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Louis Writers Guild

Featured Article:
For Those Considering the Realm of Picture Books – by Susan Grigsby …pg 3 From the President’s Desk: Encouraging Tomorrow’s Writers – by Brad R Cook …pg 2

founded in 1920 A Chapter of the Missouri Writers Guild

Find us online

Featured Writer:
A Better Way to Get out of the Cave: Surmounting the Traditional Publication Syndrome – by Paul Levinson …pg 5

@stlwritersguild #SLWG Saint Louis Writers Guild on Facebook SLWG Author Series on Youtube

Step-by-step With a Freelance Illustrator – by Jennifer Stolzer …pg 7

When a Rejection Feels Like a Punch in the Face – by Cole Gibsen …pg 11 SLWG Workshops for Writers: Suzann Ledbetter Ellingsworth’s 12-step Program: How to Show, How to Not Tell – by Jennifer Stolzer …pg 13

P.O. Box 411757 St. Louis, MO 63141

SLWG Author Series: Linda Austin, Suzann Ledbetter Ellingsworth and L.S. Murphy – by Lauren Miller …pg 15

SLWG Workshops for Writers: Focus on Fiction Transcribed and Edited – by Jennifer Stolzer …pg 17

Cover: The Praying Mantis atop City Museum
Illustrated by Jennifer Stolzer

Featured Poet – Jason Braun
Self Portrait as Still Life …pg 14 Jonesing for Something Nameless …pg 21

Back Cover: St. Louis Arch
Photo by Brad R. Cook

St. Louis Writers Guild
A 501(c)3 non-profit organization dedicated to support, connect, and promote the literary heritage of St. Louis. The Scribe is a quarterly literary magazine produced for the members of St. Louis Writers Guild.

From the President’s Desk
A Literary Magazine by St. Louis Writers Guild Summer 2013 Editorial Staff
T.W. Fendley – Editor in Chief Brad R. Cook – Graphic Designer Jennifer Stolzer – Cover Illustrator and Staff Writer Lauren Miller – Staff Writer Thank you to: Susan Grigsby Paul Levinson Cole Gibsen Jason Braun and Jennifer Stolzer for the amazing cover!

Encouraging Tomorrow’s Writers
By Brad R. Cook Everyone knows the old adage, “Get kids reading early and you’ll have a book lover for life.” But I would say the same goes for writing. When kids read a book, poem, essay, or article, a bold few will say “I want to do that!” and the seed is planted. As writers we entertain our audiences, but it is also important to encourage the next generation of visionaries. We already do this through our writing, but also by judging and holding contests, book giveaways, school visits, and more. St. Louis Writers Guild has a long history of supporting writers, and an equally long history of encouraging kids to pursue the written word. In the 1930’s, SLWG started the Winifred Irwin Amateur Short Story Contest, to honor young St. Louis writers between the ages of twelve and twenty-eight. The contest was created to honor a teenage writer who committed suicide after receiving several rejection letters. A few years ago, St. Louis Writers Guild partnered with Cultural Festivals who held the Big Read book fair to create The Big Write. The contest honored kids in 4th – 8th grade, and even spawned a book of one year’s winners. Six to seven hundred entries came in from countries around the world. The Big Read sadly ended, and the sponsor pulled out, but St. Louis Writers Guild’s commitment to young writers did not. We created the Young Writers Awards, and still honor kids in 4th – 8th grade, but now we solely support this contest ensuring it will last for decades as our other contests have. This year’s opening line for the 2013 Young Writers Awards is, “The last book on the shelf held a secret…” Submission guidelines and entry forms can be found at St. Louis Writers Guild will also have a writing workshop for kids in 4th – 8th grade at Writers in the Park on Saturday, Aug. 24, 2013. Just doing our part to encourage tomorrow’s writers!

Copyright 2013 St. Louis Writers Guild All Rights Reserved

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For Those Considering the Realm of Picture Books

What should my goals be in writing? - Compression. Being a poet, I think, helped me tremendously in this regard. Cut to two thousand words, and then cut again. - Be true and be truthful. Secondguess nothing. I attended a Children’s Literature Conference sponsored by Webster University’s School of Education several years ago, and the one piece of advice that meant the most to me came from the amazing Patricia McKissack. She stressed the importance of putting nothing before a child that is not true. Research, fact check, and document your sources, and submit a bibliography with your text as appropriate. Let your words create images that an illustrator can extend upon. – Susan Grigsby - Fluidity. Take sixteen pieces of paper and fold them in half like a book. Mock-up your book, following the thirty-two page models in the library. Does every page or spread (two facing pages) call for a new image to enrich the story? If not, revise. You can submit your manuscript with “(page break)” inserted where you want them, but I prefer to skip a line to indicate possible breaks. I say ‘possible’ because the editor that falls in love with your manuscript may have even better ideas. Read the story aloud, and revise for rhythm and flow. Most picture books are read aloud to children; they should be a pleasure to read aloud both for the speaker and the listener. - Let your words create images that an illustrator can extend upon. Do not submit your writing with illustrations, unless you are a professional illustrator. Do not attempt to find an illustrator; that is the editor’s job. Do not write down what the illustrations should be, except in rare cases where it’s necessary to the story – such as a billboard sign that the character sees.

By Susan Grigsby

About three years ago, my first picture book was published. I’ve had the good fortune to have two more released since that time, and if I had a dollar for every time someone said, “Oh, I’ve always wanted to write one myself,” I’d be spending the winters in a warmer place than St. Louis. The second most frequent comment I hear is the question, “How did you find your illustrator?” I’m still learning about the genre known as Children’s Picture Books, and share here some answers to questions you might have, and to questions you didn’t even know to ask. How do I start? As with any other genre, read, read, read. But choose your reading place wisely. Librarians, the guardian angels of the picture book industry, keep on their shelves the best selection on the planet. Sit in front of a shelf and read. If you go to a big chain bookstore, you will only see a smattering of big selling classics. Go to a public library and read. Be sure to include in your browsing the library’s shelf of new releases. And keep notes on who published the books you love and the books that seem similar in some way to what you want to write about. What should I write about? Be original and love what you select to write about. If you rely on the “what’s hot now” lists to select your subject, your story will likely be cold by the time it makes it to an editor’s desk. One trend that will be around a while, however, is nonfiction, or historical fiction, as there will be a stronger emphasis on such books with the implementation this year of the Common Core Standards in schools.

