November 29, 2019

Whenever I Speak

By Jan McCanless

Whenever I speak to writers’ groups, or academic groups, I am invariably asked how to get started with their writing. Most everyone feels they have a story to tell, but they are hesitant. Either they are afraid to fail, so, they don't start, or they are not sure how to do it.

The most important thing I tell them is to be sure of their subject. If you love mysteries, as I do, then, stick to mysteries; if it's romance that floats your boat, then, write romance. DO not, under any circumstances, write something you know nothing about, it simply won't work.     

If you lean towards the autobiographical, then pick one defining moment in your life and begin there, adding background, before and after, from that point on. If you can, avoid too many clichés.  Writing is not hard, if you are sure of your facts, sure of the subject matter, and have confidence to put into words, what your heart and mind are telling you. Even writing fiction, you must be factual, if you are describing a real place or thing, like an airliner or ship, do some research, and you'll be better informed, and write in a knowledgeable way.

When I first began writing fiction, I let my imagination take flight, and wrote anything I wanted to about places and objects and was called down by my readers for it. The only exception to this will be fantasy or futuristic writings, then, let your fantasies take over and be as outrageous as you like, but, if you are writing in real time, be sure you are accurate.

How do I get started, I am often asked? Well, use whatever venue you have, pad and pen, word processor, computer, whatever, and tell yourself you are writing a letter to a good friend, and, telling them about something. Once you start, the words should come easily. Edit as you go, and if you are not happy with how you began, after a few paragraphs, or perhaps a chapter, you can always go back and change it. Just get the feel of it first, and soon, you'll be writing away, and, before you know it, you'll have completed the entire book.

A good friend, colleague, or academic can assist you. Let them proofread your work and offer constructive criticism, it will be very helpful for the beginner.

Finally, don't force the writing -wait, and let the words come to you, your story will be better for it.
Jan McCanless is an award winning, bestselling author of mysteries. The Beryl's Cove mysteries, and the Brother Jerome series. She has recently completed her third compilation of her humor columns and articles, and, currently has a manual about writing, in circulation. Her website is She is listed in Who's Who as a premier Southern Humorist. Watch for her latest book: Bizarre Brain Drippings of  Noted Sagittarian, and more Thoughts of Home,  to be published late fall of 2019.

November 28, 2019

Focus on Thankfulness for the Gift of Writing

By Edie Melson, Social Media Director for Southern Writers Magazine

Despite news to the contrary, I believe this is the best time ever to be a writer. Writing for a living isn’t a get rich quick scheme, but it is possible to make a reasonable income. Becoming a professional writer takes hard work. But if we’re willing to learn the industry and the craft of writing, we can find success.

10 Ways to Increase Your Thankful Quotient about Writing
1. Stop Being a One Way Writer. Meaning it’s got to be one way or no way. Truthfully, it’s the writers who are flexible that remain thankful in this business.

2. Let Go of Expectations. This one word can derail us for months, or even years, if we let it. It’s fine to make plans, but we can’t hang our hope—or our thankfulness—on expectations. 

3. Learning to Roll with the Punches. Hard times will come in this business. We’ve got to pick ourselves up and get back to writing, no matter what happens.

4. Stop Looking Backward. If we dwell on the way things used to be in publishing, we’ll always be miserable. Instead we need to focus on the reasons to count our blessings now.

5. Quit Chasing Trends. It’s tempting to tailor what we’re writing to what’s currently popular with publishers. But that’s a dead end road. There’s always something new, and it’s just not possible to pull out a crystal ball and write to what’s going to be hot when it hit the market.

6. Don't Listen to the Negative Voices. There are two types of negative voices—the ones that live in your head and the ones belonging to those around us. Take constructive criticism, but don’t let the negative words bring you down.

7. Refuse to Give in to Fear. No matter how much we achieve as writers, we’re still fearful. The writers who keep their thankfulness are the ones who continue on in spite of the fear.

8. Reject Perfectionism. We want to strive for our very best. But we need to understand that perfection is out of our grasp. Aim high and always keep learning, but be willing accept the best you can do.

9. Write Regularly. I truly believe that if our purpose in life is writing, and we don't make time to write, we'll be miserable.

10. Don't Forget the Reason You Started Writing in the First Place. We can get so caught up in the chase, that we forget why we entered the race. For me, God made me a writer. I process life through words. When I hit hard times and good times, one of my first actions is to record it, process it, and cope with it through writing. When I return to that, no matter what else is going on, everything falls into place.

