Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Another Reason to Write

Here's another reason to write, my friends.  Click on the link.

The subject of the article (I hope you read it) is close to me at the moment. I was wondering what keeps me writing, every day, in my blog? My reasons are not so devastating, but even thinking about issues that are bleak without letting them out in some form is a dangerous game. I'd love to hear from someone, anyone, who reads this; what do you think?

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Congratulations to Millie Lancaster!

Congratulations to our very own Millie Lancaster for winning second place (and a $250 prize) for the WOW (Women on Writing) summer 2015 Flash Fiction Contest. Millie won for her story entitled "An Adventuresome Sort of Person." You can read her story at: You can read her story at

Saturday, November 7, 2015

A Place to Write

On November 3, a quartet of Village Writers' Club members—Mary Lou Moran, Jerry Davis, John Swinburn (who's writing this), and Myra Rustin—got an early start on their trip to Eureka Springs, Arkansas. About four hours and a hundred conversations later, they arrived at the Writers Colony at Dairy Hollow (WCDH), a wonderful pair of historic homes, side-by-side, dedicated to writers' residency programs. Though intended for two-week and longer residencies, the facilities are available for shorter-term use when not reserved for writers' fellowships.

Between the two homes that form WCDH, eight suites are available to give writers a place to clear their heads, focus on their writing projects, and spend time in the creative process. Each suite is unique, but shares a few commonalities with the others: a well-lit writing area with a beautiful view of the trees and birds and wildlife out the window; a comfortable bed; a coffee maker; and a bathroom. Most suites (and perhaps all) have a small refrigerator; at least a few are equipped with microwave and/or cook-top. WiFi is available in every room, as well as the public areas; both houses have large living areas with comfortable seating for group gatherings, as well as a kitchen. The main house has a large commercial kitchen, where a wonderful gourmet evening meal (included for all writers in residence) is provided at 6:00 pm, Monday through Friday.

Writers who neede dedicated, undisturbed quiet time find all they need at WCDH. But the venue is well-suited to collaborative endeavors, as well. Some suites have very large writing areas in which two or more writers can gather. Public spaces can accommodate even more collaboration, provided the collaborators keep their interactions low-key and quiet.

Images of Eureka Springs should be included in the dictionary alongside the definition of "funky." The town is a haven for the arts. The town is full of writers, painters, sculptors, potters, and musicians. Small shops fill the small downtown area, offering visitors opportunities to spent hours viewing and experiencing art, food, entertainment, and relaxation.

The Village Writers' Club group, though, spent only a couple of hours downtown during their three-day visit to WCDH. Most of our time was spent in our individual rooms, writing, or in discussion about the projects on which we were working. Myra engaged in discussions about writing and revising some of her poetry. Mary Lou spent time getting feedback about writing and revising a piece about real crime and another project, the latter a non-fiction piece on which she and Jerry are collaborating. Jerry focused his time on outlining and writing that non-fiction piece. I wrote and revised some short stories and one of my poems, and fiddled with chapter one of a novel.

Over dinners, our group got to know a couple of other writers in residence, Laura Van Prooyen, an established poet who is working on a collection of her poems and Yermiyahu Ahron Taub, another acclaimed poet who is using his WCDH residency to work on short stories. Both of them were in the midst of a much longer stay than the short period our group sampled.

Our brief visit gave us just a taste of what's possible at a residential writing destination. There's little doubt all four of us will do it again; next time around, I am confident VWC members will fill all eight suites.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015


Posted by Victoria Strauss for Writer Beware

Writer Beware often hears from authors who've signed up with bad or inexperienced or dishonest publishers, and are desperate to get free. They write to us wanting to know how they can break their contracts and regain their rights. Unfortunately, there's usually no easy answer to this question, even where the publisher has clearly breached its contractual obligations. Too often, I have to tell people that they are probably stuck.

That said, here are some general suggestions, which may or may not be applicable to your situation, and may or may not work for you (obligatory disclaimer: I'm not a lawyer, so what follows should not be construed as legal advice).

