Monday, May 29, 2017

Dissecting a Chicken (Soup Story)


By Tracy Crump


Chicken Soup for the Soul has been around an incredible 24 years and is considered the best-selling trade paperback series in publishing history. Its longevity is due in part to the diverse writers who contribute to its varied titles.

How could you become one of those writers? Try dissecting this chicken and see what makes it tick.

Head

Most writers know the head—I mean opening—must hook the reader. But you can find many ways to effectively kick off a Chicken Soup story.

·       Dialogue always adds interest and catches your reader’s attention, but since characters have not been introduced yet, it can cause confusion. If you use this method, be sure it’s clear who is speaking. Few Chicken Soup stories begin with dialogue.
·       Setting can ground the reader in time and place, but it can be boring if you’re not careful. Hold to the maxim that it’s taboo to open with a weather report. Give just enough detail that readers picture the scene.
·       Shocking statements grab a reader’s attention and make him want to read on. Just be sure the statement is relevant and stay true to your story.
·       A question can draw readers in. But be sure that if you ask a question at the beginning, you answer it by the end.

Tail

The closing of a Chicken Soup story is almost as important as the opening. You must resolve any conflicts, answer any questions, and bring it to a satisfying conclusion—without belaboring the point. As my friend Marylane says, “Tie it up with a bow. Your story is your gift to the reader.”

·      
Tie the closing to the title, the opening, or a turning point in the story to bring your tale full circle.
·       End with a lesson learned. Most Chicken Soup stories include the takeaway in the closing.
·       Conclude with a repeated line or twist on a repeated line used throughout to connect the end to the rest of the story.
·       If the story is humorous, or sometimes even if it isn’t, close with a punch line to leave the reader happy.

Body

Finally, you need something to hold this chicken’s head and tail together. The middle or “guts” of the story must provide a conflict or struggle for the main character (which is probably you) to overcome. It draws the reader along keeping her wondering what is going to happen and how the protagonist will triumph.

Now that you’ve successfully dissected a Chicken Soup story, you can construct one of your own and send it flying (I mean submit it) to Chicken Soup for the Soul.
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As co-director of Write Life Workshops, Tracy Crump conducts workshops and webinars that encourage others to “Write Better, Write Now!” Storytelling is her specialty, as evidenced by two dozen stories published in anthologies, including nineteen in Chicken Soup for the Soul. She edits The Write Life, a free e-newsletter with story callouts, that has inspired many writers to move forward with their writing. Her love of teaching also takes her to conferences where she helps writers hone their craft. Tracy’s numerous articles have appeared in national magazines such as Focus on the Family, ParentLife, Mature Living, and Light & Life. She has been a magazine columnist, written for newspapers, and published around fifty devotionals. Recently she has taken her “Stirring the Pot: Writing for Chicken Soup for the Soul” workshop on the road and is loving it. Website: www.TracyCrump.com  FB Profile: https://www.facebook.com/TracyKirkCrump




Friday, May 26, 2017

The Southern Way


By Jill Weatherholt


While ordering iced tea in a restaurant, when I first moved to Charlotte, North Carolina from the DC area, the server asked me if I wanted “sweet tea” or “regular.” Since I’d always enjoyed a little sugar in my tea, I went with the sweet. Yowza! They weren’t kidding. The stuff was sweet. I could feel the cavities taking root. That day, I decided in the future, I’d stick with the regular.

Something else I learned by living in the South is the true meaning of southern hospitality. While looking for a new home, everyone waved as we drove through various neighborhoods. That was something I’d never experienced.

In 2012, Southern Writer’s Magazine extended their hospitality by inviting me to guest post after I’d been selected as a top ten runner-up in their short story contest. This was big for me. Not only was this the first writing contest I’d ever entered, but it was the first time something I’d written resulted in publication.

When the contest opened again in 2013, I wrote another story. That piece also was a top ten runner-up and printed in their magazine. Then in 2014, I thought, what the heck—I’ll write another one. Unlike the other two, this story’s subject matter was close to my heart. It was real, and something our family was coming to terms with. The story won second place and my photo appeared on the cover of the magazine…something I’d never imagined happening.

In the 2012 blog post, I mentioned earlier, I’d written about my first experience with NaNoWriMo. It was a thirty-day, wild roller coaster ride that ended with a messy and horrible rough draft—the first book I’d ever written. When I shared my experience here, I never dreamed when I entered Harlequin’s Blurb2Book contest in 2015, that very book would end up published in March of this year.

