Sunday, March 28, 2010


I scribbled out the better part of a novel, “Johnny”, on tablets with pen and pencil, while aboard ship in 1956. Then a slight time lapse of approximately forty-two years passed, where I not only didn’t write, but never opened a book, other than Newsweek. After serious prodding and arm twisting from my loving wife, I sat down at a computer and banged out a memoir of my Navy experiences to pass on to my two children. Since then I have written a few novels and started several others. Also numerous short stories and memoirs of different periods of my life.

Encouragement from peers has driven me onward.

For this let me first thank my spouse, who is a better writer than I. Also, I offer my appreciation to several others I join forces with on Thursday mornings, and once a month on Saturdays, for their support and sharing of knowledge. I was reluctant to join at first, but belonging to the Bayou Writers Group has been a positive, stimulating experience.
Bob Downer delves into short stories, family histories and is currently working on a novel. He loves to write and is an active member of the BWG Thursday critique group.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Banjo Pickin' by Georgia Downer

I've always loved banjo pickin' music. When I turned 30, Bob gave me a beautiful rosewood 5-string and I signed up for lessons the next day. I could read music, the result of 5 years of piano lessons. The local music store found an instructor for me and I was off and running.

Sol, about 60 or so, plinked away on my banjo during our first session. He showed me how to tune it and presented me with a new red book of banjo chords and techniques and led me though Lesson One.

"Here y'are. Now you take this book and banjo home and practice. Since you can read music, it shouldn't give ya much trouble. See ya next time now."

Next week, I showed up with sore fingers from pressing on the strings, short fingernails, and full of complaints. "I can't do this. My fingers hurt, I can't balance the banjo on my lap or in front of me."

Sol again led me though the lessons; even practiced with me on his own banjo. I did learn the basics and mastered "Boil That Cabbage Down." Eventually. The last time I saw Sol, I again moaned, "I'll never get any better. How did you ever learn this?"

"Well, I'll tell ya. My Pa taught me to play the banjo and he said it was just like anything else in life. Ya just keep pickin' until ya get it right. Might take a long time, but ya to keep pickin."

That turned out to be the end of my formal banjo lessons, but I've never forgotten what he told me and I've used that mantra many times when things weren't going well.

"Ya just keep pickin' until ya get it right. Got to keep pickin'."

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

Monday, March 15, 2010

On Butler by Cliff Seiber

Pulitzer Prize winning fiction author Robert Olen Butler was entertaining during his annual (except for last year) reading in the McNeese Banners Series on Friday, Feb. 26.

He read from his latest published novel, Hell, which is humorous fantasy, satirical commentary on modern culture. He explained he has employed the “new media” (namely Twitter) in promoting the book and proceeded to read from his account, “Tweets from Hell.” You can catch up on them at and sign up for future installments.

Butler also read the first part of his next book, confessing that upon hearing himself read the piece to its first outside audience, he marked at least one a page for revision.

Also Butler on the Web: I am still trying to decide if the author is again self promoting and putting us on with his email picked up by the site, the Washington Post and National Public Radio. The Gawker site is headlined “Elizabeth Dewberry Left Robert Olen Butler To Join Ted Turner's Collection,” novelist Dewberry being Butler's wife from 1995 to 2007. I also wonder if some of the very literary follow-up comments on Gawker may have been written by Butler himself.

News of the divorce does help explain a line from the McNeese program notes, “He lives in Capps, Florida, population one.”

The next reading co-presented by Banners and the McNeese master of fine arts in creative writing program will be by poet Allen Braden at 7 p.m. Friday, Apr 30, at McNeese. The readings are free of charge and are usually followed by a nice spread of donated refreshments. Braden is a graduate of the McNeese MFA program and teaches at Tacoma Community College in Washington. His first book will be released in the spring.

Cliff Seiber has written about Southwest Louisiana for most of his years as a newsman. His reporting and photojournalism have won many first-place awards from the Louisiana Press Association.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Time Keeps on Slippin' by Peggy Borel

“Stop that darn clock!” I don’t know how many times over the past several years I have cried out in frustration that there are not enough hours in the day. Life has been evolving and shifting on me since moving back to Louisiana in 2009, and most days, I feel like a pirogue rocking to and fro on the bayou. I’m ready to plant my feet on solid ground again!

With resolve, I am determined to regain control of the hands on my watch. To achieve this, a schedule must be created and adhered to. Sounds pretty good here on the blog, but who will ever know if I follow through on this commitment? In reality, no one will really care! It has to matter to me, and I have to want to rekindle my writers’ passion for the written word.

