Free Down Loads On Kindle

By Mike Long Until recently I’ve steadfastly resisted giving any of my books away. Sure, I sent copies to folks for reviews (with mostly good results) and even donated a case to a US Army aviation unit in Afghanistan – but that’s not the same as listing a book as ‘Free’ on Kindle for several days. Why on earth would a sane person do that? I’m not sure why sane folks do anything, but what pushed me to try a ‘free download’ promo was the fact that I just wasn’t selling many copies as E-books. I had my first novel (No Good Like It Is) and the sequel (Dog Soldier Moon) available on Kindle, Smashwords, Sony, Nook, etc., but was only moving maybe twenty or twenty-five on each per month. I’d already gone through the Kindle pricing drill, starting at $9.99, then $5.99, then 99 cents and finally establishing my ‘sweet spot’ as $2.99 per. At that price or higher, the author gets 70% of each sale; below that, it’s only 35%. And when Kindle offered their Kindle Owners Lending Library (KOLL), I was slow to join up (why loan books for free, rather than sell them?) – until I learned that the KOLL program actually pays a little to the participating authors. You do have to give Kindle an ‘exclusive’ on your books, but I’d never received a penny from Sony, Smashwords, Nook, etc. anyhow. Another no-brainer, once I studied it. And all that led me to the free download promo. A friend explained that the folks who hold out for freebies on Kindle were probably never going to pay for one of my books – unless maybe they got the first one free and just had to have the sequel, especially if it didn’t cost much. I ran my experiment Nov. 26-30 2012, after a good deal of mostly free advertising. I used Facebook (all my groups therein) and LinkedIn, and found more than a dozen sites that would blog or advertise my effort for little or nothing. There were over 6500 free downloads during that five day promotion; most (6200) were in the first three days, so a two or three-day promo is probably enough. But what happened afterward is what has really surprised me. In the nine days since I stopped the promotion, I’ve had over 220 paid downloads (purchases, KOLL Loans) of my first novel; the figures on the sequel aren’t in yet. Remember, I was only doing about 22 of each per month before. I don’t expect this pace to continue, but it’s sweet now. And there are still 6500+ potential buyers for the sequel. Write On!

When I was fortunate enough to find the South Carolina Writer’s Workshop, be accepted as a member, and joined the Surfside chapter, I was of course thrilled. I remember discussing how the meetings work. You know, the usual stuff like dates to meet, how to submit my work, how to accept critiques of my work. And then the first meeting came. I remained thrilled and naturally went through all the normal emotions -- excitement, anticipation, nervousness -- all the feelings anyone might experience when they’re about to have their work looked at and yes, scrutinized.

I knew I needed to be open-minded about the critique. I knew not to take the feedback personally and to leave my ego at the door after all, I was in this to learn and to improve.

Then they told me I would also critique others in my group. Huh? Really? Didn’t they know I like to be liked? What would I say to others? I don’t have a PhD in English Lit. I screw up tenses and make the age old mistake with its versus it’s all the time.

Okay. I can do this and so can you. Remember, the person whose work you are reading wants feedback. They want to improve. They wanted to present their work and be scrutinized because it’s a tough, competitive world out there. They are like me. Tired of the family/friend who says, “This is good.” They can’t say why it’s good or bring themselves to point out weaknesses instead, they say, “No. It’s really good. I liked it.” You try to help them along with questions like, “Was the conflict believable? Did the story move along? What about how the protagonist fought the giant ants and then came face-to-face with Bambi’s mother? Did it make sense?” And they respond, “I liked it. It was all good.” Bull. Nothing is all good. Hence the need to find a writer’s group and seek feedback.

So you’re like me and want to be liked. Okay. Just critique the way you would like to be critiqued - honesty with encouragement and give examples of what you mean. Help to focus the writer on the main issues. There are two objectives to a critique. 1) To identify weaknesses; and, 2) Offer constructive advice. That doesn’t mean you have to destroy the author. Be objective and honor the writer’s voice but help them learn so it isn‘t a waste of their time or your own.

I checked out some web sites to assist me in the art of critiquing. I also tried to come up with a checklist to help me. The checklist isn’t all-inclusive but it’s a start that keeps me on track.

Before I give the list, I want to say that you should always let the author know if the type of story you’re asked to read isn’t really your thing. Let’s say it’s a fantasy about animalistic-like aliens who come to earth and take over dog mills so they can conquer the world. Well, fantasy might not be of interest to you so tell the author. But, that doesn’t mean you can’t offer feedback. You recognize a good story when you see one so provide comment on the areas that matter in any good story telling.

1. Opening - was it captivating? Did you find it interesting? Did it grab your attention?

2. Conflict - is there action? Struggle? Emotional conflict? Something that keeps your interest and makes you want to turn the page?

3. Setting - does the author paint a picture of where the story takes place? Is it consistent to the era? Is there too much detail that drags the story down? Two pages on how the hotel room looked right down to a complete description of bedbugs will probably not help the story plot or keep the reader’s interest.

4. Point of View - is that consistent? Through whose eyes are we seeing the story? Whose emotions are in play? Is there a lot of head hopping?

5. Show Versus Tell - how much is the author telling us and how much does the reader simply know because of how the story is shown? Is the POV consistent with the character? Does it represent how he/she would think, feel, react?

There are other elements as well to a critique. Pacing is important. Does the story move along or slow to a snail in parts? Does it flow well in a logical order? If the story involves flashbacks, is it confusing? Does the reader get lost in to much background information? Does the plot make sense or does it get lost along the way? Is too much time spent on details that get too technical while the main action is left flapping in the wind? Are the characters believable even if they are aliens who bark and quote Hemingway? Is the dialogue consistent to their personality? Can you sense who is speaking without being told? And finally, the mechanics of grammar, spelling, choice of words all play a part. Writer’s know what they want to say, what they intended to say, and when they read back their own words, that’s what they see…even if it isn’t there. I no of what I spoke.

