Friday, March 30, 2012

Inspiration from Anene Tressler - Get it On the Page

Last Saturday, award-winning writer Anene Tressler dazzled me with her wisdom and inspired me with her words. Anene was the guest speaker at the 10th anniversary celebration of Saturday Writers. Her talk was informative, witty, wise -- and enthusiastic.

Although she has reason to be proud, Anene's talk was not about her own book or her accomplishments.  In fact, she was modest about them. Her novel Dancing with Gravity was published by Blank Slate Press in 2011 and has won numerous awards. I haven't read her novel yet, but I have a copy of it and can't wait to get started.

Anene's enthusiasm and her love for writing were obvious, and she shared a wealth of information about writing and research resources. She also spoke eloquently about why we write. To paraphrase: "We come to writing to be surprised and to know we are not alone in the world."

As an example of the beauty and condensed language of words, she read the breathtaking poem "After Years" which was written by former United States Poet Laureate, Ted Kooser.

Along with her words of inspiration, she brought a bag of writing books as visual aids. I already have several of her recommended books, but two new to me that I want to check out are The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron and What Is by Lynda Barry. Anene's exercise tapped memories in me I had long forgotten, but I plan to expand into an essay.

Here's the exercise Anene used from Lynda Barry's book. You might be suprised with what memories it evokes.

* Pretend you are in a car from your past.
* Write the name of the car that has come to you.
* Where are you?
* Are you in or out of the car?
* If ou are inside, which seat are you in?
* What are you doing?
* If you are out of the car, what part of it are you facing?
* What time of day or night is it?
* Who else is with you?
* Why are you there?
* What season?
* How old are you?
* What is in front of you?
* What is to your left?
* What is to your right?
* What is behind you?
* What is above your head?
* What is below your feet?

Now: Beginning with the words "I am," write where you are and what is happening in the car image that has come to you.

It was a fun and revealing exercise; a few brave participants (not me) read what they'd written.

The other day I told my sister about the exercise. What was weird is that she and I both came up with similar images of the mid-1950s being in the back seat of our 1947 green Chevy riding down Natural Bridge Road returning home to St. Louis after visiting our cousins in the "country" -- in Berkeley, MO. My sister and I are sixteen months apart, so our memories were similar. We were on the same road, but with slightly different scenarios.

Back to Anene's presentation. The main take-away I remember from her presentation is: "Get it on the page." What's in your mind might be clear to you but not to your reader, so be clear when you write! And, if it isn't written down, it's not there.

To sum it up: writing is about clarity and discovery. So, take time to discover and write clearly, but most of all, make sure you get it on the page.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Saturday Writers Celebrates Ten Years

While we're on the topic of celebrations, last Saturday was the 10th anniversary celebration of Saturday Writers, a group I co-founded with Lou Turner, David Kirkland, Margo Dill, and Amy Harke-Moore back in January of 2002.

Our little group grew from a handful of members to now around 80 or 90. Who would've guessed?

Current President Jennifer Hashieder and the SW board did a fabulous job for the event. The cake was scrumptious. The photo on the left is of me with Lou Turner, one of the co-founders. (Note to self: Get a haircut.) Thanks Bea for taking our picture.

Speaking of Bea. She won second place in the Romance Writing Contest. Other winners were Jack, Sioux, and Jennifer.

Marcia won a door prize. Here she is displaying her jaunty new cap.

Rebeca does a fabulous job planning these monthly contests. Her idea board is so creative! And Brad's rendedition of "Writer's Block" to the melody of "Yesterday" on Saturday was enormously entertaining--and hilarious. Cyn keeps us all straight when we arrive, and without Les we wouldn't have such delicious goodies each week. And Jennifer is so enthusiastic and creative. She's a wonderful leader!

The group sparkles with energy and ideas, such as Sioux's Writer's Marathon in St. Charles.
Writing, walking, reading, eating lunch and drinking wine. How can you beat that combination on a Saturday afternoon in April?

Sioux explains our April 7th Writer's Marathon in St. Charles

Jack receives his award!

