Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Writerly Wednesday ~~ Two Wonderful Women Winners

I've got two friends who are sharing their winner's story with y'all today. You all know Kim Richardson by now. Learn a bit more about her journey to publication -- a path filled with pot holes, detours and road hazards. It's a story of determination to succeed which (just like her book's plot) ultimately drives her to victory!

From a recent article about Kimmi...

"The path to publication can be a gauntlet beset with trials that test a writer's endurance. Many writers give up. Jan O'Hara, of the popular, award-winning site for writers Writer Unboxed, said:

These days, getting and staying published requires a larger skill set than understanding point of view, plot and character. Rather, most would say it requires grit, determination and tolerance for life in the public eye. When I look for models of writers who possess those traits, I think of Kim Michele Richardson, author of The Unbreakable Child. (Kim's had) one of the most arduous struggles to publication I've yet encountered.
Kim writes:  Few will know about my path to publication. By sharing my journey I hope to inspire other writers to stay the course."  

Read the rest of Kimmi's article in the Huffington Post. It will inspire you and maybe just make you see your own journey to writing success in a different light. The prize goes to those who refuse to quit fighting. And you can quote me (and probably Kimmi) on that!

The Unbreakable Child available HERE at Amazon.


And now, here's friend Jessica Bell with news of her literary endeavors come to fruition:

Bell grew up in Melbourne, Australia, the child of two gothic rock musicians who had successful independent careers during the '80s and early '90s. She spent much of her childhood travelling to and from Australia and Europe, experiencing two entirely different worlds, yet feeling equally at home in both environments. She currently lives in Athens, Greece and works as a freelance writer/editor for Hellenic American Union, Cengage Learning, Pearson Education, Education First and Signature Manuscripts. Jessica Bell's poetry and short stories have been published in various anthologies and literary magazines. Additionally, she has written various English textbook materials and is also a singer/songwriter/guitarist. Ms. Bell's experience as an Australian living in Greece has greatly influenced her writing.

If you're looking for something new and different to sink your eyeballs into, check out Jessica's book, STRING BRIDGE, which launches on November 1, 2011. If that's not exciting enough, there will be a new companion website for the book...with a music-related surprise!

Some lucky readers will also win free Advance Review Copies of the book this summer just by "liking" publisher Lucky Press LLC on Facebook! (Established online and print book reviewers may request ARCs of String Bridge by contacting Lucky Press, LLC June 2011.)

STRING BRIDGE is categorized as Women's Contemporary Fiction and Literary Fiction. Here's a blurb:
Jessica says about her book (and you can find out more about her and her projects at her site HERE and at her Alliterative Allomorph): "I wrote String Bridge because I want to break into the women's fiction market and steer it away from the stereotypically glorified woman that is most commonly portrayed today. Not every women in this world lives without regret, knows exactly what she wants, and has the courage to put every essence of her being into achieving her dreams. Not every woman is inspirational to others. Not every woman can leave her comfort zone to better her future. But, so what? Does that mean a less strong-minded woman doesn't have an interesting story to tell? Definitely not." 
Greek cuisine, smog and domestic drudgery was not the life Australian musician, Melody, was expecting when she married a Greek music promoter and settled in Athens, Greece. Keen to play in her new shoes, though, Melody trades her guitar for a 'proper' career and her music for motherhood. That is, until she can bear it no longer and plots a return to the stage--and the person she used to be. However, the obstacles she faces along the way are nothing compared to the tragedy that awaits, and she realizes she's been seeking fulfilment in the wrong place.


String Bridge first page excerpt:
by Jessica Bell, copyright 2010. All rights reserved.


See the String Bridge trailer here, and listen to the music too! Can you guess who's singing those lovely haunting lines?

NOW, TELL ME HOW YOU ARE ONE OF THE "WINNERS" IN THE WRITING GAME TOO. (Yes, small and baby-step progress definitely counts!) :D

If music were wind, I would live in a hurricane. If it were a mother, I would sleep in her soothing womb. If I were music, I would simply be me, shrouding my existence in a monsoon. But I am not music, even though my name, Melody, suggests I could be. The closest I get to "being" music, is playing it, living it, embracing it as if it were the organ most vital to survival. I might say it was my heart. But no...I can't give it a name, because it's more like a sixth sense.

Music is the shadow of thought. A muse for grief. An unending moan. A manic pandemonium that roams through rhyme and mimics my soul through mime. It masquerades selfish woes, masks my hollow lifestyle like warm humming cellos. It's a blend of folly and secretive gen, acoustic vignettes--motionless, yet moving.

Music is not meek; it's neurotic, like me...

Friday, March 25, 2011

Friday Funnies ~~ Cajun Diet

Hey and happy TGIF. I've got a family "girl" gathering, plans to do spring planting in the yard, and maybe a nap or two. :) Hope your weekend is full of grins and good things! To get things kicked off, here's a little dose of that crazy Cajun, Boudreaux.....

Boudreaux was looking in the mirror one morning and noticed he was overweight. He went to his doctor and asked to be put on a diet. 

The doctor said, "I want you to eat regularly for two days, then skip a day, and repeat this procedure for two weeks. The next time I see you, you should have lost at least five pounds." 

Boo had a hard time giving up his boiled crawfish and beer, but he was determined. When he returned to the doctor's office, he shocked the doctor by having lost nearly 60 lbs! He shakes Boudreaux's hand and says, "Why, this is amazing! Did you follow my instructions?"

Boudreaux nods and says, "Mais, I'll tell ya, I tought (thought) I was gonna die, yeah!" When the doc asks him to explain, Boo continues, "By dat terd (third) day, Doc, I tought I might juss (just) drop dead."

"From the hunger, you mean?" 

"Hell no. It was from all dat damn skippin'!"

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Writerly Wednesday ~~ Reasons for Rejection

I know y'all are all bizzy bizzy with your WIPs and other fun writing projects, right? I'd really love to hear about your progress or troubles in meeting goals!

As a publishing editor of Rose & Thorn Journal, I get to read some beautiful prose and poetry from all over the world. But there's always the "bad and ugly" to go along with the good in the growing number of submissions we receive. It always amazes me that, say of 100 submits, Kat [hey Kat!] and I will independently short list the same eight or so stories, then haggle over the other three to add to our YES pile for acceptance. These are just random numbers picked for this example, but what I'm saying is there are some stories, no matter the genre, that rise to the top of the pile by virtue of their excellence.

The stories we accept each quarter have nothing more in common than their power to grab our eyeballs and move them to the story's conclusion. (BTW, we do not read bios until after we read the story. Unlike other journals, we also make it a point to ferret out great stories that might just need a bit of tweaking because we are determined to include new voices as well as established!)

Thinking about what separates GOOD prose from GREAT prose, I've compiled a list of what does it for me. These are the things that never fail to catch my attention:

10. Polished, realistic dialog
9.  An element of surprise or a plot twist
8.  Lyrical use of language
7.  Characters that are real, quirky or gritty
6.  Stories that hold to the end (don't fall flat or drift off point)
5.  Unusual treatment of evergreen themes
4.  Gripping story plot
3.  A finish that is as strong as the beginning
2.  Clean and technically well written
1.  That extra "something" (similar to the inigmatic "star quality" some movie celebs have)
And ever sweet Kathryn Magendie just emailed me her list of thoughts. (Thanks, owe ya one!) Kat says:
Endings that aren't cliched - or as if the writer didn't know how to end it or was just tired of writing it and slapped some ending on. I can be reading a good story and get to the end and am so disappointed! Second to that are endings that feel as if I hit a brick wall - I don't need things tied up into a bow, but I don't want to feel as if something is missing and I'm left emptied by the ending instead of filled.
Characters! I'll follow great, interesting, compelling characters anywhere they lead me--anywhere! Make me care or be intrigued or interested about the character in any way (and it doesn't necessarily have to be a "likeable" character -I just have to care to follow them) and I'm in for the ride - unless, see above - the ending has to hold up the rest of the story. If the ending is weak, the story falls upon itself in a big heap.
Passion/Care/Love for/in the writing - sometimes I swear I can tell when someone slapped together a story just to submit it in a hurry to fifty-galleven editors at fifty-galleven journals. There's an emptiness to it, a hollow ringing - I'm not engaged.
 okay, that's off the top of my head --