These are the ways I’ve found to rekindle the joy of writing. What would you add?

November 27, 2019

Coloring in the Lines

By Tammy Karasek    

Adult coloring books are popular now. I have a stack myself. I’ve always loved to color and for years our daughter would try to find a new pack of crayons for my stocking at Christmas. Often a new fun book would be sticking out of the top of the stocking, too. Now we don’t have to color in children’s books. We also don’t have to use crayons. We have a huge assortment of colored pencils and fancy adult books in which to use them.

I’ve always used coloring as a stress reducer, even though I’d probably be considered a little OCD about staying in the lines, or that the colors would be balanced in a paisley design. Just the experience of slowing down and coloring was a way to slow down my mind. But I colored it my way with no pressure to color it the way everyone else did. If you do color, are you the type that must stay in the lines or are you okay with the occasional slip over the edges?

Though how does coloring relate to writing you might ask. Quite a bit of parallel I would answer.

In writing we have certain rules or lines we need to stay within. But the way we write within those lines is chosen by us. Like we might choose pink (I would!) to color the flower, we  also choose the words to best describe our thought or design if you will.

Even though we have the choice to stay within the lines or rules, we can also sneak a little over the line. We get to add a little flair to the picture. As writers, we are using words rather than colored pencils to tell our story—or color our page. And each of us will use our own creativity to do that. We may choose carnation or a fuchsia pencil rather than just pink to liven up our story. We’re staying pretty much within those lines, but we’re going bold to make our statement pop. Or we may go with taupe or grey instead of cream to subdue the story.

If you like to color, are you the type that stays perfectly within the lines and uses the basic eight colors? Or are you a daredevil and go bold with the 64 pack and go over the lines?

And what type of writer are you? Do you stay in the lines or take it to the edge? Do you write with bright colors and show your personality—your voice—in your writing?

For me, I’ll be grabbing that fuchsia pencil, thank you very much.
You’ll find Tammy Karasek seeing humor and causing laughter in every aspect of life. Her past, filled with bullying and criticism from family, is the driving force of her passion to always encourage others and give them The Reason to smile. She’s been married to her college sweetheart, Larry, for 37 years, a mom to their grown daughter, Kristen, and wrapped around the paw of a little dog named Hattie. Born and raised in Ohio, her family now resides in South Carolina. She is the President of Word Weavers Upstate SC, member of ACFW and My Book Therapy/Novel Academy. She’s the Blog Editor for Word Weavers International. A Conference Assistant for Blue Ridge Christian Writers Conference. A monthly contributor for The Write Conversation. A contributor in the 2018 Divine Moments Compilation Book—Cool-inary Moments. Also a regular contributor to several other blogs.  Connect with Tammy: Email: Facebook: Twitter:  Instagram:  Website:

November 26, 2019

Never Waste a Crisis

By Doyne Phillips, Managing Editor for Southern Writers Magazine

Michael Bloomberg was being interviewed about his possible 2020 run for President and was asked about his stance on gun control in the light of the mass shootings in America. He felt there was an opportunity to get legislation passed while the public has this crisis on their minds. He made the statement, “A crisis is too important to waste.”

It may seem cold hearted but the truth is the crisis at hand will give wings to the legislation he is hoping for. It will do the same for other things as well. You see it all the time. Song writers write about current happenings. They take a crisis and let it carry their song further than it may go without it. The same is true for movies, TV shows and books.

The crisis of the day is reflected in our entertainment. This is due to several reasons. It is on our minds and possible has “top of mind” status. The story is known. It readily connects because it is familiar. As familiar as it is to us there is always a twist or two that can be added and change things about it entirely. The basic concept is there before us. Introducing a story with familiarity makes it easier to go deeper and make it more complex.

In politics a crisis gives reason to act. To reverse the process, that is to meet a political action one desires, one must create a crisis that can be acted on and met in a way that achieves the outcome we desired. Often this is implemented and achieved with no obvious connection between desired outcome and the crisis created.

With this said writers should keep their eyes open to the opportunities around us. Use the existing crisis at hand to give wings to your story. It can, with a quantum leap, carry your story further and faster due to its familiarity to the reader.

If there is no crisis to carry the story you have create one. What crisis would there need to exist to carry your story and bring to fruition the outcome you desire. This can be established by back tracking from your desired outcome to a reason why each step was completed. From outcome to crisis and crisis to outcome. This can work and work well for you.