Brad performs "Writer's Block"

Jennifer displays a Saturday Writers Tote Bag. Our new logo is super!

Rebeca discusses the Contest Inspiration Board for the April contest (poetry or flash fiction)

Later this week I will post about our guest speaker's presentation. Anene Tressler, author of Dancing With Gravity, did a fantastic job. She inspired us and led us through a writing exercise. I want to give her presentation a full page, so watch later this week when I'll share what I learned from Anene.

Happy 10th anniversary Saturday Writers. Here's to many more!

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Mary Flannery O'Connor's Birthday is Today

Today is the birthdate of Flannery O'Connor , one of my all-time favorite short story writers. She was born on March 25, 1925 to Regina Cline and Edward F. O'Connor. Here's a link to her bio if you want to read more.

I was first introduced to her short stories in an American Literature college course in the mid-1980s, while living in El Paso.

After reading, "Good Country People" I was hooked. During that semester we studied the fiction of many American writers, including two of my favorites, O'Connor and Katherine Anne Porter. Something about their writing moved me to want to write short stories.

About four years ago, while returning to Missouri from Florida over Thanksgiving holiday, we stopped in Savannah to visit her Flannery's childhood home at 207 E. Charlton, where she lived from her birth in 1925 until she moved to Milledgeville, GA, in 1938.

Her Savannah home wasn't open the day we visited, but I took some photos of the grandkiddos standing outside the house. I thought it was neat that the name of the street she grew up on (Charlton) was the maiden name of my great-grandmother.

If you're not familiar with O'Connor's short stories, do youself a favor and read at least one.

And, if you're a lover of short stories or good literature in general, I recommend the book, THE ART OF THE SHORT STORY: 52 GREAT AUTHORS, THEIR BEST SHORT FICTION, AND THEIR INSIGHTS ON WRITING by Dana Gioia and R. S. Gwynn.

Included in that text are O'Connor's short stories "A Good Man is Hard to Find" and "Revelation," along with an essay by O'Connor's on her perspective on the element of suspense in "A Good Man is Hard to Find."

So, Happy Birthday, Mary Flannery O'Connor, and thank you for bringing such wonderful stories to the world.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Hunger Games Opens Today and Dead End in Norvelt Now Available in Audiobook

Today is an exciting day for book lovers, especially fans of HUNGER GAMES by Suzanne Collins. The Hunger Games movie opens today--actually it opened at midnight if you want to get technical.

The teens in my grandson's seventh-grade class are abuzz about the Hunger Games books, but especially the movie. One of his teachers told the class she was going to attend the midnight showing.

Yesterday Michael came home excited to see the movie. We drove to the movie theater and I bought a ticket so he could watch Hunger Games this afternoon. He and some friends are walking from school to the movie theater to watch Hunger Games as soon as school gets out. He also brought home an order sheet so I can order all three HUNGER GAMES series books from Scholastic Books. Here's a link to the book trailer. Gotta love it when kids get excited about books and books made into movies!

Here's some more news about a popular book for teens. DEAD END IN NORVELT, winner of the 2012 Newbery Medal for the year's best contribution to children's literature and the Scott O'Dell Award for Historical Fiction, is available as an audiobook from Macmillan Audio. I reviewed the Jack Gantos novel some time ago on my blog and on Kidsreads. I recommend it, especially for boys who like quirky adventure stories.

Technical wizard that I am -- no wait, I'm not one of those --- I tried to download an MP3 audio excerpt here, but I was not able to master that skill. At any rate, here's a link if you want to listen for yourself.

Happy reading and movie watching to all young readers--and readers of all ages who love good books!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Call for Submissions: Chicken Soup for the Soul: Inspiration for Writers

Alice Muschany, one of my critique group friends, e-mailed me with a heads-up about the latest Chicken Soup for the Soul call out, then late yesterday I received an e-mail from the Chicken Soup folks announcing the call for submissions.

