Spring Contests = Summer Spending

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIs there anything more fun than winning that first place blue ribbon?

Yes, I know that’s not exactly a blue ribbon. But it’s a very pretty, winning blue bow to help us keep our eye on the prize. Which is winning a contest and getting money.

And yes, I know, affirmation is swell, too. But don’t you feel a lot better with cold hard cash in hand? So on to the contests:

1. The Saturday Evening Post Limerick Contest has a new pic up–and no entry fee. All you need to do is write that funny limerick and send it in by June 3rd. It’s a great exercise in meter and rhyme and telling a story. So if you need a break from a big writing project, try this itty-bitty writing project and have a little fun.

2.  The Dream Quest One Poetry and Writing Contest is accepting entries through July 31st. The fees are reasonable, and previous winners are available to read if you’d like an idea of what they’re looking for in a winning entry. And you can send poetry OR a story. And win a nice pay out. I work harder when there’s an entry fee and a nice pay out. And with summertime laziness fast approaching, this could be a great incentive to…well, work.

3.  The Mark Twain Humor Writing Contest has a deadline of June 30th, so you have plenty of time to polish up a submission. I really like this contest because it has a lower entry fee for young writers–and really swell cash prizes. The entry fee is a bit steeper, so expect competition to be tough. But don’t let that fee scare you. I know plenty of funny writers who could win this prize, and keep in mind that they’re looking for your voice, not a work that sounds like Mark Twain. Be your witty self and win.

Finally, I want to give a shout out to Kathy Temean’s Writing and Illustrating blog that’s packed with writing info and contests and tips and I don’t know what all. I know the banner reads “for children,” but it’s so much more than kidlit. (Like the Dream Quest One and Mark Twain contests I found there!) I’m all about finding those buried writing gems out there in the vast waters of the Internet, and her blog is a sparkly treasure, so give it a look-see.

Then choose a contest now. Maybe by summer, you’ll be waving big bucks in my face.

(And P.S. I’ll send you a blue bow if you win.)

Gone South with Meg Moseley (And a Giveaway!)

One of the things I love about being a writer is meeting other writers! I’m always surprised by how much I have in common with them, but honestly, Meg Moseley probably wins the prize.

Meg and I have been on several writers’ retreats together and she always drives—and we always get lost (we both have a terrible sense of direction). We both wrote opinions for the Gwinnett/Atlanta Journal Constitution (at different times, but still. We probably read each other’s columns!) And on this last jaunt, we realized that we share the same anniversary date, year included—and we got married at the same time.

Gone South (683x1024)So you can see why she wins the prize. But she could just as easily win a prize for her novels (and perhaps she has—I forgot to ask that question!) And so (while she was stuck in a car for much longer than she planned) I talked her into stopping by here to share a little about her writing and her latest book, GONE SOUTH. (And not just because I wanted a copy of GONE SOUTH.)

First, a little bit about GONE SOUTH: The sweet tea has gone bitter in Noble, Alabama where newcomer Tish McComb settles to reconnect with her family roots. Problem is the name McComb isn’t welcome in town, and when Tish aligns herself with the local prodigal daughter things only get worse. Can Tish find any mercy for sinners in Noble?

(P.S. The protagonist in my novel is named…Tish. Hey, I couldn’t make this stuff up. Well, okay, I made up the story, but both of us choosing the same unusual name for a protagonist? Freaky.)

I zipped through GONE SOUTH, thoroughly enjoying the read. It’s a well-crafted story that appeals to the heart, but the mind as well. So, naturally, I picked Meg’s brain for tips.

 I always like to ask about a writer’s journey to publication. When did you start writing? Did you always want to write novels? And what did you do to hone your craft? Because you’ve had several novels published, so clearly you know what you’re doing!

Well, let’s clear up that little misunderstanding: I really don’t know what I’m doing. 🙂 I’m learning as I go. I always knew I wanted to write, although I focused more on poetry and short stories when I was younger. Then, when I was on bedrest for months, awaiting the birth of my third and last baby (who is now 22), I read a zillion novels to combat the boredom. Every time I finished one, I had this crazy idea that I could write one too. It was still years before I started writing my first novel—which will never be published because it’s so awful. I learned (and am still learning) the basics of writing fiction from a lot of different sources that include writers’ conferences, critique groups, input from editors, and a ton of reading.

  It won’t surprise y’all to know that MY BABY IS 22, TOO (and a third born).  So…moving on. But unfortunately, we can’t always move on with our stories. What do you do, when writer’s block strikes?

