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Friday, October 31, 2008

Happy Halloween

Nick's Pumpkin and Tessa's Pumpkin by Tricia Grissom
You know, when I was a kid we took the biggest butcher knife in the house and tried not to cut off digits as we stabbed a triangle for the eyes and nose, and hacked out a mouth as best we could.

Now my kids are pumpkin artists with specialized tools. I have to say it's a big improvement.

If you want to see some funny, gross, creative pumpkins, check out Also, the website's creator Tom Nardone traces his experience publishing his pumpkin carving book. Let's all live vicariously through Tom! Plus he wrote his second book, Extreme Pumpkins II: Take Back Halloween and Freak Out a Few More Neighbors for 2008. I must get a copy to prepare for next year's pumpkin carnage.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

St. Louis Writers Guild Memoir Writing Workshop

Close up of pen by Stardust_ Creative Commons

From the the St. Louis Writers Guild:

"There's still time to sign up for Thomas Larson's workshop, "Writing the Memoir," next Saturday, November 1 from 10 AM until 1 PM at Crestwood Barnes & Noble. Please note that there is a $10 fee for members to cover Larson's travel expenses. You can pay at the door or when you register your attendance on our website,

You'll want to remind your "writerly" friends at Missouri Writers Guild,Writers Society of Jefferson County and Saturday Writers that they can also attend for just $10. Non-members of these organizations will pay $15. Larson is an acclaimed memoirist (see below for a brief bio) and this workshop promises to be informative and entertaining. If you've ever considered writing memoir or personal essays, you won't want to miss it. For more details about the workshop or to register, visit

*THOMAS LARSON* is the author of The Memoir and the Memoirist: Reading and Writing Personal Narrative
Ohio University Press / Swallow Press. He lectures and holds workshops on memoir writing throughout the United States. Larson writes personal essays, memoir, feature articles, book reviews, and literary criticism. Since 1999, he has been a contributing writer for the weekly San Diego Reader where he specializes in investigative journalism, narrative nonfiction, and profiles. His writing has appeared in numerous reviews and journals, among them The Gettysburg Review, Southwest Review, Antioch Review, Fourth Genre,, the Anchor Essay Annual: The Best of 1997, and Contrary Magazine online. His web site is In 2008, Larson has new work in New Letters, Tampa Review, and Cadillac Cicatrix.

-- St. Louis Writers Guild

Monday, October 27, 2008

Saturday Writers Workshop Review And Missouri Life Magazine Update

Sunrise by Tricia Grissom
We had a excellent workshop Saturday, including a editor panel responding to the first hundred word hooks of essays, stories, and novels.

I thought I'd share a few of the lessons that stood out.

1. Never start your book with someone waking up in the morning, especially not to an alarm clock (I've heard this piece of advice several times at several conferences, so take heed).

2. Reality matters. The agent or editor reading your work can't concentrate on your awesome writing if they're worried about inconsistencies in reality - like the sun coming up at 8 a.m, or someone who has been wearing handcuffs for hours who fails to acknowledge his or her arms are numb.

3. Learn the lingo. For genres like young adult, listen to how the kids themselves talk and don't edit for political correctness. And for dialogue in general, write down what people around you are saying to get a feel for real conversation. If  you're going to write in a foreign accent (like Irish), listen to a radio station from that country to get a feel for how the natives speak.

I also got to talk to Missouri Life's managing editor, Rebecca French Smith. She says the magazine is looking to expand their coverage of Missouri into areas like politics, green stories, book reviews, and other Missouri-related issues. So if you have a story idea for one of these area, now might be a good time. She requests you send a writing sample along with your query if you haven't worked with them before, so they can get a sense of your style.

Another tip - sometimes they get ten queries for the same topic. The writer who explains how they will approach the topic and what info he/she plans to include has a better shot at the story.

And be patient. She's a very busy lady juggling all the content changes, new projects, and all the other editorial responsibilities.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Saturday Writers Workshop Reminder

Remember the Saturday Writers Fall Workshop is tomorrow. You can still pay at the door ($75), but be sure to pack a lunch.

