September 29, 2017

Follow Through—It’s Worth the Risk

By Sally Matheny

During a conference, a literary agent asks you to submit your work. Suddenly, you’re frozen somewhere between unqualified joy and unreserved terror. Who you are as a writer dangles precariously on your response. You know you should follow through, but is it worth the risk?

The first time an agent asked for my work it was a fluke. Really. I wasn’t pitching anything that year. During lunch, she asked me what I write. Answering her, I was the most relaxed I’ve ever been with an agent because 1) she didn’t represent my genre, and 2) I wasn’t pitching. I shared my passion for sharing history with children, especially WWII.

I informed her of intriguing WWII veteran interviews and incorporating those into a class I taught to kids. I told her of museum directors expressing their need for WWII books for younger readers.
My enthusiasm bubbled over. Although she didn’t represent children’s literature, she said if I wrote something about WWII for either four-to six-year olds or for middle grade, she’d see what she could do.

Wow! Writing about WWII for younger children would prove challenging. Yet, with my experience as a kindergarten teacher and writing for children’s publications, I thought I could do it.
A great deal of research had already been done and I had recently accepted an invitation to join a critique group. Perhaps the doors to publishing my first book were swinging open.

After months of exhausting edits, thanks to my phenomenal, yet brutal, critique group, I finally sent a polished copy to the agent.

Unfortunately, she didn’t remember asking for books for younger readers. While she liked the writing, she wanted manuscripts for the middle grades. She suggested I send her something else.
Arrgh. All that work.

After polishing off a tub of Chunky Monkey ice cream, I realized my efforts weren’t wasted. Although strong, the product just wasn’t what this agent represented. I wrote her a note thanking her for her time and for lighting a fire under me to work diligently. Plus, the whole process strengthened me as a writer.

Having no experience writing MG, I didn’t send her anything else. My manuscript hid in the filing cabinet until I finally rallied courage and modified it for a slightly older audience.
Recently, at another writers’ conference, I pitched the revised project to an agent who represents children’s books. Not only did he like my manuscript, but he requested three more proposals for a series.

I wish I could say I’ve been offered a contract with the agent, or better yet, with a publisher. But I sent the requested material only a few days ago.

What if there’s another rejection?

The way I see it, agent requests went from one item to four. I gained experience writing, pitching, and my research will provide for additional writing assignments. That’s progress.
I’ll keep working and submitting because “no risk, no reward.”

How are you following through after a conference?
A freelance writer and blogger, Sally Matheny’s writing appears in numerous online and print publications including Appleseeds, Clubhouse Jr., Homeschooling Today, Practical Homeschooling, and The Old Schoolhouse. In addition to writing, she has a passion for history. She speaks about and teaches both topics at co-ops, conferences, and to the N.C. Jr. Historian club she advises through the N.C. Museum of History. After serving as a public-school teacher with a master’s degree in K-6 education, Sally began a new adventure—homeschooling. She loves the flexible schedule which allows her more time for writing children’s books. Married twenty-eight years, she and her family call the serene foothills of N.C. home.   Connect with Sally: Facebook: Sally Matheny- Encourager, Writer, Speaker Twitter: Sally_Matheny, and on Pinterest

September 28, 2017

Writing and the Jury Pool

By Annette Cole Mastron, Communications Director for Southern Writers Magazine 

As a citizen of the United States, one of the guaranteed rights under The United States Constitution is a trial by a jury of your peers. I've served as a juror on two different trials. These trials were settled before jury deliberations, and we were thanked by the judge for our service and dismissed. Both of these were criminal trials. 

Two months ago, I received another jury pool notice. Much has improved in the process, but there is always room for improvement. Thankfully, you can register and pick your week online. In my past experience, a prospective juror had to appear in person just to pick their week. 

So online, I picked the most convenient week in order to be minimally invasive to my life. Of course, I had much work that had to be pre-done in order to serve as a prospective juror. There were emails, texts, and a letter in the mail to assure I would appear for my assigned week. 

