April 30, 2013

The Windows and Doors

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

Sylvia Plath, an American poet, novelist and short story writer said, “Everything in life is writable about if you have the outgoing guts to do it, and the imagination to improvise. The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt.”

She was right. The enemy of our creativity is self-doubt. Writers must be alert to many things.  Self-doubt is high up on the list. The one thing we need to watch for is the stench of the air when that horrible creature of self-doubt slinks into the room. Hurriedly open the doors and windows and shove it out before it settles down into a pool around your head.

You can write. You can finish the page, you can finish the chapter and you can finish the book. Remember you are the one who is creating this story. It is to be told from your perspective. It is what your mind imagined. Just put your thoughts down on the paper. One word, then two, then three and before long you will see sentence after sentence delivered onto the page.

Plath was also right about everything, literally, everything in life can be written about. It is there within our grasp. We only have to reach out and begin the transformation to paper. Whether we see it, hear it, smell it, touch it, think it–it is ours for the taking to use to create that next short story, poem or novel.

So when you sit down tomorrow morning to begin your day of writing, remember, open your windows and doors and stay alert.

April 29, 2013

My Time Machine

By Suzanne Adair

Readers often comment that my stories immerse them fully in the fictional world I've created. Achieving that "You Are Here" feeling is a challenge for most authors. Those who write historical fiction wish they had a time machine, a way to experience what the past was like. I write crime fiction set during the eighteenth century, in the American War of Independence. I've found that time machine.

When I started researching this period almost twenty years ago, I quickly realized that if I intended to create believable fiction about people who'd lived more than two hundred years earlier, reading books on the topic and interviewing subject matter experts wouldn't cut it at helping me capture the period flavor. A desire to experience the everyday challenges my characters would have faced and how their world smelled, tasted, and sounded fueled my interest in becoming a Revolutionary War reenactor.

My sons and I have spent many weekends camped at historical battlegrounds during reenactment events. We sleep in white canvas army tents with no mosquito screens, and we dress in clothing made of wool and linen. Our menu is limited by what meals we can prepare over a wood fire. Food occasionally gets scorched. Most of the time, running water, flush toilets, and heat or air-conditioning are unavailable.

I've learned to start a fire from flint and steel. Not until I'd done so did I comprehend the impact of natural variables, such as wind and humidity, on establishing a fire when you don't even have the convenience of matches. Try starting a fire with flint and steel on a windy, wintry night.

I've also learned to load and fire a musket with powder only, like the reenactors on the battlefield. Nothing I'd read prepared me for the noise, weight, heat, or reload time of the musket. The one time I fired a ball, I saw the way it could have ricocheted off trees and killed someone. How often did that happen in woodland skirmishes hundreds of years ago?

And I've learned to move in a petticoat. However, no reference book prepared me for how quickly the wind whipped my petticoat into the campfire at one event. Did you know that being burned was one of the top causes of death for women in the eighteenth century?

I'm a woman of the twenty-first century. I take technology for granted. Convenience and accessibility underpin my culture and shape my values and reactions. But during the Revolutionary War, very little was convenient or accessible. Danger and scarcity shaped decisions, especially for the middle and lower classes.

We're out of touch with the hardships our ancestors endured to stay alive. My challenge is to bridge that gap in my fiction. The lessons I've learned from reenacting inform the crafting of my fictional world. Without the experience of having lived history via the time machine of reenacting, I wouldn't be able to provide such a believable and captivating escape for readers.
Award-winning novelist Suzanne Adair is a Florida native who lives in a two hundred-year-old city at the edge of the North Carolina Piedmont, named for an English explorer who was beheaded. Her books transport readers to the Southern theater of the Revolutionary War, where she brings historic towns, battles, and people to life. She fuels her creativity with Revolutionary War reenacting and visits to historic sites. She enjoys cooking, dancing, hiking, and spending time with her family.Her books include, Paper Woman, Camp Follower, Regulated for Murder,  The Blacksmith's Daughter, and A Hostage toHeritage, her next Michael Stoddard American Revolution thriller, recently released. 

April 26, 2013

Five Tips For A Creative 2013

By Cherie K. Miller

The most frequent question newbie writers ask is, “Where do you get your ideas?”  Now that’s a hard question to answer. I usually get my article, blog topics or book topics from EVERYWHERE! If you’re stuck for writing ideas, here are some tips I’ve used to keep the creative juices flowing:

1)  Get Your Idea Antenna Working: Creative ideas are floating in the ether, found on the internet, develop from conversations, can pop up while you’re driving somewhere, reading something, listening to music, or, my least favorite time, when you’re drifting off to sleep. As a working writer, the best tip I can give you is to “tune in” your creative idea antenna to have a LOT of ideas flooding your way and then allow your subconscious to bring a new angle or a new idea to an old story.

