Why Belong?

The “Writing Life” can be lonely. Sometimes that’s good. I need time to think, time to plan, time to write, review, revise and re-write. All these things work best in quiet isolation. Too much stimulus can be—well—too much. It almost seems stunting at times and I feel a creeping desperation to run and hide.

However, the last few weeks have given me several reasons to celebrate belonging, and to feel grateful for networking with people in general and other writers in particular. I belong to two regional writing groups, Kansas Authors Club and Oklahoma Writing Federation. Each has its own strengths, as well as limitations. Others may find the initial limitations enough to stay away. When they are handled with good humor and flexibility, the benefits of belonging can outweigh those stifling stimuli.

Why belong? Here are a few key reasons.

Like nobody else, writing friends understand what I face with time management, craft development, and the daunting prospect of marketing my published words. In the past month, I have exchanged drafts with some good friends for feedback. As always, my writing friends make fine critique partners. I benefit in two ways from exchanging critiques. First, of course, I learn how the selections I send impact a reader. And second, when I return the favor, I find my own skills of reading “like a writer” are honed ever sharper. The ability to read my own words as an editor might read them enhances my writing.

In the last month two writing friends tipped me onto opportunities to share my books. The first event was the anniversary of a little bookstore in El Dorado called The Next Chapter.

A charming atmosphere with aisles of used books (and a few new releases) made this book signing a delight. It was initiated by a writing friend and colleague in Kansas Authors Club.

The manager of The Next Chapter introduced me to DartFrog which is a gateway for Indie writers to offer books in independent bookstores across the country. Marketing is probably the single biggest challenge for me so I was excited to learn about DartFrog. Perhaps you would like to check it out: www.DartFrogBooks.com.

Another tip from a writing friend and colleague in Kansas Authors Club put me in touch with the Wichita Barnes & Noble bookstore. This local branch is hosting a “Local Author Day” in July. I submitted my suspense novel for consideration to be included and received word that I was accepted. I just filled out the event agreement to be one of the writers featured in Barnes & Noble.

In addition to these exciting events, writing groups host conferences. Over the last few years I have attended several conferences in Kansas and Oklahoma and gleaned many tips from the featured instructors. Beyond regional groups, many genres have national organizations and host conventions for the edification of writers who attend. Most conferences offer writing contests also, which can be a great way to get feedback on your work. I even received personal help adding seals of excellence to my online book covers for award-winning books. A big “Thank You” goes to the staff of Meadowlark Books.

The benefits of belonging number so many, why wouldn’t everyone want to belong? The old adage, “You get out of it what you put into it,” surely applies to writing groups. But when the balance tips to the point you find yourself putting in more than you could possibly gain, burnout is expected. Then it may be time to flee the stimuli and hermit yourself away in a writing retreat. Until that time, I will reap the benefits of belonging as long as possible.

Capturing the Poetic Moment

Writing a poem is the easiest thing to do and, at the same time, the hardest. District 5 is excited to announce a workshop at the October convention aimed at claiming those varied moments of inspiration for poetry. The class, “Capturing the Poetic Moment,” will look at methods of capturing poetry. Presenters Diane Wahto and Ronda Miller plan to illustrate ideas with poems they have written. They will share how they managed to hunt down the poems and let them loose in the world.

“Poetry is everywhere—in nature and in our families. We write about lovers, children, mothers, fathers, grandparents, animals. A poet will snap to attention, salute, and write  when that poetic moment appears.”

Ronda Miller is a Life Coach who works with clients who have lost someone to homicide. She is a graduate of the University of Kansas and continues to live in Lawrence. She is a Fellow of The Citizen Journalism Academy, World Company, a Certified Life Coach with IPEC (Institute of Professional Empowerment Coaching), a mother to a son, Scott, and a daughter, Apollonia.

She created poetic forms loku and ukol. She was the co-chair, along with Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg, for the Transformative Language Arts Conference at Unity Village September, 2015. Miller was poetry contest manager for Kansas Authors Club (2011-2014), District 2 President of Kansas Authors Club (2015 – 2017), state Vice President (2016 – 2017), and is the club’s current State President (2018-2019).  When she isn’t coaching clients, volunteering time to Kansas Authors Club, or writing poetry, she is busy learning life skills from those she works with. Miller presents workshops throughout the U.S.

