Monday, December 30, 2013

Early Bird Registration Ends Dec. 31. Register Today & Lock in Savings!

Early Bird Registration for the 99th Annual “Fifty Shades of Writing” Missouri Writers’ Guild Conference ends tomorrow! Hurry to take advantage of discounted registration rates just for registering early! 

The conference will take place April 11-13, 2014 at the Ramada Plaza Hotel St. Louis Downtown Convention Center. 

“This year’s conference reflects the many ‘shades of writing’ through our conference line-up, which addresses topics like non-fiction, query letters, agent etiquette, mystery writing, character building and more,” said 2014 Conference Chair Lisa Miller who is also the owner of St. Louis-based Walrus Publishing, Inc. “Regardless of whether they’re published or not, conference attendees will have an opportunity to network with writing professionals from around the country who can help them reach their writing goals.”

Early Bird Registration ends tomorrow at 9 p.m. Register now!

Early Bird Registration rates are:
  • $135 for MWG members
  • $145 for chapter members 
  • $165 for the general public. 
Those who register early will experience a savings of $30 and get a whole lot more in return. For the above low rates, conference attendees can attend a jam-packed 2-day intensive writing conference that includes the following activities to help them reach their writing goals.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Danita Allen Wood, of Missouri Life, to Present at MWG "Fifty Shades of Writing" Conference

Danita Allen Wood and her husband, Greg, revived Missouri Life magazine in 1999.
 Missouri Life was recently named Magazine of the Year by the International Regional Magazine Association for the second time. Missouri Life Inc. also publishes Missouri Business, a magazine for the Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry, as well as books and other custom projects. She was also founding editor-in-chief of Country America, which grew to one million paid subscribers, which ranked the magazine at Number 76 of the Top 100 magazines by circulation. Wood also taught journalism at the Missouri School of Journalism, holding the Meredith Chair until 2005.

Wood will present the  breakout session How to Pitch Nonfiction to a Magazine. This session will walk you through pitching your story to a magazine, large or small, and touch on topics from getting through the gatekeepers to the best ways to pitch, to the working relationship with an editor and handling revisions.

Wood will also be available for  pitch appointments on Saturday. Remember, this is on a first come, first served situation, so be sure to register early!

Brian: Ms. Wood, welcome. It’s so nice to have a successful Missourian publisher at our special Fifty Shades of Writing Conference.

So, I’ve read that you and your husband revived Missouri Life. I understand you did this when you realized Missouri didn’t have its own state magazine. Why did you feel this was something the state needed?

Danita Allen Wood: I don’t recall whether I thought the state needed the magazine. Rather, I think it was a case of me thinking, “Oh, this would be fun!” I liked making magazines, and I thought I could do it. I thought telling the stories of Missouri’s fascinating people, places, and past would be great fun, and I suppose on some level, I thought it would be a worthwhile thing to do.

Brian: Starting a publication from scratch seems pretty daunting. Also, we know the publishing industry can be brutal. With that in mind, could you take us through your journey in establishing the magazine, and perhaps share what obstacles you encountered? Considering that “hindsight is 20/20,” is there any advice you could share with other entrepreneurial spirits who might also want to take the plunge and launch their own magazine?

Monday, December 9, 2013

Everything You Need to Know About Chuck Sambuchino

Conference Interview by MWG Board Member & Author Brian Katcher.
CHUCK SAMBUCHINO is an editor for Writer’s Digest Books, a bestselling humor book writer, and a freelance editor. He works for Writer’s Digest Books and edits the GUIDE TO LITERARY AGENTS as well as the CHILDREN’S WRITER’S & ILLUSTRATOR’S MARKET. His Guide to Literary Agents Blog is one of the biggest blogs in publishing.

And can you believe he’s coming to the Missouri Writer’s Guild conference in April 2014? I mean, like in person?  And if you register by Dec. 31—wait for it—you’ll have a chance to talk to Mr. Samcuchino one on one! 

Sambuchino will welcome conference attendees Saturday morning with his “Pitch Perfect” presentation geared to help attendees with their agent pitches. He will spend 20 to 40 minutes talking about what a pitch is and what not to do when sitting next to an agent. He'll also break down what does and doesn’t need to be in a pitch.

Saturday Night, Mr. Sambuchino will be giving the keynote address: ‘How to Get Published: Professional Writing Practices & What Editors Want.’ That kind of says it all, doesn’t it? 

Finally, he’ll be running the following workshops: 

Everything You Need to Know About Agents - Chuck Sambuchino
This workshop is a thorough crash course in dealing with agents. After quickly going over what an agent is and what agents do for writers, we will discuss resources for finding agents, how to ID the best agents for you, query letter writing, as well as the most important things to do and not to do when dealing with representatives. This topic often leads to a lot of Q&A. Handouts provided. This session targets fiction, children’s and nonfiction writers.  

Building Your Freelance Portfolio (Writing for Magazines and Newspapers 101) - Chuck Sambuchino
This presentation studies the basics of freelancing—how to write articles for magazines, newspapers and websites. It targets writers new to this arena. It shows how to identify markets, realize your own specialties, structure a magazine query, come up with ideas, resell ideas, and more.  

Brian: Mr. Sambuchino, thank you so much for agreeing to answer our questions. Quite frankly, I’m a little bit in awe of you.

