April 30, 2012

Marketing with a Mic

by Doyne Phillips, Managing Editor

Speakers with a following will often times write a book. Over the years I have enjoyed many of the books written by my favorite speakers. Their voice and cadence spill over into the reading as I read the book. When I am so familiar with their voice and delivery I tend to hear them reading the book to me as I read along. What an added pleasure!

You too can get your speaking voice out there with Mic Nite! Southern WritersMagazine has developed for you another great marketing tool. With Mic Nite an author can log in and promote their book, upcoming book, speaking engagements etc. in their own voice. It is very simple to do so.


One of the bonuses of being a Southern Writers subscriber is free participation in Mic Nite! You're welcome to appear with new info every week, space permitting (first come, first served). Just send your photo or book cover and up to 150 words (along with a 30- to 60-second audio file if you have one) and we'll take care of the rest. Then visit Mic Nite on Saturday to see who's joined you on Center Stage this week!

We often want to put a face with the name. Now is your opportunity to put your face with your name and your voice. Your readers will love hearing from you. After hearing your voice they can enjoy the familiarity of the author as they read. Who knows, they may hear you as they read your work. Take a look at Mic Nite here!

April 26, 2012

Stained Glass

by Barbara Parentini

“We have forgotten that the call to creativity is a call to worship.”
                                                                        --Scribbling in the Sand by Michael Card

Before I knew the meaning of the word creativity, I loved being creative. My strong creative desires found expression over the years through music, painting, writing, sewing my wedding dress, and creating a card line. Creativity at its finest manifests something of beauty that calls for response.

Recently, creativity showed up in a thrilling way. For the last few months, the word glass seemed to nudge my attention. I encountered people with this last name; incorporated glass tile into a kitchen design; and awakened one morning to the words, Sea Glass, a perfect title for my gift book about the sea. But the whispers about glass didn’t stop there.

Last month as I pulled my umbrella from the closet, I had one eye on the weather report before I dashed out the door. I’d looked forward to the North Carolina Poetry Society meeting for months, and refused to allow predictions of severe thunderstorms to change my plans. Listening to poets in the gracious Weymouth Center and enjoying spring gardens overshadowed my concern.

About thirty minutes down the road, gray skies unleashed torrential rains. Doubts menaced that I’d taken a wrong turn. Though I reviewed my directions, nothing made sense in the blinding rain. The rural landscape rippled behind a Niagara of water. I was lost. I lifted a prayer. Peering through my passenger window, I inched past a small store. A rusty, vintage sign near the road said “Stained Glass.” I shook my head. There was that word again

I called my husband—he’d discouraged me from making the trip, knowing I’m directionally challenged. I tried to sound calm as thunder rumbled, and fingers of lightning shot across the dark sky. After he helped me get my bearings, he warned I should turn around at the next road and return home. My heart sank as hopes of attending the event faded. I navigated the turn through gusty winds and rain, and headed back.

The next day at church, I slipped into a back pew by the last window, and settled into the service. I scrawled words across my bulletin as sunlight illuminated the tall, arched windowpanes, reminding me of God’s presence. I’d witnessed sunlight cast a golden glow over the sanctuary many Sundays, but this time was different. A river of gold descended along the arch to the windowsill, and when I glanced back at my notes, my hands were bathed in red light. Awestruck, I stared at my hands.

My eyes followed the sunbeam. Way up high in the window, a pane pulsated ruby-red. Light shining through stained glass showered a blessing on the work of my hands, like a creative anointing.

Writers create with words to bring something new into existence. Find your sanctuary, a sacred space to create. Honor quiet time to go deep. Notice beauty in the ordinary. Write about life’s storms, its joys and sorrow, and write about being lost. Write words to create a garden of beauty and hope in the world. Be true to your heart. Your words are your legacy.
When we treat our creative gifts as worship, grace fuses the shards of broken dreams into a masterful mosaic. Our words. His Light. Stained glass.

Barbara Parentini, author, speaker, and registered nurse who has been retired since her life-changing accident in 2003, is a contributor to numerous books; including Life Lessons from Dads, to be released June 2012, by Write Integrity Press. She’s written a tender gift book, Love and Everyday Wisdom for Brides, with companion journal in progress. Barbara created Living Letters® Seminars; and card line, Soaring Hearts, available soon at a national chain in Florida. 

Connect with Barbara at her website or on Facebook and Twitter.

April 25, 2012

For the Love of Shakespeare

In honor of the Master Playwright's Birthday, our Editor-in-Chief, Susan Reichert, is taking a pause from Wisdom Wednesdays to bring you Sylvia Ney's wisdom on the lasting impact of William Shakespeare.

by Sylvia Ney

Even in the 21st century, Shakespeare proves to be a dominant presence in books, theater, and even movies. His plays are continually reinterpreted by writers and audiences worldwide.