1. First and most obvious, check your contract for a termination clause. If there is one, invoke it per the instructions. Beware, though, of termination fees, which some publishers use as a way to make a quick buck off the back end.

2. If there's no termination clause, try approaching the publisher and simply asking to be released. A publisher may refuse or ignore such a request--but sometimes it will recognize that an unhappy author isn't an asset, and may be willing to let him or her go.

If you take this approach, don't dwell on the problems you've had with the publisher. Try to keep your explanations as neutral as possible--such as saying that you don't feel you have the time or resources to help promote your book, or pointing to falling sales. If you feel you must mention problems, do so in a factual, businesslike manner, without recriminations or accusations. Especially, don't mention any negative information you may have found online or heard from other authors. As large a part as this may play in your desire to be free, your request is about you and your book, not other authors and their books. Bringing others' complaints into the picture is likely to alienate or anger the publisher, in which case it may be much less disposed to pay attention to your request. (In some cases, it may become twice as determined to hold on to you.)

Another thing not to do: informing the publisher that it's in breach, and that you're terminating the contract yourself. This doesn't work for two reasons. First, even if you're correct and the publisher has breached its obligations--and even if the contract includes a provision for termination due to the publisher's breach, which not all contracts do--you, personally, have no way to enforce a termination. The publisher can simply deny your allegations, or stick its metaphorical fingers in its metaphorical ears and go right on producing and selling your book.

Second, you may consider the contract to be null and void, and your current publisher may not have the resources to sue you if it disagrees--but if you want to re-publish, you'll have problems. Another publisher won't be interested in a book whose rights aren't unambiguously free and clear. Even self-publishing services require you to warrant that you have the right to publish.You must be able to show some kind of formal rights reversion document--which you won't be able to do unless your publisher actually consents to let you go.

Once again, watch out for demands for money. I've heard from some writers whose publishers attempted to blackmail them into paying a fee when they requested release, and from others whose publishers required a sizeable termination fee even though no fee was mentioned in the contract.

3. If you're a member of a writers' group, they may be able to help. For instance, SFWA has Griefcom, which will directly intercede in an attempt to resolve the situation for you. Similar services are provided by the National Writers Union's Grievance Assistance program. Novelists Inc. has a legal fund, which entitles members to up to two billable hours of legal consultation per year.

4. If there's no termination clause and the publisher refuses to consider a release request, you can resign yourself to waiting things out, either to the end of the contract term, if the contract is time-limited, or until the publisher declares your book out of print. Obviously this is more feasible for relatively brief terms of one to three years, and less so for longer terms, or for life-of-copyright contracts--especially since so much publishing now is digitally-based, and with digital publishing there's little incentive for publishers to take works out of print. Depending on your situation and your finances, however, it may still be preferable to the final option....

5. Consult legal counsel about your situation, and your options for taking legal action. This is where the issue of breach becomes relevant. A publisher may ignore an author's personal claims of breach, but may pay more attention if an attorney is involved.

If you choose this option, not just any lawyer will do. You want someone who practices publishing law. Publishing is a complicated business, with practices and conventions that are not well-understood by people in other fields; and publishing contracts are unique documents with terms and conditions that aren't found elsewhere. In order to provide effective representation, your lawyer needs the appropriate skill- and knowledge-set.

(This same caution, by the way, applies to hiring a lawyer to vet a publishing contract prior to signing it. I hear from any number of writers whose non-publishing-specialist lawyers gave the green light to a contract that would never have passed muster with a publishing law specialist, or a competent literary agent.)

There are a number of options for low-cost legal services, some of them specifically for people in the creative arts. For instance, many US states have Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts organizations, which provide services geared to helping people who work in the arts. The Arts Law Centre of Australia provides free- or low-cost legal advice and referrals for Australian creators and arts organizations. Artists’ Legal Advice Service helps creators who are residents of Ontario, Canada. Artists’ Legal Outreach does the same for residents of British Columbia, and similar assistance is provided in Montreal by the Montreal Artists’ Legal Clinic. There are also general referral services, such as the American Bar Association Lawyer Referral Network.