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For Those Considering The Realm of Picture Books By Susan Grigsby

What do I do when I’m ready to submit? You will need to find publishing houses that read queries or manuscripts without agent representation. Or, you need to find an agent. The best advice that I can give is to say that when you feel that your manuscript is the best that it can be, consider joining the Society of Children Book Writers and Illustrators (, rather than buying market guides. The SCBWI site provides to members the most current information from who to send to, and how to query, to how to read and negotiate your contract. The only information more current is on the publishers’ actual websites, which you should also always go to in order to verify what you’ve read elsewhere. Another resource is the Children’s Book Council. What do I do when I get that call or letter telling me that my book has been accepted? You will follow the lead of the editor. The editor will match you up with an illustrator and a book designer. In a perfect world, you will work day to day via the magic of the internet and telephone with the editor and illustrator on fine-tuning the book and creating more magic along the way. Or, at the opposite end of the spectrum, you may not see the book again until it comes back from China (where most are sent for printing). Is there anything else to do? Yes, quite a bit. Publishers expect authors to help with marketing. You need a website and most likely a teacher’s guide – ask your publisher if you should write one, or if they will hire someone else to do so. Print postcards promoting your book. Sign up for Amazon’s Author Central. Explore social media and YouTube launchings. Learn to Skype so that you can do virtual author visits. Research and make decisions on what you will do in regards to author visits. Look at the websites of other authors for ideas. And again, the SCBWI can offer tremendous advice on this through their website and through conferences. The Missouri chapter of the SBCWI hosts many helpful events. Think creatively as to what niche organizations might be interested in your book. Work to keep your book in print for as long as possible.

Susan Grigsby’s picture books include the award-winning stories IN THE GARDEN WITH DR. CARVER (Albert Whitman, 2010), FIRST PEAS TO THE TABLE (A. Whitman, 2012), and WISTERIA’S SHOW AND TELL SPECTACULAR: OLDER THAN THE DINOSAURS (Shenanigan Books, Oct. 2012). She is a contributing author to OPEN THE DOOR: HOW TO EXCITE YOUNG PEOPLE ABOUT POETRY (co-published by the Poetry Foundation’s Harriet Monroe Poetry Institute and McSweeney’s, 2013). She teaches writing to youth and adults in schools, parks, and museums for institutions including the St. Louis Poetry Center and Interchange and is an adjunct instructor at Webster University. She is also an instructor for The Center for the Art of Translation’s Poetry Inside Out program. Her poetry has appeared in national literary journals including Quarterly West, The Sycamore Review, and Sou’Wester. She has a Masters in Teaching from Webster University with a focus on the integration of poetry across the curriculum and provides freelance consulting and teaching services. Her website is

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A Better Way to Get Out of the Cave: Surmounting the Traditional Publication Syndrome
by Paul Levinson
I suppose there are writers out there like Emily Dickinson who submitted just a sliver of her great output of poetry for publication, but I’ve never met any, and the prospect of writing for my file cabinet or private computer screen is antithetical to every authorial impulse of my being. The act of writing therefore is intrinsically an act of publishing -- at least for me, and, I suspect, for almost all writers. But submitting for publication is not easy, and the talent of getting published, aside from the quality of the writing, probably has little in common with the talent of writing. The result is as Thomas Gray put it in his “Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard” in 1751, “Full many a gem of purest ray serene, The dark unfathom'd caves of ocean bear: Full many a flow'r is born to blush unseen, And waste its sweetness on the desert air.” The problem for an unpublished author is that the logic of an acquisition decision by any editor works against you. If your work is accepted for publication and it doesn’t do well, the acquisitions editor looks bad. If your work is accepted by no one for publication, no one even knows it exists and no one looks bad. Indeed, even if someone else publishes a book turned down by an acquisitions editor, and that book does well, few will know about the earlier editor’s poor judgment. Robert K. Heinlein’s advice to authors to keep sending out a work until someone accepts it for publication is the best that an author can do under the traditional gatekeeping regime, but it provides no assurance that a great work—yours--will not be left to blush unseen. This is why the Kindle revolution in self-publishing is such a profound game-changer for the author. At any point in the dance of sending out your work for publication to the next publisher, you can stop the dance and publish the work yourself. Or, you don’t have to dance in the first place. You can publish your book on Amazon -- and on Nook, Kobo, iTunes, and other digital sites -- the moment you finish writing it. Kindle publication -- which I’m using here as a shorthand for all digital publications, because Amazon is the big player here,
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the big player here, accounting according to most reports for better than 80% of digital sales - works not only for self-publication, but publication by small presses, and, for that matter, by traditional publishers as well. This invites a comparison of the pros and cons of each kind of publication for authors in today’s world. I’m actually an apt author to offer a comparison between traditional and small or independent press publication, because I’ve had the benefit of both. The rewards of traditional publication to an author are common knowledge and can be summarized briefly: advances (which can be huge if you’re a best-selling author, but are usually four or five figures), copy editing and proofreading, arranging for a book cover, getting your books into bookstores as well as on Amazon, and (sometimes) some small bit of advertising and promotion.

