Saturday, November 20, 2010

A Day To Remember by Stanley Klemetson

Bayou writers’ group conference,
A bridge to publication;
You were rewarded for your presence
On listening to their presentations,
Underdown, Goldstein and Coen

Words printed upon the page
Recorded for all to read;
Interesting stories to share,
Tall tales of fiction to hear,
Enthralled and entertained,
Relishing in the synergy,
Speakers energized us all.

Stanley Klemetson, Ph.D., is head of the Department of Engineering at McNeese State University. Most of his writing experience has been for technical publications and books. He served as editor for a college magazine and had previously worked with a publisher for a proposed text book on technical writing. One of his goals is to complete that task. Stan also serves on the Advisory Board for the Write to Excellence Center at McNeese and is taking a class on creative writing. He has started submitting works for contests and is currently working on several poems, short stories and a book.

NOTE: If you are interested in an evening critique group, contact Stan at
stanley.klemetson (at)

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Poetry Can, and Does, Matter by Jan Rider Newman

(Jan with poet Stella Nesanovich)

In an issue of the Atlantic in 1991 Dana Gioia asked: "Can Poetry Matter?" His article was the lead essay in his book Can Poetry Matter? Essays on Poetry and American Culture. If you have somehow or other missed that wonderful essay, please read it here. In summary, the answer is "Yes." Of course. It has to.

Speaking to a poet friend once, I wondered how people live without poetry. Many people, if asked, will probably answer, "Very well, thank you," but I think such an answer comes from lack of understanding what poetry, what all art, is about and is supposed to do for us.

Dana Gioia's philosophy of poetry, simply stated, is that it be accessible to everyone, not only college professors and intellectuals, but plumbers, farmers, homemakers, secretaries, and store clerks. Poetry won't get you out of debt -- ask a poet. A painting won't repair a troubled marriage. A novel won't keep a house out of foreclosure. One thing art will do is show us that we're not alone in our turbulent lives. Our feelings and our losses and gains aren't only our own. So often, if we bother to look, we see them in a poem like "The Lost Garden," a painting like "Girl with a Pearl Earring," or a novel like Cannery Row.

Art doesn't enrich our pocketbooks; it enriches us. I think more people used to understand that. Educators used to grasp and base their teaching on that concept, so that students were prepared not only for the job market, but for life.

The best poetry doesn't live in an ivory tower. Give it a chance, and you'll find out. If you pick up a poem and find it too deep or too dull, put it down and look elsewhere. It doesn't matter if you like Shakespeare or John Donne or Joyce Kilmer. Give poetry a try and see if you get what I'm saying, and what Dana Gioia said better than I.

Jan Rider Newman is a published author whose poetry, short fiction, and nonfiction have appeared in the New Orleans Review, Louisiana Literature, Oasis Journal, Yellow Flag Press, and Sweet Tea and Afternoon Tales, a 2009 anthology. She earned an M.A. in English and an M.F.A. at McNeese State University. She is a contributor to The Best Damn Creative Writing Blog and owner/editor of Swamp Lily Review.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

My First Author Visit (The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly)

I recently experienced my first author school visit. It was a day long visit in which I was asked to speak to students in grades three through eight. It was in conjunction with their book fair taking place on campus.

Now, being a teacher for over thirty years, you would think this would come to me naturally right? WRONG!! I stayed away from teaching students with raging hormones all these years for a reason. I tend to gravitate to the ages where you still seem smart in their eyes and because you are their teacher they love you.

I wasn’t expecting to be asked to be a visiting author this quickly, but it came and I took advantage of the opportunity. Since my book is on a lower level than jr. high students would be interested in, I knew I better add something to my presentation or I would lose them for sure. I came up with something and had it approved by the school’s librarian and one of the eighth grade teachers who happens to be a friend of mine. It was ready to go. Two days before, I found out the presentation time was half the amount of time I was first told. So back to the drawing board I went to chip away at my presentation.

The day of the visit began with an unexpected fire drill and a relocation of where I was to make the presentation. That didn’t bother me. That’s how things go at schools sometimes and I was used to that thank goodness. I was nervous when I first began but soon became comfortable with speaking and really enjoyed it. I changed the presentation some with each age group who came to hear me speak. Even the teenagers gave their attention to my presentation.(Yes!)
At the end of the day, I survived my first author visit. I felt pure elation. It was one more thing on my bucket list I could check off if I actually had one.

I know this won’t be my last author visit. I actually have another one scheduled next month. I am going back to the drawing board to make my visits even more hands on and appealing to the students. I better work on making that bucket list too!

Peggy Clement is the author of a newly released children’s chapter book, Queen of the Castle and contributing author to an anthology, It’s in the Gulf. She is a member of Bayou Writers’ Group and Golden Triangle Writer’s Guild. She resides in Lumberton, TX.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

WHAT'S YOUR DREAM? by Sherry Perkins

Forget bustling New York, glamorous California, picturesque Oregon, breezy Oklahoma, or mountainous Colorado. Being born and reared here, I am totally committed to Louisiana; although, some say we are inbred. Since inbred actually means innate or natural, we are inbred from the time we are babies with certain characteristics like manners, graciousness, calmness, and a fiery gumption in our spirit.

Recently, I proudly and quietly displayed each trait. First, I sat in an audience for over an hour. I then stood in line for a long while, too. “Why?” you ask. I received an invitation for a Louisiana Veterans’ Medal from Governor Bobby Jindal, and this was my experience.

I showed my manners by attending although I did not know anyone there. I knew it would be rude not to go. Graciousness came next when I finally received my medal, met the governor, shook his hand, and said, “Thank you, Governor Jindal.” Although he is young, and is not a veteran, he is our governor and you should have seen the prideful eyes of the hundreds in attendance! It was a humbling and gracious experience.

Sitting alone without my husband, my mother, or any other family member, I watched and listened to the activities around me. Yes, it could have been nerve-wracking for anyone, but I quietly and calmly absorbed my surroundings. Not only had the governor’s presence humbled me; but also the presence of the younger veterans, the veterans from Vietnam, the Korean Conflict, and ultimately from World War II which almost overwhelmed me. Some World War II men had to be in their 90s! I had to be calm, or I would have exploded.

Speaking of exploding, most Southerners have a fiery gumption inside of us. Our determined spirits are a result of many different factors. I do not know if it comes from our ancestors’ fight in the lost cause of a Confederacy. Or, were they beaten down as they drifted further into despair in the Depression? From where did their grit come? As I approached the governor, proud thoughts of my deceased family members flooded my mind.

Had I not gone, I would have let them down. Had I chose to ignore the occasion I would have erased their efforts in the Civil War. I would have spit on their determination to survive the gloomy Depression. Ultimately, I went for my ancestors who could not go. I went for my ancestors who never had a chance to meet a governor. I went for my ancestors who never received a thank you for their service! Sometimes a thank you goes a long ways.

I would not trade living in Louisiana for any other place. Yes, we have manners. Yes, we have grace. Yes, we are a fun-loving, family-oriented, calm people. Mostly though, we have a determined iron will that runs deep in our souls.

For without determination we have no dreams. Everyone has a dream! Bobby Jindal dreamed of being governor. What is your dream?

Sherry Perkins has been published in magazines and newspapers across the state of Louisiana. Her article, Liberty, won Honorable Mention in the BWG Members Only contest. Sherry loves speaking to people, organizing, being supportive of others, and working hard. She recently tossed her hat in the ring for president of BWG.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Learn by Listening by James Tate

Hello. My name is James Tate and I’m addicted to audio books on CD.

This is where you say, “Hello James. Tell us about your addiction.”

