Sunday, April 25, 2010

Is It an Autobiography?

By Tiem Wilson

Have you ever read a novel and asked yourself: is this a real-life experience for the author? When you read about certain tragedies in a story do you find yourself wondering how much of it is a first-hand account? In your own writing, how much of yourself can you see reflected in the characters?

In a recent conversation with my nephew, this question was asked in reference to Blair Underwood, actor-turned-author. Underwood currently has two published novels featuring the character Tennyson Hardwick. Hardwick is a struggling actor. Thus, we pondered how much of Hardwick’s life is mirrored from Underwood’s own close encounters?

The same question was posed to Eric Jerome Dickey when he penned Between Lovers. It is a heart-felt story of a now bestselling author confronting the woman who left him at the altar early on in his career. The experience is so compelling you truly feel it is Dickey’s own broken heart bleeding on those pages. Based on the love scenes in all of his novels, my girlfriends and I have had many wine-induced conversations about the kind of lover Dickey must be in real life. We wondered when would he have time to write?

More recently, this question was answered by author Alice Sebold. I just finished listening to a production of The Lovely Bones on audiobook. In the author interview, Sebold revealed there is a common thread shared between herself and the main character, Susie. Sebold professed she was a rape victim at age 18. Although she obviously lived through her ordeal, she admited that a lot of herself came out as Susie’s character began to take form.

I have tried to pen an experience for a novel. I never get too far as I realize my life, at times, is quite boring. Therefore, I stick to characters that have exciting experiences I only dream of. It has been said that everyone has a story to tell. The quest then becomes turning that story into a never ending journey to pass down through the generations.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

The Latest Addition

Meet a New Writer


Jessica Robison teaches English in a local high school. Always an
obsessive reader, Jessica has recently channeled her creative energy
into writing a young adult Sci-Fi novel as well as numerous salacious rap lyrics. She plans to retire young after winning the lottery and/or tricking a wealthy man into marrying her.

Jessica's first entry follows.

Tips to Stay Hip While Writing

By Jessica Robison

Some people are writers. Some people are cool. Then there are the elite few that manage to write and be cool at the same time. Luckily, I’m one of the latter. Most of us are not born that way, but with a few tips and a lot of practice this skillset can be learned. Let me be clear: you too can be a cool writer.

1. The gear: The cool kids wear sunglasses at night. Cool
writers wear sunglasses while writing, even while in dark rooms, and
especially at night.

2. The locale: Most writers default to coffee shops to focus and
get a dose of caffeine. Lame. If you want to be a cool writer, take
that notebook or laptop and head to a bar with good dance music. Don’t
forget your sunglasses.

3. The groupies: Ditch your old friends and fellow-writers. If you
want to be cool, you have to work for it. Surround yourself with people
significantly younger than you are who don’t make much sense. It’s a
plus if they are good-looking.

4. The lines: If you’re truly going to follow your dream to be a
cool writer, you have to talk the talk. Integrate any of the following
phrases into conversation: “The other night while I was writing,” or “My
writing group said,” or even, “Oh, that’s my agent on the phone. I’d
better take this.” Constantly bragging to everyone you know is sure to
impress them with your overwhelming coolness. And men, ladies love

5. The beverage: Put aside those lattes and protein shakes. Cool
writers are all heavy alcohol drinkers. So brush off that flask, pull
out that bottle, and forget moderation!

I hope these systematic tips help those of you who are interested in
becoming cool writers. It’s not for everyone, since it’s such a
specialized calling, but if you’re feeling that tug of desire in your
heart–that small voice saying, “I want that”–then this blog is for

You’re welcome and Cheers!

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Within Driving Distance, Conferences

By Bonnie Stanard

A good conference does more than remind us of the dos and don’ts of writing—it inspires us to renew our writing efforts. I dream of attending conferences in places like Mallorca or Italy. However, the list I’ve compiled of those closer to home is no dream. My expectation is that at some point in time I’ll send in my registration, write the check, and make the trips.

The SC Writers Workshop’s conference is one I usually attend. This year it will be held October 22-24 at Myrtle Beach and is one of the most professional and popular conferences in the area.

