Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Be True to Your School…

Every college and university out there has an alumni organization.  Alumni are the cornerstones in educational fundraising at both private and public schools.  One way to reach those alumni is with a full-color, glossy magazine.

What does an alumni magazine cover?

Alumni magazines are like city magazines.  You have personality profiles of alumni, faculty members, staff and students.  Features cover research on campus, special programs within the school or its departments.  There are news items like awards or special recognitions, class notes and a calendar of events.  Some magazines also have first-person articles and back page essays.  The school, its people and its programs are the focus.

Do you have to be an alumnus to write for the magazine?

Often yes, especially if your subject's connection to the school is not solid or if the school isn’t large.  Money is a factor, and if the magazine has staff writers, they are going to get the first assignments because they're already getting paid. Writers who are alumni are second on the ladder, then maybe anyone else.

You'll improve the chances of getting your story accepted by first having an interesting and unique subject that's tied directly to the school, and second, by having the contacts and the credentials to get the story. Of course, always query first with a strong, tight description of your story idea.

Where do you find alumni magazines online?  

The easiest way is to type the name of the school and "alumni" into a search engine. You get the schools main page up first and you can look for a link that way or sometimes the alumni association/office page will come up and you can find the magazine's page or a publications page.  I also searched both "university alumni associations" and "college alumni associations" when collecting information for this article.

Some alumni magazine websites: click magazine names for staff and contact information

Alabama Alumni Magazine - University of Alabama - Janice Fink, Editor
Emory Magazine - Emory University - Paige Parvin, Editor
Georgia Magazine - University of Georgia - Kelly Simmons, Editor
Mississippi State Alumnus - Mississippi State University - Allen Snow, Editor
Carolina Alumni Review - University of North Carolina - David Brown, Senior Associate Editor
Virginia Tech Magazine - Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University - Jesse Tuel, Editor

Monday, October 28, 2013

Calling the Muse

"Keep your eyes open on Thursday for a special opportunity," the note said.

OK--it wasn’t a note. It was my fortune from my fortune cookie, but it makes a great opening line for an article on writing prompts.  What can you do with that line?  Doesn't it get you wondering as to what the opportunity could be…what makes it special...and will it really come true?

A good writing prompt will spawn all sorts of questions for a writer to ponder and attempt to answer.  When you are suffering through the summer doldrums or maybe you have a minor case of writer's block, a writing prompt can jumpstart your muse into action.  You can find writing prompts just about anywhere.  Writing websites usually have pages of them.  Here are few techniques I've learned for building my own file of writing prompts.

Ripped From the Headlines!

Calliope, Greek muse of writing

The "Law & Order" franchises on TV used this prompt all the time.  They say truth is stranger than fiction so why not look to the news for ideas?  If you write nonfiction, take a national headline or subject and work the local angle.  If you write fiction, use the basic facts of the story to build your own conflict between characters. Every news story has a personal conflict on some level.  

I once read a report that quoted Amy Winehouse's father Mitch announcing the singer had emphysema.  At age 24, Winehouse, because of her drug use and smoking, had a disease that usually afflicts people two or three times her age.  How many article ideas can you glean from that without mentioning the singer?  On the fiction side, you can put your heroine in her shoes and give her the battle to win or you could take the father's point of view and the struggle he'll have.

Read the newspaper, at least one, every day to find prompts to get your creative juices flowing.

A Picture's Worth a Thousand Words!

Many years ago, I took a class at the SWA Writers Workshop with a wonderful author several years ago.  LeRoy handed out photographs he pulled from magazines, instructing each of us to write the first page of a novel or short story based in the photo.  These were random photos.  I remember one was Marky Mark in his Calvin Klein briefs, while another was a deserted highway in Utah's Monument Valley.

Years later my sister sent us a book that was one of her favorites because it was bizarre. The Mysteries of Harris Burdick by Chris Van Allsburg, author of The Polar Express and Jumanji among others, supposedly features drawings by Harris Burdick with titles and then a one-line caption.  The drawings all have a fantastic element to them, sometimes funny, other times disturbing. Wouldn't be fun to sit down with those drawings and captions and concoct a story around them?

