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Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Coffee and Critique News: Change in Meeting Time

Due to popular demand (and a bit of whining), beginning on Tuesday, November 13, the meeting start time for Coffee and Critique writers' group is reverting to the original start time of 10 a.m.

We will still meet at the Rendezvous Cafe on Main Street in O'Fallon, but our critiques will start at 10 a.m. and end around noon.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Donna Volkenannt and Lou Turner Speakers at the Write Direction Conference in Columbia

Coffee and Critique members Donna Volkenannt and Lou Turner will be among the featured speakers at the Write Direction Conference in Columbia, Missouri, on Saturday, November 10.

Volkenannt will give a presentation on "Structuring Short Stories for Passion and Profit," and Turner, publisher of High Hill Press, will be part of a publishers' panel.

The conference is sponsored by the Columbia Chapter of the Missouri Writers Guild. The event will be held at:

The Unity Center
1600 West Broadway
Columbia, MO

Events kick off at 8:30 and end at 4 p.m.

Some other speakers are:
William Trowbridge, Missouri Poet Laureate and author
Dr. Edward Adelstein, anatomic and clinical pathologist
Bill Clark, columnist, Columbia Daily Tribune
Judy Stock, poet and writer
Linda Fisher, blogger, writer, and publisher, Mozark Press
And several others!
Click here for the agenda and speaker notes
Registration fees are modest and late registration is available at the door. Fee includes choice of breakout sessions, participation in a First Page exercise, opportunities to interact with writers with similar interests, and lunch.
Hope to see you there!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

All Star Tribute to Nick Nixon on Sunday, October 28

On Sunday October 28 at 1 p.m., local country western entertainers, as well as a couple guest stars from the Grand Old Opry, will show their support during an all star tribute and fundraiser for Nick Nixon at the Stegton Regency Banquet Center, 1450 Wall Street in St. Charles.
Nick is a legendary local country and western star and a treasured member of Coffee and Critique writing group.

In the 1970s Nick had more than a dozen top 100 hits on the Mercury label, including "Rocking in Rosalee's Boat," which climbed to No. 28 on the U.S. Country Charts. The Nick Nixon Tribute and Fundraiser is being held to help support Nick with medical expenses in his battle with Hodgkin's lymphoma.

Headliners include: Johnny Rodriguez, Barb Allen, Leona Williams, Curtis Lyn Cook, Doc Holiday, the Well Hungarians, and an all star house band.

General admission tickets are only $10 per person and can be purchased at the door. Other highlights include a 50/50 raffle, a silent auction, a live auction, and some special surprizes.

For more information, or to make a donation, e-mail Elmo Linton, who planned and organized the event, at elmojllinton (at)

Hope to see you there!

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Coffee and Critique Group Members Win Big at Ozarks Creative Writers Conference

Last weekend, three Coffee and Critique group writers won big at the Ozarks Creative Writers Conference in Eureka Springs, Arkansas.

C&C member Lou Turner is on the board of OCW, and Lou and the rest of the board do an outstanding job putting on this conference each year.

The OCW conference is attended by writers from all over the United States, and the contests include dozens of entries in each category. Winning at Eureka is quite an honor, and here's what some C&C members won:

Marcia Gaye took home these awards:

1st: Las Manos Bella de Elizabeth for short story
2nd: Giving Love a Chance for memoir essay
2nd: My Volkswagen for Creative Nonfiction essay
2nd: Lost Hope Missouri for Literary Novel
3rd: Geese for Japanese Tanka Poetry
HM: Mother of the Painted Desert for free verse poetry

Nick Nixon was recognized for:

1st: Little Red Rider for Storyteller Magazine award
3rd: Bless u Dexter for humorous short story
3rd: Old Dempsey for Ozark Nostalgia
3rd: The Teacher's Paleo Pecker for Jim Richardson Memorial Award

Doyle Suit received awards for:

1st: Tales of a Misspent Youth for The High Hill Press Book Award
1st: A Loose Sole for Search for Excellence Award
1HM: Hale's Law for the Oxbow Award
3HM: A Pig for Sarah for OWL Award

Doyle also received lunch with agent Cherry Weiner for winning the synopsis award

Congratulations to all the winners!

Friday, October 5, 2012

Congratulations, Alice Muschany

Coffee and Critique writers' group member Alice Muschany has two recent publication credits to add to her portfolio.

