June 28, 2019

Writing My Novel

By Mesha Maren

In writing my novel, Sugar Run, one of the main ideas that I was pursuing was the concept of insider versus outsider and the question, can you ever really belong again in a place you once called home? Sugar Run is tied to my own home landscape in a very specific way. Much of the book was written on top of a mountain in a one-room cabin that my father and I built by hand from trees he had planted the fall I was born. My mother remembers him coming in from planting the saplings while she was in labor and in the field on the other side of the house the neighbors were bailing hay and for a while her contractions matched the rhythm of the bailer making its rounds outside the window.

I grew up on that farm in southern West Virginia in a house without indoor plumbing and with a father who buried our money in jars in the yard instead of keeping it in the bank. So, I guess you could say that I come by my love of landscape naturally. I was also deeply affected by my father’s work with incarcerated women in the federal prison in Alderson. As a child I would often accompany him to the visiting room at the prison camp and I was always fascinated by the insider/outsider culture of the place. Here was a camp full of women from the Bronx and Chicago and L.A., tucked away deep in the folds of the Appalachian Mountains. It was clear that the landscape itself was meant to form a barrier against escape. It was also clear that while they were desperate to be free, many of the women were fearful of life on the outside, fearful of going home. I remember overhearing my father counseling women who were soon to be released and later as an adult I realized that their fears and desires were not unlike what many of us West Virginians feel about our own home state, a mixture of pride and struggle and hope.

When I was writing Sugar Run in that cabin on the mountain it was just after returning to live in West Virginia for the first time in about twelve years. Now luckily I myself was not returning from a stint in prison, but as a queer Appalachian woman I know well the feeling of not quite fitting in anywhere, there are ways in which I feel more at home in Appalachia than any other place and there are ways in which I feel stifled, constrained and without community. Moving back to West Virginia was difficult and there were also times while I was working on Sugar Run that I tried to quit, I thought the story was too hard to write or I didn’t know how to do it but Jodi’s character wouldn’t let me abandon her, she haunted me, just like West Virginia won’t ever truly let me go, there is something essential and powerful that keeps me coming back. 

I feel like Jodi and I both realized at some point that although that home that you recalled so vividly during all your years away is sometimes a place that only truly exists in your heart and your dreams, it is still inextricably a part of who you are.
Mesha Maren is the author of Sugar Run (Algonquin Books). Her short stories and essays have appeared in Tin House, Oxford American, The Southern Review, Ecotone, Triquarterly, Sou’Wester and The Paris Review Daily. She has been the recipient of fellowships from the MacDowell Colony and the Ucross Foundation. She is the 2018-2019 Kenan Visiting Writer at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and also serves as a National Endowment of the Arts Writing Fellow at the Beckley Federal Correctional Institution. In Fall 2019 she will join the Duke University faculty as an Assistant Professor of Practice of Creative Writing.

June 27, 2019


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

Do you recall the first time you learned how to use Windows? Not the windows in your home, but the computer program that helped open up the world to so many new things, including writing.

I remember sitting in a college classroom at night after having signed up for a course on Microsoft Windows, thinking it was one of the hardest things I’d ever tried to learn and how would I ever become proficient in maneuvering around in the software program. The course wasn’t quite as bad as my first computer class in college which was a first class nightmare—all Greek to me. But, still.... 

Once my brain had checked out of collegiate matters, my brain was on to other things like changing diapers, getting food on the table with a toddler hanging onto my leg, you know, life in general.
To think back on those overwhelming times—it all seems comical now. What? Using Windows difficult? There had definitely been a learning curve for sure. But using Windows soon became second nature.

Then came learning how to write stories that a kids’ magazine might buy—another learning curve. They get 10,000 submissions for six issues a year—are you kidding me—how in the world would I break in? Then there was the challenge of submitting articles, another learning curve there too. Attending writing conferences and workshops were greatly beneficial in helping with these new tasks—the latest learning curve.

Next came the mountain climb of all mountain climbs when a friend said, “You really need to get a website up and running and I’ll help you.”

