Monday, December 5, 2011

Did Someone Say Writing is Relaxing? by Marcia Dutton


It’s been another one of those nights when I awakened after only four hours sleep as countless thoughts began flitting around like moonbeams.  If I could only harness them into a web and gather them into one thought, possibly I would go back to sleep.  The easy solution would be to read until I get sleepy, but I would rather write, ridding myself of thoughts in that manner.

My step-grandson Jonathon visited us when he was the age of six. I was impressed with how much knowledge this kid had. Sometime later, when his mouth was running at top speed, an elder said “Johnathan, hush for awhile, you talk too much.”

 “But” he replied, “I am a smart boy and I have a lot to say.” Well, I have a lot to say also. Not that I am all that smart, but because, at an advanced age, I have traveled, seen a lot and experienced much.

 Mankind has always wanted to communicate with others what they desire to say, whether it be with smoke signals, drums, morse code or by word of mouth.  I am not good at verbally expressing myself, often not able to find the right word, substituting the wrong one, badly pronounced as well, and jerkily wandering off into tangents.  I find it easier to collect my thoughts in writing.  Thinking at a slower pace and using a dictionary or Google suits me much better. 

When asked recently by another woman,” what do you do with your time?” I replied “I write and sometimes paint.”  “Oh” she said, “You must find writing relaxing.”

Relaxing my foot!  Writing is hard work, especially when you have just recently been introduced to it. Trying to get the grammar, punctuation and spelling right is of the first order.  There is the research of that and the information one wishes to impart.  Organizing the prose, trying to make it flow, have rhythm, getting a first paragraph of strong impact and a satisfying ending to match, is only a small portion of of the writing skills I am trying to learn and execute. I presume this will always be a challenge. Good for the mind though.

Physically, there is the arthritis in one’s back and the requirement to keep the legs elevated which make sitting at the computer painful at times.  The eyesight starts to get blury too, but the passion to get it  on paper forces one to continue regardless.  If the outcome is what I wanted to share after many revisions, then it is all worth it.  Hopefully someone, somewhere, will read what I wrote and find it informative, enjoyable or at least worthwhile.  And I will have communicated. With this off my chest, I’m going back to bed.

Award-winning artist Marcia Dutton has published letters to the editor in the American Press and the only English newspaper in Saudi Arabia. She was a newsletter editor in Saudi Arabia and sent numerous letters home to family members about life in the various countries she lived in. Marcia is writing a book of memoirs about her days in the U.S. Navy and her many adventures abroad.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Blog Tour with Pamela Thibodeaux

BWG is excited to celebrate the release of The Visionary by Pam Thibodeaux.

Award-winning author, Pamela S. Thibodeaux is the Co-Founder and a lifetime member of Bayou Writers Group in Lake Charles, Louisiana. Multi-published in romantic fiction as well as creative non-fiction, 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.”



You can keep up with Pam at her website, her blog and through the Bayou Writers’ Group.

 
ABOUT THE VISIONARY:

A visionary is someone who sees into the future Taylor Forrestier sees into the past but only as it pertains to her work. Hailed by her peers as “a visionary with an instinct for beauty and an eye for the unique” Taylor is undoubtedly a brilliant architect and gifted designer. But she and twin brother Trevor, share more than a successful business. The two share a childhood wrought with lies and deceit and the kind of abuse that’s disturbingly prevalent in today’s society.  Can the love of God and the awesome healing power of His grace and mercy free the twins from their past and open their hearts to the good plan and the future He has for their lives?  Find out in…The Visionary ~ Where the power of God's love heals the most wounded of souls.


EXCERPT:

            Pam took a deep breath and forced herself to calm down. “I love you, Trevor. Why won’t you talk to me? Tell me what’s wrong.”

            “You have no idea what love is.” He hissed through teeth clenched as tightly as the fists by his side. “Most people have no inkling as to what true love is. True love is sticking together when your whole world is falling apart, trusting each other when you can’t depend on another living soul, and being willing to die or kill for each other.”


You can purchase The Visionary at Amazon or Barnes & Noble.


For everyone out there who needs and extra shot of encouragement, here’s what Pam says when asked: When do you feel like it all began to come together for you as a writer—was there a particular moment?

Answer: After years as a closet writer, penning stories in 5-subject notebooks, I'd have to say when I purchased my first, USED word processor and started typing in all those handwritten manuscripts I really began to feel like a writer.


Congratulations, Pam! The Visionary is a keeper.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

BWG Conference - 2011

Saturday, November 12, 2011, is a day I won't soon forget. It was one of our better writers' conferences, the annual Bridge to Publication sponsored by the Bayou Writers' Group, Inc. Really, I can't think of a Bridge to Publication conference I've attended that was bad. Plus, good food, schmoozing with other writers, and spending a whole day away from the computer screen. What more do you want?

Okay, actually, you want quite a bit more. You want speakers worth hearing and information that'll help you be a better writer, help you get published and understand things about writing and publishing you didn't get before. If you have a finished book, you want an agent or editor willing to hear about it. All this and more happened for me at Saturday's conference.

I've been to a few big conferences, including the Santa Fe Writers' Conference and the one at Sewanee, Tennessee. Big names at both, several days of seminars, readings, conferences, and writerly fellowship. Enjoyed myself no end. I'm willing to say I enjoyed this Bridge to Publication Conference as much as I enjoyed either of the big ones. Anita Mumm (the Nelson Literary Agency), D. B. Grady, and Mark Harris were three of the most interesting and generous speakers I've ever heard. They gave their all in their talks and took every question seriously, pausing to ponder sometimes and make sure every one got a thorough answer.

Mark Harris gave a disclaimer that he wasn't used to speaking at such events, and then went on to give a riveting talk about his take on writing in general and writing about pop culture in particular. When asked to define pop culture, he said it's the thing we all share, the movies and TV shows we've seen, books we've read, music we've loved, as opposed to the fine arts, like opera and ballet. When I told him he was a great speaker and should do it more often, he laughed and said, "Maybe not."

