Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Contest and Anthology Submission Opportunity from Warriors Arts Alliance

"Home from the War" by Winslow Homer (1863)
Image, courtesy of National Gallery of Art
Quick, grab a pen! Better yet, power up your laptop!

If you're a fast writer -- or if you happen to have a military-themed poem, short story, or essay already written and are looking for a place to submit -- here is an opportunity you might want to check out.

Warriors Arts Alliance has a no-fee contest and call for submissions for Volume 2 of Proud to Be: Writing by American Warriors.

The editors are looking for poetry, fiction, essays, photographs, and interviews from military personnel, veterans, and their families.

Created by the Missouri Humanities Council, the Warrior Arts Alliance, and Southeast Missouri State University Press, this series of anthologies preserves and shares the perspectives of our military and veterans of all conflicts and of their families. It is not only an outlet for artistic expression but also a document of the unique aspects of wartime in our nation’s history.

Two types of entries:  1) anthology only;  2) contest and anthology
  • 1.  Anthology-only entry: mail your previously unpublished work with self-addressed, stamped envelope for notification to Warriors Anthology, Southeast Missouri State University Press, MS 2650, Cape Girardeau, MO 63701.
  • 2. Contest and Anthology entry: email previously unpublished work to upress@semo.edu
Contest: ($250 first prize in each category; all entries also considered for anthology)
  • Entries must be sent electronically as Microsoft Word docs (or docx).
  • Keep poems in one document (with 1st poem as title).
  • Put your name and contact info on 1st page and nowhere else on the manuscript.
For both mailed and electronic submissions:
  • Limit one submission in each category per person.
  • Poetry: up to 3 poems (5 pages maximum).
  • Fiction, essay, or interview: 5,000-word limit.
  • Photography: up to 3 good-quality photos (will be printed in the book as b&w).
  • Submissions exceeding the limits will be disqualified.
  • Include a bio of 75 words or less with your submission.
  • Winners & contributors will be notified by Nov. 1, 2013

Submission deadline is July 1 (postmark).

Visit the Warriors Arts Alliance website for more information.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Sweet! We Have a Winner of Sweet Salt Air by Barbara Delinsky

Thanks to everyone who stopped by last week and left a comment or a memory about a special vacation place or a trip to a beach.

Your comments made me want to: sip champagne in France, walk the beaches of Maui, stretch out in the chilly air on Sanibel Island, swim in the turquoise waters of St. Thomas, and visit sunny New Mexico.

The winner of Sweet Salt Air: A Novel is:

So, if you send me your mailing address, Lynn, I will get the ARE to you soon.
Happy reading, and happy summer everyone!

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Guest Post: Jan Morrill on "Make Us Love Your Characters"

I'm pleased today to host award-winning writer Jan Morrill to Donna's Book Pub.

Jan was born and (mostly) raised in California. Her mother, a Buddhist Japanese American, was an internee during World War II. Her father, a Southern Baptist redhead of Irish descent, retired from the Air Force.

Her novel, The Red Kimono, (University of Arkansas Press, January 2013), as well as many of her short stories, reflect memories of growing up in a multicultural, multi-religious, multi-political environment.

I love the cover of Jan's book and look forward to reading it.

Her award-winning short stories and memoir essays have been published in Chicken Soup for the Soul books and several anthologies. Recently, she was nominated for the Pushcart Prize for her short story “Xs and Os,” which appeared in the Voices Anthology.

An artist as well as a writer, she is currently working on the sequel to The Red Kimono.

Jan is a gracious and generous author who shares her talent with others in the writing community. She served as past president of OWL and past conference chair of OWFI. Today, Jan shares with us her tips and strategies on how to:
Make Us Love Your Characters

What is it that draws you into a novel? Makes you turn the page? For me, it’s the characters. I want to read about characters I can relate to, that I care about and with whom I can sympathize. I even want to read about those I might hate. In other words, I need to feel something about them, or the story doesn’t matter to me.

Most writers have heard the rule, “Show, don’t tell.” To me, that means tell the story through the character, using not only his senses, but his voice.

So how can a writer make his characters fuller, richer? I have several methods I use and I’ve listed my two favorites below. These exercises have also helped me break through periods of writer’s block:

1)      Interview your characters.