Last Monday, with about 300 other citizens, I appeared for my week of jury service. The Jury Coordinator gave instructions and called roll, yes like in elementary school. Two judges addressed us to impress on us the seriousness of being a juror. One judge walked us through some historical legal systems to determine guilt of a crime. He advised some cultures would throw a rock in a vat of boiling oil. The accused had to stick their arm in said vat and retrieve the rock. If they were scalded then they were pronounced guilty. Another example was that the accused arms and legs were tightly bound and tossed into a lake. If they drowned, they were pronounced guilty. The judges then reminded us of combative trial which has been popularized by the tv series, Game of Thrones. There were numerous reminders of the importance of the American jury pool system for our jury system to work. The judges left, and the jury coordinator left us to await orders from the various courts. 

The piped in music of the jury room was playing, "Walking in Memphis," just as the coordinator reappeared and had us file out into three different lines heading to various courtrooms. Two groups of 40 went to criminal court a block away at 201 Poplar (also the jail.)

Of course, I was in the group that trekked 2 ½ blocks to Circuit Court in 92 degree humid Memphis weather. The song "Walking in Memphis" will now always remind me of this day. I took in the elegance of the building. It occurred to me how many people have conducted serious business in this historic courthouse. Movies have also been filmed in this courthouse. Yes, I was in the courthouse seen in the John Grisham book made into a movie, The Client. The movie filmed Judge Harry Roosevelt (played by Ossie Davis) at Memphis County Courthouse at 140 Adams Avenue, where I was reporting as a juror. In the book and movie, no one went through security screenings. After being screened we perspective jurors climbed the worn rounded marble stairs directed by a sheriff's deputy to line up outside the courtroom. We were placed in line by a computer generated numbering system and then ushered into the courtroom. 

I was seated as the 12th person in the jury box. Lucky me? The judge swore us in and briefly explained the case. The plaintiff attorney was supposed to ask us questions to exclude us as jurors. Instead, he actually began giving his opening statement. The judge admonished the attorney limiting him to only asking questions. The Defendant’s attorney began his questioning,. stressing the TN law. 

This legal process is voir dire. The purpose allows the attorneys to question prospective jurors about their backgrounds, affiliations, and attorney-perceived potential biases before being chosen as a jury member. After this process is completed, each attorney has three jurors they can choose to strike. I was the first name called and was directed to exit the courtroom and report back to the jury room. That was Monday. 

After reading many books with courtroom scenes, very few gave realistic views from a jurors view of what happens just to get seated in a jury. Authors who write books with courtroom scenes should serve as jurors or at least go through the process when called to serve for the real life experience. It will help you be able to write a more believable courtroom scene that is authentic. Readers will notice. 

Tuesday morning finds me once again in the jury room at 10:30 because they only had one case left for the week that needed jurors. At this point their were about 65 of us left. We were called to Criminal Court. We were waiting outside the courthouse while the Judge cleared his daily docket. We were escorted into the courtroom. After six hours of various legal procedures all I have to say is...Sequestered.

Have you served on a sequestered jury? Did you write about your experience?

September 27, 2017

Do We Need––Vulgarity, Sex and Violence

By T. M. Brown

According to recent statistics, novels replete with explicit sex, violence, and vulgarity continue to thrive as the flavor of the month in book sales. However, should authors kowtow to earthy content to increase book numbers?

Good writers engage their audience by communicating through the actions and attitudes of the characters without using sex, violence, or vulgarity. Thus, allowing the story to unfold without explicitly necessitating every sordid detail.

I believe an author’s responsibility is not only to entertain but also engage readers, so they sense they are witnessing the story as it unfolds.

What images race through your mind that depicts anger and rage? Do you picture contorted faces and threatening gestures, or do you need to be explicitly told? Consider this scene from my book Sanctuary: 

Hank gritted his teeth as the veins on his neck swelled, and his eyes glared through me. “Well, I think you’re putting your nose into places you’ve no business being.” He uncrossed his arms and pointed at my chest. “I’m warning you. Stay away from me and my wife!”You feel and sense his anger and his rage.

“Hank, I’m sorry if I’ve said or done anything to upset you. Have you spoken to your father?”

“This is between you and me. Stay out of our lives.” Hank’s effort to be more composed fell apart.

