Monday, January 30, 2012

Writing Inspiration and Give Away!

In my previous blog Informational Highway, I talked about a cool calendar notebook called Bylines created by Sylvia Forbes. I’m here to announce that anyone who leaves a comment or signs up to follow me (if you're too shy to comment) will have their names put in a drawing to receive a copy of this awesome writing tool—Bylines! Oh, and I'll keep this open until February 5 and I'll announce the winner on February 6.

I thought I’d share a few more of my favorite writing tools, starting with the one that inspired my creativity some 18 years ago—The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. I’ve recently picked up this book since all three of my kids just finished it. (You don’t have to be a writer to enjoy the benefits of this book.)

Some of my other favorites that get my juices flowing:

Escaping into the Open: The Art of Writing True
by Elizabeth Berg
Old Friend from Far Away by Natalie Goldberg
What It Is by Lynda Barry
Your Book Starts Here by Mary Carroll Moore (This is the one I’m working with now.)

Bylines will help me to keep it all organized, along with inspiration from writers all over. January is almost over, but there are 11 more months to keep track of your goals… 11 more months to be inspired... this year anyway.

And you can start by submitting to Bylines and have a chance of being published in the 2013 calendar. Now that Bylines 2012 is out, Bylines 2013 is currently open for submissions. Deadline is March 1, and complete guidelines are at

Do you have favorite books that inspire you? I’d love to hear about them—and slip your name into the drawing!

Saturday, January 28, 2012

St. Louis Reflections

I'm happy to share with you an article by Brad Cook. If you prefer, you can read this on the Writers Lens or SLWG Eliot Blog.

If You Love St. Louis, You’ll Love This Anthology
By Brad R. Cook, President of St. Louis Writers Guild

I remember when we first decided to create the anthology. St. Louis Writers Guild was about to celebrate its 90th Anniversary. We had planned the Year of Festivals, a time to celebrate the long history of the Writers Guild and all the amazing writers who were a part of the current organization. With well over 250 members there was a lot of talent in our midst. For every significant anniversary over the last 50 years or so, St. Louis Writers Guild (SLWG) had created a members’ booklet. Back in the day, it would have held addresses, phone numbers, publications, but in our ambition we decided to do an anthology. I must admit, the topic was never in doubt. To celebrate our 90th Anniversary we would honor the city that had been the home and inspiration to every member of SLWG since its founding.

We sent out the call, and went about celebrating the Year of Festivals. The anthology was always designed to come out after 2010. We wanted to include as many members as possible in the list and knew it would take some time to put the collection together. It was probably better we didn’t know what it would really take to bring this book to fruition – we might have faltered or maybe waivered, but that never happened. As historian of SLWG, I volunteered to spearhead this project – it was of historical significance and I wanted the experience of putting together an anthology. I wasn’t alone, Mary Menke, who was VP of Operations at the time, agreed to help. Ah, we were so naïve, the saying ‘ignorance is bliss’ had never been more true.

It took months to collect all the entries, and then even more months to collect all the electronic ones, some of which we never received, so Mary typed many from the hard copies. Then came the initial round of editing. Then another round of editing, and another.

I took on the task of arranging the stories in order. Some were easy; Pat Bubash wrote a great piece asking the one question that St. Louis is famous for, where’d you go to high school, so that seemed an appropriate way to start. I like numbers, so Dwight Bitikofer’s poignant Seven slid perfectly into the seventh slot, and I took the thirteenth slot with my ode to Clayton. For me it’s a lucky number, and I knew if I put anyone else there, I’d probably choose someone with latent triskaidekaphobia. I ended the anthology with Faye Adams’ poem to St. Louis Writers Guild which seemed a fitting way to close, but it took another month to get the order just right.

The front and back covers came easily, our webmaster took the image of the Arch, and David Lucas, VP of Membership, snapped the beautiful image of the sun while at the annual SLWG picnic. Once everything had been approved by the board we pushed forward with the assistance of StL Books. Erin Robbins and Robin Theiss did an amazing job with the cover and getting the actual book ready for printing. We couldn’t have done it without them.