Because, once the book is up for sale on Amazon, few if any readers focus on the publisher. – Paul Levinson
The drawbacks of traditional publishing are perhaps not as well known: minuscule royalties (usually 10% of net sales or less), delay in receiving said royalties (usually at least six months to a year or longer), complex royalty statements which would give even your accountant a headache, needing to plead for promotion to the point of pressuring the publisher to get your books into a bookstore where you are doing a reading that you arranged, and capped off by a steep decline in your publisher’s interest in your book within a few months after publication unless it’s a bestseller. A small or independent press publication removes all of those disadvantages. You can negotiate a much better royalty, receive your

…get out of that ocean cave and go for it.
payments on a monthly basis, and expect continuing promotion and interest in your book as long as the small press endures. True, you won’t get much if any advance, you might have to find or arrange for your own cover, and you may need to call upon a spouse or family and friends for help with copyediting. But not having to beg for promotion is a big plus, and if we’re talking about digital publication, who cares about what gets into physical bookstores. And, if truth be told, my wife and kids have helped with crucial copyediting and proofreading of all of my books, including the many that have been traditionally published. Speaking from my own experience about what happens when your novels have been published by a big traditional publisher and are later picked up by an independent publisher: I’ve sold far more copies of THE SILK CODE and THE PLOT TO SAVE SOCRATES in the past five months in their digital “author’s cuts” brought out by JoSara Media than in the previous five years of all editions brought out by Tor, which first published the novels in 1999 and 2006. Yes, I got the rights back from Tor -- this can be no easy matter with many traditional publishers -- and I’ve been so happy with my JoSara publications that I just had this independent company publish the brand new UNBURNING ALEXANDRIA, the long-awaited sequel to THE PLOT TO SAVE SOCRATES. UNBURNING ALEXANDRIA may well sell fewer copies in the first few months than did THE PLOT TO SAVE SOCRATES after its initial traditional publication in 2005, but I finally decided I’m in this for the long game. What about self-publishing in comparison to small, independent publication? In my case, since I was approached by JoSara MeDia, and I know and very much like the owners, Larry and Audrey Ketchersid, my decision was easy. But if I didn’t know an independent publisher interested in my work, I would now self-publish in a heartbeat. Because, once the book is up for sale on Amazon, few if any readers focus on the publisher. Their interest is in the title and the author.

The one exception to all of this - the one kind of publishing in which traditional publishing still has a significant edge - is in the realm of textbooks, where traditional publishers have sales forces who can get your book to the attention of professors around the country and the world who might order your textbook for their classes. Pearson, the publisher of my book NEW NEW MEDIA, now in its second edition, has certainly done a good job with this. But the drawbacks in terms of begging for promotion etc. - for example, textbooks are not regularly sent out for book reviews in major media - remain, and make even textbook publishers vulnerable to the Kindle revolution. The upshot is that for all fiction and most nonfiction, there is a new kind of publishing which works and gets you as an author out of the traditional syndrome. I don’t know why I’m telling you this - who wants the competition - but if you’re an author, get out of that ocean cave and go for it. Twice Upon a Rhyme "perfect soundtrack for a spring day" - Shindig The Silk Code novel now on Kindle "delivers on its promises" - NY Times The Plot to Save Socrates novel now on Kindle "challenging fun" - Entertainment Weekly New New Media 2nd edition

Paul Levinson, PhD, is Professor of Communication & Media Studies at Fordham University in New York City. His nine nonfiction books, including THE SOFT EDGE (1997), DIGITAL McLUHAN (1999), REALSPACE (2003), CELLPHONE (2004), and NEW NEW MEDIA (2009), have been the subject of major articles in The New York Times, Wired, The Christian Science Monitor, and other publications and have been translated into ten languages. NEW NEW MEDIA, exploring blogging, Twitter, YouTube and other "new new" modes of communication, was published by Penguin Academics in September 2009. His science fiction novels include THE SILK CODE (1999, winner of the Locus Award for Best First Novel), BORROWED TIDES (2001), THE CONSCIOUSNESS PLAGUE (2002), THE PIXEL EYE (2003), and THE PLOT TO SAVE SOCRATES (2006). His short stories have been nominated for Nebula, Hugo, Edgar, and Sturgeon Awards. Paul Levinson appears on "The O'Reilly Factor" (Fox News), "The CBS Evening News," "NewsHour with Jim Lehrer" (PBS), "Nightline" (ABC), and numerous national and international TV and radio programs. He reviews the best of television in his blog, hosts three popular podcasts, and was listed in The Chronicle of Higher Education's "Top 10 Academic Twitterers" in 2009.

With a

Freelance Illustrator
Written and illustrated by

The first step in any client project is a consultation. An illustrator's job is to bring the client's vision to life, and for children’s book writers, this often includes character development, aesthetic, and story consideration. When approaching a freelance illustrator for a project, authors may not know exactly what they want to see. When I worked with Tim Hill on his “Joe the Crab” series, he had a clearer picture of what he didn't want than what he did, and we worked together to craft a character and general look for his project. On the other hand, other clients know exactly what they want and I do my best to bring that vision to life. For the Scribe cover, I emailed President Brad Cook and editor T.W. Fendley to discuss the wants and needs for this specific project. After learning the rules, I opened Photoshop and put together a rough.

Jennifer Stolzer
I began my career as a freelance illustrator three years ago when my dream of becoming a feature animator lost its appeal. I've been working as a freelance illustrator for three years, and it wasn't hard to find the same joy telling stories through still images as moving ones. Drawing is what drew me toward animation, and the lessons and tools I used as an animator translated very well to illustration.

I work digitally using a Wacom drawing tablet and Adobe Photoshop. The drawing tablet is a peripheral that measures my brush strokes and pen pressure to emulate a more traditional drawing experience. Photoshop is an art and photography program with a wide variety of brushes and tools, a library of helpful filters, and a transparent layer system that frees me to experiment. I used the Wacom tablet and Photoshop to create the cover image for this issue of The Scribe, which I'll walk you through, below.
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The rough stage is for character position and blocking. When working with a children’s book, this stage is called storyboarding. We go through the whole book pairing page layouts to text to ensure image variety and effective communication of the story. If I'm working with an independent author, we may find ways to streamline both story and image at this stage; i.e., do we need to say the character is frowning, or can we show it in the image instead? I ask my clients to trust my experience with art and storytelling, but I also encourage them to voice their opinions so that the final product still matches their spirit and vision.

Once the storyboard/layout stage is approved by the client, I do a second, more detailed rough over the first. I use various colors to plan foreground and background elements. An illustrator's job is to bring the client's vision to life… – Jennifer Stolzer I use the detailed roughs as a guide for the line work. I wanted this cover to have a kid-friendly, comic book style, so I put emphasis on strong black lines. I break the line work into multiple layers; one for each character and background element, to make organization easier. Separating these pieces is a trick I use in every project, it helps organize and compartmentalize the elements of the competition, and allows me to color between elements in future steps.