His works have been examined in academia for the psychological (Oedipal complexes like Hamlet), Marxism, and even feminism. Near scientific analysis of Shakespeare dominates in many schools. Literary theory and “concept” productions abound. 

However, many teachers and readers still enjoy the musical poetry and raw excitement of his plots. They are still moved by the essence of his words. 

Shakespeare is what every generation makes of him. He is universal because he dealt with the human experience. In the 18th century, Samuel Johnson put it elegantly: “His works may be considered a Map of Life.”

Many today still argue whether this one man wrote all of these works. However, there are at least 50 surviving references linking Shakespeare to his plays, including an outburst by Robert Greene (1592). In First Folio (a collection of Shakespeare’s 36 Comedies, Tragedies and Histories published in 1616) actors such as John Hemminge and Henry Condell as well as playwright Ben Johnson, hail Shakespeare’s accomplishments. In the gossipy world of London theatre, would such a hoax have gone undiscovered?

Whether you agree all works were written by this one man, argue they were by another, or even by a group, you cannot deny the contributions this collection has had on the world. No other poet displays the explosion of vocabulary that Shakespeare introduced. He gave us around 1,500 new English words including advertising, cold-blooded, drug, embrace, grovel, luggage, premeditated, and retirement. We still use many of his phrases today:

As good luck would have it (The Merry Wives of Windsor) 
Bated breath (The Merchant of Venice)
Be-all and the end-all (Macbeth)
Neither a borrower nor a lender be (Hamlet)
Brave new world (The Tempest)
Break the ice (The Taming of the Shrew)
Brevity is the soul of wit (Hamlet)
Refuse to budge an inch (Measure for Measure)
Devil incarnate (Titus Andronicus / Henry V)
Parting is such sweet sorrow (Romeo and Juliet)

England’s national poet has become playwright to the world. During his lifetime, he brought the passions and politics of distant lands to the stage of the Globe. As the English language spread, so did devotion to this great author. He is revered around the world. His works have been translated into more than 180 languages. They have been rewritten, modernized, even parodied. They inspire operas, ballets, paintings and movies. No other dramatist had wielded such influence. Is it any wonder the world is still in love with Shakespeare?

Sylvia Ney resides in southeast Texas with her husband, two daughters and miniature dachshund.

She is a freelance author who has published poetry, short stories, articles and photography. You can view some of her work for free on her blog. You can also connect with Sylvia on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, and LinkedIn.

April 24, 2012

Like Robinson Crusoe

by Gary Fearon, Creative Director

Gilligan and his shipmates would have appreciated the writer who happened to die on this date 231 years ago. Among other works, Daniel Defoe gave us the classic whose first edition title was The Life and Strange Surprizing (sic) Adventures of Robinson Crusoe, of York, Mariner: Who lived Eight and Twenty Years, all alone in an un-inhabited Island on the Coast of America, near the Mouth of the Great River of Oroonoque; Having been cast on Shore by Shipwreck, wherein all the Men perished but himself. With an Account how he was at last as strangely deliver'd by Pirates. The title alone is a three-hour tour.

When we think of Robinson Crusoe, the only thing most of us think of is a man stranded on an island. If we remember anything else, it might be his companion Friday. There’s actually a lot more to the story before and after his years as a castaway, but if we even knew it, it pales in our memory next to the main crisis…one that’s popularly revisited in both drama and comedy. For example:

My Favorite Wife (1940, comedy) Irene Dunne has seven years bad luck as a strandee.

Swiss Family Robinson (1960, adventure) An entire family is shipwrecked.

Blue Lagoon (1980, romance) Brooke Shields finds jungle love with a fellow castaway.

Cast Away (2000, drama) Tom Hanks has meaningful dialogues with a volleyball.

Hmm, note the years of release. Following this twenty year pattern, we can expect another one in 2020. There’s your cue to start writing it, somebody.

Other variations on the “You can’t go home again” theme didn’t even require a tropical island:

Lost in Space (TV series, 1965-68, sci-fi) Swiss Family Robinson in the cosmos.

Planes, Trains and Automobiles (1987, comedy) John Candy drives Steve Martin to distraction.

The Terminal (2004, comedy/drama) Tom Hanks again, this time permanently laid over in an airport.

The circumstances, backstories and subplots change dramatically (and comedically) but each one speaks to the inherent fear of being unable to get back to where we once belonged. From Dorothy getting stuck in Oz to teens being forced to leave their families in The Hunger Games, writers frequently capitalize on the feeling of total helplessness by placing their hero far from home.