Unlike many addictions, I’m not ashamed to say that I listen to several books a week on CD while driving around in my truck. I know your probably thinking that’s a lot of time to spend in my truck. You see, my job requires me to run across town, or bolt to Beaumont, or span the bridge into Bridge City to check out a cabinet job. I drive way too much. But instead of using the time to listen to songs I’ve heard a thousand times, I catch the latest chapter of a James Patterson novel. Instead of listening to the same news, (most of it depressing anyway) I relive my nightmares with Stephen King. How many opinions can you hear on the radio about why the Cowboys need to fire their coach? (Did I just say that?) Sorry bout that, Cowboys fans. The point is, the time could be better spent listening to a book by a new author, someone I’m not sure if I want to spend ten bucks on without trying them out first. This way, if I don’t like the first chapter or two, I return the unused portion to the public library for a full refund. (Hint! It was free to check it out)

Anyway, back to the addiction thing. When I first started listening to these audio treasures, I wasn’t sure if I’d like them. Then a funny thing happened. I found them to be very engrossing. Now don’t get me wrong. My return ratio is about 50/50. Some I barely make it through a track or two, some a chapter or two, because if it gets to rambling—or just plain bogs down with too much detail, I hit the eject button faster than…than…my last rejection letter. That hurt. But the ones that make the cut can keep me entertained for miles of blacktop. *Warning* If you tend to get engrossed in a good story, the road may blur into a movie scene from the Paramount Studios in your head—you know, the place where the words from the page are converted into visions in your minds eye. Be sure and keep one eye on the road.

From a writer’s point of view, these audio books can also be great learning tools. We’ve all heard that one of the best ways to edit our work is to read it out loud. You would be amazed at how much you can learn from listening to a complete novel being read to you. Pay attention to the tone, the pace of the story. What did you like or dislike about the way it was presented? How do your scenes, characters, dialogue compare to what you’re hearing. Try it.

Okay, I said I wasn’t ashamed of my addiction, but there was this one time I sat in the Walmart parking lot for ten minutes waiting to find out if the killer was who I suspected it was. I know. I know. Pitiful! Maybe I’ll start a support group. ABA. (Audio Books Anonymous) What do you think?

James R. Tate is the author of Hot Rod Jones & the Mystery of Gut Shot Creek. He's published in print magazines, and is currently marketing his first full length adult novel while writing his second. His goal is the top of the heap, not the top of the slush pile.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Critiques & Consultations w/Harold Underdown

If you write young adult or children's books and have been undecided about getting a critique from our conference speaker, Harold Underdown, now is the time to make up your mind. We have a few slots left. The first manuscripts for his critique will be mailed to him this week. We've added a second deadline for a second batch. November 1st. Please email me if you want to take advantage of this opportunity. Remember, to participate in this critique you must be registered for the conference and the critique is an extra $35.00. The instructions are below:

First: We also have a couple of scholarships left. Please don't miss this conference because you can't afford to come. I realize $40 is a lot of money when we aren't selling our work. Sometimes we can't rationalize investing in our writing because we don't feel like a "real" writer. I promise you, this conference will be worth your time. You'll learn a lot and you'll come away energized and motivated. You'll come away KNOWING you're a writer. Don't miss this opportunity.

Let me hear from you if you have questions. Manuscripts will be mailed this week to Mr. Underdown but it's not too late to be included. Second batch of manucripts will be mailed on November 2nd. That could be yours! Read the instructions below CAREFULLY.

jessy31writer at aol dot com
bayouwritersgroup at gmail dot com


Harold Underdown will meet with writers about their manuscripts for 15 minutes. You may submit one picture book manuscript or up to ten standard pages of a longer manuscript, along with a cover letter written as if you were submitting the manuscript to a publisher, but including notes on its revision or submission history as well. Include a one-page synopsis of the entire manuscript if submitting part of a long manuscript.

Harold will look at any material, from picture book to YA, either fiction or nonfiction.

PLEASE NOTE: Manuscripts must be received no later than than November 1st. When sending the manuscript, please specify: a critique or a consultation.

Critique: Manuscripts for critiques can be rough or unfinished drafts, or something you believe is ready to send out. In his meeting with you, Harold will focus on ways to improve the manuscript and will give you written comments as well.

Consultation: Manuscripts for consultations should be polished manuscripts, perhaps one already sent out to a publisher, which you believe have no significant writing problems. Harold will focus on "marketing" issues in his meeting with you; possible publishers and how to approach them.

If a manuscript submitted for one option needs the other, in Harold's opinion, that is what he will provide.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

What are the Odds? by Sherry Perkins

I learned about odds in a college statistics class. I learned that odds are the chance of one particular thing occurring out all possible chances. For example, since there are six sides on a die, the odds of rolling a three are one in six (16%). Since there are four suits in a deck of cards, the odds of drawing a heart are one in four (25%).

Recently I left a situation wondering, “What are the odds?” when I had several random occurrences unexpectedly. Occurrence number one: I found myself at an “entertainment” establishment where I had not been in years. Occurrence number two: While there, I ran into a friend who has been living in Pennsylvania for 20 years and this was her first time there! Occurrence number three: It was September 11! Now, each of these occurrences could be coincidence, right?

Yet, what are the odds that on that particular night, I went to that particular place? I’d say that’s 1 out of 365 since there are 365 days in a year (not counting Leap Year.) The same odds apply to the date being September 11, 1 out of 365. Additionally, since the place opened sixteen years ago, and this was my friend’s first visit, it means one out of 5,840 (sixteen years times 365.)

Furthermore, if you add each odd together, the combined odds for those situations are three out of a possible 6,570 chances (one plus one plus one, and 5,840 plus 365 plus 365). What are the odds? I’ll tell you! It’s only .0004 percent.

Were we meant to see each other? After all, it had been years since we last visited. Isn’t the new meaning of September 11 remembrance? Coincidence you say. I say fate, because would you bet if the odds were only .0004 percent of something happening?

Now, you may be wondering, “What do odds have to do with writing?” Well, we increase our odds of being published each time we submit a piece. On the other hand, we have absolutely no chance when we sit and wonder and leave the piece alone in a notebook or in a computer file.

Our pieces cry out to be published! They are begging to be read! Wait, don’t you hear them? I hear them. They are yelling out like crackling thunder, “Read me! Read me!” Therefore, the point of this is to motivate and encourage you to not only be active in your reading and writing, but also to be active in your submissions. Let your words breathe, let them live, set them free and allow them to be read (and not only by you and your family)!

Don’t smother and hide your stories, your poetry, your essays, or your ideas. Take control. Steer them, mold them, nurture them, and love them! We wouldn’t keep our children hidden from the world would we? Why do we do it to our writing? Don’t be the one to wonder “what if?”

Sherry Perkins has been published in magazines and newspapers across the state of Louisiana. Her article, Liberty, won Honorable Mention in the BWG Members Only contest. Sherry loves speaking to people, organizing, being supportive of others, and working hard. She recently tossed her hat in the ring for president of BWG.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

The Case for Longhand by Linda Todd

"What's that you say?"

"You're kidding. Right?"

Eye rolls. Head shakes.

These are reactions I get when I say I write my first drafts in longhand. What can I say? I'm addicted to pen and ink. I love watching words appear on the lines. Thanks to years in penmanship class doing ovals and push-pulls my handwriting is somewhat legible. Ah yeas. Penmanship. They obviously don't teach that one anymore. I mean, we even got a grade in it.

One can often find me skulking along the aisles of Office Depot. I hang out there a lot. Journals of all kinds cause my heart to beat faster. Bound ones. Spiral ones. I have quite a collection. Those black and white marbled composition books, college-ruled, of course, are special favorites for me. Also, an assortment of legal pads - letter and long. I also go down to Books a Million to see what they have on sale in the journal section.

What do I use to put my immortal words on paper? The pen of choice is the Pilot Precise V5 Rolling Ball, Extra Fine, in assorted colors - black, blue, green, purple, and red. All of these I purchase by the box.

The advantages of longhand are many. A tablet and a pen weigh hardly anything. I can take it anywhere. No worrying about plug-ins for the laptop. No worrying about dying batteries. I can write anywhere - even in the bathtub. Try that with a computer and you could wind up dead. If I get tired of writing I can start doodling. All over the tablet if I so desire. Can't do that on the screen. Last, but by no means least, I can't quit in the middle of a gut-wrenching scene for a quickie game of Solitaire. Email will just have to wait.

The only disadvantage for me: I have a tendency to daydream while writing. But what's wrong with that? The world needs more dreamers.

That's my story and I'm sticking to it. Did I write this in longhand? Do I want "Wild Justice" to make the New York Times best seller list? What do you think?