Anita Mumm put a human face on what often comes across as an anonymous and indifferent industry:  literary agency. She said how eager most agents are to see new work by new writers; at the same time, nearly one hundred percent of the work they're pitched is rejected. It's not personal and is in the writer's interest as well as the agency's. Agents aren't gatekeepers, Mumm emphasized. No one can sell your work if they don't have the contacts to pitch it to or if they don't like the work. We writers put down books we don't like all the time. We must allow agents to do the same, no matter how much someone else might admire it. An agent who rejects your work isn't pushing you away but moving you along to someone better suited to your needs.

D. B. Grady's disarming humility and charm didn't mask the keen, observing mind behind it. He's a conference-goer's hero. His first conference was a Bridge to Publication several years ago. He followed every bit of advice he heard and is now a published, prize-winning author and correspondent for The Atlantic. If we all followed his example, we'd be running the publishing industry. BWG is so proud of David, we're bursting.

I don't know what BWG will or can do to top the quality of 2011's conference, but I can't wait to find out.


Jan Rider Newman is a published, prize-winning writer of short stories, poetry, and nonfiction, currently writing a fantasy novel. She co-edits and publishes Swamp Lily Review, An Online Journal of Louisiana Literature & Arts (http://swamplily.com); contributes articles and book reviews to LitStack (http://litstack.com); edits the Gator Talk newsletter for the Bayou Writers' Group; and is the group's current webmaster.

Monday, November 7, 2011

More Than Just Writing by Sherry Perkins

 Although I love to write, it’s more than that.  I want to  share how a love of writing and reading continually enriches my life. 
 
My involvement with Bayou Writers’ Group has given me such mind-blowing experiences.  I’ve heard great insight from experts such as Bill Sherman, Brett Downer, and Linda Yezak to name a few.  Along with Jan, I helped judge a student poetry competition.  My husband even drove three hours to Biloxi, Mississippi, so I could speak to the Gulf Coast Writers’ Association.  Just last month as a volunteer at the Louisiana Book Festival, I added a few more experiences in my bag. 

I met Edwin Edwards and the writer of the prior governor’s story, Leo Honeycutt.  I met Mr. Edwards’ book publisher, former Louisiana Insurance Commissioner Jim Brown.  I met ABC Political Analyst Cokie Roberts, and heard her speak. She is funny! I even introduced George Rodrigue, the famous blue dog painter.  Yet, as the day wore on the ultimate experience awaited me.

My mom and I perused the books inside the Barnes and Noble tent.  Since my maiden name is Taylor, when I saw Taylor on the cover of a book alongside a football player, I said to my mom, “Look, this guy played professional football.”  A well-dressed lady stood near.  She overheard my comment and said, “If you want to meet Jim Taylor, he’s right over there,” she pointed.  We jumped on the chance and followed her.  As his wife, she introduced us to the famed LSU football player and subsequent Green Bay Packers player.  Then, she did the wildest thing!

She took her husband’s right hand and removed the largest ring I have ever seen.  Grinning, she held it up and asked, “Would you like to hold a Super Bowl ring?”  My jaw hit the floor.  My eyes bulged out.  I didn’t know what to do except hold my hand out.  Then, she placed the ring in my hand!  Taking up a third of the palm of my hand was a 1966 Green Bay Packer’s Super Bowl ring.  She added, “It’s from the very first Super Bowl.”  Like two star-struck idiots, we had our pictures made with Mr. Jim Taylor, said our “thank yous” and grinned for the rest of the day.

You see, our love of reading and writing spans more than just physical writing or curling up with a good book.  Both my parents loved to read.  Like me, my mom reads vigorously.  My dad also loved to read.  Their love of reading passed to me.  It’s a gift I’m most thankful for.  But, my love spans more than reading and writing.  Being around others who share the same interest lifts my spirit.  I visited with Curt, Colleen, and Rodney at their respective booths, and bought a book from each. 

 My hope is you get to the place in your life where it’s more than just reading and writing.  It’s enjoying others and experiencing new things.  It’s living!

Sherry Perkins has been published in magazines and newspapers across the state of Louisiana. She loves speaking to people, organizing, being supportive of others, and working hard. Sherry is the 2011 President of Bayou Writers Group and conference coordinator for the November conference--A Bridge to Publication.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Louisiana Folklore: Myths, Legends, and Folktales by Angie Kay Dilmore

I recently attended a lecture by Keagan LeJeune, Associate Professor of English at McNeese State University, on the topic of Louisiana folklore. I’d never given much thought to the differences between myths, legends, and folktales – I think I always considered these words to be somewhat interchangeable. But according to LeJeune, there are distinct differences.
The umbrella term – folklore – encompasses the traditions, literature, knowledge, art, dance, and stories of a particular culture. It is what defines us, and can be found in music, paintings, quilts, and of course, words.
Myths imply the traditional sacred stories of a culture, of gods and heroes. They often strive to explain natural phenomena or the beginnings of time. Native American Indian folklore is richly mythical. An example is the story of Earth Diver, where a crawfish digs up earth from the water so that land animals have a place to live.

Legends are stories that reside in our believable past. The stories may not be 100% true, but they are rooted in historical reality. Examples of Louisiana legends are the many tales told of Jean LaFitte and Huey Long.
Folktales have a once-upon-a-time ring to them. They are often told to children in an attempt to teach a moral or life lesson. They are often humorous and have surprise endings. Examples of Louisiana folktales would be Blanche and Rose and Compair Lapin, Louisiana’s version of Br’er Rabbit.

And if we wanted to, we could make a fourth category of Louisiana folklore stories . . . Boudreaux and Thibodeaux jokes.
Mr. LeJeune has published a book, Always For the Underdog: Leather Britches Smith and the Grabow War.

Angie Kay Dilmore is a freelance writer originally from Pittsburgh Pa., and has lived the past several years in southwest Louisiana. She freelances for various local magazines, the children’s magazine market, and contributes regularly to Boys’ Life. Angie reviews books for LitStack, a literary website featuring publishing industry news, essays, reviews and commentary. She also writes picture books, poetry, and is working on a middle grade historical fiction. You can find Angie blogging at The Trials and Triumphs of a Transplant.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Perseverance by Linda F. Todd

I've been suffering from the What-Do-I-Write-About blues. The blogs were waiting for my immortal words, but that closet needed cleaning. The laundry was piling up. I had errands to run, so I took myself off to the Dollar Store and the library. Post Office, next stop. I pulled the endless catalogs out of my crammed up box, deciding which ones would not make it home. Next came my latest copy of the Writer's Digest magazine. Who was staring back at me from the cover but my favorite author of all time. James Lee Burke. "The bestseller on battling through rejection" were the words under his name. I couldn't wait to get home and read it. I knew a thing or two about rejection. Or so I thought.

