Monday, November 1, 2010

2011 Keynote Speaker Announced!

New York Times bestselling author Maria V. Snyder will serve as the keynote speaker and facilitator for a breakout session focusing on fiction at the 2011 BDWN Write It Right Conference, scheduled for Saturday, April 16, 2011 at the Ramada, Pottsville.

Snyder is the author of the bestselling sci-fi/fantasy Study trilogy (Poison Study, Magic Study, and Fire Study), and the new Glass trilogy (Storm Glass, Sea Glass, and Spy Glass), all available from MIRA Books. She is also the author of the young adult novel Inside Out and the children’s book, Stormchaser, about a young boy who is fascinated by storms. Her short stories have also appeared in the anthologies The Mammoth Book of Paranormal Romance and Vampire’s Kiss: 12 Tales of Blood and Romance.

Snyder earned a bachelor’s degree in meteorology from Penn State University and a Master’s degree in writing popular fiction from Seton Hill University in Pennsylvania. She lives in Pennsylvania with her husband and two children. Learn more about her latest projects at

2011’s conference promises to include something for everyone—from sci-fi and mystery to children’s writing and poetry. We are still confirming speakers and topics, but will keep you informed as we finalize the day’s schedule! This is definitely one writers’ event you won’t want to miss. Mark those calendars now!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Review: The Lost Girls

by Sara Hodon

It seemed fitting that I read The Lost Girls in July, both in honor of vacations and of the travel writer who will be speaking to us this month. If you're looking for both a worthwhile piece of travel writing and a great memoir, you need to read this book.

Title: The Lost Girls

Authors: Jennifer Baggett, Holly C. Corbett, Amanda Pressner

Summary: Three friends with a serious case of the travel bug decide to dump their lives--quit their jobs, put their relationships on hold, and kiss their families good-bye--in order to travel the world for a year. Over the course of the trip, all three girls learn a little about life and a lot about themselves.

Review: I enjoyed this book because it's not just a dry travel guidebook--all three girls take turns as narrator, recalling how they felt/behaved in certain situations. The friends travel to 4 continents--South America (Peru and Brazil), Africa (Kenya), Asia (India, Laos, Vietnam, Thailand, Myanmar, Bali, and Cambodia), and Australia/New Zealand--and are exposed to wildly different cultures than their own. They face language and cultural barriers, but make the most of every opportunity and jump headfirst into new experiences. They bungee jump in Australia, volunteer in Kenya, and study yoga at an ashram in India, to name a few. Along the way, they do some heavy thinking about their futures and how their lives will change when they get back to the States, but more importantly, they realize that they do have control over their futures and that hanging on to something--whether it's a 60-hour a week job or a lackluster relationship that's just not working anymore--usually isn't worth it in the long run.

As I read this book I had a serious urge to hop on a plane and have an adventure of my own. An excellent summer read.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Top 5 Travel Memoirs

[EDITOR'S NOTE: July is all about travel writing for the Black Diamond Writers Network in honor of our speaker, professional travel writer Anne Supsic, so expect to see all kinds of posts related to the genre on Word Mine this month. Today, get inspired with some travel memoirs.]

Who wouldn’t want to escape from the everyday grind and experience a new environment, at least for a short time? But as you’ll see below, these memoirists subscribe to the philosophy of “Go big or go home”—these once-in-a-lifetime adventures were motivated by a feeling of wanderlust, restlessness, or just a desire to experience a completely different way of life. For many of these writers, their trips proved to be life-changing.

A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway. This classic memoir chronicles Hemingway's days as an expat living in Paris, where he hobnobbed with the likes of F. Scott Fitzgerald and Gertrude Stein. Though published posthumously, the book offers a firsthand account of life in 1920's Paris and, as the cover says, "It is a literary feast, brilliantly evoking the exuberant mood of Paris after World War I and the youthful spirit, unbridled creativity, and unquenchable enthusiasm that Hemingway himself epitomized."

Eat, Pray, Love: A Woman’s Search for Everything Across Italy, India, and Indonesia by Elizabeth Gilbert. The ultimate record of one woman’s search for the meaning of life, love, and happiness has inspired millions of readers around the world to do the same (perhaps on a smaller scale). Okay, so taking a year off from life as you know it to travel to these exotic locales is probably not in your budget. You can always live vicariously through Ms. Gilbert, who ate her way across Italy, spent time in a yoga ashram in India (and would meet her spiritual mentor there), and jetted off to Indonesia for some time to make sense of it all.

Undress Me in the Temple of Heaven by Susan Jane Gilman. What starts off as a fun excursion with, yes, a bit of a dangerous edge for two college friends in Communist China turns into more of an international thriller chock full of spies, espionage, and paranoia about the ever-present Big Brother watching over the friends—at least, that’s what one of the girls seemed to think. A gripping read about how one friend (Gilman) was left to cope with her traveling companion’s rapidly declining mental state alone in a foreign Third-World (at the time) country.

Without Reservations: Travels of an Independent Woman by Alice Steinbach. Steinbach, like many of the other authors included here, took a trip around the world in order to find herself. She was bothered by the fact that she was letting other people define her, when in fact she still felt like she was trying to define herself. So she packed her bags and left for Europe on a voyage of discovery, to learn more about the things that simply interested her--Paris, Oxford, England, and Milan, Italy.

The Lost Girls: Three Friends. Four Continents. One Unconventional Detour Around the World by Jennifer Baggett, Holly C. Corbett, and Amanda Pressner. Three twentysomethings with a rough idea of what they want their lives to look like. Trouble is, the path to get there is full of more questions than answers. Rather than follow a path that someone else has mapped out for them, the three friends take a year off from their jobs, relationships, and everyday lives and travel around the world hoping to find a sense of meaning and yes, some high adventures.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Interview with Mike Kaminski

At our June BDWN meeting, Michael B. Kaminski, publisher of WOMAN Magazine, will educate writers on how to write for a publication with a purpose, focusing on the creation, mission and purpose of his magazine. He will explain what he looks for in potential writers and what makes a good and a bad pitch.

WOMAN Magazine works to empower, enrich, enhance and enlighten all women with articles highlighting local women making a difference and changing lives. The publication is an extension of the Sharon Fisher Bassett Memorial Fund on community awareness of domestic violence, sexual abuse, eating disorders and basic equal rights for women.

Kaminski, creator and former publisher of The One Magazine to the arts and entertainment, holds a master’s degree in divinity/theology with a minor in psychology and undergrad degrees in political science and criminal justice. At present, he is writing children’s and historical fiction books. Mike chatted with us about his publication, his cause, and his wildly varied professional background.

BDWN: Thanks for speaking with us, Mike! You’ve worn a number of “hats” professionally. Can you tell us a little bit about some of the jobs you’ve held?

MIKE: Before beginning WOMAN magazine, I created another magazine. THE ONE Magazine of the Arts and Entertainment. I have been an ordained minister since 1989. After ordination, I worked in parish ministry full time for about a year and a half. Then I went to work with Northumberland County Human Services as a Drug and Alcohol Treatment Specialist. After about a year and a half, I resigned and started my own counseling agency.

Prior to seminary, I had a private investigative agency in Baltimore for five years. Before the P I work, I was a police officer in Baltimore for six years. The last 3 and 1/2 years as a police officer I worked undercover in organized crime, narcotics and vice investigations.

I also worked for the Bureau of Customs in Washington, D.C. as a graphic art illustrator prior the becoming a police officer. However, my first real job was in the Air Force. That experience took me from Washington, D.C. to Southeast Asia and Vietnam.

BDWN: Can you tell us about the Sharon Fisher Bassett Memorial Fund? How does the Fund and WOMAN Magazine work together?

MIKE: I created The Sharon Fisher Bassett Memorial Fund shortly after my wife, Sharon, died in April of 2005. Originally, it was established to work with community education and awareness of domestic violence, sexual abuse and related eating disorders. Sharon has a very bad first marriage and she became very anorexic as a result of the psychological, mental, sexual and physical abuse. When I created WOMAN Magazine, I also expanded the mission and goals of the memorial fund to include gender bias and inequality, gender discrimination, cultural stereotyping of women of different races and sexism in the workplace. The primary goals of both the memorial fund and the magazine is to empower, encourage, enrich, enlighten all women. Please go to to learn more about the memorial fund. WOMAN Magazine is an extension of The Sharon Fisher Bassett Memorial Fund.

BDWN: Tell us about the kinds of stories best suited for WOMAN Magazine. Are you currently looking for writers?

MIKE: All articles and stories that go into the magazine are focused on empowerment, enrichment, enlightenment, encouragement, education and information to women. I am always looking for stories of women and by women who have succeeded in life and who have overcome obstacles. The articles and stories should be about local woman making a difference in their lives and in the lives of others. I am always looking for contributions by writers. However, I cannot pay writers at this time for their articles.

BDWN: What's next for you?

