September 28, 2018

Writing and Me

By Kaye Wilkinson Barley

I have written all my life. 

I write to understand.

I write to comprehend my feelings. 

I put those feelings down on paper in an attempt to bring order to the chaos often accompanying  those feelings. 

But it was never for public consumption.  

Not until I was 60 years old.

When I did, finally, at the suggestion of Kathryn Stripling Byer, North Carolina Poet Laureate 2005-09, submit my first piece, it was accepted for inclusion in a regional North Carolina anthology.
It was a piece I wrote while my husband was living in North Carolina and I was stuck back in Georgia for a period of time that seemed unending.  A rough time.  That someone felt as though that piece, written straight from my heart, was worthy of being shared with others was a surprise, and brought some much needed joy.

A statement from one of the editors of the anthology, Dr. Celia Miles, stayed posted on my laptop for years.  “I hope you’ll continue to write,” she said. “You were born to write.  Your writing has honesty.” 

It helped me write the one novel that I had wanted to write for as long as I can remember.  You know the one.  The one that Toni Morrison was talking about when she said, to you, ““If there's a book that you want to read, but it hasn't been written yet, then you must write it.”

I think my writing style comes from simply loving to tell a story. That love of storytelling is how I developed my voice.  And, I’ve been told it’s a distinctive one.   

As far as the craft of writing, I will be the first to admit - I know nothing.  If my writing passes any sort of craft test, it comes from having been a reader since the cradle along with being lucky enough to know some excellent editors who have graced me with their help and expertise. 

I have, of course, read some of the best books on how to write that all writers read.  And I love them.  Especially Stephen King’s “On Writing,” and Anne Lamott’s “Bird by Bird.”  I love and recommend them, but have I learned anything from them? 

Except that one bit from Ms. Lamott about the first draft always being terrible?  I don’t think so.  My fault – certainly not theirs.  My fault because I always find myself reading for the story.  The entertainment.  The simple joy of words, excellence in pacing and beautiful phrasing.  Yep – even in “how to” books.

Learning through reading, for me, comes, I believe, without my conscious thinking.  And, it comes from reading books written by good writers.  Writers like Louise Penny, James Anderson, Margaret Maron, Pat Conroy – along with others.

All that said, I have not one word of advice regarding writing.

Unless you have yet to discover that it can save your sanity.  If that’s the case, then my advice is to write.  Tell a story – be it to friends, family, the public or to yourself.  Tell a story, “the” story, “your” story.  But first, do it for yourself.
Kaye Wilkinson Barley lives in Boone, NC with her husband, Don, and their spoiled little Corgi, Annabelle. Kaye has had several short stores and creative non-fiction essays published, one photo/story book and one novel; WHIMSEY: A Novel. Kaye and her husband are avid photographers. Her blog, Meanderings and Muses ( ), is a place where she shares stories and photos.  Anything and everything from a memory, a book review, a recipe, or a political rant.   

September 27, 2018

Dilly Dilly Writing

By Annette Cole Mastron, Communications Director for Southern Writers Magazine

Last Thursday night, the Cleveland Browns won their first football game since 2016. It happened to be themed “Dilly Dilly Day.” Bud Light made a promise to fans: if the Browns win, everyone gets a free beer from the special padlocked coolers placed around the stadium. The Browns won on Thursday night, and the crowd was chanting happily, “Dilly Dilly” as they downed their free beer.

Clearly, I was late to the “Dilly Dilly” party. I had no clue what it meant. I asked my husband, a football aficionado what in the world “Dilly Dilly” meant. He told me a tale that I quickly googled to learn more. What I found confirmed my husband’s tale, “Dilly Dilly” was a totally made up catchphrase that first appeared in a medieval-themed 2017 Bud Light commercial. In the ad, when someone is given Bud Light, the greeting is "Dilly Dilly." The phrase has no meaning. It was just made up by advertising executives. Did you know?

It got me to thinking about made up words. I remembered a Doris Day and Rock Hudson 1961 movie, “Lover Come Back” where they played competing advertising executives. Hudson’s character, Jerry Webster made up word, “VIP,” and the movie story-line revolves around the made up word. 

Of course, science fiction authors make up words and worlds all the time. Think J. K. Rowling, here are a few of her made up words: “Quidditch” (popular sport within the realm of the wizarding world involving a golden “Snitch”); “Pensieve” (a magical instrument used to view memories); “Squib”(a non-magical person who is born to magical parents); “Thestral” (a mythical horse with a skeletal body and bat-like wings); and “Mudblood” (a magical person who is born to non-magical parents). 