2)  Keep an Idea File:  I was a columnist for a newspaper in Chicago. Writing a weekly column was rough, but knowing that I had a deadline made me very disciplined in looking for ideas. In fact, even before I pitched the idea to the editors at the newspaper I came up with 52 column ideas – showing that the column had enough content to keep it going.  It worked – for eight straight years! I carried a package of 3 x 5 cards in my purse, kept a stack on my desk, and tucked them in books as bookmarks. Every time I came across an idea, I’d write it on a card and file it in my idea box on my writing desk. If I ever lacked ideas, I’d take a quick run through my idea box and usually something would spark a writing frenzy.

3)  Do Something Different. I absolutely love this paragraph by Natalie Goldberg, a writing teacher and author of WritingDown the Bones.“Sometimes there is just no way around it—we are boring and we are sick of ourselves, our voice, and the usual material we write about. It’s obvious that even going to a cafĂ© to write doesn’t help. It is time to find other ways. Dye your hair green, paint your nails purple, get your nose pierced, dress as the opposite sex, perm your hair…Borrow your friend’s black leather motorcycle jacket, walk across the coffee shop like a Hell’s Angel, wear work boots, farmer’s overalls, a three-piece suit, wrap yourself in an American flag or wear curlers in your hair. Just sit down to write in a state you don’t ordinarily sit down to write in. Try writing on a large drawing pad. Wear all white and a stethoscope around your neck—whatever it takes to simply see the world from another angle.

4)  Use a Totally Different Process.. I’m a very linear writer. I write the beginning, the middle and then the end. That’s why I was so intrigued to hear about the process that the author of Fried Green Tomatoes, Fannie Flagg, uses: “I’m dyslexic. I write the end, then middle, then some of the beginning. I write scenes, and then hang them on a clothesline down my great-big, long hallway. It just helps me to see the story visually in sequence. The hardest part is putting it all together at the end. It’s like piecing together a quilt. And, if I drop it, I have a totally different book.

5)  Watch a Movie, Read a Book, Go to a Play, Attend a Concert. Author Julia Cameron, who wrote TheArtist’s Way, uses a tool she calls an Artist Date. This is how she defines it: “An artist date is a block of time, perhaps two hours weekly, especially set aside and committed to nurturing your creative consciousness, your inner artist. …You do not take anyone on this artist date but you and your inner artist, a.k.a. your creative child. ..Your artist needs to be taken out, pampered, and listened to.

Consider prioritizing creativity for the rest of 2013. Schedule in some time to take an artist date, rearrange your writing desk, go buy yourself some neon 3 x 5 cards and a nifty file box, to make 2013 your most creative year yet!

Cherie K. Miller is the author, Writing Conversations, Backwords,.and Sell More Books. She lives on a lake in Georgia with her author husband, J. Steve Miller and a blended family of seven sons. She has an MA in Professional Writing from Kennesaw State University. She is the former President of the Georgia Writers Association and serves as a volunteer for several nonprofit agencies.  Blog:
Pet Blog:  Twitter: @Impeeved 
LinkedIn: Cherie K. Miller   Facebook: Cherie K. Miller                                          

April 25, 2013

"The World is a Book"

By Doyne Phillips, Managing Editor for Southern Writers Magazine

"The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.” St Augustine. This is one of my favorite quotes. I have a large lit world globe on a stand in my office with this quote engraved on a brass plate on the frame. Having been fortunate enough to travel I understand it. I use it to encourage my children and grandchildren to do the same. We point out the places they have been in this world, mark them on the globe and review the quote. The more places they see the more they realize the number of places they have yet to see.

As I read the short stories submitted to Southern Writers Magazine’s Short Story Fiction Contest, Saint Augustine’s quote kept returning to me. In each story you will be taken into another world. A world brought to you by some of the most talented authors of this day. As I read I wanted to continue traveling in that world. There is page after page of passion, delight and sorrow. Stopping at one page was never considered. My travel continued to the end. 

The many stories submitted showcased the talents of writers from throughout the country. The thirteen finalists chosen for the Southern Writers Edition of Short Tales features the Winner and the 2nd and 3rd Place Winners on the cover. Tucked inside this issue are their short stories, each a masterpiece in its own right. Each story has photo and bio of the author. I think you will be impressed.

