Thursday, August 16, 2018

JOMO to Improve Your Writing

By Annette Cole Mastron, Communications Director for Southern Writers Magazine

JOMO stands for “Joy of Missing Out.” It means putting down your devices and rediscovering the joy of just being in the moment. Clearly, that can aid any author in sparking creativity by watching the world around you. It’s the opposite of being plugged in FOMO “Fear of Missing Out." which means being constantly connected and watching the world thorough all your devices. In author speak it's the easiest way to fall down "Alice's" rabbit hole of technology. If you have a crick in your neck you probably are doing FOMO instead of JOMO which may be the reason you may have lost your writing mojo.

Heads up. A new app MILK could help you and reward you for staying off your phone. “Milk the Moment” is to help you break from your electronics, especially your phone. It helps you live in the moment. Per the information on the MILK website, “Courtney ``Coko`` Eason is the Founder and CEO of Milk The Moment. Coko worked in the music and entertainment industry for many years. While hosting her own concerts, showcases and live events she noticed that the audience was becoming less and less engaged due to cell phone interruption. People were too busy scrolling, texting, snapping, taking selfies or recording the entire performance instead of being present and living in the moment. Coko was inspired to create the MILK App in order to encourage the world to return to real life connections and interactions. Her mission is to start a movement where people become more present by disconnecting from digital devices and reconnecting with one another.”

While this is not an endorsement for the app, it’s a reminder in the value of unplugging in order to actually write. If you never have time to write because you’re constantly plugged in, just put it in another room. If you use the MILK app, you could rack up some rewards.

So, enjoy what you are doing in the present. Write. Stop being a slave to your electronics. Stop being on social media, constantly, checking out other people’s lives, unplug daily to increase your productivity.

One pivotal quote throughout the 2018 "Christopher Robin" movie, the character, Winnie the Pooh says to Christopher Robin, "Doing nothing often leads to the very best kind of something." That Pooh bear knows a thing or two about JOMO. How do you find your JOMO?

Wednesday, August 15, 2018


By Cliff Yeargin

Here’s a question. If during the Super Bowl, the Head Coach of one team decided to move an offensive lineman to the Quarterback position or during a World Series, a manager made a move to have his Pitcher play 3rd base. What would the reaction be? Fans would set their hair on fire and the coach and manager fired on the spot. Why? It’s simple. You don’t play people out of position. Each player has a skill set, training, aptitude and desire to play a position they can succeed in.

As a writer, are you playing out of position? Are you writing in your own voice and playing to your strong points? Are you playing at the best position to succeed as a writer? As a young man just out of college and starting out in broadcasting, I was given the opportunity to do the play-by-play for high school football on a tiny rural radio station. I dove in head first. One game I imitated ABC’s Keith Jackson, the next I mimicked a legendary local college announcer, another I copied Dick Enberg of NBC. Different voice every game. Some people told me I did great. My friends told me I stunk. 

Always good to have honest friends. Why did I stink? I was playing out of position. Rambling on in a forced voice, not of my creation and a hopeful career as a play-by-play announcer disappeared like a rabbit in a hillside of kudzu.

Years down the road I once again decided to dive in head first. Fiction writing this time and right off the bat I became a running back trying to play left guard. Out of position again. I tried to write flowery prose like James Lee Burke, create diabolical characters like James Patterson and capture the quirky humor of Carl Hiaasen. I thought it was great. Those same honest friends told me it stunk. So, I changed positions. I went back to playing where I felt comfortable. In my case, that was simply dumbing things down to my level. My ability with prose and plotting is limited. I am a simple storyteller. So once I grasped that reality, it led me to create characters and stories that fit my own simple voice. Their words and actions began to fit as comfortable as an old pair of work boots and soon I enjoyed spending time with them.

Are you playing out of position? We all can’t write the same as the famous writers we admire, but you can find your own voice and slip into the right position where you can succeed. It took a long time to find my own voice…now if I can just convince those honest friends that I no longer stink.
Cliff Yeargin has spent his life as a “Storyteller”, the bulk of that in a long career in Broadcast Journalism as a Writer, Producer, Photographer and Editor. He is the author of the Award Winning Jake Eliam ChickenBone Mystery Series. The books include Rabbit Shine, Hoochy Koochy, named The 2016 Georgia Author of The Year Silver Medal Finalist in the Mystery Category and the latest book in the series, the just released MudCat Moon. Yeargin has returned to his native Georgia home and works at CNN. Follow the series @ Blog Facebook Twitter @cliffyeargin   Instagram

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Let’s Unleash Our Creative Power

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

I do not know about you, but sometimes, I just have to sit and quiet my brain.

