Follow by Email

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Fall Back into the Writing Habit

Glen, Les, Bill S., Jane, Lou, Jack, Sarah, Mikey, Donna, Doyle
Hey, writers, what time is it?

Time to fall back into the writing habit.

Fall hasn't officially arrived yet--although you could fool me with last night's beautiful Harvest Moon.

Now that summer is winding down, vacations are over, and the kiddos have returned to school, more members of Coffee and Critique are showing up each week.

Today, a dozen writers showed up despite the lovely weather when they could've been outside.

In addition to the nine writers above (along with Mickey from the Rendezvous Cafe popping in for the photo with the rest of the gang), Alice, Bill, and Charles attended critique but weren't able to stay for lunch.

And, although we only had two readers, we had lots of announcements and news before we began. We also gave thorough critiques to the two brave souls who read. The atmosphere was fun as Lou restrained order by having the guys swap places and sit among the women.

A fun time was had by all!

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Two-Part Post about How to Submit a Book for Review

Over the past two weeks I've posted a two-part series titled "A Day in the Life of A Book Review Editor" over on Donna's Book Pub.

The content for the post comes from a visit to Saturday Writers by Jane Henderson, book editor of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, who also has a book blog.

If you haven't read the posts, here's a link.

A Day in the Life of a Book Editor (Part I)

A Day in the Life of a Book Editor (Part II)

Friday, July 25, 2014

Lessons Learned on Self-Editing Article on Walrus Publishing

Last month I brought an article to Coffee and Critique for comments, and the members of the group graciously made suggestions.

Several writers also asked to see the final article after it was published, so I'm providing this link to the article on the Walrus Publishing site.

Walrus Publishing is a handy resource for writers and readers to find writing advice, contest announcements, and other helpful writing-related information.

Do you have any self-editing tips to share?

Monday, July 21, 2014

Coffee and Critique Book Swap

Several months ago a few members suggested that we have an organized C&C book swap as a way to give us a chance to read and enjoy each other's published works and support our members without breaking the bank.

So . . . if you have written a book or have a story in an anthology and would like to participate in the book exchange, feel free to bring your books with you tomorrow, Jul 22, or next Tuesday, Jul 29.

We will do the swap around noon, or earlier if we finish critiques quickly.

Participation is strictly voluntary.

If you'd rather not exchange your books, that's fine. I totally understand the need to make a living at writing.

If you aren't able to attend on either of those days, don't fret. We will have another swap in a few months. In fact, if there's still interest in doing the exchange, we'll try to do them quarterly.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Take Ten with Stan Wilson - Inventor, Grant Writer, and Entrepreneur

Stan Wilson has belonged to Coffee and Critique for several years. Many of his stories are set in southern Indiana, but others occur in out-of-this-world locations. Members of Coffee and Critique especially enjoy Stan's stories with strong science fiction elements, about which, he tell us, "the science part is true." He contributed two stories to the Coffee and Critique Anthology: "Whiskers and Whispers" and "Do-It-Yourself Fishing."
Stan grew up in humid southern Indiana, the land of beautiful hardwood forests, limestone cliffs with bubbling creeks and thousands of caves with hidden rivers and buried caches of gold or secret hordes of confederate treasures so some say. In college, he studied physics, electronics and engineering leading to a career as an entrepreneur, inventor and design engineer, often as the manager of the manufacturing firm producing his designs.

Married, with two grown sons, he enjoys writing for fun along with his many hobbies which include amateur radio, MG cars, model boats and airplanes.
Here are Stan's answers to the take ten questions:

1. What or who inspired you to become a writer?

 I really have no idea. I have written technical articles for DIY newsletters for years.

 2. What is your writing specialty?

Non-fiction grant and proposal writing -- developing creative solutions to complex design problems.  This is a total reversal from writing fiction.  A money-winning grant is written in first person and present tense. I take great pride in that over the years my grants and proposals have resulted in employment for several hundred people including myself.  

3. How would you describe your writing process?

My stories are always visible in my mind before putting them on paper. The same is true when I am designing a product. The story difficulty occurs in putting them on paper. The designed products sometimes lose my interest because they are already ‘real’ in my mind.

I spend a portion of ever day either in my writing attempts or inventing. Writing is more difficult.

