March 30, 2012

Un-Confounding Facebook

by Shannon Milholland, Social Media Director

I long for spring each winter and it's not just the balmy weather I favor. Spring carries American Idol in on its' gentle winds. The show has recently dipped in popularity but I find the current judging panel and talent to be some of the best ever depicted on Idol.

I like American Idol because I witness the blossom of dreams. I even "help" the contestants sing by mouthing the words and contorting my face with emotion - a practice my teenagers enjoy mocking. There's a secondary reason I enjoy the show though. I'm a forty-something mom with kids as young as five. American Idol gives me an opportunity to be exposed to music relevant to my kids.

As I put faces with the names I hear in the news or on my daughter's iPod, my daughters' music becomes less confounding to me.

Today I want to give you a face to go with the name...Facebook. Here are five tips that will make navigating Facebook easier even for a novice:

  1. Custom URLs - I am amazed how often I see a FB link that looks like this: Am I the only one intimated by a link of this magnitude. Unfortunately you can't alter the name of your page but you can at least 86 all the numbers trailing at the end. Just go to this link and select your name. All of the sudden your FB link looks more like this:'m-A-Professional-Author
  2. Know Your Purpose - Why are you on FB? Is it to catch up from old friends from high school and college? Then be personable and share the comings and goings of your life. Is it simply a marketing tool? Then market yourself in a palatable way but know why you're there. For me, I'm there for both reasons. My solution was to keep my personal profile personal and my professional page professional. 
  3. Take Advantage of the Share Button - Most posts have a share button at the bottom. Do you like what you're reading? It only takes a moment to share that post to your personal or professional page. This creates a win-win - you get great content and you make someone else feel great because your shared their post.
  4. Join a Group (Or Make Your Own) - There is a plethora of Facebook groups. Find one for writers, one about your specialty or your life stage. It will take the vast FB world and make it smaller, more manageable while giving you the opportunity to connect with new people on a heart level.
  5. Don't Ignore the Numbers - No I'm not talking about the number of your followers. I'm referring to the little red numbers that hover all over your page. Those are there to alert you to activity. Depending on where it's located you might have a new friend request, a new post to your timeline or new activity in a group of which you are a member. Let those numbers help you so you can "catch up" every time you log on.
Still need some help understanding Facebook? Hop on over to the Southern Writers page, my professional page or the Facebook info page and add some additional faces to some names!

March 29, 2012

A Positive Rejection

by Vonda Skelton

In order to protect the not-so-innocent, we'll call him John. He was tall, handsome, and athletic – the desire of every eighth grade girl. Oh, if only he would choose me – my life would be perfect!

Well, you know the story. I lined up, alongside three-fourths of the eighth-grade female population, and applied for the role of John's girl. But he said I wasn't a good fit. I wasn't his type.

In other words, I was rejected.

It was the best thing that ever happened to me. Two years later, I met Gary, the love of my life. We've now been married almost 43 years – and we're still happy about it! But it wasn't until I ran into John twenty years after high school graduation that I realized how blessed I was to have lost that competition.

Let me just say, it was a positive rejection!

Rejections are part of the writing life. We look over the field of options and decide on the magazine or book publisher or website we desire to partner with. We line up alongside hundreds of other writers and apply for the role. And chances are, we don't win the part. They tell us we aren't a good fit. We aren't their type. In other words, we're rejected.

It can be the best thing that happens to us.

Years ago, soon after the publication of my first paid article, I submitted a piece to HomeLife Magazine, a LifeWay publication. It was a good article. I was sure they would choose to partner with me – and then my writing life would be perfect!

But the article was promptly rejected. We weren't a good fit, they said. The article wasn't their type, they said. They did say, however, that they would pass it along to the editor of another LifeWay magazine, Christian Health.

When I received Christian Health's email rejection, I wasn't surprised and wasn't even too disappointed.

After all, I hadn't submitted to them in the first place! But as I read the note, I was surprised at the last paragraph. "Even though this particular article isn't appropriate for our magazine, we do like your writing style. Would you consider writing a 1000-word article on Folic Acid?"

Of course, the answer was yes. So I became a writer for Christian Health.

A few articles later, the editor of Christian Single Magazine, another LifeWay publication, called me at home. "We've been introduced to your writing through the editor at Christian Health. Would you be interested in writing a monthly column for us?"

So I became a writer for Christian Single. Yes, at that time I was a married, 55-ish grandmother of four...and I wrote for Christian Single Magazine.

But here's the punch line: A couple of years later, I received an unsolicited email from the new editor at HomeLife Magazine. Yep – the original magazine of this story. I had never contacted the magazine again after that first rejection, but the new editor said she was aware of my articles and impressed with my work. "Would you consider writing for us?"

Would I??? So after a round-about detour and lots of published articles, I finally became a writer for HomeLife Magazine.

I can't help thinking back to that original rejection. At the time, I was devastated. All I could see was my failure. They didn't want me. But now I see it was a rejection with a positive ending. Instead of writing for one magazine, I ended up writing for three within the same publishing house! And since then I’ve written for a fourth LifeWay magazine, ParentLife.

This type of story plays out time and time again in the writing world. My plan was so small the day I submitted that article to HomeLife. One article. One magazine. One chance. I remember how disappointed I was when I added that rejection to the pile. How much longer would I keep trying?

