Thursday, February 27, 2014

A Scribe Among Friends

Once again I hear the sirens warming up their vocal chords preparing to lure me back to my writers paradise on St. Simmons Island. The annual Southeastern Writers Association conference at Epworth by the Sea is just a couple of months away and preparations are well under way. Soon I will be going back home, my writing home.

In February of 2012 a friend of mine told me about a local writers association. She couldn’t quite remember the name of it, her daughter had only joined it a few months back. So I Googled: “writers association”. Southeastern Writers Association was one of the many link results. Perusing their website I came upon the SWA annual writers conference in Georgia. Once again Google was my friend as I mapped out the exact location. Only an hour and change drive from my house! I could do that; I could commute even. Yeah, no. 

While the cost of the conference itself was more than reasonable for the amount of knowledge I was sure to gain from the caliber of instructors listed, the hotel stay added in naturally scared my little piggy bank. Through much encouragement from the peanut gallery, otherwise known as my better half, I booked the hotel stay along with the conference.

What an experience! The unfortunate part of the campus at Epworth is that there is not very good cell reception, particularly in the rooms, at least not for the carrier that offers quick-as-a-turtle Internet service as well. Oh wait, is that unfortunate? Really? Well, it is for those back home who want to hear from you, make sure you arrived safe, make sure you eat your vegetables, make sure you packed clean underwear. But, the lack of reception also helps you to stay connected to your muse. The one who longs for a good stretch and the nourishing rejuvenation that comes from being among fellow scribes for nearly a whole week undisturbed by the outside world on the enchanting campus by the sea that is Epworth.

At Epworth, I drank in the sleepy down home southern surroundings and took meals amongst the novice and professional writer alike. Some were first timers like me, and others had been coming to these annual conferences for years. Never was there a time during that week that I felt intimidated or that I my writing wasn’t good enough. Everyone was so encouraging and all writing pieces were celebrated.

Naturally I had to return last year. It was truly like a homecoming. Many of the writers I had met the year before were once again in attendance and I quickly fell back in with good old friends while making new ones. My creative juices flowed as I attended well thought out and information packed sessions all geared toward helping me (okay, the other attendees as well) become a better writer.

Attending those two conferences bolstered my confidence and desire to hone my craft further, to seek other venues where I could learn to improve my skill. This past fall I attended another conference, this one within my own state. As before I contemplated that since it was just a three-day conference and not more than an hour and a half drive from my house that surely I could commute each day. Nothing doing. Before I could say, “Bob’s your uncle” my room was booked and conference registration fee paid. My inner skinflint was bound, gagged, and placed in a large trunk in the darkest corner of the basement until the transaction was complete.

At this conference I gained a new insight into that dreaded inner critique. I learned how to put her in a deep dark corner as my muse and I tripped the light fantastic and churned out amazing tales of travel and toilets abroad for all to read. The most valuable thing I can do is to keep writing, and sometimes the 200-pound Acme anvil falls on someone else’s head instead. Again, not a moment felt wasted and all in attendance gained nothing but good will and positive energy.

For the uninitiated, attending writing conferences could very well be the greatest first step towards your writing career. Don’t go and be a wallflower, though. Interact, participate, and before too long you too just might be finding yourself wanting to book the reservation for the next muse-filled writing getaway.

~~Dawn Burr

Dawn is a teacher by profession but a writer by passion. Her sarcastic wit, innocent charm, and insightful reflections will have you bowled over with laughter as she ponders with you the little things in life that make you go hhhmmmm. Learn more about Dawn on her website:

Monday, February 24, 2014

We've Got News!

Syndicated columnist and best-selling author of nearly a dozen books, Darrell Huckaby will be our special guest at the SWA Writers Workshop's Awards Night, Tuesday, June 17.  Darrell, from Conyers, GA, has taught humor and column writing at the Workshop in the past, receiving rave reviews, and we are always glad to have him with us.

You can learn more about Darrell, read some columns, check out his books and more on his website.  And then come meet him in June!

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Flavors Of Life

I love to write happy endings. Yet, my stories deal with real life issues and emotions so, in their telling, I cannot avoid unpleasantness.  Seems life doles out lots of hassle along the way. It is indiscriminate and rampant and causes darkness to fall upon…whomever.  Whenever. The Bible says that even God Himself is “no respecter of persons.” And I remember a time, after the death of my adolescent child, when an uninvited visitor came to call. 

