Monday, March 31, 2014

Got Nature? "Missouri Conservationist" and Missouri Department of Conservation "Xplor" Magazines Do – For Free

One of the benefits of belonging to a Show-Me State household is receiving free magazines from the Missouri Department of Conservation.

For almost two decades, my family and I have looked forward each month to receiving the monthly Missouri Conservationist (ISSN 0026-6515) in the mail. "The Missouri Conservationist" is a glossy 34-page magazine dedicated to “serving nature and you.”  

The cover (like the one from March 2014) and inside photos are bright and lovely, and the contents are even better. My husband keeps up with the state’s current hunting and fishing regulations and calendar. I enjoy reading articles about Missouri’s flora and fauna. Here’s a link.

For the past several years we also have subscribed to the every-other-month "Xplor," “adventures in nature,” free (34-page) magazine for our grandson. He (and we) have learned a lot about nature from "Xplor" magazine. 

An article appeared in the October/November issue on “Missouri’s Vampire Hunters,” (leeches, ticks, mosquitoes, bats, and the red-footed cannibalflies). The same issue featured the ever-fascinating article, “Survive a Zombie Apocalypse,” which gave instructions on hot to: light a fire, build a lean-to, gather food, and find water. Informative and fun!

Missouri households can subscribe online at

Don’t live in Missouri? Non-Missouri households can download the magazine for free.

Happy reading!

Friday, March 28, 2014

It's Official: I'm a Top Ten Finalist in the 2014 Erma Bombeck Writing Competition

Although I learned about my Erma Bombeck contest finish days ago from a friend on Facebook, I've been waiting for confirmation before posting this announcement on my blog.

Late yesterday afternoon I received official e-mail notification from Debe Dockins, with the Community Relations Department of the Washington-Centerville Public Library.

I'm thrilled to announce that my essay, "Remembering Miss Tobin," was a top-ten finalist in the 2014 Erma Bombeck Global - Human Interest Category.

The Erma Bombeck Writing Competition is hosted every two years by the University of Dayton and the Washington-Centerville Public Library in Centerville, Ohio, "where Erma wrote the books and columns that launched her national fame."

According to the Humor Writers Organization website, The 2014 Erma Bombeck Writing Competition attracted 853 entries from 48 states and 13 countries. (Note: That is total entries; I don't know how many were in the category I entered.)

Included in my e-mail notification were judges' comments and suggestions. Because most of my blog visitors are writers who want to improve their craft, I thought I'd share excerpts of the judges' comments here:

One judge remarked that "This is a wonderful human interest story, written with a strong clear voice. It needs a bit of the subtle humor that Erma would have brought to this story . . ."

Another commented my piece was ". . . a celebration of youth and decency and strength. I like the detail, the warmth and the soul here, so, so tender. . . ."

I'm grateful to the Washington-Centerville Public Library and the University of Dayton for keeping the memory and accomplishments of Erma alive through the competition and workshop. 

I'm also grateful to the judges, not only because they found merit in my essay, but also for taking time to give such thoughtful and encouraging feedback.

Most of all, I'm grateful to the late Erma Bombeck for sharing her wit, wisdom, and heart-warming stories with millions of readers -- and for continuing to inspire writers like me.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Coffee and Critique Writers' Group Take Ten Interviews

It's hard to believe the Coffee and Critique writers' group has been going for seven years.

When I founded the group in 2007, along with Lou Turner, we wanted it to be open to writers of all levels, with the motto that critiques would be "candid, but kind."

Each week we have about 10-12 enthusiastic and supportive writer show up, and last year we published our first anthology. We also have encouraged writers to submit to publications -- and all have achieved success!

On our Coffee and Critique blog you can find updates about our group. One popular series is the "Take Ten" interview feature with the our members.

Interviews began last May. Doyle Suit was first, followed by the late Nick Nixon, then Bill Mueller, Alice Muschany, and Lou Turner.