How much longer will you keep trying? Let’s face it, the writing life is full of rejection. Why would any sane person put themselves through that?

But for most of us, the pathway to publication includes detours through the land of rejection.
And that, my friends, can be a positive.

VondaSkelton is a national speaker, author of four books for women and children, and founder of, a training conference and community for Christian women speakers. Her writer’s blog, The Christian Writer’s Den, garners thousands of monthly visits and includes writing instruction, opportunities, and author interviews. You can connect with Vonda at, Facebook, or Twitter.

March 28, 2012

The Success of March

by Susan Reichert, Editor-in-Chief

All this month I’ve notice people were a bit more perky. Saw a lot more smiles on faces and decided to ask around to see if it had anything to do with the fact we think of March as being the lucky month. After all March has the wee people, the Leprechauns and pots of gold at the end of the rainbows.

I was surprised to learn that most of them felt good about March. Here were some of the typical answers. One young woman said, “I feel great, it’s March.” An older man said, “Oh things always get better in March for me.” A grandmother said, “March is a happy month, don’t you feel it?” One young man in college said, “March is my lucky month, good things always happen to me in March.” Well there you have it. March is indeed thought of as the ‘Lucky Month’.

I take my hat off to whoever started ‘branding’ March as the lucky month.

We are our own brand. Everything we do helps or can hurt our brand. How do people perceive us? We are building our brand whether we realize it or not. Authors build their brand before they even write their book. Moreover, the building continues long after the book is written. 

March 27, 2012

Gotcha Covered

by Gary Fearon, Creative Director

For the past couple of weeks, the Tuesday blogposts have been devoted to good-looking logos and other visual branding. I’ve enjoyed batting ideas around with you, getting your feedback on why some things work and others don’t. 
This week, still keeping a critical eye out for what makes a good design, I decided to browse the shelves of the Southern Writers Bookstore to find some covers I thought you’d find especially appealing. These stand out as great examples we can draw inspiration from.


Using photos on a book cover can be an iffy proposition, because more often than not it looks amateurish. The photography must either be magnificent, or must be complemented by design that keeps it from looking like something that was merely pulled out of a photo album.

Devon O’Day is a familiar face to her fans, so appearing on the cover of My Angels Wear Fur cuddling her canine comrades was barking up the right tree. The little girl on the cover of Mary DeMuth’s memoir Thin Places not only speaks volumes by hiding her face as she stands in front of barbed wire, but the subtly colorized B&W photo implies, correctly, that this book dwells in the past.

John Koblas’ Old West tribute The Outlaw Billy Stiles sports a vintage headshot in an antique frame, accompanied by an equally old background and a western star motif and typestyle. (Imagine that same cover if it had just been the photo of Billy Stiles with some plain text.)  A similar treatment graces Orlean Puckett: The Life of a Mountain Midwife  by Karen Cecil Smith, and benefits from the lush green coloring. An eery blue tint, meanwhile, lends the right atmosphere to the photos on Kala Ambrose’s Ghosthunting in North Carolina.


These love stories by Allison Chase, Jennifer Hudson Taylor, Tamera Alexander, Rita Gerlach and Lena Nelson Dooley have the classic romance novel look without being smarmy or over the top with heaving bodices. Each is a beautiful painting so realistic you could almost see the heroine stepping right off the cover. This particular guy has never read a romance novel, but if he did, he would be tempted to start with one of the above.


From the desolate blueness of Robert Whitlow’s Water’s Edge to the cleverly shaped cinnamon sprinkles on Sandra Balzo’s Brewed, Crude and Tattooed, you know there’s intrigue ahead. Jonna Turner’s New Pictures of an Old Murder depicts blood red film, and Pentecost by Joanna Penn suggests a church wall in a particularly fiery moment. Note that Ally Carter’s Out of Sight, Out of Mind doesn’t have the traditional look of these other thrill rides, but it is modern, girly and absolutely perfect for the Young Adult market Ally targets.


You gotta love a cover that makes you want to read the book even if you didn’t know its title.  Cowboy boots on a Japanese girl is a brilliant way to say Southern Fried Sushi by Jennifer Rogers Spinola.  Before even learning who The Strangers on Montagu Street are, the interesting house with the light in the upstairs window makes me want to find out. (It doesn’t hurt that there’s a building that I pass every day that looks a great deal like this house. Every time I see it, I think of Karen White’s book cover.)

The photo on Micca Campbell’s An Untroubled Heart is so masterful and emotional it could be a museum piece. The heart-shaped snowball held by mittened hands shouts hope that lasts till next Christmas. Meanwhile, all the humor of Sandra D. Bricker takes the cake on Always the Wedding Planner, Never the Bride. Finally, Emily P. Freeman’s Grace for the Good Girl features a bird who’s been freed from her cage and enjoys her freedom so much she can be comfortable still hanging around.

Hats off to all these authors and their graphic designers. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. There are many other examples of fine book design amongst the 100+ authors who’ve appeared in the first five issues of Southern Writers, and if you browse the bookstore you’ll discover countless more there wasn’t room for here.

One last thing. You’ll notice in almost every case that while the book title is often in a creative font, the author’s name is in a pretty standard one; always nice but rarely fancy. Observe too that there are cases when the size of the author’s name rivals or even surpasses that of the title. When you have many successful books under your belt and develop a following, you get away with that.