Southern Writers Edition of Short Tales invites you travel in the world of some of the top authors of Short Story Fiction of our day.  Click on our website at and pick up a copy of Southern Writers Edition of Short Tales. I promise you will not stop at one page.

April 24, 2013

Why Do I Write? Why Do You Write?

By MK Meredith

The answer to that question can determine your level of tenacity. Because this is the thing, writing isn’t easy. Writing requires a large time commitment, a tough hide, and self-motivation. And if you aren’t doing it for the right reasons, or rather, if your reasons aren’t strong enough…writing is easy to quit.

For me, I can’t imagine doing anything else. And that’s the key. I am driven to write. I have stories to tell. When I’m in the middle of writing a book, stepping away from it to engage in the rest of my life, is very difficult. And I love my life! However, I could be cooking dinner or on a date with my husband, my best friend, but  one leg still remains stretched out knee deep in that book. I can’t wait to get back to it. I’m antsy and long to feel the cool, smooth buttons of my keyboard. The story calls to me, my characters beg for me to resolve their issues or challenge them with new ones. Not until I write the words, ‘The End’, am I able to break free. For a second.

Until the next story grabs hold and demands itself to paper.

Writing makes me happy. Filling my life with joy is a dream come true. Why would I ever stop? I wouldn’t. I won’t. I am tenacious.

With every rejection from an editor or an agent, I take a day, medicate myself with peanut butter (my comfort food) and soak in the pain. But when the sun rises the next day…I write.

Stay in the fight. Don’t give up.

When the writing gets tough…get tough on your writing.

Write a business plan, with goals and actions. Write a vision statement. Consider the industry and your craft. What do you still have left to learn? Everything.

Cheryl St. John, a wonderful romance writer, mentor and friend, gave me the best advice. “Be a constant student. Don’t ever think you’ve learned all you can learn.” Her words are permanently engraved in my brain.

I practice and research and write, write, write. I study the industry, and participate in my local writing community, critique groups and workshops.  My schedule is full and I love every stinkin’ minute of it. Because I’m a writer.

If writing is really what you want as your career. If regularly publishing in your genre, and someday making it onto the New York Times Best Sellers list is your dream. Then write. Don’t give up. Each day is a new day and a new opportunity to write your best work.

This industry is subjective and the traditional route leaves much of the control in someone else’s hands. But, what you do control is whether or not you write. Whether or not you learn.

Your success stems from your level of tenacity. Your ability to stick with it, grow, and improve until the day you are published. Because that day will come. And it will come soon.

If you keep writing.

MK Meredith is an aspiring contemporary romance and paranormal romance author. She is a regular volunteer for Pikes Peak Writers and Pikes Peak Romance Writers out of Colorado Springs, CO. As a member of Romance Writers of America, Heartland Writers Group, Writers Write, PPW and PPRW, she considers herself a constant student. Currently she has multiple manuscripts under consideration, and she's working on two series. Loving motherhood, when MK is not writing she's snuggling her two children and harassing her husband, all of whom suffer from her spontaneous explosions of affection. 

April 23, 2013

Books That Became Movies

by Gary Fearon, Creative Director, Southern Writers Magazine

Have you considered adapting your own book?
Film reviewer Leonard Maltin reminded his TV audience last week that faithfully adapting a movie from a book takes a special kind of talent.  Indeed, translating one medium into another to adapt it into a new form of entertainment is a challenging task, but one which introduces a good story to millions who never knew about the book.  It's a safe bet that the number of movies we've seen in our lives far outnumber the books we've read.

In a full-circle way, films often inspire moviegoers to read the original book on which their favorite flicks are based, so the two make a great partnership.  In that spirit, I thought it would be enlightening to scan the list of some top movies which were adapted from the printed word.  Do you remember seeing these books (prior to the movie coming out)?

JURASSIC PARK by Michael Crichton
THE PRINCESS BRIDE by William Goldman
DELIVERANCE by James Dickey
A CLOCKWORK ORANGE by Anthony Burgess
FIELD OF DREAMS (based on Shoeless Joe by W.P. Kinsella)
FORREST GUMP by Winston Groom
MILLION DOLLAR BABY (based on a short story by F.X. Toole)

In more recent years. Hollywood gave us:

THE SOCIAL NETWORK (based on The Accidental Billionaires by Ben Mezrich)
WAR HORSE by Michael Morpurgo
WE BOUGHT A ZOO by Benjamin Mee
HUGO (based on The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick)
THE LINCOLN LAWYER by Michael Connelly
BEASTLY by Alex Flinn
I AM NUMBER FOUR by Pittacus Lore
CLOUD ATLAS by David Mitchell
ONE FOR THE MONEY by Janet Evanovich
LIFE OF PI by Yann Martel
THE HOST (in theatres now) - Stephanie Meyer, of Twilight fame

