August 29, 2014

Writers Caption This

By Annette Cole Mastron, Communications Director for Southern Writers Magazine

This weekend we celebrate in the United States, Labor Day. Labor Day is a celebration of well...workers. As writers we are all hard workers. It is more commonly known as the end of summer but don't tell that to my lab.

As long as there is a pool, he thinks it's perpetually summer.

In honor of the last summer holiday, "Lab"or Day, please use your writing skills and caption this picture.  

August 28, 2014

Creating a Written Legend

By Doyne Phillips, Managing Editor for Southern Writers Magazine

The Hollywood Café in Tunica Mississippi has been a mainstay on the Mississippi Delta for decades. Known to many in the area it was visited and enjoyed by generations. Their claim to fame is being the Birthplace of the Deep Fried Pickle. Since the 70’s the deep fried pickle battered in beer batter and served with ranch dressing has brought the customers back again and again. It was always popular but not legendary until two writers brought it to the world’s attention.

John Grisham lived in the area and was a frequent customer. Grisham felt the need to use The Hollywood Café in A Time to Kill. When you enter the front door of the café on your left is a case displaying memorabilia. There are many pictures of the Blues Singers that have played there over the years and among the items is a copy of A Time to Kill opened to the page where the café is mentioned. A proud moment for the owner and the locals was their favorite spot mentioned in a bestseller. Familiarity of a location written about is a big seller in itself but this was an over the top event for many in the area.

In 1990 another writer brought The Hollywood to light. Marc Cohn penned the song Walking in Memphis which became a worldwide hit by the end of 1991. His song spoke of the culture of misic in the Memphis are which included  the musical heritage of The Hollywood. Cohn sang of his meeting with Muriel Wilkins. Cohn said Muriel was his inspiration for the song. He had met the piano player at The Hollywood, talked with her and then was invited to sing. In his song are the lines:
“Now, Muriel plays piano
Every Friday at the Hollywood
And they brought me down to see her
And they asked me if I would
Do a little number
And I sang with all my might
She said, "Tell me are you a Christian, child?"
And I said, "Ma'am, I am tonight!"

When you walk into The Hollywood today you can tickle the ivories of that piano and I suggest you do. Cohn’s song and Grisham’s story have moved that great local café into legendary status worldwide. As a writer we sometimes fail to realize the effect we can have on people, places and events. The greatness of The Hollywood was recognized by two writers and shared with us all. 

We too can do that when we write. Pick up your pen and make a legend.



August 27, 2014

The Inner and the Outer of Writing

By Shelly Frome

Not long ago I received two reviews simultaneously. One was from an e-publisher who was disappointed in my crime-and-blues odyssey because it didn’t follow the standard formula of a mystery. The second was from a noted Hollywood novelist and screenwriter who was disappointed because he didn’t want the story to end. He wanted it to go on and on.

Recently, after polishing a new manuscript, I attended a Mystery Writers of America conference in Orlando to try and come to terms with my way of working. Did it jibe with what was currently going on in the field?  

A chat with keynote speaker Laura Lippman before and after she signed a copy of her new crime novel for me plus another chat with her and a few others around the pool gave me an inkling of her method. It entailed numerous flashbacks and back-stories of family life as well as following a retired detective on the trail of a cold case. In this instance, the flashback chapters take you to family dynamics 50, 40 and 26 years ago and deal with the social, individual and economic effect of a missing man’s ploys on his wife and three daughters. The cold case centers on the death of the man’s mistress and possible foul play.

At the same time, I had a few meetings with a senior editor who insisted I follow her three-part submission format to the letter. Moreover, every page, paragraph and sentence of my tale had to move the story forward in order to comply with strict mystery rules and expectations.

Moving on to a panel featuring “new departures,” I discovered what these women writers thought was unique was pretending they were the heroines of a pursuit using their own interests in flying small planes, backpacking and trekking and what-have-you. In other words, their readers want to imagine they too were off on these ventures, encountering provocative men, etc. with no real worries about dire consequences.

Which left me where? My way of working is organic and character/driven. I find myself involved with flawed characters unwittingly caught up in some kind of conundrum—a pursuit that eventually puts them on a collision course.