We scheduled the book release party and waited for the books to roll in, but nothing about this anthology was simple. The first proof came in and was a little off, but that’s why you always order a proof. Fixing the issue caused a delay. It ended up being the most successful book release without the book I have ever been too. We sold over 50 copies and luckily the books came in a day or so later.

We ended up with an amazing anthology, one that has been described as a wonderful nostalgia trip through St. Louis memories. It was our love of St. Louis that brought this book into existence. It might have been a pleasant struggle, but that only mirrors the city we were trying to honor. St. Louis is a town of FAN-atics, the residents have a deep passion for this city. Founded on the banks the longest river in North America, it has gone from being the gateway of westward expansion, the home of ragtime, to the spirit that carried Lindbergh over the Atlantic, and raised the tallest arch in the world.

So now that you know why we put the anthology together, here are some of the contributors reasons for writing the amazing pieces found within.

I asked – What inspired your contribution to St. Louis Reflections? Was it the personal nature of your story or did you feel it was something St. Louis needed to hear?

Pat Bubash – Not being a St. Louisan by origin, when the topic for the anthology was given, immediately, instantaneously, the question, "where did you go to h.s. came to my mind". People from other cities often ask me, "why is this such an important question for St. Louisans"? I think it is a question unique to St. Louis. As I noted in my submission asking this question and receiving an answer, gives a wide variety of information about the person.

Linda O’Connell – I felt that my personal essay had a strong St. Louis connection as Chuck Berry is an icon, but also there was a take away message: greatness is not in a name.

Claire Applewhite – Perhaps the story was both personal as well as a reflection on St. Louis neighborhoods. My contribution followed a book signing in the south St. Louis neighborhood in which I was raised. I had not seen many of the people who attended for nearly forty years, and was genuinely touched by the emotional impact of our reunion. Memories rushed back so vividly, it was as if I had never left. The people who significantly influenced me in so many ways were still there, the way I remembered them. St. Louis is like that. Neighborhoods are such a big part of life here.

Marcel Toussaint – Saint Louis needs to know its own writers and poets. The best way to do it is to have an anthology that will have a media interest rather than promote each writer or poet individually. Or the media would choose its preferences and leave some of them in the darkness of the unknown.

Niki Nymark – "Mama Mississippi": Written to right a wrong. I always thought it was a mistake to call her "Ole Man River," when I saw her as a languorous, sexy lady. My family had a business close by the levee and as a tiny child; I often sat on the cobblestones to watch her flow by.

"The Body": On later reflection, it amazed me that adults would be so caught up in a murder that they wouldn't notice a four year-old spectator when the police brought the body out. This really happened during the Depression in a hotel next to my mother's coffee shop. It didn't seem troublesome at the time (1938), just fascinating.

Billy Adams – It was just an old memory stored away that I thought would be of interest.

Faye Adams – In writing my story, On the River's Edge, I simply wanted to express my reactions to the city of St. Louis. Having been raised on a farm, in a sparsely populated area, and moving to the city in my senior year of high school, I suffered major culture shock. I had to learn quickly how to function in a totally different environment than the one in which I was conversant or comfortable. Both the accent and the colloquialisms were foreign to me, but it didn't take long for me to fall in love with the city of St. Louis. Each day was a new discovery, and joy far outweighed frustration as I moved into the mainstream of the downtown work force.

In my story, A Small Slice of St. Louis History, I attempted to showcase the bank which played a major role in the St. Louis financial arena, holds the distinction of being the oldest bank west of the Mississippi river, boasts a connection to two U. S. Presidents, and was once pulled from the path of disaster by a bordello proprietress.

In the poem, St. Louis Writers Guild, my aim is to present a group of people who helped to establish the St. Louis literary community and have furnished much inspiration and encouragement for Bill and I in the past six years - writers of fiction, poetry, children's books, nonfiction, fantasy, memoirs, screenplays, and devotionals, who are not only great writers, but great people who overcome adversity in their own lives to reach out and help others.