On occasion I have attended Sandhills Writers Conference, held in the spring at Augusta State University in Georgia. This conference describes itself as a gathering of authors, agents, and editors, though my experience has been that authors make most of the presentations. This isn’t a workshop format, but it provides a congenial atmosphere in which writers have a chance to meet and exchange ideas. The program may be really good or not, depending on the talents of the authors making the presentations. Housing is not provided, so attendees must find hotel rooms on their own. (

I have also attended the Hub City Writers Project held in the summer at Wofford College in Spartanburg. Claire Bateman conducted the poetry workshop I attended and it was terrific. We were housed in one of the dorms at very reasonable rates. Every year I think I’ll return, but inevitably there’s a conflict with my calendar. This year it will be held July 30-August 1 and features writer Elizabeth Berg. (

The Foothills Writers Guild’s conference has come and gone this year, and I didn’t go, not because I didn’t want to. For 21 years the Guild has sponsored a workshop at Anderson University in the spring (March 26-27 this year). I would like to have heard Jane Friedman’s ideas about the “Five Most Important Things About the Future of Publishing.” (

Another writing event that has been around for a long time and which I have on my list is the Southeastern Writers Association’s annual workshop. It will be held June 20-24 at Epworth By The Sea, St. Simons Island, GA. The topic will be "Writers Helping Writers.” They’re on the web at

What looks like a day packed with writer information is the Carolinas Writers Conference, upcoming on April 17 at Wadesboro, NC. Michael Malone, a writer of literary reviews, novels, short stories, plays, and scripts for television, is the featured guest. I’ll miss this year’s conference, but I hope to attend sometime if not next year. See more information at

I’ve had my eye on a couple of workshops in the North Carolina mountains—Wildacres ( and John C. Campbell Folk School ( Both of these are week-long residential workshops.

There are other workshops and conferences in our area but these are the ones I’ve been watching with the hope of one day attending. You can find others listed at and

The last three addresses are not live links. Please copy and paste them into your browser window. Apologies for the inconvenience.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

From Idea to Novel

By Mike Long

A lot of people have asked why a stockbroker in South Carolina would chose to write fiction about Texans in the Civil War. Well, OK, two people asked, and only one of them really cared, but it still forced me to think about the question.

The catalyst for my novel, No Good Like It Is, was an article on Terry’s Texas Rangers in Blackpowder Annual Magazine from Dixie Gun Works. Doing more research, I learned that the Rangers performed both the first and the final cavalry charges of the Army of Tennessee, and tried to stop the slaughter of Negro prisoners at Fort Pillow. I was hooked.

The story came together quickly. I put a couple of fictional characters into the Eighth Texas Cavalry, took them through the war in Book One, and followed their trip home in Book Two. Sort of like Butch and Sundance enroute to Cold Mountain.

The draft took about six months to finish. It drove me. Made my wife and office partners crazy. I’d wake up at 2 AM and have to get up and write; next day, made everyone listen to what I wrote. I don’t type; I hired a medical transcription service to get my scribbling from my legal pads into the computer.

In the two years after that I polished it and tried to get it published, or at least agented. I did everything backwards. I wrote the novel, then bought “How-to” books and joined our workshop, but I might have never finished it had I done it the other way around.

I’ve had almost no luck with agents or publishers. As a novice, you find that agents send you form-letter rejections (unless you’ve already published something), and publishers don’t even respond unless you have an agent (and have published something). Most traditional publishers won’t even accept a query except from an agent. They’re swamped. What a great system.

The exception for me was an acquisition editor at Oklahoma University Press who read the whole manuscript. He explained why he couldn’t accept it, and then encouraged me to try several other publishers by name, even gave me some contacts, and said he thought the work should be published. Nicest rejection I’ve ever received.

If you ever wake up and want to be a writer of Western fiction, roll over and go back to sleep. If that doesn’t work, add a heavy dose of history and change your genre to Historical Fiction. Or join the Western Writers Association and network through them. You can also sell your un-published book through Kindle. Trust me – the folks in Manhattan have never heard of Lonesome Dove, Open Range, 3:10 To Yuma, Last Stand At Saber River, Appaloosa, Broken Trail, Hondo, Valdez Is Coming, Hombre, Will Penny, The Missouri Breaks. They might know the authors.

So, read, write for fun, enter contests, join a writers’ group, get an editor, go to book festivals, research, keep your day job. Forget about Manhattan. It’s a figment of our imagination.