All in all, as a writer we should always remember, “A crisis is too important to waste.” Michael Bloomberg,     

November 25, 2019

When Art Imitates Life

By Amy Metz

When people ask me what I do for a living, I sometimes jokingly say I lie for a living. Isn’t that what fiction writers do? I think the difference between a writer and a liar is that a writer uses his or her imagination to tell a story and entertain, whereas a liar uses his imagination to deceive, mislead, and control.

A couple of years ago I became acquainted with a toxic narcissist. I say acquainted because narcissists are such excellent liars no one ever really knows the real person. I believed everything he said until things started to not add up. And then he lied about his lies, something I call “liar layers.” (Say that three times real fast.) I know now that his lies made my reality a lie. He wasn’t who I thought he was, and our relationship wasn’t what I thought it was. I’d heard of narcissism, but at the time I didn’t know the traits of a narcissist or the depths of lying to which they will go. Everyone knows liars weave tangled webs, and sooner or later, their lies become unearthed. As Dorothy Allison said, “Things come apart so easily when they have been held together with lies.”

I took that awful experience with a toxic narcissist and developed a story around it for the fifth book in my Goose Pimple Junction mystery series. In Liars & Lunatics in Goose Pimple Junction, main character Caledonia experiences much of what I went through in that short but doomed relationship. In the book, Virgil is a liar and a narcissist in both his personal and his professional life. But the truth came out as it did in my real-life story, albeit with a slightly different outcome.

I’ve known several liars in my life, and they have taught me valuable lessons, but I have to say it was cathartic to make them suffer in my fictional world. In the fourth book in the series (Rogues & Rascals in Goose Pimple Junction), an unscrupulous publisher in my real life got his just desserts and a divorce attorney who was less than above board in real life died a violent death. in this newest book, I again took pleasure taking my experience with a real-life narcissist and using it in Caledonia’s world. Virgil is a classic narcissist, and his words and actions lead to his ultimate demise. They say to never wrong a writer—they get their revenge on paper. I’m not advocating actually exacting revenge on an enemy, but it is a little satisfying to settle the score, albeit fictionally. If only karma took care of all liars like that. I’m not saying all of them have to die like the characters in my books, but it would be nice if, from time to time, their pants would actually catch on fire.
Amy Metz is the author of the Goose Pimple Junction mystery series. She is a former first grade teacher and the mother of two grown sons. When not writing, enjoying her family, or surfing Pinterest and Facebook, Amy can usually be found with a mixing spoon, camera, or book in one hand and a glass of sweet tea in the other. Amy loves unique Southern phrases, cupcakes, and a good mystery. She lives in Louisville, Kentucky. Website:
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November 22, 2019

Southern Bookseller

By Lindsey P. Brackett

There’s nothing quite like a small southern bookseller.

Often these cozy shops are tucked away in unexpected places. Like any good bookstore, you’ll find teetering stacks of trade-in paperbacks and the bookstore cat lounging atop the most recent display of bestsellers.

I’m convinced these creatures are waiting for the crawdads to sing so they can pounce.

As an author with a small publisher, I’ve learned the best way to get my book onto a shelf in a real bookstore is to simply ask, in person if possible. Homemade treats make the request even sweeter. These owners usually aren’t in the business for the money (are any of us?) and when an author comes to visit, they’re happy to hear all about your story.

Less the one you’ve written and more the one you’re living I’ve also found.

The local shop owner at Edisto Beach wants to know why I write about this barrier island where there are no high-rise hotels or putt-putt courses. These reasons and my family history are precisely why I write about Edisto. She tells her regular customers, the ones she knows never miss a Sunday in their pew, they’ll probably like my books because I go to church, too.  

She didn’t learn that from reading my books but from the conversation we had one late Friday afternoon as a book signing wound down and customers dwindled.

In my current hometown, our local bookstore is perfectly categorized by the sign out front. “Inside, books. Outside, bears (maybe). Why risk it?”

I’ve lived here for three years but haven’t yet made it over to this store. For some reason, I had more fear about walking into the Mt. Yonah Book Exchange then I did Fiction Addiction in Greenville, SC. When I finally popped in the other week—after giving up that I would ever find the right time in which I would be dressed in something other than workout clothes—the owner laughed when I introduced myself. She knew how I was, told me people ask about my books all time. She’d have ordered them long ago if she knew where she could get them.

