Sunday, November 28, 2010

Christmas in Winterville

One of the most popular events in the little town of Winterville, Georgia, where I've lived for many years, is the Christmas in Winterville celebration. This year, this event takes place on Friday, December 3. It begins with the arrival of Santa and Mrs. Claus. In Winterville, they don't fly in on a sleigh pulled by reindeer. These holiday dignitaries cross the city limits line in style in the locally famous Marigold Express train! Afterall, Winterville began as a railroad town many years ago, called Six Mile Station. One of our landmarks is our historic train depot on the square. Why not have Santa and Mrs. Claus roll in on the Marigold Express?

More Information

  • Christmas in Winterville begins at 6 PM in Pittard Park and on the town square.
  • The event is sponsored by The Commercial Bank, with contributions by other community groups and individuals.
  • Visitors to Christmas in Winterville will enjoy free cookies, candy, hot dogs, hot cocoa and cider.
  • The Winterville Express train will provide free rides to children (with adult supervision).
  • Santa will arrive on the Marigold Express just after 6 PM and will then be under the gazebo in the park for pictures. Bring your cameras!
  • Other Christmas happenings in Winterville include The Mayor's Christmas Motorcade 52nd Anniversary Celebration to East Central Regional Hospital in Augusta, Thursday, December 9, 2010. Winterville also will collect Toys for Tots. For more information on supporting these programs, call city hall: 706-742-8600.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Thanksgiving Memories, Past and Those Not Yet Made

They're coming to my house for Thanksgiving this year. "They" are my family members: daughter, son, son's girlfriend, mother, maybe nephew. Counting my spouse, that's only six or seven of us planning to gather in my Winterville dining room this year. We'll dine on the usual: turkey, ham, dressing, cranberry sauce, vegetables, and, of course, pumpkin pie. I'm not an expert cook, like my grandmothers were. But I guess the point of this big meal on Thanksgiving day isn't the food. It's all about the family and others who eat the food together on this special day each year.

But the food sure comes in second on Thanksgiving day. Especially, the dressing. In my humble opinion, dressing, or stuffing, if you feel inclined to stuff the bird, is the star of this holiday meal. While I'm making my dressing, from cornbread I cook before I begin, I always think about my grandmothers' dressing from Thanksgivings past. Both contained cornbread, both were Southern recipes, but they were so different.

Grandmother Coile made her dressing in a big metal pan. It was greasy and featured a golden brown chicken in the middle of it, and it tasted heavenly. Grandmother Bailey made little dressing patties. First she mixed the ingredients, which included bell pepper. Then she carefully patted out each mound of dressing. Her dressing patties were to die for.

I'm lucky to make dressing at all (after looking up a recipe via Google). But I make it and somehow, it always turns out okay.

At least the family gathered in my Winterville dining room tells me the dressing is okay. And I'm thankful for that -- and my family. Happy Thanksgiving to you and
yours. I wish you a Thanksgiving holiday full of dressing and love.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Front Porch Book Store Book Signing Event November 9, 2010, 6 - 7 PM

Winterville' Front Porch Book Store opened for business one year ago in a tiny building on Marigold Lane that once housed city hall. In just a few short months, this store, which provides funds for the Winterville library, has become a community gathering place, as well as a great source of reading material at reasonable prices. 

On Tuesday, November 9, 2010, from 6 - 7 p.m., I'll help Front Porch Book Store celebrate their one-year anniversary with a book signing event.

As some of you know, I'm a native of nearby Athens and a long-time resident of Winterville. The setting for my debut children's middle grade novel, Gone From These Woods, is the rural North Georgia area and the fictional town of Newtonville in my book is based on Winterville. During this event, I'll read several short excerpts from my book and will then explain the local connections.

The bookstore will have copies of Gone From These Woods available for purchase (cash or check only) and I'll be glad to autograph your copy. I'll also be happy to answer your questions about writing and publication during this hour at the bookstore. We'll have cake and other refreshments, too. Remember all proceeds to go support the Winterville library.