I recall being horrified. My heart pounded. A very private person, the last thing I wanted to do was have my photo on the internet. The friend kept nudging me and said, “Start working on the info you’d like to include on your pages. Choose the photography you’d like to use. Let’s get this thing going.” I honestly don’t know if I would have ever set up a website if I hadn’t had this encouragement—okay, this push. Again, the task was so overwhelming. Not only did I have to get tons of material together, I had to “learn how to code” so to speak. Another huge learning curve. And I was totally out of my comfort zone. I freaked out when I was told, “I’ll help you set up the website, but from then on, you have to do the work.” But learn how to do it all, I did, even though I whined. A lot.   

The Miriam-Webster dictionary gives this meaning for “learning curve”–– the course of progress made in learning something. Once I, the student, “got the hang” of how to do something new, I could look back and chuckle about my intense fear and being completely out of my comfort zone.

As seasoned writers, there are still learning curves. I need to keep stretching myself. I don’t stop learning until my body lies “a moulderin’ in the grave.” If another friend hadn’t insisted I enter a poetry contest—at the time I didn’t consider myself a poet—I wouldn’t have won first place out of hundreds of entries. If I hadn’t stretched myself and tried to write humor, my article wouldn’t have won first place in another writing contest. Not that first place awards are needed, but awards are a gauge of how a writer is coming along on their writing journey. Another learning curve. After a few writing awards have been won and the waters have been tested with a Sally Fields moment of “they like me, they really like me,” then I knew it was time to stop entering contests and get down to the business of writing.

If you’re living and breathing, there will always be learning curves as writers. Continue educating yourself by attending workshops and studying books on writing. Read far and wide. Include nonfiction along with fiction if you’re a novelist. Study poetry and stretch your brain. A character down the road might need to write a limerick to a loved one and if you’re familiar with different types of poetry, you can pull from those resources.

Be totally fearless when it comes to learning curves.

Now, if only I could just figure out how to work the remote for the TV in my living room. *big grins*                         

June 26, 2019

Audiobook 101

By Nick Nixon

Audiobooks are the hottest things on the market. Many people say they don’t have time to read. They can listen to audio books in their cars to and from work, on road trips, at the beach, on an airplane, cooking dinner or soaking in the tub. 

There are online videos on how to narrate your own book, and sources that will narrate it for you…and you get to choose the voice that fits your book. Online seminars and workshops are available with tips and training. Right now, there is a shortage of qualified narrators. 

ACX is the largest source for turning novels into audiobooks and hiring narrators. They also offer to help authors narrate their own books. Other sources offer the same services online. And there are some that will help narrators find projects, but there is a fee for this, which can be paid annually or monthly. One is Voice 123. They are sort of like paid agents. 

There are two ways a narrator can be paid: Charge the author a fee, based upon the number of hours it will take for the narration and editing of the finished product. Or, make a deal with the author to split 50/50 what he makes selling the audiobooks. Some narrators will do both.

The most prolific audiobook narrator is Scott Brick who narrates about 50 books a year in his home studio. He also teaches workshops and seminars and has online videos available. He says a successful audiobook narrator should have a little actor in him or her. He was asked how a man does women’s voices and how does a woman do men’s’ voices. His answer was they don’t. In a conversation between a man and woman, he reads the man's voice a little louder and the woman’s voice a little softer. And it helps to read one a little faster than the other. The reader will catch on. 

Most audiobook narrators work from home studios. All need you is a computer with audio recording software. I use GarageBand, which is recommended by many. However, there are other good ones out there too. You also need a good microphone, a puff screen for the mic, a mixer, earphones, speakers and a music stand for your copy. You do not have to break the bank to buy what you need. The size of the room does not matter. Set your equipment up in a corner. You can also add a few of those egg crate foam sound deadening panels to the two walls near your equipment. They do not have to go floor to ceiling. You can also use drapes and blankets. If you feel the need to somewhat enclose your recording space a little, you can attach the foam panels to some sheets of foam core and create a movable screen. You can order the foam panels in three different colors and the foam core from Walmart. The cost is reasonable.

As you can see from the picture of my equipment, there is a window in the background with an air conditioner in it. I cover that before I record. 