St. Louis Writers Guild’s

Young Writers Awards
A writing contest for kids in 4th – 8th grade! Opens to submissions on August 1, 2013 Deadline is October 1, 2013 Submission Guidelines and Entry Form can be found at
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Since I rough in Photoshop using transparent layers, I can draw on a layer above the blue skeleton, then turn the blue lines off to cut down on the clutter.

After this, I lay the flat colors. Flats are solid fields of color I paint by hand using the tablet. Despite a visible similarity to coloring book pages, I do not fill the line layer with color, instead I paint beneath the lines on a separate layer, creating what looks like paper cutouts for each element. The lines go on top of the flats, undisturbed and protected from the color work. These solid fields also make it easier to shade and highlight.

I use my knowledge of light and shadow to highlight and shade the characters in the environment. I tackle each character separately, adding texture and color on separate layers to add dimension. The sky is going to be orange when I'm done, so I use a warm white, yellow, or orange in my highlights and cooler blues in my shadows, so the characters feel one with their environment.
@stlwritersguild and Saint Louis Writers Guild on Facebook

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I knew I wanted an early morning sky with orange and yellow. I applied the arch for interest and familiarity. Brad and T.W. told me the cover needed to be St. Louis themed, and although the action takes place on the roof of the City Museum, it's not immediately recognizable. I ran the decision past them and they approved, so I placed the arch in a way that favored my composition, not one that reflected the factual St. Louis skyline.

“The first step with any client project is a consultation.”
– Jennifer Stolzer
I use various transparencies to add dimension and atmosphere. The girl in the foreground is kept clear to draw attention. Since her lines and colors are separate from the rest of the piece, I add a transparent layer behind her to slightly mute the stark black lines on the boy and the mantis, give the illusion of sunlight passing between them and the camera. There is even more diffusion between the rooftop and the arch, giving the whole picture a murky, humid feeling.

Finally, I balance light and shadow, and add other small details to foster uniformity in the final piece. I use a place-holder Scribe logo to show Brad the overlapping affect I have in mind, and after his approval, the cover is ready for him to format for the magazine. In many cases I'm also responsible for applying text and properly format the book. Different publishers require different file types and guidelines. Make sure your files are saved at the proper resolution, size, and file type, and always look at a printed sample before you approve a picture book from any press. All printers are different, and it's hard to predict what won't work ahead of time. This step-by-step showcases one artist's strategy; the tools available both digitally and practically allow for endless experimentation. If you would like to watch a time-lapse video of my coloring process, check out my youtube channel at Or follow Jennifer Stolzer on for other live art demonstrations.

See more samples of my artwork on my website – – and on Facebook at I'm happy to answer any questions about illustration, digital painting, freelancing, or client work, send me a message or an email. Joe the Crab books are available on Amazon and at Learn, also, about my own writing aspirations at

When a Rejection Feels Like a Punch in the Face
As someone who used to take martial arts, I can tell you that getting punched in the face hurts like a mother. And, unfortunately for me, I was punched/kicked in the face quite a bit because I’m no Bruce Lee. The same thing goes with rejections. They suck ducks. And let me tell you, I received my fair share of them. So how did I do it, you ask? How did I withstand years (yes, I said years) of literally hundreds of rejections, each feeling like a sucker punch to the gut? I applied the lessons I learned during my training at the dojang. You see, martial arts teaches you how to block – but if you engage in a fight, getting hurt is inevitable. That’s why you must also learn how to take a hit. Here are some pointers for taking actual hits as well as querying hits: Relax mentally. Your mindset is very important. If you fear the pain will be more agonizing than what it actually will be, it'll hurt

By Cole Gibsen
Keep your vision. When confronted with a threat, it's very easy to make that the center of your universe. Avoid this natural tendency and try to maintain peripheral vision and awareness of your surroundings, especially other assailants. There may be something that can help you in the ensuing fight, your assailant may have a weapon, or there maybe someone else attempting to jump you from behind. When querying, don’t make the rejections the center of your universe. Keep honing your craft and working on other projects. Practice. In order to learn relax, and not panic, you really need to experience the sensation of having punches thrown at you. You will obviously want to do this in a controlled environment that safely simulates a realworld scenario as well as possible. Keep practicing! The only real way to prepare yourself and your work for querying is to join a critique group. Sure, hearing about your shortcomings can feel like a jab in the gut, but discovering your weaknesses and improving upon them will only make you a better writer. Try to "roll with the punch." If you can't avoid getting hit, move your body away from the hit. This decreases both the momentum and the time of the impact, effectively reducing the impulse and forcing the assailant to inadvertently "pull his punches." You might feel angry receiving a form rejection for the manuscript you’ve poured your heart and soul into. But shake it off! Writing the agent/editor back to proclaim their mental shortcomings is the worst thing you can do. Roll with the punch and move on.

even worse. If you know you might get punched, accept that you will get punched so you can prepare yourself mentally for it. The same thing goes with querying. Relax! It’s not as bad as you think it’s going to be. There will be rejections. Accept that. Prepare for it. But don’t focus on it.

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When a Rejection Feels Like a Punch in the Face

Keep your balance. Getting knocked down in a fight is generally a bad thing, as it decreases your ability to escape, makes you vulnerable to kicking or getting crushed, in addition to the danger of injuring yourself in the process of falling. Whatever you do, keep plugging away. If you let the rejections knock you down, chances are you won’t get up again. Getting published is an epic battle and victory has never gone to the weak. A warning: If you don’t want to be hit, don’t get into a fight. Likewise, if you don’t want a rejection, don’t query. If you’re determined, and don’t mind taking a couple of hooks and jabs along the way, get in there and fight for what you want. You might not win your first couple of go-rounds, but you’ll never win at all if you don’t step inside the ring.

A Quick Guide to St. Louis Writers Guild Events
- it's as easy as One Two Three!

Workshops for Writers
First Saturday of every month 10 a.m. to Noon at the Kirkwood Community Center

Station Open Mic
Second Tuesday of every month 7-9 p.m. at the Kirkwood Amtrak Station

SLWG Author Series
Third Thursday of every month 7-8 p.m. at All On the Same Page Bookstore The SLWG Lectures/Webinars can now be viewed three ways: 1 - be part of the audience 2 - watch live online 3 - view the recording Online features are for members only, by email invitation When Cole Gibsen isn't writing books for young adults, she can be found rocking out with her band, sewing crazy costumes for the fun of it, picking off her nail polish, or drinking milk straight from the jug -- provided no one is looking. She is the author of the young adult KATANA series. To learn more about Cole and her books you can visit or follow her on Twitter at

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St. Louis Writers Guild’s Workshops for Writers

Suzann Ledbetter Ellingsworth’s 12-step Program: How to Show, How to Not Tell Suzann presented her “Dirty Dozen Word
By Jennifer Stolzer
On April 6, Suzann Ledbetter Ellingsworth treated the St. Louis Writers Guild to wisdom gleaned from her experience as a freelance writer and editor. “Language is what we do. Language is all we have,” Suzann said. “Passive writing runs deeper than word choices, but word choices run deeper than passive writing. People speak passively, so it’s difficult for the writer to recognize the passive. It's harder for you to recognize passive because it's your voice.” It begs the question: why doesn't passive writing sound like it does in everyday communication? “If you cut out all the passive from a whole book, it will sound stilted,” Suzann said. Revision isn't to rid a manuscript of everything passive, it's to add energy and variety. “Everything I'm saying is about revision. I don't want you to think a nanosecond about this while you're writing.” The goal of a first draft is to get the idea to the page, be it awkward or passive, write everything down. It's impossible to know a story until it's written, and writers who get hung up on the first three chapters are hindering their own progress. No one is going to want to look at a manuscript until it is complete. “Writing is in the revision,” Suzann said. “Nobody writes a perfect first draft and anyone who says you can write without a synopsis is nuts. You have to at least have some guidance.” Search List” – a collection of easily identifiable words that can significantly help your writing: “Of” – Clauses containing “of” tend to drag pacing; a piece of cake, a slice of bread. Assess these instances for relevance and remove the ones you can. “That” - “That” and similarly intrusive “like” are often entirely dismissible. There are instances where 'that' can be replaced by a comma. It's also used incorrectly – for instance, “The boy that played first base” vs. “The boy WHO played first base.” “Look” and other eyesight references – Eyes are supposed to mirror the soul, but not only is “look” repeated too much, it's too observational. “Look” means you're out of the character’s point of view and describing what a character is doing instead of showing. Put in something active to keep painting the scene. The reader is in the character's point of view, so there is no reason to describe what the character sees, feels, smells, and so on. Removing sense references makes the manuscript more active and draws the reader into the character

“Writing is in the revision,” Suzann said. “Nobody writes a perfect first draft…”

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“Hear or Heard” - Describe what is heard, not the hearing of the thing. Same for feeling. Describe the sensation not the feeling of the sensation. “The pickle was sweet not sour” vs. “The pickle tasted sweet not sour” “Steps” or “Walks” – Writers think they will lose the reader unless they describe the character's path through the set of their “mental movie,” but most of these details are unneeded. It is faster and more effective to place a character in a location and begin the scene there. “Going to” as in “I'm going to do this” – Most instances can be replaced with an active verb or removed. “Smile and grin” - Have your character do something else besides smile. Although active, the words are often overused and therefore robbed of meaning. “Small, large, huge, etc.” - These are nondescript and subjective terms. It is more engaging to be specific. A “small dog” is better described as a Chihuahua or a terrier – it breathes life into the world and eliminates unnecessary words. “Only, Very, Just” - These words are meaningless and often removable without harm to the sentence. “Found” - Using 'found' as a transition from point A to point B is uncreative. People aren't usually lost, and transitions aren't mandatory. Colors – The most common colors in fiction are black, brown, green, and blue. Save color descriptions for significant characters or unique variations. Readers already know the sky is blue--tell them if it changes. “Don't take it all out,” Suzann told the group, in closing. “Only include details when they’re important. Trim the fat. Make your scenes the direct equivalent of six-pack abs. Language is story, all story is is language. Use it, respect it, put it to work.” These are just a few tips from Suzann's editing process. Visit her website, “The Walking Deadline,” for more information on her books, techniques, and editing rates.

Self Portrait as Still Life
By Jason Braun The box fan in the window whirls, but doesn’t disturb the wren shuffling the deck of leaves outside. Five bookshelves cradling dust mites and countless homes for spiders. The roll top desk grandfather left. What would he have written on this yellow legal pad—list of Louis L’Amour books he remembered reading, notes of where he might have left some keepsake: keys to a small boat, a kind set of hands to touch a woman with. Now a photo of a girl too beautiful to keep. A hoarding of rubber chickens, broken watches, notes on the word fuselage, and tomorrows locked in a collection of mason jars.

Workshops for Writers
First Saturday of the month 10am to Noon At the Kirkwood Community Center Free for Members | $5 for Non-Members

Photo of St. Louis Art Museum taken by BRC

SLWG Author Series:

By Lauren Miller

Linda Austin, Suzann Ledbetter Ellingsworth, & L.S. Murphy
This spring's SLWG Author Series began with Guild president Brad Cook's interview of local authors Linda Austin and Suzann Ledbetter Ellingsworth. In May, SLWG switched venues for the Author Series from Maryville University to All on the Same Page Bookstore in Creve Coeur, Mo., starting with L.S. Murphy's interview. Linda Austin CHERRY BLOSSOMS IN TWILIGHT: MEMORIES OF A JAPANESE GIRL (Moonbridge Publications) is a memoir written by Linda Austin about the experiences of her mother, Yaeko Sugama Weldon, living as a civilian in Japan during WWII. Austin's mother, a natural storyteller, was in her seventies at the time Austin began writing the memoir. "My mom thought I was crazy to write her story in the first place," Austin said. Writing the memoir was a ten-year journey, involving non-traditional research like joining an online group for Johnson Air Force Base (where Yaeko had worked as a waitress), and vetting the memoir to verify that the cultural perspective was authentic. It quickly became clear that their family story had an educational value that should be shared. The memoir is told from Yaeko's perspective, who speaks in broken English and only had a sixth-grade education, but her simple perspective carries a powerful message. "War is bad but the enemy's children are not the ones causing the war." The book is targeted to middle school and high school audiences and designed to educate about Japanese life and culture during WWII. Austin's second self-published book, POEMS THAT COME TO MIND: FOR THOSE WHO LOVE SOMEONE WITH DEMENTIA, captures the emotional journey of a Alzheimer's caregiver as told in haiku. Watch the full interview (running at 31:02) on YouTube at

