Thursday, May 23, 2019

Writing a Family Cookbook including Decoration Day and Memorial Day Events

By Annette Cole Mastron, Communications Director for Southern Writers Magazine

I must admit: I’m part of the generation that has no real reference to the Southern tradition of Decoration Day. It often coincides the same weekend as Memorial Day. Maybe it’s because my family never had an organized family reunion.

I have friends who share tales of Decoration Days spent in their family cemeteries around the South. It’s a tradition that has always fascinated me. If you’re not familiar with this event, let me enlighten you. It’s a tradition that started before the Civil War, think of it as the origin of “family reunions.” 

Whether near or far family members come home and gather at the cemetery of their relatives to honor them by cleaning the cemetery, straightening tombstones, clearing brush and debris then decorating the graves with flowers. Prayers are said for the dearly departed. Music may occur offering up Taps, gospel hymns, folk songs or family favorites. The “dinner on the grounds” is quite literally that. It’s a family reunion of both dead and living relatives because you’re eating a potluck dinner atop the graves of your ancestors. This is an all day event. It’s not something you come late to and certainly not something you leave early from, else you want to be talked about.

Morbid? Maybe but it’s definitely fascinating. The potluck, of course, will include each family represented by a favorite and maybe “secret” recipe. 

Now, my way to make a family recipe book. You could just put recipes in a 3 ring binder and then copy. We are not affiliated with Shutterfly, but I personally have used their services and have always been pleased. Shutterfly, like some other photo services, makes it easy to capture family stories, recipes and photos all in one book that you create and write. I plan on making my own cookbook for my adult children. I will be sharing some of my Mom’s memories of her childhood experiences with Decoration/Memorial Day in rural Arkansas, as well as some of her recipes. I’ll be incorporating pictures along with stories, as well as the recipes.

What about you? Do you participate or have memories of Decoration Day? Have you made a family cookbook?

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

My Author Dream

By Judy Lynn Scovil

Oh, the exhilarating passion and dream that runs through the veins of a writer building their story. If you desire to write, start by searching for your dreams and irresistible passions, your unique experiences that you long to release! Search your heart for what stirs the very essence of your soul. Keep a pen close, as it’s vital to journal personal and passionate thoughts.
My writing journey began with dreams and visions in the night. It helped me tremendously to pray for understanding. With a journal in hand and an ever-increasing insatiable desire to know and speak truth, I soon discovered it was my destiny in waiting! Look back in your life and longings. For me it was a deep love for God and his people and passion to study, research and teach the Word of God. I soon discovered a way to feed that passion by teaching in home bible studies. That progressed into a platform to write as well as an inspiration to unite people, teach the truth that not one child of God be deceived, as well as teach about the power of our destinies. Our God has an amazing plan for all his children. We must discover who we are along this journey; this will be a powerful writing tool! This is a crucial hour to step up to discover our destinies and use our gifts! The very reason we are called to this earth is to fulfill a special purpose-- perhaps yours is with a pen!
Additionally, it’s important to find a wonderful atmosphere that promotes creativity and encourages words to flow. Every writer realizes the importance of drawing back and dwelling first in a sanctuary of repose. My inspiration is writing by my water garden, surrounded by woods, singing birds, and blooming flowers. A peaceful soul finds an incredible source of wealth to write within a quiet place of refuge. In stillness we discover God’s strength and unfolding wisdom! Then our energies ignite, creativities and passions flow, and our writings flourish.