There are several steps that I feel are necessary to find quality time as a writer:

Rediscover personal goals - Regain control of time, become a successful published author of a full-length novel within the next year, and find a publisher for my children’s picture book.

Schedule each hour of the day - Create a personal calendar that I keep with me at all times. Must be flexible, however, because life will still worm its way into the day. I recommend a pencil with a good eraser.

Make time to write every day - Can the alarm clock go off an hour earlier? How about lunchtime? Is there an extra thirty minutes between posting messages to friends and family on Facebook and bedtime? Instead of sleeping in on Saturday, how about writing instead? Was the sermon on Sunday a good inspiration for an article?

Decide what I want to write - Novels? Short Stories? Articles? Children’s stories? What genre’? You have to write what you like. Give me a well-written romantic suspense and top it off with homemade fudge and popcorn any day.

Invest in a small notebook - Keep it in your pocket or purse for those brainstorming ideas that jump into your head at the most inopportune moments. I don’t know how many times I have put off writing down the ideal sentence only to forget it by the time I arrived back at my desk. The perfect ending to a chapter has dissolved away, and I’m left with an okay hook instead of a firecracker of an ending for my readers.

Get involved - Join a writers’ group, attend conferences, and find a critique partner. These are all motivational and inspiring. While sipping a latté at the bookstore, listen and watch people, and find a character description that has been evasive!

Read - How many times have you said, “I could write something better than that?” Well, quit saying it, and do it! Motivation and determination are important keys to success. Giving procrastination a swift kick in the butt and out the door is reenergizing and invigorating!

Peggy Borel is an artist and a writer. Visit her website HERE to learn more about her novella, The Bluebonnet Cafe.

Monday, March 1, 2010

On Blog Tours by D. B. Grady

Blog tours are all the rage in literary self-promotion, so I figured I'd take a stab at it. It has the virtues of everything I like in publicity -- it's free, involves writing, and reaches a lot of people. Like most rages in literary self-promotion, however, my expectations are kept in check. As the saying goes, half of all book publicity is a waste of time; the problem is nobody knows which half.

Instead of hiring a book blog tour organizer (it seems there's money to be made everywhere!) I decided to do it myself. I have a healthy following on Twitter, threw the subject out there expecting a few bites, and was overwhelmed by the response. (Illustrating the importance of a strong social networking presence as a launch platform for other ventures.)

Few of the people who responded write literary blogs. This has its positives and negatives. On one hand, readers read literary sites, and readers buy books. On the other, such readers are inundated with suggestions every day. So maybe by reaching out to a new audience, I might snag a few book sales I might otherwise have missed, or at the very least, get my name out there. Aside from my mom, I doubt D.B. Grady rolls off the tongue of most readers when they hit Barnes and Noble. My thinking is long-term, and long-tail.

The blog tour was proposed with the following conditions: I will write on any subject for any blog, regardless of readership. Some people get three hits a day. Some get thousands. But even on the smallest blog, Google registers keywords and links back to my website, and to Amazon, improving my search ranking. This is important because when someone types "science fiction" into Google, I'm likely to appear on page 4,000. (In other words, I may as well not even exist.) But if I'm on page 20, or page 2, I'm in the game.

The "any topic" idea appealed to people. It engaged them. In all honesty, the plan was to somehow link the topic back to my book, and end with a sales pitch. But people had fun with the topics idea. "I'd like you to write a concise analysis of flaws in recent theories of quantum physics, using real world examples, in 500 words." That's an exaggeration, but only by degrees.

It's not easy to bring a freewheeling essay on physics back to an anachronistic, hardboiled mystery set on Mars. (See what I did there?) And it goes without saying that I am completely ill-equipped to write on a great many topics suggested. But that's half the fun, isn't it?

On March 30th, I'll report my findings and bad lessons-learned on BWG president Jessica Ferguson's blog. With any luck, I'll be writing from my new beach house on Bora Bora. But even if I don't sell a single book, I'll have written a solid 20,000 words, made a few new friends, and lost 15 lbs. stressing over deadlines. Now can someone please explain this quantum physics thing to me?

Tomorrow at developer Robert Gremillion's blog, I'll be writing about what authors can learn from computer programmers. I hope to see you there!

D.B. Grady is the author of Red Planet Noir.
He can be found on the web at