You can find more information and links on the Legal Recourse page of Writer Beware.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Why Write?

Do you write to tell stories? Is that what it's about, telling stories? Or is it something utterly different, something more than presenting ideas? Do you write, instead, to find answers to questions you've never before asked? Perhaps it's not that at all, though; maybe writing is simply a way to sort out the jumbled thoughts that fill your head, a means to bring order to chaos.

Every writer's reasons for writing are valid and every writer's reasons for writing change from day to day and hour to hour. Our writing is symptomatic of who we are at any given moment; it does tell stories, but not necessarily stories in the traditional sense.

That's what's on my mind this Monday morning. I wish someone else would read this and respond with thoughts my words might trigger.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Writers Versus People Who Write

Writers are, by nature, curious. They want to know more by day's end than they knew upon waking. They devour trivia the way sponges absorb water; yet they tend to turn trivia into treasures, thanks to their imaginations.

So, what of those people who write, but who do not have sufficient curiosity to explore new things? What about writers who think they are too old to learn new ideas, new technologies, new ways of thinking?

They are people who write, not writers. There's a difference. People who write can, with enough practice, produce tolerable work; at least they can produce work that does not instantly offend all readers. Writers, though, produce wonderful and horrible work, pieces of literature that serve as sandpaper or salve; they tend to offend everyone in some small way.

I'd rather be a writer than a person who writes. I wonder how many writers live in the Village; the number is far, far smaller than the number of people who write.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Eight Things: Advice from Kurt Vonnegut

Pay close attention to Kurt Vonnegut, my friends.  Consider what he said, heed what he said, and others will be more likely to read what you say.  Click on the link. You will learn things you might already know; but you will understand them a bit more deeply.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

VWC Winners at 20th Anniversary White County Creative Writers' Conference

VWC members Marlene Kloack and Millie Lancaster each were double winners at the White County Creative Writers' Conference, held September 5, 2015 in Searcy, Arkansas.

Marlene won 2nd Place (out of 21 entries) in Contest 11 for her essay about a humorous childhood memory, "White Sailboats on Blue Background."

She also won 2nd Place (out of 28 entries) in Contest 14 for her 6-word story in the tradition of Hemingway, "Safari Accident."

Millie won 2nd Place (out of 19 entries) in Contest 1 for her children's story for ages 6 to 12, "Opera Mouse."

She also earned a 1st Honorable Mention (out of 24 entries) in Contest 24, for her short story based on a true account or fact, disguised or transformed into fiction, "Old Dog."

While neither Marlene nor Millie were able to attend the Conference, their awards were picked up for them by Madelyn Young. Other VWC members in attendance at the Conference were John Achor, Jerry Davis, Mary Lou Moran, Myra Rustin, and John Swinburn.

The winners of the contest we sponsored at the White County Creative Writers' Conference, the Village Writers' Club Award (we asked for a humorous short story, 1500 word maximum, open only to Arkansas Writers), were:
1st Place-- Ellen Withers, "Elevator Dreams"
2nd Place-- Peggy Sanders, "What Comes Around, Goes Around"
3rd Place--Geneva Emerson, "Short and Sweet"
1st honorable mention-- Jason Glass, "Tax Dollars at Work"
2nd honorable mention-- Rita Dortch, "Speech Class"

The three VWC contest winners present at the Conference, Ellen Withers, Peggy Sanders, and Jason Glass, are pictured below:

Ellen Winters, Jason Glass, and Peggy Sanders

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Social Media Snake Oil

Let me suggest authors who aren't certain what to do about, or with, social media should read the post linked below:

 I'm looking forward to Chris Syme's book, scheduled to come out this fall: SMART Social Media For Authors.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Something to Share

Having attended Chap Harper’s incredibly clever and interesting book signing event at Garvan Woodland Gardens on July 2, I found it interesting the following day to come across an online article at entitled “How to Host a Killer Book Event.”

Despite the fact that I do not yet have a completed a book and, therefore, have no book events on the agenda, the first thing I did was to copy the article to a Word document and save it in my “Book Marketing” folder; one day, and I hope it’s not far off, I will have a book of my own to market. 