Every writer understands the thrill and excitement of what I call the “hunt” for the story! Whatever we write, it must be thorough and well written. A good friend taught me that it’s best not to tell your readers, but to show them. Let your sound research speak for itself.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help! Reach for Christians, colleagues, friends, and family who have been gifted with amazing skills to assist in your writing process! Establish a powerful foundation.  I have a team captain, a prayer team; one friend helps edit, another assists with social media. My team has helped me be well prepared for this writing journey!
Good tools set in place are essential for writers and authors. In one breathless moment we might become lost in a wonderful world of literary words. Remember, enjoy your journey of writing.
We are better together!
Judy Lynn Scovil is currently signed to Priority PR Group & Literary Agency in Tulsa, Oklahoma, where she has also taught and been an active member in her local church for the past 32 years. Apart from serving on her church's Women's Ministry board, she also supported her husband, Jim Scovil, who was Chairman of the board of Elders. Leading women's prayer groups in church for 25 years and in-home bible studies for 14 years, she is also an advocate and member for Women Leading Women. Her upcoming book is set to release in 2020. Connect with her on Facebook

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Repurposing - Do You Use This Technique?

By Susan Reichert, Editor-in-Chief, Southern Writers Magazine

Repurposing is the use of a tool being re-channeled into being another tool, usually for a purpose unintended by the original tool-maker. For writing this means taking a word and repurposing it to be an unusual word with the purpose of surprising your reader.

Writer’s Relief gives this example in a post they wrote in September, 2011 ( See article They used an example from the book The Invisible Bridge by Julie Orringer (where she repurposed the word cobweb)  The young man says “Budapest was cobwebbed with memories…”

What I like about her using this repurposed word is how it denotes so much more going on in the man’s mind and in his feelings than just using memories. It conveys something deeper in him. Don’t you think?
Another word that is repurposed is the state of Missouri. Instead of saying your character is not easily convinced and or he’s a skeptic, one would say, “He has a Missouri mindset.” Not only do you use less words, but you create a character that gives your reader a vivid comprehension of what he is like.
How about the word Goldilocks? Would you think of repurposing it? Goldilocks remember, tried each bed looking for just the right one. Conditions had to be just right for her. “Nancy has a Goldilocks mentality.” The funny thing about this one is we all probably have known people or had friends who were just like this, in that everything had to be just right before they would do anything or go anywhere.
We easily use the word ‘knit together’ and ‘in a pinch’; we’ve used them so much they have lost their surprise element in our writing. Question – can you think of another way to repurpose these two words, knit and pinch? If so, please share with us.
It goes without saying; you don’t want to overuse this technique of repurposing words. Sprinkling a few in your story is okay. And if you repurpose a word to describe a character, then do that for the one you most want the readers to remember.

Monday, May 20, 2019


By Bethany Turner, Author of Wooing Cadie McCaffrey

The purpose of this post is to give some insight into the writing craft. A “How To” on some particular aspect of  being a writer, of publishing books, of living the life. But here’s the catch: in order to write a “How To” it’s very helpful to know how to do something. Seems obvious, right? Right. And yet I’ve been sitting here for way too long, staring at a blank screen, trying to figure out what it is that I know how to do.

Do you ever feel like I do? Do you ever hang out in the author groups on Facebook, or sit through conferences and workshops, and listen to your peers talk about all of their disciplines as if they are not only common, but nonnegotiable, and wonder how everyone and their grandmother seems to know about all these things you’re hearing about for the first time? And they don’t only know about these things, they understand these things. They breathe these things. They live these things!

Most of the time, in those scenarios, I feel like a fraud. Truly. I sit and listen, not sure if I should laugh or cry, as my fellow authors discuss the necessity of following grammar rules that are so far over my head, I need a step ladder to reach them. I act like I know what they’re talking about when they use book-related acronyms as if they were words we all learned in kindergarten. And then there is the assumption that we all read all the books, all the time.

Here are the facts in my life: I stumbled into the writing thing. I didn’t really have any idea I wanted to be an author until I was one. I’ve never taken a writing class outside of the required core classes in school. And guess what else? I don’t spend all that much time reading because most of the time, if I have a little bit of free time to unwind, I’d rather spend it watching television. *GASP!*

So, let’s get real. Let’s call it like it is. I’m not sure what I know how to do. I’ve gotten a couple of publishing contracts, I’ve won or been nominated for some awards, I’ve spent a little bit of time on some best of the year lists…and I honestly don’t know why.

