Friday, October 31, 2008

Inquiring Minds Want to Know…

“ I must know! How was the conference?”

Vikki Perry asked this of our google group regarding the 2008 SCWW Conference.

“I had a blast. Learned a lot! I definitely know for next time which sessions to go to and which to avoid. There were a couple I wish I would have attended and a couple I wish I hadn’t, but for the most part it was very enlightening. I got to hang out with James O. Born at the bar Saturday night and got hit on by Michael Connolly's publicist. Can't expect much more than that, right?”

Brian Butler

“Great. You would have loved it.”

Bonnie Stanard

“It was fantastic! And Meredith had orange cupcakes. We missed you!”

Leigh Stevenson

"Meredith and I worked the conference (free registration), so we missed some of the presenters and sessions, but at the same time we got a chance to mingle a little with agents and authors who we checked in at the registration desk, helped at the silent auction, or helped with their session.As for me, I had a chance to get to know Jeanne Leiby, editor of The Southern Review. She is a hoot! She also gave great tips on how to make your stories compelling and what she is looking for. Agent Jennifer Jackson gave some pointers on what to look for in finding the agent that's right for you -- very helpful! I saved extra handouts from her session for our next group gathering. A small press publisher, Charlotte Cook, who is looking for first-time authors/emerging writers did some fun interactive role playing to illustrate how to make your writing sing (she also told us only 2.75 percent of people who read also want to write, so 97.25% of readers do not want to write). I got some great feedback from an agent on my first three chapters -- she wants to see more!Meredith & I also had a chance to get to know folks from the other SCWW chapters -- what a fun group! Carrie McCullough will chair next year's program. They'll be looking for more volunteers (you get free registration, the complete package but not free room).”

Lisa Lopez

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Impressions of the 2008 SCWW Conference

By Laura P. Valtorta

Leaving the 2008 SC Writers Workshop conference, after downing the last glass of iced tea and listening to another New York agent, I felt inspired. The inspiration came first from my fellow writers at the conference. Bonnie, Janie, Beth, Lisa, Meredith, Mike, Ilmars, Alex, Leigh, and Jody. Compared to us, the keynote speakers were all little people. Rock on. Write on. And keep laughing it up.

Some of us think that Meredith could have a lucrative career as a stand-up comic.

The conference at the Hilton Plantation Inn was even better than last year. With succinct speakers and more meeting space for the 420 odd attendees. And I do mean odd. Michael Connelly had a point. We need to write like sharks. Keep moving forward.

Two highlights for me were agents Dave Forrer and Alexandra Machinist. They gave informative lectures and gentle critiques. Bonnie, Mike, Beth and I ate dinner on Saturday evening with Dave Forrer, who was generous enough to answer hundreds of questions and treat everyone at the table with interest and respect.

The tribute to Carrie Allen McCray, from one of the little people, made us wish Carrie was still with us.

As for Lee Goldberg: I don't believe he really has a French wife.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

T.I.N.A The Challengers

By Bryce H. Smith

Taurus Research Systems, Inc., a specialty aero mapping company that is just getting by is owned by two brothers, ‘Safari’ and Jack Smith. For years while in college, these two sought the ‘Holy Grail’ of computing, a truly uncrackable computer encryption code. Safari receives a degree in computer science, just as they make their breakthrough, and heads to Japan for active duty as an officer in the United States Air Force where he works alongside National Security Administration (NSA) employees.

Meanwhile, Jack marries Sue, who graduated at the same time as Safari having earned a business degree. Together with Jack, she makes the mapping business thrive. With Jack’s somewhat suspect death in an automobile, Sue becomes president.

Alerted by his contacts in the FBI, NSA, CIA, KGB, and others of the uncrackable communications between Taurus and Japan, Roland Dees suddenly starts giving Taurus Research more mapping contracts than they can handle, to get his foot in their door.

Mr. Dees, a well known international arms dealer, wants a fool proof system to communicate business transactions between all his friendly contacts, buyers, and of course terrorists.

When Safari returns with his active service time complete, he is faced with the dilemma of having his sister-in-law, Sue, as CEO of the company he was the driving force in founding. Before the pending showdown between these two over control of Taurus, Roland Dees summons both of them to his Rocky Mountain retreat, a secret presidential cavern complex under construction.

In true gangster style he makes the two an offer they cannot refuse, and introduces them to the Wizard, his enforcer. He is sure Sue is lying to him when she claims no knowledge of a secret code. Safari however smiles and says, “Let’s talk about it.” Sue sees the company she had spent so much time building with her deceased husband slipping like sand through her fingers.

Roland Dees ends up marketing the resulting T.I.N.A. system to his best customers; politicians, heads of state, CEOs and stock manipulators eager to own these notebook computers. Little does he know that one group Americans he sold 50 T.I.N.A. computers to is planning the “Mother of All Terrorist Attacks.”

If not stopped, their assault on the core of American political and business leadership will result in the death of 3 million Americans and the splitting of the United States into three separate countries. The only thing standing between them and success is a deeply embedded undercover agent of the NSA, Safari Smith.

Sunday, October 19, 2008


By DiAna DiAna and Vikki Perry

The Question
I'm revising a slave's story and recently read in the NYT's Book Review about the maelstrom that surrounded William Styron's publishing The Confessions of Nat Turner (1968). What I got from the article is that whites can't understand the slave's life, and for one to try to write about it is insulting African Americans. I don't know what to think about that. —Bonnie Stanard

I agree that it would be almost impossible to write as a black person without living the black experience and being black. Maybe a focus group on cultural sensitivity would help people to understand the "other side." This could also help in writing and style and connecting with your audience.

One person who pulled this off was James Patterson with his Alex Cross character. In reading his books, I was impressed that he “got it." But, I don't know how he got it, but he did.

If you say that a white author can't write well from an African American perspective, does that mean conversely that an African American can't write well from a white perspective? I think writers can cross the cultural divide successfully if they navigate the waters very carefully.

There are a number of authors (in addition to Patterson) who have crossed the cultural divide and seemed to do it well. Three that I can think of are: Suzanne Brockmann, a New York Times bestselling author who is white and has written from an African American perspective; Brenda Jackson, a bestselling author and African American, who has written from a white perspective; and I don't remember the name of the white writer at the SC Book Festival last year who won a Newberry Prize for her children's book about an African American Little League team in the Jim Crow South.

I write from the male perspective occasionally, and when I bring my stuff to workshop for critique, I hope the group tells me where I'm going wrong and how to make my character more real. With one story, you told me that my 13 year-old boy should be a 13 year-old girl. That is honest and exactly the type of critique I look for.

Perhaps the same applies to writing from a different culture's perspective. Find people from that culture who will react honestly and tell you how to improve. Maybe this is where cultural sensitivity training comes in. Understanding how and what other groups think can only improve our writing.

I want my writing to reflect the real world (at least somewhat, since I like to write about supernatural beings) and it can’t do that unless I include people of other cultures. When I was writing my paranormal for the first time (I'm on my second version), a sexy male immortal witch, who happened to be African American, appeared unexpectedly in my story. I had to cut him because he was subverting my heroine, the vampire queen (she liked him too much), and she had to be the vampire hunter for the purposes of my story. I'm thinking that he is going to hook up with a merperson, but I'm not sure yet. I would be disappointed if I couldn't attempt to write his story.

My comments were based on past experiences with other groups where individuals spoke up for people they knew little or nothing about. For instance, in an AIDS focus group, a white woman volunteered to represent the black, gay male perspective. I asked her what part of the black, gay male experience she could relate to. Was she black? Well, no. Was she a gay male? Well, no. And I asked her, "What part of the experience are you comfortable identifying with?” Naturally the discussion was wide open since the group had several white people who wanted to represent not only black, gay males, but Asians and Hispanics, with no point of reference to their experience or culture. We found this offensive and insensitive and presumptuous.

If Patterson can write about blacks, so can others. My point is that when you bridge cultures, you can not judge your success with your own peers. Since this is a writer's group, it might be nice to give yourself an edge and expose yourself to how others feel. My comments are for blacks who write as whites, as well as whites who write about being black.

I am of mixed cultures, but even with this birthright, I will never be black enough or Hispanic enough to fully speak up for either. And since I was raised in a town that was mostly white, my cultural exposure is very mixed and limited. I can probably relate to whites more than my own races.

Since my grandfather came to this country unwillingly, my thoughts may be different from those who owned him. You can't see something from another person's point of view and live through what they lived through. You can only write about what you think it was like, and that is what some people might find offensive.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Moonlight and Magnolias

By Vikki Perry

I know that I need to learn more about writing. I know that I will never learn all there is to know about writing. I know that my work will never be perfect.

I just used a rhetoric device called anaphora. Anaphora is emphasizing words by repeating them at the beginning of neighboring clauses; and I discovered it at Moonlight and Magnolias, a writers conference in Atlanta that is put on by the Georgia Romance Writers. I learned so much this weekend.

Friday Morning: Pitch Workshop – The pitch workshop was designed to allow you to practice your pitch before the agent and editor appointments begin.

Friday Afternoon: Intensive Workshop with Margie Lawson – Margie has created the most awesome system for analyzing and editing your own fiction.

Friday Evening: Plotting workshop – This may have been my favorite workshop of the conference. Three wonderful members of GRW showed us three different plotting techniques: collaging, clustering, and storyboarding. Collaging is taking pictures and words from magazines and arranging them on a large piece of paper until you have an idea. This would be great to use during those times when the idea well has run dry. The second method is clustering. Clustering is writing an idea in the middle of a page and webbing out from that idea, never letting your writing utensil stop moving. This is what I do, and it works! The third method is storyboarding and is borrowed from the moviemakers. By drawing pictures of key scenes and writing a short blurb underneath each one, you are able to write and visualize your story.