Linda Todd is a retired librarian who is taking advantage of her free time to write. A short story, "Waylon's Trophy," appeared in Nicholls State University Jubilee Anthology in 2005. She won first place in the Bayou Writers Members Fiction Contest and honorable mention for poetry in the same contest. She is currently working on a novel as well as short stories and poetry, some of which are out in contests.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Tell Me About Your Book by James R. Tate

I’ve recently been confronted with one of the most difficult tasks in my somewhat young writing career; coming up with a PITCH for my novel. When first given this enormous task, with what was surely a look of complete confusion on my face, I blubbered, “How can I possibly whittle my ninety-thousand word novel down to a few paragraphs?”

What really scared me the most is the realization that the industry is changing, and you'd better be prepared to sell your book with a pitch. It very well may be the only chance you get to impress an editor or agent.

So, I took a deep breath and did what any sensible person of the twenty-first century would do. I Googled it. And like so many things on the internet, there were many opinions but few examples. You noticed I said ‘few’ examples. On one site I noticed a highlighted section proclaiming, “look here for samples.” Ahhh! Jackpot! But oh, not so fast. The first one was a pitch for an eighteenth century romance. Not much help for my murder mystery. The next was a WWI docudrama. Again, not much help. On the third sample I hit the mother lode; a who-done-it recently published. I quickly read through the pitch and scribbled down notes on layout, tone, and style. I got this!


The next site I looked at had more examples. Examples that looked totally different from the ones I'd just looked at. What in the name of Stephen King’s millions was going on here? Where was the sample of the murder mystery just like mine that I could insert my character names in the place of theirs and fill in the blanks with my plot points? I never did find it.

But seriously, I DID pick up many, many actual paper books and read the back cover--even those not in my genre--and I studied them, finally coming up with something that resembled a BLURB designed to get the attention of the BIG DOGS.

The next step was to let my work simmer, pick it up a few days later, and read it to myself, asking the question, “Does this make me want to read this book?” How the heck should I know. I’ve looked at this book every way but sideways for three year now! One day it’s the best thing I’ve ever written, the next, I’m offering the pages to my neighbor to line his birdcage with. How can I possibly be subjective? But according to several articles on the internet, this is a normal thing for a writer. I should know, I Googled it.

Next week I’ll be headed to New York City with my polished Pitch. I pray that I don’t come home and have to line the birdcage with it.

James R. Tate is the author of Hot Rod Jones & the Mystery of Gut Shot Creek. He's published in print magazines, and is currently marketing his first full length adult novel while writing his second. His goal is the top of the heap, not the top of the slush pile.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

PARTING WORDS by Lena V. Roach

Be a writer? Bah, humbug. Call me a quitter. Who needs the heartbreak of rejection?

All my great novels lie cold and unwanted in a desk drawer, their merit wasted on unwise editors.

Who is to blame for this tragedy, you ask?

I am.

Years ago I came upon sterling advice. In his “My Papa,” Lloyd C. Douglas quotes his parent:
“If at first you don’t succeed, give up.” Why didn’t I listen and boldly inscribe those words above my computer?

Misguided egotist, I struggled to become a published novelist as if punishing myself were a virtue. And lost, time after time.

But now, those delusions have passed, like a fever. That latest rejection slip did it.

Do I want your sympathy? Absolutely negative. Rather, be exceedingly glad for me.

No more the fear of approaching the mailbox, slave to clammy hands and racing pulse. No more the aching shoulders or the bloodshot eyes from too many hours at the computer. I’ll join a smug audience of “discerning” readers: “Oh, I could do better than that if I tried!”

Ah, freedom from want to be published!

Freedom to be creative in other ways. Handicrafts, for instance. My home will run over with wall hangings and knickknacks. I’ll enroll in cooking school and throw dinner soirees for admiring guests. I’ll get my picture in the paper as co-chair of the Weeders Club, and maybe even join an exciting protest march. My telephone will ring again with social offers to have fun, fun, fun. All of this, and no more feelings of guilt for neglecting my family. They will shower me with hugs and call me blessed.

Oh, did you say something? You’re still reading me?

What’s that? You think it would be a mistake to throw the novel out with the bath water?

Well, I do have a confession to make. Only last night a great plot idea came to me as I slept. The opening chapter takes place on a moonlit patio. A “dream-walking” but tortured male protagonist is telling the sympathetically bewildered heroine, “Happiness? It’s like moonlight. You wake up in the morning and it’s gone.”

Now here’s the premise: “’Tain’t necessarily so,” despite the tragic unfoldings of their love fighting for life and moonlight without end….

But enough talk. I lose. You win. Excitement rages inside me. The computer beckons. Shirk my duty to try to entertain and inspire you, dear reader? Not in this lifetime.

Lena Roach’s published credits include: short story, Glamour, England; poetry, Philadelphia Young People's Magazine, Kansas City Poetry Magazine, Oasis Journal; Dear Teacher column in 19 newspapers; articles in local and regional newspapers and educational journals.

Sunday, September 5, 2010


Our conference brochure has been printed and will hit the post office on Tuesday, September 7th. Getting the brochure on our website has been a challenge. Please bear with us as we continue to wrestle with it. You should find everything you need to register for our conference posted right here. If you have any problems or questions, don't hesitate to leave a message or email bayouwritersgroup (at) gmail (dot) com. We are so sorry for any inconvenience. We promise you an excellent conference and a lot of fun. ~BWG Conference Committee

Writer's Conference
November 13, 2010
Location: University Methodist Church
2401 Patrick Street
Lake Charles, Louisiana 70601

Speaker Bios:

Harold Underdown is a children’s book editor/freelance editorial consultant, and the author of The Complete Idiot's Guide to Children's Book Publishing. He has worked at Macmillan, Orchard, and Charlesbridge, and has experience in trade and educational publishing. He founded and runs "The Purple Crayon," a web site about the children's publishing world at Critiques/consultations are available for $35 - Scroll down for details.

Cheré Dastugue Coen is an author and award-winning journalist. Her fiction includes Kensington historical romances under the pen name of Cherie Claire. Her nonfiction books include the cookbook travelogue Cooking in Cajun Country (2009) and the upcoming Magic's in the Bag: Creating Spellbinding Gris Gris and Sachets (2010).

Gary Goldstein, Senior Editor, Kensington, acquires and edits both non-fiction for Kensington’s Citadel Press imprint and fiction (military and political thrillers, westerns, suspense), among them NY Times and USA Today bestselling authors William W. Johnstone and Michael Walsh.

Self/E/Small Press Published Author Panel

Lesa Boutin is a children’s author who started her own publishing company, Boot in the Door Publications, in 2006, followed by the release of her YA novels, Amanda Noble, Zookeeper Extraordinaire in 2007, and Amanda Noble, Special Agent in 2008. Lesa is a writer with Writers in the Schools Houston.

Author Wendy Lanier will share her Write for Hire experience. Her writing experience includes titles for Lerner Books, Capstone Press, Lucent Books, KidHaven Press, and contributions to such publications as Focus on the Family's Clubhouse,,,, and The Amazing Bible Factbook for Kids (a publication of Time Inc. Home Entertainment and the Livingstone Corp.). Her educational and professional background includes a B.S. in Speech Communication Disorders and a M.Ed. in Elementary Education followed by over 18 years of service in Texas public and private schools. She is a member of SCBWI and the Bayou Writers' Group.

Curt Iles is a Southern writer and speaker with seven books to his credit. His recent release is A Good Place. Curt’s mission in life is “to walk closely with Jesus, be a man God can use, and be respected by my wife and family.” His life verse: the words of Jesus in Matthew 6:33, “Seek ye first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you.”

Pamela S. Thibodeaux is a multi-published author in creative non-fiction and romantic fiction. Her novels and short stories are available in ebook & print from White Rose Publishing and Com Star Media. Pam has numerous articles, essays, & devotions to her credit. Her writing has been tagged as “Inspirational with an Edge!”™ and reviewed as “steamier and grittier than the typical Christian novel without decreasing the message.”


8:00-8:45 - Registration
Continental Breakfast
Read Contest entries

8:45-9:00 - Welcome & Announcements

Harold Underdown – Preparing your children’s or young adult book for publication

10:00-10:315: Break

Chere’ Coen – Developing the nonfiction book proposal/Selling your ideas to the nonfiction market

11:15-12:45 - Lunch

12:45 -1:45
Gary Goldstein: What Editors and Kensington expect from Authors

1:45-2:00- Break

Panel Discussion: Lesa Boutin, Curt Iles, Pamela Thibodeaux, Wendy Lanier

Our bookstore will be open all day.

