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Monday, December 23, 2013

Hot off the Press: Coffee and Critique Anthology is Ready!

Hot off the Press! (I've always wanted to say that).

Lou Turner called this morning with the exciting news that the Coffee and Critique anthology will be finished today and will be available for pick up tomorrow at the Rendezvous Café.

Lou will be there at 10 a.m. to distribute contributor copies. 

Additional copies will be available for sale at a discount for contributors.

In addition to the wonderful stories and essays, the anthology includes photos and "Take Ten" interviews with several members, including the late Nick Nixon.

Bring your Sharpies so you can sign copies.

Hope to see you there!

Friday, December 20, 2013

Cover Reveal: Coffee & Critique Anthology

Here's a sneak peek at the front and back covers of the soon-to-be published Coffee & Critique anthology.

This first issue of the anthology includes short stories, essays, and interviews from more than a dozen writers, all associated with the Coffee & Critique group that meets each week at the Rendezvous Café in O'Fallon.

Check back for details about the book's official release date.

Monday, December 9, 2013

They Sold, They Signed, They Survived!

Cathi, Linda, Lynn (front)
Donna and Alice (rear)
Last Saturday, I had a great time visiting with four local celebrity writers (Cathi LaMarche, Linda O'Connell, Lynn Obermoeller, and Alice Muschany) at Barnes and Noble in St. Peters.

Coffee and Critique's own Alice Muschany is one of the four local contributors whose true stories of survival are included in "We Will Survive" by Grammy Award-winning artist, Gloria Gaynor, and Sue Carswell.

I arrived at the event a bit late -- after 2 p.m. -- straight from celebrating my baby sister Bridget's birthday lunch at McGurk's in O'Fallon. (Yum)

By the time I got to the book store, I stood in a rather long line. One of the contributors told me they sold out of the 25 copies of books the store had ordered in the first hour of their signing, so the ladies had to run out to their cars to get their private stashes of books.

In addition to the four local celebrity authors, I met several other celebrities: members of Alice's family, including her granddaughter Peyton, who was also celebrating a birthday on Saturday, and chatted with local writers Tammy, Teresa, Kim, and Jack.

Thanks to Kim for taking this photo with my iPhone.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Alice Muschany's Book Signing at Barnes and Noble in St. Peters

Alice Muschany, aka Coffee and Critique's "fastest red pen west of the Mississippi," is one of four  St. Louis area authors whose stories of survival are included in Gloria Gaynor's recently released anthology,  We Will Survive: True Stories of Encouragement, Inspiration, and the Power of Song.

In addition to Alice, local writers Lynn Obermoeller, Linda O'Connell, and Cathi LaMarche have stories in the anthology and will be on hand to sign copies of the book.

The event will be this coming Saturday, December 7 at Barnes & Noble, Mid Rivers Center Drive, St. Peters, MO from 1-3:00 p.m.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Noble Deeds: Jack Zerr to Speak at Duchesne High School on Veterans Day

Coffee and Critique member extraordinaire Jack Zerr will be a featured speaker at 7 p.m. on November 11 at Duchesne High School in St. Charles, Missouri, for a Veterans' Day talk and book signing event. His presentation will be on “Life on an Aircraft Carrier.”
Zerr graduated from Duchesne in 1959 and entered the navy, where he served for thirty-six years, most of that time as a carrier pilot.  

Following the presentation, Zerr will discuss his latest novel: “Noble Deeds.” The story involves a commanding officer taking his ship to sea for the first time and experiencing a devastating fire.

 When Zerr was asked what inspired him to become a writer, he said, “Sister Mathew. She taught me literature and creative writing my junior year at DHS. I also consider her to be the first drill instructor I encountered. She gave me an F as a mid-semester grade. I told her I should have gotten a C. She told me I should have gotten an A, and that for the semester I’d get either an A or an F. I did not get an F. Sister Mathew. That’s why I wanted to do this event here at DHS. I appreciate the DHS administration allowing me the opportunity.”