And so, how do you reconcile your integrity with all the externals, including small presses that may or not be legitimate, about to fold their tents or are no longer accepting submissions? Or up against the effort and expertise it would take to successfully self-publish? Or should you return once again to your old publisher who doesn’t quite know how to categorize your fiction?  

I was once at a small gathering where a prize-winning writer revealed he was a marginal artist. He wrote for the few people who could relate to whatever happened to be haunting him at the time. Well there then now. Maybe that could lead to an answer.

Shelly Frome is a member of Mystery Writers of America, a professor of dramatic arts emeritus at the University  of Connecticut, a former professional actor, a writer of mysteries, books on theater and film, and articles on the performing arts appearing in a number of periodicals in the U.S. and the U.K.. His fiction includes Tinseltown Riff, Lilac Moon, Sun Dance for Andy Horn and the trans-Atlantic cozy The Twinning Murders. Among his works of non-fiction are the acclaimed TheActors Studio and texts on the art and craft of screenwriting and writing for the stage. His latest novel is Twilight of the Drifter. He lives in Black Mountain, North Carolina. His works can be found on Amazon, through his publishers or via independent bookstores. He can be found at and has a profile on Facebook where he can be reached or on twitter @shellyFrome.

August 26, 2014

Thanks a Million

by Gary Fearon, Creative Director, Southern Writers Magazine

It seems like just yesterday when Annette Cole Mastron, our Communications Director, notified us that Suite T was getting more than a thousand visitors a day.  Only a couple of months later, we got excited when that number doubled to over two thousand each day.  Having just checked the stats, I'm proud to report that your Southern Writers blog is now attracting between five and seven thousand views daily, a number that continues to grow weekly.

And here's the coolest part: This week you gave us our ONE MILLIONTH HIT on Suite T!

Besides reaching the marvelous milestone itself, this tells us a couple of things:

1) Social media works.
2) There are a ton of online users interested in the writing craft.
Sure, there are blogs with even more impressive numbers, but for a magazine that's only been in publication for three years, and one that relies largely on word-of-mouth and social media to generate buzz, we're mighty happy—and grateful to you—for those numbers.

So grateful are we, in fact, that we want to give you a free gift.  In honor of our millionth blog hit, we're giving you the complete set of all three anniversary issues of Southern Writers Magazine!
 Visit to get your free online editions of our July 2012, July 2013, and July 2014 anniversary issues featuring interviews with best-selling authors Tamera Alexander, Karen White, DiAnn Mills, and many others. If you're a follower of the blog but have yet to see the magazine that spawned it, here's your chance to experience all of the interviews, insights and special features we pack into each issue for you.

Over a million pageviews represents a lot of writers coming to see what other writers have to say about their craft, but it includes a great many non-writing readers as well.  If you're an author, consider guest blogging on Suite T and connecting with thousands of fellow authors and potential new readers (submission info is found here under Guest Posting).

In my next post on Tuesday September 9th, I'll share some of the interesting observations we've made during these three years of blogging, along with which posts have gotten the most attention, and why.  Meanwhile, be sure to check out your three free issues of Southern Writers (for a limited time) at this link:

All of us at Southern Writers want to thank you for following Suite T and helping us reach this milestone.  We think you're one in a million!

August 25, 2014

Write Unbound

By Kimberly A. Bettes

If we’ve learned anything from life, it’s that what works for one, doesn’t work for all. A great example of this is skinny jeans. They are not for everyone. We are each individual, with different likes and dislikes, experiences and viewpoints. Give ten people a task, and they’ll do it ten different ways.

Some authors strive to write 1,000 words a day. They push themselves and struggle to achieve that goal, but most often don’t make it. Meanwhile, I turn out thousands of words at a time effortlessly. It’s quite common for me to have a 6,000 – 10,000 word day. And that’s without even really trying.

What do I do that those other authors don’t?

When I begin a story, it’s vague. I know how it’ll start, and sometimes how it’ll end, but what happens between the first page and the last is usually unknown to me. I learn it as I go. I put my fingers to the keys and let the story flow, with no plotting beforehand or outlining of any kind. I’m just as surprised by the story’s twists and turns as the reader will be.

Maybe that’s the secret. Maybe all that plotting and planning puts too much stress and strain on a writer. Maybe it stifles the creative process. If you’ve mapped out every detail of your story, you spend your writing time worrying about how you’re going to get there. If you’re like me and just let the story tell itself, cutting its own path across the page like a river over land, then you have the freedom to go whichever way the story takes you. You’re not bound by your pre-conceived ideas and goals.