As much as possible, give examples on how to fix the weakness. Offer suggestions without taking over the style and let the author come to their own conclusions on how to improve.

Above all else - praise. That is so important. Add positive comments on where the author did something really good. It might be a funny line or a description, or the story itself that has good potential, but there is always something good that can be found. "We all need to be told where we are very good as well as where we are very, very bad. We cannot grow, otherwise." - Pete Murphy.

For more resources check out: Also see:; and

Hope to see you at the SCWW Conference October 19-21.

Linda Cookingham (aka. L. Thomas-Cook)
Writer, Photographer, Member of the BOD SCWW, Mother, Wife, Beach Walker, Dog Lover, and all around dreamer.

Writing Non-fiction with Panache

By Chris Mathews

Writing non-fiction does not have to be a dry, pedestrian venture. In fact, in today’s internet world, original ways of approaching real-life events can make the difference between prose that touches people and prose that bores.

In the piece that follows, I tried to inject the simple act of doing a project with my grandchild into a piece that captured the frustration and joy of the experience.

Excavating the Triceratops with Poppy and Granddaughter Sidney Grace

 On Saturday, August 18th, in Ridgeland, South Carolina, Poppy and his granddaughter Sidney Grace Mathews unearthed and reconstructed a triceratops, defined by Wikipedia as a genus of herbivorous ceratopsid dinosaurs which lived during the late Mesozoic period.  Forget that scientists now think that this famous, fearsome three-horned triceratops was actually a younger version of the torosaurus. Forget that Ridgeland, South Carolina has never been known for its tarpits (in fact, it barely has a ridge). Forget that this monumental achievement will never be displayed in the Smithsonian. 

Poppy and Gracie dug out a triceratops together, using only a small blue, plastic spade and brush.  Gracie did most of the brushing, Poppy scraped with the spade. This joint expedition took place in the Mathews’ den atop a glass coffee table.

The team of Poppy and Gracie unearthed this find by extricating a clay egg enclosed in vacuum-sealed plastic labeled Dino World Fossil Kit. Excavating instructions were listed on the back in both English and Spanish:

1) While over an easily cleanable surface or newspaper, remove the dino egg from its wrapper.  MarMar, grandma, suggested the kitchen table as the perfect location for this expedition but Poppy wanted a challenge, so he placed a poster sized “No Diving” sign on the clear glass wood-rimmed table.

2)  Make sure that the egg is firmly held in place. Carefully, remove dirt using the excavating tools provided (the previously mentioned spade and brush) Wanting results, Poppy left out the “carefully”. After shaving slivers for a short time, he squeezed the clay to smithereens. Gracie reveled in the clay, fragments cascading off the table and onto the carpet, leaving her looking like a street urchin. Feeling the exhilaration of risk-takers, the two opted not to “WEAR EYE PROTECTION” as posted at the bottom of this step.

3)  When done removing dirt, clean fossils using the brush.  It is very important to remove all dirt from holes that are used to connect pieces to allow a more secure fit. Poppy discovered this important fact as Gracie brushed off the pieces and he tried to force the tiny nubs into the dinosaur’s torso.   

4)  Never force the pieces together.  If they are not fitting, check for dirt in the holes. Poppy jammed the nubs of the legs into the tiny holes, but only managed to reconstruct a three-legged Triceratops with tail and horned head.  Each time Poppy wedged the last leg in its hole, another leg fell off. The plastic legs matched the light tan carpet exactly so finding one that dropped was not easy.  After twenty minutes of dropping, picking-up, and twisting legs, Poppy had taken on the demeanor of a mad scientist. Sidney Grace, however, did not lose confidence in Poppy.  She just kept playing with the clay, spilling a few crumbs on the carpet as MarMar gleamed with pride at the two with a look of “I knew it wouldn’t stay on the table”.

Finally, after blowing profusely in the holes and delicately washing and blow-drying these tiny orifices, Poppy assembled the Triceratops on four legs. Sidney Grace was impressed, even though Poppy failed to mount the two back legs in the two holes provided on the plastic stand shown in the illustration, deeming the stand “for nincompoops”.  After the two proudly gazed at their tiny monstrosity, Marc, Sidney Grace’s dad and Poppy’s son, proclaimed “naptime” for the smudged-face waif.

SCWW Conference Labor Day Special Offer

By Ginny Padgett
2012 SCWW Conference – October 19-21 – Myrtle Beach
It’s that time of year again. School is back in session, football returns to fan-filled stadia and South Carolina Writers’ Workshop holds its annual conference.
Here’s the latest conference news. The early-bird registration rate ended yesterday (September 1), but if you register by September 15 and email me at and tell me you saw this blog, I will extend the $50.00 discount. Additionally, I’ll extend the deadline for purchasing a manuscript critique to September 15.
Registration remains open until October 17; however, you’ll pay full price and only pitch and query-letter critique appointments remain for sale.
 I hope you’ll join us for the conference. It’s an excellent opportunity to network with other writers and industry professionals, hone your craft, expand your knowledge of publishing trends…and who knows, come away with a book deal! It’s going to be a great weekend for writers in South Carolina.
Take a look at the weekend activities that will mark the 22nd SCWW Conference. (See You can go to for all the information, including links to registering for the conference and making your Hilton reservations.

Playing Tennis with the Net Down

By Bonnie Stanard

Robert Frost was quoted as saying, “Writing in free verse is like playing tennis with the nets down.” I would ask, If you’re playing tennis with the nets down, are you playing tennis?
Free verse is usually defined as verse without meter or rhyme. Most poetry I read today is free verse, whether we classify it by form as narrative, lyric, sonnet, etc.

Take a look at the excerpt below from “Nightclub”, written by former poet laureate Billy Collins and printed without its versification. Is this poetry or prose? 
You are so beautiful and I am a fool to be in love with you is a theme that keeps coming up in songs and poems. There seems to be no room for variation. I have never heard anyone sing I am so beautiful and you are a fool to be in love with me, even though this notion has surely crossed the minds of women and men alike.
Prose poems have enthusiastic defenders. This is a poem that “appears as prose, but reads like poetry,” according to I’d like to know what reads like poetry means. Prose poems throw out meter and rhyme as well as versification. What meaningful difference is there between prose poems and flash fiction? For poets to stake a claim on prose can only mean the genre is desperate for an audience.

