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A Writer’s Conference, Some New Ideas, and Several Awards

Last Saturday I had the opportunity to attend the All Write Now Conference in Cape Girardeau, Missouri.

The conference was held at the University Center on the campus of Southeast Missouri State University.  Perusing the schedule, I circled the workshops I wished to attend.

First hour, Brian Klems, Senior Online Editor from Writer’s Digest spoke on “25 Questions You Need Answered Before you Seek an Agent or Self-Publish a Book”.  His handout included information on the ‘how’s, whats, and where’s’ of resources on getting your book published and building social media platforms. Along the way, he gave personal examples of his road to publication, and humorous stories living with three daughters.

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Second hour, Robert Yehling presented a workshop on “Keys to Writing Conversational Dialogue: The Driving Force of Your Fiction and Nonfiction”.  His workshop explained how the right dialogue is so vital in writing, because the reader directly relates and ‘hears’ what humanize characters. He gave personal experiences of meeting autistic surfing great, Clay Marzo, which served as the anchor for Robert’s biography on Clay, Just Add Water.

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After lunch, literary agent at Speilburg Literary agency, Alice Speilburg, held a workshop on “Narrative Pull: How to Keep Agents and Editors Reading”.  Alice’s suggestions included starting with a gripping opening, follow with an inciting incident, rising action, tension, climax, falling action, and finally, resolution in your story. Other steps to ‘build a tight rope’ included placing your main character in an eye-opening situation, keep your character looking forward, among others.

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The last workshop of the day, Karen Sargent, debut author of “Waiting for Butterflies”, presented “Marketing Strategies: Extending Your Reach and Preparing for a Book Launch”. Karen went over topics such as Who’s Going to Buy Your Book, The Truth Is, Hanging out Online, Building Book Buzz, Social Media Graphics, Book Launch, and Resources. This lady has such a plethora of information, it made my head spin! Her suggestions and resources could keep you busy 24×7!

After taking a break to grab a cappuccino and tea with co-author and friend, Pat Wahler, (Midnight the One-Eyed Cat) at a local coffeehouse, we returned to attend the awards ceremony for the contest winners.

I walked away with four awards – First Place for Nonfiction, Honorable Memorable for Nonfiction, and Second and Third Place for Poetry.  I snagged the Grand Prize drawing (free registration next year), and the main door prize drawing (a $50 Southern Writers Business Ad), as well. I believe I wore a path in the carpet walking up to receive the awards, which proved a bit embarrassing.

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All in all, it was a great day, and rejuvenated my creative juices! Once home, I submitted a query to a publisher, and received a request for a full manuscript.

You never know what life has in store for you. Be ready for surprises!

Peace out and keep writing,

And check out my inspirational book of photography and poetry, Folly Beach Dances, which includes contributions from five-award winning Missouri women authors, including myself and husband.

xoxoxo

Sheree

 

A book deal! “Midnight, The One-Eyed Cat”

For two years, I stared at a particular phrase on the cork bulletin board in my office that my husband conceived as a book title about our 16 year old black cat, Midnight thinking, “I need to write a book about this…”

Midnight loved to prance throughout the house, her tail held high, the end sometimes waving or curling like a soft feather.

Last fall, on a gorgeous crisp morning, I awoke and penned Midnight’s tale to paper. But it wasn’t quite finished, and I couldn’t quite finish it without the creative words of fellow animal lover and friend, Pat Wahler.

I said to her, “You see, there’s this cat, and she has disabilities….”

Thus began a beautiful friendship where “Midnight, The One-Eyed Cat” blossomed on paper, and in both of our hearts.

Over coffee, tea, and chocolate at a favorite hangout in Cottleville, we edited, wrote, and re-edited. Months later, we sent off queries. A well-respected local publisher responded, touched by Midnight’s story, and offered words of encouragement, positive feedback, even suggestions for revisions.

Of course, this called for more coffee, tea and chocolate as we edited away.

When Pat and I felt we were ready, we resubmitted and sent off the revised story to the publisher.

About a month ago, we signed a contract with Amphorae Publishing for “Midnight, The One-Eyed Cat” – a picture book about overcoming disabilities, building confidence, and realizing it’s okay to be you, just the way you are.

