Sunday, November 30, 2014

Updated Bio


Janie lives with her husband and daughter in Columbia, South Carolina, where she has enjoyed the camaraderie and critiques of the South Carolina Writer's Workshop since 2006. Her writing has appeared in The Petigru Review and South Carolina Architecture.

Reflections on WRITING PAST DARK

By Janie Kronk

Bonnie Friedman's Writing Past Dark is not a new book. It was published 20 years ago, but its content remains fresh and relevant. The book is a writing guide offering little actual guidance – no ‘how-to’ on plot, character, or dialogue. No tips on technique. That isn't the point. In the author's words, the book is conceived as a companion, a "friend departing in the opposite direction who [you] can anticipate meeting in the middle" on the otherwise solitary journey of writing.

The book is organized into eight essays, each a manageable size for digestion in one sitting, about the "emotional" side of the writing life. The essays deal in turn with envy, distraction, hurt feelings, writing school, judgment, meaning, writer's block, and success.

Throughout, Friedman presents writing as a slow-developing process that begins on the inside--one that starts with a love of the process rather than hopes for any particular outcome. Preoccupations with success are external distractions that only get in the way. In The Wild Yellow Circling Beast, Friedman speaks of not being able to write until all thoughts have been separated from outside authority. She describes writing as happening in a place "like a chamber that registers the images of a photograph, and which must be kept dark for the picture to be captured."

Friedman also addresses internal judgment. "[O]ur obsession with perfection [makes] us mute," she says in Message From a Cloud of Flies. In Anorexia of Language, she further suggests that a reluctance to write may actually be a reluctance to destroy the beautiful vision in one's mind by putting it on paper, where it will be imperfect. Writers must set this "non-book" in their head aside and allow imperfection in the real book in order to move forward.

Finding meaning in all this work is a topic that weaves its way through the book. In The Story's Body, Friedman builds a case that there is no need to insert "hidden meaning" into a story. Because the world is "imbued" with meaning, to write about this world (and the things in it as perceived with the five senses) will naturally give rise to meaning. In other words, writers don't create meaning; they communicate meaning that is already present in the world. "I saw books milked the world," Friedman says in The Paraffin Density of Wax Wings. A writer's task is to find "the optimal arrangement of words to convey the most meaning possible."

Writing After Dark does not offer technical insight on how to find this optimal arrangement of words. There are other books for that. What this book does do, in often beautiful language embroidered with insight, is encourage us to live well and to write with abandon. And, through writing, to "heal the rift between the hours we've lived through and the authoritarian grid of language."

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Managing the Rejection: Knowing When NOT to Say When

By Len Lawson

I submitted a poetry manuscript to a highly coveted university press. Six months later I received its response: a rejection. However, within that six months, I was not clutching my cheeks in front of my computer every day waiting for an email from the publisher. I wrote more poems and perfected my craft, so I resubmitted to them an updated manuscript in a reply email . We'll meet back in another six months to see how this turns out...

Rejection will always be a part of the writer's existence. Unfortunately, it is like a continual pain in the body that has to be managed effectively. Otherwise, the body, or in this case the writer, will double over in agony with every hurt.

Here are some tips to counter the sting of rejection from publishers and editors:

1. Don't take it personally. Rejection from a publisher or editor is NOT an indictment on a writer's character or personality. I try to place myself in the shoes of these individuals. Publishers and editors receive hundreds to thousands of manuscripts annually on a continual basis. Their challenge is to choose works that either fit their style or that they feel represents their entity the best. It's almost like a lottery where one or a few manuscripts are chosen from many selections that actually have merit. The ratios are really pathetic when we stop to think about it. They do their best to select their own opinion of merit. In other words, it's not us; it's them.

2. Resubmit. Most publishers/editors will allow us to submit a new manuscript within a reasonable amount of time. I recall recently when I submitted a poem to an online journal, and the editor rejected it. I quickly replied to their rejection with more poems I had written during their selection period. Ultimately, the editor chose two of the new poems I submitted. Unless there is a limit on submissions for a single writer, continue to seek what the publisher/editor is looking for by resubmitting. I tend to use a "three-strikes rule" when resubmitting. After the third rejection, I may get the picture that my stuff is not what they want (...or I may not...).

3. Keep writing and submitting during the selection period. Do not, as the saying goes, place all the eggs in one basket. Most publishers/editors will allow writers to have simultaneous submissions, which means that writers can still submit one work to many presses at the same time. However, if the work is accepted, then the other presses should be notified (it's like reverse rejection!).One publisher/editor is not, as they say, the only game in town. We should not simply await our fate in the publisher's/editor's  hands. We are the writers. We have the talent. We should not be afraid to share our work with multiple sources. We are worth it!

This writer's/poet's life is the way of rejection which is why most people quit in a short period of time. The key is to NEVER GIVE UP. In search for publication,  we become more like explorers or hunters in search of the editors and publishers that "get" our work. When we find them, it's like that great archaeological discovery or like striking oil or gold. Then, after we do, the best writers become addicted to it and search for more: more publications, more audiences,  more readers, more hearts and minds that surge with our words. Let's go exploring,  friends! The spoils are ours for the taking!

Sunday, November 16, 2014


By Mike Long 

So, after my last blog on my love of writers’ conferences, I should offer an update for some balance. Mary and I recently returned from three days in Eureka Springs, AR, participating in the Ozark Creative Writers Conference. It did not go exactly as planned.

There were four primary reasons we attended, aside from the facts that we'd never been to northwestern Arkansas and it was Fall in the Ozarks; good reasons by themselves, and those good reasons saved the trip for us.