I hope to see your name in big letters very soon.

March 26, 2012

The Starting Point

by Doyne Phillips, Managing Editor

"The starting point of all achievement is desire. Keep this constantly in mind. 
Weak desires bring weak results, just as a small fire makes a small amount of heat."

This is a wonderful quote from the author of Think and Grow Rich, Napoleon Hill. Hill knew that passion and more particularly desire would fuel the starting point of each and every achievement. From that desire forward movement begins in a direction that is expected to satisfy that desire.

Hill was aware that the desire must be strong. Strong desire is necessary to meet the strong challenges that will be met. Along our path toward achievement we will be met with obstacles which can be overcome but only if our desire is strong enough to do so.

Hill also said a weak desire brings weak results. Many times we meet these obstacles and find our desire is weak and we fail to overcome them. We are faced with weak results. We then must face the fact of weak desire. We were not willing to put forward what was necessary to reach the achievement desired. We have settled for less. If you continue to do so you will eventually lose your desire to find a starting point.

John Dewey
American philosopher John Dewey said, “Arriving at one point is the starting point to another.” Let’s say you had the desire to start towards your achievement and are strong enough to reach fulfillment. In other words you have arrived. What is next? John Dewey said you have arrived at the next starting point.

As an author writes they will complete a segment. At that point they must ask themselves, “and then what happened?” We too must do the same in life. We have had a strong desire and have achieved our goal. In doing so this has prepared us for the next step. That achievement may have been the foundation for greater things. Now is the time to realize we are at the next starting point. Have you come to the next starting point? If so here is hoping your desire is strong, your fire is hot

March 23, 2012

Put Glue in Your Group

by Shannon Milholland, Social Media Director

Yesterday I took my youngest to the playground after school. Soon she wanted a snack and unzipped her lunchbox to fish out its uneaten contents. It was empty except an untouched sandwich.

"Did you not like your sandwich, sweetie?"

"Oh no I did, Mommy. I always like my lunch. My dessert was really yummy and I just wanted to save it for later."

She took one minuscule bite and placed in back in her lunchbox.

Over the past month, we've been exploring how to find and formulate a social media group. We've learned the effective components of a group, where to find a team and how to form one. Today we will discover the three individual roles of every member.

Yesterday, my sweet little daughter demonstrated these for us beautifully. Let's find out how:

Cheerleader - An effective contributor celebrates the success of others. Carynne was quick to find what I did well. "My dessert was really yummy." In the early stages of forming your group, you need to concentrate the majority of your time here.

Encourager - The observant constituent notes when others lack confidence or need a boost. Carynne knew I wanted her to like her lunch. She encouraged me during my bobble by noting she always likes her lunch. Sometimes we need a reminder that we can do what we've set out to, no matter how big our setbacks. As your group takes shape, encouragement will solidify your loyalty to each other.

Amplifier - The discerning associate gives feedback gently but clearly. Carynne was clear what parts of her lunch she enjoyed and what she'd prefer to be changed but she delivered her message with gentleness so it would be heart and processed. We would be wise to do the same.

Are you ready to cheer lead, encourage and amplify? When each member functions effectively in all three roles, your group will be cohesive with a glue a gorilla just might envy.

March 22, 2012

Adrenaline Rush

by Dani Pettrey

I am fascinated by adventurous people. I’ve never been able to peg exactly why, until now. I spent some time this weekend pondering why I admire people who live by the motto:

 “Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention 
of arriving safely in a pretty and well-preserved body. 
But rather, to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, 
totally worn out and loudly proclaiming . . . 
WOW, what a ride!” –Mark Frost

This fascination with adventure also extends to the novels I write. My Alaskan Courage series is about a family that pursues adventure for a living. It’s one way my passion for adventure and my passion for writing combine, but I discovered another connection between the two. has the following definitions for adventure:
1.       An exciting or unusual experience
2.       Participating in an exciting undertaking
3.       Hazardous action of uncertain outcome

It’s definition number 3 that really grabs me. Hazardous is scary enough, but combine it with uncertain outcome, and look out. The tips of your toes are hanging over the cliff and you’re not sure if you should leap or retreat—the pivotal moment of decision. It gets your blood pumping, narrows your focus onto what is important and blocks out everything else. All you can hear is the pounding of your heart. The choice is before you—leap or retreat?

Oddly enough, this is something every protagonist faces. Storytellers call it the black moment. It may not appear as drastic as diving off a cliff into the water below, but it’s a decision that will change the course of our protagonist’s life; a decision that will irrevocably change our protagonist. The choice is before him. Will he decide the cost is too steep and retreat, or will he bravely take the plunge?

Bringing our characters to this moment takes work. We’ve got to build the momentum and allow the events and story threads to converge naturally until our protagonist is forced to chose—plunge or retreat. It won’t be easy, it’ll mean suffering and setbacks for our character, but isn’t that what makes a story great?

Without a black moment to overcome, without a choice that equals sacrifice and risk, our story loses heart and our character growth. It’s hard to become a hero without anything to overcome. Every story is an adventure, and what is adventure without risk, or a hero without opposition?

A jungle setting isn’t necessary for a story to be an adventure. It can take place in an office building or cul-de-sac. What makes a story an adventure is the thrill of watching our protagonist face the unknown, take action despite the risk, and become a better person because of it.