Well, I have to ask, how does one go about becoming an editor for one of the most powerful resources for aspiring authors? I assume those stories of pacts with the devil are nothing but rumors.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Get Ready, Get Set, Write! 2014 MWG Conference Writing Contests Announced

It’s almost time again—for the 2014 MWG contests, that is—so get ready, get set, write! Below are the current writing contest categories for the President’s, Chapter, and Sponsor contests. This year we have two new additions to the contests—a YA Short Story contest and a Sci Fi Short Story contest.

Also new this year is an increase in the entry fee to $10 for all contests. Along with this increase in fees is an increase in awards. Winners of the President’s contests will receive $100/$50/$25 for First, Second, and Third place, respectively. Awards for First, Second, and Third place winner for the Chapter and Sponsor contests will be $50/$25/$15.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

USA Today Bestselling Author Mary Buckham to Give Keynote Luncheon During MWG Conference

As any writer knows, crafting a story—whether fiction or nonfiction—often takes a writer on a journey of discovery. Sometimes the road is virtual. Other times, its actual. 

Mary Buckham, USA Today bestselling author of high-concept urban fantasy and romantic suspense stories, credits her many international travels and her natural curiosity to creating her highly sought-after fiction books noted for their pacing, setting details and in-depth characterizations. She also credits teaching other writers of all genres, live and online, as the reason her writing craft books have been consistent bestsellers at Amazon. 

In addition to Mary’s travel and teaching, she has co-authored the Red Moon series with New York Times bestseller, Dianna Love. Currently, she is neck-deep into her Urban Fantasy series, INVISIBLE RECRUITS, about five women who combat preternatural beings fighting for world domination. And the latest of her three-book series, WRITING ACTIVE SETTING, assists thousands of writers worldwide with techniques to create super-powered manuscripts. 

During the 2014 Missouri Writers’ Guild conference, Buckham will present two breakout sessions on Saturday, April 12, teach a 3-hour workshop on Sunday, April 13, and present the keynote during the Saturday luncheon.
The first of Buckham’s breakout sessions, “Analyze This: Scene Survival Test: Test Your Scene’s Strength,” will assist writers in learning the three key elements to what makes a powerful scene, what a scene MUST do, the difference between scene and sequel, and how POV impacts your scenes.
Another of Buckham’s popular workshops, “Active Settings: For All Genres and Sub-Genres,” spells out the difference between active and passive setting, as well as how setting can show conflict, emotion, and characterization, among other important aspects writers need to consider when crafting a story.
Her Sunday Master class, “Super Power Openings,” expands on developing techniques such as characterization and hooks, as well as pacing that writers can use for a powerful opening and throughout their entire manuscript.
A complete description of Buckham’s workshops can be found on the Missouri Writers’ Guild Conference web site.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Chuck Sambuchino, Editor at Writer’s Digest Books, to Headline 2014 Missouri Writers’ Guild Conference

Register before Dec. 31 to Receive a Chance to Win a Query Letter Critique from Sambuchino or a 1-on-1 Practice Pitch Session from Best-Selling, Non-Fiction Author Matthew Frederick

Chuck Sambuchino
Editor at Writer's Digest Books

SAINT LOUIS (Nov. 7, 2013) – Writer's Digest Books Editor Chuck Sambuchino will headline the 99th Annual “Fifty Shades of Writing” Missouri Writers’ Guild Conference from April 11-13, 2014 at the Ramada Plaza Hotel St. Louis Downtown Convention Center. Early registration opens today and runs through Dec. 31. 

“This year’s conference reflects the many ‘shades of writing’ through our conference line-up, which addresses topics like non-fiction, query letters, agent etiquette, mystery writing, character building and more,” said 2014 Conference Chair Lisa Miller who is also the owner of St. Louis-based Walrus Publishing, Inc. “Regardless of whether they’re published or not, conference attendees will have an opportunity to network with writing professionals from around the country who can help them reach their writing goals.” 
Matthew Frederick

Sambuchino will welcome conference attendees Saturday morning with his “Pitch Perfect” presentation geared to help attendees with their agent pitches. He will spend 20 to 40 minutes talking about what a pitch is and what not to do when sitting next to an agent. He'll also break down what does and doesn’t need to be in a pitch. In addition, he will present the keynote address during the “Annual Show Me Awards Banquet” on Saturday night. Sambuchino edits the GUIDE TO LITERARY AGENTS and the CHILDREN’S WRITER’S & ILLUSTRATOR’S MARKET. His Writer’s Digest Guide to Literary Agents Blog is one of the largest blogs in publishing.

“Writers and authors will want to secure their spot as soon as possible this year,” Miller said, “because, in addition to receiving a considerable Early Bird discount, everyone who registers early may enter a raffle for a chance to purchase one of a limited number of in-person query letter critiques from Mr. Sambuchino.”

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Save the Date for the 2014 Annual MWG Conference

The Missouri Writers’ Guild Annual Conference will take place April 11-13, 2014, at the Ramada Plaza Hotel St Louis Downtown Convention Center. Registration information and a full speaker lineup will be announced in early November.

The Ramada Plaza Hotel St. Louis is located in the heart of St. Louis across from the America's Center  and has easy access to area attractions and dining. Rooms for conference attendees will be available for a reasonably priced group rate. In addition, a special $5 parking rate for the hotel’s parking garage is included in the hotel rate or $5 for attendees all day.