The second thing I did was to forward a link to the article to the members of the Village Writer’s Club “What Next” Personal Interest Group (PIG), led by Cy Holliday. The members of that PIG are interested in getting books published; marketing those books will be a crucial element in getting their books in front of readers. In response John Achor sent me a link to another exceptionally valuable article entitled "40+ Ways to Make Your Next Book Signing an EVENT!" (When you read the article, you'll note that it is Part 1 and links to the following Part 2 and on through to Part 4.)

The third thing I did was to write this and schedule it to be posted here. I did that because I enjoy sharing tips about writing and publishing with the other members of the Village Writers’ Club. I hope other members will share valuable tips and ideas with me, too, and offer their encouragement.

We are a community of writers, people who share a love of the written word and its power to educate, inform, provoke thought, and change lives.  I encourage every one of you to share your ideas or your questions with the rest of us.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Why Writers Should Blog

Why Writers Should Blog - Mary Lou Moran

Writers everywhere are blogging. It seems to be almost a requirement of dedicated writers. So, I'm doing what I do best . . . making a list. Bet you thought I was going to say writing. Fooled ya!

Anyway, I need your help. Please comment on this post and let me know Why Writers Should Blog. Let's see how many reasons we can come up with. I'll start.

  1. Good writers write every day. Okay, a lot. Blogging every day is a good way to set that habit in motion and the topics can vary from day to day. It stirs the creativity.
  2. your turn

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

How Do You Bring Characters to Life?

When you write characters in a story, they are more than simple descriptions on a page. They behave, they act, they live and breathe. People have physical attributes; so do the characters in writing.  They have senses of taste and smell and touch. Physical or emotional flaws may help shape them. Like the writer, characters think. They have motives, often revealed only through their actions, not their words or even their thoughts.

I might describe Johnny like this:

Johnny is an emotional, overweight ten year-old boy with blue eyes and blonde hair.

Or I might describe Johnny in a different way altogether:

Johnny's ninth birthday party, just a year ago, stuck in his memory like a knife in the gut. The older kids had laughed at him, calling him 'tow-headed fat-boy.' The memory caused tears to well up in his piercing blue eyes. He felt a warm tear slide down his cheek to the corner of his mouth; the salty taste reminded him of what his mother had said: "Those boys knew what they were doing; they were pouring salt on an open wound."

Though the prose in the latter paragraph might be a little 'purple,' it gives more insight into Johnny than a two-dimensional description.

I'd love to read some of the ways other members give life to their characters.  Please, if you will, share just a bit here on this blog.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Humor in dialog - Chap Harper

Humor in dialog- Chap Harper
These two characters will remain humorous throughout the rest of the book. I usually pick out a few that interact in a way that once they are in character one can expect the humor. Many of the characters could be in a gun battle but these two never stop being funny. It is that vein of humor that you try to maintain throughout the book. Since my books are adult, sometimes the language is a little more realistic for some people's taste, so you might cover your eyes through the occasional "bad" word parts. 

(Excerpt from Once Upon the Congo)