The entire experience has been a whirlwind, but during it all, the folks here at Southern Writer’s Magazine have been so supportive and encouraging. They have indeed taught me the true meaning of southern hospitality, which I now know consists of graciousness and kindness. So thank you, Southern Writer’s, for being there from the start of this amazing journey.
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By day, Jill Weatherholt works for the City of Charlotte. At night, and on the weekend, she writes contemporary stories about love, faith and forgiveness. Raised in the suburbs of Washington, D.C., she now resides in Charlotte, North  Carolina, but her heart belongs to Virginia. She holds a degree in Psychology from George Mason University and Paralegal Studies Certification from Duke 
University. She shares her life with her real-life hero and number one supporter. Their relationship grew on the golf course, and now they have one in their backyard.  Jill believes in enjoying every moment of this journey because God has everything under control. Jill loves to blog @ https://jillweatherholt.wordpress.com/  Her website is:  JillWeatherholt.com Facebook  https://www.facebook.com/jillian.weatherholt.3
Twitter@JillWeatherholt



Thursday, May 25, 2017

A Venue to Market Your Books on Facebook for FREE


By Annette Cole Mastron, Communications Director for Southern Writers Magazine 


River City is lucky to have Memphis Brooks Museum of Art, an art museum founded in 1916. It is the oldest and largest art museum in the state of Tennessee. A recent exhibition was outdoor art that uniquely used a common item in most households, painter's tape. The exhibit called "Tape Art" created art on the outside facade of the museum. 

Artist Michael Townsend said “We are making a really lovely artwork that tells a compelling story and includes as characters women players, culled from the museum’s permanent collection." It was totally personalized to the art housed at Brooks. 

What does this have to do with authors? Facebook has a slideshow feature. Did you know? It turns your photos into a slideshow video complete with music. Slideshow, takes your cell phone photos and turns them into a short clip. I’m sure you’ve seen this on your News Feed. All you have to do is tap “try it” and upload the pictures of your choice. Just have five or more pictures taken at the same time and hit “try it.”  On Tuesday, in 3 minutes when the “Try It” button appeared and suggested doing a Slideshow of my “Tape Art” pictures, I tried it. I was pleased to notice the pictures loaded into a professional presentation set to music. I was amazed at the results.

This experiment on Facebook started me to thinking what a fantastic tool this could be for all authors. Instead of just listing your books with links on various Facebook pages, try this option using pictures of your books, your website or maybe the first page of your book. If you are working on your first book, take some pictures of your writing space to create interest. If you're running a book contest or getting reader feedback on book cover selections, this would be a great venue to consider. Right now, it's free and should pop up on your newsfeed if you take 5 or more pictures in a row. 

Let me know if you try it and post your link in the comments so everyone can see your slideshow. The best part is that it's free to do this on Facebook. 


Wednesday, May 24, 2017

How I Describe My Particular Craft: Composition of Poetry


By Sara M. Robinson


For me it is a misnomer to say I write poetry. It’s not like I set out to write an essay or even a fictional prose piece. I have to cast about my thoughts in such a way that my lines and stanzas provide pauses for the reader to stop and think about what I have written. This is actually tough for me as I have always been a “gabber” with my mantra of “why say in 30 words when 300 will work. So, I say I work at” composing” poetry. This has served me to learn more about the discipline of careful selection and contemplation of what to write, and say.

As in any craft in which the artist has a strong emotional investment, practice is a key component. If I am not writing, then I use the time for reading. I allocate a block of time to write and think, at least 2 hours a day. I have a dedicated writing space, which is my domain on good days, my catacomb on dark days. But I have a great view of a big oak tree rising above our apricot tree, which stands guard over the lilacs and this view never
fails to keep me grounded. Even when I can watch an approaching storm I can sense a
transfer of energy.

Many artists start their craft or their creative passion(s) early in their lives. I was not that lucky. Poetry came late to me, after I turned 65. Many of my poetry contemporaries had at least a 40-year head-start. I’ve had a lot of catching up to do in a short time. I am only 70 now. And the flip side of this is that I want my poetry to be relevant to the younger writers, too. One way I do this is by attending conferences at colleges and spending time on campus in English departments interacting with emerging writers. Young people today are smart and savvy. I have to be as good a wordsmith as I can be to keep up with them, compete with them, and be included with them.

For active poets, newly-minted poets, and even those who simply want to read poetry, I would offer that my regular column, Poetry Matters, in Southern Writers Magazine, could be a useful tool. The major focus of the column is to present the art of writing poetry in a user-friendly manner without the intimidation of academic scrutiny. I am a community poet so I work on the accessibility of poetry to mainstream readers. After all this is where poetry started. Poetry can be and should be accessible to everyone and anyone who enjoys reading.