Some poets are staking out territory in music. Poetry on Record, a CD collection, includes several poets reciting to music. I have to wonder when some writer will come out with a CD collection of, not lyric poems, but “song poems” with a trio knocking off a beat in the background.

Poetry slams, defined as performance poetry, have emerged as competitive events. In this case, the success or failure of a poem depends not so much on the merits of the writing as the performer’s ability to entertain. Written representations of these poems convey less in terms of drama or substance. 

Fiction writers rehash characters and plots that have been around since the first written words. They’re able to make prose interesting for the contemporary reader without abandoning the devices that serve the style, things like dialogue, foreshadowing, symbolism, narration, point of view, etc.

In the 20th Century, rhyme morphed into assonance/dissonance, and meter went from structured beat/lines such as iambic pentameter to syllabic and blank verse. Innovation in poetry today seems to be missing the mark. Why have we abandoned rhyme and meter rather than pioneer revolutionary varieties? Surely there are more avenues to explore. Aren’t there?

Working Behind the Scenes

We’ve been very busy over here at SCWW and hope that you have noticed our work. In the last two months, we have:

Updated the website

Opened conference 2012 registration

Assembled the conference faculty

Found a keynote speaker

Decided on classes and seminars for the weekend

Selected volunteers to assist with the conference

The majority of the above has been accomplished through the tireless efforts of our organization president and conference chair, Ginny Padgett.

 What have you been up to? I hope you have been thinking about joining us in October. Or that you have been telling your friends about what a great time we have in Myrtle Beach each year. Or maybe you were getting your entry for the annual Carrie McCray award ready for submission? And let’s not forget about The Petigru Review, Tibby is excited about the project this year and we’re all looking forward to another great edition.

Whether or not you’ve been thinking about coming to the conference this year, let me tell you a bit about what we have planned: sessions on social media; sessions by some of SCWW’s own on their adventures in getting published; an interactive discussion with Patti Callahan Henry, our 2012 Keynote speaker; sessions specifically geared to non-fiction, memoir, children’s literature and a Friday intensive especially for poets or anyone seeking a new way to be inspired. There are also slushfests, which are a big hit every year; book signings by the authors on faculty; and the critiques, pitches and real-time queries we have each year. We hope you’ll be as thrilled as we are with the things on offer this year.

If you’re available the weekend of October 19 – 21, we’d love to see you there. In the meantime, send us an email or leave us a comment, let us know what you think of everything we’ve been up to. You could even let us know what you’re up to.

A Tome, Extensive Research and a Good Story.

By Alex Raley

Big books were the norm in college and graduate school.  I also read such books for pleasure, but as I moved forward in time I found tomes rarely held my attention.

Recently a friend passed on to me a novel of 847 single-spaced pages. How could I tell him that I don’t read tomes? I kept it for six months without opening the cover. Then in January, 2012, I realized that I was 80 years old. To read the book might take the rest of my life. I knew I’d better get on with it.

I found myself buried in a page-turner: Stephen King’s 11/22/63. Why was this book gripping my mind? On the surface, the novel did not appear to be worth 847 pages, but an analysis of how King kept my attention began to turn up some answers:

  • The novel has a theme that is always present, though, its pinnacle is close to the end of the novel.
  • There are several subplots that are interesting in their own way. King weaves them into the overall story and theme.
  • The characters in all the plots are skillfully drawn.
  • Details flow as easily as the dialogue. In fact, most of the story and details are moved forward by dialogue.
  • The novel takes an almost overworked time-space-travel idea and makes it a great tool to address King’s philosophical stance.
  • Yes, King is philosophical here. He poses the question of whether we should tamper with destiny, even if this were possible. He takes his main character back in time-travel several times before he takes a firm philosophical position, which piles on more intrigue for the reader.
  • The work is based on an amazing amount of research. So much research that one has to forgive an occasional mishap. King can afford a research assistant, but he also visited many of the sites himself.
  • 11/22/63 has plenty of gory actions to please all King lovers. For those who don’t like gore, the final trip back in time erases most of the blood and guts. You are left with only a memory of the gore.
We have all been surfeited with how-to workshops, but I found that a reading and analysis of King’s novel gave me examples to hang my hat on. This was not someone telling me what to do but my own examination of a successful author’s work. I tried the same examination on the work of a little known author. I easily could see why he is little known.

The next time you are tempted to pay for a how-to seminar, try reading and analyzing the work of a good author. It’s cheaper, and you might even be entertained while you are being informed. 

Wallabies in the Bathroom

How many people have a wallaby toilet paper holder? Not many. They are cute animals. So why don't more of us have them?

Recently my husband and I rented a house for a few days in northern Michigan. We saw photos on the Internet of the family's big game hunting exploits. Stuffed heads (and complete animals—more than 70) hung on the walls. They were above eye level, and I could ignore most of them. I didn't look up much. My daughter is a vegetarian. Enough said.

In two of the bathrooms taxidermied wallabies held the toilet paper like a servant from bygone times. That gave me paws.

Once I got over the shock of a wallaby's adorable face, furry ears and vacant eyes—and avoided the little paws—I thought it might be an opportunity for inspiration.

I recently revised and finished a picture book for my four-year-old granddaughter I wrote and illustrated a long time ago. The illustrations were crayon drawings. The story had little plot, no conflict and no satisfying ending. I rewrote the story with a plot, conflict and an ending. With Photoshop Elements I turned the illustrations into a cute little story about a frog who escapes from an octopus. I know frogs and octopi live in mutually exclusive environments, but my granddaughter loved it.