Last week it was my turn to answer interview questions.

This year we will continue the tradition, with one member who has contributed to our anthology being featured each month.

Check back often to the Coffee and Critique blog to find out about some of our members.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Contest Announcement/Call for Submissions: Uncertain Promise, a Literary Anthology

The editors of Compass Flower Press, an imprint of AKA-Publishing in Columbia, MO, are sponsoring a contest and seeking submissions for a literary anthology to be published this fall.

Full disclosure: I am a board member of AKA Publishing

Here is some basic information about the call out. For complete guidelines, visit the AKA-Publishing website:

* Fiction and creative nonfiction submissions only (no poetry)

* Word limit: 3,000 per entry (sections from larger works will be accepted)

* First place $1,000

* Second place $500

* Third place $250

* No previously published work

* Submissions are read and evaluated anonymously by two editorial boards

* Deadline: May 10, 2014 NOTE: Deadline extended until May 25, 2014
* Planned publication date: October 2014

* Working title/themeUncertain Promise. Examples of uncertain promise: an unexpected outcome (joy, satisfaction, renewal, despair, emotional growth, etc.) from an otherwise routine or mundane circumstance; an unspoken commitment from a friend or lover falls through due to misunderstanding or unforeseen happening; a career or future crashes—or ascends—depending on the outcome of a single event. These are the editor's ideas, with encouragement for those submitting to "use your imagination and please interpret broadly."
* Submission does not guarantee acceptance

* Each published contributor receives a free copy of the anthology

*Non-refundable entry fees:

*Electronic submissions $18 (US$) per entry (paid on website)
*Mailed submissions $15 (US$) per entry (paid by check or on website) 

Entry form for the 2014 Anthology/Contest may be downloaded at and must be completed and accompany each entry.  

Or by snail mail: 
AKA-Publishing / Compass Flower Press
315 Bernadette Dr, Ste 3
Columbia, Missouri 65203

JUDGE: Von Pittman

For complete guidelines, including detailed official submission requirements, or for questions, visit the AKA website or e-mail: 

Good luck if you enter!

Monday, March 17, 2014

Happy Saint Patrick's Day: My Writing Process Blog Chain

Cead Mile Failte! (That means "A Hundred Thousand Welcomes!" in Gaelic.)

I’m honored on this Saint Patrick’s Day that Margo Dill has invited me to be part of a blog chain to discuss my writing process.

Margo is a full-time mom and writer, as well as a creative writing teacher and an editor. Her latest YA book, “Caught Between Two Curses,”* will be published tomorrow.

Here are my answers to Margo’s questions:

1. What am I working on?

I always seem to have several projects going on at once, which is probably why it takes so long to complete anything. Right now—well after I finish working on income taxes—my focus is on completing a thriller I started in November during National Novel Writing Month. I finished the challenge with just over 52,000 words of a manuscript, titled "Framed in Black," which will end up being around 80,000 words. I put it aside over the holidays, but I didn’t stop thinking and planning. While my manuscript simmered I decided to make some major changes and have begun rewrites. So far, I’ve rewritten the first two chapters. 

2. How does my work differ from others of its genre?

It’s a thriller with spiritual overtones. The main character is female; a twenty-five-year-old English teacher living in the Midwest. The setting is in Missouri and in the Bavarian State of Germany.

3. Why do I write what I do?

In the past my focus was on short stories and personal essays. I’ve always wanted to complete a novel, so last year I decided to give it a try.

4. How does your writing process work?

I’m a write-when-I-can type of writer. The mornings work best for me. I scratch down ideas in notebooks. My first drafts are messy hand-written affairs. For my novel I scratched out a rough outline. The act of writing things down before typing them up helps me clear my thoughts so when I type the basics have already taken shape.

5. The last step in this process is to invite two other authors to participate in the blog chain.

I hope that my writing friends and blogging buddies, Mary Horner and Sioux Roslawski, who both are writers and teachers, will continue this blog chain.