Shelley Carson, author of Your Creative Brain suggested, “When starting a project, take a moment to reflect. What is the subject of the piece? Who is the audience? What main idea do you want to convey?”

Do you recognize this is an interview? You are sitting down and interviewing yourself. You would be surprised at the great answers you would receive if you did this. I like doing this because I like talking to myself! Lol

Carson went on to say, “Once you’ve set creative parameters and constraints, your brain will scan your stream of consciousness for usable ideas.”

Think of it in terms of typing in a question for Google to find the answer. Just about the same process.

When asking yourself questions like this you are causing your brain to act like Google. It will search for the answers and let me tell you it comes up with great answers.

You may have to schedule you some mindless work to do while your brain is searching for the answers, you know the kind––dusting the house, cleaning out a closet, or planting flowers. You get the idea. This frees the mind to wander while the brain is working. It helps with the clutter. Eventually answers will come, just be patient if they do not come right away.

Happy Writing!

Monday, August 13, 2018

Three Ways to Begin Your (DREAM) Writing!

By Zina Hermez

Did you know that 80 percent of Americans think they should write a book? Most of them will never do it. People get intimidated by the work. They don’t know how to find a publisher or even self-publish. They never try or give up because it seems too difficult, or they don’t know how to get started. These days, writers can self-publish with tools on-line, and there are ways to get your book printed by on-demand or you can go the route of Indie publishing if you’re feeling especially productive. Whether you publish independently, with a hybrid company, or with a traditional publisher--you are still responsible for marketing. Be aware. Authors are not only writers, they are marketers, “experts,” salespeople, speakers, and we wear many hats!

 Keep a Diary or Journal
I would not suggest for you to publish simply because you want to. Millions of people write books each year, but the majority of them are not necessary or good. You don’t have to be born with the talent, but you have to practice! You can start by writing for fifteen minutes a day. You can then reread what you wrote as a way to reflect and recognize any thought patterns. You can add more or rewrite to help change any negative attitudes. You can’t heal from what you don’t acknowledge. Writing can be therapeutic. I’ve practiced this technique since I was a teenager. Write somewhere where you can focus and edit. If you can’t find the time to write every day, write for one to two hours a week. Three hours or more of writing per week would be an ideal schedule to begin.

Find a Writer’s Community
What do you want to write about? Who will be in your audience? Will you create a blog? You can start a free blog at or You can start a blog at, but you would have to purchase hosting. I’ve bought a domain at (I am not an affiliate of any of these companies). Connect with other writers: join a writers’ group, attend a writers’ conference, share your writing with your friends or family and ask for honest feedback but ask them not to be too harsh. Compliments with constructive criticism are healthy. You have to be willing to learn from others. Find an accountability partner (That was a new piece of advice I heard at a conference!). I liked it. Reading others writing can help also, and it is a great way to write better. The best writers are the best readers, and writing can help you be a better speaker--I have told many people.  

 Relax, and enjoy it!
I’ve taken the fun out of writing by focusing on trying to make it “perfect.” Trying to type the right words, word-for-word can be stressful. These high expectations can take the enjoyment out of it! Writing has to be fulfilling. I was listening to a live webinar in my Writers Guild, and I heard a man say he feels “parched” while he writes. He was asking our writing coach how to solve this problem. He shouldn’t feel parched; he should feel inspired. You cannot inspire someone else until you inspire you first. But this develops over time. Finding your “voice” can take a while, but once you find it, writing can become easier and more comfortable. You won’t regret all the work you’ve put into it!
Zina Hermez authored “Not Without God: A Story of Survival” and her forthcoming book, “Hope After the Storm” will be the second in an II part series. Her stories have been featured in various guest articles, medical journals, magazines, newsletters, and almost 200 of her very own blog posts. As an educator for nearly twenty years, she’s had the privilege of working with thousands of students from different backgrounds and parts of the world. Her writing endeavors earned her an invitation to speak at the Harvard Faculty Club’s “Business Expert Forum.” Zina’s goal is to help others overcome adversity, and she strives to do what she longs to – help others. Socializing with friends, taking road-trips, listening to music, and networking are among her hobbies.  You can connect with her on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter. 