For more information about Gone From These Woods, visit my website. To read more about Front Porch Books, go here.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Interview with Darcy Pattison, Author of The Book Trailer Manual

My guest on Winterville Writer today is Darcy Pattison, author of 19 Girls and Me; Searching for Oliver K. Woodman; The Journey of Oliver K. Woodman; The Wayfinder; and The River Dragon. Darcy also is the author of one of the books I most often recommend to aspiring and published writers: Novel Metamorphsis. I first encountered this book in an earlier, not-yet-published, version while attending Darcy's popular novel rewriting workshop in Hoover, Alabama several years ago. That weekend in "novel rewriting bootcamp" changed my life. After those two days spent with Darcy and 24 other writers in Joan Broerman's basement, I developed a more serious attitude toward my writing, and approximately five years later, I sold my first book, Gone From These Woods.

Today I am excited to tell you about a new Darcy Pattison book, The Book Trailer Manual. Darcy is offering this book only in a digital format, which you can download by following the link in this blog. (Yes, if you follow the link, I will receive a commission, which will help me continue to offer Winterville Writer.) Darcy says she is making her book available this way because the art of creating book trailers is still so new that this digital format allows her to easily make changes and keep the book updated.

Darcy and I recently did a question and answer session. My questions and her answers are below.

Donny: Darcy, welcome to Winterville Writer. I'm so glad you're here to tell us about The Book Trailer Manual. What made you decide to write this book?

Darcy: Everywhere I turn these days, there are conversations about how authors can market their books, specifically how can they market online; and even more specifically, do book trailers work? I set out to find some answers and it grew into this book.

Donny: What's the number one reason an author should make a book trailer?

Darcy: To reach an audience you believe likes to watch videos.

Donny: In the book, you admit that book trailers aren't for everyone. What kind of book would not benefit from a book trailer?

Darcy: If you want to use a book trailer, you should first find out if your audience is online somewhere. On the sites where they congregate, do they watch videos? If the answer is that you can't find that audience online and/or the audience doesn't watch videos, then a trailer won't help you reach that audience.

Donny: You advise authors to begin early. Tell us why an early start on our book trailers is important.

Darcy: The process of making a book trailer can be extensive, especially if you're a beginner. You'll need to get up to speed on the software and hardware; you'll need to walk through the process of buying images and sound. You'll need to create a YouTube channel and customize it. It takes time to create a great trailer and distribute it well. Do yourself a favor by starting early and having the time to do it right.

At the same time, there may be times when you need to get something up quickly. I think one of the most important tips is to be flexible and nimble. Take time at first to learn the software and how to create a video. Then, when the book is released, be ready to do something quickly if you need to. For example, if you get a great review, you should (of course) post it everywhere. But it's also worth probably a quick video. These types of videos can be informal and stick with the YouTube aesthetic of authentic, but not necessarily polished to the nth degree.

Donny: On page 12, you say that YouTube has proven that audiences respond to great content, regardless of the production quality. Could you talk about that?

Darcy: This is the YouTube aesthetic. If you look at the front page of YouTube at Videos Being Watched Now or Most Popular videos (not the Featured Videos because those are paid-placement videos), you'll see a wide range of aesthetics, from polished to informal. The most popular, those with hundreds of thousands of views, are short, authentic, and have something funny going on that is fun to pass along. If you can appeal to that aesthetic, it works.

For example, look at this video from Jon Scieszka's Guys Read program. It's just a bunch of authors telling a joke; the video spliced in a bunch of authors, each telling a short section of the joke. It's informal and fun. It's also too long, using the last full minute to identify each author and show the book's cover. But that aside, the joke is more of the YouTube aesthetic.

Donny: You say that we must decide what call of action we want viewers of our book trailer to take and you list these possible actions. What is the most beneficial choice for most authors?

Darcy: It depends. Some authors have strong email newsletters and the most logical choice is to ask people to sign up for their newsletters. Others want to send readers to an independent bookstore site. The most beneficial choice will be determined by the book, your audience, and your goals for your trailer.

Donny: I intended to make a book trailer for Gone From These Woods. I even bought a Flip video camera (one of the items you talk about in your book). But somehow, I never did actually make the trailer. I think I felt a little intimidated by the process. Do you advise authors whose book are already out and have maybe even been out awhile to make a book trailer? Are they still helpful if your book is not new?

Darcy: Yes! Alexis O'Neill talks about doing ongoing publicity for your titles in a post on my site, Why you Should Promote Your Back-List Books. She reminds us all, "As long as a book is in print, it's alive!"

Donny: Is there a trailer for The Book Trailer Book?

Darcy: I created a Book Trailer Manual channel on and have several playlists of videos I discuss in the manual. Also on the channel are trailers for my teen fantasy novel, The Wayfinder, demonstrating different software.