2)      Write a letter to your character, or better yet, write a letter from one of your characters to another one of your characters.

These methods have drawn out new personality traits, new story lines, even secrets that I hadn’t known before. I laugh when I talk to audiences about these techniques. Confessing that my characters have “told me secrets” when before, I’d stared at a blank page, feels a little crazy. But crazy or not, it works.

Interviewing Your Characters

I begin by compiling a list of questions. These are simple questions I’d like to know about any acquaintance, or even a stranger. I’ve created a list of over twenty questions such as:

·         What or who are you afraid of?
·         Tell me a secret, either about yourself or someone else.
·         Which of your physical characteristics do you wish you could change?
·         Tell me about a time someone teased you as a child.

Here’s what I suggest to make the interview most effective:

1)      Close your eyes and imagine sitting with the character. Imagine the setting – sights, sounds, smells.
2)      Carry on a conversation in your mind and write it down, recording the conversation without lifting the pen from the page or your fingers from the keyboard. Don’t censor and don’t edit.
3)      Pay attention to your character’s “voice” in both the dialogue and internalization.

In my experience, often this interview becomes a short story on its own. To read an interview I conducted with one of my characters, see my blog post, “Happy Hour with Nobu.”

Write a Letter to Your Character

 In another of my blog posts, “Sachi’s Letter to Nobu,” I wrote a letter from Sachi to Nobu when I was stumped with a scene in The Red Kimono.  There are a variety of ways you can use this technique. I’ve listed them in order of which I’ve found to be most effective:

1)      Write a letter from one character to another. In the voice of the character writing the letter, tell the receiving character about what is going on in his/her life, just as you would write a letter to a “real-life” friend. This will often prompt ideas, when before, you stared at a blank page.

2)      Have your character write a letter to you. Start with your character telling YOU how frustrated he is that you can’t seem to understand what he’s trying to tell you. He can ask YOU questions such as:

·         Why are you writing this book anyway?
·         What did you expect me to do/say after I (insert something that happened in the book.)
·         (Insert another character) doesn’t want me to tell you this, but (what first comes to mind?)

3)      YOU write a letter to your character. Tell him how frustrated you are that he’s hiding from you. Ask him why he won’t talk to you? What’s he hiding?

 You may be surprised at what you learn about your characters and your story using these techniques. Best of all, it will deepen your knowledge of your character. If you can transfer that new knowledge onto a page and into your story, it will draw your readers to want to know even more. And isn’t that what makes a page-turner?
 It's not often to be able to gain such insight into how a successful author creates compelling characters.

Thanks, Jan, for sharing your time and talent with us today.  I especially like the idea of writing a letter from one character to another.
And good luck with the sequel to The Red Kimono.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Writer's Withdrawal and a Surprise Visit from Nick Nixon

Lately I've been having writer's withdrawal. Because of family events and other commitments, I haven't been able to attend my Tuesday morning writing group, Coffee and Critique, for three weeks.

After so many weeks of being critique-free, I was looking forward to getting back in the swing of things, so much so that last night I attended a Saturday Writers open mic event. With more than 20 writers in attendance, last night's event was a big hit.

This morning I received a call from my best writing buddy, Lou Turner. Lou told me she had talked to Nick Nixon yesterday, and Nick was going to visit our critique group today. 

Nick has been fighting cancer lately, and we've missed his presence greatly, but we always have kept a chair at the table for him. Nick is an amazing writer, songwriter, singer, entertainer, and  all-around good guy.

So, this morning, Nick, his wife Kim and daughter Autumn Rose, as well as Nick's good friend Nick Berry from Ohio, dropped in our group for a visit.

Nick read one of his wonderful essays, and stayed a bit to give critique on a few others that were read.

I managed to snap a few shots of Nick and his family and one of him with Nick Berry. Kim also took a few photos of those C&C members there today, including the one above.

If you pop on over to the Coffee and Critique blog later today you will find more shots from this morning, but I wanted to post one here of Nick with some of our group so my visitors will know what's been going on with our dear writing friend, Nick Nixon.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Happy Father's Day: I Miss you, Dad

On this Father's Day I pay tribute to my late father, James P. "Jim" Duly, Sr., who was born in 1916 and passed away in 1983. Dad was the sixth child of eleven children, and he lived a hard life during hard times. He grew up during the Depression and served in the Army Infantry during World War II. Only Dad, three of his brothers, and one sister survived to adulthood.