Action in spite of risk. It’s the stuff stories and heroes are made of, and it’s what keeps me turning pages long into the night. So set your character on a cliff and let him take the plunge. Watching what happens is half the adventure.  

Dani Pettrey is a wife, homeschooling mom, and author. She feels blessed to write inspirational romantic suspense because it incorporates so many things she loves--the thrill of adventure, nail biting suspense, the deepening of her characters' faith, and plenty of romance. She and her husband reside in Maryland with their two teenage daughters. Visit her website at

You can connect with Dani on her blog, Twitter or Facebook.

March 21, 2012

The Luck of Who?

by Susan Reichert, Editor-in-Chief

I am more convinced than ever we are our own luck. We are the one who gets us to the right place at the right time. At least if we are working toward something.

If we are waiting around until someone comes to help us we might just find ourselves standing in that very same place a year from now.

The nugget of gold at the end of the rainbow is our goal, the one we did or did not lay out a plan for. Either we do obtain the nugget of gold or we don't based on what we did or didn't do.

It is up to us each day to make every effort to work toward our goal. If we move toward our goal daily, eventually we will reach that nugget of gold at the end of the rainbow but it won't be because of the luck of the Irish. It will be because we chose a goal, made a plan and worked that plan.

When we arrive at the nugget, let's pat ourselves on the back and congratulate ourselves for extending the effort every day to accomplish what others just dream about.

March 20, 2012

The Politics of Logos, Part 2

by Gary Fearon, Creative Director

First of all, thanks to those of you who took the time to vote and/or comment in last week’s poll. If you were here, you’ll remember that we reviewed famous logos and then asked you which politician’s bumper sticker looked best to you, based purely on design. 

This week let’s review them one by one, and now that I have your assessments, I’ll include mine.

Gingrich has a logo that’s clean, sharp, and, well, safe. It takes no chances and therefore doesn’t trigger much in the way of reaction. On the plus side, it conveys a corporate, no-nonsense approach that capitalizes on the candidate’s unique nickname (BTW have you ever heard Newt’s real first name?), which is both a blessing and a curse. Being identifiable by your first name alone is worth its marketing weight in gold, but do you really project leadership if it means a tiny lizard?

On a design note, its left wing (no pun intended) flies up too close to his name and looks unbalanced. A little space would have given it room to breathe. (Incidentally, his first name is Newton.)

Kudos to the Chicago artist who came up with the idea of taking Obama’s distinctive circular initial and turning it into a sun on the horizon, because it’s been instantly recognizable ever since it saw the light of day in 2007. Rarely has an individual been identified with just a simple logo. (Unless maybe you’re Prince, but even he had problems attempting it.) As our Social Media Director, Shannon Milholland, pointed out, the logo also pushes the website, never a bad idea.

(And I should apologize for using the hackneyed word “kudos”. I meant, of course, to say “props”.)

Although Ron Paul also has a more traditional campaign logo, this is the one that his following has adopted because it doesn’t look political, which is what his fans seem to prefer. Its sprayed-on graffiti look may ride this side of anarchy, but the lettering is cleanly and carefully stenciled, and the message behind the revolution is LOVE. For my money, this rivals Obama’s logo for creativity and originality.

On the down side, the same nonpolitical look that makes this design popular with Paul’s fans tends to disappoint those who still expect to see good old America in their bumper sticker. For them there is the other Paul logo, which is more traditional and includes an eagle.

I was surprised how many dislike Romney’s “R” flag.  Granted, it doesn’t look like any flag I’ve ever seen, especially having a fold in the middle. But it didn’t bother me because it at least adds some originality to what would otherwise be a very corporate, traditional design. Giving it the tagline “Believe in America” was a smart addition. I do like the font and the way the “E” connects with the “Y”, suggesting stability.

Santorum’s name may be well known enough to get away with it, but from a distance this bumper sticker says “RICK SANT RUM” with something red in between. Up close you do get it, and the eagle is majestic and beautiful. The circle (of stars?) around it might have been more effective had they been bolder and not difficult to see from afar. They at least tried to do something creative with the “O”, so kudos, props and finger snaps for effort.

As you may have heard, Obama’s logo was the winner in our logo poll, garnering as much design preference as all the other candidates combined, with Gingrich and Santorum tied for second. Thank you all for being fair and objective, and for using your artistic eye in this little exercise, versus other criteria.

The whole point, again, was to demonstrate how influenced we are by design alone. Whether it’s our book cover, website or business card, it pays to persuade with a good look. If you’ll make the extra effort to project an effective image, you may find more readers making you their write-in candidate.

March 19, 2012

The Far Side

by Doyne Phillips, Managing Editor

Englishman Roger Bannister was the first man to break the four minute mile. For years it had been said by coaches, runners and sportswriters that is was impossible. No man can run that fast. It had been tried many times and was no longer considered a valid goal. Nine years since the last record for a mile was set at 4 minutes 1.4 seconds, it was thought if no one had broken it in nine years it would not be done.

Roger Bannister did the impossible on May 6, 1954. His triumph inspired others and in the next fifteen years over 300 runners ran a mile in less than 4 minutes. Roger had opened the door.