Donny: Have you noticed an increase in sales for your books that have trailers?

Darcy: I have trailers for The Wayfinder, my teen novel which is now available for Kindle, Nook, iPad and other digital readers. Yes, I've seen some sales coming in from the trailer, but it's too early to say how much it will help.

Donny: What makes you stop watching a book trailer?

Darcy: Boring concept. Bad music. Static images.

Donny: Do you have any particular favorite book trailers? You've included some examples in your book. Are those your favorites?

Darcy: The trailers mentioned in The Book Trailer Manual represent something that I'm trying to point out. Some are just great examples that make a point; others are truly my favorites. My all time favorite is The Book of SPAM's Toastvertising and the accompanying video which shows how the trailer was made. For me, it's the first entry in the Book Trailer Hall of Fame.

I'm also starting to distinguish between two types of trailers. In some ways, the moniker "book trailer" is unfortunate because it evokes the aesthetic of the movie trailer. Yet the trailers I like best tend to be those with the "YouTube" aesthetic.

Donny: Thanks, Darcy! I feel like I've just had a mini-class in making a book trailer and I can't wait to begin shooting. Readers who would like to learn more about book trailers might want to join The Book Trailer Manual newsletter and receive a free Special Report: 43 Sites to Upload Your Trailer. For more information about author Darcy Pattison, visit her website.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Debut of the Suwanee Festival of Books Aug. 28 - 29, 2010

This coming weekend, August 28 - 29, 2010, marks the debut of a brand, new literary event: The Suwanee Festival of Books, in Suwanee, Georgia. I'll be participating in a panel at 1:30 pm, Saturday, called Got Kids Books?, along with authors Melinda Long (How I Became a Pirate, Pirates Don't Change Diapers, a Booksense, Publisher's Weekly, and NY Times best seller), Milam Propst (A Flower Blooms on Charlotte Street, which was made into a movie, "The Adventures of Ociee Nash," starring Mare Winningham and Keith Caradine), and Diane Z. Shore (Bus-A-Saurus Bop, How To Drive Your Sister Crazy"). I feel honored to be in these fine writers' company. This panel takes place in the Olde Towne Tavern & Grille.

At 4:00 pm, in Suwanee's Town Center Park, 370 Buford HIghway Northwest, Suwanee, GA 30024, I'll be presenting on my own on the Young Readers Stage. I'll talk about my debut children's middle grade novel, Gone From These Woods.

Barnes & Noble will have a bookfair at the Suwanee Festival of Books where you can purchase signed copies of GFTW, as well as books by other festival authors. Speaking of other festival authors, they include keynote, Terry Kay (To Dance With The White Dog, The Book of Marie), Philip Lee Williams (Campfire Boys and a new book, The Flower Seeker: An Epic Poem of William Bartram).

Other authors who will appear include: Deborah Wiles, Grady Thrasher and illustrator Elaine Rabon, Elizabeth Dulemba, Helen Ellis, Jackie Cooper, Jessica Handler, Laurel Snyder, Lauretta Hannon, Mark Braught, Mary Ann Rodman, Patricia Sprinkle, Rick Smith (also a keynote), Susan Rosson Spain, Vicki Alvear Shecter, and William Rawlings. Also in the Southern Breeze booth: Connie Fleming, Donna H. Bowman, Jo Kittinger, and Peggy Shaw. If you're interested in finding out more about the Society of Children's Book Writers and Book Illustrators, be sure to talk to Donna and Jo, our Southern Breeze Region co-advisors. Jo, Donna, Connie and Peggy also will have a selection of their own books for sale in their booth. For a complete list of authors, schedules, workshops, panels and other information, but sure to visit the festival website:

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

The dog days of August seem like a good time to stay inside and spiff up the Winterville Writer blog. I've added a new background, colors, and layout and there are new tabs near the top of the page that lead to brand new pages (that also need more work). Let me know what you think about these changes via the comment link and also tell me if you have suggestions for other changes and additions to the Winterville Writer blog.

Clicking on the Winterville tab will take you to the new page about Winterville, Georgia, the small town where I've lived for many years. One of the most exciting projects going on in our town right now is the renovation of the old high school and auditorium. We're still in the planning stages, but improvements and cleaning already have been done to both buildings. I've just added a new link on the Winterville page that will take you to the Winterville High School website where you can learn more about these community projects. Be sure to check out the great vintage photo of the first Winterville school.