Donna Springer – I sometimes write when stimulated by "prompts." I had submitted "Mid-time, 6 a.m. St. Louis, for a workshop at The Saint Louis Poetry Center," and had written about The Mississippi Mile for the Saint Louis Track Club's Track Time News in 2003. When The Saint Louis Writers Guild requested material about Saint Louis for its 90th Anniversary anthology, I felt a "prompt" to modify past writings to express my love and appreciation for Saint Louis, and for the Saint Louis Writers Guild. I continue to enjoy watching the day come in at six a.m. from a Saint Louis window, and have happy reflections about the runs across the Mississippi on the rehabilitated Old Chain of Rocks Bridge. Though I "went to high school" in Connecticut, I have lived in and enjoyed Saint Louis since 1975.

Jeanine Dahlberg – A nostalgic stroll back into time when St. Louis suffered under the Great Depression inspired me to write my story. The reader will learn the hardships imposed upon a very little girl and her family and how she coped with the experiences.

Lynn Obermoeller – I was inspired mostly by the personal nature of my story, "Hendel's Market." It was a huge part of my childhood. I feel not only did it reflect a part of St. Louis, but something that other communities in the U.S. or even around the world could relate to.

Debbie Fox – I enjoy a challenge in finding a story with a universal theme based on real events. I submitted my story because I am a part of the Guild and wanted to participate. Although my story was personal, it would appeal to a larger audience. It certainly wasn’t something St. Louis had to hear, but I believe people will remember the places I wrote about.

Ross Braught – I felt that "A Scent of Honeysuckle" was a story St. Louis needed to hear. St. Louis is the center of not just the United States, but of the world of nature and the world of medicine. I tried to blend the two in my story.

As for myself – I grew up on the not-so-mean streets of Clayton, I went to Clayton High School which answers Pat’s question and should tell you a thing or two about me. It became a way to honor the little metropolis that raised me. My piece about the history of SLWG came out of all the work I did for the Legacy Project which continues researching our rich history.

In reflection, we found this city that fostered the writers guild over 90 years ago is still thriving, still overflowing with literary talent, and still coming together to form not only St. Louis Writers Guild but a true community of writers.

Then I asked my favorite question – Which line did you struggle with more, the first or the last?

Linda O’Connell said, “Probably the first, it is not as attention-grabbing as I would have liked.” While Claire Applewhite had the opposite problem, “Probably the last, because I feel it needs to have the same emotional punch as the first line, and sometimes, it is hard to know where to stop to achieve that goal.” But my favorite comment was by Niki Nymark, “The endings of most of my poems have been re-written with a carving knife.”

Marcel Toussaint poignantly stated, “In Torn Flag in the Wind, the last line was the most difficult since it had to make an impact and still remain delicately graphic.” While Jeanine Dahlberg avoided any struggle, “I quoted from Charles Dicken's novel, A Tale of Two Cities, the last line of the story came easily.” Lynn Obermoeller also found it easy, “I can't say I struggled with either. Not with this piece anyway. I just wrote from the heart.” But Debbie Fox found another problem, “Actually, I struggled with the second sentence—”a backdrop for first love.” It still sounds ditzy to me, yet I put the “backdrop” word in the last sentence. I always try to wrap up a piece neatly, often going back to the opening. I don’t think it worked well, but that was how it stood because I didn’t have weeks to let it stew and morph into something better.”

I think Faye Adams captured it best when she said, “The hardest line to write in any poem is the last line. How do you end a story or poem with one line which "says it all?" Let the reader be the judge of whether or not we have failed to do so in this anthology.”

As for myself, “I struggled with the last line, the first came easily but the last was rewritten probably a dozen times.”

Now for a little something extra:

The Writers’ Lens is a resource blog for writers and readers and is featuring St. Louis Reflections in one of their regular giveaways. Comment on The Writers’ Lens blog for your chance to win one copy of St. Louis Reflections. See for details.

The Writers’ Lens is about bringing Fiction into Focus, so I asked the contributors what brought their writing into focus.

