Saturday, February 28, 2009

New Crit Partner (Smiling)

I found a "crit partner" through The Rose Trellis at The Wild Rose Press. She's amazing! I sent her 180 pages of that thorn in my side---Blue Velvet---and some questions about where it might go, and in just over 24 hours, she was back with some excellent ideas! She is also retired, so we will make a good team, I think.

Today I've finished charting changes and deletions in FPSS. Also, the new prompts for the writing forum have arrived, so I need to get busy making notes for a draft due by the 10th. This forum is also turning out to be very beneficial. (Interested? Contact Linda Barnett-Johnson at ) I posted the final of my short story and immediately had a comment from another forum member about places the thing needed to be expanded---which was exactly what I was thinking and intend to do. I was limited to 2000 words, but the contest has a 4000 word limit, so I can really make a difference in the story. There is a March 31 deadline for this contest.

Also, a writing newsletter to which I subscribe had links to two free hour-long telephone seminars---Your Next Step on the Road to Publishing Success and Overcome Your Blocks to Sales and Presentations. Since I just went with magicJack internet phone, the calls will be free, too. Check out the website for the seminars and look into magicJack, too Hey--free is free---and until I make my first million (<--picture me laughing madly), free is the only way to go!

All in all, it's been a most satisfactory day! Lady is curled contentedly beside me here in the study. It has been a gloomy, wet, windy day, and when we went out awhile ago, there were snow flurries! She says that is NO WEATHER for a Lady! (It is still coming down on my daffodils and budding Bradford pear tree!)

Thursday, February 26, 2009

February Forum Poem

One of the February poetry prompts for the forum I joined recently was "a burning candle". With all the excellent suggestions from other forum members, the final piece ended up like this:

"Leave a light for me," he said,
As he stood there near the door.
"Leave a light for me," he said,
Then he hugged her just once more.
So each night his mother takes
A candle to burn the night,
And sets it in the window,
Taking comfort from its light.
That candle by the window
Bearing now a star of blue,
Is the light her boy has asked for,
And she prays that he'll come through.
A box beside the candle
Holds his honest, boyish scrawl;
A picture of his freckled face
Is inscribed, "Love to you all".
Her heart holds all the memories
Of the infant at her breast;
Her little boy, the almost-man
Gone to war with all the rest.
She sees the flame burn steady,
As she holds him in her heart.
It's when the candle flickers
That her worries seem to start.
Now the blue star in the window
Has been changed to one of gold;
But she still lights the candle
For her soldier brave and bold.
It will burn until all the boys
Are truly home someday.
Her boy's heart will come with them,
And she'll know he's home to stay.

Thursday, February 19, 2009


Sometime ago, there was a site asking its readers to contribute 30 poems in 30 days, each one written to a particular prompt. I meant to do it---I really did. Unfortunately, after two, I let the project slide. However, the first one I wrote seems even more pertinent now.

I believe in the right to be me,
To live,
To love,
To play,
To laugh,
To cry,
To say I’ve done my work.
Don’t ask me to do more.
Don’t tell me what to do
Or think,
Or believe,
Or like,
Or dislike.
My youth was given away
To my husband.
To my children.
My middle-age was given away
To my children.
To my colleagues,
To my parents.
Now I am old.
These years are mine
To live.
To love,
To play,
To laugh,
To cry.
I’ve given enough.
Now give to me
The right to be me.

Maybe it was my Declaration of Independence or my Bill of Rights, who knows? It needed to be said, and it needs to be demanded before it is too late.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

My First Interview!

Editor's Selection: Judy Nickles for "I Was Hungry: A Very Kate Christmas"

Our Question: How did you feel entering the contest? Judy Nickles' Answer: I just did it — and hoped for the best! I knew that if I didn't place, I had gained experience in submitting.

Q: How did you react when you found out that you won?
A: I hate to admit, at my age, that I squealed and bounced up and down, and the dog came running into the study to see what was the matter with "mommy."

Q: What did you know about Words of Belief before you entered the contest?
A: I wasn't acquainted with Words of Belief before entering the contest.

Q: How did you learn about the contest?
A: A writing friend in another state sent me the link.

Q: Is this your first time entering a writing contest? How did the Words of Belief contest compare to others you've entered before?
A: I've entered one other contest, but I didn't place. The fact that the Words of Belief contest didn't require an entry fee impressed me. Also, the maximum length limit was larger and gave me more room to work.

Q: When did you start writing? What is your experience with writing in your genre?
A: I suppose I've been writing since I could hold a pencil. The original "Dragnet" was on television or radio, and I wrote two parodies: "Fishnet" and "Hairnet" in the early 1950s. I still have them somewhere! In junior high and high school, I was blessed with wonderful English teachers who assigned creative essay topics, which I loved writing. They also marked every error and didn't accept "fluff." My freshman teacher agreed to accept essays in poetry form since I also loved writing that.
I don't write one specific genre. I try to incorporate romance with mystery in many pieces, and I draw ideas from my other hobby, genealogy. I've turned over a lot of old bones in researching various family lines!