I hope the list inspires you in your own writing and/or gives you a nugget or two to consider if you're submitting work to the world "out there." On the subject of creating magical worlds with words, you might want to check out Rose & Thorn's new blog series called BACK STORY. They are fantastic posts by our contributors that explain how their prose and poetry was "born." I find them really interesting, and love getting glimpses inside creative brains. Hope you do too.
Now, what is it that does it for you? That "it" factor that speaks to you when you read your favorite kind of writing? Yes...I really wanna know! 

I'm in serious need of coffee. Please don't hold it against me if there are typos. I'm lazy and don't usually spell check. ;) 

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Tasty Tuesday ~~ Drunken Chicken

A cooking haiku, if you'll indulge me:

Now your barbeque pit knows
it's time to fire it
up. Drunken Chickens for spring.

:D  Here's how...............

Drunken Chicken

1 or 2 fat, juicy hens
1 beer can per chicken (with 1/4 - 1/3 beer left in can)
Worcestershire Sauce
Garlic juice (or garlic powder)
Orange Juice
Tony Chachere's Cajun seasoning (or 1/4 tsp. cayenne per can) 
Sea salt and pepper 

Get your bbq pit's coals to a nice cooking temperature. Put all ingredients to taste preference into beer cans. (Cans will be filled almost to the top by the time you've added in everything.)

Place cans into chicken's cavity, after cleaning and drying your bird(s). Rub outside of chicken with canola oil or butter, then sprinkle on favorite BBQ seasoning or rub mix. Cook on pit until chicken falls over "drunk." When this happens, it means the chicken is cooked and tender.

Great all year round. Chicken will be moist but fully cooked. Mmmm-mm-good!

DH thought it would be funny to make his chickens look like drinking buddies holding each other up, or dancers doing the Cajun two-step. :)

Friday, March 18, 2011

A Ride n' Write You're Really Gonna Wanna Get Behind!

Hey Bloggy friends, and happy Friday. Please meet my friend Rick Arnett and learn about his fantsastic adventure that's looming on the horizon. I hope you'll get to know him, follow him on Twitter or at his brand spankin' new blog HERE, and support him with good thoughts, prayers, and a few bucks if you can! He's got contacts at a major publishing company, and is talking with them about a book. Exciting, no?

Read below to find out about Rick's journey in his own words, except where I butt in with the yellow font. LOL

I'm making a bicycle trip, solo, unsupported (no chase vehicle or crew) by bicycle from Virginia Beach, VA to San Francisco. I'll leave the first week in April, taking 9-10 weeks to cross the USA on two wheels. I'm setting up a website that will have interactive maps with way points tracking my progress in real time. My gps sensor will post a spot on the map anytime I hit the button and i'll attach photos and details specific to that point. It'll include an ongoing blog. Should be up in a week or so--we're making the maps now. [If anyone has a helmet/handlebar cam they're not using, wouldn't that be a wonderful addition to Rick's data gathering equipment?! :D]

It's not just a recreational ride. I'm in the process of making contacts in every planned overnight through AA (I'm in recovery). Most every night of the trip a fellow AA member will bring me to a meeting, give me a safe place to pitch my tent and wash up, and share a meal, then I'm off to the next day's riding. The idea is to demonstrate that with a little help from my friends, family and fellow AA members, I can achieve goals that would otherwise be impossible on my own, or at minimum, a daunting challenge. People in early recovery and those who think they may have a problem (by which time all your friends, family and co-workers already know you do) feel lonely and afraid. This ride will be an example that shows how people in recovery are only too happy to lend a little support to a fellow recovering alcoholic (or addict).

And I'll be writing about all of it. Besides being a mission to raise awareness for recovery, it's a Creative Nonfiction journey. I thought you might be interested for that reason.