Daniel Defoe’s original Survivor is just one of many plotlines we see again and again, and there’s no shame in taking a great theme and making it original for a new audience.

Ironically, a Gilligan’s Island movie remake was originally supposed to be released last month, but it never set sail. Perhaps the Professor is still working on his coconut camera.

April 23, 2012

Forever Young

by Doyne Phillips, Managing Editor

"The minute you grow up, the minute you mentally atrophy and freeze in time, you are old." Dick Clark

We lost another American icon this week with the passing of Dick Clark. Clark known as “The World’s Oldest Teenager” died at the age of 82. Clark’s talents were great. He was constantly working on new projects. His business partner said he was just beginning a new one when his health took a turn for the worse.

Clark’s quote concerning intellectual atrophy, or the diminishing power of the brain due to lack of use, was a concern to him. He felt growing old was as much mental as physical. I have heard that age is mind over matter; if you don’t mind it doesn’t matter. Apparently Clark felt an active mind kept him young. Use it or lose it.

Believe it or not this is not a post on growing old or the prevention of it but on the need for us to keep our minds busy and open to new projects. With the ever changing social media, digital age and publishing opportunities we must remain aware and open to these new projects as they appear. Listen to your heart and think it over. What is next?

Spend time each day researching the opportunities out there. Look for blogs, contest, seminars and conferences that could connect you with what’s next for you. Continue to learn your craft and the nuts and bolts of the business. My friend Byrd Baggett said, “Live each minute as if it will be our last and learn as if we will live forever." The question is, if living forever, why not forever young?

April 20, 2012

Rejection is an Invitation

by Shannon Milholland, Social Media Director

I have the natural athletic ability of a slug. All through from elementary to high school I was picked last. I was so bad, the team captain would select someone in a cast before me. In fact my first B in college was in Badminton. Seriously, how does one not get an A in Badminton? 

I was familiar with the sting of rejection long before I sent the first query letter. As authors we experience rejection in our stagnant Facebook author page, our unretweeted tweets, and form letter answers to queries. Today, I'd like to invite us to view rejection through a different lens.

What is we saw rejection as an invitation? How would it embolden us if rejection were an invitation to submit elsewhere, to try a new Facebook tactic or to follow someone new on Twitter. What is we stopped letting rejection dictate our destiny and instead used it as the launching pad to our next success?

Let's encourage each other today! Share with us a rejection you've committed to retool into a invitation. What will you invite yourself to do?

April 19, 2012

Dr. Who?

by Sheri Powell

There are many women like me who prefer a female OB/GYN. My reason though it is humorous now, was not funny back then. My story begins with, years ago when I was a KIDS Church leader, it was time for my annual check-up and so off to the doctors I went.  After completing the check-in ritual, I was shown to the examination room and I waited patiently for my doctor to come in.

A few minutes later, a male doctor pops in and stares at me like he knows me. I have this weird feeling inside my gut. “Do you work at this hospital, you look familiar?” he asked. 

“No,” I quickly responded. 

I knew my regular doctor was pregnant, but her due date wasn’t for a couple of months. That feeling in my belly intensified and so I nervously asked where my doctor was. His reply was that she had been transferred to another unit. I paused for a moment and then decided to proceed with the checkup. Following the exam and after a brief consultation, I left the hospital and never gave this encounter a second thought.

The following Wednesday night in KIDS Church, as our service was wrapping up, some of the parents arrived early to pick up their children. Guess who shows up? Yep, Dr. Who (I never did get his name). I felt like I was about to faint. I whispered to one of the teachers to cover for me as I ran to the back of the room to hide. This turned out to be one of the most embarrassing moments in my life.  For the next couple of months when I went to church, I continued to dodge Dr. Who, who I am told has since moved out of state. As you have probably guessed, because of this incident, I make sure my doctor is in, before I go to the examination room. 

I shared this story not to just give you a giggle, though it is funny now…but for us to encourage one another in regards to your own health and well-being. We writers tend to spend a large span of our time and energy taking care of everyone else’s needs first. Don’t get me wrong, the investments we make in others are not in vain. But I believe it’s time we stop hitting the snooze button on our own health. 

No more feeling guilty about having to take a day off to go to the doctors, no more shame – just close the door and take that power nap; if you need support to shed those extra pounds, join the gym or start a walking group. You could even consider teaming up with your fellow authors on your weight loss journey.

A healthy writer is a productive one and a productive one can do the most good!

Sheri Powell is the author of Pausing With God, ‘A Journey Through Menopause’.  It wasn’t until she was in the midst of her journey that she discovered the benefit of community. Sheri believes every season of our life has a purpose and she aims to encourage girls and women of all ages to start taking better care of themselves NOW. 