And I was left to wonder how many sales I’ve now lost because I didn’t place enough value on the might of this small bookseller.

My books are on her shelf now, and I’m inclined to believe they’ll be seen by more customers trickling through her bookstore than the ones clicking by on the Internet.
After all, in the bookstore, the only distraction is more books—and the cat who wants to know what you’ll be reading next.

Tips for working with booksellers:
·         Bring swag: bookmarks, postcards, sell sheets with information on your book including ISBN and where to order.
·         Make a purchase.
·         Offer an ARC or influencer copy.
·         Don’t forget the treats!
·         Use your southern charm. We all know you sell more books with honey.

Find my newest novel on the shelf at these southern booksellers: Mt. Yonah Book Exchange (Cleveland, GA), Books with A’Peal (Cornelia, GA), Fiction Addiction (Greenville, SC), and the Edisto Island Bookstore (Edisto Island, SC).

I’m always up for a bookstore visit! Email me:
Lindsey P. Brackett writes southern fiction infused with her rural Georgia upbringing and Lowcountry roots. Her debut novel, Still Waters, inspired by family summers at Edisto Beach, released in 2017. Called “a brilliant debut” with “exquisite writing,” Still Waters was named an INSPY finalist and the 2018 Selah Book of the Year. Her second novel, The Bridge Between, released July 31, 2019. Download Magnolia Mistletoe with newsletter signup at or on Instagram and Facebook: @lindseypbrackett.

November 21, 2019

Giving a Unique Gift to Your Thanksgiving Guests

By Annette Cole Mastron, Communications Director for Southern Writers Magazine

In a week, most families in America will gather with their friends and family to enjoy time together over  traditions both new/old and a bevy of food. My idea is to use your talents and write a story to share with your guests. Print a copy for each guest to take home. You could wrap it up as a take home goodie bag for each guest. 

Ideas for stories abound. Y’all are authors and creative. Here are a few suggestions for stories:

-Write out your Thanksgiving recipes and share the stories as to how the dishes became part of this Thanksgiving menu. 

-Write a Thanksgiving memory you share with each guest. You might want to enclose pictures. It could be a family Thanksgiving memory that perhaps younger members gathered may not know and will remember. 

-Write a prayer of Thanksgiving and list uplifting Scriptures about blessings and gratitude. You can print a copy and give it to each of your guests. 

In researching this blog, I came across a Spoon University article by Melissa Fisch at Duke University, “Our Funniest, Weirdest, Most Memorable Thanksgiving Stories.” The article may help jog your memories. 

Pick up your pen and get started. Yes, I know we are all busy preparing for the big day but you CAN do this! 

Have fun, laugh out loud and enjoy the writing process. You have a week to delight your Thanksgiving guests with YOUR stories on Thanksgiving Day. Happy ThanksGiving, Y'all!

November 20, 2019

How to Write a Novel Agents and Editors Will Love

By Walt Gragg

Actually, the title of this article is highly misleading.  I can’t tell you how to write books agents and editors will love.  I can’t tell you how to approach putting a novel together at all.  Nor would I want to do so.  We’re all individuals.  Our approach, the experiences we draw from in creating a work agents, editors, and readers will love, are uniquely ours.  How I write is unlike anyone I’ve ever met.  How I come up with the story lines, I haven’t a clue.  How I piece together the story and polish it until the words leap off the page may not work for you at all.  But it doesn’t matter.  It works for me. 

Only you can do figure out what works for you.

Am I saying don’t go to writers conferences and learn everything you can about the process of writing and selling your work?  I’m I saying don’t join a critique group?  I’m not saying that at all.  You should go to as many conferences as you can.  You should join a writers group if it works for you.  But ultimately you need to parse what you learn, along with the advice you receive, and apply your own filter to how you wish to approach putting words on the page.

Are there “rules” you need to follow?  Absolutely.  There are some basic ones.  Learning them is critical.  The biggest rule most aspiring writers break is sending their work before it’s ready.  What you send has to be the best you can make it.   You also need to ensure your submission is properly formatted.  Send a single-spaced manuscript and they won’t even consider it.  There are lots of books on formatting manuscripts.  Get one.  Sending an error filled, rough draft won’t get you a second look.  

Blind calling an agent, whose time is precious, rather than querying or better yet, pitching them at writers conference, is a no-no.  Strangely, the most important rule if you’re going to succeed is not about the actual writing.  It’s about the selling.  Before you sit down to write the first word, understand one thing – getting published is a marathon not a sprint.  It can take years for your work to find a home.  And those years can be beyond frustrating.     