So, all you writers out there--if you haven't already heard--put on your thinking caps, here's a story call out that might interest writers who write, "from books to blogs.":

Chicken Soup for the Soul: Inspiration for Writers, 101 Motivational Stories for Writers, Budding or Bestselling, from Books to Blogs

The editors are looking for "your setbacks, mentors, breakthroughs, and successes."

Topics considered include:

How did you overcome writer's block?

Who kept you on the right path when you were ready to give up?

When did you realize that the story in your heart was ready to be shared with the world?

The editors are NOT looking for promotional pieces.

They want to know about "your journey to publication, including self-publishing and blogging. This is your opportunity to help other writers -- published and unpublished -- to draw inspiration and learn from your experiences."

Deadline: June 30, 2012

Payment: A check for $200 and 10 free copies of your book (worth more than $100).

Note: Author retains the copyright and the right to resell it.

For complete details and submission guidelines, visit

What are you waiting for? Get writing, and good luck!

Monday, March 19, 2012

The Feast of St. Joseph, A Day to Remember My Dad

Today, March 19, is the feast of St. Joseph, the foster father of Jesus, and a carpenter by trade.

While most people celebrate their dads on Father's Day in June --which I do as well--I also take time to think about my dad on March 19, the feast day of St. Joseph.

My late father was no saint--just ask anyone who knew him--but he taught me many life lessons. Among them are:

* Be proud of who you are. We were Irish-American Catholics and poor, but it didn't seem to matter. Dad was proud of his Irish heritage. Although he wasn't a big man, he never backed down from a fight--in fact, he probably started many--usually in a neighborhood tavern after a few Buds. (That's the not-being-a-saint part.)

* Be proud of your country: Dad was a decorated World War II Army Infantry soldier who served in the Pacific Theater. While he rarely talked about his time in the "Big War," he was very patriotic. He belonged to the Disabled American Veterans, and we flew the flag on our front porch, especially on patriotic days.

* Know your tools: Like St. Joseph, my dad worked with his hands. He was a carpenter and an enamel sparyer by trade. At home, he liked to tinker and fix things. When he did, he sent one of us kids to fetch him a tool. But Dad's tool box was sacred; no one got to open the lid unless Dad sent us to get something for him. When I got married, my husband was surprised that I knew the difference between a phillips and a flathead screwdriver.

* Fall in love with words: Every day Dad worked the crossword puzzle, the word jumble, and the crypto-quip. His love for playing with words rubbed off on me. Dad also loved to read, especially the newspapers. We subscribed to the St. Louis Post Dispatch and the now-defunct Globe Democrat (his favorite), and Dad read them from cover-to-cover, except maybe the ads. We never got to touch the paper until Dad finished reading it. When we were little, Dad read the Sunday funnies to us. His favorites were Dagwood, Little Lulu, and of course Beetle Bailey.

* Get a good government job. With a house full of kids, our folks couldn't afford to send us to college, so Dad urged us to get jobs working for the government. My sisters Kathleen, Bridget, Glenda, and I all did just that. I started working as a clerk-stenographer for the Army ten days after high school graduation--which helped me pay for night school and a college degree. 

So, today I'm taking time to remember my dad, James P. Duly, Sr. In fact, this evening at supper time I might just tip a little brown bottle of Bud in his memory. Here's to you, Dad!

Friday, March 16, 2012

Call for Submissions from Write Integrity Press and Turner River Rats for the Arts

I love this logo from Write Integrity Press. It's so spring-like and filled with hope. The editors at Write Integrity Press are currently seeking submissions for three anthology series:

     Life Lessons from Moms
     Life Lessons from Dads
     Life Lessons from Teachers
     Word limit: 1,000
     Deadline: March 31, 2012
    Payment: $25, plus contributor's copy
Visit the Write Integrity Press website for complete submission guidelines.

Thanks to Denise from the Catholic Writers of St. Louis blog for letting me know about this submission opportunity.

Now, onto a chance to have your play performed!

The Turner Hall River Rats for the Arts is issuing an invitation to anyone interested in writing a very short play. Here are some details:

  Play length: No more than three minutes.
  Payment: Selected scripts will receive a staged reading and a small royalty.
  Deadline: Submissions are due by midnight on Sunday, April 1.
  Guidelines and format requirements are available via email to or from (660) 882-3300. 