… Hank pressed his finger into my sternum. “This is all I’m going to say to you about Jessie or John...” He thumped his finger against my chest adding emphasis to each word. “I’m truly sorry about what happened to Jessie, but John got what he deserved. And you can quote me on that. Now back off! I’m warning you.”

Pete stepped out from the shadows, unceremoniously interrupting Hank’s exchange with me.

“Mister P, is everything okay?” Pete asked as he glared at Hank. “Hank, who’re you warning about what?”

Hank surveyed Pete and the four remaining shadows just out of the light. His finger fell to his side, but his distended veins on his neck swelled even more. “Pete, this has nothing to do with you or any of you guys!”

…Pete extended his finger just shy of Hank’s chest. “How in the blue blazes do you know it don't involve us? If you think you can flex your muscles and intimidate one of my friends, you just made it my business.” His stern warning and unflinching stare froze Hank.

Granted a few expletives could’ve been heard, but did the scene work anyway?

John Grisham achieved his decades-long success capitalizing on his uncanny knack of drawing his audience’s attention upon his colorful characters and settings. Doing so, he exited scenes involving sex, violence or vulgarity using innuendo. In fact, Grisham’s Theodore Boone YA mysteries found a broad new audience without much of an adjustment in his storytelling to do so. Neither should we to reach a wider audience to sell more books.
T. M. Brown is a Southern boy at heart, although he’s lived and traveled in many states far removed from his beloved boyhood roots in Georgia and Florida. He returned to his Southern roots several years ago while his two sons were still in school and regularly traveled throughout the South before returning to college shortly after his youngest son graduated. In the last fifteen years he has preached, taught and coached in Alabama, Georgia and Florida until his wife and he moved outside of Atlanta and retired to write, travel, and spoil grandchildren. His first book is Sanctuary. His social media links include: Website and Facebook

September 26, 2017

The Great Manuscripts On A Typewriter!

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

If you write your stories using your computer then you will appreciate not having to use a typewriter. As a young girl, my grandfather had a manual typewriter in his office and I can remember him putting the paper in, turning a knob until the edge of the paper would show just enough that a bar would come over the paper and hold it down. Then he would hit each key to make words. When he let me, I would try to hit the keys but being a little girl, it took a lot of effort to hit the key hard enough to make a letter.

Though through the years the manual typewriter gave way to the invention of a motorized typewriter, and it became easier to hit the keys. I for one am glad they finally invented the computer key board we use for our writing today.

Did you know one of the early users of the typewriter was Mark Twain? I believe it said he started writing on a machine in 1876. I can’t imagine what that must have been like when comparing it to the manual my grandfather had in the late 40’s. You can go to and read the letter he wrote to his publisher. He claimed he wrote his manuscript for Tom Sawyer on a typewriter.

Some historians think that his book Life on the Mississippi, published in 1882, was the first manuscript submitted to a publisher in typed form. Let’s face it, he is the only one who really knows.

There were other writers who came along who wrote their stories on a typewriter such as: L. Frank Baum,  author of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz; Ernest Hemingway, author of A Farewell To Arms; Orson Wellesauthor of Citizen Kane to name a few. If you recall, these books contain many pages–can you imagine the length of the manuscripts?

For writers today, we have our computers to use. These keys are so much smoother and easier than the old typewriters these authors used. I thought it only fitting to bring this up to remind us all that we are very fortunate in having an apparatus to use for our writing that is so easy compared to the machines these authors had to use. Can you imagine the manuscripts they might have written if they had had the computer plus google?

I think sometimes we forget how good we have it. So, the next time you sit down at your computer to write, give it a little pat, say a thank goodness, and begin your manuscript.

September 25, 2017

Maximizing Use of Beats in Dialogue

By Julie Lessman

Action speaks louder than words. Do you believe it? Well, if you’re an author, you better, because we must use words to convey “action” in a reader’s mind or “movie mind” as I describe in my Seekerville blog, Keeping it “Reel” … or a “Novel” Approach to Putting a Movie in Your Reader’s Mind.