Are there “rules” you can ignore?  Yes.  I break many of them.  It’s important to me that my books are distinctively mine.  As I told my editor at Penguin Random House “I want to be the first me, not the tenth someone else.”

The one person you must please more than anyone is you.  With my second novel The Chosen One, coming out this month and the one I’m presently writing already sold, I am pleased I made the effort to be true to me in my writing.

Trust your instincts.  Do what works for you. 

Write the best book you can and see where it leads.
Walt Gragg lives in the Austin, Texas area.  He is a retired attorney and former Texas State Prosecutor.  Prior to law school, he spent a number of years in the military.  His time with the Army involved many interesting assignments including three years in the middle of the first Cold War serving at United States European Command Headquarters in Germany where the idea for his first novel THE RED LINE took shape.  Walt is the 14th Annual American BookFest 2017 Best Book Award Winner for best thriller and was a finalist for the prestigious International Thriller Writers Best First Novel.  Walt’s book releases include –THE RED LINE and THE CHOSEN ONE  He is presently working on a third novel that is already under contract to the Berkley Publishing Group at Penguin Random House. Website - Facebook – walt gragg books

November 19, 2019

ThanksGiving for Our Blessings

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

Southern Writers wants to wish all of you an early Happy Thanksgiving.

We pray your family and friends who love you, believe in you and encourage you surround you this Thanksgiving.

We want to thank all our guest posters for being part of this author’s community and for sharing your thoughts, encouragement, inspiration and techniques with other writers.

To have a gift of words is in itself, a wonderful blessing. By writing those words in a book, you can reach people all over the world, be an influence for love, peace, and understanding, and create worlds that delight and entertain others.

We thought it would be nice to list on our blog something we are thankful for during this holiday.
Want you join us and leave a comment of something you are most thankful for.

For me, I am most thankful God and country and being able to work at something I love, writing. I am thankful for my family and friends and thankful for all the wonderful authors that have been a part of Suite T, Southern Writers’ community author’s blog. I am thankful for you!

We hope you will share with us, what you are thankful for this Thanksgiving.

November 18, 2019

SEO Helps You Write for One and Reach the Multitudes- Part Two

By Rhonda Robinson

A few years back, a writer handed me her emotions in a tangled knot. She had gone to a networking meeting with the hope of meeting, and impressing, a particular editor. In the course of their conversation she let the cliché slip, “If my book could change only one person’s life, it would all be worth it.” Without so much as a nod to her nobility he quipped, “Well then, I think you need to broaden your expectations.”

It’s really never very becoming to end a conversation with your jaw on the floor.

Nonetheless, both of them were right.

Whatever you write, your ideal reader is the person who sees your book and knows it’s for her.

That’s the one whose life you want to impact. When you understand search engine optimization (SEO) you can broaden your expectations. You can be found when your looked for, and even better, discovered when you’re not.

Who is your number one?

What are his or her dreams, goals, and predawn prayers? The first step in understanding SEO, is knowing that one person so well, that you could pick out her drapes for her.

Create an avatar of your ideal reader.

Begin by find an image of what you image he or she looks like. The avatar will give you a visual of his or her age, social status, and should show a bit of personality. Next create a brief story about his or her life. If you have a book Facebook page, look up the analytics of your fan base. There you will find a lot of information about those who like your page.

What you need to keep in mind is that when your ideal reader is searching for your content, she is doing so with, what is known as, intent and context in marketing. In publishing it translates as “felt need.”

For example, “I need to find out about the stages of grief (intent) because my sister lost her spouse (context).

There are groups of people searching with the same context—or felt need. You will also find groups of people with different intent and context. Most importantly you will find groups of readers with the same intent but all may have different contexts—all of which will discover your content as meeting their need.

Your reader has a felt need and you have the answers.

They may not be ready to buy your book. They might not be ready for that kind of a relationship with you. After all, you just met. Perhaps a blog post over coffee. After a couple of those, she might give you her email address as a token of her openness to the prospects of a deeper relationship.

This courtship between you and your prospective reader is facilitated by a bot (search engine).