Chuck Sambuchino of Writer's Digest Books will open the conference Saturday morning with his “Pitch Perfect” presentation that will help attendees with their pitches. He will spend 20-40 minutes talking about what a pitch is and what NOT to do when sitting down next to an agent. He'll also break down what needs to be in a pitch and what NOT to include. In addition, he will give the keynote address during the Show Me Awards Banquet on Saturday Night. Chuck edits the GUIDE TOLITERARY AGENTS and the CHILDREN'SWRITER'S & ILLUSTRATOR'S MARKET. His Guideto Literary Agents Blog is one of the largest blogs in publishing.

The theme of this year’s conference is “Fifty Shades of Writing” and will feature an early arrival session Friday afternoon, a slush panel session Friday night and a great lineup of agents, publishers, and editors for pitch sessions on Saturday, innovative workshops throughout the day on Saturday, and some excellent, intensive master classes on Sunday.

A full speaker list will be released at on November 1. Subscribe to the MWG Conference Notes Blog to receive details as they are released.

Friday, May 3, 2013

2013 Missouri Writers' Guild Conference Photos

The Annual Conference had a lovely banquet at the Sheraton Westport Chalet, with St. Louis Post-Dispatch book editor Jane Henderson as the speaker. Her talk, "No Need to Send a Condom and Other Tips on Approaching the News Media," featured a visual aid of the condom in question, along with a lot of useful information about how authors can advance their message with the media.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Robin Tidwell, Rocking Horse Publishing, Coming to the Conference!

Please help me welcome, Robin Tidwell, to our blog and April 2013 conference! Robin is the author of REDUCED and REUSED, and lives in the St. Louis area with her husband, Dennis, and their youngest son. She has a rather eclectic educational background, and finally finished her B.A. in interdisciplinary studies. She has held a plethora of jobs, appointments, and volunteer positions, and tries very hard to make it through one week at a time without a crisis. Robin and Dennis are the owners of All on the Same Page Bookstore and Rocking Horse Publishing.

MWG: Welcome, Robin, to the MWG conference blog! Why did you found Rocking Horse Publishing and when?

Robin: I self-published my first book, Reduced, in late August 2012; made a few mistakes; decided to re-do the formatting; and was working on my second book, Reused, when I thought, Hey, why not just start a publishing house? I was already doing book consulting and marketing seminars, etc., so it seemed like a natural fit, especially since we’d opened a bookstore in October 2011.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

If This Doesn't Pique Your Curiosity, Nothing Will . . .

Jane Henderson's banquet speech for Saturday night:

"No Need To Send a Condom and Other Tips on Approaching News Media"
Some things (major and minor) a newspaper editor takes into consideration when choosing books for review.

Jane is the book editor for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

It's not too late to register for the conference! We are anticipating a great group of people at this year's event.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Sarah Fine, YA Author, Coming to the MWG Conference!

Sarah Fine is a child psychologist and author. Her debut YA urban fantasy novel, SANCTUM, the first installment in the Guards of the Shadowlands series, was published in Fall 2012 by Amazon Children’s Publishing, and the sequel, FRACTURED, will be released in October 2013. Her YA gothic novel, FACTORY GHOST, will be published by McElderry/Simon & Schuster in summer 2014. She also co-writes (with Walter Jury) YA thrillers under the name S.E. Fine; SCAN will be published in May 2014 by Putnam/Penguin. On the web, she can be found at, on Twitter (@finesarah), and at, where she blogs about psychology and YA. 

MWG: Sarah, welcome to the Missouri Writers Guild conference blog. But better yet, welcome to the conference! What will you be speaking about?

Sarah: Thank you! I’ll be speaking about several things, actually. One of the sessions is about how writers can develop thinking habits that help when dealing with writer’s block and rejection, another is about writing teen characters, and then I’m offering a master class about how to “properly” traumatize characters.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Janet Cannon, Speaker: Writers Need to Use Technology to their Advantage

Janet Cannon has been a technology instructor for Cape Girardeau public schools for the past eight years. She teaches fifth and sixth grade computer lab at Cape Middle School, adult computer application classes at the Career and Technology Center, and is one of the technology trainers for district personnel. She is the editor for the middle school newsletter, the Missouri Writers’ Guild newsletter, and in her spare time teaches origami, duct tape projects, and writes compositions for the instrumental and drumming ensemble at her school. Her publishing credits include a technical manual, several short stories, and quite a few pieces of Twitter fiction. Her masters is in English with an emphasis in technology integration, and she is proud of the fact that, “Do you want fries with that?” has never been part of her working vocabulary. She’s been happily married for 15 years, and her hobbies include cooking, running, needlework, and solving the Rubic's cube blindfolded.  

MWG: Hi Janet, welcome to the conference blog. You are going to be presenting about how technology can help us to become brilliant writers! (Smiles) So, how does technology play a part in your own writing?

Janet: Like most writers, I began my writing obsession with good ol' pencil and paper. I’d doodle, write a draft, revise, (rip into shreds), re-write, revise, revise, edit, edit, etc. There's nothing wrong with that. And I still do some drafting, re-writing, or outlining by hand. However, for me and a lot of digital natives--those who grew up using computers--typing and using digital media to express ourselves is a faster and more efficient way to get our point across. Each program I work with helps organize and visualize my projects in a way pencil and paper can't accomplish (for me). For example, with One Note, I can keep track of all of my contest submissions, character notes, and research information, just as if I had a three-ring binder of the same information, but it’s easier to manipulate than a physical binder of paper. As a visual learner and writer, I can find a picture that inspires me, add it to my document, then use that to help me fill in the details when my brain is tired. Technology also helps mitigate my (many, many) mistakes! After so many erasures and scratch-outs on paper, I get frustrated with the mess, especially when I erase through the paper and tear it! Digital formats always give you a blank slate, a clean past, so you can focus on the continent of your piece rather than how messy the draft is.

MWG: You are going to show writers how to use Word and PowerPoint to the fullest extent. Give us a little preview here.

Janet: Word is such a powerful tool. No matter what genre you're writing, Word has some technological magic you probably haven't seen. If you need to cite your sources, it has a built-in citation builder in pretty much any format you want. Do you want every document you open to have the same size font, the same spacing, the same tab settings, etc.? There's an option to set that. Do you know how to format headers and footers? Find and replace text? Resize your paper? Set uneven margins, manipulate your rulers, insert hyperlinks, insert cover pages or create an outline without having to type the Roman numerals or letters? Word can do that and a lot more. PowerPoint is universally used for presentations, but it is one of the most powerful storyboarding tools out there. Put one picture or idea per slide, then re-order them and add details until they are in perfect order. Bam! Your outline is ready to go. You can even add more details and create your synopsis. For those writing children’s books, it’s the perfect layout tool with your illustrations (and text if you’re using any). I'll even take questions from the audience on writing "problems" they have and see if I can come up with a software solution.

MWG: Oh my gosh, I love the idea of Power Point for picture books. I never thought of that. Brilliant! If time permits, you will show them about Publisher, too. For those of us who don't know much more than Word, can you tell us a little about Publisher? Who makes it and what writers need it?

 Janet: Publisher is also a Microsoft product. It's a desktop publishing program that's a lot easier to use than Adobe Photoshop and more powerful than a lot of "greeting card" software programs that are out there. You can create newsletters, business cards, greeting cards, banners, etc. AND books of any size. What makes Publisher different than Word is that the platform makes handling graphics much easier than in Word. If you want to self-publish a work containing photos or pictures and don't have the time or resources to learn Photoshop or Photoshop Elements, Publisher is a good alternative. I could spend an entire session on layout and design for self-publishing in Publisher, but I’ll leave that for another presentation. Maybe one of the Chapters will want to see that at one of their meetings.

MWG: It sounds like something I would be interested in seeing. We should set that up with Saturday Writers! So, who should come to your workshop at the conference?

 Janet: Anyone who wants to know how to use their computer more efficiently in their writing. Genre doesn't matter. Level of computer experience doesn't matter. I'm used to having all levels of experience in my classroom. There are no stupid questions; and even if you already know a lot, I guarantee I can teach you one thing you don't know. Come with questions. I love the challenge of trying to solve problems other people have with their writing/software issues.

MWG: Sounds awesome and very practical, too! Tell us a little about what you are currently working on!

Janet: "The novel." Isn't everyone? Strangely enough, though, right now I'm really hot in the Twitter fiction market (a story of 140 characters of text or less), which is crazy, because that's more of a poet's genre, and I'm NOT a poet. I had five or six published in December. It pays nothing. Literally. But at the end of the school day, that's about all my brain will produce. And as I writer, I want to write SOMETHING every day to keep the creative juices flowing. I also write short stories and flash fiction. Fantasy/urban fantasy/science fiction are my usual genres, but I don’t limit myself to wizards, werebeasts, and computers. I try to write in different genres to stretch my skills. I enter a lot of short story contests just to get some credits under my belt and on my cover letter. And after I publish my first novel, I’ve decided to scan all my rejection letters into the computer, print them on brightly-colored fabric, make a quilt and sit on it. Every night. And smile as I write volume two.

MWG: You will have to put the rejection quilt idea on Pinterest! Anything else you'd like to add?

Janet: We live in an age where you almost CAN’T be a successful writer without a computer. I may not have all the answers, but hopefully I can help with a few ideas that will improve your relationship with your computer, so it’s more of a partnership than a show-down at the O. K. Corral every time you boot it up. So come to my session and be prepared to enjoy learning. I’m not like those stodgy, old professors you’re used to! ;-)

MWG: See you soon, Janet! We're looking forward to a great conference and your workshop! 

To register for the MWG conference and see amazing speakers like Janet, go to this link:

Friday, March 8, 2013

Blank Slate Press at the MWG Conference

Blank Slate Press will be at the Missouri Writers Guild conference in April (2013) taking pitches from authors. We were lucky enough to get Kristina Blank Makansi, publisher, to answer some questions about BSP. Kristina will not be able to attend the conference due to a conflict in scheduling, but at the conference will actually be editor Jennifer Dunn Stewart and Kristina's daughter, Amira Makansi.

Jennifer has taught creative writing at the university level and has worked as a reading and writing instructor, tutor and editor at various community-based organizations and privately. Her work appears in Night Train Magazine and The Los Angeles Review; she has been honored in the Million Writers Award, storySouth’s Best of the Net, is the recipient of The Jefferson Fellowship from the Santa Barbara Writers Conference, and was invited to attend both the 2012 Tin House Writer’s Workshop and the 2012 Community of Writers at Squaw Valley. Currently, she is at work on her second novel, Predicting Gravity, and is in the process of securing a publisher for her first novel, What If It’s Empty.