(Please Print)






PUBLISHED__________ UNPUBLISHED_________

________$40.00 MEMBERS/$45.00 non-member

________$50.00 AT DOOR

________$25.00 STUDENTS (Full Time)

________First Page Contest Entry-FREE

Please note: No refunds after November 6, 2010

On The Wall
First Page Contest
(Win Free 2011 Conference Registration)

You have to grab an editor or reader’s attention on your first page. Send us your best first page (250 words max, double-spaced). Put your name on the back. Conferees will vote on their favorite. Mail your first page with your registration and conference fee to by November 6, 2010 to:

Bayou Writers’ Group
P.O. 1402
Lake Charles, LA 70602


Harold Underdown will meet with writers about their manuscripts for 15 minutes. You may submit one picture book manuscript or up to ten standard pages of a longer manuscript, along with a cover letter written as if you were submitting the manuscript to a publisher, but including notes on its revision or submission history as well. Include a one-page synopsis of the entire manuscript if submitting part of a long manuscript.

Harold will look at any material, from picture book to YA, either fiction or nonfiction.

PLEASE NOTE: Manuscripts must be received no later than three weeks before the conference. Your $35.00 critique and conference registration fee must be received by October 13th by BWG Conference Coordinator. Only the first 20 entries will be accepted. When sending the manuscript, please specify: a critique or a consultation.

Critique: Manuscripts for critiques can be rough or unfinished drafts, or something you believe is ready to send out. In his meeting with you, Harold will focus on ways to improve the manuscript and will give you written comments as well.

Consultation: Manuscripts for consultations should be polished manuscripts, perhaps one already sent out to a publisher, which you believe have no significant writing problems. Harold will focus on "marketing" issues in his meeting with you; possible publishers and how to approach them.

If a manuscript submitted for one option needs the other, in Harold's opinion, that is what he will provide.

Mail to:
Bayou Writers’ Group
P.O. Box 1402
Lake Charles, LA 70602


Sunday, August 29, 2010

Writing Quotes to Think About

The best time for planning a book is while you're doing the dishes. ~Agatha Christie

A good style should show no signs of effort. What is written should seem a happy accident. ~W. Somerset Maugham, Summing Up, 1938

I think it's bad to talk about one's present work, for it spoils something at the root of the creative act. It discharges the tension. ~Norman Mailer Writers at Work, 3rd series, PMB

You write to communicate to the hearts and minds of others what's burning inside you. And we edit to let the fire show through the smoke. ~Arthur Polotnik

It is impossible to discourage the real writers - they don't give a damn what you say, they're going to write. ~Sinclair Lewis

A good novel tells us the truth about its hero; but a bad novel tells us the truth about its author. ~G.K. Chesterton

Monday, August 16, 2010

Four Great Words--I'm a Published Author by Peggy Clement

After about ten years of beginning my children’s chapter book, I can put those four words together- I’m a published author. (Ah, finally!) I must admit, not all those years were spent writing on the book. I actually lost it for about a year or two (that’s another story for another time). My husband was quite ill for several years which reduced my time to work on it. And despite even the setbacks with the publishing company once the contract was signed, I am proud to say that I just recently received the first complimentary copy from my editor.

It’s difficult to put into words the feeling of holding your published book in your hands for the very first time. To see something which started as a spark of one’s imagination come full circle is quite exhilarating. Despite the joy it brings me now, I know firsthand it can be discouraging at times because it can be a long and even lonely process.

If writing is your passion and your dream, I urge you to not give up. It was my dream for a long time. It wasn’t for the fame, and it certainly wasn’t for the fortune. But because I have been a reading teacher for over thirty years, I wanted to offer children who like reading one more book they could enjoy, and just maybe create a little change in attitude for those children who don’t like to read. With all the hurdles I had to jump, it would have been easy for me to give up and give that job to someone else. But I didn’t want that job to go to anyone else. I wanted to be the one to do it. The marketing and self promoting part is upon me now. This is a whole new avenue for me. I am getting guidance through my publisher, but it’s true what they say.

The ball is in the author’s court when it’s time for promotion
to begin. Being rather shy, “tooting my own horn”, is not something I am comfortable with. I am stepping out of my comfort zone, however, and tackling this endeavor head on. The love and support of my family, friends, and fellow writers is a huge help. I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

Continue your writing and make it happen so that one day you too can use those four great words: I’m a published author.

Good luck with it!

“Our greatest weakness lies in giving up-The most certain way to succeed is
always to try just one more time.” Thomas A. Edison

Peggy Clement is the author of her newly released book, “Queen of the Castle.” She is a contributing author of an upcoming anthology, “It’s in the Gulf.” Peggy is a member of Bayou Writers’ Group, Golden Triangle Writers Guild, and Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. She is a teacher and lives with her family in southeast Texas. Visit her website @

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Hey, What a Great Idea!

At St. Davids Christian Writers conference this past June, I attended a storytelling workshop led by creative and inspiring author David Pierce. As writers, we often struggle to come up with good story ideas. Where do good story ideas come from? Pierce offered the following suggestions.

• Write about things you know. A doctor might write medical mysteries, a lawyer might write legal thrillers. If you’re an alien, write sci-fi.

• Study billboards and other advertising. See a good-looking model on a Calvin Klein underwear ad? Might it inspire you to write a romance story? View a commercial that makes you laugh out loud? Mull it over and write a humor essay.

• Think about your possessions. What do they mean to you? What can you do with them? What if someone stole your favorite (fill in the blank). Stand in your garage and randomly focus on a garden tool, a woodworking saw, a tattered beach chair. Allow your mind to wander.

• Ever come across a new word that fascinates you? Look it up. Can you write a story based on the definition?

• Have you recently been impacted by a concept – truth, justice, love, insanity -- and you can’t stop thinking about it. Can this concept inspire a story?

• You’re driving down the road or strolling along a sidewalk when you see something that causes you to do a double-take. A man pushes a grocery cart carrying everything he owns. Children giggle and shriek as they run through a gushing fire hydrant. A woman sits on a park bench and feeds her dog with a baby spoon. Unusual unique sightings can spark an idea for a story.

• Think about current fads. Pierce used the example of the “ . . . For Dummies” books. What if there was a book called “How to Kill Your Spouse for Dummies”? What might a character do with that?

• Take an established story and change the point of view. For example, tell Cinderella’s story from a step-sister’s perspective.

• Re-tell an old tale in modern day times. What would The Great Gatsby look like in 2010?

• Combine concepts from two different established stories. Think Robinson Caruso meets Hansel and Gretel. Would you dream up Island of the Witch Doctor?

• Watch the evening news, read magazines and newspapers. Current events provide continual story fodder.

• Sit in a crowded restaurant, an airport gate, a doctor’s office waiting room, or a hotel lobby and listen to the dialogue around you. Nonchalantly zero in on your children chattering away in the backseat of the car. Cell phone conversations can be especially interesting as you imagine what the other person is saying. Eavesdropping can be a most rewarding avenue for story ideas.

• Above all, in any situation or potential idea for a story, play “what if.” What if a chef at Kyoto loses control of his knife at a crowded table? What if you miss your exit on a highway in west Texas and the next exit is 235 miles away? What if, what if, what if . . . you get the idea?

Monday, August 2, 2010

My Editing Machete by Lori Hebert Leger

My WIP needs work. I have to admit I’m pleased with it. I’m hoping to launch it as the first in the sequel WHEN some bright, talented, agent/publisher with excellent taste realizes what a gem he’s got.

First I have to shorten the word count. This first draft is around 116,000 words – 16,000 to many. So, should I use the highlighter method where you highlight conflict and dialogue scenes in yellow, characterization in pink, and setting in blue? Then go back and delete or cut back scenes with too much pink or blue. That should eliminate any pages that don't contain enough white space/dialogue, right? Not as easy as it sounds.

