Friday, June 29, 2012

Chicken Soup for the Soul Legal Dispute Settled

This morning in the Publishers Weekly newsletter I read the headline "Dispute Over Chicken Soup Brand Settled by HCI, CSSP" .  I became immediately interested and popped on over to the Publishers Weekly site and read the entire article, written by Jim Milliot.

Like me, several of my visitors have had works published in the Chicken Soup for the Soul series, so I thought I'd share the above link in case others missed it and are interested in what's going on in the world of chicken soup. The focus of the dispute appears to be over rights to the backlist titles.

Friday, June 22, 2012

15 Things Garage Sales and Writing Have in Common

Last Saturday, then again on Wednesday, I was part of my family's annual garage sale at my sister’s house.

As I sweltered in the heat, I realized that having a garage sale and being a writer have several things in common.

* Both require long hours of preparation

* Both take lots of hard work

* It helps to have a plan

* It’s good to be organized

* Marketing is essential

* More than one set of eyes and ears need are needed

* What you value may not have the same value to others

* Be willing to let go of what you no longer need

* Be willing to negotiate

* But be willing to stand your ground when it matters

* Everyone loves a bargain, but sadly a few expect it for free

* Time invested doesn’t always equal payback

* Being around people you like doesn’t seem like work

* Meeting new and friendly people is fun

* Knowing there are people who love to read books is gratifying

No doubt writing and garage sales have even more in common; maybe I'll save those thoughts for another day.

The garage sale was a success. Everyone involved made money. My grandkiddos were excited with their share of the loot, and I am tickled with what I made. It’s a good feeling to de-clutter the house a bit, make a tidy sum, see smiles on faces of children and adults who are going to enjoy possessions others have enjoyed, and to be able to donate leftover items to a charitable resale shop.

While the family garage sale was a worthwhile experience, I’m glad it happens only once a year.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Win a Free Book on Cathy C. Hall's Blog

Cathy C. Hall, one of the funniest and most generous writers in the blogging community, has a contest going on over at her blog.

She is giving away a copy of  "Chicken Soup for the Soul: Boost Your Brain Power" to one lucky blog follower who leaves a comment suggesting a way to keep your brain cells actively engaged.

While you're leaving a comment on Cathy's blog and becoming a follower --- if you aren't already one --- be sure to check out some suggestions others have left.

The always wise and witty Sioux Roslawski has left a funny one, and the deep thinker Madeline Mora-Summonte left a suggestion I'm going to try today.

Good luck if you enter!

Monday, June 18, 2012

Call for Anthology Submissions: Fantasy and Science Fiction Short Story Contest in Honor of Ray Bradbury

StoneThread Publishing has announced a Fantasy and Science Fiction Short Story Contest to create an anthology in honor of esteemed author Ray Bradbury, who passed away on June 6, 2012.

The following summarizes contest guidelines and prizes. (Visit the publisher's site for complete details.)  

* No entry or reading fee
* Deadline July 31, 2012
* Previously unpublished fantasy or sociological SF works only (details on contest site)
* Word range: 1,500-15,000

* All winning entries will be included in the anthology
* Winners will receive a free copy of the anthology, plus
* First Place: $50
* Second through Sixth Places: $20
* Honorable Mentions: $10

** To read the complete details and the fine print, including assignment and limitation of rights, visit the StoneThread Publishing site.

(Thanks to my my long-time writing friend Julie Earhart-Cracchiolio for forwarding the e-mail announcing this contest.)

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Call for Anthology Submissions - A Shaker of Margaritas: A Bad Hair Day

Bad hair day? Don't fret. Write about it!

Mozark Press has just announced a call for humorous fiction stories (no poetry or essays) for A Shaker of Margaritas: A Bad Hair Day.

According to the publisher's e-mail announcement about the anthology, "a bad hair day is one of those days when things don’t go according to plan; in fact, it is as horrible as a bad perm or hair that turns green—unintentionally. Things go wrong, but with humor, stubbornness, and attitude—the female protagonist can survive any kind of bad hair day."

Submissions deadline is July 15, 2012
Approximately 20-25 stories will be selected for the anthology.
Contributors will be paid $20 upon publication.