Friday, August 10, 2018


By Mary Ellis

Since my new publisher, Severn House, wanted this book to pick up where my last series (Secrets of the South) left off, I first hit the road in search of the perfect location. For my PI on the run from a violent past, I selected the coastal city of Charleston with its cobblestone streets, trees shrouded in Spanish moss, and hordes of tourists. Kate Weller has plenty of spots to duck out of sight as she investigates crime under a new identity. Years ago, I fell in love with those ancient trees and dark alleys on my first trip to the three-hundred-year-old city. But by my second or third visit, I realized the past hadn’t been walled off into a museum but has nurtured each new generation. Charleston is one of the few places where doctors and lawyers, students and professors, artists and waiters coexist with horse-drawn carriages and haunted history tours. For the pivotal scene between my murder suspect and his son, I chose Shem Creek Park, across the Cooper River from downtown. Shrimpers still venture out each morning to cast their nets and sell their fresh catch at the dockside market, like fishermen a hundred years ago. For the palatial home of my murder victim, I chose the slow-paced barrier island of Kiawah with its fiercely protected privacy. I had so much fun staging the pivotal climax amidst palm trees and sandy beaches.

Next, once you’ve found the perfect setting for your new series, you must up the stakes for your characters, both carry-overs and new. Don’t rely on the same old conflicts to keep the pace lively. Deepen your characters’ motivations by creating more dire consequences should they fail. Depending on the length of your novel, introduce one or two new main characters to the story. In addition to complementing the main plot, these new characters should have their own agendas that carry-over into the next book. Readers love a series because of the chance to revisit beloved characters. But to keep them turning the pages, you must constantly introduce fresh ideas into your story lines. The old and new, the past and the present, each book picks up where the last leaves off and heads for the stars….just like the city of Charleston.

Tracking down a client’s biological sister turns complicated when a P.I. rents a room above an Italian restaurant where the handsome chef has plenty of enemies in Hiding in Plain Sight, first of the Marked for Retribution Mysteries by Mary Ellis.
Mary Ellis has written twenty-five novels including Amish fiction, historical romance, and suspense. Her most recent mystery, Sunset in Old Savannah has been nominated for a Bookseller’s Best Award and the Daphne du Maurier Award for 2017. In August, Severn House will release Hiding in Plain Sight book one of Marked for Retribution Mysteries. In January, Kensington will release her novella, Nothing Tastes So Sweet, for the Amish Candy Shop Anthology. Social media: or Author/

Thursday, August 9, 2018

For You or For Me?

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

Who are you writing for? That’s a question I ask people when I am speaking to groups about writing careers. Are you writing for you, or are you just writing for someone else? Of course, everyone needs to make money if we are seeking a career as an author. Ideally, we could all sit at our computers and type every day knowing that enough money to live on would follow as soon as we submitted the work. Realistically, though, not all authors can just quit their day jobs to follow their publishing dreams. That doesn’t mean you should quit writing, however.

When you first start writing, you are probably going to have to write some articles or blog posts that benefit others financially more than they benefit you. While researching potential places to have your work published, you will find that the pay may not seem to match the effort. Remember, though, that you need to build your portfolio and get your name before readers. To launch your career, consider entering contests and finding freelance work even if that financial gain isn’t what you dreamed of. Sometimes, in the beginning, the income may seem small, but remember that building a portfolio that will eventually benefit you.

So, do you only write for others in the beginning? No, definitely not. Even when you are writing blog posts and website articles to boost the circulation for others, you still need to set aside some time each day (or at least each week) to work on your own projects. Create your own blog. Write 1,500 words a week minimum on your own novel. Write a poem a week so you can publish your own poetry book. Continue to submit articles to higher paying sources if you want to specialize in magazine writing. Never stop writing for yourself.