I've adopted my own method of eliminating words. Once I finish the first draft, I read the entire thing again from the beginning. At first it’s difficult to switch gears from the create/write mode to the slash/edit mode. The first edit pass is where I find the obvious mistakes I've made; those pesky typos that my selective dyslexia seems to allow over and over again. You know, typing a V when I need a B or vice versa...agian instead of again, or God forbid I have to type the word Calcasieu. Inevitably, I'll type a y instead of a u…Calcasiey Parish? Must be a case of lazy fingers. That’s what my old spinster high school typing teacher, Miss Nora Saltzman would call it. Yes, I said TYPING classes…on a real electric Olivetti typewriter. ddd aaa ddd, dad dad dad. I’m that old.

Sometimes my laptop conspires against me. If my thumb touches the pad, the cursor will jump four lines and cause me to delete text I shouldn’t have deleted or add dialogue where it doesn't belong. A big problem, especially if I get distracted before I fix it. I go through the entire thing, and make the obvious corrections. When I’m done, I do it again. I start from the beginning and go all the way through it to catch even more wasted words and typos. Then what? I go through the whole thing at least one more time and read it aloud. If it doesn't sound natural, I fiddle around with it until it does. Or I cut it out, whichever gives me the best results.

It used to kill me to cut out complete sentences, but trimming two manuscripts of 140,000 words down to 95,000 and 100,000 words cured me of that little problem. Now when I edit, I eagerly look for paragraphs, or better yet, entire scenes that I can delete using my editing machete. There's nothing more torturous than getting rid of 40,000 words by deleting 4 or 5 at a time. I must admit it’s made me a better writer. It forced me to tell the story without all the extra weight and wasted space. I now find editing to be a piece of cake. Need to slash 5,000 words? Easy cheesy, folks; just let me get my machete.

Happy Writing…and Editing,
Lori Hebert Leger
Lori Leger has only been writing seriously for two years. In that time she's completed five full length novels in the Women's Fictional Romance genre. Visit her website HERE.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Choosing an Audience by Lori Hebert Leger

Okay, I admit it. My first try at writing was horrible. I know this, because after writing four more manuscripts I went back and re-read the first one. Awful, awful, awful…thank goodness I didn’t have the cahonas to send that one off or enter it in a contest. (I’m still editing that one.) I want to let you in on a little secret. When I first started writing, I thought I wanted to write R rated books. You know the kind I’m talking about. Where people cuss, fuss, and…other things.

Eventually, I had to stop and ask myself, who do I want to write for? Do I want to write for younger women who are looking for romance novels with hot, steamy, love scenes? Well folks, I tried my hand at writing a few scenes...really hot ones. It made me realize that, although I can write them, I don't want to. Frankly, just the thought of people reading a scene like that and knowing that I wrote it is embarrassing to me. I'm not a prude, and believe me, I'm no saint…I’ve read plenty of books like that over the years; but I am a Catholic, although I’m a lazy one. As a Catholic, I have a confession to make. I use my 84 year old mother as a thermometer for my writing. There, I’ve said it. If my mom, who's had eight children, and doesn't have a shy bone in her body, can't pass my manuscripts around to her friends in the garden club and Ladies' Alter Society without making excuses for my style of writing, then it's too hot. I don't care if my mom lives to be 110 and I'm a spry 77 years old, I still wouldn't want to disappoint her.

So, I’ve chosen my audience. I'm shooting for the middle age women, or men, who won't mind reading a book with only the occasional s.o.b., damn, or hell instead of the eff word. Someone who won't be disappointed when the hero and heroine don't rip each others' clothes off and make mad, passionate love on their first date. Oh, there’ll be sparks between them, don’t you worry. They may want to do those things, but I won't allow it...Not as long as mama's watching. ;-)
Happy Writing,

Lori Leger has only been writing seriously for two years. In that time she's completed five full length novels in the Women's Fictional Romance genre. She works full time in the Design section of the Department of Transportation and Development as an Engineer Technician 4 in Lake Charles. Lori is currently unpublished but hopes to rectify that situation in the near future.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

The Story of Me by Lori Hebert Leger

I just finished the first draft of the ‘new and improved’ version of my very first manuscript, Some Day Somebody. This is the story I wrote about me...or the new me...the one with a degree, a new career, the courage to walk away from a bad marriage, and the self confidence to find the love of my life. I never intended it for publishing because it was my life. So much so, that once I finished, my daughters refused to read it because of its personal nature.

After completing it, I immediately began a second manuscript, my head filled with ideas and characters. I used the two original characters and created new ones – coworkers and family friends from the original heroine’s hometown, a fictional town of Gardiner, taken from a real person, old Doc Gardiner. Doc Gardiner delivered so many babies in my hometown of Gueydan that they had a Doc Gardiner Day for him one year, with a parade and everything. He delivered me and all my siblings, as well as both my parents.

Okay, so I finished the second book, then began a third, using secondary characters from the previous book, then a fourth, and even a fifth. About halfway through the fifth book, something began to eat at me. The first story, Sam and Carrie’s story (I’ve changed all names to protect the innocent – and the guilty) never left me. It kept insisting that it needed to be told. After all, Carrie is the cornerstone of the five books - she’s the hub. Every character in my books either knows her or knows someone who does.

I jumped back on it, changed or removed the personal nature so that my daughters can read it and still face me afterwards, and added some drama and suspense to make it much more interesting. I revamped the story, in some ways telling it as I wish it had happened instead of as it did happen. I made Carrie wiser, less prone to losing her temper than I am, and infinitely more patient than I was at thirty-five years old when it all came about. I can almost see my daughters rolling their eyes at the nearer to perfect version of myself.

Seeing my life laid out in black print on a white page, I’ve come to accept something about myself. Doc Gardiner and my mom may have birthed me back in October of 1958, but ultimately, God and I are responsible for my re-birth back in December of 1993. In writing this story, I’ve come to realize that God presented the opportunities for me, but he also gave me the courage to step up and accept each and every one of them. Once I accepted the challenge, He closed doors and opened windows, essentially herding me to the destination He’d chosen for me. This time, instead of fighting Him and choosing my own path, I followed His lead and ended up exactly where I should be.

Happy Writing! ~Lori

Lori Leger has only been writing seriously for two years. In that time she's completed five full length novels in the Women's Fictional Romance genre. She works full time in the Design section of the Department of Transportation and Development as an Engineer Technician 4 in Lake Charles. Lori is currently unpublished but hopes to rectify that situation in the near future.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Writer's Lair by Georgia Downer

Writer’s Lair is the presumptuous label for my writing space at home. I love this room. It’s filled with books, pictures, 3-ring binders containing hard copies of my stories, and a metal Whitman’s Sampler can stuffed with receipts from exotic adventures at Wal-Mart, JC Penney’s, Popeye’s, and other reminders of exciting daily living. A poster-sized tempera painting of 2 deer hangs in here. I did it in 7th or 8th grade and won 2nd prize in the art contest. Competition was light that year.

Much of my time here is spent not writing. I pay bills online, read way too much email, and browse the ‘net. Or work with Bob on his video about the 75 cars he’s owned. I chat with Katy, our 10-year old granddaughter who lives in Illinois and types faster than I do. I often cruise through the twenty-five cookbooks at my elbow for a new recipe for dinner. Or pick up my all-time favorite book from the bookcase behind me and read “Beautiful Joe” by Marshall Saunders one more time.

These are a few of the things that inspire (such an elegant word) me to set down mundane events and thoughts now and then. A polite prompt from Jessica for a BWG blog offering never hurts either. Recording those experiences will never make me a great writer, but doing so has created a happy one.
Keep writing!

Georgia Downer is BWG publicist. She writes essays and short fiction and has won prizes for her work. She's currently working on a novel.

Friday, July 2, 2010


I'm going over my "baby"- -the first novel I wrote, and trying to re-format it (one space at the end of each sentence, punctuation-stuff like that) as well as rewriting awkward and unclear sentences and situations. I find stuff to correct, only to find that the next sentence clears it up. Is this bad? I read it 8 times, 4 in each version, and the more I do it the more neither seems correct nor better.

Show, don't tell. EVER? This is when the first shark appears. Will he eat the scene? Will he eat the author? Will he look at it and decide, "I wouldn't eat either on a bet." If he swims off and leaves the scene, have I been passed or passed over?