Maximizing use of “beats” (or action) in dialogue ramps up tension, so instead of overuse of speaker attributions (i.e., he said, she said), try a healthy dose of action beats with minimal speaker attributions or none at all.

1.) ACTION BEATS ALONE ENHANCE DRAMA, especially with only two speakers, allowing less chance for confusion. This excerpt from A Hope Undaunted shows it both ways—with speaker attributions and beats, and then beats only, which I think elicits more tension. But . . . you be the judge!


“Is that all this was between us then?” he said, locking her wrist midair when she tried to slap him. “A little fun while your rich boyfriend was off limits?”

“I never started any of this,” she said, jerking her hand free, “and you know it. It was you.”

“No,” he said, fingers digging in as he pressed her to the counter. “But you sure finished it, didn’t you?”


She tried to slap him, but he locked her wrist midair with a painful grip. “Is that all this was between us then? A little fun while your rich boyfriend was off limits?”

She jerked her hand free. “I never started any of this, and you know it. It was you.”

His fingers dug in as he pressed her to the counter. “No, but you sure finished it, didn’t you?”

2.) ACTION BEATS W/MINIMAL SPEAKER ATTRIBUTIONS CAN ENHANCE EMOTION. In this angry love scene from A Passion Most Pure, I relied heavily on beats (underlined) because speaker attributions can slow the flow of a tense scene. Only two speaker attributions are included (bolded) to drive emotion home with a strong response.

She jerked her hand from his and stood, quivering as she caved against the chair. “I can’t marry you, Collin.”

He leaned in. “I know you love me. Can you deny it?”

She didn’t speak and he jumped up, gripping her arms to lift her to her feet. When she wouldn’t look at him, he grabbed her chin. “Look at me! Can you deny you love me?”

She stared through a mist of tears. “Let me go.”

“Tell me you don’t love me.”

“I don’t love you.” 

“You’re lying, Faith. I would have thought better of you than that.”

“Well don’t!” she screamed. “I’m not better than that. You’ve said your apologies, Collin, now let me go.” 

She tried to turn away. He jerked her back. “I know you love me. Don’t you think I can feel it every time I touch you?” He silenced her with a savage kiss. She struggled to pull free, but he only held her tighter, the blood pounding in his brain. His mouth was everywhere—her throat, her earlobes, her lips—and he could feel the heat coming in waves as she melted against him. She was quivering when he finally let her go.

“You love me, Faith,” he said quietly. “You know it, and I know it. Your heart belongs to me, and nothing can ever change that fact—not Charity, not you, and not your god.”
Julie Lessman is an award-winning author whose tagline of “Passion With a Purpose” underscores her intense passion for both God and romance. A lover of all things Irish, she enjoys writing close-knit Irish family sagas that evolve into 3-D love stories: the hero, the heroine, and the God that brings them together. Author of The Daughters of Boston, Winds of Change, and Heart of San Francisco series, Julie was named American Christian Fiction Writers 2009 Debut Author of the Year and has garnered 18 Romance Writers of America and other awards. Voted #1 Romance Author of the year in Family Fiction magazine’s 2012 and 2011 Readers Choice Awards, Julie was also named on Booklist’s 2010 Top 10 Inspirational Fiction and Borders Best Fiction list. Julie’s most recent novel, Isle of Hope was voted on Family Fiction magazine’s Best of 2015, and Surprised by Love appeared on Family Fiction magazine’s Best of 2014. Her independent novel A Light in the Window is an International Digital Awards winner, a 2013 Readers' Crown Award winner, and a 2013 Book Buyers Best Award winner. Julie has also written a self-help workbook for writers entitled Romance-ology 101: Writing Romantic Tension for the Sweet and InspirationalMarkets. You can contact Julie through her website and read excerpts from each of her books at<

September 22, 2017

Still Writing After All These Years

By Loralee Lillibridge (aka Lora Lee)

I never expected to still be writing at eighty-two. As a novice writer and newlywed, a very long time ago, I thought Id sit down one weekend and write a novel. After all, I was a fast reader, so I was confident I’d be a fast writer. Oh lordy! I didnt have a clue. But I was about to learn. Yes, indeed. I just didn’t know it would take so long.