Inspiration can come anytime, anywhere. A story began gestating in my mind. I have a vague idea of a picture book about a wallaby. But I'm not an artist. I'm a digital scrapbooker. I don't have a clue how to draw a wallaby. If I figure that out I can use Photoshop to separate the drawing into its disparate parts, then cobble them together in different poses. The wallaby in my story will never encounter a hunter, because that's too scary for little children. He will have an adventure, escape some difficulty and live happily ever after.

My granddaughter is enamored of princesses. How about a wallaby princess who wants to have adventures instead of being rescued by the handsome wallaby prince? Princesses can do anything: have adventures, slay dragons, rescue princes. A tale of star crossed lovers whose wallaby clans have been feuding forever? Or the wallaby princess who rescues the wallaby prince from the big bag wolf.

Right now I'm in Vermont on a mountain with my son's in-laws. No wallabies here. Last night while we slept I think the forest crept closer to the house. I'm going to pace it off to see if it really did. There's a premise for a creepy horror story: what happens when the trees encroach on the house? Hopefully, I won't be around when that happens. I'm leaving in the morning.

The point is that inspiration comes in many forms. We just need to look and truly see, and listen with our hearts.

Wait. There is so much wilderness here in the Green Mountains. What if a woman's car breaks down on a country road, and, when she goes for help, she meets a seemingly ordinary family who conceals a horrible secret. There's a creepy story there somewhere. Beware, this won't be a child's cautionary tale about a wallaby. You won't want to go outside in the dark after you read this one....


In February, The Quill offered our members a free subscription to a service called AUTHOR SALON, a 24/7 writer’s conference complete with online critique groups AND a slew of big time agents and editors who regulary shop member's work. Michael Neff, the gracious brainchild behind AS told me he was disappointed that there was no response from our membership besides me.

Granted the signup process is hard for folks who hadn’t been to one of his pitch conferences.  It forces you to think of your work on a marketing level that often times reveals the flaws in your story. But the good news is, AS also requires that you be in an AS online critique group made up of members who write in your genre, and with four other sets of eyes, the flaws are easy to fix.

Does it require a lot of time? YES. But each month, dozens of projects written by aspiring authors on Author Salon have been requested by New York publishers and literary agents on both coasts--all part of Author Salon's ongoing "Literary Showcase" initiative. Genres represented include mystery, young adult fantasy, upmarket and general fiction, women's fiction, adult fantasy and SF, historical fiction, and more.

Which is where the gift horse comes in. If you looked at AS and found the FREE lifetime membership daunting, but you’re still  in this to publish, look again.  You may have to pay a few dollars a month for the service, but it’s worth it if for no other reason than you’ll know IF your idea is marketable, and you’ll have a clear understanding of HOW to sell your work at The South Carolina Writers' Workshop Conference in October. And, most importantly, you’ll have a polished first 50 pages and a great pitch, which makes a dandy query letter.

Adventures in Book Publishing, Part 1

To hell with New York publishers. I’ll do it myself. 

No, that’s not quite the reason I printed my own book. To echo M. J. Rose’s article in last month’s Quill, I decided upon a unique way to market my book on the Internet by appealing to my niche market.

What’s my niche? My protagonist is Penelope, my 9th great grandmother who was shipwrecked in 1648 on her first day in America and scalped on her third day. She survived to have 10 children and 502 descendents when she died at age 110 (as the legend says). This tale fascinates every genealogist who stumbles across it (like I did), and obviously Penelope had a lot of descendents. Genealogists tend to flock together on the Internet to share information about common ancestors and to share email addresses.

The e-book route might appear to be the logical companion to email marketing, but my daughter owns a real bookstore, Fiction Addiction in Greenville, SC, and e-books are her enemy. Furthermore, genealogists will want to possess and display a printed copy of a book about their ancestors. I know I do—even if I had to write it myself. And you can’t autograph an e-book.

To start the process, I looked at book selling from the bookstore’s perspective. The retail price of historical novels of 300 to 400 pages in trade paperback is about $15. The bookstore expects a discount of 40% off the list price, free delivery, the option to return unsold books, and a long time to pay for them.

Many “self-publishers,” such as iUniverse, set the retail price but they set it too high—$20 for a book equivalent to mine. Furthermore, many self-publishers concentrate on selling “author packages,” not books.  And they offer none of the terms a bookstore expects. The author can’t even buy them cheaply enough to sell to a bookstore. Thus iUniverse books are seldom found in a bookstore simply because of economics, regardless of the quality of the writing.

Other publishers, such as Lightning Source and CreateSpace, let the author set the price and provide options to get your book into the book distribution system. But those expensive distribution options consume almost all the revenue from selling the book.

Many unpublished writers operate under the fallacy that if a book is printed, every bookstore in the country will carry it. The truth is that it’s a pull system, not a push system. Your book only gets into a bookstore or the hands of a reader if someone asks for it. If the Barnes&Noble corporate buyer asks for it, then all right! Otherwise, someone (that is, you) has to persuade each individual bookstore owner or each individual reader to ask for it. Marketing is the beginning and end.

The third option is to print a bunch of copies, that is, to become a traditional publisher. I found that I could get 250 copies printed and shipped to me for less than $5.00 a copy. At least my economics are reasonable: a bookstore will sell my book for $15 and pay me $9 for something that cost me $5. I once hauled 1400 Nicholas Sparks hardcover copies to a book signing, so 250 paperbacks sounded manageable. Indeed, my stack of seven boxes occupied less space than my body.

Next question: How do I get my book into lots of bookstores?
The answer: I only need my book in one bookstore.
Why: My marketing scheme involves email and the Internet. The Law of Instant Gratification says that if I interest a person in my book, I need to provide a convenient way for her to order it immediately. Most websites have a link to Amazon or B&N. My link is to my daughter’s bookstore; her inventory is also on Amazon Marketplace and B&N Marketplace.

What are the advantages of a real bookstore? The website looks legitimate; they handle credit cards online, collect sales tax, wrap and ship; track shipments; and are in business every day.

