Sunday, September 27, 2015

Finding Terminal Stories

By Kasie Whitener

The strangest thing happened last week as I traveled to and from Denver and then to and from Northern Virginia. My fingers began to itch.

Everything in the airport concourse made me want to write: all those colorful bags, rushing late-runners, wide-eyed children and distracted business people.

There’s so much motion in an airport.

I watched the different gaits, walks, swaggers, and charges of the passersby. I listed as many adjectives as I could. What was the posture like? What about the pace?

Was this person excited? Like my friend Kevin who felt so proud of himself for purchasing a book in the bookstore that he strode through the Toronto airport like a deep-thinking scholar?

Was this person frightened? Like the soldier in Japan who was headed home from the Philippines to his father whose motorcycle-wreck-coma may have already ended in death?

Did he cover ground swiftly in paces that are self-assured and oblivious to surrounding traffic?

Did she stagger under the weight of the carry-on, the diaper bag, the baby seat, and the stroller push?

I’ve always written when I travel.

There’s something so irresistibly universal about the experience of airports. We’re all at the mercy of the elements: weather, airlines, security, geography, one another.

There are so many stories in airports: where are you going? Where have you been? Ever had to wait this long? How many times has your gate changed? How many hours have you been delayed?

I love the anonymity of the airport where you are simultaneously one of a million stories that are all the same and also part of a unique experience unfolding as you live it.

I stepped off the plane in Honolulu and my phone lit up with text messages. My Nana had died.

I curled up on the floor under a Delta blanket in Atlanta when we were the last flight canceled and stranded at the terminal under a heavy snowstorm.

I put back two extra shots of tequila in Detroit with another South Carolinian I’d met two hours earlier before racing to the gate bound for Amsterdam.

I watched as the lady next to me in Philly cleaned up her spilled wine when the iPad cleverly propped up in front of her fell over and soaked her and all of her belongings.

There’s a beautiful artistry to the mechanics of an airport. The design of the operation: bags and ticketing and planes taking off and landing. There’s also a clunky human element that makes everyone roll their eyes.

Our flight attendant from Dallas to Columbia actually called all of our names off the printed roster, like the first day of school, to figure out who was on the over-booked plane that shouldn’t be.

In all of it I find inspiration. The human condition: emotions, filth, exhaustion, anxiety. The imperfections of love, family, citizenry, and civility. It’s all write-able.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Bad Writing: A Good Relationship Gone Badly

By Kimberly Johnson

 Taylor Swifts anthem, "Bad Blood," weaves a tale of a good relationship gone badly. "Cause baby now we got bad blood. You know it used to be mad love. So take a look at what you've done. 'Cause baby now we got bad blood’”

That same sentiment can be applied to bad writing. You used to love to write; but now you and the keyboard are no longer friends. You dont want it to end. So, you and the keyboard pray that you can make it click-one last time.

Ill admit it. I have authored some bad articles. I loved being a newspaper reporter. I entered into relationships with city council members, with school teachers, with law enforcement, with business leadersyou get the picture.

The good connections produced good writing. The not-so-good-get-togethers produced ho-hum articles. Bad (blood) writing can creep into any (writing) relationship.

In my case, bad writing entered the picture because I was bored. Looking back, I now describe my badness as an unsuccessful attempt to capture an audience without focusing on the content.

For example, I wrote an article about a small town council meeting's swearing-in ceremony. For the residents, this was an important event. For me, this was not important. My writing conveyed my feelings: long sentences, passive voice, lack of description words, starting the lead sentence with The. But, hey, the editor used my pictures.

I think advice writer Mark Nichol highlighted what really is bad writing, true bad blood. It's called poor writing--a lazy way to communicate with limp verbs, dangling participles and passive construction. 

So do you have bad blood?

"(Hey) now we got problems. And I don't think we can solve them." 