The first thing you need to do is you if you are considering narrating your novel is go online and look at everything you can find on narrating audiobooks. There is a lot available to you.  
After retiring from a career in advertising, Nick Nixon began writing crime fiction novels, inspired by his love for old black-and-white film noir movies of the 1930s, ‘40s and ‘50s. THE FRAME, his first book in a series of Peter English, PI mysteries, will release late October 2016. Nick also writes and illustrates children’s books, as well as recording them. He enjoys spending time with his family, good music, good books and classic cars. Three Fun Facts about Nick Nixon: 1…He has five children and fourteen grandchildren. 2…He writes humor columns and does cartoons for various publications. 3…He draws caricatures. Nick’s social media links are:  Blog  Website:   Twitter nick_nickwits  and on Linkedin  His books include his today release,  THE FRAME, Candy MoonCandy Moon Choo Choo and Looking Through the Rearview Mirror: Drawing From the past to inspire the future (Anthology) (Volume 1) 

June 25, 2019

Southern Writers Magazine’s 2019 Summer Catalog

By Doyne Phillips, Managing Editor for Southern Writers Magazine

It’s that time of year for Southern Writers Magazine’s Summer Catalog. Summer is when book lovers are looking for books to entertain them on vacation. Make sure your book is one of these. To showcase and promote your book(s) in the “Summer Catalog” reserve your space now. Deadline is July 1st.  You can submit to me at

It’s time for you to shine and sell your books as those authors did in our Spring Catalog seen here at this link.

Author's have chosen books to bring the reader enjoyment. Make sure you have these books for your reading pleasure.

We are giving "Special Summer Rates" for all authors.

Business Card Size Ad will be $20.00    Allows a 35-50 word blurb and jpeg of book

Quarter Page Ad will be $40.00          Allows a 50-75 word blurb and jpeg of book

Half Page Ad will be $75.00              Allows a 150 word blurb and jpeg of book

Full Page Ad will be $125.00            Allows 200-250 word blurb and jpeg of book

You will be marketed in the online catalog and on our official blog, Suite T (over 3.5+ million views) along with promoting it on Southern Writer’s social medias, newsletters, libraries, book clubs and writer's groups––just to name a few. We can link your book to your author's Amazon page so people can immediately go to your book and buy it.

The authors in the 2019 Summer Catalog will be promoting it on their websites/blogs, social medias, family and friends as well. 

Deadline to reserve is July 1, 2019. Be sure your book is seen by the readers. Reserve your space now.

Space is limited so send your blurb, website and jpeg of your book(s) to me at and let us know which ad you would like. We look forward to hearing from you and including your book in Southern Writers Magazine's Summer catalog!

June 24, 2019

Me and The Chanticleer Reviews Conference

By Claire Fullerton

My writer’s life is an insular life. Months are stretched together wherein I look for a reason to schedule opportunities outside my office, in an attempt at leaving my desk to live a balanced life. It’s not that I’m unduly obsessed with my work, it’s only that I recognize the merits of seeing a project through once I’ve started. I’ve heard it said that once one begins a writing project, it’s best to work on it every day, lest a break in the work changes one’s voice. I do write every day, yet every so often I take the opportunity to attend a writer’s conference, which does me good because it gets me out in the “real world.” Always the adventure is worth the logistics of setting aside my work, packing, getting to the airport, and staying in what feels like a beehive for three days or more.

I recently returned from the Chanticleer Reviews Conference in Bellingham, Washington. Bellingham is a short enough journey from my home in Malibu, California. When I received the news that my book, Mourning Dove, was a finalist in the Chanticleer contest, I reviewed the conference’s online schedule, considered that Bellingham and Malibu are on the same time zone, and decided it would be well worth my while to attend the conference. 

There are great advantages to attending a writer’s conference. Everyone who attends is there for the same reason. Though authors who write in different genres are assembled, we all share the same passions and interests. Writers conferences are geared toward imparting information that pertains to the craft and business of writing. It is one thing to read about this in a book or online, and quite another to listen to individual speakers address subjects ranging from writing a series, to character development, to book marketing and promotion, and the current trends in publishing. When a personality is front and center, and the audience is invited to ask questions, a writer’s conference is a great opportunity to learn as well as compare notes about how we as writers engage with our career.