When I get writer’s block, I think it’s my subconscious telling me there’s a horrible problem somewhere in the story and I have to fix it before I can go on. So I start by asking myself where it was that I stopped enjoying the story. Sometimes I can track it down to something simple, like a scene that I wrote in Character A’s POV when it would have been better in Character B’s POV. Other times it’s a fatal flaw in the foundation of the plot, and I have to rethink my entire premise. (That’s painful.)

 That’s for sure. So what’s the hardest part for you in the process–from coming up with the idea to getting the story published and in your hot little hands? And what’s the easiest?

For me, plotting a story is the hardest part. I always rebel against using charts and formulas and outlines, but I crash when I fly by the seat of my pants. I’m still trying to find the right balance between a structured approach and an “organic” one. The easiest part? For me, it’s doing the revisions after I’ve figured out the plot. I love to go back over a manuscript to explore the themes in more depth, flesh out my characters’ personalities, add more sensory details or emotions, and so on.

Ah, plot. Yep, I struggle with plotting, too. So let’s talk writing advice. What’s the best advice you were ever given? Or what’s the one thing you wished you’d known about writing, way back when?

I have so much writing advice sloshing around in my head that I don’t know if I could pinpoint the best—or the worst. But one thing I wish I’d known, way back when, is that you shouldn’t waste your time writing anything you don’t love. If you don’t love what you’re working on, it will drain your creativity and make a hack of you. Of course, there are times when we just have to be hacks to pay the bills, but in a perfect world…well, we wouldn’t even have bills.

Stillness of Chimes final cover (683x1024) Oh, I love that, Meg, and agree wholeheartedly. And now I have to ask one last question, because I know you’re always busy writing!  What’s in the future for Meg Moseley, novelist? (New books coming out? New genres to try?)

My third novel, A STILLNESS OF CHIMES, is coming out from Multnomah on February 18. I’ll also have a romantic novella, A MAY BRIDE, coming out from Zondervan in the spring. Meanwhile, I’m editing a completed novel and playing with ideas for a new one. The new projects are screwball romantic comedies, which will be quite a switch after the serious topics of STILLNESS.

 

See? I told you she’s always busy writing! And because I love sneak peeks, here’s one about STILLNESS: When Laura Gantt returns to Georgia to handle her late mother’s estate, she hears a startling rumor—that her father staged his drowning years ago and has recently been spotted roaming the mountains. With the help of her former high school sweetheart, Laura searches for the truth. But will what they find destroy their rekindled feelings?

A big thank you to Meg for sharing her expertise with us—and her book, GONE SOUTH. Leave a comment and you can win her book; I’ll draw a name this time next week. (By which point, I will have found ten more things that Meg and I have in common.)

 

 

 

Friday’s Fun Find: It’s a Booksapalooza!

2013-03-07 04.48.47When I get home from a writer’s conference, I have a slump for a couple days. And I’ll tell you why: I always go with my hopes high and think, Yes! Some editor (or agent) is going to come up and say, “Cathy C. Hall, I simply MUST have your novel! And while I’m at it, let’s make it a three book deal!”

So far, that hasn’t happened. Thus, the slump. But after the slump, I go all Dreamgirls and start shouting, “Okay, people. I’m not going anywhere. I’m getting serious about writing these books now. Next time,” and here I shake my fist in the air, “next time, you’ll see. You-and you–and you, you’re gonna love me.” Er, my books.

Then I get busy. This time around, I had a lovely gift card from the Beneficent Mr. Hall that I whipped out and used to buy a couple books I’ve heard good things about, either at the conference, or from friends, or ’round the Internet.

1. Save the Cat by Blake Snyder…yes, it’s a screenwriting book, but it’s packed with interesting insights for the would-be novelist. Like  the hook and loglines and scenes. And I’m only on page 24.

2. The Plot Whisperer by Martha Alderson…although, as you may have noticed, I cut to the chase and purchased the workbook. I need exercises and examples to give me a push. But I suppose if I get to a point where I think I should’ve ordered the original book, too, I’ll hit up Mr. Hall for another gift card. St. Patrick’s Day is right around the corner, right? (Look, I told Mr. Hall it’s a Savannah tradition, so I’d appreciate it if you’d just keep mum.)

3. The Emotion Thesaurus by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi…who knew emotions could be (sort of) quantified? I am loving this (Kindle) book. (heart pounding,  sharp intake of breath, eyes dilating)

Okay, that’s enough for now. I’ve got some reading to do, and honestly, I can’t think of anything funner I’d rather do on this Fun Friday. (Well, that agent/editor call might be more fun–d’oh. Now I’ve got to sing the song from Dreamgirls again.)