I’ve tried plotting a story. It doesn’t work for me. Just like skinny jeans don’t work for me. If you’re one of the writers who fight to get a few hundred words a day onto the page, maybe you should try it my way. Just sit down at your computer, put your fingertips to the keys, and see what you have to say.

The thing is finding what works for you. Whatever it takes to get those words out of you and onto the page. Experiment. Practice. Find a way to open that can of ideas and get to work.
Kimberly A. Bettes lives with her husband and son in the beautiful Ozark Mountains of southeast Missouri where she terrorizes the residents of a small town with her twisted tales. It’s there she likes to study serial killers and knit. Serial killers who knit are her favorites. Her books include Annie’s RevengeThe Good NeighborRageHeldBefore the HarvestTwistedShiners,PushedThe Day Bob Greeley Died, and The Cabin on Calhoun Ridge.You can find Kimberly online at any of these places: Blog:

August 22, 2014

Author Book Signing Southern Style

By Claire Fullerton

Being raised in Memphis and instilled with Southern manners as if from a rulebook, when it came to my author book signing at my local bookstore, I did what any Southerner would do: I conducted the affair as if it were a party. None of this sending out a general circular e-mail-- oh no, I went through my contact list and e-mailed each person individually saying how thrilled I’d be to see them at the event.

I had glossy 5x7” postcards made with my book cover on front and a blub on the back with the time, date, and place of my event.  For three weeks prior, I carried the cards with me wherever I went.  Now then, there’s a fine line between being enthusiastic and being pushy, and since I’m the chatty sort who talks to both acquaintances and strangers easily, I wanted to be ready but not obnoxious. The thing about being Southern is we just assume the world is a friendly place, and it’s miraculous what transpires because of this attitude: the world tends to step up. Be it in the grocery store, the post office, or in line at the bank, I had a surprising number of opportunities to reach into my purse and produce my post card as if it were a gift.

Timing is everything in life, so when I heard my town’s local newspaper was under new ownership, I wrote the new editor saying I’m a local author who’d love to meet her in person. The result was a full-page interview the week of my book signing.

What I learned growing up in the South is no gathering is complete without sugar, so it is my good fortune to have a friend that loves to bake. When she asked if there was anything she could do to help for my book signing, rather than humbly demurring, I said “Yes!”  An assortment of cookies was set out buffet style, and I brought one of each for the bookstore employees, who would still be standing there long after the event.

On the day of the event, a full-sized poster of my book cover was placed in the window, and forty chairs were arranged before the desk I sat behind, along with a friend I’d commissioned to compile a list of attendees for my next book signing. I’d been asked to read from a chapter of my book, yet I’d written a suspenseful page-turner whose chapters fit together like pieces of a puzzle and I didn’t want to give any part of it away. Being Southern, I felt the inherent need to give the attendees a large dose of gratitude, and decided to do so by telling the peculiar story behind my book’s inspiration, which made the atmosphere feel like a fireside chat.  

All of this led to a sold-out event that exceeded my expectation, and because of the success, my local bookstore continues to keep my book on its shelf.
Claire Fullerton is the author of A Portal in Time (Vinspire Publishing.)  Her second novel, "Dancing to an Irish Reel" will be published in early 2015. She is a three-time, award winning essayist, a contributor to numerous magazines, and a multiple contributor to the "Chicken Soup for the Soul" book series. She had her own weekly column in the ”Malibu Surfside News," and is currently writing a Southern family saga based on her award winning narrative in the San Francisco Writers Conferences' 2013 contest.

August 21, 2014

Books About Town, London Writing Benches

By Annette Cole Mastron, Communications Director for Southern Writers Magazine

If you live in London or are traveling there this summer, you are probably aware of the BookBenches around various London neighborhoods. Summer 2014 from July 2 - September 15 the Books about Town project,sponsored by The National Literacy Trust, is a treat for every reader and writer. "Established in 1993, the National Literacy Trust is an independent charity that gives people the skills they need to succeed. Our Patron is Her Royal Highness the Duchess of Cornwall."