Not knowing where to start or how to submit anything, I made plenty of mistakes - goofs of massive proportion, actually - but stubbornly kept writing on my old, manual typewriter, buying carbon paper and white-out by the box full.

As the family grew, I only wrote on Tuesdays. One day a week, I thought, would be enough to write a book and still be a wife and mother and bookkeeper for our business. After all, how hard could it be? Ha! Silly me. I dreamed of writing but made excuses that kept me from finishing a manuscript. I started new stories a hundred times or more, never finishing or submitting anything. I lost faith in my ability to write. I was too busy, I said when asked. Or life was chaotic right then. But my writing friends kept encouraging me, so I finally entered a contest that led to a contract. It had taken twenty years to sell my first book because of those excuses. Yes, people, TWENTY years! I thought I’d have dozens of books on the market by then. Big surprise!

I tell you this not to discourage new writers just beginning their journey into the unpredictable world of publishing, but to encourage them to write their stories no matter how long it takes or how many mountains there are to climb. If you believe in yourself and your writing, you’ll hang in there through all the roadblocks and rejected manuscripts that clutter your closets. Life and its little/big problems will always be lurking to disrupt your days. Tears will be shed, but there will also be shouts of joy when your first book hits the shelves. Satisfaction of a goal reached, a dream becoming a reality, a job well done. A reason to be proud.

Would I do it again? You betcha! I’ve had a blast in spite of the excuses. No one has had more fun on the road to publishing than I’ve had. I’ve met a lot of awesome writers and made some special friends through writer’s groups. I’ve traveled to conferences and attended workshops. I even took a ten-week Citizen Police Academy course at age seventy-two. I’ve learned from my mistakes and have grown in my story-telling. You, too, could still be writing at eighty-two.
Writing romance and cozy mysteries with a Texas twang and a touch of humor, Loralee Lillibridge (aka Lora Lee), loves to tell stories with believable characters, small towns where everybody knows your business and quirky, but lovable, neighbors. A native Texan, Loralee has called West Michigan home since her marriage, but still misses seeing the bluebonnets in the Spring. Her love of travel took her to Ireland to celebrate her 80th birthday. As a child with a vivid imagination, her library card was a treasured possession. Although encouraged by her high school English teacher to put her imagination into stories, Loralee’s first published novel, Accidental Hero for Harlequin, didn’t debut until after marriage and raising a family. Since then, she’s had a cozy mystery published by Bell Bridge Books and three romance novels published by Tell-Tale Publishing. Her greatest love, however, will always be her family. Loralee's Social Media Links: Website:

September 21, 2017

First Impressions

By Doyne Phillips, Managing Editor for Southern Writers Magazine

“You will never get a second chance to make a first impression.” Will Rogers

I was interviewing a recent college graduate for a job and asked him what his goal was upon entering college. He said, “My goal was to graduate with the highest GPA in my major.” I was impressed and asked how that worked out for him. He said he indeed had graduated with the highest GPA in his major so I asked him how he did it. He went on to tell me he did it with a good first impression with his professors. Each semester prior to his first class, he would read the first 5 chapters. This prepared him for the lectures, in which he could answer questions, and for the first exams. He had noted that while other students were busy with other things and playing catchup with their studies, he was setting the curve for their grades.   

The young man told me that as the semester progressed he felt his first impression had paid off. He felt many times his work was not up to par but received top grades because his professor expected him to do so. He felt there may have been times when his professor skipped over grading his work because it was expected to be the best.          

This young man had made an impression on me and I quickly realized the wisdom of this. We do take that first impression and use it as our standard. If an actor, author or musician we are introduced to really hits home with us, we begin to look for other works they have done. We search for that same impression as the first; looking for that initial pleasure we experienced to repeat it. Many times we are successful but there are times we feel they fall short. When they do fall short we will either go on to their next work or possibly leave them and search for another new experience. Either way the first impression kept you searching, listening, reading and possibly purchasing their next work.