Soon to come:

THE GREAT GATSBY the fourth screen retelling of the F. Scott Fitzgerald classic
THE SEVENTH SON based on Joseph Delaney's The Spook's Apprentice
THE SECRET LIFE OF WALTER MITTY based on a short story by James Thurber
DOROTHY'S RETURN (2014) based on Dorothy of Oz by Roger S. Baum

Worth noting is that some of the biggest blockbusters like Harry Potter, The Chronicles of Narnia, Lord of the Rings, Twilight and The Hunger Games were all series, and were all aimed at young adults.  Does this say something about book-to-film potential?  It definitely says that the younger generation is reading books, and I find that pretty encouraging.

In any given year, Hollywood translates dozens of books into film. As you're writing your next bestseller, it may not hurt to visualize being on the NY Times Best Seller list at the same time Meryl Streep accepts her Academy Award for playing your heroine. 


April 22, 2013

Changed Forever By A Book

By Gloria Rose

At the lowest point of my life, I traveled in search of a new place to live. Recently separated from my husband, I visited a girlfriend in her downtown San Francisco flat. I picked up a book on her coffee table, The Sacred Romance: drawing closer to the heart of God by Brent Curtis and John Eldredge.

Five hours later, I closed the back cover and felt relief. I was in a new place—inside.Until reading Sacred Romance, I lived my adult life like a college student in a perpetual final exam week. My role was to burn the candle at both ends to pass the tests. Was I nice? Paying my taxes on time? Impressing my boss at work? Obeying the rules—don’t steal and don’t tell lies? Am I gaining the approval of God, the Tough Grader in the sky?

In TheSacred Romance, the authors painted God as the cosmic Lover pursuing His beloved—you and me: God created us for intimacy with him…and He uses beauty and affliction to recapture our hearts.

With this new perspective, I felt valued and secure. I smelled the roses more. I started to recognize love oozing out of children, coffee house baristas and strangers with dreadlocks. Authors Brent Curtis and John Eldredge had rewired my brain.

Recalling Sacred Romance’s impact on me fuels my motivation and growth as a writer. Isn’t that why I write—to rewire a reader’s perspective? To move a person from darkness to light? To reveal the hope and love available to us, just for the seeing?

A successful writer needs persistence and discipline. However, something more sends me to the keyboard: a desire to use words to heal another in some small way.

To reignite your writing passion, ask:

1. How have words changed me?
2. What is my message—the insight I can share with others?
3. How can I weave this message into my writing?

Your words matter.

A book changed me forever.
Gloria Rose is a writer and coach. Formerly an executive recruiter (“headhunter”), she now helps people identify their life purpose and fulfill it. She is the author-teacher of the class,

April 19, 2013

Amazon Reviews Tips and Tricks

By Eddie Jones

Increasingly, readers turn to online reviews written by customers to learn if a book is worth purchasing. Many “professional” reviews are simply rehashes of publisher-generated press releases. Most of the time, professional critics don’t tell readers the one thing they want to know—whether they’ll like the book. Today, all it takes is a quick skim of customer reviews on Amazon to know what others think about your book. Amazon doesn’t say it explicitly, but the more reviews your book receives, the higher it will appear in the “relevant” search rankings.

Here are three things you can do to add to your book’s review total. 

Fire Up Your Tribe
Create a virtual book launch on Facebook and invite your friends and fans to buy your book on the day of its release. Announce a drawing for those who “agree” to post a review of your book. Not everyone will abide by their word but the idea is to create buzz and most will eventually post a review if you continue to post new content on your book launch event page. Amazon gift cards are great way to reward reviewers. Here is one example of how we created a book “event” for Dead Man’s Hand.

Encourage anyone who tells you how much he or she enjoyed your book to write a review on As your positive reviews grow, so may your sales. (Think of the three percent ratio. Three percent will come to your event and of those, three percent will write a review.) It’s a numbers game and YOUR job to drive reviewers (friends, family, fans, Tweeters, bloggers, etc) to your Amazon page and get them to post a review.