Make this offer to your favorite bookstore (assuming it already does a significant volume of on-line business): here’s a box of my signed books; I will direct traffic to your website; you sell and ship the books; quarterly you pay me 60% of the selling price; call me if you sell out and I’ll bring more. 

Pick a nearby bookstore if you agree to personalize the signings because you’ll drive there often, especially if most of your customers are your 10th cousins.

Next time--the details of preparing a manuscript for the book printer.

Jim McFarlane
Author of Penelope: A Novel of New Amsterdam
Available at

Secret Diary

Its 3:46 A.M. and I’m sitting in my recliner pecking away on my laptop. Assigned the task of producing a thought-provoking article for our organizational website, I plod along, deleting more words than I allow to remain. The import of what I am doing an ever present burden, I write thoughts that will be read, or at least looked over, by several people, maybe even four.
I’m supposed to be writing a blog. Even old people, such as I, know what a blog is; it’s a web log. Why it’s not called a web log, welog, wlog, web message, or online diary is less clearly understood. I think I’ll title this one SECRET DIARY, probably not though, wouldn’t want to disappoint so many when they learn there’s no sex in it, but then again. Grammar police – If you think, the second sentence of this paragraph should read “old people like me” take it up with Elvis Presley, he sang “a fool such as I” and you didn’t ding him for that.
In my previous blog, I wrote of the enormous possibilities for dissemination of information through social media. I thought I was leading a charge of well-educated people into a new and exciting way of promoting one’s writing.
 Since then, I’ve learned many literate people don’t even check their email regularly. Many don’t FaceBook, Twitter, YouTube, or even Link In. In fact, I’ve come to the conclusion some intelligent people don’t have cable, broadband, or Wi-Fi in their homes and might not turn on their computers for days at a time! I’ve even heard of a person who still uses a typewriter and pen and paper to write! They don’t use smart phones, Ipads, or Kindles! How do I deal with such an astounding revelation? I must admit, I went through a stage of denial when first confronted with this information. This couldn’t be, not in 2012!
Then I made a discovery that might explain this situation. Libraries and bookstores still exist. People actually go to them, physically, to borrow or buy books. Theaters still exist and people visit them to watch movies. How Quaint!
The literary world is in the midst of a paradigm shift. Some reside in the old, others in the new, and, as always, many haven’t a clue. Who am I to judge which is the better milieu?
I don’t think I’ll live long enough to see the apex of the pendulum swing into modernity. Maybe I should just play it as it lays and do the best I can by interacting with those who use technology; oh, and not use as many clichés and metaphors.

Conference Volunteers and Hotel Information

The deadline for submitting your application to be a volunteer for this year’s conference is fast approaching. There is still time to request and submit an application. Contact me at and I’ll get an application to you as soon as possible.

            As I said in my April 4, blog there are no special requirements to be a volunteer other than being a member in good standing of South Carolina Writers’ Workshop through the end of the conference. For information on your membership renewal date contact Jim McFarlane at

And don’t forget there are discounts for early reservations at our host hotel, the Myrtle Beach Hilton.  We don’t have the reservation code yet; once it’s available, it will be added to the conference area of our website. We ask anyone considering attending the conference please use the code when making their reservation.

The hotel doesn’t charge your credit card when you reserve a room. Your card is only charged when you check-in so reserving early costs you nothing, but it does let the Hilton know that our members are interested in our event. The deadline for receiving the discounted price for your Hilton hotel stay is September 12, 2012.

SCWW Website

The long wait is almost over. The SCWW Board has been planning and saving for a website revamp for almost two years. Hopefully within a few more weeks, we'll unveil a new content-management site that we'll be able to update at will. The address will remain the same, only the appearance will be fresh and new. We'll let you know via FaceBook, Twitter and the Quill when it's up and running.

PS: Don't forget the annual SC Book Festival, May 18-20. Two Master Writing Classes will be offered on Friday, May 18, 2012 at the Columbia Metropolitan Convention Center. The classes run from 11:00 a.m. - 12:30 p.m. and from 1:00 to 3:00 p.m. Registration is $35 per person. Topics include the "How to Get Published" with faculty Eric Liebetrau, Elizabeth Keenan, and Signe Pike and "Children's Writing: The Road to Publication" with faculty Kami Kinard. Register and pay online at

The Last Minute

By Martha Greenway, SCWW Contests Chair

I hate to admit it but all too often I live by the adage, “If it weren’t for the last minute, I wouldn’t get anything done.” But, you don’t have to live that way! Today is April 8 and you have twenty-two days to submit an entry in the 2012 Carrie McCray Memorial Literary Awards contest.

There are some major changes this year. First, the deadline now coincides with The Petigru Review (March 1 - April 30). Next, the first place award is a full scholarship (including the Friday night banquet) to the Annual Conference in October and the second place winner receives a free 30-minute critique at the Annual Conference plus the Friday night banquet and both first and second place winners will be published in The Petigru Review.

We’re going green, all submissions are electronic. No more printing out four copies of your submission and mailing those heavy packages.

You can submit one each in three genres: First Chapter Novel (up to 3,500 words), Fiction (up to 2,500 words) and Nonfiction (up to 2,000 words). Check out all the guidelines at Click on 2012 Carrie McCray Memorial Literary Awards or SCWW Contests.

Be inspired by the rebirth of spring and create something new or dust off an older manuscript, do a little re-writing if needed but submit.

April showers bring… Conference Volunteers in October?

It’s April. Pollen was floating through the air and coating every surface until the rains came. The azaleas in front of my patio have bloomed. So of course, the bees are all over the place. I’ve turned on my air conditioner. Have I mentioned Columbia is already hot? On Monday, it was 90º and this is only the beginning.

This is spring in the south and these are some of the things we’ve gotten accustomed to dealing with around here.

Another thing I’ve gotten accustomed to in the spring is creating a To-Do List for SCWW.