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Destroying the Profession of Author

By Bonnie Stanard 

In a recent email that came across my desk, Amazon makes another pitch to writers. It offers Kindle Scout, “a reader-powered publishing program for new, never-before-published books.” According to Amazon’s offer, readers will vote to decide the author to be published and rewarded with a handsome advance.

What you may not notice in the details of the offer is that you must give up all e-Book and audio rights to the book. You can get them back if your book remains unpublished or if it earns less than $500 in royalties in a year.

An even more subtle control is presented as a distribution enhancement: “Your book will be enrolled into Kindle Unlimited, the Kindle Owners' Lending Library...”

I have a love-hate relationship with Amazon. Every day, I’m grateful that it has given us createspace and the opportunity to self-publish books. This has blown open the closed doors of elite publishers in NYC. Amazon has also given readers a voice in critiquing books, expanding the world of reviews.

However, as Scott Timberg in Salon magazine points out, there are reasons to be wary of Amazon, among them:
1.      It has closed not just chain bookstores, but has devastated the indies.
2.      It is destroying the profession of author by undercutting advances and royalties.
3.      It has a near monopoly in bookselling.
Kindle Unlimited and Kindle Owners’ Lending Library (KOLL) are two reasons Amazon is destroying our profession. These two programs alone take a whopping cut in authors’ royalties. They are subscription services offering readers access to unlimited choices of books. In Kindle Unlimited, subscribers can download an unlimited number of books by paying a monthly fee. In KOLL subscribers may “rent” one book a month with no due date (is this not buying the book?).

To be fair, Amazon isn’t the only one doing this. Two others that come to mind are Oyster and Scribd. Furthermore, Amazon is merely taking to books what Spotify and other streaming services have taken to music.

But look at the turmoil in music because of streaming services that have cut into artists’ income. In an article in Fast Company, Jonathan Ringen writes, “Many artists have stopped depending on revenue from recorded music altogether, focusing on touring and merchandise, which they can control.” This is an effect of streaming services such as Rdio, Deezer, Amazon Prime Music, AppleMusic, and Google Play.

Can you imagine authors turning to tours and merchandise to make a living? If subscriber services continue and become the standard for distribution, they may prove that what goes around comes around, i.e. books will only be produced by affluent writers who can afford to work without compensation.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Instructional Opportunities Sponsored by SCWW

By Ginny Padgett

SCWW will present a four-part webinar series beginning September 12. Go to to register. The fee for each webinar is payable when you sign up. After reserving your spot, only 25 are open for each webinar, log on the day and time of your selected webinar. There is no charge for September. Subsequent sessions are $20.00 for SCWW members and $25.00 for non-members. Rebroadcasts will be available if you’re unable to attend on the specified times.

Here are the topics and presenters.
September 12, 10:00-11:00 am - “First Pages: Solid Beginnings that Hook Readers” by Jane Gari, SCWW; video teaser:  
October  “Embrace Your Backstory: How to Leverage Your Uniqueness and GET NOTICED in a Noisy World” by Lynda Bouchard, agent at Booking Authors Ink 
November 13, 10:00-11:00 am “The First Time Novelist: Letting Editors In" by Joseph Gartrell, free-lance editor 
December 9, 4:00-5:00 pm  – "What a Query Means to Me- First Glance Impressions of a Query" by Jeanie Loiaocono, President of Loiacono Literary Agency
 In addition, the Camden Chapter of SCWW will present “First One Word and Then Another: A Creative Writing Workshop” on Saturday, September 26, 9:00 am-1:00 pm; $20.00 for SCWW members, $25.00 for non-members, lunch included. Go to to register. The Camden Chapter has worked hard on this event, and I’m sure it will be worth your time. I hope you’ll be able to attend and support our Camden sister.   

FYI, Bob Strother, Kim Blum-Hyclak and Carla Damron will be at Books On Broad, our local independent bookstore after the 9/26 workshop at 2:15 PM  to sign books.