No, wait…that’s not true. I do know why. It’s because my writing, my voice, was able to somehow connect with certain groups of readers. That’s the only reason any of us ever experience any success, right? And let me tell you, if I knew all the rules, if I understood and strive toward what is expected, it wouldn’t be my voice. I guess all I know how to do is write the way that only I can. Just like you, you should write the way that only you can. That is the one “How To” that no one else can teach you.
Bethany Turner is the award-winning author of The Secret Life of Sarah Hollenbeck, which was a finalist for The Christy Award. When she's not writing (and even when she is), she serves as the director of administration for Rock Springs Church in Southwest Colorado. She lives with her husband and their two sons in Colorado, where she writes for a new generation of readers who crave fiction that tackles the thorny issues of life with humor and insight.
For more, visit

Friday, May 17, 2019


By Ron Houchin

First, demystify writing, a little.  See it as a way of replying to the mystery, wonder, even beauty that speaks first to us with its own kind of language-- often a visual vocabulary that may be understand for fourteen, eighteen, twenty-four lines or pages.  And of course, not just as poetry.  In a way all art is a reply.  It happens as painting, photography, dance, any and every art form.  Carl Sagan's suggestion that we are the universe's desire to see itself, feels comforting, helps explain why this happens, and it probably happens to everyone to some degree.  Especially the young reply to what grabs their attention and energy.

The old timers called it inspiration, and it does carry magic, whether from the Muse or some quality in ourselves we don't fully understand.  It seems to come from paying attention to the outside that gives us insight into what's inside us as part of some whole here, whatever it is-- universe or massive consciousness or some other completely unexplained.

After childhood, worries began to take hold and not everything had that ability to speak out to me, but enough does that once or twice a week, if I stay in love the world as it is, I must reply to something in it.  It seems like a responsibility to go through that threshold offered by the catalyst of the sight or sound of an unusual phrase or an object in nature, that which gives me pause, anything that stays with me and starts the inner gears turning until I do something about it.  Then writing about it is a sort of good exorcism, I suppose, but I am never really free of it and hopefully, if the magic is there, if I've paid enough attention, that magic will be there when I read it again years later and for the reader who comes across it, too.

The type and kind of things that may need replying to vary greatly and are not just language-based cues.  Whether it is an over-sized crocus leaning against its fellows like a jolly group of drunks or a dead crow lying in the middle of the road without a mark on it or nearby carrion to answer how it came to die here, it is all the universe asking to be paid attention to.  And observation seems to be key. 

It is important to this process to trust your first draft and hang on to it.  Keep it where it can be revisited as you go through the process of polishing and revising.  The first draft is where that original magic is for you who wrote it.  Let it go where it wants to go.  You can revisit it repeatedly and mine it as you bring the poem or essay to a point where the reader has a good chance to see what you saw, step into your mind and the world you have found that whispered or shouted its mystery and contiguity to you.
Ron Houchin lives on the banks of the Ohio River, across from his hometown, Huntington, West Virginia. For thirty years he taught high school in the Appalachian region of southern Ohio.  With eight books of poetry published here and in Ireland, a collection of short stories, and a novella published also, Ron decided, about a year ago, to write a novel. His ninth book of poems due out in the fall of 2020, from Louisiana State University Press's Southern Messenger Poets Series. His books have received awards, include an Appalachian Book-of-the-Year in Poetry for 2004, an Ohio Arts Council fellowship for teachers of the arts, a tutorial fellowship to the Dublin Summer Writers' Workshop in Ireland, and the Weatherford Prize for Poetry in 2013.

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Never Let Go

By Chris Pepple, Writer-At-Large, Southern Writers Magazine

Have you ever had a great idea for a character or a plot, but you just couldn’t figure out how to move forward? When you tried to flesh out the details for a book, did you get stuck on some of the details or reach a dead end that you couldn’t move past? Did the dialogue fall flat? Did the plot weaken beyond repair? Did this frustrate you because you still like the original idea?