This year it isn’t a long list:

1) Clean out last year’s stuff – make room for 2012
2) Make list of potential faculty for this year’s conference
3) Do we have enough bags for the conference?
4) Do we still have volunteer buttons from last year?
5) Where are the badge holders and lanyards?
7) Get Volunteers for 2012

On Saturday, I crossed number 6 off my list and found answers to 3, 4 and 5. I spent several hours cleaning out SCWW’s storage unit and making notes and lists for this year.

Now, I’m working on item 7: getting volunteers.

A few weeks ago our Quill special edition came out announcing that we are looking for volunteers. So far the response has been pretty good, but I would like encourage any SCWW member in good standing to apply to be a volunteer at the conference. We don’t require any special skills or talents, just an enthusiasm for SCWW and a desire to help your fellow members have the best conference experience possible.

There are part-time and full-time opportunities available. Both will require the volunteer to work a few hours each day during the conference. Full-time volunteers receive free attendance to the conference while part-time volunteers get a 50% discount on the conference registration cost. All volunteers are responsible for their travel and lodging.

There are some pre-conference opportunities available such as: publicity, gathering items for the silent auction and setting up for the event to name a few. So if you’d rather work during the year leading up to the conference we have that as an option as well.

To request an application send me an email at and I’ll email you back as quickly as I can.

New Is The New Old

My turn has come to write this blog for the South Carolina Writer’s Workshop. I’m new to SCWW and to the Board of Directors. Faced with this task, I have to admit I’m a bit nervous (ask Ginny - thanks for your patience). The fact that I am posting this on April Fool’s Day is also not lost to me. Basically, my jitteriness comes from the fact that I have never written a blog before. No, I don’t live under a rock and I’m not a dinosaur…yet anyway. I just never had the opportunity or the need to write one. I also never felt I had anything awe inspiring to say. Yes, I am a writer. A writer of fiction. My characters have plenty to say. But me? What could I possibly have to say when not hiding behind my pen (laptop) or in my make-believe world? So, I got to thinking about doing new things. The whole concept of new. New according to my Visual Thesaurus means among other things: young, fresh, recent. The word is an adjective, and writers at (nearly) all costs should avoid an adjective, according to many of my writing mentors. But, the definition of the word: come into being, acquired, or discovered; is just too good to avoid as a subject matter.

I’m sitting here on my screen porch smelling fresh (yes, new) jasmine and seeing that the grass is turning green. With buds on the trees and a robin at my bird feeder, it’s clear to me that spring has arrived. Yes, the newness of spring. What was old is new again. Oh, Lord, is that one of those dreaded cliches writers are forewarned against? Adjectives and cliches. What’s next? (Insert gasp here). Well, all of this is necessary for the point I’m trying to make…this past year for me has been about newness.

The end of March marked my one year anniversary. Hard to believe. It stills feels so fresh to me. I moved here from upstate New York. A northern in the south? Nothing new there according to the demographics of my neighborhood, but, having been born and raised in NY, it’s all been a time of discovery for me. 

Okay, so a new home and new State. New accents and new foods to try. And I must admit have tried a lot of food (South Carolina peaches - love ‘em). Something else I discovered is that I love volunteering. The first place I tried was Huntington Beach State Park (HBSP). I do tours there and with that came a whole new bunch of things to learn. Then I started to take courses at Coastal University where I was very lucky to meet a wonderful woman, our own Tibby Plants. Tibby invited me to join SCWW. I did and I as a result, I’ve literally come (back) into being a writer. I have discovered, rediscovered,  and gained many fresh ideas. I can’t begin to thank Tibby enough for her help, her encouragement, and her insight. This may sound odd, but that kind of real dedication and support to help others learn and improve is new to me as well. In fact, the entire Surfside Chapter of my writer’s group has given me so much that my writing feels fresh and new.

That brings me to my next new point. Taking something old and making it new. I have been working seriously on a fictional series for years now. In fact, two of the books were published. Problem was, I was never satisfied with how they turned out, so I got back my rights to the books and began to revise them. I’m much more proud of them now and with the help of my writer’s group, they are shaping into exactly what I hoped. My new goal is to publish them by late summer and, you guessed it, find a new publisher. Notice the theme here?

My other new experience was to volunteer with a theatre group. I had assisted in theatre in upstate NY but I found they weren’t as willing to help me learn. That can sometimes be the problem with acquiring new skills. Sometimes people only want experience and overlook the pure joy of teaching and sharing knowledge. They often forget that we all learn something new everyday. At least I hope so. I have lots of experience in my bag but none of it is perfect. None of what I know is so flawless I can’t learn new things. Anyway, I missed the theatre so I joined the Murrells Inlet Community Theatre (MITC) group and, yes, once more, fell in love. They are a hard working band of people oozing with talent. They have also inspired me to try something else…I would like to write a play. It may or may not go far, but something tells me this band of professionals will help me learn this new skill. Of course, I hope I have the talent, but jitteriness over something new is the old me. This blog has helped me realize that.

So what have I learned? That new isn’t just for the young. I think (cliche alert) you can teach an old dog new tricks and that the old dog can use old tricks to aid them in learning something new. New is an attitude. A desire to redo, undo, and add. It’s an urge to begin…again. Spring does it every year. New growth on an old plant.

New is a journey. It requires an open mind and a degree of courage to let go and simply try. Of course, good friends and good organizations like SCWW, MITC, and HBSP, are great starts.

So what else have I learned? Reach out. Take old likes/loves/interests and find ways to make them new again. Search for a great bunch of people who will help. New doesn’t have to be scary. Look at me. I just completed my first blog. It may not be the best, but I did it and I bet I’ll learn something new from it. The whole point is that in the end, new can make old young again. It really can be a beginning to more new things. Oh, and did I mention? I had a birthday at the end of March. Which, come to think of it, only means I’ll be a new age. I’ve never been fif…er, never mind. Guess I should save that for another blog.   

SCWW Scott Lax Wildacres Schcolarship - And the Winner Is!