And then there’s the social aspect to attending a writer’s conference.  A writer is gifted with meeting fellow authors from different parts of the country. It is typical for authors who have books out in the world to cross paths with each other on social media, and through this, relationships are formed in cyberspace yet all there is to go on are pictures. Meeting fellow authors in person solidifies a sense of writer’s community, and when a conference holds a contest, the camaraderie is intensified by an award ceremony. In the case of the Chanticleer conference, a fully-realized banquet was held in the beautiful ballroom of the historic Hotel Bellwether, and the festive, water-front atmosphere was the perfect setting to handle the suspense followed by heartfelt congratulations as awards in fourteen categories were announced. 

I spent three days at the breathtaking Hotel Bellwether in Bellingham, Washington listening to one speaker after another alongside a jury of my peers. The conference was organized and eye-opening. It was a wonderful place to meet fellow authors and the information I acquired invigorated my enthusiasm for staying the course of my writing career.
Claire Fullerton is from Memphis, TN., and now lives in Malibu, CA. She is the author of Mourning Dove, a Southern family saga set in the genteel side of Memphis. Mourning Dove is the 2018 Literary Classics Words on Wings award winner for Book of the Year. It is the 2018 bronze medal winner for Southern Fiction by Readers’ Favorite, a finalist in the 2018 Independent Authors Network Book of the Year, and was listed in the International Faulkner Society’s 2018 William Wisdom competition in the novel category. Claire is the author of Kindle Book Review’s 2016 award for Cultural Fiction, Dancing to an Irish Reel, and paranormal mystery, A Portal in Time. She contributed to the book, A Southern Season: Four Stories from a Front Porch Swing, with her novella, Through an Autumn Window. Her work has appeared in Southern Writers Magazine, and was listed in 2017 and 2018 in their Top Ten Short Stories of the Year. Claire’s work has appeared in The Dead Mule School of Southern Literature; Celtic Life International; The Wild Geese, and The Glorious Table. The manuscript for her next novel, Little Tea, is a finalist in the 2018 Faulkner Society’s William Wisdom competition.  She is represented by Julie Gwinn of The Seymour Literary Agency.          

June 21, 2019

But….I Don’t Write Christian Fiction!

By Pamela S. Thibodeaux

When asked to do this post for Suite T and teach, or explain, how I write my ‘Christian’ novels and grab a reader’s attention “without decreasing the message,” I had to stop and think a while, and I must confess….

I don’t write Christian fiction.

Years ago I wrote an article titled, “Is it Christian or is it Inspirational?” in which I detailed some of the major differences in the two. I’ll recap here…

Christian novels (mostly) adhere to strict guidelines such as:

The heroine never appears outside her bedroom in her nightgown.

The h/h do not spend the night (or week or time) in a house alone.

The h/h do not curse or use euphemisms such as heck, darn, etc. and the use of God or Jesus except in a prayer is unacceptable.

Premarital sex is a big No-No! as is divorce, water & spiritual baptism, women preachers, etc. 

Mentioning a specific religion is frowned upon because CF wants to reach readers across dominations.

Newsflash: So Do Writers of Inspirational Fiction!
Inspirational novels may incorporate some of these rules OR the opposite of some, but still stay within Biblical guidelines.

For Example: The heroes in my Tempered series may curse (not all the time and no F bombs!); fight, and/or have a sensual encounter, but there is no premarital sex and there is usually a lesson learned from the encounter. In Lori’s Redemption the bull-rider turned preacher gets in an actual fist fight – then spends days in prayer and repentance and delivers one of his best sermons ever afterward.

These are a couple of examples from my own work and the reason my writing has been tagged as, “Inspirational with an Edge!” ™

Other authors have written the ‘edgy’ style also. Julie Lessman’s writing is known as Edgy Christian Fiction. Julie, whose tagline is “Passion with a Purpose” pushes the envelope in some ways but still remains within Biblical guidelines in a way traditional CBA publishers and fans adore.