Sony may have planned his butt off for this trip, but he was not prepared for a young anthropologist who stood next to the large helicopter he was about to board.
She extended her hand “Hi! I’m Carol Barbot.”
Sony was in shock. Here stood a woman brushing back long blonde-streaked brown hair from her face—a runway model face. Beautiful white teeth glistened behind a smile wrapped with gorgeous full lips. She flashed lovely green eyes. He also noticed her dark olive complexion. As her soft feminine hand shook his, Sony sized up her body quickly and efficiently. All was in perfect harmony. Even her breasts were in motion while she and Sony shook hands. He had to act cool, since this most likely was the most beautiful woman he had ever touched, even in the form of a mere handshake.
“Carol, very nice to meet you. I’m Michael Sony Cole. You can call me Sony,” he said, as calmly as possible for a man who hadn’t been laid in a year. Now he was holding the hand of a first degree sex goddess.
“Did your parents name you after their television set?” She said. Her lips curled in a quirky smile.
“After the clock-radio next to their bed. Seemed like the thing to do after conception,” Sony said with a straight face. He had been down the Sony name road too many times.
Carol laughed out loud. She had met her match at smart-ass conversation. She might possibly have just met someone as handsome as she was beautiful. Sony was six foot three, slim, athletic, with a combination of his mother’s and dad’s good looks taken up a notch and capped off with a head of thick blond hair and piercing blue eyes. 
“Did they hire you to be our expedition comedian, or do you have a real job here?” she quipped.
“My parents own part of the mining concession, and I’m not sure why I’m here. And you were sent here to keep our minds off of the perils of the jungle?” Sony said, a little sarcastically.
“Absofuckinglutely! Once I strip down to bathe in the river, the pygmies will line the banks, and you guys just shoot them all,” she said, also with sarcasm.
Sony laughed, and realized this woman was a lot of fun. “Just in case—since I would be lining the bank to watch as well—would you mind telling them not to shoot me?”
“You’re golden, Sony. I will save you from pygmies and friendly fire every time.”
“Carol, now really, tell me about yourself with the least amount of fabrication possible.”
“You make things hard for me, Sony. I was thinking about liking you—but now it’s over.” She was clearly having fun with him. “I am a certified first class cultural anthropologist. With three degrees, for which I am also—like a doctor. Not a real doctor who would ask you to drop your drawers—not that I might not ask that of you sometime, but the Ph.D. kind where you don’t get to see people naked.” 
“So, Carol, we hired you for this expedition so that you can put tags on the toes of the natives we shoot? Or—maybe you are one of those bleeding hearts who will tell us not to shoot natives? I knew it! This expedition is not going to be any fun, and I want to go home.” Sony delved deeper into dark humor, knowing she would probably protect natives with her life.
“Sony, any natives you shoot have to be cleaned and stuffed for our museum. So don’t think you are just going to leave them in the jungle. The first thing you learn at anthropologist school is to not waste a dead pygmy. Very important to conserve the bounty nature gives us.” She laughed at how far she had carried the dead pygmy humor.
“Carol, I can’t wait any longer, since I’m beginning to think we could go on tour together. Are you married?” Sony realized all this banter could end quickly.
“No. Not this week. And you?”
“Not in the last year. Would you like to pretend we are married for the trip, and see if we would like it?”
“Sony—the man named after a clock-radio, I take you as my phony-ass husband as long as we are in the jungle together. Once we hit pavement again –it may be over.”
“Carol, I take these vows of marriage as just a stupid excuse to have sex together in the jungle, and will treat them and keep them, use them, for my own selfish satisfaction. So help me.”
“I pronounce us jungle married, and you may kiss the bride,” Carol said, as she pulled Sony close to her and kissed him. Actually, it was a very good deep kiss. They kissed again, and Sony said, “I had a ring picked out, but didn’t know your size.”
“Uh—I don’t know your size either. Maybe I should have waited to marry you until we had spent a little time together?"
“Oh, no! You are stuck with whatever size I am. Jungle divorces are almost impossible to get. Pygmies hate divorces and usually kill those who come before them with that request,” Sony said.
“Yes. I remember that from anthropology school. But as I recall the man is killed, and the chief takes the woman as a wife or . . . slave maybe.”
“Carol, you pull these anthropological assessments right out of your ass don’t you?"
“You’ll have to check later, sweetie, since it’s all yours in the jungle.”
“I like being married to you, Carol. You are so abnormal,” Sony said.
“Ah, yes, a most charming trait. You seem to possess abnormality at a deeper, psychological level—a level that someday may require medication.”
“Carol, I’ll loan you my meds anytime.”

While these two married each other and worked on a comedy routine, the jet carrying Mit, Chris and Modesto landed at the airport. The expedition would be headed out soon.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Software for Writers

I'm interesting in chatting with anyone who has experience using the following software:

  • Scrivener (from Literature and Latte)
  • calibre (both as e-book library management and for creating EPUB and MOBI files
  • Adobe InDesign
Please get in touch by email to  There's a free cup of coffee and a Danish in it for you!