Others might consider both are my hobbies.

 4. What is the best part of being a writer? The worst part?

The best part for me is seeing and feeling my characters come alive on the page.

The worst part about writing is I’ve had to learn enough English to convey my story to others.

5. What is the best writing advice you’ve received?  The worst?

The best advice came from Nick Nixon who told me to listen for the story’s beat and to make it happen.
The worst advice, psychological, was from those who have told me I am wasting my time. But writing to me is like my dad’s fishing. Dad always said one didn’t have to catch fish to enjoy fishing. I don’t have to write a novel which will become a famous movie; I only need to enjoy the conversations with my characters as I tell about them on the paper. 
6. Which books on writing you can recommend for other writers?

In my case they are English manuals, both available in the used books on for about a dollar.

William Strunk and  E.B. White “The Elements of Style”

“Plain English Handbook”  by J. Martyn Walsh and Anna Kathleen Walsh.

 7. How has belonging to Coffee and Critique benefitted you?

Critiques are tough; however, they do improve one’s stories. At least I now know the difference between adverbs and adjectives. I still get my subjects and objects reversed and I hate writing in past tense.

On the social side, I have met many interesting and nice people via the C&C.

The fastest two hours of the week are those spent attending the critique.

8. If you’ve been published or have won awards, which are the most special to you?
 Five of my stories have been published in anthologies.

It is a toss-up on which of them, I like the best. “Bloody Good Da’ For a Picnic” was pure fiction, and I still feel the emotion when I read it, which I felt when I wrote it. The other one is a true story. “Tomorrow at Five” was fun to live and fun to write about.

9. What three words best describe you?
 Imaginative (I always think outside the box), have a sense of humor, and stubborn.

10. What are you working on now, and/or what is your writing dream?

I am cleaning up many of the stories I have written over the past four years. My goal is to get them to an editor by the end of this year and self publish.

Bonus question: If you could interview one or two famous writers or historic figures living or deceased, who would they be and what would you ask them?

I would love to have a conversation with author, Jules Verne from the 19th century. He was at least two hundred years ahead of others in his view of what the engineering world would become in the future.

It would be a thrill to talk to, Dr. Nikola Tesla, the world’s greatest inventor for even an hour. He invented our power grid with allows us to light up the world.  He invented the electric motor and generator. He even had a remote control boat before wireless or radio existed.

I often wonder, if men like them were actually time travelers.

Finally, is there anything you’d like to add?

I believe to become a great writer one has to be driven at a young age to learn the skills required which are many.

Thanks, Stan, for your insight into your writing process and thoughts on writing and life.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

William A Spradley's Book Signing at Rendezvous Cafe

This Saturday afternoon (May 31), William A. (Bill the Younger) Spradley will be signing copies of his recently released collection of short stories titled Interludes and Lunch at the Rendezvous Cafe in O'Fallon.

Although he looks serious in his author's photo on the left (courtesy of the Rendezvous Cafe website) Bill is a funny man with a hearty laugh who always manages to bring smiles to the faces of everyone in the group.

Bill has belonged to Coffee and Critique writers' group (which meets at the Rendezvous Cafe on Tuesday mornings) for a couple years and has two stories in the Coffee and Critique Anthology, which was published in 2013.

Bill has read many of the stories in his Interludes and Lunch collection during our weekly critique group meetings, and the guys are particularly fond of them. In fact, one of the guys told Bill that he was his hero.

Although some of the women in the group joke about Bill's "a guy walks into a bar in a foreign country and meets a younger woman" stories, we all recognize Bill's vivid descriptions, ear for dialogue, and eye for detail.

His signing will take place on Saturday, May 31, from 1-4 p.m. at the Rendezvous Cafe on Main Street in O'Fallon, Missouri. 

Bill is especially proud of the fact that his daughter designed the cover art for his short story collection. Note: thanks to Rendezvous website for the jpeg of the cover and author head shot.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Take Ten with John "Jack" Zerr - Pilot, Poet, and Published Author

Jack has been a most welcome addition to Coffee and Critique for several years now. He brings his wisdom, wit, and vast military experience to the table. Everyone in the group appreciates his writing talent, big-picture critiques, willingness to learn, and his humility. 