She has three published poetry collections, Going Home: Poems from My Life, Moon Stain, and Water Signs.

Diane Wahto started writing poetry in 1983 when she entered the Wichita State University MFA creative writing program. Her poem, “Somebody Is Always Watching,” won the American Academy of Poets award in 1985, and was published in the American Institution of Discussion Review.

Since then, her work has been published many times in various journals and magazines, and she regularly places in poetry contests. Most recently she won the poetry division of the 2019 Kansas Voices contest.

After graduating from WSU in 1985, she taught journalism at Winfield High School and English Composition and creative writing at Butler Community College.

Her book of poetry, The Sad Joy of Leaving, was published in October 2018. The book launch was held at Watermark Books and Café, where she read with Michael Poage and Kelly Johnston.

Other recent publications include “Empty Corners” in Same, “Persistence,” in The Ekphrastic Review, and “Yellow Music,” in Heartland. She is co-editor of two issues of 365 Days: A Poetry Anthology.

Diane is the president of Kansas Authors Club District 5 and has served several years as Awards Chair for the state. She is co-chair of this year’s convention in Wichita. She lives in Wichita, Kansas, with her husband Patrick Roche and their dog Annie.

Diane Wahto
Ronda Miller

 

Letter to a Young Writer

I received an invitation to write a letter of encouragement to a grade school student who dreams of writing. Perhaps these thoughts are relevant to writers of any age.

Dear Joslyn,

Your teacher told me you dream of being an author. That is awesome! You have taken the important first step toward achieving your dream. The support of my fifth grade teacher launched my dream long ago and I appreciate her more than words can say. Perhaps you also will correspond with your teacher for the rest of your life.

Do you love to read? When I was your age I did. I still read a lot. I love the way I can escape to different times and places through stories others share.

If you haven’t already started, I encourage you to keep journals of your activities, your experiences, and—most important—your thoughts and feelings about everything. The more you write, the better your writing will become. It’s one of those things where “practice makes perfect.” Our alphabet and the written language derived from it are perhaps the most important invention of humanity. Used with skill, words possess the power to change the world.

Today it is easier than it has ever been to see your work published. No longer do you have to convince agents to represent you and offer your manuscripts to publishers. At the same time, because of the ease of publication through online sources, anything you publish will have A LOT of competition. To attract readers, learn to make your work stand out. Take your writing seriously. Study the intricacies of our language and its rules of grammar. Learn the basics of storytelling.

How do you do this? English classes will get you off to a good start. Beyond school, how-to books on writing are easy to find. I took special creative writing classes as early as high school. And when you finish high school, there are university tracks which offer intensive training in creative writing.

You could join a writing club. These groups bring writers together and they welcome members of all ages.

Enter writing contests. Many contests welcome submissions by students. A couple of contests available in Kansas are Kansas Voices and the annual literary contest sponsored by Kansas Authors Club. Submit your stories and poems as often as you can. After the winning writers are selected, contest judges often offer suggestions about how writers can improve their craft. Don’t resist revising and re-writing your first drafts.

If you are bold, you could attend workshops and conventions to learn more about writing. It is invigorating to surround yourself with others who share your passion.

Seek a variety of activities to understand how other people view life. Pursue adventure. Crave new experiences. Engage in life. Watch people and listen to their speech patterns. Collect friends and get to know them inside and out.

Allow yourself to feel deeply the entire circle of emotions. Learn what it’s like to love intensely, to laugh with abandon, to rage helplessly, to fear powerful adversaries, to feel your heart break with sorrow, and even to despair with little hope. Write it all down, sparing nothing.

Careful observations as you experience life could lead to unique twists in your stories that make them stand out. Use your experiences to feed your imagination. Create new worlds and write them to life.

You have set out on an exciting journey.

Be proud that you have taken the first step toward your dream, but don’t be surprised if life dictates a few detours. Embrace them also. Farm them for scenes, characters, places, and conflicts. And never stop writing. It’s a long road and a lot of hard work to see your dream come true. You may get discouraged, but don’t give up. Every step of the way is worth it. Someday you may touch a needy heart. Someday—maybe soon—you will make a difference and help change the world with your words. There is nothing more important.

