice and shared experiences, courage and compassion. But most of all this is an anthology of hope and healing.

Proud to Be: Writing by American Warriors is available from Amazon, Southeast Missouri State Press, and other sources.

Note: This post was supposed to appear on Veteran's Day, but my Internet service was down, then there was a problem with my router, so I apologize for the delayed post.

Second Note: Later this week I will post my interview of Deb Marshall, who shares her insight on the creation of this impressive anthology.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

It's Not Too Late to Take Your Writing Career in the Write Direction

This Saturday, November 10, I'm excited to be giving a workshop at the "Write Direction" conference in Columbia, MO.

The annual conference, sponsored by the Columbia Chapter of the Missouri Writers' Guild,  kicks off at 8:30 and ends at 4 p.m.

The conference will be held at the Unity Center, 1600 West Broadway in Columbia.

CCMWG president Judy Stock, conference chair Carolyn Mulford, and everyone involved in planning the event have done a wonderful job obtaining presenters, laying out the agenda, and keeping the registration fee affordable.

Here's what you can expect:

Bill Clark, columnist with the Columbia Daily Tribune, will serve as the keynote speaker and inspire participants on The Joy in Taking the Next Step"

Other speakers and breakout session topics include:

Bridget Bufford on "Creating Characters through Archetypes"
Matthew Murie, English professor at Westminister College, on "Finding Your Perfect Pitch"
William Trowbridge, Missouri Poet Laureate, on "Humor in Poetry"
Dr. Edward Adelstein, anatomic and clinical pathologist, on "Every Death is a Short Story"
Donna Volkenannt on "Structuring Short Stories for Passion and Profit"

Linda Fisher from Mozark Press, Yolanda Ciolli from AKA Publishing, and Lou Turner from High Hill Press will participate in publisher/editor panels

Registration fee includes lunch, special-interest tables, book sales, and an afternoon tea.

Student discounts are available and Late registrations will be accepted at the door.

Hope to see you there!

Monday, November 5, 2012

November: A Time to Remember and Hats off with Hope in our Hearts

Last week, on November 2--the Feast of All Souls--I took time to pray for the souls of my loved ones who have departed this earth.

I also remembered to say a prayer for a good writing friend who passed away this summer.

Bea Siros was a cherised member of Coffee and Critique writers' group who left us suddenly and much too young. Although Bea is gone, her spirit remains with us.

Bea was known for her cheery smile and for her collection of hats--ball caps, feathered hats, trendy berets, demure chapeaus, you name it--Bea had one in her wardrobe. And often her signature bumblee pin could be seen on them.

During Bea's visitation service, several members of our writing group wore hats in her honor. I shopped around and found a tan hat with a dark brown brim and a black ribbon to wear in honor of Bea. I keep the hat on my coat rack by the door, and when I see it I remember her sweet smile.

This morning I used that hat to select the winner of the copy of Chicken Soup for the Soul: Hope & Healing for Your Breast Cancer Journey. Thanks to everyone who stopped by and left a comment.

The anthology includes two essays by Alice Muschany, a breast cancer survivor and member of Coffee and Critique. One of Alice's essays is titled "Hats Off to Betty."

When I e-mailed Alice to ask her if she wanted to pick the name of the winner or if I should throw the names into a hat--she asked me to use the name-in-the-hat option.

So, I wrote down on sheets of paper the names of everyone who left a comment on the Chicken Soup giveaway post in October during breast-cancer awareness month. I folded the papers and threw them into what I call Bea's memorial hat.

I reached into the hat and pulled out one sheet then took a photo (on the left) of the hat, the book, and the name of the winner.

In case you can't read it, the name selected was  -- Marcia G.

Congratulations, Marcia. I will get the book to you. And thank you Alice for your generosity and for sharing your stories of  hope and healing.

Finally, if you're the praying kind, take time to remember the souls of your loved ones or those who have left us. Here's a prayer I use:

Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them. May the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

News and Views from Nick Nixon Tribute

Sunday's tribute and fundraiser for Nick Nixon, Country-Western music legend and Coffee and Critique group member extraordinare, was a huge hit!

When I stopped by shortly after the 1 p.m. opening time on my way to Michael's soccer game, there were only a few seats left in the large banquet room. 

A few minutes later, security personnel had to turn away fans because they had already exceeded the room's capacity for fire safety. I estimate there were several hundred fans. Hundreds of fans sat at crowded tables or stood along the aisles. Dozens of musicians performed or prepared to perform on the stages. Scores of volunteers sold food, CDs, books, and raffle tickets. Sturdy security folks stood in the lobby and at the exits to help the event run smoothly. Scores of folks unable to get inside waited in the lobby or milled about outside on the sunny, but chilly afternoon.