These are the words made up by J.R.R. Tolkien that we all are familiar with: “Orc,” “Míthril,” and of course, he is the author of “Elvish” language.

BookBub has a blog post of 10 Common Words Coined byWriters: “Nerd” created by Dr. Seuss, “Chortle” created by Lewis Carroll, “Addiction” created by William Shakespeare, “Blatant” created by Edmund Spenser, “Tween” created by J.R.R. Tolkien, “Catch-22” created by Joseph Heller, “Pandemonium” created by John Milton, and “Butterfingers” created by Charles Dickens.”

In researching “dilly dilly” I actually ran across a song, “Lavender’s Blue, Dilly Dilly” from the 2015 production of Cinderella. The song was written by Burl Ives, who may have adapted his song from a 16th Century folk song. Interesting, "dilly dilly" existed long before Bud turned it into the catch phrase of today.

It’s our responsibility as authors to not only create memorable stories with unforgettable characters but we need to be the authors of new words. What fun! Dilly Dilly, y’all!

Have you created any words in your writing?

September 26, 2018

Publishing Joy

By Jan McCanless

One of the joys of writing, is being published, there is nothing quite like seeing your name on something you wrote. 

In my speech making and presentations around the country, people are always asking me what it's like, when was the first time it happened to me, and what do you do if you get a reject.

I was 16 when I got my first work published , it was a review for the cover of a book my dad, a major publisher, was coming out with, but, had yet to go to press. So, I read the book, reviewed it, and sent it in to the editor. Much to my surprise and delight, they put my review on the books cover, and sent it to the press. That sparked the fire that remains to this day. 

Rejects can actually be beneficial to you, we all get them, even now, not everything I write is accepted. Here's what NOT to do, don't quit !!!  Do not think that because your work was rejected, it isn't any good, it just doesn't happen to fit that venues criteria. Go back, reread your work again, make sure all the i's are dotted, all the t's crossed, spelling correct, even a slight punctuation  mistake can cost you. When you're sure it's perfect, and what we call a 'clean' manuscript, send it to someone else. What isn't suitable for one editor, may be just the thing another one is looking for.   

When it comes to a book manuscript, rejects can be painful. My first book, Beryl's Cove and the Elvis Man  accrued 3 years worth of rejects, and being told it would never be accepted and never sell.  I believed in it, so, I published it myself, and in one week, it went bestseller. After that, the publishers called me.  The rest, as they say is history.

Bottom line is, don't be afraid of rejects, learn from them. Self-publish if you have to, and once the work is out, give away some copies. If it's good, people will love it, and actively seek you out when the next chapter of your writing career happens.  The more people who read your work, the wider your audience. Above all, keep at it, writing is a learning experience.   
Jan McCanless is a well-known author throughout North Carolina. Her list of publications and awards she has received would fill a good-sized volume by themselves. In addition to the Beryl’s Cove Mystery series and other books she is a freelance columnist for the Salisbury Post, a regular contributor to Senior Savvy, The Saturday Evening Post; Sophie Woman's Magazine, and a multitude of other periodicals. Read a current interview of Jan in Southern Writers Magazine. Her social media links are:

September 25, 2018

Author’s and Writer’s Block

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

Recently, Chris Pepple wrote a great post on Suite T about writer’s block. So many writers experience this. It is frustrating, to say the least to be working on writing a short story, article or novel and suddenly you can’t get it to move forward. You are stuck. It is like someone put a wall between you and your imagination of words.

Staring at a blank page trying to pull words out is a mixture of emotions no writer wants.

I knew other writers, even well-known writers had to have experienced writer’s block. So, I began searching to find what they said about it. Here are just a few.

“Writer’s block is only a failure of the ego.” — Norman Mailer

“Nothing will work unless you do.” — Maya Angelou

“You can’t wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club.” — Jack London

“Who is more to be pitied, a writer bound and gagged by policemen or one living in perfect freedom who has nothing more to say?” ― Kurt Vonnegu

“I don’t sit around waiting for passion to strike me. I keep working steadily, because I believe it is our privilege as humans to keep making things. Most of all, I keep working because I trust that creativity is always trying to find me, even when I have lost sight of it.” ― Elizabeth Gilbert

“Breaking through writer’s block is like thinking out of the box: Both require an ability to imagine a world outside your four walls or rearranging them to get a better view.” ― Susan J. McIntire 

“How time flies; another ten days and I have achieved nothing. It doesn’t come off. A page now and then is successful, but I can’t keep it up, the next day I am powerless.”– Franz Kafka

“Pretend that you’re writing not to your editor or to an audience or to a readership, but to someone close, like your sister, or your mother, or someone that you like.” — John Steinbeck

The quote I liked the most was: “Writing about a writer’s block is better than not writing at all.” ― Charles Bukowski

Next time I get this dreaded occupation of writer’s block, I will try Charles Bukowski’s suggestion and write about writer’s block.