His name was Grief. And he was, at first, so in my face I would smother and despair and cry forlornly. I could be walking in clean fragrant spring air, soaking up peace when he would suddenly appear and block out the sunshine, overwhelm my space, and take from me the tranquility I had painstakingly gleaned through prayer and meditation. He would take the mellow music that soothed and make it tinny and dissonant to my ear.  He would cause everything, even pleasant, entreating voices to rattle my nerves. 

He was, at times, obnoxiously intrusive.

Grief’s flavor is a mixed bouquet of carnations and bitter weeds. The sweet carnation flavor is like a siren’s song, enticing one to linger in thick, drowning melancholy, while the bitter taste reminds one to quickly seek escape. 

I learned that enduring Grief was necessary. In small, brief doses, he helps us heal as we struggle through darkness.

So, at times, I will grieve for what might have been, for what no longer is.  But Grief will not be allowed to move in and take up residence. He would devour me. 

I cannot permit that. Life is too good.

In Flavors, Sadie Ann Melton, too, faces moments of grief, for what life is not. At others, she grieves for what life is. Her twelve years have not prepared her for the reality she faces during that 1950 summer at the Melton Farm. She sees death up close and personal. She encounters cruelty and inhumanity. Gentle-hearted Sadie Ann uses flavors to label the different experiences and epiphanies. It renders them bearable and coats them for easier swallowing.  This way, she can cope and move forward.

Still, Grief shows up and despairs over the hidden funny paper and cries over the dead puppies. He is really in Sadie Ann’s freckled face and under her skin, grating her nerves. He makes her feel useless and isolated. Homeless.

But, like me, Sadie Ann refuses to keep company with this intrusive, uninvited visitor. He is tolerated only for short increments of time. She even shares with him, on occasion, an introspective moment or two. But she is too “in the moment” to linger and smolder in self-pity for unfortunate happenings.  Somehow, inherently, her spirit knows that life is too short to waste.

So Sadie Ann cries at times and she doesn’t cry at others. She laughs a lot but soon learns when not to laugh. She loves to exult over and talk about things she enjoys but she learns also when to keep silent. Like the child in all of us, she learns many things through difficult experiences. Like us, she learns that when Grief appears, sometimes he just comes along for the ride.  He isn’t the driver. It’s our call. 

Grief teaches Sadie Ann to love others unconditionally.  It stretches her to new dimensions of awareness and compassion. It draws her to adult peers who love and guide her into adulthood.

My goal is to write stories that impact all readers, universally. That once, having read my stories, they will feel unalterably changed, in good ways.

In my mainstream fiction novels, I don’t garnish my stories with pretty paper and ribbons. I strive for reality. I want readers to span the darkness with my characters, weep with them and struggle with them as they grope their way to light. Remember what one little candle can do in a dark world.  I use this same Darkness/Light contrast in my novel, Song of Renewal, to symbolize the three Wakefields’ struggles toward enlightenment and renewal. 

Once the reader enters into these characters’ world, only then can they truly appreciate the fact that, when they emerge from that dark odyssey into light, the glow will be glorious to behold!  

Aah. Life is sweet.

 ~~ Emily Sue Harvey

Emily Sue has published 6 books, including Cocoon and Unto These Hills.  She is a life member of SWA and a former president. Visit Emily Sue's website.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Evolution Of Hair Spray

Shopping for hairspray ain’t what it used to be!

In the beginning (not as in the Bible, but in1948), the newly created lacquered invention, known as Spray Net, was introduced by Helene Curtis. One of its competitors, Aqua Net, became my spray of choice  - I liked the red can.

By 1964, with the onset of bouffant and beehive hairstyles, spray products were said to have outsold even lipstick (which has its own evolutionary story).

In the 1970’s, sales declined when long, straight hair and the natural look gained popularity.  It was also at this time companies had to admit the dangers of vinyl chloride to humans and the environment forcing them to make changes.

These advancements were completed just in time for the ‘80’s when the need for “new and improved" sprays were created for punk rock music enthusiasts.

What used to be available only in flexible, medium and maximum holds evolved into selections such as: anti-humidity, freeze, flat iron, beach, hard head, sprunch, comb through touchable, and hair insurance.  (Hair insurance?  How much is the deductible?)