The dialogue shark swims over to look at the conversation carrying the action. Should it be ultra correct grammatically? Who talks like that? Realism rears its ugly head and repeats into my ear what I heard my character say in the vernacular of those about whom (gotcha there, didn't I?) I write. They don't talk like that. Y'all know it. Anybody who's been there'll set you straight on it. They won't correct you, but you'll get a side wise look wondering just how many days you rode the turnip truck before you fell off with your funny way of talkin'. Dialect can bog you down right up to your eyeballs which the dialogue shark will want to eat up and try to spit out as proper, sterile speech. Now what? Scratch his tummy or spread shark repellent? I lean toward the latter, but wonder if I have already leaned too far, fallen off the boat, and am both overboard and up to my eyeballs in dialectic speech and ready to fight the shark.

Now I wonder about the sharks. Am I relying too much on outside influences? Am I (quoting my wife) wringing all the flavor juices out of the work by jumping through other people's literary hoops and not relying on my own instincts?

Write what you know. I've heard this a bunch. I know how the people I write about sound. Grew up with them. Worked with them. Was loved, reared, and cherished by them- -black, white, and mixed, and loved and cherished them in return.

I'll borrow from Admiral Farragut at the Battle of Mobile Bay (Civil War), and paraphrase him:
"Damn the sharks. Full speed ahead." He won his battle.

Now, if the sharks don't get me, maybe I'll win mine and get published some day. Hope springs eternal.

Harvey Honsinger, a 6th generation Texan, has six completed novels--westerns and historicals--and is actively marketing them. His short stories and poetry have been published in Arena Literary magazine. Harvey is an active member of the Thursday BWG critique group.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

The Writer by Bryan Coleman

I moved at a steady pace through the large bulky back room that housed the printing press. A single light hung over this gigantic apparatus, now silent. I made my way through the double doors into the paste room....

I had just started at the local newspaper a few weeks before. I settled into a routine that consisted of shuffling through the early part of the day, going home for supper then hitting the road on game nights before drifting back to the office to write.

I was (and still am to a degree) very discreet about writing, well . . . as much as I can be. Sitting down for those few moments, staring at the blank screen, I prayed earnestly for the words to come while the IBM 8086 computers hummed their evening vespers.

But then it happens . . . I start to write, mostly because I have to, but partly because I love a good story. I didn't learn anything earth shattering in those early days at the newspaper, nothing I could pass on to you. I liked writing but I loved telling a story. There was a sense of accomplishment in those early days when "just completing the work" was something I cherished. It reminded me of my high school days when I was a varsity basketball player. I hated practice but I loved the game. I loved the game enough that I tolerated practice. Now, later in life, I work at practice. I still don't like it but I've learned to tolerate and understand the process. So it is with writing. I tolerate writing because I love the story.

Recently I started to write again and began writing the bones down for "City of the Dead" (which isn't about zombies). As the process would have it, I ran into some old, run-of-the-mill writers block. I found myself sitting in front of the computer, just like in the early days, waiting . . .

So I decided to changed things up a bit. I balked the computer for a yellow note pad. I drew out the story much like I was writing a letter--some parts love, some parts bitter. I'm not innovative, just following the orders of an old drill instructor, "improvise, adapt, overcome." I'm still working on the last part.

Countless stories were started on my old Dell and countless died there. I decided to smooth the edges on my weakness and try a different approach. I finished "City of the Dead" in a little over 3 months. It now sits on my top shelf . . . cooking.

So there it is . . .

In the beginning the newspaper demanded that I follow through, and I did. Now, at 45 years old, there is no editor, no deadline. I have to look at the paper and write. Inspiration has played a part and yet I am still learning to do the hard things. Reading good books and writing down things I care about has made the hard things doable.

I promised myself when I was in my twenties whatever I did with my writing would be done with a degree of honesty (to the best of my ability, of course) so as not to betray myself or my reader. I believed, and still do, that honesty in writing is what makes it believable. I know, yea, that's nothing new but I heard it somewhere and believed it like the gospel.

I hope that you find out what makes your writing work, what makes it honest, what makes it believable.

Bryan Coleman is a former newspaper journalist turned novelist. He writes full time and is a regular contributor/photographer to CSN, Christian Star News.

Monday, June 14, 2010

International Travel and The Writer by Curt Iles

I'm very thankful to have the privilege of traveling out of the United States. I've come to realize there are various benefits as a writer in my travels.

I want to make it clear: I travel for the purpose of sharing about my personal faith in Jesus. Going to the "hard places" (i.e. difficult to reach, tough conditions, great physical/spiritual needs example: Democratic Republic of Congo, the neediest place I've ever seen) always softens my heart. I learn much more from new friends in these countries than I could ever teach them.

Here are a few benefits I see as a writer:

1. Traveling abroad always gives me Perspective on Life. I see the world in a new way. I see myself in a new way. I return with much greater appreciation of the freedom and opportunities I have as an American.

2. Traveling abroad provides Perspective on my writing. I step back from the canvas and can "see" my current work in a new light. Where I'll be for the next 2 weeks (Congo and Rwanda) has very limited and slow internet, little phone service, and no TV in English. I don't take my laptop. It's a chance to step back, refresh, and reflect.

I always return with a journal full of ideas and a clearer mind about the writer I want to be.

3. Traveling is a great way to hear/see new stories in a new culture. I've come to believe that human nature is very similar throughout the world. A story from Ethiopian or Honduran culture is just as powerful as a story from Cajun, Piney Woods, or Southern culture.

I go to help.
I go to learn.
I always come back fuller.

My goal in this trip is "Return with an empty suitcase and a full heart."

CURT ILES writes from his hometown of Dry Creek, Louisiana. A lover of stories, nature, history, and dogs, he writes of the wonders of the woods and the memorable people who live there. Curt's new novel, A Good Place, is now available at

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Are Reviews Important? by Pamela S. Thibodeaux

As a reader, I don’t always rely on reviews or word-of-mouth in order to buy a book. After all, reading is subjective and not every book someone recommends is something I enjoy. Besides, I’ve been disappointed too many times.

But as an author, I love to receive those glowing 4 or 5 star reviews! This validates my work and builds confidence that I truly AM a writer. Even in a not-so-glowing review, I can normally find something positive to focus on.

Recently I found out just how important reviews are to an author’s recognition.

I heard through the grapevine that the more reviews a book or story on Amazon has, the more potential it has to become a “recommended read” when people do searches for specific genres, thereby increasing exposure. In researching I discovered that White Rose Publishing titles were not very easy to find while searching Amazon unless you knew the title and/or author. And then, the book(s) were buried so far in pages of other similar titles and authors, most folks would get tired looking for them.

So some of the White Rose authors banded together and began reviewing each other’s work.

Within days of this happening, most of the authors had 10 or more reviews. A few actually reached higher than twenty reviews before a week was up. But that’s not the best part.

The best part is, within days of us posting reviews of the books we’d already read and tagging each one with terms like White Rose Publishing, Inspirational Romance, and other identical words, White Rose titles began moving up in the ranks and were listed as an “also reviewed” or a “suggested product” similar book to some well known publications! If a search is done in the Kindle Store for “Christian Romance” about a 1/3 is WR titles where before you'd only get bonnet books and ones written by people whose last name was Christian.

This means that Amazon is automatically showing WR books to people who search, which may encourage them to buy our books!

So do your favorite author a favor and review his or her book on Amazon.

Award-winning author Pamela S. Thibodeaux is Co-Founder of Bayou Writers Group. Multi-published in romantic fiction as well as creative non-fiction, her writing has been tagged as, "Inspirational with an Edge!" Visit her website at and check out her blog at

Friday, May 28, 2010

Why Do You Write? by Jim Ferguson

I went to a writer’s conference several weeks ago—the first conference I’ve attended in 25 years. The first session consisted of two agents and one editor who addressed what is hot in the market and some of the dos and don’ts for getting representation and submitting a proposal. While the conference sessions were filled with information to help us develop our writing skills, there seemed to be one overriding concern from many of the attendees and that was getting published—not learning the craft of writing.

That started my thinking about why I write. I thought about the books that I’ve read that have stayed with me through the years and why. They’re books that triggered my interest in a subject, produced memorable characters or told a story I can’t forget.

