Sunday, December 18, 2011

For Literacy

I realize the importance of reading and how it has helped me throughout my life, but according to facts at, 63 million adults in the U.S. over 16 years of age can't understand a newspaper article written at the eighth grade level. It states that this accounts for 29 percent of the adult population.

The story gets worse. "An additional 30 million — 14 percent of the country’s adult population — can only read at a fifth grade level or lower," it states.

I've loved reading ever since I was a child. I attribute it to my mother, who read to the four of us every day. The Joliet (Illinois) Herald was delivered daily, and The Spectator was delivered weekly. When the Chicago Tribune came to our area, my parents immediately subscribed to it. My mother received it until she died Jan. 8, 2011 at the age of 90.

How can "readers" help? First off, parents can read to their children. That's the start. If they aren't readers, there's hope. Siblings can reach to each other. Teachers can read to their students. Teens can form study circles and help each other. Those who have the inclination can volunteer at their local literacy councils and teach people to read.

I was a member of Literacy Volunteers of America before it merged with Laubach Literacy International and formed Proliteracy. I taught a woman from Thailand to read English. Her eyes lit up when she recognized a couple featured in the newspaper who happened to be her next door neighbors. She was able to read that they celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary. She was the success story. Others were defeated because it is difficult to learn to read as an adult. Reading, however, is the key to success on many levels.

I've taken the training at Brunswick County Literacy Council and have volunteered for that organization. I'm waiting to be assigned a student so I can help someone else experience that wonderful feeling of knowing what the names of streets are, what's on a menu and what teachers say in the notes they send home.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Designate time for writing

How do people keep up with their writing schedules? I've fallen behind. I can't believe I haven't written a blog in more than a month. It happens that we had a death in the family since my last blog in October. My brother-in-law fell from a scaffold and died instantly. My sister is devastated. After 43 years of marriage, she's by herself. Two of her three children live within an hour and a half, so she's spend time with them.
The mourning process takes time and understanding.

I volunteer several hours a week, but it's a choice I've made. I love writing and had five assignments due this week. I met my deadlines. How can I finish the other writing assignments I've given myself?
It's a matter of designating time for them.

1) Make a schedule each day and keep to it.
2) Give yourself enough time to finish what you want to write.
3) Allow for delays and emergencies, e.g., an interview that goes past the allotted time; a call from a neighbor
    who needs help; a need to sit and rest.

I look forward to seeing my family over the Holidays. I'll make my writing schedule in January!

Monday, October 31, 2011

"Linda Goodman's Sun Signs"

I had not heard of the book, "Linda Goodman's Sun Signs," until I attended a writers' conference in Raleigh, N.C. The speaker, Cherry Adair, praised it and encouraged the 70 people in the auditorium to consider using it as a guide to develop characters in novels. She emphasized that novelists should choose a birthday for their main characters and NEVER change it. I took her advice, chose birthdays and bought Goodman's book.

I read about my own sign first and disagree with much of what is written in the book. Then I read my husband's sign and knew he didn't fit the mold in the least. In a novel, though, we set real life aside and create our own worlds and people, so this book is a start to helping choose traits for our characters.

My heroine in my work-in-progress, "Red Diamonds,"s is a libra.  What a coincidence! Many of Tessa's characteristics fit her sign! I will not change what doesn't fit because no one fits a mold in its entirety, even fictional characters.

If nothing else, the book is a start to helping develop believable characters.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Self-publishing quandry

Should I or shouldn't I self-publish?
Nearly everyone I know wants to write a book, whether it be a novel, memoir, autobiography or family history. The publishing market today does not allow for every book to be published; thus, well-meaning individuals turn to self-publishing.

Writing requires an enormous number of skills, among which are:
* well-defined topic
* clarity of thought
* spelling
* sentence structure
* punctuation
* syntax; that is, the proper use of the English language
* accuracy of facts

* I have a copy of a self-published book that has no author's name in sight.
* I have a copy of a self-published book that has factual contradictions in it.
   The original event either took place in 1959 or 1961, It did not take place both times.
* I have a copy of two self-published books that make no sense. I cannot follow the topic.
   The sentence structure is horrible. The sentences are convoluted and/or fragments.
* I have a copy of a self-published book that is a diatribe about the government.
   The author is bitter about his lot in life.

These aren't books. They are personal journals. I understand people wanting to give family
members a remembrance, but they shouldn't impose their personal histories and inaccuracies
on the general population.