Sheri's mantra is "not be a super model, just want to be the best me I can be and I am wanting that for you too!" If you would like to share your story or just comment; you can do so on her website,  

Connect with Sheri online at Facebook, Twitter or her website.

April 18, 2012

My Research Assistant

by Susan Reichert, Editor-in-Chief

We all remember Henry Ford. One time Mr. Ford was involved in a libel suit with a large newspaper in a major city. They had called Mr. Ford an ignoramus. Can you imagine a newspaper saying that about the man that made the Model T? Who revolutionized manufacturing?
Ford was a much-respected man. Therefore, he told them to prove that he was. So the paper’s lawyers went about asking him scores of questions, not hard ones, simple ones. One such question was, “Who was Benedict Arnold?” Another question was “When was the Revolutionary War?” They went on with more questions, some Mr. Ford could not answer, you see Mr. Ford had very little formal education.
After some time of this questioning Mr. Ford became exasperated with the lawyer and said, “I don’t know the answer to those questions, but I could find a man in five minutes who does.”
He was a man who was interested in miscellaneous information. Mr. Ford knew what every high level executive knows…the ability to get information is more important than storing in the mind facts. How much is a fact man worth?
Fortunately, for us the internet has become our “fact man” and it doesn’t cost a lot. It frees up our minds so our imaginations can go to work creating new worlds and if you accused us of being ignorant, well, we could look up the answer probably in less than five minutes!

April 17, 2012

3D in Perspective

by Gary Fearon, Creative Director

James Cameron’s Avatar. Martin Scorcese’s Hugo. Peter Jackson’s upcoming The Hobbit. Major moviemakers are recognizing and banking on the popularity of the 3D fad. And we’ll call it a fad until it’s been around long enough to prove its lasting appeal, as well as warrant its added expense.

Sixty years ago, moviegoers were treated to a much cruder, early version of the technology we now enjoy with much greater clarity. Anyone who’s ever worn the blocky, poorly-fitting cardboard glasses reminiscent of the fifties remembers their ears getting uncomfortable long before their eyes, which suffered through the fatiguing task of interpreting blurred images of red and turquoise.

Most of the movies made for 3D were equally cheap and cheesy, written around special effects, lending themselves more to horror and comedy novelties than character-driven drama. The Creature from the Black Lagoon and House of Wax are among the few notable and enduring efforts. The Three Stooges even poked audience’s eyes in 1953’s Spooks!

But, much like Curly, 3D was a victim of circumstance.  After a short three year run, the third dimension had pretty much run its course. By the time Alfred Hitchcock filmed a 3D mystery (Dial M for Murder), the awkward medium had met with its own demise, causing him to release it in regular 2D. One can only guess how Hitchcock would have used the effect to great advantage years later when he did Vertigo.

Today, 3D’s highly superior incarnation tricks the brain with polarization rather than offset colors, yet it still only makes sense for certain types of features, like action movies or CGI animation that can take you places where real life (and cameras) cannot.  It’s highly unlikely there’ll ever be a market for Pride and Prejudice 3D.

Even as we speak, 3D TV is trying to make headway into our homes, and we have the technology to take existing film and TV material and turn it into 3D.  Someday Ricky Ricardo could be singing Babalu in the middle of our living rooms.

But for 3D to survive this go-round, it must do more than fling gumballs at the audience; it has to immerse us into the story. Which still doesn’t involve visual trickery as much as emotional depth. Titanic, while it has plenty of 3D action, also has lots of plot and character to pull you in. It’s movies like Shark Night 3D that are a mere novelty, but of course that’s their intent, just like a dime-store novel meant for a quick read and an imminent future in the trash can.

As authors it’s easier to jump on the latest gimmick and come up with momentary fluff.  Fortunately, most of us choose to put our efforts into crafting a book that will be deemed worthy of handing down to the next generation.  If we can evoke real 3D feelings in the reader, they won’t have to wear clumsy glasses to immerse themselves in what we write.

April 16, 2012

Writing is Communication

by Doyne Phillips, Managing Editor

Communication is a wonderful thing and with today’s technology it is immediate and free.
 ~Brad Cisco

Over the years I have encountered problems in business due to poor communication or even the lack of it. I find it hard to understand why some businesses fail to communicate their plans, goals or missions to their employees. Lack of communication creates a vacuum which is quickly filled with readily available speculation or gossip.

Emma Thompson as Nanny McPhee
Professional courtesy includes good communication skills. I have always said professional courtesy goes a long way, but the lack of it goes much further and involves many more people. One person fails to communicate and additional work is created which involves many people to resolve the problem created by one.   