By understanding the needs of one person you want to serve, you can use keywords that express their intent and context so the bot will bring your readers to you. 
Rhonda Robinson is an author, speaker, and marketing coach with EA Books Publishing. She has led teams of writers and social media managers to create online viral content.As a mother and a grandmother of a growing population of towheads, Rhonda launched her passion for the next generation into the front lines of the culture war. Her work is known for its disarming honesty and in-depth analysis. Her commentary has been read on-air by Rush Limbaugh and referenced by policy institutes. Hundreds of her articles and columns have been published in traditional newspapers and influential conservative sites. As a recovering political junkie, Rhonda restores her barefoot soul writing tucked in the hills of Tennessee, among the herbs and muddy paw prints. Her new book, FreeFall: Holding on to Faith When the Unthinkable Strikes is due out Jan. 2020 New Hope Publishers. Social Media links: website. Facebook: Twitter: @amotherslife  Linked In: Rhonda-Robinson

November 15, 2019

SEO: The Path That Leads The Reader to Your Doorstep Part 1

By Rhonda Robinson

With over 4 million blog posts being published daily, understanding and using Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is critical in finding your target audience. More importantly, it paves a direct path for readers to your doorstep.

SEO is the stage and setting for you and your reader’s first date. There are three characters in this relationship: The searcher (your reader), the robot search engine (“the butler bot”), and you (the writer).

The searcher wants results. Now. Information on anything and everything she is looking for immediately. She holds the power of the internet, literally, in the palm of her hand. She has needs, and she expects to quickly find the help she’s looking for.

The search engine wants revenue. It’s design, programming, and purpose is to generate revenue. Not for you—but for the web properties it serves. Think of it as a little butler robot serving the searcher relevant and popular answers on a silver plate. The bots’ goal is to keep searchers on the web properties it owns as long as possible. This is how it generates revenue.

The writer wants to be found. Blog posts read. Books sold. You want to be on that pretty silver tray of offerings to your readers. Whether its traffic to your website, article, or video content—that’s how your found.

Is your content discoverable? Can it be found when your readers are not looking for you?

Are you available? Can you be found when they are looking specifically for you.

We tend to think of the internet and search engines as one in the same. We envision this information highway like our own interstate highways. A more accurate way to think of the internet is as individual cities, with houses that have their own addresses.

Pinterest has its own search engine that seeks to keep visitors on its own property. When a searcher puts in the keywords to find what she is looking for the bot only searches Pinterest. The same goes for YouTube.

Google has paid ads the searcher will always see first. Google’s property, the results page, dedicates a small portion of each page to the most relevant content in its own city. That’s where you want your address to show up.

We spend a lot of time and effort trying to connect with readers on social media. It’s just as important to show up in the right city, so the bot can serve up your address to the person searching for you—whether they know they need you or not.

Which search engine should you be available and discovered on? On Monday 11-18-19 I will explore more SEO ideas in Part Two titled, "SEO Helps You Write for One and Reach the Multitudes- Part Two."
Rhonda Robinson is an author, speaker, and marketing coach with EA Books Publishing. She has led teams of writers and social media managers to create online viral content.As a mother and a grandmother of a growing population of towheads, Rhonda launched her passion for the next generation into the front lines of the culture war. Her work is known for its disarming honesty and in-depth analysis. Her commentary has been read on-air by Rush Limbaugh and referenced by policy institutes. Hundreds of her articles and columns have been published in traditional newspapers and influential conservative sites. As a recovering political junkie, Rhonda restores her barefoot soul writing tucked in the hills of Tennessee, among the herbs and muddy paw prints. Her new book, FreeFall: Holding on to Faith When the Unthinkable Strikes is due out Jan. 2020 New Hope Publishers. Social Media links: website. Facebook: Twitter: @amotherslife Linked In: Rhonda-Robinson

November 14, 2019

Never Too Late to Write a Holiday Story

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

Almost everyone has a Thanksgiving story and you don’t have to be an American to have one. A Thanksgiving story can be about what you’re thankful for in life or if you’re American—your individual Thanksgiving story where family and friends gather around the table as a November custom celebrated in so many homes across the U.S.A. And that’s the story line I’ll be addressing in this article.

With every Thanksgiving celebration, there’s usually a trip to the store for a turkey unless you raise your own. The turkey is key to the food story, the star character if you will. Then there are the sides. Those oh-so-delicious-sides.