Good luck to you and Write On!

Getting Your Writing Done

Have you ever wondered how busy people manage to produce regular articles, poems, stories, and books? How do they find time to craft quality work if you can’t squeeze in a few minutes now and then? What is the secret for managing the minutes in a day to allow time for your passion of writing?

Kevin Rabas has suggestions for you. With numerous published books of poems and stories, an active life as instructor in poetry and playwriting, as well as chair of the Department of English, Modern Languages, and Journalism at Emporia State University, speaking engagements in many venues as the Kansas Poet Laureate (2017-19) and an active drummer in a jazz ensemble, Rabas can speak from experience about strategies for squeezing in time to write. How does he manage his prolific writing career?

Books he has written include Lisa’s Flying Electric Piano, (2009) a Kansas Notable Book and Nelson Poetry Book Award winner. He has several other collections, including Everyone Just Wants to Drum (2019),

Like Buddha-Calm Bird (2018), Late for the Cymbal Line (2017), All That Jazz (2017), Songs for My Father: A Collection of Poems and Stories (2016), and Eliot’s Violin (2015). In addition he collaborated with other poets and writers for several publications. Green Bike: A Group Novel, Sonny Kenners Red Guitar, and Bird Horn and Other Poems  are shared titles.

Rabas’s plays have been produced across Kansas and in North Carolina and San Diego, and his work has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize six times. He is the recipient of the Emporia State President’s Award for Research and Creativity and is the winner of the Langston Hughes Award for Poetry, the Victor Contoski Poetry Award, the Jerome Johanning Playwriting Award, and the Salina New Voice Award.

Intimately familiar with the rhythms of daily life, he finds detailed words for the beat which poetic verse and music share. Rabas is sure to have ideas any writer can use. Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg, Kansas Poet Laureate 2009-2013 wrote about Rabas’ work, “Writing the music inherent in changing narratives of the ordinary and extraordinary, Rabas illustrates what a fellow Kansas poet meant when he said, ‘Anyone who breathes is in the rhythm business, and anyone who is alive is caught up in the imminences, the doubts mixed with the triumphant certainty, of poetry.’”

How does a busy person manage to find the time needed to write quality work? At the Wichita KAC convention, Rabas will present a class on Getting Your Writing Done. He will offer strategies for managing time, even if your life outside of writing is very busy. Rabas will share tips and tactics as well as mindful approaches towards finding time to tell your stories on paper. He welcomes writers of any genre to this class. You won’t want to miss what he has to share.

Book ‘Em!

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Kevin Rabas

 

Poets, Farmers, and Crafting a Tale

April Pameticky moved to Wichita in 2003 and was swept up in the creative Vortex. The mother of two shares time between her high school English classroom and the burgeoning community of artists and writers in Kansas. She facilitated the Wichita Broadside Project 2017 and currently serves as editor of River City Poetry, an online poetry journal, and co-edits Voices of Kansas, a regional anthology of work from school-aged children across the state. Her own work can be seen in journals like Malpais Review, KONZA, Chiron Review, and Turtle Island Quarterly. She is also the author of several chapbooks, Sand River and Other Places I’ve Been (Finishing Line Press); and Anatomy of a Sea Star (Casa de Cinco Hermanas Press).

At KAC 2019, she will offer two seminars:

Let Poetry inform your Prose: The Art & Craft of Telling a Tale:  How could the poetic lens inform your writing? Are there ways of training the ear and eye to better turn a narrative line? Sonya Chung, teacher and blogger, writes “Fiction is a Trudge, Poetry is a Dance” and that good literary fiction is “language-rich, language-precise, language-driven.” Is she right? We’ll explore some common poetry techniques that translate well into a variety of written forms, including memoir and long-form fiction.  Attend this session and expect to do a little writing and responding to a prompt.  We’ll use revision to demonstrate the power of repetition and metaphorical language.