However, if that doesn’t work, I will find the nearest art gallery and spend time there. With pen and pad of course.

What about you? What do you do when you have writer’s block?

September 24, 2018

Gauging the Storyline-Part Two

By Shelly Frome

If you missed Part One it appeared last Friday on SWM's Suite T you can view via the archives. All in all, you could say that the key to successful screenwriting, may very well lie in the very beginning as the writer polishes the basic situation until it’s compelling, promising and in a certain sense rings true with no preconceived message. As though the writer himself or herself is on a quest. Given the backdrop of war, will Ilsa and Rick be able to rekindle their romance or will they give way to a greater good? Then again, put in the simplest terms, will Dorothy and/or Lassie ever find their way home?  

In screenwriting parlance, the potential of the project can be found in the logline. Or the ability to succinctly create a premise in order to gauge whether or not, at the outset, this story is worth the candle. You put aside getting caught up in non-essentials like, Will the roles attract bankable stars?

Does it fit the bill for producers looking for a low-budget vehicle? Does the story line comply with trendy genres like super hero action tales or slacker comedy disasters? Instead, you take your time until you come up with a one or two sentence intriguing venture that can’t help being self-generating.

In lieu of naming the movie and/ or the screenwriter, here are two prime examples:

1.) During a prolonged fraught in the 1930s in the west, a con-man rainmaker comes across the Curry ranch, replete with circumstances that appear to be just ripe for picking. The members of the distraught family include Jimmy, a slow-witted gullible youngster, and Lizzie, his disenchanted older sister who is on the verge of spinsterhood.
2.) Two New Yonkers estranged from their spouses decide to room together. The hapless duo include Oscar, a sportswriter as carefree and sloppy as can be and his counterpart Felix, a compulsive fussbudget.

Given each of these dynamics, putting aside any contrivances, it becomes relatively easy to imagine the possibilities as you allow the circumstances to run their course.

In closing, I’m always reminded what happened to Edward Albee when starting to devise Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? according to a plot, he had in mind. In his imagination, George and Martha, his principal characters, told him one day that if didn’t stop interfering with their lives they would no longer appear. He then completely backed off and gave them carte blanch. As a result, you can view the film starring Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor and judge for yourself. 
Shelly Frome is the film columnist for Southern Writers Magazine. He is also a member of Mystery Writers of America, a professor of dramatic arts emeritus at the University of Connecticut, a former professional actor, and a writer of crime novels and books on theater and film. His fiction includes Sun Dance for Andy HornLilac MoonTwilight of the Drifter and Tinseltown Riff.  Among his works of non-fiction are The Actors Studio and texts on the art and craft of screenwriting and writing for the stage. Murder Run, his latest crime novel, was just released.  He lives in Black Mountain, North Carolina.


September 21, 2018

Gauging the Storyline-Part One

By Shelly Frome

Because of their collective memory, no matter if they’re watching on a screen at home via Netflix or Turner Classics or at a multiplex, viewers can tell almost immediately whether the   experience is going to be worth their while.

Take The Guns of Navarone (1961) as the first of three random examples.  At the opening it seems some vague garrison in Crete is about to be overrun unless allied ships can come to the rescue. But the channel is deemed impassable because of a pair of humongous Nazi cannons. The only way around depends on the efforts of a handful of men to scale a sheer “impossible” cliff, slip into an impregnable fortress guarded by an overwhelming German force and destroy these “dreadful guns.” And who is the demolition expert and one of the stars of this enterprise? A slight, blasé` Englishman (David Niven) with absolutely no physical training who professes he can’t swim.

It goes without saying if the first building block in a screenplay is contrived, everything that follows is bound to become an escalating set of dubious cliffhangers.

In marked contrast, all you have to do is recall, say, The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957).  Almost immediately the camera draws you inside the realities and keeps you in suspense with no idea who will survive this ordeal no matter who appears in a leading role. And by realities we’re not referring to pure realism. We’re concerned with the logic within a consistent set of given circumstances, whether it’s Luke Skywalker’s colorful space odyssey or Sam Spade’s hardboiled black-in-white case in San Francisco.

