Archives

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.

20170715_104446 Brian Klems

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.

20170715_114546 - Robert Yehling crop

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.

20170715_134136 - Alice Speilburg crop

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.

20170718_115028 -AWN awards

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

 

Advertisements

Oysters and Pearls

Recently, I’ve been listening to Jimmy Buffett’s Encore 2 CD set of hits while taking the canine kids for drives around town, running errands, or heading to appointments. I’ve played this CD so many times, it has deep groves in the vinyl.

As I was singing along to “Oysters and Pearls” one afternoon, the chorus was stuck in my head.

(Chorus)

Some people love to lead
And some refuse to dance.
Some play it safely, other take a chance.
Still it’s all a mystery
This place we call the world
Where most live as oysters
While some become pearls.

(Chorus)

Some never fade away, some crash and burn
Some make the world go round, other watch it turn.
Still it’s all a mystery
This place we call the world.
Most are fine as oysters
While some become pearls

Hmm…Oysters and Pearls…

Haven’t some of us been both, at one point in our lives?

DSC_0843 pearls and shells adj copyr

When I won the Da Vinci Eye Award for my ‘healing’ coffee table book, Folly Beach Dances, in 2015, published by Ocean Spirit Photography, I felt like a pearl – so proud, so confident, to have collaborated with five talented Missouri women authors, my husband, and a wonderful designer, to ultimately publish this inspirational book of poetry and photography.

When I realized I wouldn’t be able to bear children, I felt like an oyster, even a failure. A deep chasm was left in my heart.

But quickly, I felt like a pearl again, when I was able to mentor a select group of youth at O’Fallon Christian Church for three years. And what awesome adults these kids have grown up to be – Riliegh, Sidney, Tyler, and Ben.

Some say the key to life is moderation. “You need to crack open the oyster to find the pearl.” (author unknown)

I like that a lot.

So maybe, in our own way, we’re oysters on the outside?

We don’t realize our own potential until we go out on a limb, take a risk, learn how to scuba dive, ride a horse, walk across a ranging stream to reach that waterfall, or whatever it is we crave to get excited about life….and you!

My little kitten, Ireland (aka Tater Tot), sure knows how to live life. She is pure joy! All I have to do is look at her, and the corners of my mouth upturn in a grin. Everything is an adventure for this fur baby. She loves chasing foil balls, talking to cardinals through the French doors, watching squirrels on the deck, stalking her brother from behind the footstool, trying new treats, and snoozing on my lap in the cool of the evening.

DSC_0835 Tater and squirrel copyr

But me…I’ve been playing it safe, except for vacation, when anything is possible.

Why is it for most of us, we hide in our bubble after arrive home from a vacation adventure?

Today, I’m going to make a promise to you, that I’ll try to take more risks in life.

DSC_0836 Tater and squirrel adj copry

I’m not sure where this adventure will lead, but I’m going to finish those writing projects that have been collecting dust, explore my local area, dance more, laugh more and be the tree hugger nerd that I truly am.

Hopefully, I’ll feel more like a pearl than an oyster…every day.

Care to join me?

Peace out and love,

xoxo

Sheree

The Drifter – A poem from Folly Beach Dances

2 The Drifter copyright

Since it’s National Poetry Month, I’d like to share a poem I penned for my 2015 Da Vinci Award Winning book, FOLLY BEACH DANCES – THE INFINITE RHYTHMS OF A SOUTH CAROLINA SEASHORE, inspired by the sea’s rhythm and my lymphoma journey, and endorsed by Karen White, NYT bestselling author.

It’s titled “The Drifter”, on page 5 of this ‘healing’ coffee table book of lyrical poetry and gorgeous photography, with reflections by 5 award-winning women authors, and my husband.

“The Drifter”

Not far in the distance I notice an old tree,

now driftwood,

with branches reaching out to a cornflower blue sky and white-streaked cotton clouds.

The image of a beach bungalow appears in my head,

with sounds of laughter,

lazy days in the sun,

peaceful ocean breezes,

smoky barbeques at dusk

and a warm crackling fire at night.

Except from Return to Folly Beach, Sheree K. Nielsen

Folly Beach Dances, copyright May 2014

Peace out and love,

Sheree

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.

DSC_1264 Elvis and Patric side cpyr

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.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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.

Flyer for Photo Exhibit and Booksigning - FBD roasted bean final 2

Music, Poetry and True Glory

20150605_192734powell orchestra pitLast Friday evening, I attended a concert at Powell Symphony Hall with my friend Nancy. Like a child opening a gift, we were ecstatic to see Chris Botti and the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra perform together. If you’ve never heard of Chris Botti, he’s only the best jazz trumpeter to walk the face of the earth. I’ve not missed a concert of his since he opened for the silken songbird, Diana Krall over 12 years ago at the Fox Theatre.

With no musicality in my family, I love to listen to music of all genres – jazz, classical, Christian and rock.

Entering the venue, seeing everyone dressed in their best, eyeing the winding staircases and the magnificent chandeliers, made me smile.