Poet as Farmer–how journaling plants seeds of Creativity:  Whether you ascribe to Natalie Goldberg’s Zen daily practice, or Julia Cameron’s Artist’s Way, journaling can be an incredibly productive tool.  But how do writers get started?  Are prompts part of the process?   What of word lists?  When do you know that a seed might be ready for harvest?  In this session, we’ll explore sparks for creativity and examine some possible resources and activities.  Expect to write and journal as part of the process.

Contact April at:

aprilpameticky@hotmail.com

rivercitypoetrysubmissions@gmail.com

Hook ‘Em!

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April Pameticky

A Who Dunnit—Why Dunnit Approach to Writing History

Kansas Authors Club District 5 is pleased to host a seminar at the October convention by Dr. David A. Nichols,  A “Who Dunnit – Why Dunnit” Approach to Writing History.

A William & Mary Ph.D., Dr. Nichols is a Kansas native and the author of Ike and McCarthy: Dwight Eisenhower’s Secret Campaign against Joseph McCarthy; A Matter of Justice; Eisenhower and the Beginning of the Civil Rights Revolution; and Eisenhower 1956: The President’s Year of Crisis – Suez and the Brink of War.  All Eisenhower books were published by Simon & Schuster. Nichols is also the author of Lincoln and the Indians: Civil War Policy and Politics (Minnesota Historical Society, 2012).

Revealed for the first time, Ike and McCarthy is the full story of how President Eisenhower masterminded the downfall of the anti-Communist demagogue Senator Joseph McCarthy. Behind the scenes, Eisenhower loathed McCarthy, the powerful Republican senator notorious for his anti-Communist witch hunt. In spite of the public’s perception that Ike was unwilling to challenge the senator, the president decided that dealing with the challenges behind the scenes, operating with a “hidden hand” to bring an end to the witch hunt, was a better approach. In Ike and McCarthy, a 2018 Kansas Notable book, Nichols uses documents previously unavailable or overlooked to authenticate the extraordinary story of Eisenhower’s anti-McCarthy campaign in an eye-opening and fascinating read.

In A Matter of Justice Nichols presents a dramatic reappraisal of the thirty-fourth president’s record throughout the early years of the civil rights revolution, revealing his lesser-known role in advancing civil rights. The account traces pivotal contributions of Ike’s administration to such events as the Brown decision and the desegregation of Little Rock schools.

A gripping tale of international intrigue and betrayal, Eisenhower 1956 is the white-knuckle story of how President Dwight D. Eisenhower guided the US through the Suez Canal crisis of 1956. The crisis climaxed in a tumultuous nine-day period fraught with peril just prior to the 1956 presidential election, with Great Britain, France, and Israel invading Egypt while the Soviet Union ruthlessly crushed rebellion in Hungary. Dr. Nichols draws on hundreds of documents previously unavailable to researchers, enabling the reader to look over Ike’s shoulder and follow him day-by-day, sometimes hour-by-hour, as he grappled with the greatest international crisis of his presidency. Nichols uses formerly top secret minutes of National Security Council and Oval Office meetings to illuminate a crisis that threatened to escalate into global conflict.

Lincoln and the Indians remains the only thorough treatment of a much-neglected aspect of Lincoln’s presidency. Placing Indian affairs in the broad context of Civil War politics and the settling of the West, Dr. Nichols covers the Sioux War of 1862 in Minnesota, the forced removal of the Navahos from their homeland to the deadly concentration camp at Bosque Redondo, and the massacre of Cheyennes by volunteer troops at Sand Creek. He also examines Lincoln’s inept handling of  the Five Civilized Tribes in Indian Territory and the corrupt “Indian System” of government aid that mainly benefited ambitious whites.

Thanks in part to Nichols’ impact on the reassessment of Dwight Eisenhower as president; a poll of 193 historians in 2017 rated Eisenhower fifth among American presidents, following only Lincoln, Washington, and the two Roosevelts. David A. Nichols began his serious research and writing in his mid-60s after retiring from Southwestern College in Winfield, where he served for 25 years, including eleven as Vice President for Academic Affairs.

At the Wichita convention, Dr. Nichols will share about his most recent book (Ike and McCarthy) and related research, exploring research design, dealing with all kinds of sources, and finding a publisher. “Who Dunnit? And Why Dunnit?” You won’t want to miss his inside information and tips on meaningful research.