Two of her inspiring true stories are included in Chicken Soup for the Soul: Hope & Healing for Your Breast Cancer Journey by Dr. Julie Silver of Harvard Medical School.

Alice also has an essay in the Pass it On section of the October 2012 issue of Guideposts.

In honor of October being Breast Cancer Awareness month, Alice has donated a copy of the Chicken Soup book as a giveaway on Coffee and Critique Writers' Group co-founder's blog, Donna's Book Pub.

If you would like to win a copy of the anthology, leave a comment on the post announcing Alice's giveaway on Donna's Book Pub during the month of October.

And, congratulations, Alice. You make the members of Coffee and Critique proud!

Friday, September 28, 2012

YA Writing Contest for YA Writers

My author friend Ripley Patton is having a YA writing contest to celebrate the release of her YA novel, Ghost Hand, which is coming out in November. If you are a young adult who writes YA, you could win cash and be published in the sequel to Ghost Hand.

You must be a young adult (ages 13 - 19) to enter the contest. Check out the deets here and good luck to everyone who enters.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Coffee and Critique Kudos and Announcements

Several members of Coffee and Critique have been recognized recently for their writing accomplishments. I e-mailed our members last week and asked them to send me their Kudos, and the following writers answered. Wow! Here are the responses I received.

Please join me in congratulating them on their writing successes.

* Marcia Gaye won the 2012 Deane Wagner Poetry Award for “Apology” and was invited to read her poem at the award ceremony. Her short essay on first love, “A Relatively Innocent Love,” was published by Spruce Mountain Press in Heartscapes Anthology.
* Jack Zerr's poem "Grah Nade" won 10th place in the Writer's Digest annual poetry competition.
* Doyle Suit's poem "I'm in Good Shape for the Shape I'm In" has been published in Storyteller Magazine in September. His YA novel BAKER MOUNTAIN is scheduled to be published by High Hill Press later this year.
* Alice Muschany's true stories "Hats Off to Betty with Love" and "Forever and Ever" have been published in Chicken Soup for the Soul HOPE AND HEALING FOR YOUR BREAST CANCER JOURNEY, released September 2012.
Speaking of Chicken Soup, today Donna Volkenannt has posted links to submission call outs from Chicken Soup for the Soul and Panera Bread on her blog Donna's Book Pub 
PLEASE NOTE: Beginning tomorrow, Tuesday, September 4, Coffee and Critique will start meeting half an hour earlier--at 9:30 a.m.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Announcing New Hours for Coffee and Critique Starting in September

Due to growth in our membership and the number of writers who want to read each week, beginning with the first meeting next month, September 4, we will start our meetings at 9:30 a.m. and wrap things up around noon. Everyone is welcome to join us for lunch afterwards.

Our meetings will continue at the Rendezvous Cafe on Main Street in O'Fallon.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Support Ghost Hand - A Young Adult Novel by Ripley Patton

My writer friend Ripley Patton is using Kickstarter to raise money to publish her young adult novel. Kickstarter is a genius website that helps us starving artists raise money to finance our projects. The artists offer rewards to their backers, and everyone who backs a project becomes a patron of the arts and helps talented people make their dreams come true.

Check out this gorgeous cover for her novel Ghost Hand! Here is the info on this soon-to-be-published book.

There are secrets we keep hidden deep inside of us. Secrets of abuse and abandonment and self-harm. No one can see them. No one can find them. No one can touch us there.

But all that is about to change.

Olivia Black just discovered that her ghost hand, a genetic defect, can do more than light up a room. It can reach into people and pull things out. Things from the darkest depths of the human psyche never meant to exist in this world.

Olivia can pickpocket the soul.

But she can't control her ability, or the strange items it extracts, and the only thing between Olivia and the men bent on taking the power of her hand is a boy she barely knows and doesn't trust.

Check out Ripley's video appeal:

I've read the first few chapters of Ghost Hand, and I love this book. You can read them yourself here. Her talent is obvious. Please join me in supporting her campaign so I can finally read the whole thing! She is already 76% funded with just 5 days left to go. But if she doesn't make her goal, she doesn't get anything. That's how Kickstarter works.