20150605_191709 powell chandelier 1As we settled in our seats and the lights dimmed, the audience became silent. I closed my eyes for a moment and listened to the sweet melodies permeating from the orchestra, the smooth sounds of Chris’ trumpet, and the weeping strings of the guest violinist. It was nothing less than magical.

Over the course of the evening, Chris brought out guest singers, highlighted his band, and introduced new up-and-comers. As the concert drew to a close, the lights dimmed deeper, and the spotlight was on Chris and his pianist. The room’s ambiance felt like an intimate jazz club.

On Sunday, I headed to another cultural event at the Unity Center in Columbia, Missouri, Friends Abby and Marcia accompanied me to the book launch of Well-Versed 2015. Marcia and I were receiving awards for our works from the Columbia Chapter of the Missouri Writer’s Guild. Our poems and prose were accepted for inclusion into the anthology.DSC_0145DSC_0135

Winners and contributors read aloud poems and stories about Moms, mystery, nature, pets, and even family conflicts. I listened intently.

DSC_0136Some stories had me rolling with laughter, others made me think; still others stirred up such raw emotion I found myself sobbing.

Each event had one thing in common. The performers – whether musicians or writers – glorified God.

When a human being is doing what he or she was created to do, then God is honored and glorified.

When God is honored, “Other people take notice. The world wakes up a little bit, sees things in a clearer/holier light, and seeks the source of that light,” says Coffee with God author, Sarah Arthur.

Performers glorify God by “using their talents to their utmost,” Arthur says.

Sometimes I don’t feel fully alive. I’m either wandering aimlessly throughout the day, depressed or unmotivated. (Like yesterday)

When I take the time to glorify God (right now with my writing), that’s when I feel alive.

And that when I think He is happiest.

Peace, love, and all that Jazz,

Sheree

Proud to Be in Proud to Be: Volume 3

Last week I received my contributor’s copy of PROUD TO BE: Writing by American Warriors, Volume 3. 20141202_110742 cover volume 3

I am so proud to be included in this volume, edited by Susan Swartwout of Southeast Missouri State University Press in collaboration with the Missouri Humanities Council and Warrior Arts Alliance.

Proud to Be is a way for veterans, and families of veterans to share their personal experiences through essays, warrior interviews, fiction, and even photographs.

Apparently, this year there were a record number of submissions for the Warrior Arts Anthology.

The anthology is dedicated to the writing veterans, military-service personnel and family members.

My First Place win for Photography graces pages 66 and is titled “jimmie (pier). My photo was judged by Bradley Phillips, professor of photography, Southeast Missouri State University. A second photo and an interview with Jimmie was accepted for inclusion into the anthology, as well. I was extremely blessed to win this award, for the second year in a row.

jimmie (pier)

jimmie (pier)

But more than that, all the contributions in this book touch on raw accounts of life, war, warriors, emotions, and more. And deserve to be read, and noticed.

So if you get the chance, pick up a copy of Proud to Be: Writing by American Warriors, volume 3 for a veteran, a family member, or a friend for Christmas. It’s a great gift.

~~~~~~~~

 

A Photography Award, a Warrior Veteran, and Proud to Be

Last week I spent traveling through Arkansas for an upcoming story for AAA Southern Traveler and AAA Midwest Traveler. Along the way, I tasted food of all kinds – BBQ, pancakes, the most tender porkchops I’d ever eaten, and some good old-fashioned German chocolate pie with pecans (pronounced pe-cons not pee-cans according to Arkansonians) (did I say that right?).

But nothing surprised me as much as the letter that I received from the Missouri Humanities Council when I arrived home after a week of being on the road.

As I opened the envelope, I thought that it might be the contract for my November 8 workshop with veterans titled “Using Photographs to Tell a Story” at the Central Library in downtown St. Louis. I was mistaken.

Unfolding the letter, a rush of adrenalin overcome me. I let out a shrill scream. I think I scared my husband!

I was awarded First Place from the Missouri Humanities Council for my winning photograph of Jimmie, a Vietnam Vet, fishing on the pier at Sunset Beach, North Carolina. The photograph will be featured in Proud to Be: Writing by American Warriors; Volume 3. The judge was Bradley Phillips, professor of photography at Southeast Missouri State University.

This is the second time I’ve won First Place in this category from the Council. Last year I received the award for my inspirational photograph of Russell, my husband, penning his thoughts in a journal located at the Kindred Spirit Bench in North Carolina. The judge last year was Destinee Oitzinger, Art Director of the National Veterans Art Museum.

I am honored and thankful for this wonderful opportunity. I’ve also discovered that Sunset Beach is soon becoming MY Kindred Spirit….a peaceful respite….a quiet oasis….my love affair and good luck charm….

Below are the two award-winning photographs….

James “Jimmie” McInnis is a three-time Vietnam Vet, and recipient of the Bronze Star and Purple Heart who I met at the Sunset Beach pier in North Carolina. As a hero in action, he unthinkingly pulled four men from an ammo dump that was blown up by a v-device in Vung Tau. Jimmie is a testament to all people everywhere that love this country.

DSC_1606 Jimmie (pier) black and white - by Sheree K. Nielsen copyr

DSCN0300 Russell, flag, Kindred Spirit blkwht copyr