While I was there I ran into several of my writing friends and snapped lots of photos, but unfortunately my flash was finicky and some of the photos were blurry (sorry, Doyle and Irene).  Here are some photos that did turn out:

Ligaya and David Kirkland get cozy.

Bill and Linda O'Connell pose for this pesky photographer.

 C and C members Nick Nixon and Claudia Shelton strike a pose.
C and C Members Nick Nixon and Donna Volkenannt mug for the camera.
C and C members Donna Volkenannt, Nick Nixon, and Lou Turner share a chuckle.
High Hill Publishers Lou and Bryan Turner surprized Nick by publishing a collection of some of his essays and short stories. 
 Good-hearted and generous C and C member Becky Povich donated one of Nick's autographed 45 records and a song sheet for the auction!

Roland and Alice (C and C Member) Muschany took time from their busy day to support Nick. 

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Weekend Events: All Star Tribute to Nick Nixon and the Saturday Writers Workshop

Two events this weekend involve some favorite writing pals--Nick Nixon and Linda O'Connell.

On Sunday October 28 at 1 p.m., local country western entertainers, as well as a couple guest stars from the Grand Old Opry, will show their support during an all star tribute and fundraiser for Nick Nixon at the Stegton Regency Banquet Center, 1450 Wall Street in St. Charles.

Nick is a legendary local country and western star and a treasured member of our weekly Coffee and Critique group.
In the 1970s Nick had more than a dozen top 100 hits on the Mercury label, including "Rocking in Rosalee's Boat," which climbed to No. 28 on the U.S. Country Charts. The Nick Nixon Tribute and Fundraiser is being held to help support Nick with medical expenses in his battle with Hodgkin's lymphoma. 

Headliners include: Johnny Rodriguez, Barb Allen, Leona Williams, Curtis Lyn Cook, Doc Holiday, the Well Hungarians, and an all star house band.

General admission tickets are only $10 per person and can be purchased at the door. Other highlights include a 50/50 raffle, a silent auction, a live auction, and some special surprizes.

For more information, or to make a donation, e-mail Elmo Linton, who planned and organized the event, at elmojllinton (at)

I'll be attending the first hour of the fundraiser. Hope to see you there!


The second event is the annual workshop put on by Saturday Writers.

Jennifer Hasheider and her board have done a top-notch job planning the workshop, silent auction, and lunch, which will be held Saturday October 27 from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. at the Cultural Arts Center in St. Peters City Hall.

Speakers include:

Kristina Blank Makansi, co-founder, editor and publisher of Blank Slate Press, who will discuss the dos and don’ts of pitching to agents and editors.

Former newspaper reporter and Professor, Steve Wiegenstein will lead a two-hour exercise in mainstream fiction.

Linda O'Connell will talk about the ABCs of writing authentic, brave, creative nonfiction from the basics to the ethics of sharing your life story.

A few months ago I heard Linda speak about writing at a St. Louis Writers Guild meeting, where she provided helpful information and welcome inspiration.

Due to family commitments I can't make this year's workshop, but if you live in the local metro-St. Louis area I hope you can! Click here for details.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Happy Birthday, Michael! What a Weekend!

Last weekend is a blur.
Friday night Michael had some friends over for his birthday, which was on Saturday. The plan was mini-golf, pizza, cookie cake, a movie and a video game marathon. Well, the weather didn't cooperate for the mini-golf, but everything else was great.
For his birthday, Walt got him some hunting gear and an air-soft rifle. Cari and I got him clothes, most of which he wanted to wear right away. In these photos, he's wearing one of the shirts Cari got him and the jeans I bought for him.
Saturday afternoon he had a soccer game--we won't talk about the times he got called for fouls when smaller kids ran into him and fell down.
After the game Cari and Brendan (her boyfriend) took him and a friend to Six Flags. Another late night.
Then on Sunday afternoon he, Cari, and Brendan went to a pumpkin patch with the O'Donnell family.

These photos are of them getting ready to leave. Afterwards there was pizza and ice cream cake at his Aunt Jena Dee's and even more presents, including fireworks, money, candy, and more clothes. And my sister and brother-in-law dropped off another present with money, a sports shirt, and two of his favorite treats--Shockers and Cheeze-Its.  Last night he counted his birthday money and rounded up all his snacks. What a haul!
This morning the principal from his school called to say that when Michael did the morning announcements he was so excited, he told her all about his weekend. (Michael is not one usually to chat with teachers.)
Because of his birthday, he got a dress down pass, which means he didn't have to wear his school uniform today. He wore a pair of his new jeans and a new Cardinal shirt, plus he took in treats to share with his classmates.
His principal told me she just had to call and let me know how excited and happy he was about his birthday weekend. How sweet was that?
So happy birthday, Michael. Hope you have another great year!