Many times our family members fail to get their message across. Oscar Winning actress Emma Thompson, known in recent years for her creation of the Nanny McPhee stories and movies said, “Any problem, big or small, within a family, always seems to start with bad communication. Someone isn't listening.”  Oh yes, listening is a part of communicating. It is the part of communicating we expect from the other party while we think our part is to speak and make ourselves clear. It takes both from each party to be successful. That is why we have a comment and reply button below. We want to hear from you. We do listen.

In recent years we have seen how disastrous things can become without proper communication. Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal said, “As everyone in Louisiana knows, there was often no communication or coordination between the state and federal government in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.” What a sad statement about a time when communication was of utmost importance.

Ralph Ellison
On the opposite end of the scale we see communication being productive. American author Ralph Ellison made the statement, “By and large, the critics and readers gave me an affirmed sense of my identity as a writer. You might know this within yourself, but to have it affirmed by others is of utmost importance. Writing is, after all, a form of communication.” Ellison needed the communication from critics and readers to confirm what he felt inside. We too need the affirmation of others.

If you choose not to write a vacuum is created, a vacuum which will be filled by the thoughts and stories of others. As you write practice proper professional courtesy in your craft. Listen as often as you speak. I don’t think I need to remind you of the two ears and one mouth analogy. Poor communication can be disastrous while proper communication can be affirming. Writing is communicating. Stay in touch…

April 13, 2012

I Will Google You


by Shannon Milholland, Social Media Director

If I'm an agent considering representing you, I will Google you.
If I'm the editor of a magazine and considering accepting your article, I will Google you.
If I am aggregating an anthology and contemplating your piece, I will Google you.
If I'm the acquisitions editor for a publisher, I will Google you.

Elvis Presley and Bob Dylan may have crooned "I'll remember you", but they were singing in a different millennium. As today's author, we have little chance of being found let alone remembered if Google doesn't know our name.

As promised last week, I have some tips to increase your "Google-ability":

1. Keywords

Anytime we're exploring a topic, we type in words to find what we're looking for. If you write historical novels set during the 19th Century mining era of Colorado, you'll want relevant words in your titles, articles and labels. On the other hand, if your focus is songwriting and music history, you'll use those words. Be intentional. It works.

2. Building Backlinks

Backlinks are built when another site contains a url link to your site. Google constantly changes their "formula" for success but this one is a constant. The more independent sites that reference your site, the more likely you are to appear toward the front of a Google search.

3. Linking Within

Another top shelf practice is to link within your own site. Google not only measures how much traffic is coming into your site but how long they stay. Give them incentive to browse around by providing additional content within your own site of interest. In fact, this website has built a widget or gadget you can add right to your site to do so.

4. Content

This may seem obvious but your content needs to be on topic. I read blogs and websites all the time that are a rambling hodge podge of mood swing, topic and interest. Don't do that if you want your site to be successful. Select no more than five topics and write exclusively on those topics. Become an expert in your field.

5. Use Meta Tags

Every web platform has built in meta tags you can use to pinpoint your area of influence. Make these words a customer would type if they wanted to find your product. You are a writer but you don't write on everything. Make sure your top five are represented here.

6. Social media

Okay so Facebook and Twitter aren't technically a part of SEO (search engine optimization) but they are two of the top referring sites on the internet. Help people find you by having a strong social media presence.

7. Headings

Believe it or not having headings within your article will aid your chance of being found. Use headings you could imagine someone "googling" and they will be picked up by search engines.

Although I'm getting older, I'll try to remember you. Just know this has a better chance of happening if I can find you...and I will Google you.

April 12, 2012

The Query: What I Put In - And What I Leave Out

by Lauren F. Boyd

I started writing in 2009. Since then, I have written one novella, twelve picture book manuscripts, and countless magazine submissions.

That’s a lot of query letters.

Relatively early on in my writing career, I realized my queries were too long and detailed. So I did some research and gave my query some more thought.

Now, I’d like to share with you what I put into my query – and what I leave out.

I do include these elements in my query:
- A manuscript summary, written in the same “voice” as the manuscript;
- Word count. Note: Your manuscript should be finished when you began querying agents and editors (this is for fiction writers; sometimes there is latitude for non-fiction writers);
- Target audience;
- Genre, for novels;
- Publishing credits. If you haven’t been published, it’s not necessary to reveal this fact in your query. That is, you don’t need to say, "I have never been published." Simply omit any mention of a publishing history.
- Contact information – email address and phone number.

And the one thing I do not include in my query is personal information unrelated to publishing, unless it has to do directly with my manuscript. That’s because I want the agent/editor focusing on my manuscript, not on how s/he doesn’t care for the school I attended.

So how about you? What do you put into your query, and what do you leave out?