Copies of Zerr’s book will be for sale. All proceeds will benefit Duchesne High School.
In addition, everyone who buys a book will get a chance to win an iPad.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Take Ten with Lou Turner, Co-founder of Coffee and Critique and CEO of High Hill Press

Lou Turner is an unforgettable woman who wears many hats. As co-founder of Coffee and Critique, she dispenses candid and unvarnished suggestions to help writers become better at their craft. 
In 2008 Lou and her husband Bryan started High Hill Press.

High Hill is not a self-publisher or a vanity press, but a small publishing business to offer writers a small niche between the huge New York publishing houses and the often high-priced print on demands.
Since becoming CEO, editor, and publisher of High Hill Press, Lou has nurtured scores of writers in navigating the publishing process to turn their writing dreams into reality.

Along with her team of five acquiring editors, Lou takes a personal interest in any book published by High Hill. While High Hill is a small press, it stresses quality in submissions. Only 25% of submissions are accepted for publication.
Lou took time from her busy schedule to respond to the "Take Ten" interview questions:

1. What inspired you to become a writer?

Lou: It has to be my childhood. Mystery author, Agatha Christie, said in the introduction to her autobiography, “One of the luckiest things that can happen to you in life is, I think, to have a happy childhood.” When I first started writing my parents were my only readers. I thought I was creating fiction, but every time my dad read one of my short stories, he would say, “I didn’t know you remembered that.” So between alligator wrestling Uncles, a grandpa that gambled for Al Capone, and everything in between, I’ve never had to grasp for something to write about.

2. What is your writing specialty? 

Lou: I’m not sure. I hate it when I hear an editor or agent telling people to stick to one genre. How boring would that be? I like to stretch and try new things and new styles when I write. I love the “what if” game. What if Scarlett O’Hara found her beloved Tara overrun with Zombies? Wow, that would be a great story…guess I’d better get busy on that one.

3. How would you describe your writing process?  

Lou: I used to challenge myself and sit in front of a blank screen to see if I could come up with something new, something I’d never thought of writing before. Now I just wait until an idea comes to me and head to the computer. Recently I was told to write about a specific topic. And although it was a great topic, I found it hard to work like that. My most recent essay is called The First Gray Hair, and I wrote it after a younger woman commented that older people are often behind the times. Anger, I found, is a great place to start when writing an essay about aging. The actual process is constantly changing for me. I don’t feel as though I have to write every day to accomplish what I want, but there are times when I will literarily write for 8 or 10 hours a day for days on end. I’ve worked many times right through the night.

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

Lou: Best: It’s all good. But probably just knowing each time you start a new project that your brain is still able to work is the best.

Worst: Having a great story rumbling around in your head and not finding the time to get it down before it flees.


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

Lou: Best: Just write. If you come to a dead end in one story, start another one.

Worst: I’ve probably never had any really bad advice. I can always tell when someone comments about my writing whether they’re doing it from a place of real helpfulness, or whether they’re just throwing out advice to be throwing out advice. I’ve learned to know the good advice from the bad…and I ignore the bad. I did have an editor put a zillion semi-colons in an article I’d written for a newsletter once. She didn’t discuss it with me, just plopped then in all over the place. It turned my humorous and conversational article into something unrecognizable. Which made me realize how dangerous a bad editor can be.


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

Lou: Reading is the best advice I can give you. Buy all the writing guides you can pick up off the sale table and keep them at your fingertips for when you run into a specific problem…like grammar or punctuation. But for learning how to write and develop your voice, you have to read the work of authors who did it well.

I started reading before the first grade. I grew up on Mary Shelley and Charles Dickens, and then Flannery O’Connor and Eudora Welty. I don’t read as quickly as I used to, but I keep a book with me all the time. What amazes me now is that I can read a good book and see why it’s good. I can see how the author put just the right amount of imagery in his prose. How he put suspense in just when it was needed. How his dialogue flows, or sometimes doesn’t flow. But I can see what that writer did to make his story good.

7. How has belonging to Coffee and Critique affected you as a writer?

Lou: I think being with other writers has made me want to learn more about the craft. There’s nothing like being almost ready to take a piece in to read, and then after going over it that one last time, realizing it still needs work. Reading in front of a group will make you humble, that’s for sure. But it’ll also make you try a little harder.