This man is a rare two-time Edgar Award winner, recipient of the Guggenheim Fellowship, and three of his books have been made into films. He published his first story at age nineteen. His latest novel, Feast Day of Fools, is his thirtieth book and has been nominated for the National Book Award. By the age of thirty-four he had three mainstream novels published.

His fourth book, The Lost Get-Back Boogie, was rejected 111 times in nine years. He was rejected for the Guggenheim fourteen times before finally being accepted. LSU Press finally picked up Boogie and it was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize.

This article is not so much about rejection as it is about perseverance. I thought I had cornered the market on rejections. I have one each from Alfred Hitchcock, Ellery Queen, Great Mystery & Suspense, Asimov's Science Fiction, Fantasy and Science Fiction, and two from Byline. A total of seven. I am not even in the ball park.

Here's Burke's advice: Never keep a manuscript longer than 36 hours. Listen to what a publisher or editor has to say about changes. DON'T EVER QUIT. Believe in yourself.

My novel, Wild Justice, is at The Permanent Press being looked at by an editor, but I have at least ten stories sitting in a drawer. The next time you see me ask if I've sent anything out lately. I'll do the same for you.

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. Her fiction and poetry have won awards in regional contests. Her novel, Wild Justice is being shopped to publishers and agents. 

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Slushpile by Jan Rider Newman

At one time I’d never have considered self-publishing. I wanted, and I still want, the legitimacy of a big publisher who accepts, edits, and releases my novel, that official industry "A" for my efforts. Any writer worth a book deal knows how to deliver a well-written, well-edited manuscript. But that last mile to the hard-copy book in your hand, I still believe, needs a professional escort. And yet, according to Katherine Rosman and her January 2010 Wall Street Journal article, "The Death of the Slush Pile," the dream has a less than 1% chance of coming true.

Since reading the article, I've begun to look at self-publishing as an avenue worth examining. If you're unknown and end up with a publisher who won't finance much promotion, how much more expensive and troublesome can it be to do all of it on your own?

The self-publishing I reacted violently against isn't today's model, though it can be—one must be careful. But the same technology that stole readers' attention from printed pages has proved to have legitimate uses. After some gnashing of teeth, writers took another look at that LED screen and saw a new world of options—POD, e-zines, Kindle, iPad. Many e-pub options don't cost a great deal. All writers now take advantage of ways to publish and market their work that didn't exist five years ago, or existed only as fringe possibilities.

We’re in an exciting phase. The slush pile is dead; more and more writers are driven to seek publication; the agency model is in flux; and the need to publish is almost as great as the need to write. Technology, once seen as part of the problem, has made the process easier and less expensive. More importantly, it's helped self-publishing gain respectability. Look at the horizon. As you read this, writers are inventing new ways to get readers, promote themselves, and pocket more earnings. I look forward to seeing what will turn up next and to being part of it.

Jan Rider Newman is a published, prize-winning writer of short stories, poetry, and nonfiction, currently writing a fantasy novel. She co-edits and publishes Swamp Lily Review, An Online Journal of Louisiana Literature & Arts (http://swamplily.com); contributes articles and book reviews to LitStack (http://litstack.com); edits the Gator Talk newsletter for the Bayou Writers' Group; and is the group's current webmaster.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Hold On To Those Flashbulb Memories--and Write! by Stan Weeber

Flashbulb memories are very vivid and long lasting memories of the delivery of shocking news. The news is so important that we clearly remember the context in which the news was heard in great detail – where we were, what we were doing and the people present at the time. The memories tend to be long lasting because the news delivered may have important historical or personal significance. The unexpected deaths of a family member, a President, or a politician we admire are examples. Our emotionally charged reactions to unforeseen events such as the attack on Pearl Harbor or the September 11 attacks upon America also serve as examples.

My purpose in writing today is to encourage you to hang on to these memories and to write about them if you are so inclined. The initial drafts of your work come easily because you simply write down in narrative form, or poetic form, what you remember about the flashbulb event. Then, you contextualize your memory based upon an audience that you want to reach.

For example, I was so distraught at the news of President Kennedy’s death on November 22, 1963, that I vowed to find out why someone would do such a dreadful thing. Forty years later, I published a biography of the accused assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald. The first chapter was based upon my own flashbulb memory of that horrible day. The remainder of the book was an academic study of Mr. Oswald’s life.

I was so saddened over the loss of life in the Oklahoma City bombing of April 19, 1995, that I once again vowed to peer inside the mindset of someone who would act in such a horrific way. When the New York Times reported on April 21 that accused bomber Timothy McVeigh had attended militia meetings in Michigan, I dug deeply into the mental makeup of people who join militia groups. The result: thirteen academic studies about the militia movement.

My third flashbulb memory came ironically enough on another November 22, this time in 2002. This was not a day that everyone remembers. It had more significance to me as an individual than for most people. The news flash on this day was that yet another woman was now missing in South Louisiana, this one in Lafayette. I immediately thought of the South Louisiana Serial Killer case. If confirmed as a victim of the serial killer, it would be his fourth victim. I was greatly concerned for the safety of my female students – I am a professor in Lake Charles – and now there was a victim about an hour away from where I live and teach. My fears about the case led to my book, In Search of Derrick Todd Lee, which was about online activists trying to coordinate information about the killer.

As you can see, my flashbulb memories were about major newsworthy events, but flashbulb memories do not always require such a high profile. The death of a relative, a pet, or the horrendous aftermath of a violent storm are also examples. Or, you win an award and life changes forever for the better. Some flashbulb memories are positive. .

One reason that flashbulb memories are remembered is because these memories tend to be retold over and over again. Because of that, accuracy tends to be lost over time, and the details are not necessarily accurate. Don’t worry, the memory is still vivid to you and deserves to be told as you remember it. Readers will bond with your account if they’ve been through something similar.