In any event, pure realism can only take you so far. Within the first few minutes of Night and the City (1992) the camera peers in and out of a seedy section of Manhattan following a low-rent shyster lawyer (Robert De Niro) as he plies his sleazy trade, using a bartender’s phone to con prospective clients, takes a moment out for a tryst in the alley with the bartender’s wife, etc. There is no hope here for a single redeemable instant. On the other hand, in De Niro’s iconic debut in Scorsese’s Mean Streets (1973), his slow-witted Johnny Boy tries to navigate the Little Italy section, unable to fathom the interplay between petty crime and the tenets of the church, assuming it’s all a game. In this case, the viewer truly has something to worry about as Johnny Boy “keeps asking for it,” borrowing money he has no intention of paying back, goading his gangster creditor to the point of no return. And that, as they say, is just for openers.

Sometimes the material is as obscure as its title (Phantom Thread, 2017) and it’s difficult to find what seasoned screenwriters call “the front door.”  In this instance, it seems that a rather clumsy waitress is taken with a customer old enough to be her father (Daniel Day Lewis), accepts his invitation to dine as a middle-aged woman later joins them and looks on approvingly.  The man in question claims to be a fastidious dressmaker and a confirmed bachelor; the young lady soon  occupies a private room in the dressmaker’s house and, through a voice over, declares that she’s flattered because she always thought her shoulders were too wide.  But where are we? And what woman, young or old, could relate to this tale and find herself willing enough to go on with this charade?

Instead, how much more gratifying would it be to hear the gentle, wise voiceover  of the grownup Jean Louse “Scout” Finch (Kim Stanley) as she reminisces about her small town Alabama childhood in To Kill a Mockingbird (1962)? And, through cinematic memory, releases countless girls and women at the outset from the burden of being docile, secondary creatures in favor of opting to be a spirited, honest and intrepid force in their life’s journey.  Part Two will appear on Monday, September 24, 2018.
Shelly Frome is the film columnist for Southern Writers Magazine. He is also a member of Mystery Writers of America, a professor of dramatic arts emeritus at the University of Connecticut, a former professional actor, and a writer of crime novels and books on theater and film. His fiction includes Sun Dance for Andy HornLilac MoonTwilight of the Drifter and Tinseltown Riff.  Among his works of non-fiction are The Actors Studio and texts on the art and craft of screenwriting and writing for the stage. Murder Run, his latest crime novel, was just released.  He lives in Black Mountain, North Carolina.

September 20, 2018


By Vicki H. Moss, Contributing Editor for Southern Writers Magazine

You have your baby published—now comes marketing. But how do you go about getting your book out there to potential buyers?

I must admit that one of the biggest challenges of book publishing is this: Marketing 101. And once you publish a book, how do you market to make the New York Times and Wall Street Journal Bestseller Lists? What about the Amazon Bestseller list? I’d once read that if you work for the New York Times and have a book out, your book is more likely to stay on the list longer and have a higher ranking than non employee books and that if you write a conservative political leaning book, you’re more likely to rank lower and drop off the list faster than those books with a more liberal political slant. But whether a conservative writer or a liberal one, how do you even make the list—does buying ad space through NYT and WSJ help? And unless you have a huge platform like fiction writer John Grisham and a fat bank account for marketing to pay $36,000 or more for a publicist if you don’t have a huge platform, how do you get your book out there?

After recently publishing Nailed It! The Nail Salon Chronicles with my co-writer Natalie Banda, I tried to come up with a marketing plan that would initially consist of advertising in three consecutive issues of Southern Writers Magazine. And of course, Natalie and I chatted up the book to friends and family before the book was published, drumming up curiosity and interest. Once the book was published by

Grace Publishing in July of this year, mine and Natalie’s major push would then be to have people we knew who planned on buying our book to buy on the same day, after hearing this was a ploy to make the Amazon ratings rise. But would this work or was this rumor/hearsay?

After sending out email blasts and posting on all of our social media sites which consisted of over 10,000 contacts, Natalie and I waited for the big day—the day we’d told everyone who planned on purchasing a copy, to buy. Should Natalie and I also buy in bulk that day? Some reports say bulk buying is a way of trying to game the system. What’s to stop a rich author from buying 30,000 copies or more to launch themselves onto a bestseller list?

Part Two of “YOU ARE YOUR BEST PUBLICIST” will appear on October 19, 2018. 

September 19, 2018

Editing Your Partner’s Manuscript: Harmony or Hurricane?

By Rob Sangster

Twenty minutes into his conversation with me about No Return, my new novel, the interviewer cocked an eyebrow and leaned into his microphone.

Interviewer: “Let’s get a little personal. Tell us how you met your partner, Lisa Turner?”