Congratulations to Douglas Wyant, Camden Chapter, for being selected as the first SCWW Scott Lax Wildacres Scholarship recipient. Douglas is a long-time SCWW Member and Camden Chapter President. He is also a past Carrie McCray Memorial Literary Award winner. The Wildacres Writers Workshop is a week-long writing intensive in the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains.

The SCWW Scott Lax Wildacres Scholarship is made possible through an anonymous donor in honor of Scott Lax, a former Wildacres Writers Workshop faculty member. Both the donor and Scott urge those who have put their writing aspirations on hold while working, parenting and participating in all those other wonderful activities of life, to finally take up the paper and pen - or computer - and begin.

In Scott's words:

"It's never too late. Writers 50 and older have so much to offer. Yes, we have some aches, pains and losses. But we have the experience and patience and love of life to offer readers, whether one reader of millions."

To everyone who applied to our first award, thank you. Selecting the winner was a close, difficult decision.
Douglas, enjoy your week at the Wildacres Writers Workshop!

March Madness, or Just Do It

My husband is deep into March Madness. He pursues the legendary dozen Krispy Kreme donuts offered as first prize by our son's Bracketology contest. I'm not interested at all in basketball, college or otherwise, so March Madness is a chance for me to have some time to myself.

I'm spending March hard at work on a sequel to Gatekeeper. The new novel is half done. I had given it up a couple of years ago to finish one I had also half finished a long time ago. I love world building. The book is a contemporary fantasy, set in the real world, but I get to develop the rules for magic. I've invented deliciously evil creatures that resemble spiders—of which I'm terrified—but these are the size of dogs, with an occasional one as large as a horse.

That comparison with horses made me remember where this interest in storytelling all began.

In fifth and sixth grades I attended school in the tiny town of Ismay, Montana. There were 8 of us in fourth through eighth grades. My teacher was a caring and nurturing woman much ahead of her times. She encouraged each of us to follow our dreams. My dream was writing stories.

I hadn't yet read the Island Stallion series so I wasn't interested in being shipwrecked on a faraway island with only a horse for company. We were too far from civilization to have television. Aside from angleworm races with a friend and never-ending Monopoly games with said friend and my father (who brazenly cheated), I delved into my imagination and wrote stories.

One story became a saga about a girl growing up on a ranch and somehow finding the best wild horse in the world just wandering the prairie. It, of course, learned to love me, followed me home and became my best friend. We did something heroic. I can't remember what. Perhaps we rescued a lamb from a bear (I always had a soft spot for lambs). My teacher helped me turn the story into a little chapter book with a cover and table of contents and all. All hand made and illustrated by me. She helped me enter it in the State Fair. I won a blue ribbon. I still have the story and the ribbon somewhere.

My mother always told my brothers and I that we could do whatever we set our minds to. We may not achieve our dreams in quite the way we anticipate, but we'll have a wonderful time along life's highway.

Think about a time when you felt eager to write, when you felt a passion for telling stories--fiction, nonfiction or poetry--and just do it.

Maybe I'll never be a rich and famous author, but my stories are out there. And I'm having the time of my life building my worlds, be they real or fantasy.


1. BE YE KIND. Read for your fellow writers and offer good, honest critique. It’s easy to look down on someone else’s work when you yourself are long passed the stage of development where everyone either longed to tell you get another hobby or just flat-out said it. Be generous with praise, but be genuine.

2. PLAY WITH THE NICE KIDS. There was an unpublished writer I greatly admired. For a bunch of psychological reasons I won’t go into, I felt like such an idiot around her. This should have been a huge glaring neon red flag, but it wasn’t. One day I listened to her chew up one of our group members and hock him out; by now the alarms on the flag were blaring. The way she explained herself to me, she made it seem like she had a reason for what she did, but not a good one. I was so enamoured with this person, I remained friends with her. But my work suffered horribly and, while I read reams of her work, she’d Email me back a few minutes after I sent her mine and lecture me on how important it was to be “serious” about my craft. One day, I was her target. Let me just say, those red flags are there for a reason.

3. STICK UP FOR YOURSELF. If you’re serious about writing, put yourself out there in critique groups. LISTEN to everything and fight the uncontrollable urge to defend your work. If the criticism is valid, it just is. Whether there is or is not a consensus about the issue, you might want to rethink things as objectively as possibly. But don’t be a pushover. When the critique is over, IF and only IF you are given the opportunity, explain your view or process. Discussing your work means you have to think about it on a different level. Amazing things come of this.

4. TEACHERS KNOW EVERYTHING. Not everything, but teachers have a bigger and better toolbox and they know how to use those tools. Best of all, they want to teach you how to use them, too. You will know you’ve had a really good teacher when you’re writing or critiquing someone’s work and hear your teacher’s voice in your head. “More sensory detail. SLOW DOWN. Let your character stretch out a bit.”

5. CLEAN THE BATHROOM…AGAIN. Sometimes writing is like cleaning the bathroom with I was a kid. My mom would always come behind me and, no matter how well I thought I done it, she’d find something I’d missed and make me do the whole thing again. When I finished the first draft of my first novel, I thought, “I’m done.” Be ready to write and rewrite and then rewrite some more to get noticed, and then, after you have an agent and hopefully a publisher, you’ll rewrite some more. Get used to it.

6. TAKE CARE OF YOUR PRECIOUS THINGS. With computers and their tiny vast minds, it’s easy to think of them like a piggy bank. When you need your work or a version of your work where you said something really cool and want to use it, you just give it a shake and there it is. As amazing as computers are, they aren’t fool-proof. Back your writing up yourself on disk. Use a back up service. Hell, print out the manuscript and put it in the safe deposit box at the bank in case the house burns down. Once it’s gone, it’s gone and just the frustration alone that comes with trying to recreate what you had or what you think you had is crazy making.

7. STOP PLAYING THAT $*%* GAME. Nobody every wrote a bestseller while simultaneously playing Spider solitaire or Skip-Bo or any of those free games on that website. Sometimes games are a good distraction, the beginning of a ritual that leads to writing, but ultimately if you’re spending more time playing Be Jeweled than you are writing, you might want to rethink your calling.