Create an Email Template You Can Send to Friends
When friends congratulate you on your book ask for their help. Begin with:
Thank you for the kind words about my book. When you have a spare moment, it would be a great if you could post a review on Amazon and let other readers know why you liked [ the name of your book ]. It’s not necessary to write a lengthy, formal review—a summary of the comments you sent me would be fine. Here’s a link to the review form for my book.
[ provide the link like this ]
(Note: you will need to put your book’s actual ISBN in place of the letters ISBN, like so: This link takes you to the review page for Dead Man’s Hand, my YA mystery for boys)

Beat Back Negative Reviews
Even a poor review can be good—if the reviewer shares pertinent facts about your book. However, multiple 1 star reviews can slow sales or kill a book’s momentum, so beat back low star reviews by asking friends to post a review weeks or months after your book’s release. Continue to replenish your reservoir of possible reviewers by reaching out in advance. Post reviews for others, then say: “I may call on you some day and ask you to do the same for me.” If they respond in the affirmative via email or Facebook, take note and remind them later when you need a positive review. Or course, make sure they have a copy of your book.
Eddie Jones is a North Carolina-based writer and Acquisition Editor for Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas. He is a three-time winner of the Delaware Writers Conference and his YA novel, The Curse of Captain LaFoote, won the 2012 Moonbeam Award in the Pre-Teen Fiction/Fantasy category and 2011 Selah Award in Young Adult fiction. He co-writes the He Said, She Said devotions, available at Dead Man’s Hand, the first book in the Caden Chronicles mystery series, is now available from Zonderkidz. 

April 18, 2013

Do You Do Poetry, Everyday?

By Annette Cole Mastron, Communications Director For Southern Writers Magazine

Looking around for versions of poetry to celebrate April being poetry month. I realized I "do" a form of poetry, everyday. Betting you might "do" poetry everyday,too; maybe even in the shower. Do you sing in the shower or in your car?

Confession time, I like country music. Why? Unlike some music genres, country music tells a vivid three-minute story in poetry set to music. Lyric writers don't have the luxury of 2500 word developed story. They must covey the story in poetry in incredibly tightly-written lyrics. Country songs tell a dramatic tale with descriptive prose. Country music lyrics give a snippet of everyday life. Poetic words set to music conjure immediate images in the listener's mind. The musically set poetry makes the mind recall the words when the tune starts. Much like readers do when they quote a favorite book.

Here are some examples of everyday stories told through country prose and music. To get the full impact of the importance of the words, I suggest you click on the links and close your eyes as the music starts. Can you see the story as it unfolds as the song progresses? Did you see the crime? His plan and the prison in "Ol' Red" sung by Blake Shelton? His escape?

Did you see the story in your mind from "Two Black Cadillacs" sung by Carrie Underwood? 
This one caught me by surprise and I had to hear it again to make sure I heard what I thought I heard. Have you ever read a book and had to re-read a section to make sure you caught all the clues?
Vicki Lawrence first told the story, "The Night The Lights Went Out In Georgia" and Reba McEntire has an updated version. Can you envision the "big bellied sheriff"? Her music video is great and is told as a flashback. How creative!

Of course, not all country music project a crime theme here are some links that have other tightly written poetic stories; 
"My Front Porch Lookin In" By Lonestar"Fly Over States" By Jason Aldean, "Something Like That" By Tim Mcgraw,and "This" By Darius Rucker

Start listening to some country stations and get in the poetry mode through various country artists. Why not try your hand at writing poems? Then submit them to the country music publishers. You never know, your words might be the next big country hit. 

April 17, 2013

My One Tip for Writers

By Margaret Daley

I have been writing and selling for over thirty years. During my journey, I have gone through many types of situations that a person may encounter as a writer--a line dying, editor changes, and rejections, sold a book that never came out, a long dry spell. So when an interviewer asked me what tip I would give a person who wants to be a writer, I said determination and perseverance are so important in this industry. Those two qualities are equally vital as talent.

If you want to write, you have to want to write. It needs to be a part of who you are. Writing isn't for the faint at heart. It's a tough business. The first time you get a rejection you figure that out. One rejection is bad. Many are awful. That is part of our job--getting rejections. But that is where determination to succeed and perseverance to keep going is important.