Images are great writing prompts, especially for fiction.  Keep a file of photos, illustrations, postcards even that capture your imagination.

You Can Quote Me!

I collect quotations.  Some spawn scenes in my head that I have used in my artwork. When I edited The Purple Pros before, I always began my column with a quotation from a famous person. Most of the time the quote sparked the column's topic, but sometimes it just summarized the idea.

Quotations can inspire us for many reasons, including prompting ideas.  I keep a file just for interesting quotes on my computer.  When I'm stuck for an idea, I read through them all to see what will spark, like my fortune cookie did.  Oh!--If I do find a "special opportunity" on Thursday, you'll be the first to know.

Friday, October 25, 2013

A Short Article on Filler...

Magazines use short articles, short-shorts, quotes, jokes, trends, recipes, puzzles, tips, news and facts and lots of other items to fill out a page or the end of a column or any space too small for an ad but too large to leave blank.  Length may vary from a phrase to a 500-word personal account.

With nearly every magazine also employing a companion website, the need for filler has grown. Some people actually make their living writing filler.

Why should you write filler rather than a full article?

I'm a firm believer in writing whatever you can sell.  From a one-liner to an epic novel, if you can sell it, write it.  But a primary benefit of writing filler is that filler is often a break-in point to a magazine.  Sell a few pieces of filler say to More magazine, then when you offer a query on a longer piece you can point to the material they have already bought.  Like most of us, editors like to work with people whom they are familiar so if you sold to an editor or to one of his colleagues one time, you'll likely sell again if the experience was good.

The pay varies. Some magazines don't pay but offer a byline of sorts. Some pay a few cents a word or a flat fee ranging from $5 to $50.  I sold a brief, funny story about my brother to Reader's Digest for $30 a line. It ran four lines once the editors were done, netting me $120.  This was before email so I probably spent a total of two hours typing it up and getting it ready for the mail.  That's a good payday!

A third reason for writing filler is that it could help make you a better writer. Writing short and tight makes you choose words with meaning and power to express your idea effectively.  Filler offers you the opportunity if you're stuck on one piece to write something else without making it a huge commitment. Send "Four Must-Have Shoes" to Ladies Home Journal while your novel plot untangles itself in your mind. You'll have time away from your problem and still be productive.

Who needs filler?

Practically every magazine out there needs filler, if not for its hard copy, then for its website.  Tips, lists, anything short, informative or entertaining will find a home on the web.   If you can write it and it's short, you can sell it. 

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

A First Step to Published Success

Why spend time on a contest v. submitting to a publisher?

You should take advantage of all the benefits a contest can offer your novel manuscript.  First contests offer you one guarantee: your manuscript will be read.  A publisher can't guarantee that. Granted, most contests only want you to submit a portion of your novel, but know that those pages will be read and considered by an industry professional - either a published author, an editor, an agent, etc.

A second benefit is that if your manuscript wins or places high in a contest, it builds history and a solid reputation.  Because contests are judged by people in the industry, agents or editors will take that prize as a reference.  "Editor Smith at X-House Publishing said this book was worthy of this prize. Therefore, it must be worthy of my time."

The prizes themselves are a great benefit.  Many contests offer publication as their grand prize.  See you met your goal after all. Others will help you set meetings with agents or editors to pitch your manuscript.  And don't forget the cash.  What writer can't use good ol' cash in his pocket?

What do novel contests want in terms of submissions?

There are two types of novel contests.  The first and most predominant contest type wants previously unpublished novels. The other type of contest is for books that have been published.  Usually those contests seek to honor first books, often from specific demographic groups.

Novel contests vary in terms of genre.  There are genre specific contests, but open genre contests are more prevalent. Some go a step further in their openness and accept not only novels, but novellas, book-length short story collections and more.

Where can you find novel contests listings?

