Monday, May 28, 2012

Author Interview: Si Tucker

by Sylvia Ney

Si Tucker is a graduate of Northwestern State University with a degree in journalism. Along with writing, he is also interested in economics, art and history. He lives in Lake Charles. You can contact him at

1. How did you develop an interest in writing? The answer to that is a combination of 1) reading so much and enjoying most of it, 2) a premature obsession with art, film and literature that has, somewhat to my chagrin, continued into my twenties, and 3) a fascination with characters, themes and stories. Plus I was terrible at sports.

2. What authors do you admire? My favorite writers are Don DeLillo, Richard Ford and David Foster Wallace. I probably would never have wanted to be a writer without reading their work, along with some of F. Scott Fitzgerald, most of Hemingway, Joyce, Dostoevsky, Bukowski and pretty much all of the Nabokov I can get my hands on. I don’t think I could do without Salinger or Raymond Carver either. That said, I think I’m in some way influenced by every writer or book that I read, including the ones I don’t particularly enjoy.

3. What music, places, people inspire you? I think everything is a safe answer. Late nights in strange towns, late nights in familiar towns, and walking around anywhere. Tall buildings, city lights from across water, cabins and mountains. Aside from authors I’m inspired by a few filmmakers; a good part of me wants to be one. Controversial people, events that draw large crowds. One particular experience: I pulled something close to an all-nighter writing a lab report. I think it was about enzymes or something. The window in front of my laptop was open, it had just rained and you could hear cars making that shushing sound they make when they drive over wet roads, and I had some Tom Waits playing. And I thought: this is the best writing experience I’ve ever had, it’s all I’ve thought and wanted the writing experience to be. It just so happened the report I was writing was completely uninteresting.

4. When working on your current MS did you complete an outline first or did you just start writing? I wrote two paragraphs, just some thoughts. Since it wasn’t related to anything else—any other project I was working on at the time—I put it on the backburner and just about forgot about it. Then I got some direction someplace and wrote an outline. So far those first two paragraphs haven’t made it word for word into the manuscript but part of what this particular project is about was touched on in those two paragraphs and the general feeling I want to have for the book is there.

5. What are you reading now? A biography of Vincent van Gogh called Van Gogh: The Life by Steven Naifeh and Gregory White Smith. It’s really good.

6. Classic you’ve been meaning to read? There are so many. I haven’t read much “classic” German literature and always wondered why it’s so rarely brought up in school. So, out of the many old bricks I’ve wanted to tackle, The Magic Mountain and Doctor Faustus by Thomas Mann are two.

7. Book you borrowed and never returned? A collection of just about all of Raymond Carver’s stuff. I mean, would you have returned it?

8. Favorite book from childhood? William Joyce’s A Day with Wilbur Robinson, plus basically everything by Shel Silverstein and Chris van Allsburg (especially The Giving Tree and Just a Dream, respectively).

9. Strangest dream involving a book, writer, or literary character? I had a dream that I was laughing at something with Charles Bukowski. I don’t remember what we were laughing at. All I remember from the dream is that one of us had just said something very funny (probably Bukowski), or we were laughing at something happening off-screen. I think Bukowski commented on it, still laughing, sort of rubbing the joke in, and we were both very happy that each of us had gotten the joke and no one else seemed to get it (although no one else seemed to be around). It’s one of my favorite dreams. I don’t think there is a lot of footage of Charles Bukowski in a happy mood, let alone laughing, but I have that image. I’ve seen Charles Bukowski laughing.

10. Most anticipated upcoming release? An essay collection by David Foster Wallace called Both Flesh and Not. There’s also a biography of him coming out in a few months that I’d like to read.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Word Count Woes

by Sylvia Ney

I’ve pitched some ideas to several agents and editors in the last six months and learned some industry requirements on word length by genre and sub genre. As you read through this, keep in mind three important things: 1.) these are suggested word counts; rules get broken all the time; 2.) these suggested word counts will most often apply to debut writers; successfully published authors are the ones who end up breaking the rules, and 3.) if you are planning to e-publish only, and your book will never be printed out on actual paper, these guidelines aren't nearly as important.

Picture Books - The standard is text for 32 pages. That might mean one line per page, or more. 500 words is a good number to aim for. When it gets closer to 1,000, editors and agents may shy away.

Middle Grade Fiction - Anywhere from 20,000 to 45,000. Obviously if your projects is aimed at ages 8-10, you would be closer to the 20,000 count while work aimed to a 12 year old might be closer to the 40,000 mark.

Young Adult – 50,000 to 80,000. The second or third in a particularly bestselling series can go even higher. But it shouldn’t be word count for the sake of word count.

Novelette – 7,000 to 20,000 words. This is something agents and editors NEVER want to see unless they have commissioned a short story collection.

Novella – 20,000 to 50,000 words. Again, this is something agents and editors NEVER want to see unless they have posted a call specifically asking for this length.

Western – 50,000 to 100,000. (Keep in mind that almost no editors are buying Westerns these days, unless it is in the romance genre.)

Memoir and Nonfiction – 75,000 to 90,000 words.

Mysteries, Thrillers, Crime Fiction, Mainstream/Commercial Fiction, Horror, Chick Lit and Romance – Whether it’s paranormal, historical or contemporary they seem to be in the 80,000 to 100,000 word range.