Evolving spray products have been beneficial for the hair trade industry as well as the consumer.   Businesses make money and, as consumers, we have a greater selection of merchandise.

Change and improvement are not synonymous.  Weight change can be good or bad.  Healthy weight is an improvement.

As you evaluate the evolution of your life, is there measured progress or do you still battle habits that inhibit your growth? 

Recognize what needs to be corrected and develop an action plan to achieve victory.  Refuse to be discouraged if the list seems overwhelming.  Focus on one thing and take small steps to reach your pinnacle of success.

In the meantime, on your journey to joy, celebrate your progress!

~~ Kay A. Eaton

Kay is the author of two children's books: Gleason, the Christmas Giraffe, and Gleason and the Dewdrop's Dream.  She also serves as the secretary for SWA. Check out her website:

Thursday, February 13, 2014

A Round of Applause: Member News

Sheila Hudson’s e-book My Forever Valentines, about her grandsons, was recently published by Dancing With Bear Publishing.

Patrick Hempfing had moMENts columns published in February issues of About Families, Western New York Family, Palmetto Parent, and Suburban Parent magazines.  His moMENts column titled, “What Does the Dad Say?” appears on Suburban Parent’s newly launched website as a featured editor’s pick.

Erika Hoffman’s story "The Bucket List" was selected for the February 3rd weekly contest at Midlife Collage website.  Her article, “What’s So Funny?” has been published in the latest edition of The Writer and Authorship, the magazine for the National Writers Association Foundation, will publish Erika’s essay “Shoot First, Query Later” later in 2014.

Jan Kelleher has a true story of her Granny Sheppard in the newest edition to the Chicken Soup for the Soul series: Miracles Happen!  

Linda Joyce has a short story, "Carnival Season," in Hidden Desires Romance magazine.

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

Monday, February 10, 2014

Bright Idea #63: Find Your Voice

When I began to write I had no idea what genre I scribbled and I certainly didn’t think I had a voice.  If I did, I didn’t know what it sounded like.  My method of writing was just throwing words onto the blank page, mixing them around, and praying someone would read it.  Anything beyond that, I had to learn.  

And learn I did from excellent teachers but mostly from other writers. I was delightfully surprised to learn that my way of doing things was a commodity. I had a way of writing – a style – primitive though it was.  But I also had a voice.  Style was explained to me as the way I link my sentences, sprinkle my adjectives, and construct a manuscript.  

But Holly Lisle in How to Think Sideways reminds us that - “Style without voice is hollow.  Voice is style, plus theme, plus personal observations, plus passion, plus belief, plus desire.  Voice is bleeding onto the page, and it can be a powerful, frightening, naked experience.  But your voice is your future in writing.

Wow that’s powerful.  If writer’s voice is that important, then we need to find it, develop it, and never neglect it.  As more than one successful author has pointed out, writers must read everything, write everything, and never think anything you write is wasted.  Recently I pulled out something I wrote a year ago.  At the time I didn’t know why I wrote it, but with a little polish the piece was perfect for a contest.

When you look for voice, study the successful writers – both classic and current.  For practice, copy some of their work to find their rhythm.  Read it aloud.  Of course, never pass off anything copied as your own.  This is just an exercise to loosen mental muscles much like stretching before you jog.

Lisle also suggests playing games with your topics of interest.  Divide a page into columns and list topics such as things you fear, great vacations, creepy things, sexy things, gifts I would give myself, etc. When you have several words in each column, randomly choose one from each category.  Write for several minutes on that subject.  

Warning:  Essays will be weird.  

Just for fun, pick a subject that you disagree with and take the opposite view.  This may cause stress but it will expand your thinking and perhaps trigger an idea for a column or essay.  Remember that all this writing and playing with words is in the realm of ‘first drafts’ which by definition are supposed to be horrible.  Don’t worry about structure, punctuation, or tense.  Just challenge yourself.  Embrace your fears.  Perseverance will stretch you like nothing else. 

Still can’t decide on your voice?  Ask yourself some questions:
  • What makes me angry?
  • What makes me deliriously happy?
  • What am I passionate about?
  • What makes me cry?
  • What am I afraid of?
  • What skills have I mastered?
  • Where would I go if money were no object?
  • How would I change the world if I could?
  • What do I dream of accomplishing?
  • •Where do I see myself in a few years?

“Voice is born from a lot of words and a lot of work – but not just any words or any work will do. You have to bleed a little.  You have to shiver a little.  You have to love a lot – love your writing, love your failures, love your courage . . . love every small triumph that points toward eventual success.  You already have a voice.  It’s beautiful.  It’s unique.  It’s the voice of a best-seller.  Your job is to lead it from the darkest of the dark places and the deepest of the deep waters into the light of day.”  
~~ Holly Lisle, How to Think Sideways

I don’t think I can say it any better.  Find your voice and let it be heard.  

~~ Sheila 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.  Read more about Sheila on her website.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

EditorialLee Speaking

February already. The months seem to fly by so fast I took a second look at the calendar to make sure it was still 2014.

It is. Whew! 

But the months do go by with remarkable speed as we get older. June will be here in the bat of an eye. I'll be singing Paul McCartney's "When I'm 64" before June is over. But before Tim Hudson and I turn a year older (we were both born on June 22 although Tim's got a couple of years on me), we'll have finished the 39th annual Southeastern Writers Association Workshop on St. Simons Island.

This year's workshop should be our best ever. Yeah, I know I said that last year. And the year before. The thing is, I was right those times, too. But this year is going to be something special. We have star power like we haven't seen in . . . uh, ever. And they're all going to be there just to advance your writing career, be it a for-profit pursuit or merely for fun.

We have an agent-in-residence. Of course, we always have one of those. This year, though, Carlie Webber will teach classes on some nuts-and-bolts requirements of marketing: query and synopsis. We have a real Jack-of-All-Trades from the business, Chuck Sambuchino -- who is an author, an editor, and quite an authority on the art of writing commercially. Chuck's teaching three classes and will be available to meet with a limited number of students as well. We have a publisher, California-based Dahlynn McKowen and her husband Ken, who publish non-fiction collections and who want to share secrets of getting published as a non-fiction writer as well as offering workshops on humor in non-fiction.

We have a best-selling novelist, Bob Mayer, who is going to present six -- that's right, six -- full workshops on novels, from plotting to platform to marketing. If you're an aspiring novelist, get ready to be dazzled. We also have an up-and-coming short-fiction writer, C.D. Mitchell, whose cutting-edge material is sure to raise eyebrows.

We have an award-winning Georgia Author of the Year children's novelist, Peggy Mercer, who will teach juvenile writing and also poetry. Peggy's poetry is doing all right, too. Her collection entitled Grew Up Loving Elvis has been selling well, and a country-gospel song she wrote called "The Oar" is now getting a lot of airplay and seems destined to be a best-seller for debut artist Bradley Miller.

And, last but not least, our own Debra Brown is preparing three one-hour workshops on the hottest thing in marketing anything these days, Social Media. She'll have your face in Facebook if it's not there already and your heart will go a-Twitter when she gets through with you. And I'm going to stop with the puns right now before I get too wound up (or before you gag).

And we're going to put together a panel of these experts on Sunday afternoon to field questions. You won't want to miss that.

This is a special workshop for me. It's my last as SWA President and faculty recruiter. I'll probably still be around St. Simons every summer, might even work in the bookstore if I'm asked, but this is my last time as a board member. I'm excited that my replacement on the Board will be the youngest ever to serve SWA; you'll find out just who that is when we make the announcement in June.

I hope you'll be there to hear that announcement . . . and to soak up what we have to offer this year. Because it's going to be our best workshop ever. Did I tell you that? Approaching 64 means you forget things. And something else, although, darn it, I can't remember what that second thing was. Oh yes, now I remember, it's that you forget things.

~~ Lee Clevenger

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

Monday, February 3, 2014

ReBlogs: The Biggest Freelance Writing Niche Nearly All Writers Ignore

 (from Make a Living Writing)

Have you ever wished you could land a really big freelance writing client? Well, as it happens, there is a truly enormous user of freelancers out there. It’s a client most freelance writers never even think about pitching.  This client generates reams of written materials every year, on dozens of different topics.

Do you want to know who the client is and how to land an assignment? Read the rest of this article here.

Make a Living Writing is a blog by Seattle-based freelance guru Carol Tice, who "started Make a Living Writing because I wanted to share what I’ve learned about successful freelancing and help writers support themselves with their craft. This blog is my give-back to the profession that allows me to pay my bills doing something I truly enjoy."