MIKE: I just finished the first draft of a children's book. I am beginning another book about my work as a chaplain of a gentlemen's club. Eventually, I will write a book about Sharon's story and incorporate most of the stories and interviews we have collected from the women in the past years who have talked to us about their healing from domestic violence and sexual abuse. Finally I will complete my book about my life undercover in organized crime and drug groups.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

To blog or not to blog

by Rafael Figueroa

Hey, you know that guy that owns that hotdog shop who defies all food-handling etiquette by turning the hotdogs over on the grill with his bare hands? Anyone who has visited enough of these establishments knows that guy, even if you've never seen those that I have, there are enough of them out there that you have probably seen one. Also, do you know what they put in hotdogs? If you enjoy eating them you probably don't and it's probably better that way. Oh, and do you know about all the FDA regulations they keep writing into law that govern the manufacture, distribution, and preparation of hotdogs? Did you know that the size and shape of a hotdog is ideally suited to obstruct the airway of a child? Did you know that there is more written about hotdogs online than has ever been printed about them? Well, I kind of made that last factoid up, but it seems plausible.

Any or all of the questions posed above are suitable subjects for blog posts. I could go on for thousands of words on blog topics and never begin to scratch the surface of what is possible nevertheless what is actually out there. Blogging is, quite simply whatever the individual blogger wishes it to be.

Now, it may seem odd to blog about what to blog about, but we live in an age where a popular form of entertainment is entertainers presenting shows about what kind of entertainment is out there. We have news programs talking about what kind of news is being covered and by whom. So, why not blog about blogging… if only this once.

I know that not everyone reading this blog has a blog of their own. Some might think that they don't have anything to talk about while others may have time constraints or confidence issues. The great thing about blogging is that you make the rules. You can write a single sentence or paragraph on an irregular schedule and on a wide range of topics. You can write well or write sloppy. Whatever you do, it's your blog and you are the final authority on its merit.

A lot of people who I talked to who are resistant to the notion of starting a blog have concerns over who would read their blog. I have answered this concern in a variety of ways but it generally boils down to the insignificance of the question. Writing a blog is pure writing. There is no editor, no red pens, and no limitations. There's just you and the words. Writing while free of these restrictions is great practice in and of itself. It doesn't matter who or if anyone reads what you write, the act of writing on a regular basis can't help but improve your skills.

Now, you do run the danger of having people read your work, and dare I say respond to it. Another apprehension that folks have about blogging is the fear of negative or abusive feedback. All I can say to ally this fear is to proffer the notion that a small measure of maturity is required to receive this type of criticism. Maturity allows one to evaluate the source of a critique along side the critique itself.

There are all manner of jerks on the internet just as in life and the anonymity of they typed word frees these jerks to say things they wouldn't dare say in person. Just take it in stride and look at it as a social experiment. Anyone who has such little class as to make nasty comments to your work probably has little pride in himself let alone works of his own that he may be proud of.
To blog or not to blog, that is the question: whether it is nobler to have blogged and failed or never to have blogged at all? If it's good you'll gain followers. If it's bad you'll get practice and become good. Happy Blogging!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

What I Did and Did Not Do at the BDWN “Write It Right” Conference

by Priscilla Y. Huff

Following the Black Diamond Writers Network's first annual “Write It Right Conference held on April 17, 2010, at the Schuylkill County Council for the Arts, I reviewed what I did and did not do to maximize my attendance there:

What I did do: Asked other attendees why they were there and what writing or other creative genres they were interested in pursuing. It was fascinating to hear their backgrounds: one gentleman, retired from his career working with persons who were hearing impaired, was interested in publishing his poetry; and another young man was interested in publishing Schuylkill County photography. I also met a woman with a common interest in nature, who is also a photographer and creates unique bookmarks.

What I did NOT do: I should have asked MORE attendees this same question. People like to network and exchange ideas and love it when others show an interest in their goals.

What I did do: I exchanged business cards with numerous people.

What I did NOT do: I should have exchanged MORE cards; plus I should have made a notation on the back of these cards so I remembered what we discussed.

What I did do: Followed-up with e-mails with some of the attendees and the presenters with whom I spoke.

What I did NOT do: Followed-up with e-mails with ALL of the people I met. It is important to make a contacts with those people you met, ASAP, so you can both exchange more networking information.

What I did do: I took good notes at the two workshops I attended.

What I did NOT do: I did not transcribe all the notes. It is important for me to write out my notes when I attend workshops shortly after the conference is ended, so I can implement those new ideas and tips I learned into my writing.

What I DID do: I thanked the organizers and members of the BDWN and the presenters for the excellent job they did. If I did forget to thank anyone who was a part of this excellent conference, I apologize.

I am already looking forward to attending the April, 2011, BDWN Writer’s Conference, How about you? Are you going? You will be glad you did.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Where Do You Like to Write?

All writers have their favorite writing place. Some prefer to churn out stories in a quiet, peaceful room in their house, away from the chaos and noise of everyday life. Yet others thrive on commotion and have their own styles of tuning out the noise and focusing on the work at hand. They might find inspiration in these unexpected places,in the midst of people yet still a bit distant from the goings-on.

What about you, writers? Where's your favorite writing place?

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Writing It Right


The first annual Write It Right conference is in the books, and what a day it was!

A huge THANK YOU goes out to everyone who attended or participated in the success of the day in some way, shape, or form. It's hard to pinpoint the highlights, since there were so many, and different for everyone. Our committee worked hard to bring in interactive, knowledgeable speakers who could talk about things that affect ALL writers, and we worked hard at keeping the day on track and running smoothly. All in all, we really couldn't have asked for a better day. We got lots of compliments on the venue (a renovated Victorian mansion with history and character galore), the lunch offerings, the speakers, and our author book fair was a nice way to end the day (plus our authors did some brisk business!)

But our blog continues, as we post info about the Black Diamond Writers Network, our members, speakers, and writing in general!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Interview with Stephen Pytak

Stephen Pytak is a full-time reporter for the REPUBLICAN-Herald newspaper in Pottsville, PA and the author of several novels. He sits down with us to talk writing, comic books, and the connection between the two.
BDWN: Thanks for speaking with us, Steve. Can you tell us a little bit about your books?

STEPHEN: Sure. To date I’ve written three novels, all thrillers: "The .40 Caliber Mouse (2003)," released by PublishAmerica; "The .40 Caliber Mousehunt (2008)," released by Mazz Press; and "The Wild Damned," to be published by Mazz Press in December 2010. They all take place in a wonderfully dark universe I created a few years back. There are continuing characters, in particular, "Corinn," the anti-heroine of "The .40 Caliber Mouse" series. When I write fiction, I enjoy developing characters who are driven by the Furies, so to speak. In other words, they’re fueled by anger, vengeance and dark desires.

"The .40 Caliber Mouse," for instance, is about low-rent mercenaries who sell their services online. The leads all have different motives for getting involved with it. Corinn’s involves a personal vendetta.

BDWN: How do you get your ideas?

STEPHEN: I’ve always had a passion for writing about the dark side of human nature, in fiction that is. I have this real love for novels, comic books and movies, thrillers and the horror genre. If I come up with an original idea with a similar thread, I pay close attention. I think fiction writing should be fun for the most part. So I look for things I think would be fun to write about. I think if the writer’s having fun, theoretically the reader will too. So I try to develop storylines I’d enjoy exploring myself. For instance, I love "Corinn." Writing about her inner demons and plans to iron them out is always a pleasure. She’s intriguing, always fun to spend a Saturday afternoon with. I recently gave her a skateboard. It will appear in her fourth novel, which I’m currently writing. Ideas can come from anywhere. It’s good to keep a pen and a slip of paper handy. I’ve scribbled on dozens of napkins over the years. Some of my best come out of conversations with my wife on long road trips.

BDWN: How long did it take you to write your books? Do you use an outline or just go where the story takes you?

STEPHEN: After writing three books, I’ve learned a lot about myself as a writer and the process I employ. On average, it takes me about three years to put out a novel. I always use a basic outline in my head. I use a lot of the skills I picked up in a college screenwriting class, in particular the three-act structure (even though "The Wild Damned" has four acts). It keeps me on track. It’s good to know where you’re going. It’s good to write your last scenes first, at least rough drafts, so you know where your characters will end up. These scenes might change. That’s fine. One of the reasons to write them first is so you can hone them and make them the best you can. While I will always use an outline, I do allow my characters to stray a bit if that’s what they’re inclined to do. But what they do must fit our story. If they take me somewhere interesting that doesn’t fit our current project, I’ll save the material and perhaps use it on another one.

BDWN: As a reporter, you obviously cover a huge number of stories every day. How has your day job influenced your writing? And how do you fit in time to write around your unpredictable reporter’s schedule?

STEPHEN: Loaded question. You can get ideas from anywhere, even work. I work as a staff writer for a daily newspaper, The Republican-Herald, Pottsville, Pa. Every now and then a police report will come in that I’ll find interesting. Or sometimes I’ll get the opportunity to tour a factory or farm, a place I normally wouldn’t have access to. And I’ll make note of the sights and sounds. While "The Wild Damned" takes place in Columbus, Ohio, I got some of my ideas for scenes from locations here in Schuylkill County. The former Yuengling Creamery is one. How do I find time to write fiction around my unpredictable work schedule? I write whenever I can. If I get an idea for something, I’ll immediately jump onto my home computer after work and start pounding it out. Usually I write fiction on my days off. Saturday mornings are the best. Now that my wife and some friends are editing "The Wild Damned," I started work on my fourth novel.