Saturday Morning Workshop: Deep Edits with Margie Lawson – Margie talked about using rhetoric devices to punch up your fiction.

Saturday Morning Workshop: The Hero’s Journey – This class was based heavily on the book, The Writer’s Journey by Christopher Vogler. It outlined a 12-stage framework that can be used when creating any story.

Saturday Morning Workshop: Why Gone with the Wind Wasn’t Set in Poughkeepsie. (What a great title!) The instructors talked about how sensory details can add to your story and how where you set the story can impact the plot.

Saturday Luncheon: The keynote speaker was Teresa Medieros, one of my all time favorite writers. I don’t remember the exact title of the speech, but I remember that it was really funny.

Saturday Afternoon Workshop: Revisions –The speaker reminded us that the goal is to get published and that it is ok to make changes to your story based on editor’s comments.

Saturday Afternoon Workshop: Backstory – The presenter talked about how information dumps were bad and how to “show” your backstory instead of “tell” your backstory.

Saturday Evening: The Maggies – Moonlight and Magnolias invited unpublished RWA members to submit manuscripts to be judged by agents and editors. On Saturday evening, they held an awards ceremony. It was fun, and I will submit next year.

Sunday Morning: Cold Reads – Two of the most informative hours of the conference because agents and editors gave their unfiltered reaction to query letters, synopsizes, and the first few pages of novels. Their comments were somewhat brutal, but we got insight into the brains of the people that we want to buy our novels and that is priceless.

Next year, I plan to return to M & M and take full advantage of all the opportunities that are offered.

Thursday, October 9, 2008


Meet A New Writer


Deborah is the Director of Turning Pages (, a non-profit program that helps adults improve their reading skills. She serves on the National Governance Council of ProLiteracy, the world's largest literacy organization ( She has been published in Reach Out Columbia and in a number of professional journals related to adult literacy.


Meet A New Writer


I'm Tiem (pronounced “T.M.”). I am a Children's/Young Adult author, specializing in picture books and middle grade novels. In my other life, I am a lab rat. While I have always enjoyed my career in the field of biology, writing has been a long slumbering passion just waiting to be awakened. Now, my life is like a sponge, soaking up all the sights, sounds, & smells and digging for exciting plots. To add to the excitement, I also host a youth book club. The group offers very fascinating and insighful discussions. Our first book was Heaven by Angela Johnson.

But my life doesn't stop there. As a single mom of two (one boy, one girl - a complete set) I also wear the hat of storyteller. Every Friday I spend the morning reading books with my daughter's class. Their absolute favorite: Precious and the Boo Hag by Patricia McKissack & Onawumi Jean Moss.

And even after all that…I still try to find any unused time to complete at least one page of scrapbooking. Finally finished the “ABC's of a Grandma” scrapbook in under three years. Hooray!!!

LivLuvLaf & Write

P.S. check out my website:

Monday, October 6, 2008

My Memoir

By Deborah Wright Yoho

Why would somebody like me want to write a memoir? After all, I don’t have any progeny who might be interested in the details of my life story. Neither am I ready, at age 57, to succumb to the luxury of spending hours in blissful nostalgia for the good ‘ol days.

My good ‘ol days weren’t so great anyway. Yet after forty years, my mind still ponders the significance of just 24 months.

In 1967, I found myself living in the closest proximity to the Vietnam War that was possible for an American of my age and gender. I was sixteen, the daughter of a military career man, a baby boomer whose brothers were slightly too young for the draft. Not that Dad spent any time in Vietnam. Instead we were stationed at a huge Air Force base in the Philippines.

The memories are disturbingly vivid: a roaring flight line clogged 24/7 with screaming jets; the coffins loaded each day onto the C-141 Starlifters; the time I was in the emergency room at the hospital with a North Vietnamese prisoner under heavy guard on the gurney next to me; the nurses who came to our school weekly to line up anyone over 17 they could coax into giving blood; the painful cholera shots we endured every six months.

Most of all, I remember the young, lonely airmen who hung out at the base swimming pool when they were off duty to talk to any American girls willing to listen to them. Eventually, I married one of those airman.

These were the years I learned about sex, death, the power of unquestioned authority, and the disconcerting embarrassment of living in an underdeveloped country. By the time I returned to the States to attend college, I was no longer an American teenager but a citizen of the world.

Perhaps the experience seems worth writing about because I believe this country has never come to terms with the shadow of 50,000 lives squandered in a lost cause. Not only I, but an entire country seems confused, struggling to identify and affirm basic values we once held to be uniquely American. Vietnam was the watershed.

Much has been offered about those days by politicians, retired generals, disillusioned veterans, Hollywood producers and cynical professors on college campuses. What might be learned through the eyes of a 16-year-old girl?