In the coming weeks and months, I plan to write more about Winterville's history and about living in this small Southern town. Winterville is only about six miles from Athens, home of the University of Georgia, but those who live here will tell you that our town is a unique place to live.  I'll also be writing about books I'm reading, including new ones by my author friends. Be sure to subscribe and follow Winterville Writer so you won't miss this train.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

SCBWI MD/DE/WV Summer Conference in Maryland

Like most writers, I spend long hours in my home office, tapping on a keyboard in isolation. But every now and then I get to leave the computer and my current manuscript and my white cat, Casey, and venture out into the real world.

This past weekend was one of those "venture out" times. I just got back from spending three days in Maryland, in the towns of Frederick and Buckeystown. I flew Delta from the Atlanta airport and we landed in Baltimore about 3:45 Friday afternoon. Sue Poduska, member, and Naomi Wender-Milliner, Assistant Regional Advisor, of the SCBWI MD/DE/WV region greeted me at the Baltimore/WI airport, along with writer/teacher Teresa Crumpton.

Sue drove us all to the motel in Frederick and later that night we got to meet author Edith Hemingway, who also happens to be the Regional Advisor of this region of SCBWI, and other speakers at the conference, including authors and keynote speakers Margaret Peterson Haddix and Joyce McDonald, authors Bonnie Doerr, Marc Aronson, and Carolyn Reeder. Also Highlights for Children senior editor Debra Hess and art director Kelley Cunningham, plus author Carolyn Crimi, and author-bloggers Mary Bowman-Kruhm and Wendie Old. Also Karen Nelson, freelance art director and cover designer, and Louise May, VP and Editorial Director of Lee & Low Books, and agents Elana Roth and Stephen Fraser, fantasy author Amie Rose Rotruck, author Lois Szymanski, and Green Willow Books Assistant editor Michelle Corpora.

Michelle Poploff also was there. Michelle, who is VP and Editorial Director of Delacorte Press, a division of Random House Children's Books, and an author as well, just happens to be my editor and also is Edie Hemingway's editor. Our debut solo novels, Gone From These Woods and Road to Tater Hill, came out at almost the same time in 2009. For more information about Edie's book, which won a Parents' Choice Gold Award recently, visit her website. To read more about my book, click here.

This summer conference was held at The Claggett Center in Frederick County, Maryland. In addition to breathtaking mountains views out the windows, the conference center served delicious cafeteria food each day. I had never been to a SCBWI conference outside my own Southern Breeze region, so speaking at this Maryland/Delaware/West Virginia summer conference about my book, GFTW, and how I used inspiration from real life to create a fictional story with fictional characters and a setting taken from my own backyard and surrounds was a real treat for me.

One of the best things about traveling to Maryland for the first time and speaking at the conference was the opportunity to make new writer friends, including Kathleen Thompson, who lives in Birmingham, is a member of the Southern Breeze Region of SCBWI, and writes a charming blog called "Word Spinning by Kathleen." I also got to meet Patti Zelch, who has a new picture book out from Sylvan Dell Publishing called Ready, Set, Wait!

I also got to know Bonnie Doerr, author of the YA eco-novel, Island Sting, and enjoyed exchanging conversation and getting to know writers Teresa Crumpton and Gayle Payne, plus many more.

If you live in the SCBWI MD/DE/WV region and/or just want to read more about this regional writers and illustrators group, visit their great blog, As The Eraser Burns.

Thanks again to Edith Hemingway and everyone in this region for inviting me and hosting me this weekend. I enjoyed my trip up North and look forward to visiting again.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Appreciating Our Local Libraries as They Morph and Prevail

Sometimes when I go out and speak to kids and adults at schools and other events, I tell them how I became an avid reader and writer at age eight. I did this by reading lots of books, such as The Wizard of Oz, my childhood favorite, and by falling in love with my local library, the source of most of my reading material.

During my childhood days in Athens, Georgia, the Athens Regional Library was housed in the historic Stern House at the corner of Hancock and College Avenue, across from the Athens City Hall and the famous double-barreled cannon. This home was purchased and remodeled into our local library in 1947. I remember the building in the late 1950s and early 1960s as the hub of my reading world. One of the things I can recall most vividly about that building is the smell of books as I walked in. Then there were the sounds those wide wooden stairs made as I climbed them on my way to the second floor where the children's department awaited me. I read all of the books in the children's department in the Athens Regional Library of my childhood and I highly recommend that route to becoming an author.