I remember many days spent interviewing restaurant owners in one neighborhood so their small city magazine could print their stories. Those articles never brought in much money, but they built my portfolio and fed my children while I worked on my book of short stories. I wrote to keep the magazine’s readers happy and buying ads for the owner, but I also finished my first book while doing that. It’s great to find jobs that build your portfolio and that keep you going in the beginning, but you have to keep your own writing goals in front of you and always take time to write for yourself.

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Four Tricks to Fake Out Your Internal Editor

By Connie Mann

I don’t know about you, but my internal editor is a sneaky little trickster. She knows up all smiles, acting warm and friendly, like she’s trying to help, but before I know it, she’s got me questioning everything I know about absolutely everything—from the story I’m working on to my very existence. Sound familiar?

Don’t get me wrong. I need her. You need her. She’s the one who nags you when a scene just doesn’t feel right and she won’t let you rest until you figure out what’s wrong with it.

But if you give her free reign during the creative, get-words-on-the-page part of the writing process, she can effectively paralyze you and keep you from gaining any forward momentum.

What’s a frustrated writer to do? Here are a few tricks I use to fake her out so I can get my story written. Then, and only then, do I let her voice her opinions, ask questions and make suggestions.

1 – Stealth Mode

Over the years, I’ve learned that she’s not really an early-morning girl. Probably because I’m not one either. So, if I get up stupid early and stumble to my computer with my coffee cup, I can get a bunch of words on the page without her input. Because she’s not up yet. She won’t start nattering in my ear for at least an hour or two.

Try sneaking in and out of your story at different times of the day to throw her off balance. And then let those words fly.

2 – Negotiate

If she shows up unannounced, pouring doubt into your ear while you’re trying to write, negotiate. Tell her that once this first draft is done, you will be willing to listen to her every word. That usually works to keep her quiet. Pouty, but quiet.

3 – Sneak Attacks

Speed is your friend while you’re writing the first draft. If you set a timer for a word sprint, you’ll be so focused on the story and getting those words down that even if she says something, you’ll be too busy writing to hear it. Deadlines work the same way. If I know I have exactly one hour to write before work, I can completely tune her out while my mental clock ticks away.

4 – Defy Her

She’s always going to have opinions. Some good. Some not. But you get to decide which ones to listen to. And when you’re going to listen. When she’s being particularly negative or nitpicky, ignore her.

Whatever you do, keep writing. Writer’s do what they do despite all the opposition, from inside and out. Happy writing!

What strategies help you shut down your internal editor?
Connie Mann is a licensed boat captain and the author of the Safe Harbor romantic suspense series, as well as Angel Falls and Trapped. DEADLY MELODY, Book 3 in the series, just released in May. When she’s not dreaming up plot lines, you’ll find “Captain Connie” on Central Florida’s waterways, introducing boats full of schoolchildren to their first alligator. She’s also passionate about helping women and children in developing countries break the poverty cycle. She and her hubby love traveling and spending time on the water with their grown children and extended family. (Hubby says they are good at fishing, but lousy at catching.) Visit Connie online at Social Media links Facebook:!/ConnieMannAuthor Instagram: Goodreads:

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

The Speed of Change

By Doyne Phillips, Managing Editor for Southern Writers Magazine

I am amazed by the speed of change. Whither it is technology, policy, procedures or just society it seems to be faster than the speed of light yet our adaptation to the change may not be. I have seen the results of both the “learner” and the “learned”. The learner adapts, embraces and then runs with the ball. The learned does not seem to see the need for change. The old ways were just fine.

A friend of mine is a “learned”. He scoffs at cell phones, cable TV, computers and the like. He reads a newspaper delivered to his home every day and pays 3 times the price for that subscription. Don’t mention Google to him because he is above all that. He looks down on the “learners” because they don’t fit in his comfortable world. He uses maps, the paper kind, and looks things up in the dictionary and reference books. That works for him. The problem I find is a lack of communication with others due to his familiarity of change. A few years back his company gave him a fax machine. He was having trouble with it and called me to ask if I would send him a fax so he could check out his machine. I had to tell him it’s been years since I owned a fax machine. Shortly thereafter his company tried to get him a computer but he refused because he had a fax machine. I guess he didn’t see the difference. To him Wi-Fi is a mystery, Bluetooth is voodoo and the internet is a terror. As a “learned” he is beautifully equipped in a world that no longer exist.