I'm also begging for donations. Anything you could contribute will be greatly appreciated. I'll list all contributors and the amount they give on the website/blog. Funds above whatever expenses I incur on the trip will be donated to recovery centers in LA (Hope Center, Marksville and Red River Recovery in Pineville) and CA (Mad House in Sacramento.) If you send a check, make it out to Diane Gordon--she's going to take care of all that. Address is 4117 Seaforth Road, Chesapeake, VA 23321. [Hey Rick, you need to investigate getting a PayPal account for online donations!]

I'll be posting a lot about this on FB as we departure date gets closer and thereafter, too, as a supplement to the blog. [Friend Rick on FB HERE.]

I feel like Flounder in Animal House. "This is gonna be great!"

P.S. I must stress the BEGGING part--I am entirely dependent of funding from others for all aspects of the trip. Thanks again. This will be fun, scary, angst-ridden, exciting, boring, engaging, morale deflating and spiritually uplifting at various points along the way. I hope to impress those emotions on the readers. I'll be in touch!

How cool is this? I can't wait to follow Rick's journey!!!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Writerly Wednesday ~~ A Journey from Narrative to Jazz to Poetry

I've got a treat for you writerly/readerly folks today. Poet, professor, global speaker and down-right smart woman Ava Leavel Haymon dropped by to share a bit of her writing journey with us. I know you'll find it inspiring!

Ava heads Collaboration 672, shares her knowledge of the craft willingly with all interested persons, and is on the short list of State Poet Laureate nominees. Her newest book of poems is Why the House is Made of Gingerbread, which she speaks about below:

The old story Hansel and Gretel is a favorite of mine. They did not live happily ever after, and even as a kid, I knew I liked that ending better. I wrote a few poems about Gretel, the sister, a long time ago, and thought I'd like to know more about her. A couple of years went by. Then, at the New Orleans Jazz Festival, 1990ish, I heard Delfeayo Marsalis, and he played some pieces he was composing. This body of work ultimately became the CD "Pontius Pilate's Decision," but that would be several years in the future. No lyrics, all instrumentals. That day, he played one unfinished piece, "Mary Magdalene." Most of the parts in the piece were not scored; there was only him on trombone with another player on another instrument, maybe it was a clarinet. I remember the two parts twining upward like two vines, without support, somehow each holding the other up as they rose.

As the piece unfolded, I realized he'd done something new: He was writing about the crucifixion story, but instead of tracking the narrative from beginning to end, as I'd have expected, he instead wrote a completely separate composition on each character. You see immediately what I mean: a composition about Judas Iscariot, another composition about Pilate, etc., to be played in any order. The music was great, of course, the Festival joyously Dionysian, and in that odd and unexpected inspiration that artists -- maybe only writers, know -- my hair began to stand on end.

Once I'd heard Delfeayo play, I could write about Gretel. Now it could become the obsession it had to be to get words on pages. Instead of writing poems that told the story beginning to end, I could write poems that were jazz riffs. The Gingerbread House as poem topic or focus, Hansel another, the witch's kitchen another. Like traditional jazz: the foundation melody is taken for granted, all the separate jazzmen keep it in mind and improvise off that, and, as I heard Delfeayo say years later, then the performance becomes a conversation among musical voices.

It took years to get the poems down, but slowly the long poetic sequence improvised itself into being. It does not tell the story. The reader doesn't have to know the story. The story was running in my own head, the story let me forget myself, and the individual poems rooted in it. They twined their way out of the story into their own forms. The book is WHY THE HOUSE IS MADE OF GINGERBREAD, Gretel and Hansel still do not live happily ever after, and the poems were free to grow, funny sometimes, fateful always, and spooky as hell.

Find out more about Ava at her site. Why the House is Made of Gingerbread is available online and/or you can read more about it at LSU Press.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Tasty Tuesday ~~ Corn and Shrimp Soup

Hey friends. Whatcha up to? I've been SO busy lately, have barely stuck my toes into the Blogosphere or other swimming holes along the Social Network Highway. (Mardi Gras activities, a massive art project deadline and the time change certainly haven't helped!)