Stan Weeber is an Associate Professor of Sociology at McNeese State University. He has written or edited 20 books, including In Search of Derrick Todd Lee: The Internet Social Movement that Made a Difference (Lanham, MD: University Press of America, 2007).

Sunday, July 17, 2011

The Secret of the Written Word by Marcia Dutton

“Marcia, it is two a.m. and you have to be up early in the morning. You need to get to bed” admonished my husband.
“I can’t, I just can’t.  I’m reliving that glorious trip we made through Europe on the Eurorail trains.  Remember that year of the Achilles Lauro terrorist attack when that guy was thrown overboard?  Everyone was afraid to travel and we had entire compartments to ourselves and no tourist crowds to contend with.”
Normally, I don’t live in the past. I have moved so many times; there is only the present for me.  However, joining the Bayou Writer’s Group got me into writing my past adventures and what fun it has been remembering all those experiences.
With our three week Eurorail passes we were able to come and go practically any time of day or night, staying at favorite places as long as we pleased. We could leave extra baggage in railway lockers, take day trips or excursions without waiting in line for tickets or going through the hassle of restrictions.            Boat trips across lakes in Switzerland and cog trains to mountain tops were included. We took ‘Sound of Music’ bus tours through Austrian Alps, watched the Lipizzaner dancing horses in Vienna, toured the blue Danube, walked through vineyards and enjoyed watching passersby at outdoor cafes. Venice, Paris and Barcelona were near enough to be explored.
Now because of my writing I am able to not only remember these places but share them with others who are interested.  How often does one get to do that in everyday conversation? Ah, what a discovery this little secret of the written word. 

Award-winning artist Marcia Dutton has published letters to the editor in the American Press and the only English newspaper in Saudi Arabia. She was a newsletter editor in Saudi Arabia and sent numerous letters home to family members about life in the various countries she lived in. Marcia is writing a book of memoirs about her days in the U.S. Navy and her many adventures abroad.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

McNeese Leisure Learning - Writing Classes

To the Bayou Writers,
McNeese Leisure Learning offers the following writing courses starting this week:

Query, Synopsis, and Book Proposal Workshop
Instructor: Janice Repka J.D./M.A./M.F.A.

Location: Frasch 106
Date: Thursdays: July 7 & 14
Time: 6:30 - 8:30 pm
Cost: $45

Do you want to be a published author? Get guidance on how to write a successful query letter, book synopsis, or book proposal by studying real ones that worked. Then, get personalized feedback and critique on your own query letter, book synopsis, or book proposal. come join us as we explore how the publishing world works and how you can become a part of it.

Writing Your Life Book
Instructor: Janice Repka, J.D./M.A./M.F.A.
Location: Drew 110
Date: Saturdays, July 9, 16, 23, 30, Aug. 6
Time: 12:00 - 1:30 pm
Cost: $68
Would you like to create a keepsake to preserve all of the wonderful family stories floating around in your head? Participants in this introduction to memoir writing class will take part in exercises and enrichment activities designed to immortalize their life stories on the page. Whether you’d like to create a lasting memory about your life for your children, grandchildren, or for your own reflection, you are welcome to join like-minded writers on this exciting story telling and memory preserving journey. Price includes supplies for creating your Life Book.
******
Additionally, McNeese Leisure Learning offers over 300 online courses, www.ed2go.com/mcneese. ;
Offered are many writing courses, such as:
beginning writer’s workshop
beginner’s guide to getting published,
introduction to internet writing markets
write your life story,
mystery
travel
writing fiction like a pro,
write and publish your own non-fiction book
advanced fiction writing,
The courses which begin monthly are 6-week courses available online 24-7. New lessons are released each Wednesday and Friday.
The Romance Writing Secrets course will be offered in July and August only. So, if anyone is interested, August will be the last time the course is offered.

Romance Writing Secrets
Learn the secrets of writing romance novels that get publishers excited. Facilitated by a bestselling, multi-published romance author, this course will guide you on your road to writing your first romance and getting it published.

Romance writing is the hottest fiction genre going. From Nora Roberts to Jayne Ann Krentz to Linda Howard, readers gobble up romance novels to the tune of $1.2 billion a year. This course starts with the fundamentals of organizing your book, beginning with the overarching theme, and moves on to the basic elements of good storytelling—character development, structuring your plot, internal and external conflict, and point of view. The class then proceeds to the specifics of romance—the importance of writing emotions, love scenes, witty banter, and romantic imagery. The course concludes with hints and tips on getting published within the romance market.

Students will be exposed to real-life examples from popular romance novels and from the instructor’s 12 years of experience as a published author of 39 romance novels.
6 – week course
$99
Session Start Dates:
July 20
August 17
To register for a Leisure Learning Course.

1. Pay with a Visa, MasterCard, Discover by phone, 475-5616, 475-5130 or 800-622-3352, ext. 5616.
2. Fax Registration Form to 337-475-5172.
3. Mail Registration Form to
MSU Leisure Learning
Box 92375
Lake Charles, LA 70609
4. Pay in person at Smith Hall between 7:45 a.m. – 3:45 p.m.

5. Students may register for online classes at www.ed2go.com/mcneese
May Poché Gray
Coordinator, Programs & Short Courses
McNeese State University
337-475-5130
800-622-3352, ext.5130
Fax: 337-475-5172

Monday, June 27, 2011

THE BLANK PAGE by Stanley Klemetson

As I sit at my desk in my new office at Utah Valley University I realize that I have a blank page to be filled.  How will I fill it?  How will I take the experiences that have brought me to this point in my life to write the story of my life to come?  Will I always make good choices?  Will choices from the past come back to haunt me?  How will I fill that blank page?  And as a writer, how will these experiences affect the lives of my characters as I write their stories? 
I attended a two day writer’s workshop by Orson Scott Card last summer.  We were assigned to interview someone in the community to obtain a backstory for our writing.  My partner and I found a women sitting at a table in the coffee shop of the book store.  After a moment’s hesitation at being approached by two unknown men she decided to join us at our table.  For the next 20 minutes she told us her life story, including her children, ex-husband, and work experiences.  Armed with that information both of us wrote a story for the next day's class.  As you might expect, our stories were different versions of her future even though we had the same starting point.  We never gave her copies of what we wrote, but I wonder what she would have thought of the futures we had created for her. 