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

Lou: All of them are special. I think the most special was the first publication, and probably that first, first place. But the last one is special too. I changed my expectations greatly after learning more about the craft. When I first started I was simply being a businesswoman and trying something new to make money. After a while I realized this wasn’t like running a gift shop, or even painting for a living. Writing was completely different. So instead of needing to make money, I changed and simply needed to be able to tell a story that could entertain, or bring about a laugh, or a tear, or make someone check the shadows before they jumped into bed at night.

9. What three words best describe you?

Lou: Eager to learn.

10. What is your writing dream? 

Lou: I’m not sure I have a writing dream. Years ago I would have told you it was to be interviewed by Charlie Rose because of my bestselling novel. But now I simply pray that I won’t run out of things to write about before I die. Or that I die with a thousand more stories yet to tell.

I don't know about you, but I hope Lou will be sharing her stories for years to come.

Friday, October 18, 2013

What's New at Coffee and Critique? Coupon Clipping and Collecting Contest Certificates

Our Coffee and Critique writers have been productive this month.

Last week Alice Muschany had another Opinion Shaper column appear in the St. Charles County Suburban Journal. "The Queen of Bargains creates line of succession" is about her family's bargain-hunting and coupon-clipping activities. As usual, Alice serves up another healthy dose of humor in her family stories.

Alice is also giving away a copy of Chicken Soup for the Soul: Hope and Healing for your Breast Cancer Journey this month over on Donna's Book Pub.

For the past three years Alice has generously donated copies of books with stories about her breast cancer survival to bring awareness during Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

Stop by Donna's Book Pub by October 31 and leave a comment for a chance to win a copy of the book with Alice's warm and witty story, "Hats Off to Betty with Love."

Alice isn't the only writer who's been busy this month. 

Last weekend four members of Coffee and Critique were recognized for their writing talent during the annual Ozark Creative Writers Conference in Eureka Springs, Arkansas.

Doyle Suit, Marcia Gaye, Sarah Angleton, and Janet Bettag combined for a total of ten wins during the awards ceremony. Click here to see what they won.

Tune in next week for more announcements about accomplishments and events of members of Coffee and Critique, including information about Jack Zerr's book launch of Noble Deeds

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Just Released: BAKER MOUNTAIN by Doyle Suit

Congratulations, Doyle Suit!

At Coffee and Critique this morning, Doyle brought in copies of his recently released book, Baker Mountain, A Novel of Courage. Baker Mountain is a Cactus Country Book, published by High Hill Press.

Some time ago I received an advance reader's copy, so I got a sneak preview of the novel. I am proud to be one of the writers whose blurbs appear on the back cover of Baker's Mountain.

I was thrilled when Doyle gave me a signed copy as soon as I arrived at the meeting. My signed copy is a keeper!

Here is my back-cover blurb about Suit's YA historical fiction novel:

"Set during America's Great Depression, Baker Mountain by Doyle Suit harkens back to days of hard work and hard times. Through Suit's crisp and clear prose, vivid descriptions, and skillful painting of an era gone by, we learn the story of sixteen-year-old Gary Hill, whose life is turned upside down after the death of his mother. While Gary's father travels around the world in search of work, Gary moves in with his grandparents on their farm in the Ouachita Mountains of Arkansas. In the shadow of Baker Mountain, city-boy Gary learns about farming, hunting, horseback riding, bootlegging, and falling in love. Baker Mountain is an entertaining coming-of-age novel of historical fiction whose message about the importance of education, self-reliance, and courage still resonates today."

Later this week -- most likely on Friday -- I will be giving away my advance reader's copy of BAKER MOUNTAIN over on Donna's Book Pub. So pop on over to DPB on Friday to find out how you can win.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Coffee and Critique Summer Writing Contest Results

The Summer Writing Contest was a lot of fun.

Who would've thought the theme of fishing would bring out such a variety of stories and essays?

Eight submissions were read by readers selected at random, who did not know whose submission they were reading. Then each piece was judged by the twelve writers present, who gave each story a score between 1 and 10.

