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)  His phone is 801-368-6476.  

Monday, June 20, 2011


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.

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 (; contributes articles and book reviews to the Best Damn Creative Writing Blog (; edits the Gator Talk newsletter for the Bayou Writers' Group; and is the group's current webmaster.