As a novice writer I have to continually experiment with the craft to evaluate what works and what does not.  I recently finished reading several books and tried to evaluate the "show not tell" structure of the writing.  I tried to determine if the story was believable.  There was good and bad writing in the books that I read.  Last week I submitted several poems to a contest.  I wonder how my writing will be judged.  I was not happy with my short stories yet so I have saved them for future contests.    

I decided to experiment with the recent story of my own life to see it if makes sense.  About two years ago I moved to Lake Charles to work at McNeese State University in the Department of Engineering with a new blank page.  The community and people were all unknown.  I had never lived that far south.  What I found shaped my life and set me on a new path.  The people of the south were extremely friendly and quickly drew me into their circle of friends.  I sure can't complain about the food.  In the Bayou Writers Group I found very supportive friends that encouraged me to write.  I enjoyed my writing classes at McNeese, and I wrote poems and short stories that I had always wanted to write. l submitted some of the writings to contests and read one of my poems at a coffee house.  At McNeese I was asked to be the Department Head and had a great faculty to work with.   I became involved throughout the campus and community.  Then I was invited to apply for an Associate Dean position at a large university in Utah, a job that I would not have gotten if had not been the Department Head of Engineering at McNeese State University.  Since returning to Utah I have joined a writer’s group with more confidence than I had two years ago. 

Let’s go back to my blank page from just two years ago.  While the entire story is true, does it sound believable?  The whole story sounds unbelievable to me, but I have great memories of Southwest Louisiana and the people I have met.  I will miss all of you.

Thanks for the memories.

Stan is an Associate Dean in the College of Technology and Computing and is responsible for the School of Applied Technology and Construction at Utah Valley University in Orem, Utah.  His e-mail address is sklemetson (at) uvu.edu.  His phone is 801-368-6476.  

Monday, June 20, 2011

NO OPTIONS AVAILABLE by Georgia Downer

Sunday morning, June 5, 2011

   NEW YORK (AP) – Harry Bernstein, whose acclaimed memoir of an English childhood haunted by anti-Semitism, “The Invisible Wall”, was published when he was 96, has died at 101.
                                        -30-

After receiving 40 rejections, and burning most of his manuscripts, he did write successfully. In 2008, at the age of 98, he was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship to pursue his writing. I cannot get that first AP sentence out of my mind. I read the rest of those two columns a few minutes ago. They are a testament to perseverance.

Pursue his writing? At 98 years old?  Bravo, Mr. Bernstein.

How embarrassing for those of us who despair at our first, tenth, twenty-first rejection.  I have no illusions about my writing skill. I enjoy it and find some satisfaction in what I’ve accomplished so far. How much longer should I keep trying; I am, after all, seventy years old.  I’ve decided that wallowing in sorrow and disappointment for more than one week, over a rejection slip, is a waste of time. The odds that I could create a best selling novel, or wildly popular magazine/newspaper column are not good. Especially if I never try again.

So I will listen to our writing group’s speakers. I will read up on articles in Writing, and The Writer, search Amazon for yet another new tome on Creative Non-Fiction. I will share writing thoughts with fellow writers.  I will learn to trust my own judgment about my stories, hang the rejections slips on my black “Ribbon of Despair,” and keep writing and enjoying it. 

There are no options available.

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

Monday, June 13, 2011

Affecting Others by Sherry Perkins

A few months ago, I secured a second job.  When someone I knew came in, she was surprised to see me and asked, “How do you make time for writing?”  I smiled and replied, “When it’s something you’re passionate about, you make time.”  She nodded in agreement. 

No matter how many hours in the day slip away, I find time to write.  For me, it’s more than a passion – it’s an obsession.  Not only is it an obsession, it’s my responsibility to nurture whatever talent God mercifully gave me.  Unlike going to the grocery store or filling in for me at work, no one can do it for me which brings me to my point.

 Zig Ziglar came out with a book of quotes titled, “Zig Ziglar’s Little Book of Big Quotes.”  It’s more of a mini-book, maybe three inches by four inches but I keep it in my purse and have for years.  Although it is filled with motivational pieces, my favorite is, “You are the only one who can use your ability.  It is an awesome responsibility.”

Please don’t keep your passion bottled up.  Remove the lid, pour it out, and let it water your soul and the souls of others.  For you never know how, or when, your writing will affect someone.  Let your stories and your poems be a light in someone’s darkness.  Let your paintings, drawings, photographs, sculptures, quilts, or other projects bring a smile to a stranger’s sad heart.  Believe in your talent and develop what the Lord gave you!  If not for yourself, do it for others and blessings will overwhelm you.

Sherry Perkins has been published in magazines and newspapers across the state of Louisiana. She loves speaking to people, organizing, being supportive of others, and working hard. Sherry is the 2011 President of Bayou Writers Group and conference coordinator for the November conference--A Bridge to Publication.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Shakespeare's Critique Group by Jan Rider Newman

"Henry V?" says Thomas Kyd. "Seriously, Will? Don't you realize how bloody tired people are of sequels? How far do you plan to take this – Henry VI? Henry VII? Henry the bloody X, for pity's sake?"

"I agree," says Christopher Marlow. "For what 'tis worth, Will, and only in my humble opinion, of course, but plays about royalty are so overdone. Do you not agree? Everyone?"

"All the same," says Robert Greene, "I rather like that 'band of brothers' bit you've thrown in here. That whole speech gives me a lump in my throat."

"Bearbaiting give you a lump in the throat," says Marlow. "The point is, comedies are the hot trend now. The Comedy of Henry V? Hm."

"God knows, the French are a ridiculous bunch," says Kyd, "especially when fighting or making love. Make more use of that. You never exploit enough potential in your work."

"True, Will." Marlow nods. "You know 'tis true. Again, in my opinion. Take it for what 'tis worth."