I want to consider myself a “learner” but there are times I do find myself slipping into the “learned” attitude. I get comfortable or familiar with my old cell phone and don’t see the need for an upgrade. At times I catch myself thinking the way we were doing things was fine so why change them. I come to the realization my latest computer program is 10 years old and now not as compatible with other programs it interacts with and I wonder how did that happen. Sometimes in order to be a “learner” we need to be educated as to why the change needs to take place.

I look back with a fond memory of owning a 35MM camera with film, processed Kodachrome slides and photos. I look back and see my old stereo system with LPs, then cassettes and CDs. I look back at landlines with those cool pushbutton phones. I look back at walking into a bank and a store and doing business face to face with a person. I look back and realize that as a “learner” I have combined all those things into a small device I can hold in my hand and I like the convenience of that. 

So when change presents itself make an attempt to embrace it. Be a “learner”! Should that not work out you can easily prepare to become a “learned” and be equipped to live in a world that no longer exist. I want to send out my thanks to Eric Hoffer for opening my eyes and challenging me to be a learner. I am doing my best.       

Monday, August 6, 2018

Filling in the Blanks

By Ann H. Gabhart, Author of River to Redemption

When you’re writing fiction, you have to fill in many blanks to make a story come to life. Sometimes all those answers must come from your imagination. Other times, if you write historical fiction the way I do, some of those blanks are filled in by actual happenings that inspired you to write about that era.

Usually, when I come across history that lights up my imagination, I research the time period, read all I can about the background I’m using and then drop in my fictional characters to take part in those historical events to see what happens next to them. But when I stumbled across the idea for my new release, River to Redemption, I had to do things a bit differently.The story is based on the actions of a slave named Louis who heroically buried fifty-five victims of a cholera epidemic in the small town of Springfield, Kentucky in 1833 and then the subsequent actions of the citizens of that town in 1845. While all the other characters in the story are fictional people I did drop down into the town, the actions of this man, Louis, who actually walked Springfield’s streets at one time, inspired my story. 

Therefore, I had to find a way to bring Louis to life in my story.

I couldn’t locate much information about the man except for what he did during the cholera epidemics and how the town eventually came together to reward him for that. However, by dwelling on those events, I began to see this man, Louis. He had to be strong to dig so many graves single-handedly. He surely had a close relationship with the Lord to be willing to serve his fellow citizens in a town where he had no individual freedom. He must have been kind and humble. As I filled in the blanks of what kind of man he must have been, I began to have a vision of this man, Louis. He is not a main character, but his actions set everything else in the story in motion. So he had to be right.

Whether you are writing a story with all fictional characters or if you are dropping actual historical figures into your story-line, you have to fill in plenty of blanks about those people. You need to know more than the color of their eyes and hair. Blanks do need to be filled in about how characters look, but you also need to fill in the blanks about what makes your people tick and how they might react in various circumstances.

That’s easier for me to do with a character I invent, but sometimes you find an actual person who did something so noteworthy that you want to fill in the blanks time has erased and bring that person back to life to tell his story. That was how I felt about Louis in River to Redemption as I wrote this story.   
Ann H. Gabhart is the bestselling and award-winning author of several Shaker novels—The Outsider, The Believer, The Seeker, The Blessed, The Gifted, and The Innocent—as well as These Healing Hills, Angel Sister, Small Town Girl, Love Comes Home, Words Spoken True, and The Heart of Hollyhill series. She is also the author of the popular Hidden Springs Mysteries series, as A. H. Gabhart. She has been a finalist for the ECPA Book of the Year and the Carol Awards, and has won two Selah Awards for Love Comes Home. Ann and her husband enjoy country life on a farm a mile from where she was born in rural Kentucky. Learn more at

Friday, August 3, 2018

Championing your Voice

By Kristin Billerbeck, author of The Theory of Happily Ever After

“Voice” is such an important part of “writing.”  We love authors for their individual voices and the way they tell their stories.  The wry wit of Jane Austen, the verbose word pictures of Dickens’s characters, the soothing Southern ambiance of Pat Conroy’s prose, they are all recognizable by their voice.  As writers, we must be brutally honest with ourselves about what we bring to the table as a storyteller. 