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Book ‘Em!

David A. Nichols

Writing as a Rehabilitation Tool

Twenty years ago, volunteers from the University of Kansas started a writing program for men incarcerated in the Douglas County jail. At the 2019 convention in October two leaders who are active members of Kansas Authors Club and a “graduate” of the program will share thoughts about its origin, what a typical session involves, and how everyone—inmates and leaders—benefits from the writing program. They will also read selections by a few participants.

What makes the weekly writing class the most popular activity offered to Douglas County jail inmates? Why is it consistently the largest class offered at the jail? Why does the program director often have to turn away class members when the room fills quickly? And why do the class facilitators continue to return week after week and year after year?

Many writers will affirm that writing is good therapy. In fact, that is the first reason they give to continue writing. There is something about recording words, thoughts, feelings, fears, and ideas on paper that can be cathartic and healing. People who write search for something. Perhaps they seek meaning in their lives. Perhaps they are looking for a personal identity, for a purpose, or as Sister Helen Prejean said, for “what truly matters.” What does matter? Maybe it is some semblance of control over life circumstances. Maybe it is acceptance, companionship, or bolstering a struggling self-esteem.

Perhaps it is hope, as an entry by Donndilla Da Great in the published collection Douglas County Jail Blues begins.

Hope

As I sit in my cell

I get stronger and stronger

I walk and I pace my cell

like a caged tiger

but as the unit comes to a lull

I think of hope . . .

Facilitators of the panel discussion in October include Brian Daldorph who has worked with the jail writers group since 2001. He has taught writing classes at KU since 1990. During his employment at KU, Brian taught in Japan for a year as a Visiting Professor, as well as shorter terms in England, Senegal, and Zambia. In addition, he is the publisher of Coal City Review and has published a number of books, including a book of the inmates’ writing in 2010. His most recent book of poetry, Ice Age/Edad de Hielo was published in 2017. Last year he was recognized as the Kansas Authors Club “Prose Writer of the Year” at the convention held in Salina.

Brian Daldorph

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Antonio Sanchez Day, formerly a participant in this project, is the only ex-con allowed to be a volunteer at the jail. He assists with the writing group as a “graduate.” He will share his perspective on writing from jail, and explain its benefits to himself and others in the program.

Antonio Sanchez Day

Mike Hartnett, a retired business journalist (magazine editor/newsletter publisher), has been a co-leader of the men’s writing group at the jail for four years. He currently serves as the president of the District 2 of the Kansas Authors Club in Lawrence.

Mike Hartnett

Exposing the threads of life common to us all, this class will share emotions recorded in prison verse, and put faces of humanity on those all too easily forgotten. The panel will take one part of the theme for the 2019 convention a step further, from “Book ‘Em” to “Heal “Em.” You won’t want to miss what they have to share.

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October 4-6, 2019

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Recalling the Nightmare: Memoir

Mike Hartnett, a retired business magazine editor/newsletter publisher, currently serves as the president of Kansas Authors Club District 2 in Lawrence. At the October convention in Wichita, he will offer a seminar about his memoir And I Cried, Too. The book recalls details about his involvement in four murders that occurred in Central Illinois in the 1970s.

At the time he was an administrator at Lincoln College, in Lincoln, Illinois.  Russ Smrekar, a student there, was caught burglarizing a dorm room. Hartnett expelled him and turned the evidence over to the police. Three days later Smrekar was arrested for shoplifting three pieces of meat from a local grocery store. Long story short: he killed four people who were witnesses to these misdemeanors. Hartnett was very involved with the police, testified to the grand jury, was under death threats, etc.

The college was never the same for him after that. He had been writing part-time for two area newspapers, enjoyed it, and took a job as an assistant editor for a trade magazine. But his head was filled with the murders – things that were never reported. Smrekar was eventually convicted of two of the murders. When he was dying in prison about ten years ago, he admitted to the two other murders. Those remains have yet to be found.