Does Aunt Louise cart in a cake or pie to the get together? Which cousin likes to stir up some veggies? Which relative is a good cook and which relative is a terrible cook, bless her heart? Which friend volunteers to set the table but doesn’t know where the silverware goes? Which relatives always show up late—which delays the meal because they had to lasso the turkey? Which relative always sashays in with deviled eggs—wearing a fur coat (the relative, not the eggs)—because deviled eggs are the cheapest dish to bring? Which aunt doesn’t season any of her veggies and her dishes always taste bland? Which friends have a car break down on the way to dinner and someone has to go scoop them up to haul them in?

There are so many different scenarios and subplots going on when you gather a group of people together for a holiday meal. I’m sure you can come up with many scenarios and subplots on your own. If you take one story at a time and flesh out each character, then throw in lots of conflict when the characters clash—oops, come together, pretty soon you would have a novella or perhaps a novel, depending on how much drama you can drum up.

I think I’ll take my own advice and get to work on that project. It’s never too late to write a holiday story. Happy soon-to-be Thanksgiving ya’ll!         

November 13, 2019


By Jeffrey Blount

I was a freshman in college, working diligently at my first attempt to craft a novel.  I was having difficulty finding my voice as a writer as well as the voices of my characters.  My English professor, being quite proud of my efforts, set up a phone call for me with a friend of hers who was a published author.  I held my pen at the ready, hoping that I’d be able to write fast enough to capture all of the knowledge he would be handing over.  Nervously, I laid out my literary issues.  He responded by saying,  
One word and then nothing, in the resulting silence, he let me begin to come to grips with the message. Little did I know, this one word would be the most important piece of literary advice I would ever receive.  It was extraordinarily important to the success of my recent release The Emancipation of Evan Walls.
As a son of the South, I am familiar with many of its songs.  One particular song was the language of the people in the community in which I was raised.  I was setting the story in a small, rural town in the late 60s and early 70s.  I wanted to reflect that time in the voices of my characters.  So, I remembered my lesson. If you want to know what conversations in a bar sound like, the author told me when the phone conversation resumed, you go in, buy a beer, sit down and listen. Don’t talk to anyone.  Just listen.  And not just to the words.  Hear the joy and the pain.  Hear the comfort and the doubts.  Words are more than just sounds.  
In my case, I couldn’t go in and just listen.  Many of the voices I treasured had passed on.  Many had simply changed with the times.  So, I looked inward.  I sat and remembered situations from my childhood and soon the voices returned, and I heard them.  Many people call what I wrote dialect.  Some thought I shouldn’t use it, because in the present it might play into stereotypes of African Americans.  But according some linguists, it isn’t a dialect but a separate language.  It was my language.  My heritage and I wanted to represent it.  So, I heard my great-grandmother tell her stories and felt the emotions tied to her voice.  I heard my great aunt say, “Chile, please!” when someone made her laugh so hard she had to beg for mercy.  I wrote outwardly from those voices, creating my story from them. And I am proud to say that I listened well.  The language, or music of my youth as I like to call it, rang true to readers and added so much to the story. Author, Christina Kovac wrote, “…the dialogue is superb.”  Author Viga Boland wrote that I was a master at “…revealing characters and their motivations primarily through dialogue.”
These days, I give the gift of “listen” whenever I am asked for writing advice.  But not only do you need to listen to the world around you, you really have to hear yourself.  Writing isn’t just about crafting, it’s about the opening up of our souls and reflecting upon it.  Listening to it and then finding the courage to put that on paper.
Jeffrey Blount is the award-winning author of three novels — Almost Snow White, winner of the 2013 USA Best Book Awards, Hating Heidi Foster, winner of the 2013 Readers Favorite Book Award for young adult literature and his recent release, The Emancipation of Evan Walls. He is also an Emmy award-winning television director and a 2016 inductee to the Virginia Communications Hall of Fame.  During a 34-year career at NBC News, Jeffrey directed a decade of Meet The Press, The Today Show, NBC Nightly News, The Chris Matthews Show and major special events. Jeffrey is an accomplished public speaker, commenting on issues of race, social justice and writing. He was a contributor for HuffPost and has been published in The Washington Post, The and other publications.  He is also an award-winning documentary scriptwriter for films and interactives that are now on display in the Smithsonian Museum of African American History and Culture.  the Newseum,  America I AM: The African American Imprint at the National Constitution Center, The Museum at Bethel Woods, at the site of the 1969 Woodstock Music and Arts Fair, and others.  These projects have won Cine Golden Eagle Awards,  Muse Awards and a Thea Award. Born and raised in Smithfield, Virginia, he now lives in Washington, DC. Social Media Links: Twitter: Facebook: Instagram: Website: