Monday, April 28, 2014

Bright Idea #65: Spring Clean Your Writing

Moving is an excellent way to sort through the stuff you’ve been unable to part with and probably don’t remember that you own.  Cleaning out your closets motivates generosity.  At the end of a yard sale I’ve been known to get very generous – like buy one get one and here take another.  I exercised that generosity last weekend at the family yard sale.

My in-laws are moving to Florida.  Tim’s parents are going from a four bedroom house to a home half as large.  Just getting ready for a yard sale requires a lot of time, energy, and discipline to separate what goes into the trash bin, the giveaway bin, and the sell-at-the-yard sale bin. 

After we got home, I began to think.  What if writers did spring cleaning?  We could revisit those essays, ideas for books, odd paragraphs, random descriptions, and character studies that we took time to scribble down and file, but never used.  A trip down virtual memory lane could possibly give rise to new concepts and ideas.

With the aid of your trusty laptop, any writer in this electronic age can sort, store, giveaway, or trash files that God only knows why you wrote.  The character that didn’t fit into your short story might just tell his story in your next poem.  The description that you worked on for days but still wasn’t what you needed for the essay may prove to be the perfect lead-in for a magazine feature.  The book outline that was impossible to follow may need to be rearranged or purged completely.

The last example was from my writing this week and last.  Five chapters into the sequel to 13 Decisions That Will Change Your Life, I realized that the outline I created for the book was restrictive.  Not only that, but the chapters were not in a logical prioritized order.  So I did what any frustrated scribe would do.  I deleted it and began again.  The second outline had more intuition, direction, and less restrictive structure.  This is only after I ditched the entire first draft of the sequel and changed the subject altogether.  That’s okay. They are only words and I will use them elsewhere.

If you haven’t learned it already, you will.  A writer should always be flexible to change direction and willing to rewrite or start again.  A writing buddy confided that the book she had worked on for years languished in a drawer while she published other things.  Then one day with renewed vigor, Joan rewrote her novel in another point of view and sold it immediately.  Stories like that keep my hope alive.

It may take the passage of time before I am willing to change my words or “kill my little darlings” as Faulkner suggests, but sometimes I must.  It all comes down to what you, as a writer, want to accomplish.  If you want to publish, there are rules and processes that are necessary.  Editors differ.  Audiences vary. What one loves another hates. The same friend said her query letter was used as a model in one class while torn to shreds in another class.  Writing and publishing is subjective.  What is timely and appropriate today may not be next week.  Before 9/11 occurred, I mentioned terrorists in a humor piece.  I would never do that today.  That’s one that can go into the trash bin.  

The plus side of spring cleaning is that rare moment when you come across a clipping that is exceptional. You will smile and think, I wrote that.  You may not remember when, but it is yours just the same.  Those feelings and rush of emotion will all come back.

I remember distinctly gazing at the red and white diary of Anne Frank housed in a glass cabinet in Amsterdam.  When I reread the essay I wrote for Athens Magazine, the memories and tears all come back.

I remember interviews with Jack Davis, the cartoonist, and the tour he gave me of his studio.  I smile at the opportunities I have been granted through writing for the newspaper or for one of several magazines.  

Of course, primarily you provide entertainment and information for the reader.  But for yourself, you get to make and keep wonderful memories. Memories that you can experience over and over again as you spring clean your writing.

~~ 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, April 24, 2014

Workshop Sneak Peek: Debra Brown, Social Media Trainer

Debra Brown will be leading three sessions about Social Media for Writers during the Southeastern Writers Workshop week, June 13-17, 2014.  Debra is SWA's Social Media Coordinator, a past-president of SWA and a marketing professional with over 30 years experience in such fields as banking, business and education as well as her award-winning writer career. Her list of published credits include the Chicken Soup for the Soul series, Chocolate for a Woman's Soul series, Guideposts, Woman's World, Total Business Lifestyles, and others.

Debra's Social Media sessions are designed "to give the basics to new users but also to offer tips that I've learned in the process that advanced users can use" and to "to show options for writers/authors to use for branding and sales so that they can find one to focus on in the beginning ... and to have fun using ... social media ... to engage with peers, readers."  She will focus on three types of Social Media but will be available to meet with attendees individually to answer other questions.  Her classes are:

  • Mastering the @BCs of Twitter for Writers
  • Putting the "Book" in Facebook: Branding & Sales
  • Pinning with Purpose: Pinterest for Writers

Free Manuscript Evaluations!
Contests with Cash Prizes!

Monday, April 21, 2014

News from the Twitterverse

Items for writers gleaned from Twitter....


Hope Clark ‏(@hopeclark) posted on April 20
Creative nonfiction contest - no entry fee - $125 first place - 500-1500 words - deadline May 31 - 

Boston Review ‏(@BostonReview) posted on April 6
The BR Poetry Contest is now accepting submissions! Judge is Major Jackson, 1st Prize is $1,500, deadline is June 2: 

Writing Competitions ‏(@WritingCompt) posted on April 14
Jeff Sharlet Award 

Prize Reporter ‏(@pwprizereporter) posted on April 21
Read more about Claudia Rankine & the $50,000 Jackson Poetry Prize, given annually by @poetswritersinc:  #JacksonPrize

Tips About Contests

Hope Clark ‏(@hopeclark) posted on April 20
10 things to do to win a writing contest - …

YA Authors Opportunity

Amy Trueblood ‏(@atrueblood5) posted on April 19
Write Contemp #YA? Have you checked out this amazing opportunity from @SHContemp & @brendadrake? …

Follow SWA on Twitter: @SWAwriters

~~ Amy Munnell

Amy is the Editor of The Purple Pros, and has been an SWA member since 1990, serving on the Board of Directors from 1993-2007 and again from 2011 to the present.  She has been a freelance writer and editor for 25 years with her work appearing in various publications including the Chocolate for a Woman's Soul series, Saying Goodbye, From the Heart, Points North, ByLine, Athens Magazine and Georgia Magazine. Find Amy on Twitter: @amunnell

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Workshop Sneak Peek: Carlie Webber, Literary Agent

Agent in Residence Carlie Webber will be with us throughout the Southeastern Writers Workshop week, June 13-17, 2014.  She is the founder of CK Webber Associates based in San Francisco, but began her book-centric career as a Young Adult librarian.  As such she often reviewed YA books for Voice of Youth Advocates (VOYA), Kirkus Reviews and others.  After completing the Columbia Publishing Course, Carlie interned at Writers House then worked for the Publish or Perish Agency/New England Publishing Associates, and later at the Jane Rotrosen Agency.  She launched CK Webber Associates in early 2013 and currently seeks manuscripts in various genres, including Young Adult, Middle Grade,  New Adult, women's fiction, literary and general fiction, memoir and others.

Carlie will meet one-on-one with interested workshop attendees throughout the week, participate in our Ask The Experts Q&A panel discussion, and give a State of the Industry lecture Sunday. In addition, she'll teach two classes:

Dissecting The Query Letter

A great query can be your key to snagging the right agent. In this workshop, Carlie Webber will take you through the ins and outs of constructing the perfect query letter, from the opening (hint: “Dear Agent” is not a great opening) to the book description (no spoilers!) to the close. She’ll answer some of the most common questions about query writing, including length of the letter, how much information to reveal about the plot, what information to put in your author bio, and what details will make an agent want to read more. 

☆ ☆ ☆ Submit Your Query Letter for Critique! ☆ ☆ ☆

Dissecting The Synopsis

After writing a 100,000-word novel, writing a 500-word synopsis of the novel seems easy. In fact, writing a synopsis might be one of the hardest things a writer has to do. Carlie Webber will teach you what information should (and should not) go in a synopsis, why a great synopsis can help sell and market your book, and why it’s important to be able to clearly and concisely summarize your book in just a few words. Examples of good synopsis writing will be shown throughout the presentation.

Still undecided?
Check out the Southeastern Writers Workshop  page 
to learn more.

Monday, April 14, 2014

A Round of Applause: Member News

C. Hope Clark's Tidewater Murder won Best Mystery in the 2014 EPIC (Electronic Publishing Industry Coalition) ebook Awards! She also won 2013 EPIC award for Lowcountry Bribe.

SWA vice president, Buzz Bernard, has also won a 2014 EPIC eBook Award -- in the suspense/thriller category for his novel Plague.  Buzz is currently at work on his fourth novel, Blizzard.

Janet Sheppard Kelleher has been honored to open the first annual Listen To Your Mother show in Charleston, SC on May 4, 2014 with her nonfiction story, "I Don't Know Nothin' 'Bout Birthin' Babies." Her creative nonfiction has been published in various edition editions of Not Your Mother's Book, including … On Being a Woman - "Sitting Room Only," and … On Family - "Telltale Possessions" (Coming June 10, 2014).  It's no surprise she won the Carrie McCray Memorial award for Nonfiction in 2013. 

Sheila Hudson signed a contract with Dancing With Bear Publishing company for her book 13 Decisions that will Change Your Life, the first in a series.

Judith Barban has added two books to her resume in 2014. Her YA novel Meredith's Wolf is a sequel to her award-winning Poplar River, which garnered the ThomasMax You Are Published award at the SWA Workshop a few years ago. Judith has also penned Crown Jewels, a collection of her poetry. (Crown Jewels will be released this month.)

Peggy Mercer gospel song THE OAR hit No. 7 on Southern gospel countdown on elite CASHBOX magazine charts and is climbing.

Holly McClure signed a contract with Mercer for her book Conjuror.  She also participated this month in the Daddy's Girl Writers Conference.

Patrick Hempfing had moMENts columns published in April issues of About Families, Idaho Family, Mendo Lake Family Life, Palmetto Parent, Sonoma Family Life, Suburban Parent, and Western New York Family magazines. 

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

Thursday, April 10, 2014


From Publishing Syndicate

Not Your Mother's Book...On Holidays has moved up on the production schedule. The slated release date will be in September, which means we must finalize this book  quickly. There are a dozen or so story slots open, but we need specific stories. Would love to see any funny,  different, daring and smart stories on these topics:

  • Cinco de Mayo
  • Day of the Dead 
  • Easter
  • Father's Day
  • Jewish holidays
  • Kwanzaa
  • Labor Day
  • Memorial Day
  • Mother's Day
  • New Year's Eve
  • St. Patrick's Day
  • Veteran's Day 

We have plenty of stories for those holidays not listed.   

The deadline is Monday, May 5th. 


Manuscript submissions to the SWA Writers Workshop contests & evaluations are due May 15th.  Find more info here.

Monday, April 7, 2014

EditorialLee Speaking

As I write this, it's April Fool's Day. It appears winter finally gave up its hold on us yesterday, but one day of lamb-like weather at the end of March further convinces me global warming is a hoax perpetrated by a few people who wanted to get rich at the expense of the rest of us. The Braves lost yesterday on Opening Day, and the latest fad among Braves' players appears to be elbow surgery. My favorite time of year (March Madness) has ended disgustingly with nobody in the Final Four that makes me want to root, root, root. The deadline for entry to our workshop in June draws closer. 

And I'm not writing about any of those things. Okay, the last one about the workshop holds some relevance to the success stories I'm about to mention, but that the deadline nears isn't my focus here. Success is that focus.

Sheila Hudson was at St. Simons when I first attended the Southeastern Writers Workshop in 2001 and has been there every year since then. She's served in various capacities (including President) on the Board of Directors for our writers-helping-writers group. Now, after years of faithful effort, she has landed a book deal. More than just a one-book deal -- a potential series with another thirteen decisions coming up for her next title! And more than just a series, a series bringing help with life's lessons. The title of the first is Thirteen Decisions That Will Change Your Life. Check it out here: Among Sheila's other writing projects: a blog called "Bright Ideas." Check it out here:

Emily Sue Harvey was also at that first workshop I attended. Like Sheila, she's faithfully attended workshop classes and served her time on the Board of Directors (including a two-year term as President). After years of fighting the battle to get published and facing rejection after rejection, in 2011 she hit the jackpot and now has five novels in print. Her page lists them all along with some biographical information: Her personal website is:

Buzz Bernard first came to SWA several years ago (he wasn't here on my first visit in 2001). However, like Sheila and Emily Sue, he has been a Godsend to SWA. He now holds the title of Vice President on the Board of Directors. Oh, yeah, SWA has been a Godsend to him. Buzz has had success as a novelist, beginning with Eyewall in 2011, which became ame an e-book bestseller on Amazon Kindle. He's since followed up with two other novels, which have garnered recognition for excellence (Plague is my favorite...I'm currently reading Supercell). And yet when he first came to SWA, he was unpublished as a novelist. I remember the happiness he let show when SWA novel instructor Brian Jay Corrigan told him, "You're ready to play with the big boys." Here's a link to Buzz's Facebook page:

Oh, Buzz doesn't just write about weather; as a former employee of The Weather Channel, he's a self-admitted "weather junkie." And his upcoming fourth novel, Blizzard, will be his third weather-related book.

These are not the only success stories from SWA, but they are three that hit close to my heart. I have worked closely with all three on the SWA Board and also gotten to know them well as friends. I see several things in common beyond the fact that they've all had success:

  • They've been attending SWA for years, honing their crafts and understanding the marketplace as a result.
  • They've all won awards (at SWA and elsewhere) for poetry, humor or short stories, fiction or non-fiction.
  • They've all served on the SWA Board of Directors. That in itself doesn't guarantee anything. But it does show that those willing to step up and help others frequently are the ones who succeed.
  • None of them are (sorry, guys) young in years. Young at heart, perhaps, but all have found their success through perseverance that has carried them to success late in life.

Buzz still serves on the board, and Sheila is working as an auxiliary board member. Both will be at the workshop in June. If your career as a writer seems to be going nowhere, talk to them. I'm sure they have had times they felt their writing careers were going nowhere also.

And while Emily Sue, with her busy promotion schedule, probably won't be there, I venture to say she'd answer any questions a fledgling unpublished wannabee might throw at her via Facebook, Linked-in or the contact form on her web page (link at her personal website).

We have a lot more success stories that have grown from SWA, far too many to list in one column. If you're interested in adding your name to the list of successful SWA-workshop grads, the first step is to sign up for this year's June workshop. Just follow this link and you'll be on your way:

~~ Lee Clevenger

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

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Workshop Sneak Peak: Chuck Sambuchino, Editor at Writer's Digest Books

Chuck Sambuchino will teach three classes and participate in the Ask The Experts panel during the nonfiction portion (June 14 & 15) of the SWA Writers Workshop, June 13-17, at Epworth-by-the-Sea on St. Simon’s Island, GA.  Chuck's an editor, who edits the Guide To Literary Agents. The accompanying Guide to Literary Agents Blog ( is one of the largest blogs in publishing. He is also the editor of another annual resource from WD, the Children's Writer's & Illustrator's Market. He was recently included in a Forbes Top 10 list of "Social Media Influencers: Book Publishing."

Chuck is also a writer.  His humor book, How To Survive A Garden Gnome Attack was released in 2010 and has been featured by Reader's Digest, USA Today, the New York Times and AOL News. The film rights were recently optioned by Sony and director Robert Zemeckis. His second humor book, Red Dog / Blue Dog, a photo collection of liberal and conservative dogs, came out in 2012 and has been featured by USA Today and The Huffington Post.  

Chuck also has two other writing-related titles: the third edition of Formatting & Submitting Your Manuscript (2009), and Create Your Writer Platform (2012) and 700 published articles.  Naturally, he will offer a class on “Selling Articles To Magazines & Websites” and two others: 

How to Get Published: Professional Writing Practices & What Editors Want

This is a general presentation examining good writing practices that all editors appreciate—whether writing for books, magazines, newspapers or online. This workshop goes well near the beginning of the conference. This session targets all levels of writers in both fiction and nonfiction. This one-size-fits-all session has served as a keynote speech several times.

Create Your Writer Platform

A writer’s platform is as important as ever now. Visibility and ability to self-market are mandatory these days for writers of nonfiction and self-published works. Furthermore, fiction writers want a platform to sell books, meet readers and increase their value. Adapted from his 2012 book, Chuck teaches writers the basics of what a platform is and why it is necessary. Then he delves into the building blocks of what can constitute a platform, from media appearances and speaking engagements to social networking, Twitter and more.  

Have you registered yet?
What are you waiting?
Find full info HERE!