Suzann Ledbetter Ellingsworth Suzann Ledbetter Ellingsworth considers herself a 'wreditor', a writer and editor, and has multiple published titles under her belt. Suzann has worked for a decade as a contributing editor for Family Circle magazine, is a former faculty member at Washington University's Summer Institute, and an inductee in the Writers Hall of Fame of America. Suzann discussed tips on editing your own work and how she works as an editor. "I don't edit people, I edit books. The writer is the conduit of the story and I'm kind of the landscaper for the story, but the story is the boss. The writer often needs to get out of his or her own way, and I point that out." One of Suzann's tips that resonated with attendees at her workshop was a "book book" where you keep absolutely everything related to your book -- articles and magazines, snippets of ideas and plot, etc. -- in one place. Suzann also talked about assumptive action, editing a writer's omniscient POV out of your material, and the priority of getting the story on paper first before editing. The full interview (running at 12:39) is available on YouTube at

SLWG Author Series

SLWG Author Series
Third Thursday of the Month at All on the Same Page Bookstore
11052 Olive Blvd. 63141 7-8pm SLWG Members join us live online!
L.S. Murphy L.S. Murphy is addicted to Twitter and watching Cardinals baseball. She writes to jazz and Green Day and discovered YA fiction while taking a class at UMSL. Murphy is the author of REAPER (J. Taylor Publishing) and A REASON TO STAY (Calliope). In Reaper, sixteen-year-old Quincy, an all-American girl, struggles to fit becoming the next Grim Reaper with her sophomore classes and shopping trips. Julianna Markum finds A REASON TO STAY when she returns home to help her family and unexpectedly bumps into the boy whose heart she broke several years ago.

In deciding to write a YA paranormal novel, Murphy wanted to write a standalone book without the tropes emerging in the genre. She researched Southern California, where she has never visited, to impart the setting for REAPER with accurate details about the landscape (e.g. mountains). Murphy discussed her writing process, including the most helpful advice for writers: finding a critique partner. "You need a critique partner. You need to find the right critique partner and the right critique group because there are critique groups out there who don't understand […] critiquing is not negative feedback." For more on Murphy's discussion of YA literature, plus news of her upcoming book, view the full interview (running at 24:54) on YouTube at Don't miss out on the next SLWG Author Series event. They're hosted every third Thursday of the month and you can participate live at All on the Same Page bookstore (11052 Olive Blvd. in Creve Coeur), follow online via text chat or Twitter (@stlwritersguild), or catch up with the recorded session later with an exclusive link sent to members via email. For more information, or to become a member of the SLWG, visit A festival to celebrate writers! Sponsored by Sheila Dugan
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Patricia Bubash
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The Missouri Writers Guild

Workshops for Writers:

Focus on Fiction
Transcribed and Edited by
On May 4, the St. Louis Writers Guild hosted four talented novelists in its Focus on Fiction workshop: Lynn Cahoon, H.C. Beckerr, Warren Martin, and Pam DeVoe. Moderated by Guild member Jamie Krakover, the panelists discussed their individual works and the paths they took to publication. Q: Describe your genre Cahoon: I'm here because I'm a romance writer, although I think I'm a magpie of genres. I also wrote a cozy mystery series, a historical fiction middle grade, and others. Beckerr: I write mystery, Christian science fiction, and speculative fiction. My current book, HILL OF GREAT DARKNESS, is scifi. Martin: Fiction. Historical Fiction. My novel, FORGOTTEN SOLDIERS, is about prisoners of war (POWs). DeVoe: A TANGLED YARN, my first novel, will come out Nov. 15. It’s a contemporary cozy mystery. I'm also president of the local chapter of Sisters In Crime. Q: What made you decide to write fiction and devote the time to write a novel? Martin: It began when I was a kid, I used to write screenplays for TV back in the seventies and, being in the army, I learned a lot of things along the way and developed an interest in things like the Cold War. I met a couple of POWs and included some historical stuff and conspiracy stuff.

Jennifer Stolzer
Beckerr: Likewise, I started writing back in grade school. I made up these little stories and I actually sold them for two or three cents to buy extra milk at lunch. I met a friend of mine at church and started working on a novel back in 2001. We both decided to work on something different, so I used the technology I developed for that project in my novel, HILL OF GREAT DARKNESS. The first draft was handwritten and I lovingly coerced my wife into transcribing it. It took about six years between writing the first draft to finding a publisher. DeVoe: I am a person who likes to express myself through writing. Early on, I did some poetry, because poetry is a way to express emotion. Mostly I wrote a lot of nonfiction, which really took up my creative and intellectual energies. I'm an anthropologist and you are what you study. The trouble with anthropology is you do all this interesting research, you meet all these people and learn of the myths and of folk religion and economics and family and all that stuff, then you come back and write these really dry things for the academic journals and books. I want to introduce people to the emotions of the story.

17 | The Scribe

First I think of a story I want to tell, and then embroider around it. – Pam DeVoe
Cahoon: If I'd known the time and commitment involved, I would have taken a second job as a waitress. I took a couple of classes while taking my MFA in Idaho. I worked on the literary journal and got to read the slush-pile. That was great – if you ever get the chance to read it, do. A lot of life changes later, I won a mystery contest with Laura Bradford, local mystery author. We met to exchange the prize and continued to meet. I started a bunch of novels and stopped halfway, so Laura helped me through my first romance. I am a renaissance writer, that's why you'll see me with five different genres. Q: What things you would say define your genre and set it apart? Martin: Mine is historical war fiction so that's different from a romance novel or anthropology or science fiction. Each one has different things. The thing about historical fiction or war fiction is you base it off something you know about. That's one of the things I've been told by similar seminars and workshops is “write what you know about.” Beckerr: Speculative fiction—I thought; 'that sounds really cool, what is that?' I usually call it 'sci-fi.' I grew up with writers like Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clark, Jules Verne. Now I'm not anywhere near a Verne or an Asimov, but I write what I feel, so I wanted to take it on a different way. I'm in it to do what I love to do, which is tell stories and write. It's very much like painting – let the story unfold on its own naturally. That's why I picked scifi. I wrote a story I would like to read. I took a local historical region called the Cahokia Mounds, which is great because this culture virtually disappeared off the face of the earth. They have no history and no written language, so it was really easy to make up lies! DeVoe: For mysteries, it's all about a puzzle. A mystery has to have a really good plot that's set out well. You need at least two themes running through your story, one with real clues that lead you to the end of the mystery, and another with red herrings that lead people off to a different conclusion. I hate when you're reading a mystery and they introduce something at the very end, so plotting is really important. And characters – I consider them of secondary importance – but they're critical! The setting can even be a character. Cahoon: It doesn't matter what I write, it’s always gonna have a happy ending. It might not have a happy ending forever, but it will have one for now. For me, personally, I've always been this kind of person that if I finish a book, I want a happy ever after – that's why I write romance and cozy mystery, because we have enough crap in the world.