Later, as an adult with young twins, I rediscovered the Athens Regional Library. It had moved to Dougherty Street by then. Today that building is the home of the Athens Clarke County Building Inspections and Permits Department, where my husband works. The first time I walked into his brick-walled office, I realized that he was working in the former fiction section of the library, an area where I had hung out for years before the library moved to its present location on Baxter Street.

One of the librarians who made a big impression on my children at Athens Regional Library was Jacqueline Elsner, or "Miss Jackie" as she was fondly called during her many years as Children's Librarian there. Jackie is now head of the Oconee County Library, but for many years, starting in 1979, the year my twins were born, she ran the children's department at ARL and was well-known all over Georgia and beyond as a gifted storyteller. Recently, I asked Jackie several questions about libraries. Her answers are below.

DS: In a few words, tell me why you choose librarian as a profession.

JE: I chose librarian as a profession because I really love people and books. Plus I was an English major, with no real job prospects besides waitressing. That's why I got my Masters in Library Science.

DS: What's the best thing about working in a library?

JE: Being around co-workers who love books and have a literate sense of humor, and helping people a lot with reading.

DS: What's the worse thing about working in a library?

JE: Dealing with inappropriate behavior of people as patrons, and as co-workers.

DS: Tell me what you think about the future of books and libraries.

JE: The future of books: the formats will change, but reading and the love of the word, first written, then spoken, will prevail. The future of libraries: we'll just have to morph with the times and the formats. And the lousy, inadequate funding.

I couldn't agree more with Jackie. And for the sake of future readers and writers, I hope she's right about libraries morphing and prevailing. We need libraries and librarians to nurture children and adults in this rapidly changing world we live in today. So by all means, appreciate your local library and the librarians there, and don't forget to urge your local and state government officials to fund these literary havens. Our future readers and writers are depending on you.


Wednesday, March 24, 2010

First Ever Northwest Georgia Valley Writers Conference a Great Success in Calhoun, GA

This past weekend, I enjoyed being part of the very first Northwest Georgia Valley Writers Conference in the Harris Arts Center in downtown Calhoun, Georgia. This new conference, organized by Gray Bridges, Literary Director of the Arts Center, featured a 90-minute writing workshop with author Terry Kay, during which he explained "The DNA of Writing: Reducing the Must-Know Requirements to 2 Issues," and another with author Rosemary Daniell, who told us "What Geniuses Know."

Other workshop leaders included poet Anne Webster, who also is the sister of Rosemary Daniell, Geri Taran, founder and former executive director of Georgia Writers Association, Bobbie Christmas, who is known as "The Book Doctor," and Fran Stewart, a freelance editor by day and a mystery writer by night.

Two panel discussions rounded out this conference. The first included Terry Kay, Tony Burton, Fran Stewart, Anne Webster and Geri Taran talking about the advantgages and disadvantages of publishing your book with Large Press, Small Press, or Self-Publishing. This panel was moderated by Wayne Minshew.

I participated in the second panel, entitled "Living the Writer's Life," moderated by Tony Burton. Other authors included Rosemary Daniell, Jimmy Blackmon, Fran Stewart, Bobbie Christmas and Geri Taran.

The Harris Arts Center is an impressive facilty. Housed in a former hotel building in the heart of downtown Calhoun, the center provides space for art, music and other classes for children and adults. Local artwork is displayed throughout the building. But one of the most interesting and unique features of the center is the Roland Hayes Museum.

Roland Hayes was the first African-American classical singer to have an international career on the concert stage. He was also a son of former slaves and was born in Gordon County in 1887. Initially compelled to arrange and promote his own concerts, Hayes eventually became the highest-paid tenor in the world, despite the racial barriers that often excluded African Americans from careers in classical music. He was named to the Georgia Music Hall of Fame in 1991.

If you'd like to learn more about the Harris Arts Center, visit their website: For information about future Nortwest Georgia Valley Writers Conferences, contact Gray Bridges,

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

SpringMingle 2010: What a Weekend!

What happens when 200 children's writers and illustrators gather in one place for a whole weekend? If the group includes award-winning author Jane Yolen, editors Cheryl Klein (Arthur A. Levine Books/Scholastic) and Meredith Mundy (Sterling Publishing), plus agent Josh Adams (Adams Literary), the result is literary magic!