"I thought some parts of Henry's dialogue were quite amusing," Greene says. "But why are all of Falstaff's scenes offstage? Your audience loves Falstaff. You cannot let him die in bed offstage. You'll lose your audience."

"Falstaff," cries Kyd. "There was never anything funny about that buffoon! Kill him off in Henry IV is what I wish you'd done."

"The thing about comedies," says Kyd. "'Tis the trend for plays being produced this month. We need to predict the trends coming up a month from now. Ben, you've been unusually silent. What is your take on Will's play? Should it be a comedy?"

"Eh? Is it my turn? Well, I've no problem with the play as a drama, but grammar and punctuation –" Jonson sighs. "Will you never learn to do it properly? I don't think you're even trying. Let's begin with Act I, Scene i, line 5 . . ."

Jan Rider Newman is a published writer of short stories, poetry, and nonfiction, currently writing a fantasy novel. She co-edits and publishes Swamp Lily Review, An Online Journal of Louisiana Literature & Arts (http://swamplily.com); contributes articles and book reviews to the Best Damn Creative Writing Blog (http://bestdamncreativewritingblog.com); edits the Gator Talk newsletter for the Bayou Writers' Group; and is the group's current webmaster.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Bayou Writers’ Group

2011 Members-Only Contest



BWG presents its third Members-Only Contest.  Categories are fiction, nonfiction, and poetry.  Judging will be done by qualified professionals and may include comments and suggestions on each entry and score sheet.  Rules are below.  Submission deadline is JUNE 4, 2011.  Winners will receive a certificate and free BWG Membership for 2012 (from January 2012 to December 2012).


SUBMISSION GUIDELINES (RULES)



Poetry:  rhymed or unrhymed up to 25 lines

Fiction or nonfiction up to 3,000 words


COVER SHEET:  Use a separate cover sheet for each entry.  Put your name, complete address, telephone number, and email address (if applicable) in the upper left-hand corner.  In the upper right- hand corner, list category and number of words or lines (whichever is applicable).  Double space six times and center the title.  Double space again and type the first line of your story/poem (to avoid confusion in case of a title being used by more than one member).  DO NOT PUT YOUR NAME ON ANY OTHER PAGE!  Cover sheets will be kept in a special envelope by the President for identification of the winning entries and will not be sent to the judges with the submissions.


ALL ENTRIES

This must be your original unpublished work.  Publication on the Internet is publication.  Use font size 12 and Times New Roman only.  Text should be on one side of each page.  Each member may enter ONE PIECE IN TWO SEPARATE CATEGORIES, for example:  one fiction and one poem, or one nonfiction and one fiction, but not two fiction pieces!  Each category must have at least five entries or the category will be cancelled.


FICTION AND NONFICTION:  Entries must be typed and double-spaced with one-inch margins.  For the first page, double space eight times from the top of the page, center the title, double space again, and begin the story.  On each succeeding page of story, type title and page number in the upper right- hand corner WITHOUT AUTHOR’S NAME.


POETRY:  Poems must be typed but may be single-spaced and may begin at the top of the page.  List number of text lines in upper right-hand corner.  On each succeeding page, type title and page number in upper right-hand corner WITHOUT AUTHOR’S NAME.


DEADLINE FOR ENTRIES IS NOON (12:00 PM) AT THE JUNE 4TH, 2011 MEETING!


Emailed entries are not accepted.  If a member lives out of town, he/she may mail in their submission(s).  Fasten cover sheet and three copies of your submission with a large paperclip.  DO NOT STAPLE ANYTHING!  Entries which do not conform to these rules will be disqualified and not judged.  Judges often write comments directly on the submission.  Each entry will be judged but we cannot guarantee all judges will write comments on either the score sheet or submission.  Decisions of the judges are final. 


WINNERS AND AWARDS WILL BE PRESENTED AT THE SEPTEMBER 2011 MEETING!

Monday, April 25, 2011

Ten Hot Tips for Writing Non-Fiction by Angie Kay Dilmore

I recently attended Houston’s Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) conference. Several hundred conferees packed a ballroom at the Merrill Center in Katy. Six out of eight speakers were either an agent or editor. Because so many traditional publishers do not accept unsolicited manuscripts, conferences like these are essential for getting your foot in the door of publishing houses. It takes time and money to attend conferences, but if you’re serious about your writing, they are definitely worth it.
Brenda Murray, Senior Editor at Scholastic, spoke to us on writing non-fiction. Naturally, she geared her talk to writing for children, but most of the principles apply to any non-fiction writing. Listed are Ms. Murray’s suggestions.

1. Know your audience. Know their reading level and what they enjoy reading. Then speak their language. Include a glossary if appropriate.

2. Research the competition. How is your book different? Is there room in the market for another book on that subject? If there aren’t other books out there on that subject, is there a reason why?

3. Make it interactive. Include quizzes, puzzles, experiments, games, and activities. (This would be more applicable to children’s writing.)

4. Keep it brief. Say what you need to say in as few words as possible. Follow word count guidelines.

5. Focus your subject. Can you narrow a broad general topic to create a more interesting subject?

6. Consider narrative in your non-fiction writing. Rather than merely stating facts, tell your reader a story, with a beginning, middle, and end.

7. Introduce a new concept. Tell your reader something he/she does not already know. Or add a new twist to a familiar subject.

8. Use exciting language, strong verbs, and interesting word choices to grab your readers’ attention.

9. Don’t assume your reader has prior knowledge of a subject. Add clarification or explanation in your story where necessary.

10. Include bonus material with your non-fiction work, such as maps, photos, illustrations, websites, etc. (Often the publisher takes care of this. Depends on where you’re submitting.)

If you consider yourself a fiction writer, don’t dismiss non-fiction writing, as I did when I first started writing. Any prolific published author will tell you, non-fiction sells way easier than fiction. I once heard a remarkable statistic at a writers conference. I wish I could remember the quote exactly. Though the specific numbers escape me, the powerful message did not. But it went something like this (I’m making this up, so do not quote me.) There are ten fiction writers for every two non-fiction writers. And there are ten works of non-fiction accepted for every two fiction pieces accepted. The odds are definitely in the favor of non-fiction writers!