Every little bit helps, and the minimum pledge is only $5. Also, check out this excellent blog post on Karen Woodward's blog on why Ripley decided to self-publish. I think it will resonate with all you writers out there who are thinking about self-publishing. If you are interested in self-publishing, check out my new blog, Should I Self-Publish.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Sad News for Coffee and Critique

Yesterday I received the sad news that one of the dearest members of Coffee and Critique, Bea Siros, passed away.

Words cannot express what a wonderful woman and an inspiring writer Bea was. Bea recently completed her memoir about growing up in North St. Louis. Bea will be greatly missed, and my life has been enriched by having known her.

A celebration of Bernice's life will be held Tuesday, July 31, 2012 4-9 PM at The BAUE Funeral Home, 620 Jefferson Street, St. Charles, MO. In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to the Humane Society of St. Charles, MO.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Nick Nixon Reading Tomorrow at C&C

UPDATE: Nick e-mailed this morning that due to an emergency (his dog is about to have puppies) he can't make it today. He should be there next week. Stay tuned!

In case you didn't receive my e-mail to members of Coffee and Critique. Here's some good news:

Country Western legend Nick Nixon will be rejoining us at the Rendezvous Cafe tomorrow. He will be accompanied by his lovely daughter Autumn Rose.

Nick will be reading Part II of his tribute to Chet Atkins. I can't wait to hear it!

Here's a video of his song "Eight Belles." Enjoy!

Monday, June 25, 2012

Coffee and Critique Writers' Group Update

A lot has happened since I last posted here about the Coffee and Critique Writers' Group. I checked with Tricia and got the okay to once again use the blog to post basic information and updates about the critique group.

More than five years ago, Donna Volkenannt and Lou Turner started a new critique group named Coffee and Critique. Originally the group met on Tuesdays (alternating each week with mornings and evenings) at the Barnes and Noble in St. Peters, MO. The evening group was sparsely attended, so we went to mornings only and changed our location to the Rendezvous Cafe on Main Street in O'Fallon, MO. Most, but not all, members of Coffee and Critique also belong to the Saturday Writers chapter of the Missouri Writers' Guild.

The motto of Coffee and Critique Writers' Group is to "be candid but kind." Our goal is to give honest feedback respectfully, with the intent of helping one another become the best writers they can be. We are a serious group, but we don't take ourselves too seriously. We are a friendly group, but over the years we've found it necessary to have some guidelines.

Member and award-winning writer W. E. Bill Mueller helped Donna and Lou come up with these:

Tuesday Morning Coffee & Critique

15 Guidelines & How We Run Things

1. The Tuesday Morning Coffee &Critique group meets every Tuesday morning, 10am-Noon. The current meeting site is The Rendezvous Café in O’Fallon, MO.

2. The group critiques all styles of writing: fiction, memoirs, essays, articles—but no poetry.

3. Members at all levels of writing skill are welcome to bring their work at whatever stage they feel comfortable reading and having critiqued. But—please polish beforehand and read your work out loud before bringing it in.

4. Reading is limited to 5 (five) pages maximum.

5. Make approximately 12 copies of your work available for distribution, keeping one for yourself to read from. Pages can be stapled or paper-clipped together.

6. Your manuscript should be prepared using 12pt. Times New Roman or a comparable font, double-spaced, one-inch margins.

7. Manuscripts with graphic, pointless sex, violence and crude language are generally not welcome.

8. If a manuscript contains graphic scenes and language that is integral to the material, the scenes/language should be skipped in reading. It is all right to have the scenes/language in the manuscript, but reading it aloud is not permitted.

9. Critiquing begins with the person to the left of the reader and continues around the table, clockwise.

10. Each person is allowed two (2) minutes to critique a read manuscript. Others are asked not to interrupt while someone else is critiquing.

11. The person whose manuscript is being critiqued is generally not allowed to rebut, although answering direct questions is permitted.. The manuscript is “yours”—critiques can be accepted or rejected, but not argued.

12. Not everyone will get to read each week. If you sign up but don’t get to read your name will go to the top of the list the following week.

13. While we do not charge to belong, we strongly encourage everyone to purchase a beverage or food from the café because they provide meeting space to us for free. And due to health concerns, the restaurant has asked us not to bring in any outside food or drink.

14. Members are welcome to bring in their books to sell before or after critiques begin, but no other items are to be sold during meetings.

15. Have fun. While the Tuesday Morning C&C group is serious about its purpose, we are intent on having fun while doing it. All criticism is given well-meaning and should not be taken personally. We are critiquing your work—not you!