In a time when some writers' conferences are struggling, our SCBWI Southern Breeze continues to thrive with top-notch conferences such as SpringMingle at the Atlanta Marriott Century Center. In addition to the headliners mentioned above, the conference included from Peachtree Publishers: Jessica Alexander, Editorial Assistant, Loraine Joyner, Art Director, Kenya and Kenyette Kilpatrick, Marketing. Also Peggy Shaw, a former senior editor for Dalmation Press and Intervisual Books.

A moving tribute to the late Liz Conrad, a much-loved and admired Southern Breezer who passed away last year was presented by Illustrator Coordinator, author, artist and best friend, Elizabeth Dulemba. This year Southern Breeze awarded scholarships in Liz's honor to artists Kristen Applebee and Jeremy Evans.

A highlight of this year's conference for me was the Book Launch. There were eight of us with new books within the past two years. I talked about my middle grade novel, Gone From These Woods, published August 25, 2009 by Delacorte Press/Random House. Other book launchers included Hester Bass, Doraine Bennett, Donna Bowman, Elizabeth Dulemba, Jennifer Jabaley, Irene Latham and Heather Montgomery. I feel very honored to be in the company of this talented group.

Other authors I enjoyed meeting and chatting with included Brad Strickland, who has a new book, Wicked Will, out under a pen name, Bailey MacDonald, and Kristin O'Donnell Tubb, whose book, Autumn Winifred Oliver Does Things Different was published in 2008 by Delacorte Press. Kristin lives in Tennessee and is very familiar with the Cleveland, Tennessee area where my mother and other family members live.

So what did the publishing experts tell us this weekend? As most of us already knew, the odds of getting published are daunting. Jane Yolen said that if you'd asked her 20 years ago if you needed an agent, she would have said maybe. Today she says yes. Agent Josh Adams said he receives 6,000 submissions a year and might take on six new authors.

On the other hand editor Cheryl Klein, who has edited Harry Potter books, said our job is to create stories and hers is to edit them and though things are changing rapidly in the world of publishing, she believes our jobs are still to create and edit. Editor Meredith Mundy, who has been laid off twice from publishing companies is now with Sterling Publishing, which is owned by Barnes and Noble, and still feels optimistic. They are all looking for "crunchy characters," "munchy" dialog, and high concept projects. They agree "quiet" is not being published these days. But Jane Yolen says quiet may be making a come back in children's literature. She also says "go armoured into the marketplace."

Overall, this was one of the best conferences I've ever attended. Here's a great big thank you to Jo Kittinger, Donna Bowman, Heather Montgomery, Heather Kolich and everyone who worked to make this SpringMingle a great success. My only problem was I didn't win the Joan Broerman book basket for my local library. But, hey, there's always next year.

Monday, February 15, 2010

From Spelling Bee to Josh and Tiffany or Writing is Rewriting

Now that my debut children's middle grade novel is published (Gone From These Woods, August 25, 2009, Random House/Delacorte Press), I'm often asked, "Are you writing another book?" I usually answer yes. And then they ask what it's about. And I usually say, "Two kids and a spelling bee." Next, they want to know when they can buy a copy. And if it's anything like GFTW and if the characters are like Daniel and, well, you get the picture, right?

For a very long time, this manuscript that I hope will be my next published book has been called Spelling Bee or some version of that name. These days the "spelling bee book" is called Josh and Tiffany, or Wild Josh and Tiffany Cool, depending on how I'm feeling that day. And oh my goodness, I'm still rewriting this middle grade novel . . . again and again. It's not that I'm such a perfectionist (ask my husband -- he'll quickly verify I'm not). My latest rewrite centers on making this book different from another Random House author's book that came out in 2008. Even though I had rewritten many drafts of my story long before she probably even thought of her idea, there were enough similarities to cause me to plunge into yet another rewrite. I'm also working on making this book equally Josh and Tiffany, rather than just mainly Josh. My first published book is considered a "boy's book." I like the idea of a book for boys and girls. So each kid in this book gets an equal part via alternating points of view. First you hear from Josh. Then you view the world through Tiffany's much different eyes. Hopefully this will make Tiffany a more interesting character.