As always start with Google and search both "novel contests" and "book contests." Other resources include, Poets & Writers Grants and Awards Database, both of which are searchable by deadline date. offers a contest page available through a link on the home page, and there are two newsletters you can subscribe to that include contests listings. One's free.  The other is reasonably priced. Editor Hope Clark lists all kinds of contests, not just book/novel contests.  Another resource is the subscription service  Again, this website lists all kind of contests but there are menus to help you narrow your research.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Magazine Looking for Southern Freelancers

Mark R. Johnson, Editor of Cabin Life magazine, writes:

Our magazine, Cabin Life, is an established, national consumer publication. We are currently looking to add 1-2 Southeastern writers to our pool of freelance contributors. We are specifically looking for architectural/shelter writers.

If you are interested, contact Mark Johnson directly:

Mark R. Johnson, Editor
Cabin Life magazine
Kalmbach Publishing Co.
21027 Crossroads Circle
P.O. Box 1612
Waukesha, WI 53187-1612
(262) 798-6454

Friday, October 18, 2013

My “Fair” Lady

Today is my mother’s birthday and if she were alive, she would be ninety-nine years old. I am the self-appointed sentry of her memory and I think about her often as I safeguard bits and pieces of our life together. So many things remind me of the years she spent as my mother.

The South Carolina town where I grew up hosted the county fair each year. In late October or early November The Dixieland Carnival Company brought a parade of carnival rides, game booths and greasy foods up from Florida for the week. Because Daddy was a policeman, over the years he met many of the “carnies” and their families. When the midway was finally set up with tents and all manner of sucker booths, Daddy and Bernie the Bingo Man would shake hands and recharge a once-a-year acquaintance.

It was advantageous for fair folks to be on the good side of the local law and bribery was sometimes attempted, but declined by Daddy. Mama, however, was a fool for games of chance, so Bernie the Bingo Man would give her free Bingo tokens. Over time, Bernie and his wife Ava became real friends of my parents.

She was a tiny little thing, as was I back in the day, so Ava brought me her upscale hand-me-downs. She was heavy into black and totally nuts for spike-heeled shoes. Bling was her thing. 

One particular October, smack in the middle of my teenagery, I had a brush with glamour gone wild, thanks to Ava. Her hand-me-downs hugged my body as though made for me. I felt like a fashionista long before there was such a word. 

I put on her black silk blouse one day, and with trembling fingers fastened the showy rhinestone buttons. I stepped into Ava’s tight fitting red satin skirt and slipped my feet into her red sling-back high heels. Delicious!

While gazing at my reflection, I had a strong suspicion that something wasn’t quite up to code with my overall look. That something turned out to be my eyes. 

It was 1956 and I was sixteen. I may have curled my eyelashes every now and then, but eyeliner? Mascara? Not yet! On the other hand she maintained a box full of cosmetics on her dressing table. So for the next hour, I went through that box like Sherman through Atlanta. 

At last satisfied with my new look, I gingerly descended the stairs wearing Ava’s slinky clothes and her spike-heel shoes.

“I’m going to the teen dance at the church,” I said. “See y’all later.”

My mother looked up from the dress she’d been hemming, one of the many creations she often made for her only daughter. I’ll never forget the expression on her face. 

She didn’t say a word but her open mouth resembled a wide-mouth bass. 

Daddy had been reading the newspaper. When he looked up to say goodbye, the ragged breath he took sounded like an advanced case of emphysema. 

They both must have wondered why the voice of the hussy standing before them sounded so much like their daughter. They both stared at me.

Perspiration collected under my armpits and all I could think about was the sweat stains that could ruin Ava’s silk blouse. Just at that moment, the strap on my left shoe slipped off my heel and both legs began to wobble like they had been programmed. 

“Well, okay then. I’m off. See y’all later.” I wobbled toward the door but my fake bravado embarrassed even me.

Mama, having finally found her voice, cleared her throat.  “Uh-uhhh. You’re not going anywhere looking like a streetwalker, young lady. You just march yourself back upstairs and put on some decent clothes.”