Sometimes just the opposite happens—we have a great thought and it keeps growing in our mind. Dialogue pops into our head when we’re showering or having coffee. Plot twists race through our minds at 3 a.m. when we can’t get up and do anything about it. We’re frustrated because we have other deadlines we have already committed to and can’t stop to work on a new project.

So, when do we just toss out these ideas? Never. Don’t let go of these gems that you’ve uncovered. Take a few notes and file them away in notebooks in your desk or in your closet (or in the many places writers stuff papers). No idea has to be tossed out too quickly.

“But I tried writing it,” you say. “I couldn’t finish it.” Then maybe the timing wasn’t right for where you are in life. You might need to take care of some unfinished business or research more before you can pick the project back up. You might need to turn the thought into a poem or a short story instead of a novel. Sometimes, our failure just means we need to learn a little bit more about the writing process through a class or seminar. Just because we aren’t ready to finish a project doesn’t mean the idea was bad. Revisit it later in life and see what happens.

The same holds true for a packed schedule. Just because you don’t have time to tackle a new writing project now doesn’t mean you won’t ever have time. Hang on to the thoughts and let them wait for you to unpack them when you have more time.

Never let go of a good idea just because the timing isn’t right. The characters will be waiting for you around the next bend.

Wednesday, May 15, 2019


By Richard Mabry, M.D.

For many decades I practiced medicine, taught, wrote, doing my best to be a good person at all of those, while not neglecting my family. Then, about the time of my anticipated retirement from my position at the medical center, my wife of 40 years died. Needless to say, it was devastating. As part of the healing process, I committed my thoughts to paper, mainly as a personal catharsis. A friend, involved in a grief ministry in another state, read them and urged me to publish my journal as a book. Of course, I had no idea how to go about this. Finally, a sympathetic editor at a Christian publishing house suggested I attend a writer’s conference. My attendance gave me the background to rewrite, and eventually get published, The Tender Scar. Perhaps as important, though I didn’t realize it at the time, I was encouraged by a couple of recognized authors to “try my hand at fiction.”

I figured that would occupy my time during my retirement, so I accepted the challenge. Unfortunately, it didn’t go well. I eventually wrote four novels over the next four years, and for these I received forty rejections. Discouraged, I decided to quit writing.

Nevertheless, despite leaving the writing world behind, I continued to follow a number of writing-related blogs, including that of Rachelle Gardner. She ran a contest for the best first line, and (to my surprise), I won with the line, “Things were going along just fine until the miracle fouled them up.” Through a series of circumstances that I’m convinced were divinely ordained, she became my agent and I resumed writing. It wasn’t long after that time that I got my first fiction contract. Since then, I’ve had eighteen novels and novellas published. All this after quitting writing. I wasn’t through—I just thought I was.

I’ve just published the novella that sprang from that first line I dashed off so long ago. I hadn’t planned on doing that, but the story kept growing in my mind, giving rise eventually to the novella, Bitter Pill. It went through a bunch of revisions, but I think the end result is pretty good. I hope you do, too.

What do I take from all this? It’s pretty simple. You may become discouraged. You may even be tempted to give up. You may—like me—say that you’re too old for all this. But don’t quit. Don’t give up because you’re discouraged. You’re not through yet.
Dr. Richard Mabry is a retired physician, now writing “medical mystery with heart.” His novels have garnered critical acclaim and been finalists for ACFW’s Carol Award, both the Romantic Times’ Inspirational Book of the Year and Reviewer’s Choice Awards, the Inspirational Readers’ Choice, and the Selah Award. He is a member of the American Christian Fiction Writers, the International Thriller Writers, and Novelists Inc. Bitter Pill is his latest novella.He and his wife live in north Texas, where he writes, works on being the world’s greatest grandfather, and strives to improve his golf game. You can learn more about him at his website, and via his blog and Facebook page. He is also interviewed in the May-June issue of the Southern Writers Magazine.