Most of all we appreciate the sacrifices he has made on behalf of our country. That's why we make it a point to tell him, "Thank you for your service!"

Here is Jack's bio:

John Zerr, US Navy rear admiral (Retired). US Navy pilot, and Vietnam veteran. 320 combat missions flying the A-4 Skyhawk. During his thirty-six year career, he accumulated 1017 carrier landings. Most memorable Navy assignment: commanding officer of the aircraft carrier USS Constellation (CV-64).

After leaving the service, he worked for a major aerospace company for eleven years.

Author of poems, short stories, and three novels: The Ensign Locker, Sundown Town Duty Station, and Noble Deeds. He and his wife, Karen, live in St. Charles MO.

Web site:

Here are Jack's answers to the Take Ten Interview Questions:

1. What or who inspired you to become a writer?

I had a high school English/Lit teacher, Sister Matthews. On my mid-semester report card, junior year, she gave me an “F.” I went to her and said that I should have gotten a “C.” “No,” Sister said, “you should have gotten an ‘A.’ For the semester you will either get an ‘A’ or another ‘F.’”

One of her requirements was writing five pieces ranging from science to fantasy. I got a “B” and a hankering to write things from Sister. 

2. What is your writing specialty?


3 How would you describe your writing process?

On longer work, I outline. I have self-published three novels, and my outlining process, I tell myself, has matured from book one to number three. I will say, with the outline of the first novel, the only part of the outline that stayed the same from project launch to completion was the ending. I revised the outline a number of times when the writing process disclosed narrative strings that refused to weave together. I must have tried one hundred beginnings on the first one before I finally settled on one to go with. I have been writing seriously for six years now, and I think I have developed an ability to envision story structure for shorter pieces without a formal outline. Bottom line, my process is to plot the story before starting to write.

4. What is the best part of being a writer? The worst part?

The best part is getting an idea for a story. The worst, the absolute, totally sucks, part is finishing a book-length work. I get wrapped up in the characters, the problems they face, and I hate to let them go. It feels like a funeral.

5. What is the best writing advice you’ve received?  The worst?

I’ve said this before, but in my first year with C&C, Lou said, “Your story is just a stupid men-drinking-in-a-bar story. I’m just not interested.” Which prompted me to revisit the question, “Whom are you writing for?” Which I hadn’t really answered properly for myself. It was frank, to the point, and majorly true.

I don’t consider any advice I’ve gotten bad. Some I don’t agree with, but I always think about every input I get. Even advice I totally agree with, I try to find other thoughts that spin off the original input. Good writing is harder than work, at least any work I’ve done before. My brain is majorly limited, so I am happy for every bit of critique that comes my way.

6. Which books on writing you can recommend for other writers?

I don’t have books on writing to recommend, but I do have a couple of books that I think are worthwhile to read for learning about writing. Eudora Welty’s The Optimist’s Daughter, and James Baldwin’s The Fire Next Time. I recommend reading them more than once.

7. How has belonging to Coffee and Critique benefitted you?

Coffee and Critique has been the world to me as a writer. Submit five pages to our group, and by the time the piece circles the table, it will be better, I don’t care how good it is at the start.

8. If you’ve been published or have won awards, which are the most special to you?

I published my third novel, Noble Deeds, in November, 2013. It is set on an aircraft carrier.

I had a poem published in Writer’s Digest 7th annual poetry competition. My input was chosen as number 10 out of 2000 + entries. That was cool.

9. What three words best describe you?

Lucky, blessed, short.

10. What are you working on now, and/or what is your writing dream? 

I am working on collection of short pieces, some of which, in my mind at least, are funny. Plus I am getting close to finishing a first draft of a fourth novel, a piece of historical fiction set on an aircraft carrier in 1971 deployed to Vietnam.

Bonus question: If you could interview one or two famous writers or historic figures living or deceased, who would they be and what would you ask them?

What I wish is that I could have been at the Sermon on the Mount. I would have liked to hear the words (in English, please). My mouth would probably have been hanging open. It wouldn’t have been able to ask a question.

Finally, is there anything you’d like to add?

I have a website at

And yes, ma’am, thanks.

Thanks for your candid and insightful interview, Jack.

Note: You can listen to Jack talk about his inspiration for Noble Deeds on YouTube