Roger Banister went on to become a distinguished neurologist earning an honorary doctorate from the University of Bath. He became Sir Roger Bannister when knighted in 1975. In 2004 on the 50th Anniversary of his 4 minute mile, a British 50 Pence coin was minted in honor of the event. His record was noted by the British people as 13th in the top 100 World’s Greatest Sporting Events. One race, one record brought Sir Roger all the fame and glory for a life time. The win made the difference but the many unknown number of prior attempts and failures were the secret to his success.
The late Thomas J. Watson, Chairman of IBM said, "Would you like me to give you a formula for success? It's quite simple, really. Double your rate of failure. You're thinking of failure as the enemy of success. But it isn't at all... You can be discouraged by failure - or you can learn from it. So go ahead and make mistakes. Make all you can. Because, remember that's where you'll find success, on the far side." I am looking forward to seeing you on the far side.

March 16, 2012

From Solo Artist to Social Media Sensation

by Shannon Milholland, Social Media Director

The toilet would not stop running. Certain my husband would be proud of my prudence, I shut off the water. Hours later I forgot and used that commode. Rather than congratulations, I received a lesson in plumbing maintenance. Despite my best efforts, I had done the opposite of what was needed.

Social media can be like that. You work and work certain you're on the right path but see no real results of your efforts. One of the most effective and underutilized social media techniques is to forge a group. With extra voices singing in your choir, your message is more likely to be heard.

For the last two Fridays, we've been exploring the value of teaming up with others for Social Media promotion. The first week we determined what qualities make an effective group. Last Friday we learned some places to find your fellow teammates. Today I have the privilege of interviewing the founder of one of the most dynamic social media sites. Please help me welcome Lexie Lane of VoiceBoks.

Shannon: Where did you come up with the idea for VoiceBoks?

Lexie: I purchased the domain name for another website idea I had. Then one day, I thought of The Voice of Motherhood and it just fit! 

Shannon: How many members did you start with? How did you solicit them? Did you know them prior?
Lexie: I started with three who were members of my pregnancy blog. Then I joined Mom Bloggers Club, Bloggy Moms, and Social Moms, and realized that there were a few things missing in those communities. So I applied the gaps to voiceBoks.
Shannon: What advice do you have for someone who wants to start a social media tribe?

Lexie: Get to know that social media really well and stick to it. There are so many networks out there that it can get really overwhelming, especially if you're a one man (or woman) band. Most of us are, so we need to make the best use of our time by concentrating on one area until we become experts of that area. "Jack of all trades, but expert of none" will make anyone crazy, especially after you realize you're doing a lot of work for nothing.  Stick to 2, 3, or 4 tops. Anymore than that and your family time suffers.
Shannon: What is your top social media tip for groups?

Lexie: Reciprocate. People will listen and pay attention when they know you're doing the same. If you ignore them, they will start to ignore you as well. 

Shannon: What has been the most gratifying part of leading your own tribe?

Lexie: The response I get. My testimonials are only a small part of why I do what I do. Being able to help others and them know that I do, makes it all worth it.
Shannon: What has been the biggest challenge?

Lexie: So many. I have learned a lot about SEO, Social Media, Web design, etc. on my own. When my site suffers from loss of data, lack of sufficient information, loss of traffic, etc., it makes me question what and why exactly I'm doing everything I'm doing.  

Shannon: What has been the #1 stimulant for the growth of your site?

Lexie: The members. I have been extremely blessed to have such a wonderful group of members who actually participate and do as they promise. They are also very loyal to the community.
In addition, certain events such as those that help teach members about social media, SEO, backlinks, etc. Group events such as Members to Remember, Twitter Face Share Time, and many others are also very helpful.
Shannon: Share anything else you think someone starting a group would find useful. :)

Lexie: It's hard work and dedication. You will go through ups and downs just as anything in life, but anyone who truly succeeds will tell you that the only honest way you can get to the top is if you never give up. 

Thank you, Lexie, for all this great insight into how to develop and grow and social media group. Whether you're looking for a few close friends or a whole posse, implement Lexie's wisdom and you'll be on your way from solo artist to social media sensation!

March 15, 2012

How to Create Your Own Luck as a Writer

by Deanna Albrecht

Ever wonder how some people get lucky and get published writer or author? Have you wished that you could find your own lucky charm to bring you the good fortune of getting published?

Writers can make their own luck by learning about writing and publishing.

Here is a list of tips to help get you started or unstuck.
Listen to your inner voice.
You know the voice - the one that whispers to you despite your decision to try to ignore it. It doesn’t listen to the amount of education, experience, or credentials you have – it only listens to your heart.
Listen to others.
We often shoo the complements of others away. Did a teacher, relative or friend give you a complement that you didn’t receive? For the first time, let yourself to hear and believe it.
Don’t listen to others.
Not everyone will cheer you on your road to writing. There will be people who
think writers are dreamers who just dream about writing, and they will say anything to shoot down your dream. Don’t write them out of your life; just don’t share your writing with them.
Don’t let the market rule your writing.
There’s nothing wrong with knowing what’s hot, what’s
on the N.Y. Times Best Seller lists, and what your favorite publishers want, but
never let it rule what you write, how you write or if you are going to write.
Create space to write.
What inspires you? Does music, quiet, sunshine or the dark spark something beautiful or fiery inside you? Sometimes our creativity needs to be prodded and poked to come out.  Find out what it is for you and let it do its work.
Find something to love in your writing.
In every piece of writing, find something to fall in love with. You can turn even the driest stories or topics into something unique and special if you do this.  It might take awhile to find that “something”, but it’s worth it and your writing will be better because of it.
Love people more than writing.
It’s easy to fall in love with writing, and the characters you create – but you were created to build relationships with the people in your family, workplace and neighborhood. They need you, and you need them. And just maybe you can sneak them in your stories later.
May the luck of the Writing Irish be with you.
Which one of these tips do you struggle with?
What is your favorite writing tip to share with others? 