So, as I compose poetry, I want to be a witness to the world, whether it is nature, society, or the big area in between. Then give this witness to readers. The reader then determines if the poems give enlightenment, education, entertainment, or all three.
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Sara M. Robinson, award-winning poet, founder of the Lonesome Mountain Pros(e) Writers’ Workshop, and Instructor of a course on Contemporary American Poets at UVA-OLLI, is poetry columnist for Southern Writers Magazine and poetry editor for Virginia Literary Journal. In addition to publication in various anthologies, including We Grew Wings and Flew (2014) and Scratching Against the Fabric (2015), and journals: Loch Raven Review, The Virginia Literary Journal, vox poetica, and Poetica, she is poet and author of Love Always, Hobby and Jessie (2009), Two Little Girls in a Wading Pool (2012), A Cruise in Rare Waters (2013), and Stones for Words (2014). Her latest poetry book, Sometimes the Little Town, released in February 2016, is a finalist for the Poetry Society of Virginia’s 2017 Book Award.




Tuesday, May 23, 2017

History Helps Create our Characters and Stories


By Susan Reichert, Editor-in-Chief for Southern Writers Magazine 

Sometimes we wonder what is going to be our next novel.
You know there is a plethora of information available for us to research and create our stories and characters.
For example, being a history buff I wanted to know more about World War I; not the killing, but how the soldiers lived during this period and how we as a nation lived. I looked up the National WWI Museum and Memorial site, clicked on Win the War in the Kitchen: exhibitions.theworldwar.org/war-fare/#/in-the-kitchen. Boy was I surprised. Here is some of the info I found. Could you use some of the information to build your characters and stories?
On April 6, 1917, the United States entered World War I; May 5, President Woodrow Wilson appointed Herbert Hoover as the head of the U.S. Food Administration. I had never given the food, during this period of time, a thought.
Mr. Hoover called on Americans to voluntarily help the war effort––save food without imposing rations or regulations. He stated, “The whole foundation of democracy lies in the individual initiative of its people and their willingness to serve the interests of the nation with complete self-effacement in the time of emergency.”
As such, the nation moved to “Meatless Mondays”, “Wheatless Wednesdays” and more creativity in the kitchen using less dairy, fats and sugars. Today, we might say it was gluten-free, vegan and heart-healthy for a greater good.
Everywhere we turn today, people are talking about eating healthier foods, omitting fats and sugars from the diets; going for gluten-free and becoming vegans. In essence searching for foods that are healthy for our bodies; and 100 years before, our great-grandparents and parents did it willingly to help our men and country during the war.
Just this information above can be added to a story, either in the present or in the past. What this tells me is we can use this to write all aspects of the things that make up our character’s personality, traits, conditioning which in turn would make the character ever so much more interesting. One of your characters might be an old man, but when he was a child, he had to give up sugar, candies, cakes and pies because that sugar was needed for the men in the war. So if in your story we find him over indulging in sweets, we could understand why . . . or perhaps he doesn’t eat anything with sugar. It could go either way.
Did you know fats were the most precious thing in the war? Germany was nearer breaking for want of fats than any other one thing. “Fats” supply energy. When people grow hungry, they draw on the fat in their bodies. Without fat they weaken and waste away.
Did you know glycerin, which comes from fat, is one of the chief things that make modern explosives? Our armies used fat by shiploads.
There is interesting information available for writers to use to create characters who had quirks that were a product of the past that would add a nugget here and there to make the stories and characters we write more interesting, don’t you think?
Visit the Georgia Humanities, you will find information you can use to create wonderful, enjoyable stories and characters. Georgia Humanities is a partner of the Georgia World War I Centennial Commission.



  • To learn about soldiers' rations throughout the course of the war, food's effect on morale, and the sacrifices those at home made to keep the troops fed, check out War Fare: From the Homefront to the Frontlines, an online exhibition created by the National World War I Museum and Memorial.

So what quirks will you give an old character in your story?




Monday, May 22, 2017

The Nature of Writing



By Jerrye Sumrall


As writers, we can all relate to the lady in the picture. I know I certainly can! When I first began writing fiction, the process of molding characters and scenes into a story was a daunting task. No matter how many writing courses I took, or how many free-lance editors I worked with, or how many articles I read, the process continued to be frustrating and difficult. It wasn’t a lack of information about writing, but a lack of understanding and applying the information. I did not understand the true nature of writing and what it would take to be a writer.

Based on my own writing journey, I would like to share some of my conclusions about what it takes to be a writer. In addition, I would like to encourage you to read the article, 10 Keys to Becoming aSuccessful Writer: An Agent Spills Secrets by Chuck Sambuchino. 

Authors have to want to write. It has to be so important that they can’t give it up. Every author knows that feeling. It’s like part of you wants to give up but another part of you want let go. No matter how frustrating or discouraging or absolutely impossible your writing becomes, a true writer will not stop, which leads to my point; don’t ever give up. If you are going to be an author, that is not an option and that stubborn part of you is what will see you through. I have been writing for over twenty years, and I am still learning new skills and techniques every time I write. And YES, I still get frustrated.