Angie Kay Dilmore is a freelance writer originally from Pittsburgh Pa., and has lived the past several years in southwest Louisiana. She writes for the children’s magazine market and contributes regularly to Boys’ Life. Angie reviews books for The Best Damn Creative Writing Blog, a literary website featuring publishing industry news, essays, reviews and commentary. She also writes picture books, poetry, and is working on a middle grade historical fiction. You can find Angie blogging at The Trials and Triumphs of a Transplant.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Stimulate Your Muse and Stay Focused by Pamela S. Thibodeaux © 2006

Okay, so you’ve jumped off the deep end and quit your job to stay home and write. You researched all the possibilities, you know that it sometimes takes up to two years for freelance writers to make a significant amount of income, and you’re prepared. Your office is set up; you have an ergonomic keyboard and comfortable chair, plenty of office supplies and an empty filing cabinet. What now? Where do you start? How do you find enough writing projects to begin earning that income? Better yet, how do you know what to write and where to submit?

Here are a few tips and ideas:

• Read. This should go without saying, but if you’re interested in writing for publications like the ‘True’ magazines, Guideposts and Angels on Earth or even Chicken Soup, then read those publications.

• Research. Another given when it comes to freelance writing. Visit different writing sites and newsletters and check out their “current needs” section, you can often get your articles/essays accepted easily because what you’re writing is exactly what they are looking for. Checking out the current needs of a publication will stimulate your muse should you be in a slump.

• Blogging has become not only a fun thing to do, but informative and for some, lucrative. Sites like Blogitive and PayPerPost are just a few places, but a web search on “get paid to blog” revealed over 39,000,000 links. The freedom you have in blogging is another way to get your creative juices flowing.

• **TIP** Once you sign up at one or more blog sites, check out their “high dollar words” and use these words to create your niche and build your readership.

• Freelance Sites offer numerous opportunities to write. Some like Freelance Writing.Com, Freelance Work Exchange, Guru.com, and Elance have programs where you can bid on jobs, but there are hundreds maybe thousands of other sites out there. Most of these sites offer a free newsletter that keeps you informed of the latest jobs available.

• Newsletters like Writers Gazette, Funds for Writers, Scribe & Quill and others are FREE and always include writing opportunities.

• There are millions of writers’ ezines, websites, and writer groups’ newsletters who are always looking for content. Writer Success, Writer2Writer, Byline, and Novel Writer Magazine come to mind.

• Become an Instructor: Places like Inspired Author, Universeclass.com and Onlinecourse.com need instructors to teach writing courses.

• Become a Topic Editor. Inspired Author is a site that offers professional help on various writing topics. A TE for IA will receive tons of promotion plus opportunities to write and earn money.

• Become an Expert! Sits like Lifetips.com, Helium Knowledge and Associated Content pay for expert advice or ‘tips’ as well as offer writing opportunities.

• Write Ebooks: Writing and self-publishing ebooks through places like Lulu.com is quickly becoming a way for freelance writers to make money. People buy “How To” ebooks that are short, concise and informative.

• Check out Writing Schools like Longridge Writers Group who often pay for interviews and chats as well as purchase articles for their website and newsletter content.

• Rewrite/revise/resubmit. Once your article or essay is accepted for a publication, make a list of other places where you can submit it as a reprint or revise/rewrite and submit to an alternative market.

So now that you know what to do, what do you do with all of those leads, links, and guidelines?

There are several ways to keep track of the information you receive but I have found that if you save it in a file on your computer or bookmark the different sites, you’re going to spend as much (if not more) time reading than writing. One thing that helps is to print the guidelines for different sites you’d like to write for and file them alphabetically in an expandable file folder. If you receive writing opportunities via newsletter or ezine, print and file them according to deadline dates.

These are just a few ideas on stimulating your muse and staying focused. Remember, Freelance writing is a business and should be treated as such. Schedule regular work hours, take routine breaks and keep accurate records for tax purposes.


Award winning author, Pamela S. Thibodeaux is the Co-founder and lifetime member of Bayou Writers Group in Lake Charles, Louisiana. Multi-published in romantic fiction and creative non-fiction, 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.” Website address: http://www.pamelathibodeaux.com Blog: http://pamswildroseblog.blogspot.com

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Quotes (and more) for Writers

I love quotes by (and for) writers. Before I bought a laptop, post-it notes with wise words from writer friends decorated my desktop computer. We can learn from them, if we will. We can call on them for encouragement or we can use them as wise counsel. Here are a few interesting quotes for you.

You pay your dues—which takes years. ~Alex Haley

No one knows exactly HOW long but I can tell you with some certainty that it depends on how much you're writing. If you write every day, you'll learn faster; if you're sending your material to publishers, you'll pay your dues a little faster than someone who writes and mails out when the mood hits.

The task of a writer consists of being able to make something out of an idea. ~Thomas Mann

An idea isn't a plot and usually doesn't hit us as a full-blown book. I get more ideas than I know what to do with; the hard part is creating a story with a beginning, a middle and an end from that skimpy little idea.

The difference between reality and fiction? Fiction has to make sense. ~Tom Clancy

Unfortunately, this is too true.

No, it's not a very good story—its author was too busy listening to other voices to listen as closely as he should have to the one coming from inside. ~ Stephen King

This is a wonderful quote by Stephen King and one we should all remember. Who's voice do you hear in your head? Who's screaming at you to watch what you say and how you say it, and telling you that you can't do that? Who are you trying to please?

Nothing leads so straight to futility as literary ambitions without systematic knowledge. ~H.G. Wells

Do we know the correct way to write a novel, short story, poetry? Is that what Wells means by systematic knowledge? Have we educated ourselves in the genre of our choice and about the publishers to whom we wish to submit? There are a hundred different ways we need to educate ourselves in this publishing world.

You must want to enough. Enough to take all the rejections, enough to pay the price of disappointment and discouragement while you are learning. Like any other artist you must learn your craft—then you can add all the genius you like. ~Phyllis A. Whitney

In a nutshell, learn the rules before you break them, and get used to being pummeled with rejections because that's part of the learning process.

And by the way, everything in life is writable about if you have the outgoing guts to do it, and the imagination to improvise. The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt. ~Sylvia Plath

Amen and Amen.