Deanna Albrecht writes short articles in her work-life and when she has spare time, she blogs at 

Find Deanna on Twitter.

March 14, 2012

Emotion Becomes an Author

Our Editor-in-Chief, Susan Reichert, is taking a well-deserved break today. Please help us welcome Samantha Ryan Chandler to Suite T. Want to know how Samantha got 95,000 hits on her website? She wrote about it in the current issue of Southern Writers. Click here to get access.

by Samantha Ryan Chandler

I sat down one day to write…to write to myself; to better understand all that had happened to me that was just not understandable. I never expected my story to become a book as it was simply a guideline to see where God was in my life and in the horrors I had experienced. I wrote everyday beginning with childhood abuse on into the annihilation called divorce. After several months, I wrapped up my life with The End and Amen. I clicked off my computer and went for a long walk pondering what I had just accomplished in seeing my life from a different focus. As I walked, I murmured to myself, “I am free.” By the end of four miles, I was shouting, “I am free!”

After the exhilaration subsided by weeks end, I was confronted by, what now? Could I possibly think my scribbling might be a book? I boldly copied the text from the computer, stapled it and promptly put it into the trunk of my car; where it safely lived for weeks. Never being known as a quitter, I was forced to take courage from the recesses of my existence and search for publishers. With sweaty palms, I sent out the “proper query” to a list of publishers.

The day I heard from CrossBooks Publishing was an incredibly sweet day filled with awe and wonder as I asked, “So do you think I have a book?” To which he replied, “Me thinks you have a book!” This was over a year ago and the term “author” still holds amazement when it is combined with my name.

It takes five to six months for a manuscript to turn into a hand held book. In that period of waiting, I had many revelations. My thoughts, heart, soul searching emotions were about to become a book. I then began to think of the ramifications of inscribing raw and vulnerable emotions with the outcome of people I don’t know or more importantly; the people I do know peering inside of me. When friends or new acquaintances inquired as to the status of my book, I had one answer, “Please do not read my book!”

I began to marinate in the thought of writing a manuscript, submitting it to be published and not wanting anyone to read it! Even I am not this absurd even on a good day. Before the manuscript became a book, my publisher contacted me with the request to write more chapters so as the book could be hardbound. In the months after finishing the manuscript, I had an epiphany...why I wrote the book. It is the last chapter and brought with it clarity.
It has indeed been a journey. I have learned to put away the emotions that first led me to sit down and write. It is so true; writing is cathartic. My story seems to resonate in vastly different ways with dissimilar people. I feel fortunate when a reader reaches out to me and tells how my story affected them. It has become a pleasure to bare my soul and hear the results of how it is received.

What emotions can become the author in you?

The tale of Samantha Ryan Chandler's life is evocatively portrayed in her book: A Love Story, How God Pursued Me and Found Me. It tells of a life that is as disturbing and unsettling as it is uplifting and, in the end, gratifying. How "A girl from Nowhere, Louisiana" finds her way from such humble beginnings to live and walk amongst presidents and the supremely rich, only to find her trust and faith betrayed by those that she loved and trusted the most. She would be tested to the point where she began to doubt her own sanity and, at the moment of her greatest desperation and doubt, she was found by God and brought back from the brink of hopeless despair. Blessed with an almost unquenchable optimism and a unique sense of humor, she relates the story of a life that will speak to those who have encountered abuse, unfairness and anguish.  Her love for her children and her faith in God carried her through a crucible of fire and in the end, made her a better, stronger person, ready to carry on with a life that is again filled with love, joy and laughter. A Love Story, How God Pursued Me and Found Me will both inspire you and touch your heart.

March 13, 2012

The Politics of Logos

by Gary Fearon, Creative Director

We see them so continuously that they are burned into our brains. Much like the cowboys who claimed cattle via their initial on the end of a hot poker, companies spend millions reinforcing an identifiable brand logo in an attempt to claim customers.

The Burger King name inside a bun, the “e” in Dell resembling a circuit board being plugged in, the Fox logo with Hollywood searchlights, and the colorful NBC peacock all evoke a vivid representation of what the company stands for. While Colonel Sanders has gone on to that great deep fryer in the sky, his grandfatherly image remains more inviting than, well, that of a chicken. And the FedEx logo, with its subliminal arrow, does a fine job of telling you they’ll get your stuff from here to there.

You don’t even need the name to identify the logos above. (And isn’t it interesting that they’re all somewhat circular?)  Indeed, they’ve gone around and around in our consciousness so repeatedly that we see the CBS eye and instantly know what network they want us to watch with ours. From the cooperatively-connected colors of national flags to Alexander Graham’s Bell, these all convey a bit of what the company stands for.