BDWN: What’s next for you?

STEPHEN: I intend to publish "The Wild Damned" through my independent publishing division, Mazz Press, by December 2010. Meanwhile I’m writing the fourth novel in "The .40 Caliber Mouse" series. Meanwhile I am always setting up author events. Norm Breyfogle, famed comic book artist known for his work on DC's “Batman,” did the art for “The .40 Caliber Mousehunt” and “The Wild Damned.” Because of that, I also do events at comic book conventions. The best way to see what I do is to stop by my table. We're hard to miss. You'll find not only bookmarks and posters featuring my characters, but T-shirts and, our most interesting item for sale, a full-head mask I designed for the villain of “The Wild Damned.” The mask of “The Carrion Crow” is now available for order. It's made by KreationX Inc., New York. For more information about my work, log onto

Monday, April 12, 2010

Local Authors to Participate in our Book Fair

The Write It Right conference is quickly approaching! We're very excited to have a number of local authors participating in our local author book fair at the end of the day. As you can see from the list, the authors span all ages and genres.

The authors participating include:

Vincent Genovese, The Pottsville Maroons and the NFL’s Stolen Championship of 1925; The Angel of Ashland; The Remarkable Discovery of Manny Faber; Billy Heath: The Man Who Survived Custer’s Last Stand

Stephen Pytak, The .40-Caliber Mouse: A Modern Tale of Vengeance

Patricia Rowe, The Other Side of the Desk: A Teacher Remembers.

Patricia Klatch Shenyo, GOD?

Tisha Tolar, Gen-X

Jodi Webb, Pennsylvania Trivia: Weird, Wacky, and Wild.

Susan Wisnewski, Owner, Lazy Dog Café and Coffeehouse (venue for authors and artists)

We'll feature one last author interview this Wednesday!

Friday, April 9, 2010

Why I Write

by Rafael Figueroa

One day I was standing in the back of a C130 cargo plane at the end of the retractable ramp with a drogue parachute line secured to my harness. A smiling airman, who would not be jumping today, assured me that they had simulated this kind of emergency drop countless times and that the jumper almost never died. Was he kidding? There was no way to be certain.

With one last nod in my direction, he pulled the two red levers, one up and the other down. The relative quiet of the cargo hold gave way to a roar better measured in its fearsomeness than in decibels as articulating hydraulic pistons forced the rear end of the plane to open. I was quite sure that the aforementioned airman was looking to me. He would generally need a signal of readiness from me in order to deploy the small parachute in his hand, the very parachute that was fastened to my harness via a sturdy hook. Once he dropped this drogue parachute, nothing short of the hand of god himself could stop it from dragging me out of the plane and into the skies high above enemy territory.

The airman looked to me to give him the signal, but I couldn't stop looking out at the dark emptiness beyond the end of the plane's cargo ramp. Years of training prepared me for this moment, but the most fleeting spark in my brain overcame my training, the spark of fear. In a panic, I reached for the clip on my harness that attached me to the drogue line. This motion must have approximated the signal that the airman anticipated because, in that same moment, he pitched the parachute out into the night.

Time slowed as the line tethering me to the night itself pulled taught. Have you ever ridden in a glass elevator? If you do it often enough, you notice a brief moment as the elevator begins to accelerate wherein it almost seems like the world outside begins to move rather than the elevator itself. In much the same fashion it seemed like the cargo hold around me suddenly accelerated to 300 miles per hour in the blink of an eye. In that moment I paused to reflect on the fact that none of this had ever happened… not to me at any rate.

You see, I made up every word of this story out of my imagination. I did take a ride on a C130 once, I've ridden in glass elevators, and I once saw a movie where people were deployed from a cargo plane in a manner similar to what I described here, but that's about all the truth there is to this little story. Though none of this really happened, I now own a little piece of what it would be like if it had, and so do you. That is why I write.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Interview with Patricia Rowe

Patricia Rowe is a retired teacher who has taught in schools in Illinois, Minnesota, Michigan, Rhode Island, and Pennsylvania. Her first book, The Other Side of the Desk: A Teacher Remembers, relates stories shared by her students throughout her teaching career. It is her hope that her book encourages readers to make the most of their public school system, and to hold them accountable for the material they teach their students. Patricia sat down with us to talk about her experiences writing her first book.

BDWN: Thanks for speaking with us, Patricia! Can you tell usa little bit about your book The Other Side of the Desk: A Teacher Remembers?

PATRICIA: This book relates memorable moments that a teacher shared with her students during her lifetime career. Days in school can be happy, sad, sometimes funny or exasperating, but never boring . I see teaching as a serious and important opportunity to assist students to build productive lives and good citizens.

BDWN: How long did it take you to finish writing the book?

In 1957 I began to save stories of classroom happenings. I just wrote them up briefly in longhand (no typewriters) and stuck them in an envelope. In 2008 my husband was placed in an assisted living facility so I had extra time on my hands. I became aquainted with a person who was skilled in computer technology who needed some work so I told her I would pay her to type it up for me. Then I discovered she knew all the computer language and was set up to actually upload, download and she actually got me hooked up with the publisher and was willing to do the editing etc. In the meantine, I also moved to be with my husband. So the end of March, I was connected and by September it was published.

BDWN: We're always interested in learning about other writers' processes and work schedules. What kind of writing schedule works best for you?

PATRICIA: Personal discipline is very important . I schedule in a bit of writing daily and keep an eye on the deadline. I did not grow up in a family that pushed education; we were just common, hard working folks. I believe that God put it in my mind to save the stories. Later I wanted something to share with my family and someday, maybe would share it. Then at this particular time, I was motivated to write up the stories. Then the thought came to me that I can not just tell stories, but must have an introduction and a summary, or conclusion. Then my computer friend showed up and she filled the need for a computer programmer type person. At 75, I had only basics. I found an ad that I tore out of a Sword of the Lord newspaper in the 80's about "Have You Thought of Writing a Book?" That is where the interest ended. Then when I found the ad, we talked about it and I sent for information and before I knew it I was under contract, with the publisher. The initial typing , which I did, took about 6 months with no direct plan. Then when my friend began to type the work, edit and we moved ahead with specific direction, from March to September - 6 months of a rewriting- editing, pattern until published.

After I had determined to get it published, a personal discipline was needed to keep at it and work with my computer person as a team and we stayed with it. To accomplish this task there should be a daily amount of writing/editing to maintain a proper level of interest and passion for the message.

BDWN: What was one of the most important lessons you learned in your teaching career?

PATRICIA: The important message that I learned began with my undergratuate education which was that you must establish a purpose, keep your eye on it, use a system to fulfill it . That need for a purpose will probably be the guide for your life. If you do not have a purpose then your direction and outcomes are questionable and unsuccessful. You can not be successful if you do not know what it is that you want to succeed it. That focus is essential.

BDWN: What have you been hearing from your readers?

PATRICIA: The mentor who referred me for a scholarship in 1952 has read it and said,".. your book is one of the best educational books i have ever read and I believe every educator should read it." She is an author , in the Education Hall of Fame in Illinois and Professor Emeritus,Retired. I cherish that review.
All others have said how much they have enjoyed it and one young father just Sat. night told me that he sat down after work at about 10:30 and started reading the book. He said "the next time I looked it was 2:30 - I couldn't put it down." My mentor also said that each of the stories " is like a mini novel". I am thrilled with the positive responses I am getting.

BDWN: What do you hope readers will take away from this book, and from your teaching experiences?

PATRICIA: It is my hope that the readers will understand that just because children are in school, they are not necessarily in a safe place, are not automatically being educated, and the parenting must not stop when their children are in the hands of someone else- even if it is the public school. It has to be a partnership. Children are in school- away from the values of their home every day, all day for 180 days among all kinds of children, beliefs, behaviors which are influencing their children. Be a full time parent. Teachers- think about what it is you are doing with other peoples children who will be tomorrow's citizens.They get one chance at each grade.

BDWN: What's next for you?

PATRICIA: I am trying to move along with my life story for my children to have because we have not been together except for a week or 2 a year, and I must pass on to them how good God has been to me and to share His blessings with them so they can pass those values along to all generations. Also I want to do my part to help get our country back on its feet . I believe that the school must get back to its purpose and leave the family values to the family. The parents must once again learn to discipline their children, teach them the values on which our country was built , enforce them and LIVE THEM!! If in the years I have left I can have a part in this I will have achieved my purpose.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Pre-Registration Now Closed

Pre-registration for the BDWN Write It Right Conference is now closed, but that doesn't mean you'll have to miss out on the region's first writers' conference! Walk-in registrations will still be accepted on April 17, so don't worry if you lost your registration form or are still undecided about attending. We'd still love to meet you!

We have 2 weeks until the big day!


Kudos to our friends at the Greater Lehigh Valley Writers Group, whose "Write Stuff" conference was held on March 27 at the Four Points Sheraton in Allentown. Our keynote speaker, Kathryn Craft, was this year's conference chair. She and her committee did an outstanding job! Jodi Webb and I (Sara) attended, and as always, we got a ton of great information from the sessions we attended. The highlights for me (Sara) was Molly Cochran's session on "Finishing Your Novel" and Maureen Sangiorgio's talk on writing magazine articles; Jodi spoke highly of Jordan Sonnenblick, and we both attended sessions with their keynote, author and creative writing teacher James (How to Write a Damn Good Novel) Frey. Jodi and I both made agent appointments (my first time doing so) and despite a case of the jitters, we both received encouraging responses from our respective agents. For those who have never attended GLVWG's conference, make it a point to try to get there next year--you'll be glad you did!

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Interview with Patricia Shenyo

EDITOR'S NOTE: As part of our Write It Right conference, the Black Diamond Writers Network will be holding a local author book fair at the end of the day. Over the next few weeks, we'll be introducing you to some of the authors participating in the book fair and talking to them about their writing projects. First up is Patricia Shenyo.

Patricia Klatch Shenyo is an ordinary person like most of us – a wife, a mother, a grandmother, and by profession a high school Business Education teacher, now retired. She taught in William Allen High School, Allentown, PA, Woodbridge School District, Woodbridge, NJ, and Bishop Hafey High School, Hazleton, PA. She has been involved in Church ministry as an Extraordinary Minister of the Eucharist, teaching religious education classes to high school juniors, and serving on various committees for over thirty years. First-hand experiences with God’s healing power has solidified her convictions in God’s great love for each person, His willingness to do what is best for each, and His burning desire to bring each to eternal happiness in heaven.

As a high school Business Education teacher realizing that high school students, college students, and sometimes adults seldom have a clear vision in determining which direction to take their lives, Mrs. Shenyo developed a highly successful project for her students to help them realize their ambitions. This project was later written and published in the form of two booklets, Making Wise Career Choices and Getting The Job You Desire. Both booklets have been recently rewritten to give the most up-to-date information. They will also be available on the Website along with her newly published book, GOD?

BDWN: Thanks for speaking with us, Patricia. Can you tell us about your book, GOD?

PATRICIA: Most people have questions about God. This book gives insight and answers to perplexing questions regarding God. Is there a God; can we prove His existence? What is He like? Is there a spiritual realm – heaven, hell, purgatory? Has anyone ever seen them? Are there truly miracles; do they occur today? . . .and so much more is contained in the first section of the book.

The second section deals with what does God say. It goes through the ten commandments and gives Bible references as to what God expects. It also explains God’s goodness, His love, and His willingness to forgive our most grievous offenses.

The third section explains what kind of help God offers to us, His great love for us and His desire for each person to have eternal salvation. It gives insight as to why God allows good people to suffer and why it is important for a person to forgive someone who hurt him/her.

The fourth section tells the reader what’s in it for you and for me – what God has in store for those who love Him.

The book “carries on a conversation” with the reader. It is interspersed with charming anecdotes, stories of great hardship and courage, tales of terror, of human suffering and healing, of forgiveness, and stories of trust in God. All the stories are true. It is a book of great hope and encouragement to everyone, even the most abject of sinners.

BDWN: Religion is such a delicate subject. How did you treat the various beliefs that are out there?

PATRICIA: Each person is treated with the greatest respect from the devout Christian, Jew, Muslim to the agnostic, atheist, and everyone in between. I believe that there are many paths to God and each person has the right to worship or not to worship at all as he/she so chooses.

BDWN: What drew you to writing this type of book?

PATRICIA: Many people have a hunger for something or someone that can give them happiness not only in this world, but in eternity. I believe that someone is God. Each person needs to know that there is a God Who loves him/her unconditionally and is willing to do whatever it takes to grant salvation. The secret is in the choosing.

BDWN: How long did it take you to complete the book?

PATRICIA: The book was completed in seven months. I began writing in March of 2009 and finished in September. There were a few little changes and insertions that I made after that.

BDWN: What kind of response have you been receiving from your readers?

PATRICIA: I have had the book for only two weeks and have already sold 60 copies and have given out 11 complimentary copies for a total of 71. In addition, there are others who have told me that they want to buy a copy of my book. All this is by word of mouth. People are coming back to me and telling me how much they are enjoying my book. I am amazed at the wonderfully positive comments coming even from those I don’t know very well as well as those who are not of my own religious affiliation.

BDWN: What other projects do you have in the works?

PATRICIA: At present my focus is to get my book up on a Website and hopefully to sell it over the Internet; then see where it will go from there. Since this is my first book, there is much that I need to learn. So, I am taking things slowly – one step at a time.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

5 Things I Learned About Writing

by Rafael Figueroa

1. Blank pages are more intimidating than pages full of half-baked ideas.

While the writing process varies from author to author, they all start each new project with a blank page (be it paper or a computer screen). The first few times I ever wrote a creative story, I would stare at the blank page for a time, gathering my thoughts and trying to develop the `best' place to begin. More often than not, the page remained blank. There was something about the blinking cursor or the clean ruled lines of a notebook that just stared me down. On some level, the notion of befouling the virginal space with anything short of brilliance seemed wasteful.

As my confidence grew and I cultivated an approach to writing that worked with my personal strengths, I was able to forge ahead more often. However, the blank page remained an early obstacle to each endeavor. At some point, I discovered the fine art of editing and a new world opened up to me. Rather than find the right place to start, I started wherever I pleased and then revised my way to a satisfactory work. For example, this very article originally started with `thing number 2' and a much different example than the one you are reading now.

The moral of the story is to identify and eliminate the intimidation of the blank page by whatever means fits your way of thinking. For me, it was as simple as finding that editing my half-baked ideas was easier than waiting for the idea to fully form before starting. If you wait long enough for anything you run the risk of forgetting what you are waiting for.

2. The truth will set you free, but it can be a hindrance.

Early on, I wanted to have all the facts straight. I couldn't have my hero shooting fifteen rounds from his police issued 9mm Berretta pistol, if in all actuality, contemporary policemen were issued 6 round capacity .357 Magnum revolvers. When it came to mentioning what kind of gun the cop was using, I'd hit the books (or do a quick Google search). Sure enough, I'd get the information I needed to make the scene accurate, but the passion to write left me while I switched hats from author to researcher and back again.

Nowadays I write when the spirit moves me and research when I have writers block. I have accepted two core ideals. Firstly, that a compelling story defies the facts as long as what is presented is plausible. Secondly, anything that halts the creative process is a hindrance and will not make your writing better. While we don't want the medieval knight performing CPR on a fallen comrade, we don't necessarily have to stop writing our story to make sure that the Saxon blade was in common use in the 14th century. If you aren't sure, your readers probably aren't sure either… unless it is a critical matter that could pierce the suspension of disbelief, trust them not to Google it.

3. The moral of the story is… really not my job.

Some of my earlier writings were bad for a whole host of reasons, but one thing that was particularly dominant was my overarching need to tell people what I wanted them to take away from the story. If the moral was `drugs are bad,' I'd go at length to show how bad they were, tell you they are bad, and then tell you that I told you that they were bad. What this demonstrated, above and beyond the fact that I was a novice, was lack of trust. I didn't trust my reader to get my message, so I over-delivered it. I also feared that the reader might misinterpret misdirection as advocating.

At some point, I realized that it was OK. Whatever the reader takes away from your work, they took something away. It may not be what you intended, but that's fine. Don't sacrifice the flow or substance of your stories to get some lesson across. Put it there in a natural way and trust the reader to understand it.

4. Ego can be a problem… both having too much and too little.

I'm no Stephen King, but boy do I know how to run myself through the grinder. Guess what, there was a time when Stephen King was some unknown, workaday nobody who just happened to have a few screws loose. Just like us, he used the pen to tighten things up. He got famous. Good for him. Just because nobody on the face of the planet is clamoring for your next novel, it does not mean that such will always be the case. Conversely, just because everyone in your coffee clutch gives your work glowing reviews, it doesn't mean that those five editors that sent you those five rejection letters were wrong for doing so.

At the end of the day, we are all just folks. From the powerful to the powerless… if you prick us do we not call 1-800-LAWYERS? The key to finding my comfort level in writing was managing my ego. I write well, but so does the janitor at the Hazleton Wal-Mart. My story idea is better than the last movie I saw, but there are ideas better than mine that will never see print let alone be made into movies. In the end, I decided to write the stories that I would like to read, share a part of myself with whoever is willing to read. Any judgment about the quality of such is for the reader alone to decide. Getting so prideful as to scorn rejection/criticism is equally as self-destructive as having too little pride in my work to share it.

5. In the end there was the beginning.

As in art and film, great works of writing are never finished, only abandon. Early on, I never finished a story. I would write a significant portion of it, get the characters developed, set the plot in motion, and tighten the tension to the breaking point. Then I'd just walk away and find something else to write about. People hated me. It was like that TV show you found and loved that was cancelled midway through the first season, leaving you unfulfilled. It's not that I was sadistic… well I was sadistic but that had little to do with leaving my stories unfinished. I failed to finish many of my early stories because I was afraid.

I'm sure that we have all followed some book, TV show, or movie through to the end only feel as though our time had been wasted. A plot, laden with possibilities, must eventually give way to a conclusion in one final form. The joy of setting up the plot lies in tempting the imagination with those possibilities and the danger of resolving the plot is that the reader's imagination might be better than yours. I never learned how to pick the best ending; I only learned that ending the story was just the beginning. After I chose an ending, I was free to go back to the beginning and change anything or everything. The most important part of ending the story was that it was my ending.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Spring Break

Word Mine's been on a little bit of a break this week--some of our members are gearing up for the Greater Lehigh Valley Writers Group's "Write Stuff" conference and doing a last minute push for our own Write It Right Conference, coming up in just a few short weeks!