Pat Bubash
– Personal situations, events. I am such a fan of Bill McClellan and Elaine Viets- their writing is the reality of what happens to people - I "know" these subjects because the situations they experience, I could or have experienced, These two authors have a way of bringing whatever point they are making come full circle as they finish the article. Absolutely am a fan of both!

Linda O’Connell – My personal essays are written with authenticity but they also have to be written with creativity. I do love crafting words.

Claire Applewhite – What brings my writing into focus, for me, is the interaction between and among the characters. The way that they interact and react to each other tells me who they are, where they're headed, whether they are growing and/or changing, and reveals plot points in the story. I have an outline, but sometimes, I suspect they do too!

Marcel Toussaint – Having been in Radio-Theater in my teens, I have been cast in interesting characters, stories as diverse as the writers’ imaginations, acting the crafted words that the authors excelled in using. So my answer must be all of the above.

Niki Nymark – I begin with a character, who tells me a story. Then I sample lots of words and use the ones that taste right.

Jeanine Dahlberg – I believe that the development of my characters to their potential to the plot enhances the story line forcing me to craft my love of words in a descriptive manner, which engages the reader.

Lynn Obermoeller – This was a hard one after I gave it more thought. My first thought was the love of crafting words--because without that, there wouldn't be any stories. But if you didn't have the idea or story in your head, it couldn't be written. And then without characters, there isn't much of a story either. Seems like they are all tied in together. But you have to love to write, so I'm sticking with the love of crafting words.

Debbie Fox – To me, writing creative nonfiction is like putting together a jigsaw puzzle. I have to be sure everything fits well together, that I didn’t leave out a piece or construct a fuzzy picture. I love finding the perfect metaphor, theme, and transitions and then find the perfect words to hold everything together. I love to describe things, take it slow, use specific terms rather than vague modifiers.

I thank all the contributors for their amazing stories, poems, essays, and memories – it truly is an amazing tribute to this city that we all love.

St. Louis Writers Guild will be having a book signing for the anthology on Saturday, February 18 at 6 North Café, 14438 Clayton Rd. in Ballwin from 10am to Noon, and you can order the anthology anytime at or any major online retailer like or – find out more about St. Louis Writers Guild and the anthology at

Also Don Corrigan wrote a great article about the anthology and the writers guild for the South County and Webster/Kirkwood Times, read more at

The Writers’ Lens is giving away a free copy of St. Louis Reflections – comment on the St. Louis Reflections posts on until February 4th, 2012.

Thank you and everyone at St. Louis Writers Guild hopes you enjoy our 90th Anniversary Anthology!


(Note by Lynn - you can also read articles about St. Louis Reflections by Linda Austin at The St. Louis Literature Examiner, A gathering of writers and memories in St. Louis. And by Diana Davis at Walrus Publishing, St. Louis Writers Guild Hosts Book Launch and Holiday Book Fair at Kirkwood Train Station.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Up for the Challenge?

My son Casey sent me this article from BoingBoing - Mary Robinette Kowal challenges you to write a letter a day in February. Casey knew his momma would be up for the challenge. I mean really, how could I not do this? I love writing letters.

My friend Becky found the original blog of Mary Robinette Kowal, so I wanted to share it.

Any takers? Or, if you'd like a letter from me, send me your address.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Informational Highway

I know I miss a lot even with the technology and everything we have at our disposal--the informational highway. People zooming down at record speeds. At times it feels like everything is a blur. My brain puts on the brakes, pulls over on the shoulder. I turn off the engine, hop out and investigate what I caught a glimpse of and most of the time, I'm glad I did (to stop and smell the roses).

Like reading about Sylvia Forbes 2012 Desk Calendar for Writers, Bylines. I hadn't gotten out of the car last year when I heard about this calendar, but I did this year. And I'm here to say, I'm not disappointed.

I'll admit part of the reason was to see and read about a friend, Pat Wahler of Critter Alley who is in the calendar this year.

If you're a writer and you need a tool to help you keep organized, you just might like this as much as I do.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Friends and Writing

My husband brought home a Kindle for me. Not long after, I downloaded several free e-books, but I still have a hard time reading on a Kindle. I'd much rather touch and feel and smell the pages of a book.