We had as much fun trying to figure out who wrote the stories as we did judging them.

Here are the places, titles, and winners' names:

1st Place "Crabbing Buddies" by Sarah Angleton
2nd Place "A Freakin' Good Time" by Alice Muschany
3rd Place "The Divorced Bass Fisherman and the Sea Monster" by Jennifer Hasheider

Congratulations to all the top three scorers as well as all who entered.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Go Fish: Summer Writing Contest Day is Tomorrow!

Just a friendly reminder for Coffee and Critique writers:

In case you didn't get the memo, or the e-mail, or the post on Facebook, or the many verbal reminders for the past few Tuesdays, tomorrow is the date for the Coffee and Critique Summer Writing Contest.

The theme is anything related to fish or fishing -- including going fishing, fishing for compliments, fishing for a wife/husband, playing Go Fish, etc.

Certificates will be awarded, along with one grand prize!

You can find the guidelines on an earlier post.

Just scroll down and you'll see them.

Good luck!

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Take Ten with the Fastest Red Pen West of the Mississippi: Alice Muschany

Move over guys, the latest Coffee and Critique Take Ten Interview is from none other than fast walking, fast talking, fast writing, and fast editing phenom: Alice Muschany.

Alice is always on the move, and her spectacular writing, editing, and photography skills are in great demand. She has been a treasured member of Coffee and Critique since its beginning. Her sweet and funny stories warm our hearts and tickle our funny bones.

Earlier this summer I was able to get her to slow down a few minutes to answer my interview questions.  

1. What inspired you to become a writer?

Growing up, I enjoyed creating silly ditties for family and friends. I also kept a notebook filled with humorous sayings. After my kids were born, I continued to jot down silly stuff they said and did. To this day I use it against them when they complain about their own offspring. 

2.      What is your writing specialty? 
While most of my writing buddies are liars and murderers (they write fiction), I pen mainly personal essays. My year-long battle with breast cancer also netted me a memoir that I readily share with women fighting the same battle. 

3 How would you describe your writing process?  
My writing is totally dependent upon my mood. If creativity strikes, I can whip out a story in no time. I’ve also been known to capture ideas on napkins, receipts or scraps of paper to be used later. The weather plays a big part. If it’s pretty (or not), I’m outside. For me, the hardest part of writing is to sit down at my computer. Family and friends call it ADHD, but they’re just jealous of my ability to multi-task. 
4.      What is the best part of being a writer?  What is the worst part of being a writer? 
Best: Capturing memories that take me back to a special place and time. Rereading old journals and being able to recall every vivid detail comes in handy, especially now that I have trouble remembering yesterday.

Worst: Finding out the fabulous story you submitted didn’t make the cut. I try using Scarlett O’Hara’s motto, “Tomorrow’s another day.”

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

Best: Polish, polish, polish. 

Worst: Suggestions to change my style of writing or take out all the parts of the story that make it me. An author needs to listen to constructive criticism, but she must also remember to remain true to herself.

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

 I just read. A lot. Mysteries, romance, non-fiction all teach me what works and what doesn’t. As for grammar issues, I leave commas, (colons not allowed, colons, right Lou?) etc. up to my writing buddies. If the nuns failed to reach me after twelve years of Catholic school, I’m afraid it’s too late for me now. (I could, however, diagram better than the rest of my class).

7. How has belonging to Coffee and Critique affected you as a writer?

My writing group is the best. Some of us have been together for years. We’d recognize each other’s masterpiece even without a name on the paper. Having others critique my work makes my stories so much more powerful—adding a stronger verb, deleting repetitive words, filling in the blanks all make a huge impact on a short piece.

8. If you’ve been published or have won awards, which are the most special to you?
My breast cancer essays are special to me. Knowing my published stories are being read by other women fighting cancer makes me feel like I’m right there offering my sisters love, laughter, and support.

9. What three words best describe you?

My husband’s description would be: hyper, hyper and hyper.  Mine would be happy, humorous and maybe a little hyper.

10. What is your writing dream? 

I’d like to publish my breast cancer memoir one day. I’d also enjoy writing a weekly column (read all over the world, of course).