My dad was an Irish-American who loved all things Irish, especially telling stories, arguing about politics, boxing, and drinking beer. On St. Patrick's Day he'd tip a few then show us his version of the Irish Jig. He liked to tell puns and sing off-color ditties that I didn't realize were off-color until I was an adult.  

The following is an excerpt of my essay, "A Just Man," which was published in 2012 in Life Lessons from Dad, published by Write Integrity Press.

While my father was no saint, he was a good dad who taught me important lessons which have served me well, and which I hope to pass along to my grandchildren. Among Dad’s life lessons are:
* Be proud of who you are. When Dad wasn’t in the Veteran’s hospital receiving treatment for a service-connected disability, he performed hard physical labor at a local refrigeration plant.  While small in stature, he was big on courage. He was proud of his country and never backed down from a fight.

* Get a good job. With a house full of kids, our folks couldn't afford to send us to college, so Dad urged us to get good-paying jobs with the government after we graduated from high school. My sisters Kathleen, Bridget, Glenda, and I took his advice. Ten days after high school graduation, I started working as a clerk-stenographer for the Army--which helped pay for night school courses and a college degree.

* Never stop learning. Dad had a curious mind and loved to read. One of my fondest childhood memories is of Dad reading the Sunday funnies to us. Dad’s thirst for knowledge and his love for words rubbed off on me.

So, today I remember my late father, James P. "Jim" Duly, Sr.
I admire Dad’s wit and wisdom, and his love for family, faith, and freedom. Dad taught me how to be proud of who I am, cherish my freedom, stay curious about the world and never stop learning.  
Today, in Dad's honor, I'll drink a beer and wish him "Cheers" in Irish: "Slainte!"

Friday, June 14, 2013

Review and Giveaway of Sweet Salt Air by Barbara Delinsky

After recently returning from a wonderful vacation on Fripp Island in South Carolina, in the beach home of my generous writer friend Berta, I've been in a beach frame of mind -- wearing flip flops and craving seafood and remembering the feel of sand beneath my feet and the sound and smell of the ocean.

Later this month I'll post about the amazing time my grandchildren and I spent at Sandcastle, the Rosenberg's large and lovely home on Fripp Island, right on the beach.

For now, in the spirit of passing on a bit of the sweet, salty air to my blog visitors, I've decided to post about an entertaining novel of a summer adventure that takes place on a remote island off the coast of Maine.


Sweet Salt Air by New York Times bestselling author Barbara Delinsky is a delightful book, filled with the sights and smells and tastes of the beach.

The story is about Charlotte and Nicole, best friends who spent their summers in Nicole's family home on an island off the coast of Maine. After Nicole's marriage, the women's lives spin off in separate directions.

Charlotte has become a successful freelance travel writer whose assignments and adventures across the globe leave her longing to set down roots. Nicole lives in Philadelphia and is married to Julian, a successful surgeon. Nicole has turned her passion for organic food and fresh fruit and produce from farmers' markets into a popular food blog.

Ten years after Nicole's wedding, the women get together and spend the summer in Nicole's family vacation home where they collaborate on a cookbook featuring island foods and recipes.

Working on the cookbook rekindles pleasant memories, but it also unearths secrets, insecurities, and betrayal. Charlotte is consumed by guilt over something that happened before she left the island. Nicole also has a secret involving her husband that could be a matter of life or death.

While collecting recipes for the cookbook, the women reconnect with and befriend some islanders, including bad boy Leo Cole, who fiercely protects access to his late mother's garden and guards a surprising secret.

The women also experience the joy of rediscovering the beauty and uniqueness of the island -- the special scents and herbs that grow there -- and the delicious foods prepared with islanders' loving touches. Just about every chapter is infused with some sort of food, herb, plant, flower, or beverage. There's coffee, lots of coffee.

What I like most about Sweet Salt Air are the characters, especially Charlotte and Leo. I also was swept away by the beach setting and the engaging twists and turns the story took.