We'll be back next week with tales from the front lines.

Happy Writing!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Interview with Jodi Webb

BDWN: Thanks for speaking with us, Jodi! You’ve been a freelance writer for quite a few years—can you tell us about some of the publications you’ve written for?

JODI: It’s exciting to be the interviewee. Usually it’s the other way around and I’m the interviewer! I think I’ve been writing magazine article for 15 years. It feels like a lot of different publications with no rhyme or reason—I’m not an “expert” on any one subject. My first article was for Matt Holliday at Pennsylvania Magazine and I still write for him—in fact I’m working on an article right now. So many others…Grand, Grit, Birds and Blooms, Toy Directory Monthly, Reunion Magazine, Christian Science Monitor, The History Magazine, E-the Environmental Magazine, WOW-Women on Writing, Writers Weekly to name a few.

BDWN: So what exactly is a blog tour, and how did you get started as a blog tour organizer?

JODI: We all know what a book tour is. An author visits different book stores (and sometimes other venues) speaking about and hopefully selling their book. This is the same thing except it’s “virtual.” The author goes to blogs—book review blogs, writer blogs, parenting blogs, teen blogs, 50+ blogs—it all depends on what their book is about. Sometimes authors are interviewed (in print, audio or video) and sometimes they contribute guest posts. Often the blogger post a book review. And, if the budget allows, the author sponsors book giveaways.

Actually I started out selling advertising space for WOW-Women on Writing. After a few months the founder Angela Mackintosh asked if I would help her with something new she was starting at the request of some followers: WOW Blog Tours. Truthfully, I had no idea what blog tours were but I thought I’d give it a try. I found out arranging blog tours is so much more fun than selling advertising space! Although it can get a little crazy.

BDWN: Why would a writer participate in a blog tour? Do you think more writers are opting to do blog tours over regular book tours?

JODI: There are so many reasons to organize a blog tour. First, overall you can reach more people over a large area for less money. Sure, you don’t pay anything to appear at a book store but there are transportation costs, meals, lodging and you can go through all that trouble and have no one show up. With blogs you can target blogs that have large numbers of followers all over the country (even the world).

It’s also more convenient, both for the author and the reader. A person who doesn’t have time to head over to a bookstore at 6:30 pm on Tuesday night might read Bonnie Blogger’s Blog every morning before they start work and will read about your book. Also traditional book tours are a one shot deal. If the readers don’t show up on Tuesday night at the bookstore they aren’t going to hear about your book. Bloggers archive their posts so readers could show up the next day, the next week, the next month and still read the post about your book.

There’s also time. You have to continue writing (and probably working a day job). If you’re visiting the bookstore from 6:30-8:30 on Tuesday, with the commute and preparation you’re probably investing at least three hours of your time. By comparison an appearance on a blog can only take one hour of your time (if that) to answer interview questions and check in to interact with readers through the comments section. And you can do that hour on your lunch hour, using your iPhone as you’re waiting to pick up your kids from basketball practice, whenever. Blog tours give you more freedom. And through archiving the post lasts forever.

I think more authors are turning to blog tours because they want to go where the readers are—and frankly it isn’t in book stores anymore. Everyone is online. And the opportunity for word of mouth about your book is better using online outlets. If someone hears about your book at a bookstore how many people will they tell? A dozen if you’re lucky? Online a reader could hear about your book, click on their Twitter account, send an email, or post on their blog and tell hundreds of people. Literally in seconds!

BDWN: It seems like everyone has a blog these days. Why should writers have one? How can it help?

JODI: I don’t think every writer needs a blog. I think every writer needs an online presence. This can be a website, a Facebook page, a Twitter account. I think every writer needs an online presence because of the opportunity to connect with readers. Penny Sanseveri, a publicity maven, once said a person needs to come in contact with something (in this case your book) seven times before they decide to purchase it. Online just gives you that opportunity to get your name in front of your audience.

Blogs are a significant time investment. You shouldn’t have a blog if it’s going to keep you from writing for payment or if you can’t contribute to it regularly (at least once a week). Blogs are great because not only to they help you attract reader’s attention initially but it can help you keep their attention for when you release your next book. If you have people loyally following your blog you can keep them updated about future releases—it’s especially helpful if you are working on a series.

A blog can also set you apart from all the other authors a person hears about in a year. It makes you a friend. It gives you the chance to tell readers that extra something about yourself or your book that makes them want to buy it and tell others about it.

A blog can also show agents and publishers that you understand the importance of marketing yourself. If they had two manuscripts for similar audiences and one is blogging and has a built in following and the other wrote their book in their basement and never told a soul who do you think has a better chance of selling books? And that ultimately is what agents and publishers are interested in—-who can sell books.

BDWN: Any pointers for what not to post on a blog?

JODI: Do not burn industry bridges on you blog. If an agent turned you down or your publisher strong armed you into changing the title and you’re not thrilled your blog is not the place to vent.

Although it’s fine to get reveal personal info, consider your audience. If you’re writing children’s books don’t get into your sex life. If you’re writing romances you might not want to get into controversial topics like religion and politics. That is, don’t talk about them on your professional blog where you’re marketing your writing. Why alienate any of your audience? Of course if you’re writing a book about politics, definitely let loose with your political rants on your professional blog. But generally, if you have some controversial topics you want to talk about start a second personal blog.

BDWN: Can you tell us a little bit about what you’ll be covering at the March BDWN meeting?

JODI: I’m going to give everyone tips on organizing their own blog tour from where to find high traffic blogs that match your book’s audience to how to publicize the tour to what to talk about in your guest posts. Basically, how to make the most of the publicity a blog tour generates. Although setting it up can be time-consuming, a blog tour can be an effective(and inexpensive) way to spread the word about your book.

Thanks again, Jodi! BDWN's March meeting will be held on Saturday, March 20 from 10 a.m.--12 noon at the Tamaqua Public Library!

Monday, March 15, 2010

5 Popular Writer Excuses

Writing is easily one of the most therapeutic and cathartic pastimes a person could ever hope to engage in. Besides simply being a means for unlocking a person’s thoughts, fears, joys, and sorrows, writing can help us discover new worlds and new characters with varying degrees of troubles of their own.
But the rewards only come if you actually sit down and start writing.

Like most creative efforts, writing doesn’t come easily—even the most prolific writers have had dry spells occasionally. But without actually putting pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard), you’ll never get the tremendous sense of accomplishment that far outweighs the frustrations. It’s funny—if everyone who said they want to write a book or get into magazine article writing actually sat down and started on these types of projects, the shelves of our nearest bookstore couldn’t hold all of the items we’d have published.

But it’s easier to just put it off. Below are the top 5 things folks who want to write (but don’t) tell themselves, finally self-sabotaging their efforts before they even get started:

“I don’t have time.” You have just as much time in the day as any other prolific author working today—the trick is what you do with that time. You have to commit to writing just as you commit to anything else—a workout routine, volunteering in the community, etc. Get up an hour earlier, stay up an hour later, or squeeze in a few minutes on your lunch break—you’d be surprised at how much you can get accomplished in a measly 60 minutes!

“I don’t know what to write about.” So write about how difficult it is to keep writing when you think you don’t have any ideas. A key skill for any writer is to recognize the story potential in anything, anywhere, at any time. For magazine article writers, you might get an idea for a piece from your neighbor who builds miniature doll furniture and pitch it to a crafting magazine, or a market focused on those who like collectibles. Or dolls. Your disastrous family vacation might spark an idea for an essay. Or your lovably nutty, Auntie Mame-like grandmother could be the inspiration for the daft great-aunt character in the novel you’ve been working on. It does take some practice to find the story potential in the everyday, but once you get your mind to start thinking that way, you won’t be able to keep up with all of your ideas!

“No one will read this.” How do you know unless you start sending it out? Also, remember that not all writers are looking to get published. Take JD Salinger, for example. After the initial success of The Catcher in the Rye, Franny and Zooey, and Nine Stories, he basically disappeared from the limelight, but his family and close friends say that he never stopped writing. The only difference is that he started writing for himself, not a mass audience. What’s more important to you—having your work published and immortalized forever, or simply sitting down and writing for the sheer joy of it? Either one is fine, but your answer will depend on how hard you work at finding an agent, publisher, and getting your work sold.

“Nothing I write is any good.” Here’s a big secret—no writer truly likes their work, so if it makes you feel any better, picture some of the biggest names in literature silently (or not so silently) cursing every page and filling their wastebaskets with one false start after another. One nice thing about computers and their ability to delete is that it’s helped many writers save quite a bit of money on paper. No first draft is ever a masterpiece—that’s why it’s called a draft, and that’s why we have editing tools—spell check, proofreaders, and editors, to name a few.