I read my first memorable book when I was in the 5th or 6th grade. It was called The French Foreign Legion by Wyatt Blassingame. This book created an interest in the French Foreign Legion which has taken me from the poem “Rendezous with Death” by Alan Seeger written during World War I, to the French Indochina war (1946-1954). Reading The French Foreign Legion set me on the path of a life time of studying history which foreshadowed many of the significant crises of my generation—including Vietnam, and our wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Finding The French Foreign Legion in my elementary school library propelled me on a course that led me to the outstanding author and one of the greatest historians--Bernard Fall.

Yes, I want to be published but I want to write something that creates in the reader a desire to learn and a desire to see more in the lives of others and in themselves.

Jim Ferguson won first place with his novel, Beginner's Luck, co-written with his wife. He is working on a nonfiction book.

Monday, May 24, 2010

An Itch You Can Scratch by James R. Tate

A recurring itch recently found its way back into my hand and arm, but I don’t think it started there. I believe it originated in my heart. If you’re a writer, you know what I’m talking about-the itch to write. No matter what happens in our lives, no matter how far we go to get away from it, the itch will find us. We’re not talking about a job, or a duty, or even a fleeting whim. What we are talking about here is a passion deeply rooted in our souls.

Now, I can speak from experience and tell you that this ‘itch’ can go dormant for long periods of time, sometimes seeming to disappear entirely, hidden behind an impenetrable wall of work, and kids, and honey-do chores around the house. But I promise you it is still there, waiting for the right moment.

What is the right moment and how will you know? I’m glad you asked. An early indication will be when you’re reading your favorite author's latest book and you begin to notice the format of the paragraph, or the number of times he or she uses the word ‘was’. You may even start to daydream about a storyline you might have used to improve the current chapter.

Another indication might come when you notice the grocery list you wrote out this morning has prose like-two pounds of bright yellow squash glistening from the morning dew, or a loaf of harvest wheat bread pounded from the grains of a thousand wheat fields, lightly buttered with the strands of hair from a roman goddess. One time, I even wrote a ten page story to remind myself to pick up the dry cleaning. I know! I know! I couldn’t help myself.

The point is, if you really, really, REALLY love to write, as I do, don’t let the itch stay gone too long. And cherish it when you have it. Life passes us by very fast. We cannot recapture time lost. If you say, “I’ll get to it when…”, you never will.

Earlier this evening I spent two hours pounding out five pages in my second novel. I was in the zone, deeply engrossed in a story running on film reels in my head. Nothing else around me—the dog scratching to go out, the neighbor playing his eighties music at a hundred and ten decibels, not even my wife coming in from the grocery store—put a dent in my zone armor. And there was one other thing I remember quite clearly.

My arm was itching like crazy.

James R. Tate is the author of Hot Rod Jones & the Mystery of Gut Shot Creek. He's published in print magazines, and is currently marketing his first full length adult novel while writing his second. His goal is the top of the heap, not the top of the slush pile.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

The Fellowship of the Round Table by Jan Rider Newman

Every time I read the legend of King Arthur and his knights, or see a movie based on it, I hope the story will turn out differently. I want Camelot to live forever, as it does in the Prince Valiant comic strip. I want Guinevere to chose Arthur. For some reason, the necessity of her finding true love and fulfillment with Lancelot instead breaks my heart. I think it’s supposed to. That’s the way the tale is written, and forever it shall be.

Several years ago I found Persia Woolley’s trilogy based on the Arthurian legends. It ended the way it had to, of course, but told a wonderful story through the eyes of Guinevere.

Child of the Northern Spring (Poseidon Press, New York, 1987) introduces us to the Celtic princess destined to be the High Queen of Britain and wife of the High King, Arthur. The girl we meet is a tomboy, no stately, elegant lady. She is lively, passionate, intelligent, and the king she marries loves her very much. Unfortunately, he is more king than husband, which is a constant in the legends. The royal couple have no children, and he isn’t a very satisfactory lover.

In the first book we also meet other key figures: Merlin, Morgan le Fey, Mordred, Gawain, and all the other knights. In this first book a united kingdom is established, and the marriage is happy if somewhat unfulfilling.

In Queen of the Summer Stars (Poseidon Press, New York, 1990), the tomboy Guinevere grows into her role as queen and wife. The grand castle of Camelot is raised, the Round Table established. Wars, adventures, and romances keep the pace breathless. And Lancelot rides onto the scene, bringing Arthur a steadfast friend and advisor and Guinevere the romance and passion her marriage is missing.

Guinevere (Poseidon Press, New York, 1991), opens with the kingdom well established. Peace reigns in Britain under the excellent leadership of Arthur and his right hand, Lancelot. Guinevere loves both men, and both love her. But even the most outstanding ruler has enemies. The most stable kingdom has pretenders. The best marriages and friendships are flawed. All falls apart. Again. Gloriously.

Whether you love myth and legend, adventure tales, romances, or historical novels, you’ll find something to love in this trilogy. Vividly told and characterized, the story will make you wish you’d lived at Camelot, been friends with the king and queen and their knights and ladies, and had a hand in building the greatest kingdom of all time.

Jan Rider Newman is Vice President and Gator Talk editor of BWG. She has published short stories, poetry, and nonfiction, and has earned prizes for her work as well as grants from the Louisiana Council of the Arts. Her work has appeared in the New Orleans Review, Denver Quarterly, Louisiana Literature, Oasis Journal (2007, 2008, 2009), and Sweet Tea and Afternoon Tales (anthology). Read her personal blog HERE.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

I Love Writer's Conferences

I recently attended the East Texas Baptist University Christian Writer's Conference in Marshall. There were quite a few workshops to choose from. The ones I chose to attend during those two days were worth their while. I thank Terry Burns, John Barry, Becca Anderson, Miriam Hees, Lexie Smith, Viola Palmer, and Pamela Dowd for sharing their expertise. After reviewing my notes and handouts, I have compiled some suggestions I thought were the most important. Even though I heard a few of these before, they were important enough to hear repeated. I wanted to share them with all of you.

• Be very careful of what you put on social media sites. Once it's out there, it's out there. It can come back to hurt you later on.

• Establish a separate email address for business purposes. If you are a fulltime freelance writer and can afford it, consider getting a separate phone line as well. You want to be as professional as possible.

• Never tell an editor, "I write like___________________". It is better to say, "I write for readers who read books from____________". (Don't use big name authors. It is more realistic to compare yourself to mid-level authors.)

• 85% of writers will never be credibly published. That's bad news. But the good news is that we are only competing with 15% who work hard and continue to improve their craft.

• Don't write about the hottest craze. It may take as long as a year for some books to be published. By then the craze may be over. Write about what you know.

• Never burn bridges. Editors talk to one another.

• Read your manuscript out loud and listen for any awkward parts. It is even better to let someone else read it out loud who is not familiar with it.

• Walk backwards while trying to work out your story. It gets your mind to think differently. (This sounded strange to me, but attendees agreed it works.)

This was my second time to attend this particular conference. It is scheduled for April of next year and I plan to attend again. In fact, I love all conferences. I love the feeling I get when I come home, feeling rejuvinated, ready to tackle the next chapter. I am also planning to attend a one day Writing for Excellence seminar in Keller, Texas on June 19th, sponsored by the North Texas Christian Writers.

Peggy Clement is a children's book writer living in Southeast Texas. She is a former freelance contributor to The Daily Comet, a newspaper in Thibodaux, Louisiana. Her first book, Queen of the Castle, is scheduled to be released later this year. Peggy is a member of Bayou Writers’ Group, Golden Triangle Writer's Guild, and Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

The Long Learning Process by Marcia Dutton

It has occurred to me how alike writing is to painting, or anything else creative. There is a long learning process. I am just beginning to learn something about writing since I joined BWG. It reminds me of when I first started learning to paint. I was in a watercolor workshop in Italy with some very advanced and even some professional artists. Like most writers, they were warm, kind and encouraging, as bad as I was. When we were being roasted at the end of our stay, it was remarked that I actually did quite well in spite of my one-haired brush. Artists in both mediums are interesting, giving and invigorating to be with. I feel very fortunate to be among them.