But what if you don’t have a target, shell or bat in your name to get creative with?  That’s when you often see an extra graphic added to the equation:

Nike’s speed-suggesting “swoosh” is so famous it can stand alone without the company name (notice that both the name and the swoosh are trademarked). On the other hand, Walmart, Sears and Macy’s feature less meaningful symbols which cannot stand alone. Meanwhile, Pepsi’s design (another circle BTW) is unique enough to never be confused with another brand, plus it incorporates the red, white and blue befitting an all-American drink.

Which brings me to this (potentially unsettling) question: What do we authors have in common with politicians?  

Well, both we and they face an interesting challenge. Our successful marketing recognition depends on getting our name out there, just like Starbuck’s or Hershey. But an individual seeking to be in the public eye is not a product, or a company, but rather a person. 

Authors don’t do special logos with our name, but we still do branding. It comes in the form of our book covers. Our websites. Are they creative and appealing?  Distinctive?  Do they reflect what we write?  Before the audience reads the first chapter of a novel, or hears the first campaign speech, they’ve already formed an opinion of what we’re about, based on our visual introduction.  

Later this month I’ll show you some great graphicals that authors have used to successfully brand themselves. In the meantime, since we’re in the thick of political season, I though we might have fun today with a poll of our own.

Below are the bumper stickers of the five politicians campaigning for President this fall (in alphabetical order for impartiality). 

In your opinion, which of these logos works best? Try to dismiss your thoughts of the candidates themselves, and evaluate whose branding is the most effective, based purely on the visuals. It’s Tuesday, so cast your vote! I’ll give you the results next week, my fellow Americans.

(Look in the right hand sidebar to see our official poll and vote there. Also comment below and tell us specifically what do you like or dislike about a particular politician's logo.) 

March 12, 2012

Why Word of Mouth Fails

Today Managing Editor, Doyne Phillips, welcomes marketing expert, Rob Eagar to Marketing Monday. If you don't already receive Rob's Monday morning tips, sign up here.

by Rob Eagar

Have you ever read a book, watched a movie, or visited a restaurant that you really enjoyed, but never told anyone until someone else brought it up in conversation? Once you were reminded, then you began to tell numerous friends. This situation identifies two common problems for authors, businesses, and non-profits who want to generate more word of mouth. First, most people won't tell their friends about your product or service unless you make an obvious request. Second, you must make the ability for people to tell friends as easy as possible.

Most people are willing to spread word of mouth, but they're busy or forgetful due to all the distractions in our hectic society. Thus, if you want more people to tell others about your product or service, you need to make it blatantly clear. For instance, if you're an author, you must specifically tell people, "Please tell your friends about my book." Then, provide free tools on your website that makes it easy for readers to do so. If you run a non-profit, you must openly ask people to donate. Then, provide compelling success stories and easy ways for people to contribute to your cause. Otherwise, most people will never stop to think about forwarding your information to someone else. State the obvious in order to start a word of mouth wildfire.

Rob Eagar is a marketing consultant, author, and speaker who helps individuals and organizations spread their message like wildfire. His clients include businesses, non-profits, and bestselling authors.

March 9, 2012

Amplifying Your Social Media Sound

by Shannon Milholland

Social Media can be daunting by the sheer numbers alone. By the end of 2011, Facebook was approaching 800 million users. Each of us is just one voice. Doesn't it seem unlikely for that voice to be heard among millions? What if you could amplify your impact by adding 5, 10 or 20 additional voices to your social media choir?

In last week's post, we talked about how to build an effective social media group. This week we will explore where to find people to team up with.

Conferences - Professional gatherings are wrought with individuals pursuing your same dreams. Use your next conference not just to grow in your knowledge but to grow socially. Intentionally connect with as many people as possible and a natural group will form.

Local Affiliations - Do you belong to a writer's group, faith body or civic group? There are likely others in your community with whom you regularly interact that have a talent they are promoting through social media. Don't limit yourself just to authors. Artists, songwriters and nonprofits all use social media to further their message. Your team can be as homogeneous or heterogeneous as your community as long as you're committed to helping one another.

Smaller Social Media Sites - Within the larger sphere of social media, websites exist that aggregate individuals. Examples are BlogFrog and VoiceBoks. In these virtual worlds you can quickly target associations with others who are utilizing social media and team up together. The great aspect of cultivating online friendships is the diversity of locations. Your social media can go nationwide or even global overnight by connecting with like-minded individuals in a variety of locations.

All around us there are others who want and need help. Let's begin finding and cultivating those relationships so we can amplify our Social Media sound.

Maybe you're feeling the tug at your heart, to head up a social networking group. Next week I will be interviewing the founder of VoiceBoks, Lexie Lane, who will share with us her tips for building and empowering social media teams.

March 8, 2012

Overcome Your Limitations and Write!

by Kimberly Standard

I have had a few limitations with life. We all do. I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis (MS) thirty years ago when I was about twenty. I wanted to keep living a normal life so I tried to ignore the MS and tried to live like everyone else.  
A few years passed by when I met my hubs. We started building a life together by having two beautiful children. There were many uncertainties with the MS and kids back then but I am so thankful that I took the risk. I do not know how I raised them. I claim, Post Traumatic War stuff as my excuse for my loss of memory.
I began my blog three years ago with a thought of what do I want to say to the world. Maybe you can say whatever you want to with a blog.  I wanted to exclaim remember, "Stuff Could Always be Worse". My aunt had been bedridden most of her life so she helped me to keep things in perspective.
When I began my blog I could not use my fingers very well since the MS had taken the dexterity of my fingers away. I certainly said to myself, “You are not a writer,” and “Your fingers do not work good anymore, so you can not type”.   However, my typing has improved tremendously since I began on the computer. That is still a miracle to me.
We all seem to have limitations to overcome. 
A lack of self-confidence is a tough hurdle to leap but it is possible.   
Most of us have time constraints to deal with. We can have excuses of “I do not have the tools I need.” “I do not have a talent to write.” “I am too boring with nothing to write about.” “I am too busy with no time to write.”
The limitations we put on ourselves never end. So try to overcome your limitations in whatever area of life you need to.  Your readers will thank you!