8. ROLLY POLLIES, FIREFLIES AND MUD PIES. When you’re telling a story, it’s easy to get caught up in the story line that takes you from point A to point B and all the way through the alphabet at break neck speed. Some writers write their first drafts like that and then go back and layer in the small stuff that makes the writing rich. Some people call it adding texture, but it’s a lot like noticing the small things like rolly pollies or fireflies or the design the wrinkles make on your protagonist’s forehead. What do her hands look like and why? Yes, it’s noticing the small stuff, but it’s also like cooking with your Easy-Bake Oven, tasting the batch of words, smacking your lips together, and knowing what the writing needs to make it rich. Chocolate is always good, but sadly isn’t always the answer.

9. GO FISHING. If you want to be a good writer and you’ve never been fishing before, GO. It doesn’t take much more than a cane pole, a line, a shiny brass hook, and a soggy creek bank to dig worms. If you pay attention, you can learn a lot about writing just dangling a simple line in the water. Sensory detail, order, pacing, and above all patience, which will come in really handy after you’ve written your novel and are ready to sell it.

10. TAKE GOOD CARE OF YOUR IMAGINARY FRIENDS. For those of us who don’t really care if anyone calls us crazy, we can freely admit we hear voices in our heads. Good writers honor these voices by writing down their stories. As one who has had as many as three protagonists telling their stories at one time, and as one who grieved during the time those voices went silent, I can say with certainty, they are a gift. They give us an understanding of our characters that can never be attained with process gimmicks, charts, or outlines. They give us clean crisp dialogue and are windows into living breathing souls that exist only to have their stories told. So take good care of your imaginary friends. Talk out loud to them, and let your characters talk to each other. They allow us to do what we love. They allow us to write.


Since January, I hope you’ve enjoyed the changes the Quill has implemented.

Now it’s time to refurbish our website. We are finally in a position to begin the changeover from a webmaster-managed site to a content management system. We have negotiated the very good price of $1400.00 for this service with our current provider, Net Studios, Inc. The work should be complete in 30-60 days.

For those of us who have books, websites, and blog pages to include at, the new format for submitting this information is described on the Members’ Published Work tab at the website. You’ll also see a schedule of fees for these services. The SCWW Board was hoping these fees would help defray the cost of the charges to take our website to a new level where we can maintain it with no additional webmaster charges – a big savings for our operating expenses.

In 2011 if you submitted your works using the new format, the Publicity Chair will email you within the next 60 days to confirm your information. If you haven't done so yet but would like to appear on this page, send your information, following the new guidelines, to We would appreciate your donation of fees as listed on the website. Thank you for your cooperation.

SCWW Speaker’s Bureau

By Brenda Remmes

SCWW is in the process of developing a Speaker’s Bureau so that we can present free local workshops in communities around South Carolina. If there is a particular topic that pertains to writing that you’d like to hear more about, please let us know. If there is a particular speaker you think would be good, we want to know their name.

Our goal is to present several two-hour workshops in different locations during the 2012 year. We hope that additional exposure will showcase the many talents within our organization and encourage others throughout the state to pursue their dreams of writing.

Please send ideas for topics and suggestions for speakers to Brenda Remmes at

Alignment of SCWW Dues with Calendar Year

Recycling is a good thing for aluminum cans and cardboard. I hope that applies to SCWW treasurers and membership chairmen too.

While I was off building my house, the SCWW board voted to align SCWW memberships with the calendar year (rather than expire on anniversary dates) and to increase the dues a tiny amount to $52.00 per year (or $1.00 per week), the first increase in many years. The primary reason is avoiding the confusion that arises with submission deadlines and conference registration. For example, if The Petigru Review submission period is March 1 through April 30, what happens if a membership expires April 1? Another benefit is that collection of dues early in the year makes it easier in February to budget activities for the rest of the year. It’s more work for the membership chairman (me) this year but should simplify things in the future.
How will SCWW accomplish this alignment?

Before your SCWW membership expires in 2012, the membership chairman will email you with the prorated amount (at $1.00 per week) that you owe for dues from your expiration date through the end of the year. For example, if your dues expire April 1, 2012, then you have already paid for a quarter of 2012. The bill for the other 39 weeks of calendar year 2012 will be $39.00. Then for 2013 everyone will know that dues are due at the beginning of the year ($52.00 on January 1, 2013). Because the website has only the single PayPal option of a full year, mailing a check will be the easiest for prorated dues. The address is
SCWW Membership
4840 Forest Dr., Suite 6B
PMB 189
Columbia, SC 29206

We encourage you to save a stamp and pay for a year (2013) and a fraction (2012) in a single check.

New members will pay the yearly rate ($52.00) when they join and will then be billed the prorated amount at their first renewal.
The conference registration fee for non-members will be $100.00 more than for members. For this extra fee (approximately twice the regular dues), non-members will have paid a membership for the remainder of the current year plus all of following year.

If the membership chairman ( didn’t explain this well, you can ask the treasurer ( clarification.

Another writing contest

Writing Contest - ck this link out!

March Contests

Screenplay Analysis Schedule

Screenplays submitted early will receive their analysis as follows:

All analyses will be returned by March 1, 2012.

Prizes: Winner receives $10,000, with four finalists receiving $2,000 each.

The best screenplay from the UK will be awarded the Cordelia Award and will receive $1,000.

The best screenplay from outside the USA, Canada and the UK will be awarded the Joplin Award and will receive $1,000.

Every entrant who submits by August 1st is eligible for our Title contest, where three scripts will be awarded $250, as voted on by current BlueCat entrants.

One writer will be awarded a live, staged reading with professional local actors at Screenplay Live in Rochester, New York, as part of the 360|365 George Eastman House Film Festival. The prize includes travel, hotel and a $250 stipend.

Check complete rules to ensure your submission is eligible.