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’d interview Erma Bombeck and ask her two questions. Did your family actually read your articles? If so, did they hold it against you for poking fun at them?

More about Alice:
Alice Muschany recently retired from her day job after 43 years of blood, sweat and tears. She now works even harder flitting from one grandchild’s event to the next, but she wouldn’t miss it for the world. Her eight grandchildren, along with her husband and best friend, make wonderful (but not willing) subjects for her camera and her stories. In her spare time she hikes, swims, and rides the Katy Trail for enjoyment (and peace and quiet).

Her essays have been published in Cup of Comfort, Chicken Soup, and Not Your Mother’s Book. One of her stories will appear in Gloria Gayner’s “How We Survived” anthology. She is also currently an Opinion Shaper for the Suburban Journals.


Thursday, August 1, 2013

Rest in Peace, Nick Nixon

Words can't express the sadness the Coffee and Critique writers feel at the loss of our cherished friend and fellow writer, Nick Nixon.

Nick will always be remembered for his beautiful writing, kind heart and kind words.

This photo of Nick was taken during his visit to Coffee and Critique earlier this summer.

Please keep Nick and his family in your hearts and prayers.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Go Fish! Summer Writing Contest Announcement

Coffee and Critique
Members Only
Summer Writing Contest
Holy mackerel! It's contest time!
Wanted:  Short stories, essays, and creative nonfiction pieces with a fish-related theme.

Quota (aka word count): Between 500-1,000 words.   Entries shorter or longer will be thrown back.
Include the word count on page one.

Castoff date (aka deadline): Tuesday, Sep 3.
Contest open to Members of Coffee and Critique only.   
No Fee to enter.
Every entry must have a title. 
One entry per person.
 All entries should be typed double-spaced, 12-pitch font.

 Except for the title, no name or other identification should appear on your submission.

 On the day of the contest (Tuesday, Sep 3):

Place your entry in the folder marked ENTRIES.

Fill out a 3x5 card (I’ll provide them) with your name and the title of your submission.

Place completed card in the envelope marked CARDS WITH TITLES AND NAMES.

Readings will be done at random by volunteers.
If you pick your story out of the pool of entries, toss it back and snag another. 

Judging will be done by your piers. No critiques will be given the day of the contest.

Score each entry between one and ten (no decimals), with ten being the highest.

To put all entries on equal footing, score your own submission with a ten.

After all readings are completed, scores will be tallied.
Winners will be announced by the contest coordinator, who will not enter the contest.

Prizes: Certificates will be awarded for 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place.
(No promises, but if I can dig up a few clams from the bottom of my purse, a modest cash award will be given for 1st place.)

Bonus: Entries may be considered for inclusion in the C&C anthology.
Hook your reader!
Pen something a-lure-ing!
Put some mussel in your writing!
You’ll shore have fun!


Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Take Ten with W. E. (Bill) Mueller: "Success is in the Editing"

Our latest featured Coffee and Critique group member is multi-published, award-winning writer W. E. (Bill) Mueller, who calls Chesterfield, Missouri, home. 
Bill has been a valued member of Coffee and Critique for several years. He brings his wisdom, excellent writing and critique skills, sense of humor, and big-picture sensibilities about the craft of writing to the table.  
His work has appeared in numerous publications and has won awards from The Writer Magazine, Writers Digest, St. Louis Writers Guild, Saturday Writers, the Ozarks Writers League and other places. 
Peaches and Cream, his book of short stories, was published by High Hill Press, but (he writes) it is probably out of print.
Here are Bill's answer to my take-ten questions:

1. What inspired you to become a writer?

Bill: My father was a printer at the Post-Dispatch. Ink was in my blood early on. During high school I worked Saturdays in the paper's editorial/book department. Very intellectual atmosphere--all expressed in writing.

2.  What is your writing specialty?

Bill: Short stories and an occasional essay. Readers seem to prefer my Zach Bannister (P.I.) stories. Also stray into memoir writing.