The sensual details make the novel come alive. The mention of so much food is expected with a story about the writing of a cookbook, but at times I felt dizzy with sensory overload and got sidetracked from the story. And telling a good story is what Barbara Delinsky does best.

So, if you're hungry for a tasty summer read, add Sweet Salt Air to your list. It is a sweet and touching novel about friendship, betrayal, redemption, love, forgiveness -- and food.


In the spirit of sharing, I'm giving away my Advance Readers' Edition of Sweet Salt Air to one of my visitors.

For a chance to win, just leave a comment by June 20 about a trip you've taken to a beach or a favorite vacation -- or just stop by to say "Hi!"

I'll select one commenter's name at random and on June 21 I'll post the winner's name, along with instructions on how to contact me to collect your winning.  

Good luck!

Almost forgot: Although St. Martin's Press provided me a free copy of the ARE of Sweet Salt Air, I was not paid to give a favorable review.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

How Sweet it Is

Receiving awards is always fun, but receiving an award from a friend is extra special.

Thank you, Lynn Obermoeller, at Present Letters for giving me this sweet award several days ago.

Sorry I didn't post about it sooner, but I received it just before I left to go out of town and am just now catching up with my posts.

With accepting this award, I'm supposed to do the following:

Thank the Super Sweet Blogger who nominated me. (Thank you, Lynn.)

Answer Five Super Sweet questions. (See my answers below.)

Include the Super Sweet Blogging award image in my blog post. (Done.)

Nominate a baker's dozen other bloggers. (Since by now just about all the bloggers I know have  received this award, I invite any of my visitors who have not received this award to please accept it with my compliments.)

Here are the super sweet questions and my answers:

1. Cookies or Cake? Angel food cake with strawberries on top. But chocolate chip and oatmeal raisin cookies also make my tummy smile.

2. Chocolate or Vanilla? Chocolate - dark. My mouth waters just thinking about dark chocolate molasses puffs and Mounds bars. I also like chocolate chip ice cream.

3. Favorite Sweet Treat? Gosh. My answer depends on the time of the year, so I'll answer by the four seasons: Spring: Strawberry shortcake. Summer: Lemon meringue pie. Fall: Pumpkin bread. Winter: Christmas cookies and hot chocolate. All year long: licorice.

4. When do you crave sweet things the most? In the evening after dinner. Also when I'm driving, I like to gnaw on strawberry Twizzlers.

5. Sweet Nickname?  Dudley. My husband gave me that nickname early in our marriage, which is a smushing together of my first name Donna and my maiden name Duly.

How about you? What are your favorite sweet treats? And do you have a nickname?

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Thunderstorms and Tornadoes Strike St. Charles County Last Night

A wicked storm system pounded St. Charles County last night. Around 8 p.m. the wind picked up speed, thunder rumbled, lightning streaked through the dark sky, and tornado sirens started shrieking.

I popped out on the back deck and snapped a few photos before the rain and hail started.

By the time the storm blew over, my neighborhood had received mostly wind damage. This morning while I drove to the store I saw a tree split in half a few blocks away, but about five miles northeast, in St. Charles City, a tornado touched down.

My sister-in-law's brother's roof was blown off and power was knocked out for most of that area. Fortunately, no one in their family was hurt.

A local high school had their graduation ceremony cancelled due to damage to the Family Arena in St. Charles--which is the same location where my granddaughter's graduation ceremony was held last week.  What a difference a week makes!

Last night my granddaughter was at the movies, and the theater was evacuated until the storm passed. Also last night, the Cardinals baseball game was postponed until today.

Thunderstorms and tornadoes are a way of life in the spring in "tornado alley," which includes Missouri, Oklahoma, Kansas, Arkansas, Texas, Louisiana, and much of the mid-section of the United States.

When I was 18, our home in St. Ann was damaged by wind when a tornado touched down just blocks away from our street.  Our damage was minor, just some windows blown out in my bedroom. But that was a frightening experience for me, and it instilled in me a respect for storm warnings and made me realize that no matter how powerful we think we are, ultimately we are not in control.

My heart goes out to anyone affected by this latest round of thunderstorms and tornadoes, especially in Missouri and Oklahoma, which was hit once again with deadly storms.

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...