So what is the lesson here for us? I think we should be prepared for an opportunity to make that first impression a positive one. Being prepared could simply mean being aware of the opportunity before you. Many of us are in such a hurry these days we fail to recognize opportunities. I’ve always taught my children to be where you are. Never allowing your mind to wander elsewhere but be in that moment and  place. Then ask yourself two questions. 1)”What is the reason I am here?” and 2) “What is my purpose for being here?”

The reason you may be here is work related. Work has taken you here but your purpose here may have a much greater pull on your life. Asking yourself these two questions can make you alert to your reason and purpose. Watch for an opportunity and when it arises make that first impression a good one. Be ready with a short introduction of yourself and your work. Be interested in their work and ask questions to show your interest. Remember you are not only making a first impression but they are as well. A good first impression sets the standard. It can keep them searching for more. The benefits from a good first impression are great.

September 20, 2017

I am Not the Kind of Writer Who _____

By Tova Mirvis

I was a student in a writing class, struggling to write a first novel, when my teacher wrote this on the board and instructed the class to fill in the blank.

My classmates quickly began writing but I had trouble deciding on one response. I was not the kind of writer who wrote a lot of dialogue? I was not the kind of writer who wrote action and adventure?
Eventually I settled on “I am not the kind of writer who writes about myself.”

Sure, I was drawing on my own background to create the fiction I was trying to write, but I wasn’t sharing the actual facts of my life. The novel I was working on was set in the small Orthodox Jewish community in Memphis where I was raised, part of a family that had been in the city for six generations. As a student in New York City, writing about Memphis was a way to connect to my long-standing roots as a Southern Jew. I created characters who allowed me to explore my own questions about the tension between longing for home and the need to strike out on your own; about how to be part of a close group yet remain you.

In fiction, I could explore these questions but keep myself safely out of sight. Non-fiction and memoir were too exposing. They offered no place to hide. I would never write memoir. I was sure of this.

Three novels and 15 years later, I was no longer so sure. I had a different story to tell now – this one about leaving a marriage and the religious world in which I was raised. I wanted to write a book about what it meant to try to live more authentically, to be who you really were, and to do this, I needed to write about myself directly. My next book, I realized, needed to be a memoir.

It was time to revisit that long ago declaration that I wasn’t the kind of writer who wrote about myself. I was scared when I sat down to write memoir for the first time, but eventually it became clear to me that this was the story I needed to tell, and this was the way I needed to tell it. It turned out that when long ago I said I would never write memoir, I didn’t yet know what kind of writer I was.

This, I think, is was what my teacher was after when she had us list what kind of writer we were not.  It’s common to think of ourselves as being able to write only one kind of book. It’s all too easy to box ourselves into the realm where we feel most comfortable. But sometimes the story we want to tell determines what kind of writer we are. Sometimes as writers, we need to take not just our readers by surprise but ourselves as well.
Tova Mirvis is the author of three novel Visible City (2014), The Outside World (2004,) and The Ladies Auxiliary (1999) which was a national bestseller. Her memoir, The Book of Separation will be published in September 2017 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Her essays have appeared in many publications including The New York Times, The Boston Globe Magazine, Poets & Writers and Good Housekeeping, and her fiction has been broadcast on National Public Radio. She has a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing from Columbia University’s School of the Arts. A native of Memphis, TN, she now lives outside of Boston with her family.  Visit her website for more information or connect with her on social media at

September 19, 2017

Plan an Ego Trip

by Gary Fearon, Creative Director, Southern Writers Magazine

It's ironic that authors who have no problem writing a 100,000-word manuscript on a deadline will freeze up when faced with writing their own author bio. Much like a resumé, the idea of encapsulating one's life and times into a few paragraphs is the stuff of anxiety and self-consciousness.

Whether it's for your Amazon author page or the "About Me" section of your website, here are some time-tested tips to help you craft a credible characterization.

You is kind, you is smart, you is important.
Taking a cue from 2012's The Help, come into the process with a positive self-image. This is the time to own what you've accomplished and to share it with pride. If you don't, who will?

Write in third person.
Unless you're going for a friendly, folksy platform, it's common practice to write your bio as an objective third party. Not only does it lend an air of endorsement, it gives you more liberty to tout your accomplishments without guilt.