How could she not like my new look? 

“Ava gave me these clothes, and she’s not a streetwalker. Or is she?”

Mama sighed. Daddy coughed. 

“No, Ava is not a streetwalker. She’s a very nice thirty-five year old carnie and carnival people like to dress ... loud. We don’t. You don’t. So get your fanny back up those stairs and take off those clothes.”

I put my hands on my hips. “Why should I,” I sassed. 

“Because I am your mother and I said so. That’s why.” 

The following autumn when the County Fair came to town, Ava brought me a light blue cashmere sweater set. Mama oohed and ahhed. I don’t believe she had ever seen cashmere up close. 

When I wore it the first time, she smiled. “Don’t you look sweet … just like a teenager.” 

~~Cappy Hall Rearick

Cappy is a columnist, humorist and is the author a dozen books, including the novel, The Road to Hell is Seldom Seen.  She has stories in the latest editions of the Not Your Mother's Book series and she writes regularly for Writer Beat, After Fifty Living, and others.  Check out her website:

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

A Round of Applause: Member News

We invite members to share news about their successes and activities so we can all join the celebration!

Cappy Hall Rearick has stories in several Not Your Mother's Books - NYMB On Parenting: "A Kodak Moment", NYMB On Home Improvement: "Peach Pits, Grits and Hissy Fits", and NYMB On Family: “Thanksgiving Is Relative”. 

Debbie Brown will also be featured in NYMB On Family with her story “Close, But No Cigar”.   The book is schedule for a March 2014 publication date.

Patrick Hempfing’s column, “Manatees Aren’t Fat”, appeared in September’s issue of Metroparent Magazine (Milwaukee, WI).

Erika Hoffman’s essay "Give Up Facebook" is published in the fall edition of Valley Living.

Tim Hudson’s photograph “Two Lambs” was selected into the next level of the See Me digital art show called "Creatives Rising" in New York City on Oct 5. Part block party, part art festival, the show featured artists from around the world.

Emily Sue Harvey’s novel Homefires hit Amazon's national best-seller Sept 24.

Sandra Giles’ short story "Rawhead and Bloody Bones" as well as a St. Simons photo has been published in the current edition of Rose Red Review.

The fourth book in Elizabeth Sinclair’s Hawks Mountain series, Winter Magic, was released this month. 

Monday, October 14, 2013

#60 Bright Idea: Going “All In”

Writing is a lot like gambling, more specifically -- poker.  Writers pile up words in neat stacks. We click them and move them around.  They are our currency into the game of publishing. When the game commences, we reluctantly place our beloved word chip “ante” onto the game board. The dealer/agent/editor keeps the game in motion.  One difference being he has a vested interest in the outcome of the game.

The first deal sets the wheels in motion.  Your cards dictate how much you are willing to risk.  If you have a good agent, he will give approval or indicate that you “check” or “fold.”  His experience in invaluable but in the end you are the only one to play the hand you’re dealt.

Your hand is a secret from the other players.  You may hold a flush, straight, full house, or nothing at all.   This would be the time to don a “poker face’ and steel yourself against the capers of the other players.  Set yourself a limit on how many chips you will risk on promotional items such as posters, bookmarks, and announcement cards.  Set a budget for marketing materials, publicists and agent fees, travel expenses, and incidentals.  Those chips go in the proverbial “pot” as the stakes rise with each hand.  Prepare for surprise moves from the other players.

Gambling requires nerves of steel accompanied by gutsy plays.  It is not for the faint-hearted but I am learning that those qualities are also useful in the game of publishing.  It takes a blend of talent and wit, charm and risk-taking, and perhaps the most important ingredient – compromise.

Watch for the “tells.”  Be patient for the river card. Study your competition.  Use your wild cards and when the chips are down, take a deep breath and say “All In.” 

*This article idea was inspired by author Daisha Korth and her blog.

