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.

Monday, April 5, 2010

What Bayou Writers' Group Means to Me by Angie Dilmore

When my family and I moved to Lake Charles three years ago, I had two primary goals. First, to find a church. And second, to find a writers’ group. In Pennsylvania, I had been writing intentionally for seven years and belonged to two different writing groups. I always said I couldn’t be a writer without my critique partners. I knew I’d miss these folks. I hoped I’d find a writers’ group in Lake Charles, not only for help with writing, but to make new friends, as well.

Through a little annual daily devotional called Penned From the Heart, I found Pam Thibodeaux. By contacting her, I discovered BWG. I’m so glad I did. I found not only a terrific group of writers, but lots of friends, too. Over the past three years, I’ve watched BWG grow from a small quiet gathering to a formidable force in the writing life of Lake Charles. We’re about to burst the seams of that Carnegie Library room. If you’re a writer in the Lake Charles area, come visit us!

For me, belonging to a writers’ group is important for so many reasons.

• Writing is a lonely profession. We need the camaraderie of other writer friends who understand the ups and downs of the business; people who can commiserate with the rejections and rejoice with the acceptances.

• A writers’ group provides support, inspiration, and education. BWG regularly schedules excellent speakers who both motivate and instruct us in our writing life. And of course, there’s our annual conference.

• BWG has a weekly Thursday morning gathering at Stellar Beans coffee shop which focuses on critiques. This is the part where I say I couldn’t be a writer without my writer friends. I need feedback on my writing, constructive criticism, to know what works, what doesn’t, and how I can make my writing better, stronger, more publishable. I keep in touch with several of my writing partners from home in Pa., but it’s not quite the same as face to face interaction.

• Having writer friends offers company in the car, companions for the road trips to ridiculously far away conferences. Being a city gal, I’m accustomed to most everything being practically at my doorstep. Since my move, commutes in general, to basically everywhere, have been a major culture shock.

• All the little things that make BWG special; the writing contests for both members and young writers in the community, the support we give to a few local charities, our post-meeting lunches a Piccadilly’s, the fun annual Christmas party . . .

• BWG is simply a great bunch of people. They’re warm and welcoming, encouraging to all writers from the novice to the professional. They’ve proven to be not only writer friends but friends in time of need. When my son was sick last year and in the hospital, several BWG members brought meals to my home, sent cards and gifts, offered advice, visited us in the hospital, and most importantly, prayed. I thank all of you for all you do.

Angie Dilmore is an award winning freelance writer who sells regularly to Boy's Life and other children's magazines. She's coordinator of the 2009 BWG conference, and is working on her first novel. Visit her blog HERE.