Lauren F. Boyd maintains a blog designed to help other writers at She is also on Facebook and G+, as well as @laurenfboyd on Twitter. You can reach her via email at

April 11, 2012

To Birth an Idea

by Susan Reichert, Editor-in-Chief

Ideas, some say are a dime a dozen, but in truth each one may be that ‘pot of gold’. Treat them gingerly, when one comes, write it down, don’t let it fade away.  Many wonderful ideas are born every day in our minds. It would behoove us to carry a notebook around and write them down.
Then we should take the time and look them over, let our imagination look at them, and see where it could lead us. Don’t throw any away just yet.  Put them in a file, and look them over regularly.  Some may have promise.  Eventually you may weed out the ones that don’t and throw those away, but I like to keep mine, and visit them often, I never know when my imagination is going to jump in and say, “Hey, this is viable and we can do that one now!”
Take the ideas that have promise and cultivate, nurture and fertilize. Begin; think about it, where is your mind leading you. With the internet, you can search out any and everything that could be associated with your idea. Look at all of the angles. When the time is right, use it for yourself.
It only takes one good idea to lead to that ‘pot of gold’.

April 10, 2012

Face of Frustration

by Gary Fearon, Creative Director

Yesterday here in Suite T, Doyne made the great point that when frustrated it helps to determine the actual source of our frustration. Narrowing it down to the real cause helps us to avoid the red herrings and get right to the root of the problem.

I have less than fond memories of a coworker from years ago who was particularly abrasive. Nobody liked to see this salesperson coming, because when she approached it always meant she had a problem and demanded that you fix it. While she was not a superior, in my position at the time I was one of the main fixers, so I had no choice but to recreate a project, placate one of her difficult clients, or put out some kind of fire. Basically, her appearance at your door meant a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day ahead.

Since she only came around every couple of weeks or so, it took some months before I decided something had to be done about it, and analyzed the situation. Prior to this I thought the problem was the extra work she created. But in truth, the work – while time-consuming – was not the real issue, since that was my job. What made it so unpleasant was the atmosphere caused by her high-maintenance personality. It made everyone involved uptight and fostered a negative, burdensome attitude toward the task ahead.

The work would still have to be done; no way around that. But my own attitude about it could change, especially if I could minimize the effect this person was able to have on me. And the best way to do that was to diffuse her demanding demeanor.

I managed to do that by responding to her next request not with the congenial resignation I started out with, nor the ‘why are you always a problem’ look it had developed into. Instead, I joked with her, made light of the situation, and handed her an invisible shovel for the early grave she was determined to send me to. Almost immediately her approach lightened, my attitude improved, and our future encounters of funny and friendly sparring actually became something we learned to enjoy.

When we become frustrated with our writing – and it happens – it’s good to analyze the real cause and see what can be done to change that part of it. Stuck on a scene? Tell it to take a hike, write the next one, and come back to the trouble spot later with fresh eyes. Worrying about a looming deadline? Laugh in its face and start writing with a vengeance. Disappointed because your social media numbers aren’t close to Stephen King’s? Scoff at statistics and focus on quality followers, not quantity.

W.C. Fields called it taking the bull by the tail and facing the situation. It’s not always easy to look trouble in the eye, but when we see the true face of frustration we’re better equipped to give the problem a kick in the pants.

April 9, 2012

Lost as Last Year's Easter Egg?

by Doyne Phillips, Managing Editor

While enjoying the Easter festivities with our family and watching the kids hunt for Easter Eggs, I was reminded of the expression, “as lost as last year’s Easter egg”. I have heard this for most of my life. Its uses refer to a person actually lost or being frustrated and not knowing what to do next. We all have been there with last year’s Easter egg at one time or another. When we are what do we need to do?

If you find you are lost or frustrated with where you are in your writing that may not be a bad thing. It could be a wake-up call. Tiger Woods said, “I think that’s a good thing you get frustrated. Because obviously you have expectations of what you can do, what you can accomplish. And I think that’s good.” As Tiger said you may be there due to your clear vision of where you want to go, want to be or what you want to accomplish and find yourself coming up short. Recognizing your position is important to your work. You recognize you aren’t there yet and need more because you expect more and know you can accomplish more.

Once you find yourself there take time to evaluate what it is that is missing. What is bringing your frustration?  Pick it apart and in detail write it down and begin working on the concerns. Many times I have found what I thought was the source of frustration was not the problem at all. The problem was something else altogether. Once the problem is identified we can address it and move forward.

Just as Easter comes regularly and eggs are lost, we must remember that our frustration will come regularly as well. We will again find ourselves lost or frustrated and again will need to search for the source of this frustration. Remember the process and take the time to identify, address and move forward. Use your frustration as a measuring tool for your accomplishments. If they come up short of your expectations you will know it and will have work to do. My hope is you find all your eggs.