Hope you like this southern favorite. It's good all year round, and most of us keep the key ingredients on hand, so no mad dash to the grocery is needed. :)


Simple Corn & Shrimp Soup

1 T. olive oil
2/3 cup chopped onion
1/4 cup chopped celery (if you like it)
2 cloves minced garlic
1 lb. large Gulf shrimp (cleaned & deveined)
20 oz. cream corn
10 oz fresh (cut from cob) or canned corn niblets 
Sea salt & pepper to taste
(If you like heat, add a 10-oz. can of Ro-tel tomatoes w/green chillies)
1 1/2 cups water
1 T. brown gravy mix or roux (from jar or homemade)

In a large Dutch oven or heavy pot, saute' veggies until soft and almost clear. Add in shrimp and stir until you can almost see through them. Put in cream corn, Ro-tel (if using), and corn.

Cook covered on low for 20-30 minutes. Add in seasoning and stir well. Last, dissolve gravy mix or roux in 1 1/2 cups water, then add to pot. Stir to make sure any lumps are dissolved. Simmer on lowest temperature until ready to serve. Garnish with parsley if desired.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Writerly Wednesday ~~ Birth of a Story

We're stoked about our new blog series "Back Story" over at Rose & Thorn's blog. In this continuing stream of posts, contributors of both prose and poetry tell readers how their published pieces were born. Cool, no?

In the kick-off post, Eirik Gumeny shares the journey he took in creating his powerful short story Ballpoint & Boredom. (Read the story in our winter issue HERE.)

Enjoy a sneak peak at Eirik's "Back Story" whose own Blogspot address is HERE ~~~ 

Like a lot of writers, a large number of my stories are based on real life. Unlike a lot of writers, real life sometimes entails the voice of a grizzled old man telling me what I should be doing myself.

“Ballpoint & Boredom” was based on a real job, a real girl, and a very real fear of rejection. It was also based on a real pep talk given to me by a real voice inside my head.

For what it’s worth, I’m referring to something more akin to a conscience than an actual schizophrenic hallucination. Although, for what that’s worth, I never did bother to get tested.

To this day I’m not sure if I’ve ever heard the voice in real life—and, if not, why my subconscious chose the dialect it did—but I really and truly heard it tell ing me to get off my ass and go after the girl. On a fairly regular basis.

The girl was a friend of mine and we talked occasionally, and being younger, shyer, and male... er, that was enough to convince me that we had a shot at a real relationship. The voice seconded that assumption. He also hinted that, in order to facilitate that, I should, you know, actually ask the girl out. As with most advice I give to myself, though, I ignored it.

Instead, I sat in my cubicle answering the phone, staring out the window, doodling dragons on scratch paper, and staring at the girl as she walked by. It was a short jump from there to a full-on daydream, most of which entailed winning the girl over in a spectacular fashion, the two of us then going on to live happily ever after.

The voice insulted me the entire time.

You can read the entire post HERE. And while you're visiting our Roses & Thorns blog, look over the various topics there. You might just find some inspiration, hints or ideas for your own prose and poetry!!

Share a memory about how one of your works was born, why don'tcha? :D

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Tasty Tuesday ~~ It Ain't Called FAT TUESDAY for Nothing!

Cool mask artwork by my twin Alaine, hunh? (She's @Canvas on the Rocks on Facebook if you want to see some artisitc magic.) :) 

And if you need a good "taste" of MARDI GRAS in the Big Easy, read below:

Chef John Besh goes over some traditional Mardi Gras dishes (such as Jambalaya) and traditions, and even brings us to his hometown's yearly parade via live cams. Zatarain's has even spiced up their Facebook page to continue the fun with videos from the parade, recipes, Carnival music and a new app to jazz up your profile picture. All at THIS LINK, brought to you by hometown favorite -- Zatarain's!

PS. Friend Zatarain's on Facebook HERE for essential Mardi Gras recipes and more, and be sure to follow Zatarain’s on Twitter (@MyZatarains) to let the good times roll (Laissez les bon temps rouller)!!!

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