If you have a good story, write a good story. Get help. Join a writers' group. Join a professional
organization. These people will be as honest about your writing as their consciences allow.
Paying for professional editing services is a last resort. Often the cost does not warrant  the

Follow your dream of writing a book, but when you reveal it to the general public, make it
something they can be proud to have read so they can tell you with sincerity, "Job well done."

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Motivation to Write

Can't believe it's been three weeks since I last wrote a blog. Time does go by fast. I have a list of stories I want to write, and some how they aren't getting written. I get assignments and can polish most of those off in a few hours after the interviews. I need motivation, just like I need motivation to lose weight. What provides the motivation?
1) Serious life change--Everyone knows someone who has had a serious life change. My brother-in-law was diagnosed with cancer in 2009 and died in 2010. His death affected my life and my husband's in numerous ways, especially in putting our own mortality in perspective. I know there's a limited amount of time I have to write--so I'd better get the stories written.

2) Vision--I see the stories in print. I picture how I'm going to write them.
3) Hope--I'm investigating pubs that will accept them.

I don't want to look back and say I wasted time.
I'm on these projects today!

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Travel Writing

Three weeks in Europe offered me multiple opportunities to write about the sights. I jotted notes as we toured the eight capitals. Others on the tour would ask what sights I was going to write about. I told them I didn't know. I'm not a travel writer. Transportation, directions, hotels, restaurants, costs and exchange rates are just part of what a travel writer must know. I enjoyed the trip and was enchanted by Vienna, St. Petersburg and Tallinn, but to be able to tell others how to "see the sights" isn't in my writer's lexicon.

Instead, I'm compiling a list of what impressed me and why, such as the boulevard that makes Vienna just like home, St. Isaac's Cathedral in St. Petersburg and its spectacular interior, the unique upper town and lower town of Tallinn.

Other ideas I have are the humor of some situations: how I wanted a picture of myself for our family calendar, but a breeze blew up just as a kind lady snapped the picture and my hair is standing straight in the air; how I had a seat directly behind a large pillar during the ethnic dance in St. Petersburg and not only missed many moves but couldn't take pictures; how I carefully calculated the number of minutes I was spending online so I wouldn't go over my allotted amount when I realized I had an additional 150 minutes free.

The whole point of this entry is to tell writers that traveling doesn't necessary mean you have to write a "traveling" piece. Put a twist on your travels, and write something that doesn't involve train schedules, attractions and costs.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Sarra Cannon and Self-Publilshing

Sarra Cannon is phenomenal! Her story is an inspiration to struggling writers. She created a niche for herself by e-publishing her YA fantasy books: "Beautiful Demons," "Inner Demons" and "Bitter Demons." She has sold thousands of them, and she is willing to share how she began and how she continues to do it.

Sarra spoke at the Heart of Carolina Romance Writers meeting June 10 at the Southwest Regional Library in Durham, N.C. and urged those attending to consider self-publishing and e-publishing. She provided a step-by-step outline of how to accomplish the task and has the information on her Web site at

What is admirable about Sarra is her enthusiasm to help other writers. She understands the downside of writing and how discouraging the process of getting published can be. She offered an alternative to the traditional path to publishing. Based on the proliferation of tablets and e-readers, e-publishing will eventually take over the market. Now is the time to step in and form a readership with the e-crowd.   

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

North Brunswick Magazine and South Brunswick Magazine

Most people like to read about where they live, and Brunswick County, N.C. has two offerings that have attracted attention: North Brunswick Magazine, which appeared five years ago, and South Brunswick Magazine, which arrived almost three years ago. The brain child of publisher Justin Williams of Leland, N.C. at the north end of the county, the magazines caught on because they offer positive, upbeat articles about people, places and events in Brunswick County. Newspapers provide the negative; Williams provides the positive.

In the interest of public disclosure, I write for the magazines, but I have never met Williams. He has not asked me to write in favor of the magazines either. I live at the south end of the county in Ocean Isle Beach and enjoy writing about what's happening here, and I enjoy reading about the area as well.

Why two magazines? Brunswick County is massive with 1,050 square miles, almost as large as Cook County, IL where I used to live, which has 1,635 square miles. The north end often doesn't know what the south end is doing.