“I don’t know where to start.” Even if your first few paragraphs (or pages!) are a little rough and not exactly how you want them to sound, you can always go back and make changes. Getting started is the hardest part of writing, whether it’s an article, short story, or novel, but once you start working on it and getting into the “flow” of the piece, you’ll find that the words will come easier. The important thing here is not where you start, but that you start.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Find Feedback In a Critique Group

Many writers are simply looking for feedback on their work, whether or not their plan is to get published. For this reason, many writers either join or start their own critique group.

A critique group provides a safe, supportive environment where writers can do exactly that—critique each other’s work and offer suggestions for improvement and to “tighten” the piece. This helps to iron out any rough spots or point out some areas that just don’t sound right (for example, a story set in a Civil War hospital certainly wouldn’t include penicillin or anesthesia). Critique groups are often informal, with some members who drop by once and never make another meeting, or more formal, with a core group of attendees who thrive on the camaraderie and support of other writers.

Here are 5 ways to make the most of joining a critique group:

Have a piece to critique. It’s hard to get feedback on something you haven’t written yet. Some folks join a critique group thinking it will help them start writing—although it may jumpstart the muse, the truth is, the point of a critique group is having a piece to critique!

Bring enough copies for the other members. A lot of people don’t do well with having something read to them—they need to read it for themselves. Be sure to bring enough copies of your piece so that the other members can write comments or just have something in-hand for reference as you work on making it better.

Be honest. If you’re not “buying” something in another writer’s piece, say so. They’re part of the group so that they can improve their work—the comment you’re afraid to share with them just might be something that helps them strengthen their story.

…but not too honest. You may not want to blurt out “That’s the biggest piece of crap I’ve ever heard!” , even if that’s really what you think. The idea is to give constructive criticism, not brutal, hurtful comments that could likely discourage the writer from even finishing the piece. Think about it—would you want your work slashed to pieces?

Don’t take the feedback personally. Let’s face it—artists are sensitive folks, and putting your work (and, by extension, yourself) out there for the world to judge is not an easy thing. It takes some practice to separate yourself from your work—just remember that the other group members are there to help you improve your work, not judge you personally. This is a great training ground if you do decide to pursue publication and send your work out to agents or editors—it helps to develop a thick skin early, so that the pros’ comments (which may not be so encouraging) won’t be completely devastating.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Interview with Holly Landau

Holly Landau is a workshop facilitator and adult learning expert. She’s designed and facilitated dozens of workshops in corporate, non-profit, and community settings addressing a long list of topics including creative writing, poetry, innovation, communication, and various leadership topics.

She was a contributing writer for Women’s Monthly Magazine and has also written national public service announcements, documentary scripts, press releases, advertising copy, theatrical monologues, and a leadership blog. Current writing projects include humorous haiku and songwriting. She is one of the founding organizers of the annual Northeast PA Poetry Festival.

Holly attended American College for the Applied Arts in London, has a BA in Sociology from Thomas Edison State College and is currently completing a Master’s Certificate in Executive Leadership at Cornell University. She is an Adjunct Instructor at Lehigh Carbon Community College and a Guest Lecturer at corporate events and colleges including Penn State. She is currently the CEO & President of Landau Leadership, a corporate training consulting firm, where she coaches and motivates corporate leaders ( She is also a rock-n-roll singer in the acoustic duo, The Sparks (

BDWN: Thanks for speaking with us, Holly! Can you tell us a little bit about your business?

HOLLY: I lead the training & employee development firm, Landau Leadership. We specialize in customized training curriculum, public leadership events, and online learning solutions to boost individual and team productivity. We’re a team of facilitators, curriculum designers, and keynote speakers covering topics like leadership, strategy, creativity, and communication. I also do a lot of writing. I am a regular contributor to several business blogs including, New York Entrepreneur Week, and my own leadership blog at I’m really excited about to be one of the contributing writers for the upcoming American Express OPEN Book on Leadership.

BDWN: For many of us, getting started on a project is half the battle. Why is sitting down and getting to work so difficult?

HOLLY: I’ve talked to so many people about this subject. I know that many people feel stuck because they have too many ideas and all the ideas seem like great places to start. Others say that their minds go blank as soon as they start to write. And some people simply lack the confidence to put pen to paper (or fingertips to keyboard!). And for some of us, the idea of writing a lengthy novel can seem like a daunting task; and we don’t want to start something we won’t finish.

BDWN: Every writer has fought with writer’s block at one time or another. How do we power through when we get stuck? How can we keep ourselves from just quitting the whole project? Can you give us some pointers on how we can stay motivated?

HOLLY: One of the ironic aspects of writing (which is a solitary activity, for the most part) is that reaching out to others for feedback and support can help re-invigorate your idea/essay/story/play/etc. Collaborating with other writers is very indulgent to me because I get more ideas about possible directions to take my storylines or unique ways to develop my characters.

That said, I think it’s a good strategy to put some projects aside if you need a mental/emotional break from them. Unless you have a pressing deadline about your project, then putting it on ice for a while might allow you to explore other projects. You can always come back to it in the future and maybe you’ll have a fresh perspective and some new ideas that will add texture to the project.

BDWN: You do a lot of sessions on creativity, which is another important element for writers to tap into. So what do you say to those folks who say “I want to write, but I don’t have any ideas”?

HOLLY: I’m a big believer in creativity exercises to help your mind identify a specific idea and expand it. I also like the fact that you’re sort of tricking yourself into believing that the exercise is a game, so your ego is less likely to get in the way. You can take workshops that include creativity exercises and/or search for these exercises in books and on the web. I’m always amazed at how many incredible works started from these simple exercises.

Can you give us a sneak peek of what you’ll be talking about at the Write It Right conference?

HOLLY: I’ll be presenting two workshops during the conference. Hilarious Haiku is my humble attempt to combine haiku (which is normally pretty serious) with the silliness of comedy. I facilitated this workshop a few years ago and the attendees surprised themselves by writing some really funny stuff.
The other workshop I’m facilitating is called Build a Character (for your novel, short story, play, or screenplay). I love to start with a clean slate, so I’ll encourage attendees to create a character from scratch. We’ll then develop that character through a series of thought-provoking exercises. There’s also a surprising plot twist in the workshop itself!

Monday, March 8, 2010

Still Time to Register!

Can you hear the buzz?

Unfortunately, the early bird registration is behind us, but there’s still time to sign up for the first-ever Black Diamond Writers Network’s Write It Right Conference! Write It Right is not only the first event of its kind for our group, but the first of its kind in Northeast Pennsylvania, and there’s been a definite buzz going around.

A few of our members held library talks within the last few weeks to talk about getting published and to help spread the word about the group and our conference. A few snow days mixed in there posed a challenge, but we’re grateful to those folks who came out to hear what we had to say!

The media has been very supportive about this event, as well. Read the story from the Hazleton Standard-Speaker here.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Interview with Priscilla Y. Huff

by Jodi Webb

Priscilla Y. Huff has been a freelance business and nonfiction writer/author for over twenty-nine years. She has written numerous articles and columns on the topics of home-small businesses, women’s entrepreneurship, and other subjects for Home Business Journal, Income Opportunities, Small Business Opportunities, Pennsylvania Magazine, as well as for many online web sites. She is currently a feature writer for the print publication, Home Business Magazine ( Huff is currently working on a children’s adventure series. Her business, LITTLE HOUSE Writing & Publishing, offers business information, consulting and research services, as well as e-books and other publications.

JODI: So many people treat their writing as a hobby, not a business. Can you help us draw a line in the sand? When should we consider writing a career?

PRISCILLA: Writing is the ideal home-based profession. Most writers start writing professionally on a part-time basis, just like seventy-five percent of all home-based business owners start their ventures on the side. Why? First, of all, most writers are not independently wealthy and have to work a day job (or two). They write in the morning, in the evening, or during any free time they have available, and that is not occupied by family, work, or other activities.

Secondly, it takes time to find your ideal writing “niche” or genre. Entrepreneurs fail an average of three times at business start-ups before they succeed with a venture. Most writers will write poetry, fiction, non-fiction or for other sources, until they discover what type of writing market(s) is best for them and have publishing success. Entrepreneurs persevere and learn the ins and outs of their industry, along with perfecting their business skills. So do professional writers who attend workshops, conferences; and enroll in courses to improve the quality of their work, investing in themselves and their writing skills. Entrepreneurs work and/or study in their industry to stay current as what potential customers need and desire. Professional writers must also study the writing and publishing industry to know what markets are open and how to approach agents, editors, and publishers.

Thirdly, home-based business owners have a passion for their work. That passion drives them and sustains them through the ups and downs and long hours to do what is necessary to succeed. Professional writers, when not sitting down and writing, are usually thinking about their writing: developing plots and characters in their mind; or the next article or book idea they want to research for publishing potential. If you do ALL of this, you WILL be published. When that happens, I can assure you that you will be “hooked” into the writing business and consider it your lifelong career.

JODI: How can we work toward that goal of full-time writer? Should we dedicate a certain amount of time to writing?

PRISCILLA: Dedicate time to write each day. In order to fit in this writing, look at your daily schedule to see where and when is the best time to write. Managing your time and keeping organized with your writing is essential to help you “juggle” your writing career and your personal-work life. You may have to give up something to do this: getting less sleep (writing earlier or later in the day); cutting back on social activities (instead of heading a fund-raiser or being the president of an organization, be an active participant for those you can manage); and giving up mindless TV shows or “wandering” on the Internet. Set goals. Stephen King in his book, On Writing, recommends a writer produce 1,000 words a day for your book. If you are a freelancer, set goals to contact or query so many potential markets a day or week.