Thanks to Judy Stock from the Columbia Chapter of the Missouri Writers Guild for this call out from the Turner Hall River Rats for the Arts.

Good luck if you submit!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Think Outside the Book: How Writing Short Stories Can Get You Noticed

Sorry for this shameless plug, but I thought I'd let local writers know what I'm up to in case they want to come hear me talk.

Tomorrow night (Wednesday, March 14) I'm giving a presentation on "Think Outside the Book: How Writing Short Stories Can Get You Noticed" to Sisters in Crime, St. Louis

Don't let the name Sisters in Crime fool you. The members aren't actually criminals (although I'm not so sure about one of them, but I won't say who). The members are local mystery writers. 

I've been working on my talk for a few days. Okay, I've been working on it much longer than that.

Some points I plan to cover are:
What is a short story?
How are short stories diffrent from novels?
Who are some famous short story writers?
How can short stories get noticed?
Where can writers find markets for their short stories?
Where can I find out about short story contests?
What do judges look for in winning stories?

Because the group is mystery writers, I plan to read a piece of flash fiction I recently wrote, which some in my critique group have called "creepy."

Time permitting, I'm going to lead an exercise on short story writing.

If you are a local writer and have some extra time tomorrow night, here are details:

The March 14 meeting begins at 7:00 and wraps up around 8:30 p.m. at the Creve Coeur Police/Community Center, 300 N. New Ballas Rd., Creve Coeur, MO  63141.

The building is on the east side of Ballas Rd, south of Olive & north of Ladue Rd. Parking is available in the rear of the building and entrance is through the back door.  

Non memberSinC members are free; non-StL SinC members may attend one meeting for free. If it's your second meeting as a non-member it's $5.00 at the door.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Submission Opportunity: Not Your Mother's Series Anthology

I'm so excited to share some wonderful news from two St. Louis-area writing friends--Dianna Graveman and Linda O'Connell.

Linda and Dianna are two of the hardest working writers I know. Both ladies are award-winning, multi-published writers who deserve great success.

Their latest project sounds fascinating. Equally exciting is that they are actively seeking submissions from other writers!

Linda and Dianna are working as independent editors on two Publishing Syndicate anthologies in the Not Your Mother's series.

     * Linda is developing and seeking "sassy, snappy, sincere or humorous submissions" for, Not Your Mother's book on Family.

     * Dianna is seeking first-person "funny or downright embarrassing" submissions for Not Your Mother's book on Being a Mom.

While Dianna and Linda are collaborating on the promotion of both titles, they ask writers NOT to submit the same story to both books.

Hop on over to Linda or Dianna's blogs for their official Press Releases or to the Publishing Syndicate site for detailed submission guidelines.

I have it on good authority that submissions are already pouring in, so don't wait too long to submit--and good luck if you do!

Friday, March 9, 2012

My Essay "Take Your Clothes Off and Other Critique Group Advice" is Posted on The WOW Blog

I never dispense unsolicitated advice about critique groups. Um. That's not true.

I rarely express my opinions about belonging to a critique group. That's not true, either.

I have strong feelings about critique groups and have been known to express them freely. As my mom used to say, "Now we're cooking with some grease."

If you would like to read an essay I wrote about some of my critique group experiences, hop on over to WOW's The Muffin Blog, where I'm guest blogger today.

My Essay "Take Your Clothes Off and Other Critique Group Advice" is posted there. Leave a comment if you like, and please leave your clothes on.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Bookreporter Launches Twentysomethingreads and Hunger Games Contest

Last week I received an e-mail from Carol Fitzgerald, President of Bookreporter, announcing the launch of their new Twentysomethingreads site.

Twentysomethingreads is a website created for readers in their twenties, defined as, “A decade. A state of mind. An age. A lifestyle. A time for self-discovery. A new perspective. An attitude. A philosophy. Independence. Freedom. A time to re-discover reading for pleasure - and FINALLY - read what you want.”