Authors must write from the heart. They must write about what is near and dear to them and what lies deep inside them, especially if they are writing fiction. Every one of us carries a past inside of us, and that past has shaped and molded us for good or bad into the person that we are today. An author must put that part of themselves into their writing, especially their characters. When I describe a character, I become that person, like an actor that plays a part. In that process, part of me enters into the character because I’m thinking: what would I say, what would I do, or how would I react to this or that situation.  
  
Authors must use their interests, abilities, and personality traits to write their story. I did not start writing until almost mid-life, but my early childhood interests, personality traits, and motivations stayed with me and became the driving force in writing mystery books for children. As a young child and all through adulthood, I was always curious and fascinated with the unknown and anything mysterious. I loved watching horror flicks on television, reading mystery books or just exploring my surroundings. Later in life, my experience as a teacher, counselor, and parent added even more background to use in my writing. When I began to write my middle-grade mystery series for children, my life experiences poured out onto the page and into the scenes and fictional characters I created. 

My books were a reflection of my past experiences and what was important to me. Those important things developed into three main themes in my books: mystery, history, and relationships. Each one of my books in, The Bayshore Mysteries, contains those three important themes. Each one of you has a past and a vast repertoire of experiences. Don’t hesitate to use those experiences to create your best work ever!
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Jerrye Sumrall lives in Spanish Fort, Alabama with her husband. Formerly an elementary schoolteacher and counselor, she is now a full-time writer, homemaker, amateur photographer and office manager for she and her husband’s business. She is the author of five middle grade books: Intruders on Battleship Island, The Secret Graveyard, The Mystery of Wragg Swamp, Mystery on Mound Island, and The Ghost of Blakeley Past, all part of a mystery series called, The Bayshore Mysteries. In each one of her books, she has tried to incorporate mystery, action and adventure, local history, and enduring characters who learn lessons in friendship, courage, and self-awareness. She feels that her choice of unusual settings, her use of historical fact, her presentation of age-appropriate mystery, and her focus on lessons in self-reliance and respect for others has made The Bayshore Mysteries a unique middle grade series. *Jerrye Sumrall would love to connect with readers through any of the social media platforms listed on her website at http://jerrye35.wordpress.com/                             
 



Friday, May 19, 2017

Don’t Miss One of the Best Writing Opportunities


By W. Terry Whalin


Many writers struggle to make a living—yet ignore one of the best possible ways to make money: ghostwriting. Some people only want to write their own stories. Yet there are an infinite number of stories for others you can ghostwrite. I’ve seen some writers try it once and give up. Ghostwriting is an honorable way to use your craft to write for others.

The first step is to answer several questions: 1. Are you willing to write stories for others and in their “voice” or style? 2. Have you written these types of stories and where do you get this type of writing experience? One of the best places is in the print magazine area because the form is shorter than a book and you can get a taste of the process without the commitment of a full-length book. If the process works with the other person, then consider doing a full-length book project.

The full details about ghostwriting or collaborative writing are impossible to capture in this short article. I recommend you get a copy of GHOSTWRITING by Cecil Murphey. Cec is one of the most skilled writers in this area with over 140 published books to his credit and a number of New York Times bestselling books. Murphey has tackled this type of writing over and over.

Through a combination of his own personal experience, he takes the mystery away from this area and helps writers learn the value. He gives them a vision for how they too could earn good money but also help others birth stories which would never be written.

Murphey covers the gamut of topics in this well-written book. He defines the terms like book doctor or collaborator or ghostwriter. He goes into ethical concerns and where you find subjects and answers a critical writer question: how do you make money and what do you charge for this service.

I’ve got shelves of how-to writing books and only have one other book on this topic (written years ago). This new book is fresh and engaging. Also, Murphey has tapped his wide network of other ghostwriters for their experiences and added it to enrich his book. The key application points for the reader are distilled at the end of each chapter into a series of bullet points called a Takeaway.

As I read GHOSTWRITING cover to cover, I found myself nodding in agreement at the wisdom in this book. I’ve written more than a dozen books for other people as a collaborator and rarely a ghostwriter. I highly recommend GHOSTWRITING for anyone who wants to learn the inside story about this much-needed area of the writing world. Ghostwriting can be one of your best writing opportunities.
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W. Terry Whalin, a writer and acquisitions editor at Morgan James Publishing, lives in Colorado. A former magazine editor, Whalin has written for more than 50 publications including Christianity Today and Writer’s Digest. He has written more than 60 nonfiction books including Jumpstart Your Publishing Dreams. His latest book is Billy Graham, A Biography of America’s GreatestEvangelist and the book website is at: http://BillyGrahamBio.com His website is located at: www.terrywhalin.comTerry Blogs about the Writing Life at: www.thewritinglife.ws Connect with Terry on TwitterFacebook and LinkedIn.