The bench information can be found online with an interactive map of each bench location. There are 50 different benches to see. The link to the maps in four different parts of the city; Greenwich Trail, Bloomsbury Trail, City Trail and Riverside Trail.

The trails are grouped to highlight the charm and settings in the various neighborhoods of London. All benches are shaped as open books and decorated to represent a specific book by various authors, both contemporary and classic. "Visit a UNESCO World Heritage Site when you complete the Books about Town Greenwich Trail. The BookBenches are located in the majestic surroundings of the Royal borough, with stunning views across the capital and surrounded by some of the finest architecture in London." 

"The area of Bloomsbury has many well-known literary links, making it an ideal area to host a BookBench Trail. Follow in the footsteps of many famous authors and explore the wonderful green spaces as you discover the BookBenches." 

"Enjoy some of London's most iconic sites by following the Books about Town, City Trail. The buzzing centre of business and finance also offers glimpses of the original Roman settlement of Londinium. Discover hidden parks and historic buildings at the same time as searching for the BookBenches." Notice the brilliant placement of the Shakespeare bench in front of "The Globe Theatre." 

"From the curves of City Hall and the sharpness of The Shard, to the standing circles of the Globe, the Books about Town, Riverside Trail provides the ideal activity this summer. Discover the range of iconic books depicted on the Riverside BookBench Trail."

Another terrific feature is a "Summer Reading Pack full of activities you can download for free and do with your children to encourage them to love reading.

Included in the pack are activities for each of the four trails, quizzes to complete and you can even design and colour your own BookBench! Our list of books featured on the benches is divided by age category, so it is even easier to find the perfect book for you child. Download the Summer Reading Pack for free and get started today!"

You can also follow the book benches on Instagram, Twitter @booksabouttown, and on Facebook for all the latest news and updates on Books about Town.

If you find yourself across the pond, find a BookBench that calls your muse and write a new story. This inspirational setting may give you the next classic. My pick would be Sherlock Holmes bench. What do you have to lose and which bench would you choose? 

Okay, so you can't make it to London. I'm with you, but you can download a picture of your favorite BookBench and get inspired. You can also design your own BookBench based on your books. Use that imagination and design your own BookBench, hang it in your office, and visualize your BookBench in your town. 

August 20, 2014

Authors: Find Inspiration for Writing

By James D. Bell

American novelist, John Gardner, once wrote in his On Becoming a Novelist"Theoretically there's no reason one should get writer's block, if one understands that writing, after all, is only writing, neither something one ought to feel deeply guilty about nor something one ought to be inordinately proud of.” Gardner wrote that your emotions can alter your ability to write, and write well. Negative emotions, like lack of confidence, fear and doubt can create writer’s block.  Gardner also said that using our emotions coupled with a hypersensitivity to our surroundings and a curiosity about people can make us good writers. How, then, can we use our emotions to keep the good writing flowing?

To keep my writing fresh and compelling when I was writing Vampire Defense, I needed inspiration. You can find inspiration for writing and blast writer's block at the same time, too. When inspiration wanes and writer's block creeps into the picture, inspire yourself and regain your footing by trying these strategies:

Take a walk - Change your surroundings. Don't sit and stare at a blank computer screen or a pristine page of paper. It could make the writer's-block agony worse. Slip on some comfortable shoes and head outside. Examine the beauty of what you're seeing. A little exercise and nature can spark creativity in more ways than you can imagine.  A hike down a nature trail and an evening by a campfire inspired several of my best chapters.

Experience Art - Unique and complex art can be great inspiration. Seeing local art in person is encouraged; if that’s not possible, flip through art books or even browse online.

Write in a journal - This is recommended for any author. It doesn’t have to be fancy, or something you write in every day. A plain notebook will do, although a nice journal can be motivating. Write down thoughts you have, plot and new character ideas, quotes you find, and pieces of dialog you hear. Go back to this journal when you need inspiration.  I carry a Mole Skin journal in my pocket and jot down ideas whenever they strike me.

Listen to Music - It can be inspiring to download and play great music, from Mozart to Beethoven to the Beatles to Radiohead. Play it in the background as you write, and allow it to lift you up and move you.