There you have it.

We welcome new members. If you are interested in joining us, e-mail dvolkenannt (at) for more information.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

The Next Big Writer Review

The good news. I've received excellent feedback on my first 3 chapters of Zombies at The Next Big Writer. I think it is more than worth the price of admission to get fast critique of my work. The review for points system is more than fair, though I admit some people could be more specific in their reviews if they really want to earn their points. If you don't have a group of writers who can give you feedback, I recommend The Next Big Writer. I also think it's great if you need an opinion from readers who prefer your genre.

My writer friends are awesome. I value their opinions. But they wouldn't normally read the kinds of books I write. They just do it for me (thank you, writer friends). Their on-the-outside critique combined with the reviews I can get on the website from readers who would choose to read in my genere equal the perfect form of critique. It gives me the best of both worlds.
The bad news - I must lie in bed in despair, as some of the writing there strikes fear and envy in me. I am not bad. But I want to be more than "not bad"! I want to be great, mesmerizing, awe-inspiring, millions-of-fans-catching good. Waaaaaaaaa!

But you're still revising, I tell myself, it will get better.

I don't care! the sulky child stomps. I want it to be perfect nooooooow. I hate them! I love them! Oh schizzle, I'm having a temper tantrum, an identity crisis and a severe attack of jealousy. How will I ever write again!

Because I have no choice. The show must go on. The book must be written. The draft must be made better. But it is a hard, bitter thing to know it's not yet where I want it to be......

You will find me hiding under the covers.

Watch for the work of Ripley Patton, Lucy Rice, and Marcia Wells. Good stuff, dammit.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

The Next Great Writer Contest and Revision Update

Zombies Are Forever Update: Pages revised so far - 86

I've decided to submit my first three chapters of Zombies to "The Strongest Start Novel Competition" over at The Next Big Writer.  (Please don't confuse this with The Next Big Author, which looks a bit dodgy.)

The Next Big Writer is basically a critique website sponsored by self-publishing website Createspace, which is Amazon's we'll-help-you-self-publish company for print books. You pay a few bucks a month to join, you post your first chapter for free, and then you have to earn enough credits reviewing to post more of your work. Then it is critiqued, everyone is happy, and the rainbows and unicorns come out, tra la la.

If you look at my blog title, you know I am no stranger to critique, but it's been awhile. I am half afraid I will be a sniffling mess at the first feedback. I'll get over it.

Why am I entering a contest for a pay website?
  1. The worst thing that can happen is I get some feedback on my first draft of Zombies Are Forever. Critique from readers is a valuable thing.
  2. There are lots of great writers out there, so while I may not win, place or show, I do hope to get the word out about Zombies Are Forever and maybe entice a few readers to come check it out once I publish it in Septemeber. There is also a page with links to books that have been workshopped on The Next Big Writer. Not sure what you have to do to get on it, but it's another opportunity for visibility.
  3. I miss reviewing and seeing how other people build their books. My full-time job keeps me from it during the day, but online critique is anytime.
  4. If by some chance the fates align and I win or place as one of the 3 runners up, I get free help publishing my book, which includes copyediting. I'll be paying for that one way or another.
So, that is my diabolical plan. I signed up for a 3 month membership that costs $14.95. We shall see if it turns out to be worth it.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Save the Orphans - Of your Writing

Yippee! My daughter has graduated from high school and has a job to occupy her this summer. My sixteen-year-old son would rather I forgot he existed (no luck there, boy) and School's. Out. for. The summer. My time is now! I have commited to finishing my novel, Zombies are Forever (288 pages so far), and self-publish it in the fall. This is the first time I've told anyone on the internet. I feel a bit faint.

Now that I'm revising, I am running into that age old writer problem. Killing off the orphans of my writing. These are the bits and snippets that I love, but do not really belong in my story. Unlike the awful, messy stuff we do while drafting, these are the bits I am actually quite fond of. Look at that clever bit, that turn of phrase. I love you! Kisses.

But they don't belong in my book. That is why they are orphans. Poor displaced, lovely tykes that I could not just x out of existence. For years it made revising an agonizing process. They had to be cast adrift because they did not serve the story or distracted from the tone, or they just didn't fit in, bless their quirkly little hearts. Leaving them in would have made the Bad Seed of their natures come out and run amok in my tale, evicerating innocent, necessary bits. (amok, amok, amok - sorry, I am compelled to do that every time I use that word).

I felt guilty about abandoning my creations. Then one day, I opened a file and started dropping them in my orphange document. This made things much easier when I was revising. After all, I wasn't killing them by sending them on their way into the land of delete. I was providing for them. Saving them for another day. While knowing how way leads on to way.... Yes, I was ignoring the fact that they probably would never find a home, bless their weird little verbiages. Shhhh. Don't think about it.

So that is my drafting advice to you, after I have revised 28 pages, or the first 10% of my book. Save the orphans. You'll feel much better for it.

Monday, April 30, 2012

How to Screw Up Your Pitch at a Writing Conference

This guest post is brought to you courtesy of my writer friend Lindsey Schaefer. She and I recently ran the pitch room at a writing conference, and some of it wasn't pretty.  Hey, I've been there and made many of these mistakes in my rookie years at writing conferences. Hopefully we can help you avoid some of them.

My comments are below Lindsey's in italics. If anyone else has tidbits of wisdom they'd like to share, like Dumbo, I'm all ears.

How to Screw Up Pitching Your Novel
Do not relay your life story - regardless of whether or not it has anything to do with your work - if it involves being abducted by aliens, possessed by a demon or attacked by a ghost. Agents tend to be skeptics.
These kinds of projects are ideal for self-publishing. Agents won't be able to take it on because they can't prove the supernatural is real. Unless you have been on Oprah and she has ooed and ahhed over your story, the best person to publish your story is you.

Do not read from a letter. I have seen agents rip up pitches in front of writers to force them to talk. Use your words.
Guilty. Carried that paper around like a security blanket and often avoided eye contact. Talk to them like you would anyone that you're telling about your novel.

Do not linger after the pitch has been made. Refusing to leave or struggling to make small talk is either going to distract the agent from your initial proposal or simply irritate him/her.
And the writer who has the next appointment. Please don't take up more than your share of time. Just like we learned in kindergarten - you have to share.

Do not pitch an incomplete story or mere idea. A query letter is one thing. But when you sit down face-to-face with an agent, they tend to believe you have something concrete to bring to the table. Don't disappoint.
Guilty. I get that many people want to practice pitching, but the agents and editors are here for complete projects they can run with. You don't want to excite them about dessert only to reveal you haven't baked the cake yet.

Do not pitch a mystery story to a romance agent or a non-fiction piece to someone who specializes in YA fiction. If they don't work in that field, they don't care. Don't waste your time or theirs. Do your research ahead of time.
I have a feeling the people who really need to be reading this never will. Sometimes it isn't your fault and their preferences have shifted since they put them up on their website. But often you can do research about who their clients are and show them you know what you are talking about when you say your project is for them.

Do not seem so desperate. Pitching to every editor in the room doesn't make you look like you're keeping your options open, it makes you look like you don't have enough confidence in your work to think it will grab the attention of the agent who specializes in your genre.
Guilty. It's hard when you are passionate about something and someone tells you it won't work or it isn't marketable. For them it's not. Find someone as excited about your work as you are.

Do not show up late...or not at all. Quite simply, it's not professional. And the agents you're set to meet with typically has your name in front of them. Who's to say they won't remember your name if you happen to run into them later.
Enough said.

Do not pitch the same idea that EVERYONE else is pitching. Just because dystopian fiction is big in 2012 doesn't mean you have to write a post-apocalyptic piece. Supernatural YA fiction might be a big seller, but if the agent you sit down with has heard 27 pitches in that genre already, what's going to make your story stand out? Agents want what readers want...a good story. Don't worry about what sells, just worry about what you can write.
One caveat to this; if that is what you read and the only thing you want to write about, that's the best genre for you. Just realize if its a crowded market, you're going to have a tougher time getting an agent interested. They get fatigue after hearing the same old thing day after day. However those of us who read a specific type of book don't. E-publishing ala Amanda Hocking, may be the way to go...

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Warning: Messing with the Blog Design

Just a heads up. I'm back to blogging and I am changing the blog's design. So if you come here and it looks weird or unrecognizable - my fault. I don't know what I'm doing.

So this page may have as many personalities as Sybil before it's all over. Bear with me.

Stay tuned for a post on how to totally screw up your pitch at a writing conference.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

For All the Girls Who Read

Let's hear it for spoken word art and Mark Grist.