Disclosure: I have been a book reviewer for Bookreporter for more than five years, and I'm thrilled to share this information with my blog visitors.

Here are some of features of the new Twentysomethingreads site: 

• Curated Bookshelf Collections --- 20 themed titles perfect for twentysomethings. Now Live: Great International Mysteries, Spring Break Suggested Titles, Cookbooks to Get You Started and Book Club Suggestions. Themed bookshelves will be part of each update.

• Contests : right now a chance to win all the Spring Break Bookshelf titles in a contest valued at more than $450 and a Hunger Games Contest with movie tie-in titles from The Hunger Games including a collector’s edition, The Official Illustrated Movie Companion, The Tributes Guide, and The Hunger Games movie tie-in edition.

20 Days of The Hunger Games --- in anticipation of the upcoming film release, there will be a special blog series starting on March 3rd , with 20 blogs to countdown to til this highly anticipated movie’s release.

• Booksellers’ Picks --- featuring reading recommendations for readers in their 20s, booksellers from around the country will be making suggestions as to what books to read.

* A featured author on the site is Lisa Lutz, whose latest novel, TRAIL OF THE SPELLMANS, I reviewed on Bookreporter. You can read my interview with Lisa Lutz here.

* Librarian Picks --- featuring reading recommendations for readers in their 20s, librarians from around the country will be making suggestions as to what books to read.

• Bookstore Tour --- this article series will highlight indie bookstores in the United States, from coast-to-coast, beginning with Bookstores in New York City.

• 20 Over 30 --- authors over the age of 30 will make reading recommendations, suggesting which book of theirs to start with, what book they would recommend to readers in their 20s, and what book they’re reading.

• 20 Questions: A Day in the Life of… --- This blog series will follow the writing --- and living --- habits of authors, as they answer a questionnaire about what it’s like to be them for a day.

Hope you'll check out the new Twentysomethingreads site. Even if you're WAY over 20, as I am, you're never too old to enjoy some of the books you'll find there.

Happy reading!

Monday, March 5, 2012

A Link to My Erma Bombeck Essay Posted on the Washington Centerville Library Website

Wow! It has been a whirlwind few days.

Thanks to everyone who called, e-mailed, or left comments and words of encouragement and support on my blog. Special thanks to my friends who posted about my win on their own blogs or on Facebook.


Several people have asked to read my essay.

The Washington Centerville Library has posted all the winning essays on their website. Here's a link to their page. If you scroll down you can find mine as the First Place winner in the Global Humor Category. The website also lists statistics for entries in all categories. There were 525 overall entries from 49 states and 7 countries, including Ireland, China, and Spain. I don't know how many of those were in the Global Humor Category, but the contest coordinator told me on the phone there was a lot of competition.

As for the celebration and workshop in Dayton, my sister Kathleen is driving there with me next month. Walt is going to stay home to take care of the grandkiddos. What a guy!

After I return from Dayton I'll post about it here. Thanks again, everyone. It's been an exciting few days!

Thursday, March 1, 2012

I Won the Erma Bombeck Humor Writing Contest!

I'm in shock.

This afternoon I received a call from the Erma Bombeck Contest Coordinator at the Washington Centerville Public Library in Dayton, Ohio, telling me my humorous essay, "Honey, Can I Borrow Your Garter Belt?"  won first place in the Erma Bombeck Writing Contest.

My hands are still shaking as I type this. I tried to write down the coordinator's comments, but I don't think I got them all.

In a nutshell, I won $500 and admission to the workshop in Dayton ($375 value) if I want to attend. My essay will be published in the Dayton Daily news, and press releases will be sent to local newspapers. My essay will also be printed in the program for the Erma Bombeck celebtation on April 18th.

The first-round judges loved the "hoochie grandma" line, and the final judge commented that "Strunk and White would be proud of this writer's economy of words."

When I find out more details, I will post them here.

Special thanks to my critique group for their suggestions to improve my essay.

And I'm still in shock.

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...