3. How would you describe your writing process?

Bill: I can only write after I have the entire story in my head. I cannot simply sit at the computer and clack-away. I need the whole structure of the story in my noggin, then write it long-hand, then onto the keyboard. Success is in the editing. Weeks and weeks of editing.

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

Bill: The best part of writing is hearing a reader say they really like your work. Winning writing contests also helps. What we all strive for is some verification that we are writers, and writing well.

The worst part of writing is waiting for inspiration. My need to have it all in my brain causes me to shout "come on gray cells, get busy."

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

Bill: The best writing advice: write in the present tense as much as possible; use strong verbs; edit, edit, edit. The worst advice is usually from someone who doesn't understand my story and offers critique.

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

Bill:  John Gardner's "The Art of Fiction."  An absolute must read.

 7. How has belonging to Coffee and Critique affected you as a writer?

Bill: Tuesday mornings always humbles me. I work and work, edit and edit, rewrite and rewrite my stuff till I think it's perfect, unblemished, untouchable. The Tuesday morning crew quickly cures that illusion; they alway see stuff that slides by me, like semicolons!!! Always, always have someone read your work who is impartial and honest.

8. You’ve been published numerous times and have won many awards. Which are most special to you?

Bill: Not to toot my horn, but five awards are special to me. First, the St. Louis Writers Guild Short-Story contest First Place award in 2009. Second, first place in The Writer magazine's 2009 story contest, a nation-wide magazine and competition. Third, in Writers Digest magazine contest (2011) I won second place in the crime/mystery genre; only two places were awarded. Four, I was awarded the first President's Award by the Ozark Writers League in 2010. Five, strangely, is the third place award I received this January from the St. Louis Writers Guild. When I finished reading the story, several folks had tears and I got prolonged applause, and later was told I should have won first place.

9. What three words best describe you?

Bill: Reading. Writing. Fishing. (He writes: other descriptions are unprintable)

10. What is your writing dream?  Alternate 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?

Bill: Let me answer both parts. I would love to have a story published in 'Ellery Queen' magazine, or one of the notable literary journals. I would love to meet Dostoyvesky and John Updike. I'd ask 'em the same ten questions you have asked me.

Thanks, Bill, for your candid answers. I always learn something when you speak.

Your many awards and publications bear witness to your belief that success is in the editing!

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Nick Nixon's Visit Surprises and Delights

Today was an extra special day for members of Coffee and Critique.

Shortly after I got up this morning I received a call from Coffee and Critique co-founder and my best writing buddy, Lou Turner, telling me that Nick Nixon was going to stop by our critique group today for a visit.

Nick is a gifted writer, award-winning songwriter, and chart-topping Country entertainer who has belonged to our group for several years.

Since then, he has entertained and inspired us with his beautifully written, passionate, and humorous essays at our Tuesday morning meetings.

To say Nick has a way with words is an understatement. He also gives thoughtful and spot-on critiques.

Several months ago Nick informed us that he was diagnosed with cancer, so he hasn't been able to attend our group regularly for some time, but we've kept in touch with him through calls and e-mails -- and we've always kept a seat for him at the table.

This morning Nick, his lovely wife Kim, their beautiful daughter Autumn Rose, and Nick's good buddy Nick Berry (in the photo on the left) who is visiting from Ohio,  graced us with a surprise visit.

Nick read an essay about his first paying gig as a Country singer. It was a delight! He also gave comments on stories other writers read.

Before they left, I managed to snap a few photos, and Kim took a couple more of our group members who were present today.

Those in the group shot are (from left): Stan, Janet, Bill S., John, Rebeca, Doyle, Nick B., Lou, Nick, Donna (me), Marcia, and Bill M.

I think these photos capture the joy of the occasion.

Thanks, Nick and family for sharing your time with us.

You are the best!

We hope you'll come back and visit us soon.

Friday, May 31, 2013

Take Ten with Coffee and Critique Member Nick Nixon

I'm thrilled and honored to share my recent interview with Coffee and Critique member extraordinaire, Nick Nixon.

Nick is a gifted writer and a local Country Music legend, with a 1970s chart-topping album and a long list of Billboard singles.

Nick's thoughtful and candid critiques and his unique and haunting writing voice make him a cherished member of Coffee and Critique.