Amira  has served as an assistant editor and has read and evaluated Blank Slate Press submissions since the press was founded. She has also worked at various wineries in Oregon, has lived and worked in the wine industry in France and is approaching fluency in French. She currently works part-time for a wine distributorship in St. Louis.

MWG: Hi Kristina! Welcome to the conference blog. Please share with us a bit about Blank Slate Press.

Kristina: Blank Slate Press was founded in 2010 to discover, nurture, publish and promote new voices from the greater St. Louis region and beyond. We’ve published six books—five fiction and one memoir. Out of those, we’ve had two award winners and one “runner up” to a major award. We currently have four more books we’ve committed to that are in the pipeline, three that are part of a crime series based in St. Louis and one that is a sequel to one of our earlier books.

MWG: It sounds like you've had GREAT success! Are you currently looking for submissions? Will you be taking pitches at the MWG conference?

Kristina: Officially, we are closed to submissions, but we love hearing pitches at MWG and will, of course, take submissions from those authors whose stories engage us at the conference. One of our authors, Steve Wiegenstein, first pitched to us at an MWG conference, so we are definitely looking forward to discovering something wonderful.

MWG: I've personally read Steve's book, and it is wonderful! What really wows you about a manuscript submission or a pitch?

Kristina: To be frank, I get excited about a lot of story ideas because I enjoy many different genres, but there are two things that wow me—a concise, powerful pitch and a first chapter that immediately draws me in and makes me want to keep reading. Authors should pay an inordinate amount of attention to their first paragraph, even their first sentence.

MWG: Yes, that is so true, and sometimes, that first sentence/paragraph seems harder than writing the whole book! Anything that turns you off almost immediately?

Kristina: An author who doesn’t do his homework and who has no idea how publishing works. The industry is changing and I’m still learning—but if a writer wants to be treated like a professional in the industry, she must act like a professional and that means doing the necessary homework, so she understands the basics of how a book goes from an idea in the author’s head to a book in the reader’s hands.

MWG: Oh, so true! That's one of the reasons why we are doing these blog posts--to make homework for the conference attendees a little bit easier! What are you most looking forward to at the MWG conference?

Kristina: Our editors are looking forward to meeting authors, and we’re always looking forward to learning something new.

MWG: Tell us a little about yourself in closing--how long have you been in publishing and share anything else you'd like us to know!

Kristina: I’ve been writing forever and was a copywriter and freelance editor for many years before I started BSP in 2010. I feel very strongly about book covers, have a soft spot for dog noses, and love to play tennis. I’m struggling to find time to revise my historical fiction manuscript, ORACLES OF DELPHI, and have co-written the first of a YA/sci-fi trilogy, tentatively titled SEEDS, with my two daughters. In an effort to fill the needs of the many authors who have approached me for publishing assistance, I, along with three other amazing editors, just started a separate business called Treehouse Publishing Group that offers author services to those who want individualized support preparing their manuscripts for querying or self-publishing, or in select instances, to hybrid publish through our Treehouse imprint.

MWG: Thank you for your time, Kristina! That all sounds amazing, and we will miss you at the MWG conference, but look forward to visiting with Jennifer and Amira! 

Interview conducted by Margo L. Dill, author of Finding My Place: One Girl's Strength at Vicksburg.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Additional Saturday session at MWG Conference

This session didn't make the conference brochure, but it sounds like a goodie! Our visiting agents have been very gracious in agreeing to do breakout sessions and master classes in addition to their primary interest, which is taking pitches. This one's by Jita Fumich of Folio Literary Management:

eBooks 101: An Author's Toolbox for Digital Publishing

If you've ever been tempted to just take that manuscript out of a drawer and throw it up on the internet--think again!  Make sure that you are seen as the professional, talented author that you are by avoiding some of the pitfalls of digital publishing.  Learn to EVALUATE e-publishing models, to CREATE professional-looking eBooks, and to SELL copies. 

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Why Not Enter These Conference Contests?

Get your pens moving by MrBill (
Where have we been? Securing more interviews with speakers for the 2013 conference--that's where! If you haven't checked out this blog yet and you are attending the Missouri Writers' Guild Conference in April in St. Louis, then take some time to read about our speakers before you go!  Scroll down and enjoy!

ALSO, consider entering the conference contests. The President's Contest deadline is tomorrow (Feb. 15) and is for members of MWG only--also all the entries had to be published in the 2012 calendar year. BUT. .  .we have a ton of other contests for MWG members, chapter members, and anyone attending the conference. YOU DO NOT have to attend the conference to enter these IF you are a MWG member or MWG chapter member. If you are neither and want to enter, then sign up for the conference here.

Some of the fun categories are:

  • Flash Fiction
  • Free Verse Poetry
  • Short Stories
  • Inspirational Essay
  • Travel Article
  • Blog post
AND MORE! If you write it, there's probably a category for it. These contests help support writers and writing chapters. The deadline is postmark March 1, and there's a small fee for each contest. Official rules are here:

 Awards are given out in style at an award's banquet on the Saturday night of the conference.

I'll be there--I'm entering some--want to join me?

Cheers and good luck!

Margo Dill
Former MWG president and conference chair
Current writer of this blog
Author of Finding My Place: One Girl's Strength at Vicksburg 

Monday, January 28, 2013

C Hope Clark

Hope signing Lowcountry Bribe
C. Hope Clark, a returning and popular workshop leader, is editor of, an online resource of grants, contests, markets, publishers, and pure motivation for writers. Her following estimates 40,000, and the site has been selected for Writer's Digest's 101 Best Websites for Writers for the last dozen years. But Hope is also a mystery author, her first love, the reason she started writing. She debuted via Bell Bridge Books, a mid-level publisher out of Memphis, TN with Lowcountry Bribe, the first in The Carolina Slade Mystery Series, set in rural South Carolina. It has sold well, with almost 200 reviews on Amazon. The second in the series, Tidewater Murder, comes out in April 2013. Hope's author website can be found at Hope also freelances, having written for many trade and online publications, to include Writer's Digest, The Writer, Guide to Literary Agents and the 2013 Writer's Market.

MWG: Welcome to the conference blog, Hope! We are going to be keeping you busy in April, so let's get started asking what you'll be presenting on each day of the conference. On Friday, you are doing an early arrival seminar titled The Shy Writer. Tell us about this seminar.

Hope: Once upon a time, back around 2004, I was probably known as well for The Shy Writer as I was FundsforWriters. After a lifetime of fiercely protecting my privacy, enjoying seclusion, and abhoring crowds, I found myself in a profession I loved--writing--but faced with the agony of self-promotion. People expected me to toot my own horn, and that petrified me. Then an editor I freelanced for asked me to speak on her behalf at a women's writing group because she couldn't make herself do it. Then a writing group I belonged to threw a small conference, and I became a big draw for their inaugural event. Whether I liked it or not, I was being thrust into the public eye. It was painful, and I quickly learned that most writers I met felt the same way. So I started taking note of how I weathered these moments, and turned them into The Shy Writer. Self-published, it did quite well considering this was way before self-publishing was understood, much less accepted. But the demand didn't wane, and I updated the book in 2007. It sold well then, too. Then came 2011, and I had a mystery series to tend to, so I let Shy Writer age out, with little attention. I know this is a long explanation, but fact is, during my 2012 book tour for The Carolina Slade Mystery Series, writers kept cornering me about The Shy Writer! I sold every copy I had and scratched my head. Was there still a serious need for this topic? Each stop, someone asked me about The Shy Writer. Then I started receiving requests to do presentations on the subject. I received a proposal to perform an all day seminar in late 2013, half of which they asked to be on The Shy Writer. Dang, I thought. Guess what I thought was a dead horse was very much alive. The Shy Writer class will cover platform and self-promotion, but it does so with tricks and suggestions on how to handle them from an introvert's perspective. It isn't fun to self-promote when your strength comes from within, from seclusion, from introspective thoughts. Hopefully, this class will enable writers to better handle the business of writing, which means the obstacles, the presentations, and the daring to step up and be seen and heard. Promotion and submission instill fear in most writers. But they are the two big doors a shy writer must pass through in order to advance from fun-writing to career-writing. Attendees will learn tricks from a fellow shy writer about how I grew from hiding as a bedroom novelist to public speaker, award-winning novelist and writing cheerleader recognized by Writer's Digest, The Writer, and more.

MWG: There will probably be standing room only in that workshop--I know you are right--so many authors struggle with promoting themselves! You also are going to have a book out (a sequel or 2nd edition) around this same time about being a shy writer--right? Tell us about the book and where people can purchase it.

Hope's book: 2nd edition
Hope: The Shy Writer Reborn is a sequel to The Shy Writer. I hope (fingers crossed) to have the print version available by the conference. The e-book version should be out and about by then. It will be available on Amazon, mostly; but I also hope to have it available for most e-readers. It's actually the third version of Shy, but this one is written anew with more current ideas. The news for its release will be available on both and .

MWG: On Saturday, you'll be presenting a one-hour workshop on The Big Three Incomes for Writers. Tell us what to expect in this workshop.

Hope: Regardless of what you write, income is the preferred outcome. But regardless of what you write, you can utilize the big three incomes for writers, resources that FundsforWriters has touted for a decade - Grants, Contests, Magazine Markets. Learn how these three can help fund your writing as you fight to perfect that dream project. Many writers omit one, two, or all three of these resources, thinking they don't need them, or worse, don't have a chance with them. I want to show how writers can benefit from them, bringing in some income while working on that long-range project.

MWG: That sounds great! Who would benefit from attending this one-hour workshop?

Hope: Writers who are struggling to build a resume/portfolio to make themselves appear stronger in queries. Also writers attempting to earn some income between long-range projects. And also writers who need to earn a reputation, a following, basically, a platform for their career. Every writer can adopt at least one of these into their business/marketing plan.

MWG: Thanks, Hope. Finally, you'll be doing a Sunday Master Class, "Career Solutions 101." What will you be sharing in this workshop?

Hope: This class will go into some of the previous workshop; but by listening to the actual situations of writers, I hope to lead the class in defining solutions for many stalemates, obstacles, and quagmires that writers find themselves in when attempting to earn a living, get recognized, and find publishing venues. We can talk about mixing fiction and nonfiction, self-publishing and traditional publishing, print and e-books, magazines and blogs, contests and grants, newsletters and copyrighting. The list is endless. It's about taking the strengths of the individual and using them to promote themselves as writers. It'll be a very individualized session, with everyone brainstorming to aid each other.

MWG: Sounds great! Before we say good-bye, we want to pick that expert brain of yours--what are two mistakes that you see freelance writers constantly make in their career and how do you avoid these?

Hope: First, I see writers hitting "Enter" too fast before the writing is polished enough. They tend to think a first draft is writing, when it's nothing more than taking notes out of your head. Editing is often the biggest difference between the successful and unsuccessful freelance writer. Second, many writers are not consistent. They start and stop their writing, letting other interests in their lives push writing to a time in the day when everything else is done. Writing needs to be the activity that's done while pushing OTHER things to the back burner. Sure, family tends to tug on us, but in reality, family isn't all that writers let get in the way. It's a matter of adopting priorities. Diligence and consistency impact every aspect of a writer's life, and we don't use them enough.

MWG: Yes, and just what you said above is very inspiring! As a debut mystery novelist this past year, with a sequel on the way, what have you learned about marketing a book?

Hope: Oh my is tough. I traveled across nine states, handling twenty-six events, and each time I wondered if I made any sort of difference. It's slow going, especially for a debut novelist. You are pitching, speaking, finding venues in competition with more seasoned writers for attention. Even acquiring speaking engagements at conferences, I competed against other speakers, learning quickly that a multiple published author, with four or five books, commands much more attention. I spoke to a room of one up to a room of two hundred, the number often determined by who I was speaking against. I attended events that cost me financially, and made money at others. Book store managers loved me and snubbed me. I've learned that savvy online work makes more sense than public appearances, but still, readers love to see an author and authors love the face-to-face feedback from readers, so a few sure feel rewarding. But I've learned you can never stop building that platform. The minute you take a breather and think you've done enough for a while, your image fades as others more proactive step up and snatch your readers away! You must be vigilante and diligent. There are a lot of us out there trying to sell books. The smart and steady usually win. And you can never guest blog enough.

MWG: Thank you, Hope! Great, practical advice as always. I know I speak for many when I say we can't wait to have you back at the MWG conference sharing your wealth of knowledge with us!

Hope: I love the people at this conference. My past experience with the Missouri Writers Guild has been nothing but fantastic. A bunch of good people, doing good things . . .

Interview by Margo L. Dill, author of Finding My Place 

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Grant Clauser, Poet and Poetry Teacher, at the MWG Conference

Grant at work
Welcome to Grant Clauser, a poet who is going to teach us about poetry at this year's MWG conference! Grant is the author of The Trouble with Rivers (2012). Poems have appeared in The Literary Review, Painted Bride Quarterly, Cortland Review, Cider Press Review, and others. He's conducted many interviews with poets for The Schuylkill Valley Journal and The American Poetry Review. In 2010, he was named the Montgomery County Poet Laureate by Robert Bly. He runs the Montco Wordshop and teaches poetry writing at Philadelphia’s Musehouse, the Philadelphia Writers' Conference and runs the blog  

MWG: Welcome, Grant. You are going to give a master's class in poetry on Sunday morning. Who should attend? Poets of all levels? Beginners? Seasoned poetry writers?

Grant: The master’s class is called "Building Trustworthy Poems," and it’s a subject I think would be attractive to all experience levels. I believe that a lot of the success of a poem depends on how well it’s able to invite the reader into it. Poetry is based largely on relationships: the relationship of the images to the ideas, the text to the sounds, the line breaks to the connotations… but more than that, a poem has to engage the reader in a relationship, and the best relationships are based on trust. We’ll talk about the various ways a writer can provoke trust, such as the use of detail, voice, and honest metaphor. We’ll talk about examples and do some exercise. Jack Gilbert, Jane Kenyon, Sonia Sanchez, and Philip Levine are all poets who are expert at this.

 MWG: That sounds great, Grant. You are also doing a workshop (breakout) during the regular conference. What will you focus on during the workshop?

Grant: The other session I’m doing is called "Core Issues." I believe that the most lasting and resonant poems are the ones that are informed by the core issues that motivate us: love and death. A decent poem can be either craft-driven or core-driven, maybe have interesting or clever elements, but the best poems know how to bind those elements into something of ontological importance. Those are the ones that sneak up on us when we’re not expecting, the ones that cause us to put the book down and stare at our hands for a while after reading. I don’t mean that all poems have to be “about” love or death; but those two core issues have a spectral presence in everything we do of importance, so being aware of them and using that awareness can result in stronger poems.  

MWG: I'm sure many of our poets are getting excited about these classes! Will there be poetry writing and reading?

Grant: Yes, both. I’ll share lots of examples in both sessions. In the "Core Issues" session, I’ll send people home with some suggested prompts. In the master class, which is longer, we’ll do some exercises in class and talk about the results.  

The Literary Review
MWG: Writing exercises--great! What makes you love writing poetry?

Grant: I first found out I liked poetry when I was in middle school and memorized Poe’s "The Raven." I loved the eeriness of it and how the sound and images worked in tandem. Since then, I just grew to enjoy the process of writing. It’s the discovery element that does it for me, like starting on a hike and not knowing where it will lead. I start my poems with a word or image I like and then follow it through to see if I can make something happen. I’ve tried other longer-form writing, but I’m an impatient person and can’t hold a thought for the length of time it takes to write something like a novel.  

MWG: How can an MFA help a writer with his or her poetry writing?