JODI: As professional writers, how much should we be earning? Should newbies write for free?

PRISCILLA: To acquire published clips, beginner writers will often write for free for some projects to acquire published clips and build their writing credentials. To offer one’s[work] for free, however, just to see one’s writing in print (or online), “cheapens” the writing profession in general. Professional writers are equal to any other professionals and should charge what the value of their writing is suggested by the industry; and what their markets will bear.

Legitimate writing markets will state in their writer’s guidelines how and what they pay. The annual Writer’s Market, found in the reference section of most public libraries, provides a section, “The Business of Writing,” with suggested pricing guidelines for various writing projectes; along with a listing of organizations that also recommend the professional prices members can charge. But as one editor informed me when I was deliberating on one of my book’s contracts, “Everything is negotiable.” You can always ask for more. Networking with other professional writers will also help you know what is a fair payment for your writing.

If you intend to make writing an on-going part-time business or hopefully, a full-time career, explore different writing venues to see which ones are the most profitable for you. I, like many writers, write for the markets that make me money; while at the same time, I am presently doing creative writing in another genre with the intent to find a publisher for these manuscripts.

Seeking residual income in the form of royalties from printed books or e-books will help to bring in a steady income while you are working on other writing projects. You do the work once and get paid over and over again (with revisions as needed). The ideal is to have your name recognized in your writing field or genre so that you build a loyal readers’ following. Think of your favorite authors and how you look forward to their next book or articles or blog entry.

JODI: So when does writing as a hobby become a career?

PRISCILLA: Your hobby becomes a career when you begin earning money that you will have to declare taxes and is becoming part of your regular income. The IRS has a page on its site stating the criteria of a hobby versus a business:,,id=172833,00.html. Basically, if you intend to earn money with your writing, then it is a career-business, whether you make a profit or not. Entrepreneurs consult regularly with accountants, lawyers, insurance agents, and other professionals to ensure they and their business are following income laws and have liability business protection. Professional writers should also have these experts on hand in the event they need them. Get referrals for these experts from other writers or professional writing associations such as The Author’s Guild and The National Writers Union .

JODI: Are there any advantages, financially, to declaring your writing a career?

PRISCILLA: Yes, you can deduct many business-related expenses incurred while writing and traveling. Intrinsically, you will also treat your writing as a profession, knowing you must work on a regular basis to produce quality material for your readers, clients, editors and publishers.

PRISCILLA: Here are just a few suggested resources:

--Writers’ market books such as the annual Writer’s Market and Writer’s Digest Magazine and others that often present writing business tips.

Additional Suggested Books:
--Getting Started as a Freelance Writer, Expanded Edition by Robert Bly
--The Well-Fed Writer by Peter Bowerman
--Be a Writer: Your Guide to the Writing Life by Steve Peha; Margot Carmichael Lester

Two helpful links:

JODI: Can you give us advice on how to get clients to take us seriously. How can writers project a professional appearance? Do we need a website, advertising, client referrals?

PRISCILLA: Professionalism is an important goal that anyone serious about his or her career should practice. As I mentioned previously, that includes educating oneself as to the conduct, ethics, protocol, and qualifications that a business person, writer, or any other professional is expected follow and develop to become recognized by their peers and their target markets.

How you approach editors; market yourself and your writing; promote your image as a writer; and most importantly, meet the expectations of your readers, are all part of your overall image and how you will be perceived. Develop your editor and writer referral networks through genuine support and sharing of information. It is rewarding to help others and it will come back to you in many good ways. Study those successful in your writing genre in what they write, how they market their writing, and the steps they took to become recognized, and follow their examples.

JODI: What's the biggest mistake/most common mistake new writers make with their business?

PRISCILLA: In my opinion, the biggest mistake is not being a professional writer. Most of us can write but have we learned to write with above-average skills and to supply what publishers and readers really want? Certainly, you hear of first-time writers who receive large advances, but if you look more closely, even those writers, spent years in developing their styles, their voices, and how to approach agents, editors, and publishers.

Happy Writing!!

Monday, March 1, 2010

GLVWG's "The Write Stuff" Conference

We would be remiss in not giving a huge shout out to our friends at the Greater Lehigh Valley Writers Group (GLVWG), whose annual The Write Stuff conference will be held on March 25-27 at the Four Points Sheraton, Allentown, PA. GLVWG has the difficult task of staging a conference down to a science, and this year’s schedule is no exception. In addition to their regular schedule of breakout sessions, GLVWG is holding a special pre-conference workshop with bestselling author James N. Frey (How to Write a Damn Good Novel) on Thursday night. Additionally, the day includes appointments with agents and editors (you must register for a slot ahead of time), Flash Fiction writing contests, and the ever-popular author book fair at the end of the day. Some of our BDWN members have attended GLVWG’s conference, and can verify that it’s one of the best—definitely money well-spent. Kudos to conference chair Kathryn Craft and her committee for all of their hard work! For more information on the Write Stuff, visit , or their blog, All the Write Stuff.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Writerly Words

And by the way, everything in life is writable about if you have the outgoing guts to do it, and the imagination to improvise. The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt.

~Sylvia Plath

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Interview with Jerry Waxler

by Jodi Webb

About Jerry Waxler, in his own words: "I grew up in Philadelphia and went to college in Madison , Wisconsin during the war protest years. Gasping across the finish line with my Bachelor’s Degree in Physics, I slid beneath the waves to become a depressed hippie in Berkeley , California . With the help of a spiritual teacher, I climbed back on to land, gave up meat, fish, eggs, drugs and alcohol, meditated, went to India , came back, joined a commune, became a computer programmer, then a technical writer. In my forties I realized I knew nothing about people, so I went to graduate school, earned a Master’s Degree in counseling psychology, gave therapy, started writing and teaching, and the rest is history."

JODI: In bookstores I often see memoirs and autobiographies crammed together in the same section? Are they the same?

JERRY: The definition of “memoir” or “autobiography” depends who you ask, and more importantly, it depends when you ask them. It seems like the definitions change from year to year. A few years ago, I would have said a memoir is more story-driven than an autobiography, and an autobiography is intended more for historians and grandkids. Nowadays publishers occasionally use the two words interchangeably. As a result, I now read the title, blurb, and reviews and form my own judgment.

JODI: Can you tell us how or why you became such a fan of memoir?

After I got my master’s degree in counseling psychology, I began to write self-help articles. My writing mentor, Jonathan Maberry ( said my essays sounded like they dropped from the sky. He advised me to insert myself. I had always been shy and had no idea how to tell personal stories, so I embarked on a journey of self-discovery. The deeper I went, the more fascinated I became. Soon, I was reading memoirs, and realized that each one gave me two gifts. First, it was a window into the life of another person, and second, it gave me some insight into the way life can be turned into story.

JODI: Why do you think memoir publication has exploded in the last few years? Why is the public so interested in reading about other people's lives?

JERRY: In the television age, we all sat on the sofa quietly watching celebrities. In the internet age, we sit at our computers and type. The internet has created a hundred million penpals. I think memoirs are a logical next step. We want to know more about each other.

Another thing that is changing is that talking about ourselves used to be taboo. Memoirs and talk shows have blown the cork out of that bottle. One stunning result has been that we are sharing stories about the journey from child to adult. Bestselling stories like “Liar’s Club” by Mary Karr have encouraged us to take a closer look at Coming of Age.

JODI: Do you feel memoir writing has always been popular in the form of journals, etc.? If so, why is it such a popular form of expression?

JERRY: I journaled for an hour every day for a decade. It gave me a wonderful opportunity for reflection, and helped me form the habit of translating my thoughts into sentences. This process is a fundamental tool for writers, and also a powerful self-help strategy. But while the journals were important to me at the time, I wouldn’t have expected anyone to ever read them. I needed to discover memoirs before I knew how to translate introspection into communication.

JODI: So have you made the jump from introspection to communication? Have you written a memoir?

JERRY: Once I became interested in memoirs as a way to understand life, I naturally wanted to write my own. I took classes and gathered material. As the project picked up steam, I discovered that while I had been reading stories my whole life, I have never told them, so I not only had to learn about my own life, but about the craft of storytelling. I attended writing conferences and connected with writers to learn as much as I could.

I was in a class taught by Jonathan Maberry when I decided to jump in. I wrote my first draft and that was only the beginning. The entire project has contributed to one of the most fascinating, and creatively stimulating challenges of my life.

JODI: Do you have any favorite memoirs you would like to recommend?

JERRY: I have many favorites ( . For example, right now I’m reading two memoirs, “Stones into Schools” by Gregg Morenson and “Spiral Staircase” by Karen Armstrong. Mortenson is the author of the memoir “Three Cups of Tea” (three million copies sold) in which he told about building schools in Pakistan. “Stones into Schools” starts where the first left off. Karen Armstrong was a nun, a scholar, and an interpreter of world religion. Her memoir takes me on a journey from religion to atheism, and then back to spirituality. These memoirs teach me to see the world through other people’s eyes.