The format draws readers in: slick cover and pages, pictures with blurbs, creative layout and fascinating photography.  Some of the recent articles  in SBM include:
* The legendary Sunset Beach bridge
* The charisma of Calabash
* Jon David, the county's newly elected district attorney
* Kathryn Parker, Seaside United Methodist Church director of music ministries
* The new flight school at the airport in Oak Island

NBM features:
* The Sandman Adventure Race at Brunswick Nature Park near Town Creek
* Eulis A. Willis, mayor of Navassa
* Youth Art Day in Leland
* George and Laura Patterson of Leland, didn't retire, opened their own business, Mulch & More
* Jane and Liz Tageson, mother-daughter team, teach together at Leland Christian Academy

The magazines are available at various businesses and by direct mail.
Information about the magazines are at and

Monday, May 16, 2011

"Swept Away by a Kiss" by Katharine Ashe

One of the best historical romances I've ever read is "Swept Away by a Kiss" by Durham, N.C. resident Katharine Ashe. Her heroine, Lady Valerie Monroe, is assertive yet compassionate and avant-garde when it comes to passion. She's "swept away by a kiss" of Etienne La Marque, whom she believes is a Jesuit priest. Unbeknowst to her, he has assumed the disguise in his quest for justice. Later she meets him in his true identity, Viscount Steven Ashford. Valerie recognizes his attraction to her but can't understand why he continues to avoid direct contact with her until he reveals his mission.

The historical detail Ashe weaves into the story brings readers to the scene. They don't have to be familiar with the transportation, vocabulary or clothing of the early 1800s. They are immersed in it and understand the times because of Ashe's superb style.

When pirates board the ship carrying Valerie and Etienne from America to England, readers experience the cruelty of the pirates and the determination of the hero and heroine. When Etienne, now Steven, is in a "playful" fencing match, readers know what's happening in the scene even if they never heard the fencing terms.

The book has it all: memorable characters, heightened conflict and satisfying conclusion. Readers will be pleased to have this title on their book shelves.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Staying in touch with writing

One of the best ways to stay in touch with writing is to subscribe to magazines, read blogs and newsletters and join organizations. MAGAZINES *Writer's Digest This magazine offers something for all writers * Interviews with established writers * Tips to make your writing better * Conferences, workshops and other gatherings for writers * Tackles fiction, nonfiction and poetry topics *RWR (Romance Writers Report) * Specifically for romance writers, however, tips can be applied to all genres * In-depth articles * Contests and conferences *ROMANTIC TIMES * Book reviews, reviews and more reviews * Subtitled "The magazine for fiction lovers" * Interviews with authors BLOGS * Writers Forever--my blog offers 1) Tips on writing improvement 2) Book reviews 3) People who make a difference *Romantic Times blogs *Copyblogger NEWSLETTERS * Nelson Literary Agency--wonderful suggestions; tells what's going on in publishing * Local newsletters--keep you abreast of what's going on where you live for great story ideas ORGANIZATIONS * NFPW--National Federation of Press Women (accepts men as members)--many states have an affiliate * RWA--Romance Writers of America--many states have affiliates * Society of Professional Journalists * South Carolina Writers Workshop * Local groups, e.g, NCWN--North Carolina Writers' Network * Organizations specific to topics: travel writers, food writers, etc.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

"In Love with Eleanor Rigby"

Stacey Cochran, Raleigh, N.C. author and teacher, asked a meetup group I belong to if anyone wanted to write a review of his recently released novella, "In Love with Eleanor Rigby." I volunteered and am happy I did. Writing reviews is an ideal way to
1) Read books
2) Practice your craft
3) Be in contact with other writers

I posted the review on, but I'm posting it here as well.

Stacey Cochran reaches new heights with his novella “In Love with Eleanor Rigby.” Joe Smith, a carpenter and recovering alcoholic who believes he must hide his past, falls in love with independent, pragmatic Tabitha Merriweather, a milliner who owns a gift shop. Joe notices every detail about Tabitha, the clothes she wears, the tone of her voice, every facial expression. He says her eyes are “as blue as the center of the ocean.” Her voice is “pleasant but not without spine.”

He breaks through the denial of his past at an A.A. meeting when a fellow member explains that people choose to live or die. Joe realizes then “how much it helps to talk.” He decides to break his silence and tell Tabitha about himself. Tabitha accepts Joe’s revelations but keeps her distance until she decides to be part of his life.

The reader can’t ignore the comparison between the Beatles’ hit, “Eleanor Rigby,” and Cochran’s Tabitha Merriweather and Joe Smith; however, Tabitha and Joe conquer their inner demons.

Cochran’s imagery, metaphors and subtle humor unveil a story that contains universal truths that readers recognize. They picture the scenes and the people in the novella. They hear the words as if Joe is speaking directly to them. Cochran achieves what the greatest writers accomplish: layering. The story covers many levels, and his economy of language dazzles.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Entertainment Writing

A few weeks ago when my husband and I attended the Long Bays Symphony concert, "Motion Picture Magic, Music from the Movies," a friend I saw there asked if I was writing a story for the paper. I told her I was there to enjoy it!