Q: Since we're talking about “make believe,” can you tell a bit about how you develop your story plot and characters? Martin: There are a couple plots in my book because it's about POW Vietnam and covers a 40-year timespan. The character is kind of a composite of POWs. The way I wrote the book is – I can't tell too much without giving stuff away – I came up with the ending before I came up with the beginning, so I knew what the ending was and worked from the beginning and planned it out. I also incorporated a lot of historical events. Beckerr: When I started writing HILL OF GREAT DARKNESS, the only thing I really thought out in advance was some of the names. I sat down with the basic idea I wanted to do – I wanted to hop back and forth in time and I wanted to tell a classic sci-fi story, twist it, and use some historical embellishment to broaden the scope. I let the storyline develop itself, because in real life we don't have a game plan for tomorrow… Listen guys and gals, don't go by “the plan,” go by how you want to paint your picture. It all boils down to what's inside, and I want to let it come out naturally. DeVoe: First I think of a story I want to tell, and then embroider around it. A lot of times I have a place in mind, like in A TANGLED YARN, which is coming out this fall. It’s for creative women, so it had to have something to do with crafting. Which came first--characters or plot? I thought about it and I usually have a set of characters in mind. The characters make a story different. Cahoon: If I hadn't thought about this while I was listening, I would have said my characters come first but I don't think that's true. My cozy is all based on a picture. THE BULL RIDER’S BROTHER came out because 'you got to write what you know' and I knew about horses. I start thinking about a setting where I can put my characters, or I think about a specific action – my witchcraft one started because I was thinking about darts and wondered what would a witch be like if she owned a bar and played darts. The character is really important, but for me, it starts with the setting, and the setting takes you somewhere else.

The Scribe | 18

Workshops for Writers: Focus on Fiction
Transcribed and Edited by Jennifer Stolzer

Q: Let's talk about the editing process and what its like to have an editor. Martin: I did all the layout and cover and stuff. I found an editor who would edit my book for three hundred dollars and it sounded like a good deal--you should always get someone to read the book for you. Then I started getting emails back, saying it's great except for all the grammatical errors. So that was a learning lesson. A friend who was also a writer said, “Hey, have you read your own book?” So he ended up being an editor for me. We traded services – editing for cover design. Editing is very important. Beckerr: I purchased an editing job through my publishers that was right under three thousand dollars. I'm not a grammatical genius, but there are still some errors that I don't know if they missed or I okayed. Not too long ago a young lady from Nova Scotia won a copy of my book through a promotion I was doing, and she posted on Amazon: “This is a good book that could have been fantastic had the right editors gotten a hold of it.” She was talking about content. I can sit here and blame my publisher and blame my editor, but if something goes wrong, I know I won't do it again. If something goes wrong, learn from it and grow from it. DeVoe: The thing is, since my book was a book for hire, they had an editor. I used Autocrit – a software program. You read something and it flows perfectly well because it’s yours. The program helped me find words I used too many times. Nevertheless, a real person as an editor is invaluable. In A TANGLED YARN, my publisher’s editor was both a substantive and line editor. Using a combination of software and skilled professional editors will help make your novel a greater success. Cahoon: I have five different publishers so I have seen five different editing styles. By the time you're done working on a book for a publisher, you hate hate hate hate that book because you've read it five thousand times. After I do my own personal edits and send it off, then they send it back and my content editor finds the big things and I do the rewriting. Then I get line edits back, and then it goes to galleys. You really have to read everything and look at every word because once you get your galleys out, they won't let you make big changes. DeVoe: Critique groups. You get so much out of them. If you're writing a particular genre, it’s best to get people within your genre. This is an advantage of ebooks – if you have an error you can just change it and it's instantly fixed.

After this, the panelists took questions from the audience: Q: (to Martin) How did you decide that this was the prefect way to tell this tale? Martin: Parts of it evolved. I came up with the ending based on historical stuff and conspiracy stuff. Also the POW thing, I don't know how many are familiar with that, so that's kind of the backdrop to the entire story. I wrote a story I would like and I had a hidden agenda, too--to create awareness that there is a POW issue, people who never come home. Q: How did you decide whether to get an agent or publish it yourself? How do you find readers? Martin: I went with independent self-publishing. I did a lot of homework and looked at the pros and cons of agents and selfpublishing. I am my own publisher; I became my own publishing company and did my own ISBN and editing. Beckerr: I actually started doing a little homework on finding an agent. I sent a few query letters and thought “I don't have the patience for this. Someone will die.” In this day and age, a lot of major publishers are watching what's coming through self-publishing venues. I wanted to get this book out because I know down the road you can always re-publish. My idea was to get started and see where it goes. I'm a big believer in free enterprise and America. I want to invest my money in me because I'm my best salesman. DeVoe: A TANGLED YARN was actually a book by contract. It's the ninth in a series by Annie's Publishing. They have a lot of craft magazines, and they started a mystery series where people sign up and once a month they'll send you a book. The mystery always has to be about crafting, and each month it has a different author. I wrote the plot and added my own set of characters. That book was a great learning experience. No matter what you do – go to the door and open it. This is an amazing time for writers. Cahoon: Yes, everyone can be published but make sure you're ready to step into that world, because it's not easy. The reason I decided I wanted to work with digital first publishers and take my chances is I wanted to see the whole process. I wanted to know how to market myself and took control of that. I basically got a PhD in writing in the last year because I sold nine projects – six romance and three mystery. Agents – I don’t know. The world's changing so fast. I think the one thing you have to do is educate yourself on what you want. Set a goal. I see it as a building process, but you’ve really got to be ready before you jump.