Science Fiction & Fantasy – Editors of this genre seem to seek works of longer length; 100,000 to 120,000 words.

I recommend not worrying about length when writing. It can become another way to hamper your creativity. However, you MUST be aware of guidelines before you submit your work. Many editors will discard anything outside of their required word counts without ever actually reading a word.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Author Interview: Stan Weeber

by Sylvia Ney

Stan C. Weeber is an Associate Professor of Sociology and Criminal Justice at McNeese State University in Lake Charles, Louisiana. His interests in sociology include political sociology, sociology of education, and social movements. The author or editor of 20 books, his work has appeared in The American Sociologist, The Sociological Quarterly, the Journal of Public Management and Social Policy, the International Review of Modern Sociology, and several other journals. Dr. Weeber serves on the editorial boards of six international sociology journals. You can find him on facebook: , twitter: , LinkedIn: and his blog: .

1. How did you develop an interest in writing? I read a lot as a child. I was enrolled in a lab school associated with the University of Iowa, and we were encouraged to do a lot of reading. I was not really sure I could write a book length manuscript until graduate school, when I had to write a Master’s Thesis. The thesis was 86 pages long, and after that, I knew I could write longer manuscripts.

2. I see you are writing a MS. Please tell me a little about it. I am currently writing a book called Sadie American, Pioneer of Visual Sociology. It is a biography of Sadie American, who pioneered the field of visual sociology and is also credited with founding “vacation schools” for young people, now known as summer school. I got the idea for this book back in 1995 when I was in graduate school, working on my doctorate. As you can see, it takes me a while to finish off some of my projects.

3. What do you do when you have writer’s block? I take a long vacation from writing. The worst case I had was in 1977, right after I finished my Master’s Thesis. I was a visiting grad student at the University of Alabama, there for the summer term only. My home was in Mississippi. There must have been something about the new environment that was not writer friendly. I took the summer off from writing (and from school) and used the time in Tuscaloosa to start running and working out. I was in great shape physically, but could not write a word. Once back in Mississippi, I started to write again.

4. What is your writing process like? I have a routine that is built around my job as a college professor. I work on the preparations for teaching first. When that is all taken care of, I go into writing mode. I have to admit this is the best part of my day. I do better when I can transition into writing mode before 12 noon as I seem sharpest in the morning. I write from about 11 (or sometimes earlier) to 6, with classes breaking up this long period for writing. I go home to have dinner with my family, and I do not go back in to the office to write unless I’m facing a stiff deadline and I’m unprepared to meet it. Writing goes smoother on weekends as there are no classes to interrupt the writing process. The time for writing is about the same, 11-6, and more hours if I can manage it.

5. What are you reading now? I’m reading new and old books: Oversharing by Ben Agger (2012) and Frederich Engels’ Socialism, Utopian and Scientific (1892).

Check out his book: In Search of Derrick Todd Lee: The Internet Social Movement that Made a Difference. Lanham, MD: University Press of America, 2007.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Opportunities for Writers

1) Share with the public any short stories you may have with a humorous and/or enlightening experience in military life. These stories will be published by Publisher’s Syndicate of California in an anthology titled Not Your Mother’s Books: Military Life. Consisting of real-life stories written by individuals 18 years and older, the Not Your Mother’s Books series is tailored for a mature-audience readership; stories may contain language and situations akin to a PG-13 or TV-14 rating. While not all stories will fall into this rating system, the series will not focus on death/dying, cry-your-eyes out sad selections, but only hip, fun, modern and very-much-today type stories that will entertain our readers. We are looking for short stories (500 to 2500 words) from veterans, active members of the military and military family members who have the kinds of fun and interesting tales about the side of the military life that most civilians will never hear, but would certainly appreciate if they did. Tell us about those special actions or programs that helped a local family or community or one of your own, whether in a war zone, an overseas base or back in the States. We need stories about the lessons learned when you went out of your way to do good. And the joke you played on a comrade-in-arms (or that were played on you) that he or she also laughed at. While military history is important, it's not the focus of this book, so please do not submit detailed accounts of military operations and campaigns. Compensation and submission guidelines are on the web site with other important information at

Once on the web site click on GET PUBLISHED in Box 1. Then click on Submit your stories for Not Your Mother’s Books. Be sure to read and follow the submission guidelines as well as the do's and don’ts, hyperlinked in the guidelines. All entries must be submitted through their site electronically. Also on the guidelines page, please note the book cover Not Your Mother’s Books: Military Life in the right hand column. In the left column is a listing of other book titles asking for submissions. If they don’t have a military story, perhaps one of the other titles is more to their liking.

2) The Calcasieu Parish Public Library system is looking for speakers for their summer program. The theme for our Adult Reading Program is "Between the Covers". They will be offering this program in June or July (they are considering June 21st), preferably a Thursday evening. It would be a one-time program (like a writer's workshop) with the possibility of becoming a recurring program and the length is negotiable--it could be an hour, hour and a half, whatever works for the presenter. The audience for this program is adults. They're open to any ideas you would like to present. If you are interested, please contact Jayme Champagne at the library.

3) is collecting inspirational stories from everyday people. If your submission is chosen as a feature, you can reference your blog or web page and include an author's photo. Please know they make no money from this site. You can submit a story about any moment, small or large, that you feel inspired you or perhaps couldn't forget...something that made you thankful or changed your perspective.
Submit something that comes from your heart.