The things we were really looking forward to were: 
(A) the release of my third novel, Higher Ground, by High Hill Press (conference host)
(B) meeting screenwriter/author Robert Knott and maybe pushing my books at him 
(C) seeing Tiffany Schofield, Acquisitions Editor, Five Star/ Cengage, who was bringing contracts to publish my two novels as hardcover large-print editions for the library market
(D) having Gary Goldstein (Kensington Press) give my fourth novel a "NY look"

None of those things happened.

The day prior to the conference, Louella Turner of High Hill Press emailed that Higher Ground wasn't ready for print; she assured me that it would be out by 30 November and therefore available for contest consideration by year end. I didn't nail her down on which year exactly.

Robert Knott, Tiffany Schofield, and Gary Goldstein were no-shows. Seems the Fall is a great time for funerals. Delta, World's Largest Non-Scheduled Airline, added to the fun.

Nevertheless, we had a great time. The region and town were quaint and colorful, and the weather was perfect, except for the persistent rain. Many friends from the Western Writers of America were there and that fellowship suppressed any disappointment. I'd grabbed the last suite at the conference center, so lots of folks found their way to our unit after each night's Happy Hour/Dinner. Talk about fellowship. Most left by two AM, and all left before Mary left me. Award-winning authors Dale Jackson, Brett Cogburn, and Johnny D. Boggs were there and helped me with the liquor.

Our featured speaker was Jeff Guinn and he was delightful. Author of much nonfiction, he has best-sellers on Charles Manson, Wyatt Earp, and Bonnie and Clyde; we are reading them now.

In short, we made lemonade out of castor oil, or maybe vice versa. We still like conferences but have slightly reduced our expectations.

Sunday, November 9, 2014


 By Fred Fields

To my mind, there are two types of writers, those who write for their own pleasure, and those who want to be read and to sell books.

This blog post is for the latter group.

When we were in school, our teachers had to read whatever we wrote. God bless them. That was probably true suffering, considering many of the essays they were forced to grade.

Nobody has to read what we write today. In fact, for us to be successful, our readers must find us, be spurred to interest, and be inspired to buy. That's right, they must be induced to pay for the privilege of reading what we have written.

For us to motivate a reader's investment, we should consider what people would like to read. What kind of fiction is selling? In whose biography might they be interested? What would they like to learn?

More than that, we must encourage the potential reader to believe that he or she will enjoy what we have written. This can be difficult. A book written by Stephen King offers some idea of its quality. A book written by Regina Farina, not so much. Nobody ever heard of Ms. Farina nor have they read any of her output.

My suggestions for getting people to buy your books:
          A. Pick a subject or a genre of interest to a large segment of the population
          B. Title your epic with an attention grabbing-name
         C. Write with a style that is easy to enjoy with good dialog, real movement of the                story, and clever, intelligent, even funny stories and observations
          D. Learn how to market your efforts to be found by the largest possible segment                 of the population.

Most important of all, know the specific audience you are targeting.

It's fine to write for your own enjoyment, but not necessarily profitable.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

2014 SCWW Conference: What a Treat!

By Jodie Cain Smith
It was that time of year again, that magical season when one hundred or so writers gather with a select faculty to geek out about the craft of writing for two and half straight days at Myrtle Beach.  And the 2014 South Carolina Writers’ Workshop did not disappoint.

But first, bring on the usual conference trappings. 

I am now properly carb-loaded for a marathon thanks to the mass catering proteins with all the flavor and texture of wet cardboard. Too bad I don’t run.  Or eat fish off of a buffet. 

The hotel had its annoyances, put in place to remind us that Dorothy was right, “There’s no place like home.”  My room phone was possessed by the devil and rang throughout night one until I ripped it from the wall.  O.K., so maybe I merely unplugged it, but I did so with gusto after learning the importance of tension in my Friday session. 

And of course, the class hijackers were in full swing, ready and waiting to commandeer a session.  Yes, I know he knows everything there is to know about computers and the Internet and blogging and she re-reads Edgar Allen Poe’s complete works before bed each night, but for the love of Pete, I paid to hear the actual expert speak!

Now, for the good stuff, the classes! 

My fears of being bored, maddened, and humiliated were unfounded.  Although the class topics were familiar, the information was not. 

Scott Lax’s character development offered insight into the mind of a successful author and his process.  The marketing class, Promoting Yourself:  It’s a DIY World taught by the delightful Barabara Claypole-White, offered fresh ideas and practical, realistic solutions.  In The 12 Dos & Don’ts of Crime Writing Ann Collette taught me to keep it real, keep it simple, and keep it moving.  I wish I had met Joan Edwards, instructor of How to Add Pizzazz to Your Blog, two years ago when I first started my blog.  I want to wrap her in a bear hug for the information she relayed to me regarding controlling spam, finding free photos, and creating usable content.  But I won’t grab her while yelling, “Thank you! Thank you!  Thank you!”  She seemed rather shy, and I wouldn’t want to discourage her from teaching strangers again.  Finally, the last panel, Discover the Depth in Your Writing, led by Aurelia Sands provoked more deep thought with questions such as “Does my character like mayonnaise?” and the suggestion to take a personality test as my character in order to understand her better. 

Clearly, I had a lot to learn and much more work to do, but by noon on Sunday, I felt energized and up to the challenge.  That energy, that desire to conquer the world, is the best takeaway from a conference like this.  After all the networking and note taking, the exchange of ideas and business cards, I now feel I have a huge community of writers and industry professionals pulling for me, hoping for my success.  And that is the cherry on my conference sundae.