But the test for me came when I hit an eight-year dry spell after selling twenty books. The line I was writing for died when the publishing house was sold. They returned a book that had been completed and gave me back the rights to it. To this day, I have never sold that book anywhere else. My budding career came to a grinding halt. I tried to walk away from writing, but I couldn't. It is in my blood--part of me. Now looking back, I'm thankful I didn't walk away. I finally sold a book then another one. Since that dry spell, I have sold sixty-three books, and if I had given up, they wouldn't have been written nor read by others. So if you want to be a writer, you have to stick with it through the good and bad times.
Margaret Daley is an award winning, multi-published author in the romance genre. One of her romantic suspense books, Hearts on the Line, won the American Christian Fiction Writers’ Book of the Year Contest. She also has won the Golden Quill Contest, FHL’s Inspirational Readers’ Choice Contest, Winter Rose Contest, Holt Medallion and the Barclay Gold Contest. She wrote for various secular publishers before the Lord led her to the Christian romance market. She currently writes inspirational romance and romantic suspense books for the Love Inspired lines, romantic suspense for Abingdon Press and historical romance for Summerside Press. She has sold eighty-three books to date. Margaret is currently the President for American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW), an organization of over 2600 members. She has taught numerous classes for both the national and local level for RWA and ACFW. She enjoys mentoring other authors. Website: Twitter: 

April 16, 2013

Nails or Headlights

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

D. H. Lawrence was an English novelist, poet, and playwright among other things. He said, “‘if you try to nail anything down, in the novel, either it kills the novel, or the novel gets up and walks away with the nail.”

Many people have a slant on what D. H. meant with this quote, due to his type of writing, but only he can give us his exact thought, and that’s not going to happen as he has passed on.

Whereas E. L. Doctorow who is known for historical fiction said, “Writing a novel is like driving a car at night. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.” This one we definitely understand what he is saying.

One is giving you advice, don’t try to nail everything down and the other is telling you it’s okay if you don’t have everything nailed down, you’re still going to arrive.

Let’s face it, each writer either has found a way that works for them in their writing or they are working on finding a way.

Some writers spend hours working on an outline, months researching, and at the end of  the year, they find they’ve not written anything.

Other writers spend very little time researching, have no outline, just put words that come to them on paper and at the end of 80,000 words call it a novel. However, it may just be words, discombobulated thoughts on paper.

Both of these are extremes. If your story requires research, be sure and do it. The book you are writing should dictate the amount of research you need. The outline, can either be a formal one or it can be notes made to yourself on the ‘who, why, where, when and how’.  Maybe you are better picking the subject, or maybe the characters or a topic. 

Whichever, you must determine how far down that road the headlights need to shine and how much you want to nail down.

April 15, 2013

The Accent Of A Southern Writer

By Pamela King Cable

I write stories filled with bits and pieces of my Appalachian childhood and served up with conflicts based in truths and real events. Stories of forgiveness, death, love, racial conflict, faith, tragedy, innocence, destiny, and overcoming insurmountable obstacles.

Having cut my teeth on the back of a church pew, I found myself revisiting the revival tents, tabernacles, and the grand cathedrals of my youth as I wrote Southern Fried Women and then, my new novel, Televenge. Exploring religion, spirituality, and the unexplained where characters hang ripe for the picking, I have experienced a world of both the sublime and the bizarre.

But within my stories it is not just a description of place that plants the reader’s feet firmly in the South. My determination to protect the Southern accent in Southern literature is a result of losing my accent many years ago. Let me explain.

I was a transplanted little hick in a Yankee schoolroom. Like a child of Chinese immigrants who speaks Chinese at home and English at school, I grew up speaking with the accent of my parents, and learned to switch to a Northern accent in my Ohio classrooms.

As a little girl, I had adopted my father’s drawl. He had a nasal, quick, Appalachian accent but my mother’s was more refined. Slow and sugary. Mother felt it was her mission to civilize my father, and especially my sisters and me. She would say, in jest, “We are not hillbillies – we are Hill Williams.” Yet no matter how hard she tried, she couldn’t change her own accent.

To circumvent the ridicule of my classmates, I learned how to change back and forth between, “them fellers ain’t had no pie” to “those boys haven’t had their pie.” My environment determined my accent. Unfortunately, my family’s poor grammar created a barrier, isolating them at times from their community. But I had no barrier. I had to attend school with an inherited diction not used in Northern schools. A diction I rid myself of quickly to survive.

Still, it never occurred to me that some folks didn’t know what the word gaulded meant. “My legs are just gaulded in this heat.” Or why some said, “Put the potatoes in a bag” when my grandmother said, “Put them ‘taters in a poke.” Little did I know, the power of my family’s accent would follow me my whole life, rooting and grounding me—providing a safe bed to fall back on as I struggled to learn which syllables to use and when.

Even through the struggle, I loved the way my mother talked. I felt neither embarrassed nor held back by her accent. It didn’t become apparent until much later how much I treasured the sound of my family’s voices as they gossiped during canning season, whispered in church, and sang their hearts out during revival week. They became a part of me, and part of what flew out of my head and onto the page.