I have multiple interests and was never what one would classify as a dedicated artist. Therefore, it took me years of practice, reading, art classes, and many workshops to have arrived at the point I am now in painting. When it comes to writing, I can’t help but wonder if I have enough years ahead of me to attain a semblance of where the rest of you are. Will I be able to sit that long at a computer without getting the resulting side effects?

If I can learn the fundamentals of writing and present day grammar and style, I think I can come up with some decent memoirs considering the many experiences I have had living abroad for twenty-five years. Being too left brained, I paint well what I can see, be it from still-life, from photos, landscapes from plein aire, or my forte, portraits. Not as creative, I lack the imagination to paint abstracts or from my mind. Likewise to write fiction like many of you do, I would be at a loss.

Award-winninng artist Marcia Dutton is creating a book of memoirs about her days in the U.S. Navy and her many adventures abroad. She is a dedicated member of BWG Thursday Critique group, and her paintings can be viewed at Gallery By The Lake.

Monday, April 26, 2010

My Love Affair With My Computer by Harvey Honsinger

Love affair with my computer? I'm calling it that, because it seems to be working out like all the love affairs I had before I met the long suffering, patient, intelligent, beautiful girl who too late discovered that she had believed all that I had told her. Enough of that.

Let me say that I am working on (with?) my third computer. Idiot box #1 was a "double floppy disk" model, with one disk telling the box what it wanted it to do and the other disk recording what the operator prayed he had told it to do correctly. The thing actually worked and made its typewriter-like printer set it down on paper, which came in a folded pile in a box with perforated holes on each side. I hated that damn thing, both in parts and in totality.

Then I got a new computer. My son was still home at the time, and he could make it do many wonderful things. If the weather was right, correct incantations said, and a multitude of keys struck in some cabalistic order, I could get it to turn on. Sometimes I could even get it to write and print an approximation of what I thought I had told it. It survived because of the big Number One Rule laid down by my dear, cautious wife. No weapons may be fired in the house unless human life is being threatened.

It was fickle. Just like a couple of my long lost loves. Ran hot and cold like a couple of others. It dished pleasure and pain at its personal whim, like another two or three females remaining nameless because of my personal creed of not speaking bad about the female species, having had two which were magnificent retrievers.

Now I sit before #3 having tried to figure how to get information off of a mini-floppy disk reader attached (successfully, by golly) which has on it a completed novel (hurray for our side) that cannot be transferred to my new 4 gigabyte usb stick-looking-thing which computer #3 tells me is plugged into the right hole (I always knew that 2-headed quarter would come in handy some day) and the stick is WORKING!!!. Working for who? (I know--for whom) How do I get the info to go on there? The disk being bigger than the stick, I cannot take the hammer and drive it in like a nail.

It's like girlfriend #13--tells me all is fine on the phone (let that read screen), but eyeball to eyeball is an ongoing lost cause. I never thought I could be as stupid about computers as I was about girls (and women).

I just checked. Dear wife is in the living room, so this infernal machine has survived for another day. Is there a sporting goods store close by that sells silencers for shotguns?

Harvey Honsinger, a 6th generation Texan, has six completed novels--westerns and historicals--and is actively marketing them. His short stories and poetry have been published in Arena Literary magazine. Harvey is an active member of the Thursday BWG critique group.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

On Writer's Block and Unblock by Pat Marcantel

Every writer I know has trouble writing. ~Joseph Heller

One of the best investments for this writer was the purchase of a funny-looking book/block called The Writer's Block by Jason Rekulak. It fits nicely on a shelf above my computer, easily within arm's reach. The introduction to this blocky gem is a lesson in contrasts:

"There is so much contradictory advice within these pages on writing, I don't think a how-to manual on writing could ever be written. Frederick Forsyth says, 'Write about what you know,' and Ken Kesey says, ' Write about what you don't know.' Isak Dinesen let her characters run wild and take over the story; Vladimir Nabokov refers to his characters as 'guilty slaves.' Ernest Hemingway says talent is a necessity; Gordon Lish says talent is irrelevant. The contradictions go on and on and on."

With the above quoted and hopefully intriguing you, here is my take on the beast of writer's block. Non-fiction is much easier than fiction. In the only book I have ever had published, writer's block wasn't a factor. This is what I've concluded as to why I escaped: my book was on the history of Oberlin, LA, my home town. It was a collection of chapters practically written by the people I interviewed. The main creativity I had to call upon was the beginning and ending chapters, and the structure of the book itself. The rest was making each story as well put-together as I possibly could. Oh, and of course, finding an artist who could illustrate it, an expert calligrapher for the cover and beginning of each chapter, a reliable typesetting company and a publisher was at times daunting.

One thorny problem did appear in the writing. I had to get the "fog" factor cleared up and see that the comprehension level was at that of newspapers--sixth grade. It was drudgery. As one of my sons told me early in the writing: "You're going to have to get rid of these complex and compound-complex sentences! By the end of some of them, I've already forgotten what you were talking about!" (So much for my--I hope-former Victorian style of writing). I soldiered on for four months and sent the book to the typesetting company who then sent it on to the publisher. The Oberlin Chamber of Commerce paid for the publishing. The people of Oberlin and many others in Allen Parish were pleased with Oberlin, the First 100 Years and it went into a second printing.

Other writings of mine are poems, articles and short stories, all based on either experiences from my life or my reading. Some have been published and some have won awards--no not the Pulitzer--just teeny awards but I am thankful for them. They encourage. I have a children's book that is written and 1/3 illustrated. My artist's block is far worse than any writer's block. I currently have two blogs I maintain which are both running commentaries on politics, life and the Lord. These keep me writing almost every day and that's a great thing for any writer. Visit me HERE and HERE.

Any last words? Of course--each a suggestion to overcome WB from that "blocky book": TATTOO, WAITING, SHORT FUSE, HOMELESS, 9/11, SEDUCTION, BAD HAIR DAY...


Artist/Author Pat Marcantel can be found on Facebook and Twitter any day of the week. When she isn't chatting online with friends, she's penning humorous stories that win contests. She's the author of Oberlin: The First 100 Years. If you'd like a copy, contact Pat.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Conferences - Making Contacts & Setting Goals

At a writer’s retreat two years ago, I had the privilege of having Cherry Adair as one of my instructors (Natalie Collins was the second). Cherry had a lot of advice concerning the commercial end of the writing business that I found helpful. She encouraged us to set goals for the upcoming year and made us write them down. STONE. It was frightening, an instant monument. Needless to say, some of mine crumbled to dust, but I realized she was right. We can’t just imagine goals. Folded away in our imaginings, goals are mere fiction, but in black and white they become novel ideas. Pun intended.

One goal I have this year is to attend at least one major and two minor conferences. I find that attending conferences helps the learning curve, and makes personal contacts that are invaluable in this electronic and impersonal world. It’s much easier to send a manuscript to an agent or publisher when my query letter states, “speaking to you last month at the blah blah conference….”

Two major events (major meaning money) within driving distance, that I have taken part in the past, are the Pen 2 Press Writers Retreat that I mentioned earlier, and the Writers’ League of Texas Agents Conference. Both of these opportunities are worth the time and provide exactly what they advertise.

P2P, as the host Debbie LeBlanc likes to call it, is an intimate, five day, hands on, writing experience. You take your laptop, have homework, and practice your pitch before you are given the chance to field your work to numerous agents and publishers. This year P2P will be held at the Hotel Monteleone in downtown New Orleans, May 25-29.

The Writers’ League of Texas Agents Conference held in Austin at the Hyatt Regency Hotel will be on June 26-27 this year. A much larger event with a conference setting, the WLT Agents Conference is just what its name implies. Everyone who registers is given a short interview with an agent or publisher of their choosing, but there are considerable opportunities to pitch your work at breakout sessions and informal gatherings. The Austin conference is large, but still has lots of southern hospitality.

A terrific example of an affordable small conference is our own annual BWG - Bridge to Publication on November 13th. I’m marking my calendar, immediately, right after I write my goals. Ewe.

A member of BWG and current secretary, born-again Southerner Chris Baldauf enjoys writing fiction set in Southwest Louisiana. A passion for justice and the underprivileged prompted Chris to weave social issues into the lives of the quirky characters that inhabit her mainstream and women’s lit fiction.