Just like your novel, grab attention with the opening line.
Instead of "John Q. Author has been writing novels since 2011", how about "After breaking both legs falling off a ladder in 2011, John Q. Author spent his recuperation time writing the first draft of his first novel." You can come up a creative first line without hurting yourself.

Tell it like it is.
What are your interests and achievements that led you to writing what you write? Do you write science fiction because you once saw a UFO?  Do you have a degree in medicine that propels your medical mysteries? Even a stint as a Walmart greeter is prime fodder if customers inspire your characters.

Don't forget to include any awards your writing has received, as well as any writers organizations you're a member of.

Note to fiction writers: If you have an interesting background, include that, even if it isn't related to writing. The fact that you spent five years living among apes may have nothing to do with your cozy mystery series, but it would make me to want to see what you've written.

Note to nonfiction writers: No need to get that personal.  In this case, the reader mainly wants to know how they'll benefit from your work. Dwell on what they'll get out of it and why you're the best one to teach it to them.

In both cases, don't stray so far from your chosen genre that you confuse readers. If they seek you out as a historical romance writer, does it serve your purpose to say you collect DC action figures?

Project the platform personality that fits you.
Jeff Goins, author of The Art of Work, says there are five basic personality types for author platforms. While this breakdown is designed for bloggers, it can help you pin down your bio personality as well.

The Journalist: Someone who seeks answers and asks questions of experts. By sharing those answers they establish themselves as experts too.

The Prophet: A critic who feels things can be better, and promotes solutions. This controversial role is not without its dangers, as everyone has an opinion and those who disagree can be alienated.

The Artist: Someone who creates art, music, photography, short stories, etc and shares their work, perhaps even works-in-progress.

The Professor: Someone obsessed with details, data, and the way things work, taking complex things and breaking it down, usually with a takeaway.

The Star: Celebrities whose platforms are built on charisma or reputation. You may not think of yourself as a "star", but if people seek you out as the go-to person for your specialty, don't write yourself off too quickly.

One of these Jeff Goins categories may have spoken to you immediately; if not, you may be a combination, in which case you can morph them into an even more individualized persona.

When it comes to bios, Southern Writers has a particular fondness for the authors who appear in our own Gallery of Stars, where you'll see a bunch of bios and may find inspiration for your own.

Readers like to know who they're reading, so don't overlook this opportunity to let your little light shine. Take an ego trip, and pack your bags with confidence. You're not bragging if it's the truth.

September 18, 2017

Do You Know What You Don’t Know?

By Sharon Woods Hopkins

As a fiction writer I’ve always heard you should “write what you know.” If your protagonist is a rocket scientist, it’s helpful if you have some background in science. If your story revolves around a car dealership, having been a car salesman comes in mighty handy.

But what about writing about what you think you know?

I once read a novel by a best-selling author whose protagonist was on a commercial airliner, and in the thick of the excitement, referred to the area where the food is prepared as “the kitchen.” Zap. Out of the story I flew. It’s not a kitchen, it’s a galley.

Another author friend’s protagonist was an expert horsewoman, but she left her horse in the pasture with its bridle. Nope. Probably not. What she likely left on the horse was its halter. A bridle has a bit and reins and a real horse person would never leave that on a loose horse.

And then there was the author whose antagonist tried to kill his victim by leaving the new Mercedes running in the garage. The protagonist got there in the nick of time. However, unless someone disabled the catalytic converter, or it had a broken exhaust pipe out of the manifold, the car would have run out of gas before ever discharging enough carbon monoxide to give anyone a headache, much less cause a death. I know this because one time I tried hooking up my 1994 truck’s tailpipe to a hose and stuffing it down a mole hole. After running the truck for nearly an hour, the mole was not even dizzy. I learned about the catalytic converter in great detail from my mechanic son after that little stunt.

And how about those Styrofoam cups?

There is no such thing as a Styrofoam cup. This is a really common mistake that most of the world makes, but an author could possibly get a “cease and desist” order from Dow chemicals if he or she uses it in their next best seller. Dow Chemicals is very specific about what Styrofoam is, and is not, on their website.