I have learned to appreciate my heritage, to value my Southern accent, even if I can turn it on and off. For me, working and living in both the North and South, it’s given me a broader view of both regions, and a richer impact as a writer. But in truth, it’s who I am and what I came from that influences me most as a writer. Not where I live. I cannot deny the Northern part of me, any more than I can deny the Southern blood that runs through my veins, and the Southern accent that occasionally slides off my tongue. – End –
Pamela is the author of the highly acclaimed collection of short stories, Southern Fried Women. Born a coal miner’s granddaughter and raised by a tribe of wild Pentecostals and storytellers, Pamela loves to write about religion and spirituality with mystical twists she unearths from her family’s history. She has taught at many writing conferences, and speaks to book clubs, women’s groups, national and local civic organizations, and at churches across the country. More than a decade in the writing, Televenge is her debut novel. She lives in Ohio with her husband, Michael, and is working on her next novel. To learn more about the author, visit

April 12, 2013

Maximizing Your Fallow Season

By J. M. Hochstetler

Have you ever experienced an unexpected letdown on completion of a project? You’re suddenly overtaken by the uneasy feeling that you ought to immediately jump into a new story and start producing words. The problem is that your brain seems to be stuck in neutral.

Discussions with fellow authors assure me that this is just part of a natural fallow season that often follows the long, hard grind of writing a book, just as fall follows summer. Deadlines may make it impossible for you to take advantage of a natural fallow season. But if your schedule allows, here are some strategies for replenishing the well of creativity and preparing physically and mentally for your next project.

Celebration. You’ve finished your project! That’s plenty of reason to celebrate with dinner out with a spouse, family member, or friend, or by going shopping or attending a movie, sports event, concert, or other event. Mark the completion of your goal by treating yourself to something special.

Take care of yourself. When we’re in the flood tide of a project, we tend to eat at irregular times, skip meals, and fill up on junk food. Good nutrition feeds not only your body, but also your brain. Eat fresh, wholesome foods, and if you’ve spent long periods in front of the computer, add exercise to your routine. Movement increases the blood flow to your brain and helps you to think better. But also be sure to get enough rest so your body can recharge.

Nurture your relationships. If you’ve been neglecting those close to you, take time to reconnect with them by not only engaging in activities, but also communicating on a deep, heart level. It’ll refresh you as much as it does them.

Jump-start your creativity. Ask yourself what you enjoy doing that you’ve neglected while immersed in your project. Make time for those activities, and while you’re at it, rediscover your environment. You may be surprised to discover new story ideas, characters and settings, even snippets of dialog and plot. Becoming involved in other forms of creativity will spark the creative flow in your writing too.

Get involved. Find ways to minister through your church, community organizations, and writers groups. Cheer others on in their endeavors. When you share the expertise you’ve gained and encourage others to succeed, they’ll do the same for you.

Free your mind. Engage in activities that allow you to free associate. Recently I accompanied my husband on a business trip, and ideas for scenes and dialog rushed into my mind while we were driving along in companionable silence. Much of this article wrote itself while I was driving to the post office. Seek out such opportunities and take advantage of them.

Prepare mentally. Read excellent literature and books about the craft of writing. Dive into research for your next project.

Promote yourself. Take advantage of online promotional opportunities via the social media, a new or redesigned website and blog, and by connecting with other writers through online loops and writers organizations.
Maximize your fallow season and watch your creativity explode when you’re ready to write that next project!
An award-winning author and editor, J. M. Hochstetler is the daughter of Mennonite farmers, a graduate of Indiana University, a professional editor, and a lifelong student of history. She is the author of Daughter of Liberty, Native Son, Wind of the Spirit, and Crucible of War, books 1 through 4 of the American Patriot Series, the only comprehensive historical fiction series on the American Revolution. Books 5 through 7 are forthcoming. Her contemporary novel One Holy Night was the Christian Small Publishers 2009 Book of the Year and finalist for the American Christian Fiction Writers 2009 Carol Award.

April 11, 2013

Being the Best

By Doyne Phillips, Managing Editor of Southern Writers Magazine

In 1976 Jimmy Carter was running for President of the United State and had written a book in which he told of his graduation as a naval officer and a subsequent interview with the famous Admiral Rickover. Rickover asked, “Where did you come in your class in the Naval Academy?” With pride Carter said: “Sir, I came 59th in a class of 840!”

Carter sat with expectations of praise but was surprised by Rickover with the question, “Did you do your best?” Carter thought then answered, “No, Sir, I didn’t always do my best.” With that Rickover ask, “Why not?!” The impact of that question was far reaching. Carter titled his book, Why Not the Best? It was also used as the theme of his Presidential Campaign.