Q: What is your writing process? How does your work come to you?
A: Usually I just take an idea and write, but sometimes that itself is not the best idea. I have about 26 more "Kate" stories, and those were written as they came to me. Writing something longer, like a novel, takes some research and pre-planning. I've begun to experiment with scene outlines — nothing too detailed but a sort of general roadmap.

Q: What was the inspiration for your winning title?
A: It was the season for a Christmas "Kate" story. I usually give my stories a title after they're written, and I look for something unusual and "eye-catching," but which also speaks to the underlying theme of the story.

Q: Did you meet any difficulties while writing your winning entry?
A: It was necessary to revise the story quite extensively from the original, so I had to be sure that all the new character names and settings were correct throughout. I'm my own worst critic, so I kept going back and reading and making small changes right up until the night I finally hit the send button on the computer.

Q: Have you published any other work? And how do you feel about your work being published through Words of Belief now?
A: I've only begun to pursue publication since I retired in the spring of 2007. I've had one short-short story published in Long Story Short, an e-zine. Another story has been accepted for publication in an Arkansas quarterly, The Storyteller. I also have a contract with The Wild Rose Press for a novel, Where Is Papa’s Shining Star? which is in the editing process, and I'm working on a sequel to submit as well.
Obviously, I was delighted to learn that I'd placed in the Words of Belief Holiday Story Contest and look forward to seeing the complete anthology and reading the other authors' stories. The excerpt from the grand prize winner intrigues me, so I need to know where the story is going!

Q: Do you maintain a Web site or a blog?
A: My Web site is:, and my writing blog, The Word Place, is at: Come visit me!

Q: What are your five favorite books?
A: I've always loved all kinds of books — history, biography, mystery, romance. I grew up reading Grace Livingston Hill's books and have a 1934 copy of The Christmas Bride, which I read every December. Jane Eyre, The Secret Garden, Little Lord Fauntleroy — yes, some are children's books, and that makes four! I'll list a huge volume called Children of Pride as the fifth. It's a collection of letters and journal entries of a southern family in a 20-30 year period that spans the Civil War and Reconstruction. I could name many, many more books that I love, but you said five! (Could I sneak in Tom Brokaw's Greatest Generation books? How about Edward Everett Horton's The Man Without a Country? And can I add all of Elisabeth Elliot's book? Do I have to stop?)

Q: Do you have any advice or tips for other emerging writers?
A: Even though I've been writing all my life — and I'm not telling how long that is! — I feel as though I am also an emerging writer, so I'm not sure I'm qualified to give advice. I always wrote just for the love of writing, and I think that if a writer doesn't love it, she won't do it well. It's important to me to like my characters, to feel that they are real people — so real that I'm reluctant to let them go at the end of the story. I set many stories during the Depression and World War II, both of which have a great fascination for me, since I'm a product of a family that lived through both. You have to be "tuned in" to time and place and willing to do the research to make your writing believable.
For me, it has been very important to have friends who also write. They've been a tremendous source of encouragement and support as I've dipped my toe in the publishing ocean. You have to have that connection — or I do, anyway.

Q: Is there anything else that you would like to share? Thoughts? Interesting facts? A short bio? Or a favorite quote or saying?
A: I'm just a retired teacher, and while I miss the classroom, it's nice to have time to concentrate on writing and see where that path leads. I spent my first two teaching years in Africa. When my boys were young, we'd hitch up the camper every summer and take off ancestor-hunting. They grew up in cemeteries and courthouses, and they're still interested in family history even now that they're grown. I feel there are still "places to go, people to meet, things to do." My grandfather was still on the go at 95 year old, so I hope I am, too.
I've got quotes on stickies all over the place, but if I had to share one that has pointed the way for my life, it would be this:

Thy shoes shall be iron and brass; and as thy days, so shall thy strength be ...The eternal God is thy refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms ... -Deuteronomy 33: 25, 27

Monday, February 16, 2009

Updates to the Blog

I've updated this blog and wanted to point out a few things. First, deciding to completely separate this writing blog, I deleted the links to personal blogs from the link list because they are already on Starting Over One More Time. I don't want anyone to think they've been made to disappear! The link to SOOMT isn't here either because, well, it's personal.