Friday, October 19, 2012

Well Versed Deadline Extended

If you are like me you're always scrambling to meet deadlines, so here's some good news about a deadline that's been extended:

Late last night I received an e-mail informing me that the deadline for the 2013 Well Versed anthology contest has been extended until November 15.

The Columbia Chapter of the Missouri Writers' Guild does a top-notch job soliciting and selecting submissions of poetry, fiction, and nonfiction for their Well Versed anthology.

The deadline has been extended to give writers extra time to submit, especially if they are inspired to work on their manuscripts after they attend The Write Direction Conference in Columbia on November 10. (I'll be speaking at the conference so I sincerely appreciate the extra time!)

Next week I will post information about The Write Direction Conference, whose speakers include William Trowbridge, the Poet Lauerate of Missouri, and Medical Examinator Dr. Eddie Adelstein.


Thursday, October 18, 2012

Big Winners at the Ozarks Creative Writers Conference

The Ozarks Creative Writers' Conference in Eureka Springs, Arkansas is the first conference I ever attended -- more than 15 years ago. My dear friend Lou Turner and I made the trip to Eureka that first time and for several years afterwards. OCW is a fun and lively and welcoming event with inspiring speakers, helpful information, excellent networking opportunities, and great contests.

Lou Turner is now a member of the OCW board, along with Dusty Richards, Velda Brotherton, David Kirkland, and several others who do an excellent job putting on the annual event.

While I haven't been able to make the trip to Eureka for years, I was honored to have been asked this year to judge three contests. Believe me; it wasn't easy picking the winners. In one contest, two entries were so equally excellent it was hard to pick one for the top award.

The judging was blind so I didn't know whose entries I was reading, but I was delighted to learn afterwards that some of my Coffee and Critique group writing friends received awards -- although not necessarily in the categories I judged.

Drum roll please . . .

Marcia Gaye took home these awards:

1st: Las Manos Bella de Elizabeth for short story
2nd: Giving Love a Chance for memoir essay
2nd: My Volkswagen for Creative Nonfiction essay
2nd: Lost Hope Missouri for Literary Novel
3rd: Geese for Japanese Tanka Poetry
HM: Mother of the Painted Desert for free verse poetry

Nick Nixon was recognized for:

1st: Little Red Rider for Storyteller Magazine award
3rd:  Bless u Dexter for humorous short story
3rd: Old Dempsey for Ozark Nostalgia
3rd: The Teacher's Paleo Pecker for Jim Richardson Memorial Award

Doyle Suit received awards for:

1st: Tales of a Misspent Youth for The High Hill Press Book Award
1st: A Loose Sole for Search for Excellence Award
1HM: Hale's Law for the Oxbow Award
3HM: A Pig for Sarah for OWL Award
Doyle also received lunch with agent Cherry Weiner for winning the synopsis award

Congratulations to all the winners!

Wish I could've been there to see you receive your awards. God willing and the creek don't rise, I'll make it there soon.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Read Saint Louis Presents Missouri Author Daniel Woodrell

If you live in or around the metro St. Louis area, you might want to mark your calendars for a special event sponsored by Read Saint Louis on Thursday evening.

Read Saint Louis is a community-wide initiative developed by developed by the St. Louis area library systems to encourage St. Louisans to read and discuss great books.

On Thursday, October 11, Read Saint Louis will recognize Missouri native Daniel Woodrell for his distinguished literary achievement. Woodrell is the author of Winter's Bone, The Outlaw Album, Woe to Live On, and several other memorable books.

Woodrell's country noir novels feature unforgetable characters and are set largely in the Missouri Ozarks. The acclaimed author has been "compared to William Faulkner and Cormac McCarthy . . . (and) is widely considered one of the best and most distinctive fiction writers in America."
Woodrell is scheduled to appear Thursday, October 11, 7:00 p.m. at the St. Louis County Library Headquarters Auditorium, 1640 S. Lindbergh Blvd.St. Louis, MO 63131.

Thanks to critique group pal Berta Rosenberg for sending me an e-mailing about Woodrell's appearance. Baring any last-minute homework assignments or projects for the grandkiddos, I'm going to try and attend this special event.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Giveaway in Honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month

In honor of October being breast cancer awareness month, I have a special month-long giveaway to announce, due to the generosity of one of my critique group friends.