So when will this latest rewrite be done? Don't know. But I hope it's soon. In my 20-plus years of writing fiction I've learned that most manuscripts (the ones written by me anyway) require a great deal of rewriting and they're simply done when they're done. I've set writing goals and at the moment I'm on track to reach the latest ones. So maybe Josh and Tiffany will walk out of my office, into the big, wide world soon and eventually hit the bookstores and libraries . . . and the Kindles and Nooks and iPads and such.

One of the things I look forward to after completing this latest Josh and Tiffany rewrite is starting a new book. I'm also excited about diving into my "to read" pile to catch up on some of my favorite authors' books. Look for my thoughts on recent novels, poetry and memoirs by Philip Lee Williams, Anne Webster, Linda Lee Harper, Lauretta Hannon, Amanda Gable, Edith Hemingway, Susan Rosson Spain, Ann Stamos (Judy Iakovou), Fran Slayton and many more in the coming weeks.

Oh, and one more thing: If you're a writer, how do you approach rewriting? I'd be interested to hear your rewriting comments and stories via the comment feature on this blog. How many rewrites do you go through? How do you feel about this process?

Now, it's back to the iMac for me. Josh and Tiffany are calling . . . again . . . in alternating but equal voices!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Manuscript Swap Shop, Sat., Jan. 23, 2010, 10 - 1

The picture shows a joint writers' group meeting in Washington, Georgia, in the 1990s. I'm on the front row, first left. Next to me is Elise Weston (author of Coastwatcher), Jackie Elsner (now head of the Oconee County Library), Gail Karwoski (author of nine books now, including Riverbeds, her latest). The back row shows Cathy Fishman (author of many books including Passover and On Sukkot and Sim Chat Torah), Bettye Stroud (author of The Patchwork Path and Down Home at Miss Dessa's, and several other books), Laurie Myers (author of Lewis and Clarke and Me and Co-author of My Dog, My Hero, with her mom, Newbery-winning author Betsy Byars, who is one of my all-time favorites, and sister Betsy Duffey), and Sherri Jones Rivers (owner of Mr. Frog and rhyme writer and author supreme). Our annual joint writers' group meetings in beautiful and historic Washington are a treat each summer and a writers' dream, since we meet in the Washington library and critique all day and most of the night!

Right now, I belong to two different writers' groups. One is presently called "Tuesday Writers" and is made up of several members of the Society of Children's Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI), a professional organization for published and aspiring writers of fiction and nonfiction for children and young adults. Tuesday Writers evolved from another writers' group, Powersurge Writers. And Powersurge Writers was the result of a merger between two other groups, Four at Five Writers and a writers' group that formed as a result of a social event in 1996 (what was the name of that group? I don't remember us calling ourselves anything but "the writers' group" back then.)

I've lost track of how many writers' groups I've belonged to over the years. The other writers' group I currently belong to is called Sub Rosa in the Shoals. It's an offshoot of author Rosemary Daniell's Zona Rosa. I'll write about ZR in a later post.

Today, I want to tell you about an event hosted by Tuesday Writers (and sponsored by SCBWI) on Saturday, January 23, 2010, from 10 AM to 1 PM, at the Oconee County Cultural Arts Foundation, OCAF, in Watkinsville, Georgia. We're calling this event a "manuscript swap shop." From 10 - 10:30 AM, we'll visit and catch up and exchange chit-chat about writing and such. After that, I'll speak about writing and publishing and will take questions. Then we'll break up into groups of no more than five and have a manuscript critique session.

Things you need to know about this event:

It's free!

You need to bring five copies of one manuscript, up to ten pages long. (We won't turn you away if you come without a manuscript, but you'll get more out of the swap shop if you bring a writing sample).

You don't have to register, but if you know for sure you'll be there, shoot me an email at, and let me know.

This swap shop is for writers of fiction and nonfiction for children and young adults. (We like writers of fiction and nonfiction for adults, too. But this event focuses on writers for children.)

You don't have to be a member of SCBWI to participate. If you're not a member and are interested in joining, we'll have info and membership applications available.

We'll have refreshments!

So come and join us on Saturday, January 23, 10 - 1, at OCAF.

Oh, by the way, the publication of my debut children's middle grade novel, GONE FROM THESE WOODS, is tied directly to my participation in writers' groups and SCBWI. During my 20 or so minutes of talk time at the Manuscript Swap Shop, I'll tell you all about these connections and how you can follow the same path. Disclaimer: There are no guarantees that you'll end up with a published book by attending this event. However, this is how I made it to published author. Join us on Jan. 23 at OCAF to learn more!