Rob: “At a cocktail party at a home on the bank of the Mississippi River. She was trapped by some guy trying to monopolize her attention. When I overheard her say she was a writer, I stepped up and said, ‘What a coincidence. So am I. Let’s go get a glass of wine.’ As soon as I realized what a talented writer she really was, I changed the subject, because I was just starting to write my first book.”

Interviewer: “But now that you’ve both had several books published, are you able to edit each other’s drafts without fireworks? For example, the famous writing couple Dashiell Hammit and Lillian Helman, who also met at a cocktail party, had a notoriously stormy relationship when editing.”

Rob: “No storms in our household.” Then I told him how we keep the peace.
·         Lisa is a scholar of writing, so I sent my ego on holiday and listen and learn.
·         We never use a red pen to edit. And if a critique is extensive, we retype the whole passage so suggestions don’t appear so blatant.
·         My writing strengths are very different from hers. Instead of competing, we draw on each other to make our manuscripts the best they can be.
·         We always make time for the other when some quick input is needed.
·         Each of us reads our work aloud to the other without interruption. If the listener hears a glitch, he or she raises a forefinger and the reader marks the spot and continues.
·         We are courteous in our comments. We often prefaced a criticism with, “Would you consider . . .” Lisa tries not to roll her eyes when I insert my political point of view in a scene a little too intensely, or when I overload a passage with similes or metaphors. She does sometimes whisper the sage advice of, “Kill your darlings.”
·         We brainstorm a lot. When one of us fires out ideas, the other tries to build on them instead of stifling them with criticism. Lots of “What if . . .”
·         In a new manuscript, we avoid knit-picking and focus on spotting structural problems and plot lines that will never converge.
·         Then there is the big one. If we get cross-wise during a critique, one of us will declare a “do-over.” That’s a non-debatable call for a re-set to dissipate any stress in the air.

All this works because we genuinely respect each other’s abilities, and let praise flow freely. 
Rob Sangster has been a practicing lawyer, real estate developer, an executive in federal and state governments, owned three restaurants, serves on numerous boards of non-profits, and delivers Meals on Wheels. He’s traveled in more than 100 countries on seven continents, races sailboats, and has a home on the wild coast of Nova Scotia. His first novel, Ground Truth, hit #1 on Amazon Kindle. He second, Deep Time, won the EPIC Award as best American suspense/thriller of 2017. His third, No Return, has just been released. So far, reviews on Amazon are 5.0.,

September 18, 2018

Your Bluebird Cafe Discovery

By Doyne Phillips, Managing Editor for Southern Writers Magazine

Malcolm Gladwell has written several books one of my favorites is TheTipping Point. It was about the small changes that brought people, products or government to a point of success or change. A recent trip to Nashville and The Bluebird Café reminded me of a tipping point.

The Bluebird cafe is small 90 seat music club which will usually have 4 composers or singer/songwriters present their talents. It is a great way to see new or established talent and experience a step along the way in the music business. I was fortunate to be able to attend a benefit there for the Nashville Chapter of the Recording Academy. In the middle of the show   one of the artists which was experiencing her first performance at the Bluebird stopped, pointed to a spot at a table in the back and said, “Garth Brooks was seated right back there when he heard The Dance for the first time. The Dance was written by Tony Arata and Brooks recorded it as the 10th and final song on his self-titled debut album. It remained at number 1 for 3 weeks. Quite a success story for both the writer and the singer. Why was this noted in the middle of her performance?
This young hopeful was saying this was possibly one of the steps, changes she must go through if she is to achieve success. It has happened for others this way. It could happen again. But she must experience this. This is also true for authors and I want to share two of my favorite examples.
·        Andy Andrew’s book The Butterfly Effect was shared with Good Morning America host Robin Roberts. Roberts showcased it on “Must-Reads”. Not long afterwards it was a #1 Bestseller.
·       Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen were brilliant motivational speakers and great marketing men. Their new book Chicken Soup for the Soul had sold many copies. They wanted more. They had given away thousands of copies but they needed to get it into the hands of what they called “big mouths”. Big mouths are celebrities with access to the media. They sent books to the O. J. Simpson jury. The jury was sequestered so this was one thing they could have. The jury were seen arriving each day with the book under their arm. The media asked about it and they received national attention.

“Three simple rules in life:  If you do not go after what you want, you'll never have it.  If you do not ask, the answer will always be no.  If you do not step forward, you'll always be in the same place.”  

You never know when, where or how the right person will discover your work but if you know of things others have done you too can use that to get it out there in front of people. Not everyone that performs at The Bluebird Café becomes a “success”. But your odds are much greater if you do. It is a step, or one of the changes that must occur to increase your odds. 

Discover what others have done and put it into motion. Southern Writers Magazine with its input from authors is a great place to start learning.