April 6, 2012

Help Them Help You

by Shannon Milholland, Social Media Director

Have you caught the American Idol bug? Last week I shared my love for the show. After the American Idol auditions, there's always a name that creates a buzz. According to J-Lo this year's name is Phillip Phillips. I have to agree. The charming young man from South Georgia has a music style and talent all his own. He was even hesitant to let celebrity stylist Tommy Hilfiger alter his look from that of a casual coffee-shop rendering. "I want the music to speak for itself," declared Phillips.

This is where we disagree. At least when it comes to authors. In the January issue of Southern Writers, I wrote an article about the importance of being "Google-able". Many authors launch their career with magazine article writing or as a contributor to a larger work. Quite often thousands of entries are received from any call out. The difference in writing style and ability between various submissions is likely small. Why are some chosen and authors not?

You might wish it were all about the writing. It isn't. The editors will select contributors that will both help sell the anthology or publication and who have submitted a quality piece. As writers we must strike a balance between the two. A complete unknown author with no social media activity, no website and few hits on Google has much less chance of finding his name in print than his counterpart whose skill may be slightly less but has a strong brand recognition. Help them help you!

You may be a Phillip Phillips and if you are, let the music of your writing speak for itself. For the rest of us, we need a weekly plan to build our platform and recognition. Next week I'll give you some tips on how to increase your "Google-ability".

April 5, 2012

Taste-Full Southern Writing

by Emily Sue Harvey 

Being a Southern Writer has its rewards. Number one prize is my legacy of knowing and preparing fine food, passed on to me from both my Southern grandmothers. This flair waxes bold, being as I am a healthy gal with a hearty appetite. My running battle with ten extra pounds—waged since adolescence—is a result of this culinary excellence. Most of the time, I barely manage to smush down the extra padding. This particular war, however, is balanced by the pleasure I derive from writing about it. I look at it as my taste-full gift to readers.

For instance, in my novel, Homefires, a parsonage wife’s story, I enjoyed flaunting my culinary skills when newlyweds Janeece and Kirk cooked their first meal together. I was in my element describing crisp, double-batter dipped, golden fried chicken, fluffy light buttermilk biscuits, smooth, thick milk gravy, buttery rice, and zesty chilled potato salad.

But what self-respecting Southerner would stop there? This fare calls for a traditional dessert. In Janeece’s case, it was homemade banana-pudding, with cloud-light, mile-high meringue, toasted to a golden brown.

And in another novel, Unto These Hills, set on South Carolina’s Tucapau mill hill, my food affair continues. The story’s heroine, young Sunny Acklin, waitresses at the village hotel, where she serves up Daisy the cook’s, countrified specialties.

Diners there include boarding teachers and mill hands, to villagers who drop by the hotel dining room to indulge in the Southern smorgasbord. Delights like thick, creamy pinto and giant white butter beans, onion-smothered fried potatoes, crunchy fried fatback and tender ham and chunks of tender yet crisp baked cornbread call to the customers. Topping this off are slices of juicy ripe tomatoes and fresh spring onions.

Then when all the village kids, from five to twenty, weekly pour into the movie house’s Saturday matinee to watch Tim Holt or Hopalong Cassidy, Sunny’s sweetheart, Daniel buys huge bags of hot buttery popcorn—with a gigantic icy Coke—to pass around and share with Sunny and her younger siblings. The aroma of popcorn will forever remind Sunny of Daniel and his sweetness. His generosity. His love.

In my novella, Flavors, my preoccupation extends from country store banana BB Bats and caramel-y Brown Cow treats melting on the tongue, to the heroine’s whimsical flavors of life. Twelve-year-old Sadie Ann’s life-altering summer at her grandparents’ farm delves up vignettes of lemony childhood, strawberry adolescence, vanilla-y adulthood and segues through myriad other aromatic scenarios. This situation-flavor association enables young Sadie Ann to cope with life’s sometimes unpleasant turns.

All my novels offer up cozy family scenes in the kitchen and around the table, where readers may lounge and partake.

Ahh, yes!  I can say without reservation that I delight in passing on this gift. Best of all-- nobody gains an ounce. Woo hoo!

So, let me remind that when  ya’ll come to my beautiful world of fiction, to vicariously taste and smell the aroma of family-friendly Southern comfort, you, too, can write mouth-watering scenes when penning your pleasant and sometimes unpleasant mile-high meringue tales.