Last week or so, several bloggers mentioned a free e-book Flashlight Memories (Silver Boomer Books) and knowing these gals, I charged up the Kindle, downloaded the e-book and thought I'd read it later--you know when I had some leisurely time. My curiosity got the best of me and I scrolled through looking for my blogger friends.

Cathy C. Hall's story, "A Pickle for a Nickle" made me want to run to the library to read that children's story that captivated her when she was a child.

Linda O'Connell's poem, "A Classic Tome" made me long for the years when my kids would snuggle up next to me so that I could read to them.

Donna Duly Volkenannt's story, "Read Away Vacation" made me think about my own shyness, however, I didn't have the same kind of smarts as Donna.

I still wonder why I was never read to or encouraged to read as a child. Sometimes it makes me feel like a fraud as a writer.

These three pieces touched my heart, each in a different way and that says something to me about the writing style and character of these gals.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Growing Up

Dear Mom,

When the kids were in for Christmas, it's interesting to see how they mature a little more each year. This year it seemed like there was a bigger shift as I'd listen in on conversations. By the grace of God, all three are responsible, respectful, kind-hearted, and talented. They beat to their own drum and they're following their own dreams... despite obstacles. They're strong individuals, unique and full of love. I would assume most mother's say this about their children, but it's really true. I wish you all could've met and known each other this life.

Here's a picture I took when my three children got together with their dad's other two children. Starting from the left and moving to the right:

My (oldest) son, Casey. He's 28. Ethan, 15. My (baby) daughter, Rita who's 24. Erik, 20. My (middle) daughter, Jessica, 26.

Here's a pic of just the boys:

And here's one of just my crew:

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

What Are You Staring At?

Dear Mom,

The other day a deer came up pretty close to the window and started munching on the bush. He had been eating some liriope grass that I was hoping he'd continue grazing on because it's out of control. Hubby told the deer, "Hey go eat more of the grass." He didn't listen.

But then the deer noticed Smeagol, who had been staring at him the whole time he was chewing on the bush.

"Hey what are you staring at? Can't a guy eat in peace?"

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Teeny Tiny Apple Surprise

Dear Mom,

Over the holidays I was given a surprise and surprised by the visit of the friend who brought the surprise. No expecting anyone, I was in my pajama bottoms and a tshirt, wearing a baseball cap, no make-up, goofy socks and shoes along with an apron because I was baking. Certainly didn't want to mess up that classy outfit.

Ding-dong went the front door bell.

I couldn't see who it was and figured it was some delivery person which is the only people that normally come up to the house unannounced. But as I got close to the door, I gasped. I know one is not supposed to compare, but here is my gorgeous friend and here I am looking like a slug. Wait--slugs might even look better than I did that day.

My friend brought me a gift--a pretty box filled with delicious treats. One item caught my eye because it was the teeniest, tiniest apple I've ever seen. Almost too cute to eat. The picture doesn't do it justice and the apple that I have next to it (to also compare) is a small apple.

Let me just state for the record, the gift was exceptional. But what really made it special was the fact my friend took the time to come and present the gift in person. I was truly touched. Anytime I eat an apple, thoughts of my friend and the special surprise will warm my heart.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

An Award

Gotcha! It's a blogger award - The Versatile Blogger Award bestowed upon me by Marilyn from Things I Want to Tell My Mother. She writes letters to her (deceased) mother, just like I do. I was surprised to get the award since I've only recently met her/her blog and vice-a-versa. But I'm honored just the same.

As part of winning this award I'm to tell you seven things about myself that are not included in my blog. I've done this before, however, I'm taking Marilyn's lead and writing something similar that she did as I found her seven things to be very interesting since I didn't know much about her.