19 | The Scribe

Workshops for Writers: Fiction in Focus
Q: How do you promote your book? Martin: If you're independent on Amazon, there is an option to do free promotions. I can technically say I've sold over 20,000 ebooks but many of them were free through promotions. That's something you've got to figure out for yourself, but those generate sales for a certain period. Beckerr : I found a lot of sites online where you can get your book out there for free. Always have at least one or two copies in your vehicle no matter where you are. Talk about your book on Facebook and have your friends talk about it on Facebook. Post your reviews on Facebook. Have faith in what you're doing. Believe in your book. DeVoe: The reason I wanted control of my children's book is for the marketing…Don't be afraid to experiment – I'm experimenting with Pinterest. Create a backlog. Cahoon: Have a website, be on Facebook, be on Twitter. Do what you like to do, and write the next book. You really have to get that next book up and going and out there because every book you write, you're getting better and better. BULLRIDER’S BROTHER was on a 99-cent deal, and I sold more the following two months than I had the year it was out beforehand.

A Great Summer Read!
St. Louis Reflections: An Anthology by
St. Louis Writers Guild in Honor of its 90th Anniversary

St. Louis Writers Guild Writing Contests!
Deane Wagner Poetry Contest Opens April 1, Deadline June 1 Young Writers Awards Opens August 1, Deadline October 1 For kids in grades 4th – 8th Annual Short Story Contest Opens October 1, Deadline December 1 Created in 1920 Missouri Writers Guild Chapter Contest Part of the MWG Annual Writers Conference See Conference website for details For rules, submission guidelines, and entry forms visit

$9.99 Over 45 essays, poems, and stories by members of St. Louis Writers Guild
Pick a copy up today at one of these fine retailers

All on the Same Page Bookstore Left Bank Books, and or At any SLWG Event

The Scribe | 20

Jonesing for Something Nameless
By Jason Braun

I ain’t no Indiana Jones or nothing, just want to see temples taller than anything in Central America until 1952. Two sets of rules here and you drink from bags of water. I wear a hat like razors, hula skirt, and newspaper made into moccasins so they wouldn’t notice. Put your toilet paper in the trash, the plumbing can’t take it. Bring your own towel, or wipe your hands on your pants. ESL is for lovers, I tell the new arrivals. At the top of El Mirrador, I smile into an empty wallet. The smallest apocalypse. Is it really a vision if the voices only whisper in your ear? Coins have a way of talking to each other. Only one sound separates prophet and profiteer.

Jason Braun currently teaches English and is the Associate Editor of Sou’wester at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville. He has published fiction, poetry, reported or been featured in Prime Number,, Big Bridge, The Evergreen Review, SOFTBLOW, The Nashville City Paper, Jane Freidman’s blog, The Chronicle of Higher Education, and many more. He also makes apps like Paradise Lost Office and, and releases music as Jason and the Beast.

St. Louis Zoo, photo by BRC

Poetry Events
Poetry at the Point
4th Tuesday of the month, 7:30 p.m. Focal Point, 2720 Sutton Ave. On July 23, Matt Freeman, Joe Betz and Shane Seely.

St. Louis Writers Guild Station Open Mic

A poetry and prose open mic at the Kirkwood Amtrak train station, Argonne Drive and Kirkwood Road, every second Tuesday of the month, 7 p.m.

Every Other Tuesday, starting around 8,
open mic at The Historic Crossings, 7th and Ann. Curated by Lenny Smith. Call him at 314865-7008 to check schedule.

EVERY TUESDAY acoustic music and spoken word open mic at The Wolf, 15480 Clayton Road, Ballwin. 7 p.m. EVERY WEDNESDAY open mic for poetry and music at Stone Spiral Coffee & Curios, 2500 Sutton in Maplewood (2 blocks N. of Manchester). Great food and beverages. Open mic starts at 8 and runs to 10. Soulard Art Market, 2028 S. 12th Street presents 'Wordsmith Nights, a Fourth Thursday Tradition, 7 p.m. Schlafly beer, wine, as well as plenty of non-alcoholic drinks. There are well over 1000 works of art available for sale as well. 2nd friday notes at Whole Foods Town & Country, Clayton and 141, 7 to 8:30 p.m., second Friday of each month. EVERY FRIDAY URB Poetry Open Mic at Legacy Books & Café, 5249 Delmar. Doors open at 8 p.m. Admission after 9 p.m., $7. Slam competition the last Friday of each month.

River Styx Hungry Young Poets Series
Next up: Mondays, July 15 and August 19 at Tavern of the Arts, 313 Belt Avenue. Starts 7:30 p.m.

The Original SLAM in St. Louis, is
looking for a 15 great poets, every third Wednesday of the month at Focal Point, 2720 Sutton. Sign up is at 7, the show starts at 7:30pm with a CASH prize for the best poet of the night, decided by five random judges. There is a $5 cover charge.

The winners of the 2013 Deane Wagner Poetry Contest will be announced at Writers in the Park on Saturday, August 24th.
1pm in Lions Amphitheater Readings and an Awards Ceremony!

SPIRITUAL JAZZ MEETS POJAZZ. Raven Wolf C. Felton Jennings II and Dwight Bitikofer and guest poets at Stone Spiral Coffee & Curios, Next Show is Aug. 24, 7:30 to 10 p.m. Check, and for more.

T h e B lu e Pa g e

Aug 3 – Workshops for Writers Aug 13 – Station Open Mic Aug 14 – SLWG/SLPA Vendor Showcase Aug 15 – SLWG Author Series Aug 24 – Writers in the Park Sept 7 – Workshops for Writers Sept 10 – Station Open Mic Sept 19 – SLWG Author Series Oct 1 – Young Writers Awards Deadline & Annual Short Story Contest Opens Oct 5 – Workshops for Writers Oct 8 – Station Open Mic Oct 17 – SLWG Author Series