We’re so excited to embark on this journey and can’t wait to bring Midnight’s story of courage to children near and far!

Here’s a pic of our pretty girl….(In real life, she is not disabled)

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Awards, Booksignings, and Libraries

Sorry I haven’t blogged in awhile, but my life has been all about taking care of Miss Adeline and her kitten babies. And I promise to post pics real soon, as three have already been adopted out to wonderful families. Here’s a pic of all six with momma.

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But for now, I’d like to give you updates on my writing.

IMG_1578 Folly Beach Dances at Schlafy

Hubby attended a lovely author event and booksigning at the Schlafy Branch of the St. Louis Public Library while I was away at the Missouri Writer’s Conference Guild on April 30, in Kansas City. I received two writing awards that weekend — Third Place for Best Magazine Article published in AAA Southern Traveler, “How Sweet It Is”, and Second Place for Best Poem published in Well Versed Literary Works 2015 for my poem, “Steadfast”, about my mom.

When I returned home from the conference, I was pleased to find that Kenneth Hardcastle emailed a pic of FOLLY BEACH DANCES being integrated into the library.

This past Sunday, I attended the Well Versed Literary Works 2016 booksigning event in Columbia, Missouri, and received Second Place for Nonfiction for my essay titled “The Stranger” about an incident where a stranger lurked in my parent’s basement when I was a young child. It came with a cash award, which made me smile.

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Finally, we’re doing a FOLLY BEACH DANCES booksigning event at the Roasted Bean, from 10 a.m. to 12 noon on Saturday June 18, at 441 Main Street, Troy, Missouri. Roasted Bean only serves Blue Print roasters coffee (from U City loop) — the best espresso around. So stop by, learn about our sea-inspired coffee table book of photography and poetry, and sip a great cup of java!

If you can’t make it to the signing you can order books on Amazon, or purchase in South Carolina or Missouri. Just check the book’s website for availability.

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Troy Buchanan Writer’s Week – 7 days of inspiration

On March 16, hubby and I had the great pleasure of presenting two talks to students at Troy Buchanan High School Writer’s Week.

Writer’s Week is an annual event where authors come from all around to talk about their books, their journey, and the craft of writing – a full week of back-to-back sessions for the students.

As my husband, Russell and I stepped into the library, we noticed a photo of our book propped on an easel. Upon closer inspection, it was actually a ceiling tile painting, and realistic depiction of our book cover, Folly Beach Dances. So excited, I asked April Elliott, the Art teacher who painted the tile, to pose for a photo next to her creative masterpiece.

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Book covers from visiting authors hung as ceiling tiles in the space overhead, such as The Hate List by bestselling author Jennifer Brown.

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The session commenced as a few students read their works to fellow students before our presentation. One young writer from our church, Tyler Tippett, shared a poignant and touching essay about a family member.

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DSC_0874 Russell copyrAfterwards, Russell and I proceeded to tell the story of Folly Beach Dances in words and pictures. We hoped the students took away with them the purpose and mission of our ‘healing’ coffee table book.

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Georganna Krumlinde, Library Media Specialist, (yellow t-shirt) graciously provided us with lunch and a surprise basket of gifts from the school once our session ended.

In the process, I discovered Annie England Noblin, NYT bestselling author of Sit! Stay! Speak! was a presenter at Troy Buchanan. Later in the week, writer friend Pat Wahler and I, attended her session. During Annie’s break, we chatted about writing, our fur babies, and life in Missouri.

 

Author Spotlight – Meet C. Hope Clark

I first heard Hope speak at the Missouri Writer’s Guild conference a few years ago. I loved the fact that she always smiled, and consistently wove positivity in her talks.

When I discovered Hope and I were featured authors at a booksigning at Columbia, South Carolina’s Irmo Branch Library in March, I suggested our husbands meet over dinner the evening prior to the event.

After three hours of lively conversation on writing, vacations, dogs, and various topics, we almost  closed down the restaurant. Looking around at nearby tables, we didn’t recognize any of the original patrons when first seated. We decided to leave the waitress a NICE tip.

Hope graciously accepted my invitation to do “An Author Spotlight” Q&A. So without, further ado, I give you C. Hope Clark!