Instead of letting negative emotions like lack of confidence, fear or doubt, hinder your writing, you can actually transfer those emotions to a character and use them to help you write your next bestseller. Try these tips and see if they help you discover what inspires you and kick-start your creative juices again. Inspiration to conquer writer's block is all around you--you simply need to take note, then... get back to writing.
James D. Bell is an award-winning author. James D. Bell is a retired County, Circuit and Chancery Judge who practices law in Mississippi. He was the youngest trial judge in state history and received the highest bar association approval ratings ever given to a Mississippi Circuit or County Judge. He is listed in Preeminent Lawyers, Outstanding Lawyers of America, and other lists of leading lawyers. Judge Bell authored the Circuit Judges Bench Book, published by the Mississippi Judicial College, a book that is used by all Circuit Judges in Mississippi, a Law Journal article on Habeas Corpus, published by the University of Mississippi School of Law, as well as a number of guest editorials in the Clarion Ledger, the Jackson newspaper. He also helped write rules of procedure and evidence used in the courts of Mississippi.Judge Bell is a speaker at legal seminars on evidence and trial tactics and at various churches and civic groups on the evidence that Jesus Christ is the Messiah. Judge Bell has been involved in some of the most significant cases in Mississippi, and drew on actual experiences when he wrote the Vampire Defense. He is the son of an American Indian mother and a prominent local businessman. He is devoted to his wife, Joanne. They live in Ridgeland, Mississippi and have four children. His book is Vampire Defense. Connect with him via his social media links:Website:

August 19, 2014

Five Steps for Authors to Sell More Books

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

1. Take the first chapter and put on your website for people to read free.
       2.  Take your first novel you wrote and put in an eBook and give away free.
       3.  Take the first few pages of a new novel and ask for reader participation. Let them help with naming characters, flaws, locations, etc.
       4.  Take the first few pages and ask for reader feedback.
       5.  Newsletters are great to garner participation…asking them to join your team

Okay, let’s face it, in today’s writing arena there are a lot of people writing books and publishing. Some of these books are good…but not all of them. So what are we as writers to do to get our books read in this sea of competition?

I know no one likes to give away his or her work free. However, stop and think a minute. You know that Bakery Shop that just opened around the corner? Do you notice the owner is outside his shop holding a tray with fresh baked cookies offering to every passerby––a free cookie? Why? To let them taste what he is selling. And why? So they will come into his shop and buy a dozen cookies.
There you have it. There are many places we can buy cookies…so the bakery owner is offering a taste of his free so we will become buyers of cookies in his shop. “Smart Cookie!”

This is what an author can do with his fiction. So let’s take these five and dissect them into bite size instructions.

1.      Take the first chapter-put on your website. Make sure you have edited properly. Ask people to read it. (This is your cookie you are introducing the person to-if they like your first chapter they are going to want to buy your book.) The people on your street–Social Medias and everyone on your email list. Offer them this free chapter to read. Be brave ask for feedback.

2.      You know that first novel you wrote?  Get it, put it in eBook form and give it away free.

3.      Take the first few pages of your new novel and ask for reader participation. Ask them to help with naming the characters, naming their flaws, locations, etc.

4.      Take first few pages and ask for reader feedback. Ask them what they liked, what they didn’t, what would make it more exciting? You get the idea.

5.      Send out a newsletter, asking volunteers to join your reader team. The pay is a free book.

All of these will help bring attention to your writing-your books. If someone reads what you have written and likes it, they will become buyers of your books.

If they participate in helping you with names or feedback, they have become fans of yours and are going to buy your books.

These are just five ways to bring readers to your books and sell them. Can you think of other ways? Let us know.

August 18, 2014

How to Debut Your Blog

By Holly Parker

Words are everywhere. Our generation spreads news through social media outlets like Facebook, Twitter and personal blogs. The allure of seeing your thoughts in print shimmers with possibilities, but many questions still remain in the minds of true writers; those who want to add to the depth of society by sharing their hearts and talents with the world. They simply ask how to write something that stands out and how to get it out there for the world to see?

One extremely popular form of writing is to have a blog. Almost everyone has stumbled across a blog at some point, but the concept is still widely vague. I recently started a blog of my own and have adventured down the road of trial and error. For me, writing is something I have to do, and for anyone else looking for a way to test their material out, I would recommend trying this method. It is simple, relatively easy and you can control what you write, when you post and how the blog appears. I have provided several steps and tips below that have helped me discover blog success along the way. Good luck and happy blogging!