We all know we should employ all of a reader's senses in our scenes. It is relatively easier to tap into sight, sound or touch. I think food smells and tastes are the most memorable, don't you? Just as perfume/floral fragrances take us back to a certain place and time, so do food's aromas, textures and tastes. And few sensory images are as poignant and visual to the imagination as delectable culinary treats from days gone by, especially those cooked with love from Mama, Grandma and even Aunt Sarah. 

Too, low country boils and moist chicken bog, a chicken/rice/smoked sausage, onion dish, sets a story's locale as effectively as Charleston's beautiful oaks dripping Spanish moss and carolina's sweet aromatic honeysuckle vines. Chewy, sweet-sour Foothills Pork BBQ brings all three senses into play for the reader: taste, texture (touch), and smell as it slides over the tongue and down the throat. Ahhh. And the creaminess of thick, onion/milk flavored potato soup? I ask you, what else can bring such a sense of comfort and nurturing than these descriptions? And with loving hands preparing the food, add to the scene whiffs of that unique security that only comes from family ties. Ah, writer, we have indeed captured the essence of one's heart, have we not? 

Bon apetit!  


Emily Sue Harvey is a South Carolina Christian who writes Southern mainstream fiction under Story Plant, a secular publishing house. She loves happy endings but warns that her stories portray real life with all its rotten stumps and gulley-washers. Yet she manages to paint them family friendly. Emily Sue’s main emphasis is to show, through example, that there is always sunshine above dark clouds. Look for the soon release of her sixth novel, Cocoon.  

Connect with Emily Sue online on her two websites: &

April 3, 2012

Complain or Complete?

by Susan Reichert, Editor-in-Chief

Most people I have talked to this week have complained about the month of April being here.
Why you might ask? Their response, “Because it brings rain, rain and more rain.” I find their complaint a little disconcerting and wonder if they feel this way about many things that happen in their life.
To me April brings the showers to prepare the grounds and seeds for the beautiful flowers that bloom in May. Those same showers have a way of cleaning our world and making it new again.
As a writer, we probably feel the same way about certain task we have to do in order to write and finish an article or a novel. Things we might have to do to get it ready for publishing that we really don’t like to do.  Not everything is easy. Just like April, our writing needs a good shower to clean up the residue left from our winters and prepare for new ideas for forthcoming articles and books and perhaps to wash away cobwebs left on writings that need finishing.
Relish this month, a month of cleaning and preparing, changing and editing that is  needed for new things and old to bring them to life.

Undercover at the Library

by Gary Fearon, Creative Director

Memphis Library

About a week ago, while on business at my local library, I decided to investigate the fiction section to gather a little intel. Specifically, I was curious to see how many of the authors we’ve featured in the magazine were represented on the public shelves.

I started with the A’s and was quickly rewarded by the appearance of Tamera Alexander, Christa Allan and Andy Andrews. Familiar friends Sandra Balzo and Nancy Cohen were not far behind. These authors and their publishers are among those who recognize the opportunity to reach new readers outside the bookstore.

By the time I got to the G’s and spied Tricia Goyer, the silence of the library was suddenly broken when I detected the sound of live music being played. Intrepidly making my way toward the event rooms to do some surveillance, I came upon a woodwind quintet from the Memphis Symphony, entertaining about two dozen 5 to 12 year olds through song and story. The librarian would read a paragraph and the band would play.  It was a clever and effective concept, combining reading with music, and I found myself just as enraptured as the small fry.

Occasionally a parent, themselves lured by the pipers, led their child into the room. One in particular caught my eye. This little girl, probably four years old, entered with a blank expression and her hands covering her ears. The music wasn’t deafening so it didn’t take a polygraph to uncover the truth of her unfiltered displeasure.

I couldn’t help wondering whether this tyke was raised on rap and considered melodies foreign and offensive, or perhaps she was more an aficionado of the cello and there just wasn’t one present. Clearly, none of this seemed to matter to the other 24 kids who hung on every note.

This library encounter provided a reminder of several things of value to this writer:

  • Words and music each convey the entire range of human emotion. Put them together and you have a powerful collaboration. Like a well-scored motion picture, some authors find it helpful to listen to music that fits the mood of whatever scene they’re writing.
  • Your audience will pay avid attention to you if they like what you’re doing. (In some cases they’re willing to sit on the floor.)
  • Whenever you do something creative, some critics are going to love it, and others simply won’t. 9 times out of 10 it will be more a reflection of them, than of you. 
I didn’t happen to notice whether the little girl ever warmed up to the presentation and eventually uncovered her ears. I hope she did, and joined these other little lives that were enriched because somebody wrote good words and somebody else played pretty music.

Me, I still had big library fish to fry, authors to check out, and mysteries to solve. Like, who is Dewey and why do we still use his Decimal System?