Due to his health he hasn't been able to grace our critique group table at the Rendezvous Café for several months, but he keeps in touch through e-mails and is always with us in spirit.

The photo above is of Nick Nixon with Donna Volkenannt (that's me) and Lou Turner at a tribute for Nick last fall.

Nick's memoir, "Dreams Worked Magic," is available on his website and from his publisher, High Hill Press.

The following are my "take ten" interview questions and Nick's answers, along with his own bonus question and answer.

1. What inspired you to become a writer? 

Nick: Aspiring young writer Jerry Tucker was a friend of mine, we lived in the same apartment building.  He wanted to be the next Ernest Hemingway.  We each had jobs, but for quite a while neither could afford a television.  Occasionally, to pass the time, he would read his Hemingway efforts, some were good.  I even penciled a few things of my own but was reluctant to share them for fear he'd find them simple.

As far as my writing that's the way it went for the next 25 years.  Then one day the idea came to me again when another friend of mine, Nick Barry, encouraged me to contact local writing groups. I joined Coffee and Critique and Saturday Writers, and they soon gave me the confidence I needed to write freely.  I showed some of my pieces to an older Jerry Tucker and he in turn encouraged me as well.

2. What is your writing specialty? 
Nick: Personal essays, short stories, and memoirs.

3. How would you describe your writing process? 
Nick: When the mood strikes.

4. Whats the best part about being a writer?  The worst part?
Nick: The best is the opportunity to be creative.   The worst: Trying to type, I dont like the typing.

5. What the best writing advice youve received?  The worst?
Nick: The best is write the way you talk.  Worry about the spelling later.  The worst:  Someone told me I needed an education first.

6. Which books on writing can you recommend for other writers? 
Nick: I dont know.

7. How has belonging to Coffee & Critique effected you as a writer? 
Nick: They gave me the confidence I needed to write freely.

8. Which writing awards mean the most to you? 
Nick: My first writing award meant the most. “July the Wonder Dog" won first place in a Saturday Writers short story contest.

9. What three words best describe you? 
Nick: Risk taker, entertainer, humorous.

10, What is your writing dream? 
Nick: Id like to interview Abraham Lincoln and write for the Lone Ranger. I would ask Abe how many times he re-wrote the Gettysburg Address, and did he feel confident about its content.

And, finally, Nick came up with his own bonus question: 
Nick: How long would you like to live?  Nick: As long as it takes to write the Nick Nixon memoirs.
There's not much I can add to Nick's answers, except to say, isn't he amazing!

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Coffee and Critique Members Signing Books this Weekend

There's lots of exciting news for members of Coffee and Critique this weekend.

Jack Zerr and Janet Bettag, two regular members of our wonderful critique group -- and both award-winning writers -- will be among a trio of authors signing books in St. Charles on Saturday.

Jack Zerr is a former Navy Admiral, jet pilot, and Vietnam Veteran. He will be signing copies of Sundown Town Duty Station and The Ensign Locker. If you enjoy reading books about military life, Jack's books are just the ticket.

Janet Bettag will be signing copies of her book Normal, a true story about her survival after a ruptured cerebral aneurysm. Janet is an accomplished writer whose book has been described as "amazing" and "inspirational."

Jack and Janet, along with local writer Ann Hazelwood, will be signing copies of their books on Saturday, June 1, from 8 till 11 a.m. at the Parkview Gardens Florist and Greenhouse, which is located at 1925 Randolph in St. Charles.

I just visited the florist's website, and it is lovely.

How fitting that two writers like Jack and Janet will be signing books there. Janet is quite the gardener, and I remember reading a story about Jack and an incident he had mowing his lawn.

Another former member of Coffee and Critique, and an award-winning writer, will be part of a book signing on Sunday .

Sioux Roslawski is a full-time teacher who has attended C&C in the past during her summer vacations. Sioux is funny and smart and generous. She will be among a group of local writers signing copies of Not Your Mother's Book on Travel on Sunday, June 2 from 1-3 p.m. at Main Street Books in St. Charles. Other local writers participating in Sunday's event are Linda O'Connell and Sheree Nielsen.