Writer and editor extraordinare Alice Muschany, herself a breast cancer survivor, has given me a copy of Chicken Soup for the Soul: Hope & Healing for Your Breast Cancer Journey by Dr. Julie Silver of Harvard Medical School.

Alice is passionate about this topic. Several of her family members have been struck with this disease, and she has written with grace and candor about breast cancer in several media, including the Chicken Soup for the Soul, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Guideposts, and other publications.

Alice has two stories in the Chicken Soup Hope & Healing for Your Breast Cancer Journey anthology -- "Hats off to Betty with Love" and "Forever and Ever."

The front cover of the book states the book's purpose: Surviving and thriving during and after your diagnosis and treatment. Inside the book readers will find inspirational stories and medical advice.

If you would like to win a copy of this inspiring book, just leave a comment on this post this month. I will announce the winner in November.

Good luck to everyone who enters. And hats off to you, Alice, for sharing stories of your journey to healing with courage and compassion.

P. S. Alice also has an essay in the "Pass it On" section of the October 2012 Guideposts magazine.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

And The Winners Are . . .

Today has a special significance for me, which I won't go into detail here. Because of the special meaning this date holds for me, I'm doubling down and giving away two books, both written by Karen Wojcik Berner, who generously sent them to me.

The first book is Until My Soul Gets It Right.

Thanks to everyone who left comments for the giveaway announced last week and asked to be entered in the contest.

The name I picked at random to receive a copy of Until My Soul Gets It Right is . . .

Karen Lange 
But wait, there's more!

I am also giving away my signed review copy of Karen Wojcik Berner's first book in the Bibliophiles Series-- A Whisper to a Scream.

The first book in the series is the story of two women on "opposite ends of the child-bearing spectrum who come to realize the grass is not necessarily greener on the other side of the fence." I loved the memorable characters and the touches of humor in this book.
The second name I picked at random, and winner of A Whisper to a Scream is . . .
Denise Montgomery
So, if you ladies would e-mail me at dvolkenannt (at) and give me your mailing addresses I will get those books to you.
But wait, there's even more!
Later this week I will announce details for another giveaway. Alice Muschany, a critique group member, has donated a copy of Chicken Soup for the Soul: Hope & Healing for Your Breast Cancer Journey, which has two of her true stories in it.
So, drop by at the end of the week week to find out how you can win a copy of the anthology and read Alice's two remarkable stories, along with other stories of survival and hope.



Thursday, September 27, 2012

Review and Giveaway of Until My Soul Gets it Right by Karen Wojcik Berner

Today, I'm pleased to participate in the WOW! Women on Writing author blog tour, featuring Karen Wojcik Berner. Sorry for this midday post, but I thought I was supposed to post my review on Friday.

Several weeks ago I received a signed copy of Until My Soul Gets it Right: Book Two in The Bibliophiles series by Karen Wojcik Berner.

I wasn't sure what to expect when I opened the pages of Karen's novel, but I have to admit I was instantly engaged with the story of Catherine Elbert, a farm girl from Wisconsin who is trying to find her place in life.

Her story opens in Wisconsin in 1985. Catherine is an excellent high school student who is selected for a plum part in the class play. Much to her disappointment, her stern and unloving mother squelches her dream of becoming an actress. In fact, her mother does her best to destroy Catherine's self-image at every turn.

Two years after graduation, with a dim future ahead of her and after watching a travel show on public television, Catherine embarks on a journey that takes her from Wisconsin to an island off the coast of Maine, to San Diego, California, and back to the Midwest.

Along the way she makes several friends and makes a lot of mistakes, while she learns a lot about life and about love, but mostly about herself.

Berner's characters are lively, and the book has mild touches of humor, some soul-searching situations, and some swearing. Berner does an excellent job of setting the scene and giving the reader a good sense of place. The writing is strong and fluid, with one minor exception involving the eye color of one of the characters. On one page his eyes are green, on another brown--the "same brown eyes" as Tom Cruise's--except TC's eyes are blue. That hiccup took me out of the story for half a second, but for the rest of the book I found myself flipping the pages to find out what was going to happen to Catherine. I wondered: would she ever find love, would she make amends for her mistakes, and how was the Bibliophile Book Club going to fit in? All my questions were answered by the last page.

Until My Soul Gets it Right by Karen Wojcik Berner is a novel of self-discovery, sin, redemption, and forgiveness--and also wicked fun.

In the spirit of sharing, I am going to give away my signed review copy to one lucky person who leaves a comment between now and October 2nd. The name of the winner will be picked at random and announced on October 3rd.

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...