One: My blog started with preparation. For me, that meant praying over it, selecting a start date, brainstorming ideas, and launching a letter to friends and family about my decision. No matter your personal steps, preparation is essential before you become a blogger.

Two: I chose the site I wanted to use my blog through. There are many choices out there. Some are free and some you pay for. Research the difference between the two options and find out what is best for you. If you like other blogs, you can check what site they are using.

Three: I watched a tutorial about how to set up my blog and then chose the themes and appearances. This is where you can get creative and choose colors, backgrounds, fonts, etc. I also created the pages I wanted and what features I would include. This means things like subscriptions, comments, archives and so on.

Four: After setting my blog up, I wrote my first post. Often this is your introduction post telling about yourself and your blog. You pretty much control what happens at this point. You write and then you post! It's as simple as that!

And remember you can edit your blog on most sites whenever you like. I have changed and added to my blog, even after launching it and I am still learning! It is helpful to reply to comments people post so they feel like they are being heard. And lastly, spread the word. People won't likely stumble upon your blog. You've got to tell them about it!

As with anything, having a blog is all about trying new things and sharing yourself with others. Don't hesitate or be nervous...go for it! As character Cory Brand says in the movie, Home Run, "Nothing great happens when you hold back."
Holly Parker is a southern writer from Birmingham, Alabama. She has invested in a number of different children at childcare programs and is currently employed by the library. She has an English degree from the University of Montevallo with a minor in Writing and graduated Summa Cum Laude with a 4.0. Holly is also very involved with her church and helping out with young people in her community. She loves to travel, read, watch Alabama football, take pictures and of course write! She enjoys writing all kinds of genres, but has a passion for blogging and writing Christian fiction. You can follow her blog at Holly can be found on her blog: and on facebook:

August 15, 2014

The Hardest Writing Advice I Ever Received

By John W. Otte

The hardest writing advice I ever received can be summed up in one word: “Stop.”

Way back in 1999, I came up with a phenomenal idea: an epic science fiction tale. I worked on it, off and on, for six or seven years. Eventually I joined American Christian Fiction Writers and attended my first conference. I was confident that someone would recognize the genius of my story and snatch it up immediately.

That didn’t happen. Instead, I was told repeatedly by industry professionals that my story was flawed and didn’t work. I was crushed. I might have given up completely if it wasn’t for Deb Raney and Colleen Coble. They had read my first few chapters and really liked it. They were so encouraging that, when I went home, I was determined to roll up my sleeves and fix the story.

I spent another two years working on it. When the ACFW Conference came to my hometown of Minneapolis, I was sure that I was going to succeed. Since the conference was in my backyard, I volunteered to drive people from the airport to the hotel, and one of my passengers was going to be Colleen Coble! I was so excited to see her again, especially so I could thank her.

She was very gracious when I gushed about how much I appreciated her encouragement. She asked me what I was going to pitch this time around. My excitement practically boiled over as I said, “The same story I pitched two years ago!”

That’s when she said it: Maybe it was time for me to stop. Put the story up on the shelf and start something new. She pointed out that if I kept focusing on this one story, my writing could stagnate. I would learn so much by starting fresh with a new story and my craft would improve.

How could I do that? This was the story of my heart, the one that I had lived with for so long! I couldn’t possibly stop working on it!

That conference didn’t go so well either. The story was still flawed in spite of my attempted repairs. In the aftermath, I reluctantly decided to set the “story of my heart” aside and start a new one.

That story would eventually be called “Numb” and it was recently announced as a finalist for the 2014 Christy Awards.

As much as it pained me, Colleen’s advice was spot-on accurate. I could have kept obsessing over that broken story so much that I’d never have been published. But because I was willing to shelve it, I was able to grow as a writer. I might work on that story again someday, but for now, it’ll stay on the shelf.