So here goes:

1) I grew up in Florissant, Missouri. I'm not sure if I'll have the facts correct, but back in the day this town was divided between the French and German. I asked one of my aunts why all the kids in the family went to Sacred Heart School (when she was telling me how they walked to school nearly every day) since St. Ferdinand School was closer. She said that St. Ferdinand was for French people and Sacred Heart was for German people. I was puzzled because they both were Catholic schools. I too went to Sacred Heart from 1st through 8th grade. I think by then the whole French and German thing didn't exist, however, when I was growing up there was a distinction between Catholic and "public" - if you didn't go to Catholic school, I didn't think you were Catholic. You were Public. DUR.

2) I stayed in the Florissant area until I married, then moved to Akron, Ohio and lived there for a year. We then moved to Corpus Christi, Texas and I was there for a year. When my marriage didn't work out, I came back to Missouri to live - not far from where I grew up. I'm now living in Manchester, Missouri (south of Florissant). Both Florissant and Manchester are suburbs of the big city, St. Louis. There are a lot of suburbs of St. Louis.

3) Like Marilyn, because of my blog, I have met a lot of wonderful people from all over the world. That is amazing.

4) I don't have as varied writing accomplishments as Marilyn, but I'll continue to work on the craft of writing. Most recently I've been accepted in two anthologies: Storm Country (and all proceeds go to the Joplin School District libraries due to the tornado that devastated Joplin - only $10 and you can still order them! My story is about my friend Geoffrey) and St. Louis Reflections (celebrating St. Louis Writers Guild's 100th Anniversary - my story is about Hendel's - a little market that used to be in Florissant - actually the original building is still there, but now it's a restaurant. You can purchase this book at for $9.99. Okay didn't mean to turn this into a promo thingy.

5) I had to laugh at Marilyn's - "I have a short attention span..." Well, I too have a short attention span, but I always want to write in epistolary form. My goal for 2012 is to write a hand-written letter to someone once a week (or more). And did I mention that I put together three family newsletters (one for my mom's side of the family, one for my dad's side of the family and one for my husband's family). I do them quarterly but without information from the family, I've had to drop one to bi-annually and it's going to happen to another one soon!

6) I belong to the St. Louis Writers Guild and the Saturday Writers group, both of which are chapters of the Missouri Writers' Guild. (MWG is having their annual writing conference this April which I plan to attend.) I also belong to a wonderful critique group that one gal named the five of us: WWWP (Wild Women Wielding Pens).

7) Marilyn talked about her other "favorite" name. I have two other names that I'm called and I'm not so sure that either are my favorite! Ha. But my adult children - when they were younger - used to introduce me to their friends as Lynnard. They call me that now and then. My hubby calls me Lester. I have no idea where that came from, but it probably beats what I call him! He he he. Oh what do I call him? Willis. Really, that's his middle name. But Lester is not my middle name. Honest. It's Marie. And my nephew Josh named me LLL (Little Looney Lynn). Hmmm, wonder why that is? It might have something to do with the fact that I sang in the car for nearly eight hours when on a road trip. I made up words. I sang off key. Josh was in the back seat. Probably ruined him for life.

Okay, there it is. I'm now supposed to present this award to other great blogs. How can you do that? To me they're all great blogs, so I'll award four (like Marilyn did) and hopefully there's someone new out there reading this who will wonder who those WWWPs are... and since there are four besides me, here they are in alphabetical order by the name of their blog:

I Digress
Message in a Bloggle: The Art of Being Broken
Sioux's Page
Write from the Heart

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Happy New Year!

Dear Mom,

A little late, but Happy New Year! So much for being more on top of things for 2012. But hey, I've been busy. I had to make sure I ate the rest of those chocolate Santa heads. Waste not want not. How can you concentrate on goals, like watching your weight, when Santa heads are staring at you? They're not staring at me any more.

I had to make sure I started cleaning out my closet. How can I work on things if I can't find them? Part of it is finished, but now I have the clothes to go through, but at least I can walk in there now.

Next I'll be heading to the writing room, but once I'm in there it might be a long time before you hear from me again. My husband says, "You're the most disorganized organized person I know." That pretty much explain my writing room... a disorganized organized mess. I'm shooting for removing the disorganized part. Wish me luck. I'll need every bit of it.