Mary Horner is a teacher and writer who blogs at WritRTeachR about all things editorial, including writing, publishing, authors and books, and author of "Strengthen your Nonfiction Writing."

Sioux blogs on Sioux’s Page about writing, dogs, grown-up children, menopause, the joy of a marvelous book, classroom teaching in general, and specifically, the teaching of writing.

Thanks, Margo, for inviting me to participate in the blog chain. 

And "Adh mAr ort!" May you have the luck of the Irish with your new book, "Caught Between Two Curses."* 

* In my original post I had the wrong first word of Margo's book title.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Polishing Your Prose: Practical Editing and Revision Tips

Last Sunday I gave a workshop on "Polishing Your Prose: Practical Editing and Revision Tips" to about 25 members of the Columbia Chapter of the Missouri Writers' Guild. 

Thank you, Lori and the CCMWG board, for inviting me to come speak. Also, thanks, Eva, for taking photos.

I began the workshop by defining the basic stages of writing as: prewriting, writing, rewriting, editing, and proofreading. 
My focus for the workshop was on rewriting and editing. Here are some highlights of what I covered:

* Writing is a process of discovery. 

* During prewriting and writing, the focus is on the writer.  

* This is when writers brainstorm and come up with ideas and get their ideas down on paper.

* Tip: Organize your notes, write without editing, and save everything.

* "Write about what interests you." That was Daniel Woodrell's suggestion during a book talk I attended last month at the St. Charles Community College.

* Revision is the process of re-vision; to see again by taking a fresh look at what you've written. (More about clarity of vision below.)

* Rewriting, editing, and proofreading are part of the revision process.

* During revision, editing, and proofreading, the focus is on the reader.

* In an interview, the late Elmore Leonard said, "If it sounds like writing, I rewrite it."

* In On Writing, Steven King recommended: "Write with the door closed; rewrite with the door open."

* Other revision and editing tips:

Don't do final edits on the computer screen
Print out a copy
Read the copy out loud
Read it backwards to catch mistakes
Always give your work a title (more on this below)
Don't give too much information too soon
Use vivid writing and specific, concrete language
Make good use of white space
Avoid lengthy paragraphs
Put statements in a positive form
Eliminate needless words
Place emphatic words at the end of the sentence
Place yourself in the background
Write in a way that comes naturally
Avoid foreign language
Always keep the reader in mind

At the end of the workshop, participants completed an exercise to edit sentences and eliminate needless words. They also took a for-fun mini-quiz. To emphasize the importance of titles, I gave them the original title of ten famous novels and asked them to guess the novels' better known titles. The CCMWG writers know their stuff--they got almost all ten right.

Here are a few of the before-and-after titles:
Atticus was changed to To Kill a Mockingbird
First Impressions became Pride and Prejudice
The Last Man in Europe is better known as 1984

When the topic of clear vision and focus comes to mind, I think about how eagles take a long view then zoom in and focus. 

How timely that on Monday, the day after my talk, my grandson spotted an eagle soaring above our place in Osage County, along the Gasconade River. 

I grabbed my camera and took this photo to capture the moment. Don't you wish you had his clarity of purpose and clear vision?

How about you? Do you have any revision or editing tips?

Saturday, March 1, 2014

I'm In! Not Your Mother's Book . . . On Being a Mom

I'm so excited! I got my official "Congratulations" e-mail last night.

My story, "A Hairy Situation," will be among the 65 stories in Not Your Mother's Book . . . On Being a Mom, from Publishing Syndicate.

Don't you just love the cover--on the left?

The book, edited by Dahlynn McKowen, Ken McKowen, and Dianna Graveman,  is on fast-track for publication.The nationwide release date is April 8, 2014.

What's also exciting is that I've read posts from some of my writing friends on Facebook who also have stories in the anthology!

After I get my contributor copies I will have a giveaway here on my blog, so stay tuned.

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...