One publisher I spoke with when pitching my work years ago said they would accept a certain degree of ‘edginess’ in Historical but not contemporary.


As if the things that take place in a Historical novel don’t take place (and even more so!) in contemporary times.

Alas, I’ve come to the conclusion years ago that, although I love God/Christ with all my heart, I’m not called to write ‘Christian’ but Inspirational books. Books that are (per reviewers) “steamier and grittier” and have “the most realistic characters read in an inspirational novel.”

So what would I say to writers who want to write Christian (edgy or not) or Inspirational?

Stay true to YOUR voice and YOUR calling. If you want to write and be published in the Christian market, don’t push the boundaries too much and be willing to rewrite/revise if you’re asked to. Think outside the box when submitting. Publishing is constantly changing, guidelines aren’t black and white anymore. There are shades of gray (no pun intended LOL!) and they get blurrier all the time. 

Consider pitching to smaller publishers whose guidelines may be a little more lax on some of the ‘taboo’ Christian issues, or to an agent who represents both CBA and ABA markets, or self-publish. 

If you choose the self-publishing route, please hire an editor and cover artist and present your work in a professional manner!

The most important advice I can give a writer of any genre is to write the book of your heart and make it the best book you can! Keep learning and growing, be teachable and flexible and don’t ever give up. Writing is a talent, a gift given to you by God. Don’t bury your talent or hide your gift. Trust in your calling, your voice and your God.
Award-Winning Author, Pamela S. Thibodeaux is multi-published in fiction and non-fiction. Her writing has been tagged as “Inspirational with an Edge!” (tm) and reviewed as “Steamier and grittier than the typical Christian without decreasing the message.” She is the Co-founder and a member of the Bayou Writers Group in Lake Charles, Louisiana. As a former member of American Christian Fiction Writers (formerly ACRW), Golden Triangle Writers Guild, Coeur de Louisiane and RWA, Pam won Coeur’s 1999 “Diamond In The Rough” as well as their 2000 “Ruby” Award and received her RWA Pro Pin in 2001. A committed Christian, she firmly believes in God and His promises. God is very real to her and she feels that people today need and want to hear more of His truths wherever they can glean them. Although her writing is Inspirational, she does her best to encourage readers to develop a personal relationship with God. The deepest desire of her heart is to glorify God and to get His message of faith, trust and forgiveness to a hurting world. Her hope is that all of her stories will touch the lives of everyone who reads them and – in some way – bring them a truer knowledge of God and urge them into a closer walk with Him. Social Media links: Website:  Blog:
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June 20, 2019

Writing the Messy Protagonist

By Annette Cole Mastron, Communications Director for Southern Writers Magazine

I recently flew through, The Flight Attendant by Chris Bohjalian. The story was quite turbulent from the first page. I was attracted to Bohjalian’s writer rule breaking of telling the story without much dialogue. This “writer rule-breaking” I’ll save for another blog post.

I was intrigued by Bohjalian’s flight attendant protagonist. Flat out, she’s without a doubt one of the messiest protagonists I’ve read about. Her risky behavior paired with her alcoholic promiscuity does not present as character traits that would appeal to readers as a protagonist. 

After reading Chris’s book, I decided she made for one of the most interesting protagonists, I’ve read recently. There were times I hated the stupidity of this character, but I stuck with her and she won me over. After all, everyone in real life is flawed, so why wouldn’t our characters in a book be flawed?

Some author’s protagonists have problems they resolve throughout the book’s story. Often, a weak protagonist is saved by another character which I find a yawner and not authentic. I’m not a fan of reading about the “knight saving the day on a white horse.”

Kristen Kieffer writes on the blog, Well-Storied and has a great article on “33 Ways to Write Stronger Characters.” You can view the article in its entirety at this link
Here’s Kristen’s character list is:

It’s not a surprise that Chris Bohjalian’s, flight attendant protagonist had each one of these attributes for his character. She’s just a mess, who you loathe one minute and sympathize with the next minute. 

So what do you do to keep readers interested in your protagonist? How messy are they?