Being vulnerable is human, and we all make mistakes. However, if you’re writing what you think you know, it’s very helpful to have sharp editors. I was astounded by seeing the aforementioned mistakes show up in the finished product. How to protect yourself? Be sure you have dependable early readers, or pay to have a good copy and developmental editor read your manuscript. Unfortunately for us writers, most publishers today have thinned out the editorial staff, leaving only proof readers. Be diligent, and make sure you know what you think you know.
Sharon Woods Hopkins is a member of the Thriller Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, the Southeast Missouri Writers' Guild, Heartland Writers Guild, Romance Writers of America, and the Missouri Writers' Guild. She has tried retiring, but can’t seem to succeed. After many years as a mortgage banker, she is currently a Real Estate Broker. Sharon lives on the family compound near Marble Hill, Missouri with her husband, author Bill Hopkins, next door to her son, Jeff, his wife, Wendy, two rescue Yorkies and a mole killing cat named Wilhelmena, and assorted second generation Camaros, including the 1979 Camaro named Cami who is featured in her books. Her Rhetta McCarter mystery series have won numerous awards, including the prestigious Missouri Writers Guild Show-me Best Book Award for Killerfind, in 2014. Her social media links are or on Facebook  and on Twitter as @sharonwhopkins   Killerwatt, the first book in the Rhetta McCarter Mystery series is now Free on Kindle.

September 15, 2017

Poking a Toe into Twitter

By Elizabeth Sumner Wafler

A week after holding my first baby, In Robin's Nest in my arms--delivered not by stork, but by UPS--I realized that if others were going to know that the book actually existed, I would have to engage in DIY marketing.

A month later I had invested in a WordPress domain and begun tacking away at my own website. I opened a facebook fan page. And then someone asked me if I was on twitter, in a way that sounded as though if I wasn't on twitter, I must be on crack. "Twitter is the real way to build followers," said she. I twitter searched a celebrated author. She had 100K followers. I had four.

 I spent the next six months toiling over pithy, yet 140 character tweets, in which I alternated between tooting my own (book) horn in clever ways, i.e., photographing my dog "holding" my book, and fretting over whether one person out of the 320 million twitter users might read my tweets. I dreaded even pulling up Twitter.

And then I read that for every four tweets, only one should be self-promoting. You must engage, the experts said. Writing is a lovely, yet lonely occupation, and the thought of engaging with others in the trenches was appealing. I began to spend less time composing, and more time reading, and in the process, I discovered hashtag games.

Unlike reindeer games, in which the Rudolphs may be excluded, anyone can play. There are hashtag games (sponsored by cool writers) for each day of the week, i.e., #lovelines on Mondays and #onelinewed on Wednesdays, in which you can share a favorite line from your work in progress, and even for each day of the month, i.e., #authorconfession where the sponsor posts a monthly calendar of questions.

Now this, I could do.

Answering questions like "What is your weirdest writing habit?" is fun, quick and easy. And considering queries like "What is your MC's greatest fear?" has made me think more critically about my characters, their desires and motivations--all the "whys." I am honing my craft.

I now have 1,200+ followers, a million fewer than John Grisham, a couple more than your teenager. But I actually know a number of my followers. I've developed connections with them: writers with whom I share common struggles, small victories, and great triumphs, a band of cheerleaders who share my belief that a rising tide lifts all the boats.

Don't be afraid to traverse the waters of Twitter. Poke a toe in, then plunge in--up to your waist. Like a June pool, the water warms up quickly. It can change your perspective and maybe even your career.
On the heels of a twenty-year teaching career, Elizabeth Sumner Wafler’s passion for a story told with heart led her to write her own fiction. Her first novel, In Robin’s Nest, is one of love, loss and reunion; secrecy and truth; and ultimately redemption. The author is currently seeking representation for her second manuscript, A Faculty Daughter, the coming-of-age story of a girl reared on the campus of a boys' prep school. Wafler lives in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia with her husband and Cairn terrier, Mirabelle. She can often be found at a local farmer’s market in search of the perfect tomato or bouquet of flowers, or at one of the area’s beautiful vineyards enjoying a glass of Virginia wine.