And, I've added a few links:

  • Preditors and Editors which, with Writer Beware, is a good source of information about legit (and not-so-legit) publishers and contests
  • A picture of the cover of 'Tis the Season, which links to Words of Belief, a Christian self-publishing company. This is NOT something I self-published but rather contains "A Very Kate Christmas" which won their Editor's Choice Award in their holiday writing contest last December.)
  • A picture of the cover for Where Is Papa's Shining Star? which is being published by The Wild Rose Press sometime this year
  • Literary Magic, an online magazine where my story "No One Ever Died of a Broken Heart" is currently published in their winter issue
  • A link to another online magazine, A Long Story Short, has been up for awhile, and several of my "Kate" stories are being serialized there under "The Way It Was". The February issue has the second story, "Loving Each Other", but I don't think there's any way to link back to the January issue for the first story.
  • Finally, a link to my website which is by no means complete, but please take a look if you have time. The picture for the link is courtesy of my good writing buddy, Leona Biron-Coulter.

The bottom line is, I'm trying to "psych" myself up to promote my book when it is released. Growing up, I was taught quite strictly that "tooting one's own horn" was a grievous thing to do, so this whole situation puts me between a rock and a hard place! How do I get the word out without seeming to be. . .well. . .unladylike. . .or worse?

In the next few months, I'm going to be doing some guest blogging for other Wild Rose Press authors and will post their links here also.

So, these are the changes I've made thus far. Any suggestions are always welcome!

Sunday, February 15, 2009

A Dream Is a Wish Your Heart Makes. . .

I didn't place in the contest, the results of which were announced today, BUT---the 22-year-old niece of a good friend won FIRST PLACE! She's a senior in college and has always dreamed of becoming a writer, so that $500 is going to be a big help to her! That's exciting! In her bio, she said she had a novel completed and hoped to have it published within the year, so I hope that happens for her, too!

There's nothing more exciting than being young and having dreams and seeing them begin to come true. When one is older, one can be more philosophical about defeat, but the young need success to spur them on.

My own dreams were discouraged and treated with a certain amount of amusement and derision, so I have made it a point to encourage the dreams of others, even when they seem rather unrealistic and unlikely to come true. Who knows? It could happen, but turning loose of those dreams guarantees that they won't.

When I was in college, I kept a scrapbook/journal of my hopes and dreams, and into it I copied the first verse of a poem by Louise Driscoll, found in The Best Loved Poems of the American People, a book now literally falling apart from use!

Hold Fast Your Dreams
Hold fast your dreams!
Within your heart
Keep one still, secret spot
Where dreams may go,
And, sheltered so,
May thrive and grow
Where doubt and fear are not.
O keep a place apart,
Within your heart,
For little dreams to go!

Interviewers often ask celebrities what they want to be remembered for, and they come up with all kinds of answers. I'm certainly not--and never will be--don't want to be--a celebrity, but if anyone remembers me, I'd like for it to be as an encourager, someone who listens with an open mind and heart and says, "It's okay to dream. Don't stop." or "These bad times will pass. Be strong."

That would be more than enough for me. That's even more important than realizing, somewhat belatedly, my own dreams.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

The Online Forum

I am enjoying the online writing forum. My group is small--about six of us--but each member has offered valid critiques/suggestions about the poem and the story I posted. It's amazing how others can see the flaws that a fellow writer misses.

I hope I've returned the favor with my comments---pointing out what is extra-good and making suggestions about what might be changed.

The way it works is like this: The moderator sends out about four topics for a poem and four for a short-story. The former has a 32-line limit; the latter can be no longer than 2000 words. We can't post until a certain date, usually about a week after receiving the topics. Then we have a week to read and do crits on the drafts.

After that, we post a re-write and do more crits. A week or so down the line, the final piece may be posted. Then, we take a deep breath, and more topics are handed out.

What a good way to get the creative juices flowing and to benefit from other writers' ideas!

And, it's free! You can't beat that!

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Waiting It Out

This month I am waiting out the results of two contests and a submission to a magazine. The contests will be announced this month, but the magazine's timetable is 10-12 week, so that will put me into late March or early April. In April, "Looking Over the Edge" is scheduled to be published in The Storyteller, a local (Arkansas) quarterly. Then there's the last round of edits for Where Is Papa's Shining Star? and, hopefully, a release date.

Meanwhile, I'm guest blogging on another WRP author's site on March 3, so I'm working on a piece about where authors get their ideas and explaining some of my sources.

And, of course, Blue Velvet has been on hold for a few weeks as I try to gather momentum to climb out of the hole it's fallen into! I did manage two fairly decent chapter revisions yesterday, but there's more work to do!

Oh, my, my, my, my---as I was wont to say in the classroom whenever there was a problem. All of the above certainly sounds lah-ti-dah! Insert here that I am laughing at myself. There's nothing worse than taking oneself too seriously!

But to serious business--I've picked out the pictures to purchase for use in a trailer, and I've played a bit with the trailer-making software--so all that's left is to pay for the pics, download them, and get to work. A little more confidence is needed. . .do I hear the Little Red Engine saying, "I think I can! I think I can!"?

We'll see.