Hope to see you there.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Heart of America Christian Writers Conference

Just saw this on the Missouri Writers' Guild discussion group. The Heart of America Christian Writers Conference is November 13-15, 2008.

Location: Emmanuel Baptist Church, 10100 Metcalf, Overland Park, KS 66212 (Greater Kansas City Area)

Full Conference (Thursday Night - Saturday):

Active/Pro Members $200 (before Nov. 1) $225 (after Nov. 1) $250 (at door)
Associate/Non-Members $230 (before Nov. 1) $255 (after Nov. 1) $280 (at door)

Partial Conference (Either day and an evening)
Active/Pro Members $105 (before Nov. 1) $125 (after Nov. 1) $150 (at door)
Associate/Non-Members $135 (before Nov. 1) $150 (after Nov. 1) $180 (at door)

To register and learn more about the scheduled speakers, see the conference brochure.

Has anyone ever been who could give us a review?

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Kudos To Author David Lee Kirkland

Saturday Writers member David Lee Kirkland has rave a review of his new book, The Yesteryear Tales in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

An excerpt:

"However you want to pigeonhole this book, be sure to put it somewhere on your shelf. It's a countrified delight — a collection of folk wisdom and folk folly. The stories center on farming — and hunting, and ranching, and Sunday sermons and Saturday-night sexual shenanigans. You'll learn how to saddle a balky mount and how to rein in a randy neighbor. And you'll read all about it in the backwoods prose that Kirkland employs to tell his terse tales."

Monday, October 20, 2008

Publishing and the Financial Meltdown

$$$ Money's so Tight by Faungg Creative Commons

Nathan Bransford has a great blog from Friday rounding up the experts' take on how the financial armageddon will affect the publishing biz. Forewarned is forearmed.

Query on.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Romance/Women's Fiction Critique Group Forming in St. Charles County, MO

100000 worlds of oblivion by inkswamp creative commons

From Saturday Writers member Claudia:


Any writers--novel, essay, short story--interested in the new critique group I am forming for the Romance/Women's genre, please send me an e-mail at as soon as possible.

Just because you say you are interested doesn't mean you have to join once the details are worked out. Early November I will send out a survey to those interested to narrow down time, day, location, etc. The holidays are fast approaching which means a busy time of the year for everyone, so my plan is to have this organized and ready to start in January 2009

If you know of other writers not in Saturday Writers who are interested in joining, please let them know. No matter the stage of our writing, a good critique group can be of immeasurable help in editing/grammar/punctuation, information on workshops-publishing-conferences and motivation. Hope to hear from you soon and no matter what--Keep Writing!

Claudia Shelton Member of Saturday Writers

Monday, October 13, 2008

Tip: Photography and Freelance Writing

Doll Carriage Hunter Dawson House by Tricia Grissom

Learning about photography as I go has been my m.o. when it comes to taking pictures for my freelance articles. I've discovered tons just by doing it.

Learning to drive a stick shift takes some clutch popping (so sorry, first car) and learning photography means pointing and shooting with the camera you'll be using. So I got to thinking - Why not make a trial run of a writing assignment before you actually get it?

I wish I had. I'd have learned more thoroughly how my camera works and what all those settings mean. It's easy to see mistakes after you get home and blow them up in living color.

So pretend you're doing a story on this festival or that museum. Before you go, look at how the magazine or publication you want to write for does their photos. What angles do they like? Are there a lot of close ups? I say mimic mercilessly to get good pictures.

When the trees go up in flames in the fall, it's a great time to get some photo practice. And I confess, I just love to snap photos. My latest of my daughter with her mouth open is my favorite. I'd post it here, but I like all my body parts where they are. Fifteen-year-old girls have no sense of humor about these things.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Missouri Writers Guild Hottest Flash Fiction Contest 2008

The Missouri Writers' Guild is hosting a flash fiction contest. From the website:

The Hottest Flash Fiction Contest
Deadline - October 15, 2008
Entry fee: $10
Word Limit 1,000 words.
First Place: $100.
Second Place Winner: $50.
Third Place $25.