Sunday, June 14, 2015

Writing Exercises

The Right Ingredients to Keep You on Edge: by Betty Wilson Beamguard, The Writer Mag Aug 2006

  • Select a newspaper story. Rework it into fiction using one of the people involved to tell the story as he or she experience it. Bring in sensory details wherever possoble.
  • Choose an emotional passage from your fiction and bring it to life by showing how your characters reacted rather than telling how they felt. Use action and dialogue rather than description.
Write - have fun.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Indie Authors Talk Editors

For those of you considering hiring an editor for your work prior to publication, I think you'll find this linked article from Publishers Weekly of interest.  It is about a year old, but mentions some specific editors by name and discusses costs, etc.  I haven't done any research to try to find these editors, but that's on my to-do list.

In the event my link doesn't work on the text above, here it is in all its lengthy glory:

Monday, June 8, 2015

Photos from Arkansas Writers' Conference

Speaker Panel Taking Questions
Speaker Panel Taking Questions
John Achor at his Book Table
John Achor at his Book Table
John Achor, Layne Fleming, Myra Rustin,
Linda Black, Janis Kearney
Linda Black at her Book Table
Chap Harper at his Book Table
Janis Kearney and Linda Black handling registration
Peggy Caudle Vining, Poet Laureate of
Received Honors at AWC
Faye Guinn, 2nd Place
in VWC Contest
John Swinburn with
contest award

Sara Gipson, 3rd Place
in VWC Contest

Notes from the Arkansas Writing Conference

The Arkansas Writing Conference (AWC), held June 5 and 6 in North Little Rock, was a great opportunity for chatting with old friends, making new ones, and learning about writing and publishing.

The Village Writers' Club was represented by the presence of the following members: John Achor, Linda Black, Chap Harper, and John Swinburn. We should note Linda Black was not only present, but was involved in planning and organizing the Conference. Linda is a member of the Arkansas Pioneer Branch of the National League of American Pen Women, the Conference organizer, and was a member of the planning committee. John, Linda, and Chap each had a table at which they displayed their books, as well.

Two members were recognized by placing in AWC contests: Mickey Jordan's short story, A Flight to Remember, received 3rd Honorable Mention in the Allen Vaughn Brown Memorial Essay contest. John Swinburn's poem, A Night on the Town, received 1st Honorable Mention in the Marie Barton Memorial Poetry Award contest. John's short story, Cameron Bay, was awarded 1st Place in the Writers' Colony at Dairy Hollow Short Story contest.

The Village Writers' Club sponsored a contest at the AWC. Themed "Creative Non-fiction about Possibilities," the winning entries were from: 1st Place, Geneva King Emerson; 2nd Place, Faye Smally Guinn, and 3rd Place, Sara Gipson.

Keep an eye on A Passion for Writing. We'll share some interesting and informative tidbits from speaker and panel presentations in the weeks and months ahead.

Monday, June 1, 2015

White County Creative Writers 2015 Contests

White County Creative Writers have announced fifteen contests in advance of the group's 2015 Writers' Conference (scheduled for September 5, 2015 in Searcy, AR). Details about the contests (deadline for entry is July 27) may be found at:

Monday, May 25, 2015

How to Request Rights Reversion

Fellow Village Writers' Club member Linda Black posted some information on her blog this morning that I thought other members of VWC would find of interest and value.  It is an article from another blog, Writer Beware, about how to request rights reversion from your publisher.  While this may be immediately relevant only to published authors, many of us hope and expect to be published one day, so it's a resource we might want to read and keep handy.  Here's a link to the original piece: How to Request Rights Reversion from Your Publisher.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Old Men Who Turn to Writing

The following is an edited version of a post I wrote on my own blog some time ago. It is the best response I can give to the challenge on this blog to write a piece themed after my own passion for writing. Though written in reference to men, I suspect it applies in some fashion, as well, to women who have a passion for writing.