~~Sheila S. Hudson

Sheila's work appears in Chocolate for a Woman's Soul series, Chicken Soup for the Soul, Patchwork Path, From the Heart, Vols. 1 & 2, plus numerous periodicals including Costumer Magazine. She established Bright Ideas to bring hope and inspiration through the written word.  Sheila has also served as president of Southeastern Writers Association.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Call for Submissions!

Creative Loafing 2014 Fiction Contest

Submit a manuscript of no more than 3,000 words either as a hard copy to our offices or online. All works of fiction must in some way incorporate “Race” — as a theme, a metaphor, a literal car race, whatever. “Race” is word whose many meanings suggest everything from urgent competition to fraught, complex human relationships and divisions. Our favorite stories feel both urgent and thoughtfully human. Be creative, take risks, and send us your best work. The word count is strictly enforced.

Deadline: Friday, Nov. 1, 5:00 pm


  • 1st place, $500
  • 2nd place, $250
  • 3rd place, $100

Winners will also be published in Creative Loafing and honored at an awards ceremony.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Special Feature: Autumn Poetry

Last Glory

Autumn comes not peacefully, but as a shock.
Summer will be missed; its brilliant sun-stunned color,
bodacious energy fades into nuance
that seems to greedily suck the vibrancy
back into the bronze lap of our time-worn earth,
except for a breathtaking superb moment
when trees valiantly cling to one last glory
before relinquishing their beauty to stand
silent and naked in the frigid tundra.

Life takes blind refuge behind walls and closed doors
where movement is constrained, quiet, and careful.
Summer’s boisterous play and its neglectful heart
succumbs to memory, bits and parts swallowed
by the early evening shadows that slowly,
but steadily, creep from corners to consume
the core of the room decorated with care
in anticipation of holiday fetes,
maddened attempts to snare hope a bit longer,
before all is buried beneath frozen snow.

Gazing fireside, the flames crackle and flicker.
Within their dance, memories sink into darkness:

a buzz of the lawn mower; wafts of freshly cut grass
skate board wheels on concrete; a sprinkler’s rhythmic castanet
the smell of salt on an ocean breeze; the chink and creak of a porch swing
--all beckon the gray and weary traveler.

Drafts of early winter seep beneath a door,
and the soul seeks safety in recollection
of summer’s child at play heated by laughter,
the voice of an angel, comprehending bliss.

~~ Karen A. Oberlin

Monday, October 7, 2013

Special Feature: Autumn Poetry

Autumn Lovers

The golden maple spread her skirt
Before the flirting breeze
To show her courting lover
All the glory of her leaves;

But overcome with shyness then
She only whispered to the breeze,
Who gently stroked her naked limbs
And kissed her golden leaves.

~~ Susan Lindsley

Susan is a former journalist and the author of several books, including Susan Myrick of Gone With The Wind: An Autobiographical Biography, Yesterplace: Blue Jeans and Pantaloons in Post World War II Georgia and Margaret Mitchell: A Scarlett or a Melanie among others.

Friday, October 4, 2013

3 Ways to Keep Yourself Writing

When I interview authors, I always ask them what advice have they received and what advice would they give. The most common piece of advice is "Put your butt in the chair and write."  Writing is a very solitary job with rejection lurking at the end of every page.  So how do you keep motivated?  How do you keep your butt in the chair?  Here are some tips I've picked up for myself and from other people.

Reward Yourself

The creative muse can be very childish, and like a child, sometimes you have to bribe it into performing.  Promise yourself a token of appreciation if you can just get this chapter done or mail that proposal off.  The token can be anything from a walk in the sun with your dog to an hour of guilt-free Internet surfing to your favorite Starbucks diet-busting specialty coffee on the way home from the post office. Make the promise when you sit down and watch how that little incentive can get your fingers flying on the keyboard.

Embrace Rejection

Writers get rejected.  There's no way around it.  Not everybody is going to think you're the second coming of Charles Dickens, William Wordsworth or Virginia Woolf.  When I had my first play reading at a writer's conference nearly 20 years ago, five people got up and walked out halfway through.  I was upset when I told my sister about it later.  An actress, she had rejection in her life, too, but she put a positive spin on it.  "At least you made them do something. You got a reaction."