It’s not easy to stop, but sometimes, that’s the best thing we can do. We stop obsessing over a story that’s consumed too much of our time and attention so we can move on to something better.
John W. Otte leads a double life. By day, he’s a Lutheran minister, husband, and father of two. He graduated from Concordia University in St. Paul, Minnesota, with a theatre major, and then from Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, Missouri. By night, he writes unusual stories of geeky grace. His books include; Numb, Kynetic: On Target, Gauntlet Goes to Prom, Failstate, and Failstate: Legends. He lives in South St. Paul, Minnesota, with his wife and two boys. Social Media Links: Website: Twitter: @JohnWOtte Facebook:

August 14, 2014

Write the Vision

By Doyne Phillips, Managing Editor for Southern Writers Magazine

“Write the vision and make it plain upon tables…” Habakkuk 2:2. This is a verse from the Old Testament I often think about. The prophet Habakkuk was given a vision from God and was told to write it down. “Write it down that he may run that readeth it.” How specific, how clear are the instructions. How fortunate for a writer to be given such a vision and told what to do with it. Fortunate indeed but many times that is how things come to writers.

Unlike Habakkuk our vision may not be of a prophetic nature but it can be a vision just the same. Our vision may be a story that comes to us imagined or not. It could have been an actual occurrence that we have yet to recognize as a worthy story to write. It is times like this we may need the command similar to Habakkuk’s, “write the vision”.

One way to determine if the vision is one worthy of writing down is to write them all down. If not as a complete work, write it down as a thought, a paragraph or a short story. That way the clarity of the moment is saved and can be revisited or shared. Shared with someone you can trust to give you an honest evaluation and question your direction and purpose. What you are looking for is the command to “write it down”.

We may not be a Habakkuk but I believe our talents are God given. Whether or not our visions are I can’t always say. I do know that once the vision comes, action must be taken. Don’t hesitate. Write it down. Our creativity will not be available unless we obey the command. Creativity will be determined by taking action, obeying the command and writing it down. It can be as simple as “write the vision.”       


August 13, 2014

Inspiration Happens Without Warning

By Nancy Roe

I’m a published author. I still giggle when I say it because it was a dream of mine in sixth grade. After college and working almost thirty years in the administrative field, my dream became a reality at fifty. Now, I’m currently writing my third book.

Quite often, my best ideas come when I least expect it—while I’m walking the dog, getting groceries, in the shower, or lying in bed. How many times have you thought of a brilliant idea, then told yourself you’ll write it down later? And how many times have you actually remembered the idea? I admit I don’t have the greatest memory, that’s why I write down the idea right away.

A pen and paper are two of my favorite things. On occasion, I’ll use the voice memo feature on my iPhone, but that can be distracting for others, especially if you’re at the movies. I have pen and paper in my purse, on my nightstand, and in every room of my house—even in the shower! Aqua Notes (a waterproof notepad and pencil) allows me to write down thoughts while I’m washing my hair. Now why couldn’t I have thought of that!

The other day, I spotted a man walking down the sidewalk in a suit, tie, and sneakers. Several options for a character developed. He was on his way to his first interview and didn’t own dress shoes. His car broke down and he put on his gym shoes to walk to the nearest gas station. He got blood on his dress shoes while dragging a dead body into the river, and traded shoes with a homeless person. One random glance and I had three story lines.

The next time you’re taking a coffee break, waiting in line to pick up your child from school, or picking up the dry cleaning, look at your surroundings and take notes. I keep my random observations and thoughts—character names, character traits, décor, clothing, hairstyles, speech phrases, hobbies, fears, occupations—in a pocket folder. When I start staring at blank computer screen, I’ll grab my folder and browse through the scrapes of paper.

You never know when or where inspiration will strike, so be prepared.
When Nancy Roe was twelve, she wrote an autobiography for a sixth grade English assignment. After all these years, and several moves, she still has the tattered and yellowed manuscript held together by two pieces of black yarn and three brass fasteners. In the last chapter, Nancy wrote that she wanted to be an author. Dreams do come true! Nancy published Organize The Nancy Way…the low-cost,fun, creative way to get your life in shape. Nancy published her first mystery novel, Secrets Can Be Deadly. The Nancy Way®.  Each article Nancy writes on her website is based on one of these six words: Organize. Read. Eat. Create. Laugh. Learn. You’ll find articles on organizing tips, recipes, craft ideas, computer tips, grammar tips, and unusual holidays. Even her dog, Shadow, writes an article—there has to be humor, and he’s a funny guy! Nancy is a Midwest farm girl at heart and currently lives in Tennessee with her husband and four-legged child. Follow Nancy: …Website: