Monday, December 6, 2010

Missouri Writers' Week

The Missouri Writers' Guild has received a proclamation signed on November 26th by Governor Jay Nixon making the week of April 3-9, 2011 "Missouri Writers Week."

The proclamation reads:

Whereas, the Missouri Writers' Guild was established for the purpose of supporting writers in all possible ways; and

Whereas, the Guild is comprised of published writers and college-level writing students from across the state; and

Whereas, Missouri is the home of many contributors to the field of journalism;

Whereas, the citizens of the state of Missouri join together with the Missouri Writers' Guild for the purpose of honoring all those, past, present and future, who participate in the profession of writing.

Now therefore, I, Jeremiah W. (Jay) Nixon, Governor of the State of Missouri, do hereby proclaim April 3-9, 2011, to be


and encourage citizens to full enjoy the rich opportunities for writing, appreciation and learning available throughout this week.

Writers, publishers, libraries, booksellers, and all those whose lives are touched by the writing profession within Missouri, please consider this your call to action and plan to use this week for opportunities to highlight the many contributions and accomplishments of our writers.  April is also National Poetry Month, so there should be numerous opportunities for literary voices to be heard.

We'll wrap up the week with the Just Write! Conference and the "Show-Me Showcase" Awards Banquet on Saturday, April 9th.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Happy Birthday, Mark Twain

Today marks Samuel Clemens 175th birthday.  It's getting close to the end of a year of celebrations and honors for Missouri's most legendary author and although he's been gone a hundred years now, he's nevertheless gotten his wish.  Now that he's been gone a hundred years, his autobiography has been published, just as he requested.  It's in the top five non-fiction books on the New York Times Bestsellers List.  Not bad for a guy from a little river town smack dab in the middle of the country.

Although Hannibal isn't my hometown, it's pretty close to it.  I grew up on the Illinois side of the Mississippi, but every Friday night I got in my parents' '57 Chevy to go grocery shopping in Hannibal.  We'd stop at the Mark Twain Dinette for maid-rites and Frostop root beer---curb service, of course---before crossing the bridge to head home.  We lived close enough to the river levee that I was in junior high before I realized sandbags lining the driveway every spring were not a part of my mother's landscaping plan.

Like every kid I grew up with, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer was the first book I read after I'd finished all the Dr. Seuss books.  My first newspaper after the University of Missouri was the Hannibal Courier-Post.

I was visiting my family in Quincy last summer, passing through Hannibal on my way back to St. Louis.  Cindy Lovell, executive director of the Mark Twain Boyhood Home and Museum, had already agreed to be a speaker at the 2011 Missouri Writers' Guild Just Write! Conference, but we'd never actually met except through our email exchanges, so I took advantage of the opportunity for a face-to-face meeting.

I found Cindy in her office, working on a multitude of projects, one of which was the CD telling Clemens life story being launched later this evening at a celebration in Hannibal.  As she was telling me how the unique project came about, I was impressed by Cindy's enthusiasm and creativity.  She was lining up talent like Brad Paisley, Vince Gill, Emmylou Harris, she said.  Then there was producer Carl Jackson and maybe even Jimmy Buffett!  You can find out more about the project by visiting the Mark Twain Boyhood Home and Museum website.  

To say Cindy knows Twain is a classic understatement.  She can quote him so well I believe she may actually be a reincarnation of the Old Man himself.  Nevertheless, three hours sped by like Halley's comet, and as I drove back to St. Louis, I knew Clemens would be pleased to have his legacy in Cindy's very capable hands.  

In October, the Museum won the Governor's 2010 Humanities Award for Exemplary Community Achievement, recognized for programs that include the young authors' workshops, teacher workshops, "night at the museum" sleepovers, and the soon-to-be released CD.  

As I've mentioned, Cindy will be a speaker at Just Write! next April, presenting a breakout based on the Twain quote "Get your facts first....and then you can distort them as much as you please."  She'll also be on-hand for a presentation granting Samuel Clemens posthumous honorary membership in the Missouri Writers' Guild.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Here's Your Chance to Pitch!

Do you have a mystery you'd like to pitch?  How about an article about the weekend getaway in New Harmony?  Maybe you're ready to find a home for the children's book you just revised for the third time.  With over a half-dozen editors and agents set to attend the Just Write! Conference, it's the perfect opportunity for you to find just the right person to tell about your project.  April 9th is your chance to pitch!

Here's some information you might find helpful about each of our editors and agents to help with your pitch homework prior to the conference.

Lia Brown, Editor, Avalon Books.  Launching her career in publishing as a high school intern at Starlog magazine, Lia has spent the last twenty years working on a variety of fiction and nonfiction topics and genres at several publishing houses.  Avalon publishes "family friendly" romance, historical romance, mysteries, and Westerns.  No erotica or heavy violence.

Krista Goering, Agent, The Krista Goering Literary Agency.  Krista is an attorney-at-law and literary agent who lived in New York prior to moving to the Midwest when she married a Kansas City area businessman.  She has worked as a freelance writer, published a regional magazine, acted as editor-in-chief of a law journal, and practiced law.  Krista represents both nonfiction and fiction writing.

Margaret Mincks, Associate Editor, Spider Magazine for Children.  After graduation from the University of Virginia, Margaret moved to Chicago to pursue her career in writing, editing and improvisational comedy.  She selects content for Spider, edits fiction and nonfiction manuscripts, and writes features for both the magazine and its corresponding website.  Spider, a branch of the Cricket Magazine Group, is a Parent's Choice Gold Award winning-magazine for 6- to 9-year-olds.

Kristin Nelson, Agent, The Nelson Literary Agency.  Since forming the agency in 2002, Kristin has sold over 100 books to all the major publishers.  
She has landed several film deals and has contracted foreign rights on behalf of her clients in many territories. Kristin specializes in representing commercial fiction (mainstream, women’s fiction, romance, science fiction, fantasy, young adult & middle grade) and literary fiction with a commercial bent. In general, she does not handle nonfiction projects with the exception of an occasional memoir.

Kathleen Ortiz, Associate Agent and Foreign Rights Manager, Lowenstein Associates.  Kathleen, a former high school visual media instructor, started her publishing career at Ballinger Associates as an editorial assistant and interactive media designer.  She's currently looking for fiction and nonfiction children's books, specifically young adult, middle grade and chapter books.  More info about Kathleen can be found in an earlier blog post.

Marcy Posner, Agent, Folio Literary Management.  Marcy has spent a lifetime in books, working briefly as a librarian before beginning her career in publishing.  She's looking for middle grad and young adult fiction, commercial women's fiction, historical fiction, biography, history, health, and lifestyle; also, especially thoughtfully-written commercial novels, thrillers with international settings, and narrative non-fiction.  Marcy is not interested in genre romance and mysteries, memoirs, traditional fantasy, or science fiction.

Deborah Reinhardt, Managing Editor, AAA Midwest Traveler.  Serving as M.E. for AAA Midwest Traveler for nearly two decades, Deborah is well-respected not only as the editor of a well-known regional publication, but also as a travel writer.  In 2009, she launched AAA Southern Traveler for AAA members in Arkansas, Louisiana and Mississippi.  The combined circulation for both magazines reach a total of 700,000 AAA households.

Susan Swartwout, Editor and Publisher, Southeast Missouri State University Press.  Susan and SEMO Press  
produce full-length books, three annual writing contests, and Big Muddy:  Journal of the Mississippi River Valley, an interdisciplinary magazine.  Susan has published two collections of poetry and her poems and short stories have been published in numerous literary journals.  It's a good idea to take a look at their catalog at to see the titles they've published.  

Friday, October 8, 2010

Join "Funds for Writers" Founder C. Hope Clark for an Early-Arrival Seminar!

Join C.. Hope Clark, founder and editor of, when she kicks off the Missouri Writers' Guild 2011 "Just Write!" Conference on Friday, April 8th with a special Early-Arrival Seminar.  Hope's seminar, Funding Streams for Your Writing Career, will focus on how contests, jobs, freelance markets, grants, and publishing can all mesh together for a rewarding writing career!

She'll also be leading a break-out session on Saturday for children's writers about how grants work for a children's author.  Hope will explain artist-in-education programs, educational grants and even how to become a non-profit in order to sell books in volume.  With grants as her specialty, Hope will lead a Master's Class, All Grants and Only Grants, on Sunday to explain the huge number grants, fellowships, retreats, and sponsorships available to the serious writer, specifically for Missouri and surrounding states.  Master's Classes are intensive small-group workshops led by conference speakers for conference registrants.

Originating in 2000, includes the website, a whole family of newsletters and ebooks, all designed to help writers earn a steady income.  With over 100 publication credits online and in print within little more than a decade, Hope is a walking testimonial on how to achieve success in the writing world.  Her website has been recognized every year since 2001 by Writer's Digest as one of its 101 Best Web Sites for Writers.  She is also the author of The Shy Writer:  An Introvert's Guide to Writing Success, which gives stimulation and empowerment to all those writers who find it difficult to promote themselves or their work.

The weekend conference is slated for April 8-10 at the Sheraton Westport Plaza Hotel in St. Louis.  Located in the central portion of the US, Hope said many writers have already indicated they're planning to meet her in St. Louis.  "It will be fun meeting Funds for Writers readers," she said.  "I rarely get to do that."

To take advantage of the Early-Bird Registration prices for "Just Write!" and to attend any of Hope's seminars, go to

SPECIAL ANNOUNCEMENT:  Anyone posting a comment on the blog throughout the month of October will be entered into a drawing for a TOTAL FundsforWriters newsletter subscription donated by Hope!  And there will be a little something extra for anyone who can tell us who Sherlock is to Hope.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Monday Member Spotlight: Ann Hazelwood and Wee Writers

One of the wonderful things about living in Missouri is getting to experience the seasons changing and as summer slips into autumn, community celebrations and festivals signal yet another harvest season has begun.  Festivals are great opportunities to reunite with friends you haven't seen since last year's celebration, but they can also provide some wonderful little treasures to take home.

I found such a treasure a few weeks ago when I met MWG member Ann Hazelwood signing her books in front of Main Street Books in historic St. Charles during the annual Festival of the Little Hills.  You see, Ann has published several books about Missouri topics, including 100 Things to Do In and Around St. Charles, 100 Best Kept Secrets of Missouri, 100 Unique Eateries of Missouri, and 100 Festive Findsof Missouri, as well as numerous books about quilting, since she is a certified quilt appraiser and quiilt collector.  In 2004, she gathered a group of women together in her home with plans to form a writing group "just for the sake of writing," and, since she had been researching the best way to go about organizing such a group, Ann took the advice she had found in a book called Writing Alone and "Wee Writers" was born.
The writing interests of the group are as diverse as the members themselves.  Mary DuBois is a former suburban newspaper stringer who currently writes for magazines and the St. Charles Visitors' Bureau.  Hallye Bone is a quilter interested in writing.  Noelle Miles is a companion animal veterinarian in Millstadt, Illinois who loves Cardinal baseball, classical music concerts and running---in addition to writing, of course.  Jan Lewien has written for magazines and is the author of Black-Eyed Peas and Cornbread.  And writer Lilah Contine emigrated to the United States from London, England after World War II.  In addition to writing Dance of the Seals and Cat, Lilah has also been a member of the Missouri Chorale.

Throughout the past few years, Ann held meetings in her home, allowing the writers to work on projects and making sure everyone got their fair share of time.  Sometimes they shared.  Other times they offered guidance.  All of the time they supported one another in whatever they were doing, either individually or as a group.  When someone suggested the group put some of their work together into a book, they collectively took a look at pieces of writing they had shared since the beginning, and the result is The Red Thread, A Collection of Poetry, Stories and Essays.  

Dedicated to Lilah Contine, the group's oldest member, the book is a delightful treasury of poetry and prose put together by these writers for the sole purpose of sharing it with family and friends.  Much like its authors, the collection is diverse in its scope, somber in tone at times and gleeful at others, all carefully woven together with what the group refers to as "the thread that weaves our lives together and creates a unique tapestry."  They call it their "Red Thread"---their individual and collective love for the writing craft.

Wee Writers will have a book signing at Main Street Books, 307 S. Main in St. Charles on October 30th from 3 to 5 p.m.  The Red Thread is being sold only at Main Street Books and St. Joseph Health Center Gift Shops.  Anyone interested in purchasing the books wholesale can contact Ann Hazelwood at

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Meet the Agent: Kathleen Ortiz, Lowenstein Associates

"Which agents and editors are going to be there?"  I've probably been asked this questiion 500 times already, and the MWG Conference is still more than six months away!  It never hurts to get your homework done early, particularly when pitches are first-come, first-served and we have NINE agents and editors scheduled to hear five-minute pitches, so we'd thought we'd help you out a little if you're planning to pitch in April.  Over the next few weeks, we'll post information about each of the editors and agents who will be attending the 2011 MWG "Just Write!" Conference to help you prepare your strongest and best pitch presentation.

We'll get things started with Kathleen Ortiz, Associate Agent and Foreign Rights Manager for Lowenstein Associates in New York. Kathleen began her career in publishing at Ballinger Publishing as an editorial assistant, writing and editing for their young adult section, and as an interactive media designer, working to boost the magazine’s online presence through social networking. She then moved on to UWire as an online editor for the features, art & entertainment sections. She has also taught high school classes as a visual media instructor.

With the continued demand for online marketing in publishing, a strong online platform is essential for today's authors. Kathleen uses her background in interactive media design to assist Lowenstein Associates’ clients with branding themselves. 

Here's what Agent Kathleen Ortiz has to say about what kind of writing catches her attention.

I'm currently looking for children's books, specifically young adult, middle grade and chapter books. I'm open to both fiction and non-fiction. While I enjoy a variety of genres, I'd especially love for one of the following to cross my desk:

  • Young adult: I tend to skew toward darker/edgy YA. I'd love to see a romance from a male POV. I'm all about voice and an authentic teen voice. I'd pretty much do a happy dance if an awesome thriller were to come by - especially if it's creepy enough to keep me up at night, afraid to turn out the lights. 
  • Middle grade / Chapter books: I'm a sucker for light-hearted, funny or adventure. Family/sibling relationships (think RAMONA) or slightly serious (think MANIAC MAGEE).
  • Non-fiction: Something different than what's already out there. I'm not really into "how to find the perfect guy" or "how to apply makeup" or "100 awesome things of being a teen." Anything with technology thrown in is a bonus. You must have a strong platform or be considered an expert in your field for me to consider a non-fiction project.
In addition to hearing pitches on Saturday at the conference, Kathleen will be leading a Master's Class on Sunday morning.  Who's Listening to You?  Effective Online Marketing will cover a variety of online marketing topics so writers can analyze their current online presence, uncover who their current audience is, who their target audience should be, and what things will help to make their presence more effective.  Please note, however, that this workshop is geared for the experienced or advanced online user.

You can find out more about the agency at The Lowenstein Associates.  To read a fantastic interview with Kathleen Ortiz, visit Ya Highway.  You can also follow Kathleen on her blog Neverending Page Turner to read pointers, keep up with the latest YA releases and enter contests.  Or you can just wait until April and meet her in person in St. Louis!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Awardwinner Jeannie Lin and "Butterfly Swords" Coming to 2011 Conference

Awardwinning romance author Jeannie Lin will be a speaker at the 2011 "Just Write!" Conference in April, leading a breakout session on Saturday, April 9th and a Masters' Class on Sunday, April 10th.  She will launch her debut novel, Butterfly Swords, with a launch at Rose's Bookhouse in O'Fallon on October 9th.  Jeannie recently answered a few questions about herself and her writing career as a preview to her conference appearance and her upcoming book launch.

Let's begin by telling us a little about yourself.

I’m a former high school teacher and now a technical consultant. Romance writing is something I started while teaching science to find some balance and do something for myself.

I’m a self-proclaimed science nerd and I spend entirely too much time in front of the computer. I don’t read as much as I’d like, but I’m a fan of romance, women’s fiction, and big, meaty epic novels like Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett. My “dream” job would be to travel the world and write, but I’d have to talk my husband into it first. He’s a homebody, but he’s also my broodingly handsome, alpha male hero and he’s been so supportive of this whole journey.

How did your writing career progress?

For the first two years, I was part of a very close knit critique group. Step by step, I learned how to write and put a book together. I queried agents with my first book and quickly realized it was not ready for prime time. I kicked it under my desk and started another.

The second book was Butterfly Swords, written in the same world as the first. I had a feeling it was a stronger book and more accessible than the first, so I started querying agents with it.

At first I only got form rejections, so I started entering it in writing contests to try to get some feedback. The two processes fed on each other for me. I’d query, get some requests, some rejections. Then I’d enter contests to figure out if my revisions were working. Then back to another round of queries. As I started making it to the finals in writing contests, I started getting more requests.

The final breakthrough happened when I was nominated for an RWA Golden Heart® award. From that, agents started noticing and reading and one of them, Gail Fortune, offered representation. Then a judge from the Golden Heart contest requested the full manuscript and offered a contract. Three days later I was awarded the 2009 Golden Heart for historical romance—it all seems very fast, but in truth the process took four years from when I started that first manuscript.

By then, I had completed three manuscripts set in Tang Dynasty China. Butterfly Swords was the second manuscript, but will be released as my debut book.

How did you choose an agent?

I researched through blogs and I highly suggest any writer on the query hunt go there. There’s a great supportive community and it’s a very user friendly portal for researching and tracking your progress.

I chose Gail because she was so excited about the book. She compared it to James Clavell’s Shogun, which happened to be a huge inspiration for me. I felt a connection with her immediately and her excitement was and is still infectious.

Why did you choose the Tang Dynasty?

The Tang Dynasty is often called the Golden Age of China. It has it all: wealth, sensuality, drama. However, I was most attracted to the Tang Dynasty from watching movies about Empress Wu and her daughter, Princess Taiping. These were powerful and independent women. I wanted to create characters that were just as intelligent and fiery.

How did you do your research?

I researched through the library and bought up as many Tang Dynasty books from Amazon as I could afford. Then on top of that, I researched on the internet, lurking on the Chinese History forum, and other historical sites. I also started collecting other reference materials: books on Chinese locations, folklore, weapons, horses. I also studied the ancient world in general, making cross references between the West and East. I always found it fascinating that the “Dark Ages” of Europe, corresponded to the Golden Age of China.

Swordfighting women do not seem like they would fit in a romance novel. What made you decide to incorporate this element?

This comes from a lifelong love of fantasy adventure stories and martial arts stories. I think the prototype of the sword woman is such a strong figure and seemed more believable given the Chinese setting. Princess Pingyang was a remarkable woman who led her father’s armies to help found the Tang Dynasty. The ballad of Mulan tells the legend of another woman who posed as a man to take her father’s place in battle.

And something about swords and the honor culture behind them seemed to fit the romance genre so perfectly.

Define "warrior women."

I think a warrior woman is someone who finds a special strength within herself. She walks in the world of men, but retains a unique femininity. Strength wears itself differently on a woman than a man.

As a writer, do you consider yourself a warrior woman?

I can’t take on that moniker as I feel I’ve done nothing to earn it.

I consider myself the living legacy of several warrior women: my grandmothers and my mother. I channel my strength from their experiences. The women of my family survived war and were uprooted from their homeland. Yet they were able to take it all in with sense of reflection, but not tragedy.

My sister and I talk of writing a historical fiction work inspired by our family stories. We have yet to write a single word, because we’re still afraid. Maybe one day, after I’ve completed more stories, I won’t be so afraid anymore.

Jeannie Lin writes historical romantic adventures set in Tang Dynasty China. Her short story, The Taming of Mei Lin from Harlequin Historical Undone is now available.  Her Golden Heart award-winning novel, Butterfly Swords, will be released October 1 from Harlequin Historical and received 4-stars from Romantic Times Reviews—“The action never stops, the love story is strong and the historical backdrop is fascinating.”

You can join the launch celebration at for giveaways and special features. Visit Jeannie online at:

Friday, September 10, 2010

An Interview with Poet Kelli Allen

Kelli Allen is a poet and, as part of the MFA program at the University of Missouri-St. Louis, she is Managing Editor of Natural Bridge, a journal of contemporary literature.  She will be a panelist on the literary fiction panel at the 2011 MWG "Just Write!" Conference in April.  Kelli will also lead a poetry session during Saturday's breakouts at the April conference.  We took the opportunity to learn more about Kelli, her poetry and Natural Bridge in a recent interview.

Thanks for joining us, Kelli.  Let's begin by telling us what led you to the MFA program at UMSL.

After years of studying literature critically in pursuit of a degree in literary theory, I found that my passion for writing had become more focused towards the creative instinct, leading me to switch to the MFA program in poetry.  I have also found enrichment through participating in community development at UMSL.

Kelli Allen reading at a recent open
mic at the Northern Arts Council, in
conjunction with the Graduate
Writers Association.
You've been a driving force in allowing young artists to be heard in the St. Louis community, as well as helping to sponsor some well-known artists.

While working closely with other non-profit arts organizations in the St. Louis metro area, I have extended great efforts to improve our Graduate Writers Association.  We continue to welcome and host authors from around the country in our newly-established  reading series.

So tell us a little bit about yourself and your poetry.

I've been reading and writing poetry all of my adult life.  While my literary tastes expand a much wider field than poetry alone, verse has always held the strongest pull for me.  There is a vitality and necessity in poetry as an art, as a craft, that I have not experienced in fiction and other written arts.  My own work utilizes the vertical image and relies heavily on myth.  It is easier to explain what my poetry is not than what it is.  I am not a confessional or narrative poet.  I attempt to incorporate deep image and interconnectedness in my lines without delving into the hyper-autobiographical or domestic realms.

What are your concerns as you practice your craft?

I feel strongly that poetry must have purpose beyond authorial gratification.  For me, the work ceases to function for its author as soon as it falls under the eyes or into the ears of a reader or listener.  The responsibility for experiencing a poem therefore lies with its consumer.  I am also concerned with sound in my poetry and always attempt to pay close attention to cadence, musicality, and auditory experience when crafting my lines.  When holding workshops, I stress to the participants involved that the primary goals of the writer should always be the expression of longing, loss, and reverence for experience.  While that may border as esoteric for some, I firmly believe that it is our obligation as artists to illustrate the importance of questioning.

What poets influence your work?

My influences span globally and historically from Hafiz, to Stafford and Bishop, to Rilke and Bly.

Congratulations for attaining the status of Managing Editor of Natural Bridge.  What's happening with the literary journal?

Thank you.  Upon accepting the position, I knew there were many challenges ahead for the publication and its readership.  Natural Bridge is entering an exciting and tumultuous time for small press publications.  With the increasing diversity of material on the web and the reliance, and in some cases, laziness, associated with online publishing, we find ourselves having to ask some difficult questions regarding where we would like to see Natural Bridge.  Our journal has a marvelous history of publishing some of the most exciting new poets and translators of poetry in the country.  Notably our fiction has been vibrant, engaging, and unique.  All of this has occurred on the literal page.  We do not accept electronic submissions nor do we publish the journal online.

So we won't expect to see Natural Bridge online anytime soon?

I would like to see Natural Bridge's integrity remain intact while other journals may choose to go entirely online.  There is much to be said for holding a book in one's hands and for having the luxury to turn pages and see print upon paper.  I would like to see Natural Bridge beautifully archived online while maintaining a strong, consistent presence in print.

Are there any changes you would like to see?

It would be beneficial to include even more translations to broaden awareness of international literary achievements.  Natural Bridge is still fairly young compared to some of the giants of the literary journal community and we have room to grow, but I am extremely proud of our reputation as a journal of excellence.

What happens for Kelli Allen after she completes her MFA?

I hope to teach at the college level and would welcome the opportunity to explore both craft and criticism in the classroom.

Thank you and good luck, Kelli.  We look forward to having you with us at the 2011 "Just Write!" Conference in April.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

MWG Spotlight: Judy Young

Fasten your seatbelts!

When you ask Springfield author Judy Young what she's working on, you're in for quite a ride!  She's busy working on two books to be released next spring and two others are up for a handful of awards.  In addition to writing, Judy has nearly three dozen school visits planned for this school year!

With her dedication to writing and contagious enthusiasm, it's no wonder Judy ended up in this week's Spotlight.  Please take a few moments to get to know Judy Young in her own words.  You'll be glad you did.

Last week when I was asked to be in the Missouri Writer’s Guild Blog Spotlight for this Monday, I was honored and excited, and then came “what do I say?” I was told that the MWG spotlights are a “getting to know you” type thing, so here we go!

Meet Me, Judy Young!

I’m an author of children’s fiction, nonfiction and poetry picture books. I live in the country, outside Springfield, Missouri with my husband,
Ross B. Young, a professional artist who mostly paints fine art oil paintings for galleries and private commissions and is well known for his bird dog and fly fishing paintings. But, Ross also illustrated two of my books. We have two grown children. Our daughter, Brett (name came from Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises) is working on her PhD in English Literature at the University of Louisiana-Lafayette. Our son, Reid (named because I wanted a red-headed kid – didn’t work) is working on his Masters degree in Aerospace Engineering at Auburn University in Alabama. I also have a handful of dogs.

Like many authors, I’ve liked to write all my life. One of my earliest memories regarding writing is, at the age of ten, letting my grandmother read a poem I’d written. She encouraged me to keep writing. Always listen to your elders! When I reached college level, however, my father insisted that I have a college degree with a job attached to the degree’s name. “You can be an “educator, an accountant, a nurse…” he said, “but you can’t be an ‘English Literature.’” Being a writer never entered my mind, even though I wrote. I became a Speech and Language Pathologist, and worked as such for twenty-four years, all the while, writing. In the mid-1990s, I started submitting poetry for publication, and had several accepted in magazines and literary journals (all for adults, none for children). I also joined the Missouri Writer’s Guild in 1998.

I didn’t know it then, but both my grandmother and my father’s advice led me eventually to becoming a children’s author. And in 2000, I got lucky! (I have my husband to thank for that!) Ross was contracted by Sleeping Bear Press to illustrate a children’s book about Missouri, part of their Discover America series. When they discussed the project, Sleeping Bear did not yet have an author lined up for the Missouri book. So, I submitted samples of my writing and landed the assignment. I was told they picked me for three reasons: I’d been published before (thanks to my grandmother who told me not to quit), I had experience in the schools (thanks to my father) and they liked the idea of a husband/wife team (always pick your husband with the future in mind!) So, in 2001, when S is for Show Me, A Missouri Alphabet released, I became a genuine published children’s author!

In 2002, I queried Sleeping Bear with a book idea about children’s games. Never heard back from them. In 2003, I queried an idea about a poetry book. I got a phone call in three weeks. Not really knowing about the long waits in the publishing world, I didn’t even realize how fast that was! They told me they wanted the poetry book, and then, to my surprise, said, they wanted the games book, too. Two queried ideas accepted on the same day! I was still working in the schools, but I went into my principal’s office and resigned (but I was nice and finished out the school year!) I had written one book while still working in the schools, but I now had two books to write, and I knew if I really wanted to write, I needed time to do it well. It was a scary decision, but, for me, it was well made and I haven’t regretted it. In 2006, R is for Rhyme, A Poetry Alphabet was released. And I wasn’t really ready for what came with that book! My first book had done well across Missouri, and I had had plenty of speaking engagements at schools and conferences in the Show Me state, but R is for Rhyme put me in a national market almost overnight!

Thirteen days after the release of R is for Rhyme, (and on my 50th birthday!) it received a starred review in the Kirkus Review – my publisher’s first starred review, too! And then the phone started ringing. For the next three months, I spoke at schools and conferences in Michigan, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Minnesota, and all around Missouri. R is for Rhyme, A Poetry Alphabet went on to win the 2006 National Parenting Publications Honor Award, 2006 Best Juvenile Book Award from our own organization, the Missouri Writer’s Guild, 2008 Mom’s Choice Gold Award and 2008 Educator’s Choice Award. It was also choreographed by the Tanner Creative Dance Program and Children’s Dance Theatre of the University of Utah for their 58th annual performance (the most awesome experience I have ever had)!

So, that’s how I got started, and it hasn’t let up. I now have nine books published, all with Sleeping Bear Press, with two more releasing this spring, and have had several more awards attached to my titles:

Lazy Days of Summer, 2007 (the games book that I spoke about above)

Show Me the Number, A Missouri Number Book, 2007 (the other book Ross illustrated)

The Lucky Star, 2008 (2009 Storytelling World Honor Award, 2010/2011 MO Show Me Readers Award Nominee)

H is for Hook, A Fishing Alphabet, 2008
Minnow and Rose, 2009 (2010 Storytelling World Award, 2010/2011 Nominee for three state awards: PA Keystone to Reading Award, DE Diamond Book Award and AL Camillia Book Award)

• The Hidden Bestiary of Marvelous, Mysterious and (maybe even) Magical Creatures, 2009

The Missouri Reader, 2010

A Book for Black-Eyed Susan, releases March 2011

A Pet for Miss Wright, releases May 2011 (I just found out yesterday this has moved from a fall to a spring release, and will be used for the Sleeping Bear Press catalog cover!)

Needless to say, it has been fun, but it's also a lot of work! Not only is there the writing, but a bigger percentage of time goes toward marketing. Publishers do some, getting the books into distributors and bookstores, but the author does a lot through publicity and speaking engagements. I spend probably 70% of my time in promotion and 30% writing. Promotion includes things like writing this blog and having other interviews, having book signings (some set up through my publisher, some set up myself), school visits (almost all set up myself), speaking at educational conferences (some set up through my publisher, most set up myself), speaking at professional writers conferences (all set up myself), maintaining a website… the list goes on and on. The best advice I can give is to consider writing, and all that goes with it, a job, even if you have another full time job. Be professional and remember Edison’s quote, “Success is ten percent inspiration and ninety percent perspiration.”

So, now that I am moving into quotes, I will close with one of my favorite quotes about writing and I hope all of you are successful with your “damn hard” work.

Easy reading is damn hard writing. ~Nathaniel Hawthorne

You can read more about Judy Young and her books at

Friday, September 3, 2010

And the winner is....

No, wait. That's her line.

I am pleased to announce the judge of MWG's Flash Fiction Contest-- Phyllis Miranda.

If you haven't submitted your entry, you still have a couple of weeks, so crank up your computer and get cracking. It's only 500 words. How long can that take? And Phyliss is waiting to read your story.

Award-winning, multi-published author and freelance writer, Phyliss Miranda, a native Texan, lives in the Texas Panhandle with her husband Bob. With plans to write a cookbook, she took her first creative writing class in 2001. One of her favorite parts of being an author is teaching the craft and mentoring beginner writers. She enjoys sharing her love for the new frontier, the Civil War, quilting, and antiques; and still believes in the Code of the Old West.

A Filly with Petticoats and Pistols ... romancing the West website, she blogs regularly on topics of interest to the historical romance readers. Her newest novella series with co-authors Jodi Thomas, Linda Broday, and DeWanna Pace, "Give Me a Texas Ranger", can be found on bookshelves everywhere.

Visit Phyliss at and

Monday, August 30, 2010

MWG Spotlight: Joy Wooderson

Joy Wooderson, a MWG member and a member of the Saturday Writers chapter, is our first Monday Member.  She is the author of Finding Joy: One Woman’s Journey Back to Faith.

How long did it take to write Finding Joy: One Woman’s Journey Back to Faith?

The germ of the idea dropped into my mind and heart around 2000. I had discovered after 13 years of business writing that I enjoyed the creative process, and I felt the urge to write about what I had learned on my spiritual quest. However, personal writing is a giant step away from business writing. I realized I had a lot to learn. My library expanded as I gathered books about the craft of writing personal stories.

It took my moving to St. Louis in 2004 to really spur me on. My original manuscript was cut, the story was split, then put together, then edited, then expanded, then it changed course, and I finally published the story of my spiritual journey in 2009.

This is your story. Did you have any apprehension about sharing your story with others?

Major apprehension! I remember sitting at a friend’s kitchen table crying my eyes out over fear of making myself so vulnerable to criticism and even ridicule from people who knew me. The scariest aspect was the fact that I challenged many accepted theories being spread and accepted without question in the modern religious world—and I didn’t have a D.D. or Ph.D. behind my name. I was merely an ordinary woman with an inquiring mind who decided to test inherited beliefs. My commitment to be candid and painfully honest about my experiences made my struggle worse. It took several years before I plucked up the courage to fully bare my soul in the book.

What do you hope to accomplish about sharing your story?

Not fame, certainly. Writing my story was never an ego trip—far from it. In fact, the thought of putting myself “out there” for book signings, speaking, or talking about the book was daunting. And it looks like it won’t be money, either! I’m still waiting for funds for my next cruise. Although I had many obstacles to overcome, the conviction that I had something worthwhile to share with others who might be searching for a spiritual connection kept me from giving up. I wanted to write a book that would make the reader think about their religious beliefs, and hopefully take a fresh look at Christianity, as I did.

What do you want people to know about you that wasn’t in your story?

There’s another whole book waiting to be written about that—if I can pluck up more courage. But for now, enough to say that the woman I am today is almost unrecognizable from the inhibited, disillusioned, insecure young woman who arrived in the U.S. in 1971 at age 32. To play on the title of my book, I found Joy again—the happy child who started out so joyfully and whose life went down hill after age seven.

What type of writing schedule do you have?

I’m a thinker, whose mind seldom rests. I do a lot of sitting and watching leaves grow or mindlessly gazing at the television. But when I’ve got my thoughts together, I can sit and write for hours and completely lose track of time. I would say my schedule is erratic, and at times productive.

You belong to a critique group. What advice can you offer to others who are looking for a critique group?

Finding a good critique group is essential for anyone who wants to pursue writing seriously. My advice is to do whatever is necessary to connect with like-minded folks, either in person or online, who can point out flaws in your writing or bring to your attention habits of which you are unaware. More than that, a good group will share what they have learned from conferences, seminars, etc. And most importantly, they will be there to encourage you along the challenging path of becoming a writer.

Do you prefer to read non-fiction or fiction? And why?

I’ve had to read a lot of non-fiction books about the craft of writing, plus I studied many books covering the issues with which I had to deal. But when I want to escape and get my mind absorbed in something unrelated to writing, I read mysteries and spy novels. However, I remain discriminating in my taste and stick with authors who know the art of language and have the ability to tell an engrossing story. I’m off serial killers.

How do you tackle writer’s block?

I don’t worry about writer’s block. When I hit a dry patch in writing Finding Joy, I let the manuscript rest while I went off to do some serious leaf watching. As I freed my mind from the pressure of worrying about not writing, the thoughts started percolating. Sometimes, new ideas sent me off in a different and often better direction.

What are you working on now?

Way back in my mind is the next book, the story of my search for identity and place, and the roles South Africa and the U.S.A. played in instigating that search.

I self-published Finding Joy: One Woman’s Journey Back to Faith, and all that I learned in the process prompted me to write an e-booklet, Ten Hidden Facts About Self-Publishing, which is available from Amazon’s Kindle Store and from Incidentally, anyone who does not have a Kindle can download Amazon’s free Kindle for PC application.

The surge in self-publishing made me aware of the need for experienced proofreaders (of which I am one). So I’ve created a service for writers called “Making Your Submissions Exceptional.” Details can be found at my second website,

Joy's Bio

Joy Wooderson was born and reared in the port city of Durban, South Africa. In 1971 she emigrated to the U.S., settling in Atlanta, Georgia.

Joy is the author of Finding Joy: One Woman’s Journey Back to Faith. She writes creative nonfiction and her essays have been published in The Truth About The Fact: International Journal of Literary Nonfiction, A Cup of Comfort for Christians, Friends: Stories of Friendship, the 2006 Mid Rivers Review, and the Cuivre River Anthology, Volumes II and III. Her articles include “My Favorite Injury,” Travelers’ Tales Solas Awards Elder Travel category winner, 2007.

In 2004, her adventurous spirit drew her to O’Fallon, Missouri, where she enjoys involvement with The Scribes’ Tribe critique group, Saturday Writers, and MWG.

She loves good food but is totally inept in the kitchen. Sports car fanatic (owned five Pontiac Firebirds in varying colors), daydreamer and adventurous world traveler (twenty-five countries to date). No husband, no children, no pets. Housekeeping ability questionable. Maybe this explains the no husband bit?

You can find Joy at and

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

MWG: Pooling Our Resources

With 13 chapters around the state, the Missouri Writers' Guild has remarkable literary talent among its members and our chapters seem to almost constantly be coming up with new contests, workshops or activities.  With so much going on in so many different places, it's tough keeping track of who's doing what when. 

Let's try to change all that. 

Wouldn't it be nice to find out what other chapters are doing that you might learn from?  Or how about getting a speaker from Cape Girardeau that nobody has heard before for a conference in Kansas City?  And wouldn't it be nice to have 30 additional contest entries because your chapter got the word out through MWG?  If you're a writer, you understand the value in networking and we've decided to use this space as an opportunity for our members and others to get to know one another a little better, network, and share announcements of your events, contests, conferences, book signings, speaking engagements, and other activities.  And wouldn't it be nice to have other writers give you applause when you've earned it?  Everyone benefits when we pool our resources!

Mondays will be MEMBER MONDAY when we'll get the opportunity to spotlight a member of MWG.  Nominations for the first MEMBER MONDAY in the spotlight are open now until Friday, so add your suggestion in the comment space at the bottom of this blog.

We'll have guest bloggers from time to time and post other information as we receive it.  To get things started, we have a few items of interest to our writers, but we want to hear from you!  Email your information about events, contests, workshops, or your reason for us to give you applause to Debbie Marshall at

Go to our new MWG Resource Pool to find out what's coming up.  We're looking forward to hearing from you soon with all the information you'd like to share!  We're not leaving anybody out, but you have to send us your information if you want to have it posted.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

"The Saturday Evening Post"

Unless I'm a worse judge of people than I believe I am, there are plenty of you who may remember "The Saturday Evening Post" from years gone by.  I remember the magazine was always on the coffee table whenever we visited my grandmother or some of the other relatives we'd visit on Sunday afternoons when I was a kid. 

That was a time when stores weren't open on Sundays and gas was less than 50 cents a gallon, so we'd hop in the car and head out on Sunday afternoons after church to visit with our neighbors, great aunts and uncles and, of course, Grandma and Grandpa.  If we timed it right, there'd be homemade ice cream after a huge dinner we'd share before heading back home again.  But I digress. 

"The Saturday Evening Post" was as much a part of that time as the Norman Rockwell artwork included between its covers.  The magazine's rich history speaks for itself.  It originated  with Benjamin Franklin’s "Pennsylvania Gazette," first published in 1728, going on to become "The Saturday Evening Post" in 1821.  The fact that it has endured for nearly 300 years is nothing short of amazing.  Not that they haven't faced all the same issues with revenue and content as all the rest of the periodicals out there, but they've held true to their publishing heritage and the fact is, they're here to talk about it.

Yesterday, I had a conversation with Stephen George, who's the current editor of the magazine and a very engaging gentleman.  We talked briefly about the magazine and some of the changes they've encountered and others they're considering.  By the way, take a look at their website where you'll find a short story by Ray Bradbury and another by Edna Ferber, in honor of the birthdays of both writers.  And the magazine is encouraging short story writers to submit.  Their submission guidelines are also on the website.

I told Steve I was very excited about having a representative from "The Saturday Evening Post" speak at our conference in April.  He astonished me when he said that as far as he knew, we were the first to invite them to such an event!  Steve has agreed to serve on the magazine panel during the Other Than Books:  Pubishing in Places You Can't Overlook panels on Friday evening and will hear pitches on Saturday.  He'll step out of pitches for an hour to lead a breakout session on the topic of Selling Your Work to The Saturday Evening Post.  Anyone needing query-writing  pointers should plan to attend!

Have a great day!

Friday, August 13, 2010


Ok, so we all know it's hot. 

Tempers are flaring and drivers are out of control.  And the kids are headed back to school, which just adds to the fun. Probably not a good time to ask "Where has the summer gone?" because it's obvious it's still summer!

So, let's think ahead a little---maybe do a little advance planning.  The holidays are over and we've moved well into 2011.  Who says the seasons aren't getting shorter?  Just look.  Two sentences.

Before you know it, it's time for the MWG conference!  I'm not going to say much more because we're getting things set to open Early-Bird Registration on Sunday, August 15th!  Please visit for conference information and to register.  Just go to and click on the Registration form.  You can also register for your hotel room at the Sheraton Westport Plaza Hotel by clicking on the link on the same conference page.  The Sheraton is offering a special price of $89 per night for conference-goers.

And as long as you're thinking early, those who arrive at the conference early on Friday afternoon will get to hear "Funds for Writers'" founder C. Hope Clark give a special Early Arrival Seminar!  Start time is 1 p.m.

Questions?  Email Debbie Marshall at

We can't wait to meet you in St. Louis in April!

Monday, August 9, 2010

A St. Louis Writer's Mecca

When it comes to being a writer in St. Louis, it doesn't get any better than this past Saturday.

I attended a St. Louis Writers Guild workshop presented by attorney Mark Sableman about many of the questions writers have about contracts, copyrights and publishing in this electronic age. Catherine Rankovic gives a great overview of part of this presentation on her blog at By the way, Catherine will be giving pointers for polishing your manuscript and giving it those all-important final revisions in her breakout at the 2011 "Just Write!" Conference.
She will also be doing the pre-conference critiques---up to 25 pages of fiction, non-fiction or poetry. See our conference registration information for how to submit.

Freelance writer and poet Faye Adams, our MWG chapter representative for SLWG (I feel like I'm writing in code), and her husband Bill, were also there. Bill is a small-lot publisher of hard-bound books, including the Missouri State Poetry Society anthology. Poets, they're looking for submissions! Find out more by visiting Faye's website at Faye will be giving writers tips to save $$$ on their taxes in a 2011 conference breakout and Bill will be sitting on a literary panel during the Other than Books: Publishing in Places You Can't Overlook panels on Friday, April 8th at "Just Write!"

St. Louis Writers Guild has had some real literary notables in their ranks throughout their 90-year history and the future promises even more. SLWG is accepting submissions to their St. Louis Reflections anthology until September 4th. More information about the group or the anthology can be found at or visit SLWG on Facebook.

It was a great morning! Then there was the rest of the day.

If you're a writer, you know that getting yourself published is only half the battle. Then there's promotion to deal with. No matter how you look at it, the only way you're successful is to get your book into the hands of readers. Bookstores are happy to host book signings because they're beneficial to everyone involved. I knew there were a few taking place around the city Saturday, but since I was headed to St. Charles anyway, I dropped by Main Street Books in St. Charles to see MWG prez Claire Applewhite promoting her book Crazy for You. It was Claire's third stop in Missouri for the week, having done signings in Union and Springfield as well. See above photo of Claire at Half-Price Books of the Ozarks in Springfield.

But there's another point to be made here. When you support a writer by attending their book signing, you get a real get to meet other writers and that's what happened. It was invigorating to have the opportunity to see a number of people I hadn't seen since the 2010 conference and met some new Facebook writer friends face-to-face! Talk about striking gold!

So, if you have an upcoming literary event---book signing or otherwise---please let us know so we can post it for you, then plan to support our writers by attending their events! See ya!

Countdown to Registration launch for the 2011 "Just Write!" Conference is 6 days.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

First Things First

If you've managed to find this blog, then you probably already know about the 2011 Missouri Writers' Guild "Just Write!" Conference in St. Louis on April 8-10. Although it's still eight months away, we've managed to put quite a few details together, including a lineup that I'm really proud to present.

One of the blog's main purposes is to give everyone an opportunity to get to know our speakers and our MWG members a little better before the conference, as well as to let you ask questions that we hope to answer. And, if you happen to have an upcoming literary event, please feel free to let us know so we can let everyone else know. We're all about networking!

Hopefully, we'll be able to give you a glimpse of the people who you'll be meeting when you attend the conference in April at the Westport Plaza Sheraton Hotel. The link for the Sheraton is posted on so you can register for your room while you're online completing your Paypal registration for the conference. The Sheraton is giving a special $89 rate for the MWG conference.

Early-Bird Registration is opening August 15th, and if my email inbox is any indication, it's going to fill up pretty fast!

Thanks for stopping by and we hope you'll be back soon!