JODI: How about books on writing memoirs?

JERRY: While there are lots of good books on the subject, I would like to give special praise to two. First is “The Power of Memoir” by Linda Joy Myers president of the National Association of Memoir Writers . In addition to her profound appreciation for the power of Story, she is a therapist and her book offers special sensitivity to the human drama, such as family dynamics and healing from trauma. The other book is the one I put together for my workshops. “Learn to Write your Memoir in Four Weeks.” It is the only short, simple, step by step guide I know of.

JODI: What are you working on right now?

JERRY: In addition to my memoir, I am working on a couple of manuscripts about using memoirs for self-help. I write an essay every week on my blog , and I teach and present at writer’s conferences and other venues. For example, I’ll be teaching an eight hour memoir workshop under the auspices of the Philadelphia Stories Journal , and I regularly give teleseminars and teleworkshops through the National Association of Memoir Writers. You can see my list of events here.

JODI: We’re excited that one of the events on your calendar is the Write it Right Conference in April!

Saturday, February 20, 2010

What's Holding You Back?

How are you doing with meeting your writing goals?

Have you given any thought to what’s holding you back from accomplishing as much as you’d like?

One word: fear.

Fear of failure, or even worse, a fear of success, often holds writers back from accomplishing as much as they’d like. It can be absolutely paralyzing, and hold many of us back from even getting started. There’s that pesky “inner critic” in our heads that tells us our stuff is garbage, we’ll never amount to anything, and we should just give up the dream and try something else for awhile. It’s also fear that stalls projects all the time; we get overwhelmed by what the characters should do next, or we think that no editor will ever be interested in that article or this manuscript, so we stop in midstream and the project lies there, abandoned.
So how do we conquer that fear of failure? Think of how much worse we’d feel if we never tried writing at all. We owe it to ourselves to at least power through a first draft. No book that has ever been on the shelves started out as the version we see; chances are they’ve gone through many, many revisions until the story was told as well as it could be. We never lose that inner critic completely—the secret is to ignore him and focus instead on the work in front of you.

Kudos to BDWN member Richard Clark, whose book The Wreck of the Red Arrow has earned some nice publicity! Read the full article from Friday’s REPUBLICAN Herald here.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Writerly Words

There's nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and open a vein.

~Walter Wellesley "Red" Smith

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Interview with Tisha Tolar

Tisha is a full time writer of non-fiction materials for the Internet market. She makes a living providing web content for a multitude of clients in a variety of industries. She began her online writing career in 2007 by chance after meeting her now business partner, Debbie Dragon, through an online job posting. Forming a working relationship via Instant Message, the two set the stage for the writing e-course, which teaches others how to make money writing for the online market. Prior to establishing herself as a freelance writer, Tisha wrote her first full length manuscript in 6 weeks just to see if she could do it. She decided to dust off the manuscript on the advice of her colleagues in 2008, finally self-publishing her debut Gen X in the summer of 2009. She currently is the editor and contributor to several major websites, including and actively works to promote her novel and her company, Trifecta Strategies. Since the novel’s release, Tisha has participated in several local book signings as well as a reading awareness program for local elementary school children. Tisha is a Schuylkill County native. She is married and has one daughter.

BDWN: Thanks for speaking with me, Tisha! We're so glad to have you as our presenter at our meeting this month!

TISHA: Thanks, Sara for inviting me to be the featured speaker at this month’s BDWN meeting. I am really looking forward to it and I thank you and all of the members for the opportunity. I had so much fun and took home so much from the January meeting. Your group is such a necessary resource for writers and I am glad to be a part of it.

BDWN: Can you tell me a little bit about your job as a full-time freelancer and your company, Trifecta Strategies?

TISHA: My job requires me to write every day, in some capacity. I am also the marketing strategist at the company, writing marketing materials and sending emails to promote our services. Trifecta Strategies is an online content writing company, meaning we write content used on websites, articles, blog posts, and e-books for a variety of clients and industries. We also manage the content by adding it to the websites directly, using social media to promote it, and building links back to our clients’ websites. There are three of us that make up Trifecta Strategies and we all maintain our own clients as well as shared work. We also manage several of our own websites and blogs under Trifecta. Plus, we have developed a program to teach others how to do what we do, which can be found at We are growing and now work with a great team of subcontract/freelance writers to accommodate our work load.

BDWN: How did you get the idea for your novel, Gen X?

TISHA: I had the idea for Gen X many moons ago when I was actually living in Philadelphia and going to art school. It was a little autobiographical with a ‘what if’ twist in the beginning. It wasn’t until more than 10 years later that I actually sat down to write the story in 2006. It was 2003 when I came up with the name for the book. The idea, title, and storyline had stuck with me all those years. When I sat down to write it, I did so just to see if I could. I had no plans to publish but eventually I shared the completed manuscript with others who thought I was crazy for not doing anything more with it. I started querying agents (a LOT of agents) and after a year, I got tired of waiting for someone to make something to happen – so I did it myself. I self-published last summer and still work weekly on promoting the book.

BDWN: It seems like it would be a difficult transition from nonfiction to fiction. What kind of challenges did you experience?

TISHA: Honestly, I was a fiction writer first but I didn’t realize it. I only wrote out Gen X as a challenge to myself and never thought twice about it making me a writer. I was one of those people who still at 30 wondered what she was going to be when she grew up. I fell into writing by accident but when I did I knew I FINALLY figured out where my journeys had been leading me.

I don’t think there is any difficulty for transitioning from fiction to non-fiction and vice versa. For me the bigger challenge is finding balance as a work-at-home writer/mom/wife. Running a business is tough and can often be a roller coaster but I love every minute of it. I could say my biggest challenge between fiction and non fiction is finding time to write the fun stories because the fact stories are a priority since they pay cash.

BDWN: Do you have a preference of fiction or nonfiction?

TISHA: As an online writer, there is no subject I am not asked to write about. From the most boring to the most over-your-head topics imaginable – I’ve written some weird stuff. After doing this for so many years, there are some topics that I once knew nothing about and now I can just write articles off the top of my head. I really enjoy the research and non-fiction writing and it comes easy to me.

I wish I had more discipline and time to write fiction. I literally have a handful of stories started and I continually update the story lines in my head all the time but I never sit down to write them out. I think it is because I spend so much time already at the computer writing for work that writing fiction doesn’t always seem like such a fun idea. When I wrote Gen X I do recall being completely fascinated by how the story in some parts just wrote itself.

The answer to your question is I haven’t a preference – I enjoy it all.

BDWN: Do you think writers should just focus on honing their skills in one genre, or should we dabble in whatever interests us?

TISHA: I think they should do whatever suits them. ‘They’ tell us write what you know. I do believe in that piece of advice. But I think as any kind of writer, you need experiences. Take yourself out of your comfort zone from time to time and see what you can do. I never thought I would be a writer at all. When I was young, I was good at writing quirky rhyming poems and stories but never in my wildest dreams did I think I would be a writer of both non-fiction and fiction – until I tried it. You have to really put yourself out there to be writer of any kind. If you want to focus on one area – great but don’t forget to explore what else is out there even if it is just in little peeks.

BDWN: Since you already spend most of your day writing, was it easier to find time to spend working on the novel?

TISHA: I didn’t have that problem in the beginning because I wrote Gen X before I became a full-time, online writer. Now it is a big problem as I’ve mentioned. People ask all the time ‘when is book two coming out?’. I have started it and I know what is going to happen for the most part but finding a few more hours in a day to sit back down at the computer while my daughter is bored isn’t always practical. I do have spurts of motivation that helps but I think for true motivation to occur, Gen X will have to take on a life of its own and force me to complete the rest of the series. I hope that isn’t the case but right now, it’s the reality.

BDWN: Can you give us a little sneak peek of your presentation at the BDWN meeting on February 20?

Since I already had the pleasure of meeting with the group in January, I am a bit more open to letting the questions lead the way for the discussion. I plan to talk a little bit about how I became a non-fiction writer and how much that has helped me with my fiction writing, especially the promotional end of things. I have made a name for myself online, I have learned the ropes of online promoting, and I use all of these skills to promote my self-published novel, Gen X. Even if I was working with a major publisher and agent, I would still be required to self-promote my little heart out. No one is going to do it for me (not even your family and friends) and because of my non-fiction writing I have learned so much. I also wanted to share a few insights about how to become an experienced online writer to help springboard other writing success.

BDWN: What do you hope the members will get from your presentation?

TISHA: Motivation. I think that is the number one priority for writers. If I had a quarter (inflation) for every time I heard someone say ‘I should write a book…’, I wouldn’t be very worried about making a living as a writer. I want people to realize that there is more out there than this one book they created. I was personally amazed at the guts people showed during the last meeting. They were so willing to share and the listeners were so welcoming. That goes a long way to helping people ditch the fear and really believe in what they can do. Ask my closest friends and they will tell you I can probably convince a fish to buy a glass of water. However, public speaking is not my forte and I hope people will see that stepping outside your comfort zone is good for the soul. I also hope people who might be interested in exploring online writing will take the opportunity to learn more about how they can make a career doing what they love – writing.

Thanks again, Tisha!

Learn more about Tisha's company at
Learn more about Gen X at