Q: When did you realize you wanted to write for a living? And do you prefer speaking engagements to writing?

Funny, but I can recall making the mental shift from working for a living to the concept of writing for one when I had lunch with a co-worker and he asked why I did not write for me. My work was routinely craved by management when I worked for the Federal government, and I entered my boss’s office many a time to ask “how do you want to spin this?” Should’ve known I wrote fiction all the way back then. But after three years of playing at it part-time, I realized that writing was what I wanted to do, with a passion I’d never had for anything else, so I took an early retirement at age 46 and never looked back. I’m a strong advocate of moving forward and never looking back.

I prefer writing, without a doubt. However, it’s the speaking that gives me that medicinal vitamin shot in the arm, making me see clearly why I write. I adore speaking to fans, audience and students alike, and their thrill and passion seep into me all over again such that I go home rejuvenated to write again. We have to go out and touch the world to understand how it all works.

Q: What compels you to write about the rural Carolinas, mystery, and weaving an agricultural bent into your books?

My degree is in agriculture. My grandfather was a cotton farmer, and I adored my summers on the farm. I love to garden and can’t stand urban for very long. Nature nurtures me. That and I wanted the world to see more of SC than Charleston, Hilton Head and Myrtle Beach. We are strong people with deep roots and a desire to preserve what is ours, the good and the bad. We don’t write off history, we learn  from it, and I want Carolina Slade to be a representative of this state. And of course, what better way to do that than via a mystery that draws a reader into the setting, into the characters’ lives, to make them guess and solve a puzzle, and ultimately realize that the setting was as much as part of the story as the protagonist and the clues. These books are my way of expressing love for where I live, and for its people.

Q: What do you want readers take away from your books?

A strong sense of place. A wish to be like the protagonist, or at least have enjoyed walking in her shoes. An appreciation for people and understanding that some people are worth fighting for regardless what rules have to be broken. Honor is everything.

Q: What advice do you have for new writers?

Write daily. Read daily. I know it sounds oversimplified, but it’s a practice few new writers are willing to follow, and without this ingrained habit, the writing doesn’t happen.

Q: And finally, I’ve asked this question before of authors – 

As Anne Lamott once said in “bird by bird’, it is important to have a moral position no matter what you do in life. What is your moral position?

Honesty. I believe in people until they prove me wrong.

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C. Hope Clark expresses her love of her South through her Carolina Slade Mysteries and The Edisto Island Mysteries. Her next Edisto book, Edisto Jinx, is due out fall 2015, with the sequel Echoes of Edisto due out summer 2016. Hope speaks nationally to book clubs, conferences and writers groups, and also serves as editor of the writer’s resource FundsforWriters.com, selected on Writer’s Digest’s 101 Best Websites for Writers for the past 15 years. She lives on the bank of Lake Murray in central SC when she isn’t strolling secluded Edisto Beach. www.chopeclark.com

Thoughts on Being a Travel Writer

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frangipani – Sandals Cay

In case you missed my thoughts “On Being A Travel Writer for AAA” in the Funds for Writer’s online newsletter, click on the link below to read tips for those wishing to break into travel writing.

Thanks to C. Hope Clark for allowing me to do a guest blog on this topic. And thanks to my editor at AAA, Debbie Reinhardt, for listening to my queries, and giving me the opportunity to travel and write for AAA Midwest Traveler and AAA Southern Traveler.

http://www.fundsforwriters.com/on-being-a-travel-writer-for-aaa/

Private cabana on Sandals Cay

Private cabana on Sandals Cay

Booksignings, Southern Authors, Beaches, and New Friends

The first week in March, hubby and I set out on a two-city booksigning event for FOLLY BEACH DANCES.

First stop was the Tides Folly Beach Hotel. I’d stayed there last September when my long time friend and author, Tina Solomon, visited Folly Beach to market our ‘healing’ coffee table book FOLLY BEACH DANCES. Recognizing familiar hotel faces, I was happy to be back.