I'm leaving to go out of town on Sunday and have a full day of activities lined up on Saturday, so I won't be able to make the signings. But if anyone in the St. Charles-St. Louis area has some free time, these are all great writers who would appreciate your support, even if it's just to stop by and say "Hi."

To all the local writers with book signings this weekend, I hope you sell lots of books -- so many that your fingers get cramped from signing them all.

I'm just kidding about the last part of that sentence; you need those fingers for writing and typing.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Take Ten with Coffee and Critique - First Up, Doyle Suit

Take Ten with Coffee and Critique is a new feature intended to highlight the writers who belong to the Coffee and Critique group and to share some of their writing wisdom.

The Take Ten feature includes an introduction and a bio of the member, followed by an interview with ten questions, plus one bonus question.

First up is Doyle Suit, interviewed by Donna Volkenannt.

Doyle is a cherished and loyal member of C&C. He has belonged to C&C since the group's founding in 2007 by Donna Volkenannt and Lou Turner

Introduction: We can always rely on Doyle to share a great story and give insightful and thorough critiques. Friendly and welcoming to all members, Doyle embodies the Coffee and Critique motto of being "candid but kind." 

Bio: Doyle and his lovely wife of a half century live in St. Charles, MO near their children and grandchildren. He and his wife play golf and bridge and enjoy bluegrass music. Doyle's stories appear in Cactus Country, Thin Threads, Our Favorite Pets, My Dad is my Hero, Bigfoot Confidential, Cuivre River Anthologies, and various magazines.
Interview: Here are Doyle Suit's Take Ten Q&A with Coffee and Critique:

1. What inspired you to become a writer?
Doyle:  I can’t pinpoint a single inspiration. A high school English teacher sparked my interest in literature. Failed attempts to write when I was younger made me want to improve my skills. Family members who were published encouraged me. Finally, writing technical proposals in the aircraft industry sounded like a good background for fiction writing. It didn't quite work that way.
2. What is your writing specialty?
Doyle: I write primarily novels and short stories, but occasionally I get sidetracked into writing memoirs, essays, articles, or even songs.
3 What is your writing process?

Doyle: I write almost every day and avoid detailed outlines. The seat of the pants method usually works for me. Deadlines tend to improve my efficiency.
4. What is the best part of being a writer? The worst part?
Doyle: The best part of being a writer is satisfying an itch to create stories. The worst part is waiting for a publisher to decide, or maybe it’s people who tell me writing is a nice hobby.
5. What is the best writing advice you’ve received?  The worst?
Doyle: The best advice I’ve received is to apply my butt to a chair and don’t let the truth get in the way of telling a good story. The worst is encouragement to write whatever I think will sell.
6. Which books on writing can you recommend for other writers?
Doyle: Numerous books can be helpful. My standbys are Plain English Handbook, Roget’s Thesaurus and The Elements of Style.
7. How has belonging to Coffee and Critique benefitted you?
Doyle: Constructive advice from talented writers at Coffee and Critique fostered discipline to pay attention to fundamentals and write about what’s important to me.
8. If you’ve been published or have won awards, which are the most special to you?
Doyle: I’m proud of all my publications and awards. Having my work included in My Dad is my Hero, Thin Threads, Cactus Country, Bigfoot Confidential, and Cuivre River Anthologies is special. My YA novel, Baker Mountain, will be published in the near future. First place award for Saturday Writers short story contest and Springfield Writers Guild Jim Stone Fiction Award grace the walls of my office.
9. What three words best describe you?
Doyle: Right-brained Engineer
10. What is your writing dream? 
Doyle: I want to publish work that entertains and reinforces values like self-reliance, honesty, thrift and respect for others. These were expected when I grew up. I fear they are not sufficiently emphasized in today’s world.
Bonus question: Anything you’d like to add?
Doyle: To those who suggest I’d be better served to do real work instead of writing stories, writing is work. I learned the hard way.
Thank you, Doyle, for giving us a glimpse into your writing world and for sharing your wisdom. 
To learn more about Doyle, visit his website