Old Men Who Turn to Writing

Writing is like a drug; it can be a cure or an addiction.
Younger men write to prove themselves, to make their marks on the world. Older men write to find themselves.  They write to learn what mistakes they must undo to justify the time they have spent on this earth and to warrant the time they have left. I realize, of course, the danger in making broad inferences from specific circumstances, especially one’s own circumstances, but experience and observation tell me my perspective is more often true than not.
I have been writing, privately for the most part, almost my entire life. Early on, when I decided I wanted to write ‘seriously,’ I was not intent on writing for publication, but I wanted what I wrote to ultimately matter. I remember times as a young man, probably in my early twenties, fantasizing that after my death my writing would be ‘discovered’ and my mark on the world, therefore, would be made.  I wanted what I had to say to be important, to matter.
Over time, my interest in making my mark diminished.  My perspectives on a series of minor executive positions that I thought mattered, when I occupied them, changed. I began to see them for what they were: irrelevant positions that became temporarily and artificially important for me, the incumbent, and for the people whose own value was measured by their access to the incumbent in those positions. I came to realize that the positions and the person who held them could suddenly disappear—vaporize in an instant—and the world would not change enough to cause a flea to catch a cold.  So, I wondered, if these positions did not define my value, what did? How could I make my mark?  More importantly, is making a mark a legitimate objective or desire?  I concluded that, for some people, yes it is; those peoplewho possess skills and talents and intellects that could through their application genuinely change the worldcould and should make “changing the world” a priority. For the rest of us, our fundamental value rests somewhere else, somewhere not tethered to a position of employment or even related to work.
These changes in my perspectives on work mirrored a transformation in my perspectives on writing. As I grew older—starting in my early fifties, I think—I started to reflect on who I have been all my life.  So much of my life involved work and the value I attached to it. So much of my life revolved around the value others attached to my work. And, frighteningly, so much of my life seemed to have been molded around thinking and acting and behaving as I thought others wanted me to think and act and behave.  Questions arose in me: What am I like, really like? How can I find who I am under the veneer, absent the automatic behaviors intended to respond to and please people who, ultimately, are no more important to me than I am to them?

And so I began writing more earnestly, using words to explore ideas that might expose the man I might be, the man beneath the thatch of a lifetime of work, the man hiding under the public persona. For years now, that endeavor has claimed my early mornings, my solitary time when I write earnestly, though often not seriously.
Some of the few men who belong to the writers’ club I joined shortly after moving to Hot Springs Village are doing the same thing, I think. None of them have expressed their thoughts on the matter to me, directly, and perhaps most of them do not even realize what they are doing with their writing. But I think I can see signs of their searches. They may not have to dig as deeply as I to find something that matters, but they, too, are digging.

This much, I think, is certain: old men who turn to writing want to find a part of themselves that’s buried under the mulch of a lifetime of experience. They spend time routing around those parts of their minds unexposed to the elements, looking for something worthy for the world to see. They are looking for ways to know who they are so others—who read what they leave behind—might understand them.  And they are looking for ways to apologize for mistakes they’ve made, for the people they once were. 