For submissions guidelines visit the "Bad Hair Day" page.
I've had stories in two A Shaker of Margaritas anthologies and can attest that Linda Fisher does a first-class job as editor. The Shaker of Margaritas anthologies are fun to read--and the covers are lovely!
Good luck if you submit!

Friday, June 8, 2012

Writing Tip: Write to Express, not Impress

For decades, my writing approach has been, “Write to express, not impress.” It’s a lesson I learned early in my writing career and attempt to use whenever I craft a story, an essay or an article.

Last year I wrote a blog post titled “Writing Tips from a Contest Judge,” which was published on the Walrus Publishing website in January 2012, and which included the advice “winners write to express, not impress.”

While the purpose of that post was to express my opinion, it must've made an impression.

In April “Writing Tips from a Contest Judge” won second place in a Missouri Writers' Guild contest sponsored by the Kansas City Writers Group/Whispering Prairie Press. That was exciting!

Because others have found merit in some of the tips included in my January Walrus Publishing blog post, I thought it would be a good idea to share the entire post today. Here goes.


Writing Tips from a Contest Judge

by Donna Volkenannt

After more than a decade of judging writing competitions I’ve noticed similarities among winning entries. The entries that rise to the top of the stack are not only well written, they are also ones I remember long after judging is done. Here are some tips to help your prose rise to the top of the judge’s pile.


Read the contest guidelines carefully and follow them precisely. This might seem obvious, but surprisingly, some talented writers hurt their chances for winning because they don’t follow the guidelines. A recent contest I judged called for essays or short stories. One writer submitted a well written article which didn’t place because it was neither a short story nor an essay. In another contest, one great story exceeded the word limit. It didn’t win either. Exceeding, and in some cases skirting, a word limit also hints a writer has not polished her work. If contest guidelines are unclear, call or e-mail the contest coordinator for clarification.


A title should be a hint of what’s to come and an introduction to the writer’s style. About one-fifth of the entries in the contest I recently judged were untitled. A couple entries were noteworthy but didn’t make the cut because they didn’t include a title. Not giving your piece a title is like not giving your baby a name. Please name your baby.

Word Choices

The strongest entries use concrete nouns and active verbs as the workhorses for their stories. For example, the noun “mansion” is more concrete than “house,” and the noun “cardinal” is more specific than “bird.” Eliminate passive or weak verbs (is, are, was, were, would, have, had, looked, went, saw) and replace them with stronger, active ones. Use adjectives and adverbs sparingly. Eliminate filler words such as: just, very, only, little, so, that. Winners write to express, not impress.

Vivid writing

One way top-of-the-stack entries sparkle is by including the five senses: sight, scent, touch, hearing, and taste. They also include color and have varied sentence lengths. Dialogue punches up writing. They use dialogue when appropriate, but not as an info dump or to point out the obvious. Dialogue is for conflict, not agreement, and works best in short snatches.

Setting and Time

Stories don’t need exotic locations like Paris or San Francisco or the moon. Daniel Woodrell’s critically acclaimed novel Winter’s Bone is set in the Missouri Ozarks. Wherever you set your story, readers need to be oriented to the setting fairly quickly and have an idea of when the story takes place.

Character, Voice, Action and Conflict

In a winning story I look for well rounded characters, a strong and unique voice, compelling action, and conflict. In winning stories, change occurs. Something happens. Action and conflict occur before the story is resolved.


Even the most skilled writers make mistakes, but the strongest entries have correct spelling, punctuation, and grammar. When I’m judging, if I come across an occasional typo, misspelled word, or grammar hiccup, I overlook it. Having a lot of mistakes shows carelessness. And don’t overuse exclamation points!!!!! They are screaming on paper.


Polish your work until it shines. During revision, eliminate unnecessary or repetitive words. Don’t rely on spell check. Print out a hard copy to proofread. Reading a story backwards can help catch double words and other mistakes. Ask a writing friend to read your story or get feedback from a critique group. Put the work aside for a day or two, then re-read it again. Be sure to read it out loud to eliminate awkward or clunky-sounding writing.