I enjoy writing, no matter the topic, but it got me thinking about the entertainment programs I have written stories about. I've covered:

* Sea Notes Choral Society in Southport, N.C.
* Senior Follies fundraiser for Habitat for Humanity in Oak Island, N.C.
* Concerts on the Coast, the outdoor summer fare that's free to all and paid for by local
groups in Brunswick County, N.C.
* Dancing with the Brunswick County Stars

I wrote all of these stories for The Sun News, the Myrtle Beach daily. The stories were human interest and promos for the groups rather than revues.

For those interested in getting published, contact your local publisher and ask if you can cover the concert, play or other production in your area. Often the designated staff entertainment writer isn't able to attend a program, so the editor may be willing to hire a freelancer for the job. Be familiar with the group you will revue, do your research and tell the editor what you know.

Another possibility is to interview the headliner. It's easier than most people think.

* The-late Frank Capra Jr.: I had no trouble getting an interview with him just by telling him I wanted the interview because he was the guest speaker for Brunswick County Volunteer Center.

*Michael Gurian: I agreed to call this Washington state author of "The Wonder of Boys" and 24 other books, after 8 p.m. his time. I live in the Eastern time zone, three hours later than Pacific time.

*Wives of sports figures: At the beginning of my career, I wrote about wives of Chicago Bears football players. I interviewed the wife of golfer D.A. Weibring, who won the Western Open in 1987.

Look around for authors, speakers, singers and other headliners, and most will be happy to talk to a writer.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Mamie McCullough, Motivational Speaker

Motivational speakers provide the impetus people need to act, and Mamie McCullough is one of the best. Her background is heart-wrenching. Born in rural Georgia, one of nine children, she grew up dirt poor, poorer than anyone I've ever known. She knew life had to be better, and all she wanted was to be better.

When she was 20, she decided she wanted to go to college. She boarded a bus to take her to Howard Payne University in Brownwood, Texas. She gathered together her two dresses, a sack of her mother's fried chicken and $25. She said she didn't know she'd have to pay to go to college. She didn't know she'd have to choose a major.

Dr. Guy Newman, the president of the university at the time, was her guardian angel. He invited her to live at his house with him and his wife. He enlisted his wife's help in getting a wardrobe for Mamie, teaching her etiquette and helping her acclimate to a world apart from Dixie, Ga.

Mamie's is a stupendous success story. Not only did she earn her degree, she worked with Zig Ziglar, the motivational speaker. She was vice president of several corporations. She taught school. She was a high school principal. She has written five books. Payne University named a building after her.

I have her book, "I Can. You Can Too!" I plan to pass along some of its tidbits when I get into the book.

No one I've ever known has overcome such monumental adversity and achieved so much. Give her Web site a visit:

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Jan Igoe is a humorist for today

South Carolina writer Jan Igoe is one of the finest humorists writing today. Her humor column "Earth to Jan" appeared in The Sun News, the Myrtle Beach, S.C. daily, a few years back and touched on family, children, jobs and idiosyncrasies that had people nodding and saying, "That's so true. That's how it is."

Jan moved on to other publications and continues her humor writing as a columnist for South Carolina Living magazine. The current issue carries "Lazy until proven active," a prime example of how Jan gets to the heart of the situation. She cites Bloomberg Businessweek's 2010 ranking that states South Carolina is the eighth laziest state in the Union. Speaking as a South Carolina resident, Jan agrees and tells why!

How can a writer project the humor that people appreciate?
1) By making themselves the object of the humor
2) By seeing the humor in an otherwise undesirable situation
3) By using specific examples

Check out the article in South Carolina Living magazine on Facebook or go to
If you're interested in humor writing, see if you can take a rather ridiculous accusation, situation or circumstance and write a piece that makes people laugh.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Writing resolutions for 2011

How do you motivate yourself to write in 2011?

1) Consider your goals. If the desire to write something--anything--dominates your thoughts, this is the year to start. On the other hand, if the passion to write an article, novel or poem isn't primary in your mind, store the idea away until Jan. 15 or Feb. 1. Revisit the idea then.

2) Choose a project. Do you want to write your autobiography? a novel? an article for a specific magazine? a poem? Focus on the project. If you don't know how to start, do a Google search and get some help. Dozens of books, magazines and college and online classes are available.

3) Put time aside to write. Take a minimum of an hour, more if possible. Determine to write 500 words in that time. You can always increase the amount.

4) Write at the same time every day. Be faithful to the time. Don't take any minutes or days off. Be persistent.

5) Believe in yourself and your goal. You can reach it.