A speaker at a conference told of a man who put every rejection slip he got up on the wall so he could see them when he worked.  He wanted to paper the whole office because it showed how hard he was working.  Another writer friend took that idea and modified it slightly.  You've heard the saying "You've got to eat a peck of dirt before you die."  She says you have to be rejected 100 times before you make a sale and she sees each rejection as taking her one step closer to her next sale.

Try to find the positive in every rejection.  It isn't personal so turn it around and make it a motivating force in your writing life.

Identify Your Villain

I'm not talking about a character for your hero to battle in your next book.  You need a villain in your writing life.  Mine is a journalism professor who asked me to leave his magazine writing class because I was "only an English major" and didn't have the journalistic background for his class.  So where have I sold most of my work?  To magazines, and the kicker is that five years after that class, I was at a workshop where he was teaching.  My work had begun appearing in local publications, and on a break between sessions, he sat down beside me and said he had been talking to an editor of a new magazine, then asked if he could give him my number.  How do you like me now?

I truly believe that it is human nature, especially American human nature, to strive to prove somebody wrong.  Find your villain - the one who doesn't believe in you - and use him or her to motivate you to keep your butt in that chair writing.  Force him to believe with every publication you add to your résumé.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

EditorialLee Speaking

October is always a busy month for me, and it has nothing to do with Columbus Day or Halloween. I do buy some candy in case the little blackmailers show up at my door. Despite the increased culture of violence the "tricks" in the trick-or-treat phrase seem less frequent than when I was a kid. Back then we would carry a candy-collection bag in one hand and a bar of soap in the other just in case someone had some crazy notion of not giving us something. I can't remember the last time I saw a soaped window. Of course, I might be the last person on earth who still uses bar soap instead of body wash.

September is the end of a quarter, which means royalties to compute and checks to write to authors from my publishing business. It also means it's time to file the quarterly sales tax report. I have no less than four book projects in queue. My church has Homecoming in October, and it's a big deal at Collins UMC, where I am lay leader.

Of course there's post-season baseball, which used to mean annual trips to Braves' games -- and this year it means that once again. Friday night I'll be at Turner Field. Hopefully before the month is gone, the World Series will be in Atlanta again.

More than all of this, though, is my father's 88th birthday, which falls on October 23. Dad's in a nursing home in Indiana (a few miles from his birthplace). He and Mom had been married for 67-plus years when Mom passed away in the spring of 2012. I'm an only child. So visiting Dad on his birthday is not an optional event, it's downright mandatory. Especially given that every year on Father's Day I'm at Epworth-by-the-Sea for the Southeastern Writers Association Workshop.

This entails a trip to Indiana, 9 hours in the car each way if traffic isn't bad. Flying isn't worth the hassle of airports, airport security lines, car rentals -- the closest airport to the nursing home is about 70 miles away. Last Christmas I had a blanket specially made for my dad with a picture of Mom and him (full-blanket-sized) covering it. I figured since he'd complained a lot about people stealing his covers at the nursing home that he'd be able to keep track of that one, particularly since I had "Property of Max Clevenger" added at the bottom.

Dad, however, wanted to hang it on the wall rather than use it as a blanket. And that brought on a new problem because the nursing home requires such things be fireproofed before doing so. Figuring that hiring an upholstery shop to do the fireproofing would be rather expensive; I searched for an alternative and found a company in California that sells a chemical to treat the blanket. I ordered a gallon of it, and my cousin has told me she has a sprayer I can use to apply it. All we'll need is a day that's not windy because it'll need to be done outside. No worries about intruding on the neighbors if my aim isn't perfect; my cousin lives on a farm.

If busy is good I'll have a great month. See y'all right here in The Purple Pros in November. 

~~ Lee Clevenger

Lee is the current President of SWA, an author and co-founder of ThomasMax Publishing in Atlanta, GA.