Honorable mentions are awarded at the discretion of the Judge.

What is Flash Fiction? It's fun. It's challenging. For writers, it is an exercise in rewriting and editing. It is a short short story.

All flash fiction includes the classic story elements: protagonist, conflict, obstacles or complications, and resolution. The brevity of this genre often forces some of the story elements to be implied or unwritten in the storyline.


What is flash fiction? Check out this definition and some examples of flash fiction.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Busy, Busy, Busy

My posting may be a bit spotty over the next couple weeks. I just started teaching classes for the Fall semester at Lindenwood, and I've been interviewing steadily for my book (thank you, God).

So I may not be posting five days a week for a few weeks. I'm planning to shoot for at least three days a week until further notice.

So thanks for your patience, and query on.

Clock by Darren Hester Creative Commons

Monday, October 6, 2008

St. Martin’s Minotaur/ Mystery Writers of America First Crime Novel Competition

St. Martin's is hosting a 2009 First Crime Novel Competiton for never-published writers. (Self-published authors will be allowed to enter as long as the work submitted is not the self-published novel). Murder or another serious crime or crimes must be at the heart of the story. They have a rather convulted procedure (maybe to weed people out?) You have to send off for an entry form to fill out by November 14, 2008.

From the website: All requests for entry forms must be received or postmarked by St. Martin's Minotaur at the address below by November 14, 2008. DO NOT SEND MANUSCRIPT SUBMISSIONS TO ST. MARTIN'S MINOTAUR. For copies of these rules and to request an entry form, please send a stamped, self addressed envelope to:

St. Martin's Minotaur/MWA Competition
St. Martin's Minotaur
175 Fifth Avenue
New York, New York 10010

Once you get the form, your entry must be postmarked on or before November 30, 2008 and received by December 15, 2008. No entry fee.

They recommend submitting your entry as soon as possible. Be sure to read the fine print carefully; there's a lot of it and people who follow the directions will prevail.

Each entrant will receive an entry form containing the address of the judge to whom he or she will send his or her manuscript. Entries must be postmarked no later than November 30, 2008 and received by judges no later than December 15, 2008

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Become a Writer in Troubled Times?

New Life by jtloweryphotography Creative Commons
So the economy sucks and everyone is running around like Armageddon just knocked and said howdy. How do you take those lumpy little lemon shaped rocks and stop from beating yourself in the head with them?

If you just lost your job, or your house was foreclosed on, or you just don't know where your next tank of gas is coming from - those are terrible, scary things.

But if the worst has to happen, maybe you can take a shot at that crazy, low-paying dream of being a writer (or whatever other profession you once lusted for). If you have nothing left to lose, there's power in that. Arrange your new life to cost as little as possible, and for a year, follow your dream. Simplify.

I'm not saying you won't need a day job, but maybe you can take a position that doesn't suck up all your time and creativity. Then create something before you go back to supporting the house and the 2.5 cars. Stop living that life of quiet desperation.

Write the book. Send out query letters to magazines. Tons of news outlets would love essays from people suffering through the financial crisis, and I bet they'll be looking for memoirs from people who survive this debacle. Keep a journal of what's happening. How does it change your family? Your outlook on life? Farm out some op-ed pieces. Take a shot.

Then maybe this big sucky thing that happened to all of us can jump start some dreams.

God knows I'm not a Pollyanna. You won't make much money as a writer and you have to want it really, really bad. It may not be for you.

But maybe you'll find out the rewards of following your passion make up for living in a mobile home or apartment instead of a house. Perhaps cutting the cable will give you more time to write and bring your family together. Would we do any of this voluntarily? I wouldn't. But being forced into it gives us options we never thought possible.

What do we have to lose?

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Agent Pet Peeves

Agent Kristin Nelson has a great post on what she hates in a submission, along with a link to the Writers Digest article with her comment and those of other agents on sad, sorry submissions.

So avoid those pet peeves, people. It's inital alliteration day! I have declared it so! I doubt it's as popular as Talk Like A Pirate Day, but you never know...