Grant: This will be different for every person; but for me, what I valued in the MFA program at Bowling Green was the time it allowed me to focus on my writing. Aside from the couple of classes I taught, every waking moment was about poetry. I learned as much, maybe more, outside of class, hanging out with other writers, haunting bookstores and readings, as I did inside of the classes and workshops. The low-residency programs that are popular now don’t allow that kind of immersion, so I don’t think I can recommend them. I went to grad school on a fellowship, so I can’t imagine what it would be like to hold down a full-time job while working on an MFA. For me, the time and dedication was paramount. Don’t look at an MFA as a career investment. The degree is not a guarantee of a job or publication, and it won’t necessarily make a person a better writer. In fact, I think most of the people I was in workshop with have given up writing poetry. Life tends to weed out poets over time. What I believe is very important is that a developing writer have a peer group to share work with and learn from. Nearly every town/community has a writing group, or several; and if you’re not involved with one, then get involved or make one. It’s great to have a group of writers to bounce ideas off, share connections with, and trade favorite books and authors with. I meet with a group of poets once a month still.

MWG: That is so true! And hopefully some people will find each other at the MWG conference! What tips do you have for poets who are trying to get published in literary journals?

Grant: Read a lot. Be patient. Start local.

MWG: Anything else you would like to add? 

Grant: I’m always surprised when I meet new writers who tell me they haven’t  read much poetry. If you want to be a writer, you have to love reading, and that means reading a lot. That’s the most important way a person can learn more about the craft. I go through several poetry books a month and continually go back to books I’ve read before. My office floor is usually covered with open books. Also, read with a pencil in your hand—make notes on the page, seek to understand how the poem works or doesn’t, borrow ideas… If you’re not a serious reader, you’ll never be a serious writer.

MWG: Grant, that is so true. On another blog I write for, we have been having that exact same discussion. (smiles) Thank you again for taking the time to answer our questions. See you in April.

Interview by Margo L. Dill, the author of Finding My Place: One Girl's Strength at Vicksburg, middle-grade (ages 9 to 12) historical fiction and two upcoming picture books. To find out more, go to Margo's website at  

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Jane Henderson, Post Dispatch Book Reviewer, at the MWG Conference

Jane Henderson, book editor from The St. Louis Post Dispatch, will be the keynote speaker for the 2013 Missouri Writers Guild awards banquet on Saturday night of the conference. She grew up in the St. Louis area and graduated from the University of Missouri-Columbia with degrees in journalism and English literature. She cut short her work as a grad student in English to go to work as a copy editor for the St. Louis Globe-Democrat in the mid-1980s. The Globe would close a few years later (due to money issues, not misplaced modifiers). After working for three years in the newsroom of the Hartford Courant in Connecticut, Henderson returned to St. Louis and has been an editor and writer with the Post-Dispatch's features department for 23 years. Seventeen of those years have been as book editor. As book editor, Henderson assigns and edits book reviews, choosing from some 300 or so new books each week. She has written stories about book trends and interviewed many authors, from Salman Rushdie to Joan Didion to E.L. Doctorow. Usually, but not always, that's a pleasurable thing.

MWG: Hi Jane, we are so excited to have you come and talk to us at the conference. Let's start with this: What do you think makes a great book?

Jane: This is so hard to answer, isn't it? If we're talking about fiction, we'd need a strong plot, amazing characters, and fascinating prose, plus some interesting themes. Even then, not every novel that is well-written connects with every reader. I suspect that one's own life experience and even age and mood play a role in how a reader responds to a book. When it comes to nonfiction, I prefer books that have original, thorough research and a writer who can make anything interesting. Of course, both nonfiction and fiction should be well-edited and look professional (the fact that I even point that out shows that it's not always a given these days).

MWG: Unfortunately, that is true. SO the opposite then--what makes a book no good?

Jane: No good? Well, a lot of books have good points, but just aren't great. For me, if a nonfiction book has even a hint of being plagiarized or made up, it's no good.

MWG: What do you plan to share at the MWG conference keynote address?

Jane: I'm not entirely sure, but I assume writers will want to know about reviewing and how to get reviewed. I will talk about how there is a difference between reviewing a book and "supporting" an author, and that reviewers should be fair -- but that isn't the same thing as being objective.

MWG: That sounds interesting, and I think something all writers will need and/or want to hear--no matter where they are at in their careers! In general, what do authors need to know about getting their books reviewed? 

Jane: It's really difficult to get traditional newspaper reviews now. Most have less space and smaller freelance budgets. On the other hand, the reviews on the web have opened up a whole, new world. I will definitely talk more about this at the conference.

MWG: Sounds great! So, what are your favorite types or genre of books?

Jane: I suppose my favorite is realistic literary fiction. But anything well-written can be interesting!

MWG: What inspired you to promote books and authors in your career?

Jane: When I was a kid, I loved to read. I wanted to major in English literature in college, but I also thought I'd better study journalism so I could get a job. So I got degrees in both. I was working toward my master's in English when I got the chance to work as a copy editor at the old Globe-Democrat. About eight years later, I happened to be at the Post-Dispatch and was asked to fill in for the book editor while he was working on a project. Like so much in life, it was a bit of being in the right place at the right time. I ended up keeping the job, which was perfect for me.

MWG: It sounds like you were in the right place at the right time--AND you did a good job at it, too. Thank you, Jane, we look forward to hearing more at the conference! 

Interview by Margo L. Dill, author of Finding My Place: One Girl's Strength at Vicksburg