One of the highlights of Hartnett’s life was spending a morning with the late William Maxwell, who was the fiction editor of The New Yorker. He encouraged Hartnett to write the memoir. For a year, Hartnett wrote the saga, but about the time he was almost finished, he was promoted to editor, which meant a lot more work and travel. He put the murder manuscript aside – for about 35 years.

“About a year ago, a police detective in Illinois tracked me down in Kansas to tell me there was a new development in the case,” Hartnett said. New development? Smrekar died in prison years ago after admitting to all four murders. “The detective couldn’t tell me what the ‘new development’ was, but as we talked, it was clear we were in agreement: Smrekar probably had an accomplice for at least some of the murders.”

He decided there might be another chapter to write. Nothing new has developed, however, and he decided he better finish the book before it finished him. If all goes as planned, he will have fresh copies of And I Cried Too at the Wichita event. Coming summer/fall 2019 from http://www.meadowlark-books.com

 

Book ‘Em!

Mike Hartnett

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Writing a Winner: How I Did It

The published book awards offered each year by Kansas Authors Club attract the best writers from around the state. It’s a big deal when a writer sees their work in print, and an even bigger deal to receive recognition for quality work. The KAC Children’s Book award, “It Looks Like a Million” design award, Martin History book award for books dealing with Kansas History, the Nelson Poetry book award, and the Coffin Memorial book award for books of all other genres are vital to the Kansas Authors Club literary contests each year. (Contest guidelines:  http://www.kansasauthorsclub.weebly.com/adult-literary-contest-guidelines.html )

How do winners of these contests approach the task of crafting quality publications? If you are considering entering your recently published book in one of these contests, KAC District 5 has a class for you. For the first time at Kansas Authors Club’s annual convention this year a panel comprised of recent Coffin Memorial Book Award winners will offer ideas for polishing and perfecting manuscripts. Each panelist will share a couple of ideas which helped in writing their winning prose, followed by time for questions from those in attendance.

Panelists include Jean Grant, Gloria Zachgo, and Ann Fell. In addition, this seminar will be scheduled to allow participation by the 2019 winner. As an added bonus, keynote speaker Paul Bishop will serve as moderator for the panel discussion.

Jean Grant

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jean Grant, received the Coffin Memorial Book Award 2018, for Flight, a novel set in the chaos of Beirut’s civil war. Finlay Fortin, a professor at the American University, is desperate to take his family to safety. When his wife, a war photographer, insists on staying to document the fighting, Finlay forces his rebellious daughter Anouk to flee with him out of the war-scarred city. As they settle in a remote village in the French countryside, Finlay finds unexpected romance. Fast-paced and suspenseful, Flight reveals how the conflicts between ambition, love, and loyalty affect this family in ways no one could have anticipated.

 

Gloria Zachgo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gloria Zachgo received the Coffin Memorial Book Award 2017, for Hush Girl It’s Only A Dream. Nicki Reed is desperate to find the answers to her past, but someone else is desperate for her to never remember. Shortly after her father died, Nicki’s nightmares started. They were soon followed by panic attacks. Suspecting her haunting dreams were related to her childhood, she sought professional help, but was unable to verbalize any memories she had as a child. When her therapist suggested she write her memories, Nicki started remembering things she had pushed far into the recesses of her mind. She started to doubt her own sanity, and when she began to see a strange woman stalking her, she couldn’t be sure if that woman was real or imagined. Yet, she couldn’t tell anyone, until her own family was threatened.

 

Ann Fell

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ann Fell, received the Coffin Memorial Book Award 2016 for Sundrop Sonata. With her passion for helping people, piano tuner Isabel Woods loves her job—but passion can be a dangerous thing. Reluctantly agreeing to harbor a client’s autistic daughter, Izzy’s good intentions unexpectedly expose her own family to a murderous fiend with a chilling agenda. Human trafficking and bio-terrorism are no longer just buzz words from the nightly news. For Izzy, they have become terrifying and real. As the deadly Sundrop Sonata begins to play, Izzy has one chance to save the people and the country she loves armed with nothing more than courage, intelligence, and her esoteric knowledge of pianos.

This October 4-6, come to Wichita and learn tips these award-winning Kansas writers decided were most helpful for the success of their stories.

Hook ‘Em!

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