I try to leave out the parts that people skip. ~Elmore Leonard

Good advice but I might love what you will skip and vice versa so what do we learn from this? Anything goes: write from your heart.

If there's a book you really want to read, but it hasn't been written yet, then you must write it. ~Toni Morrison

Go for it but realize that it might not find a publishing home--ever. How do you feel about writing two, five, eight books and never selling any of them? Is your love for storytelling so strong and fierce that you don't care whether you sell anything or not? Good! Come share whatever drives you with the rest of us.

BWG is where we find encouragement and fellowship. BWG is our support group. The speakers we bring in, the fellowship we experience once a month or in our weekly critique groups, gives us what we need to continue this path we've chosen.

If you haven't submitted something to the newsletter, please do. You may have words of encouragement someone in our group needs to read.
If you haven't submitted a blog post, please do. Your experiences and thoughts might help someone climb out of their writer's block.
Have you paid your dues? Please do. Someone in BWG might look forward to visiting with you each meeting.

Where there is no counsel, the people fall; but in the multitude of counselors there is safety. Solomon, Proverbs 11:14

Bayou Writers' Group is a writer's safe place.

Jessica Roach Ferguson is a novelist, writing instructor, and editor/co-owner of Swamp Lily Review, a journal of Louisiana literature and arts. Because of her husband’s work, she bounces back and forth across the Texas-Louisiana line with one fun jaunt to Scotland. She blogs at http://jessyferguson.blogspot.com/

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Tax Deductions for Writers by Pamela S. Thibodeaux

Variations of this article have appeared in print and e-publications including but not limited to SpiritLed Writer Ezine, Longridge Writers Group Website, and Romancing the Skyz print magazine.


Writing is more than creating the ‘great American novel’; writing is a Business and a business requires record keeping and tax preparation. Many have already begun gathering information and getting things in order. Most will wait until the last minute then be in a panic. Don’t be one of them, be PREPARED!

IRS rules state that you can claim a loss for business expenses even if you’re unpublished as long as you can “prove you are actively pursuing a career in writing” and as long as the expenses are considered “necessary business expenses.”

Most writers will use a Schedule C or Profit and Loss statement to file their business tax. This form is found in your 1040 forms and instructions book or from your local IRS office. You can file a 1040 form with a Schedule C and still take standard deductions in lieu of itemizing. Use your social security number and your name unless writing under a pseudonym then it’s your name DBA (your pseudonym). The “Principal Business or Professional Activity Code” (711510) is listed in your 1040 book under the Performing Arts section.

How do you prove you’re “actively pursuing a career in writing” and what are “necessary business expenses”? Here are a few examples:

1). Send letters to agents, editors, publishers. Postage is deductible as well as return postage on your SASE. Do this via email? Print out a copy of your email query and their response.

2). Office supplies (paper, ink, envelopes, business cards, etc.) are valid expenditures. If you have an office set up in your home you may be able to claim a portion of your rent or house note and utility bills for the use of this room. Also, long distance phone calls that are writing related are deductible as well as Internet service fees if you’re using the Internet to develop your craft and/or promote yourself and your work.

3). Membership dues, conference fees, hotel expenses, gas mileage and meals are all deductible expenses even for unpublished writers.

5). Fees related to the creation, development and maintenance of your website are tax deductible.

6). Professional fees and services (CPA, Tax Consultant, professional evaluation or critique, attorney fees, etc)

How do you keep track of all those expenses?
Spreadsheets and receipts. Keep receipts in a standard manila envelope or organized by category in a pocket sized file folder. Spreadsheets are easy to set up and easy to maintain. Most programs like Windows come with a standard spreadsheet application. One column (or page) for Income and one for Expenses. What about all those formulas? Simple. Most spreadsheets have an Auto Sum ( feature for the addition of a column or you can manually do this by using the formula =sum(cell+cell) or =sum(cell:cell) for a range of cells. Need to subtract, divide or multiply? Formula would be: =Sum(cell*cell) to multiply; =sum(cell/cell) to divide; and =sum(cell-cell) to subtract.

Additional items that can be written off as expenses for published writers.

1). Promotional expenses (brochures, flyers, press kits, press releases, etc.)

2). Books donated to libraries or given away for promotional purposes may be deducted at retail value.

3). Books bought for research.

4). Dry-cleaning those nice clothes you wear for speaking engagements, book signings or other author appearances.

5). Postage and/or shipping fees for books sent to wholesalers, retailers, readers, reviewers, etc.

6). Agent fees and commissions.

7). Set up costs, cover art, and the charge for producing (or buying) your self or E-published books. Occupational or Resale License fees are also deductible.

Remember, if it falls under “Necessary Business Expense” it is deductible!

Worried about being audited? Don’t. Be careful and be honest.

One more note; IRS suggests that you keep all tax records for a minimum of seven but up to ten years. Remember, tax laws change yearly. For more information visit the IRS website @ www.irs.gov or call them toll free at: 800-829-3676 and request publications such as # 334 (Tax Guide for Small Businesses and Individuals who use Schedule C or C-EZ), #535 (Business Expense –this guide tells you what you can and CANNOT deduct), and #552 (Record keeping for Individuals).

For more information on deductions available to you, check out: Tax Tips for Freelance Writers, Photographers and Artists by Julian Block. Julian Block is a nationally recognized attorney who has been singled out by the New York Times as a "leading tax professional" and by the Wall Street Journal as "an accomplished writer on taxes." E-mail him at julianblock@yahoo.com or telephone (914) 834 3227. His address is 3 Washington Square, #1-G, Larchmont, NY 10538 2032.


Pamela S. Thibodeaux has been a bookkeeper for over twenty years. She is the co-founder and a member of Bayou Writers Group in Lake Charles, Louisiana. She is the author of the 4-part ‘Tempered’ series from ComStar Media. In addition to the series, her single title novel, The Inheritance and 4 short stories are available from White Rose Publishing. Pam’s writing has been tagged as “Inspirational with an Edge!” and reviewed as “steamier and grittier than the typical Christian novel without decreasing the message.” All full-length novels are available in print from Amazon.com or through Pam’s website. All titles available in Ebook also from All Romance Ebooks.