Kimberly  was diagnosed with MS (Multiple Sclerosis) 30 years ago. She married 25 years ago and has been blessed with 2 wonderful children.  She lives a normal life now and writes on her blog to share with other the Stuff Could Always Be Worse.

Connect with Kimberly online on Facebook, Twitter or her blog.

March 7, 2012

Do You Feel Lucky?

by Susan Reichert, Editor-in-Chief

Everyone can tell a particular incident where he or she felt lucky or unlucky.  Is there such a thing? Some say yes, others say no. When I was in school and passed a test, I didn’t feel it due to luck. I knew it was because I studied for the test; on the other hand, if I didn’t pass it you can be sure it was because I didn’t study.
When it comes to writing a book and seeking an agent or publisher, we move in to a different arena where we think luck may play a part, don’t we? Would you feel lucky if you found someone who wanted to represent you or publish you? I suggest it might not be luck. Maybe your novel is good and that’s why they want to represent/publish you.
Sometimes we don’t know why we are chosen or why we aren’t. There could be many reasons. This post isn’t to give you answers as to why or why not but to explore other ways. Sometimes good happens and sometimes it doesn’t. If they want to represent/publish your novel, could it be they liked it? Possibility right? I’m just saying, rather than feeling like you are on a see-saw and the cosmic fairy is deciding whether today you are going to be lucky or not, wouldn’t you feel better to know you had some control in the outcome?
Maybe we could double check that manuscript one more time for errors, style, and grammar and story flow.  Then there is spending more time researching agents before we send our manuscript out. Make sure we do our part. Will that guarantee the agent or publisher will want us? No. However, is does help us have more control and depend a lot less on being LUCKY; something that may or may not exist.

March 6, 2012

The Flow of Passion

Today staff writer and author Londa Hayden takes a turn at the Tune-In Tuesday wheel. Gary will be back next week.

One of my favorite singers is Josh Groban. In fact, it was his music that initially inspired me to write in the first place. It started with his work in Africa for an orphanage filled with children who had lost their parents to AIDS or war. After viewing the video where Josh visited the children of Soweto, my heart was captivated by their spirit. Thus began my journey with the Grobanites for Africa charity. I was inspired to write a poem that captured the essence of Josh's work with the children of Africa. I grew as a writer and revised the poem many times over to simplify the thought pattern. I decided it would work best in a children's book format.

My good friend, Connie Orlando who happens to be a gifted artist, created and contributed two beautiful watercolors to my project. When I saw the first picture, I was awestruck with the beautiful, vivid colors, and I knew immediately that would be the cover of the book. I spent several months researching the various and languages so as not to offend or cause misunderstanding in the text of the poem. Then it was time to find an appropriate publisher. I settled on, a publish on demand firm that allows you to create your own book and provide your own pictures at little to no cost. My obligation was to purchase the final edited version to get it published and posted in the online bookstore. You have the option to purchase copies at a discounted rate and you can set your own retail price.

But before I could finish my layout, I needed more pictures. I researched the Internet for photos of Africa and African children that were royalty free and in a public domain status, which meant they were absolutely free to use for whatever purpose I had in mind. There are lots of free photo websites out there, but not all of them offer royalty free and public domain status photos—so it is important to do your homework. I found out the U.S. Army offers free photos and they had many options available on their website. With my chosen photos properly resized and stored, I finished the layout of my first picture book In the Savanna. The whole process was fun as the website software is very user-friendly.

All the proceeds go to an orphanage in Africa, namely the one supported by Grobanites for Africa. You can get a free preview and purchase In the Savanna at I also offer it on my website at I have received feedback from many of my Grobanite pals who have purchased a copy for themselves, their children, or grandkids. Last year, I was fortunate enough to learn that Jon Christos, another well-liked operatic singer in the Great Britain area, read it on his radio program.

You should write what you know and even though I've never been to Africa, I definitely had a passion to know more about what was going on over there. The Internet was a great tool to find lots of information along with several books and periodicals I researched at the local library. I even interviewed with people who have either lived or visited various places in Africa on mission trips. It was an inspiring adventure that opened my eyes to a world way beyond my own. I have now set out to write my first action/adventure/romance novel Rescue in the Congo.

Go with the flow of your passion in whatever you choose to write, you will accomplish something far greater than you ever thought possible.

“In the Savanna” is Londa Hayden’s beautifully illustrated picture book with watercolors and photographs that offer a gentle introduction to young children about the orphans left behind, because of the AIDS pandemic in Africa. It offers positive reinforcement to find a cure in this next generation through a simple poem that will inspire compassion and hope for the future of Africa and the world. 100% of all profits will go to a charity that help the orphans of Africa.