I published many books before I found my voice.  I was writing sweet, Christian romances about kindly, generous heroines. It turned out, I identified more with the heroine of “Bridget Jones’s Diary” than I did my own heroines. Even Scarlett O’Hara with her spoiled southern ways spoke to me in her clear cut fashion and survival nature.  I’m not proud of this discovery, but I had to admit, it was the truth.  

At that point, I sat at my desk and wrote one chapter in first-person present and told the awful truth as I understood it — as an aging Christian spinster in a church singles’ group.  That book became my best selling, “What a Girl Wants.” 

At the time, I didn’t hold back because I didn’t know any better.  I didn’t know it would be offensive.  I didn’t make it politically correct.  I wrote about the unfairness of being a good, godly young woman and waiting while all the eligible bachelors at church snapped up the young, hot chicks straight out of college. 

So you have to ask yourself when searching for your voice, what’s your truth?  When you look around your world, what injustice makes you feel undone? Maybe your voice and passion come in your settings.  Do the intricate veins on a leaf make you contemplate life as a whole? When you walk in a Civil War graveyard and read an epitaph, are you compelled to tell that person’s story and imagine yourself back in 1861?

If you were to sit down and write a tale about something that unsettles you and feels like a grand injustice in the world, what would it be?  What is your truth as an author? Your voice will come from that truth.  Write down something only your best friend knows about you. Is it part of your story?

Now for the negative. when you write the truth, it will polarize readers.  That’s why so many authors play it safe and write sweet, little stories that won’t stir the literary world.  

When I wrote my latest, The Theory of Happily Ever After about a research scientist bouncing back after a setback, I definitely heard from people who disagree with my take on overcoming depression as a Christian.  With What a Girl Wants I even got called a choice name or two — things that probably shouldn’t be uttered from a Christian’s mouth. (There are a few verses on judgment after all.)  But that result is inevitable if you voice your truth.  You’ll trigger someone. But look at it this way, you’ll make them feel something.  Maybe they needed their world rocked a little.

My best advice for finding your true voice is to think about what you’d write if there were no rules.  If you weren’t trying to fit into a mold and get published by XYZ Publishing, what would you have to say?  How would your character say it?  Where would your character say it from? What would their deepest truth be? What would they never do?  Now, what would drive them to do just that? 

You may show your voice in dialogue, setting or even in plot structure, but tell your truth.  It’s what sets your book apart and what makes any bestseller, special.    ________________________________________________________________
Kristin Billerbeck is the author of more than thirty novels, including What a Girl Wants and the Ashley Stockingdale and Spa Girls series. She is a fourth-generation Californian who loves her state and the writing fodder it provides. Learn more at

Thursday, August 2, 2018

Did You Know About The Federal Writers' Project?

By Annette Cole Mastron, Communications Director for Southern Writers Magazine

I love learning things from authors. On my nightstand is my current read, The Sea Keeper’s Daughters, by Lisa Wingate. She has been a favorite after I read, Before We Were Yours. By the way, I recommend this book, too. 

The Sea Keeper’s Daughter, was a 2016 Christy Award Winner in the Contemporary novel category. “From modern-day Roanoke Island to the sweeping backdrop of North Carolina's Blue Ridge Mountains and Roosevelt's WPA folklore writers, past and present intertwine to create an unexpected destiny.” It’s a compelling read. I’ve learned a lot from this read. 

Until reading The Sea Keeper’s Daughters, I had never heard of “The Federal Writers' Project” which was created in 1935 as part of the United States Work Progress Administration to provide employment during the Great Depression for historians, teachers, writers, librarians, and others.

The project produced a series of sectional guide books under the name American Guide, focusing on the scenic, historical, cultural, and economic resources of the United States. Some of these works are still used in state travel departments and parks. 