The view from our hotel balcony was the ocean. (Sigh)

In our spare time, Russell and I made it a point to enjoy leisurely strolls on the beach. The first morning, we met a twenty-something Lizzie on the pier. As the three of us walked, we conversed. She spoke fondly of her boyfriend in the military. Browsing through the pier’s gift shop, we noticed FOLLY BEACH DANCES on display. Picking up a copy, Lizzie flipped through the pages of the book, and ended up buying a copy.

Lizzie and me, at FB pier

Lizzie and me, at FB pier

That afternoon we headed to The Preservation Society of Charleston for a booksigning. At first, sales were slow, but by late afternoon we’d hit our stride. What the customers didn’t buy, Evan, the event coordinator, ended up purchasing for the store. A successful event!

The next day, we drove to the end of the island to visit the Folly Beach County Park. As I stepped foot on the sand, I felt transported to a Caribbean oasis. The white sand and muted landscape hues, drew me closer to the water’s edge. And the crisp air beckoned windsurfers to ride the ocean’s waves.

Walking the shoreline, I followed the island’s natural curves. With unbridled anticipation, I was anxious to uncover visual treasures with my camera’s lens. A weathered tree with branches that mimicked windblown hair, awaited me around the next bend.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe bid our goodbye to Folly Beach the next morning, but not before stopping at Bert’s Market – an eclectic hipster produce store. Speaking with Julia, the store’s owner, I was happy when she said she’d carry FOLLY BEACH DANCES!

Next stop – Columbia, South Carolina. After checking into Homewood Suites, we met fellow writer C. Hope Clark and husband, Gary, for dinner at Mr. Friendly’s. The time passed quickly as we spoke of writing, publishing, conferences, the beach, and the lake. I thought the waiter was going to kill us for lingering at her table for more than 2 ½ hours!

Hope and Matt

Hope and Matt

The following day we headed to Irmo Branch Library for a 15-author event. Matt Matthews, author of Mercy Creek, and the First Carolina Novel Prize sat to our right. Hope sat to our left. With her Low Country mysteries, there was a constant stream of visitors to her table. I felt comfortable wedged between these wonderful writers. At the end of the event, I took inventory of our book sales, and realized we did okay.

I told hubby, I’d be back, and took some time to find Southern writer, Tom Poland’s table. Co-author of Reflections of South Carolina. I’d seen his book everywhere – even in Missouri. Along with Robert Clarke, Tom created a wonderful journey of photography and essays, weaving personality and character into the book’s colorful pages.DSC_1220 Tom Poland crop copyr

Tom and I chatted for awhile, and I learned of his humble beginnings in writing. Back in the 70’s, he had a wild idea to take to the road with Robert. With no plan in mind, they’d write and photograph whatever they found interesting. And they never looked back. We shook hands, exchanged business cards, and agreed to meet again whenever in the South.

The car loaded with suitcases, we set course for our next destination – Sunset Beach, North Carolina. Three hours later, we pulled into the parking space of our beach rental, the Graham Sporting Goods house.

Friend and fellow author, Jacqueline DeGroot, stopped by for a visit the following night to talk, watch the sun set below the horizon, and drop off her recent book releases – The Cemetery Kids series. I snapped a photograph of Jack for an upcoming story.

The next three days were bliss. Lazy days spent walking the beach – in the morning, the afternoon, and at sunset. Oh, the sunsets. The sunsets were divine.DSC_1452 birds under pier sunset copyrWhen not on the beach, we’d hop in the car and putter along Shoreline Drive, gazing at the gorgeous homes, with the intercoastal waterway in the distance. We’d stop at our favorite coffee shop, or just shoot photos of flowers, birds, or landscapes.

Oh how I love Sunset Beach.

We made some new furry friends along the way. Sassy and Libby, whose owners live in Little River, came down for a beach visit. We met Emmy, a sweet golden, who lives a short five minute walk from the beach.

Emmy

Emmy

Libby

Libby

Needless to say, we’ll be back in Sunset in May with our fur babies. They’ll get to meet Sassy and Libby, and maybe even Emmy. I know they’ll see their friend Mosa, a boxer, who vacations the same week every year.

Oh yeah, the first day of our trip, FOLLY BEACH DANCES was nominated for the Eric Hoffer Award, including a finalist for the da Vinci Eye Award, for excellence in book cover design.

So, all in all, I’d have to say, we had a great trip.

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