Like playing the lottery, you can’t win if you don’t enter. Plan ahead so you’re not scrambling at the last minute. I’ve missed more than one deadline because my printer wasn’t working, my ink cartridge was dry, or I didn’t have enough postage on hand to mail an entry by a deadline. Remember to include the contest fee, and double check the mailing address. I received one entry from a contest chair a couple days after I had finished judging. The entrant mailed her entry on the deadline date but sent it to the wrong address. By the time I received it I had already picked the winners and sent the names to the contest chair.

Entering writing competitions stretches your writing muscles. Placing in contests boosts your ego and gets your work noticed. Winning contests validates your talent, can earn money, and be a step on the road to publication. So, don’t be afraid to enter contests. Send your babies out into the world, but when you do, make sure to submit your best work — and please don’t forget to name your babies.


Hope you enjoyed reading the above.

In writing fiction and nonfiction, “write to express, not impress” is a tip that has served me well.

What about you? Do you have a special tip to share with other writers?

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Writing by the Numbers: 14 Writing Exercises, 20 Markets, and One Poem

At lunch over the weekend I was part of a discussion on the topic of which is more important--numbers or words--math versus reading. Of course, I took the side of words.

While numbers have been called the universal language, where would we be without words? We learn to talk before we learn to count, don't we? And if we can't read, how can we recognize numbers?

While I'm still a word nerd, the discussion got me to give numbers their due.

Numbers and words are important in different ways; often they are complementary. I even have examples:

The other day I stumbled upon this list of writing exercises in Stumbleupon with 14 writing exercises.

The first six focus on scenes, narration, verbs and most of all STORY. The next eight focus on creating rounded CHARACTERS.

Here's something writing-related with even more numbers.

Earlier this week Becky Povich sent me a link to Meghan Ward's blog Writerland, whose blog post includes a listing 20 markets for personal essays.

Oh, and then there's Elizabeth Barrett Browning's famous sonnet,  "How Do I Love Thee? Let me count the ways. . ."

Monday, June 4, 2012

Life Lessons from Dads Now Available

Last week I received my contributor copy of LIFE LESSONS FROM DADS. Yippy!

The anthology is special to me because it includes my essay, "A Just Man," which is about my late father James P. Duly, Sr., and some lessons he taught me, including to be proud of who I am and to never stop learning.

The gift book from Write Integrity Press, has 21 essays about lessons our dads taught us, along with scores of photos--including one of my dad with his large glasses and mustache, looking somewhat like a Mafia Don, except that J. P. Duly was Irish-American.

At 91 pages, the stories, photos, and layout are nicely done. The anthology has a spiritual slant and includes author bios from contributors ranging from: a doctor, a church elder, several teachers (Sunday school, Bible, Homeschooler and Special Needs), a nurse, a TV producer, freelance writers and others.

The book is available in print and Kindle 

Here is a link to the book trailer

Friday, June 1, 2012

Strange Sightings

Yesterday hubby, grandson, and I headed out to Walmart to buy a fishing license for our grandson. (Hubby already has his and I most likely won't be doing much fishing this year.)

I never know what I'll see on a Walmart adventure, and yesterday was no exception.

It was a cool and drizzly day, which is good for the trees and flowers.

But it wasn't so rainy that you'd need an umbrella --- unless maybe you're a car.

Walking across the parking lot, Hubby said, "Take a look at that."

Of course, I had to grab dig my camera out of my purse to capture the moment on film.

While it may look strange to see an umbrella being used as a car window, on the plus side, the car owner is very creative and the umbrella does match the car -- kind of.

After we left the store, on our way to grab a late lunch, I noticed a souped-up black vehicle, hugging the ground in the next lane. The lime green hubcabs caught my attention.  

The teenage driver reved his engine and sped down the road. That's when I spotted something hanging from his back bumper.

Unfortunately I didn't get my camera out of my purse in time to snap a photo of his car as it buzzed past--or maybe it's better that I didn't.

Hanging from his rear bumper was a mesh set of two items resembling the lower anatomy of a bull.

When I asked my husband what that was supposed to mean, he said, "He thinks his piece of junk car has . . ."

So, that leads me to ask, what strange sightings have you witnessed lately?

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...