“The records of the Federal Writers'Project of the United States Work Projects Administration span the years 1524-1947, with the bulk of the items created from 1935 to 1942. They are comprised of correspondence, memorandum, field reports, notes, drafts of essays, lists, drawings, maps, graphs, newspaper clippings, transcripts of documents, oral testimony in the form of life histories, folklore material, inventories, statements, critical appraisals, speeches, administrative records, instructions, scripts, plays, and surveys. Material prior to 1935 consists mostly of transcripts made or copied for references purposes or for preservation. The files of the Federal Writers' Project are arranged in the following series: Administrative File, American Guide File, Folklore Project, Social-Ethnic Studies, Special Studies and Projects, Negro Studies Project, Slave Narrative Project, Miscellaneous Records, Miscellany and Printed Matter. A small Addition was made to the records in 1998.”

As the program evolved and expanded,  program employees began writing about the people of their assigned areas of the country. These interviews are a snapshot of America during a most challenging time in America. There are interviews of those born into slavery and how their lives changed after the Civil War. 

The Library of Congress has the archive of the program’s projects. It is fascinating. After I read the “historical fiction” parts of Lisa’s books,  I’m compelled to google to see what are facts in her book. I’m totally hooked but no spoilers. You’ll have to read it for yourself. 

Did you know there was The Federal Writers’ Project? 

Wednesday, August 1, 2018


By Beth White

A couple of weeks ago, I was explaining to a friend the idea of God’s omnipotence and omniscience—I suppose, trying to wrap my own brain around the idea—and came to the metaphor of myself as a writer composing my novel, A Rebel Heart. As its creator, I knew the outcome of the story—the satisfying resolution to all the conflicts that my protagonist, Selah Daughtry, must encounter in pursuit of her large story goal.

The idea breaks down in all sorts of ways, I’m sure. But the similarity is that if the ending of the story is going to make sense, if the main character achieves victory in any meaningful way, then she must overcome significant odds along the path. This goes a long way to explaining (justifying, if you will) God the Creator’s allowance of significant trials in the pilgrim’s journey.

The Bible says God is good, that He is love. Yet most people, even those of us who claim faith, express outrage when good deeds aren’t rewarded by smooth sailing. We fall ill, loved ones die, others betray us, accidents happen. Those things hurt in the moment. They hurt a lot. Sometimes we come to peace under the assurance that “all things work together for the good of those who are called according to his purpose”—in other words, trusting God’s perfect will, will lead to the ultimate reward of eternal life.

Theologians greater than I (my favorite being C. S. Lewis) have eloquently addressed the subject. My purpose is to explore the idea for the work of the novelist. Thinking of myself as the omnipotent, omniscient creator of a life (that of my protagonist/s) with a beginning, middle, and end, I should be able to strengthen the effect of plot points. I want to know my character so well that I create, on the page, for the reader to experience, exactly the events and confrontations that will cause perfect temporary pain.

Why do I say “perfect?” Because each character should be so individual and distinct that a specific array of challenges will force her to make heroic, self-sacrificial choices. And those choices lead to even more difficult decisions before the big “payoff” or reward at the end.

And why do the character’s responses need to be “heroic and/or self-sacrificial?” Because human beings are wired to admire those kinds of people. As a reader, I don’t identify with the sneaky, lazy, or evil anti-hero (though I may often, at least temporarily, possess those characteristics). Of course, the protagonist won’t be perfect. It will take him a couple of tries to reach the heroic stage. He may need the encouragement of a mentor, a “Yoda,” so to speak.

I contend that a successful novel will have at its center a strong sense of reason and purpose. I’m not God (and I’m glad I’m not), but I’m hoping I can learn to craft stories with a strong central spine of love and goodwill for both my protagonist and my reader.
Beth White grew up in the South, specifically North Mississippi, which has a rich tradition of fostering writers, storytellers, and musicians. I’m fond of both music and literature, so I amuse myself by teaching chorus and piano in an inner-city public high school by day, while conducting a secret life as a romance writer by night. Anyway, I find myself, after more than half the years I’ve been alive, still married to my last college boyfriend. He still makes me laugh, he still gives me the warm fuzzies, and he still checks my tires, so I guess I’ll keep him. We somewhat successfully raised two young adults, who are both married and have begun producing amazing grandchildren. My cup runneth over. Anyone who wants to know more about me should read my books and my blog. I am something of a hermit In Real Life, except in the classroom and on my computer, but I am very much interested in what makes my readers tick. And what ticks them off. And what makes them smile. So please email me here. I promise to answer.