I remember reading Carter’s book and asking myself, “Why not indeed?” Why not the best? David Cottrell in his book TheMagic Question reminds us what being the best means when he stated, ““The rewards for being the best as opposed to being average are heavily skewed. People want to work for the best, buy from the best, and deal with the best in almost every situation in our society. The best-selling books sell millions more copies than the average books. The best movies generate millions more dollars than 50 average movies. Likewise the rewards for being the best within your industry are enormous. Customers flock to winners. When you create an atmosphere where needs are being met, people will choose to go above and beyond to make a connection with the best.”

What must we do to become the best?  We must first decide we want to do our best and become the best. We must then determine we are willing to pay the price to be the best. NFL legend Jerry Rice said "Today I will do what others won't, so tomorrow I can accomplish what others can't." Those that are the best start earlier, work longer, learn more, communicate well and push themselves to places they may feel uncomfortable. The best are willing to pay the price because they know “the rewards for the best are heavily skewed.”

“Why not the best?” is something each of us must ask ourselves. We must search our souls and weigh the rewards against the commitment it takes to be the best. Once we have done that we may then ask ourselves, “Why not indeed?”  

April 10, 2013

Writing With Purpose

By Lenore Skomal

I write to be heard. Growing up in a large family, wedged in between four brothers and two sisters, two sets of grandparents and my own parents, it was a struggle at best to be listened to. Especially as a middle child.

I suspect this is where my manic need to write down my thoughts stemmed from, initially. And when I won my first essay competition in grade school, well, that just iced the cake for me.

Over the years, I’ve found that while expression is the primary reason for my writing, it’s also become a very practical way for me to sort out life. This started at a very basic emotive level. Emotions were often complicated in the world of my youth, which was layered with dysfunction and blame. Working through to discover what I was really, truly feeling happened almost mystically through my writing.

As I have grown up and older, the craft has become an expert way to pick apart the ups and downs of a lifetime, not just for me, but for my fellow human beings. Observing others and myself, I have quickly discovered that we as humans respond to situations, disappointments, joys and sorrows pretty much the same way. And in that, lies the commonality of our human experience.

Much of my writing is insightful and that is purposefully so. I want to touch other people because once we all reach a place of resonance with each other, the next step is understanding, and with that, all barriers between us can be dissolved. Or at the very least, recognized.

I write from my human experience and my heart. Everything I put on paper comes from deep within me. It is authentic. It’s the most potent aspect of my writing. The readers are never far from my heart and I think they can feel that. I also never talk down to my readers, by neglecting my art as a skilled wordsmith.

The best compliment I can receive is when someone says, “I feel like you’re writing what I’m feeling.” And make no mistake about that—it isn’t always pleasant or, conversely, heart wrenching. It can be disturbing, downright immoral and very ugly. Which is why I tend toward themes that are often those we as a society are prone to avoid—death, long-term illness, rape, infidelity, addiction, mental illness, you name it.

My belief is that while we eschew those topics, trying to distance ourselves from them for comfort’s sake, if you scratch the surface, we are all somewhat drawn to them, even if it is only for macabre reasons.

This is not to say that my writing is depressing or dark. In life, I prefer happy endings, am a sucker for nostalgia and pageantry, revel in fairy tales, and believe in the goodness of humanity. I’m an optimist but also a pragmatist. For without acknowledging how base we can be as species, we can never truly find redemption, understand, and implement how truly powerful and ecclesiastic we are.
Lenore Skomal wants you to eat her books, especially her new novel, BLUFF. Winner of multiple awards for blogging, literature, biography and humor, her catalogue spans many genres. With 30 years of writing experience, over 17 books published, a daily blog and weekly column, the consistent themes in her work are the big issues of the human experience and adding depth and voice to the intricacies involved in living a multi-dimensional existence. She has won many Society of Professional Journalist awards, the Whidbey Island Writer's Conference honorable mention for best fiction, Writer's Digest 73rd Annual Fiction Contest, New York Public Library's Best Books for Teens 2003, and most recently, the 2012 Next Generation Indie Book Award for humor for “Burnt Toast.,” her first anthology of her award winning humor columns. From journalism, to literary fiction, to humor and biography, her writing is consistent, if not in genre, then in message.  As a member of the world community, she is excited by the opportunities presented in today's publishing climate having started her own publishing imprint in 2011 in order to release her anthologies and her upcoming debut novel, “BLUFF.” Check out her website at