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Old Dogs & Blue Leopards

You've heard the saying that old dogs can't learn new tricks. I'm here to tell you, not only can old dogs learn new tricks but leopards can change their spots. You don’t believe me? I tell you it is true. I’ve seen it with my own eyes. For I am that old dog leaping backwards over an inflamed barrel. I’m also the blue leopard with big orange polka dots.
I describe myself as having been born backward—one foot first, and left-handed—and seem to have done most things backward ever since. At seventeen, and still a high school junior, I married a preacher and soon became known as the preacher’s wife. Today, it is difficult to imagine a girl, barely 17, take on that responsibility—a kid playing grown up. But I sailed along just fine, any answer I needed given to me by my husband. He even gave answers to many questions I never asked.
I started college as a forty-year-old freshman and in a few short years gained a degree in sociology, a master’s in educational psychology, and then a divorce! Five years later, I got engaged, bought a house, took a honeymoon in Hawaii, and married in Las Vegas on the way home.
You still with me so far on this backwards thing?
After many years working in the human services field, I retired and took on a whole new career—I wrote a mystery book that soon turned into a series of four in the Sidra Smart Mystery Series along with a cookbook to match. Then I wrote a historical novel set in Texas during WWII.
I rebranded myself as writing strong women. Why? I’ve realized that writing is my passion, but writing strong women is REALLY my passion. So, I might write mystery, historical fiction, or something else, but whatever I write, it will feature a strong woman. Of course she likely won’t start out that way, but by the time I’m through with her, I guarantee you she will be. My latest, Original Cyn, takes on a controversial subject relevant to societal discussions today. It is my first attempt to write on a topic that I know many will object to, and that’s just the way it goes. Standing in my power. Speaking truth to power.
Think that’s a reflection of my life? You bet your bottom patootie it is!
One thing I’ve learned is it makes no difference whether you live your life backwards or forwards, the important thing is that you LIVE IT! And never say never. Never not do something because you think you’re too old, too dumb, too smart, too whatever.
If you want to write and/or publish a short story, a book or a screenplay, go for it, and don't stop until you accomplish that goal. (And when you do, let me know. I'll celebrate with you.)
Oh, and the next part of that equation is to help your fellow writer accomplish their goals, too! Be there for them. Share what you've learned, put in a good word to other people about their writing, and buy their books.

Who Am I Really?

This is the first post in response to the challenge to members to write a post themed after their passions for writing.

Mary Lou Moran

One of the first things I tried when I moved to the Village was writing. I started writing back in Nebraska after a particularly tragic death in my family. Three months before my son was to be married, his fiancé was killed in a car accident.

Not only did I grieve for a lost daughter, but I had to watch my son's heart break. My husband and I stood with our son at our daughter-in-law's grave on what would have been their wedding day.

How does anyone get over something like that? I chose to write about it. And the more I wrote, the more I healed. I started with a journal, wrote poetry and essays, but never shared these with anyone, until I moved to the Village.

Writing opened up a whole new world for me. I joined the Writers’ Club, participated in a critique group and started entering contests. It was scary at first, because I was afraid the feedback would be that I shouldn’t be writing. That would have devastated me, because I love it so much.

I made a conscious decision to put tragedy behind me and started writing humor. Erma Bombeck had always been one of my favs. She became my inspiration as I started writing about everyday events and trying the see the humor in them. I found I had a knack for it and I was off and running.

I joined a readers’ theater group to help get over the fear of speaking to groups. But theater turned out to have other benefits. Acting is not possible without getting into character and, as it turns out, neither is writing. So, acting helped me break out of my shell and also develop better characters and dialogue. To date, I have written many skits and plays for senior theater, took a stab at writing a book of short plays, and couple of dinner theater plays. Anything is possible now, and I am having the time of my life.

            Who am I really? Among other things, I'm a writer and I love it.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

White Country 2015 Creative Writers' Conference Details Coming Soon

The date for the White County 2015 Creative Writers' Conference is set (September 5, 2015). The organization's website says the schedule, speaker information, and contest details will be available on June 1. Mark your calendars!

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Do You Have Writing Talent?

You'll have to use your cursor to move around this one, but it's worth your effort! If you want to open the source website, click here.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Passion is Not Too Strong a Word


This first post to the Village Writers' Club blog is the result of passion, a passion for writing and for sharing the thoughts and emotions that spill forth when we put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard. My hope, as the anonymous writer of this first post, is that the Village Writers' Club blog, called "Passion for Writing," will serve as a working companion to the Club's website, a place members can go for inspiration and information.

Toward that end, I'm issuing a challenge that I  hope will inspire each of you who visits this blog to write a short piece—a poem, a short story, a personal recollection—themed after your passion for writing.

Village Writers' Club members who have already accepted the invitation to be a contributor can post directly to the blog (just go to and sign in, then follow the prompts to write a post).  If you have not yet become a contributor, send your piece, via email (use the subject "BLOG SUBMISSION" for your email), to and we'll post them to our blog.

By the way, be sure to tell us whether you want your name included when we publish your submission to the blog (some of us are a little shy).