June 19, 2019

Be the Exception

By W. Terry Whalin

It’s easy to feel lost in the world of book publishing. Experts say there are over a million proposals and manuscripts in circulation at any given time. With the proliferation of self-publishing, there are over 4,500 new books published every day. The average self-published book sells about 200 copies during the lifetime of the book.

With these discouraging statistics how can a writer stand out and be the exception?  Some people are amazed that I’ve written over 60 books for traditional publishers and my writing has appeared in over 50 magazines. It is not because I am one of the best writers in the room. I am one of the most persistent and consistent writers that you will meet. As an editor, I’ve been speaking and attending conferences for years. I will listen to a writer’s pitch, then with sincerity say, “That’s a great idea, write that up and send it to me.”  I’ve learned that if you do what the editor or agent asks, you have put yourself in the top 10% of the people at that conference. Many writers never send their manuscript or proposal or query.  Here’s four simple yet important ways for you to be the exception.
  1. Submit your requested material. Your writing and storytelling has to be excellent but it will never be considered if you don’t send it. I still get rejected as a writer but I seize the opportunity and submit my material.
  2. Build Your Platform or Presence in the Market. Editors and literary agents are looking for writers who are connected to their readers. I’m not talking about Instagram or Twitter or Facebook. Do you have a direct connection to your readers or fans of your book? Do you have an email list? Are you working to grow this email list and increase your reach? It is one of the greatest tools any writer can start and build. I have more details in this free eBook, Platform Building Ideas for Every Author.  Also, I have an inexpensive eBook on list building called The List Building Tycoon.
  3. Follow-up and meet their deadlines with editors and agents. Writers are notoriously late on meeting their deadlines. New York Times bestselling author Jerry B. Jenkins who has also been an editor says only one writer in 100 will meet their deadline. If you deliver quality writing on the deadline, it is a way for you to stand out in the market.
  4. Develop habits so you are in the top 10% A recent Pew study showed that 80% of tweets come from about 10% of users. I meet many writers who have a small Twitter following and post something once or twice a week.  I am probably in this top 10% because of my frequency of tweets, the diversity and providing excellent content.  If you create a habit and then execute your plan over and over, you too can be in this top percentage. Your consistent action will move you to the top of the stack.
Your persistent efforts will pay off in the publishing community. If you take consistent action, you can be the exception.
W. Terry Whalin, a writer and acquisitions editor lives in Colorado. A former magazine editor and former literary agent, Terry is an acquisitions editor at Morgan James Publishing. He has written more than 60 nonfiction books including Jumpstart Your Publishing Dreams and Billy Graham. To help writers catch the attention of editors and agents, Terry wrote his bestselling Book Proposals That $ell, 21 Secrets To Speed Your Success. Check out his free eBook, Straight Talk From the Editor. His website is located at: Connect with Terry on TwitterFacebook and LinkedIn.

June 18, 2019

Writing Reviews for Authors

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

We are all probably guilty of reading a great book and our intention is to go to and leave a review. But things get in the way, and before the day is gone, we forget.

The thing is, however, that review from you could mean the sale of a book for that author. What? Was that too dramatic?

We all have good intentions, I believe, but we are all wrapped up in our day to day responsibilities having very little time for ourselves let along others outside of family.  It seems to be the nature of things in today’s world.

But, if I could bring to our attention, this is truly a gift we give to another person, the author, leaving them a review.

You see the review we write is personal. It tells the author about the experience we had in reading their book. The emotions and feelings it brought about, perhaps the memories that surfaced. To share with them what their characters meant to us as they went through their highs and lows––a brief respite in time to be entertained. It is a good time to thank the author and let them know how much we appreciate their talent and their time in creating the book for our entertainment.

It goes without saying, other readers will read the review and will let them know the book is worth reading. It will give them information on what the book is about.

These reviews will bring more attention to the book and the author and perhaps open doors for them. It is our way of thanking them for their time, their talent and their effort.

Next time, I will make a concerted effort to leave a review. It only takes a few minutes. It’s the digital way for authors to receive a “Thank-you-Note.” What about you?